Thursday, February 26, 2015

Who Am I to Judge? I am sick and tired of this “who am I to judge?” silliness.

Who Am I to Judge?

By Ronald Mann

I am sick and tired of this “who am I to judge?” silliness. Only God can judge the state of the human soul. But it is pure humbug to suggest we cannot and should not judge human behavior. Reluctance to judge moral behavior is the inevitable consequence of moral relativism and moral subjectivism that has eroded confidence in the ability to determine objective moral truth on which sound judgment is based.
Judgment is an essential component of the exercise of authority. If you do not have the courage to judge, then you should avoid positions of authority. Not being judgmental is a curse of our age. When I cautioned my teenagers not to hang out with so and so, the standard response was “Oh, Dad, you are so judgmental!” Not to judge is a dereliction of duty that afflicts so much of the Church’s hierarchy. It obscures our Lord’s message, sows confusion among the faithful, and undermines lay efforts to fight against the perversions of the day.
Absence of judgment or inept judgment in regard to the pederasty scandal elevated the deviant behavior of a relatively small number of miscreant priests into an international scandal that subjected the papacy to scorn and crippled the Church for several decades. A recent example of the “who am I to judge?” question involved homosexuality and was uttered by Cardinal Dolan in a very public venue.
Cardinal Dolan said the Bible tells us not to judge people. In response to a question on Meet the Press last year about the announcement that football player Michael Sam was a homosexual, Cardinal Dolan replied: “I would have no sense of judgment on him. God bless ya. I don’t think, look, the same Bible that tells us, that teaches us well about the virtues of chastity and the virtue of fidelity and marriage also tells us not to judge people. So I would say ‘bravo’.”
So, the Bible tells us not to judge people? Consider: “thus says the Lord: you, son of man, I have appointed watchman for the house of Israel; when you hear me say anything, you shall warn them for me if I tell the wicked, ‘oh, wicked one, you shall surely die,’ and you do not speak out to dissuade the wicked one from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but I will hold you responsible for his death. But if you warn the wicked, trying to turn him from his way, and he refuses to turn from his way, he shall die for his guilt, but you shall save yourself (Ezekiel 33: 7 – 9).
Neither Peter nor Paul were squeamish about judging others:
Peter said to Simon the magician “Your heart is not upright before God. Repent of this wickedness of yours … for I see that you are filled with bitter gall, and you are in the bonds of iniquity” (Acts 8: 20 – 23).
Paul said to Elymas, “you son of the devil, you enemy of all that is right, full of every sort of deceit and fraud. Will you not stop twisting the straight paths of the Lord?” (Acts 13: 9 – 10).
Here are some excerpts from the epistles that illustrate judgment:
“[W]hen Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he clearly was wrong” (Gal 2:11).
“[B]rothers, even if a person is caught in some transgression, you who are spiritual should correct that one in a gentle spirit…” (Gal 6:1).
“[T]ake no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them…” (Gal 5: 11).
“[R]eprimand publicly those [presbyters] who do sin, so that the rest will also be afraid” (Tim 5:20).
“[T]herefore, admonish them sharply, so that they may be sound in the faith…” (Titus 1:13 – 14).
“[E]xhort and correct with all authority…” (Titus 2:15).
“I am convinced about you, my brothers, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to admonish one another” (Rom 15:14).
“[I]t is widely reported that there is immorality among you… A man living with his father’s wife.… The one who did this deed should be expelled from your midst. I … have already, as if present, pronounced judgment on the one who committed this deed, in the name of our Lord Jesus…. You are to deliver this man to Satan for the distraction of his flesh, so that his spirit may be saved on the day of the Lord” (1 Cor 5:1 – 5).
So it is clear that the Bible often encourages judgment of the behavior of others. But those who disdain judgment often cite (Mt 7:1 – 2): “Stop judging that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged…..” This is not an injunction against judgment, but a warning that the judgment should be rendered with a good heart free from hypocrisy, arrogance, meanness of spirit, or hate. Thus “remove the beam from your own eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5). The principal purpose of a judgment is to help my brother and others avoid debilitating actions and improve. The awesome burden of judging is the realization that we will be “judged as we have judged.” Some cite the incident of the woman caught in adultery and brought to Jesus by those who would stone her as evidence that we should not judge others. Nothing could be further from the truth. The incident manifests God’s mercy and loathing of hypocrisy, but he did judge her behavior as evidenced by his admonition: Go and sin no more.
We honor those men and women throughout the ages, who have had the courage to judge the sinful behavior of others and publicly testify against it. Despite the cost, Sir Thomas More admonished King Henry VIII not to be acclaimed as the supreme head of the Church of England since that would deny papal authority, and he also warned the king that it would be bigamous for him to marry Anne Boleyn. Did not John the Baptist judge when he publicly accused Herod of adultery because he took Herodias for his wife despite her still being married to Herod’s brother Philip? Juries judge defendants all the time.
The quality of a judgment usually depends on the information available to the judge and the impartiality of that judge. A judgment may be positive, negative, or neutral. Once a judgment has been rendered, the question becomes what should we do when asked about it? There are several options. We could say nothing or “no comment” and let the matter drop. We could say nothing publicly and rebuke, admonish, or praise in private. We could announce our judgment in an appropriate forum. Finally, we could use the public forum that posed the question to instruct viewers on precisely what the Catholic position on the subject is and emphasize that we love the sinner but hate the sin.
It is love that sometimes prompts us to speak out when the stakes are high. “Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor boy prostitutes nor sodomites … will inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor 6: 9 – 10). Cardinal Dolan squandered an opportunity to instruct not only the sinner, but also the confused and ignorant about what the beautiful teaching of the Catholic Church is. How could Cardinal Dolan add “bravo” to the end of his response? This poor homosexual must choose either a lifetime of celibate self-denial or risk eternal damnation for indulging in sexual sin.
Most priests, bishops, cardinals, and popes are good men dedicated to the service of God. But they are subject to error, bias, and vanity like everyone else. Sycophancy is an ever present danger. The Peter Principle that states that people tend to be promoted one level beyond their level of competence clearly applies at times to members of the Church hierarchy. Over recent years, we have seen sound judgment too often impaired by cowardice that masquerades as prudence and by capitulation to the zeitgeist that camouflages itself as pastoral concern.
In the modern world, instant widespread communication in many different kinds of media exposes mercilessly the shortcomings that may occur in public conversations and events. Loquacious people like Cardinal Dolan are especially vulnerable. Transparency and candor are welcome characteristics, but the Church hierarchy must learn to control the narrative.
So let us pray that God will give us the courage to make sound judgments and the wisdom to use those judgments for the benefit of his children. Judges would do well to remember Paul’s advice to Timothy: “Avoid foolish and ignorant debates, for you know that they breed quarrels. A slave of the Lord should not quarrel, but should be gentle with everyone, able to teach, tolerant, correcting opponents with kindness. It may be that God will grant them repentance that leads to knowledge of the truth, and that they may return to their senses out of the devil’s snare, where they are entrapped by him, for his will”  (2 Tim 2: 23 – 26).
Editor’s note: The image above is a detail from “Christ Expels Money Changers Out of Temple” painted by Cecco del Caravaggio in 1610.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Bishop Athanasius Schneider: “We must create groups of true Catholics”

Bishop Athanasius Schneider: “We must create groups of true Catholics”

Bishop Athanasius Schneider
Bishop Athanasius Schneider
Rome, February 11, 2015: Bishop Athanasius Schneider, the Auxiliary Bishop from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan, has issued a call to Catholics the world over to begin immediately the work of resisting the false church which is arising. While, the From Rome Blog has never done a reblog, this is too important to omit, as it is the message of a faithful Catholic Bishop addressed to the entire Catholic Church.
Reblogged from which published this today, which first notes and then publishes the words of the Bishop:
Editor’s Note: Following his strongly-worded interview with Polonia Christiana in the wake of the first part of the Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family, we reached out to Bishop Athanasius Schneider to seek his guidance on concrete actions Catholics can take during this time of turmoil within the Church. We specifically requested his advice on what the faithful could do to resist heterodoxy and address the errors (or at least obfuscations) that seem to be issuing forth from some of the highest prelates in the Church. Though his counsel is brief, it is deeply thoughtful, and offers us a great deal of work to do. With the next meeting of the Synod less than eight months away, there is no time to waste. 
By Bishop Athanasius Schneider
It is a sad truth that we are in a time of great crisis in the Church. God is with us, however. You have asked me what the faithful can do to combat the errors spreading through the Church. I would like to answer with some suggestions:
We must create groups of true Catholics, scholars, families, and clergy who will spread courageously the full Catholic truth, especially on the Church’s teachings on the family, on nature, and the commandments of God.
As a means to this aim, we must make use of all the resources that the modern world offers to us. We are not confined to waiting for the media to spread these messages. We do not have to wait for each individual pastor to preach them from the pulpit. We should embrace the new media forms that allow us to spread the Gospel and the teachings of our Holy Mother, the Church. We should take our message to the Internet, publish it on websites, blogs, and social media.
Read the entire article at One Peter 5.  Per una traduzione italiana, vedi il blog Chiesa e post Concilio.

We stand with the 4 Catholic Bishops!

The From Rome blog shall heed the call of His Excellency, and resolve to aid and assist in any manner the preservation of the Catholic Church at Rome and throughout the world, against the heretical proposals of “Team Bergoglio”, which is the source and origin of the false church arising.
There are now 4 Bishops who have publicly taken a stand against the false church:  Cardinal Burke (Patronus of the Order of Malta, Rome), Archbishop Lenga and Bishop Schneider of Kazakhstan, and Archbishop Henrich Hoser of Poland.
Let us increase and multiply our prayers and daily sacrifices that more and more members of the Sacred Hierarchy have the light to recognize and the courage to denounce this false church and take a public stand with Christ for the sake of God’s Honor and Glory, their own salvation and that of all the world until the end of time.  We are truly in apocalyptic times. A great host of heaven (Cardinals priests and bishops) are falling from the sky under the power of the tail of the Dragon of Satan, as St. John the Apostle foretold in the Book of Revelation. Let us separate from them, and stand with the Lamb who was slain for us!

Bishop Athanasius Schneider: Against Pharisees

Bishop Athanasius Schneider: Against Pharisees

schneider1Editor’s note: it is not our standard practice to publish excerpted content from another publication as one of our features. In this instance, however, we believe that the significance of the post-synodal interview with Bishop Athanasius Schneider warrants the full attention of our readers. 
In an interview with the Polish magazine Polonia Christiana, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary of the Archdiocese of Saint Mary in Astana, Kazakhstan, offers strong criticism of the proceedings of the recent Extraordinary Synod on Marriage and Family, which he predicts “will remain for the future generations and for the historians a black mark which has stained the honour of the Apostolic See.”
Earlier this year, Bishop Schneider conducted an interview with the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales which offered refreshing candor on the crisis in the Church — which he described as “the fourth great crisis” — and specifically touched on the trouble he saw brewing at the then-upcoming synod. He even predicted that a split in the Church was possible over the doctrinal issues surrounding divorce, remarriage, and communion.
If the interview in May was bracing, today’s interview could be described as a “shot heard round the world.” Never in the modern Church has a Catholic Bishop so clearly stood against doctrinal errors coming from the highest echelons of the episcopacy.
We have excerpted here some of the most significant sections. Hit the link at the bottom to see the full interview, which deserves to be read in its entirety.
On the radical, heterodox nature of certain elements of the synod:
During the Synod there had been moments of obvious manipulation on the part of some clerics who held key positions in the editorial and governing structure of the Synod. The interim report (Relatio post disceptationem) was clearly a prefabricated text with no reference to the actual statements of the Synod fathers. In the sections on homosexuality, sexuality and “divorced and remarried” with their admittance to the sacraments the text represents a radical neo-pagan ideology. This is the first time in Church history that such a heterodox text was actually published as a document of an official meeting of Catholic bishops under the guidance of a pope, even though the text only had a preliminary character. Thanks be to God and to the prayers of the faithful all over the world that a consistent number of Synod fathers resolutely rejected such an agenda; this agenda reflects the corrupt and pagan main stream morality of our time, which is being imposed globally by means of political pressure and through the almost all-powerful official mass media, which are loyal to the principles of the world gender ideology party. Such a synod document, even if only preliminary, is a real shame and an indication to the extent the spirit of the anti-Christian world has already penetrated such important levels of the life of the Church. This document will remain for the future generations and for the historians a black mark which has stained the honour of the Apostolic See.
On the the Divine commandment pertaining to marriage, and the impropriety of acting as if this were subject to change:
In fact a Divine commandment, in our case the sixth commandment, the absolute indissolubility of the sacramental marriage, a Divinely established rule, means those in a state of grave sin cannot be admitted to Holy Communion. This is taught by Saint Paul in his letter inspired by the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians 11, 27-30, this cannot be put to the vote, just as the Divinity of Christ would never be put to a vote. A person who still has the indissoluble sacramental marriage bond and who in spite of this lives in a stable marital cohabitation with another person, by Divine law cannot be admitted to Holy Communion. To do so would be a public statement by the Church nefariously legitimizing a denial of the indissolubility of the Christian marriage and at the same time repealing the sixth commandment of God: “Thou shalt not commit adultery”. No human institution not even the Pope or an Ecumenical Council has the authority and the competency to invalidate even in the slightest or indirect manner one of the ten Divine commandments or the Divine words of Christ: “What therefore God has joined together, let man not separate (Math 19:6)”.
On the divisive language within the ranks of the bishops, and the parallels with the Arian crisis:
[W]hat is still aggravating, is the fact that such bishops try to legitimize their infidelity to Christ’s word by means of arguments such as “pastoral need”, “mercy”, “openness to the Holy Spirit”. Moreover they have no fear and no scruples to pervert in a Gnostic manner the real meaning of these words labeling at the same time those who oppose them and defend the immutable Divine commandment and the true non-human tradition as rigid, scrupulous or traditionalist. During the great Arian crisis in the IV century the defenders of the Divinity of the Son of God were labeled “intransigent” and “traditionalist” as well. Saint Athanasius was even excommunicated by Pope Liberius and the Pope justified this with the argument that Athanasius was not in communion with the Oriental bishops who were mostly heretics or semi-heretics. Saint Basil the Great stated in that situation the following: “Only one sin is nowadays severely punished: the attentive observance of the traditions of our Fathers. For that reason the good ones are thrown out of their places and brought to the desert” (Ep. 243).
On the subversive and confusing sections that remained in the final relatio:
The final Relatio of the Synod also unfortunately contains the paragraph with the vote on the issue of Holy Communion for “divorced remarried”. Even though it has not achieved the required two third of the votes, there remains nevertheless the worrying and astonishing fact that the absolute majority of the present bishops voted in favor of Holy Communion for the “divorced and remarried”,  a sad reflection on the spiritual quality of the catholic episcopacy in our days. It is moreover sad, that this paragraph which hasn’t got the required approval of the qualitative majority, remains nevertheless in the final text of the Relatio and will be sent to all dioceses for further discussion. It will surely only increase the doctrinal confusion among the priests and the faithful, being in the air, that Divine commandments and Divine words of Christ and those of the apostle Paul are put at the disposal of human decision making groups.
On the importance of faithful Catholic resistance to the distortion of Christ’s teachings:
That in the very bosom of the Church, there are people who undermine the teaching of Our Lord became an obvious fact and one for the whole world to see thanks to the internet and the work of some Catholic journalists who were not indifferent to what was happening to the Catholic faith which they consider to be the treasure of Christ. I was pleased to see that some Catholic journalists and internet bloggers behaved as good soldiers of Christ and drew attention to this clerical agenda of undermining the perennial teaching of Our Lord. Cardinals, bishops, priests, Catholic families, Catholic young people have to say to themselves: I refuse to conform to the neo-pagan spirit of this world, even when this spirit is spread by some bishops and cardinals; I will not accept their fallacious and perverse use of holy Divine mercy and of “new Pentecost”; I refuse to throw grains of incense before the statue of the idol of the gender ideology, before the idol of second marriages, of concubinage, even if my bishop would do so, I will not do so; with the grace of God I will choose to suffer rather than betray the whole truth of Christ on human sexuality and on marriage.
Bishop Schneider’s full interview goes into a great deal more depth and consideration on what went wrong in the synod, and also offers suggestions for what we should be doing to help families. For example:
We have to encourage ordinary Catholics to be faithful to the Catechism they have learned, to be faithful to the clear words of Christ in the Gospel, to be faithful to the faith their fathers and forefathers handed over to them. We have to organize circles of studies and conferences about the perennial teaching of the Church on the issue of marriage and chastity, inviting especially young people and married couples. We have to show the very beauty of a life in chastity, the very beauty of the Christian marriage and family, the great value of the Cross and of the sacrifice in our lives. We have to present ever more the examples of the Saints and of exemplary persons who demonstrated that in spite of the fact that they suffered the same temptations of the flesh, the same hostility and derision of the pagan world, they nevertheless with the grace of Christ led a happy life in chastity, in a Christian marriage and in family. The faith, the pure and integral Catholic and Apostolic faith will overcome the world (cf. 1 John 5: 4). 
We have to found and promote youth groups of pure hearts, family groups, groups of Catholic spouses, who will be committed to the fidelity of their marriage vows. We have to organize groups which will help morally and materially broken families, single mothers, groups who will assist with prayer and with good counsel separated couples, groups and persons who will help “divorced and remarried” people to start a process of serious conversion, i.e. recognizing with humility their sinful situation and abandoning with the grace of God the sins which violate the commandment of God and the sanctity of the sacrament of marriage. We have to create groups who will carefully help persons with homosexual tendencies to enter the path of Christian conversion, the happy and beautiful path of a chaste life and to offer them eventually in a discrete manner a psychological cure. We have to show and preach to our contemporaries in the neo-pagan world the liberating Good News of the teaching of Christ: that the commandment of God, and even the sixth commandment is wise, is beauty: “The law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the Lord is sure, making wise the simple. The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes” (Ps 19(18): 7-8).
Go here to read the full interview. It’s truly groundbreaking. And please pray for Bishop Schneider, that he may be granted widsom and courage to continue as one of the lone shepherds crying out for a return to obedience to Christ through the teachings of the Church. It appears that once again, we find ourselves in a situation of Athanasius contra mundum. 

21 Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Men Beheaded By ISIS

21 Egyptian Coptic Orthodox Men Beheaded By ISIS
The Coptic Egyptian Orthodox Diocese of Los Angeles, Southern California and Hawaii had Tony Rezk make an icon of the the 21 Coptic Egyptian Men who were beheaded by the hands of the the ISIS in Libya last week.
Tony Rezk_21 Coptic Martyrs of 2015_2015The Icon shows them kneeling near the Mediterranean Sea before they were beheaded for Christ.  They are in the orange jumpsuits they died in and have red sashes to show that they shed their blood for Jesus.  The angeles are showering down on them the crown of martyrdom.  Many verbally professed Jesus as they died.AVVENIFOTO_45142876_300
Let us keep on praying the Holy Rosary for the conversion of all those behind the beheading, torturing, kidnapping, rapping and crucifying of the Christians in muslim countries right now.  We need to pray about what else we can do as well.

On the "Reform" of Islam

The Blue Mosque, left, and the Hagia Sophia Museum, right, are pictured at sunset in Istanbul in this Nov. 24, 2008, file photo. (CNS photo/Tolga Bozoglu, EPA) 
It is estimated that over the centuries some 250 million people have been killed in wars caused by Islam.  The religion itself thus needs, in the assessment of President al-Sisi of Egypt, a thorough "revolution" or transformation.  Father James Schall tells all in "On the "Reform" of Islam."
The President of Egypt, at Al Azhar University in Cairo, recently did everyone a favor by putting on the table, from inside of the Islamic world itself, the question of its public conduct and inner soul as they relate to the Muslim religion. Does its conduct, as manifest in its deeds, flow from its religious beliefs? One and a quarter billion Muslims, President al-Sisi bluntly affirmed, cannot hope to eliminate the other six and a half billion human beings. A May 14, 2014, article in the American Thinker estimated that over the centuries some 250 million people have been killed in wars caused by Islam. The religion itself thus needs, in al-Sisi’s view, a thorough “revolution” or transformation. 
The issue that I bring up here, in the light of these observations, is this: “Is such a revolution possible without, in effect, eliminating the basic content of what we know as Islam?” If violence, terror, beheadings, forced conversions, subjection of women, and intolerance of others are removed or “transformed” in Islam, so that they are no longer parts of the religion but condemned by it, is it still Islam? Would it not be something totally unrecognizable as the same Islam faithfully loyal to its founding by Mohammed? If so, it would follow that something is radically disordered in the founding itself and its development to its present form.
No one thought that communism could fall except, perhaps, Reagan and John Paul II. Some elements of it still strive to hang on, to be sure, but its evils have generally been acknowledged as inhuman. Is there a similar hope about an unexpected turn in Islam? Could it almost miraculously morph into something else? Or, if it changes in any basic way, does it not have to change into something already known, such as Christianity? Or Hinduism? Or even modernism? Are the violent manifestations within Islam towards itself and others simply an aberration? Or, are they essential to the mission to which Islam is committed, namely, to conquer the world for Allah? The authors of Charlie Hebdo hoped that Islam would become as “harmless” as Christianity has become. But is a “harmless” Islam an irrelevant Islam?
In 2011, I called attention to the work of scholars (mostly German) in establishing a critical edition of the Qur’an. It becomes evident that the text of this famous book could not be what it is claimed to be—that is, a revelation in pure Arabic delivered directly from the mind of Allah in the seventh century through Mohammed. Moreover, it is said to be unchanged in any way, not only from its first appearance, but also from eternity. 
My assumption, of course, is that the Muslim mind—or any mind—when faced with facts, can recognize a contradiction in its own origins or practices if pointed out. If the Qur’an cannot be what it said it was, how can anyone uphold it? If it is a correlation to previously existing texts, its origin is not what it said it was. The effort to eliminate the scholars who even dare to wonder about this issue is not an argument in favor of the Qur’an, but against it, a sign of unwillingness to examine the evidence. One can only suspect that the failure of any source in Islam itself to produce a critical edition of the Qur’an, combined with the efforts to impede anyone else from doing so, is an indirect proof that many in Islam know there is something strange about the original text that is not explained by the theory of direct revelation.
Muslim thinkers, in the light of contradictory statements in the Qur’an, have had to devise a philosophical thesis about Allah’s nature that would, supposedly, defend the text from incoherence. The key to this defense is the affirmation that Allah is pure will. This doctrine is also found in Western philosophy, as in legal positivism. It is sometimes called the “two truth” theory—that something in revelation and something in reason can contradict each other. As pure will, Allah is not bound by reason, by his own decrees, or by what he may or may not have said previously. 
In terms of Muslim law, the last statement in the text is the ruling one. Allah can decree what is good to be evil, or what is evil to be good. Thus, the suicide bomber who kills, in addition to himself, many innocent people, can be considered a “martyr” because he is killing by the will of Allah. This understanding broadens the power of Allah’s freedom. A God of Logos and a god of voluntas unrelated to reason are simply incompatible. The God of Logos has a will ordained to His reason and being. The god of will has no reason to impede any of his actions.
President al-Sisi is in a different position from those Western political and religious leaders who keep insisting on a distinction between a peaceful Islam and a war-oriented one. In the face of the most violent evidence to the contrary, they insist “Islam is a religion of peace”. The Western mind is thus sent off to search for the causes of “terrorism” that can be attributed to non-religious sources. They can never seem to find any, because the origin of such violence is religious. The text of the Qur’an can justify it. It is simply dishonest or ignorance to maintain otherwise.
The Muslims who know this background feel abused when it is claimed that they have nothing to do with the “real” Islam. In their view, they are the real Islam. This textual and traditional foundation is why peaceful Muslims, who know their tradition and history, are either silent or acknowledge the fact. In this sense, the problem of Islam is not some misunderstanding that arises from outside its own soul. It arises from within it.
In the wake both of history and Qur’anic text, this view of a peaceful Islam is really not possible to maintain, except in the light of a jihad that submitted the world to Allah. Peace is possible when, and only when, all people are Muslim. Hence it becomes naïve-sounding to hear the myth of a totally peaceful Islam repeated by people who seem to have no knowledge of history or what motivates most Islamic people who do use force and terror with, in their view, the complete approval of Allah. We can call them fundamentalists or terrorists, or whatever we want, but they see themselves as devout Muslims who are obeying Allah. It has proved almost impossible to change the minds of such “believers” in the Muslim world-mission.
It is obviously true that someone from outside Islam will miss many things within it when it comes to the question of how to change it, if change is needed. On the other hand, the very existence of Islam is itself a denial of the heart of Christianity. No Christian—or anyone else—can fail to see what happens to Christians in Muslim lands. They are fleeing, being killed, forced to convert, or reduced to second-class status. Islam is also a question of an attack on the essence of Christianity itself. Islamic scripture demotes Christ to the rank of a mere prophet. This is not to praise Him but rather to insist he is not the Son of God. His mother is a very holy lady, not the mother of God. The Trinity and Incarnation are specifically denied. 
The Old and New Testaments are said to be fraudulent documents rewritten somehow in the light of the pre-existing Qur’an; and the Qur’an is the final and definitive revelation, not the Jewish or Christian scriptures. Yet what scholarship we have indicates, instead, that the Qur’an is itself a strange amalgam of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and other sources that existed previous to its slow composition in the first centuries after Mohammed.
Islam is said to be the final and only true “revelation”. All people should be “submissive” to Allah; all people are born Muslim, but are corrupted by parents or customs. If, though they are often persecuted, Jews or Christians are tolerated in Muslim lands, it is at the cost of second-class citizenship, with severe restriction of places and organizations that support them. Essential to any real Muslim internal “revolution” would be the abandonment is this lethal hatred and intolerance of others.
Many Catholic and other Christian leaders—and perhaps even some Muslim documents and leaders—want to hold (and do hold in public) that Islam worships the same God as they do. I have often tried to imagine just what the two “gods” really have in common so that we could call them “the same”. An Allah who denies the Trinity and Incarnation hardly seems like the same deity that affirms them. We carefully peel every differing understanding of the deity off the core. We affirm what, in Christianity, is rejected by Islam. Can the remains still be Christian, or even Platonic? It is not the Yahweh of the Jews. 
When we see how Allah is understood in Islam, how he is described, we are hard pressed to see what, if any, relation the Christian God and Allah have at all. Rémi Brague, in On the God of Christians (and on one or two others) (St. Augustine's Press, 2013; Editor's note: see CWR's review of Brague's book), has shown the textual and historical difficulty in efforts to equate these two positions. But is not just the seeking for an explanation something in common? The problem, however, exists at the level of what is found, not what is sought. 
Others want to maintain that, if we keep stripping off the things that make the two views different, we will eventually arrive at a notion of “submission” to the will of God or Allah. This submission can provide a basis of agreement. But the Christian idea of submitting to the will of God and the Muslim notion of “submission” to Allah are so different that it is difficult to see how they can be reconciled, however much good will is put into the effort. The Christian is freely open to a God of order, which it can reject; the Christian God is Logos, reason. The freedom of God is bound to His being. He is mysterious but not arbitrary or contradictory.
Allah, it seems, is pure will. He is not bound by even His own decrees, let alone to any objective distinction of good and evil. “Submission” literally means that, because man’s mind has no grounds to oppose or understand anything that Allah claims, his will must be done whatever it is. The difference between free, rational obedience and servile submission is a gulf, even though both are supposedly worthy ways to worship.
Allah’s will shows its supremacy by decreeing evil to be good or vice versa. This thesis was necessary in large part because many ideas in the Qur’an contradict each other. The only way to save the integrity of Allah was to deny that a contradiction made any difference. If these two views are compatible, I fail to see how. One can only “respect” someone’s god if that god is not the origin of what is impossible to maintain.
But to return to President al-Sisi’s point, can a “revolutionary” Islam that has purged itself of all the violence still be Islam? Benedict XVI’s question, in his 2006 “Regensburg Lecture”, asked whether a God who approved violence in the name of religion could be God. No doubt, Yahweh in the Old Testament did command violence in numerous occasions. Many think this source is where Islam got the idea in the first place. Likewise, the notion of “going forth and conquering all nations” may well be of New Testament origin. No one wants to deny the sins and aberrations of one’s own history. John Paul II sought to “redeem” Christian history of its own aberrations by acknowledging that these deeds were wrong. But they were wrong by some objective standard that ought to have been known and observed. They are not presented as God’s will.
Islam, as far as I can see, does not apologize. It rarely gives aid to anyone but its own. But the capacity to forgive or aid others would seem to be essential to the “revolution” that President al-Sisi has proposed. It is first necessary to acknowledge that much of Muslim history was based on a wrong understanding of God, and thus of man. It is also necessary to change the Qur’an in such a fashion that its readers will not constantly rediscover the roots of violence that is engenders every time it is taken seriously as the will and word of Allah.
In thinking about such subjects, it is well to recall Aristotle’s admonition that any “revolution” can make things worse as well as make them better. A status-quo that is pretty bad may still be better than an even worse situation. One of the root factors in the rise of Islam in recent decades is its shrewd analysis of the disorder of soul in the lives and polities of its chief critics. While population growth in several Muslim countries is now declining to western levers, the killing of 1.3 billion babies by abortion since 1980 makes it difficult for many Muslims to see why it would be better to imitate the moral chaos that now seems to rule democratic countries. Why is it all right to kill the unborn and the elderly but not kill the blasphemers? Why are divorce, serial monogamy, and “gay” marriages superior to polygamy? 
Muslims know that many religious people in the West uphold these practices, evidently without scruple. But these facts bring us back to the same issue: which God upholds these practices and which one does not, and why? The Christian God is not only distinct from Islam on the issue of killing in the name of religion but also in its notion of family life. One is hard pressed to see that the family life practiced in Islam, with all its aberrations, is worse than what our laws and practices now enforce or encourage.
In the name of “justice” and economy, we now see ways to eliminate a family as the bond between one woman and one man with their children. We have separated sex from reproduction in such a way that makes “the brave new world” look familiar, even romantic to us. Ironically, the same “voluntarism” that makes Allah so dubious is the going doctrine of our legal, social, and moral lives. In the end, we have to say to President al-Sisi, that perhaps it is not only Islam that is in need of a real “revolution.”

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Sins that cry to heaven for vengeance and sins against the Holy Spirit?

What are sins that cry to heaven for vengeance and sins against the Holy Spirit?


Most Catholics are familiar with the term mortal sin. Mortal sins deprive the soul of grace. They are serious transgressions of God's law, done freely and deliberately with a clear understanding of what they are. Their result is to deny a soul entrance to heaven.
There are particular mortal sins that are so evil that they are said to be sins that cry to heaven for vengeance: murder (Gn 4:10), sodomy (Gn 17:20-21), oppression of the poor (Ex 2:23), and defrauding workers of their just wages (Jas 5:4). 
Sins against the Holy Spirit are mortal sins that harden a soul by its rejection of the Holy Spirit. Six sins are in this category. They are despair, presumption, envy, obstinacy in sin, final impenitence, and deliberate resistance to the known truth.

Sunday, February 15, 2015




We hear so much, with alleged afterlife experiences and in the mystical deposit of Catholicism, about the "life review" -- whereby everything one has done or said or thought is reviewed in the Truth of the Light, with the gentleness of God's knowing love. Everything counts, especially how we treat and speak of others. (Very important -- what we say and do.)
But what about what we have not done or chosen? What about mazes we have created -- indirect routes back to the Lord? By hasty decisions? By not seeking Him in all we do? Can this sometimes prevent direct entry into Heaven? (Do we not confess at Mass "what we have done and what we have failed to do"?)
We once encountered this "word of knowledge": "Besides what you have done will be shown what you could have done; what you were supposed to do; and the course of your life had you chosen to." Imagine that. Look back on your life and the routes you have taken. It may be worth pondering.
A second, related point: the levels of afterlife.
In one case was the vision of a place that looked like a well-kept large cottage in a beautifully wooded area, a cottage covered by lush vines with large green leaves, kind of like a chapel dedicated to the Blessed Mother; a place perhaps not quite in Heaven (who can tell) but if not, a waiting room, a place for final reflection, an anteroom. More for reflection than suffering.
Might it be a place where among other things we see the routes of our lives -- and the mazes we created (by not seeking Jesus strongly enough)?
This notion of a place at the edge of Heaven -- for those who did not seek Him strongly enough -- was revealed to a French nun in a Church-sanctioned revelation ("Unpublished Manuscript on Purgatory"), who described the levels of Heaven -- the first being the middle and lower parts, then the second. 
"In the second Purgatory are the souls of those who died with venial sins not fully expiated before death, or with mortal sins that have been forgiven but for which they have not made entire satisfaction to the Divine Justice," she revealed. "In this part of Purgatory, there are also different degrees according to the merits of each soul. Thus, the Purgatory of the consecrated souls or of those who have received more abundant graces, is longer and far more painful than that of the ordinary people of the world."
She said the highest part of that region, which is closest to Heaven, was "the Purgatory of desire which is called the Threshold." She added: 
"Very few escape this. To avoid it altogether, one must ardently desire Heaven and the vision of God. That is rare, rarer than people think, because even pious people are afraid of God and have not, therefore, a sufficiently strong desire of going to Heaven. This Purgatory has its very painful martyrdom like the others. The deprivation of our loving Jesus adds to the intense suffering."
There are different levels of Heaven, hell, and purgatory (Saint Paul made this clear, at least for Heaven). Decisions done after prayer take us most directly to the upper levels. In purgatory, is the "threshold" one of them?
If we don't fulfill the plan God designed for us, might this too may be shown to us: not harshly; not like a gavel-pounding judge; but in clarity? Reflect. Ask the Holy Spirit to illumine your life. See anew. Ask for "new eyes."
With death comes new eyes. And ears. And sensations. In Heaven, it is said: colors can be "tasted." Sounds can be "seen." All is at its vibrant peak. All is alive. There is resplendence. Radiance. All sends forth light -- rainbows from one "house" to the next, growing in brightness, with colors that are: deeper, richer, brighter, alive, in their true essence and authenticity; multi-various; call it "color fire," interweaving with sounds -- music as loud and penetrating as a trumpet, but gliding as softly as a violin, and pitched as sweetly as a flute. 
The twittering of birds. A thousand golden bells. 
Everything alive, glowing, sparkling. Trees. Hedgerows. Vines. 
On a vine, both lush fruit and gorgeous flowers. "When I touch the leaves, I can feel the green," is the word. "I can feel their life." His Love. His Light.
Desire that place where God our Father permeates all, with all your heart.
Seek His Presence. 
Yearn for it. 
Yearn for Heaven, this Lent. 
Want nothing more. 
You can get there. As long as you are alive, you have the choice and the chance.

Monday, February 9, 2015

The Crusades, The Inquisition & The War on Women

Saddle-Up your High Horse! Time to Shoot Down Myths about the Crusades, the Inquisition & the War on Women 

Conservative media were in an uproar last week over the President’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast. He said that we see “faith being twisted and distorted … sometimes used as a weapon” and “lest we get on our high horse and think this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and the Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ."

Nearly everyone took the statement to mean “Catholic pot, don’t call the Muslim kettle black.” And they were quick to point out that the “terrible deeds in the name of Christ” were committed 600 to 1000 years ago when everyone was kind of “medieval” anyway. End of story. Only it’s not.

The Crusades

Were the Crusaders plunderers and butchers, distorting Christianity, as the popular view claims? No. Scholar Thomas F. Madden — historian of the Crusades and director of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at the University of St. Louis — has waged his own one-man crusade since 9/11 to debunk the popular myths about Catholic Church-sponsored “atrocities” of the 12th to 16th centuries.  
With enormous energy, the warriors of Islam struck out against the Christians shortly after Mohammed’s death. They were extremely successful. Palestine, Syria, and Egypt — once the most heavily Christian areas in the world — quickly succumbed. By the eighth century, Muslim armies had conquered all of Christian North Africa and Spain. In the eleventh century, the Seljuk Turks conquered Asia Minor (modern Turkey), which had been Christian since the time of St. Paul. The old Roman Empire, known to modern historians as the Byzantine Empire, was reduced to little more than Greece. In desperation, the emperor in Constantinople sent word to the Christians of western Europe asking them to aid their brothers and sisters in the East.

That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world.  At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.
Madden describes the two goals set by Pope Urban II for the Crusades: to rescue fellow Christians in the Middle East who were living in slavery and servitude under Muslim rule and to liberate “Jerusalem and other places made holy by the life of Christ.” Far from being a distortion of Catholicism, the Crusades went to the very heart of the faith, he explains. Quoting a letter from Pope Innocent III to the Knights Templar: “You carry out in deeds the words of the Gospel, ‘Greater love than this hath no man, that he lay down his life for his friends.’” 

The Inquisition

Pretty much everything we know about “the Inquisition” is also bunk. In 1998, Pope St. John Paul II, Madden explains, “opened up the archives of the Holy Office … to a team of 30 scholars from around the world.” Their 800-page report was released in 2004. It confirmed the discoveries of many historians from their earlier research in other European archives: “the popular view of the Inquisition is a myth.”

In the Middle Ages, heresy was a crime against the state, punishable by death. It wasn't the Church who put heretics to death; Pope Lucius III established the Inquisition precisely so that state claims of heresy would not be tried by civil judges who were ignorant of doctrine and indiscriminately found people guilty. Through the Inquisition, accused heretics could be evaluated by competent theologians and in almost all cases be spared a death sentence. While kings, according to Madden, saw heretics as traitors who questioned their authority by divine right, the Church saw them as “lost sheep who had strayed from the fold.”
Most people accused of heresy by the Inquisition were either acquitted or their sentences suspended. Those found guilty of grave error were allowed to confess their sin, do penance, and be restored to the Body of Christ. … Unrepentant or obstinate heretics were excommunicated and given over to secular authorities. … Despite popular myth, the Inquisition did not burn heretics. … The simple fact is that the medieval Inquisition saved uncounted thousands of innocent (and not-so-innocent) people who would otherwise have been roasted by secular lords or mob rule.

Much later, however, when Inquisitions were taken over by civil authorities, the forgiveness and mercy shown by the Church no longer prevailed. 

“The War on Women” Redux

The “War on Women” is included here as the latest baseless canard against the Church. Because Catholic teaching opposes abortion and contraception, the Church has become the prime target of radical feminists, progressives, libertines, academia, the media, the Administration and others.

When Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI stated that condoms were not the solution to the AIDS crisis in sub-Saharan Africa, he was called “horrifically ignorant” and was blamed for the continent’s AIDS deaths (as if all AIDS deaths were occurring among observant Catholics who rejected condoms in obedience to Church teaching — the very group at lowest risk of AIDS as they'd be likely to abstain from sex before marriage and remain faithful to their spouse).

By opposing Obamacare’s assault on religious freedom by forcing Catholic institutions to provide contraceptives in their employees' health coverage, the Church is accused of waging a “war on women.” By opposing taxpayer funding of Planned Parenthood — the country’s most prolific killer — the Church is accused of conducting a “war on women.” 

In the last election cycle, candidates who defended the religious freedom of Catholic institutions and individuals to not be forced to provide “benefits” they considered immoral, on First Amendment grounds, were also part of the “war on women,” a false narrative that some believe will be resurrected in the next election cycle.

Obamacare, and not the Church, is in many ways the real villain in the “war on women.” Contraceptives, abortifacients and sterilization all serve to disrupt the healthy functioning of a woman’s reproductive system and carry numerous risks, not the least of which is this: A  2011 survey looking into “work/life balance,” found that the unhappiest profile among white-collar workers is “a 42 year old, unmarried woman with a household income under $100 thousand, working in a professional position (i.e. as a doctor or a lawyer).” Yet, the sterile career woman — unencumbered by husband and kids — is precisely the model to which that the National Organization for Women and the Fund for a Feminist Majority think women should aspire.

There’s another obvious reason why critics of the Catholic Church should find a different target for their vitriol. The Church is arguably the single largest charitable organization on planet Earth — feeding, clothing, sheltering, healing, educating, and ministering to the needy of the world for almost two millennia.

So is it too much to expect that the President and media would do a little fact-checking from time to time?
Susan Wills is a senior writer for Aleteia's English language edition.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Don Bosco: The Ghost, The Blessed Sacrament and The Devil

Don Bosco: The Ghost, The Blessed Sacrament and The Devil

Carlo Felice Deasti, Don Bosco, Torino, 1887
The supernatural is more real, and yet more complex, than today’s materialist culture would have us believe. To such purely secular thinking the following tale reveals that there are more things in heaven and earth… Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. Admittedly, the advice that follows on from it may sound strange to modern ears and that prevailing ideology, however, for that I make no apology as it is both a warning and also, mercifully, a remedy, nay a protection, against that which wishes us harm. We would do well to heed it.
Our tale begins in Italy, in 1839, with the tolling of a bell as a young seminarian was laid to rest. And as the earth was heaped upon the casket below, those assembled slowly dispersed.
One of those present, as well as being a friend of the deceased was also a seminarian. And it was to that place of formation that he started to walk back to just as the first hints of night began to draw in. As he did so, his thoughts returned to a curious conversation some months previously, one with the seminarian just buried, and thereafter to an even stranger pact entered into …
The two had been firm friends. Both devoutly religious, at the end of that curious conversation, they had agreed, that whichever of them died first then he would return from the grave and tell the other of what happened next. Perhaps it was born from piety, more likely from a boyish prank, as neither expected to die for quite some time. Then, shortly afterwards, one of them did die.
His name was Louis Comollo; he was the frailer of the two, but still his death was unexpected. His friend was as shocked as the whole seminary proved to be. He mourned this loss with a difference, however, for he did so with a sense of expectancy.
As he sat through the subsequent Requiem Mass, he waited, he listened, he watched for a sign – any sign – but none came. Nothing. And so, on that mournful day, and as the mortal remains of his friend had finally been laid to rest, all seemed forever shrouded in an opaque silence.
Finally that night, the mourner arrived back at the seminary in the Italian town of Cheri, not far from Turin. It was late, but his thoughts were far from sleep. His bedchamber was a dormitory, one he shared with other seminarians; by then, all were sound asleep. He was unable to join them, though. Instead, he was to sit on the edge of his bed, with a mind unusually tense and that still pondered what had taken place that day; it was then just as the clocks struck the midnight hour that it began…
It sounded like a dull roll, one that emanated from the end of the passageway that ran adjacent to the dormitory. As yet nothing was visible; there was only an eerie sound that grew louder, and as it did so it became more distinct. The young man, now keenly alert to everything around him, sat listening intently.
The sound continued. It grew in intensity, now like a clanging of a chain, as seemingly it drew closer. Closer still, it approached, the vibrations of which ricocheted off the walls and ceilings all around: strange echoes like the sound of many horses, like the push of a railway engine. Unable to move, unsure what was coming hence, the young man sat frozen in fear. He proved not to be alone in this. The whole dormitory had by then been roused. In the twilight darkness of that long chamber, all 20 or so youths were now wide awake, not able, or willing, to utter a single word, but instead were lying in the darkness awaiting something, the very sound of which cast terror into their hearts. The final sound remembered that night was reported to be one similar to the discharge of a cannon, and with that the doors of the dormitory flew open.
What had entered the room was not a person, or even a shape that could be identified, but, rather, a light. On its appearance, the sounds that accompanied it stilled, as if controlled by this spectral glow, before beginning to change colour in front of the bewildered eyes of those now watching. Then, the apparition spoke. Calling out the name of the young man who had earlier returned from the graveside, it roared: ‘I am saved’.
And with that the sounds began again, louder, more terrific than before. The light too grew brighter still, before illuminating the whole chamber. The noise reverberated against the walls so intensely that those present feared the very building itself was about to collapse. Then, as quickly, and as unexpectedly, as it had all started, it stopped.
It proved too much for many of those present. Some leapt from their beds and fled the dormitory, but not the young man still sat on his bed. Whereas the others had looks of terror on their faces, his countenance was now one of thoughtfulness as he began to comprehend what had taken place. This ghostly presence was none other than his friend, Comollo. He had kept their pact. And, in so doing, had announced where he had entered upon death. The young man looked at those around him and tried to calm them, telling his fellows what they had witnessed was nothing to fear, but instead something to rejoice in.
The account of that night suggests that the young man’s words fell upon barren soil, however, such was the panic induced by their earlier visitation, and, as a consequence, most of his fellows remained huddled together until the dawn came at last. That same account goes on to conclude that at the seminary for a long time afterwards there was no other topic of conversation to be had but that pertaining to the events of this unarguably remarkable night.
As to the veracity of what took place: I have no reason to doubt any aspect of the story given that its teller and subject, the then living participant of the pact in question, was none other than the man who would later become known to the world as Don Bosco.
On an equally real, if more dangerous, supernatural entity the same saint had some practical advice:
“Listen: there are two things the devil is deathly afraid of: fervent Communions and frequent visits to the Blessed Sacrament.
“Do you want many graces? Visit Him often. 
Do you want Him to grant you only a few? Visit Him but seldom. 
Do you want the devil to attack you? Rarely visit the Blessed Sacrament. 
Do you want the devil to flee from you? Visit Jesus often. 
Do you want to overcome the devil? Take refuge at the feet of Jesus. 
Do you want to be overcome by the devil? Give up visiting Jesus.
Visiting Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament is essential… if you want to overcome the devil. 
Therefore make frequent visits to Jesus. 
If you do that, the devil will never prevail against you.”
In light of Don Bosco’s advice, perhaps today a special effort is made to visit He who waits for us in the Blessed Sacrament, and, by so doing, frustrate that which for all of us continually lies in wait.