Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Kagan, Partial-Birth Abortion, and the "Proper Place" of Science

The big story surrounding Obama's Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, is that while she was working for the Clinton White House, she secretly drafted a "scientific opinion" for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists claiming that partial-birth abortions were necessary. In other words:
  1. Kagan's boss, President Bill Clinton, wanted partial-birth abortion to remain legal.
  2. The medical groups (ACOG and the AMA) admitted that there were no known cases of a partial-birth abortion being the only option.
  3. Kagan fixed this by telling these groups what they should say instead. In other words, she lied about the science, and got medical groups to do the same.
  4. ACOG's brief was taken by the Supreme Court as medical expertise (unaware that it was written by a Clinton political appointee with no scientific expertise whatsoever).
  5. This brief was one of the reasons cited by the Court for striking down the partial-birth abortion ban.
James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal explains:
Shannen Coffin, who served as a deputy assistant attorney general in George W. Bush's administration, has a revelation about Kagan that is something of a blockbuster. When the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Nebraska's ban on partial-birth abortion in 2000, it relied in part on the scientific opinion of "a 'select panel' of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), a supposedly nonpartisan physicians' group" that partial-birth abortion "may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman."

It turns out the "scientist" who wrote these words was one Elena Kagan, a political aide in the Clinton White House.

In 1996, Kagan and others in the White House were strategizing about how to uphold President Clinton's veto of a federal bill that would have banned partial-birth abortion. The ACOG told the White House that its task force on the subject had reported that "in the vast majority of cases, selection of the partial birth procedure is not necessary to avert serious adverse consequences to a woman's health." Here's what happened next:

Upon receiving the task force's draft statement, Kagan noted in another internal memorandum that the draft ACOG formulation "would be a disaster--not the less so (in fact, the more so) because ACOG continues to oppose the legislation." Any expression of doubt by a leading medical body about the efficacy of the procedure would severely undermine the case against the ban.
So Kagan set about solving the problem. Her notes, produced by the White House to the Senate Judiciary Committee, show that she herself drafted the critical language hedging ACOG's position. On a document captioned "Suggested Options"--which she apparently faxed to the legislative director at ACOG--Kagan proposed that ACOG include the following language: "An intact D&X [the medical term for the procedure], however, may be the best or most appropriate procedure in a particular circumstance to save the life or preserve the health of a woman."
Kagan's language was copied verbatim by the ACOG executive board into its final statement, where it then became one of the greatest evidentiary hurdles faced by Justice Department lawyers (of whom I was one) in defending the federal ban.

The ACOG's behavior here is similar to that of climate scientists who corrupt the scientific method in order to advance political goals. Coffin notes that President Obama "promised in his inaugural address to 'restore science to its rightful place' "--by which he seems to have meant handmaiden to left-wing politicians.

It's one thing to be pro-choice. It's quite another to think it's morally acceptable to suck the brains out of a baby while he is being delivered by his mother. And it's another thing, perhaps even more vile, to be so rabidly in favor of this that you're willing to purposely skew the scientific evidence to make sure it stays legal.

Consider that. The actual groups with medical knowledge on this issue - groups which aren't remotely pro-life - didn't find partial-birth abortion necessary. Given that, what possible excuse could there be for Kagan's conduct?

This behavior is simply stunning.

"Images of an Inclusive Clergy"

That's the title of a post by Ray Grosswirth, a former Catholic (now part of the bizarre group Spiritu Christi) who runs a blog called "My World of Religion, Politics, Entertainment and Social Issues" (previously, "Toward a Progressive Catholic Church"). Originally, I found it pretty funny: the "images of an inclusive clergy" consisted entirely of images of elderly white people -- the images were far less diverse, by any standard other than sex (say, race, age, ethnicity, country of origin, etc.), than, say, the seminarians of the Archdiocese of Washington.
I. Which is More Diverse: The "Inclusive" Church, or the Real Catholic Church?
Since there are eight people in Grosswirth's catalogue of inclusiveness, let's take just the first eight off of the Archdiocese's webpage. Those eight men include seminarians from five countries on four continents (Croatia, Brazil, Ivory Coast, Paraguay, and the United States) representing multiple racial and ethnic groups, of different ages and from different walks of life (some entered seminary immediately upon graduating, others discovered their calling at retreats or pilgrimages, and one taught and coached for five years at an Opus Dei school before entering seminary). The diversity (particularly diversity in age and experience) is even greater amongst active priests in the area. In contrast to this are Grosswirth's image of the Church as eight aging Caucasian Americans. There's no way I can say for sure, but I'd venture that these eight folks come from similarly middle- to upper-class backgrounds, all voted Democratic in the last election, read (and actually believe) magazines like America and Commonweal, and have similar feelings (in opposition to the Church's clear teachings) on everything remotely related to sex. They form much more of a clique than does the 1 billion strong Catholic Church which they oppose, and it's laughable to call them the more "inclusive" ones, unless you ascribe some Orwellian meaning to that term.
II. Grosswirth v. Ratzinger: Who Better Understands/Pastors the Church?
Yet Grosswirth still sees his gang of eight the vision of catholicity to which the clergy must aspire, noting that he hoped that "Pope Benedict XVI will take a good look at the photos above, and then try to envision a gathering such as Vatican III, at which men and women would be making important decisions to ensure the viability of the Catholic Church for the next two thousand years and beyond."

The best that can be said for Grosswirth is that he's not aiming low: he thinks the pope might view his blog, call a Third Vatican Council (despite his previous declaration that another Council would be a bad idea), buck two thousand years of Church practice, and overrule Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit by ordaining women. I understand from my own struggles and temptations that blogging encourages the sin of pride: it's easy to feel important when you've got an electronic soapbox. But this is truly a new height. Why Vatican III? Why not just have it be the Council of Rochester, so Grosswirth won't have to commute so far?

Ratzinger himself has a quote, found on pages 18-19 of The Ratzinger Report, which addresses this with an eerie degree of specificity. In speaking of his own disillusionment with the journal Concilium he helped found:
At one of our very first meetings I pointed out two prerequisites to my colleagues. The first one: our group must not lapse into any kind of sectarianism or arrogance, as if we were the new, the true Church, an alternative magisterium with a monopoly on the truth of Christianity. The second one: discussion has to be conducted without any individualistic flights forward, in confrontation with the reality of Vatican II with the true letter and the true spirit of the Council, not with an imaginary Vatican III. These prerequisites were increasingly less observed in the following period up to a turning point - which set in about 1973 - when someone began to assert that the texts of Vatican II were no longer the point of reference of Catholic theology.

Indeed it was flatly stated that the Council still belonged to the traditional, clerical movement of the Church and that it was not possible to move forward very much with such documents. They must be surpassed. Hence the Council was only a starting point. But in those years I very soon disengaged myself from the directorate as well as from the contributors' staff. I have always tried to remain true to Vatican II, to this today of the Church, without any longing for a yesterday irretrievably gone with the wind and without any impatient thrust toward a tomorrow that is not ours.
So I think it's safe to say how Pope Benedict XVI would respond to this blog post, because he's already heard it all before, back when those heresies were still fresh and interesting-sounding.

III. The Seedy Underbelly
As I said, I originally found Grosswirth's post funny, in that his call for diversity was not very diverse at all. Now I just find it sad. Grosswirth's blog posts range from the standard heretical-Catholic fare (he illicitly attempted ordination at the hands of the totally crazy excommunicated Archbishop Emmanuel Milingo, automatically excommunicating himself in the process) to the bizarre and sort of disturbing. In this last category, I'll highlight only two of more creepy of his posts: first, his "new Gospel", in which a teenaged Jesus falls for a 10 year-old Mary Magdalene. Second, his 40 theses on mandatory celibacy (who knew you could even come up with 40 arguments against mandatory celibacy?). His 9th argument is that "The commandment of Jesus to “love one another” takes on the dimension of “love only thy self” with mandated celibacy." Think about what he's saying there. He's arguing that if we can't have sex with people, we don't really love them, and that when Jesus told us to "love one another," He meant to love them physically.

Grosswirth argues on his blog that mandatory celibacy leads to sexual abuse, because it leads to "sexual frustration." It's a terrible argument. There are plenty of people who are celibate against their wishes, based on unfortunate luck, looks, or personalities. Those people don't say, "I can't find a girlfriend, I guess I'll rape a kid." That's just not real life. On the other hand, those fanatics (like the critic himself) who think Jesus is calling them to some sort of pansexual Christian orgy aren't coming anywhere near my kids (if, God willing, I have kids). It's not a coincidence that the seminaries which pumped out the worst theology (like the two St. Johns', the feeder seminaries for Boston and L.A.) pumped out the worst abusers. Predator priests routinely justified their crimes by arguing that the Church's rules were outdated, and were in many cases themselves convinced that some magical Vatican III would validate their "progressive" sexual views.

Grosswirth deserves a bit of credit: unlike most Protestant critics of Catholic teachings on celibacy, he at least acknowledges the obvious Biblical teaching up front, that St. Paul calls those who are capable to celibacy (1 Corinthians 7:1; 1 Cor. 7:32-35), and held himself up as a model of celibacy (1 Cor. 7:7). The Catholic Church, unlike any Protestant denomination I know of, takes this advice quite seriously, and acts on it. In the Latin Rite in particular, only those men capable of celibacy are even considered for the priesthood. This is what Grosswirth (and Protestant critics) call "mandatory celibacy," but it's really "mandatory clerical celibacy." You're completely free to pursue either a family life, taking care care of a wife and kids, or a vocation to the priesthood, taking care of the Kingdom of God, or neither. But you don't get to choose both. Calling that "mandatory celibacy" seems a bit inaccurate.
IV. The Sad Conclusion
Grosswirth's blog is a representative diary of sorts, for liberal Catholics of a certain age. The Second Vatican Council closed when he was a teenager, and it's easy to see how someone caught up in the Zeitgeist might believe that future liberalizing changes were just around the corner on issues such as married Latin Rite clergy, ordained women, changes in the Church's teachings on topics like birth control and even abortion, and so forth. Those who better understood Catholicism would (or should) have known that this wasn't possible, but for a fifteen year-old, it's easy to see how he'd get his hopes up for a new liberal Church. That Church never did (and never will) materialize, and he's become disaffected and bitter with the real Church in the process. Grosswirth still presents himself as being Catholic (despite, by his own admission, not being in communion with Rome, and rejecting the Magisterium), and still is pushing for the vision that seemed believable to his fifteen year-old self, some forty-five years later. He really does seem interested, even obsessed, with the Catholic Church. He pursued an M.A. in Theology and an M.Div, both from the Catholic St. Bernard's, yet he finds himself cut off from that Church because of his own unwillingness to submit that the Magisterium may know more than he does on the issue of women's ordination, et al.

Part of me is simply annoyed by the pettiness of it all: is the issue of women's ordination really so important as to cut yourself off from the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist, and risk your salvation outside the Church? At least Luther, by the end of his life, claimed that the Church was leading innocent souls towards Hell through bad teaching; Grosswirth simply thinks that the Church doesn't make everyone feel "welcome" enough by not hiring women. When the shoe is on the other foot -- when Anglican priests left the Anglican Communion over the ordination of women and gays -- he accused them of putting "politics" ahead of faith.

But the other part of me recognizes that this is something he's devoted much of his life to. It seemed important, and just out of reach, when he first began his quest, and there's something overwhelmingly sad in reading the writings of a man who spent nearly half a century backing a series of losing horses, and trying to lead the Church in a path God didn't want Her to go down. His blog now serves as a long and depressing dénouement to a life that didn't go where he'd hoped or planned it would. He talks about not having the energy to start a new Church, reminisces about his days working as "The Wizard of Pun" for a Rochester radio station in the late 1970s, and tells about a failed bid for City Council in 1984. He dresses up in a suit and tie to make Youtube videos out of his living room, and he describes his career as follows: "I have simply worked as a paper-pusher for the past twenty-two years at City Hall and look forward to my retirement next year (2011). I then hope to devote the rest of my life to ministry and my hobbies."

I don't find Grosswirth's blog funny anymore. True, there's some irony to an "inclusive Church" that looks like it could be the Children of the Corn's fiftieth reunion, but the souls lost to liberal heresies, and the lives wasted on Quixotic crusades against an irrepressible Church put a real damper on the humor. Although I disagree with virtually everything he writes and says, I've developed a soft spot for Grosswirth and those like him who feel betrayed by the Church's unwillingness to become New Age / Anglican / Democratic. I hope you'll join me in offering up some prayers that Grosswirth can come to better see and understand Jesus Christ and His Church, and the plan that Christ has for his life, and that he may come to truly believe.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Assurance of Salvation and "Evanescent Grace"

Nick, responding to my earlier post on assurance of salvation, brought up a very good point:
John Calvin clearly taught something called *evanescent grace* in which God gives a 'fake grace' to the Reprobate to make them *think* and act as if they were Saved, and this only so that He could damn them with greater punishment for such deceptive behavior (other Reformed teachers will reluctantly admit God does this too).
What Nick's referring to is Calvin's teaching in Book III, Chapter II, Section 11 of Institutes of the Christian Religion (skip down to where it begins, " I am aware it seems unaccountable"). And it's exactly as he describes. Calvin taught that the gift of faith was the fruit of God's unconditional election. If you believed, it was because you were already saved: instead of the Biblical teaching that salvation comes through faith, Calvin taught that faith comes through salvation.

But there's an enormous flaw in Calvin's entire religious schema: countless people seem to believe (and believe they believe), and then fall away from the faith. These people, in an earlier day, counted themselves as believers, and were considered believers by their peers. I've addressed this issue elsewhere, including particular cases like Simon the Magi, who Acts 8:13 says "believed and was baptized," yet fell away and was in peril of damnation by Acts 8:20-24. But if that's so, then by definition, it's possible to have faith without it being the fruit of God's unconditional election. According to Calvin, if Simon had the true gift of faith, it was because he was already unconditionally saved: nothing he did would change his status as elect, including his attempt to buy the Holy Spirit. So this leaves two Calvin with two options: either St. Luke is wrong in Acts 8:13 (and Simon didn't really believe), or St. Peter is wrong in Acts 8:20-24, and Simon has nothing to worry about. Calvin's answer, in effect, says that Luke is wrong. He creates, out of whole cloth and without even attempting to tie his argument into the Bible or the teachings of the Early Church Fathers, a doctrine that says that God sometimes gives the damned a false sense of assurance of salvation, called evanescent grace.

This false sense of security is so strong that it's indistinguishable even to the believer (or non-believer who thinks he's a believer). Or, as Calvin put it: "though none are enlightened into faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are fore-ordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. "

But this raises a second question: if the damned have a false sense of assurance, how can an individual tell if they're saved or damned? Calvin's already answered this -- you can't ("even in their own judgment..."). The damned "know" they're saved, but aren't, while the saved know they're saved, and are. In fact, Calvin argues that the damned, afflicted with this deceiving grace, experience all of the internal and external manifestations of salvation.

So God reveals to these damned a sense of His Mercy, and of His Goodness, and reveals His Grace to them. They accept His Grace, although confusedly. They think they're saved ("the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them."), and others think they're saved, since "under a covering of hypocrisy, they seem to have a principle of faith in common" with the saved. Yet, Calvin argues that when God "shows himself propitious to them, it is not as if he had truly rescued them from death, and taken them under his protection." So according to Calvin, God pretends to save them, gives them fake assurances of salvation, and then damns them.

Calvin does distinguish between the graces experienced by the saved v. the confused damned. The saved get the real thing, while the damned lay hold "of the shadow rather than the substance." In other words, if the saved are drinking Coke, the damned are drinking Diet Coke. But since neither the saved nor the damned have ever had the other kind, and all of the external characteristics are the same, there's no way of knowing which you're drinking. Read over Calvin's teachings in the link above, and I think you'll see that the following is a pretty accurate chart depicting how you can figure out which one you are:
Saved, With Saving GraceDamned, With Evanescent Grace
Sense of Grace?yesyes
Internal working of the Spirit?yesyes
Appear to be Saved?yesyes
Believe They Have Faith?yesyes
Believe They're Saved?yesyes
Actually Saved?yesno

Calvin sees this problem and proposes two equally unhelpful solutions:

  1. "Meanwhile, believers are taught to examine themselves carefully and humbly, lest carnal security creep in and take the place of assurance of faith."
  2. "Should it be objected, that believers have no stronger testimony to assure them of their adoption, I answer, that though there is a great resemblance and affinity between the elect of God and those who are impressed for a time with a fading faith, yet the elect alone have that full assurance which is extolled by Paul, and by which they are enabled to cry, Abba, Father."

The first "solution" is unhelpful for obvious reasons. This self-examination is doomed to failure from the start, since the damned are being duped. Calvin's already conceeded that even in the damned's self-judgment, they're saved, so more self-examination isn't really a solution. And the second "solution" is that the elect have full assurance.

Does this mean that if you question your salvation, you're unsaved, since you don't have "full assurance"? Or does it mean that you're simply examining yourself to ensure that what seemed like assurance wasn't just "carnal security"? And if the saved, by fruit of their unconditional election, have received full assurance of faith, how is it even possible for carnal security to "creep in and take the place of assurance of faith," if this assurance is the special gift, and unique identifier, of the elect?

Calvin's assurance of his own brilliance and intellect lead him to choose his own philosophical conclusions over some pretty clear Biblical passages which show people believing and falling away. The result was ugly: his creation of a system in which God purposely tricks people into believing they're saved by Jesus Christ, shows them His mercy, and then sends them to hell for eternity. It's not remotely Biblical, nor does he pretend that it is. And it fails to provide any of the assurance of salvation that Calvin claimed it would, as even he came close to conceeding. Under the Calvinist schema, there's just no way of knowing if you're saved or not.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Two Short Arguments for Infant Baptism

The debate over infant Baptism is precisely one of the reasons that Tradition is necessary. The Bible just isn't clear whether the Apostles baptized babies or not. There are references to "households" being baptized, but it's far from clear whether those households included young children or not. And since it was the first generation of new Christians, most of the new members were adults (just as most of the new American citizens when our country was founded were adults, while most new Americans today are babies). Now, as Catholics, we know that infant Baptism is legitimate because (a) the Church teaches that it is, and (b) there's plenty of evidence that the early Christians baptized their babies after that first generation -- which is to say, the Magisterium and Tradition clearly teach this doctrine. But what about some arguments for non-Catholics unwilling to look at those sources of Truth? Here are two possibly helpful arguments derived from the Bible. They focus on two of the attributes of Baptism: it is our entrance into the Church, and the cleansing of all of our sins.

I. The Doorway of Baptism.
  • A) In Baptism, We Enter the Body of Christ, the Church.

Romans 6:3-5 says:

Or don't you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life. If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection.

And more obviously, 1 Corinthians 12:13:

For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.
  • B) Children Are Called to Come to Christ.

Matthew 19:14,

Jesus said, "Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these."

  • C) Therefore, We Must Allow Children to be Baptized into Christ and His Church.
If "the little children" are to come to Christ, and that's done through Baptism, little children should be baptized.


That's the first argument: simple enough. Here's the second:

II. The Saving Waters of Baptism.
  • A) Sin and Impurity Keeps Us Out of Heaven.

Revelation 21:27,

Nothing impure will ever enter it, nor will anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

2 Peter 2:4 notes that God did not spare even His angels when they sinned, casting them into Hell.

  • B) Infants Are Born With Original Sin.

Romans 5:12-19 lays this out most clearly, as Paul contrasts Adam and Christ. I've highlighted the parts dealing with the imputation of Adam's sin:

Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all men, because all sinned— for before the law was given, sin was in the world. But sin is not taken into account when there is no law. Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who was a pattern of the one to come.
But the gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died by the trespass of the one man, how much more did God's grace and the gift that came by the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, overflow to the many! Again, the gift of God is not like the result of the one man's sin: The judgment followed one sin and brought condemnation, but the gift followed many trespasses and brought justification. For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God's abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
Consequently, just as the result of one trespass was condemnation for all men, so also the result of one act of righteousness was justification that brings life for all men. For just as through the disobedience of the one man the many were made sinners, so also through the obedience of the one man the many will be made righteous.

Beyond this, virtually all Protestants teach the doctrine of Original Sin, so you can always just clarify the person's own beliefs on the issue.

  • C) Baptism Washes Away Sin.

Paul, in giving his conversion story in Acts 22:16, quotes Ananias as saying:

"And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name."

Compare the contexts of Acts 9 and Acts 22. When Ananias says this, he's already laid hands on Paul, filling him with the Holy Spirit and giving him sight (see Acts 9:17-19). Paul believes, and then is Baptized, and it's in this second step, according to Ananias, that his sins are removed. Baptism isn't just a symbol, then, but actually removes sin.

St. Peter makes it perhaps even clearer in 1 Peter 3:20b-22, when he describes Noah's Ark as prefiguring the Church, and the floodwaters as prefiguring the waters of Baptism:

In it [the Ark] only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water, and this
water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also
—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at God's right hand—with angels, authorities and powers in submission to him.

This is an issue on which the Bible is particularly clear.

  • D) Therefore, We Must Allow Children to be Baptized to be Saved.

It's pretty basic. Kids are born dirty (through original sin). Baptism, and only Baptism, removes this spiritual dirt. Having this dirt removed is necessary to get into Heaven. To deny children Baptism, and just hope that they don't die before they reach the age of reason is to seriously jeopardize their spiritual well-being.

Conclusion

I can't promise that either of these arguments will be winners, particularly if someone approaches Baptism with the preconception that it's a symbol of our repentance. But they're worth a try. Also worth noting:

  • Baptism as the new circumcision. Genesis 17:12-13 says circumcision is to happen on the eighth day (the first day that the blood can coagulate, suggesting God knew a bit more about medicine than modern athiests give Him credit for). It's an "everlasting covenant." In Christ, the Covenant is no longer performed physically, but spiritually, through Baptism (Colossians 2:11-12).
  • Parents deciding for kids. This one is pretty easy. Some folks feel weird about deciding that their kid will be a Christian, instead of letting the kid have a personal conversion experience or decide for him/herself. That's moden nuttiness. As Joshua says in Joshua 24:15, "as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD."

Hope that helps!

Friday, June 25, 2010

When Does Human Life Begin?

The central argument motivating the pro-life movement is that a new life begins at the union of sperm and egg, called either "conception" or "fertilization" (there's been a clever move by pro-choicers to redefine conception as "implantation," in true Orwellian fashion, so fertilization may be the better term). For the vast majority of people, the answer to this question decides whether or not they're okay with abortion. And yet, the stock pro-choice argument isn't that science proves that life begins at birth, or some other date, but that "we don't know."

If by "we," the speaker means the average person on the street, maybe that's true. It reminds me of things like this clip (warning: brief foul language). If "we" can't "name a country that start with 'U'" (various answers: Yugoslavia, Utah, and plenty of "I don't know's") or find Iraq or Israel on a map, then maybe popular opinion isn't the best.

But what about scientists? When do they say a new life begins? Turns out, that question is ridiculously simple: fertilization. Patrick Lee, director of the Institute of Bioethics at Franciscan University of Steubenville, and Robert P. George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University and founder of the American Principles Project, do an excellent job explaining the science here.

All of this is pretty common-sensical, to boot. For example, we know as a matter of undisputed scientific fact that:
Many amazing things happen at fertilization. Your baby's entire physical attributes are determined including gender, hair color, and eye color. Between days 7-10 from fertilization implantation usually occurs.

Assume for a moment that the baby's gender is male. We now have a living organism (which scientists call a zygote) which consumes food and secretes waste, it's growing, moving, and so forth. The cells are themselves quite obviously alive. And it's also a distinctly male organism. Even though we can't see the outward signs of it, the zygote is a boy zygote, and is genetically different than girl zygotes, and genetically different than the mother. He has XY chromosomes, she has XX chromosomes. To say that the zygote is part of her body is to suggest she's part-male. It's a silly and unscientific claim.

Of course, pro-choicers go much further. Even after the male fetus develops genitals, they'll keep arguing that he's part of her body, as if pregnant mothers suddenly develop two hearts, four lungs, and both male and female sex organs. And of course, they don't believe this themselves. After all, consider the so-called "therapeutic abortions," where children are killed for having conditions like Down's Syndrome. Doctors explain that the baby will have (and technically, does have) Down's Syndrome -- the mother doesn't. It isn't as though she suffers a brief spell of Down's Syndrome for nine months, before giving birth. So really, when it suits them, even pro-abortionists (and here, they're pushing for aborting the disabled, so the term fits) admit that the child is a distinct living being from the mother even when they're in intimate physical proximity.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Did Jesus Use the Greek Version of the Bible?

Kerath25, in response to my post this morning, asked:
I'd heard that there is some evidence that Jesus Himself used the Septuagint. On a simple search, most of the results that I'd come across were people seeking to refute this theory, and I didn't find any convincing evidence to support the theory that Jesus used Greek. Is there any good evidence to back up either side?
This is a great question, and it's more important than people may realize. The answer is that as far as we can tell, both Jesus and the New Testament authors use the Greek version of the Old Testament at times. As a general shorthand, I'll say Greek or LXX version for the Septuagint and other Greek translations, and the Hebrew or MT version for the Hebrew versions. The Masoretic Text (MT) wasn't around at the time of Christ, but is the modern version based upon older Hebrew versions, and is at least a pretty reliable indicator of what the Hebrew version of the OT looked like in Jesus' day.

It's important to acknowledge a few important caveats at the beginning: (1) most of the differences between the Hebrew and Greek version are minor, like the differences between Bible versions today, (2) many of the NT quotations are too short to say for sure which version of the OT it's from, (3) many "quotations" are paraphrases instead of exact quotations, and (4) the New Testament is written in Greek, so it's not always clear if the authors are translating Jesus.* Finally, any most importantly, I'm not a Greek or Hebrew speaker. All of my knowledge comes second-hand, so take it with a grain of salt. One resource I relied upon is here, and is helpful and straightforward, compiled by an Eastern Orthodox author with a thorough knowledge and love of the LXX version of the Old Testament. Another resource I found a bit late was this one.

Still, here are a handful of the cases I know about where it seems obvious enough that the Greek version was used, because there are differences in content between the two versions.
I. Times Jesus Used the Greek Version
Like I said, it's sometimes hard to know whether Jesus used the Greek version, or whether the New Testament writers, in translating His words, mirrored the Greek translations of the OT. But there are a couple times when it's nearly irrefutable that Jesus Himself used the Greek version. For example:
  • Hebrews 10:5-7 and the Incarnation
The most important passage to know on the question of Jesus' use of the Greek version of Scripture is Hebrews 10:5-7, which says:
5Therefore, when Christ came into the world, He said:
"Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
6with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
7Then I said, 'Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, O God.' "
Even the NIV notes that this is a quotation from the Greek version of Psalm 40:6-8. Here's why that's important. In the Hebrew versions, Psalm 40:6 says, "Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but my ears you have pierced." But all three major Greek versions, the Septuagint, Symmachus and Theodotion translations, list it as "a Body You prepared for Me." What may have happened, as one author explores here, is that the Hebrew expression is an obscure idiom, and the Greek translations were intentionally non-literal. The theory is that since slaves often wore an earring showing who their master was in the Near East, that offering your ears to God could mean either listening or offering your whole body.

Now, if Psalm 40:6 is a prophesy of Christ, it's not because God opened His ears, but because Jesus is God-in-the-flesh, with a Body prepared for Him by His Father. So how and why the Greek and MT versions came to be distinct isn't particularly important, compared to the fact that (a) they are distinct, and (b) Hebrews 10:5 only makes sense with the Greek. Significantly, the author of Hebrews isn't just saying that the Greek version of the Psalm is a prophesy of Christ. He's saying that Jesus Himself said it was.
  • Jesus quotes the LXX version of Isaiah 29:13 in Mark 7:6-8; the MT version says "their worship of me is made up only of rules taught by men," with no reference to the worship being vain; the LXX version says "They worship me in vain; their teachings are but rules taught by men." Jesus chooses the LXX, which makes a difference. The context of Mark 7 is not on worship, but on the way they're living and expecting others to live (ceremonial washing before eating, the Corban, etc.), so the MT version of Isaiah 29:13 doesn't fit very well, while the LXX version is directly on point, since it deals with both vain worship and teachings.
  • In Matthew 21:16, Jesus asks, "have you never read, 'From the lips of children and infants, you have ordained praise'?" That's the Greek version. The Hebrew version says "ordained strength." And note that Jesus is responding to the chief priests and scribes of Jerusalem, who were upset at the children praising Jesus, "Hosanna to the Son of David" (Matthew 21:15).
There are plenty of other examples, but those are three I know of where it almost certainly wasn't Matthew or Mark translating into the Greek, but Jesus using the Greek originally, since using the Hebrew would have made substantially less sense.
II. Times the New Testament Authors Used the Greek Version
It's a lot easier to establish that the New Testament authors frequently used the Greek version of the Bible, and since the Bible is "God-breathed," it still seems to establish God's stamp of approval on non-Hebrew versions of the Old Testament over the Hebrew versions, at least at time. So here are a few times where it's obvious that a Greek version is used, because the author's point really only makes sense using the Greek:
  • Matthew 1:23 and the Virgin Birth
The most important example of a New Testament writer using the Greek version is in Matthew 1:23, in which Matthew declares that Christ being born of the Virgin Mary fulfills Isaiah 7:14's prophesy that "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call Him Immanuel." Matthew purposely quotes from the Greek version here, because only the Greek version is unambiguously a prophesy of the Virgin Birth.

Here's what I mean. The Hebrew word used in Isaiah 7:14 is `almah. That can be a reference to virginity, but it doesn't have to be. It's almost identical to the older English word "maiden," which can mean virgin, unmarried woman, or young woman, or all of the above. So the Hebrew version of Isaiah 7:14 is basically, "the maiden will be with child and give birth to a son," which might or might not be about the Virgin Mary giving birth.

But what's significant is that when it was translated into Greek (which was before the time of Christ, mind you), the translators understood it to be about a coming Virgin Birth. And so they chose a Greek word which clearly meant "virgin." This decision on their part is important, because it was unbiased -- the translator wasn't trying to prove or deny the Virgin Birth, as translators after the coming of Christ have been.

Still, St. Matthew reaches for the Greek version of the prophesy when he's announcing its fulfillment. And the choice is deliberate. In Matthew 2:15, he chooses the Hebrew version, where that one is more clear.

So that's the most important example of the Greek being chosen over the Hebrew. There's another important one, at the Council of Jerusalem.
  • Acts 15:17 and Salvation for the Gentiles
James, at the Council of Jerusalem, argues that salvation by Jesus Christ is extended to even the Gentiles. He bases this conclusion in part upon Peter's testimony, and in part on the Old Testament. In particular, he says in Acts 15:15-18,
The words of the prophets are in agreement with this, as it is written:
" 'After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things' that have been known for ages."
That's Amos 9:11-12 he's quoting, and it's the Greek version. We know it's the Greek version because the Hebrew version says that God will restore and rebuild David's fallen tent, "so that they may possess the remnant of Edom and all the nations that bear my name," suggesting that the restored Israel would conquer, rather than save, the Gentiles. If the Masoretic Text were right here, this would seem to be an argument against James' point, which is that the Church, as the restored and rebuilt Israel, is for all the faithful, including the Gentiles.

Beyond those two examples, here are a few others, where it just seems obvious enough that the Greek is being preferred:
  • Peter, in 1 Peter 4:18, says "And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?" That's an exact quotation of the LXX version of Proverbs 4:11. But the MT version of Proverbs 4:11 says something totally different (and strange): "If the righteous will be rewarded in the earth, how much more the wicked and the sinner! "
  • Paul, in 1 Corinthians 15:55, quotes Hosea 13:14 to say, "Where, O death, is your sting?" while the MT version of that verse says, "Where, O death, are your plagues?" The meaning is similar, but he chose the Greek version.
  • Finally, the MT version of Deuteronomy 32:43 is: "Rejoice, O nations, with his people, / for he will avenge the blood of his servants; / he will take vengeance on his enemies /
    and make atonement for his land and people." The Septuagint, along with the Dead Sea Scrolls, include the line "and let all the angels worship him" between the first and second line. Hebrews 1:6 says, "And again, when God brings his firstborn into the world, he says, 'Let all God's angels worship him.'" So here, the author of Hebrews is quoting to a line of the song that's not found in the standard Hebrew (MT) version. So there's literally no way he's quoting (or even paraphrasing) the verse from the MT, since it doesn't exist there.
There are dozens of verses in addition to this one, but most of those are really inconsequential differences you wouldn't ever notice without comparing the text side by side.
III. Why This Matters
My point is not that Jesus and/or the authors of the NT thought that the Greek version of the Old Testament was better than the Hebrew version of the Old Testament.

Rather, as I mentioned with St. Matthew, you can find plenty of examples of Jesus, and the NT writers, using both versions of the Old Testament. Quite frankly, neither the LXX nor the Masoretic Text is perfect, just as there's no single English-language version of the Bible which is absolutely perfect. That's clearly the view of Jesus and His Apostles, since they don't feel tied to a single translation or version. And it's clearly the view of the Church: She's willing to use translations, even by heretics -- to the disgust of Jerome, as I noted this morning -- if it's a more accurate version. Sometimes, that meaning is best captured by having multiple translations. For example, Jerome himself translates the same phrase in the Lord's Prayer as both "daily Bread" and "supersubstantial Bread." Taken together, these phrases capture a full range of meaning: that the Eucharist is "supersubstantial," that It is the fulfillment of the Old Testament manna, that we should pray to receive Christ in the Eucharist daily, etc. So the fact that no one version of the Bible, in English, Greek, or Hebrew, isn't particularly cause for alarm -- it can even be a blessing in disguise.

But it's significant that it's just assumed that the Greek version of the Bible is Scripture. Jesus expected even the chief priests and scribes of Jerusalem to know the Greek version as Scripture, which Matthew 21:15-16 makes clear. That's very important because the Greek version contains the Deuterocanon. Even though modern Jews reject the Greek version of Scripture, and reject the Deuterocanon, at least some Jews at the time of Christ (plus, of course, Christ Himself) knew it and considered it Scripture. It's Christ, not the Israelites, who is in the best position to declare what is and is not Scripture. And He's spoken here. What further reason could there be to reject the Deuterocanon?


--------------

*So, for example, the Shema Israel in Deuteronomy 6:5 says to love God with all your heart, soul, and strength; but in the Greek translation, it's heart, mind, soul, and strength. The reason is that the Hebrew term for "heart" had more meaning, so it took two Greek words to translate the one Hebrew word. In Mark 12:30, we hear Jesus quoting the Greek version, but in Matthew's account of the same conversation (Matthew 22:37), He's quoting the Hebrew version. What happened? Jesus said it in Hebrew, and the oldest known versions of both Matthew and Mark's Gospels are in Greek. So Mark, or someone translating Mark's Gospel into Greek, did the same thing the LXX translators did when they translated Deut. 6:5, while Matthew kept the more literal version. Here, if you didn't have two versions, it might look like Jesus was using the Greek, but Matthew's version is pretty strong evidence that He used the Hebrew version. (Although it's possible that Jesus said it in Greek, and Matthew translated it back into Hebrew, that's the less likely of the two options).

St. Jerome on the Deuterocanon

Catholic Bibles, as you probably know, are larger than Protestant Bibles. Or more specifically, we Catholics have the following books, which Protestants don't: Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach (a.k.a. Ecclesiasticus), Baruch, and 1st and 2nd Maccabees. In addition to that, we have longer versions of Esther and Daniel. And finally, we have the Letter of Jeremiah. It's a copy of a letter written by Jeremiah. It used to be placed as the last chapter of the Book of Jeremiah, and is now the last chapter of the book of Baruch.

These Books, and parts of Books, which the Orthodox and Coptics have as well, are referred to as the Old Testament Deuterocanon (or usually, just "the Deuterocanon") by us, and as "the Apocrypha" by Protestants who reject them. The Protestant Old Testament is patterned off of the Hebrew versions of the Old Testament, while the Catholic, Orthodox, and Coptic Old Testaments are modelled off of the Greek versions.

If you've ever discussed the reasons for their rejection with someone knowledgable enough to have a reason, there tend to be two common points brought up:

(1) the Jews don't consider these books canonical (by which, they mean modern Jews), and

(2) Jerome rejected them.


The first point is pretty weak. The Jews up to the latter half of the first century A.D., past the time of Christ, had no settled canon. And the Church has fulfilled the mantle of Israel, as the Old Testament repeatedly prophesied. While the Jews still have a particular role in God's plan of salvation, that role doesn't include setting the canon for Christian Bibles.

The second point takes various forms. Sometimes, they'll cut right to Jerome, while othertimes, the argument will be presented as if the speaker knows of someone prominent Church Father besides Jerome who felt this way. Occassionally, you'll even hear that "the early Church" rejected these books, but that's just untrue. In fact, if you read what Jerome actually says on the subject, you'll quickly realize that he acknowledged his own view as (a) the minority view, (b) opposed to the Church's view, and (c) possibly wrong, even sinfully so. The best evidence for this comes in his book Against Rufinus.

Here's the context. St. Jerome translated the Vulgate for the pope, at his request. And Jerome submitted to the pope's authority, including the entire Deuterocanon along with the rest of Scripture. But in his prefaces for some of the books, he noted criticisms that either he, or Jewish friends of his, had against the Greek versions (since by this time the Jews exclusively used the Hebrew version, and rejected the Deuterocanon). For these prefaces, amongst other things, Rufinus attacked him, and Jerome responded.

Jerome gets to his explaination of Daniel, and makes it clear that while he doesn't like that the Catholic version is based on a heretic's translation, he's willing to submit to the "judgment of the churches":
I also told the reader that the version read in the Christian churches was not that of the Septuagint translators but that of Theodotion. It is true, I said that the Septuagint version was in this book very different from the original, and that it was condemned by the right judgment of the churches of Christ; but the fault was not mine who only stated the fact, but that of those who read the version. We have four versions to choose from: those of Aquila, Symmachus, the Seventy, and Theodotion. The churches choose to read Daniel in the version of Theodotion. What sin have I committed in following the judgment of the churches? But when I repeat what the Jews say against the Story of Susanna and the Hymn of the Three Children, and the fables of Bel and the Dragon, which are not contained in the Hebrew Bible, the man who makes this a charge against me proves himself to be a fool and a slanderer; for I explained not what I thought but what they commonly say against us. I did not reply to their opinion in the Preface, because I was studying brevity, and feared that I should seem to he writing not a Preface but a book. I said therefore, "As to which this is not the time to enter into discussion." [...] Still, I wonder that a man should read the version of Theodotion the heretic and judaizer, and should scorn that of a Christian, simple and sinful though he may be.

Nota bene: the important thing, in the end, wasn't whether the Jews used that version (they didn't), or whether Jerome's individual reasoning and experience lead him to that conclusion (it didn't), or even what the standard Greek Septuagint said, but what the Church said. Understand that point, and the entire Deuterocanonical debate is settled. The Church closed the canon long before the Reformation, and no individual Christian (whether Jerome or Luther) has the authority to overrule Her Holy Spirit-protected judgment.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Assurance of Salvation?

A number of Protestants find it singularly compelling that they "know" that they're eternally saved. I've always found this line of reasoning sort of strange. To the last individual, they've argued or admitted that:
  1. The saved can know that they're saved;
  2. The damned often think that they're saved, but they aren't (obviously);
  3. Even those saved around the damned often think that the damned individual is saved, and before he or she ultimately "falls away."
This struck me as sort of a baffling paradox: if the symptoms of being saved and being damned-but-deluded are the same (you think you're saved, other people think you're saved), where's the assurance, exactly? After all, the person in #2 may be just as assured of his salvation as the person in #1, but that assurance of salvation doesn't seem to be doing much for him. If anything, it might even be damaging, presuming (as non-Calvinist Protestants believe) that the damned in #2 could have been saved.

But Christopher Lake, in announcing that he was converting from Reformed Baptist back to Catholic, goes on a long and unrelated (but interesting) aside about assurance of salvation. Here it the aside in full, taken from Called to Communion:

Reading through the comments for this post, and comments on related posts at C2c, I just had a stunning and terrifying realization. The entire time that I was a convinced Reformed Baptist (from, approximately, 2005 until earlier this year), within the parameters of the Reformed soteriology I held, there was no way for me *know*, in fact, that I was saved. Logically, it would also seem that this would also apply to *anyone* who accepts Reformed soteriology– whether Presbyterian, Reformed Anglican/Episcopal, Bible church, Calvinistic Methodist (as was George Whitefield), and so on. I will explain my thinking and invite anyone to correct me if my reasoning is flawed, or completely incorrect, here.

As a Reformed Baptist who, by definition, believed in the Calvinist doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints (the Reformed understanding of “eternal security”), to be sure (no pun intended!), I believed in assurance of salvation, I sang about it in church, and when I evangelized non-Christians, it was at least my *desire* to share the concept of assurance with them. I *thought* that I knew I was saved, and that my salvation was secure for all eternity. In fact though, there was no way for me to know. All that I could *truly know* is that I possessed *signs* of belonging to the elect.

However, there were other, worrisome “signs” in my life that sometimes led me to *doubt* whether I was one of the elect. I repeatedly struggled with certain sins, and sometimes, chose to give in to them. My Reformed friends would tell me that the fact(s) that I *did* struggle, and that I lamented and hated my sin, showed that I was a true brother in Christ, one of the elect.

There was the other side of that coin though. I still *did* give in to sin at times, and at those exact moments, chillingly, the sin felt good. I also felt sickness, revulsion, and self-reproach, but part of me did like the sin. Soon after would come repentance and confession to God, and many times, talking with fellow Reformed Christians about my various sin struggles. These friends would assure me that I was continuing to hate and fight sin, and that those are signs of being elect. They would also lovingly warn me (as they should have, as my friends) not to become complacent *about* my sin or *about* my assurance– for either of these could lead a hardness of heart and a
“falling away,” thus proving that I never really belonged to God.

Therein lies the crux of the problem with the Reformed concept of assurance. It isn’t
really assurance. It is a “confidence,” one might say, though without complacence, that one is saved, based on the appearance of *signs* that one belongs to the elect. However, those signs could all be ultimately temporary in one’s life, and therefore, illusory. One must also, from time to time, check one’s life to make sure that the “signs” of belonging to the elect aren’t beginning to be outweighed by possible “signs” of being reprobate (non-elect).

The latter was a periodic struggle (and over time, a heavy burden) for me, as a Reformed Baptist who sought to have “assurance” of my salvation. I could never *truly* have assurance of my salvation, in any sense *other* than how I appeared to be showing signs of belonging to the elect, from one day or week or month (which might have been very encouraging) to another day or week or month (not as encouraging).

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Life Changes, and the Marvellous Hand of God

The last couple months have been pretty hectic for me, personally. Long-time readers of the blog know the basic backstory. Late April to Mid-May was finals season for me, in my last semester at Georgetown Law. Four of my five classes for the semester had writing requirements, instead of tests. I did this intentionally, because I liked the writing-requirement classes better, wanted to improve my legal and scholarly writing, and felt that it would be more flexible with working part time at the firm I do staffing for. At times, this got chaotic: I presented on three of my four papers with a 36 hour span (I had a Tuesday morning, Tuesday evening, and Wednesday evening presentation), and accidentally sent my professors in one class the paper for another class (they were great about it, finding it funny). On May 23rd, I graduated. This isn't enough to become a lawyer, though : I must now pass the Missouri state bar exam. So with that in mind, here's what's happened in the last 5 days or so:

On Friday, Father DeCelles announced he's been moved to St. Raymond of Peñafort, about 25 minutes away. This is a devestating blow for all of us at St. Mary's, particularly those of us in Men's Group, and the army of 110 (!) altar boys he oversaw. It's the second priest we've lost this year: in January, the Bishop moved Fr. Belli, after only about six months at St. Mary's, to a new assignment out in Leesburg, about an hour away.

Both moves, while sad, made sense. St. Mary's is a solid, orthodox parish with a stable hand at the wheel in the form of our pastor, Fr. Kleinmann. Packing the parish with so many of Arlington's best priests is like putting all of your best pitchers in the same game: the crowd loves it (oh, how we loved it!), but it's probably not the best idea. Just as there are other games to pitch, there are other parishes to tend to. And frankly, those parishes probably need our priests more. Plus, in his new role, Father DeCelles will be the equivalent of a pastor (technically, it's a two-year trial period before he's formally installed as pastor: he likened it to being a pastor without the job security), instead of assisting Father Kleinmann. And, of course, it's the will of the Bishop.

Plus, and this is the real silver lining, St. Mary's is receiving in place of Father DeCelles a young priest named Father Mick Kelly. When I say "young priest," I mean I went to his ordination two weeks ago. Or as Father DeCelles put is, his hands are still wet with chrism oil (you can see his hands being chrismated here, from his ordination). Two friends-of-a-friend who were in a Bible study with him describe him as holy and devout, so I'm looking forward to his arrival. For a new priest, having Fr. Klienmann as a pastor would be a real blessing. So in a very real way, everyone benefits: Father DeCelles gets promoted, Fr. Kelly gets a good parish and great pastor, and St. Mary's trades one orthodox priest for another. It's change, and change is hard, but in the grand scheme of things, it's probably change for the better.

On Saturday, I got sick with a nasty head cold.

On Sunday, I called my dad, it being Father's Day and all. He suggested one of the reasons I might be sick was overwork, trying to balance working part-time with the stresses of studying for the bar. Reminding me that I was planning on flying in to Kansas City for Fourth of July, he suggested I just make it a one-way. Later that day, one of my friends introduced me to this ad for South Carolina's Attorney General's race, in which the opponent is attacked for having failed the bar. This was just the reminder I needed. Thanks, Jake.

On Monday, still sick, I decided that my dad was right, and after talking and praying on it, decided to take him up on his offer. This is huge for me. It means I'll be flying to Kansas City on July 2nd, and won't be back in D.C. until... I have no idea. And it means that I've now given myself under two weeks to pack up, clean up, and vacate my apartment -- a month earlier than originally planned (our lease expires at the end of July, and both of my roommates are about to start either grad or law school). I mentioned this Monday night to one of my two roommates, saying that it was probably not enough notice to even try and find anyone for the month, so I'd just go ahead and pay the rent as if I were still living there. (I let the other one know a little later).

Yesterday, I formally submitted my resignation at work, effective July 2nd. I've worked with this firm since 2001, and so even though none of the co-workers I currently work with are people I even knew when I started here, it's still a bit hard to say goodbye. It is, I hope, only for a time -- my goal is to work for this same firm as an attorney once I pass the bar.

That brings us to last night. I became suddenly aware that the normal social networks I have through school, work, and church had all become suddenly disrupted. Whatever this fall may look like, it won't look like spring did. My life is likely to have a new cast of characters. I had been bracing myself for Father DeCelles' departure. Now I find that I'll be leaving St. Mary's before he does. The whole thing still had (and sort of, has) a surreal quality.

Last night, then, something wonderful happened. The first roommate I'd spoken to about my plans yells for me to come to the living room. He then mentions that he has this friend, who has a lease starting August 1st, who needs a place to stay for the month of July.

I, of course, happen to have such a place. I haven't finalized everything yet, but this is an amazing blessing. First, I won't be out the nearly $800 I would be otherwise for rent. And second, it's an amazing comfort, because the sheer odds of that working out so quickly, and so perfectly, without me ever lifting a finger to make it work, suggest that the path I'm going on is the one God intends me to go on. And that means so much more to me than the rent does. It's just an invaluable comfort. Praised be Jesus Christ, now and forever!

Fourth Century Icons of Jesus and the Apostles Found

This is a pretty cool story. Underneath an office building in a working-class part of Rome, they've discovered some ancient ruins (probably a noblewoman's tomb) containing the oldest icons dedicated to Peter, Paul, Andrew, and John.* The icons date to the early 300s. Since it's Rome, it's fitting that these four followers of Christ were chosen: three of them (Peter, Paul, and John) are personally associated with building up the Church at Rome, while the fourth is Peter's brother (Luke 6:14).

The major problem in finding old icons is that they've been destroyed or degraded over the centuries. But apparently, technology is improving how safely and thoroughly layers of white calcium carbonate can be removed, so we're left with pretty clear icons (and don't destroy those icons in the process of recovering them). You should check out the pictures, too. The ones associated with the article aren't of a great quality, so if anyone knows of some clearer pictures, I'd love to see them.

*There are also icons of Christ as Good Shepherd, but I think they've already found older ones.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Fr. Robert Barron on the Trinity

One of the best and simplest explanations of the Trinity is explained by Fr. Barron here:

He notes that only if you affirm the Trinity can you affirm the notion that "God is Love" (1 John 4:8).

Friday, June 18, 2010

A Utilitarian Argument for Catholic Sexual Ethics

Mary Catelli writes in response to my last post,

One would also need omniscience to be a true utilitarian. How can you know what the results of your actions are?

I have heard of people who justify sexual escapades on the grounds that no one got hurt -- and when asked how they knew that, got belligerent -- well, if someone did get hurt they should just get over it. But to be a utilitarian, you would not only have to know who got hurt, but to know who would get hurt in advance.

She's right, and her critique is devestating. That's one of the things that we talked about in my jurisprudence class this semester. Utilitarianism pretends that there's an objective, knowable scale by which to measure comparative quantities of good and bad produced by actions in the world. But in real life, of course, we're limited in our knowledge of the situation, limited in our ability to predict the future, and blinded by both intentional and unintentional ignorance.

Our culture's attitude towards sex is the prime example of this. Sex involves, at least potentially, participation in the act of creating a new human life. It is, without question, one of the most important things any of us will ever do (quite literally, a life-or-death issue). The survival of our species depends upon it. Yet it's treated like a recreation. It's just madness. And our culture just closes its eyes to the millions of people killed by AIDS, STDs, and abortion because of this irresponsible sexual ethic we've promoted -- to say nothing of the marriages destroyed, and the lives shattered (both the abandoned spouse and the child raised in the broken home).

Interestingly, even a utilitarian perspective produces a verdict in favor of Catholic sexual ethics, and quite easily. Catholic sexual ethics argue that sex should be heterosexual, monogamous, within the bounds of marriage, and open to new life. All four of these arguments make sense from a utilitarian perspective. Let’s contrast sex done right (that is, as Catholicism promotes) v. sex done wrong (as the culture practices it).

The Costs and Benefits of Sex Done Right
Catholicism's vision of heterosexual, monogamous sex which is both within the bounds of marriage and open to new life is one which easily survives scrutiny under a cost-benefit analysis.
  • Benefits: The benefits of this form of sex are pleasure, bonding between the spouses, and potentially the creation of children. The odds that the spouses will be a good interpersonal match are comparatively high (since people are more choosy with their future husband or wife than they are with a one-night stand), and the emotional bonding of sex serves as a catalyst to help them connect all the more. The children born into this environment will encounter two parents who are devoted to one another and emotionally connected. The children will, from a young age, have both male and female role models, as well as models of the appropriate conduct of men towards women, and vice versa. The child will quickly benefit socially and developmentally, is dramatically more likely to be a healthy and functioning member of society later on, and so forth.
  • Costs: If neither spouse has any prior sexual partners, the risks of transmission of deadly disease are obviously quite low. Because of the legally-binding pledge (before God and the state) of marriage, the odds of the father abandoning the mother are lower than any alternative set-up.

Certainly, real-life doesn't always live up to this ideal, but the Catholic social ethic creates all the conditions which are most likely to bring about this result, and in any case, any alternative setup has higher costs and fewer benefits.

The Costs and Benefits of Sex Done Wrong


The real world of sex in 21st century America is a much different picture than that provided by Catholicism. Let's take an obvious case: casual sex (or even sex within the "confines" of dating), with contraception, between two heterosexuals who have multiple previous sexual partners.
  • Benefits: Sex still is pleasurable, and still produces emotional bonding. But here, instead of being a benefit, that bonding is at least a potential cost (see below). Both partners have the ability to pursue more sexual pleasure, by going after new partners who are more appealing. Even this comparative benefit is likely neglible, since the married couple are becoming good at sex-with-each other, instead of just sex. Finally, there's always the possibility of children being born. From a social standpoint, this is a positive (see, e.g., Julian Simon's The Ultimate Resource II, for a protracted discussion of the environmental and economic benefits of a larger young population), although this benefit is smaller than the benefit of that same child being born into a traditional family (see below).
  • Costs: As I mentioned, the bonding is a potential cost here. Within marriage, the bonding is good for kids, and keeps the couple together. But in a casual dating relationship, "keeping the couple together" may be a disaster. Again, remember that one is less choosy in casual sexual partners and even boy/girlfriends than with future spouses. Second, there's still that pursuit of more pleasure bit. That disproportionately hurts women, since men tend to prefer young, fertile women, while women are comparatively more likely to prefer an emotionally and financially stable man, even if he's a few years older. There are exceptions to these trends, but they're strongly the trends. And since it's easier for a man to become more stable than it is for a woman to grow younger, women suffer much more in a laissez faire sexual market. Third, there's the cost of unplanned pregnancy. While children are a benefit in marriage, the unmarried, contracepting couple treats them as a cost, and there's a strong incentive to kill the baby. Even if the baby isn't killed, the man has no incentive other than honor to stick around and raise the kid. The children born into this environment grow up with a skewed image of what "fatherhood" is, and often very little postive portrayals of what romantic interactions should look like. Studies suggest that children born into broken homes (including those in which both biological parents are cohabitating but not married) engage "in higher levels of anti-social behavior (ranging from running away from home, being suspended from school, and substance abuse to committing minor property crime, engaging in violent behavior, and becoming arrested). This was true taking into consideration youths’ gender, race, age, and their residential and family environment." And, of course, the risk of STDs and AIDS is dramatically higher than for the celibate and monogamous. So the risk of one of the two contracting a deadly or debilitating disease from the other is very real, and there's an accompanying risk of passing that disease on to their baby.
In other words, the societal risks of this sort of sex are massive and potentially deadly, while the benefits are individualized and fleeting. Every good, and particularly, every social good, which can be provided in "sex done wrong" can be provided better, and with fewer costs by following Catholic sexual ethics.
Policy Considerations

Here are conclusions which utilitarians ought to draw, even relying solely upon cost-benefit analysis, given the above:
  1. The benefits of sex are greater with the presence of children. The phenomenon of emotional bonding, as I discussed above, is a great benefit in creating stable family units for children with the existence of marriage; in those cases in which there is no possibility of children, this emotional bonding is of no societal benefit, and poses a very real danger to those being bound to one another.
  2. Monogamy ought to be preferred over polygamy. If person A and person B only ever sleep with one another for the duration of their lives, there's virtually no chance of either acquiring an STD. There's also far fewer opportunities to create broken homes.
  3. Adultery is deadly. If Mr. A is secretly sleeping with both Ms. X and Ms. Y, he's endangering the very life, health, and well-being of X and Y without their consent (either X or Y could have AIDS or some other communicable STD). The risk to X and Y is far greater than the risk of all sorts of activities which the government regulates (like seat-belt laws, which have virtually no impact on third-parties). So there seem to be legitimate state grounds in promoting monogamy, and penalizing polygamy and adultery.
  4. Sex without a willingness to produce a child costs more than it benefits. Sex which is either by nature closed off to new life (that is, homosexual sex, and non-intercourse) or by human design closed off to new life (that is, sex with contraception or the intention to abort) is of little social benefit, and poses massive social costs. Namely, it comes with the costs of emotional bonding and enhanced risk of STD without providing anything for society. Even the benefits for the sexual partners are fleeting.
  5. Heterosexual sex calls for the stable framework of marriage. Because heterosexual sex is at least potentially reproductive, the state has a real interest in ensuring that the sexual activity occurs within some sort of structured legal bounds, to limit the creation of broken homes (which have been shown to have numerous dire consequences). If Mr. A impregnates Ms. X and disappears, she's put at an extreme disadvantage, and A&X's child, baby Ax, is at an incredible disadvantage (in terms of social development, proclivity towards crime, etc.). Mr. A then impregnating Ms. Y (and so on) compounds the problem. Creating a mechanism for Mr. A to assist Ms. X (etc.) financially is good, but radically imperfect. Far better would be Mr. A being actively involved in the care and upbringing of baby Ax. The state's interest in this is to (a) protect Ms. Y from being left as a single mother; (b) ensure baby Ax has a comparatively-healthy environment in which to grow; (c) deter Mr. A from creating more broken homes; and (d) limiting the spread of communicable disease, including fatal ones and ones which can be passed congenitally to children.
  6. Heterosexual sex must be open to new life. You don't need to be a Catholic (or even religious) to recognize that abortion is murder, nor do you need to be a Catholic (or even religious) to recognize that contraceptives fail. There are millions of dead children who are the casualties of this refusal to be open to new life. Beyond that, since unplanned pregnancies will occur, sex shouldn't occur unless both partners are at least willing to responsibly raise a child should they create one. The alternative, of course, is broken families.

So even a sane utilitarian perspective, given this, should promote a vision of sex which is heterosexual (see #4), monogamous (see #2-3), and both within the bounds of marriage (see # 5), and open to new life (see #1 and #6). That's exactly what the Church teaches, and for good reason. God doesn't just arbitrarily declare things sins: He declares them sins because they're bad for us. The dark experiences of the last half-century just reaffirms what He warned us of millenia ago.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

The Drudgery of Utilitarianism

A few weeks ago, I was discussing the case of Sister Margaret McBride, who's accused of authorizing an abortion to save the life of the mother. Lots of non-Catholics (and sadly, many Catholics) rushed to her aid: how could it be wrong to kill a baby, if the alternative to killing a baby was that two people (the mother and baby) died?

The answer to this necessarily involves moral philosophy, which few of us ever think about. St. Paul touches on it in Romans 3:8, when he condemns doing evil so that good will come about, and Biblical morality is the foundation of Catholic moral philosophy. Part IV of the post on McBride addressed the question in greater length, but the basic idea is this:
  • Catholic moral philosophy: you may never intentionally do evil so that good may come about. You may do an action for a morally good purpose which has negative consequences, so long as you don't intend the negative consequences. The example I used was the Death Star: it's moral to blow up the Death Star (since it's generally not immoral to kill your enemies in battle), even though innocent people were certainly on it. But to intentionally target the innocents would be immoral.
  • Utilitarianism: The ends justify the means, and the moral question isn't on the act itself (as in Catholicism) but upon the results of the act. Whatever produces the greatest benefit for the greatest number of people is the best approach. So an evil thing can be done if it produces a good benefit, while a good thing cannot be done if it produces an evil benefit (although instead of evil and good, they'd prefer terms about less or more utility/pleasure).

Most Americans in recent years tend heavily towards utilitarianism, which is disturbing, since it's a heavily atheistic, amoral philosophy which has been responsible for millions of deaths in the twentieth century alone. It's this knee-jerk utilitarianism which explains their confusion on the life-saving abortion issue, and the utter inability of most commentators to even grasp that there's another side to the argument (namely, that murder is never okay, regardless of the ends being pursued).

That said, some of the ideas behind utilitarianism would still revolt the average American. For example, most people are fine with bombing enemy territory, even though we know that innocent people will be killed -- the Iraq war's broad support made this much clear. But most people are still (I hope) against intentionally executing innocent people. For example, if we knew it would end the war in Iraq to round up and execute 1000 children, very few people would support it (and those who would, we'd condemn as monsters). This is true even if we knew that continuing the war effort would allow more than 1000 kids to be inadvertantly killed. At some basic level, we seem to have a collective conscience which can distinguish between intentional evil and collateral harm. Staunch utilitarians like Peter Singer lack that conscience. He's argued, for example, that we should let handicapped infants die, because it's for the "greater good."

My concern, after writing my original post, was that it made Catholicism seem incredibly restrictive. If Catholic moral teachings were followed, we never would have firebombed Dresden or Tokyo or nuked Hiroshima or Nagasaki, potentially allowing the Second World War to claim countless more American lives, and we would let pregnant mothers die, out of a refusal to provide life-saving abortions. But Peter Singer's managed to show how incredibly restrictive utilitarianism is in a recent post to New York Times' philosophy blog, entitled "Should This Be the Last Generation?". Singer ultimately answers his question in the negative, but another utilitarian he cites to, the South African philosopher David Benatar, wishes our children would never be conceived:
One of Benatar’s arguments trades on something like the asymmetry noted earlier. To bring into existence someone who will suffer is, Benatar argues, to harm that person, but to bring into existence someone who will have a good life is not to benefit him or her. Few of us would think it right to inflict severe suffering on an innocent child, even if that were the only way in which we could bring many other children into the world. Yet everyone will suffer to some extent, and if our species continues to reproduce, we can be sure that some future children will suffer severely. Hence continued reproduction will harm some children severely, and benefit none.

In my earlier post, I'd noted that while (given the examples I was using), Catholic moral philosophy seemed the more restrictive of the two, that utilitarianism demonized all sorts of innocent activities. I mentioned driving a car. Singer mentions eating meat (because of its impact on climate change, not on the cow, incidentally). And Benatar is against having kids. Utilitarianism is, in many ways, a sick philosophy. It justifies nuking unarmed civilians to shorten a war, but not having kids or cheeseburgers. And hopefully, the candor of Singer, &c., makes it clear that it's not the morally libertine option it may parade as. It's far more pharisaical and rule-bound than even the parodies of Catholicism.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

John Knox, John Calvin, and King Henry VIII's Royal Hypocrisy

Two of the larger Protestant denominations, Presbyterianism (started by John Knox) and Anglicanism (started by Henry VIII) were started not only invalidly, but blatantly hypocritically. They are joined in this, less directly, by Calvinism (not technically a denomination, I know).

The reason I bring this up is that origins matter. The Catholic Church can trace Her lineage back to Matthew 16:17-19, and as the writings of the Early Church Fathers show, the Church has from the beginning used this Divinely-protected lineage to distinguish Herself from heresy and theological novelty. So the fact that Anglicanism and Presbyterianism were borne out of treachery and double-speak should be concerning to faithful Anglicans and Presbyterians (since, of course, both forms of the Faith condemn this sort of dishonesty).

I. King Henry's Royal Hypocrisy

Something I hadn't thought about before regarding Henry VIII's attempt to get an annulment:

  • Henry was married to the pious Catherine of Aragon.

  • Catherine had previously been married to Henry's late brother, Arthur. Arthur died six months into their marriage, leaving Catherine a widow at sixteen. They probably never consummated their marriage.

  • After Arthur died, Henry VII (Henry VIII's dad) arranged for Henry wanted to marry Catherine, instead. There was one major problem: the younger Henry couldn't under canon law, because of affinity: that is, that since was his brother's wife, it was forbidden for him to marry her.
The direct prohibition comes from Leviticus 20:21, "If a man marries his brother's wife, it is an act of impurity; he has dishonored his brother. They will be childless." But there's a more general theology behind canon law's prohibition against marrying your in-laws, one not dependant upon the Mosaic Law at all. That's Genesis 2:24, which says that "a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh." Spiritually, then, your in-laws are viewed like your siblings (although there are obviously limits on this).

Note that while Christ fulfilled the Law, so that it has no more binding effect (potentially nullifying Lev. 20:21), He only reaffirmed Genesis 2:24: He makes it clear that's still in effect in Matthew 19:4-6, because it's based on God, not the Law. This is one reason that the Levitical prohibition against porneia (invalid marriages, often due to affiliation) was considered still binding in Acts 15:29. St. Paul also condemns a violation of this (a man with his stepmother) in 1 Corinthians 5:1.

So the canon law forbidding marrying in-laws simply reflects that in a consummated marriage, your husband's brother is now your brother (and vice versa), because of Genesis 2:24. But Genesis 2:24 isn't very clear as to what unites the two: is it marriage, or sex? The verse, taken alone, seems to suggest sex, but the Mosaic Law clearly understood marriage. Certainly, a consummated marriage would meet both requirements, but that's not what we're dealing with here. Under modern canon law, affinity is determined through marriage, regardless of whether the spouses ever had sex (Canon 109, available here); but this was not the case at the time of Henry: then, it was determined by sex, regardless of whether the two partners were married.

So under modern canon law, it wouldn't matter whether Catherine and Arthur ever consummated the marriage. That said, Canon 1092 (available here) says that the only marriages prohibited by affinity are those in the direct line. So Catherine could still marry her deceased husband's brother, but not his father or son... so Henry VII is off-limits, but Henry VIII is fair game.

Under 16th century canon law, sex produced affinity, and the affinity prohibition was much broader than it is today: so even siblings (who are not considered in a "direct line," since neither is ancestor or descendant of the other) were forbidden to marry each others' widows/widowers. By those rules, if Catherine and Arthur slept together, marrying and/or sleeping with Henry would be forbidden, unless the pope gave a special dispensation.
  • Catherine swore that she and Arthur never consummated the marriage, and given how short their marriage was, Catherine's piety, and the fact that the marriage was a political one, there's plenty of reason to believe her. Nevertheless, Henry's counselors advised him to seek the papal dispensation from the normal canonical prohibition against indirect affinity. He did, and it was granted by the pope.
  • Henry and Catherine's marriage produced no viable male heirs. Henry began to take up with mistresses, including Mary Boleyn, before falling in love with Mary's sister Anne. Seizing upon Leviticus 20:21, Henry argued that he was heirless because of his incest with a woman who he argued was now, in God's eyes, his sister.
  • Of course, the Church doesn't allow remarriage, because God doesn't allow divorce and remarriage. Incidentally, immediately after Christ affirms Genesis 2:24 in Matthew 19:4-6, He forbids divorce (Matt. 19:7). So it's more than mildly hypocritical for Henry to even try and justify divorce on these grounds, although it's about to get a lot worse.
  • Henry pushes for an annulment on the Levitical grounds. In essence, he's arguing that his marriage to Catherine was invalid, because she'd slept with his brother, and was thus his sister based on Genesis 2:24. The pope refuses to grant the annulment. A dispensation had been given to permit them to marry, and there was little chance that the marriage with Arthur had been consummated.
  • Here's why Henry's a hypocrite. He's pushing for an annulment, based upon Genesis 2:24, Leviticus 20:21, and the canon law prohibiting the "impediment of affiliation." But he's doing this so that he can marry Anne Boleyn. He's arguing that it's immoral incest to marry someone whose sibling you've had sex with... so he can marry someone whose sibling he'd had sex with. The very rule he's seeking to exploit to get an annulment condemns his "marriage" to Anne Boleyn as a sham, and shows him to be the worst sort of hypocrite.

Thomas Cranmer, the first Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, declares Henry's marriage to Catherine invalid, and his marriage to Anne valid. Rightly, the pope immediately excommunicated them both. And thus was born Anglicanism.

II. John Knox's Royal Hypocrisy
A generation later, John Knox (the founder of Presbyterianism) proved himself also a hypocrite, and strangely enough, also a hypocrite on the very question of English royalty. This is an especially strange coincidence, given that Knox wasn't English. Stranger still, it turned on the question of who inherited Henry VIII's throne after his death, and related to the validity of Queen Mary, the daughter of Henry and Catherine.

To put it in historical context, by 1558, Knox was a staunch Calvinist. Meanwhile, both England and Scotland were ruled by Catholic Queens named Mary: Queen Mary I of England, and Mary, Queen of Scots (I'll let you guess which one ruled which country).

Knox, then, decided to publish The First Blast of the Trumpet Against the Monstrous Regiment of Women. In it, he argued that women shouldn't be allowed to rule nations, since it was against the Bible, and since it was "repugneth to nature." He bases his letter, in no small part on 1 Timothy 2:12, which forbids women to be priests, as the title page to the 1571 edition makes clear (see right). His conclusion is that "to promote a woman head over men is repugnant to nature, and a thing most contrary to that order which God has approved in that commonwealth which he did institute and rule by his word."

At the beginning of the letter, Knox makes it crystal clear which female rulers he has in mind with this polemic, targeting Queen Mary of England from the opening page:
Wonder it is, that amongst so many pregnant wits as the isle of Great Britain has produced, so many godly and zealous preachers as England did sometime nourish, and amongst so many learned, and men of grave judgment, as this day by Jezebel are exiled, none is found so stout of courage, so faithful to God, nor loving to their native country, that they dare admonish the inhabitants of that isle, how abominable before God is the empire or rule of a wicked woman (yea, of a traitress and bastard); and what may a people or nation, left destitute of a lawful head, do by the authority of God's word in electing and appointing common rulers and magistrates. That isle (alas!) for the contempt and horrible abuse of God's mercies offered, and for the shameful revolting to Satan from Christ Jesus, and from his gospel once professed, does justly merit to be left in the hands of their own counsel, and so to come to confusion and bondage of strangers.
So he's arguing that Queen Mary is invalidly the head of England both because she's a woman, and because she's Henry and Catherine's illegitimate love-child. He argues that England deserves to be destroyed because of their "contempt and horrible abuse of God's mercies" and "shameful revolting to Satan from Christ Jesus" in allowing Mary to be Queen.

Knox is careful to convey that it isn't that he doesn't like Queen Mary: it's that no woman can rule a nation. He cites Aristotle, for example, for the idea that "wheresoever women bear dominion, there the people must needs be disordered, living and abounding in all intemperance, given to pride, excess, and vanity; and finally, in the end, they must needs come to confusion and ruin," writing in the margins after this, "England and Scotland, Beware!" Now, Knox claims that he's just very concerned about this, because of his deep love for Jesus Christ, who never would have desired such a thing. He's careful to base his arguments, not on the fact that Mary is a Catholic, or that he doesn't like her, but that she's a woman, and illegitimate to boot.

Of course, history shows that he was lying, and just feigning concern for what he claims to be Christ's teaching here because it was opportunistic. How do we know he was lying? Because the same year that this was published, the Catholic Queen Mary of England died, and her half-sister Elizabeth became queen.

Few things to note right off. First of all, Elizabeth is a woman. Knox just argued earlier that year that it was against nature and against God to put a woman in charge. Second of all, he tried to bolster his argument by arguing that it's worse when the Queen's an illegitimate child. Queen Mary, who Knox raged against as illegitimate, wasn't. She was the daughter of Henry and Catherine's valid marriage, a fact plain to any neutral observer. Elizabeth, on the other hand, was illegitimate. She was the child of Henry and Anne Boleyn's obviously invalid marriage. But beyond that, after Anne failed to produce a male heir, Henry had her killed, and had Mary and Elizabeth declared illegitimate, as did their brother Edward during his short reign. So whether you go by the Church's teachings, or by her own father's decree, Elizabeth was an illegitimate daughter. Finally, both Mary and Elizabeth were crowned in direct violation of Edward VI's will, which was to skip over them (the sort of conduct which Knox argued made Mary a traitor). So everything Knox wrote about Mary would apply more accurately against Elizabeth.

But, of course, Knox immediately recants once he spies an opportunity. He begins a July 28, 1559 letter to her (available here on pages 184-185) addressed to "the virtuous and godly Elizabeth, by the grace of God, queen of England," and proceeds to explain why it's okay that she's Queen. In fact, he describes her reign as something for "which most I have thirsted, and for which - as oblivion will suffer - I render thanks unfeignedly unto God, 'That it hath pleased Him of His eternal goodness, to exalt your head - which sometimes was in danger - to the manifestation of His glory, and extirpation of idolatry."

I kid you not. The author of a 1558 book against female rulership authored a 1559 letter to the Queen in favor of it. And for both, he shamelessly exploits the Bible, and freely swears himself to opposite positions. To try and make his hypocrisy less blatant, he argues that he stands by his book, but that his book was only really saying that women couldn't inherit the throne, but that they could be made Queen by God's mercy. And this, Knox argued, was what had happened: "the dispensation of His mercy" was solely responsible for Elizabeth becoming Queen, "which nature and law deny to all women." So Knox admits that he thinks that nature and law (he conveniently forgot the Bible) forbid queens to rule nations, God's made an exception. And he swears by God to his new-found position: "God is witness, that unfeignedly I both love and reverence your grace; yea, I pray, that your reign may be long, prosperous, and quiet."

Besides swearing on a lie (unless his earlier position was the lie), his most disgusting hypocrisy comes at the close of the letter, where he essentially promises to promote her as Queen if she'll play nice with Protestants, saying that, "If thus in God's presence ye humble yourself, [...] so will I with tongue and pen justify your authority and regimen, as the Holy Ghost hath justified the same in Deborah, that blessed mother in Israel." Deborah, of course, was a female judge and military leader of the Israelites (see Judges 4:4). Interesting that he should attempt to hide behind her example, since he'd condemned that in his book the prior year:
And what greater force, I pray you, has the former argument: Deborah did rule Israel, and Huldah spoke prophecy in Judah; ergo, it is lawful for women to reign above realms and nations, or to teach in the presence of men. The consequent is vain, and of none effect. For of examples, as is before declared, we may establish no law; but we are always bound to the written law, and to the commandment expressed in the same.
So while acknowledging even in his book that God chose women to lead, he still held that "we are always bound to the written law." So mark Knox as another man condemned by his own argument. Note also that it is out of this hypocrisy that Presbyterianism is born. Knox left Geneva to fight the "illegitimate" female ruler of Scotland, Mary, while begging Elizabeth for safe passage to get there (which she refused, since she considered him an untrustworthy sleaze).
III. Calvin's Royal Hypocrisy
Knox wasn't alone in doing a 180 when Elizabeth came to power. Robert Louis Stevenson, the author of Treasure Island, and a Scottish Presbyterian, wrote a searing indictment of the Calvinists of Geneva, including Calvin himself. In private conversation between Knox and Calvin, Calvin conceeded that “government of women was a deviation from the original and proper order of nature, to be ranked, no less than slavery, among the punishments consequent upon the fall of man.” The difference lay solely in whether he thought it was okay to overthrow female-headed governments.

Amongst the residents of Geneva, Knox was quite popular (particularly amongst English-speakers). His book, also popular, generating enough controversy to make Knox quite notorious in England. But, of course, with the ascension of Queen Elizabeth, Geneva's Calvinists suddenly discovered that God permitted female headship:
And just as the accession of Catholic Queen Mary had condemned female rule in the eyes of Knox, the accession of Protestant Queen Elizabeth justified it in the eyes of his colleagues. Female rule ceases to be an anomaly, not because Elizabeth can “reply to eight ambassadors in one day in their different languages,” but because she represents for the moment the political future of the Reformation. The exiles troop back to England with songs of praise in their mouths. The bright accidental star, of which we have all read in the Preface to the Bible, has risen over the darkness of Europe. There is a thrill of hope through the persecuted Churches of the Continent. Calvin writes to Cecil, washing his hands of Knox and his political heresies. The sale of the “First Blast” is prohibited in Geneva; and along with it the bold book of Knox’s colleague, Goodman - a book dear to Milton - where female rule was briefly characterised as a “monster in nature and disorder among men.” Any who may ever have doubted, or been for a moment led away by Knox or Goodman, or their own wicked imaginations, are now more than convinced. They have seen the accidental star. Aylmer, with his eye set greedily on a possible bishopric, and “the better to obtain the favour of the new Queen,” sharpens his pen to confound Knox by logic. What need? He has been confounded by facts. “Thus what had been to the refugees of Geneva as the very word of God, no sooner were they back in England than, behold! it was the word of the devil.”
So Calvin and the Calvinists of Geneva sold out Knox for a chance to win Elizabeth's support, even while Knox himself was trying to sell out Knox to win her support.

Of course, for Calvin, this was nothing new. He argued (correctly, it's worth noting) that boy-bishops were an intolerable scandal, yet dedicated his 1550 Commentary on Isaiah to King Edward VI, then thirteen years old (Interestingly, Edward was Henry VIII's son, and Mary and Elizabeth's half-brother). And before you argue that it's different because one's Church, and one's State, note that Calvin didn't recognize that distinction: after all, he ran Geneva as a theocracy, and dedicated his Commentary on Isaiah to the king. So Calvin, like Henry and Knox, is a hypocrite by his own standard.
IV. Conclusion
It's fair to say that even great saints get things wrong, and make foolish decisions they come to regret. But we're not talking about innocent mistakes, or even sins which the individuals later repented of. We're talking about the individuals who founded entire systems (Calvinism) or religious denominations (Anglicanism and Presbyterianism), through acts of hypocrisy which cannot be pleasing to God.

Henry ultimately divorces Catherine on the grounds that it's a sin to marry someone whose sibling you've slept with... in order to marry someone whose sibling he'd slept with, and he acts with Cranmer's full support. From that terrible affront to marriage, to honor, and to truth is birthed Anglicanism.

Knox writes a book invoking God as an authority against female headship to better his political position against the Queen Marys of England and Scotland; he then argues the virtual opposite, invoking God as an authority (and swearing by Him), to better his political position with Elizabeth, to try and get safe passage to overthrow Mary of Scots' government. He succeeds, not in getting safe passage, but in violent revolt, and Presbyterianism is formed.

Calvin is willing to sell out even Knox to better his position, just as in Institutes, Calvin uses the boy-bishop example (amongst others) to try and "disprove" the authority of the Church, since by his own admission in Book IV, outside the Church there is no salvation. He then dedicates a religious book to the very sort of boy-ruler he had previously claimed as a disgrace to God.

My point here is two-fold. First, this casts an enormous shadow over all of their writings. Is there any reason to trust these men in the rest of their religious writings? That is, is there any reason to think that these were the only positions they were willing to sell out? If Knox is willing to trade public support for Elizabeth's regime for political peace, and Calvin is politicking in dedicating his Commentaries on Isaiah to a boy-king, what other positions were in there simply for political or other base motives? A number of the positions put forward by the Reformers stand to benefit them significantly: for starters, both Knox and Calvin assert that the Catholic Church isn't the Church, because otherwise, they're heretics or schismatics. And Henry declares himself head of the Church of England, a claim upon which Anglicanism turns. Is there a single reason to think that he actually believed this, himself? Henry, who had submitted himself to the pope in seeking an annulment? Particularly given that this religious headship is so tied to that invalid marriage, it's hard to justify Anglicanism in light of Henry's hypocrisy and opportunism. The same goes for his looting and dissolution of the monasteries, in which the Church's land and even sacred objects were stolen and sold to enrich Henry and his political allies, a move which they justified in the name of Reformation.

Second, compare these religious foundings (foundings which, any moral person should cast as repulsive) with the founding of Catholicism. In Matthew 16:17-19, Jesus founds the Church upon Peter. And no one in their right mind claims that there at Ceasari Phillipi, Jesus founded Anglicanism, Calvinism, or Presbyterianism. But Catholics can, and do, claim just this, and the attempts to refute this have consistently failed to convincingly establish any other origin of our Faith. We can boldly say we have God as our Father and our Founder. And our spiritual origins matter. Just compare John 8:39-41, where Jesus declares the faithless to be of illegitimate birth, with 1 Corinthians 1:10-13, in which Paul calls us to follow our Founder, Christ. Henry, Knox, and Calvin weren't crucified for your sake: Christ was.