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Friday, December 11, 2015

Why a Celibate Priesthood?

This is an excerpt from the cheeky, irreverent and exceptionally smart aplogist, Mark Shea:

Re:  the Celibate Priesthood

It’s supposed to threaten that debased cultural imperative and provide a counter-witness against the mere selfish indulgence of appetite that our consumer society of instant gratification and irresponsibility promotes.  A civilization founded on the worship of pleasure is a civilization on a fast track toward ceasing to be a civilization.  And an “argument” against celibacy that boils down to “ME WANT SEX NOW!” is not an argument but something more like the grunt of an animal.  Both the Christian tradition of consecrated virginity and the Christian tradition of marriage provide a counter-witness against the post-Christian Cult of the Pig precisely because they bear witness to the fact that we are called to sacrifice our bodies in love for another, not feed our piggy appetites at the expense of the other.  Whether we make the self-offering through the sacrament of marriage (with its complete giving of the self to God, spouse and children) or by foregoing marriage and sex in order to spend oneself as a living sacrifice to God in service to his people, the basic message is the same: it’s not all about you.  You find your life by losing it or you lose your life by selfishly trying to keep it.

Read more:

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Part 2: What about Cafeteria Catholics?

If we are Christians, then the implication is that we submit to Christ and His Teachings. Even the ones we don't care for.

Cafeteria Catholicism, then, seems to be the antithesis of the Christian model.  It is really NOT submitting to Christ, but rather to that which only appeals to our own sensibilities.

That is:  
"When I submit only when I agree, then the one to whom I submit really is me."

Cafeteria Catholicism is akin to folks in ancient Palestine following Jesus, saying, "We like what this guy says, except for His teachings on A, B and C.  So we'll be His followers, but we're going to keep our own opinions about A, B and C.   Yeah-- Jesus may have gotten it wrong on A, B and C."  

Kind of cheeky, right?!!  "Jesus, we think you're the 2nd Person of the Godhead, but you need to tweak your teachings A, B and C a bit, eh?"

I think most Cafeteria Catholics respond by saying, "We're not disagreeing with Christ when when say we reject teachings A, B and C.  We're just disagreeing with the Church.  Christ and the Catholic Church are not always one and the same."

On the one hand, they are correct--the Catholic Church and Christ are not always one and the same. Thus when a bad Catholic does a bad thing, that is not the same thing as Christ doing the bad thing.  
And when a priest speaks, it's not necessarily Christ who is speaking.  

However, it must be said that the ONLY way that Cafeteria Catholics know ANYTHING at all about God and what He has revealed is because the Catholic Church has proclaimed this.

So it's odd that a Catholic would say, "Yes, the Church got it right when she says that God is love, and that the Gospel of Matthew is inspired, and that our sins are forgiven, and that we should forgive seventy times seven..."

but then also say, "The Church gets it wrong when she says that abortion is gravely sinful, women cannot be ordained to the priesthood, non-Catholics may not receive communion..."

How do they know the Church got it right on teachings X, Y, and Z, but wrong on A, B and C?

What is the canon they use to determine when the Church is right and the Church is wrong...if not simply what they "feel" they want to agree to?

Cafeteria Christianity is nothing more than creating a Christ that conforms to our own selves.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

What about Cafeteria Catholics?

"Cafeteria Catholics" are typically defined as Catholics who "pick and choose" what doctrines of the Church they follow, as if they were in a cafeteria, picking and choosing what foods appeal to them.

However, Catholics are not free to pick and choose what doctrines to believe.
We are obligated to give our religious assent to all teachings of the Church on faith and morals.

(And here, by "not free" we of course don't mean that Catholics aren't ABLE to pick and choose.  Of course, we all have the ability to pick and choose, thanks to the gift of our free will.  What is meant is that "picking and choosing" is not sanctioned or permitted .)

We can't read the Catechism and metaphorically tear out the pages we don't like.

As Apologist John Martignoni writes:  

You want to call yourself Catholic, but you want to pick and choose for yourself which of the Church's teachings to accept and which to reject, you give everyone else who calls themselves Catholic the right to do the same thing.

For example, you believe women should be the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1577 states, "Only a baptized man validly receives ordination...For this reason the ordination of women is not possible!" You don't believe that...well, that's fine...[RIP] just tear that page out of your just made it a Catechism of your Catholic Church...not mine.

But remember, if you can throw doctrines out, so can everyone else who calls themselves Catholic. That gives Joe Parishioner over at St. Doubting Thomas Catholic Church the right to throw out the Church's social justice teachings...he doesn't feel like feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, and all that other "bleeding heart" stuff - Paragraphs 2401 -2463 [RIP]...he just made it a Catechism of his Catholic Church...not mine and not yours.

You believe contraception is okay? Paragraph 2370 says contraception is intrinsically evil! [RIP] Joe Parishioner doesn't like what the Church teaches on the death penalty - Paragraphs 2266-2267[RIP]. You don't like what it teaches on pages 55-60 [RIP]. He doesn't like what it teaches on pages 128-140 [RIP]

Can you see what's happening? I heard it said once that there is a shortage of vocations to the priesthood in the United States, but no shortage of vocations to the Papacy! If we don't believe in all of it, if we each appoint ourselves Pope and throw out a doctrine here or a doctrine there, then our faith is no longer Catholic.

The Catholic faith is a seamless garment, given to us once for all.  Removing one thread of the garment, because it's not to our tastes, leads logically to the unraveling of another thread, which, eventually destroys the entire thing.

This cartoon illustrates quite trenchantly how denial of one tenet logically leads to the denial of another tenet, which eventually leads to denial of all the basic fundamentals of the faith:

I think that it makes sense that if there is a God, then, by definition, He is going to command some things, assert some truths, obligate us to believe in some ideas which aren't to our liking.  

I am suspicious of anyone's theology which has a god who happens to agree with every single moral position that the believer already had.

Person A:  "God wouldn't care if I look at porn, as long as I don't act on it!"

Person B:  What's your personal opinion on porn?  

Person A:  "Well, I have the same view!  It's fine to look at as long as I don't act on it!"

Rather, shouldn't this be the paradigm:

Person A:  I'm sorry, but if you're not Catholic, you really cannot receive the Eucharist.

Person B:  What's your personal opinion on this?

Person A:  Well, my personal wish is that everyone who came to Mass could receive. However, God didn't consult with me on this and so I have to conform* my views to His, not re-create a god who happens to believe everything that I believe and want the Church to be.

As Protestant Pastor Tim Keller says, "If your god never disagrees with you, you might just be worshiping an idealized version of yourself."

(*conforming our views to God's doesn't mean a blind acceptance.  It doesn't mean that we simply and unthinkingly re-form our position to what the Church teaches without trying to comprehend the reasons behind this teaching.  As Cardinal Henry Newman said:  "Ten thousand difficulties do not make one doubt, for a man may be annoyed that he cannot work out a mathematical problem, without doubting that it admits an answer".  In other words,
 a Math Student can struggle to understand how the Math Professor got a different answer to the math problem than she did, but she can accept that the Math Professor has the right answer--she simply needs to conform her calculations to achieve the same answer.)

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Can Catholics believe in reincarnation?

Answer:  No.

This Sunday's second reading from Hebrews professes:

Just as it is appointed that human beings die once,
and after this the judgment, so also Christ,
offered once to take away the sins of many,
will appear a second time, not to take away sin
but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him.--Hebrews 9

And this is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about reincarnation:

Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny. When "the single course of our earthly life" is completed, we shall not return to other earthly lives: "It is appointed for men to die once." There is no "reincarnation" after death.--CCC 1013

CCC Search Result - Paragraph # 1013
1013 Death is the end of man's earthly pilgrimage, of the time of grace and mercy which God offers him so as to work out his earthly life in keeping with the divine plan, and to decide his ultimate destiny.
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There are not a few Catholics, especially in the world of Internet discussions, who assert, "Well, I'm Catholic but I believe in reincarnation".

Unfortunately, Catholics are not free to choose what teachings on faith and morals they accept or reject. They can't assert this any more than someone can say, "Well, I'm Catholic but I believe that the Epistles of Paul don't belong in the Bible" or "I believe that Mary is a goddess, and I'm Catholic" or "I believe that women should be ordained, and I'm a lifelong Catholic".

We have the Faith, given to us once for all (Jude 1:3), and we must conform ourselves to it.

Not create a faith that conforms to our own person views.

If we are in a discussion regarding reincarnation, a good question to ask is, "What evidence do you have for reincarnation?"  Whenever someone makes a positive assertion (i.e. "Reincarnation is true!"), then the  the burden of proof for an unsubstantiated supposition falls on the person making the assumption.

Some proponents of reincarnation propose that the Bible supports it, specifically, they will cite Matthew's gospel where Jesus indicates that John the Baptist is the reincarnation of Elijah the Prophet:

And the disciples asked him, "Then why do the scribes say that first Elijah must come?" He replied, "Elijah does come, and he is to restore all things; but I tell you that Elijah has already come, and they did not know him, but did to him whatever they pleased. So also the Son of man will suffer at their hands." Then the disciples understood that he was speaking to them of John the Baptist.--Matthew 17:10-13

Apologist Tim Staples responds to this:

"Jesus is not speaking of reincarnation when he speaks of “Elijah [having] already come.” He speaks of St. John the Baptist having the spirit and the power of Elijah. In fact, Luke 1:16-17 helps us to understand Matthew 17:10-13 better when the angel Gabriel gives us further definition, if you will, of what "Elijah [having] already come" actually means. He says to Zechariah, the father of St. John the Baptist, concerning his son who would soon be miraculously conceived:

And he will turn many of the sons of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Eli'jah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.

Notice, he comes “in the spirit and power of Elijah” as a prophet of God. That is what is meant by “Elijah has already come.”

Also, logically, the idea of reincarnation doesn't make sense. What mistakes in our past lives have caused us to suffer in this life?  If we are to learn from our past mistakes, then why can't we remember what our past mistakes were? What's the point of being reincarnated if we can't remember what we did wrong in the previous life?

Finally, reincarnation is not compatible with Catholicism because reincarnation views the body as a mere receptacle--a shell to hold the spirit.  In reincarnation the spirit is supreme; the body is insignificant.

However, in Catholicism, the body is wondrous, awesome and profoundly important! We are not merely shells holding an immortal soul, but a magnificent Body-Soul composite

From EWTN:  For a Christian, the body's significance is good, inescapable, and central; Christianity itself cannot be understood apart from an appreciation of the body. It is a myth that the Catholic Church teaches as it does about sexuality because it undervalues sex. The Church teaches as it does because it values human sexuality so highly. And in valuing sexuality, it necessarily values the body.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

"The Roman Catholic Church says that individuals are not allowed to interpret the Bible but that they must submit to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church."

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

I saw this online, from an anti-Catholic Christian apologist named Matt Slick.

Inline image
"The Roman Catholic Church says that individuals are not allowed to interpret the Bible but that they must submit to the teaching authority of the Catholic Church."

This is incorrect in so many ways.

Firstly, he's really not talking about the ROMAN Catholic Church, but rather the (just plain) Catholic Church.  The Roman Catholic Church is simply one of the many rites in the Catholic Church.  

That's why our Catechism is called the Catechism of the CATHOLIC Church.  Not the Catechism of the Roman Catholic Church.

There are Latin (or Roman) rite Catholics (which are, by far, the majority of Catholics); there are Chaldean Catholics (typically from Iraq, Lebanon), Coptic Catholics, Maronite Catholics. See this list of the numerous rites or "churches" which are part of the One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church:

All of the above rites or "churches" are Catholic, but hold different traditions (little "t" traditions, meaning "customs"--not big "T", Tradition, as in Sacred Tradition, which is another channel of revelation from God).  They share the 7 sacraments, unity with the Vicar of Christ, Pope Francis, Apostolic Succession.  They may just celebrate the liturgy in a slightly different manner.

So Mr. Slick is really objecting to the Catholic Church's apparent teaching on individuals interpreting Scripture.  Not just the Roman Catholic Church.

Secondly, and more to the point, the Catholic Church does NOT teach that individuals cannot interpret Scripture.

Or, to put it without the double negatives:  the CC teaches that individuals can (and must!) interpret Scripture.  

For what is "interpreting" except "reading and understanding what is meant"?

We are commanded to read and study and use our reason and intellect to come to a love of God and knowledge of Him.

HOWEVER, we cannot interpret it in a way that is contrary to the kerygma.  That is, contrary to the message of Christ, the gospel, given once for all to the saints (Jude 1:3).

And even Matt Slick believes this.  I am certain that he wouldn't allow one of his fellow Christians to read the Scriptures and personally interpret it as saying, "I believe that the Bible says that there are 2 gods--one who created heaven and one who created hell!"

Slick would thwart this individual's right to personally interpret it in this manner with, "That is an incorrect interpretation of the Bible."

And what is Matt Slick doing here but being a magisterium to this individual.  He is serving as the final interpreter and guardian of biblical interpretation.

And yet, curiously, Slick objects to the Catholic Church's magisterium doing the exact thing to him.

The Catholic Church's magisterium professes that she serves as the final interpreter and guardian of this kerygma.

For that is all that the Church does--she says, "This is the correct way to interpret the Bible".  

So it's curious that he reserves for himself the right to do what he objects to in the Catholic Church.

At any rate, it's always a good thing, whenever you hear someone say, "The Catholic Church teaches...[fill in the blank]" to have a healthy skepticism about what is being proposed as Church teaching.

Look to the "sure norm" for teaching the faith--the Catechism of the Catholic Church, to see if what the individual posits is actually correct.  (And, of course, the context of the quote needs to be considered as well.  One can indeed cherry pick quotes from the Catechism and assert some nonsensical things about what the Church teaches. So context is always important.)

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Thursday, October 1, 2015

30 second apologetics: Responding to Bill Nye on Abortion

Recently, Bill Nye, "The Science Guy" posted a video on Youtube defending abortion.

Firstly, in response to the title "Stop telling women what to do with their bodies!" "It's a private matter!"--I think it's important to offer a parallel.  Prior to the 1960's, it was totally legal for a man to beat his wife in the privacy of his home, provided that he didn't leave a mark on her. In other words, the paradigm was:   "Stop telling men what they can do in the privacy of their own home!"

Of course, no morally sane person believes that a man can do whatever he wants in his own home, if it harms another human being.

Similarly, no morally sane person ought to believe that a woman can do whatever she wants with her own body, if it harms another human being.

Nye also states:

"I mean it’s hard not to get frustrated with this everybody. And I know nobody likes abortion, okay. But you can’t tell somebody what to do. I mean she has rights over this, especially if she doesn’t like the guy that got her pregnant. She doesn’t want anything to do with your genes; get over it, especially if she were raped and all this."

This prompts the question, "Why doesn't anybody like abortion?"

If it's nothing more than the extraction of a tissue from the body, why does nobody like abortion?  

I never hear anyone say, "Nobody likes appendectomies!"  
We simply view it as a necessary surgical procedure to remove an unwanted, diseased tissue.

The reason "nobody likes abortion" is because we all inherently understand that it's a human person that's being extracted.  Not a piece of tissue.

I think any time we're in a discussion with someone who is pro-choice and concedes, "Nobody likes abortion.  It should be safe, legal and rare"...we ought to ask why it is that nobody likes it.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Can Catholics call on psychics?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Question:  Can Catholics call on psychics?

Short answer:  no

Longer answer:  Scripture tells us that this we must distance ourselves from recourse to psychics, mediums and the occult.

 "Do not turn to ghosts or consult spirits, by which you will be defiled. I, the LORD,   am your God."--Leviticus 19:31

"There shall not be found among you anyone who burns his son or his daughter as an offering, anyone who practices divination, a soothsayer, an augerer, or a sorcerer, or a charmer, or a medium, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord ..."-- Deut. 18: 10-12. 

While it may be true that some people do indeed have a special gift of receiving dreams, visions, premonitions, we ought not consult these folks for information.  And if these gifts do come from the Holy Spirit, does it seem right that these "psychics" charge money or "sell" the use of this gift?

The Catholic Church warns against this in the Catechism:   All practices of magic or sorcery, by which one attempts to tame occult powers, so as to place them at one's service and have a supernatural power over others - even if this were for the sake of restoring their health - are gravely contrary to the virtue of religion. These practices are even more to be condemned when accompanied by the intention of harming someone, or when they have recourse to the intervention of demons. Wearing charms is also reprehensible. Spiritism often implies divination or magical practices; the Church for her part warns the faithful against it. Recourse to so-called traditional cures does not justify either the invocation of evil powers or the exploitation of another's credulity.  

Use of tarot or oracle cards, crystals, pendulums, Ouija boards, runes, etc are an appeal to the occult.  Either they are inanimate objects with absolutely no power (that is, a waste of money), or they do have a supernatural, mysterious property--which would NOT be from God, given the explicit condemnation in the Bible.  As such, it would be spiritually perilous to seek recourse to these objects. 

Peter Kreeft in his book Everything You Ever Wanted To Know About Heaven says the reason for “this stricture is probably protection against the danger of deception by evil spirits. We are out of our depth, our knowledge, and our control once we open the doors to the supernatural. The only openings that are safe for us are the ones God has approved: revelation, prayer, His own miracles, sacraments, and primarily Christ Himself…The danger is not physical but spiritual, and spiritual danger always centers on deception.”

Incidentally, while Scripture shows an incident where Saul sinned by having a medium conjure the spirit of Samuel (1 Sam 28:8-19), this ought not be misunderstood as a condemnation of praying to the saints.  When we ask for the intercession of the saints, this is not the same thing as conjuring up spirits to ply them for knowledge not available by ordinary means.  There is no expectation of return communication from the saint. When we pray to the saints we are simply partaking of a "Divine Prayer Chain"--something which is not forbidden, and, in fact, a good and holy practice for Christians!

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

The Perils of Superstition by Apologist Trent Horn

Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

Catholics Come Home

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Monday, June 1, 2015

Corpus Christi--"How can Christ give us His flesh to eat?"

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

This Sunday is the Solemnity of Corpus Christi--the Feast which celebrates the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.

While there are many minor differences between Catholicism and other Christian denominations, the belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is a major one that many Protestants* simply cannot accept.  We believe that He is literally, substantially and wholly present in the bread and wine--Jesus' body, blood, soul and divinity is present under the appearances of bread and wine.

From our Catechism: "By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity"--CCC 1413

For those who reject the Catholic teaching on the Real Presence, their objection comes down to this:  how can Christ give us His flesh to eat?

It's a hard saying--who could accept it?

Ironically, this is exactly the response that the Jews gave when Christ said, in John 6, that His followers would have to eat His flesh and drink His blood.

The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?”--John 6:52

The Jews understood that Christ was speaking literally.  And they didn't like it.

Many left Him over this.

And Jesus did not call them back, when they took Him literally, and say, "Hey!  I was only talking symbolically!  Remember when I said I was a door and a vine?  That was symbolic!  This, too, is symbolic language!"

NO.  He did not correct them, for He knew that He was indeed speaking literally, and that they had heard Him correctly.  They simply couldn't accept such a hard teaching, and Jesus let them go.

Some Protestants will counter that of course Jesus was speaking symbolically only because Jesus said "It is the Spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life"--John 6:53.  They posit that Jesus couldn't be commanding us to eat His flesh, because He says the flesh is of no avail--it is His Words alone which give us "spirit and life".  

However, if it's true that Jesus' flesh is of no avail, then that means that His flesh, given up for us on the cross, could not have atoned for our sins.

So in offering the verse that says Jesus' flesh is of no avail, Protestants prove too much.  It seems to deny the atoning death of Christ, one of the central tenets of Christianity.  

Catholics do give a hearty amen to John 6:53, but we understand that it is a reference to our flesh being of no avail, not Christ's flesh.  

So, if Christians believe that God can create the entire universe out of nothing, then it's not so much of a leap to believe that God could change bread and wine into His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

One last comment:  it is a great sadness to me that non-Catholics cannot receive Him in the Eucharist--the most sublime and profound union we can have with the Numinous.  We truly become One Flesh with the exalted Son of God, the Savior of the World!  There can be no greater spiritual and physical intimacy between man and God than becoming One with Him in the Eucharist.  God and man become magnificently One Flesh!

However, the Church does not permit those who are not Catholic to receive Him, because receiving Him when one is not in communion with His Body, the Catholic Church would be a lie.  It would be saying with the body ("I am in communion with the Catholic Church!) what is not a reality. Even if a Christian says, "Well, I'm not Catholic, but I really do believe it's His Body and Blood" he ought not receive until he is in communion with us fully.  Indeed, if one is in communion with the Catholic Church, why not make it a reality and actually become a Catholic?

And I would add that the Catholic Church is nothing if not consistent, for this is exactly the reason why the Church teaches that pre-marital sex is wrong.  For it is a lie--it says with the body (we are One!) what is not a reality (we are actually not yet One).  Even if the couple declares that they do love each other completely.  The reality is, they are not actually united until they "make it a reality" by the Sacrament of Marriage.

These are indeed hard sayings by the Church.  Who could accept it?
*Some non-Catholic Christians do indeed accept that Jesus is indeed present, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist--namely, the Eastern Orthodox, Lutherans, Anglicans, and some Methodists.

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15