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Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Good Reading for Catholic Apologists

I stumbled upon this very interesting site with several good pieces on various points of Catholic apologetics. I invite all visitors to take a look. While I'm at it, I guess I might as well point out a few other references that I have in my bookmarks:

A Lengthier Response on the Purgatory

I repost (with some editing) a response I made to a comment below: It is true that the term "Purgatory" is exclusively Catholic, but praying for the dead is a practice for the Eastern Orthodox as well as the Jews. The Eastern Orthodox reject only that the purification is literally fiery and that Purgatory involves a place. That is actually acceptable to Catholics because we only use the metaphor of fiery purification based on the words of Sts. Peter and Paul (1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7), and the doctrine speaks of a state, not necessarily a place. Praying for the purification of the dead (the Mourner's Qaddish) is an ancient Jewish practice, mentioned for example in 2 Macc. 12:46. Ancient Christian literature like the non-canonical Acts of Paul and Thecla (2nd century) mention prayers for the dead, as do surviving words from Tertullian (AD 211), St. Cyprian (AD 256), St. John Chrysostom (Homilies on 1 Corinthians 41:5, AD 392), St. Augustine (City of God, AD 419) and St. Monica (4th century), and of course the oft-mentioned Pope Gregory the Great (6th century), but there is no record of any objection to the practice or the doctrine until the Protestant reformation. Here's an interesting exercise: what if we were to rephrase the doctrine of Purgatory in this manner: "All who are in God's grace and friendship must undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. .. this final purification of the elect .. is entirely different from the punishment of the damned." I deliberately edited that from the catechism of the Catholic Church which teaches that doctrine in the context of those who died in God's grace and friendship. Humor me here: let's talk about that doctrine in the context of the living who are in God's grace and friendship. Let's support that case with these:
 "Beloved, we are God's children now; it does not yet appear what we shall be, but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. And every one who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure" (1 John 3:2-3).
 Paul said he rejoiced "in my sufferings for you, and [I] fill up those things that are wanting in the suffering of Christ" (Col. 1:24). Ronald Knox explained this passage by noting that "the obvious meaning is that Christ's sufferings, although fully satisfactory on behalf of our sins, leave us under a debt of honour, as it were, to repay them by sufferings of our own." Paul did not imply there was something lacking in the Redemption, that Christ could not pull it off on his own, and no Fundamentalist misreads Col. 1:24 that way. Analogously, it is not contrary to the Redemption to say we must suffer for our sins; it is a matter of justice. -- Karl Keating
 Sanctification is the experience, beginning in regeneration, by which the believer is set apart to God's purposes, and is enabled to progress toward moral and spiritual maturity through the presence and power of the Holy Spirit dwelling in him. Growth in grace should continue throughout the regenerate person's life. (from the Southern Baptist Convention)
 Would it not beak the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleansed first.' 'It may hurt, you know.' 'Even so, sir.' - C.S.Lewis
My thesis is simple: most Christians have no problem with the concept of needing to become holy, to become pure, to conform to the holiness of God. Most Christians also believe that Christian living will involve suffering from time to time Hebrews (12:6, 11) while in no way claiming that the suffering of Christ on the cross was in any way insufficient. The notion of God's discipline is crucial because discipline is not about payment: it is about correction. It is about growth and becoming mature. It is about transformation. Jimmy Akin says: "Because we still sin in this life, but will not be sinning when we are in glory, between death and glorification must come purification." Because "nothing unclean shall enter heaven" (Apoc. 21:27). No one can hide one's muddy rags and immaturity from the God who reveals all things and sees to the heart. No one wants to stand in dirty rags in the presence of the King, petulant and immature, especially if one considers that, when we finally get our chance to do so, we do so forever. The Catholic, Orthodox and Jewish bone to pick is not the notion of purification itself, but the notion of purification after death. It seems to me that this is repelling to Protestants for a few reasons which should be reconsidered:
  • Does the doctrine of Purgatory claim a second chance for sinners? The answer is a resounding NO. Purgatory pertains only to those who die in God's grace and friendship.
  • Does the doctrine claim that Christ's sacrifice on the cross is insufficient? The answer is also a resounding NO. The purification we undergo to mature in holiness, in justification, has as its source the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. To become Christ-like is our goal. When St. Paul tells us to conform, it is to conform to Christ: his righteousness, his holiness. We already know this concerning the cross that we must take up, the obedience that is due to God, the love that we must manifest in our actions.
Apart from that, there's the natural suspicion that Scriptures do not talk about the dead undergoing any sort of transformation into holiness. Unfortunately, the Catholics and the Orthodox believe that they do. And with the Jews, our traditions do so as well, and these are traditions which pre-date Scriptures while, from our perspective, do not contradict Scriptures. The Bible does not warn against praying for the purification of the dead. One might as well look for dire warnings against those who pray for the sanctification of the living, in case such intentions are an insult to the finished work of Christ on the cross.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Readings for 28 August, 2005

 First Reading: "Then there seemed to be a fire burning in my heart, imprisoned in my bones. The effort to restrain it wearied me, I could not bear it." (Jer 20:7-9) Psalm: My soul is thirsting for you, O Lord my God.(Ps 63:2, 3-4, 5-6, 8-90) Second Reading: ".. offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God, your spiritual worship." (Rom 12:1-2) Gospel: "'Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.'" (Matthew 16:21 - 27) Commentary, from DailyGospel.org: St. Augustine warns, "You are not judging by God’s standards but by man’s.".
The homily in our parish today began with a stark, simple but often neglected truth: to be Christian today is difficult. I still find it odd when a friend of mine, an Evangelical Protestant, stops and reminds me that we need not think about the cross of Christ anymore. To him, the crucifixion of the Lord is a done deal, and we should only think of the risen Lord. We need to remember, however, that our salvation begins with the cross, and that the incredible love of God for us is made manifest on the cross. I suppose that there is a natural tendency to avoid talking about unpleasant things. But it should be increasingly obvious that the reality surrounding Christians today carries the threat of crucifixion. Our faith is increasingly held up to ridicule, contempt and open hostility, albeit with limited violence. To be Christian today is very hard. In such surroundings, having crosses to bear is a given. What sustains us is that these crosses are united with our Lord and Savior who took up the heaviest cross of all. We must form an attitude towards suffering and adversity so that the cross ceases to be a cross, as St. Josemaria Escriva has written. This is crucial because the wrong attitude will blind us to the existence of our cross or cause us to abandon our crosses. The cross is a given. Either we take them up or we turn our back on Christ. In anti-Christian surroundings, the seemingly easy life, one without a cross, should wake us up in alarm and cause us to think deeply, because this is of utmost importance. We must be wary of the perils of having become friends with the world, as St. James warns, when it is clear that the world did not love Christ and has no reason to love Christians. Something else that must be said is the need to be aware of how each and every one we meet has got his/her own cross to bear daily. It would do no good to focus on our own crosses to the point of losing our compassion for others around us whose crosses may just be heavier than ours.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Links on the Purgatory

Rand has written a piece about the Catholic doctrine of Purgatory, and he will soon write Part 2. In case you're coming from his blog, I just wanted to provide some links for further reading on the subject written by the following people whom I trust:

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Readings for 25 August, 2005

 First Reading: "May the Lord be generous in increasing your love and make you love one another and the whole human race as much as we love you." (1 Thessalonians 3:7 - 13) Psalm: Fill us with your love, O Lord, and we will sing for joy!(Psalm 90) Gospel: "'Stay awake,' .. 'What sort of servant, then, is faithful and wise enough for the master to place him over his household to give them their food at the proper time?'" (Matthew 24:42 - 51) Commentary, from DailyGospel.org: Pope John Paul II says "You must be prepared in the same way." Today's Saint: St. Louis of France, a dutiful king of the 13th century who established courts of law to dispense justice. He was known to be unusually prayerful and charitable even to the destitute in France.
In addressing the anxiety of the disciples, the Lord gives them practical advice: stay awake and be faithfully about your tasks. Exactly when the day of the Lord will come is really not important for the faithful servant. The only concern there is really in the waiting, when impatience might breed anxiety. In the first reading, St. Paul is effusive in his joy at Timothy's news about the Thessalonians' faith and love. With such faith and love, leading to holiness and blamelessness before the Lord, there is no need for anxiety about the Lord's return, but a calm joy in this, our hope, the glorious day of the Lord. An interesting choice from DailyGospel.org for their commentary are some of the late Pope John Paul II's words about his hopes and anxieties in the face of death that can take him anytime. His hopes are on Christ, and while anxious, he is hopeful: "I want everything that makes up my life on earth to prepare me for this moment." One can say that this is a healthy anxiety, the nervousness of the faithful servant who is aware of his basic unworthiness before the King but is nonetheless hopeful for his return because he knows that he has done his best. It is the nervousness of a child waiting for his parents' return, hoping for approval of his conduct (and he has tried his best to behave!) while they were away.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Roots of the Papacy: A Quick Thought

Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio gives us a brief look at the papacy in Biblical history that begins with the "Master of the Palace" or prime minister of the Davidic kings. Given the words of the Lord in Matthew 16:13-20, this is the role that was being given to Simon Peter: a rock-like foundation, just as Eliakim in Isaiah 22 is a sure peg on which to hang things firmly. It suddenly hit me while Dr. D'Ambrosio was talking about papal infallibility that even the most fired-up anti-Catholic has no problems with infallibility per se. They do, however, scoff at the idea of papal infallibility. What's the difference? The former is a given gift of certitude in truth that every Christian ascribes to certain key people, e.g., the prophets and the writers of the Bible. We can't claim that the Bible is inerrant and inspired without accepting that the writers of the Bible were infallible in what they wrote therein. Papal infallibility, however, is treated differently. To Protestants, it is not possible simply because the premise is that the Pope is the anti-Christ. I wish they'd dig a bit deeper, however, and explain how they are so sure of this. There have been over 250 popes so far in the last 2000 years, and how they could all have been anti-Christs is beyond me and beyond the evidence (or lack thereof). Another point worth making is that Protestants seem to miss a very, very crucial point that they are implying even while being unconscious of it: in opposing papal infallibility, they have no choice but to substitute but their own. Something to think and pray about.

Two Blogs to Check Out: Doxology and Catholic Pillow Fight

I found Doxology through Catholic Pillow Fight, which I found through Happy Catholic (which is already on my blogroll). Go visit them and enjoy! :-)

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Brother Roger (Roger Schultz) (1915-2005)

 Aug. 17 (CWNews.com) - Brother Roger, the founder and leader of the ecumenical Taize community, was killed by a knife-wielding attacker during a prayer service in France on August 16.    A Protestant theologian, Roger Schutz was 25 when he first set up an ecumenical house of prayer in Taize, a village near Cluny in eastern France, in 1940. At first the community was a haven for refugees-- particularly Jews escaping the Nazi regime-- during World War II. Over the years, the Taize community became established as an ecumenical monastery, with Brother Roger as its prior, and more than 100 members, including both Catholics and Protestants. The Taize community, dedicated to reconciliation among Christians, attracts thousands of visitors each year, and Brother Rogers' books of prayers and meditations have proved popular among Christians of many different denominations.
This man's life was tirelessly dedicated to the cause of Christian unity. We should make his cause ours, even in small ways, always with hope and trust in our one Lord.

Eternal rest grant unto him, O Lord. And let perpetual light shine upon him. Amen.

Evangelizing the Evangelizer

I didn't know you could do that. Hilarious!

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Galileo, Copernicus and How It Happened

Steve Kellmeyer offers very interesting commentary on the whole Galileo affair. Contrary to what we keep getting told, history appears to record that Galileo's nemesis was not the Church but the academic community who had nothing but contempt for mathematicians such as Galileo. They fooled a dominican priest to fire up a sermon condemning Galileo's heliocentric theories and to get the charges of heresy and such rolling. This was much to the chagrin of the astronomers in Rome, who supported Galileo. The proof seems to be Copernicus himself, a priest and mathematician, who delayed the publication of his book for such a long time precisely because he knew what the academic community of philosophers and theologians (not the Church) would do to him. The twist in Kellmeyer's commentary is that roles are now reversed: today, the scientists and mathematicians prevail over the academic community and are lynching those who are so brazen as to suggest that (gasp) the universe bears the hallmarks of design, even when they use scientific methods and measurements to draw such conclusions. Contrary to what is repeatedly said these days, intelligent design proponents number a great number of much published scientists among them. Have a read of "Galileo Redux" yourself. Very interesting.

Abortion Pill Deaths: 8, Not 4

 That story from After Abortion, and subsequent corrections/clarifications.

Bono on Christ, Excerpts

Fr. John Whiteford blogs some excerpts from Michka Assayas' book about Bono, lead singer of U2 and a rare bird among today's popular recording artists in that he sounds like a very reasoned and faith-filled Christian, and that is so inspiring. I don't know about Bono enough to judge this way or that, but by his thoughts shared in that book, I can only find comfort and joy -- and cheer him on.

Learning from Evangelicals

Fr. John Whiteford blogs about Evangelicals in response to "It's All About Jesus," an article from Christianity Today written by an Orthodox convert (former Evangelical) who is “reconsidering” Evangelicalism from his experiences so far (about 2 years at that time) in the Orthodox Church. (Hat tip to Fr. Stephen Freeman writing at Pontifications.) From Fr. John comes this a gem:
 I was in a discussion between several college students and a Nazarene Missionary to Korea. We had just heard a lecture that spoke of the light and grace that God has made available to those who have never heard the Gospel. One student asked why we would bother sending missionaries to non-Christian countries, because they have their own culture, and if they hear the Gospel that will only increase their responsibility on the day of judgment. Why not just leave them be, and let them be judged based on the light that they already have? The Missionary responded roughly thus: “You tell me that people can be saved without hearing the Gospel, and I accept that as a possibility… and likewise I can believe that a man might be able to sail a kayak across the Pacific Ocean… but if I am in an Ocean liner, I am going to encourage the guy in the kayak to get on board the Ocean liner.
It may seem to be a case of looking down at the non-Catholic, non-Orthodox or non-Christians, but it isn't. It is not that I would view Peter's barque as something to boast about. I didn't build it, and I am simply so grateful to have been invited on board that I cannot help but want the same grace to be extended to anyone roughing it out there. As Fr. John says, "It would only be due to a supreme lack of love and gratitude to God that I would fail to do so." And in case you're wondering, Peter didn't build it either.

A Catholic Celebration Disrupted with Verbal Abuse

David Hartline reports how "The Ministry or Minister of Annoyance" and his cohorts (of unknown numbers) disrupted a Catholic procession on its way to Church, marching amongst them and shouting their damnation for being Catholic. I know of quite a few who believe this very same thing but they don't go around like that. The silence of the media is disturbing too. If it was a Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, Wiccan or some other celebration that was disrupted like that, lawsuits would be flying and the press would be all over the story. But when it's a Catholic celebration like it was.. nothing but silence. Dr. Philip Jenkins, an Episcopalian professor of history and religion at Penn State, will not be surprised.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

Unity and the Eucharist

"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate." (Matthew 19:6) "The chalice of benediction which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ?" (1 Cor 10:16) Our salvation depends on our unity with our redeemer, Jesus Christ, because he is the way, the truth and the life. To be severed from him means we lose the way, the truth and the life, i.e., we become lost, we become blind and we sicken and die. Where do we derive this unity? Most Christians already know that it begins at baptism, when we die to (original) sin and rise to a divine life with Christ. But while Christ stands outside time and remains our redeemer for all time, we have this thing called a lifetime. And in this lifetime, we must remain always in communion with Christ. How do we unite with Christ? By becoming of one flesh with him. By a communion of the blood of Christ and a partaking of his body. Why am I making a big deal of flesh and unity? Because the Lord is, too. Not only in the oneness of flesh that exists between man and woman joined by God, but also in the oneness of Man and God: "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." There was compelling enough reason for our awesome God to be made flesh AND to dwell among us: to be one with us, so that we can be one with him. And this is not just a spiritual oneness but a fleshy oneness. And why not, when the flesh meant so much to the Lord himself who willed to be born in the flesh, and to take our sins upon his own body. And why not when the Lord sees fit to not only will to save our souls but also to will to raise us up, body and soul, on the last day.

Currently Reading: The Lamb's Supper

Tha Lamb's Supper is a great book. A great book!

One Flesh

"So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore, what God has joined together, man must not separate." That was from the readings of last Friday (August 12), Matthew 19:3-12. I was at a Word service with communion and it hit me that God was pretty big on unity. Just within the Trinity is a perfectly united family of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In describing the relationship of the people of God with God, the Lord did not simply call us his followers, or his friends, and certainly not just his servants or workers. He called us to be sons and daughters of God. We are also his body, and as the Church, we are called to be his eternal bride. We are not meant to be two, but one flesh: the bride and the groom. But sometimes when I survey the scene of bickering amongst Christians of all flavors and hues, I wince at the thought that our Lord's bride has multiple personalities, and they're constantly at odds with one another.

Friday, August 12, 2005

The Dialect that Matthew Wrote and the Gospel of Matthew

Hmm.. my mistake. While it is widely held that Matthew wrote originally in Aramaic [Papias, Jerome, Irenaeus, Nicephorus], the gospel of Matthew we have today is not a translation from Aramaic (apart from Hebrew expressions written, not translated, in Greek). What the heck does that mean? It means that what we have now is not directly translated from what Matthew originally wrote (in Aramaic).

Kepha: Petros or Petra?

In the same blog I mentioned earlier, this question was posed to me: "If Christ wanted to call Peter a "rock" in Matthew 16:18-19, he would have called him Cephas, as He did in John 1:42." This was my answer: The accepted belief is that the gospel of Matthew we have in English is based on the Greek translation of what the apostle Matthew actually wrote. The witness of the early Christians, e.g., Papias, is that Matthew wrote in Aramaic, not Greek. There is no evidence from that same period to say that Matthew wrote originally in Greek. The Greek used in the oldest manuscript we have for Matthew also shows evidence of translation from Aramaic, e.g., some parts are obvious transliterations of Aramaic expressions into Greek, not naturally written in Greek. One has to grant that when Christ spoke to Simon Peter that day, he would have spoken in Aramaic, not Greek, since they are all native Aramaic speakers. Greek is a foreign language to them. The gospel of John was written in Hellenic Greek. There is no evidence to contest this. In fact, in that text of John 1:42, he makes his intentions clear: he relates that the Lord names Simon as Cephas (or Kepha/Kipha, i.e., rock), and John translates this for his Greek readers. John's usage of Petros here is interesting. He naturally knows the difference between 'kepha' (rock) and 'evna' (pebble) but he translates this for his audience as 'Petros' (pebble) instead of 'Petra' (rock). That was not a mistake. If he had to transliterate, he would have used 'Petra' but there's a problem: 'Petra' is feminine. So he gives him the masculine form, 'Petros' (just like Joseph instead of Josephine).

Taute Petra (On This Rock)

Due to a mental lapse last night, I visited a rather spirited anti-Catholic blogsite. Now I'm in for it. I decided to respond to a specific attack on the papacy as pertains to Peter. The contention is that when Matthew 16:17 says "kai (epi?) taute petra" (and on this rock), Christ was referring to himself. Why do they say this? Because earlier he tells Peter "ou ei Petros" -- which can be transliterated as "you are pebble," while he says "taute petra" where 'petra' transliterates to large rock. However there are many reasons to doubt that this supports a conclusion that Christ was not building the Church on Simon Peter himself. This was my response: Thanks for letting me post again, Rand, but please tone down the insults. I'm not picking a fight, but since you blogged against the papacy of Peter, I am compelled to respond. The gospel of (or the notes written by) Matthew were written in Aramaic. This is according to ancient records, e.g., Papias. It is also true that Matthew is Jewish and would write in Aramaic. Last, the Lord would converse with his disciples in Aramaic, not Greek, for they were all Jewish. Protestant Greek scholars like D.A. Carson and Joseph Thayer admit there is no distinction in meaning between petros and petra in the Koine Greek of the New Testament. We do not have 100% certainty about the translations from Koine Greek because it is a dead language. Take a quick look at the footnotes of your Bible, or the preface. There's usually a disclaimer of sorts about the translation difficulties in the dead languages used in the oldest manuscripts that exist. BTW my mistake with "lithoi" -- that's the Greek for pebbles (singular is lithos), which was used elsewhere in Matthew 4:3, when the devil cajoles Jesus to transform some stones, lithoi, into bread. The correct Aramaic for pebble is 'evna.' Nowhere is Peter known as Evna. On the other hand, he is known as Kepha (or Cephas, transliterated into Greek) in some texts of the NT. In fact, this is clarified in John 1:42: 'Jesus looked at [Simon] and said, "So you are Simon the son of John? You shall be called Cephas" (which means Peter).' The context of the passage doesn't provide any reason whatsoever for Christ to say "You are a pebble." It would have read more smoothly if He had simply said "And I also say unto thee, upon this rock I will build my church." But in that case, the next statement would not have made any sense: "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom.." Note that we Catholics do not deny that Christ is our Rock. Of course he is. But just as Christ is our king as David was, so was Peter the grand vizier or the king's representative as Eliakim in Isaiah 22, who received the key of the house of David, and was given the authority to shut and to open. Yet note that Eliakim is not the king, only his representative, just as the pope is not Christ, only his representative. The text also shows a bit of parallelism: Peter just said, "You are the Christos," so Jesus says, "You are the Petros." "You are the Son of the Living God" and "You are the son of Jonah, Simon Bar-Jonah." Also, on the Greek, the text says "and on this rock" or 'taute petra' in Greek. Taute here means "this very," as in 'on this very rock' which refers to the earlier reference to petra. He also starts that with 'kai' or 'and' -- "and on this rock", when he could have said 'alla' or 'but.' 'Alla' would have been more suitable if he was contrasting Peter's being the pebble and his (Christ's) being the proper rock upon which the Church should be built. Finally, the statement following that makes for a very strange train of thought. According to your understanding, Christ lauds Peter for having been moved by the Spirit to utter his confession of faith. Then he demotes him by saying that he was a mere pebble. Then he promotes him (Peter) again by giving him the keys to the kingdom, and the authority to open what no one may then shut, or to shut what no one may afterwards open. BTW we are not replacing Christ with Peter or the pope. We are not baptized in the name of the pope, but in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. In Catholic worship, we harken back to the one sacrifice of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ, not Peter or any pope. Saying that Peter is the rock here in Matthew 16, or that he is the first among the apostles, does not diminish the glory of our Lord. In Isaiah 51:1-2, God Himself calls Abraham the rock from which Israel was hewn. Nonetheless, Christ is The Rock. Jesus is the one foundation of the Church in 1 Corinthians 3:11, but in Revelation 21:14 and Ephesians 2:20, we're told that the Apostles are the foundation of the Church. St. Peter's 'rock-ness' is derived from Christ. The foundation-ness of the Apostles is derived from Christ. Peter's authority derives from Christ, and it will always be Christ's Church, not Peter's, and it was established on Peter, not by Peter. Also, this has nothing to do with Peter's merits. Obviously, he makes the most mistakes and says the wrong things more than any other apostle in the NT. But this is an appointment of an office. The function of Peter as rock is about delegation, not any merit on his part. There are also lots of Protestant scholars who accept Peter's appointment. Including Martin Luther, Herman Liderboss, Donald Carson, Gerhardt Meier, W. F. Albright and others. From the text and from their biblical scholarship, they accept that Peter was referred to as the rock, and was thereby given a special office. What they probably don't agree to is the succession of such an appointment to Peter's successors, i.e., bishops ordained by his hand or holding his bishopric in Rome. That's a separate issue. In case you're visiting from that blog in order to pick my arguments and my brain, I invite you to visit my references since that blogsite does not allow links in the comments boxes:
  1. S. Hahn, Dr. Scott Hahn on the Papacy. In Catholic-pages.com.
  2. T. Staples, Bam! Bam! The "Pebbles" Argument Goes Down. Catholic Exchange, originally published in Envoy Magazine.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

Of Widows and Orphans

Why does the Old Testament say so much about widows and orphans? One of the indications of the people of God turning away from Him is in how they might neglect their widows and orphans, i.e., the most vulnerable among them. Perhaps it has something to do with hope. I read this article today about the plight of the Catholic youth living in poverty back home in the Philippines. You don't have to be rich to enter into a Christ-centered life, but it sure helps if you are at least eating three meals a day, have a place to call home and a source of income, education for the kids -- in short, if there is reason to hope. I can only imagine how incredibly difficult it would be to see the silver lining behind the gloomy clouds of poverty. To be a homeless or hungry widow or orphan can only be at the worst of human misery. They need a fair prospect for the future. Who will clean up this mess? Maybe all it takes is inspiration and generosity.

Want to Establish the Facts? Run a Poll!

Just kidding. That's just silly. However,
  This one is a little too close to reality. -- Jeff Miller

How Intelligent is Intelligent Design?

Read this piece and make up your mind.

Cleaning Up: A Father's Perspective

Last night I was cleaning up the mess of railroad track pieces, trains, cars, torn pieces of paper, pencils, crayons, chess and checkers pieces in the living room. I was disappointed that my kids didn't clean up before dinner, but I decided that it would take them too long and probably get into a fight while they were at it. So I picked up the toys myself. I wasn't happy. Then it hit me: I wonder how God feels about cleaning up our mess? Bombings, poor people going hungry, homeless people cold in the winter, kids doing drugs, the dying ignored and lonely in hospices -- what a mess! Apart from the sacrifice of the Lamb to reconcile us with Him (which we can't accomplish ourselves), what does it mean when He has to clean up after us? He's disappointed, I'll bet. Is it also loss of trust perhaps? How awful to think that our Father in Heaven has lost confidence in us! That is perhaps why God gives us all the opportunities to clean up after ourselves: He trusts us, with ample servings of His divine grace (apart from which we can't do an ounce of extraordinary good), to get things done. He gives us all the tools we need but He wants us to put those tools to work. I am not a Pelagianist -- truly good things, including our salvation, cannot be accomplished without the grace of God through Christ our Lord. But our free will must join with the perfecty and holy will of God, and we must put that will into action through the grace that we receive. I don't think I'd be thrilled if God were to send down His holy angels to run things for us: the government, parenting, education, keeping the peace -- that would be embarrassing! It would seem then that we cannot do anything right, so He has to do everything Himself. Where would we get any satisfaction from a job well done, albeit with tools and resources that He provides? Perhaps I'll get my kids to do the cleaning up next time, but I'll work alongside them. Maybe that will become a routine, a good habit, that they can put into practice even when I'm not there next to them. Then each time they do so will be a source of joy for me (I hope I never overlook such deeds!) and I will be happy to know that they are now equipped with the very useful skill of cleaning up after their mess. And in case the mess they get into is bigger than they're used to, they can always ask me for help. Hmmm.. I should probably spend a lot of time helping them clean up so they get used to the idea that I don't mind helping out. And I shouldn't mind.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

A Ransom Fully Paid

"He himself will redeem Israel from all its transgressions." -- Psalms 129 (130) A friend of mine still cannot reconcile how our Lord and Savior is Himself God. Owing to a past among the Jehovah's Witnesses, he cannot accept that the necessity of the Incarnation, that God would take on flesh, be true God and true Man, and fully pay for our ransom in his dolorous passion and death. It just occured to me that it can be considered how our salvation is not complete without a full payment for the wages of sin. And that is why it had to be God Himself who would redeem us from all our transgressions by paying the price in full. The wages of sin is death. That must be paid, but it cannot be paid by a mere mortal. It must be paid by God Himself because anyone less cannot pay the wages fully. Death in the context of sin's wages is not mere physical death but a disconnection from God. So while dying is the currency, there is a matter of quantity. Consider the gap between man and God. Without a bridge between them, the measure of that gap is infinity. To rebuild that bridge requires infinity. Who else is infinite but God? Whose death will have an infinite significance if not the one and only infinite being -- God? So can the ransom be paid by an angel of God? A being that is God-like but not God Himself? No. Is there any reality that perfectly matches infinity? Only infinity itself. Only God.

Friday, August 05, 2005

Maria Korp Dies from Forced Dehydration and Starvation

Marcel White reports in the comment boxes below:
 Maria Korp died on the tenth day after the removal of her feeding tube. Does that sound like someone who was teetering on the precipice of death before the removal of the feeding tube? Sceptics of this decision have been vindicated by recent events, including extended family crying for the feeding tube to be reinserted and holding prayer vigils for this purpose. The pro life movement could have used this instance to highlight our society's march toward unregulated euthanasia. Instead many chose the path of least resitance... I feel sorry for the so called moral leaders in our community who were 'deadly' silent on this case.
The first mistake we can all make is to take this in stride and not think about it deeply. Death is never trivial because a life is never trivial. Life is particularly non-trivial because, to the person who lives, what is left when life is lost? Maria Korp lost her life today but the legal ground that could have kept her alive was lost in 2003, when the public advocate of Victoria won a court ruling to classify food and water, when given in a feeding tube, as medical treatment. As a result, doctors now hold a unique power over human death because they now have the final say when it is, in their judgment, best to withhold food and water from a patient. Such a power is being exercised today, in the UK or the Netherlands, where doctors have, can, and will decide to terminate a patient, without having to consult family members, without fear of prosecution or public outrage. Make no mistake: Mrs. Korp's fate is hardly insignificant. Here we have a patient who was not hooked up to a machine, was not dying (before they stopped feeding her), was not in pain, and had been in a vegetative state for only six months. She was not brain-dead and was conscious enough that the public advocate confessed a need to speak to her about her impending death by dehydration and starvation. She was a devout Catholic whose beliefs against self-mutilation and suicide have been cited by her own husband. She had never expressed a desire to be terminated in this manner in these circumstances. Now she lies dead by the decision of a public advocate whose authority over her life was mandated by the state -- a mandate that did not have to go through legislative deliberation but is based on judicial interpretations of the Medical Act. It began with apathy. When society doesn't care enough to voice caution if not strong opposition on matters of death and the most vulnerable among us, just about anything can become lawful or normative. It began when people stopped caring for the elderly, disabled and dying, until it has become a cause for indignity and shame to be in such a vulnerable state. In an effort to regain the dignity that they deserve and crave, many have turned to the only momentous thing that they can still achieve: death. Unfortunately, that message is being amplified out of proportion, until death has become a preferential option, and life has lost its deserved high regard. Now society reads it loud and clear: there is no intrinsic value in human life unless it is wanted. Such value is now relative and subjective. But from whose perspective? And whose subjective right to decide will have the last say? When it is our turn to be euthanized, on such vague and ephemeral notions of indignity and even pain, would we have any say in the matter? When we become too feeble to speak and fight for our right to live, perhaps not.

Dissecting Baptism and Being Born Again

Steve Ray does a great job in concisely throwing out a common error in trying to disassociate water baptism and being born again as Christ tells Nicodemus (John 3:5). This short article digs into several Evangelical translations of the Bible, the Church Fathers, and Protestant commentators -- including Martin Luther.

Thursday, August 04, 2005

On Maria Korp: Silence and Some Dejection

I can't seem to find anything new about Maria Korp. Mainstream media hasn't said much about her except in regard to her attacker and her husband, who are both being prosecuted for Mrs. Korp's attack earlier this year. Then I found this article about the legal proceedings charging Mr. Korp with, I think, attempted murder. That could change to charges of murder should Mrs. Korp die. In that article, there's this bit about Mr. Korp's statements to the police from when he had first reported Mrs. Korp's disappearance:
Mr Korp was asked if the wife he claimed to have not seen since that kiss, might have harmed herself. "No, too religious, wouldn't do it," he had answered.
This is interesting to me because, by all accounts, Mrs. Korp would have shunned the idea of being preemptively terminated when all she needed was food and water. However the public advocate might argue otherwise, his decision is hardly consistent with Mrs. Korp's mind on the subject. Unfortunately, the public advocate is covered in such cases by a court ruling he managed to win in 2003 which classifies food and water, if given by feeding tube, as artificial life support. Blogging about Mrs. Korp can get my hackles up when I consider the injustice, but it is tinged with a bit of dejection because however much I voice objection to what the public advocate is accomplishing, there are two daunting obstacles before me: the law sides with the public advocate in how it regards food and water as medical treatment when given through a feeding tube, and the apathy of the Australian public. Marcel White expressed frustration particularly for the apathy. When he and others from Melbourne Uni staged a peaceful protest outside the Alfred Hospital, they were not joined by church leaders or ethicists. They were alone to carry the pro-life cause. I did not join them myself, and I regret that decision, though I am not a church leader nor am I a professional ethicist. I should have gone anyway. Public laws are hardly set in stone. It is almost traditional for public sentiments, based on higher ideals, to clash with laws of the land. It should therefore not be a cause for dejection when the law, even if only based on a court ruling, not legislation, goes contrary to what one believes. But public apathy for a woman who was not dying but has been sentenced to death by dehydration and starvation? When we have yet to hit half recommended period of time that must pass before concluding a permanent vegetative state (PVS)? And to be handed a fate that even animals are protected by law against? It boggles the mind and it wounds the heart. It is ironic for such apathy to exist in a society with an aging population. When public advocates like that responsible for Mrs. Korp's enforced dehydration and starvation start doing the same thing to that aging population, I wonder if people will have time to realize the tragic mistake that started with this public advocate in 2003.