40 Myths About the Catholic Church–Catholics can pick and choose what they want to believe

cafeteria1This is a myth that circulates more within the Church than without.  The popular name for the phenomenon is “Cafeteria Catholicism“.  These folks see the Church as some kind of spiritual buffet where they can choose what to pick up and what to leave alone.

Here’s what’s wrong with cafeteria Catholicism.  First, it’s just not true.  Our faith is an all-or-nothing thing.  Either we’re Catholic or we’re not.  We may not like something the Church teaches but chances are we just don’t understand it.  Just the other day someone thanked me for something I had posted.  He said he never knew why the Church taught this particular thing, but now that I had explained it, it made perfect sense.  I don’t believe that most of the time, people who diss a particular teaching mean to be disobedient.  I just think they don’t understand it.  If anyone is to blame, it’s people like me who have the faculty to preach but haven’t done a good enough job explaining things.

The second problem with cafeteria Catholics is that they give the wrong impression of the Church to people seeking the truth.  When children are baptized the parents promise to raise them in the faith.  Then they proceed to stay in bed on Sunday morning, telling the kids that they really don’t have to go to mass every week.  How can they expect Junior to believe anything the Church teaches when they choose to ignore this most important element of the faith.  They’re going to go to Catholic school (or, hopefully, at least PSR) and the teacher is going to try to educate them in the faith.  Kids being kids, they’re going to spot the differences between what the teacher tells them and the way Mom and Dad practice the faith and, at best, they’re going to be confused.  Worst case is that they’re going to reject everything the teacher says.

Then we have the nominal (in name only) Catholics who love to go on line or write a letter to the editor explaining what’s wrong with the Church.  I call these people “Catholic buts”.  Actually, that’s what they call themselves.  Their messages always start with, “I’m a loyal Catholic but” or “I’m a faithful Catholic but” or “I’m a practicing Catholic but.”  Then they go on to explain why the Church is wrong on (fill in the blank).  The problem here is that, one, these folks give an entirely false message to the public at large.  They think, “Obviously the Church is wrong on this because Martha, in Marthasville, a “faithful Catholic but” says so.

Forget that Martha’s now 39 years old and her Catholic education ended when she  was in eighth grade and 13 years old.  These are the same people who skew the polls and give us headlines like “90% of Catholics have used artificial birth control!”  Of course, Martha told the pollster that she’s a Catholic, after all, if she goes to church, she goes to a Catholic mass.  And, even if it’s been months or years since she’s seen the inside of the Church, she happily marches herself up to receive communion.

Frankly, I don’t understand why anyone would self-identify as a member of any organization, whether it be a church, or a neighborhood organization, that I don’t agree with.  It doesn’t make sense.  The Boy Scouts have a twelve-point law.  It doesn’t say a scout is trustworthy, loyal, helpful, courteous, OR kind.  (Pick two).  No, a scout must be all twelve things.  You can’t be a disobedient scout.

There are more than 20,000 different Christian denominations in the world.  There’s bound to be one that you agree with.  If not, start your own.  That’s how there got to be over 20,000 if them.

No, we don’t get to pick and choose.  The Church is not a cafeteria.  It has a very fixed menu developed over 2,000 years, created by Jesus himself.

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–The Pope is Running Away from Something

Myths about the Church can spread quickly.  Where most of them have been around for quite a while, this one is relatively new.  Since no Pope has retired in 600 years, Benedict must be running away from something.  He must have something to hide.

Here’s what Peter Stanford of the London Telegraph wrote on February 17:

 

Dan Brown couldn’t have made it up. The ecclesiastical earthquake of a pope resigning has been attributed, variously, to Benedict nursing a fatal illness; to a head injury during his trip to Mexico last March that convinced him to abdicate; to being forced out after an acrimonious meeting with a group of senior cardinals two days before he announced his resignation; to his looming disgrace over either dodgy deals done by the Vatican Bank, past cover-ups of paedophile priests, or an “explosive” forthcoming report by a team of cardinals on a tendering scandal; and to a strategy to secure the succession for his favourite.

This is from a website called Removing the Shackles:

(Reuters) – Pope Benedict’s decision to live in the Vatican after he resigns will provide him with security and privacy. It will also offer legal protection from any attempt to prosecute him in connection with sexual abuse cases around the world, Church sources and legal experts say.

 

 

Let’s start with a few simple facts.  First, Benedict is 85 years old.  He is the oldest man (at age 78) to become Pope since Clement XII in 1730.  Second, he is the CEO of the largest organization in the world.  Third, it’s painfully obvious that his health is deteriorating.  If I were him, I would have retired a long time ago.  

Being the Pope is a demanding job.  The politics within the Vatican must be incredible.  There are a lot of Catholic clergy, from deacons all the way up to Cardinals who think they would be a better Pope than Benedict.  With over 1 billion Catholics around the world, there is no shortage of criticism of every little thing he does.

Much of the criticism from outside the Church is directed at Benedict, no matter where the perceived shortcomings are located.   He may be ultimately responsible, but there’s just too much going on in the Church to lay everything in his lap.  That’s what Bishops are for.

The fact is that most people, even some Catholics, don’t understand the role of the Holy Father or how he is chosen.  When the Cardinals meet to select a new pope, they are sequestered (no, not that kind of sequester), isolated from the outside world.  They meet, and pray, and eventually the Holy Spirit leads them to make the correct choice.  Obviously, the Spirit has moved in Benedict XVI, convincing him that it’s time to go.  His work as Pope is done.  These ARE NOT manmade decisions.  If you believe otherwise, you don’t understand how the Church works.

As quoted above, some geniuses are suggesting that since there is a lawsuit pending in the United States against the Pope and the Church, he’s going into hiding in Vatican City which has no extradition treaty with the US.  Regardless of the merits of the legal proceeding, does anyone really think the US government is stupid enough to demand that the 85 year old Pope come to America to possibly be arrested?  Even this administration isn’t that ignorant.  By the way, the comments I quoted were two of the few that I could post on a family blog.

Does the abuse scandal weigh on the Pontiff?  Of course it does.  It weighs on every member of the Catholic clergy including yours truly.  As the man at the top (2nd only to Jesus himself) Benedict must feel more remorse than you and I can imagine.  That kind of pressure tends to wear a man out.  He has apologized publicly for the scandal.   He has met with victims and their families.  And the Catholic Church in 2013 may be the safest place on earth for children following the changes that have been put in place on Benedict’s watch.

I think it’s absurd to suggest that the Pope isn’t simply retiring because he’s tired.  It is possible that he has a serious illness that the Vatican isn’t telling us about.  Some things are best kept secret.  Benedict knows that the process of selecting a new Pope will be speeded up because there won’t be the usual waiting period that must be observed after a Pope’s death.  Maybe he doesn’t want the Church he loves to be without a leader any longer than necessary.

Personally I think that our Holy Father is setting a precedent and that it won’t be another 600 years before we see a Pope retire again.  After more than 1/2 a century as a priest, Bishop, Cardinal, and Pope, it’s time to give the man his gold watch and let him rest.

This just in:  Today, in his final public appearance Pope Benedict XVI gave a hint of the reason for his retirement.  As I mentioned above, Vatican politics can be brutal and it’s up to the Pope to keep things in line.  Apparently Benedict feels that a younger man would be better able to keep a lid on things.  Check out either of the links below for highlights of the address.

 

 

 

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–The Church Hates Gays

I know you’ve heard this one many times.  As usual, this is not an in-depth study into the theology of the whole thing but to put it as simply as I can, the Church doesn’t hate anybody.  Here’s the thing.  You’ve probably heard the expression “Hate the sin but love the sinner.”  It definitely applies here. To understand where the Church stands on homosexuality, you have to look at the Church’s position on sexuality in general.  Sexual activity is reserved for men and women who have entered into a sacramental marriage.  For anyone, gay or straight, to engage in sex outside of marriage is a sin.

The Church does not discriminate between sinners based on with whom the sin is committed.  Two men, two women, a man and a sheep, or an unmarried man and unmarried woman (that is, not married to each other)  having sexual intercourse is a mortal sin.  The Church doesn’t hate any of them, she just hates the sin.

“OK, deacon, if that’s the case, why won’t the Church allow gay people to be married.”

The answer is simply that the sacrament of marriage was instituted by God for the creation of families.  In the prenuptial agreement signed by both parties, and in the sacrament itself, the man and the woman promise to be open to God’s gift of children.  That’s what marriage is for!  It’s the same reason she opposes artificial birth control.  We, as human beings, are not allowed to interfere with God’s plan.  “Be fruitful and multiply!”

“But deacon, what if two men or two women love each other?  Isn’t God all about love?”

Yes, Virginia, God is all about love.  In fact, God is love.  But the fact that we love someone doesn’t mean it’s ok to do whatever we want, whenever we want.  There are lots of kinds of love.  I love my wife, I love my kids, I love my grandkids, I love the Saint Louis Cardinals.  Obviously only one person in that list can share my bed.  There are other proper expressions of love that don’t involve sex.  Homosexuals are called to express their love in other ways.  They’re called to celibacy just as priests and religious are called to celibacy.

They’re part of God’s plan just as surely as heterosexual people are.  And God and His Church loves each of us.

Note:  I made a serious typo in this post.  I wrote “Sexual activity is reserved for men and men who have entered into a sacramental marriage.”  Obiously I should have written: “Sexual activity is reserved for men and women who have entered into a sacramental marriage.  Sorry for the typo and thanks to my most loyal reader, my lovely and talented sacramental wife for pointing out the error.

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–Idol Worship

Saint Louis IX statue at Saint John Nepomuk Chapel in Saint Louis, MO

Saint Louis IX statue at Saint John Nepomuk Chapel in Saint Louis, MO

When I started this series I thought it would be much simpler than it’s turned out to be.  Each of these myths about our Church are more wide-spread and more serious than I expected them to be.  Finally, today’s topic is a bit of a relief.  It can be dispelled very simply even though some people will probably not be convinced.

To give you an idea of how much some people dispise our Church, here are a couple of tweets from the Holy Father’s twitter page.

@Pontifex maybe you should give up kidf***ing and idol worship for lent.

@Pontifex yes, they are worshipping idols and a petty perverted anti-Christ in a false church that hates the Lord.

Note:  @pontifex is Pope Benedict XVI.

OK, we get it.  You don’t like the Church.  But this is one myth that is easily shot down.  Yes, we do have a lot of statues in our churches, statues of Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and other saints.  My particular church, Saint John Nepomuk Chapel in Saint Louis, MO, has more than forty of them.  We don’t worship the statues nor the people they represent (with the exception of Jesus).  We’ll deal with whether we worship saints or not in another post, but for now let’s just talk about the statues.

When this myth is thrown up the simplest way to deal with it is to ask the other person if they have any pictures in their wallet or on the walls at home.  Ask them to see what’s in their wallet.  They will surely have a picture of a loved one.  Next, ask them if they love the picture.  No, they don’t love the piece of paper and the ink that stains it.  They love what the picture represents.  Same thing with Catholics.  I don’t love that hunk of plaster and paint that sits above our altar.  But I do love Jesus who is represented by the statue.

Statues are a visual reminder.  That’s all.  We don’t worship them at all any more than I worship the picture of my wife that I carry with me.  (Actually, like many people today, I carry pictures of all my family on my phone.  I can promise you, I don’t worship or even love my phone.)  Until He comes again, we can’t actually see the face of Jesus (except in the faces of others).  A statue, or a medal, or any other holy article is just a reminder; no more-no less.

What's in your wallet?

What’s in your wallet?

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–Salvation

“Catholics think they’re the only ones going to heaven.”

There’s an old joke that a protestant arrives in heaven and Saint Peter is giving him a tour.  They pass through many beautiful places both inside and out.  Finally, they’re walking along a long corridor with a door at the end.  The new arrival asks Peter, “What’s behind that door.”  Peter answers, “Oh, that’s where we keep the Catholics.  Thek think they’re the only ones here”

Funny?  Maybe.  True.  Not at all.  In fact nothing could be further from the truth.

First let me point out that there more protestant denominations than I can count that teach that Catholics are all going to hell.  Here are a couple of choice examples.  Here’s a guy named David A. Stewart whose web site is called “Jesus-is-Savior.com.”  There is nothing on the site to indicate what church he is speaking for, where he’s located or anything else about him.  But here’s one of my favorite quotes from his site, “Billions of lost sinners are dying in their sins and plunging into Hell because of the lying Popes and priests who deceive them.”  

This guy seems to have a particular problem with our veneration of the Blessed Mother, but that’s a subject for another day.

Here’s another interesting site called A True Church.  A guy named Darwin Fish (really!) is the author and he’s much more ecumenical.  Apparently he thinks he’s the only one with the answers.  I quote, “All of the world religions (e.g. Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Atheism, MormonismJW’sCatholicism,Protestantism, Seventh Day Adventism, etc.) lead to nowhere but hell.”  The site even condemns Billy Graham.  I thought everyone loved BG, even John Paul II.  On another page he condemns James Dodson.  Who doesn’t like James Dodson?

The words in the quotation appearing as links conncect to pages condemning specific churches.(Fish also has a blog but the last entry was in 2011.  Been busy, I guess.) Anyway, from the “Catholicism” page, “Masses of people are in the grip of the Roman Catholic Church. This is a death grip. If it is not broken by coming “to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4), it will lead them to unending torture in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone where unbelieving idolaters go (Revelation 21:8).”

Unbelieving idolators, that’s you.  I could go on with more examples but I think you get the point.  I’ll give you more examples at the end of the post.

But what about the Catholics?  Do they really think they’re the only ones going to heaven.  For an authoritative answer, let’s look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

“The Church of Christ is really present in all legitimately organized local groups of the faithful, which, in so far as they are united to their pastors, are also quite appropriately called Churches in the New Testament…. In them the faithful are gathered together through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord’s Supper is celebrated…. In these communities, though they may often be small and poor, or existing in the diaspora, Christ is present, through whose power and influence the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is constituted.” CCC 832

Without getting too theological, no, we don’t think we’re going to be the only ones in heaven.  Heaven is available to all Christians, to Jews and Muslims, and even people who have never heard of God or Jesus.  God doesn’t want to punish anyone who doesn’t know Him.  The CCC goes on to explain why non-Christians can and do go to heaven.  (CCC839-845)

The whole thing is a little tricky and hard to explain but I’ll give it a shot.  As the Church teaches, all salvation is through the Catholic Church.  The Roman Church was founded by Jesus himself and has all seven sacraments.  The modern Church likes to say the fullness of the faith is found in Catholicism.  Other churches have truth too.  They also have sacraments, but not all seven.   I guess the simplest way to say it is that if you’re a good Methodist, or a good Presbyterian, or a good Baptist you have just as much chance of getting into heaven as a good Catholic.  It’s between you and Jesus.  But Jesus founded the Catholic Church.  She has the power to interpret Scripture.  One day all the churches will be reunited in “one holy, catholic, apostolic church.”  Meanwhile, Saint Peter, you can open that door.

Links:  (A google search for “anti catholicism” returns nearly 3 million hits.  Obviously this is not a representative sample.)

Jack Chick; for many years Chick has been publishing anti-Catholic comic books.  He calls the Eucharist the “Jesus Cookie”

Wikipedia:  Anti-Catholicism in literature and media.  (Remember, it’s Wikipedia.  Take it with a grain of salt but there are some good links.

New York Times:  Is Anti-Catholicism Dead?

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–The All Male Priesthood

You’ve heard it from the feminists:  “The Church hates women!  Things would be better if there were female priests!’

I’m not going to go into the theological reasons for the all male priesthood.  What I want to discuss is why this doctrine of the Church can’t change and that includes reserving ordination to men only.

In an earlier post we dealt with the issue of papal infallibility.  The all male priesthood is a doctrine of the Church.  The most recent Pope to address this issue was Blessed John Paul II.  In his 1994 Apostolic letter, Ordinatio Sacerdotalis,  (To the bishops of the Catholic Church on Reserving Priestly Ordination to Men Alone) he wrote:

Priestly ordination, which hands on the office entrusted by Christ to his Apostles of teaching, sanctifying and governing the faithful, has in the Catholic Church from the beginning always been reserved to men alone. This tradition has also been faithfully maintained by the Oriental Churches.

When the question of the ordination of women arose in the Anglican Communion, Pope Paul VI, out of fidelity to his office of safeguarding the Apostolic Tradition, and also with a view to removing a new obstacle placed in the way of Christian unity, reminded Anglicans of the position of the Catholic Church: “She holds that it is not admissible to ordain women to the priesthood, for very fundamental reasons. These reasons include: the example recorded in the Sacred Scriptures of Christ choosing his Apostles only from among men; the constant practice of the Church, which has imitated Christ in choosing only men; and her living teaching authority which has consistently held that the exclusion of women from the priesthood is in accordance with God’s plan for his Church.”

Sorry, ladies, but this is the doctrine of the Church.  Anyone who argues for the ordination of women priests plainly doesn’t understand Church teaching.  Regardless of any argument to the contrary, this is an infallible teaching and it isn’t going to change.  Arguments on this subject are a waste of time.  It ain’t gonna happen.

JPII sites Paul VI’s 1976 Declaration Inter Insigniores, which specifically ruled out female ordinations.  For a thorough explanation of the reasons for this doctrine, I suggest you read the two documents.

There is one simple fact that those who want women to be ordained refuse to understand.  Church doctrine doesn’t change.  When even one Pope makes an infallible statement that’s the end of the discussion.  In this case, several Popes have agreed.  If any Pope were to be inclined to reverse a matter of doctrine as defined by his predecessor(s) the Holy Spirit would intervene.  Because, if this were to happen even once, the entire body of Church teaching would be open to debate and that would be the end of the Church, something that Jesus Himself promised would never happen.

Not to trivialize this issue but every organization must have a structure to survive and thrive.  People patronize McDonald’s because every Big Mac served in every restaurant in the entire world is exactly the same.  If one franchisee should decide to change the special sauce, and McDonald’s allowed it to happen, the whole company would be threatened.  Serve me a Big Mac with barbecue sauce and my faith in Micky D’s will be shaken forever.  They’ve become one of the most successful fast food chains in the world because of their consistency.  Should the Church that Jesus established over 2,000 years do any less?

Bottom line, truth doesn’t change.  Get used to it!

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–Catholic Politicians

john kennedy with john montiniI don’t know about you but I’m old enough to remember when John Kennedy ran for the presidency. His opponents warned us that if Kennedy were elected he would take his marching orders from the Vatican. Of course he was elected and no such thing happened. In fact, some said that JFK went out of his way to prove that he wasn’t influenced by Rome.

Of course, it’s been more than 1/2 century since his election and there hasn’t been another Catholic president since. The old anti-Catholic prejudices are alive and well in twenty-first century America. Unfortunately it’s not so easy today to tell who is who. For example:

What do they have in common?  Two things.  They all call themselves Catholic and they all support abortion.  At least two of the five have run for or are planning to run for president.  I doubt that anyone believes that if any of them were to become Commander in Chief that the Vatican would be calling the shots.  On the contrary, all five of them, and many, many more nominal Catholic politicians have made it clear that they have no intention of taking instructions from Rome either in their private lives or in their political lives.

Let’s say that an actual, practicing, faithful Catholic would decide to run for president.  First we know that the mainstream media would dredge up all the old Kennedy era lies.  They would most likely help defeat the true Catholic candidate unless………Catholic voters would wake up and help put him or her in office.  Ah, there’s the rub.  The majority of Catholics don’t vote their faith.  If they did, Mitt Romney would be in the White House.

No, a truly Catholic president wouldn’t take orders from anyone, but he would run the country according to his faith.  He would be pro life.  He would be pro Christian marriage, he would be pro religious freedom.  Ironically our US bishops are urging us to pray for these three things right now.

A true Catholic presidential candidate would run on his record and not be afraid to stand up for what he believes in.  No more of this “I’m opposed to abortion myself but I don’t believe in imposing my views on anyone else” nonsense.    Either you’re for killing babies or you’re not.  Whether you’re Catholic or not, at least with such a candidate you’d know what to expect and could vote accordingly.  There would be no surprises, certainly no curriers showing up at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with envelopes from the Pope.

This whole idea of “separation of church and state” has gotten entirely out of hand.  This is just my opinion but I’m pretty sure that Romney would have won the White House if he weren’t a mormon with a Catholic running mate.  Who did win?  Someone of undetermined religious affiliation; someone who doesn’t go to church because he doesn’t want to disrupt the services.  This from a guy who’s constantly putting himself in the limelight.

Any politician who follows his faith religiously (pun intended) at least lets the voters know what he or she believes in.  Whether he/she is a Catholic, a protestant, a mormon, or a Jew, if that person follows their faith then the rest of us know what to expect.  Sadly we do know what to expect from nominal Catholics like those listed above.  Whatever the Church teaches, they will probably go the opposite way.

40 Myths About the Catholic Church–Slavery

The inspiration for this post comes from another post on twitter.  Someone called @Shaithis1404 posted this:

obviously being christian you support slavery, like Jesus did!

[Note:  Don’t click on this twitter link.  Seems that Shaithis1404’s account has been suspended.]

This idea, that Christians, especially Catholics, support slavery is a bizarre one.  Throwing Jesus into the mix is even more bizarre.  Let’s start there.

The Bible uses the Hebrew term “ebed” to refer to slavery, but it doesn’t exactly translate that way.  It can mean slave in the way we think of the word, or it can mean servant or hired worker.  In Paul’s letter to Philemon, he sends Onesimus, a slave (ebed) to his master, Philemon.  He urges Philemon to treat Onesimus as “a beloved brother in Christ.”   Even the fact that Philemon had allowed Onesimus to travel with Paul is a good indication that the people of the time considered slavery to be something different from our concept today.  Tradition tells us that Onesimus was eventually set free and both he and Philemon became saints.

If the first-century “slave” was just an employee, even one who was “owned” by his master, the feelings about slavery were certainly different than they are today.  Did Jesus support slavery?  He may not have supported it as much as He accepted it as a normal part of life in those ancient days.

So what about our twitter comment that Christians support slavery.  I don’t think I have to explain how ridiculous that statement is.  I’m a Christian and I don’t support it.  If you’re reading this, you’re probably a Christian and you probably don’t support it either.  That alone makes the writer’s “logic” flawed.  But what about the Church?  Does she support slavery?  Did she ever support it?

Let’s be honest here.  Yes, at one time the Church supported slavery.  At least she accepted it.  It was part of the culture and the Church, at least for the most part, did not condemn it.  In fact there were even some Popes who were slave owners!  In light of what we know today that may seem like a huge mistake.  But they didn’t know what we know today.  Slavery was part of society.  One ancient Catholic who did condemn slavery was Saint Patrick.  Having been a slave himself, it should be no surprise that he didn’t think it was such a great idea.  Patrick lived way back in the fifth century, so Catholic opposition to the owning of other human beings isn’t just a modern concept.

In 1435 (62 years before Columbus sailed to America) the Spanish captured and enslaved the Canary Islands.  Pope Eugene IV wrote to Bishop Ferdinand  demanding that the Canaries (Canary Islanders?) be set free immediately.

In 1537 the Spanish had turned their attention to Latin America and were making slaves of the locals.  This time it was Pope Paul III who told the Spaniards to knock it off.  Paul didn’t just condemn the slavery of the Indians, but all slavery.

Jumping ahead to more recent times, Pope Gregory XVI issued the Bull In Supremo Apostolatus, in 1839 condemning the slave trade.  Southern slaveholders tried to say that Gregory was condemning the slave trade, but not slavery itself.  Nice try.  Meanwhile, while slavery was common in the South, it was also alive and well in Ireland.  Irish citizens had been enslaved by first the Vikings, then the British for centuries.  Irish clergy urged Irish immigrants in the US to oppose slavery.  The Bishop of New York suggested that the Irish mind their own business.  It’s worth noting that during our Civil War the Vatican never recognized the Confederacy.

It’s pretty clear that the Church today condemns slavery.  I’d like to say that all Catholics agree, but these are the same Catholics who support abortion and artificial birth control.  Let’s just say that no intelligent person, Catholic, protestant, or otherwise, believes that it’s a good thing to own or be owned by another human being.  It’s also a fact that slavery still exists in some parts of the world.

To end this discussion, here’s what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say:

The seventh commandment forbids acts or enterprises that for any reason – selfish or ideological, commercial, or totalitarian – lead to the enslavement of human beings, to their being bought, sold and exchanged like merchandise, in disregard for their personal dignity. It is a sin against the dignity of persons and their fundamental rights to reduce them by violence to their productive value or to a source of profit. St. Paul directed a Christian master to treat his Christian slave “no longer as a slave but more than a slave, as a beloved brother, . . . both in the flesh and in the Lord.” CCC 2414

 

1st Sunday of Lent

 

Temptation.  It’s everywhere.  We live in a secular world that goes out of its way to discourage us from living Christian lives.  Our kids see things on television, in movies, and even in video games that tempt them to sin.  Prime time television brings things into our living rooms that just a few years ago would have been scandalous and would have never gotten past the censors.  With very few exceptions it seems like anything goes.

 

Today’s Gospel is all about temptation.   Jesus has gone off by himself in the dessert.  Luke tells us that the Holy Spirit led Him into the dessert to be tempted by the devil.  Why in the world would the Holy Spirit do that?  Didn’t Jesus have enough problems already?  But there He was and the devil was waiting for Him.

 

He told Jesus to turn a stone into bread.  But He was fasting and refused to be tempted.  “One does not live on bread alone” Jesus said.  Think about that.  During Lent there are two days when we’re not supposed to eat between meals, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Most of us, those of us 60 or older don’t even have to do that.  Some of you may give up snacking entirely during Lent.  We all know it’s not easy.  The devil tempts us just like he tempted Jesus.  The Holy Spirit will give us the strength to follow a fast if we let Him.

 

Then the devil “showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in a single instant.”  “All this will be yours if you worship me”, a ridiculous statement if I ever heard one.  Who did Satan think he was kidding?  All these things were already Jesus’.  He had no need for the devil.  But Jesus’ refusal to go along with the evil one was meant as an example for you and me.  How often has he tempted us with things that have no lasting value?  Jesus said, “You shall worship the Lord, your God, and him alone shall you serve.”  His words are meant for us.  He knew the devil was never going to worship God.  He’d already been thrown out of paradise.

 

Then the devil led Jesus to Jerusalem and made him stand on the parapet of the temple.  “Throw yourself down from here for it is written, ‘He will command His angels to guard you and:  and with their hands they will support you lest you dash your foot against a stone.’”  Another stupid statement from the prince of lies.  Jesus already commanded the angels.  In fact, our responsorial Psalm today makes that exact promise to you and me.

 

“For to his angels he has given command about you,

that they guard you in all your ways.

Upon their hands they shall bear you up,

lest you dash your foot against a stone.”

 

In the first reading today from Deuteronomy Moses reminds the people that God has saved them from their Egyptian captivity and given them a land of milk and honey.  He saved them and He saves us!  In the Gospel Jesus shows us how to save ourselves, by refusing to be tempted by the devil.

 

But Satan is no fool.  He knows what he’s doing.  He’s taking over the world by flying under the radar.  His greatest achievement is convincing so many of us that he doesn’t exist.  How many of us REALLY believe that there’s an evil spirit who wants to take us away from God?  Isn’t it just human nature?  Aren’t we tempted because we’re just imperfect creatures?  No, we’re tempted because there’s a spirit that wants to tempt us.

 

I remember growing up that sometimes in Saturday morning cartoons, a character would be tempted to do something wrong.  Remember Sylvester the cat?  He would be tempted to eat Tweety Bird.  The devil sitting on one shoulder would try to convince him to go ahead and make Tweety his lunch.  The angel on his other shoulder would be begging him to be good and leave Tweety alone.  It was cute and it was funny and the angel would always win because otherwise, there wouldn’t be any more Sylvester and Tweety Bird cartoons.  It was a morality play aimed at five-year-olds.

 

If you really think about it, we’re all Sylvester the cat.  We’re all tempted.  And we all have angels, we may call them our conscience, telling us to do the right thing.  But we’re human and we’re all subject to the temptation to sin.  We have a natural tendency to sin which is called concupiscence. It’s a ten-dollar word that means we’re going to sin unless we call on the grace of Christ to strengthen us.  We need those angels to bear us up lest we dash our foot against the stone.

 

It’s no coincidence that the Church gives us this reading from Luke’s Gospel as we begin the season of Lent.  It’s a time of penance, but it’s also a time of spiritual renewal.  Jesus spent 40 days in the dessert.  He was tempted by the devil but He stood strong.  The last line tells us that “When the devil had finished every temptation, he departed from Him FOR A WHILE.”  Even Jesus, the Son of God, was never free from attacks by the evil one.

 

How many people have fallen for the devil’s promises?  He promises them power and glory and they go all in.

 

Just this week we’ve had a wonderful example of someone who is giving up power and glory for the good of his fellow man and for the good of our Church.  Pope Benedict XVI is one of the most powerful men on earth, maybe THE most powerful.  But as he’s gotten older and his body has begun to fail him, he’s going to give it all up to live a life of seclusion because he doesn’t think he has the strength to do the demanding job of leading a billion Catholics.  He didn’t have to retire.  It’s been hundreds of years since a Pope has given up his position.  He could have hung on to the job enjoying all the glory that comes from being the successor to Saint Peter but leaving the actual running of the Church to others.  But that wouldn’t be right.  I can’t even imagine how difficult a decision it must have been.  But here, at the beginning of Lent, he made his choice setting an example for all of us.

 

Imagine giving up a job where hundreds of thousands of the faithful show up to hear you speak; to cheer every word you say, to live a life of total seclusion.

 

Soon a younger man will take Benedict’s place and he’ll live out his life in peace and quiet, spending his days in prayer for you and me.

 

You and I will never have to make such a difficult decision, but we WILL be tempted and we will have to draw on the strength of the Holy Spirit.  Don’t be fooled by Satan who has done a great job of convincing us that he’s not around anymore.  He’s here just a surely and you and I are here.  God promises us an eternity of good things, but the really good things have to wait until we leave this life.  Satan promises us good things too, things that we can enjoy right away.  That’s the trouble with sin.  It’s always disguised as something good.  And it offers immediate gratification.  You and I have to be strong enough to forgo those things that will make us feel good today for a life of never ending bliss that is to come.

So, for the next 40 days we’ll exercise our will power.  We’ll do our penance to remind ourselves that sometimes we have to give up something now for something that is to come.  That’s when we rely on the Holy Spirit and those angels who will bear us up.  Man DOESN’T live by bread alone.  “It is written’ You shall worship the Lord, your God, and Him alone shall you serve.’”

40 Catholic Myths–The Church and Science

I began this series as a positive reflection about the mistaken ideas that some people have about the Church.  Sadly, some of the people who spread these myths are actually very virulent in their attacks.  Sadly one of the places where these people like to show themselves is on the Holy Father’s twitter page.  Pope Benedict has taken a bold step in putting himself on the Internet where he’s open to the attacks of those who have a deep hatred for him and his church.
In the wake of his announcement that he’s going to retire, the haters seem to have turned up the rhetoric even more.  For example, here’s what someone called “No to fairies” posted the other day.

@jaygrimaldo you support a man in a dress as opposed to knowledgable scientists? #interesting

Today we’ll look at the Church’s position on science.

Yes, the Church did centure Galileo in the 17th century, but not for his scientific work.  Galileo proposed a theory that the earth revolved around the sun, though he wasn’t the first to do so.  Where he got into trouble with the Church was in presenting his theory as fact and in ridiculing Pope Paul V.  The Pope was highly offended and Galileo was placed “under arrest”.  He was imprisoned in his own home where he had ” a servant and every possible convenience.”  (The Galileo Controversy)  By the way, Galileo’s work was flawed.  The Church was right in insisting that it be called a theory.

Another so-called conflict between the Church and science is on the topic of creation.  I’m not sure how the haters got this one so wrong.  The Church does not insist that we believe the Genesis account of creation literally.  In fact, many of our protestant brothers and sisters do insist that the Bible be taken word-for-word on this subject, the Catholic Church doesn’t.  The theory of evolution is just one possible explanation.  Like Galileo’s theory, it’s a possibility, not proven fact.

Other possibilities are that since God exists outside of time, the seven days of the creation story could have actually been millions of earth years.  Or, God being God, He could have created the universe and made it to appear to have taken millions of years.  After all, we humans can’t begin to think the way God thinks or to understand how he works.

Evolutionists tell us that man evolved from lower life forms.  In other words, the apes, who seem so much like us, are our ancient ancestors.  What I wonder is couldn’t God have created man and then thought it would be cute to have a lower man-like creature?  He could have made it appear that the apes came first, but after all, He is God.  He can do whatever He wants.

One final note, the Catholic Church invented the university system.  Through the centuries the Church has spent untold millions of dollars supporting scientific research both at universities and at Catholic hospitals. God gave us the intelligence and the will to achieve great things.   Even Catholic hospitals that aren’t un the business of research still use the latest techniques and technologies to heal thousands of people every day.  To say that the Church is opposed to science is nonsense.

Addendum:  My son the scientist posted this yesterday on facebook:

“The details differ, but the essential elements in the astronomical and biblical accounts of Genesis are the same…This is an exceedingly strange development, unexpected by all but the theologians. They have always believed the word of the Bible. But we scientists did not expect to find evidence for an abrupt beginning because we have had, until recently, such extraordinary success in tracing the chain of cause and effect backward in time…At this moment it seems as though science will never be able to raise the curtain on the mystery of creation. For the scientist who has lived by his faith in the power of reason, the story ends like a bad dream. He has scaled the mountains of ignorance; he is about to conquer the highest peak; as he pulls himself over the final rock, he is greeted by a band of theologians who have been sitting there for centuries.” – Robert Zastrow, one-time director of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies.