26 June 2011

Belief Statements Demonstrate a Weak Position


On this Sunday within the Octave of Corpus Christi, we continue to celebrate in a special way our true and living Lord, ever present in the Most Blessed Sacrament. Indeed, the Sacred Scripture is alive because Jesus himself is the Word. It is a living thing to be for all people in all places and at all times, for God is omnipresent. As the Word is alive, so too must be its accompanying doctrine, the means by which we as humans comprehend the Word. The vastness of God and all his mysteries are far too great for humans to comprehend, and so our understanding evolves and our doctrine develops. Legitimate, true developments are evolutionary, not revolutionary. They are built upon the same foundation, as a skyscraper has one floor built upon another, carrying it ever higher. If a skyscraper has a floor built off all the floors beneath it, the building becomes unstable and may fall. Such a floor would not represent a development of the building's construction or a continuation of the architect's original plans, but rather a perversion of the course of development and a corruption of the original plans. Similarly, with doctrine, all developments in doctrine must build on all of that which came before it and remain true to the original spirit and intent of what was revealed by the Author of Life. This is the Catholic way. This is the way of strength. Doctrine built upon a firm foundation and upon all that came before it is strong and prepared to weather any storm. It need not vociferously proclaim who and what she is any, for the constancy of ideas and ideals over more than two thousand years have made it plain to all.

Those who wish to modify the course of religion, however, must make changes that pervert the natural course of development of doctrine. This is inherently unstable, and what one believes and professes is not inherently obvious to all, for it is not simply new, but in a completely different direction than the natural course of doctrinal development. To do this, therefore, requires a clear statement of how this new sect is different. These must be adhered to vigorously in order to overcome the instability, for it is only these new principles that have no strong foundation that hold the group together. And for what purpose are they different? They are different from the Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church. They are a tangent or even a reversal of Church development, and their statements of belief indicate just how they are different. This is the way of the Protestants and schismatics.

We need only look to the Anglican Articles of Religion that, while they maintain many historic Christian principles, continue further to reject many of the developments of doctrine over the years. This is how the Protestant factions within the Anglican Church sought to set themselves apart from Catholicism, such as removing the veneration of the Saints, much to the continuing angst of the Anglo-Catholics to the present day. An Anglo-Catholic needs only the historic Creeds and the totality of Church doctrine to know what his religion is. He does not need a conference or a convention to formulate "what we believe and how we are different," because he knows he is not different and the totality of Catholic thought and doctrine is well-established. The Reformers needed these Articles, however, to impress upon others just how different they were from Catholics and attempt to force their corruption of the development of doctrine on all within the Anglican Church. Their position is weak, of course. They depend upon these Articles to hold them together. When someone disagrees with them, then a new schism forms, and another, and another, and so on ad infinitum. This is one aspect of the cause of the alphabet soup of so many Anglican jurisdictions today, each with their own statements of belief and practices.

Indeed, one need only scan the wide array of "continuing Anglican" jurisdictions, not to mention the seemingly endless assortment of Protestant denominations to find an equally vast number of differing statements of belief and practice. Methodists have them. Presbyterians have them. The countless Baptist churches all have them. It is the Protestant way. This is how they set themselves apart. In their view, a person need only find the church that has a belief statement with which they agree and set of practices that they do not find too terribly irksome and will not interfere with their life. It becomes a type of marketing. Yet, again, their position is determined merely by their statement of belief. It belies an underlying weakness of position.

Some Anglicans have tried to move past this Protestantism with documents such as the Affirmation of Saint Louis. One might even question the need for such a document as well. After all, it is a general statement of Catholic Faith that suggests a return to the fullness of the Catholic Faith. So, why is it necessary to write this out in a formal declaration? Thou highly laudable, it is not necessary. All that is needed is to say that one accepts the fullness of the Catholic Faith. What that entails is fully known, because the Catholic Faith has been built upon all that came before it through the development of the Church. Its true course is clear. All that is needed is to embrace it in its totality, without adding exceptions or qualifications. 

Within the Anglican Rite Roman Catholic Church, we do not have a statement of belief, a mission statement, or anything of the kind. We embrace the fullness of the Catholic Faith. We embrace the richness of the Anglican Rite. As we say, it is the combination of Roman strength and Anglican beauty. We need not make statements to set ourselves apart, for we do not seek to set ourselves apart from the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. Now, it is true in a roundabout way that, by doing this, we do indeed set ourselves apart from continuing Anglican jurisdictions and from the Protestants. But, we are neither continuing Anglicans nor Protestants. We are first Catholic. It is well-known what it means to be Catholic. It needs no Articles or Statements of Belief.

25 June 2011

The Inexcusability of Prejudice


Prejudice is an unfortunate aspect of human nature. It is all around us in virtually every part of life. It is formed in us unconsciously. Yet, it is something that we can control, albeit it with some effort, and we must seek always to control. To be clear, elimination of prejudice against sin such as the modernists propose regarding activities such as sexual immorality is not a benefit to the soul or to society, but a reduction in the strength of one's faith. One is called to oppose sin, and if we are "prejudiced" against it, then rightly so. This is not the type of prejudice of which I speak, however, when I say that prejudice is inexcusable.

Prejudice develops as a result of environment. Things around us make an impression on us. Words people speak leave their lasting mark on us. This is one reason we refer to children and teenagers as being at an "impressionable age." Their minds are fresh enough that it is easier to leave a lasting mark. Yet, even more mature minds of great intellect and reason are subject to this. Remember the Latin phrase repetitio mater memoriae, i.e., repetition is the mother of memory. Repeat something to someone enough, and they are likely to believe it. This is all well and good when that something is the truth. However, when it is not necessarily the truth, the repetition may form a prejudice in the minds of those who hear it. Once an opinion is formed about someone else, no matter how wrong it may be, it is very difficult to eradicate. Even when conclusive evidence is presented challenging a prejudice with certainty, there is still a natural tendency to hold firmly to the prejudiced views. People often love gossip and scandal and prefer to believe the worst of others.

For example, the United States sadly has an anti-Catholic streak running through it, which I would not call a lingering prejudice from a bygone era, but an active one actively nurtured by those who are opposed to Catholics of any form. In the Bible Belt, home to fundamentalists and other flavors of protestants, anti-Catholic rhetoric is rampant. Children are raised to believe Catholics are evil, not really Christian, against the Bible, and other slanders. They naturally believe this as they grow into adulthood, and their prejudice remains with them. In fact, the prejudice was formed at such a young age in many cases that they don't even remember its formation, but rather just take their prejudice as Gospel truth. And then they pass their prejudice on to their children, and the cycle continues ad infinitum until someone has the courage to stop it. 

As a more specific example of anti-Catholic policies in the United States, there once were many laws prohibiting the wear of religious garb in public schools by teachers. These laws were aimed specifically at keeping clerical and religious habits out of the classroom in order to prevent Catholic influence. The laws were supported by such unsavory groups as the Klu Klux Klan, whose hatred was so vast that it extended past blacks and Jews onto Catholics as well. These laws have been repealed by the grace of God in all but two states (Nebraska and Pennsylvania), and this, coupled with anti-discrimination laws pertaining to religion, should help end discrimination against clergy in the schools.

The prejudice against Catholic in schools is not limited to secondary education, however. It exists in universities as well. Even so-called Christian universities that claim to be ecumenical act in a manner suggesting they are deathly afraid of even the hint of Catholic influence that might enter into their halls. Those coming from any of the 30,000 or more protestant denominations, even though their views are often violently opposed, are welcomed in general. But not Catholics. At an institution of higher learning, a place of free thought for the purpose of seeking truth, this is even more reprehensible.

In society in general, there is also bias. Due to a massive scandal within the Roman Rite in the US, people have developed a prejudice that priests are more likely to be pedophiles. They hold to this view even in the face of any evidence to the contrary. Some men are afraid to enter the priesthood and some priests are afraid to wear their habits or collars in public for fear of being thought to be a child molester, even though they are not. With prejudice, you see, truth is moved to the back seat of the bus.

People were afraid of John F. Kennedy being Catholic, thinking that perhaps he should be disqualified for being Catholic. Today sometimes people lose job opportunities because of their Catholic faith. There is a bias against Catholics, and especially against clergy doing what their religious requirements mandate. The list of anti-Catholic prejudice perpetrated by Protestants and secularists is virtually endless. It is very difficult indeed for anyone today who wishes to live out their Catholic faith in all aspects of their life as they ought to do.

Even within the Anglican Church, there is a frequent prejudicial bias against the word "Roman." And, some in the Roman Rite have a strong bias against anything "Anglican." Those who stubbornly hold on to their views against others within the Church Universal simply based on labels, even in the face of a mountain of evidence proving them wrong, fail in their Christian duty. Clergy who do this are not worthy of the sacred trust that has been given to them. 

Despite progress such as the repeal of the religious dress ban for teachers, the long-standing prejudice against anyone in a clerical collar or indeed anyone who is openly Catholic may continue. People must actively work to eliminate their prejudices, and this requires an act of will. People may choose to hold on to their prejudices, or they may choose to try to eliminate them. It is a matter of personal choice, and for this reason, stubbornly holding on to prejudices, even in the face of contrary evidence is an inexcusable act against one's fellow man.

24 June 2011

Equality does not mean that morality is relative


In a recent address to a homosexual political fundraiser, Obama indicated that the fight for "gay rights" was really about the American principle of equality. Unfortunately he does not seem to grasp that the equality of humans before God and the universal right to human dignity does not mean that all acts and choices are equal. Equality of all humans does not imply moral relativism. Homosexuality remains a sin, and so-called gay marriage or civil unions make a mockery of the sanctity of the Sacrament of Holy Matrimony and family values. While homosexuals do indeed deserve the same human dignity to which we are all entitled, good Christians cannot condone the behavior of homosexuality and still call themselves Christians. Tolerance does not mean abrogating one's responsibilities to God, and it does not mean the elimination or redefinition of the moral code to suit the ever-changing whims of society. We are called to love the sinner, but hate the sin. Yet, today far too many people allow a desire to be "nice" to outweigh their duty to choose and to stand up for what is right.

A recent statistic I saw suggested that only about 4% of adults in the United States maintain a Biblical view of the world. Apparently only about half of the population can name all of the Gospels, and around 10% thinks that Noah's wife was Joan of Arc. It is no wonder that people are failing morally on such a grand scale and choosing the path set by the world rather than the path set by God. John Paul II said that freedom is not doing whatever you want to do, but rather being able to do what you ought to do. Unfortunately without the strong hand of the Holy Church, people lack a true compass and the go down whatever path they are led.

It is time for a new evangelization. It is time for a renewal of our Faith. It is time for people not just to call themselves Christian, but to truly live as Christians in full knowledge of what their faith means. Relativism, modernism, and liberalism must be expelled from the Church. The moral compass must be restored to the nation.

08 June 2011

Obstinacy in Anglicanism


There is an unfortunate problem within Anglicanism, and that is persistent obstinacy. It does no one any good, and unfortunately very few seem willing to do anything about it.

This evening I was reading a condensed version of the Rule of Saint Benedict. The Benedictines are certainly interested in maintaining obedience and discipline. Saint Benedict encouraged the use of criticism and rebuke, excommunication, and even corporal punishment for those who did not humbly follow the rule. Now, a monastic community is certainly far more disciplined than those of us who live outside the cloister. However, there is a point to be taken from the illustrious Founder of the Benedictines. Obedience is important for Christians, and continued obstinacy is detrimental to spiritual growth. We are all called to obedience within Christ's Church.

Usually this obstinacy originates from protestant forces so often alive and well within Anglican communities. Sometimes clergy are called to task by low church protestants for upholding or promoting Catholic doctrine. The parishioners think they can moderate the speech and writing of their clergy. Unfortunately the clergy often seems more interested in placating them so they do not lose their congregation than fulfilling their obligations as clergy. Bishops and parish priests have a duty to correct those in their flock. They should correct with kindness and love with a mind towards improvement, always mindful of their own condition. Yet, after a few attempts at gentle correction, more stern measures are required. Public rebuke may be necessary, as may censure, interdict, and even excommunication. And, if the parishioner does not like your correction, they are free to leave. They will no doubt find a modernist parish that will indulge their ways.

And what of the fear that a priest might lose his congregation? I ask, what is worse? To have your obstinate parishioners leave, perhaps even causing you to lose your church building, or to fail in your duty to the souls of the flock? The answer is obvious. Any priest who is more worried about not offending others is simply not doing his job and ought to be removed from parochial responsibility.

This problem is not simply limited to the laity, however. Even clergy sometimes become poisoned with obstinacy and disrespect. Priests and sometimes even bishops lead their flock into schism over the most selfish of reasons. A Catholic, even an Anglican one, cannot be a Catholic if he is completely "independent." There may be forms of independence that certain jurisdictions have, such as the See of Utrecht as one example, but true Catholics must seek unity in whatever form is possible. Priests and Bishops who value indulging their own interests more than the most worthy goal of Christian unity are unworthy of the trust they have been given.

Let us all seek to place the wisdom of Christ's Church above our own wisdom. Let us all seek to place unity above selfish interests. Let us all seek to place the love and service of God above all things. Let all clergy do their duty and love their flock, even when that love must be tough love.

07 June 2011

A Touching Story of Lifelong Fraternal Devotion


Brothers Julian and Adrian Riester were more than fellow Franciscan friars, and they were even more than biological brothers. They were twins. They served God and their fellow man as friars together until their death at age 92 on Saturday within hours of each other.

It is a very heartwarming story. You may read it in its entirety on this page.