Bad Shepherds: The Reformation

(The editor highly recommends reading the posts “Sin (Parts 1-4)” as a preface.)

….Spiritual goods merited by the saints are stored up with God as in a treasury (treasury of merit). These treasures, under certain circumstances, can be applied to the needs of other Church members still on earth — and the pope, as successor of Peter, holds the keys. What kinds of needs are we talking about? The need, for instance, to have the sufferings brought about by our own sins and follies lessened.

…an indulgence can be granted only to a living, baptized Christian believer. It’s of no use for keeping someone out of hell, for that issue is settled only by graces earned by Christ Himself applied directly to the believing soul in baptism. Post-baptismal sin, too, is absolved not by an indulgence but by confession. The indulgences offered by the Church were (and still are) useful for mitigating troubles in time — temporal chastisement here on earth during the struggle for sanctification and, if necessary, in the purging that comes to a saved soul immediately after death.

…the idea that an indulgence obtained by a living believer might, on his own authority, be transferred to a third party (a deceased loved one in purgatory, for example) was a theory sometimes entertained but never actually taught by the Church. Pope Leo X, again, certainly understood all this — but he also knew that these fine distinctions, during those troubled times, were well over the heads of the Catholic masses.

Even so, he sent out his authorized sellers. Johann Tetzel, for example, was a German Dominican friar engaged to preach the great indulgence of 1517, a campaign undertaken (ostensibly) to help finance the construction of the largest church building on earth, the new St. Peter’s going up in Rome. Tetzel had been at this kind of work for some time already, having been commissioned by Pope Leo (while he was still Cardinal Giovanni de’ Medici) to boost the Jubilee Indulgence more than a decade earlier. He had achieved great results. Tetzel was valued as a rousing street preacher, somebody who could “fill a hat” like practically no one else — but his technique was highly suspect. Later charges that he preached “indulgence” in our modern sense are slanderous, anachronistic nonsense. Indulgentia (a Latin word that may be rendered as “a kindness going forward”) was not, as so many Protestants have charged, a bribe offered to God by the impenitent, so that He might “go easy” or “look the other way” during the commission of future sins. And Tetzel probably did not use the silly advertising jingle so often associated with his name: “As soon as the coin in the coffer clinks, the soul from purgatory springs!” But he definitely promoted the same idea in subtler language. “The assertion,” as Catholic historian Ludwig von Pastor writes,

“that he put forward indulgences as being not only a remission of the temporal punishment of sin, but as a remission of its guilt, is as unfounded as is that other accusation against him, that he sold the forgiveness of sin for money, without even any mention of contrition and confession, or that, for payment, he absolved from sins which might be committed in the future. . . . About indulgences for the living, Tetzel always taught pure doctrine. . . . The case was very different, however, with indulgences for the dead. About these there is no doubt that Tetzel did, according to what he considered his authoritative instructions, proclaim as Christian doctrine that nothing but an offering of money was required to gain the indulgence for the dead, without there being any question of contrition or confession. He also taught, in accordance with the opinion then held, that an indulgence could be applied to any given soul with unfailing effect. Starting from this assumption, there is no doubt that his doctrine was virtually that of the well-known drastic proverb.”24

When Tetzel arrived at Wittenberg in Saxony, word of his message reached Martin Luther, who was an important teacher of theology at the Catholic university there. The ordinary people who attended the rallies, Luther claimed (and there’s no real reason to disbelieve him), came away from Tetzel’s preaching convinced that they could free their loved ones from purgatory purely for a price. Luther wrote to his bishop, Albert of Brandenburg, to protest. And here’s where things got dicey. Tetzel had received his license to preach in the pope’s name via this selfsame archbishop of Brandenburg, who had, as it happens, arranged with Leo in advance to send him about half the money raised, for the construction project in Rome — and to keep the other half himself to pay off the deep debts he incurred while obtaining his appointment to the archbishopric. This the ordinary people did not know. And Albert himself, once he received the letter, went after Luther, the whistle-blower.

Luther probably didn’t know about this bad shepherd’s abuse either; there’s no specific mention of it, at any rate, in the Ninety-Five Theses, which focus almost entirely on theology. We know about it today, however, and it highlights like nothing else one of the major reasons the clergy were so resistant to reform during these crucial years. They were convinced that the Church needed the money to continue. The popes had, for decades, given their sanction to similar transactions quite openly, and in exchange for a fee. Even secular rulers had a hand in perpetuating the festering mess because large indulgence rallies like Tetzel’s generated money for local economies like a big football championship — merchants, innkeepers, and the like, and burgomasters, city councilmen, and so forth often received a cut from “civic-minded” groups. The whole thing stank like a garbage dump.

Luther wasn’t the only one who cried foul about the theology. His later opponent Cardinal Thomas Cajetan, sent to reclaim Luther for the Faith in 1518, had been protesting the same irresponsible preaching for years — and Cajetan definitely did know where the money went: “Preachers,” he said,

“speak in the name of the Church only so long as they proclaim the doctrine of Christ and His Church; but if, for purposes of their own, they teach that about which they know nothing, and which is only their own imagination, they must not be accepted as mouthpieces of the Church. No one must be surprised if such as these fall into error.”25

To put it bluntly, an indulgence preacher who kept it simple (“As soon as the coin in the coffer clinks . . .”) ginned up cash a lot faster than a careful theologian, and so Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show was suffered to continue.

None of this should, of course, be taken as a defense for Martin Luther’s later revolution. The apostles established a Church with “one Lord, one Faith, one baptism” (Eph. 4:5), which no man is justified in sundering, no matter how many Judases stain her offices or how infuriating their offenses. Benedict Arnold, in other words, is no less a traitor if America really did have crimes of her own to atone for and abuses (such as slavery) as yet unreformed.

But not just any old stick is good enough to beat Martin Luther with; and the abuse he overreacted to was no less an abuse because his own later crimes were also great. It does not seem to have occurred to Pope Leo, after all, that he might easily have paid off St. Peter’s to the glory of God by liquidating his own luxuries and those of his equally profligate Curia. That same Leo once said (if the legend is true), “Since God has given us the papacy, let us enjoy it.”

Love,
Matthew

24 Ludwig von Pastor, The History of the Popes, from the Close of the Middle Ages, ed. Ralph Francis Kerr (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner, 1908), 7.
25 Ibid., 7.

The Catholic Church: Mystical Body of Christ


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The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains how there are “three states of the Church … at the present time some of His disciples are pilgrims on earth. Others have died and are being purified, while still others are in glory, contemplating ‘in full light, God Himself triune and one, exactly as He is.’” (CCC 954).

Traditionally these three states have been referred to as the Church Militant, Church Penitent (also known as Church Suffering or Church Expectant) and Church Triumphant. Together, these three make up the Communion of Saints we confess in the Creed.

Church Militant

While the word “militant” may appear to suggest that the Church on earth is to take up arms in a violent way, the phase refers to our task of being “soldiers of Christ” in the spiritual realm. This concerns our need to battle our sinful passions as well as the spiritual presence of evil in the world. As St. Ignatius of Loyola put it, we need to choose which army we belong to; either that of Christ or that of the World.

Church Penitent

After having struggled on earth to follow Christ’s army, those in need of further purification before entering Heavenly bliss make up the Church Penitent. This stage of further purification is more commonly known as Purgatory and is the “washroom of Heaven” (as C.S. Lewis put it), which cleanses any sins or earthly attachments before the soul embraces the joys of Heaven. The members of the Church Penitent rely heavily on the prayers of the Church Militant so that they may proceed to their eternal embrace with Our Lord.

Church Triumphant

The Church Triumphant are those people who have “run the race” and are crowned with glory in Heaven, the saints. Even though we do not inhabit the same physical space anymore, we are intimately united with them in a spiritual way beyond understanding. Their intercession is vital to our own sanctification and they continually cheer us on as we “fight the good fight” in hopes of joining them one day in the future.

Love,
Matthew

Sin (Part 4 of 4)

Grace and good works affect others not only in natural, but in mystical ways

Reading Exodus 20, the Torah, again:

Exodus 20:5-6

“…I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me. And shewing mercy unto thousands to them that love me, and keep my commandments.”

The good we do, by the grace of Christ, ripples out into the universe and builds up His Body:

Colossians 1:23-24

“If so ye continue in the faith, grounded and settled, and immoveable from the hope of the gospel which you have heard, which is preached in all the creation that is under heaven: whereof I Paul am made a minister. Who now rejoice in my sufferings for you and fill up those things that are wanting of the sufferings of Christ, in my flesh, for His body, which is the church…”

When we cooperate with grace — when we pray, give alms, fast, offer up our sufferings, etc. — we literally strengthen the Body of Christ in a mystical way! Christ Himself and all the Saints of 2,000 years (by the grace of Christ) have built up His Mystical Body (the Catholic Church) and laid up a “treasury of merit” or “spiritual treasury,” as it is also called. In the same way we or others detract from the Body of Christ through sin, we and others add to this treasury — and receive the fruits thereof when we receive an indulgence, for we are one in the Body of Christ:

Romans 7:5

“We being many, are one body in Christ, and every one, members one of another.”

And read once again I Corinthians 12:26:

“And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it: or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.”

The Church was given the power to bind and loose

To Peter was given the Keys to the Kingdom (Matthew 16) and the power of binding and loosing (forbidding/permitting, condemning/acquitting). In exercising this power of the Keys, the Church has the authority to determine certain practices which help us to to benefit from the treasury of merit and alleviate the temporal effects of sins we’ve confessed and are already forgiven for. This is an indulgence.

That the Church was given the power to forgive the eternal effects of sin through the Sacrament of Penance makes it easier to understand how the Church also has the power to alleviate the lesser, temporal effects of sin. The Church whose priests were given the authority by Christ to forgive the guilt of sin and thereby, by the Blood of Christ, eliminate the eternal punishments for sin, surely also has the authority to pardon the temporal punishments of sin.

Love,
Matthew

Counterfeit Christ: Homosexuality

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Mt 5:17

“Do you not know that the unjust will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators nor idolaters nor adulterers nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God.” – 1 Cor 6:9-10

“Whenever the topic of homosexuality and the Bible comes up, it doesn’t take long before someone says, “Jesus never said anything about homosexuality!” In a 2012 interview, former president Jimmy Carter essentially did that when he said:

“Homosexuality was well known in the ancient world, well before Christ was born, and Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things—he never said that gay people should be condemned. I personally think it is very fine for gay people to be married in civil ceremonies.”

Some go a step further and claim that Jesus affirmed homosexual behavior. For example, one pro-gay Christian website claims that the centurion who sought Jesus’ help to heal his servant in Matthew chapter eight was actually in a sexual relationship with that servant. Their primary evidence for this comes from the centurion’s use of the term pais to describe the servant, which they say refers to a male lover. From this they conclude, “Jesus restores a gay relationship by a miracle of healing and then holds up a gay man as an example of faith for all to follow.”

Regardless of what Jesus said or didn’t say about homosexuality in the Bible, this counterfeit Christ would never condemn homosexual behavior today. He would instead affirm such behavior as part of healthy relationships that are morally equivalent to marital love between men and women.

But how can that be true if . . .
…Jesus Never Affirmed Homosexual Behavior

Just because Jesus healed someone it doesn’t follow that Jesus affirmed everything that person did. When Jesus healed ten lepers, only one of them returned to give God glory for his healing, but that doesn’t mean Jesus endorsed the religious laxity of the other nine (Luke 17:11-19)

Similarly, even if the centurion and his servant had a sexual relationship, does it follow that Jesus’ miracle meant he affirmed the practice of older men purchasing younger male sex slaves? I doubt the revisionist critic would say, “Jesus restores a master-slave relationship by a miracle of healing and then holds up a slave-owner as an example of faith for all to follow.”

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus shows compassion to people in spite of their sins, and his healings and deliverance from harm are invitations to further spiritual salvation. For example, Jesus saved the woman caught in adultery from being executed, not so that she could return to her sinful ways, but so that she could repent of them. That’s why he said to her, “do not sin again” (John 8:11).

That said, there is no evidence that the centurion and his slave actually were involved in a sexual relationship. New Testament professor John Byron writes:

“The Greek noun pais is used in the New Testament twenty-four times and has a range of meanings that include “adolescent,” “child,” and “servant.” [In the Greek Old Testament] it appears numerous times and it always refers to a “servant.” There are no occurrences of the term anywhere in the Bible that can be interpreted a referring to the junior partner in a homosexual relationship.”

Other attempts to tease out of Scripture hidden pro-homosexual meanings are similarly dubious. It’s no wonder, then, that the arguments for a “gay-affirming” Jesus are usually arguments from silence—arguments based on what Jesus did not say. They claim, in so many words, that since Jesus never condemned homosexuality he must not have seen anything wrong with it.

But we actually don’t know if Jesus never said anything about homosexuality, because Jesus said many things that are not recorded in Scripture (John 21:25).

For example, when Paul was in Ephesus he spoke to the elders of the churches there, exhorting them to provide for the needs of the Church in Jerusalem. He then said to them, “In all things I have shown you that by so toiling one must help the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

Even though Paul relates this saying of Jesus in a way that suggests it’s well known, nowhere is it recorded in the Gospels. This is one indication of how some of Jesus’ teachings were not written in the accounts of his life but were passed down through oral means (what Catholics call Sacred Tradition).

Since there is an unbroken tradition of Christians condemning same-sex behavior from the beginning of the Church’s history, we can safely conclude this tradition comes from Jesus and the apostles. Indeed, it would be downright bizarre if Jesus approved of homosexual behavior only to have all his followers teach the opposite—including Paul, whom Jesus chose as an apostle and inspired author but who clearly condemns homosexual behavior in his own writings (Rom. 1:26-28, 1 Cor. 6:9-10, 1 Tim. 1:10).

The Episcopalian bishop Gene Robinson is in a legal marriage with another man, yet when it comes to Jesus’ silence on homosexuality he admits, “One cannot extrapolate affirmation of such relationships from that silence.” Robinson instead claims that all “we can safely and responsibly conclude from Jesus’ silence is that He was silent on the issue.”

I wonder if Robinson would likewise say that “all we can safely and responsibly conclude from Jesus’ silence on polygamy, incest, bestiality, idolatry, and child sacrifice is that He was silent on those issues.”

He likely wouldn’t, because Jesus’ affirmation of the Old Testament’s prohibitions on, for example, murder show He would never have supported child sacrifice and so it is an absurd question to ask. Likewise, Jesus’ affirmation of the Old Testament’s prohibitions on sexual immorality show He would never have supported sexual activity between people of the same sex, or any kind of behavior that violated the universal moral law.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin (Part 3 of 4)

The temporal effects of sin affect others not only in natural, but in mystical ways

As far back as the Old Testament, it is made clear that the temporal effects of sin affect others who may not have committed personal sin. The greatest and first example is that of the sin of Adam and Eve which resulted in the fall of man from grace and in his propensity for corruption and personal sin which we call “original sin.”

The Pentateuch (i.e. Torah, the first five Books of the Bible) also speaks of the sins of the fathers being visited upon the children:

Exodus 20:5

“…I am the Lord thy God, mighty, jealous, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate Me.”

1 Corinthians 12:26 demonstrates that what affects one member of the Body affects another:

“And if one member suffer any thing, all the members suffer with it: or if one member glory, all the members rejoice with it.”

These concepts seem foreign to those who live in the modern Western world’s radically individualistic culture, but they are Scriptural fact. They may seem “unfair” (as though life with our fallen nature is supposed to be fair), but that it is true is obvious by looking at the often sad lives of the poor children of “crack-whores,” or the parents of those who tend to end up in and out of Juvenile Hall, etc. This is not to say that those who suffer the consequences of their ancestors’ sins are doomed! No! All are called to Christ and His Church, and Jesus will judge us as individuals by looking at our hearts, wills, deeds, and intellect, taking into consideration factors which mitigate culpability. Nonetheless, the basic idea that our sins affect others not only in obvious temporal ways, but in mystical ways, is Biblical.

All of these temporal punishments, though painful, are merciful. Without discipline and punishment from God, we would continue in our ways, remain unrepentant, and then suffer the eternal consequences of doing so. A father who does not discipline his children is a bad father who is setting up his child for greater troubles down the road. God, though, is a good Father:

Hebrews 12:5-11

“And have you completely forgotten this word of encouragement that addresses you as a father addresses his son? It says,

‘My son, do not make light of the Lord’s discipline,
and do not lose heart when he rebukes you,
because the Lord disciplines the one He loves,
and he chastens everyone he accepts as His son.’ -Prov. 3:11,12

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all. Moreover, we have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of spirits and live! They disciplined us for a little while as they thought best; but God disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share in His holiness. No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin (Part 2 of 4)

Mortal sin

A sin is considered to be “mortal” when its quality is such that it leads to a separation of that person from God’s saving (sanctifying) grace, i.e. destroys the life of grace necessary for salvation within the soul.

Sanctifying grace

Sanctifying grace plays the part of the means, indispensable and Divinely ordained, to effect the redemption from sin through Christ and to lead men to their eternal destiny in heaven.

Sin has two different types of effects — eternal and temporal

Sin has both eternal consequences and temporal consequences. Sin, even private sin is communal and has negative effects If I were to repent and receive forgiveness through the Sacrament of Penance, the eternal consequences of mortal sin– satisfied for by Christ at Calvary — are no longer an issue (Deo gratias!) because I receive the effects of His atoning Sacrifice (I will have been justified) when I reconcile with the Church through a good Confession.

But I still have to pay for the temporal consequences of my sin because God is not only merciful, He is just. An example is that of a child who steals a candy bar and then then tearfully, with true contrition, confesses his crime to his parent. The parent, being loving and good and merciful, as our Father in Heaven is, will forgive that child, not turn the child over to the police (Hell) and allow the child back in the parent’s “good graces”(sanctification) — but he will also still expect the child to pay back the store from which he stole (temporal justice).

Another example is the common one of, say, an imprisoned murderer repenting and coming to know Christ (sanctification) — but who still must serve out his time in prison or give up his life as punishment (temporal justice). Or, yet, an offender is forgiven by the offended in court (sanctification), but society requires he still pay his debts: prison, probation, restorative justice, restitution, may the offended as whole as possible, if possible (temporal justice).  Christ’s redemption, while whole and total towards God’s justice, also requires temporal justice.  Salvation is not a “get out of jai free” card in terms of temporal justice.  It is in terms of eternal justice, but not temporal.

No temporal consequences to one’s sinful actions in this life would not make sense.  It does not make sense to society.  It does not make sense in term of justification and salvation, hence, Purgatory, for that temporal justice unsatisfied in this life through acts of love and virtue, the love of others, the forgetting of self, suffering united with the suffering of Christ on the Cross.  Suffering endured by those not baptized, with faith in the redemptive nature of Christ’s passion, is just plain old unredemptive, meaningless suffering, without merit, sense, or purpose, pointless.  Just suffering for suffering’s sake.  Sucks to be you suffering.

The temporal effects of repented sins that are not paid for in life through the effects of natural law, personal penance, penance given by the priest at Confession, or mystical penances given to me by God, suffering endured in this life, are paid for in Purgatory. St. Augustine, in City of God (A.D. 419), sums up Catholic thinking on such things:

“Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment [i.e. when Christ comes again to judge the living and the dead]. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow.”

Purgation — the process of making satisfaction for debt caused by sin so that we may become perfect, divinized, and enter Heaven — is quite Scriptural, of course. Allusions to purgation are found all over the Bible; but it is summed up most clearly in the following two verses:

Matthew 5:25-26

“Settle matters quickly with your adversary who is taking you to court. Do it while you are still together on the way, or your adversary may hand you over to the judge, and the judge may hand you over to the officer, and you may be thrown into prison. Truly I tell you, you will not get out until you have paid the last penny.”

1 Corinthians 3:12-15

“Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw — each one’s work will become manifest, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed by fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work that anyone has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If anyone’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.”

Love,
Matthew

Sin (part 1 of 4)

In her doctrine (teaching) on the nature of humans, the Catholic Church holds the middle ground as true between two opposing theories, that humans are both body AND soul. That is NOT splitting the difference. The Church’s one mission is Truth. He is Truth. And, typically, the Truth is found between extremes, typically. Heresies tend toward one extreme or the other, as is typical of heresies.

We don’t have a souls. We are souls and have bodies, imago Dei, made in the image and likeness of God, Himself; from and through which each person receives their inestimable value and divinely given dignity, without qualification.

Through original sin, we lost our original justice/righteousness. We lost immortality and our original innocence having eaten of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. We, justly, earned suffering, death, ignorance and lust; ignorance and lust often leading to suffering and death.

By the disobedience of our original parents, sin entered the world.

CCC 1849 Sin is an offense against reason, truth, and right conscience; it is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor caused by a perverse attachment to certain goods…. It has been defined [by St Augustine] as “an utterance, a deed, or a desire contrary to the eternal law.”

CCC 1850 Sin is an offense against God…. Sin sets itself against God’s love for us and turns our hearts away from it. Like the first sin, it is disobedience, a revolt against God through the will to become “like gods,” knowing and determining good and evil. Sin is thus “love of oneself even to the contempt of God.”

Sin is social

In his Apostolic Exhortation, Reconciliatio et Paenitentia, Pope John Paul. II says that the “mystery of sin”

“is composed of [a] twofold wound which the sinner opens in himself and in his relationship with his neighbor. Therefore one can speak of personal and social sin: From one point of view, every sin is personal; from another point of view, every sin is social insofar as and because it also has social repercussions.”

All sin is social, says John Paul II, in this regard: It wounds our relationship with our neighbor. No man is an island.

This does not mean that sin is not personal at all; and it does not mean that “external factors” in a society are to blame for a person’s sins. That would be a misreading. The pope is clear in pointing that out.

“Sin, in the proper sense, is always a personal act, since it is an act of freedom on the part of an individual person and not properly of a group or community. This individual may be conditioned, incited and influenced by numerous and powerful external factors. He may also be subjected to tendencies, defects and habits linked with his personal condition. In not a few cases such external and internal factors may attenuate, to a greater or lesser degree, the person’s freedom and therefore his responsibility and guilt. But it is a truth of faith, also confirmed by our experience and reason, that the human person is free. This truth cannot be disregarded in order to place the blame for individuals’ sins on external factors such as structures, systems or other people.”

That is important. Only an individual can be responsible for sin. “Social sin” does not mean that society sins, or that society bears the burden of guilt. What it does mean is that every sin, to one degree or another, has a consequence for others.

“To speak of social sin means in the first place to recognize that, by virtue of human solidarity which is as mysterious and intangible as it is real and concrete, each individual’s sin in some way affects others.”

To sin is to wound not only yourself but a brother or a sister. It puts you out of right relationship with God, out of right relationship with yourself, and also out of right relationship with other human beings (who are themselves the image of God). In that way, all sin wounds the Christ in your brother or sister.

The pope expands on this thought:

“Consequently one can speak of a communion of sin, whereby a soul that lowers itself through sin drags down with itself the church and, in some way, the whole world. In other words, there is no sin, not even the most intimate and secret one, the most strictly individual one, that exclusively concerns the person committing it. With greater or lesser violence, with greater or lesser harm, every sin has repercussions on the entire ecclesial body and the whole human family. According to this first meaning of the term, every sin can undoubtedly be considered as social sin.”

It is not just “society,” in the secular sense, that is wounded by each sin, but the society of the Church itself. The Body of Christ also bears the wound. Even to that extent alone, all sin is “social”, and tragic, and devastating in its effects.

It is important to work to change laws. But changing laws will be, in John Paul II’s words, “ultimately vain and ineffective” unless we also convert souls.

Love,
Matthew

Non-denominational Evangelical discovers the Catholic Church, Married & Muddled (Part 5 of 6)


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-by Keith Albert Little, “The Cordial Catholic” (@cordialcatholic)

Quashing Quibbles

I had held preconceived notions about the Catholic Church. However, they were largely unintentional, and they were quickly quashed as I began to read.

Why do Catholic call priests “father,” when Jesus said to call no man “father”? Well, if Jesus meant that literally, what do I call my Dad? And what about the verse where Jesus Himself calls Abraham our “father”?

Why do Catholics pray to saints? They don’t as if the saints are God. But they do believe that after a Christian dies, he is still part of the Body of Christ, and we can continue to pray for each other, to Christ, after we die. It’s either this, or Christ hasn’t conquered death.

Don’t Catholics worship Mary? No. They venerate her, putting her in a place of importance because she’s clearly prefigured in the Old Testament. She is the new Ark of the Covenant and the New Eve. As one of His last acts on the cross, Jesus tells us that she is our “mother” (John 19:25–27).

In the light of good Catholic teaching and an actual reading of what Catholics believe, my objections and misconceptions seemed juvenile. And I felt lazy, silly, for never having tried to understand what Catholics believed before. Now, as I began to get a better grasp, I was astounded at what I was learning.

Here was a Church that claimed authority not to only collect the books of the Bible together, but to interpret them as well. A Church which claimed unity under the Pope, the Bishop of Rome. A Church which drew a straight line from the first Apostles to the bishops of today, claiming an authoritative link to the very words of Christ, who said, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 18:18).

Suddenly, a Catholic Church came into focus that I had no idea existed — a Church which taught that the elements of Communion actually become the Body and Blood of Christ because, I learned, that’s what Jesus says in the Gospel of John (chapter 6). For all our “literal reading” of the Bible, we’d missed one of the most literal parts. Jesus says we have to “eat” His flesh, and when His followers throw up their hands in disgust, He becomes even more graphic, explaining that we have to “gnaw” His flesh! Then, when many of His followers walk away, declaring it a difficult teaching, He does nothing to stop them. Instead of clarifying for His disciples, as He’s often pictured doing, He simply asks, “Do you want to leave, too?”

Even more shocking is the evidence from the early Church Fathers. As a relatively well-educated Evangelical, I’d always been taught to treat my Bible as if it had fallen into my hands directly from its writers’ pens, as if the years between the texts being written and their arriving on my bookshelf simply didn’t exist. But they do exist, and in that time period, lots of important things were being written. Of particular interest are the early Church Fathers. Many of these Church Fathers lived immediately after the Apostles and had important things to say, vital perspectives on the development of the Christian Church.

Shockingly, these early Church Fathers were completely Catholic.

In the Fathers writings, we see ample evidence to believe that they understood Communion as Catholics do today, as the real Body and Blood of Jesus. We find appeals to the Bishop of Rome, lending significant credence to the position of Pope, the successor of Peter, even in the infant Church. We find widespread use of relics, prayers for the dead, and prayers to deceased Christians. We find a particular veneration of Mary, an understanding of infant baptism, and even a version of a worship service which looks shockingly similar to our modern-day Mass.

To my complete surprise, the early Church was Catholic.”

Love,
Matthew

Hell


(Ed. THAT is scary. Run away from any human who says that. That is not an offer of love. That is a lie. Born out of some pathological unsatisfied sinful need. Satan is the Prince of Lies. Secondly, consider the source, outside of the demonic origin of that statement. A sinful human, even a demonically possessed one, or just pyschopathic one is lying when they say they can do that as a consequence of some failure of action on the part of another. Then, consider God. When God speaks, it happens. God has merely to think it. It happens. Consider the loving, merciful Creator of everything, Who created out of pure love. We bring nothing to God by our existence. God brings everything to us by our existence. God lives in perfect beatitude. God needs nothing. Desires nothing, least of all us or our love. We OWE God, not the reverse. We OWE God because He brought us into being and maintains us in being by His very thought. If God stopped thinking about us, even for an instant, poof! No creation. The fact we remain in existence is proof of God’s perpetual love. Indifference, poof! To be separated from God, now, in an existential way, is Hell. To be separated from God, source of all hope, all light, all goodness, all life, all beatitude, etc. eternally is the very definition of Hell.

How do we know Hell, or Heaven for that matter, exist?  Jesus.  Mt 25:31-46.  Lk 16:19-31.  God will give you what you ask for. If it’s eternity without Him, well…)

“‘The way of the Lord is not just.’ Are My ways unjust? Is it not your ways that are unjust?” -Ezek 18:29


-by Karlo Broussard

“Obviously, the meme is meant to express the alleged incompatibility between the Christian doctrine of hell and its belief that God is all-good. How can God be all-good and all-loving, so the argument goes, and at the same time will that someone experience eternal torment?

There are two possible reasons why someone might think that God and hell are incompatible. One is that punishment itself is a bad thing. And if that were the case, then surely an all-good God wouldn’t punish someone.

The other possible hang-up is the eternal nature of hell.

They may say, “Okay, I can accept punishment as consistent with God’s goodness, but I can’t accept eternal punishment. That seems unjust and therefore contrary to God’s goodness.”

There are two objections here, so let’s deal with each in turn.

Let’s take the first objection from punishment.

Privation as natural punishment

Our first line of response is that the punishment of hell is primarily the privation of the ultimate joy that every human being longs for, which is a natural consequence that flows from a person’s rejection of God as their ultimate end, the source of all joy (see CCC 1057).

As St. Augustine taught, our hearts are made for God and they are restless until they rest in Him (The Confessions, book 1).

If a person chooses to separate himself from God for eternity, the state of restlessness or misery (Ed. euphemism) is simply a natural consequence. The torment follows from the way God has made human nature.

Consider these two scenarios.

Suppose a father tells his son, “If you want to go to the movies, then you have to clean your room,” and the son chooses not to clean his room. The result of his choice is that he doesn’t get to go to the movies. He throws a fit. His “pain,” the deprivation of not seeing a movie, is a consequence of his choice. But notice that the connection between the consequence and the choice is not natural. The father imposes it.

Contrast this with the scenario of an individual who intentionally puts a plastic bag over his head and is asphyxiated. The painful effect of death is a natural consequence of stopping his supply of oxygen. It belongs to his nature that he needs oxygen to live. If he doesn’t have oxygen, then he doesn’t have life.  (Ed.  Good example, however, when religious discussions start throwing around the word “natures”, check your philosophy.  It means so much more, metaphysically, then we mean when we say “it’s all natural!”  Distant cousins in meaning, but not the same.  There’s more to it.  Mr. Broussard is providing the non-philotechnical kiddie example.)

Similarly, it belongs to human nature for a person to be united to God in order to have complete and perfect happiness. If he’s not united to God, then no happiness and only misery.

Why would it be contrary to God’s goodness to allow human nature to function according to the design He created? If God decides to create something with a particular nature, then it belongs to his goodness to treat that thing according to its nature.

God made humans to be in union with Him for an eternity (Ed. out of love, never necessity). Therefore, if anyone chooses to reject such union (free will) and end up separated from God for an eternity, which is the essence of hell (CCC 1033), his misery would be the natural result given his nature. And there is nothing contrary to God’s goodness to allow nature to take its course-whether it takes it in free will, we, to choose it in beatitude with God in Heaven or misery without Him in hell.”

Love,
Matthew

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

Americans honor Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Kennedy, etc. We have monuments to them. We visit their tombs.  We prize, we even donate to the Smithsonian, things that they wore, touched, owned.  We visit the gifts shops associated with visits to places important to them or their lives and buy items, souvenirs, mementos, pictures of them.  We tell stories of our trips of doing so with pride. We leave flowers and candles there, or put our souvenirs out in our homes that remind us of them for all to see.  We even leave cards, teddy bears, flowers, balloons, and candles at sites of tragedy, to express our sympathy, or we send them to others for the same reason, or to express joy or gratitude, or maybe just to win their favor.

Granted the Blessed Virgin Mary and the saints are a little better connected, politically. So, we might ask their help with the Big Guy, seeing as it’s all about relationships, and, as I said, they are pretty well connected. We ask our friends and neighbors to pray for us, or they offer to in times of challenge. So, why not those even better connected than they, assumedly. That’s IT!!!! The rest is just artwork.

Those who accuse Catholics of worshipping anything other than God are hypocrites, obviously. Did ‘I’ say that? 🙂

-by Kathy Schiffer

“Repeat after me: Catholics do not worship Mary.

Catholics do not worship Mary.

Catholics do not worship Mary.

I mention this because that scurrilous claim has turned up several times recently in my comment boxes. The accusation has shown up in response to various posts, tossed in by some well-meaning, God-fearing Christian who wants to protect society from the Catholic Church.

In his or her mind, prayer to the Mother of God is the ultimate evidence of apostasy: The Bible clearly says that we should have no false gods, and by gosh (he thinks), praying to Mary is just off-the-charts idolatry. Why, doesn’t Exodus 34:14 mean ANYTHING to you?

Do not worship any other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God.

Exodus 34:14 (NIV)

So let’s talk about it.

The Catholic Church teaches that God alone is worthy of worship. However, there are those among us who, because of their heroic virtue, are deserving of acclaim and honor.

This is true in everyday society. A best-selling author, an actor, an athlete, a favorite teacher–all, by virtue of their excellence in a field of endeavor, earn your acclaim and respect.

So, too, in the spiritual realm: We hold in high regard those who, by their virtuous lives, have demonstrated how to better love God and our fellow man. We call those virtuous people whose lives we admire, and who are now in heaven with Christ, “saints.” And Mary, Jesus’ mother, is even more deserving of our admiration and praise.

The Church teaches that there are three types of honor which are due to those who are holy:

Dulia. This is the honor and recognition which we accord to the saints. Perhaps they died as martyrs rather than deny God; or they worked great miracles, since their friendship with God meant that He granted their prayers for healing or restoration; or they simply, as Therese of Lisieux, lived holiness in their own “little way.”
Hyperdulia. This is, to put it simply, lots and lots of dulia. This is the very special honor we accord to Mary, the Mother of God.  Latria. This is true worship, and is given only to God.

St. Thomas Aquinas, Doctor of the Church, writing in his Summa Theologiae (II-II, q. 103, a. 4; III, q. 25, a. 5), explained:

“In more technical terms used by the Tradition to draw this important distinction, devotion to Mary belongs to the veneration of dulia, or the homage and honor owed to the saints, both angelic and human in heaven, and not to latria, or the adoration and worship that can be given only to the Triune God and the Son incarnate. Because of her unique relationship to Christ in salvation history, however, the special degree of devotion due to Mary has traditionally been called hyperdulia. While latria is owed to her Son by reason of unity of His divine and human natures in the Person of the Word made flesh, hyperdulia is due to Mary as truly His Mother.”

One of Catholicism’s most frequently uttered prayers is the Hail Mary. But is this idolatry? No–it’s Scripture.

The words are drawn from the greeting in Luke 1:28, when the angel Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her that she had been chosen to be the Mother of God:

Hail, Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.

And from Luke 1:42, the words spoken by Mary’s cousin Elizabeth:

Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb…

So no, Catholics don’t worship Mary. In our prayer, we ask Mary to intercede for us with her Son. And He will listen because, as James 5:16 tells us,

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

But did you ever meet someone who really doesn’t understand the important difference in how we pray to God and how we pray to Mary and the saints?

If some Catholics fail to follow the Church’s teaching on these matters it certainly doesn’t impinge on the teaching of the Church. (Ed. For instance, a Catholic-esque heresy which has arisen lately, they do with some frequency, as do all other heresies, or they make a comeback, is Santa Muerte. The Catholic Church does EVERYTHING in its power to dissuade and condemn this false and evil icon.} It merely means that some in the Church are uncatechized and not understanding or practicing what the Church teaches.

Pray for us, O holy Mother of God,

That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Love,
Matthew

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