Wednesday, December 29, 2010

And Now A Lesson In Eisegesis

A New Testament scholar is proposing the idea that one (or more) of the Magi was a woman!

This just goes to show that you can make the Bible say whatever you want it to. Hence the necessity for an authoritative guide in its interpretation. The irony is that the scholar advancing the theory is a Catholic (not that the Magisterium has spoken authoritatively on the gender of the Magi--who would have thought it would need to?!) The last line of the article suggests that the scholar's ex-(eis)-egesis is influenced by ecumenism. I didn't know that women were a separate denomination!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Christian Truth

As this season of Advent draws near to a close and we eagerly await the coming of Truth Incarnate, Our Lord Jesus Christ, I give to you this beautiful quote of St. Augustine:
"Incomparably more lovely than the Grecian Helen is Christian truth. In her defense, our martyrs have fought against Sodom with more courage than the heroes of Greece displayed against Troy for Helen's sake."
-St. Augustine, Epistula 40.7

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Contradictions In Scripture?

Many people who like to deny the truthfulness of Sacred Scripture point to Genesis 2:7-9 as being a screaming contradiction of Scripture. For it says:

“then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being. And the LORD God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the LORD God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food”

The denier would exclaim, “See! Scripture has to be false. In Gen. 2:7, it says that man is created. THEN after that in Gen. 2:9, God causes vegetation to grow. BUT THIS CAN’T BE TRUE, for Genesis 1 says that land and vegetation was created on the THIRD day and man was created on the SIXTH day! Therefore, Scripture is false.”
On the surface, it seems that the denier is correct. Scripture contradicts itself. How are we who hold that Scripture is inspired by God, and therefore inerrant (for God is not the author of error), to answer?
By following St. Augustine, of course!
St. Augustine, following Tyconius’ sixth rule of recapitulation (from his Book of Rules), provides the solution in Book III, Chapter 36 of his De doctrina Christiana (On Christian Doctrine):

The sixth rule Tichonius calls the recapitulation, which, with sufficient watchfulness, is discovered in difficult parts of Scripture. For certain occurrences are so related, that the narrative appears to be following the order of time, or the continuity of events, when it really goes back without mentioning it to previous occurrences, which had been passed over in their proper place. And we make mistakes if we do not understand this, from applying the rule here spoken of. For example, in the book of Genesis we read, "And the Lord God planted a garden eastwards in Eden; and there He put the man whom He had formed. And out of the ground made the Lord God to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food." Now here it seems to be indicated that the events last mentioned took place after God had formed man and put him in the garden; whereas the fact is, that the two events having been briefly mentioned, viz., that God planted a garden, and there put the man whom He had formed, the narrative goes back, by way of recapitulation, to tell what had before been omitted, the way in which the garden was planted: that out of the ground God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight, and good for food. Here there follows "The tree of life also was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of knowledge of good and evil." Next the river is mentioned which watered the garden, and which was parted into four heads, the sources of four streams; and all this has reference to the arrangements of the garden. And when this is finished, there is a repetition of the fact which had been already told, but which in the strict order of events came after all this: "And the Lord God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden." For it was after all these other things were done that man was put in the garden, as now appears from the order of the narrative itself: it was not after man was put there that the other things were done, as the previous statement might be thought to imply, did we not accurately mark and understand the recapitulation by which the narrative reverts to what had previously been passed over.

Now, the question that arises is, “Why would God make Scripture to be written in such a way as this?” The answer is so that you won’t rush through Sacred Scripture, but rather read it diligently and with extreme care, savoring every word the Sacred Author has written. Also, in order for you to dig deeper into Scripture and probe the depths of “the riches of the glory of this mystery” communicated by the Holy Spirit. Then you will “have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.”

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Text In Its Final Form

“Contrary to what I have heard said, it is perfectly possible to understand a text without knowing whether it is E or whatever. If I insist on a documentary setting, or an historical setting in which the text was composed, I am often, even usually, tied to pure hypothesis: the connection with a source is dubious, the existence of the source (E) is in question. In any case the historical setting of the passage’s composition is largely a guess. And still the text itself in its most important setting, its actual place in scripture, lies before me to study as a grammatical and literary structure that I can analyze with some confidence without beginning with a chancy guess about origins.”
-D.J. McCarthy, “Exodus 3:14: History, Philology and Theology,” CBQ 40 (1978).

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Difference Between Formal And Material Heresy

“The Church expressly distinguishes between ‘formal’ and ‘material’ heretics. A ‘formal’ heretic rejects the Church and its teaching absolutely and with full deliberation; a ‘material’ heretic rejects the Church from lack of knowledge, being influenced by false prejudice or by an anti-Catholic upbringing. St. Augustine forbids us to blame a man for being a heretic because he was born of heretical parents, provided that he does not with obstinate self-assurance shut out all better knowledge, but seeks the truth simply and loyally. Whenever the Church has such honest enquirers before her, she remembers that our Lord condemned Pharisaism but not the individual Pharisee, that He held deep and loving intercourse with Nicodemus, and allowed Himself to be invited by Simon. The spirit of the Church in her dealings with souls may be stated in St. Augustine’s words:  ‘Love men, slay error!’”

Saturday, October 16, 2010

The Moral Duty Of Dogmatic Intolerance

“When ideas are in conflict, when truth is fighting against error, and revelation against human ingenuity, then there can be no compromise and no indulgence. If our Lord had exercised such indulgence, He would not have been crucified. When He called the Pharisees whited sepulchers and a brood of vipers, and Herod a fox, He was not inspired by any sort of hatred against individuals, but by the tremendous earnestness of truth. It was His defiant and vivid conviction of responsibility for eternal truth that caused Him to use such strong words towards error and its representatives. And if we do not fight thus for the truth, then we lose all moral and spiritual power, we become characterless, we disown God. Dogmatic intolerance is therefore a moral duty, a duty to the infinite truth and to truthfulness.”

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Book Review: Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period

Length: 528 pages
6 x 9 inches
Binding: paperback
IVP Academic (July 2002)
ISBN: 0-8308-2678-5
IVP Order Code: 2678

The Second Temple Period, spanning from 586 B.C.- A.D. 135, was a fascinating time of joy (due to the return from exile in Babylon) and hope (of a future return of the ten northern tribes who had been scattered by Assyria). Mixed with the joy and hope are themes of tribulation, restoration, nationalistic identification, liturgical purification, and eschatological and messianic expectation which all help to further our understanding of the New Testament. With Larry Helyer’s Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students, he takes on an ambitious task...and succeeds. In 528 pages he surveys over 35 documents from the Second Temple Period, from the Babylonian Exile to the rise of Rabbinical Judaism and the Apostolic Fathers.
For each document, Helyer provides an introduction (discussing authorship, dating, purpose, and structure), outline, and analysis. Concluding each analysis is a section pointing out each Second Temple document’s significance for the New Testament. What really makes this book worth its weight in gold for students of the New Testament, however, is the discussion questions, the recommended readings for further study, and the advice concerning which texts to use for each document. These resources make the book perfect for independent study with Helyer as the guide. With the Second Temple documents in one hand and Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period in another, the student is well equipped to dive into these sources and bear much fruit for understanding the New Testament.
While I did enjoy the book and would recommend it to all, I do so with a few caveats for Catholic readers. Being a Protestant, there are issues with Helyer’s understanding of the Old Testament Canon. Although his rejection of the seven books of the Old Testament that the Church has always held as canonical do not prevent the book from being profitable (for more on the Old Testament Canon, see my review of Walter Kaiser’s The Old Testament Documents). What is more of a concern is Helyer’s Calvinistic presuppositions that influence his understanding of the texts. For example, he seems to suggest that the Qumranites are proto-Calvinits:
“The doctrine of the two spirits actually attributes the evil impulse to God. Though accountable for their sin, the wicked, by virtue of God’s eternal plan, have no recourse but to succumb to the evil angel and the resultant misdeeds.” (256)
Did the Qumran community really believe in double predestination? That is highly debatable, which is why it is startling to see him state immediately after, “This theological problem is never raised or discussed in the Qumran literature; it is simply assumed as a fact.” If the problem is never raised or discussed, who is assuming it as a fact? The Qumranites or Helyer? His search for a proto-Calvin doesn’t end with the Qumranites, however. A couple of pages later in discussing how the Qumran literature is significant for the New Testament, Helyer states that Paul believes in the predestination of the elect. I have no problem with that. But, then he goes on to say, “Paul does not, however, explicitly state the contrary, namely, that the wicked are predestined to damnation” (259). The problem is that Paul nowhere, even implicitly, argues for double predestination! Yet, Helyer seems to think that Paul comes close in the following quote from Romans:
‘What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience the objects of wrath that are made for destruction; and what if he has done so in order to make known the riches of his glory for the objects of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory—including us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles?’ (Romans 9:22-23)
Is Paul saying that God has predestined some here for damnation? By no means! God is patient with the all. If the evil doer fails to repent of his ways, it is he himself who is responsible for his damnation, not God. St. John Chrysostom explains:
“Why are some people vessels of wrath and others vessels of mercy? It is by their own free choice. God, being very good, shows the same kindness to both. For it was not only to those who were saved that God showed kindness but to Pharaoh also, as far as he deserved. For both Pharaoh and God’s people had the advantage of God’s patience. And if Pharaoh was not saved it was because of his own will, since God had done as much for him as he had done for those who were saved.” (Homilies on Romans 16)
Elsewhere in the context of the churches established by Paul, he suggests that they “appear to have been autonomous” (224). To his credit, however, he adds in a footnote, “This statement, of course, will not go unchallenged by many who are convinced that the NT displays more of a hierarchical structure than I have allowed. I own up to my Baptistic presupposition on this point!”
Aside from the above mentioned issues, I think Helyer does a fantastic job surveying such a wide breadth of literature in one book and should be commended for his effort. Anyone who wishes to do a serious study of both Second Temple Literature and the New Testament should get this book!
Many thanks once again to Adrianna Wright and the good folks at InterVarsity Press who have provided me with a review copy of Exploring Jewish Literature of the Second Temple Period: A Guide for New Testament Students.

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Modern Exgesis

The other day I posted about the Church Fathers' exegesis of the Good Samaritan parable in Luke 10. A friend of mine sent me a note on how this passage would be interpreted using modern exegetical methods:

"Wisdom from [a liberal college soaked in modern scriptural interpretation] concerning this passage: Obviously what we have here is an author mired in the 'pre-Enlightenment' mindset, otherwise he would have known that there's no such thing as the devil. From the reference to the Levite and priest can see that this is an early Christian polemic against the Jews written to strengthen the sectarian mindset of the Early Church. It's a good thing we have 'evolved' since then and can now focus exclusively on the most important and central concerns of theology: social justice and tolerance. In fact it's a good thing that everything evolves, especially our moral law!"

For a good article on "tolerance," click here.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The Patristic Interpretation Of The Good Samaritan

“Many Fathers of the Church and early Christian writers have identified Christ himself as the Good Samaritan. The man who falls into the hands of thieves is a symbol of humanity wounded by original sin and personal sin. St. Augustine has commented: ‘These offenses robbed mankind of immortality. They covered him with wounds and made him susceptible to sin.’ St. Bede has written that sins are called wounds because they destroy the integrity of human nature. The thieves represent the devil, unrestrained human passions, scandal… The Levite and the priest symbolize the Old Covenant, which cannot cure these wounds. The inn is a symbol of the Church. ‘What would have happened to this poor Jew if the Samaritan had stayed at home? What would have happened to our souls if the Son of God had not undertaken his journey?’ (R.A. Knox) Jesus is moved with compassion for man and heals his wounds, making them his own. St. John wrote to the early Christians: ‘In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him… Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.’”

-Fr. Francis Fernandez

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Who's Dwelling In Shem's Tent?

"The structure of Genesis 9:25-27 is a heptastich which is divided into three parts by the repeated refrain of Canaan’s servitude, a son of guilty Ham:
                And he said,      
                   Cursed be Canaan;
                   A servant of servants will he be to his brother.
                                                                -Verse 25
                And he said,
                    Blessed be the Lord God of Shem;
                   Let Canaan be a slave to him.
                                                                -Verse 26
                God will enlarge Japhet,
                   But He will dwell in the tents of Shem;
                  Let Canaan be a slave to him
                                                                -Verse 27
Now the key issue is this: Who is the subject of the verb ‘he will dwell’ in Genesis 9:27? We concur with the judgment of the Targum of Onkelos, Philo, Maimonides, Rashi, Aben Ezra, Theodoret, Baumgarten, and Delitzsch that the subject is 'God.' Our reasons are these: (1) the subject of the previous clause is presumed to continue into the next clause where the subject is unexpressed; (2) the use of the indirect object of the previous line as subject (‘Japhet’) would require strong contextual reasons for doing so; (3) the context of the next several chapters designates Shem as the first in honor of blessing; and (4) the Hebrew phrase weyiškōn be’oh°lê šēm, ‘and he will dwell in the tents of Shem,’ hardly makes sense if attributed to Japhet, for Japhet had already been granted the blessing of expansion.
The plan of the whole prophecy appears to devote the first strophe only to Canaan, the second to Shem and Canaan, and the third to all three brothers. On the balance, then, the best option is to regard God as promising to Shem a special blessing. He would dwell with the Semitic peoples. The word for ‘dwell’ is related to the later concept of Mosaic theology of the Shekinah glory of God wherein the presence of God over the tabernacle was evidenced by the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night. Hence, the man Shem would be the one through whom the ‘seed’ promised earlier would now come. Had not God said, 'Blessed be the Lord God of Shem’ (Gen. 9:26)? And why did He use this distinctive form of address? Could it not be that the blessing and indwelling were linked? And could it be that they were God’s next provision to earth’s latest crisis?"

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Most Holy Name Of Mary

Today is the Feast of the Most Holy Name of Mary. It commemorates the victory of the Christian forces led by John Sobieski at the Battle of Vienna in 1683, and thus preventing the Muslims from conquering all of Europe. 

Our Lady Exterminatrix of Heresies, Ora Pro Nobis!

Friday, September 10, 2010

The Feast Of Blessed John Henry Newman

John Henry Newman was instrumental to my conversion to Catholicism. He was also very influential in leading others during his lifetime to Holy Mother Church. Here are his stats:

  • 636 English Nobleman.

  • 700 British Clergyman.

  • 1100 of their wives and children.

  • 700 professionals.

  • 612 of these young men became priests.

  • 164 of the women became nuns.

  • For this reason, it brings me great joy to find out that Newman's feast day will not be celebrated on the date of his death, but rather on the date of his conversion to the Catholic Church, October 9!

    Bl. John Henry Newman, the Great Converter, Ora Pro Nobis!

    Wednesday, September 01, 2010

    Quote Of The Century

    "The first duty of every Catholic father to the public school is to keep his children out of it." 
    -Paul L. Blakely, S.J.

    Tuesday, August 24, 2010

    Mary Guides Us To Truth

    Fides et ratio…desires to recover the face of truth. In Christ, ‘the Eternal enters time, the Whole lies hidden in the part, God takes on a human face” (§12). Thus while the eternal face of Christ is the answer, Mary’s is our guide. The human search for meaning does have a face, a human face. It is not the face of a monk or a scholar, it is not even the face of an angelic doctor; it is the face of a mother, the Virgin of Nazareth. Mary beckons all humans to know the truth of things: to open themselves up to what is, to give themselves to the direction of the Divine, and to rest in the loving knowledge of God. In this, Mary becomes, for all who yearn to know, the perfect model of created wisdom.”
    -David Vincent Meconi, S.J., “Philosophari in Maria: Fides et ratio And Mary As The Model Of Created Wisdom” in The Two Wings of Catholic Thought: Essays On Fides et ratio.

    Monday, August 23, 2010

    Industrialized Sex Rejected

    "We should continuously point out that the term pre-marital sex is an oxymoron. Because sex and marriage both perform the function of uniting a man and a woman into one-flesh, engaging in sexual relations is ontologically indistinguishable from marriage."

    That is just one of the gems from Joe Carter's excellent article over at the First Things blog.

    The Importance Of Nature In A Theology Of Grace

    I love it when Pope Benedict XVI agrees with me! I've long stressed the importance of a proper understanding of nature in order to safeguard a proper understanding of grace. If you allow nature to be swallowed up into grace and say that everything is grace, then you actually cheapen grace. If everything is grace, then nothing is. I feel that this is the mistake of de Lubac, Gilson, et al. Below, Pope Benedict elaborates on the consequences of not having a firm foundational concept of nature for grace to build upon, elevate, and perfect:
    “There is...a theological concealment of the concept of creation…[where] nature is undermined for the sake of grace; it is robbed of its belongings and gives way, so to speak, before grace. Here we should recall the crucial text of 1 Corinthians 15:46: ‘It is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual’ (RSV). There is a series of stages that must not be absorbed into a monism of grace. I believe that we must develop a Christian pedagogy that accepts creation and gives concrete expression to these two poles of the one faith. We must never try to take the second step before the first: first the physical, then the spiritual. If we skip this sequence, creation is denied, and grace is deprived of its foundation.”
    -Joseph Ratzinger, ‘In the Beginning…’

    Sunday, August 22, 2010

    The Ten Commandments: An Echo Of The Creation

    “The words ‘God said’ appear ten times in the creation account. In this way the creation narrative anticipates the Ten Commandments. This makes us realize that the Ten Commandments are, as it were, an echo of the creation; they are not arbitrary inventions for the purpose of erecting barriers to human freedom but signs pointing to the spirit, the language, and the meaning of creation; they are a translation of the language of the universe.”
    -Joseph Ratzinger, ‘In the Beginning…’

    Friday, August 20, 2010

    Hermeneutics Of Biblical Theology

    “Biblical theology will always remain an endangered species until the heavy-handed methodology of imaginary source criticism, history of tradition, and certain types of form criticism are arrested. …Consequently, the suddenness of the description of the Creation, the Fall of  the first human couple, the universal extent of the Abrahamic promise, the priesthood of all Israel, or Isaiah’s depiction of  the new heaven and the new earth ought not to startle us and be judged as impossible. Only the embarrassment of an overly refined spirit of modernity would feel obliged by some prior commitment to a philosophical principle or to a sociology of knowledge to adjudge such textual claims as impossible even before they were found guilty on the grounds of accepted canons of evidence.”

    Monday, August 16, 2010

    Did Paul Invent Christianity?

    “Paul is the most luminous personality in the history of primitive Christianity, and yet opinions differ widely as to his true significance. Only a few years ago we had a leading Protestant theologian asserting that Paul’s rabbinical theology led him to corrupt the Christian religion. Others, conversely, have called him the real founder of that religion. But in the opinion of the great majority of those who have studied him, the true view is that he was the one who understood the Master and continued his work. This opinion is borne out by the facts…As we cannot want to be wiser than history, which knows him only as Christ’s missionary, and as his own words clearly attest what his aims were and what he was, we regard him as Christ’s disciple, as the apostle who not only worked harder but also accomplished more than all the rest put together.”
    -Adolf Von Harnack, What Is Christianity?

    Sunday, August 15, 2010

    Scheeben On The Theological Principles Of The Assumption Of Mary Premised By The Sacred Scriptures

    “Mary’s special participation with Christ in the resurrection and glorification of the body is guaranteed by a series of theological factors, based either directly or indirectly on her divine motherhood. Their meaning can be strengthened still further by the application of various general principles premised by the Sacred Scriptures:
    1. In the Mother of God, precisely because she is such only through and in her body, a permanent separation of body and soul is unthinkable, just as in Christ the separation of His body and soul from His divinity would be inconceivable on account of the hypostatic union.
    2. Mary’s quality as motherly bride of Christ requires a permanent and complete unity of life which could be dissolved only temporarily in view of the ends of that union. To this the teaching of St. Paul must be applied concerning the love of a man for his wife as his flesh, which was ideally realized in Christ’s love for His Church; and this the more so since Mary, in a singular way, is the flesh of Christ and the principal member of His Church. Accordingly, the power of Christ’s love for His Church had to be revealed in Mary in a specific and complete manner.
    3. To this can be added the principles of the Sacred Scriptures concerning the honor due to father and mother, and also concerning the participation in Christ’s glory, promised to those who share in His sufferings and death. The honor of the mother requires the complete safeguarding of her entire existence. The material service performed by Mary, whereby she used the substance of her body for the formation and sustenance of Christ, demands the glorification of her body in a distinctive manner. Furthermore, Mary’s singular, intimate, and absolute union with Christ in His sufferings and death requires the perfect participation with Him in His life of glory.
    4. As instrument and cooperator in the work of redemption, Mary must most perfectly experience in herself the fruits of that sublime work; and this fruit so much the more, since only in a risen and glorified body could she, in union with Christ, effectively continue her office as mediatrix, and be the perfect surety of the efficacy of the act of redemption for the rest of mankind. In this respect it may be said that, without Mary’s resurrection and glorification, there would have been not only a weakening of that union with Christ, in virtue of which as the new Eve, she belongs at the side of the heavenly Adam for the complete possession of life, but the guaranty for our redemption would also be lacking precisely where, apart from Christ, the evidence of the efficacy of redemption should be most sought and expected. Moreover, in the economy of redemption, the peculiar type of the indefectibility and eternal vitality of the Church would be lacking.”
    -Matthias Joseph Scheeben, Mariology, vol. 2.

    Saturday, August 14, 2010

    A Night Of Irish Music

    For all my readers in the Pittsburgh area, here is a chance to listen to some great Irish music and participate in a very worthy cause:

    You may know Chris Bailey as Mike Aquilina's co-author on several books (The Grail Code, A Doubter's Novena, Praying the Psalms). You may also know him as the comedy blogger Dr. H. Albertus Boli. Or you may know him as the Pittsburgh photoblogger Father Pitt. Or you may know him as husband to Teresa Bailey, who is herself an author (of a great book on childbirth).

    Chris and Teresa are pursuing an international adoption through Catholic Charities. A night of Irish music is being hosted to help them raise the funds. You'll love the music. They’ve lined up the best Pittsburgh has to offer. And the food and libations at Mullaney's are quite good. Take several friends to dinner. You'll be very glad you did. And please spread the word!

    When:     7-10 PM, Thursday, Sept. 16, 2010

    Where:    Mullaney's Harp & Fiddle, 2329 Penn Ave.  (The Strip District)

    What:      Gala Adoption Fundraiser for Chris and Teresa Bailey

    Live Music:    Guaranteed Irish, Mike Gallagher, Bob Pegritz, and surprises!

    What to bring:  $15 per person cover charge

    Thursday, August 05, 2010

    Same-Sex "Marriage" And Proposition 8

    With the activist judge Walker’s overruling of Prop. 8 in California, the debate over the definition of “marriage” once again rages on. Yet, the same reason that women cannot be priests is the reason why same sex couples cannot be married. St. Paul touches on this in Ephesians 5 when he discusses the roles of a husband and wife in relation to each other. He concludes by quoting Genesis 2:24:
    "For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."  
    He then adds:
    “This mystery is a profound one, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”
    So how does what St. Paul says here in Ephesians 5 exclude women from the priesthood and same sex couples from marriage? Because St. Paul informs us that the mystery of marriage refers to Christ and the Church. This means that the imagery of Christ in relation to the Church is not modeled on the human institution of marriage, but vice versa! From all eternity it was in the will of God that Christ, the Bridegroom, should be united to His Bride, the Church. From all eternity there was intended a complementarity of the masculine with the feminine. This eternal nuptial between Christ and His Bride is what marriage is modeled upon. Therefore, any talk of marriage being between a man and a man or a woman and a woman is nonsense. There is no complementarity between two of the same sex, so no matter what one wishes to call it, it will never be a marriage.
    But how does Ephesians 5 exclude women from the priesthood? Precisely because a priest acts in persona Christi, in the person of Christ. Christ as a person on earth was/is a man. And as Christ is married to His Bride, the Church, so too, a man who is ordained as a priest has the Church for His Bride (consequently, this is also an argument for the celibate priesthood, since Christ was not a polygamist, neither should a priest be by having two wives; earthly and heavenly). Now if a woman were to be a priest, there would be two feminine elements instead of the complementarity of masculine and feminine. As explained above, this cannot happen.

    Do Ghosts Exist?

    Every year teaching high school, the students always ask whether ghosts exist or not. I have always answered that I don't know of any official teaching of the Church on this matter, but there is an account in Scripture where Samuel's ghost appears to Saul. It appears, however, that in some Jewish traditions there is room for belief in ghosts. The following is a summary of midrashic and talmudic teaching from the Jewish Virtual Library:

    When a man dies his soul leaves his body, but for the first 12 months it retains a temporary relationship to it, coming and going until the body has disintegrated. Thus the prophet Samuel was able to be raised from the dead within the first year of his demise. This year remains a purgatorial period for the soul, or according to another view only for the wicked soul, after which the righteous go to paradise, Gan Eden, and the wicked to hell, Geihinnom (Gehinnom; Shab. 152b–153a; Tanh. Va-Yikra 8). 
    UPDATE: Hat tip to Nick Hardesty of Phat Catholic Apologetics for pointing out this great article on Seven Kinds of Ghosts.

    A Brief History Of The Liberal Corruption Of The Bible

    “The roots of the Liberal Protestant attitude towards the Gospels may be traced back to the Renaissance and the Reformation. The student who is interested may study this historical background in the first volume of Carelton J. Hayes’ splendid work, Political and Cultural History of Modern Europe. Without doubt, the Renaissance brought about a change in man’s point of view. In the Middle Ages, men were conscious of this all-important truth that material creation is subordinate to man and man is subordinate to God. The Renaissance dimmed this consciousness by centering man’s attention upon himself through the art forms of pagan culture. The beauty of the art and the fine literary forms made men unaware of the errors which they clothed. Without directly opposing the faith, the Renaissance promoted a growing spirit of pride and individualism. In the sixteenth century, the Protestant revolt from the Church fostered this spirit. After Luther rejected the authority of the Church, subsequent reformers denied the authority of Luther and ultimately all authority.
    In the eighteenth century, the Deists presumed as true the hypothesis that any supernatural intervention of God is impossible. They spoke as if they knew exactly what God can and cannot do; as if God were unable to change in any way the world he had created. Eventually, innumerable attempts were made to bring the traditional faith in Christ into harmony with this false hypothesis. In other words, the first attacks on the Gospels, after seventeen hundred years of universal acceptance, did not spring from a scientific and historical examination of them but from philosophical prejudices. These futile attacks agreed only in so far as they denied the supernatural character of Christ. Often they were contradictory and cancelled out one another. This is evident if you glance at a few of them.
    Hermann Reimarus and Gotthold Lessius, for example, proposed a ‘deception theory.’ According to them, Christ was merely a man. The Gospels were deliberate fabrications written by Christians in the second century. Some years later David Strauss changed this theory. According to him, the authors of the Gospels actually believed what they wrote for the followers of Christ had unconsciously accepted more and more myths about him. Because it would take a long time for these myths to grow and be accepted as true, Strauss concluded the Gospels were written in the second or third century. He admitted, however, that his hypothesis would collapse if any Gospel was proved to belong to the first century. Today all scholars agree that at least the first three Gospels were written in the first century.
    Some moderns who follow in the footsteps of Strauss make Christ the product of Oriental, Babylonian, Egyptian, Syrian, or Greek myths. Needless to say, no two of them agree. Another group of ‘critics’ attempted to find a natural explanation for everything supernatural in the life of Christ. The miracle at Cana, for example, was described as a wedding prank. When Jesus seemed to be walking on the water, he was really walking on a rock just beneath the surface. Countless cures were due to fortunate coincidences following mistaken medical analysis. When Christ fed five thousand men, he merely hypnotized them into believing they ate and were filled. Even when men permitted them to alter the Gospel text, it required unlimited faith to accept their far-fetched suppositions.
    Even in recent years, many Liberal Protestants have tried to explain away everything supernatural about Christ by distinguishing between the Christ of faith and the Christ of history. The latter was merely a man who did not rise from the dead. In the beginning, he did not even claim to be divine. The Christ of faith is the product of the imaginations of the early Christians who clothed the human Christ with supernatural qualities. Though the Christ of faith never existed, he is the dynamic source of the Christian life.
    The so-called Critical School aimed to prove by means of literary and historical criticism that all miracles and mysteries recorded in the Gospels were not genuine or were interpolations. Most of its members judged the origin, integrity, and trustworthiness of the Gospels from internal evidence alone. But like their predecessors, they endeavored to make the Gospel picture of Christ fit into their preconceived notions. In the beginning their show of scholarship confused and almost routed the conservative Protestants.
    All the critics believed the hypothesis that nothing exists outside of the natural order. This dogma of their ‘faith’ compelled them to deny the possibility of miracles and the divinity of Christ. Since the New Testament contains miracles, many critics decided it was genuine. Others declared the miracles and mysteries were interpolations. No two critics agreed on the authors and dates of the Gospels.”
    -Joseph H. Cavanaugh, Evidence For Our Faith

    Wednesday, August 04, 2010

    Loving God

    “A man may claim he loves his wife. His wife will want to see the evidence. In like manner, we can talk about God all we please, but God will not be fooled. Jesus told the story of the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46) for a reason. Saying we’re Catholic does not mean we are, except in the thinnest sense. Relationships have consequences in actions. Otherwise, they’re just empty words. Our relationship with God is no exception. When Jesus asks Peter, “Do you love me?” and Peter answers yes, it’s no surprise that Jesus immediately follows up with: “Then feed my sheep” (John 21:17). God loves us always. We can choose to ignore that. All of the damned do. But if we claim to love him, it’s an “if/then” kind of deal, with obligations of conduct and personal honesty just like any good marriage or friendship.
    The twist in loving God is that it’s not a standard “I, Thou” affair. It turns out to be an “I, Thou—and everybody else” kind of arrangement. Christian faith is not just vertical. It’s also horizontal. Since God created all human persons and guarantees their dignity by his Fatherhood, we have family duties to one another. That applies especially within the ekklesia—the community of believers we call the church—but it extends to the whole world. This means our faith has social as well as personal implications. And those social implications include the civil dimension of our shared life; in other words, the content of our politics.”
    -Archbishop Charles J. Chaput,  Render Unto Caesar

    Thursday, July 08, 2010

    A New Encyclical...AND A Book!

    Catholic News Agency is reporting that Pope Benedict XVI is planning to write a new encyclical, most likely on Faith, and begin writing a new book while on vacation this summer. The book is going to be "on the Gospels of the infancy of Jesus." Does this mean that the second volume of Jesus of Nazareth will not cover the infancy narratives? Either way, I am eagerly anticipating the publication of all of the above. Let us keep the Holy Father in our prayers for a swift completion of these works (and for continued health)!

    Wednesday, July 07, 2010

    The Ethics And Psychology Of Neo-Malthusian Birth-Control

    By the Rev. Fr. Vincent McNabb, O. Pr., S. T. M.

    We have deliberately used the phrase, “Neo-Malthusian Birth-Control,” because the simple phrase “Birth-Control” is likely to mislead. It is not accurate to say that the Church condemns birth-control. What the Church condemns, or rather what the Church has no power to allow, is not birth-control, but birth-control by sinful methods. The Church has always had a most efficient method of birth-control, by conjugal and virginal chastity. She has never urged what Neo-Malthusians say she has urged: “reckless propagation.” Indeed, her normal action seems everywhere to have resulted, not in such an increase of population as this island has seen since the industrial revolution, but in a steady maintenance of a high level of population largely dwelling on the land. It is a matter of sociological interest that, if England can be taken as typical, the mediæval Church developed cloistered and vowed chastity even more among men than among women. It comes as a surprise to students of mediæval England that the religious men largely outnumber the religious women. It will easily be seen how great would be the effect of this cloistered chastity on the birth-rate of the country.

    Accuracy, therefore, makes us speak, not against birth-control, which the Church has always had her own chaste methods of advocating, but against neo-malthusian birth-control which the Church has no power from her divine Founder to allow.

    The Ethics of Neo-Malthusian Birth-Control

    Only for the sake of using phrases in common use do we say neo-malthusian “birth-control.” If names should signify, not general likeness, but specific differences, then what we are asked to accept is not even birth-control, but Lust-un-control. As there are many methods of lowering the birth-rate, some lawful and some sinful, the various methods should be named not from their agreements but from their differences. Now the precise difference between the methods we are discussing and all others, is that these neo-malthusian methods allow their users full sexual pleasure without fear of procreation. Therefore the specific motive for refusing other methods and accepting this method, is sexual satisfaction.

    It is urged that those who use these methods practice self-control. Agreed. But this self-control proves the intensity of their sexual desires; because the control is not exercised over the sexual desires and pleasures, but over the natural effect of these desires and pleasures. An analogy may make this clearer. X is a would-be-thief. In preparation for this theft he practices total abstinence from intoxicants, and he denies himself hours of sleep in order to work out his plan, he stints his food in order to have money to offer bribes, he learns how to walk without noise, and so on. In other words, he exercises self-control. Yet this self-control is merely for the purpose of preventing all ill effects from this attempted theft. No one would say that X was an advocate of “theft-control.” Indeed all his minute control is but a sign of his intense will to theft. In the same way, all the control, all the minute preparations advocated by the neo-malthusians, are but a proof of the intense will to lust, which is the essence of their control.

    If we consider neo-malthusian practices between a man and a woman as such, and not between a husband and wife, these practices are merely a very deliberate and shameless form of mutual masturbation. Ethically speaking, the solitary sin is not so sinful in the individual nor so harmful to the community, as this masturbation within marriage. But as we are discussing the ethics of these acts in the married life, it may be asked whether they, like the normal sex acts, do not lose their sinfulness by the sanction of the wedlock? To this we reply that wedlock, instead of voiding the sinfulness of these acts, increases their sinfulness. Over and above the sinfulness which they have from their opposition to nature, there is the sinfulness they have from their opposition to: (1) a contractual obligation, and (2) a Christian sacrament.

    To explain. Christian marriage as such is a contractual, sacramental, and indissoluble society of one man and one woman for the begetting and bringing up of offspring. The essence (and primary perfection) of marriage is the “indissoluble society” of one man and one woman. The primary end (and secondary perfection) is the begetting and bringing up of offspring. Secondary ends are (a) the strength and comfort of home life, and (b) the allaying of lust.

    “The primary end of marriage is the begetting and bringing up of offspring; the secondary, mutual help and the allaying of lust.” (Codex Juris Canonici, 1013, ¶1.) The marriage service of the Church of England still retains this traditional doctrine: “First, it (Matrimony) was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord. . . . Secondly, it was ordained for a remedy against sin and to avoid fornication. . . .Thirdly, it was ordained for the mutual society, help and comfort that one ought to have of the other. . . .” (Book of Common Prayer: The Form and Solemnization of Matrimony).

    According to the Codex Juris Cononici, marriage is invalid if one or both of the contracting parties by a positive act of the will excludes either: (1) the marriage itself, or (2) all right to the conjugal act, or (3) any essential property of marriage. (Can. 1086, ¶2.) The essential properties of marriage are Unity and Indissolubility (Can. 1013). Acts which would invalidate the contracting of a marriage would be sinful when performed in a marriage already contracted. As the procreation of children is the primary end of marriage, and as venereal pleasure is attached to the sex act in order to induce men and women to the altruistic procreation of offspring, it is clear that the venereal pleasure cannot be sought or procured except in relation to the procreation of offspring. Robbed of this end it becomes but a form of masturbation. Inside the married state it may be called mutual marital masturbation. The sin as such is equal whether the preventative means taken are physical or artificial. But this sin committed in wedlock is greater than if committed outside wedlock, because it is against the contract of marriage which God has raised to the dignity of a sacrament.

    So clearly is neo-malthusian birth-control against the primary end of marriage, that the question of the validity of many marriages is now difficult to decide. A common agreement to accept marriage and to use it only with neo-malthusian birth-control would manifestly annul the marriage. But short of this there are cases where, without making a common and explicit agreement, there is an understanding that it should be used with neo-malthusian birth-control; such cases are not easy to settle on the principles of marriage.

    When this deliberate or decisive interference with the primary end of marriage is joined to an almost explicit intention to obtain divorce in case of difficulties, the present state of the institution of monogamous marriage becomes more than uncertain.

    No doctor has the right to say to a married couple: “You ought not to have any children at all; or, if at all, then, only after a long interval.” All that may be said is a bare statement of the medical fact, in such words as: “In my opinion, if you have another pregnancy at any time, or soon, you will die, or be ill, or risk the life of the child, etc., etc.” “Ought” is an ethical category which should not be used by a doctor, who, professionally speaking, is consulted on the physiological and pathological effects of the case. Still less should the word “ought” be used, say, by a lawyer or an economist who is consulted on the mere economics of the case. If this categorical imperative “ought” is to be used at all, then only by the spiritual physician, the priests, to whom is commissioned the care of the soul. Yet, speaking as a theologian and as a priest of wide experience, I should find it hard to determine the circumstances under which it should be said to a married couple: “You ought not to have children. If you perform the procreative act you will commit sin.”

    Again, a doctor cannot advise a contraceptive as such. Great misuse is made of the principle “We can advise the lesser of two evils.” This principle rarely applies; and only when it is a question of two moral evils that hurt no one but the doer. It does not apply to the physical evils. Indeed when physical evil is coupled with moral evil, our advising the use of the principle may be a sin. Thus, if a man is contemplating murder, we cannot use the principle of “two evils” by advising the use of a safe method of killing! We cannot say, “Well, if you will kill, I as an expert on homicide, advise the use of a slow poison which cannot be detected.” In the same way no doctor and no priest can say, and especially cannot accept a fee for saying, “Well, as you are bent on neo-malthusian practice, I advise this or that method as being less dangerous to your health.” This would be to co-operate in the sin.

    The Psychology of Birth-Control

    This subject is so vast that a cursory treatment of it must be in the nature of an outline.

    1. We may quote from an unbiased if not an unwilling authority, Arthus C. Buch, M.I.H. Writing as a convinced neo-malthusian for whom “Birth-Control knowledge has to fulfill its very high moral purpose,” he adds: “Birth-Control – a science and an art – which should be a weapon for the alleviation of human misery and for the improvement of the human race, will become, unless we are very watchful, a mere excuse for indulgence, a conspiracy of wedded people to avoid natural responsibilities (parentage), even if it does not end in the national overthrow of moral restraint, universal nerves, and the premature end of the civilized world.

    “For there is no denying that in the present craze stage of Birth-Control. . . it acts as direct opposition to the good of the race.” (The New Generation, April 1923, p. 50).

    2. The psychology of neo-malthusian birth-control demands the psychology of the large family in contrast with the small family. It is clear that in the large family as such, the child is brought up in a most stimulating atmosphere of poverty, chastity, and obedience – the three foundations of all stable society. Many of the reasons urged for birth-control, if carried out, would develop a race so selfish as not to be worthy of being born.

    As to chastity in the large family, the common life of the two sexes united by the sacred bonds of brotherhood and sisterhood are a training in chastity which has no rival in the world. Catholics have always found that it is the large family as such, with its subtle training in sexual restraint, which is a novitiate for novitiates. As to obedience, no institution in the world offers the same complicated and efficient training.

    3. But the psychology of neo-malthusian birth-control demands some account of its effect on the normal parent. Here, again, we must form our judgment by referring to the psychology of the larger family on the parent. It seems almost axiomatic that the parents of the large family are far removed from the sexual uncontrol so commonly attributed to them by modern Neo-Malthusians, and, I regret to add, by many modern “Social Uplifters.” The present writer can only state as his experience that no class of adults has been found by him so averse to discuss Race Suicide as the parents of large families! Psychologically speaking, this delicate chastity of the parent of a large family is not a miracle, but a law of nature. The care of a large family demands so much intellectual and volitional activity that sex-relations as such cease to be central and become peripheral. A father finding food and raiment for his family – or a mother suckling her little one, has a thousand interests above that of procuring sexual satisfaction with the safeguards of an educated neo-malthusianism.

    On the other hand, the parents whose marital relations have to give the maximum pleasure with the minimum risk, find their attention fixed on a motive which tends to assume mastery. No one could habitually practice the strategies of the Neo-Malthusians without being sooner or later overcome by an idée fixe. To the present writer it has always seemed that some, if not many, of the leaders of the neo-malthusian birth-control present the pathological features of erotic mania. This erotic mania tends to be a collective obsession. If there is such a psychological phenomenon as mob mania, it is time for us to ask if the present avalanche of sexual activities is not an example of this phenomenon. Psychologically speaking, the neo-malthusian birth-control has effects which tend to be themselves causes of their causes. In other words, it is true psychology to say that sin tends both to feed itself and to feed upon itself. Thus, where there is an exact science and art of procuring sexual pleasures without offspring, facilities are afforded for dissolving marriage. It is the childless marriages that lead to divorce; and, again, it is divorce that leads to childless marriages. Hence, psychologically speaking, neo-malthusian birth-control tends to loosen the marriage tie, and the loosened marriage tie tends to develop neo-malthusian birth-control.

    An Additional Task

    It is only right to add that, psychologically speaking, and in so far as economic or social states condition mental states, the spread of neo-malthusian birth-control is mainly dependent on the present urban and industrial civilization. It is probably true that this industrialization with its wage basis, and therefore money basis, cannot give the normal family wage to the wage-earner of the normal family.

    Now if conjugal abstinence is, objectively speaking, heroic virtue, we must conclude that many of our people are faced with the alternative of the heroic virtue of conjugal abstinence or of sinful neo-malthusian birth-control. We clergy, on whom to a large extent the future of the country depends, must do more than we are perhaps doing to change this urban industrialized civilization which is now giving the Neo-Malthusian the opportunity of posing as the only sane social reformer.

    -First published in the Catholic Medical Guardian, Vol. II, No. 5, January 1924

    A big thanks to Christine Smith for typing this up and sharing!