Sunday, February 27, 2011

Homeschooling and College

I am utterly amazed at the passing of time and how quickly years can pass us by. There was a time, when I was a bit younger, in which I marveled that I was now an adult and in college. I have since gotten use to my adulthood, but now I am feeling it more keenly because kids I have known since they were 13 or 14 are now starting to go off to college themselves. It is one thing to feel oneself become an adult, but quite another when you see people you have always known as kids starting to become adults themselves!

As these youngsters grow up and start going off to college, and as most of them are from homeschooling backgrounds, I am led to reflect on some things I have been thinking about with regards to homeschooling and college. The one thing that constantly astounds me about homeschoolers is their phenomenal drive to accomplishment. Many homeschoolers are already taking classes at college when they are 16 and often graduate a year or two ahead of their public school counterparts.

This is praiseworthy, of course. But as these youngsters finish up, I have noted an extreme rush to get off to college immediately after high school. In fact, it is almost expected. Nobody asks anymore whether one is going to college, but simply asks what college one is going to. Most homeschoolers I have encountered are already fretting about college their junior year and by the second semester of their senior year are already accepted to some college somewhere, usually in a liberal arts program. Often, because of their extreme intelligence, they receive very large scholarships as well.

It is seeing student after student take this course that has led me to reflect on this matter, especially as I started noticing that I felt ill at ease with it. We homeschoolers (and I count myself among them) choose to home-educate because we believe it is in the best interests of our child's education and the good of their soul. But does rushing our children off to a liberal arts college immediately after the conclusion of high school really suit our children's best interest? I can't speak for any other family or pass judgment on anyone, but I will share my own thoughts on the matter, and why, for me, the idea of sending kids off to a liberal arts college, even a Catholic one, immediately after high school is not a good idea.

In the first place, I have always found a disconnect here between the protective motivation for homeschooling and the tendency to shove a child out into college prematurely. Here is what I mean: most homeschoolers choose to homeschool in part in order to protect their child from the corruptive influence of the world, which tends to rob them of their innocence prematurely. Public schoolers may learn about sex on the bus in 6th grade, but in a homeschooling family this topic will be brought up much later and in the safe environment of the home. Parents lovingly look after the moral upbringing of their children and forbid them from doing many things that their public school counterparts get to experience much earlier. Dating. Overnight sleep overs. Taking a car out unsupervised. Getting a job. In most cases, these are things that come for homeschoolers much later than public schoolers. 

But my question here is, why go out of the way to protect our children from some of the ways of the world only to shove them off to college when they are only 17? Why go out of the way to shelter from the world only to force them into it prematurely? In my opinion, a girl who is not allowed to date at 16 is not ready to go to college at 17. A boy who is not allowed to have or go to sleepovers at 16 is not ready to go to college the next year. My suggestion, of course, is not to let girls date earlier, but to postpone college till later.  If they haven't lost their "childhood innocence" by age 16, then shoving them off to college at age 17 is going to be a culture-shock that I am not sure they will be equipped to deal with. It doesn't matter what college - there are worldly people at every institution, even the most Catholic. If we go to such pains to preserve the innocence of our children and ensure that they are not robbed of it in their tender years, I see no reason to compel them to go off into the world at an age when most other kids are still living at home wondering what they want to do in life.

Which brings me to the second point: It can take awhile to discern what you want to do in life, not only what state of life you are called to, but what specific trade or career you want to pursue. Perhaps I am making an over-generalization based on my own experience, but I was absolutely in no position whatsoever to know what I wanted to do with my life at age 17. I had no clue; well I mean, I had some notions, but they turned out to be ephemeral, fleeting, based on emotion and sentiment rather than on any rational thought about a career. It was not until I was 22 that I realized what I wanted to do with my life. In fact, so unprepared was I to make such long-term judgments at age 17 that I ended up enrolling at a classy art school in 1998 on the premise that I was going to be an artist! A year later and about $8,000 in the hole shocked me out of that fantasy; I realized I hated art school and dropped out after one year and I stayed away from college for the next four years until I had matured. Like I said, perhaps this was only the case with me and many kids are better prepared to think about this than I was, but I think in many cases a 17 year old is a 17 year old...

Another problem I have with sending kids off to liberal arts colleges right out of high school is that they learn no trade, either before college or at college. Now, I love the liberal arts, but as one who has a liberal arts degree, it is about the most useless degree you can ever get. I don't think any college graduate gets paid as low as one who gets a liberal arts degree. You come out with no skills learned, no trade and no specific certification in anything at all.

Now some will say, "It is not about making money; it is about getting educated." Fair enough - in fact, I agree. But, if it is just about getting educated and not about money, then just stay home from college and read books on the side while you learn a valuable trade. College might not be about "making money", but when most college graduates are walking away with their BAs $30, $40 or $50,000 in debt (and that's on the low end), then you had better be thinking about money and earning potential before you sign away for those student loans. If a liberal arts education is really based on reading the "classics" or the "Great Books," then you can read those books at home. There is absolutely no need to go away to college to get a liberal arts education. In my opinion, high school is the time for liberal arts. College is the time to learn a practical trade, if you choose to go to college. If you choose to spend tens of thousands of dollars on an education, then good heavens, it ought to be on a practical education in something you can at least make your money back on.

Is it important to know a practical trade? As one who doesn't know one, I believe it is. I can't tell you how useless I feel when I meet people who have the ability to tear a car apart and build it back up from scratch, or can build a house, or do electrical work, or plumb a new construction, or do finished carpentry, or any number of skills that I lack. There is something liberating about knowing a trade, something that makes you free from subservience to others. The ancient rabbis used to compel their students to learn a trade before they were allowed to begin their rabbinical studies; St. Paul was trained in tent-making, for example. This was to prevent the proliferation of a class of useless intellectuals. I can see great value in this thinking          

Youngsters who go right to college from high school also will graduate with no real work experience. Most homeschoolers I know do not let their kids work during high school, preferring instead that their children focus on their studies. Then they go right to college and return with no real work experience. Besides having a degree that is not much valued in the workaday world, these persons will also come into the labor market doubly burdened with a lack of experience. Nowadays, since labor is so plentiful, employers are seeking applicants with experience over education. Besides this, a year or two of steady employment is the best education there is in teaching a teenager responsibility. In my opinion, a teenager who takes a full time job right out of high school and keeps it for two years is going to be much more mature and have a much better grasp of what it means to be an adult than one who goes right to college from high school.

Added to all this is the fact that many people, homeschooling or public schooling, are ignorant to the racket that college has become and that, due to our "culture of credentials", college is becoming increasingly a waste or time and useless, even as it becomes more mandatory for social mobility in our culture. College is no longer about being educated; it is about getting some credentials that says you are competent to do X,Y and Z. And, paradoxically, since our college culture has become mainly about credentials, we have many people getting "credentialed" who are not educated and may even be unfit for the job they are credentialed in. I witnessed this first hand at my University as every year dozens of people who should have been nowhere near a classroom were "certified" as teachers. There is the very real possibility that your kid may just be wasting their time at college.
Do I regret going to college? No, if only because a degree of some sort is a prerequisite for advancement in many areas of our society. But, yes, absolutely I regret that I had to go to college. Even at Ave Maria, which was a very quality school when I attended, I'd say no less than 50% of my classes were total wastes of time in which I learned very little. My other University where I obtained my teaching license was almost a 90% waste, day after day of wondering, "Why am I here?" and "What a waste of money!" and such thoughts.Realize, parents, before you send your kids to college, even to a Catholic college, that this is not about education or knowledge. With the advent of the digital age, there is no monopoly on knowledge anymore. Knowledge about anything is available for free. If this is really about education and bettering oneself, then read some books. You don't need to dump $25,000 and four years of your life to do it.

Like I said before, I judge no other family and admit that these opinions may be biased based on my own experience. But, here is what I plan to do when my kids finish high school, which in the case of my oldest, will be in about nine years. These are not set-in-stone rules, but general guidelines that can be modified as circumstances require; overall, I think they are prudent:

1) I will encourage my kids to think and pray about what they want to go into they grow up, but will in no way exert any pressure on them to come up with this answer as a teenager. The teenage years are fleeting and very precious, and I will not crowd out my children's enjoyment of them by compelling them to keep their minds fixed on their impending and boring adulthood.

2) I will discourage my children from going to college immediately out of high school. Upon graduation, if possible, they will move out on their own and maintain steady, full time employment for a minimum of two years before applying for any college, even community college. If they remain at home, they will definitely work. None of my children will participate in college programs that allow them to get credit while still in high school. If any of my children choose, on their own, to attend college right out of high school, I cannot prevent them, but I will not contribute a cent to it.

3) Each child of mine, even if they are bound for college or the academic life, will learn a skilled trade, even if it is just on the side. Some friend or uncle will teach them carpentry or mechanic work, or rough framing or something. I will encourage my kids to take part time jobs during high school to learn these sorts of skills.

4) I will not pressure any of my kids to go to college at all. I will encourage them to explore entrepreneurship, skilled trades and other avenues for their creativity. I will not discourage college at all, but will not push it either.

5) While I will be happy if some of my kids have their career plans figured out in their teen years, as a rule, I will not expect them to have it sorted out until their mid-twenties.

That's enough for now, but next time I post I want to give a run down of the top ten fields I think homeschooled Catholics should go into (instead of liberal arts). In the meantime, what do you all think about college and sending homeschooled kids off right out of high school?

Click here for part two on the top ten careers Catholics should consider going in to.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"So that man might become God"

In the treatise of St. Athanasius on the Incarnation, we come across one of the most profound but easily misunderstood statements of the Fathers; I am referring of course to St. Athanasius' dictum that "[the Word] was made man that we might be made God," which is found in De Incarnatione 54:3.What did St. Athanasius mean when he stated that man could "become God" as a result of the Incarnation? This question is not an obscure point of theology but strikes at the heart of Christology and soteriology alike; it is especially relevant both because the modern world lacks a general understanding of why Christ came to earth, and because progressive and New Age thinkers tend to wrongly interpret patristic or scriptural phrases such as this in the interest of promoting pantheism (for example, here and here).

The Greek word Athanasius uses here is theopoie, which literally means "to make divine." The phrase was written during the Arian controversy, and it is interesting to note that the Arians must have agreed to this phrase as well, since (a) St. Athanasius mentions it without defining it, assuming that his opponents knew what he meant, and (b) he bases his argument upon the principle, and one cannot make something a starting point for an argument unless both parties agree to it. We can see the concept being used this way in his Letter to Serapion, 1:24, where he says:

"If, by a partakability of the Spirit we shall become partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4), it would be madness then afterward to call the Spirit an originated entity and not of God; for on account of this also those who are in Him are made divine. But then if He makes man divine, it is not dubious to say His nature is of God."

Remember the Arians denied the divinity of the Holy Spirit as well as the Son. Athanasius uses the doctrine of divinization as a starting point to prove the Spirit's Godhead. Since it is through the Holy Spirit that men become "partakers of the divine nature", as St. Peter says, then the Spirit must Himself be divine, otherwise He would be unable to confer this divinization upon others. Notice that St. Athanasius takes the divinization of man for granted and assumes the Arians believe it, too.

Whereas some have seen this doctrine of "divinization" as a remnant of pre-Christian Greek philosophy, akin to Plotinus and Plato (such as Harnack), I think we can prove that this doctrine of divinization is found throughout the Fathers and can be understood as being original to Christianity without having to bring in Plato and Plotinus to explain it.

It of course has its origin in the words of St. Peter in 2 Peter 1:4, where the Prince of the Apostles says  "By whom he hath given us most great and precious promises: that by these you may be made partakers of the divine nature: flying the corruption of that concupiscence which is in the world." We can also find biblical precedents in St. Paul's doctrine of adoption. This concept is elaborated in the Fathers. In the preface to Book IV of Adversus Haereses, St. Irenaeus invokes the exaltation of man in opposition to the Gnostic dogma of the evil of the flesh:

"For whatsoever all the heretics may have advanced with the utmost solemnity, they come to this at last, that they blaspheme the Creator, and disallow the salvation of God's workmanship, which the flesh truly is; on behalf of which I have proved, in a variety of ways, that the Son of God accomplished the whole dispensation [of mercy], and have shown that there is none other called God by the Scriptures except the Father of all, and the Son, and those who possess the adoption" (Adv. Haer., Book IV, preface, iv).

Note that St. Irenaeus leaves out the Spirit when mentioning the divine persons, substituting instead "those who possess the adoption"; i.e., the Church, which is herself made holy through the Spirit. Irenaeus is obviously envisioning a very close union between the faithful and Christ in the Spirit; the Church, as Christ's Body, is so close to Christ in the Spirit that the Church itself is exalted and divinized.

Clement of Alexandria, who preceded Athanasius by over a century, wrote in almost the same terms as the great Athanasius when he stated in his Exhortation to the Heathen: "I say, the Word of God became man, that you may learn from man how man may become God" (Prot. 1). Of course, unless we are already coming at these verses from a pantheistic viewpoint, we understand that this divinization, this "becoming God", does not entail a substantial alteration in our nature; we are human beings, and will always be human beings. In the same work, Clement states that the process of divinization, "becoming God", is nothing other than "becoming a man of God." He says: "But if one of those serpents even is willing to repent, and follows the Word, he becomes a man of God" (ibid).

Therefore, in the Fathers we see a certain ambiguity; sometimes salvation is seen in terms of man "becoming God," at other times of man "becoming like God." Part is this ambiguity comes from the fact that, until the clarification of the Christological controversies of the day, there was not a consensus on what theopoie meant; the Church could not specific what it meant for man to become divine until it worked out what it meant to say that Christ was divine.

Origen sheds some light on the issue in his Contra Celsus, stating that the "divinization" is the result of adoption and is nothing other than the ennoblement of mankind by the commingling of our natures with the divine which was begun in the Incarnation and continued through the sacraments. He says:

"But both Jesus Himself and His disciples desired that His followers should believe not merely in His Godhead and miracles, as if He had not also been a partaker of human nature, and had assumed the human flesh which "lusts against the Spirit;" but they saw also that the power which had descended into human nature, and into the midst of human miseries, and which had assumed a human soul and body, contributed through faith, along with its divine elements, to the salvation of believers, when they see that from Him there began the union of the divine with the human nature, in order that the human, by communion with the divine, might rise to be divine, not in Jesus alone, but in all those who not only believe, but enter upon the life which Jesus taught, and which elevates to friendship with God and communion with Him every one who lives according to the precepts of Jesus" (Contra Celsus 3:28).

The union between God and man that was begun in the Incarnation is thus extended to all men through the agency of the Church. St. Athanasius himself clarifies the doctrine against any possible misunderstanding in several places. His third Discourse Against the Arians is worth quoting at length, for here we see the dogma laid out in full:

"[T]he Saviour says; 'Be merciful, as your Father which is in heaven is merciful;' and, 'Be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.' And He said this too, not that we might become such as the Father; for to become as the Father, is impossible for us creatures, who have been brought to be out of nothing; but as He charged us, 'Be not like to horse,' not lest we should become as draught animals, but that we should not imitate their want of reason, so, not that we might become as God, did He say, 'Be merciful as your Father,' but that looking at His beneficent acts, what we do well, we might do, not for men's sake, but for His sake, so that from Him and not from men we may have the reward.

For as, although there be one Son by nature, True and Only-begotten, we too become sons, not as He in nature and truth, but according to the grace of Him that calls
, and though we are men from the earth, are yet called gods , not as the True God or His Word, but as has pleased God who has given us that grace; so also, as God do we become merciful, not by being made equal to God, nor becoming in nature and truth benefactors (for it is not our gift to benefit but belongs to God), but in order that what has accrued to us from God Himself by grace, these things we may impart to others, without making distinctions, but largely towards all extending our kind service. For only in this way can we anyhow become imitators, and in no other, when we minister to others what comes from Him.

And as we put a fair and right sense upon these texts, such again is the sense of the lection in John. For he does not say, that, as the Son is in the Father, such we must become:— whence could it be? When He is God's Word and Wisdom, and we were fashioned out of the earth, and He is by nature and essence Word and true God...and we are made sons through Him by adoption and grace, as partaking of His Spirit (for 'as many as received Him,' he says, 'to them gave He power to become children of God, even to them that believe in His Name'), and therefore also He is the Truth (saying, 'I am the Truth,' and in His address to His Father, He said, 'Sanctify them through Your Truth, Your Word is Truth '); but we by imitation become virtuous and sons:

Therefore not that we might become such as He, did He say 'that they may be one as We are;' but that as He, being the Word, is in His own Father, so that we too, taking an examplar and looking at Him, might become one towards each other in concord and oneness of spirit, nor be at variance as the Corinthians, but mind the same thing, as those five thousand in the Acts, who were as one
" (Third Discourse Against the Arians, 19).

Two points: first, our "divinization" is the process by which we become made like God. This does not happen by any sort of essential change in our nature that would make us gods in our own right or equal to God, as Athanasius goes to pains to explain would be impossible. Rather, it is by 'imitation" and by "taking an exemplar and looking at Him." Second, this "imitation" is not a simple, human imitation, a striving towards perfection by our own powers in the Pelagian sense, but an inner, dynamic imitation that is accomplished "by adoption and grace" as "has pleased God."

In case this is not proof enough that Athanasius means a divinization by adoption, we can also consult his First Discourse Against the Arians, in which he distinguishes between children by nature and children by grace, stating that our divinization is "by participation":

"For what is from another by nature, is a real offspring, as Isaac was to Abraham, and Joseph to Jacob, and the radiance to the sun; but the so called sons from virtue and grace, have but in place of nature a grace by acquisition, and are something else besides the gift itself; as the men who have received the Spirit by participation" (First Discourse Against the Arians, 37).
This is repeated again in his letter to the African churches: "For we too, albeit we cannot become like God in essence, yet by progress in virtue imitate God" (Ad Afros Epistula Synodica, 7).

I think we have established beyond a reasonable doubt what St. Athanasius did not mean by his statement that men "become God." But, if divinization does not itself entail an essential transformation into God, as pantheists would have it, then what do Athanasius, St. Peter, St. Paul, St. Irenaeus and all the rest mean by the repeated statements that men cane become "divine" through participation in Christ? This shall have to wait until next time.

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

The Just Faith program is not Catholic

Occasionally I get queries about different parish programs and whether or not they are "safe" for parish use. Case in point is the JustFaith program, put on by Just Faith Ministries. Just Faith was founded in 1989 by a fellow by the name of Jack Jezreel, which is an interesting name from a Biblical standpoint; the Valley of Jezreel was where King Jehu had the apostate Queen Jezebel slain (2 Kings 9:1-10); it is also the location of the Battle of Armageddon at the end of time. But I digress. The program's website states:
JustFaith Ministries provides programs that transform people and expand their commitment to social ministry. Through these life-changing opportunities, members of a church or parish can study, explore and experience Christ’s call to care for the poor and vulnerable in a lively, challenging, multifaceted process in the context of a small faith community.
Have any of you come across the JustFaith program in your parishes or dioceses? Here is a run down of the program and some of its problems from Phyllis Sower. Mrs. Sower has practiced law for 33 years, now part-time, in Franklin County, KY. She is the co-founder and principal of Our Lady of Guadalupe Academy/Corpus Christi High School in Simpsonville, KY. and recently exposed the JustFaith program for the Los Pequenos Pepper publication in the Diocese of Santa Fe. So, is the JustFaith program Catholic? The following is from her article:

"I had already heard a little about the JustFaith program and some concerns regarding it just prior to the time that two members of our parish came to me to share their concerns. One of them had enrolled in the course and brought to me the full set of materials she purchased for the course requesting that I review it. I submit herein the results of my review in a spirit of fraternal correction and concern and to assist pastors and lay persons who lack time to read all the materials; a close examination of the program by the competent ecclesiastical authority is warranted to determine the advisability of its continued use.

In short, the program is a product of liberation theology and promotes the ordination of women, recognition of homosexual marriage, the feminization of God, extreme pacifism and environmentalism, using non-Catholic and Catholic dissenters to present “Catholic Social Teaching.” The JustFaith program is a partnership effort of Catholic Campaign for Human Development, Catholic Charities USA and Catholic Relief Services. It is billed as a ministry of the Church, “an invitation to a rich spiritual journey into compassion,” to “look more closely at the troubling issues of our times through the lens of compassion and Catholic social teaching.” According to page two of the Notes to participants, week 2, the program sets out to teach the "rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching." However, there is little reference to the encyclicals, Catechism, conciliar documents or the Summa Theologica where the Church’s authentic social teaching is to be found. (Nota Bene: one of my sons is taking a course on Catholic Social Teaching at a Catholic University; the curriculum consists of: Rerum Novarum, Mater et Magistra, Quadragessimo Anno, Pacem in Terris, Gaudium et Spes, Popularum Progressio, Octogessima Adviens, Laborens Exercens, Sollicidudo Rei Socialis, Finitessimus Annus, section 10 of the 5th Lateran Council, and sections of the Summa on Justice and Cheating/Usury).

The very opening sessions of the JustFaith program are problematic. For example, in week 2, the opening prayer invokes 21 “witnesses of hope,” including Mohandes Gandhi–“great soul of peace,” Flannery O’Connor (note: from my acquaintance with the life and writings of this great American writer, I submit that she would strenuously object to JustFaith and being prayed to for she was a devout Catholic), Thomas Merton (much of his later work was heterodox), Martin Luther King, Jr., Joseph Bernardin, Albert Schweitzer, concluding with, “All you holy men and women, salt and light for our world, Pray for us.”Attachment B of the same week lists discussion and dialogue goals, including the search for the best “view,” incorporate varied perspectives, etc. There is no reference to seeking, teaching, or understanding the truth as taught by the Church. As Pope Benedict has reiterated, “real education is not possible without the light of truth.”

There are 4 books in the program: Cloud of Witnesses by Wallis and Hollyday, Compassion by Nouwen, et al, The Challenge and Spirituality of Catholic Teaching, by Mich, and Amazing Grace by Kozol. None of them has a Nihil Obstat or Imprimatur despite the pretensions of this course to present the “rich tradition of Catholic Social Teaching.” An examination of the content of the texts reveals significant reasons there is not and should not be an official stamp of the Church’s stamp of approval on any of these books or the program.

The Cloud of Witnesses book is most revealing of the agenda of this program and of content contrary to the authentic social teaching of the Catholic Church. It is clearly stated that, “The articles and interviews in this book have been adapted from material originally published in Sojourners magazine.” The author, Jim Wallis, was founder and executive director of Sojourners. He has written in favor of gay “marriage.” The author, Joyce Hollyday, is a minister in the United Church of Christ. Sojourners is described as non-denominational according to its website, but includes left wing Catholic peace activists and dissenters, a Masonic veterans group, favors gay/lesbian partnerships, has a policy statement in favor of recognition and legal protection for the same, including gay “marriage,” and favors ordination of women, claiming five female ordinations and female bishops. This background should constitute sufficient cause to question inclusion of the book as a source of authentic Catholic Social teaching.

In addition, out of 35 articles, only 11 appear to be about known Catholics. I say “known” because the faith of some was not identifiable. For certain, most were not Catholic at all and included a Living Waters pastor, Georgia minister, Episcopal minister, Martin Luther King, Jr., Sojourner Truth, a Presbyterian pastor, a Quaker, three Baptists, one now non-denominational former Methodist then Presbyterian, a Dutch Reformed preacher and a number of others not Catholic but whose denomination was not mentioned. Among the persons featured were a draft-dodger, proponent of the ordination of women in the Episcopal Church, one pastor and his wife imprisoned for non-payment of taxes, one whose “consciousness” came from liberation theology and another who said the truth was not the captive of any enterprise or religion.

Among the Catholics featured in the book were many known dissenters such as Father Daniel Berrigan, Sr. Joan Chittister, Father Pedro Arrupe and others who criticize the Church rather than advance her authentic teachings. Some examples will suffice:
  • Joan Chitttister’s unabashed advancement of the ordination of women is championed. She said, “There’s either something wrong with the present theology of ministry, or there is something wrong with the present theology of all the sacraments. If women qualify for baptism, confirmation, salvation, and redemption, how can they be denied the sacrament of ministry?” Her arguments that women are ignored in church language and for the feminization of God are given ample play in the text.

  • Jesuit superior general Pedro Arrupe openly rejected Humanae Vitae and his “restructuring” of the Jesuits did much harm to the Order; the circumstances of his removal are unclear to me, but Pope John Paul II passed over Arrupe’s designated successor for another.

  • Father Miguel D’Escoto is not permitted to celebrate the Eucharist in public or private.

  • Father Elias Chacour, a Catholic priest and pacifist in Israel, attacked the wealth of the Church and described his despair of the institutional Church and its hierarchy.

  • Archbishop Dom Camara, who certainly sacrificed for the poor of his native Brazil, was a devotee of Gandhi and criticized the Church for its programs and priorities; at the closing session of Vatican II, he proposed that all the bishops surrender their crosses of precious metals for meltdown and distribution of the proceeds to the poor.

  • Father George Zabelka is an extreme pacifist who accuses Christianity of seventeen hundred years of terror and slaughter.

  • Journalist Penny Lernoux had distanced herself from the Church but returned in the “awakening” of Vatican II, which she described as “set to turn the Church on its head,” while she was herself under the inspiration of liberation theology.

The magisterial authority of the Church was not recognized in this book. There was a nice article on St. Francis of Assisi, who was called the “greatest saint.” This book would be perfectly suited to a study of liberation theology, which, of course, has been soundly refuted by the Church beginning with Divini Redemptoris. Pope Pius XI stated that the Church could not cooperate with Marxists. Liberation theology would divert the Church from her mission of salvation to one of social welfare agency.

One of the authors of Compassion was Henri Nouwen, who was described in Cloud of Witnesses as a Dutch priest and contributing editor to Sojourners. His funeral Mass was described in the book as a “carnival atmosphere” where actors and actresses “breathed life into the gospel reading.” In the Preface, the tone of the book is set with a quote from theologian, Gail O’Day, “Just as it is false to the richness of the Christian tradition to use father language as generic language for God, it ....” This book does more to diminish than to advance the true faith, for example:

  • The authors assert that the Gospels support reference to the “womb” of God (pp. 14-16).

  • They say we should see compassion not in moralistic terms (emphasis added; the implication is that we should disregard sin, p. 28).

  • They wrote that choosing to suffer as “an obedient response to our loving God” is, for Christians, a “false belief that in so doing they were following the way of Jesus Christ.”

  • The section on the breaking of bread omits all reference to sacrifice and the Holy Eucharist as the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ, the real presence; the sole emphasis is on community and eating bread and drinking wine as a memorial, where we become intimately connected “to the compassionate life of Christ.” (p. 111).

  • Our “bread connections” are a “call to action.” He writes that when people eat bread and drink wine in his (Christ’s) memory, "smiles appear on strained faces" (p. 132).

The Mich book has some good quotes, including some references to encyclicals and Saints, but they are interlaced with error. For example, St. Boniface’s challenge to the god Thor inspired conversions but led to the unintended consequence of “diminished awe for the sacredness of nature.” (p. 34). We are instructed that every creature, animate and inanimate, can be a “sacrament.” Life issues are discussed with no reference to the evil of contraception.

We are told that there was an early Catholic attitude, still present, that saw humans as the apex of creation and this too often led to exploitation of nature (p. 41). Quoting Sister Elizabeth Johnson, the author explains that “previous theologies would have human beings with their rational souls as superior to the natural world.” Such a ranking, he writes, easily “gives rise to arrogance, one root of the present ecological crisis.” We are told that we need ‘species humility’ (p. 43). I read this and wondered whatever happened to Genesis: man is made in the image and likeness of God and has dominion?

On pages 43-44, we read that we must “reimagine our place in creation” with these questions, each of which is directly or by implication in conflict with the truth:

  • How to preach salvation as healing and rescue for the whole world rather than as solely an individual relationship with God?

  • How to let go of contempt for matter, contempt for the body and sexuality, and how to revalue themas good and blessed?

  • How to interpret human beings as primarily “earthlings” rather than as pilgrims or tourists whose real home is elsewhere?

  • How to recognize the sacraments as symbols of divine graciousness in a universe that is itself a sacrament?

  • What kinds of new spiritualities will emerge as we become creation-centered?
The author references Familiaris Consortio, then trashes it and exposes his real agenda:
"Today, Catholic theology and spirituality does not view the love of another human being as distracting from our love of God. In fact, love of a spouse and child is viewed as participation in divine love. Sexuality is viewed in more positive terms as a gift of God to be enjoyed and celebrated within committed love and not only tolerated for the sake of procreation. These positive themes provide the starting points for a reinterpretation of marriage and family within the Catholic tradition. This revisioning is only in beginning stages. Catholicism and other Christian denominations are still working on understanding the role of women in the church and society and the meaning of committed homosexual relationships." (p. 81, emphasis added)

No sugar coating can cover the bitter taste of this poisonous error!

The Kozol book contains wrenching stories from the author’s experiences in South Bronx, significantly centered around St. Ann’s Episcopal Church with its pastor, Rev. Martha Overall, who “confesses” the children. What this book contributes to an understanding of Catholic Social Teaching is a mystery. The book is interesting private reading, although the heralding of it by Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund would have otherwise steered me clear of it.

Interestingly, both of the parishioners who brought to my attention that Just Faith was in progress at our church are converts. They are actively engaged in learning the Catholic Faith. One said to me, “Something about this (Just Faith) material is really bothering me. I don’t know why, but I am disturbed and irritated when reading it.” She wants to deepen her understanding of the true Faith; most of this material does just the opposite, leads away from it. The disturbance of the spirit is easily understandable.

We possess the truth in all its beauty, richness and wonder; we possess the authentic Magisterium. Why not use it? As the Holy Father has reminded us, real education is grounded in truth."

Click here for another great article on the danger's of Just Faith from the Restore DC Catholicism blog, which has already amply documented the issue.

Click here for a follow-up article on the Marxist tendencies of JustFaith.

Saturday, February 05, 2011

Dum Diversas (English Translation)

I apologize for sitting on this for so long, but I was hoping to wait until I got a better translation. Last summer I came across the Latin text of Dum Diversas of Pope Nicholas V (1452) in a book entitled Bullarium Patronatus Portugalliae Regum which I found in the rare documents depository at the University of Michigan. Since this encyclical is somewhat controversial, having been accused by some of ushering in the entire West African slave trade (for example, here), I thought it would be helpful to get this document translated into English and posted on the blog, especially since there are no other extant English translations. 

So, I turned it over to a friend, a distinguished professor of Latin with decades of experience, and asked her to translate it for me. It was originally supposed to be done by last August, but a lot of things happened and I didn't get it until shortly before Christmas. Even then I decided to sit on it, because the translation was a very word for word literal translation and my professor friend said that it still needed to be put into idiomatic English. Since I don't know when this will happen - and since some of my readers have been asking about it - I decided to post it as is and just warn you about the "rough" nature of the translation.

The Bull was issued to King Alfonso of Portugal in 1452 authorizing an expedition against the Saracens of North Africa and granted a plenary indulgence to all who went on the campaign. It grants Alfonso the right to confiscate all the lands and property of any Saracen rulers he might subjugate and authorizes him to reduce such conquered persons to "perpetual servitude." Much has been made of this phrase "perpetual servitude", though since the Bull comes in the late medieval period and not in the early modern period, I am not sure the phrase "perpetual servitude" should be interpreted in the same light it would be if the Bull was written in, say, 1650. I think we need to see it in a more "feudal" sense than a colonial one. At any rate, it needs more study.

The sentences are very long with tons of sub-clauses, sometimes so many that the meaning is difficult to decipher (there's a couple of sentences that just don't make sense as they stand); in a few places I had to infer punctuation. If anybody wants to crosscheck this with the Latin, I encourage them to do so. The Latin original is available here. Please do not use this translation for any scholarly purpose since it is so rough; in places where there could be a differing interpretation, I have included other possible words in [brackets].

I will be updating this post periodically as my translator and I hash out some of the phrases and get it into a more readable, idiomatic form of English.  But, until then, please enjoy Dum Diversas of Pope Nicholas V, courtesy of Unam Sanctam Catholicam, the only place on the net where you can find an entire English translation (albeit a sloppy one). God bless you.

Bishop Nicholas
Servant of the Servants of God. For the perpetual memory of this act:

To the dearest son in Christ Alfonse, illustrious King of Portugal and the Algarbians,Greetings and Apostolic Blessing

While we turn over in our mind the diverse concerns of the office of Apostolic service entrusted to us (although we do not deserve it) by celestial Providence, concerns by which we are every day urgently pressed, we are also moved  by a persistent encouragement: we chiefly carry in our heart that the well-known anxiety, that the rage of the enemies of the name of Christ, always aggressive in contempt of the orthodox faith, could be restrained by the faithful of Christ and be subjugated to the Christian religion. To this purpose also, when the occasion of the matter demands it, we laboriously expend our free [desire/eagerness/devotion], and indeed remember to follow with fatherly affection all the faithful of Christ, especially dearest sons in Christ, illustrious Kings, professing Christ’s faith, who, for the glory of the Eternal King, eagerly defend the faith itself and with powerful arm fight its enemies. We also look attentively to labor at the defense and growing of the said Religion and all things pertaining to this healing work, should proceed from our undeserved provision, we invite, with spiritual duties and grace, the faithful of Christ and also individuals to rouse their [positions/duties?] in help/support of the faith.

1. As we indeed understand from your pious and Christian desire, you intend to subjugate the enemies of Christ, namely the Saracens, and bring [them] back, with powerful arm, to the faith of Christ, if the authority of Apostolic See supported you in this. Therefore we consider, that those rising against the Catholic faith and struggling to extinguish Christian Religion must be resisted by the faithful of Christ with courage and firmness, so that the faithful themselves, inflamed by the ardor of faith and armed with courage to be able to hate their intention, not only to go against the intention, if they prevent unjust attempts of force, but with the help of God whose soldiers they are, they stop the endeavors of the faithless, we, fortified with divine love, summoned by the charity of Christians and bound by the duty of our pastoral office, which concerns the integrity and spread of faith for which Christ our God shed his blood, wishing to encourage the vigor of the faithful and Your Royal Majesty in the most sacred intention of this kind, we grant to you full and free power, through the Apostolic authority by this edict, to invade, conquer, fight, subjugate the Saracens and pagans, and other infidels and other enemies of Christ, and wherever established their Kingdoms, Duchies, Royal Palaces, Principalities and other dominions, lands, places, estates, camps and any other possessions, mobile and immobile goods found in all these places and held in whatever name, and held and possessed by the same Saracens, Pagans, infidels, and the enemies of Christ, also realms, duchies, royal palaces, principalities and other dominions, lands, places, estates, camps, possessions of the king or prince or of the kings or princes, and to lead their persons in perpetual servitude, and to apply and appropriate realms, duchies, royal palaces, principalities and other dominions, possessions and goods of this kind to you and your use and your successors the Kings of Portugal.

We carefully ask, require, and encourage your same Royal Majesty, girded by the sword of virtue and fortified with strong courage, for the increase of the divine name and for the exaltation of faith and for the salvation of your soul, having God before your eyes, may you increase in this undertaking the power of your virtue so that the Catholic faith may, through your Royal Majesty, against the enemies of Christ, bring back triumph and that you earn more fully the crown of eternal glory, for which you must fight in lands, and which God promised to those who love Him, and our benediction of the See and grace.

2. For we, by the dignity of your sacrifice, grant that you undertake this work with more courage and fervent zeal, together with chosen sons, noblemen, dukes, princes, barons, soldiers, and other faithful of Christ, accompanying your Royal Serenity in this fight of faith, or contributing with their means, and that they undertake or contribute from their possession, or send, as said before, from which you and they hope to be able to pursue the salvation of their souls, and they hope, by the mercy of omnipotent God, and his apostles the blessed Peter and Paul, entrusted with authority, to you and indeed all individual faithful of Christ of either sex accompanying your Majesty in this work of faith. Indeed to those who did not want to accompany you personally, but will send help according to their means or exigency of allegiance, or they will reasonably contribute from those possessions assigned by God, we grant, by the power of your sacrifice, a plenary forgiveness of all and individual sins, crimes, trespasses, and digressions which you and they have confessed with contrite heart and by mouth, to you and to those who accompany you, as often as you and they happen to go into any war against the mentioned infidels, and indeed to those who do not accompany you but are sending and contributing, as mentioned before, to those who persist in sincerity of faith, in the unity of the Holy Roman Church, by our obedience and devotion and of our successors Roman Pontiffs entering canonically, to the remaining a suitable confessor whom you and anyone of them selected can forgive merely once at the moment of death. Thus, however, the confessor sees to matters in which there is an obligation to a third party and that you, those who accompany you, who send and contribute fulfill it if you and they survive or your heirs and their heirs if you and they perish, as mentioned before.

3. And nevertheless, if it should happen that you or others of those accompanying you against the Saracens and other infidels of this kind, on the way there, staying there, or on the way back, departed from this world, we restore you and those accompanying you, remaining in sincerity and unity, through the present letter, to pure innocence in which you and they existed after baptism..

4. But we demand that all and each thing which the faithful of Christ, who do not accompany you, contributed for your support to carry out this undertaking, be taken by the noblemen of individual places in which these contributions were given and as time permits at once be repaid and given to you through secure messengers, or letters of the bank, without any reduction, expenses, and salaries, merely reasonably reserved for those working in this undertaking, and that they are transmitted under authentic sum-total, and that if the noblemen themselves, or anybody else deducted, or transferred or seized for his own use from the sum sent for support of this undertaking anything except expenses and salaries, or if they allowed or conspired for money to be either fraudulently or deceitfully subtracted, transferred or seized, that they incur eo ipso the sentence of excommunication, from which they cannot be absolved except by the office of the Roman Pontificate if they are in articulo mortis (at the moment of death).

5. For the rest, since it would be difficult to carry this present letter to individual places where perhaps it would be doubted about its credibility, we want and decree with authority that to its transfer signed by the hand of Notary public and provided with seal of a bishop or High Court, same credibility is shown, as if the original letter were presented or shown.

6. Consequently, it is not allowed to any person to infringe this sheet of our granting, pardon, will, indulgence, and decree, or dare to oppose it rashly. If, however, anyone tried to tamper with it, he would incur the indignation of the Omnipotent God, and of blessed Apostles Peter and Paul.

Given in Rome at St. Peter, in the year of the Incarnation of the Lord 1452 on June 18th, in the sixth year of our Pontificate.