"But when Christ came as high priest...He entered once for all into the sanctuary, not with the blood of goats and calves but with His own blood, thus obtaining eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls and the sprinkling of a heifer's ashes can sanctify those who are defiled so that their flesh is cleansed, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal spirit offered Himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works to worship the living God."
-Hebrews 9:11-14


Have questions about Catholicism that you would like us to address in a post? Pop us an email at: grand.admiral.thrawn333@gmail.com

Sunday, February 12, 2012

O'Malley, Bishop Lennon, and the HHS Health Mandate: Part Two

Hello again!  Here's the next installment of my analysis of Mr. O'Malley's article concerning Lennon and the HHS mandate; Part One is here.

O'Malley continues:

 “On the books, church teachings say that birth control is not allowed,” said Schenk.  “But the vast majority of Catholics have not accepted the church’s teaching on contraception.

Okay, STOP.  It just keeps getting worse.

This seems to be a common enough tactic amongst the ‘Catholic’ relativists of our time.  They enjoy appealing to ‘the people’ – the common folk who believe Z instead of the X that the Church teaches.  Their reasoning seems to go something like this:

1.       The belief of the majority is the sole criterion of truth.
2.       The majority of Catholics believe that contraception is acceptable.
C.    Therefore, contraception is acceptable.

Well, they manage to break from reality right at premise 1.  Truth is not determined by the will of the majority, as any novice student of philosophy would attest.  It’s a classic case of the fallacious argumentum ad populum.  The beliefs of the majority are incidental to the truth of any proposition, as the precepts of reason and logic dictate.  The pro-abortion advocates that I've seen on the internet make use of this fallacy a lot, sadly enough, and in particular misguided Catholics who don't pay heed to the Magisterium; I'll record some of my musings regarding why that might be in the final post of this series.

“So, you have to ask yourself,” she added, “’Who are the bishops speaking for?’  It sounds like they’re speaking for themselves rather than the Catholic people.”
Schenk questioned why bishops, who don’t raise children or give birth, should be issuing statements on birth control without input from other Catholic voices.  “There’s a big disconnect on where most people are with the issue and where the bishops are,” she said.

As the colloquial exclamation goes: Newsflash!  Sister, you’ve got the role of bishop all wrong.

Bishops in the church are exceptional priests who have been appointed to shepherd and guide the people under their supervision.  They are not a democratically elected representative, as Schenk so foolishly seems to think.  They are appointed under the direction of the Pope – the Vicar of Christ – and are tasked with, among others, the following duties:

All their efforts must aim at preserving the true faith and a high moral tone among the people; they attain this end by good example, by preaching, by daily solicitude for the good administration of the diocese, and by prayer. Bishops, in effect, are bound by the Divine law to implore the help of God for the faithful committed to their care. (Catholic Encyclopedia)

And from the Catechism:

1558 "Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying, also the offices of teaching and ruling. . . . In fact . . . by the imposition of hands and through the words of the consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is given, and a sacred character is impressed in such wise that bishops, in an eminent and visible manner, take the place of Christ himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest, and act as his representative (in Eius persona agant)." "By virtue, therefore, of the Holy Spirit who has been given to them, bishops have been constituted true and authentic teachers of the faith and have been made pontiffs and pastors."

In other words, they aren’t there to represent and enforce the will of the people.  They are appointed to guide the people, to uphold the will of Christ for His Church as manifested in the teachings of the Magisterium.  It is the obligation of the people to conform themselves to Christ’s Truth, as transmitted through Christ’s ministers on earth.  Christ tells us: “If you continue in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31-32) Adhering to the truth is more important than conforming to societal mores; the Catechism tells us that “Since God is ‘true’, the members of his people are called to live in the truth.” (CCC 2465)

Unfortunately, the misguided idea that the Church ought to be governed by the People rather than the hierarchy established by Christ and His apostles seems to be a darling amongst Schenk and like-minded folk (as briefly seen earlier in Part Two of my article about women priests).  Fortunately for the Church, Scripture and Tradition emphatically do not bear this out; in fact, they directly contradict it.  As a quick example, one need only look at the Council of Jerusalem, where Church officials met, discussed, and, under the aegis of St. Peter, decided that circumcision was not mandatory for Gentiles who had converted to Christianity. (cf. Acts 15:1-31)  Of course, one can also look at the hierarchy that Christ Himself instituted when He appointed the apostles, and the further developed hierarchy that the apostles in turn continued after Christ’s Ascension (CCC 880-86).

As the Catholic Encyclopedia puts it, the holy government of the Church is, in a word, monarchical.  The democratic paradigm is not the model that Christ and His apostles based the Church on.  Who are we to dare to contradict His will?  To insist on ‘democratizing’ the Church, as Schenk and her compatriots wish to do, is to impose one’s subjective whims upon the divine institution; it is, barring ignorance, to demonstrate a blatant disregard for truth and the virtue of obedience.

With regard to the idea that “other voices” ought to be given a say: that’s all well and good, but the issue is ultimately up to the Magisterium, or really, the Holy Spirit.  Concerning the issue of birth control, it has already been definitively settled.  It had already been settled, with regard to abortion, all the way back to the time of the Apostles – I refer Sr. Schenk to the second chapter of the Didache, where it is set forth that “you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten.”  Of course, the Church has set forth that abortion is absolutely wrong in every circumstance and can in no way be justified.  Regarding contraception in general, it has always been condemned, with particular reference to Scripture for justification. (cf. Gen. 38:9, Deut. 23:1)  I’d write more on the subject of contraception and abortion, but it’s not the focus of this post; for concise treatments on the subjects, check out these helpful links

The next bit from Sr. Schenk is more of the same, but in a more flagrant manner:

“We’re really suffering from this little oligarchy, a small number of men.

In a sense, Schenk is right; the Church is sort of oligarchic, and it does seem like a small number of men (!) govern the Church, but that outright ignores both the position of the papacy and the authority vested in it, which point in turn to a monarchy, as stated previously.  But again Sister misses the whole point of this system, the whole reason why we still have it: because the apostles and their successors all instituted it and maintained it for a reason.  This was done not because of the cultural prejudices of the times, but because it was the model that Christ set, through his ordination of the apostles, his elevation of Peter over the other apostles, and through his establishment of the Church in general. (Again, see CCC, sections 880-86)  The Church is called a kingdom, modeled after the Kingdom of Heaven:

It was the Son's task to accomplish the Father's plan of salvation in the fullness of time. Its accomplishment was the reason for his being sent. "The Lord Jesus inaugurated his Church by preaching the Good News, that is, the coming of the Reign of God, promised over the ages in the scriptures." To fulfill the Father's will, Christ ushered in the Kingdom of heaven on earth. The Church "is the Reign of Christ already present in mystery."
"This Kingdom shines out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ." […]
The Lord Jesus endowed his community with a structure that will remain until the Kingdom is fully achieved. Before all else there is the choice of the Twelve with Peter as their head. Representing the twelve tribes of Israel, they are the foundation stones of the new Jerusalem. The Twelve and the other disciples share in Christ's mission and his power, but also in his lot. By all his actions, Christ prepares and builds his Church. (CCC 763-5)

I think that’s enough said about the kingdom.

More to come later; there isn't much left of the article that's worth commenting on, so I'll post the rest of it, along with my closing thoughts, in a day or two.  As always, feel free to leave your thoughts.

Pax Christi,


Thursday, February 9, 2012

O'Malley, Bishop Lennon, and the HHS Health Mandate: Part One

Greetings!  I realize it’s been a ridiculously long while since I posted anything; poor Elizabeth has been carrying the burden of updating the blog on a sort-of regular basis.  I don’t really have an excuse for this laxity on my part; however, in my defense, I originally started writing a post about modern romantic relationships – and have nearly finished it – but I got distracted by other stuff (read: books, books, more books – I made a trip to a used book shop in Oberlin and picked up six more volumes of the Britannica Great Books series – and a good deal of drawing).  Anyway, I was at breakfast again with my father, Elizabeth, and her parents after morning Mass on Wednesday, Feb. 1st, and I saw in the Plain Dealer that a journalist had written an article concerning the Catholic response to the unconstitutional and frankly totalitarian Health and Human Services mandate (for more on that travesty, I recommend hearing Fr. Robert Barron’s thoughts on the issue, seen here; the National Catholic Register also has a number of excellent articles about it).

Wouldn’t you know it!  The journalist was our friend Michael O’Malley: the very same man whose article in the PD spurred me to write that lengthy four-part post about women priests (Part One here).  His article about the bishops’ response to the mandate will be the subject of this post.  All boldings are mine for the sake of emphasis, with the exception of the title of the article, below:

Lennon decries U.S. rule on contraceptives
MICHAEL O’MALLEY, Plain Dealer Reporter
Cleveland Bishop Richard Lennon has joined a chorus of Catholic bishops across the country in condemning a new federal requirement that employers, including Catholic institutions, offer insurance plans providing free contraceptives to their employees.
Starting next year, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services will require plans such as those at Catholic hospitals colleges, and charities to cover birth control without employee co-payments.
The health department sees the new rule in terms of health and medical issues.  But the Catholic Church sees it as a violation of its religious rights under the Consitution.

It’s a simple enough start; O’Malley provides a concise summary of what has happened, and he gets it right, although with one troubling omission.  I’ll address that glaring omission towards the end of this series.  With regard to the Church’s position concerning the mandate, She is absolutely correct; it is an egregious infringement on religious liberty and a shocking and blatantly aggressive move on the part of the Administration.  However, I am confused by one bit of O’Malley’s piece here: The health department sees the new rule in terms of health and medical issues.  Well, what is that supposed to mean?  Might he elaborate more?  “Health and medical issues” could mean anything, but it seems to suggest that they think the mandate to be essential to the health of patients.  Meanwhile, here I am thinking that contraception, abortion, and sterilization have almost nothing essential to do with the health of a patient and everything to do with trying to artificially manage one’s life via unnatural means.  But that’s a discussion for another time.  Onward:

“Unless this rule is overturned, Catholics will be compelled either to violate our consciences or to drop health care coverage for our employees,” Lennon wrote in a letter read by priests throughout the Catholic Diocese of Cleveland during last weekend’s Masses.
The bishop wrote that the Obama administration is “denying to Catholics our nation’s first and most fundamental freedom, that of religious liberty.”
“We cannot – we will not – comply with this unjust law,” the bishop wrote.
Lennon’s letter echoed statements by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in Washington, D.C.

O’Malley is making one mistake here, as far as I can see.  He is misattributing the letter to Bishop Lennon, when, as far as I know, it is a letter that was read in every Catholic church in the United States.  It was not written by Lennon, as O’Malley seems to think: I’m reasonably certain that it was written by the USCCB, and U.S. Catholic bishops all had it read at the Masses in their name (with their signature at the end, in other words).  So that’s one problem O’Malley has here: a failure to properly investigate the issue.  Given the rest of the article though, I don’t think that’s the biggest problem, as you will see.

On the actual parts of the letter quoted, I am still inspired by the firm resolve illustrated in its words.  We need so badly a strong resistance to this ridiculous and unmitigated attack on religious liberty and conscience, and this letter fills me with hope that that resistance will be unflagging on the part of the bishops.  I only hope the people respond in that manner as well.

But Sister Christine Schenk, a local nun and certified nurse midwife, says the bishops are being disingenuous because the new rule does not force anyone to use contraception.  Schenk heads FutureChurch, a Lakewood-based organization working to liberalize the church.
No Catholic is being coerced into using birth control,” she said.

All right, stop.  I can just hear the thunderous whoosh as the point of the whole issue flies over Sister’s head.

The point is not that Catholics are being forced to use birth control - that's a ridiculous notion, and also not what the bishops said.  The point is that Catholics are being forced to materially cooperate with evil.  Catholics are being forced to pay for the distribution and/or administration of intrinsic evils – namely: contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilization.

All three of these are unequivocally condemned by Holy Mother Church as intrinsic evils.  For Catholics to support any of them is intrinsically wrong, because they directly violate the natural law with regard to sexuality.  So for Sr. Schenk, a radical in her own right (more on that in a bit), to manage to miss that and instead say that it’s not forcing Catholics themselves to use contraceptives is just perplexing.  I mean, she is a Catholic nun, yes?  Unless one is completely ignorant of the dogmatic teachings of the Church – willfully or no – there is no excuse for this kind of oversight.

As for the fact that she heads FutureChurch…well, I’ll cover that part in a bit.  Suffice for now to say that FutureChurch is not a Catholic group in anything other than the nominal sense of the word.  Their website, and their mission statement, are what could charitably be called full of tripe - I am reminded forcefully of the National Catholic Reporter, which you will find to be anything but Catholic if you have the stomach to read the things they have to say about contraception, women "priests", abortion, et cetera.

That's all for now, but there's much more to come.  My original response to this article, somewhere in the realm of two or three pages, has now ballooned to six - I'll be cutting it up into two or three more posts as a result.  For now, feel free to tell me what you think: suggestions, questions, disagreements - have at it!  This Catholic is still in need of help when it comes to blogging - thank the Lord I at least have Elizabeth to help me out there - so input is very welcome.  In the meantime, I'll do my best to get the rest of this article up promptly.

Pax Christi,


Thursday, February 2, 2012

Video: Father Barron on the HHS Contraception Mandate

Here's a fantastic video that Father Robert Barron, a Chicago-based priest and favorite commentator of mine, posted quite recently.  It's in response to the Department of Health and Human Services' mandate that employers, including religious institutions, pay for and provide contraceptives, abortifacients, and sterilizations for their employees.

Father Barron also has a supplemental video on another channel of his that speaks about the mandate:

In addition to the videos, I have here in a handy link the letter that my diocese's bishop, Richard Lennon (Diocese of Cleveland), signed and sent out to all the parishes, as passed down by the U.S. bishops.  This letter was (as most U.S. Catholics ought to know) read at all Catholic Masses in the United States this past Sunday (January 29th) and spoke about both what the Obama administration has imposed and what we as Catholics must do about it.  I encourage you to read it several times: it's a wonderful letter, and it really rams home the fact that we Catholics, along with our fellow brethren in Christ and all other religious objectors, are facing up against a blatant attack on our religious liberty and right of conscience.  We must do everything we can to prevent this mandate from taking effect.

Oh, and I have an article currently incoming that relates directly to the bishops' response to the HHS mandate.  Expect it to be up in a few days - preferably by Saturday.

Pax Christi,


Thursday, January 26, 2012

In Remembrance of Roe vs. Wade

Neither Aloysius or I were able to attend the March for Life in Washington DC this year, but it is heartening to see the hundreds of thousands of faithful people in the current photographs of the 2012 March.

Although I did not go to Washington, I wanted to make my own contribution to the Pro-Life movement.  So the day before the anniversary of Roe vs. Wade, I made and posted the following video to YouTube:

Humbly and gratefully, I'd like to call myself a survivor of Roe vs. Wade.

Thanks to all the folks out there who labor ceaselessly to promote the rights of the unborn.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

What's Wrong With These Papists? - Part I

             With all the misconceptions and unanswered questions about the Catholic Church floating around, it’s important that we Catholics clearly explain what we believe and address all the fingers pointed at the Church.  If only those who criticize the Church would give us a chance to explain ourselves fully, we just might soften some stony hearts.  As Servant of God Fulton Sheen stated so perceptively, “There are not one hundred people in the United States who hate The Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they wrongly perceive the Catholic Church to be.” 
                I would like to begin this series with some Catholic basics.  For Catholics genuinely interested in their faith, these “basics” might be old news; for doubtful Catholics, they might prove a much-needed reminder; and for non-Catholics, they will hopefully refute some common allegations.  Overall, I hope I will inspire a deeper appreciation of what the Catholic Church is all about.


Question #1: Why the name “Catholic”?

                Answer:  The word “catholic” comes from the Greek kat’ holon or katholou and it means “universal”, as in relating to the whole.  There is a rather rich array of symbolism within the name, but only one or two explanations will be necessary:

1.       The Church is universal because She obeys Christ’s command to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations.” – Matthew 28: 19
2.       The Church is whole because She believes that Christ resides very really with Her, in His fullness (“Behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.” – Matthew 28: 20); and because Christ handed on to the Church His Truth – that is, the whole truth.  “I gave them Your word, and the world hated them … Consecrate them in the truth.  Your word is truth.”  – Jesus’ prayer to His Father, John 18: 14, 17

The word “catholic” was first applied to the Church – what was then simply known as the Christian Church – in St. Ignatius of Antioch’s letter to the Smyrnaeans, about the year 110 A.D.  Clement of Alexandria (d. 215 A.D.) later stated, “Both in substance and in seeming, both in origin and in development, the primitive and Catholic Church is the only one.”

Misconception #1: Catholics worship Jesus’ mother, Mary.

                Refutation:  By honoring Mary, we are following the example of the early Church.

The respect and distinction granted the Mother of God by the Church is an ancient, ancient custom.  Before any theological decisions were made officially by the Church regarding such issues as Mary’s virginity, her freedom from original sin, and her merited right to be called the Mother of God, devotion to Mary was common in the early Church.  One of the earliest known paintings of Mary was found in the catacombs, dating from the late 2nd century. (See picture at the end of the post.)
Many of the Church Fathers, great men who were active in the Church from its beginnings to 750 A.D., wrote tracts in defense or in praise of Mary.  One of the earliest references to Mary among the writings of the Church Fathers is from Irenaeus, who wrote in 189 A.D., “The Virgin Mary, being obedient to his word, received from an angel the glad tidings that she would bear God.”  Ambrose of Milan wrote in 377 A.D., “The first thing which kindles ardor in learning is the greatness of the teacher.  What is greater than the Mother of God?  What more glorious than she whom Glory Itself chose?”  Cyril of Jerusalem wrote, “The Father bears witness from heaven to His Son.  The Holy Spirit bears witness, coming down bodily in the form of a dove.  The archangel Gabriel bears witness, bringing the good tidings to Mary.  The Virgin Mother of God bears witness.”  (350 A.D.)

It is also worth mentioning that one of the famous early councils of the Church, the Council of Ephesus held in 431 A.D., was convened because the early Church was fighting one of the many heresies then plaguing it.  A bishop named Nestorius – of Greek nationality, and therefore inclined to be a Platonist – believed that created things were imperfect and sinful.  He thus tried to make the claim that Christ was not God, and therefore Mary was not the Mother of God, but simply the mother of a great human being.  The council, of course, made the decision that Christ must be God, and so Mary must be the Mother of God – or the Theotokos, Greek for “God-bearer”.  It is interesting to note that this decision was made based on logic more than anything else, and that shortly thereafter, the first church dedicated to the Virgin Mary was built in Rome around the year 435, Saint Mary Major.  This basilica still stands in all its glory in Rome.  (see picture)

By honoring Mary, we are following the examples given to us in Scripture.

Not only does the Catholic Church have innumerable writings of the Church Fathers to turn to for guidance in this matter, but She also has the authority of Scripture.  I would like to reference five Scripture passages which maintain Mary’s position as honored Mother of God:

1.       Luke 1: 26-28.  “The angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin’s name was Mary.  And coming to her, he said, ‘Hail, full of grace!  The Lord is with you.’ ”
2.       Luke 1: 41-42, 46, 48.  “When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the holy Spirit, cried out in a loud voice, ‘Most blessed are you among women’ …  And Mary said ... ‘Behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.’ ”
3.       John 2: 1, 3-5, 7, 9-10.  “There was a wedding in Cana in Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there … When the wine ran short, the mother of Jesus said to him, ‘They have no wine.’  And Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, how does your concern affect me?  My hour has not yet come.’  His mother said to the servers, ‘Do whatever he tells you.’ … Jesus told them, ‘Fill the jars with water.’ … And when the headwaiter tasted the water that had become wine … [he] called the bridegroom and said to him, ‘Everyone serves good wine first … but you have kept the good wine until now.’ ”
4.       John 19: 25-27.  “Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother’s sister … when Jesus saw his mother and the disciple there whom he loved, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold, your son.’  Then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother.’  And from that hour the disciple took her into his home.”
5.       Acts of the Apostles 1: 13-14.  “When they entered the city they went to the upper room where they were staying, Peter and John and James and Andrew, Philip and Thomas, Bartholomew and Matthew, James son of Alphaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas son of James.  All these devoted themselves with one accord to prayer, together with some women, and Mary the mother of Jesus.”

The first two passages are in many ways self-explanatory, but I would like to briefly explain the great significance of the latter three. 

  • ·         At the wedding feast, Mary first informs Jesus of the bridal party’s plight – no wine – and then she, in a sense, disregards His rationalization and orders the servants to pay attention and follow whatever directions Jesus gives them.  (She is gently, but subtly, ordering Jesus to help the bride and groom out.  Sounds like a mother, doesn’t it?)  And then – Jesus listens to her.  One could argue that Jesus was merely testing Mary, that He was planning all along to change the water into the needed wine, that she “pressured” Him to work a miracle; and perhaps all these were factors, but the point is that Jesus listened to her, and obeyed her.  He offers to us an example of the respect and obedience we should give to Mary.
  • ·         At the Cross, Jesus sets before us a most tender symbol: that of giving His Church to the care of His Mother, as her own children.  St. John the Disciple, perhaps pointedly unnamed (although John the Evangelist insists on calling himself the disciple whom Jesus loved throughout his Gospel), stands on one side of the Cross, representing the Church.  Mary stands on the other side.  Jesus, who seems concerned not only for the welfare of His Church, but also for that of His Mother, gives Mary to the disciple and the disciple to Mary.  At Jesus’ last dying moment, the Church is bequeathed to an ever-loving mother.
  • ·         In the upper room, where the beautiful Descent of the Holy Spirit will take place in a few moments, the Apostles of Jesus gather with the women who followed Jesus, and with His Mother.  St. John seems to have taken his role as Mary’s adopted son quite seriously, and all the other Apostles as well.  Her presence among the closest disciples of Jesus during the very beginnings of the Church (Pentecost) indicates her personal and guiding role in the early Church.  One can imagine the love she showered on them as the dear friends of her Son, and how much the Apostles must have been devoted to her as the Virgin Mother of their Lord.

 It can thus be gathered from these examples that devotion to Mary is not something new.  The practice of honoring the Mother of God has been around since the Church began.  Before the Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church split, before Islam was formed (even centuries before Muhammad was born), the Virgin Mother held a cherished place in the heart of the Church.  That is why we honor her today.

But don’t you pray to Mary?

For the sake of convenience, we say “praying to Mary”, which is something of a euphemism, although we are indeed asking her for her motherly help during times of trouble.  But we are not praying to her as a goddess, or as some deity equal in omnipotence to the Triune God.  We like to call it “praying to Jesus through Mary”, and in that sense we are referencing the Scripture passage where the wedding feast at Cana takes place.  (The significance of that passage has been mentioned already.)  It is as if we were asking our own mothers to pray for us, and like Monica, the mother of St. Augustine, God listens with special attention to the prayers of a mother.  How much more so will He listen to the requests of His own Mother, when she presents Him with the needs of the Church.

Pax Christi,