Archives for July 2010

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #8)

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Without further ado:

— 1 —

Gary Zimak put together Ten Facts Most Catholics Don’t Know (But Should!). I was surprised to see that I already covered more than half of them at least partially (the links below point to my essays).

  1. Women Will Never Be Priests
  2. Fridays Are Still Days Of Penance
  3. The Bible Is A Catholic Book
  4. The Mass Is The Same Sacrifice As Calvary
  5. Annulments Are Not Catholic Divorces
  6. In Vitro Fertilization Is Morally Unacceptable
  7. There Is No Salvation Outside Of The Catholic Church
    (please see clarification in Ute’s excellent comment below!)
  8. In An Emergency, Anyone Can Baptize
  9. Hell And Purgatory Still Exist
  10. Catholics Don’t Worship Mary And The Saints

— 2 —

Not long ago in Argentina, a consecrated host fell to the floor. The priest put it into water so it would dissolve then be returned to the earth. Instead of dissolving, red stains formed. Watch this video (in Spanish, but with passable subtitles) which presents the scientific investigation that followed.

— 3 —

The powers that be (Marcel) over at the Aggie Catholics blog are the salt of the earth assembling the top 50 popular biblical phrases. My cup runneth over reading this list of forbidden fruit produced by the sweat of (his) brow. Read it all Out of the mouths of babes.

— 4 —

Father John Corapi is a popular Catholic speaker. This is his conversion story:

— 5 —

I have been giving a lot of thought to the phrase “good Catholic.” Who exactly qualifies? How do you recognize them? Are you one?

My conclusion is that a good Catholic is anyone who recognizes they are not one, but struggles to be.

— 6 —

OK, don’t watch this if you are easily offended. I found Ignatius the Ultimate Youth Pastor to be hilarious. To me it is funny because it exaggerated the kind of stuff some think are necessary to engage youth. They are much, much smarter than that! Thanks to Mark Shea for finding this oddity. This one won’t be making the cut for my new favorite videos tab!

— 7 —

I have added a new feature to this blog, a compilation of my original essays – 44 in total (so far). The entries are listed in chronological order including their title and a key paragraph from the piece. They may be reached by clicking the Essays button at the top (or clicking here).

Seeking unity

We Christians have our work cut-out for us in an increasingly secular, anti-Christian world. Our mission, at the most basic level is to save souls, starting with our own. We also work together in a wide array of worthy, charitable and political efforts. Many of us have signed the Manhattan Declaration, for instance.

While there are differences, we share core Christian beliefs. There is only one God who created everything, Jesus is His Son conceived by the Holy Spirit, heaven and hell exist, our sins condemn us to hell but we are saved through Jesus sacrifice.

In addition to our shared beliefs, we have shared problems too. We are all discouraged when our members leave the faith, either formally or by simply not coming to church. Another problem we share is ineffective catechesis, how many in our congregations and parishes really know and live the faith? Too many people are Christian “in name only.”

I think it is fair to say that we all seek to learn and correctly interpret Christ’s teaching. One of those teachings is that we are one Church. When we meet in heaven, we will all know the one truth.

From the Catholic point of view, all Christians are at least partially Catholic. The forefathers of Protestants, for example, were Catholic until the 1400s. Protestant theology borrows much from Catholic theology, adding a little and generally removing a lot. The specific degree of change varies widely between denominations and over time. We see non-Catholic Christians as simply not being in full communion with us. Not as outsiders, but as brothers and sisters in Christ.

When I was growing up in the 1950’s and 60’s, my extended family was solidly Protestant (although some were of different denominations). In all my Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, Catechism classes, etc. – comparative Christian beliefs was barely touched. There was some brief (and inaccurate) coverage of Catholics, but I remember no coverage of other Protestant denominations. I thought that we were all more-or-less the same. I think that many Protestants think that today!

The fact is, Protestant beliefs vary hugely: how and when one is saved, how are sins forgiven, is communion only symbolic, when to baptize, did Mary remain a virgin / was she immaculately conceived / her assumption, what is heaven and hell, did Jesus literally rise from the dead, is there original sin, will there be a “rapture” and so much more. Even agreeing on who is Protestant varies!

While they were all created by individual men sometime after 1,500 years of Christian history, the main thing Protestant denominations can claim in common is that they are not Catholic! I mean that only partly in jest. Ironically, some denominations are far closer to Catholic beliefs than they are to some other Protestants.

How many Protestant denominations are there? No one knows – really. I tend to think of a dozen larger ones by name but that really doesn’t cover it. If you define a denomination as people with formally shared beliefs, then the number is very large…   in some cases arguably to the level of individual members. Much more conservative numbers place it anywhere between 5,000 to 30,000 denominations.

Even if you look only at the largest denominations such as Anglican, Baptists, Lutherans, Methodists, and Presbyterians – you will find not only do they differ greatly from each other, but they are all also highly divided internally. Each of these has deepening, severe divisions between internal groups.

I think lack of theological authority is the root of the problem. Catholics believe strongly in Apostolic succession – that the Apostles were the first bishops, Peter was the first pope. Their succession has continued through today and will continue to the end of time. Faithful Catholics accept the teaching of our Magisterium (bishops) as led by the pope. This is how Jesus Himself structured the Church He protected by the Holy Spirit. It is not a democracy. The most important roles of the Magisterium are to teach and *protect* the faith (i.e. NOT change it). If it was true when Jesus taught it, it is true today.

Once men entered into schism with the Church in the 1400s, needless-to-say, they could no longer recognize that authority. I am no expert in this, but it appears that most Protestant denominations work as a democracy where matters of faith are decided by votes of delegates. For example, most Lutherans choose “voting members” to fit this formula:

Voting members of the Churchwide Assembly must be voting members of a congregation of this church. The rules governing the selection of voting members also direct that 60 percent of the voting members will be lay persons, half of whom are female and half of whom are male. At least 10 percent of the voting members are to be persons of color or whose primary language is other than English.

ELCA website

It seems politically correct and very democratic. To be perfectly honest, I just do not understand how the absolute truth can be arrived at democratically. The truth is the truth, period. It doesn’t change over time or need updating. Can a good democratic process – particularly of those not well educated in theology – somehow arrive at that truth? Apparently not if you look at how this continues to distance Protestants from each other. Often instead of focusing on the unchanging, revealed truth, such processes result only in adapting the faith to modern secular viewpoints.

Catholics often pray that we will once again be unified. We are saddened when that hope is made more difficult through continual change and splintering. Personally, I just do not have the mental horsepower to see a path to complete unification in the near term. Some trends are interesting however.

The biggest trend is the liberal vs. conservative, progressive vs. orthodox, modern vs. ancient — or whatever you wish to call it. As touched on above, it is unfolding in each Protestant denomination. As each “side” becomes more entrenched in their own belief, those strongly not agreeing flee. In other words, it is polarizing. As whole congregations re-evaluate their faith, some are drawn to the steadfast doggedness of Catholicism. This is the case (for example) in some parts of the Anglican union, where many of their bishops and priests asked Pope Benedict to facilitate conversions of entire congregations. Under his guidance, the extraordinary step of creating an Anglican Ordinariate was taken to maintain their Anglican traditions while also being 100% Catholic. This kind of step while rare, is not unprecedented. The Catholic Church has many rites in addition to the Latin Rite many in the West are familiar with.

The other trend in support of unification is simply by individuals converting. That was my case as it is many others too. My Protestant denomination was changing in a progressive direction that I could no longer ignore. I loved my local church and the members in it, but the veracity of my faith was simply more important. You will find a wide spectrum of folks in every RCIA class (those studying Catholicism on a path of conversion).

This piece covers only the Protestant schism. The “Great Schism” of 1054 is different in many ways. Also not covered are Anglo-Catholics, Anglo-Lutheran Catholics and similar churches.

All Christians should work together – to spread the Good News, never denigrate each other and pray for our unification here on earth. Regardless of our differences here, we will be one in heaven.

Elsewhere: Hitler’s Pope

Eugenio Maria Giuseppe Giovanni Pacelli, Pope Pius XII has been in the news in recent years. He has been dubbed Hitler’s Pope for looking the other way during the Holocaust. Jewish groups protested honoring him and liberal, anti-Catholic media (e.g. New York Times) jumped on the story. Once again those evil Catholics have been exposed for protecting their own, wanting to make them Saints, when in fact they were the worst anti-semites on the planet.

Except it is not true. The facts are indeed exactly the opposite. Thanks to Father Longenecker for covering this. Don’t expect the liberal, anti-Catholic media to give it much coverage now that the facts conclusively contradict their attacks. Point of irony: the New York Times repeatedly praised the pope’s work throughout the pre-war and war period. Apparently they were not so anti-Catholic back then.

Pacelli had read Hitler’s Mein Kampf as early as 1925 and told fellow diplomats that Hitler was “obsessed” and a “new manifestation” of the Anti-Christ. As papal nuncio in Germany, he drove policy on the Nazis, criticizing them 40 times before 1929. As secretary, he did sign an agreement with Hitler’s Germany in 1933 but told the British he had to do so or it would mean the “virtual elimination of the Catholic Church” in Germany. Using it in 1934, he was able to protest the Nazis’ closing some 200 Catholic publications, taking over Church schools and forcing Catholics to join the Hitler Youth. He also lodged 60 protests of Jewish cases.

In 1935, he explained to 325,000 Lourdes pilgrims that the “church will never come to terms with Nazis as long as they persist in their racial philosophy.” Throughout 1936 and thereafter, his Vatican Radio broadcast against these racial laws. Following the encyclical, on Jan. 9, 1939, Pacelli told the world’s archbishops that their governments should accept Jews trying to escape Germany, and the next day sent the same order to the American cardinals. By March, he was pope.

His first encyclical defines human nature as “neither gentile nor Jew,” but universal. On Oct. 28, 1939, the New York Times explained it as: “Pope condemns dictators, treaty violators, racism.” Its Jan. 23, 1940, leading item was, “Vatican denounces atrocities in Poland; Germans called even worse than Russians.” On March 11, 1940, Pius confronted German Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, which the Times headlined three days later as, “Pope is emphatic about just peace: Jewish rights defended.” After the fall of France in 1940, Pius sent a secret letter telling bishops to help those suffering from racism, reminding them racism is “incompatible with the teachings of the Catholic Church.”

In its Dec. 25, 1941, editorial, the New York Times applauded the pope for placing “himself squarely against Hitlerism,” upset that “the voice of Pius XII is a lonely voice in the silence and darkness enveloping Europe this Christmas.”

In the face of this overwhelming record, how is it possible so many believe the opposite? Except for Nazi and communist propaganda, the sources are one play by Rolf Hochhuth, The Deputy, and John Cornwell’s Hitler’s Pope. Despite the fact that 12 volumes of unrefuted material were produced by four Jesuit historians rebutting the play, the literary set loved it. They preferred the art to the facts and ignored that Mr. Hochhuth was in the Hitler Youth, trained in its virulent anti-clericalism.

Mr. Cornwell said he was convinced of the pope’s innocence before he searched “long-buried Vatican files,” when his eyes were opened. In fact, he did not see any archival documents dated after 1922 – before Hitler had any political significance whatsoever. He admitted in 1989 that he was a “lapsed Catholic for more than 20 years,” and an ex-seminarian who enjoyed testing the faith of his fellow students.

The charge against Pius XII is slander against a good man and nothing more. After the “final solution” leaked out, the New York Times headlined, on Aug. 6, 1942: “Pope is said to plead for Jews listed for removal from France.” It was Israeli consul to Italy Rabbi Pinchas Lapide who researched Yad Vashem in Jerusalem and reported that Pope Pius XII led efforts to save 860,000 Jews, “more than all other churches, religious institutions and rescue organizations put together.” What motivates those who take the Times as holy writ and ignore these facts?

Read the whole article at the CERC (reprinted from the Washington Times): Hitler’s Pope?

Another quick, good read is this piece from the Telegraph: ‘Hitler’s Pope’ saved thousands of Jewish lives.

The burden of hate

We have all been “wronged” at one time or another. Maybe by a neighbor, a schoolmate, a co-worker, a friend, a family member or even someone at church. I am not talking about the careless guy who cut us off in traffic or the clerk who was rude. I am talking about someone who sinned against us, whose unfairness had lasting consequences, who betrayed our trust, who took advantage of us, who perpetrated against us a grave injustice or some similar act.

I bet you do not have to think long about this. Who comes to mind for you?

When we think about them we are indignant. They can not be trusted. We hold a grudge. In the name of justice, we want to “get even.” We hope they suffer similarly – or worse. We warn others, “for their own sake,” of the treachery. It may be comforting to act like this, to right this wrong. We have judged another and are determined to extract our “pound of flesh.” In short, we allow ourselves to become Satan’s playground for a multitude of sins and do great damage to ourselves.

In holding this hate, we are breaking both of the two greatest commandments. First, we are not loving each other. Second, in treating this child of God, made in His image, with such contempt – we are not loving God. We are guilty of hating the sinner, not just his acts and responding with our own sins of hatred, detraction, possibly calumny and more.

If we do these things we are not in a state of grace. Not only that, we are not happy. We have chosen the lies offered by sin. Instead of bringing us joy, it has become a burden on us. All sins work that way and this is no different.

The burden we maintain, among other things, is through a lack of charity. We fail to put ourselves in the other person’s shoes. If we knew the full story, we might find mitigating circumstances. They may have been given inaccurate information, be distracted by all manner of personal struggles, suffering themselves from the lingering effects of abuse or other tragedies in their life. Sometimes we even interpret the situation completely wrong.

“Forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.” This is our explicit petition to God at every Mass, when we pray the Rosary and many other times. Think about it.

We are not called to love only those who are kind to us or even those we don’t know. They are no test of our faith. The real challenge is truly seeing the face of Jesus in those whom we have labeled as our enemies.

Forgiveness is an integral part of the faith of Catholics and all other Christians. One of the most poignant examples I can think of was the 2006 baseless murder of 5 Amish school girls and the serious wounding of 5 others. What a horrific event, yet while grieving deeply for the lost and injured children – the parents and entire Amish community responded with forgiveness and reconciliation.

On the day of the shooting, a grandfather of one of the murdered Amish girls was heard warning some young relatives not to hate the killer, saying, “We must not think evil of this man.” Another Amish father noted, “He had a mother and a wife and a soul and now he’s standing before a just God.” Jack Meyer, a member of the Brethren community living near the Amish in Lancaster County, explained: “I don’t think there’s anybody here that wants to do anything but forgive and not only reach out to those who have suffered a loss in that way but to reach out to the family of the man who committed these acts.”

from Wikipedia

Consider also the story of Father Rob Spaulding. As a young seminarian, his actions one evening led to the deaths of 2 fellow students.

Christ commanded us “as I have loved you, so you also should love one another.” If you hate someone, let it go. Forgive them for what they may have said or done. You don’t have to become their best friend, but you should pray for them with a loving heart. Finally, confess the sins you have committed through the hatred you embraced. The heavy weight of this self-destructive burden need not, and should not, be borne any longer.

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #7)

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Without further ado:

— 1 —

I am back from a wonderful vacation and got to attend Mass at 2 churches in Hawaii, far away from home: Christ the King and St. Philomena. Both parishes were very warm and welcoming. The Catholic sense of community is so much larger than your home parish…

— 2 —

Some people have it hard. Some want to give-up life (or abort one). Not Nick Vujicic. Thanks to Kathleen (Kathleen’s Catholic) for finding this life-affirming gem.

— 3 —

The Aggie Catholics blog has an extensive series of posts in question and answer format, one question each. They just published a post linking all 172 questions broken down into 17 general topics. Very well done.

— 4 —

Last year the Archdiocese of New York’s Office of Vocations put together an impressive website to promote the priesthood. They feature the moving video below. Thanks go to The Anchoress for finding this one.

— 5 —

I saw a news piece on Brazilian bishops meeting with the Holy See. Pope Benedict XVI had a message for them on the liturgy, but I wonder if they heard it – at least then. Imagine their excitement, being at the Vatican, meeting the pope. Could his words really sink in then? I doubt it. I know it would be overwhelming for me. They probably only got the message later by reading the transcripts.

— 6 —

Clint Webb for Senate. One of the very, very few honest political ads.

— 7 —

Today’s quote:

The Second Vatican Council wasn’t called to turn Catholics into Protestants. It was called to ask God to bring all Christ’s followers into unity of faith so that the world would believe who Christ is and live with him in his Body, the Church.

Cardinal Francis George

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