Monday, April 30, 2007

Poll-Release Monday

New poll is up. I'll have to talk about the results from the last poll later....

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Is Jesus the Symbol of God?

What follows is a paper I wrote for my Christology class on the debate that took place in the pages of Commonweal over Cavadini's review of the book Jesus Symbol of God, by Roger Haight. The numbers in parenthesese are in-text citations to the page numbers of Cavadini's review. The numbers in brackets are references to the footnotes, which in this case will appear at the end of the paper. This paper hasn't been graded yet, so I don't know how good it is. I would appreciate any feedback.

Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world....have mercy on us.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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Religious Symbolism and the Awesome Claim of Christianity
“When this poetic christology [of John’s Prologue] is interpreted according to its genre, it makes the human spirit soar with it. It brings to christology the power of sacrality; it recalls the awesome claim of Christian faith that it is God who is encountered in Jesus, in the flesh, so that God is truly revealed in him.”[1]
This, according to Roger Haight, is what makes the Christian faith so extraordinary: it makes the bold assertion that God is encountered and revealed in Jesus. In his book Jesus Symbol of God, Haight tells us, as the title indicates, that in revealing God to the people and in bringing to them a true encounter of God, Jesus is the symbol of God. But, what of the conciliar statements of the early Church, those that state that Jesus is God?[2] Are these two formulations the same? Do they both articulate the “awesome claim of Christianity”?

John Cavadini, in his review of Haight’s book for Commonweal, ultimately concludes that the language of symbol, as it is defined and utilized by Haight, is inadequate at effectively expressing the truth about Jesus Christ. “To call Jesus a ‘symbol’ is to rule out any way of saying that ‘Jesus is God’” (2). According to Cavadini, this makes Haight’s “awesome claim” not so awesome at all. “If Jesus is merely a symbol, I have no burning reason to invest the time and energy it takes to pass this faith on to children…I see no particularly urgent reason to take up my cross and follow a symbol (or even to teach for one)” (3-4).

In response to this review, many professional (and amateur) theologians wrote letters to Commonweal in defense of Haight and his use of symbol. Terrance W. Tilley writes, “I find that the reviewer seriously misreads Haight on ‘symbol’” (5). Peter A. Fitzpatrick thinks “John Cavadini really treats symbol as basically synonymous with sign, and this allows him to dismiss Haight’s book so summarily” (6). Franz Josef van Beeck is even so bold as to declare “nowhere does the magisterium teach: ‘Jesus is God’” (8).

As is readily apparent, the entire debate spawned by Cavadini’s review centers around Haight’s use of symbol as a category that adequately construes the truth of Jesus Christ as it was experienced by the early Church and by Christians still today. Has Haight truly been misread and misunderstood? Is his claim the claim of the early Church? The goal of this paper is to answer these questions by engaging the arguments presented in the debate, as well as Haight’s own explanation and use of symbol in his book Jesus Symbol of God.

In Terrance W. Tilley’s letter to the editor, he writes: “Cavadini thinks that Haight construes Jesus as merely a symbol of God that merely mediates God. This is misleading” (5). Is it? In many places, Haight says this very thing:
  • “Third, for Christianity, Jesus is the central mediation of God in history.”[3]
  • “Therefore, in a precise sense that is yet to be determined, Jesus is the mediation of God’s presence to Christianity.”[4]
  • “At this level Jesus begins to appear as a mediating symbol and a response to fundamental religious questions.”[5]
  • “Thus one can see…this formal genetic structure of Jesus being the historical mediation of God to human existence. Let this serve as a first formal characterization of the christological approach of this book.”[6]
It is clear from these statements that Haight sees Jesus as mediating God to the people. In order to circumvent the charge of “mere mediation,” Tilley goes on to assert that “Cavadini is wrong to say that a symbol ‘by definition mediates something else’” (6) and that the more profound symbolism that Avery Dulles proposes in Models of Revelation is what Haight has in mind (5-6).

First of all, in saying that a symbol “by definition mediates something else,” Cavadini is again simply using Haight’s own explanations:
  • “A symbol is that through which something other than itself is known. A symbol mediates awareness of something else.”[7]
  • “A symbol mediates something other than itself by drawing or leading beyond itself to a deeper or higher truth.”[8]
  • “A symbol may be understood as something that mediates something other than itself. A symbol makes present something else.”[9]
Of course, a symbol does many other things too.[10] But, what is important to note here is that, if a symbol mediates something other than itself, and Jesus mediates God, then it simply cannot follow from this that Jesus is God, regardless of how present God may be in Jesus. As Cavadini explains:
“I do not hide the possibility that for Haight ‘it is truly God that is encountered in Jesus’; my review even concedes the possibility that for Haight, Jesus the symbol ‘makes God absolutely and fully present.’ But do we have sufficient grounds for concluding, therefore, that Jesus is God?” (7)
The answer, of course, is no. A symbol cannot be that which it mediates if the thing being mediated is something other than the symbol doing the mediating.

As for Tilley’s reference to Models of Revelation, the symbolism of Dulles is of a different kind then that which is defined and utilized by Haight. Typically, Haight will say everything but “Jesus is God”[11] and, as we have already seen, his category of symbol actually precludes such a statement. But, Dulles’ language of symbol is such that it allows Jesus to actually be God.

The separation between the symbol and the thing symbolized (or between the medium and the thing mediated) that is present in Haight’s philosophy of symbol either does not exist in Dulles’ framework, or it is not so substantial as to prevent him from echoing the essence of the early conciliar statements. “In Christ…the manifestation and that which is manifested ontologically coincide. The man Jesus Christ is both the symbol and the incarnation of the eternal Logos, who communicates himself by becoming fully human without ceasing to be divine.”[12]

This is in virtue of Jesus being a presentative symbol. “Inasmuch as Jesus is the Incarnate Word, his humanity is something more than a representative symbol. Rather, it is a presentative symbol—one in which the God who is symbolized is present and operative, somewhat as a human person is present in the body and its gestures.”[13] He also quotes Rahner, who says, “The symbol is the reality, constituted by the thing symbolized as an inner moment of itself, which reveals and proclaims the thing symbolized, and is itself full of the thing symbolized, being its concrete form of existence.”[14] Cavadini is most likely aware of all of this, because in his own response to Tilley, he says, “the ideas Tilley cites from Dulles would indeed be reassuring if they were in Haight’s book; Haight seems actually to depart from Dulles, who says: ‘Symbols do not necessarily point to things strictly other than themselves’” (7).

The next critical response to Cavadini’s review is from Peter A. Fitzpatrick. His claim is that if Cavadini was only more familiar with Sandra Schneiders’ treatment of symbol than he would have given Haight a much more positive review. It is important then to review how Schneiders defines “symbol” and to determine if Cavadini betrays an ignorance of this view.

According to Fitzpatrick, “symbol” is defined by Schneiders as “a sensible reality which renders present to and involves a person objectively in a transforming experience of transcendent reality. Of the five elements of this definition, only the first is common to both sign and symbol” (6). Fitzpatrick thinks that once we understand a symbol in this way it is easier to see that Haight has given us more than “a merely human Jesus” (6). But has he? What is so extraordinary about saying that Jesus is a sensible reality which renders present to and involves a person objectively in a transforming experience of transcendent reality?

Haight’s own definition is very similar to this, and he states that his Christology is constructed in a way that is specifically meant to accommodate the religious pluralism that exists in our post-modern world.[15] In other words, it is not meant to be extraordinary at all, in the sense of making claims about Jesus that would separate him or make him distinct from the mediations of God that exist in the other world religions. In fact, that is Cavadini’s main point of contention:
“My point was carefully controlled, namely, that one particular definition of symbol (Haight’s), used in one particular way (of Jesus, to explain the central Christian claim about him), ends up making Jesus ‘merely a symbol’ because the definition cannot adequately distinguish Jesus, whom the grammar of Christian faith calls ‘God,’ from any other symbol of God, living or inanimate, in Christianity or any other religion…” (9).
Cavadini knows full well what Haight (and incidently Schneiders) believes about the nature of symbol. His point is that it doesn’t matter. Under Haight’s paradigm, the only distinctive quality of Jesus is that he happens to be the object of Christian worship and not Jewish, Islamic, or Buddhist worship. Christians have their mediation of God, but Jews, Muslims, and Buddhists have theirs too.[16] If Jesus is not God at a true and ontological level then he is in fact merely human and Christianity is no different from the other world religions.

Finally, there is perhaps the most striking response to Cavadini, that of Franz Josef van Beek, S.J. Here is the crux of his letter to the editor:
“Whatever a Christian says about Christ is essentially specified by the profession of an inextricable and mutual bond between Jesus Christ and the Living God. Accordingly, nowhere does the magisterium teach: ‘Jesus is God’; no Catholic theologian can afford to reduce what the creed says to something a little more manageable for debate” (8).
Haight, while not quite so blunt, essentially says the same thing. According to him, the councils of Nicaea and Chalcedon do not say, “Jesus is God.” Such a formulation is, after all, indicative of metaphysical modes of thought particular to the early Church. What Haight is after is the existential truth that lies behind such formulations. He asserts that the material content that is expressed or mediated by the words “Jesus is God” is much more nuanced than what is derived from a literal interpretation of the phrase.

After outlining the principles and logic of his interpretation of these councils, Haight tells us what they really mean. When Nicaea states that Jesus Christ is “from the substance of the Father, God from God, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father…”[17] what this really means is that “God was and is present and at work in Jesus. This means that the God encountered in Jesus for our salvation is truly God.”[18] Furthermore, “Nicaea cannot represent a movement of thought from the nature of God to the divine character of Jesus.”[19] When Chalcedon states that Jesus Christ is “the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity…consubstantial with the Father as regards his divinity, and the same consubstantial with us as regards his humanity,”[20] this is actually an articulation of three truths:
  • Within and through the fully human existence of Jesus of Nazareth, no less than God is present and active for human salvation.
  • The formula of two natures in one person and the description of one who, although his is truly divine or consubstantial with God is also truly human and consubstantial with us, recovers Jesus as a human being.
  • These two points together express the dialectical structure of Jesus as a historical symbol of God’s salvation of humankind.[21]

According to Haight, “the doctrine of the two natures corresponds to the dialectical structure of Jesus as symbol of God.”[22] You can expect similar conciliar statements to be similarly interpreted. The key question is this: Has Haight adequately presented the meaning intended by the conciliar fathers?

This leads us back to the beginning, back to the “awesome claim of Christianity.” Haight asserts that it can only be this: Jesus is the symbol of God. He is afraid that if we say that Jesus is God, or make Jesus the object of faith, then we will be denying or at least diminishing the fact that Jesus was a real human being.[23] Of course, Haight is also interested in upholding the utterly mysterious and other-wordly transcendence of God.[24] Furthermore, in his interest to accommodate our religiously pluralistic society, he finds it necessary to avoid any claims about Jesus that create division among men, who already suffer from oppressive and restrictive sociopolitical structures all over the world.[25] Finally, as a theologian, it is imperative to him that the apostolic experience of Jesus Christ be communicated to a post-modern audience.[26] Metaphysical formulations and slavishly literal interpretations of Scripture simply do not work anymore. Haight is convinced that calling Jesus “the symbol of God” is the only way to address all of these concerns and still be faithful to the tradition of the Church.

But, as we have seen, the implications of this category of symbol when applied to Jesus are simply too great to be accepted. Ultimately, they deny the true claim of Christianity, the very “grammar of Christianity” (9), the wonderful and inexhaustible mystery for which thousands of saints have suffered and died: Jesus is God. We can always quibble with words, and with how Scripture passages and conciliar statements should be interpreted. But, there is simply no debating the witness of a man’s life, with how his actions illustrate what he believes to be true.

The saints and the fathers of the early Church did not die for a symbol. Such an idea had no place in their Christology.[27] Men don’t give latria worship to a symbol either. Men give their worship and their lives to their God. The saints, martyrs, and council Fathers of the early Church gave these gifts unequivocally to Jesus Christ, that same man who walked with the apostles during his lifetime and appeared to them after his death.

Their veneration of the sites of his Passion, and their devotion to the various wounds he incurred and to the very face of Jesus shows their belief in his humanity. Their prayers to him, their predication of Godly attributes to him, and their adoration of him in the Holy Eucharist witness to their belief in his true divinity. For almost 1,500 years Christians in the East have prayed “the Jesus Prayer”: Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.[28] All of this makes it more readily apparent that, when Paul speaks of “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ”[29] and when the Council of Nicaea refers to Jesus as “God from God, light from light, true God from true God,”[30] they mean what they say and they say what they mean.
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[1] Roger Haight, Jesus Symbol of God (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 2005), 178.
[2] Jesus Christ is “true God from true God” (Council of Nicaea), “perfect God and perfect man” (Council of Ephesus), “the same truly God and truly man” (Council of Chalcedon), “true God, one of the holy Trinity” (Third Council of Constantinople). All conciliar statements are taken from Norman P. Tanner, ed., Decrees of the Ecumenical Councils, vol. 1, Nicaea I to Lateran V (Washington, DC: Sheed & Ward and Georgetown University Press, 1990).
[3] Haight, Symbol of God, 7.
[4] Ibid., 14.
[5] Ibid., 86.
[6] Ibid., 40.
[7] Ibid., 8.
[8] Ibid., 11.
[9] Ibid., 197.
[10] Haight lists six characteristics of the religious symbol: it demands participation, it mediates meaning by activating the mind, it participates in and points to transcendence, it reveals the essence of human existence, is multivalent in its structure, and has a dialectical character. Ibid., 200-201.
[11] “God is encountered in Jesus; God is revealed in Jesus; God is like Jesus; the wisdom of God is made manifest in Jesus; Jesus is the wisdom of God.” Ibid., 173.
[12] Avery Dulles, Models of Revelation (Garden City, NY: Doubleday and Company, Inc., 1983), 158.
[13] Avery Dulles, “The Symbolic Structure of Revelation,” Theological Studies 41 (1980): 68.
[14] Karl Rahner, “The Theology of the Symbol,” Theological Investigations 4 (1966): 251, quoted in Dulles, Models of Revelation, 157.
[15] Haight, Symbol of God, 206.
[16] “The primary mediation of God’s presence and salvation for Christianity is the person of Jesus of Nazareth. But the fundamental mediation of God’s salvific presence in other religions need not be a person…Religions other than Christianity truly and really mediate God’s presence…” Ibid., 415-416.
[17] Tanner, Decrees, 5.
[18] Haight, Symbol of God, 284.
[19] Ibid., 282.
[20] Tanner, Decrees, 86.
[21] Haight, Symbol of God, 295.
[22] Ibid., 205.
[23] Ibid.
[24] Ibid., 114-115, 199.
[25] Ibid., 397-398.
[26] Ibid., 58-59.
[27] “The idea of Christ as symbol is not a part of classical Christology.” Dulles, Models of Revelation, 156.
[28] “The history of the Jesus Prayer goes back, as far as we know, to the early sixth century, with Diadochos, who taught that repetition of the prayer leads to inner stillness. Even earlier John Cassian recommended this type of prayer. In the fourth century Egypt, in Nitria, short ‘arrow’ prayers were practiced.” Albert S. Rossi, “Saying the Jesus Prayer,” St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Theological Seminary [Internet]; available from http://www.svots.edu/Faculty/Albert-Rossi/Articles/Saying-the-Jesus-Prayer.html; accessed 19 April 2007.
[29] Tit. 2:13 RSV (Revised Standard Version).
[30] Tanner, Decrees, 5.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

News and Notes

I only have time for a short post today. To all of you who have sent me questions, I should be able to get to them this weekend.

That said, first, make sure you check out the comments on yesterday's follow-up on fertility drugs and procedures. There's a good conversation taking place, thanks especially to Bro. Thomas Petri, OP, STL. What do the rest of you all think? Secondly, my paper on Roger Haight's book Jesus Symbol of God is finished. So, expect that soon.

Thirdly, I've been popping in and out of the top 25 in the "Best Religion Blog" category for a while now. I don't really feel justified in having that little badge in my sidebar unless I can at least get in the top 10, which is also why my sidebar contains only two of my badges from the Catholic Blog Awards. Right now, I have a long way to go, so I NEED YOUR VOTES! Remember, if you have already voted for another blog, you can still vote for me. You can vote for multiple blogs in the same category. Register here and vote for me here.

Finally, check out the following video. Usually when I see videos of this sort of thing I'm like, "Great, people walking." But, this one is actually very good:

Eucharistic Procession at the University of Nebraska


Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Fertility Drugs: Part 2

Here is my response to a follow-up question regarding my post from a while back on the use of fertility drugs/medical procedures:
I read your answer concerning the question about the Church's views on fertility drugs. Your answer was done very well but it's incomplete and may be misleading. The main question concerning fertility drugs is what happens with the fertilized eggs [humans] that are not implanted, intended to be used or when there is too many implanted, [selective elimination/abortion]. Multiple fertilizing of eggs is normally necessary and can't be avoided by the very drug fertility process. Isn't this the reason the Church is against Fertility drugs? Can the issue be separated? To address the one without the other is a problem. I would appreciate your reply.
Thank you for your comments and questions!

As a point of clarification, the Church is not against all fertility drugs, nor is she against all medical interventions that aid in procreation because not all of these result in the misuse of fertilized eggs (embryos) or the substitution of the marriage act. As the paragraphs I cited indicate, homologous forms of artificial insemination (in which the sperm and the egg come from the married couple) would be permissible as long as they do not replace the conjugal act or impede upon the achievement of the required ends of the act (unity and procreation).

Also, my understanding is that, with interventions such as these, there is usually no misuse of embryos. So, your complaint about the multiple fertilizing of eggs and the abortion of the resultant embryos would not apply. However, such misuse does take place with In Vitro Fertilization, which is why the Chuch is against this practice.

I know all of that was a mouthful, but I hope it helps clarify this matter for you. For more information on bioethical matters such as this, go here.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The True Nature of Jesus and His Church

Justin sent me the following email that I will have to break up into parts:
Recently I've been noticing attacks on Holy Mother Church as an institution unfounded in Christ's "revolutionary" character. I tried looking for literature on the Defense Directory but couldn't locate the right category for the situation. Perhaps there should be a big "Jesus" section, since there's Mary in there too.
I do have an entry in the Directory that you may find helpful. It's all about how the Catholic Church was instituted by Jesus Christ and the Apostles. You can check it out here. However, in light of contemporary developments in Christology, it would be helpful to have an entry that defends our classical beliefs about Jesus: that He is God, that His person is the pre-existent Word, that He has a human soul, intellect, and will, and that He truly resurrected from the dead and ascended to the Father. An entry like that would be pretty fun to make too. I think I'll make that one of my summer projects!

I was in Atlanta and went to an exhibit of some of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s writings. He had a beautiful sermon called "Paul's letter to American Christians," which was all well and interesting until he (while role-playing St. Paul, to boot) disparaged Catholics and then the Pope, saying "how arrogant" it was for someone to claim they were infallible!
No one is arrogant who simply acknowledges the ownership of a gift given by another. If the pope attributed his infallibility to his own merits or intelligence then that would be arrogant. BUT, infallibility is a charism of the Holy Spirit given to the Church so that she will remain in the Truth. The Church does not boast of her infallibility, she simply defends it against people who would disparage it. Plus, the biblical proof for the authority of the Church is compelling.

For more on the infallibility of the pope, go here.

Recently, I found this shirt by a Christian clothing company. Its description reads:
" NO RELIGION - Awesome graphic of an old church symbolizing the traditions of Religion, being shattered by a cross thrown by Jesus. In the scripture Matthew 15:8-9, Jesus says, "'These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." Below the cathedral is the saying NO RELIGION, followed by the verse, "Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. What goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.' " Matthew 15:10-11. It's not about the words you say, but what is in your heart!"
What do I say to stuff like that?
This shirt is typical of non-denominational protestantism. In their zeal to get rid of the traditions of men (there are many such traditions in protestantism after all) and return to "Bible Christianity" they have thrown out the baby with the bath water. It's a no-brainer that they would be against the Catholic Church, since ours is a Church with a rich tradition and a hierarchical structure.

What they have forgotten is that Jesus Christ didn't find a quasi-union of individuals with no defined structure who worship God "each in his own way" and who only agree on the "essentials." He founded a church (cf. Mt 16:18) with bishops, deacons, and priests.....in other words, a church with a hierarchical structure. These priestly offices are all over the New Testament, and the various churches are implored to respect their authority (1 Thes 5:12-13; 1 Tim 5:17; Heb 13:17; 1 Pet 5:5). Likewise, those who despise authority will be destroyed (2 Pet 2:10-12), and those who take up Korah's rebellion will perish in it (Jude 1:11).

Furthermore, Scripture calls us to be "one body" with "one faith" and "one baptism" (Eph 4:4-5). It calls us to be "of one heart and soul" (Acts 4:32), and of "one mind" and in "full accord" (Phil 2:2). This is the type of unity that Jesus had in mind when He prayed that we would be one as He and the Father are one. The Father and the Son definitely agree on more than the essentials!

This Christian group on my campus, during this Easter Week (I wonder if this is coincidental) put on this little demonstration called "I Confess..." where they confess the sins of Christians and Christianity. Good they like to share our heritage...I thought it was all well and good, but one poster said "I Confess...that Jesus was a revolutionary." Right, well, I believe that too but judging by the new youth anti-authoritarian streak I thought that was to imply another anti-established religion (aka Catholicism) character of Jesus.
Yea, that could have been the goal. For anyone who does hold that Jesus was an "anti-establishment" political revolutionary, I think one helpful passage is Mt 23:1-3. Jesus may not have liked the actions of the scribes and Pharisees, but he still respected their authority or he wouldn't have told the crowd to do the same thing. When they tried to trick Him into treason by asking him if it was lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, Jesus told them, "Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mt 22:17-21). When Peter took up his sword to defend Jesus against the chief priests and officers of the temple, Jesus said, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword" (Mt 26:52). This is certainly not typical of a "revolutionary."

In my English department's class on the New Testament (which has enough problems as it is being secular and "historical"...but don't fret, just pray for me, I think I have the right tools to defend most things about canonocity), we just had a class on St. Paul where the professor claimed, "Paul's letters imply that his way of teaching was not giving a set of beliefs, but responding to immediate problems." Actually that doesn't seem too wrong.
It is true that he was writing in response to various church problems, but some of these were doctrinal problems, and even when he is responding to disciplinary problems, his writings always reflect his beliefs and what he knew in his heart to be true. So, regardless of the reason for why he is writing, we can always learn from him.

I hope that answers all of your questions.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Coping with Anti-Catholicism

Rachel emailed me the following question:
How do you deal with all the anti-Catholicism out there? Sometimes I get so overwhelmed by all the web sites that list us with the 'cults', as part of the norm (and how they use a separate definition of Christian for Catholics as they do for all Protestants). I just get so angry sometimes that I admit to writing e-mails to state my 'disapproval'. It's just so frustrating sometimes. How do you cope with anti-Catholics?
Here are a few things that I try to keep in mind, things that I have had to learn the hard way.

BE INFORMED

You have to equip yourself. When I first started doing apologetics I used to get my rear-end handed to me by these Seventh-Day Adventists on a Yahoo Group. The Directory grew out of my personal search for material that I could use to learn more about my faith and how to defend it. Once you know your faith well, the ramblings of anti-Catholics don't startle you as much because you know that there is an answer to them. Plus, you can't very well respond to their arguments if you don't even know what the Church teaches and why She teaches it.

BE PRUDENT

One thing I learned through engaging in online apologetics is that I can't tackle every bit of anti-Catholicism that comes my way. I used to act as though the survival of the Church depended solely upon me and that it fell upon my shoulders to respond to every attack. Over the years I have learned to just let things go and to concentrate my efforts on what will be the most fruitful.

If you try to be a one-man army then you will burn out really quick and then you won't want to defend the Church at all. You have to pace yourself. Don't bite off more than you can chew. Prioritize your apologetical activities. Concentrate on a few debates instead of trying to take on ten people at once. Don't stretch yourself too thin. All of these things are really important when you are engaged in apologetics on the internet.

STAY CALM

Many people tend to get very emotional when they encounter anti-Catholicism or when they begin to debate with someone. This hardly ever works out to your advantage. When you start calling people "bigots" and "heretics" and "haters" and say things like "how dare you!" and "who do you think you are!" all you do is come off as an ignorant person who has to use emotional appeals to prove a point instead of logic and reasoning. Plus, you show the other person that he has gotten under your skin. A lot of times, people aren't looking for intellectually-honest discourse. They just want to piss someone off. Don't make yourself an easy target.

Instead, be cool. You want to create the most glaring dichotomy possible between their statements and your response. When you set a hate-filled, vitriolic diatribe against a calm and reasoned response filled with charity it will be abundantly clear to everyone who is watching (there is always someone watching) who is right and who is wrong. You must be above the type of tactics that they use. If you write a response out of anger, or vengance, or hurt feelings then you will only end up sounding just like them.

Once you get used to responding to anti-Catholicism in that way, then it also helps you to not take it so personally. Anti-Catholicism doesn't get me all riled up like it used to. Now, when I see their arguments, my mind immediately zeros in on the holes in their logic and reasoning and I am automatically coming up with ways to refute the content of their message. Too many people respond to and become scandalized by the form of a person's arguments and they neglect the material content altogether.

STAY ON TOPIC

This is easily the #1 mistake that I see people make when they engage others in debate. You HAVE to stay on topic. Be stubborn about it. You must simply refuse to discuss anything that is not on topic. If you don't do this, then your discussion will go nowhere.

A popular tactic of anti-Catholics is to throw out things called "red herrings," which are irrelevant statements presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. In anti-Catholic debate, such statements are usually juicy, scandalous statements that people have trouble ignoring because they are so fallacious and disrespectful. But, you have to remain focused and disciplined. Let it roll off your back. If you try to take on every false statement, and misconception, and absurd opinion that they make then you will never actually refute the original topic at all...........and their job is done.

PRAY HARD

Finally, you have to make prayer a central part of your work in responding to people who attempt to discredit and refute the Church's teaching. This is after all a spiritual battle that we are waging (cf. Eph 6:12). Pray that God will grant you the patience, wisdom, and above all CHARITY that is necessary to be effective in engaging these people.

Remember, this is not about "winner and loser," it's about bringing people to a greater knowledge, and appreication, and love for Jesus Christ and His Church. Since this is such an important task --one that we simply cannot do on our own-- we must be men and women of prayer. Pray before you begin. Pray while you're doing it. Pray for the person afterwards. Remember that, in this battle, St. Michael the Achangel is a particularly powerful intercessor. He will come to your aid, and all the angels with him.

St. Michael the Archangel....pray for us.
St. Justin Martyr....pray for us.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Monday, April 23, 2007

Poll-Release Monday #12

Yea, so what if it's 45 minutes until midnight. Better late than never, right? Here's the new poll for this week:
  • What do you think I should add to my blog?
    • Commentary on current events
    • Thoughts about my everyday life and struggles
    • Random posts about whatever I find interesting, amusing, or stupid
    • Up-to-date Catholic news stories
    • Other (type your own option in the space provided)
I've been trying to think of ways to make my blog more popular without selling out. I certainly don't want this to be a copycat blog that tries to do what everyone else does. But, if there is something that my readers would like to see more of, and it's something that I think I could legitimately offer, than I want to offer it.

I want as many people as possible to benefit from this blog. My concern is that it doesn't appeal to the majority of Catholics because the content is technical in nature (although I always try to explain things in a way that is easy to understand). For example, Jimmy Akin's blog is technically an apologetics blog, but he does a little bit of everything over there. Same with Mark Shea. Of course, Amy Welborn and Happy Catholic have two of the most popular blogs in the entire blogosphere and they aren't centered around apologetics or theology at all. Again, I'm not necessarily trying to be like them. But, I would like to learn from what makes them so successful.

Actually, that's a good question: What makes them so successful?

One thing I notice is that they post daily, and several times a day. I'm convinced that Amy Welborn and Happy Catholic never leave there computers. I don't know how I could ever post as prolifically as they do. I also notice that what makes a lot of these blogs so popular is that people go to them to get a well-informed opinion on current events. People want to know how to think about and understand what the media is reporting. They want to know the Catholic response to things that are scandalous and libelous in the media. My problem with that is that sometimes I don't know what to think about what the media reports either! Other times I feel like my opinion is not an educated one, or not very intellectually stimulating. Do people really care what phatcatholic thinks about the murders at Virginia Tech or the supposed eradication of limbo? I guess that's the type of thing I am here to find out.

Then again, perhaps I should do nothing. Maybe I should just do what I do, let them do what they do, and everyone can live happily ever after. I dunno, I just want this blog to be great. Tell me what I can do to make this blog better and I'll tell you if I can accomodate that. As long as I'm true to self, we're all gravy.

Vote in the poll (in the sidebar). Leave comments. Help me make this blog the best Catholic blog in the entire flippin blogosphere.

As for last week's poll ("Which Apostle do you identify with the most?"), here are the results:


Peter came in first place with 17 votes, followed by John and Thomas with 8 votes a piece.

It's easy to identify with Peter, isn't it? He didn't always think before he spoke, didn't always understand what Jesus was trying to tell him, didn't always put his will before that of Christ, even buckled under pressure and denied Jesus. But, he never gave up. He was always a passionate man, and when his passion was focused it was a force to be reckoned with. Amid the blunders are moments of brilliance, moments of inspiration. And when it mattered most, he was a Rock for those in his care.

I think my favorite episode in Peter's life is immediately after Jesus' Eucharistic discourse, when Jesus had just finished telling the Apostles and the crowd a most unparalleled truth: Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood you have no life in you. Can you image how Peter must have felt? He was surely confused, and maybe even afraid. But he was also intuitive. He knew what the other Apostles were feeling, and when Jesus asked them what they would do in the face of his teaching, Peter immediately answered for them, and with a childlike faith.

67 Jesus said to the twelve, "Do you also wish to go away?"
68 Simon Peter answered him, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life;
69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God."


May we all be more like Peter.

St. Peter, Prince of the Apostles and Rock of the Church....pray for us.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Sunday, April 22, 2007

The Cartoonists Respond to Virginia Tech

Ever since a reader clued me in to Daryl Cagle's Professional Cartoonists Index, I've done nothing but browse through all of these political cartoons. Half the time that's the only thing I like about the Editorial page. Granted, the cartoons reflect the political perspective of the artist just as much as the editorials that accompany them. But, it is very interesting to see how the various cartoonists choose to express themselves through their art. The outcome is often very creative and witty. Of course, the cartoon world isn't devoid of bigotry and ignorance either (see here).

I noticed that a large number of the editorial cartoons that were published around the time of this disaster seemed to blame the NRA and our current "gun culture." I think such a reaction is entirely too simplistic, but I suppose it's no surprise considering the media is still a predominately liberal enterprise. What follows are what I deem to be the most worthy and respectful cartoons in reaction to the murders at Virginia Tech. I'll leave the distasteful ones to fall into obscurity.

Remember, you can click on each pic to see a larger version of it.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic












Here's something for you to throw darts at:


I don't entirely agree with this cartoon, but you have to admit, it's funny:

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Cartoons, Ramirez-Style

Okay, so I'm obsessed with this guy's artwork now. In my previous post, I featured Mike Ramirez' cartoon in respose to the upholding of the partial-birth abortion ban. Here are a few more of my favorites:












This guy's a political conservative, which is pretty dope. I wish I could draw....

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

And the Unborn Smile

I don't really post about current events very much on this blog because:

1. I feel like enough Catholic blogs have the lockdown on that as it is.
2. Who wants to read what I think anyway??

But, today I received an absolutely wonderful illustration in my inbox from Leticia (of Causa Nostrae Laetitiae and Cause of Our Joy) and I have to post it:


Praise God for stuff like this in the secular media. It is the artwork of Mike Ramirez from the New York Post. For more of his illustrations, go here.

For more information on the partial-birth abortion ban, go here.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Thursday, April 19, 2007

Habemus Papam!

Check out this flash presentation in honor of today, the 2 year anniversary of Cardinal Ratzinger's election to the papacy:I love my German Shepherd! Where were you and what were you doing when you heard the news? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Short Catechesis on the Lord's Prayer

This week’s lesson is on the “Our Father” (or, traditionally, the Pater Noster), the prayer that Jesus taught his disciples when they asked Him to teach them how to pray (cf. Lk 11:1). It is called “the Lord’s Prayer” because it comes from our Lord Jesus Christ Himself. As such, it is one of our most important prayers, and from it we should be able to learn a great deal about how to pray. Whenever Jesus teaches it is good for us to listen! Let’s listen to just a few things He is trying to tell us through this prayer.

“Our Father who art in Heaven”

At first this just seems like a regular greeting, doesn’t it? But, as with the entire prayer, even the smallest words are packed with meaning. It is said that St. Thérèse of Lisieux could never get passed the first two words (“Our Father”) because they meant so much to her. With the word “our” Jesus is telling us that he has called an entire people into relationship with Him, not just isolated individuals. The fact that Jesus would have us address God as “Father” is revolutionary because it shows an unparalleled intimacy between God and His people. Until Jesus came and died for our sins, no one was close enough to the Lord to call Him “Father.” But, through the Sacrament of Baptism we now become actual sons and daughters of God, and he becomes our Father.

Seven Petitions

Notice next that the prayer is made up of seven petitions. The first three concern the Lord and the things we desire for His sake:
  • Hallowed be Thy name
  • Thy Kingdom come
  • Thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven.
As the Catechism of the Catholic Church reminds us, “It is characteristic of love to think first of the one whom we love” (no. 2804). So, we begin our petitions with the heartfelt desire that all praise and glory be His and that all he hopes to achieve will be fulfilled.

After this come four petitions which concern us and show our childlike dependence upon the Father:
  • Give us this day our daily bread
  • And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.
  • And lead us not into temptation
  • But deliver us from evil.
It takes great faith to come to the Lord with our needs. Thankfully, Jesus Christ gives us the courage not only to call God “Father” but to seek his aid. “Ask, and it will be given you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you” (Mt 7:7). The fourth and fifth petitions concern our life as such – to be fed and to be healed of sin; the last two concern our battle for the victory of life – that battle of prayer (cf. CCC, no. 2805).

The Final Doxology and the “Amen.”

In the Mass and also in ecumenical settings (when this prayer is prayed with other Christians), we close the Lord’s Prayer with the phrase: “For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever.” This phrase is called the “doxology,” which is a word used for any hymn or verse that glorifies God. When we say it we take up the first three petitions again, but this time it is with a feeling of thanksgiving for something that has already taken place. After all, in a sense, the kingdom, the power, and the glory are already His. But, this won’t be fully realized until the end of time, when Jesus comes and destroys the devil once and for all.

As we do with all of our prayers, we end the “Our Father” with a hearty “Amen!” This word means, “So be it.” In saying it we ratify or put our final stamp of approval on everything that we have said and meant by the prayer. We mean what we say, and we say what we mean. Through our “Amen,” we should show our appreciation for all that God has given us, especially this perfect prayer that is the model of all prayer.

Pray as Jesus Taught Us to Pray

It is easy for us to forget about the Lord’s Prayer, or to take it for granted. After all, if you have been Catholic all of your life, then you have been praying it since you were really little. Things that we do over and over often tend to lose their significance. But, the prayer that Jesus taught us to pray should never be trivially or mundanely recited. Jesus Christ wants us to pray this prayer, and to model our prayers after the structure of this prayer. Whenever we pray, we should:
  • begin with praise of God,
  • then move to hope that His will shall be done in all things,
  • followed by a faithful submission of our petitions to the Lord,
  • and ending with the desire that all praise and glory be His forever and ever.
I pray that through this short catechesis, the “Our Father” has grown in meaning and significance in your life. To learn more about this prayer, you may also wish to consult the following resources:Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Curriculum Unit on the Lord's Prayer

I uploaded three new files to the "My Files" Box at the bottom of my sidebar:
  • Curriculum on the Our Father
  • Pater Noster Handout
  • Short Catechesis on the Lord's Prayer
The first file is a guide for presenting the Our Father in three 45-min. sessions. One criticism I usually receive when I write these curriculum units is that I try to fit too much information into one session, and I don't use enough real-world examples to help my audience better identify with the material. So, note that a truly catechetical presentation will keep these criticisms in mind and try to account for them.

The second file is a handout that you can give to your audience to supplement your presentation(s). It's basically a chart that they can use to learn the Lord's Prayer in Latin. The prayer is divided into short phrases, with the English on the left and the Latin on the right. I think it's good to always expose our young adults to the Latin prayers of the Church. This is our heritage and our tradition, and it must live on in our teaching.

Finally, the last file is basically a short, 3-pg. catechesis on the Lord's Prayer that you would maybe put in a bulletin or send home for the parents to read. It's not technical and it doesn't get into a whole lot of specifics. It's just a simple overview that your average Catholic should be able to appreciate. I will type it out in my next post.

Let me know if you ever use any of the materials in my File Box and find them to be helpful.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Poll-Release Mon...err, Tuesday! (#11)

Once again, I'm a little late with this week's poll. Sorry about that. The semester is almost over so things are getting hectic for me. You can expect me to post less frequently at least until the end of the week.

Here is this week's poll:
  • Which Apostle do you identify with the most?
    • St. John
    • St. Peter
    • Judas
    • St. Thomas
    • St. Philip
To help you with your decision, you may wish to take this quiz or this one. You can also learn more about each Apostle by clicking on the following links: St. John -- St. Peter -- Judas -- St. Thomas -- St. Philip

As for last week's poll ("Who is your favorite early Church father?"), there wasn't much of a turn out. Why didn't you vote? Leave a comment and let me know. Here are the results:


I guess it's no surprise that Augustine was the winner. There are few fathers of the Church who have made a larger impact on Christian belief than St. Augustine of Hippo. Plus, he is so incredibly prolific that his works are known by a wider audience than those of the other fathers.

BUT.....I didn't choose Augustine. He frustrates me. Because his writings are so voluminous, it's hard to pin down what he actually believes about a lot of things. His views on grace and predestination in particular are always the source of heated debate. And to make matters worse, he often contradicts himself and his beliefs develop and sometimes even change as he grows and matures as a theologian.

One of the first things that shocked me when I entered the world of apologetics was the fact that so many non-Catholic Christians claim Augustine as their father. That just seemed so ludicrous to me. I mean, he's a Catholic bishop for crying out loud! But, as I have become more and more acquainted with Augustine's writings I have also come to see how easy it is to misunderstand him.

Of course, I'm no expert on the man or his writings, so perhaps my frustration is ignorant or premature. If you would like to learn more about St. Augustine, go here.

As for the other choices, I thought that more people would vote for St. Athanasius or St. Justin Martyr, since this is an apologetics blog and these two fathers in particular are known for their unyielding defense of the Faith. Personally, I voted for St. Cyril of Jerusalem, although I realize now that I meant to make St. Cyril of Alexandra (the great anti-Nestorian) the poll option instead. My Christology class has given me a whole new appreciation for Cyril and his staunch defense of the hypostatic union in Christ.

Speaking of Christology, please pray for me as I attempt to write a most difficult paper on Roger Haight's book Jesus Symbol of God.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Monday, April 16, 2007

What Shall Separate Us from the Love of God?

Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written, "For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered."
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
-- Rom 8:35-39
33 people were killed today on the campus of Virgina Tech. Please pray for the souls of the departed, for their families and friends, and for everyone associated with this incident. For the latest news on this tragic event, go here.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Blogger's Choice Awards

I just found out that I have been nominated for the Blogger's Choice Awards, under the category Best Religion Blog. I have ten votes so far, so I need your help! Winners will be announced on June 2nd at PostieCon in Orlando, FL. To vote for me, register a username and password at the site, and then just look for my blog in the Religion category. Last time I checked, my blog was on p. 5.

Thanks in advance to everyone who voted.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Just Real Quick....

I know, I know, I'm not supposed to be on right now, but I just finished a huge project so I have a little bit of free time. :)

Anyway, I just wanted to share this link I found real quick:There are two things cool about this page. First, from there you can click on Live Programs and view a live feed of St. Peter's Square. I don't know if it ever shows anything else or not. Secondly, if you click on Archives then you can watch videos from as far back as April 4, 2005. So, there's some memorable stuff there, particularly the coverage of the death of JPII and the election of B16.

Speaking of videos, Catholic Daily posts a different Catholic video each day, so you may want to keep an eye on the Video Archive as that collection increases.

Okay, that's all for now. Maybe more in a couple of days. I'm off to Maine!

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Too Busy to Blog

You may have noticed that I haven't been posting very much this last week or so, just one short post a day if I can get it in. Well, that's about to decrease even more.

I have a huge to-do list and only three days to get it all done. This coming weekend is packed because my gf's sister is getting married (in Maine), and last weekend was packed because of my numerous RCIA responsibilities in conjunction with the Triduum. So, I need to just be honest with myself and admit that I simply do not have time to blog, as much as I would rather deny that fact.

I'll see you all in about a week (let's see how well I can actually hold myself to that....)

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Monday, April 09, 2007

Poll-Release Monday #10

Here is this week's poll: I know that there are a lot of options to choose from in this poll, but the ECF's are just too hard to narrow down. Invariably, someone will see a glaring omission, but what can ya do? I can't very well list them all! To vote, see the poll in the sidebar. Click on each option above for more information about that particular Father of the Church.

As for last week's poll ("Who do you think is our best modern-day Catholic apologist?"), I was blown away by how many people voted. When I unveiled this poll last Monday, I said: "I anticipate this week's poll receiving much more visitor participation than my previous poll." That's an understatment! The Scott Hahn fans came out of the woodwork! Check it out:


On Tuesday, Hahn had 7 votes. On Wednesday, he had 27 votes, and he just kept climbing every day after that. Pretty crazy....but understandable. After all, his books convert people, for crying out loud. Thousands of people have read them and many of those same people attribute their new-found faith in Christ and his Church to this man. He's an amazing individual, I don't care what anybody says.

I was suprised that Jimmy Akin didn't make more of a showing. He was the apologist that I voted for, and for many reasons:
  1. He is more of a true apologist that Scott Hahn is. I consider Hahn to be more of a theologian than an apologist.
  2. He is responsible for a great majority of the content at Catholic.com, which is perhaps the only instrument of God that converts more souls than Hahn does.
  3. His blog is solid as a rock, 24/7, and it's one of the most popular blogs on the internet. As you know, the internet is the new arena for Catholic apologetics, and Akin has a substantial presence there. My own blog is but a meager attempt to follow in his footsteps.
  4. His radio shows are simply amazing. His answers are always right on, and he has a great speaking voice too (as does Hahn).
  5. He's just a cool dude.
Who did you vote for? Why? Leave a comment and let me know. Thank you all for voting. I hope this most recent poll is a sign of further success (...and increased traffic! Tell your friends!).

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Friday, April 06, 2007

I See Love

Check out this video by my friend David Myers. In it he has compiled images of the Passion, mixing in some his own artwork and set to the song "I See Love." For more artwork from David, see the following links: We adore you oh Christ and we praise you.
Because by your holy Cross you have redeemed the world.


Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Thursday, April 05, 2007

God and Science: Part 2

[see part 1 here]
If you don't mind, I would like to follow up on the discussion about mental illness/disability. I understand that we will not all be made perfect (and moreover that we are all far short of perfection), but my confusion is whether these chemical imbalences account for what we believe is the soul. From what I understand, we believe that God created us in His image and that we are an intersection of the spiritual world and the physical world. What throws me off is that if our souls, our personality, the essence of our selves are in the spiritual realm, then how can it fit that chemical imbalances (or chemical treatments) can dramatically alter our souls and personalities.
The answer to your question is in the relationship between the body and the soul. The soul is the animating principle of the body. It is the life force that sets all of the inner-workings of the body into motion. In other words, the body functions because it is animated by the soul.

Now, the soul can only work with the body that it is given. For example, the soul can exercise it's powers of intellect through the brain only as long as the brain continues to function properly. When the brain is damaged (for example, as a result of some physical trauma to the brain) then the soul can no longer exercise it's intellectual faculties through the brain in the same way that it could before.

The same thing goes with chemical imbalances. When, for whatever reason, the chemicals in the brain are not balanced as they should, then the soul is less equipped in the use of its faculties. The soul can only do so much. It can't express the emotion of happiness as effectively in a body that has low serotonin levels. This does not mean that the body changes or "dramatically alters" the soul. The capabilities of the soul always exist in potency. They just don't always exist in actuality. Even when a body is utterly incapacitated (for example, with a person on life support) the soul still maintains all of its capabilities.....it just can't use them, or express them, or bring them into actuality. This is evidenced by the fact that, when the veracity of the brain in the unconscious man is restored, then he becomes able to think, and feel, and imagine again.

So, there is no dramatic altering of the soul, there is just varying degrees of utility of the body. In other words, the soul does not change, but the usefulness of the body to the soul does.

I hope that answers your question.

Pax Christi,
Nick

God and Science: Part 1

What follows is a conversation I am currently having with an individual who is struggling with faith in God in light of the scientific claims about mankind. Of course, I'm no expert on evolution, psychology, or biology...but maybe what I was able to explain will be of some use to you all.

[Materialistic] science just tends to be a stumbling block for me. I struggle to understand our belief in God as Creator and how it fits in with what we know about modern science. It troubles me to read that a number of scientists claim that religion came around as a feature of the human brain's evolution.
This need not be an obstacle. It could just as easily be said that God revealed Himself to man as soon as man was ready, physically, to receive Him. There's nothing wrong with that. It could very well have been that man evolved from some other creature. As Catholics we are allowed to hold that, but we don't have to. However, what we do have to believe is that, the moment man emerged God gave him a spirit and made him unlike any other creature.

I understand that our response as Catholics is usually that science and religion are completely different arenas.
Not necessarily. As Cardinal Newman once said, "Faith furnishes facts to the other sciences which these sciences, left to themselves, would never reach, and it invalidates apparent facts, which left to themselves, they would imagine." Or, to quote Pope John Paul II, " Science can purify religion from error and superstition. Religion can purify science from idolatry and false absolutes." They work together, informing each other. This makes perfect sense. After all, all objects of science have their source in He who created all things. The Artist is always found in his handiwork.

Thus, I know that many Catholics say that evolution was simply God's process of creation, but I wonder if we have good reason to believe this or whether we are merely adapting our faith to scientific developments.
From what I have read, we have good reason to believe this. There is nothing wrong with affirming both what is good and helpful from scientific research and what we know about God from religion. I have collected some articles that explain this more in depth. To read them, go here.

While I certainly want to believe we are more than mere matter, I struggle when mere chemical imbalances cause personality disorders, mental illness and hallucinations, and chemicals can also treat these symptoms. In my mind it doesn't seem to leave much room for personality made in God's image or free will.
Why not? Just because we are made in God's image, that doesn't mean that we will all be perfect. Some of us will be disabled, or have chemical imbalances, or in a variety of different ways be abnormal. To be made "in the image and likeness of God" means to have special dignity as a human being, created by God, and meant for eternal glory and beatitude with Him, in heaven, as his sons and daughters. This is rightly said of every human being, regardless of his physical or mental disabilities.

I'm sure it is clear to you now that I am not too intelligent in regards to Catholic apologetics, science or philosophy. That's why I'm seeking the help of somebody smarter than I am. But please know that I am not expecting you to be an expert on these issues either. I am not asking to you be the answer to all of my questions. I know that in the end, faith is a personal decision. I just thought I would give it a try to see if you have any insights on these types of issues. I hope you will forgive my ignorance, and thanks again for responding to my email.
You show a wonderful amount of humility, my friend. This is cause for hope. Your humility will be your salvation from all of this confusion and doubt. Regarding intelligence, no worries, I'm no genius either. I'm just trying, like you, to every day be learning about God to the best of my ability. There is nothing to excuse or apologize for. I hope my words have been helpful. Feel free to respond with more questions.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Monday, April 02, 2007

Creation and Evil

Here are my answers to another list of questions from "Maria":
Is abortion a natural part of natural selection in nature or are wild animals considered murders when killing/naturally selecting their young as well as humans?
I'm not sure how prevalent abortion is among wild animals. I would assume it does happen. However, this would not be considered "murder." That is because animals don't have a rational soul like human beings do. Their actions are motivated by instinct, and survival, and natural processes in their bodies. They do not have the ability to contemplate, or judge right from wrong. They do not have a conscience. God's moral laws do not apply to them. So, they cannot commit sins like murder, or stealing, or anything else that would be contrary to God's moral laws. Instead, we would simply say that they are being animals.

Also, "I always thought of God as ruler of the universe and creator of all things. Therefore, how much power does Lucifer have?
God has tremendous power over Lucifer. But, the devil still has the power to lure mankind away from God. However, this is not so much due to his power as it is due to the fall of mankind. With the first sin of Adam, mankind fell from a life of grace. Now, his human nature is disposed to sin as it yearns for good in all the wrong places. The devil simply takes advantage of this. Of course, this is not to downplay the power of the devil. He is still an angel, and he still has the power to make himself very real in the lives of human beings, just as real as the angel Gabriel was to Mary.

St. Michael the Archangel...pray for us!!

I believe all people are inherently good because God would not make evil. So, I believe that people are disruptive and commit crimes because of, basically, lack of a psychiatrist=medication for illnesses, chemical imbalances, or an educated person to discuss issues. So, why does evil exist?
Although sinful actions can be attributed to all of the factors you mentioned, at the heart of the matter is the reality of free will and original sin. This are the more fundamental causes of evil in the world.

God, in desiring that man would love Him for man's own sake, had to consequently grant man a will that was free. God's relationship with man would not be out of love if He forced man to be in relationship with Him, or coerced man into it. However, granting man free will has the necessary and unfortunate result of making it possible for man to turn away from God. If man has the power to say "Yes" to God, he also has the power to say "No." When he says "No" he sins and evil is brought into the world.

Is it possible for world peace to exist without the battle of good and evil while still maintaing the knowledge of good and evil?
The battle of good and evil will always be with us...that is, until Jesus Christ comes again in glory, rids the entire world of evil, and makes all things new. On that day, there will only be peace, and goodness, and love.

The study of what will take place at the end of time is called eschatology. If you would like to learn more about this subject, go here. For more information on evil, go here.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic

Profaning Communion: Part 2

Thanks to popular demand, I have decided to pick up where I left off in my partial response to Chris Anthony on "open Communion." Internet Explorer can't hold me!!

Now, where were we....
What about a Catholic politician who abuses his power to subdue his people and amass large amount of wealth? What about glamorous celebrities who live immoral lives against the teachings of the Church?
What about them? The Church says that they should not receive Communion either:
  • Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Worthiness to Receive Communion: General Principles, nos. 5, 6:
    • 5. Regarding the grave sin of abortion or euthanasia, when a person’s formal cooperation becomes manifest (understood, in the case of a Catholic politician, as his consistently campaigning and voting for permissive abortion and euthanasia laws), his Pastor should meet with him, instructing him about the Church’s teaching, informing him that he is not to present himself for Holy Communion until he brings to an end the objective situation of sin, and warning him that he will otherwise be denied the Eucharist.

      6. When “these precautionary measures have not had their effect or in which they were not possible,” and the person in question, with obstinate persistence, still presents himself to receive the Holy Eucharist, “the minister of Holy Communion must refuse to distribute it” (cf. Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts Declaration “Holy Communion and Divorced, Civilly Remarried Catholics” [2002], nos. 3-4). This decision, properly speaking, is not a sanction or a penalty. Nor is the minister of Holy Communion passing judgement on the person’s subjective guilt, but rather is reacting to the person’s public unworthiness to receive Holy Communion due to an objective situation of sin.

  • Code of Canon Law, nos. 915, 916:
    • Can. 915 Those upon whom the penalty of excommunication or interdict has been imposed or declared, and others who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin, are not to be admitted to holy communion.

      Can. 916 Anyone who is conscious of grave sin may not celebrate Mass or receive the Body of the Lord without previously having been to sacramental confession, unless there is a grave reason and there is no opportunity to confess; in this case the person is to remember the obligation to make an act of perfect contrition, which includes the resolve to go to confession as soon as possible.
Just because people like this seem to be able to receive the Eucharist unhindered (although many of the bishops have spoken against this), that does not mean that we should then let Protestants receive the Eucharist too. Yes, the Eucharist is for Catholics, but more specifically, it is for Catholics with the proper disposition.

This discriminatory action of our modern Church poses one important question in the minds of many liberal thinking Catholics – Is Christ for all or is He reserved for an exclusive few?
I responded to this question at the beginning of Part 1. The Eucharist is for all, in the most encompassing sense of the word. But, that doesn't mean that God does not place demands on the state of man before he can receive it.

Holy Communion, I admit, is not a trivial matter and the Eucharist is not to be toyed with, but denying our separated brethren the Eucharist because of their dispute with Catholics is definitely tantamount to revenge especially when this dispute is as ancient as the Church itself. If this is not a spiteful policy then what is it?
You think this is out of animosity and revenge?? My friend, the Eucharist itself demands that those who receive it be in relationship with the Lord, believe in the Real Presence, and have full membership in the Catholic Church. Fr. Philip Goyret (professor of sacramental theology, ecclesiology and ecumenism at the University of the Holy Cross) explains:
For Catholics, the eventual distribution of Communion to a non-Catholic, within a Catholic celebration of the Eucharist, implies a contradiction, as it would imply an ecclesial communion that does not exist in its fullness. Something similar occurs in the case of the eventual Communion of a public sinner.

Obviously, these ideas presuppose a strong affirmation in faith in the Eucharist—not as a mere external manifestation of a generic feeling of Christian fraternity, but as the sacrament that truly contains the whole Christ, with his body, blood, soul and divinity.

It is important to see that the necessity of full unity of the faith among the participants in the Eucharist is something exacted by the specific content of this sacrament, namely the substantial reality of the body of Christ—because in it is necessarily implied faith in everything that Christ has revealed and that the Church teaches.

Therefore, Eucharistic Communion and communion in truth cannot be separated. In this line, the Catholic Church denies Eucharistic Communion to those who do not participate fully of its ecclesial communion, as they cannot participate in the sign of full unity who do not possess it wholly.
This is not a "spiteful policy." Instead, it is the logical implication of what we know to be true about the Eucharist. On this point, Fr. Goyret's entire article is helpful.

The practice of excluding some people from Communion may be Biblically based, and it reflects the mind and heart of the early Church, as they were taught by the Apostles. Wouldn’t it be morally wrong on our part to carry the ancient animosity created by our ancestors onto the present generation of Christians who had no part whatsoever in that ancient dispute?
Yes, that would be wrong, were it what is actually taking place here. But it's not, as I hope I have already shown. Furthermore, is there not something to be said for the fact that my stance is "Biblically based" and "reflects the mind and heart of the early Church"? Does that give you no pause? Are you so quick to reject something that finds its basis in the authoritative rules of our faith?

None will deny that there must be conditions for receiving Christ in Holy Communion. These should be based on the condition of the heart of the receiver and not rituals he performs or group to which he belongs. The fundamental requisite should be faith and a sincere eagerness to welcome Christ into his life.
Yes, but what kind of faith? Will any faith do? Surely this faith must take some particular form. Jesus, Paul, the early Church fathers, and the Magisterium have defined the form that this faith must take and the proper "condition of the heart of the receiver."

In a world torn apart by hate and revenge, Christ should an instrument of unity and peace among not only Christians of the various denominations but of the whole human race.
....if they would only approach the Lord's Table the way that He desires them to. What you have failed to understand is that the Eucharist does not establish a communion that did not pre-exist. Instead, it strengthens a communion that already exists.

Christ belongs to all, including sinners, not to just a chosen few. He is not the founder of an exclusive club called Christianity or to be more specific Catholicism. Let’s not confine him to this club by imposing man-made rules and rituals. As his faithful we have a far greater obligation, to bring His love to all mankind.
Jesus Christ is not the founder of Christianity? Please doctor, if Jesus did not found it, who did? As for "man-made rules and rituals," if you can prove that the Church's stance on open communion does not flow from the teaching of Jesus and the Apostles, and from the nature of the Sacrament itself, I would love to see it.

Pax Christi,
phatcatholic
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