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. 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.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Redefining Marriage Leads to the Dissolution of Marriage

Today I had the unfortunate luck to come across a story where I found out a family had been torn apart because of one spouse's fear that she "might miss out on my chance at happiness". It's the story of a relatively famous, non-denominational Christian blogger, Glennon Doyle Melton, to leave her husband and pursue a relationship with U.S. women's' soccer star Abby Wambach. In a not so surprising twist, Wambach had just divorced what the state calls her wife not that long ago. But the whole same-sex marriage issue isn't the part that makes me so sad; it's the part about how a wife did not keep her marriage vows to her husband and has left her three children to pick up the tab. It's the culture of divorce in the Western world which should cause all Christians much sadness.
Jean Auguste Henri Leys- Wedding in Flanders in the Seventeenth Century

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Regarding the Validity of Anglican Orders

There's been a lot of talk lately regarding Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio’s comments on the validity of Anglican orders. His comments come from an article in The Tablet, a publication which can be compared to the National Catholic Reporter here in the US; in short, both publications are known best for their heterodox writings. Here's some excerpts from the article on the cardinal if you haven't seen it yet:
In a recently published book, Cardinal Francesco Coccopalmerio, President of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts, calls into question Pope Leo XIII’s 1896 papal bull that Anglican orders are “absolutely null and utterly void.”
“When someone is ordained in the Anglican Church and becomes a parish priest in a community, we cannot say that nothing has happened, that everything is ‘invalid’,” the cardinal says...
“The question of validity [regarding the non-recognition of Anglican orders, while the Pope would give pectoral crosses, rings or chalices to Anglican clergy], however, is not a matter of law but of doctrine,” he explains in a question and answer format. “We have had, and we still have a very rigid understanding of validity and invalidity: this is valid, and that is not valid. One should be able to say: ‘this is valid in a certain context, and that is valid another context’.”
There's been a lot of talk about "rigidity" lately, and it's unfortunate that it seems so many things devolve into this charge against Catholics by and large. These comments have raised some eyebrows, and it would be well for all Catholics to take a deeper look and find out the real story behind Pope Leo XIII's declaration on the nullity of Anglican orders in Apostolicae curae, especially in light of all the confusion that may result among the faithful during the upcoming 500th anniversary of the Protestant reformation.
Pope Leo XIII in 1898

Sunday, May 7, 2017

What Does Gender Really Mean When It Comes to the Transgender Question?

Recently, my friend posted a meme on social media which depicted a person holding up a sign saying "My genitals do not define my gender". On the bottom half of the meme, the following statements were also made:
"My IQ does not define my intelligence."
"My physique doesn't define my fitness."
"My semen doesn't define my child."
"Go on. Make some more stupid cases."
While I thought the meme was a bit crude, I did think it got a valid point across. Another person made a comment, indicating that the view given in the meme was ignorant in his view. The discussion we had is below, with my words in blue and my interlocutor's in red. I think the discussion we had was cordial, as we both felt very differently on the subject, but it never devolved into ad hominem attacks or other insulting banter. I hope to go deeper into such a discussion in the future, but I'm thankful for the time my interlocutor took to engage me and the time they took to read my point of view. Our discussion follows the jump:
Creation of Adam- Michelangelo 

Saturday, May 6, 2017

New Essay on "Window Dressing" Up on Catholic Stand and Catholic365

My latest essay for Catholic Stand is now live, which focuses on the differences between Catholic and non-Catholic Christians, and why both sides contradict each other on the so-called "essentials". The Catholic Stand article was shortened for space issues, but the full, unedited version can be found on Catholic365. Here's a snippet from the article. Please follow the links above for more:
King David Playing the Harp- Peter Paul Rubens
Many of our separated Christian brethren hold that there is more we have in common than we might think. I agree. Catholics and non-denominational Christians share in a common baptism and common profession of Jesus as God and savior. However, it’s pretty obvious that there are also some glaring differences between these two faiths, and I would argue (as would many Catholic and Orthodox Christians) that these differences are in essential areas, i.e., salvation. 
The first point to make in response to this view of indifferentism regarding Jesus’ Church is to simply ask, how can this be that the doctrines and Traditions of Christian religions are merely window dressing? Who has decided which teachings and doctrines are window dressing and which are actually the structure of the building itself, that is, essential? The “essentials” seem elementary to any Evangelical. 
But on the flip side, the “essentials” seem pretty clear to Catholics, too. The problem here is that these essentials are defined differently between these two faiths, and often, the “essentials” even contradict each other. But what if everything revealed to us by Jesus and the New Testament writers are essential? 
More here.