Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Debate with "Briguy" on the Real Presence: Part 1

The following is the first part of a short debate I engaged in with a poster from Phatmass who calls himself "Briguy." He attempted to discredit the Real Presence of the Eucharist, so, of course, I had to respond to him! His words will be in silver.

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Hi There, I think it is important to look closely at what Jesus said. Below are the three accounts from Matthew, Mark and Luke, though I don't think they are in that order. Below that is two verses from when Jesus was in the garden and being arrested.
It's confusing to provide verses without the citation. Here they are again, with the citation and in the order they appear, so we can all follow along easier. I have also added some extra context, which I will refer to later.

Mat 26:26-30
26 Now as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to the disciples and said, "Take, eat; this is my body."
27 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, "Drink of it, all of you;
28 for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
29 I tell you I shall not drink again of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom."
30 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Mark 14:22-26
22 And as they were eating, he took bread, and blessed, and broke it, and gave it to them, and said, "Take; this is my body."
23 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.
24 And he said to them, "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.
25 Truly, I say to you, I shall not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God."
26 And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.

Luke 22:15-20
15 And he said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer;
16 for I tell you I shall not eat it until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God."
17 And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he said, "Take this, and divide it among yourselves;
18 for I tell you that from now on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes."
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me."
20 And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.

You also provided these verses:

John 18:11 Jesus said to Peter, "Put your sword into its sheath; shall I not drink the cup which the Father has given me?"

Luke 22:42 "Father, if thou art willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done."

Whenever you refer to one of these passages, I have inserted the citation in brackets in your comments, so we know which gospel you are analyzing.
The reason I believe Jesus was using symbolism is because of what is said and what he says after the words in question. All three of the accounts have the blood being a new testament. [Luke 22:20] even says new testament before the word blood. What is Jesus saying by the word testament? He is explaining that something is completely changing and that a new sacrifice is being offered and the old things, covenants, etc… are leaving and something new is beginning and it is because he will shed His own blood, no more need for the blood of animals, His blood will be shed and with it something new.
Brian, if Jesus says that what He is pouring out for them at the table is the "blood of the covenant" then this must mean that what He is giving to them is also that which will be shed in order to institute the new covenant for His people. "This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many" (Mark 14:24). How much more plain can you get?

I agree with you that the new covenant abolishes the old sacrifical system. But, this is actually all the more reason to believe that He is speaking literally. Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of the entire process. He is both the lamb that was slain and the high priest who offered it. What is important to note about the blood is that the Jews were instructed from the time of Noah to not consume the blood of an animal (Gen 9:4), for it was the "life force" of it (Lev 17:11). The animal took the place of man himself, who was due to die for breaking the covenant. So, saving the blood for the Lord meant giving one's life to Him, who is the Author of all Life. Conversely, drinking the blood was a turning away from God.

However, Jesus institutes a new covenant in His Blood, freeing the people from the old sacrificial system. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life (John 14:6). Where before, the consumption of the life of an animal was a turning away from God, now consumption of the blood of Christ is a turning towards Him. "So Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you'" (John 6:53).

Also note that if Jesus is the Lamb, then He too must be eaten, for this was obligatory of the sacrifical lamb. This is seen in Exo 12:8,11 where the Israelites were told to eat the lamb so that the angel would pass over them. In Exo 29:33 "they shall eat those things wherewith the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them". In Lev 7:15 the flesh of the sacrifice must be eaten. In 2 Chron 30:15-17 (cf. 2 Chron 35:1,6,11,13; Ezr 6:20-21) the lamb is eaten so as to achieve purification. Also, in Ezek 2:8-10 and 3:1-3 Ezekiel is commanded by God to eat the scroll--the Word of God--which was in his mouth "as honey for sweetness." All of these verses forshadow Jesus Christ, the lamb and the Word of God, who must be eaten. Of course, Jesus Christ himself affirms this when he says "For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed" (John 6:55).

So, we see that it is not just in dying on the cross that he abolishes the old sacrifical system, but also by giving us his very self for our nourishment in the place of the flesh and blood of old.
Now remember when he made these statements he had not yet shed is blood and His body was in tact, which in any other example in the world we would view this type of thing as symbolic. If I point to a picture of my son and say "this is my son", did I lie? It is my son, but it is really just a piece of photo paper. The bread and wine were a "picture" of the body and blood.
You are forgetting how people conceptualized "symbols" in biblical times. As Apotheoun pointed out in his post (here), "the symbol and the thing symbolized are mystically one and the same reality....[sacraments] render present the thing they signify." Jesus gave his very self to the apostles on that night.

Also, note that when the Jews celebrated the Passover, it wasn't just for them a time of remembering what happened so long ago. They believed that the Passover they celebrated was a mystical re-presentation of the first Passover of their ancestors. And so, by instituting the Eucharist on the feast of the Passover, we have the old meal and the new meal literally coming together in the person of Jesus. He has infused his very self into the celebration replacing the old flesh and blood with His own Flesh and Blood.
Read the verse that is after the blood verse in [Mat 26:28-29 and Mark 14:24-25]. Jesus calls the cup He is holding "the fruit of the vine". This is right after he calls it His blood, or the new testament in his blood. You see, Jesus was not trying to say something supernatural happened to the wine. It was wine before He spoke and it was wine after He spoke but it symbolized the greatest change in covenants ever.
Jesus isn't referring to the same cup here. Scott Hahn provides some helpful context to these words (from this article):
There are four cups that represent the structure of the Passover. The first cup is the blessing of the festival day, it's the kiddush cup. The second cup of wine occurs really at the beginning of the Passover liturgy itself, and that involves the singing of psalm 113. And then there's the third cup, the cup of blessing which involves the actual meal, the unleavened bread and so on. And then, before the fourth cup, you sing the great hil-el psalms: 114, 115, 116, 117 and 118. And having sung those psalms you proceed to the fourth cup which for all practical purposes is the climax of the Passover.
The meal ends with the singing of the psalms (cf. Mat 26:30; Mark 14:26), so we know that the cup they drank was the third cup. Since they drink no more after this, then the "fruit of the vine" of which he will not drink "until the kingdom of God comes" (Luke 22:18) is the fourth cup. Also, what's interesting is that in Luke, Jesus actually tells them about not drinking of the vine before they drink the third cup (cf. Luke 22:18-20). So, this must mean that the third cup was more than just fruit from the vine.
Now, look at [John 18:11 and Luke 22:42] where even the word "cup" is symbolic. The cup in both cases represents the sacrifice He must make and is willing to make. Jesus drinks of the cup for us. He had his disciples and us drink of the cup to remember His drinking of the cup (His death and shedding of blood and resurrection).
You are on the verge of coming to the proper conclusion. Afterall, you are right when you say that the cup in question here is His death on the cross. But, what you have failed to notice is that His death replaces the fourth cup that is the culmination of the Passover meal. So, this means that what starts at the Passover ends on the Cross. Calvary begins with the Eucharist. The Eucharist ends at Calvary. The bread and the wine that they shared is brought into intimate connection with His death on the cross. The Lamb that they eat is the Lamb that is slain. The Blood that they drink is the Blood that was shed. None of this makes sense unless the bread and the wine are his actual Body and Blood.
I heard a speaker say something that made a lot of sense. He was a science teacher actually, at a Christian boarding school, who attends our church when in the country. Anyway, he said that when we eat and drink anything, the substance goes into every part of us. It no longer can be seen as separate, it indwells us in every way. That is what we remember at communion, that when we trusted Christ and he forgave us our Sin, He indwelt us and not just a little but in every way. The line of distinction between Him and us goes away and He fully indwells us in every way.
This is beautiful, and it actually explains quite well what we believe Jesus is doing through the Eucharist. He is indwelling in us in every way. When we consume his Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity, He nourishes us both physically and spiritually, by being both "real food" (John 6:55) for our bodies, and "life" (John 6:53) for our souls. This is why Jesus says that "He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him" (John 6:56). He fills us entirely with His very Body and Blood.

In the OT, after the sacrifice was made, eating the flesh of the animal was seen as sharing in communion with the Lord. They actually saw this as sharing a meal with the Lord. Now, in the Eucharist, we have the ultimate fulfillment of this. Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it (Mat 5:17). So we consume the Flesh, and even the Blood (the life force) and in so doing enter into a mystical, intimate, and singularly profound communion with the Lord.
Just as a side note, that is why God can see us as perfect and Holy, worthy of Heaven. Anyway, that was just a quick explanation from my head. I just read the verses and looked at the context around the verses. Please ask me any questions about this as I know it is not as clear as it could be. Thanks for reading.
Hopefully that adequately addresses all the points you raised. I will respond to your next post with a subsequent post of my own.

Pax Christi,

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Hi Adam, covenant is a fine word and it is fine if we use that word.

Infinite, You implied that the covenant or contract had to do with the actual act of remembering, but it doesn't. I think Adam made that clear in so many words.

The testament or covenant spoken of was that which Jesus was in the process of making when he said the words and completed when he shed his blood and rose again. It was the final covenant ever made between God and His elect (those whom would by faith Trust in Christ to forgive them). There is no sacrifice for Sin without the sheding of blood. Jesus was pointing out the need to remember what he was about to do because it was the most important event in history. By remembering, in communion, the "event" stays fresh in our minds. For example, some of my emotion in regards to 9/11 had faded but when I saw the coverage recently of everything that happened on 9/11, the emotion came back. It helped foscus my thoughts again on what the war on terror is all about. In the case of communion it reminds us of our debt to Christ and how we need to serve him by loving others as He commanded. Communion helps to forward the Gospel by keeping people excited about what Christ did on the cross.

Actually, Catholics agree with all this. We know full well what the Eucharist symbolizes and to what we turn our hearts and minds. Your task is not to prove that the Eucharist is symbolic (in the modern sense), it is to prove that it is not also real.
Adam, yes, they ate the flesh of the animals, but it was cooked, not raw. The more important point is that they did not drink the blood of the sacrificed animal, it was spread on the alter, not consumed. By your thinking the wine in the cup should be sprinkled on an alter, not consumed, if it really is actual blood.
The point is that they ate it. Whether it was cooked or not is tangential. As for the blood, I think I have already explained why we now drink the Blood. If you would like to read more about how the Blood of the Eucharist relates with the prohibition of drinking blood in the OT, I highly suggest this article. It will aid our discussion immensely if you will read it.

Pax Christi,

Monday, August 28, 2006

Popular Catholic Quotations

Before I had all of my articles in the Directory, I had them in what I called the Reference Section. To add a little personality to each entry I added a Catholic quotation to the beginning. Here are all the quotations that I used:
The Seven Sacraments
A sacrament is a remembrance of the past [Christ's Passion], a proof of the present [grace], and a promise of the future [eternal life].
--St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologica

The baby doesn't understand English, and the devil knows Latin.
--Ronald Knox, on refusing to conduct a baptism in English

Confession and Penance
Hearing nuns' confessions is like being stoned to death by popcorn.
--Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass
If it is daily bread, why do you take it once a year, as the Greeks in the east are accustomed to do? Take daily what is to profit you daily. So live that you may deserve to receive it daily. He who does not deserve to receive it daily does not deserve to receive it once a year.
--St. Ambrose, On the Sacraments

When we come to the service of Christ, we come to a rough profession.
--St. Robert Southwell, S.J.

The Christian Family and Holy Matrimony
The family, grounded on marriage freely contracted, monogamous and indissoluble, is and must be considered the first and essential cell of human society.
--Blessed Pope John XXIII, Pacem in Terris

Holy Orders and the Priesthood
And I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.
--Our Lord to Jeremiah, Jer 3:15

Suffering and the Anointing of the Sick
My bags are packed and I am ready to go.
--Blessed Pope John XXIII, his last dying words

Tracts by Phatmassers
The Internet causes billions of images to appear on millions of computer monitors around the planet. From this galaxy of sight and sound will the face of Christ emerge and the voice of Christ be heard?
--Pope John Paul II, Message for World Communications Day, 2002

Vatican II and Ultratraditionalism
When one reads the luminous encyclical Ecclesiam Suam of Pope Paul VI or the magnificent Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of the Fathers of the Council, one cannot but realize the greatness of the Second Vatican Council . . . Indeed, it would be difficult to conceive a greater contrast than that existing between the official documents of Vatican II and the superficial, insipid pronouncements of various theologian and laymen that have been breaking out everywhere like some infectious disease.
--Dietrich von Hildebrand, Trojan Horse in the City of God

Testimony of the Early Church Fathers
Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes--our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking about.
--G. K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Morality and Ethics
Christianity, considered as a moral system, is made up of two elements, beauty and severity; whenever either is indulged to the loss or disparagement of the other, evil ensues.
--John Henry Cardinal Newman, Sermons on Subjects of the Day

Sin and the Christian Lifestyle
The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting. It has been found difficult and left untried.
--G. K. Chesterton, What's Wrong with the World

Sexual Issues
Give me chastity and continence, but not yet!
--St. Augustine, Confessions

Life Issues
Human life must be respected and protected absolutely from the moment of conception. From the first moment of his or her existence, a human being must be recognized as having the rights of a person - among which is the inviolable right of every innocent human being to life.
--Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 2270

Prayer, Devotion, and Spirituality
No soul can be lost by following the simple and well-beaten path of ordinary devotion and prayer.
--R. H. Benson, The Light Invisible

History of the Church
The first law of history is not to dare to utter falsehood; the second, not to fear to speak the truth.
--Pope Leo XIII, On the Opening of the Vatican Archives

Theology of the Body
It is an illusion to think we can build a true culture of human life if we do not . . . accept and experience sexuality and love and the whole of life according to their true meaning and their close inter-connection.
--Pope John Paul II, The Gospel of Life

Practical Apologetics
The reasoned arguments for the faith are not sufficiently strong to coerce the unwilling into faith, but they are stronger than any argument that can be brought against Christianity, and are quite sufficiently strong to reinforce and to strengthen the will to believe.
--Arnold Lunn, Now I See

There are not over a hundred people in the United States who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church—which is, of course, quite a different thing.
--Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, Preface, Radio Replies

Non-Christian Religions
Even before he was of our fold, he was ours. His character made him one of us. For, as many of our own are not with us, whose life alienates them from the common body, so, many of those without are on our side, whose character anticipates their faith, and need only the name of that which indeed they possess.
--St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oration 18, Article 6

Non-Catholic Christian Denominations
To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.
--John Henry Cardinal Newman, Conscience, Consensus, and the Development of Doctrine

Last Things
Life is given us that we may learn to die well, and we never think of it! To die well we must live well.
--St. John Mary Vianney, On Death

Salvation, Justification, and Predestination
For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God....
--St. Paul to the Ephesians, Eph 2:8

Faith and Science
Believe first of all that God is one, that he created all things and set them in order and brought out of nonexistence into existence everything that is, and that he contains all things while he himself is uncontained.
--Hermas, The Shepherd

Communion of Saints
You say in your book that while we live we are able to pray for each other, but afterwards when we have died, the prayer of no person for another can be heard. . . . But if the apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought still be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs?
--St. Jerome, Against Vigilantius

Do not marvel at the novelty of the thing, if a Virgin gives birth to God.
--St. Jerome, Commentaries on Isaiah

Peter and the Papacy
It often happens that I awake at night and begin to think about a serious problem and decide I must tell the Pope about it. Then I wake up completely and remember that I am the Pope.
--Blessed Pope John XXIII

Church Authority and Apostolic Succession
I would not believe in the Gospel if the authority of the Catholic Church did not move me to do so.
--St. Augustine, Faith and Creed

Sacred Tradition
We possess nothing certainly except the past.
--Evelyn Waugh, Brideshead Revisited

Sola Scriptura and the Canon of the Bible
The Church was gathered and the faith was believed before any part of the New Testament was put into writing. And which writing was or is the true scripture neither Luther nor Tyndale knoweth but by the credence they give to the Church.
--St. Thomas More, Apology

For more Catholic quotations, go here.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

The Primary End of Marriage, Part 2: Early Church Fathers

(see Part 1 here)
Here is some testimony from the Early Church Fathers, which shows that they understood procreation to be the final end, or at least an essential element, of marriage:

Justin Martyr
But whether we [Christians] marry, it is only that we may bring up children; or whether we decline marriage, we live continently (1st Apology 29 [A.D. 151]).

Therefore, having the hope of eternal life, we despise the things of this life, even to the pleasures of the soul, each of us reckoning his wife whom he has married according to the laws laid down by us, and that only for the purpose of having children" (Plea for the Christians 33 [A.D. 177]).

Clement of Alexandria
Since pleasure and desire seem to fall under marriage, it must also be treated of. Marriage is the first conjunction of man and woman for the procreation of legitimate children. . . . Neither ought everyone take a wife, nor every woman take [a husband], nor always, nor in every way, nor inconsiderately. But [she is to take] he who is in certain circumstances, and such a one as and at such time as is requisite, and for the sake of children, and one who is in every respect similar [to her], and who does not by force or compulsion love the husband who loves her. . . . Now marriage is [also] a help in the case of those advanced in years, by furnishing a spouse to take care of one, and by rearing children of her to nourish one's old age" (Stromata 2:23 [A.D. 206]).

When the apostle [Paul] says it is good not to touch a woman [1 Cor. 7:1], he speaks not to those who chastely use marriage for procreation alone, but to those who were desiring to go beyond procreation, lest the adversary raise a strong blast and arouse desire for foreign pleasures [ie. adultery] (ibid. 3:15:96).

We [Christians] do not indeed forbid the union of man and woman, blessed by God as the generator of the human race, and devised fro the replenishment of the earth and the furnishing of the world, and therefore permitted, yet singly [monogamously] (To My Wife 2 [A.D. 207]).

Minucius Felix
By choice we [Christians] are bound by the bond of a single marriage with the desire of procreating (Octaius 31:5 [A.D. 226]).

But in the New Covenant also there are some legal injunctions [given in concession to human weakness], for example, because of our hardness of heart, it has been written on account of our weakness, "But because of fornications, let each man have his own wife and let each woman have her own husband" [1 Cor. 7:2] (Commentary on Matthew 14:23 [A.D. 248]).

Whoever cannot control his affections, let him keep them within the limits of a lawful bed (Divine Institutes 6:23:3 [A.D. 307]).

God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital ['generating'] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring (ibid. 6:23:18).

Cyril of Jerusalem
Let those . . . be of good cheer who are married and use their marriage properly; who enter marriage lawfully and not out of wanton and unbounded license; who recognize periods of continence so that they may give themselves to prayer; who in the assemblies bring clean bodies as well as clean garments into church; who have embarked upon the matrimonial estate for the procreation of children, and not for the sake of indulgence (Catechetical Lectures 4:25 [A.D. 350]).

And those who are once married-let them not hold in contempt those who have accommodated themselves to a second marriage. Continence is a good and wonderful thing; but still, it is permissible to enter upon a second marriage, lest the weak might fall into fornication (ibid. 4:26 [A.D. 350]).

John Chrysostom
There are two reasons why marriage was instituted, that we may live chastely and that we may become parents (On Those Words of the Apostle "On Account of Fornication" [A.D. 392]).

There is no great reason to have money while there is great reason to have wives to preserve chastity; hence no one blames a man who has lawful intercourse with his wife into old age, but all blame him who accumulates money (Homilies on Titus 5 [A.D. 395]).

[A wife is] espoused to her husband to be his partner in life, and for the procreation of children, not for the purposes of indecency and laughter; that she might keep the house, and instruct him also to be serious, not that she might supply to him the fuel of fornication [Homilies on 1 Thessalonians 5 [A.D. 400]).

Among all nations and all men, therefore, the advantage of marriage is for the sake of begetting offspring and in the fidelity of chastity. In the case of the people of God, however, there is also the holiness of the sacrament, on which account a woman is not permitted, even when she leaves with a repudiation, to marry another while her husband yet lives, not even for the sake of bearing children. Although this is the only reason why marriage takes place, even if this for which marriage takes place does not follow, the marriage bond is loosed only by the death of a spouse (On the Good of Marriage 24:32 [A.D. 401]).

In marriage, however, let the blessings of marriage be loved: offspring, fidelity, and the sacramental bond. Offspring, not so much that it may be born, but because it can be reborn [as a Christian]; for it is born to punishment unless it be reborn to life. Fidelity, but not such as even the unbelievers have among themselves, ardent as they are for the flesh. . . . The sacramental bond, which they lose neither through separation nor through adultery-this the spouses should guard chastely and harmoniously (Marriage and Concupiscence 1:17:19[A.D. 419]).

The procreation of children is the first and natural and lawful reason for marriage (On Adulterous Marriages 2:12:12 [A.D. 419]).

Here is what Karl Keating has to say about the testimony provided here:
  • Marriages sometimes break up because people have an unclear idea of what marriage is, why it exists, and why it requires such commitment. Many marry based on feelings, with little thought to the nature of the institution. The procreative purpose of marriage, which by natural law is its primary end, is especially neglected. Some married couples plan from the outset never to have children, denying an essential property of marriage (openness to fertility) that is required for it to be validly contracted.

    Catholic theology has always recognized that, according to natural law and the Bible, marriage is not only for the companionship and mutual love of the spouses but also for the procreation of children.

    Thomas Aquinas stated, "It is clear that offspring is the most essential thing in marriage, secondly fidelity, and thirdly [the] sacrament; even as to man it is more essential to be in nature than to be in grace, although it is more excellent to be in grace" (Summa Theologiae IIIb:49:3).

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "By its very nature the institution of marriage and married love is ordered to the procreation and education of the offspring, and it is in them that it finds its crowning glory" (CCC 1652). "Married couples should regard it as their proper mission to transmit human life and to educate their children" (CCC 2367).

    The following passages show the Fathers clearly understood this natural law purpose of marriage, though they also recognized that other benefits (such as companionship, mutual love, physical pleasure, and the release of sexual tension) also follow from it. (source)
Pax Christi,

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Primary End of Marriage, Part 1: Church Documents

Here is a list of Church documents and Early Church Fathers I compiled that shows procreation to be the primary end of marriage. This list is probably not entirely exhaustive, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. I haven't seen a compilation like this on the internet, so this will be a helpful post to prove that the procreative principle of the marriage act should never be neglected for the sake of the unitive principle or to regulate the sexual urge.

Rerum Novarum (On Capital and Labor) : May 15, 1891
Pope Leo XIII
  • 12. The rights here spoken of, belonging to each individual man, are seen in much stronger light when considered in relation to man's social and domestic obligations. In choosing a state of life, it is indisputable that all are at full liberty to follow the counsel of Jesus Christ as to observing virginity, or to bind themselves by the marriage tie. No human law can abolish the natural and original right of marriage, nor in any way limit the chief and principal purpose of marriage ordained by God's authority from the beginning: "Increase and multiply."[3] Hence we have the family, the "society" of a man's house—a society very small, one must admit, but none the less a true society, and one older than any State. Consequently, it has rights and duties peculiar to itself which are quite independent of the State.

    3. Gen. 1:28.

Arcanum (On Christian Marriage) : February 10, 1893
Pope Leo XIII
  • 10. Furthermore, the Christian perfection and completeness of marriage are not comprised in those points only which have been mentioned. For, first, there has been vouchsafed to the marriage union a higher and nobler purpose than was ever previously given to it. By the command of Christ, it not only looks to the propagation of the human race, but to the bringing forth of children for the Church, "fellow citizens with the saints, and the domestics of God";[16] so that "a people might be born and brought up for the worship and religion of the true God and our Savior Jesus Christ."[17]

    16. Eph. 2:19.
    17. "Catech. Rom.," ch. 8.

Casti Connubii (On Christian Marriage) : December 31, 1930
Pope Pius XI
  • 11. Thus amongst the blessings of marriage, the child holds the first place. And indeed the Creator of the human race Himself, Who in His goodness wishes to use men as His helpers in the propagation of life, taught this when, instituting marriage in Paradise, He said to our first parents, and through them to all future spouses: "Increase and multiply, and fill the earth."[12] As St. Augustine admirably deduces from the words of the holy Apostle Saint Paul to Timothy[13] when he says: "The Apostle himself is therefore a witness that marriage is for the sake of generation: 'I wish,' he says, 'young girls to marry.' And, as if someone said to him, 'Why?,' he immediately adds: 'To bear children, to be mothers of families'."[14]

    12. How great a boon of God this is, and how great a blessing of matrimony is clear from a consideration of man's dignity and of his sublime end. For man surpasses all other visible creatures by the superiority of his rational nature alone. Besides, God wishes men to be born not only that they should live and fill the earth, but much more that they may be worshippers of God, that they may know Him and love Him and finally enjoy Him for ever in heaven; and this end, since man is raised by God in a marvelous way to the supernatural order, surpasses all that eye hath seen, and ear heard, and all that hath entered into the heart of man.[15] From which it is easily seen how great a gift of divine goodness and how remarkable a fruit of marriage are children born by the omnipotent power of God through the cooperation of those bound in wedlock.

    12. Gen., 1, 28.
    13. I Tim., V, 14.
    14. St. August., De bono coniug., cap. 24 n. 32.
    15. I Cor., II 9

Allocution to Midwives : October 29, 1951
Pope Pius XII
  • The primary end of marriage

    Now, the truth is that matrimony, as an institution of nature, in virtue of the Creator's will, has not as a primary and intimate end the personal perfection of the married couple but the procreation and upbringing of a new life. The other ends, iasmuch as they are intended by nature, are not equally primary, much less superior to the primary end, but are essentially subordinated to it. This is true of every marriage, even if no offspring result, just as of every eye it can be said that it is destined and formed to see, even if, in abnormal cases arising from special internal or external conditions, it will never be possible to achieve visual perception.
note: all the paragraphs in this section of the pope's address affirm procreation as the primary end of marriage.

Gaudium et Spes (The Church in the Modern World) : December 7, 1965
Second Vatican Council
  • 48. The intimate partnership of married life and love has been established by the Creator and qualified by His laws, and is rooted in the jugal covenant of irrevocable personal consent. Hence by that human act whereby spouses mutually bestow and accept each other a relationship arises which by divine will and in the eyes of society too is a lasting one. For the good of the spouses and their off-springs as well as of society, the existence of the sacred bond no longer depends on human decisions alone. For, God Himself is the author of matrimony, endowed as it is with various benefits and purposes.[1] All of these have a very decisive bearing on the continuation of the human race, on the personal development and eternal destiny of the individual members of a family, and on the dignity, stability, peace and prosperity of the family itself and of human society as a whole. By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown. Thus a man and a woman, who by their compact of conjugal love "are no longer two, but one flesh" (Matt. 19:ff), render mutual help and service to each other through an intimate union of their persons and of their actions. Through this union they experience the meaning of their oneness and attain to it with growing perfection day by day. As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them.[2] [. . .]

    50. Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents. The God Himself Who said, "it is not good for man to be alone" (Gen. 2:18) and "Who made man from the beginning male and female" (Matt. 19:4), wishing to share with man a certain special participation in His own creative work, blessed male and female, saying: "Increase and multiply" (Gen. 1:28). Hence, while not making the other purposes of matrimony of less account, the true practice of conjugal love, and the whole meaning of the family life which results from it, have this aim: that the couple be ready with stout hearts to cooperate with the love of the Creator and the Savior. Who through them will enlarge and enrich His own family day by day.

    Parents should regard as their proper mission the task of transmitting human life and educating those to whom it has been transmitted. [. . .]

    1. Cf. John XXIII, encyclical letter, Mater et Magistra, May 15, 1961: AAS 53 (1961), pp. 401-464, and encyclical letter Pacem in Terris, April 11, 1963: AAS 55 (1963), pp. 257-304; Paul VI encyclical letter Ecclesiam Suam, Aug. 6, 1964: AAS 54 (1864) pp. 609-659.
    2. Cf. Luke 17:33.

Humanae Vitae (On the Regulation of Birth) : July 25, 1968
Pope Paul VI
  • 9. [. . .] And finally this love is fecund for it is not exhausted by the communion between husband and wife, but is destined to continue, raising up new lives. "Marriage and conjugal love are by their nature ordained toward the begetting and educating of children. Children are really the supreme gift of marriage and contribute very substantially to the welfare of their parents."[8]

    12. That teaching, often set forth by the magisterium, is founded upon the inseparable connection, willed by God and unable to be broken by man on his own initiative, between the two meanings of the conjugal act: the unitive meaning and the procreative meaning. Indeed, by its intimate structure, the conjugal act, while most closely uniting husband and wife, capacitates them for the generation of new lives, according to laws inscribed in the very being of man and of woman. By safeguarding both these essential aspects, the unitive and the procreative, the conjugal act preserves in its fullness the sense of true mutual love and its ordination towards man's most high calling to parenthood. We believe that the men of our day are particularly capable of seeing the deeply reasonable and human character of this fundamental principle.

    8. Cf. II Vat. Council, Pastoral const. Gaudium et Spes, No. 50.

Jennaya Arias' article On the Primary Purpose of Marriage is helpful. In it she writes:
  • "Traditionally speaking, the primary purpose of marriage is the generation and nurturing of offspring; the second purpose is the mutual help of spouses, and the third is the remedy for concupiscence."1
This first footnote is helpful as well. It reads as follows:
  • 1 Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Rockford, IL: Tan Books, 1974), p. 462. Here Ott references the 1944 decision of the Holy Office, which clearly reaffirmed that the primary purpose of marriage is the procreation and upbringing of children. Even though many (if not all) of the documents of the Magisterium on this topic since Vatican II have not explicitily organized the ends of marriage in terms of primary and secondary, nonetheless, none of these documents teach anything which cannot be interpreted in terms of the 1944 decision of the Holy Office. That in the Pope's mind, at least, no change has been made on this matter of Church teaching, can be seen in the Holy Father's work, Love and Responsibility, trans. H. T. Willetts (San Francisco: Ignatius, 1981), pp. 66-69. Therein, the Holy Father lays out, in no equivocal terms, the traditional teaching of the Church on this matter both as unchanged and as unchangeable. Although this work is non-magisterial in character, it is nonetheless quite significant insofar as it expresses the mind of the Holy Father. In the same section of the work, the Pope also makes the important point that the second end of marriage, namely, "mutual help," should not be translated as "mutual love," as it sometimes has been. This would be a mistake since it would seem to limit love between spouses to the second end of marriage, as if it were somehow separable from the first and third ends. Rather, the Holy Father teaches that love must be the indispensable moral environment in which the three ends of marriage are pursued. This present essay should be read as in complete agreement with what the Holy Father says on these matters.

Here are the sections from Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma and from Wojtyla's Love and Responsibility that are referenced in the footnote:
  • Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma
    Section 2. Purpose and Properties of Marriage
    1. Purpose
    The primary purpose of Marriage is the generation and bringing-up of offspring. The secondary purpose is mutual help and the morally regulated satisfaction of the sex urge. (Sent. certa.) CIC 1013, Par 1.
    In their efforts to evaluate marriage as something more than a personal contract, many modern theologians, as against the traditional teaching of the purpose of marriage, whose principal exponent is St. Thomas, have submitted that the primary prupose of marriage is the mutual completion and personal perfection of the marriage partners, or their mutual love and unity. The Holy Office, in the year 1944, in answer to an enquiry, re-asserted the traditional teaching, according to which the primary purpose of marriage is the generation and bringing up of children, and according to which the secondary pruposes of marriage are essentially subordinate to the primary one. Denzinger 2295.

  • Love and Responsibility
    As we come to the end of this part of the discussion, which was intended to give a correct interpretation of the sexual urge, in part by eliminating incorrect interpretation, some conclusions connected with the traditional teaching on the ends of marriage ask to be drawn. The Church, as has been mentioned previously, teaches, and has always taught, that the primary end of marriage is procreatio, but that it has a secondary end, defined in Latin terminology as mutuum adiutorium. Apart from these, a tertiary aim is mentioned -- remedium concupiscentiae. Marriage, objectively considered, must provide first of all the means of continuing existence, secondly a conjugal life for man and woman, and thirdly a legitimate orientation for desire. The ends of marriage in the order mentioned are incompatible with any subjectivist interpretation of the sexual urge, and therefore demand from man, as a person, objectivity in his thinking on sexual matters, and above all in his behavior. This objectivity is the foundation of conjugal morality.

Now, some claim that Vatican II lifted up the other ends of marriage so that they are on the same playing field as the procreative end. "Era Might" from Phatmass explains why this in fact has not been done:
  • Primary End of Marriage: Parts One and Two
In my next post I will provide the testimony from the Early Church Fathers.

Pax Christi,

PS: I realize that I do not have the proper citation for the sections from Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma and Love and Responsibility that I have provided here. I will find these citations as soon as possible.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Sacrament of Confession and Working with the Lord

I wrote the following at Phatmass in response to the claim that it is "absurd" that Jesus would forgive our sins through a priest.
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It's absurd for the Lord to grant man the privilege of working with Him to achieve His ends? Sure, He could do all things on His own, but He wills that we cooperate with Him, so as to elevate man above all creatures and grant him the dignity that comes with doing the work of the Lord. We see this throughout Scripture:

Mark 16:20 And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it. Amen.

Rom 8:28 We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him, who are called according to his purpose.

1 Cor 3:9 For we are God's fellow workers; you are God's field, God's building.

2 Cor 6:1 Working together with him, then, we entreat you not to accept the grace of God in vain.

We do the Lord's work in many ways. When husband and wife procreate they participate in the Lord's work of Creation. When we lead people to Christ, we participate in the Lord's work of Salvation. Paul in particular, as well as James and Jude, speak rather explicitly about this:

Rom 11:13-14 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry 14 in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

1 Cor 7:16 Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

1 Cor 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

1 Tim 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Jas 5:20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Jude 1:22-23 And convince some, who doubt; 23 save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.

Seeing all this, there is simply nothing absurd about the Lord choosing to give man a part in His work of Forgiveness. The precedent of human involvement in the Lord's work has surely been established, and with this we have the very words of Jesus in which he grants the Church the power to forgive sins (John 20:21-23).

I hope that helps. For more information on the sacrament of Confession, go here.

Pax Christi,

Friday, August 18, 2006

Intercession and Mediation

Over at Phatmass, someone asked a two-part question about how we are to reconcile 1 Tim 2:5 ("there is one mediator between God and men") and the intercession of the saints. His words will be in silver.
- - -
Can someone explain what Jesus meant when He said, "For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus?" This is always the verse that Protestants use when arguing against the practice of praying to Mary and the saints. I understand why we can pray to the saints in heaven, I'm just having trouble explaining what this particular verse means and when considering this verse, we can call Mary the Mediatrix of all graces.
The very fact that they use this argument shows that they misunderstand what mediation is. Ask yourself, "What is the 'mediation' of Christ? In what sense is Jesus the 'mediator' between God and man?" A mediator is one who speaks or acts on behalf of another, or one who brings estranged parties to agreement. That is essentially what Jesus does. He reconciled man to the Lord "once for all" because we could not, and he continues to mediate by communicating the Lord's graces to man. No Christian (as far as I know) would disagree with this.

Now, if this is indeed how we understand the mediatorship of Jesus, why do Protestants use this verse to refute praying to the saints? The saints do not perform the function of Christ. They are not mediators. They do not atone for our sin.

When we pray to the saints, we are soliciting their prayers. We hope to capitalize on their wisdom and virtue, which creates perfect prayers to the Lord. "The prayer of the righteous availeth much" (Jas 5:16, KJV). Likewise, "The eyes of the Lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open to their prayer" (1 Pet 3:12). Even when we say things like "St. Joseph, help me to be a good father" or "St. Michael, the Archangel, defend us in battle" we know that they answer our prayers not by their own power, but either by the power that the Lord gives them, or by the Lord himself answering the prayers of the saints. Essentially, the saints are more like intercessors than mediators.

What is an intercessor? a few definitions:

Intercession: A form of the prayer of petition made to God on behalf of others, whether living or departed. --Catholic Dictionary

INTERCESSION. Entreaty in favor of another person; hence mediation. In biblical language, "there is only one mediator between God and mankind, himself a man, Christ Jesus, who sacrificed himself as a ransom for them all" (I Timothy 2:5-6). The Blessed Virgin, Mediatrix of all graces, the angels, saints in heaven, souls in purgatory, and the faithful on earth intercede for mankind by their merits and prayers. --Pocket Catholic Dictionary

intercession: The going between two parties in order to plead before one on behalf of the other. In ecclesiastical usage the office of Mediator belongs primarily to Jesus Christ (Timothy 1; Hebrews 7). The Blessed Mother, Mediatrix of all Graces, the angels, the blessed in Heaven, the souls in Purgatory and the faithful on earth can intercede for us sinners by their prayers and merits. --1910 New Catholic Dictionary

See the difference? It is an important one. Also, read New Advent's article on Intercession. It does an excellent job of explaining the difference between "mediation" and "intercession"

I had one Catholic tell me that Mary and the saints mediate between us and Jesus and that Jesus mediates between us and God. Is that true?
This is true, but I don't find it helpful in apologetics. They will simply respond by saying that since the curtain of the temple has been torn down by Jesus' death on the cross, we have direct access to the Lord. Of course, there is a response to that argument too, but don't get into it unless you have to.

The saints in heaven and on earth participate in what is called "subordinate mediation." Thankfully, this is nowhere nearly as heretical as it sounds. Ask yourself this: What is going on in these verses?

Rom 11:13-14
13 Now I am speaking to you Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle to the Gentiles, I magnify my ministry
14 in order to make my fellow Jews jealous, and thus save some of them.

1 Cor 7:16 Wife, how do you know whether you will save your husband? Husband, how do you know whether you will save your wife?

1 Cor 9:22 To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some.

1 Tim 4:16 Take heed to yourself and to your teaching; hold to that, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.

Jas 5:20 let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

Jude 1:22-23
22 And convince some, who doubt;
23 save some, by snatching them out of the fire; on some have mercy with fear, hating even the garment spotted by the flesh.what we have here are men saving other men.

Your opponent must reconcile these verses with his constant cry that "Jesus is our only Savior! He is the one mediator between God and man!" We clearly see here that men can save, so this can only mean that there must be some legitimate way in which the saints participate in our salvation without usurping the role of Christ. This legitimate way is "subordinate mediation."

By "subordinate" we mean that it is secondary and instrumental, vs. the work of Christ, which is primary and efficient. In other words, it is ultimately Christ who saves all, but he also chooses to use men as instruments to bring about the salvation of others. So, for instance, when you compel someone to be baptized, Jesus saves that man, but, in a sense, you have saved him too.

It's all about the Lord working for good with those who love him (Rom 8:28).

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Thursday, August 17, 2006

The Fall of the Angels in Scripture

Over at the Holy Culture Radio forum, someone asked me for the Scriptural support for the Fall of the Angels. Here was my answer:
- - -
To refresh our memory, here was my statement:
Before the Earth was created, a war was waged in heaven. The angels too had a choice to accept or reject the Lord. It was a one-time choice: yes or no, and their answer was ratified for all time. The devil and his cohorts chose no, so they were cast out of heaven by the faithful angels, the Archangel Michael at the helm
In Gen 3, we see that there already existed a spirit of evil who tempted man into pride. There must have been some type of fall among the angels that caused some of them (or at least one of them) to be evil. Job 4:18 says "Even in his servants he puts no trust, and his angels he charges with error". Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are traditionally seen as also referring to this fall of the angels:
Isa 14:12-15 "How you are fallen from heaven, O Day Star, son of Dawn! How you are cut down to the ground, you who laid the nations low! 13 You said in your heart, 'I will ascend to heaven; above the stars of God I will set my throne on high; I will sit on the mount of assembly in the far north; 14 I will ascend above the heights of the clouds, I will make myself like the Most High.' 15 But you are brought down to Sheol, to the depths of the Pit.

Ezek 28:12-19 "Son of man, raise a lamentation over the king of Tyre, and say to him, Thus says the Lord GOD: "You were the signet of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13 You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone was your covering, carnelian, topaz, and jasper, chrysolite, beryl, and onyx, sapphire, carbuncle, and emerald; and wrought in gold were your settings and your engravings. On the day that you were created they were prepared. 14 With an anointed guardian cherub I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God; in the midst of the stones of fire you walked. 15 You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. 16 In the abundance of your trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned; so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God, and the guardian cherub drove you out from the midst of the stones of fire. 17 Your heart was proud because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendor. I cast you to the ground; I exposed you before kings, to feast their eyes on you. 18 By the multitude of your iniquities, in the unrighteousness of your trade you profaned your sanctuaries; so I brought forth fire from the midst of you; it consumed you, and I turned you to ashes upon the earth in the sight of all who saw you. 19 All who know you among the peoples are appalled at you; you have come to a dreadful end and shall be no more for ever."
One can't help but see the fall of the angels in these passages. This same imagery is used by Jesus when he says, "I saw Satan fall like lightening from heaven" (Lk 10:18). Perhaps the most explicit reference is from 2 Pet 2:4, where it is written, "For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into hell and committed them to pits of nether gloom to be kept until the judgment...".

So, we see from these verses that there was a fall among the angels and that once they chose evil they were expelled from heaven. That their expulsion was lead by St. Michael is one of the most endearing and enduring Christian symbols. He is always seen as fighting against evil. See the following passages from Daniel and Jude:
Dan 10:13,21 The prince of the kingdom of Persia withstood me twenty-one days; but Michael, one of the chief princes, came to help me, so I left him there with the prince of the kingdom of Persia [...] 21 But I will tell you what is inscribed in the book of truth: there is none who contends by my side against these except Michael, your prince.

Dan 12:1 "At that time shall arise Michael, the great prince who has charge of your people. And there shall be a time of trouble, such as never has been since there was a nation till that time; but at that time your people shall be delivered, every one whose name shall be found written in the book."

Jude 1:9 But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, disputed about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a reviling judgment upon him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you."
His role in the fall is most clearly seen in Rev 12:
Rev 12:7-9 Now war arose in heaven, Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, 8 but they were defeated and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. 9 And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world--he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.
So, that's what I was referring to in my original statement.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Is Catholicism a Works-Based Religion?

This was my answer to the following question over at Flyfree: "Besides James 2, what else can I use to prove that Catholicism is not a works-based religion?"
- - -
Well, the most compelling evidence is that the Church has never taught, nor will it ever teach, that it is a works-based religion. If someone ever asserts the contrary, just ask then to show you one statement from any official document of the Church that declares that the works of man save us. Now, in response, your opponent will most likely quote something from the Council of Trent, perhaps Canon 24 from the 6th session:
"If any one saith, that the justice received is not preserved and also increased before God through good works; but that the said works are merely the fruits and signs of Justification obtained, but not a cause of the increase thereof; let him be anathema."
.... or from the Catechism of the Catholic Church, perhaps para. 1477:
"This treasury includes as well the prayers and good works of the Blessed Virgin Mary. They are truly immense, unfathomable, and even pristine in their value before God. In the treasury, too, are the prayers and good works of all the saints, all those who have followed in the footsteps of Christ the Lord and by his grace have made their lives holy and carried out the mission the Father entrusted to them. In this way they attained their own salvation and at the same time cooperated in saving their brothers in the unity of the Mystical Body."
.... or para. 2027:
"No one can merit the initial grace which is at the origin of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit, we can merit for ourselves and for others all the graces needed to attain eternal life, as well as necessary temporal goods."
But, know one thing: they take the Church out of context.

Most often, your opponent won't care to understand what the Church means by these statements, or how these statements fit into the larger context of Catholic doctrine. Instead, they are looking for something juicy that they can use to accuse the Church of believing things she simply does not believe in. Now, the Church does believe that works save, but they must be prompted by grace. This is the important distinction. If the works are of man, then you have a works-based religion. But, if the works are by grace, then you have a grace-based religion. The latter is what we find in the Catholic Church.

Now, to show you that the previously cited quotes from Trent and the CCC are about works by grace, I offer the following context:

CANON I: If any one saith, that man may be justified before God by his own works, whether done through the teaching of human nature, or that of the law, without the grace of God through Jesus Christ; let him be anathema.

CANON III: If any one saith, that without the prevenient inspiration of the Holy Ghost, and without his help, man can believe, hope, love, or be penitent as he ought, so as that the grace of Justification may be bestowed upon him; let him be anathema.
1993 Justification establishes cooperation between God's grace and man's freedom. On man's part it is expressed by the assent of faith to the Word of God, which invites him to conversion, and in the cooperation of charity with the prompting of the Holy Spirit who precedes and preserves his assent:

When God touches man's heart through the illumination of the Holy Spirit, man himself is not inactive while receiving that inspiration, since he could reject it; and yet, without God's grace, he cannot by his own free will move himself toward justice in God's sight.

1996 Our justification comes from the grace of God. Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life. 46

2007 With regard to God, there is no strict right to any merit on the part of man. Between God and us there is an immeasurable inequality, for we have received everything from him, our Creator.

2008 The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit.

2010 Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of grace, no one can merit the initial grace of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of grace and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the grace we need for meritorious actions.

2011 The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. Grace, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure grace.

After earth's exile, I hope to go and enjoy you in the fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for your love alone. . . . In the evening of this life, I shall appear before you with empty hands, for I do not ask you, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is blemished in your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in your own justice and to receive from your love the eternal possession of yourself. 63
Note that the italicized portions are all from the catechism. I did not add emphasis myself. This shows that the Catechism itself has taken great pains to show that works are only meritorious if they are prompted by grace. This is also evident from everything else that the Council of Trent says about grace and works.

With all this, there is simply no way of accusing the Catholic Church of being a "works-based" religion. I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Monday, August 14, 2006

Peter at the Jerusalem Council, and Other Points Related to His Authority

What follows is a post I made over at the Theology Web forum, after reviewing a thread that was attempting to discredit the authority of Peter:
- - -
I skimmed over this thread and found four basic arguments:

1. Peter did not lead the Jerusalem Council (Acts 15) thus he was not the leader of the Church.
2. In John 21:15-19 Jesus is merely giving Peter a chance to redeem himself.
3. The amount of times that Peter is mentioned doesn't prove anything once you compare it to the amount of times that Satan is mentioned.
4. Peter being the head of the apostles is a far cry from how we understand the papacy today.

I would like to address each of these 4 points.

Regarding the first point, it could just as easily be argued that Peter settled the matter and then James merely reiterated it. Let's look at Acts 15:

Acts 15:6-21 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said to them, "Brethren, you know that in the early days God made choice among you, that by my mouth the Gentiles should hear the word of the gospel and believe. 8 And God who knows the heart bore witness to them, giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us; 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, but cleansed their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear? 11 But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will." 12 And all the assembly kept silence; and they listened to Barnabas and Paul as they related what signs and wonders God had done through them among the Gentiles. 13 After they finished speaking, James replied, "Brethren, listen to me. 14 Simeon has related how God first visited the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And with this the words of the prophets agree, as it is written, 16 'After this I will return, and I will rebuild the dwelling of David, which has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up, 17 that the rest of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, 18 says the Lord, who has made these things known from of old.' 19 Therefore my judgment is that we should not trouble those of the Gentiles who turn to God, 20 but should write to them to abstain from the pollutions of idols and from unchastity and from what is strangled and from blood. 21 For from early generations Moses has had in every city those who preach him, for he is read every sabbath in the synagogues."

First, notice that after there had been much debating, Peter gave his position (vs. 7) and all responded with silence (vs. 12). There was no more bickering about it after Peter spoke. Also, look at vs. 11: "But we believe that we shall be saved through the grace of the Lord Jesus, just as they will." Who is Peter speaking on behalf of? I suggest he is speaking for the apostles and declaring the apostolic faith. Afterall, it was common for him to do such a thing (see here), and the faith of the other apostles represented at the council mirrors his message. That last point bears repeating: after Peter spoke, Barnabas, Paul, and James speak......but the content of their messages shows that they are merely reiterating and reaffirming what Peter said. This I think shows deference to him. James even starts his speech by referencing Peter, and James' arguments are based on Peter's previous words. Finally, when we compare the speeches of Peter and James, we also find that Peter's is doctrinal, while James' is pastoral. Peter tells the council what they should believe regarding the new convert's observance of Jewish laws, and James suggests how to implement this decision.

It would appear then, from this analysis, that Peter held the authoritative position at the council. But, even if we suppose that he didn't, this does not destroy our understanding of Peter or of the papacy. Afterall, with this new supposition we would actually see a custom that was often repeated throughout the conciliar history of the Church: the home bishop where the council takes place is the one who leads the council. In some of the early church councils, the pope was not even present at all. This is because it has never been deemed necessary for the pope to lead a council in order to maintain his authority over the Church, and leadership of a council by another bishop was never seen as usurpation of the role of the pope. Basically, no matter how you look at it, Catholic doctrine is preserved.

Regarding the second point, that Jesus was only providing "therapy" for Peter, lets look at the verses in question a little closer:

John 21:15-19 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs." 16 A second time he said to him, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep." 17 He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" And he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep. 18 Truly, truly, I say to you, when you were young, you girded yourself and walked where you would; but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands, and another will gird you and carry you where you do not wish to go." 19 (This he said to show by what death he was to glorify God.) And after this he said to him, "Follow me."

Note that in vs. 15, Jesus asks Peter, "do you love me more than these?" ("these" being the other apostles). He is interested in singling Peter out from among the group. This is because Jesus has a great task for Peter: to "feed" and "tend" His sheep. These are the actions of a shepherd, and He's asking Peter to play this role.

Now, when we look closer at this "feeding" and "tending" we find that there is actually much more at stake. First, the greek word for "feeding" is bovskw (or "bosko") and it denotes promoting the spiritual welfare of others (see here). Also, the greek word for "tending", poimaivnw (or "poimaino") actually has the alternate meaning of ruling a people (see here). This is seen in verses from Matthew's gospel and Revelations where the word is translated as "rule" or "govern." So, essentially, we have here Jesus setting Peter apart from the other apostles to be the shepherd, providing spiritual nourishment and rule for his fellow servants and for the whole Church. This discussion was much more than a therapy session.

Regarding the third point, it was said that mentioning the number of times Peter's name appears in the New Testament doesn't prove anything because it actually implies that Satan is more important, or has more authority, since he is even more prevalent. This, I think is apples and oranges. We are mentioning the number of times Peter appears as it relates to the appearances of the other apostles, not as it relates to the appearance of every other person in the bible. The purpose of the argument is to determine who from among the apostles holds the place of pre-eminence. When one gives an historical account of something, he usually places emphasis on the most important figures, and this is reflected in the number of times Peter is mentioned in comparison to the other apostles.

But, if the numbers don't impress you, notice also that in the lists of the apostles, Peter is always named first (Mark 3:14-19; Mat 10:2-4; Luke 6:13-16; Acts 1:13). Often times his is the only name given (Mark 1:36; 16:7; Luke 9:32). What is particularly interesting is this verse from Matthew's gospel [emphasis mine]:

Mat 10:2 The names of the twelve apostles are these: first, Simon, who is called Peter, and Andrew his brother; James the son of Zeb'edee, and John his brother

There may be more to this word "first" than meets the eye. Charles F. B. Allnat has this to say:
"Wherever the Apostles are enumerated in the Gospels, St. Peter is invariably named first. St. Matthew expressly calls him 'the first' (10:2), the same Greek word (protos) being rendered 'chief' in 20:27 and other passages. Mr. Allies remarks: 'Now, that second and third do not follow, shows that "first" is not a numeral here, but designates rank and pre-eminence. Thus in heathen authors this word "first" by itself indicates the mor excellent in its kind: thus in the Septuagint occur, "first friend of the king," "first of the singers," "the first priest," i.e., the chief priest (Nehem 12:46; 2 Chron 26:20). So our Lord: "Whichever among you will be first" (Mat 20:27); "Bring forth the first robe" (Luke 15:22); and St. Paul: "Sinners, of whom I am the first," i.e., chief (1 Tim 1:15). Thus "the first of the island" (Acts 28:7) means the chief magistrate; and "first" generally, in Latin phraseology, the superior or prince.' "
The prominence of Peter in the bible is definitely noteworthy, and I think the introduction of the prominence of Satan in comparison to the remaining apotles is irrelevant.

Finally, regarding the fourth point, let me be the first to admit that you will not see in Scripture the papacy as it is today. Catholic apologists only assert that the root of the pope's primacy and authority are seen in Scripture. The papacy has developed over time as the Church has come to understand more fully what it means for the pope to be the earthly steward of God's house. This is perfectly legitimate as long as you understand the distinction between development and change. So, to declare that the papacy is unbiblical because a mirror image is not seen in Scripture is to place an unrealistic and ahistorical expectation upon the Church. If you wish to discuss development of doctrine, please start a new thread.
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For more information on the authority of Peter, see this entry from the Catholic Defense Directory.

Pax Christi,

Sunday, August 13, 2006

The Aeropagus of Our Time

Picture yourself in Athens, circa 50 A.D. St. Paul, in the midst of his second great missionary journey, stands in the center of the Areopagus, defending the Christian faith to the people of Athens and providing for us one of the first examples of the Christian apologetic method (Acts 17:19-31).

Return to the present. A young adult, amidst potato chip bags and empty Coke cans, sits in his easy chair before a much more global medium, defending the Christian faith to people all over the world, continuing in the example that Paul gave us so long ago.

What is this global medium that allows us to spread the Gospel so profusely?

The Internet "is the Areopagus of our time, the instrument to spread the Christian message," Archbishop John Foley tells us in "Internet and the Catholic Church in Europe." The Internet is shaping the way young adults learn, defend and live their faith.

It is no surprise that young adults flock to the Internet. They have grown with it. As such, it is not a novel invention but instead something that has always been a part of their lives. They embrace it because it allows them to transcend the boundaries that confine them and to connect with other young adults of like mind and interest.

What is novel is the overwhelming number of young adults who use the Internet to fulfill a purpose that before was only reserved to priests, teachers, authors and missionaries: learning, explaining and defending the Catholic faith.

Defending what we believe out in "the real world" can be intimidating for teenagers and young adults. Surrounded by a group of friends at the lunch table or confronted with contradictory views by their teachers, they are pressured to make a defense based solely on their acquired knowledge—what they were able to retain from CCD classes and Sunday sermons. Often times all eyes are on them, judging them harshly for what they have to say. This is disconcerting for those who fear talking in front of crowds or being the center of attention.

The Internet relieves these stressors. Of course, the need will always exist for formally educated individuals in the areas of theology, apologetics and catechesis, as well as for individuals who can make a public defense of their faith. However, with the Internet, your average high school or college student can give a defense to thousands of people with relative anonymity. This is important for novice apologists.

They are also no longer confined to what they can remember. Hundreds of faithful Catholic Web sites provide extensive libraries of information and an outlet with which to share what they learn. The answer to any question or rebuttal is just a click away.

Which Web sites are providing this amazing opportunity? Go to the Life Teen Web site ( and you can ask the "Bible Geek" a question. Visit Catholic Answers ( and you can "Ask an Apologist." Phatmass ( — “phat” stands for Preaching Holy Apostolic Truth—has a very popular reference section that contains thousands of articles on Catholic doctrine arranged by topic.

More importantly, all three Web sites have bustling online forums where Christians can come together to discuss their faith.

As a result of these and similar sites, young adults are not only learning more about their faith and how to present it to others, they are increasing in love and devotion to the Church. Their faith is being presented to them in a way that they naturally accept, and through this medium they are building the courage necessary to be a soldier for Christ—not only on the Internet, but in their daily lives.

The Church is taking notice. Starting in the early 90¹s Pope John Paul II and the U.S. bishops devoted a number of encyclicals and speeches to the role of mass media and the Internet in continuing the mission of the church to "make disciples of all nations" (Mt. 28:19).

First, they addressed the need to guide our use of these mediums with the ethics and orthodoxy of the Church. With the abundance of good information, there is also much misinformation, and there is content on the Internet that can be harmful to our youth.

They also stressed the importance of transitioning individuals from the virtual world to the visible Church. The Internet can certainly never replace the ways in which our faith is tangibly experienced, such as through the Mass, Eucharistic adoration, and personal interaction with other Christians. However, it can inspire us to seek out these more profound experiences, and to make the Church an integral part of our lives.

The Internet, when approached in this way, ignites a fervor within young people that compels them to live and defend their faith. When they do this, they are all like Paul, and they are faithful to his command to "preach the word, be urgent in season and out of season, convince, rebuke and exhort, be unfailing in patience and in teaching" (2 Tim 4:2).

This article was also published in the July issue of The Record.
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