Scriptural Apologetics #2: Obeying Sinful Prelates

This post addresses an objection to Catholicism similar to the last one: “What about all of the sinful Popes/bishops/priests? How you can you seriously listen to them?”

Let’s deal with it this way:

You: Are you saying that someone who commits sin cannot have religious authority to teach and command others?

Them: Yes. [Again, I don’t know how long it will take to get to this point. It’s really what the objection boils down to, and of course it’s nth-degree silliness.]

You: If I showed you from the Bible that Our Lord Himself acknowledges human religious authorities, even though they are sinners, and commands His followers to obey the teachings of these sinful religious authorities, would you admit that your position is wrong? Continue reading

Scriptural Apologetics #1: The Non-Problem of Papal Sin

I am beginning a new project, which I am labeling “Scriptural Apologetics Project.” You can find entries by searching for the category of the same name. My goal is to arm myself, and you, since I’m supposed to love you as much as myself, with Scriptural passages for use in apologetic endeavors.

One ever-popular objection to Catholicism, from the so-called Orthodox, Protestants, and Modernists of all stripes, is that Popes have been sinful. The Renaissance Popes held orgies, Pope Pius XII didn’t try to stop the Holocaust, recent popes covered up sex abuse. On and on. Some organizations put out historical analyses trying to disprove these claims one by one, or put the claims in historical context. This is one approach, and for some people, likely history buffs, it might work.

However, I think it is of limited value. It requires a good amount of historical research that a lot of people don’t have time for. The person you’re speaking to might just dismiss all your sources as biased. When I tried to defend Pope Pius XII and other Catholics for their conduct in saving Jews from the Nazis, the guy I was talking with just repeated, “I’ve never heard that before,” without showing much interest in accepting what I was saying.

I propose a more efficient route for use in arguments with Orthodox and “Bible-believing” Protestants. Your Scriptural counter-argument is that Christ knew that St. Peter was a sinner and made him Pope anyway. Here’s how the argument works:

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Yet More Drafts from the Driftless

Seems like I haven’t been able to get in any decent writing recently, not even on this, my summer vacation. Lest I forget, here are some jottings that I hope to develop into posts later:

–the meaning of perfidis in the traditional Good Friday Prayer for the Jews; how this term relates to 1.) a covenantal understanding of Christ’s Passion, 2.) the spiritual blindness mentioned in the same prayer, and 3.) our own identity as the Chosen People of the New Testament

–how to integrate our understanding of Christ’s Passion as both a martyrdom undertaken in defense of truth and as a propitiatory sacrifice; “the medium is the message”

–Fr. Samuel Mazzuchelli as apostle of the Driftless Area; missions to the Indians, Frenchmen, Irish immigrants, and Anglo-American converts; temperance movement

–God’s “inscrutable will” (per Fr. Mazzuchelli), Pope Francis on the “God of Surprises,” and Fr. Feeney on divine surprises

–thoughts on the so-called debitum peccati, which is the speculative account of how exactly Our Lady’s Immaculate Conception relates to the Adam’s sin, if at all; the role of Christ’s Cross and the Immaculate Conception as the ultimate victory of the Cross; debitum Redemptoris or debitum Crucis as an alternative explanation; we inherit Original Sin for lack of the application of redemptive grace Continue reading

“Dogmas come first, not liturgies”

In his poem “Reflections on a Flea,” Fr. Leonard Feeney wrote:

“And by the way,
Speaking of how to pray,
Dogmas come first, not liturgies.”

This claim encapsulates one side in a contemporary debate concerning the best method of evangelization. Some prefer the so-called “path of beauty.” Some prefer the “path of truth.” Without denigrating the role of beautiful liturgy, I prefer the “path of truth.”

Consider that in the Early Church catechumens attended only the so-called Missa Catechumenorum, which is the overtly catechetical first part of the Mass. Only the baptized — the fully catechized and initiated — attended the Missa Fidelium, which is the overtly sacrificial part of the Mass beginning with the Offertory. In other words, it is catechesis that makes sense of the liturgy. Many who argue for the “path of beauty” seem to want the liturgical experience to substitute for or drive catechesis. This is the opposite extreme from the post-Vatican II over-emphasis on the “Liturgy of the Word.” I would say, it is doctrinal Faith that makes sense of the liturgy, not the other way around, even though the liturgy itself has an eschatological and sacrificial reality that transcends catechesis. Participation in the Mass is more the end than the means of evangelization; as Fr. Feeney said, dogmas still come first.

Church as Assembly: Modernism, or a Traddy Idea Whose Time Has Come?

I’ve seen some Modernist-sounding* texts that use the word “assembly” to avoid the word Church. Instead of addressing the congregation, the priest (er, “presider”) addresses the “assembly of the People of God.” Etc. In Hebrew and Greek, the word we translate as Church does in fact mean “assembly.” I surmise that the people who prefer “assembly” do so because they think the word has a more democratic connotation than the hierarchical “Church.” One thinks of the expression “popular assembly.” Implicit in such a usage is a critique of “liturgy as court ritual,” a critique that has been debunked elsewhere.**

Now, one of a Traditionalist or even just plain orthodox-with-a-small-o persuasion might object to this usage of “assembly.” He might advance any number of arguments, the premises of which we don’t share with the people who push for the “assembly” understanding of the Church, and he might cite a bunch of Church documents, originally written in Latin, that no one who has a job has time to read. In these scenarios, I look to my mentor in evangelism and apologetics, Vin Lewis of All Roads Ministry (https://www.allroadsministry.com/). Vin would say to use the simplest, most direct, most memorable argument that requires the least specialist knowledge (such as Latin, Greek, and Hebrew). So, with that in mind, here is how I would respond: Continue reading

Communicating Perfection

So many ideas occur to me, and I can’t develop them. Either more immediate needs take precedence, or I wile away the hours on something trifling. When I recall the many thoughts both subtle and sublime that have passed through my mind, and I survey the meager record I have left of them, I get melancholic. And with melancholy come memories of Thomas Gray’s “Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard,” or I quote Nero’s dying words, “What an artist dies in me.”

But enough of that. As I’ve learned, sometimes it’s good to publish your half-formed ideas. Who knows who might develop these thoughts, and do better with them than I could? So today I focus on a key element of the Catholic Faith and of Catholic practice: the communicability of perfection:

1.) The Father communicates to the Son everything that the Father has, save Fatherhood. This includes the Father’s identity as source of the Holy Ghost. The “Filioque” is essential. Continue reading

Our Lady’s First Apparition

Strange, how the seeds of doubt are sown. I read a blog post by someone who touts himself as a traditional Catholic. The author made an observation. Earlier in Church art, images of Our Lady always include Our Lord. Think of the icons of the East, where Our Lady typically holds the Christ Child. Think of Romanesque and Gothic statues of Our Lady seated, with the Christ Child on her lap. The author contrasted this artistic tradition with Neo-Gothic statues of the modern era, which often show Our Lady standing alone, her arms outstretched. This pose is often associated with Our Lady of Lourdes or Our Lady of Fatima.

The author was implying that this artistic convention is un-traditional and divorces Our Lady from Our Lord. It makes her an independent force or mediator, separate from Our Lord, making the Protestant allegation of Mariolatry seem true. This thought now occurs to me when I see statues of Our Lady absent a representation of the Christ Child. It occurs to me when I venerate Our Lady at the Lady Altar in a local church, where the statue shows Our Lady in the pose described above. It’s a wicked thought, but it takes some insight to redress. For me, the insight was slow in coming. It came one day when praying the Rosary, specifically the mystery of the Visitation. Continue reading

The Traditional 15 Mysteries of the Rosary Summarized in the Apostles’ Creed

It occurred to me the other day that the Apostles’ Creed is a synopsis — a summary — of the fifteen traditional mysteries of the Rosary. Meditating on that fact helps you integrate the Creed into the Rosary. It doesn’t seem like an arbitrary starting point for the prayers and mysteries that follow. Here’s how my thought came about:

The traditional Rosary consists of five Joyful Mysteries, five Sorrowful Mysteries, and five Glorious Mysteries. These mysteries focus on Our Lord’s Incarnation, Birth, Infancy and early life, Passion, Death, Resurrection, and events after the Resurrection. The Luminous Mysteries, which commemorate events in Our Lord’s Public Ministry, are not present.

You can very easily divide the articles of the Apostles’ Creed into three sections corresponding to the three sets of mysteries:
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Twilight of the Idols, Part II: A Conversation at the Pearly Gates

St. Peter: Next up.

C.S. Lewis: Hmm . . . hello. Are you . . . St. Peter?

St. Peter: Yes, don’t the keys and the papal tiara indicate that?

Lewis: Erm, yes. <Starts to turn pale.>

St. Peter: Well, time for the standard questions. First question: At the moment of your death, did you believe with divine faith in the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary?

Lewis: Pardon? Continue reading