Monday, May 26, 2008

Poll-Release Monday #52

Here is this week's new poll question:

True or False?: The sacrament of Extreme Unction, or Anointing of the Sick, may be given more than once during the same illness.
I'm finished with the "Prayer" section of the USCCB's quiz on the Catechism, and so now it's time to get into the Sacraments. Anointing of the Sick is probably the sacrament that people know the least about, so it will be interesting to see what the results are for this poll. To vote, see the poll in my sidebar.

For information on the Anointing of the Sick, see the Catholic Defense Directory: Anointing of the Sick.

That said, here are the results from last week's poll:
  • True or False?: Prayer is a battle against ourselves.
    • True: 10 (59%)
    • False: 7 (41%)
The correct answer is:
  • True. cf. CCC, para. 2725: Prayer is both a gift of grace and a determined response on our part. It always presupposes effort. The great figures of prayer of the Old Covenant before Christ, as well as the Mother of God, the saints, and he himself, all teach us this: prayer is a battle. Against whom? Against ourselves and against the wiles of the tempter who does all he can to turn man away from prayer, away from union with God. We pray as we live, because we live as we pray. If we do not want to act habitually according to the Spirit of Christ, neither can we pray habitually in his name. The "spiritual battle" of the Christian's new life is inseparable from the battle of prayer.
I can see why some people voted "false" for this one. After all, prayer is a lot more than simply a battle against ourselves. However, it is a battle against ourselves too, so the question was not meant to exclude the other things that prayer rightly is.

I often have to battle myself when I pray. I have to fight against my own insecurities about my ability to pray, the thoughts and songs (yes, songs!) in my mind that disctract me from prayer, my general anxiety level (which is usually high), and how I'm feeling physically (my back hurts, my neck is tense, I'm tired, etc.). It's a tough thing simply trying to overcome myself, let alone the devil and whatever tricks he may try to play to keep me from communion with God.

But, I can't give up and you can't either. "Rejoice in your hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer" (Rom 12:12). The reward for patient endurance is the crown of life (cf. Jas 1:12).

Pax Christi,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Boom De Yadah!!

Seen the new commercial from the Discovery Channel? It's "wicked" cool (in the words of my fiancée):

It has all of my favorite shows in it! What a great commercial :D The addition of Stephen Hawking is a nice touch too. I know, I watch too much tv....

Pax Christi,

[UPDATE: Every time I find this video on YouTube it gets taken down, so I quit trying. You can watch the commerical on the Discovery Channel website]

Exploring Catholicism: Part 2

[also see Part 1]
I have read some catholic apologetics on this stuff and they always show new scriptures, but I would like to understand how Romans 10 I think it is where it says “ If you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” Or the verse John wrote how he “wrote all these things that you might know you have eternal life.” Or other verses like it fit into the Catholic idea of salvation. Also any others you can think of, those were the ones off the top of my head.
First, we have to keep in mind that we are discussing "Once Saved, Always Saved," not sola fide ("faith alone" saves). Now, you cited Rom 10:9 and 1 Jn 5:13. "Fluffy" added Rom 8:1 and Eph 2:8-9 in her comment on Part 1. Time does not permit for me to respond to every passage that Protestants use to support OSAS, but I can respond to these. I have links to articles that should adequately address the rest.

First, chapter 8 of Paul's letter to the Romans:

Rom 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

This passage isn't about OSAS, it's about perseverence. As long as you remain in Christ Jesus, there is no condemnation for you. But, when you are no longer in Jesus, then there IS condemnation for you, and my point is that a person can go from being "in Jesus" to being "out of Jesus." Several passages bear this out.

So, for example, Paul writes to the Romans, "Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off" (Rom 11:22). Did you catch that? We, as branches connected to the vine, can be cut off. You can be in a living relationship with Jesus and then NOT in one if you do not continue in his kindness.

Moving on, Paul writes to the Galatians, "For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery [...] You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace" (Gal 5:1,4). OSAS says you cannot fall from your freedom in Christ, you cannot fall from grace. But if that were true, why would Paul warn them not to submit again to a yoke of slavery? Why would he say that some of them "are severed from Christ" and "have fallen away"?

To the Hebrews, Paul gives this warning: "Take care, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God" (Heb 3:12). And again: "'but my righteous one shall live by faith, and if he shrinks back, my soul has no pleasure in him.' But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who have faith and keep their souls" (Heb 10:38-39). It is obvious from this that it is in fact possible for an honest-to-goodness Christian to "fall away from the living God," to "shrink back and be destroyed."

Peter, James, and John echo these very same sentiments:

2 Pet 1:10 Therefore, brethren, be the more zealous to confirm your call and election, for if you do this you will never fall

Jas 5:19-20 My brethren, if any one among you wanders from the truth and some one brings him back, 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.

Rev 2:4-5 But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. 5 Remember then from what you have fallen, repent and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.

Many other verses can be cited as well, but you get the idea. The point is that Rom 8:1 says there is no condemnation for those who remain in Christ, and this becomes a call for perseverence in light of other passages which assert that a person can in fact fall "out of Christ" and be condemned. There would be no point in calling Christians to "continue in His kindness," to "take care" or "be zealous to confirm your call and election" if persevering in grace was not necessary, as an OSAS soteriology would have us believe.

The next verse cited was from chapter 10:

Rom 10:9 because, if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

Since this verse is about sola fide, not OSAS, I think it will only belabor this post to respond to it. At any rate, I agree that faith leads to salvation, I just also believe that one can lose that salvation after receiving it.

The third passage cited was from Ephesians:

Eph 2:8-9 For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God -- 9 not because of works, lest any man should boast.

This passage too is about sola fide, so again, no need to quarrel with it. The final passage cited was from John's first letter:

1 Jn 5:13 I write this to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life.

Since one element of OSAS is being able to know, in this life, that you are saved, this passage is relevant. You may be surprised to find that, in a sense, Catholics agree with this. Note that it says, "have eternal life," in the present tense. This means that it regards a Christian's current status before the Lord. A Catholic can say, "Yes, I am currently in a saving relationship with God." He can have an assurance of this; he simply has to examine his conscience and find that there is presently no mortal sin on his soul. He can even have a relative assurance of his future salvation, if he finds that he is ever-more walking a course towards God and away from sin, and that there exists within himself a desire to love God and obey His commandments. This is the type of assurance that John describes.

But, an infallible certitude that excludes any potential for a person's heart or uninformed conscience to deceive him regarding his relationship with God (cf. Jer 17:9), or that excludes any possibility for a person to fall away is simply not Scriptural. Not even Paul himself felt this type of "assurance":

1 Cor 4:4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me.

1 Cor 9:26-27 Well, I do not run aimlessly, I do not box as one beating the air; 27 but I pommel my body and subdue it, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.

Phil 3:11-14 that if possible I may attain the resurrection from the dead. 12 Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. 13 Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.

Those are simply not the words of an OSAS-believer, and I dare say the doctrine is absent both from Paul's letters and from all of Scripture. "Therefore let any one who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall" (1 Cor 10:12). For more articles in refutation of OSAS, see the Catholic Defense Directory, Salvation: Hope vs. Assurance.

I appreciate these articles, I just received your email today so I have not had a chance to read them but I will and I am sure that I will have some questions. Since I emailed last I have been reading Early Christian Doctrines by JND Kelly. I am becoming increasingly convinced that the sacraments were intended to be more than just symbols.
JND Kelly's works are highly-praised, both in Catholic and Protestant circles. You should be able to learn a great deal from him.

I guess I was more looking for what it means for them to be that particular label and what I should expect should I visit a church that is conservative, latin rite, charismatic, or any others that I don’t know about.
Like I said before, people define these terms differently so I can really only explain them how I understand them myself. I consider myself to be "conservative," so my explanations are from that point of view.

That said, I think a "conservative" parish is one where those responsible for catechesis (the pastor, the DRE, the religious ed. teachers, etc.) teach what the Catholic Church actually professes. The liturgy is faithful to the liturgical documents that govern it and is conducted in a way that adequately reflects the solemn nature of the liturgy. You should see a healthy devotional and sacramental life. An openness to Latin (instead of an ambivalence or hatred of it) seems to be a characteristic as well.

A "liberal" parish, in my mind, would be one that didn't adequately pass on the doctrines of the faith, either by neglecting some doctrines or by outright teaching heresy. The liturgy is usually more centered on the people in the pews then on God and there are usually several liturgical abuses. You'll usually find music unbefitting of the Mass, and an absence of Latin, or the organ, or chant (even though Sacrosanctum Concilium gives these "pride of place"). Eucharistic adoration and the Sacrament of Confession are often neglected.

You also mentioned "latin rite" parishes. The phrase "latin rite" actually refers to all Catholics whose liturgical and theological traditions come from West, from Rome. This will be the very vast majority of parishes in the United States. I'm guessing you meant instead to refer to those parishes that offer the Mass in Latin (the "extraordinary form" of the Mass, following the missal of Pope John XXIII). Usually, I think such parishes fall in the "conservative" category. But, there are some that have actually gone off the deep end and consider both the Second Vatican Council and the "ordinary form" of the Mass (in the vernacular, following the missal of Pope Paul VI) to be invalid. You would want to avoid parishes like that.

Finally, you mentioned "charismatic" parishes. Usually, charismatic parishes have a special emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, particularly healing and speaking in tongues. I think it is possible for a parish to be both "conservative" and "charismatic," but, from my limited experience, they tend to be liberal. You'll usually find "prayer meetings" during the week where these gifts are displayed and encouraged. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it can be if people are being pressured to speak in tongues to legitimize their faith, or if the prayer meetings become more important than the Mass itself.

All that being said, please note that these are not static or authoritative definitions. A parish can be conservative in some areas and liberal in others, and people are always quibbling about what it means to be "conservative" and "liberal." I hesitated to define these categories b/c they usually just create more division within the Church. But, I want you to be able to determine when a parish is being authentically Catholic and when it is not, so that's why I'm posting this.

Honestly, you shouldn't put too much into these labels. Instead, you should try to learn as much as you can about Catholicism so that you will know what it means to be a good and faithful Catholic, and so that you can surround yourself with people who are as committed to this faithfulness as you are.

Also I realize this is a loaded question but how much of what the church teaches has to be accepted to be considered Catholic? An example would be I just read somewhere that one of the church’s bishops or leaders came with a public statement that it would not be against the faith to believe in other life in the universe (here). Or I think also that I heard a Catholic could believe in a form of theistic evolution. Can a person think this is garbage and be Catholic? I guess the question is what are the fundamentals or non-negotiables?
I'll give you the long, complicated answer first. From the Code of Canon Law:
  • Can. 750 Those things are to be believed by divine and catholic faith which are contained in the word of God as it has been written or handed down by tradition, that is, in the single deposit of faith entrusted to the Church, and which are at the same time proposed as divinely revealed either by the solemn magisterium of the Church, or by its ordinary and universal magisterium, which is manifested by the common adherence of Christ's faithful under the guidance of the sacred magisterium. All are therefore bound to shun any contrary doctrines.

    Can. 751 Heresy is the obstinate denial or doubt, after baptism, of a truth which must be believed by divine and catholic faith. Apostasy is the total repudiation of the christian faith. Schism is the withdrawal of submission to the Supreme Pontiff or from communion with the members of the Church subject to him.

    Can. 752 While the assent of faith is not required, a religious submission of intellect and will is to be given to any doctrine which either the Supreme Pontiff or the College of Bishops, exercising their authentic magisterium, declare upon a matter of faith or morals, even though they do not intend to proclaim that doctrine by definitive act. Christ's faithful are therefore to ensure that they avoid whatever does not accord with that doctrine.

    Can. 753 Whether they teach individually, or in Episcopal Conferences, or gathered together in particular councils, Bishops in communion with the head and the members of the College, while not infallible in their teaching, are the authentic instructors and teachers of the faith for Christ's faithful entrusted to their care. The faithful are bound to adhere, with a religious submission of mind, to this authentic magisterium of their Bishops.

    Can. 754 All Christ's faithful are obliged to observe the constitutions and decrees which lawful ecclesiastical authority issues for the purpose of proposing doctrine or of proscribing erroneous opinions; this is particularly the case of those published by the Roman Pontiff or by the College of Bishops.
Now, to state it more simply, a Catholic is basically required to believe whatever is taught in the Church's authoritative documents and/or whatever has always been taught and professed by the Church. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is the best source for such teachings. Also, a list of "dogmas" (doctrines which the Church proposes for belief as formally revealed by God) can be found here.

Now, as for the existence of aliens and theistic evolution, a Catholic does not have to believe in these things, but he can if he wants. This is b/c the Church does not have a teaching on these matters that either confirms or denies them. You may regard "theistic evolution" to be garbage, and that's fine, but, as far as the Church is concerned, as long as you believe that creation was initiated by God and that, at some point in time there existed one man and one woman and that from them came the entire human race, then how God's act of creation brought all created things into existence is a legitimately debated point.

Was it in 7 days or over a span of millions of years? The Church has not decided that point, and since it is a matter of science, it is probably not within her authority to do so. This means that something like "theistic evolution" is a permissible position b/c it takes a stand on what is legitimately debatable (the "evolution" part) without denying what must be held be Catholics (the "theistic" part).

I know that was a lot, but I had a lot to cover. I hope it helps.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Exploring Catholicism: Part 1

I have recently began a conversation, via email, with someone who is considering a return to the faith of his youth, after being away from Catholicism since high school. He has allowed me to post our conversation on my blog, with the hope that others may be able to benefit from it as well. Here is our first exchange.

Pax Christi,
- - - - - - - - - -
What is the plan of salvation according to the Catholic church? again I get mixed up what I have heard from the Catholic church and from anti-Catholics, Is there assurance of salvation? I have heard that there is not, yet I was at a Catholic funeral recently and they were very strongly pronouncing that the deceiced was with God. If there is what is it based on?
Well, Catholics believe that salvation is a process of sanctification that culminates in eternal life with God after death. We are not ultimately "saved" until we die in union with Christ. This means that there is no "assurance of salvation" or "once-saved-always-saved" understanding in Catholicism. In other words, a person can sin in a way that will destroy the divine life (or the "sanctifying grace") that he once received. I can provide Biblical support for this in another email, if you wish, but for now it looks like you just need to know what it is that Catholics believe.

Catholic funerals can sometimes confuse this issue b/c priests, in an attempt to relieve the sadness of a funeral, will comfort the mourners by telling them that their loved one is now in heaven. This may very well be true....but then again, it may very well not be. If you look at the actual words of the funeral rite, it doesn't canonize the deceased. Instead, it calls for us to pray for them. This is the Catholic response to death and it is a sign of our hope that God will have mercy on the dearly departed. It is also a sign of our faith that the prayers of the faithful on earth can in fact benefit the souls that have gone before us.

John 3:5 talks about being baptized with water and Spirit. Do you have any information, resources, thoughts, further scripture on baptismal regeneration? This is the topic I am looking at closely now in my studies.
I have a ton of links to articles on this topic. If you go to the Catholic Defense Directory and click on the Baptism entry, you should fine all the resources you need. In case that entry is a little too overwhelming (I realize that there's a lot there), here are a few articles I would suggest:I hope that helps. Also, I realize that a lot of the links in the Directory are broken, but I am in the process of fixing them.

[UPDATE: Links are fixed]

Also if you can help me to understand the landscape of the Catholic church right now so I know better the church today. There are quite a few Catholic churches around my house, There is a Latin rite only one right down the street and I have heard of Liberal Priests, Charismatic services, and Conservatives? Is there one Catholic idea and these are branches or are these groups claiming the correct idea from the beginning? or something else?
Well, we have to be careful when we label people as "liberal," "conservative," "charismatic," etc. because people define these terms in different ways. Really, there's only one way to be Catholic and that is the faithful, orthodox way. By that I mean, if you believe and profess what the Catholic Church teaches and if you are obedient to the pope and to the bishops in communion with him, then you are a faithful Catholic. Abuse and heresy can creep in to all of these crowds that label themselves (or are labeled by others) in the various ways you listed. So, ultimately, being "liberal," "conservative," or "charismatic" is not as important as simply being faithful and obedient.

Does that answer your question? I hope so. If you have any further questions, just let me know.

Pax Christi,

Monday, May 19, 2008

Poll-Release Monday #51

Here is this week's poll question:

True or False?: Prayer is a battle against ourselves.
Interesting statement here. What do you think? Vote in the poll in the sidebar.

As for last week's poll, here are the results:
  • True or False?: The parish is the first place for education in prayer.
    • True: 1 (4%)
    • False: 22 (96%)
You all nailed this one. The answer, of course is:
  • False. cf. CCC 2685 The Christian family is the first place of education in prayer. Based on the sacrament of marriage, the family is the "domestic church" where God's children learn to pray "as the Church" and to persevere in prayer. For young children in particular, daily family prayer is the first witness of the Church's living memory as awakened patiently by the Holy Spirit.
I first learned my prayers in the home. My dad taught me the Hail Mary, the Our Father, the Glory Be, the "Angel of God" prayer, and the Children's Evening Prayer ("Now I lay me down to sleep...."). However, I learned the Act of Contrition in gradeschool and my homeroom teacher in middle school taught me the Prayer to St. Michael (the inspiration for this blog). I didn't learn how to pray the rosary until my senior year in college (pretty crazy). I learned the Prayer to the Holy Spirit ("Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful....") my first semester here at FUS and I learned to say the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin around that time as well.

So, as far as my experience is concerned, the home was the first place I learned how to pray....but it definitely wasn't the only place. Do you remember when and where you learned your Catholic prayers? Leave a comment and let me know.

Pax Christi,

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Q&A Potpourri

I recently answered the following questions over at WikiAnswers. If you are knowledgeable in the faith, I suggest joining WikiAnswers and answering some questions yourself. It's a great way to witness to our Catholic faith. Now, on to the Q&A:

What is compline?
The Modern Catholic Dictionary, defines compline as:
  • "the concluding hour of the Divine Office. Its origins in the West are commonly ascribed to St. Benedict (480-547). At first it was recited after the evening meal or before retiring. It now follows Vespers. As Night Prayer, it consists of a hymn, one or two psalms, a short reading from Scripture, a versicle and response, the Nunc Dimittis of Simeon, and a concluding prayer. (Etym. Latin completorium, complement)"
When did the Holy Spirit originate?
The Holy Spirit is God. This means that He has no beginning or end. Thus, there is no point in time in which we can say that the Holy Spirit first came to be and there is no point in time in which we can say that the Holy Spirit did not exist.

How many Catholic universities are there in the U.S.?
According to the Cardinal Newman Society, there are 224 Catholic colleges and universities in the United States.

When was Purgatory first talked about?
The earliest reference to Purgatory that scholars have found so far comes from The Acts of Paul and Thecla, which was written around 160 AD. In that work, we read the following:
  • "And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again received her [Thecla]. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: 'Mother, you shall have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the righteous'"
Notice how Thecla will be praying for Falconilla, even though Falconilla has already died. Prayers for the dead implies the doctrine of Purgatory b/c Purgatory is the only place or state where a soul could reside in which prayers would be necessary or beneficial. Souls in heaven have no need of our prayers and there's no point in praying for the damned, who can never be freed from Hell.

Note also that the doctrine of Purgatory wasn't invented in 160 AD, it's just that the earliest reference to Purgatory that we have comes from that period. For more early Christian witness to the doctrine of Purgatory, see the following links:

What is the stand of the Church on contraception?
The Catholic Church has always been against all forms of contraception. Article 14 from Humanae Vitae (Encyclical Letter of Pope Paul VI on the Regulation of Birth) articulates this teaching [emphasis mine]:
  • 14. Therefore We base Our words on the first principles of a human and Christian doctrine of marriage when We are obliged once more to declare that the direct interruption of the generative process already begun and, above all, all direct abortion, even for therapeutic reasons, are to be absolutely excluded as lawful means of regulating the number of children. (14) Equally to be condemned, as the magisterium of the Church has affirmed on many occasions, is direct sterilization, whether of the man or of the woman, whether permanent or temporary. (15)

    Similarly excluded is any action which either before, at the moment of, or after sexual intercourse, is specifically intended to prevent procreation-whether as an end or as a means. (16)

    Neither is it valid to argue, as a justification for sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive, that a lesser evil is to be preferred to a greater one, or that such intercourse would merge with procreative acts of past and future to form a single entity, and so be qualified by exactly the same moral goodness as these. Though it is true that sometimes it is lawful to tolerate a lesser moral evil in order to avoid a greater evil or in order to promote a greater good," it is never lawful, even for the gravest reasons, to do evil that good may come of it (18)-in other words, to intend directly something which of its very nature contradicts the moral order, and which must therefore be judged unworthy of man, even though the intention is to protect or promote the welfare of an individual, of a family or of society in general. Consequently, it is a serious error to think that a whole married life of otherwise normal relations can justify sexual intercourse which is deliberately contraceptive and so intrinsically wrong.
Also see the Catechism of the Catholic Church, no. 2370:

What was the name of the Catholic Church's response to the Protestant Reformation?
The response in question is commonly referred to as the "Catholic Reformation" or the "Counter Reformation." Historian William V. Hudon has also suggested the term "Tridentine Reformation." Christopher M. Belllitto, in his book Renewing Christianity: A History of Church Reform from Day One to Vatican II, chooses the term "Catholic reformations" (note the lower-case r and the plural) so as to refer not to one specific response but to all of the attempts to reform the Church that took place just before, during, and after Martin Luther came on the scene.

What religious community did St. Ignatius Loyola begin in?
St. Ignatius of Loyola founded the Society of Jesus, more commonly referred to as the Jesuits. For information about the Jesuits, go here:

What is venial and mortal sin?
As defined by the glossary to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, a venial sin is "sin which does not destroy the divine life in the soul, as does mortal sin, though it diminishes and wounds it. Venial sin is the failure to observe necessary moderation, in lesser matters of the moral law, or in grave matters acting without full knowledge or complete consent." See the Catechism, nos. 1855 and 1862.

A mortal sin, as defined by the same glossary, is "a grave infraction of the law of God that destroys the divine life (or sanctifying grace) in the soul of the sinner, constituting a turn away from God. For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must be present: grave matter, full knowledge of the evil of the act, and full consent of the will." See the Catechism, nos. 1855 and 1857.

How many Presidents were Catholic?
Only one: John Fitzgerald Kennedy. For an extensive biography, go here:

What does Roman Catholicism teach?
The Catholic Church teaches many things, so this is a difficult question to answer succinctly. The best thing to do would be to read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, which you can find online here:

Another helpful source is Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma, by Dr. Ludwig Ott. A list of the dogmas presented in this book can be found here:

Who is the patron saint of siblings?
As far as I know, there is no patron saint of siblings. There are, however, patron saints of similar causes. So, for example, the patron saints of families are Francis of Assisi, Joseph, and Maximillian Kolbe. The patron saint of dysfunctional families is Eugene de Mazenod. The patron saint of family happiness or harmony is Dymphna. Finally, the patron saint of family life is the Infant Jesus of Prague.

Pax Christi,

Friday, May 16, 2008

Crosswalking Catholicism

You all may be familiar with a Protestant website called Crosswalk. Many people, including myself, use their "Bible Study Tools" for Scripture study because they include various translations of Scripture, along with a wide variety of commentaries, concordances, dictionaries, encyclopedias, lexicons, and other reference works. It really is an amazingly helpful website.

At any rate, I noticed today an article on their homepage entitled, "Why Do Catholics Have a Pope?", by Sarah Jennings ( Family Editor). Of course, that sparked my interest, so I gave it a read. I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was THE most accurate explanation of the papacy by a Protestant that I had ever read! What a relief!!

Honestly, I expected the usual misunderstandings: Catholics worship the pope, the pope thinks he is Jesus on earth, the pope replaces Jesus as head of the Church, everything the pope says is inspired by the Holy Spirit, the pope can do no wrong, yaddah, yaddah, yaddah. Thankfully, Jennings didn't use Jack Chick or James White as her sources. Instead, she consulted the Church's own Catechism and Her own apologists. Check out her bibliography:
  1. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Edition. 1997. Rome: Libreria Editrice Vaticana.
  2. Ray, Stephen. 1999. Footnotes in Upon This Rock, 32-40. San Fransisc Ignatius Press.
  3. Joyce, G.H. 1910. “Pope,” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  4. Toner, P.J. 1910. “Infallibility” in The Catholic Encyclopedia, Volume VII. New York: Robert Appleton Company.
  5., 2008.
  6. Archdiocese of Lincoln’s wesbite, 2008. “Ask the Register,”
  7. St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church website, Picayune, Mississippi, 2008. “I’m Glad You Asked!”
  8. Rodriquez, Pedro, “The Papacy and Primacy of Peter,” reprinted on from “The Primacy of the Pope in the Church,” from Catholic Position Papers, September, 1981 -- Japan Edition (
  9. Mirus, Jeffrey, Ph.D. “Papal Infallibility” posted on, (
  10. Kellmeyer, Steve. 2000. Bible Basics, 107-111. Steubenville, OH: Basilica Press.
Pretty impressive list. With these resources, Jennings is able to effectively present:
  • the basic role of the pope,
  • the Catholic interpretation of Mt 16:13-19,
  • the primacy of Peter,
  • the significance Peter's inspired response to Jesus,
  • the significance of the name change,
  • the proper understanding of Peter as "Rock" in relation to Christ,
  • the meaning of the keys in light of Isa 22 (as well as the binding and loosing that comes with them),
  • the nature of papal infallibility, and
  • the pope as "The Servant of the Servants of God."
It's amazing what one can write with just a little intellectual honesty. I am very greatful to Sarah Jennings for her honest presentation of Catholic doctrine.

Unfortunately, the comments left by readers of the article are a return to business as usual:
  • "the Pope does think that he represents Christ on the earth and that he takes the place of the Holy Spirit in the Spiritual life of every Catholic."
  • "The Pope as taught in Catholic schools is the actual representation of Christ here on earth...the actual visible head of the Church because Jesus is in heaven...making him-the Pope equal with Jesus."
  • "do they truly believe in Him-having that personal relationship...I say no...they have more mention of Mother Mary rather than about Jesus [...] Are you not then saying that Christ and Peter are of the same level? well in fact a stone will never become a Rock..."
  • "The whole theology of the Catholic Church and the Apostolic sucession of the Popes of Rome is a lie. It has no Biblical foundation as the Catholics would have us believe. The Bible does not reveal that Peter ever went to Rome."
  • "Believe what you will. It is true the Pope is not God - he only thinks he is. Sacramentalism and the Eucharist will not get you to heaven. Belief and trust in Jesus Christ, the Son of God will."
There also seems to be an amazing inability on behalf of our wise commenters to understand why the article was even written. It's as if has compromised Protestant principles or is somehow in bed w/ the pope. All Sarah set out to do was present the Catholic teaching on the papacy as Catholics understand it. It was an attempt to help Protestants learn more about what Catholics believe about the pope. Yet, somehow her article is "biased," as one commenter put it. That's just absurd, and it shows how many Protestants check their brain at the door as soon as you even mention the papacy.

Despite the glowing example of Jennings, we still have a lot of work to do.

Pax Christi,

[UPDATE: Come to find out, Sarah Jennings is a Catholic! This I think makes the article even more amazing b/c it shows the courage of the Crosswalk editors (all Protestant) who decided to publish it]

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Scripture and the Pope: Part 4

Here is Part 4 in my debate with Amy on papal infallibility as it is found in Scripture. Also see Parts 1, 2, and 3.

Pax Christi,
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Somewhere between “Pope” and utter nonsense, is my view of name changes in the Bible. Jesus does not deliver the name change at this point, only makes reference to it. As if he said, “Peter, just like your name means Rock, upon the Rock of what you just said (You are the Son of God) I will build my kingdom.” Kind of like, “Amy (cute girl in the profile pic), Just like your name means beloved, so this smart, Phatcatholic guy loves you.”
I disagree with you here and I think I can prove why, but I also don't think it's necessary. We may be going on a tangent in debating what or who "this rock" is. My understanding is that the identity of the rock confirms Peter's primacy among the apostles and the unique leadership position that Jesus gave to Peter. But, we're not debating that. Instead, we are debating whether or not Peter (and consequently, the popes who came after him) have the charism of infallibility. With this particular topic, the identity of the "rock" is not as important as the meaning of the keys. So, that's what I think we should be focusing on, as well as the other passages that I have utilized.

That said, I can basically skip down to this paragraph:

Peter certainly was foundational in starting the earliest church. The rock being the foundation makes more sense than a man who will speak infallible words and so will his sons (or relatives) I guess Popes don't have sons.
First of all, I think it makes perfect sense that Jesus would grant Peter the charism of infallibility. It's like I said at the end of Part 2 of our debate: how good of a shepherd would Peter be if he was capable of leading the entire Church astray on a matter of faith or morals? If falsehood creeps into the Church, then the "father of lies" has won and the "gates of hell" have indeed prevailed against the Church, contrary to what Jesus Himself said about it.

It also makes sense that this charism would extend to Peter's successors [as a quick aside, note that the successors of St. Peter are not his sons or his relatives, but whoever is chosen to be the next bishop of Rome]. After all, what good is infallibility for the future of the Church if the charism dies with Peter? That just seems a little silly to me.

Finally, papal infallibility makes sense in light of the meaning of the keys, the promise of the Holy Spirit to guide the Church into all Truth, Jesus' prayer for the faith of Peter, and the task given to Peter by Jesus to be the shepherd and guardian of the Church.

There is no mention of his descendants or his future words at all, only that what he just said, was true and was delivered to him by God the Father. His immediate future words were delivered to him by Satan.
By way of reminder, I've already shown (in Part 3) how, regardless of one's interpretation of that incident, the doctrine of papal infallibility is not refuted.

Where in the rest of scripture is any other apostle or disciple told to subject themselves to Peter’s or anyone else’s infallible words, excepting that which is scripture itself?
I think there are a few indications of the other apostles and disciples of Christ "subjecting themselves" to Peter, or acknowledging his authority. For example, Paul went to Jerusalem to consult with Peter for fifteen days in the beginning of his ministry (cf. Gal 1:18), and was commissioned by Peter (as well as James and John) to preach to the Gentiles (cf. Gal 2:9). Peter settled the dispute at the Jerusalem Council ("after there had been much debate .... all the assembly fell silent", cf. Acts 15:7-12), and those who spoke after him simply reiterated and affirmed his position. The apostles often defer to Peter, or allow him to speak on their behalf (cf. Mt 15:12-15; Mk 8:29; 10:27-28; Lk 8:45; Jn 6:67-69; Acts 2:14). Those apostles who wrote Scripture also recognize Peter's primacy whenever they single him out from the rest (cf. Mk 1:36; 16:7; Lk 9:32; Acts 2:37; 5:29; 1 Cor 9:5), Matthew even calling Peter the first from among them (cf. Mt 10:2). I think that this shows an acknowledgement of Peter's unique authority by the apostles and disciples of Christ.

Yes, the key is referenced as that which opens knowledge (Luke 11:52). There is also a key that opens heaven (Matt. 16:19), a key that opens the bottomless pit (Revelation 9:1), a key that opens death and Hades (Rev. 1:18), a key of the house of David (Rev. 3:7).
This is interesting what you wrote here about the different types of keys. I had never noticed that before. Perhaps this plurality explains why Jesus gave Peter keys (in the plural) instead of a single key.

Keys open things. In this case the key opens heaven and is given by Jesus and we know the only key that opens heaven is Christ; even so, only for those who have faith in Him. (You wouldn't say there is another key to open heaven, would you?)
Peter has in his possession the keys to heaven, which is the truth that the Father revealed to him when he said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”
I concur, there was a handing off authority to Joseph by Pharaoh and to Haman by the King of Persia. And the Gospel is an amazing thing for Jesus to hand off to Peter for him to guard and take to the world, but I do not see how that is infallible future words by his sons to many generations after him.
Mt 16:19 is not some metaphorical reference to the Gospel that Peter will preach. The keys symbolize the power of binding and loosing, as the second half of the verse explains. So, if we want to understand what it means that Peter now holds the keys, we need to investigate this power to bind and loose.

From the testimony of a wide variety of Scripture scholars and commentaries (see #5 here), we find that the keys and the power to bind and loose is understood as "the symbol of authority," "the office of teaching the word," the "delegation of God's sovereignty," "the authority to teach in [Jesus'] name," "plenary authority," the authority "to be over the Church," to "establish rules" and to "put under the ban," "making halakhic pronouncements" and "regulating the affairs of the household," making "decisions based on the teachings of Jesus," "legislative authority in the church," and "appointment to full authority." They provide both an doctrinal and a disciplinary authority that is unparalleled.

Plus, like I pointed out before, Jesus is ratifying in heaven what Peter declares on earth. There is simply no room for error in such an arrangement.

That is all I can address for now, I know that I didn’t do it justice. My brain hurts, but I am happy. I look forward to more mental and spiritual stimulation.
I apologize for taking so long to respond. Feel free to take your time with this.

Until then, I love this verse found in Psalm 103. "The Lord has established His throne in the heavens and His sovereignty rules over all"

Pax Christi,

Justification in the Eyes of God

Ianny01 recently posted the following question at Phatmass:
I've been having a back-and-forth email discussion with some Protestant friends of mine and one of them asserts a strange thing about Chapter 2 of the Letter of Saint James. He asserts that the justification that Saint James is talking about is not before God but before men, that this justification does not increase our righteousness before God. Basically that this justification is to show that people have genuine faith to other people. How should I respond to this?
Your opponent must believe that the justification in question is before men b/c that is the only way to reconcile James with what he believes about faith and salvation. But, I assert that James most definitely has God's perspective in mind. I will use ch. 2 itself, along with ch. 1 and 3 to prove my point. Let's start with Jas 1.

In the first chapter, we read: "Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love him" (Jas 1:12). We see from this that James has his eyes focused on heaven, on the afterlife, on the eternal reward of those who endure the trials of this life. Ultimately, our reward is not on earth (man's perspective) but in heaven (God's perspective).

Next, James provides a short catechesis on this God of heaven. He is not tempted by evil and He tempts no one (vs. 13), every good and perfect gift comes from Him (vs. 17), in Him there is no variation or change (vs. 17), and He created us by an act of His Will (vs. 18). This is God as He is, in Himself. It is only from man's perspective that God takes on various anthropomorphisms like tempting or changing.

Finally, in the last verse of the chapter, we read: "Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world" (vs. 27). James is not speaking of religion that is pure and undefiled before men, but that which is before God, or in the eyes of God. This is an explicit statement about religion as God sees it.

With this perspective we come to chapter 2, the chapter in question. There, we read: "So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead" (vs. 17). "Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren?" (vs. 20). "For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead" (vs. 26). Now, this death, this barrenness, is this before God or before men. It can't be an earthly "death" b/c we know that, as far as the world is concerned, an empty faith can in fact be very profitable. Many a preacher has gotten rich off of his supposed faith, while his personal life was corrupt and hypocritical. In the world, a dead faith is very much alive.

It is in heaven, from God's perspective, that faith w/o works is dead. It is "dead" b/c God will not condone, not b/c man won't. If your faith is not lived, God will say to you, "This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me" (Mt 15:8). You will say, "Lord, Lord" and he will say, "I do not know you" (Mt 25:11-12). It is on Judgment Day that God judges the works of men and decides that some had a faith that was alive and others did not.

The justification that comes from these works is certainly of God and by God. Read again what James says about Abraham: "Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness" (vs. 21-23). Now, did his works justify him before God or man? Did God reckon this to him as righteousness, or did man? It's obvious that God did for the simple fact that no one was on the mountain to witness what Abraham did! BUT, God was there, watching, to see what Abraham would do, and when He saw that Abraham's faith was true, He spared Isaac. This same justification is the subject of James' letter and I see no transition from this to some type of justification before men.

Finally, in ch. 3 James talks about taming the tongue and living a life of good works "in the meekness of wisdom." But, this is not earthly wisdom from man's perspective, but wisdom from above:

13 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good life let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. 14 But if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth. 15 This wisdom is not such as comes down from above, but is earthly, unspiritual, devilish. 16 For where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there will be disorder and every vile practice. 17 But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, without uncertainty or insincerity. 18 And the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace.

All of this tells me that the justification that James has in mind is a justification in the sight of God, not of men. Whenever we speak of justification, as a theological term, that's what we are referring to. That's what the word means, and I would be willing to bet that whenever justification is referred to in Scripture, it is the justification of God unless the author specifically says otherwise. Perhaps someone else has the time to do a word study and confirm my suspicion.

I hope this helps.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oops, My Bad

I noticed today that I forgot to actually put the new poll in the sidebar, so that is fixed now. I hope I didn't confuse anyone too much, haha.

Pax Christi,

Monday, May 12, 2008

Poll-Release Monday #50

Here is this week's new poll question:

True or false?: The parish is the first place for education in prayer.

If you've never done this before, the poll is in my sidebar. Also, after you vote, click the "Comments" link at the bottom of the poll and explain your answer. If the parish isn't the first place for education in prayer, what is?

That said, here are the results from last week's poll:
  • True or False?: Prayer is directed primarily at Jesus.
    • True: 8 (32%)
    • False: 17 (68%)
The correct answer, according to the USCCB's quiz on the Catechism, is:
  • False; cf. Para. 2680: Prayer is primarily addressed to the Father; it can also be directed toward Jesus, particularly by the invocation of his holy name: "Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on us sinners."
This one is sort of a trick question, because of the primacy that Christians tend to give to one's relationship with Jesus. But, while all three Persons of the Trinity are equally God, the Father does hold the place of primacy, and Jesus came to return us to communion with Him. So, in that sense, it is understandable that we should direct our prayer primarily to the Father.

For more on the Trinity, see the following resources: Pax Christi,

Thursday, May 08, 2008

Catechetical Liturgy and Liturgical Catechesis

Below is a short, 6-pg paper I wrote for my Methods of Catechesis II class on the relationship between catechesis and the liturgy. If we are going to foster active participation in the liturgy, which is a goal outlined for us by Sacrosanctum Concilium, then we must incorporate liturgical elements into our catechesis and help our audience to learn more from the liturgy. I hope you find this paper to be a helpful and informative treatment of that task.

Pax Christi,
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Catechesis and the Liturgy

“Catechesis is intrinsically linked with the whole of liturgical and sacramental activity, for it is in the sacraments, especially in the Eucharist, that Christ Jesus works in fullness for the transformation of human beings.”
— Pope John Paul II, Catechesi Tradendae, no. 23.

Catechesis is a demanding enterprise, and for good reason. Since souls are at stake, the Church must demand a great deal from those who set out to catechize Her members. Such catechists must be well-trained and knowledgeable in the faith (cf. CIC, Can. 780). They must be spiritually mature members of the Church community, with leadership skills and professional competence (cf. ACCC 71-73), whose lives are a witness to what they teach (GDC 156; EN 41). Their teaching must be organic and systematic (CT 18), as well as Trinitarian and Christocentric (GDC 99-100). It must deal with the essentials completely (CT 21) and accommodate the age, physical/spiritual development, and learning styles of their audience (GDC 167-170). Catechesis must be all of this and much more, as Catechesi Tradendae and the General Directory for Catechesis outline thoroughly.

One important element that is often overlooked in all of this is the intimate relationship between catechesis and the liturgy. Catechesis must be liturgical, both in the sense that it contains liturgical elements, and in that it leads people to a full and active participation in the liturgical life of the Church. Pope John Paul II touches on this in the opening quotation. He goes on to say:
  • [C]atechesis always has reference to the sacraments. On the one hand, the catechesis that prepares for the sacraments is an eminent kind, and every form of catechesis necessarily leads to the sacraments of faith. On the other hand, authentic practice of the sacraments is bound to have a catechetical aspect. In other words, sacramental life is impoverished and very soon turns into hollow ritualism if it is not based on serious knowledge of the meaning of the sacraments, and catechesis becomes intellectualized if it fails to come alive in the sacramental practice (CT 23).
We see from this that, just as our catechesis must be liturgical, the liturgy is naturally catechetical. Since both catechesis and the liturgy have as one of their primary goals the communion of man with God, it is worth exploring the relationship between catechesis and the liturgy, and their mutual interpenetration.

How the Liturgy Is Catechetical

As the Pope wisely informed us, catechesis becomes intellectualized if it fails to come alive in sacramental practice. In other words, it is in the sacramental and/or liturgical life of the Church that what She believes and professes is put into practice, acted out on a grand stage at the meeting point between heaven and earth. Far from being merely a list of abstract concepts, the Catholic faith is something that both informs and is lived out in every way in which man and God approach each other in an orderly fashion.

What this means is that we can and should expect to learn something about God and the Truth He brings through the liturgy. There are in fact three ways in which the liturgy is catechetical:
  1. It has preserved the Apostolic kerygma.
  2. It imparts a liturgical spirituality.
  3. It actually gives what it teaches.
Space allows for a brief exposition of each.

First, the liturgy is catechetical in that it has preserved the Apostolic kerygma. The “Apostolic kerygma” is the preaching of the Apostles. It is the message they were sent out into the world to proclaim, that Jesus Christ is God made man, who died and rose for our sins so that we may be saved. This drama is particularly evident in the Mass, in which the very sacrifice He made for us is re-presented. But, this truth is actually found in every liturgical action of the Church. It is because of the realities expressed in the kerygma that we even have liturgy, and so naturally, it is at the heart of the public worship of the Church. Since evangelization is concerned with making this Apostolic proclamation, and catechesis with unpacking its deeper meaning and implication, the liturgy, in preserving this proclamation, is naturally catechetical.

Catechesis is also interested in enriching the spiritual lives of persons and facilitating a true encounter with and conversion to the person of Jesus Christ. The liturgy then is also catechetical in that it imparts a liturgical spirituality. In other words, through the liturgy, a certain spirituality is formed and nourished that is in fact one goal of catechesis. Through the public worship of the Church, we learn how to pray. We learn how to approach God and how to relate to Him. We learn how to be holy. Our relationship with God is deepened as we walk with Him in the liturgy.

Finally, the liturgy is catechetical in that it actually gives what it teaches. In catechesis we offer, not dictums or pie-in-the-sky ideals, but a Person, and a real relationship with Him that will change your life forever. The liturgy offers this too. Again, this offering is found preeminently in the Mass, in which Jesus Christ Himself comes to substantially abide in us. But, the sacramental rites, the catechumenal process, the liturgy of the hours, etc. all offer this Person and this relationship as well. Jesus acts as Priest in the liturgy, and so we cannot help but find Him there.

How Catechesis Is Liturgical

The converse is also true: catechesis must be liturgical. In fact, the GDC says that liturgical catechesis "must be regarded as 'an eminent kind' of catechesis" (71). It goes on to give the characteristics of a liturgical catechesis:
  1. promotes a deeper understanding and experience of the liturgy
  2. explains the contents of the prayers
  3. [explains] the meaning of the signs and gestures
  4. educates to active participation, contemplation, and silence
Points 1 and 4 are essentially the goals of liturgical catechesis. As Pope John Paul II has already told us, "sacramental life is impoverished and very soon turns into hollow ritualism if it is not based on serious knowledge of the meaning of the sacraments." Thus, our catechesis must promote a deeper understanding and experience of the liturgy and educate to active participation, contemplation, and silence. If this is done, "if in catechesis we should succeed in introducing children to the content of the Liturgy," then we would "open up a well which could supply the adult Christian with 'waters of eternal life' his whole life through" (Joseph A. Jungmann, SJ, Handing on the Faith, 99).

Points 2 and 3 are two ways in which we can actually go about this type of catechesis. First, we can explain the content of the liturgical prayers. This means defining the meaning of the words that the priest and the people use in the liturgy and explaining the purpose and reason behind them. So, for example, here’s a short exchange from the “Rite of Acceptance” (the first rite of the RCIA process):
  • Celebrant: What do you ask of God’s Church?
  • Candidate: Faith
  • Celebrant: What does faith offer you?
  • Candidate: Eternal life
A liturgical catechesis that prepares individuals for the Rite of Acceptance would focus on God, His Church, faith, and eternal life. These are prominent subjects in the rite, and the candidate cannot participate honestly in the rite unless he knows what these things are and how they are related to each other and to himself. Such an understanding is a prerequisite for active participation in the liturgy.

Catechesis is also liturgical when it explains and unpacks the meaning of liturgical signs and gestures. The liturgy is filled with signs that make the supernatural present and sensible to us. These signs are powerful in that, for those who can see through the sign to the invisible, theological reality made present by it, the sign is revelatory. But, for those who cannot see, the sign screens or hides. In order for a person to render true worship and to be sanctified, he must make these liturgical signs his own.

It is up to us as catechists to make that happen for him. In Sacred Signs, Romano Guardini excels at this very thing. For example, he shows us that something as simple as the doors to the Church can be a subject of catechesis:
  • Between the outer and the inner world are the doors. They are the barriers between the market place and the sanctuary, between what belongs to the world at large and what has become consecrated to God. And the door warns the man who opens it to go inside that he must now leave behind the thoughts, wishes and cares which here are out of place, his curiosity, his vanity, his worldly interests, his secular self. “Make yourself clean. The ground you tread is holy ground.”
Even the most common of objects in the church building and in the liturgy have deep significance, and we have to be concerned about revealing this significance to our audience. Whenever we can turn their attention to these symbols we must do so, not only by teaching explicitly about these symbols, but also by having them around, making them present. This is where sacred spaces are useful. A deliberate and well-designed sacred space can help students to grow accustomed to thinking symbolically and uncovering the hidden realities of the liturgy. Incorporating various liturgical gestures into catechesis is also helpful. This could be done by making the sign of the cross before and after prayer, or by standing whenever the Gospel is read.

Whatever we do, we must never forget that “Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that fully conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy” (SC 14). That is Her wish, and as faithful servants of the Church, we must fulfill it. We do this through a catechesis that is deeply liturgical, both in its incorporation of liturgical elements and in its preparation for the liturgy and the sacraments. When this is done, catechesis and liturgy work together to effect the conversion of hearts to the Person of Jesus Christ.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Poll-Release Monday #49

Continuing with the USCCB's Quiz on the Catechism, here is this week's poll question:

True or False? Prayer is directed primarily at Jesus
Once you vote, don't forget to click the "Comments" link at the bottom of the poll and explain your vote. If True, why? If False, why?

As for the previous poll, here are the results:
  • True or False? It is appropriate for man to bless God
    • True: 45 (78%)
    • False: 13 (22%)
Ashamedly, I got this one wrong. Here is the correct answer:
  • True. See CCC, no. 2626-2627:

    2626: Blessing expresses the basic movement of Christian prayer: it is an encounter between God and man. In blessing, God's gift and man's acceptance of it are united in dialogue with each other. The prayer of blessing is man's response to God's gifts: because God blesses, the human heart can in return bless the One who is the source of every blessing.

    2627 Two fundamental forms express this movement: our prayer ascends in the Holy Spirit through Christ to the Father - we bless him for having blessed us (cf.
    Eph 1:3-14; 2 Cor 1:3-7; 1 Pet 1:3-9); it implores the grace of the Holy Spirit that descends through Christ from the Father - he blesses us (cf. 2 Cor 13:14; Rom 15:5-6,13; Eph 6:23-24).
Despite that answer, I can see why this may still be confusing. What does it mean to "bless" God? Usually when I think of "blessing" I think of setting something apart for holy use or making something holy, like when a priest blesses oil or water. But, we can't set God apart for holy use or make Him holy, He's already holy!

What I found is that blessing has a wider meaning than that. It can also mean "favor" as when God blesses us with every blessing (cf. Eph 1:3) or when he says that Abrahams descendents will be "blessed." This type of blessing is like a gift of joy and prosperity that God gives to us.

When we speak of blessing God, we have in mind a gift of praise to God, usually in return for the blessings that he has poured out on us. The Psalms are full of examples of man blessing God, and there are examples in the NT as well:

Psa 16:7 I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.

Psa 26:12 My foot stands on level ground; in the great congregation I will bless the LORD.

Psa 34:1 A Psalm of David, when he feigned madness before Abimelech, so that he drove him out, and he went away. I will bless the LORD at all times; his praise shall continually be in my mouth.

Psa 68:26 "Bless God in the great congregation, the LORD, O you who are of Israel's fountain!"

Psa 103:1-2,20-22 A Psalm of David. Bless the LORD, O my soul; and all that is within me, bless his holy name! 2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, 20 Bless the LORD, O you his angels, you mighty ones who do his word, hearkening to the voice of his word! 21 Bless the LORD, all his hosts, his ministers that do his will! 22 Bless the LORD, all his works, in all places of his dominion. Bless the LORD, O my soul!

Psa 104:1,35 Bless the LORD, O my soul! O LORD my God, thou art very great! Thou art clothed with honor and majesty, 35 Let sinners be consumed from the earth, and let the wicked be no more! Bless the LORD, O my soul! Praise the LORD!

Psa 115:18 But we will bless the LORD from this time forth and for evermore. Praise the LORD!

Psa 134:1-2 A Song of Ascents. Come, bless the LORD, all you servants of the LORD, who stand by night in the house of the LORD! 2 Lift up your hands to the holy place, and bless the LORD!

Psa 135:19-20 O house of Israel, bless the LORD! O house of Aaron, bless the LORD! 20 O house of Levi, bless the LORD! You that fear the LORD, bless the LORD!

Rom 1:25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever! Amen.

Rom 9:5 to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen.

2 Cor 11:31 The God and Father of the Lord Jesus, he who is blessed for ever, knows that I do not lie.

Pretty cool, huh? I hope that helps. For more on blessings see the following resources:
  • Baker's Evangelical Dictionary of Biblical Theology: Blessing
  • Modern Catholic Dictionary: Blessing
  • New Advent Encyclopedia: Blessing
Pax Christi,

Sunday, May 04, 2008

Scripture and the Pope: Part 3

Here is Part 3 in my debate with Amy on the authority and infallibility of Peter (and his successors) as it is found in Scripture. Also see Parts 1 and 2.

Pax Christi,
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Though my digestion of your post is incomplete, and I have no hope of addressing everything you have written, I will do my best to reply. My reply is very incomplete. Thank you, in advance, for putting up with the length of this.
The length doesn't bother me at all. I try to be as concise as possible, but sometimes you just have to write a lot in order to defend a position, and I'm okay with that.

Some of your post matches up with what I have learned my entire life in studying the Bible.
Some things you have written, I hold as truth, the first of them being that,“All things pale in comparison to Jesus.”
Second, I also agree with your view that people’s names hold great importance.
Good to know.

Thirdly, your point on keys and authority pointing back to the Davidic kingdom ("Among these was a prime minister who was second in authority only to the king [cf. Gen 41:39-43; Esther 3:1-2]. In Isaiah we see that the transfer of this authority from one prime minister to another is symbolized by the handing on of 'the key of the house'") I agree with, though I am not completely familiar with it in depth. However, I do not think this necessitates that Peter must then be considered second in authority under Christ.
I need more from you as to why you think that the handing on of the keys does not grant Peter the authority that I have described. It's very clear that the Root of Jesse continued the tradition of Davidic kingdoms when He gave the keys to Peter. What else could this possibly mean?

I have always believed that Jesus was referring to Peter's confession "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" And that this confession was the "rock" upon which Christ would build His kingdom; using Peter's new name as a play on words to point to Himself.
This makes the name-change utter nonsense. Basically, you have Jesus saying, "Simon, I'm going to change your name to ROCK, but you're not going to be the rock or anything, I just think 'Peter' has a nice ring to it." Why would Jesus change Simon's name to Rock if he did not intend to make him the actual rock?

It's like I said before, a name change means a change in mission and purpose. Abram's name was changed to Abraham b/c he would become the father of many nations. Jacob's name was changed to Israel b/c his descendants will "strive with God and man and prevail" (Gen 32:28). But, you would have Simon's name changed to Peter (which means "Rock") without him actually being the Rock of the Church? It just doesn't make any sense.

Certainly we would both agree that Christ being the Son of the living God is the rock upon which his kingdom is built. I do not believe the person Peter or his descendants are more foundational to the Kingdom than Christ’s being the Son of God is, however valuable they may be.
I agree with that. But, that doesn't mean that Peter can't also be the Rock.

For one, a metaphor in the bible need not be applied to only one individual. In 1 Cor. 3:11 Jesus is called the only foundation of the Church, and yet in Eph. 2:20, the apostles and prophets are called the foundation of the Church. Similarly, in 1 Peter 2:25, Jesus is called the Shepherd of the flock, but in Acts 20:28 (NASB), the apostles are called the shepherds of the flock. In 1 Tim 6:15, Jesus is called "the king of kings," but this title is also given to Ar-ta-xerx'es in Ezra 7:12 and to Nebuchadrez'zar in Ezek 26:7. Even Jesus and Lucifer are both called the "morning star" (Isa 14:12; Rev 22:16, NASB). So, just b/c Jesus is the rock (cf. 1 Co 10:4), that does not mean that Peter can't be the rock, especially since Jesus went so far as to change Peter's name to Rock!

Essentially, two people can have the same title, they would just differ in how they typify whatever they are compared to. Jesus is "the rock" in the sense that he is the supreme head of the church, and a stumbling block to those who don't believe. Peter is "the rock" in the sense that he is the earthly foundation of Christ's Church. It is still Christ's church, it's just that Peter is His representative.

When Peter speaks truth given to him by the Father, Jesus speaks to him of opening heaven based on this truth. This truth is that Jesus is the Son of the Living God. I have always been taught that what is “bound and loosed” is not new proclamations of truth by a church leader, but souls. “The keys of the kingdom” refers to the Gospel. The Gospel being, Christ, the Son of God has come to bear your sins and clothe you in His righteousness.
From what I can tell, none of this can be derived either from the context of the passage or from what biblical scholarship reveals about the meaning of "binding and loosing" and the "keys of the kingdom." So, I will need some major proof for your claims here.

Where in Mt 16:16-19 does it say that Peter "opened up heaven" based on the truth that was revealed to him by the Father? What do you mean when you say that "binding and loosing" refers to souls? Where's your proof that "binding and loosing" refers to the Gospel? An expanse of Biblical scholarship says something quite different. You really need to read this post (particularly, points #3 and 5).

A few verses later, Peter speaks lies from Satan as he tries to stand between Christ and His cross. Jesus rebukes Peter and identifies the source of Peter’s lie as Satan.
There's many different ways to look at the passage and none of them refute the infallibility of Peter (and his successors). First, the passage in question:

Mt 16:21-23 From that time Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised. 22 And Peter took him and began to rebuke him, saying, "God forbid, Lord! This shall never happen to you." 23 But he turned and said to Peter, "Get behind me, Satan! You are a hindrance to me; for you are not on the side of God, but of men."

Now, one way to interpret this is to say that Jesus was actually calling Peter "Satan." Assuming He was, I don't think that Jesus meant to equate Peter with the father of lies or to say that Peter was demon-possessed. "Satan" here is simply a transliteration of the Greek word Satana'ß (or "satanas"), which means "adversary (one who opposes another in purpose or act)." It is true that Peter was trying to keep Jesus from going to Jersualem, which was Jesus' purpose, so Jesus may have used this word to describe Peter. But, this doesn't make Peter an evil, horrible person. It's just that, in this one instance, Peter proved somewhat adversarial.

But, we have to keep in mind, first, that it was most likely out of love and respect for Jesus that Peter didn't want him to go. Peter just couldn't imagine such inevitable pain and torture befalling his Lord and Savior! It's hard for me to imagine too, which is why I don't judge Peter too harshly for what he did here. Also, Jesus obviously didn't write Peter off b/c of this incident because He confirmed Peter's role in the Church later when He gave Peter the task of feeding and tending His sheep and when He prayed specifically for Peter's faith, that it would not fail.

Of course, another way to interpret this passage is to say that Jesus was actually talking to Satan. The devil, or his demons, would certainly have an interest in keeping Jesus from fulfilling His mission, and perhaps they were able to tempt Peter to say what he said. Note that the devil is very skilled at taking something good, like Peter's religious fervor or zeal for Jesus, and turning it into something bad. So, it could very well have been that Jesus looked passed Peter and spoke directly to the source. Again, I don't think Peter meant any harm here.

No matter how you interpret it, Peter's ability to speak infallibly is not compromised. It's not like Peter was giving any authoritative teaching when he tried to compel Jesus not to go. He wasn't defining a matter of doctrine or morals. I don't think Peter even sinned in this instance. The most we can accuse Peter of here is shortsightedness, of not completely understanding why Jesus had to do what He had to do....and I just don't think we should lynch him for that.

The central discussion of this passage is Christ; Who He is "the Son of God" and what He came to do "take up His cross" And then what He will do in the end "come in the glory of His Father with His angels.." to judge.
I can agree with that. But, I don't necessarily think that means that Peter isn't the rock. If anything, what it shows is that Jesus is the source of Peter's authority, and I have no problem with that.

With that said, I am not saying that it is unbiblical for an organization of churches to have a single authority over them (though most passages on the subject describe a plurality of elders.) Only that there is just one mediator between God and man, and that is Christ. (1 Tim. 2:5) As I have studied, it is not just that Christ takes precedence, but that there is just Christ between God and man.
I'm not putting Peter between God and man. I never said Peter was the new mediator. Peter can exercise Christ's authority on earth without interfering in Christ's mediatorship in any way. After all, when we speak of the mediatorship of Christ we are referring to the way in which Jesus reconciles man with God via his atoning act of redemption. Papal infallibility has nothing to do with that.

I appreciate that you have graciously granted that there have been Popes who have fallen, failed and spoken heresy. There are many evangelical leaders who have disqualified themselves as tragically.
Just to clarify, if a pope has ever spoken heresy it has been in his private judgments, NOT in his authoritative pronouncements.

You wrote:
“The pope will sin. Morally speaking, he may turn his back on God altogether. He may even hold private opinions that are heretical. But, he will never teach heresy in an authoritative capacity.”
When I say the following, I’m not referring to a one time sin, which we are all prone to daily. Matthew 18:15-20 Jesus is clear about a person who does the above, that they are to be confronted by one or two people in the church, then by the whole church and then they are to be removed from fellowship. And again Jesus says to all His disciples, “What you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, what you loose shall be loosed in heaven.” Certainly this man could never be qualified to be a leader again, even if he repents and is restored to fellowship (Matt. 18: 15-20; 1Tim. 5:19,20 ;1 Tim 3, 2 Tim. 3:8; 1 Cor. 9:27).
Do you believe the Pope is above this? I do not believe any church leader I have ever known is above this, no matter how much I admire them.
But, don't forget that Peter did not remain obstinant in his sin like the "brother" in this example. Our Lord saw the sorrow that Peter felt over what he had done (cf. Lk 22:60-62) and He forgave Peter when He allowed Peter to reverse his thrice denial with a thrice affirmation of his love. So, there is certainly no need to treat Peter "as a Gentile and a tax collector."

You also have to keep in mind that if you are going to place someone as the earthly head of your Church then it obviously follows that no one person or group of persons will have the authority to cut him off from fellowship or excommunicate him. That's just the nature of the leadership that Jesus established. But, that doesn't mean that the pope is above reproach. St. Catherine of Sienna traveled to France and told Pope Gregory XI "to his face" (a la St. Paul) that he needed to leave Avignon and return to Rome. Several other saints have done the same. If he is a humble man, the pope will accept the council of holy men and women of the Church and reform his ways. If not, well, he like all men will be judged by the Lord when his day comes.

My next question is: Do you know of any proclamations of a Pope, present or past, that have been considered Ex Cathedra (infallible or authoritative) that contradict direct teachings of Scripture?
I know of NONE.

Pax Christi,
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