Jul 19 – St Macrina the Younger (330-19 Jul 379 AD) – sister of Sts Gregory of Nyssa, Basil the Great & Gregory Nazianzus

Her father arranged for her to marry but her fiancé died before the wedding. After having been betrothed to her fiancé, Macrina did not believe it was appropriate to marry another man, but saw Christ as her eternal bridegroom.  Instead, she devoted herself to her religion, becoming a nun.

When all her siblings had grown, including Sts Basil the Great & St Gregory Nazianzus, and left the parental home, Saint Macrina convinced her mother, Saint Emilia, to leave the world, to set their slaves free, and to settle in a women’s monastery. Several of their servants followed their example. Having taken monastic vows, they lived together as one family, they prayed together, they worked together, they possessed everything in common, and in this manner of life nothing distinguished one from another.

After the death of her mother, Saint Macrina guided the sisters of the monastery. She enjoyed the deep respect of all who knew her. Strictness towards herself and temperance in everything were characteristic of the saint all her life. She slept on boards and had no possessions. Saint Macrina was granted the gift of wonderworking. There was an instance (told by the sisters of the monastery to Saint Gregory of Nyssa after the death of Saint Macrina), when she healed a girl of an eye-affliction. Through the prayers of the saint, there was no shortage of wheat at her monastery in times of famine.

Macrina had a profound influence upon her brothers and her mother with her adherence to an ascetic ideal. Her brother Gregory of Nyssa wrote a work entitled Life of Macrina in which he describes her sanctity throughout her life. Macrina lived a chaste and humble life, devoting her time to prayer and the spiritual education of her younger brother, Peter. Gregory presents her as one who consciously rejected all Classical education, choosing instead devoted study of Scripture and other sacred writings.

In 379, Macrina died at her family’s estate in Pontus, which with the help of her younger brother Peter she had turned into a monastery and convent. Gregory of Nyssa composed a “Dialogue on the Soul and Resurrection” (peri psyches kai anastaseos), entitled ta Makrinia (P.G. XLVI, 12 sq.), to commemorate Macrina, in which Gregory purports to describe the conversation he had with Macrina on her deathbed, in a literary form modelled on Plato’s Phaedo. Even on her deathbed, Macrina continued to live a life of sanctity, as she refused a bed, and instead chose to lie on the ground.

Saint Macrina is significant in that her brother, Saint Gregory of Nyssa, was able to set standards for being a holy Early Christian woman. He believed that virginity reflected the “radiant purity of God.”

Universalism

Universalists, including Hosea Ballou and J. W. Hanson, claim Macrina as a Universalist in her teachings, citing works which they believe demonstrate Macrina’s belief that the wicked would all eventually confess Christ.

Troparion — Tone 8

The image of God was truly preserved in you, O Mother, / For you took up the Cross and followed Christ. / By so doing, you taught us to disregard the flesh, for it passes away, / But to care instead for the soul, since it is immortal. / Therefore your spirit, O Holy Mother Macrina, rejoices with the Angels!

Love & faith,
Matthew

Hopeful Universalism? – St Macrina the Younger (330 – 19 Jul 379 AD) – sister of Sts Gregory of Nyssa & Basil the Great

-by Rt. Rev., Matthew Gunter, 8th Bishop of the Diocese of Fond du Lac, the Episcopal Church in Northeast WI

“Today is the feast day of Macrina (330-379), older sister and theological/spiritual mentor of Basil of Caesarea and Gregory of Nyssa, two of the most formative theologians and leaders of the early Church. Both of these great theologians pointed to their sister as their mentor in the faith. She was the theologian behind the theologians. Another brother, Peter of Sebaste, also became a bishop and saint.

In his book, On the Soul and the Resurrection, Gregory recounts a dialogue with Macrina in which he asks his sister and teacher a series of questions about the nature of the soul and the resurrection and related things. It might be that Gregory uses Macrina as a literary device to convey his own thoughts similar to the way Plato sometimes uses Socrates in his dialogues. Or maybe this really conveys things he learned directly from Macrina. In any event his respect for her is clear. Towards the end of On the Soul and the Resurrection, Macrina says this:

“To evaluate the way a person has lived, the judge would need to examine all these factors: how he endured suffering, dishonor, disease, old age, maturity, youth, wealth, and poverty; how through each of these situations he ran the course of the life allotted to him either well or badly; and whether he became able to receive many good things or many evil things in a long lifetime or did not reach even the beginning of either good or evil, ceasing to live when his mind was not yet fully developed. But when God brings our nature back to the first state of man by the resurrection, it would be pointless to mention such matters and to suppose that the power of God is hindered from this goal by such obstructions.

He has one goal: when the whole fullness of our nature has been perfected in each man, some straightway even in this life purified from evil, others healed hereafter through fire for the appropriate length of time, and others ignorant of the experience equally of good and of evil in the life here, God intends to set before everyone the participation of the good things in Him, which the Scripture says eye has not seen nor ear heard, nor thought attained.

This is nothing else, according to my judgment, but to be in God Himself; for the good which is beyond hearing, sight, and heart would be that very thing which surpasses everything. But the difference between a life of virtue and a life of wickedness will appear hereafter chiefly in allowing us to participate earlier or later in the blessedness which we hope for. The duration of the healing process will undoubtedly be in proportion to the measure of evil which has entered each person. This process of healing the soul would consist of cleansing it from evil. This cannot be accomplished without pain, as we have discussed previously.”
– On the Soul and the Resurrection, pp. 115-116

Note that Macrina and Gregory are not soft on the reality of death and judgment – this cannot accomplished without pain. We will be judged.There is reason to bear in mind the “Time of Scrutiny” (Sirach 18:20). There is still good reason to take our own piety with utmost seriousness and to invite others to participate now in “the blessedness which we hope for.”

They do seem, however, to understand The Judgment as having more to do with purgation and healing than final eternal punishment and torture. It is unclear whether or not they believed it is possible that some souls might hold out eternally against blessedness. But, they seem convinced that God, in His relentless love, will never give up on anyone – even beyond death and forever.

This hopeful universalism is quite different from an “all-y, all-y in come free” complacent universalism. Macrina anad Gregory are not alone in expressing some version of this. One could add Isaac the Syrian (7th century), Maximos the Confessor (7th century), Frederick Denison Maurice (19th century), C. S. Lewis (20th century), Karl Barth (20th century), Hans Urs von Balthasar (20th century), and many others…”

Love & faith,
Matthew

Hopeful Universalism?


-by Trent Horn

“We are talking about universalism, a doctrine that was considered to be a heresy, that is a heresy, something that was condemned in 543 by the church because it teaches that we can know with certainty that every single human being or possibly every creature, including the devil himself, will be saved. It goes all the way back to the ecclesial writer origin of the third century, with his defense of what he called “Apocatastasis,” or universal reconciliation, reconstituting or restoration to God. This idea that all things will be all in God, everyone shall be saved. And so many of these Universalists, you see them pop up throughout church history and there’s a few prominent ones today. I talked about David Bentley Hart in the previous episode, he wrote this book, “That All Shall Be Saved.” He’s an Eastern Orthodox Theologian, there is even some Catholic theologians that lean towards this view, even though they really shouldn’t.

Among evangelicals, probably the most famous evangelical to argue about this is Robin Parry, I believe that’s his real name. He wrote under a pen name, George McDonald, for the longest time because he has a controversial view and he chose to write under a pen name. But Robin Parry I believe is his real name and he shows up in a great anthology put out by Zondervan. If you want to learn more about how people disagree about particular doctrines, which is more common you see in the Protestant world than in the Catholic world, I highly recommend Zondervan’s Counterpoint or Multiple Views series. I have a few of them in my office and they’re great for me to see the different views people have on specific issues and be able to see people’s arguments and counter arguments very quickly and efficiently.

So for example, I’m working on a Trent tracks right now called, “Hell Be Damned,” and it’s about arguments against hell. We’ve covered that a little bit here on the podcast and we’ll cover more of it today because Universalism is a response to the doctrine of hell, the idea that people might be separated from God for all eternity and endure eternal conscious torment because of that. So Zondervan has a really great series on all different kinds of issues, on biblical inspiration, interpretation, moral issues, theological issues. And for example, there is… And Catholics get on the game too. There is an anthology, I’m looking around my office to see if I can find it. I know it’s here. It’s on the role of faith and works. And Michael Barber, friend of the apostolic, great guy, great Catholic scripture scholar, is in that anthology on the role of faith and works and he puts forward the Catholic view about how works integrates with faith along with Protestants who defend the traditional sola fide by faith alone view and some Protestants who take the really radical view that your works have nothing to do with your salvation.

There are Protestants who believe that once you’re saved, you could become an atheistic serial killer and you couldn’t lose your salvation. Now, you may not get a bunch of rewards when you get to heaven. Your tickets to redeem at the heavenly gift shop are going to be pretty zero, but you still won’t be in hell and you’ll still have eternal life with God. So that is one that boggles the mind that I’ve actually covered in length in my book, “The Case for Catholicism,” available through Ignatius Press if you want to check that out.

So when people ask me, “Trent, what do you think about once saved, always saved or eternal security?” I say to them, “What do you mean by that? Because there’s two different ways of looking at it.” You could have, like in my debate with James White back in 2017, the view that you can’t lose your salvation but if you, a Christian, become an atheistic serial killer and never repent, that only proves you weren’t saved in the first place, which I think has a bunch of logical holes in it when you really start to think about it, nobody could ever really know that they’re saved. I don’t understand that view and I think that comes out well and my debate with James White. But then the other view is like what Charles Stanley and I think Robert Wilkins is another person who defends this view among Protestants. They say, “Yeah, once you’re saved, can’t ever be undone,” which really doesn’t make sense to me when you look at what the Bible teaches about the possibility of losing salvation.

I bring that up because it’s great to see in this series and one of them is actually on hell. And so this one has annihilationism, well, has a traditional view of hell that many Protestants and Catholics share, eternal separation from God that a person is aware of. Other views, it has the annihilationist view, the view that I discussed with Randal Rauser several months ago, that hell is real, people go there. It’s forever, but only in the sense that the damned are destroyed in hell.

Then the other view would be Universalism, that would be the idea that, well, some people go to hell, but you don’t stay there forever. We talked about that in the previous episode. I love one of the contributors to that anthology, John Stott, who’s an Annihilationist says that Universalism represents the triumph of hope over exegesis. That you really, really want something good to be true that just flies in the face of all the biblical evidence thrown at you, as well as for Catholics the magisterial evidence where the church teaches, it’s very clear, that hell exists and it is eternal and people who die in a state of mortal sin go there. So where do you go from there with Universalism?

Well, there’s this other view and that would be Hopeful Universalism. What is that? Hopeful Universalism espoused by Bishop Barron, though it draws its roots mostly from Hans Urs von Balthasar’s two books he wrote in the late 1980s that were eventually compiled together into one book that’s called, “Dare We Hope That All Men Be Saved.” So what do Bishop Barron and von Balthasar believe about Hopeful Universalism and how do we contrast that with regular Universalism that the church condemns? So I’ll fill you in a bit more about von Balthasar then I’ll let Bishop Barron explain it in his own words from a video he posted several years ago.


So basically von Balthasar was a Swiss Theologian and he had a lot of interaction with Protestant Theologians like Carl Bart, who denied some fundamental aspects of Christian belief. And von Balthasar didn’t go that far, but he tried to find a compromise or a halfway ground, especially in understanding the relationship between salvation and hell and whether universal salvation was possible. He’s held in very high standing among Pope Saint John Paul II and Pope Benedict the 16th. He was elevated to being a Cardinal, but he died two days before receiving his red hat.

Now some people say, I mean, what does that mean he died two days before getting his red hat? Some people say, “Well, that’s so he couldn’t spread his heretical beliefs as a Cardinal.” Well, if there really were heretical beliefs, I have a hard time thinking Pope Saint John Paul II would have elevated him to being a Prince of the Church if that were the case. Rather, Fr. Hugh Barbour, the chaplain here at Catholic Answers, offers a funny commentary on that, that Hans Urs von Balthasar died just a few days before Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre who started the SSPX schism. Not, the schism has been lifted, but the society of Saint Pius the 10th, he illegally consecrated several bishops without the permission of the Pope. And he was planning on doing this and what Fr. Hugh said is that Hans Urs von Balthasar apparently prayed that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre would die before he would engage in a schismatic act, like ordaining bishops without the Pope’s approval.

And so it could just be a kind of divine irony that God says, “You prayed that Archbishop Lefebvre would go to heaven before he would do this. Mr. von Balthasar, maybe you would like to go to heaven instead.” And so he died a few days before that happened.

So the point of von Balthasar’s position is that hell is a real possibility for people. In fact, I’m going to let Bishop Barron explain Carl Bart’s Universalism and then von Balthasar’s Hopeful Universalism and then I’ll extract more of the differences between the two.

Now come up to the 20th century, the great Protestant Theologian, Carl Bart, one of the most influential of the modern theologians. He stakes out a position, not all that dissimilar from Origins or Rob Bell’s. It’s pretty much a Universalist position that in the cross of Jesus, all people are saved and the church’s job is to announce this good news to the world. Now, one of his colleagues, a fellow Swiss and a friend of his was Hans Urs von Balthasar, the Catholic theologian. Balthasar took in a good deal of the Bartian spirit, I think reacted against this Augustinian and Thomistic rather dark view on hell. Balthasar said this, “We may reasonably hope that all people will be saved.” You see, what he’s doing is he’s pulling back from Bart and Origin and from a complete Apocatastasis position that we know all people will be saved. No, no, we don’t know that. But we may reasonably hope that all people will be saved. Why? Because of the dramatic thing that God did through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.

So to pull this back, to make sure we understand here what Bishop Barron and von Balthasar are saying, you go back to the words of von Balthasar, he does not say everybody’s definitely going to heaven. In his book, he writes, “We stand completely and utterly under judgment and have no right, nor is it possible for us to peer in advance at the Judge’s cards,” i.e., God’s verdict, which is really something that he does per se, but we do through our own freely chosen actions. Whether we choose to spend eternity with God or not. But here’s the thing, if Universalism were true, all of the Judge’s cards, the verdicts of people’s eternal destinies, it would all be the same basically. At the very least, would either be you’re going to haven now or going to haven later after you get purified in hell. That is not what von Balthasar is saying that everybody’s going.

But what he and Bishop Barron seem to be saying, here’s what von Balthasar, how he puts it, “Love hopes all things. It cannot do otherwise than to hope for the reconciliation of all men in Christ. Such unlimited hope is, from the Christian standpoint, not only permitted but commanded.”

And this is how Bishop Barron puts it, he doesn’t go as far as von Balthasar in many respects, this is how he puts it, or at least that’s the FAQ on his website, “Bishop Barron is convinced we have a reasonable hope that all will be saved, but the first step in assessing and critiquing an argument is to understand the terms as its proponent is using them. It’s important to know how he’s using those two words in this context. First, he means reasonable in the sense that we have good reasons to ground our hope, namely the cross and resurrection of Jesus and his divine mercy. Bishop Barron isn’t making any sort of probabilistic judgment as if to say reasonable means, very likely, or quite probable. Second, we should recognize hope to mean a deep desire and longing tied to love for the salvation of all people, but without knowing all will be saved, thinking all we saved or even expecting all will be saved.”

So there is a sense in which I wholeheartedly agree with von Balthasar and Bishop Barron. There is a sense in which we all should, but the key here to make that agreement is making a distinction between two things, it’s very important for you to take away from the discussion of Hopeful Universalism. There is a difference between hoping that anyone will be saved and hoping that everyone will be saved. So it makes sense, everyone should agree with this. I think even someone who thinks that most people are going to hell. The church has a wide variety of views about how many people end up in hell, that hasn’t been clearly defined. It has been clearly defined that there is a hell, it is eternal, but what percentage of the human family will be there? The church hasn’t explicitly said. There has been a tradition what Bishop Barron first tune his video, is the dark view of Thomas and Augustan, that the majority of human beings will end up in hell.

But here’s the funny thing when you think about that, well, it’s actually not funny hell is not a funny thing. Here’s the interesting thing when you think about that, it could be true. Both of these statements could be true that the majority of human beings are in hell and the majority of human beings are not in hell based on the time you make that statement. Because it could be the case, when Augustan was writing or St. Thomas Aquinas was writing, that the vast majority of human beings rejected God, or the world was still shrouded in pagan darkness and they never came to know God regardless of how God revealed himself, even if it wasn’t through the gospel, but it was through nature and through conscience. It could even be the case today, that maybe up to this point, a large percentage or the majority of human beings are damned.

But we have to remember what if the human race continues for another 1,000 years, or 10,000 years, or 30,000 years? We’d not only populate new planets, we’d populate new dimensions. We can travel to parallel universes within what God has created. Who knows what could happen in 10,000 years? You never know. But it could be the case that by that point, let’s say the gospel, we see a surge in Evangelism and a new Renaissance in the church. It could be the case further down in the future that so many people are saved and go to heaven it actually counterbalances this dark age the church dealt with for its first few thousand years of its existence. So I don’t know, I’m always trying to think of the big picture with these things. So sometimes it’s helpful to move our perspective up and remember us in the present, it’s a very, very, very tiny perspective for us to be in.

Now, what do I think though, of Hopeful Universalism as Bishop Barron espouses it and von Balthasar espouses it? Well, I would say I’m not a big fan of the term reasonable hope because even though it’s defined in the FAQ, on Word on Fire website, that’s not really how most people take the term to me. I know it’s how Bishop Barron does, and that’s fine. But if I say, “I have a reasonable hope that I’m going to pass my class,” usually take that to me and I’ve got at least a 50% shot, even a 30% shot. I’ve got something significant, but that’s not what he’s saying about hell. And that’s not what von Balthasar is saying. Well, I don’t know. von Balthasar is pretty strong. He quotes Edith Stein as saying that it’s infinitely improbable that someone would end up in hell. And Bishop Barron says he’s not going to go that far.

So I think a better term to use is not a reasonable hope all men will be saved, but a rational hope all men will be saved. For example, if I buy a lottery ticket, I don’t have a reasonable hope that I’m going to win the lottery. There is a small, tiny, tiny outside chance I could win. I don’t say I have a reasonable hope I’m going to win, but I have a rational hope I’m going to win because I have a ticket and it’s within the realm of possibility. If I said, if I was at home, “Do you think you’re going to win the lottery?” And I said, “Well, I didn’t buy a ticket, but the winning ticket might magically appear on my coffee stand out of thin air. I’m hoping for that,” that would not be a rational hope. That would be an irrational hope.

So I think, to be more charitable to Bishop Barron’s position, to make it more defensible, you could say, “All right, one could have a rational hope that it’s not irrational to believe that God would make it the case that everyone went to heaven.” I don’t think von Balthasar and Bishop Barron would say that the people who go to hell will be purified and end up in heaven. The von Balthasarian position rather is that no one ever ends up dying in a state of mortal sin and so no one ever ends up in hell. Now, when I hear that to me, I say, “Well that sounds incredibly unlikely,” but once again, it’s just the same as me saying, “I could win the lottery.” Yeah, that’s incredibly unlikely, but given that we desire the salvation of all people and if we love all people, is it okay for us to hope for an incredibly unlikely outcome that is for the good of all human beings?

I would say yes provided that we’re not hoping for something that’s impossible. So that’s the trick here. When it comes to Hopeful Universalism, if the church teaches not only that hell exists and that it’s eternal, but that certain individuals are in hell or that the church teaches, it is impossible for it to be the case all people are going to go to heaven. Then we couldn’t have Hopeful Universalism is a viable belief system or a permitted theological opinion any more than you could hope that it turns out original sin was all just a dream and it never really happened, and I wake up and it turns out Patrick Duffy on Dallas was actually alive and the whole thing was a dream. All you TV aficionados, you’ll know what I mean with that terrible retcon on Dallas. You know, Patrick Duffy wakes up like it was all a dream. No, we can’t hope for that because original sin did happen. We have to deal with the consequences of it.

So what does the church teach on this matter? Does the church teach there are individuals in hell and so it’s impossible, even on the remote, crazy outside chance, 10 million to one, it’s impossible for all human beings to have ended up in heaven? Well, Avery Cardinal Dulles, who is a very Orthodox thinker, somebody that I trust, he says, “This Dare We Hope position of Balthasar seems to me to be Orthodox. It does not contradict any ecumenical councils or definitions of the faith. It can be reconciled with everything in scripture, at least if the statements of Jesus on hell are taken as minatory rather than predictive.” So minatory would be that they’re a warning. It’s kind of like when Jonah went to the Nineveh and said, “In three more days, four more days or whatever, 40 days Nineveh shall be destroyed.” But Nineveh ended up not being destroyed. So the prophecy was really more of a warning that if you don’t listen to me, this is what’s going to happen.

So the defenders of the von Balthasarian position would say that Matthew 25, when Jesus is talking about people going to hell, being in hell, that the gate is wide to destruction, the road to life is narrow. That these are warnings rather than predictions. Now you might say, “Well, how can you believe that? That’s got a contradict with what the church teaches because Jesus clearly teaches here in scripture that there are people going to be in hell. It’s just the plain meaning of the passage.” Well, here’s the thing. What we believe as Catholics does not derive directly from what we consider to be the plain meaning of a biblical passage. For example, the church has no official teaching on what hell is like, but Jesus certainly does teach in scripture, he uses analogies or descriptions to talk about hell being a place of fire, being a place where the worms die not. But the church doesn’t have an official position on whether hell is constituted with literal fire or not. The church doesn’t weigh in on it.

That maybe something that’s affirmed in scripture, but just because scripture says something, we always have to go about interpreting it too. And when it comes to interpreting scripture, the church gives us guidance on being able to interpret, especially guardrails of scripture cannot say this, like Jesus is not God. It can say this, Jesus is God, fully man, fully God. And then there are other areas where there can be multiple interpretations of something where the church has not officially weighed in on it, such as the meanings of certain parables or passages. There’s a lot of things in scripture have multiple meanings to them.

Even when Jesus said, which I think is one of the clearest arguments that somebody is in hell in Matthew 26, 24 Jesus said of Judas, “It’s better for him to never been born.” To me, what I take that as just the intuitive reading of that passage is that Judas was lost. He was lost, he is condemned and it’s better for him to have never been born because if he were born, even if he sinned grievously, he would still end up in heaven, but the church doesn’t have an official position on either that passage or the fate of Judas himself.

And there is a possibility, I’ve read some biblical scholarship on this, that when Jesus says, “It would be better for him to have never been born,” he’s using a Hebrew Semitism, an expression or hyperbolic way of speaking saying if you betray the son of man, that’s a terrible thing for you to do. You’re going to be facing a lot of fires of purgatory for what you’re doing here. It’s really, really bad. Just like it would be better for them to have had a millstone tied around their neck than to have caused one these little ones to stumble. Now, as I said, I think that is a minority interpretation of what the passage probably means. But for me, when I look to see what scripture says, I want to go back and see what does the church teach on that. Because 1 Timothy 3:15 says, “The church is the pillar and foundation of truth.”

So in order to answer the question, if von Balthasar and Hopeful Universalism is a permitted theological opinion we’d have to see, has the church ever definitively taught, has it ever taught that there are individuals in hell? Or that universal salvation is an impossibility? And I’ve gone to the citations and I haven’t found them. There’s one from the First Lateran Council that says that, “Jesus will come at the end of time to judge the living and the dead, to render to every person according to his works, both to the reprobate and the elect, all of them will rise with their own bodies, which they now wear. So as to receive according to their desserts, whether these be good or bad.” This profession of faith from the First Lateran Council, I would say, it could only allude to maybe the possibility there are definitely people at that time who were in hell. It doesn’t state it explicitly.

The fact that it uses language like there are the reprobate and the elect, and you know the damned or the saved basically, these are two classes of people or sets, but one of the sets could be empty. It’d be like if I was a teacher and I told my class, “Listen to me, tomorrow when we all come to school the punctual will be given their rewards and the truant, i.e. the people who don’t show up, will be punished.” But it could be the case there are no people in the truant class. Now I personally, I don’t think that. I think that even if this is a permitted theological opinion, it’s not one that I endorse because I still think there’s a heavy amount of evidence against it. I think it’s fine, once again, to hope for the salvation of anybody. Even Judas, we should pray that any person, that’s why we always pray for someone who dies. We don’t say, “We know…”

Some people say, “Well, the church prays for the salvation of everyone.” Yeah, in a sense. We always pray for the dead because we don’t have infallible knowledge what the state of their soul is, so we pray for anybody even if they died, apparently, totally unrepentant. The fact is God delights in repentance, he does not delight in the death of the wicked and we’re not privy to that. So we say, “Well, Lord help him. Lord help me at the hour of my death,” and we pray for that. We would want people pray for that for us, we pray for that for others. But once again, hoping for the salvation of anyone is not the same thing as hoping for the salvation of everyone. You definitely should hope for anybody’s salvation, but everyone, that seems to be a very, very distant remote possibility for me. Even if this is a permitted theological opinion.

Now other evidence would be Benedict the 12th, set in the 14th century, “Furthermore, we define that,” which is evidence of infallible teaching, “According to the general plan of God, the souls of those dying in actual mortal sin descend to hell soon after death.” And the defender of the von Balthasarian view could say “Right, but it could be the case that no one ever dies in mortal sin.” Once again, I think that’s unlikely, but we don’t have an explicit teaching from the church saying that there definitely are people who die in mortal sin and go to hell.

So just to summarize, when I look at the magisterial teaching, what we see from the Pope’s and magisterial documents from ecumenical councils, I agree with Avery Cardinal Dulles that the position Bishop Barron holds, it does not contradict what the church teaches because the church has never definitively taught that any particular person, even Judas, is in hell. And so for me, I would take that to show that this Hopeful Universalism he espouses would be a permitted theological opinion. And the church allows for lots of those. For example, let’s take predestination and free will. The church says in paragraph 600 of the catechism, “You got to believe God has a plan for us. He predestine people to salvation,” but we’re not puppets. We can freely choose to reject God’s plan. Predestination and free will, you got to believe in both, but how do they work together?

The church has an answer that question, you can hold the Thomists view of that predestination, the Molinists view of predestination or maybe your own view as long as it holds to the bare minimum standards of what we believe about predestination and free will. So when it comes to hell, you have to believe in the bare minimum that hell exists. It’s a real possibility and it is eternal in nature. It’s not a path to heaven, it’s not a path to annihilation. But aside from that, you could hold the von Balthasar position, as Bishop Barron does, it doesn’t contradict any church teaching. But just because you can hold something, it doesn’t mean you necessarily should.

And as a separate question as they note on the FAQ that there’s a difference between a view being Orthodox and it being prudent. I mean, you can believe that the earth is 6,000 years old. The church doesn’t have a teaching on the age of the earth. I don’t think that you should because that contradicts all the scientific evidence we have. Much the same way, I’m very concerned about the von Balthasar position of Hopeful Universalism, I just don’t see what benefit it holds. I don’t see how it benefits us in Evangelism if we hold out this possibility that all people can be saved.

That’s not the same thing as saying the possibility of non-Christians being saved. I don’t think that hurts Evangelism because if someone believed, if you never heard who Jesus was and you were automatically going to hell because you were born in the wrong century, I think a lot of people would give up their belief in a good God if God would damn someone because that person happened to be born in the wrong time and place, not because the person ever rejected God’s offer of salvation. Even if it was presented to him or her under a very basic, minimal terms such as through nature and through conscience. But this view, I don’t see how it’s that helpful. Some people may say, “Well, it shows God’s love that he’ll go to any length to save us, and he loves us,” and I don’t doubt that. It’s good to show God desires the salvation of anyone, as I’ve mentioned earlier.

But it seems to subtly reinforce the view that it would be unloving of God for him to allow somebody to go to hell. God will be perfectly loving if he offered salvation and there are people who spend eternity with God and people who do not do that. Hell does not contradict the love of God, something we’ll probably have to explore in a future lecture.

So to summarize, I think that the view is a permissible one to hold. It hasn’t been contradicted by the official teaching of the church, but I think the probability of it being true is extremely low. So it’s not one that I want to bank on, I have serious prudential aversions to holding or promoting this view. And that’s something that we, as Catholics, can reasonably disagree about. But people have asked me what do I think about this, that is what I think.”

Love & faith,
Matthew

The Heresy of Universalism


-by Trent Horn

“Is everyone definitely going to heaven? Are we all mistaken about hell? I will break down universalism and examines the biblical arguments that are used in support of this heresy.

‘YOU get eternal life with God! And, YOU get eternal life with God.  And, YOU, etc.” Wrong., not everybody gets eternal life with God. That would be Oprah if she was preaching universalism.

[Universalism exists] because one of the critiques of Hell, if you recall last time when I had Randall Rouser on the show, we looked at one critique of Hell, which says that, “Yes, Hell exists, but it’s not permanent and the damned are destroyed there.” That would be annihilationism. Another view of Hell is that Hell exists, but it’s more like purgatory. Hell is something where people are purified and so eventually all of the damned, at some point after death, will eventually embrace God, love God, they’ll repent of their sins and then have eternal life with God.

So, universalism is the view that all people or possibly all creatures, which may include the demons and even the devil himself, will be saved. And this is a view that you can find going far back in church history. It’s not a common one, it’s an extreme minority view in church history. You can find a few church fathers or a few ecclesial writers endorsing this view, but it’s a very small minority view. It probably goes back as far as the ecclesial writer Origen in the third century. He espoused a doctrine called apocatastasis.

So, apocatastasis means restoration, reconstitution, and it was his view that all human beings would eventually be drawn to God and all things will be reconciled to God and no one would be in Hell. People dispute a little bit over what Origen meant, because some people accused Origen of saying that even the devil would be redeemed and he would be in Heaven, I think Origen actually denied that view. But regardless of what happened, several centuries later in the sixth century, the church condemned Origen’s views and they condemned the doctrine of universalism, I think around the year 543 AD. Now, they condemned the specific view that we can know with certainty that all people will be saved. There are other variants of universalism that he will put forward, like hopeful universalism that are different in many key respects, like what Bishop Barron proposes and we’re going to talk about later here in the podcast.

So first, let’s start with the doctrine of universalism, classical universalism, that says we know for certain all people will be saved. And then we’ll move to what is called Von Balthasarian hopeful universalism, or the universalism that Bishop Barron promotes, which is based on the writings of the Swiss theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthasar.

So, to go to classic universalism, there’s a recent book that just came out that I was reading through by an author that, I guess I grudgingly enjoy him. He’s an Eastern Orthodox theologian named David Bentley Hart, and he has a very eclectic writing career. The guy is legitimately smart. Like when I read through books, I normally can read through a book and I can get everything the author is saying, but one insight that Hart is very well read, is that he has an incredible vocabulary.

I mean, he had a personal library of something like 20,000 books that he eventually donated to charity or donated to university, but the guy is really well read. So, when I read through his stuff, the vocabulary he uses, every other page, I’m looking up words and normally I don’t have to do that. I think I have a decent command of vocabulary, a verbose vocabulary, if you will, but Hart will just say things that I’m like, “Okay, where is this coming from?”

Or the other thing that he does, this is the thing where it makes it grudging for me, that I like him because he’s smart. I think he puts forward decent ideas. In some areas he’s better than others, I think some of his arguments against atheism are great. He’s actually a great defender of the doctrine of divine simplicity, the idea that God is not divided into parts, but God is just infinite being itself. But there’s other things that he argues for that I think he’s comparatively weak on. He’s a big defender of socialism. I’ve critiqued him on our online magazine and he gets critiqued in my book I’m co-authoring with Catherine Bacolic called Why Catholics Can’t Be Socialist. He’s not Catholic, but he’s still espouses a Christian view saying that Christianity and socialism, Christians ought to be socialists, and so I take him to task for that in my book, though I don’t want to be on the receiving end of Hart taking me to task. I mean I might, but I would love a response from him, to this book.

Well, the book he wrote is called, let’s see here, That All Shall Be Saved, Heaven, Hell and Universal Salvation.  There’s a great review of it on the Gospel Coalition website, this is a Protestant website, by Michael McClymond, and McClymond actually has written a really big treatment of the history of universalism in the church. And he comes down on the view that it’s a minority doctrine held by only a few fathers in the church, and that it’s a destructive doctrine and that it promotes, I think, what Dietrich Bonhoeffer called cheap grace. This idea that if everyone is saved, then it really cheapens the offer of salvation, the offer of grace that God gives us.

So, McClymond reviews Hart’s book, and I love, though, what he says about Hart’s rhetoric, because one thing that’s distinctive about David Bentley Hart is his rhetoric that he uses. So, he has a wide vocabulary, but he also knows the right words to tear people apart. So, this is what McClymond says. “One cannot consider Hart’s arguments for Christian universalism apart from the ethos and pathos of his prose. Willis Jenkins speaks of Hart’s adjectival petulance, while Douglas Pharaoh calls him, ‘an intellectual pugilist who floats like a butterfly and stings like a bee.’ For better and for worse, Hart’s verbal pyrotechnics are as obvious as a bomb blast in a reading room. In That All Shall Be Saved, he claims that his intellectual opponents and their views are viciously vindictive, exquisitely malicious, specious reasoning, inherently incredible, morally obtuse, ostentatiously absurd, extravagant absurdities, an intoxicating atmosphere of corroborating nonsense.”

And that’s actually just a collection of insults from the first 20 pages of the book. He has all kinds of things he likes to throw at people as he goes on. And so what I want to do in this episode, though, I’m not going to go through Hart’s book bit-by-bit, I just want to use it.

That’s an introduction to the topic, because there’s really two different kinds of arguments that Universalists use. One, they’ll say, is that Hell is inherently unjust and so they’ll make philosophical arguments saying it would be unjust for someone, for God to allow someone to choose Hell or to be consigned to Hell for all eternity. And so I might address that in a future podcast, just focused on the philosophical arguments related to Hell. Instead, in this episode, I want to focus more on the biblical data, the data from divine revelation to say, “What has God told us about this?”

Because you might be thinking, “Well look, Jesus warned us about Hell. He said that people can go to Hell. The, you know, the gate is wide to destruction and narrow for those who find life. How can you get more obvious than that?” Well, universalists take a look at scripture and they do two things. One, they argue that the references to Hell are only temporary references. So, when Jesus uses adjectives like eternal, the Greek word ionian … This is similar to, you know, my discussion with Randall rouser on annihilationism. They’re talking about how it’s a punishment in the age to come, not one that necessarily lasts for an eternal duration.

But the problem I have with this, and I mentioned in my previous critique of the annihilationist, is that in Matthew 25:46, in Matthew 25, Jesus makes a parallel judgment of the sheep and the goats, the sheep that follow him, that feed the poor, clothe the naked, that follow Jesus’ teachings, they have eternal life with God. And so they have an eternal reward, they have eternal life. But then there’s a parallel with the goats who reject Jesus, who refuse to follow his commands, and they go into ionian colossan, eternal punishment.

And so ultimately though, if it’s not really eternal punishment, if it’s just life in the age to come and punishment in the age to come, then the sheep and the goats kind of end up in the same place. Because the goats, no matter how bad that purifying process is that they go through in Hell, when you compare it to the eternal, infinite happiness that awaits them in Heaven, it’s not going to be really any big deal at all. So, there’s a severe lack of justice in that result, and it doesn’t make sense of the biblical warnings that Christ gives for Hell. So, most Universalists, they try to argue Hell is just a purifying state and that all people will end up in Heaven, but that doesn’t make sense of the descriptions we have from Hell.

Now, if that were their only argument, then it would be a pretty weak position for them to run through. But the positive evidence that universalists offer is, they’ll pick Bible passages where it talks about how God desires the salvation of all people and that all people will be reconciled to God, and they’ll say, “Okay, well that shows that God is going to save all people. God wants all people to be saved.” 1st Timothy 2:4, “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

So that’s true. God wants all people to be saved. But just because God wants something, it doesn’t follow that’s going to happen. God wants me to not ever commit a sin in my life. Now, that makes sense, right? Does God want Trent Horn to sin? No, he doesn’t want me to sin. In fact, Jesus says, “Be perfect like your Heavenly father is perfect.” God wants me, from this moment going forward, to not commit a sin. Am I going to commit a sin? You bet I’m going to. In fact, James 3:2 says that we all stumble in small ways. So, there are many things that God wants, and that represents his perfect will for us, but he understands that we are not puppets on a string, we are not marionettes. And so, there are things God wants for us, but we can choose to not go along with his plan.

And one of those things is that God wants all people to be saved and the only thing that would keep that from happening is the free choice that God has given to his creatures. So what that means is, for example, for angels, angels are forever cut off from God because their decision to rebel against God before the creation of the world is fixed for all eternity. The catechism in paragraph 393 says this. It says, “It is the irrevocable character of their choice,” the angels who rebelled against God, “and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable. There is no repentance for the angels after their fall, just as there is no repentance for men after death.”

One of my arguments for why I believe Hell is eternal is that the damned make it eternal by continually sinning and rejecting God. They just double down on their sins and continue to wallow in them and routinely choose them over God for all eternity. And you probably know people like this who are stubborn, who are malicious, that even when they’re offered mercy and grace, they turn it down and they double down on their own sins and they find almost a sick kind of pleasure in their own sins and in their own stubbornness. And I think that that’s what Hell is, that Hell, it has a lock, but the lock is on the inside. That people choose to not unlock it, that if you took someone out of Hell and place them into Heaven, they would curse God and march right back into Hell and consider it to be better.

In fact, and to be sympathetic to David Bentley Hart, there is an Eastern view on what Hell is. I don’t believe it is compatible with the Catholic view of Hell, because if you look in the catechism in paragraphs, it’s between, I think it’s like 1035, 1033 through 1035, it says that the chief punishment of Hell is eternal separation from God. And so Hell, you’ll get everything you wanted in life, you’ll get yourself and you’ll be cut off from everything that is completely good in life, which is God.

A common view in Eastern Orthodox theology though of Hell, which I find really intriguing, I actually really want to believe it, but it seems to contradict what the church teaches about Hell being a separation from God. Many Eastern theologians have said that Hell is just the reaction that the damned have to God’s presence, that God’s holiness, for example, that when God’s holiness is received by different people, it is experienced in different ways. So, those who are saints in Heaven, the canonized, so the saints in Heaven who are freed from sin, they experience God as infinite bliss and it’s wonderful. The saved who are in purgatory, who are being purified of their sins, they experience God as possibly a painful kind of cleansing environment, that they see they’re moving towards the good, but it’s not a pleasant road going along the way. For them, the experience of God is kind of like the experience of going to the dentist, to use an analogy that’s helpful with children to explain what purgatory is like.

But the damned, what makes Hell Hellish is they experience God and it is just awful for them. They are in torment because they hate that goodness since they love themselves. Have you ever seen a narcissist? Somebody who is just in love with themselves, they’re always bragging about themselves. When they’re among a group of people and they’re with somebody who is objectively better than them, someone who is smarter, funnier, better looking, more accomplished, they’re always trying to one up that person and they can’t, and it just drives them crazy. And so, they don’t want to be a part of that. They don’t want to have to deal with that, it’s irritating to them. And so if that was magnified infinite fold in Hell for people to experience God, then it’s almost like there’s a kind of justice that in the afterlife everybody gets God and your temperament, how you’re fixed at death, whether your soul was fixed, oriented towards God or away God, will determine how you receive him for all eternity.

Now, just to repeat, that’s the Eastern view of Hell. I find it intriguing, but I do not think that it is compatible with the Catholic view, because the catechism in paragraph 1035 makes it very clear that Hell is eternal separation from God. Not that you receive God, but it’s just a horrible feeling because you’re not well disposed to receive him because you don’t desire that. The sin you cling to recoils at the love of God.

So, going back to Universalists, they’ll quote Bible passages like this. 1st Corinthians 15:22, “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.” So, the Universalist says, “Okay, because of Adam, we all, every human being ended up in sin, and because of Christ, every human being will end up in Heaven.” That is not what Paul is saying here. He uses the phrase, in Christ, is a phrase that’s very specific to Pauline theology, and it refers to the saved. It refers to people who have the grace of God, who are united to Christ through baptism. It doesn’t refer to all human beings. So yes, “For as in Adam,” we all come from Adam because of biological generation, “all die,” all have original sin. So also, “In Christ,” those who are in Christ, “shall all be made alive.” All of those who are in Christ, not all human beings whatsoever.

This also explains what Paul writes in Romans 5:18. He says, “ASs one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.” So the Universalist will say, “Oh, see here, it’s saying through Adam, one man’s trespass, all were condemned. And to have the symmetry through one man’s act of righteousness, Christ’s sacrifice on the cross, this leads to acquittal and life for all men.” But once again, Paul is not saying that all human beings will be saved through Christ, in virtue that Christ has just died on the cross and so automatically all human beings will be saved.

He’s talking about life for all of those who are in Christ, and we know that in Romans 5:18, to sort of summarize, Romans 5:18, “One man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men.” It would be easy to read universalism out of that passage, but that’s not what Paul is talking about because we have to go back one verse. Remember, watch out for proof texts. You got to look at the context. A proof text without context is nothing but a pretext. I think that was the Protestant exigent D A Carson, who once said that.

In Romans 5:17 Paul says, “If, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will.” and here’s the key part, “those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness, reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.” So, Paul says that before Romans 5:18 and he says it’s not every human being, it’s those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness. Just because something is a free gift doesn’t mean that you have to receive it. I get free gifts and free offers in the mail all the time. “Free credit card offer, here you go.” Guess what? I’m not going to receive it because I don’t want that. Now, the free offer, the free gift of God? I will cooperate with God’s grace to receive that because I see that that offers the greatest thing I could ever have. Eternal life.

Okay, so let’s summarize where we’re at. We’ve been talking about universalism. That is the view that all people, possibly all creatures will go to Heaven and that Hell is a way that they are purified and that’s how they get to Heaven. But as we see, there’s no biblical evidence for this view, and it’s contradicted by the Bible’s teachings that Hell is something that’s really bad. Hell is not a stopping point on the way to Heaven, Hell is something that you don’t want to end up to. Hell is a place of death.

That’s why the annihilationist view makes more sense than the universalist view. The annihilationist will say, “Yeah, Hell is a place where you’re lost.” Because think about when Jesus talks about the lost, “I’ve come to save the lost, come for those who are lost.” If universalism were true, then the people who go to Hell, they’re not lost, they’re delayed. They’re delayed, they’re going to be purified in Hell, and then eventually they’re going to spend an infinite amount of time with God in Heaven. So, they’re not lost, they’re delayed. The annihilationist view makes more sense because they would say the damned are lost because they are destroyed in Hell.

Now, I disagree with them because it seems clear that the descriptions of Hell are that it is a never ending place of torment for those who were separated from God, and that the eternal separation the damned endure is not one where they go out of existence and so they’re apart from God for all eternity. Like if I delete an email, I don’t say it’s eternally deleted, it’s just it’s deleted, it’s gone. No, there’s this kind of enduring separation that takes place. And so it contradicts what we have from the biblical data, what we have from the teachings of the church that Hell is a real reality, that it’s not purgative, that not everyone’s going to have … And universalism was condemned in the sixth century. You cannot hold the view as a Catholic that you know for certain all people are going to Heaven.

Now, that brings us to Bishop Barron and so I’m going to have to tease out the end of this podcast here, but don’t worry. We’re going to continue this discussion in part two episode of this week, where I want to give enough time and treatment to this topic. I guess I thought I could cover both of these in one episode, but that’s fine, we’ve got flexibility here.

So, now we’ve seen what universalism is. You can’t believe that, the view that it’s definite all people are going to go to Heaven. But what about another view? What about a view we might call hopeful universalism? That’s the view where we’re saying, “Well, we don’t know for certain all people are going to Heaven, but is it possible that no one will be lost? Is it possible that no one will end up in Hell? That Hell exists? It’s eternal, but it’s empty. No human beings end up there. Is it possible and something we should hope for that all human beings will end up in Heaven?” That would be the view called hopeful universalism espoused by the Swiss theologian, Hans Urs Von Balthasar, and it’s more popularly espoused today by Bishop Robert Barron. So, that view is not the same as universalism. It is not the same.

And so there’s two questions I would ask of that view. One, is it an Orthodox view, is it a view that a faithful Catholic can hold? Does it contradict church teaching? And two, is it a prudent view? Is it a view that we ought to hold? Is it a good idea? Those are two different views, but I want to make sure I give that view the best treatment in my next article.”

Love, Lord, give me the grace to worthy of Your reward at my judgment, particular, and universal(final, last),
Matthew

Inculturaltion, Syncretism, Paganism, & nonexistent gods…


Please click on the image for greater detail.

Please click on the image for greater detail. A wooden statue of a pregnant woman is pictured in the Church of St. Mary in Traspontina as part of exhibits on the Amazon region during the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon in Rome Oct. 18, 2019. Several copies of the statue were stolen from the church and thrown into the Tiber River Oct. 21. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) See SYNOD-STATUES-VANDALISM Oct. 21, 2019.


-by Todd Aglialoro, is the director of publishing for Catholic Answers Press. He studied theology at Franciscan University, the University of Fribourg, and the International Theological Institute. A New York native, Todd now lives in the San Diego area with his wife, seven children, and one small bird.

“Conflict continues to bubble over the recent Amazon Synod’s embrace of indigenous practices and imagery, with some critics accusing its organizers of tolerating syncretism: an illicit blending of religious ideas or symbols. The most prominent example being, of course, the ritual performed in the Vatican gardens that included various native totems—including one of several statues of a pregnant, naked woman whose identity remains in dispute but which has been popularly tabbed (including by the Holy Father) as the nature/fertility goddess Pachamama.

Some concerned Catholics sent the statues for a swim in the Tiber, but they apparently resurfaced, no worse for wear, and were returned to their former purposes. (Either that, or they were replaced with duplicates, like when your son’s hamster dies unexpectedly.) But the debate was just warming up, and last week it was joined by Card. Blase Cupich, archbishop of Chicago, who criticized the “vandalism” of those who introduced Pachamama to Sister River.

He cited the Vatican’s official response to the incident, which in turn cited a passage from St. John Henry Newman to the effect that, over history, the Church sometimes adapted elements of non-Christian worship for its own sacred practices. Card. Cupich called this inculturation, which is a term we more often use to refer to the missionary practice of introducing and cultivating the gospel using the cultural touchstones of a place and people (see Redemptoris Missio 52). But it’s actually a “two-way street,” he said, and we must be prepared to let ourselves be inculturated by our contact with those we’re evangelizing.

This is consonant with the synod’s working document’s express desire that, quoting Pope Francis’s Evangelii Gaudium, we let ourselves “be evangelized” by the people of the Amazon, and also with an editorial in the influential Jesuit newspaper La Civita Cattolica that said the Amazon Synod was an opportunity for “the periphery” to “contribute to the transformation of the center.”

Syncretism is a kind of mock-inculturation, since it doesn’t transform the old and false with the light of the new and true, but seeks to split the difference between them, creating a third thing. Fundamentalist Protestants sometimes accuse Catholicism of being syncretistic from the earliest centuries—of having shaken-up biblical truth with Roman paganism to create the superstitious mystery religion/system of works-salvation/Mary-worship-cult/take-your-pick Church that exists today. And in many of the Church’s historical missionary efforts there has been the danger of incomplete evangelization, producing not inculturated Christians but “baptized pagans” who retained some of their old beliefs alongside Catholic ones, or took up hybrid beliefs springing from an alchemy of old and new.

(I remember my first encounter with this: Paul Simon’s 1990 album The Rhythm of the Saints. Its liner notes told the story of slaves in Brazil who after conversion to Christianity adapted their percussive pagan rituals to the veneration of saints. But what seemed at first like a textbook inculturation case was actually a prime example of syncretism: the evolution of the cult of Candombléa soup of Catholic, African, and native South American religious ideas.)

From the point of view of faith, then, true evangelization and true inculturation are a one-way street. Yes, Catholicism is “incarnated” in different concrete cultural expressions, and yes, on the natural level the “seeds of the Word” may be present in paganism, as unevangelized peoples give voice to their innate longing for the unknown Creator. But at root it is always the one Faith: shining, transforming, revolutionizing, making all things new. It doesn’t negotiate with paganism but overwhelms and completes it with truth.

This is why the presence of naturalistic and pagan trappings during the Amazon Synod—along with statements like that of Bp. Erwin Kräutler, a principal synod player who has claimed that in decades of ministry in South America he has never baptized an indigenous person and never intends to do so—are troubling to so many. They may suggest, first, that the aim is not to Christianize pagan practices but to embrace them, in their raw form, alongside Christian ones in a syncretistic synthesis (perhaps part of a new “Amazonian rite”). And second, in a break from the usual mission approach, that the Church needs to learn from pagan Amazonia at least as much as it needs to teach it.

Inculturation versus syncretism again. It can be very easy to buy the former but take delivery of the latter. For of course it’s licit to emphasize the need for the Church to preach in a people’s cultural language. And it can be quite reasonable, even laudably humble, to recognize that a non-Christian culture may possess natural virtues (for example, a harmonious, anti-consumerist approach to God’s creation) that can edify us in turn.

But these pursuits are different from splitting the difference with paganism in an indifferentist bargain that mushes together Mother Earth and Mother Mary as interchangeable symbols of the life-giving Divine Feminine. Or from inviting animism to backwash into Catholicism with a dose of romanticized eco-spirituality.

How do we tell the difference? By close observation.

Inculturation is grounded in the truths of the Faith. When the evangelizing Church embraces elements of non-Christian cultures, it does so in order to use them as vessels for delivering Catholic truth unadulterated. No matter what it accidentally looks, sounds, or smells like, inculturated Christianity is always recognizable Christianity: monotheistic, trinitarian, biblical, apostolic, eucharistic, historical not gnostic, orthodox in faith and morals. The Blessed Mother may be depicted with brown skin and wearing the garb of a Mexican peasant woman, but she is still the lowly handmaid of Nazareth who said yes to an angel and bore the God-man, the second person of the Triune deity who revealed himself to the fathers of Israel.

For the evangelizing Church, authentic two-way inculturation lets us learn natural lessons from the “peripheries” that promote our deeper reflection on the truths that we present and that we strive to live every day.

Syncretism, on the other hand, introduces alien novelty. It results either in an embrace of falsehood along with truth or in their combination into a new thing. And not as a clever temporary measure meant to accompany people toward acceptance of the full Christian truth, but as an end—even a desirable one, considered more sophisticated and holistically true than either Christianity or paganism by itself. “Are not those who worship divinity in the Eucharist and in the earth,” the syncretist may ask, “possessors of a richer, more complete theology?”

Syncretism likewise becomes two-way when we take the wish to be “evangelized” by paganism beyond a natural or metaphorical sense and treat it as openness to a new revelation. The syncretistic impulse says not only, “Let us profit from whatever is good in this culture’s love of creation or respect for ancestors,” but, “Let us add its theology to our own; let us welcome its idols into our worship and bow before them.”

True inculturation means that new Christians can keep their old “rhythms”—but play them only for the Lord and the saints, leaving behind their dead gods. We should recognize that difference, and pray that from the Amazon Synod only true evangelization and full conversion may flow.

Love, and EVERYBODY TAKE A BREATH!!!! AND LIGHTEN UP!!!! Who wants to join a Church of fascists? Not me.
Matthew

Muslim discovers the Catholic Church

-by David Shawkan, David was born in January 1979 in Baghdad, Iraq. He works as a Senior Business Analyst and lives in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. He holds a BS degree in Civil Engineering and an MS degree in Management of Information Systems. David is married and has two children, a son, 11, and a daughter, 8. They are parishioners of St. Bartholomew the Apostle Catholic Parish in Scotch Plains, New Jersey. David enjoys reading and writing; he is writing a book, “Jesus, The Source and Summit of Us All”.

“So they took away the stone. And Jesus raised His eyes and said, “Father, I thank You for hearing Me. I know that You always hear Me; but because of the crowd here I have said this, that they may believe that You sent Me.” And when He had said this, He cried out in a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!” The dead man came out, tied hand and foot with burial bands, and His face was wrapped in a cloth. So Jesus said to them, “Untie him and let him go.”
(-John 11:41–44 NABRE)

“My name is David, and I am the Lazarus of that Gospel passage. I was born in Baghdad, Iraq in 1979 to a Muslim family of nine — six boys and three girls. I was the eighth child.

However, my family was not a happy one. My father was an alcoholic, and my parents fought regularly. From time to time, my father would leave the house, then come back a couple of days later to turn over a new leaf. But it was always the same old story. Finally, when I was about 12, my parents got divorced.

I have almost no memory of my father teaching me right from wrong, giving me advice, or showing me how to do things. My mother did her best to raise us right, but with her huge family, it was never enough. To help with the family’s finances, I started working at age 10, carrying out merchandise to people’s cars at a nearby grocery store. I would also go with one or two of my brothers to sell a bag full of items at a curbside spot known as the “Friday Market.” This was how we put food on the table. As the years advanced, most of my brothers were sent off to do their mandatory eight-year military service, so I ended up being the flag bearer at home.

Although I was lonely, I never felt alone. There was always Someone, whose identity I did not know, watching over me.

I was acquainted with God even when I was small. My family was not godless, but neither were we strictly religious. Most of my understanding about God came from the religious education I received at school, from reading, media, and an occasional visit to mosques and other places of religious significance. Most of my family would pray, fast, offer sacrifices, and give to charity, but not in a regular way.

I was an overweight kid and clumsy. At school, I was always the last one to be picked for sports. (Soccer was my favorite game, if I was allowed to play.) This affected my social skills and friendships; I actually had very few friends. As a result, I put all my effort into study, gaining a top ten in district when I graduated from elementary school. In this way, I became eligible to take a test to be accepted at the most prestigious middle and high school in the country. I passed the test, and my transformation began.

Throughout the subsequent years, my social grace improved, but I was less religious. When I graduated, I was admitted to the College of Engineering.

My family members moved into adulthood; some married and left home. Our father, of course, was gone. Eventually two of my brothers decided to leave Iraq for Jordan, then go on to Dubai, to escape the increasing government oppression. Nearly the entire family followed, leaving me to finish college alone.

Although I was lonely, I never felt alone. There was always Someone, whose identity I did not know, watching over me.

I graduated in 2001 and started getting my passport and papers so I could travel abroad. In the process, I met my soulmate, Emily, who is now my wife. We talked, dated, and got engaged.

Then in late 2002, I traveled to Dubai, where employment was waiting for me with a structural engineering firm. But my heart was not in the work; I had left it back home with my fiancée. When the new year came, war started, and with it, communication ended. I could reach no one back in Iraq.

I spent many hours watching the war news on television and thinking. Then I decided to do a crazy thing: In the middle of this war, I would return to Iraq to be with my fiancée, my friends, and whatever was left of my family. I had this lunatic idea that, with the war, the economy would be better and there would be more opportunity for everyone, especially for those, like me, with outside experience.

The only way back to Iraq was through Syria. So I flew to Syria, then took a minibus going to Baghdad. We passed the border and secondary checkpoints, but by then it was after sunset and night travel was dangerous, so we spent the night there. At sunrise, we resumed our journey. The road was empty, and it was scary. When we reached Baghdad, I went directly home and joyfully found everyone OK.

In less than a week, the war was over — but the chaos was just beginning. I had brought some money with me, but found no work, so the money dwindled away. In a fatalist mood, Emily and I decided that it would be better just to get married, and whatever happens, happens.

We were married in a civil ceremony. Then we waited a couple of months; she stayed with her parents and I in my family’s home, while I rented an apartment, bought furniture and other necessities. We finally began our married life in late 2004, with me still unemployed and a mere $300 between us.

Although we were lonely, we never felt alone. There was always Someone, whose identity we did not know, watching over us.

Our apartment was on Haifa Street, soon to be known as the notorious “Death Street.” After the war, many of the apartments on this street were vacant. This attracted the terrorists, where they could move about as if they were normal citizens. There were also many terrorist sympathizers in that area of the city, so that the terrorists acquired weapons and power.

The violence started when a U.S. convoy passed through. Suddenly bombs were detonated and the convoy was ambushed. All the U.S. soldiers were killed, and the terrorists jumped into the vehicles, shouting their slogan.

We ordinary people either left the neighborhood or learned to live with the situation. Our son was born in 2005, and I was employed by a company that served as vendor and supplier to the U.S. troops, government contractors, and other companies, so we stayed. I worked in the Green Zone, the Camps, and in other locations throughout the country. I had business relations with contractors and U.S. Army personnel, especially the Corps of Engineers. In the end, I started my own vendor-supplier company.

My wife, meanwhile, was working as an office manager with one of the American security companies, giving us some financial security.

But we had to keep our employment secret, because the terrorists would kill us as traitors if they knew. Anyone who worked for the Americans or joined the new local army would be on their death list.

I will never forget the day we awoke to see an Iraqi soldier, pieces of his body tied together with a rope, hanging between a light pole and a tree across the street. A cardboard sign stated, “This is the destiny of all traitors.” After that, the U.S. and Iraqi Armies refused to enter that neighborhood. The terrorists had it to themselves. They began to threaten, run out, and kill people of other ethnicities. They controlled access and killed on the spot anyone they decided was a traitor.

When our son Steven was three years old, we got word that the terrorists were out to get us. They must have found out where we worked. It was as if that same Someone who had called Abraham — “Go forth from your land, your relatives, and from your father’s house to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1 NABRE) — called us; we got our gear together and fled to Dubai.

I found work in downtown Dubai as a civil engineer with a consulting firm, building the tallest building in the world. We had a good income, a great apartment, and everything pertaining to a luxurious life. Our son grew, we had a daughter, and life was stable. But something was missing. There was a longing for meaning, for something or Someone that wasn’t in our lives at that time.

I hadn’t forgotten God, but I wasn’t living for Him and letting Him show me the way. Instead, I was trying to make my own way. This filled me with pride and arrogance. I became judgmental, considering some people beneath me. Now God, in His boundless love, was about to humble me and purge me, visiting upon me an interior captivity and suffering like that which He visited upon the Chosen People when they were in Egypt (see Exodus 2:23–25).

When the recession hit, the construction and real estate market in Dubai collapsed, and many people, including myself, lost their jobs. And if you were a foreigner in that situation, you lost your immigration sponsorship and had to leave the country. The speed with which all this happened left us stunned. I had no plan, little savings, and many financial obligations. We were forced to sell everything we had at a loss, and I left the car at the airport as we left.

But where would we go? We couldn’t go back to Iraq; we would be killed, for sure. So we decided to go to Jordan and apply for a program called SIV (Special Immigration Visa). This was a program for people who had worked for the U.S. government or their contractors and could not return to Iraq because of threats.

So my family flew to Jordan — myself, my wife, and the two children, ages four and one. And in Jordan, God taught us the real meaning of suffering. He humbled me, especially, in preparation of what was to come. Life there was much different than it had been in Dubai: no employment, no income, no resources, no family or financial support, high living expenses, and barely enough money to last two or three months. We had gone from luxury to poverty in a plane trip.

The SIV process took much longer than we had money for. Interviews and screening and job hunting seemed to go on and on. Finally, some meager help arrived from both my wife’s family and my own. We still had to live on bread, water, and occasional cheap vegetables. We lived for our children, who were trapped inside the four walls of our living quarters as in a jail.

We had a three-day respite when my family visited us. They took us to the tomb of Jethro and to Mount Nebo, where Moses had stood (see Deuteronomy 34), and we could see the Holy Land far below. I felt a longing for that place, the Holy Land. Everybody claims it — the Jews, the Christians, the Muslims — but it is really for all peoples. In that moment, I felt that God was going to help us. My faith grew stronger, and I began in earnest my return to God.

After several more months of waiting, the International Organization for Immigration (IOM) notified us, saying that we should get ready to leave for the United States, our departure date being within six days. However, four days later, the IOM notified us that the trip was canceled. My passport, which had been issued under the old Iraqi regime in 2002, was no longer valid now that Iraq had a new government. So I needed to acquire a new passport before we could leave. We had been lifted up only to be thrown down again.

Yet somehow, the pain I felt was not rage or anger, but pure suffering. In my poverty, I had grown closer to God, to that Someone who was always with me. And now He helped and supported me through the procedure of completing the documents, receiving my passport, and receiving another departure date. This time, for sure, I had completed my time of slavery in the land of Jordan. God was, in effect, telling me, as He had told Moses (Exodus 3:7–8 NABRE), “I have witnessed the affliction of my people in Egypt and have heard their cry against their taskmasters, so I know well what they are suffering. Therefore I have come down to rescue them from the power of the Egyptians and lead them up from that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Our exodus brought us finally to the United States of America in May of 2010. We stayed with friends for a few days, then rented a small apartment in Scotch Plains, NJ, where we still live today.

At this point, new challenges began. No one in the family knew English and the culture was different. We looked like strangers and got strange looks on the street. Some people welcomed us with a smile, while others did not like us. The task of adapting to this new life was daunting, and at times we thought of giving up and going back. But I’m not a quitter, so we stayed on.

I found a warehousing job in Freehold, an hour’s commute away: twelve hours a day, six days a week in a huge, windowless warehouse, without heating or cooling, lifting 50 pound boxes onto shelves or pulling them off shelves and stacking them on pallets. I would leave home before dawn and return when the children were going to bed, so I never had any time with them. Finally my body gave out, and I suffered a back injury. I applied for Worker’s Compensation, but they said, “You’re OK, you can return to work after a short rest.” I hired a lawyer and filed a grievance, and in this way finally got proper diagnosis and treatment for my slipped disc and nerve damage. To this day, I am physically limited because of that injury.

Back on the job market, finding employment was difficult. I needed work to support my family. Did that God I had trusted during all this time even exist? I was beginning to wonder.

Yet in the midst of my interior struggle, blinded and lost in a strange land, once again that Someone came to me, removed my blindfold and allowed me to see a glimmer on the other side of the wilderness. Here I was, wandering, searching, looking for answers, and at every turn, that Someone was there: Jesus.

I had encountered Jesus, as a Muslim, in the Qu’ran. In that book, He was not the Son of God, but I had always liked the stories that related to Him, the mystery that surrounded Him. I never realized until here, in America, it dawned on me that He might be the One who was watching over me, guiding me.

I recalled watching a video, where the Pharisees wanted to stone a woman who had committed adultery. To test Him, they asked Jesus about it. He turned to them and said (John 8:7 NABRE), “Let the one among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” No one had an answer to that. Jesus then told the woman (verse 11): “Go, and from now on do not sin any more.” I was astonished by this combination of authority and simplicity, and it inspired me to read the Bible. With such conflict within me, I dared not tell anyone what I was doing, not even my wife. It had to be a solitary journey, just between me and God.

I downloaded a Bible app on my phone; a physical Bible would be a giveaway to what I was doing. I read through Genesis and Exodus, but that wasn’t telling me what I needed to know. So I moved to the New Testament, beginning with the Gospel according to Matthew. When I reached chapter five, the Sermon on the Mount, I was amazed. Wow! What is going on? Who is this Person who tells people to love their enemies, to turn the other cheek, and all these other things? What really captured my mind and heart was this:

Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened. (Matthew 7:7–8 NABRE)

It seemed He was talking directly to me, telling me to seek Him and I would find Him.

Then I compared Jesus to everyone else in the Bible and throughout history. Everybody made mistakes and committed sins — except Jesus. That was a milestone, a moment of truth. Who is this sinless man? Where did He get all these tremendous teachings? Where did He derive His authority? The questions multiplied, but along with them, that glimmer of light began to grow within me.

I wrestled with God. What are You doing to me? Is this the path I should follow? I would fall asleep with these thoughts continually going through my head. Then one night, I had a dream. I saw Someone whose face shown like light. I couldn’t see the face itself, just the bright light. He held out His hand and said, “Come, do not be afraid.” When I awoke, I felt overwhelmed by the glory and was filled with joy and relief. This had to be the One!

Yet I would be lying if I said that I immediately believed in Jesus or submitted to Him. I needed a sign, something I could survey and evaluate. So for the first time in my life, I asked Jesus to provide me proof that He is real and — most importantly — alive.

Soon afterwards, my wife and I were returning from the city with the children. The car was parked at the train station. The weather was humid, and there was a layer of humidity on the car, so that one could doodle on it with his finger. On the windshield, driver’s side, there was a fish sign traced, like the ones the early Christians drew to identify themselves one to another. It hadn’t been done with a finger, because the moisture would be dripping down if it were. It was just there, perfectly outlined. All of us saw it, but I was the only one who knew what it meant: Jesus had left me a sign. Now I knew that Jesus is alive. He was the One who was always there for me, watching over me in every danger, every misfortune. I had been blind, but He helped me to see.

When we got home, I went straight to the bedroom, closed the door, knelt facing the window, and submitted myself to Jesus. In return, He gave me a comfort and peace that I had never before known. I now believed in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, and in the Holy Trinity. I believed that Jesus was crucified, resurrected, and alive, that He will come again to rule the righteous in His kingdom.

So now, to be Christian believers, we needed to attend a church. But which Church was the right one? More questions, a never-ending flow!

My family and I decided to study the history of Christianity, to see which Church was the true one. We studied about the disciples, the Apostles, the early Church, the bishops, the centers of power in the ancient and medieval world, the later divisions, basically the whole history. We also visited different churches: Catholic, Protestant, even Orthodox. We met and talked with many people along the way; they provided wonderful support and insight.

Coming from a Muslim background, one point we considered was the Virgin Mary. Back home in Iraq, we had a picture of Mary hanging in one of the rooms. She wore a green scarf. As a small child, I had no understanding of Mary’s significance. All I knew was that her pure face filled me with joy whenever I looked at her. My mother occasionally went to a nearby church to light candles. And yes, she had a rosary. She claimed that the Virgin Mary appeared to her in dreams to comfort her when times were difficult, like during the Iran–Iraq war in the eighties, when one of my older brothers was seriously wounded. For a Muslim boy, Mary was routine, but as I think of her now, guarding us with her love, it’s overwhelming.

My wife had had the same experience when she was small. She, her sister and mother would sometimes go to a church and light candles to the Virgin, to pray and ask her to be with them in their sorrow — and their prayers were answered.

The Virgin Mary, then, had a special place in our hearts and prayers, even as Muslims.

To research the Bible, we delved into its history, comparing the sacred Scriptures of the early Churches. We discovered that the Catholic and Orthodox Bibles have some books that are not in the Protestant Bibles. Well, those books either had to have been added or removed. So we researched the development of the Canon. It turned out that all the books were in the ancient official list from the Council of Hippo, ad 393. So history affirms that the books were later removed from the Protestant Bibles.

In the process of this research, I had acquired several different versions of the Bible. I asked the Lord to show me the right path. I placed the New American Bible (a Catholic version) under my pillow to sleep on it. That night I had a dream of a huge place with a multitude of people. Everyone was dressed in white. I was holding the Bible in my hand, reading it as if teaching. This confirmed to me that the Catholic Bible was the true one.

Now every faith has its prayers. But for Christians, there is a commandment in Scripture to pray the Lord’s Prayer. In Matthew 6:9 (NABRE), Jesus tells His disciples, “This is how you are to pray.” He did not make it optional; therefore, it is obligatory. Which churches taught this?

Regarding worship, the foundation is that of establishing and maintaining a harmonious and loving relationship with God. God is superior to man, so man should be in submission to God. Moses was commanded to remove his sandals when God appeared to him in the burning bush. And it is said that the Apostle Peter, when condemned to death by the Romans, asked to be crucified upside down out of humility. Both men respected God in their actions.

From this perspective, our worship — place, time, posture, rituals, prayers, etc. — must reflect our spiritual submission to Jesus. Worship should also strengthen faith and unity within the Church. It must take place between heaven and earth and align our prayers with heaven. These things we found fulfilled in the Catholic Mass. The altar, the incense, the ancient and holy prayers — all this caught our hearts and souls from the first time we attended. We were drawn, through study and attendance, to the Holy Sacrifice, the clean oblation, the offering that hearkens back to the first human being. This was the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind.

We were baptized, confirmed, and received our first communion at Easter 2016. My wife was happier than I had ever seen her. My son is now an altar boy, and my daughter is looking forward to serving God when she is older. We attend Mass daily as a family.

My life has changed for the better. I became a U.S. citizen. I obtained my master’s degree and am now working as a business analyst. I have become part of this wonderful community because God has been generous, rewarding me for my steadfastness by answering my prayers. He is just and all His statutes are just. He is the true and only God, in whom I believe and whom I seek to please all the days of my life.

Throughout my whole life, Jesus was with me, though I knew nothing of Him. He called me out of the land of Mesopotamia, the Nineveh of Tobit and Jonah, the Babylon of Daniel and the exiles, the Ur of Abraham. He led me out of slavery, through an exodus, and into a Promised Land. He humbled me through suffering in preparation for redemption and restoration.

At the right moment, when I was desperate, alone, abandoned in a dark place, as if I were dead, Jesus was standing there, in the light, calling to me, “David, come out!” Soon I found myself in His welcoming arms, clinging to Him with all my might.””

Love,
Matthew

Imprimaturs, Nihil Obstats & Imprimi Potests…oh, my!!!

What are they?


-by Rev. William P. Saunders, PhD

“Before addressing the terms themselves, we must remember that the Magisterium, the teaching authority of our Church, has the duty to “preserve God’s people from deviations and defections, and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error” (Catechism, #890). Therefore, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Whom our Lord called the Spirit of Truth, the Magisterium preserves, understands, teaches, and proclaims the truth which leads to salvation.

With this in mind, the Magisterium will examine those works, particularly books, on faith and morals and pronounce whether they are free from doctrinal error. On March 19, 1975, the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith issued the following norms in this matter: “The Pastors of the Church have the duty and the right to be vigilant lest the faith and morals of the faithful be harmed by writings; and consequently, even to demand that the publication of writing concerning the faith and morals should be submitted to the Church’s approval, and also to condemn books and writings that attack faith or morals.” This mandate was reiterated in the 1983 Code of Canon Law, #823.

The review process would then begin with the author submitting the manuscript to the censor deputatus, who is appointed by the bishop or other ecclesiastical authority to make such examinations. If the censor deputatus finds no doctrinal error in the work, he grants a nihil obstat attesting to this. Translated as “nothing stands in the way,” the nihil obstat indicates that the manuscript can be safely forwarded to the bishop for his review and decision.

Similarly, a member of a religious community would submit his work to his major superior. If the work is found free of doctrinal error, the major superior grants an imprimi potest, translated as “it is able to be printed.” With this approval, the manuscript is then forwarded to the bishop for his review and decision.

If the bishop concurs that the work is free from doctrinal error, he grants an imprimatur. From the Latin imprimere, meaning to impress or to stamp an imprint, imprimatur translates, “let it be printed.” Technically, this is the bishop’s official declaration that the book is free from doctrinal error and has been approved for publication by a censor.

Keep in mind that the imprimatur is an official permission pertaining to works written by a member of the Church and not by the official teaching Church, such as a Church council, synod, bishop, etc. The author can seek the imprimatur from his own bishop or from the bishop of the diocese where the work will be published.

While a Catholic author can certainly publish a manuscript without seeking the bishop’s imprimatur, some works require this official approval before they can be used by the faithful. Prayer books for public or private use, and catechisms or other catechetical materials (or their translations) require the bishop’s permission for publication (Code of Canon Law, #826, 827.1). Books related to Sacred Scripture, theology, canon law, Church history, or religious or moral disciplines cannot be used as textbooks in education at any level unless they are published with the approval of the competent ecclesiastical authority, or receive such approval subsequently (#827.2). Finally, books or other writings which deal with faith or morals cannot be exhibited, sold, or distributed in Churches or oratories unless they are published with the approval of the competent ecclesiastical authority or receive such approval subsequently (#827.4).

In all, these official declarations state that a publication is true to the Church’s teachings on faith and morals, and free of doctrinal error. Too many souls are in jeopardy because of the erroneous literature that is promoted as genuinely representing the Catholic faith. In an age where publications are abundant, a good Catholic must be on guard and look for the imprimatur before buying.”

————–


-by Jimmy Akin, a former Presbyterian, Jimmy is a convert to the Faith and has an extensive background in the Bible, theology, the Church Fathers, philosophy, canon law, and liturgy.

“In recent years, imprimaturs have been granted to books connected with unapproved private revelations, and this has led to some confusion.

It has been argued that imprimaturs and nihil obstats are acts of the Magisterium, and therefore the faithful are obliged to give the religious submission of mind and will that they must to any other act of the Magisterium. This argument has been made, for example, by some supporters of the non-Catholic mystic Vassula Ryden.

Is this true? Are imprimaturs and nihil obstats acts of the Magisterium? What implications do they have for the faithful and how they are to regard private revelations?

The Code of Canon Law does not use the terms imprimatur and nihil obstat, but they are often used by Catholic publishers.

A nihil obstat (Latin, “nothing obstructs”) is a written opinion issued by a censor that nothing obstructs the publication of a book in terms of faith or morals (can. 830 §3).

In issuing this opinion, the censor is bound “to consider only the doctrine of the Church concerning faith and morals as it is proposed by the ecclesiastical Magisterium” (830 §2). This means that the censor is not to base the opinion on whether he agrees with everything claimed in the work—only whether the book contains statements that contradict Church teaching.

Censors are not typically bishops, so there is no question of whether nihil obstats are acts of the Magisterium. The Church’s Magisterium can be exercised only by bishops teaching in communion with the pope, so unless a censor is a bishop, there is no possibility that an opinion issued by a censor could be an act of the Magisterium.

An imprimatur (Latin, “Let it be published”) is an authorization given by a local ordinary (typically a bishop) to publish a work. The U.S. bishops’ Committee on Doctrine notes:

In the Latin Catholic Church, there are two primary forms of ecclesiastical authorization for written works. These are identified in church law as “permission” (licentia) and “approval” (approbatio). Since these terms are not used consistently within the various authoritative documents, a consensus has not yet emerged among canonical experts as to whether the terms are interchangeable or whether there is, in fact, a precise and practical distinction between the two (n. 2).

However, these terms are given precise meanings in the Code of Canons for the Eastern Churches, which provides:

  1. Ecclesiastical permission, expressed only with the word imprimatur, means that the work is free from errors regarding Catholic faith and morals.
  2. Approval granted by competent authority shows that the text is accepted by the Church or that the work is in accordance with the authentic doctrine of the Church (can. 661).

Are imprimaturs acts of the Magisterium? It should be pointed out that imprimaturs are issued by “local ordinaries” (cf. can. 824 §1), and not all local ordinaries are bishops. For example, local ordinaries include vicars general and episcopal vicars (can. 134 §1).

The fact that non-bishops can issue imprimaturs is a significant sign that they are not acts of the Magisterium.

Further, to exercise his personal magisterium, a bishop must himself issue a teaching, but this is not what is happening when an imprimatur is granted. The bishop himself does not teach something; he authorizes someone else to do something—namely, to publish a work.

The situation is similar to when a bishop issues a mandate for a theologian to teach at a Catholic university (cf. can. 812). He’s giving permission for someone else to teach, but that does not make everything the theologian says part of the bishop’s personal magisterium.

Similarly, when a local ordinary—even a bishop—gives permission for a book to be published, it does not make everything the book says part of the bishop’s personal magisterium. As the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith explains:

“Ecclesiastical permission or approval . . . guarantees that the writing in question contains nothing contrary to the Church’s authentic magisterium on faith or morals (II:7:2; cf. II:8:3).”

This is a negative guarantee. It means that the work does not contradict Church teaching. However, it is not a positive guarantee that all of the opinions found in the book are true. In fact, this is sometimes expressly pointed out in the notification printed for an imprimatur.

For example, G. Van Noort’s 1954 book Dogmatic Theology: Volume I carries this notification:

“The nihil obstat and imprimatur are official declarations that a book or pamphlet is free of doctrinal and moral error. No implication is contained therein that those who have granted the nihil obstat and imprimatur agree with the opinions expressed.”

What about private revelations and imprimaturs? In the 1917 Code of Canon Law, it was required that books of private revelations carry an imprimatur (cf. can. 1399 n. 5); however, this is no longer required.

In fact, very few books today require imprimaturs or other forms of ecclesiastical permission. These include translations of Scripture (can. 825), liturgical books, liturgical translations, prayer books (can. 826), catechetical materials, religious textbooks used in Catholic schools, books sold or exhibited in churches (can. 827), and collections of official Church documents (can. 828).

Since comparatively few books require imprimaturs, most books by Catholic publishers—including Catholic Answers—don’t carry them, and the same applies to books dealing with private revelations.

So, what does it mean if a book on an apparition gets an imprimatur? It does not mean that apparition is genuine. The Church has a separate process for investigating apparitions, and unless that process has been used, the apparition has not been approved as genuinely supernatural.

Even when the Church does approve an apparition, it does not mean that the faithful are required to accept it, only that they are authorized to accept it if it seems prudent. As Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger explained when he was head of the CDF:

“Ecclesiastical approval of a private revelation has three elements: the message contains nothing contrary to faith or morals; it is lawful to make it public; and the faithful are authorized to accept it with prudence.”

It’s also worth noting that, when the Church does investigate an apparition, it’s not just any bishop who can do so. Although the Vatican or the conference of bishops could intervene, the only bishop with the authority to conduct such an investigation is the one in whose diocese the apparition has been reported.

This means that an imprimatur issued by a bishop in another part of the world would be unrelated to the apparition approval process. Such an imprimatur would mean is that a bishop somewhere in the world has judged (based on the opinion that the censor gave him) that the work does not contain anything that contradicts Church teaching.

The work may not even express itself well. It may have ambiguous statements that don’t necessarily contradict Church teaching but that could be understood in an erroneous way. It also may contain theological opinions that are false but that the Church has not (yet) condemned. And it may contain statements about non-religious matters that are inaccurate.

Of course, an individual bishop might favor the book—and the apparition on which it is based—and he might recommend them to others. This would mean that he, personally, favors them, but his granting an imprimatur would not constitute an act of the Magisterium binding the faithful to give “religious submission of intellect and will” (Lumen Gentium 25) to the apparition or what it says.

Even if he were (very extraordinarily!) to issue a teaching document endorsing the apparition, it would at most bind only the faithful of his own diocese (can. 753), for an individual bishop cannot bind the faithful of another diocese by his personal magisterium. Such a bishop also would likely get in trouble with the Vatican for overstepping the apparitions approval process.

So, the implications for an imprimatur being given to a book of private revelations are the same as they are for any other book. It’s a judgment by an individual bishop that the work does not contradict Catholic doctrine. Nothing more.”

Love, & NOBODY EXPECTS THE SPANISH INQUISITION!!!!! 🙂
Matthew

Transubstantiation – Natural Philosophy, Accidents & Substance, What the definition of IS is

If you are not familiar with philosophy, as I am not, some things said, some “arguments”, in the pleasant, logical sense, can be difficult to understand, since we do not possess the basic premise, language, or vocabulary from whence the final definition we are handed comes from.  It may be difficulty to understand:

if we have not been trained from the beginning of mathematical training.  In the same way with philosophical and theological “arguments”, it is likely the novice, especially literal ones :), will be lost very quickly in what is meant.

Ancient, at least Greek, philosophers were trying to understanding the world. They sought immutable truths, even in an ever mutable reality. One of the ways they described this knowledge to which they obtained was Plato’s “Theory of Forms”. A tree has “treeness”. A rock has “rockness”. Even though there are a myriad of different things by which we call “tree” or “rock” there is an immutable reality known as “tree” or “rock” which exists outside of these ever changing realities, by which we know their particular instantiations. This area of philosophy is called “ontology”, or the study of being. What does it mean to “be”? It’s quite logical and makes much sense if you follow the bouncing ball in its “ballness”. [Couldn’t help myself! 🙂]

Aristotle was a student of Plato, and a friend. But, famously said he was more a friend of the truth, and so disagreed that the nature of a thing is abstracted from the thing. A rock has “rockness”, a tree has “treeness”, says Aristotle. There is not an abstracted sense of being, but of being itself. The nature of the thing cannot exist without the thing itself.  Whereas Plato believed the concept of “treeness” or “blueness” existed outside human beings as an abstract reality, Aristotle believed the abstract reality existed in the human mind and not independent of physical reality, or the human mind.  Plato said forms are extrinsic to things.  Aristotle said forms are intrinsic to things.  Aristotle said you cannot have the form without the thing.  Plato said you could have the form without the thing.

Substance & Accident – Aristotelian Logic

Aristotle made the distinction between thing and quality of a thing. For instance, a dog is a dog, its substance. A dog may be black or brown, its accidents. Substance is the thing. Accidents are the qualities of things.

Substance and Accidents

Accidents are the modifications that substance undergoes, but that do not change the kind of thing that each substance is. Accidents only exist when they are the accidents of some substance. Examples are colors, weight, motion. For Aristotle there are 10 categories into which things naturally fall. They are

Substance, and
Nine Accidents:

  • Quantity,
  • Quality,
  • Relation,
  • Action,
  • Passion,
  • Time,
  • Place,
  • Disposition (the arrangement of parts), and
  • Rainment (whether a thing is dressed or armed, etc.)

As Fr Dwight Longnecker, a convert from Anglicanism, explains in a a helpful manner, the consecrated Eucharist for Catholics is neither a symbol nor literal flesh and blood, and neither has ever been the teaching of the Catholic Church, although to explain the distinction, less than articulate explanations have been given when you don’t know calculus.

Rev Dwight Longenecker, Fr. Dwight Longenecker is an American who has spent most of his life living and working in England.
Fr Longenecker was brought up in an Evangelical Protestant home in Pennsylvania. After graduating from the Fundamentalist Protestant Bob Jones University with a degree in Speech and English, he went to study theology at Oxford University. He was eventually ordained as an Anglican priest and served as a curate, a school chaplain in Cambridge and a country parson on the Isle of Wight. Realizing that he and the Anglican Church were on divergent paths, in 1995 Fr. Dwight and his family were received into the Catholic Church. In December 2006 he was ordained as a Catholic priest under the special pastoral provision for married former Anglican clergy. He now serves as parish priest of Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Greenville, SC.

“Neither position (symbolism nor literality) is the teaching of the Catholic Church. We believe in transubstantiation. The substance of the bread and wine really are transformed into the Body, Blood Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ. However, the transformation is not physical in a literal way. If you took the consecrated host to a laboratory it would be chemically shown to be bread, not human flesh.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) teaches:

1375 It is by the conversion of the bread and wine into Christ’s body and blood that Christ becomes present in this sacrament.

1376 The Council of Trent summarizes the Catholic faith by declaring: “Because Christ our Redeemer said that it was truly His body that He was offering under the species of bread, it has always been the conviction of the Church of God, and this holy Council now declares again, that by the consecration of the bread and wine there takes place a change of the whole substance of the bread into the substance of the body of Christ our Lord and of the whole substance of the wine into the substance of His blood. This change the holy Catholic Church has fittingly and properly called transubstantiation.

It is therefore not possible for a Catholic to believe that the transaction at Mass is merely a symbolic memorial. But many people who believe in the Eucharistic transformation do not understand transubstantiation.

The word “transubstantiation” means “substance across” and to understand what this means we must first understand what the medieval philosophers like St Thomas Aquinas meant by the word “substance”. They meant by this word almost exactly the opposite of what we mean by it. When we say something is “substantial” we mean it is solid, real, physical and concrete. The medieval philosophers however, used the word “substance” to indicate the invisible and eternal quality of a thing. The physical aspect of a chair, for example, is temporary and mutable. It changes. Eventually, given enough time, the wood of the chair will break, rot and decay into dust. The “chair-ness” of the chair is the eternal, invisible part and this is what is referred to as the “substance.”

With bread and wine the “breadness” of the bread and the “wine-ness” of the wine is the substance and it is this “substance” which is transformed. The physical part of the bread and wine is called the “accident” and the accident of bread and wine remain although the substance of the bread and wine have become the Body and Blood of Christ.

We can think of it like this: I have in a room at my home pictures of myself at the age of two being held in my father’s arms. Then there is a picture of me as a high school student and one of me in my thirties and now in my fifties. Each one is totally different because the “accident” of my physical body has changed. However, there is a “substance” of Dwight that is the eternal part of me that has not changed. It is present in each of the pictures even though my body is very different.

So with the bread and wine at the Eucharist, it is the invisible, eternal “substance” which becomes the Body and Blood of Christ while the “accident” of bread and wine still exist.

However, this philosophical explanation, like all philosophical explanations can only take us so far. In fact, the invisible part of a thing and and the physical part cannot necessarily be separated in this way. The invisible part of me and the physical part seen in the photographs is a unity. The objection to this explanation of transubstantiation that I have just given is that it sounds like the Lord is only “spiritually present” in the Eucharist. If the physical aspect is not transformed in some way, then some Catholics argue, the transformation is just an ethereal or spiritual presence sort of floating about and around the bread and wine. This is to misunderstand the fact that the invisible substance is the most real part of the bread and wine, not the least real. Not only is it the most real, but it is not separate from the physical aspect, nor can it exist separately from the physical aspect. Therefore, inasmuch as the substance is changed there is also some sort of change in the physical aspect.

Furthermore, there is a physicality to the Lord. He is not just a spirit floating around in the air. We say the Eucharist is His body, and that implies some kind of physicality. Therefore we must go a bit further than the medieval philosophical explanation and posit that the real presence of the Lord’s Body Blood Soul and Divinity in the sacrament is also, in some way, physical. We could say the inner quality of the physical Christ is present, but not extended in space. In other words, the reality of Christ’s presence is not just spiritual in an ethereal sense. Through the transubstantiation Christ is also present physically within the substance.

This does not mean that the bread and wine become human flesh and blood, and it is this misapprehension that we need to be careful to correct.

The exception to this would be the unusual examples of Eucharistic miracles, where the Lord, for the encouragement of our faith, allows at certain times for the bread and wine to be transformed not only in their substance but also in their accident.

Finally, transubstantiation is a philosophical explanation for what we believe happens in the mystery of the sacrament of the altar. What happens on the altar is far greater than a philosophical definition just as what happens in a marriage is far greater than a psychological definition of “love”. Instead of trying to explain the mystery of “love” we simply say to the beloved, “I love you.” Likewise, although we attempt to understand and explain the mystery of the Eucharist it is best to hear the Lord say, “This is my Body” and to hear the priest say as we receive the Lord, “The Body of Christ.””

———-

“O my soul, when you receive Holy Communion, try to reanimate your faith, do all you can to detach yourself from exterior things and retire with the Lord into the interior of your being where you know He is abiding. Collect your senses and make them understand the great good they are enjoying, or rather, try to recollect them so that they may not hinder you from understanding it. Imagine yourself at Our Lord’s feet, and weep with Magdalen exactly as if you were seeing Him with your bodily eyes in the house of the Pharisee. These moments are very precious; the Master is teaching you now; listen to Him, kiss His feet in gratitude for all He has condescended to do for you, and beg Him to remain always with you. Even should you be deprived of sensible devotion, faith will not fail to assure you that Our Lord is truly within you.

If I do not want to act like a senseless person who shuts his eyes to the light, I can have no doubt on this point. O my Jesus, this is not a work of the imagination, as when I imagine You on the Cross or in some other mystery of Your Passion, where I picture the scene as it took place. Here, it concerns Your real presence; it is an undeniable truth. O Lord, when I receive Holy Communion, I do not have to go far to find You; as long as the accidents of bread are not consumed, You are within me! And if, during Your mortal life, You healed the sick by a mere touch of Your garments, how, if I have faith, can I doubt that You will work miracles, when You are really present within me? Oh, yes! when You are in my house You will listen to all my requests, for it is not Your custom to pay badly for the lodging given You, if I offer you good hospitality!

O Lord, if a soul receives Communion with good dispositions, and if, wishing to drive out all coldness, it remains for some time with You, great love for You will burn within it and it will retain its warmth for many hours.” (-Teresa of Jesus, Way of Perfection 34-35).

Love & truth,
Matthew

Immutability – fallacious arguments 2


-by Karlo Broussard

Recently, we looked at an objection that argues God can’t be immutable and at the same time be the universal cause of temporal effects because that would entail God having to change in his acts—acting to cause one thing at one moment in time, ceasing that act at another moment in time, and engaging in a new act to cause something else at some other moment in time.

We showed that this objection fails because it wrongly assumes God acts in time and that there’s nothing in the notion of a cause that entails change.

But some atheists counter along the lines of an objection that St. Thomas Aquinas deals with in Summa Contra Gentiles 3.35: How can there be new effects brought about in time with no new acts in God’s will? Wouldn’t God have to act anew in order to bring about new effects? But if he acted anew for every new effect, then God would undergo change.

It seems that if we affirm God’s immutability we must deny that he’s the creator of temporal effects. If we affirm that God is the creator of temporal effects, which his role as the universal cause of all things entails, it seems we must deny his immutability.

What should we make of this counter?

Notice the assumption: new acts are necessary to bring about new effects. But it’s not necessarily true that something must perform new acts in order to bring about new effects. Perhaps an analogy will be helpful.

Consider a state leader who signs a bill of law and determines that it shall take effect and become binding one month after its signing. A new decree wouldn’t be necessary for the binding power of the law to come into existence when its appointed time arrives. The law would take effect at its allotted time due to the decree made a month before.

The lawmaker could even stipulate that the law be only temporarily binding, specifying not only when the law takes effect (a month subsequent to the signing), but also the time when the law ceases to have binding power (perhaps a year after the law goes into effect). So, by one act, the lawmaker would determine not only the new effect of the beginning of the law but also the new effect of the law no longer having binding power. And when each of those new effects would come to be—when the binding power of the law actually begins and ends—it would be due to the lawmaker’s one act.

Similarly, by a single act of intellect and will God specifies every aspect of a thing’s being, including the moment of time at which a thing will come into existence, the moments at which it will begin to act and cease to act, and the moment at which it will go out of existence—that is, if it’s the type of thing that can naturally go out of existence, unlike a human soul or angels.

As we saw in the article linked above, this is a necessary conclusion based on the fact that God is the first and universal cause. For if he only caused the existence of something and its activity, and not the time at which that thing comes into existence or acts, then there would be some aspect of being (the temporal mode of being) that would have escaped God’s universal causality.

Since that can’t be, we know God must not only cause the existence and action of a thing but the particular moment in the flow of time at which a thing exists and acts. And he does so by the one eternal act of intellect and will.

So just as a lawmaker can stipulate in one decree when a law begins and ends, and the binding power of that law begins and ends based on that one decree, so too God in one eternal decree determines the moments in time when an effect will come into existence and go out of existence, and when that effect comes into or goes out of existence it will be due to the one act of God’s intellect and will.

But an atheist might counter: It’s one thing to say that multiple effects can be determined by a single act when the “effect” is an abstraction and the determining action is an act of the mind, like when a law is determined to have and not have binding power. It’s another thing to claim, on God’s behalf, that a single act of the will can produce multiple effects in reality at different moments in time.

This counter fails on multiple fronts. First, it doesn’t take into account that God’s knowledge is identical to his will. His intellectual decree that some things come into existence and go out of existence at their allotted moments in the flow of time is identical to the single act of will by which he produces those effects.

Second, it wrongly assumes that when the effects become real they are necessarily temporally separated from when they are conceived in the mind, like when a house is actually built as opposed to the conception of its allotted time to be built in the mind of the contractor.

But with God this is not so. He doesn’t have to wait for the allotted time to arrive in order to produce the effect. All moments of time and the events that make up those moments are present to God simultaneously (see Summa Theologiae I:14:7, 13). As such, God is able to produce the multiple effects at their allotted times by a single act of his eternal will. The cause-effect relationship between those effects at each moment in time and God’s causal activity is like the cause-effect relationship between the knife cutting the orange: it’s simultaneous.

Third, this counter loses sight of God’s omnipotence. A rational creature might not be able to produce new effects at different moments of time without new causal action. But that doesn’t mean no rational being could do so. As St. Thomas Aquinas writes, “If [a rational being’s] act of will were of itself sufficient to produce the effect, the effect would follow anew from his previous decision, without any new action on his part” (SCG 3.35).

God’s will is sufficient to bring all effects into existence at their allotted moments in the flow of time because his will is infinite in power (omnipotent), able to do anything that doesn’t entail a logical contradiction. Since there’s no logical contradiction in the idea of a single act willing a multiplicity of effects to be and not be at different moments in time, we can say that given God’s omnipotence he’s able to cause temporal effects without new action on his part.

Since no new act of causation on God’s part is needed to bring about a new effect in the flow of time, or to will an effect to cease to exist at a moment in the flow of time, the objection that God must change in causing things to exist at one point in time and not at some other time has no force.

Yet again theism passes the coherence test, at least on this front. There’s one other reason atheists give to show the incompatibility of God’s immutability and his role as the universal cause, but we’ll have to save that one for another time.”

Love & truth,
Matthew

Immutability – fallacious arguments


-by Karlo Broussard

“Atheists often claim that it’s contradictory for believers to assert that God is at the same time both the universal cause of all being and immutable. In other words, God can’t be changeless and at the same time changing, in the sense that he causes things to come into and go out of existence.

Consider, for example, that my act of typing this article right now is a reality ultimately because God causes it to be. His causal activity is not in opposition to my free action, but the presupposition for it. For whatever has being is ultimately caused to be by the source of being, God. Since my act of typing has being (it actually exists), it follows that God ultimately causes my action to be (even if he doesn’t cause every typo or imperfect metaphor that I choose).

By the time you read this article, however, my act of typing it will no longer exist. I’ll be engaged in other acts, such as throwing the football with my sons.

So, what God is causing to exist now (me typing this article in real time), he will no longer cause to exist when I shut down the computer. And what God was not causing to exist (me throwing the football with my sons), God will cause to exist.

But this seems to entail that God changes in his acts, acting to cause one thing at one moment in time, ceasing that act at another moment in time, and engaging in a new act to cause something else at some other moment in time.

If God brings about new effects in time, so it’s argued, he would have to engage in new acts of the will. And if that were true, he would change.

So it seems that if we affirm God as the ultimate cause of all temporal effects, we would have to say God changes. If we say God can’t change, then we couldn’t affirm that he’s the ultimate cause of all temporal effects. Neither of the two options is available for one who believes in the classical understanding of God.

Is a theist trapped?

Notice how the objection assumes that God’s causal action is located in time just like the effect is located in time, as if we can point to some moment in time before which he doesn’t act and after which he does. But there are good reasons to think this assumption is false.

God is eternal, and therefore doesn’t exist or act in the flow of time. He’s entirely outside the succession of moments in time, having all moments of time (our before and after) present to him simultaneously. Consequently, God doesn’t have a “before” and an “after.” And if that’s the case, then it’s not correct to assume that he begins to act after a certain time, before which he didn’t act.

Moreover, as the first and universal cause, God not only ultimately causes my act of typing but also the time at which he wills this act to be (5:00 pm October 14 in Brisbane, Australia). For if he were only the first cause of the action, and not the time at which the action occurred, then there would be some aspect of being (the temporal aspect of being) that would have escaped God’s universal causality. Since that can’t be, we know he must not only cause the action, he must also cause the particular moment in the flow of time at which the act takes place.

And because God can’t be conditioned by that which he causes to be (the particular moments in the flow of time at which all activity takes place), his causal activity can’t possibly be subject to time. In other words, God’s causal activity has no “before” and “after” because God’s causal activity itself determines the “before” and “after” of all activity. We have to be careful not to confuse, “God causes some things to be at some moments of time,” with “God, at some moment in time, causes some things to be.”

Since God’s causal action is not in time, it’s not necessary that he change in his act of causing new temporal effects (i.e., go from not causing to causing). Therefore, the assertion that God is the universal cause of temporal effects doesn’t contradict the claim that God is immutable.

Now, an atheist might respond, “Perhaps God doesn’t undergo change in his causal activity because he acts in time. But he must undergo change inasmuch as he acts as a cause, for change necessarily belongs to what it means to be a cause. So God, therefore, can’t be immutable and the universal cause of all things at the same time.”

The problem with this counter is that it assumes change necessarily belongs to what it means to be a cause.

Sure, the causes that we experience undergo change when they bring about an effect (e.g., me going from not engaging in the act of typing this article to engaging in the act of typing this article). But just because a cause of our experience changes when it causes an effect, it doesn’t necessarily follow that anything whatsoever that acts as a cause must undergo change.

All that’s necessary for a cause to be a cause of an effect is for the effect in question to be brought about by that cause. In other words, without the activity of the cause the effect would not be. There’s nothing in this understanding of a cause that necessitates the cause undergo change when it acts as a cause.

And that’s all a theist is saying when he says God causes temporal effects. Something comes into existence at a specific moment of time due to God’s causal action, and it goes out of existence ultimately because of God’s causal action.

So, the idea that some things are brought about at different moments of time, and that God is the ultimate cause that brings those things about at their distinct moments of time, in no way shows God must undergo change when he acts as a cause. There’s nothing in the notion of a cause that entails change and God’s causal action is not characterized by time.

At least on this front, theism passes the coherence test.”

Love & truth,
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


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