Catholic Issues

 

When faced with practical problems, rely on principles not platitudes

by Dr. Edward Peters

The line between principles and platitudes is a narrow one. Both sorts of assertions are true and both can put into a few words concepts that otherwise require many paragraphs to explain. But principles and platitudes are not the same thing; in the face of concrete questions needing practical resolution, principles inform good decision-making, while platitudes derail it.

Catholic World News reports: “Looking forward to the October meeting of the Synod of Bishops, the president of the Pontifical Council for the Family has said that the status of Catholics who are divorced and remarried ‘should be looked at with a merciful eye. Mercy is not blind, and does not oppose the truth, [but] mercy is the suprema lex.’”

For starters, no, mercy is not the supreme law in the Church, but I’ll deal with that in a moment. First, we need to be alert to platitudes being substituted for principles when faced with concrete questions about divorce, ‘remarriage’, and reception of holy Communion.

One must ask, what does it really mean to say that divorced-and-remarried Catholics should “be looked at with a merciful eye”?

Pray, exactly who in the Church, nay in the world, should not be looked at “with a merciful eye”? No one, I would venture. But if everyone stands in need of a merciful eye, then singling out one portion of humanity as deserving to be looked at with a merciful eye either tells us absolutely nothing we didn’t already know, or implies that this portion of humanity has somehow been denied mercy; now, if that is the prelate’s claim, he should feel free to make it—and then be prepared to defend it.

*** Read Dr. Peters’ earlier entry “Why the Gathering Storm Over Divorce Might be Worse than Was Over Contraception

But if that is not his claim, his admonition to others to look at divorced-and-remarried Catholics with a merciful eye amounts to a platitude, that is, a true statement but not one that advances the practical resolution of a pressing pastoral question. No matter how it sounds.

Now, about mercy being the “supreme law” of the Church.

Sure, one can defend that assertion. Problem is, one can defend about a dozen other things as being the “supreme law” of the Church. What about love? What about charity? What about evangelization? What about the divine liturgy and worship of God? And so on.

The Church Defines Her Teaching Based on the Words of Christ

We must be very careful about asserting any given principle of action as being the supreme anything in something as complex as the Mystical Body of Christ, for what is “supreme” in the Church is often a matter of context. Sever assertions of supremacy in the Church from their ecclesial context and confusion quickly arises. (Want a canonical example? Read Canons 331 and 336, and tell me where rests supreme and full power in the Church.)

But since the prelate invoked law, let me frankly observe that canon law does not, as it happens, cite “mercy” as the supreme law of the Church. Instead, Canon 1752, the final canon of the 1983 Code, states that “the salvation of souls … must always be the supreme law of the Church.”

Variations on this theme (e.g., salus animarum et bonum Ecclesiae) are common in theological literature and have, I think, just as sound a claim on our thinking as does the assertion that mercy is the supreme law of the Church in regard to divorced-and-remarried Catholics and, while we’re at it, to any other Catholics.

Those who invoke platitudes as if they were principles enjoy a rhetorical advantage, of course, in that it is hard to disagree with the content of most platitudes, being, as they are, almost always true. (Anyone want to count the nanoseconds that it will take for someone to decry this post as a denial that divorced-and-remarried Catholics should be looked at with a merciful eye?).

Nevertheless, the gravity and the clarity of Christ’s teaching against divorce and remarriage are beyond reasonable dispute and the obligation of the Church to uphold the integrity of the sacraments, of all the sacraments, is clear. To those struggling against the easy substitution of platitudes for sound and principled thinking about these and related vital matters, I can only say, shoulder on.

For Dr. Peters’ earlier entry Why the Gathering Storm Over Divorce Might be Worse than Was Over Contraception

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Can Evangelicals and Catholics be Friends?

by Steve Ray on March 2, 2014

Catholics Can Learn a Good Deal From Them But Big Differences Remain

By Father Dwight Longenecker

ROME, February 28, 2014 (Zenit.org) – Last week Evangelical Anglican Bishop Tony Palmer spoke to a gathering of Pentecostal Christian leaders in America and showed them a personal video greeting from Pope Francis.

Bishop Palmer became friends with Pope Francis when he was in Argentina as a missionary ten years ago. Now his friend is the Pope and together they are reaching out in friendship to Evangelical Christians. But can Evangelical Protestants (who are traditionally very anti-Catholic) be friends with the Pope?

I was brought up in a strict Evangelical home in the United States. We went to church twice on a Sunday, listened to forty-five minute sermons and had to memorise Bible verses. After high school I went to the fundamentalist college which gave the fiery Northern Irish preacher Ian Paisely his honorary doctorate.

By God’s grace I left that extreme religion and moved to England to become an Anglican priest. After serving for ten years as an Anglican minister I and my family became Catholics. I thank God for my solid Evangelical faith and for fifteen years in the Anglican Church. I explain to my friends that I haven’t forsaken those other forms of Christianity. Becoming a Catholic meant accepting more of the Christian faith. All the good things in the other traditions are fulfilled in the Catholic faith.

The evangelical faith is incomplete without the Catholic Church, but we are also incomplete without those Christians who are separated from us. The evangelicals have some good traditions we can learn from.

Evangelicals tend to be excellent communicators and preachers. We could do with those skills in the Catholic Church. The Evangelicals love the Bible and study it with passion. Our people could do with a better grasp of Scripture. Evangelical churches are strong on fellowship. They really make people feel they belong to a loving community. Some of our parishes could improve in this area. The evangelicals have a strong tradition of sharing the gospel in creative and attractive ways. Sometimes Catholics forget that we are all called to share the good news of Jesus Christ with others.

Pope Francis calls us afresh to take part in the New Evangelization and we can learn some lessons from the Evangelicals on how to do this. However, the learning process is not all one way. The new generation of Evangelicals like Tony Palmer are more tolerant and open-minded towards Catholicism.

They are less frightened of other forms of worship and are happy to experiment and be open to beliefs and worship practices which would have horrified their parents and grandparents. These “convergent church” Christians are being freed from their old prejudice to explore Benedictine retreats, Ignatian spirituality and Catholic social teaching. Evangelical magazines publish explorations of Catholic styles of worship. I’ve heard of Baptist churches where they have started using candles, celebrate communion every week instead of four times a year and observe the liturgical year. A Methodist minister I know wears vestments for his celebration of Holy Communion, goes to monasteries on retreat and uses the Divine Office for his daily devotions.

These promising signs, and many more, have been brought about because Evangelicals and Catholics are finally realising that there is more that unites them than divides. At the heart of the matter both Evangelicals and Catholics believe in a revealed religion, not a relative religion.

In other words, we both believe that God has spoken and that settles it. The core of the faith has been given by God. It was not made up by people. It was not simply the result of social conditions and the quirks of human history. This fundamental attitude about the faith means we have a gospel to proclaim and a faith to live, and this is in contrast to the wishy washy grey Christians who water down the faith to a beautiful hobby or a system of good manners.

There is plenty of scope for Evangelicals and Catholics to work and worship together. But we have to remember there are also big differences between us. Evangelicals do tend to minimise the faith. They want to cut out lots of things we Catholics believe are essential. There is still a large amount of distrust and misunderstanding between Evangelicals and Catholics.

One of the biggest obstacles to unity is the fact that most Evangelicals don’t see the need for it. They believe individual churches and denominations are all man made, and that you just choose the one that suits you best. Formal union may still be a long way from us, but in the meantime the warmth of affection Pope Francis extended to the Protestants in Texas should be an example to all Catholics.

Popular writer Fr Dwight Longenecker is a former Evangelical, then an Anglican priest. Read his latest book, The Romance of Religion. Visit his blog, browse his books, listen to his radio show and be in touch at dwightlongenecker.com.

He also provides a free weekly newsletter on the practical practice of the Catholic faith. Called FaithWorks!, it has articles on prayer, resources for the spiritual life and advice on how to walk more closely with Christ. Go here to subscribe

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My dad died almost two years ago. Mom misses Dad and was discouraged about Mark 12:25 which her paraphrased Living Bible improperly rendered “will no be married” in heaven. I wrote the following to comfort my Mom.

Giving talks in Steubenville Ohio and stayed up until 2:00 AM doing a bit of work on this. I know it is important to you since Dad’s death as you look forward to eternity and speculate about relationships in heaven. It is important to me too, knowing I want to be with Janet in heaven.

It is the “Living Bible” translation – which is not a translation but a paraphrase – that renders the words “they won’t be married.” The paraphrased Living Bible takes great liberties and is quite inaccurate.

The King James Version renders it:
“For when they shall rise from the dead, they neither marry, nor are given in marriage; but are as the angels which are in heaven.”

New American Standard Bible says:
“For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.”

New International Version (NIV) says:
“When the dead rise, they will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.”

No reputable translation translates this in a way to deny there are people continuing in love with earthly spouses. The original Greek language says there is no giving or taking in marriage. In other words, there will be no weddings in heaven.

Interestingly it says that before the flood the people were “marrying and giving in marriage” until the flood came. But after the flood Noah and his wife in the ark were still married :-)

There will be male and female distinctions in heaven. Jesus appeared as male after his resurrection. Mary is seen in heaven as a woman (Revelation 12:1). Marriage will be known in heaven since the Church is the Bride and there will be the great marriage in heaven with Jesus the Bridegroom and the marriage supper of the Lamb (Revelation 19:9).

The Pharisees set up a trap for Jesus in Mark 12:18-27. They propose a situation with seven brothers. The first marries a wife and dies with no children. The second brother “takes” the woman to procreate children for his brother. This was the law of the Jews — a brother must take the wife of his dead brother to preserve his brother’s name in the land by propagating offspring for him with his widow.) This happens seven times. Who’s wife will she be in heaven.

The woman who was the wife of the seven brothers did not marry the seven brothers.  She married the first and was given to the six in order to procreate children in the name of the first.  All their children would be credited to her first husband who was her true love and spouse.

Jesus is not intending to teach on relationships in heaven but he is refuting the Sadducces’ denial of the existence of angels and the resurrection. He is cleverly eluding their question and in no way denies husbands and wives will know and love each other in heaven. This is not a treatise on relationships in heaven but a clever response to his opponents about the existence of the supernatural world.

The purpose for marriage was companionship and procreation. The propagation of children and the population of the earth was God’s plan for marriage on earth. The meeting of sperm and egg will not be needed in heaven.”Marital love” to produce children will not happen in heaven so marriage in that sense will not exist. But that does not eliminate the continuance of earthly relationship.

We will recognize each other in heaven just as the three disciples recognized Moses and Elijah on the mount of Transfiguration and John recognized Mary in heaven (Rev 12:1). 

Family and matrimony are very important in Scripture and the way God fashioned the universe and created man and woman to be one flesh. There must be spiritual discernment here. The reason why the Jews buried family members together is because they will rest together in heaven. There is a spiritual permanence to family. And an extraordinarily strong spiritual permanence to matrimony. This is why it is described as “one flesh”.

We will not know and love less in heaven – we will know and love more. And can we comprehend that God would command us to love each other down here and would expect us to forget or deny that love in heaven?

Nothing in Scripture leads us to believe that relationships between spouses will be eliminated. There is every reason to believe relations will be maintained in heaven though for different reasons – enhanced reasons which we will understand when we get there.

We cannot understand our new spiritual bodies and heavenly existence any more than a caterpillar can comprehend what it will be like to be a butterfly. We cannot anticipate how personal relationships will flower in glory any more than acorn can anticipate standing 50 feet tall.

I’m convinced you and dad will have a wonderful and much better relationship. It will be different. We cannot even comprehend how much better or more in love we’ll be with our spouses, any more than an unborn baby can speculate about the taste of a delicious steak dinner.

Referring to Jesus’ words J. Vernon McGee writes, “This doesn’t mean that a man and a woman who were together down here can’t be together in heaven. They won’t be together as man and wife. They are not establishing a home up there, nor are they raising children. That’s the thing that He’s saying to them here.”

Marriage is an earthly word to serve an earthly purpose. Marital relationships, on the other hand, will transcend time because love is forever. Faith and hope will pass away but love will never pass away (1 Cor 13:13).

Dad is sitting in his favorite chair having coffee with Our Lord Jesus waiting for you to arrive to love you better than ever before. In the meantime he is praying for you and very intent on your we’ll being.

(Thanks to De Maria for suggestions and insights which I have included)

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We Need Saints without Cassocks

November 26, 2013

By an unknown author (falsely attributed to Pope Francis) We need saints without veil or cassock. We need saints who wear jeans and sneakers. We need saints who go to the movies, listen to music and hang out with friends. We need saints who put God in first place, but who let go of their [...]

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Medjugorje “Seer” Banned from Making Presentations in U.S.

November 9, 2013

Congregation for the Defense of the Faith prefect says alleged apparitions have yet to be ruled authentic VATICAN CITY, November 07, 2013 (Zenit.org) – Archbishop Gerhard Mueller, prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, has reiterated that the Vatican has yet to rule the alleged Marian apparitions in Medjugorje, Bosnia-Herzegovina, as authentic. [...]

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What is Real Tolerance?

October 29, 2013

This video deserves a Million views. Watch it, like it, share it.  

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Mark Blumley’s Article on Catholic Education

September 13, 2013

Mark Brumley is President of Ignatius Press and a friend. He writes: Below is the link to an article I wrote recently for the National Catholic Register on Catholic education.  It’s a condensation of a longer presentation I gave recently to the faculty and administration of Kolbe Academy-Trinity Prep in Napa, California. The points I [...]

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Want To Be A Rebel? I Do! My Kids and Grandkids Do Too!

July 17, 2013

“In the age of relativism, orthodoxy is the only possible rebellion left” (Peter Kreeft).   Count me in!!!  I’ve always been a rebel at heart!  My theory of child-rearing, which I have successfully done now with four great adult kids and eleven grandkids, it that we need to RAISE REBELS.  Want to be counter-cultural? Be an [...]

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In Light of the Zimmerman Acquittal – Self-Defense?

July 14, 2013

There will be many opinions and the discussion and wrangling will go on for quite a while, I suppose. Unhappily, this promises to further divide our country, especially along racial lines. However, I am not getting into that discussion here. Rather, it is important to understand the teaching of the Church on the matter of [...]

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Imperial President Promises Christians: “I Won’t Make You Marry Gays”…

June 26, 2013

…he won’t MAKE us marry gays? Oh, how kind of his majesty. So considerate of his subjects, especially us misguided and intolerant Christians. Obama the merciful! But before you bow in thanks to his Royal Highness beware that his anti-Christian, anti-conservative minions in the IRS might just remove tax-exempt status for any group refusing to marry [...]

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Obama Seriously Offends Catholics Again – Another Reason I Despise This Man

June 20, 2013

This is the Facecloth from the Tomb of Christ. Read Paul Badde’s book The Face of God. Join us in October for our St. Paul Meditteranean Cruise. One stop is to see this great relic of Christ’s resurrection. Obama Offends Catholics in UK: Says Religious Schools Divisive Wednesday, 19 Jun 2013 06:42 PM By Paul [...]

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Was He Ready to Die?

June 14, 2013

It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul is was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different. Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They [...]

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Did the Pope Really Say even Atheists are Redeemed? – Steve Ray will discuss with Teresa Tomeo

May 28, 2013

Tomorrow morning (9:15-9:35 AM Eastern) I will be on Ave Maria Radio’s Catholic Connections with Teresa Tomeo to discuss the seemingly controversial words of Pope Francis in a recent homily.  In one section of his homily on May 22, Pope Francis stated:  The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood [...]

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The Devilish Delight When a Bishop Screws Up

May 8, 2013

When schadenfreude turns into demonic delight   by Dr. Edward Peters The glee being expressed in open comboxes (modern near occasions of sin, if you ask me) over Bp. Robert McManus’ (Worcester, MA) arrest for drunk driving goes far beyond the schadenfreude that one has come to expect in the wake of a Catholic bishop’s fall. Much, [...]

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Canon Lawyer Ed Peters Comments on Vatican Press Offices Unfortunate Comments about Disregard for Liturgical Law with Foot-washing

April 1, 2013

UPDATE 4/6/13 Ed Peters Responds to a critic Ed Peters Discusses Disregard for Liturgical Law in Washing Women’s Feet and Unhelpful Response from the Vatican Press Office. http://wp.me/p25nov-AP The background to this controversy is the antinomianism that prevails today. The Church is passing through a period in which the relationship between ecclesiastical law and the [...]

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Pelosi and Biden and Communion in Rome

March 20, 2013

Nancy Pelosi will not change on her own, by Canon Lawyer Dr. Edward Peters > (L’Osservatore Romano/AP) Pope Francis meets U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill, after his installation Mass at the Vatican on March 19, 2013. Communion time in St. Peter’s is, for the vast majority of lay persons (not heads [...]

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