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Tuesday, June 28, 2005

St Irenaeus (130 - 202)

Yesterday was the feast of St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyons in the late 2nd century. Universalis and Catholic Exchange had nice and short articles on him. Unfortunately I cannot cut and paste what was written in their pages, so I'll try to repeat them here in my own words. For more depth, the Catholic Encyclopedia has a longer discussion about him. According to Universalis, St. Irenaeus was instrumental to the Catholic faith in having undertaken the study of all the texts that were variably being treated as God-breathed or not in his day. He critiqued each candidate, providing a valuable resource for subsequent discussions on the canon of Scripture, even those that occur in these modern days. He was also a staunch defender of orthodoxy against the heresies of Gnosticism and the Valentinians. The Catholic Exchange brief on St. Irenaeus includes among his contributions his development of the concept of apostolic succession. This was an effective method to refute the Gnostics, who claimed that some secret knowledge was necessary to salvation. It wasn't as simple as citing Scripture in those days since the canon had not yet been established. Even in St. Paul's epistles, it was necessary to cite orthodoxy, reminding the faithful to go back to the first time the gospel was preached to them. This approach basically asks the fundamental question: is this faithful to the gospel as was taught by the apostles? We can only be thankful that the canon was finally fixed in the fourth century, allowing us relative peace and tranquility. But what of Gnostics and their ilk who disregard the canon? Some today, for example, weigh in on the authority of modern scholarship, theirs anyway, when they water down the synoptic gospels and present a Jesus who was a travelling rabbi, a wise man who made no claims to divinity. They also cite gnostic concepts in their version of the gospel, including the gnostic Gospel of Thomas in their version of the Bible. What does a Christian do when heretics disbelieve and challenge the very canon of Scriptures? There can be no dialog about what the gospels say if there is no agreement as to which books and epistles are inspired by the Holy Spirit. In those centuries before the fourth century councils that determined the canon of Scripture we have today, the ordinary faithful would have indeed been easy prey to gnostic teachers. Bold and apparently full of knowledge, perhaps as suave as the modern scholar of this day and age, they could cite this gospel or that proto-gospel, this apocalypse and that epistle. They would have taught with knowledge and authority, too -- they'd be full of it, I'm sure. Thank God for the Church Fathers. Thank God for St. Irenaeus, and the work of the councils of the fourth century, who fixed the canon of Scripture for us. Tongue in cheek, I also declare eternal gratitude to the Catholic Church, by whose authority I confidently open my Bible knowing that I have an infallible collection of inerrant and inspired literature.

Sunday, June 26, 2005

Bridging Heaven and Earth, God and Man

This is probably not original but the notion came up so here goes. To some Catholics, the sign of the cross, aside from invoking the persons of the trinity, and aside from signifying our commitment to love God (forehead: mind, chest: heart, shoulders: strength), also signifies how Christ became the bridge by which we become divine. The vertical line from forehead to chest signifies God coming down to Man by the Incarnation: when God became man. The horizontal line across the shoulders is the Holy Spirit which assists us in the saving action by which man becomes divine. I just got to thinking of this tonight as something else. The horizontal line divides us from God, the gap that was made by original sin. I know that there are many people who find it hard to accept that Jesus Christ could be fully God as much as the Father and Holy Spirit are God. I want to present an argument from necessity. One cannot really accept that Christ saves people and makes them sons and daughters of God unless one also accepts that Jesus Christ is fully God as well as fully Man. How come? Think of that vertical line of the cross as a link between the unreachable Heaven far above the earth. If Jesus was not fully man, then he cannot save us since he is a line that reaches down from Heaven but does not reach all the way down to the earth. Likewise, if Jesus was not fully God, too, then he would not reach all the way up to Heaven to connect us to God. He must be a line that goes from end (God) to end (Man) if he is to save us. Cut off a portion of the bridge, on whichever end, and it ceases to bridge the gap.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Why Didn't They Do This for Terri?

The NY Times (warning: registration required, albeit free of charge) reports a death sentence overturned that blames defense for not doing its job, pretty much. Apparently, the justices thought that there was inadequate defense. Tis sad that the SC did not see fit to consider Terri Schiavo's death sentence in the same light. After all, she did not have her own counsel when Florida Judge George Greer gave legal consent for Terri's death by dehydration and starvation. Trial by jury was refused by the courts. What's more, the courts ignored oral testimony from Terri's family and best friend, that Terri would not want to die in these circumstances, while basing judgement completely on her adulterous (living with a girlfriend, and they had two kids) husband's oral testimony to the opposite. A husband who stands to gain financially (trust fund from malpractice lawsuit for her, worth $700,000 by 1998, it seems) from her death. Is this a case of justice for some?

The Void Left in His Wake

There are too many people mourning the void left in Filipino society at the passing away of Jaime Cardinal Sin. Let this not be an excuse. Not only should we pray for the Lord to send more workers, we should also discern how we might just be the workers He will send. Yet always with the same humility and courtesy that was ever seen in the actions and memorable words of Jaime Cardinal Sin. Methinks I shall keep an eye out for more of his writing. I hope there are many out there.

Jaime Cardinal Sin Dies, June 21, 2005

I will always remember this great prince of the Church as the man who courageously spoke out for truth, justice and for Christ. This man was instrumental in inspiring the people to rise up and overthrow two corrupt presidencies, using nothing but prayer and words. It is profoundly unfortunate that, despite those efforts, and the miracle of bloodless revolutions, our country remains besieged by corruption among many public officials. As Cardinal Sin had said, it is because Christ is absent from politics. As we pray for the eternal rest of Cardinal Sin in the loving arms of our Lord in Heaven, whom he served with love through his pastoral care of the Filipinos, we should also pray that the Holy Spirit will continue to assist the people of the Philippines, working miracles of conversion among the citizens and public officials, and sending more workers to build a truly Christian society.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

Explaining the Blessed Mother to Protestants

Dr. Phil Blosser does a great job here in this excellent summary. Any Protestant who's ever been at Mass must sooner or later realize that the celebration of the Eucharist -- which is the core of Catholic worship -- is all about Jesus Christ, Lord and Savior. So what about Mary? Please read Dr. Blosser's piece above. I'd also recommend Mark Shea's piece about how he settled his inner turmoils about the Blessed Mother.

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Summarized: Ethical Issues of Embryonic Stem Cell Research

Amy Wellborn over at Open Book summarizes the issues as presented in America by Fr. John Kavanaugh S.J. of St. Louis University. Please have a read. Since embryonic stem cell harvesting destroys the human embryo, it all boils down to the question of when human life begins. My own take on this is based on a simple formula: 23 + 23 = 46. What on earth does that mean? It's based on the number of chromosomes found in the gametes (sperm or egg) and their relationship with the number of chromosomes in the human DNA. The gametes each have 23 chromosomes, which is odd because, if I'm not mistaken, other cells in our body have 46 chromosomes. What's just as amazing is that we're all products of gametes whose chromosomes simply add up to 46. Since the very first product of conception is an organism with 46 chromosomes, we know it's human. But we also know that this is not just a bunch of cells belonging to the mother. Why? Because this organism, the blastocyst, has DNA that is distinct from the mother's DNA. If it isn't the mother's tissue, then what is it? The simple answer is that this is a distinct organism. And with 46 chromosomes, it can only be a human being. Arguing that this is not a human being is a stretch since a blastocyst needs only time and nourishment to become a fetus,and all a fetus needs to grow into a newborn baby is likewise time and nourishment. This is also exactly what we all needed to grow from infant to toddler to adolescent, etc. Nothing separates our being now from our being at conception. The proof is very simple: as I understand it, my DNA now is as it was at conception. Growth as a phenomenon exists in a continuum and has nothing to do with the nature of the growing entity. I am a human being now and I have been from the very beginning. What separates me from my origins at conception is simply growth -- which began at conception and will continue until my demise.

Pope John Paul II and the AIDS Crisis: Where's the Connection?

Everybody should read up on this gem from Michael Cook. Using statistics, historical data, logic and very understandable writing, Mr. Cook indisputably sinks the nasty attacks on Pope John Paul II concerning AIDS in Africa. Some samples:
 Superimposing maps of prevalence of AIDS on prevalence of Catholicism is enough to sink the link between the Catholic Church and AIDS. In the hospice which is Swaziland nowadays, only about 5 per cent of the population is Catholic. In Botswana, where 37 per cent of the adult population is HIV infected, only 4 per cent of the population is Catholic. In South Africa, 22 per cent of the population is HIV infected, and only 6 per cent is Catholic. But in Uganda, with 43 per cent of the population Catholic, the proportion of HIV infected adults is 4 per cent (9). .... A recent study of condom use in the developing world in the journal Studies in Family Planning summed up the situation with these damning words: "no clear examples have emerged yet of a country that has turned back a generalised epidemic primarily by means of condom promotion" (16). This is most clearly seen in southern Africa. High HIV transmission rates have continued despite high rates of condom use. In Botswana, says Professor Norman Hearst, of the University of California at San Francisco, condom sales rose from one million in 1993 to 3 million in 2001 while HIV prevalence amongst urban pregnant women rose from 27 per cent to 45 percent. In Cameroon condom sales rose from 6 million to 15 million while HIV prevalence rose from 3 per cent to 9 per cent. In fact, the history of AIDS in Uganda supports the Church's belief that abstinence and fidelity within marriage are actually the best ways to fight AIDS. In 1991, the infection rate in Uganda was 21 per cent. Now, after years of a simple, low-cost program called ABC, it has dropped to about 6 per cent.
Go. Read the full article. Incidentally, I blogged about the Ugandan ABC program here. That was some time ago, but it's got some interesting links that are also must-reads, including a more professional report on it. I also linked off to this research report by Dr. Edward C. Green of Harvard University with his findings on how the ABC program worked. It is significant that Dr. Green conducted his research under a USAID project. Unfortunately, his findings were shelved and a new researcher, more sympathetic to condom promotion, was brought in to replace Dr. Green.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Ten Hail Mary's for the New Agers

This morning, I saw two bumper stickers on this car in front of me.       "Voluntary Euthanasia -- It's Your Choice!"       "Goddess In Training." My first reaction was "Oh brother!" I suppose someone who believes in one's own divinity can be excused such strong opinions about grave matters despite having had no personal experience with (she was driving so I guess she hasn't euthanasia yet). However, it got me wondering: just how does a thinking human being, fully aware of one's own mortality, throw around god or goddess in reference to one's self? Well of course, the pro-euthanasia stance makes sense in such a mindset since delusions of divinity go hand in hand with an exalted opinion of self that says "I can do ANYTHING I want." Perhaps the delusion starts when one starts exaggerating one's possession of one's life. They will say, with passion, that this is THEIR life. It ought to occur to them sometime to ask themselves how it could be their life when they had nothing to do with its beginning. No one chooses to be born, and, most often, death catches us all unaware. Perhaps this illogical embrace of euthanasia is an act of protest against their having been excluded from the decision to be born. On the other hand, how can they be consulted about their birth before they are conceived, born and raised up to maturity? Make no mistake: we indeed can claim ownership of our lives but only in the manner by which we live it. Since we had nothing to do with our birth and usually as little with our death, those are really beyond our purview. We used to say things like "death with honor" to refer to having kept our integrity, principles and honor intact, until the very end. These days "death with dignity" means something far less profound. It's a grave matter, I think, when what euthanasia boils down to is expiring while denying our souls to God and handing them to oblivion instead. After all, if we exclude the Maker's role in ending our life, do we not also waive His role in bringing us to the afterlife?

Our Visiting Priest Said..

.. "and so God sent God's Son.." and, coward that I am, I could not bring myself to ask him about it. I know that someone should, but I've never been confrontational and I suspect that this will remain the case for the rest of my life. But this is not the first time he's used grammatical contortions, not to mention some liturgical abbreviations. Someone had also sabotaged the Psalms yesterday: "We are his people; the sheep of his flock." became "We are God's people; the sheep of the flock." I've never been accused of chauvanism, but this ultra-feminist thought in the Church that requires liturgical and literary contortionism is just missing the point. It's one of those cases that misses the point. It's a pettiness that focuses on form when all that energy and thought should focus instead on the substance of the equal dignity of man and woman.

Wednesday, June 08, 2005

To Protect or Not to Protect: It's a Silly Question

We protect our children from or regarding many things: unsafe play equipment, stairs, ladders, sharp objects -- so why do many folks claim that it is wrong when this protection is applied to their values? As this article explains, our kids should be protected in that regard, too. Obviously, they will face the "real world" soon enough. The secular world that doesn't know truth when it is right in front of it, keeps raising the stakes. Whether it's our TV, magazines -- the world is pouring in its gospel against God and common sense. We know that kids are not ready for many adult things simply because they can't understand it, regardless of how long you sit them down and explain things to them. I will probably be seen as overprotective and conservative, but I'm not about to neglect the care of their minds and souls, just so I could escape the stress of protecting them. By God's grace, I will raise them up ready for the real world, not by embracing it, but by teaching them what these words mean: "they are in the world, but not of the world." To do that, they must first learn that they are children of God. God willing, my sons will know that there IS truth, and that they can stand on it.

Modern-Day Heroes of the Catholic Church in the Philippines

Hats off to Archbishop Oscar Cruz of Dagupan in speaking out against acts of evil even at personal risk to himself. Truly a model of Christian courage and care for one's flock.