Monday, February 20, 2017

Concerning Amoris Laetitia, Its Authority and Import on the Faithful of the Catholic Church

Summary:

Question 1: Are the papally approved documents of Ecumenical Councils in general, and Vatican II in particular, Infallible? Yes.
Question 2: Do papal Pastoral Letters demand the assent of the laity? Yes. Through the lens of Existing Infallible Teaching and the interpretation of the Bishops.
Question 3: Does Amoris Laetitia teach definitively that there exist cases where person A with a valid marriage to person B can civilly divorce person B, and while person B yet lives, civilly marry person C, and be having sex with person C, and be determined in his own mind to continue having sex with person C, yet receive Holy Communion licitly at the hands of a priest who knows the situation? No. Rather, we can know (1) from the perennial teaching of the Church and (2) the particular clarification of those Bishops teaching in continuity with that tradition, that there can be no such cases.
Conclusion: The laity can say that the sacraments have been denied uniformly to those living consciously in objective mortal sin. This is the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio, and the Deposit of Faith.

Body:
Question 1: Are the papally approved documents of Ecumenical Councils in general, and Vatican II in particular, Infallible?

Yes. There are some who say that the explicitly dogmatic documents of Vatican II are not infallible. But this is not in keeping with the teaching of the Church's Infallibility in General. For how else can the Church exercise her infallibility but by the explicit dogmatic teaching of Ecumenical Councils? And how could Christ's promises to the disciples be fulfilled that the Holy Spirit would lead them into all the truth (John 14), and the gates of Hell would not prevail against the Church (Matthew 16) if the bishops of the world assembled and approved by the Pope, declaring dogma to the Church, could err? Any other way lies madness and schism.

 The infallibility of dogma proposed by any ecumenical council (1) summoned by a reigning Pope, (2) presided over by a reigning Pope, and (3) approved by a reigning pope, must be admitted by anyone who believes in the Church's infallible teaching authority in any sense.

As the Catholic Encyclopedia says,
An ecumenical or general, as distinguished from a particular or provincial council, is an assembly of bishops which juridically represents the universal Church as hierarchically constituted by Christ; and, since the primacy of Peter and of his successor, the pope, is an essential feature in the hierarchical constitution of the Church, it follows that there can be no such thing as an ecumenical council independent of, or in opposition to, the pope. No body can perform a strictly corporate function validly without the consent and co-operation of its head. Hence:
  • the right to summon an ecumenical council belongs properly to the pope alone, though by his express or presumed consent given ante or post factum, the summons may be issued, as in the case of most of the early councils, in the name of the civil authority. For ecumenicity in the adequate sense all the bishops of the world in communion with the Holy See should be summoned, but it is not required that all or even a majority should be present.
  • As regards the conduct of the deliberations, the right of presidency, of course, belongs to the pope or his representative; while as regards the decisions arrived at unanimity is not required.
2
That an ecumenical council which satisfies the conditions above stated is an organ of infallibility will not be denied by anyone who admits that the Church is endowed with infallible doctrinal authority. How, if not through such an organ, could infallible authority effectively express itself, unless indeed through the pope? If Christ promised to be present with even two or three of His disciples gathered together in His name (Matthew 18:20), a fortiori He will be present efficaciously in a representative assembly of His authorized teachers; and the Paraclete whom He promised will be present, so that whatever the council defines may be prefaced with the Apostolic formula, "it has seemed good to the Holy Ghost and to us." And this is the view which the councils held regarding their own authority and upon which the defender of orthodoxy insisted. The councils insisted on their definitions being accepted under pain of anathema, while St. Athanasius, for example, says that "the word of the Lord pronounced by the ecumenical synod of Nicaea stands for ever" (Ep. ad Afros, n. 2) and St. Leo the Great proves the unchangeable character of definitive conciliar teaching on the ground that God has irrevocably confirmed its truth "universae fraternitatis irretractabili firmavit assensu" (Ep. 120, 1).
Source: http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/07790a.htm#II
Question 2: Do papal exhortations, letters, encyclicals and other documents addressed to the laity demand the assent of the laity?

Yes. Having established its unquestionable infallibility, we may now appeal with sureness to The Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium Chapter III, paragraph 25, drafted at the Second Vatican Council, and promulgated by Pope Paul VI:
Bishops who teach in communion with the Roman Pontiff are to be revered by all as witnesses of divine and Catholic truth; the faithful, for their part, are obliged to submit to their bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind. This loyal submission of the will and intellect must be given, in a special way, to the authentic teaching authority of the Roman Pontiff, even when he does not speak ex cathedra in such wise, indeed, that his supreme teaching authority be acknowledged with respect, and sincere assent be given to decisions made by him, conformably with his manifest mind and intention, which is made known principally either by the character of the documents in question, or by the frequency with which a certain doctrine is proposed, or by the manner in which the doctrine is formulated. 
Source: http://www.christusrex.org/www1/CDHN/v3.html (Emphasis mine, not in original.)
Clearly then, as a Post-Synodal Exhortation addressed explicitly to the lay faithful (as well as the bishops, priests, deacons and consecrated) on love in the family, Amoris Laetitia must be given "sincere assent" by them all, unless it is contradicted by an infallible teaching, or until it is contradicted by a succeeding Pope while reigning, even though it is not itself infallible. It must also be read through the lens of the interpretation of Bishops, as described in the first sentence of paragraph 25 above.

 Source: https://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf (See Page 1.)

Question 3: Does Amoris Laetitia teach definitively that there exist cases where person A with a valid marriage to person B can civilly divorce person B, and while person B yet lives, civilly marry person C, and be having sex with person C, and be determined to continue having sex with person C, yet receive Holy Communion licitly?

No. The language of Amoris Laetitia is too vague to admit of this degree of certainty although its text might seem to be conformable to this meaning. While it speaks amorphously of people in '"irregular" situations' and "objective situations of sin" without specifying whether such sin is original, venial or mortal. Rather, what is required is reading the document in the context of the Deposit of Faith. The constant and well-known teaching of the Church is that those who persist in mortal sin without repenting, turning from their way of sin and having validly received sacramental confession, cannot receive the sacrament of Eucharist licitly.

Furthermore, for those under the authority of Bishop Lopes, he has (in keeping with the authority defined in Lumen Gentium recorded above, "to teach the faithful, who are obliged to submit to their bishops' decision, made in the name of Christ, in matters of faith and morals, and to adhere to it with a ready and respectful allegiance of mind.") explained this potentially difficult passage so as to exclude the situation described in Question 3 above:

The Church accompanies as Teacher and Mother, confident that with the grace and assistance of God, conscience can “remain ever open to new stages of growth and to new decisions which can enable the ideal to be more fully realized” (Amoris Laetitia, 303).
The formation of conscience “can include the help of the sacraments,” including reconciliation and, under certain conditions, the Eucharist (351). As the Church teaches, and has always and firmly maintained, because reception of the Eucharist is the reception of Christ himself, “anyone conscious of a grave sin must receive the sacrament of reconciliation before coming to Communion” (Catechism, 1385). St. Paul cautioned that “anyone who eats and drinks unworthily, without discerning the Body of the Lord, eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (1 Corinthians 11:29), as Pope St. John Paul II reaffirmed: “In the Church there remains in force, now and in the future, the rule by which the Council of Trent gave concrete expression to the Apostle Paul’s stern warning when it affirmed that, in order to receive the Eucharist in a worthy manner, ‘one must first confess one’s sins, when one is aware of mortal sin’” (Ecclesia de Eucharistia, 36).
Under the guidance of their pastor, avoiding occasions of confusion or scandal, divorced-and-civilly-remarried persons may receive the Eucharist, on the condition that when, “for serious reasons, such as for example the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they ‘take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples’” (Familiaris Consortio, 84). A civilly-remarried couple, if committed to complete continence, could have the Eucharist available to them, after proper discernment with their pastor and making recourse to the sacrament of reconciliation. Such a couple may experience continence as difficult, and they may sometimes fail, in which case they are, like any Christian, to repent, confess their sins, and begin anew.
Source: https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/56718322/1701-ocsp-pastoral-letter/1





Source: https://w2.vatican.va/content/dam/francesco/pdf/apost_exhortations/documents/papa-francesco_esortazione-ap_20160319_amoris-laetitia_en.pdf

Link to the quoted portion of the Summa above.

The document clearly refers to those living in "irregular" situations and says in connection with them that moral laws cannot blindly be applied to them and that the sacraments can in certain cases due to forms of conditioning and mitigating factors be given to them.

Conclusion:
The laity can say that the sacraments have been denied uniformly to those living consciously and willingly in objective grave sin (the definition of sin that is mortal); This is the teaching of Pope Francis as it was the teaching of Pope St. John Paul II in Familiaris Consortio (most relevant passage bolded below by me):

84. Daily experience unfortunately shows that people who have obtained a divorce usually intend to enter into a new union, obviously not with a Catholic religious ceremony. Since this is an evil that like the others is affecting more and more Catholics as well, the problem must be faced with resolution and without delay. The synod fathers studied it expressly. The church, which was set up to lead to salvation all people and especially the baptized, cannot abandon to their own devices those who have been previously bound by sacramental marriage and who have attempted a second marriage. The church will therefore make untiring efforts to put at their disposal her means of salvation.Pastors must know that for the sake of truth they are obliged to exercise careful discernment of situations. There is, in fact, a difference between those who have sincerely tried to save their first marriage and have been unjustly abandoned and those who, through their own grave fault, have destroyed a canonically valid marriage.Finally, there are those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children's upbringing and who are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably destroyed marriage had never been valid.Together with the synod, I earnestly call upon pastors and the whole community of the faithful to help the divorced and with solicitous care to make sure that they do not consider themselves as separated from the church, for as baptized persons they can and indeed must share in her life. They should be encouraged to listen to the word of God, to attend the sacrifice of the Mass, to persevere in prayer, to contribute to works of charity and to community efforts in favor of justice, to bring up their children in the Christian faith, to cultivate the spirit and practice of penance and thus implore, day by day, God's grace. Let the church pray for them, encourage them and show herself a merciful mother and thus sustain them in faith and hope.However, the church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon sacred scripture, of not admitting to eucharistic communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the church which is signified and effected by the eucharist. Besides this there is another special pastoral reason: If these people were admitted to the eucharist the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.Reconciliation in the sacrament of penance, which would open the way to the eucharist, can only be granted to those who, repenting of having broken the sign of the convenant and of fidelity to Christ, are sincerely ready to undertake a way of life that is no longer in contradiction to the indissolubility of marriage.This means, in practice, that when, for serious reasons such as, for example, the children's upbringing, a man and a woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate, they "take on themselves the duty to live in complete continence, that is, by abstinence from the acts proper to married couples."[180] 
Source: https://www.ewtn.com/library/papaldoc/jp2famil.htm (must scroll down to section 84) 

Sunday, December 4, 2016

The Ten Commandments: Accounting Systems

It is a little known fact that there are different commandments depending on whether one is Protestant, Jewish or Catholic. This has to do with the different traditions of each group.

Jews even say that they are not so much Commandments as the Ten Words, since they regard the opening statement, "I am the Lord your God, who..." as one of the Ten. From Infogalactic: "עשרת הדברות (transliterated Asereth ha-Dibroth), both translatable as "the ten words", "the ten sayings" or "the ten matters".[2]"

Traditions:
  • LXXSeptuagint, generally followed by Orthodox Christians.
  • PPhilo, same as the Septuagint, but with the prohibitions on killing and adultery reversed.
  • SSamaritan Pentateuch, with an additional commandment about Mount Gerizim as 10th.
  • T: Jewish Talmud, makes the "prologue" the first "saying" or "matter" and combines the prohibition on worshiping deities other than Yahweh with the prohibition on idolatry.
  • AAugustine follows the Talmud in combining verses 3–6, but omits the prologue as a commandment and divides the prohibition on coveting in two and following the word order of Deuteronomy 5:21 rather than Exodus 20:17.
  • CCatechism of the Catholic Church, largely follows Augustine.
  • LLutherans follow Luther's Large Catechism, which follows Augustine but omits the prohibition of images[17] and uses the word order of Exodus 20:17 rather than Deuteronomy 5:21 for the ninth and tenth commandments.
  • RReformed Christians follow John Calvin's Institutes of the Christian Religion, which follows the Septuagint.
The Ten Commandments
LXXPSTACLRMain articleExodus 20:1-17Deuteronomy 5:4-21
11(1)I am the Lord thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage.2[18]6[18]
11121111Thou shalt have no other gods before me3[19]7[19]
2212112Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image4–6[20]8–10[21]
33232223Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain7[22]11[23]
44343334Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy8–11[24]12–15[25]
55454445Honour thy father and thy mother12[26]16[27]
67565556Thou shalt not kill13[28]17[28]
76676667Thou shalt not commit adultery14[29]18[30]
88787778Thou shalt not steal15[31]19[32]
99898889Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbour16[33]20[34]
10109101010910Thou shalt not covet(neighbor's house)17a[35]21b[36]
1010910991010Thou shalt not covet(neighbor's wife)17b[37]21a[38]
101091010101010Thou shalt not covet(neighbor's servants, animals, or anything else)17c[39]21c[40]
10Ye shall erect these stones which I command thee upon Mount Gerizim17d(Samaritan)21d (Samaritan)

Monday, November 28, 2016

A Thanksgiving Story

William Bradford, Of Plymouth Plantation 120--21
1623
All this while no supply was heard of, neither knew they when they might expect any. So they began to think how they might raise as much corn as they could, and obtain a better crop than they had done, that they might not still thus languish in misery. At length, after much debate of things, the Governor (with the advice of the chiefest amongst them) gave way that they should set corn every man for his own particular, and in that regard trust to themselves; in all other things to go on in the general way as before. And so assigned to every family a parcel of land, according to the proportion of their number, for that end, only for present use (but made no division for inheritance) and ranged all boys and youth under some family. This had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been by any means the Governor or any other could use, and saved him a great deal of trouble, and gave far better content. The women now went willingly into the field, and took their little ones with them to set corn; which before would allege weakness and inability; whom to have compelled would have been thought great tyranny and oppression.
The experience that was had in this common course and condition, tried sundry years and that amongst godly and sober men, may well evince the vanity of that conceit of Plato's and other ancients applauded by some of later times; that the taking away of property and bringing in community into a commonwealth would make them happy and flourishing; as if they were wiser than God. For thiscommunity (so far as it was) was found to breed much confusion and discontent and retard much employment that would have been to their benefit and comfort. For the young men, that were most able and fit for labour and service, did repine that they should spend their time and strength to work for other men's wives and children without any recompense. The strong, or man of parts, had no more in division of victuals and clothes than he that was weak and not able to do a quarter the other could; this was thought injustice. The aged and graver men to be ranked and equalized in labours and victuals, clothes, etc., with the meaner and younger sort, thought it some indignity and disrespect unto them. And for men's wives to be commanded to do service for other men, as dressing their meat, washing their clothes, etc., they deemed it a kind of slavery, neither could many husbands well brook it. Upon the point all being to have alike, and all to do alike, they thought themselves in the like condition, and one as good as another; and so, if it did not cut off those relations that God hath set amongst men, yet it did at least much diminish and take off the mutual respects that should be preserved amongst them. And would have been worse if they had been men of another condition. Let none object this is men's corruption, and nothing to the course itself. I answer, seeing all men have this corruption in them, God in His wisdom saw another course fitter for them.

The Founders' Constitution
Volume 1, Chapter 16, Document 1
http://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/documents/v1ch16s1.html
The University of Chicago Press
Bradford, William. Of Plymouth Plantation, 1620--1647. Edited by Samuel Eliot Morison. New York: Modern Library, 1967.

Friday, October 14, 2016

The bishop cometh

Today the Bishop of the Catholic Ordinariate to which the parish belongs which I attend most Sundays for mass is coming to attend the sacrament of Confirmation for our younger sentient members. It is a time of great excitement. The Greek word for Bishop, επίσκοπος, simply means "overseer". May he be welcome, and likewise be delighted by the ministry in our Parish he oversees.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Easiest Way to Avoid Time in Purgatory

It occurred to me the other day, "I wonder what the easiest way to avoid any time in Purgatory is, since there have been various apparitions granting relief from such things?" Most sources just give ways to minimize your time, but I wanted to find a traditional method that eliminates it. For the purpose of answering the question, I assumed that all apparitions and promises reported by Catholic saints were true that have a tradition going back more than 100 years.

This appears to be the easiest one (There are several I found):

"St. Elizabeth, Queen of Hungary, with St. Matilda and St. Bridget, wishing to know something of the Passion of Jesus Christ, offered fervent and special prayers. upon which Our Lord revealed to them:
To all the faithful who shall recite for 3 years, each day, 2 Our Fathers, 2 Hail Marys and 2 Glory Bes in honor of the drops of Blood I lost, I will concede the following 5 graces:
1st: The plenary indulgence and remittance of your sins.
2nd: You will be free from the pains of Purgatory.
3rd: If you should die before completing the said 3 years, for you it will be the same as if you had completed them.
4th: It will be upon your death the same as if you had shed all your blood for the Holy Faith.
5th: I will descend from Heaven to take your soul and that of your relatives, until the fourth generation.
Blessed by His Holiness Pope Leo XIII in Rome, April 5, 1890."

I've seen it in several places on the internet. Seems too good to be true, if you believe in Purgatory. But, then, isn't the whole salvation story "too good to be true" for sinners as well?

Monday, September 26, 2016

Music Review: Sons of Korah

Seeking the Full Spectrum

Before I tell you why you should like the band Sons of Korah and their work, some background: I'm an amateur musician. I led a string quartet for profit doing weddings as a violinist in college. Once upon a time I assisted with vocals and violin for the modern mass at my local Novus-Ordo-only Catholic Church at a service complete with drums, guitars, mandolin, and frequently a jazz-style black dreadlocks-wearing pianist named Yeshua (Don't shoot me, my traddy Catholic brothers; I wouldn't do so today). I played fiddle for a country band that played in bars and other similar venues in Texas also in college (Our signature song was "Silver Tambourine") before I put the quartet together. Probably due to my experiences, I have eclectic taste in music.
One critique I have of most modern Christian music such as you hear on Orlando's "Positive Hits Z88.3" for example is that the music is too focused upon the emotional experience of the worshipper, or describes God with the term "Holy" or "Awesome" without ever really unpacking what that means--likely because doing so would ruin their market segmentation, to analyze the motivations at work cynically. Emotionalism and abstraction tend to have the net effect of turning music intended for worship or spiritual catechesis into mere entertainment, intended not for God's ears but just for the congregation or audience's. Not only is this a disservice to the Faithful, but it plays into the hands of the critics of religion, because indeed it makes religion into nothing more than Marx's "opiate of the Masses" rather than the honest communion between Man and his Maker.
This is analogous to the Prayers of the Faithful you often hear in churches where the representative prays for God to "open our hearts to [insert behavior that the Church wishes the congregation to do more of]." Whether it's giving money for a program, being more friendly to gays, or being okay with illegal immigrants stealing from and further overburdening a welfare system they didn't pay into, the "prayer" wasn't really to God, but to the people listening. It's a subtle attempt to coerce the congregation under the guise of God's sovereign Will. Like entertainment-oriented "worship" music about "God", it's a perversion of what it purports to be. But I digress.
Really, should I perpetually be uplifted specifically with clappy-happy "positive Christian hits"? What modern Christian music do we play in Lent to access that season's emotions, if such a season is even appropriate according to the worldview of the station's DJ? There are exceptions:



But you won't hear them often on the radio.
Maybe I would like to weep at times, or simply be shocked and in awe over something that transcends my capability to fully appreciate.



And sometimes I do come across modern music that causes me to inwardly rejoice this way.
On the other hand, maybe I should be warned by stories of calamity and misplaced priorities. (No, "Jesus Take the Wheel" does not quite do it for me, although it is at least different.) We get enough of that in everyday reality, you say? Perhaps, but should not music reflect the highs and the lows of spiritual life and suffuse them with tonal beauty, redeem them, validate them?
And, what about when that backstabbing jerk at work just got another promotion and God appears not to see? What about when that political candidate just got another pass when he or she should be wearing a striped jumpsuit? Aren't there times when righteous anger is appropriate?
No, the positive hits radio station is not going to provide musical expression to these yearnings of the soul for Justice and terrible Vengeance, or enter into the sadness and hopelessness of poverty, or frankly give listeners access to many of the other righteous emotions on the spectrum of the human heart. (You might even start believing these emotions are inherently sinful, and I'm sure many modern pastors might tell you that you need to turn that frown upside down or risk God's displeasure.) While I agree that brooding over and feeding these emotions until they consume happiness is unhealthy--we are after all "more than conquerors," according to St. Paul--yet they have their correct place. God gave them to us to spur us to the correct action, whether it is casting the merchants and money-changers out of the temple, or falling down to beg God's intercession, and they should be expressed in our music, whether in the Church or outside the Church.
The Solution? Radical return to the Scriptures as the lyrical source of our popular Christian music.

Enter The Sons of Korah




Sons of Korah is an Australian-based band that has been around since the 90s, but I only discovered this past year. They have interpreted over 50 of the 150 Psalms into modern music usually using fairly close translations to the original text. In so doing, they eliminate much of the tendency to shy away from certain spiritual topics, like God's vengeance, or the blessing of having a large family, or the lie that is the prosperity "Gospel". I was especially impressed with what they did with Psalm 95:



I might have expected them to hold off on the conclusion, and admittedly they do conclude on a more positive note by returning to the original theme of the song, but they faithfully communicated the warning at the conclusion of the original Psalm, which is kind of a "downer": "Don't be like Moses' Israelites, because I wiped them out to a man in the Sinai Desert when they doubted me, and they never saw the Promised Land."
Sons of Korah is not your average Christian band. They aren't afraid to hit the impreccatory Psalms either:



I appreciate the completeness of most of SoK's renderings of the Psalms because textual faithfulness helps us better connect with God through His written word and protects us from the filters we often unconsciously place on God and our understanding of Him because of the prejudices of our flawed secular culture that condition our selections and interpretation. They're not always perfect, but I can forgive a bit of musical license usually taken for the sake of phrasing according to the melodic frame they've chosen rather than obvious unwillingness to speak aloud some politically incorrect infallible text (which is better than the modern Catholic Lectionary can boast, I am sorry to tell those of you who use it and are not aware of its strategic omissions).
The music of Sons of Korah is one of those song-forms we were discussing in the comments of Benedict Augustine's excellent article "The Plague of Bad Church Music". Namely, the music of Sons of Korah is inappropriate for use in a traditional liturgical worship service, but fantastic for non-liturgical Christian music, would be great for Youth Gatherings outside the Sanctuary, and useful for personal meditation and catechesis, which is how I listen to it, usually during my morning and evening commutes.

A Bonus You Can Give Yourself

For those with modest sound editing ability, I might suggest you follow my lead by modifying the mp3s or CD tracks slightly. Using the GarageBand application on my MacBook, I did a simple but powerful thing. I spoke the number and opening line of the Psalm at the beginning and end of the audio track: "Psalm 94: O God Who Avenges". By doing this I created what is known as a memory hook. As you probably know, once you've listened to a CD numerous times, you automatically know what track comes next. Likewise, by creating these modified tracks I've been able to substantially increase my ability to cite and recognize the precise source of many pieces of scripture.
For example when Father Holiday interjected "He knows our frame. He remembers that we are dust," into his homily a few weeks ago, I instantly knew he was referencing Psalm 103 because I had a song-version of 103 rolling around somewhere in or interacting with my temporal lobe that I had listened to with the Psalm number included before and after the music. And this is the level of scriptural understanding that many educated people once possessed even within living memory, because they were so thoroughly formed by the scriptures.
This kind of mastery is not only didactically useful, but rhetorically powerful and will cause someone with whom you are discussing Scripture to realize your seriousness and level of devotion which will (let's hope) make them more likely to give you a fair hearing: this is the classical appeal to Ethos. Chapter-and-verse memorization is less and less common even in conservative Protestant circles, and has been sadly lacking in young and old Catholics alike and even in the priesthood. It is time for a return. There are many musical sources you can use besides SoK. For example, I've annotated all of Handel's Messiah this way, as well as other scriptural works. The results after a few months will probably amaze you once you get twenty or thirty songs into your rotation: make sure they're catchy, though. If they're boring or poorly executed, it won't work. Your brain knows what it likes and selectively remembers that.
Eventually you can start testing yourself with a pen and paper to see what you can write down, and correct inevitable signal degradation as your brain garbles the memories of the Scripture if you haven't heard it in awhile. This can be particularly satisfying, as it is taking stock of your human limitations and combatting them. "Rage, rage against the dying of the light!" and all that.

Creating a Culture

If the American culture is totally poison and toxic to Christian spiritual formation, and it is, this indeed necessitates a certain amount of retreat from the culture, turning off the TV as I have advised before, and the development of new Christian media for the catechesis and benefit of God's people. Sons of Korah can be part of that Renaissance, and I thank God for the work they've done over the last few decades that I'm only just learning of and from. Check them out, and support their work!
I would enjoy and profit from hearing of other groups you are familiar with that appear to be moving Christian music away from entertainment and towards worship, scripture, and catechesis in the comments.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

So Let's Talk about Creationism Again

A long time ago, I grew tired of explaining to conservative friends why a literal 6 day Creation belief based on Genesis 1-2 is irrational and, once you are familiar with the text, disrespectful to the original intent of the human authorship as well as its infallible divine origin. So I wrote this blog post to unpackage the chronology of the two Genesis accounts and explain that if taken literally, they contradict one another. So in order to avoid believing there are honest to goodness contradictions between the message the human authors of the Bible intended to communicate morally, historically, anologically and theologically, one must take the two accounts as analogically true.

Imagine my surprise when after referring a conservative Presbyterian friend to the blogpost, he started to say (1) I'm the one failing to give scripture its proper deference and (2) the two accounts in Genesis may be reconciled by taking into account that one or both have been altered in transmission from the original autograph (the first physical text) to the ones we have in front of us.

Well, if you don't see the problem with that, I probably can't help you. But consider that by attempting to defend a literal interpretation of Genesis 1-2 this way, you are losing far more (ability to trust that the meaning of the text of scripture is substantially unchanged) than you are gaining (ability to say God made the World in six literal days because a version of the Bible we don't have said so). How he knew what this lost text said, is a mystery to me, dear reader. But you see my frustration.

Monday, September 5, 2016

A Presbyterian Asks Me Why I Converted to Catholicism

That's a long story, [Name redacted]. But let me first say that it is far from my intention to question the genuineness or sincerity of your own Christian Faith. I myself was educated by Presbyterians at the Geneva School in Winter Park, FL from middle through High School, and I have always respected the intellectual rigor of Calvinism, even if I had to part ways with many of its distinctives even before becoming Catholic. 

For me, the more apt question became "Why am I *not* Catholic?" Today there are 2.2 billion Christians