Crossed The Tiber

An Evangelical Converts to Catholicism

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Location: Pennsylvania, United States

I was born into the Catholic faith. At 14, I was "born again" and found Jesus personally but lost His Church. After thirty years as an evangelical protestant, I have come full circle to find that He has been there all the time, in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. I wish others to find the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith as I have found.

Friday, September 30, 2011

GK Chesterton's Writings Lead Many to Faith...100 years later

Check out Jason's story how his faith was renewed through his discovery of GK Chesterton's writings. Jason and his wife Nikki, new converts at RomanRoad Blog have been putting some great stuff out there lately. Keep up the good works guys ;)

As an aside, believe it or not, the late Larry Norman , father of contemporary Christian Music, was a huge Chesterton fan. Because of his recommendation to read GK, Dale Alquist eventually came to conversion to Catholicism, the fruits of which are the American Chesterton Society and only God knows how many other conversions. The Holy Spirit works mightily through the writings of this 19th century prolific writer and convert to Catholicism. His writings were also instrumental in the conversion of one other relatively unknown British writer, Clive Staples Lewis.

St Jerome and the True Story of the Latin Vulgate Translation

On this feast of Saint Jerome who is best known for his love of scripture and his oft-quoted comment: "Ignorance of scripture is ignorance of Christ,"  I re-present an old blog post from 4 years ago.

The True Story of The Vulgate Translation

St. Jerome translated the Vulgate Bible from copies of Greek and Hebrew manuscripts in the late fourth century. It was one of the most important accomplishments in his lifetime. This was not the first Latin translation of Scripture but it quickly became the accepted version used by the Church and all of Christendom. Before his translation there were many versions of the Old Latin or Vetus Latina manuscripts floating around, (approximately 27) and a more readable accessible version was needed.

So, St. Jerome translated the Bible (both New and OT) into the common Latin, the vulgate, the language of the people of the ancient world.

As he neared completion of this monumental task, he came to the second chapter of the book of James and read this in the original Greek manuscript he was translating from:
"Ye see then how that by works a man is not justified, and by faith only." (Jam 2:24)

He was troubled by this verse because it didn’t express what he felt was James true intention of the spirit of the chapter. Perhaps he thought, the original Greek manuscript had an error! St. Jerome, being a theologian knew what the Catholic Church stance was regarding faith and works. He knew that the Catholic Church believed that faith alone was not part of their doctrine. He knew that Catholic soteriology expressed that good works done in this life were an important aspect of final salvation. So he pondered , prayed and researched. He was beside himself because this manuscript was stating the opposite of what he knew to be true Catholic doctrine. His first thought was to just declare this book "un-inspired" and place it in the same category of the deuterocanonicals he struggled with. (thereby relegating it to an apocryphal status.) Finally, he decided that it would be in the "spirit of St. James" to add the word “not” before we are justified by faith alone. He merely had to take the not (ouk) from in front of justified (dikaiontai) and place it in front of the word faith. Just a simple transposition of a single word. After all, he was a theologian which much more learning than the average person and he felt that he had the authority to do this, given his tremendous education and position of responsibility in the Church. He even went up against the pope at one point trying to convince him the deuterocanonicals weren't inspired, (but he was corrected and submitted to the authority of the Church) He felt that he knew what James was trying to express here and thought he could make it clearer by switching the words around a bit. In a more quiet moment, St. Jerome pondered whether anyone else in salvation history would ever consider making this same bold decision to add or subtract from the Word of God. When he finished his translation of the Greek NT into the Vulgate Latin the "translated" verse read like this:
"Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only."
This small alteration of the original text would hardly be noticed by anyone and would be more in keeping with the Catholic view of faith and works. As a matter of fact, the Vulgate translation of St. Jerome was recognized as the "official" Bible translation of the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent. It had been used and accepted by the Church since the fourth century and three other councils had already approved it but this was stated at Trent in response to the reformer's attempts to discredit the canon of the Catholic bible. Most importantly it contained that pivotal verse in James that the Catholic theologians so often use to defend their soteriology against the sola fide of the reformer.

This is a tongue-in-cheek post, just in case anyone didn't realize it by now.
St. Jerome would not have presumed to know the mind of the writer of Scripture and would have never attempted to add or subtract words in order to make scripture express his view more clearly. In his own life, he had strong opinions regarding which books of Scripture were inspired but ultimately submitted his will to the Church, the pillar and foundation of Truth.  Contrast the actions of Saint Jerome to those of Luther 1,100 years later regarding adding his own interpretation when translating Romans 3:28.

"You tell me what a great fuss the Papists are making because the word alone in not in the text of Paul…say right out to him: 'Dr. Martin Luther will have it so,'…I will have it so, and I order it to be so, and my will is reason enough. I know very well that the word 'alone' is not in the Latin or the Greek text..." (Stoddard J. Rebuilding a Lost Faith. 1922, pp. 101-102; see also Luther M. Amic. Discussion, 1, 127).

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Catholic Funerals

Here's a great article that explains the significance of a Catholic funeral mass and the correct way it should be performed, including some interesting tidbits regarding cremation.

The Catholic  funeral mass can be found in writings as early as the 4th century:

"St. Augustine made references to the Eucharist being offered at the last solemn rites of his mother, St. Monica, in 387.  

St. Gregory of Nyssa also gave a detailed description of the funeral liturgy, complete with Eucharistic offering, of his sister, St. Macrina the Younger, in 379. "

Clearly, the Eucharist was a central aspect of Christian life and death in the early Church.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

"No Room For Private Judgment" Says Blessed John Henry Newman

"Immediate, implicit submission of the mind was, in the lifetime of the Apostles, the only, the necessary token of faith; then there was no room whatever for what is now called private judgment. No one could say: "I will choose my religion for myself, I will believe this, I will not believe that; I will pledge myself to nothing; I will believe just as long as I please, and no longer; what I believe today I will reject tomorrow, if I choose. I will believe what the Apostles have as yet said, but I will not believe what they shall say in time to come." No; either the Apostles were from God, or they were not; if they were, everything that they preached was to be believed by their hearers; if they were not, there was nothing for their hearers to believe. To believe a little, to believe more or less, was impossible; it contradicted the very notion of believing: if one part was to be believed, every part was to be believed; it was an absurdity to believe one thing and not another; for the word of the Apostles, which made the one true, made the other true too; they were nothing in themselves, they were all things, they were an infallible authority, as coming from God. The world had either to become Christian, or to let it alone; there was no room for private tastes and fancies, no room for private judgment."   John Cardinal Henry Newman (convert from Anglicanism in the 19th century)

When I first returned to the Catholic faith, I explained to a friend that the teaching of the Eucharist (the real body and blood of Christ) was  from the beginning what the Church believed, and therefore I believed it was true. My friend said, "well we don't believe that" which ended the discussion.
At the time, it wasn't appropriate to pursue the argument, but I think back to how this is how many of us protestants chose a church. "Let's go to one that believes what I believe because there are certain things I have come to believe and certain things I have rejected." This was for the most part not based on historical evidence or what early Christians closest to the apostles believed.  For the past 500 years Christians have come to believe that they can pick and choose their religion based on their own private judgment. It started with Luther but soon everyone was assuming they were now "apostolic" and could decide what to believe given that they were no longer under the  mantle of Christ's Church. This was not the ancient way as John Cardinal Newman explains. 

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

A New Catholic Apologetics Resource

With all the excellent sites on the "interwebs" and the fingertip access (via smart phones, ipads etc) we now have to information, it's still hard to understand how folks still misunderstand the faith.  Thankfully, Catholics are continuing to "get it out there" and putting the new media to good use. Here's yet another site which has some excellent resources for learning about and sharing the faith.
   In the past 7 years that I have been in the Catholic faith, and online, I have seen a huge growth in the Catholic blogosphere and a new crop of converts who blog their discovery of the beauty of the Catholic faith.
Convert Brandon Vogt has a new book detailing just how the Church is using the new media to spread the gospel. Check it out.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Catholics Work Their Way Into Heaven? The Biblical Concept of Merit

John Martignoni has a nice discussion below on the role of merit in salvation juxtaposing comments by anti-Catholic apologist James McCarthy.

This week I am looking at the Catholic teaching on merit. The idea for this came from an article by one James McCarthy, who is no fan of the Catholic Church, that was sent to me by someone asking me to respond to what Mr. McCarthy says. So, that’s what I did. This newsletter may be a bit longer than usual, but it’s because I use so much Scripture to show that what the Catholic Church teaches on merit isn’t just mentioned in the Bible, but all through it.
Mr. McCarthy’s comments are in italics and mine are interpersed between his.


Merit and the General Judgment
James McCarthy
According to the Roman Catholic Church, whenever a person who is in a state of grace does a good work, he earns a reward. The right to a reward is called merit.  Merit accumulates during a person’s life. If the Catholic commits a mortal sin, however, all merit is forfeited. But should the Catholic repent and receive the sacrament of penance, lost merit is once again restored. Merited reward takes three forms in Roman Catholicism: an increase of grace, eternal life, and an increase of glory in heaven.

When a Catholic does a good work, the Church teaches that he immediately receives the re ward of an increase of grace. This grace further justifies the Catholic. He becomes holier and more pleasing to God. This is the first kind of merited reward in Catholicism.

The Church also teaches that upon death each person must face God in the particular judgment. If God determines that the individual has died in the state of grace, the person obtains “the joy of heaven, as God’s eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ.” The Council of Trent stated:
    “To those who work well right to the end and keep their trust in God,
    eternal life should be held out, both as a grace promised in his
    mercy through Jesus Christ to the children of God, and as a reward
    to be faithfully bestowed, on the promise of God himself, for their
    good works and merits.” (Council of Trent)

Vatican II stated:

    “Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the
    advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single
    course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with
    him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed . . . .”
    (Second Vatican Council)

Thirdly, the Church teaches that merited reward also results in an increase of the degree of glory that an individual enjoys in heaven. God does not decide this reward until the end of the world. Christ will return to earth. The dead will rise with immortal bodies, and God will release all who are still suffering in purgatory. Then there will be a second evaluation of each person’s life. This is the universal or general j udgment. According to Roman Catholic theology, Jesus described the general judgment in the Gospel of Matthew:

    “But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with
    Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne. And all the nations
    will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one
    another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.”
    (Matthew 25:31–32)

The general judgment is the public proclamat ion of the results of the particular judgment and the determination of a person’s total reward. It occurs at the end of the world so that the complete effect of each person’s life upon all of society and history can be calculated and duly rewarded.  If the person died in a state of grace, Christ will reward the individual in proportion to his good works. This will decide the degree of his glory in heaven. Similarly, if the person died without grace in his soul, Christ will decide the degree of his punishment in hell.

John Martignoni:
Mr. McCarthy does a fairly decent job of presenting an overview of Catholic teaching on merit.  I would add a few minor “fixes” or clarifications to what he said, but it is good enough for now.  As he moves from presenting what the Church teaches, to his opinion of what the Church teaches, I will be able to clarify and refine a few of the things that he said above. 

One thing I want to point out here in the beginning of my comments, though, is that the word “merit” essentially means “reward,” in Catholic theology.  So, when it is said that a Catholic can merit something through his good works, it means that the Catholic can receive a reward for his good works.   Does the Bible back up the Catholic Church on this, or does it support Mr. McCarthy’s point of view?  Well, we’re going to find out…

James McCarthy:
Eternal Life Is a Free Gift, not a Merited Reward

Here we will focus on th e second form of merited reward, eternal life, a Roman Catholic teaching that stands in direct contradiction to the Bible. For though the Bible teaches that God will reward faithful stewards in heaven, it never says that He will reward them with heaven.

John Martignoni:
First of all, please take note that Mr. McCarthy seems to have no problem with the general Catholic concept of merit…of receiving a reward…for one’s good works. He in fact essentially states that “faithful stewards” do indeed merit, or receive a reward, for their good works.  He has a problem, though, with the particular teaching of that reward being eternal life, but apparently not with that reward being an increase in grace or an increase of glory in Heaven. So, we apparently got 2 out of 3 according to McCarthy.  Wasn’t it Meatloaf who said, “2 outta 3 ain’t bad?” 

Now, on to his claim that this teaching of the Church, on meriting eternal life, is in “direct contradiction to the Bible?”  Really?!  Well, let’s not take Mr. McCarthy’s word for it, let’s see what the Bible says.  First, I would ask Mr. McCarthy to give me book, chapter, an d verse in the Bible that says, “God will reward faithful stewards in heaven, but not with heaven?”  I can tell you exactly where it says that in the Bible…nowhere!  Let’s look at what the Bible actually does say:

Matthew 5:3–10, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven…Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy…Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God…Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.” Sounds like folks will be rewarded “with heaven” for being “poor in spirit,” being “merciful,” being “ pure in heart,” and for being “persecuted,” or am I missing something here? They will be rewarded “with heaven” for how they live their lives.  At least, that’s what Jesus said.  Mr. McCarthy is certainly free to disagree with Jesus if he wants to.

Matthew 25:34–40, “Then the King will say to those at His right hand, ‘Come, O blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world, for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink…as you did it to one of the least of these My brethren, you did it to Me.”  It seems pretty clear, from the Bible, that the people at the Lord’s right hand are going to “inherit” the Kingdom of Heaven because of their good works.  This doesn’t say anything about being rewarded “in heaven,” rather it is saying that they will be rewarded “with heaven.”  At least, that’s what Jesus said.

Matthew 19:16–17, “What good deed must I do, to have eternal life?...[Jesus said] If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” This doesn’t say that after you enter Heaven you will be rewarded for keeping the commandments…no, no…Jesus says, very specifically and very clearly, “If you would ENTER life, keep the commandments.”  In order to get into Heaven, you must keep the commandments.  People will be rewarded “with heaven” for keeping the commandments.  At least, that’s what Jesus said.

Matthew 19:29, “And every one who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands, for my name’s sake, will receive a hundredfold and inherit eternal life.” Again, as in the Sermon on the Mount, one “inherits” eternal life, according to the Bible, by doing the things mentioned here.  It does not say, “And every one who has left houses or brothers…will receive a reward in Heaven after they receive eternal life through faith alone.” 

Matthew 25:21, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a little, I will set you over much; enter into the joy of your master.”  What do we see here?  Do we see a servant who receives a reward for his labor after entering into his master’s joy, or do we see a servant who is able to enter into his master’s joy because of his labor?  It’s the latter.  We see a servant who enters into his master&#8217 ;s joy (Heaven) as a reward for his labors.  And he receives this reward because he did something with what his master had freely given him.  We can be sure this is the case because look what happens to the “wicked and slothful servant” who did nothing with what his master had given him.  Does this servant, who simply held on to what the master had given him, enter into his master’s joy?  No!  But, according to Mr. McCarthy’s position, that servant should have entered into his master’s joy based solely on what his master gave him.  That servant, according to Mr. McCarthy, is not required to do anything in order to enter into his master’s joy.  Yet, the Bible states otherwise.  This servant is tossed “into the outer darkness; there men will weep and gnash their teeth,” (v. 30).  Why?  Because he did nothing with the gift he had been freely given by the master.

John 6:27, “Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of man will give to you.”  This verse fits perfectly with Catholic teaching on merit and with the Parable of the Talents referenced in the paragraph above (Matthew 25:14–30) – Jesus does indeed &# 8220;give” us the food which endures to eternal life – just as the master gave his three servants the talents – but He also very clearly says that we have to labor for that food.  Contradiction?  Absolutely not!  We have to be just like the “good and faithful servant,” who received a free gift from his master without doing a thing to “earn” it, but then had to do something with what his master gave him in order to enter into his master’s joy. 

John 6:54, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life…”  Whether you take that verse literally or metaphorically, it still says that if you do something – eat His flesh and drink His blood – you will receive eternal life. It does not say that if you do this thing you will receive rewards for doing so after you get to Heaven.  Heaven itself…eternal life itself…is the reward.  At least, that’s what Jesus says.

Romans 2:6–7, “For He will render to every man according to his works: to those who by patience in well–doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give rewards after he gets to Heaven.”  Whoops…wa it a minute!  That’s not what it says, is it?  Oh, no.  It says, “…to those who by patience in well–doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, He will give eternal life.”  I don’t know what book Mr. McCarthy has been reading, but I don’t think it was the Bible.  The reward for “patience in well–doing,” is not some reward given after you get to Heaven.  Heaven itself…eternal life itself…is the reward.  At least, that’s what Paul says.
1 Corinthians 3:8, “He who plants and he who waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor.”  You labor, you receive your wages.  Now, this doesn’t specifically say whether the reward is “in heaven” or if it is “of heaven,” but it nevertheless bolsters the Catholic claim of there being merit (reward) for one’s works.
Colossians 3:23–24, “Whatever your task, work heartily, as serving the Lord and not men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the inheritance as your reward.”  Every Christian, including Mr. McCarthy, knows that the “inheritance” referr ed to here is eternal life.  This passage directly states that if you do the work the Lord has given you to do, whatever that may be, you will receive “the inheritance”…eternal life…as your reward. In other words, this passage directly contradicts Mr. McCarthy’s words.  So, one must ask themselves, “Who would I rather believe – Mr. McCarthy, or the Word of God?”

Hebrews 10:35–36, “Therefore do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that you may do the will of God and receive what is promised.”  What is it that is promised?  For this verse to make sense in Mr. McCarthy’s theology, we must believe that what is promised is some sort of reward, exactly what no one knows, after one gets into Heaven.  But that makes no sense given the context.  Besides, I guarantee that if Mr. McCarthy was asked to read this verse and identify what the reward is and what the promise is, he would say, “Eternal life.”

Hebrews 11:6, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him.  For whoever would draw near to God must believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek Him.”  How is it, do you think, that God “rewards” those who seek Him?  Maybe, with eternal life?  I’ll come back to this verse, and some of the others, in just a bit.

Mr. McCarthy’s argument appears to have a hole or two in it, and “I have not yet begun to fight,” (John Paul Jones).   

James McCarthy:
Eternal life is not a reward, but the unmerited gift of God. Jesus, speaking of His sheep, said, “I give eternal life to them” (John 10:28). He promised, “I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost” (Revelation 21:6, see also: John 4:14; 6:40; 6:47; 17:2; Romans 5:17; 6:23).

John Martignoni:
Nowhere can he give me a quote from the Bible that states what he just stated: “Eternal life is not a reward, but the unmerited gift of God.”  Actually, according to t he Scripture verses I cited earlier, and according to Catholic teaching, it is both a gift and a reward.  Catholic theology has no problem with any of the verses McCarthy cites here from John, or Revelation, or Romans, or anywhere else for that matter. 

John 10:27–28, “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow me; and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish…”  “Amen, amen!” says the Catholic.  We believe that Jesus does indeed give us eternal life, just as the master “gave” the servants the talents and just as Jesus “gives&#822 1; us the food that endures to eternal life, but which we still are told to “labor for.”

Revelation 21:6 and John 4:14 talk of Jesus “giving” us water from the fountain of the water of life.  “Amen, amen! says the Catholic.” Again, just as the master “gave” his servants the talents, Jesus “gives” us the water of life so that we will never thirst.  Nowhere do these passages say, however, that once we receive the gift we can just sit on it like the wicked and slothful servant did and still expect to enter our master’s joy.
John 6:40 and 6:47 say that whoever believes in Jesus has eternal life.  “Amen, amen!” says the Catholic.  But, nowhere does it say, “Believing alone,” or “Faith alone.”  And, for some reason, Mr. McCarthy fails to mention John 6:51, 53, 54, 56, 57, or 58 – all of which say you must “do” something – eat His flesh and drink His blood – in order to have eternal life.  It is only through the selective reading of Scripture that Mr. McCarthy can support his position. Believing and doing – as the Catholic Church and the Scriptures teach – and not just believing alone, as Mr. McCarthy teaches.
John 17:2 says that Jesus gives eternal life to all whom God has given Him.  “Amen, amen!” says the Catholic.  That is Catholic teaching.

Romans 5:17 speaks of the “free gift” of righteousness.  Romans 6:23 says that eternal life is the “free gift” of God.  Catholics agree that eternal life is a gift freely given by God.  But, again, just as the servants in the Parable of the Talents had to do something with the free gift given to them by their master, so we have to do something with the free gift of eternal life given to us by our master.  We have to provide a return on it.  In fact, Romans 6:22 says, “But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the return you get is sanctification and its end, eternal life.”  It seems Mr. McCarthy ignored that verse.  Do we get a “return” on something if we have done absolutely nothing with it?  No, just ask the “wicked and slothful” servant in the Parable of the Talents. 

Now, some may say that the Catholic Church’s position seems to be contradictory – saying on the one hand that eternal life is a free gift, but saying on the other that it is a “return” or “reward” for our works.  Well, again, our position is contradictory only if the Bible is contradictory.  As I just showed, the Bible mentions in Rom 6:22 about receiving eternal life as a “return,” but in Rom 6:23 eternal life is a “free gift.”  How can it be both?  I’ll expound on that momentarily…keep reading.

James McCarthy:
Nevertheless, the Roman Catholic Church insists that eternal life is a merited reward earned by doing good. Just as a Catholic can earn an increase of grace and an increase of glory, he can earn eternal life.
The Church denounces anyone who teaches otherwise:
    If anyone says that the good deeds of a justified person are the
    gifts of God, in the sense that they are not also the good merits of
    the one justified; or that the justified person, by the good deeds
    done by him through the grace of God and the merits of Jesu s Christ
    (of whom he is a living member), does not truly merit an increase in
    grace, eternal life, and (so long as he dies in grace) the obtaining
    of his own eternal life, and even an increase of glory: let him be anathema. (Council of Trent)

When the Council states here that Catholics can truly merit eternal life, it means that there is an equality between the work performed and the reward received. Aquinas explains this relationship saying that, by the mercy of God, good works which proceed from the grace of the Holy Spirit merit everlasting life condignly. According to Aquinas, eternal life is “granted in accordance with a fair judgment.”

Roman Catholic theologians contrast condign, or well–deserved merit, with congruous merit. This latter kind of merit applies to cases in which the reward “results from a certain graciousness in the light of God’s liberality.”

Eternal life, according to the Church, is a truly merited reward. It is merited condignly, not congruously. It is not a free gift which God graciously gives apart from anything man has done to earn it. It is the result of a fair judgment.

John Martignoni:
When Mr. McCarthy states that, “according to the Church,” eternal life “is not a free gift which God gives apart from anything man has done to earn it,” he is either speaking out of woeful ignorance, or he is being shamefully dishonest. 

As the Council of Trent states, in a canon that for some reason Mr. McCarthy did not see fit to mention, “We are therefore said to be justified by faith, because ‘faith is the beginning of human salvation,’ the foundation and root of all justification, ‘without which it is impossible to please God,’ [Heb 11:6] and to come to the fellowship of His sons; and are, therefore, said to be justified gratuitously, because none of those things which precede justification, whether faith or works, merit the grace itself of justification,” (Trent; Decree on Justification, ch. 8). 

The section of this quote I have bolded and underlined means that we are “justified” – or “saved” in Mr. McCarthy’s vernacular – freely, as a gift.  That’s what “gratuitously” means – without cost.  So, nothing we do before we are justified, or saved, whether faith or works, can merit salvation.  That is a dogmatic statement of the Catholic Church.  The Catholic Church teaches, dogmatically, that justification, salvation, is a free gift of God.  Yet, Mr. McCarthy says the Catholic Church teaches that eternal life is “not a free gift which God graciously gives apart from anything man has done to earn it.”

The quote above was taken from the same section of the Council of Trent that Mr. McCarthy is quoting from, so I find it hard to believe that he did not s ee it.

What Mr. McCarthy fails to take note of, or deliberately refuses to understand, when he claims that the Church teaches salvation is not a free gift of God, is that in the passage he quoted from the Council of Trent, it is speaking of the good deeds of the “justified” person.  The word “justified,” or saved, is referring to a person who has already freely received the gift of eternal life. So, the passage which he quotes, and from which he draws the conclusion that the Church teaches salvation is not a free gift, is referring to an already saved person or, as a Catholic would put it, a person who is in a state of grace.  If one is not saved, not in a state of grace, than one&#82 17;s good works merit nothing.  I think that is a pretty important point that Mr. McCarthy seems to have overlooked. 

So, the passage from the Council of Trent which McCarthy quotes from, and takes issue with, is talking about the good works of someone who is already saved as meriting eternal life.  It is not talking about the good works of someone who is not already justified.  How did that justified person become a justified person so that their good works could merit salvation?  By the free gift of God. 

But, one might ask, are we not contradicting ourselves by saying that we cannot merit our justification but that we can merit eternal life?  Well, we are if you believe the Bible contradicts itself, because as I’ve shown with the Scripture verses referenced above, the Bible absolutely supports Catholic teaching on this matter.  No, there is no contradiction in the Catholic Church’s teaching, or in the Bible’s teaching on this point.  The reason there is no contradiction, is because the person who has received the free gift of salvation, can lose it.  Any good works that are done are not done in order to be justified, but to keep from losing that justification. 

Let me use Scripture to explain what I just said:

Ephesians 2:8–10, “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God – not because of works, lest any man should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”  We have been saved by grace, through faith &#821 1; either our faith or the faith of our parents (infant baptism) – not by works.  Eternal life is a free gift of God.  But, this passage ends by saying that God has prepared a set of good works for us, that we “should” walk in them.  Well, what happens if the person who has received the free gift of eternal life from God, chooses not to do the good works that God has prepared for him?

Matthew 7:21, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the Kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in Heaven.”  So, in order to get into heaven, you can’t just cry, “Lord, Lord.”  You can’t just have faith alone.  You have to “do” the will of the Father.  Well, the will of the Father is that He has prepared some good works for you to do, as we saw in Eph 2:10.  So, let’s say you’ve been saved by grace as a gift from God, and then you don’t do the will of the Father by not doing the good works He has prepared beforehand for you to do.  Are you still saved?  Not according to Jesus.  But, if you do those good works, if you do the will of God, do those works allow you to receive salvation, or to keep the salvation that has already been given to you by God’s grace?&# 160; They allow you to keep what you have already been given.

Let’s look again at the Parable of the Talents.  First of all, was the third servant in his master’s good graces at the beginning of the parable?  Of course he was, or the master would have never entrusted him with the talents.  But, after the servant does nothing with what he was freely given, what does the Bible say?

Matthew 25: “You ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own WITH INTEREST.  So, take the talent from him, and give it to him who has the ten talents,” and then this servant is tossed into the outer darkness.  The two servants who return more than what they were given, not only enter into their master’s joy, but they are set over much by their master.  They kept what was given them.  The servant who did nothing with what was given to him, lost it. 

Moral of the story?  We cannot w ork to obtain salvation – since it is a free gift of God (received through Baptism), and since no work we do before we obtain our initial justification can merit anything anyway.  But, we must work to keep from losing salvation, to keep from losing what we have been freely given.  Now, after we have been justified, then our works can truly be said to merit because we are cooperating with God, “at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure,” (Phil 2:13) of our own free will.  As it says in John 15:4, “Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.”  We cannot produce fruit unless we first abide in Christ, the vine…unless we are first saved, or justified.  But, if we are a branch of the vine which is Christ, and choose not to produce fruit, choose not to do the good works that God has prepared for us beforehand, then we will be cut off from Christ and wither and be thrown into the fire to be burned (John 15:6).

James McCarthy:
Romans 2:6–8

To substantiate its claim that eternal life is a merited reward, the Roman Catholic Church cites Paul’s letter to the Romans:
    [God] . . . will render to every man according to his deeds: to
    those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and
    immortality, eternal life; but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do
    not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation. (Romans 2:6–8)
The Roman Catholic Church interprets this passage to say that if a person dies with sanctifying grace in his soul, he deserves to go to heaven because of his good deeds:
    . . . it must be believed that nothing more is needed for the
    justified to be considered to have fully satisfied God’s law,
    according to this stat e of life, by the deeds they have wrought in
    him and to have truly deserved to gain eternal life in their time
    (provided they die in a state of grace). (Council of Trent)

John Martignoni:
Okay, he seems to be deliberately slanting what he says here to focus on good deeds, while leaving out of the equation all of what the Church teaches regarding faith and justification, which is right there in the Council of Trent, and which he must have read while doing his research for this article.  He is trying to make his readers think the Church puts all of her eggs in the “works” basket.  He is trying to slant the phrase, “to have fully satisfied God’s law,” as meaning the Catholic Church teaches that good deeds alone can fully satisfy God’s law.  He just glosses right over the fact that this passage is talking about “the justified,” or, as it mentions again, those “in a state of grace.”  Well, pray tell, Mr. McCarthy, how did those who are justified, come to be justified?  What does the Catholic Church teach on that?  What does the Council of Trent teach on that?  They came to be justified by the free gift of eternal life from Jesus Christ. Mr. McCarthy fails to mention that tiny little detail.

As I have cited above, Trent clearly states that without faith, one cannot please God.  So, faith is a part of what is required “to have fully satisfied God’s law,” as well.  But he ignores that.  He also leaves out all of what the Bible says, about the role of works in the process of salvation, some of which I have quoted above.  

James McCarthy:
The Bible, on the other hand, teaches that what every man and woman truly deserves is eternal punishment. The good news of Jesus Christ, however, is that God is willing to graciously give those who trust Christ eternal life, a gift that no one deserves! In order that these two truths would not be confused, the Holy Spirit included both of them in one verse:

    For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal
    life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23)

With such a clear statement here that eternal life is a free gift, Romans 2:6–8 cannot possibly be interpreted as teaching the direct opposite—that eternal life is a merited reward. A closer look at Romans 2:6–8 reveals the source of the Church’s misinterpretation.

John Martignoni:
I think he just made an infallible pronouncement here – “Roma ns 2:6–8 cannot possibly be interpreted as teaching…that eternal life is a merited reward.”  Oh, it can’t be interpreted that way even though that’s what it actually says?  Regarding Rom 6:23, as I’ve explained above, the Catholic Church agrees 100% that eternal life is the free gift of God.  But, as Scripture very clearly shows, once we’ve got it, we can’t bury it in the ground, we have to do something with it or it can be taken away from us.

James McCarthy:
In Ro mans 2:6–8, Paul is addressing the kind of person who considers himself morally superior to others in character and conduct. This moralist, however, is himself practicing the very sins he condemns in others. Paul warns this hypocrite that he will not escape the judgment of God. A day is coming when God “will render to every man according to His deeds” (Romans 2:6). Those who do good—the biblical evidence of new life (John 15:8)—will receive honor and eternal life. Those who do evil—the biblical evidence of an unregenerated heart (1 John 3:7–10)—will receive wrath and indignation.

Note that Paul does not say that God will render to every man honor or wrath because of his deeds. That would make good works the cause of eternal life, as taught i n Roman Catholicism. Rather, Paul says that God will render judgment according to how a man has lived. This means that there will be a relationship of correspondence between how a person lives and the outcome of his judgment. Those who practice good—evidence of true spiritual life—will receive good from the Lord. Those who practice evil—such as the hypocritical moralist Paul is addressing—will receive wrath and indignation.

John Martignoni:
This sentence above is a masterful piece of double–speak.  I think George Orwell would be left spellbound by this paragraph.  It truly is amazing.  McCarthy says, speaking of Romans 2:6–8, “Note that Paul does not say that God will render to every man honor or wrath because of his deeds.” 

Yet, he earlier correctly quoted Romans 2:6–8 as saying: “For He, [God] will render to every man according to his deeds: to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life…”  Uhmm…I don’t know about you, but it sure seems to me that Paul said God will render honor to every man – eternal life…BECAUSE OF HIS DEEDS. 

“…but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.”  Uhmm…I don’t know about you, but it sure seems to me that Paul said God will render wrath to every man BECAUSE OF HIS DEEDS.

Notice in this paragraph how he takes the reward of “eternal life” which is specifically mentioned in the verse, and turns it into, “will receive good from the Lord.”  His subst itution of “good” for “eternal life” allows him to avoid the truth of Catholic teaching regarding a person meriting eternal life. Here is Romans 2:6–8, according to Mr. McCarthy:

“For He [God], will show that there is a relationship of correspondence between how a person lives and their judgment.  Those who practice good, which thereby demonstrates that they have been saved by faith alone, will receive good from the Lord.  Those who practice evil, which thereby demonstrates that they have not been saved by faith alone, will receive bad stuff – wrath and indignation – from the Lord.”

Uhh…yeah, sure. 

James McCarthy:
Roman Catholicism, on the other hand, teaches that God gives eternal life to people because of their good works, to those who deserve it:

    It is a universally accepted dogma of the Catholic Church that man,
    in union with the grace of the Holy Spirit must merit heaven by his
    good works. . . . we can actually merit heaven as our reward. . . .
    Heaven must be fought for; we have to earn heaven. (Dogmatic
    Theology for the Laity)
John Martignoni:
Again, he focuses on works alone when neither the Council of Trent, nor the overall teaching of the Catholic Church, does any such thing. 
James 1:12, “Blessed is the man who endures trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life which God has promised to those who love Him.”
Matthew 16:27, “For the Son of man is to come with His angels in the glory of His Father, and then He will repay every man for what he has done.”1 Cor 3:8, “He who plants and who he waters are equal, and each shall receive his wages according to his labor.”Rev 22:12, “Behold, I am coming soon, bringing my recompense, to repay every one for what he has done.”
The concept of merit, whether meriting an increase in grace here in this life, or an increase in glory in the next life, or in meriting eternal life itself, is based not on some debt that God owes us because of what we do, but on the fact that God promised us that He would give us all of these things if we love Him and do what He told us to do.  That , and the fact that all merit ultimately derives from the merit Christ earned for us on the Cross, and that we can apply that merit to our lives by virtue of being members of His Body, is why the Catholic Church can teach what it teaches, that eternal life is both a gift and a reward.  Which is exactly what the Bible teaches.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

We Have A First Class Relic of Saint Therese of Lisieux!

Deborah and I were sharing our testimony at a local parish and mentioned to the priest that we were starting a novena to St. Therese of Lisieux (The Little Flower)  He became excited and told us that he too had a devotion to St. Therese and has a first class relic of hers! When Deborah asked if she could venerate it, he said we could borrow it for the novena. So now we have a first class relic of St. Therese in our possession, at least temporarily.
   A first class relic is a part of the body of a person who the Church has deemed worth of venerating- honoring and modeling our lives after because of the heroic virtue shown in their earthly life. Once they are officially recognized by the Church, we are encouraged to go to them to ask their intercession for our needs. This practice has been going on since the beginning of the Christian faith as the early Christians would gather the bones of those who were martyred to venerate them.


The Idiot's Quick and Dirty Guide to Relics by Russ Rentler, M.D.

God is the God of matter. He created matter and works through it. Blood, bread, wine, oil, mud, spittle, old prophet's bones, hems of garments, hankies, shadows etc . The Incarnation itself shows us God works through the things of the earth, the flesh in particular. Catholicism is a faith that is incarnational in nature and as Tertullian has said, "the flesh is the hinge of salvation."

1) Catholics don't worship relics! We venerate (honor) the person they pertain to and that saint draws our hearts towards Christ, the source of all power and grace.
2) Relics have no magic power, or any power unto themselves.
3) Relics are never to be bought or sold! (Let's here it for the Council of Trent!) It was never an official position/teaching of the Church to allow relic sales.
4) They may be the occasion of miracles wrought by God (as in Elisha's bones) and many other documented healings in the history of the Church.
5) The use of relics can lead people to receive or respond to grace. They do not actually provide grace because they are just matter, only God can provide grace. This is the key message here.
6) There is strong historical evidence of the early church's veneration of bones, ashes of the martyrs and their tombs were often the site of prayer. After Polycarp, a disciple of John was burned at the stake: "We took up his bones, which are more valuable than precious stones and finer than refined gold, and laid them in a suitable place, where the Lord will permit us to gather ourselves together, as we are able, in gladness and joy and to celebrate the birthday of his martyrdom." Not worshiping the dead, but that "the honor shown them may reflect on their Master, Jesus!"

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Mainstream Christianity? Catholic or Protestant?

Here's an interesting piece from Brent Millegan's blog inspired by an evangelical friend who said to him that the Catholic Church is not mainstream Christianity! Huh?  Good reading.

Another Evangelical Couple Cross The Tiber!

Check out The Roman Road here.
This couple in their mid 30's with young children  discover the beauty and truth of the Catholic faith.
Jason is a lawyer and his wife Nikki is pursuing a master's degree in theology.
Why not stop over to the Roman Road and give them a rousing Welcome Home!

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Rich Mullins: Lover of God

Yesterday was the 14th anniversary of Rich's death. In many ways I feel Rich has been a part of my journey to Catholicism. I was a medical student in 1982 when I received my first hammer dulcimer.
Within a year or two, I had recorded my first Christian song incorporating the hammer dulcimer.(using a Teac 4 track cassette recorder) I thought I was unique. Then I found out about Rich Mullins. He had been doing it already, but much better and his song writing was amazing. I must admit, I was a little jealous realizing that Rich "had it" and I really didn't "have it."  I kept playing music in the church, writing songs and studying to be a doctor.
   After going to Haiti, Deborah and I became interested in voluntary simplicity.( I left my private solo practice, sold our 4 bedroom home, lots of instruments, went to work part time, etc) The writings of this movement were mostly secular from an economic point of view, but some of the books were written from a spiritual point of view. Father Dubay's Happy Are You Poor, was one that I read but I did it holding my nose because it was "so Catholic."  We also watched Rich's video Homeless Man, and were moved by his spirituality, and this time not turned off by his obvious Franciscan spirituality.

A few years after this, I entered the Catholic Church. The long story is here.
Even though Rich wasn't the only inspiration for my return to the faith, I do believe his prayers were ascending to the throne of God for me. I think Rich has a heart for hammer dulcimer players and a desire for all of us to become as close to God as possible. Knowing how tirelessly he ministered in this life, I can't imagine for a second that he is in heaven just sitting around playing a golden hammer dulicmer. Like Sts. Pio and Therese of Lisiuex I am sure he is "spending his heaven doing good on earth."
Rich, keep praying for us!

Monday, September 19, 2011

In Need of a Pope?

by D. Stephen Long
D. Stephen Long taught at Garrett Evangelical Theological Seminary in Evanston, Illinois when this article was written in 2005. He is now professor at Marquette University and is a Methodist, after being raised an Anabaptist.

  Do Protestants need the papacy? Given the recent fascination with the pontificate of John Paul II and with the election of Benedict XVI, it would seem that the papacy is on the Protestant horizon in a way that would have been unthinkable even a generation ago. This may be the result of savvy marketing, the omnipresence of CNN, the celebrity status of John Paul II or a penchant for the exotic. But I think something more is going on. It is the papacy itself that fascinates us.

Protestants find ourselves in the odd situation of seeing a need for the papacy. Our fate seems linked with it. Three reasons in particular emerge for why Protestants need the papacy.

The first reason is a negative one:
Protestants need the papacy because we must have something to protest against. Protestantism is a 500-year-old tradition of protest and dissent against tradition.

What began as an effort to reform the institutional Catholic Church has become its own institution in need of reform. But how does one dissent against a tradition of dissent? Every act of dissent merely reproduces the tradition; there seems no way out of these conservative tentacles, which become increasingly more reactionary even under liberal guise.

The final logic of this version of Protestantism can only be that each individual makes up his or her own religion, which will then be defined over and against every other individual’s religion. In other words, what holds this tradition together is that it is against something. This kind of Protestantism needs an object against which it dissents for its own identity. If there were no papacy, no tradition, no doctrine, no common moral teaching against which to protest, it would lose its identity. As we learn from Nietzsche and Freud, such a reactionary movement must secretly desire the very thing it hates for the sake of its identity.

There are also two positive reasons Protestants need the papacy; for the sake of the unity of the church, and for the sake of truth grounded in love.

The papacy offers an impressive visible manifestation of the church’s unity. Christians must seek the unity of Christ’s body in a visible way through the church. Both scripture and tradition so clearly bear witness to this claim that I need not argue for it here. When it comes to visible unity, it is time for us Protestants to admit that we have failed. We are disunified beyond repair and cannot solve our divisions through our traditionally Protestant resources. Perhaps it is time to look to the papacy for the necessary visible manifestation of Christian unity; perhaps it alone provides the necessary unity of the church through a subjective and personal reality that mirrors that of Jesus Christ himself.

Christ left us no written sources, no legal contracts or juridical means of unity. Instead he mediates God’s presence to us in and through human flesh. Perhaps the papacy bears witness to this reality better than other instruments of unity (to trade on an Anglican term).

I would not deny that Protestants already share to an extent in the Catholic unity. In fact, this is the official teaching of the Catholic Church itself. Its catechism states that "one cannot charge with the sin of separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers." Those of us who came to love God through these separated communions are correct to declare our faith in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic church." Holy scripture, the ancient confessions, baptism, liturgy and the common life of faith, hope and love all function in part as instruments of unity.

But none of these instruments of unity have worked to avoid practices of ever-repeating and deepening division and schism. Could this be because these means are primarily objective and juridical? Because they assume no "fleshly" mediation? Perhaps we have tried to find unity through means that do not express as well as they could the reality of Christ’s incarnation.

Objective and juridical means lack the human reality of the papal unity. They cannot express affection. They do not pronounce blessing and benediction. They cannot ask for forgiveness for past errors or make claims for truth. They do not grow frail, show the wear of time, and die. All this the pope can do. He can be loved in a way that these other instruments of unity cannot. This is what struck me in the events that transpired in St. Peter’s Square over the past few weeks.

Of course, the other instruments of unity do attract our love and devotion. But they are more easily used than loved. What we have seen in the funeral of John Paul II and the election of Benedict XVI is the possibility of loving the faith as a human gift that is received, and in that very reception acknowledging its contingency and fragility.

Hugo Rahner once wrote, "All the churches who wish to withdraw from the unity of the church dogmatically first of all seek refuge within the state but soon are absorbed by the state and fall with it." This is why, he suggested, "the guiding role of the papacy is needed."

Can those of us who are Protestants deny this accusation? Could we ever see in our own churches the transnational, multicultural and multiclass expression of love and joy we witnessed in St. Peter’s Square? If not, then how can we refuse to acknowledge the beauty of the papacy?

The final reason Protestants need the papacy is to avoid the subordination of truth to power that so characterizes the modern era and its totalitarian politics. We have lived through an era in which it was assumed that every truth claim was finally nothing but a disguised appeal for power. The great hermeneuts of suspicion taught us to look upon truth with this posture, and it is difficult to free ourselves from it -- to abandon ourselves to the possibility that truth might be more basic to our lives than the will to power. We fear we will give up something significant if we give up this posture. We fear that the stance of assuming truth or goodness is more basic than power will inevitably lead not to unity but to an improper totalizing or fascism, and this some Protestants seem to fear more than the loss of truth itself.

John Paul II taught us to risk truth and not be content with the modern assumption that peace can only be had when we confess power as the most basic reality of our lives. He was not alone in bearing witness before the world to "the splendor of truth." This has been a common witness of the papacy in the modern era, and contrary to all expectations of those who thought that the suspicious posture was necessary for the sake of peace, the posture of suspicion produced more violence than the assumption of a basic and foundational truth and goodness.

This is the beautiful scandal of the papacy: it is an institution that proclaims that truth is more basic than power even when those of us weaned on a (Protestant) hermeneutics of suspicion can only see the papacy as a contradiction.

To see the beauty of truth requires a Protestant rethinking of the papacy. This does not mean denying that truth and power are always linked, but it does mean rejecting the notion that the former is always vitiated by the latter. Even where we still disagree with what the Catholic Church pronounces, we will have to address the truth of what is pronounced and not simply dismiss it as a sinister play for power.
Don’t get me wrong. I have no romantic illusions about the papacy. I understand its historical legacy and the legitimate reasons why Protestants separated from the Catholic Church. But Catholics themselves acknowledge this history as well. "Serious dissentions appeared," the Catholic catechism tells us, "and large communities became separated from full communion with the Catholic Church -- for which, often enough, men of both sides were to blame." The Catholic Church has acknowledged contributing to the ruptures that divide us, ruptures that are always sin. We Protestants must now reciprocate and name our sin in dividing Christ’s body. Can we do this without rethinking its unity in the primacy of the bishop of Rome? I do not think so.

At one point in history, to be a Protestant was explicitly or tacitly to will an end to the papacy. I think many Protestants can now confess that was a mistaken view. Both the church and the world would sorely lack a necessary witness if there were no papacy. If being a Protestant means willing the end to the papacy then I find myself no longer capable of willing such an act.

This stance does not require abandoning what is good in Protestant traditions. I for one cannot leave my separated Wesleyan communion behind. The hymns, doctrine, discipline and liturgy of that tradition gave me faith and taught me to love God. But neither can I will an end to the unity the papacy clearly produces throughout the world.

So what is to be done? Only two possibilities seem to present themselves. Either we try to find a place for our separated communities from within the Catholic Church or we find a place for Catholic unity from within our separated communities. Neither can be accomplished without willing the visible unity the papacy embodies.

Incarnational Thoughts From a Protestant Blogger

Magister, the writer of Bedlam or Parnassus has a piece over here regarding the incarnational nature of Catholicism and how it differs from Protestantism. There are some amazing insights here, particularly how he likens the sacrament of the Eucharist to the sacrament of marriage. I believe Magister understands Catholicism in a way that many Catholics don't and he is a Protestant!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

How Sola Scriptura Has Lead to Pat Robertson's Moral Relativity

The secular as well as Christian press has had a field day over Pat Robertson's recent advice to divorce a spouse with end-stage Alzheimer's disease.  You may ask, "How is this related to sola scriptura, especially since sola scripturists adhere to and submit only to the authority of scripture and scripture is clear that Jesus doesn't allow divorce?"  Pat Robertson is disobeying the plain teaching of scripture regarding marriage by his recent statements you may argue, and therefore this has nothing to do with sola scriptura. But the seed of why Robertson could say such a thing was planted long ago. We are seeing the latent fruit of the reformers casting off the authority of the Church and sacred tradition which assists in the interpretation of scripture and the practice of faith.
   To be Protestant, by definition, you must protest something. It is in the genetic "DNA" of Protestantism to cast-off authority. The early reformers cast off the Catholic Church and each successive reformer cast off whatever group he was a part of but no longer agreed with and submitted to. Zwingli cast off from Luther because of his denial of Luther's sacramental beliefs. Within a few years of Luther's denial of the authority of the papacy, every man who could read scripture was becoming his own arbiter of faith and morals. "Every man has a pope in his belly" was Luther's comment. Luther himself, no longer under the authority of the Church, once counseled a man that it was permissible to marry his mistress and remained married to his wife.(AKA polygamy) So even still claiming to be under only the authority of the word of God, Luther began to deviate from scripture and sacred tradition which states that  marriage is for life to one person.  King Henry 8th was another rather obvious example of this casting off concept, or protesting if you will. Though initially a defender of the Catholic faith against Luther's reformation, he later decided he could become his own arbiter of faith and morals for his unique situation. On and on it went and still does.
   My premise is this: once you have removed yourself from any authority outside of your personal interpretation of scripture, you can slide even further and no longer even submit yourself to the authority of scripture itself (or your interpretation of it). Modern protestantism has abundant examples of re-writing faith and morality having cast off any vestige of "Sacred Tradition" or authority outside themselves.
Pat Robertson, having lived a lifetime with no guidelines to assist him other than his interpretation of the bible, has slid down this slippery slope of  "no authority." A slope that has been greased by the oil of moral relativism of our culture. He has essentially become his own pope.

Read an article by a Protestant seminary professor who argues that Protestants indeed need a pope for times such as these.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Consoling the Heart of Jesus - Fr. Michael Gaitley, MIC from Renewal Ministries on Vimeo.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Pat Robertson and the Charism of Infallibility

Once again, the Rev. Pat Robertson shows the world that he indeed does not share in the charism of infallibility reserved only for the successors of St. Peter. I don't wish to disparage Mr. Robertson here, but I use this recent controversy to illustrate why the body of Christ needs a living breathing authoritative teaching voice to prevent any error in faith and morals. Pat claims the bible as his sole authority and this is his conclusion when presented with a moral/ethical dilemma:

Pat Robertson:  "I know it sounds cruel. But if he’s going to do something, he should divorce her and start all over again, but to make sure she has custodial care, somebody looking after her."  (His advice to a man on how to deal with his wife who has Alzheimer's disease)

What is the charism of infallibility? It is Jesus authority given to His Church to prevent it from teaching error in he areas of faith and morals.

From Catholic Answers:
It is the Holy Spirit who prevents the pope from officially teaching error, and this charism follows necessarily from the existence of the Church itself. If, as Christ promised, the gates of hell will not prevail against the Church then it must be protected from fundamentally falling into error and thus away from Christ. It must prove itself to be a perfectly steady guide in matters pertaining to salvation.

Of course, infallibility does not include a guarantee that any particular pope won’t "neglect" to teach the truth, or that he will be sinless, or that mere disciplinary decisions will be intelligently made. It would be nice if he were omniscient or impeccable, but his not being so will fail to bring about the destruction of the Church.

But he must be able to teach rightly, since instruction for the sake of salvation is a primary function of the Church. For men to be saved, they must know what is to be believed. They must have a perfectly steady rock to build upon and to trust as the source of solemn Christian teaching. And that’s why papal infallibility exists.

Since Christ said the gates of hell would not prevail against his Church (Matt. 16:18b), this means that his Church can never pass out of existence. But if the Church ever apostasized by teaching heresy, then it would cease to exist; because it would cease to be Jesus’ Church. Thus the Church cannot teach heresy, meaning that anything it solemnly defines for the faithful to believe is true. This same reality is reflected in the Apostle Paul’s statement that the Church is "the pillar and foundation of the truth" (1 Tim. 3:15). If the Church is the foundation of religious truth in this world, then it is God’s own spokesman. As Christ told his disciples: "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects him who sent me" (Luke 10:16).

Protestant Preacher and Televangelist Rewrites Marriage Vows

"In sickness and in Health, For better or worse, as long as we both shall live.

Remember those words you recited at the altar? I do.

Now famous televangelist is quoted as saying that one can divorce a spouse with alzheimer's disease because she is "already dead." This reminds me of the time in scripture where the pharisees invoke the rule of "corban" to get out of the obligation to care for their loved ones. There is a long history of this in Christianity. When the going gets tough, change the rules. The reformers did it, Henry the 8th did it and modern evangelicals are doing it. Re-writing morality to fit their particular individual situation. Sadly, the moral relativity of our society has crept into the teachings and theological thought processes of many who use themselves and their personal interpretation of the perspicuous bible as the sole source of authority.

Everyone is outraged over Pat Robertson's statements(again). But who can rebuke him? Who has the authority? Where is his "bishop?" Who and how can he be reigned in? HE CAN'T BE! There is no way by which anyone in protestantism can claim any authority to deal with this rogue preacher. Theological seminaries can make statements and Christianity Today magazine can pontificate all they want on how outrageous this is, but the elephant in the room is the stark reality that protestant Christianity has no authority to deal with a member of their group who spouts heresy based on his personal interpretation of scripture. Nothing at all can be done with Mr. Robertson (again). This is the legacy of sola scriptura.
You don't like 'dem rules, it's ok to change'm. "Since my reformation, everyone has become their own pope!" (paraphrase of Martin Luther)

The New Translation of the Mass

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Catholicism Is A Cult?

 Two well-known calvinist writers recently stated that Catholicism is a cult.
My response is the following.
 A cult that has outlasted any other political or religious institution in history. A cult that promotes life from conception to natural death. A cult that respects all other religions and cultures. A cult that has among its adherents, intellectuals, philosophers, scientists, artists, academics as well as simpletons and the least educated in the most primitive of societies. A cult that doesn't require complete knowledge and full understanding of complex doctrines. A cult that has done more for the poor and needy than any other religious organization in the history of the world. A cult that has not wavered in its doctrine or morals from the moment it began. A cult whose message and connection with the Creator has changed the lives of billions throughout the ages. A cult whose influence saved Western Civilization. A cult that has inspired its proponents to create some of the most beautiful works of art, music and literature ever produced. A cult whose founder came to earth to suffer and die on a cross for all sinners and inspire untold thousands of its adherents to be martyred for their love of this founder and one another.
      I have belonged to this cult for the past 7 years and it has changed my life immeasurably in ways that 31 years of evangelical Christianity didn't. Jesus, I love you and this cult you started called The One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. Thank you for inviting me back to join this cult.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Church Hoppin' Anabaptist Comes Home!

Why I'm Catholic blog highlights the journey of a postman from Australia who finds the Catholic Church after more than 20 years of searching for the "perfect church." Brad Schilling's story is similar to many of ours who kept looking for "that perfect church." Once a person suspends their pre-conceived biases against Catholicism, they can see clearly what they have always been looking for.

"Much to my surprise the Mass was entirely focused on Jesus Christ as the Second Person of the Trinity. I heard more Scripture read than I had ever heard in any Protestant church. I heard a 15 minute sermon on the Gospel reading. We said the Our Father together. We confessed our sins together. We prayed for the Church, the government, the needy, the lost and our selves. We remembered members of the Church who had died. We sang hymns. We kneeled. We stood. We made the sign of the Cross. We shook hands with each other and said, "Peace be with you." It was a corporate affair."

"Firstly, as a Protestant I had always read church history backwards. That is, I would start with where the Protestant church was in the present and trace a path back to its origins in the 16th Century. I would compare how the denominations looked in the present with the early church as recorded in the New Testament to see which were the most faithful. I ignored the period of history from 90 AD through to the 1500's."

Sunday, September 11, 2011

We Remember

Here's a free download of another song I wrote after 9-11.
"The Way Things Might Have Been"

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Escaped The Tide

I wrote this sometime after 9/11/01.

"Some days are better and some days are worse, as we shake off the shadow of Eden's curse, we long for the garden in this universe, it's not so easy to find..."

Calvin: "The Holy Spirit Told Me To Change The Bible"

Evangelical to Catholic-convert and graduate of Wheaton University, Brant Millegan has a post that articulates what I too have often considered. If the reformers could cast off the original canon of scripture accepted for 1500 years based on personal illumination, what prevents modern day protestants from doing the same?