The other day, I read an article on Creative Minority Report about the recent ad in the NYT, titled “IT’S TIME TO QUIT THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. (Open Letter to ‘Liberal’ and ‘Nominal’ Catholics.)” It was created by the “Freedom From Religion Foundation,” so you can probably imagine the attacks it tried to use: the same old straw men (the Church is against women, behind-the-times, etc.–the same recycled garbage that basically every liberal media venue tries to blindly lob at the Church).

Later, I read a good response over on The Passionate Paradox, calling all anti-Catholics to take a look at responsible sexuality.

The whole time, I couldn’t help but think that there was something funny about this call for people who don’t agree with the Church to leave Her. Personally, I find it silly that people who don’t agree with the Catholic Church call themselves “Catholic” in the first place. Yes, there is a place for those who have a difficulty accepting certain teachings, and struggle with them while recognizing that the Church has the authority to teach what it teaches–that’s totally fine. On the other hand, to claim to be a Catholic while outright rejecting what the Church teaches (and worse, to tell others that the Church “no longer teaches” whatever doctrine one rejects) has never made sense to me. Why would someone who rejects Catholic Church teaching want to be a Catholic? Someone suggested to me the other day that maybe these people think they can ride the coattails of the Church into heaven or something.

The silliness of people who reject the Church making a big deal about leaving the Church made me think of an analogy for which I drew this cartoon:

(Click to Enlarge)
The Church has often been called the “Barque of Peter” (see NAVIS PETRI above).  She is sailing off toward Heaven, but some of Her members have decided they love Earth too much to let go, so they’re trying to head back. They’re too attached to money, sexual immorality, and/or power, and they’re not willing to part with them, so they try to get the Church to change course by constructing a tug boat and attempting to drag the Church back to earth (see the SS ERGORP above). They try with all their might to get the Church to be “progressive” (“SS ERGORP” backwards is PROGRESS)–to be “with the times.” The Church, however, is timeless, and recognizes that these things aren’t truly good for people. She has one mission: get souls to Heaven. She is set on Her course, and will not be deterred by fleeting temporal pleasures. With the wind of the Holy Spirit (see Acts 2) in Her sails, She will not be stopped–not even the gates of Hades will prevail against Her (Mt 16:18). Consequently, the SS ERGORP will eventually realize that they cannot change the Church, so they must decide: detach or join. They must either leave because they don’t agree, or fully join themselves to the Church by recognizing that the Church is wiser than each of us, because She is the safeguard of the God’s Revelation. They must also realize that they will never change the Church because Her official teachings will never change. That’s how She safeguards what God has handed on–She doesn’t let it get changed.
So now we are at a junction in history where many may leave the Church. That’s okay. In fact it will be like the pruning of a plant–removing the branches and leaves that are deterring the flourishing of the whole. Pope Benedict XVI has been talking about a “smaller Church” for a while now (that link will lead you to an excerpt of a book that was originally published in 1969). 33 years ago he could already predict this exodus of the lukewarm (and we know what happens to the lukewarm–Rev 3:15-16). He foresaw a smaller, but “crystalized and clarified” Church.
Think about this: what if every ‘Liberal’ and ‘Nominal’ Catholic actually did go to a religion that agreed with his/her beliefs? How much better would Catholic education be once it was rid of all of the false teachers? How much better would people know what the Church really teaches, and not what the “Catholic experts” that the media digs up say? Sure, we may get ridiculed by that same media. Sure, we may no longer be 25% of the US population–or 1/7 of the world population. That’s not necessarily bad–the Church will be purified and people receive the truths of the Church without all the voices of dissenting “Catholics” trying to confuse them. In the long run, perhaps it would actually allow more people to come to know the truths of Catholicism and draw more souls to Heaven. That, after all, is the goal: as many souls to Heaven as possible, not as many people calling themselves “Catholic” as possible.
And what for those who leave? Are they eternally doomed? Of course not! Was Peter eternally domed when he denied Jesus? The same is the case for anyone who has betrayed God. He must not take the path of Judas and think God will not forgive him. He must take the path of Peter and, when he realizes his mistake, receive the Lord’s forgiveness.
The Church will always have open doors, anyone may come in and become a Catholic, but that involves a change on the part of the person, not the Church. If one is to become a Catholic (or return to Catholicism), one must be willing to conform himself to the Church. One should never seek to conform the Church to himself. That, after all, is how this whole topic began.

What’s Law Got to Do With It?

  • My last post was about a conversation I was having on Facebook, trying to explain why we don’t follow Dt. 22:13-21 by stoning non-virgin brides. On the original Facebook discussion, one of the interlocutors (not the person who originally posted) responded with the following:

    So what you’re saying, Casey, is that Humanity is now mature enough that your god and he alone can dole out punishment for sins? So, I guess that means that Man should stop wasting time making laws about things that are not in our realm to punish or reward. Hmmm. Thanks for backing up our entire argument and wholly negating the entire religious right all at the same time.

    Reading this, I could see that we were coming with different preconceived notions of what human law is, and what the Church’s role is with regard to human law, so I responded with the following. Again, if anyone out there has a clearer understanding of human law and the role of the Church, please feel free to help me out.

    Picture found at:


    I was not arguing in favor of anarchy–the lack of human law and punishment. I can see how you might jump to this conclusion if the discussion ended at “God no longer allows humans to give those punishments anymore.” I should have been more specific in stating that God doesn’t put that in the Church’s lap. The Church has certain Church laws for Her members, but She has never asked to be the arbiter of civil punishments. Civil laws are in the care of the civil government. The Church only asks that She and her members (including 1/4 of the US population) be treated fairly.

    Please accept this as an explanation from a Catholic perspective. You may not agree with all of my statements, but if you hear me out, I hope it will help you understand our viewpoint:

    We must consider what the purpose of human law is. Human law is an attempt to codify the natural law–to push people away from vice and toward virtue. God has given governments the authority to enact laws for just this purpose. Enabling people to live at their highest potentials of goodness, truth, justice, etc. Forming truly GOOD citizens is their aim. The ultimate goal of these laws is to draw people closer in their relationships with God (the source of all perfections: Existence, Goodness, Truth, Happiness, Beauty, Love, etc.).

    Law, therefore, is actually a movement toward God. Who wouldn’t want to be united to Goodness Itself? For the sake of an example, imagine every piece of goodness you’ve ever felt–every happy emotion, every good feeling, every joy felt resting in the delight of an attained good. Combine together every single bit of goodness you’ve ever experienced, and multiply that by infinity. That’s one INSTANT in the direct presence of Goodness Itself (God). That’s what we call “Heaven.” Heaven lasts forever–an unending satiation of infinite Goodness. THAT is what we’re made for.

    To go there, we must be conformed to Love (because God is Love Itself–for a little background, see Pope Benedict XVI’s encyclical on love). To be conformed to love is to have our priorities in line: 1) to recognize God as the source of all existence, life, love, goodness, happiness, truth, beauty, etc. 2) to conform ourselves to Goodness, and 3) to work so that as many other people make it to this state of supreme bliss as possible. That (if you will pardon the pun) is true love–to desire the ultimate eternal best for other people.

    Now you see, true love is not just warm, fuzzy feelings about other people; it is a sacrifice that we make to help others reach that complete perfect union with Goodness Itself in Heaven. Too often people speak of love as though it just means having good thoughts about someone, or physically assisting someone. That is not necessarily love–it CAN be, but it is not a given.

    To properly love others, we must first be able to recognize the finish line: Goodness. God is Goodness Itself, therefore Goodness is both objective and personal. It is personal in that the goal is a Person (actually 3 Persons in 1 God, but that’s for another discussion). It is objective because there are actions that will objectively draw us closer in our relationship with God and actions that will move us farther from Him (just like in our relationships with humans–certain things make our relationships deeper and certain things stress our relationships). Everyone is in a state of flux (again, just like all of our relationships) until he/she dies. Death seals the person’s relationship (if you will, the person’s “decision” for or against objective Goodness).

    We draw closer in our relationship with God through virtue–doing what is good, avoiding what is evil. We push farther away from God through vice–acquiescing to what is evil, almost always by placing lower goods above higher goods. People almost never do what is bad because they think it’s bad; rather, they hold up what is a lower good (like pleasure, comfort, etc.) to be above a higher good (justice, charity, etc.). Sometimes, there are things that people think are good, but they really aren’t. This is a place where we deviate from modern society. Modern society is often relativistic. It sees goodness as subjective–“I determine what’s good for me.” Relativism says there is only one objective truth: “there is no objective truth.” Of course, we can see that as a self-defeating statement. We need to look beyond ourselves (which often tend toward selfishness, or at least justification of our bad actions). We need to seek out REAL Goodness. The more we do, the more we are able to see the fullness of Truth, Goodness, Beauty, etc.

    Getting back on topic: law is there to push us in the direction that will most conform us to being truly good people–not just good as we define for ourselves. Laws are supposed to push man to pursue excellence. God has given man civil leaders to enact these laws and create punishments that justly redress any wrongs caused by breaking the law, and attempt to conform the law-breakers back toward Goodness.

    What part does the Church play? With regard to civil laws, the Church plays the part of a beacon (a clarion call, an informer). She proposes to all societies and governments the way of Goodness. She hands on the teachings as they have been handed on to Her. She doesn’t conform Her teachings about Goodness to fit any particular society. She hands it on how God gave it to Her. She doesn’t impose–she doesn’t make the laws, but She proposes– She reminds the governments of what is true, good, beautiful, etc.

    The First Amendment does not call for a freedom FROM religion; rather, it calls for a freedom OF religion. That is; it allows people to be religious and live how their religion lives, but it prevents the government from making an official state religion. It does NOT prevent the government from listening to the Church to gain wisdom about Goodness and the best ways to conform laws toward that goodness. It does, however, prevent the unjust discrimination against religions.

Why We Don’t Kill Non-Virgin Brides

Someone on Facebook recently posted a picture of a person holding a sign that paraphrased Deuteronomy 22:13-21, which basically states that if a woman was found out not to be a virgin on her wedding night, she was to be stoned to death.

A Shot From the Movie The Stoning of Soraya M.

The person was intimating that Christians were hypocritical for following only part of the Bible–and as the Christian-bashing began, the conversation went downhill quickly. It had devolved to pot-shotting at the pope and the Church by the time I came across it, but I thought it would still be helpful to at least provide a little context and clarity, so I wrote the following. If any of my theologian friends have a better understanding, please feel free to comment and help all of us come to a fuller grasp of this topic.

I admit, I once was intimidated by the Old Testament because it was so hard to read. It’s still pretty thick (and sometimes confusing), but I’ve gotten a LOT better at understanding what it says after I learned the context in which much of it is written. Once I knew the context, quotes like this started to make a LOT more sense. Ask yourselves: “Do I know what the book of Deuteronomy is? Who wrote Deuteronomy? What is its purpose?” If you know more about the context of a particular quote, it can help a lot to understand it. It’s particularly helpful to understand why this statute is not followed. I’m not an ancient Israel expert, but here’s what I have been able to gather:

Deuteronomy (Greek for “second law”) was a secondary concession for the misguided people of Israel after Moses saw that they couldn’t live up to the law which they were SUPPOSED to follow (see Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers). Deuteronomy is like a nicotine patch–it’s not necessarily good for the Israelites (because it allowed SOME things that conflicted with the Law), but it started the Israelites on a path away from worse offenses. Just as the patch pumps the body with nicotine (not a particularly healthy substance) to turn the person away from smoking, Deuteronomy was intended to lead them through “lesser evils” to turn away from really bad things toward doing good. Moses knew it wouldn’t be enough, but it was kind of like a patch job to keep the people from completely falling away from the life of goodness and truth. Later it was explained through the prophet Ezekiel that “they were given statutes that were not good, and ordinances through which they could not have life” (Ez 20:25). Even so, not every statute in Deuteronomy allowed bad stuff. This particular statute rejects something bad: fornication. The punishment was more severe than today (I’ll explain why later), but it was a severe punishment to show how severe the offense was.

Yes, Jesus came not to abolish, but to fulfill the Law, and that fulfillment brought with it the maturation of the punishments. The early laws contained some extreme punishments because the people of Israel were immature and needed to be taught like children. When you were younger, and your dad needed to discipline you, he gave you a spanking. As you grew up, spankings weren’t the punishment anymore. The rules (“law”) remained the same, but the punishment matured as you matured–so with Israel. Israel was so immature (and so misguided from their years in Egypt) that they needed extreme punishments to continually reinforce to them that bad things were wrong. St. Paul called it a “pedagogue”–a child’s tutor (Gal 3:24). In this case, it says fornication is wrong. Fornication is such a serious offense against God and His covenant of marriage, that it endangers someone’s soul. Also, if it is allowed to go unchecked in the community, fornication leads people to think it’s okay, thereby cheapening the people’s view of the marital act, and leading them to be more permissive about other offenses against God’s covenant of marriage. This can lead to a mass of people, numbed to the effect of sin, and constantly drawing themselves further from what is ultimately best for them (union with Goodness itself–being with God in Heaven). Moses wanted the people to know just HOW wrong fornication is, so he set the punishment at death. Today, Catholics and other Christians believe that it’s still wrong for anyone to fornicate. It’s still a serious sin and endangers someone’s soul, but God no longer allows humans to give the punishment. Humanity has matured. Jesus brought with Him the maturation (fulfillment) of the Law. St. Paul continued by saying that “we are no longer under a pedagogue.” (Gal 3:25) Yes, it’s still wrong to do the bad things, but He has overhauled the punishment. We’re mature enough to know how bad it is without people having to be killed for it. The Church also wants to give people the rest of their lives to repent and turn back to the life of goodness and truth.

So, you see, we ARE following all the passages–the way they are SUPPOSED to be followed: same law, mature (fulfilled) punishment.

Anyone can pull a quote of out of the Bible, or out of a politician’s mouth, or any book ever written and make it sound how he wants. It’s important to know the context to see if that person’s quote is being presented correctly. I’m sure you have all been misquoted sometime or another, and I’m sure you would rather have had people know the context of what you were REALLY saying. I hope this helps you get the context of this particular passage.