Unfounded Attacks: They’re Tragically Fallacious

What’s most tiresome about the attacks against the Holy Father is that they essentially make an unsubstantiated accusation of the Pope seeking to change Church teaching to embrace error. What this boils down to, however, is that the critics are claiming that they have a proper understanding of the faith while that of the Pope or, in many cases, the whole Church is in error and must be opposed. In other words, if the Pope does not behave in the way his critics want him to behave he is considered to be heretical and working to destroy the Catholic faith—though whether he does so through incompetence or malice, the critics have not come to an agreement on.

When challenged on this by defenders, these critics then misrepresent any attempt to disprove their claims as “explaining away” what was said or “claiming infallibility” for every little thing the Pope says or does. I once, not too long ago, had critics accuse me of being blind because, I always defended him and disagreed with their interpretations of the Pope’s words and actions. I find that to be rather alarming: The anti-Francis mindset has reached the point where the accusations are assumed to be true by default, and these critics refuse to consider the possibility that they misinterpreted what the Pope actually said.

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Distinguishing This From That

There’s been some Facebook and blogging debates going on about the authority of the teaching of the Church and infallibility. Unfortunately, some of this discussion is muddled because of a confusion of two issues: The issue of obedience and the issue of infallibility. Some, in attempting to argue against obedience to the Church in an issue they dislike, try to explain away binding authority this way. They begin by pointing out that the ordinary magisterium is not formally protected from error in the same way that an ex cathedra statement is protected. They point out that technically, the rest of the Church teachings are non infallible. Now that is true. The ex cathedra statement is a special magisterial action, and it has special protections, given the level of authority they invoke.

But, then the fallacy of equivocation comes into play.  Because the teachings of the ordinary magisterium are non infallible, it is argued that they are in fact “fallible,” and the word is stretched into the claim that the Pope or the bishop is teaching error and must be resisted. That is a distortion of the Church teaching. Everything that was eventually defined infallibly by the Church was previously taught by the ordinary magisterium. The infallible definition essentially made the ordinary magisterium more specific. But people were still obligated to obey the ordinary magisterial teaching before it was defined ex cathedra.

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Out of Control and Missing the Point

The Pope’s visit to America confirms what I long knew—the media and the politicians don’t understand the meaning of religion, treating it as one more political viewpoint. It also confirmed what I long suspected but hoped was actually false—that a large portion of American Catholics view religion in the same sense as the media and politicians. The result of this mindset is that the average person praises or laments what the Pope says or does in light of his or her political convictions and not on the basis of the Christian faith.

St. Paul wrote about this way of thinking in his letter to the Philippians:

17 Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us. 18 For many, as I have often told you and now tell you even in tears, conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ. 19 Their end is destruction. Their God is their stomach; their glory is in their “shame.” Their minds are occupied with earthly things. 20 But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. 21 He will change our lowly body to conform with his glorified body by the power that enables him also to bring all things into subjection to himself. (Philippians 3:17-21)

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Overlooking the Essentials: Reflections on the Negative Catholic Reaction to Pope Francis

With the Pope’s visit to the US, people—including Catholics—are scrutinizing his words to use them in order to justify their political positions. If the individual agrees with his words, he is a great Pope, while if they don’t, he is not. Unfortunately this mindset seeks to take the Pope’s words and cram them into a dualistic political mindset: “Either the Pope is conservative or liberal.”

On one hand, we get Nancy Pelosi’s reprehensible statement of “I actually agree with the pope on more issues than many Catholics who agree with him on one issue” where that “one issue” is abortion and St. John Paul II spoke of “Precisely in an age when the inviolable rights of the person are solemnly proclaimed and the value of life is publicly affirmed, the very right to life is being denied or trampled upon, especially at the more significant moments of existence: the moment of birth and the moment of death.” [John Paul II, Evangelium Vitae #18]—a pretty big disconnect. On the other hand, we get the accusation that the Pope is a liberal-leftist-marxist-who-should-stick-to-religion-and-not-get-into-politics (whew!) whenever he speaks on a topic they dislike.

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Quick Quips: Thoughts on Synod Agendas and Annulment Concerns

God remains watching over His Church even in the worst of times—which this time certainly is not. Yes individual bishops and even the bishops of entire regions have gone astray in the past, but those events have not changed the official teaching of the Church. Instead, those bishops have simply exceeded their authority and done wrong. We need to remember that whatever the failings of individuals in the magisterium, that has never led to teaching error by the magisterium.

So when we pray for the Church, let us do so with faith that God looks out for her and will not let her lead us astray. (See HERE for full article)

Pope Francis: Family Prayer

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Authentic prayer is a gift from God, a gift we receive with joy because God initiates and we simply respond.

For his 100th general audience,Pope Francis continued his catechesis on the family by considering family prayer. In his opening statements, the pope pointed out that most people find it difficult to find time to pray.

Pope Francis teaches that love of God, not guilt will inspire us to pray.

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The Two Mirrors: An Allegory

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Once, long ago, our Noble Lord was hung upon a tree and died thereon. Strange to relate at certain seasons the tree and Him upon it are made present among us. At such times His lovers are mysteriously enabled to drink His blood as if it were wine and to eat His flesh as if it were bread gaining great strength thereby.

For the most part though our Noble Lord is hidden from our senses. During these times two great and rival companies re-enact His Passion for our benefit. These are the Dark Companions, who are always the most numerous, and the Companions of the Light, who are always led by a most wondrous sweet Lady.

The Dark Companions fully and perfectly reconstruct among us the instruments of our Lord’s death. They are the most perfect liars, they are filled with envy and spite, they are consumed with anger. Of sympathy they are naked but nonetheless they are well clad, covering themselves with mockery and cursing.With all this and much more besides they present the play “The 50 Dark Moments of our Lord’s Passion.” Always they receive the just reward for their performance.

Whenever the Dark Companions appear together assembled the Companions of the Light timidly run away. Presently though they are rallied by their womenfolk, and by one woman above all other women. Led by her they enter into the heart of our Lord’s Passion. They make present among us most perfect love, patience, grief at the evils men do and steadfast but tender endurance. Their play is “The 50 Moments of Light” It is not always obvious to human eyes but it is certain that they too receive the just reward for their performance….click here to read more

 

To Hell With You? Not If We Can Help It!

The doctrine of Hell is one that is easily distorted into portraying Christians as gleefully awaiting non-Christians to be sent there, while thinking that we have a free pass where what we do doesn’t matter. While it is true that some Christians have so missed the point about what they are called to be that they do think this way, it is an aberration which perverts what Christianity really believes.

Far from being a cruel belief invented by a vindictive people in a way that contradicts the concept of a loving God, the concept of Hell recognizes that:

  • God created us with an immortal soul
  • God created us with free will to choose Him or to reject Him
  • If we misuse free will in a way which rejects God, our immortal soul has to exist somewhere that is the logical result of that rejection

So, Hell is not an issue of “don’t steal that cookie or you’re going to burn forever!” It’s a reality of, “If you choose to reject God, that decision has eternal consequences if you do not change your ways.”

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Love and Hell

One of the things people in modern times find hard to reconcile is how God can be love (1 John 4:16) and the existence of Hell. The general assumption is that Hell is an arbitrary, disproportionate punishment tacked on to a crime—something like shooting a person for jaywalking. Because of this, it is assumed that God, being “good” (in an undefined way) would not really send them to Hell for their own actions. Maybe Nazis, but not “good” people. I suspect this is where the whole “God doesn’t care about X!” attitude comes from.

But this is to miss the point about what Hell is about. It is not an arbitrary sentence to a crime like, “If you commit theft, I will punish you with Prison.” It is more like, “If you jump off of a cliff, you will die.” In other words, Hell is the logical consequence for choosing to do what goes against what God has called us to be.

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Because Sin Is Real: The Truth America Forgot

If you read the works of the saints, or their biographies, you can see that they were aware of a truth that America has forgotten—sin is real and it alienates us from God. Instead, America (or, rather the whole of Western civilization) has a bad habit of presuming that God “doesn’t care” about the action we do that falls under the category of sin. As a result, we have an understanding about sin that is both self-contradictory and has nothing to do with the reality:

  • When others do something we dislike, we have no qualms about acknowledging it as a sin.
  • When we do something that is a sin, we refuse to acknowledge it as a sin and call it an arbitrary decision made by human beings that doesn’t matter to God.

In other words, while people are perfectly willing to denounce others, the fact is that, instead of thinking rationally about the good or evil of our actions we contemplate doing, we rationalize the things we already do to avoid thinking about whether they are good or evil or rationalize a reason not to do what we ought to do.

This mindset actually convicts the person before God—because we call the actions of others “sin” or “wrongdoing,” we acknowledge that there is a good which must be lived and an evil which must be avoided. But because we refuse to apply this knowledge to ourselves, we show ourselves to be hypocrites and evildoers.

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