Montag, 27. Juli 2009

Beware of Pride! (to Apologists)

Pride (superbia) is - according to St. Augustine - "the love of one's own excellence".

Having engaged in a couple of inter-faith debates in the past myself, I can say from experience that the danger of falling into a prideful and arrogant attitude is very real and very great.

A Christian apologist should have the same attitude as a Roman Inquisitor: to be motivated out of compassion for the heretic and to only be content with the situation when the same heretic repudiates his errors and becomes orthodox.

At times though, we see Christian apologists on a quest to "destroy" their opponents. Ridicule becomes a more frequent part of the debates. So there comes a shift in the mission: instead of "defending the truth" with the hope to persuade one's opponent to embrace the orthodox faith, the prideful apologist then seeks to "crush" his/her counter-part in order to glorify himself in his intellectual achievements: the divine mission turns to a profane one.

Thus, the apologist becomes as the prophet spoken of in Deuteronomy 18:20:

"But the prophet, who being corrupted with pride, shall speak in my name things that I did not command him to say, or in the name of strange gods, shall be slain."

Speaking of "strange gods", let us remember that the first sin was that of disobedience arising from pride: the sin of Satan. Pride can be seen as a form of idolatry as it is the "love of one's own excellence". Instead of glorifying God, one glorifies oneself. But why should one even glorify oneself? All that is good is from God. St. Augustine said that we humans own nothing aside from our sins.

Thus, let us all be humble and charitable.

Mittwoch, 22. Juli 2009

Why evangelize?

Not few Catholics harbor the opinion that evangelization is not really necessary, that God would save those who "lead good lives" anyways.

Now, I will not discuss the salvation of unbaptized people. Instead I would like to show one reason as to why we should evangelize. There is the danger of hell - of course -, but as in our own lives, fear ought not to be the primary cause for our Christian lifestyle. To be a Christian primarily out of a falsely understood fear is something intrinsically disordered (1 John 4:18).

What is the real reason? The real reason is charity. This simple, yet so profound word sums up everything about Christianity. It also shows us why sharing the Gospel - through whatever means - has to be part of every Christian's life.

According to the Angelic Doctor, St. Thomas Aquinas, "to love is to will what is truly good for another". Connecting to this thought, there is no greater good than God, for God is charity (1 John 4:8, and as such, God is the eternal source of all which is good.

To be a Christian is to know God who is charity through Christ. To be a Catholic Christian is to be a partaker of Christ (Hebrews 3:14), a partaker of that greatest good imaginable, of charity itself.

"He that hath the substance of this world, and shall see his brother in need, and shall shut up his bowels from him: how doth the charity of God abide in him? My little children, let us not love in word, nor in tongue, but in deed, and in truth." (1 John 3:17-18)

So how can we really - with good conscience - claim to be abiding in God's love if we choose not to share through the Gospel the greatest good, charity itself?

Is it not natural to have the desire to share our joys with other people, our neighbours? Is it therefore not appropriate to say that we - by dictate of charity - have to share that which is truly good with our neighbours, that they too may know of this charity in that truth which makes free (John 8:32)? And what greater joy is there than that which stems from charity?

"For all the law is fulfilled in one word: Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." (Galatians 5:14)

Charity is the very core of the Christian faith. It is the greatest amongst the three theological virtues:

"And now there remain faith, hope, and charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity." ( 1 Corinthians 13:13)

So, in full accordance to the greatest commandments - that we ought to love God totally above all else and to love our neighbours as ourselves (Matthew 22:37-40) - we have the obligation to evangelize; to evangelize not out of fear (for ourselves), but rather out of charity. If we truly love our neighbours as ourselves, then we will surely want them to know that greatest good which we as Catholics have come to known and are able to partake in through the Sacrament of Holy Communion.

The Evangelium Christi, the Gospel of Christ, can be summarized as the true testimony of true charity. Charity and truth, the two primary components of evangelization embodied by our Lord, Jesus Christ (John 15:12-14, John 14:6, 1 John 5:6). Wherefore, to evangelize is not to simply speak of any message, but to share with others the person of Jesus Christ. There are different ways of evangelization: Dominicans, the friars preachers, share the Gospel primarily through their charitable, orthodox preaching. Fransiscans, on the other hand, share the Gospel through works of charity especially amongst the poor. These two orders, with each having its specific charisma, show us that there are many different ways through which we - also as lay Christians, according to our personal talents - can truly and charitably evangelize.

A Christian who does not live according to the supreme principle of charity is living a disordered lifesyle. "He that loveth not, knoweth not God: for God is charity." (1 John 4:8)

"Grace be with you. mercy, and peace from God the Father, and from Christ Jesus the Son of the Father; in truth and charity." (2 John 1:3)

Donnerstag, 16. Juli 2009

How to know Divine Truth?

People who believe in "Divine Truth" often disagree when it comes to what it is and how it is found.

There are mainly two groups of people we can characterize: one is the group of those who follow - what they believe to be - Divine Revelation; the other is the group which relies upon what I would call gnosis, i.e. knowledge (such knowledge is attained with one's own abilities).

So one group of people believes that Divine Truth is God and that all truths we know about God are not attained with our own abilities, but rather are revealed to us by God. God is transcendent and thus cannot be the object of any empirial observation, not of any scientific tests. We therefore cannot know anything about Him unless He reveals certain things to us.
This group is one that demonstrates a bond of dependence between the creature and the Creator, between man and God. This bond is commonly known as religion. Such a religion cannot be without a system as the divinely revealed truths are seen as binding upon all believers.

The other group believes that one may find the way to Truth using one's own abilities. One is not dependent upon any type of deity - which is why this group is not necessarily theistic. Often times, people who belong to this group believe in an abstract and non-personal understanding of "Divine Truth". Many also try to reach "enlightenment" either through ascetism, self-discipline, years of studies, or meditation. A good example of adherents of this group would be Buddhists. This group is also one that may exist with or without a system. Compare a Buddhist monk to someone who follows no religion, but only his own "personal path".

The first group is always tied to a personal God. The second group includes a wide array of differing thoughts.

The most obvious difference between the two becomes clear when one thinks in terms of objectivity or subjectivity. The group which follows Divine Revelation believes in objective truths whsoe source alone is God who is the simple union of all complex truths. The people who follow the other group hold what they have come to realize as the truth. There can be those who claim to know what is right and those who claim that "each individual as his own path". The more common position is that of subjectivism and relativism.

Truth, however, is intrinsically objective. It does not rely upon opinions, but simply is. Likewise God is (He did introduce Himself as "I am that is"). Therefore, we can conclude that the second group is following an objectively flawed path.

Mittwoch, 15. Juli 2009

Sedes vere vacans?

Is the seat really vacant?

This blog entry will be dealing specifically with the "anti-Vaticanum II" sedevacantists. Basically, I will try to refute this type of sedevacantism with a single argument: an argument based on logic.

Before we proceed to my refutation, let us first recall in our minds the claims of these sedevacantists. The most popular and central would be:

1) Vatican II is anti-Catholic.
2) All conciliar and post-conciliar (Vatican II) popes are heretical "anti-popes".
3) The "Novus Ordo" (ordinary form of the Roman Rite) is heretical.

These are the three basic points of these "traditionalist sedevacantists". It is perhaps relevant to some to also note that these three points are shared - in varying degrees - by many "traditional Catholics" (normally by those who are very close to formal heresy and schism).

So how will I now proceed? I could refute all three false claims - however I will not. There is sufficient orthodox Catholic information on the issue available online. I will however follow through the consequences that arise from the aforementioned sedevacantist points and thereby demonstrate the absurdity of such position.

If ponts 1, 2 & 3 are all true, then we have to say that every single Catholic who is in communion with the Popes connected to Vatican II (Pope John XXIII - Pope Benedict XVI) is by necessity also a heretic.

Sedevacantists surely are familiar with Pope Paul IV's papal bull Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio.
Here is even a link to it from a sedevacantist site:

What is important about it? §2 and §5 (§5 i) tell us that the Church in communion with the Popes connected to Vatican II - according to sedevacantist thinking - cannot be the Catholic Church as it would be heretical. It would be some sort of an "anti-Church".

So far, so good!

Now the problem starts. According to Vatican I (an Ecumenical Council not rejected by this type of sedevacantists) the office of the Papacy is to be permanent:

Session 4, Chapter 2:

1. That which our Lord Jesus Christ, the prince of shepherds and great shepherd of the sheep, established in the blessed apostle Peter, for the continual salvation and permanent benefit of the church, must of necessity remain forever, by Christ's authority, in the church which, founded as it is upon a rock, will stand firm until the end of time.

So since the 3 points of these sedevacantists has lead to the necessary consequence that the Church in communion with the Magisterium is no longer the Church since it would be "heretical", the sedevacantists would now be the "real Catholics", but have not a pope.

The question then is: what on earth are they waiting for? If they already claim that (true) Catholics are heretics and that they are the real thing, then why do they not comply with the decrees of Vatican I - which they claim to follow - and provide for a pope? Certainly the Cardinals in Rome (in communion with Pope Benedict XVI) would also be deemed "heretical" and thus cannot be the ones to elect the "real pope".

Moreoever, why have they not already elected a "real pope" when the "widespread departure from the faith" (i.e. Vatican II - according to their ideology) began? Why even wait? This waiting is in itself an illogical act.

47 years have already passed since Vatican II was opened. Until now they speak of "sede vacante": the vacant seat (chair of Peter). Are they waiting for "heretics" to elect a pope they could like?

Clearly, their hesitation is a demonstration of a lack of faith in their own position. It seems plausible to me that the creators of this mistaken ideology have simply focused on an "anti-campaign" without being able to create a positive cause/basis for their own position. If this position defines itself through a negative and is existentially dependent on being that negative that opposes Vatican II, then it is a lost cause, a heresy. It bears the same attitude of the first sinner: that of rebellion (non serviam).

As I tell our protestant brethren: being ANTI is not enough.

When an idea is intrinsically flawed, it will reveal itself as an erroneous view when logically and consequently thought through - as in this case.

I pray that these separated brethren shake off the burden of this heresy and come back to the unity of the chair of Peter.

"We declare, say, define, and pronounce that it is absolutely necessary for the salvation of every human creature to be subject to the Roman Pontiff." (Unam Sanctam, Pope Boniface VIII)