Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Patristics: Polycarp of Smyrna, Part II

Having examined the life of Polycarp including his journey to Rome concerning the date of Easter, we now turn to the epistle written by this Apostolic Father. Although history suggests that Polycarp wrote many letters during his time as bishop, only one survives down to our present time. Polycarp wrote this letter to the church in Philippi, prompted by their request to send to them words of encouragement as well as copies of letters in his possession from his friend, Ignatius of Antioch:


“The Epistles of Ignatius written by him to us, and all the rest [of his Epistles] which we have by us, we have sent to you, as you requested. They are subjoined to this Epistle, and by them you may be greatly profited; for they treat of faith and patience, and all things that tend to edification in our Lord.”


Further Polycarp seems to indicate that he had not yet received confirmation of Ignatius’ martyrdom, and hoped to learn from the Philippians more news of Ignatius and his companions: “Any more certain information you may have obtained respecting both Ignatius himself, and those that were with him, have the goodness to make known to us.”


Thus this letter to the Philippians dates to around the same time period of Ignatius’ letters and subsequent death, or shortly after, which places it a decade or so after the turn of the Second Century.


Polycarp’s letter consists primarily of exhortations to live moral lives in obedience to the commands of God. While the text is shorter than most of Ignatius’ writings, it is filled throughout with quotes from Scripture, especially the writings that would later become known as the New Testament. Polycarp is a wonderful early witness to the Christian use of these books for instruction and discipline.


However, the above passage concerning the writings of Ignatius – “…by them you may be greatly profited; for they treat of faith and patience, and all things that tend to edification in our Lord” – testifies to the fact that there was not an established norm defining which writings ought to be used by Christians for the purpose of instruction and formation in the faith. Indeed while Polycarp bears strong witness to the writings that would later form the New Testament, he seldom mentions them specifically by name, but instead points to Ignatius’ letters as a source for Christian “edification.”


It must be understood that the Bible was not clearly defined by this time in the Second Century, and many of the writings of the Church Fathers (including Ignatius, and Clement of Rome) were read at Christian worship services then copied and passed along to other churches in the same way that we would expect the New Testament to be preserved and cherished. For this reason, Polycarp also includes Ignatius as one who is worthy of imitation, along with Paul and the other Apostles:


“I exhort you all, therefore, to yield obedience to the word of righteousness, and to exercise all patience, such as you have seen [set] before your eyes, not only in the case of the blessed Ignatius, and Zosimus, and Rufus, but also in others among yourselves, and in Paul himself, and the rest of the apostles. [This do] in the assurance that all these have not run in vain, but in faith and righteousness, and that they are [now] in their due place in the presence of the Lord, with whom also they suffered.”


The Bible was not compiled into one book during Polycarp’s lifetime; he therefore does not distinguish between these writings as we would today. Nor does he rely on the Bible "Alone” (as some Christian denominations insist on today) as a guide for Christian doctrine and morals. Rather than the “Bible Alone” as guarantor of Christian unity and fidelity to Apostolic teaching, Polycarp points to the hierarchy of the Church. He strongly encourages the Philippians to avoid evil and sin and then he tells them to obey the ordained clergy:


“Wherefore, it is needful to abstain from all these things, being subject to the presbyters and deacons, as unto God and Christ.”


Just as we saw with Ignatius, Polycarp insists that the priests (presbyters) and deacons derive their authority from “God and Christ,” and to them we owe our allegiance. The Church, through her ordained ministers, ensures sound teaching, moral guidance, and protects the unity of all believers.


However, Polycarp also tells us of a presbyter named Valens who fell from grace through disobedience and sin:


“I am greatly grieved for Valens, who was once a presbyter among you, because he so little understands the place that was given him [in the Church]. I exhort you, therefore, that you abstain from covetousness, and that you be chaste and truthful. Abstain from every form of evil. For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others?”


Here Polycarp confronts an issue that many today would charge against the Catholic Church throughout the centuries. How can a church lead by sinners tell others not to sin? How can a church whose leaders are guilty of immorality be the same vehicle through which God exercises His own authority?


Polycarp’s letter demonstrates that even at this early date the Church grappled with this problem. Already they had encountered leaders who did not live up to their vocation. Polycarp realizes that if a man cannot “govern himself in such matters” it would be difficult for him to expect obedience from those under him. It seems that for this reason Valens was then removed from his office.


But Polycarp does not use this presbyter’s sin as an excuse to abandon the authoritative, hierarchical structure of the Church. To the contrary, he strongly insists on obedience to the clergy, even while in the same letter mentioning the disobedience of one of the presbyters. Polycarp recognized the sinfulness of some ranking members of the clergy, and yet continued to insist that God works through the Church leaders despite their sins. Polycarp calls for Valens to be reconciled with the Church:


“I am deeply grieved, therefore, brethren, for him (Valens) and his wife; to whom may the Lord grant true repentance! And be then moderate in regard to this matter, and do not count such as enemies, but call them back as suffering and straying members, that you may save your whole body. For by so acting you shall edify yourselves.”


There are many today who reject Catholicism based on the sins committed by members of the hierarchy. It must be admitted that these sins do occur and cause great scandal for the Church. In this matter we would do well to heed Polycarp. He sees here an opportunity for reconciliation and a healing of the Body of Christ. Some Christians down through the ages have called for rebellion and schism when faced with the sins of bishops, priests, and popes – but the early Church reacted with pity and an eye toward forgiveness, and always desirous to maintain unity among all believers. Because the Church is divinely instituted (established by Jesus and guided by the Spirit), the authority of the Church remains intact in spite of the sins of her members.

28 comments:

  1. Another well done article Thomas.
    I am especially intrigued by the quote you provided.
    "For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others?”
    In this entry you have categorized this in reference to sin or sinners in leadership in the church.
    I am sure you recognize that the principal Polycarp is describing covers vastly more landscape than just sinful leaders.
    What does the Catholic Church see as its mission on earth? Certainly not just the mundane helping the poor right?
    Does it have a mission?
    As I was considering the scope of your last paragraph It occurred to me that the underlying point of this, now and in the middle ages was the concept of "example".
    Polycarp also contemplates this when he says "For if a man cannot govern himself in such matters, how shall he enjoin them on others?”
    The non sinful aspect of example I first thought of was finances.
    I remember reading that due to recent financial difficulties that I do not want to dwell on or bring into this conversation, The Archdiocese of Boston was having to sell the ornate cardinal's residence in Brighton, with 28 surrounding acres.
    It was valued at 1-3 million an acre.

    As "not the Pope" a 50 million dollar estate seems pretty good for a middle manager doesnt it?
    We can strip away the pomp and circumstance factor and the respect for the office aspect for those who sit in Peters chair cant we? So the arguements in this case would have to be different.

    Part of Christianity is being a financial steward is it not?
    Many times through the ages the church has pleaded with the laity to donate money to the church. Historically, in a number of creative ways. The sale of indulgences and buying a loved ones way out of purgatory comes to mind.
    Long story short the church ALWAYS passes the offering plate. It advises the members to be responsible supporters financially.

    In my experience, the degree which members feel excited to give, even sacrificially, is somewhat dependant on how well done and efficiently the funds are put to the intended task.
    I believe you will find that a common concern in any philantropic gifting, in fact many charities advertise what percentage of the funds they recieve go to the charities target, right?

    In what way would you justify or rationalise the rather "Popelike" (sorry I dont know how else to say it) expenses and lifestyles of the Cardinal of the Archdiocese of Boston? There is alot of bowing and ring kissing going on their too, unless I am badly informed which may be the case, thats why I am asking you.

    I am also very, I guess astounded that in an artical I read here that a church spoksman made the following statement.

    "The Rev. Christopher J. Coyne said church leaders hope that the announcement of the plan reassures ordinary worshipers, as well as larger financial contributors, that their donations will not be used for the (legal costs)".

    What other source of income does the church have than its patrons? It seems an outright lie, but I defer to your explaination.

    I hope you can see how I have tried to circumvent the extrainious elements that would derail the points that I am seeking information on. I will provide you with the link to the artical I read so you can see the context for your self.
    http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2003/12/04/diocese_to_sell_residence/

    To reinterate. The concept of example, in terms of finances and not sin, and the seeming dilema posed by leaders who are not the Pope, living and recieving homage as though they were the Pope. All this wrapped up in a burrito of asking the faithful for their hard earned money while leadership at every level it seems, lives in lavish comfort.

    If the church has a mission, and that mission requires funding, then every dollar that is diverted from the mission to lavish living for the leadership subverts the mission, does it not?

    This is a wide held public perception, often supported by articals such as the one I linked to, however I would like to hear your take on this and consider what I might be unaware of as always.
    Thanks
    Michael

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  2. Michael,
    A challenging set of questions…Let me see if I can put this all together. Tell me if I have this right: “Since part of being Christian entails being a ‘financial steward,’ how can the Church justify the ‘lavish’ lifestyle of popes, bishops, and others in high office? Perhaps this does not entail outright ‘sin’ …but still what kind of example does this set for the laity when priests and bishops are surrounded by finer things?”

    To start with, the popes and bishops do not OWN any of these properties or material goods, such as the houses and villas and church buildings. In most cases, they do not even own the cars they ride in or the furnishings of their residence. (When Pope John Paul died his personal belongings would not have filled a good-sized room – mostly books and personal items. Everything else he used during his reign as Bishop of Rome belonged to the Church.) These men are holding these things in trust. These properties and other items belong to every Catholic (or the Catholics of that particular diocese), not to one individual.

    To use the President as an example again, the President does not own the White House. He does not own the State Department or the Pentagon. He is placed in his office as a steward of these resources. Our whole government is designed so that “We the People” own these things, and our elected officials take care of them for all of us. (That goes for governors and mayors as well – Do you see the analogy…pope(president), bishop(governor), priest(mayor)…for the sake of our discussion, not as a direct correlation.)
    Now some of the buildings and monuments in Washington are pretty useless as far as a practical standpoint. The Washington Monument and the Lincoln Memorial for example do not house anything “useful” – they do not aid in the function of our nation or its government or its people – unlike the Military or the Department of Justice. If we are in such hard times, and if the government needs to set the tone for how to deal with such financial difficulties, then shouldn’t they just sell some of these assets and pay down the national debt? Wouldn’t that money be better used for some new program that might fix the economy? What about other national treasures across the country? How about at the state or local level? Would our elected officials be “good stewards” if they sold these things and used the money to fix our current problems? Or would it be better to hold these things for posterity and solve the crisis in another way? What would set a better example as a steward?

    I suppose the pope could sell Vatican City to some tourism agency that could turn it into “Pope World” complete with a water park - and the Church might make billions or even trillions of dollars to be given to charity…but the pope would still have to live somewhere and the officials would need to keep doing their jobs. Meanwhile the Church would loose part of her history – a part of her heritage.
    Bishops could sell off their residences or close some diocesan office buildings or auction off artwork and furniture…but they would have to move to another address and the diocese would still need to function. By doing these things would the Church make enough money to feed all of the poor and end suffering around the world?…No. It might fix some things for a short time, but then the Church would have to keep plugging along and face the fact that they now have less resources and a tighter budget. Ultimately the Church is in it for the long-haul, not to fix the economic distress of one generation. The bishops hold a trust that must be passed on for generations not sold off to fix a problem NOW.

    Besides that…some of these church-owned items are sacred. Some of the expensive artwork and buildings and properties have been consecrated, blessed, set aside for a holy purpose. To treat these things as just another material possession would be like the Jews of the Old Testament selling off the Temple and the holy objects used for sacred ceremonies because they wanted to get out of a tight spot financially.
    Also some of these things were given to the Church by benefactors (some already deceased) who desired that their gift be used by the Church and only the Church, not to be sold for cash value. Would you pawn your grandmother’s wedding ring that she left you on her deathbed? What if a relative gave you something precious to them and said to pass it on to your son so that he might pass it on to his? At what point do you say, “You know what, I need the money, I guess old Uncle Bill won’t miss this family heirloom since he’s dead”?

    These are the types of considerations that need to be made when a bishop looks at the holdings of the diocese and decides what can be sold to help the poor or to fix a financial problem or to set an example for the people. These possessions of the diocese are not the BISHOP’s possessions. He is a steward of these goods and he has to make sure that he takes into account the history, the sacredness, the spiritual dimension of his trust…it is not just a “financial steward” that we are called to be as Christians. There are other stewardships…and some of these, honestly, are more important than money.

    I realize that there are some non-Catholics who believe that the Catholic Church is sitting on a gold-mine of resources and we squander this wealth while others suffer. But people’s misperceptions about the Church cover other areas as well. There are those who believe that the pope has servants who bathe and dress him, and some people think that the Eucharist turns into human flesh when we swallow it. So should we cut open our stomachs to show them the truth? Should we film the pope bathing and dressing to demonstrate he is capable of such accomplishments? Should we sell our cathedrals and the bishop’s fine china and other church holdings to show people how generous we are?

    Sometimes bishops decide that properties do need to be sold for just the reasons you suggest. It sets a good example and it does serve the common good. But these decisions are not made lightly, and there are usually those within the diocese who put up a fight. You always hear: “My grandfather helped build that chapel!” “My family donated those furnishings a century ago for the use of the bishop!” “My money went toward the purchase of those objects and now they will no longer serve God and His Church!” How do you answer these objections?

    The Catholic Church holds many historic properties and objects. I attend a parish that is over 150 years old and has gorgeous artwork and architecture. Over the last century and a half the parish has accumulated chalices of gold, ornate candelabras, and an historic residence for the priest. And on many of these objects and artifacts there are inscriptions that read “Donated in loving memory of…” How do you sell that memory? How do you tell the people of a parish or diocese that we have to sell grandma’s legacy because we need to set the right example or pay our debts?

    The Church is a living Body (a Family) not a corporate entity. The bishop has to do what is best for the whole Family. This is not always the same as what is best for the bottom line. Being a good steward does not always mean that the books are balanced.

    I think that answers your question in general. Here are a few other points you wished for me to address…

    (As for the sale of indulgences – that practices was certainly an abuse of power and Martin Luther was right to condemn it. That practice is now against Church Law. However people do still make contributions to the Church in the name of loved ones, and the priests and bishops have to honor the wishes of the families and be good stewards of these treasures.)

    (Also, truthfully, many parishes – including my own – operate with a deficit and must face the fact that some things need to be sold or donations need to be increased or employees need to be let go - all tough decisions. The Catholic Church is not “rich” in that regard. There may be this perception of wealth, but it does not translate into the daily operational expenses in most parishes.)

    (The article you cited suggests that people’s donations will not be used for legal debts in Boston. You asked what other money the church has. I think it means that the diocese will tap into other resources – such as selling properties or other holdings, or tightening the budget in other ways – rather than using current cash flow from the collection plate. Basically the article is saying that the Church is doing exactly what you say it should do. The Church is making tough decisions about what can be sold and they are using the money to solve financial problems. Really this article ought to please you since it follows what you say the Church ought to do. After reading it myself, it looks like the right decision was made. There are many things the bishop ought not to sell, but there are some things that are expendable.)

    (Also I would like to say that each bishop has a certain amount of pomp and ceremony surrounding his office. Each bishop is the Shepherd of his diocese, just as the pope is Shepherd of the Universal Church. So as with the pope, each bishop has certain ceremonial objects that may seem extravagant, but that serve symbolic, “sacramental” purposes and are important to Catholic liturgical life. We cannot sell these objects without diminishing the richness of our faith.)

    Does this answer everything?
    Thomas

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  3. Michael,

    I re-read your comment and realized that I missed the most important question:
    “What does the Catholic Church see as its mission on earth? Certainly not just the mundane helping the poor right? Does it have a mission?”

    The Church’s mission is to carry on the mission of Christ. Primarily this is NOT elevating poverty or addressing financial matters. (Jesus did very little to directly address these things. “The poor you will always have with you.”) The Son of God did not come for these worldly concerns, but rather to save souls. The Church’s mission is to offer the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ alone.

    Certainly we are called to serve our fellow man. That is a component of the Church’s mission, because it shows Christian charity/love. Wherever love is found, there is God, for God is Love. And the Church is designed to bring God’s presence into the world. But the Church was primarily established to gather all peoples together into one Body. We are saved by being incorporated into Christ’s Body. This means reaching out in love, and so charity is a part of that.

    The Church is the divinely established channel of God’s Grace. The Church offers God’s Grace through the Sacraments (most especially the Sacrament of the Eucharist). Through the Sacraments Jesus enters into our lives and permeates our being so that we are more fully a part of His Body. The Church as an institution (the clergy, bishops, priests, I should say) should focus most of its energies on bringing Christ into the world and bring all peoples to Christ. The hierarchy’s main obligation is to provide channels of grace through the Sacraments so that all might be gathered into one Body. And the hierarchy also maintains sound doctrine so that the Faith is passed on intact to the next generation.

    Those non-Catholic churches that have recently begun preaching the “gospel of wealth” or tell how to have Christian “financial independence” are missing the point entirely. On the other hand, the churches that have a strong missionary zeal and work to aide the poor in so many ways are certainly doing the right thing. Helping the poor is truly a Christian ideal. I commend them. They are doing God’s work – spreading Love. But if they do so after first cutting themselves off from the Church that God established, then they would do well to re-evaluate their doctrine and seek out the true Body of Christ. I would welcome their hard-work and passion as a part of the One Body. I do not attack the good that they do, but they themselves would benefit from the outpouring of grace that Christ bestows on His Church.

    Thomas

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  4. Very good.
    I like your second response as more towards what I was asking.

    I recognize people make personal donations of things.
    I recognize that the church leadership does not personally own any of the lavish objects. But here is where the mission of the church comes in.
    Does the mission you vaguely discribe require money? Quote "The Church’s mission is to offer the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ alone."
    That can be understood in many ways. Does one just open a branch office like a church or cathedral and just wait for those who may be inclined to take the inititive themselves to just drop in?
    Does the churches mission have an active componet? Does that active component require money?
    It matters not that a particular bishop or Pope personally own's the lavish items themselves, the point is that the money came from church coffers origionally and the leaderships decision on how ornate a residence should be verses how much offerings could have otherwise gone to the mission of the church is made by them.
    Your example of public officials and their use of our tax money is spot on. It used to be that congressmen would have to actually go on record as voting themselves a raise but they did away with that with new legislation that said their would be continual cost of living adjustments without a vote.
    Perhaps those decision makers in leadership decide to make their lives as easy as possible by securing mansions and chauffers for their own use just like our public servants do.


    There has been quite a long term debate in the church on this from my small understanding. The fransiscan order has quite a different take on this question if my memory of history serves.
    So this is not just a question of more interest than my own curiosity. It has been debated even within the church for hundreds of years.

    So what think you.
    The question remains, If the church has a mission, and that mission requires funding, then every dollar that is diverted from the mission to lavish living for the leadership subverts the mission, does it not?

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  5. Michael,

    I remember you mentioning in another thread the theory once proposed by the Franciscans that Jesus and The Apostles held no material possessions. You now mention the Franciscans again in this comment. You’ve obvious got some notion about how “poverty” has been lived out in the Church. Therefore, before I get to the heart of your question, I just want to make sure you are clear on some things:
    The Franciscans are a religious “Order” (as are the Benedictines and Dominicans, etc.). The members of an “Order” follow a “Rule” based on the spiritual discipline of its founder. Each Order has a different Rule which includes a set of regulations or spiritual guidelines for things like poverty, chastity, obedience, or any discipline that goes toward the spiritual development of its members. The Rule unites the Order in a common mission and a common spiritual practice so that they can carr y out their goals as one brotherhood or sisterhood, and that they can grow spiritually together as their founder intended.
    Now if the Franciscans practice “poverty” in a radical way – by giving up ALL possessions and begging for food and wearing only simple coarse cloth garments – that Franciscan “Rule” does not apply to the Dominicans or the Benedictines or any other religious order, and it does not set the standard for the rest of the Church. The Rule is meant only for that Order. Thus “radical poverty” is a spiritual practice that is specific to those who choose to follow it – it was never intended any other way. If that lifestyle suits you, and it fills a spiritual void for you, then there are several Orders you can join to do just that. But not all are called to such a life, and the Church does not impose such a discipline on anyone.
    The Franciscans, at one point in their history, decided that they would give up ALL possessions including the buildings that they occupied. They gave financial control of their assets to the pope (mind you, they continued to live in the buildings, they just didn’t own them). The Franciscans were not trying to impose radical poverty on the rest of the Church or tell the hierarchy that it should sell off Church holdings. Indeed, their actions actually gave the pope control over MORE property because it transferred everything to him.
    So when you say that the Franciscans have a “different take” on the issue of Church ownership, it is actually not quite the way you characterize it. The Franciscans gave up the management of their property so that they themselves would be removed from physical ownership. At that point in their history they practiced a spiritual poverty that had become extreme. The Franciscans could not have done this unless the pope was willing to take on more possessions. The Franciscans were living out their unique expression of Christian spirituality – it was a rule they set for themselves, not a standard for the whole Church and its hierarchy. So I think you may be reading too much into the Franciscan way of life.
    As an example I would point to Pope Sixtus IV. He was a member of the Franciscan Order. He is responsible for the construction of the Sistine Chapel (which is named in his honor). He assembled a team of artists and architects to accomplish this task and it was paid for by money that (I suppose) could have been used elsewhere. His contribution to the Church has given us a beautiful world-renowned chapel, and later it was graced with the works of artists like Michelangelo. So it is not as though the Franciscans were opposed to beautifying the Church or increasing the holdings of the hierarchy. The Franciscan practice of poverty does not demand that the Church remove fine pieces of artwork or ornate decorations. It is directed toward the individual Franciscan and his own spiritual discipline. It is designed to separate the individual from material attachments, not separate the Church from beautiful artistry.
    So there is a strong current within Catholicism which would stress “poverty” as a way of life. There are certain groups, such as the Franciscans, which place a great emphasis on this idea of renouncing material possessions and living a meager existence. They set a bold example and there is much to be imitated in them. We can all learn from them, even if we ourselves do not give up all of our material goods. They can teach the whole Church about detaching ourselves from the physical world. That is their vocation. But not all are called to such extreme lifestyles.

    [Continued...]

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  6. Now, as for what you asked:
    “The question remains, If the church has a mission, and that mission requires funding, then every dollar that is diverted from the mission to lavish living for the leadership subverts the mission, does it not?”

    You characterize the lifestyle of Catholic leadership as “lavish.” What do you mean by that? What is it specifically you would like for them to stop doing? What is it about their lifestyle that is over-the-top? Could you be more specific?
    If you mean that they should sell the buildings and furnishings of their diocese because of their beauty and great worth, I would have to refer to what I said earlier. Many of these things are dear to the people of the Church and symbols of their legacy of faith. They are the property of the whole Church and are not to be parted with on the whim of a bishop or priest. Those buildings do not “subvert” the mission of the Church as you suggest…those buildings directly SERVE the mission of the Church. The beauty of architecture and art can honor God and unite the people around a common heritage. Beauty can elevate the spirit and convey messages about our faith. To sell these properties simply to acquire more “cash” can work AGAINST the mission of the Church. (There are exceptions of course, like the case of the article you cited about the Boston diocese. Whenever a property such as this has little or no spiritual value it could be sold and the money used for another purpose. But even these exceptions must be weighed carefully. Sometimes keeping a property is a good way to diversify funds. Real-estate is one way for a church to invest its assets. So this isn’t such an easy decision to make.)
    Likewise, if you mean the bishops should sell the gold chalices and ornate objects used in religious ceremonies and at Mass, I would again stress that these are designed to show our respect and love for God. Catholic spirituality has a sacramental (physical) dimension which is often expressed in the materials used in worship, just as the Jews used gold and precious materials for their Temple services. Again, these objects are purchased precisely for the purpose of carrying out the mission of the Church - not to “subvert” the mission.

    You said the following: “It matters not that a particular bishop or Pope personally own's the lavish items themselves, the point is that the money came from church coffers origionally and the leaderships decision on how ornate a residence should be verses how much offerings could have otherwise gone to the mission of the church is made by them.”
    It is not that cut-and-dried. Sometimes bishops and priests make these decisions, but sometimes lay Catholics who love God and wish to express their faith make donations to the Church for specific purposes. If a member of a parish acquires a beautiful painting or a religious statue, he may wish to donate it to the Church so that it will be preserved in a Catholic institution. Or if a lay Catholic is a wood-worker or other type of artisan, he or she may donate their time and talent to constructing the priest’s residence or to build furniture for the bishop’s office. Perhaps a collector of artwork or other fine objects leaves his or her entire collection to the Church. Even whole estates are left as gifts to the Church and a bishop may reside there. When Gothic Cathedrals were being built throughout Europe, they were labors of love from the whole community. Everyone contributed, and all felt as though they owned a piece of the building and its contents. This is true of many Church-owned properties around the world, including a simple parish priest’s home. These things are expressions of faith and love from the whole Church and stand as a testament to many nameless Christians to be passed on through the generations. There are many ways in which the Church acquires fine things or ornate objects or buildings. Deciding which things are sellable and which should be maintained as symbols of faith-filled devotion to God and His Church is not as easy as you make it out to be.

    Now I’m not saying that there aren’t bishops who abuse certain privileges, and priests who enjoy a comfortable lifestyle. In the past this was far worse - so maybe you are dredging up past sins again. Whether you are or not, I’m still uncertain about what specifically you are driving at.
    The mission of the Church is not opposed to beautiful objects. Beautiful architecture and fine ornate objects tell a story of love and devotion to God. They can be wonderful examples of faith and can encourage us in our journey. I enjoy the beauty of my own parish church. Its stained glass and artwork tell a wonderful story that I can pass on to my own children. The priest’s residence was built at the same time and is connected to the church itself. The architecture is similar, rather ornate, and it is a nice home, which includes parish offices and other rooms for meetings and such. These beautiful objects and fixtures fit in nicely with the Church’s mission. Their beauty draws us in and lifts us up to meditate on higher things. The similarity between the priest’s residence and the church building itself suggest the closeness the priest should have to his mission at the altar. Art has a way of conveying things at a glance that would take many words to express. By surrounding ourselves with these things we have constant visual reminders of our own personal call to Christ. I suppose that is one reason for priests to be in the presence of sacred beauty. It serves to lift their minds to contemplate higher things and feeds them on their mission.

    Thomas

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  7. I thought the question clear enough but I will try and be as specific as I can.

    To start you mention this.
    "I remember you mentioning in another thread the theory once proposed by the Franciscans that Jesus and The Apostles held no material possessions. You now mention the Franciscans again in this comment. You’ve obvious got some notion about how “poverty” has been lived out in the Church."
    That is not close to the scope of my query. I mentioned here and there on the other thread that the franciscans believed in a more frugal lifestyle. As you have said, they were not in a position to force their convictions on the rest of the church. I did not say they should.

    You mention this, "I remember you mentioning in another thread the theory once proposed by the Franciscans that Jesus and The Apostles held no material possessions." You as much say it is the same way now since the Pope's/Cardinals/Bishops personally doesn't own the palaces/mansions they reside in so I am confused. Do you agree or not?

    You continue to focus on, "what would you have them do? Sell off all their buildings? That is not the question either. One cannot act like every piece in these grand mansions and the 28 acres they are on was donated by some parishioner. People may donate things but lets be honest, they do not provide the lions share.
    It also has nothing to do with my query which concerns the prioritization of offering monies towards buildings for Cardinals as I gave examples for, that are described by all who view them as mansions on large estates, compared with the financial needs of whatever you would describe as the active mission of the church.

    So it is a simple question. When building a residence for Bishops/Cardinals etc, should one divert money from whatever you would describe as the active mission of the church, to provide what rational people would describe as mansions for leadership?

    Many times in your explanations you reference the early church fathers and say the church is doing things just as the apostles would. (I of course characterize my perceptions in that statement).
    But I do not read in the bible or the early church fathers that the church Christ started and led had large estates and palaces for the apostles and our Saviour.
    In fact in Luke 9:58 Jesus said unto him, Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head.
    But I am now straying from my query into the off topic areas you have covered.
    The whole example of Franciscans even considering the aspect of where should they spend the moneys donated to their orders seems to have confused things.
    I appreciate your lesson on the different orders but it still doesn't answer what I believe to be a very simple question.
    I asked the question what does the church believe its mission to be?
    You responded "The Church’s mission is to offer the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ alone."
    I asked if that had an active component that required funding and got no reply.
    I assumed that the church does have an active component since it is biblical. The church used to believe it. They sent missionaries to Mexico, South America, the American Indians and a host of others that I probably know nothing about. Building these missions and sending these people cost money didn't it? Would you say that is the mission of the church? I am assuming you know and believe in the great commission? Or am I mistaken and you are a Preterist?
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Commission

    Since I will try and use the example of these missions and their missionaries this time I hope it will not lead to extraneous issues.

    Hypothetical;
    A certain order wants to go and start a mission in a remote area to offer the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ alone.
    They figure it will require 12 priests, their transportation costs, money for land, money for simple buildings like kitchens, sleeping quarters, perhaps a school room and definitely a small chapel.
    The Cardinal in charge of these priests also knows they are planning to build a residence for the bishop shortly and they are meeting with the architect. THey have advised the architect that there needs to be rooms for meetings, sleeping quarters, etc, everything to eqipe the function of that parish/parishes.
    The architect provides 2 options. Each serve the required functionality of the Bishop.
    One has 3" crown moulding throughout. The other 18" built up crown moulding with partial gold guilding.
    One has 6'-8" standard height solid core alder doors and the other has 9' teak doors with hand carved fillagree on both sides.
    One has oak hardwood floors and the other has 3/4" marble floors which requires the subfloor to be substanally upgraded to handle the extra weight. One has concrete tile the other vermont slate. etc. etc.
    It is stipulated that there is no donated labor or materials on this particular project.

    The Cardinal looks at the 2 proposals and understands that he could completly fund the priests mission for 10 years if he builds the econmical version of the Bishops residence, or he can build the monument to the "Lord" and the priests will have to dig up their own funds to offer the salvation that is found in Jesus Christ alone to the local population.

    Have I condensed the query sufficiently? I do hope so.
    You can see how it fits the question perfectly.
    If the church has a mission, and that mission requires funding, then every dollar that is diverted from the mission to lavish living for the leadership subverts the mission, does it not?

    What should the Cardinal do? Build the needed buildings to a functional but beautiful level and pay for the "mission" of the church, Or build the most expensive and grand version knowing the priests mission will suffer?

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  8. Michael,
    You have presented some challenging questions. I found it necessary to make my reply in several parts. In each part I address a certain aspect of the topic at hand, and in the final part I’ve tried to bring all of these loose ends together to answer your question more directly.
    Sorry about the length…I tend to be long-winded…but I also didn’t want to leave anything out. Your question makes several assumptions about the Catholic Church. You have taken certain things for granted, which frankly are not accurate reflections of how the Church operates. So I have tried to separate out each of these wrong assumptions and speak to them individually so that in the end you’ll see why I’ve had a difficult time making my reply…
    Anyway, I hope you don’t get too bored reading everything I present here, and I do appreciate your patience.
    Thomas

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  9. HISTORY OF ART AND ADORNMENT OF SACRED SPACES IN CHRISTIANITY
    Michael, you stated the following: “Many times in your explanations you reference the early church fathers and say the church is doing things just as the apostles would. But I do not read in the bible or the early church fathers that the church Christ started and led had large estates and palaces for the apostles and our Saviour.”

    I would not say that the Catholic Church today “does things” just as the early Church did or as the Apostles did. (I don’t think I ever really put it that way.)
    I would however say that the Catholic Church finds its source in the early Church…meaning, our doctrines are firmly rooted and find their first expression in the first few centuries of Christianity; our lineage can be traced to the Apostles; and our Church, unlike any other church, can be shown to come from these early beginnings. The early Church writings (which I have only begun to lay out here) tell us that these connections to our past have always been used to identify the true Church. The first Christians tell us that a direct connection to the Apostles through the succession of bishops, and the teaching of doctrine down through the centuries by an authoritative and hierarchical clergy, is what constitutes the authentic Church. The Catholic Church clearly demonstrates these qualities and the more one studies these writings, the more one sees the Catholic Church’s unique position in this regard.
    Whether we “do things” the same is not always the point. We often “do” things according to historical circumstances and as occasion warrants. We are in different circumstances now than they were then. The Church then was oppressed and persecuted. A person could be stoned or crucified or fed to wild beasts for being a Christian. By Roman law, Christians were not allowed to own property for the purposes of worship. If one was found to be a Christian (especially a bishop or other clergy) one’s property could be confiscated, manuscripts were destroyed, holy objects removed. When you say that the Church was “doing things” differently you are correct. But it was not because of some Church mandate or because Church regulations forbade it….it was forced on the Church by the authorities at that time, authorities who were not at all friendly to Christians. The Church had to survive as best it could and the way they “did things” reflected the harsh reality of the times.
    Yet despite all of this there are signs that Christians of the first few centuries had an eye for beauty and a desire to adorn their places of worship. In the catacombs, where Christians hid to break bread, there is evidence of paintings and engravings that symbolize Christian themes and motifs. There was recognition in the early Church that beauty and artwork should be put to the service of God, and that any space that was set aside for a holy purpose ought to be marked with a sign of reverence. Ornate objects and fine building materials were suited to this purpose. Early in the Church this began to be evident, although in a limited way because of historic circumstances.
    Once Christianity was legalized in the empire, it took no time at all for this idea of beatifying Church buildings and property to come out into the open…but it had always been there, dormant, waiting for expression. When Christians came out of hiding their expressions of faith took on more prominent forms. Temples to the gods were renovated and adorned for Christian worship. Bishops were no longer hunted down and killed, but were treated with respect and could then occupy a more prominent place in the community. The responsibilities of a bishop require that he be a visible sign to the people, and so his residence often became a symbol of that role to which he was called. Immediately after Christianity became legal, it was not unusual for early Christian bishops to occupy a prominent and attractive house which symbolized his service to God. So this idea of art and architecture and beauty in Church buildings and objects, is not new…it grew up within Christianity as a natural expression of the faith.
    As I admitted before and I’ll say again: Some bishops and priests have abused certain privileges of office and have lived comfortable lifestyles. It happened even more during the time when the Church found itself tangled up in European aristocracy. Whenever such selfish expenditures are wasted on comfortable living and the like, then YES, you are correct – the Church hierarchy would do well to manage money better. The Church’s mission is not served well by giving expensive perks to bishops and popes. Some of these expenditures could have been lessoned so that money was not wasted and egos not inflated. But as I also noted before, beauty and artistry DO serve the mission of the Church by giving cultural expression to the faith and preserving the heritage of its people. Perhaps this physical expression of faith is something that is difficult to accept for a non-Catholic, but it is rooted in historical Christianity.

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  10. FUNDING VARIOUS PROJECTS IN THE CHURCH
    You said: “One cannot act like every piece in these grand mansions and the 28 acres they are on [in Boston] was donated by some parishioner. People may donate things but lets be honest, they do not provide the lions share.”

    Actually the people DO provide the lions share! Where do you think the Church’s money comes from?! It comes from the people!
    And the money for these projects must generally be raised as it is needed not drawn from some vast store of treasures that the Church mythically has tucked away. I know this from my own experience. A parish we belonged to a few years ago was expanding by acquiring the surrounding land, and then constructing a huge Parish Center with classrooms and other facilities. During this process they also bought and renovated a house for the priest, since his residence was converted into office space. It was a huge project. They funded it all by holding a Capital Campaign (with contributions from parishioners and through fundraisers) and taking out loans for which the people of the parish would also be responsible (through donations in years to come). Local construction firms (again, many owned by parishioners) participated in the construction. It was very much a project that included the whole congregation.
    It is not as though the Church has huge stockpiles of cash just waiting for some bishop to fritter it away on gold-plated toilets. The money comes from the people (the laity, the men and women in the pews), and it is usually raised right then and there, for the specific purpose of the need at hand. In other words, when there is a major building project in the Church, the laity contribute to a fund that is set up expressly for that purpose. Donations are made, major benefactors contribute, and the resources are pooled together for the project. Likewise, if a diocese is building a new Cathedral or a residence for the bishop, the same kind of thing happens. People donate their time and talents as well as money for the construction of these facilities. And whether you believe it or not, people really do donate huge amounts of land and buildings and money to the Church, sometimes millions of dollars at a time.
    Whether it is six dollars or six million dollars, the people DO pay the lions share. That’s why the people of Boston were so upset about the legal fees for which the Archdiocese was responsible. The people pay the “lions share” in most every other case, and they did not want to be stuck with tens of millions of dollars in legal fees. Luckily, in this case, the bishop found a way to sell off assets already owned by the Archdiocese purchased centuries ago, rather than taking up a huge collection and raising the funds the way any other expenditure would be met. The bishop does not have big piles of money ready for his every whim, the people must be asked to contribute, and the job is done based on the generosity of those contributors.
    I would also note that this Brighton property in Boston was not just a Cardinal’s residence. It also housed the “chancery” – which is the offices of the diocese - which employs many people (so of course it was a large facility, especially in the case of a huge and historic diocese like Boston). It also had on the grounds at least one seminary and other education facilities, as well as several chapels, retreat houses and the like. Also this “residence” (although I hope you can see it was more than just a residence) was adjacent to Boston College. Now many people don’t realize that Boston College is a Catholic institution (or at least it has Catholic origins), so I am sure if you did a little research, you would have found that the Brighton residence and its acreage were historically connected to the whole Boston College complex. I’m sure the bishops of Boston in the past purchased much of this land with the expressed purpose of furthering the expansion of Boston College and encouraging the enrichment of Boston’s Catholic education. Many Catholics have benefited from the work that was done in Brighton through the seminaries and the priests trained there, also from the colleges and the retreat centers, and through the chancery with the work it does in running the diocese. So you have oversimplified the situation – making it out as though it was only a private compound for the bishop – but it was not.
    Certainly Brighton did have a reputation for driving a wedge between the people and their bishop. I would even venture to say that some of the expenditures there could have been eliminated or lessoned, perhaps to the benefit of the diocese. But that does not tell the whole story and it does not take into account other good things that happened there. The mission of the Church was being served at Brighton whether the mainstream media chooses to cover that aspect of the facility or not. Usually these “lavish” building projects you cite serve more than one function besides just a residence for a member of the clergy, and therefore they do directly “serve” rather than “subvert” the mission of the Church.
    The rest is all arguments over building materials, and personal taste in architecture…one could debate the merits of marble verses slate, or the durability of granite over concrete…but in the end, decisions were made and some were good and some were bad. The bishops are human and they do err.

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  11. THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH AND ITS DIVISION OF LABOR
    Concerning the Church’s missionary activity in places where Christianity has not yet taken root, you asked: “Would you say that is the mission of the church [to go out into the world and preach and baptize, making disciples of all nations, as Jesus commanded]? I am assuming you know and believe in the great commission?”

    I do believe in the Great Commission, it is central to the mission of the Church…But it offers some complexities when you apply it to the real-world activities of the Church. Again, it is not as simple as you make it sound. I’ll give an example…
    I read recently an article about Evangelical Christians and their work in developing countries. Because these nondenominational, independent churches have no hierarchical structure above the local congregation, they must organize their efforts at the local level and go out on missions with very little support or direction other than their own initiative. The local church must do it all…they must take care of their own concerns, meeting the needs of their own community of believers, and then try to reach out to the rest of the world, trying to fulfill the Great Commission. These local churches might feel “called” to go to Africa or some other developing country, and so they arrange a mission group with the intention of calling people to Christ and helping those in need. They arrive in Africa; they preach to those they encounter; they hand out Bibles; and they tend to their physical needs as well…building schools or handing out food or medical supplies.
    Now I commend these congregations for their passion and hard work. But this article I read followed up on one of these church missions, and checked out the claim that they made of having baptized thousands of new Christians in Africa or India, or wherever it was they had conducted their most recent evangelization. The church claimed that many souls had been saved. But the author of this piece interviewed these newly baptized “Christians” and asked about their conversion. They admitted that they had really just showed up for the free rice and eye exam, but went along with the baptism with no real intention of attending a church or furthering their Christian faith. Meanwhile the Evangelical church group had gone back to the States, certain that they had left behind thousands of new faithful.
    It does not seem that the Great Commission was fulfilled in this case. What went wrong? – I would say several things are wrong with this scenario…but I will mention a few that pertain to our discussion. There was no effort to establish the “Church” – that is to say, a proper institutional “church” – which will continue to encourage the people spiritually after the missionaries leave. The people must have a concrete lived example that remains in their midst…something that gives structure to their faith, so that their conversion bears fruit. There must be a permanent guide for these converts; there must remain with them people trained in doctrine and worship, who can continue to lead the people after the rice bags are empty and the free health clinic closes. The people must be met on their own level and in their own cultural surroundings and through their common heritage, so that they can be drawn into the faith and their culture can find new Christian expressions in their daily lives. You are not just baptizing individuals; you are immersing a whole community in a shared faith experience, so that the Church (a community of believers) takes root.
    This part of the mission never ends. There will always need to be those who form a structured Church in each community. The Church cannot go out into the world and convert people and then expect these new converts to take up the faith on their own. There must be a part of the Church which has the mission of staying behind and building the faith in one place. So the Church’s mission is not ONLY to go out into uncharted territory, but also to stay where the faithful are already, and to direct their growth in the faith. This part of the mission must continue and be taken up with each passing generation. It is never complete.
    Some in the Catholic Church are called to missionary work as you described…going out to un-Christian lands and sowing seeds. Others are called to stay in positions of leadership where the Church is already firmly rooted. There is a division of labor in this regard, and the Catholic Church has a system of evangelization that encompasses both aspects of this mission.
    The local church or local bishop (or Archbishop or Cardinal) is not the one who would be in charge of starting a new diocese in uncharted land or organizing or funding the missionary work in foreign countries. You mischaracterize role this in your question. Each bishop is in charge of his own diocese and uses his funds for growing the faith of his own flock. On the other hand, there are certain religious Orders and those who devote their lives to foreign missionary work; these are the ones who push out the boundaries of the living Church in the way you describe.

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  12. YOUR HYPOTHETICAL SITUATION
    You described a hypothetical situation in which a Cardinal or bishop is faced with two projects that need funding: 1) the construction of a bishop’s residence, and 2) funding a missionary trip to a distant land. And you asked: “So it is a simple question. When building a residence for Bishops/Cardinals etc, should one divert money from whatever you would describe as the active mission of the church, to provide what rational people would describe as mansions for leadership?”

    Your hypothetical question has a number of flaws, and I will address them under the titles I provided above….
    HISTORY OF ART AND ADORNMENT OF SACRED SPACES IN CHRISTIANITY
    It has always been a part of the Christian experience to express our faith and our love of God in art and architecture. These things enrich our lives and can strengthen faith by passing on a common heritage, by communicating the faith through symbols, by allowing a people to express their faith through their own cultural identity, by showing due glory to God through the works of our hands…and so on. Thus artwork and adornment of Church buildings and properties is an active component of the Christian mission to bring God into the world. When you say that such adornments are contrary to the Christian mission you are mistaken.
    FUNDING VARIOUS PROJECTS IN THE CHURCH
    The funding of projects: whether they are building projects, or missionary activities, or any venture that is not a day-to-day operational expense - these are usually paid for by raising money specifically for that purpose. The money is earmarked and channeled through different agencies or committees or levels of the hierarchy, and are not available to transfer from one fund to another. As I described above, a Capital Campaign would be started for a new church building or a residence or a parish center.
    On the other hand, the funding of missionary activities is generally generated by the missionaries themselves who usually travel from parish to parish within an established diocese (such as here in the U.S.) to ask for donations to fund faraway missions in some other region where Christianity is new. (I see this all the time in my own parish. Missionaries come to our church, describe their work, and we donate money to fund their ongoing endeavors. They then move on to another parish and another, collecting money along the way.) Or they send out mailers to Catholics who contribute whatever they can afford. (I just received such a letter from the Franciscans in the mail a couple of days ago.)
    These funds that we give to missionaries are separate from anything we might be doing in our own diocese as regards to buildings or properties or such. The building fund is specifically for building expenses in our own diocese. Meanwhile the missionaries take their collection with them, quite separately from us and our diocese. So your hypothetical does not really reflect the way things are funded in the Church. A bishop doesn’t control both of these funds.
    THE MISSION OF THE CHURCH AND ITS DIVISION OF LABOR
    Finally, as I have already alluded to, it would be highly unusual (impossible, really, the way the Church operates) for a regular bishop (even a Cardinal Bishop) to be starting a mission, on his own initiative, in some distant land, when his primary responsibility is to his own flock in his own diocese. As I said before, some people are definitely called to go out into the world and forge new paths for the Church, but others have a responsibility to those here at home who are under their charge. The bishop’s primary goal is to further the mission of the Church in his own land, as his vocation calls him to be the Shepherd to his flock.
    If missionaries wish to go out into a foreign land and preach the Gospel and establish the Church there, then they do so at the directive of the Pope and the Vatican. There is an organization within the Vatican which determines the Church’s missionary goals in all the regions of the world. These missionary lands are divided into regions and plotted out accordingly so that missionary work can proceed in an orderly fashion and with a defined purpose. There are Religious Orders (like the Franciscans) that specialize in missionary activities and are called upon to fill the Church’s need. The goal of such work is to establish (perhaps after generations of work) new dioceses. Some day these regions will have their own bishops and parishes and priests, and then they will be building a residence for their bishop and funding Church projects as their needs require it.

    In conclusion…
    Your hypothetical situation assumes too much about the Church’s function and your assumptions are wrong. Art and adornment in Christian history does not run contrary to the mission of the Church – such things are valuable expressions of the faith for a people and a culture in various times and places and can serve to instruct others in the faith. Funds generated for various projects within the Church are not acquired from some vast “money pit” buried deep within each bishop’s “mansion.” Funds are collected from the people and are earmarked for use as they are collected, not thrown around at the bishop’s whim. Different agencies or entities control different funds and operate separately on their respective ventures. It is not a simple matter of taking money from one group and giving it to another. Missionary activities and building funds involve separate resources and are not controlled by the same individual or group. No one bishop would encounter the scenario you describe.
    So I cannot answer your question the way you pose it because it does not describe the Church’s function correctly.


    But besides all of that…If bishops have abused their power and have used funds inappropriately (and I know they have…there are plenty of examples of such abuses), then where does that leave us? What does it mean?
    Is it the same argument that you made before in another thread: Bishops have sinned and misused their authority…So then what? So the Catholic Church is not the True Church because it is composed of sinners and its leaders have sinned? What is your final point exactly?

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  13. I readily and happily admit I had to caricature my point to increase the chances of you understanding it.
    It was not meant as my understanding of "actually" how things were/are handled.
    Probably the closest you came was when you mentioned those missionaries that are actually involved in the "mission" of the church having to go from church to church themselves raising their own funding to actually do what you say the church is on earth for in the first place. That seems wrong. If that is the reason for the existance of the church why treat it as a personal self supporting ministry? If it is the purpose of the church, why not put the weight of the church behind it?

    I am familiar with capital campaigns. And obviously all the money does come from the people. I was talking of the funds not specifically given for specific purposes. General offerings go into a discretionary fund to be used as leadership determines. Are you saying these funds never co-mingle?
    If one were to take your characterizations literally one could look at the different diocese and immediately know which are the richest since all the money is raised locally. Vatican city must have a lot of wealthy people in it for example.
    You are right about art and adornment but art is in the eye of the beholder and not in its price tag. Are you equating expense of something with its value as a decorative object? You certainly seem to be.

    I know of peoples desire to honor God by their donations of valuables and goods. It goes back clear to the Israelites building the temple in the wilderness. But eventually they were told, do not bring anymore gold or materials for the temple.

    Is there any attempt made to educate the members on where their money is most needed? In other words giving to put in an even better organ for themselves while their brothers in other places meet in less than desirable facilities? To put the focus on areas that have no Christian presence that would be able to be entered and provide others with the same opportunity of salvation that they enjoy back in their Cathedrals?


    Finally the last area of interest is where you say, "The church claimed that many souls had been saved. But the author of this piece interviewed these newly baptized “Christians” and asked about their conversion. They admitted that they had really just showed up for the free rice and eye exam, but went along with the baptism with no real intention of attending a church or furthering their Christian faith."

    I agree that is not the correct way it should be done. The thing I cant understand is why a person who believes in baptising infants "that have with no real intention of attending a church or furthering their Christian faith." would be any different?

    That is an entirely different can of worms but fascinating to me that you can see the difference in the one situation but not the other for exactly the same reasons!

    Thanks again for your insights and I am not at all concerned by long posts. Christian communication and understanding are my concerns. If that takes space, then it takes space. I hope you feel the same way.
    Thanks again.

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  14. Michael,
    Thanks for the prompt reply. Sorry again about how long I went on…but I guess that’s part of having your own blog…nobody can tell you to shut up. ;) And I agree, I'd rather have a long post that explains everything than to be left in confusion.
    I’ve replied to a few of your comments and questions below. (Sorry if I used a little sarcasm here and there...that's just my weird sense of humor.)

    >>>
    Michael: “…you mentioned those missionaries that are actually involved in the ‘mission’ of the church having to go from church to church themselves raising their own funding to actually do what you say the church is on earth for in the first place. That seems wrong.”

    The Church is on earth to bring the grace of Christ to all people. Missionary efforts are a part of that work. But the Church also has a responsibility for those who are already under the care of a bishop in an established diocese.
    When Jesus said to go out into the “whole world,” we must include the “whole world” in our mission, not just Africa or India or wherever the “frontlines” happen to be. You seem to be focusing only on “expansion” and not on caring for the faithful here in dioceses that are already established. It is a balance that must be maintained between pushing out into new territory and also taking care of and growing what we already have. I admit that sometimes the balance is off, but we are an imperfect people trying to do God’s work. God called the Church to be a light to the whole world, and we need to keep the WHOLE world in our sights, both here and abroad.
    I never said that “missionary work” is the ONLY thing the Church should focus on. But you seem to believe that it is (and you seem to be putting those word into my mouth as well. I do not subscribe to this opinion of yours) There are many things the Church needs to attend to. All of these things need funding. We certainly need to fund missionaries; we also need a new roof on our priest’s residence; and the parish school is expanding; the poor and hungry of the world also need to be served; the church also has properties to maintain; and the Sacraments must be readily available to all the faithful; the list goes on and on. All of these fit into the “Mission” of the Church. Some of these things are in far away missions…but some are right here among our brothers and sisters at home. The Church’s mission does not “begin and end” in some village in Africa. That African mission is an important component of the Church’s work (I am not diminishing the value of these missions), but the Church has missionary work to do in the “whole world” – not just parts of it.
    Also you seem to be upset at the method of collecting money in the Church for these missions. The fact that missionaries go church to church asking for donations seems to bother you. But that is the way money is collected for most everything. The money that is generated from my diocese for it’s own needs is taken up in collections from the pews; the money that is needed for missionaries in Africa is taken up in collections from the pews; the money that is needed for the bishop’s new residence is taken up from the pews; the money that is needed for the parish soup kitchen is take up from the pews; the money that helps preserve the sacred sites in the Holy Land is taken up from the pews; the money that is needed to pay down the parish debt is taken up from the pews….are you getting the pattern here? It all serves the mission of the Church, and it all comes from the people through special collections held for those specific purposes. (Yes…every year there is a specific collection that is marked for the Holy Land. And every year there are collections for foreign missions. And these collections are announced in advance and contact information is available if someone wishes to donate in some other way or with a large sum of money.) When my parish takes up these collections we pool the money and send a big check to whatever group is responsible for those funds (the Franciscans, the Vatican, some Catholic agency, etc. – it doesn’t all just go to our bishop for him to decide how to spend it.)
    What is wrong with missionaries going parish to parish asking for collections, when that is the way everything else is funded in the Church…how else should they do it? Perhaps you did not know that that is how money is generated in the Church.

    >>>
    Michael: “…why treat it as a personal self supporting ministry? If it is the purpose of the church, why not put the weight of the church behind it?”

    I once read a little pamphlet in the back of our church that described the horror of abortion, and it urged each individual Catholic to make it his or her personal priority to take an active role in fighting this evil. To illustrate that point the writer of this tract told the story of a man who stopped his parish priest after Mass to discuss the injustices of the world and all the evils he saw going on around him. After describing these sins of society, the man demanded to know why the Church is not doing more to stop these things. The priest replied, “I don’t know…why aren’t you?”
    When you say that the full “weight of the church” ought to be behind missionary activities…perhaps you misunderstand what the Church actually is. Perhaps by going directly to the people, the Church is more fully engaged in this work. It is through the people (the men and women in the pew) that the “full weight” of the Church is really brought to bear. The Hierarchy is one component of the Church. But the laity need to be engaged in the Church’s mission as well. By hearing directly from these missionaries, we can be more aware and more involved in their work.

    >>>
    “General offerings go into a discretionary fund to be used as leadership determines. Are you saying these funds never co-mingle?”

    Well thanks for that lesson in Church finances...and you get your information, where? So tell me more about this discretionary fund? You seem to know a lot about the inner workings of the Catholic Church. Does the pope pay for his royal bathers out of this discretionary fund? What leadership do you mean? Does my weekly offering go to the bishop? Are you sure about that?
    Look, in every Catholic parish I have ever attended the general collection goes toward the operating expenses of the parish. And that is controlled by a finance committee, usually composed primarily of lay people. Most parishes run on a deficit. They are lucky to pay the bills on what they collect week to week. And those weekly contributions go toward keeping the lights on, to pay gas bills, or for minor repairs, etc. - not to line the coffers of a bishop. (Our parish issues expense reports every quarter, and I’m telling you, the money you think is there just isn’t there. The Church is not as wealthy as you seem to think it is when it comes to liquid assets.)
    What I’m saying is, those funds that you think the Church has stored away somewhere don’t exist. As money comes in, it usually has already been earmarked for some specific purpose, and does not just sit around waiting to be spent. If some lucky bishop has extra money in a bank account for his diocese, then perhaps he can use it for unforeseen expenses…but again he is responsible for his own diocese and that money was collected from his people for their use. He is not in the business of setting up missionary journeys to foreign lands. So no…there generally is no opportunity for co-mingling of diocesan money and missionary money.
    In other words a bishop cannot say, “Oh you want to go on a mission? Sure here’s some money that I have laying around…take all you want.” There is no huge stockpile of cash; the money that is there is for the diocese; and a single bishop does not organize and send out missionaries anyway.
    That’s one of the benefits of having missionaries go parish to parish to collect funds. The money is clearly marked for their use only, just as the diocesan money is clearly marked for our use only.
    By the way…if a bishop could really take money from his imaginary pool of assets and give it to missionaries the way you suggest he should, then what would stop him from taking money from the missionaries and using it for himself? I think it is best to keep the two resources separate, and not co-mingle them as you suggest. It opens up the possibility of more abuses.

    >>>
    Michael: “If one were to take your characterizations literally one could look at the different diocese and immediately know which are the richest since all the money is raised locally. Vatican city must have a lot of wealthy people in it for example.”

    You are so obsessed with “money” and who has the most in their bank account. Maybe you ought to examine whether you have an unhealthy attachment to material goods…hmmm…
    But anyway…the Vatican is in a unique position…it is the focus of a lot of attention, considering the pope’s presence there. It is important to all Catholics worldwide. People have given from all over the world to beatify the buildings there. The ratio of wealthy people in the Vatican and the adornment of the buildings does not translate the way you imply. My own home diocese may be richer than the Vatican – if you are concerned with counting money in the pews – but the adornment doesn’t always come down to who has the most money. As I said before, it comes down to what symbolic statement the people are trying to make concerning a certain bishop or church building or other property. The symbol of faith is what the Church is concerned with, not the monetary value.
    The buildings certainly look extravagant at the Vatican don’t they? They were built over the course of centuries and the money was raised just as I described, through the donations of wealthy Church members who wished to be a part of adding glory to God’s Church. (Certainly during that time I could see where some of these projects were over-the-top. I would not dispute you on that.) But here you are drawing conclusions based on the buildings that are left behind by these men from past centuries. There may be some wealth in the Vatican, but much of it stands as a testament to the past and is not liquid assets. Likewise, some churches in Europe took centuries to build and were located in the poorest of communities. The adornment does not always mean that wealthy parishioners live there, but could mean a strong love for God among the people who were dedicated to building a thing of great beauty for His glory. The Church is interested in building a thing of beauty for God so that others can see it as a symbol of faith…something that will stand the test of time and speak to many generations…your obsession with price-tags is your own issue. I don’t know how to help you there.

    >>>>
    Michael: “You are right about art and adornment but art is in the eye of the beholder and not in its price tag. Are you equating expense of something with its value as a decorative object? You certainly seem to be.”

    I do not set prices for artwork. Nor does the Church set these values - the marketplace does that. If art is beautiful and desirable then yes, the price tends to be higher. If it is mediocre or average then it is less expensive. I don’t really care how expensive the artwork is…it could be free for that matter…but beauty can be judged differently in different cultures and at different times, so the question of art is subjective. This is one reason the Church cares about art. It is often a very personal expression and can come from the soul. Art can capture the essence of a culture and express the experiences of an indigenous people. When art is done for the sake of God and for His Church then it elevates the soul and gives new meaning to art. The fact that the marketplace puts a value on these objects is a subject of economics, not the spiritual value of the art.

    >>>>
    Michael: “I know of peoples desire to honor God by their donations of valuables and goods. It goes back clear to the Israelites building the temple in the wilderness. But eventually they were told, do not bring anymore gold or materials for the temple.”

    Well, when God thunders down from heaven that we should stop making beautiful churches then I’ll let you know. I listen to the Church on this matter, though I thank you for your advice. God gave us His Church to be our guide to the faith. If the Church starts burning paintings and tearing down cathedrals then that’s when I’ll know that God is displeased with beautiful artwork. I’ll post something on my blog about it.

    >>>>
    Michael: “Is there any attempt made to educate the members on where their money is most needed? In other words giving to put in an even better organ for themselves while their brothers in other places meet in less than desirable facilities?”

    Yes, absolutely, there sure is. Many sermons are preached on the subject. Stewardship is a common theme in lectures and retreats and conferences and so on. And the missionaries going from parish to parish make the point even more clear. This is again where I have to disagree with you when you say that the “personal” nature of missionary activity is wrong. By making missionary activity personal, by having the missionaries themselves travel to individual parishes and meeting the people one-on-one, it brings a reality to the missions that would otherwise be absent if only the “full weight” of the hierarchy were behind it. I promise you that the hierarchy is fully involved in missionary work…just not the way you envision it. But by putting the missionaries there in front of us on any given Sunday, it does educate Catholics on where their money is needed…more so than some bishop transferring imaginary funds in his “mansion.”

    >>>>
    Michael: “The thing I cant understand is why a person who believes in baptising infants ‘that have no real intention of attending a church or furthering their Christian faith.’ would be any different?”

    Baptizing an infant only happens when the parents agree to raise the child in the Church. So the child’s parents “have a real intention of attending a church and furthering their child’s Christian faith.” The Catholic Church does not go to Africa, baptize a bunch of infants, and then pull up stakes and leave. The Church engages people in their whole being – from birth to death. We are not interested in making one-time professions of faith (“once saved always saved,” as some Christians say) and then handing out Bibles so the people can figure it out on their own. The Catholic idea is to embrace the whole of our being and immerse us in God’s grace. That includes infants who can benefit from Grace poured out on them by others in the community.
    As I said before, the Catholic Church engages the WHOLE community…not just individuals. There is an effort made to build “church” – not just make random converts. When engaging the community one looks to the smallest building block of any community and that is the family. The parents’ active participation in the faith of their child is required for an infant baptism to be performed. The Catholic understanding of baptism is obviously different than that of Evangelicals, and does not require that the baby accept the faith on his own. It is understood though that the parents and Godparents are accepting the faith on behalf of the child and promise to raise him in the Church. Again this underscores the importance of community…the idea that faith is not just an individual choice, but also an acceptance into a community of believers, and that you trust others to help you on your journey. So infant baptism makes perfect sense in light of what I have said concerning “community.”
    Many non-Catholic churches see “Faith” as an individual (“me-and-Jesus”) kind of connection to God. As long as I have the Bible and I confess Jesus as my personal Lord and Savior then I am saved…the idea of “Church” is an afterthought. Where you attend or if you attend doesn’t really affect your salvation. Catholics, on the other hand, always know that the Church and the community of faith is an integral part of our salvation and it is into this Body that we enter to be saved. Baptism is only a first step and it always involves a community of believers accepting another into its midst…one cannot baptize oneself…baptism is always a function of the community.


    Incidentally...to get back to this issue of funding missionary work versus building projects… If I had to pick a time period when the extravagance of such building expenditures reached an unacceptable level, I would say around the time of the Renaissance and especially right up through the Protestant Reformation. I think many people would agree that that time period saw a lot of unnecessary glitz and glamour in the Church.
    If that’s the case, then one would expect the Church’s missionary activity would have been sorely damaged during this timeframe because of all the funding being diverted away to build elaborate mansions and great cathedrals and to pay for artwork and the like.
    The funny thing is, it was precisely at that time that new missionary territory was opening up in the New World and the Church saw an expansion that it had not seen since Apostolic Times in terms of shear numbers of peoples being brought to the faith. There was no shortage of missionary zeal.
    So the supposed conflict you propose did not materialize during the time when one would expect it to be most evident. Perhaps your concerns are misplaced? Or perhaps God is not as concerned about money when it comes to the growth of his Church.

    Thanks again,
    Thomas

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  15. Thomas,
    One could hardly say that the methods the missionaries used during the time you suggest would be approved today.
    I'm sure you are aware of the treatment local peoples endured as the priests tried to save their souls from their "heathen" ways. Have you read how much Aztec and Mayan history was lost when the priests burnt the books the culture made? Only 2 exist now. Numerous accounts of priests on native American reservations are documented such as the severe discipline for using their native tounge and names instead of the ones the priests gave them.
    My grandfather lived on a reservation for more than half a century.

    To get back to your thoughts.
    I only used the examples of the Vatican and other rich diocese as an extrapolation of your explanation that all money was donated locally.

    As much as you explain this it doesn't add up yet.
    You have referred a couple times of parishes that run on a deficit. "They are lucky to pay the bills on what they collect week to week. And those weekly contributions go toward keeping the lights on, to pay gas bills, or for minor repairs, etc."
    Do they only do business with people who dont mind not getting paid? Or do they work on IOU's expecting to be paid at some time in the future? Do they operate on loans? I dont understand how deficit operation works in reality.

    Some of the responses are as if you TRY not to get the point. ie.

    "Michael: “I know of peoples desire to honor God by their donations of valuables and goods. It goes back clear to the Israelites building the temple in the wilderness. But eventually they were told, do not bring anymore gold or materials for the temple.”

    Well, when God thunders down from heaven that we should stop making beautiful churches then I’ll let you know. I listen to the Church on this matter, though I thank you for your advice. God gave us His Church to be our guide to the faith. If the Church starts burning paintings and tearing down cathedrals then that’s when I’ll know that God is displeased with beautiful artwork. I’ll post something on my blog about it."

    I wrote in the singular, 1 temple in the wilderness, you responded in the plural. That fundamentally changes the context.

    The point with the temple in the wilderness and mine as well, is that at some point the building is completed and the focus of financial giving changes.
    I didn't know the point was so hard to determine.
    I never said anything about tearing down anything or burning paintings so that is not valid discourse of the subject. In fact it is completely nonsensical.

    You perceive that I consider expansion as the only mission of the church. This is entirely false.
    It is a given that worshippers need a church and that there are on going expenses with that. Trying to paint my position as all one way with none of the other is to misrepresent my position on the subject.
    Neither do I have an obsession with money. Exactly how many financial questions can one ask before being accused of that anyway?

    I ask you questions as they occur to me based on what you have said as a point of reference.

    A case in point is the one on infant baptism.
    You defined the salient points in the situation, not me. You defined the problem, not me.
    When I took your thoughts on the subject and commented on the dichotomy between what you say on the subject and the fact that the same issues are involved with infant baptism You then pull out a different rational to explain that.

    So now, using your new rational, I ask this question.
    If parents, or in the case of adoption or other family members raising kids who are not their own, can have their infants baptised using the rational that they will raise them up as Catholics then why couldn't a man, for example, have his family baptised, even if they do it to get free food and dental care, if he promises to have a Catholic home too?

    You may be aware of the biblical nature of this from many stories in the bible where the patriarch of the family said things such as, "But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord."

    These are rational questions brought about by your explanation of the principals involved. They dont necessarily represent my thoughts in how things are done nor are they necessarily my thoughts in how they should be done. Nor should they be used to justify silly misrepresentaions about things such as discressionary funds and royal bathers.

    As stated before, your discription of accounting practices and running deficits made me assume you had some discressionary funds. I know assumptions are dangerous. That is why I asked you to discribe how deficit spending actually works in your church.

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  16. Michael,
    Thanks again for the comments. I hope to do better this time answering more directly what you have asked...

    >>>>
    “One could hardly say that the methods the missionaries used during the time you suggest would be approved today.”

    You are correct. Some Catholic missionaries used reprehensible methods to convert natives during that time period. Not all did…and there are wonderful examples of missionaries who had a deep love and respect for native peoples and their cultures. Of course these evil practices you refer to are not used in missionary work today (as I am sure you are quite aware), but I concede that you are correct.
    But my point in bringing up this time period is that “funding” of missionaries was not a problem, even given the lavish expenditures on church properties. Our topic is FUNDS and how to pay for missionary work versus lavish building costs, and I am addressing that topic specifically not the issue of missionary methods.
    You presented a hypothetical dilemma: The Church must choose between lavish buildings or funding missionary activities. I am only pointing out that during the time when the Church spent the most money on buildings and extravagant adornments, there was also the most zealous (most over-zealous, really) missionary activities being funded, and perhaps these even went too far. Perhaps the Church would have done well to scale back on missionary work, be less vigorous (rather than increase it), and thus show more respect for the people they were trying to save.
    So when you point to the buildings of the Vatican or the other well-known architectural wonders owned by the Catholic Church and say, “Why did they spend so much on these objects? They should have put the money toward missionary activities…” I am trying to make the reply, “When these very buildings were being built and adorned, missionaries were also being funded (and perhaps funded too much). The Church had money in both arenas and missionary activity was not suffering from lack of funds.”
    So the connection you are trying to draw between church funds does not pan out historically. Add to this the other things I said: 1) adornment of religious buildings is a part of Christian heritage and therefore an acceptable practice, 2) church funds are not readily transferable: building funds and missionary funds are generally separate pools of resources that do not co-mingle, 3) the same person or agency is not usually in control of both building resources and missionary resources, so the opportunity to transfer these funds would not fall to one person who could easily make such a transaction, 4) by keeping these resources separate it decreases the likelihood of a bishop or other official from manipulating even more money than he would otherwise have access to, and thus cuts down on corruption.

    >>>>
    “To get back to your thoughts. I only used the examples of the Vatican and other rich diocese as an extrapolation of your explanation that all money was donated locally.”

    Very well. And I would say that in most cases that is exactly right – the people of the diocese determine the wealth of the diocese. A diocese with wealthier people generally can afford to have nicer buildings, etc. I’m sure in other denominations the same is true. When a church has more money it can use that money to invest in nicer facilities, use more expensive building materials, and even spend some on extra perks that others in the same denomination cannot afford. When people love their church and they love the God they serve then they often express it in this way as their finances allow.
    Comparing one diocese to another in the Catholic Church would, I’m sure, yield similar results – wealthy parishioners give more money and the diocese has more “stuff.” It’s just that Rome and the Vatican is a unique case, and one cannot look at the way Rome operates and extrapolate from that how the other dioceses function. There is only one Successor to Peter…but there are thousands of bishops world-wide. The pope has a unique role and so the Vatican is not like other centers of power in the Church. The world does not donate to my local diocese. We operate on our own just as others do thousands of times over. Whereas we all look to Rome and the buildings there reflect the influence Rome has in the Universal Church. Your point is correct, but Rome is the wrong choice as an example. Rome is unique in this regard.

    >>>>
    “You have referred a couple times of parishes that run on a deficit…Do they only do business with people who dont mind not getting paid? Or do they work on IOU's expecting to be paid at some time in the future? Do they operate on loans? I dont understand how deficit operation works in reality.”

    They work with loans, and IOUs, and they make budget cuts and layoffs. Local parishioners volunteer to do repairs or minor maintenance for free. The parish has to tap into savings (when they have it). Or in most cases I know of, they hold annual fundraising events to make up the difference. (A parish I used to attend had a “Fair” or “Carnival” event each year that was open to the public and people could buy food and crafts made by the parishioners. This helped make up the budget shortfall.)
    What I’m saying is that weekly collections alone usually do not suffice to pay the bills (at least where I have attended church), and it often requires some clever methods of cutting corners to making ends meet. So what you seem to imply about all this money going to the bishop for his spending pleasure is not accurate…at least in my experience.
    There are some parishes, no doubt, that have budget surpluses. Some of that money can be spread around the diocese to help struggling parishes. The bishop often has to make these decisions when he finds that there is extra money in the accounts. (This is why I say that bishops have their own diocese to worry about – they cannot just fund missionary ventures when their responsibility lies with their own people who are sometimes struggling – and bishops are generally not in charge of missionaries anyway.)
    Sometimes struggling parishes are shut down or two or more parishes merge to pool their resources. That means a whole parish is simply gone (buildings are sold or turned into a chapel) and the people must start attending another parish. Or if they are not merged in this way, they may become a joint-parish where they share a priest and other resources and so funds can be transferred between them more freely and expenses can be shared.
    Parishes go through ups and downs economically. One year may be really tough and the next may improve. The same goes for the whole diocese. One year there may be a surplus, the next year that money is gone. The Church is not a money-making machine that sits on vast stock-piles of cash. Money comes and goes, and the story is different depending on the diocese and the parish.
    A little story, to better illustrate my point: I used to work for an art museum. I was operations director, and my job included making sure the heating and air conditioning worked, the grass was mowed, and other day-to-day necessities were met. The museum is a non-profit entity – resources were scarce. We knew how to pinch a penny, yet we always had outstanding debts. Whenever the air-conditioning quit, I had to call our service guy, and I always had a tough time getting him to show up…that’s because we always had a huge bill that we hardly ever paid. Eventually, after several phone calls, the owner of the HVAC place would come and do the job himself, because he knew that he would not be able to pay one of his underlings for a job that we didn’t pay him for.
    So to answer your question directly: Sometimes, yes, you do business with someone who doesn’t mind not getting paid for his work. As a museum we had millions of dollars of assets in paintings and artwork, but we could not use any of it to fix a leaky faucet or to replace a broken boiler. (Just as the Church has material assets such as properties and sacred objects that are worth much money, but will not be sold.) Museums and churches hold things in trust for the community. Tough times can come, even when a parish is gorgeously decorated and has benefited from past years of good revenues. But I wouldn’t dream of selling off these sacred objects from centuries ago just to pay for tough times now. We find a way to struggle through until better times arrive, and we preserve our heritage for the next generation.

    >>>>
    Concerning the Temple in the wilderness you explained: “I wrote in the singular, 1 temple in the wilderness, you responded in the plural. That fundamentally changes the context. The point with the temple in the wilderness and mine as well, is that at some point the building is completed and the focus of financial giving changes.”

    There are several meanings that can be taken from that passage of the Bible. You weren’t specific as to what you were driving at, so I drew my own conclusions. The point I was making is that Moses stopped the people from furthering their efforts to adorn the Temple, and he had that authority because Moses was God’s spokes-person. Likewise the Catholic Church is God’s institution on earth, and the Catholic Church has not said that we should stop adorning churches. If my bishop or the pope says, “Stop decorating the church, it is enough,” then I will accept that authority. If however some guy writes a comment on my blog that the Church needs to stop adorning buildings and focus on other things, then I do not take that as an authoritative voice that speaks for God. (I don’t mean this as an insult, but I accept the Church’s authority over yours, just as the Jews listened to Moses as God’s chosen representative.)
    There are other issues involved in this passage that make the situation different as well. For instance, you correctly pointed out that there was only ONE Temple for the Jews, whereas Christians have MANY houses of worship. So building projects are vastly greater in number for us; and you can see where this would lead to a larger effort at beautifying these buildings. Also the wilderness Temple was a temporary fixture, so heaping on adornments would have been impractical as the people needed to continue on their journey and conserve their resources. Then there is also a different attitude in Catholicism about the material world and the use of statuary and images and physical symbolism than in ancient Judaism. The coming of God-made-man in Jesus Christ gave Christianity a different sense of the sacredness of created matter. Physical objects and material goods were given a new spiritual dimension when the Creator saw fit to enter into His creation and raise it up to Himself. In Christian theology man has a different relationship with the material world because God entered into a different relationship with matter.
    All of this can open up a whole different conversation that I am sure would be interesting, but it leads us astray from the topic at hand. I will just say that your connection between this passage and the Catholic Church’s adornment of buildings is not a direct correlation.

    >>>>
    “If parents, or in the case of adoption or other family members raising kids who are not their own, can have their infants baptised using the rational that they will raise them up as Catholics then why couldn't a man, for example, have his family baptised, even if they do it to get free food and dental care, if he promises to have a Catholic home too? You may be aware of the biblical nature of this from many stories in the bible where the patriarch of the family said things such as, But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.’”

    Good question. I would also point to passages which suggest more directly what you are asking…such as instances in the New Testament where someone is baptized and “his whole household with him.” (Like Paul’s jailor in Acts) It would seem that a man who is responsible for others in his care can influence and direct the spiritual formation of those under him. Now we could discuss the social structures of those times, the patriarchal systems that were in place, and cultural influences that may have shaped this practice of whole households being baptized, but that would again open up a huge discussion. The immediate point is that “households” would include children and even infants. So it is not unlikely that infant baptism may have been practiced at this early date. Certainly we can say that conversion involved the whole community or the whole family, and not just an individual.
    Also in the New Testament baptism does not seem to imply that full knowledge of the faith is always present in an individual, or that the person’s journey is complete (Acts 8:15-17). Usually other gestures such as laying on of hands (what we would call Confirmation in the Catholic Church) is associated with the gift of the Holy Spirit and a fuller growth into the faith.
    Any way you look at it, the Church has never just baptized and then abandoned the individual to fend for themselves. Baptism implies that an effort will be made to instruct that person and encourage their spiritual development. Baptism is not just a commitment on the part of an individual, but also a commitment on the part of the community to accept and nurture that individual in the future. It is primarily the parents’ responsibility to do this for a child, and in no way does the baptism imply that the child’s journey is complete. He or she may freely walk away from the Church as an adult, but baptism signifies the community’s openness to that individual as a child of God and it bestows God’s Grace as a seed planted and ready to be watered.
    As to whether free health care and other services can be an incentive for baptism...If the person is only doing it for that reason, then I'm not sure their heart is really in it. They should convert because they really believe. If the missionaries require conversion to receive the services, then shame on them. That is coercive, and does not respect the dignity of the person or the Sacrament. If however, the free services done by missionaries shows forth the light of Christ (care for the least of our brothers), and the person being helped sees this and wishes to become Christian so that he too can be a light to others, then it is a great blessing. No matter what though, baptism is only the beginning of the journey and he must be committed to a Christian life.

    I hope that answers everything more thoroughly.
    Thomas

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  17. Much better.
    So you see infant baptism as more of a ceremony of commitment of the family rather than the outward sign of commitment of the person themselves.

    In the protestant world the model for baptism is Christ. Ephesians 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Specific to personal commitment to walk with the Lord.

    In the majority of Protestant denominations, child dedication is a symbolic ceremony undertaken by Christian parents soon after the birth of a child. Some churches have several couples and children participating at the same time. The rite is intended to be a public statement by the parents that they will train their children in the Christian faith and seek to instill that faith in them. The congregation often responds through responsive reading or some other method to affirm that they, as a church family, will also seek to encourage the parents to bring up the child in the faith. There is no implied salvation in the ceremony and it varies from church to church.

    The idea of dedicating a child to the Lord is found in the Bible. Hannah was a barren wife who promised to dedicate her child to God if He would give her a son (1 Samuel 1:11). Luke 2:21 begins the account of Mary and Joseph taking Jesus to the temple after eight days in order to dedicate Him to the Lord. This was slightly more involved since it involved circumcision, but once again this ceremony did not indicate any level of salvation.
    Are there salvic expectations in the infant baptism you are familiar with?
    What do you know of the change from adult baptism and baby dedications to infant baptism and only adult baptism of converts?

    To me it does seem more failthful to the biblical practices to do the dedications and baptisms as written.

    I see where you envision the same intent in a lot of ways.

    Let me ask you this. In terms of church membership. Is an infant classified as a member and used in the accounting of how many members the church has at his baptism?

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  18. On another note. I just watched the season premier of Secrets of the dead; Michelangelo revealed on PBS.
    A fascinating look into that time period. I remember you lamenting the protestant split as if they didn't even try and reform the church. In fact they tried, to the point of their own lives and were defeated by the efforts of Cardinal and later Pope Caraffa.
    The direction of the church for ill or good in term of reform at that time was decided by 1 vote. That is the margin Cardinal Pole lost the Papal vote by. Cardinal Caraffa worked to vilify Cardinal Reginald Pole so he himself would be elected. Julius II had recommended Cardinal Pole to be his successor on his death bed. Cardinal Pole was among the reform minded Catholics known as the spirituali who wanted to reform within the church and not split. Had the spirituali advice been heeded there may well have not been a split permanent or otherwise.
    Very interesting. See it if you can and tell me what you think. Quite a lot of documentation in the piece too.

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  19. Michael,
    Sorry I haven’t checked my blog in a couple of days. I had a funeral to attend. A good friend died…he was eighty-two years old. He lived a good long life. I hope it doesn’t sound strange, but it was the kind of death where you rejoice rather than weep…he was a good man, and I have no doubts about where he is spending eternity.
    Anyway…your comments are as usual, insightful and thought-provoking…

    >>>>
    “So you see infant baptism as more of a ceremony of commitment of the family rather than the outward sign of commitment of the person themselves.”

    I would say it is both an individual as well as community event. (Excellent question, by the way.) But there is more to it than that…
    Baptism is one of the Seven Sacraments in the Catholic Church: Baptism, Confirmation, Marriage, Ordination, Anointing of the Sick, Confession, and of course the Eucharist.
    In all of these Sacraments, the primary actor or agent is God. God pours out grace through all seven of these Sacraments. So the person receiving baptism is receiving a gift from God. It is not just a ritual symbol performed by the community, but it actually DOES the thing it symbolizes…it washes away original sin and brings about a re-birth as a child of God.
    Now this gift of Grace must then be accepted and applied in our daily lives, or it can be rejected. A baby, once baptized, may freely reject the grace that is available to him/her through the Sacrament. God gives freely whether we deserve it or not; He stands ready to save us from the moment we are conceived. Baptism is the first channel of Grace available to us through the Church as instituted by Christ. The Church has a duty to baptize so that Grace can be made available to all who seek it. Whether a person accepts and bears fruit is another matter. But the community promises to nurture the child to that end.
    When a baby is born we recognize that the child is a fallen creature and in need of Salvation. By baptizing the baby, the Church community is saying that we are accepting this child into the faith by opening up this first channel of Grace. Only God can provide this grace and so God gave this power to the Church so that the Church becomes the vehicle by which God offers the world Salvation through Christ.
    Baptism is an act of the Community: Catholics do not believe that salvation is a me-and-Jesus phenomenon. We do not believe as many Protestants do that salvation boils down to a “once-saved-always-saved” event between me and God. Baptism certainly does work on an individual level, for it cleanses the soul and opens up the individual to God’s saving power, but it is done in the context of a communion of believers. At some level Baptism is an acceptance by the community of a new member. It is God building a bridge between the individual and the rest of the Christian faithful.
    It is always possible to loose this salvation, to turn away and reject the grace that has been given. A baby that is baptized can, as an adult, turn away and loose salvation if he or she does not follow through on the baptismal commitment. But by offering baptismal grace early in life, the parents, Godparents, and the community are promising to make sure that every opportunity is given for that child to experience God’s grace through the Church until he reaches maturity and is able to decide for himself. If he does turn away as an adult, his baptismal grace will always be there waiting for him to turn back and to embrace God’s gift more fully. Salvation is a process and baptism is the first step. Baptism of infants is a way for the community (the Church and the parents) to offer God’s free gift of Grace to the most helpless of God’s children. So it is a community act, but more so, it is an act of God working through the Sacrament.

    >>>>
    “In the protestant world the model for baptism is Christ. Ephesians 4:5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism. Specific to personal commitment to walk with the Lord.”

    I would say that Catholics share this view. But the “walk” with the Lord begins earlier. The family and the community of believers have a duty to begin this walk by baptizing the child. We teach the child to walk, and that “teaching” of the faith itself is a Grace-filled baptismal encounter with Christ.
    Raising a child to be a Christian is obviously the goal of all Christian parenting no matter what denomination we are speaking of. We teach our children to pray, to love Jesus, to be good stewards, to obey the Commandments, etc. Catholics just believe that baptism is the means by which God is actively involved in this whole process. Baptism comes first so that these instructions in the faith can have God Himself (His baptismal presence) as their foundation in the life of the child.
    A Protestant may teach a child all of the commands of Christ, how to do “good” and avoid “evil,” and to attend church and live a moral life. And these are good things. But they are all in preparation for the act of faith called baptism. For Protestants, preparation comes first and THEN the child can receive Jesus. For Catholics we give Jesus first and then teach the child the great and undeserved gift he has already received in his soul.
    I am not attacking the Protestant theology here, but you must understand the distinction, from a Catholic perspective - baptism is not just a symbol of faith, but actually transmits the faith to the child Sacramentally. It is more than a mere symbol; it imparts God’s grace and makes God present to that child. Catholics believe that baptism brings God into the picture in the beginning of the educational process and the instruction we give is an “acting out” or “unfolding” of the baptismal graces. So when we teach our children to obey God and to pray and to go to church, etc…we are encouraging the growth of baptismal grace already present and available to that child.

    >>>>
    “In the majority of Protestant denominations, child dedication is a symbolic ceremony…The congregation often responds through responsive reading or some other method to affirm that they, as a church family, will also seek to encourage the parents to bring up the child in the faith. There is no implied salvation in the ceremony and it varies from church to church.”

    The Catholic baptismal ceremony is similar in structure (we too respond to prayers and invocations, and promise to help raise the child in the faith), but you have pointed to the key difference: Protestants see symbolism…but Catholics believe that baptism pours out God’s grace and causes a true change in the child’s status…he becomes a child of God and Grace is made available to him. Whether that grace is accepted later in life and lived out by the child is up to him or her ultimately, but the community expresses its commitment to ensure that every possible opportunity is made available so that the child can do just that. So the difference is that Catholics see baptism as MORE than a symbol…it is an act of God imparting grace into the one being baptized. In the case of an infant, the parents and Godparents assume the responsibility for encouraging growth into this sacrament, and the rest of the community assures their support as well.
    As I said before…Catholics believe that salvation is not merely an individual “me-and-Jesus” event. Mankind is saved as ONE Body – the Body of Christ – which is a shared community of faith. We are saved by being “incorporated into the Body of Christ” rather than “by faith alone” or as individuals alone. It is a bigger view of salvation, and the Church plays a vital role in that process. I am not saying that “faith” is not required. One’s acceptance of faith is extremely important (which is why a person can loose salvation by rejecting faith even if one is baptized), but salvation means being drawn into the community of believers. That means a “process” of maturing and not just a one-time act of faith. We must find our place in the Body and answer the call of grace. This is a process of maturity that is directed toward the building up of the Body of Christ and not just the “individual” out on his own operating under “faith alone.”
    I would point you toward the full context of the passage you cited above:
    Ephesians 4:4-7,11-14
    “…you were also called to the one hope of your call; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all. But grace was given to each of us according to the measure of Christ's gift…And he gave some as apostles, others as prophets, others as evangelists, others as pastors and teachers, to equip the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of faith and knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the extent of the full stature of Christ, so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery…”
    Paul is writing to Christians already baptized, but he recognizes that they must yet mature in the faith. (Elsewhere he writes of giving “milk” because the people are not yet ready for “meat.”) He writes here of “infants” as a metaphor (not literally, obviously), yet this is an acknowledgement that a certain growth in our baptism is required. Our living out of our baptismal calling is all directed toward the building up of the Body in all of its various parts. As we live out our baptismal commitment we are absorbed into this Body and discover the role that we are assigned by our “call” from God.
    Baptism is not a one-time symbolic act, but a lived out experience within a community. By accepting God’s grace imparted to us in baptism we mature and live out that call and build up His Body toward the salvation of all. As Paul continues: “…living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, with the proper functioning of each part, brings about the body's growth and builds itself up in love.” (Ephesians 15:16)
    So by baptizing infants we add to Christ’s Body, and then the child must live out that baptismal commitment as only he or she can and mature as full members in God’s grace.

    >>>>
    “The idea of dedicating a child to the Lord is found in the Bible…This was slightly more involved since it involved circumcision, but once again this ceremony did not indicate any level of salvation. To me it does seem more failthful to the biblical practices to do the dedications and baptisms as written.”

    Actually I think the act of circumcision carried with it more than just a symbolic gesture for the Jews. I think a closer study would reveal that circumcision was very much identified with being marked as child of Abraham and carried with it much religious meaning. Circumcision was powerful enough to cause a debate within the early Church concerning circumcision and salvation between Gentile and Jewish converts. For Jews you could not be a Jewish man (a member of the chosen people of God) without being circumcised. It was a sacred act mandated by God. It was required by God’s Law.
    The dedication ceremony you describe as performed by Protestants is optional. Circumcision was not an “option” for Jews…it was required in the Old Testament. So I would say that the parallel between infant baptism and infant circumcision is very much the way Catholic infant baptism is carried out. A Jewish child was ritually accepted into the community, not as an “optional” “symbolic” act, but as a required exercise of the Law. Likewise infant baptism is an act of the New Law under Christ. Baptism is mandated in the New Testament and it imparts God’s grace. Through baptism we are marked as children of God, just as the Jews were required to circumcise so that they would be marked as children of Abraham.

    >>>>
    “Are there salvic expectations in the infant baptism you are familiar with?”

    Yes…but as I explained above, the Salvific grace made available through baptism must be accepted and lived out by the child throughout his or her life. One cannot believe that “once-saved-always-saved” holds true – that is a false doctrine. A child can always reject salvation as they live out their lives. Baptism makes grace available but does not force the person to accept salvation or magically save us against our will. Also the other Sacraments work toward strengthening our commitment and give more grace throughout our lives. Again it is a process and baptism is the first step on that walk with Jesus.

    >>>>
    “What do you know of the change from adult baptism and baby dedications to infant baptism and only adult baptism of converts?”

    Infant baptism comes down to us from ancient times. (An exploration of the doctrine surrounding baptism could lead us into a huge discussion…but as the doctrine developed, infant baptism became standard practice in the Church in the early centuries.)
    The idea of baby “dedications,” the way you describe them and from what I have read, is a more recent phenomenon that some Protestant groups created to give parents a way of witnessing to their commitment within the community.
    Many of the early Reformers followed infant baptism (as Catholics do) immediately after their break with the Catholic Church. The practice of infant dedications came later…I don’t really know much about “dedications” beyond that.
    Also I would add the following….The Catholic Church certainly does baptize adult converts. But if the adult convert was baptized in another denomination earlier in life we also recognize that baptism as valid and we do not re-Baptize. We acknowledge that (just as with infants) God was working in that baptism to call the person to the Church even if he or she did not fully acknowledge Catholic doctrine while in that other denomination. Again, baptism does not require a fully developed Catholic faith. It is a sacrament that is “grown into.” Baptism imparts grace and then the person must accept and embrace that grace throughout his or her life. This takes years and is always ongoing.

    >>>>
    “Let me ask you this. In terms of church membership. Is an infant classified as a member and used in the accounting of how many members the church has at his baptism?”
    Yes, I am pretty certain they are.

    >>>>
    “I remember you lamenting the protestant split as if they didn't even try and reform the church. In fact they tried, to the point of their own lives and were defeated by the efforts of Cardinal and later Pope Caraffa.”

    The “reforms” called for by Protestants during the Reformation were not just “reforms” – they involved eliminating doctrines long held by the Church, and Protestants wished to re-organize the Church so that it would no longer be the same institution.
    I’ll give an analogy for comparison: If some political group in the U.S called for “reform” of the government, and they said that what they meant by “reform” was to write a new Constitution and throw out everyone who was currently in public office so that they could re-structure the nation as they saw fit…that’s not “reform” – that’s a Revolution.
    True Reform may encompass a change in current practices or an alteration of certain procedures to eliminate abuses…True “Reform” does not dismantle the very structure of the organization so that the organization ceases to exist.

    >>>
    “The direction of the church for ill or good in term of reform at that time was decided by 1 vote. That is the margin Cardinal Pole lost the Papal vote by. Cardinal Caraffa worked to vilify Cardinal Reginald Pole so he himself would be elected. Julius II had recommended Cardinal Pole to be his successor on his death bed. Cardinal Pole was among the reform minded Catholics known as the spirituali who wanted to reform within the church and not split. Had the spirituali advice been heeded there may well have not been a split permanent or otherwise.
    “Very interesting. See it if you can and tell me what you think. Quite a lot of documentation in the piece too.”

    Interesting…
    I did some brief research on these names and events, and I was unable to find anything like what you described occurring. According to what I found on Reginald Pole, for instance…he was an English Cardinal during the Reformation. He was very much a supporter of Papal authority and refused to accept Henry VIII’s divorce or the king’s claim as head of the Church of England. He went into exile in France for his refusals and his family was punished and some of them executed for the Cardinal’s faithfulness to the Catholic Church. (So, Protestants were not the only ones who died for their faith.) Anyway, I don’t think Pole was a sympathizer with the Protestant view on church doctrine or authority.
    Also, the successor to Julius II was Leo X (a.k.a. Giovanni de’ Medici NOT Cardinal Carafa). This Cardinal Carafa (or the only one I could find by this name) I also looked up, and he was guilty of murder, and other vile acts; he was banished from Rome by the Pope and was eventually arrested for, among other things, abuse of power, and was ultimately executed for his crimes.
    …But let’s say for the sake of argument that things happened the way you described. Let’s say that the Church was saved from Protestant tampering by only one vote…I would say, Thank God! Without that one vote the Church would have been dismantled and God’s people scattered. But God kept His promise and saw us through that dark time.
    Like I said, I couldn’t find any information that matched what you said. Are you sure you got the names right?

    Thomas

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  20. I just saw the program on PBS and I cant claim a photographic or perfect memory. I'll give you the link to the program and hopefully you can see it when you have time.
    http://www.pbs.org/wnet/secrets/episode-home/michelangelo-revealed
    You can actually see the whole program on this website.

    You raise an interesting area of thought.
    Since you believe grace can only be offered throught the 1st phase of baptism, it would seem critical for the church to baptise as many people as possible since those who dont get baptised would'nt (I assume again sorry,)have access to God's grace.
    That would seem an important tie in to the need for missionary work and evangelism
    You yourself say, "The Church has a duty to baptize so that Grace can be made available to all who seek it."
    That, to all who seek it can be an escape clause. How is someone who never heard of Christ or met a Catholic supposed to seek out a priest so they can recieve grace?
    I agree once saved always saved is completely wrong and cheap.

    I'm going to watch the PBS thing again. I thought it that interesting.

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  21. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11581a.htm

    Pope Paul IV

    GIOVANNI PIETRO CARAFFA

    And it was Pope Paul III that reccommended Pole to succeed him.

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  22. This is a partial quote from the Catholic encyclopedia about Caraffa.

    "For the party of Pole, Contarini, and Morone he had the most heartfelt detestation; and his elevation boded them no happiness. ..(snip)

    He reorganized the Inquisition in Italy on papal lines and for a generation was the terror of misbelievers. How so austere a person could be chosen pope was a mystery to everyone, especially to himself. ....(Snip)

    Paul IV elevated to the cardinalate his nephew Carlo Caraffa, a man utterly unworthy and without any ecclesiastical training, and enriched other relatives with benefices and estates taken from those who favoured the Spaniards. At the end of the unfortunate war with Philip II the aged pope lost faith in his nephews and banished them from the Court. Still more disastrous were his relations with England, which had been reconciled to Rome by Mary, and Cardinal Pole. Paul IV refused to sanction Pole's settlement in regard to the confiscated goods of the Church, and demanded restitution. Pole himself was relieved by the pontiff of his legatine office and ordered to come to Rome to stand before the Inquisition. Upon the death of Mary and Pole, he rejected Elizabeth's claim to the crown, on the ground that she was of illegitimate birth. His activity was more fruitful in the spiritual concerns of the Church. He could boast that no day passed without seeing a new decree of reform. He made the Inquisition a powerful engine of government, and was no respector of persons. The great Cardinal Morone was brought before the tribunal on suspicion of heresy and committed to prison. Paul established the hierarchy in the Netherlands and in the Orient.

    The pontificate of Paul IV was a great disappointment. He who at the beginning was honoured by a public statue, lived to see it thrown down and mutilated by the hostile populace. He was buried in St. Peter's 19 Aug., 1559, and was later transferred to S. Maria sopra Minerva."

    Does this sound like the kind of Pope that you feel saved the church?
    "The pontificate of Paul IV was a great disappointment."

    "Let’s say that the Church was saved from Protestant tampering by only one vote…I would say, Thank God! Without that one vote the Church would have been dismantled and God’s people scattered. But God kept His promise and saw us through that dark time."

    Yeah, pretty dark time all right.

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  23. Michael,

    >>>>
    “Since you believe grace can only be offered through the 1st phase of baptism, it would seem critical for the church to baptise as many people as possible since those who dont get baptised would'nt (I assume again sorry,) have access to God's grace.”

    Actually, the Church does not claim that grace can ONLY be received through the Sacraments. The Sacraments are the channels of Grace given to the Church, and instituted by Christ, for the purpose of pouring out sanctifying Grace. They are a sure means of receiving Grace. But God can operate as He wishes outside of these Sacraments. The Sacraments are merely the “guaranteed” channels of Grace…God can give grace through other means.
    In other words, we are bound by the Sacraments – they are given to us so that we can turn to them for Grace….but God is not limited to operating only in this way – He may call people to Himself as He sees fit. God remains un-bound in His Love. He may enter into a person’s soul and pour out Grace in their lives if they turn their heart toward Him.
    The Sacraments are an action of the Church (instituted by God) that can be testified to Biblically and through Tradition. They can be shown as legitimately coming from God. They can be pointed to as true signs of God’s Grace…but when God works in mysterious ways outside of the Sacraments it is difficult for us to point to these moments and definitively say, “Yes, this is a moment of Grace.” We must hold out hope that God can reach people in this way, but we must also stay true to the Sacraments we have received.
    It is critical for the Church to reach as many people as possible so that each person can have access to the sure signs of Grace that are found in the Sacraments rather than relying on a “maybe” of some other means of reaching God.

    >>>>
    “That would seem an important tie in to the need for missionary work and evangelism
    You yourself say, ‘The Church has a duty to baptize so that Grace can be made available to all who seek it.’”

    Absolutely. Evangelization is important. We must reach as many as possible with the message of the Gospel and give them access to the Sacraments so that they can be incorporated into Christ’s Body. We must allow them to gain access to these channels of Grace provided by God as sure signs of His Presence, because a “sure” sign of His presence is better than a “maybe.”
    However, when doing this we must always respect the possibility that God may in fact have already been at work in their hearts. Conversion is first and foremost a working of God’s Spirit in a person’s soul and this can happen outside of the Sacraments. Certainly Baptism provides Grace…but even an adult who has never been baptized can be open to God’s grace in converting to Christ through the working of the Spirit. This does not nullify the Grace of baptism or make it unnecessary or unimportant…it only points toward baptism and leads to it.
    God can give Grace to individuals as He sees fit, but He has given us (the community of believers) the Sacraments as a shared experience of His Grace so that the Body can be united as one. We may all come to God on different paths, called in our own unique way…but the Sacraments provide Grace in a uniform way that allows us to share in a common experience of God’s love and unites us as One Body.

    [Continued…]

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  24. >>>>
    “That, to all who seek it can be an escape clause. How is someone who never heard of Christ or met a Catholic supposed to seek out a priest so they can recieve grace?”

    I have two answers to this:
    1) It may be that that person can be reached by God outside of the Church. We do not know for certain…for God is more powerful than we, His servants. God gave us His Church so that we are bound by it, and we seek out Grace from her. But God can work in a person’s soul in ways we do not understand. It could be that such a person can be saved by the prompting of the Spirit in his or her soul, if that person is open to Love and sincerely seeks Truth. We just don’t know…it is the big “maybe” that gives us hope, but we cannot be sure, and so we must not rest on that “maybe.”
    2) Since it is a big “maybe” it makes it all the more important that we evangelize. It is better for us to trade that “maybe” for the “yes” of the Sacraments, and so we continue to push onward. We must believe that God is capable of reaching all lost sheep wherever they may be, but we must never neglect our duty to evangelize thinking that God will take of things for us. He gave us a command to evangelize – that is our duty - but I am sure He is working with us in this effort.

    Let me see if I can come up with an analogy to illustrate this more clearly…
    We are born with “dirty” souls, stained from the Fall and the sin of our First Parents. If we are thus “dirty,” then we must seek to be “cleansed.” We are in need of a “bath,” you might say. God provides us a “bath” in His Church. The proper place to bathe is in the “tub” where soap, clean warm water, and a towel are ready for our use. Think of this as “baptism” – the proper bath provided for our souls by God.
    However, some people never encounter this bath. They have not been reached by the message of Christ; they have not been preached to or offered the Sacraments. But out in the world there are many pools and streams, rivers and lakes. These are the other means by which God may reach lost souls. These waters are not the same as the clean, clear waters of baptism…one cannot be sure whether one will be thoroughly cleansed in waters that are sometimes murky, or that can be stirred up and contaminated by what is resting on the bottom, or swept away into the salty waters of the sea. These waters are out “in the world” and can be polluted. But all creation comes from God and sings His praises, and we can see a reflection of God’s Goodness in these things, however tainted they may be. Who has not rinsed soil from one’s hands in such pools and streams? These waters can offer us a glimpse of that “bath” from God called baptism, and God can use His creation (however imperfect it might be) to reach these non-Christians and offer them Grace if they truly seek to cleanse themselves. I admit that this is a “maybe”…but we must hold out hope that this is possible with God. The surety of baptism is preferred and is a promised method of cleansing. It is far better to come in for your “bath” than to wash yourself in the “wild.”

    [Continued...]

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  25. Now on to the issue of Pope Paul IV...

    “I'll give you the link to the program and hopefully you can see it when you have time.”

    Unfortunately I don’t have access to a high-speed connection to watch videos online. But thank you for the link. I’ll try to look for the show on our local PBS station.

    >>>>
    “Does this [Paul IV] sound like the kind of Pope that you feel saved the church?

    No it certainly does not. And I agree with what you now quote: "The pontificate of Paul IV was a great disappointment.”
    Now that we are a little more specific in the details, I can make my answer more clear. What I said earlier was based on the information you provided together with what little resources I found after a brief search. I was responding to the information I had, and I think I made that plain in what I said…
    Also in my defense, you had characterized the situation in a slightly different manner in your previous comments. You had suggested that Pole was of the same mind with Protestants, and that the Catholic Church may have never seen the schism created by the Reformation if things had turned out differently in this papal election.
    You said, “I remember you lamenting the protestant split as if they didn't even try and reform the church. In fact they tried, to the point of their own lives and were defeated by the efforts of Cardinal and later Pope Caraffa…Cardinal Pole was among the reform minded Catholics known as the spirituali who wanted to reform within the church and not split. Had the spirituali advice been heeded there may well have not been a split permanent or otherwise.”
    But that is not entirely true. Pole was in fact favorable toward reform, but he was also loyal to the papacy as I described above. He refused to acknowledge the King of England as head of the church in England and his family suffered terribly for his loyalty to the Church. He was not trying to “reform” the Church in exactly the same way the Protestants attempted – From what I have now read, he was sympathetic to SOME of their doctrine (especially Calvinism); but unlike Pole, there were many Protestants who refused to acknowledge the pope’s authority, and who disagreed with other fundamental Catholic doctrine and wanted to restructure the Church beyond recognition. Any “reform” supported by Pole and others like him would not have included this radical restructuring. Pole remained loyal to the concept of an authoritative Church hierarchy and other aspects of Church doctrine. The Protestant Reformation is a horse of a different color. Pole and The Protestants may have shared some ideas in common, but Pole was caught in the middle. Pole was not a “Protestant” in the sense of embracing the whole agenda of the Protestant movement.

    And I still stand by my original statement, “God kept His promise and saw us through that dark time.” The darkness may have come from both Protestantism and from within the Church’s own clergy. I have always admitted that corruption can be found in certain members of the clergy including the pope. I have no problem admitting that Pope Paul IV was guilty in this regard and shared some blame.
    But I have also maintained that God is with His Church and guides her in spite of these flaws in individual leaders. Perhaps Paul IV (with all of his flaws and bad decisions) was a blessing in disguise. Some of Pole’s ideas were heretical, and he was rightly condemned for teaching error. If Pole had been elected pope it would have been disastrous. With Pole as pope, the Church would have had a pope that taught error. Perhaps God saved us from this fate by guiding the selection of a lesser evil. Paul IV did less permanent damage than Pole would have.
    Pope Paul VI, by all accounts was not a very nice guy, but he did not teach heresy. The Church suffered under his reign, but under Pole the Church would have been destroyed from within.

    Thomas

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  26. wrote 2 posts and browser hung on both.
    Will try the readers digest version now.

    Good thoughts on baptism.

    As to Pole.

    It is incorrect to label him a heretic. He was 100 times a better person than Caraffa.
    It was only Caraffa bringing up Poles participation in writing the book, "The benafit of Christs death" where Caraffa accused him of heresy, that swayed the swing vote to Caraffa.

    So which is it?
    Caraffa, loser of history, distained by the church, acuser of Pole or,
    Pole, by all accounts of contemporaries and history, a softspoken and appealing man, generous to a fault, forsook his royal claims for a life of servanthood, chosen successor of Pope Paul III?

    See Pole as a heratic and believe Caraffas claims, renounce Paul III as a heratic too for endorsing Pole as his successor?

    An interesting dilema for you.
    Believe a liar distained by the church and history or Pope Paul III, the open book life of Pole and the judgement of history?

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  27. I have been absent far too long to remember the details of our conversation, but if I am reading you correctly, you are saying that Pole was not a "heretic" because he led a good life - he was a decent guy, and lived morally, and by all accounts was a good person. But that does not mean he taught correct doctrine. A "heretic" can be a great person morally and live an upstanding life, but he is a heretic because he teaches false doctrines. Meanwhile a horrible sinner may teach correct doctrine and preserve true teaching in the Church - he may go to hell for his personal sin, but he cannot be called a "heretic" if he taught correct doctrine.
    We have have had a few very sinful popes, but the question is not whether they were sinners, the question is whether they taught heretical doctrine. If Pole were made pope then he may have been a "good guy" and a decent fellow all around, but if he taught false doctrine it would have been disastrous for the Church.

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  28. I’ve known a lot of “nice” people who teach wrong doctrines. The Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses that come to my door are usually nice people. In fact, Mormons are known for their moral teaching and family values. If the expectation we have of the pope is that he be a “nice guy,” then why not elect a Mormon?
    The problem is Mormons teach heresy. We expect the pope to teach right doctrine. He SHOULD ALSO be a good Christian and a “nice guy” – but if he is NOT then that is a matter of his own personal sin and not a matter of right governance of the Church in teaching the Faith. A sinful pope may create scandal in the Church and may drive people away (and that is a serious thing in itself) but it does not corrupt doctrine (which would create a more serious problem if we intend to pass on Truth).

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