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Monday, May 30, 2016

Why do we get punished for the sins of Adam?

It's been said that the Catholic teaching on Original Sin is really, really unjust: guilt-less offspring are being punished for the actions of their parents.  

The question becomes:  how is it fair that we are guilty for what Adam and Eve did?  Why should Adam and Eve's descendants be found guilty for something they didn't do?


The question above, however, demonstrates a rather impoverished understanding of Original Sin.

We are NOT guilty of the sins of Adam and Eve. No one is guilty of anyone's sins except his own.

We simply are deprived of the grace that was given to Adam and Eve.  

They lost it because of their actions.

And because they didn't have it, they couldn't pass it on to their descendants.

We are not held personally responsible for Adam's guilt.

Although it is proper to each individual, original sin does not have the character of a personal fault in any of Adam's descendants. It is a deprivation of original holiness and justice, but human nature has not been totally corrupted: it is wounded in the natural powers proper to it, subject to ignorance, suffering and the dominion of death, and inclined to sin - an inclination to evil that is called concupiscence". Baptism, by imparting the life of Christ's grace, erases original sin and turns a man back towards God, but the consequences for nature, weakened and inclined to evil, persist in man and summon him to spiritual battle.--Catechism of the Catholic Church

That is, because Adam and Eve wounded their human nature, this wounded/flawed human nature was passed on to us.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Revisitingthe Myth of Hitler's Pope

In 1999 a book was published called "Hitler's Pope" which chronicled the rise of Hitler and the alleged complicity of Pope Pius XII, who served as pontiff from 1939 to 1958, in Hitler's ascent to power. (Disclaimer:  I have not read this book).  According to the author, Hitler and Pope Pius were best buddies and the Pope served at the pleasure of the German chancellor.

The accusations against Pope Pius gained traction because of this book, and charges against him ranged from:  "he was indifferent to the Jewish genocide" to allegations of actual collaboration with Nazi leaders in the murder of millions of Jews.

According to anti-Catholic Dave Hunt:  "The Vatican had no excuse for its Nazi partnership or for its
continued commendation of Hitler on the one hand and its thunderous silence regarding the Jewish question on the other hand. As the evil mounted, the Roman Catholic Church continued to work with the Fuehrer and even to praise him."

Let me preface with this:  even if the above allegations were true, it in no way indicts the Catholic faith.  Many, many Catholics (including popes) have done some horrible things.  That doesn't make the teachings of Catholicism false.  Shouldn't we evaluate the truths of a particular religion based on what it professes, not on what its members do, especially if these actions defy the teachings of this religion?  There is no religion which one can join where we couldn't say, "But people in this religion did these monstrous things!"  

Nevertheless, it should be conceded that bad Catholics doing bad things does prompt a legitimate emotional response: "I really don't want to join that Church if that's what her members look like."

However, the above charges against the Pope, and the Catholic Church are myths borne from unsubstantiated rumors.

According to Ronald Rychlak , author of the books "Righteous Gentiles: How Pius XII and the Catholic Church Saved Half a Million Jews From the Nazis" and  "Hitler, the War, and the Pope" (which I also have not read)  "During and after the war, Pius was known as a champion of the Jews and other victims. That reputation continued through his life and for several years thereafter."  It was only decades after the Holocaust did a reversal in his reputation commence.

In fact, after Pope Pius' death, Nahum Goldmann, President of the World Jewish Congress, said:“With special gratitude we remember all he has done for the persecuted Jews during one of the darkest periods of their entire history.”  Rabbi Elio Toaff, who would later become Chief Rabbi of Rome,said:  “More than anyone else, we have had the opportunity to appreciate the great kindness, filled with compassion and magnanimity, that the Pope displayed during the terrible years of persecution and terror, when it seemed that there was no hope left for us.” 

The Israeli consul, Pinchas E. Lapide, in his book "Three Popes and the Jews" (which I also haven't read *~X( at wits' end) writes:  "The Catholic Church under Pius XII was instrumental in saving 860,000 Jews from Nazi death camps".

Finally, primarily due to the efforts of Pope Pius to save the Jewish people in Nazi Germany, the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, converted to Catholicism.  And, he took as his baptismal name, Eugenio.

Can anyone guess what Pope Pius XII's birth name was?

Yep.  Eugenio.  Eugenio Pacelli.

The Chief Rabbi of Rome must have been so moved and impressed with the efforts of this pope to save his Jewish people, that he gave honor to this man by taking Pope Pius' birth name.

Now, a legitimate question ensues:   Could the Catholic Church have done MORE during the monstrous reign of Hitler to thwart his regime and the atrocities which followed?  Yes, of course the Church could have done more.  She can always do more to oppose evil.  But then, again, couldn't the same be said for us as individuals?  If we accuse the Church for standing by while evil flourishes, then couldn't the same charge be leveled at the accuser?

What are you doing to, say, thwart ISIS?  (Here, "YOU" stands for "The person who thinks the Catholic Church should have done more to stop the Holocaust", not the reader of this post  *:) happy).

Incidentally, there will be some accuser who offers evidence of Catholic Nazi sympathizers*:

No one disputes that there were individual Catholic Nazi sympathizers and Catholics who, horrifically, participated in this holocaust either directly or indirectly.  But to say that the Church and the Pope were cowardly silent on this slaughter or collaborated with the Nazis is unsupportable and baseless.

*NB:  the above photo is a generic example only.  No claim or judgement is being made about the views of the specific woman pictured here. 

Monday, May 9, 2016

"This Is A Hard Saying"

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

In a few Sundays we will be celebrating the Solemnity of the Most Holy Trinity.  The Trinity, which is the central dogma of Christianity, is most easily expressed as:  3 Divine Persons in One God.

“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

It is a indeed a very difficult dogma to comprehend, and even more difficult, in my opinion, to articulate, especially to a non-Christian.  Whenever we try to express the teaching of the Trinity to a non-Christian, puzzled looks abound--"You are telling me that even though Christians worship One God, you preach that Jesus is God, and the Father is God and the Holy Spirit is God?  Doesn't that make...3 gods?  That seems so obvious to me!"

It is, indeed, a "hard saying", and not a few religious groups have broken off from Christianity because of their inability to accept this "hard saying".  Instead of embracing the Trinity, groups such as the Unitarians, Oneness Pentecostals, Jehovah's Witnesses, Church of the Latter Day Saints (Mormons) have created their own understandings of the Godhead, and presented new more palatable teachings on the divine nature of God.

That is, they found a teaching of the Church to be a "hard saying" and rather than trying to understand this teaching, they decided to leave the Church and create an innovation, a way of more easily embracing what sounds to be preposterous.
“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

Where else do we find Jesus' disciples leaving Him because of a "hard saying"?

In John 6.

The Eucharistic Discourse.  

Jesus commands His disciples to eat His flesh and drink His blood.  That's preposterous!

And the Scriptures tell us they responded with: "When many of his disciples heard it, they said, “This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”--John 6:60

And many left Him because of this.

Who can doubt that this is a "hard saying" to embrace.  And now most Christian denominations reject the Catholic teaching on the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  It's much easier to believe that Jesus was speaking only symbolically and we're not really commanded to "eat His flesh and drink His blood".

“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

And many have left His Body, the Catholic Church, over other "hard sayings":  the Church declares that you can lose your salvation, through mortally wounding your relationship with God through some very serious sins. Many folks find this a "hard saying"--"I want to know for sure that I'm going to heaven when I accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior", so instead some folks created a very, very likable and easy to swallow doctrine of "Eternal Security", or "Once Saved Always Saved".  As long as I've been "saved", there is nothing I can do that will jeopardize my reward in heaven.  That's a lot nicer than the thought that I may not go to heaven as a Christian.

“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

The Church declares that it's a moral obligation to attend Mass every Sunday.

“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

Doesn't it seem harsh to think that God demands that from us?

So some churches have removed the obligation to worship on Sundays.   Easy.  Likable.  Attractive.

The Church declares that we must take up our cross and deny ourselves.

“This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?”

So some folks create the "Health and Wealth" gospel.  "God wants us to be wealthy.  God wants us to do what wewant and that will make God happy."  Easy.  Likable.

Some folks like to joke that the Lutheran or Episcopalian churches are "Catholic Lite"--that is, they've taken all the "hard to swallow" doctrines of Catholicism and thrown them into the disposal, keeping the sweet, likable parts of being a Christian.  

I just don't think that's a good paradigm for worship.

Again, as Pastor Tim Keller says:

Inline image

Rather than leaving a church when you disagree with its teachings to create a new church that's more palatable, attractive, easy-to-swallow, shouldn't we find the Church that Christ established and then conform our views to Christ's?

Incidentally, the concept of conforming our views to fit what has been declared and revealed by Christ, rather than what we'd like, is NOT a model for "blind obedience".  Rather, it is based on the model for what, say, Calculus students do when they get a different answer than the Professor--they re-work and re-formulate their computations, grappling and struggling, knowing that they are wrong and the Professor is right--until they get the same answer that the Professor offered.

Now, with all of that said, some comedian may counter with, "Oh?  You're saying that I shouldn't reject something on the grounds that it's a preposterous concept?  Ok.  Then I guess I should embrace the idea that Jesus is an alien. You may say that it sounds preposterous, but, remember, you also said that just because something is preposterous I can't reject it."

Well...not exactly. We don't accept or reject a concept simply because it's preposterous or absurd.  We accept most things based on...accepting the authority of the one who proposes the concept.  That is, we accept the Trinity based on the fact that we accept the authority of the Church.  And then we digest and study and review and reformulate, until we can intellectually accept the Truth. 

 Fides quaarens intellectum.  Faith seeking understanding.

And when someone proposes that, say, Jesus was really an alien, we look at the source--someone named "Starbright Sparkles".  Does Ms Sparkles have any authority to speak on this?  Does the evidence lead us to believe this is true and reliable?

Then, clearly, we can reject preposterous and absurd claims.