Friday, February 26, 2010

What Is the Church?

I quoted St. Francis De Sales' Catholic Controversies last week for his argument from history. Basically:
  1. We know Christ established one core set of beliefs in his Church, and entrusted the Holy Spirit to guard that Truth;
  2. Since two Persons of the Holy Trinity are actively protecting these beliefs, we should find them continually proclaimed;
  3. #2 invalidates Protestantism, since its distinctive views can all be traced to extremely late sources like Luther and Calvin;
  4. #2 also validates Catholicism, since we know from Romans 1 that Rome had the true Faith, and we know from history that there was never a point were the Roman Church started proclaiming something else, only to be called out by faithful Christians everywhere.
My friend Erin responded from a Protestant perspective. Her argument, as best I can encapsulate it, was:
  1. The proposition that "the Church is run by human beings, not God. How could it ever be true?"
  2. And derived from that, that "The Truth is in the Gospel, in the Word of God, not the structure of the Church."
I responded that the Church is run by human beings, but also by God. Luke 10:16 is instructive here, in that it shows fallible individuals speakingwith the power and authority of the infallible Christ. Acts 1:17, Acts 1:20 and Luke 9:1 are also helpful, in that they show that even Judas was chosen by Christ to hold office, given a share in the ministry, and given power and authority (in the case of Luke 9:1, to drive out demons, a power possible only to God, as made clear in Matthew 12:26-28). If even wretchedly sinful people can do things by the power of God, then for me, it's not a real obstacle to say, "Yes, Alexander VI was a bad Christian," and simultaneously, "Yes, Alexander VI was the authority chosen by God to head the earthly Church." If the truth of the Catholic Church were dependent upon the personal holiness of the pope, we'd have been destroyed 2000 years ago.

Erin responds:
Hey Joe,

You got my thesis right for the most part. Here's what I struggle with: the argument that one Christian church is better than the other. How can one be more true than the other? I have heard the arguments on this, and very intelligently stated especially by you and others, and I've heard it for years, but I just don't get it. I think it's because everything I was taught in regards to this issue runs parallel to most Catholic arguments. I don't think that helps when we try and understand each other.

I want to clarify, I don't think that the church need be either, or, instead I agree with you quite vehemently that the Church is both human and spiritual. Where I disagree I think is that I don't believe that the Catholic Church is the true church, as I don't believe that any Protestant Church is the true church, rather the True Church is the community of believers.

Maybe that makes my position more clear? Maybe it complicates the discussion? Who knows :)

Have a great day,

Erin

The argument that Erin struggles with, how can one Christian church can be more true than the other, is self-evidently true, although I don't deny it's problematic. Here's what I mean. Catholics claim that the Eucharist is the Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ. Protestants claim Catholics are wrong about this: not only that Protestant communion is symbolic (to which Catholics agree), but that Catholic Communion is symbolic. If they didn't believe this, they'd have to acknowledge that while their own denomination might have a lot of great things - a great choir, solid preaching, good fellowship, and a shared passion for Our Lord - that it lacked the most precious thing available to any Christian, Something available at even the worst Catholic parish: the Flesh and Blood of Our Savior, Who communes with the faithful and enriches their life spiritually. What's more, Catholics believe that the Bible and Sacred Tradition are both quite clear that we're instructed to confess our sins, clean our consciences, and Commune with Christ Physically. Protestants, of course, deny that the Bible instructs any such thing. Now the two camps can't both be equally right. There's simply no way to create some sort of Schrödinger's Communion where it's at once the Body of Blood of Christ when receieved by the Catholic, and merely the representation of Such when a Protestant observes a Catholic receiving. Someone has to be wrong.

What's important to note here is that "Someone has to be wrong" means that they're holding to a non-Christian belief, in as far as a belief can't both be untrue and be the Christian belief. But it's not true to say that the person who holds this belief is therefore "less Christian." This is a frequent mistake, and it needs serious correction. The Catholic Faith isn't simply a collection of multiple choice questions which need to be answered correctly. It's a relationship with our Lord and Savior: a relationship which He's structured in a specific, often misunderstood way. To take two extreme examples: compare the Pharisees, who had a better theological understanding of Judaism than the average fisherman or tax collector, and even spoke with binding authority in Matthew 23:1-3, to the children Christ welcomed in Luke 18:16-17. The children had a better relationship with Christ, but there were still areas where they needed to realize that the Pharisees were right. Being "correct" and being "good and faithful" are two very different things.

So I see no problem in saying that a faithful Protestant may sorely misunderstand Eucharistic theology, and in the process, miss out on the greatest opportunity afforded them upon this Earth, and still be more of a Christian, or have a better relationship with Christ, than a Catholic who understands the Eucharist, knows It to be Truth Incarnate, and then never acts upon that belief. So I think that this is probably the important distinction. I'm not arguing that all Protestants are less Christian than all Catholics. I'm arguing that on this and other issues, they're wrong, believing something other than God intends them to believe, and that this wrongness harms both their own spiritual journey and the unity of the Body of Christ as a whole.

Christ's command in Matthew 23:3 about the Pharisees is: "So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach." And I think for a Catholic living under Alexander VI, this would be the same thing. He never preached heresy as pope: he simply lived a shoddy personal life.

So when we talk about the Truth, it's certainly possible to proclaim the absolute Truth. The Bible, for example, is absolutely perfect. But it's not possible to live the absolute Truth as fallen men and women. The lives of the Apostles and the Prophets before them are not absolutely perfect. So when you say that the True Church is the community of believers, I'm not sure what that means. When a Catholic says it, we mean that there is the Catholic Church which possesses and proclaims the fullness of the Truth as given to us by Christ. She proclaims everything true and nothing false. Within Her walls are every saved man, woman, and child. Some are formally, and visible within Her walls, while some aren't (but should be, and would be if they realized this). But the mere fact that Protestants claim not to be Catholic doesn't mean that they're not still Catholic. As St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:15, "If the foot should say, 'Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,' it would not for that reason cease to be part of the body." So the Body of Christ is visible, but will have some parts which don't think that they're part of the visible Body.

This, more or less, is the Catholic view of Church. It's a little more complex than this, of course:
  1. we think that the Church consists of all the saved on Earth, in Purgatory, and in Heaven;
  2. that She consists of specific offices such as bishop, priest, and deacon, even when those offices are held by unsaved individuals;
  3. that She contains all true Doctrines;
  4. that She contains all true Believers;
  5. that She is Visible, and we can say where She is;
  6. that She contains some who are connected Invisibly, and we can't say where She isn't;
  7. that She is capable of acting institutionally.

The seventh point here is one which is also important. Look at how the New Testament describes the Church: it's capable of exercising discipline, and excommunicating members (see, e.g., Matthew 18:17-18). If She were only the collection of all Believers (#4), and not also an institution with offices (#2), She couldn't exercise discipline.

As I understand it, this description of the Church is both solidly Biblical, and descriptive of the Catholic Church. I don't know of any Protestant denomination which even purports to be the One True Church, so if it's true that God the Son established a visible Church (Matt. 16:17-19) to be the "pillar and foundation of Truth" (1 Tim. 3:15), I think it narrows the possibilities to One. Hopefully, this was responsive, and advances the discussion. I'm eager to hear her response.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Is This Land-Dwelling Mammal a Fish?

The Church tries not to be overly strict with Lenten fasting rules. It's about the spirit of the thing, not the rule, and so She keeps it pretty light on rules. Sometimes, this leads to hilarious results. On Fridays, we're not allowed to eat "flesh meat," but we are allowed to eat "fish." This immediately raises questions: in which category are lobster, crab and shrimp? What about shark? Or whale and manatee?

But it really takes some cleverness to think that this animal:



...is a fish. I mean, it's a capybara, the world's largest rodent. It's a close relative of the guinea pig. Imagine trying to convince a guinea pig owner that they own a fish, and you've got an idea of how absurd it is. Perhaps most obviously, the capybara doesn't live its life underwater, although it can survive for a full five minutes completely submerged, which is cool. Pretty much the only thing it has going for it is that it spends much of its life in the water, and its scientific name means "water hog" in Greek. Nevertheless, it's considered a fish in Latin America for purposes of Lent. Aggie Catholic has a funny take on the situation, and similar suspect "fish" like beavers.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Doing the Work of God

On Sunday, as I mentioned, I was sick. I went to 5:00 Mass, but right after Mass began, went to the restroom to blow my nose and get more tissue. By the time I came back, my spot was taken, so I had to go up to the balcony to find a place to sit. Virtually every seat was taken (which really isn't a complaint), but a relatively young mother put her probably 3 or 4 year-old daughter on her lap to open up a spot for me. I had three quick mental responses to this: (1) being thankful, (2) becoming suddenly embarassed that she probably thought I was like ten minutes late for Mass, and (3) thinking that there was probably an important lesson on judging others here.

The mom and the little girl were great. The little girl was interested in what was going on in the Mass. It was the Bishop's Lenten Appeal, and she was paying attention to what the priest was saying, and occassionally doing her best to whisper to her mom. One of their comments has stuck with me for the last few days. The little girl whispered, "Mommy, what's charity?" And the mom, answered way better than I could: "It's doing the work of God." The little girl was bowled over by this explaination, and repeated it: "the work... of God!" She just had such a wonder about her that I appreciated. Maybe she thought her mom meant casting lightening bolts or something, I really don't know. But I do know that her reaction to the idea that we, as humans, can do the work of God was the appropriate one: astonishment and wonder.

Since we were in what seems to have been a converted choir loft, Communion was a bit crowded and a little chaotic. I was pleased to make it back to my spot, and was praying in thanksgiving. Then I realized that the woman and daughter next to me were gone, and I thought "What a bad example for her daughter!" and then tried to correct, and just pray for them. A few minutes later, I happened to look up, and there, standing against the wall, was the woman, holding her daughter, as they silently waited for me to finish praying, so they didn't have to interrupt. It was ... humbling, to say the least. The whole experience has hopefully taught me a lot about judging, and about doing the work of God, even in the small witnesses you don't even know you're giving.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Marriage on Offense - Part One

Leon Suprenant made a comment in response to Joe's post about divorce and annulments that really caught my attention:
I just think it would be cool to hear about the beauty, challenge, adventure, etc. of marriage and what it entails--playing offense instead of defense for a change.
I completely agree. It's time to get offensive.

In an effort to have a substantive response when Joe asks me if I have any posts "in the hopper," I've been trying to think thoughts worth sharing (unlike most of my thoughts that are barely worth thinking in the first place). One such thought is along the lines of hearing about the "beauty, challenge, adventure, etc. of marriage." I've been wondering: Have I ever heard someone question his or her worthiness to get married? The question is striking because when talking to someone discerning the priesthood or religious life it is rare not to hear him question if he is really "worthy" for such a vocation. In fact, most of the faithful would be concerned if that person doesn't at one point in the discernment process wrestle with a case of the "unworthies."

However, I don't think I've ever met someone who questions his or her worthiness to get married in the same way. I've heard people feel unworthy to be loved by their incredible spouse-to-be or not feel ready to get married, but I've never heard anyone question whether he is actually worthy of the vocation of marriage itself. That should raise some concerns. Is the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony inherently less sacred than the Sacrament of Holy Orders? No. Is it easier to live a holy life in the married state than in the priesthood or religious life? No. Does God love priests and religious more than married couples? No. Are the promises made at holy orders or the evangelical counsels more demanding than the vows taken at a wedding? I don't think so. Then why does the discernment process in marriage seemingly lack the "Am I worthy?" struggle? Some thoughts:
  • Marriage is familiar - A simple wedding band on the hand of a stranger usually garners little attention. Walk around wearing a Roman collar or habit and prepare to receive more than a passing glance. The day of my diaconate ordination I went to Target wearing my clerical shirt. Being overly sensitive to my new attire, I paid extra attention to any reactions. The only people who I felt treated me somewhat normal were the couple in the parking lot covered with piercings and ink that said, "Hi." I guess they could relate to being treated like freaks. Another reason that marriage is familiar is because it is. Everyone personally knows people who are married. No one has to pause to think about the last time they talked to a man with a wife or passed a car with a woman who has a husband. But how many people could count five priests or religious they've run into at the grocery store?
  • Marriage is the default vocation - Think about it. No one is shocked when someone says, "I want to get married some day." But my mom cried when I told her I was thinking about becoming a priest. Why? Getting married is expected.
  • Marriage is more "secular" - Married couples live "in the world." They have normal lives with normal jobs. What is another title for priests not in religious orders besides "diocesan priests?" Secular priests. Why? Because we live and work in the realm of the married folks as opposed to a religious community.
  • Marriage involves sex - The desire to have sex is natural. Married people can have sex and chaste celibates cannot. Therefore, marriage is seen as natural.*
  • Marriage and Sanctity - Unfortunately, most of us have no problem coming up with 10 saints who were priests, bishops, or religious. The task of naming 10 saints who were married is much more difficult. Also, priests and religious are expected to pray more and serve closer to the "holy things."
There are certainly more reasons than what I listed. However, with this post I just wanted to make the point that most people seldom second guess their worthiness to receive the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony. In the next post I'll attempt to show why those discerning marriage should pause to ask, "Am I worthy?"

*You could substitute the "desire to have sex" with "the desire to have children" or the "desire to have a lifelong companion," etc. Also, I'm speaking in normative terms here. Of course there are people who are not married who have sex, children, and lifelong companionship, but marriage is hopefully still viewed as the appropriate context.

A Welcome Wake-Up, and the Wonderful John Newton

This past weekend I was sick and didn't feel up to doing much of anything. Saturday night was particularly restless, and I had a fever keeping me from sleeping much more than an hour at a time, so I was on and off my laptop a lot to try and pass the time. A little before 7, I saw an e-mail notice that there was a new comment on the blog. It turns out, it was from Phil Naessens, a Protestant apologist who runs a blog called Theology Today Apologetic Ministries. Anyways, he writes:
Hi,

I'm sorry the anonymous folks at defcom gave you such a hard time. They are a poor representative of Monergism in general and Christianity in particular.

Blessings,

Phil
Short, thoughtful, simple. It's always nice to get feedback, and always nice to get words of encouragement, but all the more so Sunday morning since I was still so sick. Anyways, it really raised my spirits, so if you're reading this Phil, thanks! I'm sure there are plenty of issues on which we don't see eye-to-eye, but it's nice to have the spirit of Christ animating the conversation. This actually motivated me to write the following post, which I'd been thinking about for a while:

John Newton, the Calvinist author of the song "Amazing Grace," is one of the most charitable and outgoing writers I've come across. His conversion to Christianity is pretty famous, but what you may not know is that it was started by reading the Catholic monk Thomas Kempis' Imitation of Christ during a storm at sea. He later became an evangelical lay preacher, and finally an Anglican priest. He wasn't overly concerned with denominational boundaries, having applied for positions as both a Methodist and a Presbyterian. Although he eventually became a Calvinist, his prior "tasting" of so many Christian traditions left his favorably disposed to seemingly all of Christendom. He penned A Guide to Godly Disputation, which is well worth the read. In it, he's primarily concerned about the number of uncharitable Calvinists, although it certainly has a broader appeal:
Of all people who engage in controversy, we, who are called Calvinists, are most expressly bound by our own principles to the exercise of gentleness and moderation. If, indeed, they who differ from us have a power of changing themselves, if they can open their own eyes, and soften their own hearts, then we might with less inconsistency be offended at their obstinacy: but if we believe the very contrary to this, our part is, not to strive, but in meekness to instruct those who oppose as taught in 2 Timothy 2:25, “If peradventure God will give them repentance to the acknowledgment of the truth.” If you write with a desire of being an instrument of correcting mistakes, you will of course be cautious of laying stumbling blocks in the way of the blind or of using any expressions that may exasperate their passions, confirm them in their principles, and thereby make their conviction, humanly speaking, more impracticable.
He takes the same premise of all 5-point Calvinists: that those who aren't (apparently) Christian aren't because God has chosen not to make them Christians at this time. But instead of concluding that, therefore, they're damnable reprobates to be treated with scorn and contempt, Newton holds out hope that since God is the one who works conversions, He may have a bigger plan not visible, and that our job is to not be a stumbling block. I'm interested in this passage from Newton, in part, because to arrive at this conclusion, it seems that he violates the basic premise of Calvinism. He speaks of making individuals convictions, "humanly speaking, more impracticable," which seems to be a pretty direct reference to human agency and free will, the very things he dismissed a few sentences prior.

It seems almost as if he's saying that while our free will alone can never lead to our justification or salvation, it can delay or reject our justification and salvation. That while we can't merit Heaven, we can and do merit Hell, and can choose Hell even when offered the free gift of Heaven. Certainly, this isn't the position he would identify as his own, but it seems in places to be what he intuitively operates from. And of course, this is a very Catholic position. In another great passage from the same Guide, he says:
The Scriptural maxim, that “the wrath of man works not the righteousness of God,” is verified by daily observation. If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit.
The maxim in question, by the way, is from James 1:20. Newton didn't just preach this philosophy, he lived it out. He was reading some of sermons and correspondence of an old friend he hadn't spoken to in years, and felt that he was advocating works-righteousness without enough (or any) mention of turning one's life over to Christ. This having taken place in 1775, and me not having seen the writings in question, I have no idea if there was any validity to Newton's conclusion. Certainly, there are some Calvinist who see everything non-Calvinist as Pelagian or Semi-Pelagian or Semi-Semi-Pelagian, but Newton doesn't seem the type; and certainly, there are preachers who speak more on "be a good person" than "love the Lord your God." What's important here isn't who's right, though, but how Newton addressed it. What he didn't do was claim that this was a "different Gospel" by proof-texting Galatians 1:6. Rather, he wrote:
From your letters and sermons, I am encouraged to address you in our Lord's words, "Thou art not far from the kingdom of God." I am persuaded the views you have received will not suffer you to remain where you are. But fidelity obliges me to add, "Yet one thing thou lackest." "That one thing," I trust the Lord will both show you, and bestow upon you, in His due time. You speak somewhere of "atoning for disobedience by repentance." Ah! my dear sir, when we are brought to estimate our disobedience, by comparing it with such a sense of the majesty, holiness, and authority of God, and the spirituality, extent, and sanction of His holy law, as He, and He only, can impress upon the heart of a sinner, we shall be convinced, that nothing but the blood of the Son of God can atone for the smallest instance of disobedience.
How transparently he showed Christ, even in disputations! Gentle correction of a brother in Christ, rather than trying to rend the body of Christ in two to root out all the tares! Most of us, and I readily add myself to this category, are much worse at this than Newton, but this charity and irenicism is something worth praying for.

Monday, February 22, 2010

What the Bible Says on Divorce and Annulments

I had lunch with a couple of Catholic friends when my friend Neal talked about how his Protestant in-laws had been pressing him for the Biblical basis for annulments. Since I've addressed that, and similar, issues here, I figured I'd e-mail him a summary of the Biblical evidence. Here's the e-mail:


Neal and Kevin,
Here are the posts I wrote on it in chronological order; I personally think #'s 1 and 4 are most helpful, but feel free to read all or none:

  1. http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2009/05/does-bible-permit-divorce-in-case-of.html
  2. http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2009/06/my-response-to-gotquestions.html
  3. http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2009/07/gotquestions-negative-update.html
  4. http://catholicdefense.blogspot.com/2009/07/divorce-and-remarriage-in-matthews.html
The first three are responses to GotQuestions, an Evangelical (and somewhat anti-Catholic) Biblical online FAQ. So you may have to separate some wheat from chaff there, but hopefully, there's something useful there. Here's the basic summary:

The Bible verses in question are Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:1-12 (no divorce except for cause of porneia); and Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18 (no divorce, period). The word for adultery, moicheia, is used in all of those verses to say that anyone who divorces and remarries commits adultery. In Matthew's version, where a specific nook is carved out, he doesn't record the word for adultery ("except for cause of porneia"). In fact, Jesus lists porneia and moicheia as distinct sins in Matthew 15:19 and Mark 7:21. Paul lists them separately as well, in Galatians 5:19.

I mention this because most of the Protestant interpretations of Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:9 assume porneia to mean "sexual unfaithfulness to your spouse," as something either identical with, or broader than, adultery. This interpretation is unsustainable: they would be listed as a single sin if this interpretation were correct (even if one term is broader, it would include the other as a subset). Besides that, this interpretation flies in the face of Mark 10:11 and Luke 16:18, which prohibit divorce without exception.

In fact, Matthew's Gospel shows that divorce and remarriage is strictly prohibited unless you were never married in the eyes of God. To get there, we need the help of Blue Letter Bible's Lexicon/Concordance, LexiCon, which lists every usage of the word porneia in the New Testament. In addition to the uses which I've just mentioned, here are the other uses we see:

  • In John 8:41, it means "fornication."
  • In Romans 1:29, it probably refers to homosexuality (given the context).
  • In 1 Corinthians 5:1, it refers to incest with one's mother-in-law.
  • In Acts 15:20, 15:29, and 21:25, it refers to incest. The question is which parts of the Levitical law (Lev. 17-18) still need to be maintained by the Gentiles, and the answer is: Idol Sacrifices Lev. 17:8-9; Blood Lev. 17:10-12; Things Strangled Lev. 17:13-14; and Porneia (Incest) Lev. 18:6-18.
  • In 1 Corinthians 6:13, 6:18, and 7:2, it refers to fornication (in that case, with prostitutes). 2 Corinthians 12:21, Paul says that they still aren't repentant of their porneia, which we can contextually assume refers to the same fornication mentioned above.
  • Colossians 3:5 and 1 Thessalonians 4:3 list it as a sin of the flesh, but don't give much more detail. 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 almost seems to equate it to "passionate lust like the heathen," but Colossians 3:5 lists them as separate sins.
  • In Revelation 2:21, 9:21, 14:8, 17:2, 17:4, 18:3, and 19:2, it refers to Babylon's fornication/prostitution.
1 Corinthians 5:1, Acts 15:20, 15:29, and 21:25, and 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5 all connect porneia with the pagans, which makes sense, since the term porneia was the Greek word used in the Septuagint to describe incest. The Jews had strict rules governing who you could and couldn't validly marry, while the pagans did not. The Jews, therefore, were shocked at the incestual relationships of the Greeks; Paul turns this around in 1 Corinthians 5:1 to say that the instance of incest among the Corinthian Christians was "of a kind that does not occur even among pagans."

What this means in the marital context: there will be times where you can civilly marry immorally, whether that means marrying a relative, a member of the same sex, or a divorced person. Those marriages aren't valid in the eyes of God. Jesus refers to the first two classes as fornication, and the last as adultery. To put it in a modern context, if two men marry in a state which permits gay marriage, one of them converts, and wants to know if he can get a divorce from his (non-cheating) civil spouse, the answer is absolutely yes. That's so obvious that Mark and Luke don't bother including this detail, but Matthew (fortunately) does.

This interpretation harmonizes Matthew, Mark, and Luke perfectly. The operative phrase is found in both Matthew 19:6 and Mark 10:9: "What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder." God never joins together siblings, gay couples, or divorcees in marriage. But those marriages which He does join can't be broken for any reason, including adultery.

So the question then becomes, "Was this marriage one which God joined together?" And that's a good role for the Church to play. She's more objective than the parties involved, and can make a final determination upon the status. We already know from Matthew 18:17-18 and 1 Corinthians 6:1-2 that the Church plays a judicial role in the lives of disputing Christians. Annulments then, are simply declarations by the Church that the civil marriage which had existed was, for some reason, null -- which is why they're called Declarations of Nullity. To the best of the Church's knowledge, there never was a marriage in the eyes of God in this instance, and the couple was, instead of consummating a sacred bond, simply fornicating.

- Joe.

P.S. I'll acknowledge up front that some of the people you present this to won't like how strict this rule is. The disciples' reaction (in Matthew 19:10 was, "If this is the situation between a husband and wife, it is better not to marry." So the fact that it's an unpleasant truth only further suggests that this is precisely the manner in which it's supposed to be read.
P.P.S. Turns out, Kevin's journal has an article on the evolution of divorce in the US: http://nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/the-evolution-of-divorce.

Infant Baptisms in Mixed Marriages

Ryan asked of my Friday post about the Reyes case,
How was he able have the child baptized if his wife/ex-wife/estranged wife would not agree to the baptism. I thought the Church would not baptize the children of mixed marriages without the permission of the non-Catholic party.

No. Canon law is actually incredibly clear on this point, since it comes up all too frequently:
Can. 868 §1. For an infant to be baptized licitly:
1/ the parents or at least one of them or the person who legitimately takes their place must consent;
2/ there must be a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion; if such hope is altogether lacking, the baptism is to be delayed according to the prescripts of particular law after the parents have been advised about the reason.
§2. An infant of Catholic parents or even of non-Catholic parents is baptized licitly in danger of death even against the will of the parents.

So under Canon 868 §1, Mr. Reyes' consent alone was sufficient, provided that there's at least some "founded hope" that the kid will be brought up Catholic. There almost certainly would be some hope given that the father had contact with his daughter. But even if there weren't, this would render the Baptism illicit, not invalid (see my earlier post for this distinction). In other words, it's still a valid Baptism, it just shouldn't have taken place. (As an aside, Canon 868 §2 directly addresses the other subject of Friday's post, the emergency baptism of Edgardo Mortara).

But I'm interested in a related issue, which is whether this fiasco could have been entirely avoided by simply following canon law and the Catechism when it comes to getting married. Technically, the Church distinguishes between "mixed marriages" between Baptized Christians (a Catholic marrying an Orthodox or Protestant) and "disparity in cult," in which the non-Catholic spouse isn't even a Baptized Christian. In this case, since Mrs. Reyes is Jewish, it's a disparity in cult. So yeah, I cheated a bit on this blog's title. "Infant Baptisms in Disparities of Cult" sounded too eggheaded. The Cathechism explains the requirements for these sorts of marriages pretty clearly in CCC 1635:
In case of disparity of cult an express dispensation from this impediment is required for the validity of the marriage. This permission or dispensation presupposes that both parties know and do not exclude the essential ends and properties of marriage; and furthermore that the Catholic party confirms the obligations, which have been made known to the non-Catholic party, of preserving his or her own faith and ensuring the baptism and education of the children in the Catholic Church.

So for there to have even been a valid marriage in the first place, (1) Mr. Reyes, as the Catholic, would have had to have promised to maintain his own faith, baptize his children, and raise them in the Catholic Church; (2) Mrs. Reyes must have been made aware of these promises; and (3) the Bishop must expressly dispense the two from the normal bar to yoking a believer with a non-believer. Canon law spells out these requirements at greater length:

Canon 1086 §1. A marriage is invalid when one of the two persons was baptised in the Catholic Church or received into it and has not by a formal act defected from it, and the other was not baptised.
Canon 1086 §2. This impediment is not to be dispensed unless the conditions
mentioned in canon 1125 and 1126 have been fulfilled.

Canon 1125. The local ordinary (bishop) can grant this permission if there is a just and reasonable cause. He is not to grant it unless the following conditions are fulfilled:
1. The Catholic party is to declare that he or she is prepared to remove dangers of defecting from the faith, and to make a sincere promise to do all in his or her power in order that all the children be baptised and brought up in the Catholic Church;
2. The other party is to be informed in good time of these promises to be made by the Catholic party, so that it is certain that he or she is truly aware of the promise and of the obligation of the Catholic party.
3. Both parties are to be instructed about the purposes and essential properties of
marriage, which are not to be excluded by either contractant.

Canon 1126. It is for the Episcopal Conference to prescribe the manner in which these declarations and promises, which are always required, are to be made, and to determine how they are to be established in the external forum, and
how the non-catholic party is to be informed of them.

So:

  • If the Reyes were validly married, Mrs. Reyes was made aware of Mr. Reyes' intention to baptize and raise their children Catholic from before the marriage ever took place. If that's the case, it's an easy question under both US and canon law: baptize the baby and raise it Catholic. Mrs. Reyes is free to introduce the child to Judaism as well, if she wishes, but Mr. Reyes has an obligation before God and His Church which he promised (and she consented to, in writing). What's more, Canon 1128 and 1129 makes it clear that bishops and pastors have a real interest (and duty) to watch over children from these sorts of marriages to ensure that they're getting solid Catholic formation, which obviously includes Baptism. That's why I think that this whole fiasco could have been easily avoided by simply obeying the Church.
  • On the other hand, if Canon 1125's conditions weren't all met, the Reyes were never married in the eyes of God - canon 1086 calls the marriage "invalid," not just "illicit," and canon 1126 makes it clear that bishops can't simply dispense with canon 1125. So if that's the case, the marriage is ripe for annulment. That said, Mr. Reyes is still the father of his baby, and can still have her baptized: indeed, he has a moral obligation under Can. 867 §1 to see to her Baptism "in the first few weeks," but as always, this is true only if there is "a founded hope that the infant will be brought up in the Catholic religion" (Can. 868 §1(2). Since Mr. Reyes is the non-custodial parent, and has a pretty flaky religious track record (converting to Judaism upon the birth of his daughter), there's some founded hope, perhaps, but not much, that she'll be raised Catholic.

One final note: Mr. Reyes has an ongoing obligation to ensure that his daughter is raised as a Catholic. This is a specific obligation spelled out under Canon Law, and also found in the Catechism. Yet a judge is now barring this same daughter from being exposed to any non-Jewish religion. Which means that the judge has specifically enjoined the free exercise of Mr. Reyes' religion, since that religion includes raising children Catholic, as well. The judge's injunction is indefensible with any respect for the First Amendment. He's both prohibiting the Free Exercise of Mr. Reye's Catholic religion and potentially treading close to "establishing" Mrs. Reyes' Jewish religion. On the other hand, permitting Mr. Reyes to expose his daughter to Catholicism doesn't "establish" it, it simply allows it to be practiced by adherents. It's an easy case under the First Amendment, and (as I mentioned), easier still if canon law was followed.

Invalid v. Illicit Ordinations

The Catholic Church refers to some things as "valid but illicit" (such as the SSPX's decision to ordain priests without prior permission from the pope), and other things as "invalid" (such as women's ordination). For this post, I chose ordination, specifically, but what I'm saying here applies to everything considered "valid but illicit" v. "invalid."

There's an easy way to understand the difference between "illicit" and "invalid." In Exodus 17:6, God gives Moses the ability to strike a certain rock, and bring water forth from it: this is later identified (1 Cor. 10:4) as a foreshadowing of Christ. Well, in Numbers 20:7, God tells Moses to speak to the rock, and water will come forward. Apparently, this struck Moses as just too bizarre, so he struck the rock (twice) instead (Numbers 20:11). God punishes Moses for disobeying Him by refusing to let Moses into the Promised Land (Numbers 20:12), but it's significant that when Moses struck the rock illicitly, "Water gushed out, and the community and their livestock drank" (Numbers 20:11). So that striking of the rock was valid but illicit. It still produced water, it just wasn't done in the prescribed way. Had some random person taken a stick in beaten the rock, it would have been invalid, and nothing would happen. Invalid actions are, by definition, illicit. You can't licitly do something invalid.

The consequences of a valid but illicit ordination mean that the ordained person is, in fact, a priest (or a bishop, if that's what you're ordaining them to). An invalid ordination, on the other hand, is just a sham, like the priests of Ba'al trying to call down fire from Heaven. Since valid but illicit and invalid ordinations are all illicit, they're all punishable - in this case, by automatic excommunication. So the excommunicated SSPX bishops, for example, are both bishops and excommunicated. Women attempting ordination become excommunicated, but don't become bishops.

Like I said in the beginning, I chose ordination to explain this distinction, but there are plenty of other things which could have been chosen. The Latin Church has opted to use unleavened bread only for the Eucharist. Using bread with yeast is valid but illicit: the Eucharist occurs, but it's still a punishable sin of disobedience. On the other hand, using something besides bread, or using mixing in honey, eggs, etc., means that the Eucharist never occurs: it's invalid (of course, it's still punishable, sinful disobedience).

Friday, February 19, 2010

Edgardo Mortara, Revisited

In the Papal States in 1852, a teenaged Catholic housekeeper named Anna Morisi baptized a seriously ill Jewish baby who she feared would soon die. In fact, that child, Edgardo Mortara, quickly recovered, but was now a baptized Catholic. Unfortuantely, Mortara's parents were Jewish, and under civil law in the Papal States, were forbidden to raise Christian children.
Since this was in the Papal States, both the Church and State faced a serious crisis. Should they separate the family, causing serious pain and international outrage? Or permit a Baptized Catholic to be raised in ignorance of both his Baptism and Catholicism?

Pope Piux IX decided on the former course of action. In the face of international outrage, the Church decided that the boy should be separated from his family and given a proper Catholic upbringing, and sent in civil authorities to enforce the order. Edgardo, by this point nearly seven years old, was entrusted to Canon Enrico Sarra, rector of the Institute of Neophytes at Saint Mary of the Mountains. Sarra, in turn, ensured that young Edgardo recieved the best Catholic education available. Meanwhile, Edgardo's biological parents were permitted to see him, but not to take him home with them. Edgardo was warm to them, but as he recounts it, never expressed a desire to go back with them. He felt called by the Holy Spirit. In a somewhat remarkable turn, young Edgardo grew up to be Fr. Pio Maria, a Catholic priest and scholar. He would later present his life story as a witness to advocate for the canonization of the Holy Father, Pope Piux IX.

I've always found this case sort of fascinating, because it has so many hard questions. Breaking up a family seems obviously wrong. Lots of those questions are being asked once again, given this recent case. Here are the facts you need to know: Joseph Reyes married Rebecca, and the two had a kid. He converted to Judaism when his daughter was born, and according to Rebecca, promised to raise their child Jewish (although Joseph denies making the claim). Then, the two split up. Joseph reverted to Catholicism, and had their daughter Baptized. He then sent his estranged wife photos of the Baptism, seemingly out of spite. She went to the court.

As with the Edgardo Morara case, the state stepped in. But here, the state stepped in to declare that Joseph couldn't expose his daughter to any religion but Judaism. He's since disobeyed the order. He took his now three year-old daughter to Holy Name Cathedral, and was arraigned on charges of violating a court order.

I've actually been pretty shocked at the Reyes case. I realize that Joseph Reyes seems like sort of a jerk from the facts, and probably is exposing his daughter to Christianity to (a) spite his soon to be ex-wife, and (b) challenge the legality of the judge's totally insane order (Joseph's a 2L at John Marshall Law School). Still... a court order forcing you to raise the daughter Jewish or atheist is just in no way Constitutional. What a strange age we live in!

This Rock

An earlier post by Joe describes the Catholic understanding of Matthew 16:18. Something that is not taken into account enough when discussing this verse is the location in which it was uttered. After a pilgrimage in the Holy Land a couple years ago, I can't hear this verse without the tremendous geological and cultural backdrop of the moment coming to mind. Soon to be transitional deacon Nick Blaha, a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Kansas City in Kansas who is finishing his pilgrimage in the Holy Land, has an excellent description of what I mean:

Our travels have brought us to the most extreme northern portion of our pilgrimage. The day began with a visit to the headwaters of the Jordan river known as “Banyas,” an Arabic form of the original Greek name of Paneas. True to its name, this site was dedicated to the Greek nature god Pan, and a temple was erected in front of the cave from which the waters of the Jordan once sprang. In the decades prior to Jesus’ life, Herod’s son Philip rededicated the area to Caesar (and tacked on an honorific to himself in the process—hence, Caesarea Philippi was its Roman name). Scripture enthusiasts will recognize this name as the place where Jesus posed a remarkable question to his disciples: “Who do you say that I am?” Today, it is recognized as the place in which Peter made the first confession of Christ’s divinity, and in acknowledgment of which Jesus promised to build his Church upon the rock of Peter’s faith.

This event is all the more fascinating given the context of the conversation. Given that the city had long been a center of pagan worship of Pan (regarded as the son of Zeus), Jesus’ question is all the more meaningful. Against the backdrop of a deity resembling a bizarre mixture of man and goat, the God-man is revealed not as a monstrosity but as the ultimate harmonization of the Creator and the creature. In fact, it is in Christ that human beings most truly become what they are.
At the foot of the daunting rock face where the Greek god of shepherds was worshipped, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, appoints a new shepherd for his people that will lead all true shepherds in right worship. It is in the midst of a Pantheon of Opinion that the Truth speaks. It sounds like the Pantheon of Opinion is again being honored in some circles (well, unless you are Catholic).

Funny Clip About Pope Benedict

Is it one of the most over-used Internet phenomenon? Yes. Is it still hilarious? Also yes. Plus, how can I pass up a video which, in under 4 minutes, summarizes what I've taken a year to say about Pope Benedict, National Catholic Reporter, the new Mass translation, the Pope's ecumenical outreach to the Anglicans, the young orthodox upswell in Catholicism, and so on?




I think my work here is done!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Two More Ash Wednesday Reflections

A few more thoughts struck me after I went to Ash Wednesday Mass last night. Since St. Mary's is remodeling, weekday masses are held in the Lyceum, normally. But the Lyceum is way too small to handle the expected Ash Wednesday crowd, so it was in the gym instead. The crowd was enormous -- it was hard to compare to a normal Mass, since it was in a totally different building, but the bleachers and the vast majority of the chairs set up on the gym floor were filled.

The Popularity of Ash Wednesday
That actually relates to the first thing I thought about. I saw a homily which claims that Ash Wednesday is usually one of the top three or four most-attended Masses of the year, "outside of Christmas, Easter and perhaps Palm Sunday." My gut is that's accurate, or close to it. It was nice to see VP Biden with what a British newscaster thought was a bruise. Lots of people you don't necessarily see on Sundays are there at Ash Wednesday. Which is all the more bizarre, because Ash Wednesday isn't a Holy Day of Obligation. You have to fast, but the ashes are totally optional. I've been trying to figure out why Ash Wednesday is so popular. Here are a few possibilities:
  1. People can tell if you've gone. I joked yesterday that if we marked all the Catholics who showed up on Sundays, we'd see a lot more of them. My dad said that growing up, in Catholic areas it was like a marker showing you were a "good Catholic" (I think I can save pointing out the ridiculous irony of a mark of penance being used as a source of pride). I'm inclined to think that #1 isn't as big of a motive as I'd previously thought, because the crowded Mass I went to was at 7:30 PM, so if the people attending were overly concerned what their officemates or neighbors thought about their forehead and their soul, you'd think they would have made one of the early-morning Masses. Everyone there spent the day with a bare forehead.
  2. It's noticeable. This is sort of the opposite of #1. I think that people with ash crosses on their foreheads are a walking advertisement for the Faith. Lots of people who haven't been to Mass in a long time probably have a pestering voice inside urging them to go. Yesterday, they also had lots of external reminders that they haven't been in a while.
  3. It speaks to a real human need. This is the theory I'm sort of partial to. Having at least one day (or two, if you count New Year's) where you resolve to do better -- and in this case, throw yourself upon the mercy of God to do better -- is something which millions of people seem to realize they need. It explains why Ash Wednesday is popular outside of Catholicism while other big feasts, like Pentecost, aren't. I think that the existence of secular New Year's resolutions suggests that this need is visible even to those who've given up on the idea of a saving God.
Those are all just theories I've sort of pondered in the last day. Maybe there's an element of truth to all three, maybe there's some other reason I just don't get.

The Significance of the Palms
The second thing I'd thought about was the symbolism of the ashes themselves. If you're not familiar, the ashes for Ash Wednesday come from the Palms used for Palm Sunday. The religious significance here is pretty fascinating. Palm Sunday commemorates the Jewish crowds welcoming Jesus into Jerusalem. At the time, they thought of Him as a political leader. By week's end, many of these same individuals were cheering for His Crucifixion, and calling for the release of Barabbas instead of Him. It's the ultimate cautionary tale about trying to mold Christ into our expectations, rather than mold ourselves off of Christ's. It was the first and most important rebuke of the Marxist strands of "Liberation Theology" and any attempts to conjure up Jesus the Politician; or Jesus my Homeboy; or Jesus the Banker who wants to give me wealth and health instead of making me take up my Cross and follow Him. And more generally, it's a stinging reminder of how short-lived our "good intentions" are. We try too often to accept Jesus on our terms, rather than His.

For the "Procession of Palms" for Palm Sunday, we read Lk 19:28-40, which is the account of the people laying the palms down for Jesus on His journey into Jerusalem. Verse 40 is a strange place to stop, because the next four verses are startling:
As he drew near, he saw the city and wept over it, saying, "If this day you only knew what makes for peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. For the days are coming upon you when your enemies will raise a palisade against you; they will encircle you and hem you in on all sides. They will smash you to the ground and your children within you, and they will not leave one stone upon another within you because you did not recognize the time of your visitation."
So here's Jesus being welcomed into the Jeru-Salem (literally, City of Peace), because people think He's going to bring peace through the sword. Let's point out one thing briefly: even though what makes for peace is hidden from the people's eyes, it's because of the hardness of their own hearts. Jesus is literally weeping over this: He isn't delighting that He's made some reprobates which He doesn't love and who never had a hope for salvation because they weren't elect. He's held out His hand, and it's been spit upon so many times that He's pulling it back. But more importantly for the subject at hand, the welcome to Jerusalem He's getting isn't making Him happy.

How fitting then, that we should take those palms and destroy them, burning them to ashes, and wear those ashes as a sign of repentance. It reminds me of nothing so much as Bp. Fulton Sheen's beautiful Christmas commentary, which alludes to the Nativity prophesy in Isaiah 1:3:
“In the filthiest place in the world, a stable, Purity was born. He, Who was later to be slaughtered by men acting as beasts was born among beasts. He Who would call Himself the living Bread descended from Heaven was laid in a manger, literally a place to eat. The Jews had worshiped the golden calf, and the Greeks the ass. The ox and the ass now were present to make their reparation, bowing down before their God.”

Likewise, Ash Wednesday is a time when the palms from Palm Sunday can come and make their reparation, taking up their Cross, just as the ash-bearers do.

Seems Like Only Yesteryear

I mentioned last month that in its coverage of the 2010 March for Life, Newsweek reported:
“The organizers are getting older, and it’s more difficult for them to walk a long distance,” says Stanley Radzilowski, an officer in the planning unit for the Washington, D.C., police department. A majority of the participants are in their 60s and were the original pioneers either for or against the case, he says.
So this raises the question: where are the young, vibrant women supporting their pro-life or pro-choice positions? Likely, they’re at home.

Now, Newsweek's "reporting," such as it was, was so thorough that this report was filed before the March even began. So maybe they're basing it off of previous years? Well, let's look at the coverage given the 2009 March for Life, by Newsweek:
Sister Sharon Dillon has been attending the annual March for Life for 20 years. A pro-life activist since high school, the 50-year-old former director of the Franciscan Federation doesn't agree with Roe v. Wade—the 1973 Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion. But as strong as her convictions are, she's also frustrated with the kind of single-minded activism she sees around her: young girls chanting, "hey hey, ho ho, Roe v. Wade has got to go!" "So much time has elapsed since Roe," says Dillon. "I think among veterans, like me, few if any, think the Supreme Court is going to overturn it."

So in 2009, the Marchers are a bunch of idealistic young girls who don't realize that Roe will never get overturned. By 2010, they're now "mostly in their 60s." Those 2009 protesters grew up so fast.

What Do Men Say Matthew 16:18 Means?

I recently got to see Catholicism proved through negation. Stacey and Chris have attempted to inject a bit of Catholic clarity and charity into an anti-Catholic conversation (as I did briefly) on this post, and they've just been getting slammed with hostile comments and told in no uncertain terms that, while the blog has literally dedicated hundreds of posts to gossiping about Catholicism, real-life intelligent and charitable Catholics aren't welcome. Hearing from Chris was termed "a monumental waste of time" when he questioned their use of the term "Scripture," when Catholics and Protestants don't agree on the canon. The moderator said "there’s no point in casting any additional pearls" to Chris. Quoting Matthew 7:6 to suggest another Christian is a swine who shouldn't even be given the pearls of the "true Gospel" is gut-wrenching, and more than mildly ironic (apparently, Matthew 7:1-5 were just totally glossed over to get to the proof-text). Apparently, you can only preach of the supposed errors of Catholicism to non-Catholics.

In deciding to ban Chris and Stacey, the moderator said "Stacy and Chris are representing Rome," and since by his warped logic, Catholics preach a different Gospel, they're anathema, and "DefCon will not be a platform for the heretical doctrines of Rome. It would defeat the whole purpose of the blog, would it not?" Apparently, interacting with real Catholics on theological issues distracted from posts about how one blogger's Catholic grandparents are hell-bound, and another's Catholic aunt is in hell. Not a very Christian blog.

But that doesn't mean God can't have some fun with it. In the midst of this debacle was a fascinating three-comment series in which three different individuals ganged up on Stacey to teach her about what Matthew 16:17-19 really means. Only trouble is, they can't seem to figure it out themselves. First up, a blogger named Lyn, who goes by the handle "unworthy1," says:
Stacey, your misconceptions of Peter and the rock are due to RCC false teachings…notice the context of the verse,’you are Peter and upon THIS ROCK’ if Christ were talking to Peter, why didn’t he say, ‘You are Peter and upon YOU’. It is clear Christ was referring to the foundation of his church, which is what Peter means, i.e. rock. He wasn’t building His church on Peter, but on the meaning of Peter’s name, rock.

Then, Steve Martin (not the actor) corrects Lyn:

The rock upon which the Church was(is) built…is Peter’s confession of faith, not the man Peter.

Then, Manfred (not Manfred Mann, the band) corrects them both:

It was not Peter or his confession upon which Christ built the church. Christ is the cornerstone rejected by the Jewish leaders. He is the Rock of refuge and the firm foundation of everything that will pass through the fires of judgment. On Christ the solid Rock I stand, all other ground is sinking sand.

So who is right? Lyn claims that Peter and Rock are interchangable terms, and Jesus is saying He'll build on Rock. Not Peter, but another (this) Rock. Steve claims Jesus will build on Peter's confession. And Manfred claims that Jesus will build upon Himself, expressly denying that Jesus built upon Peter's confession. No unision - just a lot of snarky in-fighting. Let's go back to the passage from Matthew 16. It starts out in Matthew 16:13-14,
13When Jesus came to the region of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, "Who do people say the Son of Man is?"
14They replied, "Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets."

Left to the whims of individual interpretation, there can be no unity. Everyone heard the same things from Christ, but they interpreted the importance of it in different and contradictory ways. Which sounds shockingly like what just happened between Lyn, Steve, and Manfred, when attempting to interpret Matthew 16:18: "Some say a different rock, some say Peter's confession, some say Jesus Himself." Then Jesus asks the Twelve:
15"But what about you?" he asked. "Who do you say I am?"

And Peter answers, speaking on behalf of the Twelve:
16Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."

So Peter's right while the masses are wrong. At which point:
17Jesus replied, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.
So Peter's authority doesn't come from the Twelve agreeing on the right answer and choosing him. No, it comes directly from God the Father. Jesus has now begun to bless Peter by his birth name, Simon, son of Jonah. He continues with the verse in question:
18And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.

The language Jesus said these words in, Aramaic, has one word for Rock. So His words are "you are Rock, and on this Rock I will build My Church." The reason He doesn't say "you" is because it's Simon as Peter. It's not Simon, the weak man, but Peter, guided by the Holy Spirit. Just as today, we're not bound to follow the theologian Joseph Ratzinger, but we are bound to follow Pope Benedict XVI. If Jesus meant to say, "you are Rock, and on a different Rock, I will build My Church," He couldn't have found a less clear way to say so. Likewise if He meant, "you are Rock, and upon Myself, also a Rock, I will build My Church," He probably could have found a clearer manner in which to express that thought. For one thing, if He means to say "I am going to build My Church upon Myself," or "upon faith in Myself as the Christ," He wouldn't have brought this up in the middle of blessing Simon, son of Jonah and renaming him Rock. That leaves the third interpretation, that Jesus meant "I am going to build My Church upon faith like yours." The next verse shows this interpretation as just wrong:
19I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven."

He gives specific authority to Peter: the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and the binding/loosening power. Later (Matthew 18:18) He gives the Twelve collectively the binding/loosening power, which shows the distinction and complimentarity between Papacy and Church Council. But the Keys are given only to Peter, and parallel Christ's own Authority (Revelation 1:18). If Christ meant for His blessing to apply to everyone with faith, why intermix it with power given only to Peter?

So not only are Lyn, Steve, and Manfred all wrong, but they're a house divided against themselves. They loudly proclaim their own private interpretation of Scripture correct, but aren't even in harmony with each other. Which is, not incidentally, exactly why Jesus established a Rock to be perpetually visible upon Earth: Peter. Of course, Peter doesn't replace Christ, just as Peter's having the Keys doesn't replace Christ's having the Keys, and Peter being the Shepherd (John 10:1-10; John 21:15-17) doesn't replace Christ's being the Shepherd (John 10:14; Hebrews 13:20; 1 Peter 5:4). But it does create the very sort of Christian unity we should expect to find in the True Kingdom. As for Lyn, Steve, and Manfred, I agree with each of them that the other two are wrong, and would suggest only that their confusion points to a real spiritual need to humbly follow those shepherds appointed by Christ (cf. Jeremiah 3:15; Jeremiah 23:4; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:2), including the successor to Peter, rather than choosing our own shepherds.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jesus on the Oneness of the Church

From Matthew 12:22-30,
22Then they brought him a demon-possessed man who was blind and mute, and Jesus healed him, so that he could both talk and see. 23All the people were astonished and said, "Could this be the Son of David?"
24But when the Pharisees heard this, they said, "It is only by Beelzebub, the prince of demons, that this fellow drives out demons."
25Jesus knew their thoughts and said to them,
"Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand.
26If Satan drives out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then can his kingdom stand? 27And if I drive out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your people drive them out? So then, they will be your judges. 28But if I drive out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.
29"Or again, how can anyone enter a strong man's house and carry off his possessions unless he first ties up the strong man? Then he can rob his house.
30"He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.

So Christ has announced that with His arrival into the world, the Kingdom of God has come. But He also makes it very clear that "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined." So the Kingdom of God must not be divided against itself. The success of the Gospel depends on having One Church, rather than many churches vying to be the Kingdom of God on Earth.

Ash Wednesday!

Today's Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent!

1. What the Ash Wednesday Fast Consists Of
This is from St. Mary's bulletin from this past Sunday:
FAST AND ABSTINENCE: Everyone over 14 years of age is bound to observe abstinence (NO MEAT). ABSTINENCE IS TO BE OBSERVED ON ALL FRIDAYS OF LENT AND ON ASH WEDNESDAY.

On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, everyone between the ages of 18 and 60 years of age is bound to observe the law of fast. On these two days ONLY ONE FULL MEATLESS MEAL IS ALLOWED. Two other meatless meals, sufficient to maintain strength, may be taken according to each one’s needs; but together they should not equal another full meal.

The only thing that I would add to that is that water and medication are also permitted. Ash Wednesday shouldn't leave you sick. It should just be a spiritual reminder of the sufferings of Christ.

2. The Biblical Basis for Days of Fasting
I've heard it argued that days like Ash Wednesday aren't in keeping with the Christian message; that since we're now a redeemed, "Easter people," there's not a need or a place for days of fasting. Jesus disagrees with this assessment in Luke 5:33-35:
They said to him, "John's disciples often fast and pray, and so do the disciples of the Pharisees, but yours go on eating and drinking." Jesus answered, "Can you make the guests of the bridegroom fast while he is with them? But the time will come when the bridegroom will be taken from them; in those days they will fast."

And indeed, even after Easter, we see the Apostles fasting to allow the Holy Spirit more room to work in their lives, as Acts 13:2-3 and Acts 14:23 demonstrate. Note also that in both Acts 13 and 14, everyone's fasting together. Which means that there were communal days of fasting from the time of the Apostles. Fasting is also intended as a time of spiritual preparation: once Easter has arrived, that's a time for rejoicing and not fasting. As Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, "There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven..." A good Lent is the preparation for a great Easter. The celebration of the arrival of Easter prepares us for the arrival of the Bridegroom, Christ, at His Second Coming, and like Jesus says, "Can you make the guests of the Bridegroom fast while He is with them?"

3. Purposes of Ash Wednesday and Lent
It's spring cleaning, or to use a better metaphor, "Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses, let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles, and let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1). Note that the verse mentions two separate categories: sin (which entangles), and everything that hinders. Entangling is worse than hindering. A runner can still run with a backpack on, but he can't run if he's caught in the briar patch, or his shoes are tied together. The first hinders, the second entangles. So let Lent be a time both to throw off sin, and throw off all of the bad habits which, while not rising to the level of sin, can weigh us down.

I find that even a lot of non-Catholics enjoy Lent as a time of spiritual reparation and preparation, because it speaks to our real need to amend our ways when we periodically get off course. It's the same desire that leads people to make New Year's Resolutions. Anyways, a few thoughts:
  1. The goal of fasting is spiritual, not physical. The First Reading today is from Joel 2:12-18, and begins: "Even now, says the LORD, return to me with your whole heart,with fasting, and weeping, and mourning; Rend your hearts, not your garments,and return to the LORD, your God." I like the verse because it shows the appropriate role and relationship between external actions (like fasting, weeping, and mourning) and internal realities (like "rend[ing] your heart"). As the passage continues, there's a call to "Blow the trumpet in Zion! Proclaim a fast, call an assembly; Gather the people..." making it clear that the fasting God is calling for is both external and communal. But that external action is designed to lead to internal actions, like turning your heart back to God.
  2. Don't let your Lenten resolutions lead you to greater sin. The Gospel today is from Matthew 6:1-6 and Matthew 6:16-18, about how fasting can lead you into greater sins, like pride.
  3. Give up what you feel you can't. I usually try and find the things which I feel like I can't do without, or which I'm aware are the hardest to do without. This year, it's going to be soda and iPhone games. Both are things which are hinderances: bad for my health in the first case, bad usage of my time in the second.
  4. Give up, then give. Here's a cool idea: the early Christians used to take the money which they would have spent on food for the day, and then give it to the poor. It's charitable, but it's more than that: it removes the temptation to view fasting as a way to save money, and avoids sins like greed.
  5. Fill the gap. We're intentionally creating a gap in our lives: a gap where things like eating full meals, or drinking soda, or spending time on ridiculous cell phones games once stood. The gap may be one of time, or money, or both. Work to fill that gap with something spiritual. Maybe you do like the early Christians and give the saved money to the poor, or to the Church. Or maybe you take the time you would be spending watching TV, and use it reading the Bible or solid Catholic books.

Finally, offer it up. There will be times when you're suffering during Lent, deprived of something you want, or feeling hungry, or perhaps even being the butt of jokes for having ashes on your forehead. The best thing that you can do is to just offer your sufferings up to Christ, ask that they be united with His own, and that they serve to edify and help you grow spiritually; or offer the sufferings up for the souls in Purgatory, so that we may suffer in some way in union with them (1 Corinthians 12:26). Fish Eaters explains Catholic views on this, but as usual, be cautious with their stuff. Less substantially, but more beautifully, Amy Welborne wrote a good piece after her husband died unexpectedly of all of the beautiful spiritual generosity provided by others in a post which maybe best explains why we "offer it up."

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

The Anglican Use Experiment

Today is my last of four days in Kansas City. It's been an eventful weekend, with a sorta-surprise birthday party for me (my birthday isn't until next month, but this is my last time in town for a while), my parent's anniversary (on Valentine's Day), President's Day (errr, Washington's Birthday), Mardi Gras (today), and so forth. It's gotta be an incredible rarity to have Valentine's Day, President's Day, Mardi Gras, and Ash Wednesday on four consecutive days -- if anyone knows the frequency, I'd be curious.

Anyways, in addition to everything else, my little brother Ben and I went to an Anglican Use Mass, the form of Mass based upon the Book of Divine Worship, and specially designed for converts from Anglicanism. The Mass was at St. Therese Little Flower parish over on 5814 Euclid Avenue. It's a struggling part of town (I actually grew up not terribly far from there), and the parish is majority-minority, as I understand, but with a small, mostly-white group of former Anglicans. This unique makeup has lead to some intraparish tensions, but it's also lead to some pretty interesting liturgical choices:
Our Gospel Choir lends to a very spiritual and upbeat liturgy at our Sunday, 9:15 am Mass. We are also privileged to be the first Catholic parish in the Kansas City area to host an Anglican Use Mass, held Sunday mornings at 11:15 am.
It's incredibly unique in this regard: there are literally no other parishes which offer these two forms of Mass every Sunday. Parishoners thank the pastor, Fr. Ernie Davis, who -by the way - has an interesting blog addressing Anglican Use issues amongst other things. Fr. Davis is, by the way, a married priest with three kids, so that's sort of unique.

My little brother's only 14, but he's incredibly smart and very holy. For example, night before last, we went to a burger place, and he explained why he prefers Aristotelian logic to modern symbolic logic while we waited for our food. So having him along was a boon, since it provided a couple interesting perspectives. Here's our pro and con list from our personal experience:

Pros
  • The Mass is celebrated ad orientum, with the priest turning to the people when speaking to them, and towards the liturgical east when speaking to God. It's the better way to do things, in my opinion.
  • Beautiful, traditional liturgy
  • It's closer to the Latin texts. For instance, when the priest says "The Lord be with you," we respond "and with thy spirit," which is what the Latin says, rather than "and also with you," which is the normal Roman Rite "translation."
  • Incredible Eucharistic prayers. Right before Communion, the people say in unison:
    We do not presume to come to this thy Table, O merciful Lord, trusting in our own righteousness, but in thy manifold and great mercies. We are not worthy so much as to gather up the crumbs under thy Table. But thou art the same Lord whose property is always to have mercy. Grant us therefore, gracious Lord, so to eat the Flesh of thy dear Son Jesus Christ, and to drink his Blood, that we may evermore dwell in him, and he in us. Amen.
  • Songs are all orthodox, carefully chosen, etc.
  • Everyone receives the Eucharist while kneeling on the kneelers at the front of the church. There's no Communion rail anymore, but I wouldn't be shocked if one were restored.
  • It's a good preview where the Roman Rite seems to be headed, particularly with the new translations, and the greater emphasis on the centrality of the Eucharist, and the reverence due Christ in the Eucharist.
  • Because Anglican Use doesn't attract a lot of people, and St. Therese is a small parish community anyways, everyone knew everyone, and everyone greeted us afterwards.
Cons
  • The songs are hard to sing. They use old chant melodies, and often will hold a word or phrase or note much longer than Ben or I were used to.
  • Related to the first, the Anglican Use Mass (at least this one) wasn't "let's sing verse 1 of this song." It was "let's sing all 5 verses," at the entrance, the recessional, and right after the Gospel. Probably wouldn't have been that bad, if the songs weren't so hard.
  • Since we were new to it, we both had our noses in the Missalette more than either of us would have liked.
  • The Gospel is sung. I actually enjoyed this, but Ben found it harder to follow what was being said.
  • It seems unnecessary to me to use Old English. Some people get a lot out of this, because there's a natural tendency to want to use a distinct prayer language. For the Jews, it was Hebrew (while the vernacular was Aramaic, and later, Yiddish); For Catholics for centuries, it was Latin (with various vernaculars); For Protestants (including Anglicans), it's often King James English, as if God speaks in thee's and thy's. To an extent, Old English adds an element of reverence: "Thy will be done" just sounds more reverent than "Your will be done," even if there's no great rational reason. But there were points where Ben particularly seemed confused about what the phrasing even meant.
  • Sadly, not many people were there. We were about halfway back on the left side, and there were only three people in front of us. Total, there were maybe 20 people there or so, on a Sunday.
  • The homily was from an Ethiopian priest for Catholic Relief Services, so I feel like we didn't come on the best Sunday -- we didn't get to hear the pastor's homily, or get quite the same feel for how things are "normally" done.
Overall, we liked it a lot. Most of the Cons we had were due to our own inexperience, the newness of the Mass in that parish, and the generic homily. And while both Ben and I wished more people were there, the small community had some serious benefits. After every Anglican Use Mass, everyone goes downstairs and has lunch together. One of the women in the congregation was seriously a good cook, and we sat with her family and munched on some delicious food. She'd also made truffles, and Ben inadvertently had rum (which was in some of the truffles) for the first time. The parishioners were amazing. One of them had worked in the rectory at St. Francis Xavier with my great-aunt Josephine (for whom I'm named), and she regaled us with plenty of stories. A few others asked my brother lots of questions about Aquinas High School. Everyone seemed to know everyone else by name, and yet really appreciated us newcomers.

For himself, Fr. Davies was incredibly charitable and welcoming. I get the feeling he's liturgically orthodox but very invested in social issues as well, which is the perfect match, particularly for a parish like St. Therese Little Flower. He's a vegetarian, but a pastor first. I actually saw this for myself -- a parishoner had made Mexican chili and really wanted his opinion. And this chili wasn't mildly meaty - it had no beans. It was basically chunks of meat in spicy sauce. Fr. Davies explained he was vegetarian, but said he wouldn't refuse it if the parishioner made him a bowl. And he didn't. I was pretty impressed, because I know how hard that must have been for him.

I asked him how it was that he converted, and he said that it was pretty simple, really: "I realized I wasn't Catholic." He'd been living as an Anglican priest, imagining that the Anglican Church was really just the Catholic Church of England (as many Anglo-Catholics imagine it to be), and that the only real difference was one of polity. He said he started to notice that the Anglican Church didn't act like the Catholic Church, and that he increasingly realized that he wasn't in the Catholic Church - so he corrected it. Really, he made the whole thing seem almost like some simple error (whoops, wrong address! I meant to be pastor at the Catholic Church down the street), but I think he's just not trying to over-dramatize his conversion. Father made no attempt to disguise the fact that real tensions exist within the parish, and I got the impression that the mostly-white Anglican Use parishoners were viewed as unwelcome intruders with a stuffy liturgy. I commend the parishioners who really are committed to unity within the Body of Christ for sticking it out and learning to love their brethren across both racial and liturgical lines.

If you're in a part of the country which offers the Anglican Use Mass, I really do think that you should stop in and check it out, and maybe let me know what you think. Also, check out the Order of the Mass according to the Book of Divine Worship, available here. It's short enough to read through in one sitting.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Happy Presidents' Day?

Today's the bank holiday popularly known as Presidents' Day, but technically known as Washington's Birthday. Peter Roff at US News & World Report finds this "a Ridiculous Insult to George Washington," because we're celebrating all the presidents, good and bad, rather than just George Washington. The result, he argues, was that the holiday caused George Washington to begin "his slow descent from the pantheon of immortals that have guided this nation for more than 200 years." The solution Roff proposes is that Washington's Birthday "must be reclaimed in his honor, and his alone as part of an effort to reaffirm our shared national heritage." It's sort of sola Washington for civic religionists. To reaffirm our "shared national heritage," we have to stop celebrating the other presidents comprising that heritage because some of those presidents weren't immortals.

Roff's argument is given in expressly religious terms with a "pantheon of immortals that have guided this nation for more than 200 years." It reminds me of the painting on the ceiling of the U.S. Capitol Building appropriately titled The Apotheosis of Washington (apotheosis, by the way, means "to make a god"). Here's what the center of the fresco looks like:


If you can't tell, that's George Washington sitting as God in Heaven, with a lot of American angels surrounding him. The fresco is more than mildly unsettling. Washington was a great president, but he had his fair share of serious mistakes which are worth thoughtful consideration rather than idolatry.

Equally disturbing is the Lincoln Memorial. It's patterned off of the Doric Temple of Zeus in Olympia, and contains the inscription over the statue of Lincoln:

IN THIS TEMPLE
AS IN THE HEARTS OF THE PEOPLE
FOR WHOM HE SAVED THE UNION
THE MEMORY OF ABRAHAM LINCOLN
IS ENSHRINED FOREVER

In this Temple??? This is civic religion at its most explicit: portraying Washington and Lincoln as gods to be worshiped, rather than civil servants to be admired.

I actually hope that Peter Roff is right, and that Presidents' Day begins a path towards considering our Founding Fathers more sanely.

John MacArthur on Sola Scriptura and Justification

I.
John MacArthur often has thoughtful and interesting things to say: just not, typically, on Catholicism. On this topic, he says things like:
While there are many errors in the teaching of the Catholic Church (for example its belief in the transubstantiation of the communion wafer and its view of Mary), two rise to the forefront and call for special attention: its denial of the doctrine of sola Scriptura and its denial of the biblical teaching on justification. To put it simply, because the Roman Catholic Church has refused to submit itself to the authority of God’s Word and to embrace the gospel of justification taught in Scripture, it has set itself apart from the true body of Christ.
Of course, these doctrines are products of the Reformation, and even the Calvinist scholar and historian Alister McGrath has admitted that Protestant views on justification are a "theological novum," in that they weren't taught by anyone anywhere prior to the Reformation. In fact, no pre-Reformation Church -- the Coptics, the Eastern Orthodox, the Oriental Orthodox, or the Catholics -- believes either of these tenets.

So to put it simply, if you have to believe these two things to be part of the "true Body of Christ," His Body simply wasn't present on Earth from the time of His death until the Reformation.

II.
But besides that, let's consider the obvious. Lots of Reformed preachers declare that Catholicism preaches a "Different Gospel" because She affirms the historic Christian view of justification, rather than the warped novelty. Based on this, a number of Protestants feel free to declare out-of-hand that Catholics aren't Christians. But let's assume that everyone on Earth was wrong about justification for a millennium and a half. Would this mean She was cut off from the Body of Christ?

It would certainly mean that She wasn't the Body of Christ, since the Bride of Christ contains no doctrinal errors. But She could still be a part of the Body, since the members of the Body are themselves individually imperfect. I'm at a consistent loss for why Calvinists (and that's who it usually is) can declare that Catholics aren't Christian because they don't toe the Reformed line on justification. Why not declare that Baptists aren't Christian because they don't toe the Reformed line on infant baptism? If the standard of Christianity becomes how closely one's Faith matches the writings and Biblical interpretations of a handful of sixteenth century Europeans (a pretty arbitrary standard, in my estimate), why not say things like "To put it simply, because the Baptist Church has refused to submit itself to the authority of God’s Word and to embrace the gospel of infant baptism taught in Scripture, it has set itself apart from the true body of Christ."

Who died and left self-righteous Calvinists like John MacArthur in charge of deciding membership in the Body of Christ? Certainly, not Christ (Matthew 16:17-19); He died and left someone else in charge, if memory serves. In fairness to Calvinists, MacArthur's view isn't the only one; but it's certainly the view which was popularly held by many American Calvinists for the last few centuries.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Brainloose!

Kate Childs Graham begins her most recent contribution to National Catholic Reporter's Young Voices blog, "Most weekends, I wake up early and tip-toe downstairs before my partner stirs." Yup. Not only is she an avowed lesbian, but she's cohabitating. Openly and proudly, even, and using it as an intro for an anecdote ostensibly about Catholicism. What follows is one of the most mindless articles I think I've ever encountered. It - I kid you not - includes the line, "And that got me thinking, what could 'Footloose' teach the leaders of the Catholic church?"

I'm not sure if this is a bigger crime against Catholic morality or against good taste. Honestly, Footloose? The answer, of course, is that Footloose means we should have women's ordination, and that "many church teachings, particularly around gender, sex and sexuality," should be "cut loose." Shocking, right? She's a lesbian feminist who reads Footloose as promoting lesbian feminism. It's like the hammer who realizes that all sorts of things are nails.

In the comments section, typical NCR readers swoon, before a couple of seemingly orthodox reader crack wise. One says, "So what should the bishops stop teaching--that all life is sacred, that Jesus is the Christ, that ordination is reserved for men, that marriage is between one man and one woman?" To which another responds, "Yes. Because Kevin Bacon says so."

Finally, "progressive" Catholic dissidents have a Magisterium they can obey!



By the way, National Catholic Reporter is published in the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, run by one Bishop Robert Finn, who really is a good bishop. His personal assistant can be e-mailed at montes@diocesekcsj.org if anyone else has thoughts on NCR's continuing "contributions" to American Catholicism.

Friday, February 12, 2010

That Old Time Religion

I read a book by an Assemblies of God writer some months ago, and in it, the author creates a hypothetical wherein someone stranded on a desert island finds a (presumably Protestant, 66-Book) Bible for the first time. This sort of "the Protestant Bible dropped from Heaven fully formed" hypothetical is the essence of the anti-historical view of the Faith, like the Greek Athena, who was said to have sprung from her... um, father's head ... fully-formed and clad for war. (I'd originally written "mother's womb," which was quickly caught!).

The truth is, the person reading the Bible will read it at least partially influenced by a historical lens. In this case, that history will be shaped by the Reformation: the number of books in the Bible, the manner in which certain passages are translated, and so forth. Most likely, certain external markers exist to signal that these books are considered canonical, and not merely inspirational: perhaps the title says "The Holy Bible," for instance. This external presence is dramatically more influential if the Bible has footnotes and commentaries. So even though that guy may be stranded on a desert island, he's reading Scripture through the lens of a church or ecclesial community. The dialogue between St. Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:30-31 is characteristic here: the eunuch explicitly recognizes that the Bible can't be read apart from a Church.

So everything we deal with when talking about the Bible or Christianity is drenched in history. My B.A. is in history, and at the time, I had no real idea of how important it would turn out to be for questions of the Faith. But the questions of the Truth of Catholicism are almost always historical claims: Did the Catholic Church declare which books were in the Bible? Are the Biblical Books we have now unedited versions of the original Books? Do they date back to the Apostolic age, or are they the product of later writers? Were there other Books, once considered canonical, but which the Church destroyed? Were these Books, now considered canonical, considered canonical at the time? And so on. The questions in Catholic/Protestant debates usually involve: Was the papacy created at some point in Church history? Were foreign doctrines introduced - and if yes, when and by whom? And so forth. A guy on a desert island with a newfound Bible would simply be unable to answer any of these critical questions.

The best argument from history, however, goes to St. Francis De Sales. This is again from The Catholic Controversy, this time from a tract called "The Authority of the Catholic Church," chapter 12. He begins by pointing out that Calvinists and Catholics agree that at least for a time "the Roman Church was holy, Catholic, Apostolic. " For support, he points to Romans 1, where St. Paul says, "I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith is proclaimed in all the world" (Romans 1:8), and "All the Churches of Christ salute you" (Romans 16:16). Starting from this point - that the true Faith was firmly, famously, and visible entrenched in Rome from the start, St. Francis walks through a number of Roman Early Church Fathers considered to be holy by both Catholics and Calvinists. Then he asks:
Well then, when was it that Rome lost this widely renowned faith? When did it cease to be what it had been? at what time? under what bishop? by what means? by what force? by what steps did the strange religion take possession of the City and of the whole world?-what protest, what troubles, what lamentations did it evoke? How! was everybody asleep throughout the whole world, while Rome, Rome I say, was forging new Sacraments, new Sacrifices, and new doctrines? Is there not to be found one single historian, either Greek or Latin, friend or stranger, to publish or leave behind some traces of his commentaries and memoirs on so great a matter?”
And, in good truth, it would be a strange hap if historians, who have been so curious to note the most trifling changes in cities and peoples had forgotten the most noteworthy of all those which can occur, that is, the change of religion in the most important city and province of the world, which are Rome and Italy.
I ask you, gentlemen, whether you know when our Church began the pretended error. Tell us frankly; for it is certain that, as S. Jerome says (Adv. Lucif. 28) "to have reduced heresy to its origin is to have refuted it." Let us trace back the course of history up to the foot of the cross; let us look on this side and on that, we shall never see that this Catholic Church has at any time changed its aspect -it is ever itself, in doctrine and in Sacraments.

It's a great line of argumention: (1) when did the Apostasy occur? (2) By whom? (3) Why didn't the Christians respond? (4) Why didn't anyone outside of Rome speak out? (5) Why didn't ancient historians note it - even neutrally, the way a Josephus might? And it's a great reference to Jerome, although he could have used many other Fathers for the same point. A number of the Church Fathers showed the error of heresy by simply tracing it to its founder. St. Francis proceeds to follow their example:
We have no need against you, on this important point, of other witnesses than the eyes of our fathers and grandfathers to say when your pretended Church began. In the year 1517 Luther commenced his Tragedy: in '34. and '35 they composed an act in these parts; Zwingle and Calvin were the chief players in it. Would you have me detail by list with what fortune and deeds, by what force and violence, this reformation gained possession of Berne, Geneva, Lausanne, and other towns -what troubles and woes it brought forth? You will not find pleasure in this account; we see it, we feel it. In a word, your Church is not yet eighty years old; its author is Calvin ; its result the misery of our age. Or if you would make it older, tell us where it was before that time. Beware of saving that it existed but was invisible: for if it were not seen who can say that it existed? Besides, Luther contradicts you, who confesses that in the beginning he was quite alone.
So the argument from history disproves Protestantism, since we can trace both Protestantism generally, and Lutheranism and Calvinism specifically, to individual founders at specific dates. So the standard which St. Francis sets for disproving the Catholic Church is a standard he can meet for disproving Protestantism. Finally, he goes back to the Fathers:

Now, if Tertullian already in his time bears witness that Catholics refuted the errors of heretics by their posteriority and novelty, when the Church was only in her youth-" We are wont," says he, [De Praesc. xxx. seqq.] "to prescribe against heretics, for brevity's sake, on the argument of posteriority " -how much more right have we now? And if one of the Churches must be the true, this title falls to ours which is most ancient; and to your novelty the infamous name of heresy.

So if there is such thing as a true Church, it has to - by definition - be the one which continually and visibly existed from the time of Christ to the present. The True Church can't just pop in and out of existence. And this argument, if grasped, puts the entire Reformation to rest.

For Protestant readers of this blog, is there a persuasive response to this argument? It seems that for 72,000 Calvinists in Geneva, there wasn't. Have the five centuries since St. Francis posed this argument exposed any weaknesses, or uncovered any helpful history?