Archive for December, 2007

Today the Catholic church commemorates the death of Pope Silvester I.

Little is actually know of this Pope, but because it was during his reign that the 1st Ecumenical council was held various supporters of the papacy and those opposed to it have by my understanding made mountains out of mole hills.

Various Catholic e-polygists will state that the papacy called all the Ecumenical council. As if their authority is endangered if one failed to do so. First problem is that we have no original documents to refer to on this or what was later the second Ecumenical council.

The first bit of evidence comes from Rufinus who’s church history is very close(circa 400) to the time of the council which was in 325 A.D. Constantine made his decision “on the advice of the clergy”according to Rufinus, Hist. Eccl., 1:218. That’s pretty open ended. Likely it’s Hosius of Cordova

who was the Emperor’s consultant. Of the two extant lists by Mansi massive work “Sacrorum Conciliorum nova et amplissima collectio” and two by Pope Gelasius the first name is always Hosius of Cordova followed by two priests of Rome Vincentius and Vitus, they are followed by much more famous personages who have much higher authority within the church:St. Alexander of Alexandria, Eustathius of Antioch, Macarius of Jerusalem, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Eusebius of Caesarea, and Nicholas of Myra(yes that’s Santa Claus).

It is significant that mere priests are listed ahead of metropolitans and other bishops and this is because they represent the Pope at the council.

Although the fact that the Pope did not attend this council the papacy used this as an excuse not to attend future councils, thereby maintaining the ability to veto items that it found displeasing.

Protestants will frequently note that this is the date of the birth of the Catholic church. Such a claim is very far from true. However what isn’t noted by either protestants nor Catholics sadly is Constantine’s change towards the church from 314

My own desire is, for the common good of the world and the advantage of all mankind, that your people should enjoy a life of peace and undisturbed concord. Let those, therefore, who still delight in error, be made welcome to the same degree of peace and tranquillity which they have who believe. For it may be that this restoration of equal privileges to all will prevail to lead them into the straight path. Let no one molest another, but let every one do as his soul desires. Only let men of sound judgment be assured of this, that those only can live a life of holiness and purity, whom you call to a reliance on your holy laws. With regard to those who will hold themselves aloof from us, let them have, if they please, their temples of lies: we have the glorious edifice of your truth, which you have given us as our native home. We pray, however, that they too may receive the same blessing, and thus experience that heartfelt joy which unity of sentiment inspires- Chapter 56

As for those who will not allow themselves to be cured of their error, let them not attribute this to any but themselves. For that remedy which is of sovereign and healing virtue is openly placed within the reach of all. Only let not any one inflict an injury on that religion which experience itself testifies to be pure and undefiled.-Chapter 59 – Book II Life of Constantine

The problem with this was two fold. One was the merging of the emperor acting as a bishop confusing the role of church & state on the one hand, which created issues btwn the latin and greek speaking church in centuries later and eventually to the schism in 1054 A.D.

The other was the entrance of crypto-pagans and heretics

Thus were the lurking-places of the heretics broken up by the emperor’s command, and the savage beasts they harbored (I mean the chief authors of their impious doctrines) driven to flight. Of those whom they had deceived, some, intimidated by the emperor’s threats, disguising their real sentiments, crept secretly into the Church. For since the law directed that search should be made for their books, those of them who practiced evil and forbidden arts were detected, and these were ready to secure their own safety by dissimulation of every kind. Chapter 66 book III.

Freedom of religion was desired initially to prevent Christians from being deprived of property, killed and shunned. However, it was realized by the Emperor that paganism was already dead and the only viable instrument to unite the empire he wanted to preserve was through Christianity.

The church leaders were slow to react to the changes, most having lived under the reign of VALERIUS DIOCLETIANUS


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Center for disease control

had some interesting facts.

The total fertility rate in 2006 was 2,101.0 births per 1,000 women, the highest rate since 1971.

Childbearing by unmarried women rose substantially in 2006, reaching record high levels. The birth rate rose 7 percent in 2006 to 50.6 per 1,000 unmarried women aged 15–44 years; the number of births to unmarried women increased by nearly 8 percent in 2006 to 1,641,700.

At Christmas we recognize the birth of Christ our Savior. I guess this country is in very short supply of St. Joseph’s who took on a responsibility of raising the Christ child. I’d like to see the numbers on man who fail to support the woman and child whom they abandoned. 1.6 million unmarried births is going to place a large burden on the state to support. However, historically it’s not the state but the church who is called to stand and support these women. After all it is we the church who are explicitly called to look after the widow and orphan.

While they may mostly be simply children of fornication that’s no reason not to step up to the plate.

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I was reading an article in the NY times about the


Photo by Damon Winter/The New York Times

Church of the Transfiguration in Chinatown

which has changed hands as it were from Irish to Italians and now Chinese. After the immigrant assimilates into the secular culture, they seem to fail to pass on their faith or at least the way they express their faith to the next generation. It becomes more of a trip down memory lane, something their parents or grandparents did, but is no longer desirable or needed.

For the midnight Mass, Father Lin recruited two extra priests to hear the confessions of long lines of Fujianese Catholics, whose worship includes making the sacrament regularly.

“Now we like to teach them not to do it so often, because it is a burden for us,” Father Lin said.

I found that quote from the article striking. Chinese immigrants had a strong desire to make regular confessions, likely because they can finally do so without going to prison and second because they recognize that it was their faith that sustained them through those times. You can’t teach that you have to live it. As the church struggles to get Catholic to make confession more frequent it’s the immigrants that point the way.

Back to the assimilation question, as our society continues to crumble and/or spend away it’s moral fiber will assimilation decrease or will the contrast between what the world is offering be great enough that the younger generation will be drawn into the faith because of it’s counter culture stand? I have no doubt that the more the church makes a contrast between itself and the society at large the stronger and more adherents it will have, just as those churches which attempt to attract more followers attempt to adapt itself to secular trends or make itself more “relevant” it will continue to lose more.

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Jerusalem’s Latin Patriarch

Michel Sabbah,  the Holy Land’s Roman Catholic leader:

“God made this land for all three of us, so a suitable state is one who can adapt itself to the vocation of this land,” said Sabbah, who was born in Nazareth, a town where Christians believe Jesus was raised and which is now part of Israel.

“If it’s Jewish, it’s not Muslim or Christian.”

Now the response from Christians for Fair Witness on the Middle East Sr. Ruth Lautt, Fair Witness National Director stated:

“Jews, like any other people, defined in terms of a shared ethnicity, language, history, culture and/or religion, have the right to constitute an autonomous, sovereign political community. We have been very concerned about recent attacks on the legitimacy of a Jewish state. It is dismaying to see Patriarch Sabbah jump on this bandwagon and take the position that a Jewish state is somehow inherently discriminatory.”

From Pax Christi web site:

The year 2007 marks the 40th year of Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands. The impact of this occupation, which includes poverty, violence, social disintegration and internal conflict, continues to this day. As part of this occupation, Israel began the construction of a 700-kilometre wall that cuts through Palestinian communities, dividing families and their lands, keeping farmers from their crops, children from their schools, the sick from urgent medical care and denying people freedom of movement. The International Court of Justice declared the wall to be illegal in 2004 and instructed Israel to dismantle it. Nevertheless construction continues. Pax Christi International needs your help to send a strong message to the Israeli government to halt construction of the wall and dismantle the part that has already been built. All member organisations are invited to support a petition suggested by Trocaire, one of our CIDSE partners active on Israel & Palestine.

It’s hard to tell what is the modivation behind this appeal. On the one had I feel for the Patriarch because the Christians in the Holy Land are getting killed (literally and figuratively) from both sides.Israel has historic rights IMO from the Bible. I am much more concerned about Dhimmitude and Christians forced to submit to Sharia law then I am about Israel suppressing Christians and Muslims in the Holy Land.

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This WAS completely off my radar scope. But seeing how I have 2 teenagers I’ll be on the look out for this stuff.

The places one finds topics on religion these days comes from unlikely sources. This one is old for the net (9 months) but seeing how Battlecry may be coming to a town near you, it may be something you need to look into for teens that are Christian. Rolling Stone had an article on this one. I frankly don’t know if this is good or bad. On the surface it seems good, but I have concerns after reading this Acquire the evidence.

Regardless of what communion you belong to, our collective churches have to do a better job addressing the issues that our teens face. Unlike my “Leave it to Beaver” generation where most everyone was married, it was scandalous to be divorced, drugs were strictly over the counter, sex was a dirt word not something that 50% of your peers had done by age 15, abortion was still illegal.

This generation has no foundation to stand on, the baby boom generation literally blew it up. I’ve operated under the false assumption that somehow my kids childhood is similar to mine. It’s completely the opposite.

Over at Charlotte was Both has a Catholic version of this (Hard as Nails) without the apparent political ties that Battlecry seems to have.  Maybe I’m just getting old, it’s not the message it’s the method and the cult of personality I’m concerned with.

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Over at Catholic Sensibility he has a post on RITE OF GENERAL ABSOLUTION makes the requirements of

34. Unless there is a good reason preventing it, those who receive pardon for serious sin through general absolution are to go to auricular confession before any further reception of general absolution.And unless a moral impossibility stands in the way, they are absolutely bound to go to a confessor within one year. For the precept binding every one of the faithful binds them as well, namely, to confess individually to a priest at least once a year all those grave sins not hitherto confessed one by one. [SCDF, Pastoral Norms for General Absolution, 16 June 1972, Norms VII and VIII

This got me thinking about the logistics of the matter.

Math break down: 8,000 members (large Catholic parish) of which if it’s typical 4,000 attend weekly. The other 4,000 go only at Easter & Christmas and perhaps a few other services.

Auricular Confessions:

Once/monthly would not be possible at 925/members/wk. [4,000 X 12 months /52 weeks] X a short 5 minute confession = 77 hours/wk. Mission Impossible.

Quarterly would be 308/members/wk. = 25 hours/wk. –Mission Impossible

Quarterlies & add a Wednesday evening time as well as Saturday and your down to 154/members/wk. = 15 hours/wk.

Well it’s progress, Mission unlikely except for a brief period of time.

Semi-annually with confessions on Wednesdays & Saturdays 77/members/wk. = 6 hours/wk.

Mission possible

That’s about the max. for a priest and that’s not factoring in sickness, a vacation to see family, spill over from other parishes if your a good confessor and emergencies.

That’s a problem one a priest doesn’t have the option to accept, if they don’t the tape will self-destruct.

Disclaimer: The analogy to the movie Mission Impossible should not be construed as support of Tom Cruise or the Church of Scientology ;>)

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John Allen has a piece in the International Herald Tribune  today on speculation about the Pope’s speach at the U.N. Next spring.

Like every pope since the birth of the United Nations in 1945, Benedict supports robust global governance, in a fashion that has long bewildered neoconservative critics of the United Nations in the United States and elsewhere.

I am very much in line here as viewing the U.N. as completely ineffective. But that is coming from an expressly American viewpoint. Perhaps I’d think differently if I had to raise my family as a Catholic in China, India,eastern Europe or many parts of Africa.

Benedict undeniably has a point about relativism. From China to Iran to Zimbabwe, it’s common for authoritarian regimes to argue that rights like freedom of the press, religion and dissent represent Western – or even Anglo-American – traditions.
If human rights are to be protected in a 21st century increasingly shaped by non-Western actors like China and the so-called Shiite axis from Lebanon to Central Asia, then a belief in objective truth grounded in universal human nature is critical. That’s hardly just a Catholic concern, but no one on the global scene is making the argument with the clarity of Benedict XVI.  

That’s a take I hadn’t considered. One of my big complaints about how the papacy is run is the difficulty of knowing when the Pope is not speaking as the Pope. That may sound strange, but he is the Head of the Vatican city State, the local bishop of Rome, Primate of Italy. Just what hat or is it all that he is using while giving these speaches.

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Now I should likely have a poll taken of how many thought I was going to speak about Latin vs. Greek, Catholic vs. Orthodoxy-you’d be wrong.

Growing up in a western first world culture, I’ve never experienced any true persecution of any kind. I’ve been confronted with the message of salvation by numerous individuals who claim I’m going to hell because I’m Catholic, but that’s not persecution.

Ther term Greek- μάρτυς translates as witness. This is IMO a grossly misused term. In many circles it means proclaiming the Gospel to non-believers and giving testimony for your belief in Christ. Nothing wrong with that, but it’s not witnessing.

This is witnessing or here if you want to look there’s hundreds of other examples Orthodox, Protestant and Catholic.

First world Occidentials need to know that when they stand up an recite the Creed in a monotone drone that there are literally thousands this year in Oriental (in this case it means- Muslim, Hindu, Chinese) cultures who will go to their death (read witness) simply because they profess the Triune God and refuse to acknowledge other gods.

On the one hand its great that we all live where we don’t have to fear police coming into our church to arrest us for that profession, that we don’t have to fear lossing our job, or our family members or friends. Perhaps we could take the of handed snide remark from someone who dislikes Christians. 

We take for granted that which we claim to believe.  So during this season of peace and thanksgiving perhaps we should all pray for those that do have to witness for their faith and perhaps they will pray for us because we don’t have to witness for it – just live it.

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Heavenly Brew

There are many reasons I love being Catholic. This is one my Baptist wife would not agree with me.

Some Trappists monks have determined that making beer is very good business. However, not at the expense of heavenly duties.

“No question, it is the holy grail of beers,” says Remi Johnson, manager of the Publick House, a Boston bar that has Westvleteren on its menu but rarely in stock…In the 1980s, the monks even debated whether they should continue making something from which people can get drunk. “There is no dishonor in brewing beer for a living. We are monks of the West: moderation is a key word in our asceticism,” says Brother Joris in a separate, email interview. “We decided to stick to our traditional skills instead of breeding rabbits.”Last year, St. Sixtus filed a complaint with the government against two companies that refused — BelgianFood.com, a Web site that sells beer, cheese, chocolate and other niche products, and Beermania, a Brussels beer shop that also sells online. Both offer Westvleteren at around $18 a bottle. “I’m not making a lot of money and I pay my taxes,” says BelgianFood.com owner Bruno Dourcy. “You can only buy two cases at once, you know.” Mr. Dourcy makes monthly two-hour car trips from his home in eastern Belgium. “Seek the Kingdom of God first, and all these things will be given to you,” counters Brother Joris, quoting from the Bible, adding that it refers only to things you really need. “So if you can’t have it, possibly you do not really need it.”

Have to love a monk with a acerbic sense of righteous humor.

Here’s the web page to order here (if you can get ever get through).

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a-return-of-tradition.jpgPerhaps all those interfaith prayer groups are starting to have an effect. WHen U.S. News & World Report picks up on a religious trend you know its been ongoing for a while.

Soon, St. Mary may be less well known for that distinctive liturgical offering than for the number of big-name government and media types that occupy its pews. Now that Pope Benedict XVI has loosened the restrictions on churches that want to observe the pre-Vatican II rite, more parishes are availing themselves of the option. Call it part of a larger conservative shift within the church—one that includes a renewed emphasis on such practices as personal confession and reciting the rosary as well as a resurgent interest in traditional monastic and religious orders.

But this shift extends beyond the Roman Catholic Church. In Richardson, Texas, the congregation of Trinity Fellowship Church participates in something that would have been considered almost heretical in most evangelical Protestant churches five or 10 years ago: a weekly Communion service. An independent, nondenominational church of some 600 members, Trinity Fellowship is not the only evangelical congregation that is offering a weekly Eucharist, saying the Nicene or Apostles’ creeds, reading the early Church Fathers, or doing other things that seem downright Roman Catholic or at least high Episcopalian. Daniel Wallace, a professor of New Testament studies at Dallas Theological Seminary, which trains pastors for interdenominational or nondenominational churches, says there is a growing appetite for something more than “worship that is a glorified Bible class in some ways.”

A new interest in old ways takes root in Catholicism and many other faiths

Perhaps it will only take us 500 years to heal the reformation. The one strength of the Novus Ordo mass is the amount of scripture readings which far exceeds not just the traditional Latin mass, but every other Protestant service I’ve ever attended as well. If nothing else I’m always more hopeful this time of year.

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