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:

Continue reading

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

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

Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity

Each day between today (Jan. 18th, regardless of the date stamp above) and next Wednesday (Jan. 25th), I encourage you all to pray the Octave of Prayer for Christian Unity. For each day’s prayers, I refer you here (http://acatholiclife.blogspot.com/2015/01/traditional-catholic-prayers-for-week.html). For some background on this prayer octave, I refer you here (http://church.atonementonline.com/wp-content/uploads/Octave-of-Prayer-for-Christian-Unity.pdf).

The octave lasts from the Feast of St. Peter’s Chair at Rome (Jan. 18th) until the Feast of the Conversion of St. Paul (Jan. 25th). You can learn more about today’s feast here (http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2017/01/the-two-feasts-of-st-peters-chair.html#.WIAQSGciyM9). The first day’s prayer intention is for the return of the “other sheep” to the One Fold of Christ. In honor of today’s feast, here is a photo of the Altar of the Chair in the apse of St. Peter’s Basilica. As I understand it, the throne above the altar is a reliquary containing the relics of St. Peter’s cathedra (chair). 015 Continue reading

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

Twilight of the Idols, Part I: A Riddle

“For there shall arise false Christs and false prophets, and shall show great signs and wonders, insomuch as to deceive (if possible) even the elect.” Mat. 24:24

The purpose of this piece is to expose the prejudice that some Catholics exhibit when considering the life and the work of a specific Protestant author. Here, the prejudice is in the Protestant author’s favor. I intend to point out why this prejudice is incorrect. Let’s start:

Catholic missionaries evangelized the region around Nagasaki, Japan, in the late 1500s and early 1600s. Then the Japanese government turned against the Catholics, martyred the priests, and forced the Church underground. After Japan began to open up to the Western world in the 1800s, a Catholic priest arrived. A group of wary local women approached him and asked three questions (I paraphrase):

1.) Do you venerate the Blessed Virgin Mary?
2.) Do you obey the Pope of Rome?
3.) Do you have a wife?

The priest answered Yes to first two questions and No to the last one. The women then went away. Sometime later, the men of their village returned to the priest, revealing that they were “Kakure Kirishitan,” the secret Christians of Japan.* Continue reading

“All who are truly Christ’s believe . . . the Conception of the Mother of God without stain of original sin”

Regardless of the date that appears above, it’s still December 8 here in the Driftless. Today is the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary, Patroness of the United States of America. In honor of our nation’s patronal feast day, I cite His Holiness Pope Pius XI’s encyclical letter Mortalium Animos (1928), emphasis added:

“Besides this, in connection with things which must be believed, it is nowise licit to use that distinction which some have seen fit to introduce between those articles of faith which are fundamental and those which are not fundamental, as they say, as if the former are to be accepted by all, while the latter may be left to the free assent of the faithful: for the supernatural virtue of faith has a formal cause, namely the authority of God revealing, and this is patient of no such distinction. For this reason it is that all who are truly Christ’s believe, for example, the Conception of the Mother of God without stain of original sin with the same faith as they believe the mystery of the August Trinity, and the Incarnation of our Lord just as they do the infallible teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, according to the sense in which it was defined by the Ecumenical Council of the Vatican. Are these truths not equally certain, or not equally to be believed, because the Church has solemnly sanctioned and defined them, some in one age and some in another, even in those times immediately before our own? Has not God revealed them all?” (http://w2.vatican.va/content/pius-xi/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_p-xi_enc_19280106_mortalium-animos.html)

Shooting Down a Trendy Objection to Transubstantiation

There is a certain trendy objection to transubstantiation that goes like this:

“Of course, I believe in the Real Presence. But ‘transubstantiation’ is a very abstract term that would limit the Real Presence to a specific, Aristotelian philosophy. Why must we pry into mysteries and define the ‘how’ of the Real Presence? When it comes to the Real Presence, there’s more that unites Catholics with the Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans, and Lutherans than what divides us.”

This is very seductive, specious nonsense. Let me reduce this objection: the Church should not define the ‘how’ of a dogma using terms that are specific to this or that philosophical school. Transubstantiation depends on an Aristotelian distinction between substance and accidents, and therefore is too specific and limiting.

We can reject this very easily: Continue reading