Friday, January 30, 2009

We Cannot Kill The Innocent In Order To live.

"To gain my freedom from disease, I would become more wretched by accepting the fruits of robbing another of life, existence and a place in the world. No! The cure would only increase the torment." Mark Pickup

I ran across an interesting article by the excellent Eastern Orthodox author Frederica Mathewes-Green. "'It would compromise my very humanity'." Citizen (2001). It is a very good article dealing with embryonic stem cell research. The article focuses around Mark Pickup who is diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He however sees the immorality of killing and experimenting on the unborn, and refuses to benefit at the expense of other innocent lives. I will continue to post other articles on these issues from a Catholic perspective in the future. These issues are of the gravest importance in these perilous times we are living in. I also recommend visiting Frederica's website. She is a great writer expounding on many topics from the Eastern Orthodox perspective, which most often reflects the Catholic position as well.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Catholic Ethical Science/ Stem Cell Research

This video series of the Hall Institute featuring Father Tad Pacholczyk and Rick Cohen PHD, is pretty good. It covers some basic information on stem cell research. Father Tad discusses the moral implications regarding the research, especially that of human embryos. I have put together the second show series in order, for your viewing pleasure from YouTube. The first show is also available but doesn't really discuss too much on the ethics side of things. Here again we see how the Catholic Church leads the way in medical ethics. Father Tad being the great mind that he is, also incorporates scientific and philosophical arguments along with the religious. The topic of proportionality regarding morality is discussed in brief by Father as well. He gets the old Aquinas question tossed at him regarding human life and conception, and he handles it flawlessly.

I recommend that anyone interested in this issue or other bioethics issues purchase the DVD Cutting Through the Spin, put out by the Catholic Bioethics Center. I also recommend reading Father Tad's articles that he puts out regularly on the website as well. Without the Catholic Church it is safe to say that medical ethics would be a dead issue in today's culture. The National Catholic Bioethics Center is at the cutting edge of medical technology and bioethics issues. You can also purchase great bioethics books at their website store as well. This is a topic that gravely affects each and every one of us.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Catholic/Orthodox Agreement on the Eucharist.

I wanted to post a summary of what transpired on Beggars All last week regarding the Orthodox as accepting the term transubstantiation and the belief of the substance of the wine and bread being changed in substance, which is what the term means. A person misrepresented the Orthodox teaching on the Eucharist and then posted the exchange between myself and him without posting my last response. Those over at Beggars All deleted my last post and left his up declaring him a winner by default. When you can't post a response I guess that is how you win debates in the Reformed circles. Here was my last post on the debacle. Here once again you can see why I changed my blog around to avoid these clowns. The only reason I am posting it is because they deleted my last post.

So here is a summary of the vast evidence provided against Turretin Fan’s claim that the Orthodox Church does not believe that the wine and bread are changed in substance as the term transubstantiation defines by the Catholic Church.

We Several Orthodox Bishops who signed agreements with the Pope that they agree to all 7 sacraments including the doctrine on the Eucharist being transformed…
"The Spirit transforms the sacred gifts into the body and blood of Christ". (Taken from the JOINT COMMISSION FOR THEOLOGICAL DIALOGUE)

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese says, “But whatever were the various forms of the Divine Liturgy of the primitive Church, as well as of the Church of the final formation of the Divine Liturgy, the meaning given to it by both the celebrants and the communicants was one and the same; that is, the belief of the awesomechange of the sacred Species of the Bread and Wine into the precious Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, the Lord."

Another example from a Greek Orthodox Parish website..
"In this sacrament, the bread and wine offered to God become the Most Holy Precious and Life-Giving Body and Blood of Christ. This is known as transubstantiation. Both the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox recognize each other as "Sister-Apostolic" churches."

Turretin doesn’t like the source because it wasn’t updated since JPII??? What that has to do with anything is anyone’s guess. Just another futile attempt to dodge the fact that he is wrong.

The Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of Australia said on their website the following..
"While Orthodoxy has always insisted on the reality of the change- the bread and the wine become in very truth the Body and Blood of Christ, it has never however attempted to explain the manner of the change. It is true that sometimes Orthodox theologians will make use of what came out of Latin scholasticism, the term “transubstantiation” (in Greek μετουσίωσης)."

Finally I provided an excellent source that was drawn up by the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem and then signed by 86 Orthodox Bishops including the Russian Orthodox that confirms everything that I have said. But the best Turretin could come up with was that the document was accidentally written, and somehow this teaching slipped in unnoticed because of Latin influence. Yet when we go on the Ethereal Library online it holds this council as being one of the most important ever in modern history of Orthodoxy. It says in reference to the council which Turretin is now trying to claim a mistake.. Synod of Jerusalem and the Confession of Dositheus, A.D. 1672) as follows,…I quote..” It is dated Jerusalem, March 16, 1672, and signed by Dositheus, Patriarch of Jerusalem and Palestine (otherwise little known), and by sixty-eight Eastern bishops and ecclesiastics, including some from Russia. This Synod is the most important in the modern history of the Eastern Church, and may be compared to the Council of Trent.”

These are all creditable sources either from the Archdiocese of the Greek Orthodox Church or one of their parishes, and the last example by Patriarchs and bishops drafting a specific document to attest to their beliefs, specifically in reference to the heresy of Protestantism. There is no possible way that they could have written such an in depth description of Transubstantiation by some freak accident which somehow slipped in. I frankly still can’t believe that someone would try to use such an argument, and think that everyone would buy into it. I guess TF thinks that if he presents a pile of crap to someone, as long as he presents it with a bold face, someone will buy it.

Finally I find it amusing that Turretin will outright reject the Patriarchs and bishops of the Orthodox Church who are charged with defining doctrine in favor of a couple of Orthodox theologians who have no charge and no authority to define anything. In fact all they can do is present their opinions and writings to the bishops to be examined and ultimately accepted or rejected by the bishops. This is never demonstrated and the overwhelming majority of the Orthodox hierarchy agrees with the Catholic Church on the doctrine of the Eucharist. Turretin Fan's ultimate argument rests on the fact that 86 bishops and a Patriarch allowed this doctrine to accidentally slip in? He is going to tell us that over a page of Eucharistic doctrine referring to Transubstantiation accidentally slipped in? If you buy into this then I have some Kansas ocean front property to sell you. Ask any Orthodox priest or bishop if they believe the substance is changed after the consecration they will answer yes. Below is part of the article signed by the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem along with 86 other Orthodox bishops in 1672 and the decree that supposedly, according to Turretin Fan "slipped in."

I quote from Turretin Fan.....This has to be the most amusing argument I have ever seen.

a) "These definitions slipped in accidentally in the first place;"

Below is what supposedly slipped in...
Decree 17

We believe the All-holy Mystery of the Sacred Eucharist, which we have enumerated above, fourth in order, to be that which our Lord delivered in the night in which He gave Himself up for the life of the world. For taking bread, and blessing, He gave to His Holy Disciples and Apostles, saying: “Take, eat; This is My Body.” {Matthew 26:26} And taking the chalice, and giving thanks, He said: “Drink you all of It; This is My Blood, which for you is being poured out, for the remission of sins.” {Matthew 26:28} In the celebration of this we believe the Lord Jesus Christ to be present. He is not present typically, nor figuratively, nor by superabundant grace, as in the other Mysteries, nor by a bare presence, as some of the Fathers have said concerning Baptism, or by impanation, so that the Divinity of the Word is united to the set forth bread of the Eucharist hypostatically, as the followers of Luther most ignorantly and wretchedly suppose. But [he is present] truly and really, so that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, the bread is transmuted, transubstantiated, converted and transformed into the true Body Itself of the Lord, Which was born in Bethlehem of the ever-Virgin, was baptized in the Jordan, suffered, was buried, rose again, was received up, sits at the right hand of the God and Father, and is to come again in the clouds of Heaven; and the wine is converted and transubstantiated into the true Blood Itself of the Lord, Which as He hung upon the Cross, was poured out for the life of the world. {John 6:51}

Further [we believe] that after the consecration of the bread and of the wine, there no longer remains the substance of the bread and of the wine, but the Body Itself and the Blood of the Lord, under the species and form of bread and wine; that is to say, under the accidents of the bread."

Friday, January 23, 2009

Let us praise the Pope and the bishops for a change...

In recent times bishops are often the object of ridicule by Catholics the world over. Those bishops who follow the Church faithfully are attacked by liberals both in the Church and outside of it. Unfaithful bishops who reject Church teaching and lead others into heresy are often the target of those who are following the Church faithfully. The state of the Church and the the loss of faith in it can be largely attributed to those bishops who simply do not believe in the Catholic faith. That being said we rarely hear praises for great bishops who are living the faith and trying to pass it along faithfully in these times of turmoil. So I wanted to post some praises for some of our great bishops. In no particular order here are a few that have in recent times represented Holy Mother Church faithfully.

Bishops Robert W. Finn of Kansas City, Robert Hermann of St. Louis, and Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore all defended life this past year and without hesitation condemned those who support pro-abortion politicians. "Our country," warned Bishop Finn, "is at the edge of the precipice concerning the protection of the life and dignity of the human person. A significant new attack on innocent human life will likely send us into a moral freefall that would rival any financial decline. The price for such a 'walk over the cliff' is millions more human lives for many more years to come."

Bishop Robert F. Vasa of the Catholic diocese of Baker, Oregon, wrote in the Catholic Sentinel newspaper in 2006, “There is a point at which passive ‘tolerance’ allows misleading teachings to be spread and propagated, thus confusing or even misleading the faithful about the truths of the Church…There is a very strong word, which still exists in our Church, which most of us are too ‘gentle’ to use. The word is ‘heresy.’”

Archbishop Charles J. Chaput had some choice words this past election season for pro-abortion politicians. "We should remember that one of the crucial things that set early Christians apart from the pagan culture around them was their rejection of abortion and infanticide," he explained....."Yet for thirty-five years I've watched prominent 'pro-choice' Catholics justify themselves with the kind of moral and verbal gymnastics that should qualify as an Olympic event,"...."All they've really done is capitulate to Roe v. Wade,"

Going back a few years we have Bishop Rene H. Gracida of Corpus Christi in June of 1990 sending Rachel Vargas, the clinic director, and Dr. Eduardo Aquino formal decrees separating them from the sacraments of the church, including communion, holy matrimony and last rites. "Your cooperation in procuring abortions is a sin against God and humanity and against the law of the Roman Catholic Church," Bishop Gracida wrote to them.

In August of 2004 Archbishop John F. Donoghue (Atlanta), Bishop Robert J. Baker (Charleston, SC), and Bishop Peter J. Jugis (Charlotte, NC) wrote that "Catholics in political life have the responsibility to exemplify in their public service this teaching of the Church, (sic) and to work for the protection of all innocent life" and that politicians who support abortion rights are "cooperating with evil."

We rarely see a bishop defend the faithful and attempt to correct those who separate themselves from the Church by rejecting her authority or her teachings, yet we saw Archbishop Burke do just that recently. Archbishop Raymond L. Burke issued the following statement regarding Patricia Fresen, Rose Hudson, and Elsie McGrath:

"As Archbishop of St. Louis, it is my responsibility to safeguard the unity of the Catholic Church and protect the souls of the faithful.

I have communicated with Ms. Fresen, Ms. Hudson, and Ms. McGrath, and informed them that if they participated in an attempted female ordination, they would be excommunicating themselves from the Catholic Church. In the apostolic letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, Pope John Paul II reaffirmed that the Catholic Church has no authority to confer priestly ordination on women. This teaching is to be held definitively by all the faithful as belonging to the deposit of faith. Because they participated in the attempted ordination, Church law requires me to publicly declare the excommunication."
He then followed that up with two more excommunications along the same lines.

The Motu Proprio given at St. Peter's, July 7, 2007 by Pope Benedict lifted any possible obstacles to the Tridentine Mass being celebrated, and also encouraged bishops to support it. One Bishop stands out as to as taking this proclamation by the Pope to heart. On July 25, 2006, Bishop Frank J. Dewane was installed as only the second bishop of the Diocese of Venice in Florida. In under two years not only has he supported the Tridentine Latin Mass community in his diocese that was currently in place when he arrived, he invited in the Fraternity of Saint Peter in to grow the community. Late this past year 2008, he coordinated the purchase and opening of the first exclusive Latin Mass parish. It is the only one in Florida run by the FSSP. It will be opened sometime in the next couple of months. God bless bishop Dewane for his love and support of the liturgy of the Church.

How about giving a thumbs up to the Pope himself! Pope Benedict XVI unwaveringly defended Humane Vitae in a hail storm of opposition from the secular world. "What was true yesterday remains true also today. The truth expressed in 'Humanae Vitae' does not change; in fact, in light of new scientific discoveries, its teaching is becoming more current and is provoking reflection," he said.

In June 2007 the Pope also approved a document concerning the Church and the Protestant denominations. He upheld the teaching of the Church clearly by upholding the fact that Protestant denominations cannot be considered Churches in the real sense of the term....."According to Catholic doctrine, these Communities do not enjoy apostolic succession in the sacrament of Orders, and are, therefore, deprived of a constitutive element of the Church. These ecclesial Communities which, specifically because of the absence of the sacramental priesthood, have not preserved the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic Mystery cannot, according to Catholic doctrine, be called “Churches” in the proper sense."

There are many more examples of great bishops doing great things. Feel free to add to the list in the comments section!

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Tridentine Liturgy and the FSSP.

I put this video together last year featuring the Tridentine Liturgy celebrated by Fr. James Fryar FSSP, and music by the Latin Mass choir in Sarasota Florida. Recently Bishop Frank J. Dewane of the Diocese of Venice Florida has approved of a new Latin Mass parish for his diocese to be run by the FSSP. It is supposed to be opened sometime early this year. Fr. Fryar is now assisted by Fr Justin Nolan FSSP. In light of this wonderful news I wanted to post this video. Here are some links you may be interested in if you are visiting Sarasota Florida and want to attend the Latin Liturgy. At this time the Latin Mass is still being celebrated at Saint Martha's in Sarasota, but it is soon to be moved to the new FSSP parish when the renovations are finished.

If you like great Catholic sermons visit my sermons page that features sermons from Fr. James Fryar, Fr. Justin Nolan and Fr. Daniel Geddes. Currently I have 19 sermons available with several more to post when I get a chance.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Study the Ancient Liturgies

A Note about The Sacred Image above.

I am getting on my bandwagon again to promote the study of the Church's ancient liturgies. I believe that unless one understands the fundamentals of the Divine Liturgy in all the Rites of the Catholic Church then they are missing out on a much more thorough understanding of their faith. I have penned a couple of articles on on this very subject. I have also put together a liturgical resource on some of the text of these Church liturgies. Their commonality is striking, and yet they allow for the diversity of each particular culture practicing them. This is done beautifully, demonstrating orthopraxis among them all. I wanted to compile some information and sources here so that those interested in this subject will have something to refer to. Please, if you have any other recommendations on this subject please share them in the comments section.

Here are some great books to inform yourself on this subject.

1. The Rites of Eastern Christendom-Archdale King
2.Byzantine-Slav Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom-Fr. C. Kucharek
3.West Syrian Liturgical Theology-Baby Varghese
4.The Organic Development of the Liturgy-Alcuin Reid
5.The Liturgies of Saints-J. M. Neale
6.The Spirit of the Liturgy-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger

Here are some good weblinks on the liturgies. They include both Catholic and Orthodox sources.

1. OrthodoxWiki
2.The Divine Liturgy Commentary
3.Greek Orthodox Website
4.Melkite Greek Catholic Church
5.Melkite Appreciation of the Liturgy
6.The Latin Mass Society
7.Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter
8.Coptic Orthodox Liturgy
9.The Liturgy of Saint James Commentary
10.Syrian Liturgy Commentary
11.Syro-Malabar Church
12.Summary of the Catholic Rites CNA
13.What Are The Eastern Rites-FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS
14.The Original Catholic Encyclopedia-Gallican Rite

Monday, January 19, 2009


By Matthew James Bellisario 2009

"Theology without action (praxis) is the theology of demons." —Maximus the Confessor

In today's Catholic apologetics, I believe the failed connection to defending Catholicism is in the Liturgical praxis that exemplifies in effect what she believes. Today I see many Catholics trying to defend the Church while trying to argue from the platform of their Protestant opponents. This in fact rarely works. Why, because you simply cannot agree to meet on an uneven playing field. It is like trying to play two different sports at the same time. It is the same absurdity that finds one refuting someone who believes in Scripture Alone while failing to address the fact that the Catholic Church does not consider such a position to be a viable one. Yet Catholic apologists try to shoehorn Scripture passages to fit into what they perceive to be a viable argument for some Catholic doctrine to impress the Protestant into believing he or she can prove everything from the Scriptures alone.

What platform can we argue from to completely dismantle the Protestant opponent? It is from Orthopraxis. In other words, orthodox belief leads one to correct action. This first and foremost is in the Divine Liturgy. Why does the ancient Church practice the Divine Liturgy, and profess Eucharistic substantial presence? It is because she believes it to be so. Every ancient Christian Church both schismatic or Orthodox hold to this orthopraxis. Why is the Protestant liturgy only composed of some hymns, Scripture reading and preaching from a fallible individual? Because that is what she believes. She believes that Scripture is their own possession to do with as they like, without any adherence to God or the Church who bore her.

In turn we see the emptiness of Protestantism as she flounders in barren, whitewashed walls. She believes in nothing, she proclaims nothing, she lives nothing. The individual is capital in her liturgy. This is contrary to orthodox praxis where her beliefs adorn the walls in Sacred Image and Sacred Worship of a living God. The Word is dead among the Protestant liturgies, while the living Word dwells among us in the orthodox liturgy of the Catholic Church. This living example has been continuous since the age of the apostles. The Divine Liturgy tells us what right belief is because the Church lives and breaths in her actions. The Protestant must have their pastor, and his fallible guidance on something which he has not bore. Can a child have two biological mothers? No more can Sacred Scripture have two mothers. The Church given to us by God Himself bore the Scriptures. The heretic has not been given the keys to proclaim the Word of God. Only the Church has those keys.

Right belief will always lead to right action, and heretical beliefs will always lead to living pathological lies. The Catholic must argue from the Liturgy of the Church, and stop trying to appease the Protestant who only sees a very small piece of the heavenly puzzle. Can you play Chess with pieces from a Senet game?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Medjugorje (To follow the Magisterium or not)

"It is therefore forbidden to claim or to declare in churches and religious communities that Our Lady has appeared or will yet appear in Medjugorje." Seat of Wisdom, by Bishop Peric, 1995

Recently we have seen new stories pop up regarding Medjugorje and whether or not the apparitions are authentic or not. If they are true they are true, if not they aren't. I know that I will not be supporting them as if they are authentic, nor going over there to visit to have a spiritual experience. I can do that here in church by frequenting the Sacraments. The Vatican does have a new ongoing investigation regarding these apparitions. I for one really have no bias as to whether these apparitions are real or not, but I do find many people to be either knowingly, or ignorantly rejecting the Magisterium on visiting the apparition site. I did an investigation on this a couple of years back, and modified it a bit for this posting. Many people get offended by this particular issue, and in particular to the conclusion that I have come to regarding visiting the place. In fact I had people who I considered friends who will not talk to me now because of this issue. I find this reaction a bit baffling. I would think that one would be interested in discussing these matters charitably and thoughtfully without ill-will. Yet I find often that those who question these apparitions are often accused of hating Our Blessed Mother or some other false accusation. I think this reaction may have something to say about these apparitions themselves, but this is not what my article is about. It is about whether or not people should be making private pilgrimages to the site or not. Here is my writing on the subject. If you would like to discuss this topic feel free to post your thoughts in the comments section.


I have been investigating whether private pilgrimages presupposing the validity of apparitions are allowed or prohibited concerning Medjugorje. There are many websites that have conflicting information regarding this issue. What I have done over the course of a month or so is to filter through all of the information and arrive at a provable conclusion in support for the prohibition of private pilgrimages (presupposing their authenticity) at this time to Medjugorje. I will say that I have no bias as to whether or not these apparitions are real, and in fact have favored them up until my current investigation. I am not writing this to cause division but as a Catholic who is in sincere search of the truth. Please look at the information objectively which I have compiled.

The prime concern of anyone trying to justify a position pro or con against visiting Medjugorje must be based on the authority of the Church Magisterium and nothing else. That means that we must properly understand the jurisdiction of the Bishop and the hierarchy of the Church. Normally the local ordinary, the Bishop has jurisdiction over his diocese and every parish within it including those that are run by religious orders. The only time a parish run by a religious order can disobey the local ordinary is to appeal to Rome under their Superiors. Then they can settle a dispute between the local bishop and the religious order. Of course the religious order can practice the charism of their order that occurs internally. That however does not put them out of the bounds of the local ordinary. In fact the local Bishop can prohibit them from saying the Divine Liturgy in his diocese if he chooses, and the only way to stop it would be for the religious to appeal to their order in Rome. That being said, the Franciscans in Medjugorje fall under the local ordinary, Bishop Peric. That means they must obey what he says concerning the promotion of private devotions unless they can show that the Holy See has negated that command. Bishop Peric has indeed prohibited all private and public pilgrimages to Medjugorje presupposing any authenticity to the apparitions. Canon Law states the following,

Can. 609 ß1 A house of a religious institute is established, with the prior written consent of the diocesan Bishop, by the authority competent according to the constitutions.

Can. 611 The consent of the diocesan Bishop for the establishment of a religious house carries with it the right:
1ƒ to lead a life according to the character and purposes proper to the institute;
2ƒ to engage in the works which are proper to the institute, in accordance with the law, and subject to any conditions attached to the consent;
3ƒ for clerical religious institutes to have a church, subject to the provisions of can. 1215 ß3, and to conduct the sacred ministries, with due observance of the law.
Can. 612 The consent of the diocesan Bishop is required if a religious house is to be used for apostolic works other than those for which it was established. This permission is not required for a change which, while observing the laws of the foundation, concerns only internal governance and discipline.

Indeed many people are ignorant and read things on the internet that claim that the authority of Bishop Peric has been taken away from him concerning his jurisdiction over Medjugorje. They usually refer to this statement by the Holy See concerning the apparitions. Here is the letter in its entirety so that you can see the whole thing in context.

Pr. No 154/81-06419

Citta del Vaticano, Palazzo del S. Uffizio
May 26, 1998
To His Excellency Mons. Gilbert
Bishop of Saint-Denis de la Reunion

In your letter of January 1, 1998, you submitted to this Dicastery several questions about the position of the Holy See and of the Bishop of Mostar in regard to the so called apparitions of Medjugorje, private pilgrimages and the pastoral care of the faithful who go there.

In regard to this matter, I think it is impossible to reply to each of the questions posed by Your Excellency. The main thing I would like to point out is that the Holy See does not ordinarily take a position of its own regarding supposed supernatural phenomena as a court of first instance. As for the credibility of the "apparitions" in question, this Dicastery respects what was decided by the bishops of the former Yugoslavia in the Declaration of Zadar, April 10, 1991: "On the basis of the investigations so far, it can not be affirmed that one is dealing with supernatural apparitions and revelations." Since the division of Yugoslavia into different independent nations it would now pertain to the members of the Episcopal Conference of Bosnia-Hercegovina to eventually reopen the examination of this case, and to make any new pronouncements that might be called for.

What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of "Famille Chretienne", declaring: "My conviction and my position is not only 'non constat de supernaturalitate,' but likewise, 'constat de non supernaturalitate' of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje", should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.
Finally, as regards pilgrimages to Medjugorje, which are conducted privately, this Congregation points out that they are permitted on condition that they are not regarded as an authentification of events still taking place and which still call for an examination by the Church.

I hope that I have replied satisfactorily at least to the principal questions that you have presented to this Dicastery and I beg Your Excellency to accept the expression of my devoted sentiments.

Archbishop Tarcisio Bertone 
(Secretary to the "Congregatio", presided over by Cardinal Ratzinger)

Here again the Holy See says, no private pilgrimages to Medugorje presupposing the authenticity of the apparitions. The line that I see over and over being quoted is the “What Bishop Peric said in his letter to the Secretary General of "Famille Chretienne", declaring: "My conviction and my position is not only 'non constat de supernaturalitate,' but likewise, 'constat de non supernaturalitate' of the apparitions or revelations in Medjugorje", should be considered the expression of the personal conviction of the Bishop of Mostar which he has the right to express as Ordinary of the place, but which is and remains his personal opinion.” This is no way says that the Bishop’s authority has been taken away. In fact it does just the opposite. It isn’t followed with a “therefore the Bishop of Mostar is to be disregarded.” The letter stands by Bishop Peric’s statement, and I quote from Maynooth/Dublin, 17 February 2004 a document released by Bishop Peric in 2004 stating, “All these letters emphasized that pilgrimages, whether private or public, are not allowed if they presuppose the authenticity of the apparitions, since this would be in contradiction to the declaration of the Bishops’ Conference of Yugoslavia.” I received this document directly from Bishop Peric's office himself via email.

Next in 2006 a new investigation began by Cardinal Vinko Puljic of Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Many presupposed that this once again usurped Bishop Peric’s authority. How this conclusion has come about baffles me as well. There was nothing stated other than they will be investigating the apparitions and the statements made by the prior commissions stating that “It cannot be affirmed that these matters concern supernatural apparitions or revelations." Once again a new commission does not change the disciplinary standard set by the Bishop in his own diocese. To finally affirm that Bishop Peric indeed still has the jurisdiction over Medjugorje, he recently denied Fr. Cantalamessa from the Vatican to come and preach near Medjugorje. This of course is not directly related to the apparition issue, but confirms that the Bishop does indeed hold the jurisdiction over that area otherwise Fr. Cantalamessa would not have had to comply with Bishop Peric, nor ask his permission to come and preach. He would have had to contact the Archbishop concerning the authority over Medjugorje. The Church does not simply take away part of a Bishops authority over a part of his diocese and yet leave him in control of other parts or issues. This is unheard of in the Church. I have 3 documents from Bishop Peric all documented that confirm he has jurisdiction over Medjugorje and that the Holy See has backed his stance on it concerning private pilgrimages. The fact is, if anyone is going to Medjugorje presupposing the apparitions are real then they are disobeying canon law. This is very simple.

Many also claim the Pope and the Holy See support the apparitions. In the documents Bishop Peric quotes the then Cardinal Ratzinger in 1998, now Pope Benedict XVI as writing the following, “the Cardinal responded in writing on 22 July 1998: “The only thing I can say regarding statements on Medjugorje ascribed to the Holy Father and myself is that they are complete invention” - frei erfunden - (O. P., p. 283).” He has the document and page number proving that this is indeed what Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in 1998. Ok this still does not prove anything regarding the validity of the apparitions since it was his own opinion, but it does confirm that neither the Pope, nor the Prefect for the Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith supported the apparitions at that time. This is in complete conflict with what we read on numerous websites claiming that the Pope said things privately supporting Medjugorje. We have a document from the Church that says otherwise. I have read many private statements coming from different Cardinals or bishops in Rome supporting Medjugorje. If anything should be taken as a private opinion it is theirs. They are not speaking for the Holy See nor the Bishop of Mostar, and their private opinions are just that, private. Many people are using these to justify their approval of the apparitions. This is the summary of the Church and its official documented position on Medjugorje given by Bishop Peric.

“The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has intervened four times through two of its Secretaries, while the Prefect, Cardinal Ratzinger, also made an important intervention.
      In 1985, Msgr. Alberto Bovone notified the Secretary of the Bishops’ Conference of Italy not to organize official pilgrimages to Medjugorje.
      In 1995, Msgr. Tarcisio Bertone wrote to the bishop of Langres, Msgr. Leon Taverdet, and repeated the same to Msgr. Lucien Daloz of Besançon, France, who were interested in knowing the position of the Holy See on Medjugorje.
      Finally, in 1998, the same Secretary wrote to Msgr. Gilbert Aubry, bishop of Reunion. All these letters emphasized that pilgrimages, whether private or public, are not allowed if they presuppose the authenticity of the apparitions, since this would be in contradiction to the declaration of the Bishops’ Conference of Yugoslavia.
      Ratzinger’s frei erfunden. In 1998, when a certain German gathered various statements which were supposedly made by the Holy Father and the Cardinal Prefect, and forwarded them to the Vatican in the form of a memorandum, the Cardinal responded in writing on 22 July 1998: “The only thing I can say regarding statements on Medjugorje ascribed to the Holy Father and myself is that they are complete invention” - frei erfunden - (O. P., p. 283).
      Conclusion. Not only are these statements ascribed to the Holy Father and Cardinal Ratzinger “complete invention”, but the numerous messages of Medjugorje, ascribed to the Madonna are also complete invention. If our faith is considered obsequium rationabile - rational service to God, true and healthy spiritual worship, as it rightfully is (Rm 12:1), then it cannot be any person’s private fantasy or illusion (O. P., p. 84). The Church is competent to say this. In her name, 30 chosen priests and physicians, working together in three Commissions for 10 years, in more than 30 meetings, dutifully and expertly investigated the events of Medjugorje and brought forth their results of study. And not one, but twenty bishops responsibly declared that there exists no proof that the events in Medjugorje concern supernatural apparitions or revelations. The believer who respects both principles: ratio et fides, adheres to this criterion, convinced that the Church does not deceive.
      Regarding Medjugorje, there’s a real danger that the Madonna and the Church could be privatized. People could start contriving a Madonna and a Church according to their own taste, perception and deception: by not submitting their reason as believers to the official Magisterium of the Church, but rather forcing the Church to follow and recognize their fantasy.
      Naïve believers could easily then leave the living fountains of grace in their own parishes to mosey on down to Medjugorje or follow the “seers” around the world, who by the way, thanks to the “apparitions” have good homes and a comfortable existence - at least that’s what the mass-media say.”

What does all of this prove? It proves that Bishop Peric still is the Local Ordinary over Medjugorje, and the Vatican backs his stance on pilgrimages to Medjugorje. I will not belittle the experience many have had in Medjugorje. This is not my intention. My intention here is to make clear that we need to be obedient to the Magisterium and the Bishops of the Church, providing they are not causing us to sin or go against Church teaching. It is obvious that Bishop Peric is not doing so, and he has every right to protect his flock from what he perceives as a false apparition. We should be willing to listen. When a bishop commands something such as this is it often times a test as to the whether or not these apparitions are authentic. Often times it is to see if the alleged seers will be obedient to the bishop and those following them as well. some people have attacked the bishop, and I have read negative things about Bishop Peric by those who support the apparitions. This again has no weight in this matter, whether they are true or not, and I don't know if any of them are proven. I won't go into that matter here, for it has no bearing on the subject at hand.

I would also add that people should not be reading and quoting the messages from Medjugorje either, since that would be presupposing their authenticity as well. One must ask themselves why they are going to Medjugorje. If that person goes because they believe the apparitions to be real, then they are clearly disobeying the Church. If you have any documented evidence that proves that the Holy See has overturned and taken away Bishop Peric’s authority over Medjugorje, then please send it to me. As far as I can tell there is no official document saying that we do not have to listen to the Bishop and that we can make private pilgrimages to Medjugorje presupposing that anything is happening regarding the apparitions. Please only respond with real documents from the Holy See, and not private statements, or hearsay.
Yours in Christ, Matthew Bellisario. 2006 (updated 2009)

The Rosary

The Rosary is a beautiful way to meditate on the Gospels. The Rosary focuses on Our Lord Jesus' life. By meditating on His life in the Gospels we can better understand Him, and consequently be closer to Him. Who can make a case against knowing Sacred Scripture on a deeper level, as well as keep the life of Our Lord in our minds and hearts at all times? Many Protestants repeatedly attack the Rosary as if it is un-biblical, or a pagan invention. The Rosary is a composite of many Christian devotional prayers rolled into a unique form of prayer. Although the Gospels have been read and prayed since the earliest times by the Christian faithful, the actual Rosary as it exists today came about probably sometime in the 1400s or 1500s.

The foundations of the Rosary however date much earlier. The Desert Monastics used a prayer rope that dates back at least to 300s if not earlier, and prayed what is known as the “Jesus Prayer” (Lord Jesus Christ Son of God, have mercy upon me a sinner). This is still practiced in the Eastern Church today. There is also record of early Christians using pebbles to count their prayers with. The Greek historian Salaminius Sozomen wrote in the 5th century about a monk called Paul the Hermit who would pick up 300 pebbles every morning and carry them in his pockets and drop them as he prayed throughout the day. (Johnson1996) Sacred Scripture tell us to pray unceasingly. “ Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks, for this is the will of God for you in Christ Jesus.” (I Thess 5:17) Christians have been trying to live that Scripture verse and the Rosary is yet another example. The focus of Christ and His life in the Rosary would follow that same tradition. As you can see below, different Gospel stories are prayed each day of the week, covering central points of the Gospels to meditate on.

The Mysteries of the Rosary.

The Five Joyful Mysteries
Monday & Saturday

1. The Annunciation: Humility
2. The Visitation: Charity
3. The Birth of Our Lord: Poverty, or detachment from the world
4. The Presentation of Our Lord: Purity of heart, obedience
5. The Finding of Our Lord in the Temple: Piety

The Five Sorrowful Mysteries
Tuesday & Friday

1. The Agony in the Garden: Contrition for our sins
2. The Scourging at the Pillar: Mortification of our senses
3. The Crowning with Thorns: Interior mortification
4. The Carrying of the Cross: Patience under crosses
5. The Crucifixion and Death of Our Lord: That we may die to ourselves

The Five Glorious Mysteries
Sunday & Wednesday

1. The Resurrection: Conversion of heart
2. The Ascension: A desire for heaven
3. The Coming of the Holy Ghost: The Gifts of the Holy Ghost
4. The Assumption of our Blessed Mother into Heaven: Devotion to Mary
5. The Coronation of our Blessed Mother: Eternal happiness

The Five Luminous Mysteries

1. The Baptism in the Jordan
2. The Wedding at Cana
3. The Proclamation of the Kingdom
4. The Transfiguration
5. The Institution of the Eucharist

There is much more that can be written on the Rosary. I cannot do a better job than Kevin Orlin Johnson. Kevin Orlin Johnson, PHD has written a great book on the Rosary, "The Rosary: Mysteries, Meditations, and the Telling of the Beads." It clocks in at over 400 pages. Using Sacred Scripture, The Saints and Liturgical sources it gives the complete history of the Rosary and its place in Christian tradition. It is the best book I have read on the subject. Amazon usually has them.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Byzantium, Byzantium, Byzantium!

One of my favorite historical subjects to read about is Byzantium. It is so rich in Christian history, theology, philosophy, art and literature. The Christian Byzantine Empire reigned strong for over 1000 years. Charismatic characters such as the Emperor Justinian, his wife the Empress Theodora and later the Empress Irene Serantapechaina emerged from her. Her effects in the modern West can still be felt over 500 years after her fall. I had the pleasure of going to Ravenna, Italy and seeing the iconic, Byzantine churches which Justinian reconquered during his reign. The Eastern Byzantine theological philosophy is also still alive and well within the Catholic Church. I wanted to post links to this video series from BBC on Byzantine art. It is well done as the earlier series that I posted. The series goes into iconography and the techniques used to write them as well as some of the history of the Byzantine Empire. There are also some great books about this subject which I listed below. All of them you can get on Amazon. The Eastern Church is often rejected outright by the West. I believe that the Eastern Church cements together and completes the foundation of Christianity, which without we end up with a skewed view of theology. This is readily apparent in Protestantism which has gone off the rails, riddled with legalism. Protestantism sadly has nothing left of this magnificent left lung of Christianity.

Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire-Judith Herrin
A Short History of Byzantium-John Julius Norwich
Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium-Jonathan Harris
Early Christian & Byzantine Art-John Lowden
Justinian and Theodora-Robert Browning
1453: The Holy War for Constantinople and the Clash of Islam and the West-Roger Crowley
Ravenna, a Study-Edward Hutton

A great 3 plus hour DVD documentary is also available on Byzantium. You can also purchaseit on Amazon.
Byzantium: The Lost Empire-Starring: John Romer

All of these Byzantine Catholic Rites are descendant directly from Byzantium, many which were separated from Rome, but later came back into communion with the unifying Chair of Saint Peter..
Byzantine (Constantinopolitan) liturgical tradition:

1. Albanian Greek Catholic Church (apostolic administration): Albania (1628)
2. Belarusian Greek Catholic Church (no established hierarchy at present): Belarus (1596)
3. Bulgarian Greek Catholic Church (apostolic exarchate): Bulgaria (1861)
4. Byzantine Church of the Eparchy of Križevci (an eparchy and an apostolic exarchate): Croatia, Serbia and Montenegro (1611)
5. Greek Byzantine Catholic Church (two apostolic exarchates): Greece, Turkey (1829)
6. Hungarian Greek Catholic Church (an eparchy and an apostolic exarchate): Hungary (1646)
7. Italo-Albanian Catholic Church (two eparchies and a territorial abbacy): Italy (Never separated)
8. Macedonian Greek Catholic Church (an apostolic exarchate): Republic of Macedonia (1918)
9. Melkite Greek Catholic Church (patriarchate): Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Brazil, United States, Canada, Mexico, Iraq, Egypt and Sudan, Kuwait, Australia, Venezuela, Argentina (1726)
10. Romanian Church United with Rome, Greek-Catholic (major archiepiscopate): Romania, United States (1697)
11. Russian Catholic Church: (two apostolic exarchates, at present with no published hierarchs): Russia, China (1905); currently about 20 parishes and communities scattered around the world, including five in Russia itself, answering to bishops of other jurisdictions
12. Ruthenian Catholic Church (a sui juris metropolia, an eparchy, and an apostolic exarchate): United States, Ukraine, Czech Republic (1646)
13. Slovak Greek Catholic Church (metropolia): Slovak Republic, Canada (1646)

There are similar Orthodox Byzantine Churches that descended from Byzantium yet remained separated from Rome.

Painting Paradise--Early Christian Painting.

If you love your Christian heritage in iconography, you will love this video series. I went through and put all 6 parts in order for your viewing pleasure! The testament of history continues to destroy Protestant heresies that condemn such beautiful iconography.

Introduction to Iconography

Christianity has a rich tradition in iconography. Since the earliest times of Christianity we see images used in sacred worship. This video is an introduction trailer for a complete series on reading icons. I thought it was informative as an introduction to the basic theology of icons. I have a couple articles on that give a historical witness and defense to the use of images by Christians. This video goes along with these as a nice primer on the icon. I would love to see the whole series.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Saint Jerome Believed in Mans' Freewill

Saint Jerome weighs in on man's freewill.

This is the 3rd of an ongoing series refuting the false doctrine of predestination that Calvinists teach in place of the truth. This Doctor of the Church wrote a letter on this very subject. It is letter 133 to Ctesiphon. I wanted to post a few excerpts from it and bold type the text that emphasizes important points on freewill. Saint Jerome wrote this in the year 415. We can see that he is passing along the faith that those that came before him did. His assessment is exactly that of Justin Martyr and Saint Irenaeus. It is well worth reading the entire letter. Saint Jerome teaches, just like the Catholic Church does, that grace is first required, but that man has freewill and he must co-operate with God's grace as well. Saint Jerome is obviously arguing in this letter against those who believe, like Pelagius that human freewill is all that is needed. The great Saint readily admits that man has freewill, but salvation first is offered by God's grace, which without it man would be helpless. This is true Catholic teaching. Without God's help we cannot do good, nor co-operate with Him. Saint Jerome makes this very clear in this letter. I guess he was a Semi-Pelagian too?

Here is the link to the entire letter.

5. The better to deceive men they have added to the maxim given above the saving clause "but not without the grace of God;" and this may at the first blush take in some readers. However, when it is carefully sifted and considered, it can deceive nobody. For while they acknowledge the grace of God, they tell us that our acts do not depend upon His help. Rather, they understand by the grace of God free will and the commandments of the Law. They quote Isaiah's words: "God has given the law to aid men," and say that we ought to thank Him for having created us such that of our own free will we can choose the good and avoid the evil. Nor do they see that in alleging this the devil uses their lips to hiss out an intolerable blasphemy. For if God's grace is limited to this that He has formed us with wills of our own, and if we are to rest content with free will, not seeking the divine aid lest this should be impaired, we should cease to pray; for we cannot entreat God's mercy to give us daily what is already in our hands having been given to us once for all. Those who think thus make prayer impossible and boast that free will makes them not merely controllers of themselves but as powerful as God. For they need no external help. Away with fasting, away with every form of self-restraint! For why need I strive to win by toil what has once for all been placed within my reach? The argument that I am using is not mine; it is that put forward by a disciple of Pelagius, or rather one who is the teacher and commander of his whole army. This man, who is the opposite of Paul for he is a vessel of perdition, roams through thickets— not, as his partisans say, of syllogisms, but of solecisms, and theorizes thus: "If I do nothing without the help of God and if all that I do is His act, I cease to labour and the crown that I shall win will belong not to me but to the grace of God. It is idle for Him to have given me the power of choice if I cannot use it without His constant help. For will that requires external support ceases to be will. God has given me freedom of choice, but what becomes of this if I cannot do as I wish?" Accordingly he propounds the following dilemma: "Either once for all I use the power which is given to me, and so preserve the freedom of my will; or I need the help of another, in which case the freedom of my will is wholly abrogated."

6. Surely the man who says this is no ordinary blasphemer; the poison of his heresy is no common poison. Since our wills are free, they argue, we are no longer dependent upon God; and they forget the Apostle's words "what have you that thou did not receive? Now if you received it why do you glory as if you had not received it?" 1 Corinthians 4:7 A nice return, truly, does a man make to God when to assert the freedom of his will he rebels against Him! For our parts we gladly embrace this freedom, but we never forget to thank the Giver; knowing that we are powerless unless He continually preserves in us His own gift......

10. It is in vain that you misrepresent me and try to convince the ignorant that I condemn free will. Let him who condemns it be himself condemned. We have been created endowed with free will; still it is not this which distinguishes us from the brutes. For human free will, as I have said before, depends upon the help of God and needs His aid moment by moment, a thing which you and yours do not choose to admit. Your position is that, if a man once has free will, he no longer needs the help of God. It is true that freedom of the will brings with it freedom of decision. Still man does not act immediately on his free will, but requires God's aid who Himself needs no aid........

Monday, January 12, 2009

Saint Irenaeus believed in Man's Freewill.

Irenaeus of Lyons Weighs in on Man's Freewill

Here is a second part of my ongoing series on man's freewill, which is rejected by the Protestant “Reformed” Church. Here is another early source which once again completely agrees with Catholic teaching on freewill. Saint Irenaeus is our second early witness, along with Justin Martyr from very early in the Church who agree with Catholic doctrine on man's freewill. If we read we can see that Irenaeus is not interpreting Saint Paul like John Calvin did or any of the modern “Reformed” apologists. He wrote this around 180AD. Again, I suppose this isn't early enough for the “Reformed” apologists. I guess Christianity was already corrupted by then right? I guess both Justin Martyr in 150 and now Irenaeus in 180 are both interpreting Saint Paul incorrectly right? Just like the Catholic and Orthodox Church's? If you are going to buy that then I have some other goods to sell you too. As I asked in my first post. I want to see an earlier interpretation of Saint Paul that supports the “Reformed” position.

These excerpts are from Against Heresies (Book IV, Chapter 37)

1. This expression [of our Lord], "How often would I have gathered your children together, and you would not," Matthew 23:37 set forth the ancient law of human liberty, because God made man a free [agent] from the beginning, possessing his own power, even as he does his own soul, to obey the behests (ad utendum sententia) of God voluntarily, and not by compulsion of God. For there is no coercion with God, but a good will [towards us] is present with Him continually. And therefore does He give good counsel to all. And in man, as well as in angels, He has placed the power of choice (for angels are rational beings), so that those who had yielded obedience might justly possess what is good, given indeed by God, but preserved by themselves. On the other hand, they who have not obeyed shall, with justice, be not found in possession of the good, and shall receive condign punishment: for God did kindly bestow on them what was good; but they themselves did not diligently keep it, nor deem it something precious, but poured contempt upon His super-eminent goodness. Rejecting therefore the good, and as it were spuing it out, they shall all deservedly incur the just judgment of God, which also the Apostle Paul testifies in his Epistle to the Romans, where he says, "But do you despise the riches of His goodness, and patience, and long-suffering, being ignorant that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? But according to your hardness and impenitent heart, you store to yourself wrath against the day of wrath, and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God." "But glory and honour," he says, "to every one that does good." God therefore has given that which is good, as the apostle tells us in this Epistle, and they who work it shall receive glory and honour, because they have done that which is good when they had it in their power not to do it; but those who do it not shall receive the just judgment of God, because they did not work good when they had it in their power so to do.

2. But if some had been made by nature bad, and others good, these latter would not be deserving of praise for being good, for such were they created; nor would the former be reprehensible, for thus they were made [originally]. But since all men are of the same nature, able both to hold fast and to do what is good; and, on the other hand, having also the power to cast it from them and not to do it—some do justly receive praise even among men who are under the control of good laws (and much more from God), and obtain deserved testimony of their choice of good in general, and of persevering therein; but the others are blamed, and receive a just condemnation, because of their rejection of what is fair and good. And therefore the prophets used to exhort men to what was good, to act justly and to work righteousness, as I have so largely demonstrated, because it is in our power so to do, and because by excessive negligence we might become forgetful, and thus stand in need of that good counsel which the good God has given us to know by means of the prophets.

4. No doubt, if any one is unwilling to follow the Gospel itself, it is in his power [to reject it], but it is not expedient. For it is in man's power to disobey God, and to forfeit what is good; but [such conduct] brings no small amount of injury and mischief. And on this account Paul says, "All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient;" 1 Corinthians 6:12 referring both to the liberty of man, in which respect "all things are lawful," God exercising no compulsion in regard to him; and [by the expression] "not expedient" pointing out that we "should not use our liberty as a cloak of maliciousness," 1 Peter 2:16 for this is not expedient. And again he says, "Speak every man truth with his neighbour." Ephesians 4:25 And, "Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor scurrility, which are not convenient, but rather giving of thanks." Ephesians 4:29 And, "For you were sometimes darkness, but now are you light in the Lord; walk honestly as children of the light, not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in anger and jealousy. And such were some of you; but you have been washed, but you have been sanctified in the name of our Lord." 1 Corinthians 6:11 If then it were not in our power to do or not to do these things, what reason had the apostle, and much more the Lord Himself, to give us counsel to do some things, and to abstain from others? But because man is possessed of free will from the beginning, and God is possessed of free will, in whose likeness man was created, advice is always given to him to keep fast the good, which thing is done by means of obedience to God.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

So You Think You Are Going to Heaven?

I ran across this online video series given by an Orthodox Church dealing with eternal life and other questions about the Orthodox faith. Most of it is completely in line with Catholicism and for those who know their Catholic faith well, they can benefit from it. It is a 14 part series and you can play them with a variety of players. Real Player is the default selection. I wish Catholics would do something like this. It is very informative. I know I have been flooding this blog with info so I hope you can keep up! Enjoy it!

Justin Martyr Believed in Man's Freewill

Justin Martyr weighs in on man's freewill.

Today we often see "Reformed" apologists interpreting Romans as well as other books of Sacred Scripture incorrectly. They try to prove a false doctrine which makes God creating some men for hell and others for heaven, with no reference to their freewill co-operation with God. They claim that the Catholic Church is incorrect in teaching that men have freewill and wrongly cite them as being semi-pelagians. I wanted to post a part of Justin Martyr's writing to Trypho sometime near the year 150AD. I suppose this probably is not going to be an early enough source for some people, but hey, it is almost within 100 years of Jesus' death. I would like the "Reformers" to provide a reference outside of Scripture proving their interpretation earlier than this that contradicts it. Justin clearly taught the Catholic position on man's freewill. He clearly understands Romans like the Catholic Church does, and makes the proper reference to David, which the "Reformers" constantly reject. Well, we have a source from the mid 100s that contradicts their interpretation, in favor of the Catholic.

Chapter 141. Free-will in men and angels

Justin: But that you may not have a pretext for saying that Christ must have been crucified, and that those who transgressed must have been among your nation, and that the matter could not have been otherwise, I said briefly by anticipation, that God, wishing men and angels to follow His will, resolved to create them free to do righteousness; possessing reason, that they may know by whom they are created, and through whom they, not existing formerly, do now exist; and with a law that they should be judged by Him, if they do anything contrary to right reason: and of ourselves we, men and angels, shall be convicted of having acted sinfully, unless we repent beforehand. But if the word of God foretells that some angels and men shall be certainly punished, it did so because it foreknew that they would be unchangeably [wicked], but not because God had created them so. So that if they repent, all who wish for it can obtain mercy from God: and the Scripture foretells that they shall be blessed, saying, 'Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes not sin;' that is, having repented of his sins, that he may receive remission of them from God; and not as you deceive yourselves, and some others who resemble you in this, who say, that even though they be sinners, but know God, the Lord will not impute sin to them. We have as proof of this the one fall of David, which happened through his boasting, which was forgiven then when he so mourned and wept, as it is written. But if even to such a man no remission was granted before repentance, and only when this great king, and anointed one, and prophet, mourned and conducted himself so, how can the impure and utterly abandoned, if they weep not, and mourn not, and repent not, entertain the hope that the Lord will not impute to them sin?

It seems that Justin is not interpreting the Scriptures like modern "Reformed" apologists are doing. Justin was martyred in Rome around 162AD. He is also considered to the founder of Christian Philosophy. I will do another article on Justin where he clearly writes that the Eucharist is indeed the same flesh that was made incarnate. Stay tuned for another hard hitting issue of the Catholic Champion blog!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Amazing Patriarchal Index

I ran across this amazing web page while I was searching for information on Byzantium. I am quite astounded by the sheer amount of information on the site concerning the Patriarchs of the Church throughout the centuries. It lists The Bishops of Rome, the Popes; the Patriarchs of Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, Jerusalem, Armenia, and the East; Archbishops of Canterbury and Prince Archbishops of Mainz, Trier, Cologne, and Salzburg. They are all listed with dates and locations. If anything is a testament to apostolic succession this is it. For this information to have been recorded throughout the known Christian world, the Church and its members must have thought it to be of the most grave importance. There must have been countless hours put into this page. Enjoy it!

The Illuminated Manuscript

The Illuminated Manuscript
(An often overlooked iconic tradition of the Church)
Matthew Bellisario 2009

I wanted to do a short article on Illuminated manuscripts since I am an avid admirer of them. Since my visit to the monastery of San Lazzaro in Italy, which houses a 150,000-volume library, as well as a museum with over 4,000 Armenian manuscripts, my interest has grown. It is well known that the use of images in Christianity is as old the religion itself. From the very first signs of Christian liturgical practices we see the use of images. This is proven from the images in the Catacombs in Rome dating from the 3rd century as well as the oldest house church that there is in existence, that of Dura Europos. It contained images of Our Lord Jesus Christ in it which dates also to the 3rd century. For those who argue that these images did not exist in the Church before the 5th century, that argument has been defeated by more recent archeological evidence. I have argued that the use of Sacred Images was no doubt a universal practice in some of my other essays. I have even referenced earlier imagery from the 2ndt and 3rd centuries, being there are hundreds of examples of bas-relief stone images on sarcophagi dating back to that age with many different Gospel depictions on them. What is often however overlooked are the illustrious, illuminated manuscripts.

Church Manuscripts were often made with ‘illumination’ which refers to the use of bright colors and gold to illustrate or to portray entire scenes or depictions of the writing. This term “illumination” comes from the Latin word for ‘lit up’ or ‘enlightened’. These marvelous pieces of work were not done for merely a decorative purpose, but for also the honor and glory of God. These particular types of illuminated manuscripts are also a most universal Church practice, as I will demonstrate. Although these manuscripts do not date as far back as some of the other types of iconographies, they are none the less a universal testimony of the Church to the use of Sacred Image. These manuscripts can be found in every part of Christendom starting around the 8th century, although there are much earlier examples in areas such as Ireland. One example is the Book of Dimma which dates from 620 and depicts the evangelists.

The Carolingian copy of the Four Gospels with its gold binding, containing jewels and pieces of the relics of Saints gives us an example from this period. Not only are images used in the cover, but relics are also embedded in it. A Greek copy of the Four Gospels was written in Constantinople in the tenth century. It shows a typical icon of Byzantine Evangelist portraits painted on gold background. The Stavelot Bible, written over four years at Stavelot in what is now called Belgium was written in the late eleventh century and is another splendid example of rich illuminations of Christ and other Biblical scenes. Moving over to Jerusalem we have the Melisende Psalter, made in the twelfth century in the crusader territories of the Middle East for Queen Melisende. It contains Biblical depictions of Christ as well. One of them being Christ's entry into Jerusalem.

As Christianity moved into the Slavic areas the same illuminations are found. Of course this is not surprising being that they are descendent from the Byzantines in tradition. The Gospels of Tsar Ivan Alexander, written in Church Slavonic, in the mid-fourteenth century was made for the eponymous Tsar of Bulgaria. It contains marvelous illuminations of various Biblical scenes as well. The book of prayers of Saint Elizabeth of Hungary dates from 1220AD. Armenian illuminated manuscripts are numerous dating back to the 8th century. I have had the pleasure of seeing many of them personally when I was in Italy at the San Lazzaro monastery. One of my favorites is the Queen Mlk'é Gospel inked in 851-862, of Christ's Ascension, among others.

The same illuminations are also found among the Coptic tradition as well. The richly illuminated Four Gospels In Bohairic Coptic and Arabic date back to 1205. Finally the illuminated manuscripts are also found in Ethiopia. The Ethiopian traditions also attest to richly, yet odd illuminations of the Gospels. One example is an illustrated Gospel from the Metropolitan Museum of Art which has a nice article on the Ethiopian illumination it depicts. The odd form of illumination is described, “This illuminated manuscript of the Four Gospels was created in the late fourteenth to early fifteenth century at an Ethiopian monastic center. Its full-page paintings on vellum depict New Testament scenes from the life of Christ and portraits of the evangelists. The text is in Ge'ez, the classical Ethiopian language. Typical of Ethiopian painting, the imagery is two-dimensional and linear. Heads are seen frontally; bodies are often in profile.”

As we can see no part of Christendom was left untouched by this iconographic tradition. The Christians throughout the world had no problem depicting Christ, or other Biblical images. This gives us another example of why iconoclastic mentalities such as those that were defeated in the 800s, are to be fervently fought against. We can trace the use of icons back even further, and prove their universal acceptance among Christendom as well. Despite this, I find it very interesting how the illuminated manuscripts are often ignored as another living witness to an ancient and most accepted practice in Christianity. Clearly all of these rich Christian communities were not interpreting Sacred Scripture the same way as John Calvin did as he tried accuse these people of using graven images. In fact this incorrect interpretation is not shared by any of the ancient Churches of the world, as is demonstrated by their worldwide acceptance of sacred imagery. Here in just this short article I have spanned a large portion of Christendom. I provided proof of manuscripts from Greece, Belgium, France, Armenia, Egypt, Jerusalem, Hungary, Bulgaria, Ireland, and there are numerous volumes found in England which I did not even reference.

The Vatican has the largest collection of illuminated manuscripts followed by Saint Catherine's monastery in Egypt which consists of some 4,500 volumes in Greek, Coptic, Arabic, Armenian, Hebrew, Slavic, Syriac, Georgian and other languages.

Here are some links to some webpages containing some of these manuscripts. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

How Many Protestant Denominations?

How many Protestant Denominations?
By: Matthew Bellisario 2009

In today's' apologetics blog world there appears to be a disagreement about how many Protestant denominations there are. The common over-inflated number used by today's Catholic apologists is about 33,000, and the World Christian Encyclopedia published by Oxford is often used as a reference. Is this number accurate? What do other sources say? Are there thousands, or merely hundreds? Does it really matter? Well if we are looking for accuracy then of course the number matters. As a matter of principal the result is still the same. A massive splintering of Protestantism is a fact. Does this same division exist in the Catholic Church? Someone of stature in the Protestant apologetics world used the World Christian Encyclopedia to state that there were also many Catholic denominations as well. The problem is that the Catholic denominations they list are not denominations at all, but different Rites within the Church. A Rite in the Church does not constitute different doctrines or dogmas. In reading it, I realize that this particular Encyclopedia obviously uses a very liberal definition to define a denomination. The same liberal numbers are applied equally to the Protestants, over inflating their numbers as well.

The argument has been proposed that the Catholic Church has no unity because the people who are members of the Catholic Church do not live the faith that the Catholic Church teaches. This is plainly absurd. One famous Protestant apologist recently mocked the unity of the Catholic Church because members of the Catholic church voted liberally in the election. He then went on to tell us that this clearly shows that the Catholic Church has no unity. Let me make this clear. The Catholic Church itself has no division of doctrine. It is a false argument to say that people who are members of the Church who don't believe what the the Church teaches, constitutes multiple denominations. Those people who willingly oppose the Church separate themselves from the Church whether they are “members” or not. Here are some facts, say what you will about the sheer numbers used to define denominations. There in fact are many doctrinal differences between Protestant church denominations. Each Protestant Church proclaims itself as a “church” with opposing doctrines from others. This is quite different than people who are members of the Catholic Church not living their faith. If we are to use this definition then there are obviously millions in Protestant churches as well not following what their faith teaches them. This would constitute even more denominations in Protestantism as well, no? There are no opposing Catholic Churches within the Catholic Church that is united with Rome. This means that all those who are separated from Rome are not considered to be a Church in the literal Catholic sense, with the exception of the Orthodox Church, who maintain the validity of the Sacraments. This is another subject all together and it is not be conflated here in this article.

The question at hand is, how many Protestant denominations are there? There is an interesting study I found online on the classification of Protestant denominations. Interestingly enough, they do not break up the Catholic Church, nor the Orthodox Church into denominations. I guess they are biased too? Even those in secular research are honest enough to admit that the Catholic Church is one entity not fragmented by doctrinal disagreements like Protestantism is. Let me continue. The article comes up with a list of 158 forms of Protestantism. It is hard to get a clear number depending on which table you are looking at. Another summarization shows 126, but the list also includes Mormons and other groups that are not in reality Protestant either. For the sake of arguing we can say that there are well over 100 of these major Protestant denominations classified by this particular study.

I did more investigating to see what a Protestant seminary taught in regards to this number. Gordon Conwell seminary uses the number of 9000. If you go to their World Christian Database they say it represents over 9,000 Christian denominations throughout the world. So it seems that Catholics are not the only ones using a high over inflated number are they? The question boils down as to how liberal you are going to apply division to each group. Are you going to make a new denomination based on what kind of music is played, or whether or not they jump up and down in the pews on Sunday? Or are you going to take what most would consider to be major tenets of faith and apply their differences to define a denomination. Even if we were to use the tightest parameters such as the the basic doctrine of Sola Scriptura as a dividing line, we would still have several splits in Protestantism by the mere fact that some denominations cannot agree on the inerrancy of Scripture. Yet they all claim to adhere to Scripture alone don't they? Read RC Sproul's book called Scripture Alone where he ardently argues against these particular variants of Scripture Alone and their definitions of it.

Another thought I would like to address is the cause of these divisions. It is a fact that most of these divisions in Christianity have come since the Protestant Revolt began. Protestantism did have an effect of division at its onset. We have only to look at the founders of Protestantism and their many disagreements among them that remain even today unresolved. Can we say that Sola Scriptura causes these divisions in the Protestant world? Personally I think that there are many causes for divisions in Protestantism. One being that when one separates themselves from the unifying chair of Peter, I believe you end up with doctrinal disunity. Whether or not you want to use the doctrine of Scripture Alone as the sole cause is not really the issue. What is the issue is that of pride. When one puts themselves as the arbiter of Christian doctrine outside of the Church, then no matter what means is used to arrive one's own opinions, it is the ultimate cause of division. In a nutshell the cause is pride. I personally do not think it is a stretch to say that Protestantism is built on division.

When one separates themselves from the Church, that being the unifying chair of Peter, then one is dividing, or separating themselves from the Church. Even those who call themselves Catholic, such as the Sedevacantists are not really Catholic. They are not a "Catholic" denomination as some have falsely claimed. They have used means other than Scripture Alone to separate themselves from the Church. They are however separated, and are no longer Catholic. They ultimately deny the authority of the Church, and that is what separates. In all cases I believe that prideful individuality is the sole cause of division. Sola Scriptura just happens to be the doctrine that Protestants use to uphold their individuality. In the end the result is the same. After all of the dust has settled there are still many Protestant denominations separated by doctrine, and the Catholic Church does not have that same division despite the rhetoric of today's Protestant apologists. There is but one Catholic doctrine on salvation, on the Eucharist, on the sacraments of Baptism, confirmation, etc. Where as Protestants are in opposition to each other on all of these doctrines.

Finally lets address the 30,000 denomination number. I will state that if one is going to use a liberal source to apply divisions, then that same liberal standard must be used across the board. I personally would not use the World Christian Encyclopedia for my number of denominations because they are obviously using a far more liberal application to constitute a denomination than I am personally willing to accept. For me I don't need to use an over inflated figure to help emphasize the dismal qualities of Protestantism. It has an insurmountable amount of problems that are readily apparent without over-inflating the number of its denominations.