Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Quote of the Week

"The Lord was Baptized, not to be cleansed Himself, but to cleanse the waters, so that those waters, cleansed by the flesh of Christ which knew no sin, might have the power of Baptism."
- St. Ambrose of Milan

Monday, February 27, 2012

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to start the week...

So, my unofficial and unscientific observations have told me that the new Mass translation has finally been sinking in for most Catholics. Nearly everyone gets the "And with your spirit" response, with a few stragglers who twist their tongues at the last minute when they catch themselves saying the old "And also with you." (I admit I've been guilty of that myself.) It seems that the Creed is followed pretty faithfully, with all of its changes. And the Sanctus and the Agnus Dei are easy enough to get right, especially when the choir takes the lead. But the one change that seems to throw people for a loop is: "Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof..." For some reason everyone seems to freeze up. Usually, after a silent pause, a few people start to mumble through it and eventually everyone else catches on and finishes the response. But it looks like that one is going to be awkward for a few more weeks.

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I had to go to Mass twice on Sunday... once in the morning at our church, and again in the afternoon at our house when our 8-year-old son said "Mass" in our basement. He and I built an altar out of cardboard boxes, complete with a tabernacle. I wrote a simplified 'Order of Mass' booklet for him to follow. And he used my wife's bathrobe and an old table cloth (cut to fit) as vestments. It was a twenty minute service, but reverently done... He faced the liturgical East, by the way. That was his decision - he designed the altar with that in mind. Next time we might introduce some Latin. ;)

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I've been trying to keep up with regular blogging since I slacked off during Christmas. So far, so good. However, during Lent I do try to limit my time on the computer (as well as TV and other media devices). So bear with me... my blogging may suffer.

Friday, February 24, 2012

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...

He who knows the story - "There were a lot of reasons I ended up converting to Christianity. It was a years-long process in which I searched and asked questions and read a couple of shelves full of books. But one of the key turning points in my journey was that moment when I realized that this belief system understood the human story better than any other."

When Does Lent End? - [Interesting question... technically, liturgically speaking, the answer is Holy Saturday Mass commemorating the Lord's Supper. This begins the Triduum, which is its own liturgical celebration apart from Lent. But we do continue to fast and abstain through this period.]

Ash Wednesday, Fasting, Abstaining, and You - [By the time of this posting the information in this article is old, but still worth reviewing.] "You should by now have a plan for your spiritual life and your physical/material mortifications and penitential practices during Lent. You would do well to include some works of mercy, both spiritual and corporal."

What Does Jesus Mean by Hypocrisy? It’s Deeper than You Think - "The modern notion is that a hypocrite is someone who says one thing but does another, a person who is two-faced, who is inconsistent or phony. Jesus’ teaching on Hypocrisy does not exclude this notion but is far richer."

Santorum vs. Obama: The Debate America Needs - "Santorum’s life and political career remind America of what George Washington, Alexis de Tocqueville, and Benedict XVI each have expressed so clearly: the character and decency of America – and with them her greatness as a nation – depend on her citizens’ religiosity and commitment to Judeo-Christian morality."

The Rosary Crusade for Santorum gathers pace - [This from a blogger in Europe.]

The Message on Contraception, Without Apology - [Great little feature about a Catholic priest in Massachusetts. We need a lot more priests like this.]

Father, We're Ready for that Homily on Contraception Now - "Just as the tide has turned on the issue of abortion, I see it turning with contraception too. Even non-Catholics are conceding that that the Church may not be totally crazy when it says that artificial birth control is neither good for the individual nor for society."

Thank you President Obama for making Catholics more Catholic… - "We hear a lot about the need to believe God loves us and to be loving and forgiving and most of us take those words to heart and try to advance in those respects. But we don’t hear priests preach on moral topics."

Obama Contra Ecclesia - "We’ve grown too comfortable with the quiet atrocities decimating western Christendom. Francis Cardinal George, a prominent member of the U.S. episcopate, remarked recently, 'I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.'"

Papal States are guarantee of popes' legal and political independence - "Why does the Pope need his own territory? Why can't he just be a simple Italian citizen? I'll give you several good reasons..."

Cardinal Timothy Dolan: Could He Become Pope?  - [Interesting video. Worth watching...but I doubt it will happen.]
Same-sex marriage views in the Catholic Church are rooted in the Scriptures, teachings of Jesus Christ - "The bishops’ seemingly unpopular opposition to same-sex marriage is not based on their desire to 'make church law into state law;' rather, they are guarding the nature and mission of marriage as established by God in the order of creation as the lifelong union of one man and one woman for the good of their union and the procreation of children. On this basis, the Church and the state have no authority to redefine marriage."

HHS and soft totalitarianism - "It is no exaggeration to describe that cast of mind as 'soft totalitarianism': an effort to eliminate the vital role in health care, education and social service played by the institutions of civil society, unless those institutions become extensions of the state."

Hysterical Abortion Advocates Equate Ultrasounds To Rape - [It's this kind of moral deceit that "The real outrage, of course, has absolutely nothing to do with women supposedly being raped. This is entirely about the simple fact that pro-aborts know that for many women, seeing an ultrasound or hearing the heartbeat will be a game-changer."

On the Religious Speech of Two Presidents and How the Modern Demand for a “Religion Free” Public Sector is Extremism - "These quotes do not indicate that these Presidents were perfect Christians, or that they were never critical of some aspects of religion, but they do indicate that, as Presidents, Washington and Lincoln understood the importance of religious faith for this country, and were quite comfortable articulating both the need for faith and its benefits."

Bleaching the Bible - [Uuug!!] "In an over-reaching gesture of solidarity that boggles the mind, some mainline Christian organizations are changing their Holy Scriptures to avoid offending Muslims."

 Bishop's barroom musings brew up controversy - [Read this to see what kind talk will get you kicked out of a bar... It might surprise you.]

Time Magazine Op-Ed: Perhaps “Some Time in Jail” for Catholic Bishops Defending Religious Liberty - [Typical leftist tactic - silence opponents, and if that doesn't work then make their opposition a  criminal act.]

During the weeks of Lent I will not be on the computer as frequently as I normally am, and so my list of headlines may be smaller than usual. As with every Friday issue of "Last Call", feel free to post more headlines in the comments section below.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Random Thoughts of Sola Scriptura, Part VI

As we stated in Part V, many Protestants who embrace the “Bible Alone” doctrine insist that they do not need a Church to “spoon feed” them doctrine. According to Sola Scriptura, each individual Christian can read and interpret Scripture for himself.

As we have already seen, there are many problems with this idea, not least of which is that, for the vast majority of Christians throughout history, illiteracy was a problem - you cannot read and interpret Scripture on your own if you cannot read in the first place. Most Christians for most of history were unable to read. Also there are language barriers to overcome. Supposing someone can read and write then he must also have a Bible that is translated into his native language. This means that he must rely on those who do the translating to get the text right. Otherwise he must learn the ancient languages in which the Bible was originally written – quite a challenging undertaking. So too we must consider that until the invention of the printing press, hand-written manuscripts of the Scriptures would have been impossible for the average Christian to afford.

So for most of Christianity, the illiterate, uneducated, poor Christians (which is pretty much all of them) were unable to follow what Protestants claim to be authentic Christianity - using Sola Scriptura as their guide. Apparently there were no “authentic” Christians until the Reformation 1500 years after Christ.

What makes the Protestant notion of Sola Scriptura even more puzzling is that the earliest Christians (even the wealthy, literate, well educated ones who could afford to have manuscripts and be able to read them) did not have a “Bible” as we know it today. The books of the Bible were not sorted and compiled together into one Book for at least three to four hundred years after Christ.

Put simply: The Bible did not drop down from Heaven, bound in leather, trimmed in gold, and translated into every Christian’s native tongue. The writings that we call Scripture did not compile themselves into one volume, nor did God’s hand miraculously reach down from on high to shuffle the manuscripts into their proper order, excluding the false books and including only those that contain His Word. Truth be told, the formation of the Bible into one book (or canon) was a lengthy and laborious process. For at least the first few centuries A.D. Christians had no defined canon of Scripture. Some early Christians recognized more books than we have today. Others had fewer. Some wished to exclude the Old Testament entirely. Some included not only the Old Testament but also multiple false “Gospels” as well as other Christian writings of questionable origins. Some had nearly exactly the canon we hold today, while others lacked only a few books. It was not at all a settled matter.

So if the Protestant notion of Sola Scriptura had been applied in early Christianity, the question would then be: “Which Scripture are we to follow?” And there was no definite answer to that question. For the first few centuries of Christianity there was no “Bible” (at least not as we know it today).

So where did the Bible come from?

The history of the Biblical canon is long and complex. For our purposes here (being only a brief reflection on Sola Scriptura) it will suffice to point out one fact: The absence of a Biblical canon in the first few centuries, and the eventual formation of a canon at a later date, tells us that some other locus of authority (i.e. not Sola Scriptura) was necessary during that period for the purpose of teaching doctrine. There had to be a mechanism in place which possessed the proper authority to collect the writings of the Prophets, Apostles and holy men, and to sort out which books would be “in” and which books would be “out.” And this center of authority had to have the power to determine authentic doctrine, to refute heresy, and to preserve orthodox Christian teaching, so that when the Bible canon was finally produced through this authority, we can be sure that it is the true Word of God and not a false book.

From what we have said in previous reflections, I think we all know that this authority was found in the Church. It was the Church which gave us the Bible, and it is the Church’s authority that assures us that the books we call Scripture are indeed God’s Word. Without the Church we would have no Bible.

So the irony of Protestant Sola Scriptura is that there would be no Bible without the Church. When Protestant Christians question the authority of the Church, when they claim that the Church is fallible that it teaches error and that they do not trust the Church to teach sound doctrine, they are questioning the very authority which ensures the soundness of Scripture itself. Sola Scriptura destroys the very foundation of Scripture itself.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Ash Wednesday, 2012

Suffering is inescapable in life. From the moment we are conceived we possess a body that is fragile - susceptible to illness, disease, injury and eventually death. Indeed, birth is the first stage in the process of dying. It is unavoidable. As surely as new life begins, we know that that same life will someday end.

Today is Ash Wednesday. The ashes on our forehead remind us that, no matter our circumstances in life – rich or poor, young or old, sick or in good health – we are all destined for the grave. “You are dust and unto dust you shall return,” – these words are among those spoken as the ashen cross is traced upon our heads.

The cross is a symbol of Christ's suffering as well as our own suffering. The cross is a symbol of the common path we must tread to arrive eventually at our end. We “take up our cross” and follow Him. It is a process, a march to our graves. Between conception and death, the life we live is filled with ups and downs. All life contains suffering. All life is marked with the sign of the cross.

But we should not despair, for the cross gives us hope - not because it brings an end to suffering, but because it gives new meaning to our suffering.

Jesus did not come to end all pain and suffering. But His suffering transforms the world. When we accept the cross we seek solidarity with the lowliest and most wretched of humanity. We search out those who suffer and find spiritual companionship. We even seek ways to suffer alongside them, and add our suffering to the redemptive act of Christ on the Cross. As we look around us and see all those fellow travelers marked with their own crosses today, we see Christ walking beside us.

If there is to be meaning in our life we must not reject suffering but embrace these moments of pain as channels of grace…just as Jesus embraced the cross for the salvation of the world, if we unite our suffering to His, then we can share in His plan of salvation, and become channels of grace to the world.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to begin the week...

Just a reminder that Lent begins this week. Two more weeks to decide how to commemorate this season of penance and sacrifice.

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Here is something I don't understand: As a faithful Catholic, Rick Santorum is mocked and openly attacked for his religious beliefs. But if you try to bring up Rev. Wright and the church that Obama belonged to for twenty years in Chicago... 'Well, that's just not fair! How dare you question his religious affiliation.'

We should go back and listen to a Rev. Wright sermon and compare it to something from Pope John Paul II or Benedict XVI - Then let's see whose religious beliefs are more radical.

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Just caught a couple of blogs that might be interesting to readers of this blog.. one for the guys and one for the ladies:
Two Catholic Men and a Blog - "Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth.  Today we need to work for a reconciliation between faith and reason." [quoting Blessed John Paul II]

Catholic Mom's Connect - "...a ministry to encourage women to celebrate Faith-filled friendships and to support each other in our God-given role as Catholic mothers."

Friday, February 17, 2012

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...

Lenten Observances in the Vein of a New Liturgical Movement - "Lent begins this Wednesday and so it is about that time to once again give our readers some considerations for their possible Lenten observances..."

Dealing with the Devil - "We may not be exorcists, but each one of us is called to engage in the spiritual battle, and we will succeed best when we take the battle seriously, and ourselves not so seriously."

How Not to Become a Catholic - [A rather long article...but clever and witty. The author is a former Presbyterian minister who converted to Catholicism. He explains tips for NOT becoming a Catholic, though he expects the readers to do the opposite.]

A Protestant Historian Discovers the Catholic Church - "I wanted to be able to show how the medieval church had left the true faith and how the Reformers had recovered it. To this end, I began Ph.D. studies in historical theology...I never imagined that Reformation Church history would move me to the Catholic Church."

What's the big difference between NFP and contraception? - "When we consider the positive impact of NFP on a marriage and the potential dangers of contraception, the most loving option becomes obvious."

19 Facts About Abortion In America That Should Make You Very Sick - [It does make you sick, but you need to know it.]

American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil - "In the 1930s, the majority of the  bishops, priests, and nuns sold their souls to the devil, and they did so with the best of intentions. In their concern for the suffering of those out of work and destitute, they wholeheartedly embraced the New Deal."

Catholic Bishops: Don’t Revise, Rescind - "The administration 'shifted' on nothing. It simply decreed that insurers, not employers, must provide 'preventive services' (including sterilization and abortifacient drugs), a shell game that has been variously and accurately described as a 'fraud' (Andrew McCarthy, in the Corner) and an 'absurdity' (the Wall Street Journal)."

The bishops' tougher response to the Obama 'compromise' mandate - "While that initial reaction was ambiguous, the bishops’ 2nd statement left no doubt that the USCCB would continue to oppose the Obama mandate."

Secularism and the HHS Mandate - [Brief post...but to the point.] "Collectivism is often very appealing to Christians who want to do good for their neighbors.  Unfortunately, collectivism is frequently a fellow-traveler of aggressive secularism with little respect for religious liberty."

The Father of Lies - "The Left realize they've lost the debate on abortion. Therefore they are moving the goalposts and deliberately making the debate about contraception."

Don't Be Deceived! Evil Obama Policy Now Even MORE Evil! - "Under the guise of making room for religious conscience, the President has actually made the policy worse—far worse."

Archbishop Dolan Wants to Believe Obama's Not Anti-Christian. But... - "That's the thing about Obama. He's all about words. You're supposed to listen to his soothing words and ignore the shank in your spleen."

Can a Faithful Catholic Run for President? - "Maybe you have to be a Sebelius Catholic or a Pelosi Catholic nowadays to succeed. But then, isn’t that a discussion worth having as well? Or are we not allowed to discuss that either?"

Chesterton's Racehorse - "If you are Catholic, you are on the right horse and this horse will ultimately win. The question becomes, will you run the race with her?"

I STAND WITH THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: 10 Pictures In Defense of the Church - [Great for sharing on Facebook or other social media outlets...]

8 Reasons to Turn Out the Lights During Lent - "...if you’re looking for something to add to your Lenten practices that will shake things up and help you see your whole life from a fresh perspective, I highly recommend turning out the lights."

Marriage Fight Continues in Washington State - "Same-sex 'marriage' was signed into law by the governor Feb. 13, and traditional-marriage groups have filed a referendum as Catholics and Christians speak up for God's plan for marriage."

The Truth About Same Sex Attraction - "I never had any idea things could be this good, that I could be so confident, that I would so often feel like smiling for no particular reason."

Same-sex attraction and the choice for the greatest good - "A major part of my struggle as a Catholic who experiences same-sex attraction has been the difficulty of wrestling with my desire for the goodness of love, relationship and pleasure that seems to be denied me by the teachings of the Church about homosexual relationships."

Should The Government Be Involved in Marriage? - "The theory that marriage does not need government is foolish and irresponsible. It is related to the even more foolish and irresponsible theory that society itself does not need government."

"Brethren in Unity" -- History in Houston As Ordinariate Launches  - "Though precluded from becoming a Catholic bishop due to his marriage, the new monsignor -- who, unlike his English counterpart, Msgr Keith Newton, has taken to donning the violet zucchetto normally reserved for bishops -- enjoys full membership and voting rights in the USCCB."

A Call to Prayer and Joyful Witness [A message from Archbishop Dolan] - "When the Holy Father presents the 'red hat' to the new cardinals, he will ask us to accept it as a sign of our readiness to shed our blood for the strengthening of the faith, the peace and tranquillity of the people of God, and the liberty and growth of the Church."

The Loss of the Apostrophe in “Valentine’s Day”: One More Victory for the Forces of Secularization - "If St. Valentine is in our minds, then we can hardly forget that the 14th is HIS day, in honor of his witness: it is Valentine’s Day, and the possessive apostrophe pays him just tribute.  To omit it is an offense against piety, if perhaps an unintentional one."

 Megadeth frontman backs Rick Santorum - [Interesting endorsement... Well, I don't like his music, but I like his politics.]

Obama to Give Catholics a Present - [This is a satirical piece that I thought was pretty funny.]

I am sure there were many fine articles I missed in this round-up. In the comments section below, feel free to add any links you found interesting.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Random Thoughts of Sola Scriptura, Part V

In Part IV we heard the complaint from some Protestant Christians that Catholics are “spoon-fed” their faith by an authoritative Church. Catholics look to the Church as the final authority on Biblical interpretation. Meanwhile “Bible-only” Christians are free to disagree with their church leaders and pastors whenever they feel that a particular doctrine is unbiblical. According them, every individual is capable of privately interpreting Scripture without turning to the Church for guidance.

So what does the Bible itself have to say about this principle?

The Apostle Paul established several Christian communities during his lengthy travels, and he taught them the faith as it had been passed on to him. He realized that this process of teaching Christian Truth is an ongoing and laborious process. The pupils (that is, we lay Christians in the pews) must be instructed by our pastors as children are taught by parents. Paul writes: “I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready.” (1Corinthians 3:2)

So, as we can see from Paul’s words, not only are Christians sometimes “spoon-fed” the faith, we must first be “bottle-fed” on “milk” if we are to one day digest the solid food of a well developed faith. The Protestant notion that every Christian can pick up the Bible and dispute his pastor is laughable when one examines the facts about the early Church.

We can be sure that Paul knew well what kind of damage could be done to souls when individuals twist the words of Scripture and misunderstand doctrine. His own words were abused by Christians of his day. On this subject of twisting the Bible, 2Peter 3:15-16 attests: “…our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given him, wrote to you, as also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures, to their own destruction.”

So we know that the Bible can be easily abused and twisted by those who are ungrounded in the faith. The Bible itself admits to this problem. And as Paul describes, there must be some preparatory work, instruction in the faith. We must be fed milk before we eat meat; we must crawl before we walk. Christians must be taught by some authority outside of the Bible, which then can help them make sense of God’s Word.

In the Acts of the Apostles, when the Ethiopian eunuch was asked whether he understood the Scriptures he was reading, he replied:  “How can I, unless someone shows me?” (Acts 8:31) We should be humble enough to answer in the same way. Many Bible-only Christians are comfortable disagreeing with their own pastors and denominations. They do not recognize the Biblical concept of an outside teaching authority. And this is the root of many division and schisms. They “distort Scripture to their own destruction.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Quote of the Week

"A woman who deliberately destroys a fetus is answerable for murder. And any fine distinction between its being completely formed or unformed is not admissible among us."
- St Basil the Great

Monday, February 13, 2012

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to begin the week...

Just gotta keep telling yourself: No matter how bad it gets, it's all going to be OK. We know who wins in the end.

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Obviously the new Health and Human Services mandate requiring that Catholic institutions pay for employees' contraception coverage has been the hot topic among Catholic bloggers and among friends on social networking sites. Here are a few thoughts based on some comments I shared on Facebook recently:
The Health and Human Services mandate requires that religious institutions pay for coverage of contraceptives and medical procedures that are considered immoral by Catholics. Everyone is free to choose whether these things are moral or not. I'm not forcing that view on anyone. But the government should also not force Catholics (or anyone else) to pay for something that is considered by us to be a sin.

Contraception is not a "healthcare" issue. It is a matter of convenience. Contraception makes it easy to have sex without getting pregnant. So to claim that contraception is somehow saving women or protecting their health is false. All forms of contraception were designed with one goal in mind - to prevent a child. Contraception is not "medicine." Think about it. Medicine is meant to fight a disease. By telling the public that contraception is a "medical" issue the government is making children the "disease." This is not true medicine...they are pushing an agenda that hurts children and women.

I can't stop someone from participating in this contraceptive myth. But likewise the government should NOT require that I and my Church participate.
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The contraception mandate is an egregious attack on religious liberty. Forcing Catholic institutions to pay for sin is an abomination. But the though just occurred to me, what about employers who are faithful Catholics but NOT associated with the Church? What if I, as a lay person owned a business, and I am now forced to pay for my employees contraception? Do I not have the right to object based on my conscience? The Church is right to fight against this intrusion committed by the State, but every individual business owner has a conscience that can be violated as well. Shame on every Catholic who supported Obama and the Healthcare atrocity that he has produced. We are now reaping the results.

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[Note: A fellow Catholic, disturbed by recent events, commented below and mentioned his own blog. I recommend checking out this post of his for more commentary on the HHS mandate.]

Friday, February 10, 2012

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...

Baptism etiquette requires a sober rite and a Christian name - "Benedict XVI urged parents: 'Give your children Christian names, these seal Christians with the spiritual mark that indicates the beginning of the path in the faith.'"

Bringing Christ's Church Door to Door - "Homeowners are used to members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints coming to their doors, but many Catholic door-to-door missionaries are springing up across the country for the purposes of evangelization."

The Tide is Turning, Pro-Life Movement is Now Winning - "We should be aware of how much is being done in the United States for life. The tide of history is with the pro-life cause now."

The Santorum Sweep, Thank Obama - "Simply put, he has been a superior candidate to his rivals and getting better... There has been one candidate who has stood up for life and liberty like no other candidate and that candidate is Rick Santorum."

Time To Admit It: The Church Has Always Been Right On Birth Control - "The Church teaches that love, marriage, sex, and procreation are all things that belong together. That's it. But it's pretty important. And though the Church has been teaching this for 2,000 years, it's probably never been as salient as today."

Six Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate - [A must-read from the U. S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.]

Obama administration faces backlash over rule ordering birth control coverage - "'President Obama just may have lost the election,' conservative columnist Peggy Noonan wrote over the weekend, adding, 'There’s no reason to make this ruling — none. Except ideology.'"

No, Obama is NOT looking to compromise or back down - "...Anyone who thinks otherwise is asking for a rock upside the head by year’s end."

Compromise On Religious Freedom? Never! - "How can you compromise on this question? Either the government is forcing our Catholic institutions to do this, or it isn’t. There isn’t any room in-between those two positions."

A Disturbing New Day for American Religious Liberty - "The United States government is now demanding that we 'pay for the bullet,' essentially, to assist employees at Catholic institutions to kill their children."

Spokeswoman of Evil Speaks! - "Children are not a disease, and they do not need to be prevented the way cancer or pneumonia do. While some women might have medical conditions that contraindicate pregnancy, that does not justify contraception as a means of avoiding it, and certainly the idea of recommending contraception to women in general is reflective of agenda rather than medicine."

Why the Pope's Army Will Not Kneel to the HHS Mandate - "For us Americans, it seems like there has always been a pernicious chorus in the background of our lives asking us to kneel to this or that false hope. Yet, the HHS contraception mandate was the keynote that explicitly brought the idol before the faithful and said 'Kneel or else.'"

How hedonism became America’s official religion - "In effect, we have a new state religion, a new Established Church of the United States of America, with Barack Obama as its head. It is the religion of Secular Hedonism, the worldview that sex is a sterile recreational activity, with babies thrown in as an afterthought, an optional extra, for people with quirky life-style preferences."

Young and Pro-Life? What About Pro-Marriage? - "While pro-life outreach has become a commonplace feature of campus life at many Catholic and secular colleges, many students who oppose same-sex 'marriage' think twice about speaking out."

Komen board member: new statement doesn’t mean Planned Parenthood funding will resume - [Well, I'm still confused. It sounds like they don't know which side to come down on. Personally, I would just avoid supporting the organization. Better to err on the side of NOT supporting abortion.]

I guess I'm not the only one confused: Pro-life leaders call for prayer, vigilance in wake of confusion over Komen statement

And I'm not the only one withholding my money: It Would Be Irresponsible for Pro-Lifers to Donate to Komen Now

Check out this political cartoon.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Random Thoughts on Sola Scriptura, Part IV

Protestants group themselves into distinct denominations. These denominations put forth official statements of faith and profess a belief in certain doctrines and creeds, all of which define their theology as opposed to other denominations. But at the individual level, among the men and women in the pew, one is likely to find a variety of conflicting beliefs held by members of the same group. This is because Protestantism rejects the Church as the final authority for settling doctrine, and this naturally causes Protestants to question the authority of even their own denominational church on matters of doctrine.

And so, adding to what we have already seen in Parts I, II, and III of this series, Sola Scriptura not only causes division and confusion between denominations, but also within the denominations themselves. Each man and woman becomes his or her own final authority on biblical interpretation. If the “Bible Alone” is to be their guide, then each man and woman is left alone to interpret the Bible as they see fit. If Martin Luther can defy his own Church and claim private interpretation as his rule of faith, then so too can very man and woman in the pew.

A Protestant friend of mine once visited a large Evangelical church for Sunday worship at the invitation of a family member. At first he felt as though he shared a common faith with the people around him. He felt as though they were all worshipping the same God, and believing essentially the same things about that God. And so they were worshipping as one. That is until they came to the Communion service. As they each took a little cube of bread and a tiny paper cup filled with grape juice, he noticed that each person received these elements with a different attitude. Some had a sense of reverence and solemnity that was visible on their face and in their mannerisms. Others were casual in their approach, chewing the bread as though it were no more than a snack they bought at a movie theater, and slamming back the juice like shots in a bar. Some prayed afterwards, some turned to chat with their neighbors. Everyone seemed to have a different sense of what was taking place.

[I might add here that the practice of shot-glass communion and trays of bread-cubes or crackers passed around on platters adds a certain symbolic individualism to Communion as well. No one is asked to come forward to receive. You can “stay where you are” and communion will be dispensed to you in neat little packages. Just as they are not required to physically leave their seats or drink from the same cup, these same Christians feel no need to move from their theological positions or to drink from the church’s wisdom when they are in disagreement with the church or with one another. They “stay where they are” and drink their own cup. This practice has become very popular among many Protestant denominations. And I think it shows an indirect link to the individualism of their faith.]

After this experience, my friend began to notice the same sort of things in his own Methodist church. Eventually he asked his minister about the official Methodist teaching on certain doctrines. But the answers that he received only revealed to him that his own beliefs were at a variance with the official Methodist teaching. And conversations he had with fellow Methodists revealed further disagreements. These issues gnawed at him until his death a few years later. He struggled with how a church can be a “church” when its members fail to see eye-to-eye on so many doctrines.

Unfortunately, for the vast majority of Bible-only Protestants this crisis of faith, as experienced by my friend, never enters their mind. They either float through their faith unaware of these doctrinal differences, or they justify it as I have been told during online debates: “If my preacher teaches something that I think is unbiblical, then obviously he is wrong and the Bible is right. I have no problem disagreeing with him or anyone else in my church, because I don’t need a church to spoon-feed me my faith.”

Or to put it more succinctly: Personal interpretation trumps the Church’s authority to teach doctrine.

In Part V we will explore this idea further.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Quote of the Week

"Just as in one man there is one soul and one body, yet many members; even so the Catholic Church is one body, having many members. The soul that quickens this body is the Holy Spirit; and therefore in the Creed after confessing our belief in the Holy Spirit, we are bid to believe in the Holy Catholic Church."
- St. Thomas Aquinas

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Random Thoughts on Sola Scriptura, Part III

As discussed in Part I and Part II, the Protestant doctrine of Sola Scriptura does not protect the ancient Christian faith – instead it opens the possibility of widespread heresy. Nor does Sola Scriptura bring about unity among Christians – rather it divides Christians into denominational sects and causes endless schism. History has shown that the introduction of the “Bible Alone” Protestantism has brought about unprecedented divisions in the Body of Christ and has resurrected ancient heresies mixed with new false doctrines and theologies.

Obviously Sola Scriptura does not “work” from a practical standpoint. Division and heresy are its end results. But furthermore, it is simply not a principle that was ever used by Christians prior to the Reformation. In other words it is a relatively recent invention. And I mean “invention” in the worst possible way. It was “invented” as an excuse to depart from traditional Christian teaching and to undermine Christ’s Church.

Early Christian experience contradicts the Protestant notion of Sola Scriptura. For example, the early Church did not have an authoritative Biblical Canon. The books of the bible were not agreed to for at least the first four centuries of Christianity. Imagine if the United States existed for four hundred years without adopting a Constitution.

Thankfully the Church does not work like a nation or state. Before the Bible was compiled (in fact, before the New Testament was even written) there was already an established authority for the teaching of sound doctrine, and that authority was the CHURCH. Without an agreed to Biblical cannon there had to be some other locus of authority (i.e. not Sola Scriptura), and sure enough, the Church Fathers attest to a strong teaching authority for their bishops and under them the priest and deacons.

For early Christians, obedience to one’s Bishop was compared to obedience to Christ Himself. And these bishops received their authority through Apostolic Succession. Proving such a lineage, tracing one’s ministry back to Christ, proved the Church’s authenticity and ensured sound doctrine. That does not sound like a Protestant ecclesiology and it certainly doesn’t sound like Bible Alone Christianity.

Protestantism (for the most part) rejects Apostolic Succession, some even reject bishops altogether, and they reject the authority of a bishop to expound doctrine authoritatively (as “in the place of Christ” – the way the early Christians would have understood it). If you were to travel back in time and explain to a First or Second Century Christian the Protestant notion of a weak ecclesial governance and the doctrine of Sola Scriptura you would be called a heretic. And with good reason - Sola Scriptura is a heresy!

No doubt, when it comes to sound doctrine and teaching authentic Christian faith, Protestants would say that the Bible should be our pillar and foundation of truth. But the Bible itself proves them wrong. As the early Christians knew, and as Catholics believe today, for correct teaching we must look to “the church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of the truth.” (1Tim 3:15)

Monday, February 6, 2012

Monday Musings

A few random thoughts and ponderings to begin the week...

The Sunday Gospel was a good reminder for us as we approach Lent. Jesus went off to a secluded place to pray alone. Here we see the Son of God, who is Himself GOD, taking time to pray and visit with God away from other people. He often did this after performing a series of miracles (as in this particular passage) or before a great trial (such as the Agony in the Garden before His arrest). As the miracle of Christmas fades into our past and the trial of Lent and Christ's Passion lay before us, this Sunday's reading is a perfect reminder to us of our own need to step away from the crowds and spend time alone with God.

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After discussing some political and religious issues, my son (8 years old) recently commented: "I wish everyone in the world was Catholic. Then nobody would believe in abortion, and we wouldn't have any Democrats." ...If only it were that simple. :)

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So where are the new missals?! I've had one on back-order for months. And it's not just the company I'm ordering from. It seems that no store has them in stock. The pew cards are looking pretty beat up and just feel gross after so many people have handled them. I just want my own missal so I can follow all the new parts of the Mass, not just the responses that fit on a sheet of paper.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

One More Headline

Yesterday I posted my usual Friday round-up of headlines. But shortly after I posted, I ran across this well written piece by Pat Archbold over at the National Catholic Register. I wish I had seen it before posting my Friday headlines...but in hindsight, perhaps this deserves its own post. Here's an excerpt:

"Many Bishops have been speaking out and calling for Catholics and Christians of all stripes to contact the Obama administration and demand a revision to the conscience clause in the mandate. If that is their argument, they have already lost. They might win the battle, either through the courts or the election year largess of the emperor, but the war is lost.
"In order to win the argument they must change the argument. In order to change and win the argument, the battle, and ultimately the war, the Bishops need to understand that they were wrong, completely wrong. They were wrong when they supported the health care bill in the first place.

"Back in 2009, the Bishops made a show of demanding ‘amendments’ that would stipulate that no government funds would go to abortion. Given that stipulation, the Bishops Conference was completely on board with compulsory government run health care. They were completely on board with a government that can mandate that you buy something and mandate what it is you buy. In essence, the Bishops helped hand the bullets to the firing squad, and now they are shocked—shocked—when the guns now point at them.
"Lesson number one of appeasement, you cannot just give away a little of your liberty. When faced with the firing squad, you should not just hope that they aim low.

"Once you accept the government can tell you what health care to buy, you are only arguing over degrees of tyranny. That is the wrong argument. When you support the government being able to force people to buy something and force the sellers to sell only what the government wants, even out of some false sense of compassion, you support tyranny. When you support such things, you reject the liberty of the individual to say no. So, when that tyranny inevitably turns against you, you have forfeited the right to complain."

AMEN!! The bishops need to learn that you can't make a deal with the devil and expect to not get burned. Read the whole article here.

Friday, February 3, 2012

This Week's Headlines

As another week comes to an end, this is your chance to top off your glass with a final helping of news, current events, and just plain interesting stuff that may not have made into the mainstream media. A chance to linger for a few more moments before we close the door on the week. Below are some links to articles, blogs, and miscellaneous happenings that caught my eye over the past few days. Sample what you like - I'll serve up more next Friday...

The New Anti-Catholicism Movement - "...the new anti-Catholicism does not adopt the posture of a humble and teachable critic seeking to engage the Church on matters over which reasonable citizens from differing theological and secular moral traditions disagree. Rather, it seeks to employ the coercive power of the state to force the Church’s institutions to violate the Church’s own moral theology, and thus compromise, and make less accessible, the Church’s mission of charity and hope."

Catholics, Get Ready to Suffer - "Bishop Fabian W. Bruskewitz of Lincoln, Nebraska in response to the Obama administration’s contraception mandate said, 'We cannot and will not comply with this unjust decree. Like the martyrs of old, we must be prepared to accept suffering which could include heavy fines and imprisonment.'"

Inside the Mind of Evil: Obama Administration's HHS Decision - "The policy is so bad, and so certain to be reversed, that I have difficulty understanding why the Obama administration would pursue it. The jackbooted, 'jam it down your throat' approach that the Obama administration has taken in this is shocking."

Just a Reminder - "...the Obama administration’s new unconstitutional insurance mandate seems to be jolting weary and jaded voters into action.  Those who had given up on the political system and weren’t planning to vote, even with a clothespin on their noses—they’re suddenly realizing that it’s imperative to get this power-mad grand inquisitor out of office, no matter who replaces him."

This Celebrity Loves Abortion So Much She Gets Her Own Column - "Planned Parenthood makes its money selling abortions, oral contraception, emergency contraception, long-term contraception, condoms, STD treatments, and the like. When young people abstain from sex, Planned Parenthood doesn’t make any money. Like, at all."

I shouldn’t have waited for the bishops - "Think about it. If a doctor is willing to prescribe abortifacient drugs or abortifacient devices, then the doctor is willing to induce abortions. If we wouldn’t let a practicing sex offender examine our children, then why for Heaven’s sake would we let a practicing abortionist deliver them?"

Arguments Ever New - "The pro-life arguments, for many people, still come as news. Those arguments are never out of season, and we should never tire of sounding them anew. Especially in those dark places found, most likely these days, in college towns."

Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation Breaks Partnership with Planned Parenthood  - "It’s unfortunate that it took a technicality such as Planned Parenthood being under Federal investigation in order to get this partnership broken off. One would hope that if the Komen Foundation is truly focused on cancer advocacy they would understand it can only hurt their cause to ally with a group involved in such incredibly controversial behavior as Planned Parenthood."

Why My Big Family Is Not Overpopulating the Earth - "...I don’t see my children as adding to the problem; I see them as contributors to the solutions of the future." 

“Single Issue” Voting Returns–with a Vengence - "It was never actually true that culturally-conscious Catholics were 'single issue' voters. We have considered the other issues, and we concluded they are outweighed by widespread child-murder."

From Chick Flicks to Purgatory  - "In our casual culture, it’s common to act as though the deceased person has already passed through any unfortunate suffering which might be imposed, and is already in the arms of the Father.  But why would we presume that?"

Being Smart Is Not A Virtue - "This isn't to promote a bunch of mental slouching. It promotes an ideal moral standard which every child can meet."

 “Occupy” Thugs Attack Catholic Girls - [Disgusting...but not surprising considering the type of people this "Occupy" movement has attracted.]

What to do if a bug gets into the chalice? - Father Z. gives a great response to the question in the title, but I also love this little tidbit: "At a very clerical supper one night we mused about the possibility of a mouse dashing across the altar after the consecration and making off with a Host. Our solution was to bless a cat, put a white stole on it, send it after the mouse, and when the cat came back, burn the cat and put the ashes down the sacrarium."

 The Domestic Church: 7 Steps to a Proper Catholic Home

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Random Thoughts on Sola Scriptura, Part II

As was said in Part I, history shows us that Sola Scriptura (the Bible Alone) has caused division and schism among Christians. Protestants who claim that Sola Scriptura was meant to protect the ancient faith are proven wrong by history itself and the endless splintering of post-Reformation Christianity. Doctrines that had been unquestioningly held dear are now up for grabs. Certainly there were divisions and disagreements before the Reformers’ time; even the ancient Church suffered schism. But the scale of division that was seen after Sola Scriptura entered the scene is unprecedented.

The previous divisions in the Church’s history were largely caused by specific heresies – the Arians, the Donatist, the Pelagians, etc. If these heresies were bad because of the division they caused, then the Protestant heresy of Sola Scriptura, with the thousands of divisions it has caused, must rank high on our list of very bad heresies.

Protestants may shout: “Wait! We do not believe in heresy. We accept the early Councils. We accept the Creeds. We are merely concerned that these early statements of faith should not be corrupted by later additions. We limit our beliefs to these early Creeds and statements of faith so that we all have common ground as Christians. And so any differences you might see between Methodists and Baptists, or Anglicans and Lutherans, etc., are few and only secondary. We all still agree to the basic statements of the ancient faith. We reject the early heresies, but by using the Bible Alone to formulate our doctrine we avoid going beyond the ancient creedal statements.”

But this is a false and dangerous approach for at least two reasons.

1) The ancient Councils and Creeds themselves were not the product of using the Bible Alone. Indeed, these are examples of an authoritative Church which met together in Council to decree which doctrines were true and which were false. The Church realized that it was not enough to have a book of Scripture to sort out Truth. It was necessary for the Church to speak with force in order to quell a heresy. So for Protestants to claim that the Bible Alone will now protect the faith of these Councils flies in the face of what these Councils actually were. They were examples of an authoritative Church defending the Bible. How can the Bible now defend itself? It simply cannot. The existence of Creeds and Councils proves that Sola Scriptura is not an effective way to formulate sound doctrine. Sola Scriptura is a departure from the ancient practice of the Church.

2) To say that Protestants actually agree to these early Councils and Creeds is itself an overstatement of reality. There are definitely Sola Scriptura churches which do adhere to these ancient sources…but there are far more that do not. Sola Scriptura sets itself up to allow for rejection of these ancient Church statements. Since the Bible ALONE is their source of authority, then anything issued by the Church (ancient or otherwise) is automatically suspect, and can be discarded if a denomination views it as unbiblical. Protestants may like to pat themselves on the back because they agree on some doctrinal basics, but those basics are shaky at best and no two denominations agree on what those basics should include or how they should be understood. So the premise itself, that Sola Scriptura protects the ancient faith of the Church, is false.

Let’s keep in mind that the Councils and Creeds were largely designed to answer heresies. They were designed to settle doctrinal controversy. And let us also remember that the ancient heretics used the Bible to make the case for their own false doctrines against what the Church taught. The Bible is a two edged sword. As we said before, the Bible cannot defend itself. But it can be used to defend heretical doctrine. Only an authoritative Church can sort out Truth from error.

Indeed, over the course of 500 years, Sola Scriptura has actually served to resurrect old heresies, so that now new life has been breathed into old lies. There are Bible Alone denominations that reject Christ’s divinity, the Trinity, the Virgin Birth and other long-held doctrines from the ancient Church. Sola Scriptura does not defend Christian doctrine, nor does it lead to authentic interpretation of the Bible. It only serves to destroy the faith and unity of the Church.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Quote of the Week

"Never read books you aren't sure about . . . even supposing that these bad books are very well written from a literary point of view. Let me ask you this: Would you drink something you knew was poisoned just because it was offered to you in a golden cup?"
- St. John Bosco