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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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The Marriage Crisis

I regularly follow the wisdom on Msgr. Charlie Pope’s blog for the Archdiocese of Washington.  Recently, he posted on the following question:  “In the wake of the Supreme Court decisions of this week, are we coming to a point where we should consider dropping our use of the word “marriage?”  A number of Catholic voices are arguing that we should disengage ourselves both with the word “marriage” and from allowing clergy to function as civil magistrates in witnessing them for the state.  Certainly I am sympathetic with what they hope to accomplish.  However, I am already on the record, from past discussions, as opposed to such a retreat.  Both sides can play word-games.  Towards the end, he poses a second question, “Should the Catholic Bishops disassociate Catholic clergy from civil ‘marriage’ licenses?”  Again, I appreciate the underlying reasoning; we want to avoid guilt by association and giving apparent approbation.  My fear is that any such move would be contrary to a well-ordered or structured society (which is a good in itself).  It would also constitute a retreat that opponents in the public forum would exploit.  It seems to me that our laity would bear the blunt of the suffering and challenge that would come from such a move.

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I am not blind to the dire crisis we face.  It is true that marriage as an institution has been largely redefined by our society.  The movement on behalf of same-sex unions is a case in point; of course, if left unchecked it will not stop there.  Next we will see the return of polygamy.  Despite the many scandals faced by the Church, there are even depraved people pushing for pedophilia and pederasty.  There is already a bizarre effort in Australia for a man to marry his pet goat, the degradation of bestiality.  The U.S. bishops reminded us in their failed initiative that marriage is in trouble.  While I am hesitant to criticize our holy shepherds; the fact is that marriage has been in trouble for some time now and we were largely silent.  Contraception nullifies the consummation of the marital act.  Millions of abortions seek to erase through murder the fruit of marital love.  No-fault divorce allows for quick separations and remarriages.  Prenuptial Agreements insert doubt against the vows and a lack of trust from the very beginning, thus making those marriages null-and–void.  Couples fornicate and cohabitate, essentially saying that you do not have to be married to have sex.  Well, when you separate sex and marriage, you also set the stage for infidelity and adultery.  Once sex is disconnected from marriage it is very hard to reattach it with any kind of necessity.  Our society is saturated by an erotic and pornographic media that destroys courtship and sexualizes relationships.  This dilemma is so pervasive that the inner person has lost any sense of propriety or decency.  Viagra gives the old stamina to neglect their coming judgment and condoms give the young license under the illusion of protection.  Wedding dresses that once expressed modesty and femininity are increasing replaced with skimpy gowns akin to those on television dance contests.  Ours is the generation where all rights, even the right to life, are supplanted by the emerging and absolute right to have sex with anyone regardless of promises and unions.  The children are caught up in the middle of this whirlwind.  This is so much so that we even dress our little girls like the prostitutes that walk the street.

Much Ado about a Word

Msgr. Pope makes the accurate observation that the Church and society-at-large mean very different things by the word, “marriage.”  Of course, this is also the situation with many other terms as well.  While language is fluid and hard to control; it can certainly be manipulated.  Look at the word GAY.  This expression for joy or happiness has become the source for giggling when used in old songs.  It has now been exclusively usurped by the homosexual community.  Another word in peril is RELATIONSHIP.  When we hear teens or young adults use it these days, they generally mean a sexual friendship with a certain degree of exclusivity.    The word that most troubles and saddens me today is LOVE.  What precisely does it mean anymore?  We do not want to cast it off and so the dictionary definition gets longer and longer.  Look at how we use it.  “I love my car.  I love my dog.  I love my job.  I love my house.  I love donuts.  I love strippers.  I love my wife.  I love my children.  I love God.”  Then we have expressions like, “Let’s make love,” a euphemism for sex.  We give it so many meanings that the word begins to mean nothing.

What does the word MARRIAGE mean?  Is it just a civil contract to make having sex easier or more convenient?  If that is all it is, it is no wonder that couples are cohabitating without it.  Some states have argued for different types of marriage contracts, one more easily dissolved than the other.  There was even an effort to impose marriage licenses with term limits.  If after five years, if the spouses were unhappy, they could opt not to renew.  The marriages would then automatically expire.  The divorce epidemic, something which Protestant churches pamper by their failure to enforce Christ’s command in Matthew against divorce, has given us what is essentially serial or progressive polygamy, one spouse after another.  Proponents of “open” marriages suggest that couples should still be able to have sex with others outside their bond.  I know one instance where a man lives with both his wife and his mistress in the same house.  The girls share him.  Largely gone is the Catholic-Christian equation that marriage is an exclusive relationship between one man and one woman who are called to be faithful to each other until the death of one of the spouses.  Marriages are rightly directed toward the good of the spouses and the generation of new human beings, children.  Stripping marriage of its propagative element is to make marriage wholly something else.  Even infertile couples must express their union in that act which by nature is directed to the generation of new human life.  That is why something like condomistic intercourse is intrinsically evil, even in marriage, yes, even among older infertile couples.  Too many couples feign the marital act and live in relationships that are not true marriages.  The large cases of annulments are cases in point.  People can share their bodies like cats and dogs but they are ignorant of the true parameters of marital love and union.  Although a natural right, they have made themselves ill-disposed to the sacrament.  Required six-month waiting periods and marriage preparation are attempts to remedy the dark situation.  However, couples frequently go through the motions and tell the moderators and clergy what they want to hear.  I recall one priest praising a couple he was working with for doing all the right things before marriage.  On the way out one evening, I overheard the prospective groom tell his girl, “What a jerk!”  Later I found out from parishioners that they had been cohabitating the whole time and only went to the priest’s Masses once-in-a-while to fool him about their religiosity.  They spent a fortune on the wedding and we never saw them again.  I heard a few years later they divorced because “they grew apart.”  When Catholics marry outside the Church, in the eyes of God they do not get married at all.  However, Catholics who marry in the Church might also start their unions with deception.  Planting lies today often leads to weeds tomorrow.

I will echo Msgr. Pope in giving the definition of MARRIAGE from the universal catechism:

[CCC 1601]  The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.

What are we to do when the definition given to marriage in no way parallel’s the understanding of the Church?

Msgr. Pope proposes that we stop using the word “marriage” and substitute instead, “holy matrimony.”  He explains:

“The word ‘matrimony’ also emphasizes two aspects of marriage: procreation and heterosexual complementarity. The word comes from Latin and old French roots. Matri = ‘mother’ and ‘mony,’ a suffix indicating ‘action, state, or condition.’ Hence Holy Matrimony refers to that that holy Sacrament wherein a woman enters the state that inaugurates an openness to motherhood. Hence the Biblical and Ecclesial definition of Holy Matrimony as heterosexual and procreative is reaffirmed by the term itself. Calling it HOLY Matrimony distinguishes it from secular muddle that has ‘marriage’ for its nomen.”

He readily admits that there are problems with trying to regulate language in such ways.  If I recall correctly, I was among those unconvinced and “perturbed that we were handing over our vocabulary to the libertines.”

We can play word games but our opponents are not fools.  They were not happy with the notion of “civil unions” and wanted “marriage.”  Don’t be surprised that they will also be speaking of their bonds in terms of “holy matrimony.”

Marriage is a natural right.  Opting to use another word is not going to change this fact.  Homosexuals and lesbians can feign marriage and the state might recognize it; but, in truth such unions are a violation of the natural law.  The debate or argument is best sustained by retention of the vocabulary.  We must insist that same-sex marriage is a fiction.  Surrendering the word would only grant them the false sense that they had succeeded in making their argument.

If we cannot even defend a word like “marriage,” then how can we defend all the ideas behind it?  This conflict is not just about marriage; it is a fight over the hearts and minds of people.  So-called same sex-marriage is just one weapon in the enemy’s arsenal.  The goal of our critics is to redefine the Church out of existence.  The government administration wants to become the sole arbiter of marriage; but more than this— it views Catholic Charities, Catholic schools, and Catholic hospitals as standing in its way.  Threats to close would only make them nationalize these institutions and they would argue that such is a “necessity” for “the public good.”  This is the goal of our antagonists.  If American society is to be remade then the Church must either change to insignificance or be destroyed.  This is the fight we face.

Ministers of the State or of the Church

My initial sentiments emerged as an aside to the courageous crusade of Bai Macfarlane against No-Fault Divorce.  The question arose as to whether clergy compromised themselves by acting as witnesses for the state, signing the marriage licenses and returning them to the courts.  Msgr. Pope continues to sign them, he says, out of holy obedience to the Archbishop.  Speaking for myself, I think we would forfeit too much by surrendering this privilege to the state.  I suspect that problems might escalate instead of get better.  Further, if the Church should opt out, would not our couples still have to get their civil licenses before Church weddings? He seems to think not, arguing that they should “in no way consider themselves as wed, due to a (meaningless) piece of paper from a secular state that reflects only confusion and darkness rather than clarity and Christian light.”  I recall arguing with a hippie years ago who regarded the marriage license as just a piece of paper.  In response, I cited that it came along with the Church sacrament and that it also respected the state’s right to regulate marriages as an integral building block to society.  The state is taking a wrong turn with these same sex unions but we should still take advantage of our rights as citizens.  That piece of paper says that as a member of society, I still have a voice and that marriage is an institution that must be acknowledged, regardless as to whether others are given such acknowledgment wrongly (in the past because of divorce and today also because of same-sex unions).  Opting out will undermine a structured society, its institutions, and the protections and rights we take for granted.

I have immigrants in my parish from Asia and Africa.  Their home nations do not give the privilege that our clergy enjoy in being able to witness marriages.  Some of them have only known tribal weddings.  Others have licenses from a judge or notary public.  While they should have immediately had their marriages solemnized by a priest, they put the process off.  Children were conceived.  Time went by, maybe years, and now they all need Church convalidations.  Would we reduce all marriages in the Church to convalidations?

If we attempt to marry people in Church who are not legally married; we will be facing all sorts of headaches.  We would be opening the door to rampant bigamy where people would be civilly married to one person and married in the Church to another— without the recourse to the legal fiction of divorce.  At present the state recognizes all Church unions even though the Church does not acknowledge every civil union.  The last thing we should want is to segregate the Church into her own private ghetto where there are “us” and “them.”  We have every right to a place in the public forum and should fight for it.  Our married couples have every right to the protections insured by law (tax incentives, inheriting property, healthcare and insurance, custodial issues with offspring, hospital visitation and the right to make medical decisions for a sick spouse, and sharing a name).  Marrying couples without civil licenses would once have opened our couples to prosecution for cohabitation.  Even if this is a bygone concern, there is still the prospect of scandal.  Some will view “married in the Church” but “not in the state” as NOT being married at all.  The children from such unions could be labeled as “bastards” by our critics.

The Church has a responsibility to be fully integrated into civil society as a constitutive part.  There will be conflicts but accommodations will have to be made that will not compromise our message and mission.  Maybe there is a need for different types of licenses from the state for religious weddings, distinguishing them from civil ones?  Indeed, there are different theologies between the churches.  Some view the clergy person as the one who performs the marriage.  Catholics view the spouses as the ministers of the sacrament to which the priest witnesses.  Episcopalians and others will probably even allow and celebrate same-sex unions.  We may become a minority voice in this society but we should not allow that voice to be silenced.  Taking our toys and going home angry will not fix the situation.  The retreat of the Church would be precisely what our enemies want.  I fear that it would further erode the foundations of our civilization.  Caesar’s empire might be pagan, but the Christian and the Church still have obligations to maintain a society that would protect our rights and freedoms.

I would maintain the status-quo with priests witnessing marriages for the state.  However, there may come a day when that is taken away from us.  We can cope with that when it comes.  Civil disobedience might then take many forms, some of which could be extremely bizarre.  One priest suggested that all our religious houses claim same-sex unions so as to get the marriage benefits and healthcare.  I know one case already where a married couple got divorced but still live together so as to have better retirement benefits.  I suspect that laws will be passed to force couples and the Church to behave.  How far do we want to press it?  Speaking for myself, I really hate retreating.

The Larger Challenge

It is my hope that we will have courageous shepherds and a supportive flock.  I foresee priests facing fines and jail time for hate-speech in regard to teaching and preaching against homosexuality.  After all, the Church’s language about marriage in the recent Supreme Court case was appraised as bigotry.  Hum, we might have to take priests entirely out of the marriage scenario if all our clergy are locked up.  Already, while the Church is currently protected, and we cannot be forced to marry homosexuals, organizations like the Knights of Columbus are not safeguarded.  At this writing the free-standing Knights of Columbus halls in Maryland have been notified that due to their state charters they must rent for the wedding receptions of homosexuals and lesbians.  The pressure is already on.

Our public schools are teaching that any reservation about homosexuality is discrimination.  What will our children then think of their churches?  Must we extract all our children from the public schools?  Who will pay to place them into Catholic institutions?  Homeschooling is an option for some but not for all.  Where are we going from here?  If the government and the media are more successful than the Church in forming consciences and teaching values; then what avenues are left?  The issue is far more complex than any nomenclature of marriage or whether priests are authorized as civil magistrates.  The question is how does the Church function and survive in a non-Christian society?

Catholics did not unanimously support the U.S. bishops in the Marriage Matters campaign.  Indeed, large numbers were vocal in opposition.  We hesitate to name names and are always fearful of our tax-exemption status.  But if we are going to be shunned in a matter similar to racists over the issue of homosexual acceptance; then we will no doubt forfeit such benefits in the days ahead.  I know I sound pessimistic and cynical.  But that is what I see coming.  The Church waited too long to find her teeth.  She is an old dog grown weak from inactivity and abandoned by her pups.  There are wolves coming.  They want the Church out of the way.  Look at the various initiatives of the current administration.  Starting with appointments in religious churches and schools, then forcing churches to violate their basic principles and next pressing upon us what was once an unthinkable depravity— all these are attempts to redefine the Church out of existence.  The president’s view of religion is seen through the prism of secular humanism.  Anything else is judged as extraneous and must go.

There are some who are pawns to those who hate the Church.  Others actually think that they are catalysts for positive change in the Church and society.  Look at all the Catholic politicians who oppose the U.S. bishops and who dissent on Church teaching.  The chief advocates in Maryland and in Washington are baptized Catholics.  Like Msgr. Pope, I have my opinions; and like him, in obedience we both defer to the Archbishop and the national shepherds of our Church.  We share our ideas, pray for courage and know that God will not abandon his children.

Jimmy Carter Attacks Church on Women’s Ordination

137210714256035The news is abuzz about Jimmy Carter’s TIME interview remarks with Elizabeth Dias promoting the conference, “Mobilizing Faith for Women: Engaging the Power of Religion and Belief to Advance Human Rights and Dignity” at the Carter Center in Atlanta, Georgia.  It will be held from June 27 to June 29.  Carter and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights are bringing together representatives from around the world to speak about women’s rights.  At least this is what they project; in truth they also are inviting radical feminists like Elisabeth Schussler Fiorenza and liberal voices to give a distorted understanding of women’s rights and to attack the religious views of others.  Indeed, while Catholicism has often been a lone voice crying out on behalf of human rights, especially about issues like poverty, repressive regimes, and the unborn; it was associated here with the most repressive Islamic movements and terrorists.

Carter focused on the Catholic rejection of priestesses; but the motivation goes far deeper.  The Church opposes so-called Choice and the lie that abortion is a woman’s right even as it strips the unborn child of all rights, starting with life.   Just picking one participant at ransom, there is Susan Thistlethwaite, a Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress and who writes for The Washington Post.  American Progress promotes gay, lesbian, bi-sexual and transgendered rights.  It has lobbied for same-sex marriages.  It wholeheartedly supports contraceptive and abortifacients provisions in Obama’s Healthcare plan over the religious liberty of the Catholic Church.  It is on the record as pro-abortion.  They even oppose chastity education over free condom giveaways and safe-sex education.  It is also on the side of what it calls “progressive” religion and women’s ordination.  The deck is fixed and more neutral and opposing voices are not invited.

Jimmy Carter regards the exclusion of women from the priesthood as a human rights abuse?  This makes absolutely no sense to me.  Ordination to the priesthood is not a natural right.  It is a spiritual calling and a divine gift.  It cannot be merited.  No one deserves it.  By definition it cannot be associated with any social justice agenda.  People might debate the subject and others might request it; but no one can demand it.  It is a sacrament of the Church.  The Church has every right to regulate her sacraments as she sees fit.  The Church has made great overtures in empowering women.  They minister as pastoral associates, chancellors, office managers, directors of religious education and catechists, music directors, readers, extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, religious sisters, lay missionaries, principals and teachers, and the greatest vocation of all, as mothers.

Instead of dictating to the churches and other religions; Carter should have encouraged them to find new avenues for inclusion and service for women.  It is not his place to dictate “theology” which conflicts with the settled doctrine of other faith communities.  If we are going to respect religious liberties then we have to paint in broad strokes and allow them the freedom and ingenuity to find ways to heal gender inequality.  Not everyone looks at the world through the lenses of liberal Protestantism.  Catholicism has its Magisterium and Sacred Tradition.  Conservative Protestantism has its strict reliance upon a literal understanding of Scripture.  Islam is a religion of “the Book” and “the Law.”  Judaism is the religion of “the Promise.”  Unless we are going to respect each other than there can be no true dialogue.  It seems that his conference will host only those on the fringes of religious communities; not the genuine leaders who can make a difference.  Dissenters condemned by lawful authority will not bring change to their religions, only more division.  As for Catholics, maybe the issue is not that women are not allowed to be priests?  Perhaps the real issue is that many fail to appreciate the nature of the priesthood and the many ways that women already have to serve in the Church?

The priest acts at the altar as an “alter Christus” or “in persona Christi” (in the person of Christ), the head of the Church.  The priest at the altar speaks Christ’s words in the first person.  He is a living icon for Christ.  While men and women share their human nature; men and women are not the same.  Our Lord had many affiliations with women.  He made the Samaritan woman at the well into a prophetess for her people.  Mary Magdalene would be at the Cross and the empty tomb.  Lazarus’ sisters, Martha and Mary took the posture of disciples.  Mary was his Mother and the Immaculate Conception.  She cooperated with the saving work of her Son like no other human being.  However, not one of these women was ordained into the priesthood of Christ’s Church.   Jesus broke all sorts of stereotypes, but not about this.  Might it be that there is something constitutive or singular and important about the male identification of his priests with him?  If so, then it would be foolhardy to attempt any change in this apostolic tradition that goes all the way back to Christ.  Baptists have no such view of their ministers and do not believe that their bread and grape juice is God come down from heaven.  Catholics believe that the sacred elements are transformed (transubstantiation) into the body and blood, soul and divinity, of Jesus Christ.  We participate in an unbloody or clean way at the oblation of Calvary.  Catholics are given the Risen Christ in Holy Communion.  As an educated man, I would have hoped that Carter would have known better; evidently, he is ignorant of Catholic doctrine and thus made a fool of himself in trying to dictate to the Church.

ancient-egyptian-symbols-8No woman will ever be an authentic priest.  As offensive as it might sound, their history is more related to that of priestesses in ancient pagan religions than in Christianity.  The excommunicated Catholic women who attempted ordination are not real priests.  Most of the men and all of the women in the Episcopal Church are not priests and certainly not bishops.  However, none of this means that women are demeaned or looked down upon.  Cardinal O’Boyle’s homilies at ordinations often sounded like Mother’s Day sermons.  He thanked the women for giving the Church their sons; he promised the Church would always look after their boys; and he explained that they would always be the most special women in their lives.  Priests are men but they are also sons.  They love their mothers, as well as their sisters.  They are thankful for the wonderful ladies in the parishes who breathe life into our communities and do so much of the work.  The priest is the servant of all but especially to them.  They see something of their mothers in all the women around them.  They are faithful sons.  The priesthood is no guarantee of personal holiness.  No one has to be a priest to be saved.  Indeed, the priesthood might bring a harsher judgment upon a man because the more one has been given the more one will be held accountable.  Most men will never be priests.  Women will never be priests.  But all benefit from the priesthood and it is a sacrament that touches the whole Church.  It makes possible the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of Penance.  It grants us all a share of the bread of life and the chalice of salvation.

Carter’s increasing modernist views forced him to separate from the Southern Baptist Convention.  He states in a 2000 press release that he could only associate with other Baptists “who continue to share such beliefs as separation of church and state, servanthood and not domination of pastors, local church autonomy, a free religious press and equality of women.”  While there are areas of legitimate rights, anti-Catholic remarks were placed in the mix, and Catholic teaching demonized by their association with genuine wrongs.  The issue of women’s ordination is a far cry from subjects like female castration, violence against women, human trafficking in terms of slavery and prostitution, and denying the rights of women to education and to full participation in the governing structures of society.

Am I exaggerating about the extent of this assault upon Catholic discipline and doctrine?  Look at what the former president said in the interview:

“Well, religion can be, and I think there’s a slow, very slow, move around the world to give women equal rights in the eyes of God. What has been the case for many centuries is that the great religions, the major religions, have discriminated against women in a very abusive fashion and set an example for the rest of society to treat women as secondary citizens. In a marriage or in the workplace or wherever, they are discriminated against. And I think the great religions have set the example for that, by ordaining, in effect, that women are not equal to men in the eyes of God.”

Notice that he is lumping together Christianity with other world religions as if there is no distinction.  This seems surprising given that he is a deacon in the Baptist church!  Of course, he has issues with his own denomination and left the more conservative branch of his denomination for an “anything goes” version, where his wife has also been made a deacon.  How could he sanely compare the treatment of women in the Church with the repression we see in Islam?  There are Islamic societies where women must clothe their entire bodies, even their faces, from the outside world.  Their bodies are mutilated and they are regarded as property.  Radical Islam and it has yet to be proven that this is the minority view, grants them only the most elementary education and no leadership roles.  Catholicism, on the other hand, argues for the full dignity of women, which includes “motherhood,” a bad word to some of the liberal dissenters!  Catholicism would grant them education, civil leadership, and participation in the workforce.  Catholic women serve as the chancellors of dioceses, office managers of churches, principals and teachers of parochial schools, physicians and nurses in our hospitals, and are counted among the great saints and doctors of the Church!  Indeed, the greatest of God’s creatures is “the Woman” or New Eve, the Blessed Virgin Mary!

While the priesthood is reserved to men, such is because we are restricted to the model given us by Christ and it is not subject to social reinterpretation.  The equality for which Catholicism argues is one of complementarity, not egalitarianism.  Men and women are coheirs in grace and equal in dignity.  But men and women are not the same.  Those who argue otherwise logically have no problem with homosexual and lesbian unions.  Such is the plight of those who make gender utterly insignificant.  It is a deception against nature and the God of nature.  Just as only women can be mothers; only men can be priests.  Women conceive and give birth to new life from their wombs.  Priests consecrate the real presence of Christ upon our altars and make possible new life from the womb of the Church.

Carter becomes as bad a fiend as the current administration in dictating to the Church what should be doctrine and morals.  Has there been collaboration in this?  It is in this light that the bizarre recent Supreme Court case becomes clearer.  Why would the administration want authority over the staffing of churches and seminaries?  It would insure that only the people who thought as they do would have positions of influence and teaching.  Note also President Obama’s recent words in Ireland:

“There are still wounds [in Northern Ireland] that haven’t healed and communities where tensions and mistrust hangs in the air… If towns remain divided – if Catholics have their schools and buildings, and Protestants have theirs – if we can’t see ourselves in one another, if fear or resentment are allowed to harden, that encourages division. It discourages cooperation.”

No matter how you try to spin it, the fact is this comes across as an effort to shut down or maybe even to nationalize Catholic schools— and taking God out of public schools much as we have in the United States.  Brian Burch, president of the group Catholic Vote, offered this pointed correction: “Catholic schools educate children without regard for race, class, sex, origin, or even religious faith. The work of Catholic education is a response to the Gospel call to serve, not divide.”

One could argue that through Catholic Relief Services and Catholic Charities, through our parochial school system and universities, etc., Catholics have been at the forefront of the battle for human rights.  Back when Jimmy Carter’s church was urging segregation and espousing racism, the Catholic Church was already desegregating its schools and had priests marching with Martin Luther King.  There was no greater defender of labor unions and worker’s rights as the late Msgr. Higgins.  Today, we are at the forefront of the fight against abortion and the defense of the sanctity of life, something which Carter and other humanists have betrayed.  He and his compatriots no longer have sufficient moral standing to critique the Catholic faith.

Carter has his doctorate in physics, but what does he really know of Catholic doctrine and moral teaching?  Has he read Pope John Paul II’s apostolic letter, Mulieris Dignitatem on the Dignity and Vocation of Women?  Pope John Paul II, who argued infallibly that only men can be ordained as priests, wrote this:

“Therefore  the Church gives thanks for each and every woman: for mothers, for sisters, for wives; for women consecrated to God in virginity; for women dedicated to the many human beings who await the gratuitous love of another person; for women who watch over the human persons in the family, which is the fundamental sign of the human community; for women who work professionally, and who at times are burdened by a great social responsibility; for ‘perfect’ women and for ‘weak’ women – for all women as they have come forth from the heart of God in all the beauty and richness of their femininity; as they have been embraced by his eternal love; as, together with men, they are pilgrims on this earth, which is the temporal ‘homeland’ of all people and is transformed sometimes into a ‘valley of tears’; as they assume, together with men, a common responsibility for the destiny of humanity according to daily necessities and according to that definitive destiny which the human family has in God himself, in the bosom of the ineffable Trinity. / The Church gives thanks for all the manifestations of the feminine ‘genius’ which have appeared in the course of history, in the midst of all peoples and nations; she gives thanks for all the charisms which the Holy Spirit distributes to women in the history of the People of God, for all the victories which she owes to their faith, hope and charity: she gives thanks for all the fruits of feminine holiness. / The Church asks at the same time that these invaluable ‘manifestations of the Spirit’ (cf. 1 Cor 12:4ff.), which with great generosity are poured forth upon the ‘daughters’ of the eternal Jerusalem, may be attentively recognized and appreciated so that they may return for the common good of the Church and of humanity, especially in our times. Meditating on the biblical mystery of the ‘woman’, the Church prays that in this mystery all women may discover themselves and their ‘supreme vocation’.”

Women would do better to subscribe to the Holy Father’s view of women over the distorted and impoverished version promoted by our society and by the former president.

Clinton understands neither Christian anthropology and womanhood nor the sacramental nature or reality of the priesthood.  Of course, how could he understand?  As a Baptist, he rejects the identification of the ordained man with the high priesthood of Jesus Christ.  Priests are not the same as ministers.  Indeed, his version of ministry would even strip Catholic ministers of their pastoral authority and make them pawns of trustees like himself.

Carter enumerates upon his view of Catholic discrimination:

“This has been done and still is done by the Catholic Church ever since the third century, when the Catholic Church ordained that a woman cannot be a priest for instance but a man can. A woman can be a nurse or a teacher but she can’t be a priest. This is wrong, I think. As you may or may not know, the Southern Baptist Convention back now about 13 years ago in Orlando, voted that women were inferior and had to be subservient to their husbands, and ordained that a woman could not be a deacon or a pastor or a chaplain or even a teacher in a classroom in some seminaries where men are in the classroom, boys are in the classroom. So my wife and I withdrew from the Southern Baptist Convention primarily because of that.”

The truth be said, the pattern was established by Christ that only men could be ordained.  The Council of Nicea would forbid the placing of hands upon the head of a woman for ordination but this was not because there was a debate in Catholic circles.  There were false Christians or Gnostics who regarded matter as evil and contended that Jesus was a spiritual being who only pretended to be human and to die on the Cross.  They had priestesses because of this basic rejection of the incarnation.  Gender is not an accidental but touches the core identity of the person.  The Church, then and now, felt compelled to follow the pattern of Christ and the apostles.  As Pope John Paul II explained, the Church does not have the authority to change this pattern.  If we were to do so anyway, and such was in contravention of the divine will, we would forfeit forever both the priesthood and the Eucharist.  In other words, the Church, herself, would come to an end.  Remember, while Protestants have ecclesial communities, theologically speaking a “church” requires an authentic priesthood and the Eucharist (Christ’s real presence and the unbloody re-presentation of Calvary).  Baptists have neither of these already.  Carter wants the Catholic Church to become a variation of liberal Protestantism!

Carter continues:

“But I now go to a more moderate church in Plains, a small church, it’s part of the Cooperative Baptist fellowship, and we have a male and a female pastor, and we have women and have men who are deacons. My wife happens to be one of the deacons.  So some of the Baptists are making progress, along with Methodists. For instance the other large church in Plains is a Methodist church, and they have a man for the last eight years and the next pastor they get will be a woman. They’ve had a woman pastor before, before the Baptists did. And of course the Episcopalians and other denominations that are Protestant do permit women or encourage women to be bishops, as you know, and pastors.”

Okay, so he bases his entirely opinion to change 2,000 years of Catholic practice and holy orders upon a handful of Protestant churches in his hometown!  As for the Episcopalians, they also allow divorced and gay clergy.  Would he argue for these concessions as well?

He concludes by speaking about the status of women under Islam, as if there is any real comparison.  Even here he contends that strict laws against women are due to “misquoting the major points of the Qur’an.”  Evidently, he now counts himself not only an expert on Catholic sacraments and administration as well as Islamic teaching and laws.  Please, this is ridiculous.  He is fearful of offending the Moslem world by saying that the Qur’an is wrong for teaching such things.

Clinton ignores Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition entirely by condemning Catholic practices.  Catholicism would allow women to serve in virtually any occupation they want except the priesthood.  Nothing is said about the powerful and saintly women who served selflessly and courageously in our religious orders.  Nevertheless, he associates such a prohibition with Islam forcing “ten year old girls” to “marry against their wishes,” “that women can be treated as slaves in a marriage,” “that a woman can’t drive an automobile,” and that “some countries don’t let women vote, like Saudi Arabia.”  He neglects to tell us that Christianity is virtually outlawed in Saudi Arabia.  The rights of women have emerged and have been protected in Christian and Catholic nations.  There is no comparison, although he forces one upon us.

It saddens me that this proposed conference is so slanted to the left.  Where are the more sober voices? He states, “But anyway, I say that the emphasis of condoning of violence on the general population, and the denigration of women as inferior, those are the two things we are going to address in this conference.”  The topic is good but I am fearful that his targeting is way off.

The topic of women’s ordination in the Catholic Church is permanently off the table.  Dissenters and busy-bodies from other denominations will just have to get used to it.  As Pope John Paul II declared:

“Wherefore, in order that all doubt may be removed regarding a matter of great importance, a matter which pertains to the Church’s divine constitution itself, in virtue of my ministry of confirming the brethren (cf. Luke 22:32) I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

As if ignorant Catholics giving a distorted witness were not bad enough, now we have a Baptist deacon and former president trying to tell the Church its business and what it should do. It is unbelievable. How many Catholic priests or deacons would argue for the reform of the Baptist denomination so that it would conform to the structure of historic Catholicism? We might invite them to become Catholics but we would not proselytize or seek control over the internal structures of their churches. Today, the executive administration of our country and dissenters are seeking just that in regard to Catholicism, the overthrow of the Church and the severing of ties to the Pope and traditional Christianity. It sickens me and is ample evidence that all the talk about tolerance and mutual understanding is a smokescreen for just the opposite. Religious liberty does not mean that we can change the Church into whatever we want. Rather, it means that churches, temples and synagogues have a right to exist on their own terms and not to have doctrine changed or imposed by either government or radical fringe groups. If liberal Catholics want birth-control, abortion, euthanasia, same-sex unions, sexual cohabitation, no-fault divorce with legalized adultery, and women priests— then they should make up their own “church” with their counterfeit Jesus, leaving the rest of us to the truth. Or they could just join the “anything goes” Episcopalians with their charade liturgies and “real absence” communion sacrament.

The Charge of Idolatry Against Catholicism

Six years ago, a person calling himself DKMENSA argued from a Catholic prelate’s candle-lighting at an interfaith conference that this was proof of what other priests do:  the lighting of candles, the burning of incense and the bowing before idols.  It started a brief discussion which is recorded here.  He liked to write in caps.

DKMENSA:

FATHER JOE, OBSERVE THE FOLLOWING IN RESPECTS TO THE TEN COMMANDMENTS.  AS A CATHOLIC, I REMEMBER THE PRIESTS BOWING BEFORE IMAGES OF “MARY” AND OTHERS IN WORSHIP (SERVITUDE).

FATHER JOE:

While certainly believers can kneel before a statue of a saint to offer prayer, such is not understood as strictly the posture of divine worship any more than a bow before royalty. It is a sign of respect and sometimes a posture for prayer. All prayer has as its proper object, Almighty God. However, Catholics might pray before a picture or image of a saint, asking intercession of a brother or sister or our Blessed Mother who is in heaven. We are asking them to pray FOR and WITH us. We are a family or community. Such is the basic understanding regarding the identity of the Church. We pray for one another and believe in the resurrection of the dead. We are NOT worshipping the statue or picture any more than a man worships the photo of his wife and children. However, they do bring to his mind and heart those whom he loves. It is the same in the Church regarding saints. Were you not taught this when you were a Catholic?

DKMENSA:

DURING CATHECHISM, WE WERE ALSO TAUGHT TO PRAY TO THESE SAME IMAGES. UNLESS THE CATHOLIC CHURCH HAS CHANGED, THESE ACTS ARE ALSO IN DIRECT CONTRADICTION TO THE TEACHINGS OF THE COMMANDMENTS.

FATHER JOE:

I dare you to find any approved catechism that says we are to pray TO the images! We venerate sacramentals but we do not pray to them. Such is not Catholicism but superstition. I suspect that you did not really know your catechism but later bought a false caricature of Catholic faith from anti-Catholic fundamentalists. You allowed them to spoon-feed you lies or a straw man Catholicism that could be easily discredited. It is one thing to oppose Catholic practice and teachings; but you should at least get it right. Anything else is bearing FALSE WITNESS against your neighbor. The last time I looked there was also a commandment about that!

DKMENSA:

Exodus 20:3: Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

FATHER JOE:

Yes, this is Catholic teaching. Ours is a jealous God. God is one or has one divine nature. This is in the catechism!

DKMENSA:

Exodus 20:4: Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness [of anything] that [is] in heaven above, or that [is] in the earth beneath, or that [is] in the water under the earth.

FATHER JOE:

Even the Jews knew that this commandment was not absolute. The Ark of the Covenant was adorned with angels and a seraph upon a pole was fashioned at Moses’ command so that those who looked upon it might be healed. In any case, the understanding is that no graven image was to be made that would be worshipped as divine, as the pagans practiced. I have already explained that Catholics do not worship images. We recall the ones represented. Further, the ECONOMY OF IMAGES is somewhat different for Christians than it is for Jews. Why? It has to do with the incarnation of Christ. God became a human being in Jesus Christ. He is God’s Son. The image of Christ in statuary or in pictures (as found in bibles and in religious art) is permissible because Jesus is the revelation of the Father. He shows us the face of God. That is why at Christmas everyone knows what child rests in the manger, no matter how depicted in art. It is the Christ-child. God reveals himself in our shared humanity. God assumed our human nature that we might be redeemed and saved. He dies on the Cross for our sake. This is in the catechism!

DKMENSA:

Exodus 20:5: Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God [am] a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth [generation] of them that hate me.

FATHER JOE:

The reference to “bow down” has less to do with posture as it does with worship. Again, we as Catholics are not so stupid as to think statuary made from plaster can save us. Do you think us fools? We do not serve religious art, but the God who is honored by his saints who shed their blood in imitation of Christ. We take up our crosses and we follow Jesus. The God of Catholics is the same as that of the Jews. However, we believe that this God has revealed himself as Father, Son and Holy Spirit: three divine persons in one God. Jesus is faithful to the Father unto the Cross. He offers his flesh and blood as a blameless oblation to the Father on Calvary. He died and then by the power of the Holy Spirit, (his own power), raised himself from the dead. He sent the Paraclete or Holy Spirit upon the infant Church. He ascended to the Father and sits at his right hand. He told his apostles (see the end of Matthew’s Gospel) to go out to the entire world and to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. This is my faith. This is the Catholic faith. What part of it do you find objectionable? This is also in the catechism… and in our BIBLES!

If you have any concern about your own salvation and the danger of misrepresenting fellow Christians, then I would urge you to study Catholicism NOT from her enemies but from her own mouth. Then you personally can say YES or NO. But just because you WERE a Catholic, do not presume in pride that you already know it all. Christians should always approach one another and the mysteries of faith with TRUE HUMILITY.  I will pray for you.

DKMENSA:

I agree that according to the Commandment, any image made of things on earth or in heaven (e.g. the Cross, Jesus, Mary) must not be made with the intention to worship, bow down to, pay homage, etc.

FATHER JOE:  There is really very little that we agree upon.

Christians Killing Christians, Enough Blame to Go Around

No matter whether Protestant or Catholic, the late Pope John Paul II lamented that believers in Christ would sometimes seek to use violence against consciences and to forcibly stamp their religion upon others.  The Medieval view was that heresy was a mortal sin that killed the soul.  Some argued that such was a capital crime given that the murder of souls was direr than the murder of bodies.  Governments also usurped religion for political purposes, seeing religion as glue that held society together.  On both sides there was often exaggeration as to the blood lust of the other.  Indeed, to this very day, anti-Catholic bigots will use impossibly large numbers in their prejudicial arguments and slurs against the Church.  Some critics bring up the crusades or the inquisitions as if they happened last Tuesday.  Forgotten is the real threat that Islam posed for the Christian world and how money and power, as well as an invention called the printing press, fueled the Protestant Reformation.  Many of the inquisition courts were very modest in their efforts.  While there were various national courts, when there is criticism, the target is usually the harsher Spanish Inquisition, which was even criticized by Rome.  Further, as I already said, Protestant monarchs would repress the freedoms of Catholics just as Catholic leaders had sought to minimize the damage of non-Catholic factions in their nations. The Inquisition in Italy is regarded by all authorities as the most mild. Crimes were not just heresy but infractions for which today’s civil courts would also render punishment. Of 75,000 cases judged, some 1,250 may have received the death sentence.

morethomas

What was the position of the Protestant reformers? 

Calvin sought to persecute heretics (particularly Roman Catholics) so as to keep Protestant believers in the lands divided by the Reformation faithful to his new teachings. He viciously persecuted the Spaniard, Michael Servetus, having him burnt alive on October 27, 1553. As early as 1545, Calvin had written, “If he [Servetus] comes to Geneva, I will never allow him to depart alive.” He kept his promise.  (Here is a case where Protestants attacked their own in that Servetus, while having a brother who was a Catholic priest, had participated in the Protestant Reformation.  Unfortunately, he was regarded as a heretic by both sides.)

Melancthon, one of the more mild reformers and the editor for Luther’s many works and teachings, would write to Bullinger, “I am astonished that some persons denounce the severity that was so justly used in that case.”

Theodore of Beza wrote: “What crime can be greater or more heinous than heresy, which sets at nought the word of God and all ecclesiastic discipline? Christian magistrates, do your duty to God [speaking in Calvin’s Geneva of 1554], who has put the sword into your hands for the honor of His majesty; strike valiantly these monsters in the guise of men.” He went on to characterize those who demanded freedom of conscience “worse than the tyranny of the pope. It is better to have a tyrant, no matter how cruel he may be, than to let everyone do as he pleases.”

Martin Luther also fanned the flames of intolerance, “Whoever teaches otherwise than I teach, condemns God, and must remain a child of hell.”

Much of this information (and numbers) is taken from The Truth about the Inquisition by John A. O’Brien and published in 1950 by The Paulist Press.  It should be noted that the numbers of deaths under King Henry VIII and Queen Elizabeth have been challenged by other researchers.

King Henry VIII of England took upon himself the role of grand royal inquisitor.  O’Brien states that the king took the lives of some 72,000 Catholics, many who were cruelly tortured.  Father Francis Marsden offers the correction:  “Henry’s victims were John Fisher and Thomas More, the Carthusian abbots and monks, and a few more Catholics, plus all those (several hundred) executed after the Pilgrimage of Grace.  There were also a number of Protestants executed for denying the Six Articles of 1540. But he certainly did not kill 72,000.”  Nevertheless, the best estimate from Wikipedia is that approximately 70,000 people were executed (for all offenses) during the reign of Henry VIII.  Another critic suggests that there may have been 4,000 Catholics killed under Henry VIII, not “judicially” executed, but killed by agents of the Crown, soldiers and the like. There were some Catholic revolts put down by force.  The figures go up and down, making a historical analysis difficult.  But for those facing death, no matter what the number, it was bad.

Queen Elizabeth, says O’Brien, proved herself the former’s daughter by putting to death more people in one year than the Inquisition had done in 331 years!  Here too, Father Marsden insists that “In England and Wales, we have about 500 martyrs and confessors in total over the period 1534 to 1679. I believe the last Catholic died in prison about 1720.  Elizabeth’s victims may have been about 300, plus those executed after the rising of the Northern Earls of 1569-70. But this is over the whole of her reign, 1558-1603.”  By contrast, “the death toll of the Inquisition is in the range 2000 to 5000.”

Yes, there was more than enough blame to go around. Maybe it is time for respect and dialogue and if need be, the charitable anathema, instead of mockery and half-truths?  Of course, sometimes the truth is hard to discover.  I was told that one of Sir Thomas More’s own letters makes mention of the death of 4,000 Catholics in the minor port town of Chelsea.  However, another critic corrected that in 1528 the population of Chelsea was reported to be 190 adults and children, including 16 households which grew no corn, and Sir Thomas More reported that 100 were fed daily in his household, 49 though not all those would have been living in the parish. In 1548 there were 75 communicants (16 years and over).

The Catholic Truth Society reckoned that 318 men and woman were put to death for the Faith in England between the reigns of Henry VII and Charles II. “After being hanged up, they were cut down, ripped up, and their bowels were burned in their faces.”

The entire population of England and Wales at that time was only around 4 million.

O’Brien makes reference to the whole vicious enmity that would bring persecution and deaths for centuries.  Henry VIII got the ball rolling (or heads rolling) and even had himself declared head of the Church in Ireland.  Monasteries were closed and destroyed, monks were imprisoned, dispersed and executed, and lands were confiscated.

It was a Protestant England that committed genocide upon a starving Catholic Ireland.  The guilt for that blood is on the hands of many, including the one who initiated the break with the true Church.  Today, the truth of this betrayal is admitted in UK school text books.  Crops were sold by the landowners even as the tenants themselves starved.

Married Priests Now? Um, No Thank You!

Cathy feels very strongly that the Church should allow priests to marry. I took exception to her opinion.

CATHY:  It is impossible to make the assumption that having a wife and children would be distraction to priests, bishops, cardinals and the pope when they were never allowed to have a family in the first place and many have fooled around anyway.

FATHER JOE:  You are presumptuous that many priests have “fooled around.”  Most Catholic priests are faithful to their promises and to the commitment of obedience and celibacy.  Priests are normal men who grew up in families.  We also deal with the marriages and families of others.  Many married people who have come to understand what priesthood entails have themselves told me that celibacy is the best way.  The Catholic preference is that the priest’s wife and family is his parish— he belongs to them, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year (or 366 in leap year).  I am not saying that we do not have some good and holy married priests.  We do.  But the daily character of their priesthood and personal life is very different.  It has to be or they would not be good and faithful husbands and fathers.  Even things that are usually reckoned as good can be distractions to the priest.  Here I speak not just about activity but about the donation or surrender of himself and of his heart.

CATHY:  To make people choose against a holy sacrament of marriage is to break the first commandment in the bible which is to be fruitful and multiply.

FATHER JOE:  First, the sacrament of marriage comes with the Christian dispensation; all that comes before belongs to the natural covenant of marriage.  Second, the mention of fruitfulness comes not as a command in itself but rather as part of man’s stewardship over creation.  Third, what we are dealing with here is a divine benediction or blessing.  We read:  “God blessed them and God said to them: Be fertile and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it. Have dominion over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and all the living things that crawl on the earth. (Genesis 1:28).  Fourth, it is a generalized matter for the whole human race and not a particular command to individuals.  You personally cannot fill the earth and subdue it.  You personally do not have mastery over all the animals.  There is no commandment that says that men and women MUST get married.  Choosing celibacy is not simply opting never to get married; rather, it is the decision to love in another way.  Marriage is regarded by the Church as a natural right.  However, the man called to priesthood or religious life opts not to exert this right.  Yes, it does signify sacrificial love but so does marriage.  What makes it a higher form of love is that it is the road less traveled.  It points in a unique fashion to the coming kingdom where there will neither be marriage nor the giving in marriage.  This is what theologians mean when they speak of priestly celibacy as an eschatological sign.

CATHY:  You would take away some of the supposed scandal from the church if you would allow for men and women (nuns) to serve and be married.

FATHER JOE:  Are you so sure?  Have you noticed the divorce and remarriage rates among Lutheran clergy?  Child abuse rates are higher in marriages than among celibate clergy.  No, you are very wrong about this.  The Church could make the discipline of celibacy optional; however, it will neither be because of scandals nor because genital sexual expression has become a modern necessity.

CATHY:  How can ministers of the word even begin to identify with parishioners if they have not lived through some of their circumstances, especially since ministry begins in the home?

FATHER JOE:  Again, you pile one false presupposition upon another.  Priests do not come from distant Pluto.  We have grown up in families, some good and a few that were dysfunctional.  Priests prepare couples for marriage, give counseling, interact regularly with families, and know all the blessings and malignancies that can plague the home.  It comes first through our pastoral training and then in our daily association with the people we serve.  I would suspect in all this that priestly experience is far beyond yours or that of many married people.  This is precisely an area where celibacy frees the priest so that he can be available to his parishioners.  Otherwise, the cares and tribulations of his own home would have to come first.

CATHY:  Sex is not vile if done within marriage. It is a God sanctioned act.

FATHER JOE:  Did I ever say that sex was vile?  Please do not put words into my mouth.  The marital act consummates the marital union and it regularly renews the covenant of the spouses with each other and with God.  Marital love and family are great treasures; but celibate love is a still greater gift.  You do not prize it.  You do not understand.  This is the tragedy of the modern age.  We agree with St. Paul, that the single-hearted love of God (celibacy) is the better way.  But, it is not the only way.  God will give the gift of celibacy to any man truly called to the priesthood.  I firmly believe this.  We see it realized in the lives of thousands upon thousands of priests.

CATHY:  This not being married is a man sanctioned decree.

FATHER JOE:  There are doctrinal components, but yes it is what the Church terms a discipline.  Remember that the Church is both a human and a divine institution.  While the Church has charge over such disciplines, it is the mind of the Church that celibacy pleases God and that such reflects his providential will over the orders of the Church.

CATHY:  Every prophet and most of the apostles including St. Peter were married.

FATHER JOE:  So what?  We still have married clergy, a few priests and many deacons.  And they are permitted to exercise their marital prerogatives.  However, many married clergy in the early Church opted after their ordinations to live like Joseph and Mary.  They may have had children before ordination but then practiced perfect and perpetual continence just as the Jewish priests practiced temporary abstention during their terms of service.

CATHY:  Their trials were due to the times they were living in. Now, unless you are living in pagan or atheist parts of the world, no one is trying to burn or stone you for being Catholic.

FATHER JOE:  What you say here is not entirely topical to this discussion.  But, your gullibility frightens me.  Have you missed all the uproar this past year about religious liberty?  I have a parish with members from Asia and Africa.  They have seen their priests killed and churches at home destroyed.  I know priests here at home who have suffered the prison cell for peacefully protesting evils in our society like abortion.  I suspect the day will soon come when declaring homosexual acts as sinful from the pulpit will be equated as hate-speech.  When that happens, we will see many more priests behind bars.  A priest-friend was murdered in his bedroom just a few years ago by a madman unhappy with him.  We had several priests up north killed by a homeless man who beat their brains out with the very soup can with which these holy men sought to give the beggar nourishment.  The family of married priests, as with ministers, can become the ground for manipulation and the cause for passivity in the face of evil.  How is that?  The celibate priest has only himself.  The married man thinks first of his wife and children.  He needs an income to provide for them.  He needs a home to shelter them.  The world plays hardball all the time.  How many ministers have shut their mouths on certain issues for fear of alienating parishioners and forfeiting lucrative positions?  We have some incredibly poor parishes.  We already have men who can barely pay their small salaries.  Could you raise a family on a thousand or fifteen hundred dollars a month?  When all the assessments are paid there is not much left.  Sometimes there is nothing left.  The Church’s resources go back into our care for the poor, our schools, hospitals, and churches.  As I said, we belong to the people we serve.

[90] Tenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

1 Kgs 17:17-24 / Psalm 30 / 2 Gal 1:11-19 / Lk 7:11-17

The response to our psalm is “I will praise you, Lord, for you have rescued me.” When we look at the Latin, what we are actually saying is that we “exult” or “raise up” the Lord for excising us, extracting us, literally getting us out of the fix we were in, rescuing us. Jesus will literally be raised up on the Cross so that we might know mercy and life. God keeps his promise to save us.

Elijah as has a hard time of it. When things go wrong, people blame the messenger. Elijah enters the house of a widow with a sick child. Her son dies and she immediately blames the prophet for killing him. “Why have you done this to me, O man of God?” She feels that his presence attracted god’s attention to her sins or unworthiness. It is like a spot or stain; it shows up most against a white or immaculate backdrop. The Jews felt that physical maladies or death signified a curse from God. This woman feels that the prophet’s presence forced God’s hand in allowing her son to die. Elijah takes the boy to an upper room and implores God to spare the child’s life. He does something physically that we might view as odd. He stretches himself three times over the child as he prays for the breath of life to be returned. While the Old Testament author would not have seen the connection, Christians often associate the number three with the Trinity or the three points of the upper Cross. What is the prophet doing? He is literally placing his life on the line. He is begging God who is looking down to see him in place of the boy. If someone has to die, he is pleading let it be him. The boy is healed and he takes him to his mother. Now, instead of condemning the prophet, she joyfully announces, “Now indeed I know that you are a man of God. The word of the Lord comes truly from your mouth.”

We see a parallel with the Gospel reading where our Lord restores a young man to life and gives him to his widowed mother. Luke gives us various details to pull the heartstrings of readers. Throughout we know the Lord was about more than physical healing, but also the healing of the soul. While God spares the son in both these readings, to do so he surrenders his own Son on the Cross. The prophet who stretched himself over the dead boy did not have his life taken, but Jesus stretches himself on the Cross, not just over this one son or the other, but over the whole world. He dies that we might live. The widowed mother in the Gospel had lost everything. It was a man’s world. She had neither a husband nor a son to care for her. She had lost the love of her life and her heart was broken. Jesus stops the funeral procession and tells her not to weep. This is not dissimilar from when he appears to the apostles after his resurrection and tells them not to be afraid. Sorrow will become joy. Despair will be replaced by hope. Jesus saves two lives, the mother and the son. My DRE has suggested that Jesus pitied her because he saw something of his Mother in her situation. Mary was also a widowed mother and soon she would lose her Son. “A great prophet has arisen in our midst! God has visited his people!”

While not strictly connected to the other readings, Paul’s epistle to the Galatians acknowledges that God has given him special insight. While he prided himself as the Jew’s Jew; he has undergone a conversion to Christ and submitted to three years of religious formation in the Church. Last week we had his second epistle to the Corinthians where he gave us the narrative of the Lord’s Supper. But such was more than history or Christ’s words; these were also his words— the ritual he had received in Antioch and the manner by which as a bishop-priest (apostle) he offered the Eucharist. He took what he had received and he offered it to others. He went to Jerusalem and conferred with Kephas (ROCK or PETER) and James, the bishop of Jerusalem. Paul was part of the Church established by Christ, the Catholic Church.

Another Anti-Catholic Pays a Visit

The following is my response to Steve Thompson who posted comments against the Priesthood, the Church, and Mary.

STEVE:  Joe, you are NOT my father.

FATHER JOE:  I certainly hope not because I do not know your mother.

STEVE:  Jesus said to “…call no man father except Father who is in heaven.”

FATHER JOE:  Yes, and he also said to call no man your teacher, but we have many teachers.  We also have biological fathers.  Saint Paul even spoke about himself as a spiritual father.  Priests are also spiritual fathers.  Jesus uses Hebraic hyperbole so as to make an emphatic statement or emphasis.  It is the Jewish way of adding an exclamation point, by making an outrageous claim.  Our fatherhood should amplify and make clear the reality of God as our Father.  God cares about us.  Similarly, genuine teachers teach in conformity to the truths revealed by God.  Anything else is forbidden.

STEVE:  The Catholic church is full of pedophile priests.

FATHER JOE:  Actually, it is not.  There were as many sick men as in the general population and we have made a real effort to remove them from ministry and to enact policies to protect our children.  But let us be honest, you are not so concerned about the issues and answers as you are eager to pounce on the Catholic Church (large ‘C’).

STEVE:  Jesus Christ is our high priest, and the pastoral epistles (Timothy I & II, Titus) outline the church offices, whereby you will not find monks, nuns, cardinals and popes.

FATHER JOE:   Cardinals are the electors for Popes.  The Church at one time selected the Bishop of Rome in other ways.  Most Cardinals are bishops or at least priests.  Your mistake is a failure to discern that the titles or labels attached to ministries and sacraments have changed over time.  Everything that the Church is today is planted by Christ and grew up during the apostolic period.  Ministers are called pastors, a name originally associated with shepherds.  Our bishops to this very day carry the shepherd’s staff or crozier as a sign of their office.  Men are ordained, elders (presbyters) are appointed and the qualifications for bishops (episcopoi) are detailed.  Deacons are selected to care for the Greek widows and they preach the Good News.  St. John would become a part of an ascetic community.  The desert fathers would trace their piety to him.  Early Christian monastic communities would model themselves on the Jewish communities as at Qumran.  Like St. Paul, many would embrace a celibate way of love and life.  While the title was not always used, all the Popes are successors of St. Peter.  The charge given him by Christ is also given to them.  “You are Rock!  Feed my sheep!  I give to you the keys of the kingdom.”

STEVE:  Christians do not need human priests, popes, nor the “mother of God,” since God has no mother.

FATHER JOE:

The unique mediation of Christ as our great High Priest does not preclude the extension of Christ’s ministry through his priests.  Indeed, the Bible makes this point.  Our Lord told his apostles to perpetuate the Eucharist (Lord’s Supper) in remembrance of him.  He gave Peter universal jurisdiction over the Church.  He gave his priests the awesome power to forgive sins.  Read 2 Corinthians 5:14-21:  “Brothers and sisters: The love of Christ impels us, once we have come to the conviction that one died for all; therefore, all have died. He indeed died for all, so that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. Consequently, from now on we regard no one according to the flesh; even if we once knew Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know him so no longer.  So whoever is in Christ is A NEW CREATION: the old things have passed away; behold new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ AND GIVEN US THE MINISTRY OF RECONCILIATION, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them AND ENTRUSTING TO US THE MESSAGE OF RECONCILIATION.  SO WE ARE AMBASSADORS FOR CHRIST, AS IF GOD WERE APPEALING THROUGH US.  We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.”

As for the title MOTHER OF GOD given to Mary, it is the language or communication through idioms.  What are you, a heretical Nestorian?  Mary’s title defends the divine identity of her Son.  Mary is a blessed creature preserved from sin and chosen by God to be the vehicle through which the Messiah and Lord would enter our world.  Your rebuke against her is most foul and unbefitting a Christian.  But are you a Christian?  Do you believe in the Trinity?  Do you believe that Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity made incarnate by the power of the Holy Spirit?  Do you believe that he is the eternal Word made man?  Those who argued that Mary was only the mother of the man were interpreted as denying that Jesus was a divine Person.

STEVE:  Catholic Jesuits endorsed the Inquisitions, and their banana republic nations in South America reflect what this religion is really all about.

FATHER JOE:  Jesuits, Franciscans and Dominicans were involved with numerous Church courts.  Many of these functioned as civil courts do today, seeking to preserve public order.  Various nations misused particular inquisitional authority, but in some kingdoms the efforts were very mild.  Protestant and Catholic nations both sometimes misused religion.  The numbers of people wronged are often exaggerated, some pushing from a few thousand to other critics ridiculously suggesting millions (which would have emptied Europe of any and all population).  People also suffered in the ancient prisons from poor health conditions.  You wrong the Jesuits who died to bring the faith back to England.  Priests have also suffered torture and execution in Mexico, Central, Latin and South America from the very tyrants with whom you associate them.

STEVE:  Catholics/Popery signed a Concordat with Adolf Hitler during World War II.

FATHER JOE: 

The Concordat was signed in 1933, a number of years before World War II.  Hitler’s Germany would break such agreements just as it would with France, Russia and other nations.  The Concordat was to protect the status and work of the Church in a totalitarian fascist state.  The Church was very much at odds with Hitler and was seeking breathing room.  The Church wanted to insure the spiritual care of 20 million German Catholics.  It was not approval for a Socialist state that was philosophically antithetical to Catholic faith and values.   Pope Pius XI issued the encyclical Mit brennender Sorge in 1937.  It was drafted by Pope Pius XII and read in all the Catholic churches.   It criticized Hitler, National Socialism, and the persecution underway.  Catholics were warned that Nazism was incompatible with Catholic Christianity.

Your insinuations or perjury to the contrary is a gross violation of the commandment against false witness.  This was one of the strongest condemnations ever offered by the Vatican!

STEVE:  Furthermore, your Maryolatry is based on the pagan “Queen of Heaven” cult going back to Nimrod/Semiramis, Venus, Diana, Isis and Aphrodite. Get yourself a copy of the Two Babylons by Alexsander Hislop and you will learn what I already know about your religion.

FATHER JOE:  I have a first edition hardback copy on my anti-Catholic bigotry shelf.  The book Two Babylons by Alexsander Hislop is a joke and represents the worst of twisted logic and poor scholarship.  Only anti-Catholic bigots take it seriously because it fuels their hatred against Catholicism.  He equates similarities with an absent historical progression.  It is up there with spurious works like Chariots of the Gods by Erich von Däniken, although his fancy are ancient alien astronauts.

STEVE:  The Catholic Church is all about the Babylonian religion, priestcraft and sacraments (Your so called 7 saving sacraments could not save anyone from anything).

FATHER JOE:  The Catholic Church is the most authentic and original form of Christianity.  The apostles were the first bishop-priests.  The sacraments or as they were once called, the divine mysteries, are sacred signs instituted by Christ to give grace.  They enter us into the Paschal Mystery of Christ.  It is because of this that they have saving value.  The priests of the Church participate in the one priesthood of Jesus Christ.  Jesus offers the Eucharist.  Jesus forgives sins.  There is no contradiction.

STEVE:  Anyone can have access to Jesus Christ directly without your pagan plumbing, including but not limited to Maryolatry, Popery and your priestcraft.

FATHER JOE: 

The Church encourages both a personal and a corporate faith in Jesus Christ.  You would shortchange others just as you do to yourself.  Separated from the Church, believers are liable to lose their way just as you have.  We do not come to God alone.  You are deceiving yourself if you think otherwise.  Without the Church, you would have neither a Bible nor someone to translate and pass it on.  The Holy Spirit watches over the Pope and bishops to insure the faithful transmission of the deposit of faith.  As for Mary, precious biblical prophecy is preserved in Catholicism that you out-rightly reject:

Prayers and Intercession of Mary

Luke 2: 33-35:  “The child’s father and mother were amazed at what was said about him; and Simeon blessed them and said to Mary his mother, ‘Behold, this child is destined for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted (and you yourself a sword will pierce) SO THAT THE THOUGHTS OF MANY HEARTS MAY BE REVEALED.’”

Honoring Mary

Luke 1: 46-49:  “And Mary said:  ‘My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord; my spirit rejoices in God my savior.  For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness; BEHOLD, FROM NOW ON WILL ALL AGES CALL ME BLESSED.  The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name. ’”

STEVE:  Peter was married and there was no “pope” for 300 years.

FATHER JOE:  The Church began with many married ministers but later decided that celibate love was more desirable for our Christian shepherds.  So what?  But there were indeed Bishops of Rome or Popes, extending from Christ to the present day.  Clement of Rome wrote an epistle or papal letter to the Corinthians in 96 AD!  The Popes and the Church was proclaiming the Gospel even though the New Testament had not been completely written and the biblical canon had yet to be formed.

STEVE:  Your religion is mostly man made.

FATHER JOE:  Sorry, but such is the charge that convicts you.  You have made yourself into the great authority of the divine and arbiter of truth.  You oppose the Pope by making yourself a false Pope.  You strip Christianity of its richness and truths.  Yours is a religion of hate and bigotry.  You define your faith by what you oppose and offer little of lasting value.  You poison the mix.

STEVE:  You killed people during the Middle Ages for owning a Bible or part of one, and read the services in Latin so no one could understand them.

FATHER JOE: 

Me?  Actually I was not born until the last century.

Your charges do not stick against the Church, either.  Disagreements I can understand, but I am always challenged to keep my cool in the face of bigoted ignorance.  Before the printing press, bibles took years to make and churches preserved them so that all might benefit.  Many people could not even read which is why bible stories were told with images in stained-glass windows (something else I suspect you hate).  Latin was originally used as the language of the people.  Church language transitioned from Aramaic/Hebrew to Greek to Latin.  Modern English did not even exist as a language.  The languages of man changed over time and the Romance languages grew from Latin:  Italian, French and Spanish.  Latin was preserved as the language of the Church reflecting the changeless quality of faith.  Jesus is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow.  Today the liturgy is translated into the vernacular.

STEVE:  I was blessed by God to have never been born into this religious institution.

FATHER JOE: 

People are not born into the Church as through nature; rather, they are reborn into the Church through faith and baptism.  Some as children and others as adults are initiated.  Parents and sponsors witness for a child and we trust that the same baptismal promises will be personally professed in Confirmation.  We become temples of the Holy Spirit, members of a priestly people and a holy nation.  We are fashioned by grace into the likeness of Christ.  We become adopted sons and daughters of our heavenly Father.  Jesus who is our King becomes our elder brother and Mary is the Queen Mother.  The saints are our spiritual brothers and sisters.  We become members of Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church.  We become inheritors of the kingdom of heaven.

We are the ones truly blessed and we would pray that you might know such blessing!