Category Archives: Catechesis

Signs from God: Science Tests Faith

Science tests faith: Well known investigative reporter Michael Willesee rediscovers his faith in his 50s, through his personal experience and live reporting of miracles within the Catholic Church. In 1998 he made a report entitled Signs From God on the appearance of stigmata displayed by a woman, Katya Revas, in Bolivia among other miracles. Scientists put these miracles to the test live on TV hosted by the Fox Broadcasting Company.

See the full playlist for ‘Signs from God: Science Tests Faith’.

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The Goal of Education

“What are philosophy and theology, and why are they crucial to a young person’s education today?”

From ‘Why Study Philosophy and Theology?‘ by Peter Kreeft:

‎The Goal of Education

Considering the trillions of dollars spent on universities by parents, governments and foundations, it is amazing that most of the people who go there (the students) and most of the people who pay for them (the parents and the government) never even ask, much less answer, this question: What is the purpose of the university? It is the most influential institution in Western civilization, and most of us don’t really know exactly why we entrust our children to them.

The commonest answer is probably to train them for a career. A B.A. looks good on your resume to prospective employers. That is not only a crass, materialistic answer, but also an illogical one. ….a student should study to get high grades to get an impressive resume to get a good job, to finance his family when it sends his kids to college to study, to get high grades, et cetera, et cetera.

This is arguing in a circle. It is like a tiger pacing round and round his cage in a zoo. Is there a better answer? There is if you know some philosophy. Let’s look.

Probably the most commonsensical and influential philosopher of all time was Aristotle. Aristotle says that there are three “whys,” three purposes, ends or reasons for anyone ever to study and learn anything, in school or out of it. Thus there are three kinds of “sciences,” which he called “productive,” “practical” and “theoretical.” (Aristotle used “science” in a much broader way than we do, meaning any ordered body of knowledge through causes and reasons.)

The purpose of the “productive sciences” (which we today call technology) is to produce things, to make, improve or repair material things in the world, and thus to improve our world. Farming, surgery, shipbuilding, carpentry, writing and tailoring were examples in Aristotle’s era as well as ours, while ours also includes many new ones like cybernetics, aviation and electrical engineering.

The purpose of the “practical sciences” (which meant learning how to do or practice anything, how to act) is to improve your own behavior in some area of your own life. The two most important of these areas, Aristotle said, were ethics and politics. (Aristotle saw politics not as a pragmatic, bureaucratic business of running a state’s economy, but as social ethics, the science of the good life for a community.) Other examples of “practical sciences” include economics, athletics, rhetoric and military science.

The third kind of sciences is the “theoretical” or “speculative” (contemplative), i.e., those that seek the truth for its own sake, that seek to know just for the sake of knowing rather than for the sake of action or production (though, of course, they will have important practical application). These sciences include theology, philosophy, physics, astronomy, biology, psychology and math.

Theoretical sciences are more important than practical sciences for the very same reason practical sciences are more important than productive sciences: because their end and goal is more intimate to us. Productive sciences perfect some external thing in the material world that we use; practical sciences perfect our own action, our own lives; and theoretical sciences perfect our very selves, our souls, our minds. They make us bigger persons.

Papal Primacy and Biblical Typology

There is a parallel between the two Davidic kings (David and Jesus) in relation to the Prime Ministerial authority. As St. Augustine says, the New is hidden in the Old, and the Old is revealed in the New; it’s what’s called the Biblical typology, where the Old Testament aspects foreshadow their fulfilment in the New Testament. In the first Davidic kingdom (type, or foreshadowing), the King delegates his authority so that the Prime Minister is able to speak with the authority of the King (Is 22:15-25). This is fulfilled (anti-type) in the New Testament, where the Prime Minister for the New Davidic King speaks with the authority of the New Davidic King (Mt 16:18-19). We see this in various parallels between the two:

  • There is “office” (Is 22:19, Acts 1:20 [which apply to the Apostolic offices])
  • There is succession of office (Is 22:19, Acts 1:20:)
  • Authority is given (Is 22:21, Mt 16:19)
  • Fatherhood is bestowed (Is 22:21, I Corinthians 4:15)
  • Key(s) given: “key of the house of David” (Is 22:22), “keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:19)
  • Power to make binding decisions: “he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open” (Is 22:22), “whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” (Mt 16:19)
  • Stability and protection promised: “peg in a sure place” (Is 22:23), “on this rock.. powers of death shall not prevail” (Mt 16:18)

Now, Matthew 18:18 and John 20:23 show collegiality of the College of Bishops. This in no way reduces the Primacy of the office of Peter, as we see in Luke 22:31-32, where the Primacy we’ve seen above is made explicit in relation to the Apostolic college:

“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you [plural], that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you [singular] that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren.”

Peter is singled among the Apostles to strengthen his brethren. This befits the new name specifically given to him by Christ, of Cephas (Peter, “Rock”; John 1:42), since Christ is the Wise Man who builds His house on the Rock, and not on sand (Matthew 7:24-27).

The Catholic Faith site update

The Catholic Faith project page has been updated, with a new logo and with the addition of several new sections. You are encouraged to download and disseminate the pdf booklets for you evangelical pleasure. From the About page:

The Catholic Faith project aims to assist the lay faithful – the ‘sleeping giant’ of the Church – to know, love, defend and proclaim the Catholic faith.

The greatest commandment given to us as Catholics is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind” (Matthew 22:37). As such, we must first know our faith, for it reveals God – we cannot love what we do not know.

As we continue to grow in knowledge and love of the faith – which naturally includes living it to the full – the Scriptures also call us to, “go into all the world and proclaim the gospel [euangelos] to every creature” (Mark 16:15), and, “always be prepared to make a defense [apologia] to any one who calls you to account for the hope that is in you, yet do it with gentleness and reverence” (1 Peter 3:15). This is the work of evangelisation and apologetics to which we are all called, as part of the volitional faith that saves us and brings salvation to others (James 2:26, Matthew 25:31-46); but we must first know and love our faith – we cannot give what we do not have.

This is a not-for-profit (other than winning souls!), self-propagating (reader-distributed) project aiming to inform and equip the Catholic fathful for this glorious task at hand!

Scripture and Bias of Tradition?

One of the nuances on the Sola Scriptura doctrine I recently come across is to acknowledge the role of tradition in scriptural interpretation, but as a source of ‘bias’ (correct or incorrect).

As a believer, I would be asking if all tradition is ‘bias’, or can it be more? As a believing Catholic, but also as a believer open to the objective data, I would say it is more. Let me outline a few reasons and data which seems to me to indicate this.

First is Scripture. Upon examining the case of Bereans (Acts 17:11), one sees that these Jews are examining the Apostolic teachings with the Jewish scriptures. Would it be true that “the Bible has authority over church tradition”? This would seem to me to be hasty generalization, for a few reasons. Firstly, the Apostles were teaching new doctrines that went above and beyond the Old Testament, of the Christ who authoritatively fulfilled and also superceded the Law of Moses. The Bereans, in this sense, were checking for consistency with the prospect of Messianic doctrine that would supercede the limitation of their scriptures. Secondly, the Apostolic teaching as superceding the Old Testament is explicitly acknowledged and, in fact, proclaimed, as coming in two modes: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (II Thess 2:15). Indeed, this Apostolic word of mouth is considered to be divine revelation: “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers” (I Thess 2:13). If one is to go by the scriptural practice of the Bereans, then, it would stand to sense to allow authoritative Apostolic teaching to properly guide scriptural interpretation.

Now, this is not some isolated theory, but, again, found in historical data in the early Church:

Papias:

Whenever anyone came my way, who had been a follower of my seniors, I would ask for the accounts of our seniors: What did Andrew or Peter say? Or Phillip or Thomas or James or John or Matthew, or any of the Lord’s disciples? I also asked: What did Aristion and John the Presbyter, disciples of the Lord say. For, as I see it, it is not so much from books as from the living and permanent voice that I must draw profit (The Sayings of the Lord [between A.D. 115 and 140] as recorded by Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History, 3:39 [A.D. 325]).

Irenaeus:

For even creation reveals Him who formed it, and the very work made suggests Him who made it, and the world manifests Him who ordered it. The Universal [Catholic] Church, moreover, through the whole world, has received this tradition from the Apostles (Against Heresies 2:9 [A.D. 189]).

True knowledge is the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of the bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither addition nor curtailment [in truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the Word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy…(ibid. 4:33 [A.D. 189]).

Origen:

Seeing there are many who think they hold the opinions of Christ, and yet some of these think differently from their predecessors, yet as the teaching of the Church, transmitted in orderly succession from the Apostles, and remaining in the churches to the present day, is still preserved, that alone is to be accepted as truth which differs in no respect from ecclesiastical and apostolic tradition (On First Principles Bk. 1 Preface 2 [circa A.D. 225]).

So, historically, Apostolic tradition was not seen as merely a basis for ‘bias’ – no; according to historical and Scriptural data, this view is novel and foreign to both. Church has faithfully obeyed the Apostolic exhortation to “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us”, since they recognized the Apostolic teaching as “what it really is, the word of God”.

Values v.s. Virtues

Many common errors today are the result of a failure to distinguish between values and virtues, or between things which are relative and things that are universal.

‘Values’ such as ‘open-mindedness’ and ‘tolerance’ are, unlike virtues, relative. While it would be good to be ‘open-minded’ with regards debatable or uncertain matters, it would be foolish not to decide on a matter after a thorough investigation. Likewise, being ‘tolerant’ is good in certain matters, but not in others (like abuse cases). Thus, such values are not universally applicable, and so should not always be held, but are relative to the circumstance. Virtues, on the other hand, are universal. It is always good to practice prudence, justice, fortitude and temperance, no matter what the situation.

‘Liberals’ often take certain ‘values’ and apply them as if they were virtues, but they are not. This is why their namesake itself is a relative ‘value’ – one cannot equally liberalize economy and sexual abuse, for example. To be liberally ‘tolerant’ of these two areas equally is to be woefully irresponsible and unjust.

The same criticism can be applied to ‘conservatives’. Conservation, again, is a relative term; it is not universally a good thing. Again, to conserve the environment and chattel slavery equally would be an woeful injustice.

What applies to Catholics is to seek after its namesake – the things which are catholic, or universal; after ‘principles’, which are unchanging. This is what it means to be ‘ortho-dox’, to adhere to ‘right-speech’, to touch on what is true in all places and in all time. It does happen that ‘conservation’ touches on this, since Tradition (with capital “T”) is part of the revealed faith, alongside Scripture and the Magisterial teaching authority of the Church. However, the central concern is still to be ortho-dox – to think out of, and seek after, what is “right”, according to true and authentic faith and reason, rather than to be concerned about relative values – with the universality of the virtues mentioned above, and especially also of faith, hope and charity.

“Pro Multis” – “For Many” or “For All”?

The new English translation of the Missale Romanum, the Roman Missal, from the original latin text is already in use here in New Zealand. In my opinion, it is a vast improvement over the hastily and inadequately done translation in the years following the Second Vatican Council. One of the points of contention here is regarding the words of consecration for the precious blood, which, in the new translation, reads as follows: “For this is the Chalice of my Blood, the Blood of the new and eternal Covenant which will be poured out for you and for many for the forgiveness of sins.” It is the word “many”, which has been changed from “all”, that is being disputed by “many” in the liberal and dissenting camp.

An author from the notorious America magazine has written:

The Latin word, multis, is, itself, perhaps, a mistranslation of the original Greek word, Pollown,which refers to ‘the many’ ( an expression already found in Isaiah) to indicate a substantially large, indeed capacious, number, equivalently all.

If one looks at the text with its Greek lexicon (click on the word “many” or “pollwn”), however, we see that the definitions are “many, much, large”. With regards the author’s appeal to the writings of Pope Benedict (God is Near Us: The Eucharist the Heart of Life), the Pope states in the same book in p.37:

I leave open the question of whether it was sensible to choose the translation “for all” here and, thus, to confuse translation with interpretation, at a point at which the process of interpretation remains in any case indispensable.

The footnote for this states,

The fact that in Hebrew the expression “many” would mean the same thing as “all” is not relevant to the question under consideration inasmuch as it is a question of translating, not a Hebrew text here, but a Latin text

Fr. Z’s blog on “Slavishly accurate liturgical translations” provides an explanation and history of its universal use behind the translation:

Look at it this way: if the Pope or a new Council chose to explain a new emphasis using a document of sufficient weight and authority, and if the Holy See then changed the Latin of the Missale Romanum to say “pro vobis et pro universis”, then there would be a linguistic justification for saying “for all” as an accurate translation of the Missale Romanum.

But the Church cannot change the Latin from pro multis to pro universis.

That would explicitly contradict the Church’s teaching as expressed in Latin by the Council of Trent (cf. Catechism of the Council of Trent, Part II, 4).

Such a change would contradict doctrine and not simply change emphasis about an aspect of that doctrine. Clear English must reflect the clarity of the Latin.

Many arguments have been forwarded to justify the choice to translate pro multis as “for all”.

In Latin pro multis means “for many”. All the Latin rites, historical or modern, have pro multis and not pro omnibus or pro universis.

The English translations of the Eastern Catholic Rites say “for many”.

Our patristic sources, such as the writings of the 4th c. Doctor of the Church St. Ambrose of Milan, when describing the words of consecration in the Eucharistic liturgy, has pro multis and not pro omnibus, etc. The liturgical formulas were from Scripture. The 4th c. Doctor of the Church St. Jerome, who translated from Greek and Hebrew texts into Latin giving us a Bible translation called the Vulgata, chose to use pro multis when translating the Greek tò peri pollôn (genitive plural of polus) in describing Jesus’ words at the Last Supper.

In Greek polus means “many” or “much” or even “most” as in the majority: it does not mean “all”. In the ancient Church, no one said “for all” instead of “for many”. In the Greek Gospel accounts of the Last Supper, Jesus uses a form polus “many”. The liturgical rites of the East retained a form of polus. The rites of the Latin West have ever used pro multis.

He also clarifies, in agreement with Pope Benedict, that the claim of the original Greek meaning being “equivalently all” is based not on the Greek but on a guess as to the possible original words:

The Lutheran Scripture scholar Joachim Jeremias, whose philological fan dance formed the basis for the claims that words in Greek meant something they have never meant in the history of Greek because of his guess about what Jesus may have said in Aramaic, said in the Scripture dictionary article on this matter that he was trying to avoid an interpretation he considered offensive. He tailored his article according to his predetermined idea.

“This is the question whether the broad interpretation of polloí corresponds to the original sense of Mk. 10:45; 14:24 or whether we have here a secondary and more comprehensive understanding designed to avoid the offence of a restriction of the scope of the atoning work of Jesus to ‘many’” (pp. 543-44).

The foundation for our present translation was the Lutheran Jeremias’ rereading of Scripture so as to avoid the offense in Catholic doctrine.

Is it “restricting the scope”, as Jeremias claims? I wouldn’t think so: God, of couse, wills for all to be saved, but, given free will, its fruition is not necessarily manifested universally. On this point, Fr. Z quotes the Catechism of Trent to further clarify the matter:

But when He added pro multis He wanted that there be understood the rest of those chosen (electos) from the Jews or from the gentiles. Rightly therefore did it happen that for all (pro universis) were not said, since at this point the discourse was only about the fruits of the Passion which bears the fruit of salvation only for the elect (delectis).

Thus, it can be seen linguistically, historically, and doctrinally, that “for many” is the more appropriate translation.