Wednesday, June 28, 2017

The Heresy of "Don't Judge -- Be Nice"

Rocco Marconi - Christ and the Adulteress, circa 1525

It's a popular narrative from the eighth chapter of John's gospel (John 8:1-11). A woman is caught in the very act of adultery. She is dragged before Jesus by the scribes and Pharisees, so as to put Jesus to a test. They wanted to see what he would do with her. The Torah (Law of the Jews) from the Old Testament dictated that she be stoned. (My question is: where was the man she committed adultery with? They're both guilty.) Contrite and broken, the woman lay prostrate before Jesus, obviously sorry and penitent for her sin. He told the scribes and Pharisees they were right. The Torah does command that she be stoned to death, for that is the lawful penalty of adultery, and that he who is without sin should cast the first stone. Jesus then began writing in the sand. The Scriptures don't tell us what he was writing, but many believe it was the Ten Commandments, which of course all of us have broken at some time in our lives. One by one, they all dropped their stones and walked away. Then Jesus asked the woman: "Where did they go, has no one condemned you?" She answered: "No one, Lord." Jesus replied: "Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more."

It's that last phrase that is the key to the whole thing. "Go and sin no more." With that one statement, which he used many times, Jesus made it crystal clear that sin is a real thing, that he does not condone it in any way, and that if people are truly penitent, they should stop doing it. Sadly, it seems that this one point is lost on a growing number of Catholics today.

It's a term ChurchMilitant.Com has been using for many years now -- "The Church of Nice" -- but I don't think I fully understood it until recently. The Catholic Church is in the midst of the greatest crisis it has seen since the Arian Heresy. I do believe what is going on right now is catastrophic, and could very well result in a massive schism in the very near future, outside of some kind of divine intervention. When I say massive, I mean MASSIVE, such as the likes we have not seen since the Protestant Reformation. It may even dwarf that schism in comparison.

I am talking about the Church of Nice here. What is the Church of Nice? Well, let me tell you. It's not Catholic. Unfortunately, however, it is currently joined at the hip with the Catholic Church in the United States. What is it? Well, here it is in a nutshell...
The Church of Nice consists of those Catholics who believe, in the most sincere way, that the message of the Gospel is simply "don't judge others and be nice." 
That's it. That's the Church of Nice in a nutshell. The whole concept of sin, atonement, redemption, repentance and sanctification mean absolutely nothing to these people. They truly believe, in their heart of hearts, that the only thing Jesus really taught us is to never judge anyone or anything, and just be nice to people.

So that means we never judge sin as sin. We never tell people they're doing anything wrong. We never speak of anything as being wrong. And we are always just sweet and syrupy to each other, all the time, and pretend everything is fine. That is the Church of Nice.

Would it shock you if I said that MILLIONS of Catholics in America actually believe this? What if I told you that number was actually in the TENS OF MILLIONS? What if I told you that no less than HALF of all Catholics in the United States are full, active and participating members of the Church of Nice.

Now what if I told you the Church of Nice is built on an absolute heresy called Moral Relativism. What is Moral Relativism? It's a heresy that says that there are no actual God-given standards of absolute right and wrong. Morality is rather defined by social norms. So whatever society views as socially acceptable, that is considered "right." While as whatever society views as socially unacceptable, that is considered "wrong." Because society is always changing, so is morality. Therefore, there can be no moral absolutes. A good example of this is when people scoff at a traditional Christian virtue, and say something like: "Come on! It's the 21st century!"

Since when is morality determined by looking at a calendar?

Nevertheless, that is exactly what moral relativists want us to think. The calendar says 2017, so therefore we are supposed to change our moral standards now?

Of course, time isn't the only thing that relativists use as a moral compass. They also use geography. Standards of right and wrong can be determined by where you live too. For example; in Western countries its okay for a woman to leave her head uncovered, but in the Middle East, that's morally unacceptable. So therefore Western women should cover their heads when visiting there. These are the two big things moral relativists use to determine morality. Culture might be another one. But after all is said and done, the moral relativist subscribes to the notion that what is right for you may be wrong for me, and vice versa, what is wrong for you may be right for me.

Moral relativism is an extremely common and pernicious heresy which is widely believed outside of the Church, but inside the Church it has an equally powerful influence. It manifests itself in the ever popular "don't judge" mantra as well as the equally popular "be nice" mantra. Why is it so pervasive within the Church? I'll tell you why. Because too many priests use those exact same words, and repeat them constantly, as their own mantra. I've heard it with my own ears folks, from the lips of many priests, more times than I can count. Pity it's a heresy.

So did Jesus really tell us: "don't judge and be nice?" Well, not exactly. You see, it's actually a bit more nuanced than that. On the one hand, Jesus did say the following...
“Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgement you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. 
-- Matthew 7:1-5
This is the verse most commonly cited to back the "don't judge" mantra. But what exactly was Jesus talking about here? Was he saying we can never judge anything at all? Well, that would be silly! How could we know what is right and wrong if we can never judge anything? While "don't judge" Catholics are so quick to point out Matthew 7:1-5, they fail to see what Jesus said about judging in John's gospel...
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.  
-- John 7:24
So in Matthew's gospel, Jesus told us not to judge. But in John's gospel, he specifically told us to judge, and judge righteously! What gives? To judge or not to judge? That is the question. Or is Jesus just contradicting himself?

John's passage makes it clear that we are not to judge according to appearance. In other words, we're not to make judgements based on insufficient information. St. Paul elaborates on this in his first epistle to Timothy...
The sins of some men are conspicuous, pointing to judgement, but the sins of others appear later. So also good deeds are conspicuous; and even when they are not, they cannot remain hidden. 
-- 1 Timothy 5:24-25
In other words, St. Paul warns us that sometimes things are not always as they seem. People can hide their sins, but they can't hide them forever. Just as good deeds will reveal themselves eventually, so will people's sins. Sooner or later the truth catches up with us all. So we shouldn't judge prematurely, or with insufficient information. Nevertheless, we are still expected to judge, both by Jesus Christ and St. Paul.

So from this alone we know that we can judge, but we must judge righteously, not prematurely or with insufficient information. So what then was Jesus talking about in Matthew's gospel when he told us not to judge at all? Again, St. Paul elaborates...
Therefore you have no excuse, O man, whoever you are, when you judge another; for in passing judgement upon him you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. We know that the judgement of God rightly falls upon those who do such things. Do you suppose, O man, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgement of God? 
-- Romans 2:1-3
Hypocrisy is the key here. If we look at Jesus' words in Matthew 7, and compare them with St. Paul's words in Romans 2, the whole passage against judging starts to make a lot more sense. Jesus is condemning hypocrisy! He did this so many times in his ministry. He's not condemning judging per se'. Rather, he's condemning the ever popular practice of condemning others for something you yourself do. You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. In other words, you can make a judgement about another person, provided you check yourself first, and make sure you're not doing the exact same type of thing. But wait, there is more.

We also should not judge people in matters of private opinion...
As for the man who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not for disputes over opinions. One believes he may eat anything, while the weak man eats only vegetables. Let not him who eats despise him who abstains, and let not him who abstains pass judgement on him who eats; for God has welcomed him. Who are you to pass judgement on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Master is able to make him stand. 
-- Romans 14:1-4
Actually, this is a pretty big problem. While men are not innocent of this, I do personally find that this is a particular problem among women. Women often tend to judge each other over the most petty things: clothing, makeup, mannerisms, hairstyles, jewellery, personal habits, talking too much, not talking enough, shyness, boldness, etc., etc., etc.. Yes, men can be guilty of this too, but let's face it ladies, it's usually the fairer sex who do this more often.

Still yet, the Church of Nice, meaning the "don't judge" Catholics, will use Jesus' words in Matthew 7 to condemn anyone attempting to call out another for blatantly sinful behaviour. Today, this is most prevalent in the Homosexualist Movement, as we saw recently in The Paprocki Affair. They hold Jesus' strong prohibition against judging as a shield to cover their evil deeds. "Don't judge me" they wail, "you hateful bigot! Jesus said not to judge!" As I've already pointed out above, while he did say this in regards to hypocritical judging in Matthew 7, he also commanded his followers to "judge righteously" in John 7. So clearly Jesus DID NOT prohibit all judging. Again, St. Paul helps to clear this up...
Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 
-- Ephesians 5:11
Here St. Paul explicitly tells Christians to "expose" works of darkness. What else could he mean by this than to point out when others are doing something wrong? What else could he mean but judging? Indeed, that's exactly what he's talking about. We most certainly can judge, and we should judge, but when we do so we should judge actions not people. So let's look again at Jesus' words in John, and compare them to what the Torah has to say about the same subject...
Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgement.  
-- John 7:24
You shall do no injustice in judgement; you shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbour. 
-- Leviticus 19:15
Here both Jesus, and the Torah, tell us to judge. But they're both very specific about the kind of judgement we are allowed to do. Normally, I don't cite the Torah often, because Christ is the Christian's Torah. Nevertheless, when Christ speaks specifically to a topic like this, and it matches what the Torah says, we can see the total consistency in approach, and it gives us a great context. When we judge, we are to judge people's actions (their sins or good works), but we are not to judge the person's soul, nor his state in life, background, heritage, etc. That is God's business. We cannot know what is really going on in a person's heart. People will often do evil things for reasons that are not apparent. Often times there is more to the story than meets the eye. Good people do bad things all the time. We must judge the action as wrong (sin), but at the same time, we must not judge the soul of the person doing it. We cannot know what is really happening inside his heart and mind. We cannot always know what sort of horrible circumstances might have led to this evil act (sin). We judge the act, but not the man/woman doing it.

So therein lies the heart of the matter. When the "don't judge" Catholic says "don't judge," he should be corrected with the Biblical context. What Jesus really said was "don't judge hypocritically" but we should "judge righteously."

The Church of Nice is dangerous, because in the end there is no limit to the amount of evil that can be justified under the mantra of "don't judge." Likewise, the sister mantra of "be nice" is equally pernicious, because it invokes the idea that we should never confront anyone for anything. It invokes the idea that we have to put on a phoney smiley face, pretend that everything is okay when it's not, and let our fellow man commit spiritual suicide by persisting in his unrepentant sin until death.

Now having said that, we certainly shouldn't go around like prudes, judging every sin we see. That's not the point. The point is, we should be as generous as possible, cutting people as much slack as we can, realising we can't always understand the circumstances that make people behave in the ways they do. We should be joyful, forgiving, and never judge another person's soul. However, at the same time, that doesn't mean we pretend there is no sin at all. When people do things that are clearly sinful, and they refuse to acknowledge it as sin, we are morally obligated (in true Christian charity) to point out to them that it is sin and they should repent. We don't judge the person, because we're all sinners here and there. But we do judge the action as sinful and wrong.

The Church of Nice is teaching a false gospel. That gospel goes something like this...
  1. God loves you just the way you are, and would never condemn you.
  2. Jesus died for our sins, so now God condones them.
  3. Sin is relative anyway, so it doesn't really matter.
  4. Don't judge at all, just be nice.
The real Catholic Church, the one currently being invaded by the Church of Nice, teaches the real gospel, which goes something like this...
  1. God loves us but sin is real, and it separates us all from God.
  2. Jesus Christ died to forgive our sins, not condone them.
  3. Now anyone may be forgiven of sins, if only we will sincerely try to repent of them, and continually ask for forgiveness as needed.
  4. Show true love for others by judging the sin but not the sinner.
Granted, this is all an oversimplification, but you get the idea. There is a radical difference between the Catholic Church and the Church of Nice. Sadly, in our society, the two are joined at the hip. It's going to take some really good priests and bishops, along with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to surgically separate the two. One way or another, there is going to be a schism eventually. Perhaps, with enough prayer, and enough clergy willing to wake up to reality, that schism might be limited to minimal damage.

Regarding the woman caught in adultery, the problem with this story was that the scribes and Pharisees were not interested in saving the poor sinner's soul or trying to rehabilitate her. They just wanted her dead. But more then that, they wanted to see if Jesus would condone her execution. Jesus changed the game. Instead he confirmed they were right, and she should be stoned, but that only the one without guilt should do it. Nobody threw a single rock, and in that one analysis, Jesus changed the paradigm. He pointed out that while sin is real, our goal shouldn't be to judge sinners for the sake of condemning them, but rather our judgement should be to call them to repentance, so that hopefully God can rehabilitate them, and heal their wounded lives. Once rehabilitated, they are no different than the rest of us, and we cannot ever judge them for the previous lifestyle they repented of. In other words, judge the sin but not the sinner. Judge the act but not the actor. Judge what is wrong but not the wrongdoer. So it's not "don't judge and be nice," but rather "judge righteously and be merciful."

------------------------------------------------
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

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Monday, June 26, 2017

The Paprocki Affair

Bishop Thomas Paprocki of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois

His Excellency, Thomas Paprocki, Bishop of the Diocese of Springfield, Illinois, recently issued the following statement on his Facebook Page. By the way, if you haven't already done it, please go to Bishop Paprocki's Facbook Page and give it a "Like." Here's the statement...
These norms regarding same-sex “Marriage” and related pastoral issues are necessary in light of changes in the law and in our culture regarding these issues. Jesus Christ himself affirmed the privileged place of marriage in human and Christian society by raising it to the dignity of a sacrament. Consequently, the Church has not only the authority, but the serious obligation, to affirm its authentic teaching on marriage and to preserve and foster the sacred value of the married state. Regarding the specific issue of funeral rites, people who had lived openly in same-sex marriage, like other manifest sinners that give public scandal, can receive ecclesiastical funeral rites if they have given some signs of repentance before their death. Jesus began his public ministry proclaiming the Gospel of God with these words: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel” (Mark 1:15). People with same-sex attraction are welcome in our parishes in the Catholic Diocese of Springfield in Illinois as we repent our sins and pray for God to keep us in His grace... 
See the Same-Sex Policy Decree Here
The full decree is both charitable and consistent with sound Catholic orthodoxy. It is a triumph of actual Catholicism in the United States, something rarely seen anymore. His statement was met by both praise and denunciation. Praise was given by faithful Catholics, myself included, and denunciation by many different types; watered-down fake Catholics, former Catholics, non-Catholics, active homosexual activists, atheists, etc. I know, because I read them all. The gist of their message was the same and predictable. They declared the good bishop's statement and policy an act of "hate" based solely on "bigotry." I'm being kind. Actually most of their comments were vulgar and not fit for print here. In response I posted many things, all in as much charity as possible, but in summary I gave this one reply to all, and then posted the same on my own Facebook page...
We are all called to repentance and the sacraments are NOT entitlements. As a heterosexual married man, even I can be denied the sacraments if I live in a scandalous way, and I'm even supposed to deny myself the sacrament of communion if I know I've committed a mortal sin. The sacraments are not entitlements. Jesus came to forgive our sins, not condone them. He told us to repent. Go and sin no more. It is the Church's responsibility to safeguard the sacraments and yes, even withhold them to encourage us to repent of our sins. It's not "hate" when you're just doing your job, as Bishop Paprocki is. It's not "bigotry" when you try to stop people from committing spiritual suicide by receiving the sacraments while in a state of unrepentant mortal sin.
So therein I believe I addressed the root of the problem. Naturally, while my own statement received several positive "likes" it was also derided as "hate-filled" and "bigoted." Of course, I expected as much. It was so predictable. Here's the problem, as I see it. We now live in a culture of total entitlement, and within that culture of total entitlement, there is this notion that the Catholic Church is somehow a public institution, on par with a state Church. So, those who feel entitled naturally want the Church to entitle them, as if it were part of the state. They expect that if they will only just apply enough pressure, the Catholic Church will bend to their will, and give them exactly what they want. So exactly what is it they want? Well, here's the list. Such people are expecting one, or more, of the items below to be implemented by the Catholic Church...
  1. Total acceptance of their homosexual temptations as a "God-given grace."
  2. Total acceptance of same-sex "marriage" as a sacrament.
  3. Performance of same-sex "weddings" in Catholic churches.
  4. Elevation of homosexual relations as at least on par with, preferably superior to, heterosexual relations.
  5. Acceptance of transsexualism as "normal" and "grace-filled."
  6. Ordination of homosexuals openly, with blessing and encouragement given to homosexual activity by such clergy.
  7. Ordination of women, since gender is fluid anyway.
  8. Promotion of adoption of children, by Catholic charities, to same-sex couples. 
  9. Teaching that Jesus Christ as at least ambiguously homosexual himself, as were some of his apostles.
  10. Teaching of some or all of these things to children in Catholic schools and Catechism classes.
The Homosexualist Agenda is pretty universal both inside and outside the Catholic Church. There is nothing new here, and it's not personal. The Homosexualist Agenda is the same for all churches. Those of us who were formally Anglican, like myself, sadly watched this unfold in The Episcopal Church USA, as well as various other denominations. Baptists and Pentecostals are in their cross-hairs too, they just haven't gotten to them yet. Right now the Homosexualists have all of their attention focused on the U.S. Catholic Church, because you see, we're the next domino to fall. If they can get America's largest Christian Church -- The Catholic Church -- to crumble beneath their will, all the rest will fall in short order thereafter. The Baptists will scatter to the wind. The Pentecostals will too. You have to understand, it's nothing personal. It's just business. They have an agenda to push, and the last stronghold standing in their way is The Catholic Church. So they must attack us. They must break us. We shouldn't take it personally. It's just business to them.

The attack methods are predictable and banal now. They accuse us of "hate" and "bigotry" for not accepting all, or at least part, of their Homosexualist Agenda. They frame themselves as the "poor, persecuted, minority" and the Catholic Church as the "rich, powerful, persecutors" who want to "deprive" homosexuals of their "human rights" for the sake of "bigotry" and "hate." You have to understand that these accusations, these terms, are just the tools of the trade. It doesn't matter if they think they're true or not. I'm sure the promoters of such terms know there are a few useful idiots who really do believe this stuff, but for the most part, it's just verbal leverage. Again, it's all just business. We shouldn't take it personally. The objective is to bully the Church hierarchy with bad press. That's what it's all about, until one of these bishops cracks. That will be the proverbial "chink in the armour" they need to bring the whole Catholic edifice down -- or so they think. Why not? It's worked with other religious organisations. 

The fact that many Catholic clergy are closeted homosexuals doesn't help one bit. It only makes things worse. You can tell who they are by their silence on these matters, or sometimes by their public support of the Homosexualist movement itself. This leads to weakness on the part of the laity, who are afraid to speak up, and afraid to act in accord with Church teaching. They know they won't have the support of their homosexual-friendly priest, and in some tragic cases, not even the support of their homosexual-friendly bishop. So they hide in the shadows themselves, holding their tongues, all the while allowing the Homosexualist movement to continue to infiltrate the Church.

Then there is another movement going on, and this one is much bigger than the Homosexualist one. This is what I call the Entitlement Culture, and it's been well entrenched in the U.S. Catholic Church since the 1970s. It presents a much greater threat than the Homosexualist movement, even though the two often go hand-in-hand. The Homosexualist movement is dependent on the Entitlement Culture, but the Entitlement Culture is not dependent on the Homosexualist movement. In fact, the Entitlement Culture has been operating independently of the Homosexalist movement for a long time.

At the core of the Entitlement Culture is the heresy of moral relativism. Moral relativism asserts that there is no absolute right or wrong, but rather that "rightness" or "wrongness" is determined solely by social norms. Whatever is considered normal behaviour in society, that is considered "right." While what is considered abnormal behaviour in society, that is considered "wrong." So for example, standards of right and wrong can change, and are always in flux, because society is always changing what it considers to be "normal," or in other words, what most people are doing. Sadly, there are many moral relativists within the Catholic Church and this drives, in big part, the Entitlement Culture.

The Entitlement Culture basically operates on the premise that if one bears the name "Catholic" then one is entitled to all of the sacraments, regardless of one's state of grace or condition of sin. In other words, it goes something like this: "I call myself Catholic, therefore I'm entitled to receive communion, so give it to me now, or you're a bigoted hater!" Actually, a lot more people fall into this movement than you might think. We don't just see this among Homosexualists. We also see it among fornicators, co-habitators, serial-monogamists, polygamists, masterbaters, voyeurs, artificial-contracepters, thieves, gossips, greedy people, those who defraud their employees of a just wage, etc. There is a sense in the U.S. Catholic Church that if one is just willing to bear the name "Catholic," or go through an RCIA program, or be raised in a Catholic school, that one is automatically entitled to the sacraments. There is a sense that repentance of sin is not necessary (Because in a morally relative society what is sin anyway?) and the Church's teachings on morality are subject to change. I think the later comes from weak clergy who are unwilling to defend Church teaching, and sadly, we've had too many of those in recent decades. In the end, the sum-total morality of most Catholics is simply: "Don't judge and be nice." In the eyes of too many people who call themselves Catholic, that is what it means to be Catholic. "Just don't judge and be nice."

So we come full circle now to the Paprocki Affair. Here in the Summer of 2017, an entire diocese is now on edge, solely because her bishop decided to actually do his job, and defend Catholic teaching! Think of it, a Catholic bishop actually behaved like a Catholic bishop, and now the proverbial "snowflakes are melting in the streets." Among them are the Homosexualists. We would expect no less from them. But also among them are those Catholics who subscribe to the Entitlement Culture. They fully expect anyone who bears the name "Catholic," even a professed "out and proud" homosexual in a same-sex "marriage," to be able to receive communion, and enjoy all the rites of a good and practising Catholic, including the Church changing its teaching to accommodate his or her vice. Yes. This is where we are today. You're not dreaming. This isn't a nightmare. This is reality. This is the Summer of 2017, Main Street, USA, and no, it's not going to get any better.

So where do we go from here?

Well, first of all we have to accept that this is our new reality, and it's not going away. The second thing we need to do is clearly establish to our surrounding communities that the Catholic Church is not a state-run church or a publicly controlled entity. We need to demonstrate to them that we Catholics are a separate and distinct community from the rest of society. We are in this world, but not of it. We interact with mainstream society, but we are not just another part of it. We are a called-out people. We are an independent nation. We have our own beliefs, our own norms, and our own laws. (Yes, our own LAWS, and this includes our own courts, lawyers and judges.) We are not subject to the ways of the rest of the world. We do follow the laws of the land -- to an extent -- but our own laws (just like our own doctrines) take precedence among our own members. 

Very rarely do people attack the Amish. In fact, most people simply don't expect the Amish to be anything but -- well -- Amish! There is a reason for this. The Amish have firmly established themselves as an independent and autonomous community within society. They function under their own rules and everybody knows it. Obviously, most people wouldn't want to live under Amish rules, and that's why most people aren't Amish. Nevertheless, nobody tries to change the Amish, or make them comply with some social agenda. This is because everybody knows the Amish are just "Amish" and they're not going to change for anyone. They've firmly established themselves as a separate, independent and autonomous community within the greater society.

The same could be said of the Orthodox Jewish community. Like the Amish, they have established themselves as a separate, independent and autonomous community within the greater society. The same could be said of various Muslim communities, and so on.

Catholics certainly shouldn't withdraw from mainstream society like the Amish do, but we should re-establish ourselves as an independent and autonomous community within the greater society like the Orthodox Jewish and Muslim communities have done. This seems foreign to us right now, because we Christians here in the West haven't had to do it in over 1,000 years. The last time Western Christians had to do that was toward the end of the first millennium, when Christians had to live as separate, independent and autonomous communities within the larger Nordic Pagan culture of Scandinavia. Prior to that, it was within Germanic Pagan cultures in Europe. This condition was short-lived, because these societies converted rather quickly, once a critical mass had been reached. So they're not good comparisons. Probably the best comparison to be made in Western culture is nearly 2,000 years ago, when early Christians had to live under the thumb of the Pagan Roman Empire. My point here is that we Christians in the West have since then been so intertwined with Western government and society at large, that we literally don't know how to act in a separate, independent and autonomous way. We've simply forgotten how to do it. This is one reason why the Entitlement culture has steamrolled us for the last half century.

Probably our best example to model ourselves after is the Eastern Orthodox and Eastern Catholic communities, who have lived under oppressive societies in Eastern Europe for decades and the Middle East for centuries. They know how to do it. You don't hear about Homosexualists going after the Eastern Orthodox communities so much, because again, they're thought of as "separate" and "independent" from mainstream society. Nor do you hear of their own members boasting an entitlement mentality, because once again, their own members see themselves as separate and independent from mainstream society. They have to follow their own laws, which are different from the laws and social norms of society at large. I think it's high time Roman Catholic priests and bishops begin cultivating this way of thinking within their parishes and dioceses.


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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

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Sunday, June 25, 2017

Divine Worship: The Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite

Divine Worship Mass at Westminster Cathedral on January 11, 2016
Photo: Ordinariate Expats Blog, used by permission.
Recently, His Excellency, Steven Lopes, Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, gave an address at the Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary at the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. This was on June 21, 2017. Here is a short excerpt...
Let me begin by articulating something of a thesis statement. I would like to state at the outset that our Ordinariate liturgy is often misunderstood and therefore not described correctly. 
Because our liturgy shares many traditional elements and gestures in common with the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, it is thought to be a type of “subset” of that form: “the Extraordinary Form in English” as it is sometimes called. But this is neither accurate nor, honestly, helpful. For one thing, the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, a principal source for the Ordinariate Missal, is older than the Missal of Saint Pius V, and has its own origins in the Sarum Missal, a variant of the Roman Rite going back to the eleventh century. My first goal today is for you to understand Divine Worship on its own terms, to see the historical and ritual context out of which it develops, and in that light to recognize how it might contribute to the ongoing renewal and development of the Roman Rite. 
And so my thesis: Divine Worship is more than a collection of liturgical texts and ritual gestures. It is the organic expression of the Church’s own lex orandi as it was taken up and developed in an Anglican context over the course of nearly five-hundred years of ecclesial separation, and is now reintegrated into Catholic worship as the authoritative expression of a noble patrimony to be shared with the whole Church. As such, it is to be understood as a distinct form of the Roman Rite. Further, while Divine Worship preserves some external elements more often associated with the Extraordinary Form, its theological and rubrical context is clearly the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. That I situate Divine Worship within the context of the Ordinary Form becomes a fact more discernable when one considers the dual hermeneutic of continuity and reform, which informs the project. 
read the full address here
So, based on Bishop Lopes' explanation of Divine Worship, it is NOT the Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite) in English, and it does a disservice to both Divine Worship and the Extraordinary Form to call it that. Rather, it is an entirely new form of the Roman Rite, neither Ordinary nor Extraordinary, but is more closely situated within the context of the Ordinary Form. Therefore, it can most accurately be described as the "Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite" or the "Anglican Form of the Roman Rite."

Personally, I prefer the term "Ordinariate Form" over "Anglican Form," not only because Bishop Lopes appears to prefer it, but also because it reduces confusion, not among Anglicans but among regular diocesan Roman Catholics. For some reason, whenever the word "Anglican" is mentioned, the thought "Protestant" registers in their minds. Immediately what follows is a myriad of questions such as...
  • Well, is it Catholic or Protestant?
  • Is this really Catholic at all?
  • What? Now their letting the Anglicans in without becoming Catholic?
  • Shouldn't these Anglicans just convert and become Catholic?
  • Is this liturgy just for Anglicans or can Catholics come too?
  • If Catholics go to this mass, do they become Anglicans?
  • etc.
I think the problem here is that the words "Anglican" and "Protestant" have been too closely associated with each other for far too long in the Catholic collective consciousness. This is why I go with the more innocuous term "Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite."

It's a shame really, because I do like the word "Anglican" and to me, it sounds more descriptive of what Divine Worship really is. So while I still do think the terms "Anglican Form" and "Ordinariate Form" are technically interchangeable, my experience dealing with diocesan Roman Catholics tells me to go with "Ordinariate Form" for the time being. It lowers resistance, reduces questions and breaks through the communication barrier. 

So Divine Worship really is the third form of the Roman Rite -- the Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite, written in Sacred English and containing therein the specific prayers and rubrics particular to the Anglican Patrimony for the last 1,000 years. These are based in the 11th century Sarum Missal, a Catholic liturgy used exclusively in England for 500 years prior to the English Reformation. In fact, the original 1549 Book of Common Prayer (a Protestant text) was based heavily on this medieval Catholic liturgy. So what we have in Divine Worship is the Catholic Church reclaiming a form of liturgy that was rightly hers to begin with. It is a form of liturgy that is in fact older than the Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form) in its origin.

I think its important for us to get a proper understanding of this. The Roman Rite now has three forms...
  1. The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (always in Latin)
  2. The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (many vernacular translations)
  3. The Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite (always in Sacred English)
Each form has its own particular prayers and rubrics that are specific to its kind, and each form is unique. As Bishop Lopes says, the Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite finds itself in a closer context to the Ordinary Form, because it's part of the dual hermeneutic of continuity and reform.

Now that being said, who would appreciate Divine Worship? Traditional or Contemporary Catholics? I think its a mistake to assume one or the other. In fact, Divine Worship has a little in there for both groups. I think anyone who is Catholic would have good reason to appreciate Divine Worship. The truth is, I've seen Contemporary Catholics both like it and dislike it. I've also seen Traditional Catholics both like it and dislike it. It's really a matter of taste, and in truth, its not for everyone. Nevertheless, anyone is free to look into it and find out for himself.


------------------------------------------------
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

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A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism
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Friday, June 23, 2017

We Are Rome - Europe Is Our Future

The American Nations as They Exist Today
These are Nations Based on Culture

In the early second century, I'm sure it would have been hard for anyone in the Mediterranean coast lands to imagine the fall of the Roman Empire. Rome had reached the zenith of it's power and influence. It's territory stretched from as far north as Britain, to as far south as Egypt, from the coasts of Spain, to the Persian Gulf. Not only did it have no equal in military strength (it was an ancient superpower), but nothing compared to it culturally either. Rome was, at that time, the unparalleled "standard" of civilisation.

But in just two centuries, all of that would come to an end. The empire was divided in half, voluntarily, between the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Byzantine Empire. The Empire in the West officially fell in AD 480. In the East, it lasted until AD 1453. The Western Empire enjoyed a brief resurgence under Christendom as the "Holy Roman Empire," which lasted from AD 800 to AD 1806, but none of that compared to the glory that once was Rome.

During the 2016 election cycle, I came to a startling conclusion. Looking back on the last sixty years of American history in the 21st century, I saw striking parallels with the early days of the Roman Empire. While I'm certainly not the first to see such parallels, I think I'm one of the few to pinpoint exactly where we are in that parallel history.

I see American history as progressing along much faster than Roman history. We're going through similar experiences, but at a much faster pace. For example; the American Civil War could be comparable to Roman-Gallic Wars that created the early territories of the empire. Since the end of the Second World War, however, America has been gradually heading toward an imperial state. It's run mainly by an oligarchy of banks, money cartels, oil companies and large corporations. Yet, like all empires, power is slowly consolidating into one man -- the President of the United States.

For decades the oligarchy (comparable to the ancient Roman Senate) has held a restraining leash on the president, preventing him from gaining too much power, and simultaneously controlling many of the decisions he makes. The democratic process is very easy to understand once you know who funds it. You see, presidential campaigns are very expensive to run, but not to worry, there are a handful of big-money donors who will be more than happy to foot the bill. It's just business you see, because all they expect to get out of it is a good return on their investment. Thus, the presidential winner is already bought and paid for before he ever puts his hand on the Bible and takes the oath of office. However, in this last election, with the emergence of Donald Trump, I recognised a paradigm shift should he win. Donald Trump is comparable to Julius Caesar in the American-Roman comparison. He is attempting to "Make America Great Again" by wrestling the office of the presidency away from the banking-corporate oligarchy. It does not matter if he succeeds or not. Nor does it matter if he survives his presidency. Because you see, he has set a new paradigm. Future presidents, in order to gain the support of the people, will have to prove that they're willing to stand up to the oligarchy. That means the president will need more power, and he will get it. If Congress doesn't give it to him, the people will demand it. Trump has just become the first, in an upcoming dynasty, of American Caesars.

Right now, in the first year of the Trump administration, Americans on the Right are going through their honeymoon period. Granted, it's a honeymoon the Leftist mainstream media and liberal judges would like to cut as short as possible, but it is a honeymoon nonetheless. The mantra of "Make America Great Again" is just a Right-wing version of the Left's "Hope and Change." Ultimately, both mean nothing, other than to serve as rallying cries around the change of power from one hand to the next. In the end, "Make America Great Again" will prove just as empty as "Hope and Change" did. The only real change we're seeing now is the rise of billionaire presidential candidates, who parallel the military Caesars of ancient Rome. The ancient Caesars conquered their enemies on the battlefield. The modern Caesars (Billionaire Presidents) will have vanquished their enemies in the business world. Americans, like Romans, will love them for it, and elevate them to the highest office of the land. Who's to say we won't someday see a President Jeff Bezos, or a President Bill Gates, or a even a President Mark Zuckerberg! It's all within the realm of possibilities now. These are the American Caesars. For these are the undisputed power brokers in American politics today. There will be a long line of them, and they will show the world the glory of the American Empire before it eventually and inevitably must fall.

So the good news is this. As bad as everything seems, I think the United States of America is going to stick around for a while, at least another several decades. I also think it's possible to take the Republic back, if the states will step up to the plate and rob Washington DC of federal powers through a Convention of States. So don't think for a second that we are prisoners of fate. We are not. We Americans can change our future, if we're up for it, and only time will tell if we are.

Regardless however, I think all good things come to an end eventually, and America is no different. I believe one of the reasons why so many Americans, particularly religious Americans, are convinced we are living in (or near) the end of the world is because, like the people of previous civilisations, we cannot imagine a world beyond what currently exists. A good number of American Protestants, particularly Evangelicals, equate the fall of America with the end of the world, and in that sense they are no different than the ancient Jews concerning the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. They could not imagine a world without the Temple, and so they assumed the destruction of the Temple would signal the end of the world.

Yet history tells us another story. History tells us that life goes on. Empires rise and empires fall. In God's eyes, it's all just a puff of smoke or a leaf in the wind. As far as the real end of the world, Jesus told us that will come in God's timing not ours. We cannot gauge the the end of time by the political affairs of this empire or that. Yes, we are given signs to look for, but none of those signs are dependent on the success or failure of any man-made empire.

The United States is, and has been for a long time, a political empire. The American Civil War established that beyond the shadow of a doubt. Any political union that one may easily enter, but not so easily leave, is by definition an empire. The case of the recent Brexit from the European Union proves that the EU is not yet an empire, because Britain could unilaterally leave. However, the American Civil War proved that this is not possible for any American state. No state could ever leave the American Union (USA) without gaining permission from at least 27 other states in a Constitutional Amendment, and even then it's sketchy as to whether or not Washington DC would still allow it. After all, Washington DC controls the army, so who's to say that the president won't nullify a state secession even if it's granted permission by 27 states? Yes, there is no question that America is an empire, but it has been one only with a puppet emperor (president) for a century and a half. Trump (America's Julius Caesar) will soon change that, and we'll finally get an emperor with some teeth. If not him, then the one who follows him for sure, just like Augustus was the undisputed "emperor-god" of Rome, following the adored (and hated) Julius who wanted the same adoration for himself. If Trump gets what he wants, then he will establish unquestionable American imperialism. If he doesn't, then the one who follows him will. Like I said, only a Convention of States can stop this domino effect now. Only that can return us to something a little closer to the Republic envisioned by America's Founding Fathers.

All empires, and republics, come to an end eventually. What follows them is what I find to be most interesting. The word "nation" is a bit misunderstood in American vernacular. We tend to think of "nations" as political entities. But in fact, the word "nation" is defined as: "a large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory." This means that multiple nations can inhabit one country or political union. Political statehood or empire is not the same as a nation. Nations are common peoples. States or empires are political jurisdictions. They are not always one in the same. Case in point, the Roman Empire was made up of numerous nations. Each nation consisted of people who spoke different languages, practised different religions, and identified with different cultures. The same is true with the American Empire (USA). Don't believe me? Go ask the members of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma what they think. They'll tell you their people constitute a separate and distinct nation within the political jurisdiction of the United States, regardless if their members live on the reservation or not.

Common sense will tell you this as well. A native of New England is entirely different than a native of Arkansas. Granted, we all speak the same language (English) but New Englanders and Arkansans are radically different when it comes to culture and worldview. The question however is this: is this cultural difference really defined by state lines? In other words, is an Northern Arkansan really all that different from a Southern Missourian? Is a New Englander really all that different from a Michiganite? On the West Coast, is an Oregonian really all that different from a Washingtonian? Etc. I think the answer should be fairly obvious. National boundaries are all together different from state jurisdictions. In other words, when it comes to culture, state borders really mean nothing. What really matters is who your parents are and how you were raised. That determines your language, religion, culture and worldview -- your real nationality!

The above map shows twelve distinct North American nations, based entirely on the actual definition of a nation. These consist of groupings of large numbers of people based on language, religion, culture and worldview. When we talk about the United States, Canada and Latin America, this is who we really are. We speak three major languages: English, Spanish and French. That is our linguistic heritage. However, when it comes to religion, culture and worldview, it breaks down into even greater details, and more distinct characteristics. For example, while the Francophone people are pretty much contained to one province of Canada (with a small colony in Southern Louisiana), the Anglophone people and the Hispanophone people are divided into more than one subset "nations" based upon culture and worldview. The Hispanophone people are divided into two "nations" in North America: El Norte (meaning "The North") and the more southern Spanish Caribbean peoples. Meanwhile, the Anglophone people are probably the most divided, consisting of no less than seven distinct "nations."

Right now these "nations" really don't mean a whole lot outside of academic interest and regional pride. It's fascinating to study, and it does help us understand election patterns in the United States, but under our current political reality, they don't mean all that much. In the United States, we all consider ourselves "Americans" and so long as the empire remains, that is exactly what we shall be. Yet when the American Empire (USA) falls, and someday it will because history demands it, what will North America become? I think the above map gives us a good idea of what a Europeanised North America might eventually look like. Just as the Roman Empire fell, and fractured into multiple nation-states based entirely on the nationalities of its parts, so too the American Empire (USA) will one day do the same. Will there someday be a Nation of Appalachia, a Nation of Dixie (Deep South), a Nation of Cascadia (Left Coast), a Nation of New England (Yankeedom), a Nation of Midland, and a Nation of El Norte? I couldn't say. Knowing that requires a crystal ball, and I don't presently own one. But some of these peoples already identify themselves in distinct ways. For example; a number of people in my area of the Ozarks have identified themselves as Ozarkians for a long time, and in doing so, they don't just mean the area they live in, but rather an actual identity of some kind. Still yet, a growing number of Ozarkians are starting to identify themselves more with their ancestral and cultural kinsmen from Appalachia, and there is a growing Appalachian identity movement. It even has its own flag, believe it or not...

Appalachian Flag
Produced by the Appalachian Flag Company

Personally, I wouldn't mind flying one of these beauties from my back deck as I culturally identify with Appalachia thanks to the strong influence of my mother who was raised there.

Likewise, there are many people on the West Coast identifying themselves as Cascadians, and they too have their own flag identifying the region that spans multiple states, as well as the British Columbia province of Canada. The same could be said of other regions of the United States and Canada as well.

I don't know exactly what the future holds for North America, because I can't know. I do know this however, when the United States falls (and someday it will -- guaranteed), life will go on. People will reorganise and start over, with new nations, new flags, and new governments to replace the old. This is the way of history. It's the way it's always been, and it's the way it always will be, until the end of time. I write this essay primarily for my fellow Americans, many of whom seem to be stuck in an apocalyptic mentality. The United States of America is a great union, a magnificent empire, and a grand experiment. But all good things eventually come to an end. That's just the way the world works. It may not come to an end in our lifetime, but someday it will. It helps to start thinking outside of the traditional "American identity" box, and figure out where you stand culturally. What is your real cultural nationality? Who are you really? Yes, we know you're part of the American Empire (USA) and therefore an American. I am. So is my whole family. But we are more than that. My family is Appalachian by cultural nationality. What's yours?

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

BOOKS BY THIS BLOGGER...
A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism
for Protestants

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bible Answer Man Goes on Catholic Answers -- Praises Catholicism

Hendrik "Hank" Hanegraaff
Bible Answer Man - Christian Research Institute

So let me tell you a little story about myself. Though I was baptised Lutheran, and raised an American Baptist, my family stopped going to church during my teens. This left me spiritually hungry. So at the age of 17, after the death of my grandmother, I began frantically searching for a spiritual tradition. I looked into Mormonism. I looked into the Jehovah's Witnesses. I looked into Christian Science, Armstrongism, Christian television networks, you name it I looked into it. By the age of 20, however, I settled down at a local Calvary Chapel (just six blocks away from my home in Southern California) and started listening to the Bible Answer Man broadcast on the radio. This was about the year 1990.

During that time, Hendrik "Hank" Hanegraaff ran the show with a partner, a fellow by the name of Ron Rhodes. The show was Evangelical in nature, but had a broad spectrum, recognising essential Christianity in a variety of different churches, including (believe it or not) the Roman Catholic Church. This is because the founder of the Christian Research Institute (CRI), and the Bible Answer Man (BAM) broadcast, was a fellow by the name of Dr. Walter Martin. Now Dr. Martin was raised in a Catholic school. Though an Evangelical himself, he was intimately familiar with the teachings of the Catholic Church. So he considered the Catholic Church as an errant church, which had gone astray, but still retained the essential elements of Christianity. Having died in the late 1980s, he left the ministry of CRI and BAM to Hanegraaff, who became the acting president. On Catholicism, Hanegraaff shared the same views as Martin. Rhodes did not. Rhodes eventually left the show, and went on to produce some anti-Catholic material and books. While Hanegraaff became the sole host of the BAM broadcast.

In the early years of my Christian re-awakening (early 1990s), I depended highly on Hank's radio show and the books he would recommend. I also began reading his books as well. I credit two people for taking my early Evangelical faith to a higher intellectual level. The first is Hendrik "Hank" Hanegraaff, and the second is Clive Staples Lewis, otherwise known as C.S. Lewis. Together, their books, combined with Hank's radio show, kicked up Evangelicalism to an intellectual level I desperately needed. I owe a debt of gratitude to both men for this.

By the late 1990s, long after I moved to the Ozarks, I followed the path of C.S. Lewis into Anglicanism, and spent a bit of time there, learning to distance myself from some anti-Catholic attitudes, as well as acquaint myself with liturgical worship and the sacraments. By the year 2000, my wife and I converted to the Roman Catholic Church, and we've remained Catholics ever since. When the Ordinariates for former Anglicans were created by Pope Benedict XVI between 2011-2012 we jumped on board and founded an Ordinariate community in Republic, Missouri -- St. George Catholic Church.

Hank Receiving Chrismation with Two Others
Throughout the years I have occasionally tuned back in to the BAM broadcast, and listened to Hank evolve on many of his personal beliefs. His venture into a Preterist interpretation of Last Days prophecy signalled to me that he was starting to trend in the same direction I was back in the late 1990s. I thought to myself that if he is trending toward a more catholic way of thinking on eschatology, I wonder if he'll start to go that way on the sacraments as well. However, some time after that I stopped listening for a while. Then just this year, in 2017, something amazing happened. Hank converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. He received the sacrament of chrismation (Orthodox confirmation) on Palm Sunday. It was at that point I knew something amazing happened, and I immediately started tuning back into the BAM broadcast to get more information. I had to use the Internet, because it wasn't long after this news had gotten out, that the local BAM radio broadcast was cancelled by the Evangelical Bott Radio Network. Thankfully, in this age of the Internet, we need not be subject to the censorship of anti-Catholics and anti-Orthodox anymore. As I listened to his explanation of his decision, and recount of his chrismation, my mind raced back to my own experience of confirmation in the Catholic Church some 18 years prior, on the Easter vigil of 2000.

Hank is now experiencing, as an Orthodox Christian, what we Catholic Christians have endured in this country for centuries. He's getting a small taste of it now, and I've written him to express my solidarity with him as a brother in Christ. The BAM broadcast has been cancelled on hundreds of Evangelical radio stations. Hank had been derided as a heretic and apostate -- accusations I am well familiar with myself as they are regularly levelled at me too. Yet he takes it all in stride and with a smile, because he has discovered our Eucharistic Lord. We Catholics would do well to learn from him on this and mimic his unwavering joy.

Now some of my Catholic readers will criticise Hank on this, chiding him for not going fully Catholic and embracing the papacy. I've even heard some people say "from heretic to schismatic" in regards to Hank. I believe this attitude is unwarranted. Here's why. As a former Evangelical I know what it's like to be on that side of the fence. I know the pressures and prejudices of that world. I lived in them. It's hard enough for Evangelicals just to overcome prejudice against liturgy and sacraments. Veneration of the Saints is extremely difficult to overcome. Invocation of the Saints in prayer is nearly impossible. Veneration and invocation of Mary requires nothing short of divine intervention from the Holy Spirit. I can easily see how an Evangelical could get past all these things, with God's help, and then get hung up on the papacy. What are we to say in such circumstances? Are we to tell the Evangelical it's an "all or nothing" deal. Are we to say, either you accept the papacy or live without the sacraments? I say no! While I encourage Evangelicals to keep studying and try to overcome their fears of the papacy, I recognise that some will just never be able to do it. For those who can't, there is Orthodoxy, and if an Evangelical has already decided to go Orthodox, I absolutely WILL NOT stand in the way. Personally, I think Catholicism would have been better, but at least with Orthodoxy I know they're getting authentic sacraments, recognised as valid by Rome, and doctrinal teaching that is vastly superior to anything out there in the Evangelical world. Let not perfection become the enemy of good. Orthodox are essentially catholic (small "c"), as all of their sacraments are recognised by Rome, including holy orders, and their churches are real "churches" in an ecclesial sense as understood by Rome. So when Evangelicals convert to Orthodoxy; that is good. It may not be perfect, but it is good. Let us recognise good for what it is. I do.

When it comes to good, the proof is in the pudding. While Hank doesn't make a habit of pointing people toward Catholicism (few Orthodox do), he does recognise the authentic Christianity of the Catholic Church, and he's given great complements to Catholicism and those within Catholicism. Just recently, Hank was interviewed as a special guest on the Catholic Answers Focus program. You can listen to it by iTunes here, or by streaming audio on the Internet here. I highly recommend you do so.

The conversion of Hank Hanegraaff to Orthodoxy was a watershed event in the Evangelical world. Unless you've been an Evangelical, you have no idea just how popular Hank is, and how dependent American Evangelicalism itself has become on the ministry of CRI and the BAM broadcast. His conversion to Orthodoxy has left (and continues to leave) a powerful impression. Already, I personally know two Evangelicals here in the Ozarks who are converting to Orthodoxy because of Hank's ministry. I have heard of several more Evangelicals here in the Ozarks looking into Catholicism now for the same reason. This is the real deal, and it's a paradigm shift in American Evangelicalism. Hank has led by example, and that example is having an impact.

------------------------------------------------
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

BOOKS BY THIS BLOGGER...
A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism
for Protestants

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Benedict Option for Catholics -- Part II

St. Peter's Basilica
Vatican City State, Rome 

This is Part II in a series of articles I am writing on the Benedict Option for Catholics. See The Benedict Option for Catholics -- Part I for context.

When Jesus Christ came 2,000 years ago, he made it crystal clear that the Kingdom of God was at hand. What exactly did he mean by this? It's really very simple actually. The Kingdom of God is not some far off thing, as our Evangelical brethren often mistakenly think it is. Rather it had come upon the arrival of the King, and his name is Jesus of Nazareth.

When Jesus of Nazareth arrived on the scene in around AD 30, the King was here, and with the King came his Kingdom. His Kingdom was, and is, literally everyone who followed him. Throughout his ministry he compared the Kingdom of God to many things, but the mustard seed seems most appropriate. It started off very small, but then grew into something very large. The Church he established was this Kingdom of God, but we should not be fooled into thinking that it is the Kingdom in it's fullness. Rather, the Church (as we know it today) is just the Kingdom in part, or a deposit of the Kingdom, because the Kingdom will not come in its fullness until the King (Jesus of Nazareth) returns at the end of time.

However, it seems to me that when many of us think of the Church we almost never think of it as the Kingdom. We tend to think of the Church in more abstract ways, and in my opinion, this kind of thinking is toxic to our Christian growth and development. Jesus told us his Kingdom transcended international borders, and that it would be manifest wherever his followers were. The Kingdom of God does not reign from the outside, or from the top down. Rather, it reigns from the inside out. It enters this world through the hearts and minds of the King's subjects (Christians). It acquires land and territory wherever it's followers dwell. It subdues earthly principalities (monarchies, republics, dictatorships) whenever its leaders are subdued to Christ the King, and enact laws accordingly. The Kingdom of God, however, is not limited to these nations, nor to their governments or institutions. Rather, the Kingdom of God continues to reign with, or without, these things. It reigns in the hearts and minds of Christians. When this reign is extended to the civil realm, that's just an added bonus, a bonus not enjoyed by every generation.

The governance of the Kingdom of God is not through man-made authorities. Regional kings, queens, republics and dictators would never suffice as the representative (vicar) of King Jesus. Rather, King Jesus set up his own royal court. This is recorded in the gospels...
I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. -- Matthew 16:18-19
The "Kingdom of God" and the "Kingdom of Heaven" are the same thing. "Keys" are an Old Testament symbol of authority (Isaiah 22:22). They were given only to the king's prime minister. So Peter was selected by King Jesus to be his prime minister, but more than that, a key denotes succession. In other words, keys can be passed down from one generation to the next, and so likewise the prime ministerial duty of Peter would be passed down too. It's not uncommon for mortal kings (and queens) to outlive their prime ministers. This is because, in ancient times, prime ministers were usually selected from older (and presumably wiser) men, so as to give the king sound advice, and so the king might benefit from the wisdom of an older man. In modern times, prime ministers are usually elected by the royal subjects through democratic processes. When a prime ministers term is done, the people elect a replacement, but the king (or queen) remains. For example; Queen Elizabeth II, during the time of her reign, has had no less than 13 prime ministers under her, and that's just in the U.K. When you count the other nations that name her has sovereign, she has had over 160! So likewise, because King Jesus lives forever, he has had 266 prime ministers, starting with St. Peter and currently at Pope Francis. Beneath the prime ministers, a king usually has other ministers serving in his royal court. Under King Jesus these were originally the apostles of the Church. Today we call these the cardinals of the Catholic Church. Finally, a king must have sheriffs to extend the reaches of his realm beyond his castle and immediate city. In the Catholic Church, the Kingdom of God, these are the Archbishops and bishops. Each sheriff would have deputies to assist him in the governance of a region. In the Kingdom of God, these deputies are the priests and deacons, who assist the bishops in the governance of their dioceses, ordinariates, prelatures, or other juridic structures within the Catholic Church.

It is this understanding of the Church, as the Kingdom, that many of us have lost today, which is to our own detriment. However, it's not entirely our fault.

In recent centuries, the civil governments and institutions that were once Christian, and subdued by the Kingdom of God (The Catholic Church), turned away from their Christian character, and adopted instead various other forms of character.

The first was the characteristic of Protestantism in the 16th century, starting in Northern Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Great Britain). This was a morphed type of Christian governance that rejected Christ designated Prime Minister -- the Pope. In turn, Christ's appointed Prime Minister (The Pope) was replaced by their own civil governments, acting in the place of the Pope. This in turn allowed the teaching of the Church to be morphed as well, into something entirely different than what Christ the King originally established with the Catholic Church.

The second was the characteristic of Secularism in the 18th century, started in the United States and France. This form of governance attempted to separate religion from the state entirely, and replace it with a humanist view of mankind and the world. This type of governance spread quickly in the 19th and 20th centuries, until almost the entire Western world is now engulfed in it by the early 21st century. Also by the early 21st century, a new militant brand of Secularism took root in the West, divorcing Christian religion from all influence over public morality, and marginalising Christians in society.

The third was the characteristic of Communism in the 20th century, started in Russia. This quickly spread into China and the Orient, as well as into Eastern Europe and Latin America. This form of governance attempted to destroy all religious influence over society in total. Unlike Secularism which has no creed at all, Communism pushed the creed of militant atheism. Under Communism the Church was actively and openly persecuted, and the state was considered "god."

As civil authorities adopted one of these three characteristics, it became very easy for Christians to adopt a view of the Church that is abstract and nebulous. This is especially the case in Protestant and Secular states, were multiple Christian denominations abound. Unless you know history, it becomes very difficult to distinguish where real Christian authority resides.

As the 21st century increases, and Secular governments continue to marginalise Christians, espousing a type of moral relativism that is completely foreign to the Christian mind, it is high time we begin thinking of the Church as the Kingdom again. We must understand first that it is not the Kingdom of God in its fullness, but even as just a deposit of the Kingdom of God, it nevertheless exerts absolute sovereign authority over the King's royal subjects -- Christians.

Catholic Christians are particularly fortunate among all Christians, because for us, the authority structure of the Kingdom, established by Christ the King himself, remains totally intact, wherein it is easy to identify and submit. So we Catholic Christians need to think of ourselves as royal subjects first and foremost. We are royal subjects of King Jesus. We are his Kingdom. Which means our PRIMARY GOVERNMENT is Jesus Christ our Sovereign. We are citizens of our respective countries secondly. Our citizenship in our respective countries always comes secondary to being royal subjects of his Highness Jesus Christ, King of kings.

Now our poor Protestant brethren can cling to this truth too, as well they should, but they are left to try to figure out things themselves, as to how the chain of authority works between Christ the King and their own personal lives. Thankfully, we Catholics have our King's sacred authority clearly laid out for us. It begins with Christ's Prime Minister -- the Pope -- who acts as the King's vicar (representative) just like any royal prime minister of any country speaks on behalf of the monarchy for that nation. So the Pope acts as Christ's Prime Minister for this Kingdom on Earth. It's not the fullness of the Kingdom of God, it is rather just a deposit, but that deposit bears with it infinitely more authority than any man-made civil government on Earth.

We need to think of ourselves as royal subjects of Christ the King first, and thus subjects of his deposit of the Kingdom of God (The Catholic Church). This must be our primary and absolute authority. When you think of following the laws, the first thing you should think about as a Catholic is following God's laws through the Church. We are part of a Kingdom, and Jesus is our King, therefore, we must follow the laws our King has given us through his prime minister, royal court and sheriffs. That being the Pope, cardinals and bishops. Only AFTER THAT should we consider the civil laws of the land.

So with that, what is a short summary of the Holy Laws of Christ the King, and his Kingdom of God...

The Two Great Commandments

  1. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.
  2. Love your neighbour as yourself.
These two great commandments summarise everything. Follow them meticulously, and everything else will just come along naturally. However, if you need some more details, our King (through his Kingdom Church) is quick to offer them...

The Ten Commandments

  1. Worship only God (Yahweh) the Holy Trinity. -- No false gods or idols allowed.
  2. Honour God's Name (Yahweh, Jesus & Emmanuel). -- Do not use them in vain or in disrespectful ways.
  3. Keep Holy the Sabbath Day. -- This was reinterpreted as Sunday by the first Apostles of Christ the King, who asserted their Christ-given authority over the Old Mosaic Law, because Christ is greater than Moses.
  4. Honour your father and mother. -- This means means to obey them while you're young, and then later care for them in their old age.
  5. You shall not murder. -- meaning you can't kill innocent people who aren't trying to kill you.
  6. You shall not commit adultery. -- This commandment forbids all sex (fornication, prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, masturbation, rape, incest, paedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, etc., etc., etc.) outside of the natural marital act between one man and one woman -- a husband and his wife.
  7. You shall not steal. -- This includes theft, cheating people, depriving workers of a just wage, depriving employers of a full days work, fraud, tax evasion, etc.
  8. You shall not lie. -- Principally this is regarding a lie that hurts somebody, or deceives someone for personal gain, though all lies should be avoided as much as possible.
  9. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife. -- In other words, don't think about immoral sex of any type. Don't entertain the thought. Don't fantasise about it. Dismiss all such temptation as mere temptation and move on. (Temptation itself is not a sin. It only becomes sin when you entertain the temptation with intentional fantasies.)
  10. You shall not covet your neighbour's goods. -- In other words, don't think about feelings of envy, greed, and jealousy in reaction to what other people have.

The Five Precepts of the Church

  1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labour. We must "sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord" (Sunday), as well as the principal feast days, known as Catholic holy days of obligation. This requires attending Mass, "and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days."
  2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year. We must prepare for the Eucharist by means of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). This sacrament “continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.”
  3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season. This "guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and centre of the Christian liturgy."
  4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church. "The fourth precept ensures the times of ascetics and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart."
  5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church. "The fifth precept means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability."

Code of Canon Law


The Code of Canon Law is the official law of the Church that governs the administration of the sacraments, the hierarchy of the Church, and the rights of the Catholic Faithful. People who are experts in this law are called canonists. It's not the responsibility of regular lay people to know all of these laws, or how they apply. This is the job of canonists, bishops and priests. A good rule of thumb for laypeople is to simply talk to your priest whenever you have questions about such things as Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist and Matrimony (marriage), etc.

Probably the biggest problem most Catholics have today is they don't consult the proper Church authorities on the subject of marriage. Catholics cannot marry people without talking to a priest first. This is because permission to marry must be obtained from the bishop. This is especially the case when marrying non-Catholics. Catholics cannot lawfully marry outside of the Church without the local bishop's permission. Any marriage contracted by a Catholic outside of the Church, without permission from the bishop, the Church automatically regards such marriage null and void. This is a real problem among Catholics in the West. And it's a big reason why so many Catholics deal with divorce and irregular marriages today. Of course, this canon law does not apply to non-Catholics, but Catholics are under the authority of the Church (the Kingdom of God on earth), therefore they must keep this law. You can read The Code of Canon Law by clicking here, but like I said, your local priest is the best person to go to with questions and concerns. It's not designed for common lay reading.

Civil Law


Catholic Christians are under the Kingdom first, and are obliged to obey the laws of the King (Jesus Christ) as administered by his vicars (pope, bishops and priests). This is his royal court, administrators and deputies. Beyond that, however, God has permitted civil authority to govern everyone outside his Church, and Catholics are obliged to obey the laws of civil authority, only insofar as they do not contradict the laws of King Jesus as administered in his Kingdom (The Catholic Church). When it comes to Catholics, we really do live in one jurisdiction overlapping another. The laws of the Kingdom come first, and they supersede the laws of the civil state. We must obey civil laws, but we must disobey or disregard them when they contradict the laws of the King and his Kingdom Church.

For example; Sharia Law (Islamic Law) opposes the laws of the King and his Kingdom in the very worship of God. Christians are commanded to evangelise, but sharia says they can't. Therefore Christians must ignore this civil law of sharia, even upon pain of death. For a law that contradicts God's law is no law at all.

Another example; divorce is permitted by the state under both sharia and Western secular governments. Under these laws, it is permissible for divorced persons to remarry. This violates the laws of the King and his Kingdom which forbids divorce. Therefore these divorce laws must be ignored. Catholics are not permitted to remarry after civil divorce unless the Church declares (by marriage tribunal) that the divorced marriage is "null," meaning it never existed to begin with.

Another example; civil law in many Western states permits persons of the same-sex to marry one another. This violates the laws of the King and his Kingdom. Therefore such civil laws must be ignored, and the Church must regard such "marriages" as automatically null and void. 

Another example; abortion is permitted as "legal" in many Western states. This violates the laws of the King and the Kingdom. Therefore such laws must be ignored and abortion must be regarded by Catholics as the murder of innocent children, and coerced physical assault on their mothers. Catholics who participate in such acts automatically incur the penalty of excommunication from the Catholic Church.

Another example; euthanasia is permitted as "legal" in a growing number of Western states. This violates the laws of the King and the Kingdom. Therefore such laws must be ignored and euthanasia must be regarded by Catholics as murder of the innocent. Catholics who participate in such acts automatically incur the penalty of excommunication from the Catholic Church. 

Lesser examples include the following...

  • Wearing immodest clothing in public is considered perfectly legal in the West, especially on beaches and in public pools, but this violates the King's laws of modesty. 
  • Viewing pornography is considered perfectly legal in the West, but this violates the King's laws against adultery, and coveting you're neighbours wife, even if you're single. 
  • Artificial contraception is perfectly legal in Western nations, but it is forbidden by the laws of the King. 

Catholics would be morally obligated to resist all pressures by society, corporations and the state to impose these things upon us. The point here is that we Catholics are not primarily under civil authority. The civil authority of our nation is a lesser authority. It falls beneath the Kingdom of God, which is our primary authority that supersedes all others. Now to be sure, King Jesus did command us to obey civil authorities only insofar as they do not try to subvert his authority. So when the government says "pay your taxes," King Jesus likewise says, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's but to God what is God's." In other words, "Pay your taxes, but give your allegiance to God." Likewise, the government of the Kingdom (the hierarchy of the Church) informs us to obey our governments in all things that don't encroach upon the authority of the Church. So if the civil laws post a speed limit, we obey that speed limit. If they demand a license, we get a license. If they demand fees, regulations, honours, we give them fees, and honours, while obeying their regulations. Again, we do all of this, so long as it never encroaches upon the authority of Christ the King, and the governance of his Kingdom Church.

What about civil duties, like jury duty? Again, we are obliged to do these things, so long as they don't encroach upon the authority of Christ the King and the governance of his Kingdom Church. So for example; if we are called to jury duty then we serve accordingly, so long as we are not asked to convict somebody for following the laws of God. Case in point; suppose somebody is on trial for refusing some stupid civil law that requires a parents to put their daughters on artificial birth control at the age of 14. (I'm not saying such a law exists, but considering the direction our society is going, it may not be a long way off.) The state may consider this in the interest of public health, and refusal to comply a matter of civil disobedience, even child abuse! If a Catholic juror ever found his/her self in such a trial, he/she would be morally obligated to acquit the parents regardless of what the civil law said. The laws of the King and His Kingdom take precedence.

What about military service? Again, we Catholics are free to serve voluntarily, and are obliged to comply with the draft, so long as we are never ordered to make war on the Christ the King or his Kingdom Church. For example; if Catholic soldiers were ordered by their superior officer to storm a cathedral, arrest the bishop and his priests, we would me morally obligated to resist (disobey) such orders, even at the risk of court marshal, for we cannot make war against our primary government. The bishop and priests are our King's governors.

What about the civil duty of voting? How are we to vote as Catholics? The Catholic Church has given several directives for good Catholic voting, much of which has been confusing, vague and sometimes inconsistent. Still, there is a very simple principle any Catholic could follow and be totally in compliance with our duties to Christ the King first. All we need do is vote for candidates who are the least threat to the Kingdom. In other words, we vote for candidates who pose the least threat to the freedom and autonomy of the Catholic Church. That's it. That's all there is to it. Usually, the candidates that pose the least threat to the freedom and autonomy of the Catholic Church, also tend to be those candidates who are most aligned with authentic Catholic teaching. Follow this simple principle, and you'll be serving Christ the King as his royal subject, as well as fulfilling your civic duty as a citizen of your state.

So how does all this relate to the Benedict Option for Catholics? Actually it relates quite a bit, because it's part of reorienting our minds toward a proper way of thinking about authority. The principle of the Catholic Church as the Kingdom of God on Earth is a way of thinking that has been lost for the last 500 years in Northern Europe and all of the English colony states. It's a way of thinking that has been lost to much of Western Europe for the last 200 years. Finally, it has been lost entirely to almost all of the world for the last 100 years. In other words, there is nobody left alive today who remembers what the world was like when most people thought this way. We are living in a time that is totally alien to anything our Christian ancestors have known. It's sort of like the Matrix films, wherein our intellects have been trapped in an alternate reality for so long, we have great difficulty wrapping our minds around anything different. We have to reorient ourselves for proper thinking if we ever hope to survive the coming storm of anti-Christian persecution, which is inevitable now. I've given you, my readers, much to digest for now, so I'll bring this installation to a close here. In my next instalment on this series, I'll suggest the methods and disciplines that will make this reorientation of thinking more practical and real in daily life.

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

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