Category Archives: Doctrines

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’.

Advertisements

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).

Role of the Laity in the Church

There is a distinct confusion in the Church today as to the role of the laity. In an attempt to bring about “active participation” in the liturgy Vatican II supposedly called for (the original Latin actually reads “actualparticipation.” ), the Church has become navel-gazing in its mode of operation, forgetting to heed the words of Our Lord to “[g]o into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15), not to mention the urgency attached to it: “[w]hoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16) Here are some some Vatican II quotes on the proper role of the laity, first from Apostolicam Actuositatem (Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity):

Chapter 1. The Vocation of the Laity to the Apostolate.
2. The Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ… to enable all men to share in His saving redemption… All activity of the Mystical Body directed to the attainment of this goal is called the apostolate… [The laity] exercise the apostolate in fact by their activity directed to the evangelization and sanctification of men and to the penetrating and perfecting of the temporal order through the spirit of the Gospel.

Now from the principle document of the Council, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, Lumen Gentium:

10. “…[common priesthood of the faithful and the ministerial or hierarchical priesthood] differ from one another in essence and not only in degree…”

31. “What specifically characterizes the laity is their secular nature. …They are called there by God that by exercising their proper function and led by the spirit of the Gospel they may work for the sanctification of the world from within as a leaven.”

32. “By divine institution Holy Church is ordered and governed with a wonderful diversity. “For just as in one body we have many members, yet all the members have not the same function, so we, the many, are one body in Christ, but severally members one of another. …yet all share a true equality with regard to the dignity and to the activity common to all the faithful for the building up of the Body of Christ.”

33. “Upon all the laity, therefore, rests the noble duty of working to extend the divine plan of salvation to all men of each epoch and in every land.”

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!

Introduction to Death

This post may be more properly called the Introduction to the Problem of Death.

Death, as we know, is a horrible thing: why would God allow it?

In a debate with an atheist, the objection was raised that it is absurd to think that deaths in cases such as those in the recent Christchurch earthquake could be compatible with a benevolent God who would intervene to save some people.

Part of the difficulty would be the same problems faced from the presuppositions of philosophical materialism and their implications, one of which would be the finite nature of all embodied things. If human existence is limited to the material, of course it would seem that a benevolent God would have to intervene in order to safeguard people from an ultimate demise.

However, often, I would posit, the issue is not so much with the objective case at hand, but with the projections of such a philosophy and world view. Once the material-tinted glasses are put down, it might be seen that the difficulty is somewhat negated. As Socrates (who is, of course, a preeminent and pre-Christian Greek philosopher) states in Phaedo:

And the true philosophers, Simmias, are always occupied in the practice of dying, wherefore also to them least of all men is death terrible.

Although Platonic dualism is, as I understand it, not compatible with Catholicism, such a philosophical insight into the formal aspect of a living entity does touch on the truth of the possibility of life apart from the material part.

I would suggest that, if this is taken into account, the problem of death begins to resolve itself, at least at the philosophical level (psychological is another matter).

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”.

Growth and Orthodoxy

To add to the previous post, here’s an article on Liberal Religions in Free Fall:

Beginning with the work of Dean Kelly in the 1970s, it has been empirically obvious that those religions which have experienced the greatest proportionate decline in membership are generally the most progressive or liberal in their teachings; conversely, conservative-oriented religions have fared comparatively well. The latest data from the Yearbook proves this to be true again.

…With the exception of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod, and to some extent the American Baptist Churches, all the other churches with declining membership hold liberal views on abortion and gay rights. Moreover, the smallest decline among the Baptist churches was registered by the most conservative among them, the Southern Baptist Convention (down .42). By sharp contrast, all the religions that experienced a growth in membership are pro-life and pro-marriage (normatively understood).

Orthodoxy (among the conservatives, in this case) flourishes, because we are made to know and seek the truth.

As the article claims, this is consistent with the past findings, tracked by ad2000: for the Crisis magazine (2007);

The better-known orthodox bishops and dioceses – such as Archbishop Chaput (Denver) and Bishop Bruskewitz (Lincoln) – ranked well, while long-time liberal dioceses, such as Milwaukee, Albany and Rochester, fared very poorly. Not all dioceses fitted this pattern, due to other factors, but there was an evident correlation between success and strongly orthodox leadership.

Catholic World Report (2005);

Ziegler’s analysis took account of factors like the selection processes in different dioceses, the numbers accepted from other dioceses or overseas, the effects of clerical sex abuse scandals and rapid changes in population. However, these did not substantially affect the likely ingredients of success.

Successful seminaries were linked for the most part with strong, orthodox episcopal leadership, the witness of devout, enthusiastic clergy, focus on the indispensable role of the priest, effective programs in schools and parishes, and spiritual practices such as Eucharistic adoration.

and Human Life International;

2. The proportion of diocesan priests in orthodox dioceses has remained steady, while the number of diocesan priests in progressive dioceses has been continually declining for four decades. In orthodox dioceses, there were 1,830 diocesan priests per million active Catholics in 1956, and 12 percent more (2,057) in 1996….

1. There are currently nearly five times as many ordinations of diocesan priests per million active Catholics in orthodox dioceses as there are in progressive dioceses (53 vs. 11); and

2. The rate of ordinations of diocesan priests in orthodox dioceses shows a strong upward trend, while the rate in progressive dioceses, relatively low four decades ago, continues to decline. In orthodox dioceses, there were 34 ordinations of diocesan priests per million active Catholics in 1986, and 53 in 1996 – an increase of more than 50 percent. In progressive dioceses, the rate was 16 in 1986, and only 11 in 1996 – a one-third decrease.

This is consistent with the claims in Goodbye Good Men, which notes that the vocation crisis is artificially created by dissenting factions who turn away orthodox candidates as being “rigid”. Such dissenters forget that “liberal” flexibility and open-mindedness are, again, “values” that are relative and limited; by their very nature, they are never, nor can they ever be, absolute as to supersede universal truths.