PopeWatch: Lamb of Pope

VATICAN-POPE-AUDIENCE

 

The Pope Emeritus, what an odd formulation that is, must be gritting his teeth, or laughing out loud, at the type of puff press coverage that his successor is getting.  I think the shark, or rather the lamb, was jumped yesterday:

 

The title of the story that the picture is taken from is:

“Photos Of Pope Francis And Lamb At The Nativity Scene On Epiphany Make Us So Happy”.

Italy Pope Epiphany

An odd title for a piece on the left wing Huffington Post regarding a Catholic pope to be sure, but fairly typical for the type of glowing press coverage that Pope Francis has been getting.  What a change from the coverage that Pope Benedict got!  If he had snuggled up to a lamb it would have been suggested that he was going to eat it, abuse it or enlist it in the Hitler Youth.

Why the soft focus coverage?  PopeWatch believes the answer is obvious.  Most of the media opposes traditional Catholic moral teachings regarding abortion, gay marriage, contraception, divorce, and they assume that Pope Francis, if he does not alter these teachings, will at least soft pedal them.  PopeWatch assumes, and hopes, that the media is incorrect, and that the press coverage that the Pope receives will soon cease to resemble the coverage that Obama received in 2008.

102 Responses to PopeWatch: Lamb of Pope

  • It appears that Pope Francis is in the process of implementing the other half of the teachings of Vatican II and making such changes within the traditional faith which he perceives to impede the Council’s “reforms”.

    I must concede that I have no idea what these reforms consist of but many Catholics who self identify as progressive are betting that the pastoral initiatives of the Council and its elevation of human dignity will translate into a substantial reform of traditional Catholic morality.

    Returning to the sources, communio, nixing scholasticism all seem to play a role in what is coming. Recall that popes John Paul II and Benedict XVI were periti at the Council and were also active in advancing its initiatives. Pope Francis is merely completing what the Council called for…..does anyone really know what that entails?

  • Slainte,

    The liberal press and ultra progressive segment of the Church are going to be bitterly disappointed with the reforms coming. There will be no change in moral teaching or such doctrinal issues as an all male priesthood. There will be because there cannot be. What will be implemented besides the reforms of the Vatican Bank and the Curia will be in the area of the mission of the Church. In ‘the return to the sources’ of Vatican II we return to the source of our identity as Church: The Most Blessed Trinity. The Church is the fruit or the result of the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Church does not (really) have a mission; the Church IS the mission of the Son and the Spirit visible in the world today. Fundamentally that mission is to be “a kind of sacrament” as Lumen Gentium puts it [lest someone misunderstand and think we have declared that there is an 8th sacrament]. The Church “as communion is the sacrament of salvation for the world”

    The Church is One> This Unity comes from the unity of the Most Blessed Trinity. It is gift. It is a given. However it is also a task in which each generation ‘must’ participate. In this ‘unitive task’ the Church ‘must’ be ecumenical: seeking such a level of conversion of faith which will bear fruit in unity of all Christians [not however at the expense of losing our identity as “the Church of Jesus Christ which subsists in the Catholic Church”]. This unitive task or mission also necessarily engages us in recognizing the relatedness or “order’ of other religions, most especially Judaism with which we have such a close and unique relationship, since we have been grafted through Christ into the Olive Tree of Israel. Also related to us but in a far more distant way is Islam which worships the Creator [we don’t have to go into this again lol] Other world religions such as Buddhism and Hindhuism reveal the religious nature of ‘man’ and the hunger and longing of the human heart for the Holy and the Transcendent [mentioning the relation with these religions says nothing about ‘universal salvation’. In fact, the fundamental point is that the Church herself is the Sacrament of Salvation for the world. This unity, or fullness of communion comes when one is fully initiated [Baptized, Confirmed and Eucharist (each Sunday)]. It comes with full unity of faith [believing all that the Church teaches] and community [unity with those who are united with their bishop and pope] it finally is unity in the sacraments [believing in and participating in the seven sacraments (those one can participate in; for example marriage is for man and woman; orders are for men)

    The Church is holy. This too is both gift and task. As Paul teaches in both Ephesians 5 and Titus 3, Christ died to make His Bride Holy. She is fundamentally holy thanks to Christ and the gift of the Holy Spirit. Proof of the holiness is the saints at the core of the Church-most especially the Immaculata, “Full of Grace”, the new name for Mary, the Virgin Mother of God.
    Holiness is also a task. Each and every baptized Christian is called to sanctity, holiness of life. Perhaps the most forgotten aspect of Lumen Gentium is its chapter on the universal call to holiness. We are not called to ‘merely’ obey the commandments, as important as this is. We are called to an ongoing conversion of life throughout life to that point in which we can say with Paul, “It is no longer I who live but Christ living in me” [Galatians 2] Keeping this in mind, there can be no moment in which ‘the reform of the Church’ is completed, since that would mean each and every member had literally become saints. In many ways we have not even begun to discover this fundamental teaching of VII [Lumen Gentium] The world does not understand any of this.

    The Church is Catholic. Catholic has two distinct meanings. First, which most know is that it means “universal”. As salvation is meant for all people [although not accepted by all], so the Church is sent and meant to be the sacrament of salvation for all [although not all are members]. Catholic is not the same as being ‘inclusive’ as the world often portrays it. Catholic means it is indeed intended for all and meant to be in every nation, language etc, but conversion and faith are the way into this Catholicity-so it is not merely a matter of “all come, all are welcome just as you are and expect to remain exactly as you were when you came’. The second aspect of Catholicity: Catholic comes from the Greek: kata hole: pertaining to the whole. First and foremost it means the ‘whole teaching’ and not cafeteria style “Catholicism’ from the left or the right; it also means the whole Church-which can never be identified with one grouping within the Church, whether a nationality, gender etc or even all alive today. The whole Church includes the communion of saints [angelic and human]
    While Catholicity is a gift it is also a task and fundamental to the mission of the Church

    The Church is Apostolic. She is Apostolic in faith, faithfuly believing and teaching all that has been handed down from the Apostles [Apostolic Tradition] which has been passed on to us in Sacred Scripture and Holy Tradition [The difference between Tradition and traditions is a key issue and so frequently they are confused by “the left and the right’]. The Church is Apostolic in governance, As Christ formed His college of Apostles with Peter as its head, so apostolic succession is fully passed on only to those bishops in full communion with the college of bishops in union with the pope, the successor of Peter. The Church is apostolic in her mission as well: “Go make disciples of all nations, baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teach them everything I have commanded you and know I am with you until the end of the world” Matthew 28

    Slainte, These are fundamental to the reform and implementation of VII. With the fantastic work of JPII and Benedict straightening out confusion in areas of doctrine and morals [we have enough resources : Catechism, Compendium of Social Teaching, Code of Canon Law of 1983, encyclicals etc to no longer say ‘we are confused’. Neither left not right can say this with any real substance behind it] Now we can really get into the mission of the Church-as sacrament, being missioned, being light salt and leaven in the world.

  • Botolph, Thank you for your very complete and thorough response. I agree with most of what you have written but am concerned with primarily two things.

    i. Salvation Outside the Church. If one reverts to the period prior to Vatican II , the Church was adamant that there was No Salvation Outside the Catholic Church.

    Post Vatican II, we are informed that Truth subsists in the Catholic Church but can be found (albeit less fully) in other Christian (and possibly non-Christian?) faiths, thus suggesting the possibility that Salvation may be found outside the Church. Is this a compromise position to advance a worthy and greater good of healing the rupture in Christian unity that was caused by the Reformation? But when we evangelize as lay people aren’t we obligated to remind those to whom we speak that salvation is only available through the Catholic Church in which the fullness of Truth exists?

    ii. Universal Salvation. Pope Benedict clarified the English language version of Pope Paul VI’s Novus Ordo Mass to state that God came to save MANY, not ALL. While I recognize that Free Will permits us to reject Grace and therefore salvation, I also understand that Catholicism accepts some attenuated version of Predestination (some will be saved but not all) while rejecting Calvin’s Double Predestination. Further, in the period before Vatican II, the Church unequivocally recognized that Sin existed, as did Hell, and that evil was an affirmative force (not merely a passive absence of the presence of God.) The Church no longer preaches the concept of SIN or that some will go to Hell as a consequence of sinful behaviour when Judged by God. These are perplexing issues.

    Over at Crisis Magazine, I have tried to defend Pope Francis’ actions which, at times, seem at odds with the traditional understanding of the faith. I defer to the Pope’s positions because I know that he is informed and guided by the Holy Spirit, but I am troubled by his response to the Franciscan Friars and his statements which appear to minimize the extraordinary importance of the Pro-Life (anti-abortion) movement and the wide ranging issues surrounding homosexuality and marriage. Any insight on these issues is appreciated.

    Thanks for being kind and responding so generously to my queries.

  • All salvation that happens happens somehow through the Church, the Body of Jesus Christ.

  • “…Make Us So Happy” I don’t think I’ve ever seen such an inclusive sweep in any headline ever before. Even when there is a headline with a big statement that assumes how most people feel it is not given in the first person or even theroyal we or us, but third person view …like “America Mourns” or something that shows the newspaper is an observer, not a participant in the news.

  • Thanks Slainte,

    Ok first, Extra Ecclesia Nulla Salus [Outside the Church there is no salvation] was first put forward by Saint Cyprian in his wonderful treatise on Church Unity. In context, Cyprian was stating that any member of the Church who leaves the communion of the Church, or any person who knows that the Church is the one true Church but refuses to admit and confess this as true and thus enter the Church-cannot be saved. We still hold this given certain understanding-for example after generations Christians not in full communion with the Catholic Church cannot be held responsible for <> the Catholic Church etc. They obviously are not in full communion but not guilty of leaving the Church in schism [lack of charity] or heresy [rejection of truth of faith]

    We fundamentally believe that Christ is the Sacrament of Salvation-there is no other Name given by which a person can be saved. What of people who are not baptized? Can they be saved/how are they saved? The core teaching is this: a person is saved by the grace of Jesus Christ. <> anyone is saved who is not baptized and is outside the Church it is by the grace of Christ [no other way] and this saving grace configures them to be among those ‘whose faith is known to God alone”. Before saying another word, this is a far cry from ‘universalism: all are saved”. All we are saying is confessing the fundamentals of our faith: no one is saved except by the grace of Jesus Christ and that saving grace unites them (even if mysteriously) with the Church. Long before Vatican II there were three baptisms recognized: by Water (the Sacrament) By Blood (martyrdom) and by Desire (now how strict is this to be interpreted? There never has been a de fide answer)

    Slainte you mentioned that before VII no salvation outside the Church was held strictly by the Church (with the implication that it then changed fundamentally in VII) This is not true. I will stick with the period just before the Council with the papacy of Pius XII. A Jesuit priest in Boston did some great work with students at Harvard University. His name was Fr Feeney. However in the process of pastoral zeal he preached an extremely strict interpretation of Extra Ecclesia Nullus Salus declaring all the Protestants etc are going to hell. It became explosive in Boston-to the degree that the Vatican had to step in. Now some will point out that Fr Feeney was excommunicated for disobedience (and strictly speaking this is true) However, he was under obedience to renounce his strict interpretation of Extra Ecclesia. Further, the Vatican Instruction which became the most official interpretation of Extra Ecclesia up until VII, stated that no one may hold an opinion or position or interpretation of Extra Ecclesia nulllus salus that is not in accord and communion with the Church’s interpretation of this doctrine. This is a key point and must be kept in mind when talking about salvation outside the Church or salvation for those not in full communion with the Church. Christ is, remains and will always be the Mediator of Salvation and the Church is and will always be the sacrament of His salvation for the world. What the Church consistently has been saying is that God’s salvific will cannot be confounded by our own preconceived notions of what this or that then means. While emphasizing salvation in and through Christ’s grace in the Church are we also called to be so miserly with the grace of salvation? Sadly, not all people will be saved. But it should be in the heart of every Catholic that we wish, desire and yes work toward the salvation of all people. Otherwise the Church ceases to be the sacrament of salvation.-and of course that is impossible based on Extra Ecclesia nullus salus

  • Slainte,

    Now your second comment “that the truth subsists in the Catholic Church’ actually does not exist [I am <<not denying the truth of the Catholic faith ;-)] The phrase used by the Council Fathers is: "The Church of Jesus Christ subsists in the Catholic Church". That means this: all the truths [teaching], means of salvation [sacraments] and structure [full hierarchical structure of the Church of Christ subsists, and truly is in the Catholic Church [all in union with pope]. What this statement also gives us is that some [in some cases most, in other cases much less so] elements of the Church of Christ exist in other churches and ecclesial communion. For example, Sacred Scripture, most especially the four Gospels, Creed(s), baptism, prayer, service etc. All have these. Some such as the Orthodox have everything but the pope. We differentiate churches (seven sacraments with bishops, priests and deacons) [Orthodox Churches, Oriental Orthodox churches, Assyrian Church] Communities that came out of the Reformation are called "Ecclesial Communities" because they do not have seven sacraments or full hierarchy of the Church. All of these are indeed elements that facilitate salvation

    You ask about a lay person evangelizing/catechizing. A lay person can be a wonderful vehicle of salvation, most especially by witness of life. However to be more specific, in evangelizing I would emphasize that Christ has come to espouse to Himself His Bride the Church [cannot/must not separate Church from Christ]. That Church is the Church of Jesus Christ which subsists -is manifest in all its fullness in the Catholic Church-how is that? Is that helpful enough?

  • Botolph, when we define the ‘church’ we must be careful to attach the correct understanding to the term. In the New Tesament, the church is the body of Christ: all those who are “in Christ,” to quote Paul. They may or may not belong to a specific organized church structure, but they are part of the spiritual/mystical body. Then the word church is also used to refer to local assemblies, e.g. the church at corinth, the church that meets in so and so’s house, etc. It is impossible for me to believe that the term ‘church’ can be aligned with a specific denomination or church strucutre, however.

  • Slainte,

    On your next issue, I am a bit stunned. What are your sources of these statements/teachings of the Church—or are you hearing them from someone claiming that the Church teaches these things?

    The Church has not changed its teachings on evil, hell and sin-it has not and cannot. Not the teaching-how it is expressed etc is a different manner however.

    Let me make this perfectly clear. Pope Benedict made an intervention on the translation of the Institution of the Eucharist of the Ordinary Form of the Mass changing the word from “all” to “many”. The original context for pushing ‘all’ had to do with inclusive language making sure women felt included-a bit silly-but the original context was pastoral and <> “Many” is the actual word in the original language and needed to be said. However, what does “Many” mean? It means that while Christ died for all men, only ‘the many’ will come to accept it. This is important Slainte. While we readily canonize saints, declaring them in heaven do you realize the Church has never stated any person is in hell, except Satan and his minions? Not even Judas, Hitler etc. We cannot and will not, because we leave judgment up to God. We know sadly, from what Christ taught us, that not all will actually accept salvation. Even sadder, the path to salvation is narrow and tough-through Christ and the Cross, while ‘the road to perdition’ is wide and easy. Nonetheless, what we do know and confess is that through their/our (yikes!) own free will, not everyone will be saved. This is not the same as saying (as some heretical groups in the past have said) that only a few are saved. Keep that in mind.

    Secondly you state that ‘evil is a passive absence of the Presence of God”. This is not Church teaching and never has been. I believe you are combining what we traditionally declare evil to be and how hell is sometimes described. Evil is a negation of the good (like a black hole). Everything that exists, created by God is created good. Evil is the result of one who themselves has been created good (angel or man) negates the good by rebelling against the True, the Good and the Beautiful, twisiting and deforming them into half truths and lies, the bad and the ugly. When evil is done willingly it is sin. Sin ultimately is conversio ab Deo ad creaturem [conversion away from God and toward the creature]. It is expressed as a fundamental distrust and disobedience toward God and a moving away from Him

    The “Church no longer preaches sin”-nor should we. We are called to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ and His salvation-which is saving us from sin. Sin isn’t the focus, Christ is. Obviously, sin will be and needs to be incorporated into the proclamation of the Gospel but the proclamation of the Gospel is not a rehashing of the promulgation of the Law. Moral teaching, the Law of God has been subsumed into the Gospel of Christ; it is an element of the Gospel and Gospel teaching but not its core. The Kingdom of God is at hand, repent and believe the Gospel: the Kingdom, Jesus Christ has broken into our world as pure Gift-grace-only in His light, the light of His truth and that of the Spirit within our hearts, that we can truly come to see the true dimensions of sin [not vice versa] and thus our radical need of Christ’s salvation and our ongoing conversion. Hell is eternal loss of God, Christ, His kingdom willed by the ‘damned’. God will not overwhelm our free will. Some, who have very little experience of life and less wisdom, will say, but who in their right mind would reject God etc and will to be damned. Perhaps in my younger years I might have leaned that way myself, but oh not now. I have seen intended evil in action by people. If you actually catch a view of it, the hair on the back of your neck will stand up. Nonetheless my prayer, that I have learned after many ‘battles’ is “Father forgive them they know not what they do”/”Do not lay this sin against them” (Stephen at his martyrdom).

    As for Pope Francis-Slainte I have commented on him a great deal in here. I refer you to some of those comments. However let me say this. In all my hearing/reading I firmly believe that Pope Francis is as orthodox as JPII and Benedict. He simply expresses himself differently (for a number of reasons; some of which is still in process of a learning curve)

  • Anzlyne

    “All salvation that happens happens somehow through the Church, the Body of Christ-a fantastic Catholic statement in faith and expression!

  • Jon,

    I will attempt to be as delicate, diplomatic and ecumenical as possible. When I am speaking of the Church I am speaking of the Catholic Church as she exists-as you see her. The Church of Jesus Christ in all its fullness resides in her. I am expressing myself as a Catholic on a Catholic blog site. I understand that you are a Protestant, but I/we are Catholics etc

    For you to lecture us about our ‘understanding of the sacraments’ which is sacramentalism or my statement about the Church so that it includes the broadest least common denominator or some Protestant denomination is like an Atheist lecturing Christians to be inclusive during the holiday season and not mention Christ’s birth. You are are welcome here Jon but we are Catholics. Period

  • Well, Botolph, I think the analogy is rather poor. Atheism and full inclusivity during holiday seasons is a terrible paradox with which all Christians must grapple in today’s society. I lament that the problem exists, but we must find ways to deal with it. As many people have said time and again, there are no real atheists. At some deep level we all must know that God exists and that he is righteous.
    Yes, I realize you speak from a Roman Catholic perspective, and that you equate the ‘church’ with the Roman Catholic church hierarchy based in Rome, along with its sacraments. I just think it’s theologically incorrect. I would never equate the church with one denomination or one Christian strucutre. I recognize the terms usage in the New Testament, as I explained before. We must learn, first, how things were udnerstood/expressed in that early first century context before we can apply it today. Otherwise we risk making all kinds of mistakes.

  • Thank you Botolph, I understand and accept your response to Issue 1.

    Regarding a….”Jesuit priest in Boston did some great work with students at Harvard University. His name was Fr Feeney. However in the process of pastoral zeal he preached an extremely strict interpretation of Extra Ecclesia Nullus Salus…”

    I almost fell off my chair on three accounts, (i) a Conservative Jesuit….I didn’t know such a creature existed except for the late (and great) Fr. Francis Canavan of Fordham Univ, (ii) a Catholic priest teaching at Harvard within the four walls of the foundation of Puritanism, and (iii) a Conservative in Boston who had not already been summarily evicted by the Kennedys….quite a feat. : )

    Michael Voris has opined that the Papacy holds the deposit of faith “in trust” with no ability to alter or otherwise expand upon it. I believe he applied this logic to the issue of No Salvation Outside the Church. I believe he would take exception to the ex-communication of a priest if that priest was preaching the faith in accord with Tradition.

    I accept, however, that the Pope, guided by the Holy Spirit, may exercise discretion to clarify the faith relative to specific issues and has the right to expect compliance by the clergy.

  • Slainte,

    I would be especially careful of taking everything Michael Voris states as either Gospel or Church teaching-or me for that matter lol Check out Michael and check what I (or anyone here etc) says with the Catechism of the Catholic Church. I know your background; you can easily do that and come to an informed Catholic (and not some variation on the theme lol) position :)

  • Jon,

    I do not simply speak from a Roman Catholic perspective. I readily admit I am not either a pope or a bishop but much of what is expressed in here is either actually defined Catholic teaching [not mere theology or opinion] or questions concerning these positions. This is not as such an ecumenical blog so the conversation is based on very different foundations. If it were an ecumenical blog I would have to come to terms that it was ecumenical and not Catholic. You are going to have to come to terms with the fact that this is a Catholic blog and not an ecumenical one. Ask questions. You can even say you disagree-after all that is the definition of a Protestant: a person who does not agree with all that the Catholic Church teaches, if it were otherwise you would be Catholic. However, don’t lecture us as here as if “Catholic” is only one version or opinion etc and very clearly wring in your <> opinion.

    If you want me to begin totally ignoring you that’s fine-just let me know.

  • Jon, you have all the rights in the USA to your opinions, deductions, and cliches.

    But, I quote from Plato, The Republic, “Opinion is not truth.”

    Opinions are like noses, everybody’s got one.

    Hey! (Channeling Uncle Si here) How many thousands of protestant cults are there? Are there thousands of the Truth?

  • Thanks, Botolph. I do think we all have to come to terms with what’s out there, whether it is correct or incorrect. We all have to do something with it–to decide whether it is accurate or not. I guess you are completely convinced of your definitions.

  • Jon,

    Slight but important correction. I am convinced and believe what the Catholic Church teaches in her definitions—certainly not mine

  • Botolph, On the issue of Universal Salvation, I understand your points and thank you.

    On the third and final issue, I was not clear in my communication. I have never heard a homily preached in Church which specifically spoke about Sin or Hell or what constitutes either. I have been privileged to hear many excellent homilies preaching the truth and beauty of the Gospel message and the kingdom of God. But I would suggest that focusing on the Gospel alone is not sufficient to protect God’s flock from the spirit of this world in a society awash in moral relativism.

    You write, “…Sin isn’t the focus, Christ is…”

    If we would not send a soldier into battle without the proper equipment to defend himself from the spears and arrows of enemy combatants, the Church should not send its children into the world without teaching them what evil is, how it manifests as sin. and its consequences.

    Botolph, most Catholic parents today are uncatechized; they do not know the
    Faith. They are raising children who need the wisdom of the Church to discern good from bad and right from wrong. The Church should not assume that children, whose source of learning is often limited to television and internet, know morality and the results of sin.

    Priests MUST teach what constitutes Sin from the pulpit at Sunday mass. Too many children (and parents) get in trouble because they just don’t know any better. I say all of this respectfully.

    With respect to Evil being the absence of God….this statement was made by a priest in my parish during a Sunday Mass homily. I thought about the statement and concluded that evil is not just a passive reality (God’s absence), but also an affirmative presence. We seem to agree on this point. The interaction of Eve and the serpent in the Garden of Eden and its ensuing consequences remain relevent today.

    Thank you again for your thoughtful and caring responses.

  • Jon, To which protestant denomination do you belong?

  • Botolph writes, “…I would be especially careful of taking everything Michael Voris states as either Gospel or Church teaching-or me for that matter lol – …”

    Botolph, I read, watch. and listen to anything and everything (including Voris and some of the Protestant preachers) and at the end of the day my head spins…I still find this all very interesting and I have no idea why. : )

    Slán anois

  • Slainte,

    You make some interesting and necessary ‘practical’ points. Let me see if I can do them justice.

    A person can be talking about sin or something sinful without using the word. For example in confessing that every human life needs to be respected from the moment of conception until natural death-that actually covers a great deal of moral issues of our day: abortion, euthanasia, suicide (as a result of a choice-I am not speaking about tormented souls ‘driven’ to suicide in anxiety episodes etc) It even causes us to at least pause on such issues as capital punishment and just war. See what I mean?

    However to your point, I believe many homilists really fail to engage both the word of God, the word in their own lives and in the lives of their people. Some simply retell in their own words, the Gospel etc. Even Pope Francis is getting after priests about this. I believe this is what many are describing as pablum and not meat. The People of God deserve meat on the table of the word. While Advent lends a certain element of possibility to homilies/catechesis on sin, certainly Lent does. A Lent that does not mention sin is well…………….worse than pablum. If you or anyone is in a parish where that goes on you have the right to go and charitably say to the priest could you get more—-one way of doing this is to ask for an appt during the week and tell him you want to ask him some questions about what he preached. That will get his attention lol.

    The Church Father, Origin spoke of Baptism (properly) as the passage through the Red Sea etc then the spiritual warfare of conquering the seven capital sins as Israel’s coming into the Promised Land and displacing/conquering the seven nations (some lists give six but there are seven) that possessed the land up until that time-with the last one representing the Jebusites (Jerusalem) being Pride. How is that for catechesis?????

    You are correct, that priests need to give their people spiritual food, clothe them in the virtues of Christ, arm them with the spiritual weapons of the Spirit (see Ephesians 6). Lent is “Basic Training” or “Basic Re-training”.

    As to Evil. First, there is no absolute evil (because we do not have two gods, one good and one evil. This is very important to remember and a distinction that needs to be made. Evil is both the absence of and the twisting/perversion of the good. Its source is the free will of angelic beings now fallen. Using analogies from science fiction. They brought their rebellion against God’s rule to earth and manipulated us into siding with them. However it is a cosmic battle in which we find ourselves. if someone says otherwise they are either nuts or ‘asleep at the job’. Wew do not battle flesh and blood but Powers and Principalities. Joseph Ratzinger wrote a very interesting book with this title back in the 60’s I wish they would reprint it. However, this battle in which we are in while cosmic, world wide, takes place mostly right within our own beings. It is not them versus us. It is us versus us. It is from this pitiful condition that Christ has come to save, heal and redeem us.

    Just some more thoughts on what you wrote

  • SLainte, I am a Baptist to be specific. I believe in orthodox Christianity, to which all Christians everywhere and at all times give assent. For me, Christianity is a broad term, whicih covers people who happen to be in the Roman, Anglican and Lutehran churches, as well as Baptist, Methodist, and Presbyteiran ones. I agree wtih C. S. Lewis’ thesis in Mere Chrisitainty that Christians are actually in agreement on essentials and that we should not anathematize people for not subscribing to a certain confession. I believe that salvation is by grace, through faith and that we become a Christian by way of a free-will response.
    Concerning evil, I think it is the absence of good or a falling short of it, as classic thought attests. (Evil departs form God’s intention and so cannot be innovative or creative.) But you’re right: it’s also an affirmative presence as you put it. It’s cosmic and personal and is therefore well personified by the serpent who assumes a guise to deceive humanity.

  • Jon,

    I do not know a great deal about the Baptist tradition except that it is quite prevalent in the southern states, and a group of Baptists from Danbury Connecticut, fearing for their well being from the Congregationalists, wrote to Thomas Jefferson seeking assurances that a state religion would not be re-established in post Revolutionary Connecticut. I credit you for interacting with us Catholics on this website as I am sure it is something of a daunting experience to stand alone.

    Three years ago a friend invited me to join a book reading class at a local Presbyterian Church to read “Christianity: The First Three Thousand Years” by Diarmaid MacCulloch. I accepted the invitation and joined the group. The book which was written by an English Anglican was, in my opinion, abrasive in its assessment of Catholicism and its rituals. We were all responsible for covering several chapter of this tome-like book and of course my chapters turned out to be the Reformation. How uncool is that?…a cradle Catholic with a lot of faith in Catholicism but not a lot of theological knowledge of the Faith or its Tradition gets to lead a discussion with some very bright Princeton educated Presbyterians about the Reformation.

    As the discussion unfolded, I assumed a position in defense of Catholicism and the injustice that I perceived was visited upon Catholics for seeking to maintain their faith during and after the Reformation. The Presbyterians responded by pointing out Catholicism’s history of corrupt popes, the Inquisition, the sale of Indulgences, idol worship, and flagellation parades….and suggested that there was ample evidence produced to justify a condemnation of Catholicism. I declined to do so arguing that the Church was the mystical body of Christ and only God could make such a determination. In addition, no competing reading material was made available whereby the Catholic Church could refute the questionable allegations raised by Mr. MacCulloch. My response was not well received as my fellow Presbyterian readers oncluded that the case was airtight against Catholicism.

    I left the book club pretty shaken but determined to learn everything I could about my faith so that I could more ably defend it. So along the way, I started to study the faith as an intellectual exercise and in time really began to love it.

    If you are curious about Catholicism, you must know that the epicenter of our faith is the sacrament of Holy Communion. While it is not possible for a non-Catholic to physically partake of the Eucharist, I would respectfully suggest that you consider finding a local Catholic Church that offers “Eucharistic Adoration” and attending for a short period. At a Eucharistic Adoration, the Holy Eucharist is exposed in a monstrance (a sunburst) on the altar making Christ’s physical presence available for all to gaze upon in prayer. As a Catholic when I attend this beautiful ceremony, I am filled with a profound inner peace. I think you might gain a better, more personal understanding of Catholicism, if you merely sat in the presence of Our Lord in that way. It might answer questions that you may have about our very ancient faith.

    You are very welcome among us and I hope you stay and continue to chat. Pax.

  • Botolph,

    Thanks for your valuable recommendations. You deserve a vacation after having responded to my many inquiries. Your responses were generous, clear, and faith filled.

    I feel it incumbent though to inform you that notwithstanding your being named after the patron saint of Boston, I fully intend to offer frequent and unremitting prayers to Our Lord to ensure that the New York Yankees continue to handily defeat the Boston Red Sox a la the Curse of the Bambino.

    As a native New Yorker, I can take no other action. : )

  • Slainte, I’m not familiar iwht the author you mention. I’m sorry to hear the book club took that direction, and it sounds like some people were far more interested in being right than in being Christian. To invite you to a book club and then give you the chapter on the Reformation is condescending. I know that Princeton Theological Seminary is one of the most liberal evangelical seminaries. It was once very conservative, but a stronghold of calvinism, since that’s the Presbyterian theological tradition. I don’t knwo if they’re still calvinistic, but I hear they have a rather low view of the Bible.
    When I try to think through Scripture I have to learn what the writers meant. When St. Paul speaks of the ‘church’, for example, he’s applying it to local meetings or the mystical body of Christ. He’s never referring to some type of overall church structure. Indeed the Roman Catholic church had not yet formed, though churches were meeting at Rome. The sacrament of communion or the Lord’s Supper is also something I try to understand Scripturally. What were they doing and why? Well, they ate a meal together and some aspect of that meal was presumably ritualized in the tradition of Passover. But like so much else in th New Testament, it took on new meaning. What the Old Testament was pointing to became clear and people ate and drank knowing they were a part of that. It was a spiritual meal, in other words. People came to know Christ, their Head, and one another as family–the body of Christ–so that the rite had profound significance for them.
    I think we miss the point if we jump to the conclusion that the bread and wine are physically Christ’s body and blood. The logical outcome to that conclusion would be that you have to be very careful with the elements as the Roman Catholic church probably is. I think the priest still locks it all up when finished. And the wafer is placed in a case of some sort as you desribe. Then you have Eucharistic Adoration. I’m familiar with this because I used to watch the Mass on EWTN where they would remove the cover at the end, or perhaps that was when they covered it up, I can’t remember. Anyway, if one were to judge by aesthetics alone, unless one were an absolute purist or minimalist, they would say the high churches are lovelier overall than most if not all Protestant worship, excepting Anlicanism. As a teenager I would occasionally attend a Mass for that sole reason, and I think that’s what drew Franky Schaeffer to Eastern Orthodoxy; he loves the Divine Liturgy. But I came to the conclusion, a long time ago, that tradition grew increasingly elaborate to the point that many new ideas emerged with time. For me the question becomes: what do you do with all of that innovation? You can hold onto what doesn’t conflict with Scirpture. But if some aspects of tradition cannot be squared with Scirpture, you’re left having to decide which side you will take. I don’t know of anyone who ever concioiusly said: I’m going to side with Tradition where it conflicts with Scirpture. What happens is that people argue that the conflict cited doesn’t really exist. They support that by interpeting Scirpture in ways that are strained and that depart from a straightforward reading. And then there is anachronism, or reading back into the pages of Scirpture ideas that grew up later.
    Your thoughts?

  • Moral teachings of the Catholic Church cannot be altered, because they have been derived from the teachings of the Bible No question of any compromise on the matters of divorce, sodomy ,lesbianism etc.,

  • Jon,

    My experience with the Presbyterians was actually a good one; they were convicted of the perceived wrongs and deficiencies of Catholicism and were able to credibly point to periods where some members of the Church exhibited less than exemplary conduct. On my end, I was woefully unprepared to address their concerns. So I have made efforts to better understand my own faith from both an intellectual and faith perspective. Many have assisted me along the way. I identified with your position of being a stranger among a cohesive group of people bound together by a common tradition, in this instance Catholicism, and wanted to confirm that you are welcome here.

    I agree with your conclusion that, as Christians, we share much in common. But I will unequivocally attest to you that when I eat Christ’s body and drink His blood in Holy Communion within the Catholic tradition, it works within my soul and my entire being a mystical and life affirming miracle that far exceeds any rational explanation of the act itself. I believe that you may be able to experience something of this experience by sitting quietly in the presence of Christ on the alter at Eucharistic Adoration. If you seek Him, He will find you and make Himself known to you.

    Though your eyes may identify what appears to be “a wafer” in a monstrance, your soul, in His presence, will awaken to a reality that is profoundly greater than the senses can apprehend.

    Father Robert Barron shares how the priest in Persona Christi “speaking with the full authority of Christ which is why his words have the power to change the elements” consecrates and transforms the bread and wine into Christ’s body and precious blood. Father concludes that “for Catholics, the only proper response when you are in the presence of those transformed elements is to bow down and worship.”

    See, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bJjW3LXuHzo

    I would strongly encourage you to take the next step in your faith journey and go to Eucharistic Adoration. It truly is an ultimate unity with our Creator wherein he provides not only physical food for our body but spiritual food for the everlasting life of the soul. The experience is transformative and it is why so many people for hundreds of years have been willing to become martyrs for the faith.

    I wish you Christ’s peace.

  • Scripture and Tradition – Jon, you might find this useful for your understanding of what Catholicism teaches. It comes form Catholic Answers and save me a lot of time in writing it myself. I did want to point out that I think you are mistaken in your assessment of Paul and individual Churches. For example, he goes back to Jerusalem over circumcision exactly because Paul is helping to build one Church, not many denominations, not what the Judaisers would have, or second citizenship for the Gentiles. One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic. I believe few if any individual has done more harm to Christianity than the divisions brought about by Martin Luther. The wrong solutions to the problems he saw. Anyway, here is the explanation:

    Protestants claim the Bible is the only rule of faith, meaning that it contains all of the material one needs for theology and that this material is sufficiently clear that one does not need apostolic tradition or the Church’s magisterium (teaching authority) to help one understand it. In the Protestant view, the whole of Christian truth is found within the Bible’s pages. Anything extraneous to the Bible is simply non-authoritative, unnecessary, or wrong—and may well hinder one in coming to God.

    Catholics, on the other hand, recognize that the Bible does not endorse this view and that, in fact, it is repudiated in Scripture. The true “rule of faith”—as expressed in the Bible itself—is Scripture plus apostolic tradition, as manifested in the living teaching authority of the Catholic Church, to which were entrusted the oral teachings of Jesus and the apostles, along with the authority to interpret Scripture correctly.

    In the Second Vatican Council’s document on divine revelation, Dei Verbum (Latin: “The Word of God”), the relationship between Tradition and Scripture is explained: “Hence there exists a close connection and communication between sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture. For both of them, flowing from the same divine wellspring, in a certain way merge into a unity and tend toward the same end. For sacred Scripture is the word of God inasmuch as it is consigned to writing under the inspiration of the divine Spirit. To the successors of the apostles, sacred Tradition hands on in its full purity God’s word, which was entrusted to the apostles by Christ the Lord and the Holy Spirit.

    “Thus, by the light of the Spirit of truth, these successors can in their preaching preserve this word of God faithfully, explain it, and make it more widely known. Consequently it is not from sacred Scripture alone that the Church draws her certainty about everything which has been revealed. Therefore both sacred Tradition and sacred Scripture are to be accepted and venerated with the same devotion and reverence.”

    But Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants, who place their confidence in Martin Luther’s theory of sola scriptura (Latin: “Scripture alone”), will usually argue for their position by citing a couple of key verses. The first is this: “These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in his name” (John 20:31). The other is this: “All Scripture is
    inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be equipped, prepared for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). According to these Protestants, these verses demonstrate the reality of sola scriptura (the “Bible only” theory).

    Not so, reply Catholics. First, the verse from John refers to the things written in that book (read it with John 20:30, the verse immediately before it to see the context of the statement in question). If this verse proved anything, it would not prove the theory of sola scriptura but that the Gospel of John is sufficient.

    Second, the verse from John’s Gospel tells us only that the Bible was composed so we can be helped to believe Jesus is the Messiah. It does not say the Bible is all we need for salvation, much less that the Bible is all we need for theology; nor does it say the Bible is even necessary to believe in Christ. After all, the earliest Christians had no New Testament to which they could appeal; they learned from oral, rather than written, instruction. Until relatively recent times, the Bible was inaccessible to most people, either because they could not read or because the printing press had not been invented. All these people learned from oral instruction, passed down, generation to generation, by the Church.

    Much the same can be said about 2 Timothy 3:16-17. To say that all inspired writing “has its uses” is one thing; to say that only inspired writing need be followed is something else. Besides, there is a telling argument against claims of Evangelical and Fundamentalist Protestants. John Henry Newman explained it in an 1884 essay entitled “Inspiration in its Relation to Revelation.”

    Newman’s argument

    He wrote: “It is quite evident that this passage furnishes no argument whatever that the sacred Scripture, without Tradition, is the sole rule of faith; for, although sacred Scripture is profitable for these four ends, still it is not said to be sufficient. The Apostle [Paul] requires the aid of Tradition (2 Thess. 2:15). Moreover, the Apostle here refers to the scriptures which Timothy was taught in his infancy.

    “Now, a good part of the New Testament was not written in his boyhood: Some of the Catholic epistles were not written even when Paul wrote this, and none of the books of the New Testament were then placed on the canon of the Scripture books. He refers, then, to the scriptures of the Old Testament, and, if the argument from this passage proved anything, it would prove too much, viz., that the scriptures of the New Testament were not necessary for a rule of faith.”

    Furthermore, Protestants typically read 2 Timothy 3:16-17 out of context. When read in the context of the surrounding passages, one discovers that Paul’s reference to Scripture is only part of his exhortation that Timothy take as his guide Tradition and Scripture. The two verses immediately before it state: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it, and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim. 3:14–15).

    Paul tells Timothy to continue in what he has learned for two reasons: first, because he knows from whom he has learned it—Paul himself—and second, because he has been educated in the scriptures. The first of these is a direct appeal to apostolic tradition, the oral teaching which the apostle Paul had given Timothy. So Protestants must take 2 Timothy 3:16-17 out of context to arrive at the theory of sola scriptura. But when the passage is read in context, it becomes clear that it is teaching the importance of apostolic tradition!

    The Bible denies that it is sufficient as the complete rule of faith. Paul says that much Christian teaching is to be found in the tradition which is handed down by word of mouth (2 Tim. 2:2). He instructs us to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess. 2:15).

    This oral teaching was accepted by Christians, just as they accepted the written teaching that came to them later. Jesus told his disciples: “He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me” (Luke 10:16). The Church, in the persons of the apostles, was given the authority to teach by Christ; the Church would be his representative. He commissioned them, saying, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19).

    And how was this to be done? By preaching, by oral instruction: “So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes by the preaching of Christ” (Rom. 10:17). The Church would always be the living teacher. It is a mistake to limit “Christ’s word” to the written word only or to suggest that all his teachings were reduced to writing. The Bible nowhere supports either notion.

    Further, it is clear that the oral teaching of Christ would last until the end of time. “’But the word of the Lord abides for ever.’ That word is the good news which was preached to you” (1 Pet. 1:25). Note that the word has been “preached”—that is, communicated orally. This would endure. It would not be
    supplanted by a written record like the Bible (supplemented, yes, but not supplanted), and would continue to have its own authority.

    This is made clear when the apostle Paul tells Timothy: “[W]hat you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2). Here we see the first few links in the chain of apostolic tradition that has been passed down intact from the apostles to our own day. Paul instructed Timothy to pass on the oral teachings (traditions) that he had received from the apostle. He was to give these to men who would be able to teach others, thus perpetuating the chain. Paul gave this instruction not long before his death (2 Tim. 4:6–8), as a reminder to Timothy of how he should conduct his ministry.

    What is Tradition?

    In this discussion it is important to keep in mind what the Catholic Church means by tradition. The term does not refer to legends or mythological accounts, nor does it encompass transitory customs or practices which may change, as circumstances warrant, such as styles of priestly dress, particular forms of devotion to saints, or even liturgical rubrics. Sacred or apostolic tradition consists of the teachings that the apostles passed on orally through their preaching. These teachings largely (perhaps entirely) overlap with those contained in Scripture, but the mode of their transmission is different.

    They have been handed down and entrusted to the Churchs. It is necessary that Christians believe in and follow this tradition as well as the Bible (Luke 10:16). The truth of the faith has been given primarily to the leaders of the Church (Eph. 3:5), who, with Christ, form the foundation of the Church (Eph. 2:20). The Church has been guided by the Holy Spirit, who protects this teaching from corruption (John 14:25-26, 16:13).

    Handing on the faith

    Paul illustrated what tradition is: “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the scriptures. . . . Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed” (1 Cor. 15:3,11). The apostle praised those who followed Tradition: “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you” (1 Cor. 11:2).

    The first Christians “devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (Acts 2:42) long before there was a New Testament. From the very beginning, the fullness of Christian teaching was found in the Church as the living embodiment of Christ, not in a book. The teaching Church, with its oral, apostolic tradition, was authoritative. Paul himself gives a quotation from Jesus that was handed down orally to him: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35).

    This saying is not recorded in the Gospels and must have been passed on to Paul. Indeed, even the Gospels themselves are oral tradition which has been written down (Luke 1:1–4). What’s more, Paul does not quote Jesus only. He also quotes from early Christian hymns, as in Ephesians 5:14. These and other things have been given to Christians “through the Lord Jesus” (1 Thess. 4:2).

    Fundamentalists say Jesus condemned tradition. They note that Jesus said, “And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matt. 15:3). Paul warned, “See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8). But these verses merely condemn erroneous human traditions, not truths which were handed down orally and entrusted to the Church by the apostles. These latter truths are part of what is known as apostolic tradition, which is to be distinguished from human traditions or customs.

    “Commandments of men”

    Consider Matthew 15:6–9, which Fundamentalists and Evangelicals often use to defend their position: “So by these traditions of yours you have made God’s laws ineffectual. You hypocrites, it was a true prophecy that Isaiah made of you, when he said, ‘This people does me honor with its lips, but its heart is far from me. Their worship is in vain, for the doctrines they teach are the commandments of men.’” Look closely at what Jesus said.

    He was not condemning all traditions. He condemned only those that made God’s word void. In this case, it was a matter of the Pharisees feigning the dedication of their goods to the Temple so they could avoid using them to support their aged parents. By doing this, they dodged the commandment to “Honor your father and your mother” (Ex. 20:12).

    Elsewhere, Jesus instructed his followers to abide by traditions that are not contrary to God’s commandments. “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice” (Matt. 23:2–3).

    What Fundamentalists and Evangelicals often do, unfortunately, is see the word “tradition” in Matthew 15:3 or Colossians 2:8 or elsewhere and conclude that anything termed a “tradition” is to be rejected. They forget that the term is used in a different sense, as in 1 Corinthians 11:2 and 2 Thessalonians 2:15, to describe what should be believed. Jesus did not condemn all traditions; he condemned only erroneous traditions, whether doctrines or practices, that undermined Christian truths. The rest, as the apostles taught, were to be obeyed. Paul commanded the Thessalonians to adhere to all the traditions he had given them, whether oral or written.

    The indefectible Church

    The task is to determine what constitutes authentic tradition. How can we know which traditions are apostolic and which are merely human? The answer is the same as how we know which scriptures are apostolic and which are merely human—by listening to the magisterium or teaching authority of Christ’s Church. Without the Catholic Church’s teaching authority, we would not know with certainty which purported books of Scripture are authentic. If the Church revealed to us the canon of Scripture, it can also reveal to us the “canon of Tradition” by establishing which traditions have been passed down from the apostles. After all, Christ promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against the Church (Matt. 16:18) and the New Testament itself declares the Church to be “the pillar and foundation of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15).

    NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
    presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
    Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

    IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
    permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
    +Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

  • Botolp, Slainte and Others: Well, if I did not already have a degree in Theology, I would almost qualify after reading all of the above. I would like to add a few tidbits to the conversation – hopefully not because I am a blowhard but perhaps I delude myself in thinking that my years of teaching science have made me pretty good at reducing big concepts to easily understood fare. Granted, not as technical or impressive, but more accessible to the average person unfamiliar with the technical language.

    Salvation only thru the Christ and His Church: Has anyone ever yelled out your name or called you on the phone and you had no idea of who it was? The call continues and you follow the voice and then you see them, or in the conversation suddenly putting a face to the voice and you almost exclaim, “Oh, I now know who you are!” That to me explains how good people go to Heaven thru Christ and the Church. God calls all of us, everyone who ever existed. People of sincere and good will listen and follow according to their own understanding. Doing their best to understand and follow God’s will does not ensure they will end up “Catholic” for many situations, but if their life was open to sharing God’s love and truth, somewhere between life and death and judgment they will recognize Christ and His Church and exclaim, “Oh, now I know who you are!” Baptism of Desire.

    Evil, the absence of God. A distraught pregnant woman does not want to carry the child within her, so she decides to have an abortion. She does not let the love of God into her decision – it is absent from her will, nonexistent in her actions. Were it present it would be full of life, full of existence, “I came that you would have life (existence, God) more abundant. Healing for any evil takes place when we bring the existence of God’s love back into the void.
    To me, forgiveness is a creative act. It brings God’s life into the world. Not to forgive is to negate or prevent existence of God.
    Satan would not let the existence of God’s love for humanity, the Incarnation, into his soul. Satan actually limited himself by doing so and not letting God’s existence grow within.
    So while the actions we take, the things we do are positive actions, evil itself is nonexistence of God’s love informing our actions.

    Truth does not come from the Bible, it does not come from the Church, but only from God who is unchanging. The Bible and the Church are gifts to help us discover and understand Truth.
    Yesterday they reported a poll that stated that the people against homosexuality said it was because of the Bible. No, if one is opposed to homosexuality it is because homosexuality is wrong, a denial (nonexistence) of God’s design and plan, and the Bible and Tradition help us to see that if we should ignore the obvious natural law. God says so through the Bible and Tradition, aka Church Teaching.

  • Kevin,

    Your teaching and your science come through. Well done.

  • Kevin,

    Thank you for your contribution. Your commentary regarding scripture and apostolic tradition made for an interesting read.

  • “The Bible and the Church are gifts to help us discover and understand Truth.”
    Pope Benedict XVI said that the Church owes the TRUTH to its people. The state owes the TRUTH to its people, too, and inscribed in the Preamble, the purpose of the Constitution are the words: “to secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and to our posterity.” The TRUTH will set you free. Congress owes the TRUTH to our constitutional posterity. The TRUTH is WHO we bring forth to our posterity. God has a human face. The TRUTH lives and breathes in Jesus Christ WHO said: “I am the TRUTH, the Life and the Way.” The Religious Freedom Restoration Act in Congress must take into account our constitutional posterity, over the gay agenda, simply because the votes from our posterity are our future as these persons are still in the mind of God. The Justice Department must take our Constitutional posterity into account because our Constitutional posterity are innocent and speak for all persons, living and dead and all persons to come, whereas the gay agenda is steeped in selfishness and speaks only for the individual, excluding our Constitutional posterity at the cost of our Constitutional posterity’s citizenship and civil rights. Any one denying civil rights to another person or persons, as is our Constitutional posterity, forfeits his own civil rights, by the very act of conspiring to and giving consent to deprive another person of our Constitutional civil rights.

  • “…simply because the votes from our posterity, and our posterity, are our future as these persons are still in the mind of God.” refinement of thought

  • Well put: “…[The media] assume that Pope Francis, if he does not alter these teachings, will at least soft pedal them.” The secular “news” sources, being masters of spin and programmed silence on various matters, will know how to controvert the message of Catholic teaching.

    However, reading the La Civilta Cattolica summary on PF’s address Nov. 29th, 2013 at the meeting with leaders of men’s religious orders, I am impressed with his effort to try to develop a true conversion of heart for members of religious groups in formation. He was very trenchant about what he called “the novice trade”—where religious orders open foundations in certain nations, then transfer them to supply their works in other countries (he cited the Phillipines as an example of where this is happening): it is wrong for the “host country” and it doesnt address fundamental issues in the “receiving country.” He was specific about something being wrong where a process of formation that seems to “end” when the members finally get ordained, and “formation is ended” (he said), and (my words) people spiritually seem to immediately begin to die. Of course again, he repeated that young men becoming priests should not be planned for positions of “administrators or managers”, but to serve the Gospel and the “People of God”. There is a lot more in 15 or so pages of redacted notes (the original address was given in Italian). I am not a great Pope-Francis fan, but this sounded like a fairly focused address (for
    PF at least), and he is on the march about living the evangelical counsels. Now (I was thinking reading this) what really needs to be done is to get the diocesan clergy everywhere to basically “step-it-up” and begin living poverty (yes, even for diocesan clergy), chastity, and obedience. So, at least in this address, my feelings are: “Go, Francis!”

  • Kevin and Slainte:
    You both present excI’ellent arguemnts and some really good points. Protestants often go overboard to present their side (sola scriptura), thereby undercutting some truths that all Christians should be relying on to defend the Faith. I’ve recognized this for some time now.
    When I think of Sola Scriptura, it’s more in the original sense of the sole final authority. It should be evident that we draw upon the other elements. I simply argue that Scirpture is the final arbiter. Therefore, I have no problem with traditions that are Scripturally inspired and/or derived. So there is a Tradition if you want to call it that. It is not a matter of either/or, which we both recognize. It is a matter of both/and with Scirpture being the ultimate authority. That’s the difference. Once the canon became closed, anything coming after must fully accord with it. And there can be no new revelation. To say Mary never sinned or was bodily assumed into heaven would fall intothat category.
    Cardinal Newman was a very talented and rare figure. It is difficult to judge common debates about Christianity in terms of people like him. There are certain figures that, for reasons of personality and temperament and a kind of sensiblity, move in a more extreme direction than everyone else.
    Arguments about Scirpture, tradition, and the continuation of the church are far less straightforward than the typical ones mentioned. It comes down to definitions, really. The Roman Catholic narrative is pretty consistent if you define the terms a certain way. Once you define them differently it changes the whole scenario. That’s why I’ve always thought it so fundamental that we get the definition of ‘church’ right, particularly since you trace the role of Scripture, Tradition, and their relationship back to the Magisterium.

  • Jon, Slainte, Mary, Shaw, Anzlyne, Botolph and anyone I forgot to mention: It is uplifting to have a discussion on something other than celebrities or sports. Even with believers it can be difficult to change the focus from the inane. So, I thank you.

  • The rupture of the Reformation caused the bishops and the Pope to define the principles of the Catholic faith at Trent and, in essence, clarify the Faith and unify the faithful around core beliefs. I suppose the bishops and the popes realized that in order to counter the competing theological and philosophical ideas put forward by the various protestant thinkers (some of whom were former Catholic priests and monks), unity of thought was necessary for cohesiveness. Once pertinent points of the Catholic faith were clarified and enunciated at Trent, it became necessary to educate the faithful in the Faith to protect them from being misled by competing theologies. The Jesuit priests and the Ursuline nuns joined together to accomplish this worthy task with the Jesuits educating the boys and the Ursulines, the girls.

    So many years after the Reformation, we still find ourselves separated by many of the same theological differences. I surmise that the bishops and popes of Vatican II want to heal this rupture once and for all, and believe they can do so by returning to the sources…..or as Botolph expresses:

    “….What will be implemented besides the reforms of the Vatican Bank and the Curia will be in the area of the mission of the Church. In ‘the return to the sources’ of Vatican II we return to the source of our identity as Church: The Most Blessed Trinity. The Church is the fruit or the result of the mission of the Son and the mission of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Church does not (really) have a mission; the Church IS the mission of the Son and the Spirit visible in the world today. Fundamentally that mission is to be “a kind of sacrament” as Lumen Gentium puts it [lest someone misunderstand and think we have declared that there is an 8th sacrament]. The Church “as communion is the sacrament of salvation for the world….” Source, Botolph posting, Popewatch: Lamb of Pope, January 9, 2014

    The Church’s objective may be more easily accomplished today than ever before because so many Catholics and Protestants alike have fallen away from their respective belief systems and don’t recall or care about faith in God or belonging to what they view as “institutionalized” churches.

    But this new reality is both a blessing and a curse because a de-Christianized population which finds more in common with secular humanism can be very resistant to a Christian message that calls for obedience to a higher power and a dying to self. Are those who belong to the Church of Secular Humanism capable of, or even inclined to, renouncing their core beliefs which include (i) doing good deeds so that one may “feel good”, (ii) embracing tolerance because its easier than preaching Truth, (iii) avoiding the cardinal secular sin of “judging others” because it may offend the other, (iv) embracing “niceness” to avoid being socially ostracized?

    It would seem that the battle of our present age is no longer between Catholics and Protestants; it is now between Christian believers and the culture of death, of the enlightened individual, of pleasure over holiness. But the Catholic/Protestant divide continues and keeps us from uniting to fight a much more significant and holy war against Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. And of course, division is always the entrail of evil perpetrated by the Enemy….so will we continue to cooperate with the Enemy by sustaining the division?

    So Catholics and Protestants…what do we do about this? I don’t think we can spend another 500 years beating each other up because the culture of death is intent on eliminating both of us.

    How do we reach agreement on the issues which go to our Identity in our respective Christian beliefs and thus divide us from the battle which we must fight together? We must mend the wounds of the Reformation.

    Any ideas?

  • Slainte wrote….”But the Catholic/Protestant divide continues and keeps us from uniting to fight a much more significant and holy war against Truth, Goodness, and Beauty…..

    This should read…..

    “But the Catholic/Protestant divide continues and keeps us from uniting to fight a much more significant and holy war “which is being waged” against Truth, Goodness, and Beauty.

  • Slainte, you said that all very well. The key points I think the debate centers on are justification and the role of tradition. I could be wrong, but as I udnerstand it these are the two things upon which any other disagreeemnets hinge. If Catholics and Protestants came to an agreement on these matters, I thinkit is very likely there would be no philosophic/theological division. Institutionally, church history brings out the fact htat Christians are always to some degree or another divided–but this is not profound. One thinks of ethnic/linguistic barriers, national churches, local assemblies, and so on. In Roman Cathollicism orders have serv ed to highlight some differences. FOr Protestants, para=church organizations have served that role, in additon to the more obvious example of denominations/movemens, which bear some unique peculiarities. I do not consider these ‘divisions’ necessarily negative by themselves. When people assume a competetive and hostile stance toward one another, and seeds of hate grow, then it becomes so. Otherwise, these are more ofteh than not the way the body of Christ plays out. As you mentioned, it is the Son and SPirit’s mission, and God directs it to meet all kinds of ends.
    As to the matter of justificaiton: Speaking for myself, I believe we are justified by faiht–a one time immediate occurance. Here we are declared righteous, regardless of the precise theory about why. I believe sanctification is separate from that, also. I think sanctification occurs on an ongoing basis throughout life, where we cooperate with God’s grace to become mroe and mroe like Christ. I believe it’s crucial we do not collapse one into the other; justification and sanctificaiton are separate: we are declared righteous because of Christ, and we inevitably “bring forth fruit” if that’s the case, since the one who’s been jsutified is also sanctified. Why? Since we truly believed. Real faith = justification = sanctification. It’s all of a piece.
    The role of tradition: Tradition is Scripture in the sense that the authors past on oral nad written instruction. The church recognized and revealed the canon, which already existed for quite some time—and that’s crucial—they did not decide or create it. There is a period of time where the chruch follows the ‘tradition’ of the apostles. But nothing novel should enter the equation. So anything that’s arising after the apostles died off is only icing on the cake at best, but at worst soemthing that can conflict with what’s already been taught.
    Your thoughts?

  • I would submit as a general proposition that Truth cannot be compromised even for a a perceived desirable end. The foundation of all unity is Truth in the person of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.

    On the first issue of Justification:

    I think Catholics and Protestants agree that we are saved by Faith in Jesus Christ and His unmerited gift of Grace.

    The grace necessary for salvation continues to come from Christ, through his Church.

    “Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.” (CCC 846)

    Togeter with Grace, Catholics understand that Jesus calls us to do and perform Works because Faith without works is empty.

    It appears that we are divided on the issue of whether “Works” constitute a condition precedent for salvation.

    Your thoughts?….and of course anyone else that wants to discuss, please feel free.

  • Jon and Slainte, the topic of Christian unity is so important and was something JPII very much wanted to advance. I’ve got to run but I hope to offer my thoughts on Monday. I would like to preface it by saying that I believe “The Battle” has always been between the Culture of Life, sustained by the Trinity and the culture of Death, led by Satan. Christ has won the spiritual battle but our participation is here on earth. Nothing new there. I do not have the luxury of time in my life right now to offer the impressive and informative documentation that Botolph graciously provides, but I will do my limited best.

  • Kevin,

    We do indeed your imput and Botolph’s and others….these are a very substantial issues that require a lot of thought, intellect, and faith.

    Have a great weekend…will be awaiting your feedback next week.

    Slainte

  • Slainte, I believe that true faith will evince itself in works. If a person truly believes, their life will bear that out. St. James, writing in the wisdom tradition, presents very practical theology. St. Paul said Abraham believed God and this was credited to him as righteousness. St. James says that faith without works is dead. How do we put these two notions together? True faith is active. As others have said, we are saved by faith alone, but not by a faith that IS alone, a fine distinction that is nevertheless momentous.
    It is my beleif that the church is the body of Christ. It is not necessary for justification, to be really technical. Indeed many times a person will not be a part of it until they ARE justified (though some will be, such as those who are born into it). But normally the church becomes the placee to which people are always being added on, as we read in Acts. The church is the place we end up belonging to because we are together the body of Christ, our head, to whom we are inseparably united. The church is integral for sanctification. It’s where we meet for mutual instruction, fellowship, etc., and to carry out Christ’s mission in the world.
    The church is entrusted with the Word–the Gospel or Good News–and equipped to preach and evangelize and nurture already existing Christians, and in that sense we can say that there is no salvaiton apart form it–but the Holy Spirit works directly to regenerate each person who believes. So I would always want to qualify it this way.

  • Jon writes, “…The church is integral for sanctification. It’s where we meet for mutual instruction, fellowship, etc., and to carry out Christ’s mission in the world. The church is entrusted with the Word–the Gospel or Good News…”
    …..
    I would like to respond to your post in parts as I want to think more on your comment.
    …..
    First I want to speak about the Catholic Church and what it means to me…
    …..
    The Catholic Church is all the things you mention and more. Through the Church we are gifted with the Holy Mass. At Mass, we receive the “Liturgy of the Word” which is compromised of two readings from the Divine Law, and a reading from the Gospel, a homily by our priest, a recitation by the entire Church body of either the Nicene or Apostle’s Creed, and, then Intercessions.

    ……

    All of these parts of the Liturgy of the Word nourish us spiritually. The Liturgy of the Word, though, begins a process which builds toward a profound and great truth….a foretaste of the culmination and fulfillment of the entirety of all Scriptures…a crescendo where all God’s promises to us are made real in His sacrifice which is the “Liturgy of the Eucharist”.
    ……

    At the Liturgy of the Eucharist, the Priest, as Alter Christi, consecrates mere bread and wine into the Body and Precious Blood of Our Lord, He who is most Divine. Through the consecration and transubstantiation, Our Lord feeds His children His own body….the everlasting bread which sustains the very life which He breathed into each one of us. We knaw on His body, the sacrificed lamb who is God, just as He instructed us to do, and by partaking of the sacrifice of the Word made Flesh, we are made part of Him.

    …..

    My words cannot do justice to the beauty and the solemnity of the Holy Mass and the Holy Eucharist…words are pale approximations of a transcendent holy gift which touches one’s soul intimately and directly. It is for this reason I suggested that you attend Eucharistic Adoration…so powerful is His presence in the Eucharist, you cannot help but be touched in an unexpected and profound way.
    I thought this video might be helpful in understanding what this part of “Church” means to a Catholic…..The Holy Mass. http://youtu.be/jlJlKq422jg

  • Slainte, the liturgy of the Word followed by the liturgy of the Eucharist is a good order of worship. It makes sense given, as you suggest, that the Eucharist embodies what we learn from Scripture. The Eucharist is the climax whereas in traditioanl Protestant worhsip, the Word or Pulpit is at the center. I guess I don’t really care much either way, because that’s style. The part I don’t get, and the video only partially explained it, is: why offer up the eucharist? If Christ died and that’s an unrepeatable act, and we offer ourselves in grateful return (because we are the offering now as we learn in the New Testament–the people of God presented in Christ to God the Father) why not simply state that as it’s expressed, for example, in the Anglican litury, where Christ’s atonement is recounted followed by the offering of ourselves, soul and body? The Catholic Mass seems to say we offer up Christ to God, or do I misunderstand that? As for the traditional practice of facing East, I am all for ordering time and space liturgically. I still don’t grasp why the Eucharist is understood to be the physical body and physical blood of Christ. Is this not an attempt to frame a mystery in scholastic terms, thereby forcing it into a system that cannot but distort the reality whcih lies beyond us?

  • Jon,

    At the traditional latin Mass and Eucharist, the parishioners and the priest who is leading Christ’s flock, all face east toward Gologotha (the place of the Skull) where Our Lord was crucified. When the priest begins the consecration, he is re-presenting the crucified Christ as a sacrifice to the father….time is suspended as we participate in our present age (2014) in the same sacrifice that occurred 2000 years ago. We offer to the Father together with His crucified son all our gifts and sacrifices as well.

    Catholics have an altar; Protestants a table. Sacrifices are offered on altars, meals are presented on a table. There is an important distinction.

    _____________

    Catholics present a bloody crucifix near or over the altar as a constant reminder of Christ’s passion, sacrifice, and resurrection; Protestants present a clean and empty cross near or over the table or near the pulpit with all signs of Christ’s suffering removed because of their focus on the resurrection.

    —-

    I recommend the video “A Meditiation of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass” which is quite graphic but may be helpful in illustrating what I am saying. The graphics are an important part of the message.

    ——-

    A Meditation on the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

  • Slainte, Jon, Kevin and others,

    You invited me into this further conversation and I think it is worthwhile. However, let me put out on the table just two points for consideration:

    1) In your enthusiasm and zeal you have jumped from one major topic to another. Each of these topics is major and needs its own ‘time and space’. Whole more than likely major ecumenical breakthroughs are not going to take place in a blog, given any blog’s limited scope, I believe that such issues as Justification, the Church, Scripture and Tradition, the Most Holy Eucharist in its threefold aspect of Sacrifice, Sacrament and Presence, all deserve their own time and space. Once we begin to see this then the fire will be back in the fireplace, but perhaps we can discipline ourselves not to jump from one subject to another.

    2)IN all of my studies I have come to realize that the fundamental issue underlying the Reformation, and the Schism between Catholic and Orthodox Churches before it, is “the Church”. This naturally arose after the Church had dealt sufficiently with the Mystery of the Incarnation in the Christological Ecumenical Councils [the third, fourth, fifth, and sixth Councils] and had then taken a the step into the sacramentality of icons in the Seventh Council, Nicaea 2 in 787 AD. Once the Church took that step, the question ultimately became the identity of the Church [as it had been the identity of Christ] as “Sacrament”.

    On January 18th we will be entering into the Prayer for Church Unity Octave, something almost forgotten today. It might be worthwhile just to raise our consciousness concerning the fundamental need (not simply practical) for the Church to be One. As Catholics we believe that the Church fundamentally is (already) One. Nonetheless with one billion Christians who by baptism are members but not in fully communion with the Catholic Church, the identity, sacramentality and unity of the Church is a substantial place to start.

    Those are my thoughts. Any responses?

  • Botolph,

    Welcome to what is indeed a broad discussion. I agree with your two points.

    ……

    But I also think we need to understand some of the core beliefs of the Catholic faith to dispell misunderstandings about the faith that have arisen since the Reformation. For some, Catholicism is very scary and cloaked in mystery. I am really impressed with Jon’s knowledge and indeed the knowledge of many good and faithful protestants regarding the tenets of the Catholic faith.

    …….

    Jon raised the worthwhile inquiry regarding Justification…the short answer is that Catholicism accepts Grace with works for salvation. Grace is dispensed by the Catholic Church through the seven Sacraments. Thereafter the issue of works as condition precedent must be satisfactoriy explained.

    …….

    I recall you and Jon may have had an earlier discussion where the term “sacramentals” arose and this seemed to stir up some emotion….this is why started the discussion with the sacraments as the means by which the Church bestows Grace …their mystical and saving qualities rooted in love and unity.

    …….

    Notwithstanding I defer to you for the purpose of proposing an orderly and respectful discussion as I think many, many Catholics and Protestants want unity guided by Truth…to bring us back together again so that we may worship as one body

    ……..

    Thanks for weighing in.

  • Slainte,

    Thanks for inviting me and then welcoming me into this conversation. I do not hold a doctorate in Sacred Theology etc. however, years of praying, growing and struggling with my own faith as a Catholic, study, reflecting and even wrestling with some issues has brought me to this point in my life in which I hopefully can give some ‘perspective’. As you probably have come to realize in my comments in here, for me, ‘being Catholic’ is a far deeper and even mystical experience than most people can even imagine. Although it might shock some who might read this, there are only two real options for me: a deep Catholic faith which resists all ideological and shallow interpretations or atheism. See I believe that the Catholic Church and thus this Mystery we call Catholic faith is a gift from God, a response to the most profound revelation of God Himself in and through Jesus Christ and the gift/grace of the Holy Spirit. I have come to realize and believe with a firm, even an intense conviction that the Catholic Church, the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church is indeed the Church of Jesus Christ, founded upon Peter and the college of Apostles now continued in the college of bishops in union with the Bishop of Rome, the successor of Peter. Her heart is the Most Holy Eucharist [Sacrifice, Sacrament and Presence]. All the other sacraments lead toward and from the Eucharist. I am convinced that the Church is the ‘sacrament of salvation for the world’-that by her proclamation of the Gospel [kerygma]; Liturgy [Leitourgia] and Service to the world [diakonia] She is light, salt and leaven in the world, slowly but steadily transforming the world from within. I believe that the Church is the ultimate expression of the New Covenant sealed in Christ’s Most Precious Blood, long prepared for by God in the first covenants: Adam, Noah, Moses, David. As Jesus Christ fulfills God’s ancient promises, so too does the Church. You cannot separate the Bride from the Bridegroom, the Body from its Head.

  • Botolph,

    I echo your sentiments and reaffirm all that you have said.
    ……

    I found it so challenging to verbalize to Jon the mystical component of the Eucharist..the sheer depth of this gift that at once invades and wraps itself around one’s soul and sustains life. That is why I used the videos to express that the Eucharist is not just a utilitarian enterprise that gets the job done, but involves a gift of such magnitude by Christ that one must physically see what He went through as a man out of love for us to fully appreciate the fullness of that Gift. All of the Sacraments tie us to Him and Him to us…they are the foundation of Love and Unity.

    ……….

    I hope we can collectively as a group start the effort of reuniting what has been divided for so long.

    ……..

    Pax Christi tecum

  • Slainte,

    See if this makes sense to you. In the Christological controversies of the third through sixth Councils, the question was, as I said, earlier, about the identity of Christ, the Mystery of the Incarnation. The Church found that while all involved believed that Jesus Christ is the Son of God made man, homoousion, consubstantial with the Father, they found that the next question was “how does the Divinity of Christ ‘connect’ with the humanity of Christ? In the course of several Councils the Church found that it had to avoid two extremes: to emphasize His Divinity and humanity in such a way that there was a radical division in Christ between His Divine and Human nature-so much so that there were really two ‘identities': two “I’s” in Christ [Nestorian tendency]. The other ‘extreme’ was to emphasize the unity of Christ to such a degree that His humanity was absorbed (disappeared) into His Divinity [monophysite tendency]. The Church came to confess her faith in Christ as One Person in two natures [Divine and human] without division (vs. Nestorianism) and without confusion (vs. Monophysitism). In this way Christ can be seen to be the fundamental Sacrament of Salvation truly sign and instrument of the grace of salvation.

    Now as the Church journeyed on through history we find her attempting to avoid both extremes: radical division/fusion, again and again.

    Is the Church radically divided from Christ [a common tendency today-manifested in Luther and the Reformation—an ecclesial nestorianism] OR is the Church fused with Jesus Christ [or should be in peoples’ minds-leading to shock, scandal etc when dealing with the humanity and even sin in the members of the Church-an ecclesial monophysitism?

    How are we saved? Again the two extremes enter in. Justification when seen as a declaration of ‘not guilty’ in which God and Jesus Christ remain ‘transcendent’ and outside ‘the sinner’s life can be seen as a nestorian theology of grace: in which there is a radical division between the sinner and the grace of justification-so much so that Luther called the redeemed sinner, new fallen snow on a dung hill-we look saved but fundamentally are not
    The other extreme is to believe the grace of the sacraments will do everything and that evangelization, catechesis, ongoing conversion and lives lived out in love and service [‘works’] are not really necessary [this is a monophysite theology of grace]

    We can see the two extremes in the Most Holy Eucharist as well. The radical division which is symptomatic of the nestorian tendecy comes out in the interpretation of the Eucharist in which the Eucharist is ‘merely a symbol’. It reminds us of Christ, etc but is not Christ’s real Presence, etc. The opposite extreme (not seen that often) is to forget that the Eucharist is indeed the Sacrament of the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ. If one were to bear down with one’s teeth on the Host we are not crunching the Body of Baby Jesus, etc. [If you question this read Aquinas on the Eucharist who was fighting off both extremes in the Middle Ages]

    I offer this as a resource in order to give a little direction in a great conversation. I hope you (collectively) find it helpful

  • Really impressive summary of Church theological teachings. Wow, I am awed.

    I accept that the Church is fused with Christ and that Christ redeemed us through His most perfect Sacrifice on the cross; that we still are impacted by the temporal effects of Original Sin and thus experience a tendency toward concupiscience which we are aided in overcoming and thus purifying ourselves of its corrosive effects through the sacrament of Confession and frequent partaking of Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist. For these reasons, I agree with your statement that:

    “….the Church [is] fused with Jesus Christ [or should be in peoples’ minds-leading to shock, scandal etc when dealing with the humanity and even sin in the members of the Church-an ecclesial monophysitism…”

    I believe that with God’s unmerited Grace, he calls us to do works to be saved and base this conclusion on the following biblical injunction:

    Matthew 25: 31-46

    “…31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:

    32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:

    33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.

    34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

    35 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:

    36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.

    37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?

    38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?

    39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?

    40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

    42 For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink:

    43 I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not.

    44 Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee?

    45 Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me.

    46 And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal…”

    I accept that the Catholic Eucharist is the actual body and precious blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ made real to us through the priestly consecration of a Catholic priest acting Alter Christi; the Eucharist is not merely a symbol of a far away event in time.

  • Botolph,

    Wee (mostly you) are actually reciting (with further elaboration) the Catholic Nicene Creed:

    The Nicene Creed

    I believe in one God,
    the Father almighty,
    maker of heaven and earth,
    of all things visible and invisible.

    I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ,
    the Only Begotten Son of God,
    born of the Father before all ages.
    God from God, Light from Light,
    true God from true God,
    begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father;
    through him all things were made.
    For us men and for our salvation
    he came down from heaven,
    and by the Holy Spirit was incarnate of the Virgin Mary,
    and became man.
    For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate,
    he suffered death and was buried,
    and rose again on the third day
    in accordance with the Scriptures.
    He ascended into heaven
    and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
    He will come again in glory
    to judge the living and the dead
    and his kingdom will have no end.

    I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
    who proceeds from the Father and the Son,
    who with the Father and the Son is adored and glorified,
    who has spoken through the prophets.

    I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.
    I confess one Baptism for the forgiveness of sins
    and I look forward to the resurrection of the dead
    and the life of the world to come. Amen.

  • Slainte,

    Thanks for your response. Just a slight course correction. People thinking the Church is fused with Christ can be as problematic as those who make a sharp division between Christ and the Church. Those who believe the Church is fused ‘believe’ that the Church is so totally united with Christ that the humanity of the Church disappears, and with it any ability to realize that the human frailties that are part of all our lives are thus also part of the Church. They fail to allow that even human failure is part of the Church. And then they get scandalized when individuals both ordained and unordained actually sin [I am not excusing sin in any way, but faith here has to go deeper].

    Instead of being deeply divided from Christ or fused to Christ, the Church is deeply united with Christ in a covenant bond like that of a bride with her Bridegroom. In holy matrimony, which is itself a sign and means of making present this union of Christ and His Bride the Church, the couple are not radically separated nor is one fused into the other.Both are deeply united in spirit, soul and body-and the same with the Church and Christ. This is precisely why the Eucharist is so central to the Mystery of the Church. In His sacrificial death Christ has literally said to His Bride: “This is My Body which is given for you”. He shares with His Bride, HIs very Life: Blood signifies life: “this is the Chalice of My Blood,, the Blood of the New and Eternal Covenant, shed for you” What has separated God from mankind is sin. His Life, is given His Blood is shed for the forgiveness of sins of the many (those ultimately accepting in faith HIs Gift of Self and salvation) Indeed, as we have in the Ordinary Form of the Mass, “Blessed are those called to the Supper of the Lamb” This Supper is the Wedding Feast! Christ has united Himself with His Bride the Church in the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

  • Botolph,

    Thanks for the clarification. I conflated the term united (as in united with Christ in the Eucharist) with the term “fused” which, as you state, admits no role for humanity in the Church. I understand your point.

  • Heresy often represents an overemphasis on something. I was thinking about this the other day when I read about gnostic trends in American Christianity. People often stress something overmuch to where an imbalance results. It’s important we have the right understanding of the triune God, of Christ in his dual nature, of the church and its relationship to Christ its head, adn so on. All of htis is crucial. We have to know God correctly, ourselves–our problem and solution–and how that happens by way of Christ. To have a relationship with God we must know him. All kinds of people claim various heartfelt experiences, some of which may be very valid but much of which may be imaginative.

  • Jon,

    You are 100% on target

  • The problem is not jsut overemphases but underemphases, as I forgot to mention. That’s why it’s so crucial that we stick to the rothdodoxy that develped in the first few centuries. The tri-unity of GOd has been eroded in many denominations that purport to be Christian. All of God’s attributes, too, must be held in view. For Christianity to be robust nad healthy, we have to uphold the Word made Flesh and what this means for humanity and creation in Christ. That’s the key. It seems you rely on the visible Roman network of churches but I never considered that workable. Indeed many splinter groups through the ages diverted form orthodoxy, and that’s very unhealthy. But I don’t think the answer lies in throwing your weight behind one institution serving as a bulwark. No church strucutre has ever been without some error.
    God is faithful to his covenant–he sent the Messiah to redeem Israel. He was Israel embodied. And he faithfully kept the promises of God. By faith in him we find life and restoration. Creation waits for us to find itself. The book of Ephesians underscores that the church is the body of Christ and the culminatino of God’s plan. One cannot underestimate that,whcih is why I’ve so often argued against dispensationalism, which I regard as heresy: it undermines the mission of Christ and his body, the church. But once again, for St. Paul, the church is the spiritual body of Christ (Ephesians), not a visible strucutre that emerged later on, though he uses the term church to refer to local assemblies/gatherings.

  • Botolph, Jon and Kevin,

    ……

    For the purpose of structuring this discussion, does it make sense to outline the issues, then address each point for an agreed upon period of time?

    …….
    Should we use this article comment section and continue on until we conclude all topics? or

    ……..

    Should we select a topic and request that Mr. McClarey or whomever he designates (if he is in agreement) write a series of articles targeting the theme of Unity in the Church with discussions open to all commenters?

    ……

    Sorry if any of the above sounds high handed or presumptuous…I think this theme of unity between Protestants and Catholics is so exciting and so timely. Done right, we can all learn a lot and have fun doing it.

  • If you can here a loud shrieking howling in the winds, it’s me. I just spent a good chunk of my limited time to comment on a few things and lost it when I hit submit. Oh well, perhaps it was Providence as I now must put my kids to bed.

  • Kevin, when I have to rewrite, I find my expression much better. I work in Word or copy what I have written before any computer action.This way it is saved for my great grandchildren of whom I have seven.

  • “God came to save MANY, not ALL” The devil, Saint Lucifer is lost. Lucifer’s loss grieves the heart of God.

  • I, too, thought our discussion had wandering ways but Jon brought up many good questions and Slainte graciously obliged and it provoked good reflection on many big topics. At least enthusiasm sure beats being a lukewarm Christian. Slainte’s idea of assigning a topic within some kind of framework has real merit. I’m in if it can be done. So with that said I will refrain from my responses to the True Presence, the role of Mary, and etc.
    Like Botolph I will make the same confession that after my own struggles and questions I decided it was the Catholic Faith or no faith for me also. Even when I didn’t or don’t fully understand, or when I did not want to accept it, at a very deep level it is strikes me authentic though and through. So I decided to accept all the doctrine – even when I disagreed or did not understand (or frankly did not want to) and lived by it. This led me to an subtle peace, even joy, that has upheld me and is upholding me in some very difficult times. And much understanding has followed. There are some things you can never quite explain, but that doesn’t mean you can’t be entirely sure of them. That is how I feel about the Catholic Church. So we have a lot of warts here on earth, but the Church Triumphant in Heaven is our aim.

  • This discussion has been very good. In so many ways I don’t want it to stop. However, being realistic my first response to Slainte’s suggestion that Donald set aside a segment etc of this blog site for conversation on Christian unity-causes me to pause. It is a great idea, understand me on that. I am just wondering how I would feel if a couple of bloggers got into their own conversation on my blog and then sought to change it even slightly. This gives me pause. Now perhaps I am being overly respectful to the nature of this blog and Donald would not mind, but I believe unless Donald says otherwise, our ‘occasional’ conversations on the subject remain just that-occasional. Thoughts?

  • Botolph,

    You have expressed my concerns precisely….I do not wish to be presumptuous. I am concerned. though, that if we discuss several key issues simultaneously, we may cause confusion instead of Christian enlightenment. We have already exceeded 50 comments in response to this article alone.

    Perhaps we can request Mr. McClarey’s thoughts on the matter. It might be ideal if all commenters participated to derive maximum value from this important discussion.

  • Agreed, McClarey’s call.
    I have mulled over this blog for some time wondering what purpose it can serve and its reach. Certainly educative, provocative, supportive and challenging for those who participate. In some ways I view it as a training ground for what we hear “out there” in the “real” world. It is a little piece of what Chesterton had in his time except we are not engaging the wider popular culture. Oh that we could find a way to do so and replace the silliness that occupies so much of society’s discourse.

  • Slainte,

    Agreed. I also firmly believe with you that if and when we continue that we focus on one subject and not jump around. For example, focus on “the Church” or “Justification” or “The Most Holy Eucharist”

    If an when we continue I also believe it is important to raise the consciousness of all participating that while all subjects are open to discussion, there are certain givens. Now Jon and others would claim that those ‘givens’ are relatively few in number and that everything else is nothing more than Roman train of thought etc. However, if it is to be a real dialogue, we need to put on the table that there are more ‘givens’ for Catholics and that it is not helpful for dialogue to hear these as ‘merely Roman train of thought”. True and honest dialogue can indeed happen, but it has to be totally honest. For someone to join with us in dialogue and diminish certain givens for Catholics to ‘mere opinion’ is similar to a Catholic joining a dialogue and declaring anyone not Catholic as a heretic.It is more than simply grating on the nerves.

  • Kevin,

    I agree. On a different note I believe this blog is important for Catholics. Catholics come in all shapes and sizes, from many different backgrounds etc. Sadly what begin as emphases, for example ‘social gospel Catholic’ or “pro-life, pro-family Catholic’ can become isolated from one another [since a Catholic is called to be all of these positions]. With the isolation then comes separation and lack of ability to discuss or even want to discuss. In this day and age it is extremely important for Catholics who participate in the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite to be able to dialogue with those who participate in the Ordinary Form, and vice versa. Without that ability to dialogue and desire to which ultimately comes from Christian charity, the Church would fragment into countless little tribes-precisely against its Oneness and Catholicity.

    I believe this blog is proving to be more than other blogs, a place where we actually can dialogue and stop the nonsensical and unchristian diatribes found in other so called “Catholic blogs” Eventually, I hope we can come to know how to deal with a real ‘troll’ that shows up as a ‘spoiler’ as well, but I think that is long term.

  • Botolph,

    Charity must govern all discourse. We have been separated brethren for so long that there will inevitably be moments when we will clash as we voice competing ideas about the Faith. If ideas are raised and presented in good faith and not merely to provoke, I think we must address and, where appropriate, counter them based upon reason and Truth. Catholic tradition requires us to do so.

    Botolph, there are many posters on this blog who are intellectual rock stars (including you)…that is why it make sense to request Mr. McClarey’s thoughts on opening the discussion to everyone to allow competing ideas to be heard and the best and brightest to address them.

    Good Faith and Charity, in my opinion, should be the parameters for discussion. Thoughts?

  • Slainte,

    Agreed. I use Paul’s words, “Truth in charity”

  • Okey doke, Monsieur Botolph. : )

    Would you be amenable to approaching Mr. McClarey to plead our case and request his thoughts regarding the feasibility of such an undertaking, and if he is amenable, the best format to accomplish agreed upon goals?

  • Slainte,

    LOL first I am not in charge lol but secondly, I believe Donald watches over the blog very carefully. I have seen him both respond and correct when necessary. We already have presented ‘our case’ to him in a very real sense. He has neither interrupted us [which I take to mean he has no problem with our dicussion] nor responded to our idea [which means I think that he is still thinking it ove or time is not right etc] Other than in here I have no means of speaking with him directly

  • Ok…..I wonder whether ok is derived from okey doke? :)

    It probably makes sense then just to wait a bit.

  • Slainte,

    Agreed. Here is when the fire definitely goes into the fireplace.

  • Slainte,

    My gut tells me that Donald was/is waiting to see if anyone jumped on board with this Church unity” theme, or idea. They have not. I don’t think that this means they don’t care, but instead rather like consumers, people come to this blog for a certain purpose-sometimes just to let their frustrations out about ‘things’ and ‘things in the Church’. They might occasionally get involved in a more involved discussion but these kinds of dialogues don’t meet their felt need. Don’t get discouraged. It simply is the way it is.

    But we gave it a good shot Slainte no one can say otherwise :) In the meantime when topics come up we can still talk as we have- and really get into the meat of it. Thoughts?

  • No worries..we just move on.

    I guess we will have to wait for another day to undo the Reformation. : )

    I commend you on the theological summary you provided in our discussions relative to Christological controversies of the various councils, etc. (your January 13 at 11:22 a.m. posting).

    How did you manage to learn and synthesize all that information? Do you have a degree in theology or are you a philosopher?

  • I have a BA in philosophy and a masters in theology. My great love is historical theology: the whole tradition of the Church, and all the saints, characters, and jerks that make up the history of the Church. However historical theology focuses on the development of doctrine. That’s why you will see me push the unchangeableness of Church teaching yet also recognize that her teaching develops under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Church doesn’t change but develops. It seems to almost be a paradox. Some can’t understand why the Church can’t change, while others see development and cry out in fear and anger that the Church is changing

  • Botolph:

    Your fundamental understanding of theology and philosophy as it relates to the topics discussed is very apparent in your communications.

    Isn’t it amazing that one can live one’s whole life as a Catholic and still never fully learn the faith…but I guess that is what eternity is for.

  • Someone pointed out that there are more givens for Catholics, and I think that’s behind much of the disagreement. I previously brought it down to the role of tradition and the understanding of justification, but there are givens that are not assumed by Protestants. Givens that have to do with the nature of the church in particualar. This might be a good place to begin. How do we define the church? What is its nature?

  • Slainte,

    What you are speaking of is the “Mystery”. For many people “mystery” means that you can’t understand it completely……so don’t even try. However, “Mystery” is really like the ocean or ‘deep space’. You can plunge in, through prayer, study, reflection etc., swim around in every direction, try to find ‘bottom’ etc. but you never can.

    I am 63 years old. I was a boy (and altar boy) in the pre-Vatican II Church, and adolescent in the 60’s and have lived my adult years in the post-Vatican II Church and in the post-cultural revolution America. For all I have seen etc I sometimes feel like I am 363 years old. However, in the midst of this ever changing universe is the Church still faithful to the teachings of the Apostles, to the Breaking of the Bread and the prayers, and to the koinonia [life of communion] with the Risen Christ at the very center declaring, “I AM the Way, the Truth and the Life”; “I AM the Bread of Life…My Flesh is real Food and My Blood is real Drink, he who eats My Flesh and Drinks My Blood has life eternal”; “Go make disciples of all nations, Baptize them in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teach them everything that I have commanded and know that I am with you until the end of the world”-that is what keeps me going day in day out

  • Botolph and Slainte,
    I actually think there is more interest than you measure by the responses. People raising their family like me find it hard to visit the blogs and then respond. Sometimes we just read. I have more time now because most, most unfortunately the college I was working for is not refunding the program since they lost the building in Sandy and don’t want to put big money in to fix it. So, I have some time and a lot of worry on my hands.
    As to the unchanging Church doctrine, change only takes place in our understanding of it. Of course you know that, but it perplexes me that people don’t realize that we grow also in our understanding of Christ. In many ways we are more knowledgeable than his buddies, the Apostles, because like his family, sometimes the closeness leads to wrong assumptions. What purpose would a stagnate faith serve? You would just have to learn it, take the test and you are done. LOL. But we have an inexhaustible mine of treasures to discover. The Church is our sure guide.

    As to the undoing the Reformation, one big problem our Protestant brethren face that we do not IS the changing doctrine. So the Reformation that was has mutated to more heretical viewpoints over time. I give you Lambeth 31? as a big departure from reason. Sadly, more to come and it makes unity very difficult. Frankly, I see more success in conversion as the others begin to stand for less and less. With that said, we have much we could learn from their experience, especially in the role of families and lay persons.

    My theology degree is in dogma and I love philosophical and theological reading. I’ve
    got into the habit of masking the language and vocabulary of those disciplines in trying to reach my fellow pilgrim in very plain speak. It occurs to me that Pope Frances might be doing the same, but his vantage point and role is much different than mine. I can afford clumsy analogies. However, I think his use of smarmy priests is right on. We, my family, have used it for years especially with liturgists and music.

    I end with my favorite moment from the Lord of the Rings cinema trilogy, Frodo: “I wish none of this had happened.” Gandalf: “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.”

  • Botolph, Jon, and Kevin,

    Is it appropriate and respectful to discontinue these discussions?

    Your thoughts.

  • Kevin,

    I will pray for you and your family.

    I am sorry that you are experiencing difficulties; it is not easy being the head of a family with obligations. Please know that God is there for you.

  • Jon, I would have worded it differently but I think you hit the nail on the head. We Catholics do have more “givens.”

    Our approach is built on the shoulders of those who came before us, our starting point. In Protestantism, especially in modern times, it seems to require and certainly allow rethinking all the previous progress made by the saints before us. You have an uncommon grasp of much theology, including some Catholic theology, but can you explain to me how is it that so much of it is up for grabs? E.G. some believe in the real presence and some don’t, (Catholics, of course, don’t believe the real presence is in Protestant services), predestination was a starting point now it is rarely mentioned, the devil or Satan is optional, being gay in now celebrated, contraception a given and so on. You have stated unchanging faith, but where do we find it outside of Catholicism? I am quite sincere in my asking because you sound so sincere yourself.

    Roman Catholic Church .
    a visible society of baptized Christians professing the same faith under the authority of the invisible head (Christ) and the authority of the visible head (the pope and the bishops in communion with him). However this ignores the invisible members of the Church in heaven that far outnumber us on earth. The broader Catholic or Universal Church includes those baptized and following Christ, but separated in communion with the Pope and bishops.
    I will let Botolph or Slainte give you a better description of ecclesia, the Greek that in the NT meant the society or assembly founded by Jesus Christ. Or at least as I remember it in my dusty noodle. I am supposed to be working on a resume. Ugh.

  • Jon,

    I think it is not only a good place to start but THE fundamental question underlying the Reformation. However here goes:

    The English word “Church” derives from the Greek “Kyriake” which means “what belongs to the Lord”. The actual word which we translate as “Church” is “ecclesia” in Latin or “ekkalein” in Greek. This means in generic terms a convocation or assembly. The Greek word was used of the assembly of Israel where the Lord God gave the Torah to Moses. In referring to themselves as the “Ekklesia”, the early Church saw themselves as the successors of the assembly of ancient Israel, now gathered into the New Covenant community by Jesus Christ.
    The Church is fundamentally those whom the Lord has called from all the nations (from the end of the world).

    Catholics recognize the Church has three distinct but interrelated meanings:

    1) the Church as the People God gathers throughout the whole world [universal level or meaning][Paul speaks of this level in 1 Cor. 15.9; Gal. 1.13; Phil.3.6];

    2)the Church is the local community gathered together with her bishop, priests, deacons, religious and laity [the local church-“diocese” -Paul speaks of this level in 1 Cor. 1.2; and 16.1;

    3) the Church is also the particular liturgical assembly gathered by the Lord for the Eucharist [Mass] [Paul speaks of this level of the Church in 1 Cor.11.18; 14.19, 28, 34-35]

    [I wanted to give a succinct and orthodox answer to the question so I relied greatly on the Catechism of the Catholic Church’s statement in CCC 750-752 There is a great deal more to say but I will start with this to begin the conversation and dialogue.

  • Thanks for the intercessory prayers. We need them.
    As to the discussion, going back to the focus I ignored might be a good idea.
    Jon, feel free to answer or not answer me as I know you mean well either way and perhaps this is not the right venue. Now I really am signing off. LOL.

  • Kevin,

    First you gave a great answer. But know you and your family will be in my prayers as well. Saint Joseph patron of workers, pray for us.

  • Kevin, to begin with your comment: Protestants see the past as dispensable. Yes and no. Scriptrue must be beleived and insofar as it’s been practiced and explained through time, we have something to look back to and emulate and perpetuate. The orthodox expressions of the first few centuries are worth upholding. The chruch discerned certain things from Scirpture–but did not create or decide it–and we should uphold those things that were discovered.
    Protestants disagree on many issues. Lutherans have a view of the Eucharist that is somewhat akin to the Roman Catholic view. Some Episcopalianas and Anglicans take a similar view, though others do not. Predestination is believed in by all Christians, but we disagree as to its place in theology–who or what is predestined and what does that really mean? Even Luther and Calvin disagreed on that, though it’s suppressed somewhat in the Reformed narrative. Other differences have arisen due to liberalism’s inroads. The Episcopal Chruch in America is now saying homosexuality is a good thing and that abortions are legitamite choices.
    It is not that truth is up for grabs. In the case of liberalism, this is simply a different worldview creeping into churches. Evangelical or biblical Protestants do not believe this stuff and do not stand alongside these people in supporting it. They may at times exist side by side in the pew, but a real tension remains, and that surfaces in meetings and decision-making processes, and some people eventually leave when it becomes too much of a burden. As for matters like predestination, well that just represents differences of theological opinion, and the PRotestant temperamnet is individual as much as it is collective. Total uniformity would be undesirable, as it would represent a failure to come to terms iwth how the Holy Spirit might work through diversity of people, gifts, and organizations. This is different from the ROman model which I think is based on uniformity. If a bishop says something, everyone has to get on th same page and there isn’t as much room for creative expression or divergence of opinion. If a local pastor decides something, the whol e parish has to jump on board. It’s a different approach. It’s a matter of whether you can feel comfortable with the arrangement. If it’s a loose arrangement as with PRotestantism, you better know what you believe. I do. So it’s not a problem. I know my relationship with God and I know his Word. And I feel the differences are virutally swallowed up in a greaterunity.
    My understanding of ecclesia is that it’s the Greek for the gathering of GOd’s people. I don’t know how you would attach this term to the visible Roman Catholic church strucutre.
    Behind the assumptions about chruch and, to some extent, liberty of doctirne, is at least in part the idea of the voluntary Christian. TO believe soemthing authentically, one must come to it on their own. We have a vertical and horizontal relationship. Vertically to God and horizontally to the chruch. We must uphold both.

  • Yes, Botoloph. It sounds like you correctly define ecclesia. But then you afford three meanings, the first two of whih sound correct, thouh I don’t know what to do wtih the third. THe thrid sounds like it could be subsumed within the other two without warranting a thrid.
    I go at it liek this: the universal chruch–the saints of all times and places, existing in time and in eternity. And then there is the local gathering–a specific church such as the churcdh that meets at so and so’s house or a specific church at colosse, or something like that. I do think of it as everyone included here. In other words, the elders/bishpos/pastors/ and deacons and all the saints that meet there.

  • Jon,

    Thanks for your response. Let me put this out on the table in order to facilitate further discussion. I purposefully began describing the Church at the three levels in order to begin to clarify what we, as Catholics, mean when we say Church. In other words, while fundamentally true it is also primarily descriptive. We haven’t even begun to get into the fundamental elements of what we mean by Church yet.

    I know you do not accept what we mean by Church-as I said in a previous post, if you did you would be Catholic, however that being said, as we move forward, while it might be tempting to rush in and attempt to prove ‘my’/ ‘your’ position as correct, true etc. at this stage it is important simply to clarify what we [Catholics] mean by the word “Church”. Moving forward, it can be assumed that you do not agree Jon, on some points. Now, if I might coach you a bit, since I put out what Catholics means when we say “the Church” why don’t you do the same? You might think you have but it is not clear [not a criticism].

    See my friend, dialogue is slow, because it must attempt to get at and to convey the Logos. If you did not share any aspect of what we mean by Church you would not be Christian. Every Christian ecclesial community does share some common points with what the Catholic Church teaches. we need to get those out and clear then continue on where we do not (yet) agree.

    Make sense?

  • So I understand the church in this twofold sense as I’ve explained. THe chruch is the body of Christ, all those whom Christ has purchased with his blood. People of all times and places, in time and in eternity, together comprise this Chruch. And then we have the local expressions of this church. A chruch that meets in a particualr building, in other words. So we can speak of churches as well as the Church or Ecclesia. Hope that helps.

  • Jon wrote to Kevin,

    “….Scriptrue [sic] must be beleived [sic] and insofar as it’s been practiced and explained through time, we have something to look back to and emulate and perpetuate. The orthodox expressions of the first few centuries are worth upholding. The chruch discerned certain things from Scirpture–but did not create or decide it–and we should uphold those things that were discovered. -…”

    ……

    Jon, it was the early Roman Catholic Church that selected and compiled the books of the Holy Bible, and it was the Church Fathers (Catholics) who began to develop Apostolic Tradition from its infancy under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. These Fathers recognized a God whose essence was Absolute, Objective, and unchanging; a Being (I AM) whose essence existed independently of our ability to perceive Him. The Fathers also recognized that we creatures yearned for relationship with this God and were restless until we rested in Him (Saint Augustine).

    ………

    God exists and His Word is knowable to us through the Divine Law (Old and New Testaments), Natural Law, and Reason.
    …………

    An objective, absolute God does not change regardless how, or whether, individuals perceive Him. Truth is not subjective or relative.

    …….

    Jon states “The orthodox expressions of the first few centuries are worth upholding…” .

    …….

    The “orthodox expressions” worth upholding are the fruit of the early Roman Catholic Church.
    ……..

    Why should the “orthodox expressions” remain constant and not others. This statement suggests that truth is fungible, arbitrary, and dependent upon subjective opinion, not objective reality.

    ……….

    Catholicism says otherwise…if God is objective and thus independent of individual perception, then His Law (the Word) is neither fungible or arbitrary. It remains constant and true and does not change or alter based upon the whim of the individual who apprehends it.

    …….

    If truth were fungible, all would be chaos and nothing would be knowable or stable. Even the laws of science would be rejected based upon individual perception. Thus, protestantism which rejects an absolute, immutable Truth in favor of individual perception and opinion, by rejecting reality, ultimately becomes unstable and splinters. Hence the many denominations.

  • Slainte, you say the ROman Catholic Church formulated orthodocxy and forged the canon. OK. You see an organic continuation of the Church through time, so that whatever they did in say 300 AD, well, it’s the same church acting centuries and even millennia later. How do you reach this conlucsion? So a church cannot change? It cannot mature or degenerate over time, or morph into something different? I say this because you’re looking at a visible strucutre. I do believe the church made these pronouncements and that they were right. But i don’t see that as buttressing an argument favoring the Roman Catholic church. I and many other Christians recognize teh church did very good things in the first few cnetureis. I think the Roman church did some very good things well after that, too. But you seem to see this continuity where the Roman visible structure is mandated as the truest or only visible expression for all times and places. THIS IS WHAT I CAN”T FIGURE OUT. I CAN”T UNDERSTAND WHAT YOU BASE THAT ON.
    Yes, of course God is true and his Word is true. It is true truth, objective, real apart from our perception. That GOd exists is even evident in general or natural revelation, as you say. We’re not debating that.
    THe debate centers on specifics. The debate centers on the defintion adn nature of the church, the role of tradition, and justificaiton. Here’s where we admittedly have a multiplicity of ideas. I don’t, however, assume the Roman or Eastern narrative which tries to equate Protestant attempts at scriptural accuracy with the breakdown of philosphy and the modern/postmodern dilemmas we grapple with. I don’t buy into that arguemnt. I understand it, I’ve studied, it, and I’ll tell you right up front its an incorrect appraisel.

  • “But i don’t see that as buttressing an argument favoring the Roman Catholic church.”
    “I believe in one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church.” One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic are the four marks of the Catholic or true Church. These four marks are and must be taken as whole, describing the church. They are found inscribed in the Nicene Creed posted by slainte.

  • Jon, You keep referring to the visible Church and while I first assumed you meant the Christians living on earth, later it began to sound like you mean the actual buildings. If the entire world were vaporized tomorrow the Church would still exist, albeit, Triumphant in heaven. So yes, outwardly it changes, and for every member there is a different expression, and our understanding grows or darkens and so on, however, the teachings of the Church, not made up by Her but the truth entrusted and revealed to Her understanding, are unchanging. “The church of the living God, pillar and foundation of truth.” (Tim) does not degenerate even if her members do. Now there are many quotes that refer to the church, beginning with Peter and the Keys and it is very plain that Christ did establish a particular Church that survived many challenges and divisions. I don’t want to be caught up in text proofing, but it really is clear. “I have many more things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.” As to how we progress through the centuries, Christ promised: “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth” John 16: 12-13 That was not meant for any individual but for His Church.

    Now that does not in any way mean that we jump at what the parish priest or even bishop says as you seem to think. Due respect and yes, obedience, but believe me, I’ve had many a disagreement with some. We can argue on immigration, capital punishment and many other things. However, on official Church doctrine there is no wiggle room as the Holy Spirit protects our faith and morals. So while you may see people in the Catholic Church do wrong things, say wrong things, look as hard as you can and you will not find official accepted doctrine counter to any doctrine we teach today. There is no debate or personal opinion on abortion that can change the teaching. Worldviews may creep into individuals but not into our doctrine.

    I have always been intellectually puzzled that anyone could hold the Church Christ founded that all Christians followed was pretty good for 300, ore even a 1000 years and by about 1500 it was over. Time to fix what Jesus obviously did not protect from corrupt men. And each had their own version that continually changes in what it believes or leaves it optional. And one wanted a divorce so he started a new sect to get one. And the splintering has never stopped nor the deletions and accretions to faith.
    I also don’t quite get the Tradition bugaboo except they had to get it out of the way to justify their departure from Rome. It makes no sense to me because scripture comes from Tradition. So they cut a few books from the Bible, which at first included James, changed a few key words, rightly pointed out Roman abuses and moved in a new direction. No longer could one trust that 2 plus 2 equals 4 (meaning what was learned by the saints preceding us) one had to discover what 2 plus 2 was individually with the aid of scripture but not Tradition. And to me, at least, a hallmark of Christ’s example in word and deed, obedience and not His will but his Father’s will, was an idea slowly pushed out the window. “My will, my understanding, my choice has mostly replaced it throughout every Christian denomination including many a Catholic. Personally, I have a healthy suspicion of my disordered memory, understanding and will which is another reason why I need the Church.
    I hope I made some sense in helping you understand where Romans are coming from. BTW my in-laws are Christians but change denominations when they don’t like things. they frequently distinguish me by saying we’re Christians, he’s Catholic.

  • It’s difficult to say because the New Testament didn’t prophecy what the church would look like exactly. Many set-ups could ahve been imagined and of course we have improvisations of all sorts, the ROman Catholic branch being just one. My argument is that no church is exactly right and none are exactly wrong.
    As to the books being removed, Luther disliked James but wound up leaving it htere. The reformers weren’t sure what to do wtih the Apocolypse at first, and their feeling was that it was so strange it might be useless or harmful, but they kept it. The Apocrypha was taken out (or left in for study) since it was not considered inspired. Sola fide and sola gratia characterize justification. The Joint Declaration written in the interest of Christian Unity by teh Lutheran Federation and Rome asserts this, if I am correct. Is this where the Roman Cahtolic church is at doctrinally? That we are saved by grace alone through faith, apart from works?

  • “That we are saved by grace alone through faith, apart from works?”
    The will to be saved is an act of the free will. This act of the free will to consent to salvation in Jesus Christ is necessary and is one of the “works” that must accomplished for any man to be saved. God does not force anyone into heaven. If God respects the free will of the devil, how much more does God respect the free will of every man made in the image of God? There is no grace unless accepted by man’s free will. As the Blessed Virgin, Mary said: “Be it done unto me according to your will.”

    Kevin: Yours was a very clear and helpful comment. Thank God and Thank you.

  • Jon, The New Testament did not clearly prophesize or explain many things. There are many of Jesus words not recorded but referred to as in, “they were impressed that he spoke with such wisdom and authority.” But we don’t know what Jesus actually said. I think it is because His life and words are to become alive in us, we are supposed to be His posters. But as I mentioned earlier, Christ was quite clear in establishing a Church. He left his apostles and their successors, guided by the Holy Spirit, “bound what they would bound and loose what they would loose.” In other words, you are the Church, GO BE IT. Sure it may have turned out other ways, but it did not and there were not many sects with the Roman branch being just one of them. There was only one “sect” until schisms arose. In the true sense, Roman Catholicism is not a sect at all. The others, choosing to be sectarians, are sects. That is not even to disparage their intentions, I simply believe they came up with the wrong solutions and being vulnerable to personal opinions of the founders, overtime vulnerable to the worldviews knocking down their doors. (That is not to say their are not many fine members who hold to the truth, but as you say coherently sit in the same pew in sects that allow diversity on moral issues.)

    Mary was spot on about Faith and Works. I have always been taught, and the Church has always taught that Salvation is a gift that cannot be earned. She never taught otherwise. However, as you nicely pointed out, and James is quoted on, faith is lived out in our works. A bell that clangs. Historically, if I remember correctly, the problem was the idea that predestination meant that once part of the “elect” it did no matter what you did – you were saved. Several sects preached this. Also, that no matter what you did or believed, if you were not predestined there was nothing you could do to save yourself. Well, technically correct except by accepting Christ, as Mary pointed out, you let Him save you.
    Luther specifically did not like James over the good works issue. He felt saved no matter what he did. (Deep down I am not so sure as his life unfolded.) The Protestant Bible also left out books in the OT because the Jews – I think mistakenly – were looking to purify them from these Christians – and these later books written in Greek they tossed out. Somewhat ignoring that even their Bible, even if written in Hebrew, was translated into Greek and back into Hebrew.
    When I was going through my own doubts I discovered that all the reasoning in the world made little difference, I just had to give up my will and have faith.

  • I don’t find convincing the idea that the apocrpypha was inspired or the Word of God. That it came when it did and was in Greek as you said, during a time when the prophets had ceased from among them, combined with the material itself and the mixed reception it has received through the centuries leads me to believe it’s extra-canonical literature. I believe the disciples and all Christ-followers are essentially told: go and be the church. We are the body of Christ and we fulfill His mission. How we work it out varies, but we should all remain within certain parameters. I do not consider choosing God’s gift of life to be a work–when the man asked what work he must do I don’t hink we’re to udnerstand it in the strict sense–after all it is a gift. But your’e right, we choose it in accordance with free will. And no, I don’t think our standing can be udnerstood in terms of a hidden decree. God’s self-disclosure is through Christ, and in Him we find forgiveness–anyone can if they so choose. The New Testament teaches that God predestined the church as a corporate body. That was pre-ordained in God’s plan.

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