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.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

It's Time To Stop Treating Abortion As a Religious Issue

Too often, we see people, either on the political right or left, make abortion out to be a religious issue. It's something I've grown tired of hearing about, that is, that "my faith informs me that abortion is wrong". Yea, it does. But so does reason. My Catholic faith informs me that rape is morally wrong. Indeed, the Catechism of the Catholic Church defines this heinous act as an "intrinsically evil act." Since this is a tenet of my religious faith, would it be wrong to "impose my morality" and hope that the state declares this action to be a criminal offense? 

Well, if we follow the logic of many politicians, and really, many people all over the Western world, it would be wrong since this is the argument they give to continue defending such legislation as Roe v. Wade. But of course, we all know that our reason also informs us that abortion and rape are intrinsically evil acts, and the victims of both crimes (because they are crimes against humanity whether or not they are recognized as such by law) should be protected under the law.I think a case study in this unfair punting of the issue of abortion to the realm of only religious belief would be the Vice Presidential debate last year between Senator Tim Kaine and Vice President Mike Pence. Both politicians decided to make abortion strictly a religious issue, and I remember the whole time, as I watched, I could only pound my head on the wall as Pence had horrible arguments to counter Kaine's horrible arguments. Kaine played the "personally pro-life but politically pro-choice card"; a position that is so contradictory that anyone who subscribes to it should be ashamed of themselves; especially Kaine who remarked in the debate that "I try to practice my religion in a very devout way and follow the teachings of my church in my own personal life. But I don’t believe in this nation, a First Amendment nation, where we don’t raise any religion over the other, and we allow people to worship as they please, that the doctrines of any one religion should be mandated for everyone."
Let the Little Children Come Unto Jesus- Carl Bloch

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

What's At Stake With Heterodox Interpretations of Church Documents and Teaching

It's truly sad to see the confusion in the Church rising more and more. It comes from various places, from Cardinals calling Martin Luther a "common Church Father" with Lutherans, to theologians contradicting constant Church teaching by saying that capital punishment is always and everywhere intrinsically evil. But today I want to focus on something that has been generating controversy for quite some time now: heterodox interpretations of Amoris Laetitia, promulgated by Pope Francis in the spring of 2016. As many have written about this before, bishops are contradicting bishops, priests are contradicting priests, and what is considered grave matter for mortal sin in one diocese is not grave matter in another diocese. 

It's important to make a distinction that there are those that support an orthodox interpretation of AL, and there are those that support a heterodox interpretation. Those that support a heterodox interpretation of the papal document accuse those that hold to the "traditional"(that is, timeless) and orthodox interpretation of Catholic doctrine present in the document are "enemies" of Pope Francis. This couldn't be further from the truth. The bishops, priests, and laymen who have spoken out against heterodox interpretations of the document overwhelmingly love His Holiness and respect him and his office. That's why it's sad to see yet another priest throw his hat into the ring with heterodox interpretations of AL, accusing those such as Cardinal Burke or Archbishop Chaput of being "opponents" of the Pope, and further saying that such people are "dissenters, [who] assert that Christians who divorce from a valid marriage and remarry with adequate knowledge and consent enter the state of mortal sin. They insist that God gives the justified sufficient strength to bear whatever difficulties that may arise, that married couples can endure what comes their way if they take advantage of the grace offered to them."

These are the words of Fr. Gerald J. Bednar, Vice-Rector and Professor of Systematic Theology at Saint Mary Seminary in the Diocese of Cleveland. They come from a recent essay he penned in the English language weekly of L’Osservatore Romano, the daily newspaper of Vatican City. Several religious and laymen have commented on the troubling things related in this essay. Proponents of heterodox interpretations of AL might not want to admit it, and neither would it seem those who have not really looked into the ramifications of allowing reception of the Eucharist to the divorced and civilly remarried who live together more uxorio, but there are serious things at stake which are fundamental to the life of the Church: namely, the meaning of her Sacraments, what sin is, and what it means for doctrine to legitimately develop.
Apostle With Glasses

Sunday, November 19, 2017

Catholics Today Need to Suck It Up

Sorry, but not sorry, for the somewhat harsh title. I can safely say that the priest who gave the homily I heard at church today would not apologize for it. I have to say, the homily I heard today was absolutely amazing, and it was quite clearly from the heart of this noble priest. My family and I attended Divine Liturgy at the nearby Ruthenian (Byzantine) Catholic parish today, and the pastor began his homily by reminding the congregation about Philip's Fast which had just begun on November 14th, the feast of St. Philip the Apostle in the Byzantine calendar. Essentially, as he mentioned, it's the equivalent of Advent in the Latin Rite. Just as Advent is a time of penitence and preparation for Roman Catholics, so too is Philip's fast in the Byzantine Rite, except it is longer and there is much more fasting entailed, such as abstinence from meat and dairy on all Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays during the fast.
Presentation of Mary- Titian

Friday, November 10, 2017

Juxtaposing the Same Event in Two Different Pictures

If you're reading this on the blog's main page, this little "experiment" will be clearer with the whole "after the jump" thing. If you've followed a link to the full post. Don't skim past the line you're reading!

OK, so what you're about to see below is a depiction of a common scene in Christian art; our Lord Jesus expiring on the cross with two people below Him. Typically, those people represented under the cross are our Blessed Mother and St. John the Apostle. As you can tell, both figures here are men and wearing clothing outside the period. Who do you think these two men are? What are they holding? Why are they being depicted here? After the jump, I will present another image which is depicting the same event (not the Crucifixion), yet with a completely different attitude and meaning. You'll soon see why these two images I speak of need to be juxtaposed together...

Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Regarding "Thoughts and Prayers"

With the horrific shooting at a Baptist church in Texas over the weekend, many people are angry. And rightfully so. Many are demanding for action as well. They should be. But what is really disturbing, and this has been a trend in recent times, is that people all over are declaring that they are "fed up" with others sending out their thoughts and prayers to the victims and their families. Actor Wil Wheaton, who was replying to a tweet from Paul Ryan reminding people that prayers were needed, said this:

"The murdered victims were in a church. If prayers did anything, they'd still be alive, you worthless sack of s***."

Wheaton later made an apology (that wasn't really an apology, but a justification), but many people on social media showed their displeasure in his choice of words. But on the other side, many people across social media agreed with Wheaton, and took it even further. One person in my own newsfeed opined that "God is sick of your prayers." This is what the irreligious nature of a secular culture has brought us: a thinly veiled tolerance for people who believe in God, but whenever someone talks about their faith, even in times of tragedy, that faith in God is mocked.

I will agree with these secularists on one point though: thoughts are pointless. Let me explain why.
Titian- Christ on Mount Olive

Thursday, October 19, 2017

The Commonality Between Millennials and Catholicism

In my latest essay for Christ Is Our Hope magazine, I was able to look at the similarities between secular millennials and the Catholic Church. You may be surprised, but there is some crossover. You can read the full article here, and see a short preview below:
One would probably be justified in calling the secularism that runs rampant in today’s culture a religion. Despite that, there’s actually hope here, as many secular millennials are the type of people who still want to serve others and find fulfillment. It could be that secularism, surprisingly, gets a few things right. As Venerable Fulton J. Sheen once said, “Truth is like [a] circle. It has 360 degrees, and that fullness would be found… in Christ’s mystical Body. Now we are to think of every religion under the sun having something good. Maybe some religion that started this afternoon… that’s got some good in it. We only have 10 degrees, but it’s got some good.” This non-religion that so many of my peers practice also has some good, as evidenced by their desire to help others. But they’ve only got 10 degrees of the truth. How can we bring those “nones” into the fullness of the truth proclaimed by Christ’s Church?
Christ Among the Doctors- Anton Kern

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Hiatus For a Short While

I apologize for the lack of posts this month, but work has been very hectic. I won't be making as many posts for the next while, but please stay tuned for updates from my essays on other websites.


Friday, September 22, 2017

Discussion on "Progressive" Views Pertaining to the Church's Teaching on Sexuality and the Marital Embrace

Some weeks ago, Cardinal Robert Sarah wrote an op-ed for the New York Times, critiquing Fr. James Martin, S.J.'s new book on "Building a Bridge" to those Catholics who are attracted to the same sex. In part, Cardinal Sarah wrote that "[Fr. Martin] repeats the common criticism that Catholics have been harshly critical of homosexuality, while neglecting the importance of sexual integrity among all of its followers." The Cardinal goes on to say that homosexual sex acts are "gravely sinful and harmful to the well-being of those who partake in them. People who identify as members of the LGBT community are owed this truth in charity, especially from clergy who speak on behalf of the church about this complex and difficult topic."

I got into a discussion with some people regarding this critique and the way that Fr. Martin has tried to reach out to such persons. Below are two separate discussions on this topic, one which degraded fairly quickly, and the other which was a bit more fruitful. The discussion eventually broadened into the Church's authority and on who's authority the Church's teachings are transmitted to us. My words will be in blue with my interlocutors and those sharing my sentiments in other various colors.
Cardinal Robert Sarah

Saturday, September 2, 2017

What Exactly Is "Active Participation" and "Noble Simplicity" in the Context of Holy Mass?

Kind of piggybacking of of Pope Francis' comments (which really were a non-story, and were not controversial at all), I got into a bit of a discussion on elements of liturgical worship. The usual charges against traditional liturgical worship were bandied about, unfortunately. Charges that the extraordinary Form of the Mass didn't reflect "noble simplicity" or had too many "useless repetitions". Below is the conversation that I and several others had on the subject.

There are some good citations from same great essays that I do not want to be lost, so I'll post links to everything here as well for posterity's sake. My words will be in blue, with the others' in various, different colors. The whole conversation "began" when one person found it inaccurate to say that Latin encourages a camaraderie among the faithful.

Harry: The common Latin language encourages a bond of brotherhood between Catholics of all countries, rich and poor, far and wide. 

The problem is that perhaps memory of the pre-reform period has to pass before we can change attitudes to Latin. People will then come to see it not as a mysterious and alien language that shuts them out of the litugy, but as their liturgical language in which is expressed their universality of rite, their brotherhood with their fellows Catholics and not least, their intimacy with Almighty God, for whose worship this language is set aside in their lives. 

The argument that people won't understand the words of the Sanctus and Gloria in Latin when they say them every single week, and read from a Missal with both languages side by side, is just nonsensical. 

We have failed Vatican II when it comes to Latin. It should play a greater role in the reformed liturgy, where it can do all kinds of good without impeding active and conscious participation, if it is employed proportionally and only to the unchanging parts of the Mass. 

''Nevertheless steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.''

Completion of the liturgical reform of Vatican II as referred to by the Holy Father this week, must involve this. Otherwise we have only a 'partial revelation'.

Tom: The only common bond was that the laity were equally disconnected with the Mass. The Mass prayers were said by the priest and altar boys and the people sat and stared. 

You mentioned Hong Kong, and it reminds me of how the Vatican once held that nothing of Chinese culture could be brought into the celebration of the Mass.

Thankfully, that was lifted and Chinese can and do bring their culture into parts of the Mass without changing the consecration itself. 

Sunday, August 27, 2017

On Pope Francis' Address on the Irreversible Reforms of the Second Vatican Council

This recent address by the Pope has been making the rounds all over the web in the last few days. In this address to a group of Italian liturgists, His Holiness said this:
"...we can affirm with certainty and magisterial authority that the liturgical reform is irreversible.... 
"And today there is still work in this direction [in the liturgical education of pastors and faithful], in particular rediscovering the reasons for the decisions made with the liturgical reform, overcoming unfounded and superficial readings, partial revelations, and practices that disfigure it."
I think this is really a non-story, and people on both sides are going to twist it in their own way. One side will think Pope Francis is attacking them (I don't think he's attacking anyone) and the other side will think that Pope Francis is supporting a false "spirit of Vatican II" that was extremely popular in the 1970's and 80's.
Pope Francis

Friday, August 25, 2017

Has the Church Ever Taught Error Regarding Faith and Morals?

A few days ago, I posted my essay on how dissenting Catholics face a mighty large dilemma in discounting certain teachings of the Church in matters of faith and/or morals. Apparently, the combox to that article was fairly lively. I think the one sentence that ruffled feathers most was my main thesis, and I would imagine it perturbed people because in order to accept such a notion, one must look deep inside oneself, especially if they do indeed actively dissent from any Church teaching that we are to definitively hold. That thesis was this:
"If the Church is wrong about any of its teachings, even just one, this is tantamount to admitting that Jesus is a false god, because He allowed the Church He founded to teach error."
One person in particular balked at such a suggestion. His words will be in red, mine in blue, and various other posters' comments in other colors. My main interlocutor, after quoting my words above, had this to say:

Tom: I don't think anyone believes this, even "traditional" Catholics. I don't even think the last few Popes believed this either. The Church has issued some teachings in the past that everyone admits now were error. It doesn't mean Jesus was a false god.

Is Tom's assertion true? Let's see.
Jesus the Teacher- Jan Luyken

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Orthodox Interpretation of What the Canaanite Woman Did

This past Sunday, the Gospel reading came from Matthew 15, where we hear about "The Canaanite Woman's Faith." Apparently, this particular Gospel selection has been misinterpreted through a poor eisegesis (that is, an exegesis that one gets nothing out of), and even the clergy have not been immune to this. Most notably, it comes Fr. James Martin (who wrote on this same bad interpretation last year) and the Maryknoll Missionaries. What is this ridiculous and completely heterodox interpretation being banded about? From the latter's Twitter feed this past Sunday:

Yea... no. A Canaanite woman did not "school" Jesus, and to even suggest as much is to deny that Jesus was perfect. Are we really so naive as to believe that Jesus needed to learn anything from anyone? Furthermore, if we as Catholic Christians proclaim Jesus to be perfect, then how can we ascribe a prejudice attitude towards our Lord? To be prejudice against someone because they are foreign is an imperfection in us as humans. But since Jesus didn't have only a human nature, but a divine nature as well, He did not possess this imperfection, because our Lord Jesus, like the Father (as both are one in being), is perfect (cf. Matt. 5:48). 

The interpretation given in the above image denies the august majesty of Jesus, as well as His foreknowledge. This interpretation is just as bad as the interpretation of the loaves and fishes which says that Jesus performed no miracle; everyone just shared. So then, what exactly is the right interpretation of this verse? Luckily, we have the Church Fathers and the rest of the saints to turn to. As well as many orthodox priests and pastors alive today.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

The Magisterium and the Dilemma of Dissent: New Essay on Catholic Stand

A couple weeks back, I recently posted an essay on Catholic Stand in response to comments made by Melinda Gates, wife of the multi-billionaire Bill Gates. In an interview with the BBC, Mrs. Gates made it clear that she and the Pope “agree to disagree” on the morality of contraception.

She opined, “It’s been a while since [the Catholic Church] revisited this topic [of contraception] — but I’m still optimistic that they might [change the teaching] over time.” This is a reference to Blessed Pope Paul VI’s remarkable encyclical Humanae vitae, in which he reconfirmed the constant teaching of the Catholic Church. You can see a preview of my essay responding to such dissenting or "cafeteria" Catholics below, with the link to the actual essay again provided at the end.
How does Gates gauge whether a certain thing or activity is “right” or not? Does she believe that the Church can make an accurate pronouncement on the morality or sinfulness of a certain action? 
Apparently not, as she outright rejects what the Church teaches on contraception. If she believes she is doing “the right thing for women” by promoting contraceptives, then the Church, by doing the opposite in condemning the use of contraceptives, must be doing the wrong thing. Two contradictory things can’t both be right and true. In this case, either Gates is wrong, or Christ in His Church is wrong. And if it’s the latter, all those who profess to be Catholic have quite the dilemma.
You can read the rest of the essay over at Catholic Stand.
Jesus Among the Doctors- Albrecht Dürer

Friday, August 4, 2017

Being the Light of the World: Stop Hiding Your Faith!

My latest article in the Diocese of Joliet's monthly magazine, Christ Is Our Hope, has appeared in print in their August 2017 issue. The article can also be found on their digital magazine in the link above. Below is an unedited and slightly longer version of the article found in the magazine. After experiencing many Catholics around me who were reticent to share their faith, I was moved to write an article that we are exhorted to do just that. The movie Silence was another trigger for writing this article, and it is mentioned in the essay itself, specifically why we must not follow the example of the two main characters in the film.hh
The Ahırkapı Lighthouse- Michael Zeno Diemer

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Essay on Alternatives to Planned Parenthood: Why Pro-Lifers Are Against PP

I recently had the opportunity to write a guest article for the pretty awesome website Secular Prolife. These people are dedicated to protecting the unborn, and while we hope for their conversion one day, they are secular and typically agnostic. This sit has proved to be a great starting point for talking to people who think that all pro-lifers are only of such an opinion because they are religious. Rarely, if ever, have I used a religious argument to voice my opposition to abortion. Anyone can do so using natural reason, as the wonderful people at Secular Prolife have. Below is a link to my first essay with the site. A short selection can be found below:
Here’s the thing that those who support Cecile Richards and her associates need to know about their pro-life friends. Even if we were to accept the bogus claim that only 3% of the services done at Planned Parenthood are abortions, how could one in good conscience support an organization that purposefully ends the lives of human beings? Even if that number was 1% or .5% of the time, the percentage would be too high. Why? Because the vast majority of people in this world consider the purposeful and willful killing of a member of the human race to be immoral and wrong.
Read the full article here. 




Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Reflections on the Readings for the Feast of St. Mary Magdalene

Yesterday, on July 22nd, the Catholic Church celebrated the feast day of St. Mary Magdalene, on of the feasts of the liturgical year that is celebrated on the same day in both forms of the Latin Rite and in the Byzantine Rite. I was lucky enough to attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form (EF) after receiving the Sacrament of Confession, and I just  briefly wanted to right down my thoughts after reflecting on the Scripture readings for the Mass in the EF, as well as the Scripture selection in the Liturgy of Hours' Office of Readings.

The First Reading in the Divine Office came from St. Paul's Letter to the Colossians 3:1-17. It was subtitled, "Your life is hidden with Christ in God". As I was reading this, waiting for Mass to start, a particular few verses close to the halfway mark caught my attention. It immediately called to mind the current state of affairs regarding the permissibility of certain sins that have become socially acceptable in the Western world, i.e., fornication, and homosexual activity in particular. Beginning from verse 5:
Put to death therefore what is earthly in you: immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. On account of these the wrath of God is coming. In these you once walked, when you lived in them. But now put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and foul talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old nature with its practices and have put on the new nature, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.
Feast of Simon the Pharisee- Peter Paul Rubens

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Causes of Unconditional Love

In getting ready to write a new essay tangentially related to contraception, I recalled a dialogue I had with someone regarding an essay I had posted on social media. I thought about just posting my own words since I pretty much dominated the conversation. I regret doing this sometimes, typing so much, but there's always so much on my mind that I want to be able to express it all. I am trying to become more concise in my writing, but as I care for this person, I felt it my Christian duty to get this person introduced to some ideas that they may not have been aware of.  I apologize if anyone tires of the length of my blog posts. Please know that I don't do it because I'm full of myself or like to hear myself "talk". In putting my thoughts here, and in dialoguing with other people, I hope to find answers. I just go about it in a way many millennials would rather not.

In any case, here's the selection of the essay, entitled "The Death of Unconditional Love", I posted on social media: 
"The widespread availability of contraception ushered in an age of sexual intercourse without consequence. Unconditional love was taken out of the equation and replaced with immediate, self-serving gratification. Love became inconsequential to sexual relations. With the possibility of procreation and the need for commitment gone, sex went from being a wonderful gift from God and an active participation in his work of creation to a sterile act, devoid of meaning and transcendence. 
"Likewise, easy, no-fault divorce has played an enormous role in the death of unconditional love. Marriage went from being a permanent, lifelong relationship to a temporary one. Our very high divorce rate signals the fact that as adults, few are capable of unconditional love. By rejecting our wives or husbands, whether we intend to or not, we tear apart our families. What is left is a broken reflection of what once was.
"In essence, without using words and often without even intending to do so, we tell our children 'My personal needs are far more important than your need for a loving home, nurtured by both Mom and Dad.'"
Below is our conversation. Some things have been edited out, but the bulk of it is still here:
The Triumph of Divine Love- Peter Paul Rubens

Monday, July 10, 2017

New Article on "Spiritual Progress" on Catholic Stand

My latest article, replying to a claim made by Evangelical Christian author Elyse M. Fitzpatrick, is now up on Catholic Stand.  Below is a snippet of the article, followed by another link:
From reading some of the work that Ms. Fitzpatrick has produced, her faith squares up pretty evenly with the modern Evangelical movement; a movement that has no room for a visible Church. On her website and in other advertisements, Ms. Fitzpatrick describes her work in this way: “No fluff. No bricks. Just good news of a crucified and risen Savior.” 
Ms. Fitzpatrick probably does not intend it, but these words are insulting and condescending to many Christians. It implies that, for instance, that the Sacrifice of the Mass as celebrated by Catholic and Orthodox Christians is superfluous, that the Sacrament of Reconciliation is just “fluff”, and that asking for the intercession of the saints is part of a man-made building of brick and mortar that has nothing to do with the mystical Body of Christ. As if none of those things I just mentioned don’t preach the Good News of the Christ crucified. How misguided and mistaken a notion she and many other non-denominational Christians have on Christ’s relationship to the Church. Which leads us to the isolated quote I came across … 
Below is the verbatim quote from Mrs. Fitzpatrick as it was presented, with no further context: 
"Real progress in the Christian life is not gauged by our knowledge of Scripture, our church attendance, time in prayer, or even our witnessing (although it isn’t less than these things). Maturity in the Christian life is measured by only one test: how much closer to his character have we become? The result of the Spirit’s work is not more and more activity. No, the results of his work are in in our quality of life, they are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." 
Is this an accurate description of “real progress? There are many issues with this quote, as well as the way the meme is delivered to the masses.
Read the rest here. 
Entry into Jerusalem- Pedro Orrente

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Bishop of San Jose's Statement on Bishop Paprocki's Decree on "Same Sex 'Marriage'"

While the news cycle has started to relax it's focus on the controversial (but really, not controversial at all) decree issued by Bishop Thomas Paprocki of Springfield, IL on the pastoral care of those homosexual persons in state sanctioned marriages, it seems that there are those within the Church who are still making comments about it. A few days ago, Bishop Patrick J. McGrath of the Diocese of San Jose released the following statement:
Dear Father/Sister/Brother, 
Recent news reports of policies and practices related to members of the LGBT community in other dioceses can be confusing. 
I take this opportunity to assure you that the pastoral response in the Diocese of San Jose remains just that: compassionate and pastoral. We will not refuse sacraments or Christian Burial to anyone who requests them in good faith. 
Finally, let us remember and be guided by the words of Pope Francis: “The Eucharist is not a prize for the perfect, but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”
This is disheartening.

It's extremely sad to see, at almost every turn, bishop against bishop, pastor against pastor, and even Bishops' Conference against Bishops' Conference on several issues.

Frankly, this whole controversy that's erupted around Bishop Paprocki's decree (which is simply a reiteration of Catholic teaching) is ridiculous. As Bishop Paprocki commented in a recent interview, "[T]he decree is a rather straightforward application of existing Church teaching and canon law. The Catholic Church has been very clear for two thousand years that we do not accept same-sex “marriage,” yet many people seem to think that the Church must simply cave in to the popular culture now that same-sex “marriage” has been declared legal in civil law."

Friday, June 30, 2017

Separating Brainwashing From Evangelizing Children

I came across an awesome article by soon-to-be-deacon Joe Heschmeyer the other day, where he addressed the following question: "Is teaching children religion brainwashing?" Apparently, as he mentioned in his essay, 86% of respondents to this question on Debate.org thought the answer was "yes". How profoundly sad. Religion, once seen as a virtue (and still seen as one by the Church, see CCC 1807) by virtually all people in the Western world, is now seen as a vice, and has even been called "child abuse" by certain proponents of the new atheism; of which I would argue is a new religion in itself... but I digress.

The entire article is an excellent read, and I urge everyone to read it before continuing. Here's a good sampling from Heschmeyer's essay:
As Christians, we’re called to proclaim the Gospel to the entire world (Matthew 28:19-20), but in a special way, to teach the next generation about the faith. The Shema Yisrael, the core of Jewish morning and evening prayer, comes from Deuteronomy 6:4-7: 
"Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God is one Lord; and you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart; and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise." 
So you can’t be a faithful Christian (or Jew) and not teach the faith to your children. But it’s more than that. Christianity isn’t just your dad sitting around musing about what the afterlife might or might not be like. The God of the Universe entered history in the Person of Jesus Christ, and He taught, died, and rose from the dead. And Christians don’t just believe in this as as an abstract idea, but have a personal relationship with this same God. So it’s not just speculation on the Christian parents’ part: it’s rationally trusting the expert, the one Person qualified to tell us these things. It’s also sharing the most meaningful relationship you have with your loved ones. 
And finally, not teaching your kids still teaches them something. If you really believed Christianity was the most important truth in the world, if you really believed it was the surest way to knowing God and to happiness in this life and eternity in Heaven, you wouldn’t hesitate to share it with the people you loved most (especially those entrusted to your care for formation: your children).
That same selection from Deuteronomy is something that I often see included in my recitation of Compline (Night Prayer) at the end of each day. It's a beautiful thing to reflect on, and whenever I read it, I think about my own kids. Heschmeyer brings up a great point; why would you hesitate to share the faith that comes from Truth Himself with your own children? This essay is a great answer to the question that was posed on Debate.org, but I'd like to add a couple of points to my own, piggybacking off of what Heschmeyer has written.
Jesus Falling Under the Cross

Friday, June 23, 2017

Decree From Bishop of Springfield Lays Down Directives For Those in Same-Sex "Marriages"

About a week and a half ago, Bishop Thomas Paprocki released a decree "Regarding Same-Sex 'Marriage' and Related Pastoral Issues". The secular media jumped all over this yesterday, with painfully erroneous ways of misrepresenting Church teaching. Dissenters such as New Way Ministry, as well as their supporters such as Fr. James Martin, also denounced the bishop's decree. However, everything seemed to focus specifically on one small section of the decree, namely on funeral rites:
“Unless they have given some signs of repentance before their death, deceased persons who had lived openly in a same-sex marriage giving public scandal to the faithful are to be deprived of ecclesiastical funeral rites. In case of doubt, the proper pastor or parochial administrator is to consult the local ordinary [bishop], whose judgment is to be followed (cf. c. 1184).
Fr. Martin replied very quickly on his Facebook page:
If bishops ban members of same-sex marriages from receiving a Catholic funeral, they also have to be consistent. They must also ban divorced and remarried Catholics who have not received annulments, women who has or man who fathers a child out of wedlock, members of straight couples who are living together before marriage, and anyone using birth control. For those are all against church teaching as well. Moreover, they must ban anyone who does not care for the poor, or care for the environment, and anyone who supports torture, for those are church teachings too. More basically, they must ban people who are not loving, not forgiving and not merciful, for these represent the teachings of Jesus, the most fundamental of all church teachings. To focus only on LGBT people, without a similar focus on the moral and sexual behavior of straight people is, in the words of the Catechism, a "sign of unjust discrimination" (2358).
I would have to conclude, as have others, that Fr. Martin, who echoes what the editors at New Ways Ministry had to say, is way off base here. In all honesty, he's pretty much wrong.
Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Discussion on Abortion and "Personhood" With a Utilitarian

Recently, the ever-awesome Secular Pro Life posted a guest blog by a woman who suffers from turner Syndrome. An excerpt from the article is below:
"Instead of turning 30 reminding me that I'm getting old, it reminds me I'm living—and it's a wonderful feeling. I will wear every grey hair and every wrinkle as a badge of honour. I get to enjoy a life that's all too often left to 'choice' and deemed 'not worth living'—without even being given a chance. 
"My mom is 'pro-choice' and believes it should have been up to her whether or not to abort me if she had known. I'm so thankful that my diagnosis was safe with me in the womb and that I'm alive—instead of my life being reduced to a statistic."
A heart wrenching reality this woman has to live with, that her mom would actually say these things to her own daughter. But what really disturbed me was one of the commenters on the article. This man, from the UK, was a self-professed utilitarian. This was the first time I really was able to get into a deep conversation with one such person. While his ideas are scary, perhaps even monstrous, my interlocutor was pleasant throughout our discussion, never threw any personal attacks, and explained his point of view in an intelligent manner. But it's his worldview that is problematic. While reading through this dialogue, one will see that not only does he reject the personhood of most life in the womb, but also of some people who may be in a vegetative or comatose state, as can be seen by him saying they "often resume personhood". His comments will be in red, mine in blue, and various other commenters in different colors. My interlocutor's initial reply to the article itself is below:

Tom: This is merely confused counterfactual thinking. She'd never have suffered with the thoughts of having not existed or regretted her missed existence had she have been aborted in the first-trimester do it's a moot point.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Priest Resigns After Implementing Traditional Changes: Why Is "Restoration" a Negative Thing?

A couple of days ago, a local news story out of Charlotte broke regarding a Catholic priest. Apparently, after being pastor at a small parish for nearly three years, Fr. Christopher Riehl resigned after several of his parishioners expressed their displeasure with his more traditional directives that were implemented. A rift had risen in the parish, with those who were complaining about his leadership splintering off to hear Mass at a dentist's office in "exile", as some described it. From The Charlotte Observer:
The pastor of a Catholic church in the N.C. mountains whose conservative leadership style split the congregation and drew national media attention has resigned. 
In a Facebook post, the Rev. Christopher Riehl of St. John the Evangelist parish in Waynesville wrote that he was “worn out or burned out” and for his own well-being needed to take a sabbatical. 
He did not mention the rancor at the parish, where he’s been pastor for nearly three years, or the petition by more than 100 members to have him removed. It was sent to Bishop Peter Jugis, who leads the 46-county Catholic Diocese of Charlotte.
The National Catholic Reporter published a January article on the clash between Riehl and many parishioners in the church of about 250 families. Some of those members have left St. John’s. 
The article cast the divide as one of a new pastor who preferred traditionalist approaches to the liturgy and church governance versus parishioners who cherished what had been St. John’s post-Vatican II style of a greater role for the laity and more modern worship and music. 
Vatican II refers to the Second Vatican Council of the early- to mid-1960s, when the Roman Catholic Church, for example, permitted the use of local languages for a Mass that had traditionally been celebrated all over the world in Latin. 
According to the National Catholic Reporter article, Riehl threw out popular hymns and replaced them with the ancient Gregorian chant. When the music director was relieved of her duties, the article said, most of the choir resigned. 
A group calling itself Appalachian Catholics in the Smoky Mountain Region said in a statement earlier this year that Riehl and some other conservative priests assigned by Jugis to small parishes in the mountains “seem to be more intent on taking the church back to pre-Vatican ll days rather than minister to the people. They seem to be steeped in doctrine and theology, but are unwilling to participate in ecumenical activities, and are lacking in compassion, love and mercy. They are doing the job of the theologian, but not the job of the pastor. This is directly opposed to what Pope Francis and Vatican II are teaching us.”...
In his June 4 Facebook post to members of his “parish family,” Riehl wrote that his leaving was not prompted by anything other than his own need to take some time away from parish ministry. 
“It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that I have decided, of my own free will and my own instigation, to resign my position here at St. John’s,” he wrote. “I have found that I am worn out or burned out and for my own well being need to take a sabbatical. There was no incident or event, just a feeling that I need some time away from full parish ministry. I have absolutely no questions or doubts about my vocation to the Priesthood of Christ.”
A very sad state of affairs, indeed. NCR (more aptly called the Fishwrap or National Catholic Distorter, by others), also ripped Fr. Riehl over a year and a half ago in an earlier article, which I will quote more below. One commenter on the recent developments in this story said the following:
This new trend is disturbing to me - out with faith, hope and love ... in with appearances of reverence. I am glad these parishioners fought back against this movement of clerical snobbery. I get the sense that some of these younger priests just want to say Mass in what they perceive to be a reverent, or legal, style, without parishioners. It seems like they are removing the communion part of the faith. I hope priests like this can see that their approach is deeply flawed.  
I am now starting to understand why our Holy Father talks so much about clericalism, rigidity and legalism in the Church.
The only trend that is disturbing is the trend of disobedience and the trend that wants to see the Latin Rite purged of all it's legitimate traditions. This whole episode leads me to compare and contrast the Latin and Byzantine Rites a bit. But more on that in a bit.
St. Gregory the Great- Jusepe de Ribera

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

More From the Enlightened Mind of Blessed Miriam Teresa Demjanovich

I've written a few posts on here regarding Bl. Miriam Teresa Demjanovich, a young 20-something saint who was born, raised and died in New Jersey in the first few decades of the 20th century. An American saint through and through, and I've come to appreciate her even more after reading her biography, written by Sister Mary Zita Geis. I learned many new things about this valuable intercessor of ours, and my devotion to her has certainly grown as I try to figure out how I can attain at least some of the holiness that she exuded throughout her life.

First, I learned that she was certainly a mystic. While the visions she had aren't described in too much detail here, she did experience visions of our Lord and Lady, as well as an interesting encounter with St. Therese, the Little Flower. But most of her experiences seemed to be internal, and in the writings she sent to her spiritual director, he understood that she was definitely receiving spiritual consolations from our Lord such as ecstasies, raptures, visions and locutions.

She also mortified herself daily in many different ways, offering up even the smallest of sufferings to our Lord. For instance, she at times never touched the pew in front of her while kneeling during Mass and Eucharistic Adoration, and when rapt in front of the altar itself, she never let her feet touch the ground as she kneeled before the Blessed Sacrament.

Another interesting tidbit was that she was quite into sports. Particularly, that "boys' game" known as baseball! Of course, baseball is my favorite sport, and to know that she enjoyed playing America's pastime, as well as basketball, makes her same ever more closer despite her nearly unrivaled holiness and submission to God's will. She also took part in Spanish club, as well as drama club and glee club at high school, and performed in and wrote many plays during her high school and college days. Again, this is something still done by many of our high schoolers today. Yet through all these similarities with us Americans today, she was oh so very different. Her piety and desire to conform to God's will is truly an example to us all, and I can't wait to see her become canonized so that all of the United States will properly be able to venerate her as they do St. Elizabeth Ann Seton today.

So in the biography, I came across a couple of her spiritual conferences that were not included in her posthumous book, Greater Perfection. Remember, she wrote these secretly as the rest of he congregation thought that the convent's priest was writing them. Finding these felt like finding a long lost b-side from one of my favorite bands. I'd like to share one of those conferences here, as many of these are hard to find on the Internet, as it certainly moved me, and I hope it does the same for the reader here:

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Reflecting on the Different Interpretations Given for Amoris Laetitia

I had refrained from posting this long exchange I had had regarding Amoris Latetia for a while, but it seems that the controversy surrounding it just won't go away. I decided it was time for me to post this lengthy discussion so that others can see what is at stake here. We have several bishops contradicting several other bishops on the interpretation of AL. That in itself is scandalous, and even more so are some of the interpretations we've gotten, namely from the Bishops of Malta.

This exchange is mostly with a person I had already talked a bit with on the subject. Unfortunately, this time around it didn't end so well, as my interlocutor, who is a 50-something with a degree in theology, didn't think I was worth the time as I was simply an "autodidact". The thing is, my sources all came from saints, popes, and bishops... as well as our Lord! At the outset, he would interact with my arguments, by the end, he refused to. How my questions were continually dodged will be obvious. Please note, that I don't claim to be a know-it-all. I don't. But the Church does. I asked more than once, that if I was wrong, then show me my error! It didn't happen; my arguments were instead ignored. Perhaps I could've been more pithy, but as I'm a student, I learned a lot through this exchange, and citing as many sources as possible helps me keep things straight. I can only hope that in this excessively large post, someone is able to understand the point I'm trying to make, and can see the evidence I have from the Tradition of the Church to back it up. That is, AL has not changed Church teaching on the reception of Communion for the divorced and remarried that continue to live together more uxorio. My words will be in blue, my interlocutor's in red, and eventually, my words will turn back to black to interject towards the end.
The Apparition of Christ to the People- Alexander Andreyevich Ivanov

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

More Dioceses Restoring the Order of the Sacraments of Initiation

I was confused a few days ago when I kept seeing people posting a two year old news story on how the Archbishop of Denver was restoring the traditional order of the Sacraments of initiation. That is, the age for Confirmation was being lowered so that it would be received before First Holy Communion in the Latin Rite of the Church. I later found out that the reason this is in the news again is because the changes were being staggered, and are finally taking full effect this year. All children in the third grade will receive Confirmation and First Holy Communion at the same Mass. I applaud this decision, and I sincerely hope to see it happen in my own diocese at some point... preferably before my own children reach the second or third grade. A little background on all this "restoring the order business, though.
The Seven Sacraments: Confirmation- Nicolas Poussin


Friday, May 26, 2017

New Catholic Stand Post on the Beauty of the Latin Rite

My latest, original essay is up on Catholic Stand. I've blogged here before that I often spend a lot of time worshipping with Byzantine Catholics, and I've noticed something during that time. At the same moment those in the Byzantine Rite were exhorted to maintain their beautiful and legitimate liturgical traditions, those in the Latin Rite began to discard their venerable liturgical traditions for an, oftentimes, hokey and bland minimalism, which made grandeur and feelings of awe in the Sacrifice of the Mass something to be purged and/or avoided. How can Roman Catholics reclaim this beauty and reverence that Byzantine Catholics have maintained for centuries? Here's a snippet of my thoughts, which you can finish reading at the link below:
While I myself am a Latin Rite Catholic, my maternal grandmother’s side of the family belongs to the Byzantine Rite, specifically the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church (UGCC). I’ve always felt that I’ve grown up with the best of both worlds. But now, with a Byzantine Rite parish so close to my home, I find myself drawn to this form of worship more and more. This is a rite in the Catholic Church which has not lost its traditions, as we have painfully seen in many Latin Rite parishes throughout the world. 
It can be rightly argued that we as Latin Catholics have an identity crisis; the Byzantines do not. On the contrary, many Latinizations that have been acquired in the last several generations are disappearing in many Byzantine parishes. Yet, despite all this, I wish to stick with the Latin Rite. I want to help, in whatever small way I can, to regain our Latin traditions as the Byzantines have.





Read the rest HERE.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

But One Example of a Negligent Teacher- When and How Should We Speak Up to Error?

Many today in the Church are concerned about how the laity, and even the clergy, have suffered in recent years due to a lack of proper formation and good catechesis. Recent popes have called for a renewed vigor in catechesis; Pope St. John Paul II even wrote an entire encyclical on the matter, Catechesi tradendae. In it, he said:
“To begin with, it is clear that the Church has always looked on catechesis as a sacred duty and an inalienable right…from the theological point of view every baptized person, precisely by reason of being baptized, has the right to receive from the Church instruction and education enabling him or her to on a truly Christian life…” (CT 14).
Unfortunately, many of those who have been in this position to teach have been, at times, derelict, in their duties. One such example that comes up time and time again is found in the person of Fr. James Martin, S.J. Despite his appointment as a consultant to the Vatican’s Secretariat for Communications recently, Fr. Martin has caused controversy by his words on more than one occasion in the last few years. But just as much as his words have caused confusion among the faithful, it can be argued that his silence and lack of speaking up as a pastor and teacher have led to even more confusion among the Catholic faithful. Just earlier this month, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier, Archbishop of Durban in South Africa, said on his Twitter account what many faithful Catholics have been thinking for years: "If we follow [the] teaching of Jesus & his Apostles James Martin's utterances will be shown up for what they are - heterodox!"

In a recent video in which he responded to several other criticisms he has received on Twitter, hFr. Martin mentioned how he doesn't feel the need to respond to people that disagree with him, or ones that call him out on errors he has made, because their arguments are supposedly "baseless". In the same way you wouldn't dignify a man who said you are a wife beater a response, Fr. Martin feels he doesn't need to answer the accusations of those that criticize him. Sure, some of them are baseless assertions, like the ones that are uncharitable.

But there are many people who have asked, in a charitable way, whether or not certain aspects of Church teaching are true. And Fr. Martin has sidestepped those questions at nearly every turn, always toeing the line between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, without ever going too far over into heterodoxy... but keeping a toe or two there, nonetheless. With his new book on the horizon, this is a good time to cite but one example in which it would be prudent to make a note of Fr. Martin's deafening silence. Indeed, as St. John Paul said, all Christians have the right to receive instruction on how to lead a true Christian life. Is remaining silent in the face of a teachable moment really living up to the example St. John Paul gives us?

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Christians Are Commanded to Worship Together on Sundays and Holy Days: Why Should We Trust the Church's Teaching Authority?

Sometime back, I got into a discussion with someone regarding the Baltimore Catechism and how it has been an effective supplement for me as a catechist in teaching my students in our parish's religious education program. The pictures inside are remembered by many Catholics of a certain age, and these pictures, and their explanations in Q&A format, made it easy for the kids to understand the reality of the Eucharist during our first Holy Communion prep for 5th-7th graders. The Baltimore Catechism is the perfect supplement to any textbook series a catechist today uses.

However, as the discussion went on, one Catholic person expressed how he disliked some of the pictures and ideas presented in the Baltimore Catechism. This led to a discussion on whether all Christians are obligated to pay due worship to God, by assisting at Mass on Sundays or Holy Days, under pain of mortal sin. This further led into us discussing whether the teaching authority of the Church (the Magisterium) has clearly stated such an obligation to all Christians, and if those same Christians should pay heed.

I think it needs to be said that many non-Catholic Christians, specifically those of an Evangelical or non-denominational bent, eschew corporate worship. They believe that a "Jesus and me" relationship is the only real requirement anyone needs for eternal life, and that if one misses worship with their brothers and sisters on a particular Sunday, it's not a big deal. Clearly, such persons have made only a cursory reading of Scripture. For if they really had delved into the Scriptures, it would be apparent that not only are we obligated to worship our Lord each Sabbath day, but we are to do so corporately. The thought process goes something like this:

1. The relationship between me and Jesus is the most important thing there is, and one doesn't need the Church to have a relationship with Jesus.
2. This must mean it's the only thing I'm really required and obligated to focus on in regards to entering eternal life.
3. So if I miss worshipping with my brothers and sisters in Christ on Sundays, it's not really a big deal.
4. Therefore, I am not required to assist at Mass on Sundays.

Unfortunately, the jump from "1" to "2" does not prove what a relationship with Christ entails. Not to mention, the jump from "3" to "4" is untenable, because who has decided it's "not really a big deal"? Furthermore, who has decided that we are not obligated to keep the Third Commandment, "Observe the Sabbath day, to keep it holy"? This is the problematic thought process we've received from many Evangelical Christians; it's seeped into the practice of more than a few Catholics who no longer feel it's necessary to corporately worship each Sunday and holy day. As Patrick Madrid puts it in his book Any Friend of God's Is a Friend of Mine:
"Me and Jesus" Christianity isn't biblical"
St. Paul said, "[W]e, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another (Rom. 12:5). Catholics believe membership in Christ's Body means a personal relationship with Jesus and, through Him, with all Christians. 
Although Protestants may agree with this in theory, in application most of them (this is especially true of Evangelicals and Fundamentalists) promote an individualistic "me and Jesus" version of Christianity, teaching that the only thing ultimately important is one's own relationship with Christ, independent of any relationship to anyone else. While it may pay lip service to the communion of saints, in reality most of Protestantism ignores the organic bond of unity between the Christian faithful..."
Excerpt from the Baltimore Catechism
The "me and Jesus" mentality is indeed "individualistic", flying in the face of Scripture; so how anyone can think worshipping with our brothers and sisters is a trivial matter has obviously not read or reflected on what St. Paul says in his First Letter to the Corinthians. He actually scolds other Christians for thinking they don't need other Christians, emphases mine:
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ...  For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. 
...as it is, God arranged the organs in the body, each one of them, as he chose. If all were a single organ, where would the body be?  As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, ...those parts of the body which we think less honorable we invest with the greater honor... 
But God has so adjusted the body, giving the greater honor to the inferior part, that there may be no discord in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. (1 Cor. 12: 12, 14-15, 18-27)
Many Christians, Catholic or not, talk about caring for the needs of other people as Christ instructed, but then they forget about how we need to develop an even deeper relationship with our brothers and sisters since we are all incorporated into the same Body of Christ. This need... this relationship, which is developed concretely at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and our partaking of the Eucharist, must no longer be forgotten. The spread of this individualistic notion of a "personal relationship" with Jesus at the expense of His Body, of His spotless Bride (cf. Rev. 22:17; Eph. 5:26-27), needs to be curbed. We, as Christians, must assist at the Mass so that we may keep the Sabbath holy by giving due worship to God, and we also must worship corporately so that we "may have the same care for one another."

Below is my discussion, with my interlocutor's words in red, mine in blue, and various other commenters in different colors.