Samstag, 29. August 2009

Orthodoxy (Contra Errores Schismaticorum) II

Against the Errors of Schismatics II

This will be a follow-up to my first blog entry for ST. I sense that the work I have done is not yet enough to set aside the reasons for ST's refusal to become Catholic. It has to be noted that a person is not converted by the works of man, but through the grace of God. My task is simple: to attempt to remove the reasons that may hold ST back from joining the Catholic Church and thus being fully incorporated into the Mystical Body of Christ. In doing so, I also hope that others may benefit from this blog.

In this blog entry, I will try to discuss the following:

1) more evidence for the role of the Papacy in regards to Christian Orthodoxy
2) doctrinal development; also the development of Church hierarchy
3) an analysis of the Church's theandric (material and spiritual) nature and its being an icon (eikon) of the Holy Trinity
4) certain parallels between protestantism and Eastern Orthodoxy; sobornost theology, Phyletism
5) argumentum clericum (clerical argument)
6) Conclusion

I more historical evidence for the Papacy

1) Theodore Abou-Qurra (c. a.D. 820), Arab bishop of Haran):

"By the grace of the Holy Spirit, in every circumstance our recourse is simply to build ourselves on the foundation of St. Peter, who administered the six holy Councils [the Seventh Ecumenical Council was not yet received in parts of the East] which were convened by order of the Bishop of Rome, the capital of the world. Whoever is established on her throne is the one entrusted by Christ, to turn to the people of the Church his Ecumenical Council, and to confirm them, as we have established in a number of other places [in writings]." (Essay "On the Death of Christ"]

2) Either St. Methodius (9th century) or one of his followers wrote the following on the 28th canon of the Council of Chalcedon (which Pope St. Leo the Great rejected "by the authority of the holy Apostle Peter".:

"It is necessary to know that this decision (the 28th canon) was not accepted by Pope Leo I... And it is not true, as this canon affirms, that the holy fathers have accorded the primacy and honor to Old Rome because it was the capital of the Empire.
But it is from on high that it began; it is of grace divine that this Primacy has derived its origin. Peter the most exalted of the Apostles, heard from the mouth of Our Lord these words: 'Peter, do you love Me? Feed My sheep'. This is why he possesses among the hierarchs the pre-eminent rank and the first see. It is notorious, besides, that, although Emperors have dwelt at Milan and Ravena, and their palaces are found there to our own day, these cities have not received on that account the Primacy. For the dignity and pre-eminence of the priestly hierarchy have not been established by the favor of the civil power, but by Divine choice and by apostolic authority...

How would it be possible, because of an earthly Emperor, to displace divine gifts and apostolic privileges and to introduce innovations into the prescriptions of the immaculate faith? (note: this is precisely what happened in the East with their "caesaropapism" which further alienated the East from the Catholics Church; the founding of the Anglican "Church" of which you, ST, are a member is also a similar process: an earthly lord claims for himself authority over the Church)
Immovable, indeed, unto the end are the privileges of Old Rome. So, in far as being set over all the churches, the Pontiff of Rome has no need to betake himself to all the holy Ecumenical Councils, but without his participation manifested by the sending of his subordinates, every Ecumenical Council is non-existent and it is he who renders legal everything that has been decided in the Council."

3) St. Optatus, Bishop of Milevis, wrote in his 4th century treatise "Against the Schism of Donatists":

"You cannot deny that you do know that upon Peter first in the City of Rome was bestowed the episcopal Cathedra (chair), on which sat Peter, the Head of all the Apostles (for which reason he was called Cephas), and that, in this one Cathedra, unity should be preserved by all, lest the other Apostles might claim each for himself separate Cathedras, so that he who should set up a second Cathedra against the unique Cathedra would already be a schismatic and a sinner...
We read that Peter received the saving Keys - Peter, that is to say, the first of our line, to whom it was said by Christ, 'To thee will I give the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven', and these Keys 'the Gates of Hell shall not overcome.' How is it, then, that you strive to usurp for yourselves the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, you who, with your arguments, and audacious sacrilege, war against the Chair of Peter?" (Seven Books Against the Donatists, Book II, 3).

While typing this, I realized how perfectly applicable this statement to the Donatists is to our own times. Eastern Orthodox schismatics, Anglicans, Lutherans, Old "Catholics", etc. all attempt to "re-invent" the Church by setting up a new system. All these schismatics have one thing in common: they "war against the Chair of Peter". Without the Cathedra Petri, we see that the schismatic groups fall into discord for they lack the source of unity, the Chair of Peter.
There are indeed no new heresies, but simply alternate forms of old ones.

4) Pope St. Agatho wrote the following in a letter to Emperor Constantinus Pogonatus (the first part s incorporated in the Acts of the 6th Ecumenical Council):

"Sancti quidem Doctores venerati atque secuti (Apostolicam Sedem); haeretici autem falsis criminationibus ac derogationum odiis insecuti."

"The holy Doctors have always held it (the Apostolic See) in reverence and clung to it; while heretics have ever persecuted it with their slanderous falsehoods and hateful calumnies." (Mansi, tom. xi. Col. 239)

"...this his Apostolic See has never deviated from the path of truth, in the direction of any error, and its authority is that of the Prince of the Apostles, the whole Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Councils have embraced with fidelity, and in all things followed, and all the venerable Fathers have clung to its apostolic doctrine; through which they, as the most approved lights of Christ's Church, have shone; and the holy and orthodox doctors have honored and followed it...
This is the rule of the true faith which this spiritual mother of your most peaceful empire, the Apostolic Church, has in prosperity as well as in adversity, ever held and protected with vigor: which it shall be shown, by Almighty God's help, has never erred from the path of Apostolic tradition, nor has she been corrupted by yielding to the innovations of heretics, but from the beginning she received the Christian faith from her founders, the princes of the Apostles of Christ, and until the end remains incorrupt, by virtue of the divine promise of the Lord and Redeemer Himself, which He spoke in the holy Gospel, to the prince of His disciples, saying: 'Peter, Peter, behold Satan has sought to have you, that he may sift you as wheat, but I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not. And thou being converted, confirm they brethren.'..."

The Fathers of the 6th Ecumenical Council (a.D. 680) submitted the following testimony to the Emperor:

"With us fought the Chief of the Apostles, for to help us, we had his imitator and successor, who showed in his letter, the mystery of theology. Rome proferred you a divinely written confession, and caused the sunlight of doctrine to rise by the document from the West. The ink shone and Peter spoke by Agatho."

5) from the Acts od the Seventh Ecumenical Council containing the Letters of Pope Hadrian I:

" great veneration should be shown to the highest See, by all the faithful in the world. For the Lord set him who bears the Keys of the kingdom of heaven as chief over all, and by Him is he honored with this privilege, by which the Keys of the kingdom of heaven are entrusted to him...
For the Blessed Apostle Peter, himself the chief of the Apostles, who first sat in the Apostolic See, left the chieftship of his Apostolate, and pastoral care to his successors who are to sit in his most holy Chair forever. And that power of authority, which he received from the Lord God our Saviour, he too bestowed and delivered by divine command to the Pontiffs, his successors... In the whole world the chief rank and power was given to the Blessed Apostle Peter by the Redeemer of the world Himself; and through the same Apostle, whose place we unworthily hold, the holy Catholic and Apostolic Roman Church holds the first rank, and the authority of power, now and forever..."

It is very hard to still uphold the idea that the Roman Pontiff had a mere "primacy of honour" without any authotity or power. It is very clear from this testimony from the Acts of the 7th Ecumenical Council that the Roman Pontiff enjoyed more than a "primacy of love" or "of honor".
It is also made evident that the Successors of Peter, the Popes, are to enjoy the same privileges and power "now and forever". How then does one justify schism from the unity of the Chair of Peter?

6) Pope Hadrian I wrote the following instructions to the Patriarch of Constantinople:

"...One of the first things Your Holiness must do is to let the pious and triumphant emperors know that the pseudo-Synod [of Hieria which was supported by 338 bishops] must be anathematized in the presence of our legates. It was illegal and out of order because contrary to the tradition of the Fathers since it condemned the divine images and was held without the concurrence of the Apostolic Throne. Thus, after every weed has been uprooted from the Church, the word of our Lord Jesus Christwill be fulfilled that the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against it; and again, 'Thou art Peter and upon this Rock I will build My Church. And I will give the thee the Keys of the kingdom of heaven and whatever thou shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven'. Peter's throne holds the primacy over the whole world and is the Head of all the churches of God. So it is that the Blessed Apostle Peter, shpherding the Church by the Lord's command, did not abandon his charge, but held and always holds, the supreme power, so if Your Holiness wishes to unite yourself to the Apostolic Throne, which is the Head of all the churches of God, he must strive to keep to the sacred and orthodox form of doctrine of the same Head. This he must do from the depth of his heart, with the utmost sincerity, and without alteration or admixture of any kind."

The Council Fathers' reply was:

"We follow them, we receive them, we accept them."

7)The pseudo-Nicene canons from the 5th century (Arabic canons attributed to the Council of Nicaea which were incorporated in the collections of the ancients Syrian, Coptic, Ethiopian and Melkite Churches) state:

"It is the will of this ecumenical synod that for all things which have not been justly conducted by a metropolitan or other bishops, the patriarch has the power to decide by his own authority. For he is found above his fellows and all the bishops are the sons of his heritage. The honor of metropolitans is like that of an elder brother who finds himself among his brothers. The honor of a patriarch is thus of a father who has authority over his children. And as the patriarch has the power to do all that he wishes for good in dominion of his authority, so he of Rome will have the power over all the patriarchs like Blessed Peter over the entire community. For he has likewise the place of Peter in the Church of Rome. The transgressor ofr this canon is anathematized by the ecumenical synod."

These pseudo-Nicene canons clearly state that the primacy of the Bishop of Rome is that of authority and power, not one of "mere honor". It should be noted at this point the vast amount of evidence supporting the orthodox understanding of Papal Primacy while the schismatic notion of a mere "primacy of honor" remains historically unsubstantiated.

8) John, Patriarch of Jerusalem (a.D. 575-593):

"...for us the Holy Church, we have the word of the Lord, who said to Peter, chief of the Apostles, when giving him the primacy of faith for the strengthening of the churches, 'Thou art Peter, etc.',
to this same Peter He has given the Keys of heaven and earth; it is in following his faith that to this day, his disciples and the doctors of the Catholic Church bind and loose; they bind the wicked and loose from the privilege of those who, on the first most holy and venerable See, are the successors of Peter, and according to the word of God, infallible." (to the Catholics of Georgia)

If the confirmer and strengthener of the faith is himself fallible in matters of doctrine, then of what value is his authority on doctrine? Certainly, this 6th century testimony shows that the definition of Papal infallibility in the Ecumenical Council of 1869-1870 (Vatican I) is not a "novelty" or "heretical innovation" as proposed by the enemies of the Chair of Peter and of Christian orthodoxy.

9) Stephen of Dora (c. a.D. 649). emissary of St. Sophronios, patriarch of Jerusalem, writing the to Pope St. Martin I during the struggle against Monothelite heretics, declared that the patriarch had told him::

"Traverse quickly all the world from one end to the other until you come to the Apostolic See, where are the foundation of the orthodox doctrines... We asked for the wings of a dove...that we might fly away and announce these things to the Chair which rules and presides over all, I mean, to Yours, the head and the highest, for the healing of the whole wound. For this it has been accustomed to do with power from of old, because alone apart from the rest the truly great Peter, head of the Apostles, was clearly thought worthy not only to be entrusted with the Keys of Heaven, to open it worthily to believers, but to close it justly to those who disbelieve the Gospel of grace..."

It has been my task to demonstrate that the Holy See is the rule of orthodoxy; Stephen of Dora could not have stated it any better.

10) The greatest opponent of the Monothelite heresy, St. Maximus the Confessor (+662), had this to say in dealing with the heretic Pyrrhus, the patriarch of Constantinople:

"Let him hasten before all to satisfy the Roman See. That done, all will with one accord, everywhere hold him pious and orthodox. Indeed, he is talking in vain when he...does not satisfy and beg forgiveness of the Blessed Pope [Eugenius] of the most holy Roman church, that is, of the Apostolic See. This See, from the very Incarnate Word of God, and also from all holy Councils according to the sacred canons and definitions, has received universal and supreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and loosing over the holy churches of God all over the world. For when this binds and looses, so also does the Word in Heaven, who rules the heavenly virtues."

Does this sound like a mere "primacy of honor"? It would be very difficult for a schismatic to twist such clear message. Why would a Saint of the East dealing with a heretic in the East seek the approval of the Roman Pontiff in the West when the Pope has no "supreme dominion, authority, and power of binding and looing over the holy churches of God all over the world"?

11) St. Theodore of Studium (a.D. 795-826) wrote the following to Pope Leo III in the struggle against the Iconoclasts (Pope Leo III also defended the Filioque clause):

Since it is to the great Peter that Christ our God gave the Keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and entrusted the dignity of the chief of the flock, it is to Peter, that is to say, his successor, that one ought to submit every innovation which is made in the Catholic Church by those who would turn aside from the truth. That is what we humble and lowly monks have learnt from the ancient Fathers... I borrow now the cry of the Coryphaeus [Chief] of the Apostles, calling Christ to his succour when the waves of the sea were risen up, and I say t your Blessedness who art the Representative of Christ, 'O First 'Shepherd of the Church which is under heaven', save us now, we perish. Imitate the Christ, your Master, stretch out your hand to your Church as He stretched out His hand to Peter. Peter began to sink in the waves, while our Church is still once more submerged in the depths of heresy. Emulate, we beg you, the great Pope whose name you bear [Pope Leo the Great], and just as he on the appearance of the Eutychian heresy, stood erect spiritually as a lion with his dogmatic letters, so in your turn (I dare to say it because of your name) roar divinely, or rather send forth your thunders against the present heresy. For, if they, usurping an authority which does not belong to them, have dared to convene an heretical Council [that of Hieria with 338 bishops]. While those who following ancient custom, have not even the right of convoking an orthodox one without your knowledge, it seems absolutely necessary, we dare say it to you, that your divine Primacy should call together a lawful Council, so that the Catholic dogma may drive away heresy and neither your Primacy may be anathematized with all the orthodox by these new voices without authority, nor that wills evilly disposed may find in this adulterous Council an excuse for being involved in sin. It is in order to obey your divine authority as Chief Pastor that we have set forth these things as it befitted our nothingness, we the least members of the Church."

St. Theodore the Studite has summed up the rule of Orthodoxy quite well. He also demonstrated whence a Council derives its confirmation: from the authority of the Roman Pontiff, the Successor of Peter. How then may one claim to follow an Ecumenical Council whilst rejecting that very authority which alone has the power to establish a Council as ecumenical?

12) Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople (a.D. 758-828) wrote the following in his "Great Apology" after helping in the consolidation of orthodoxy in the church of Constantinople:

"This Synod [the 7th Ecumenical Council which condemned the Iconoclasts in a.D. 787] possesses the highest authority... In fact, it was held with the most legitimate and regular fashion conceivable, because according to the divine rules established from the beginning it was directed and presided over by the glorious portion of the Western Church, I mean by the church of Ancient Rome. Without them [the Romans], no dogma is discussed in the Church, even sanctioned in a preliminary fashion by the canons and ecclesiastical usages, can be considered to be approved or abrogated, for they are the ones, in fact, who have been endowed in order to fulfill the function of guide in the priesthood and we have given them the credit due to those who among the Apostles are the Cotyphaei [SS: Peter and Paul]."

No doctrine is defined definitively, nor heresies condemned without the word of the Bishop of Rome.

II legitimate doctrinal development

"The difficulties that some Eastern Orthodox [in this case, all other schismatics] have with Catholic doctrine on the Procession of the Holy Spirit, Papal Infallibility, purgatory, the two Marian dogmas of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption, and in fact, even some other teachings, stem from a profound miscomprehension of the development of dogma that has taken place in the history of the Church. They interpret the immutability of Christian dogma in the sense that every defined dogma or traditional doctrine of the Church must have been explicitly believed as such by the faith ful from the beginning of its history. It is true that every dogma proclaimed by the Church for belief is true, always has been true, and its meaning cannot be alteredor changed so that it bears a different meaning than that held by the Church in previous times. But it is not true that every dogma or doctrine contained in the "deposit of faith" confided to the Apostles has been object of explicit belief in every age, and only subject to new technical language in the definitions of Ecumenical Councils. This is to deny a real dogmatic development having taken place in the history of the Church, as noted by John Henry Cardinal Newman in his epochal word The Development of Christian Doctrine (1845). (James Likoudis, The Divine Primacy of the Bishop of Rome and Modern Eastern Orthodoxy: Letters to a Greek Orthodox on the Unity of the Church; pp. 150-151)

"For an authentic "development of doctrine" has taken place in the life of the Church, and it involves not only new philosophico-theological expression for revealed truths that were always explicitly believed (say, the divinity of Christ) but also the unfolding aspects of doctrine (e.g., the canon of Scripture, the number of the sacraments, the hypostatic union, the Immaculate Conception of the Mother of God, the particular judgment, etc.) under the guidance of the Holy Spirit leading the faithful to a greater understanding of the supernatural mysteries revealed in Jesus Christ." (ibid.; p. 151)

Let us remember that ST claims to follow the dogmatic definitions and canons of the first seven Ecumenical Councils. It is therefore clear , that ST does not reject the fact of genuine doctrinal development. However, ST - along with our separated Eastern Orthodox and protestant brethren - rejects all doctrinal development after the first seven Ecumenical Councils. It has to be noted that such position necessarily cripples the teaching office of the Church. Eversince elements of the East broke away from the unity of the Chair of Peter, the Eastern Orthodox Churches have been unable to deal with the problems of our ages by means of convoking Ecumenical Councils. This situation in the East is not something Catholics wonder about as it is the logical consequence of their schism. It should also be noted that due to this sad state of the Eastern Orthodox Churches, no one of them may declare the definitions of the Ecumenical Councils of the Catholic Church post-1054 to be "heretical". For to condemn a certain doctrine, the definitive declaration of the Pope or of an Ecumenical Council confirmed by the Roman Pontiff is necessary: such, however, is only given in the Catholic Church, not to the schismatic Eastern Churches nor to any other non-Catholic community. To claim otherwise, is not only to build upon novelties foreign to ancient practices of the Church, but also to contradict Apostolic Tradition: if one does so, then there is no basis for any claims to "orthodoxy".

St. Vincent of Lérins (died c. a.D. 445) had this to say on doctrinal development in his writing to Timothy ("priest, expositor, doctor"):

"Let that which formerly was believed, though imprefectly apprehended, as expounded by you be clearly understood. Let posterity welcome, understood through your exposition, what antiquity venerated without understanding. Yet teach them the same truths which you have learned, so that though you speak after a new fashion, what you speak may not be so new...But someone may say perhaps, Shall there be no progress in Christ's Church? Certainly; all possible progress. For what being is here, so envious of men, so full of hatred for God, who should seek to forbid it? Yet on condition that it be real progress, not alteration of the faith. For progress requires that the subject be enlarged in itself, alteration that it be transformed into something else...."
"It behooves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress [as growth in the same body], so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue incorrupt and unadulterate, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak, in all its perfect members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its dictinctive property, no variation in its limits."

"For if once this license of impious fraud be admitted, I dread to say in how great danger religion will be of being utterly destroyed and annihilated. For, if any part of Catholic truth be given up, another, and another, and another will thenceforth be given up as a matter of course, and the several individual portions having been rejected, what will follow in the end but the rejection of the whole?" (Commonitorium, chapters 22-23)

What being is there, so full of hatred of God, to forbid doctrinal progress? What being is there that should seek a state in which further authoritative safeguarding of truth and condemnation of heresies would be impossible? What being is there that seeks to destroy the very Chair of Peter that guarantees this orthodox development of doctrine unto the end of times?

The Triune God is the God of unity and harmony in diversity; discord manifest in schisms is the work of the enemy.

It is clear that "doctrinal development" is not a "novelty" or an "heretical innovation" created by "heretical Latins" or "Papists".

It should also be clear - due to the theandric nature of the Church - that we can and should expect development not only in the spiritual, i.e. doctrinal, aspect of the Church, but also in the material aspect; e.g. disciplinary and ceremonical customs.
As we come to be a deeper and better understanding of certain dogmas in time, so too the Church's hierarchy has undergone a process of unfolding. This is, however, not to mean that the current form of the Church's visible aspect is thus an "heretical innovation" or a "baseless novelty", nay, this means that the power and authority granted to the prelates of the Church by Christ have undergone progress in the sense that the implicit became explicit. The Church has matured - in time -both physically and spiritually. This is something that not few schismatics falsely use as an "argument against papism". They do not realize that legitimate progress in the Church does not contradict the unchanging and inerrant nature of dogmas.

In regards to St. Vincent's statement on those who attempt to stop doctrinal development, Dr. Adrian Fortescue had this to say about the Eastern Orthodox Churches:

"The great weakness of [Eastern] Orthodox theology and the radical affliction from which the Orthodox Church suffers is arrested development...In spite of their boast of unchanging antiquity, their theology, rites, Canon law represent not the first ages but a comparatively advanced development, that of the Byzantine Period. And they stay there, satisfying neither the need of continuous development that is the mark of a living Church, nor the rival ideal of unchanged primitive observance." (The Orthodox Eastern Church, 1920; pp.393-394)

III the Church is theandric and an eikon of the Holy Trinity

The Catholic Church, the Church Christ established upon the man-Rock Kepha (Peter), is theandric in nature: the Church is material and spiritual at the same time; she is visible and invisible.

This is something not few schismatics reject, for they prefer a type of "Hyper-Ekklesia" (to use a term from a friend of mine): a type of Church which is only "spiritual". They use this idea to justify the obvious discord and doctrinal contradictions which exist among the different Christian denominations.

It is not an easy task to convince e.g. a "non-denominational" Christian of the fact that the Church is visible and therefore the creation of more "non-denominational" groups (de facto new denominations) would be a sin against the unity desired by Christ (John 17:11; 22).

It is clear that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ. This is the reason that the Lord - identifying Himself with His Church - asked Paul:
"Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" (Acts 9:4; Acts 22:7; Acts 26:14).
Furthermore He said:
"I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest." (Acts 22:8)

St. Paul himself also said that "we being many, are one body in Christ" (Romans 12:5).

So we know that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ, not based upon our own opinions, but based upon Divine Revelation.

The next step is to follow the logical consequences of the Church being Christ's Mystical Body. ST accepts the decrees of the First Seven Ecumenical Councils. This, I expect ST to accept the dogma on the hypostatic union. This particular dogma explains the truth about Christ: He is one divine person with two distinct natures: human and divine.

The explanation thus goes simply:

Christ is one divine person with a human and divine nature, material and spiritual.
The Church is Christ's Mystical Body and thus is theandric: the Church is also human/material and visible - as she is made up of humans and humans have material bodies - and she is also holy/spiritual/invisible - as the Holy Spirit dwells in the Church as her soul uniting each member - as through the Holy Eucharist - one to another forming a singularity, the one Body of Christ.

Any suggestion that thus denies the theandric nature of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church, is not of God since "every spirit that dissolveth Jesus, is not of God: and this is Antichrist, of whom you have heard that he cometh, and he is now already in the world" (1 John 4:3)

Such a theandric Church is also in need of a visible Head. This may be the greatest obstacle stopping schismatics from returning to the unity of the Chair of Peter. Fortunately, St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P., addressed this very issue:

"Let one say that the one head and the one shepherd [of the Church Visible] is Christ, who is one spouse of the one Church; his answer does not suffice. For, clearly, Christ Himself perfects all the sacraments of the Church: it is He who baptizes; it is He who forgives sins; it is He, the true Proest, who offered Himself on the altar of the cross, and by whose power His body is daily consecrated on the altar - nevertheless, because He was not going to be with all the faithfull in bodily presence, He chose ministers to dispense the things just mentioned to the faithful, as was said above. By the same reasoning, then, when He was going to withdraw His bodily presence from the Church, He had to commit it to one who would in His place have the care of the Universal Church. Hence it is that He said to Peter before His Ascencion: 'Feed My sheep' (Jn. 21:17); and before His Passion 'Thou being converted, confirm thy brethren' (Lk. 22:32); and to him alone did He promise: 'I will give to thee the Keys of the kingdom of heaven' (Matt. 16:19), in order to show that the power of the Keys was to flow through him to others to preserve the Unity of the Church.
But it cannot be said, that, although He gave Peter this dignity, it does not flow on to others. For, clearly, Christ established the Church so that it was to endure to the end of the world; in the words of Isaias (9:7): 'He shall sit upon the throne of David and upon His kingdom to establish and strengthen it with the judgement and with justice from henceforth and forever.' It is clear that He so established therein those who were then in the ministry that their power was to be passed on to others even to the end of time; especially so, since He Himself said: 'Behold, I am with you all days even to the consummation of the world' (Matt. 28:20).
By this, of course, we exclude the presumptious error of some who attempt to withdraw themselves from the obedience and the rule of Peter by not recognizing his successor, the Roman Pontiff, the Pastor of the Universal Church." (Summa Contra Gentiles, Book 4, Chapter 76)

Furthermore, the Angelic Doctor teaches of the necessity of the Papacy as the visible source of unity in the Church:

"The unity of the Church requires that all the faithful agree as to the Faith. But about matters of faith, it happens that questions arise. A diversity of pronouncements, or course, would divide the Church, if it were not preserved in unity by the pronouncement of one [this should be evident in the thousands of denominations in protestantisn and the phyletism in Eastern Orthodoxy]. Therefore, the unity of the Church demands that there be one who is at the head of the Church. But manifestly, in its necessities Christ has not failed the Church which He loved and for which He shed His Blood, since even of the synagogue the Lord says, 'What is there that I ought to do more to My Vineyard that I have not done to it?' Therefore, one must not doubt that by Christ's ordering there is one who is at the head of the entire Church." (ibid., Book 4, Chapter 76)

Pope Pius XII explained perfectly the question regarding the visible head for the Church Militant in his 1943 encyclical Mystici Corporis Christi (of the Mystical Body of Christ):

"We must not think that He [Christ] rules only in a hidden or extraordinary manner. On the contrary, our Divine Redeemer also governs His Mystical Body in a visible and normal way through His Vicar on earth. You know, venerable brethren, that after He had ruled the 'little flock' Himself during His mortal pilgrimage, Christ our Lord, when about to leave this world and to return to the Father, entrusted to the Chief of the Apostles the visible government of the entire community He had founded. Since He was all wise He could not leave the Body of the Church He had founded as a human society without a visible head. Nor against this may one argue that the primacy of jurisdiction established in the Church gives such a Mystical Body two heads. For Peter in virtue of His primacy is only Christ's Vicar: so that there is only one chief Head of this Body, namely Christ, who never ceases Himself to guide the Church invisibly, though at the same time He rules it visibly, through him who is His representative on earth. After His glorious Ascencion into heaven this Church rested not on Him alone, but on Peter also, its visible foundation stone. That Christ and His Vicar constitute only one Head is the solemn teaching of Our Predecessor of immortal memory Boniface VIII in the Apostolic Letter Unam Sanctam; and his successors have never ceased to repeat the same.
They, therefore, walk the path of dangerous error who think that they can embrace Christ as the Head of His Church though they do not give their loyalty to His Vicar on earth. By taking away this visible Head and by breaking these conspicuous bonds of uniy, they so obscure and deform the Mystical Body of Our Saviour that it cannot be recognized by those seeking the harbor of eternal salvation. (Mystici Corporis Christi, 40 and 41)

Another aspect of the Church is that she is an eikon (icon) of the Holy Trinity.

One could view it as follows:

Holy Trinity: Father - Son - Holy Spirit: one God

Church: Pope - other prelates - laity: one Body of Christ

The unity of the Holy Trinity mirrors the unity of the Catholic Church: in both there is one supreme principle being the Father in the Holy Trinity and the Pope in the Church. Without a supreme principle of unity, there can be no "unity in plurality".

The Father has authority over the Son who in turn also has authority over the Holy Spirit (as the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son). Thus both the Son and the Holy Spirit have one principle, the Father.
Likewise, the Pope has authority over the other prelates who in turn have authority over the laity. The other prelates and the laity have one principle which keeps them all subject to Christ: the Vicar of Christ, the Pope.

Thus, while the Church mirrors the unity of the Holy Trinity in its threefold diversity, the Pope keeps the Church - as a singularity - subject to Christ as His Mystical Body.

That the Church is closely connected to Triadology can also be seen in a comparison between the Old and New Covenant:

Old Covenant:
High Priest: Aaron (Exodus 28:3)
ministerial priests: Aaron's sons (Exodus 28:40-41)
universal priests: Israel (Exodus 19:6)

New Covenant:
High Priest: Jesus Christ (Hebrews 2:17)
ministerial priests (Romans 15:16; 1 Timothy 3:1,8; Titus 1:7)
universal priests (1 Peter 2:5,9

We again have the "head principle", then the ordained ministers/prelates, then the laity.

To show ST that this is not merely an "heretical innovation" created by Catholics to confuse others, I shall cite Bishop Maximos Aghiorgoussis:

"The Church is ekklesia (quahal) is a corporate reality, a unity of persons called together by God which reflects the kind of society that the Holy Trinity is. For the Church is created after the image of the Holy Trinity, in whose life it participates. As there is hierarchy in the Holy Trinity, there is hierarchy and structrue in the Church. As there is equality of persons in the Holy Trinity, there is equality of persons and personal destinies in the life of the Church." (The Greek Orthodox Theological Review, vol. xxv, no. 4, winter 1980, p. 313)

IV parellels between protestantism and Eastern schismatic theologoumena

theologoumena: theological opinions open to debate (as most polemical statements against the Catholic Church are not doctrines confirmed by an Ecumenical Council which the Eastern schismatics claim to be necessary for the establishment of dogma and authoritative teaching bindign for the universal Church)

i) sobornost theology:

This theology was developped by Alexei S. Khomiakov who lived in the 19th century and suggests that infallibility is something that may only be exercised by the whole Church, i.e. by all the faithful agreeing on a certain issue, and not by any organ of the Church, i.e. the Episcopate which gathers in Councils.
ST must be familiar with this as one of his reasons to accept only the first Seven Ecumenical Councils was that only they were "accepted by the whole Church". Thus, instead of following the Episcopate in communion with the Roman Pontiff (it is said that we are to obey our prelates in Hebrews 3:17), doctrinal authority is diffused among all the members of the Church. In such a scenario, infallibility becomes impossible since no organ of the Church (the Magisterium) can be identified as the infallible teacher. The result is doctrinal chaos and anarchy. Some may claim otehrwise, but one can ask a simple question: when a protestant disagrees on doctrine with another protestant (based on their personal interpretations of Scripture), then who decides what is the orthodox doctrine? Or when an Eastern Orthodox contradicts another, who is right and ought to be followed?

Let me give some examples:

on purgatory:

Greek Orthodox lay theologian S. Tsirplanis writes in his book "Mark of Ephesus and the Council of Florence":

"From the Greek as well as from the Latin statements related to Purgatory, it is clear that both Churches, Greek and Latin, basically agree that there is a middle state of souls after is evident particularly from Mark's own replies, that the Greeks did not consider Purgatory as an issue serious enough to divide the two Churches. As a matter of fact, even the Greek prelates at Ferrara-Florence disagreed among themselves over the question of Purgatory...One should remember that the Greek prelates in general were unprepared for the Purgatory disputes; that even today there is no official doctrine on Purgatory in the Eastern Church."

On the other hand, a neo-Palamite, the Metropolitan of Nafpaktos, Hierothos S. Vlachos, had this to say in his work "Life After Death" (Birth of the Theotokos Monastery, Levadia, Greece, 1995):

"only Paradise and Hell exist and nothing in between them." (p. 166)

on the Immaculate Conception:

Bishop Kallistos of Diokleia wrote the following in the 1993 revised edition of his "The Orthodox Church":

"The Orthodox Church calls Mary "All-Holy"; it calls her 'immaculate' or 'spotless' (in Greek achrantos); and all Orthodox are agreed in believing that Our Lady was free from actual sin. But was she also free from original sin?... The Orthodox Church has never in fact made any formal and definitive pronouncement on the matter....
From the Orthodox point of view, however, the whole question belongs to the realm of theological opinion; and if an individual Orthodox today felt impelled to believe in the Immaculate Conception, he or she could not be termed a heretic for so doing)" (pp. 259-260)

Another Eastern Orthodox cleric, Fr. Michael Azkoul wrote in response:

"His Grace wants us to 'suspend judgement on the matter'. Whether some Orthodox Christians have (or do) 'believed' is irrelevant. No member of the Church may hold any 'opinion' contrary to the Apostolic Tradition...In truth, there is no 'original sin' as the inheritance of Adam's guil; and therefore the Immaculate Conception is just another episode in a comedy of Latin errors. It is a dogma signifying nothing." (Once Delivered to the Saints, Saint Nectarios Press, 2000; p. 173)

And yet another one, Russian Orthodox theologian Professor Vl. Iljine suggests that examination of the Marian tradition of the Byzantine Church shows it had always favored the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception. (Revue des Etudes Byzantines, t.10 (1952); p. 167)

To me it seems that problems of sobornost theology are logical consequences of the rejection of the Papacy. In the words of Demetrios Kydones (14th century Byzantine convert to Catholicism) in his Apologia for his conversion:

"So when someone comes along and says the Pope is in error and everyone ought to abjure such error, we really have been given no proof for such an allegation, and it makes no sense for anyoen to pass judgement on what has first to be proven. What is more, is that we will not succeed in finding out why and by whom the Pope is to be judged, no matter how earnestly we try.

But aside from the prospect that one who has the Primacy in the Church is in error, what confidence can be placed in those of lower ranks?

If we continue to carry on like this, all shepherds of the Christian people will become suspect because what we accuse the Head Shepherd of is even more likely to befall those who are less than he. Would not every matter of faith have to end with a question mark if there indeed be no final seat of authority in the Church? There can be no certitude anywhere, if noone is worthy of credibility. Then we are no longer talking about the religion which St. Paul described as one; rather there will be as many religions as there are leaders, or better still, none at all!

Every believer will suspect everyone else and will proceed to pick and choose whatever belief suits him. Then, as in a battle fought in the dark, we will be striking at our own friends, and they at us.

How the non-believers will enjoy our antics, because we Christians are now involved in endless bickerings among ourselves, since none of us want to concede anything to anyone else. The whole missionary efforts to spread Christian beliefs will be stopped in its tracks since no one will pay any attention to those who cannot even agree among themselves.

Is this not the precise situation we find among the schismatics?

ii) Phyletism is precisely related to the Apologia of Demetrios Kydones. This is the heresy that hierarchs establish rival episcopates in one and the same territory. Modern Eastern Orthodoxy suffers from this problem especially in the Americas wherein Russians and Greeks do not agree in regards to who is to exercise authority over the mentioned areas.

for more information:

V argumentum clericum (clerical argument)

The argumentum clericum is a simple argument based on the fact that the Church of Christ has a ministerial priesthood who acts "in persona Christi" (2 Corinthians 2:10). It is clear that as the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ and as such is a communion of Eucharistic unity (1 Corinthians 10:17); "Christ is all, and in all" (Colossians 3:11) and also "the head of the Church" (Ephesians 5:23). Therefore we, the members of the Church, "are all one in Christ Jesus" (Galatians 3:28). Christ, is thus the center of our unity. Now, one may ask what role clerics play in this argument. The role they play is:

Priests act in the person of Christ in the parish. As such, they represent the center of Christian life in a parish. This is the case because as the Church is a Eucharistic communion and we know that only validly ordained priests - in accordance to Apostolic Succession - are capable of confecting the sacraments , the priests play a central role in a Christian community. Without the priests, Eucharistic communion cannot be maintained, then one can no longer claim to be part of the Church proper which is made made into the "one body" of Christ by partaking in the "one bread" (1 Corinthians 10:17) which is "the body of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 11:29).

In a sense then, it is the priest who guarantees the unity of the Christian people in his parish. Anyone who wants to be part of the Mystical Body of Christ has to go to Holy Mass to receive Holy Communion. It is also decreed by the Church - against the Donatists and Montanists - that the immorality of a certain priest does not invalidate the sacraments which the said priest confects in the Name of Christ Jesus. The priest then is the local representative of the Church's unity in Christ and this is the reason why we are to "obey" our "prelates and be subject to them" (Hebrews 13:27).

It is evident from history though that certain prelates of the Church have fallen into heresy. Heretics have come from within the Church (Acts 20:29). How can then the unity of the theandric Church be maintained? Analogous to the unity in the local parish in which the laity are centered around their parish priest, the priests of a certain region are centered around their bishop. For the unity of the local churches, it it necessary that all the priests in a certain region agree with their bishop. It is though also possible that bishops fall into heresy (as we see e.g. in the Iconoclast Council of Hieria). In the early Church, there were then Patriarchates ruling over a greater region than the episcopate of a bishop. It was then of necessity that the bishops - and with them the local priests (and all the clerics, religious, and the laity) - agree with their respective Patriarchs: all this for the sake of unity.

But what happens when even Patriarchs disagree with each other? Then, indeed the unity of the Church is in danger. It is for this very reason that there exists a visible head of the Church, the Vicar of Christ, the Pope.

"In order that the episcopate itself, however, might be one and undivided, He [Jesus] put Peter at the head of the other Apostles, and in him He set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity both of faith and of communion." (Dogmatic Constitution of the Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, #18)

One has to always keep in mind that the refusal to identify an infallible teaching organ and supreme authority in the Church Militant leads to none other but an ecclesiology in which each man is de facto "his own pope". By this I mean that the laity are not under any moral obligation of obedience towards their prelates (which contradicts Sacred Scripture). Everyone then only accepts what he deems to be right "in his own heart" ("He that trusteth in his own heart is a fool" - Proverbs 28:26). This is why we also have a sort of "church-hopping" amongst protestants: if you do not like what "Pastor X" says, then you go to another church (by Protestant church, I mean the assembly hall, the building; since protestant communities are not "Churches"). It is then one's own desires, one's own heart, which become the final arbiter of truth in matters of doctrinal questions. This is a notion I cannot see anywhere in the history of orthodox Christian faith. Is the situation any different among the Eastern Orthodox? They also have no final authority to settle disputes amongst themselves. They do appeal to Ecumenical Councils, but they suffer from "arrested development" leaving them without the possibility to convoke an Ecumenical Council to definitively settle any doctrinal dispute after the first Seven Ecumenical Councils. What is there to say of the Anglicans? They are in a similar position: there is no final and supreme authority. And the novel idea of Anglicans that there are "many Catholic Churches" - the Anglican, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox Churches - is in itself a violation of Apostolic Tradition that the Church is one, i.e. she is doctrinally united. It is not necessary to discuss all other protestant communities. What then separates the schismatics from the Catholic Church? It is their refusal to admit that the reason for their schism is their attitude of treating as dogma their theological opinions - contradicting the doctrines of the Catholic Church - that do not meet the standards for "authorititative and universally binding doctrine" as evident in Church history. It is an attitude of making oneself the arbiter of truth. But we know that the Bible teaches otherwise: it teaches obedience and loyalty to the Church and not protestant individualism (Matthew 18:17; Luke 10:16; 1 John 4:6).

A Russian Orthodox theologian, Fr. Alexander Schmemann, wrote:

"The important point is... for us to see that in the light of this doctrine [of a universal Church] the need for and the reality of a universal head, i.e., the bishop of Rome, can no longer be termed an exaggeration. If the Church is a universal organism, she must have as a head a universal bishop as the focus of her unity and the organ of supreme power. The idea, popular in Orthodox apologetics, that the Church can have no visible head, because Christ is her invisible head, is THEOLOGICAL NONSENSE. If applied consistently, it should also eliminate the necessity for the visible head of each local church, i.e. the bishop. Yet it is basic assumption of a "catholic" ecclesiology that the visible structure of the Church manifests and communicates its invisible nature. The invisible Christ is made present through the visible unity of the bishop and the people: the Head and the Body. To oppose the visible structure to the invisible Christ leads inescapably to the Protestant divorce between a visible and human Church which is contingent, relative and changing, and an invisible Church in heaven. We must simply admit that if the categories of organism and organizational unity are to be applied primarily to the Church universal as the sum of all its component parts (i.e., local churches), then the one, supreme, and universal power as well as its vearer becomes a self-evident necessity, because this unique visible organism must have a unique visible head. Thus the efforts of Roman Catholic theologians to justify Roman primacy not by mere historical contingencies but by divine institution appear as logical. Within a universal ecclesiology, primacy is of necessety and, by the same necessity, a divinely instituted power; we have all this in a consistent form in the Roman Catholic doctrine of the Church." (The Primay of Peter, ed. by Jean Meyendorff, Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1992; page 151)

For the sake of honesty, it should be noted that Fr. Schmemann prefered to reject the Church's being a "universal organism" over becoming Catholic. Nevertheless, it is highly remarkable that a Russian Orthodox theologian would give Roman Catholic theology that much credit in regards to the Church being a universal communion. One may have expected him to convert after showing that the Papacy is intrinsically necessary for the Church as a "universal organism", but instead he chose to reject the universal nature of the Church. He then follows an ecclesiology not that different - but also not identical - from the protestant's rejection of the theandric nature of the Church. Instead of "divorcing" the material nature of the Church from the spiritual, he chose to divorce the local unity from the universal. His view leads to the same problems of sobornost theology and the problems spoken of by Demetrios Kydones.

VI Conclusion

After examining all four aspects in this blog entry, I hope that I have helped ST by removing some obstacles which prevent him from accepting the truth about the Church of Christ and entering into the Catholic Church.

Now, we have established that there is no Christian orthodoxy without the Papacy and that communion with the Bishop of Rome is necessary to be in the Church which Christ Himself established. Furthermore, we have established that only the Catholic Church has evidently preserved Apostolic Tradition in its entirety (indeed other Christian communities have elements of truth).

It still is possible to reject the Catholic Church after my presentation. I admit that my presentation is not good: it is quite short and lacking when one considers the vast amount of evidence which speaks for the truth in the Catholic Church. For my sloppy work, I apologize, but I can only accomplish so much as time permits me. Furthermore, I am still learning and there are still many things that I know not of and thus could not demonstrate in my blog entries.

Some protestants use a system in which they simply try to twist and distort the evidence presented to them in a manner which would not point to the Papacy in order to justify their schism. Some even go as far as to ask for every single doctrine of the Catholic Church definitive declarations from the first Seven Ecumenical Councils, or from the "first century of the Church". The errors of such thinking should be obvious: for one, it rejects legitimate doctrinal development, and the protestants and other schismatics who argue this way fail to realize that they are building up a position solely based on the negation of Catholicism while at the same time they themselves fail to meet the strict criteria they have come up with in order to reject the Catholic Church. One is left to ask: if the Catholic Church is wrong, then who is right? Where is the Rock-foundation of Kepha to be found? Is it to be found among the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, the Anglicans, the Episcopalians? Is it to be found in another "Church" or community which claims to be the Church of Christ? Or is it rather to be found in any community claiming itself to be Christian and thus making doctrinal unity unnecessary after all and Christians can all claim to be "one Body" while each one believes something else?

Either there is one theandric Church and all other schismatics are mistaken and ought to seek unity with that Church; or the Church is only "spiritual" and there is thus no visible supreme and infallible teaching organ - through which Christians can know what is sound doctrine - and no one may therefore charge another of being a "heretic" and no one may rebuke heretics sharply (Titus 1:13). I hope it is clear that the latter leads to a de facto religious pluralism and the "sola scriptura" standard of protestants - which itself is subject to interpretation - is objectively useless. One only needs to open his eyes and check where one can find more doctrinal unity: in the traditional Churches (Catholic and Orthodox) or in protestant communities? It is clear that unity is best seen in the Catholic Church.

There are some protestants who claim they only believe in the "historical Church" which used to be visible but - beginning in 1054 - somehow became invisible. Then ask for "historical proofs" - not in implicit, but always in explicit manner - for the further doctrinal development in the Catholic Church (a process evident in the first centuries of the Church). At the same time, one could ask them questions such as:

1) What Ecumenical Council declared the Church to be invisible and without need for hierarchy?

2) What Ecumenical Council declared that we may pick and choose from the declarations of Ecumenical Councils what to believe?

3) What Ecumenical Council declared that the See of Peter is no longer essential to orthodoxy?

4) What Ecumenical stated that Ecumenical Councils are not binding for all Christians?

5) What Ecumenical Council declared Catholics to be heretics?

6) Where in the history of the Church do we see "orthodox Christians" who rebelled against the Catholic Church and the Ecumenical Councils confirmed by the Popes?

7) Where in the history of the Church has it been taught to be part of Apostolic Tradition (which we ought to follow according to the Bible (Acts 2:42; 1 Timothy 4:16) that we "follow the faith, not our prelates"?

8) If there is no infallible teaching organ within the Church, then who decides on what is the orthodox faith that needs to be followed by all?

A former Catholic I know who is now a protestant suggested - like ST - that he is "orthodox"/"catholic" in the sense that he follows "orthodox doctrine" and not the "Catholic Church which is fallible". "Even Ecumenical Councils are fallible", he suggested.

A man not even in his twenties now decides without recourse to the accepted authorities of the early Church, nor to the Scripturally founded hierarchy of the Church, nor the Chair of Peter what is "orthodox doctrine" and what not.

It seems to me that these people are simply rebellious in nature like those who followed Core in their rebellion against Moses and Aaron. They follow their own bellies (Romans 16:18) and follow no longer established and orthodox doctrine, but rather their own opinions, their own desires (2 Timothy 4:3). They are the people who like to "re-invent the wheel": instead of obeying their prelates in Sacred Tradition (Hebrew 13:17), that is listening to the Church which is the test of orthodoxy (1 John 4:6), and being taught by the Church how to understand the Scriptures (Acts 8:31) which can be misinterpreted unto condemnation (2 Peter 3:16), they prefer to complain against the hierarchy of the Church and follow their own desires (Jude 1:16).

They forget that it is St. Peter alone that Christ Himself entrusted His entire flock, the Church. Dare I then rebel against the will of my Lord and my God and seek another Vicar of the Good Shepherd than the one He Himself has set for us to follow? If I do so, then I cannot really claim to love my Lord Jesus Christ for He said that it is he who keeps His commandments who loves him (John 14:21), and I shall be likened unto those dishonest impostors and vain babblers who call Him "Lord, Lord" but are not of Him (Matthew 7:21). But nay, I humbly submit myself in obedience to the Vicar of Christ whom the Lord has set above all to tend and to feed His sheep among which I hope to count myself.

Let me finish with the words of St. Basil the Great:

"My task is finished. If you find that what I have said is satisfactory, let it end our discussion of these matters. If anything is unclear, do not hesitate to diligently seek an answer... The Lord will provide a full answer for any remaining questions, since He gives knowledge to those He has chosen, by the Holy Spirit."


Most citations presented here are taken from the works of Mr. James Likoudis. To order his excellent books, please visit:

Donnerstag, 13. August 2009

the Church and Modernity

Here, I will attempt to dicuss what seem to me very plausible reasons for the decline of faith in our modern days. The reasons I speak of are the mode of preaching and the mode of prayer: lex praedicandi et lex orandi.

It is my firm conviction that the loss of faith can and should be blamed on us faithful also. We have a responsibility to actively spread and cultivate a culture of faith - a responsibility which many of us have compromised for the sake of modernity:

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt lose its savour, wherewith shall it be salted? It is good for nothing any more but to be cast out, and to be trodden on by men. You are the light of the world. A city seated on a mountain cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a bushel, but upon a candlestick, that it may shine to all that are in the house. So let your light shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven." (Matthew 5:13-16)

Jesus teaches that we Christians are the salt, the light of this world: with our faith we show others the path unto righteousness - as a light shows the way in the dark; with our faith we add what is lacking for the world to be good - as salt gives taste to food.

What do we expect then when we neglect the fact that we are to be the salt and light of this world? We can expect nothing good from this - neither for ourselves nor for others.

Here, I will discuss - as said above - two areas of the Christian faith which have been affected negatively by modernism:
1) the mode of prayer
2) the mode of preaching

on the mode of prayer:

The mode of prayer includes our mode of worship and all external expressions of spiritual devotion. The way this mode has been affected by modernism is evident in almost every single parish of the Catholic world. One could point out the simple fact that many Catholics - including clerics - do not appreciate expressions of great devotion like e.g. kneeling during Holy Communion or receiving the Sacred Species on one's tongue instead of on one's hand. Likewise, we can experience that older, solemn hymns are rarely sung in the Liturgy, traditional prayers are almost totally unknown to the current generation of Catholics, the use of Latin has almost totally disappeared from our Liturgical practices, illicit "innovations" can be seen not rarely in Catholic Masses (including the mode of celebrating the Forma Ordinaria entirely versus populum, excessive use of female extraordinary ministers of the Eucharist, the abandonment of the use of the talar and rochette by some altar servers, etc.), prayers and songs are sometimes "protestantized" for "ecumenism", etc. etc..
In summary, our lex orandi has been modified in a way to "fit the challenges of modern times". Most of these "innovations", however, have taken root not as something decreed or even appreciated by Rome - which is the source and rule of orthodoxy - but rather as being introduced "from below" (the Church is a hierarchy and is ruled from the top to bottom, not vice-versa); often times being contrary to the Tradition of the Church.

Now, how does this change in our prayer life affect the faith of other people and of Catholics as well? The answer is actually pretty simple: it is precisely connected to the quotation from the Gospel of St. Matthew as shown above: we are to be the salt and light of the world. This means that our way of living in and of itself should be likened to a prayer expressing also outwardly - i.e. to others; especially the non-believers - our devotion to Sacred Truth. If one prays in such a way that a spectator can easily recognize the sincerity of one's spirituality, then it is probable that the spectator - even if a non-believer - will be moved or "impressed" by such deep devotion. A prayer said with full conviction, a hymn sung with highest devotion, a Mass celebrated with utmost solemnity are akin to a song capable of touching the depths of the human soul. It is therefore not only by what we do, but also by how we do certain things that people around us will judge our deeds.
If one then - wishing not to be deemed "conservative" or "backwards" - "modernizes" his mode of prayer in such a way that it loses its "spice" (or "saltiness"), that is its outward expression of one's inner conviction, then what is to be expected of him who sees this person's mode of prayer? Certainly the spectator would not be moved by such a sight in any religiously positive manner. Instead, it seems more plausible to assume that our spectator would think that the person praying is not fully convinced of the truth he claims to believe in. His prayer is likened to "vain babbling": one says a lot, but what one says is void of meaning as it is void of sincerity.
Why then - one might ask - should a non-believer even be compelled to appreciate - much less to admire - such show of lacking faith? What is it in the showcasing of lacking trust in Sacred Truth that may permeate a spectator's soul? Nothing. On the contrary, such mode of prayer will be understood as an expression of the believer not taking his own faith seriously. If then the believer himself does not take his own faith seriously, why should the non-believer even consider it? The missionary aspect of the believer's life is then neglected. And what happens to other believers? Lex orandi, lex credendi: our mode of prayer reveals our faith. By submitting to a mode of prayer lacking full conviction, one's own faith will begin to waver: and as believers make up a communion, a community, such outward expression of lacking conviction will certainly not remain unnoticed amongst others: it will be the cause for ane eventual departure from the orthodox faith, and later - perhaps - even from the faith altogether.

All this for the sake of being "modern".

And Catholics wonder why there are not enough vocations?

I believe I have dealt enough with the mode of prayer. I shall continue to express my thoughts:

on the mode of preaching:

"Take heed to thyself and to doctrine: be earnest in them. For in doing this thou shalt save thyself and them that hear thee." (1 Timothy 4:16)

There are two serious errors not few clerics of these our times are guilty of - also for the sake of modernity:

1) abandoning the mode of preaching in an eplicitly orthodox manner
2) the use of "modern language" to "better convey the Good Message" to the modern man

to 1:

The first error is one which has become pretty obvious - especially after the Second Vatican Council. Now, let it be clarified, that I am not blaming the Council for these problems, but rather the unfaithful application of its decrees rooted in a false understanding of religious liberty and of the "ecumenical" aspirations of the Council.
It is not that easy to nowadays find a Catholic priest who preaches in his sermons that which is explicitly Catholic. Often times, one will hear sermons about basic principles of the Christian faith which are shared by most other non-Catholic Christian communities, or the focus is on "being a good person". Doctrine - which divides the schismatics from the Catholic Church - is often ignored. The focus is exaggeratedly put on the similarities, while the differences are almost never pointed out.

What are the problems that arise from such a mode of preaching?

They are pretty clear to me:
The Sacred Liturgy is at the heart of the Catholic life: it is the main area where catechesis on the truths of the orthodox Christian faith takes place. So, if then orthodox preaching is neglected in the Holy Mass, what is to be expected from the church-goers? They will certainly not develop a love for orthodoxy, a desire for truth. Instead, it is more plausible to assume that these would develop an attitude of liberalism: "doctrines just divide us, what matters is that we believe in Jesus and are good people. It does not matter whether one is Catholic, Lutheran, Evangelical or whatever else. To have faith in Christ is all that matters."
This is actually a very common attitude to find among protestants. One can say then, that this mode of preaching leads to a "protestantization" of the faith. Just by reading Matthew 7:21-29 and reading it in connection to Matthew 16:17-19, it ought to be clear that it is necessary - by Divine ordination - that we be in communion with the Rock, St. Peter, upon which the Church - the Catholic Church - was built by Christ Jesus. Doctrine therefore is highly relevant.
The Church is to lead us to the fullnes of truth that we may attain life eternal. Why then do certain clerics refuse to preach orthodoxy? Perhaps because it may seem "offending" to non-Catholic Christians? If that be the rule of dialogue, then conflicts may never be solved as noone would care to discuss the differing views and - based upon such discussion - to seek solutions for the problem at hand. For Christianity, this means that we wilfully and knowingly work - not actively, but passively - against the will of the Christ who prayed for Christians that "they may be one" (John 17:11). What is there to expect when one lives in a state of opposition to God's will? Certainly nothing good.

"To love is to will what is truly good for another." - St. Thomas Aquinas, O.P.

Thus, to refuse to lead people to the fulness of truth, and thus to salvation, is a sin against charity: it is a sin against the schismatics for they are left to their errors, it is a sin against the Church - the mystical Body of Christ - for the purity and orthodoxy of the faith is neither caused nor promoted nor maintained, it is a sin againt God Himself who is charity.

The other aspect of this first error, I have already mentioned above: it is the error of preaching a message primarily and solely focused on "being a good person". Now, it is without doubt, that a life of holiness should be part of Christian preaching. However, to turn this aspect to the paramount message of Christian preaching is an error. Why? Because the paramount message to be preached unto others is not a certain behaviour or lifestyle, but a person: Christ Jesus, through whom we know God. Jesus is the reason for our religion: from this flow all other aspects of Christian preaching. If one then replaces Christ, the living God, as the paramount focus of preaching, with a proposal on how to live one's life, then one may ask why one should even bother with all the religious precepts and not go directly to the essence - the core - of the message? This is precisely what is taught by the Buddha and what is promoted by secular humanism: faith in God wouldn't be the reason for our morality, but rather an unnecessary "add-on", whereas in essence the purpose of religion is to simply help a person "to live a good life".

So, while the former aspect dealing with non-orthodox preaching leads to a liberalism in the Christian faith, the latter aspect leads to apostasy, the departure from the faith.

I believe to have discussed point 1 enough, so I will move on:

to 2:

The second error in the mode of preaching is that of using "modern language to convey better to the modern man the Gospel of Christ". This error is actually what made me write this text after having watched a preacher made fun of since he used Disney figures as an analogy to explain Scriptural messages. There are those people who would claim that this style of preaching is "good", "modern", and "more easily understood by teenagers".
It seems obvious to me that this mode of preaching was conceived in the minds of older people who - thinking themselves to be young - have created a certain illusion regarding the attitude of modern-day folks of the younger generations. They probably think that teenagers would simply be bored by orthodox sermons, or by using the appropriate terminology in church. Therefore, they start using modern secular phrases and even some vulgar terms to seem "in" or "cool" in order to - so in theory - gain better access to the minds and hearts of teenagers.
It is an idea born of a good intention. However, having a good intention does not always guarantee a positive outcome of one's endeavors.

Now, observation can easily reveal the problems that arise from such a mode of preaching:
- Teenagers want to be taken seriously - both the believers and the non-believers. Thus, they want to be treated approriately by adults. They will not see themselves as being taken seriously when they see that the adults have stopped taking themselves seriously by acting in a "wannabe-teenager-like" manner when these "adults" speak to them. As a universal rule of common sense and decency, it is the younger that has to conform to the established systems of the older; it is the younger that has to show politeness and courtesy towards the older. I am not proposing the idea that adults are always right nor that they have to be followed in all they say nor that they are not required to also be respectful towards the younger. Instead, in this case, we are discussing the Christian faith: the older tend to be generally viewed as "conservative", while the younger are often considered "rebellious". Since Christianity is a religion that teaches there is Divine and Objective Truth which cannot be altered, i.e. dogma, then it is only appropriate to say that the right mode of behaviour when dealing with the Christian religion is the "conservative" style and not the "rebellious". Therefore, it is the younger that ought to go towards adulthood: it is a progressive development, not a regress which would be the case when adults act and speak like teenagers. Progress is positive, regress is negative.

Imagine a sermon by a priest who starts makes use of the stereotypical vulgar language and of typical teenage-idioms. What would?
The older people - who make up the vast majority of church-goers - would understand very little and would probably ask themselves why the priest is speaking in such an inappropriate manner in church.
The younger people would simply find the sermon a sad and pathetic attempt at evangelization. Moreover, such mode of preaching may well give rise to the notion that the priest himself does not take his own faith - of which he preaches - that seriously that he would stoop down to a level of using informal and inappropriate language.

Evangelization is an act done out of adherence to a Divine Command. When we therefore realize that the reason and end of our preaching is God, then it would be hard to use informal and vulgar language for such purpose.

However, there are people who boast of the large attendance in their "youth Masses", in their "youth churches", and in their "youth groups and events". They therefore justify the modern style of certain clerics and religious. But are these people really there because of God? Often times - and this I can say without doubt due to experience - the young people who attend such events reflect neither a proper understanding of basic Christian beliefs and much less of the orthodox Christian doctrines: what attracts them is the "hype" of the event, not God. I would claim such events to be idolatrous gatherings in which man celebrates himself rather than to worship God.

Another problem connected to "modern preaching" is the issue of indirect evangelization, indirect preaching. What do I mean by this? By this I mean specifically the religious, the Catholics who have entered into the religious life in orders, societiers or communities. In our times, one will more frequently see priests, brothers, sisters, and nuns who rarely or never wear their religious habits. Some even just use a simple cross or whatever small symbol to show - in a not directly apparent manner - their belonging to a certain religious community. Why is this problematic in my opinion?
It is problematic because of these reasons:
1) The religious takes vows to live his/her life for the greater glory of God, in His service, for the salvation of souls. The habit (the attire worn by the religious) is - akin to what I have discussed on the outward expression of prayer - an external witness or testimony to one's belonging to God. It is therefore also a means of "preaching": for it conveys a simple, yet profound message: "the person wearing this habit has consecrated himself totally to God". Now, a religious or a priest who does not wear the habit or the Roman collar (at least - since most modern priests have abandoned the cassock) seems like a person who suggests that he is ashamed of showing people his faith. It is not an explicit denial of the faith, but rather one which is sublime. I remind of the words of Jesus: "But he that shall deny me before men, I will also deny him before my Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 10:33).
The Christian faith is one that has to be shared, one that has to be preached: directly or indirectly. The religious attire is a means of sharing the faith with others. The visibility of habits also shows the presence of the Church in the world: we are to be the light. How can anyone follow the religious if they cannot even be recognized as such?
2) Furthermore, the habit is used to also show - in a way - that the religious are "not of this world", though they operate "in this world". It is like an outward expression of one's death to the world and total submission to God's will: the habit does away with the external differences caused by individual, secular fashion and points to a common religious testimony:
"And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me." Galatians 2:20
Thus, to reject the wearing of the habit is perhaps to insist on individualism: it is about oneself, not about God.
3) Habits make visible to people the religious. A non-religious may be compelled to study more about this way of life and consequently about the Christian faith when he sees happy people in habits; for this shows that living in accordance to God's will does not lead to "enslavement", but rather to liberty and utmost fulfillment: the Evangelion is then really understood as what it is: the GOOD message.
Not wearing habits merely points to a person, but not his religion. So occassions that may gave rise to interest in the religious life are therefore neglected.

Many religious - lay and clerics - seem to suffer under the illusion that anything pertaining to one's belonging to the Catholic Church would be like a wall which would stop others from speaking with them: as if the Catholic faith has to be "hidden" as good as possible.
A person who would refuse to talk to a priest who is visibly recognizable as such, would also not listen to an orthodox lay Catholic in "normal" clothes. The logic behind this thinking - if consequently thought out - must lead to a total refusal to even discuss or share with other the Catholic faith as this very faith would be likened to "a wall of division".
In reality - so it seems to me - the reason behind the refusal of wearing the habit or the Roman collar is either the lack of conviction or vanity.

And one may ask where modernity comes in? The modern world - especially in the West - is a relativistic, subjectivist society which is against any claims to objectivism. We live in a society of "political correctness" and of superficial unity. This modern world is not an ally of the Catholic religion: modernism is opposed to the Catholic faith. Now, this state of the world we live in today demands a lot of the Church which still has the mission to evangelize. How is the Church to evangelize in a world that stands diametrically opposed to the very truths that the Church safeguards and promotes? Certainly not by giving in bit by bit to modernism!

The solution is timeless: it was right in the ancient Church and is as perfectly right to the Church in these our modern days. The solution is to not only believe theoretically and partially, but to believe practically and totally: to live outwardly one's inner convictions. This matter of faith is can be compared to charity: it must be lived and expressed, otherwise it ceases to be.

For in the end, one can say: lex orandi et lex praedicandi = lex credendi.

Mittwoch, 12. August 2009

Jews, Hell, Atheists, and Morality

Before I start, let it be made clear that the following statements are the product of my contemplation on certain issues. I claim not to be necessarily right, and certainly do not claim infallibility in what I write. I may be wrong, I admit. If there be found anything - also in my other posts - which is not in accordance to the teachings of the Holy Roman Catholic Church, then it should be known to all that it is obviously me who would be in error - not the Church - God forbid!

Now we all know that the teaching on the existence of an eternal hell is part of the Christian faith. With Jews, the issue becomes a bit different.

I should perhaps point out that when I speak of the "Jewish" concept in this blog, I shall be speaking of what I would term as "reactionary Judaism". This term I use to describe that community of God's chosen people which - to this present day - reject their own Messiah, Jesus.
Thus I use this term to refer to Jews who believe not in the Lord Jesus Christ.

In reactionary Judaism, hell - or rather Gehenna - is not eternal. It can be understood more along the lines of purgatory: a temporal process of purification of the soul through purgation of all that is evil in one's soul (purgatory is the cleansing from venial sins). Therefore - according to reactionary Jewish thought - no one will be eternally separated from God; everyone goes to heaven in the end: whether he likes it or not.

I was told that it could not be otherwise since the "Torah teaches that all creatures shall return to the Creator".

Before I address the aforementioned statement, I shall give my thoughts on why I find hell to be of necessity:

Heaven and hell are eternal consequences which bear testimony to objective Divine Law. If there is a Law, then there is punishment for its violation. The severity of punishment often affects how seriously we take a certain law or rule.

Now, within theology we have faith in an objective standard for morality. We firmly believe that morality itself is objective - Divinely ordained - and not subjective. Violation of the divine moral code constitutes grave sins.

Just think for a moment about atheism and morality: the notion of an objective, transcendent code of moral law is dismissed. Morality is thus subject to the Zeitgeist. In the system of subjectivism then, one cannot really say that something is truly good or evil. What is deemed evil/immoral by one, could be wholeheartedly accepted and even promoted by another. As each man can create his own "moral truth", this system then renders morality objectively meaningless. As one can twist it to anything one wants, the purpose of morality - which is to uphold that which is objectively good - fades away. It is then by necessity that a moral code is transcendent and objective: we are subject to objective morality, not the creators thereof with the power to arbitrarily alter it.

If morality is subjective, then - objectively speaking - riding one's bike is on par with multiple murder. If instead there exists an absolute and objective moral code, then multiple murder would always be wrong, regardless of one's subjective opinion towards such act.

Why did I even discuss this? I discussed this in an attempt to show that an idea which tries to equate things opposed to each other is intrinsically flawed. Riding a bicycle is not on the same moral level as multiple murder.

How does this connect to the eternity of hell?

Well, let us compare the two theologies:

Christians believe that the righteous shall be with God for all eternity, while the wicked shall be eternally separated from him (by their own choosing).

Reactionary Jews, on the other hand, believe that the righteous and the wicked shall spend eternity together in the presence of God. So an Anne Frank would be in the same place/state as an Adolf Hitler, Heinrich Himmler, Göring, Goebbels, Mao Tse Tung, Stalin, etc. according to reactionary Jewish beliefs.

The difference should be clear here: one position proposes a clear division between what is good and evil, moral and immoral, while the other simply combines the two.

One could argue that the wicked - in the reactionary Jewish concept - are purified of all wickedness after death and thus becomes as the righteous in Paradise. One might even say that this is the same concept as in purgatory, so why even have an eternal hell? It is because of choice: only those souls free of mortal sin can be purified in purgatory for nothing unholy can be in the presence of the Divine. Those souls guilty of mortal sin - a rejection of God's love -cannot be purified in purgatory as they - unlike people guilty of venial sins (most of us are) which only wound our relationship with God - repudiate the relationship with God: a mortal sin is a rejection of God. Therefore, we can conclude that purgatory is not the same as the reactionary Jewish concept of purification; as the former entails man's freedom, while the latter totally dismisses it: all are predestined to heaven regardless of one's own choices.

It is therefore that I say that reactionary Judaism is - in a certain way - similar to Atheism:
Both propose an idea that "all will be sitting in the same boat" after death: be it utter nothingness (see Wisdom 2) or heaven.

I could actually make a list of problematic consequences that follow from the reactionary Jewish understanding of "hell":

1) If all men will eventually end up in the same place/state, then why did God even reveal Himself to mankind?
2) Why did God reveal a Law unto mankind?
3) Why is there given a "chosen people" to be "a light to the Gentiles"?
4) Why is God presented in the Old Testament as being very furious against the enemies of His plans?
5) Why does God punish those who rebel against his Divine Will?
6) Why Divine Revelation, why send prophets, why warn of dangers, why teach against "abominations" and "errors" - if these lead to no serious consequences?
7) Why religion, why faith?
8) Why morality?
9) What would happen to a Jew who one day decides to not only stop practicing his religion and observing the commandments of God, but also starts to work actively against his religion and to blaspheme God? According to reactionary Judaism, he would have to end up in heaven.
10) What of free will?
11) What is this life for when we all end up in heaven? Perverse entertainment perhaps?

I watched a video today wherein an atheist's path to apostasy from his former faith was triggered by a simple statement: "you know what you believe in, but do you also know why?"

Why would God reveal Himself and why would we believe? Neither would have any objective meaning since - in the end - all end up in heaven.

In a way, to suggest that there is no eternal hell, is to suggest a unification of that which is good with that which is evil, of that which is Divine with that which is unholy: this idea renders the concepts of "Divinity" and "unholiness", of "good" and of "evil" objectively meaningless.

In contrast, the Christian believes that we are created by God out of love, to be loved and to love eternally. God being love requires that his creation provides for the possibility of evil - without necessitating evil itself. This necessary consequence is made manifest in man's free will, his freedom to choose either good or evil. And we know that the world is not perfect: creatures - not the Creator - have introduced evil into the world: sin is born. Sin is what misses the mark according to Hebrew thought: something made void of its purpose and its meaning. So to choose evil over good, to choose not love is a sin: as God is love, to sin is to choose a path that deviates from the path of God. It is thus a choice which leads to separation from God. As per Christian understanding, this life is where we learn and then come to - by our lives - show God which path we choose eternally for ourselves: that which leads to Him, or that which leads away from Him. God then respects the choices we made using our free will and grants us what we want most for all eternity: if we have chosen anything above God, then we will be separated from God and given over to that state without love, i.e. hell, which necessarily cannot entail any happiness; if we choose God above all else, then we are eternally with love and thus also with happiness.

Note: we cannot choose to be with God without God's grace. One may understand this as the bond of love emanating from the Creator to His creation. To commit a mortal sin is to choose to oppose this love: it is not a "minor" offense, but a rejection of God Himself: since possibility is part of man's freedom, then one cannot argue that God would simply ignore such freedom all of the sudden. The moment freedom is taken away from our theology, is the moment love ceases to be; it is the moment that we have to ask ourselves about God's existence.

I also think that the material world and the happenings therein reflect aspects of the immaterial, the eternal: if then we are called to a life of holiness in this world, why then should it be totally irrelevant to the outcome of the life to come?

It makes no sense to me.

Christianity eternally separates good from evil, while reactionary Judaism and Atheism lead to an ideology which provides only for one final destination for both the good and the evil.