Saturday, April 30, 2011

Beatification and Canonization: How does it happen?

With the much-anticipated beatification of Pope John Paul II tomorrow, this seems the perfect time to explain the process of canonization!

If you are dying for all the official details, you can read the canonical procedures as laid out in the Apostolic Constitution Divinus Perfectionis Magister. But I like to put things simply, so here is a bare bones outline:

1) A person with a reputation for sanctity dies.

2) Before a "cause" can begin for his beatification and canonization, five years must pass. This is to ensure that emotions and fervor, which often surround the death of a holy person, have stabilized.

3) The local bishop, at the request of the faithful, may open an investigation. A diocesan tribunal is formed, and witnesses are called forth to testify to the heroic virtue of the candidate, as demonstrated by facts of his life. Documents and evidence are gathered, and the candidate is deemed "Servant of God".

4) Upon completion of the local investigation, the case is sent on to Rome, to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, where a more rigorous investigation begins. After an intense examination of the claims of heroic virtue (and doctrinal orthodoxy) of the candidate, nine theologians vote as to whether the cause should move forward. If yes, then the cause is sent to the cardinals and bishops who are members of the Congregation. If, after months of meetings, they also vote yes, then the cause moves on to the Pope for approval and public decree.

5) The next step is beatification. For a candidate to be eligible for beatification, the Church requires evidence of one miracle attributed to the intercession of the candidate -- a miracle that occurred after his death. A posthumous miracle is considered proof that the person is truly in Heaven. (Martyrs are exempt from the requirement of this first miracle.) Beatification also requires another investigation of the candidate's heroic virtue, and the Church may call "devil's advocates" to the stand, to testify against the candidate's cause. If the results of these investigations are favorable, the Pope beatifies the candidate, who may now be called "Blessed" and receive limited veneration.

6) Canonization is the final step in the process, and it requires evidence of a second miracle (or first, in the case of a martyr), which must have taken place after the beatification.

It's the miracle stuff that I find so fun! I remember watching a network news magazine back in 1998 (I think it was Dateline NBC), which did a segment on the canonization of Edith Stein, aka Teresa Benedicta of the Cross. They focused on the Vatican's miracle investigation, specifically that a little American girl at death's door was healed miraculously through Edith Stein's intercession.

The secular doctors who were called before the Vatican panels to testify about the alleged miracle were interviewed by the network. These doctors (who treated the girl and/or were expert medical witnesses) had no affiliation with the Church, and had no prior knowledge of or interest in the Church's investigative processes. I recall one doctor expressing his surprise and admiration for the thoroughness and seriousness of the panel inquiry. He hadn't expected it to be so objective and scientific, and he was quite impressed and satisfied.

It was one of the only times I've witnessed a major media network report fairly and respectfully about the Catholic Church.

7) Finally, if all the investigations are decided in favor of the candidate (after many years!), the Pope canonizes the candidate, who acquires the title of "Saint". This declaration is considered infallible.

It's important to remember that everyone in Heaven is a saint. Canonization does not "make" someone a saint, but merely confirms the truth of what God has already done for that person. The faithful on earth have assurance that the canonized saint dwells with the Lord in Heaven, and that we may look to him as a Christian role model and hero, and request his intercession at the Throne of God.

The saints are such a gift to the Church!


On a personal note, I am giddy that tomorrow my eldest daughter, who has been studying in Italy, will be attending the vigil and beatification mass of Pope John Paul II! For those of us not lucky enough to be there, we can watch the vigil and beatification live on EWTN, or watch/listen through the internet.

JPII, we love you!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Are feminists at war with their own biology?

So, I'm just chugging along writing my next post, when a comment from "college student" (for whom I have a great deal of affection) pops up on a previous post. (Comment #461, by the way!! What a great conversation it's been!)

The part that intrigues me enough to stop writing my new post and write this one instead is the following:

"I have a big issue with gender roles. I have a big issue with all of your assumptions about women, that their bodies were made to breed and sustain other people…."

[blink, blink]

I (and many others) have contended that feminists are at war with their own biology. 

I have to ask "college student" and any other leftist feminist out there: If we women were not "made" to "breed" and "sustain other people" with our bodies, then why, in your opinion, were we made with ovaries and a uterus? Aside from procreation, what meaning or purpose do those organs have?

Are you, in fact, at war with your own body, your own biology? If not, can you help me reconcile your sentiments with a woman's biological reality?


Sunday, April 24, 2011

Prayer buddies, info, and random thoughts...

Before I dive back into some meaty topics, a few things:

1) Happy Easter! Jesus Christ is truly risen! Yep, it's literal, and if He did not truly, literally rise from the dead, then our faith is in vain, and we are the most pitiable of men, as St. Paul says. Thankfully, He did rise, and we are not putting our faith in a work of fiction. More on that, soon…

2) I can now reveal that during this Lenten prayer buddy season, I have been praying for Second Chances! I have adored this woman for a long time, and have been so inspired by her courageous witness to Church teaching on reproduction and sexuality, even when she was facing her own pain of secondary infertility. I have rejoiced watching her new baby boy grow into the most gorgeous little man. That last round of photos nearly sent me over the edge! It was an honor to pray for her intentions this Lent, and I will keep her and her beautiful family close to my heart.

3) I discovered that a most amazing new blogger was praying for me! She is Patiently Waiting…Kinda, and I am so grateful and humbled to have been the recipient of her most powerful prayers! I cannot wait to get to know her better, and to follow her journey to motherhood, via pregnancy or adoption. You can bet I will be praying for those intentions, dear Patiently Waiting!

4) Shhhh, don't tell him, but I found a perfect gift for my son who is graduating from high school next month: Two books by Dr. J. Budziszewski (with whom I am currently obsessed --more on that later): 

Ask Me Anything: Provocative Answers for College StudentsAsk Me Anything 2: More Provocative Answers for College Students

I ordered both today. I have a particular interest in helping college students stay grounded in truth, considering the blather they (including my daughter) are exposed to on most campuses, often without ever hearing a reasoned argument from the other side. Professor Budziszewski is an antidote to that. Oh, and his How to Stay Christian in College looks amazing, too.

5) For some inexplicable reason, I have always wanted my blog to look like an ice cream parlor or a candy store. I change the colors from time to time, but they will always be candy/ice cream themed. Yay!

6) Finally, I make a plea to all bloggers (except for TCIE, who is exempt) to remove word verification from their comment requirements. Perhaps I am ADD, but I become almost despairing when I type out a quick comment, ready to click and fly, only to be confronted with a new and cumbersome step. For those willing to take the courageous leap to rid our blogger community of the scourge of word verification (a cause that Sew and Lauren have already championed), I salute you! (Plus, you will get a lot more comments!!)

Blessed Easter to all!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Great Easter Vigil!

As this post publishes, I am attending the Easter Vigil Mass, the Church's greatest feast and the highlight of the year for me. I know many of you are attending as well! Let us all rejoice together as we celebrate the literal, bodily Resurrection of our Lord Jesus!

Christ is risen! Indeed, He is risen!

A blessed Easter season* to all! Praise God for His priceless gift of Salvation!

*Yes, that's right…. Easter is more than just one day, it's an entire liturgical season, lasting until the Feast of Pentecost. And after the rigors of Lent, we surely need it!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Good Friday darkness

The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is offered continually, hour upon hour, all over the globe -- save for this one day. On Good Friday, there is not one Mass said on this earth. The tabernacles of every nation are empty, the sanctuary lamps across the world have all been extinguished, literally. 

Left in darkness, agony and sin, we wait….

The Crucifixion, by Carl Heinrich Bloch

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

To be a priest

I'm slowing down in preparation for Holy Week, focusing on Jesus.

Holy Thursday celebrates Jesus' institution of both the Eucharist and the ministerial priesthood at the Last Supper.

I love our priests. I mean, I really love our priests.

In the vocations video below, nine men from a Long Island diocese answer seven questions about the priesthood:

God bless our priests, who sacrifice their whole lives as an offering for us! Let us never forget to thank them and pray for them!

Monday, April 18, 2011

Meaning and purpose: Answering "Choice", Part Two

What a difference a few days make! When "Choice" and I first went head to head, it was a tad adversarial. But since then, we have come to a place of mutual respect. I am engaging her here again, and this time it's amicable. :)

Choice's words are in red italics. My thoughts are in blue.

I told Choice that an atheist would have to believe that, in the end, life is absolutely meaningless. 

She responded:

Meaningless in your sense of the word, perhaps. But I think you’re deriving your meaning from your religious view of the world, no? [I'm thinking of objective meaning as opposed to subjective meaning.] Central to your belief system is the faith that there is something bigger than what tangibly exists in this world and that after this life, we go on to that bigger place. [I'd say that it's as much about our origin as our destination.] And that’s fine. But just because my viewpoint lacks that particular outcome doesn’t mean it’s meaningless. It just means it doesn’t fit into your idea of meaningfulness.

[She then quoted me]: “So to me, it's as if the atheist is living life based only on feelings. There is nothing else, nothing lasting or objectively true.”

This kind of puzzles me. First, you say the atheist is living life based on feelings. Actually, the atheist is living life based on what is seen, felt, heard, demonstrated empirically, and known to be true. It is the religious who are living based on faith, based on that which cannot be seen, heard, or empirically proven. I’m not saying one approach is objectively better or worse than the other, but it just kind of startled me that you said the atheist is living life based on feelings. 

I can see why you would think that, but I want to challenge you on that a little further down in the post….

Secondly…why does there have to be something ”else”? Why isn’t the earth and the beauty of nature and the intricate interconnectedness of life systems and the AMAZING displays of science enough? 

But enough for whom? 

You are a First World, educated woman with good food to eat and nice clothes to wear, decent health care, and freedom of speech and movement. As an educated American, you are of the world's privileged class. You have the leisure time and resources to study all the beauty and intricate interconnectedness around us, because you are not busy trying simply to survive. You will no doubt enjoy a relatively comfortable, terror-free, famine-free, war-free existence before you go "poof" and cease to exist. 

But what of the suffering child in Africa? What meaning does her life have if she cannot extract all the goodness and beauty of life and the universe? If she cannot see and enjoy its interconnectedness because she can barely see or think past her starvation and disease? Who is she? Is she anyone? And if so, how? Why? Those questions are not rhetorical. I really want to know. And I don't mean "What is her potential?" nor do I want a list of what we can do (or aren't doing) to help her. I want to know what her meaning and worth is right now in her abject suffering.

And it’s incredibly lasting, because it continues on long after I’m gone, and supports many more generations of life. 

With all due respect, so what? How is length of time (or whatever "lasting" means) significant here? If we all go poof in the end, so what if things last for a while after you are gone? Why are “generations of life” ultimately important or purposeful in your worldview? It all means nothing in the end, when everything is gone. And no one cares. And you were no one. And neither was anyone else. You and I and everyone were accidents of a mindless cosmic burp, and nothing of any of us will be left behind to show for it. 

And it’s objectively true, because I can see it and if I so choose, I can study it and prove its postulates.

Last summer, I posed a couple of questions to atheists. One of them relates to what you just said: 
Atheists believe that "gathering knowledge" and "intellectual curiosity" are important (and I agree wholeheartedly). My question: If your brain is the product of randomness and chance, then why do you trust your brain to give you true information?
Maybe that is a silly question to you, but I would love an understandable answer.

Back to feelings. You said that you don't live your life based on feelings. But when I asked you why we all need to get along if there is no God and no ultimate meaning, you said this:

And why do we all need to get along if there is no God? Because it’s a lot more pleasant for everyone involved. Because I think 90% of people would say it’s more enjoyable and more fulfilling to live in a kind manner and to live in harmony with other people rather than screw everyone else over for selfish reasons. Because wanting to live in a loving community of people isn’t just a Catholic wish. And because moral behavior doesn’t have to be defined by the Bible, it can also be defined by the happiness and fulfillment and contentment that we feel when we exist peacefully as members of a community. 

All the emphases are mine, but I hope you see my point. Your morality is based on how things make people feel, isn't it?

And similarly, when you talked about the "beauty of nature and the intricate interconnectedness of life systems and the AMAZING displays of science", you are again talking about the way those things make you feel, aren't you? You “feel” awe, you “feel” compelled to know more. 

But beyond how the observance and study of these things make you feel, they really have no ultimate purpose, do they? Okay, so things can be demonstrated empirically and shown to be true… but for what end? Why does truth matter? How can truth ultimately mean anything at all, when existence itself is a random accident?

In the comment thread, you said:

I don't feel that my life is purposeless or meaningless because I don't have an omnipotent, omniscient being designing it or guiding it or rewarding me for the good things I do or reprimanding me for the bad things I do. That's not the definition of "purpose" or "meaning" for me.

From what I understand of your position, your life's meaning is derived from … you. You have decided that your life is meaningful, based on the joy and happiness you feel, and the satisfaction you get from your relationships and choices. 

Correct me if I am wrong.

But if I am right about your position, then what of the abandoned baby girl in China, left to suffer and die from exposure? In your opinion, what is the purpose and meaning of her life? What of the nasty old man who has no friends, and whom no one will miss when he dies? What is the purpose and meaning of his life? How about the serial killer? The unwanted unborn child? The brain injured woman who cannot speak or walk? The suicidal teen? 

What is the purpose and meaning of their lives, in the atheist's worldview? Do they have inherent value? If so, what is its source?

I’m not a philosopher. I'm not even sure that these are the right questions to ask. But they're the ones that I can’t reconcile when I ponder the implications of atheism.

So please, help me see. Tell me why your life or anyone's life has any objective purpose, meaning or value. And if you can't say that it does, then what are we left with but feelings and subjectivism?

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Answering "Choice" (who describes herself as "intolerant of intolerance, and proud of it")

This is long, but bear with me.

To understand what you are about to read, first go here and here. After Calah posted the shocking yet hopeful story of her first pregnancy, a woman named "Choice" came on to challenge her. So far so good. But it took a turn, and I have secured permission from Calah to respond here to some of Choice's comments, which I have reprinted below. Choice's words are in black, with my thoughts in blue italics:

My primary goal here is not to insult all of you [judging from what follows, might it have been your secondary goal?]; it is to provide a dissenting viewpoint that is too frequently lacking in these types of blogs. [What types of blogs are "these types of blogs"? Calah's blog is a personal blog, with her personal thoughts. She has lived both sides of the cultural divide, and she has come down on the side of Catholic wife and mom. As for dissenting viewpoints, we faithful Catholics live in a country that dissents from our viewpoints. Heck, even most American Catholics dissent from Church teaching. So, please don't worry that we are not exposed to dissenting viewpoints, as it's orthodox Catholic viewpoints that we rarely hear.]

If our deepest-held convictions go unquestioned and unchallenged, then we may as well forfeit our reasoning minds and walk this earth on autopilot. [If you are familiar with Catholic patrimony, then you know we adore questions, challenges, and reason. In fact, we believe that faith and reason are "like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth". We're the folks who founded the university system, after all. And we relish in philosophy, both pre-Christian (Socrates, Plato, Aristotle) and Christian (Augustine, Aquinas, Pascal, Newman, Chesterton, et al.). We also love science; it was from the heart of the Christian culture that the natural sciences were nourished and then flourished. Given all this, I can only imagine that you are confusing Catholics with anti-intellectual sects.]

Leila: Either life is sacred or it is not. Your distinction between human creations of God and non-human creations of God is arbitrary. [Actually, it's not arbitrary at all. There is a definite line between humans and other creatures. It's so clear and obvious that even my four-year-old can tell the difference between a human and a pig, or a human and a dog, or a human and a mosquito, or a human and a plant. Nothing arbitrary about it. To say it's arbitrary is like saying there is an "arbitrary" distinction between a horse and a tree.]

Why would God populate the earth with creatures, and decide that one species is sacred and others can be tortured and killed? (If you don't believe that the animals you eat for food are tortured, educate yourself and your loved ones on factory farming). [First, God does not want his creatures to be "tortured"; in fact, my Church teaches that animals are to be treated humanely. But yes, animals are here in the service of man. Man is the only creature on earth made in the image and likeness of God, with an intellect, a will, and an eternal soul. By the way, do you eat fruits and vegetables? If so, what right do you have? Why is your life superior to theirs?] 

I’m sure several of you will want to cite the Bible to disprove that argument, but save your breath. The Bible is not a source of evidence. It is a work of fiction [Do you have evidence of that?] written to influence the lives of religious constituents, in the pursuit of power and money. [Really? Who was pursuing the power (since most of the early Christian leaders were martyred during the time the New Testament was written and compiled; dead people don't have a lot of earthly power), and who's got the money?] I could no more sanely cite a Mother Goose tale as evidence for my arguments. [Thank goodness your primary intent is not to insult us. ;)]

In my opinion, the entire religion of Catholicism has served much more as a tool of imperialism than a guideline for moral living. [Then why does the Church have no army, and why does she still insist on teaching the highest moral code in the world, while the world mocks her for it?]

Have you ever wondered why the use of contraception is so strongly discouraged by the Catholic faith? [Why yes, I have! In fact, I've studied and taught that very subject for 15 years now, so I've gone past "wondering" about it.] It is not to respect the “sanctity of life,” or to keep intact the “holy act” of intercourse. [It's not?] Those are the feel-good reasons they have instilled in you to cover up the true and original intent of these rules. [This is new to me: A liberal claiming that Catholic sexual doctrine is couched in warm fuzzies? I thought your line about Catholic sex was that the Church is cruel and oppressive?] This stipulation of your faith was designated to increase the Catholic population. Think about it. [Because clearly I've never thought about any of this before...] A group of people [can you specify the group of people?] set out to utilize a religion to amalgamate and brainwash [!!!] their constituents.

But how to increase the likelihood that your religion and your brainwashing will be as effective and as widespread as possible? Simple. Teach them that they need to reproduce as many times as possible, and that any prevention of reproduction is a sin. Ta-da! Your numbers grow stronger and you gain more power. [Ah! The "breeding minions for the Pope" argument! Well, bummer, that's not been an effective strategy, since most Catholics use contraception happily and scoff at Church teaching (if they've ever even heard of it).]

If the Catholic church truly believed all human life to be sacred, would the Pope have sanctioned the Crusades? [To which of the eight crusades over hundreds of years are you referring, and do you know the differences among them?] Would it continue to wage war against homosexuality [Wait, "waging war" mean teaching that homosexual acts are sinful, but that homosexual men and women must be treated with full dignity?] when those efforts could be spent saving lives in third world countries? [Do you not realize how many Catholics are saving lives in the Third World and all over the globe? Who will fill the void if the Church goes away? Whose "efforts will be spent" running the soup kitchens, hospitals, homes for the dying, medical clinics, relief agencies, orphanages, schools, etc.? Will you and your friends give up your lives and step in if Catholic charities disappear?] 

There are so many holes in the Catholic ‘sanctity of life’ argument. “Life is sacred…unless it’s a different species…or a different religion….or people who think differently than we do. Then it’s okay to torture and kill.” [Can you please cite some official Church teaching on that? I've never seen it. It seems like you have very little information about what Catholicism actually teaches, but a lot of opinions.]

The bottom line is that this earth is as we see it. [Well, except for the parts that we don't see.] There is a lot of love, there is hatred, there is pain, and there is beauty. But we shouldn’t need some imaginary man in the sky or some sexually-repressed, oddly-outfitted man in Rome to tell us to live our lives as good people. [How do you know the pope is sexually repressed? Do you publicly say the same of celibate Buddhist monks, by the way? "Oddly-dressed"? This is the level of discourse you want to bring to the blogs of those you are trying to reach? I think Papal vestments rock, by the way.] Our relationships with others, our empathy, and our nature as human beings should encourage us to do so. [And yet somehow, humans still act barbarically.] Not because we fear eternal punishment or strive for eternal reward, but because being a decent person is the right way to live. [Says who? I thought godless evolution was about survival, not virtue or decency. Sometimes to survive, we must cheat, steal, lie and kill, correct? Besides, who defines what's "right"?] 

We are animals, just like any other, who reproduce because it is written in our genetic code (which there is actually proof of). [Yes, Catholics believe that God hardwired us to reproduce. With the added bonus that we can freely love, as an act of our will.] Life can be a beautiful thing, babies can grow up to be presidents or researchers or peacemakers. But life can also be painful and horrible. Babies can grow up to be criminals and rapists and serial killers. [True. Sin is a horrible thing, and we deal with the ugly effects of our own and others' sin all the time.] 

What about the millions of children starving and dying of preventative diseases all over the world? Why are you not campaigning to save their lives if life is, in fact, sacred? [What evidence do you have that I and my Church are not?] Why is your primary concern to get as many children into the world as possible [umm, it's not my primary concern, nor is it the Church's], when welfare programs are already spread too thin, there are already so many children living in squalor and poverty, and there are parents who abuse their kids? [Are you saying that because poverty and sin exist, we must agree that unborn children can be killed and discarded? How does that follow?] 

Why the focus on quantity, not quality? [I'm focused on "not killing innocent people" not "quantity". And sadly, "quality of life" has become a liberal buzz word for abortion, euthanasia, and eugenics in general, which deserves its own post.] How about instead of bringing more souls into the world, you adopt and care for those that are already in existence who desperately need love and assistance? [Clearly you don't know your audience. In the name of fairness, I invite you to read this recent post, which will teach you more about Catholic pro-lifers. Oh, and aside from what you will learn there, it's worth noting that conservatives are also consistently more generous than liberals in charity donations as well].

I would assert that your allowing these souls to suffer [I'm allowing it?] in order to produce children genetically related to you is just as disrespectful to the sanctity of life as a woman who chooses not to carry a pregnancy to term. [If you are equating the two, you are morally confused. You also don't realize how many of those in the "Catholic Bubble" have adopted children.]

If some superior being had wanted us to reproduce endlessly, he or she would have made the resources of this earth limitless to satisfactorily provide for all of those lives. [The resources of this world are plenty abundant to provide for all of humanity. Sin, corruption and misguided policy keeps resources from people.] But they are not, and we cannot all pop out one child after another without society and the earth at some point caving under the weight of this ceaseless breeding. [For more on the myth of "ceaseless breeding", go here for a quick primer.] This does not make me loveless; this makes my definition of love one based on reality rather than religion. [What is your definition of love? Go here for what other atheists told me about what love is for them.]

So go on living in your bubble and feeling all warm and fuzzy about the way you conduct your lives. [Actually, the lifelong struggle to live a virtuous Christian life requires great sacrifice and entails great suffering. However, the interior peace and joy is worth it.] Go on crusading [for] the thousands of unborn children who aren’t brought into this world every day [you mean, who are willfully killed by abortion], while you pay thousands of dollars every year to companies who torture and kill other of God’s “sacred” creatures for the sake of your taste buds. [First, we've covered that the Church does not sanction torture of man or beast. Second, animals are not "sacred". Third, humans are meat-eaters. I don't know if I can apologize for that?]

Keep telling yourselves that sex before marriage is okay as long as you hurry up and get married before the baby comes [I've never told myself that, and neither has the Church], that divorce is okay as long as you pay the church an adequate sum of money to pretend the marriage never existed [clearly you don't know the difference between divorce and annulment; even civil authorities make the distinction], that parts of the Bible are necessary for everyone to follow but others can be swept under the rug if they inconvenience you [Evidence? Examples? Make sure you know what you are talking about, or this could turn into a whole new post], that torturing and killing is okay as long as it’s a member of a species or a thought doctrine other than your own. [What's the obsession with torture? Sigh. Speaking of "sweeping under the rug" (or dumping in the trash) and "torturing and killing", could you go here and be the first pro-choicer on this blog with the integrity to defend what you see?] 

In short, keep living in your Catholic bubble if it’s too painful for you to think outside the brainwash that comes prefabricated in the neat and tidy package of religion. [Glad you are not trying to insult anyone. By the way, are you aware that most of the people you are talking to have already lived the life you advocate, and have come to the Church after living the Planned Parenthood way? We don't actually live in a bubble, but judging from the vast ignorance of all you've said, you just might.]

But keep your brainwash to yourselves and let the rest of us live as we see fit as well [except the innocent unborn, right?]. I will never protest your right to live your life as you please [Can the unborn have that right, too?]. Stop protesting my right to do the same (and yes, 'my life' includes my decision whether or not to bear children) [translation: "my decision whether or not to kill children". And FYI, my right to protest is protected under the First Amendment. Why do you demand that I stop protesting? I don't believe you have that right.].


Choice, it is my hope that from here on in, you will speak less from ignorance and more from knowledge and truth. You claim to be "proud" of your "intolerance of intolerance", but to some of us it seems more like a convenient way of excusing your anti-Catholic bigotry (which is nothing new or enlightened) or your (willful?) ignorance about facts which are easily known if pursued. 

To my fellow Catholics and others of good will, I put Choice's words out there to show you, once again, the cultural divide. 

And though Choice called the following "vitriol", I will once again post the words which summarize exactly what you see going on here:

"The Church is intolerant in principle because she believes; she is tolerant in practice because she loves. The enemies of the Church are tolerant in principle because they do not believe; they are intolerant in practice because they do not love." -- Fr. Reginald Garrigou-Lagrange, OP

Read a follow-up conversation with "Choice", here.


Monday, April 11, 2011

Catholicism is objective, Protestantism is subjective

Please note: When I address the differences between Catholics and Protestants, I am addressing doctrinal issues; I am not judging anyone's personal holiness or love for Christ. 

Once upon a time, five hundred years ago, a group of Christians broke away from the Catholic Church in protest, declaring that the Bible was a Christian's only legitimate authority. Without an authoritative Church, each protesting (i.e., Protestant) Christian was now able to interpret the Bible himself, as Protestants believe God intended. 

However, this new paradigm of each Christian interpreting Scripture for himself means that there are as many interpretations of Scripture as there are Protestants. As you can imagine, this leads to a host of problems for a religion that exists to proclaim Truth.

Protestants will tell you that sincere Christians can find the Truth easily, because the "Scriptures are clear" -- and yet Protestants cannot seem to agree on even the essentials of salvation. This reality has led to division after division after division among the Protestant churches over the centuries. It's a real quandary, one which many Protestants acknowledge.

Catholics, thankfully, don't have that headache. We know what the Church teaches on every issue that touches on salvation, because Tradition has been handed down intact throughout the centuries, both written and orally, and those teachings are accessible to all. Anyone who wants to know what the Catholic Church teaches can know.

However, something has come up time and again in my dialogues with Protestants over the years. They tell me that we Catholics have a more serious problem with our Sacred Tradition paradigm than they have with their "Bible only" paradigm. They say that since Catholic Tradition is not "written down" (except for the part of Tradition that is written down, i.e., the Bible), then it is subjective, almost impossible to pin down.

To show how the argument goes, I'll reprint an excerpt from a facebook dialogue I've had with a thoughtful and godly Protestant Christian whom I'll call Brian (his words in red):

It seems to me that if there is no written Tradition (primary sources), then that makes Tradition highly subjective.

I responded:

Hi again, Brian! 

Okay, so if I read you correctly, you contend that submitting to Church authority/teachings/Tradition is highly subjective, but that submitting to the written Word (the Bible alone) is objective. 

I don’t think, practically speaking, that that bears itself out.

For example, let’s set up a simple comparison: 

Group A: 1,000 Bible-believing Protestants (sola scriptura adherents, who believe in the Bible as our only authority). They are all “true believers” who are saved and who love Jesus, and who sincerely want nothing more than to submit their lives to Christ’s Truth as found in the Bible.

Group B: 1,000 Church-loving Catholics (who believe the Church is the final authority). They are all “true believers” who are in a state of grace and who love Jesus and who want nothing more than to submit their lives to Christ’s Truth as found in the Church.

***Note: None of the Protestants or Catholics are dissenting or liberal Christians… i.e., no “Jesus Seminar” types in the Protestant group, and no Pope-bashers in the Catholic group. 

First, ask the individuals in Group A questions about what they believe on important matters of doctrine. Then, ask individuals in Group B the same questions about what they believe on important matters of doctrine. Here’s what you will find (and just as an example, let's use baptism):

Group A (Sincere Protestants):

Q. Is baptism a sacrament? A. Answers will vary.
Q. Is baptism regenerative? A. Answers will vary.
Q. Is infant baptism legitimate? A. Answers will vary.
Q. Can baptism be repeated? A. Answers will vary.
Q. Must baptism be by immersion only? A. Answers will vary.

Group B (Sincere Catholics):

Q. Is baptism a sacrament? A. All will answer “yes”
Q. Is baptism regenerative? A. All will answer “yes”
Q. Is infant baptism legitimate? A. All will answer “yes”
Q. Can baptism be repeated? A. All will answer “no”
Q. Must baptism be by immersion only? A. All will answer “no”

To me, this shows that adhering to “sola scriptura” leads to a much more subjective result than adhering to Church authority/teaching, which leads to an objective result.

I am willing to hear why you think my example is inaccurate.

Blessings to you,

Here is the pertinent part of Brian's response:

[T]he example that you give is in fallacious in a big way. The same example can be given of any organization. For example, you can place Jehovah's Witnesses in group A and Mormons in group B; Protestants in group A and Anglicans in group B. A general consensus doesn't necessarily mean truth. 

Thanks for allowing me to discuss this with you.

I responded:

Brian, you misunderstand. I never argued that my example proves "truth". I was only arguing that my system (true or not) is less subjective than yours. You were arguing that Catholicism's paradigm led to more subjectivity, no? I was showing you that your system leads to more subjectivity. So, I think I am on firm ground there.

Even Mormonism (which is false), has a system that is more objective than yours [i.e., the Protestant paradigm].

At base, the divide between Protestants and Catholics boils down to authority. If there is no earthly, human authority, if everyone gets to decide for himself what the Bible means, then we have a system of subjectivity and chaos. It is unworkable, as evidenced by the lack of agreement by Protestants not only of how to understand the essentials of salvation, but even what those essentials are!

Here is a short list of things that touch on salvation itself, about which Protestants cannot agree:

  • The existence of, nature of, and number of the sacraments in general, especially Baptism and Eucharist
  • The moral law, including degrees of sin and teachings on human sexuality
  • The meaning of justification
  • The cycle of redemption
  • The nature of the Church and Church authority
  • The existence and nature of Purgatory
  • The implications of the Incarnation
  • Whether salvation is once and done, or a lifelong process
  • Whether one can lose his salvation
  • The nature of predestination
And many more.

As I told Brian, I have not tried to prove the truth of the Catholic Church in this discussion. But consider that if God loves us (and He does) then He would not leave us confused, forced to reinvent the wheel with every new Christian. A loving God would leave us with clarity and truth throughout the centuries and millennia. And He did. Christ established His Church so that we would not be left orphans, and the Holy Spirit has guided the Church into all truth since that time.