Friday, October 31, 2008

Synod's "Difficulties" (part 2)

[October 31, 2008] Though I have been a friend to Catholic Tradition for some time, it is only within the past two years that I have begun actively identifying myself as a Traditionalist. When I became aware that I was indeed a Traditionalist, I made up my mind that I wouldn't be overly critical and nitpicky. I wanted to be a positive Traditionalist, extolling the beauty of Catholic culture and Tradition without being the type to be too ornery or critical, especially of things regarding the papacy and the statements of the popes. However I may feel about the Church under John Paul II, he was still the Vicar of Christ, and I must honor him and be respectful towards his writings and his life. A big part of Christianity is joy in the Holy Spirit, and I have taken great pains in my own spiritual life to ensure that the frustration I feel about the state of the Church does not become so overwhelming as to quench my joy.

That's my disclaimer. Now, regarding the working document for the Synod on the Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church which I began to review last time, I have to honestly say that the further I read into it (I am now more than 2/3 done), the more I am shocked by what it says. This is truly a radical document, from a traditional standpoint. Not only that, but the wording on many things (even orthodox points) is very sloppy and liable to a multitude of interpretations. In fact I have to say, this document is horrible from every angle. I didn't even say that about Gaudium et Spes. At least GS is well-written. This working document is sloppy, confusing, self-contradictory, full of ambiguity and borderline heresy. Very strong words. It is only a working document, however, and we shall see what the Pope does with it.

Let's look at what the document has to say about the Old Testament. As the Church has ever affirmed since Marcion first challenged it, the Old Testament is a vital part of the Scriptures; the Catechism even calls the Psalms the heart of the Bible, and any attempt to belittle or do away with the OT is an attack on the very fundamentals of the Catholic Faith. The Synod recognizes this and urges greater familiarity with the Old Testament, but I have a problem with some presuppositions about the OT that the document seems to make. Here are some excerpts:

"The Bible needs to be seen as the Word of God who continues to reveal, despite many difficulties in understanding certain passages, especially those in the Old Testament" (3).

"[Local Churches] experience difficulty in taking up and understanding the Old Testament passages with risk of their being incorrectly used" (6).

"[Pastors should] present simple criteria for reading the Bible with Christ in mind, thereby resolving the difficulties in the Old Testament" (13).

"Still other [questions] touch upon difficult parts of the Bible, especially in the Old Testament" (14).

"Knowledge of the Old Testament...seems to be a real problem among Catholics, particularly as it relates to the mystery of Christ and the Church. Because of unresolved exegetical difficulties, many are reluctant to take up passages from the Old Testament which seem incomprehensible..." (17).

"Significant cultural and social changes taking place in the world call for a catechesis that helps to explain the "difficult pages" of the Bible, primarily in the Old Testament" (45).


Geez. Did anybody get the impression that the Synod considers the Old Testament "difficult?" What are these difficulties that the Synod keeps referring to? The document never clearly spells it out, but there are a few things it hints at. But before I go into that, let me ask one simply question: if you give a 7th grader the Book of Genesis to read side by side with the Book of Romans, which is easier to understand? I'd say for a child (and probably for anybody not acquainted with Scripture), Romans would present far more "difficulties" than Genesis. In fact, I can't think of many places in the Old Testament that are not easily understood, with the exceptions of some of the visions of Ezekiel and Daniel. Everything else is pretty straight forward. Sure, the books of Deuteronomy, Leviticus and Numbers are tedious and dull at times, but that does not mean they are "difficult" to understand.

So, what are these "difficulties?"

I can only assume that by "difficulties" the Synod is making a veiled reference to a preferred historical-critical interpretation of the Scriptures that mythologizes away much of the Old Testament. I believe, therefore, that the "unresolved exegetical difficulties" referenced by the Synod are fact that the Old Testament presents many things to us as historically factual (things Christians have always believed to be factual) that the Synod would prefer we interpret mythically. This would involve us with problems concerning inerrancy: thus, we have our "difficulty."

Is this really the case? When the Synod says "there is a real problem among Catholics, particularly as it relates to the mystery of Christ and the Church," it is in fact reminding us that much of the Old Testament can be applied mystically to Christ and the Church, as in the Song of Songs. There is nothing new here. But, thereby it seeks in a subtle manner to rob some of these passages of their literal or historic value. The Synod is concerned that we might read Genesis and take it literally, attributing historical value to Noah's Flood, the Tower of Babel or things like that. This is in fact what it has in mind: look at what it says in section 45:

"Significant cultural and social changes taking place in the world call for a catechesis that helps to explain the "difficult pages" of the Bible, primarily in the Old Testament, which give a certain view of history, science and the moral life, particularly ethical behaviour and how God is portrayed. Working towards an overall solution needs to take into account what is provided by not only exegesis and theology but also anthropology and pedagogy" (45).

Things seem to be historical which the Synod thinks ought to be interpreted symbolically. Certain scientific views of Creation and geological chronology are found in the OT which the Synod is embarrassed about; they need to be rethought (moving towards an "overall solution") in light of modern anthropology. The ethics of the Old Testament are also troubling to the Synod. People in the Old Testament are commanded to do things by God that the Synod is uneasy about having to explain. Rather than work at real theological understandings of these issues (and rather than standing upon the 2,000 year Tradition of the Church in seeking to "harmonize" these passages), the Synod would rather have us invoke "not only theology and exegesis but also anthropology" to symbolize these things. This is a reflection of the modernist Biblical interpretive scheme that is embarrassed by the Old Testament. I would say that it is the Synod, not Catholics, who seem to have "difficulties" with the Old Testament.

Touching on inerrancy, the Synod goes radically far in attempting to establish the heretical view of Scriptural inerrancy, popular since Dei Verbum. Look at what it says in section 15 on inspiration and how it uses Dei Verbum:

"--with regards to what might be inspired in the many parts of Sacred Scripture, inerrancy applies only to 'that truth which God wanted put into sacred writings for the sake of salvation' (DV11)."

 "Might" be inspired? Applies "only?" We all know that this is contradicted by mountains of Magisterial statements, especially Pius XII's Divino Afflante Spiritu 3, which specifically says, "It is absolutely wrong and forbidden either to narrow inspiration to certain parts only of Sacred Scripture or to admit that the sacred writers have erred." Yet the working document does just this in taking the modernist position on Dei Verbum 11, and asserts that the Bible does contain errors in matters of "history, science and the moral life."

The Synod's document takes a hard line against any literal interpretation of the Old Testament. I do not believe they are meaning to condemn all literalism, but the wording is so sloppy that this is in fact what they do, when in section 20 it states that despite a new resurgence of Biblical studies, there is "the risk that the Scriptures will be interpreted arbitrarily or literally, as in fundamentalism." Do you see the import of this passage?

Notice the language: It didn't condemn excessive literalism, or relying only on the literal interpretation, but it simply said "literally" alone, as if interpreting the Old Testament literally at all was wrong. Literal interpretations lead to "serious errors and...useless controversies." I can only imagine that by useless controversies it is referring to things like St. Augustine attempting to reconcile the two genealogies of Christ in the New Testament. Is it too difficult to resolve? Well, it's just symbolic and has no historical value. Problem resolved!

Indeed, the document has harsh words for those who dare to take the words of the Old Testament literally:

"In Bible reading, fundamentalism takes refuge in literalism and refuses to take into consideration the historical dimension of Biblical revelation, It is thus fully unable to accept the Incarnation itself" (29).

This is horrid and a terrible definition of fundamentalism. The document seems to say that fundamentalism consists simply in insisting that the Bible be taken literally, and even says that if you do insist on literalism, that you have not accepted the Incarnation! St. Athanasius defended the Incarnation and a literal belief in the Old Testament. What would he say about this? Augustine interpreted the stories of the Old Testament literally--did he not accept the Incarnation? What about Anselm? Aquinas? This statement makes a mockery of Catholic Scriptural exegesis throughout history.

Traditionally, Catholics have understood papal infallibility to apply to the region of faith and morals. Yet, among the "difficulties" of the Old Testament, the Synod's document lists "the moral life, particularly ethical behaviour" as presented in the Old Testament (45). Isn't morality supposed to be the one thing that we never waver on, along with dogma? Well, it seems to be referring to certain difficulties in explaining God's commands to commit genocidal warfare and things of that nature. St. Augustine and St. Thomas long ago dealt with such issues, but the Synod, once having rejected pre-Vatican II interpretive schemas (see last post), now is embarrassed to turn to the Saints and instead chooses to go down the road of a moral code that is "relative" to every historical period.

Now, let me end this rant on the following note: I am not saying the Church or the Synod even actually believes these things. Perhaps they do: perhaps they do want to advocate a relative morality and a strict symbolic application. I don't know, but I am willing to grant them the benefit of the doubt. My problem is this: this theology is so shoddy, the language so sloppy, that is this document is adopted as the basis for the Apostolic Exhortation, the modernists will run with it as far as it will take them, and we will have so many exegetical problems, confusions about inerrancy and modernist heresies that it will be well-nigh impossible this side of the Second Coming to sort them out.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Synod on the Word of God (part 1)

Since the Synod on the Word of God is now closed and we are awaiting the upcoming Apostolic Exhortation, I decided to take a look at the working document for the Synod that was posted on the Vatican website in May. I am still in the process of plowing through the 56 pages of the working document, Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church . I am only a third of the way through, but many things popped to mind immediately when I began reading.

First, I am very happy that the Church has decided to address the issue of the Scriptures. There is much confusion on the matter, even among informed Catholics, and clarity from the Magisterium is needed. This is a perfect opportunity for the Magisterium to step in and make clear what exactly the Church's teaching on the Sacred Scriptures is. Unfortunately, that does not happen with this document. When a clear, strong statement was needed, we instead got 56 drawling pages of obfuscations. Fortunately, this is only a working document, and perhaps we shall get a better finished product.

Second, I wonder at the modern mentality in the Magisterium which seems to view itself as a kind of Church congress which is perpetually in session and needs to make continual declarations and reaffirmations of things. The Councils of Constance and Basel tried to impose a permanently sitting Council in the Church, which of course was rejected by the Popes. However, we seem to have adopted this position in the modern Church without stating so explicitly. Traditionally, Synods and Councils (even regional ones) were called to resolve doctrinal or disciplinary problems, which they did by the promulgation of decrees of canons, such as the Synod of Whitby on the submission of the Celtic Church to the Roman rite, or the Spanish Council of Toledo which gave us many valuable canons on the Trinity that are quoted in the CCC.

What is the purpose of this Synod? According to the document, "The Synod's purpose is primarily pastoral and missionary, namely to thoroughly examine the topic's doctrinal teaching and, in the process, spread and strengthen the practice of encountering the Word of God as the source of life in various areas of experience" (II.4). Interesting. I agree there are times for pastoral statements, but it seems to me that in the past several decades, the word "pastoral" has been so overused and beaten into the ground that for me it is a code word for "We are issuing a document that really does not need to be issued just for the sake of appearing like we are doing something." It seems to me that the current Magisterium (since Vatican II) has taken to the idea that it needs to periodically make statements about things just for the sake of making statements, almost like the Constance-Basel idea of a permanently sitting Council that would continually work. Zenit reported that the Pope has already assembled the Bishops who will organize the next Synod, though they do not even have a topic selected yet! Perhaps I am drawing too tenuous of a connection here, but it seems to me that the more "pastoral" a document tends to be, the less effective.

By the way, who ever introduced this idea about pastoral being something truly distinct from doctrinal? The true doctrine is the best way to approach things pastorally, and all true pastoral approaches must be based in sound dogma. I think they are really two sides of the same coin, and that labeling things "pastoral" is a way to say "we are going to change teaching without officially changing teaching."

Now, on to the document.

One troubling thing about the document is the extreme subjective view it takes on the believer's relationship to Sacred Scripture. First of all, it whole-heartedly embraces the historical-critical method: "Every Christian is invited through the words of Sacred Scripture to discover the Word of God, the splendor of the glorious Gospel of Christ, who is the likeness of God. This takes places through a demanding, patient and ongoing process, involving historical-critical study (even diachronic), the application of every scientific and literary method available (intended for a synchronic understanding) and research from the vantage point of literature" (preface). These things are not bad in themselves if given a very positive spin, but we all know how the modernists will take these words and run with them. The Magisterium seems to perpetually make the mistake that theologians and lay people will give their decrees the most traditional, orthodox interpretation possible when in reality it is the opposite.

With regards to the subjective bent of the document, there are a lot of passages about "encountering" and "experiencing" and things like that. Notice the common use of subjective reference points:

The purpose of the document is stated to be "a reflection, in light of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, on the various experiences and aspects of encountering the Word of God in the Church today, according to her various traditions and rites and from the vantage point of faith" (1).

"The Word of God needs to be given greater priority in the life and mission of the Church; this will require courage and creativity in pedagogy of communicating, adapted to the times (culture, real-life situations, communication)" (3).

"The Synod's purpose is primarily pastoral and missionary, namely to thoroughly examine the topic's doctrinal teaching and, in the process, spread and strengthen the practice of encountering the Word of God as the source of life in various areas of experience" (4).

"Dei Verbum presents the theology of revelation as dialogue" (8). Doesn't "dialogue" seem to imply ongoing conversation, as if the faith was not given "once and for all" to the saints? (Jude 1)

"The Word of God is like a hymn with many voices" (9); I just don't know what to make of this one, which is the title of section nine: "The Word of God as a Hymn with Many Voices."

A particularly odd thing about the Synod is that it repeatedly refers to the proof of the inspiration of the Sacred Scriptures being not in any objective criteria, but in their subjective appeal to people! Listen:

"Through the charism of divine inspiration, the Books of Sacred Scripture have a direct, concrete power of appeal not possessed by other texts or human discources" (9.e).

Later, again, "As previously mentioned, the Books of Sacred Scripture have a direct concrete power of appeal not possessed by other Church texts" (18.a.).

This is not problematic if viewed in wider context of other proofs for the inspiration of Sacred Scripture; the Scriptures certainly do have a subjective appeal. However, as far as I have read, this "direct, concrete appeal" is the only evidence given for why Scripture should be considered inspired by the Church. What is the Synod doing by listing only the most subjective criteria as the sole criteria? This reminds me of my father in law saying that he can just "tell" by reading Wisdom of Solomon that it is not inspired.

The reference point for understanding Scripture, according to the Synod, is entirely modern. Perhaps the most laughable part of the document is its forward which refers to the post-Vatican II period as "A Season of Plentiful Fruits" (5). But listen to how the Synod just summarily dismisses all papal pronouncements from before the mid-20th century:

"The times again call for an obedient hearing of the Word of God in union with the Church’s Tradition, in light of the Second Vatican Council, specifically, taking up the contents of the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation Dei Verbum (DV), and other conciliar documents, notably the Dogmatic Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church Lumen gentium (LG) and the Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World Gaudium et spes (GS) (1). The two Notes of the Pontifical Biblical Commission, The Interpretation of the Bible in the Church and The Jewish People and Their Sacred Scriptures in the Christian Bible are also directly related to the synod topic. In addition, The Catechism of the Catholic Church and its Compendium, as well as The General Directory for Catechesis also have an authoritative character in the subject" (2)

I can understand citing Dei Verbum, but why Gaudium et Spes? What does that have to do with Scripture? And where are Spiritus Paraclitus, Divino Afflante Spiritu, Providentissimus Deus and Lamentabili Sane? Those documents treat very specifically about Sacred Scripture, why are they excluded? The Synod seems to be saying that we need to interpret it's findings within the worldview described in Gaudium et Spes. We see in the next section how it categorically dismisses pre-Vatican II statements:

"The teachings of Pope Pius XII, Pope Paul VI, Pope John Paul II and the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI are part of the Magisterium on the Word of God, as well as the documents published by the dicasteries of the Roman Curia, over the past 40 years since the Second Vatican Council" (ibid).

So what, things before the past 40 years are not to be considered Magisterial statements on the Word of God? Here is an excerpt from 18.c on the Old and New Testaments:

"The Synod is providing the occasion to rediscover Dei Verbum and later pontifical documents." I guess pre-Dei Verbum stuff is irrelevant now.

It is obvious that, at least from the working document, the Synod hopes to gives a purely modern spin on the Scriptures: one that looks only to "Dei Verbum and later pontifical documents" as the points of reference. In my opinion, as this working document stands, it establishes a modernist reference point for understanding the Scriptures, promotes an excessive subjectivism in interpreting them, and raises several highly questionable points about inerrancy (to be examined in the future). I know there is nothing outright heretical about any of this stuff, but we all know how the modernists will spin it. We'll just have to pray that Benedict throws a lot of this out when composing the Apostolic Exhortation.

Next time I'll take a look at the document's persistent but unexplained "difficulties" with the Old Testament. Please see the blog "Popin' Ain't Easy," linked on my sidebar, for some more good stuff on the document.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kudos to Bishop Boyea

We are very blessed in our Michigan diocese (which will remain unnamed, but it so happens to have the same name as the capitol of the state) to have Bishop Earl Boyea. Besides the fact that he is a historian and a lover of the Traditional Mass, he has also proved to be the perfect harmonious union between being a keen and precise administrator and a charitable and loving pastor. Before I took my trip to Emmitsburg with the kids, the Bishop sent me a personalized letter asking me and the Youth to pray for him at the Seton Shrine, which we did do.

This week, our Bishop made a strong statement against our apostate Catholic Governor Jennifer Granholm and her support of Michigan Ballot Proposition 2, which would completely legalize unrestricted stem cell research in Michigan. I love to give good Bishops credit when it is due, and this is certainly one of those times.

The Most Reverend Earl Boyea, Bishop of Lansing, today issued the following statement in response to recent comments of Michigan Governor JenniferGranholm:

In a Sunday address in Grand Rapids, Governor Jennifer Granholm incredibly said of Proposal 2 "As a Catholic, I can say to be pro-cure is to be pro-life." Of course, Catholics and all other responsible citizens will continue to seek cures for disease and injury. But to imply that Proposal 2 is a valid expression of Catholic principles is shocking. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Proposal 2, which goes before Michigan voters in a week, would give an unrestricted license to those who perform destructive experiments on human embryos. While the Catholic Church strongly supports legitimate forms of stem cell research and all other proper forms of scientific inquiry, the Church also teaches that is it is always immoral to destroy a human embryo. For that reason, the Catholic Bishops of Michigan have taken a strong position in opposition to this well-funded assault on human life.

Saint Paul reminds us that we must preach the Truth in season and out ofseason. The Truth will never go unspoken. To be in favor of Proposal 2 isnot to be pro-life. A well-formed Catholic conscience would never lead aperson to support Proposal 2 "as a Catholic."

I'm particularly glad that the Bishop addresses this increasingly common (and ignorant) fallacy that to be in favor of embyonic stem-cell research is to somehow be Pro-Life.

I'd like to hear from you all about any morally contoversial ballot proposals in your states. We also have one that is trying to legalize medical marijuana, but nobody is really paying attention to that one.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Our Lady of Emmitsburg?

Mrs. Gianna Talone-Sullivan, alleged visionary of Emmitsburg

While in Emmitsburg last weekend, I happened to pick up the local newspaper, the Emmitsburg Dispatch, and was surprised to see the headline "Our Lady of Emmitsburg Silenced." As I read on, I found that something very reminiscent of Medjugorje (and other areas not so far from me) was going on in Emmitsburg. The article is much to long to transcribe, but you can see the original here.

First, it appears that beginning in 1989, a resident of Emmitsburg named Mrs. Gianna Talone-Sullivan claimed that she was receiving messages and teachings from Jesus, Mary and most recently God the Father. Following these alleged apparitions (which of course were in the form of locutions that nobody could confirm or deny positively), a small prayer group formed around Mrs. Talone-Sullivan, called the Our Lady of Emmitsburg Prayer Group. The messages are sentimental and highly repetitive, just like the Medjugorje apparitions. Like Medjugorje, many of them end with the phrase "Thank you for responding to my call." Like Medjugorje, they have made outlandish claims and predictions, such as a foolish prediction of a "second sun" entering our solar system and a catastrophe that would wipe out almost 70% of the earth's population:

"I can tell you this: Even your governments and the Church authorities already have knowledge of the stars aligning and its implications upon you. You must not fear but must be prepared, primarily spiritually. After awhile, you will see a time when there is another body in orbit around your solar system, coming between Earth and the Sun and leading to tremendous devastation. Approximately 60-70% of the world’s population, as you know it, will cease. Of those who survive, 60% of them could die of disease and starvation" (source).

She also claims on the authority of Jesus Himself that the Holy Family sojourned in Cairo during their stay in Egypt when Cairo wasn't even founded until 969 AD. What foolishness!

This fiasco went all the way up to the CDF, where then Cardinal Ratizinger issued a declaration of constat de non supernaturalitate in February of 2003 (document here). Sullivan has been ordered to stop having the prayer meetings on archdiocesan property (Baltimore), which she was obedient to. However, confronted with Rome's conclusion, Sullivan arrogantly stated in 2006 that Rome had never in fact condemned the apparitions, and had a special apparition in March 2006 to confirm that her visions were in fact real. Isn't that convenient!

Finally, on October 8th, 2008, Archbishop Edwin O'Brien of Baltimore issued a very strong statement against Mrs. Talone-Sullivan. Notice his strong language:

"Recent messages and activity by those who support Mrs. Talone-Sullivan have created confusion among many and division in our parishes and our Archdiocese. On more than one occasion, the Archdiocese of Baltimore has conducted investigations into these matters in an effort to protect the faith and good morals of the Christian faithful. Each investigation has concluded that there is nothing of significance to be found in the messages and locutions... I also strongly caution Mrs. Gianna Talone-Sullivan not to communicate in any manner whatsoever, written or spoken, electronic or printed, personally or through another in any church, public oratory, chapel or any other place or locale, public or private, within the jurisdiction of the Archdiocese of Baltimore any information of any type related to or containing messages or locutions allegedly received from the Virgin Mother of God...Further, I strongly caution those who participate in any activity surrounding these alleged apparitions or who seek to disseminate information and promote them here in the Archdiocese. To do so is a great disservice to the Church and creates further confusion and division among the faithful."

Now, how did Mrs. Talone-Sullivan respond? While grateful for the clarifications, she seems to shrug her shoulders at the possibility that she is being disobedient: "All of my priests spiritual advisors and canon lawyers that I have consulted have told me that I am obedient, and that the Church says what it means and would have specified differently if it meant otherwise. So we continue to hold this prayer meeting monthly, open to the public, at the Lynfield Complex in Frederick, MD. All are welcome! If you desire something different, please let me know."

So, everybody tells her she is obedient, and so she insists. The Bishop cautions her against communication in "any matter whatsoever" within the Diocese, whether or not it is on Church property. Mrs. Talone-Sullivan has at least been outwardly complicit: she has canceled the prayer meetings until further notice and urged obedience to the bishops. However, it seems that her obedience is only on the surface, for we notice that she has not stated that she will not speak or teach about these apparitions anymore, and that her Foundation of the Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart of Mary has changed its address from Emmitsburg, within the Baltimore Archdiocese, to Fairfield, PA, within the Diocese of Harrison. She seems to be setting herself up to continue her teaching outside of the jurisdiction of the Archbishop of Baltimore, technically complying with his letter but utterly ignoring its spirit.

For me, if the Vatican declares your apparition constat de non supernaturalitate, that should be the end of it. Period. You should not be able to find any haven in any diocese where you can disseminate your visions, nor should you yourself continue to insist on their authenticity. All of the great spiritual writers who touched on the subject of visions have stated that the default position one should take is one of doubt, even the person having the vision. Let God prove its authenticity, and in the meantime, test it critically.

What if the Vatican were to declare constant de non supernaturalitate with regards to Medjugorje, and the local bishop was to forbid any dissemination of the messages of Medjurgoje, public or private, in any manner whatsoever (which I believe he already has)? If this lady doesn't look lke she's going to stop, then believe me, such a thing would not stop the Medjugorjists either. At least it would clear the lines a bit, but the audacity of these people continues to amaze me. They get condemned and censured left and right and continue to maintain that they are in good standing with the Church. I guess when all else fails, just lie.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Disappointment from Madonna University

A disappointing report came out from my school, Madonna University, last week regarding the ousting of their long-standing mascot, the fighting Crusader. The decision was spearheaded by the university's "Diversity Discussion Group" who said that the Crusader was "offensive and a poor representative of Madonna's mission to be a diverse and inclusive school" (quotes from Madonna Herald, Oct. 2008). The vice-president of Madonna refered to the Crusades as "such a sad time in the Church's history" and stated that they represented "crimes against women and certain groups of people."

The interesting thing is that most kids did not see what was so offensive about the knight. Nursing major Claire Michalik said that though the Crusades were brutal, "the Crusades were also seen as a noble thing to do in that time. I link the nobility to the Crusader, too." Many other kids surveyed said they loved the fighing knight. There was also your typical tripe: like this statement by Chris Benson, associate Dean of Advising: "In a society where we are trying to be comprehensive and understanding of all the different cultures we have, I think that we have to be very sensitive and would not want to offend anybody."

This is very eye-twitching to me, because as the Crusader is being removed from the school, I also see that the university is also promoting the celebration of Ramandan and offering prayer and fasting rooms for the Muslim students. An interfaith prayer chapel upstairs greets students as you walk in the main entryway, and pro-homosexual stickers can be seen on many of the professor's office doors. Clearly, Madonna has ceased to believe in any sort of mission tied with Catholic identity and instead sees its goal as be a "diverse and inclusive school."

Though, on the flip side, Madonna Campus Ministry does have the excellent Miles Christi order as their chaplains, so it is not all bad.

It has not been announced what the new mascot will be. In true democratic fashion, they are putting it to a vote before the student body. It wil probably be some stupid animal or something.

Two questions for the vice-president of Madonna: first, has it never occured to you that perhaps there are elements of the Crusades that we can be proud of, and that it isn't all just about rapine and slaughter? And second, could it be that the reason the Crusaders undertook the Crusades was precisely because they knew exactly what type of religion Islam is? We always suppose that religious division is due to lack of understanding. The medieval Christians knew exactly what Islam was all about (unlike us) and that is why they fought it so vehemenetly, in Jerusalem, Lepanto, Belgrade, Vienna and anywhere else they were encountered.

Friday, October 10, 2008

In your face OPEC!

Saudi Prince Waleed Bin Talal's diamond studded car ($4.8 million), which he charges $2,500 just to touch.

Well, I hope nobody will fault me for turning much of my gaze towards political and economic matters in the past few weeks: there is just so much to comment upon! Ideally, this blog would be all about specifically Catholic related stuff, like liturgy and theology. I have noticed, however, with regards to the Church that it seems like it is only in the Catholic Church that we are seeing genuine good news. Isn't that interesting? When the economy was booming and the United States was sitting pretty on the top of the heap for the past two and half decades, the state in the Church was abysmal. Now the Church is finally making some progress towards true reform and true restoration, and it is against the backdrop of a collapsing economy and the possible loss of the US's worldpower status. Is there some kind of spiritual law that the Church will always prosper when the secular civilization fails? Perhaps. Look at the rise of the Church around the time of the Fall of Rome.

But I digress. I am so tickled pink that gas is coming down (though it is still at least 50% too expensive in my estimation), and I am even more delighted that the criminal band of robbers and cheats known as OPEC is running around like a chicken with its head cut off over the astronomical "drop" in oil prices recently. Check out this article, which describes how they are having "emergency" meetings to try to curb the price drop. It is laughable indeed!

When did gas falling below $3.50 become an emergency? I have been recording in my journal over the past few months the price of gas at various intervals, and I notice that where I live, it was $3.53 in June of this year. OPEC wasn't complaining about low prices then. Why not? Because, of course, the price was on the rise. OPEC is saying that they are concerned about the price of oil falling with regards to wishing to "stabilize" the oil markets. Where were their calls for "stabilization" when it was going up five dollars per barrel per day? They don't care about stablizing the market. Here's what is really going on:

The cost just to pump the oil out of the ground is about $6.00 per barrel. Factoring in some other cost for shipping and production, most of what OPEC gets paid is profit. Starting around late 2002, when the average price of gas first rose above $2.00, the OPEC nations started making tremendous profits, which only got bigger as the decade wore on. They have taken in staggering amounts of money: $1.9 trillion dollars of oil profit in the six gulf states, with an annual surplus of up to $300 billion every year (source). Wallowing in wealth, they have begun to live the high lifestyle, as is evident by the extraordinary developments in cities such as Dubai.

But they made the same fatal flaw as many in the housing market: assuming that prices would always be going up. Now that they are dropping, they realize that they may no longer be able to afford to maintain the type of culture they are creating and are thus scrambling to keep the price of oil inflated so as to keep their wealth. Think back to 1999. I was nineteen then, and working at a gas station. I remember the price being $0.88 that winter. It was wonderful. If you look at this graph, it shows how low prices once were; January and February 1999 were the lowpoints, when gas on average was $0.96 per gallon. It theoretically could get that low again. But the profit of the Saudis was so low during that period (the 1990's is remembered with loathing in Saudi Arabia as a time of terrible profit-loss) that they are determined to never let it happen again.

Thus, OPEC is doing all in their power to stop the oil prices from going any further down. They want to keep enjoying the fabulous wealth they have gotten in the past six years. But some say that there is no stopping the drop. I say, "In your face, OPEC!" It's about time you felt what it was like to get it stuck to you! I am very pleased fuel prices are going down. I am happy that they are dropping. When will I be satisfied? Well, when it gets below $3.00, then I'll get excited, but I won't stop complaining until it goes back down below $2.00, and even then I'll still probably whine that it should be closet to $1.29.

Some say we'll never see those prices again, and the days of good, cheap oil are over. Maybe so. But either way, I hope we can all get into renewable energy, if for nothing else just so we can get off of Saudi oil, drive their prices into the ground and watch that theiving country reel back to the dark ages.

Essay on Chiliasm

I am very sorry I have not posted lately, but I do not have very much spare time these days! And what's more, the spare time I do have I have been devoting to a special project. A week or so ago I mentioned that I was in a debate with a Protestant friend of mine regarding the Millennium and the heresy known as "chiliasm," or belief that Christ will reign literally for a thousand years over a political kingdom centered in Jerusalem. He made the claim that all of the Fathers believed chiliasm, that it was Augustine and Constantine who changed it, and that chiliasm is taught by the Bible (and that we ought not to use allegory in exgeting Scripture). I have spent the last week here and there working on an essay response, which I am going to link up here. It is the most systematic and thorough patristic and biblical refutation of chiliasm that I have seen, much more complete than a lot of the things I found on the net. If you print it, it is about 25 pages long.
Even though I am done with it, I appreciate any further comments, insight or patristic quotes on the matter.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Episcopal Church continues to dissolve

More schism in the Episcopal Church over the issue of homosexual ordinations as the Diocese of Pittsburgh, led by non-Bishop Robert Duncan voted to secede from the Episcopal Church. Pittsburgh is the second diocese to leave the church since the 2004 (non) ordination of Gene Robinson, and the Primate of the Episcopal Church (Katharine Jefferts Schori) mentioned at least three other dioceses that she knew of who were contemplating a secession, including the Fort Worth and southern-Illinois regions.

Of course, media coverage of this event was full of interviews with theological and social liberals whining about the intolerance of those conservatives voting to leave the Church, and lots of crap about how Jesus wouldn't want to exclude homosexuals from ministry, etc. The thing I found most interesting was the expression of the differing ecclesiological views of the Episcopalian church from the Catholic Church, which essentially is the root of their problem.

Katharine Jefferts Schori, head of the Episcopal Church, said that the United States Episcopalian Bishops had voted to relieve Bishop Duncan of his ministry, which she explained meant that effectively he was no longer a bishop (not that he ever was) and that he could no longer exercise the powers of a bishop. She explained that a Episcopalian diocese exists only by its unity with the "General Convention," and that by extension, a bishop who attempts to secede from the church at large automatically loses his powers, just like an employee who quits a job loses the authority from the company that came with that job.

This is the whole doctrinal difficulty with non_Catholic churches in general: the ministry is not something that has to do with the person himself, but is seen as a job or office, whose power comes not from Christ directly but from the delegation of the "General Convention" or whatever body is running the outfit. For Episcopalians, a priest is certainly not "a priest forever" as we would understand it in the Catholic Church. The priest is a person filling an office, whose fitness is based on certain performance-related criteria.

Notwithstanding the fact of null orders, this ideology is the reason why the Episcopalian Church sees no logical reason why a homosexual or a woman can't serve as a bishop just as well as a man. The issue is shifted so the question becomes about how well a person can "do" their job rather than about what they are. The authority comes from some human body or council, not from God. I have to admit: if we belonged to a church who adopted that ecclesiological vision of the ministry, then there would be no reason why a woman couldn't be a priest or a bishop.

But fortunately, we do not share that vision (though there are some in the Future Church establishment who would no doubt like it to be so). A priest or a bishop is never just a person who does a job, but something somebody is, and that they are forever, regardless of what choices they may make. An excellent book that really emphasizes the identity of the priest is the Graham Greene novel The Power and the Glory. Let the Episcopal non-Church scatter and divide over the issue of the false-ordination of homosexuals! But for us, we remember the words of the Psalms, "Thou art a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek."

Friday, October 03, 2008

Bail out is a joke

Well, the bail out passed. Drat! I wrote my congressman twice in protest ( I don't know whether or not he voted for it). After all that has happened, how could we be so foolish as to let our government rush through another piece of legislation of such monumental importance and cost as this so quickly? The scare tactics were disgusting: Harry Reid saying he "knew of another big insurance company" about to go under if the bill didn't get passed, but wouldn't tell us who it was. After everybody is sufficiently frightened, he then renounes his comment and says that what he really meant is that he's not aware of any companies about to go under (source). But of course, the damage is already done. Give me a break!

First, we don't even know if this will work. The hole could be bigger than we know, and there is no guarantee that this bail out will help anything. It might be like trying to stop up a toilet with a pebble-and that's exactly what our economy is, a big stinking toilet going down.

Not to mention the $150 billion of extra earmarks they threw into it! How about article 503, which stipulates a tax break on wooden arrows made in the state of Oregon, deisgned to save the Oregon based Rose City Archery, Inc. 39 cents per dollar on every arrow they make! (source) If that is not an earmark or a pork barrel addition, I don't know what is. Mr. Maverick McCain swore he would veto any earmarks that came across his desk, and yet here he is voting for a bill that has $150 billion worth of them! It is so revolting.

So, we are back to the stupid status-quo. Everybody is worred about housing prices "plummeting" as if it is some disaster. I guess it is a disaster to those who foolishly bought homes that were grossly inflated in price. But guess what: homes were way overpriced and (in my opinion) are still overpriced! I'm glad house prices are plummeting, because it will make it more affordable to people to become homeowners. Prices have been way overblown for over a decade. They are only now starting to get where they need to be. Everything is too expensive, and this bailout (if it works) is designed to bring us back to the same stupid place we were before.

Well, perhaps it won't work. Perhaps it will fail miserably and we'll all be begging in a few years. Whatever (sorry for the pessimism).

Great moments in interreligious dialogue: St. Marcellus destroys the temple of Zeus

From Butler's Lives of the Saints, for August 14th, a very intersting episode:

St. Marcellus, Bishop of Apamaea, Martyr (c. AD 389)

In 380 [The Roman Emperor] Theodosius the Great and the co-emperor, Gratian, issued a decree that all their subjects were to profess the faith of the bishops of Rome and Alexandria. Eight years later he sent an officer into Egypt, Syria and Asia Minor, whose duty it was to enforce an edict that all pagan temples were to be destroyed; this violent policy was carried out very roughly and not unnaturally aroused the anger and resentment of the pagans. When the imperial prefect arrived at Apamaea in Syria he set his soldiers to work to pull down the temple of Zeus there, but it was a large building and well built and the soldiers, being inexpert at systematic demolition, made little progress. The bishop of the place was one Marcellus; he told the prefect to take off his men to their next job and in his absence means would be sought to destroy the temple. The very next day an engineer came to the bishop and said that, if he would pay him double wages, he could do the work himself. St. Marcellus agreed, and the man proceeded to demolish the temple by the simple device of undermining some of the supporting columns, holding up the foundations with timber, and then burning it away.

Marcellus proceeded to have other temples dealt with in this manner, until he went to one in a certain unidentified place; this building was stoutly defended by those who worshipped in it, and the bishop had "to take up a position some way from the scene of the conflict, out of the reach of the arrows, for he suffered from gout and so was not able either to fight or to run away." But while he was watching from this point of vantage, some of the pagans seized him, and put him to death by throwing him into the flames.

A bishop who was an expert in the demolition of pagan temples! This would certainly never be the case today. Now, of course, we have the rector have the Fatima shrine allowing pagan worship and receiving blessings from Hindus: here is Rector Guerra receiving a Hindu shawl covered in the "sacred text" of the Hindu scriptures.

St. Marcellus, ora pro nobis!

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Commemoration of St. Remigius

Bishop, Confessor

St. Remigius, Bishop of Rheims, in France, converted the Merovingian king Clovis and the Frankish nation. He died in 534.

Today in the NO calendar is the Feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, but in the traditional calendar of St. Remigius, bishop of Rheims and the one who baptized the Frankish King Clovis I in the year 496, thus ushering in the beginning of Catholic France. In my opinion, it is this date that should be selected as the division between antiquity and the middle ages, for what else is the middle ages but the story of Catholic France and the diffusion of its culture throughout the rest of Europe?

Below is the famous accounts of Clovis' baptism, the from Chronicle of St. Denis:

St. Denis Chronicle

At this time the King was yet in the errors of his idolatry and went to war with the Alemanni, since he wished to render them tributary. Long was the battle, many were slain on one side or the other, for the Franks fought to win glory and renown, the Alemanni to save life and freedom. When the King at length saw the slaughter of his people and the boldness of his foes, he had greater expectation of disaster than of victory. He looked up to heaven humbly, and spoke thus: "Most mighty God, whom my queen Clothilde worships and adores with heart and soul, I pledge you perpetual service unto your faith, if only you give me now the victory over my enemies."

Instantly when he had said this, his men were filled with burning valor, and a great fear smote his enemies, so that they turned their backs and fled the battle; and victory remained with the King and with the Franks. The king of the Alemanni were slain; and as for the Alemanni, seeing themselves discomfited, and that their king had fallen, they yielded themselves to Chlodovocar and his Franks and became his tributaries.

The King returned after this victory into Frankland. He went to Rheims, and told the Queen what had befallen; and they together gave thanks unto Our Lord. The King made his confession of faith from his heart, and with right good will. The Queen, who was wondrously overjoyed at the conversion of her lord, went at once to St. Remi, at that time archbishop of the city. Straightway he hastened to the palace to teach the King the way by which he could come unto God, for his mind was still in doubt about it. He presented himself boldly before his face, although a little while before he [the bishop] had not dared to come before him.

When St. Remi had preached to the King the Christian faith and taught him the way of the Cross, and when the king had known what the faith was, Chlodovocar promised fervently that he would henceforth never serve any save the all-powerful God. After that he said he would put to the test and try the hearts and wills of his chieftains and lesser people: for he would convert them more easily if they were converted by pleasant means and by mild words, than if they were driven to it by force; and this method seemed best to St. Remi. The folk and the chieftains were assembled by the command of the King. He arose in the midst of them, and spoke to this effect: "Lords of the Franks, it seems to me highly profitable that you should know first of all what are those gods which you worship. For we are certain of their falsity: and we come right freely into the knowledge of Him who is the true God. Know of a surety that this same God which I preach to you has given victory over your enemies in the recent battle against the Alemanni. Lift, therefore, your hearts in just hope; and ask the Sovereign Defender, that He give to you all, that which you desire---that He save our souls and give us victory over our enemies." When the King full of faith had thus preached to and admonished his people, one and all banished from their hearts all unbelief, and recognized their Creator.

When shortly afterward Chlodovocar set out for the church for baptism, St. Remi prepared a great procession. The streets of Rheims were hung with banners and tapestry. The church was decorated. The baptistry was covered with balsams and all sorts of perfumes. The people believed they were already breathing the delights of paradise. The cortege set out from the palace, the clergy led the way bearing the holy Gospels, the cross and banners, chanting hymns and psalms. Then came the bishop leading the King by the hand, next the Queen with the multitude. Whilst on the way the King asked of the bishop, "If this was the Kingdom of Heaven which he had promised him." "Not so," replied the prelate; "it is the road that leads to it."

When in the church, in the act of bestowing baptism the holy pontiff lifted his eyes to heaven in silent prayer and wept. Straightway a dove, white as snow, descended bearing in his beak a vial of holy oil. A delicious odor exhaled from it: which intoxicated those near by with an inexpressible delight. The holy bishop took the vial, and suddenly the dove vanished. Transported with joy at the sight of this notable miracle, the King renounced Satan, his pomps and his works; and demanded with earnestness the baptism; at the moment when he bent his head over the fountain of life, the eloquent pontiff cried, "Bow down thine head, fierce Sicambrian! Adore that which once thou hast burned: burn that which thou hast adored!"

After having made his profession of the orthodox faith, the King is plunged thrice in the waters of baptism. Then in the name of the holy and indivisible Trinity---Father, Son, and Holy Ghost---the prelate consecrated him with the divine unction. Two sisters of the king and 3000 fighting men of the Franks and a great number of women and children were likewise baptized. Thus we many well believe that day was a day of joy in heaven for the holy angels; likewise of rejoicing on earth for devout and faithful men!

The King showed vast zeal for his new faith. He built a splendid church at Paris, called St. Genevieve, where later he and Clothilde were buried. Faith and religion and zeal for justice were pursued by him all the days of his life. Certain Franks still held to paganism, and found a leader in Prince Ragnachairus but he was presently delivered up in fetters to Chlodovocar who put him to death. Thus all the Frankish people were converted and baptized by the merits of St. Remigius.

At this time there came to Chlodovocar messengers from Anastasius, the Emperor of Constantinople, who brought him presents from their master, and letters whereof the effect was, that it pleased the Emperor and the Senators that he [Chlodovocar] be made a "Friend of the Emperor," and a "Patrician" and "Councilor" of the Romans. When the King had read these letters, he arrayed himself in the robe of a senator, which the Emperor had sent to him. He mounted upon his charger; and thus he went to the public square before the church of St. Martin; and then he gave great gifts to the people. From this day he was always called "Councilor" and "Augustus."

By the way, in case you are wondering what happened to this holy oil brought from heaven, it was preserved lovingly in the crypt of St. Remigius and used for royal French coronations thereafter, until in 1793 the maniac-atheist revolutionaries smashed it, in same orgy of violence in which they destroyed the the only surviving relics of St. Joan of Arc, so that, as Mark Twain said, "There remained nothing on this earth which had been touched by Joan." Damned revolutionaries!