Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving - Authority & Unity

Bryan Cross has an excellent post on Christian Authority & Unity. Check it out if you get a chance. BTW, Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Another Anglican Bishop Returns to Full Communion With the Church

Welcome home Bishop Lipscomb. Read his open letter here in which he requests release from his vows and acceptance into the Holy Catholic Church. H/T NotMyOpinion. It reminds me of the homily I heard recently at the Ukranian Catholic Church in which the priest stated, after the collapse of our self centered culture all that will remain is Islam, Secularism and the Catholic Church. Pick your side while you still can. The Protestant experiment has failed - the Church stands firm as she always has. This is not the work of man but of God.

In Praise of Fundamentalism

"Fundamentalist" has become such a dirty word these days. Let me first say something perhaps a bit controversial. There will be a thousand fundamentalists in Heaven per every one progressive. Or in other words, how much better to be a fundamentalist than to be a progressive Catholic or mainstream evangelical.

I've been exposed to quite a bit of fundamentalism. To the evangelical mainstreams at my work, the denomination I grew up in (PCA) would be considered fundamentalist-right wing. In fact, one referred to the OPC as a “scary” denomination. That is scary.

I have a number of relatives who would be unhesitant in labeling themselves ‘fundamentalist’. I have more in common with them than with dissenting Catholics. I have more respect for the simpleton thumping his bible and saying that Jesus is coming soon to rapture all the Christians than for the Jesuit theologian claiming that the greatest problem we face today is something that could be solved in the political arena. The fundamentalist (often) errs in innocence. The progressive has access to the sacraments daily and the fullness of the gift of the Holy Spirit by confirmation and access to the worlds best theologians today and yesterday... yet he rejects the Church teaching (which is part of God's revelation - therefore he rejects God's Word).

You see, the fundamentalist for all his errors has retained what’s important. He has unwavering faith in Christ. The progressive on the other hand blasphemes Christ and sets himself above the Holy Spirit. The progressive thinks that the bible is only true on matters of faith and morality as if God were incapable of scientific or historical accuracy. That’s blasphemous. The fundamentalist recognizes and respects the God-given differences between male and female. The progressive attributes the roles to cultural prejudice and God’s failure to address these issues. That’s blasphemy. The fundamentalist believes in demons and in Satan - the true enemy of Christians. The progressive ignores the brunt of Christ's earthly ministry and thinks that belief in demons is mere superstition - that would make our Lord the chief superstitionist (spell check is telling me that's not a word.... to hell with spell check!). Again, we find the progressive guilty of blasphemy.

Let us remind ourselves that God entered into human history in the Man Jesus Christ during a time where racism was commonplace, slavery was business as usual and the income gap would make modern Mexico look like the poster child of economic Egalitarianism – yet in spite of all this, Jesus didn’t mention one damn word about any of it. The fundamentalist in his simplicity understands this. The ‘learned’ progressive has forgotten – or never knew it in the first place. Worse still – he even ignores the true Christ for the “judge not lest you be judged” Christ that exists only in his imagination.

So I have many words of praise for the fundamentalist (though he errs on many things – a clear example of why Scripture was intended to be interpreted by the Church in the context of sacred tradition and not by an individual trained in some back-woods seminary that teaches in an official capacity that 2 Timothy 3:16 sufficiently proves sola scriptura) and not so many words of praise for the progressive – in fact I have none for him and I have nothing in common with him. (I think that’s the longest sentence I ever wrote). At any rate, I think you get what I’m saying – though he thinks I’m worshiping at the Whore of Babylon, at least the fundamentalist has retained the Christian faith. Progressive Catholics and mainstream evangelicals have lost any resemblance to the orthodox faith.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Stem Cell Breakthrough Without Destroying Embryos

I was pleasantly surprised to see this article getting mainstream press.

NEW YORK - Scientists have made ordinary human skin cells take on the chameleon-like powers of embryonic stem cells, a startling breakthrough that might someday deliver the medical payoffs of embryo cloning without the controversy.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Early Christians and the Sacrifice of the Mass

In reply to Thos from my previous discussion:

Didn't have time to elaborate any more last night but i also wanted to add that forgiveness of sins found in Christ's sacrifice replace the temple sacrifice.

We have some evidence that the earliest Christian liturgies celebrated the 'liturgy of the Word' in the Jewish synagogues on the Sabbath and celebrated the Eucharist on the Lord's day. Mike Aquilina's book "The Mass of the Early Christians" discusses this briefly. Also see this helpful article on the subject.

But that the earliest Christians celebrated the Eucharist as we celebrate it today is uncontested. The specific act of Eucharistic adoration is a fairly recent (recent as in only as old as Protestantism) but this isn't a typical part of our liturgy.

The centrality of the Eucharist in even the earliest of Christian liturgies is uncontested historically. It has been called many names - almost all having to do with the Eucharist. "Breaking of the bread" etc.. Some of the early fathers referred to the mass simply as "the Sacrifice".

As the early Christians were all Jews - naturally they would see the Eucharist in sacrificial terms - the True Sacrifice - replacing and fulfilling the sacrifices of Judaism.

This is the entire reason why Jesus was crucified - He set Himself in place of the temple. It was in Christ that the Jews "escaped" the temple sacrifice - proclaiming and representing the True sacrifice at every mass in perpetuity.

Let us also not forget that God told Moses that the Passover sacrifice was to be perpetually celebrated. As the Church fathers taught us, the Old Testament pre-figures the New and the NT fulfillments always exceed their Old Testament prefigurements. Jesus is the new Adam - greater than the first. Mary is the new Eve, greater than the first.

Christ was the new Passover Lamb - greater than the first. The Eucharistic celebration was both a fulfillment of the temple cult and the passover liturgy. Christ's sacrifice was much greater than the sacrifices of the temple, and since the Passover liturgy was a mere commemoration of the one-time passover sacrifice, the Eucharistic celebration by default must be greater. No longer did the Church consider it to be merely a commemoration (though we do it in memory of a one time event) but instead we understand it as a non-bloody representation of the True Pascal Sacrifice.

So then it should come as no surprise that within one generation , if there were separate liturgical celebrations in the early Church, they were combined well before the end of the first century. The mass structure has stayed identical ever since. Justin Martyr's detailed overview of the mass in his first apology matches exactly what we've described - First the liturgy of the Word following the traditions of the Synagogues and then the liturgy of the Eucharist - proclaiming and representing the Sacrifice in perpetuity according to the commands of God and the traditions of our Church fathers.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Ukranian Catholic Mass - Wow

I just got back from the Ukranian Catholic Mass at St. Basil the Great in Charlotte. How incredibly awesome. If you ever get a chance to go to one, don't pass it up. This parish meets at the Catholic high school once per month and for the last 2 or 3 months, I haven't been able to attend for various reasons. Short of an act of God I don't think I'll miss another.

The reverence for the Eucharist was unbelievable. The beauty was unparalleled. I've never been to a 2 hour mass that felt like 10 minutes. Now I see a glimpse of what the "spirit of Vatican II" has robbed the Church of. Her rightful liturgy is absolutely beautiful. Beautiful and reverent liturgy is absolutely fitting to the Eucharist. Anything less is a spit in God's face. In fact, dumbing down the liturgy (like my Parish unfortunately does) is looking in lust after other religions - the casual living room liturgies of Protestant communities, the inwardness of Buddhism even the self-centered attitude of secularism. This amounts to spiritual pornography and to the extent that we no longer merely lust after the irreverence others 'enjoy', we are guilty of liturgical adultery.

Fitting to the mass is nothing less than absolute reverence, solemnity and for God sake - BEAUTY! What do you liberals have against beauty of all things? The folk mass at my parish is the ugliest of all the ones we have, even those who regularly attend it know. They won't say so if you ask them, but if you look on their unenthusiastic faces during the mass; their eyes betray them. It's bad and everyone knows it.

During the mass I felt like I was in Heaven. That's what mass is anyhow - a meeting of Heaven and Earth. Now the liturgy made me believe it.

As if that weren't enough, the priest gave the best homily/sermon I've ever heard. I've never heard such spiritual clarity and deep theological teachings from a sermon. I was blown away by the entire experience. Every mass should blow you away. If it doesn't, something is wrong.

My only problem now is waiting until the next one.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Origin of "God Bless You"

My co-workers and I had a quick debate about the origin of "God bless you". I heard someone repeat the tired myth - "people used to think that when you sneezed a demon was coming out of you so they started saying God bless you". We do far too much to perpetuate baseless stereotypes of medieval Christian peasantry. At least that's the impression I get.

I replied "I've heard that too and I really don't know where it came from but that doesn't sound right to me. There was never a time when people were too dumb to know that sneezing was caused by an irritation of the nose. Ask a three year old why he sneezes. He'll tell you (without having gone through the "Enlightenment") that it's because he has something in his nose or he sniffed some pepper. So that line about the ridiculous superstitions held by our ancestors just never really convinced me. (Not to say that people haven't believed some really stupid things... Just look at some of the stuff we still believe).

So it's Friday - I decided to fire up Google (just briefly!) and see what I found out. Here it is: read em' and weep boys...

According to the Wikipedia article on "God Bless You", Snopes Urban Legends lists the origin of the phrase as the aforementioned explanation.

A much more feasible explanation for the origin of the phrase is found here (as well as mentioned first in the Wikipedia article). This site claims that Pope Gregory the Great was its originator.

Finally, Medterms rightly compares the practical application of the phrase with the German - 'gesundheit'.

Just in case anyone ever asks you...

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Doctrine of Irenaeus In His Own Words

In my previous post, I discussed Irenaeus as the quintessential early Church father. Continuing on that thought process, I wanted to briefly examine his doctrine. In his lengthy work, Against Heresies, he is entirely devoted to exposing the fallacies of the various Gnostic (in his words: falsely so called) sects. He spends a great deal of time explaining the details of their theology and in fact, much of what we know of their belief system we owe to him as many of their texts are no longer extant. Of his works only one other has survived though we know he wrote many more.

It even seems odd to us that such effort was spent defending Christian orthodoxy against what to us seems to be ridiculous theology. How could any person with even the slightest bit of learning call the God of the Old Testament an evil - lesser god than the True God who sent Jesus Christ? How could Christ have any credibility were it not for the divine origin of the Jewish Scriptures and in turn the Jewish religion? In reality, we see the same thing happening today with 'Christian feminists' who attribute the masculinity of God and the priesthood to cultural prejudice. In doing so they unwittingly blaspheme God and or at least reduce the Scriptures to the mere product of men. So one might ask 1000 years from now on seeing a 21st century refutation of 'Christian feminist' propaganda "how was anyone so unlearned as to consider the Word [Christ] false but Christianity true?" Judging by Irenaeus' exhaustive refutation of the various belief systems, we can safely assume that they had led no small number of the faithful astray in his day.

So Just What Did Irenaeus Believe?
Irenaeus is one of the defining patriarchs of orthodoxy. His articulation of Christian theology borrows heavily from St. Paul - making frequent use of the Pauline epistles with extensive quotes. Most of what he says would be welcome from the pulpits of any Christian community or Church. If the Catholic Church varies on any of his doctrines they are mere nuances. However, while agreeing with most of it, Protestants would have irreconcilable differences on a few things. And wouldn't you know it... I'm about to discuss those very doctrines now.

Three paragraphs you won't find in any evangelical book:

1. He uses apostolic succession to show that the doctrines they teach were received from the apostles and on that account they cannot be contradicted.

But, again, when we refer them to that tradition which originates from the apostles, [and] which is preserved by means of the succession of presbyters in the Churches, they object to tradition, saying that they themselves are wiser not merely than the presbyters, but even than the apostles, because they have discovered the unadulterated truth. For [they maintain] that the apostles intermingled the things of the law with the words of the Saviour; and that not the apostles alone, but even the Lord Himself, spoke as at one time from the Demiurge, at another from the intermediate place, and yet again from the Pleroma, but that they themselves, indubitably, unsulliedly, and purely, have knowledge of the hidden mystery: this is, indeed, to blaspheme their Creator after a most impudent manner! It comes to this, therefore, that these men do now consent neither to Scripture nor to tradition.
2. And again we find yet more proof in the second century of the primacy of the Roman bishop. This is the earliest and clearest declaration (aside from the words of Christ) that is in extant writing.
Since, however, it would be very tedious, in such a volume as this, to reckon up the successions of all the Churches, we do put to confusion all those who, in whatever manner, whether by an evil self-pleasing, by vainglory, or by blindness and perverse opinion, assemble in unauthorized meetings; [we do this, I say,] by indicating that tradition derived from the apostles, of the very great, the very ancient, and universally known Church founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul; as also [by pointing out] the faith preached to men, which comes down to our time by means of the successions of the bishops. For it is a matter of necessity that every Church should agree with this Church, on account of its pre- eminent authority, that is, the faithful everywhere, inasmuch as the apostolical tradition has been preserved continuously by those [faithful men] who exist everywhere.
It should be noted that his reasoning differs from the Catholic position as it would soon begin to be more clearly articulated as in that he doesn't consider the doctrine of papal primacy true solely on the grounds of the Petrine succession but also because Paul's resting place is in Rome. We must avoid the temptation to view his statement as claiming that Paul and Peter co-founded the Church in Rome. Being extremely well versed in the Pauline epistles, he would have been well aware that Paul never made it to Rome until the final few years of his life and the Christian community there had already been thriving under the leadership of St. Peter. There is evidence from Eusebius that Peter arrived in Rome as early as 42 AD but certainly didn't stay there until martyrdom. He was back in Jerusalem for the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15 and he apparently wasn't in Rome when Paul wrote the book of Romans. Returning to the present discussion, we should also note that Irenaeus' terminology here seems to be consistent with the most ancient traditions regarding Rome's supremacy. (See St. Clement of Rome's first century address to the Corinthians in which he refers to Peter & Paul as the "greatest and most righteous pillars [of the church]") Nevertheless, in spite of his incomplete reasoning on this subject, it is absolutely clear and indisputable that he views Rome as having supremacy over the entire Catholic Church (yes East and West).

3. I have already discussed Irenaeus on Mary in this post. But the quote Protestants would find most objectionable I think, is this:
so also did Mary, having a man betrothed [to her], and being nevertheless a virgin, by yielding obedience, become the cause of salvation, both to herself and the whole human race.
A couple years ago when I was struggling with the concepts of Mariology and my decision to convert to the Catholic Church, these words rocked my world. I would have guessed them on the lips of a medieval monk... but Irenaeus??? How could someone so close to the apostles get something so basic so... wrong??? But eventually I had to come to grips with a tough reality - it was admittedly more likely that I was wrong.

In closing, let me point you to a very cool resource. Irenaeus Against Heresies Free Mp3 Download. (Only the first four books are listed there but book five is also available, you just have to type it in manually).

Irenaeus The Ancient Bridge Between East & West

Irenaeus in my mind is the quintessential early Church father. Through his predecessor St. Polycarp, he is but one degree separated from the apostles. Since he was born in Asia minor and later migrated to Lyons in Gaul, he is a bridge between the East and West. And since his doctrine was thoroughly orthodox, he is a champion of the faith.

Irenaeus had already spent time in Rome before coming to Lyons. It’s possible that he even accompanied Polycarp on his journey to Rome to settle disputes between the East & West at around 155 AD. He would have heard Polycarp’s famous response to Marcion “Yes I do recognize the firstborn of Satan”. While this is speculation, we do know that Irenaeus spent some time in Rome.

Following the intense persecution under Marcus Aurelius which claimed not merely a few martyrs, Irenaeus succeeded St. Pothinus as bishop of Lyons. His move from East to West itself exemplifies a truth about the early Church we need to understand and far too often don’t. We have an unjustified tendency in patristics to read the great schism back into the early Church fathers. This anachronism is most often actualized a little later – labeling Tertullian as the icon of the west and Origen of the East (and all subsequent fathers must fall neatly into one of those two categories of interpretation). Even then it is unwarranted – how much less now in the earliest stage of the Church! So while it may be true (and it is) that certain tensions and disagreements between the East and West did begin as early as the second century, Irenaeus stands in the midst of an otherwise foggy period in history declaring by his very life and actions that there was a time when the entire Christian Church was one. On this issue it would also be helpful for us to recall that the very term “Catholic Church” was first found in writing from an Eastern Church father. In other words – the whole Church called itself Catholic until the great Schism.

Another unhelpful tendency we have is to associate the Eastern & Western theological issues too closely with the political issues of the Roman empire. Of course, any student of antiquity knows that our 21st century concept of separation of Church & State hardly extends back to the world in which the early Christian Church grew up in. Still, the fathers of the Church were not so theologically shallow as to associate the Papacy with the seat of Rome merely because it was the capital of the empire (and we know so because of their extensive writings on the subject). When the empire split, let us not forget that the Church remained in tact for quite some time.

So then, the early tensions of East & West must not be ignored but neither should too much be made out of them. We cannot read the schism into the early Church – only the subtle roots thereof.

Sometime ago, I discussed the letter of Polycrates to Pope Victor and Irenaeus' involvement in the Easter dispute. This is a very unique situation where the East has received a different tradition than the West (the West celebrated Easter on Sunday whereas the East celebrated it on whichever day it fell on). To support their cause, they quote such heroes of the faith as St. John, St. Philip, St. Polycarp & St. Melito as ones who lived and died in the East and who handed them this tradition which they were strongly opposed to change.

Interestingly, Irenaeus sided with the west (though he was from the East and presumably received the same tradition as they did from his childhood). But when Pope Victor decided to excommunicate the Eastern Churches which did not comply with the decision of the councils of bishops he had convened, Irenaeus (among other bishops) strongly urged him not to do so. This shows us not only the early consensus of papal supremacy but of Irenaeus' personal belief in the doctrine. We did have some discussion on that subject in the aforementioned post and its subsequent one - the power of the early popes. Yet, perhaps in this case words will speak louder than actions. Next we will examine the doctrines of Irenaeus in his own words.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Another Baptist Community Takes Sola Scriptura a Little Too Seriously For Comfort

From the Charlotte Observer:

When N.C. Baptists meet this week for their annual session, they will likely kick out a Charlotte church that has said it welcomes homosexuals as they are -- a violation of controversial rules passed at last year's state convention.
Here's my favorite line:
"We think the local (Baptist) church ought to be free to interpret Scripture itself"
Well the Church does have the authority to interpret Scripture. But if you break away from the Church and call your ecclesial community a "church" then you can no longer say that. You can't even agree on how to read "don't lie with a man as with a woman" how will you interpret the tough parts of Scripture?

Now, I know... I know... not every evangelical agrees with this community. There are plenty of Protestants who are just as upset about this blatant departure from Christian values as I am (or rather would be if I was a Baptist). But surely it must serve as a reminder for us all of what sola scriptura has led to. It makes me wonder on what terms and in what way could any working version of sola scriptura actually prevent this sort of thing from happening?

The very concept of sola scriptura effectively eliminates any real ecclesial authority. And inherent to any discussion of 'sola scriptura' is a radical re-definition of the word "Church". Since Church (in the traditional sense) doesn't permit this heretical belief, one must create a new idea of what "Church" is. And here we see even further refinement to suit a particular community's error. When the state Baptist Convention's interpretation of Scripture has differed from their own, they have more narrowly defined "church" (insofar as the said "church" has authority to interpret Scripture) as their own local community. We all know what the next step is.

Update - they did kick the renegade community out.

You Are the Light of the World - Heaven & Hell and Other Random Thoughts

If I hear another 'you are the light of the world' homily I'm gonna puke. You know the one I'm talking about - the safe, ambiguous and powerless homilies often having little to do with the gospel readings. I was talking with a friend about this recently and we both came to the same conclusion - they suck.

I hear a lot of good theology at my parish - our priests are pretty good about that. Unfortunately the homilies are too often summarized up with the "salt & light of the world" bit.. Guys, Christ said this once. He didn't wrap His entire identity around this catch phrase - move on!

I was also thinking about Jesus' words on the subject in Mark's gospel. In chapter 4 Jesus said "salt is good but if it loses its saltiness how can you make it salty again?" This cryptic saying is tough to decode but our current liturgical crisis comes to mind. To say that the Catholic liturgy has lost its saltiness is being extremely generous. I wonder, like Jesus' rhetorical question, can it ever regain its saltiness again? I was reminded of this thought when I read Japhy's post on the "Jenga mass" earlier today.

Last week's homily was good, it dared to mention the realities of hell. I wondered, during the homily, why is it that we're so quick to affirm that our figurative visions of heaven are but shadows of the joy which awaits the saints but the fiery images of hell are actually a little on the harsh side... In simpler terms - we think heaven will be greater than our imagination but we think our imagination is worse than the real hell.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Book Review - Jesus of Nazareth by Pope Benedict XVI

I had this book on pre-order for about 6 months before it came out. When it finally arrived in May (I think) I promptly set it on the shelf and let it collect dust for another 5 months. Don't ask me why.

At any rate, I finally picked it up and read it. It was a very easy read - and it moved very quickly. I wasn't as impressed with it as I anticipated being and I think I've found that Pope Benedict speaks much more impressively when he speaks in an official ecclesial capacity (may have a slight connection with the Holy Spirit). That is not to say it wasn't a good book or even a great one. It was and well worth the read.

I would encourage anyone whether Catholic or not to read it. I don't think there is anything that a non-Catholic would find objectionable (unless you're the liberal historical critical scholar B16 continually rails on in which case the more you find objectionable - the better of a book it must be).

Friday, November 09, 2007

Go Archbishop O'Brien

Man, this kind of stuff is encouraging. Something I need right now with my schola being fired and so far two different pastors in my diocese acting in disobedience to the pope regarding the Latin Mass.

Baltimore, Nov. 9, 2007 (CWNews.com) - Baltimore's Archbishop Edwin O'Brien has removed a pastor who invited a female Episcopalian priest to join him in celebrating a funeral Mass, the Baltimore Sun reports.

Interesting Blog - Free Catholic Audio

Here's a blog I stumbled on recently that is worth bookmarking. It exists to provide free Catholic audio on the net for download or streaming. Enjoy!

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Founder of Weather Channel: Global Warming is 'the Greatest Scam in History'

John Coleman, founder of the Weather Channel calls global warming the "greatest scam in history". Hat Tip: Jimmy Akin.

I am amazed, appalled and highly offended by it. Global Warming; It is a SCAM. Some dastardly scientists with environmental and political motives manipulated long term scientific data to create an allusion of rapid global warming. Other scientists of the same environmental whacko type jumped into the circle to support and broaden the “research” to further enhance the totally slanted, bogus global warming claims. Their friends in government steered huge research grants their way to keep the movement going. Soon they claimed to be a consensus.
Later he says:
I do not oppose environmentalism. I do not oppose the political positions of either party. However, Global Warming, i.e. Climate Change, is not about environmentalism or politics. It is not a religion. It is not something you “believe in.” It is science; the science of meteorology. This is my field of life-long expertise. And I am telling you Global Warming is a non-event, a manufactured crisis and a total scam. I say this knowing you probably won’t believe a me, a mere TV weatherman, challenging a Nobel Prize, Academy Award and Emmy Award winning former Vice President of United States. So be it.

I have read dozens of scientific papers. I have talked with numerous scientists. I have studied. I have thought about it. I know I am correct. There is no run away climate change. The impact of humans on climate is not catastrophic. Our planet is not in peril. I am incensed by the incredible media glamour, the politically correct silliness and rude dismissal of counter arguments by the high priest of Global Warming.

In time, a decade or two, the outrageous scam will be obvious. As the temperature rises, polar ice cap melting, coastal flooding and super storm pattern all fail to occur as predicted everyone will come to realize we have been duped.
I was indoctrinated with this stuff as a child in elementary school. Since none of the predictions came true I have completely lost any faith in the politically motivated "global warming" fad. They cried wolf one too many times for me.

Father Euteneuer Responds to Jesuit Priest Who "Came Out" During a Mass

FRONT ROYAL, VA — The Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, STL, president of Human Life International, (HLI) today published an “open letter” to Father Thomas J. Brennan, SJ, who declared that he was a homosexual during a student Mass, admitting that it was one of “the worst kept secrets” on campus.

Father Euteneuer’s response, “Homosexual Jesuit Needs Refresher Course in Priestly Love” was published in his weekly email newsletter, Spirit & Life, available Thursday after 3:00 PM EST on the HLI website (http://www.hli.org). The letter called for Brennan to apologize to his congregation.

Father Euteneuer said, “There is something just plain wrong about abusing people’s trust in the priesthood in such a public way, and since you chose to ‘go public’ with this matter, a public response to your outrageous ‘outing’ is merited.”

“First of all,” Father Euteneuer said, “Holy Mass is not a forum for your self-expression. You chose the sacred liturgy and the pulpit reserved for preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ as the launching pad for your personal testament to homosexuality … You’ve read the same documents I’ve read about the liturgy, and none of them say the liturgy is your personal stage.”

He continued, “[Celibacy] is a form of Christian chastity to which you and I are called, and I trust that you are faithful to it. … A heterosexual celibate renounces his natural desire for wife and children in order to embrace the Bride of Christ in a direct spousal relationship. A homosexual celibate renounces an unholy desire for members of the same sex: that is a renunciation of a disorder, not the embrace of a Bride.

“When even a celibate priest chooses to go public about his homosexual identity as an expression of ‘diversity’ or ‘pride’, the faithful are rightfully confused and scandalized. Not only do you owe them an apology, you owe them a better example of priesthood. They deserve a priest who is clear about the Church’s doctrine about homosexual acts and who teaches it unambiguously. … If you do not clearly witness the Church’s teaching about your own vocation, how can you teach others to be faithful to theirs?”

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

New Pharisees

The title may lead some to think I’m about to start harping on some sort of self appointed ‘sin patrol’. If that was your initial impression you either have a shallow understanding of the 1st century Christ-Pharisee conflict or you think very little of my perception of it.

I have argued before (borrowing heavily from N.T. Wright) that the simplistic understanding of the conflict is to be dismissed outright. That is, the Pharisees affirmed the wrong kind of religion and Jesus, traveling sage of timeless wisdom that He was, rebuked them – meanwhile offering a new type of internal, Platonic religion. Recent scholarship has thoroughly destroyed these historic fantasies yet the legends live on in the feeble minds of churchgoers everywhere.

To put it another way – Jesus was not a liberal. In the Sermon on the Mount, the ‘mount’ signifies the new Sinai and Jesus Himself is the new Torah. The Christology behind the event is a call to loyalty and obedience to Christ as the Jews had previously been called to the Torah.

So then, Christ didn’t rebuke the Pharisees for too strictly enforcing the Law - proposing instead that we just realize the true message of it all – love, peace and forgiveness. Instead He told them “you allow men to divorce but I tell you, what God has joined man must not separate” and “the Law says you shall not kill, I say if you even think about it you’re already guilty”. Then Christ’s Law is not less strict, less judgmental, more forgiving – His is even more difficult!

The Prophets, by the Holy Spirit, gave us further clarification on how we were to follow God’s Law. It became even clearer in the deutero-canonical period to the point where many of Jesus’ teachings can find comfortable roots in the DC books (further evidence of their divine origin) and finally- Jesus, the Word incarnate, came to eliminate all confusion and to fulfill the Law.

To summarize, Christ didn’t rebuke the Pharisees for following God’s Law too closely but for not following it! It doesn’t do the situation justice to say they merely ‘missed the point’. Jesus saw them as being disobedient to the true commands of God. (See Wright and others for more detail on that). This excessive introduction has served only to make sure we’re all on the same page before I continue.

In the parable of the wicked tenants, Israel’s religious leaders (usually the Pharisees) were the wicked tenants and Israel herself was the vineyard. It seems to me that the same thing is happening all over again. Perhaps it is the perpetually true parable – it’s always happening with God’s people.

Now the vineyard is the Church – and the wicked tenants are those resisting the pope – the liberals who have massacred the liturgy and the heretical groups within the Church promoting homosexual agendas and rebelliously petitioning for the ordination of women. They call themselves Catholic but have shamefully neglected their duties. The USCCB has no shortage of wicked tenants these days.

In my diocese, the diocese of Charlotte, we have a lay ministry course that would make the Jesus Seminar proud. Other officially sponsored educational programs like the Deaconate teach open heresy from what I’ve been told. It’s no secret and nothing’s being done about it. The pastor of my parish has good theology but has been woefully uneducated regarding liturgy and is actively participating in what Peter Kreeft called “the liturgical holocaust” of the Catholic Church. I can think of no better phrase to describe it.

Once the vineyard was adorned with art that would leave the workers awestruck, inspiring them to continue their vital labor. In fact, the vineyard was so beautiful that it attracted new workers and converted her enemies. The workers were nourished by prime rib and asparagus – halibut with lemon sauce but now the tenants have done away with it. They serve skim milk and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a bag of greasy potato chips to go along with it.

It all begs the question – why? Why would the tenants be so opposed to beauty? The answer is quite easy – spiritual warfare. Do you think the enemy wants reverent worship of God or irreverent? Which would Satan prefer, a mass with a feel-good homily and lifeless contemporary music or a deliberate sermon (maybe somewhat hard to swallow and not well suited to immature palates) and the sacred tradition of Gregorian chant in a language people no longer understand?

Do you think the enemy would prefer we disobey the bishop and hold hands during the Our Father to promote ‘the community’ or would he rather us act in fidelity to the Magisterium regardless of what “feels good” to us?

If Satan were alive and active, do you think he’d be the one trying to “restore the liturgy to the dark ages” or would he be the one acting in defiance of the pope on repeated exhortations to revive the lost beauty of the Catholic Church?

I ask these rhetorical questions to emphasize this one fact – we are in the midst of a spiritual war. It should come as no surprise that the enemy continually focuses his most devious attacks on the tenants of the vineyard he wishes to destroy. Who better in a position to rend the land fruitless than the farmers? We again need to remind ourselves of Christ’s promise that the gates of Hell would not prevail against her (the Church). And at frustrating times like these, that’s about all we have to hang on to.

HLI Condemns Action of NJ Governor and State Senator as 'Tyranny'

FRONT ROYAL, VA — The Rev. Thomas J. Euteneuer, STL, president of Human Life International, (HLI) today said, “When a state rejects the protection of individual consciences, that state loses its soul.”

Father Euteneuer was commenting on a New Jersey law sponsored by state Senator Joseph Vitale and signed into law by Governor Jon Corzine that effectively forces pharmacists in that state to violate their consciences by filling prescriptions for abortifacient—abortion-causing—contraception.

“In a free society, the rights of conscience are recognized. When the state abrogates those rights forcing citizens to violate their consciences as a condition for employment, then that state is no longer a free society,” said Father Euteneuer. “This is not yet another action by government in America leading to tyranny, it is tyranny. Governor Corzine and Senator Vitale are no longer acting as American statesmen but as representatives of the Culture of Death, joining officials in eleven other states with this evil law.”

Pope Benedict XVI told a group of pharmacists as recently as October 29 that they must avoid “anaesthetizing consciences,” and he emphasized that drugs should be used to help human beings, not to take the life of unborn children or the elderly.

Father Euteneuer continued, “This new precedent is a call for all Americans, especially Catholics and others who live by firm moral and religious principles, to take a hard look at what is happening in our country as the national elections approach.”

“The day has come” Father Euteneuer said, “when the corner pharmacist, whom we trust and expect to be moral, can lose his or her job and even go to jail for refusing to dispense a pill that can kill a baby.”

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Patristic Carnival V


Its a GodFearin' carnival this one. I'm honored to host the fifth Patristic Carnival. Just a brief intro might not be terribly unwelcome. First, if I missed any good posts, please reply in the comments. Second, I wanted to remind everyone, myself first of all, that the entire aim of patrology is nothing other than to glorify our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Though we come from varied faith backgrounds, we find common ground in our love for orthodoxy - for the true doctrine of Jesus Christ. Studying the early Church fathers does not lessen the importance of Scripture - in fact it can do nothing but add to it. The fathers, in harmony with the Scriptures, point to Christ. It is easy in the thick of scholarly study (as if I would know anything about that) to get lost in the intellectualism of it all. I don't think I'm being too sentimental when I preface this carnival's entries with a reminder of the reason we all started studying the fathers of our faith. Also, if you're interested in hosting the next Patristic Carnival, shoot Phil an email. Enjoy!

The Orthodox blog Paradosis gives us a very interesting discussion on the opposite end of the sola scriptura 'error' (if one is to label it such) what he calls 'sola patriarcha'.

Protestant blogger Kenny Pearce writes a detailed examination of the document that has come to us under the name of 'Dionysius the Aereopagite' including alternate translation work.

Lutheran blogger (and prior Patristic Carnival host) The Weekend Fisher summarizes several patristic reflections on the peculiar Christian concept of a "crucified God".

Protestant 'church historian-in-training' Tim Enloe posts a short but insightful essay on the Church Fathers and their 'War on Hellenism'.

Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong summarizes the Church Fathers quotes on the doctrine of justification in comparison to Protestant apologists and their opinions on the issue.

Orthodox priest, Father Stephen writes a great discussion on first, how to read the Church fathers (not merely talk about them and what they believed) and then some very good suggestions on where to begin.

Catholic patristic pun-meister Mike Aquilina gives us a number of great patristic posts as usual - first on the early Church fathers' belief in guardian angels, he comments on Pope Benedict XVI's weekly addresses, one on St. Cyril of Alexandria one on St. Hilary of Poitiers one on St. Eusebius of Vercelli and finally one on St. Ambrose of Milan. He quotes in passing Augustine re: the Catholics of his day and their failure to live the Christian life and St. Jerome on St. Luke. On the feast day of St. Ignatius, he points us to a valuable resource - an audio collection of the Ignatian epistles.

Ben C. Smith continues a series on the canons of the early Church with his post on the Laodicean Synod (360 AD).

Anglican blogger Joe Rawls over at the Byzantine Anglo-Catholic compiles a list of early Church Father quotes on the Eucharist.

Wholly Catholic posts a brief summary on St. Ignatius of Antioch.

The blog of Catholic Publishing Company Ignatius Press posts on the same topic as well.

Stephen at Ivy Catholic gives us an excellent essay on venerating images based on St. John of Damascus' writings.

A man who needs no introduction in the patristic blogosphere - Phil Snider (organizer of this carnival) on his excellent blog Hyperekperissou continues his study of the life of St. Martin, gives us a nice discussion on patristics in light of classical thought and one on Origen's approach to Biblical hermeneutics.

The Presbyterian blogger at Ecumenicity offered this interesting piece on St. Vincent of Lerins and doctrinal growth in the 5th century and commented on Augustine's sermon 77 asking, "Is Salvation a Free Lunch?"

After reading a selection of the above you may be a bit disappointed yet here are the posts from yours truly, the God Fearin' Fiddler: First I discussed the Didache on Baptism with the aforementioned Kenny Pearce. Next, a brief quotation from Origen on Mariology. I posted twice on Athenagoras (with some discussion) one on his views regarding marriage and the other: reflections on his defense of the bodily resurrection. I borrowed from Pelikan to discuss Irenaeus on the Valentinian view of Mary. Finally, I discussed St. Melito of Sardis and his canon and subsequently the canon issue as a whole.