Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sola Scriptura, Not Good Enough for Protestants.

Why do so many Protestants spend so much time using extra-Biblical sources to prove their beliefs? For instance, one guy named James Swan spends hours culling through Martin Luther's writings, and writings about his life; leaving no stone unturned to defend his hero. Every time he gets a new book on Luther he has to tell everyone about it on his blog. The guy has been dead for close to 500 years. Isn't this a form of veneration? Heavens no, far be it for the Protestant. After all, if you spend hours and days reading, writing and defending a man who shares your religious beliefs, we couldn't call that veneration could we? What is all of this going to accomplish for the Protestant? Did Luther interpret the Scriptures infallibly? Do we actually need any of Luther's writings in order to understand the Scriptures? If someone is going to go by the Bible alone, shouldn't they be confident enough in their own interpretations instead of having to go out and look for other people's interpretations to verify their own? How does the Protestant know who is authentically called to be teachers of the faith?

The Reformed position of Sola Scriptura tries not to dismiss the Church and her teachers from their doctrine. They claim that not everyone can understand the Scriptures equally, and that there are people who are called to teach the Bible in some sort of authoritative position. Yet if that is the case, then why do their authoritative teachers disagree on core teachings in the Bible? How do they know that pastor Billy Bob is really called by God to teach the Bible? I mean knowing what the Bible teaches about sinful acts is important, no? Maybe it would be nice to know how one attains or receives salvation, how one is justified and sanctified, and why one is baptized and what it means to be baptized? But for the Protestant, those are just side issues. These "Reformed" apologists claim that most Protestants agree on the core issues, but I don't see any of them coming up with a list of core issues from the Bible. I believe that the Scriptures were written down and given to us by God, because all of it is important, no? No, not for the Protestant; its only what each individual thinks and decides to be important.

For example, recently I have had exchanges over the interpretation of Genesis 38 and the sin of Onan. The overwhelming Protestant interpretation of this passage up until the 1930 Lambeth conference was completely different than what it is now. For close to 500 years, Protestantism condemned masturbation and contraception as being grossly sinful based on this Biblical text, yet now it has become a convenient non-essential issue for them. It is certainly a convenient system to take something in the Bible that was considered to be grossly sinful, and now turn it into a non-essential. Lets take Martin Luther for example, who appealed to the Scriptures alone in order to uphold his beliefs against the contraceptive act.

Martin Luther says in reference to Onan,
"Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed. Accordingly, it was a most disgraceful crime to produce semen and excite the woman, and to frustrate her at that very moment. He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred. Therefore he did not allow himself to be compelled to bear that intolerable slavery. Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed. Therefore God punished him . . ."

Yet today we have proponents of various forms of Lutheranism and Calvinism who reject both of these Reformer's interpretations of this Biblical passage, in favor of their own. For instance, a guy who calls himself Turretin Fan wrote this about their interpretations.

"iv) The fact that Calvin (and Luther?) viewed Onan's activity to be inherently displeasing to God does not make it so.

A surprising number of people think that it is significant that Luther (?) and Calvin generalized Onan's sin rather differently than we do. Nevertheless, Luther and Calvin agreed with us that their views ought to be held up to the light of Scripture. Since their views of this particular text do not seem to be sustainable exegetically, we are justified in departing from their position on this issue."

Read Turretin Fan's entire post here.

So there you have it. This system of Sola Scriptura is up to the individual to decide what is worthy of belief, and what is not. If Martin Luther and John Calvin deem a passage of Scripture to condemn an act as sinful, then it is sinful because Scripture says so. If someone like Turretin Fan doesn't feel that the passage is clear enough for him, then he just dismisses it. A very convenient system indeed. This passage was clear enough for Turretin Fan's forefathers, but not for him. So now morality changes because his interpretation of Scripture has changed. We have a problem here, no?

What is the criterion a Protestant should use when considering extra-Biblical sources? They should be measured by the Scriptures, correct? Then why not go straight to the source? Why waste your time on extra-Biblical references at all? Is it done so that one may feel good about one's own private interpretation? After-all, a Protestant must feel good about aligning his or herself with some famous Protestant, no? Otherwise why would one even consider calling themselves a Calvinist, a Lutheran, or even a Turretin Fan? The fact is, no Protestant truly practices Sola Scriptura. They all appeal to extra-Biblical sources and traditions in order to justify their beliefs. They usually hold the opinions of their forefathers higher than the Scriptures themselves when it is convenient for them to do so. When it is not, then you can just change interpretations. Even the original Protestant Reformers did it. Calvin, being a legend in his own mind, frequently sifted through Church Fathers in an attempt to find writings that agreed with his Biblical interpretations. Those that did not fit his interpretations he dismissed as being wrong. We can see that this sole rule of faith called "Scripture alone", is shaping up to be, "my personal interpretation alone".

Sola Scriptura is an ideal that has been touted now for about 500 years, but it has never truly existed in practice. Protestants follow their own forms of tradition, while rejecting the true Tradition of the Church, which has been revealed by God. The Protestant will go out and buy books by the truckload so that they can better understand and interpret the Bible. Yet, I thought the Bible was the only rule one needs? Isn't the Bible clear enough to understand without Billy Graham's, Charles Stanley's, John Hagee's, R.C. Sproul's, Martin Luther's, John Calvin's and Paula White's personal opinions about them? John Calvin selectively quoted the Church Fathers, using his own personal opinions about Scripture to defend his beliefs. He also tried to use them to attack the Catholic Church. Yet, if someone brought a Church Father to his attention who contrasted his beliefs, and his personal Biblical interpretations, then he simply dismissed that interpretation and appealed to Scripture Alone. This is a clever shell game no? Isn't this a convenient system for one to follow? You can appeal to extra-Biblical sources to back up your opinions and interpretations of Scripture, but when someone else uses the same sources that disagree with you, you just appeal to Scripture Alone.

Protestants even do this when they debate their beliefs. What is amazing is that I have witnessed many Protestants try and defend Sola Scriptura in written and oral debates, and more than 90% of their source material is extra-Biblical. Once they realize that Scripture Alone doesn't support their argument convincingly, then they give up on the Bible alone, and they move on to extra-Biblical sources. I would like to see these Protestant apologists practice what they preach for a change, instead of appealing to non-Biblical material to support their beliefs and practices. The fact is, the Protestant does not live by Scripture alone. The Protestant lives in a delusional world where his own interpretation of Scripture is his rule of faith.It is not what God intends His Scripture to mean. God clearly gave us Genesis 38 to teach us a moral lesson, otherwise God would not have given it to us in Holy Writ. But for the Protestant today, that passage is non-essential. In order for the Protestant to feel secure in his Biblical interpretation, he finds others who agree with his. Their sole rule of faith is, "my interpretation alone, and those who agree with me."

Updated 10-1-09

Just to put this all in perspective, I wanted to make a list of some of the Protestant Bible commentaries. All of these guys were called by God to go and interpret the Bible, according to those Protestants who agree with their interpretations. Yet why do many of them disagree with one another on what the Bible actually means? I'll give you a clue, none of them were called by God to interpret His Holy Writ, that is why. All of these listed below are readily available either on the net or in bookstores. If you really want to see how the core issues stack up among these guys, I encourage you to have a browse through their commentaries. They can't even agree on what the core issues are, let alone agree on what they actually mean. There are many, many more, but these are some of the most popular ones in use by Protestants today.

John Calvin's Commentaries- Calvinist

Adam Clark's commentaries- Methodist

John Darby's synopsis- Plymouth Bretheren-Dispensationalism

Matthew Henry's complete commentary- English Non-conformist

Charles Wesley's Explanatory Notes- Anglican

Cyrus Scofield's Reference Notes- Dispensationalist

Charles Spurgeon Commentaries- British Particular Baptist

John MacArthur Study Bible- United States Evangelical

William Barclay Commentaries- Church of Scotland

John Gill Commentaries- English Baptist

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Unveiling "The Theology of the Liturgy" Blog

I have started a new project called, "The Theology of the Liturgy." The blog will go along with a new book that I am still in the process of writing. The blog is dedicated to the sacred liturgies of the Catholic Church. It is in its infancy, but stay tuned for more information to come. Any suggestions or comments are welcome. Thanks for visiting!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Pope Liberius, a History

The Transalpine Redemptorists have done a nice job of sifting through history to arrive at a more accurate account of the story of Pope Liberius. There are some historians who have claimed that he caved in to Ariansim via torture. Some Protestants try to use this argument to refute the papacy. Take a look at these two websites. You may be quite surprised at what they have put together. The next time someone tries to beat you over the head with the old Liberius fallacy, you will have some ammo to fire back at them.

Holy Pope Liberius

The Transalpine Redemptorists main website.

Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions

The Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith has recently released a new document concerning bioethics questions titled, Instruction Dignitas Personae on Certain Bioethical Questions. It was released on September 8, 2008. The Catholic Church has always been at the forefront of the bioethics sphere. The Church along with her proclamation of the gospel through direct Divine Revelation, also interprets infallibly the natural law in God's creation. Here is the link to the full text of the document. The document deals with new developments in medicine and how they affect bio ethics. Below are a few excerpts from the document.

The body of a human being, from the very first stages of its existence, can never be reduced merely to a group of cells. The embryonic human body develops progressively according to a well-defined program with its proper finality, as is apparent in the birth of every baby...

The origin of human life has its authentic context in marriage and in the family, where it is generated through an act which expresses the reciprocal love between a man and a woman. Procreation which is truly responsible vis-à-vis the child to be born “must be the fruit of marriage”...

10. The Church, by expressing an ethical judgment on some developments of recent medical research concerning man and his beginnings, does not intervene in the area proper to medical science itself, but rather calls everyone to ethical and social responsibility for their actions. She reminds them that the ethical value of biomedical science is gauged in reference to both the unconditional respect owed to every human being at every moment of his or her existence, and the defense of the specific character of the personal act which transmits life. The intervention of the Magisterium falls within its mission of contributing to the formation of conscience, by authentically teaching the truth which is Christ and at the same time by declaring and confirming authoritatively the principles of the moral order which spring from human nature itself.


12. With regard to the treatment of infertility, new medical techniques must respect three fundamental goods: a) the right to life and to physical integrity of every human being from conception to natural death; b) the unity of marriage, which means reciprocal respect for the right within marriage to become a father or mother only together with the other spouse;[19] c) the specifically human values of sexuality which require “that the procreation of a human person be brought about as the fruit of the conjugal act specific to the love between spouses”.[20] Techniques which assist procreation “are not to be rejected on the grounds that they are artificial. As such, they bear witness to the possibilities of the art of medicine. But they must be given a moral evaluation in reference to the dignity of the human person, who is called to realize his vocation from God to the gift of love and the gift of life”.[21]

In light of this principle, all techniques of heterologous artificial fertilization,[22] as well as those techniques of homologous artificial fertilization[23] which substitute for the conjugal act, are to be excluded. On the other hand, techniques which act as an aid to the conjugal act and its fertility are permitted. The Instruction Donum vitae states: “The doctor is at the service of persons and of human procreation. He does not have the authority to dispose of them or to decide their fate. A medical intervention respects the dignity of persons when it seeks to assist the conjugal act either in order to facilitate its performance or in order to enable it to achieve its objective once it has been normally performed”

Freezing embryos

Cryopreservation is incompatible with the respect owed to human embryos; it presupposes their production in vitro; it exposes them to the serious risk of death or physical harm, since a high percentage does not survive the process of freezing and thawing; it deprives them at least temporarily of maternal reception and gestation; it places them in a situation in which they are susceptible to further offense and manipulation.[36]

The proposal that these embryos could be put at the disposal of infertile couples as a treatment for infertility is not ethically acceptable for the same reasons which make artificial heterologous procreation illicit as well as any form of surrogate motherhood;[38] this practice would also lead to other problems of a medical, psychological and legal nature.

It has also been proposed, solely in order to allow human beings to be born who are otherwise condemned to destruction, that there could be a form of “prenatal adoption”. This proposal, praiseworthy with regard to the intention of respecting and defending human life, presents however various problems not dissimilar to those mentioned above.

All things considered, it needs to be recognized that the thousands of abandoned embryos represent a situation of injustice which in fact cannot be resolved.


Human cloning is intrinsically illicit in that, by taking the ethical negativity of techniques of artificial fertilization to their extreme, it seeks to give rise to a new human being without a connection to the act of reciprocal self-giving between the spouses and, more radically, without any link to sexuality. This leads to manipulation and abuses gravely injurious to human dignity.[48]

This document is full of great information concerning bio ethical issues that effect each and every one of us. In light of the current debate over health care, we should be careful to familiarize ourselves with the Catholic position regarding these important issues.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Great Saint Augustine: A Friend of the Pontiffs.

Pope Innocent I

Saint Augustine

There are certain Protestant bloggers who take the writings of St. Augustine out of context, attempting to pit him against the Catholic faith. Of course this type of argumentation is easily refuted when a person simply reads the entire works of Augustine for themselves. A few posts back I pointed out how anyone can be taken out of context. I used the writings of Pope Benedict XVI to show how easily I could cut and paste his quotes out of context to turn him into a proponent of the heresy of Sola Scriptura.

There is a wonderful encyclical that was penned by Pope Pius XI on Saint Augustine called Ad Salutem. I wanted to put up some excerpts from the beginning of that document that I found to be very interesting. I bold typed the text of particular interest, and I also gave my own thoughts on the text below each excerpt as well. As we will see, Saint Augustine was very much in tune with the Roman Pontiffs, and hence very much in line with Catholic doctrine. I recommend reading the entire document when you have some time. It is too long too quote at any length on this blog, but it gives a very in depth look at how the great Saint influenced the Church while always remaining a stern, faithful Catholic. No one knows their child better than a mother, and no one knows a Saint and their writings better than their mother, the Catholic Church.

Pope Pius XI - Ad Salutem - On Saint Augustine - 30 April 1930

2. The praise of Augustine has never ceased to be proclaimed in the Church of God, even by the Roman Pontiffs. While the holy Bishop was yet alive, Innocent I greeted him as a beloved friend[1] and extolled the letter which he had received from the Saint and from four Bishops, his friends: "A letter instinct with faith and staunch with all the vigor of the Catholic religion."[2] Shortly after the death of Augustine, Celestine I defends him against his opponents in the following noble words: "We have ever deemed Augustine a man to be remembered for his sanctity, because of his life and services in our communion, nor has rumor at any time darkened his name with the suspicion of evil. So great was his knowledge, as we recall, that he was always reckoned by my predecessors also among our foremost teachers. All alike, therefore, thought highly of him as a man held in affection and honor by all."[3]

Pope Innocent I was very instrumental in protecting the Church, as well as protecting some very well known Saints such as the great John Chrysostom and Saint Jerome. The Popes from the time of Augustine hailed him as one of their own, aligning his teachings with that of orthodox Catholicism in refuting the heresies of the time. The great Saint was quite instrumental in personally communicating with the Pope of Rome in doing this. In fact as we will see, the Church often had to fight heretics who tried to take Augustine's writings out of context, just like John Calvin would do many centuries later. What I find so interesting is that Pope Innocent knew Augustine personally as a friend, and confirmed his teachings with that of the Church regarding may doctrines including the Trinity, freewill and predestination. Of course it is those who never knew Saint Augustine who later have distorted his writings.

3. Gelasius I hailed Jerome and Augustine as "luminaries among ecclesiastical teachers."[4] Hormisdas wrote in answer to Bishop Possessor's request for direction these weighty words: "What the Roman, that is, the Catholic Church follows and maintains touching free will and the grace of God, can be learned from the different works of blessed Augustine, those especially which he addressed to Hilary and Prosper, though the formal chapters are contained in the ecclesiastical records."[5] A like testimony was uttered by John II, when in refutation of heretics he appealed to the works of Augustine: "Whose teaching," he said, "according to the enactments of my predecessors, the Roman Church follows and maintains."[6]

As we can see there is nothing new under the sun. The Church preserves the writings of her Saints, while the heretics labor night and day to undermine them.

Can anyone be unaware how thoroughly familiar with the doctrine of Augustine were the Roman Pontiffs, during the ages that followed close upon his death, as Leo the Great, for example, and Gregory the Great? Thus Saint Gregory, thinking as highly of Augustine as he thought humbly of himself, wrote to Innocentius, prefect of Africa: "If you wish to feast on choice food, read the works of blessed Augustine, your fellowcountryman. His writings are as fine wheat. Seek not for our bran."[7] It is well known that Adrian I was in the habit of quoting passages from Augustine, whom he styled "an eminent doctor."[8] Again, Clement VIII, to throw light on the obscure features of abstruse debates, and Pius VI, in his Apostolic Constitution "Auctorem fidei," to unmask the evasions of the condemned Synod of Pistoia, availed themselves of the support of Augustine's authority.

It is quite apparent that Calvin did not know Saint Augustine since they are removed by more than thousand years. Yet those who knew him never interpreted his works in the way Calvin did for example. In fact all of those who tried to hi-jack the great Saint's works as their own were always on the losing end of the controversy. The Church has always prevailed against those who try to twist Her Scriptures and Her Saints writings. Saint Augustine has been no exception. The Church has well preserved his authentic teachings.

5. It is a further tribute to the glory of the Bishop of Hippo, that more than once the Fathers in lawful Councils assembled, made use of his very words in defining Catholic truth. In illustration it is enough to cite the Second Council of Orange and the Council of Trent. Yet again, to cast a backward glance at the years of Our own youth, We wish at this point to recall and delightedly to ponder the words in which Our predecessor of immortal memory Leo XIII, after mentioning writers earlier than Augustine, lauded the help afforded by him to Christian philosophy: "But it is Augustine who seems to have borne off the palm from all. Of towering genius and thoroughly versed in sacred and profane knowledge, he waged relentless war on all the errors of his age with matchless faith and equal learning. What part of philosophy did he have untouched? Nay rather into what part did he not make thorough search as when he unfolded to the Faithful the deepest mysteries of the Faith or defended them against the mad attacks of foes; or again when, brushing away the false theories of Academics and Manicheans, he laid a sure and solid foundation for human knowledge, or studied in detail the nature and source and causes of the evils which harass mankind?"[9]

It is a fact that Saint Augustine has always been close to the Roman Pontiffs in regards to defining doctrine. He has been cited throughout the ages by the Church in defining the proper Catholic definitions of free-will and predestination. This encyclical is a great document venerating the great Saint as a defender of the Catholic faith. Heretics feared this great Saint since he did not let heresy go unopposed. The only thing a heretic can do to diffuse his great work is to take it out of context and turn him into something he was not. This is certainly the trademark of satan, who labors ceaselessly to find ways to distort the gospel. The heretic however cannot remove the Saint from his home, the Catholic Church. Saint Augustine never stood on his own in proclaiming the truth and refuting heretics. He did not consider himself to better than, or above the authority of the Catholic Church. He did not put himself over the Sacred Scriptures. He was a faithful and obedient son of the Church, and for that he is commended by the Church and her pontiffs.

50. We have sketched the career and the deserts of our subject, Venerable Brethren; a man to whom none or very few can be compared from among those who have flourished from history's dawn to the present, if we regard his soaring and subtle genius, his wealth and range of learning, his sanctity mounting to the topmost pinnacle, his invincible defense of Catholic truth. We have already cited more than one who spoke his praises. How charmingly, and how truly, Jerome writes to his contemporary and close friend; "My resolution is to love, to welcome, to cherish, to admire you, and to champion your words as though they were my own."[81] And again: "Well done! You are famous throughout the world. Catholics revere and receive you as another builder of the ancient Faith. A mark of greater glory it is, that heretics loathe you. Me too they assail with a like hatred. They would kill in desire those whom they cannot slay with the sword."[82]

Below are a few of my favorite quotes by Saint Augustine.

"This Church is Holy, the One Church, the True Church, the Catholic Church, fighting as she does against all heresies. She can fight, but she cannot be beaten. All heresies are expelled from her, like the useless loppings pruned from a vine. She remains fixed in her root, in her vine, in her love. The gates of hell shall not conquer her."
Sermon to Catechumens, on the Creed, 6,14, 395 A.D.

"Before His suffering the Lord Jesus Christ, as you know, chose His disciples, whom He called Apostles. Among these Apostles almost everywhere Peter alone merited to represent the whole Church. For the sake of his representing the whole Church, which he alone could do, he merited to hear, I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven (Matt 16:19)."
Sermons 295,2, 391 A.D.

"Tell us straight out that you do not believe in the Gospel of Christ; for you believe what you want in the Gospel and disbelieve what you want. You believe in yourself rather than in the Gospel."
Against Faustus, 17, 3, 400 A.D.

"Let us not listen to those who deny that the Church of God is able to forgive all sins. They are wretched indeed, because they do not recognize in Peter the rock and they refuse to believe that the keys of the kingdom of heaven, lost from their own hands, have been given to the Church." Christian Combat 31,33, 396 A.D.

"The Catholic Church is the work of Divine Providence, achieved through the prophecies of the prophets, through the Incarnation and the teaching of Christ, through the journeys of the Apostles, through the suffering, the crosses, the blood and the death of the martyrs, through the admirable lives of the saints. When, then, we see so much help on God's part, so much progress and so much fruit, shall we hesitate to bury ourselves in the bosom of that Church? For starting from the Apostolic Chair down through successions of bishops, even unto the open confession of all mankind, it has possessed the crown of teaching authority."
The Advantage of Believing, 391 A.D.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Traditional, Transalpine Redemptorists

I recently picked up a newspaper that is called the Catholic (The Voice of Catholic Orthodoxy). It is a newspaper aimed at teaching the Gospel, as well as informing its readers about current Catholic news. In the current issue the Pope's "Year of the Priest" is covered, as well as other Catholic topics including the canonization of five new Saints. This issue also includes a nice magazine focused on Saint Gerard that is almost 100 pages. It is published by the Transalpine Redemptorists who live in an ascetic community in Papa Stronsay, Scotland. The monastic community is largely self sustained, which follows a model similar to that of the ancient ascetics. Their publication is well worth checking out. You can subscribe to it on their webpage. You can also learn more about them from this YouTube video. The well known historian Adam Nicolson (author of Seize the Fire) visited the monastery and it seems that he had quite an experience. I love his reaction at the end when the monks gave him a gift of the rosary. It is good to see that the true gospel is still being preached even in a place like Scotland, where the evils of Calvinsim have long held sway. If you love the Latin Mass and enjoy reading solid Catholic articles, then I think you would enjoy reading their publication.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Plenary Councils of Baltimore

There were three plenary councils held in Baltimore for the benefit of spreading the Gospel more effectively in the United States. The first council was held in 1852, followed by a second in 1866 and a thrid and final held in 1884. There are a few decrees that I think are worth looking at from these councils. They should serve as a reminder as to where the hearts and minds all Catholic laymen and clergy alike should lie. The liberal mentality of many today who call themselves Catholic did not hold sway over the Catholic Church in the US in the 19th century. Thankfully we are starting to see the pendulum swing back in the direction of this orthodoxy. It is my prediction that those who remain in rebellion against the Church will soon leave her, or soon convert. The days of riding the fence are almost over. The Catholic Church's teaching has always been clear and easy to understand despite those who choose to turn everything into "gray matter." For those who rebel against the Church's teaching and yet call themselves Catholic, these statements by the councils of Baltimore are for you. I have added a couple of thoughts on these and I have bold typed some statements that caught my attention.

First Plenary Council of Baltimore (1852)

Final decrees
1. The Fathers profess their allegiance to the pope as the divinely constituted head of the Church, whose office it is to confirm his brethren in the Faith. They also declare their belief in the entire Catholic Faith as explained by the ecumenical councils and the constitutions of the Roman pontiffs.

Ah, maybe we can learn from this first decree, no? That means quit rebelling against the Pope and the Catholic faith, which is infallibly handed to us from Christ. That means accepting all the Church's teachings not just ones that you have determined to be to your own liking.

21. The faithful are exhorted to enter into a society of prayer for the conversion of non-Catholics.

This means that other religions are not salvific. That means that not everyone who calls themselves a "Christian" is going to be saved.

Second Plenary Council of Baltimore (1866)

Title i, Concerning the Orthodox Faith and Present Errors, declares the Catholic doctrine (cap. i) on Divine revelation and the one Church of Christ; (ii) the nature and necessity of faith; (iii) the Holy Scripture; (iv) the Holy Trinity; (v) the future life; (vi) the pious invocation and veneration of the B.V. Mary and the saints. (vii) The seventh chapter in which the present errors are discussed treats of (a) the dissensions among the Protestant sects and of zeal for their conversion.

(b) Indifferentism.

The Fathers warn their flock against the teaching that one religion is as good as another provided one be honest and just to his neighbour. They call this a plague, spreading under the guise of charity and benevolence. (c) Unitarianism and Universalism. These theories the first denying the divinity of Christ and the other eternal punishment, tend to the rejection of the supernatural in religion.

(d) Transcendentalism and Pantheism. These are the systems of men, who having dethroned God, make a deity of man. (e) Abuse of magnetism. The faithful are warned that magnetism is often employed for superstitious and illicit purposes, namely, to forecast the future by means of female "mediums". (f) The hallucinatiom and dangers of spiritism. There is little reason to doubt that some of the phenomena of spiritism are the work of Satan.
It is noteworthy that the leaders of this system deny either implicitly or explicitly the divinity of Christ and the supernatural in religion.

Title xi, Of Books and Newspapers.-(i) Parents should guard their children against bad books. The bishops desire that textbooks in Catholic schools and colleges should be purged of everything contrary to faith. (ii) Of the dissemination of good books. (iii) Prayer books should not be published until officially revised. (iv) Newspapers are frequently injurious to good morals. When a Catholic newspaper has a bishop's approbation, this means only that he judges that nothing will be published against faith or morals in its pages. He does not make himself responsible, however, for all that the paper contains.

Wow, how far have we fallen from these standards in the US! I think we should start purging, no?

Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884)

Title iii, Of Divine Worship.-(i) Of celebrating Mass twice on the same day. (ii) Of uniformity in feasts and fasts. In future in all dioceses of this country there are to be the following six feasts of obligation and no others: The Immaculate Conception, Christmas, Circumcision of Our Lord (New Year's Day), Ascension, Assumption, and All Saints' Day. No new dispositions are made as to fast days. (iii) Of the Lord's Day. The faithful are to be exhorted to observe it properly. (iv) Of sacred music. Profane melodies are forbidden. The music should accord with the sacredness of time and place. Psalms are not to be curtailed at Vespers. The Mass must not be interrupted by the length of the choir-singing.

Title vii, Of Christian Doctrine.-(i) Of the office of preaching. (ii) A commission is appointed to prepare a catechism for general use. When published it is to be obligatory. (iii) Of prayer books. (iv) Of books and newspapers. While objectionable writings are to be condemned, Catholics should oppose them also by orthodox newspapers and books.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Behold the Lamb of God...!

I have been reading the news about the new English translation for the Novus Ordo liturgy with reservations as to whether it was really going to happen or not. Well, it looks like it is really going to happen! The USCCB has finally given us a decent English text for the Novus Ordo Mass! It is on the USCCB website, so now I can start to believe. If you are familiar with the old Latin Mass and the English translations in the old Latin missals, then you will recognize much of the revised English text of the Novus Ordo. These are vast improvements over the old translation. Below are some of the new texts. Check out the entire new missal text here.

I confess to almighty God
and to you, my brothers and sisters,
that I have greatly sinned
in my thoughts and in my words,
in what I have done
and in what I have failed to do,
through my fault, through my fault,
through my most grievous fault;

I believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,

Priest: The Lord be with you.
People: And with your spirit.

Priest: Behold the Lamb of God,
behold him who takes away
the sins of the world.
Blessed are those called
to the supper of the Lamb.

From the USCCB:
10 Questions on the Revised Translation of the Ordo Missae
from the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia

6. “And with your spirit”?
One of the more noticeable changes in the people’s parts of the Mass is the response to the greeting, “The Lord be with you.” The Latin response, et cum spiritu tuo, is rendered literally in English, “and with your spirit.” Liturgiam Authenticam calls for the faithful rendering of expressions that belong to the heritage of the ancient Church, and cites et cum spiritu tuo as an example (no. 56). Most modern languages have translated this phrase literally, so the English text now more closely parallels other vernacular translations.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Does The Book Of Hebrews Refute the Mass?

I have witnessed time and time again Protestant apologists who use the book of Hebrews, specifically Hebrews 10, to refute the Mass. In fact James White just made use of it the other day on his blog. Usually two things happen when Protestants pull out this text for use against the Mass. Usually they misinterpret the Biblical text, and then they compile that with a misrepresentation of what the Mass actually is. Let us take a look at the Biblical text often quoted by these apologists. Under each Biblical passage I will insert the proper understanding of the text in bold type compared to the Catholic understanding of the Mass.

Hebrews 10:1-30 (Douay-Rheims Bible)
1 For the law having a shadow of the good things to come, not the very image of the things; by the selfsame sacrifices which they offer continually every year, can never make the comers thereunto perfect:

Saint Paul here is obviously not talking about the Sacrifice of Christ yet. He is referring to the Old Law and its shortcomings compared with what is to come. The Old Law was only a shadow of Christ's sacrifice, which was to be the perfect sacrifice. As Pope Benedict XVI has pointed out in Sacramentum Caritatis,
"11. Jesus thus brings his own radical novum to the ancient Hebrew sacrificial meal. For us Christians, that meal no longer need be repeated. As the Church Fathers rightly say, figura transit in veritatem: the foreshadowing has given way to the truth itself. The ancient rite has been brought to fulfilment and definitively surpassed by the loving gift of the incarnate Son of God." (Sacramentum Caritatis)

2 For then they would have ceased to be offered: because the worshippers once cleansed should have no conscience of sin any longer:

Here we see Saint Paul telling us that these sacrifices of old would have ceased to be offered if they were perfect. This means that the Old Law was not a perfect sacrifice as Christ's sacrifice was. Catholics of course believe this. We enter into the one perfect sacrifice of Christ at every Mass, we do not offer new sacrifices each time. Those who insist that Catholics teach that the Mass is a new sacrifice each time it is celebrated are simply misrepresenting the Catholic teaching of the Mass.

3 But in them there is made a commemoration of sins every year. 4 For it is impossible that with the blood of oxen and goats sin should be taken away.

Here Saint Paul tells us that the sacrifice of animals under the Old Law were not sufficient for the remission of sins. These sacrifices were only foreshadows of the pure sacrifice of Christ. Christ is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Sins were not taken away by the repetitive sacrifices under the Old Law. The Mass is the same one time sacrifice of Christ. Pope Benedict XVI says,
"It is significant that these same words are repeated at every celebration of Holy Mass, when the priest invites us to approach the altar: "This is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world. Happy are those who are called to his supper." Jesus is the true paschal lamb who freely gave himself in sacrifice for us, and thus brought about the new and eternal covenant."(Sacramentum Caritatis)

5 Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith: Sacrifice and oblation thou wouldest not: but a body thou hast fitted to me: 6 Holocausts for sin did not please thee. 7 Then said I: Behold I come: in the head of the book it is written of me: that I should do thy will, O God. 8 In saying before, Sacrifices, and oblations, and holocausts for sin thou wouldest not, neither are they pleasing to thee, which are offered according to the law. 9 Then said I: Behold, I come to do thy will, O God: he taketh away the first, that he may establish that which followeth. 10 In the which will, we are sanctified by the oblation of the body of Jesus Christ once.

Here once again we see that the Old Law and the repeated sacrifices were not pleasing to God in the pure sense. He says that these sacrifices and oblations under the Old Law were not pleasing to Him, and that only Jesus' body is the pure and pleasing sacrifice. Of course, this is Catholic teaching through and through. Indeed we are sanctified through Christ's one sacrifice, not many sacrifices. We no longer repeat the sacrifices of the Old Law. We also do not repeat the one sacrifice of Christ over and over again. I know that I am repeating myself again. It seems to me that no matter how many times you present this Catholic teaching to people, they still choose to ignore it and follow their own definitions.

11 And every priest indeed standeth daily ministering, and often offering the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But this man offering one sacrifice for sins, for ever sitteth on the right hand of God, 13 From henceforth expecting, until his enemies be made his footstool. 14 For by one oblation he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 And the Holy Ghost also doth testify this to us. For after that he said: 16 And this is the testament which I will make unto them after those days, saith the Lord. I will give my laws in their hearts, and on their minds will I write them: 17 And their sins and iniquities I will remember no more. 18 Now where there is a remission of these, there is no more an oblation for sin.

The priest referred to here is obviously the priest under the Old Law who offered repeated sacrifices. Verses 12 through 18 focus in on Christ's one perfect sacrifice. Many Protestants think these passages are an ace in hole for their arguments against the Mass. They are misinterpreting the text, and they are also misinterpreting the Catholic teaching of the Mass. This is a recipe for disaster. The early Church Fathers wrote about Christ's one sacrfice in relation to the Divine Liturgies, which they celebrated daily. Notice how Saint Chrysostom also did not believe he was re-sacrificing Christ, but only entering into that one sacrifice made on Calvary. This is precisely what the Catholic Church still teaches today. Saint Chrysostom wrote in his homily on Hebrews 17 the following,

"What then? Do we not offer daily? Yes, we offer, but making remembrance of his death; and this remembrance is one and not many. How is it one and not many? Because this sacrifice is offered once, like that in the Holy of Holies. This sacrifice is a type of that, and this remembrance a type of that. We offer always the same, not one sheep now and another tomorrow, but the same thing always. Thus there is one sacrifice. By this reasoning, since the sacrifice is offered everywhere, are there, then, a multiplicity of Christs? By no means! Christ is one everywhere. He is complete here, complete there, one body. And just as he is one body and not many though offered everywhere, so too is there one sacrifice" (Homilies on Hebrews 17:3(6) [A.D. 403]).

So far there is nothing here to support the Protestant claims against the Mass in any of these passages. In fact the text thus far quoted has supported the Catholic position of entering into Christ's one and only sacrifice. As we can see, Saint Chrysostom also understood Christ's sacrifice in a completely different context than modern Protestant apologists.

19 Having therefore, brethren, a confidence in the entering into the holies by the blood of Christ; 20 A new and living way which he hath dedicated for us through the veil, that is to say, his flesh, 21 And a high priest over the house of God: 22 Let us draw near with a true heart in fulness of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with clean water. 23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering (for he is faithful that hath promised), 24 And let us consider one another, to provoke unto charity and to good works: 25 Not forsaking our assembly, as some are accustomed; but comforting one another, and so much the more as you see the day approaching.

In this text we are called to live a new life in Christ. Here Christ is referred to as the high priest who presides over His Church. The Catholic Church has always taught that Christ is the one sacrificed as well as the high priest presiding over His sacrifice. The Mass is no exception. Saint Paul also warns that no man should abandon the faith. Another interesting comment is Saint Paul's command to do good works in charity is directly related to the fullness of faith. Of course we know that the Catholic Church teaches that faith, charity and good works are all intimately tied together. None of them can truly exist without the other.

26 For if we sin wilfully after having the knowledge of the truth, there is now left no sacrifice for sins, 27 But a certain dreadful expectation of judgment, and the rage of a fire which shall consume the adversaries. 28 A man making void the law of Moses, dieth without any mercy under two or three witnesses: 29 How much more, do you think he deserveth worse punishments, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath esteemed the blood of the testament unclean, by which he was sanctified, and hath offered an affront to the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him that hath said: Vengeance belongeth to me, and I will repay. And again: The Lord shall judge his people.

Finally, Saint Paul tells us the consequences for abandoning the new faith. Under the Old Law, a man breaking the Law would most certainly receive severe judgment. Now Saint Paul is telling us that there is even a greater penalty for those who sin willfully against the pure sacrifice of Christ. The text that says there is "now left no sacrifice for sins". Obviously this does not refer to Christ's sacrifice because Christ is the only sacrifice Saint Paul talks about as being salvific in the prior passages. Saint Paul is saying that there is no other sacrifice other than Christ's that will save man. Saint Paul is targeting the Jews and the Old Testament sacrifices. He is not referring to the Mass or the sacrifice of Christ, which of course are one in the same sacrifice. The Mass does not present new sacrifices each time it is celebrated like that of the Old Law. Saint Paul here is contrasting the repeated sacrifices of the Old Covenant, which did not forgive sins, to the New Covenant, which Christ's sacrifice has now usurped. Now the one sacrifice of Christ is what forgives sin and ultimately saves man. There is nothing in these passages which refutes the Mass.

I will leave you with a quote from Saint Ambrose of Milan. He understood Christ's sacrifice in the same way that the Catholic Church teaches it.

"We saw the prince of priests coming to us, we saw and heard him offering his blood for us. We follow, inasmuch as we are able, being priests, and we offer the sacrifice on behalf of the people. Even if we are of but little merit, still, in the sacrifice, we are honorable. Even if Christ is not now seen as the one who offers the sacrifice, nevertheless it is he himself that is offered in sacrifice here on Earth when the body of Christ is offered. Indeed, to offer himself he is made visible in us, he whose word makes holy the sacrifice that is offered" (Commentaries on Twelve Psalms of David 38:25 [A.D. 389])

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Calvin and His “Papacy”: Which Authority Will You Choose?

Calvin and His “Papacy” What Authority Will You Choose?

I read many “Reformed” blogs on the Net. Many of them love to contrive false arguments against the papacy claiming that the papacy has posed its authority over Christ Himself. This of course is nonsense, for the papacy is in complete obedience to Christ. Yet, “Reformers” are always complaining of Rome trying to assert its power over them. What I find so amusing is that the “Reformed” apologists fail to see the very same characteristic in their hero John Calvin. Calvin was so disgusted with the papacy that he went into Geneva and created something far beyond what the papacy had ever done before him. Calvin gained control over the city government, drew up his own set of laws and turned himself into judge, jury and executioner over Geneva's citizens. Calvin turned Geneva into a living hell for the many people who opposed his tyrannical regime. Geneva was anything but free after Calvin's second arrival to Geneva. His first attempt to corrupt the city was met with resistance. Later however, when a change of power had occurred in the city, he was asked to return.

In 1541 Calvin drew up what he called the Ecclesiastical Ordinances. Calvin had claimed that he was going back to the ecclesial organization of the apostolic times. Although it may have been a noble idea, the fruits of this did not turn out as he had hoped. The arrogance and pride of Calvin ended up causing one of the most corrupt cities of the Reformation era. For those in Geneva who had previously opposed the power of the papacy, they had a rude awakening once Calvin gained control over the city government.

Calvin was able to get the city to agree to appoint a group of clergy that called themselves the Consistory to oversee everyday life and law within the city. This group set up a spy network to keep an eye on all parishes and citizens in the city. Of course there were many in the city who did not care for Calvin's organization, and many were forced to leave the city because they did not agree with it. Calvin gained further control among the city elites and was slowly controlling the lives of its citizens even penalizing people who did not go to church on Sundays! For Calvin, a guy who prided himself on being “Biblical”, went against the Biblical examples of Saint Paul. Instead Calvin fined people or drove people out of town for not following his rules. An effective spy network was formulated and people were summoned before the Consistory if someone's actions were called into question. A woman who had organized a ball for her newly wedded daughter was banished from the city for doing so. There were cases of men and women dating regularly and being summoned before the council to be reprimanded for seeing too much of each other. Many were “excommunicated” for not following the Consistory's commands. This control of course was not accepted favorably by many in the city.

Later an opposing group called the Libertines attempted to subvert Calvin's regime and brought forth a Spanish scholar, Michael Servetus, to challenge Calvin. Although Servetus was also certainly a heretic, Calvin's minions squashed his challenge and in 1553 Servetus was murdered and burned at the stake. Some reports say that Calvin used green wood on the fire to make his death more agonizing. Servetus however was not the first victim of Calvin and his minions who was judged and condemned to death. Many people focus on the Servetus affair forgetting about poor Jacques Gruet who was brutally tortured and murdered for writing a letter criticizing Calvin. Most Calvinists do their best to ignore this event of 1547. Gruet was brutally tortured for a month, after which he was beheaded! That was not enough for Calvin's vengeful tastes, so he then turned to punish Gruet's family, which he had thrown into the street where they watched their home get torched and burned to the ground. They were then sent into exile. The power hungry Calvin was far worse than the “evil” papacy he had rejected. Within five years at least 58 people were murdered by the hand of Calvin and his henchmen, and many more driven out of the city for opposing him. Once the Libertines were finally driven out of Geneva in 1555, one of Calvin's henchmen Theodore Beza said, “It is said that the devil departed with the fugitives.” Likewise others who opposed them were labeled to be “arms of the devil.”

Calvin also thought very highly of himself and his lifelong work called the “Institutes”, which he was constantly revising. It ended up being 80 chapters after he was finally finished. Calvin wrote, "I labored at the task [writing The Institutes] especially for our Frenchmen, for I saw that many were hungering and thirsting after Christ and yet that only a few had any real knowledge of him." In 1552 his Council posed his theological work as being a “holy doctrine” which no man could speak against. What I find so amusing about this guy is that he claimed Scripture was supposed to be the simple rule of faith to follow, yet he saw fit to spend a great deal of his life formulating his own theological work of over 1000 pages (depending on which edition you refer), to explain that simple rule of faith. If Calvin was so sure that anyone could read and understand the Scriptures for themselves, why not just hand them all Bibles instead of formulating his own 1000 page theological discourse? Like all Protestants, they do not practice what they preach. Calvinists spend hours reading Calvin's work rather than reading the Scriptures which they hail as being their only rule of faith.

Over the course of Calvin's reign, many citizens of Geneva who had been there long before Calvin were sent into exile. Many were fined for not following Calvin's strict worship schedule. Gian Pozzy wrote in an article, “In 1541, Calvin inflicted a fine of three sous for whomever should miss divine service, arrive late or leave before the end.” (Gian Pozzy, "How Calvin invented punctuality, 500 years ago") Many others received other types of punishments ranging from mere fines to death sentences. Calvin had put himself and his regime in place of Christ on earth. He thought he could create a utopia based on his own idea of what Sacred Scripture taught, but instead instituted a living hell for the citizens of Geneva. Calvin's corrupt regime arguably spread more heresy across Europe than any group before it. Saint Francis DeSales rightly said of Calvin's Geneva, “There is not a city in Europe which offers more facilities for the encouragement of heresy,...What shall I say of its magnificent printing establishments, by means of which the city floods the world with its wicked books…?” Although Calvin had his admirers, the best day for many citizens of Geneva and those who were exiled from the city was May 31, 1564, when Calvin died and was put in the ground. In the end Calvin had substituted his own evil regime for the papacy. The only problem for Calvin is that his authority was not given to him by Christ. It was not divinely appointed. In the end man will either substitute himself for Christ's authority, or he will follow the only authority given to man by Christ, His only Church. Calvin's ideas would not stop there. We saw the same mentality in the Puritans when they came over to America.

Unfortunately for Calvin, Christ did not say he would build His Church on Calvin and his regime. No, Christ said, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Matt 16:17-19) Those who call themselves Christians will freely choose to put their faith in one of two places; they will either choose to put their faith in themselves and their own interpretation of Scripture, or they will put their faith in Christ and the Church to which He gave the keys of His authority.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Few Thoughts on Matthew 16 from the Catena Aurea

Here are some thoughts of the early Fathers and writers of the Church from St Thomas Aquinas' Catena Aurea. The Catena was a commentary on the Gospels put together by the great Angelic Doctor. It is commonly called the "Golden Chain" because of the great wisdom of the Church Fathers compiled within it. Although it was composed as a running commentary designed for spiritual meditation, it also has great worth as an apologetic tool. Of course, as with all Church Father writings, the quotes must be understood in their proper context, which was well understood at the time they were put together. These days the Fathers are often misinterpreted by those who have rejected the tradition and context in which they were originally written. The particular texts that caught my attention are in bold type. I highly suggest checking it out online or picking up a copy for yourself to add to your library.

Excerpts from Catena Aurea - The Golden Chain
Of St. Thomas Aquinas

Matthew 16:13-19
13. When Jesus came into the coasts of Cesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?

14. And they said, Some say that you are John the Baptist, some, Elias; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.

15. He said to them, But whom say you that I am?

16. And Simon Peter answered and said, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.

17. And Jesus answered and said to him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but my Father which is in heaven.

18. And I say also to you, That you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church: and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

19. And I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

CHRYS; Then He speaks of another honor of Peter, when He adds, And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; as much as to say, As the Father has given you to know Me, I also will give something to you, namely, the keys of the kingdom of heaven.

CYRIL; According to this promise of the Lord, the Apostolic Church of Peter remains pure and spotless from all leading into error, or heretical fraud, above all Heads and Bishops, and Primates of Churches and people, with its own Pontiffs, with most abundant faith, and the authority of Peter. And while other Churches have to blush for the error of some of their members, this reigns alone immovably established, enforcing silence, and stopping the mouths of all heretics; and we, not drunken with the wine of pride, confess together with it the type of truth, and of the holy apostolic tradition.

RABAN; But this power of binding and loosing, though it seems given by the Lord to Peter alone, is indeed given also to the other Apostles, and is even now in the Bishops and Presbyters in every Church. But Peter received in a special manner the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and a supremacy of judicial power, that all the faithful throughout the world might understand that all who in any manner separate themselves from the unity of the faith, or from communion with him, such should neither be able to be loosed from the bonds of sin, nor to enter the gate of the heavenly kingdom.

RABAN; For as with a zeal beyond the others he had confessed the King of heaven, he is deservedly entrusted more than the others with the keys of the heavenly kingdom, that it might be clear to all, that without that confession and faith none ought to enter the kingdom of heaven. By the keys of the kingdom He means discernment and power; power, by which he binds and looses; discernment, by which he separates the worthy from the unworthy.

Matthew 16:22-23
22. Then Peter took him, and began to rebuke him, saying, Be it far from you, Lord: this shall not be to you.

23. But he turned, and said to Peter, Get you behind me, Satan: you are an offense to me: for you savor not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.

JEROME; But to me this error of the Apostle, proceeding from the warmth of his affection, will never seem a suggestion of the devil. Let the thoughtful reader consider that that blessedness of power was promised to Peter in time to come, not given him at the time present; had it been conveyed to him immediately, the error of a false confession would never have found place in him.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Beauty of the Latin Mass

There have been many debates on the Western Liturgy in recent times. Many feel that we should revert back to the Latin Mass, while others seem to be content with the vernacular of the Novus Ordo. My personal preference is to follow the Latin tradition in the West. The traditional language of the liturgy in the West has been Latin since at least the 4th century if not earlier. Some scholars even suggest that the Latin language was in use along with the Greek in the early years of the liturgy in Rome. Using the vernacular has certainly been a break with tradition in the West, lower case t.

In the East the long standing tradition has been the use of the Greek and the vernacular as Christianity spread to other regions of the Eastern world. This worked quite well with their customs and practices. In the West however, the Latin language was much more of a unifying force than most people realize. I think that the Latin Language along with the Latin chant certainly brings with it a state of reverence that is easily lost with the use of the vernacular. I believe that the loss of this traditional language in the liturgy today is even more detrimental because of the secular nature of our culture as a whole.

Here are some quotes about the use of the Latin language in the liturgy of the West that may inspire you to seek out a Latin Mass of the Extraordinary form that has been approved by the Holy See.

Search for a Latin Mass near you.

"...the Latin language has a certain stability which daily spoken languages, where words change often in shades of meaning, cannot have...Latin has the characteristic of words and expressions retaining their meaning generation after generation. This is an advantage when it comes to the articulation of our Catholic faith and the preparation of Papal and other Church Documents. Even the modern universities appreciate this point and have some of their solemn titles in Latin."
(Cardinal Arinze Saturday, 11 November 2006, Liturgical Conference)

"When you hear talk about so-called ‘traditionalists', some think that they are a group with a stubborn and nostalgic attachment to the past. That is not true. In fact, here we find ourselves before a dynamic Christian view of the life of faith and devotion, shared by so many families and their children who are attached to those ancient liturgical and devotional forms which have accompanied the Church through centuries of her history and have formed legions of saints."
(Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos interview for Il Giornale, May 31, 2004)

"The use of the Latin language, customary in a considerable portion of the Church, is a manifest and beautiful sign of unity, as well as an effective antidote for any corruption of doctrinal truth."
(Mediator Dei, Pope Pius XII)

"The sursum corda-the lifting up of our hearts-is the first requirement for real participation in the mass. Nothing could better obstruct the confrontation of man with God than the notion that we "go unto the altar of God" as we would go to a pleasant, relaxing social gathering. This is why the Latin mass with Gregorian chant, which raises us up to a sacred atmosphere, is vastly superior to a vernacular mass with popular songs, which leaves us in a profane, merely natural atmosphere."
(The Case for the Latin Mass by Dietrich von Hildebrand)

"Latin is in a unique position here. First, Latin grammar has an uncommon clarity, and to know it, is an incomparable training for our thinking. Secondly, Latin has a great beauty, a spiritual nobility of quite a special sort. This is also true of medieval Latin, which moreover produced works of highest poetical art and religious depth. One need only think of the Dies irae, which is ascribed to Thomas of Celano, of Jacapone da Todi's Stabat mater, of the magnificent hymns of St. Thomas Aquinas, of the sequences of Venantius Fortunatus, and many others. The role which Latin has played in history, especially in the liturgy, and the universality which it possesses, gives the learning of Latin quite a special place"
("The Devastated Vineyard" by Dietrich von Hildebrand)

Excerpts from Pope Paul VI's Veterum Sapientia

A primary place
But amid this variety of languages a primary place must surely be given to that language which had its origins in Latium, and later proved so admirable a means for the spreading of Christianity throughout the West.

And since in Gods special Providence this language united so many nations together under the authority of the Roman Empire-- and that for so many centuries-- it also became the rightful language of the Apostolic See.3 Preserved for posterity, it proved to be a bond of unity for the Christian peoples of Europe.

The nature of Latin
Of its very nature Latin is most suitable for promoting every form of culture among peoples. It gives rise to no jealousies. It does not favor any one nation, but presents itself with equal impartiality to all and is equally acceptable to all.

Nor must we overlook the characteristic nobility of Latins formal structure. Its "concise, varied and harmonious style, full of majesty and dignity" makes for singular clarity and impressiveness of expression.

Preservation of Latin by the Holy See
For these reasons the Apostolic See has always been at pains to preserve Latin, deeming it worthy of being used in the exercise of her teaching authority "as the splendid vesture of her heavenly doctrine and sacred laws." She further requires her sacred ministers to use it, for by so doing they are the better able, wherever they may be, to acquaint themselves with the mind of the Holy See on any matter, and communicate the more easily with Rome and with one another.

Thus the "knowledge and use of this language," so intimately bound up with the Church's life, "is important not so much on cultural or literary grounds, as for religious reasons." 6 These are the words of Our Predecessor Pius XI, who conducted a scientific inquiry into this whole subject, and indicated three qualities of the Latin language which harmonize to a remarkable degree with the Church's nature. "For the Church, precisely because it embraces all nations and is destined to endure to the end of time . . of its very nature requires a language which is universal, immutable, and non vernacular."

Since "every Church must assemble round the Roman Church,"and since the Supreme Pontiffs have "true episcopal power, ordinary and immediate, over each and every Church and each and every Pastor, as well as over the faith-full" of every rite and language, it seems particularly desirable that the instrument of mutual communication be uniform and universal, especially between the Apostolic See and the Churches which use the same Latin rite.

When, therefore, the Roman Pontiffs wish to instruct the Catholic world, or when the Congregations of the Roman Curia handle matters or draw up decrees which concern the whole body of the faithful, they invariably make use of Latin, for this is a maternal voice acceptable to countless nations.

Furthermore, the Church's language must be not only universal but also immutable. Modern languages are liable to change, and no single one of them is superior to the others in authority. Thus if the truths of the Catholic Church were entrusted to an unspecified number of them, the meaning of these truths, varied as they are, would not be manifested to everyone with sufficient clarity and precision. There would, moreover, be no language which could serve as a common and constant norm by which to gauge the exact meaning of other renderings.

But Latin is indeed such a language. It is set and unchanging. it has long since ceased to be affected by those alterations in the meaning of words which are the normal result of daily, popular use. Certain Latin words, it is true, acquired new meanings as Christian teaching developed and needed to be explained and defended, but these new meanings have long since become accepted and firmly established.

Finally, the Catholic Church has a dignity far surpassing that of every merely human society, for it was founded by Christ the Lord. It is altogether fitting, therefore, that the language it uses should be noble, majestic, and non-vernacular.

In addition, the Latin language "can be called truly catholic."It has been consecrated through constant use by the Apostolic See, the mother and teacher of all Churches, and must be esteemed "a treasure . . . of incomparable worth."It is a general passport to the proper understanding of the Christian writers of antiquity and the documents of the Church's teaching. It is also a most effective bond, binding the Church of today with that of the past and of the future in wonderful continuity.

Educational value of Latin
There can be no doubt as to the formative and educational value either of the language of the Romans or of great literature generally. It is a most effective training for the pliant minds of youth. It exercises, matures and perfects the principal faculties of mind and spirit. It sharpens the wits and gives keenness of judgment. It helps the young mind to grasp things accurately and develop a true sense of values. It is also a means for teaching highly intelligent thought and speech.

A natural result
It will be quite clear from these considerations why the Roman Pontiffs have so often extolled the excellence and importance of Latin, and why they have prescribed its study and use by the secular and regular clergy, forecasting the dangers that would result from its neglect.

A resolve to uphold Latin
And We also, impelled by the weightiest of reasons--the same as those which prompted Our Predecessors and provincial synods 13--are fully determined to restore this language to its position of honor, and to do all We can to promote its study and use. The employment of Latin has recently been contested in many quarters, and many are asking what the mind of the Apostolic See is in this matter. We have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored.

February 22, 1962

Full document found here.

When Steve Hays Attacks! ......Again.

Steve Hays over at Triablogue has stooped to a new low in his most recent post. For those who have missed this exchange, I criticized Steve's poor analogy that he posted on the Papacy. He has since retorted with personal attacks instead of going back and forming a better argument. He has now resorted to painting me as a proponent of sexual abuse! Just when I thought I had witnessed every form of slander on the net, Hays takes it to a new low. Hays could not defend his argument in relation to his original analogy. Since I pointed out the fact that his analogy was seriously flawed, he has now resorted to nonstop personal attacks. It reminds me of the politician who won't debate the issue and instead slings mud at his opponent hoping everyone will forget about the original debate. Here is one of his latest comments.

"Notice that MB exhibits the bunker mentality which made the priestly abuse scandal possible in the first place. This doglike loyalty to the institution directly contributes to institutional corruption. At this rate you have to wonder if MB would hold the altar boy down while the “shepherd” sodomizes the sheep." Steve Hays

Everyone that has read my blog over the past two years can see that I have never endorsed sexual abuse. Also, anyone who has been following this exchange can see that sexual abuse has never been part of the original topic. The debate surrounds his bad analogy of comparing the Church to schools of fish and flocks of birds. In Steve's pathetic desperation to defend his pride he is now calling me a child molester. I now have to suggest that Steve Hays visit a shrink. He is obviously not mentally stable. I have never known anyone calling themselves a Christian to characterize someone they do not even know as being sympathetic to such heinous crimes. Steve can't tell the difference between attacking an argument and slandering a person's character. There is no need for me to retort with similar personal attacks such as these. I think the readers are now getting a good look at Steve's true colors. If this is the best of the best from these apologists, then the Church is certainly safe. I ask a fourth time, where are Steve's real arguments? Or are we going to see him continue to melt down and self destruct?

In an effort to cut down on people going to his blog, I have to cut this guy off and move on to some real apologists who will actually put together logical arguments without resorting to personal slander. I think Steve has done enough damage to his soul by these latest false accusations. There is nothing further for me to discuss here.

"Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you."
(Matthew 5:11,12)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

When Protestants Attack III: Steve Hays and His Temper Tantrum!

I knew when I started this string that I would get some backlash from some Protestants. I expected at least to get some rational arguments from these guys. But this guy Steve Hays over at Trialblogue has really been melting down since I pointed out his flawed analogy that he made on the Church. I really have to shake my head at this guy. After pointing out Steve's bad analogy in his attack on the Papacy, now Hays has resorted to attacking priests and trying to use another Red Herring to make himself feel better. This guy is really sick. He also makes some character attacks on me as well. He makes some generalizations on my career choices and so forth which he has no clue about. It amazes me that when these guys don't have an argument all they can do is make sick character attacks. He went and hunted out another blog of mine on a completely different topic! Then he attacked that! He couldn't win a religious debate so now he has gone off the deep end.

You can read his latest demented post at his blog. Here is my challenge to Hays. Anytime you want to debate a topic with actual arguments, I am here. As far as your sick comments on the priesthood, I wouldn't throw stones in glass houses. Here are some of his comments from his latest post. This is what happens when you challenge an argument made by Steve Hays. He gets his feelings hurt and he responds with this infantile rant. I'll let the readers decide who has the arguments and who is acting like a 12 year old who just got in trouble with his dad. Calling me a "baby faced Ax killer?" This is something that a kid in third grade kid might use. Who knows, maybe his kid got on his computer while he was watching the Discovery Channel or something?

"Da champ (aka Matthew “the Baby-Faced Ax-killer” Bellisario) wants to be a criminologist when he grows up."

"I don’t see the website for (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), or the website for, or the website for Voice of the Faithful ("

I ask, and ask again. Real arguments please!

Is The Chair Vacant?

If you want to hear a good Catholic sermon on Sedevecantism, this one's for you! The volume is a little low so turn up your speakers!

Friday, September 4, 2009

Purgatory and Indulgences.

Purgatory and Indulgences
By Matthew James Bellisario 2009

There are many misconceptions about the Catholic teaching on purgatory and indulgences. An indulgence is defined by the Church as, “the remission in whole or in part of the temporal punishment due to sin.” (Baltimore Catechism #3) When a person commits sin there is damage that is done from that sin. Although we are forgiven when we go to confession, the Church gives us certain penances to try and repair some of that temporal punishment caused by the sin. This could be anything from prayer, to returning stolen goods, etc. Even beyond the penance given in the confessional we can pray and do meritorious deeds which are united to God's grace. One who lives a pure life while still living here on earth can purge their souls from the attachment to sin and avoid purgatory. Not only can our prayers and actions be efficacious for ourselves, but also for those who have departed us in death. That is why the Church has always prayed for the dead in her Divine Liturgies.

It is no contest as to the existence of a purifying fire after death for the early Church. "Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment." (Saint Augustine: The City of God 21:13 [c. AD 413-426]) "I think that the noble athletes of God,who have wrestled all their lives with the invisible enemies,after they have escaped all of their persecutions and have come to the end of life, are examined by the prince of this world; and if they are found to have any wounds from their wrestling, any stains or effects of sin,they are detained. If, however they are found unwounded and without stain,they are, as unconquered,brought by Christ into their rest." (Saint Basil: Homilies on the Psalms 7:2 [c. AD 370]) The Catechism explains temporal punishments due to sin a bit further.

Many sins wrong our neighbor. One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm (e.g., return stolen goods, restore the reputation of someone slandered, pay compensation for injuries). Simple justice requires as much. But sin also injures and weakens the sinner himself, as well as his relationships with God and neighbor. Absolution takes away sin, but it does not remedy all the disorders sin has caused. Raised up from sin, the sinner must still recover his full spiritual health by doing something more to make amends for the sin: he must "make satisfaction for" or "expiate" his sins. This satisfaction is also called "penance." (Catechism of the Catholic Church 1459)

We know that no unclean soul can enter into heaven. Saint Augustine wrote, "That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire" (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity 18:69) When justification and sanctification are properly understood, then purgatory is a natural answer to those who die in a state of grace, yet still have attachment to sin, or to those who have temporal punishment due to sin left on their souls.

Purgatory is a place or a state in which the soul is purified by God so that person will be pure in the sight of God in heaven. The Apocalypse says, “There shall not enter into it any thing defiled, or that worketh abomination or maketh a lie, but they that are written in the book of life of the Lamb.” (Rev. 21:27) Although no merit is obtained in purgatory by the person in Purgatory, God burns away the impurities that remain attached to the soul. The Church in her Divine Liturgies pray for the souls in purgatory as well. The exact nature of Purgatory has never been defined definitively or infallibly by the Catholic Church. In the past (medieval times) purgatory was referenced more frequently as being a place. Now the predominant view tends to lean more towards a state of the soul before it reaches heaven. Either view is acceptable, and they both fit into the mold of indulgences. Views as to the nature of purgatory or the state of purgation have fluctuated throughout the ages of the Church. One of the first “official” statements on purgatory referred to it as more of a state rather than a place. For example, the Council of Florence in 1439 explained that purgatory was a state of purgation after death, not really a place. In reading the Church Fathers and Saints we see varied explanations of purgatory. Most of these explanations fall into metaphors trying to explain something far beyond human comprehension.

Many are confused about the old system of indulgences, where the Church defined a certain number of days to each act of penance. The church now however uses a system of plenary or partial grants to indulgences. Since we know that indulgences remit temporal punishment due to sin, the Church has over the years assigned different penances to people depending on the type of sin the person had committed. For example in the early Church a penitent could spend years doing penance for serious sins that he may have committed. Those who had abandoned their faith willfully in the early years of the church could be sentenced 12 years as public penitents before being allowed to receive the Eucharist again. The Church has the ultimate authority to bind and loose, and she has changed her methods over the years.

As time went on, more focus was given to acts of prayer rather than actual physical acts of penance. The Church however wanted the penitent to be mindful of the efficaciousness of the prayers in reference to past public penances. The Church then began to assign days to the penitential prayers to give the penitent an idea as to how efficacious the prayers were. These days which were assigned to these indulgences are commonly misinterpreted by people as being the days taken off of the time spent in purgatory. This is incorrect. An indulgence of 300 days for example does not mean 300 days less in purgatory. In reality it is a measure of the amount of days one would have spent for the public penance in the old days of the Church. This misinterpretation has caused many to think of purgatorial time as having to be literal time spent in Purgatory. This is simply not the case.

In an effort to simplify things the Church has now classified indulgences into two categories. The plenary, which removes all temporal punishment, and a partial which removes some temporal punishment. Of course we know that the penitent must have a certain dispositions in order to obtain these indulgences. For example, in order to receive a plenary indulgence a person must; go to sacramental confession, receive communion, and say a prayer for the intention of the Holy Father, all to be performed within days of each other if not at the same time. Partial indulgences can be merited by anyone in the state of grace. These include, but are not limited to such prayers as the "The Memorare”, the "The Miserere" or reading Sacred Scripture for 30minutes. The idea here is that the Church knows that a sincere person in the state of grace doing these things will grow closer to God and be purged over time from the attachment to sin. Indulgences are not to be viewed as acts that people do to work their way into heaven. They are efficacious actions united to God's grace which help to unite that person to God, which in turn makes them more holy and pure.

Many saints describe different aspects of Purgatory. Some speak of the pains of fire, some of the hope that the person feels before they enter heaven, and others as to how the person grows in the love of God while undergoing purgation. While many may see these different accounts of Purgatory as being contrary to one another, it is most probable that it is more like different people's perspectives on many things we experience in day to day life. Some find beauty or pain in the very same experiences as others. One may focus on the pain of exercising for example, while another may be elated with the benefit they are receiving from it. They are both experiencing the same activity, yet both see and experience the activity differently. I will admit that this analogy has its limits, but its the best I can do for now. The fact is we cannot imagine how the state of our souls will exist outside of our bodies. We cannot imagine how life exists or is experienced beyond what we experience now. So the Church and her Saints have developed metaphors to try and explain it.

Does it matter whether Purgatory is a literal place or a temporal state of the soul before it reaches eternal glory? Does time as we know it exist beyond what we know it to be in this world? This of course we cannot know or understand, so it is futile to even worry about it. Saint Thomas tells us, "Incorporeal things are not in place after a manner known and familiar to us, in which way we say that bodies are properly in place; but they are in place after a manner befitting spiritual substances, a manner that cannot be fully manifest to us." [St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, Supplement, Q69, a1, reply 1] The fact is, there is a “Purgatory” in which souls will be purified after death. It is neither hell nor heaven. That is something that is not up for debate. (See the excerpt below from the Council of Trent) How this state or place of existence works is beyond our grasp to fully understand. Whether we actually experience fire, or some other form of torment is not clear. This probably depends on the various states of the souls that go through it. God's purifying fire extends beyond the imagination of the human mind. The images that the Saints have left us only give us glimpses into this state or place of purgation, but not definitive definitions. There will most probably be many people who have to endure this purgation due to the fact that many are not fully sanctified in this life. This should inspire us to become more holy while we have the time to do so here on earth. We can choose to live a life of holiness and penitence rather than experience the state or place of Purgatory. There is much more that can be written on this subject. I am merely scratching the surface here to present a basic outline. Please reference the sources below for more information.

Here are a few sources and quotes relating to Purgatory.

Since the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has, following the sacred writings and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, taught in sacred councils and very recently in this ecumenical council that there is a purgatory,[1] and that the souls there detained are aided by the suffrages of the faithful and chiefly by the acceptable sacrifice of the altar, the holy council commands the bishops that they strive diligently to the end that the sound doctrine of purgatory, transmitted by the Fathers and sacred councils,[2] be believed and maintained by the faithful of Christ, and be everywhere taught and preached. (The Council Of Trent Session XXV)

St. Margaret Mary – “If only you knew with what great longing these holy souls yearn for relief from their suffering. Ingratitude has never entered Heaven.”

St. John Vianney - "We must say many prayers for the souls of the faithful departed, for one must be so pure to enter heaven."

Documents on Purgatory and Indulgences.

Catholic Encyclopedia

Apostolic Constitution of Pope Paul VI on Sacred Indulgences.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church

Council of Trent Decree on Purgatory