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