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Archive for May, 2011

Faint they may be one by one, but at least they are various, and are drawn from many times and countries, and thereby serve to illustrate each other, and form a body of proof. Thus St. Clement, in the name of the Church of Rome, writes a letter to the Corinthians, when they were without a bishop; St. Ignatius of Antioch addresses the Roman Church, and it only out of the Churches to which he writes, as “the Church which has the first seat in the place of the country of the Romans;” St. Polycarp of Smyrna betakes himself to the Bishop of Rome on the question of Easter; the heretic Marcion, excommunicated in Pontus, betakes himself to Rome; Soter, Bishop of Rome, sends alms, according to the custom of his Church, to the Churches throughout the empire, and, in the words of Eusebius, “affectionately exhorted those who came to Rome, as a father his children;” the Montanists from Phrygia come to Rome to gain the countenance of its Bishop; Praxeas, from Africa, attempts the like, and for a while is successful; St. Victor, Bishop of Rome, threatens to excommunicate the Asian Churches; St. Irenaeus speaks of Rome as “the greatest Church, the most ancient, the most consplicuous, and founded and established by Peter and Paul,” appeals to its tradition, not in contrast indeed, but in preference to that of other Churches, and declares that  “in this Church, every Church, that is, the faithful from every side must meet” or ” agree together, propter potiorem principalitatem.”

“O Church, happy in its position,” says Tertullian, “into which the Apostles poured out, together with their blood, their whole doctrine.” The presbyters of St. Dionysius, Bishop of Alexandria, complain of his doctrine to St. Dionysius of Rome; the latter expostulates with him, and he explains.

The Emperor Aurelian leaves  “to the Bishops of Italy and of Rome” the decision, whether or not Paul of Samosata shall be dispossessed of the see-house at Antioch; St. Cyprian speaks of Rome as  “the See of Peter and the principal Church, whence the unity of the priesthood took its rise, . . whose faith has been commended by the Apostles, to whom faithlessness can have no access;”

St. Stephen refuses to receive St. Cyprian’s deputation, and separates himself from various Churches of the East; Fortunatus and Felix, deposed by St. Cyprian, have recourse to Rome; Basilides, deposed in Spain, betakes himself to Rome, and gains the ear of St. Stephen. Whatever objections may be made to this or that particular fact, and I do not think any valid ones can be raised, still, on the whole, I consider that a cumulative argument…that the writers of the fourth and fifth centuries fearlessly assert, or frankly allow, that the prerogatives of Roman were derived from apostolic times, and that because it was the See of Saint Peter.

St Augustine: “Many Things Keep Me in the Catholic Church”

For in the Catholic Church, not to speak of the purest wisdom, to the knowledge of which a few spiritual, men attain in this life, so as to know it, in the scantiest measure, indeed, because they are but men, still without any uncertainty (since the rest of the multitude derive their entire security not from acuteness of intellect, but from simplicity of faith) – not to speak of this wisdom, which you do not believe to be in the Catholic Church, there are many other things which most justly keep me in her bosom. The consent of peoples and nations keeps me in the Church; so does her authority, inaugurated by miracles, nourished by hope, enlarged by love, established by age. The succession of priests keeps me, beginning from the very seat of the Apostle Peter, to whom the Lord, after His resurrection, gave it in charge to feed His sheep, down to the present episcopate. And so, lastly, does the name itself of Catholic, which, not without reason, amid so many heresies, the Church has thus retained; so that, though all heretics wish to be called Catholics, yet when a stranger asks where the Catholic Church meets, no heretic will venture to point to his own chapel or house. Such then in number and importance are the precious ties belonging to the Christian name which keep a believer in the Catholic Church, as it is right they should, though from the slowness of our understanding, or the small attainment of our life, the truth may not yet fully disclose itself. But with you, where there is none of these things to attract or keep me, the promise of truth is the only thing that comes into play. Now if the truth is so clearly proved as to leave no possibility of doubt, it must be set before all the things that keep me in the Catholic Church; but if there is only a promise without any fulfillment, no one shall move me from the faith which binds my mind with ties so many and so strong to the Christian religion.

St. Augustine [A.D. 354-430]

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Contemporary Catholics are repeatedly reminded of the horrors committed during the Crusades. The news media and the press make a point of constantly pounding into the Catholic conscience the grievous faults the Church has committed throughout history. That the Crusades were started to defend the holy places that had been desecrated is not mentioned.

The Inquisition is something that every ignorant schoolboy is familiar with. But all they know is that it was horrible and was initiated by the Roman Catholic Church. Then came the Galileo case: Clearly the Church—fearing that scientific discoveries would sap her intellectual and moral authoritarianism—condemned a man who had dared challenge her views based on ignorance and superstition. What about the wars waged against so-called heretics, people who happen to have “different opinions,” and therefore were simply exercising their right to think for themselves? Everyone knows (even those who do not drink cocktails) the one named “bloody Mary.” That the last Catholic queen of England simply tried to reinstate the Faith that had been prevalent in England for centuries is not mentioned. Her reign was very short, but the long one of her half-sister, Elizabeth, who ruthlessly destroyed the Catholic Faith in the Island of Saints, is not branded as cruel.

But the list of sins committed by the Church is not yet finished. What about her attacks on the Albigenses in southern France, and her condemnation and burning at the stake of Jan Huss in Bohemia? A Jewish student of mine openly declared in the classroom that it would have been better for the world if Catholicism—in essence, Christ Himself—had never existed. The story of the Catholic Church, we are repeatedly told, is a dark one, and it is only proper for her to apologize.

Many non-Catholics (and even some so-called Catholics) make no distinction between the Church, the Holy Bride of Christ—without blemish and without stain—and what Jacques Maritain aptly calls “le personnel de l’Eglise” (the staff of the Church, the members of the Church)—many of whom are sinners indeed. There were great sinners in the Old Testament. There were great sinners in the New. There are sinners in every religious community. Judas was one of the privileged twelve, and he was a traitor. If we keep the same proportion, we can assume that today there are plenty of Judases in the Church occupying important positions.

It is an upsetting fact. But recall the words of Christ: “The gates of hell shall not prevail.” The very misery and betrayal of many members of the clergy and many members of the Church, far from shaking our faith, should force us to put our hope in the Savior of the world and His Holy Mother. Dark as the sky might be, the divine message keeps all its joyful validity. In the apocalypse, St. John tells us that the closer we come to the second coming of Christ, the more fearful will be the attacks of the evil one because he knows he is running out of time.

More important for our topic is to examine how this misplaced bad conscience affected the bishops’ draft on women that kept them busy for months in the 1980s. A number of women were invited to share with their excellencies their innumerable grievances against the Roman Catholic Church. It turned out to be a real avalanche of reproaches and recriminations dating back to the very beginning of the Church. Their excellencies were told that the Church has discriminated against half of her children, namely women. Their important contributions to the life of the Church were either not acknowledged, treated as insignificant, or taken for granted. They were meant to be servants. As a result, they felt alienated; the clergy was adopting a patronizing attitude toward them, as if they were immature and unintelligent. They did not feel “at home” in the Church; their concerns and sufferings were treated as trivial. They were always put in the background and treated as inferior. They were “only” women. The machos were in command. Women were never given the dignity that is their right as human persons. Their equality with men was denied.

The very language of the Church expressed this denigration: Man is constantly referred to; women are not mentioned. (Clearly feminists ignore the fact that the word “man” can mean anybody belonging to the human race or the male sex. Such a problem does not exist in Latin, where there is a clear distinction between homo and vir. This is something that any woman knew until the enlightened 20th century.) Worst of all, women were denied one sacrament that is the unique privilege of men: holy orders. Clearly they are considered unworthy of this honor. Why should girls be denied to serve at the altar? Bishops clearly had fallen into a grave sin of sexism.

The rhetoric of the most fanatical feminists makes one believe that the seven capital sins were minor by comparison. The Church was clearly sexist and should not only apologize to women, but repair this crying injustice. Serious reforms are called for. The moment has come for women to claim their rights; to be officially recognized, to be on the same level with men; to be granted the same privileges and the same power in the Church. They had suffered patiently for centuries, and enough is enough.

Every single meeting between bishops and women was a repetition of the previous one. Cowed and intimidated by being put on the hot seat and by this passionate jeremiad they sheepishly listened to, bishops—accustomed as they were to being treated with respect—actually lost their footing. They developed a bad conscience toward all these afflicted sheep so neglected by the Church that claims to be a Church of love. The feminist rhetoric convinced them that the Church had gravely sinned against the female sex for the last 2,000 years, compelling them to acknowledge the validity of these searing criticisms and promise to correct the injustices. Obviously, the Church, being slow-moving, could not be expected to satisfy all their demands. One of them, however, should be attended to urgently: reform of liturgical language, and that merely as a first step—a modest promise of more reforms to come. The re-writing of the Catechism of the Catholic Church was clearly the call of the Kairos. It should be given top priority. This was a Herculean task that was to keep some “experts” so busy for months on end that they had no time left for other duties.

In the meantime, the devil was having a field day laughing at the stupidity of men. While keeping several ecclesiastics glued to this gigantic task, he saw—with diabolical delight—that in the very same diocese satanic attacks against the purity of young men were being launched by some members of the clergy. Clearly the local bishop was too busy to pay attention to these secondary concerns: The revision of the Catechism had to be completed as soon as possible. The bishops—plagued with a misplaced bad conscience—either paid no attention to the horrors that were being perpetrated by priests, willingly ignored the gravity of the problem, or turned to secular help (or just put a Band-Aid on a festering wound by sending the culprits to another diocese).

We know the rest of the story: By the beginning of the 21st century, the scandal had reached such proportions that it made headlines in the secular press. It started in the diocese where “inclusive language” was a top priority. Diocese after diocese was engaged in lawsuits that brought some of them to utter bankruptcy: Churches were closed, Catholic schools could no longer be financed. Church property was sold. The devil had won. The Catechism was “purged” of its “sexism.” But—and this is the enchanting irony of the whole thing—the work done was rejected by the Church.

The devil’s wile had succeeded beyond expectation. The bishops’ bad consciences had totally blinded them from their primary duty: to save their sheep from ravenous wolves. All this came out five years ago with the force of a moral tsunami. I wonder how many shepherds today realize that their misplaced bad consciences might be responsible for their collective failure to extinguish the fire of impurity raging among some of their priests. Humanly speaking, the damage is irreparable. But “all things are possible with God,” and we know that the Church will survive even though the price for many might be martyrdom. She has always sung the praise of those who have washed their garments in the blood of the Lamb. This is the history of the Church. This is why she will always conquer in spite of the mediocrity and treason of some of her shepherds.

Excerpt from original article The Devil’s Distraction: A Misplaced Bad Conscience by Alice Von Hildebrand

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I have a friend who tells me the Catholic Church isn’t Biblically based because they make up rituals and beliefs as time goes on. How do I answer them?

Point 1: 

The first I would ask them if their church hasn’t changed over time. If they are honest with you they will admit it has. The changes may be found in hymns that have been modernized, developments in certain ministries, vestments or the decisions not to use them at all. Let’s look at a couple of verifiable historical facts. The Catholic Church began in the upper room at the Last Supper. The word “Catholic” was first used to describe the Christian Church, believers in Jesus Christ, in 106 AD by St. Ignatius of Antioch. The Protestant Churches didn’t come on the Christian scene until sixteenth century when followers of the Catholic Monk, Martin Luther, established the evangelical churches of Germany and Scandinavia.

 

 Point 2: 

Problems arise in all churches and need a method of problem resolution. Since Catholicism is Biblically based let’s open our Bibles to the Acts of the Apostles now commonly known as Acts, Chapter 15. We discover this first Church Council took place in Jerusalem. The reason for the council was that many Gentiles wanted to join the church. Legalistic Jews, Mosaic Law followers, converted to Catholicism and were called Judaizers. This group demanded that all converts follow the works of the Mosaic law one of which was to become circumcised. When a problem arises in a church, the military, politics, your office or shop who ever is in charge of those places must resolve the problem by making a decision. The decision by the people in charge becomes the new standard or procedure.

 

 Point 3: 

The authority for the early church was given to St. Peter by Jesus in both John 21 and, if you understand the original language Aramaic idiom, Matthew 16. Where then had Paul gone for an answers to questions, Jerusalem and the elders (Acts 9)? Who was the authority for the church in charge of making decisions, St. Peter and the apostles, now called Pope and Bishops (Acts 15)? Who was it who had already verified Paul’s teaching as correct, St. Peter and the elders (Acts 9) ?

 

 Point 4: 

How did the council work? Act 15:6 The apostles and the elders were gathered together to consider this matter. 7 And after there had been much debate, Peter rose and said . . . Notice the Apostles, now known as bishops, the elders now known as priest, together with Peter the leader, the pope, made the decision that circumcision was not necessary to become a Christian. Further, once Peter, speaking about faith and morals had finished, all accepted his decision as the authoritative and final the resolution to the problem.

 

 Point 5: 

As you can see a decision was made to change from an old practice to a new practice? It is also worth pointing out to your friend that only Bible, the Catholic Christian Bible, existed uncontested for 1500 years and contained 73 books. The only changes that were made to Catholic Bible were by the Protestant reformer Martin Luther. When he began Protestantism he only accepted 39 of the Old Testament books. Seven books had been removed by Jewish Pharisees at their council of Jamnia in 90 AD. They were removed by the Pharisees because they were upset with the new Christians were using their translation of the Hebrew Old Testament to substantiate Christian beliefs.

 

 Point 6: 

Going back to the original statement, “the Catholic Church isn’t Biblically based,” is inaccurate. In reality, the Catholic Church is more Biblically based than other forms of Christianity because the canon, list of accepted Biblical books, precedes all other Christian Bibles. The second part of your friends statement, “they make up rituals and beliefs as time goes on,” is also inaccurate.

 

 Point 7: 

To say just because a ritual isn’t specifically outlined in the passages of the Bible over looks the teachings of St. Paul. “15 So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Christianity didn’t start with a “Standard Operating Procedure Manual,” not every thing was committed to writing. St. Paul goes on to say, “I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.” (1 Corinthians 11:2–3) Again 2 Thessalonians 3:6 “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.

 

Point 8: 

As you can see not all traditions, rituals, or even the Christian Bible existed when St. Paul wrote these words. Our traditions and rituals existed since the earliest of times and some were even adopted by the newer Christian or Protestant religions.

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Before addressing the issue of the intercession of the Saints we need clarify that the Catholic Church, although many protestants believe otherwise, does teach  and has always taught that Christ is the only mediator.
 
 

The Catechism of the Catholic Church affirms this in numerous places. For example, no. 771 reads:

“The one mediator, Christ, established and ever sustains here on earth his holy Church, the community of faith, hope, and charity, as a visible organization through which he communicates truth and grace to all men.” (citing another official Catholic document from Vatican II, Lumen gentium, 8 § 1.).

The Council of Trent stated:

“If anyone asserts that this sin of Adam, which in its origin is one, and by propagation, not by imitation, transfused into all, which is in each one as something that is his own, is taken away either by the forces of human nature or by a remedy other than the merit of the one mediator, our Lord Jesus Christ . . . let him be anathema.” (Session V, 3).

However, for the sake of discussion and reflection, I propose that we ask a question that is pertinent to all Christians: If Christ is the only Mediator, why do we intercede for one another?

 Scriptural Facts I:

    1. Christ is the only Mediator between men and God. (1 Timothy 2:5)
    2. The Church is the Body of Christ, in which Jesus is the Head. ( Colossians 1:18)
    3. Jesus’ Eternal Priesthood. (Hebrews 7: 24)

The Holy Trinity with saints in heaven, the Garden of Eden below - By Scipione Compagno

 
The Catholic Answer:

Catholics do not argue with either of the facts stated above; these are Scriptural Truths. However, the Church reads the Scriptures as a whole and interprets them as ONE book. 

The Catholic understanding is that, although Christ is the only Mediator. The Church, as Member of His Body, is also part of this ‘One Mediator’  and in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work”.  (Ephesians 4:15-16)

Jesus is the Eternal High Priest and the Church, as members of His Body, shares in that priesthood. This is why St Peter, in a clear reference to the Old Testament Priesthood – where priests were intercessors between God and men – could declare that we are built up a holy priesthood (1 Peter 2:5 and 2:9), as we are joined to Him as members of His Body.  The book of Revelation 1:6 says that we “are a kingdom, priests to his God and Father“.  As the Mediator, Jesus is not alone,  He is the head of the Church in which all members can intercede for one another through Him.

This is the notion of  Totus Christus, a Biblical Theology of the Whole Christ which is confirmed in the Scriptural account of Paul’s conversion in Acts 9:4, where Jesus asks Paul, then Saul: “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” and not “Why are you persecuting my followers?” – His Church.

What about the deceased Saints?

We’ve seen that the living members of the Church can indeed pray for one another, but how can we explain the intercession of the Saints? The Catholic Church teaches about the Communion of the Saints, that is, the entire Church is One in Christ. The deceased members of the Body of Christ are not separated from Christ once they leave their physical bodies, because “if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness” (Rom 8:10).  As St Paul states it “neither death nor life […] will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom 8: 38-39). Therefore, the souls of the Saints departed never cease to be part of His Body, they are part of the Church in Heaven, the Church Triumphant.

Once in Heaven, the Saints can intercede for the members of the Church on earth, the Church Militant. The Bible confirms that the Saints in Heaven do pray to God:

When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. They cried out with a loud voice,O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?”  (Rev 6: 9-10) 

For more on the Saints read: Why do Catholics pray to Saints?

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Has some-one finally got it right?

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For more information on the Divine Mercy Devotion, please visit Divine Mercy 

During the course of Jesus’ revelations to Saint Faustina on the Divine Mercy He asked on numerous occasions that a feast day be dedicated to the Divine Mercy and that this feast be celebrated on the Sunday after Easter. The liturgical texts of that day, the 2nd Sunday of Easter, concern the institution of the Sacrament of Penance, the Tribunal of the Divine Mercy, and are thus already suited to the request of Our Lord. This Feast, which had already been granted to the nation of Poland and been celebrated within Vatican City, was granted to the Universal Church by Pope John Paul II on the occasion of the canonization of Sr. Faustina on 30 April 2000. In a decree dated 23 May 2000, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments stated that “throughout the world the Second Sunday of Easter will receive the name Divine Mercy Sunday, a perennial invitation to the Christian world to face, with confidence in divine benevolence, the difficulties and trials that mankind will experience in the years to come.” These papal acts represent the highest endorsement that the Church can give to a private revelation, an act of papal infallibility proclaiming the certain sanctity of the mystic, and the granting of a universal feast, as requested by Our Lord to St. Faustina.

Concerning the Feast of Mercy Jesus said:

Whoever approaches the Fountain of Life on this day will be granted complete forgiveness of sins and punishment. (Diary 300)

I want the image solemnly blessed on the first Sunday after Easter, and I want it to be venerated publicly so that every soul may know about it. (Diary 341)

This Feast emerged from the very depths of My mercy, and it is confirmed in the vast depths of my tender mercies. (Diary 420)

On one occasion, I heard these words: My daughter, tell the whole world about My Inconceivable mercy. I desire that the Feast of Mercy be a refuge and shelter for all souls, and especially for poor sinners. On that day the very depths of My tender mercy are open. I pour out a whole ocean of graces upon those souls who approach the fount of My mercy. The soul that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion shall obtain complete forgiveness of sins and punishment.* [our emphasis] On that day all the divine floodgates through which grace flow are opened. Let no soul fear to draw near to Me, even though its sins be as scarlet. My mercy is so great that no mind, be it of man or of angel, will be able to fathom it throughout all eternity. Everything that exists has come forth from the very depths of My most tender mercy. Every soul in its relation to Me will I contemplate My love and mercy throughout eternity. The Feast of Mercy emerged from My very depths of tenderness. It is My desire that it be solemnly celebrated on the first Sunday after Easter. Mankind will not have peace until it turns to the Fount of My Mercy. (Diary 699)

Yes, the first Sunday after Easter is the Feast of Mercy, but there must also be deeds of mercy, which are to arise out of love for Me. You are to show mercy to our neighbours always and everywhere. You must not shrink from this or try to absolve yourself from it. (Diary 742)

I want to grant complete pardon to the souls that will go to Confession and receive Holy Communion on the Feast of My mercy. (Diary 1109)

As you can see the Lord’s desire for the Feast includes the solemn, public veneration of the Image of Divine Mercy by the Church, as well as personal acts of veneration and mercy. The great promise for the individual soul is that a devotional act of sacramental penance and Communion will obtain for that soul the plenitude of the divine mercy on the Feast.

* The Cardinal of Krakow, Cardinal Macharski, whose diocese is the center of the spread of the devotion and the sponsor of the Cause of Sr. Faustina, has written that we should use Lent as preparation for the Feast and confess even before Holy Week! So, it is clear that the confessional requirement does not have to be met on the Feast itself. That would be an impossible burden for the clergy if it did. The Communion requirement is easily met that day, however, since it is a day of obligation, being Sunday. We would only need confession again, if received earlier in Lenten or Easter Season, if we were in the state of mortal sin on the Feast.

Diary, Saint Maria Faustina Kowalska, Divine Mercy in My Soul (c) 1987 Congregation of Marians of the Immaculate Conception, Stockbridge, MA 01263. All rights reserved.

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