Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Was Hitler a Christian? No!

Was Hitler a Christian?  No!

          This is an article I hadn’t planned on writing.  It actually stems from a discussion I had on Twitter recently.  I responded to an atheist’s post claiming that Adolph Hitler was a Catholic and that the Church was complicit in the Holocaust.  Most people know that Hitler’s views stemmed from his fascination with Charles Darwin and Friedrich Nietzsche, and had nothing to do with Christianity.  However, after I stated as much, the young man who wrote the original message became quite agitated.
          Now, Twitter is a medium that has some useful purposes, but intellectual discussion is not one of them.  It simply can’t be done 144 characters at a time.  So I offered to speak with the young man via email, but he didn't seem interested.  I intended to drop the matter when I received a message from another atheist, who didn’t claim Hitler was a Christian, but denied his association with social Darwinism.  So I decided to write an article on the issue, and in the future I can just offer the link with another invitation to discuss over email, if the incident should happen again.
          So, was Hitler a Christian?  Most people with even a rudimentary knowledge of Christianity would laugh at the idea.  Certainly there is nothing in Scripture or the Catechism that would relate to Hitlerism, except to condemn it.  Then why do some atheist propaganda Web sites make such a preposterous claim?
          There are two main reasons.  First, Hitler’s mother was a Catholic, and was actually quite devout.  His father was baptized a Catholic but would be characterized as either a skeptic or an atheist, depending on your source.  Unfortunately, young Adolph did not follow in his mother’s religious footsteps and rejected his Catholicism at a young age, actually becoming quite disgusted by it.  There is the only piece of actual truth to the claim: by virtue of baptism, Hitler was a Catholic, but like so many others, he did not continue in the Faith.  (Joseph Stalin, at one point, for example, was an Orthodox seminary student.  He became one of the most violently blood-thirsty atheists of all time.)
          The other “evidence” for Hitler’s supposed Christianity comes from references he made in speeches and writings that cast Christianity in a positive light, and even as an influence on him.  This is where the atheist thinks he’s got us trapped on this issue.  It’s right there, in the historical record.
          However, the atheist who makes this claim is only betraying his lack of knowledge on this issue.  Perhaps he’s seen a couple of Web sites or read “Hitler’s Pope” or some such nonsense.  But a comprehensive look at Hitler’s actions and statements gives clear evidence as to why he would occasionally speak or write favorably about Christianity, and it is not personal belief.
          In Mein Kampf Hitler speaks of his struggle as that rarest of statesmen (as he saw himself), the political philosopher who was also the practical politician – the philosopher-king.  His sick philosophy is rooted in Darwin and Nietzsche, but as the practical politician, he needs a way to make his vision a reality.  That is where Christianity comes in, as a valuable political tool.
          Germany, of course, was a Christian nation, mostly Lutheran with pockets of Catholicism.  But among the elite a Darwinian materialism had taken hold, and was spreading through the universities.  For Hitler’s vision to be realized, he would need countless men willing to die for his cause.  Well, people do not die for materialism.  What’s the point?  But they will die for something they believe with a religious fervor.
          Hitler did not try to convince the German people they were living out their Christianity by slaughtering Jews, but he had to tap into a religious fervor and direct that toward his vision of a master race that would be free of the undesirables that are at the root of all social problems, according to his thinking.  He also must have known that, like the United States today, though religiosity may not be where it should, people are unlikely to accept a ruler without some faith.
          You see, Hitler was also a student of Niccolo Machiavelli when it came to politics.  Machiavelli had counseled rulers, in The Prince, to appear to be religious, even though truthfully they be atheists, and to use religion to advance their political goals.  As proof of Hitler’s knowledge and devotion to this thinking, consider his own words:
“This human world of ours would be inconceivable without the practical existence of a religious belief.  The great masses of a nation are not composed of philosophers.  For the masses of people especially, faith is absolutely the only basis of a moral outlook on life.  The various substitutes that have been offered have not shown any results that might warrant us in thinking that they might usefully replace the existing denominations…Until such a substitute [for religion] be available only fools and criminals would think of abolishing the existing religion (emphasis added)."  (Main Kampf, Volume One, Chapter 10)
          Also, consider the fact that Jews were not the only people slaughtered by the Nazis.  Many types of people were killed, especially Catholics.  Our third son is named after the Catholic priest St. Maximilian Kolbe, who died in Auschwitz.  Catholics of all types were in the sites of Hitler and the Nazi regime.
          Why, then, this desperation among some atheists to portray Hitler as a Catholic?  For my simple comments I was branded both an idiot and a liar by my Twitter adversary.  Responses such as those, of course, only betray that our opponent has no really rational argument.  But they also reveal a desperation to hold onto the fantasy, to such a degree that irrational anger will be directed at anyone who questions it.  (We, of course, must be sure never to respond in kind.  If we are speaking as Christians, we must act as Christians, speaking the Truth in charity.)
          The answer, I think, is in who really influenced Adolph Hitler.  I actually never called Hitler an atheist.  His involvement in the occult would make it difficult for me to do so.  However, as previously mentioned, Hitler took the “morality” of Nietzsche, magnified it, and then applied it to social Darwinism.
          This is an “inconvenient truth” for some atheists.  The connection between Hitler and Darwin is undeniable (though Darwin himself would not have approved of what Hitler did.  He went to great lengths to try and give some reason for compassion.)  Darwin, of course, is the father of eugenics.  He said in The Descent of Man, “With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated…We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, and the sick…Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind…excepting in the case of man himself, hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed.”
          Evil enough, but Hitler decided, borrowing from the “moral philosophy” of Nietzsche (see Beyond Good and Evil), that the right thing to do would be to speed up the process of eugenics not by controlling who can breed, but by exterminating the undesirables:
          “I perceived very clearly that the end of all social activity must never be merely sentimental charity, which is ridiculous and useless, but it must rather be a means to find a way of eliminating the fundamental deficiencies which necessarily bring about the degradation of the individual…” (Mein Kampf, Volume One, Chapter 2)
          How about this prediction from Darwin: “At some future period, not very distant by measure of centuries, the civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate and replace throughout the world the savage races.” (The Descent of Man, Chapter 6)
          Hitler again: “By recognizing that they are different, the volkisch concept separates mankind into races of superior and inferior quality.  On the basis of this recognition it feels bound, in conformity with the eternal Will that dominates the universe, to postulate the victory of the better and stronger, and the subordination of the inferior and weaker.”(Mein Kampf, Volume Two, Chapter 1)
          What do you think, does it sound more like Darwin or Christ?
          Finally, it should be noted that the claim that Adolph Hitler was a Catholic, even if it were true, would not discredit Christianity.  Hitler may not have been a Christian, but history has plenty of scoundrels who have been.  The difference is this: when these people did their nefarious deeds, they were acting in a manner inconsistent with their Christianity.  You don’t need to take my word for it.  Look in the Catechism; it tells you exactly what the Church teaches.  However, it would be hard to make an argument that Hitler was acting in a manner fundamentally inconsistent with social Darwinism.
          And yet, the atheists that wrote these messages on Twitter clearly condemn what Hitler did, and it’s good that they do.  In fact, the very fact that they find the Holocaust repulsive is a proof of the existence of God.  If we really were mere assortments of atoms who have evolved in a totally unguided manner, there would be no basis for objective morality, and the most we could say about the Holocaust is that we find it distasteful.  By their very moral indignation, these atheists testify to the existence of God.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Link - Reflections on the Gospel

Link – Reflections on the Gospel


Yesterday I shared some reflections that were inspired by Sunday’s Gospel, the multiplying of the loaves and fishes.  The link below has many other, spiritual reflections on the Gospel.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Easy Prey

Easy Prey

This past weekend at Mass we heard the story of the feeding of the five thousand as recounted by St. John in his Gospel.  This, of course, is when Jesus fed 5,000 men with five barley loaves and two fish, leaving twelve baskets of leftovers.  There is plenty that can be written on this event, and it is worth hours of mental prayer on topics such as the Eucharist, the divinity of Christ, the New Covenant, and much more.
But what struck me this past Sunday was how the story ends.  The people wish to carry Jesus off and make Him king, so He departs from them.  Why did they want to make Jesus king?  Because they recognized Him as the Son of God, and Prince of Peace?  No, He says later that they are following Him because He filled their bellies, not because they have faith.
Imagine a leader who could multiply food at will.  Hunger and poverty would be a thing of the past for his nation.  We can easily relate to the sentiments of the men whom Jesus fed that day.  And yet, they were only thinking in material and temporal terms.  They missed the bigger picture and they kept closed the eyes of faith.  Jesus came as a man from God, and yet they seemingly did not consider His message or teaching; they wanted Him to be king because he healed the sick and fed the masses. 
The Roman emperors tapped into this weakness of human nature.  Give the people bread and they will accept all forms of tyranny.  It reminds me of what the Catechism teaches about the coming of the Antichrist:  a religious deception that will offer people apparent solutions to their problems at the price of apostasy from the Truth (paragraph 675).
The people in Sunday’s Gospel were blessed because they had Jesus, who refused an earthly kingdom so that He could prepare a place for us in his Heavenly Kingdom.  But when Antichrist comes, that will not be so.  There will be no such restraint and those who remain faithful to Christ will be persecuted, until Christ comes in glory, and brings with Him the final victory.
What does that have to do with us?  I believe we are like those people in the Gospel, willing to proclaim as king anyone who will give us bread, and missing what else he brings besides.  We live in a world that has completely shut God out of public life.  Our pagan culture has completely turned its back on God’s Law, and natural law, when it comes to life and marriage.  And now those human constructions that were meant to protect our freedom (i.e. the Constitution) are being set aside.
Anyone who speaks in defense of God’s Law or argues in the public debate from the basis of natural law is dismissed as a bigot, and subject to penalties, either legal or social.
Preachers are being arrested in Canada for teaching God’s plan for sexuality.  Chick-Fil-A is being demonized because its CEO believes in traditional marriage.  The Catholic Church is being forced to provide contraception or face the wrath of the federal government.  And babies are still slaughtered by the thousands daily.  And this is on what is supposedly the freest continent on Earth.
As our society crumbles around us, in the midst of a Presidential election, what do we hear?  This election is about one thing: the economy.  Does anyone believe that we will be slow to accept any leader who can solve our economic woes?  A culture war is raging around us, and the vast majority of American voters are just trying to figure out whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney is more likely to lower the unemployment rate.  Yes, I would suggest that we are easy prey for the Antichrist.  May God protect us and bring us back to our senses before it is too late.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

NFP Awareness Week

NFP Awareness Week

This past week has been Natural Family Planning (NFP) Awareness Week.  NFP is a method of regulating the births of children by having recourse to the infertile periods in a woman’s cycle.  Because a woman is fertile for only a short period each cycle, and the signs of fertility are very clear and easy to detect with our modern knowledge of the subject, NFP is the most effective means of preventing pregnancy, and Catholics can licitly have recourse to it for serious reasons.  NFP can also be used in order to help achieve pregnancy.
Besides the moral benefits of a couple knowing their marital acts reflect God’s design, there is also no risk of accidental abortion, caused by some contraceptives, and women are free from putting carcinogens in their bodies month after month, as hormonal contraceptives do. 
Generally a couple needs to abstain from relations for about 11 days during a woman’s cycle in order to avoid pregnancy, but this can vary depending on the length of the cycle and how conservative a couple decides to be.  This may seem difficult, but considering that studies suggest that couples who contracept have much more barren “marital intimacy” lives than couples who do not, I would imagine most couples would not consider 11 days of abstinence anything too abnormal.  Again, NFP should be used for appropriate reasons, which should be discerned through mutual prayer, and perhaps with the help of a spiritual director.
To learn more about NFP, a wonderful resource is the Couple to Couple League.  Most dioceses also have classes available for anyone wishing to become educated on the subject.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Happy Anniversary 'Humanae Vitae'

Happy Anniversary Humanae Vitae!

          Today (July 25) is the 44th anniversary of Pope Paul VI’s landmark encyclical Humanae Vitae (Of Human Life).  This encyclical, of course, reaffirmed the Church’s constant teaching against the use of artificial contraception, which is what it is known for.  But it said a lot more than just that.
          I was born eight years after the promulgation of Humanae Vitae and grew up in a post-sexual revolution culture that had already been shaped by the very things that Humanae Vitae warned against, so it is hard for me to imagine living in a world that upheld the standards celebrated by Pope Paul VI.
          The encyclical was written after the release of a report from a pontifical commission that spent three years considering the issue of artificial contraception.  Though there were sharp divisions within the commission, the majority suggested that Church teaching on the issue should be changed.  Pope Paul VI, however, in what we can recognize as a confirmation of the charism of papal infallibility, pronounced otherwise.
          Humanae Vitae begins with an overview of the background that led to its publication.  The pope then goes into an in-depth reflection on the issue.  Contrary to the accusations of those unhappy with the encyclical, the pope does not simply list off “Thou shalt not’s.”  He shows that he clearly understands all sides of the issue, as well as the challenges that modern married couples face with regard to having children.  In a manner reminiscent of St. Thomas Aquinas, Paul VI demonstrates that he clearly understands his opponents’ positions as well as possible objections to his teaching.  Then he clearly and lovingly answers those objections.
          The pope puts the marital act into the context of a total vision of man, and God’s plan for life and love.  He elevates sexual intimacy between married couples and shows very clearly why such a sacred act is incompatible with artificial contraception.  He also affirms that couples can licitly have recourse to Natural Family Planning (NFP) if they have serious reasons for wanting to delay pregnancy, and explains why NFP is totally different than artificial contraception on a human and moral level.
          Finally, Paul VI gives pastoral advice to priests, bishops, scientists, medical professionals, public authorities, and especially to married couples.  All this in one of the shortest papal documents you are likely to read.
          One of the most famous sections of Humanae Vitae consists of three short paragraphs in which Paul VI shows himself to be a prophet, as he warns against the consequences of widespread acceptance of artificial contraception. 
          The pope suggests that artificial contraception will lead to a general lowering of morality, and a lack of respect between man and woman, as men will begin to regard women “as a mere instrument of selfish enjoyment, and no longer as his respected and beloved companion.” 
          No one can deny that when people began to (erroneously) believe they could remove the risk of pregnancy from sexual encounters, promiscuity went through the roof, along with marital infidelity, divorce and pornography.  Simply remember that the pill was introduced widely in 1960.  Observe the social trends since then.
          The pope also warns that if we accept artificial contraception, there will be grave temptations for governments to misuse it, compelling people against their will to make use of the most preferred method in order to try and achieve desired social and demographic goals.  The worst case of this prophecy’s fulfillment is China’s one-child policy, which has begun to spread.  But President Obama, with his HHS mandate, has now made this concern a reality even in the United States.
          Finally, the pope suggests that once we fail to protect the “mission of generating life” from our “arbitrary will,” other limits will come crashing down, “limits which no man…may licitly surpass.”  Sure enough, the spread of artificial contraception has led to a massive increase in abortion, in line with the thinking of Pope Paul VI, and not the promises of the social engineers of the 1960s.
           Humanae Vitae has had a lasting effect on the Church.  Besides giving us a greater understanding of the meaning and sacredness of sexual intimacy, and the development of methods of NFP that obliterate any artificial contraception in terms of effectiveness, much dissent arose.  Some pastors and theologians were counseling Catholics, after the commission’s report, that the pope would disavow the Church’s long-standing teaching, and in anticipation, they could lawfully begin to use artificial contraception.  When that didn’t happen, of course, the response of many Catholics was to refuse to accept the teaching of the Church on this issue.  Then, like Paul VI warned about limits coming crashing down, every teaching of the Church was up for grabs based on one’s personal preferences.
          This negative effect, thanks to the fidelity and holiness of our recent Holy Fathers, has begun to finally diminish.  And Paul VI reminded us that teachings given to us by Almighty God can not be changed by the Church, even as the broader culture changes.  The Church can more fully understand what she has been given, but she has not the authority to contradict her Head, Jesus.
          Most Catholics, especially those who refuse to accept it, have not read Humanae Vitae.  It is well worth a read, though.  It is short and easy to read, but packed with spiritual and philosophical wisdom.  Even those who have read it before would benefit from revisiting it.  I always do.
          It can be found online at the Vatican’s Web site,, or you can purchase it at many Catholic book stores, or at the link below.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On Vacation

On Vacation

          I will be spending some time with my family, and will not be posting again until Thursday, July 26.  I ask that you say a quick prayer for my parents.  My father died five years ago but this Saturday will be their 39th anniversary.  Also, please check out the video below in which Jeevaline Kumar describes the plight of India’s “Untouchables,” and the effort Christians have made to help.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

The Myth of Sisyphus

The Myth of Sisyphus

          I remember as a sophomore in college, in a philosophy class, we were asked to write whether we thought the Myth of Sisyphus was an accurate description of life.
          In Greek mythology, Sisyphus is a king who was punished by being forced to push a huge boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down once he reached the top.  He was condemned to repeat this pointless action day after day after day.  It is meant to demonstrate the absurdity of life.
          Well, even as poorly formed as I was then, I recognized that the Myth of Sisyphus in no way relates to a Christian understanding of life.  For one thing, it does not take into account the reality of love. Read the quote by Blessed John Paul II under the title of this blog.  The reality of love, and our participation in it, means life can never be absurd.
          And, of course, there is the source of all love: God.  Every moment is an opportunity to grow in our relationship with Him, to become more like Him, and therefore to grow in love.  There is also the reality of Heaven.  Life is not simply one meaningless day after another.  It is a journey to an incredible Destination.  We are not standing still in repetitive existence; we are going somewhere.
          Most Christians would not see in the Myth of Sisyphus any true analogy for life, though in our weakness we may feel occasionally like it is.  I do suspect, though, that some of us may see in the realm of our work, the daily toil at our jobs, something of the experience of Sisyphus.
          This is an easy trap to fall into, and an unfortunate one.  It takes effort and intention to break free of it.  Father Bill Casey tells a story that relates.
          A man walks down a street in the middle ages and sees three stone cutters working on giant boulders.  He stops and asks the first, “What are you doing?”
          “What does it look like I’m doing?  I’m chipping away at this stone!”
          He goes on to the second and asks, “What are you doing?”
          “What does it look like I’m doing?  I’m working.  I’m providing for the needs of my family.”
          He moves on a little more and asks the third, “What are you doing?”
          “What does it look like I’m doing?  I’m building a great cathedral.  It will be the center of this town for hundreds of years.  The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass will be offered here.  People will come here to be baptized, to marry, and to be commended to God when they die.”
          All three stone cutters were doing the same thing, but they had very different perspectives that greatly affected how much they felt like Sisyphus.  The first could not see beyond what was right in front of him.  The second saw a higher purpose, and found more meaning in what he was doing.  The third, however, saw the whole picture, and he found true joy in his work.
          St. Josemaria Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, taught, among other things, that men should turn their work into prayer, into the “work of God.”  We may not be building cathedrals, and our jobs may at times be menial and devoid of appreciation, but they are opportunities to serve God.
          When we do our best, and give an honest day’s labor, we can offer that to God.  We can do it for Him, and allow our work to transform us into great saints, no matter what it is.  Mother Teresa reminded us that it is not what we do that makes us saints, but with how much love we do it.
          One final story on this thought.  True or not, I’m not sure, but I don’t think it matters.  It seems that during the Second Vatican Council, Archbishop Fulton Sheen was in Rome to attend.  He was not a cardinal, of course, but many observers and theologians were present.  Outside his hotel was a street sweeper that he saw every day, and who seemed to do his work with immense joy.
          Bishop Sheen asked him one day, “Tell me, what makes you so happy as you work?”
          The street sweeper responded, “You are a bishop, are you not?  And you are here for the council?  Very important.  But if I do my work with more love than you do yours, I will be the more pleasing to God.”
          “Very good, my son.”
          May our work be a prayer, make us pleasing to God, and help us to become saints.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Demanding a Pro-Life VP

Demanding a Pro-Life V.P.

          There has been a lot of buzz this week about who Mitt Romney might choose as his running mate.  The Drudge Report suggested that Condoleezza Rice might be the frontrunner, and the idea has been the subject of a lot of talk.  This has gotten the pro-life community a bit concerned.
          Ms. Rice is relatively liberal on social issues and has described herself as “mildly pro-choice.”  Romney does not have a great history on this issue but most people are willing to believe the convictions he says he now holds are genuine.  However, pro-lifers are rightly sensitive to being marginalized by the Republican party establishment.
          In the video below, from the campaign trail last year, Romney said he would choose a pro-life running mate, a commitment he reaffirmed in March.  Therefore, it is unlikely that Rice would be selected, especially since he would have no chance of winning without the support of the pro-life community, but an effort is being made to contact the Romney campaign and encourage him to choose a running mate that shares our values on the right of every human being to life.
          The campaign can be reached at: (857) 288-3500 or

Sunday, July 15, 2012

The Heresy of 'Nice'

The Heresy of ‘Nice’

          I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, but it seems God made a mistake when He gave Moses the Ten Commandments.  Thankfully, our culture has found and fixed the problem.  See, God has a lot of stuff in there about adultery and keeping holy the Sabbath, which we have graciously removed for Him, and somehow He left out the number one, most important Commandment of them all: “Be nice.”
          I’ve read and reread the Ten Commandments and for the life of me, I just can’t find it.  And it gets worse.  A few years ago I attended a talk at which the speaker asked the question, “Was Jesus a nice guy or was He a good man?”
          Now, as a twenty-first century Westerner I know very well that goodness is hard to pin down.  What’s good to you may not be good to me, and I’m certainly not going to impose my personal views on someone else’s concept of goodness.  Since Jesus is such a wonderful teacher, a guru, He must have been a nice guy.  No one can argue with that.
          But then I opened up my Bible again.  Do you know what I found?  I found Jesus driving the money changers out of the temple area after knocking over their tables!  He called Pharisees and scribes vipers and whitewashed tombs!  He accused some people of being hypocritical, told others to stop sinning, and chastised men for their lack of faith!  None of these things was nice at all!
          You see, our popular ethic in the United States in 2012 includes one directive: Be nice.  I believe that is one of the insidious heresies of our day.
          Don’t get me wrong, I am not attacking people who are nice.  Most of the time I try to be nice myself.  What do we mean when we say that, though?  I would actually argue that I try to be kind, not nice.  Of course, when you treat people with kindness, they will most often describe you as nice.  But not always.
          When our society tells us to be nice, it is telling us not to offend anyone, not to make anyone uncomfortable.  It is saying, don’t get under anyone’s skin; don’t hit any hot buttons.  Affirm everything.  Celebrate every behavior, and NEVER judge anything that our culture says is just great.
          This may be “nice,” but it is not kind.  When Jesus healed the paralytic, it was kind, and it was nice.  When He told the woman caught in adultery not to sin anymore, that was not nice, but it was kind.
          Kindness is a virtue because it comes from love.  Niceness, when it is separated from kindness, does not.  It most often comes from a dulled conscience, from fear, or from a desire for human respect.  In other words, it is about us.
          Look at a few of the Spiritual Works of Mercy: admonish the sinner, instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful.  These are acts of charity that show genuine concern for the spiritual well-being of another, and they may not be well-received.  To love means to desire the good of another for the sake of the other.  There is no selfishness involved.  And the highest good for a man is his spiritual good.
          When we admonish the sinner we are doing a great act of charity.  Nothing is as dangerous as sin.  And yet it requires great courage; we make ourselves very vulnerable.  If I pull someone out of a burning building, I know he will be grateful, and I may even receive a reward.  I will be regarded a hero.  But if I turn someone away from a deadly sin, I am saving him from a much greater fire.  Yet I may be maligned, accused of being judgmental, and I definitely will not be considered “nice.”
          Of course, Scripture says I will save the soul of my brother and my own soul (James 5:20).  Sometimes the best rewards come to those who wait.
          So perhaps God didn’t make a mistake after all.  Perhaps it is our culture that is mistaken.  And if, in my pursuit of being like Jesus, I am accused of not being nice, I can take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus Himself was not a “nice guy,” but He was a good man.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Fathers Speak: Purgatory

The Fathers Speak: Purgatory

          One of the most important dogmas of the Faith jettisoned by Martin Luther (to him, at least) was the belief in Purgatory.  Luther was rightly disturbed by the scandalous practice that had developed, particularly in Germany, where he was from, of selling indulgences, whereby people felt they could “buy” their relatives’ way out of Purgatory by giving money to the Church.
          The Council of Trent condemned this already illicit practice, but Luther denied the existence of Purgatory altogether, going so far as removing references to it from the Bible.  It remains a common area of attack among anti-Catholic fundamentalists.  However, a look at the statements of the Fathers of the Church on the subject easily counters the false claims that Purgatory was a medieval invention meant to be an easy source of revenue.

A woman, after the death of her husband . . . prays for his soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection. And each year, on the anniversary of his death, she offers the sacrifice [of the Mass] – Tertullian, On Monogamy, A.D. 216

It is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the day of judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord – Cyprian of Carthage, Letter 51, A.D. 253

If he has inclined to the irrational pressure of the passions, using for the passions the cooperating hide of things irrational, he may afterward in a quite different manner be very much interested in what is better, when, after his departure out of the body, he gains knowledge of the difference between virtue and vice and finds that he is not able to partake of divinity until he has been purged of the filthy contagion in his soul by the purifying fire – Gregory of Nyssa, Sermon on the Dead, A.D. 382

St. John Chrysostom, A.D. 392
Not in vain was it decreed by the apostles that in the awesome mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. – Homilies on Philippians

Why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them – Homilies on First Corinthians

St. Augustine
Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment… But by the prayers of the holy Church, and by the salvific sacrifice, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided – The City of God, A.D. 419

That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire – Handbook on Faith, Hope and Charity, A.D. 421

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Fighting the HHS Mandate

Fighting the HHS Mandate

          Very recently the Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s health care law, and the President reaffirmed his determination to force Catholic institutions to provide contraception, abortifacients and sterilization to its employees, in direct violation of its moral beliefs, not to mention its Constitutionally guaranteed right to religious freedom.
          This has led to speculation about what will ultimately happen.  Will the Church have to shut down all her schools, hospitals and charitable endeavors?  Certainly that would create a vacuum that big-government politicians would love to fill.  But it would also permanently cripple the economy over night.  And I will not make the rash judgment that that is what the President seeks.  I think it’s far more likely he’s simply playing “chicken” with the bishops.  Perhaps he plans to back down and is calculating the most opportune political moment to do so.  But one thing is sure: the bishops will not blink.  The video below is a discussion of the issue with Cardinal Francis George, of Chicago.