Interesting article on Catholic Culture about Hell. It is a pleasure to see that the invasion of the blogosphere from intelligent Catholics is slowly but surely bringing to the attention of discerning Catholic readers what a disgraceful clergy wanted them to forget or ignore. In this case the article is certainly not new (1995), but the internet is the way to make it better known.
Mr. Young doesn’t try to sweeten the pill; he is very clear on the unpleasant part, the one that in these days – when it is considered rude to say unpleasant things – is so often ignored. But at the same time – and with that mixture of common sense and good-natured optimism that is so typical of the best Catholic attitude – he sends a clear message of hope to those who may either be prone to scruples or thinking that if there is a Hell they are hopeless anyway.
In fact, negation of Hell (which in itself might well send one there) is rather common among those who don’t know the Gospels and prefer to fantasise about alleged Church conspiracies rather than to examine the facts. Jesus himself talks of Hell in a very clear manner, insistently, and nowhere more than in the Gospels do we see Hell mentioned. If one is able to read the Gospel without getting this message loud and clear he must simply re-learn to read.
Secondly and regarding the “conspiracy theorists”, it would appear rather extraordinary that the “conspirators” would be ready to die for Christ in such big numbers (and very often in such atrocious ways) because bent on creating – a couple of centuries after their horrible, humiliating death – some big organisation able to forbid one to eat meat on a Friday, & Co.
I have never seen conspirators so ready to die in order that their lie may triumph a couple of hundreds year later. I bet you never did, either.
Thirdly, Jesus’ clear insistence on Hell should make clear to everyone that Hell has not been created to allow Satan to play poker with Pol Pot, Hitler and Stalin. Hell is a clear, concrete possibility, a fundamental choice every one of us can make, a choice about which Jesus reminds us constantly.
“Oh Well” – you might say – “they aren’t three then, and perhaps not even three hundred; but compared to the world population…….. very few, surely?”
“The gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few.”
These words come from the alleged First Conspirator Himself and frankly, the idea that his words might have been wilfully distorted in a gigantic effort to cheat God Himself of the message he wanted to send is more than blasphemous, it is outright stupid. Rather a few people, then, “find the hard way that leads to life”. It doesn’t mean that only those few will be saved, but it certainly means that there is no ground whatsoever for complacency.
But this the problem of modern times: people talking of Christianity without knowing the first thing of Christ, or talking of an alleged “betrayal” of Christ’s message without stopping to think of the absurdity of the concept.
Aut Deus, aut homo malus. Excluding the obviously absurd hypothesis of clinical insanity (that you never hear espoused by any critic of Hell’s existence anyway), Jesus was either a fraudster and a con man, or he was God. No intelligent, thoughtful reading of the Gospel allows any other possibility. How people who claim a vague belief in Jesus may reconcile their belief with the extraordinary denial of what he said strikes me as so arrogantly stupid as to not even deserve a serious conversation.
Jesus couldn’t have possibly been ” a nice chap”, or ” a man of God” duped by scheming apostles, or “the Son of God who was conned in the end by scheming martyrs”. It just doesn’t square, because this nice chap did say that He is God in thousand different ways and nice men don’t go around making such claims. Therefore, every DIY Christian and every Christian by hearsay must simply face the fact that unless He was God, He was not nice and not a man of God, but the most tragically cruel liar Himself; a man whose schemes not only led to His own death, but who preferred to continue the lie up to the cross, thus causing countless others to be killed because of His lie.
If one does as much as to believe that Jesus was not positively insane and not a scheming fraudster, then he must deal with the clear intellectual evidence of His being God. One of the first consequences of this actually rather easy to achieve conclusion is that Jesus has given us so many warnings about Hell for a reason. Or is there anyone ready to believe that God Himself would need to lie to us about Hell in order to save us from it?
It is time to face reality. Atheism may be logically linked to the absence of belief in the existence of Hell, but any form of credit given to Christ is utterly incompatible with it.
Therefore, Jesus is God and Hell exists, but where does this leave us in our matter? To put it with the author’s robust common sense,
“I think we should say it is not unlikely that many are lost. We should definitely not hold the opinion that few are lost.”
At the same time,
we must avoid generating a morbid fear of hell or an obsession with it. It is not a fate that can overwhelm us against our will; any who go there have chosen evil deliberately.
Hell is therefore very real and certainly not very sparsely inhabited; but it is avoidable all right if one as much as takes care that he does not embrace it.
To close with the powerful statement closing the article (emphases mine),
The doctrine should be seen in the light of God’s greatness and our dignity as free beings. He is so great that hell is a just punishment for rebelling against him; our dignity as responsible beings is so great that we can deserve that fate.
I never cease to be amazed at that particular form of human stupidity expressing itself in people insisting that things be the contrary of what they are. Say, I am buddhist and I’d like to think that Jesus was Buddhist, therefore I persuade myself that Jesus was Buddhist.
The problem with that is that one can’t believe one thing and ts contrary. Unless he is outright stupid or deluded to the point of stupidity, of course. If you believe in Jesus you can’t believe that he was Buddhist and if you think that Jesus was Buddhist you don’t believe in Jesus, you believe in a self-made religion to which you conveniently attach what you and many other like in an attempt to make it credible.
The same happens here. You can’t believe that you are a Catholic and that Catholicism is wrong on doctrinal issues. You really can’t. It’s a contradiction in terms. Besides indicating the belonging to a group, being Catholic has a meaning, it signifies something. It is logically impossible to claim to belong to this group and at the same time to negate what the belonging means. You can’t say that you are an “Atheist for Allah”, because being an Atheist implies that you do not believe in any Allah and every claim of doing so lets one sink into total ridicule.
This is so unbelievably banal that it shouldn’t be necessary to explain this at all, not even to a chid. No child claims to be, say, a boy but also a girl because he knows that if you are a boy, you obviously can’t be a girl.
This wisdom is accessible to every five-years-old child, but is apparently beyond the grasp of a group calling itself, wait for this, “Catholics for Choice”.
As the Motley Monk blog reports, not only such an organisation exists (I am tempted now to google in order to see whether the “Atheists for Allah” also exist, seriously…), but it even has a “President”. This chap has – in a moment of boredom or drukenness or, more probably, in a desperate attempt to make himself important – released a statement about Bishop Olmsted’s decision to deprive a group of medical structures to call itself “Catholic” and about which I have already reported.
The statement, available in full on the above mentioned blog, is hilarious. I mean not hilarious for me, but hilarious for every five-years-old who has been properly instructed about what “Catholicism” is. The statement reeks of those home-made religions that aromatherapy-addicted old aunts invent after a longish sojourn in Thailand and reminds rather of the immortal Monthy Phyton sketch about the man who “wants to be a woman” .
Here the sublime humour of Monthy Phyton is not even approached, but a good effort is made when the “individual conscience” is presented – by people who call themselves “Catholic” – as the decisive criterium of what is good.
Also nice is that, very much in line with “liberal” thinking, the good conscience of the one who defends elementary Catholic values is put into question. Basically what the chap says is: “we go against the Teaching of the Church but we are in good conscience, so we are fine; you defend them, therefore are probably in bad faith”. Classic.
The substitution of praxis with Catholic value is also very funny: a lot of Catholics recur to abortion, therefore abortion is in line with Catholicism. I’d like to know the chap’s opinion about fornication, adultery, drunkenness, gluttony, & Co. No wait, better not…..
Enjoy the statement and add, if you can, a Hail Mary for the poor deluded chap who is in serious need of them.
I am not a mother (neither a woman, come to that), so I can’t really tell.
Still, I can imagine. I can imagine that I am a mother in the bliss of newly found maternity, a joy without equals.
But then I imagine that when the child is just a few days old, I am informed by a very reliable person that this child is going to undergo great suffering and a painful death. How would it feel? A short time later, I must leave my home in the middle of the night, precipitously fleeing those who want to murder the child. Some years of relative tranquillity go by (during which, though, I have never forgotten the fateful words of Simeon) and one day, I discover that through a misunderstanding my twelve years old child is missing, somewhere in a great city far away from me. Then I return to where I last have seen him, every hour a nightmare and slow death; looking for him without success, for days.
Further years go by, until the now ancient words of the old man in the temple take meaning and form. My own and only child is – after being whipped almost to unconsciousness – made to carry the instrument of his own torture and stumble under his weight. Enough? No, not enough. I see my child savagely nailed to the cross, undergoing a slow and painful death in front of my very eyes. I see him dying, then have to endure the excruciating pain of having the cold dead body of my own child in my arms and to suffer his deposition on a tomb.
I am not a mother and I can’t really know how it would feel. But I can certainly try, and it takes my breath away. Most mothers would prefer to die and call themselves happy, rather than to have to endure all this.
At the same time I think of the challenges and problems of my life, problems I sometime tend to, well, rather make worse than they really are and when I compare my problems with those of Mary, I am helped to understand that perhaps my sufferings are not so unbearable after all, and that She who has suffered so much sees my problems and sorrows – even if infinitely less burdensome than hers – with great love and compassion anyway.
At the same time, I know that She is, in virtue of Her Son and in virtue of Her Sorrows, my (and our) Mother too. A mother to whom I can always open my heart in love and confidence, certain of being heard and loved; and a mother whose sorrows naturally sadden me. It is therefore fitting, every now and then, to dedicate ourselves to another Catholic devotion of the past unlikely to ever be mentioned by the friendly, smiling, joke-cracking and oh so nice progressive priest near you.
The Seven Sorrow of Mary is a traditional Catholic devotion by which the faithful briefly meditate (whilst praying or with a short introductory reflection, as in the Rosary) on those fateful seven moments in Mary’s life.
As already explained on a different occasion, the aim (and a main tenet of Catholicism at the same time ) is to unite ourselves to Mary’s and Jesus’ sufferance and at the same time to draw strenght and inspiration to bear the trials that we ourselves have to endure.
It isn’t really realistic to think that grave tests will be taken away from us. We are never going to be given tests we can’t endure, but most of us are going to be tested in some way or other, so don’t bet your pint. The best think to do is to try to grow our spiritual life by lovingly uniting ourselves to Mary’s and Jesus’ sufferance in order to be spared them if this is God’s will, and to be able to endure them and make them bear fruits if, alas, things have been appointed otherwise.
If you follow this link you’ll find a beautiful rendition of the first sorrow this devotion, with prayers and big images to help you stay focused. From there, you’ll be able to click your way to the following ones.
When you have followed the devotions to the end, please stop a moment and bask in the knowledge that once again, in the privacy of your home, a little part of the extremely rich and at times almost forgotten world of Catholic devotions has come back.
The truth (very well-known to Padre Pio, to Saint Therese and to countless others) is that Christ did not make Christianity easy and plainly said so. He made very clear that we, redeemed by His cross at the price of suffering, shame and death must be ready, whenever asked, to pay whatever suffering, shame and death He in His wisdom will want to allot to us. We are saved by His Cross, but on the condition of being willing to carry, whenever asked, the cross that He will pose on our shoulder. He took the Cross first, we take it from Him in the measure inscrutably chosen by Him. He loved us carrying the Cross, we love Him by carrying His cross in the measure requested from us. Our love for the Lord is not only in enjoying His gifts, but also in sharing His sufferance. We can’t take the pleasant part and just pretend that the unpleasant one will disappear or that it has never existed. If you love, you suffer with the beloved. No amount of self-delusion will take the chalice – lovingly prepared for us, so that we may lovingly share His sufferance – away from us.
Jesus said: “If any man will follow me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me”. He didn’t say “If any man will follow me, let him express whatever wish he has and believe in it and I will invariably deliver his wildest dreams”. And what he said, he said publicly, emphatically directing his attention to the general public around him. This is clearly a public warning that even with Redemption paid for us and Salvation in our reach, it won’t be a walk in the park just because we wish it.
This was, once, common Catholic knowledge. The suffering of saintly lives was stressed and honoured. Suffering was constantly remembered in daily prayers (“…. to thee do we send our sighs, mourning and weeping in this vale of tears”); the Passion was known to every faithful, literate or not, in minute details through the Stations of the Cross; the Seven Sorrows of Mary had the clear aim of uniting ourselves with Mary’s and Christ’s suffering, and so on. In a word, the reality of suffering was not just wished away and subsequently ignored, but was embraced as a way to grow, and an extremely efficient one at that. Not much of this has remained today. Today, you go to a Mass with a liberal priest and he is even ashamed to remind his audience that yes, they’ll have to give back the spoon one day.
It is better to say the one or other charitable word to the people around us who might happen to regurgitate erroneous concepts, than to have them utterly crushed when the test, invariably, arrives.
In these times of “Christianity by hearsay” it is all too frequent to find people whose concept of Christianity is rooted in deep error; or better said, in ignorance leading to error. We see them around us all the time in form of friends, acquaintances and colleagues. This post is devoted to saying a couple of words on the concepts of “taking up the Cross”.
It is a sad reality of our day that either vaguely “new age” ideas or analogous “prosperity Gospel” concepts find their way to the minds of Catholics through popular books. Which is no surprise if you consider that upon entering every “Waterstone’s” in London you will be confronted with a “gay and lesbian” section but the “Christianity” section will be underdeveloped, mainly filled with popular let-us-make-things-easy-for-ourselves, so-called “self-help” book and a sad joke as far as Catholicism is concerned.
The casual client browsing through a modern bookstore’s shelves will not easily find books who properly explain the Catholic view of “taking up the cross”. Rather, they will easily find books that subscribe either to one of the many “law of attraction” variations or to some variant of the so-called “prosperity Gospel”. Both of them (particularly the former) have a fundamental concept in common: that God is willing to make your sojourn on earth pretty much of a paradise, if you but allow him to do it. Here we see the clear desire to expunge the uncomfortable news and focus only on the good part. Unfortunately for us, it doesn’t work in this way.
Firstly, the idea that God wants everyone to be healthy and prosperous (and prosperous, and prosperous to boot; and did I mention prosperous?) is in marked contrast with the most obvious experience of the human condition, filled with people who were extremely saintly without ever being healthy, let alone prosperous. Saint Padre Pio or St. Therese of Lisieux come to mind, but you’ll certainly have many other examples. Therefore, this theory implies that these saintly people had it all wrong and – what is worse – just couldn’t see how wrong they were so that they could help others. Ah, they reason, if only padre Pio had come to the conclusion that he only had to attract health! How many people he would have been able to help, and a saintly man like him would have been given the most wonderful clinical record ever, just for the asking! Alas, these people should read a bit about Padre Pio, or St. Therese. If they did, they would know what bearing the cross means.
Secondly, the theory is an obvious post hoc, ergo propter hoc logical fallacy. Let us say that one thousand people dream of becoming, one day, a billion-dollar-heavy TV presenter and producer. They all try with the same passion, positive energy and unrelenting optimism. They are all equally persuaded that they will succeed. In time, nine hundred and ninety-nine fail to achieve the objective and their lives go along different rails, in which by the way they may find their true happiness. The one-thousandth is a lady called Oprah Winfrey who, after the fact, starts to subscribe to the idea that the simple fact that she wanted to be extremely successful and accepted this as a given started a chain of events which then led her to the “attracted” result of becoming a billionaire. This is the same as the one winning the jackpot at the lottery maintaining that he did so because he drunk skinny caramel latte at Starbuck’s every second Tuesday of the months ending with “er”.
Of course this doesn’t mean that we must go around expecting disgraces, or even wishing them. It is good to have a fundamentally healthy outlook on life and joy, and enthusiasm and faith in the Lord will – if this is God’s will, and with the assistence of our Guardian Angels and of all those in Heaven we will ask to help us – clear a great deal of obstacles from our way and open the way to all the graces God will deem fit to bestow on us (the one or the other might, by her effort and the grace of God, even become a billion-dollar-heavy Tv presenter and producer….). But this doesn’t mean becoming a Pollyanna, or rationalising every problem a posteriori by saying ourselves that in some strange way – and unknown to us?! – we must, truly must have attracted that truck coming straight against our bonnet….
END OF PART ONE…..
After today’s announcement of five bishops of the Anglican church, that they will cease every function within the Anglican church at the end of the year and join the Ordinariate when such one is created I am supposed, I think, to be satisfied and see the future of the Ordinariate with some optimism.
Then why I am not?
I am not because it seems to me that, so to speak, the new blood coming within the church is – at least judging from the still scarce information – not really good.
Let us take this interview to the BBC of Mr. Burnham, one of the five swimmers.
If you listen from 0:25 onward, it appears very clearly to me that Mr. Burnham announces his conversion to the Only Church, but still doesn’t have the slightest problem in continuing to consider the Anglican so-called church “part of the one universal Church going back to the time of Jesus”. His problem is not with the Anglicans NOT being part of the Church. His problem is that in recent times the so-called cofE has started “making his own rules”. The several centuries from Edward VI to 1992 don’t seem to be a problem, the very legitimacy of the so-called church of England a given. It is only when the so-called coE started with the novel ideas of priestesses & Co. that he was forced to choose between the “two Churches” and he decided for the “older body” (clearly meaning, make no mistakes, that both “bodies” are “Catholic churches”).
Furthermore, he sees his conversion as a way “for the churches to move closer together”.
Pardon me, Mr. Burnham, but a Catholic cannot, absolutely cannot see “two churches coming together”. There is only the One Church – which is right – and an ecclesial community – which is wrong – and no other decision than the one to leave the wrong community and join the Only Church.
All this talking of the “two churches”, of continuing to see Anglicanism as a part of the Church, of wishing a union between two supposed churches is the explicit confirmation of what many had feared: that the new “converts” do not bring any Catholic orthodoxy with them, but rather introduce an element of heresy within the organisation they want to join.
It would have been very easy and very beautiful and very orthodox for Mr. Burnham to say that the events of the last decades have started in him a painful but necessary process of discernment; that at the end of this process he has come to the conclusion that the Only Church is.. the Only Church; that he has come to recognise where is the truth and where is the error; and that he hopes that many other faithful still within the Anglican so-called church would reach, in time, the same conclusion.
Nothing of the sort. Not one word. From one who is publicly announcing his conversion. On the contrary, explicit legitimation of a heretical body as “church”.
If the UK Ordinariate is going to work along these lines I wish it a painful death, from the heart.
This is not conversion; this is invasion.
The Infant jesus of Prague is a miraculous* wax statue with a moving and edifying history. It was first donated to the Discalced Carmelites of Prague by a rich lady who, after the death of her husband, desired to dedicate herself to works of piety and charity. The lady donated the statue (very dear to her heart) to the Carmelites saying “I hereby give you what I prize most highly in this world. As long as you venerate this image you will not be in want”. The lady’s work proved prophetic on several occasions as the following years proved that whenever the Carmelites seriously recurred to the statue, they were helped and when they neglected its proper devotion, they weren’t.
The Carmelites put the statue (made of wax itself, with rich vestments) in their oratory and performed special devotions in front of it twice a day. For some reasons, such devotions were particularly loved by the novices. Particularly by one, Cyrillus, who was through his prayers delivered from a period of spiritual dryness. But then the Thirty-Years war started to bite and in 1630 the novitiate was removed to Munich; the devotion was more and more neglected and the prosperity of the community progressively declined.
The following year, the Protestant troops of King Gustavus Adolphus took Prague. The Monastery was plundered and vandalised, the statue was damaged and thrown over a heap of rubble behind the high altar. It stayed there completely for the following seven years, years of great hardship for the community.
In 1637, Cyrillus – in the meantime Father Cyrillus – came back to Prague still occupied by the Protestant invaders. He remembered the little statue and asked of the prior to be able to search for it; the entire place was turned upside down until the statue was finally found and recovered from his pile of rubble. That the rubble had remained there for years without anyone “cleaning up” tells the story about the poverty of the times. The little statue was put in a fitting place and the devotions started again, this time with greater zeal due to the difficulties of the times.
Cyrillus was once again the most fervent disciple of this devotion and one day, whilst praying, he heard the following words:
“Have pity on me, and I will have pity on you. Give me my hands, and I will give you peace. The more you honour me, the more I will bless you”.
Only then Cyrillus noticed the missing hands of the statue behind the rich vestments that adorned it. Several attempts followed to have the statue repaired by Father Cyrillus. He asked the money for the repair from the prior, who wouldn’t open the purse of the very poor community. He begged the Blessed Virgin to help him and as a result was called to the sickbed of a wealthy man who, told of the story, donated a large sum for the repair of the statue, but the prior decided to buy a new statue instead. The new statue was accidentally (or rather: providentially) destroyed just after being put into place and the devotion to the mutilated statue was resumed, the problem of the repair still to be solved. Then a new prior was elected and Cyrillus begged for the funds once again, but once again his wish was refused. Stubbornly, he once again asked the Blessed Virgin for help and as a result received a large donation by an anonymous woman. This time, the prior took almost all of the money, leaving Cyrillus a portion insufficient to repair the statue. It really seemed that this statue was never to be restored, but our chap was of the kind that never let go and he put his trouble in front of the statue itself. Once again he heard the following words: “Place me near the entrance of the sacristy and you will receive aid”. This our Cyrillus promptly did and a short time later a stranger offered to pay for the repair. This time the prior didn’t appropriate the fund and the statue was rapidly restored.
From then on, the devotion to the statue rapidly procured a great fame. The prior itself was rapidly healed by the pestilence which had befallen Prague after promising to recite Holy Mass before the statue for nine days if healed. During a successive period of great financial need, the prior ordered that the entire community should pray in front of the Divine Infant and again, generous financial help promptly came. In the meantime the popularity of the statue had started to grow, so that it was moved again from the oratory to the church to allow for its veneration by the general public. In 1641, a large donation allowed the erection of an altar to the Most Holy Trinity, with the statue of the Infant Jesus placed within it. It didn’t remain there for long, though, because the following year another generous donation allowed the erection of a chapel dedicated to the Divine Infant, completed and consecrated in 1644. Since then, the devotion has continued to spread and the favours received through its devotions have become innumerable. The devotion to the Infant Jesus grew more and more and in 1665 a crown was prepared for the statue and put in place on the Sunday after Easter.
The devotion to the Holy Infant is now spread worldwide. It has generated a series of worldwide recited prayers: the Prayer of Rev. Cyrillus, the Litany of the Miraculous Infant, the Prayer to the Infant Jesus to be said by a sick person, the Prayer of Thanksgiving for Graces Received from the Infant Jesus among them, though the most famous must be the Chaplet of the Infant Jesus of Prague. The Church of Our Lady of Victory is visited by around 500,000 pilgrims every year.
The fortune of the devotion is probably due not only to the innumerable favours granted to those devoted to it, but probably also to the favour that this devotions found among saints like Therese of Lisieux. You must also consider that the devotion to the Infant Jesus was not a new phenomenon having been widely spread during the Middle Age, with St. Francis and St. Bernhard of Citeau among its best known followers.
The idea of the Infant Jesus, so powerless and still so powerful, so little and still so big, has never failed to inspire and to this day Catholics can very well, particularly in times of need, relate to this beautiful paradox of Christianity. In addition, it is easy to see how the devotion to the Infant Jesus puts us in front of another mainstay of Christian thinking: the opportunity to pray with great candor, defenceless humility and, well, tenderly shameless confidence, that is to say with the typical attributes of a child’s prayer. In front of Jesus we are all children. We need to pray like a child does. We need to pray with exactly those qualities that can make a child’s request so difficult to refuse.
This message wants to be a small contribution to the revival of this beautiful Catholic devotion, neglected after Vatican II as almost everything unapologetically Catholic and hopefully destined to greater glory in the decades to come.
* In the Catholic sense, of course. Please don’t go around saying that Catholics believe that wax statues make miracles. Thanks!
Sooner or later it had to happen. Whilst it is obvious to everyone that most blogging priests are (as it is expected by them, besides being an excellent character trait) extremely prudent in their public utterances and attentive not to let disagreement between them sink to a level unworthy of their habit, it was only a matter of time before some serious clash would erupt in the Catholic blogosphere.
In this instance, the episode seems to go a while back and has as protagonists a lofty Monsignor with a tendency to reinvent Catholicism and a passionate, but rather emotional retired priest loved by everyone. When, therefore, the lofty Monsignor (most probably not influenced, I hasten to add, by the liquor so famous in his part) wrote a rather extraordinary theory about Our Lord not being physically present after the Resurrection (to refute which it is enough to read a Gospel; alas, Monsignori are not anymore what they used to be), the emotional priest, full of righteous anger, reacted in a way which the very sensitive Lofty Monsignor considered libellous. A longish controversy apparently ensued, at the end of which the good priest announced the intention to close his blog.
Now, I am not a priest but I know something about being emotional; for this reason I’ll allow myself a couple of considerations.
1) It is utterly contemptible that a religious – besides reinventing Catholicism in the most extraordinary way, but I suppose this comes with the progressive credentials – should stoop so low as to engage in a longish, bitter controversy with another religious over the use of such adjectives like “lofty”. I can think of one or three adjectives which would be far less pleasing for the Monsignor to hear, vastly more appropriate, and certainly not actionable. If this becomes a fashion, the use of the internet from brave priests as a showcase for orthodoxy might be stopped from above, which would be a big disgrace.
2) I may be cynical here, but unless the man is in serious need of professional help I can easily imagine that this controversy has been brought about for so long precisely in order to discredit conservative Catholic blogs written by Catholic priests , or at least with this consequence seen as a pleasant side effect of the controversy. Even in the land who gave us whiskey one must be aware of the fact that his own reputation will suffer most atrociously and in all eternity, as google has the memory of an elephant. But I might be wrong here, and the professional help what is truly needed.
3) Without being a lawyer by trade, I can’t conceive that adjectives like “lofty” can really constitute an actionable offence. Were this the case, no single blog a’ la “Homo Smoke” would be functioning, no single expression like “homo smoke” were ever used on the Internet and the turnover of the Internet libel lawsuit industry would greatly exceed the one of the global armaments. This is simply not the case. Look at how journalists berate and belittle each other every day on press and internet and draw your conclusions.
These are professionals, mind, certainly better trained than a retired priest in the subtle matter of libel laws; and still they shoot at each other with the pump gun day in and day out.
4) Having said that, I can’t say that I approve the decision to close one’s blog because some chap in some very cold and windy place starts threatening one with absurd lawsuits. Such a behaviour smells, if I may say so in the kindest of ways of a certainly very kind man, of passive-aggressiveness. “Look what the brute has done to me, an old man” is the message. We are all humans of course, but in my eyes the first thing (the inordinate, ridiculous reaction of a man who can’t even read the Gospel) has nothing to do with the second (the decision to close the blog).
Whatever lawsuit might be initiated (and it would be the grandest waste of money and reputation, if you ask me), the decision to close the blog wouldn’t have any influence on it. The closure of the blog can only be seen as an aggressive act toward a person thus indicated as the responsible for the closure. But this is just not true. Whatever the faults of the man (“Fawlty” he has also been called, I wonder whether this is actionable?), he is most certainly not responsible for the blog closure.
Summa summarum, I’d be very pleased if this episode would teach the Catholic Times that if you carry the name “Catholic” you should have contributors who can read the Gospel and know the most elementary facts about Jesus; and I truly wish that the good old priest will, perhaps in time, realise that by closing the blog he has made the impression of the one who goes away with the football. This can’t be good and can’t be right.
Absolutely beautiful article on the blog site of the Archdiocese of Washington about the “Five Fundamentals of a firm faith”.
Concise, clear, absolutely compulsory reading.
The LA Times feels the need to tell us that, on average, atheists know more of religion than the faithful. What is not clear is why this should be surprising.
Firstly, it is apparent that an atheist has had to inform himself about why he doesn’t believe (thank God, we still live in times where you can’t go around for long saying “I’m atheist” without someone reacting, a vague form of Christianity is still mainstream) whilst a believer is never checked about how deep is his knowledge. Or can you tell me when it was last time that someone has said “I am a Christian” and someone else has challenged this belief. I mean, I do it at times with some people (particularly with the “but people”; “I am a Christian, but…”), but you are not likely to meet me very often. Also note that other religions do not fare much better.
This is rather normal: few people – when left to themselves – spend time in deepening what they already believe. I can’t give you a scientific demonstration that the earth rotates around the sun; I believe it and that’s all I need to know, end of story. On the other hand, if I were of the opinion that the sun rotates around the earth I’d have all the Ptolemaic knowledge at my immediate disposal.
Secondly, this is not a survey about the militant Christians, or the informed Christians. This is a survey about the generic Christians, those with a lick of Christian varnish, often several decades old and sometimes never applied at all; those who think that Jesus was a chap who came on earth to bring peace, or to tell us that we “shouldn’t judge”, or who believe that Jesus wouldn’t have had any disagreement whatsoever with Gandhi or with the Dalai Lama. Therefore, the conclusion of the LA Times that it would be better to ask an atheist than a Christian if you want to “know more about God” is not really intelligent. If you want to know about God, you ask someone who knows the Truth, because the truth is nothing to do with statistics.
Thirdly and as far as we Catholics are concerned, this ignorance is nothing else than the product of fifty years of terrifying catechesis. Considering this, it is in my eyes encouraging that 60% of the surveyed Catholics still get the transubstantiation right. I can imagine many Catholic priests and bishops saddened at the fact that there are still so many. This is the situation on the ground and this problem has been denounced for decades now by conservative Catholics. This is also what is permanently shouted from Catholic blogs all over the planet, so nothing new here.
What therefore the LA times achieves is to show how right conservative Catholics are. This newspaper article should be pinned at the door of every parish disgraced by a trendy priest who has fed his sheep with convenient bollocks all these years, letting many of them go away and keeping the others in abysmal ignorance of even the basics.
A last point I’d like to highlight is the issue of the “education”. The LA Times seems to consider an acquired truth (and I would like to read more data about that anyway) that better educated people tend to be more atheists than less educated people. Even if this were true, though, it would certainly not show that religion is a fantasy for the less educated, but purely that the wrong type of education lets people become haughty and endangers their souls.
I would vastly prefer to be an uneducated peasant living and dying with a simple but solid faith than a faithless sophisticated urban professional living a life of privilege and dying without Christ, because The former has the knowledge that really counts whilst the latter has a fake knowledge that blinds him and leads him to perdition. As Father Corapi would say the peasant knows much more than the educated professional, because he knows the Truth.
This is one reason more to insist that one’s offspring is educated in the proper way.
This is rather easy, as the belief in reincarnation can only be (erroneously) held if no attentive and systematic reading of Scriptures has taken place. What generally happens is that a “hearsay Christian” (vast majority nowadays, I’m afraid) reads or receives from some friend some information about verses of the Gospel in which Jesus would seem to endorse the theory of reincarnation. Also rather spread are legends about the bible having been “manipulated” (an old dish of heresy, this one), but I am going to discard those for their evident absurdity.
One verse often cited is the one in which Jesus asks the Apostles who they think He is and they answer ” Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” (Mt. 16, 13-14). To an attentive reader it is evident here that Jesus could not possibly have been the reincarnation of John the Baptist, who lived in the same time as Jesus. Therefore, in order not to make the entire construct absurd the phrase must be read as “some believe you have in you the spiritual strength and power of John The Baptist (who had been executed already), some of Elijah, etc.).” This reading makes much more sense than reincarnation, which is in light of the pure historical event of St. John’s life utterly absurd. Also note that Jesus here does not say that what people believe is right. He says instead, emphatically so, that what Peter says is right. Peter doesn’t say anything at all about reincarnation. What he says is: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!”. There can be no more powerful evidence that Jesus, by so emphatically endorsing Peter’s claim, utterly disregards all the claims formerly made.
Another rather difficult part is John 9: 2 where Jesus is asked: “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” If the man was born blind, goes the reasoning, then he can only have sinned in another life, which would prove at least that belief in reincarnation was spread in Jesus’ time. By answering “neither this man nor his parents sinned”, Jesus would thus implicitly accept the theory as he doesn’t explicitly correct it. Against such interpretation can be said: 1) that some Jews believed that a baby could sin in the womb, a theory known to Jesus and all present. 2) that there is no evidence in jewish sources that a belief in reincarnation was spread; 3) that Jesus does not endorse everything which he does not explicitly refuse, as we have seen in the former passage in which he doesn’t waste time in explicitly saying that he is not ” a new Elijah”, etc. When Jesus wants to teach, he always takes care to make the point.
Which last point takes us neatly to, well, the point. It is utterly illogical to give an adventurous interpretation to one or two Gospel passages, by at he same time disregarding the entire New Testament. Jesus alone talks of Hell, eternal punishment, Gehenna, fire everlasting & Co. more than any other in the Bible. The examples are too numerous and too well-known to limit ourselves to individual examples. If there is one leitmotiv in the Gospel, it is atonement, redemption, hell and heaven. It is immediately obvious on serious reflection that Christ’s death on the Cross doesn’t make any sense if reincarnation operates anyway; nor does His continuous, insisted mentioning of hell and eternal punishment. Here we see another sign of the times: that Jesus spoke so often of hell is nowadays completely disregarded; it has just disappeared from the radar screen to make place for platitudes entirely devoid of context a’ la “do not judge”, the rhetoric of peaaace and the like.
The concept of atonement is so elementary to a practising Catholic that it would barely be worth the mentioning. But in non-practising Catholics, and in non-Catholic Christians, the concept of atonement and redemption opening the way to everlasting life in God can be extremely diluted or even forgotten, with Jesus reduced to the task of spreading some rather good news and telling everyone to behave and be “inclusive” and “tolerant”. Just ask every non churchgoer to tell you in few words why Jesus came to Earth and stun in disbelief at the answers you hear.
Further difficulties for such interpretative “adventures” arise if we read further in the New Testament. “It is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment”, says in Hebrew 9, 27. The author of this (be he St. Paul or not) is one of the first Christians. He lived in close contact with many of the (other) Apostles. This is real, first hand evidence of what the First Christians were ready to die for. Would Jesus ever accept reincarnation “by implication” but allow His disciples to be, in such an important matter, so tragically and completely wrong? Thought not…
In short, the belief in reincarnation is totally unscriptural not only because Jesus never endorsed it; not only because Jesus himself was extremely clear in his warning about eternal punishment; not only because the belief in eternal damnation was obviously commonly accepted among his disciples, but because if one accepts the theory, the entire mission and sacrifice of Jesus loses its meaning.
On the upper list of links of this page, under “Catholic vademecum”, you will find a more detailed explanation of Faith in the traditional understanding of the Church.
In times of discussion about “aggressive secularisation”, it is perhaps fitting to repeat a concept or two in reduced form.
The Faith required of every Christian is not a feeling. No atheist can excuse himself by saying that he is very sorry, but he just doesn’t feel the existence of any God; nor can he say that if an omnipotent God existed he could cause him to believe and that would be that, but alas…..
Faith is something we are expected to work towards. To do this, two things are necessary: will and intellect. Without the will to believe we’ll go along believing what we find comfortable to believe; without the intellect we will not be able to grasp the Truth.
God can be “known with certainty by the natural light of human reason” (Vatican I). By reason we discover 1) the historical truth of the existence of Jesus; 2) that this Jesus is, by a great number of prophecies realised in Him, beyond doubt the Messiah the Jews were waiting for; 3) that therefore his claim to be God must perforce be as authentic as His authentically being the Messiah.
The fundamental concept here is twofold:
1) God can be known with certainty, if one cares to do his homework;
2) no one is excused from doing this homework.
“Not believing” is neither here nor there. It is not about “believing” as in “feeling that there is a God”, it is about working on the historical and theological sources, reading the prophesies about the Messiah and register as a matter of pure facts the astonishing number of correspondences between what the Messiah was supposed to be, and what Jesus came to be. Faith is about realising 1) that the Christian Messiah was, uniquely, announced; 2) that when he came he showed that he was the One who had been announced, and that he was God.
Jesus is the only one who proved His identity, who proved that he was the one whom the world was waiting for. No amount of uninformed “but I do not believe in God, so I do not care” can ever go beyond this simple fact.
Faith (in this meaning) is not about angels visiting one and giving him assured proof of the existence of God, nor is it about explosive inner voices shouting until reason gets the message.
Faith is an assent to a truth believed because known from a source one has examined intellectually and has considered beyond doubt. If someone tells me that the Earth rotates around the sun, or that water is made out of hydrogen and oxygen, I believe this pretty much in the same way: I believe the authority on which the assertion rests, because this authority stands the exam of my intellect.
Faith is about doing one’s own homework. As it has to do with eternal salvation, there’s no work more important than this.
The Litany is an ancient form of responsive prayer, by which a series of invocations is made by one person and after each one of the invocations a standard response is recited by all the present. Litanies can, though, also be recited individually at home.
There used to be more than eighty litanies around during the Middle Ages, but in more recent times they have been reduced in number and are today limited to those of both traditional use and proved orthodoxy (e.g. the Litany of the Saints, or the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary). You may find slightly different versions of the same litany.
Let us take as example the Litany of the Sacred Heart:
V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
R. Christ, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, formed by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mother’s womb, [etc.]
Heart of Jesus, substantially united to the Word of God.
Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty.
Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God.
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High.
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven.
Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity.
Heart of Jesus, vessel of justice and love.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise.
Heart of Jesus, King and center of all hearts.
Heart of Jesus, in whom are all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Heart of Jesus, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead.
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased.
Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received.
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills.
Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy.
Heart of Jesus, rich to all who call upon You.
Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness.
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our offenses.
Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with reproaches.
Heart of Jesus, bruised for our iniquities.
Heart of Jesus, obedient even unto death.
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance.
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation.
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection.
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation.
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins.
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who hope in You.
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in You.
Heart of Jesus, delight of all saints.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Lord.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Lord.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us.
V. Jesus, meek and humble of Heart,
R. Make our hearts like unto Thine.
Let us pray.
Almighty and eternal God, look upon the Heart of Thy most beloved Son and upon the praises and satisfaction which He offers Thee in the name of sinners; and to those who implore Thy mercy, in Thy great goodness, grant forgiveness in the name of the same Jesus Christ, Thy Son, who livest and reignest with Thee forever and ever. Amen.
The most important aspects of the litany -a powerful instrument, rather than a boring repetition of slogans for people who didn’t have television – are in my eyes as follows:
1) the power of vocal prayer.
Christians believe in saying things out loud. This has been slightly downplayed after V II with its (exaggerated) accent on the personal relationship with God, but the traditional message of a litany is: speak out your prayer, loud and clear. Many traditional devotions are traditionally said vocally. Our grandmothers would have found a mental recitation of, say, the rosary something rather unusual. People who want to feel modern would today talk of “affirmations” (used also in a non -Christian context and, as such, hip) and stress the power of vocal utterances. Christianity already got this, big time, before most “new agers” were born.
2) the power of repetition.
What would appear to be boring is, in reality, a powerful concentration exercise. The (oh so celebrated) insisted repetition of sacred words in Oriental religions follows the same principle: repetita iuvant. You immerse yourself in a prayerful atmosphere, you cast out the cares of the day and your mind is helped to stay focused on the subject of the prayer.
3) the learning element.
One of the reasons why modern Catholics are so tepid to the message of Jesus is because… they do not recite litanies. Litanies are vast reservoirs of both doctrinal knowledge and useful snippets of devotional themes. Look at the litany above and notice how much information it contains: Jesus is – just to make some examples – “source of consolation”, “patient and rich in mercy”, “salvation of those who hope in him”. “I know all that already”, you may say, but the constant repetition of the litany allows not only to know, but to instantly recall when the need arises.
The Litanies are just another element of the rich Catholic devotions abandoned after V II because, well, not Protestant. I seem to notice a resurgence of this beautiful devotion, both in churches and in the wealth of information available on the Internet.
Let us hope that this continues.
Barring women from being Catholic priests is not the result of sexism 2,000 years ago, it’s because women cannot fulfill a basic function of the priesthood, “standing in the place of Jesus,” a leading British Catholic thinker argued Monday.
Note the difference with much of today’s superficial journalism: the article starts with the clear statement of a fact, coming from the only source authorised to say what the facts in the matter are.
It gets better. Instead of giving us the more or less stupid opinion of a more or less stupid author about what the Church should do in the fantasy world in which they live, this journalist not only tells you what the facts are, but even reports the Church’s explanation as to the why. The statement is faithfully reported that the protest
is based on a fundamental misunderstanding,
the Church has no authority to ordain women
Short and sweet. Nothing much to add. See how easy it is?
The article provides even better information:
The bottom line is that Jesus chose 12 men – and no women – to be his apostles,
This is also not difficult to know, but still seems to go beyond the “knowledge” of many commentators on the matter. After so informing his reader about the only two or three things one needs to know, the author even reports a more profound explanation of why cats can’t bark. Reporting the Vatican source, the journalist writes:
Men and women are equal in Christianity, he continues, but “this does not mean that our sexual identity as men and women is interchangeable. Gender is not just an accident.”
Just simple, easy-to-grasp facts. It goes to show that if a journalist makes the minimum of effort of informing himself a bit (which should be his job, I presume) or at least listening to what his sources say (which should be his job, I presume) it is perfectly possible to actually inform without deforming everything with one’s own astonishing ignorance of everything Catholic and one’s own astonishing arrogance in thinking they can can tell the Church what to do.
This is not even a debate. There can be no debate in the first place. There will never be one! Never, ever!
It is refreshing to know that at least at times the CNN gets it right. Please compare with the BBC writing about the Church on their internet page (about male-only priesthood, no less) that “such things can change at astonishing speed” or such like words. They obviously changed the internet entry at the same speed, but you get my drift…
This blog does not hesitate in exposing the ignorance and superficiality of journalists. When someone does his job properly, it is nice to let one’s readers know.
Here are eight minutes worth spending at the computer. Michael Voris does a very good job of bringing the point home: too often charity is confused with niceness, but if you want to be “nice” you will avoid saying anything which might upset someone. As a result, you’ll stay silent in front of whatever sin, whatever scandal, whatever heresy, whatever abomination.
This is a fairly accurate portrait of what has been happening in the last decades: “nice” people wherever you turn and Christianity slowly disappearing from the scene. If someone dares to point out to one or two truths of the faith, he is immediately branded as uncharitable, inflexible, a Taliban, arrogant, “judgmental” and a lot of other things. If you want to be “nice”, if you want to be popular, you just can’t be charitable.
Most people choose to be popular and “nice”. This makes their life easier and even provides them with the cosy feeling of their own “goodness”. In the meantime, secularism advances.
In beautiful contrast, Michael Voris has a couple of uncomfortable truths to say:
“Our Blessed Lord was not nice, not by the conventional understanding of that word; he was, however, charitable”.
Or try this:
It is not charity to be polite and nice when others are tumbling into hell.
The “quotable” parts of this long and perspective “vortex” are too many to report. Please follow the link and listen to the video, I have linked to the youtube one so that not even registration on the internet site is necessary.