God is Love

Love Love Love

God is Love Itself and Christ is sometimes referred to as the Truth, the Light, the Good or the Beautiful. In fact, many people find Christ by looking for one of these traits specifically. Each of these attributes is in reality a reflection of our God as revealed in Christ and they possess a common thread.

Love is simply that which mankind needs to fully become human. It fills him and rescues him from his loneliness and his misery. It gives meaning to an otherwise meaningless life.

As it happens, we humans are attracted to the other attributes as well.

Now Truth is the friend of men because it reveals to our reason the object of our attention without distortion. We would not be able to rely on our use of reason if it were not for our desire to seek Truth. Evil loves confusion, perversions of truth and the masquerading of lies as the Truth. We love Truth because we find, in Truth, Love: a reality that lay hidden among all the lies which abound.

The Light is also a friend of man as it reveals to the eye what is hidden in the darkness. Man has always feared the dark. Even in our modern era a vestige of this fear can be seen in those who become depressed and despondent in low light environments. Evil, it seems, prefers the dark and hides in the shadows. It is much like the pesky cockroach that retreats at the first sign of light. But for man, the Light is another manifestation of Love. It shines light on the things we fear and they retreat: leaving us to rely on light as a loving and truthful guide that supplies us with security and courage.

As with the first two attributes, the Good is a reflection of Love and leaves man feeling secure and happy in its presence; the opposite effect being the anxiety associated with those who exhibit evil or wrongful habits and desires. The Good is pleasing to man while Evil fills us with dread, anxiety and loathing. The Good is how man relates to trust and to Love. Its polar opposite leads man to distrust and to hate. It hides the Good and is a perversion of the Truth.

As with the Good, the Beautiful brings out our feelings of wonder and awe at the majesty and grandeur of this world and the infinite cosmos in which we abide. The starry nights help us cope in the darkness and we find the scenes wrapped in splendor. The perversion of this celestial beauty, as when a tempest has ravaged our landscape or dark clouds black out the sky, is disheartening to our souls and our hearts are disquieted and a bit heavier at its sight. The Beautiful leads us to Love as well. We identify with it, want to imitate it, by adorning ourselves, creating music and art to uplift the spirit. When we create something which is antithetical to beauty it depresses and fills us with anxiety and fills us with doubt. It hides the beauty that lies within.

God is Love, and all of Christ’s attributes lead to this revelation. That which is hidden is revealed in these attributes. God, at first, was hidden from man and we feared Him; and rightfully so. But through Christ, we have come to see God as He really is: we found His Truth, His Light, His Goodness, and His Beauty.  So in this way Love reveals all that was previously hidden; it is no longer hidden from man but manifest in Christ. Christ and His gift of Self to fallen man naturally draws man to Himself through these attributes. Any other response to Christ is a perversion of our God and an affront to His Love for us.

Are Catholics Free to Dissent?

There seems to be many who are confused about the above question. Most of their bewilderment arises from a misunderstanding about what it means to be Catholic, what our Catholic freedom consists, and what teachings are considered definitive and which ones are merely matters of discipline and practice which are alterable.

To become a Catholic, one must first study the Catholic Faith, including all of the major definitive teachings, profess agreement with those teachings, and then, having assented to the teachings, receive the Sacrament of Confirmation. This Sacrament of Confirmation binds us to hold these Truths with the rest of the Catholic Faithful even to the point of martyrdom should that be required.

Therefore, to break with the Church and the rest of the Catholic Faithful, is in a manner of speaking, a renunciation of the Sacrament in which we solemnly avowed our assent. To do so is much more serious than just the character flaw or lack of integrity we have exhibited: indeed, it is a willful resignation from the Mystical Body of Believers that we supposedly joined.

Suppose, for example, that an immigrant to the United States became a citizen of our great country but refused to pay taxes or to serve in the military during the time of war. We would be outraged by such a person and agree that he never should have received his citizenship since he fully understood what responsibilities his citizenship required. However, in this situation, the new citizen (though having no right to break the law) would have the right to try to implement changes that he finds more suitable. Even the Constitution itself could be voted on and changed, as it is a man-made document which is within our rights to oppose or change though amendments are extremely difficult to revoke or alter.

The Church, however, is not the same type of institution. It is not a democracy where men decide what things should be held and what things should not be held. Because the Catholic Faith is a Revealed Faith, revealed by God, Who can neither deceive nor be deceived, Her definitive teachings on faith and morals must be fully and completely upheld and defended. It can never be voted on or ratified but simply accepted or rejected by His human creations.

So in matters of Faith or Morals we either accept them, whole and entire, or we reject them. If we hold these truths we are in communion with the Church and if not, our communion with the Mystical Body,which is Christ, is broken.

We may object in matters of discipline and practice as they are not the dogma of the Church but we must remain obedient to them until such time that the practice is either changed or abrogated. It is not an act of disobedience to reject or criticize a practice that our conscience urges us to disapprove.

For instance, if I find that reception in the hand is a practice that makes the Real Presence of our Lord less recognizable and is thus creating a situation where people are losing their faith in this Definitive Teaching of the Church, I have every right to oppose it. I must honor the right of the Church to allow it, but I do not have to accept the practice as being either wise or what one would deem prudent.

So the answer to the headline: are Catholics free to dissent is dependent upon what manner of law we are speaking about. If the teaching is doctrinal, the answer is no. If it concerns practical or discipline related rules, the answer is yes with a caveat: we are obligated to be obedient to the instructions until such time as the rule is abrogated or changed.

Catholicism: the Reason for My Hope Part I

Vatican

“. . . sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you.” __ 1 Peter 3:15

I will in a series of posts try to satisfy the answers of those who might ask my reason for the hope I have in our Lord Jesus Christ. My reasons consist in large part to the very existence of His Church (the Mystical Body of Christ), still active and present from Her founding, that brought Christ Jesus to me in all Truth, in His Word and in His Sacraments. The Catholic Church has provided a living memory and memorial of the original faith of our fathers which She delivers whole and entire to the present generation. So it is my faith which fills me with the same hope that has filled the hearts of countless Christians in an unbroken chain for 2,000 years.

The motivations for becoming Catholic are as many as there are Catholic converts. However faith informed by reason means that my journey will not be complete for it is a continuing conversion and growth in faith that lasts a lifetime. There are both intellectual and spiritual attractions and I will need to address them as such.

My principle intellectual reasons are these: Divine Authority, Scripture, Structure, Continuity of Teaching and, of course, the History and Teachings of the Early Church Fathers. While my principle spiritual reasons lie in the Sacraments, the Scriptures again, the Saints and the Mystics of the Church.

Let’s look at each of these in a series of posts though I may not be able to put these together back to back: it takes too long to write them.

The Church Was Founded on Divine Authority

“And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose upon earth, it shall be loosed also in heaven.” __ Matthew 16:18,19

We all know this passage but it is meaningless to those who don’t want to hear it. However, it says what it says and means what it says and no intellectual, mental, interpretational gymnastics will change the verse. Likewise the following verse:

“He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you. When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.”__ John 20:21-23

Note that God only breathed on man one other time in scripture; when he gave life to the original father of humankind, Adam (Genesis 2:7) who grievously sinned against God. “O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer!”[1] So our Savior has breathed onto these Apostles a new gift of life; the life of the Holy Spirit delivered to the new fathers of humankind, the leaders of Christ’s Church. And Christ gave the Apostles assurances that He had prepared them and given them all that they would need to minister to His Church:

“But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you.” __ John 14:26

So that which was dramatically displayed at Pentecost (the indwelling of the Holy Spirit given to the Church) was also given in a more intimate way to the Apostles.

“I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will teach you all truth. For he shall not speak of himself; but what things soever he shall hear, he shall speak; and the things that are to come, he shall shew you. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me; because he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it to you.” __ John 16:12-15

Now for those who are outside of the Church as I was, it is apparent that the Truth (which is Christ Himself) gave the Holy Spirit and Himself (the Truth) to the Church and will guide them into all truth as the scripture says. Is there any man who can take that gift away? Christ alone would have to do it Himself but it would mean that Christ was not an all-knowing God who knew that he would revoke this gift. That would make all of Christianity null and void. Is there anywhere in Scripture that says Christ would strip His Church of the Truth and the indwelling of the Holy Spirit? Historically do we have a person who claims that Christ took the Holy Spirit from the Church and from the succession of Apostolic Leaders and gave it to them? Has the Holy Spirit failed the Church? These questions seem fundamental in the quest for the Church that bears the marks of Christ’s Church.[2] The answers to the questions are obvious: Christ never revoked any gift or went back on any promise made.

Why then, you might say, can a Church be filled with corruption and sin? I would answer that it is because mankind is still a fallen being, as we are the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve, with Original Sin on each of our souls. We are all sinners. Yes, many will scandalize the Church but we have Christ’s assurance that he will always be with us. “I will not leave you orphans, I will come to you.” __ John14:18

So did we become orphans, without Christ’s protection? Did
Christ lie to His Apostles or did His word become impossible? As a believer in Christ, I cannot even entertain such ideas as Christ is Truth and “no word shall be impossible with God.”[3]

Christ knew that we would fail him and cause scandals – he even told them so:

“And he said to his disciples: It is impossible that scandals should not come: but woe to him through whom they come. It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones. Take heed to yourselves. If thy brother sin against thee, reprove him: and if he do penance, forgive him. And if he sin against thee seven times in a day, and seven times in a day be converted unto thee, saying, I repent; forgive him.” __ Luke 17:1-4

Can we not bear the Truth that Christ foretold? Yes, we are as poor a bunch of stewards of Christ’s Church as were the Jews who sinned and even killed the prophets that God sent to them. Did God divest Himself from his people, the Jewish Old Testament Church? No! He bore with them as patiently as He could and chastised them for their disobedience and sins but he never abandoned them. Is the New Testament God a different God that breaks His covenant with the Church? Or is it that Martin Luther or Calvin or whosoever left the Church has been given the gift of the Holy Spirit and the promises Christ bestowed on the Apostles? According to these, Christ’s breathing on the Apostles and his sending of the Holy Spirit were but a waste of time and came to nothing. And what of the forgiveness of those who did sin against the Church, did the reformers give them a chance to amend their faults and return anew to full communion therein? The Pope had asked Martin Luther for meetings to discuss the matters and Luther refused him. The Church has always had a remedy for heresy and schism and that is the invoking of a Church Council. The Council of Trent made right many of the grievances of Martin Luther and yet they came to believe a new gospel. They did not take the same route of James and the Judaizers as chronicled in Acts 15. They left the Church while James accepted the judgment of the Council and the final decision of Peter.

It is His Church that is the foundation of Truth as Timothy says: “. . . the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.”[4] So when was this wrested away and given to another? Can anyone dare claim the authority that was given to Christ’s Church?

If so, give the proof: for “Thou shouldst not have any power (authority) . . . unless it were given thee from above.”__John 19:11     Indeed, it is God who gives true power and authority. And the only authority he gave to any Church that I know was the Old Testament Church of the Jews and the New Testament Church called the Catholic Church.

As a side note: it is interesting to see how God dealt with the sedition of Core in the Old Testament and his followers. [See Numbers 16:6-33]

Is there even a human historical record that corroborates that the authority was transferred from the apostolic Church? Otherwise it is still dwelling in Christ’s only Church. The only answer it seems to me is what Luther was forced to do; make a claim (from his self-appointed authority) that Christians need only the Bible for their authority. So after 15 centuries of constant teaching, Christians need no authority but the Bible alone. I wonder where such a teaching can be found in the Bible. Thus begins the exegesis of Protestantism that redefines the meanings of Biblical passages to justify their positions, with total disregard of the teaching of the Church as constantly taught for 15 centuries and the voluminous accounts from the early fathers of the Church.

Luther taught that the truths were obvious and apparent to anyone who read the texts, but are they? 35,000 Protestant denominations later, we might think that some might take fault with his assertion.

Even Luther’s teachings have changed. For a few examples: his acceptance of indulgences (he only believed that the Church misused them – which it did); belief in the perpetual virginity of Mary (many Protestants now deny this); the sinfulness of contraception (no Christian denomination accepted contraception before Margaret Sanger and the Planned Parenthood of the 1930’s). There are others but this will suffice to make the point that the teachings of Protestantism are evolving and changing to mimic the desires or thinking of the secular world.

Likewise, there is more I could say about the topic but this was a quick overview of my acceptance of the Authority of the Catholic Church and of no other.


[1] From the Exultet (or Easter Proclamation) made at the Easter Mass.

[2] The 4 Marks of the Church: One, Holy, Catholic, Apostolic

[3] Luke 1:37

[4] I Timothy 3:15

Are Catholic’s Too Rigid In Their Beliefs?

Recently much confusion has been spread in Catholic circles concerning our need to be less rigid in the religious views that we hold. There could be some truth in such a statement if one held these beliefs based solely on personal desire or prejudice and without the aid of reason or logic. Such rigidity would likely make a person obstinate to truth should it be presented to him.

However, true rigidity in Catholic thought might be better described as the persistent refusal to accept a truth of the faith even though it is recognized and understood to be true. The reason for this stubbornness might then be the result of personal sin or a disordered attachment to the world and may find its root in pride or sloth etc. Such a reluctance to adhere to truth would certainly qualify one to be categorized as rigid.

But for those who have been confronted with the truths of the faith, submitting these truths to reason and prayer ought not be slandered for persistence in their beliefs. Instead they ought to be praised when seen clinging to truth in the face of adversity and at times faced with a martyrs death. This is the nature of truth: it is worth dying for, it gives meaning to an otherwise meaningless universe, and it transcends the world and its conventions. Truth transforms the believer and gives meaning to all of his actions and is thereby the whole of what the believer seeks: for Christ is ‘the way, and the truth, and the life’ and the Truth is inseparable from Christ.

The Catholic today is more likely to hear a challenge to his beliefs from another Catholic than he is from a person of another faith. He will hear theologians claim that Christ did not know that He was God, though Pope St. Pius X taught definitively the opposite to be true in the Condemnation of the Error of Modernists, 1907. Was Pope St. Pius X guilty of rigidity? Or was he merely persistent in the truths of the faith as taught for 2000 years?

When we are confronted by novel theories, though presented by reputable scholars, one must always understand that theories and hypotheses are only that: theories and hypotheses. But if Christ was God (which we believe to be true) and if Christ established a Church to carry on His ministry in the world (which we also believe to be true), real truth must necessarily be consistent with Church teaching. Without these beliefs there is nothing that could be fully accepted as true: a Christ who is nothing but our projection of what we desire, could not be the Authority that we seek. Likewise if Christ is our creation, there could never be a Church that would possess true Authority given Her by Christ. Such thought makes a mockery of Christianity and places us back into the ranks of agnostic or atheistic belief.

Therefore being persistent in our faith is a virtue that is not to be confused with ignorance, prejudice or rigidity. Let no one convince you that adherence to the truths of the Catholic faith is the same as being intolerant of other credible ideas and thus close-minded. If such is the case, remember that we are in good company; never forgetting the countless saints and martyrs that died for these same beliefs. “Preach the word: be instant in season, out of season: reprove, entreat, rebuke in all patience and doctrine (2 Timothy 4:2).”