Separating the faith from the politics

I was reading an article in the National Catholic Register about the political side of the recently closed Synod of Bishops, Cardinal Kasper, Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, Pope St. John Paul II, and Cardinal Ouillet. Read here.  I’m not copying the text because that’s not the point of this post.  The point is to never forget that Jesus is the heart of the Church, that the faith proceeds from Him, and that the rest is ‘human stuff’.

Politics invades from every side, if you’re not careful.  At the parish level, some group likes a tree on the grounds of the parish, and someone else decides it’s overgrown and needs to be chopped down.  There’s the two sides, and there’s the pastor, trying to keep peace.  Both sides can’t win, and the pastor is going to lose someone (as has recently happened to me).  Egos get into it.  And then, whatever happens, if both sides remain members of the parish, there is a wedge between.

I’ve seen on EWTN and the daily Mass, there’s a couple of black women who’s son/nephew was a postulant.  They used to all sit together, but now they sit apart…why? Who knows, but God.  At the diocese level, some priests want to get into prime posts, some deacons want to work at this parish, but not that one.  Parents get mad when they think their kids aren’t treated right during the Catholic School day.

I think there’s a simple solution.  When you’re practicing your faith, check your ego, and earthly passions, at the door.  If you want to serve the Church, serve the Church unconditionally.  Let the politics be the politics.  Don’t get involved in who’s sucking up to Fr. Fred.  Don’t worry what Brother Martin is doing, unless it directly involves you.  Always remember the Real Presence of Jesus watching over and guiding His Church, and know that, regardless of what we think is good, Jesus might have other ideas.

Ariana Grande leaves Catholicism

And all I can think is “so what?”  Then again, I still must pray for her, because she is very…misguided.

Pretty girl who entertains by doing very suggestive videos.  She wasn’t exactly living a Catholic public life, who knows about her private life?

The story is out that she left Catholicism for Kabballah (sic) because the Catholic Church wouldn’t approve of her brother’s homosexuality.  OOOOOOKKKKKKKKK!  I wonder if she believes the Church should change because of her brother, or whether the Church has a point?

What is “the Church” to do??? Should we allow everyone to just party hard and do whatever we want to? Because God understands???  The truth is that we’re supposed to control our urges.  Even the good ones.  Drinking water is a good thing, but you can also kill yourself drinking too much water.  Same is true with milk or alcohol.  So we must use everything the way it was intended for use.  When we misuse things, they become corrupted. Ever used a knife for a screwdriver? You’ll dull it pretty quick and it will eventually stop cutting well, or you’ll break the tip.  The same thing is true with our vices.  Too much sex or improper sex is wrong.  If you let sex control your life, it’s wrong.  But sexuality is a good, beautiful thing.  Food is a good thing, too, but gluttony is bad.  Unfettered spending (above your means) is a bad thing.  We have to control our urges.

This week, in the spirit of the World Series, I was looking on line to support the team I’m rooting for.  I went to the online store and found shirts for $20, 50, 100, 250, and one autographed game jersey for $1200.  Who wouldn’t love to have that jersey? But I will control myself and look more closely at the T-shirts and the like.  Being in control, with God as my pilot.

Ariana seems to want to have a hip-hop lifestyle, and that means all the goodies-twerking, hedonistic sex, drugs, and dance.  I don’t know enough about her to know which of them she’s into, but I’ve seen the way she dresses, and can guess.  On top of that, having a homosexual brother is not, as I’ve stated in the past, the issue.  What he does with other men in the sexuality department is.  And if young Ariana knew anything about her faith, she’d know that.  If one priest told her that the Church didn’t love him, all she had to do was find a different priest.  It’s not that difficult.

Did the Papacy exist when St. John was alive?

Did the Papacy Exist While John Was Alive?

For my money, one of the strongest arguments against the papacy (or at least one of the most interesting) is that the Catholic view requires us to hold that the first few popes after Peter had authority over St. John the Evangelist, even though these popes weren’t Apostles, and John was.

So how do we answer that? I think that the easiest way is to look to history. In particular, what did the Church look like while Clement was in charge of the Apostle John was still living? We can actually answer this question to a certain extent, because we have the writings of both Clement and John. The answer may surprise you. To explore this, I propose asking three questions: (I) when did St. Clement write to the Corinthians?; (II) when did the Apostle John die?; and (III) why does this matter?
I. When Did St. Clement Write to the Corinthians?

Pope St. Clement (Clement of Rome), Author of 1 Clement

Answer: c. 95-96 A.D.

As the University of Exeter’s David G. Horrell explains, “Although a precise and irrefutable dating of 1 Clement is impossible, there is widespread agreement that it was written in the last decade of the first century, perhaps around 95-96 CE.”

On this issue, the modern scholarly consensus is in agreement with the testimony of the earliest Christians, who say that Clement was the third Bishop of Rome (or fourth, if you count St. Peter, who was both Apostle and bishop). Tertullian, writing around 200 A.D., describes how, unlike heretical sects, the Catholic Church has Apostolic Succession. In describing this succession, Tertullian notes that St. Clement was ordained by St. Peter, and was Bishop of Rome:

Let them exhibit the origins of their churches, let them unroll the list of their bishops, coming down from the beginning by succession in such a way that their first bishop had for his originator and predecessor one of the apostles or apostolic men; one, I mean, who continued with the apostles. For this is how the apostolic churches record their origins. The church of Smyrna, for example, reports that Polycarp was placed there by John, the church of Rome that Clement was ordained by Peter. In just the same way the other churches produced men who were appointed to the office of bishop by the apostles and so transmitted the apostolic seed to them.
Eusebius, the first Church historian, writes that “Clement also, who was appointed third bishop of the church at Rome, was, as Paul testifies [in Philippians 4:3], his co-laborer and fellow-soldier.”
This also agrees with the text itself. Pope Clement refers to the martyrdom of Peter and Paul as examples of spiritual heroes from “our own generation”:
But not to dwell upon ancient examples, let us come to the most recent spiritual heroes. Let us take the noble examples furnished in our own generation. Through envy and jealousy, the greatest and most righteous pillars [of the Church] have been persecuted and put to death. Let us set before our eyes the illustrious apostles. Peter, through unrighteous envy, endured not one or two, but numerous labours, and when he had finally suffered martyrdom, departed to the place of glory due to him. Owing to envy, Paul also obtained the reward of patient endurance, after being seven times thrown into captivity, compelled to flee, and stoned. After preaching both in the east and west, he gained the illustrious reputation due to his faith, having taught righteousness to the whole world, and come to the extreme limit of the west, and suffered martyrdom under the prefects. Thus was he removed from the world, and went into the holy place, having proved himself a striking example of patience.
Clement also begins the letter by explaining that its tardiness was due “to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves,” an apparent reference to the persecutions of the Emperor Domitian. Finally, he calls upon his readers to “remember” the sayings of Jesus, rather than quoting one of the Gospels, all of which supports a dating of c. 95-96.
II. When Did the Apostle John Die?
1Pontormo, St. John the Evangelist (1525)

Answer: Sometime after c. 96 A.D.

Christian Courier has a very good summary of why the Book of Revelation likely dates to c. 96 A.D., rather than 68-69 (the Preterist view). Meanwhile, The Oxford Encyclopedia of the Books of the Bible explains that the Gospel of John isn’t a second-century document, as was once claimed by the opponents of orthodox Christianity:

During the nineteenth century, scholars dated the Gospel [of John] to the last half of the second century because of its perceived Hellenistic influence. In the twentieth century, however, two factors combined to push the likely date of composition somewhat earlier. First, the John Rylands Library Papyrus (P52), a small fragment of a papyrus codex with a few verses from John 18, was discovered in 1935 and dated variously from 117-150 C.E., indicating a date of composition no later than the end of the first century, given the time needed for the text to spread to Egypt. Second, the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls at Qumran in 1948 and their subsequent analysis provided additional evidence both for the complex diversity and thorough Hellenization of first-century Judaism and also for the Jewish background of Johannine motifs previously thought drawn from the gentile world, such as the light/dark duality so prominent in the prologue (1:4-5). A latest reasonable date for the Gospel’s composition, then, is before 100 C.E.

The encyclopedia goes on to argue that while establishing an earliest possible date is more difficult, the general consensus is that John’s Gospel dates to the 90s.

Once again, we find an emerging scholarly consensus on the dating of John’s Gospel and Revelation that correspond with what we find testified to by the Church Fathers, who are clear that John wrote Revelation shortly after the Emperor Domitian’s death, while John was in exile. St. Irenaeus of Lyons writes in Against Heresies (c. 180 A.D.) that Revelation was written not long ago, “almost in our day, towards the end of Domitian’s reign.”
St. Clement of Alexandria (155-215) [this isn't Pope Clement, by the way, but the second-century Bishop of Alexandria] agrees on the date, and notes that the Apostle John was still active as an Apostle during this time period:

For when, on the tyrant’s [Domitian's] death, he [the Apostle John] returned to Ephesus from the isle of Patmos, he went away, being invited, to the contiguous territories of the nations, here to appoint bishops, there to set in order whole Churches, there to ordain such as were marked out by the Spirit.

So Pope Clement and the Apostle John are both writing in the immediate aftermath of the Domitian persecution. This gives us a very precise date to work with: September 18, 96, the date of the Emperor Domitian’s assassination. As for the death of St. John, it obviously occurred later. The date 100 A.D. is the consensus (accepted even by those who don’t accept the 96 A.D. dating for Revelation), which is in accord with the Patristic testimony that John wrote Revelation while he was an “old man.”
III. Why Does This Matter?
Map depicting St. Paul’s third missionary journey, including to Corinto (Corinth)

The last two points are relatively non-controversial: it’s generally accepted that 1 Clement was written about 96, and that the Apostle John died about 100. So what? Well, consider how 1 Clement begins. Pope Clement, speaking on behalf of the entire Roman Church, says:

The Church of God which sojourns at Rome, to the Church of God sojourning at Corinth, to those who are called and sanctified by the will of God, through our Lord Jesus Christ: Grace to you, and peace, from Almighty God through Jesus Christ, be multiplied.

Owing, dear brethren, to the sudden and successive calamitous events which have happened to ourselves, we feel that we have been somewhat tardy in turning our attention to the points respecting which you consulted us; and especially to that shameful and detestable sedition, utterly abhorrent to the elect of God, which a few rash and self-confident persons have kindled to such a pitch of frenzy, that your venerable and illustrious name, worthy to be universally loved, has suffered grievous injury.

What does this mean?

It means that when there was schism within the Corinthian church, they appealed all the way to Rome for assistance and consultation, even though the Apostle John was alive at the time. We don’t know exactly when the Corinthians wrote, but it was early enough that Clement is apologetic for his delayed response in 96 A.D.

Apart from the pope and the Apostles, no one is afforded this kind of respect and deference in the Apostolic age. And when Clement responds, he’s not afraid to order the schismatics to return to the true Church:

Ye therefore, who laid the foundation of this sedition, submit yourselves to the presbyters, and receive correction so as to repent, bending the knees of your hearts. Learn to be subject, laying aside the proud and arrogant self-confidence of your tongue. For it is better for you that you should occupy a humble but honourable place in the flock of Christ, than that, being highly exalted, you should be cast out from the hope of His people.

So you have the Roman church intervening in a local church dispute, and issuing orders. You’ve got the Bishop of Rome speaking on behalf of the whole church of Rome. And you’ve got all this going on while the Apostle John is still alive. A standard Protestant ecclesiology would suggest that this matter would have been handled entirely at the congregational level, or barring that, by appealing to the still-living Apostle.

IV. What was the Church’s Reaction to 1 Clement?
The other Clement: St. Clement of Alexandria

How do the early Christians respond to this Roman intervention into the affairs of Corinth? Do they view this as a papist usurpation of John’s Apostolic authority, or as a violation of the autonomy of the local church? Nope. On the contrary, the major dispute following Clement’s letter is whether or not it should be considered Scripture.

St. Clement of Alexandria (the other Clement, mentioned earlier), after citing Scriptural passages on martyrdom, continues:

Moreover, in the Epistle to the Corinthians, the Apostle Clement also, drawing a picture of the Gnostic, says: [...]

Even as late as St. Jerome’s book De Viris Illustribus (On Illustrious Men), from the late fourth century, we hear that Clement’s letter is still being read liturgically, as if it were Scripture:

He [Clement] wrote, on the part of the church of Rome, an especially valuable Letter to the church of the Corinthians, which in some places is publicly read, and which seems to me to agree in style with the epistle to the Hebrews which passes under the name of Paul but it differs from this same epistle, not only in many of its ideas, but also in respect of the order of words, and its likeness in either respect is not very great.
Of course, this is not to suggest that 1 Clement (or any other papal encyclical, after 2 Peter) is Scripture. Rather, it’s to show that the early Church looks a whole lot more papal than you might expect.
This also puts John’s own Gospel in a whole new light. John makes repeated reference to Petrine authority; for example, in the midst of his Resurrection account, John points out that he waited for Peter before entering the Tomb (John 20:4-5). In the next chapter, he talks about how, at Christ’s command, Peter was able to singlehandedly haul in the net of fish (Jn. 21:11) that the other Apostles were incapable of hauling in (Jn. 21:6). Then he recounts Christ’s commissioning of Peter as Shepherd  (Jn. 21:15-17). In each case, these are details that only John reports, and (assuming that the general consensus on the dating of his Gospel is correct) he is doing so decades after Peter’s death. So why emphasize Petrine authority? Because John wasn’t a rival to Clement or any of Peter’s successors. Both men had roles to play in the Body of Christ, and John built up that Body, from the papacy on down.

Oct 10 episode of Blue Bloods

I love this show, but this episode left me with my mouth open…Here’s an article which effectively communicates the issues with the episode.  http://www.ncregister.com/blog/tom-nash/blue-bloods-runs-cold-on-churchs-treatment-of-homosexuals

“Blue Bloods” Runs Cold on Church’s Treatment of Homosexual

Monday, October 13, 2014 2:51 PM Comments (32)

When the opposition not only caricatures the Church’s teaching on a particular matter, but also anyone who espouses that teaching, you know they’re running from the truth. After all, if you’re not fearful of what your opponent professes, you can let him have his say, confident you can carry the day persuasively through a charitable, honest witness.

But, unfortunately, that’s not what happened in the latest episode of Blue Bloods, the hit TV series that airs Friday nights on CBS and which stars Tom Selleck as Frank Reagan, the police commissioner of New York City.  Frank is also the head of the Reagan clan, an Irish-Catholic family with long and deep roots in serving in or assisting the men in blue of the New York Police Department  (thus, the show’s title and play on the term “blue blood”).

Like a good number of Catholics I know across several states, I’ve grown rather fond of the show, now in its fifth season and consistently in the overall top 20 in the weekly TV ratings over the last few years, including the new season.

That’s, in part, because Blue Bloods seems to be the only modern television series that regularly takes seriously the Catholic Church and her teachings, having run several poignantly inspiring episodes showing respect for priests and bishops in general and the sacrament of reconciliation in particular.

On the other hand, Blue Bloods can’t be accused of being owned and operated by the Church. The series realistically shows the struggles many Catholic families experience today.  Members believe in God to one extent or another, but not necessarily with the assent of belief and moral rectitude with which one might hope. In addition, executive producer Leonard Goldberg has shown in various ways that he disagrees with the Church’s teaching on homosexuality.

But until now it has been more indirect. For example, Detective Danny Reagan (played by Donnie Wahlberg) made sure that a famous actor’s hidden homosexual lifestyle was not made public in one episode.

But in “Burning Bridges,” the episode that aired Oct. 10, Goldberg and Co. decided to mount a full, frontal assault on the Church and her teaching on homosexuality. But it was an anemic one, as my anger ultimately gave way to amusement: It was evident that the producers and script writer were too afraid to give the Church real equal time in addressing the controversy.

The Church has always distinguished persons with same-sex attraction (SSA) from related homosexual acts, always preaching love for the person and opposition to sin. The Church teaches that “homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2357) and of “grave depravity,” because of the inherent absence of complementarity in them. It’s self-evident that there can be no communion in homosexual acts — no genuine giving and receiving — which is in stark contrast to the marital act. And the Church also teaches that those with SSA should be supported in a living a liberating chaste lifestyle (John 8:31-32), that they “must be accepted with respect, compassion and sensitivity” and that “every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided” (Catechism, 2358-59).

Unfortunately, none of that comes through in the program. The Church’s teaching is either caricatured or perfunctorily affirmed, and anyone who espouses that teaching is presented as moral Neanderthals and/or hidebound authoritarians.

The show revolves around Detective Alex Fuentes, who makes his Blue Bloods debut in this episode and whose secret homosexual lifestyle becomes public when he has to testify against the brutal murder of a man who was targeted because he was a homosexual. (Detective Fuentes witnessed the crime while patronizing an establishment in a homosexual business district.) Fuentes steps to the fore to testify, and his secret becomes public. His partner rejects him for awhile, and his family — apparently of Catholic-Hispanic heritage — does so indefinitely.

Could Catholics or other Christians with SSA be ostracized by their parents? Possibly. But is it automatic? No. And if they are ostracized, is it because their family members are following authentic Christian teaching? No.

But the show really launches its attack on Church teaching on homosexuality when a reporter looking to put the Catholic commissioner on the hot seat misrepresents Church teaching by confusing SSA with actual sexual acts.

“The Catholic Church condemns homosexuality as a sin, and the commissioner is famously Catholic,” the reporter says.  “How do you line up your anti-gay faith with your role as an equal-opportunity employer?” Commissioner Reagan replies, “What my men and women do in private is their own business.” He completely misses the opportunity to correct the reporter on his doctrinal error, as well as noting that a faithful Catholic could actually be the best supervisor a police officer dealing with SSA could have.

“So you only condemn homosexuality on Sunday?” the reporter illogically replies. Again, the commissioner fails to set the record straight on Catholic teaching about homosexuality as he feebly responds: “Well, I do believe the Church is a little behind the times on this. But then, I still miss the Latin Mass; so next question.”

Driving home the belief that Church teaching is backward, Cardinal Brennan, who debuts as a leading prelate in Season 5, seems to agree with the commissioner. “Yes, Frank, alone. In private. Just between us men,” he says, indicating he may just be toeing the ecclesiastical line publicly but doesn’t really assent on this doctrinal matter. Frank the Commissioner persists, saying, “I do believe the Church is backwards on this. And of all the stands to hold onto, in the midst of the scandals of the past decades!” Further, the commissioner rejoins, “The Pope himself has begun to move the needle on this.” “The Catechism of the Catholic Church,” the cardinal concludes, “remains firm on the matter, Frank.”

So no explanation of the Church’s teaching, just a superficial affirmation that the teaching can’t change. (The oversight, writing and editing in this episode were notably deficient.)

Frank ultimately decides he can’t go against his dissident convictions and issue a public apology to satisfy the cardinal. Because of his stance, he receives the praise of Sister Mary, who serves at his boyhood parish school, St. Dominic’s. Sister provides the coup de grace with a surprising admission: She had a lesbian lifestyle before entering religious life, has seen no need to repent since and thus is grateful that Frank held fast to his convictions.

“Commissioner, the day I entered the convent started on the train platform in Madison, Wis., where I kissed my girlfriend good-bye,” Sister Mary says. “Now, there’s not a day I regret answering Our Lord’s call or a day when I’m ashamed of who I was before. So thank you.”

In marked contrast, Courage, the great apostolate that serves Catholics with SSA, has produced a powerful and soberly edifying documentary — parental advisory: adult themes — that the homosexual lifestyle does not, in fact, lead one to fulfillment in God.

I’ve made similar observations elsewhere.

In their efforts to foster “reform” in the Catholic Church, the producers of Blue Bloods have needlessly alienated many of their viewers. In the process, they also showed they don’t want to grapple honestly with the Gospel because they’re afraid of confronting the moral demands that it entails.

Read more: http://www.ncregister.com/blog/tom-nash/blue-bloods-runs-cold-on-churchs-treatment-of-homosexuals#ixzz3GEd6jZuT

Getting involved

My wife has often asked me why I want to be a deacon, and I’ve struggled a long time to come up with a way to describe my desire.  I think I may have gotten down to the root, however.  Over breakfast, we were talking about how Catholics don’t know this, and don’t do that, and do this and know that.  We discussed this Synod of Bishops going on, and how the media has tried to hijack the Synod by making it about allowing divorced and remarried people into the Eucharistic table.  And suddenly, it all boiled down to this:  People are not involved in their faith.  They get heavily involved in other things, but their faith? Nope.

I pointed out to my wife how the first many-years of our married life was less than involved, and how plain it was.  It was even so plain that the grass looked greener, to my secular eyes.  When we came to our crisis, the turning point in our marriage, I discovered that I had not been involved in our marriage.  I resolved to amend my ways, and in doing so, I came back to faith in Christ, and to Catholicism.  I decided to live my life involved in the things that are important.  God first, family second, everything else, after.  And as I fell in love with the Catholic faith, I knew I needed to always go deeper.  There’s just so much there!

So, being of the married vocation, and wanting to be deep in Catholicism, I found that the best way for me to get deeply involved in my faith was to study and study and more study, and then I found out about the diaconate.  A little more than 5 years ago, I wanted to be a deacon, but my being new to the faith was an obstacle.  The powers that be, and others, I guess, needed to see that this was still something I needed to be.  And it is-as strong or stronger than ever.

It’s pretty simple, folks.  Be involved in what’s important.  That might be different to people.  But know this: You cannot be a good Christian by going to worship services one hour, or even two hours a week.  It’s got to be a daily walk.  If you can’t walk with God some part of every day, one day God may just decide that he can’t walk with you.  In my case, I would call it, maybe, making up for lost time.  Maybe I want to worship more because of all my pagan years believing, but only when God was a vending machine-you know: put in your prayers, and out comes the result, a la Joel Osteen (heard now on Sirius XM, BTW).  It doesn’t work that way.  Especially in this media-frenzied world.  Have you seen the trash being put out by Nikki Minaj, Jennifer Lopez, and so on???  It’s easy to go for the candy, and the short term gratification.  Don’t think it hasn’t hit me…I just physically have to reject what’s invading my brain…

And the saga continues…

So, we’re trying a new parish.  This one is run by the Conventual Franciscans.  General impressions: The pastor can preach.  The physical church is beautiful.  It’s an older church, I’d say mission-style.  It’s one of the oldest missions in the Bay Area that’s not one of the California Missions.

One of the things I noticed was that the pastor told us that they had a group of people doing some work on the parish.  Maybe, something we can join in and do!  At least there’s a visible organization there, not a shadow one that’s coming out of the woodwork when someone tries to do something.

So after round 1, I’m going to meet with the pastor and talk about my desires, my place, if there is one, in the parish, and see if he will assist me.

A parish I can work in, not so much

Well, I was so enthusiastic, but my wife has jumped in the way…Here’s what happened…

I’m not actually going to go into detail…let’s just say that politics got in the way, and my wife’s temper got the better of her, and she slammed the door on the pastor.

Not trying to step on anyone’s toes, but after a year at this parish, it looked like a dead parish.  The population was aged, very few kids, in fact, no evidence of any CCD or Confirmation, or First Communion.  Mostly just a funeral now and again.  When this pastor started, we started hearing babies during Mass.  We started opening the arms of the parish to new life.  But then the maintenance committee got into the act.  We didn’t even know there were any committees.  Anyway, at our own cost, we started doing stuff.  We had a plan, and the pastor said he wanted to slow down.  My wife got into an argument with him, there were human words hurled, and my wife turned our back.  And now we’re without a home parish again…

I don’t know how we’ll recover from this.  I may just have to keep it low until who-knows-when…God is telling me something, and I will keep trying to hear it.