"Let unity, the greatest good of all goods, be your preoccupation." - St. Ignatius of Antioch (Letter to St. Polycarp)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

If Luther had lived in our time . . .

... instead of doing this ...

... he might have used buses.



Friday, October 30, 2009

A Parable for Philosophers

"Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all deeds
which among men are a reproach and a disgrace:
thieving, adultery, and deceiving one another."

 - Xenophanes, quoted by Sextus Empiricus in Against the Mathematicians.

There was once a religion whose adherents believed that God sometimes spoke falsehoods. One day a lover of wisdom came and rebuked them for believing this about God. They first replied by denying that they believed this about God. "We do not call it speaking falsehoods," they said, "We think of it as God's speech not being restricted to matching reality." The lover of wisdom replied, "If it were speaking falsehoods, what would be different about it?" They were silent, looking down anxiously and shuffling their feet. Finally, their high priest responded, speaking not to the wisdom lover, but to the others concerning the wisdom lover, saying, "The power of the a priori notion that God's speech must match reality is patent in him." The others all immediately looked relieved, and joined in patronizing derision of the wisdom lover. In response, the lover of wisdom walked away quietly. That evening he nailed the following notice to the door of their temple: "Here a god is feared; here no god is worshiped."

When the notice was discovered the people rioted, dragged the wisdom lover outside the city and picked up stones to kill him. "Why do you seek to kill me? he asked. "Because you falsely claimed that we do not worship God," they replied. The lover of wisdom looked intently at them and said, "If my speech did not match reality, then I have imitated the God you claim to worship, in which case you should praise me. But if I did not speak falsely, then why are you angry?" No one could answer him. The wisdom lover turned and walked through their midst toward the neighboring city, and no one touched him or said another word to him.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Early Church Fathers and Greek Philosophy (audio)

Professor Feingold (Ave Maria University), gave a lecture last night to the Association of Hebrew Catholics. His lecture was titled, "The Early Church Fathers and Greek Philosophy: St. Justin, St. Clement of Alexandria, and Origen." I think this was his best lecture so far in his series on the early Church Fathers. (Download the audio of last night's lecture and the Q&A following the lecture here.) He explained the different possible attitudes toward Greek philosophy, drawing from the writings of St. Justin, St. Clement of Alexandria (represented in the icon at right), and Origen. He also explained the difference between rationalism and fideism, showed why they are both errors, and how Catholicism avoids both errors. In addition he showed how Origen's misuse of philosophy led him into certain errors, and how Tertullian's rejection of philosophy led him into error. Both rationalism and fideism are common errors today among Christians. Rationalism requires that every mystery of the faith be verified by reason; fideism denies that philosophy has a role as handmaiden to theology. Professor Feingold also discussed the Church Fathers' understanding of the passage in Exodus regarding the plundering of the Egyptians on the night they departed from Egypt. In the last part of the lecture he discussed Pope Benedict's Regensburg Address on the relation of faith and reason, and the attempt by some to de-hellenize Christianity.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A Reply from a Romery Person

Last week as I was preparing to go out of town for a conference, I received an interview request from Michael Spencer (aka IMonk) regarding the recent announcement by the Vatican concerning the establishment of Personal Ordinariates. These Personal Ordinariates will allow former Anglicans to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church while retaining distinctive elements of Anglican "spiritual and liturgical patrimony." Among other things, Michael mentioned that he wanted to ask me some questions pertaining to a post titled "All the Romery People" authored by someone named JDK on a blog titled Mockingbird. I hadn't yet received the interview questions from Michael, so on the flight back to St. Louis, I wrote the following comments in response to JDK's "All the Romery People." (Continue reading)

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Stanley Hauerwas on Reformation Sunday

In the Reformation tradition, today is referred to as "Reformation Sunday." It is the Sunday in October closest to October 31, when Martin Luther nailed his 95 theses to the Wittenberg door (in the photo at right) in 1517. Some Protestants treat Reformation Sunday as a day to be celebrated. That is understandable if one conceives of Luther as a 16th century Moses who led God's chosen people out of the "Babylonian Captivity" of the Church into the promised land of Protestantism. But there is another way to conceive Reformation Sunday, even as a Protestant. In this other way, while there were indeed abuses in the Church that needed correcting, the Protestant schism was a tragedy with terrible effects on the world, especially in Europe, as many people lost their faith in God altogether on account of religious wars and all sorts of incompatible interpretations of Scripture. Indifferentism, liberalism and rationalism filled the authority vacuum. This schism to this day prevents Protestants and Catholics from sharing the same Eucharist, which is that sacrament by which we are one Body. (1 Cor 10:17) For these reasons, the other perspective sees Reformation Sunday as a day of mourning, not rejoicing. Celebrating an event causes the celebrants to overlook what was harmful about the event. The danger of celebrating Reformation Sunday is that one can, at the same time, even without intention, end up celebrating schism, when instead we should be mourning this schism, so as to remind ourselves of the daily need to be working to resolve this schism.

Stanley Hauerwas helps us see Reformation Sunday from that other perspective. His article can be found here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Bulgarian Orthodox Leader Affirms Desire for Unity with the Catholic Church

Bulgarian Orthodox Leader Affirms Desire for Unity

VATICAN CITY, OCT. 22, 2009 (Zenit.org).- A Bulgarian Orthodox prelate told Benedict XVI of his desire for unity, and his commitment to accelerate communion with the Catholic Church.

At the end of Wednesday’s general audience, Bishop Tichon, head of the diocese for Central and Western Europe of the Patriarchate of Bulgaria, stated to the Pope, “We must find unity as soon as possible and finally celebrate together,” L’Osservatore Romano reported.

“People don’t understand our divisions and our discussions,” the bishop stated. He affirmed that he will “not spare any efforts” to work for the quick restoration of “communion between Catholics and Orthodox.”
Bishop Tichon said that “the theological dialogue that is going forward in these days in Cyprus is certainly important, but we should not be afraid to say that we must find as soon as possible the way to celebrate together.”

“A Catholic will not become an Orthodox and vice versa, but we must approach the altar together,” he added.
The prelate told the Pontiff that “this aspiration is a feeling that arose from the works of the assembly” of his diocese, held in Rome, in which all the priests and two delegates from every Bulgarian Orthodox parish took part.

“We have come to the Pope to express our desire for unity and also because he is the Bishop of Rome, the city that hosted our assembly,” he stated.

H/T: Overheard in the Sacristy

Friday, October 23, 2009

Tertullian and St. Cyprian: On the Unity of the Church (audio)

Professor Feingold's fifth lecture in his series on the early Church Fathers is now available for download here. The title of the lecture is "Tertullian and St. Cyprian: On the Unity of the Church." This lecture in particular is directly relevant to the purpose of this blog, in pursuing the reconciliation of all Christians in full visible unity. Tertullian and St. Cyprian [represented in the icon at right] were both African Christians, writing at the beginning and middle of the third century, respectively. In their writings we have a window into the early Church's understanding of the nature of the Church and the principle of the Church's unity. As you listen, ask yourself this: What are the implications of Tertullian and St. Cyprian's understanding of the Church for contemporary Christians, especially for Protestant-Catholic reunion? If you have thoughts or questions about the lecture (especially regarding Church unity), please free to comment below.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

William Chellis: "Why Rome is not my enemy"

Bill Chellis, the pastor of Rochester Reformed Presbyterian Church in Rochester, New York, recently wrote a post titled, "Why Rome is not my enemy." He writes:

Some readers may be disturbed about the DRC trend toward inclusion of Roman Catholics. I wish to say a word in response. I am not unfamiliar with the Reformed Confessions' descriptions of the Bishop of Rome as the anti-Christ. I am also perfectly aware that our theologians have often argued that the Mass as a form of idolatry. I understand that there are many conservative Protestant for which these statements are meaningful. While I understand these things, I cannot affirm them. In fact, the more I learn about Roman Catholic theology and church history, the more respect I have for our brothers and sister in Christ within the Roman Catholic communion.

(Continue reading)

I'm deeply grateful for Bill's charitable spirit toward the Catholic Church. This kind of approach by Protestant leaders is a beautiful example of the work of the Holy Spirit in bringing Christians toward unity through the charity that seeks unity in the truth. In this stance of charity, openness and mutual respect, ecumenical dialogue can be fruitful and efficacious.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Pope Benedict Creates a New Structure for Anglicans to Enter into Full Communion with the Catholic Church

Damian Thompson's report is here. Fr. Z's comments are here. See also the CNA report and the AP article. The CDF document is here. The Joint Statement by The Archbishop of Westminster and The Archbishop of Canterbury (both pictured at right) can be found here.

This action by the Holy See opens the way for the reception into the Catholic Church of at least 400,000 Anglicans who in 2007 had requested full visible communion with the Catholic Church. This is one significant step in healing the schism that took place under King Henry VIII in the 16th century, separating Anglicans from the Catholic Church for now almost five hundred years. As a former Anglican myself, I'm delighted by this news. For all those praying and working for the reconciliation of all Christians in full visible unity, this news is a cause for celebration.

UPDATE: The Primate of the TAC responds.

UPDATE 2: Video

H/T: Kansas Catholic

Monday, October 19, 2009

Grace in action: Mother Teresa, an image of the Church

Six years ago today, Mother Teresa was beatified by Pope John Paul II, and became Blessed Teresa of Calcutta. At her death, the former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar said: "She is the United Nations. She is peace in the world." In this way, in her own person she typifies the Church, which in its catholicity is the United Nations, and as Christ's Body is peace in the world. We are Christ's hands and feet. The head cannot say to the feet, "I have no need of you." (1 Cor 12:21)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Archbishop Burke: Contraception and Abortion

Archbishop Burke is making history today, and by his most recent appointment stands poised to influence the future direction of Catholicism in America. Here I wish to talk about something he said recently. But first let me explain.

There comes a time when to remain silent is to become complicit. In the face of evils so grievous, there is only one upright option; we must speak up, speak out and do everything in our power to resist them. Which evils? Things like this, and this, and this. How do we respond to such evils? We have to expose the falsehood of the underlying causes, and show to the world the way of life and truth. The underlying causes of these evils include fundamental philosophical and theological errors. One such error is the nominalism that denies that things have natures, or that we can know the natures of things. When nominalism is combined with empiricism, the result is a scientism by which an abortionist sees no ontological difference between an unborn human and an unborn dog. If a person loses sight of that ontological difference, he has lost sight of the basis for ethical differences between dogs and humans. Without recognizing that ontological difference, one cannot see the intrinsic value and intrinsic right to life of a human being. That leads to the mistaken notion that the unborn child is valuable only if he or she is wanted by his or her mother, and that the child has 'rights' only if human laws grant rights to the child.

Another fundamental philosophical error is John Locke's notion of personhood as self-consciousness, according to which there can be a human being without a human person, when self-consciousness seems to be lost or not yet manifest. This error allows people to think that when they are killing unborn human beings, they are not killing human persons, only potential persons. It allows people to think that in starving Terri Schiavo, no person was being starved, only a 'vegetable.' In actuality, wherever there is a human being, there is a human person, because a person is an individual substance of a rational nature, as Boethius explained long ago. A human being is not a person inhabiting a body, or a body occupied by a another being -- i.e. a person. Rather, a human being is a human person. Wherever there is a human being, that human being is a human person, whether or not he or she presently has or manifests self-consciousness.

Another fundamental philosophical error, is an error about sex. In an age in which sex education is so strongly emphasized, it is no small irony that our culture is deeply uninformed about the philosophy of sex. We have become experts in the technique of sex, but we have become ignorant of the telos of sex. We have become like little children who have not yet learned of the "birds and the bees," because we have forgotten what sex is for. Like children in sweatshops we know all the ways this product can be put together, but we have no idea what is its purpose. So, as children do when they do not know the purpose of a thing, by default it becomes a toy. But life and death, joy and laughter, trust and betrayal, love and abuse, flourishing and extinction, fulfillment and suffering lie in potency in this 'toy.' And that is why it is no toy at all.

And that sets up what I want to say about some recent comments by Archbishop Burke. Last month he delivered a talk in which he said the following:

A second context of my remarks is the essential relationship of the respect for human life and the respect for the integrity of marriage and the family. The attack on the innocent and defenseless life of the unborn has its origin in an erroneous view of human sexuality, which attempts to eliminate, by mechanical or chemical means, the essentially procreative nature of the conjugal act. The error maintains that the artificially altered conjugal act retains its integrity. The claim is that the act remains unitive, even though the procreative nature of the act has been radically violated. In fact, it is not unitive, for one or both of the partners withholds an essential part of the gift which is the essence of the conjugal union. The so-called "contraceptive mentality" is essentially anti-life. Many forms of so-called contraception are, in fact, abortifacient, that is, they destroy, at its beginning, a life which has already been conceived.

The manipulation of the conjugal act, as Pope Paul VI prophetically observed, has led to many forms of violence to marriage and family life (Pope Paul VI, Encyclical Letter Humanae vitae, "On the Proper Regulation of the Propagation of Offspring," 25 July 1968, no. 17). Through the spread of the contraceptive mentality, especially among the young, human sexuality is no longer seen as the gift of God, which draws a man and a woman together, in a bond of lifelong and faithful love, crowned by the gift of new human life, but as a tool for personal gratification. Once sexual union is no longer seen to be, by its very nature, procreative, human sexuality is abused in ways that are profoundly harmful and even destructive of individuals and of society itself. One has only to think of the devastation which is daily wrought in our nation by the multi-million dollar industry of pornography. Essential to the advancement of the culture of life is the proclamation of the truth about the conjugal union, in its fullness, and the correction of the contraceptive thinking which fears life, which fears procreation.

Archbishop Burke reminds us of the prophetic words of Pope Paul VI regarding the social consequences of disconnecting sex from its intrinsic telos by accepting the use of contraceptives. Given that disconnect, warned Pope Paul VI, sexuality will come to be reconceived as a channel for self-gratification, as opposed to self-donation. But when self-gratification becomes the conceived end of sexuality, then anyone or anything obstructing the way to that self-gratification is conceived as an impediment to the fulfillment of one's sexuality. And Pope Paul VI was right. In the sex-as-self-gratification mindset, when an unborn child frustrates that self-gratification, the child must be destroyed [warning, obscene language at the link]. In this way, contraception is intrinsically linked to the violence of abortion.

Many Christians do not realize that prior to 1930, all Protestant denominations agreed with the Catholic Church and with all Christians since the first century, that contraception is sinful. The Anglicans at the Lambeth Conference in 1930 were the first Christians in the history of Christianity to deny the immorality of contraception. Pope Pius XI responded to the Lambeth decision by writing Casti connubii, in which he taught that whenever the marital act is "deliberately frustrated in its natural power to generate life, [this] is an offense against the law of God and of nature." (Casti connubii, 56) All Christians had always understood that it was wrong to treat our sexual organs or the sexual act as a toy to do with according to our pleasure. But soon after the Anglicans gave in, all other Protestant denominations went along. Now, even the most conservative Protestant denominations think nothing of contraception, and many Catholics do not follow the Church's teaching against the use of contraceptives.

But let's consider some uncomfortable questions. What if there is an intrinsic connection between the popular acceptance of contraceptives, and the legalization of abortion? And what if there is an intrinsic connection between the acceptance of contraception among Christians, and the popular acceptance of contraception? If so, then there is an intrinsic connection between the acceptance of contraception among Christians, and the legalization of abortion. In that case there is a deep contradiction between picketing in front of an abortion clinic, and using contraceptives or being in a Christian denomination that condemns abortion but condones the use of contraceptives.

Given this intrinsic causal relation between contraceptives and abortion, if Catholics and Protestants seek to stand united in opposition to abortion, we must stand united in opposition to the use of contraceptives and the contraceptive mentality. As important and worthwhile as protesting outside of abortion clinics is (especially in saving the lives of children whose mothers are persuaded by our presence not to abort their child), we are there confronting the deadly symptoms of the moral disease, not its fundamental cause. To stop abortion we must teach society the "birds and the bees" in its true sense. We must show the intrinsic evil of contracepted sex by showing the personal and teleological nature of sex in its God-given beauty and fullness. But this teaching cannot be only in words; it must first be in deeds. If Christians wish to stop abortion, we must throw out our prophylactics, and get off the pill. Protestants and Catholics cannot effectively teach the "birds and the bees" to society until we ourselves know and practice the virtue of chastity, i.e. true sexual excellence.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Becoming Catholic: Deconstruction of a Deconstruction

Anthony Bradley recently wrote a short article in World magazine titled "Church hoppin' to Rome."Anthony's intention in the article is to address some of the conditions within Evangelical Protestantism that contribute to Protestants becoming Catholic. In his article he refers to a 2002 JETS article by Scot McKnight, writing:

In the September 2002 edition of the Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society, Scot McKnight’s article, "From Wheaton to Rome: Why Evangelicals Become Roman Catholic," offered good insight regarding the phenomenon of Protestants converting to Catholicism. The list included: (1) a desire for certainty, (2) a desire for history, (3) a desire for unity, and (4) a desire for authority.

Anthony then goes on to discuss each of these four desires. It should be pointed out that Scot's list leaves out the most important desire, the one that trumps all the others: the desire for truth. By this omission Scot implies that Protestants who become Catholic are doing so not primarily because of their desire for truth, and thus not because in their search for truth they believe they have found the true Church Christ founded, and in it the true doctrine of Christ handed down from the Apostles. In this respect Scot's deconstruction of Protestants who become Catholic implicitly treats them as persons who love something else more than truth, and are willing to sacrifice truth to attain it. That would not be a charitable assumption. In fact, it would be a subtle ad hominem, impugning the character of all those Protestants who become Catholic, and thus discrediting their decision to seek full communion with the Catholic Church.

In Scot's article we see that when converts to Catholicism talk about being motivated by a desire for the truth, he construes that as a desire for certainty. It is as though, for him, they aren't sacrificing truth for certainty; what they really want is certainty. But truth and certainty are not the same. Certainty is a subjective phenomenon, and many people who are certain about a position later come to discover that they were wrong about that position. Many Muslims and Mormons, for example, are certain that they are right. But presumably Scot would agree that Muslims and Mormons are in error in many important respects. Hence, since truth and certainty are not the same thing, it follows that the desire for certainty is not the same as the desire for truth. Therefore, Scot has indeed excluded "desire for truth" from his list.

Some forms of postmodernism construe the desire for truth as a desire for certainty, as though truth reduces to certainty, or is something entirely beyond our grasp as humans, and hence entirely beyond our capacity to desire or attain. Given that Protestants who become Catholic describe their journey as motivated by a desire for truth, an attempt to deconstruct their conversions as driven fundamentally by a desire for certainty, not for truth, deconstructs itself by revealing the influence of that postmodern philosophy.

St. Irenaeus and the Battle against Gnosticism (audio)

Professor Feingold's fourth lecture in his series on the Early Church Fathers is now available for download as an mp3 here. In this lecture he speaks about the second-century Gnosticism that St. Irenaeus refuted, and summarizes various aspects of the theology we find in the writing of St. Irenaeus, bishop of Lyon, who lived from about AD 135 to around AD 200. St. Irenaeus was a pupil under St. Polycarp, who had sat under the Apostle John. Professor Feingold shows that the faith St. Irenaeus defends is the Catholic faith.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Professor Feingold on St. Ignatius bishop of Antioch (audio)

Last night the Association of Hebrew Catholics sponsored a lecture by Professor Lawrence Feingold (Ave Maria University) on St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was martyred about AD 107. The audio of the lecture can be downloaded as an mp3 here.

St. Ignatius was a direct disciple of St. John (d. AD 100), and quite possibly had been ordained by St. Peter. For that reason his testimony gives us a window into the mind of the Apostles and into the Scriptures and the early Church. Pope Benedict calls St. Ignatius the "Doctor of Unity," because he teaches the basis for unity and the nature and sinfulness of schism. Concerning St. Ignatius' seven epistles, Cardinal Newman wrote that "the whole system of Catholic doctrine may be discovered, at least in outline, not to say in parts filled up, in the course of them." In his lecture Professor Feingold shows that to be the case, laying out St. Ignatius' participatory understanding of redemptive suffering and Christ's Passion, the hierarchical structure of the Church through sacramental authority in succession from the Apostles, and the implications regarding the Eucharist and schism, the primacy of the See of Rome, the true humanity and true divinity of Christ and the implications for the Eucharist and works of charity, St. Ignatius' understanding of the fulfillment of Judaism in Christianity, and his reference to the practice of consecrated virginity. The letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch can be read online here.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

"Clement of Rome: First Known Exercise of Papal Primacy"

Yesterday Professor Feingold (Ave Maria University) gave a lecture titled "Clement of Rome: First Known Exercise of Papal Primacy." Audio of the lecture can be found here.