Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Can the Laity Exercise the Ordinary Magisterium of the Church?

In response to an article I recently wrote on the infallibility of the Church and the Magisterium, I got into a bit of a discussion with a reader. Unfortunately, Disqus, the commenting feature used on this website, does not like me. I don't know what does it, but something in my posts always get marked as spam. Because of this, I wasn't able to get certain points across to my interlocutor. That section will be bolded when I repost the conversation below.

Basically, his contention was that the teaching authority of the Church does not rest solely with the ordained hierarchy, but with all the baptized. His words will be in red, with mine in blue:

Tom: Vatican II, in Lumen Gentium 12, expanded the infallibility of the Ordinary Magisterium to include all of those who have the Spirit of truth: "The entire body of the faithful, anointed as they are by the Holy One, [cf. 1 Jn 2:20, 27] cannot err in matters of belief. They manifest this special property by means of the whole peoples' supernatural discernment in matters of faith when "from the Bishops down to the last of the lay faithful" [Cf. 1 Cor. 10: 17] they show universal agreement in matters of faith and morals. That discernment in matters of faith is aroused and sustained by the Spirit of truth."
Second Ecumenical Council- Vasily Surikov

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Getting Real About the Latest Mockery of the Nativity

So this is going to be short and to the point (shocking, I know). As it's gone viral in the last week or so, you've probably heard about the "gay nativity" featuring two St. Joseph's kneeling next to the infant Jesus. It's ridiculous for so many reasons, but it's clear that the secular world (and even Christians who support redefining marriage) are having  field day with this, with one same-sex attracted person commenting on Twitter that they are "beaming". Why though? Why does this bring joy to people? Others though, responding to Fr. James Martin's ineffective denouncement ("it's banal... [and] silly") of such a horrible and sacrilegious image, gave this opinion:
"What you’re missing here is, while the idea of Jesus having two fathers may seem silly to you straight people, to gay folks, it isn’t. It’s a powerful affirmation of their right to exist in religious space that has systematically excluded them. Don’t call it banal."
First off, it's much more than just a "silly" notion; it goes against all respectable sensibilities of the Christian, whether they are gay or straight. Here's the point I want to make to people who support this, and I'll use pop culture so it's crystal clear to secularists...You say that it's OK to depict Jesus having two fathers. You say "it's a powerful affirmation of their right to exist in religious space". It is not an affirmation; it shows that you either A) despise the Christian faith and wish to mock it and its adherents, or B) you are a Christian that does not understand the Incarnation or the basic tenets of the Christian faith; in other words, you have no idea what you're talking about. Jesus had a Father, our heavenly Father, and a foster father in St. Joseph. Call him a stepfather if you want, or a guardian. These are terms we use today, right? By displaying this imagery of a "gay nativity", you are implying that God the Father and St. Joseph are involved in a homosexual relationship and that Jesus' mother, Mary, has no role to play. This is straight up blasphemy; it's much more than just silly or banal. When anyone says that Jesus had "two dads", it's no different from saying that someone has a biological father who died or is far off for some reason also has a guardian in his step father or legally appointed guardian who happens to be male. Would it be fair to use such a child's situation as a platform to support (and make "powerful affirmation[s]" for) state sanctioned same-sex marriage? Of course not!
Adoration of the Shepherds- Lorenzo Sabbatini

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Reflecting on the Traditions of the Universal Catholic Church

Last Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit an Eritrean Catholic community. I say community because there currently are no parishes belonging to the Eritrean Catholic Church in North America. The Eritrean Catholic community is very small in this country, and in this case, the local community meets once a month for Mass at a Latin Rite church. To get a brief overview of the newest sui iuris Church, take a look at my earlier essay here.

Also, I was able to participate in Vesperal Divine Liturgy for the Vigil of St. Nicholas at a Ruthenian Catholic parish just yesterday. With St. Nicholas of Myra being my patron saint and all, I did not want to miss this opportunity. Anyone familiar with this blog knows that I don't hide my love for the Eastern Catholic Churches, particularly the Byzantine Rite. But I have to say, both of these recent experiences were absolutely beautiful. And in reflecting on their beauty, their magnificent praise of our Lord, I started thinking about my own rite, the Latin Rite, and how banality has become the status quo. I found myself asking a question that I'm sure many before me have also asked: what happened?

Now I won't give a full treatment here of my experience at the Eritrean Catholic Divine Liturgy, as I should have something up on that soon elsewhere, but I at least want to express how lovely my experience was there. As can be seen in the above picture, a lot of incense was used during the Divine Liturgy. A deacon and server assisted the priest, with the deacon constantly ringing bells at various points, such as when the Gospel was processed around the altar. This reminded me of the procession that the Byzantines do. The priest, while in the sanctuary, also blessed the four cardinal points with incense before reading the Gospel. The priest and deacon also came forward out of the sanctuary to read the Gospel, just like in the Byzantine Rite, although it was the priest that read and the deacon that held the lectionary. as the Divine Liturgy continued, I noticed that what was happening here, in the Alexandrian (or Ge'ez Rite) Divine Liturgy, was more similar to what the Byzantines do than what the Latins do. And both of those rites shared many similarities with what takes place in the East Syrian Rite, specifically the Syro-Malabar Catholic Church from what I remember.
Divine Liturgy with the Holy Family Eritrean Catholic Community

The Truth About Christmas

'Tis the season once again! And with that, it's time for all the old canards about Christmas being a pagan holiday to come out of the woodwork. Catholics, Orthodox, and other mainline Protestant communities aren't attacked for celebrating Christmas only by militant atheists, but also by certain Fundamentalist Christians who see the celebration of Christmas as something "wicked". But of course, it's the militant atheists who are the loudest. There are plenty of snooty Scrooges who like to pretend to be intellectual. These "free thinkers" believe that Christmas is nothing but a rip off of various pagan holidays.

In this month's Christ Is Our Hope magazine, I explain why Christmas is so important to me as a Catholic Christian, as well as its origins in history. The story can be found here. Keep in mind, that for such a big topic, this is an extremely short essay. Pope Benedict XVI, however, had a very succinct statement on the issue from one of his books written while he was still a cardinal:
"The claim used to be made that December 25 developed… as a Christian response to the cult of the unconquered sun promoted by Roman emperors in the third century in their efforts to establish a new imperial religion. However, these old theories can no longer be sustained. The decisive factor was the connection of creation and Cross, of creation and Christ’s conception’ (The Spirit of the Liturgy, pp. 107-108)"
I've written more in depth about the subject here and here, and there are links within those posts that go much deeper.

Adoration of the Shepherds

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

New Article Catholic Stand

My latest essay is up over on Catholic Stand. It's the first in a short series of articles regarding the infallibility of certain teachings in the Church. The second part should be up within the next couple of weeks.  With this essay, I wanted to bring up something that has become more and more common among baptized Catholic Christians; that is, dissent from the teachings of Christ's Church. This can be on one point, or on several points. Often, such Catholics hope or expect that certain teachings will be redefined. But typically, they haven't undertaken a diligent search for the truth, and forget (or, perhaps ignore the fact) that several of these teachings they dislike and do not subscribe to are infallible in virtue of the authority Christ gave to His Church. You can see a snippet of the essay below:
Let’s look at one aspect of the Church’s teaching that is contested by many Catholics: the prohibition of contraception, particularly in Bl. Pope Paul VI’s encyclical Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Human Births). Many theologians and clergy immediately, openly dissented from Bl. Paul’s reaffirmation of the grave sinfulness of artificial contraception. But since he had not defined this teaching ex cathedra, some dissented by asserting that the pronouncement was not infallible, and therefore this teaching could be ignored in good conscience. This notion couldn’t be further from the truth.
You can read the entire essay here at Catholic Stand.

The Mass- José Benlliure y Gil

Monday, December 4, 2017

On Parishes Becoming "Sacrament Factories"

There's a term I've heard bandied about in some Catholic circles. The term is "sacrament factory" or "Mass factory". It has a negative connotation, that's used by priests and laity alike, and it refers to something like this: people show up for Mass on Sunday, maybe holy days, and they might go to confession once in a while. They'll baptize and confirm their kids as well, if they have any. There is no other involvement in parish life. Priests who use this term say they feel like they're just used for the sacraments and all they do is pump them out. One gets the image of a cow who continually pumps out milk until they're dry.

We need to stop this to get people more active in the parish, they say. We need to copy what our Protestant brethren are doing, they point out, because they are drawing people in who are joyful and "on fire". Here's the problem I have with this phrase, though.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Our Role in Bringing Christ to All Peoples: Does This Include Practitioners of Judaism?

I recently got into a conversation with some people regarding on how to successfully undertake inter-religious dialogue, specifically with Muslims and Jews. In the last 50 or so years, and especially in just the 21st century, there has been a lot of confusion on this topic. Some go to one extreme and say that there are several ways to salvation; or, that for the Jewish people, there is a path to salvation through their understanding of the covenant and another path for Christians. On the other end of the spectrum, some claim that no Jews can possibly be saved unless they explicitly convert to the Catholic Church and become visible members of that Church while they are arrive on Earth. Both positions are extreme and false, so thankfully, the Church holds the logical, moderate position as she typically does.

One person mentioned that when trying to undertake this dialogue, particularly with Jews, the best way to do so would be to find some common ground on which to begin some kind of discussion. One could perhaps begin by recognizing that Jesus was a Jew, and a practicing one at that, before He founded the Catholic Church.  Another way would be to recognize that both Judaism and Christianity use the Decalogue as a foundation for morality.  I thought that these were some great observations. You have to find common ground when entering a discussion, such as recognizing that Jesus Himself was Jewish, and we have to always speak with charity, as St. Peter exhorts us in his First Letter. But another person made a troubling comment that gave me pause: the Church no longer asks (or teaches) us to actively convert the Jews. Is this really true? Where exactly does the Church teach this? As you'll see in a moment, the Church does not teach such a notion.