Wednesday, December 8, 2010


Happy Feast Day

This from the "THE FIRST THINGS" blog (

Delivered From All Stain
“Yeah, right” is the way the more irenic of my Evangelical friends react to the Immaculate Conception, the feast day of which (a holy day of obligation) we celebrate on Wednesday. A few will go so far as to say something like “Whatever floats your boat,” while others react with something like horror or disgust. Very few, in my experience, have a very good idea of the dogma to which they're reacting.

“It says that Mary doesn't need to be saved,” Evangelical friends with doctorates in theology from elite universities have told me, which is, you know, and I do hate to say this, kind of dumb. I can easily understand their believing the dogma made up out of thin air, but even then they should realize that what is made up is a statement about the way Jesus saved his own mother.

So it may be useful here to explain the teaching in first week of “Mary 101” form. At least everyone will know where they stand. I thought of this when reading some of the bitter and cutting responses to David Hart's lovely reflection on holiness, “The Abbot and Aunt Susie,” and feeling like saying, in the tones of a mother whose children are trapped inside on a rainy day, “Why can't you just play nice?”

The word “Immaculate” doesn’t simply mean “perfectly clean, as we tend to think from its use in real estate ads, but “unstained.” The doctrine emphasizes Mary’s freedom from moral corruption—not, and this is the crucial point, what she is in herself but what she is by the grace of God. Issued by Pope Pius IX in the Apostolic Constitution Ineffabilis Deuson December 8, 1854, the definition declares that

the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful.

She is, he wrote, “far above all the angels and all the saints so wondrously did God endow her with the abundance of all heavenly gifts poured from the treasury of his divinity.” Because God did this for her—because God did it—Mary, “ever absolutely free of all stain of sin, all fair and perfect, would possess that fullness of holy innocence and sanctity.”

Even very sympathetic Protestants think of it as a kind of devotional optional extra. But Pius thought it a very important doctrine to get right. Anyone who rejects it (he seems to be thinking only of Catholics here) is “condemned by his own judgment.” The dissenter should know “that he has suffered shipwreck in the faith; that he has separated from the unity of the Church.”

The pope explained it in terms of the fittingness that the Son of God should have such a mother, the Church’s liturgical practice in celebrating the Feast of the Conception of Mary, and the teaching and practice of previous popes, which he reviews at some length. He notes the agreement of religious orders, eminent theologians, and bishops, the “intimation” of the Council of Trent, and the testimony of “of venerable antiquity, of both the Eastern and the Western Church.” He then summarizes the biblical arguments offered by “the Fathers and writers of the Church” and their “explicit affirmation” of the doctrine.

Pius's argument, such as it is, does not satisfy Protestants, who ask, and quite rightly given their beliefs, “Just where is this in Scripture?” It looks to them as if the Catholic Church is rationalizing a doctrine that had grown too big to fail. They can understand how the Catholic might get from Jesus' statements at the Last Supper to a belief in Transubstantiation, but not how he can get from apparently no evidence whatsoever to the Immaculate Conception. That doesn't look like a stretch but an invention.

Yet, in Ineffabilis Deus itself, Pius said that the Church “never changes anything, never diminishes anything, never adds anything.” The Church, he would insist, is a witness, not an inventor, a reporter, not a novelist. And he is not wrong in saying so, though the reason gets at a deeper difference between the traditions than their beliefs about the Virgin Mary.

Dogmas like the Immaculate Conception are “truth[s] revealed by God and contained in that divine deposit which Christ has delivered to his Spouse,” as Pope Pius XII said in 1950 in Munificentissimus Deus, which declared Mary's Assumption into Heaven a dogma. In the words of the First Vatican Council’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Catholic Faith, the “divine deposit” includes “all those things are to be believed by divine and Catholic faith which are contained in the Word of God as founding Scripture or Tradition, and which are proposed by the Church as matters to be believed as divinely revealed, whether by her solemn judgment or in her ordinary and universal magisterium.”

The Church not only guards this deposit but knows what it contains. The better question to ask, the Catholic would say, is not “Is this in Scripture?” but “Is this in the Divine deposit of truth given to the Church?” As the Second Vatican Council's Dei Verbum put it: “sacred Tradition, sacred Scripture, and the teaching authority of the Church, in accord with God’s most wise design, are so linked and joined together that one cannot stand without the others.” They work “all together and each in its own way under the action of the one Holy Spirit.”

All the dogma does, Pius might have said, is put into a shorter and more precise form the understanding of Mary that had been percolating in and shaping the Church’s thinking since the beginning of her life. We can look for a parallel at the development of the way the Church understands Jesus.

The heretics of the early third century (those we see in retrospect as heretics) could make plausible arguments, using Scripture, but the bishops gathered at the first Council of Nicaea saw what was the real teaching of Scripture, even though they had to invent a term not found in the Bible, homoousios, to define it exactly. They had not only the words of Scripture but their real meaning. There is no more to object to in the developed understanding of the Immaculate Conception being declared by Pope Pius IX in 1854 than there is to object to in the developed understanding of the nature of Christ being declared in 325 by the Council of Nicaea.

This helps to explain why the Catholic can be, to the Protestant, so bewilderingly unconcerned with pointing to chapter and verse to defend the dogma. The Catholic answer to the objection that the doctrine is not found in Scripture is that some things the Church teaches can only be found in the Bible by looking backward from what the Church knows in other ways.

The belief in Mary’s sinlessness can be seen to be assumed in Gabriel’s “Hail Mary, full of grace.” If she was full of grace, she could not be sinful. There would not be any room for sin, grace having, so to speak, filled up the space. It can also be seen to be required by the story of “the woman” whose son would crush the serpent’s head in Genesis 3:15. If she, taken to mean Mary, suffered even for a moment from the inherited stain of sin, she would not have had that “perpetual enmity” with the serpent of which the passage speaks.

That is a hit-and-run summary, but I hope it explains what the dogma says and how Catholics believe what is to their Evangelical brethren hopelessly unbiblical and therefore un-believable. We believe in man's need for grace as firmly as you. We do not exempt even the Mother of God from that need.

One final word. A possible ecumenical appeal of the dogma is that it teaches us something about human freedom. Mary had a choice whether or not to be the mother of the Savior. But Immaculately Conceived and free from sin, she freely chose to do God’s will. That the choice was inevitable, given her character, does not mean it was not free. Her “Be it done to me according to your word” was a perfectly free act, and yet a perfectly predictable one. Mary was doing what she wanted to do.

Mary the Immaculate One shows us what we ought to be and what we shall be: creatures who in perfect freedom choose God, and find the choice not binding but liberating. As Benedict XVI has said, God wants to be worshipped by creatures who are free. In Mary, the Catholic Church declares, he has shown us such a creature, as an example and a promise of what we may be like, when we, like her, have been delivered from all stain of sin.

David Mills is Deputy Editor of First Things. His previous “On the Square” articles can be found here. Much of the information in this article is taken from his book Discovering Mary.


Pope Pius IX's Ineffabilis Deus.

The Catholic Encylopedia's entry on the doctrine (from the first, 1910, edition).

David Mills' Sharing the Real Mary.

His How To Introduce Friends to Their Mother.

The Evangelical and Catholics Together statement Do Whatever He Tells You.

A collection of ECT papers, Sola Gratia and Mary's Immaculate Conception, by Fr. Edward Oakes, S.J., J. I. Packer, Matthew Levering, T. M. Moore, and Cornelius Plantinga, Jr.

R. R. Reno's Mary and the Modern University.

Friday, December 3, 2010


This is the big weekend.  The Apple Cup.  If the University of Washington can beat Washington State, they are most likely bowl bound.  The game is in Pullman and the weather is iffy.  It is cold here with more snow on the way and I think it will be the same in Pullman.  The Huskies should still win this game, but then it is the Apple Cup and their record in the last few years has been anything but stellar.  Go Huskies!

Monday, November 29, 2010


I am nearly finished reading The First Crusade by Thomas Asbridge.  It is not the most objective work on the crusades but it is a quick read.  The major objection to the book is that there is a sad lack of footnotes.  Not that there are not footnotes, but that when Mr. Asbridge states things which may be controversial at times, one expects to find out from whence he sources his statements to make a reasonable analysis of his various interpretations.  As I am not by any means an expert in the history of the crusades, the book is still a good starting point to perhaps learning more about the subject.

Next on the reading agenda,  Fall of Giants by Ken Follett.  It is the first in a new trilogy.  A nice thick book and novel, excellent for reading during this wonderful snowing season (yes it is the snowy season, 10 inches on the ground and very cold out with more snow coming tonight, it is beautiful).

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


As my wife and I prepare for our last camping adventure for the year I received an email from her today requesting I make a stop at the liquor store so as not to forget to pick up some rum.  What a wonderful woman.


From Zenit:

5 Bishops of Church of England Resign
State Intent to Join Catholic Ordinariate
By Karna Swanson
LONDON, NOV. 8, 2010 ( Five bishops of the Church of England announced their resignation today from ministry in that church, and their intent to join a personal ordinariate for Anglicans wishing to enter into full communion with the Catholic Church.
The apostolic constitution "Anglicanorum Coetibus," published a year ago, offered a way for groups of Anglicans to enter the Catholic Church through the establishment of personal ordinariates, a new type of canonical structure.
The constitution outlines that these communities will be able to retain some elements of their liturgical and spiritual traditions while being unified under the Pope.
The U.K. bishops who announced their resignations include Bishop Andrew Burnham of Ebbsfleet, Bishop Keith Newton of Richborough and Bishop John Broadhurst of Fulham. These three bishops are known as "flying bishops," as they minister to the more traditional faithful who don't accept the Anglican move toward ordination of women to the priesthood.
Two retired bishops also resigned: Retired Bishop Edwin Barnes of Richborough, and retired Assistant Bishop David Silk of Exeter.
In their statement, signed by all five, the bishops explained that they have for years followed the process of dialogue between Anglicans and the Catholic Church "with prayer and longing."
"We have been dismayed, over the last 30 years, to see Anglicans and Catholics move further apart on some of the issues of the day, and particularly we have been distressed by developments in Faith and Order in Anglicanism which we believe to be incompatible with the historic vocation of Anglicanism and the tradition of the Church for nearly two thousand years," they explained.
The bishops said "Anglicanorum Coetibus" was to them an answer for those seeking unity with Rome: "With the ordinariates, canonical structures are being established through which we will bring our own experience of Christian discipleship into full communion with the Catholic Church throughout the world and throughout the ages.
"This is both a generous response to various approaches to the Holy See for help and a bold, new ecumenical instrument in the search for the unity of Christians, the unity for which Christ himself prayed before his Passion and Death.
"It is a unity, we believe, which is possible only in Eucharistic communion with the successor of St. Peter."
The five said that now is the time to "formally declare our position and invite others who share it to join us on our journey." With that they resigned from their pastoral duties in the Church of England, effective at the end of the year.
"We remain very grateful for all that the Church of England has meant for us and given to us all these years and we hope to maintain close and warm relationships, praying and working together for the coming of God’s Kingdom," they added.
Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury said in a statement today that he accepted with "regret" the resignations of the bishops, "who have decided that their future in Christian ministry lies in the new structures proposed by the Vatican."
"We wish them well in this next stage of their service to the Church," he added, "and I am grateful to them for their faithful and devoted pastoral labors in the Church of England over many years."
Forward in Faith, the international association of Anglicans who reject the ordination of women as priests or as bishops, assured the five resigning prelates of "the love, prayers and support of all its members and of our grateful thanks to them all for their ministries to us."
"We likewise assure the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Bishop of London of our prayers, as they seek to discern how the sees of Ebbsfleet, Richborough and Fulham are to be filled," the association added.
Bishop Alan Hopes, an auxiliary bishop of Westminster, welcomed the decision in a statement issued on behalf of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales. He said the conference "will be exploring the establishment of the ordinariate, and the warm welcome we will be extending to those who seek to be part of it."
"Further information will be made known after the meeting," he added.
To date, no ordinariate has been created anywhere in the world, although Anglicans in the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia and Canada have stated their intentions to join the Catholic Church.
However, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, the director of the Vatican press office, confirmed today that "the make-up of a first ordinariate is being studied, according to the norms established by the Apostolic Constitution 'Anglicanorum Coetibus,' and any further decisions regarding this will be communicated at the proper moment."
Women priests
Last month, Anglican Bishop John Broadhurst of Fulham announced his intention to resign at a meeting of Forward in Faith International, of which he is chairman. In his announcement, the prelate listed multiple reasons for the departure from the Church of England, most importantly the disagreement over the ordination of women.
Bishop Broadhurst will continue with Forward in Faith International, which is not affiliated with the Church of England.
ZENIT spoke with Bishop Broadhurst via telephone at his residence in the United Kingdom. He indicated that his decision was reached after prayerful discernment and consideration, and that he has been thinking about entering into the Catholic Church for over 45 years.
When asked if he would remain in active ministry upon entering the Catholic Church, Bishop Broadhurst responded: "Whatever the Holy Father likes and permits, I will do. I do not intend to ride off into the sunset. As a priest, I have a responsibility to minister and if permitted, I will continue to do so."
According to Bishop Broadhurst, there is a gathering momentum in the Anglican Communion among those dissatisfied with the Church of England's acceptance of women's ordinations. He added that the invitation of the Holy Father to Church of England members is one of great generosity.
Asked if others of his congregation would follow, Bishop Broadhurst responded: "There will be more [entering] the Catholic Church; however each needs to make their own decision. This decision is mine alone, for myself. Others, though, are considering the direction that they want to go -- either to remain or [join] the Catholic faith."
Bishop Broadhurst posted a pastoral letter on his Web site in which he explained his decision, admitting it will come as a "shock" for some, while for others it will be expected.

He stated his intention to join the Catholic Church through a personal ordinariate, and said that he has been committed to the process of seeking unity with Rome for some four decades.
"Recent decisions in our own church have made a positive outcome to these talks less and less likely," he said. "The Holy Father has made what seems to me a positive and generous offer to Orthodox Anglicans, and I do not feel any choice but to accept. 
"The consequence of this will be that our Catholic and Anglican heritage exists in two different places. It is important that we all remain friends and do not do anything to undermine or criticize each other."
He noted that his final act as a bishop of the Church of England will be the celebration of Mass at Gordon Square on Nov. 20, the eve of Christ the King. "I hope to see many of you there," he said.

Thank you Pope Benedict XVI.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


I am about halfway into the new biography "Bonhoeffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" by Eric Metaxas.  What a wonderful book.  If you have not read this book, please do so.  What an amazing life.  Bonhoeffer knew what it meant to be a Christian and what it still means today.  He is an example of what it really means to be a Christian and what is required if one is to claim to be a Christian.
Next up: "The First Crusade" by Thomas Asbridge.   

Friday, October 29, 2010


It is time to take our last camping trip into the Columbia Gorge before the weather gets any colder and the snow begins to fall.  If one has not experienced the raw scenic beauty of the Gorge this time of year, it is a shame.  The few trees in the area glow as if on fire as their leaves change color and prepare to drop to the ground.  One of the best pleasures of the journey is the visit we will make to the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. John.  The nuns at St. John's have an outstanding collection of icons and have a bakery with the best baklava in the states.  I am anxious and hungry at the same time.


You have to love the silly season and Bill Clinton.

by Brian Watt

Is Bill Clinton now the Dr. Kervorkian of the Obama administration? Do Democrat candidates shudder when he, in the parlance of J.K. Rowling, apparates before them? Just three days from Halloween the news has broken that the former president made early rounds (two or more weeks ago) as the angel of political death by attempting to encourage Kendrick Meek, the rightful winner of the Democrat primary to give up his ghost of chance of beating Republican Marco Rubio for the Florida U.S. Senate seat and quite willingly throw his support to the renegade Republican, now a candidate floating in the nether region of indeterminate political or philosophic principle, one Charlie Crist.

Since the aforementioned, amorphous Crist has admitted that in addition to discussions with Clinton and his fellow ghouls, there were discussions with certain personages who haunt the hallowed halls of the White House even perhaps with He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named (Crist certainly did not name He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named despite repeated attempts by Greta Van Susteren to trick him into doing so Thursday evening).

It is doubtful that Mr. Clinton acted alone since he has also been an emissary for Bara - - uh, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named before in attempting to sweet talk Joe Sestak to disapparate and make way for the Specter of Pennsylvania (also a renegade Republican). One can speculate on how this transpired, so let’s, shall we?

On a dark and stormy night, He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named asks one of his minions to place a phone call to Mr. Clinton and asks him to convey his message to Mr. Meek. This gives He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named the ability to work from the shadows and well…not be named. Mr. Clinton perhaps begrudgingly obliges because the alternative is to let a charismatic, articulate, young, handsome Hispanic Republican who appears to have kept Americans spellbound in much the same way that a charismatic, articulate, young, handsome John Kennedy did fifty years before – build a formidable political career and someday pose a threat as a potential vice-presidential or even presidential prospect.

Mr. Meek, belying his own name, may have flirted with the notion of stepping aside but apparently mustered up the resolve to finally tell Mr. Clinton, Mr. Crist, and perhaps even He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and their surrounding spirits to be gone.

So, what does this dark and sinister story tell us about Kendrick Meek, Charlie Crist, Bill Clinton and He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and Mr. Meek’s followers? How much time do you have? Well, if you’ve been sneaking some Halloween candy and are reading this, up late at night near the witching hour, with a sugar high, then you probably have time.

Let’s begin with the not-so meek Meek. As this story screamed across the Internet as fast as Harry, Ron and Hermione routinely fly through the Floo Network with aid of floo powder, Mr. Meek quickly responded, that despite reports to the contrary, he did not accept an agreement to end his candidacy and one must give the gentlemanly Mr. Meek his due for standing up to America’s First Two Black Presidents. How many of us would have been able to withstand the aura and blinding charisma from these two masters of the political dark arts? Mr. Meek’s dignity and honor remain intact. His political future? Not so much. Never confront powerful wizards such as these unless you have been well-trained in the Defense of the Dark Arts. Even though Mr. Meeks was a Captain in the Florida Highway Patrol and received his degree from Florida A&M it must be said he did not attend Hogwarts…or even Harvard which has a similar reputation for matriculating young gifted men and women, many of whom go on to practice political, economic, and legal witchcraft in the muggle world.

Onto Mr. Crist, the shape shifter. This is a hapless, pathetic and gaunt shell of a man who has sold his soul for the chance of infusing his waning years with renewed political power. This desperate dementor spends his time attempting to latch onto other more prominent politicians as they pass near him in a vain effort to live one more day on their political life force. He appears to embrace a policy or viewpoint one day only to embrace the opposite policy or viewpoint the next. His deception no longer works. He will fade away with the dawn of a new political era.

Bill Clinton is a bumptious bellowing howler that goes bump in the night. He’s a spirit of the political realm at one time impeached but for some unearthly reason cannot be exorcised. Even though he’s been allowed the freedom of a quiet political afterlife, he continues to haunt us. Experts of the political paranormal believe that he continues to appear from time to time because he is working on a plot to plant his erstwhile spouse into the Oval Office and he is restless because he too wants to once more haunt the White mansion.

He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named is the most dangerous of wizards. In 2008 he cast a journalista-neutreomus spell on members of the news media turning them into a throng of backboneless, sycophantic followers whose collective legs tingled at the mere sound of his voice.  One who dismisses this wizard does so at one’s peril. He is a master of disguise and deception. At times he can appear as a likable fellow; one you may want to sit with to enjoy a juicy cheeseburger, fries and a beer; at other times, a snooty, elitist liberal Democrat. But don’t be fooled. He is so much more than what he appears. He is also easily riled and can snap. The warning sign occurs when he gets eerily quiet and displays a brooding countenance. He has even commanded his followers to punish his enemies. Delving into his past can lead you down many dark paths where you will encounter terrorists, Marxists, communists and other unsavory characters. His power is currently being challenged by a motley band of muggles waving yellow banners with a coiled snake and handmade placards with slogans about freedom, socialism, taxes, debt, and their future. Their appearance on the political landscape has confounded He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named and disrupted his plans to transform this country into the opposite of what it was intended to be. But he will not be deterred, for the Florida episode clearly shows that he thinks nothing of sacrificing those that would stand in his way including members of his own party and even devoted followers of Mr. Meek who have invested their money, their time, their hopes and their dreams to see this affable young politician ascend to Capitol Hill. He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named’s plan is much more important than the aspirations of one not-so meek fellow Democrat.

There is a spell of course, that can make much of what’s been bubbling up and spewing forth in Florida go away. Repeat after me: Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio. Marco Rubio

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Thank God for Timothy Dolan.  Below is his recent commentary on the "paper of record."

More from the Times
I know, I should drop it.  “You just have to get used to it,” so many of you have counselled me.  “It’s been that way forever, and it’s so ingrained they don’t even know they’re doing it.  So, let it go.”
I’m talking about the common, casual way The New York Times offends Catholic sensitivity, something they would never think of doing — rightly so — to the Jewish, Black, Islamic, or gay communities.
Two simple yet telling examples from one edition, last Friday, October 15.
First there’s the insulting photograph of the nun on page C20, this for yet another tiresome production making fun of Catholic consecrated women.  This “gleeful” tale is described as “fresh and funny” in the caption beneath the quarter-page photo (not an advertisement).  Granted, prurient curiosity about the lives of Catholic sisters has been part of the nativist, “know-nothing” agenda since mobs burned the Ursuline convent in Boston in the 1840’s, and since the huckster Rebecca Reed’s Awful Disclosures made the rounds in the 19th century.  But still now cheap laughs at the expense of a bigoted view of the most noble women around?
Maybe I’m especially sensitive since I  just came from the excellent exhibit on the contributions of Catholic nuns now out on Ellis Island.  These are the women who tended to the homeless immigrants and refugees, who died nursing the abandoned in the cholera epidemic, who ran hospitals and universities decades before women did so in the non-Catholic sphere, who marched in Selma and today teach our poorest in our inner-city schools. These are the nuns mocked and held-up for snickering in our city’s newspaper.
Now turn to C29.  This glowingly reviewed not-to-be missed “art” exhibit comes to us from Harvard, and is a display of posters from ACT UP.  Remember them?  They invaded St. Patrick’s Cathedral to disrupt prayer, trampled on the Holy Eucharist, insulted Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger when he was here for a conference, and yelled four letter words while exposing themselves to families and children leaving Mass at the Cathedral.  The man they most detested was Cardinal John O’Connor, who, by the way, spent many evenings caring quietly for AIDS patients, and, when everyone else ran from them, opened units for them at the Terence Cardinal Cooke Health Care Center and St. Clare’s Hospital.  Too bad for him.  One of the posters in this “must see” exhibit is of Cardinal O’Connor, in the form of a condom, referred to as a “scumbag,” the “art” there in full view in the photograph above the gushing review in our city’s daily.
Thanks for your patience with me.  I guess I’m still new enough here in New York City that the insults of The New York Times against the Church still bother me.  I know I should get over it.  As we say in Missouri, it’s like “spitting into a tornado.”

Tuesday, October 26, 2010


One week to go until voting day.  I hope the polls are wrong showing it will be a good night for Republicans November 2nd.  I am hoping for a great night for Republicans.  I am hoping that the voters of my state return Patty to her former career, you know, being just a "mom in tennis shoes."  It promises to be an interesting election to watch.  I just pray that like minded individuals concerned with supporting the pro life cause get out and vote.


More fine words from the Barking Dog.


The hypocrisy on the Left is striking and obvious. But what is even more striking is its racist attitude exhibited by NPR, other Leftist organizations and politicians that black commentators must adhere to their Leftist orthodoxy, dance to their tune and for their amusement, rather than express their own individual thoughts and ideas that may stray from their, often white, masters.


Sunday, October 24, 2010


Though I would have preferred a Giants/Yankees world series, I am delighted to see the Giants in the game.  I have been a longtime Giants fan and have fond memories of listening to them play in the days of McCovey and Mays on KFBK with an old transistor radio. Go Giants.

Saturday, October 16, 2010


Washington is playing Oregon State today.  Here I sit in Kennewick and the game will not be televised.  Sometimes life is tough.  GO DAWGS!

UPDATE:  The game was on  tv, ESPN2, and what a great game.  Now if we could just beat the Ducks and the Cougars, I would know that God is in His heaven and that all is right with the world.

Thursday, October 14, 2010


Here is just a short list of folks that make me happy/proud/thankful that I am Catholic.
1.   Joel Osteen
2.   Jimmy Swaggart
3.   Pat Robertson
4.   Richard Bennett
5.   Seventh Day Adventists
6.   Just about anyone on TBN
7.   Richard Dawkins
8.   John Calvin
9.   Martin Luther
10.  Henry VIII


1.   Pope Benedict XVI
2.   Pope John Paul the Great
3.   Edith Stein
4.   Maximilian Kolbe
5.   Thomas Merton
6.   Mary
7.   Mother Teresa
8.   Thomas Aquinas
9.   Bernard of Clairvaux
10. Peter Damian

I much prefer the second list.


I am sure it has been said before. When reading the multitude of blogs that are dedicated to finding proofs to convince their readers that Catholicism is false, one notices how the Church is often labeled. It is often not just Catholic but Roman Catholic. We Catholics use the the term Roman Catholic as well which is right and proper, however I often think that those in opposition to the Church use the label Roman Catholic in a way to connect it with all sorts of preconceived anti-Catholic notions. It is important to some to emphasize the "Roman" part to imply evil Rome, the harlot church, the beast, and all the rest of misunderstood Revelation.

Monday, October 4, 2010


More on the Benedict's recent visit to Britain.

Speaking with reporters during the flight from Rome, Pope Benedict said that he recognized anti-Catholicism as a force in Britain, but was not disturbed by it. He voiced his confidence that a deeper, stronger, fundamental commitment to the Christian heritage would also come into play. When asked how he would propose to make the Catholic Church more attractive to the people of Great Britain, he gave a surprising answer:

"I would say that a Church that seeks to be particularly attractive is already on the wrong path, because the Church does not work for her own ends, she does not work to increase numbers and thus power. The Church is at the service of another: she serves, not for herself, not to be a strong body, rather she serves to make the proclamation of Jesus Christ accessible…" (from,

I do love Benedict XVI.

Christine O'Donnell

I am looking forward to the upcoming election, but what to make of Christine O'Donnell ? Yes I know she shares my belief on the life issues and shares many of my political views regarding government, but I would be lying if I did not admit that she appears to me to be anything but a heavy hitter. Her financial history is an issue that is troubling as are her past claims regarding her academic history. Do not get me wrong, I hope she wins. I just wish the folks in Delaware had come up with a better choice. Regardless it should be an interesting November 2nd. I only hope Republicans are more than just fired up, I hope they get out and vote. And if you are in Chicago, vote often.

Monday, September 20, 2010


The last four days have been wonderful. I managed to watch almost all of the coverage of the Holy Father's visit to the U.K. It is unfortunate that the media here did such a poor job covering his visit, but then that is typical. CNN is usually the biggest offender. CNN seems to only want to focus on the sex abuse scandal while ignoring the significance of the visit given the history of the relationship with the Church and England. A century ago the idea of the pope visiting England would have been unheard of and yet here we are today celebrating just such a visit. And so many of us thought John Paul the Great would be a tough act to follow. Thank God for Benedict.


Here is a link to the address by Pope Benedict XVI gave at Westminster Hall just a few days ago. Very good stuff. We are fortunate to be blessed by this pope's intellect.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


I am now reading again the journals of Thomas Merton as well as his book "The Inner Experience." Even though Merton is often the whipping boy of fundamentalist Christians and a fair amount of Catholics, one can not argue with his intellectual honesty. There is something in his writing that is accessible to all regardless of education or background, something I discovered when I first encountered his writing, reading "The Seven Story Mountain" in 1975. I had the good fortune to speak with a fellow monk that was Merton's driver before he was sent to the Trappist house in Vina, California. The driver had some great stories. One story involved a beer run for the famous monk. Anyone that has not read Merton is really missing a chance to meet one of the finest writers of the past century. Perhaps it is time to pay another visit to the Trappists in Oregon for a short retreat, something that is also worth doing if one has yet to spend any time at Trappist monastery.

Sunday, September 12, 2010


As Christians we believe in things that to others seem incredible. We believe that Christ was foretold, that he was born of a virgin, that he died and rose again, and that he will come again. And yet for some Christians, the notion that Christ would establish a church with the task to preserve those truths is unbelievable. I don't know everything, but it sounds like a good idea to me.


I am not sure what to make of Mr. Beck. On a recent Glenn Beck show he drifted into matters Mormon, rocks, and supposed suppressed history. It was very bizarre to say the least.

From my Cousin. Check his blog if you are inclined to hear a voice or reason.

by Brian Watt on Monday, September 6, 2010 at 7:25pm
“All animals are equal but some animals are more equal than others.”
— George Orwell, Animal Farm

The conceit of elites is that they do feel that they have been graced with superior intellect, articulate speech, inherited wealth, power and influence and therefore feel that it’s perfectly natural that they should be revered as those more suited to tell the rest of society how to behave, who to vote for, what rules to follow and of course, remind us to mind our place and our manners. It is a courtly attitude that has survived well past the reigns of successive European monarchies that are no more or that no longer run governments.

In America, like ants attracted to a picnic spread upon the grass, elites over the years continue to leave chemical trails for others of their colony, to find their way to the seats of bureaucratic and political power in Washington D.C. or to financial and media power in New York. It’s the same courtly attitude that’s on display when the First Lady takes an entourage to Spain to shop and luxuriate while millions of Americans are still struggling to find work to make ends meet before they are foreclosed on their homes or evicted from their rental property. It’s the same courtly attitude that’s on display when Massachusetts Senator John Kerry berths his yacht at a marina in Rhode Island to avoid paying the taxes that less fortunate citizens of Massachusetts must pay because well, to paraphrase Orwell, he’s just more equal than other Massachusetts citizens.

In it’s most demonic form, elitism creates technocratic monsters like the late Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara who continued to send American soldiers to die in Vietnam when he admitted in his memoirs that he knew the war had been lost. He is the poster boy for Hannah Arendt’s thesis on the banality of evil. Human beings for McNamara became numbers in a complex mathematical calculation. Nothing more. Arendt observed that evil becomes most ominous when an authoritarian state through its bureaucracies de-humanizes individuals. From a bureaucratic perspective the effortless erasing of a name or number becomes a banal effort. The bureaucrat distances him or herself from any emotion that they’ve just ordered the elimination of a human being.

As a spectator beyond the beltway, in the hinterlands of suburban Southern California, one gets the impression, and perhaps unfairly, that too often, elitists lack any curiosity beyond seeing what’s on the first few pages of the New York Times or Washington Post or rubbing shoulders with their friends at cocktail parties inside the beltway as their sources of news about what’s happening in America. If this perception is correct, then this elitist attitude is probably also the reason that Democrats and establishment Republicans don’t quite understand what the Tea Party movement is all about. They are astute enough to understand that it is a threat to their power and as a result are doing anything they can to belittle, denigrate or smear it and its participants who are after all so, well….common.

The conceit of Washington elitism was on full display during the healthcare bill town hall meetings when constituents turned the tables on their public servants and lectured members of the House and Senate on what was in their own crafted legislation that they hadn’t bothered to read. And, of course, no one will, or should, forget the arrogance on display as Sheila Jackson Lee felt it was more important to take a cell phone call rather than listen to that annoying rabble that she had been elected to represent. She was an important Congresswoman with more important things to do. These were just ordinary, common citizens. What did they know? After all, Congresswoman Lee knew better than millions of Americans that men had actually landed on the planet Mars.

Of course, the sins of elitists become more serious when they hold the reins of power. Their lack of curiosity unfortunately leads to the flirtation or more amorous embracing of dubious ideas, schemes or beliefs that often have oppressive or dangerous consequences. Man-made global warming is one such belief. It continues to be discredited by thousands of real scientists who have demonstrated that several of the UN’s IPCC reports were not based on tested and provable scientific data but rather the work of environmental activists or academics hungry for government grants who conspired to suppress opposing views and omit other conflicting data and conclusions.

Man-made global warming is still fervently clung to by Mssrs. Kerry, esq., Graham, esq. and John McCain despite the continued erosion of the so-called science that was apparently all in. McCain, of course, is absolutely convinced of man-made global warming because he has seen the melting and disappearance of ice in the Arctic first hand, not realizing of course that he’s confusing effect with cause. There is a wealth of scientific literature that refutes man-made causes of global warming that continues to be ignored by the elitists in Washington for several reasons — a) because like science expert Sheila Jackson Lee, Senators and members of the House supporting Cap and Trade already know better than scientists who have devoted their entire adult lives studying astrophysics, climatology, meteorology, geology, and geophysics; b) because in the words of Albert Gore, Jr. “…the science has been decided” which demonstrates a profound lack of understanding of what science and the scientific method is all about; c) there is actually another agenda afoot to redistribute American wealth on a global basis; and d) very vocal proponents of man-made global warming like the aforementioned Mr. Gore stand to profit in the billions of dollars for their investments in new ‘green’ companies. I don’t know about you but my bets are on reasons C and D.

Other more morally reprehensible concepts like eugenics also sprung from the minds of so-called “intellectual” elites who needed a final solution for the advancement of the human race by purifying and eliminating from the gene pool those human beings with undesirable traits — the habitually poor, the destitute, the ignorant, the mentally impaired, the socially undesirable, the criminal and of course any ethnic group that could be, through twisted and evil logic, be associated with these traits or groups – Jews, Ukrainians, artists, poets, homosexuals, other intellectuals not willing to subscribe to the concept of eugenics or to socialist ideology. But of course, we unenlightened common Americans have nothing to worry about on that front. It’s not as though government-run healthcare would permit the elimination of an individual because they became too burdensome to the rest of society. No, that would never happen, would it?

As the father of an Autistic teenager with slight mental retardation, who is bipolar and who has lacked the neural connectivity and ability that enables him to engage in conversation for the last seventeen years, you might say that I’m probably a bit more sensitive about such topics as socialized medicine, social planning, eugenics, and abortion than adults who aren’t faced with these challenges. And as challenging as my situation is, I know it is hell on my son who is well aware of his condition, who comprehends it completely and comprehends so much more about the world around him but doesn’t have the words to express what he does know or his frustration. It is expressed in other ways — hand-biting, head-butting, kicking, and lashing out at others.

At a previous job I was once amused by a fellow director who stormed into my department like a raging bull, red-faced, shouting at the top of his lungs in an effort to intimidate me for something that was entirely his own employee’s fault. I stood up from my desk and looked at him squarely in the face and said, “You know, if this is meant to somehow impress me, it’s not working. I have a six-year-old Autistic son at home who kicks holes in my drywall.” My son still kicks holes in the drywall only now with a lot more force and sometimes at 3 o’clock in the morning often for no reason other than he is just angry at something that unfortunately I cannot discern even after a barrage of questions because he does not have the ability to tell me.

The challenges of other parents dealing with children with even more extreme disorders, diseases or life threatening conditions is something that I reflect on when my own challenges seem overwhelming and it helps to keep me sane and grounded. For those of us who have tried or are trying to raise a special needs child or children we ought to be able to say “needless to say” when we relate our stories to those not familiar with these children. But often we cannot say it, because the task of raising these kids is beyond the day-to-day comprehension of parents with normal kids who you can reason with because they have their mental faculties, can speak and are simply being obstinate or misbehaving from time to time.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for parents and caregivers who devote their lives to special needs children and adults; and even greater respect for parents like Todd and Sarah Palin who knew that, even before their baby was born, they would be dealing with a special needs, Downs Syndrome child. Their example is to be applauded and revered. It is disheartening and so revealing when I hear arguments for abortion that say that it is justified because otherwise there would be too many children born into poverty, struggling to survive. The proponents of this argument apparently have remarkable powers of prophetic vision to be able to say with confidence what that child’s life will be like. And, of course, the next logical step in this argument is sterilization of the poor so they don’t get pregnant in the first place which helps to eliminate the guilt of abortion and the next step after that is eugenics and genocide to eliminate the poor altogether and those apparent genetic factors that must somehow cause someone to be habitually poor. Abortion, sterilization, eugenics and genocide – have all been entertained by socialist elites to a greater or lesser, yet still horrific degree.

As if this weren’t alarming enough, the whole-hearted embrace of Marxist ideology by the elites in power in Washington and throughout the country has the potential to usher in even more extreme aspects of socialism. After witnessing the history of the Soviet Union, of Communist China, of North Korea, and of Cuba we know that socialism penalizes talent, creativity, hard work and rewards sloth and parasitism. Yet the elites are as enamored with it as though this evil regimes never existed or hoping that if they tinker with it somehow, this time they’ll get it just right.

Elites in the White House, in Congress and squatting in seas of cubicles throughout the greater D.C. area, believe that “rich” people, however they are defined at any given moment in time (today anyone with a salary above $250,000), owe their hard-earned wealth to those less fortunate, less talented, less creative and slothful. As a result these “rich” Americans should be taxed at much higher rates than they already are. Remember that for an elitist bureaucracy it’s much easier to categorize human beings by a designated salary rather than have to deal with the individual human being behind that salary and what their particular issues may be — their debts, their monthly financial obligations, the number of children they may have, the business they’re trying to keep afloat, the employees they’re trying not to lay off. And never mind that the graduated tax system treats Americans unequally under the law and ought to be considered unconstitutional for that very reason. The encroachment of Marxism as the underlying structure of American government has been happening for the last one hundred years as a result of progressive policies and entitlement programs that have been pushed by Democrats and Republicans alike. Its most fervent adherents are academics, lifelong bureaucrats who’ve never run a business or tried to meet payroll, never created a company, never created much of anything tangible that has given another human being joy or provided them the means to survive, feed and clothe a family or build an entire community. This is the profile of an elitist bureaucrat. They move effortlessly in and out of positions of power in government to positions of influence in the media and back again. Sometimes changing political parties like unprincipled chameleons blending in with and feeding off of their surroundings that are paid for by taxpayers in the private sector.

It is so frustrating and annoying for elites to have to confront interlopers to their courtly realm who haven’t the pedigree that they have by inheritance. That is why the likes of Ronald Reagan and Glenn Beck, self-educated men for the most part, who were, and arguably are, better read than they are, have confounded them so. They were not to the manor born. How dare they attempt to crash the party!

East Coast Republican elites detested Ronald Reagan — that actor, that B-movie actor! He was everything they were not. A self-made man who achieved his success in Hollywood, on the West coast not the East, by his wit, charm and intelligence. He was affable and articulate and it’s not difficult to understand why other actors thought he was more than qualified to speak for them as president of the Screen Actors Guild, his first taste of politics.

When he ran for governor of California he made the rounds to several companies throughout the state. At the aerospace company where my father and uncle worked, my uncle was assigned to escort Mr. Reagan to the venue at the plant where he would be speaking. When Reagan got into the back seat of the car that would take him to the site, my uncle noticed that he had a hole in the back of his sock. My uncle was convinced at that time, that Ronald Reagan wasn’t quite cut out to become governor much less aspire to any other office. My uncle in a very short time subsequently changed his mind. Reagan’s successful terms as Governor of California during a most contentious time in the state confounded elites more.

Elites continued to underestimate Reagan’s intellect, his command of the facts, his passion for his beliefs and his amazing ability to connect with a non-elitist audience. Establishment Republicans came to realize that Ronald Reagan played the political game much better than they had done over the years. He chose George Herbert Walker Bush as his running mate, who once criticized Reagan’s ideas to re-invigorate the economy as “voodoo economics” despite the fact that Reagan had a degree in economics and an understanding of how John Kennedy’s tax cuts helped to infuse energy in the economy during his abbreviated term in office. Reagan’s deft move to place Bush on the ticket took the wind out of East Coast establishment Republicans’ sails…or to put it more bluntly it shut them up, so he could concentrate on dismantling Carter’s pathetic claim for another four horrendous years in office.

The same mistakes that elites made with Ronald Reagan, current elites are making with Glenn Beck today. They don’t know him. They don’t care to know him. President Obama would have us believe that he ignores him and he might, just as he and many in his administration didn’t bother to read Arizona’s SB 1070 law but felt free enough to comment on how vile it was. When they’re compelled to comment on him, elites belittle Glenn Beck and have relegated him to the role of village idiot. He was an alcoholic without a university degree – not from an Ivy League school, not even from any college, even a community college (Beck’s honorary doctorate degree from Liberty University notwithstanding). He was a radio DJ, for God sake!

This confoundedness made itself evident just the other day, in the way that the very likable Chris Wallace anchor of Fox News Sunday and son of veteran CBS television journalist Mike Wallace, attempted to understand who Glenn Beck was exactly.

“I’m trying to figure you out. In the forty years that I’ve been in this business, I I’ve never seen anyone quite like you. You’re not a newsman, you’re not a preacher, you’re not a politician…What are you?”

GLENN BECK (obviously amused by the question, smiled and replied)
“I’m a dad, I’m a concerned American…”

What? No pedigree? How in the world can just a dad and a concerned American bring together half a million people or more to the Lincoln Memorial? Why it’s beyond comprehension. To Mr. Wallace and I dare say numerous other political and media elites, the only way to understand Glenn Beck is to believe that he’s some sort of mix of Elmer Gantry, Billy Graham, Tony Robbins, Amy Semple McPherson; a foam-at-the-mouth, right-wing conspiracy nut who has perfected the ability to cry on cue and thus mesmerize a crowd — but definitely someone that they just can’t quite put their finger on or push their collective thumb down onto. How dare he criticize what’s happening in Washington and what’s happening to this country. Who does he think he is?! Wallace even asked Beck earlier in the interview, “Who made you the God squad?” Again, let’s see your papers! The elites continue to ignore Beck’s intellect, his passion, his command of the facts, and his ability to connect with non-elites.

The other characteristic that Reagan had and that Glenn Beck has is that they were and are insatiably curious about the world. How it works. Why it doesn’t work. What is the truth? And where can it be found? Elites, on the other hand, already know the truth as it has been revealed to them from their parents, their friends over the years or as imparted to them by their Ivy League, ivory tower professors who also already know the truth. Is it any wonder then that former professor Barack Obama feels that if he just keeps lecturing us dimwitted dunderheads, we’re bound to eventually comprehend the amazing, insightful and visionary rationale of his policies on healthcare, the economy and foreign policy? My dear classmates, we better buckle down and study because Professor Obama is losing his patience with us.

Through perseverance over the years, making speeches on what he called the ‘mashed potato circuit’ and communicating his thoughts over the airwaves about the American idea, socialism, socialized medicine, taxation, etc., Reagan’s popularity grew to a point that he could no longer be ignored. When he finally won his party’s nomination in 1980 to take on Jimmy Carter, Reagan appeared more presidential and commanding than the president who was in office. Reagan’s legacy is one of prosperity, patriotism, and the restoration of pride that Americans felt about their country. Even though Glenn Beck has no desire to pursue political office, what he is doing is very reminiscent of the things that Reagan did to connect with the American people only this time he’s not simply relegating himself to the confines of a radio studio. He is using every tool and visual aid at his disposal on his television show, as well as social networking over the Internet, speaking engagements, rallies and if necessary large scale events like the Restoring Honor event. And it’s driving the elites crazy…because the message is getting through and Beck is connecting.

The unfortunate fact about the classical liberal, conservative movement that Reagan led was that it ended. The Bush presidencies, Bob Dole, John McCain, Lindsey Graham and other establishment Republicans returned to the elitist, progressive policies of previous Democrat administrations and unfortunately by doing so, they’ve ushered in more extreme socialists bent on fundamentally transforming America.

Where Reagan implored Americans to adhere to the principles of the founders, Glenn Beck has taken it one step further — to the very roots of the principles themselves in understanding just who the founders were and what motivated them and of paramount importance, for nearly all of them, their firm belief in God. As one who lived through the Reagan era, there was nothing like this during Reagan’s time on the American stage. Before he became president, Reagan, like Churchill prior to World War II, was often a lonely, solitary voice crackling over the radio at night. Beck, on the other hand, through the reach of his programs has introduced Americans to other historians and authors who are presenting well-researched alternatives to the politically-correct, ethnically fair, Marxist-tinged American history texts from Howard Zinn and others. Americans, especially younger Americans whose history was never taught them, are discovering what they should have learned in grade school, high school and college much of which was purposefully omitted. Historians once struggling for respect or even a place in Marxist-leaning and controlled universities are finally finding a hungry audience for their work. And that is driving the elites crazy as well.

The elite, liberal intelligentsia that has held sway for decades since the sixties is now being challenged at every turn. Tea Party activities of every ethnic background are now armed with information and facts and the elite’s version of the facts is being examined, scrutinized and rejected in the light of day.

The challenge for Glenn Beck and the Tea Party movement is keeping that passion and that flame alive. I believe that was one of the messages of the Restoring Honor event — that in order to restore America back to its founding principles that Americans had to first restore their own honor and integrity as individuals. The elite in power don’t quite know how to deal with millions of passionate, knowledgeable, and very active individuals. Elites prefer faceless crowds that can be lumped into categories. Easier to smear. Easier to control. Easier to eliminate or nullify if necessary.

Glenn Beck may have touched off something in the American consciousness that may eclipse what Ronald Reagan, as one man, with a much smaller group of devoted followers, attempted to do in his time on Earth. I believe the elites, particularly the socialist elites understand this as well…and it scares them to death.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

J.R.R. Tolkien

Here is a link to a fine piece on Tolkien from Called to Communion.


Last night I watched the CNN interview with Imam Rauf. What a joke. Not so much the evasive Imam, but the interviewer. Of course it was on Larry King Live so I suppose I should have not expected a hard hitting interview. So many good opportunities to ask tough follow up questions were missed. This is typical of the Larry King show and CNN in particular. It was all I could do not to change the channel. No pinning him down on where the Mosque funding will come from, his not giving a clear answer to whether Hamas is a terrorist group.


I just discovered a great website.
It is very informative and I love the background of the authors.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Stephen Hawking

The below from Father Baron.

Father Barron weighs in on renowned scientist Stephen Hawking's upcoming book release in which he offers his "scientific" view on the existence of a creator. So another prominent British academic has weighed in on the God question. Stephen Hawking, probably the best-known scientist in the world, has said, in a book to be published a week before the Pope’s visit to Britain, that the universe required no Creator. (I’m sure, of course, that there was no “intelligent design” behind that choice of publication date!). I confess that something in me tightens whenever I hear a scientist pontificating on issues that belong to the arena of philosophy or metaphysics. I will gladly listen to Stephen Hawking when he holds forth on matters of theoretical physics, but he’s as qualified to talk about philosophical and religious issues as any college freshman. There is a qualitative difference between the sciences, which speak of objects, forces, and phenomena within the observable universe, and philosophy or religion which speak of ultimate origins and final purposes. Science, as such, simply cannot adjudicate questions that lie outside of its proper purview—and this is precisely why scientists tend to make lots of silly statements when they attempt to philosophize. Here’s an example from Hawking’s latest book: “Because there is a law such as gravity, the Universe can and will create itself from nothing.” Well, first of all, which is it: nothing or the law of gravity? There’s quite a substantial difference between the two. If Hawking is saying that the universe, which is marked in every nook and cranny by stunning and mathematically describable intellegibility, simply came forth from Nothing, then I just throw up my hands. The classical philosophical tradition gives us an adage that is still hard to improve upon: ex nihilo nihil fit (from nothing comes nothing). Any teacher worth his salt would take a student to task if, in trying to explain why and how a given phenomenon occurred, the student were to say, “well, it just spontaneously happened.” Yet we are expected to be satisfied with precisely that explanation when it comes to the most pressing and fascinating question of all: why is there something rather than nothing? In my dialogues with atheists, I often come up against this total non-explanation, and I can only smile ruefully. Apparently, the affirmation of God involves far too great a leap of faith, yet the assertion that the universe just popped into being is rationally compelling!So suppose we say (to return to Hawking’s rather incoherent statement) that gravity is the ultimate cause of the universe. This would mean that a force within nature is the source of the being of the world. To be sure, this sort of claim has a long pedigree, stretching back at least to the pre-Socratics, but it remains highly problematic. The question “why is there something rather than nothing?” is not searching after a thing within the universe, but rather the being of the universe. It is wondering why (to use the technical term) contingent things exist, that is to say, things that do not contain within themselves the reason for their own being. You and I are contingent in the measure that we had parents, that we eat and drink, and that we breathe. In a word, we don’t explain ourselves. Now if we want to understand why we exist, we cannot go on endlessly appealing to other contingent things. We must come finally to some reality which exists through the power of its own essence, some power whose very nature it is to be. But that whose very nature it is to be cannot, in any sense, be limited or imperfect in being, and this is precisely why Catholic philosophy has identified this non-contingent ground of contingency, this ultimate explanation of the being of the universe, as “God.” To claim that something as finite and variable as the force of gravity is this ultimate explaining value is simply ludicrous. However all-embracing or powerful it is, gravity is still a worldly nature, something within the contingent cosmos. There is a line from one of the articles describing Hawking’s book that I found, actually, quite helpful and illuminating. The author said, “in his new book, The Grand Design…Hawking sets out a comprehensive thesis that the scientific framework leaves no room for a deity.” Quite right. Since the true God is not a being alongside other beings, not one thing in the universe among many, he is not circumscribable within a scientific frame of understanding. He should not, therefore, even in principle, be either affirmed or denied from a purely scientific perspective. There is, of course, rampant today a “scientism” which would reduce all legitimate knowing to the scientific mode of knowing. You can find this form of dogmatism in the writings of all of the prominent “new” atheists: Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, Richard Dawkins, etc. I must confess that I’m disappointed that Stephen Hawking appears to have joined their company.Father Robert Barron is the Director of Word on Fire Catholic Ministries.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


The following is from "First Things." I fully agree. Sodano must go.

The Cost of Father Maciel
The Public Square
Joseph Bottum
Cardinal Sodano has to go. The dean of the College of Cardinals, he has been found too often on the edges of scandal. Never quite charged, never quite blamed, he has had his name in too long a series of depositions and court records and news accounts—an ongoing embarrassment to the Church he serves. The Vatican has been responding in a disorganized way to the frenzy of recent press stories about often thirty-year-old abuse cases. What it should do is put its own house in order, moving out the unhelpful remnants of the bureaucracy that allowed those scandals to fester for so long.The latest revelations concern the financial benefits Cardinal Sodano received from Fr. Marcial Maciel Degollado, the corrupt conman who founded the Legion of Christ and its associated lay group, Regnum Christi. And those revelations follow hard on the 2008 convictions of Raffaello Follieri for wire fraud and money laundering. (Follieri’s company, you’ll remember, was trading in decommissioned church property, and it relied for its crimes on the prestige of having Cardinal Sodano’s nephew as its vice president.) That news, in turn, followed the cardinal’s reported role in thwarting a 1995 investigation into the subsequently proved accusations against the episcopal molester in Vienna, Hans Hermann Groër.In one sense, of course, it’s very sad. A long career in the Church is not ending well, and it would be kinder to protect the man and let him slip away unnoticed. But Cardinal Sodano himself seems unwilling to let it be so. Speaking of the stories that were on the front page of nearly every newspaper in the world, he told the pope publicly at Easter this year, “The people of God are with you and do not allow themselves to be impressed by the petty gossip of the moment.” Petty gossip? There’s room for complaint about the way the scandals have been used to advance every agenda under the sun, but when the subject is abused and sodomized children, petty is not the adjective of choice. Even in a season of mismanaged Vatican responses to the frenzy of the press, Sodano’s line was stunningly tone-deaf, and it served mostly to give the media yet another day of headlines. As things stand, if (God forbid) Pope Benedict were to die, the obsequies would be led by Cardinal Sodano—and the newscasts, hour after hour, would feature rehashes of all that is now associated with his name. But that’s not the real problem. The deeper point is the lack of consequences— visible consequences—for failures and missteps and wrong associations in the Vatican. The real problem is that heads haven’t rolled, penalties haven’t been exacted, for Fr. Maciel’s deceptions. For many years, Cardinal Sodano received money and benefits for his projects from the Legion of Christ, and in 1998 he halted investigations into sexual abuse by the Legion’s founder. That apparent quid pro quo ought to have a price. It ought to have a price precisely because the scandal of Fr. Maciel is so deadly. The child-abuse cases were a corruption in the Church. What Fr. Maciel attempted is a corruption of the Church. He fooled many people, including this magazine’s creator, Richard John Neuhaus, who once defended Maciel in a 2002 column, before agreeing later that Cardinal Ratzinger (investigating Maciel at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith) and John Paul “know more than I know with respect to evidence.”The irony is that Fr. Neuhaus didn’t undertake that defense at the behest of Maciel, whom he never knew well. He did so because people he did know well, young American priests of the Legion, begged him to do so, telling him that their founder was suffering an attack they were certain was false and unfair. The first victims are the men, women, and children that Maciel, in his polymorphous perversity, used sexually, but the second set of victims are the good, strong, dynamic priests who had little direct contact with the man and are nonetheless tarred by his actions.In the long history of the Church, enduring religious establishments have been built by the sinful, but usually the new order’s spirituality is a correction to the sinfulness: a way, a charism, that leads such sinners to Christ. Maciel, however, wrote his sins, and his power to cover up those sins, deep into the spirituality of the Legion of Christ—in how it handles confession, how it treats obedience, and how it understands authority. The bishops who undertook the apostolic visitation of the Legion have finished their work, presenting their report to the Vatican on April 30. In anticipation, the directors of the Legion issued a statement on March 26, which read, “We ask all those who accused him in the past to forgive us, those whom we did not believe or were incapable of giving a hearing to, since at the time we could not imagine that such behavior took place.” On April 25, Fr. Owen Kearns, publisher of the Legion’s newspaper, the National Catholic Register, added, “To Father Maciel’s victims, I pray you can accept these words: I’m sorry for what our founder did to you. I’m sorry for adding to your burden with my own defense of him and my accusations against you. I’m sorry for being unable to believe you earlier. I’m sorry this apology has taken so long.”All that is good, and yet, it isn’t enough. First Things has never received money from the Legion (and the closest I personally have been to their finances was a single review, of an Orhan Pamuk novel, I wrote for the National Catholic Register back in 1997). But then one thinks of the likes of Thomas Williams, Tom Hoopes, Thomas Berg, and all the other friends and acquaintances who had associations with the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. For that matter, many American Catholic commentators have lectured over the years at the movement’s events. The money they received was never significant, but it all helped contribute to an atmosphere in which the Legion could close ranks after the first public accusations against Maciel.That atmosphere has to be eliminated, which will require the rewriting and reordering not just of the institutional structure but also of the spiritual design of the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi.In April, the National Catholic Reporter published a two-part article about Maciel’s financial dealings. Given the obsession with all things Catholic this spring, a time when the Long Lent of 2002 seemed to have come around again, the article received surprisingly little attention. Perhaps that’s because the author, Jason Berry, didn’t quite have the story he wanted. His account of cash in Rome was thinly sourced, and his reporting on Maciel’s actions in Mexico didn’t find the smoking gun we’ve all long expected to be found—the one that shows the Legion’s connections to the likes of Carlos Slim, whose telephone monopoly and political string-pulling made him the world’s richest man, and to the endemic corruption of Mexican politics.As I wrote when the articles first appeared, although they were fumbling as journalism, they were fumbling toward what seems to be the truth. A larger part of the reason that the mainstream media didn’t latch on to the story may be that it does not fit the narrative of the moment—for Joseph Ratzinger, first as cardinal and now as pope, comes off in the Maciel scandal as something like the hero. Not until the end did John Paul II see more than a charismatic Latin American figure, raising money and training vibrant, active priests. Cardinal Ratzinger clearly saw deeper, despite the powerful protection Cardinal Sodano cast over Maciel.The received journalistic narrative skewed a great deal of other reporting this spring. All through March and April, Der Spiegel, the New York Times, and the Irish Times—to name only a few—were working, quite accurately, within the media’s standard picture, which demands that the pope himself must have been involved in covering up crimes in the Church. A more accurate understanding, as I wrote in a recent Weekly Standard article, would see that the first part of the scandals—the most evil, disgusting part—is basically over. For a variety of reasons, Catholics suffered through a corruption of their priests, centered around 1975, with the clergy’s percentage of sexual predators reaching new and vile levels. The Church now has in place stringent child-protection procedures, and the cases now being discussed, real and imagined, are more than a decade old. The second part of the scandals, however, involves not the mostly dead criminals but the living institution. The bishops who ruled over those corrupt priests catastrophically failed to act. There were never a lot of these Catholic cases, but there were plenty enough—with every single one a horror, both in the act itself and in the failure of the bishops to react. The Catholic Church did not start the worldwide epidemic of child sexual abuse, and it did not materially advance it. But the bureaucracy of the Church did not do nearly enough to fight that epidemic when it broke out among its own clergy. And for these failures, every Catholic is paying—in nearly $3 billion of donations lost in court judgments, in suspicion of pastors, and in deep shame.Insofar as anyone comes out well from all this, it is Pope Benedict. However much the narrative demands that he be pulled in, nothing yet published has held up to serious scrutiny. Which ought not, really, to be a surprise. This man was the one who actually saw there was a problem—the one who, in 2005, openly denounced the “filth in the Church and in the priesthood.” A Maltese abuse victim who met the pope this April told an interviewer, “I did not have any faith in priests. Now, after this moving experience, I have hope again. You people in Italy have a saint. Do you realize that? You have a saint!”Not that the Vatican has managed to tell this story. The responses of the bureaucracy in Rome have swung between unhelpful silences and wrong-headed whines. There may be good reasons not to play the publicity games—driven by media cycles and celebrity culture and dramas of shame and fame—in which the world is caught up these days. The wheels of Catholicism have always ground slowly, operating with a deliberation that will not, and should not, match the world’s hectic pace. Then again, there may be good reasons for the Church to take the world as it finds it, trying to move people toward Christ from where those people actually are.But, over these recent months of frenzy, the Vatican has unsuccessfully adopted both these modes. The bureaucracy has attempted public relations and done it badly. And the bureaucracy has attempted interior review, for the edification of its people and the good discipline of its priests, and that, too, has not been done particularly well. The faithful are saddened, responding to the news accounts with a sigh and mumble, and the clergy are disheartened and confused.For either purpose, a figure such as Cardinal Sodano has to be removed from his current position and told to serve the Church in prayer. Everyone inside the Church needs to be taught that there are consequences for scandalous mistakes. And, for the outside world, Catholicism needs a story to tell, a narrative that can convey the simple truth: Despite the sins of its members, the Church remains what it has been—a light in dark places, a force of charity for the weak and the poor, and a hope for humankind on its way to the saving truth that is God.

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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Pedophile Priest Scandal

Of course the scandal is disgusting. However, the press has been anything but fair. Rarely has the media presented the entire story. It has often relied on the views of those that are far from objective observers. Some pespective is clearly needed. The following link adds a bit of reality to the tragedy.

Good Post and Great Website

Great website for writing and reading.

Monday, February 1, 2010


A few nights ago my wife and I watched the film "The Boy in the Striped Pajamas." Not the greatest film ever, but not bad either. It does leave one with the feeling of "how could that happen in a modern Europe?" We look at pictures of that time and are horrified and yet today we live in a country that sanctions the slaughter of the innocent. Ask any child to look at some of the amazing pictures of children in the womb and the child will instantly recognize the baby in front of their eyes. Ask them if it is okay to hurt or kill that child and of course we know their response. I pray and am confident the day soon will come that we will look back on this time and this slaughter and ask "how could this happen?"

Monday, January 25, 2010


This past weekend my wife and I met my stepson at the local Air Force recruiter's office. We asked lots of questions and received very good answers. Young Andrew (graduates from high school this year) is going to sign up. I could not be prouder. Heck, if I could sign up, I would. May God bless those that serve. We owe them our respect and profound thanks for what they do.


I often find it interesting to look into the subject of the canon of scriture and how it was developed and defined. I think Protestants sometimes make the mistake of coming up with the canon based on their theology. That seems backwards. First we need to arrive at the canon and then we can develop theological positions based on the canon we discover.
The following is by Mark Shea and makes some great points.

5 Myths about 7 Books

Here are the answers to five common arguments Protestants give for rejecting the Deuterocanonical books of the Old Testament.
People don't talk much about the deuterocanon these days. The folks who do are mostly Christians, and they usually fall into two general groupings: Catholics—who usually don't know their Bibles very well and, therefore, don't know much about the deuterocanonical books, and Protestants—who may know their Bibles a bit better, though their Bibles don't have the deuterocanonical books in them anyway, so they don't know anything about them either. With the stage thus set for informed ecumenical dialogue, it's no wonder most people think the deuterocanon is some sort of particle weapon recently perfected by the Pentagon.
The deuterocanon (ie. "second canon") is a set of seven books—Sirach, Tobit, Wisdom, Judith, 1 and 2 Maccabees, and Baruch, as well as longer versions of Daniel and Esther—that are found in the Old Testament canon used by Catholics, but are not in the Old Testament canon used by Protestants, who typically refer to them by the mildly pejorative term "apocrypha." This group of books is called "deuterocanonical" not (as some imagine) because they are a "second rate" or inferior canon, but because their status as being part of the canon of Scripture was settled later in time than certain books that always and everywhere were regarded as Scripture, such as Genesis, Isaiah, and Psalms.
Why are Protestant Bibles missing these books? Protestants offer various explanations to explain why they reject the deuterocanonical books as Scripture. I call these explanations "myths" because they are either incorrect or simply inadequate reasons for rejecting these books of Scripture. Let's explore the five most common of these myths and see how to respond to them.
Myth 1
The deuterocanonical books are not found in the Hebrew Bible. They were added by the Catholic Church at the Council of Trent after Luther rejected it.
The background to this theory goes like this: Jesus and the Apostles, being Jews, used the same Bible Jews use today. However, after they passed from the scene, muddled hierarchs started adding books to the Bible either out of ignorance or because such books helped back up various wacky Catholic traditions that were added to the gospel. In the 16th century, when the Reformation came along, the first Protestants, finally able to read their Bibles without ecclesial propaganda from Rome, noticed that the Jewish and Catholic Old Testaments differed, recognized this medieval addition for what it was and scraped it off the Word of God like so many barnacles off a diamond. Rome, ever ornery, reacted by officially adding the deuterocanonical books at the Council of Trent (15645-1564) and started telling Catholics "they had always been there."
This is a fine theory. The problem is that its basis in history is gossamer thin. As we'll see in a moment, accepting this myth leads to some remarkable dilemmas a little further on.
The problems with this theory are first, it relies on the incorrect notion that the modern Jewish Bible is identical to the Bible used by Jesus and the Apostles. This is false. In fact, the Old Testament was still very much in flux in the time of Christ and there was no fixed canon of Scripture in the apostolic period. Some people will tell you that there must have been since, they say, Jesus held people accountable to obey the Scriptures. But this is also untrue. For in fact, Jesus held people accountable to obey their conscience and therefore, to obey Scripture insofar as they were able to grasp what constituted "Scripture."
Consider the Sadducees. They only regarded the first five books of the Old Testament as inspired and canonical. The rest of the Old Testament was regarded by them in much the same way the deuterocanon is regarded by Protestant Christians today: nice, but not the inspired Word of God. This was precisely why the Sadducees argued with Jesus against the reality of the resurrection in Matthew 22:23-33: they couldn't see it in the five books of Moses and they did not regard the later books of Scripture which spoke of it explicitly (such as Isaiah and 2 Maccabees) to be inspired and canonical. Does Jesus say to them "You do greatly err, not knowing Isaiah and 2 Maccabees"? Does He bind them to acknowledge these books as canonical? No. He doesn't try to drag the Sadducees kicking and screaming into an expanded Old Testament. He simply holds the Sadducees accountable to take seriously the portion of Scripture they do acknowledge: that is, He argues for the resurrection based on the five books of the Law. But of course, this doesn't mean Jesus commits Himself to the Sadducees' whittled-down canon.
When addressing the Pharisees, another Jewish faction of the time, Jesus does the same thing. These Jews seem to have held to a canon resembling the modern Jewish canon, one far larger than that of the Sadducees but not as large as other Jewish collections of Scripture. That's why Christ and the Apostles didn't hesitate to argue with them from the books they acknowledged as Scripture. But as with the Sadducees, this doesn't imply that Christ or the Apostles limited the canon of Scripture only to what the Pharisees acknowledged.
When the Lord and His Apostles addressed Greek-speaking Diaspora Jews, they made use of an even bigger collection of Scripture—the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek—which many Jews (the vast majority, in fact) regarded as inspired Scripture. In fact, we find that the New Testament is filled with references to the Septuagint (and its particular translation of various Old Testament passages) as Scripture. It's a strange irony that one of the favorite passages used in anti-Catholic polemics over the years is Mark 7:6-8. In this passage Christ condemns "teaching as doctrines human traditions." This verse has formed the basis for countless complaints against the Catholic Church for supposedly "adding" to Scripture man-made traditions, such as the "merely human works" of the deuterocanononical books. But few realize that in Mark 7:6-8 the Lord was quoting the version of Isaiah that is found only in the Septuagint version of the Old Testament.
But there's the rub: The Septuagint version of Scripture, from which Christ quoted, includes the Deuterocanonical books, books that were supposedly "added" by Rome in the 16th century. And this is by no means the only citation of the Septuagint in the New Testament. In fact, fully two thirds of the Old Testament passages that are quoted in the New Testament are from the Septuagint. So why aren't the deuterocanonical books in today's Jewish Bible, anyway? Because the Jews who formulated the modern Jewish canon were a) not interested in apostolic teaching and, b) driven by a very different set of concerns from those motivating the apostolic community.
In fact, it wasn't until the very end of the apostolic age that the Jews, seeking a new focal point for their religious practice in the wake of the destruction of the Temple, zeroed in with white hot intensity on Scripture and fixed their canon at the rabbinical gathering, known as the "Council of Javneh" (sometimes called "Jamnia"), about A.D. 90. Prior to this point in time there had never been any formal effort among the Jews to "define the canon" of Scripture. In fact, Scripture nowhere indicates that the Jews even had a conscious idea that the canon should be closed at some point.
The canon arrived at by the rabbis at Javneh was essentially the mid-sized canon of the Palestinian Pharisees, not the shorter one used by the Sadducees, who had been practically annihilated during the Jewish war with Rome. Nor was this new canon consistent with the Greek Septuagint version, which the rabbis regarded rather xenophobically as "too Gentile-tainted." Remember, these Palestinian rabbis were not in much of a mood for multiculturalism after the catastrophe they had suffered at the hands of Rome. Their people had been slaughtered by foreign invaders, the Temple defiled and destroyed, and the Jewish religion in Palestine was in shambles. So for these rabbis, the Greek Septuagint went by the board and the mid-sized Pharisaic canon was adopted. Eventually this version was adopted by the vast majority of Jews—though not all. Even today Ethiopian Jews still use the Septuagint version, not the shorter Palestinian canon settled upon by the rabbis at Javneh. In other words, the Old Testament canon recognized by Ethiopian Jews is identical to the Catholic Old Testament, including the seven deuterocanonical books (cf. Encyclopedia Judaica, vol. 6, p. 1147).
But remember that by the time the Jewish council of Javneh rolled around, the Catholic Church had been in existence and using the Septuagint Scriptures in its teaching, preaching, and worship for nearly 60 years, just as the Apostles themselves had done. So the Church hardly felt the obligation to conform to the wishes of the rabbis in excluding the deuterocanonical books any more than they felt obliged to follow the rabbis in rejecting the New Testament writings. The fact is that after the birth of the Church on the day of Pentecost, the rabbis no longer had authority from God to settle such issues. That authority, including the authority to define the canon of Scripture, had been given to Christ's Church.
Thus, Church and synagogue went their separate ways, not in the Middle Ages or the 16th century, but in the 1st century. The Septuagint, complete with the deuterocanononical books, was first embraced, not by the Council of Trent, but by Jesus of Nazareth and his Apostles.
Myth 2
Christ and the Apostles frequently quoted Old Testament Scripture as their authority, but they never quoted from the deuterocanonical books, nor did they even mention them. Clearly, if these books were part of Scripture, the Lord would have cited them.
This myth rests on two fallacies. The first is the "Quotation Equals Canonicity" myth. It assumes that if a book is quoted or alluded to by the Apostles or Christ, it is ipso facto shown to be part of the Old Testament. Conversely, if a given book is not quoted, it must not be canonical.
This argument fails for two reasons. First, numerous non-canonical books are quoted in the New Testament. These include the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses (quoted by St. Jude), the Ascension of Isaiah (alluded to in Hebrews 11:37), and the writings of the pagan poets Epimenides, Aratus, and Menander (quoted by St. Paul in Acts, 1 Corinthians, and Titus). If quotation equals canonicity, then why aren't these writings in the canon of the Old Testament?
Second, if quotation equals canonicity, then there are numerous books of the protocanonical Old Testament which would have to be excluded. This would include the Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations and Nahum. Not one of these Old Testament books is ever quoted or alluded to by Christ or the Apostles in the New Testament.
The other fallacy behind Myth #2 is that, far from being ignored in the New Testament (like Ecclesiastes, Esther, and 1 Chronicles) the deuterocanonical books are indeed quoted and alluded to in the New Testament. For instance, Wisdom 2:12-20, reads in part, "For if the just one be the son of God, he will defend him and deliver him from the hand of his foes. With revilement and torture let us put him to the test that we may have proof of his gentleness and try his patience. Let us condemn him to a shameful death; for according to his own words, God will take care of him."
This passage was clearly in the minds of the Synoptic Gospel writers in their accounts of the Crucifixion: "He saved others; he cannot save himself. So he is the king of Israel! Let him come down from the cross now, and we will believe in him. He trusted in God; let Him deliver him now if he wants him. For he said, ÔI am the Son of God'" (cf. Matthew 27:42-43).
Similarly, St. Paul alludes clearly to Wisdom chapters 12 and 13 in Romans 1:19-25. Hebrews 11:35 refers unmistakably to 2 Maccabees 7. And more than once, Christ Himself drew on the text of Sirach 27:6, which reads: "The fruit of a tree shows the care it has had; so too does a man's speech disclose the bent of his mind." Notice too that the Lord and His Apostles observed the Jewish feast of Hanukkah (cf. John 10:22-36). But the divine establishment of this key feast day is recorded only in the deuterocanonical books of 1 and 2 Maccabees. It is nowhere discussed in any other book of the Old Testament. In light of this, consider the importance of Christ's words on the occasion of this feast: "Is it not written in your Law, ÔI have said you are gods'? If he called them Ôgods,' to whom the word of God came—and the Scripture cannot be broken— what about the One Whom the Father set apart as His very own and sent into the world?" Jesus, standing near the Temple during the feast of Hanukkah, speaks of His being "set apart," just as Judas Maccabeus "set apart" (ie. consecrated) the Temple in 1 Maccabees 4:36-59 and 2 Maccabees 10:1-8. In other words, our Lord made a connection that was unmistakable to His Jewish hearers by treating the Feast of Hanukkah and the account of it in the books of the Maccabees as an image or type of His own consecration by the Father. That is, He treats the Feast of Hanukkah from the so-called "apocryphal" books of 1 and 2 Maccabees exactly as He treats accounts of the manna (John 6:32-33; Exodus 16:4), the Bronze Serpent (John 3:14; Numbers 21:4-9), and Jacob's Ladder (John 1:51; Genesis 28:12)— as inspired, prophetic, scriptural images of Himself. We see this pattern throughout the New Testament. There is no distinction made by Christ or the Apostles between the deuterocanonical books and the rest of the Old Testament.
Myth 3
The deuterocanonical books contain historical, geographical, and moral errors, so they can't be inspired Scripture.
This myth might be raised when it becomes clear that the allegation that the deuterocanonical books were "added" by the Catholic Church is fallacious. This myth is built on another attempt to distinguish between the deuterocanonical books and "true Scripture." Let's examine it.
First, from a certain perspective, there are "errors" in the deuterocanonical books. The book of Judith, for example, gets several points of history and geography wrong. Similarly Judith, that glorious daughter of Israel, lies her head off (well, actually, it's wicked King Holofernes' head that comes off). And the Angel Raphael appears under a false name to Tobit. How can Catholics explain that such "divinely inspired" books would endorse lying and get their facts wrong? The same way we deal with other incidents in Scripture where similar incidents of lying or "errors" happen.
Let's take the problem of alleged "factual errors" first. The Church teaches that to have an authentic understanding of Scripture we must have in mind what the author was actually trying to assert, the way he was trying to assert it, and what is incidental to that assertion.
For example, when Jesus begins the parable of the Prodigal Son saying, "There was once a man with two sons," He is not shown to be a bad historian when it is proven that the man with two sons He describes didn't actually exist. So too, when the prophet Nathan tells King David the story of the "rich man" who stole a "poor man's" ewe lamb and slaughtered it, Nathan is not a liar if he cannot produce the carcass or identify the two men in his story. In strict fact, there was no ewe lamb, no theft, and no rich and poor men. These details were used in a metaphor to rebuke King David for his adultery with Bathsheba. We know what Nathan was trying to say and the way he was trying to say it. Likewise, when the Gospels say the women came to the tomb at sunrise, there is no scientific error here. This is not the assertion of the Ptolemiac theory that the sun revolves around the earth. These and other examples which could be given are not "errors" because they're not truth claims about astronomy or historical events.
Similarly, both Judith and Tobit have a number of historical and geographical errors, not because they're presenting bad history and erroneous geography, but because they're first-rate pious stories that don't pretend to be remotely interested with teaching history or geography, any more than the Resurrection narratives in the Gospels are interested in astronomy. Indeed, the author of Tobit goes out of his way to make clear that his hero is fictional. He makes Tobit the uncle of Ahiqar, a figure in ancient Semitic folklore like "Jack the Giant Killer" or "Aladdin." Just as one wouldn't wave a medieval history textbook around and complain about a tale that begins "once upon a time when King Arthur ruled the land," so Catholics are not reading Tobit and Judith to get a history lesson.
Very well then, but what of the moral and theological "errors"? Judith lies. Raphael gives a false name. So they do. In the case of Judith lying to King Holofernes in order to save her people, we must recall that she was acting in light of Jewish understanding as it had developed until that time. This meant that she saw her deception as acceptable, even laudable, because she was eliminating a deadly foe of her people. By deceiving Holofernes as to her intentions and by asking the Lord to bless this tactic, she was not doing something alien to Jewish Scripture or Old Testament morality. Another biblical example of this type of lying is when the Hebrew midwives lied to Pharaoh about the birth of Moses. They lied and were justified in lying because Pharaoh did not have a right to the truth—if they told the truth, he would have killed Moses. If the book of Judith is to be excluded from the canon on this basis, so must Exodus.
With respect to Raphael, it's much more dubious that the author intended, or that his audience understood him to mean, "Angels lie. So should you." On the contrary, Tobit is a classic example of an "entertaining angels unaware" story (cf. Heb. 13:2). We know who Raphael is all along. When Tobit cried out to God for help, God immediately answered him by sending Raphael. But, as is often the case, God's deliverance was not noticed at first. Raphael introduced himself as "Azariah," which means "Yahweh helps," and then rattles off a string of supposed mutual relations, all with names meaning things like "Yahweh is merciful," "Yahweh gives," and "Yahweh hears." By this device, the author is saying (with a nudge and a wink), "Psst, audience. Get it?" And we, of course, do get it, particularly if we're reading the story in the original Hebrew. Indeed, by using the name "Yahweh helps," Raphael isn't so much "lying" about his real name as he is revealing the deepest truth about who God is and why God sent him to Tobit. It's that truth and not any fluff about history or geography or the fun using an alias that the author of Tobit aims to tell.
Myth 4
The deuterocanonical books themselves deny that they are inspired Scripture.
Correction: Two of the deuterocanonical books seem to disclaim inspiration, and even that is a dicey proposition. The two in question are Sirach and 2 Maccabees. Sirach opens with a brief preface by the author's grandson saying, in part, that he is translating grandpa's book, that he thinks the book important and that, "You therefore are now invited to read it in a spirit of attentive good will, with indulgence for any apparent failure on our part, despite earnest efforts, in the interpretation of particular passages." Likewise, the editor of 2 Maccabees opens with comments about how tough it was to compose the book and closes with a sort of shrug saying, "I will bring my own story to an end here too. If it is well written and to the point, that is what I wanted; if it is poorly done and mediocre, that is the best I could do."
That, and that alone, is the basis for the myth that the deuterocanon (all seven books and not just these two) "denies that it is inspired Scripture." Several things can be said in response to this argument.
First, is it reasonable to think that these typically oriental expressions of humility really constitute anything besides a sort of gesture of politeness and the customary downplaying of one's own talents, something common among ancient writers in Middle Eastern cultures? No. For example, one may as well say that St. Paul's declaration of himself as "one born abnormally" or as being the "chief of sinners" (he mentions this in the present, not past tense) necessarily makes his writings worthless.
Second, speaking of St. Paul, we are confronted by even stronger and explicit examples of disclaimers regarding inspired status of his writings, yet no Protestant would feel compelled to exclude these Pauline writings from the New Testament canon. Consider his statement in 1 Corinthians 1:16 that he can't remember whom he baptized. Using the "It oughtta sound more like the Holy Spirit talking" criterion of biblical inspiration Protestants apply to the deuterocanonical books, St. Paul would fail the test here. Given this amazing criterion, are we to believe the Holy Spirit "forgot" whom St. Paul baptized, or did He inspire St. Paul to forget (1 Cor. 1:15)?
1 Corinthians 7:40 provides an ambiguous statement that could, according to the principles of this myth, be understood to mean that St. Paul wasn't sure that his teaching was inspired or not. Elsewhere St. Paul makes it clear that certain teachings he's passing along are "not I, but the Lord" speaking (1 Cor. 7:10), whereas in other cases, "I, not the Lord" am speaking (cf. 1 Cor. 7:12). This is a vastly more direct "disclaimer of inspiration" than the oblique deuterocanonical passages cited above, yet nobody argues that St. Paul's writings should be excluded from Scripture, as some say the whole of the deuterocanon should be excluded from the Old Testament, simply on the strength of these modest passages from Sirach and 2 Maccabees.
Why not? Because in St. Paul's case people recognize that a writer can be writing under inspiration even when he doesn't realize it and doesn't claim it, and that inspiration is not such a flat-footed affair as "direct dictation" by the Holy Spirit to the author. Indeed, we even recognize that the Spirit can inspire the writers to make true statements about themselves, such as when St. Paul tells the Corinthians he couldn't remember whom he had baptized.
To tweak the old proverb, "What's sauce for the apostolic goose is sauce for the deuterocanonical gander." The writers of the deuterocanonical books can tell the truth about themselves—that they think writing is tough, translating is hard, and that they are not sure they've done a terrific job—without such admissions calling into question the inspired status of what they wrote. This myth proves nothing other than the Catholic doctrine that the books of Sacred Scripture really were composed by human beings who remained fully human and free, even as they wrote under the direct inspiration of God.
Myth 5
The early Church Fathers, such as St. Athanasius and St. Jerome (who translated the official Bible of the Catholic Church), rejected the deuterocanonical books as Scripture, and the Catholic Church added these books to the canon at the Council of Trent.
First, no Church Father is infallible. That charism is reserved uniquely to the pope, in an extraordinary sense and, in an ordinary sense, corporately to all the lawful bishops of the Catholic Church who are in full communion with the pope and are teaching definitively in an ecumenical council. Second, our understanding of doctrine develops. This means that doctrines which may not have been clearly defined sometimes get defined. A classic example of this is the doctrine of the Trinity, which wasn't defined until A.D. 325 at the Council of Nicaea, nearly 300 years after Christ's earthly ministry. In the intervening time, we can find a few Fathers writing before Nicaea who, in good faith, expressed theories about the nature of the Godhead that were rendered inadequate after Nicaea's definition. This doesn't make them heretics. It just means that Michael Jordan misses layups once in awhile. Likewise, the canon of Scripture, though it more or less assumed its present shape—which included the deuterocanonical books — by about A.D. 380, nonetheless wasn't dogmatically defined by the Church for another thousand years. In that thousand years, it was quite on the cards for believers to have some flexibility in how they regarded the canon. And this applies to the handful of Church Fathers and theologians who expressed reservations about the deuterocanon. Their private opinions about the deuterocanon were just that: private opinions.
And finally, this myth begins to disintegrate when you point out that the overwhelming majority of Church Fathers and other early Christian writers regarded the deuterocanonical books as having exactly the same inspired, scriptural status as the other Old Testament books. Just a few examples of this acceptance can be found in the Didache, The Epistle of Barnabas, the Council of Rome, the Council of Hippo, the Third Council of Carthage, the African Code, the Apostolic Constitutions, and the writings of Pope St. Clement I (Epistle to the Corinthians), St. Polycarp of Smyrna, St. Irenaeus of Lyons, St. Hippolytus, St. Cyprian of Carthage, , Pope St. Damasus I, the , St. Augustine, and Pope St. Innocent I.
But last and most interesting of all in this stellar lineup is a certain Father already mentioned: St. Jerome. In his later years St. Jerome did indeed accept the Deuter-ocanonical books of the Bible. In fact, he wound up strenuously defending their status as inspired Scripture, writing, "What sin have I committed if I followed the judgment of the churches? But he who brings charges against me for relating the objections that the Hebrews are wont to raise against the story of Susanna, the Son of the Three Children, and the story of Bel and the Dragon, which are not found in the Hebrew volume (ie. canon), proves that he is just a foolish sycophant. For I wasn't relating my own personal views, but rather the remarks that they [the Jews] are wont to make against us" (Against Rufinus 11:33 [A.D. 402]). In earlier correspondence with Pope Damasus, Jerome did not call the deuterocanonical books unscriptural, he simply said that Jews he knew did not regard them as canonical. But for himself, he acknowledged the authority of the Church in defining the canon. When Pope Damasus and the Councils of Carthage and Hippo included the deuterocanon in Scripture, that was good enough for St. Jerome. He "followed the judgment of the churches."
Martin Luther, however, did not. And this brings us to the "remarkable dilemmas" I referred to at the start of this article of trusting the Protestant Reformers' private opinions about the deuterocanon. The fact is, if we follow Luther in throwing out the deuterocanonical books despite the overwhelming evidence from history showing that we shouldn't (ie. the unbroken tradition of the Church and the teachings of councils and popes), we get much more than we bargained for.
For Luther also threw out a goodly chunk of the New Testament. Of James, for example, he said, "I do not regard it as the writing of an Apostle," because he believed it "is flatly against St. Paul and all the rest of Scripture in ascribing justification to works" (Preface to James' Epistle). Likewise, in other writings he underscores this rejection of James from the New Testament, calling it "an epistle full of straw . . . for it has nothing of the nature of the gospel about it" (Preface to the New Testament).
But the Epistle of James wasn't the only casualty on Luther's hit list. He also axed from the canon Hebrews, Jude, and Revelation, consigning them to a quasi-canonical status. It was only by an accident of history that these books were not expelled by Protestantism from the New Testament as Sirach, Tobit, 1 and 2 Maccabees and the rest were expelled from the Old. In the same way, it is largely the ignorance of this sad history that drives many to reject the deuterocanonical books.
Unless, of course, we reject the myths and come to an awareness of what the canon of Scripture, including the deuterocanonical books, is really based on. The only basis we have for determining the canon of the Scripture is the authority of the Church Christ established, through whom the Scriptures came. As St. Jerome said, it is upon the basis of "the judgment of the churches" and no other that the canon of Scripture is known, since the Scriptures are simply the written portion of the Church's apostolic tradition. And the judgment of the churches is rendered throughout history as it was rendered in Acts 15 by means of a council of bishops in union with St. Peter. The books we have in our Bibles were accepted according to whether they did or did not measure up to standards based entirely on Sacred Tradition and the divinely delegated authority of the Body of Christ in council and in union with Peter.
The fact of the matter is that neither the Council of Trent nor the Council of Florence added a thing to the Old Testament canon. Rather, they simply accepted and formally ratified the ancient practice of the Apostles and early Christians by dogmatically defining a collection of Old Testament Scripture (including the deuterocanon) that had been there since before the time of Christ, used by our Lord and his apostles, inherited and assumed by the Fathers, formulated and reiterated by various councils and popes for centuries and read in the liturgy and prayer for 1500 years.
When certain people decided to snip some of this canon out in order to suit their theological opinions, the Church moved to prevent it by defining (both at Florence and Trent) that this very same canon was, in fact, the canon of the Church's Old Testament and always had been.
Far from adding the books to the authentic canon of Scripture, the Catholic Church simply did its best to keep people from subtracting books that belong there. That's no myth. That's history.

Mark P. Shea "5 Myths about 7 Books." Envoy 2001.
This article is reprinted with permission from Envoy Magazine.
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