Thursday, February 28, 2008

Obama Calls Vote to Keep Schiavo Alive His Biggest Mistake

Not surprising from a consistently pro-death candidate like Obama: he considers one of the few good things he's ever done to be his 'biggest mistake'.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

St. Clement of Alexandria on Sola Scriptura, Church Unity & Authority

From his "Stromata" book 7,

First, then, they [Greeks & Jews] make this objection to us, saying, that they ought not to believe on account of the discord of the sects. For the truth is warped when some teach one set of dogmas, others another.
I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard that one. Looks like they haven't thought of many new excuses in the last 1800 years.

If one, then, violate his engagements, and go aside from the confession which he makes before us, are we not to stick to the truth because he has belied his profession?
So the problem is heretics. The true (Catholic) Church has remained orthodox it seems. There is one (and he seems to assume only one) that has stayed true. Notice, he didn't use the modern Protestant rebuttal of: there's different denominations for different styles of worship. We will see his 'one Church' ecclesiology more clearly as we progress.
But as the good man must not prove false or fail to ratify what he has promised, although others violate their engagements; so also are we bound in no way to transgress the canon of the Church. And especially do we keep our profession in the most important points, while they traverse it.
This passage on Church authority is important to keep in mind as we continue.
And as, while there is one royal highway, there are many others, some leading to a precipice, some to a rushing river or to a deep sea, no one will shrink from travelling by reason of the diversity, but will make use of the safe, and royal, and frequented way; so, though some say this, some that, concerning the truth, we must not abandon it; but must seek out the most accurate knowledge respecting it. Since also among garden-grown vegetables weeds also spring up, are the husbandmen, then, to desist from gardening?
In this allegorical passage I think his ecclesiology is especially clear. The Church is the only way to Christ and the fact that there are other Christians outside the Church is a lame excuse to dismiss Christianity.

So what is the test of the true Church? Did Clement teach sola scriptura as the Reformers taught it?
There being demonstration, then, it is necessary to condescend to questions, and to ascertain by way of demonstration by the Scriptures themselves how the heresies failed, and how in the truth alone and in the ancient Church is both the exactest knowledge, and the truly best set of principles.
We have two statements of interest here - 1. It is possible to demonstrate the errors of the heresies by Scripture and 2. The truth can be found in the ancient Church (presumably exclusively though this context doesn't make it especially clear whereas the previous ones, I think, do make it clear).

A slight divergence from the current topic in the interest of chronology:
* Edit - I misread this section. Comments deleted. *
Back to Scripture:
Now all men, having the same judgment, some, following the Word speaking, frame for themselves proofs; while others, giving themselves up to pleasures, wrest Scripture, in accordance with their lusts. And the lover of truth, as I think, needs force of soul. For those who make the greatest attempts must fail in things of the highest importance; unless, receiving from the truth itself the rule of the truth, they cleave to the truth. But such people, in consequence of falling away from the right path, err in most individual points; as you might expect from not having the faculty for judging of what is true and false, (cough cough - Magisterium) strictly trained to select what is essential (sound like anyone you know? "but the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception isn't needed for salvation"). For if they had, they would have obeyed the Scriptures.


He, then, who of himself believes the Scripture and voice of the Lord, which by the Lord acts to the benefiting of men, is rightly [regarded] faithful. Certainly we use it as a criterion in the discovery of things
Let's be clear - the Scriptures are certainly an infallible criteria to determine heresy. No quarrels there. We still haven't reached 'sola scriptura' though...
Since also, in what pertains to life, craftsmen are superior to ordinary people, and model what is beyond common notions; so, consequently, we also, giving a complete exhibition of the Scriptures from the Scriptures themselves, from faith persuade by demonstration.
As the Protestant is fond of repeating - Scripture must be interpreted by Scripture. Such a statement can certainly be true - depending on how far you're willing to take it. Scripture must be read in light of the entirety of Scripture - there is no Catholic disagreement here. And before you go making this into a proof-text, be sure to read Clement in light of the entirety of his work! We have already demonstrated his ecclesiology to be close to modern Catholic thought - (the ancient Church is both authoritative and uniquely true in the fullest sense of the word). He goes on to talk about heretics routinely taking Scriptures out of context and later says:
Accordingly, those fall from this eminence who follow not God whither He leads. And He leads us in the inspired Scriptures.
A Catholic apologist might have wanted him to say something about the Church at this point. He didn't but let us take this time to remind ourselves of Clement's canon. Being from Alexandria it should come as no surprise that he takes the deutero-canonical books for granted as Scripture. He quotes extensively from all of them - especially Sirach and Wisdom. So when he talks about 'the Scriptures', he's talking about the Catholic bible. Luckily, he does remind us again of his ecclesiology:
Our Gnostic (in this context, he's not talking about Gnostics as we would use the word but in contradistinction to the so-called Gnostics. For Clement, the true Gnostic is the perfected Christian) then alone, having grown old in the Scriptures, and maintaining apostolic and ecclesiastic orthodoxy in doctrines, lives most correctly in accordance with the Gospel, and discovers the proofs, for which he may have made search (sent forth as he is by the Lord), from the law and the prophets. For the life of the Gnostic, in my view, is nothing but deeds and words corresponding to the tradition of the Lord.
I think we should be comfortable in asserting that for Clement, merely using bits of Scriptures to prove points doesn't amount to truth. The Scriptures must be studied not only in the light of other Scripture but in accordance with apostolic orthodoxy.

I like this:
For that the human assemblies (ecclesial communities) which they held were posterior to the Catholic Church requires not many words to show.


Therefore in substance and idea, in origin, in pre-eminence, we say that the ancient and Catholic Church is alone, collecting as it does into the unity of the one faith -- which results from the peculiar Testaments, or rather the one Testament in different times by the will of the one God, through one Lord -- those already ordained, whom God predestinated, knowing before the foundation of the world that they would be righteous.
We have so far seen in his writings the four marks of the true Church - one, holy, Catholic and apostolic. So in summary, if we are to read his work in its proper context, we must concede that he taught Scripture as belonging to the treasury of the Church and not to be interpreted apart from it. Certainly the idea that the Church answered to Scripture would have seemed as alien to Clement as the idea of the Church existing as an invisible entity comprised of members from thousands of sects with radically differing doctrines.

Overall, I found Clement to be quite cumbersome to read- I didn't particularly like his writing style. He has been accused of drawing too near to the errors of Gnosticism and even Neo-Platonism. In spite of this and the several doctrinal errors he did make (I'm not pretending to place myself as a judge of Saint Clement - I'm merely asserting that the Church has come to define certain dogmas which are incompatible with some of his views) we ought to consider his writings to be decidedly orthodox. He has left us a number of jewels which we would do well to learn from. This is my final post on St. Clement of Alexandria (at least for a while).

Here were my others:

St. Clement of Alexandria on Sexuality in the OT Law

St. Clement of Alexandria Against Metrosexuals

Understanding the Roman Law

This post won't make any sense unless you read Jeff Pinyan's post first. I'm responding to help clarify a few things for him that I think he missed.

Dear Jeff,

I just figured out your mistake. You're reading the priest's letter as "English Law" whereas he wrote it under the "Roman Law".

Let me explain. See, letters written in the spirit of the "Roman Law" are ideals...fantasies... we don't actually expect to reach them (and we shouldn't try). Letters written in the spirit of the "English law" are read with hard hearts - Pharisaic readings with hyper-literal interpretations..

Well Jeff, this is the real world and things don't always fall out that neatly.

See, when he wrote: "there is such a thing as the Rite of Welcome which can replace the Penitential Rite."

You, like a Pharisee, interpreted it according to the spirit of the English law and you thought he meant:

"there is such a thing as the Rite of Welcome which can replace the Penitential Rite."

How silly of you. If you would just stop acting like a anglo-Pharisee and realize that under the spirit of the Roman law, the literal meaning of that phrase is just something to be aimed at. Not actually achieved. If you had the spirit of Vatican II in you, you would be able to interpret it to mean this:

"I'm sorry, I know I should never tamper with the mass."

See? According to the "spirit of Roman Law" he agrees with you! (Note, he also agrees with you in Bizzaro world).

Monday, February 25, 2008

Seven Ways to Convert a Catholic

Guys, I recently hacked into a fundamentalist web site and was amazed at what I found. Now that we know their plans, we'll be better able to defend ourselves.

Seven Ways to Convert Catholics -A Strategy Guide
by Rev. J.W. Uplinger

1. The Catholic has been brainwashed to view the Church as his or her "mother". Start out the conversation by calling their mother a whore... that is, the whore of Babylon. Point them to Revelation and ignore any rebuttals or complaints. Studies have repeatedly shown that the best way to convince others to agree with you is to begin with a strong insult (especially when directed towards a family member or other such dear thing).

2. Be sure not to study any Catholic doctrine before approaching a Catholic. Doing so may jeopardize your ability to clearly present the gospel.

3. Even some Catholics are unaware that they worship idols. Tactfully explain this to them. (By 'tactfully' I mean to merely assert it and offer no backup for your statement).

4. The Pope believes all Muslims go to heaven. Explain to the Catholic that Muslims and Buddhists go to Hell without exception just like he will if he doesn't stop being Catholic.

5. Catholic views are contradictory to Scripture and are entirely based on tradition. If the Catholic disagrees, stop thumping your bible and thump him.

6. If the Catholic ever mentions the word "Mary" in any context, immediately interrupt and say loudly "Where in the Bible does it say to worship Mary?!"

7. If the Catholic ever mentions the worst apostle, Peter, completely ignore what was said and tell him that Paul confronted Peter to his face. This proves that Paul is the best apostle and Peter was not the Pope.

Since I released this guide, some of you have been complaining that Catholics have not responded well to the above tactics. This is to be somewhat expected. Therefore, I have also included these three additional points. Since three is the number of the Trinity, it proves that I am right.

Handling a "know it all" Catholic

Many Catholics think they are well educated. Little do they know that God puts to shame the wisdom of this world. Reason and logic are tools the devil has been using since the garden of Eden to destroy mankind. Avoid reason and logic at all costs.

1. Do not (and this is important) under any circumstances actually respond directly to one of the Catholic's arguments. This is a devious tactic Catholics and demons like to use. They employ tools of argumentation to trap you into thinking logically. Make every effort to avoid the real issue. For example, if they point to the fact that the Ignatian epistles prove the early belief in the Real Presence simply remind them that they're going to hell and their mother is a whore.

2. If they start talking about tradition, quote 2 Timothy 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God". (Again, don't fall into the trap of thinking that your arguments need to make sense.)

3. If they try to use Scripture to defend their evil doctrines respond "you're taking that out of context" regardless of what they say. It's imperative that you not listen to the argument. Remember, they use a special version of the "Bible" which was modified by the Pope.
Well, at least now I know what several guests on my site have been reading. Take this guest for example (Kenneth). So you heard it here first - be prepared... they are (obviously).

Patristic Post Reminder

This is a reminder that I'm hosting the Patristic Carnival this month. Send your posts in by Friday the 29th. I especially encourage anyone who has never posted on this subject to give it a shot.

Remember you can offer submissions on the carnival site or the dedicated e-mail (

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Tridentine Mass in Charlotte?

I've heard rumors that St. Ann's will start hosting a Tridentine Mass sometime in May. Could Charlotte be seeing an end to the liturgical dark age? If you want more info or to be e-mailed when mass dates are firmed up, send me an email (see my profile on the left).

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Absurdity of Considering Religion a Safety Blanket

This thought occurred to me the other day so I thought I'd write it down. The familiar charge against religion that it is merely a safety blanket for insecure people is a poor analogy for the following reasons.

In the real life safety blanket scenario we have two characters - the child (using the safety blanket and unaware that it doesn't actually help) and the adult who knows that it's a useless blanket (it doesn't actually protect the child). Whereas in the religion scenario, the atheist considers himself the adult who knows that religion doesn't actually save you. In reality, that's an unknowable proposition. I.E. it's not the sort of thing you can possibly know - if there were no God, no one would ever know it. It's just the nature of the game. Of course, if there was a God, then it would be conceivable that we could know it. Some think they do and so the argument is over whether they really do or not. At least it's conceivable - the opposite is not. Therefore we can reject the safety blanket metaphor.

Here's a better one: religion is like a vaccine that we can all take. Those who take the vaccine are like the religious. Those who refuse it are like the atheists. They think the vaccine is merely a placebo. They might be right, but we won't know until it's too late to do anything about it. Again, it's the nature of the game. In real life, we might be able to do some scientific tests to disprove or at least cast serious doubt on the effectiveness of a given vaccine without exposing the person to the disease. However, in the metaphor we must remember that we're talking about metaphysical concepts and therefore they cannot be measured or disproven in a science lab. The effectiveness of the vaccine is not known and cannot be known until the end. This, I think, is perfectly analogous (or at least much more so than the previous metaphor) to religion versus non-religion.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New Blog - Someone Considering Conversion to the Catholic Church

Michelle is considering converting to the Catholic Church on her new blog "Living a Liturgy". Check it out if you have the time. H/T: Meandering Home

Monday, February 18, 2008

2008 Catholic Blog Awards

The 2008 Catholic Blog Awards are up and accepting nominations until February 29th. Unfortunately, they don't have a "Least Ecumenical" category so I don't think I'll be getting any awards this go-round. Next year, I say they should have a category for best patristic blog or something along those lines. Then again I don't think I could compete with the likes of Mike Aquilina.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Power Structure of Celibacy & Its Contrast to the Pagan World

The following passage from Clement of Alexandria's Stromata reminded me of yet another way in which Christianity stood in contrast to not only pagan religions but pagan society in general. I have already mentioned the oft neglected point (particularly by liberals and feminists) that Judeo-Christianity stands nearly alone among the history of world religions as consistently possessing the male-only priesthood while other religions consistently allowed priestesses (and some exclusively). This is, of course, to be understood as significantly contrary to the hogwash liberals like to repeat ad-nauseum: Judaism/Christianity had a male-only priesthood because of mere cultural prejudice.

Down to business then:

Legislators, moreover, do not allow those who are unmarried to discharge the highest magisterial offices. For instance, the legislator of the Spartans imposed a fine not on bachelorhood only, but on monogamy, and late marriage, and single life. And the renowned Plato orders the man who has not married to pay a wife's maintenance into the public treasury, and to give to the magistrates a suitable sum of money as expenses. For if they shall not beget children, not having married, they produce, as far as in them lies, a scarcity of men, and dissolve states and the world that is composed of them, impiously doing away with divine generation. It is also unmanly and weak to shun living with a wife and children. For of that of which the loss is an evil, the possession is by all means a good; and this is the case with the rest of things. But the loss of children is, they say, among the chiefest evils: the possession of children is consequently a good thing; and if it be so, so also is marriage.
I find it more than just a bit interesting that Christianity (once again) adopted the very opposite practice of the pagan world's idea for its hierarchy. While the East has always allowed priests to marry, both East & West came to select celibate bishops exclusively. While the world discriminated against celibate (even monogamous) men the Church discriminated against the married (and certainly the polygamous) men.

This isn't meant to be an argument against those who would like to see the celibacy restrictions relaxed - but a reminder that we ought to be careful not to view the early Church through our own 21st century goggles. Remember me commenting on Uta Heinemann last month? Here's what she said about celibacy in the Church (and this is in the context of whether or not there are elements of liberalism within the Church):
One reason why the percentage of homosexuals in the Vatican is so high is because all that matters is that none of the bishops have a record of relationships with women. They must oppose birth control -- and of course, women priests are unacceptable. Christianity has become reduced to a credo of celibacy.
Reduced? Reduced from what... A credo of polygamy and discrimination against the celibates? Heinemann and those like her would presumably have us believe that the Catholic Church's enforcement of celibacy as a prerequisite for her hierarchy (especially for the bishops) is some sort of conspiracy to keep women from influencing the Church. As we examine history, however, that view comes up decidedly short.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Traditional Anglican Crosses the Tiber

Two months ago, I mentioned meeting an Anglican seminarian who was on his way to becoming Catholic. Since he was an Anglican, he was able to be received into the Church quickly. Recently he stumbled onto my blog looking for Tridentine masses in Charlotte and recognized my picture... small world. Here are his two blogs, make sure to give him a warm welcome:

Friday, February 15, 2008

Belmont Abbey College: No Subsidies For Evil

Hat Tip: Curt Jester

Manassas, VA - Belmont Abbey College in North Carolina has amended the health insurance plan provided by its carrier to remove coverage for abortions, voluntary sterilizations and contraception. The provisions allowing these practices were recently discovered. and the college moved quickly to rectify the situation. The college has since been faced with complaints from a few employees to state and federal agencies, but remains undaunted.

President William Thierfelder said, “As a Roman Catholic institution, Belmont Abbey College is not able to and will not offer nor subsidize medical services that contradict the clear teaching of the Catholic Church. There was no other course of action possible if we were to operate in fidelity to our mission and to our identity as a Catholic college.”

Godtube Poll Shows Obama More Popular Than McCain Among Christians?

This article sheds light on the fact that a new Godtube poll shows that Obama has more support than McCain.

There are several big problems with this article. First, the headline is highly misleading. It includes the following "They Would Rather Support Obama or Clinton Than McCain as the Republican Candidate" No. That is not what it means. The forerunner by a long shot is Huckabee. There is more than just a small chance that nearly all of those Huckabee supporters would rather support McCain than Obama. In other words, if Huckabee doesn't get the nomination - his supporters would almost all belong to McCain or whoever the Republican candidate is.

The other problem is that the article makes it sound like the Godtube poll is actually statistically valid:

The number of participants continues to grow with an astounding 11,075 new voters registered this week. is utilizing internet survey techniques to ensure fairness and only includes the leading primary candidates.
Uh, no it's not I just clicked on the damn thing and took it and they have no idea who I am. No valid survey is conducted in this way. The best you could possibly hope for from this survey is a very rough (still not statistically accurate) idea of who Godtube frequenters (not all of them are Christian I'm sure) would vote for. This is not representative of Christianity by any chance and it sure isn't representative of the general population.

With all that said, it's an embarrassment that even one so-called Christian would vote for either Obama or Clinton... especially Obama. Have some dignity people. He voted to allow doctors to leave children to die if the abortion failed and the child was born alive. This isn't about politics at this level, it's about pure evil.


Anyone else abruptly stop receiving comment e-mails from Blogger yesterday?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Eight Ways in Which Protestants Distrust Tradition

And some of these have stronger Scriptural support than the previous eight which Protestants trusted. Here they are without further qualification (and I realize some Protestants may loosely concur with some version of these):

1. The Eucharist (that is - Transubstantiation)
2. Apostolic Succession
3. The Primacy of the bishop of Rome
4. Infallibility of the Church
5. Mariology

1. The fact that Peter was ever in Rome (yes I've heard this doubted by seminary professors)
2. The deutero-canonical books as part of the canon
3. The visibility of the Church (i.e. that you cannot redefine "Church" as "any group of believers who interpret the scriptures like me")

Monday, February 11, 2008

Eight Ways in Which Protestants Trust Tradition Not One Iota Less Than Catholics

Without further qualification:

1. Divinity of Christ (to include two natures, one being etc…)
2. The full doctrine of the Trinity
3. The canon of Scripture
4. The prohibition against polygamy
5. Celebrating Sunday as the new Sabbath

6. That all the apostles save John suffered martyrdom
7. That Peter was crucified upside down
8. That Paul was executed in Rome

Part of me says 'hats off to you Protestants' and the other part says 'but why don't you trust the rest?"

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Clement of Alexandria on Sexuality in the OT Law

It's amazing how effortlessly the fathers open up the Law for us.

Further, it [the Law] forbids intercourse with a female captive so as to dishonour her. "But allow her," it says, "thirty days to mourn according to her wish, and changing her clothes, associate with her as your lawful wife." Deuteronomy 21:10-13 For it regards it not right that this should take place either in wantonness or for hire like harlots, but only for the birth of children. Do you see humanity combined with continence?
Do you see how the Catholic teaching on sexuality hasn't changed substantively since the early Church? And not only since then, but since the Law! God does not change, neither do His natural laws on sexuality.

Another insightful passage from the same work (The Stromata Book 2):
What reason is there in the law's prohibiting a man from "wearing woman's clothing "? Deuteronomy 22:5 Is it not that it would have us to be manly, and not to be effeminate neither in person and actions, nor in thought and word? For it would have the man, that devotes himself to the truth, to be masculine both in acts of endurance and patience, in life, conduct, word, and discipline by night and by day; even if the necessity were to occur, of witnessing by the shedding of his blood.
This ties in seamlessly with his condemnation of effeminate men which I discussed here. As the Catholic Church continues to affirm - the inherent differences of the sexes are divinely ordained and our sexuality is to be embraced not abhorred. This is why feminism is disordered and why 'metrosexualism' (if we can use such a term) is equally so.

And just as all Catholics are asked before marriage about their plans for children, Clement says:
For the man who did not desire to beget children had no right to marry at first
The early fathers understood this as well: marriage was not instituted to satisfy our lusts but so that man may exercise love, of which procreation is the fullest expression. That is why Catholics may not marry unless they want children - a demand hardly tailored to our self-serving generation.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Mary, Church Infallibility & The Pope - From the Lips of Ratzinger

Here's a few more nice quotes I wanted to pull out from the book: "God and the World" (A conversation between Peter Seewald & Cardinal Ratzinger)

On Mary:

Nowadays Protestants are making some timid efforts to recapture the figure of Mary. People have realized that the complete removal of the feminine element from the Christian message is a shortcoming from an anthropological viewpoint. It is theologically and anthropologically important for woman to be at the center of Christianity. Through Mary, and the other holy women, the feminine element stands at the heart of the Christian religion. And this is not in competition with Christ. To think of Christ and Mary as being in competition means ignoring the essential distinction between the two figures. Christ gives John, and through John all of us, the Mother. That is not competition, but a most profound kind of intimacy. The Mother and Virgin forms an essential part of the Christian picture of man.

On whether the Church would officially adopt "Co-Redemptrix" as a title for Mary:
I do not think there will be any compliance with this demand, which in the meantime is being supported by several million people, within the foreseeable future. The response of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith is, broadly, that what is signified by this is already better expressed in other titles of Mary, while the formula "Co-redemptrix" departs to too great an extant from the language of Scripture and of the Fathers and therefore gives rise to misunderstandings.


Because Mary is the the prototype of the Church as such and is, so to say, the Church in person, this being "with" is realized in her in exemplary fashion. But this "with" must not lead us to forget the "first" of Christ: Everything comes from Him, as the letter to the Ephesians and the Letter to the Colossians, in particular, tell us; Mary, too, is everything that she is through Him.

The word "Co-Redemptrix" would obscure this origin. A correct intention is being expressed in the wrong way. For matters of faith, continuity of terminology with the language of Scripture and that of the Fathers is itself an essential element; it is improper simply to manipulate language.
On the infallibility of the Church:
This doctrine obviously needs to be understood very precisely within its correct limitations, so as not to be misused or misunderstood. It doesn't mean that every word that the ecclesiastical authorities say, or even every word said by a pope, is infallible. It certainly does mean that wherever the Church, in the great spiritual and cultural struggles of history, and after all possible prayer and grappling with the truth, insists that this is the correct interpretation and draws a line there, she has been promised that in this instance she will not lead people in to error. That she will not be turned into an instrument of destruction for the Word of God, but remains the mother, the living agent, within whom the Word is alive and truly expresses Himself and is truly interpreted.
On the pope:
We know from the New Testament that sacramental, consummated marriage is irreversible, indivisible. Now, there are movements who say the Pope could of course change that. No, that is what he cannot change. And in January 2000, in an important address to Roman judges, he declared that in response to this movement in favor of changing the indissolubility of marriage, he can only say that the Pope cannot do anything he wants, but he must on the contrary continually rekindle our sense of obedience; it is in this way, so to speak, that he has to continue the gesture of washing people's feet.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

Patristic Carnival IX

Phil Snider @ Hyperekperissou has graciously allowed me to host the Patristic Carnival again (see my first go-round here) so let's get some good posts in.

Here are the original guidelines for the carnival and here are some updates made in 2007. Please have all submissions in by February 29th.

Remember you can offer submissions on the carnival site or the dedicated e-mail (

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mariology in Latin America

From Cardinal Ratzinger's conversation with Peter Seewald in "God and the World" (Seewald's text is italicized and in green- Ratzinger's text in blue):

"Non-Catholics are accustomed to regard devotion to Mary as encroaching upon the position of Jesus", wrote the great English cardinal John Henry Newman. And even today, skeptical persons believe that an overflowing Marian devotion will supplant the true essence of Christianity, the gospel of Christ Himself.

There is one thing we must not forget: it has always been the Mother who reached people in a missionary situation and made Christ accessible to them. That is especially true of Latin America. Here, to some extent, Christianity arrived by way of Spanish swords, with deadly heralds. In Mexico, at first, absolutely nothing could be done about missionary work - until the occurrence of that phenomenon at Guadalupe, and then the Son was suddenly near by way of His Mother.

This was the remarkable discovery of an image of the Madonna. You can say that it turned things around completely, and without it the Christianizing of the continent would have been unthinkable.

Yes, and suddenly the Christian religion no longer wears the terrible face of the conqueror but the kindly face of the Mother. In Latin America, even today, these two foci of popular piety are influential: first, a love for the Mother of God; second, identifying oneself with the suffering Christ. In these two figures, in which faith is able to express itself, people have been able to grasp that this is not a God of conquerors, but the true God, who is also their Redeemer. That is why Mary is so dear to Catholics in Latin America especially. And we ought not to accuse them, from our rational perspective, of having thereby distorted Christianity. On that point in particular, that have understood it aright.
Thought it was interesting... Passing it along for what it's worth.

Book Review: God & the World

This book is a conversation between Peter Seewald and (then) Cardinal Ratzinger. I'm a slow reader (I mean a slow book-reader - as in it takes me a long time to read books) but even at 460 pages, I finished this one over the span of a five day business trip. So it's a very quick read.

I would highly recommend this for its summarized theology of Cardinal Ratzinger. It's a great peak into his mind. It covers God, man, the Church and the universe.... What else do you want to know about? I'm going to post a few excerpts from it in the next few days.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Decline in the American "Church"

Imagine the thought process behind the proposed solution to the problem of Christians not taking their faith seriously enough being a more relaxed & "relevant" (so-called) "Church"... I kid you not. This is what I endured at a recent Christian seminar.

The speaker, George Barna, backed by a PowerPoint presentation detailing the decline of American Christianity explained some dismal statistics about what Christians really believe. It said that less than half of Christians were "born again". I suppose he meant less than half of Christians would claim to be "born again" (as if you could really quantify in a graph who is really going to Heaven and who isn't).

He meant to come across as an objective observer of Christian trends - irrespective of denominational concerns. Firstly, the entire presentation was given strictly from a Protestant perspective. I'm not sure if the Catholic population was represented in any of his surveys (I suppose not) but even if they were, the direction of the talk ignored them. That's fine. You're a Protestant, you consider "Church" to be the invisible body of Christians who interpret the bible in a roughly similar way as you. I can deal with that. But he would make such comments as "Evangelicals are just part of the Church. They're a part of Christianity whose world view tends to be more in line with the Bible than others." (I wonder if he himself was an Evangelical and I wonder how one could quantify such a thing objectively).

He spoke about the unbelievable decline in morality within the "Church" and how fewer and fewer Christians even report that they believe in certain key doctrines. He bemoaned the secularization of American Christians.

All these things are problems in both Catholic and Protestant populations to be sure. But he missed some real key points. The culmination of this utterly failed look on Christianity in America and what to do about it was this: in the coming years we're going to see Christianity shift from "traditional church settings" to "alternative churches" (i.e. big screen tv's as the center piece of worship - hey who needs a freakin' altar?) The young generation is being influenced most by TV, movies, internet etc and thats where we need to focus our message.. Thats it?! That's your conclusion? You see such a decline in Christianity being serious and not only do you more or less say that the trends are going to take care of themselves but the trends are part of the solution?!

Am I being unreasonable or is it not too eccentric to assume for a brief (perhaps naive) moment in time that regarding the correlation between Christians no longer taking Christianity seriously and the gradual implementation of a more 'culturally hip' and 'relevant' "church" service there might be just a hint of causality going on? On the contrary, most Christians in America (don't even try to contradict me on this one, we all know it's true) seem to think that in order to save the relevance of the "Church" we need to make less distinction between "church" and their other worldly activities.

We need to be less uptight (reverent) have less archaic (beautiful) music, less solemn (serious), less preachy (Christ-like... oh I mean the REAL Christ - the One who kept talking about hellfire and what not) less traditional (orthodox) and for crying out loud - let's be more spiritual (Gnostic).

It's the classic Satanic lie. They point to a real problem (Christians don't take Christianity seriously) and propose a solution (be less reverent) that will at best make no difference and will usually make the problem worse (in this case I can assure you it will continue making the problem worse).

Fortunately, as Mr. Barna failed to recognize, there are significant changes being made in a certain portion of Christianity - that is.. the Catholic Church. The reform happening within the Church is pointing towards (and will achieve) greater reverence and solemnity of worship. The Church guards it. The 'reform' in the evangelical ecclesial community is moving in just the opposite direction (at least according to him and it seems that way to me as well). They want an e-church. Well, they can have it. But they should at least learn from the Catholic mistakes - we've been there, done that have the battle scars (hippie priests) to prove it.

It doesn't work. Mark my words - the more you laugh at something, the more others will think it's a joke. The less YOU take "Church" seriously, the less THEY will.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Patristic Carnival VII

Phil Snider has Patristic Carnival VII up and running. Make sure to check it out. So much great reading - so little time. Also, I'll be hosting the next one again. I'll post later with instructions - gotta sign my son up for Spring soccer!

Mass in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles

Well I was surprised with the mass I went to over the weekend in LA. I thought it was about a mile from my hotel but I think it ended up being more like 2 or 2 & a half miles. It took me about 45 minutes to walk there (taking my time). I jogged most of the way back. (I would have taken a cab if I knew it was that long).

Anyhow, I came half expecting some clowns or liturgical dancers to show up but it was pretty decent. The musicians were great (although a couple of the melodies were hopelessly out of place) and they insisted on standing in front, casually dressed, for everyone to see rather than in the choir loft.

The congregation remained standing after the Agnus Dei instead of returning to kneel and after the consecration, there was a lay-woman who poured the wine on the altar. That to me seemed like an abuse and even made me uncomfortable about receiving. Is this permitted? I've only seen a deacon or priest pour the wine before. Also, when I received I'm not entirely sure it was red wine used. I thought only red wine was permitted. (My senses may have been mistaken though).

The homily was good except for the standard plea for us not to fast during lent. Anyone else notice this? The priests (well the western ones anyone) are the biggest advocates of doing away with fasting for Lent. "This year, instead of saying I'm not going to do this or that, why don't we try to follow the Beatitudes". And what Joe-Schmoe pewsitter hears is "Don't worry about fasting, just be nice". I often consider how much more spiritual clarity we had in the medieval period than now in the "enlightenment".

And then they say "This year" (as if up until this Lent they've been fasting) but what if they've been following your advice father? You've been telling them not to fast ever since the 60s. Here's an idea: This year, instead of merely being nice, why don't you take up your cross and follow Christ. (Even if that means fasting).

Friday, February 01, 2008

The Angelus

I don't have too much time to blog presently - I'm in LA until Sunday. I wanted to ask, how many of you pray the Aneglus at noon? For Protestants, would you object to this prayer? I see the Hail Mary (if even objectionable in the Rosary - too many "Hail Mary"s and what not) it must be thoroughly appropriate in this context - specifically a devotion remembering the Incarnation.

Just curious.