Return of the Prodigal Son by Pompeo Batoni - 1773

Evolution for the Catholic Student

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Monday, July 15, 2013

Next post - August 15

Next Post: August 15

          I have been blessed with the opportunity to spend some time with family and be present at my new niece’s baptism.  Then I have some responsibilities out of state, so I will not be maintaining this blog for the next month.  The next new post will be on August 15.  In the meantime, enjoy this interview with the Catholic catcher of the Chicago White Sox.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

True Colors?

True Colors?

          Have your St. Michael prayer handy when you read this article.  You’ll feel the need to pray it.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What is Papal Infallibility?

What is Papal Infallibility?
Note: I have tried to faithfully present Catholic teaching on this issue.  If something sounds suspect, please look it up in an authoritative Catholic source, and please let me know of my mistake if I have made one.
          One of the most misunderstood doctrines in the Church, among Catholics and non-Catholics alike, is that of papal infallibility.  Some people mistake infallibility for impeccability, meaning that they think Catholics believe the pope is perfect, without sin (we do not).  Some people think Catholics look to the pope to make every decision for them and that we believe that everything he says comes directly from God, with the weight of Scripture (we do not).  Archbishop Fulton Sheen told the story of a person who claimed that Catholics believe the pope is inflammable (which I suppose we do, but it has nothing to do with this doctrine).
          So it seems rather important, if we are going to clear up misunderstandings among non-Catholics, and if we are going to understand our Faith ourselves, that we be clear on what the Church does and does not teach regarding papal infallibility.
          First, we have to recognize the importance of governance and authority in the Church.  With all the wonderful things our Protestant brethren have, one thing they lack is unity of doctrine.  There are thousands of Protestant denominations precisely because there is no authority that can define doctrine; there is only the Scripture, which experience shows us can lend itself to various interpretations, without a teaching Church.
          There is also, among Protestants, no visible principle of unity on the Earth, making impossible Jesus’s prayer at the Last Supper “that they all be one” (Jn. 17:11).  There’s a wealth of Scripture that demonstrates the establishment of a hierarchical, authoritative Church, united with Peter, but the point of this article is not a defense of the doctrine of Papal Infallibility, but rather its explanation.
          The first thing to be understood is that papal infallibility is a negative charism, not a positive one.  What that means is that it prevents the pope from teaching error (in certain circumstances – more on that later); it does not ensure that he will always teach things completely or in the most effective possible way.  This is a crucial distinction.  We see over the centuries a deepening understanding of the Mysteries of Christ, but nowhere can we find a direct contradiction in the 2,000-year teaching of the Church.
          There are usually three popes (of the 266) that opponents like to cite to disprove papal infallibility, but none of them do so when the charism is properly understood.  The most common is the case of Pope Honorius, who failed to effectively condemn the Monothelitist heresy in the seventh century.
          Remember, though, that papal infallibility is like a fence that keeps the pope from venturing into error, it is not a springboard that propels him to heights of wisdom.  It does not guarantee that the pope will do something that it seems he ought to do; it guarantees that he will not do something, namely promulgate error.
          The next thing to understand is when the charism is effective.  The pope is only infallible when he teaches the whole Church, ex cathedra, on matters of faith and morals.  Therefore, he is never infallible when discussing business, sports, or politics (unless they directly pertain to faith and morals).  He is never infallible in personal correspondence or personal reflections.  (This is probably why Pope John Paul II wanted his personal notes and journals destroyed upon his death.  He knew they could potentially contain error, yet many Catholics would probably not understand that.  Pope Honorius’s questionable statements were in private letters, also not protected by infallibility.)  The pope must be officially teaching the whole Church regarding faith or morals. 
          Why is this so important?  Do we not need to know what is true, what to believe?  Jesus gave Peter and his successors the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven, and this special charism, so we would have a sure answer to the disputes that would arise over the centuries over the meaning of Scripture and Tradition.
          With the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI and the election of Pope Francis, there have been other (silly) questions: Are two men infallible at the same time?  Who will Catholics trust?
          Papal infallibility is a charism tied to the office of the papacy, not to a man.  Therefore, it has nothing to do with Pope Emeritus Benedict anymore.
          One other area must be spoken about: disciplinary matters about which the pope is not infallible.  The pope does govern the Church (Christ, of course, is the Head; the pope is His vicar on Earth).  Jesus told Peter, “What you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven” (Mt. 16:18). 
          There are disciplinary laws which we are bound in obedience to follow, though they not be matters of faith and morals, have nothing to do with infallibility, and may potentially be changed.
          An example is the celibate clergy in the Roman rite.  This is a discipline of the Church.  It is not a dogma, and certainly is not an issue that has anything to do with infallibility.  As a disciplinary matter, it could potentially be changed.  However, because it is currently in force, the clergy have made a promise to obey it.  Therefore, it would be sinful for them to disobey without permission.
          It is very much like a parent with a child.  If a child willfully refuses to make his bed, for example, after being instructed to do so by a parent, he sins; not because an unmade bed is objectively evil, not because making one’s bed is a universal or infallible law, but because he has willfully disobeyed a legitimate authority.
          Catholics occasionally try to see if a pronouncement is infallible as a way of finding a loophole.  Regardless of infallibility, there is no loophole.  Obedience is one of the highest virtues.  This means obedience to Christ, and by extension, to His Church.
          It should be noted that I am speaking here of the disciplines and laws of the Church.  If an individual priest, or even the pope, told an individual to do something that was objectively sinful, there would be no obligation to obey – in fact, there would be an obligation to disobey.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Evolution vs. God?

Evolution vs. God?

          I grew up a believer in both God and evolution.  As a Catholic, my Faith has provided much intellectual freedom in this respect.  However, it was not because of intellectual freedom that I believed in evolution, but because of indoctrination. 
          It wasn’t until I came across world class scientists, who came to question and eventually abandon their evolutionary beliefs, that I began to understand that my nagging questions about the theory were quite reasonable.  As I began to study the issue, I found no evolutionist with acceptable answers to those questions.  Couple that with the deceit I found surrounding the theory and its supposed “evidence,” and I could no longer regard it as reasonable.  It was my fidelity to scientific truth that caused me to conclude that Darwinian macro-evolution is a fantasy.
          The following trailer is for a film (which I have not seen) that seems to frame the question of God and evolution as an either / or proposition.  However, what particularly interests me is that the producer appears to ask leaders in the field of evolutionary biology the questions that have long been elephants in the room of the scientific establishment, and have for too long been ignored.

Monday, July 8, 2013

One Sure Way to Defeat the Mandate

One Sure Way to Defeat the Mandate:
And Why it Will Never Happen

          August 1 is only a few weeks away.  That means that the Obama Administration’s insidious anti-Christian HHS mandate will be put into full effect, causing many people to choose between their faith and their livelihood, unless it can be defeated before then.
          How is it, with the United States sitting at 20% Catholic, that a policy directly attacking the Faith, officially opposed by the bishops, can advance so far?  It seems to me that we most certainly have the power to win this battle; we just don’t have the will.
          Economic boycotts have been extremely effective throughout history, American history and otherwise.  With millions of other Christians appalled by the mandate, on top of the 20% of the country that is Catholic, we can bring this government to its knees.  If we all, in a united effort, refused to work, or to purchase anything besides the basic essentials until the mandate was terminated, Mr. Obama would face a clear choice: give in on the mandate, or face a Depression like this country has never seen.
          We have the power to win this going away.  And yet it will never happen, not that way.  Why not?  Our bishops are very clear about this issue, and a massive economic boycott is a just, even noble, way to defend our First Freedom.
          But, of course, we do not have the will.  With only 25% of Catholics seriously practicing their Faith, it is completely unreasonable to think that any more than half that number would take the idea of a sustained boycott (or any sustained sacrificial effort) seriously.  The 3% of the U.S. population that might be willing to undertake the effort could easily be fired and replaced by the millions who are currently unemployed.
          It is clear that the crisis we are facing is not first and foremost a crisis of tyranny; it is a crisis of faith.  There is hope, of course, to defeat the mandate.  That hope will most likely come through the courts.  That is never a safe bet, but the injustice of the Administration’s policy is quite obvious, so there is reason for hope.  (The 10th Circuit’s recent decision is very encouraging.)
          And of course the millions of faithful, Catholic or otherwise, that are willing to take a stand can continue to stand up and speak out, and especially, to pray.  Perhaps Mr. Obama will have a change of heart.  Perhaps the courts will get it right.  All things are possible with God.  And whatever happens, one thing we can be confident of, is that He will be with His people.