Archives for September 2010

Elsewhere: Sunday without women

We have our “progressive” fringe as evidenced by Jennifer Sleeman, an Irish octogenarian. Ms. Sleeman organized a boycott of Mass last weekend by all liberal women who are outraged at the Church, for whatever it is they are outraged about now. The press loves this stuff.

“Whatever change you long for, recognition, ordination, the end of celibacy, which is another means of keeping women out, join with your sisters and let the hierarchy know by your absence that the days of an exclusively male-dominated church are over.”

Naturally, Women’s Ordination Worldwide jumped on-board with their full support. Of the billion+ Catholics worldwide, there were probably a dozen women who normally go to Church but chose to support the boycott. Fortunately, the faithful know better. Irish attendance was actually up slightly.

This lunacy makes as much sense as women boycotting their husbands until they become pregnant as equals. UK blogger Father Ray Blake covers this story well:

Missing Mass is a serious sin, encouraging others to do it is a wicked and divisive thing. It is a demonstration that for people like Sleeman there is little about the duty of being present at Calvary or taking part in the Liturgy of Heaven. The Mass and the Church too is seen just as meeting, an assembly, a rally, a family meal, at which the disgruntled like petulant adolescents can absent themselves.

Nevertheless Sleeman’s action is deeply worrying and is perhaps significant of what is happening to many Liberals today who are boycotting themselves out of the Church. For them the Catholic Church is becoming an alien place, no wonder during the visit some of them were happier to be amongst the angry grey faces of the Protest the Popers rather than amongst the happy, joyful crowds that welcomed him.

In some ways it is tempting to say good riddance to those who seem to have little in common with orthodox Catholicism, who are selective in their beliefs, dismissive of any Magisterium, who are happier with circle dancing than monthly confession, preferring the eneagram to Benediction, who squirm at the mention of an Indulgence but ultimately here we are talking about souls and their loss here. We cannot be happy or complacent at their loss or their absence.

Read the whole article entitled Lost Liberal Souls.

Matthew Archbold also covers this over at Creative Minority Report in his piece Did You Boycott Church?

Sigh…

Elsewhere: MSM covers historic visit?

Pope Benedict XVI has just completed a historic state visit to the United Kingdom. Despite the tireless efforts of the British Humanist Association, National Secular Society, Women Against Fundamentalism and similar groups – the visit was a huge success. Our Holy Father is an amazing shepherd in this troubled world.

The US mainstream press has covered the Pope’s triumph on their front pages from the New York Times to the LA Times and papers big and small everywhere in between. This is not just Catholic news but worldwide news. As fair and professional journalists, they presented history unfolding. Featured prominently was coverage of huge supportive crowds along with their government leaders. Here in the US, there was an apparent press blackout of the visit. Mostly, the usual anti-Catholic pieces appeared.

Deacon Greg Kandra noted this on his blog (The Deacon’s Bench). He wrote:

One of the biggest surprises of Pope Benedict’s historic trip to the United Kingdom may be how few people realize that it was, in fact, historic.

Sunday night, I was chatting by phone with my father-in-law in Maryland. I told him I’d been busy with the papal coverage all weekend.

“Didn’t seem like much happened,” he said.

“Really?,” I replied. “He was the first pope to visit the Church of England’s Westminster Abbey. He stood there with the Archbishop of Canterbury, side by side, as they both pronounced the final blessing and made the sign of the cross together.”

“He did that?” My father-in-law sounded genuinely surprised.

“He went to the hall where Thomas More was sentenced to death and delivered a speech about religion to the civil leaders of Great Britain.”

“He did?”

“And he took part in his first beatification: Cardinal John Henry Newman, an Anglican priest who converted to Catholicism.”

I could almost hear him scratching his bald head. “How come nobody said anything about that?”

Now, my father-in-law is a pretty smart guy, and what you might consider an observant Catholic. He attends mass every morning. He keeps up on current events. Now retired from the FDA, he regularly checks in with the Washington Post, USA TODAY, MSNBC and CNN. But he was baffled that this stuff I was telling him wasn’t on the nightly news.

“All we saw down here,” he explained, “was that he met with sex abuse victims.”

I started to wonder what sort of coverage the trip had received. After I hung up the phone, I searched through several newspaper websites. I clicked on the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Boston Globe. Nothing, nothing, nothing. None of them mentioned on their home page the Pope’s just-completed trip.

When I got to work on Monday, I searched CNN Newsource, which provides newsfeeds to my show, “Currents,” as well as to countless other news programs around the country. I found a grand total of one item, running about a minute long, slugged “Anti-Pope Demonstrations.”

That was it.

Read the whole article entitled The pope, the greatest story never told.

Hilary White writes about the challenge and effect of the Pope’s visit. Too bad our press ignored it – they (purposefully) missed one great story! Be sure to read her truly excellent piece Britain Gobsmacked by Pope Benedict.

Catholic obedience

There are well over 1 billion Catholics spanning every culture, race and nationality. Most are quite faithful. If you are interested in the Catholic Church, you have probably met some Catholics who are wonderful examples of Catholic life.

Being Catholic does not mean being perfect. If only! It means we strive to follow Christ – in His Word and through His Church. This is our lifelong commitment and struggle to become saints. When we fail, we examine our conscience, confess, receive absolution and try our best to do much better. All faithful Catholics, including the pope, go to confession.

As professed Catholics, we are obliged to follow the teachings of our faith. Some things (dogma and doctrine) are not up for debate, they are simply the truth. Other things (discipline such as priest celibacy) are practices of the Church but could change. On some topics, the Church has taken no position although reasonable theories may have been advanced.

We must accept Holy Scripture, Sacred Tradition and the teaching authority of the Magisterium (the pope and bishops). Some things are black and white, the truth is known, and of them we are not free to individually decide something else. That is, we are not free to have personal interpretations of dogma and doctrine.

Non-Catholics sometime see this as oppressive. They are often (officially or not) able to decide truths for themselves within their Christian community. Yet there is only one truth, not a multitude of equally acceptable but different truths. Who is correct and does it matter? They don’t know and yes it does. Catholics do not suffer this struggle.

A concrete example is abortion. The Church teaches that we are commanded not to kill and that human life begins at conception. The purposeful taking of a baby’s life is not a “choice” but an intrinsic evil. We are not free to weigh the pros and cons of bringing a baby to term vs. killing it. We are not free to decide when life begins as that is a known, immutable fact.

You may be a member of many organizations. They all have rules, created by people, usually for good reasons. You may disagree with some rules. You may lobby to change them. In many cases you could even morally ignore them.

The Church is uniquely different. It was instituted by Christ to guide us to the salvation He earned for us on Calvary. He personally and directly gave the Church its authority. He promised its protection. To be disobedient to the Church is to be disobedient to God.

Does this mean the Church is perfect even if we are not. No, the Church is imperfect and has made mistakes. Most things written by the Church, said by priests, bishops or even the pope are not new infallible teaching. In fact, that is rarely the case.

Some popes have been canonized as Saints. Most have not – meaning we do not know if they are in heaven or not. We do know that some led scandalous lives. Yet for all the popes (266 from St. Peter to Pope Benedict XVI), sinners all, the few bad ones did not teach infallibility. They did not, for example, speak ex cathedra declaring themselves to be God (or even without sin). The Holy Spirit protected the Church.

Conversely, there are many examples of great popes who have given us much needed insight or made remarkably good decisions in the face of popular opposition from both inside and outside the Church. A recent example of this was during the “sexual revolution,” Pope Paul VI created a commission to study the morality of the newly available artificial birth control. After careful study, the commission voted 54 to 4 in favor. The results then were presented to 15 bishops who concurred. This was a very popular result which Pope Paul rejected in Humanae Vitae. It turns out, Pope Paul was correct and well guided by the Holy Spirit (see: this article, one of many good analysis).

Some Catholics are not obedient to the Church out of true ignorance. That is a failure of catechesis and they are not culpable.

Some Catholics are not obedient to the Church intentionally. They may reject one teaching or many. This often puts them in a state of mortal sin and very grave danger. Not from the Church, but at God’s judgment. They have the free will to put prideful arrogance above humble faithfulness, but are not free of the eternal consequences.

Yet, there is hope. Fallen away Catholics can come home, just as the prodigal son did. They often call themselves “reverts” and exhibit a zeal for the faith seen in many converts. Renewed as members of the Church Militant, their path straightened, they continue on the journey to salvation. That after all, is the purpose of Christ’s Church.

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #11)

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 —

Where do communion wafers come from? One source is the Passionist Monastery in Erlanger, Kentucky. Sister Mary Angela explains:

— 2 —

Speaking of nuns – Sister Mary Martha writes a wonderful blog, answering questions and explaining the faith with humor and plain talk. For example, in a post explaining the brown scapular, she said “Also, just because you won’t see the fires of hell doesn’t mean you won’t do time in Purgatory. The good news is that part of the Pope’s pronouncement states that scapular wearers will get out of Purgatory of the first Saturday after their death. So: Don’t leave home without it. And……….Shoot for a Friday passing. There are many other types of Scapulars, though, and they come in different colors, like our national Terror Alert System, only useful.”

Visit her blog at Ask Sister Mary Martha.

— 3 —

If you watch America’s Got Talent, move on. If you are like me and never watch it then you have missed this little Catholic girl. Her name is Jackie Evancho and she is all of 10 years old. I stumble terribly with Latin, but not her. Previously she sang Panis Angelicus and Pie Jesu. Listen to her sing Ave Maria:

— 4 —

Todd over at The Catholic Sojourner has been writing his conversion story. He is one of the many Catholic converts listed in the Convert Stories database. It always amazes how inspiring these stories are. Read Todd’s latest piece entitled A Miraculous Resuscitation. It is not short, but it is definitely worth the read (read it all, no skimming!).

— 5 —

CatholicVote.org put together this great video reminding us of our duty to vote in the upcoming election and what is at stake.

— 6 —

Today’s quote:

The rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.

John F. Kennedy

— 7 —

Elizabeth Esther kindly hosts a feature she calls The Saturday Evening Blog Post. Published monthly every first Saturday, it features the best post in the preceding month on each of a few dozen Christian blogs. The “best” entries are chosen by the authors themselves (so they should know!).

It is a great way to discover new blogs. Be sure to check-it out. My entry last month was the road trip of life.

Protestantism trainwreck

There are probably more charitable ways to say this, but in my opinion, Protestantism is a slow trainwreck in progress. It was started by the heresies of Martin Luther 500 years ago and will not be complete until all the scattered pieces come to rest. As individual objects (denominations, synods, assemblies, churches) cartwheel across the landscape they continue to break apart into ever smaller pieces.

This is no reflection on Protestants. I know many, many who are outstanding examples of devotion to Christ. They are good people, go to church, study scripture and do their level best to live as the gospel teaches. I was one of them. Many people I dearly love still are.

As a general rule, Protestants are not protesting anything. Many, like me, were born and raised in a Protestant denomination. Like Catholics, they recall endless fond memories of religious milestones (baptisms, confirmations, marriages), religious education (Sunday school, vacation Bible school, confirmation classes), service (teachers, church council, ushers), fellowship (men/women groups, bake sales, charitable endeavors) and countless religious holidays reverently celebrated with family and friends. Their faith is an important part of their identity and they can not picture becoming Catholic any more than they could picture a gender change operation!

Yet, they are often unknowingly trapped by that same self-identity. They see their churches becoming increasingly fragmented. Many know something is wrong. Theoretically, they could spend a great deal of time studying history and writings of the early Church fathers with open hearts and minds. To do so however would invite a huge risk. IF they were to conclude they were not in Christ’s true Church, how would they tell their siblings, parents, relatives, and church friends? It is so much easier to not find out. Besides, even after such effort, one could assume (or at least hope) that they were just not understanding the evidence correctly.

From the moment Luther broke his solemn vows to God as an ordained Catholic priest, not only was the creation of Protestantism marked, but its slow self-destruction too. Like cells dividing generation after generation, so has the Protestant world. Substituting their personal views for the Church instituted by Jesus. Calvin, Wesley and a multitude of others followed Luther with their own adjustments to the faith creating new Protestant churches. Who were these men? Were they sent by God? Were they prophets? Which among them had the “new” truth? Are Lutherans right and Methodists wrong? Has Baptist truths somehow escaped Episcopalians? Can anyone explain the spectrum of beliefs in the Anglican Union? Is a least-common-denominator Unitarian approach the silver bullet?

Protestantism is often discussed as if it identifies a common theology. It does not. There are numerous Protestant denominations (some estimates say tens of thousands). The differences between even “mainstream” denominations mentioned above spans a huge range from the extremely progressive where freedom of individual belief is paramount to the very conservative. Those on the conservative side are much closer to Catholicism than they would probably admit than they are to many of their Protestant brethren.

The reason for so many denominations primarily boils down to a lack of true authority. Founded themselves in schism from the one true Church, new schisms form when opinions differ, as they inevitably do. There is no Magisterium – direct successors to the Apostles, forever protected by the Holy Spirit – to protect the faith. The splintering happens frequently along progressive / conservative lines within denominations. US Lutherans are typical and a good case study.

Lutheranism in the US is primarily represented by 3 synods: the ELCA, the LCMS and WELS. The ELCA is by far the largest having around twice as many members as the next largest (LCMS). It was formed through the merger of three smaller synods and has become more progressive over time. Matters of organization and faith are decided in national conventions of delegates drawn from member churches. As progressives steadily increased control, rules for who could be a delegate were established (60% must be lay people, 50% female, 10% minority, etc.) that diminished the voice of trained clergy.

For some time, the ELCA has had women pastors, privately active homosexual pastors, “open table” communion, pastor healthcare plans that fully fund abortion for any reason and official opposition to pro-marriage (1 man, 1 woman) laws. ELCA Lutherans put new proposals to a vote of delegates. There were contentious issues (as usual) in August 2009. Specifically to accept openly practicing homosexual pastors (if they are in a “long-term, loving, committed relationship”) and to bless homosexual unions (a precursor to full recognition of homosexual “marriages”). Conservatives pushed for a super-majority (two thirds) requirement for passage but were defeated so a simple democratic majority of mostly lay people would decide.

When debate began on the proposed sex statement affirming homosexual relationships, a rare and completely unpredicted tornado struck downtown Minneapolis where the convention was held. It ripped off part of the convention center roof, but even more amazing is what happened to Central Lutheran Church directly across the street. That church had earlier hosted the homosexual lobby’s worship services. The tornado actually knocked the cross over on their steeple. This did not deter the vote which passed the proposal reportedly by 66.6%. Many observers did not dismiss these signs as coincidences.

The progressives won and there is no turning back. Conservatives will slowly melt away, strengthening the hand of the progressives at all levels. At the time of the vote, Dr. Michael Root, a well respected Lutheran theologian and Professor of Systematic Theology at the Lutheran Theological Southern Seminary in Columbia, SC (and dean thereof from 2003 through 2009) wrote in part:

There is much talk about unity in the ELCA. We need to be honest and also theologically sensitive to new possibilities of maintaining what unity we can. On the one hand, unity as it has existed in the ELCA is no longer possible (and perhaps has not existed for a while). The shared sense of law and gospel that communion requires is gone. I believe that must be said and said clearly.

Pushed from their Lutheran self-identity and with the scales fallen from their eyes to really see Catholicism, many will feel pulled by the Holy Spirit to the Church. That was my case. Others are intellectually led to the Catholic Church through study and research. It is surprisingly common for Protestant clergy to convert. In doing so they must make serious sacrifices. The Coming Home Network lay apostolate reaches out specifically to non-Catholic clergy.

To be steeped in history is to cease being Protestant.

Cardinal John Henry Newman (convert)

In my earlier post on Married priests, I featured a picture of Father Tom McMichael and his wife Karin, but not his story. From the Archdiocese of Seattle website:

Reflecting last week on that process, he stressed that his years as a Lutheran pastor were a positive experience. But he said he felt a “pull towards the Catholic Church” and a “push” out of the Lutheran Church.

It was not the same Lutheran Church he had grown up in and trained for, he said. He and other pastors were becoming dismayed with the direction the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America – which formed in 1988 with the merger of three Lutheran church groups – was taking. Among other changes, there was less emphasis on the sacraments and on the liturgy, he said, two areas that he was passionate about.

In addition, the issues that separated the Lutheran and Catholic churches no longer seemed to be issues of importance in his mind. He was feeling enriched by the fullness of faith professed in the Catholic Church, and he was disappointed that the two churches no longer seemed on a track toward unity after encouraging signs that they were heading in that direction, most notably through their Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification in 1999 in which they agreed on a common understanding of their justification of God’s grace through faith in Christ.

“So I and many others found ourselves with some tough decisions to make,” he said. “Where do we fit into this new church? And can we work within it to bring about sort of a more Catholic understanding of liturgy and the sacraments and ecclesiology? Or can we not?”

It has now been 1 year since the latest progressive moves in the ELCA. Reflecting on the changes, has Lutheran theologian Dr. Root come to any conclusion? YES

On Monday I shared with the faculty the news that in the near future I will be received into the Catholic Church. I now wish to share that news with you. This action is not one that I take lightly. The Lutheran church has been my intellectual and spiritual home for forty years. But we are not masters of our convictions. A risk of ecumenical study is that one will come to find another tradition compelling in a way that leads to a deep change in mind and heart. Over the last year or so, it has become clear to me, not without struggle, that I have become a Catholic in my mind and heart in ways that no longer permit me to present myself as a Lutheran theologian with honesty and integrity.

This move is less a matter of decision than of discernment.

No single issue has been decisive for me, but at the center of my reflection has been the question of how God’s grace engages the justified person and the church in the divine mission of salvation. How are we redeemed as the free and responsible agents God created us to be? Catholic theology speaks of God elevating the justified person and the church to participation in the divine life and mission, so that God grants the Christian and the church participation in God’s actions in a different way than Lutheran theology affirms. Catholic teachings do not follow from that vision with deductive force, but they do hang together with that vision in ways that I have come to find deeply convincing.

Welcome home Michael!!!

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