Category Archives: Catholicism

On “Belief” and “Believing”

“It’s that time of year . . . ”
If you tell me you’re going to go win a marathon, and I say, “I believe in you,” what am I saying?
Am I saying, “Yes, I do believe you’re real.  You go on existing”?
Or am I saying, “I have confidence that you can achieve this difficult feat”?

Why do we do the same with God?

Scripture takes for granted that God exists.  Belief in God is, rather, about confidence that He would do what He says.

This problem is compounded by the “Santa Claus” question.  My kids were smarter than I was.  They could tell from all the disparate accounts–even in Rankin and Bass specials–that something was amiss in the pop culture narrative.  My wife always worried about people who equate “belief in God” with “belief in Santa,” so we told them the truth from the beginning: St. Nicholas is a real person who lived on earth, and performed many acts of charity and many miracles in his earthly and heavenly lives.

He saved three girls who were going to be sold into slavery by tossing three bags of money into their home at night to pay off their father’s debts.  For this, he is the patron saint of pawnbrokers (the pawn broker symbol is the three bags of coins from St. Nicholas).

He is said to have miraculously flown to a sinking ship.  Thus he is associated with flight and is a patron of sailors.

In the middle ages, people would commemorate his feast by anonymously giving to the poor and saying the gifts were from St. Nicholas.

Ironically, Protestants who thought devotion to Saints was “too pagan” changed it to the Christ Child bringing gifts of Christmas (Krist Kinder, or Kris Kringle), or else the very pagan figure of Father Christmas, all of which got merged in the US to the figure of “Santa Claus,” greed and commercialism personified in the guise of generosity.

Contrary to Peter Pan, simply insisting you believe doesn’t make something happen-that’s Gnosticism. Something is either real, or it isn’t.  You can “believe” the Earth is flat, or that the moon is made of green cheese.  Insisting otherwise isn’t going to change the facts of what the earth and the moon really are.

You can “believe” that God doesn’t exist.  You can “believe” God exists.  However, your belief has no bearing on reality.  Either He does, or He doesn’t.  Belief if it applies to questions of objective truth at all, applies to our assent to the truth, not to whether it *is* true.

“What God’s Son has told me, take for truth I do: Truth Himself speaks truly, else there’s nothing true.”

It annoys me when we say things like, “For us, the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ” or “We believe that Mary was preserved from all stain of sin from the moment of her conception,” and mean, “For us, Santa Claus is a magical being who lives at the North Pole,” or “We believe that the Easter Bunny brings eggs.”

Yes, it is “for” us, teleologically speaking, but it is not “for us” versus “for you.”  The Eucharist *is* the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ.  It’s not “just a symbol.”  It doesn’t *stop* being the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Christ because you think otherwise.

The Immaculate Conception is a question of historical reality.  I can believe or not believe in the testimony, the evidence and the logical arguments that Mary was preserved from all stain of sin.  It does not cease to be an historical fact if I choose not to “believe it.”  Similarly, my belief doesn’t make it real if it didn’t actually occur.

 

A Feminist Weights in on The Annual “Mary Did You Know” Debate.

I’ve previously blogged about this atrocious “Christmas” song, film critic and recently ordained deacon Steven D. Greydanus wrote a far more eloquent line-by-line response.  However, a new feminist, Protestant response adds a different dimension to the song.  A Presbyterian going by “pulpitshenanigans” published a blog post abou thow “Mary Did You Know?” is “Everything Wrong with American Christians.”  While her post is about 75% correct, she starts off on the wrong foot by essentially granting the song’s central premise.  She asserts that

From day one [Mark Lowry] was taught that women in the bible are evil, maybe Mary was an exception to the evil, I mean she and her “purity” is what all woman should subscribe to.

More likely, as a Liberty University grad fundamentalist, Lowry was taught that Mary was the most sinful woman in history.

We’ve missed the fact that the news that Mary gets through this angel is that her body is about to be violated, she will become pregnant without her consent. She is to carry the child and she is to name him Jesus. She has no choice over her body or even his name.

Uhh, no. She is one of only four human persons in history who ever made a truly free choice.

Adam and Eve were “immaculately conceived,” so to speak. They were created without sin. Faced with the cosmos-shattering decision of following God or themselves, they chose themselves.  They committed the Original Sin that each of us has had since conception (Psalm 51:5).

In Catholic teaching, there are four kinds of “real Presence” of Jesus Christ.  The first is “wherever two or three are gathered in My Name” (Matthew 18:20).  The second is in the Sacred Scripture, the Word of God.  The third is in icons or crucifixes.  The highest, though, is His Presence–Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity–in the Eucharist.

In the Israelite tradition, the Ark of the Covenant was the Presence of God in a similar way, containing in itself the Law (Scripture), the staff of Aaron (foreshadowing the Cross) and manna (foreshadowing the Eucharist).  Anyone who touched the Ark with any sin on his conscience, Scripture tells us, would die.

Gabriel said Mary was “full of grace.”  How can anyone with sin be “full of grace”?  How can anyone with sin truly be “at enmity” with the Devil, as God describes in Gen 3:15?  If a creature with sin cannot touch the Ark of the Covenant, how could a creature with sin bear in her very body God Incarnate?

Here is Mary, greeted by Gabriel, with the message that she’s been chosen by God to be the mother of the Messiah.  She knows the Scriptures.  She knows what it will entail.  She knows she will be potentially accused of adultery and stoned.

Almost every other figure in Scripture who gets visited by an angel, usually with news of a coming miraculous answer to a prayer, including Zechariah, questions the angel out of doubt, even legitimate doubt, and is given either a punishment or a sign.  Mary questions the angel out of concern for her virginity.  She says, aware of the risks, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord.  Let it be done unto me as you say.”

Eve had no sin, yet faced with obeying God or potentially dying from self-service, she chose death.  How would we expect Mary to have chosen the hard way of obeying God, when she knew it might mean death, unless Mary *at least* had the same grace that Eve did to start out with?

Revisiting Akita

Unity Publishing is probably the best site I’ve found over the years on apparitions, prophecies, etc., analyzing their content in the light of Scripture and Tradition, and emphasizing those that are approved while debunking the clear errors in many false apparitions.  Since 2012 it has seemed increasingly clear that we are living in times many Catholic mystics have warned about.  I’ve mostly sat quietly without comment hoping that what I strongly suspected wasn’t true.  The events of the past few months have made it harder to stay silent.  Since they are fully approved both as an apparition and a message, I thought I’d revisit the appearances of Our Lady in Akita, Japan, from 1973 to 1981.  Here is the Unity Publishing article’s introduction on how solidly approved they are–including Cardinal Ratzinger approving the content of the prophecies and allegedly confirming the Bishop’s theory that the prophecy of Akita is the same as the prophecy of Fatima.

Apparitions Approved – An Urgent Message In 1984, just before retiring at a venerable age, the diocesan Bishop of Niigata, Bishop John Shojiro Ito, in consultation with the Holy See, wrote a pastoral letter in which he recognized as being authentically of the Mother of God, the extraordinary series of events that had taken place from 1973 to 1981 in a little lay convent within his diocese, at Akita, Japan. Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, in June 1988, approved the Akita events as “reliable and worthy of belief”. In fact the Philippine ambassador to the Vatican, in 1998 spoke to Cardinal Ratzinger about Akita and the Cardinal: “personally confirmed to me that these two messages of Fatima and Akita are essentially the same”.

Here is the prophecy:

As I told you, if men do not repent and better themselves, the Father will inflict a terrible punishment on all humanity. It will be a punishment greater than the deluge, such as one will never have seen before. Fire will fall from the sky and will wipe out a great part of humanity, the good as well as the bad, sparing neither priests nor faithful. The survivors will find themselves so desolate that they will envy the dead. The only arms which will remain for you will be the Rosary and the Sign left by my Son. Each day, recite the prayers of the Rosary. With the Rosary, pray for the Pope, the bishops and the priests. The work of the devil will infiltrate even into the Church in such a way that one will see cardinals opposing cardinals, and bishops against other bishops. The priests who venerate me will be scorned and opposed by their Confreres. The Church and altars will be vandalized. The Church will be full of those who accept compromises and the demon will press many priests and consecrated souls to leave the service of the Lord.

“The demon will rage especially against souls consecrated to God. The thought of the loss of so many souls is the cause of my sadness. If sins increase in number and gravity, there will no longer be pardon for them.

 

On Catholics using “Big Words”

If you listen to the MSM, you might have heard how those big meanies at Russia supposedly leaked emails to make poor innocent Hillary Clinton look bad, or how a leaked video of Donald Trump engaging in admittedly repulsive talk should destroy his campaign.
If you get your news on TV, you probably missed that among the latest “dump” of Clinton-related emails by Wikileaks are comments about setting up various front groups to undermine the “backwards” Catholic Church (as C. S. Lewis would say, if you’ve strayed off course from your goal, “backwards” is “progress”), proving that groups like “Catholics United for the Common Good” and other supposedly “moderate” groups that have sprung up in the past decade or so are, as I and others have argued, secular liberal front groups.

Many have asked why Julian Assange isn’t publishing much about Trump.  Well, the big batch that was released this weekend and covered up by discussion of which members of which parties engage in worse violations of the second, sixth and ninth Commandments, also included evidence that another “conspiracy theory” was true: that the Clinton Campaign was behind the Trump campaign all along, to avoid someone like Rand Paul or Marco Rubio getting the nomination.

A third headline that you may have missed if you get your news from Clinton News Network, Nothing But Clinton, All ‘Bout Clinton or Clinton Broadcasting System (the more common acronym for CBS would violate my own broadcasting rules), and the one I’d like to reply to most directly here, concerns a batch of emails between some folks named John Halpin (jhalpin@americanprogress.org), Jennifer Palmieri (JPalmieri@americanprogress.org) and John Podesta (john.podesta@gmail.com).  I’m sure these individuals’ emails are flooded, if not shut down, but I would like to reply to the following statement that’s garnered no small attention in the circles of conservative Catholicism (and, I imagine, counterweighted Trump’s obscenities for some of us  on the fence about whether to vote for Trump or a more conservative third party candidate.  Said Halpin:

[Catholic Conservatism is] an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.

Apparently, Mr. Halpin is “totally unaware” that “Christian Democracy” is not just an oxymoron but an outright contradiction.

Now, prior to the era of Donald Trump, I’d have pointed out how liberals can’t even communicate amongst themselves without resorting to rough language, but given that that is a perfectly good word abused by abusers of language, what is more of an — adulteration — of the Faith than to try and mask Socialism with Christianity and call it “Christian Democracy”, or to claim the Church has “severely backwards gender relations”?

[Catholic conservatives] can throw around “Thomistic” thought and “subsidiarity” and sound sophisticated because no one knows what the hell they’re talking about.sIt’s an amazing bastardization of the faith. They must be attracted to the systematic thought and severely backwards gender relations and must be totally unaware of Christian democracy.

Well, first off, that’s precisely what we’re talking about–how to avoid going to Hell, which should the secondary concern of every person on the planet (the primary concern being learning how to properly respond in love to the selfless gift of Christ).

Second off, for people who throw around sentences like “postmodern approaches to reevaluating paradigms of patriarchal and Eurocentric hegemonies” to accuse anyone else of using “big words” to “sound smart” would make me laugh if I were physically capable of it anymore.

Third, and most importantly, if “Thomistic” political theory is too complicated for you (for me, St. Thomas Aquinas himself, once you learn the method of properly reading a Summa is about as simple and clear as possible), and if “subsidiarity,” one of the basic principles of Catholic Social Thought, going back at least as far back as Pope Pius XI, and best summarized in the famous dictum of Lord Acton, “power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely”, is too big a word, on this, the 99th anniversary of the Sun Dancing at Fatima, I would like to offer a far simpler explanation of why I, for one don’t support Socialism, Statism, modern “gender relations” or so-called “Christian democracy”. In the words of Our Lady:

“Russia will spread its errors throughout the world, raising up wars and persecutions against the Church. The good will be martyred, the Holy Father will have much to suffer, and various nations will be annihilated.”

“God is about to punish the world for its crimes, by means of war, famine, and persecutions of the Church and of the Holy Father. To prevent this, I shall come to ask for the Communions of reparation and for the consecration of Russia to My Immaculate Heart … In the end, My Immaculate Heart will triumph. The Holy Father will consecrate Russia to Me, which will be converted, and a period of peace will be granted to the world.”

(See also Miraculous Medal and La Salette Apparitions)

I *am* guilty of this Man’s Blood.

“If you were blind, you would have no sin; but now you are saying, ‘We see,’ so your sin remains” (Jn 9:41).
“Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do” (Matthew 9:12).
“I am innocent of this man’s blood” (Matthew 27:24).
“Then may his blood be on us and on our children” (Matthew 27:25)

“Blood that but one drop of/ has the worth to win/all the world forgiveness/of its world of sin” (Gerard Manley Hopkins, after St Thomas Aquinas).

It is a great disgrace that one of the most important verses in the Passion narrative has been distorted into a statement of hate such that to even quote it is considered hate speech.
Unless we accept Christ’s self-offering, we have no place in His kingdom (Jn 13:8).  Pilate, by professing his innocence, proclaims his own guilt.  The people, by accepting the guilt for Christ’s death, and accepting His blood, are actually accepting their own redemption.

When the people say “Let us blood be upon us and upon our children,” that means all of us.  Unless we accept our guilt for Christ’s death, and not only accept His blood offered for our sins upon us but into us through the Sacrament, we can have no life in us (Jn 6:53).
This is something to consider when public figures profess their alleged Christianity by saying they have never told God they were sorry.

On Reading “Bad Books”

A question: you have a series of hugely popular books and movies. Some people say they’re demonic. Others say they’re deeply Christian. Some in the first group have actually read them and claim the seemingly Christian symbolism is meant to steer people away from Christ rather than lead them to Him.
While this is specifically inspired by the perpetual Harry Potter controversy, reignited by recent sequels and locally by a parish study, it should be noted that it could apply to lots of contemporary literature, not to mention anything that was on the Index, from Machiavelli to the King James translation to Marx to Victor Hugo.
Now, among readers, you have several sets of people:
1) Those who are not well formed and have no interest in the books or the genre, no reason to read them, and very little need to discuss them. Fine. If that’s the case, go on your merry way and live and let live.
2) Those who are well formed, *do* have interest in the books or genre, *do* encounter lots of people who have interest in them, and can read and analyze and discuss them intelligently. (Noting that, even when the Index was in force, people in this group were permitted to read books on the Index, and noting that many books that were on the Index are considered acceptable today)
3) Those who are students or children of people in Group 2. (Noting that, even when the Index was in force, people in this group under guidance of Group 2 could read the books on the Index).
4) Those who are poorly formed and otherwise weak in the area the books deal with, whom any reasonable Catholic would say probably shouldn’t read the books.
5) Those who are not Catholic or even Christian.
6) Those who are convinced the books are evil and want to condemn them.
If someone in Group 6 encounters someone in Group 2, is there really any point in crying, “You shouldn’t read this book!  It’s evil!” Or condemning Group 2 for trying to educate Groups 3, 4 and 5?
If the person in Group 6 confronts the person in Group 5 with his or her concerns, it’s like when a Baptist randomly shows up at your door and tells you you’re going to Hell.  Why would an atheist care?  So why would someone who is already a non Christian care if a book is going to steer him away from Christ?

Didn’t St. Francis de Sales say something about honey and vinegar?

*However*, let’s say that the person in Group 2 encounters someone in Group d5, and says, “Hey!  Those books you love!  I like them too!  Let’s talk about them!”  Then the person in Group 3 helps the person in Group 5 see how the books point to Christ.  This is how J.R. R. Tolkien influenced the conversion of C. S. Lewis.  Lewis had rejected the notion that “everyone else in the world is a sinner going to Hell for not believing in the true God.”  Tolkien taught him how all religions, not just Judaism, point to Christianity.  He showed Lewis how Christ was the historical fulfillment of all those pagan myths Lewis loved, which was a more satisfying explanation than “Those myths are all lies of demons.”

So the person in Group 2 thinks that the books have merit for fellow Christians if read with guidance.  The person in Group 6 thinks they have no merit, but if Group 6 could get a lot more leverage in dealing with Groups 3 and 5 if he at least adopts the approach of Group 2.

“Three Felonies a Day,” Clintons and Irish Travelers

In 2009, an attorney named Harvey Silverglate published a book called Three Felonies a Day that became a kind of a meme or urban legend, that seems sensationalist but is really based on simple facts.  He used to have a website that summarizes his book, but I can’t find it.  First, most federal law does not include the condition of “criminal intent.
The FBI recently said that Hillary Clinton should *not* be prosecuted for “gross negligence” in exposing classified information because she didn’t know any better, yet a Naval servicement is charged with a felony for taking six photos of the inside of a submarine (and potentially going to jail when crewmembers of the same ship did the same and received internal disciplinary actions).

Second, federal law is so pervasive.  One of Silverglate’s examples is the “Honest Services” clause of the mail-and-wire fraud statute, which is so vaguely worded that anyone who calls in sick to go shopping or see a show is guilty of a felony.  Speaking of which, technically using an alias online is wire fraud.
Ever download or record something copyrighted without paying?  Pass off someone else’s work as your own?  How many times does the average person break copyright law?
What about EPA regulations?
Almost anyone involved in education has done something that violates FERPA.  Almost anyone involved in healthcare has violated HIPAA or ACA.
Then there are the stories Silverglate tells us people wandering onto federal property, not realizing it, since there’s so much of it, and being charged with traspassing or theft.

Personally, I think Silverglate’s *three* felonies a day is optimistic.

Another issue Silverglate doesn’t touch on, at least in that context, is the “witch hunt” scenario.  The New England “witch” scare that led to the Salem Trials started with a book by one of the Mathers about “witchcraft” (Catholicism) among Irish and Caribbean slaves.  Now, some “witches” were selling what we’d now call recreational drugs like marijuana and “magic mushrooms.”  Sometimes, they or other witches were the forerunners of Planned Parenthood (the only convicted witch in Virginia history was convicted of selling abortifacients and contraceptives, and pardoned centuries after her execution by Tim Kaine).  Some were practicing voodoo and other pagan religions, but whatever their reasons for being accused, those who were “guity” admitted it, and took deals by “naming names.”  The women they named were mostly innocent, but since they *were* innocent and knew nothing of “witchcraft,” they were prosecuted.

The same happens today with many federal cases, particularly the “War on Drugs”: a criminal keeps his family in the dark about his activities.  When he and his wife or roommate or whomever are arrested, he takes the deal and names his wife or roommate or whomever as knowing about it.  The innocent and ignorant person goes to jail.

And because these laws are so vaguely worded, and so expansive, anyone can be prosecuted for any reason if the government wants to.  Joe Schmoe gets fired or sent to jail for checking his work email at home, but Hillary Clinton is running for president?

Meanwhile, there’s a local story about the indictment of 20 “Irish Travelers” on 45 fraud charges.  I had first heard of Irish Travelers through their popular culture representation, and, being inclined to support an underdog, have had a hard time discerning whether the allegations are accurate.  If you’ve ever heard of “red Irish” versus “black Irish” (a rivalry once depicted on 30 Rock between fictional Jack Donaghy and non fictional Conan O’Brien), or “lact curtain Irish” or “Shanty Irish,” that’s the Travelers.  Whether they’re related to “real gypsies” is disputed.

As disdained as the Irish are in general, the Travelers in Ireland are disdained by the other Irish, as well.  Around here, I find that when non-Catholics hear I’m Catholic, they think I’m a Traveler.  When other Catholics around the state hear I’m from North Augusta, they think “Traveler.”  Ironically, Travelers drive much nicer vehicles than we do, generally dress and style their hair “expensively” (even if the follow out-of-date fashions).

On All Saints’ Day about 5 years ago, we had to drive upstate overnight because my wife had an event there for work, and one of our kids had a medical appointment.  When we went to get dinner after arriving in Greenville, we realized we’d left our only card at the McDonald’s we stopped at for lunch.  We called to cancel it, but it was too late to go to the bank in person for a withdrawl.  Finding myself, in the middle of a real life occurrence of a cliche scam, I took the kids to Mass then asked for help.  The parish business manager was the usher, and he got the pastor, who gave us the $60 I requested.  That covered a hotel room (how many parents have saved on hotel rooms by undercounting their kids?) and some vending machine food.  In the morning, I *did* go to the bank and get the cash, then came back to the church to give back the $60.

The business manager said, “Thanks for restoring my faith in humanity. Keep the money and do something special for your kids.”  He mentioned the Irish Travelers in North Augusta (I guess he thought we were Travelers), and recommended their church as a beautiful place to visit, as it had rescued the stained glass windows from an old church in Philadelphia.

It took us a while to actually visit, because we were worried about their reputation for being clandestine, reclusive, etc.  While they have a reputation for wearing fancy clothes and hairdos, and the women *do* have 60s and 80s style hair, for daily Mass and devotional services, at least, they dress pretty much like my wife and I do (hence the common impression of people, especially when I’m wearing the jacket they gave me–more on that later).  They usually wear religious t-shirts or hoodies.

Their liturgical music is Haugen-Haas, and the most orthodox publications in their vestibule are the diocesan newspaper and Catholic Worker. Otherwise, it’s the “Fishwrap,” US Catholic or Commonweal–I forget which.

OTOH Their parish has Adoration, various Novenas, Rosaries, Legion of Mary and a few other groups.  They have an outdoor shrine to the Infant of Prague.

We don’t know if the first daily Mass we went to there was something special, or they just always have a meal, but contrary to reputation, they invited us to join them after Mass for a very nice little buffet in the vestibule.  The “lace curtain” part of their reputation is of course a penchant for enjoying fancy food, fancy houses and fancy cars that makes this Carmelite rather uncomfortable.

We went that once for daily Mass in the evening.  Then in the Lent before my surgery, we went for daily Mass and Stations on Friday.  That was when I noticed the women wearing the religious hoodies and asked about them.  They offered to give me one next week, for free.  We asked for mutual prayers.  We came almost every Friday that Lent for Stations, and after a few weeks, they gave me a very nice St. Michael hoodie that I still have but sometimes feel embarrased to wear.  Once, last winter, we passed a group of men at Wal-Mart who saw my hoodie and said, “He’s not one of us.  Wonder where he got that?”

We’ve been once or twice since for Mass, and I went to Adoration a few months ago.

Seeing all the women praying in church, with their 60s style hair, with very few men there, made me feel  like I was in a mafia movie: the women in church, praying for the men who were out commiting crimes for a living (if reputation was deserved, and the truth is probably somewhere in between.

What I don’t understand, though, is how the fraud the Irish Travelers commit to get their fancy belongings is any different than the fraud committed by Hillary Clinton or anyone else who’s rich.  It’s not envy to point out that it’s extremely difficult to become extremely wealthy without commiting some sort of crime or sin.

Most of the articles focus on misrepresenting income to get Food Stamps and Medicaid, and I see comments online from African Americans–a community also stigmatized as being full of criminals and committing the same kinds of crimes–rejoicing.  It is horrible how we, as liberals put it, “Other” everyone.  It’s always “those people,” and the accusations against “those people” usually apply to “us,” so long as we’re the “good guys.”  Every villain is the hero of his own story, after all.

We hear about the Travelers getting paid to do work at people’s houses, doing a bad job, and then leaving.  I’ve experienced a lot of workers like that over the years, from licensed repairment to MDs.  If a doctor charges me $500 to tell me I’m being a hypochondriac and doesn’t even run a test, I still have to pay him, then he goes and uses my money to make the payment on his BMW.  If an Irish traveler charges me $500 to paint my house, does a cheap job that washes off in the next rainfall, and disappears, I’m out $500 that he uses to make a payment on his BMW.

I’ve read articles about previous raids and investigations that turned up nothing but some unaccounted for cash.  That actually sounded suspicious to me, like they *were* hiding something, but still, it strikes me as a witch hunt.  And as Hillary Clinton races to the White House on the backs of deleted emails, compromised National Security, dead ambassadors, dead friends, dead witnesses, dead lawyers, dead soldiers and dead babies, it seems hypocritical now for the government to prosecute anyone for any reason.