Friday, March 27, 2009

Getting the Areopagite cold shoulder

In a conversation this week, I was talking with a friend of mine about how closely American history seems to be mirroring that of ancient Rome.

Britain is our Greece, and we're in the middle of our "Roman Republic" period. While my fellow students of history should be able see the parallels without a side-by-side comparison, my interest, today, is not in the political parallels.

Instead, I have been drawn to consider the aspects of modern American spiritual life that seem to echo the culture of Rome (albeit later on, during the early principiate period).

Apparently, I'm not the only one who sees our current relativistic worldview similar to that of the ancient world.

The Archbishop of Denver, His Grace Charles Caput, compared our current situation as Christians in the United States with the Apostle Paul's trip to Athens, recounted in the Book of Acts:

The archbishop also connected this relativistic spirit to St. Paul’s appearance at the Aeropagus, recounted in the Book of Acts. At the Areopagus, a prestigious place of debate for Greek philosophers, "Nearly anything was tolerated, so long as no one claimed to have an exclusive and binding claim on the truth," the archbishop explained.

He then quoted Acts 17’s description of the Areopagite mindset: "All the Athenians and the foreigners who lived there spent their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new."

"It’s worth paying attention to that description. There’s no mention of truth," he commented, noting that when St. Paul preaches the truth "he’s mocked and despised and his preaching is a failure, at least in the short term."

"Paul’s failure at the Areopagus is a good lesson for the times we face now in America," the archbishop said. "When [Christians] start leading their daily lives without a hunger for something higher than their own ambitions or appetites, or with the idea that they can create their own truth and then baptize it with an appeal to personal conscience, they become, in practice, agnostics in their personal lives, and Sophists in their public lives. In fact, people who openly reject God or dismiss Christianity as obsolete are sometimes far more honest and far less discouraging than Catholics who claim to be faithful to the Church but directly reject her guidance by their words and actions."

More of His Grace, here.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

It's a good thing the Church isn't a democracy

Otherwise, people would be trying to impeach God.

In the meantime, they'll settle for the Vicar of Christ, His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI.

A good friend of mine posted a link to this post on his Facebook, and it really got me going.

Without commenting on the blogger's blatant anti-Catholicism, we'll address the points raised in the post one-by-one:

First. The very first statement by the Post author belies the rest of his writing: "I am a Catholic, and the idea that such a man is God's spokesperson on earth is absurd to me."

If this man were a Catholic Christian, he would understand that the Holy Father is the Vicar of Christ ex officio. That's Latin for "out of the office." In other words, by the fact that Benedict was properly elected and installed as the Bishop of Rome, he is the universal Patriarch of the Christian Church.

The Church is not a democracy, and Mr. McElvaine's opinion on the Pope's words and actions are irrelevant: it doesn't matter if you approve or not. The Pope is still the Pope, and dissent won't change that.

Second. Both McElvaine and Clawson take it as fact that the Pope has insulted Muslims and women, "accepted" a Holocaust denier, and commented inappropriately about condoms, AIDS, and Africa (I could write a whole post on the condoms bit -- suffice it to say, you should at least look over nos. 118, 120-21 of John Paul II's Theology of the Body).

It'll take a lot of unpacking, but there's so much trouble in those three clauses that we have to do it.

To be clear, the pope has insulted no one (except secularists and atheists), unless one considers citing Sun'ni Muslim theology to establish Sun'ni Muslim theology at an academic lecture in Germany an insult to Islam.

I honestly can't figure out how the Pope "insulted" women, according to Ms. Clawson.

As for the so-called "acceptance" of a Holocaust denier? That's the easiest one with which to deal. The man in question is a rebel bishop who denied the authority of the Second Vatican Council and of the Popes since Vatican II. For this reason, he was excommunicated from the Church (basically, the ecclesial death penalty).

Benedict, who has made it clear that the focus of his pontificate is advancing re-evangelization of the West and the reunion of Christendom (particularly Orthodox and Catholic Christians), has a heart for reconciliation with everyone with whom it is possible to be reconciled.

The lifting of the excommunication from against the Holocaust-denying rebel Bishop does not remove censures against him due to the said Bishop's rebellion against papal authority or due to his denial of the Holocaust.

In fact, the Pope has vehemently repudiated what that man said, citing himself as a witness of that great evil. What Benedict's lifting of the excommunication does is restore to the rebel Bishop the opportunity to go to Confession, receive the Eucharist, and -- should he die -- receive Extreme Unction.

It's also curious to me how Ms. Clawson can say that the Pope, of all people, has "hijacked our religion," which I'm assuming means Christianity.

We are, after all, talking about the duly elected and elevated leader of the world's largest flock of Christians (more than 1 billion of them, in fact), and the successor of St. Peter himself. Should the world not yearn to hear the teaching of the leader of the Church?

Mr. McElvaine says that if his writing "be heresy, then make the most of it." This is a rather immature and uncharitable way of approaching the situation, is it not? Instead of approaching his Father-in-God with respect, he openly writes a letter railing against him and directly challenging him to exercise ecclesial discipline.

I would encourage the Pope (or, in this case, the Archbishop of Washington, if the man really is a Catholic Christian) to take him up on that offer.

After all, if his commitment to the teaching of the church is as vapid as it appears, I'm sure Mr. McElvaine won't mind joining one of the thousands of other ecclesial communities operating in and around our nation's capital.

One more note: Ms. Clawson bitingly closes her post with the following: "I’m not a fan of infighting, but I feel the need to say at times 'that man (always a man) doesn’t speak for me, and I don’t believe he speaks for Jesus Christ either.'"

I couldn't have said it better myself, Ms. Clawson: when I was trying to pursue God through the United States' expression of Anglicanism, I kept having to tell people, "That woman (and yes, it's a woman) does not speak for me, and I don't believe she speaks for Jesus Christ, either."

The woman in question? Katherine Jefferts-Schori.

And that, dear readers, is one of the reasons why, come three weeks from now, I'll be submitting to the ministry of the Primate of the Universal Church, the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI as a member of the Catholic Church.