Top Five Books on All Things Catholic

So on Nick's blog, I was asked for "5 essential, academically oriented works on all things Catholic" from a classist interested in the Catholic Church. It was a thought-provoking question. Here are the Five I came up with:

The first two are obvious choices: the Catechism, and the Summa Theologica. The Catechism is written more as a confession of Faith rather than an apologia, but it's a great starting place for determining precisely what the Church teaches. Plus, if you hunt the footnotes, you'll find lots of references to papal encyclicals which explain each topic in greater depth. The Summa is almost unreal. Thomas presently the strongest form of the anti-Catholic argument for each proposition (providing quotes which seem to support each position), then dismantles each one systematically. If you're a Classics major, you may have already read him. If not, do so. That said, the Summa is crazy long, so you might consider New Advent's online wiki-style version, so you can find specific answers to specific questions.

Msgr. Ronald Knox was a genius and a classist to boot. When I say "genius," I mean he was writing Latin and Greek epigrams from the age of 10, was a widely-read author by his twenties, and single-handed translated the Vulgate into English. He wrote a lay-friendly book called The Belief of Catholics which remains one of the finest short systematic treatments of Catholicism I've ever seen. As much as I love Mere Christianity (and think Lewis may be a more engaging writer), Knox is a more rigorous thinker, and predicts (and refutes) virtually every counter-argument you can come up with. [I've only read one of his other books (The Church on Earth: The Nature and Authority of the Catholic Church), and while it wasn't nearly as engaging, it was very engaging. So Msgr. Knox is probably a good author to check out overall.]

Fourth, I'd say Against Heresies by St. Irenaeus. He's writing it to instruct new Catholics in the Faith, so it's naturally systematic in scope, and explains lots of things which many other Church Fathers just assume their readers know (like that the Church is subject to the Bishop of Rome, that Apostolic Succession is the mark of the True Church, that the Liturgy is a Sacrifice, that the Eucharist is the Body and Blood of Christ, etc.).

Fifth, I'd say St. Francis De Sales' Catholic Controversy. He's better known for his Introduction to the Devout Life (an incredible devotional book for those interested in improving their spiritual lives), but Controversy takes on the specific issues dividing Catholics and Protestants, and shows why the Catholic position is correct.

Hope that helps. If you're interested, I run a Catholic blog, too ( and am more than happy to field any specific questions you've got about the Faith. God bless!


P.S. Here's a bonus book: Fr. James O'Connor's The Hidden Manna deals specifically with the Eucharist, but the style is one you'll likely find appealing. He goes chronologically through the writings of virtually every major Christian thinker. Part I is on the Early Church on up through the Middle Ages, Part II deals with the Reformation, and Part III deals with the modern era. Part I is by far the most interesting. Fr. O'Connor's writing style is engaging, and he explains ambiguities and likely meanings in the Greek in an easy to understand way. He saves a lot of technical stuff for the footnotes. The clear conclusion one draws after reading is that the early Church was unanimous in its belief in the Eucharist. This one is technically not about all things Catholic, but it incorporates collaterally many other important things Catholic (like that there are bishops in the early Church, that people are answering to Rome, etc.).

I'm curious: what books should I have included? What do your top fives look like? (If you can't think of five, that's fine: just mention whichever ones you find are your personal favorites).

St. Paul Summarizes the Old Testament

I. Acts 13
Today's First Reading, from Acts 13, finds St. Paul and his companions in the synagogue on the Jewish Sabbath. After "the reading of the law and the prophets," the men are asked if any of them has "a word of exhortation" to share. Paul then gets up, motions with his hand, and says (Acts 13:16-23):
Fellow Israelites and you others who are God-fearing, listen. The God of this people Israel chose our ancestors and exalted the people during their sojourn in the land of Egypt. With uplifted arm he led them out of it and for about forty years he put up with them in the desert. When he had destroyed seven nations in the land of Canaan, he gave them their land as an inheritance at the end of about four hundred and fifty years. After these things he provided judges up to Samuel (the) prophet. Then they asked for a king. God gave them Saul, son of Kish, a man from the tribe of Benjamin, for forty years. Then he removed him and raised up David as their king; of him he testified, 'I have found David, son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will carry out my every wish.' From this man's descendants God, according to his promise, has brought to Israel a savior, Jesus.
It's an incredibly succinct account of the first two-thirds or so of the Old Testament: it covers the age of the Patriarchs, the exile in Egypt, the Exodus, the capturing of the Promised Land, the time of Judges, and the foundation of the nation of Israel. Frankly, if you've ever tried to explain what the Old Testament is all about, this is a pretty great summary (particularly since it's apparently given impromptu). But then he shows the meaning of the Old Testament. That God was slowly revealing Himself to the people of Israel, and establishing a lineage by which to bring Israel's savior, Jesus, into the world. But Paul realizes also that the Israel that Jesus came to save isn't just the ethnic Israelites. For this reason, he addresses everyone assembled in worship: both "fellow Israelites and you others who are God-fearing."

Then, starting with John the Baptist and Jesus' public ministry, up through His Death and Resurrection, Paul then delves into some of the many ways in which the Old Testament pointed to Jesus (Acts 16:24-41):

John heralded his coming by proclaiming a baptism of repentance to all the people of Israel; and as John was completing his course, he would say, "What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. Behold, one is coming after me; I am not worthy to unfasten the sandals of his feet."

My brothers, children of the family of Abraham, and those others among you who are God-fearing, to us this word of salvation has been sent. The inhabitants of Jerusalem and their leaders failed to recognize him, and by condemning him they fulfilled the oracles of the prophets that are read sabbath after sabbath. For even though they found no grounds for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him put to death, and when they had accomplished all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and placed him in a tomb. But God raised him from the dead, and for many days he appeared to those who had come up with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. These are (now) his witnesses before the people.

We ourselves are proclaiming this good news to you that what God promised our ancestors he has brought to fulfillment for us, (their) children, by raising up Jesus, as it is written in the second psalm [Psalm 2:7], "You are my son; this day I have begotten you." And that he raised him from the dead never to return to corruption he declared in this way [Isaiah 55:3], "I shall give you the benefits assured to David." That is why he also says in another psalm [Psalm 16:10], "You will not suffer your holy one to see corruption."

Now David, after he had served the will of God in his lifetime, fell asleep, was gathered to his ancestors, and did see corruption. But the one whom God raised up did not see corruption. You must know, my brothers, that through him forgiveness of sins is being proclaimed to you, (and) in regard to everything from which you could not be justified under the law of Moses, in him every believer is justified. Be careful, then, that what was said in the prophets not come about [Hab. 1:5]: "Look on, you scoffers, be amazed and disappear. For I am doing a work in your days, a work that you will never believe even if someone tells you."

Now, if you go back to the actual prophesies which Paul cites to, they're incredible. Here they are in order:

II. Psalm 2
Psalm 2 tells how the "kings of the earth" have taken a stand against "the LORD and against His Annointed One" (Psalm 2:2). So we have an early signal that the Annointed One, while a King, won't be an earthly King. This becomes very important, because God laughs and scoffs at the conspiring of the earthly kings, and terrifying them in His wratch, declares, "I have installed my King on Zion, my holy hill" (Ps. 2:6). So building off of verse 2, it seems that the Zion in question isn't on a literal hill, but is a heavenly Zion. Then, the Psalmist writes prophetically in Psalm 2:7-9,

I will proclaim the decree of the LORD: He said to me, "You are my Son; today I have become your Father. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession. You will rule them with an iron scepter; you will dash them to pieces like pottery."

The Psalmist then warns the rulers of the earth, and says in Ps. 2:11-12, "Serve the LORD with fear and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry and you be destroyed in your way, for his wrath can flare up in a moment. Blessed are all who take refuge in him." The Psalmist clearly speaks of the Son as a Savior, and in the third person, and seems to connect the wrath of the Father with that of the Son. This is, to my knowledge, the first time that the Father and Son are identified as such, making it one of the clearest hints at the Trinity in the Old Testament.

III. Isaiah 55:1-5
Isaiah 55:1 is an interesting verse: "Come, all you who are thirsty, come to the waters; and you who have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without cost." In the context of the chapter, it's obviously about salvation. But it's interesting that salvation is described both of a free gift (one you get "without money and without cost") yet one which still comes at some sort of price (twice, those without money are told to "buy"). This captures the paradox of salvation: we can never earn it, and yet to receive it, we have to be willing to give up everything we have and follow.

Isaiah 55:2 foreshadows the Bread of Life: "Why spend money on what is not bread, and your labor on what does not satisfy? Listen, listen to me, and eat what is good, and your soul will delight in the richest of fare." It also makes it clear (with the reference to satifying the soul) that the food spoken about is spiritual. Isaiah 55:3 then says, "Give ear and come to me; hear me, that your soul may live. I will make an everlasting covenant with you, my faithful love promised to David. " Note that connection. The saving Bread is connected with the New and Everlasting Covenant. It's a New Covenant which Jesus mentions explicitly exactly once in the Bible (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20). Verses 4-5 then explain that this Saving Food will be available to everyone, not just the Israelites.

IV. Psalm 16:8-11
This is one of David's Psalms, and it concludes: "I have set the LORD always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will rest secure, because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. You have made known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence, with eternal pleasures at your right hand."

So the Psalm is about Someone who will not be abandoned to the grave: significantly, it doesn't say, "will not die," and the reference to the body resting secure is almost certainly a foreshadowing of Christ's bodily rest in the tomb after dying on the Cross -- a foreshadowing also seen in the Sabbath itself. And then it says that this Person will spend eternity at the right hand of the Father. Paul's right that there's no way that David is talking about himself here, since David's body rotted in the tomb, as human bodies are wont to do.

V. Habakkuk 1
So Paul has laid out how the Old Testament actually foreshadows not merely a Messiah, but a Messiah who is from Heaven, feed souls, will die and be resurrected. But he's aware that this message is going to be a hard one for people who'd forgotten their need for a Messiah because of their blind obedience of the law. So Paul reminds them, using Habakkuk 1, of the dangers of turning a deaf ear to the call of God.

Now, this is generally an excellent chapter. Habakkuk describes "men like fish in the sea, like sea creatures that have no ruler," imagery which Jesus used frequently (Hab. 1:14; Matthew 4:19, Matt. 13:47-50). And Habakkuk also is one of the few Old Testament writers to acknowledge that the saved are destined for eternal life, rather than simply a peaceful death: "O LORD, are you not from everlasting? My God, my Holy One, we will not die" (Hab. 1:12). Habakkuk also asks a lot of hard questions which people often have of God, like:

  • "How long, O LORD, must I call for help, but You do not listen? Or cry out to You, 'Violence!' but You do not save?" (Hab. 1:2)
  • "Why do You tolerate wrong?" (Hab. 1:3)
  • "Your eyes are too pure to look on evil; You cannot tolerate wrong. Why then do You tolerate the treacherous? Why are You silent while the wicked swallow up those more righteous than themselves?" (Hab. 1:13)

In short, Habakkuk is complaining that Israel has become so corrupt, that bad things are happening to good people, and good things are happening to bad people. The unjust are running wild, and they're destroying the just in the process. God's response is terrifying (Hab 1:5-11):

Look at the nations and watch— and be utterly amazed.
For I am going to do something in your days that you would not believe, even if you were told.

I am raising up the Babylonians, that ruthless and impetuous people,
who sweep across the whole earth to seize dwelling places not their own.
They are a feared and dreaded people;
they are a law to themselves and promote their own honor.

Their horses are swifter than leopards, fiercer than wolves at dusk.
Their cavalry gallops headlong; their horsemen come from afar.
They fly like a vulture swooping to devour; they all come bent on violence.
Their hordes advance like a desert wind and gather prisoners like sand.
They deride kings and scoff at rulers.
They laugh at all fortified cities; they build earthen ramps and capture them.
Then they sweep past like the wind and go on— guilty men, whose own strength is their god.

So God will remove His hand of protection from Israel, allowing these maniacal Babylonians to crush the nation, in order to sort of smack the people back to their senses. And Paul, in Acts 11:40-41, has just warned the assembled Jews listening that they need to "be careful" so that this doesn't happen to them.

Now, if I were listening to Paul preach at that time and in that place, and I recalled the dire warning of Hab 1:5-11 and told that it might happen to us, I'd know exactly who Paul meant: the Romans. And in fact, when Peter writes to the global Church while establishing the Apostolic See in Rome, he writes, "She who is in Babylon, chosen together with you, sends you her greetings, and so does my son Mark" (1 Peter 5:13). So this identification between the bloodthirsty Roman troops and their Babylonian forebears was certainly not lost on at least the early Christians. What's more terrifying about this prophesy is that Paul was right: it came true again. In 70 A.D., the Roman troops crushed Jerusalem and destroyed the Temple.

Immigration and Christian Charity

S. Williams has posted a couple of comments on my last post, and my response is too long to fit as a comment. So here goes:

S. Williams,

I'm not even sure where to start. Yours is the perfect example of why St. Paul condemns "party spirit" on his list of mortal sins of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. The danger, to paraphrase Lady Julia in Brideshead Revisited is in "setting up a rival good to God." In other words, instead of judging good and bad based upon Catholicism, you've done it based upon the tenets of the GOP. And doing so has caused you to act in a way unbecoming to a Catholic.

First, this is the first time any commenter here has accused me of being a "liberal social justice Catholic." While you can't fully be a Catholic without being a "social justice Catholic" (at least to some extent), had you troubled yourself to read any other post on this blog, you'd realize you were flying off half-cocked.

Second, rejecting the Arizona law doesn't mean someone automatically embraces amnesty. Had you troubled yourself to read even this post, you'd see that the argument was about whether there were better ways to meet the state's legitimate interests.

Third, and related to the last point, you can justify any evil by comparing it to some opposite hypothetical evil. Sure, the Arizona bill may be bad, but at least it's not amnesty; sure, amnesty may be bad, but at least it isn't genocide, etc. If the best you can come up with if ad hominem attacks and attacks on straw man positions which no one in the conversation is taking, rethink your views.

Fourth, the people (made in the image of God) who we're talking about are immigrants, not invaders. Here are google’s top definitions of immigrant ("a person who has come to live in a country from some other country") and invader ("soldiers who are invading a country"). Your term is a hyper-charged and completely inaccurate term to attempt to demonize immigrants as enemies rather than those we owe charity.

Fifth, the Biblical injunction to charity isn't premised upon one's legal status in the country, since US law isn’t superior to the Bible. If someone overstays their work visa, we as Catholics don't stop loving them and start treating them as invaders the next day. Every single source you've cited is political, not Biblical, because what you're suggesting is just unchristian.

Sixth, since you're getting all of your news from one party, you've lost all touch with the actual reality of the situations you're talking about. Some things to consider:
  • Which Democrats are pushing for amnesty? They've got both houses and the presidency. If they wanted amnesty, they could have gotten it while they had their super-majority (or, you know, still). I challenge you to cite a single Democrat in Congress pushing for immediate amnesty, as you claim.
  • Which Democrats or Catholic Bishops are advocating Alinsky’s policies? Can you point to a single example of a Catholic Bishop engaging in Alinsky-style tactics? (I don't mean here simply supporting social justice groups which are hyper-liberal in ways we don't agree with; not every grassroots movement is "Alinsky-style")
  • What percentage of immigrants are actually gang members v. productive workers in the economy? I'd cite you here to Julian Simon's ground-breaking 1979 analysis, The Economic Effects of Immigration. In it, he explained that since most immigrants are young, healthy, and unable to apply for social services, they provide an enormous boon to the economy at a low cost (this is, after all, labor unions' arguments against them). Although his study is now 30 years old, the fundamental dynamics are correct. So rather than destroying US culture, it's been incredibly vital. Same goes for US Catholic culture, particularly given the fact that Latin Catholics tend to be more devout than their Anglo counterparts.
Seventh, did you seriously suggest that supporting amnesty is equal to or worse than child-rape? That's just crazy. It's just shocking that you've become so influenced by political forces to no longer be able to tell evil which cries out to God for vengeance (child rape) from possibly misguided charity towards our neighbor (immigration policies you don't like). Christ warns those who corrupt the dignity of children it would be better to have a millstone tied around their neck, and be hurled into the ocean. That is, it would be better to die gasping helplessly for air while you're slowly and painfully killed in the depths of the sea than to find yourself facing the Wrath of God for child-rape. In comparison, the Bible's view on caring for immigrants is something like 180 degrees opposed to this image and your own views.

And finally, you owe Erin an apology. You were rude and condescending. You need to remember that behind the veil of the Internet are real human beings -- your brothers and sisters in Christ -- and allowing party spirit to lead you to tear into them like this is disgraceful.


Catholicism and Arizona's Recent Immigration Law

The Bible is pretty clear in its posture on immigration: we should be welcoming to those strangers in our lands, those "sojourners" among us: or, to use the language of Genesis 15:13 (and Psalm 39:12, etc.), "strangers." In the Old Covenant, from Exodus 22:21 to the even more striking Leviticus 19:34, onwards, we're told repeatedly to welcome these individuals. Hospitality towards "strangers" is a mark of the just man (Job 29:16). In the New Testament, welcoming the stranger is something the saved do in Matthew 25:35, and which the damned failed to do in Matthew 25:43, from the lips of Jesus. Hebrews 13:2 also reminds us to continue this hospitality, noting that "by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

But all that said, there are legitimate security concerns as well. Just as our duty to care for the poor doesn't mean we have to give money to every single impoverished person, the need to welcome the stranger doesn't mean we have to open the borders to just anyone who wants to come to the US. But it does suggest that in our treatment of the immigrant, we should act in a way which embraces and affirms their human dignity.

All of this brings us to Arizona's sweeping immigration law. I'm not as familiar as I should be with the specifics, but I'm familiar enough to be concerned. While I agree with the general premise - that there are legitimate reasons (including national security) in having less porous borders and in figuring out exactly who is here - I also have real concerns about the massive police powers, and those implications for both immigrants and U.S. citizens. I asked one of my friends, himself a (legal) immigrant, what he thought on this bill. He replied:
It's a shame. This law is a shame.

I don't understand how you can "reasonably" ask one person for proof of legal status and not another if not judging by his appearance. Unless they start randomly asking everybody, even blonde, blue-eyed people living in Scottsdale. The problem is not so much the law, as a foreigner -nay, an alien!- one has to follow the law of the land and I must admit that groups like the National Council of La Raza and the ACLU have given my people a false sense of entitlement. We don't deserve anything in this country, other than respect for the most basic human rights. Everything else is not our right, but a privilege, given our status. However, there are ways to do things in such a way that you generate hate and rancor between people and common sense ways that deal with the real issue, which is macroeconomic at heart. They decided to go for the former.

Nobody - well, it has been mentioned - seems to be thinking about the fact that we don't necessarily want to be here. Don't get me wrong, I'm glad now to be here and have met you and a whole lot of other wonderful people, but if I could have found the opportunities to support my family and grow professionally in Mexico, I can assure, as sure as it's light outside, that I would not be here right now.

Soon, if it's not successfully challenged in higher courts, you will start hearing of cases of American Citizens being harassed by immigration officers and - it's happened in the past, during the Bracero program of WWII - you might even have American citizens "deported" to Mexico, just because their last name is Hernandez or something and they have dark skin.

A friend of mine - who was working illegally in California - told me once "You know, this immigration issue is really easy to solve: they could just force people to provide documentation to cash your paycheck. Nobody would go to the US if you couldn't collect your pay". That's what they could do if they really wanted to deal with the issue, instead of using my people to score political points. Yes, there would be ways to get around that, but it's always easier to tighten controls around money (and I say this as a CPA and former auditor for 9 years) which leaves an un-erasable trail, than this law that reeks of racism, bigotry and hatred.
The funny thing is, that I care so much about my people, and they don't even speak Spanish to me. They don't think I'm one of them.
I can't think of a whole lot to add to this assessment, and think it's got a lot worth considering as we discuss this hot-button issue. The last sentence in general is particularly concerning to me: that in rejecting many of the immigrants in question, we're creating a class of people unwelcome anywhere. That prospect disturbs me, especially since many of the individuals in question are here simply out of the need to feed their families.

Two Things to Consider Regarding Sola Scriptura

Nick responded to my last post, and pointed me to his blog post on the subject. There were two parts which I liked enough that I think that they're worth mentioning here.
1. Sola Scriptura Wasn't True When the Bible Was Written.
These aren't Nick's words, these are James White's. White, if you're not familiar, is a controversial Calvinist apologist. In response to an article for This Rock by Baptist-turned-Catholic Steve Ray, White claims that Ray is straw-manning the Protestant position, saying:
One will search high and low for any reference in any standard Protestant confession of faith that says, "There has never been a time when God's Word was proclaimed and transmitted orally." You will never find anyone saying, "During times of enscripturation—that is, when new revelation was being given—sola scriptura was operational." Protestants do not assert that sola scriptura is a valid concept during times of revelation. How could it be, since the rule of faith to which it points was at that very time coming into being? One must have an existing rule of faith to say it is "sufficient." It is a canard to point to times of revelation and say, "See, sola scriptura doesn't work there!" Of course it doesn't. Who said it did?
White's concession here should make something immediately clear:
  1. All Scripture is written during times of revelation.
  2. The Scriptures in question were written immediately for existing recipients, and aren't prophetic in nature. (That is, no one's writing about how in the days to come, Tradition will fade away and there will be only the Book, in the way that they did write about a coming Messiah or a coming destruction of the Temple).
  3. During times of revelation, sola Scriptura isn't true.
  4. Therefore, no passage of Scripture affirms sola Scriptura.
  5. # 4 would be enough to invalidate sola Scriptura, but at least some passages deny sola Scriptura: 2 Thessalonians 2:15 suffices here.
Without Scriptural support (and indeed, in the face of Scripture), sola Scriptura must be (ironically) propped up by appeals to binding extra-Scriptural traditions, personal revelation, or the corporate work of the Holy Spirit within the Church. All of these appeals are self-refuting, since sola Scriptura denies that extra-Scriptural tradition, personal revelation, or Church teachings can ever be binding. ("Tradition 0" rejects Tradition outright; "Tradition 1," while recognizing a role for Tradition and some sort of Magisterium, says Tradition and Church teachings are subordinate to Scripture, can't nullify Scripture, and can't be binding on extra-scriptural claims).

Also worth considering: White is conceding that 2 Timothy 3:14-17 didn't mean sola Scriptura at the time it was written. The letters on the page haven't changed since Paul wrote it. If it didn't mean sola Scriptura then, it doesn't mean it now.
2. 2nd Timothy 3:15-17 Doesn't Say What People Think it Says.
The critical passage in the sola Scriptura debate is 2 Timothy 3:14-17, which is rendered by the NIV:
But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.
All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Proponents of sola Scriptura try to argue that this passage means Scripture is all you need in two ways: first, Paul says that Scripture can "make you wise for salvation." If Scripture leads you to salvation, they argue, what else do you need? Second, Scripture makes you "thoroughly equipped for every good work." If you're thoroughly equipped, what else do you need?

The first of these claims is easily disproven. The first sentence is specific to Scriptures Timothy grew up on: the Old Testament. Paul is saying that a thorough Old Testament understanding will help Timothy's walk in faith: he'll be able to see the various ways that Christ Jesus was foreshadowed and prophesied, and that will help make him "wise for salvation." If Paul were saying that these Scriptures were all you need, there would be no need for the New Testament, including 2 Timothy itself.

The second of these claims is grammatically and logically unsound, as Nick points out:

They are falsely jumping to conclusions, saying Scripture fully equips Man of God. Consider this example: Water is profitable towards muscle growth, good metabolism, and healthy blood, so that the athlete will be fully quipped for every sport. To take this as saying "water fully equips the athlete" is not only false scientifically, it's misreading the passage. It is a good metabolism, strong muscles, and healthy blood that equip the athlete, and water is "profitable" towards those three factors. It's false to say water is sufficient for muscle growth, good metabolism, and healthy blood, just as it's false to read the text as saying Scripture is sufficient towards those Four Ends.

He's right. To be thoroughly equipped, you need "teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness," the Four Ends. And Scripture is "useful" (other translations: "helpful") in getting you to those ends. It doesn't operate alone. In fact, the Church has been given the primary task of teaching (Matthew 28:19-20; see also 1 Timothy 3:2), rebuking (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:4-5), correcting (2 Corinthians 2:5-8), and training in righteousness (1 Timothy 3:15). At each step of the way, Scriptures serve as a useful tool to help the Church achieve Her goals, but these Four Ends are still commissioned to the Church. (Of course, the mere fact that they're commissioned to the Church states the obvious: Scripture alone isn't enough to achieve these goals. It's simply helpful in getting Her there).

Two Types of Sola Scriptura

Back on April 3rd, Roderick_E said in response to a post about the two types of tradition (traditions of men and Sacred Tradition):
The "anti-traditionalists" who shout "Sola Scriptura" but actually mean their private interpretation alone seem to fail to realize that Martin Luther even understood there is such a thing as the "ancient faith" which has been passed down (2 Thes 2:15).
My issue as a "Protestant" is determining where that ancient faith begins and ends and where unChristian additions have been added, either by Roman Catholics or Evangelicals.
To me, there is a clear difference between Roman Catholicism and Papalism. And it seems the Reformers were more against Papalism than the RCC.

I began to respond to him shortly afterwards, but my response was rambling and unhelpful, and I never finished it. So let me try again (and Roderick, my apologies for the long turnaround):
  • Sola Scriptura means different things to different people. A modern Calvinist or Lutheran may intend the term in its historic sense, but it's taken on a whole separate meaning amongst those (particularly non-denominationalists and Evangelicals) who take the implications of the doctrine to what they understand to be its logical conclusions.
  • Roderick has captured it by the terms pro-traditionalists and anti-traditionalists; Keith Keith Mathison and others sometimes the possibly derogatory term solo Scriptura to refer to the later category; others (like Heiko Oberman) distinguish between the Reformer's original methodology as "Tradition 1" and the modern Evangelicals' as "Tradition 0." So lots of proposed ways to clear up the confusion, but none have particularly caught on, and sola Scriptura remains the preferred self-descriptor for most. I'll follow Oberman for this post, but I'm always interested in hearing from actual believers in these two views as to what they feel the most helpful (descriptive and respectful) way to distinguish the two are.
  • With Tradition 0, sola Scriptura means something near: "if I were on a desert island and read a Bible, what would I understand that Bible to be saying about God (or whatever the relevant issue is)." The Bible contains all of the necessary tools for living a godly life, "able to make thee wise unto salvation" and so that "the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:14-17). Given this, there's no need (or room) for the Church, or for Tradition. We've got the saving medicine from the Doctor of Life (God), so there's no reason to hear a second opinion from, say, the Church Fathers.
  • In stark contrast, Tradition 1 views sola Scriptura in this way: Scripture contains all of the information and tools which we need to be saved, but there's still a need for Tradition or the Church (the understanding of "Church" here is usually body of believers, or the early Church). Scripture contains all of the ingredients, but Tradition (and particularly, the Creeds) comprise a sort of recipe showing how those ingredients ought to be assembled.

Tradition 1 is a pretty attractive theory, and there's a lot about it which I appreciate. But there's a few fundamental problems with the theory:

  1. First, it assumes the Protestant Bible as a starting place. None of the Early Church Fathers (not a single one) used the 66 book Protestant canon. So the early Church's recipe has different ingredients.
  2. Beyond this, the ECFs allowed for Apostolic Tradition whether by letter or word of mouth, so even if something wasn't explicitly in Scripture, it was still a binding part of the Faith if it was taught by the Apostles. This is an area which is often misunderstood, so let me be clear. The relationship between Scripture and Tradition to the early Church (and to the Catholic Church today) is like the relationship between the Gospel of Luke and the Gospel of Mark. They tell the exact same story, but that doesn't mean that you won't find details in one and not the other. In fact, you may even find times when they appear to contradict each other. But any Christian who believes both are completely inspired texts will try and understand them in a way that they don't contradict one another (since they can't both be right and contradictory). Likewise, we understand Tradition in a manner in which it doesn't violate Scripture, and vice versa.
  3. Finally, the Early Church Fathers are incredibly Catholic. This results in a series of absurdities, like when Keith Mathison (a Tradition 1 Protestant) cites to St. Irenaus (c. 130-200 A.D.), even calling him "Bishop of Lyons," to try and prove that Irenaus believed in sola Scriptura. He didn't, but even if Mathison were right, to get to this point, he had to concede that there is an office of "Bishop of Lyons" in the 2nd century Church... an office which Mathison, as a Reformed Protestant, rejects.

There are three ways of reconciling the conflict inherent in #3: either (a) becoming more Catholic (frequently, Catholic converts point to exactly this testimony of the Early Church), (b) rejecting the Church Fathers on an increasing number of issues, or (c) misunderstanding what they believed and taught. Of course, (a) leads to Catholicism, (b) leads to Tradition 0, and (c) is an unstable foundation.

I would argue that even Roderick's own allocation of power to himself: of being the authority in charge of determining "where that ancient faith begins and ends," and deciding which of the Church's Traditions She can keep as authentic Tradition, is an authority never given to the layman anywhere in Scripture. You don't judge the Church: She judges you. The idea is as clear from Scripture as it is repugnant to a self-obsessed democratic people.

That said, I'm not sure I understand what "Papalism" is, or who actually believes it. My hunch is that this is the sort of thing that people accuse their opponents of believing, while no one believes it themselves -- a straw man, in other words. If that it is the case, I agree that "there is a clear difference between Roman Catholicism and Papalism. And it seems the Reformers were more against Papalism than the RCC."


Here's what we Catholic actually believe:

  • Tradition (paradosis), strictly speaking, is anything "passed on." Anything you teach your kids is a tradition, in some sense, whether it's "Love the Lord your God" or "remember to excuse yourself before leaving the table." The difference between "Tradition" and "traditions of men" is that Tradition is those things passed on from God. It's called Apostolic Tradition because of 2 Thes 2:15 and 1 Cor. 11:2, but St. Paul makes it clear that the ultimate origin of this Tradition is Jesus Christ Himself. Paul notes this expressly in regards to the Eucharist in 1 Cor. 11:23-26 and in regards to the Death and Resurrection of Christ in 1 Cor. 15:3-5.
  • Catholics reject the notion of a secret Tradition. The Gnostics claimed that Jesus taught one thing publicly and a totally different thing to His Disciples. We've always rejected this as bogus. It's true that Jesus was more expicit and more in-depth with the Twelve, but it was the same message, public and private.
  • Scripture summarizes the teachings of Christ, and the Apostolic Faith. This is true both of the New Testament as a whole, and of each individual book.
  • That said, important details are sometimes omitted. This isn't, as some claim, because the Apostles didn't know or believe in these things, or because they forgot. The Holy Spirit simply guided them to include certain details in each particular account. So, for example, only two of the four Gospels mention the Virgin Birth (a fundamental tenet of Christianity), while all four would have obviously known about it. Same goes for the Beatitudes. Very important part of the Faith, yet it's only in two accounts.
  • Usually, the differences in details are due to their particular focus: Matthew and Luke focus on the miracle of the Virgin Birth, while John (in his famous first chapter) takes a theological view on the perhaps more incredible miracle that God became Man at all, and that the Man Jesus Christ is the eternal God from before the dawn of time. Neither rejects the others' starting point, they just chose to focus on different aspects. Similarly, John chooses to mention only seven of Jesus' miracles, in order to focus on them more closely. John admits in John 21:25, "Jesus did many other things as well. If every one of them were written down, I suppose that even the whole world would not have room for the books that would be written."
  • For each book of the Bible, we can say without contradiction, "the Book is perfect," written exactly as the Holy Spirit intended, and "the Book is incomplete on its own." Catholics say the same thing of the entire written Bible, and rely heavily upon Biblical support for this proposition. Protestants who claim that the Bible is complete on its own have to argue this (ironically) with recourse to non-Biblical propositions. To use another analogy: some early heretics tried to argue that the Old Testament was evil while the New Testament was good. Yet Christ quotes the Old Testament favorably in the New Testament. So if the New is true, the Old is true as well - there's no way to sever the New from the Old without mangling its meaning. Likewise, non-written Apostolic Tradition and the authority of the Church are both written of in the Bible, so if you take the Bible for what it says, you have to rely upon more than just the Bible.

The Sex Abuse Witch Hunt Frenzy

I was hoping that as the latest sex abuse media frenzy progressed, it would get a bit more introspective. Something this happens: at first, tea partiers were depicted as a bunch of ignorant white Southerners who were a white hood away from reorganizing the KKK. As the media coverage continued, you started to see glimpses of a more complex reality: data now shows that tea partiers are better educated than the average American and more financially successful (although obviously, it's drawing from all socioeconomic strata); then came news profiles on individual African-American tea party members, motivated by concern over fiscal irresponsibility, and how they were called racial slurs from the Left, and accused of being "race traitors" for not supporting Obama; an so forth. While the "ignorant white Southerner" stereotype is still bandied about, it's become complicated by the fact that (when reporters don't seek out the whackos) a lot of Tea Partiers can articulately explain what they're protesting for, and why.

Something nearer the opposite of that has happened with the sex abuse scandal. Two recent reports show how this is entering "witch hunt" mode, where all priests are guilty until proven innocent of sexual molestation:

For some reason, Bloomberg updated it to now read: "Catholic Donors Give While Priests Abuse Children." I'm not sure if that's supposed to be more or less sensational?

This is the first time I've seen tithing made out to be so evil: it's as if they're accusing the Catholic laity of paying priests to abuse kids. Of course, the headline doesn't reflect the reality that they're even talking about: the cases in question occurred in the 1980s or earlier, so they're hardly giving "while" the priests in question abuse children -- the cases are long over, men of the men in question are dead (like Murphy) or defrocked, and no long priests capable of abusing children. A more accurate headling would be: innocent Catholic donors keep cash flowing to pay for victim's abuse settlements. It's still a bum deal for innocent Catholics, but somebody needs to compensate them for the terrible things which happened to them. If Bloomberg succeeded in getting Catholics to cut off tithe money to the Church, the first people to suffer would be the poor, the homeless, those who rely on Catholic social services to make ends meet, and retired priests; down the road, you'd start to see sex abuse victims not being able to recover financially, and so on.

The body of the article was just as bad, perhaps worse:

Loyalty such as McSherry’s to the world’s oldest Christian denomination, with more than 1 billion followers, helps explain why anger at the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI for failing to prevent priests in five countries from abusing children won’t lead to a drop in Sunday collections and donations to local parishes, said Joseph Claude Harris, a Seattle-based expert on Catholic finance.

Which case was it again that Pope Benedict failed to prevent a priest (any priest) from abusing children? In what case has any evidence been discovered that he allowed abuse to continue? I'll confess: I do like that they acknowledge us as "the world's oldest Christian denomination." Hear that, Orthodox? Schism's settled, c'mon home.

“People basically deal with the church on an extraordinarily limited, local level,” said David Clohessy, national director of the Chicago-based Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests. “There is not a Catholic bishop on this planet who drives a smaller car or does his own laundry or takes fewer vacations or has suffered any tangible consequences.”

This is factually wrong, of course. Cardinal Law had a mansion. It was sold to pay for the abuse he allowed to happen. His successor, Seán Cardinal O'Malley, lives in an apartment in South Boston. So I'd say he (although personally innocent) suffered a tangible consequence for his predecessor's malfeasance. Still, Clohessy's sort of stumbled into the fact that cutting off tithes hurts the innocent instead of the guilty, although he doesn't seem to grasp that's what he's saying.

What's your first take as to what this means? Sex abuse of children. Obviously. It's the "abuse claims" that they've been talking about constantly. And the article's subtitle makes that more obviously what they want you to think: "A close friend and ally of the Pope Benedict XVI, has offered to resign over allegations that he abused children in his care. "

Turns out, Bishop Walter Mixa of Augsburg, Germany admitted that he "may have" slapped children "while a priest decades ago. " The paper wasn't unaware that they were misleading people into thinking "child rape" instead of "corporal punishment." In the seventh paragraph, they say:

The case does not involve allegations of sexual abuse. However, the bishop,
who was appointed by the Pope in 2005, is a controversial figure who has tried
to explain paedophilia in the Church by claiming the sexual liberation movement
must share a "significant" part of the blame.

Of course, the sexual liberation movement DOES share a significant part of the blame. It certainly doesn't accuse any sex crimes, but it would take a fool to be blind to the fact that sex crimes - virtually all sex crimes - were dramatically higher in the West in the sexual revolution period and its aftermath than before.

Most of the abuse happened at a time when "sexual exploration" was praised as liberating from the stodgy rules-laden confines of traditional Christian moralism. And most of the abusive priests bought into the zeitgeist, not just on this issue, but on other issues in which the world and the Church disagreed. The responsibility is theirs to bear, absolutely. But to deny that factors influenced their devolution into sexual predators just isn't serious.

The fact that there was even controversy over the idea that sexual liberation might have had some negative effects (like men, including priests, feeling "liberated" to molest kids) is part of a deeper trend. The media has painted a picture that the Church is full of abusers (or at least, more full of abusers than general society, which is factually untrue), and that the highest echelons of the Church knew about and encouraged this abuse. Any attempt to show that certain individuals (like the present pope) were innocent, or that the Church has actually been very proactive of late in ensuring that this never happens again, or that not every bishop, priest, and deacon is a sex abuser are taken as excusing the actual abuse. Ross Douthat has had a two very good blog posts in which he demonstrated that Christopher Hitchens is just making up facts in his attacks on the pope. The response in the comments was more or less, "Why are you defending the pope? Do you want kids to be molested?"

Rational discourse on this issue is perilously close to be over. It's probably worth reminds folks of the 1980s' McMartin preschool trial, in which otherwise sane and normal people, when they were fed repeated half-truths from the media about how their kids were going to be molested at day cares (any day care - day care workers were all basically pedophiles in the 1980s newstand), were worked up into a frenzy which lead to an absolutely-innocent family into getting sent to prison for "satanic sex abuse" which never occurred. It was just one case in a string of false-conviction cases now regarded as the "day care sexual abuse hysteria."

I think it's time to take a really deep breath about this whole thing and put down the pitchforks before we get the facts straight.

"Breaking Bread" and the Eucharist

Luke 24:41-42 has an interesting account of Jesus post-Resurrection: "And while they still did not believe it because of joy and amazement, he asked them, 'Do you have anything here to eat?' They gave him a piece of broiled fish, and he took it and ate it in their presence. "What strikes me about this isn't what's in the account, but what isn't: a blessing. It's not that Jesus didn't bless the food before He ate it (He almost certainly did), but that Luke didn't consider it important enough to include. The important thing was that Jesus ate (and hence, was not a ghost or an illusion). Luke isn't just writing a play-by-play of every step Jesus Christ took in His earthly life: he's including details which he thinks are particularly important.

In sharp contrast to Luke 24:41-42, there is an incredible pattern of the New Testament just hammering, over and over, this notion of blessing and breaking bread. The two actions are connected. The bread is blessed and broken. It's never just that they took bread and ate it. It's a specific and liturgical action.

More interesting is the fact that the bread in question is broken, not torn. In other words, it's not leaven bread: it's continually unleaven bread. This isn't a detail likely to be missed on an early Jewish audience, who celebrate the Feast of Unleaven Bread... Passover. The unleaven bread is tied directly to the Passover lamb. Additionally, "Breaking Bread" was an early term for the Eucharist, and tied to the miraculous transformation which the Feeding of the Five Thousand foreshadowed and the Last Supper fulfilled. Look at the Biblical evidence. Notice the emphasis and connection on blessing and breaking bread together. These are strange details to include, particularly because they're included every single time:

I. Feeding of the Five Thousand:

All four Gospels mention the Jesus takes the bread, blesses it and breaks it. Now, He's also blessing and tearing up the fish, but notice how that detail isn't considered important by comparison:
  • Matthew 14:19-20 Ordering the people to sit down on the grass, He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up toward heaven, He blessed the food, and breaking the loaves He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds, and they all ate and were satisfied. They picked up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve full baskets.
  • Mark 6:41-43 Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to his disciples to set before the people. He also divided the two fish among them all. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces of bread and fish.
  • Luke 9:16 Then He took the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, He blessed them, and broke them, and kept giving them to the disciples to set before the people.
  • John 6:11 Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.
Remember that this happened near the Passover (John 6:4).This is all very tied to the Last Supper, which also involves Breaking Bread on the Passover to feed the masses.

II. Paul's Shipwreck:
Acts 27:33-38 says that:
Just before dawn Paul urged them all to eat. "For the last fourteen days," he said, "you have been in constant suspense and have gone without food—you haven't eaten anything. Now I urge you to take some food. You need it to survive. Not one of you will lose a single hair from his head." After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat. They were all encouraged and ate some food themselves. Altogether there were 276 of us on board. When they had eaten as much as they wanted, they lightened the ship by throwing the grain into the sea.

Once again, this is a symbol or type for the Eucharist. This time, it's in winter (it's "after the Fast," that is, Yom Kippur -- see Acts 27:9), yet Paul uses unleavened bread, instead or normal leavened bread.

III. The Institution of the Eucharist:
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul all describe the Institution of the Eucharist in great detail, and all hone in on the central detail of the blessing and breaking of the Bread:

  • Matthew 26:26 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take and eat; this is my body."
  • Mark 14:22 While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, "Take it; this is my body."
  • Luke 22:19 And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me."
  • 1 Corinthians 11:23-24 For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."
The Bread, which is His Body, also symbolizes His Body. That is, He could have consecrated anything: fish, a pumpkin, noodles, whatever, but He chose bread. The obvious answer is that bread looks vaguely like flesh, so the visible sign helps us to understand the invisible reality, just as the visible act of going under water and coming out helps us to understand the invisible reality of dying and rising with Christ, and just like the visible sign of water symbolizes the invisble reality of the Holy Spirit's washing us. By breaking the Bread, He's signifying His own death.

I think that the above paragraph is basically agreed upon by Protestants and Catholics, but if you plug that logic... that "breaking of the bread" means "the Last Supper," it's incredibly significant for the feeding of the masses in John 6, and the following situations after the Resurrection:

IV. New Testament Eucharistic Celebrations in the Early Chruch:
In St. Matthew's Cathedral out here in D.C., the wall behind the tabernacle has some beautiful artwork of the two disciples at Emmaus looking at the (real life) tabernacle, with the words, "they recognized Him in the Breaking of the Bread." It comes from the incredible account in Luke 24. Jesus walks with two disciples, explaining Scripture (this prefigures the Liturgy of the Word, the half of Mass before the Liturgy of the Eucharist), and then, in Luke 24:30-31,
When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them. Then their eyes were opened and they recognized him, and he disappeared from their sight.

The timing is significant. The Emmaus disciples' report to the Apostles says as much in Luke 24:35,

Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

That's either Eucharistic or nonsensical. It's not like Jesus had such a distinctive way of breaking bread that it could only have been Him. No, Jesus breaks the Bread, and they recognize Him. Then He disappears, but leaves behind His Body in the form of the Bread. Jesus isn't even being particularly subtle here.

He does this as well in His third Resurrection appearance to the Apostles in John 21:12-14,

Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." None of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord. Jesus came, took the bread and gave it to them, and did the same with the fish. This was now the third time Jesus appeared to his disciples after he was raised from the dead.

Here, the Disciples already recognized Him. This scene is preceded by the miraculous catch of fish: Jesus appeared on the shore while the Disciples were out fishing, and by John 21:7, they recognize Him, with John declaring "It is the Lord!" and Peter impulsively taking his clothes off and jumping in the water to swim to Jesus. (Have I mentioned St. Peter is my confirmation saint?). Jesus prepares coals to cook the fish while the Disciples drag in 153 fish. By the time Jesus calls them to breakfast, all of the Disciples knew who He was. Yet John still marks the breaking of the bread as "the third time Jesus appeared to His Disciples" after the Resurrection. Immediately after breakfast, Jesus commissions Peter to be His shepherd. My point is that the meal comes in the center of Jesus' appearance to the Apostles, and it was right here that John says, "This was now the third time Jesus appeared," right after the breaking of the bread.

Then there's the description of the early Apostolic life in Acts 2:42-47,

They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe, and many wonders and miraculous signs were done by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as he had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.

In the early Church, the Christians went to Synagogue for the Liturgy of the Word (the readings and homily), and then retired to their houses for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.

Or how about Paul's Sunday Mass in Troas in Acts 20:6-11,

But we sailed from Philippi after the Feast of Unleavened Bread, and five days later joined the others at Troas, where we stayed seven days. On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight. There were many lamps in the upstairs room where we were meeting. Seated in a window was a young man named Eutychus, who was sinking into a deep sleep as Paul talked on and on. When he was sound asleep, he fell to the ground from the third story and was picked up dead. Paul went down, threw himself on the young man and put his arms around him. "Don't be alarmed," he said. "He's alive!" Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left.

The fact that it's a Mass is mentioned only in passing, to set the scene for the unusual events (a man dying and being resurrected). Note also the sequence: the "Breaking of the Bread" is more than a meal -- by midnight, they haven't even gotten to the Breaking of the Bread itself.

How Can the Eucharist Be in More Than One Place at Once?

This week's daily Gospel has been a walk through John 6, and taking it piece-by-piece, with an eye towards the whole, has been really interesting.

One of the arguments I recently heard against the Eucharist was that since Jesus has only one Body, His Body and Blood can't be present in each and every particle of the Eucharist in every Host in every part of the world. The Catholic view, after all, is that each particle of the Eucharist is the entirety of His Body and Blood. You don't just commune with part of His chin or something: every piece is all of Him. It's certainly counter-intuitive.

If you look at John 6, it's the Feeding of the Five Thousand Men* (John 6:1-15), the walking on water occurs that evening (John 6:16-24), and Jesus' Eucharistic Discourse occurs on the other side of the sea (John 6:25-70). There are some strong and obvious connections between the Feeding of the Five Thousand and the Eucharistic Discourse. It was to prepare the people for a talk on a divisive issue, and Jesus says that they're only listening to Him because they're expecting free food out of the whole thing (John 6:26; see also John 6:30-31 and John 6:34 for the people asking Him for bread). In that context, it's interesting that one of the points of opposition Jesus meets from His Disciple Andrew in John 6:8-13 is precisely this question of the physical and material limitations:

Another of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, spoke up, "Here is a boy with five small barley loaves and two small fish, but how far will they go among so many?"

Jesus said, "Have the people sit down." There was plenty of grass in that place, and the men sat down, about five thousand of them. Jesus then took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted. He did the same with the fish.

When they had all had enough to eat, he said to his disciples, "Gather the pieces that are left over. Let nothing be wasted." So they gathered them and filled twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over by those who had eaten.

So the opposition is "bread is material, and there's no possible material way that five loaves can feed this many." Jesus fixes the problem by blessing and breaking the bread, at which point is miraculously able to feed. This then leads to the strange conclusion of filling "twelve baskets with the pieces of the five barley loaves left over."

Now the Protestant skeptic who doesn't think that the Eucharist can be everywhere because it's material should consider Jesus' remedy: blessing and breaking the bread. Later today, I'll go into what that breaking of the bread means about the Eucharist.


*John just says that there's a "great crowd." Matthew 14:21 says, "There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. " He's not saying women and children don't count. Rather, he's tying the meal to the family, and counting male heads of households, rather than individuals.

Gamaliel's Challenge

On Friday, the First Reading was from Acts 5:34-42, which describes the trial of the Apostles before the Sanhedrin:

A Pharisee in the Sanhedrin named Gamaliel,
a teacher of the law, respected by all the people,
stood up, ordered the Apostles to be put outside for a short time,
and said to the Sanhedrin, “Fellow children of Israel,
be careful what you are about to do to these men.
Some time ago, Theudas appeared, claiming to be someone important,
and about four hundred men joined him, but he was killed,
and all those who were loyal to him
were disbanded and came to nothing.
After him came Judas the Galilean at the time of the census.
He also drew people after him,
but he too perished and all who were loyal to him were scattered.
So now I tell you,
have nothing to do with these men, and let them go.
For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin,
it will destroy itself.
But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them;
you may even find yourselves fighting against God.”
They were persuaded by him.
After recalling the Apostles, they had them flogged,
ordered them to stop speaking in the name of Jesus,
and dismissed them.
So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin,
rejoicing that they had been found worthy
to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.
And all day long, both at the temple and in their homes,
they did not stop teaching and proclaiming the Christ, Jesus.

Gamaliel holds a position of great esteem within Judaism and Christianity. He was St. Paul's teacher, and was considered the last great rabbi. He was also the first person to ever be called "Rabboni," which means "Great Teacher" or "My Great Teacher." Jesus would later be given this title in John 20:16. So Gamaliel was the premiere rabbi and a leader amongst the Jewish people. It's significant that he took up the Apostles' defense since he was not himself a Christian (there's some debate over whether or not he converted to Christianity before he died, but this might be wishful thinking). In any case, the Bible mentions not only that Gamaliel defended Christianity, but the precise argument he used. The obvious reason is that his argument was valid. And here's what Gamaliel is arguing:

  1. Gamaliel is referring to the visible Church. In this case, the Apostles are on trial. They're the visible office-holders chosen by Christ. There may have been others (even Gamaliel himself) who secretly held the Faith, but that's not who he's referring to. He's referring just to the visible Church.
  2. This visibility is tied to unity. The followers of Theudas "were disbanded and came to nothing." There may have been those who privately rooted for Theudas, but without a unified body, they came to nothing. Likewise with Judas the Galilean, we know that the movement wasn't of God because "all who were loyal to him were scattered."
  3. The mark of whether the Christian movement is ordained by God is whether a visible, unified group of followers continued on forever.
  4. This group, which we'll go ahead and call the Church, is tied directly to God Himself. There's not a distinction between Christ and the Church. If you attack the Church, "you may even find yourselves fighting against God."
This is, I think, one of the strongest and simplest arguments for Catholicism vis-a-vis Protestantism that there is. Protestantism has been disbanded and scattered, while Catholicism has stayed united, carrying forward the same teachings, and with a single visible Church -- that is, there's no real confusion about which church is the Catholic Church, even if there are some rival claimants. If Gamaliel is right, and the inclusion of his speech in Acts suggests he is, then we should expect to see One True, Visible Church.

Jesus of Appalachia, King of the Americans

Last night at theology on tap, Fr. O'Hare was talking about the parish he runs down in Banica, Dominican Republic on the Haitian border. At one point, his story turned towards the Cross, and he said (and I'm heavily paraphrasing here),
I want to tell you something to hopefully change the way you see every Crucifix from now on. As you know, above the Cross, Pilate had written "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" in Aramaic, Latin, and Greek [John 19:19-20]. He could have just as easily put "Jesus the Christ" or just "Jesus," but he wrote "Jesus of Nazareth." Why? Well, Nazareth was very poor and looked down upon by the Romans. In an American context, it might be someplace like Appalachia. So calling Him Jesus of Nazareth was a way to make fun of Jesus, of Nazareth, and of the Jews for being poor. The Bible doesn't include this detail by mistake: Christ is intentionally identifying Himself with the poor. And He does so forever and for all time, prominently displayed until the end of time on Crucifixes around the world. Jesus of Nazareth, Jesus of Appalachia, Jesus of Banica.
I was pretty blown away, and remembered a passage from John's Gospel (John 1:44-46):
Philip found Nathanael and told him, "We have found the one about whom Moses wrote in the law, and also the prophets, Jesus, son of Joseph, from Nazareth." But Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come from Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."
Wow. It's interesting, too, that Jesus, while identifying with - and becoming one of - the poor, chose someone bigoted like Nathanael. But recall passages like Mark 2:13-17,
Once again Jesus went out beside the lake. A large crowd came to him, and he began to teach them. As he walked along, he saw Levi son of Alphaeus sitting at the tax collector's booth. "Follow me," Jesus told him, and Levi got up and followed him.
While Jesus was having dinner at Levi's house, many tax collectors and "sinners" were eating with him and his disciples, for there were many who followed him. When the teachers of the law who were Pharisees saw him eating with the "sinners" and tax collectors, they asked his disciples: "Why does he eat with tax collectors and 'sinners'?"
On hearing this, Jesus said to them, "It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners."

Sex Abuse Scandal: The Right Medicine

Compassion literally means "suffering with" (it's from the same root as the Passion of Christ, for example, or passionate). That's what came to mind when I read this from the Associated Press,
With tears in his eyes, Pope Benedict XVI made his most personal gesture yet to respond to the clerical sex abuse scandal Sunday, telling victims the church will do everything possible to protect children and bring abusive priests to justice, the Vatican said.

The emotional moment carried no new admissions from the Vatican, which has strongly rejected accusations that efforts to cover up for abusive priests were directed by the church hierarchy for decades. But the pontiff told the men that the church would "implement effective measures" to protect children, the Vatican said, without offering details.

Benedict met for more than a half-hour with eight Maltese men who say they were abused by four priests when they were boys living at a Catholic orphanage. During the meeting in the chapel at the Vatican's embassy here, Benedict expressed his "shame and sorrow" at the pain the men and their families suffered, the Vatican said.

"Everybody was crying," one of the men, Joseph Magro, 38, told Associated Press Television News after the meeting. "I told him my name was Joseph, and he had tears in his eyes."

The visit — which came on the second day of Benedict's two-day trip to this largely Roman Catholic island — marked the first time Benedict had met with abuse victims since the worldwide clerical abuse scandal engulfed the Vatican earlier this year.

"He prayed with them and assured them that the Church is doing, and will continue to do, all in its power to investigate allegations, to bring to justice those responsible for abuse and to implement effective measures designed to safeguard young people in the future," the Vatican statement said.


Magro said the men, in their 30s and 40s, received a call Sunday morning to come to the embassy and that the pope spent a few minutes with each of them. He said the overall encounter, which lasted about 35 minutes, was "fantastic."

Lawrence Grech, who led efforts to arrange the encounter, said the pope told each of the men: "I am very proud of you for having come forward to tell your story."

Grech said he told the pontiff: "This a one-time opportunity in life ... you have the power to fill the emptiness that I had, someone else took my innocence and my faith."

At the end, they prayed together and the pope gave his blessing, the Vatican said.

"The climate was intense but very serene," said Vatican spokesman the Rev. Federico Lombardi.

The private meeting was confirmed only after it had occurred — as was the case when Benedict met with abuse victims in the United States and Australia in 2008. He returned to Rome late Sunday.

The most powerful criticism of Church authorities, and loyal Catholics generally, has been that they've been so focused on defending the Church against what they (and we) consider unjust attacks that they don't spend enough time standing in the shoes of the victim, or taking their sides against those who wronged them and were all too often defended by Church authorities. In between the victims and the Church are sometimes-helpful, sometimes-unwelcome mediators like SNAP and; as as those, like Maureen Dowd and Christopher Hitchens, who attempt to hijack these tragedies to try and score cheap rhetorical points against God, the Catholic Church, the male priesthood, or moral conservatism. I applaud Pope Benedict for going around all of these mediators and hijackers to suffer with the victim, to share in their pain. SNAP and remain skeptical about the pope's desire to clean up the Church -- which I still find baffling in light of his actual record on this issue. Nevertheless, it reminds me of a scene from the Gospel. John 11:32-37, which contains the shortest (and perhaps most powerful) verse in Scripture:

When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died." When Jesus saw her weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.
"Where have you laid him?" he asked.
"Come and see, Lord," they replied.
Jesus wept.
Then the Jews said, "See how he loved him!"
But some of them said, "Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?"

Handling The Sex Abuse Scandal: How It Should Be Done

The last three posts I've had on this blog have been dark: showing how bad things get when dioceses, priests, and any Catholics lose sight of what's important and pursue things of this world: approval of the world (particularly the media), unfettered sexual pleasure, and so forth. But I wanted to highlight two instances where bishops acted in an excellent fashion.

I. Where the Priest's Guilt is an Open Question
In the first case, there was a serious question about whether the priest was guilty or not. He was, in Bishop Chaput's words, "a popular and effective priest." As a 74 year-old priest, he had no prior accusations to speak of. But Archbishop Chaput was well aware that this wasn't the sort of situation to take any chances on. So in a painful letter to parishioners, he wrote:
April 9, 2010
To the parish community of Christ the King

Dear friends in Christ,

I need to inform you of difficult news. On April 8, I relieved Father Mel Thompson, who has served St. Thomas More Parish as parochial vicar for the last nine years, of his duties. I have removed his priestly faculties and withdrawn him from active ministry. Please note that Father Thompson previously served at Christ the King Parish in 1969.

This action comes after receiving an April 7 complaint against Father Thompson for past sexual misconduct with a minor that reportedly occurred in the early 1970s. In accord with our policies in this matter, we have reported the allegation to civil authorities for investigation. We are also alerting other parishes where Father Thompson has previously served.

It is important to note that Father Thompson maintains his innocence of the allegation, and to respect his privacy as this matter proceeds.

Anyone who has concerns about the conduct of Father Thompson during his time of service at Christ the King Parish—or any other clergy member, parish or school employee, or Church volunteer in the archdiocese who deals with minors—should contact Mr. Chris Pond, director of the Archdiocese of Denver’s Child and Youth Protection Office, at 303-715-3226.

Please keep your parish and the larger Church community in your prayers during this painful time.

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Rev. Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.
Archbishop of Denver
You can read the Archbishop's blog post explaining the letter, and with more information about the case here.

II. Where the Priest Admits to the Abuse
A much easier case is where the priest, when confronted, admits to the abuse. Then, the appropriate course of action is clear. Bishop Richard Stika was faced with just such a case, and had this to say at yesterday's press conference:

I want to thank you all for being here this morning.

Last week when I spoke to the media about the topic of clergy sexual abuse, I was not aware of a credible allegation against any priest in the Diocese of Knoxville.

Knowing how difficult it is for a victim of sexual abuse to come forward, I want to personally thank Mr. Warren Tucker for his courage in bringing this allegation to our attention [on April 14]. I know that SNAP has been working with Mr. Tucker and I appreciate their assistance.

Yesterday morning Mr. Tucker spoke with our Chancellor, Deacon Sean Smith, and a member of our Diocesan Review Board. Mr. Tucker has accused Father Bill Casey, a retired priest of the Diocese of Knoxville, of sexually abusing him while Father Casey was pastor of St. Dominic Church in Kingsport between 1975 and 1980. At that time St. Dominic Church was a part of the Diocese of Nashville.

Following Deacon Smith’s meeting with Mr. Tucker, we immediately adhered to the process outlined in our Policy and Procedure Relating to Sexual Misconduct. This policy is available on our website. I have also spoken with Bishop David Choby in the Diocese of Nashville since this occurred when East Tennessee was part of the Diocese of Nashville.

Last night I met with Father Bill Casey, and he admitted that there is credibility to Mr. Tucker’s statement. Father Casey is ashamed of his actions and truly saddened by the harm he has caused Mr. Tucker, his family, the Church, and its faithful.

Prior to Deacon Smith’s meeting with Mr. Tucker yesterday morning, we had no knowledge of Mr. Tucker’s experiences, and Mr. Tucker can verify that fact. At this time we have still not been notified by McDowell County, N.C., authorities that an investigation has been initiated.

As Bishop of the Catholic Church of East Tennessee, I want to apologize to Mr. Tucker, his family and to anyone else who may have been harmed by Father Casey.

I am sending a letter to all of our parishes to inform the parishioners of these allegations. I will ask that the letters be read aloud at Mass this weekend and inviting any others who may have been harmed to come forward.

Our first concern is for Mr. Tucker, his family, and anyone else who may have been harmed by Father Casey. We want to help him in his healing process in any way we can.

I want to assure you that Father Casey has been removed from ministry and will never again function as a priest in the Catholic Church.

Thank you to both Bishop Stika and Archbishop Chaput for brave action in defense of the Church!

Would that we had a few hundred more bishops with such strong backbone! Did you notice: in both cases, the bishops removed the accused priest from ministry by the next day after a single accusation? That's a breath of fresh air, indeed! Bear that in mind while we dig through tough cases like the failure of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to act for forty years on a serial abuser.

The Terrible Case of Paul Shanley

Paul Shanley was mentioned in this morning's post, so I thought I'd provide some background. If you're not familiar, he's one of the worst, and most notorious of the predator priests, and was active in Boston under Cardinal Law. He was (and it is "was," he's been defrocked) a heretical priest who preferred jeans to cassocks (or even clerical collars), and openly advocated for both adult homosexuality and man-boy sex. He was praised for his strong stances against traditional morality throughout Boston, and at least two powerful Cardinals (Cushing, and later Law) were too cowardly to take him on... even going so far as to let him run a "street ministry" for homosexual teens, who he molested scores of. Even after the man was revealed as a disgrace to the Church and to civilization, the most the Boston Globe could muster was that he was "part hero, part horror." The article recounts:
Some noticed the pattern early on. Randall Lee Gibson, the former minister of the Charles Street Meeting House on Beacon Hill, which ran an outreach program for gay youths in the 1970s and was a popular gay meeting place, says he often noticed Shanley with young men. He says he knew Shanley was a supporter of the North American Man/Boy Love Association, which advocated sex between men and boys, because ''I asked him,'' said Gibson, now 75 and retired in Orange. ''He said, `Yes, I am aware of it, and I support that activity.' It came to me as kind of a shock that he was as active as he was.''

Gibson, whose Unitarian Universalist church closed its doors in 1978, says he did not inform authorities because he didn't know enough about Shanley's beliefs or behavior. But Noble, the former legislator, says she did. Noble, who was also a highly visible gay figure in the 1970s, said that not only was it '' common knowledge in the community that Paul liked young men,'' but a number of young boys she knew told her about it in detail. She was also suspicious of what she saw. One day in 1978, Noble says, she was riding in an elevator in a downtown apartment building when Shanley came on the elevator with a young boy, both of them apparently fresh out of the shower. She later said to Shanley, ''You know, Paul, I'm surprised the cardinal hasn't done something about you. And he said, `No one can touch me.' And he was right.''

Noble says she took her concerns about Shanley to the Boston police; to Katharine Kane, then a deputy mayor; and to several priests who are now dead. Kane, now retired, said she ''never heard of Shanley until now.'' And when leaders in the gay community heard what Noble had done, she said, ''I got holy hell. People in my own community just didn't want to believe it. The truth is that people were afraid of Shanley. ... No one could shut down Paul Shanley.''

And Shanley gloried in it. Prophet, rescuer, visionary, he seemed to see himself as wielding great power in a universe of lesser mortals.
There's a cycle here, where the fact that Shanley rejected Catholic teachings actually made him less likely to be removed from the priesthood. Here's what we're dealing with:
  1. An incredible narcissist who viewed himself as a Christ figure. (For example, on page 2, of this - one of his insane Church bulletin ramblings, when he compares himself in section (7) to Christ numerous times, because they're both "controversial"). His intense arrogance allows him to decide for himself which Church teachings are right (he describes himself, on that same page above, as the man in charge of implementing Vatican II and making sure theology lines up with science), and which ones should be subordinated to his own will. His narcissism also tells him that he's entitled to sex with whomever he wants.
  2. As a result of #1: A dissident priest, who doesn't wear clerical garb, preaches that homosexual and man-boy sex is good (that is, preaches the opposite of the Church's teachings), cozies up to Unitarian Universalists, openly advocates for NAMBLA, and was active in the gay community. In other words, he's not exactly the image of how the Catholic Church says Her priests should behave. He doesn't even pretend to be an orthodox Catholic priest.
  3. As a result of #2: Shanley is loved by the media (the Globe particularly) and the gay community, as well as the hyper-liberal Protestants and Unitarians, for being willing to be "open-minded" and free-thinking and liberal about Catholic morality. That's the "part hero" bit that the Globe talked about.
  4. As a result of #3: Shanley's bishop, Bernard Cardinal Law, is too spineless to make a move to curb in his excesses. Law was more worried about how the Catholic Church (and particularly Bernard Cardinal Law) would look on the front page of the Globe than about what was actually going on. Even when it becomes incredibly clear that Shanley is raping children, his powerful patrons both within the Church and within the Boston gay community back him up, and those in a position to do something to stop him: the Cardinal, the deputy mayor, the police are left shaking in their boots, afraid to make the tough calls.
The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good people to do nothing, right? And good people have a strong incentive to do nothing when they're more worried about the anti-Catholic Globe reporter than Jesus Christ at Final Judgment.

So to tie that in with the themes of the last two posts, we're looking both at (a) a homosexual male who had sex with both adult men [he's the middle guy in the picture on the right, at a "gay skating night" in 1979] and even co-owned a gay motel in Palm Springs called the Cabana Club; (b) a man who had sex with exclusively male children at least as young as 12; and (c) a graduate of the notorious St. John's Seminary in Brighton MA, class of 1960.

The picture below is important:

The three men circled on the right are Frs. Joseph E. Birmingham, Bernard J. Lane, and Eugene M. O'Sullivan, all of whom have been accused of sexual abuse as well. The man circled in the back and center is Shanley, and the priest circled on the left is the future Bishop of Manchester, New Hampshire, John McCormack. McCormack protected not only Shanley but a number of other sexual predators, lying to victims and other priests. McCormack's involvement actually ties into a third strand which I mentioned in passing this morning: blackmail.

In a letter to then-Fr. McCormack, Shanley rages at the Archdiocese's decision not to pay for allergy medication for him, and threatens to cause a media frenzy if they don't send money:
"The only stress I have now, apart from what I've mentioned, is not knowing what will become of me. I would have to explain to my parishioners what has happened and that would precipitate the media whirlwind. I think the best for all concerned is medical retirement and let me do weekend supply."
For an Archdiocese for whom the Boston Globe's approval was the end-all, be-all, they were easily lead around by popular-and-manipulative abusers like Shanley.

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