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Archive for the ‘theology’ Category

Crisis, Reform and the Future of the Churchby George Weigel

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Mr. Weigel is a Catholic theologian and a Senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington,D.C. This book was written in 2002 so it’s still very current on the issues facing the church today. The author states that the book is

“For all those who will contribute to the genuinely Catholic reform of the Church in the Unites states. You know who you are. Be not afraid.”

The first 2/3 of the book is devoted to laying the foundation of what happened to the church over the past 35 to 40 years in the aftermath of Vatican II(no it’s not about what’s wrong with that council). He addresses how the role of the priest and the laity were mixed into the vague term of “ministry” and the role of priest as Vatican II teaches “living instruments of Christ the eternal priest”. An added insight is that the idea of the church as the body of Christ was diminished perhaps in church governance. The church is not a denomination defined by the will of its members, but an institution created and its boundaries defined once and for all by the will of Christ.

He address the issue of Humanae Vitae as one of the key points which bishops and Pope Paul VI failed to address what was created an environment that

“was to promote intellectual, moral, and disciplinary disorder in the Catholic Church in the United States.”

As far as I can tell he coined the phrase “Truce of 1968” when Cardinal Patrick O’Boyle took disciplinary action against 19 local priest for joining protests against Humanae Vitae. The Pope apparently feared it would create a schism in the church in America.

The last 1/3 of the book addresses what the author believes are need reforms, some like the seminaries and liturgy are already underway by Pope B16.

The book is an easy read and does provide some good insights for those especially that have come into the church in the past 20 years or so. As well as those who were raised in the church but were not born yet during the 60’s & 70’s. For those of us that have lived through these times, the book will not bring up much that is not already known, but would still be informative if your focus has been focused only on local church issues rather then national or universal ones.

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I thought it a stroke of genius to have the stations of the cross performed by Joesph Cardinal Zen of China. The Vatican has a link to the cards them made for this year. It’s in Italian so you’ll have to translate it.

I think this reflects the high priority of the Papacy in praying for those in China and for diplomatic relations with their gov’t.

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I expect that there will be much written about the Pope’s coming visit to the US. I think perhaps the media will focus on social issues or comments the pope may make and how such statements might effect Catholic voters in the coming elections. But for Catholics I think perhaps there will be no greater issue then on APril 17, when the Pope will engage the 200 top Catholic school officials from across the country. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pope received the same type of reception as he did at the former Catholic university in Rome la-sapienza university 2 months ago.

In First Things Fr. Richard John Neuhaus wrote an article entitled “A University of a Particular Kind”. There is in this country two kinds of universities – Secular and Christian. Neither are neutral in their worldview, but since there are so many more secular universities most people receiving that type of education would consider secular to be neutral. It’s not, its existance is hostile to the Christian theos. This does not mean it shouldn’t exist, however the inroads of secular thought into Catholic universities has been significant and clearly harmful to the church. If one believes the Cardinal Newman Society it has recommended 20 of the 235 U.S. Catholic colleges “which most faithfully live their Catholic identity and provide a quality undergraduate education”. In this day and age I amazed its that high.

Catholic universities have been able to give lip service to Catholic parents who believe that their child will receive a “Catholic” higher education. However, whenever the rare bishop is willing to hold the university accountable to that standard, the normal spin or party line if you will goes like this: in seeking truth & academic excellence, placing Catholic teaching or a Catholic environment in higher education would inhibit academic freedom.

If any one would doubt this position, I draw this conclusion from none other then the famous Land O’ Lakes Statement crafted by Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh President of Notre Dame University back in 1967. One either hailed this position as a stand for academic freedom or viewed it as a divorce between Catholic education in this country and the Catholic church. IMO the latter is clearly demonstrated.

My biggest issue with Rev. Hesburg and those who support his position is that they disagree with the Catholic church on positions already settle and therefore not open to debate, yet they run their universities directly against those ideals, and they are unwilling to advise the Catholic parents who expect that their young Johnny’s faith will not be undermined, but actually reinforced what was taught in their home.

The Washington Post may prove me wrong about the media not picking up on this one Catholic College Leaders Expect Pope to Deliver Stern Message

Ex-corde-ecclesia written by Pope John Paul II in 1989 will finally be implemented into Catholic universities. Or at least I hope it will.

With every other University it shares that gaudium de veritate, so precious to Saint Augustine, which is that joy of searching for, discovering and communicating truth(2) in every field of knowledge. A Catholic University’s privileged task is “to unite existentially by intellectual effort two orders of reality that too frequently tend to be placed in opposition as though they were antithetical: the search for truth, and the certainty of already knowing the fount of truth”(3).

I don’t expect that the Pope will get anything but lip service. My only hope is that the Pope will place them on notice and advise the general Catholic population that these institutions will be striped of any formal association, and prohibited from claiming any Catholic identity.

As the washington post article stated David Gibson, the author of a Benedict biography, said the pope will ask, “If you’re not going to be an authentically Catholic, orthodox institution, why should you exist?”

Amen.

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A Case of Demonic Possession

It seems like there’s a lot of activity going on in New York right now. The individual who observed this excorism is

Richard E. Gallagher, M.D., is a board-certified psychiatrist in private practice in Hawthorne, New York, and Associate Professor of Clinical Psychiatry at New York Medical College. He is also on the faculties of the Columbia University Psychoanalytic Institute and a Roman Catholic seminary. He is a Phi Beta Kappa graduate of Princeton University, magna cum laude in Classics, and trained in Psychiatry at the Yale University School of Medicine.

The New Oxford Review has the full article of the case. While there may be natural explanations for this as a believer I know demons exist.

With a team of priests, deacons, several lay assistants, psychiatrists, nuns, some of whom also had medical and psychiatric training,

However, it would be difficult to disprove. In the end either one believes that there are malevolent forces or not and no evidence one way or the other will likely change ones view.

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Asia news reports on the murder of yet another Iraqi martyr this time it was Archbishop Rahho. May he pray for us all in heaven and especially for his war torn country. The spiritual work of mercy- ransoming of captives needs to move up to the top 5 on B16 list of things to promote globally. As I say awhile back The lost art of mercy is now alien to western civilization. For all our Christians(Orthodox, Catholic or Protestant) nows the time to step and embrace the cross. That’s the message of the Gospel, not the “purpose-driven” or “Oprah driven” life.

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In the United states the church doesn’t nor is it permitted to take funds from the state in support of primary education. This has served the church well in the 20th century and hurt it at least initially in the 18 & 19th centuries.

In England Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue made an impassioned plea to allow for the most shocking of ideas. His point in the article here UK Catholic Bishop Before Parliament for Insisting on Crucifixes in Every Classroom

“Every school has a philosophy. And a philosophy which puts God at the centre and morality as objective, is no less powerful than that which says God is irrelevant and morality is up to the individual choice.”

The Labour Party MP for Huddersfield, Barry Sheerman came out with what I would have to say is a classic

It seems to me that faith education works all right as long as people are not that serious about their faith. But as soon as there is a more doctrinaire attitude questions have to be asked.

MP Fiona McTaggart said she found it “surprising” that the document bans the various fundraising activities such as the Red Nose day, and Amnesty International, in which children were encouraged to support anti-family and pro-abortion organizations and activities. She also objected to the instruction to remove materials from school libraries that “contain polemic against religion in general” such as the works of Karl Marx and French nihilist philosopher Albert Camus.

Well with England at a staggering fertility replacement rate of 1.7, I doubt she’ll have to worry about such issue in 30 years with their approaching Demographic Winter

The state needs to recognize that if the church doesn’t take up the education then the state will have to spend a substantial increase in funding to operate more state run schools. And the church needs to recognize that the money taken in from the state comes at far to high a price to lose one’s faith. Thankfully, Bishop Patrick O’Donoghue is following the tradition of St. John Fisher rather the the first bishop to handle money Judas. I wish him well, but I think it easier to with draw from the secular state in toto, rather then dance with it half way.

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This is driving me nuts. I have read in several places where Pope Benedict XVI is having discussion on writting a document on Luther and lifting the excommunication edit on Luther. The London Times has a rumor article on the Pope issuing on in the fall.

Here at least is someone that went to the wizard and received a functioning brain and dispels the rumor.

Here is another link to what the current pope thought on the topic 20 some years ago. It’s well worth the read. Ratzinger on Luther – Communio 11: Fall, 1984luther.jpg

I expect some favorable points made on Luther by the Pope this summer or fall, but those who think the excommunication on Luther would be lifted are grossly misinformed or have grossly been mislead in religious education, especially in the area of papal authority.

You see the church (including the Pope) has no authority over the dead. Judgement does indeed come from God, so the Pope does not have any authority to lift the sentence against Luther, nor would such a gesture be fruitful. It’s moot- he’s dead and God has judged him [for good or for ill]. I hesitate in using the word “has” with respect to God since this is performed in eternity, but hopefully my point is understood.

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These figures are off much from what we had in the past few years.  There was a 1.5% increase in 2005. What’s interesting IMO is that the faith is increasing at greater then the general population in areas where the faith is under direct attack from the gov’t or is below the 20% of the countries overall population.  IOW quality produces quanity when under difficult times, where as quanity does not produce quality if there is no difficulty in living out ones faith. The areas were societies have high abortions, high divorce rates and low adherents to church attendance and doctrines of the faith are lukewarm and decreasing.

Vatican City (AsiaNews) – The number of Catholics in the world is increasing, if not by much: they were 1.31 billion in 2006, an increase of 1.4% compared to the 1.15 billion in 2005.  And there is a continuation of the trend that since 2000 has seen an increase in the number of priests, both diocesan and religious, who went from 406,411 in 2005 to 407,262 in 2006, an overall change of 0.21%.  These are some of the figures contained in the Annuario Pontificio for 2008, presented this morning by the pope.Observing the presence of Catholics in relation to the number of the inhabitants of the various continents, it can be noted that Catholics make up 14% of the population of the population of the Americas, while the Americas have 49.8% of Catholics in the world.  Catholics make up just a slightly smaller percentage of Europe’s population, but its importance in the Catholic world is clearly lower than that of the American countries (25%).  The proportion of Catholics in Asia is at 10.5%, lower than the continent’s percentage of the world population, which is at around 61%.

But the trend of the number of priests present in Asia is on the rise.  Observing the distribution of priests by region, in fact, one can observe a decline in the presence of priests in Europe and America compared to Africa and Asia.  In terms of percentage, in fact, while in 2000 the overall number of priests working in Europe and the Americas represented 81% of the total, in 2006 they  dropped to 78%. The most striking positive variation is seen in Africa, where the proportion of priests in 2006 stood at around 8% of the worldwide total. In Asia, too, the number of priests moved higher, passing from 43,566 in 2000 to 51,281 in 2006.

There has also been growth in the number of those preparing for the priesthood. There are 115,480  students of philosophy and theology in the diocesan or religious seminaries, an increase of 0.9% compared to the previous year; 24,034 are in Africa, 37,150 in the Americas, 30,702 in Asia, 22,618 in Europe, and 976 in Oceania.

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Many Protestant communions have issues with giving adherence to the traditional Creeds. Creeds bind individual believers to a formal expression of Scriptural truths. Creeds were created to eliminate gray areas which lead to false understandings of eternal truths. Many would view Creeds as intolerant. Especially in this politically correct world, Creeds can be somewhat insensitive to those who would rather hold positions that allow both orthodox and heretical views.

Indeed, Creeds are designed to be just that- intolerant, insensitive, unforgiving. For a Creed defines the boundary with which the enemy Satan is not permitted to enter, nor any of his followers. Heresy is a half truth at best and provides a false sense of security which brings spiritual destruction and in some case physical destruction on a wide scale throughout history. So while Creeds seem to turn on points of scriptural, philosophy & ecclesiastical concerns which they do; they make their mark by sealing literally with the blood of thousands of martyrs as to what is truth.

Christology is the discipline in theology for the study of the Person of Jesus Christ. Since Christ is the basis of belief for all Christians, it is critical to understand who Christ is and who He isn’t; since our belief and salvation are dependent upon Him.

Many of the early church heresies turn on either Christ’s personhood or His natures (Divine & Human). It should be noted that many of these heresies were based on a misunderstanding of scripture and in defense against some other heresy, yet the defense formed to refute a given heresy & supporting a true belief in Christ turned out to be heretical as well.

Today we have many Christians who possess an uninformed or ill formed view of Christ. And like heresies of old these are simply remakes of their older heretical versions. Perhaps the greatest of these today is Nestorianism. This is the belief that Christ has two natures and two persons(human & Divine). Now the reformers would never profess two persons in Christ, however, those who came after them, that have discarded the creeds over the centuries are not generally aware of this dogma nor the history and sacrifice of saints who died for these truths.

Protestants have some motivation for supporting this heresy. Catholicism affirms that Mary is the Mother of God. Various cultures that have significant numbers of Catholics have developed traditions which celebrate this truth of the church and of course the prayer “Hail Mary” also contains this phrase as well. In reaction to this display of honoring Jesus and His mother, Protestants have felt the need over the centuries to counteract this piety, which seems excessively focused on Mary. Part of this is simply because Protestants are not familiar with the theological distinctions about giving honor to a person and for that matter most Catholics haven’t been taught it and don’t understand it either. The average Catholic does not know or likely heard about Latria (worship given to God alone) and Hyperdulia & Dulia (honor given to Mary and honor given to Saints respectfully). The majority of Catholic do however understand that they are not to worship Mary, but likely are not able to explain the process. Hence, the Protestants concern with whether the Catholic is honoring Mary or worshiping her. We must also remember that external actions do not necessarily relay what is going on in the believers mind and spirit. I think a strong reminder once a year from the pulpit on reflecting what these theological categories mean would be helpful.

Those who reconcile with the Catholic church coming from one of the Protestant confessions many times have difficulty with this dogma. However, if one keeps the Creed in mind and why those at the Third Ecumenical Council (Ephesus)
rejected Nestorianism would be beneficial.

In their zeal to defend against a perceived false worship of Mary, some will reject that Mary is the Mother of God. The individual will attempt to apply logic and state that if Mary is the Mother of God that she must be Divine herself in order to give birth to a Divine person. Such reasoning is false because Christ is one Person – not two. Christ has two natures, but once the Protestant attempts to separate the Incarnation of Divine and Human natures they are forced to falsely create two Persons of Christ (one human and one Divine). This destroys the Trinity and creates 4 person in one God.

Given the utter victory of the church in defining the Trinity, this should make any Christian recoil from this type of  reasoning. Yet if they still are unable to accept Mary as Mother of God and they recognize that God is a Trinity there is a host of other heresies waiting for the believer.

Docetists- Christ appeared to have a real human body, but actually was an ethereal being much like an angel. It derives its name from the Greek, dokein, “to seem, to appear.”

Next is Ebionism who rejected the teachings of Paul and emphasized the importance of the law of Moses. Generally, they regarded Jesus as a divinely inspired prophet but not as God.

Valentinianism, Monarchianism, Sabellianism/Modalists all had there respective day in the Sun. St. Epiphanius writes about them:

“Their doctrine is, that Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one and the same being, in the sense that three names are attached to the one substance. A close analogy may be found in the body, soul and spirit of man. The body as it were the Father: the soul as the Son ; while the Spirit is to the Godhead as his spirit is to a man. Or take the sun: it is one substance, but it has three manifestations, light , heat and the orb itself. The heat…( is analogous to) the Spirit; the light to the Son; while the Father himself is represented as the actual substance. The Son was at one time emitted, like a ray of light; he accomplished in the world all that pertained to the dispensation of the Gospel and man’s salvation, and was taken back into heaven , as a ray is emitted by the sun and then withdrawn again into the sun.”(Epiphanius Bishop of Salamis 375 AD. Adv. hareses Ixii.1)

If this theological position rings a bell, it’s likely that you know or where at one time a Oneness Pentecostal for they are anti-Trinitarians holding to the belief that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are one God and one Person.

Adoptionism is where Christ is/was created by generation and nature, and became divine by adoption and grace as an adult. Arians which was created by Arius a presbyter of the Alexandria church in the 4th century taught Christ was not God like the Father, but a creature made in time. Mormons and Jehovah Witnesses hold similar beliefs.

Eutycheanism/Monophysites– archimandrite of Constantinople held that Christ is One person and One nature.

Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance (homoousious) with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer (Theotokos); one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.

This is called the Definition of Chalcedon.

Note that there is a great balance between the two heretical positions of One Person & One nature on the one hand and two persons and two natures on the other.

Christians rightly think of Jesus as God and hence many of us tend to think of Him in exclusively Divine concepts. However Jesus is fully human in nature and therefore we should also realize that He sanctifies us by and through His Incarnation. Eastern Orthodoxy has a wonderful saying that all that Jesus touches is redeemed.

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I just finished an easy reading by the fire kind of book. Ms. Carroll looks into the unstable social changes that the gen-Xers have endured and their desire for something solid, concrete, time tested & enduring; in a word tradition. And it’s not just young Catholic’s, but many Protestant & Orthodox churches as well. With all the negative that one can read about young folks and with all the dearth religious education for them, it’s inspiring to read their stories.

I felt very hopeful about our future with outstanding examples  contra the media image of todays youth. Their looking for a true challenge and they’ll meet it, the boomers in religious ed simply have to be willing to trust them to give it to them. Published in 04, her statistical data isn’t to old(2000) so I believe her observations are still current.

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