Archives for June 2011

Father Corapi

I have never been a close follower of Father John Corapi, but I have seen his conversion story and a few other videos. Very impressive. A man clearly touched by the Holy Spirit and called to the priesthood in a remarkable way.

It was some surprise then, when he was accused in March of misconduct. Accused, only accused. I have no idea if there is any foundation to the accusations and apparently no one else does either.

I will say that I am angry at priests who commit crimes against others, particularly children (not what Father Corapi was accused of, BTW) and bring scandal to the Church instituted by our dear Lord. I also appreciate that we have no perfect mechanism to process such accusations but do the best we can, sometimes failing to protect our own – in effect, asking them to “take one for the team.”

Father Longenecker noted the injustices placed upon some of the priests in the messy Philadelphia situation. One priest claims the help he gave to a very troubled kid years ago has morphed into a money grab. A priest who chaperoned a theme park outing asked the kids to put his cell number in their phones in case of emergency. The mother of one of the girls took its presence as proof of inappropriate contact. Another mother claims a hug eagerly exchanged by her child with a priest after Mass (in public) became somehow erotic. These priests are now suspended, collateral damage today caused by inexcusable, immoral acts of a few priests decades ago.

Some troubling facts have come to light in Father Corapi’s situation. Proving nothing conclusively, many have risen strongly to his defense. Others have gone the opposite way. Many in the blogosphere have written articles and the response has been devisive.

There is only one “winner” in this situation, one who is thrilled and delighted by this story and its repercussions — Satan. First, this has been a horrible and painful experience for Father Corapi. Faithful Catholics have engaged in very non-charitable words against each other. The Church, the Body of Christ has suffered from the scandal, as she always does in these situations.

The solution is time for the wounds to heal and prayer.

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our Life, our Sweetness, and our Hope.
To Thee do we cry, poor banished children of Eve.
To Thee do we send up our sighs mourning
and weeping in this valley of tears.
Turn then, most gracious Advocate,
Thine Eyes of Mercy toward us,
and after this our exile show us the
Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving, O sweet Virgin Mary.
Pray for us O Holy Mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ.

Elsewhere: myths about the early Church

There are a variety of poor arguments against the reform of the reform (of certain changes made “in the spirit” of Vatican II). One of the interesting (and false) arguments is that the changes restored liturgical practices of the early Church.

Michael Foley debunks these myths in an interesting article recently published on Crisis Magazine:

1. Mass facing the people. After studying free-standing altars in early churches, liturgists in the 1930s concluded that priests once celebrated Mass “facing the people,” and that it was only under the influence of decadent medieval clericalism that they “turned their backs” to them. This myth was much in the drinking water at the time of Vatican II (1962-1965). Later, some scholars began to reexamine the evidence and found that it did not support their thesis at all, and that in fact there had been an unbroken tradition — both East and West — of priest and congregation celebrating the Eucharist in the same direction: eastward.

[…]

2. Communion in the hand and under both kinds. Myths about Holy Communion follow a similar pattern. Fifty years ago, the claim that “Communion in the hand” was the universal practice of the early Church was believed by everyone, even by those who didn’t wish to see the practice resuscitated. Now we’re not so sure. What we can say is that some early Christian communities practiced Communion in the hand, but Communion on the tongue may be just as ancient. And when Communion in the hand was practiced, the communicant received from a priest (and only a priest), most likely by putting It in his mouth without his other hand touching it. And in some places, a woman’s hand had to be covered with a white cloth!

[…]

3. The vernacular. Another widespread myth is that the early Church had Mass “in the vernacular.” But when Jesus worshipped in the synagogue, the language used was Hebrew, which had already been dead for 300 years. And for the first three centuries in Rome, the Mass was mostly celebrated in Greek, not Latin, which was only understood by a minority of the congregation.

[…]

4. Lay ministry. Another perduring myth is the idea that the laity were “more involved” in the Mass than they were in later ages. In our own day, this has spawned a multiplication of liturgical ministries for lay folk, such as lector, etc. The reality is that in the early Church, all of these roles were administered by the clergy. In fact, the early Church had more ordained clerical offices (the former minor orders) than it does today. The Council of Nicea in 325, for instance, talked about fine-tuning the office of “subdeacon.” This tells us one thing: that subdeacons were already a fixture in the landscape before the council was convoked. Lay Eucharistic ministers were not.

5. The pre- vs. post-Constantinian Church. Lurking behind all of these myths is a powerful “meta-myth,” the claim that there was a rupture in the life of the Church after the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the fourth century. The Church before Constantine, the meta-myth goes, was simple and pristine, a Church “of the people.” After Constantine, however, the Church became clericalist, hierarchical, and corrupted by the desire for grand buildings and highfalutin” ceremonies.

[…]

Read the whole article at Crisis Magazine: Five Myths About Worship in the Early Church.

Is Hell empty?

One of the people I highly respect is Father Robert Barron. He produces videos on Catholicism that are faithful, informative and interesting. Fr. Barron has short, topical videos on his YouTube channel. He has also produced longer presentations for TV broadcast. In a few months, Fr. Barron will release the eagerly awaited Catholicism Project.

I have learned a lot from Fr. Barron and have always found his teaching to be rock-solid. I was shocked then, when I heard his comments on Is Hell Crowded or Empty?

The Church teaches that hell is real. It has never taught that any person in particular has ended-up there, even Judas (likely, but not certain). For that matter, the Church teaches that only a relatively few Saints in particular are known to be in heaven. Where everyone else, who ever lived, landed is not definitively taught, not in particular or (debatable) in general. We are free to have differing opinions on the general proportion of heaven vs. hell. Mine is opposite that of Fr. Barron.

This subject is visited quite often in Holy Scripture as well as in Sacred Tradition. While heaven is offered to all, many have rejected it by rejecting God. We do not know the relative proportion of those in hell vs. heaven, but I believe that most faithful Catholics would say hell is well populated.

It seems to me this is similar to the question of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary before 1950. In that year, Pope Pius XII infallibly defined this doctrine in Munificentissimus Deus. At that time, questions were being raised for this long-held Catholic belief backed by Sacred Tradition (but not Holy Scripture). The case for hell being far from empty seems even stronger, although not (yet) infallibly declared.

In his piece, Father Barron begins by mentioning Rob Bell, an Evangelical mega-church pastor who wrote Love Wins, a very non-evangelical view that presents a Universalist, “everyone is saved” position. Father compares this with Origen of Alexandria (around 200AD) who took a similar position (that was condemned by the Church).

Moving to modern times, Fr. Barron notes that 20th century Protestant theologian Karl Barth held views similar to Bell and Origen on this topic. Father did not agree with Barth, but agreed with his contemporary – Catholic theologian Hans Urs von Balthasar who believed there is a reasonable hope that all people will be saved.

With all due respect to Balthasar and Fr. Barron, this is where I disagree. Certainly I share the hope that all people will accept the salvation paid for by Our Lord on Calvary. That they will be saved, almost all, the majority, a significant portion…   I am sadly doubtful. It is obvious in today’s world how many people reject God. God, through His Son, has mercifully given us a chance for eternal life – not a guarantee (or near gaurantee).

Bell and Origen suggest heresy. Balthasar’s view misses that, but not by much.

If these few academics were correct, then heaven is ours regardless of what we do. We would be free to reject God’s will, ignore His Church, believe whatever we wish, live in sin or perhaps even worship Satan. While these things would affect our life here, we would still have a “reasonable hope of salvation.” That friends, is hogwash!

Part of the reason this alarms me is because I sense that this is exactly what many people believe. IF there is a God and IF heaven exists, since He is merciful I will be assured of my place there. In the mean time, there is no reason to order my life in any way other than that which pleases me the most. Only I am important. God’s will is irrevelant.

Father Barron himself points out how this view differs from Saint Augustine of Hippo and Saint Thomas Acquinas. Both of these Doctors of the Catholic Church believed that most people will be damned. Father also acknowledges the “dark view” of hell Jesus often spoke of, for example:

Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few.

Clear enough to me! It was also clear enough to many Church Fathers revered for trustworthy teaching of the faith and who now pray for us in Heaven:

The greater part of men choose to be damned rather than to love Almighty God.

Saint Alphonsus Maria Liguori (Doctor of the Church)

On the threshing floor, few are the grains carried into the barns, but high are the piles of chaff burned with fire.

Pope Saint Gregory the Great (Doctor of the Church)

It is certain that few are saved.

Saint Augustine (Doctor of the Church)

Out of one hundred thousand sinners who continue in sin until death, scarcely one will be saved.

Saint Jerome (Doctor of the Church)

What I am about to tell you is very terrible, yet I will not conceal it from you. Out of this thickly populated city with its thousands of inhabitants, not one hundred people will be saved. I even doubt whether there will be as many as that!

St. John Chrysostom (Doctor of the Church)

I do not speak rashly, but as I feel and think. I do not think that many priests are saved, but that those who perish are far more numerous.

also St. John Chrysostom (Doctor of the Church)

Christ’s flock is called “little” (Luke 12:32) in comparison with the greater number of the reprobates.

Saint Bede the Venerable (Doctor of the Church)

The greater part of men will set no value on the blood of Christ, and will go on offending Him.

Saint Isidore of Seville (Doctor of the Church)
(also my confirmation Saint)

How few the elect are may be understood from the multitude being cast out.

Saint Hilary of Pointiers (Doctor of the Church)

The majority of men shall not see God, excepting those who live justly, purified by righteousness and by every other virtue.

Saint Justin Martyr

There are a select few who are saved.

Saint Thomas Aquinas (Doctor of the Church)

The number of the elect is so small – so small – that, were we to know how small it is, we would faint away with grief: one here and there, scattered up and down the world!

Saint Louis Marie de Montfort

The Catechism also addresses this in some detail in paragraphs 1021 through 1060. For example:

We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: “He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.” Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called “hell.”

CCC 1033

Michael Voris at RealCatholicTV did an excellent piece on this topic entitled How Many Will be Saved?, from which the above Saint quotes were drawn. John Salza at Scripture Catholic also has a very good page on hell.

My opinion: hell is quite full, filling fast, but with plenty of space to accommodate everyone. Satan has a chair for each of us and hopes to fill it. Many seats will be claimed.


UPDATES:

  • Bryan Cross gives an excellent analysis of this topic at Called to Communion
  • Piers Paul Read addresses shortcomings of Balthasar and his selective read of Lumen Gentium
  • Mark Shea provides a good analysis of what the Church teaches definitively
  • Michael Voris addresses the topic in this video.

Hello WordPress!

Convert Journal has been re-implemented on a new blogging platform! Subscribers (RSS/Atom feeds, Facebook, Twitter, E-mail, etc.) should not be affected. The site URL (and all old URLs within the site) should still work fine. In short, you should not have to do anything at all to read it in whatever fashion that you have been. I am keeping my fingers crossed…

Until now (18 months), I have published this blog on Google’s Blogger service. It has served us well in general and is an excellent platform for basic blogging. There have been some disappointments however:

  • Early on, the blog simply vanished and was replaced by a Google message that gave the impression I had closed or deleted it (I had not). That put me into a panic! Of course, with Google there is never anyone to contact or notice. I eventually found some hoops to jump through, waited and finally the blog reappeared. Again, without any explanation or notice. This happened twice. I moved the blog to dedicated account hoping that would help but have been concerned ever since. I remain a staunch Google fan, but my trust in Blogger was shaken.
  • Blogger comments are awkward and at least one of my subscribers has had difficulty leaving them. I suspect Blogger in this case.
  • About a month ago, Blogger went unavailable for updates or new posts for a day or two. I can live with that more than some bloggers, but it doesn’t build confidence.
  • In the last few weeks Blogger has caused my “Latest Posts” widget to be unreliable. No explanation, just odd.

Beyond the disappointments, as I learned more about blogging I kept running-up against more and more Blogger limitations. Fortunately, I am a geek with solid web skills so I was able to accomplish some things with CSS tricks, some JavaScript, sub-domains, etc. For example, the Essays page, Videos page and list of convert books were all produced by custom code.

I don’t want to sound ungrateful. I really appreciate Google, their Blogger service and think it fills an important need. For myself, personally (I know, redundant), I am ready for something with more capability and reliability – that is WordPress.

Before using Blogger I had setup 2 previous Blogger blogs and so it is with WordPress. At the end of last year I jumped into WordPress for another Catholic site – something I will share with you soon. I had known a good bit about their history (if not the hands-on experience until last year) of WordPress and was favorably disposed toward them. When I re-implemented the other site in WordPress I knew it would be the right choice and it definitely was. I was quite impressed. At that time, we also went with a template framework from StudioPress. That was also a very good choice as the Genesis framework is truly excellent, their prices and license very reasonable and support is outstanding. I still don’t think this is for newbies, but for those with the underlying skills, it is a powerful base upon which to build a blog. Naturally, I chose WordPress and StudioPress for this re-implementation.

WordPress is a high-quality, Open Source product that has gotten better and better over the years. Like Blogger, it is offered at WordPress.com as a service. They host your blog for you on their servers at no charge but with certain limitations. To fully unleash the power of WordPress, it needs to be “self-hosted.” Fortunately that is no problem for me as I already have a powerful, highly reliable Virtual Private Server for my business clients.

I keep calling this a “re-implementation” and not a “port” because so much has changed “under the covers.” Much of my custom programming has been replaced by the native power of WordPress, Genesis and plugins.

The re-implementation keeps the general appearance of the original site. Frequent visitors will notice some changes but there has not been a wholesale design replacement. There is more “polish.” The new infrastructure is much easier for me. For example, the Essays page is now generated automatically. Maintenance is easier too, such as finding and fixing broken links on old posts. I can finally make edits (such as fixing typos) on comments – something that always annoyed me with Blogger’s apparent decision that editing comments was somehow wrong.

I hope this has been helpful for my techie and blogger readers. I am sure most of my usual audience had stopped reading after the first paragraph or two! As always, feel free to comment or send me an E-mail if you like.

Hijacking CST

It is contemptible and sad when people (particularly Catholics) “hijack” Catholic Social Teaching for their own ends, typically political. Sometimes this is done in a cold and calculating way. Other times it is because they confuse the ideology of their political party with true Catholic teaching (or worse, place it above the teaching of Christ’s true Church). Sometimes it is just ignorance.

“Never ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence” is often attributed to Napoleon. Heinlein’s Razor updates that to “never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice.” It is unclear which quote fits better in this case, but I note that the parties involved are a hodgepodge of professors.

Recently a group of Catholic university professors wrote an “open letter” to Speaker (US House of Representatives) John Boehner, a (Republican) Catholic. The thrust of their letter was to enlighten him that any reductions in federal government programs that aid the poor would be contrary to Catholic Social Teaching. Of course, the “open” letter was not for him at all but to American Catholics with the subtext that Republicans act contrary to Catholic values – a very partisan agenda promoted at the expense of true Catholic teaching.

Yes, Republicans sometimes act in opposition to CST. Their support of the death penalty immediately comes to mind (an unjust death about once per week). On the other hand, Democrats give unwavering support to the murder of innocent unborn children (which we hold to be an intrinsic evil, resulting in an unjust death every 20 to 30 seconds). Neither political party lines up perfectly with Catholic teaching.

The issue at hand is – can a self-appointed “liberal magisterium” convince Catholics, for their own partisan purposes, that any reduction in federal programs is contrary to Catholic teaching? I sure hope not and that we see this for the corruption of Church teaching that it is.

The real Magisterium, the one instituted by Jesus and protected by the Holy Spirit, reminds us of our obligation to love each other. In that, we each have a PERSONAL obligation to the poor and vulnerable in what we call the “preferential option for the poor.” We are to share the gifts of time, talent and treasure loaned to us by God with others in need. Catholic charities have always had this focus and do more in this regard than any other charity on the planet.

The “liberal magisterium” views a large, central government (and through it the forced redistribution of wealth as determined by others – particularly them) as the solution. We could split hairs all day on semantics, but that is socialism and it is condemned by the true Magisterium. In the very least, it is liberation theology which our Holy Father and the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith have also condemned (see this, for example) for the same reasons. Not only is it outside of CST, it is contrary to it – raising issues of free will, worker rights to their wages, subsidiarity and more.

John Kennedy noted that “the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.” Ronald Reagan was more direct – “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.”

Let’s consider the credibility of the letter organizers. They presumably have done this out of deep concern for the reflection of Catholic values in governmental policy. How many in this group wrote letters to Nancy Pelosi (Democrat Catholic) when she led the House? Did they ever take issue with her rock-solid support, expansion and promotion of abortion? Did they raise a peep at any point in the continual attack on the family posed by supporters of immoral unions? Unlike the bogus issue the professors are raising that will mislead Catholics ahead of the next election, these serious issues are very real (supported by one political party in particular).

Maybe, we should just expect this once again in preparation for the upcoming presidential election. Last time, a half-dozen fake Catholic groups suddenly appeared (with websites and promotion) to give cover to politicians and mislead Catholics. Immediately after the election they disappeared but were very effective. Would it surprise you to learn that this deception was all tied to one party? This could just be more of the same – and as offensive and immoral as the last round.

Some excellent analysis of this issue has been published. In particular, I recommend that you take a look at the the following:

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