Thursday, September 29, 2011

Edward Feser on Capital Punishment

Check out this article. It is Edward Feser's response to Christopher Tollefsen's view on capital punishment. Tollefsen unreasonably holds that the death penalty is completely contrary to human dignity.  Feser presents the proper teaching of the Church on this matter in his article. Below are a few points of thought taken from the article.

Traditionally, the aims of punishment are threefold: retribution, or inflicting on a wrongdoer a harm he has come to deserve because of his offense; correction, or chastising the wrongdoer for the sake of getting him to change his ways; and deterrence, discouraging others from committing the same offense. Retribution is necessarily the most fundamental...
If wrongdoers deserve punishment and the punishment ought to be proportional to the offense, then at some point we are going to reach a level of criminality for which capital punishment is appropriate at least in principle. To claim that no crime could justify capital punishment—to claim, for instance, that a cold-blooded genocidal rapist can never even in principle merit a greater punishment than the lifelong imprisonment inflicted on a bank robber—is implicitly to give up the principle of proportionality and, with it, any coherent conception of just punishment...
It is one thing merely to assert that capital punishment is against human dignity; it is quite another actually to show that it is...

What is intrinsically wrong is the intentional killing of an innocent human being. That is why, contrary to what Tollefsen insinuates, those who oppose abortion and euthanasia but support capital punishment are perfectly consistent in their thinking...

Above quotes taken from Edward Feser's article, 'In Defense of Capital Punishment' 2011

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Refuting Mark Shea's Rant On The Death Penalty

The Magisterium has said, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight...” and  “if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion.” That means that no, one is not a dissenting Catholic if their opinion differs from Evangelium Vitae, etc. However, we have a clear evidence that the mountebank Mark Shea has falsely proclaimed this foolishness from his lofty high throne.
Matthew Bellisario

As promised, here is my response to Mark Shea’s claims on the death penalty. I will keep it concise and to the point. I will quote his text in an indention and then put my responses between his texts.

I got het up yesterday about the execution of Troy Davis and spoke out of turn about his "innocence" when what I really was protesting was the dodginess of the evidence against him, dodginess that seemed to me to introduce an element of reasonable doubt concerning his guilt for the crime for which he was executed.

My response: Speaking out of turn is a common occurrence for Shea. I wonder how much research and time Shea has put into the case to make such a judgement? I believe the state concluded that there was ample evidence to convict the man. Moving on.

This in turn led to understandable confusion among some readers given the fact that, innocent or guilty, I oppose the infliction of the death penalty. Some people assumed (wrongly) that I was trying to say anything just to stop infliction of the death penalty, which was not my intent. You don't (as I have been at pains to say for some time to Liars for Jesus) achieve good ends by evil means. And lying that somebody is innocent when they are not is an example of that. So I would not lie to achieve that end.

My response: No confusion from the readers, they took Shea at his word. As far as lying goes, I am sure that he did not intend to deceive anyone, he just has no clue as to what he is talking about.

What really happened was this: I had an emotional outburst and, as is my custom, indulged hyperbole. That was wrong.

My response: An emotional outburst from Shea? You don’t say? An apology here, which really is not an apology at all, because as we will see, he does the very same thing later in this post. Most of the entire post is an emotional outburst.

Permit me, however, to talk about what provoked the outburst. It was provoked by a number of things, or rather one thing that keeps manifesting itself in lots of different ways. That one thing is Christian *zeal* for death.

My Response: So here we begin with the emotional non-arguments. Shea here pulls the classic ad-hominem labeling anyone who in any way supports capital punishment as zealots for death. Then he moves on to attack a US governor personally, who I am sure he does not even know. This is typical Shea style, no substance, just character attacks.

That zeal for death expresses itself in numerous ways, such as Rick Perry's conscience-free cock-a-whoop swaggering and boasting over being the most efficient executioner in Texas history and his cloudless lack of concern over the question of executing people who may be innocent.

My response: This attack on Perry of course has no bearing on the discussion at hand, since Perry is not committing any sin in allowing the legal system to carry out a just punishment. But Shea wants to build an emotional case here on the fact that innocents may be put to death accidentally by the State. Has this not always been the case? Was Pius XII so stupid that he did not realize that legal systems were not perfect when he wrote, “We also note that the Church in theory and in practice has kept the two forms of capital punishment (medicinal and vindictive) and that this is more in line with what the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine teach about the coercive power of legitimate human authority.” Shea must think so. Stop all just punishment! Someone might not be guilty! Until we have a perfect system lets not punish anyone. In fact, there are probably some people in horrible prisons being raped and abused by prisoners and they are innocent! As you can see, this fact has little bearing on the argument at hand. We all would be saddened to know that an innocent person was put to death or imprisoned wrongly. That is a matter for individual cases, and we all hope that modern technology has helped in improving those odds. But as far as using this as a reason to shut down the state's right to exact such a punishment is certainly untenable.

It manifests in treatment of Just War theory, not as an attempt to minimize killing, but as a sort of maze to be navigated with the hope and promise that we will *get* to start killing if we just outwit the Church's ivory tower restrictions on "real world" brutality. It manifests in the utterly appalling and embarrassing sophistry of Catholic torture advocates over the past decade. It manifests in the zealous Christian defenses of the slaughter at Hiroshima and Nagasaki every August.

My response: No it does not manifest itself in the just war theory, since those who actually understand moral theology do not just lump all of these issues into one pile and then make sweeping pronouncements on them as Shea usually does. Again, nothing more than emotional nonsense. What Hiroshima and Nagasaki have to do with this is anyone’s guess, since any moral theologian worthy of the name would never compare means used in a war to just punishment exacted by the State. They are two totally different moral issues. Torture is also one of Shea’s topics of choice when he gets on his soap box. Again, not relevant here. So far, in all of his ranting all we have read up to this point in Shea’s post has amounted to nothing more than hot air. Let us continue.

It manifests in the open and naked contempt heaped on Evangelium Vitae, the Catechism, Popes JPII and Benedict (and virtually every bishop in the world), when the Church's very clear desire to abolish the death penalty is bruited.

My response: Here at least we get to something more substantive. Neither Evangelium Vitae, nor the Catechism however has defined anything regarding the death penalty in any doctrinal or dogmatic fashion. We must read such documents in light of tradition, which means that you should read what the Church has said on the matter up until these two documents were written as well. This means that if you are going to be making pronouncements on the matter you need to know more than a total amount of text that amounts to not much more than a couple of paragraphs. You also have to have a general understanding of moral theology, which is rooted in the natural law. The Church’s desire has never been to completely abolish the death penalty around the world. In fact, I have pointed out this fact in other articles that I have written. This position is not a tenable one to hold. We can call for a more prudent use of it yes, but to force a legitimate state to give up a just means of punishment for heinous crimes is not something the Church can outrightly force on a nation, since the act itself is not immoral. Of course nations should look to the Pope and take his advice on the matter seriously, and make prudent decisions regarding it use. I also realize that we can disagree on the issue without anathematizing each other. Yes my position on this matter is quite strong, but I have never said that anyone who agrees with JPII is outside the Church or a dissenter. I have however vigorously disagreed with their position, which as you will see, I have a right to do. But this all means nothing to Shea. There is no difference to him when the Pope speaks on any number of issues. They are all on the same level of doctrinal certainty for him. But as we will see, the Magisterium does not even agree with him.

Minimum Daily Adult Requirement Catholicism is rife on this question. The argument is perpetually made that because the death penalty is not intrinsically immoral, opposition to it is obviously stupid, the abolitionist is somehow mysteriously supporting abortion, and the whole thing can be blown off as "liberal". So I get mail from embarrassing "witnesses" to the compassion of Jesus like this:
The Judeo-Christian DEATH PENALTY!!!!

Jesus told us that IN OUR PERSONAL LIVES, we should forgive the people who wrong us, 7 times 70 times. However, Jesus NEVER told the GOVERNMENT to forgive murderers and rapists and terrorists 7 times 70 times.

On the contrary, God, who is absolutely PRO-LIFE and who knows the full value of each human life, told Moses that the GOVERNMENT should promptly execute anyone duly convicted a HEINOUS CRIME.

CAUTION: Today we have APOSTATES who consider themselves ... HOLY THAN GOD ... WISER THAN GOD ... MORE LOVING THAN GOD ... , who think hard-working taxpayers should reward duly convicted heinous criminals with a lifetime of ... FREE housing and meals and medical care and education and recreation ... .

PS: The LIFE-IN-PRISON SENTENCE often costs taxpayers more than $1 Million ... !!!!!!!!!
Then the King will say to them, "I was in prison and you thirsted for my blood, because I was expensive." And people wonder why Christianity is repellent to many people.

My response: Here we see the depth of Shea’s understanding concerning the level of teaching on the death penalty. All you have to own is a Catechism and you are now able to tell everyone what matters of faith and morals puts you as a Catholic outside the faith. For Shea, everything is on the same level. The death penalty is on par with abortion and contraception for him. Shea has in effect made himself head of the CDF. Did we all miss the installment that Pope Benedict made when he replaced Cardinal Leveda’s seat on the CDF with Shea?

I've even seen appeals to the glories of the death penalty like this:
Don’t any of you self-righteous death penalty opponents ever read the Bible? As he was hanging on the cross Jesus promised Paradise to the felon who confessed the justice of the death penalty (cf. Luke 23: 39-43).
The strange conflation of dogmatic death penalty maximalism with some sort of core doctrine of Catholic faith is a classic illustration of how a tribal shibboleth can get fuddled with the heart of the faith. For, of course, the actual biblical teaching is that Jesus promises paradise to the one who placed his faith in Him, not to those who place their faith in the death penalty. Such enthusiasts for killing never seem to get around to acknowledging the corollary to their argument: namely, that not just the death penalty, but crucifixion is, by their twisted logic, sanctioned as legitimate.

My response: Here come the straw men! Burn them down Mr. Shea! They are easy targets. Now Shea equates everyone who thinks the death penalty should not be completely abolished as a “death penalty maximalist.” Everyone who has argued for the consistent teaching of the Church up until recent times are death enthusiasts! Fry the kid who stole a sucker from the convenient store! Hang the guy who jaywalked across the intersection! Do you see how childish Shea’s post is? How can a grown man act like this? It appears to me that Shea has never bothered to read the scholarly work of competent theologians like Dr. Steven Long. He has not dealt with their arguments. He would rather just call them “death enthusiasts” and sweep them all into one neat pile to be burned! He would rather make sweeping generalizations about the character of people who disagree with his assessment of the matter, rather than actually deal with the arguments they have brought to the table. It is all twisted logic to Shea, yet Shea never attempts to refute any real argument.

The bottom line is and remains this: The Church does not say the death penalty is intrinsically immoral. So what? The Church is on the side of saving and redeeming human life, not snuffing it out for the sake of cost efficiency.

My response: No, the bottom line is that this subject of discussion is open for debate by the very fact that a just punishment is not immoral. I, nor have any of the theologians I have quoted, said that redeeming human life is not important. As far as I know, the core arguments that folks like Dr. Long have put forth have not been for “snuffing” out life to save a few dollars. If this is the shallow level that Shea wants to continue to engage this matter on, he should leave it alone. He is only making a fool out of himself.

So the Magisterium--that would be the teaching office of the Church founded by Jesus Christ to conserve and articulate the Tradition--urges minimal use of the death penalty with an eye toward abolishing wherever possible. That is the teaching of the Church and those who are at war with this teaching are, in fact, dissenting Catholic every bit as much as those who are at war with the Church's teaching on contraception. Something does not have to be dogma (as, for instance, Humanae Vitae, like Evangelium Vitae, is not dogma) for it to be normative teaching of the Magisterium to which we owe our obedience and not our weasel-worded dissent and contempt.

My response: Here we have it folks! What we have all been waiting for! The Magisterial pronouncement from the new head of the CDF! Shea has spoken, the case is closed. Let us see what the real head of the CDF had to say on the matter and see if matches up with what the charlatan Mark Shea has written, shall we? When the present Pope was head of the CDF he wrote the following concerning general principles regarding moral issues, which pertained to Catholics and voting, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight as abortion and euthanasia. For example, if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion. While the Church exhorts civil authorities to seek peace, not war, and to exercise discretion and mercy in imposing punishment on criminals, it may still be permissible to take up arms to repel an aggressor or to have recourse to capital punishment. There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty, but not however with regard to abortion and euthanasia.” You see, it is fools like Mark Shea who have no idea what they are talking about, who are causing more problems for Catholics than those outside the Church. No Mr. Shea, one who goes against contraception is not in the same boat as one who argues for a different application of the death penalty. They are not dissenters Mr. Shea, and those who you have told this rubbish to should withstand you to the face! You owe them an apology, and if you are a man who knows whats best for him, you owe them your resignation as an "apologist." The CDF says they are not dissenters, yet clearly Shea says otherwise. This is the type of nonsense that really makes my blood boil. You see, someone like Mark Shea should not be in the business he is in. He is not capable of teaching the Catholic faith properly. Moral issues like these are not open to amateurs who think they can go around making grand pronouncements, essentially excommunicating everyone, labeling them as dissenters from the faith when they disagree with them. Yet, Shea insists on going on to his blog and essentially damning everyone who does not agree with him. I take serious issue with that.

So: Watching this spectacle of *eagerness* to kill and the (as I took it) reluctance to take a look at the reasonable doubt about Davis, I got ticked. What bugged me was not that I was certain he was innocent, but the apparent disinterest in finding out. If I'm wrong about the facts in Davis' case, I can live with that. I'm opposed to the DP nonetheless (per Evangelium Vitae). But cases where there's a reasonable doubt that we are even executing the guilty just exacerbate the issue, because so many Christians are willing to fight for the death penalty, to be *zealous* for death, despite the fact that they *know* this means a certain percentage of the victims are going to be innocent. That's because our legal system is not perfect. To embrace the DP is, at the end of the day, to say "Better the innocent should perish than the guilty survive." I don't buy that "Kill all! God will know his own!" moral reasoning. Neither do two Popes and virtually all of the world's bishops. There are other reasons I oppose the DP too, but that's not a small one.

My response: So, now its all about an “eagerness” to kill. I do not know whether or not there was a disinterest in finding out if the guy was guilty. I have read that the execution was postponed 3 times, so they must have looked into it more than once. Yet again, that is all beside the point. Shea here is trying to paint a grim picture here to sell his story. The picture he paints looks like this. All of the Popes, bishops and priests, as well as Catholic nations the world over were nothing more than maximum death zealots eager for death when they used capital punishment for heinous crimes. They just wanted blood and more blood, and were all eager to kill, and those who think it is OK to use the death penalty now are the same. Anyone who argues that it is important that we do not completely abolish the death penalty are likewise nothing more than eager killers seeking fresh blood. They are all just zealots for death. Yet in the several articles that I have written, and the several articles I have referenced, have never exhibited this foolish caricature that Shea has painted for his audience. What a masterpiece of imbecility.

How anyone can take this guy seriously is beyond me. I really cannot imagine anyone wanting this guy’s opinion on much of anything, let alone inviting him to speak at parishes, or having him write for Catholic publications. The Magisterium has said, “Not all moral issues have the same moral weight...” and  “if a Catholic were to be at odds with the Holy Father on the application of capital punishment or on the decision to wage war, he would not for that reason be considered unworthy to present himself to receive Holy Communion....There may be a legitimate diversity of opinion even among Catholics about waging war and applying the death penalty” That means that no, one is not a dissenting Catholic if their opinion differs from Evangelium Vitae, etc. However, we have clear evidence that the mountebank Shea has falsely proclaimed this foolishness from his lofty high throne. Do yourself a favor. Stay far, very far away from this man when it concerns your Catholic faith, and warn others to do the same.

For more info on the Catholic teaching regarding the death penalty see the sidebar on the right side of this blog, under moral theology.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Mark Shea Has Spoken, The Case Is Closed

I'll let you chew on this comment by the self proclaimed "Catholic apologist" Mark "the Magisterium of One" Shea regarding capital punishment. It comes from this latest post on his blog, which I will address when I get a chance over the next few days. Until then, let these words of the bombastic Shea sink in a bit. One has to wonder how many times Shea has to make a fool of himself before he will go away. Stay tuned for my retort.

"The bottom line is and remains this: The Church does not say the death penalty is intrinsically immoral. So what? The Church is on the side of saving and redeeming human life, not snuffing it out for the sake of cost efficiency. So the Magisterium--that would be the teaching office of the Church founded by Jesus Christ to conserve and articulate the Tradition--urges minimal use of the death penalty with an eye toward abolishing wherever possible. That is the teaching of the Church and those who are at war with this teaching are, in fact, dissenting Catholic every bit as much as those who are at war with the Church's teaching on contraception.... To embrace the DP is, at the end of the day, to say "Better the innocent should perish than the guilty survive." I don't buy that "Kill all! God will know his own!" moral reasoning. Neither do two Popes and virtually all of the world's bishops."
Mark Shea

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

When Protestantism Fails: The Story of Swan and Van Til's Epiphany

Although I have for sometime moved away from the realm of apologetics, I could not pass this one up. So if you are starving for a polemic apologetics post, here it is. I'm In the mood. I was browsing the net today and I ran across a laughable post by the Protestant James Swan. As usual he is lampooning Catholicism, while at the same time shooting himself in the foot. He quotes a fellow heretic by the name of Cornelius Van Til, whom Swan claims to have been a great preacher of "the whole council of God." What is amusing is that Van Til put himself above anyone who read Sacred Scripture and disagreed with him. Of course this is the Protestant legacy. Find people who agree with your interpretation of Scripture, join them and form your own Church. What is more amusing is that Van Til ignorantly put himself above the very Scriptures themselves, or at least on the same pedestal. Get a load of this quote that Swan cut and pasted from Van Til.

"It is but natural to expect that, if the church is strong because its ministry understands and preaches the whole counsel of God, then the church will be able to protect itself best against false teaching of every sort. Non-indoctrinated Christians will easily fall prey to the peddlers of Russellism, spiritualism and all of the other fifty-seven varieties of heresies with which our country abounds. One-text Christians simply have no weapons of defense against these people. They may be able to quote many Scripture texts which speak, for instance, of eternal punishment, but the Russellite will be able to quote texts which, by the sound of them and taken individually, seem to teach annihilation. The net result is, at best, a loss of spiritual power because of loss of conviction. Many times, such one-text Christians themselves fall prey to the seducers voice."
What Van Til really says is that those who quote the Scriptures in any way that disagrees with his interpretation, is in error.  Indoctrination means that you let Van Til brainwash you with his interpretation of the Scriptures. Yet, who is to say that Van Til is interpreting the Scriptures correctly? You guessed it, Van Til, and those who agree with Van Till. So the claim that Van Til is making, is almost the same claim that the Catholic Church is making, yet, are we to believe one man and a few charlatans that agree with him, or the entire Church which has passed along the proper interpretation since Christ Himself established it? Those with a half a brain will choose the later.

Swan then asks a silly question as if he has just had an apple fall on his head! He has discovered gravity! Is he the new Newton of his religion? Well no, he has exposed his religion for the sham that it really is, all the while thinking he has had some brilliant epiphany. Eureka!

Swan writes,

"Of course, I had the converts to Roman Catholicism in mind, rather than Russellites. I wonder how many of these Catholic converts actually attended churches that proclaimed the whole council of God? A question I would ask is how many Catholic converts previously went to churches with strong systematic confessions of faith, like the Westminster Confession, and how often were they taught the confession, like in a Sunday School class, and how well did their minister cover all the doctrines in the confession of faith? I would expect some rather weak answers."
Well James, the whole council of God is His Word, both written and oral, which resides in the one Church that Jesus gave us, which are all infallible. The whole council of God comes from God, not men. The Catholic Church is the inventor of the confession of faith, and is not an imposter like those who wrote the Westminster Confession well over 1500 years after the one true Church was established, and had already given us the confession of faith. Yes we have Sunday school class and catechism too! Swan is surely hellbent on pushing "systematic theology", yet again this proves that the Scriptures are not enough for Swan, or for Van Til. In order for Van Til's "systematic theology" to be of any use, it must have a God given authority behind it. If it is God given, then it is absolute. If it is absolute authority, then it cannot err. Thus we have man vs God's Church. Is Van Til now infallible? Is his "systematic theology" infallible? Of course Swan would have to answer no, it is not. If he says that it is not, that means that Van Til's systematic theology can contain error. If it can err then it can err on any number of doctrines, the same as the Russellites. If Swan says Van Til's systematic theology is infallible, then he has put Van Til above God's written word, or at least on equal footing with it. No more Sola Scriptura. Ouch, that apple must have left a huge bruise! Big bruises however do not mean great ideas, and band aids don't heal the crooked, half-witted theology that result from bad ideas.

As Catholics we do not have this problem. No, we have the infallible Scriptures, contained within the living breathing infallible Church, which gave birth to them, guided as a whole by Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and God the Father, three persons, one God, infallible! So much for the Van Till example. Are you going to trust Jesus and His Church or are you going to gamble on Van Till's "systematic theology" which obviously contains error? We can thank Swan for making it easy for us in proving that the man made "systematic theology" he follows is nothing more than foul rubbish spewing from the mouth of a twisted arrogant mountebank. Pray for those who are seduced by these foolish man made theological systems of heresy. Van Till calling the Russellites heretics is like the pot calling the kettle black. Fallible means fallible. Fallibility means error is present in their doctrine. Error in doctrine is not a product of God. Therefore Van Til is not from God, his interpretation of Scripture is not from God, nor is his authority from God.

Dr. Steven Long Addressing The Death Penalty and New Natural Law Theory

"The New Natural Law Theory is in a way ingenious, in that it is materially far more rich than pure Kantian deontology; while nonetheless, it refuses the speculative wisdom that is necessarily the font of all practical right judgment. New natural law theorists do not acknowledge the teaching of Aquinas in Summa theologiae I.79.11 that only the accident of the ordering of a known truth to the good of an operation distinguishes practical knowledge from speculative knowledge... All knowledge, as such, has a speculative root; but the accident of ordering some knowledge to the good of an operation renders knowledge to be “practical” by reason of its end. By contrast to this clear teaching of Aquinas, new natural law theorists — with far greater likeness to Kant or Hume than to Aquinas — take the “practical” to be in no way derivative from the speculative"

Dr. Steven A. Long.

Dr. Steven Long of Ave Maria University is one of the most prolific Thomistic scholars of our time. He has written several books, one which I wrote a book review on, 'The Teleological Grammar of the Moral Act' as well as many articles concerning the writings of Saint Thomas Aquinas. He has recently written a response to one of the New Natural Law theorists, Christopher Tollefsen, who has criticized Saint Thomas Aquinas' view of human dignity and the death penalty. Tollefsen writes of St. Thomas' view on human dignity "To begin with Aquinas’s view, it appears to border on incoherence..." Dr. Long responds in a charitable yet direct manner refuting the convoluted New Natural theorist, topping it off with, "To hear advocates of this erroneous theory accuse Aquinas of incoherence would be comic were the theory not harmful to the common good of civil society and with respect to the actual teaching of the Church." Dr. Long demonstrates very clearly that the New Natural Law theorists do not understand Aquinas. As you know I have referred to Dr. Long's prior work concerning the death penalty many times in the articles I have written on the subject. This is yet another great article to take to the bank. Those who are trying to change the Church's teaching on the death penalty are not going to get one over without a fight. I would love to see Dr. Long debate Helen Prejean publicly so that her erroneous, noxious nonsense would be put to a halt. Below is a small clip from the article. I recommend reading it over. No it is not light reading, but if you take the time to read and comprehend what Dr. Long is saying, you will see just how absurd this particular argument is.

Nowhere does the Church identify capital punishment as a malum in se, and all the Fathers and Doctors of the Church — with the exception of Tertullian, who died outside the Church — affirm its principled validity (Lactantius did not argue that it was morally invalid or unjust — he expressly affirms the contrary in On Anger — but merely that Christians realize the superiority of charity to the law of the state.). Simply for the benefit of those interested in the Church’s doctrinal teaching, it should be noted that Pius XII taught that the principled legitimacy of the death penalty is not subject to cultural variation — although of course its prudential reasonability would still be subject to social variability (cf. Acta Apostolicae Sedis 47 (1955): 81-82, recounting this teaching of Pope Pius XII). One notes also the high theological note characterizing the profession required of the Waldensians in 1210 in order to re-establish ecclesial communion. The Waldensians were required to acknowledge among other things the essential justice of the death penalty for grave crime (cf. Denzinger, 425: “Concerning secular power we declare that without mortal sin it is possible to exercise a judgment of blood as long as one proceeds to bring punishment not in hatred but in judgment, not incautiously but advisedly.”). Clearly to require this oath for the re-establishment of ecclesial communion at one moment, and then to require its opposite — where what is at stake is not prudential application but the principled possibility of just penalty of death — would constitute not a development of doctrine, but rather a mutation. Note, again, that the statement directly refers to the death penalty in principle and that it indicates that as such it cannot be a malum in se...

These last words are offered with the aim of making an objective judgment about the place of New Natural Law Theory in priestly formation. There is no wish to question the orthodox intention of the Catholic New Natural Law Theorists. Their sincere desire to serve the truth—and their sacrifices and good example in doing so, particularly with respect to Humanae vitae—should be evident to all. But on matters of decisive import for the truth and for the understanding of Catholic faith and morals, the dangers implicit in their account noted above need correction; and the genuine teaching of St. Thomas remains a superior basis for formation in moral theology and philosophy.
          Dr. Steven A. Long

Monday, September 19, 2011

Archbishop John Hughes on Justification and the Errors of Protestantism

For those of you who are interested in apologetics, I think you will find this lecture given by the great Archbishop John Hughes of New York, a real treat. This is apologetics as it was meant to done. The subject here is imputation and justification. Hughes is commenting on a book related to Anglicanism. At this time the Catholic Church was just returning to the stage in England with the rise of the Tractarian movement. Not only does Hughes explain the difference between how Catholics and Protestants view justification, but he also paints a clear picture of what the consequences are for the heretical Protestant view. Ever wonder why there are no real self sacrificing men and women that are born from the bosom of Protestantism? Why are there no Protestant versions of Saint Vincent de Paul or Saint Francis Xavier? You guessed it. They simply don't believe in it! Their faith alone heresy leaves no room for that type of self sacrifice for Christ. This lecture is a bit long, and Hughes was never short on words, but I think it is well worth the time to read this if you want to explain to people why the Catholic faith is the bearer of true Biblical Christianity. Reading this is a breath of fresh air after having been bombarded with the modern cut and paste model of Catholic apologetics. Forgive me if there are any grammatical errors. The text comes from a scanned book which is now out of print. I went through it a few times correcting as many errors as I could find. Now, I present to you Bishop (Later to be Archbishop) John Hughes.


"Within the last forty years, there has been, in the public mind of almost all Protestants nations, a growing disposition to reconsider the grounds of the great schism of the Sixteenth century, in consequence of which so many have been separated from the unity of the Christian Church. During this period, numerous conversions to the Catholic faith have occurred, among men high in rank and station, and eminent in the walks of science and literature. England, the Low Countries, Switzerland, and the different States of Protestant, as well as Catholic Germany, have all furnished remarkable instances. These examples, appeared, at the time, to have had no effect on the general feelings of the nations in which they occurred. Nevertheless, it is almost impossible, in the good providence of God, that they should not have had great influence in predisposing the minds of others remotely, and perhaps without their own consciousness of the fact, to take a more calm and sober view of the whole controversy. The new religious had been undergoing the experiment of practice", for nearly three hundred years, side by side with the ancient faith. The results were before men's eyes; and it required only a dispassionate and sincere mind to judge of them. On the one hand, the Catholics were seen held together, under the most adverse circumstances of civil and social relations, in the universal communion of one church. On the other side, Protestants always disagreed among themselves. Every effort made towards attaining unity, resulted, among them in fresh divisions. The Catholic Church was seen moving onward, amidst the convulsions and disorders of the times, in the same undeviating course which had been traced out for her from the beginning;—the Protestants, on the other hand, exhibited the new system of religion as resting on no permanent or immutable basis; but dependent on temporal circumstances, and the vicissitudes and uncertainty of human opinion. Under the former, reason recognized the dominion of faith in all matters of revelation; under the latter, reason was made the judge of faith itself: and the practical consequences could be traced, from the wild and fitful outbursts of religious feelings, which marked the first days of the great schism, especially in Germany, down to the cold and Christ-denying speculations of its rationalism in our own times.

The individual instances, to which we have alluded, of a return to the ancient faith, must have served as occasions for bringing these comparative results before the minds of serious and reflecting men of both communions. But they must have done more. The Catholic religion had been represented as suited only to ages of ignorance and mental darkness; and thin prejudice must have been confounded, as men of the purest character, and most powerful intellects, were seen, from time to time, passing over to Catholicism, in the full light of the nineteenth century. Such examples, and in increasing 'numbers, are witnessed from day to day. But within the last fifteen or twenty years, the controversy between the two communions has assumed new features, altogether favorable to Catholicity. Among the Protestant clergy on the continent, several distinguished authors have come forward to vindicate certain portions of ecclesiastical history as well as the character of certain Popes, from the foul aspersions and misrepresentations of the earlier Protestant writers. In England, on the other hand, the venerable dogmas of the Catholic faith have been, to a great extent, vindicated in the writings of the Oxford Tractarians. In both cases, it is to be remembered, that the testimonies in favor of truth are those of adversaries; but it is this circumstance that gives them additional weight, on the general bearing and issue of the great question. Protestants would not receive, generally, the testimony of Catholic witnesses on these subjects; but when some of the first men in their own ranks bear similar testimony, the effect is calculated to shake, to its very centre, the foundation of 'heir prejudices against the ancient faith.

Accordingly, these writers are no longer to be regarded as individuals merely, but as leaders, representatives of whole classes; organs, giving utterance, with a faltering voice, to the uneasiness, doubts, and struggles that agitate the breasts of thousands of their Protestant countrymen. If there be one impression that has seized on the minds of all sects and parties, except themselves, with the grasp of a conviction, it is, that the Oxford movement must lead its votaries into the bosom of the Catholic Church. There is but one other alternative possible; and that is, that they should abandon the ground they have taken, retreat to the point from which they started, and rest satisfied with the religion which the laws of their country have prescribed for them. It is, however, a painful contest, between the spirit and the flesh. May Almighty God strengthen them by his grace, to accomplish the sacrifice which will best promote his glory, and secure their own salvation.

But the social as well as religious condition of England, at the present time, is enough to convince wise men that the country requires a spiritual renovation,which the barrenness of Protestantism is incapable of producing. The moral sympathies, that should knit and bind together all classes, have been ruptured or dissolved. The wealthy aristocracy, the poor, and the middle classes, which should blend into each other at a thousand points of social and religious contact, are as distinct and separate, except in the material relations of self-interest, as the castes of Hinduism. Pauperism, unknown in that country during Catholic times, is now universal throughout the land. The domains of the monasteries, and of the Church, were formerly the patrimony of the poor, of which the monks and clergy were as the administrators for their benefit; now these domains belong to the princes of Protestantism; and for the poor, work-houses have been constructed from the ruins of the abbeys. In Catholic times, the clergy, by their state of voluntary celibacy, left the resources of the poor almost undiminished; now, the whole church-, livings are hardly sufficient for the extravagant modes of life and domestic ambitions of the married clergy. The extent of ignorance among the working classes, respecting the first principles of Christianity, would be incredible were it not attested by Reports of Parliamentary Committees. So that whether you regard the gilded corruptions of excessive wealth on the one side, or the squalid depravities of extreme destitution on the other; or contemplate the ignorance of religion, the infidelity, and desperate confederations of those who occupy the middle ground between them, it will appear evident, that the regeneration of such a people, even under the social aspect, requires the presence and the action of a religion which can infuse into its masses the warmth and vitality of the Christian virtues reduced into daily practice.

In alluding to these things as betraying, to the eyes of discerning Protestants themselves, the evidence of a moral and religious want, which the established church is obviously, through its own intrinsic deficiency, unqualified to supply, we would by no means present them as the only, or even a prominent cause, of the general movement which is now going on in England, in the direction of a return to the Catholic faith. No; we would rather believe, humbly, that the progress of this movement is directed through the operation of that Grace which is invoked by the united prayer of millions, for the conversion of the English nation. But neither is it to be forgotten, that God, in his designs of mercy, may make use of outward things as well as interior convictions, to hasten the period of their accomplishment. He must be but a superficial reader of things, who does not see, in the actual condition of England, what a powerful vindication of the Catholic faith, has been wrought out by the silent progress of human events—and what a deep stamp of failure has been fixed on Protestantism, as a social and religious experiment, by the same unspeaking, but intelligible test. It can hardly be supposed, that it was the mere learning or piety of the Oxford divines, that Las won for their views the sympathy and approbation of high secular powers in the state. Statesmen, no less than theologians, have advocated, and continue to advocate their views; and although these views do not yet avow the adoption of the whole Catholic truth, still, they are manifestly adverse to the essential principles of the entire Protestant system. Now, it is worthy of remark, that in every defense of these views which they have deemed it expedient to put forth, the moral and social, as well as religious condition of the country, entered into their grounds of justification. Indeed, so much is the case, that it is avowed in the brief title prefixed to the writings by which they have become so celebrated, " Tracts Foe The Times."

It is remarkable, under this view of the subject, that the Oxford divines should have overlooked the matter which is treated of in the following pages. Among all the errors owing their birth to the innovations of the sixteenth century, there is not one so subtle as that which the Reformers adopted on the subject of justification by faith alone. It lies at the root of the whole system of Protestantism. It pervades, with but little modification, the doctrines of all the various sects, comprised under that comprehensive term. To it may be traced the peculiar and distinctive moral, as well as social features, that characterize every community or nation in which it has prevailed. It has chilled every generous emotion of self-sacrifice, and Christian heroism, which the charities of the Christian religion are wont to excite in the human breast, and which the ancient faith knows so well how to cherish, and ripen into the means of temporal and eternal benedictions to the whole human race. Why is it that Protestantism has produced no institutions for the welfare of mankind, which can be traced to the inward efficacy of any of its principles, acting on the human heart and soul? No universities, no hospitals, no churches, no asylums for the poor? Some of all these, it has unquestionably produced; but there is not so much as one, that can be traced to the inward power of any principles of Protestantism operating silently and secretly in the souls of men. Human legislation will be found to have intervened in all the Protestant countries of Europe; whereas those same countries had been almost paved with such institutions resulting from the inward operation, without the aid of human laws, of the Catholic faith, in the hearts of men, before Protestantism began. Why has the latter system never produced an Xavier, an order for the redemption of captives, a Vincent of Paul, or even a Sister of Charity? No one could fill the place of either of these, without being prepared to offer himself a daily sacrifice, or if need be, once for all, for the good of his neighbor, which is only the second part of the Lord's commandment, carried to its point of heroism; and why is it that Protestantism has never been able to inspire this heroism into a single member of its communion? Who has ever heard even of a Protestant Sister of Charity?

We know, indeed, that such works have a place in the theory of the Protestant system; but in that theory itself, their sphere is restricted; within it, too, they are controlled by an arbitrary rule of divine economy; and even then, they are pronounced utterly unprofitable to the soul of him who performs them! How, then, can the Tractarians realize, in the Anglican communion, so long as this doctrine is not repudiated, those practical results which religion, operating internally on the hearts of men, is constantly producing in Catholic lands? Do men gather figs of thorns, or grapes of thistles?
Still, it must be admitted, that the idea of justification by faith alone, as it presents itself to minds trained up in the Protestant system is plausible and seductive. As this subject, however, is seldom treated of in a popular way, it may be well to give a brief statement of the question and a definition of the terms involved in it.

"Justification" is that action or operation of divine grace on the soul, by which a man passes from the state of sin; from an enemy, becomes the friend of God, agreeable in the divine sight, and an heir to eternal life. This act of transition from the one state to the other, with its operating causes, is called "justification." From the circumstance of its being a spiritual and interior operation, it is evident that it affords an opportunity for theological subtleties, to those who would make use of it; and at the same time, renders it difficult to expose the error which those subtleties may be employed to foster. The Church, therefore, has always preserved her ancient and orthodox teaching under the form of sound words—which heresy has ever betrayed itself by refusing to adopt.

Thus, in both communions, justification is acknowledged to be, as to its efficient source, from and through and by Jesus Cubist, alone. But in the Catholic system, this justification, occurring in the modes of the Saviour's appointment, is not only the imputation, but also in the interior application of the justice of Christ, by which guilt is destroyed, pardon bestowed, and the soul replenished by the inherent grace and charity of the Holy Spirit.

According to the Protestant principle, justification is when a man believes with a firm and certain faith or conviction, in his own mind, that the justice of Christ is "imputed" to him. This is that "faith alone," by which they profess to be saved. The sacraments, for them, have no other end or efficacy, except as signs to awaken this individual and personal faith, so called, and as tokens of communion. Neither is it, that any intrinsic or interior operation takes place in the soul, by this, in which she is changed by a transition from the state of sin, now remitted and destroyed, to a state of justice wrought for her and in her, by the application of the merits and infusion of the grace of Christ. No; this is the Catholic doctrine. But, according to the Protestant principle, no such change takes place. According to that principle, the impious man is not made just, even by the adoption of God, or the merits of Christ. But leaving him in his injustice, it is conceived that his sins are no longer imputed to him, but that the justice of Christ is imputed to him. Thus a criminal is under guilt and condemnation'; but in consideration of a powerful and innocent intercessor, the chief magistrate pardons him. It is only by a certain fiction of thought and language that such a person can be considered innocent; or that his intrinsic guilt can be conceived of as still existing, but as imputed to the one who interceded for him, and the justice of that intercessor imputed to him. Such is the exact likeness of justification as taught in the theology of Protestantism. But it is to be observed, that the sphere which is assigned as the seat of this species of fiction, is the mind of God himself! The sinner is not intrinsically, or really justified, in this system, but we are told that God, on account of the merits of Christ, is pleased to regard and " repute" him as such ; that is, God "reputes" him to be, what, in reality, He knows him not to be.
St. Paul in his Epistle to the Romans, speaks of the faith of Abraham as having been reputed to him unto justice. And Luther, to meet the exigencies of his case, seized on the letter of this passage, and distorted its spirit and meaning. God had made rich promises to Abraham and his posterity. The hope of this promise was in his son Isaac. And God, to try the faith of his servant, directed Abraham to immolate this, his only son, as a sacrifice to his name.

Such an order, under such circumstances, was calculated to throw deep and impenetrable mystery over the previous promises, treasured up in the mind of the patriarch. Nevertheless, he falters not in his confidence, but obeys without a moment's hesitation. He sinks all the apprehensions arising from the suggestions of flesh and blood, and in the simplicity of his confidence, prepares to execute what had been commanded. And it is only when his hand is uplifted to strike, that God manifests his acceptance of the will, which, however, embraced the work itself, that he is no longer permitted to execute.

Such was the faith of Abraham. But it is evident that it embraced the works, and that so far as obedience, will, intention, purpose, and even feelings, were concerned, Abraham had already completed the sacrifice. This, the same Apostle writes in the Epistle to the Hebrews, ii. "By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered Isaac; and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son."

As, however, the outward immolation was not actually or physically consummated, Luther was pleased to exclude it altogether from the faith of Abraham, contrary to the express words of St. Paul himself. The error of Luther has been incorporated, with but slight modifications, into the theology of all the other Protestant denominations. Hence the doctrine of salvation by "faith alone."' By faith, to use their own phraseology, the sinner "seizes" on the merits of Christ—by believing firmly that they are "imputed" to him. It is not that by this, he is made just or innocent, but God is pleased to declare, to suppose, to repute—let us say it with reverence —to imagine him as such. It is all God's work, he has not the smallest share in it—and then, the seductive boast of the system, that thus, "all the glory returns to God, and nothing to man." Under the same plea, good works were decried as hindrances, rather than helps, in the matter of justification. It was supposed, indeed that by a necessary consequence, they would appear in the life of the believer, as the fruit and evidence of his faith. But, even then, they would be of no advantage to the soul. Neither could sin, except that of unbelief alone, defeat its salvation. To such a point of of insanity did Luther carry his doctrine on this subject, that he declares, that "if adultery could be committed in faith, it would not be a sin. Luth. Disput. t. 1, b. 523.
This doctrine is the root of all those distinctive features of Protestantism, which place its moral, as well as dogmatical code, so much in opposition to the ancient teaching of Christendom, and of the Catholic world. Calvin moulded it into his own system of Election, Predestination, Reprobation, and Inadmissible Grace. The different confessions of faith have mitigated somewhat the harshness of language with which it was first set forth in the writings of the two great Continental Reformers. But its substance pervades them all. The extent to which it has prevailed in the Anglican Church, which is supposed to have departed least from the ancient faith, will appear in the little work which is now presented to the public. And humanly speaking, there is no hope for the Protestant world, even through the piety and learning that are represented by the Oxford divines, until they themselves shall have burst through the intricate and subtle meshes of this elaborate net of primitive Protestantism. They seem to repine at not beholding among themselves those fruits of religion, which they witness among their Catholic neighbors. But how could they expect it, while they teach that man's righteousness is solely by the mere imputation of the righteousness of Christ—and that this imputation is by faith alone, to the utter exclusion of good works, either before or after justification? Do they not see that this system leaves them no ground whereon to place the fulcrum, or apply the lever of either a moral, religious, or social regeneration?

We would not be understood by these remarks, to assert or insinuate, that the moral virtues awe not attended to in the practice of Protestant communities as well as elsewhere. Far from it. But it is seldom that the conduct of men is in strict consistency with their creed, and in the present instance it is well known, that Catholics living up to the principles of their holy faith, would be infinitely better than they are; Protestants, on the same grounds, would be immeasurably worse.
In the Catholic Church, every age witnessed the spectacle of thousands of individuals rising by the power of Grace, above the ordinary range of righteous living, and devoting themselves by a perpetual sacrifice of all that is selfish, for the good of their neighbor; and this for God's sake. Protestantism, after three hundred years of existence, cannot point out even one such example! Why is it? Now, the true type of the faith and the grace of the Catholic religion, is to be found in those higher examples to which we have just referred, —whilst, if you seek a corresponding type, something that will exemplify the essence of Protestantism, you must be satisfied with the concentration of it in the coarse uncharitableness and unchristian exhibitions of it in Exeter Hall, and in kindred assemblies on this side of the Atlantic. It is true, and honorable as true, that the vast majority of Protestants, in both countries, look upon such exhibitions with regret, and virtuous indignation; but it is not less true, that for this, the genuine interpreters of their creed, regard, and denounce them as only half Protestants, and half " Papists." There is more of truth in this uncourteous statement than either side is aware of. Truth, and charity, and meekness, and patience, and all good works, are contemplated as implied conditions of justification in the Catholic system; whilst they are as implicitly discarded from the Protestant justification, except, indeed, as consequences which, it is supposed, must necessarily follow.

But the stumbling-block, with many, is the idea that according to the Catholic doctrine, man is himself the author, in part, at least, of his own justification, through the supposed efficacy of good works, and human merits; and that thus Christ is robbed of the glory which belongs solely to Him. Having stated briefly the Protestant doctrine, we shall now exhibit, with equal brevity, the Catholic teaching on the subject of justification.

The Catholic Church teaches, also, that Christ is alone the author and finisher of our salvation—that of ourselves we can do nothing without his grace—that all grace is the pure gift of God—that to Him belongs the whole and undivided glory. This is the faith of the Catholic Church. But from this point the two systems begin to diverge.

Supposing the existence of faith in the soul, which is regarded in the Catholic system as the "root of our justification," God imparts additional grace, by which it is increased and developed into the tree of a holy life, laden with its proper fruits of Christian charity. The operation of this grace is in the soul itself, renovating its powers, impaired and decayed as they had been by the contagion of original and actual sin. The sacraments are appointed channels by which Christ communicates this grace, and applies now, individually, to those who receive it, the merits of its own infinite sacrifice, once offered up on the Cross. He may communicate grace otherwise than by the sacraments, but however communicated He is its source and author. One of the effects of this grace, is to enable the soul to co-operate with the inspirations which it communicates. Thus it disposes itself to receive further aid from heaven; and being still faithful in its correspondence with the new grace, it goes on in a progress of holiness, by which it approaches nearer and nearer to the perfect and adorable Author of its being.
In all this, what are termed good works, must necessarily enter. Sin must be avoided; for sin would displease God, and destroy his grace in the soul. Charity, the love of God, becomes the impulse by which such a soul is actuated. She will endeavor to keep the commandments, for this is given as the test of love. Nay, more, she will sometimes, for his sake, resolve on the sacrifice which is always necessary in order to accomplish those things which He has counseled, —without having reduced them to the rigor of a universal precept. She will sell all that she has, and give it to the poor, in order to have treasures in heaven. Here the Catholic doctrine of the "merit of good works, comes in. Is it, that according to our faith anything that man can do, even with the aid of grace, creates a right in virtue of which he may claim a recompense from God? Certainly not. Is it that any works of his can enter, as a portion, into the price by which he was redeemed? By no means. Nevertheless, the Church teaches, founding her doctrine on the express word of God, and the excess of his goodness and mercy, that He himself bestows on works thus performed through his grace, for his sake, and his love, a merit which lie will recompense with eternal rewards. But are these rewards on account of any intrinsic merit in the actions themselves as the mere works of men? Surely not. Long before Luther began to pervert the writings of St. Paul, St. Augustine declared in two words what had ever been, and still is, and ever will be, the faith of the Church on the subject, viz.: God in rewarding his saints, but crowns in them the effect of his own grace. "Where, then, is there room for that calumny which the radical error of the sixteenth century put forth against the Church of God, viz.: that she robbed Christ of his glory in the justification of sinners, by making it partly the work of man himself? This calumny is still propagated, and by it thousands are prevented from returning to the fold of Christ.
We have exemplified the Protestant doctrine of justification by a human comparison; we shall endeavor to represent the Catholic tenet by another.

A man gives capital for trade to a number of persons who are utterly penniless and starving—more to one,'less to another. He places them in a sphere of commerce, in which, if they are attentive, industrious, and prudent, they will acquire much wealth; but in such a way, that the measure of the increase is also owing' to the goodness of him who gave the original capital. In this, two things concur to the same end—his liberality, and their co-operation; but can they glory on this account, as if their fortune was owing to themselves, or their works? Certainly not; and yet the same goodness of their patron, may induce him to reward, as merit in them, that industry with which they employed his money. And what is this, after nil, but the lesson of our Lord's teaching in the parable of the talents—and for the proper use of which it was said, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant, because thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will set thee over many ; enter into the joy of the Lord."

This is the doctrine of justification, as taught in the Catholic Church; the grace of Christ, which is his gift, is the capital, renovating the powers of the soul, and enabling her to enter into the commerce of charity, which has God and the neighbor for its objects, and by which "treasures," in the language of Scripture, may be laid up in heaven. See how this commerce has been carried on in the Church from the beginning! See the apostles, the martyrs, the confessors, the virgins, the missionaries, the teachers of the ignorant, the friends of the poor, of the sick, of the captives, even buriers of the dead, give up the world, renounce their own ease, embrace voluntarily the mortifications of the Cross, and by a perpetual sacrifice of self, become the living, and, not unfrequently, the expiring victims of their love for their fellow beings, and of Him who died for all! The world has always been full of wickedness, and always will be; but, notwithstanding this, amidst its social convulsions, and its hereditary corruptions, see, how in every age since the beginning of Christianity, men rose and girded themselves up for Christ's sake, to battle in the armor of faith, and with the weapons of holy charity, against the peculiar disorders of the times. The infidel corsair sweeps the sea, carrying Christians into slavery. But the grace of Christ has inspired other Christians with the heroism of charity, by which they bind themselves in a solemn vow, to seek the captive in a barbarous land, to redeem him with money, or, if need be, to take on their own limbs the chains of bondage which they have stricken from his! Plague and pestilence are desolating the land, and thousands of delicate and tender virgins are ready to rush into the atmosphere of death, and ministering at the bed-side of the sick and dying, occupy the place which the cowardice of mere flesh and blood had caused even relatives to abandon! But all this, again, is through Christ, who inspires this supernatural courage, and crowns as merit in the members of his mystical body, the fruits of his own grace. Now, if such things occur at all times, and in all places of the Catholic Church; and if, on the other hand, the world has yet to witness the first example of them in the Protestant communities, does it not follow- that there is, there must be, some deep and radical cause to account for the difference? Unquestionably, there is. The Protestant dogma of a forensic imputation of the merits of Christ, and of justification by " faith alone," explains it all. No other key is necessary.

It is not pretended that in the ordinary virtues of social and domestic life, Protestants are inferior to any others. Still, even these, it is manifest, derive no support from their doctrine of justification, and must be accounted for on other grounds. But above the range of every-day duties, performed in a genteel and respectable manner, where is there a name that stands prominent on the page of self sacrifice for the good of others? We have sometimes heard the names of Howard and Wilberforce mentioned as instances. They, certainly, especially the former, were above the ordinary standard in the reformed ranks; but yet how immeasurably below any corresponding type in the Catholic church! The one visited the institutions for erring and suffering, or destitute humanity, which had been founded by the spontaneous charity of Catholic lands, or the civil laws of Protestants states—and recorded the reflections of his mind, and the sympathies of his benevolent heart. Even this was much. The other poured out his eloquence, and his gold, if you please, to meliorate the condition of an afflicted portion of his fellow men. But neither of them showed anything like a willingness to undergo themselves, for their Maker's sake, a portion of the sufferings they would mitigate or remove.

The Oxford school is the only one in the history of Protestantism that seems to have caught a ray of the light and warmth of Catholic faith on the subject of justification. Neither is this so manifest in what are called their principles, as in the tone of a deeper spirituality, piety, meekness, and a desire to. foster more the love of God, and of man. These feelings appear under the surface of their writings as if struggling for an issue, and a right direction. Hence the innovations with which they are charged. Fasting, confession, and most of the practical devotions of the Catholic Church, are reported to have found favor in their sight. But, alas! so long as the fundamental error of the Anglican system on justification remains, what practical progress can they make with the masses of their people? It is said they would establish Protestant monasteries; but who will be the monks? That they would have daily service in their churches; but who will attend the worship, except a few devout females whose hearts unconsciously obey the instinct of that Catholic faith against which their understandings have been so perversely instructed? That they would rid the churches of pews, so that, as in Catholic times, the rich and poor may worship together; but do they imagine that the haughty lords of England, who, fenced round in their exclusive boxes, will hardly kneel before their Maker, albeit they are tempted by soft and velvet cushions to do so,—will mingle in any direct contact of equality with the poor? No, no! such results cannot be anticipated, so long as both are taught to believe that justification is by "faith alone." But going beyond the precincts of the temple, how will the Oxford divines be able to infuse into the Anglican system any principle of spiritual fruitfulness, whilst this tenet prevails? How will they go forth to their rich and proud countrymen, preaching, like St. Paul, the chastisement of the body," and the "crucifixion of the flesh?" How will they meet the dark, sour discontent of religious, as well as civil chartism, in the millions of their countrymen, with the words of the Saviour Himself, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God." How will they reduce to the simplicity of faith, and the obedience of Christ, the spiritual haughtiness and double-dealing of their middle classes? How, in a word, can they renovate their church, or distill a healing balm for any of the wounds, religious, moral, social, or physical, of their suffering land, so long as they and their countrymen remain alike paralyzed by the frozen grasp of the fundamental error of their system to which we have alluded? They may, indeed, preach and write with the force and eloquence, and even unction of a Chrysostom or a Paul, but yet so long as the present system of the Anglican Church remains, their words will return on them as feathers cast against the wind. Still, however, all these things are in the hands of God—who can employ the things that are not, to confound the things that are.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Archbishop John Hughes on Protestant Bibles

One of the great champions of American Catholicism was Archbishop John Hughes of New York (June 24, 1797 – January 3, 1864). I will be presenting a full article regarding his life and times in the near future. In the meantime, here is a brief excerpt from one of his addresses concerning Catholics using Protestant Bibles, and the error of hi-jacking the Scriptures outside the Church. 

"I pass now to the reasoning of one learned gentleman who spoke yesterday, and defended the Protestant Bible. Now this was unnecessary in that gentleman—it was in him a work of supererogation to vindicate the Protestant Scriptures—it was useless to defend a point which had not been attacked. It was time lost; and yet, perhaps, not altogether lost; for in some respects it may have been profitable enough. In entering on its defence, he said it was the instrument of human liberty throi»ghoiit the world—wherever it was, there was light and liberty; and where it was not, there was bondage and darkness; and he brought it round so, that he almost asserts that our Declaration of Independence has been copied from the Bible. No doubt the just and righteous principles on which that Declaration has its foundation, have their sanction in the Bible, but I deny their immediate connection, and on historical grounds, for it is known that its author looked upon St. Paul as an impostor; consequently their connection is not historically true. But while the gentleman referred to our notes (but which we disown and repudiate), as containing principles of persecution—how was it that after the Protestant Bible, " without note and comment," came into use, every denomination of Protestants in the whole world that had the misfortune, for it must have been a misfortune, to be yoked to civil power, wielded the sword of persecution, and derived their authority for so doing from the naked text? Yes, in Scotland, in all her confessions of faith—in England, and I appeal to her penal laws against Catholics, and those acts by which the Puritans and Dissenters were pursued, men who had the misfortune, like ourselves, to have a conscience, were driven out, and all was done on the authority of the Bible, without note or comment, and for the public good and the good of the Church. I do not say that the Bible sanctioned persecution, but I deny that the absence of notes is an adequate preventive. I refer to history. And almost to this day, though the Bible has been translated three hundred years, even in liberal governments, the iron heel of persecution has been placed on the dearest rights of Catholics. The gentleman to whom I alluded said, no doubt, what he knew would be popular out of doors, for he seems, with others, to imagine that the world began at the period of the Reformation. He seems to think that everything great originated at that period. But does he not know that eight hundred editions of the Bible had been printed before the Reformation? And does he not know that two hundred editions had been circulated in the common tongue, in the common language of the country ? And has he yet to learn that the first prohibition to read the Bible came not from a Catholic, but from a Protestant—from Protestant Henry VIII., of "glorious memory?" He was the first to issue a prohibition, and it was not till Catholics saw the evil—not of the Bible, but the bad uses men were making of the Bible, that they placed its perusal under certain restrictions, and cautioned their people against hastily judging of it for themselves. All had been united and harmonious, but by the use, or abuse, which men made of the Bible, all became doubt and speculation, the positive revelation of Christ was shaken or destroyed. They saw this Bible, and what then? But, while these school gentlemen contend that it is a shield against infidelity, and that all sects here agree, how is it out of the schools? Why, no sects agree upon it. How is it that the Bible, which is given by the inspiration of God, the God of truth, is made use of in this city even, to prove a Trinity, and to disprove a Trinity? How is it that Trinitarians quote it to prove their doctrines, and Unitarians quote it to establish the opposite doctrines ? How is it that whilst one says from the Bible that God the Father is God alone, and that Christ is not equal to Him, for He says, "The Father is greater than I," another argues from the same Bible that the Father and Son are equal, because Christ says "The Father and J are one?" And another comes with the Bible in his hand, and says, I believe, and I can prove it from this Bible that Christ alone is the Almighty God, and the Father and the Spirit are only attributes of the same person! Why, this Bible which they say is the foundation of all truth, and they say well, when it is truly understood, a grace which God can vouchsafe, and, no doubt, lie does to many, this Bible is harmonious in its every doctrine. But that is not the point—the point is the uses we see men make of it, and this is the sum of our reason that we wish our children not to be taught in the manner in which Protestant children are taught in reference to the Bible.

And then, again, if you teach that there is a hell, according to the Bible, others will contend that the Scriptures teach no such doctrine, and so I might pass on to other points, to show you whilst they thus contend for the Bible as the guide to truth, there is this disagreement among them, at least in this country, where human rights and liberties are understood as allowing every man to judge for himself. Is there not, then, danger—is there no ground to apprehend that when our children read this Bible, and find that all these different sects father all their contradictions on the Bible as their authority, they will derive their first notions of infidelity from these circumstances? But there is another ground on which it is manifest we cannot allow our children to be taught by them. Whilst we grant them the right to take, if they please, the Protestant Bible as the rule of their faith, and the individual right to judge of the Bible—and this great principle they proclaim as the peculiar and distinctive, and most glorious trait in their religious character and history—and let them boast of it, there is no difficulty on the subject—they interpret the Bible by the standard of reason, and therefore, as there is no given standard of reason—as one has more and another less—they scarcely ever arrive at the same result, while the Bible, the eternal Word of God, remains the same. But this is not a Catholic principle. Catholics do not believe that God has vouchsafed the promise of the Holy Spirit to every individual, but that He has given His Spirit to teach the Church collectively, and to guide the Church, and therefore we do not receive as the Bible except what the Church guarantees; and wanting this guarantee, the Methodist gentleman failed to establish the book, which he produced with its notes, as a Catholic Bible. We do not take the Bible on the authority of a " King's Printer," who is a speculating publisher, who publishes it but as a speculation. And why ? Because by the change of a single comma, that which is positive may be made negative, and vice versa, and then is it the Bible of the inspired writers ? It is not. They proclaim, then, that theirs is a Christianity of reason; of this they boast, and let them glory. Ours is a Christianity of faith; ours descends by the teaching of the Church; we are never authorized to introduce new doctrines, because we contend that no new doctrine is true, from the time of tho apostles, unless it has come from the mind of God by a special revelation, and to us that is not manifest among the reformers.

We are satisfied to trust our eternal interests, for weal or woe, on the security of that Catholic Church, and the veracity of the divine promises. You perceive, therefore, that Protestants may agree in the system where this Bible is thus introduced; but it is not in accordance with the principles of Catholics, that each one shall derive therefrom his own notions of Christianity. It is not the principle of Catholics, because they believe in the incompetence of individual reason, in matters of such importance. It is from this self-sufficiency and imputed capacity that men derive such notions of self-confidence, which, owing to a want of power to control in some domestic circles, if taught to our children, lead to disobedience and disregard of the parental authority."

Friday, September 16, 2011

Shea vs Shea

A reader sent me his observation of the "Magisterium of One", Mark Shea, and how he contradicts himself at every turn concerning the authority of bishops.

A reader writes,

Two examples. One of Mark Shea attacking his own Bishop based upon mere hearsay, and another example of Shea pretending to be the model christian we should all emulate. Problem is, as evidenced by some quotes below by a priest, Shea is only about being obedient to Shea. Keep in mind these blog posts are only a day apart. Regardless of what the rightful position one should take on each of the cases Shea is disscussing, it is plain as day that this man is a hypocrite and a liar.

A few days ago, Mark Shea on his own bishop without knowing all the facts:

"I don't get the guy. His reasoning isn't even internally consistent since the USCCB (rightly) has no problem at all with 40 DFL, a perfectly peaceful, non-confrontational, non-gory form of civil witness for life. Plus, he's just taken over a diocese that's been through the ringer financially due to abuse lawsuits. So he deliberately spits in the eye of the most dedicated and loyal Catholics, provoking them to withhold their appeal funds out of conscience? What gives?
God grant him a change of heart through Christ Jesus. 
By the way, in stark contrast to Bp. Cupich, here is a story about Abp. Vigneron of Detroit, manfully leading people in prayer outside two abortion mills--in the rain. God be praised for good shepherds!"

A priest (a member of the clergy, mind you) cautions Shea on jumping the gun without hearing from the bishop first:

Fr Maurer:
"I call shenanigans. Citing un-verifiable "multiple Spokane priests" just doesn't cut it when making such a huge - and potentially damaging - claim about a bishop.
With respect to all of the kind folks who have piped in from the Diocese of Spokane, it would be prudent (as many have said) to seek or await some verifiable information from the bishop himself. We risk a great dis-charity towards the bishop if we come to conclusions based on the words of others - even priests!..."

Mark Shea a couple of days later describing his own pious example of obedience to the hierarchy and prudent judgment in always allowing the facts to speak for themselves (yea, right...hypocrite):

"I continue to do what every sensible Catholic should do: defer to the bishop's rightful authority, let the facts emerge from the investigation (and the appeal to Rome) and let the chips fall where they may. The reflexive, kneejerk tendency of alleged "faithful" Catholic to perpetually assume that every American bishop is a fifth columnist working to destroy the Church is foreign to the mind of Christ."

Death Penalty: JPII and Pius XII

Alan, who visits here quite often dropped a quote off that is translated from the Italian document of Pope Pius XII, Acta Apostolicae Sedis 47 (1955) 81-82, regarding the death penalty. As we know, most the cut and paste "apologists" out there like Mark Shea, who have limited understanding of anything regarding the Catholc faith, love to cut and paste JPII's stance on the death penalty as if its an infallible statement. Well what about Pope Pius XII's statement, which clearly says the opposite of the later JPII? It just goes to show you that you do not have to hold JPII's opinion on the matter, since it is he who has gone against the consistent tradition of the Church, if his documents are to be taken on their own. AS I have said before, JPII's opinion cannot be taken on its own. Can we get two more opposite opinions on the matter if we are to take them each as standing on their own?


It is clear that, for these purposes to be achieved, the nature and extent of the punishment must be carefully evaluated and decided upon, and ought not go to the extreme of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society. Today however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization of the penal system, such cases are very rare, if not practically non-existent.

In any event, the principle set forth in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church remains valid: 'If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human lives against an aggressor and to protect public order and the safety of persons, public authority must limit itself to such means, because they better correspond to the concrete conditions of the common good and are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.'"

(46) Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2266

Pope Pius XII

"We also note that the Church in theory and in practice has kept the two forms of capital punishment (medicinal and vindictive) and that this is more in line with what the sources of revelation and traditional doctrine teach about the coercive power of legitimate human authority. One does not give a sufficient answer to this assertion, noting that the above-mentioned sources contain only thoughts that correspond to historical circumstances and the culture of the time, and that therefore one cannot attribute to them a general and always durable value."

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Doctrinal Preamble Given to SSPX

As you may know, the SSPX has been given what is called a doctrinal preamble by the Holy Father in an effort to bring about reconciliation of the SSPX with the Vatican. Many have wondered what this preamble entails. Bishop Fellay gives a hint as to its contents in an interview he gave yesterday. It seems that we may have some sort of official statement by the Pope as to the limits of the statements made in the Vatican II documents, which could be huge for the entire church. Lets hope all goes well, and that Archbishop Lefebvre's wish of reconciliation and proper defining of the Vatican II documents comes to fruition. Below is an excerpt from the interview.

On the subject of this doctrinal preamble, to the extent that this does not concern its confidentiality, can you confirm that it contains, as announced in the press release, a distinction between what is de fide [essential to the faith]—to which the Society fully adheres—and what is dependent on a pastoral council, as Vatican II itself claimed to be, and thus could be subjected to criticism without calling the faith into question?


This new distinction was not only announced in the press release; I have personally heard it from various sources. As early as 2005, Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos told me, after I spent five hours explaining to him all the objections to Vatican II that the Society of St. Pius X had formulated: “I cannot say that I agree with everything that you have said, but what you have said does not mean that you are outside the Church. Write to the pope therefore and ask him to lift the excommunication.”

Today, for the sake of objectivity, I must acknowledge that in the doctrinal preamble there is no clear-cut distinction between the inviolable dogmatic sphere and the pastoral sphere that is subject to discussion. The only thing that I can say, because it is part of the press release, is that this preamble contains “certain doctrinal principles and criteria for the interpretation of Catholic doctrine, which are necessary to ensure faithfulness to the Church’s Magisterium and to "sentire cum Ecclesia" [thinking with the Church]. At the same time, it leaves open to legitimate discussion the examination and theological explanation of individual expressions and formulations contained in the documents of Vatican Council II and of the later Magisterium.” There you have it; no more and no less.

Heretic Watch: Biden on the 14th

Vice President Joe Biden makes the sign of the cross after receiving Communion during a memorial Mass for Vatican diplomat Archbishop Pietro Sambi Sept. 14 at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Archbishop Sambi, served as nuncio to the United States from 2006 until his death July 27. In the foreground is New York Archbishop Timothy M. Dolan, left, and Msgr. Walter R. Rossi, rector of the basilica. (CNS/Leslie E. Kossoff) Complete story.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

More Protestant Nonsense: Divorce Her!

A friend sent this over to me via email. Again, we see why Protestantism fails on so many levels. They just keep going, and going, and going, and going.....further off into secular foolishness. Got a sick wife, divorce her! Another feather in the cap for Luther and Co.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

America, Politics and the Absence of God

America, Politics and the Absence of God
Matthew James Bellisario 2011

    We are moving towards one of the most important presidential elections the Unites States has ever seen. We find ourselves on the verge of financial collapse, driven primarily by greed, materialism, irreligion and gross arrogance. The president who now wields his warped will, like many dictators before him, finds himself at odds with the common good, decent morals and the Catholic religion. His distaste for all that is right is made known by his actions, which brew a mad pot of hate for his fellow man. How can a man who promotes the killing of innocent babies be a trustful human being? How much can a man care for his fellow man when he tells them lie after lie? Can such a man be taken seriously as the “leader” of a nation? How can such a man have been elected to such a lofty position among men? The answer is very plain and very simple. The people of America put him there, and they wanted him there. This crisis that we have in our nation today is not due to the ill will of one man, this noxious president, no, but it is due to the ill will of many men who collaborated to put him in power.

    As we ponder the dethronement of this madman, who is to replace him? Yes, any of the GOP candidates are surely an improvement. But a slight improvement on a huge failure fails to instill in me a feeling of grandeur. Do we jump for joy when we find ourselves narrowly escaping from a ravaged burning plane, only to find that our parachute is not opening on the way down? Sure we have not burned, but we only extended our breath for a few short moments before we either find our spare chute, or we hit the ground. We find ourselves on the burning plane as we speak, and surely we will take our chances with the parachute. But where will we ultimately find ourselves as a nation, if those who we elect into office put themselves above God and the natural law?

    As I watched the GOP candidates last evening I was hardly impressed with any of them. Again, yes, I would vote for any one of them to get off of the burning plane, just to have that chance for survival, but, are any of them that solid parachute that will land us all safely on the green grass below? From what I can see, the answer is no. Not one of the candidates mentioned God one time. They all talked about how they were going to repeal Obama Care, change our foreign policy, drill for oil, build a giant fence, etc, etc. But none of them mentioned the origins of their moral character. It was as if they were all going to single handedly change the direction of the country on their own. My favorite candidate so far, despite his lack of charisma, is probably Ron Paul. He makes the most sense out of the candidates on most of the issues. He has the common sense not over extend ourselves militarily and financially. Likewise he sees the necessity of the Church, not the State, as having the responsibility to care for those who need help. He also seems to understand the basic principles of the Constitution, as it was originally intended. Yet, among all of these positive and melodic notes, there is a melancholic dirge playing in the background. He has denied core tenets of the Christian faith while yet claiming to be a Christian. So, we must realize that where God does not rule, man will rule, and when man rules without reference to God and all of God’ laws, man and nation will fail miserably. If we put a man in office based only on dollars and cents, so that we can all continue living our lives based on materialism, we are not going to make it far.

    One of the traits that most of our early American bishops possessed, was the understanding and drive to point this reality out to the average American. Catholic or not, the early American bishops went to great lengths to promote the truth of Catholicism. They viewed America’s soil as being rich, yet uncultivated. God was of primary importance to most of them, and their actions and words revealed this reality. They knew that if the country did not move further to embrace God and His Church, that it would eventually deteriorate. Unless this country is largely converted to the true faith, where men and women have the moral compass to live in and run a morally licit society, we are all going to end up dead on the ground. Unless we have moral, upright Catholics running for office, and moral upright Catholics who will vote for them, we are going to have the same miserable failures that we are witnessing today. America, largely based on Christian principles over the past 250 or so years has been a nation above the rest because of her embrace of that moral code. Has it ever been perfect? No. Were the founding fathers saints? No. But most of them at least had a grounding in Christian morality, and that can take a nation down the path a good stretch. Yet, we as Catholics should know that America deserves to have the full truth written on her heart. We can compare the country to the common person. Like a man who grows up having a decent upbringing, and yet does not possess the true faith, can go one of two ways. He can turn and go about his way eventually losing his moral compass, giving up what little regard he had for God, or he can continue to seek the truth and gradually come to know Him, finally embracing Him. Like a man, a nation or state can either convert, or it can spiral into itself ending in total ruin.

    At this point in time, America is that man who has turned away from that decent upbringing, and has now embraced a life of debauchery and immorality. He is the man who cheats on his wife, spends money beyond his means, picks fights in the bar with anyone who looks at him wrong, and then acts as if God did not exist. He laughs at those who tell him that his lifestyle is wrong, and he mocks those who live a life that embraces God. America as a nation has become that pitiable man, alienated from God, void of most goodness, and on the brink of hell. Yet, somewhere deep inside there is that light that still burns for the truth. There is a hope that the nation will wake up and realize what a sham it has embraced, which will only lead it to total ruin. The Catholic man and women is bound to live and act on the truth which has been instilled in him by God. Every Catholic, clergy and laymen alike is responsible for this country in as much as we are duty bound to God for the form of government which he has placed over us. Is it the most desirable form of government? Perhaps not, but Catholics in the past have been dealt worse hands than the one we have been dealt at this table. They did not give up on converting those in power in their trying times, finding themselves often under the most cruel rule of tyrants.

    Yes, I think that we must try and stop the bleeding of our nation with this upcoming election, and I intend to vote out the beady eyed villain who sits arrogantly in the White House with his spindly legs propped up on the desk, watching our country burn, with a snide smirk on his face. I do however doubt that whoever is elected is going to get us more than out the door of that smoking, burning plane, that is spiraling towards the earth. How the one true faith is preached and embraced among the citizens of this country is going to determine whether or not this country survives in any recognizable form or fashion. Without God, we are on a burning plane with a parachute packed by a hack, and its a long way down to contemplate that big thump at the end of the fall. It is time that the Catholic Church steps up to promote Christ and the truth, which can ultimately set us all free. Its not about shady politics anymore, its about who we choose to serve. The same choice is put before us that has been put before man since the fall of Adam. God or man? Serviam or non-serviam?