Saturday, February 27, 2016

Scalia and Megiddo

Many of us were saddened at the sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia last week. Republicans and Democrats are going round and round with the usual political hullabaloo over Scalia's replacement and whether the nomination should be postponed until after the November elections.

But for people of faith, the question is what does this mean? Why now, God? In a time when the traditional Catholic voice is so muted, when natural law is so poorly understood, when political leadership is devoid of men devoted to the Faith - in other words, when men like Justice Scalia were so sorely needed - why, God? Why take him so suddenly, now, only a few months before the end of Barack Obama's administration? Could you not have found a better time or a better person to take, O' Lord? Why heap misery upon misery on us?

In short, I believe we are facing what I call a Megiddo Moment. Many of you may be familiar with the name Megiddo as the Hebrew source of the word Armageddon. But let us go back to the Old Testament roots of the word.

In the Old Testament, Megiddo was the site of a battle between the Israelites under King Josiah and the Egyptians under Pharaoh Necho II in 609 BC.

King Josiah was one of Judah's few righteous kings. The book of 2 Kings tells us that Josiah was most devoted to God's law of any of Judah's kings. He had purified the Temple of all the abominations introduced by the pagans, tore down the pagan altars around Judah, had the Book of Deuteronomy read to the people (which he and the priests found in the Temple after years of neglect), celebrated the Feasts of the Lord according to the Law, and in general ruled in righteousness according to God's commandments.

But how did God reward the righteousness of this king?

"In his days Pharao Necho king of Egypt went up against the king of Assyria to the river Euphrates: and king Josiah went to meet him: and was slain at Megiddo, when he had seen him" (2 Ki. 23:29).

Josiah was only 39 years old when he died. He conceivably had decades ahead of him - decades more to do good and lead Judah in righteousness. Why did God cut Him off in the prime of life, despite his goodness? Our answer is found a few verses prior:

"There was no king before [Josiah] like unto him, that returned to the Lord with all his heart, and with all his soul, and with ail his strength, according to all the law of Moses: neither after him did there arise any like him.
But yet the Lord turned not away from the wrath of his great indignation, wherewith his anger was kindled against Judah: because of the provocations, wherewith Manasseh had provoked him.
And the Lord said: I will remove Judah also from before my face, as I have removed Israel: and I will cast off this city Jerusalem, which I chose, and the house, of which I said: My name shall be there" (2 Ki. 23:25-27).

Josiah was cut off because God was determined to punish Judah for the sins of Manasseh. Manasseh was the grandfather of Josiah. Manasseh was the wickedest of all the kings of Judah. He had sacrificed children to Moloch in the Valley of Hinnom outside Jerusalem (2 Ch. 33:6) and did more evil than any other Israelite king before or since.

When Manasseh committed these sins, he essentially pushed Judah over the edge - brought his kingdom past the point of no return. God was determined to punish Judah; not even the righteous King Josiah was enough to change anything. And because God had determined to punish, He cut the righteous king off at the prime of his life. Twenty-two years later Jerusalem fell to Babylon and the political power of the Davidic dynasty was extinguished.

Because I am a pessimist when it comes to these things, I think the death of Scalia was just such a Megiddo moment. Our nation and our people have, individually and collectively, so provoked God to wrath by our sins that we have reached a tipping point. There is only judgment now. And if a righteous branch sprouts up - someone like Scalia - God will cut him off at a very inconvenient time in order to facilitate the judgment that He has ordained.

I may be wrong...I tend towards apocalypticism and pessimism in such questions, but I suspect this is the case.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Francis and Kirill: Smoke and Mirrors

Pope Francis has concluded his historic meeting with Patriach Kirill of Moscow and All Russia in Cuba this past week. Their Joint Declaration calls for Catholic and Russian Orthodox to stand together in support of persecuted Christians, and also to give a joint witness in favor of life and traditional marriage.

There are many good things in this document, but paragraphs 24 and 25 in particular caught my attention vis-a-vis their implications for ecumenism. Here are the paragraphs in question:

24. Orthodox and Catholics are united not only by the shared Tradition of the Church of the first millennium, but also by the mission to preach the Gospel of Christ in the world today. This mission entails mutual respect for members of the Christian communities and excludes any form of proselytism.
We are not competitors but brothers, and this concept must guide all our mutual actions as well as those directed to the outside world. We urge Catholics and Orthodox in all countries to learn to live together in peace and love, and to be “in harmony with one another” (Rm 15:5). Consequently, it cannot be accepted that disloyal means be used to incite believers to pass from one Church to another, denying them their religious freedom and their traditions. We are called upon to put into practice the precept of the apostle Paul: “Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation” (Rm 15:20).
25. It is our hope that our meeting may also contribute to reconciliation wherever tensions exist between Greek Catholics and Orthodox. It is today clear that the past method of “uniatism”, understood as the union of one community to the other, separating it from its Church, is not the way to re–establish unity. Nonetheless, the ecclesial communities which emerged in these historical circumstances have the right to exist and to undertake all that is necessary to meet the spiritual needs of their faithful, while seeking to live in peace with their neighbours. Orthodox and Greek Catholics are in need of reconciliation and of mutually acceptable forms of co–existence.

The first two paragraphs contain the standard warnings against "proselytism." While the document limits "proselytism" to only those means of conversion which use "disloyal means" to convert people, we have seen how the word "proselytism" is infused with ambiguity in modern Vatican statements. While its usage always leaves room for people to claim it means only dishonest or immoral means to win converts - as in the above citation - we also know that for Pope Francis and many theologians "proselytism" is equated with conversion pure and simple, for example, an address of Francis in Argentine in 2013 where the pope condemned proselytism and said, "Do you need to convince the other to become Catholic? No, no, no!", or when he said in Korea "with my identity and my empathy, my openness, I walk with the other. I don’t try to make him come over to me, I don’t proselytize" (source), where to "proselytize" is equated with getting the other to "come over"; i.e., convert. For more on the dishonest manner in which the word "proselytize" is used in contemporary documents, see the USC article "Proselytism and Conversion."

The most interesting statement, however, is found in paragraph 25 where the pope and patriarch reject what is called "uniatism." What is uniatism, and why is it categorically rejected?

Historically, uniatism was a means of reconciling churches of the Eastern Orthodox communion with Rome. This was done by usually establishing juridical and canonical norms particular to these communions that allowed them to retain some degree of cultural distinction in return for their recognition of the supremacy of the Roman Pontiff. This arrangement brought about ecclesial unity - hence their designation as "Uniate" churches. 

There are a total of 19 Uniate Churches with 253 bishops governing over 18 million worldwide. Some of these are very small, like the Albanian Byzantine Catholic Church (3,800 adherents) and the Greek Byzantine Catholic Church (2,400), while others are extremely large, like the Melkites and the Syro-Malankar rite, which each have near a million. The largest Uniate Church is the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, which has 44 bishops spread over 31 eparchies governing over 5 million Ukrainian Catholics. With 18 million adherents, the Uniate churches are by no means insignificant. It is wonderful that the new Joint Declaration concedes these 18 million Catholics "the right to exist."

By the way, since uniatism is only a method for reconciling Orthodox to Rome (and not for converting Catholics to the Orthodox), this agreement to reject uniatism is very one-sided against the Catholic Church. The Russians give absolutely no ground; the Russian Orthodox have always hated the Uniate Churches and viewed them as traitors. Thus the Joint Declaration is essentially the Catholic Church adopting the Russian Orthodox perspective on the Uniate Churches.

It is mind-boggling that uniatism is rejected as a model for reconciliation, since uniatism has historically been the single most successful method of reconciling the Orthodox. Why would the Church reject what has historically been the best tool in her chest for reconciling the orthodox? Because to do so implicitly means the uniate churches must break away from the Orthodox communion, and this is forbidden in the new world of ecumenism. This has been the Church's implicit position since the Ostpolitik of the Second Vatican Council, and was formalized in the Balamand Declaration of 1993. Please see our article on the Balamand Conference for the background of this declaration.

What this ultimately means is that, despite the show of unity between Francis and Kirill, this declaration brings us absolutely no closer to any sort of reunion between Rome and Moscow. Indeed, any such reunion is explicitly repudiated, as in paragraph 24 the Declaration bizarrely quotes Romans 15:20 out of context ("Thus I aspire to proclaim the gospel not where Christ has already been named, so that I do not build on another's foundation”) to make the point that Rome is not seeking converts from Moscow. It is astonishing that Francis' cites St. Paul in this manner; the other "foundations" St. Paul is speaking of are other Christian churches. Let us not forget that, from the Catholic perspective, the Russian Orthodox are schismatics. There is no precedent in Catholic ecclesiology for viewing schismatic churches as other "foundations" upon which we cannot build.

More smoke and mirrors here.

Thursday, February 04, 2016

The Bayside Compendium

For the better part of three years now I have been promising a very large expose of the ridiculous Bayside apparitions and their absurd messages.

I honestly almost gave up on this project because it involved reading every single locution from Bayside, which proved to be the biggest waste of my time ever and unbelievably tedious. But, I finally finished and have it linked up below:


Bayside is probably one of the dumbest apparitions in existence and I don't plan to devoting much more time to it (although I think I may have one more article). And the tragic thing is people who are sold on goofy private apparitions really cannot be shaken in their convictions, so I doubt this massive article (so big it needed a Table of Contents) will change anybody's mind; if it only serves to show others how wacky and unworthy of credibility this apparition really is, my purpose will be served.