Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Restoring Catholicism

Traditional Latin Mass
by the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter,
available from http://fssp.org
The Catholic Church, throughout history, has always proved to be most successful when she is counter-cultural, when she clearly opposes sin, and when she clearly distinguishes herself as God's holy ambassador to a sinful world. For example; let's take two periods of history, when the Catholic Church was most in peril, yet what followed was a springtime of evangelism and growth.

The first example is the age of the Early Church Fathers, AD 68-312. It was during this time the Catholic Church found herself surrounded on all sides, by a hostile Roman Empire hell bent on her destruction, coupled with heretics within the Church, hell bent on her corruption. During the early years of this period, Saint Paul tells us that sexual immorality was widespread (the Church at Corinth in particular), which had to be dealt with swiftly and firmly. Heretics within the Church continued to push for sexual immorality throughout this three century period. The period of persecution ended in the legalisation of Christianity throughout the Roman Empire, along with civil restitution made to the Church, and a conciliar age that rooted our heresy and immorality within the Church. In the centuries to follow, Christianity spread throughout Europe, North Africa and Asia.

The second example I wish to draw on is the era of the Protestant Reformation, AD 1517-1648, which began with the nailing of Martin Luther's Ninety-Five Thesis to the door of Wittenberg Chapel, and ended with the conclusion of the Thirty Years' War. This was a time of tremendous religious upheaval in Europe, as the very foundations of many Christian doctrines were attacked by so-called Protestant 'reformers', leading princes to war with each other over how religion would be conducted in their respective states. It was perhaps the most tragic period in Christian history. However, during and after this period, the Catholic Church made great advances in spreading the faith to the New World (North and South America) as well as Africa and the Orient. The centuries following this period marked the greatest period of Catholic expansion the world has ever known. It was the Council of Trent that made this possible, with its clear rebuke of Protestant errors, coupled with it's clear articulation of Catholic faith, and the standardisation of Catholic liturgy.

Both tumultuous eras of darkness and confusion within the Catholic Church were immediately followed by long periods of restoration, revival, renewal and expansion. Therefore, I believe the dark era of decline the Catholic Church has found herself in since 1914, will be followed by a similar period of restoration, revival, renewal and expansion. I believe the seeds for this renewal began with the papacy of Saint John Paul II. His clear articulation of the faith, culminating in the new Catechism of the Catholic Church, was the foundation upon which this will all take shape. The second major seed was Pope Benedict XVI's edicts of Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus. The first one allowed for greater use of the all Latin 1962 Missal of Saint Pius V (revised by Pope John XXIII and Pope Benedict XVI). Use of this Missal, in what is common referred to as the Vetus Ordo, Extraordinary Form, and Traditional Latin Mass, is restoring classic solemnity and beauty to Catholic worship. It is gradually having an effect on the younger priests coming out of seminary, who having been influenced by it, are re-introducing the same order of solemnity and beauty to the Missal of Pope Paul VI, otherwise known as the Novus Ordo, Ordinary Form, and regular vernacular mass. Likewise, Anglicanorum Coetibus plays a role in this too, because it not only provides a new way for Protestants to re-enter the Catholic Church, but it also provides a new liturgical norm of restored beauty in the classical English way. The third and final seed of this renewal is likely going to be planted by Pope Francis in a way that is unknown at the time of this writing (May of 2015) , but I suspect it will be made known within a year from now. In keeping with the above reforms, I believe it will be manifest in the form of clarity on Christian morality. Thus the triad of reform will come from three popes, expressing clarity on the three aspects of Church life...
  1. Clarity on Church Doctrine (The New Catechism of the Catholic Church), John Paul II
  2. Clarity on Church Liturgy (Summorum Pontificum and Anglicanorum Coetibus), Benedict XVI
  3. Clarity on Church Morality (future event, currently unknown), Francis
Once these three matters are settled for the history books, the Church can complete whatever suffering she must endure to purge herself of heretics and schismatics, likely using the assistance of the state in this matter in the form of her own persecution. Yes, the state will become very useful in helping the Church distinguish between the sheep and the goats. (The goats will flee and/or compromise in the face of state persecution.) Once the passion of the Church is complete, she can look forward to fulfilling her final epic role in world history, bringing the gospel to the ends of the earth and baptising all nations.


END.

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Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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Catholicism for Protestants

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Homeschooling - The New Normal

Naturhistorisk Privatundervisning, 1877

This essay first appeared on Church Militant.

Just a little over one year ago my wife and I made the difficult decision to homeschool our children. I won't go into the reasons why, as the reasons are a little different for every family, but I will say that it was one of the best decisions we've made in a while. We have no regrets.

Like most American families these days, our financial situation dictates that both my wife and I have to work, so juggling the homeschool schedule is a little challenging. I work the weekends, and handle most of the homeschooling during the week. My wife works during the week, and handles a couple homeschooling days during the week, occasionally doing a little review with the children on the weekend. Is it easy? No. Is it worth it? YES!

As it turns out, newly released data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that homeschooling has increased a whopping 62% since 2003, for families with children between the ages of five and seventeen. In 2012 some 3.4% of all school aged children in the United States were homeschooled, and that number has only gone up since the widespread implementation of Common Core standards. Of course, these numbers only reflect the children accounted for by government education records. A good number of homeschooled children were never on the grid to begin with, having never attended any formal school whatsoever. So the actual percentage may be much higher. Education laws vary from state to state, and while homeschooling is legal in all fifty states, some are more permissive than others. This has resulted in the migration of some homeschooling families from more restrictive states to more permissive states. I happen to live in one of the more permissive states, and I know many homeschooling families who have moved here from other parts of the country. My sister now homeschools her children as well, and so does my wife's sister. Half of the families in my department at work are now homeschooling. Slowly but steadily, it seems, homeschooling is becoming the new normal in America.

Then today I read these words from the Holy Father Pope Francis…
'If family education regains its prominence, many things will change for the better. It’s time for fathers and mothers to return from their exile — they have exiled themselves from educating their children — and slowly reassume their educative role… In our days, the educational partnership is in crisis. It's broken… On the one part, there are tensions and distrust between parents and educators; on the other part, there are more and more ‘experts’ who pretend to occupy the role of parents, who are relegated to second place…'
-- Pope Francis, General Audience, May 20, 2015
While the pope was clearly talking about a more general role of parents regaining control of their children's schools, I cannot help but wonder if the thought of homeschooling passed through our Holy Father's mind when he spoke these words. Obviously, not every family can do this, but a growing number of families are, and that is starting to make some government officials nervous. The Homeschool Legal Defence Association (HSLDA) is working hard to make sure that homeschooling remains legal in the United States. Like anything though, there is strength in numbers. As more parents, particularly Catholic parents, take up the homeschool vocation, we are bound to see greater strength materialise. I would encourage all Catholic parents to give this serious prayer and consideration. As parents, the most valuable investment we can ever make is in our children's education. It's not just about academics. It's about character. If we want to keep our children Catholic, and by that I mean truly Catholic, we can't rely on anyone else. We may just have to do it ourselves. Fortunately, a growing number of American Catholic bishops are beginning to support the homeschooling vocation, and Catholic homeschooling support groups are cropping up all over the nation.

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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Catholicism for Protestants

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Monday, May 25, 2015

A Political Lesson from the United Kingdom

The Grand Union Flag
This was America's first flag, believe it or not.
HOW U.K. POLITICS CAN TEACH AMERICANS A LESSON...

I want to use this story from the U.K. to teach my fellow American friends a lesson about third-party politics. While small third-parties exist in the U.K., they are relatively small and insignificant in their control of the government. The same goes for America. However, if they can muster just 2%-3% of an electorate, that can be enough to swing close elections in favour of one big party candidate or another. Thus, the losing big party has to find a way to attract that 2%-3% back into the big tent to win the next election cycle.

In the U.K. the Parliament in Westminster is dominated by two major political parties. The situation is similar to the U.S. The two major parties in the U.K. are the Conservative Party (otherwise known as the Tories) and the Labour Party. To compare, Conservatives are in some ways similar to America's Republican Party, and Labour is similar to the Democratic Party.

Please, no comments or emails on how that's a really poor comparison. I know it is. Still, you have to consider that I'm writing to Americans here, most of whom have no idea of how our own political system works, let alone that of another country. I have to use some common frame of reference here, and this is the best I can do. So bear with me.

Now, the two parties (Conservative and Labour) control the Parliament. However, the Parliament is also made up of a number of small third-party officers. Currently, eighty-two of the Parliament's 650 seats are controlled by small third-party officers. That's just a fraction, but when you consider that all of these parties work together to form coalitions on certain issues, the votes can come down very close, sometimes with just a few in the majority. So big parties have to work with the small parties, doing a little appeasement on various key issues, to gain their support for votes on issues the big parties deem important.

Now the United States does not have a Parliamentary system. Our system is a Republic, and that is different. It's also controlled by big money, so getting small parties into the national government is near impossible. However, this same kind of political bartering, between big parties and small parties can still happen in America. It's just that in America, it usually has to happen outside of Washington D.C. instead of inside. This is because getting third-party candidates to win elections is nearly impossible. Still, the success of a third-party candidate of just 2%-3% of an electorate, can determine which major party candidate (Democrat or Republican) wins an election. For example; let's say a state has a close Senate race in progress. The Democratic candidate is polling at about 48%. The Republican candidate is polling at about 47%. The remaining votes are split between 3% undecided and 2% going to some small third-party candidate. This isn't even a national third-party. It's just a state third-party, that is only active in one state. Now, assuming the 3% undecided vote will probably split evenly both ways, what would either major party candidate be willing to do to secure that 2% vote from the state third-party? Ideally, if one of those major party candidates can offer a sweet enough deal, they can get the third-party candidate to drop out completely and endorse the major party candidate that cuts the deal. How does he do that? Simple. He just adopts the major issue(s) the third-party candidate is running on, and promises the third-party candidate an appointment to an important supportive role in his senatorial staff.

What I'm doing here is outlining the future of American politics by unofficially mimicking (behind closed doors) the U.K. political system. As an example, I'm going to use the most recent British election. One of the key issues on the table in this last election was the membership of the U.K. in the European Union. To sum it up, a lot of Brits want out of the E.U. To capitalise on this, a new small third-party was formed called the U.K. Independence Party (UKIP). It ran almost exclusively on this issue. It has some other issues too, but this was the driving one. They ran a splendid campaign, and became the talk of the whole nation. What kind of political victory did they have to show for it? Virtually nothing. They only picked up one seat in Parliament. It was very disappointing. Why? How could a party that ran such a strong campaign on such a popular issue only end up with one seat in Parliament? I'll tell you why. The Conservatives (Tories) saw the threat of UKIP, and they knew that it could result in an electoral disaster for them. So they simply adopted the UKIP key issue of getting the U.K. out of the European Union. However, they advocated a more gradual approach, using a referendum process, to determine what the will of the people is, and at what level the U.K. should be involved in the European Union. In other words, they stole the key UKIP issue, and moderated it, so as to make is sound more level-headed and sensible, appealing to a broader coalition of people. The result? The Tories one a landslide victory with a hundred seat majority, defeating Labour, and leaving UKIP with only one seat in Parliament. Of course, that one UKIP officer is likely to caucus with the Tories too, provided the Tories continue to take U.K. exit from the E.U. seriously. Today, I just read that the British government will go ahead with a referendum on this very issue, progressively deciding the possibility and method of a U.K. exit from the E.U. and how much of an exit they really want to do. In short, UKIP won! Even though they didn't win hardly any seats in Parliament, their key issue was propelled forward because by taking up the banner for themselves, they forced the Conservative Party (Tories) to adopt the issue and make it their own.

The same can be done in America. It has been done in the past, and it can happen again. This is how we do it. We form small single-state parties, to run candidates in national elections just from our respective states, based on one or two key issues. These parties only need to garner 2%-3% of state voters to be successful, just enough to make the main party election close -- very close -- close enough to make one of the two major party candidates cut a deal with the small state party to secure that 2%-3% and gain a victory.

Let me use a hypothetical example. Let's take a state like Texas for example, which is really having a hard time with illegal immigration. Suppose Texas were to form a small state party called the 'Texas First Party' (TFP), that ran on the single issue of stopping illegal immigration. Then it ran a candidate for U.S. Senate and a few key U.S. House seats. Since this is a popular issue, it should garner at least 5% of the vote, if not more, most of those coming from the Republican side. Now tell me, what would the Republican candidates do to get that 5% (or more) back into their camp? I tell you they would do just about anything! Not only would they adopt that issue as their primary election issue, but there is almost no limit to the amount of deals they would cut with the TFP to bring that 5% back under their tent. Once that is done, the TFP performs poorly in the election, but the key issue is planted like a seed in the Republican Party candidate who won the election. He now knows he cannot win re-election unless he keeps TFP happy, along with his own party bosses. If this happens in enough states, it isn't long before the whole Republican Party makes this a top priority issue.

I call this method of politics 'seeding' because it's using the third-party election process to sow seeds into major parties, letting them sprout and grow in those major parties. Our state third-parties become just instruments to get this accomplished. They can be used, disposed of, and reused to serve this purpose. It's happened before in American politics, sort of by accident. I just propose we make it deliberate and purposeful now.

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants

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Sunday, May 24, 2015

Local Announcement

The following is an announcement for Catholics in the Southwest Missouri area. Click on the image below to view, download and share the flyer...

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Are We Living in the Last Days? Part II

Sermon and Deeds of the Antichrist
Luca Signorelli, 1499-1502

In the last essay (Are We Living in the Last Days? Part I) I explored the prophesied Great Apostasy which is to come upon all of humanity at the end of the world. I pointed out that while we are currently going through a massive apostasy in the Western world (Europe, North America, and places in South America and Oceania), and the Eastern world has gone through a massive apostasy under communism, the apostasy is not global in nature. There are still large regions of faith, particularly in Africa and Asia, in which Christianity is making great strides, even in the face of relentless persecution from communists and Islamists. Furthermore, the current apostasy in the Western world has a built-in auto-destruct timer, that makes it unsustainable. Secularism produces a childless culture. That's not speculative. That is a matter of historical fact. So every year, the average age of the Secular world gets older and greyer. To make up for this fertility crisis, Secular governments are forced to import immigrants from other lands, where they produce babies in greater quantity. In North America, immigrants are imported from Latin America, both legally and illegally, changing the character of the North American continent from Anglo-Protestant to Latino-Catholic. This trend will continue in the decades ahead. In Europe, the character of the continent is changing from Christian to Muslim. In my follow up essay (Defending Christian Culture and the Fall of Secularism) I predicted that the rise of Islam in Europe will eventually cause a backlash, and Europeans will have to choose between Christianity and Islam, because continuing in Secularism is a default choice for Islam. I predicted that Europeans would choose rather to return to Christianity, and that will set off a great upheaval on the European continent, which the rest of the world will watch in horror and wonder, 'how can we prevent this from happening here'. At that time, we will likely see a revival in Western Christianity. The massive apostasy we are witnessing today is merely a forerunner, or a full dress rehearsal, of the prophesied Great Apostasy that will come upon the whole globe at the end of the world. This current apostasy will end with the total collapse of Secularism, great social upheavals, and ultimately a return to the Christian faith. The next apostasy, the one of Antichrist, whenever that will be, will end with the Second Coming of Jesus Christ.

In this essay, I wish to further explore what that future major apostasy will be, and contrast it with the minor one we are currently experiencing. As bad as it seems now, it does not hold a candle to the one that will come at the end of days. Strong as this Secular delusion is now, it is nothing compared to the great delusion that the Antichrist will bring upon the world eventually.

Today, many of us here in North America, particularly those of us who live in the Bible Belt, are witnessing a panic amongst our Protestant brothers and sisters in Christ. For those who have not already given in to the Secular apostasy (and many Protestant churches have) there exists a feeling of dread, because many are convinced that the 'End of Days' are upon us. Within Protestantism there is an old heresy that goes back to the founder of Protestantism himself -- Martin Luther. You see, the first Protestants in Germany were told by Luther and his disciples that the office of the papacy is the prophesied Antichrist. Luther did this to frighten the people into following him, and it worked like a charm. The only problem is that in saying this, Martin Luther committed a Biblical heresy. He directly violated the Scriptures -- the very Scriptures he claimed to uphold above all things. I explained this concisely in my book Catholicism for Protestants...
QUESTION: Is the pope the Antichrist?  
ANSWER: While this question may seem ridiculous to many people, you might be surprised to discover just how many Protestants actually believe it, or are at least suspicious of it.  The notion comes from the first Protestant reformer himself – Martin Luther – in the sixteenth century, who asserted that the office of the papacy is the Antichrist.  That's not to say any particular pope, but the office of the papacy itself. So when German Protestants began to mix with English Protestants in the United States during the nineteenth century, you can imagine what an explosive combination this created.  As new American-style Protestant denominations were formed, the office of the papacy went from being the Antichrist on a purely philosophical level, to the actual incarnation of evil itself! 
This notion has become very popular among some Baptist, Evangelical and Pentecostal groups in the United States, and is a bit humorous when you really stop and think about it.  Before we start levelling the accusation of "Antichrist" at anybody, or any office, it might help to actually understand what the Bible has to say about it.  After all, the whole idea of "Antichrist" is a Biblical concept.  
So what does the Bible say about the Antichrist?  Well, for starters, the Bible tells us that the "spirit of antichrist" was alive and well even during the Apostolic age (1st John 2:18).  It also tells us that in order to be antichrist in any way, one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Jewish Messiah (1st John 2:22).  One must also deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of flesh and blood (1st John 4:3; 2nd John 1:7).  These are the only four times the word "antichrist" appears in the Scriptures.  So based on the Biblical definition, to be an antichrist (or even THE Antichrist) one must deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah and one must deny that God the Son came to earth in the form of human flesh.  Sorry, that's just the Biblical definition, and since the term "Antichrist" is a Biblical term, just like the term "Christ" itself, it has no real meaning outside this Biblical definition.  
Now since every pope since the time of St. Peter has affirmed that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, that sort of disqualifies every pope in history from being an antichrist. Of course, the office of the papacy itself was literally founded on Saint Peter's affirmation that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messianic Son of God (Matthew 16:15-19), so that disqualifies the papal office from being antichrist.  Since the pope literally teaches, and his office is literally founded upon, the belief that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messianic Son of God, it is literally impossible (in every Biblical sense) for the pope, or his papal office, to be the Antichrist in any way.  Again, sorry, but the Bible speaks for itself here.  To assert that the pope or the papacy is somehow, in any way, the Antichrist, is to completely deny the plain and clear teaching of the Bible on this matter.  Now, if some people want to go ahead and call the pope the Antichrist anyway, then they can go ahead, but in doing so, the rest of us need to understand they are directly contradicting the Bible when they do this.
Now, it's important for Catholics to understand this, because Protestants have been running the pope-antichrist cabal for five centuries now. The latest version of this places the pope in the role of the Biblically prophesied 'False Prophet' who is not the actual Antichrist, but rather his buddy, who helps the Antichrist come to power. Sadly, many Evangelical Protestants are already accusing Pope Francis of being this character, simply because of the diplomatic decisions he has made, the distorted way the media reports on him, and an obscure prophecy allegedly made by a medieval bishop, which is probably a forgery, and when properly interpreted, points out this current pope as a good one. We Catholics have to understand that Protestants are just following a template that has been laid out for them for the last five-hundred years, and in particular, many of those in the Bible Belt are following a system of eschatology that was created less than two-hundred years ago, with proponents who have been forecasting the 'end of days' within their lifetime. Many of these proponents are senior citizens now, so they've been telling everyone the awaited time has finally come. The Internet is now abuzz with all sorts of articles and YouTube videos specifically telling us that Pope Francis is either the Antichrist or the False Prophet, and that we are about to enter the last seven years of world history (a Dispensationalist timetable).

This current panic in the Evangelical Protestant world may very well signal the end of something, but not the 'end of days'. When their foretold Rapture does not occur. When the pope does not turn out to be the Antichrist or False Prophet they expect. When the Great Tribulation and 'End of Days' does not happen in the timetable they expect. Many Protestants will lose their faith. The younger generations will see Dispnesationalism, and the pope-antichrist cabal, for the fraud that it is. When that day comes, it will only add to the doubt many young people already experience, and they will leave Protestantism in droves. This will happen soon -- within ten to fifteen years at most. Where will they go? Most will become Secular agnostics, so long as Secularism remains before it's ultimate collapse. After that, as I pointed out in previous essays, they will have to choose between Catholic Christianity and Islam, because Secularism will no longer be a viable option.

You see, what the Protestant Dispensationalists (particularly those in the Bible Belt) don't realise, is just how much they have riding on their end-times, rapture and pope-antichrist cabal. In fact, those that preach it, have everything riding on it. They have been telling their people that this is the time, since the 1970s, and the younger generation is expecting them to produce it! Because you see, if they don't, their entire eschatology collapses. Many of these Evangelical churches are built on that eschatology. When it collapses, they will too. Yes, they are facing the end of something, but not the end of the world. What they are facing is the end of their entire religious system.

It is more than the end of their religious system they are facing, for we are all facing the end of our Secular world system too, and when civilisations face the end of everything they are built on, people tend to get apocalyptic about it. In ancient times, Jews could not fathom a world without their Temple or their nation. So when the end of both came within sight, they wrote in very apocalyptic terms, using images of cataclysm and world destruction. The Romans did the same when the fall of their empire was within sight. Likewise, we Americans are doing the same thing, as we can see the end of our American way of life and the Secular world system, just on the horizon. Most Americans cannot fathom a world without an American superpower. In the minds of many, the world might just as well end all together. Indeed, that is being subtly taught from behind the pulpits of many Evangelical churches today. Many of them see America as synonymous with the Church. So the end of America, as we know it, means the end of the Church, and the end of the Church means the end of the world. History has seen this mentality play out many times over. It will see it play out again.

As I pointed out in previous articles, Secularism is weak. It is not a religious system at all, but rather the lack of one. It is a transitory system, that paves the way for a society to extinguish its Christian roots, and make way for a new Islamic era. That's all it's good for, and nothing else, as the fertility demographics demonstrate beyond all reasonable doubt. So Secularism will die. It is guaranteed, as it becomes a victim of its own success. When it dies, Europe will be forced to choose between Islam and Christianity. When the people choose Christianity, all hell will break loose on the European continent as Muslims push back. Then this current age we live in will come to an end, and a new era will begin, but the Second Coming of Christ is still a long way off.

You see, the final Great Apostasy must be stronger than the Secular apostasy we currently live under. Because you see, in order to be sustainable, it must be religious in nature, like Islam is religious. It must not defy the natural order of procreation, otherwise, it cannot last. The final Great Apostasy must be so strong, so overwhelming, that it would nearly deceive even the truest of Christians, if that were possible (Matthew 24:24; 2nd Thessalonians 2:2-12). It must be messianic in nature. The word 'messianic' pertains to something that is 'of the messiah', meaning there must be some kind of a religious saviour involved. According to the Biblical prophecies, this messianic figure is the Antichrist, and in order for him to be the Antichrist, he must do a few things...
  1. He must totally deny that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah (1st John 2:22).
  2. He must deny the Trinity, and that God the Son ever came in the flesh (1st John 4:3; 2nd John 1:7).
  3. He must proclaim himself to be divine (2nd Thessalonians 2:1-4).
The messianic character of the Antichrist must be both obvious and overwhelming. We see the promise of future messianic figures in a few religions here and there. Christianity is not one of them, because according to Christianity, the true Messiah already came two-thousand years ago, and we hung him on a cross. There are some factions within Islam that call for a future messianic-type of figure, called a 'Mahdi', and it is possible that this belief might play a role in the end-times scenario. That however, doesn't seem to be enough, unless we believe the world will be converted to Islam. However, even Islam teaches that Jesus of Nazareth was real, and that he was the promised Messiah for the Jewish people. So in Islam we have a messianic conundrum. How can Jesus be the promised Messiah for the Jews, but not for the rest of humanity? And if the rest of humanity is waiting for another messianic figure, what are we to do with Jesus of Nazareth? Saint John of Damascus (AD 676-749) described Islam as the 'forerunner to Antichrist' but not the religion of Antichrist itself. Perhaps this Islamic nod to the messianic claim of Jesus of Nazareth is the reason for this. Whoever this future Messianic figure will be, he must be universal, so as to persuade Christians as well as Muslims.

I only know of one major world religion that teaches the coming of a future Messiah, and simultaneously denies the Trinity and that Jesus of Nazareth was ever any kind of messiah. That religion is not Islam. The only religion I know that teaches this is Judaism. While as Islam gives a nod to the messianic claims of Jesus of Nazareth, Judaism gives him nothing. Occasionally, some rabbis might call him a 'good teacher' out of respect for their Christian neighbours, but since the time of the apostles, Judaism has directly opposed the notion that Jesus of Nazareth is any kind of messiah, and has simultaneously forecast the coming of another messiah. Consider the qualifications of Antichrist above. This meets two of the three. All but the last one is forecast by the coming of a future Jewish 'messiah'.

Now let's stop and think about this. In order for a messianic figure to deceive the Jewish people, wouldn't he have to be Jewish? Or are we to believe religious Jews will follow a Catholic Pope or Islamic Mahdi instead? That's ridiculous! Religious Jews are currently waiting for a future Messiah, and religious Jews simultaneously ignore both the Trinity and the messianic claims of Jesus of Nazareth. This meets two of the three qualifications for the coming Antichrist, and the third one (the Antichrist proclaiming himself divine) is beyond their control.

Whenever the prophesied End Times are upon us, we will see a worldwide apostasy from the Christian faith, simultaneously coupled with a strong messianic (religious) delusion, that will promise humanity a solution to all of its problems, at the cost of denying Jesus Christ. This messianic delusion will be one in which a Jewish man will be put forward by Jewish leaders, as the promised messiah for the Jews and the saviour of the world. He will appear to fulfil all of the Old Testament prophecies of the promised messiah. Logically, it will all seem to fit. It's not going to involve any Catholic popes. If anything, the popes and bishops of the Catholic Church will be persecuted by this man.

It has to be this way. The word Antichrist literally means 'another messiah' or an 'imposter messiah'. No Catholic pope has ever claimed to be the messiah, and no Catholic pope will ever make such a claim. Because, as I pointed out above, the office of the papacy itself is found on the very affirmation of Saint Peter that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah.

Is this so far fetched? Would Judaism ever produce 'another messiah' or 'imposter messiah'? It already has...
  • In the early second-century (AD 133-135) Simon bar Kokhba was hailed by many Jewish leaders as the promised Messiah. He led their last rebellion against the Romans and was subsequently killed by them. His rebellion against Rome cost the Jewish people their homeland, as the Roman Empire then expelled all Jews from the region of Palestine. 
  • In the middle fifth-century (AD 440-470), appearing to fulfil many Talmudic requirements, Moses of Crete convinced many Jews that he was the promised Messiah and he would lead them back to the Holy Land by crossing the sea on dry land. Many Jews gave their life savings to him for the establishment of his kingdom. Upon his command, these Jews cast themselves into the sea, expecting a miracle. Some fell to their deaths. Others were rescued. Moses of Crete subsequently disappeared from the scene.
  • In the early eighth century (AD 720-723) Serene the Syrian preached in the district of Mardin in Asia Minor. He led a large messianic movement that opposed the legal precepts of Rabbinic Judaism. He was later captured by the Muslims and recanted his messianic claims.
  • In the middle twelfth century (AD 1160), David Alroy led a messianic military revolt against the Islamic Caliphate in Persia. He was allegedly assassinated by his father-in-law.
  • In the thirteenth century (AD 1240-1291) Abraham ben Samuel Abulafia led a messianic movement in Sicily based on the Jewish occult rituals of Kabbalah. It is unknown what happened to him.
The list goes on and on, well into the twentieth century. Judaism has no shortage of false messiahs, so it is no stretch to assume that some future Jewish false messiah will be what Christians have come to call the Antichrist. Previous false Jewish messiahs have also claimed themselves divine. So again, it is no stretch to assume that some future Jewish false messiah will do the same. 

The ancient Christians believed this to be the case, and I am far more likely to believe their testimony than that of some modern television evangelist...
'Christ arose from among the Hebrews, and he (Antichrist) will spring from among the Jews. Christ showed His flesh as a Temple, and raised it up on the third day; and he, too, will raise up again the Temple of stone in Jerusalem.' (St. Hippolytus, AD 170-236) 
'In every respect that Deceiver seeks to make himself appear like the Son of God. Christ is king of things celestial and terrestrial, and Antichrist will be king upon earth. The Saviour sent the Apostles unto all the nations, and he, in like manner will send false apostles. Christ gathered together the dispersed sheep, and he in like manner will gather together the dispersed people of the Hebrews. Christ appeared in the form of man, and he in like manner will come forth in the form of man.' (St. Hippolytus, AD 170-236) 
'Antichrist, the son of perdition will be born in Corozain, will be brought up in Bethsaida and shall begin to reign in Capharnaum, according to what Our Lord Jesus said in the Gospel: "Woe to thee Corozain … woe to thee Bethsaida … and thou Capharnaum that art exalted up to heaven, thou shalt be thrust down to hell." (Luke, 10:13) Antichrist shall work a thousand prodigies on earth. He will make the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the dead rise, so that even the Elect, if possible, shall be deceived by his magical arts. Puffed up with pride, Antichrist shall enter in triumph the city of Jerusalem and will sit on a throne in the Temple to be adored as if he were the Son of God. His heart being intoxicated with arrogance, he will forget his being a mere man, and the son of a woman of the tribe of Dan.' (St. Zenobius, AD 337-417) 
'Antichrist will be possessed by Satan and be the illegitimate son of a Jewish woman from the East.' (St. John Chrysostom, AD 349-407)
It should not concern us if these are alleged 'prophecies'. That's not the point. The point is, this is what the early Christians believed about Antichrist. These men were much closer to the time of the Apostles than we are today, and therefore more familiar with their more obscure traditions concerning the Last Days. It is undeniable that Christian tradition has historically held to the notion that the final Antichrist is a product of modern Judaism, or at least an abuse of modern Judaism. Whatever the case, the historic traditions are clear. The Great and Final Antichrist will be Jewish, he will come from the Holy Land, and he will gather the Jews from around the world to the Holy Land for a final epic of world history. Interestingly enough, this is exactly how modern Judaism describes their coming messiah.

Many Evangelicals point to the restoration of the nation-state of Israel as a 'sign' that the end of days are upon us. However, it should be noted here that this alleged 'sign' happened without a messianic figure. It occurred entirely under Secular terms, with the help of the British and Americans, by a U.N. mandate. There is nothing messianic about it. This leaves a missing piece to the puzzle. Something does not fit. Neither Christian nor Jewish tradition are fulfilled, because we are missing somebody -- the messianic figure Jews will hail as 'Messiah' and Christians will loath as 'Antichrist'. Perhaps putting people of Jewish ancestry back into the Holy Land was part of God's providential plan, but as anyone outside the Bible Belt knows, there are still far more Jews living in New York City than in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem combined. Yes, a good number of Jews do live in Israel, but still a majority do not. The return of the Jewish people to the Holy Land is incomplete. The best Secularism can muster is less than half, and even then, most Israeli Jews retain their visas and duel citizenship with countries in Europe and North America. It's as if they're hedging their bets. In case things don't work out for them in the Holy Land, they can always move back. Don't underestimate this. Because if things really do go terribly wrong in Israel, they will move back, in ridiculously large numbers. The United States has provided a safe refuge for Jews for some two centuries now. Jews around the world know this. America is their insurance policy. It always has been.

The point of this essay is that we're missing a second key ingredient to the end times, and that is the Antichrist, or the one global Jewry will hail as the 'Messiah'. This is the one who is supposed to return Jews to the Holy Land for the promise of a material kingdom, based on worldly goods. That just doesn't exist. Instead we have a Secular State of Israel, driven primarily by a Secular and racist political ideology called Zionism. It was sponsored primarily by the United States and United Kingdom. It was founded by a United Nations mandate. Where is the messianic element? It's simply not there. We have religious Jews in Israel calling for a messiah, but one has not appeared to save them and further their cause. Historically speaking, it's almost as if the modern nation of Israel was artificially choreographed by big money in America and Britain. There really is nothing religious, spiritual or messianic about it. It's just a political agenda -- nothing more. That's not to say that it couldn't suddenly become messianic, but for the time being it's not, and because of this, many Evangelical Protestants in the United States have turned back to the old pope-antichrist cabal of Martin Luther. Having no Jewish messiah to call Antichrist, they turn instead to a Catholic pope and conspiracy theories.

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Anglican Ordinariate Catholicism in the Ozarks

A Divine Worship Mass, celebrated according to the Anglican Use of the Roman Rite (Ordinariate Use),
in April of 2015 at Immaculate Conception Church in Springfield Missouri

This essay first appeared on Catholic Online back in 2009. It was my first venture into writing articles online. An update will appear below...

(Written in 2009) - When the Vatican recently announced the reception of Anglican communities into the Catholic Church it was a dream come true, not only for Anglo-Catholics seeking their own pastoral provision, but also for many Roman Catholics with Anglican backgrounds.

Over the last thirty years there has been a quiet but steady trickle of Anglicans into the Roman Catholic Church. In the American province of the worldwide Anglican Communion - The Episcopal Church - it began with alterations to the Book of Common Prayer in 1979, and increased with the ordination of female clergy, along with the widespread acceptance of homosexuality.

Springfield Missouri is home to about four Episcopal parishes and two continuing Anglican parishes. There was one small Traditional Anglican Communion (TAC) parish about ten years ago, but it was later disbanded and the chapel sold. That being said, there are currently no Anglican parishes within the city that are interested in entering the emerging Anglican Ordinariates within the Roman Catholic Church.

However, that does not mean Springfield is lacking individuals with Anglican backgrounds who have taken interest in accepting the pope's offer. That being the case, a few pioneering Christians are starting their own prayer group in Springfield, with the intent of eventually forming an Anglican Use parish under the pastoral care of the soon-to-be Anglican Use ordinary bishop. They've named their group simply 'Anglican-Use Catholics of Springfield Missouri.'

They have made their presence known to the Anglican Use Society, and are seeking direction from officials within that organization. They have also made their presence known to the diocesan bishop of the "Anglican Church in America," the provincial affiliate of the TAC. Likewise, they have notified their local Roman Catholic diocesan bishop of their intent.

The group is small but diverse. Shane, the group's coordinator, simply felt a calling. He and his wife are former Evangelicals, turned Episcopalians, who eventually converted to the Roman Catholic Church about ten years ago. After putting up a group page on Facebook, he immediately received the support of over a dozen friends, many of whom live in or near Springfield. The emerging group has received interest from diverse people. One is a former Episcopalian who is without a church home at this time. An active Episcopalian couple has also expressed interest.

The rest of the group consists of Roman Catholics who have become disillusioned with the current vernacular celebration of the contemporary mass, and are now seeking something more traditionally 'Catholic' but simultaneously have no interest in the Traditional Latin Mass. The group also has some Baptists who have expressed interest, and even a few Evangelicals from other Protestant traditions.

The initial intent of the group is to gather for prayer. The first prayer meeting, using the Anglican Office, will be held in either January or February of 2010. They hope to meet weekly in Springfield, either in a chapel or else in a public room set aside at a local library. Once established in a regular prayer setting, they hope to grow significantly with God's blessing.

Those within the group who are not currently in the full communion of the Catholic Church will obviously use this time for personal reflection on the prospect of conversion and whether or not that's the right decision for them. All however, are welcome to join in prayer, regardless of where their faith journey eventually leads them.

Already, an Anglican Use Catholic priest in Kansas City has graciously offered to drive one-hundred-sixty miles to celebrate mass with the Springfield group once in a while. The Anglican Use Society has also offered much help in the way of communication and advice.

The group hopes to receive more help as soon as the Anglican Ordinariates are established, and an ordinary bishop is assigned to a region that covers them. In the mean time, the group works in cooperation with others. Roman Catholics continue to receive the sacraments in their diocesan parish until such a time that the Springfield group eventually gets their own priest.

Non-Catholics within the group might continue to go to their respective churches for Sunday services until ready to convert, or else some might consider the Springfield group their 'place of worship' for a time. It is hoped that things will work out in such a way that non-Catholics within the group will be received into the Catholic Church together, under the Anglican Use, at such a time when the ordinary bishop is established and can provide the needed pastoral provision.

In some ways the Springfield group is breaking new ground both for the Anglican Use and the new Apostolic Constitution. Traditionally, Anglican Use parishes have been created when a group of Episcopalians (Anglicans) decide to convert together, usually with an Episcopalian priest who guides them and is himself ordained as a priest in the Roman Catholic Church. The Springfield group is different in the sense that it's starting from scratch, on its own, having no more than a few former Episcopalians to get it started, two of which are already members of their local diocese within the Roman Catholic Church.

The remaining members are both Catholics and non-Catholics who have no Anglican background, but have expressed an interest in the Anglican Use liturgy. What's happening in Springfield demonstrates that one doesn't need to follow the traditional model to start an Anglican Use parish. Where there is a will there is a way. Individuals who desire to have the Anglican Use Liturgy in their area, can work toward attaining it, if they are just willing to meet together, seek God's will, and pray.

UPDATE, May of 2015, five years later...
The group still exists with new potential converts expressing interest all the time, and it continues to enjoy strong support from the local Roman Catholic Church. In addition to evening prayer liturgy, the group now celebrates mass quarterly, according to the ordinariate liturgy, as a local ordinarite priest is available. Shane and his family are now members of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter, the Anglican ordinariate in North America, and they continue to pray for a regular priest and the establishment of an ordinariate parish in the area. For more information about this group, visit www.AngloCatholics.net.

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Would You Bake A Swastika Cake?

Hindus in India celebrate Diwali by lighting lamps in the shape of a swastika.
This essay first appeared in Forward In Christ Magazine.

It seems that while Christians are dying for their faith all over the world, the United States of America is embroiled in a national debate about whether or not it is legal to force Christians to bake a same-sex 'wedding' cake. The conflict isn't just about cake. It also involves flowers, pizza and other commodities. It's a strange debate to be sure, but oddly enough, probably one of the most significant in our nation's history. The basic gist of it goes as follows...

A homosexual couple wants to get 'married'. So they approach a Christian baker for a 'wedding' cake. The Christian baker politely refuses to make the cake for that occasion, citing religious reasons for her objection. She will make any other cake for them; a birthday cake, a baptism cake, a bar mitzvah cake, even a blank cake which they can buy and decorate themselves. However, for this Christian, baking and decorating a cake for a same-sex 'wedding' would actually be participating in what that Christian believes to be a mortal sin. It violates her religious beliefs, and moral sensibilities. So she refused. In turn the homosexual couple sued her for discrimination. They won in court, and the Christian baker was forced to bake the same-sex 'wedding' cake or face thousands of dollars in fines. Rather than violate her religious and moral beliefs, she shut down her bakery.

The national debate that has erupted over this, and similar cases, is one that pits civil rights against religious rights. However, one could say that 'conscience rights' are really what is in question here. What it comes down to is the right to deny service, when a business owner feels that his/her conscience is being violated. So it would seem, the real issue that is being debated is whether or not business owners have any rights at all once they decide to operate a business publicly.

On the one hand, we have the civil-leftists who argue that civil rights trump all other rights, and that business owners have no right to deny service to any paying customer, no matter what. They argue that by allowing some people to deny service, for whatever religious or moral reason they cite, will inevitably lead to institutionalised racism again, in the form of racial segregation or what have you. Therefore government should get involved immediately to stop this 'dangerous trend'. On the other hand, we have civil-libertarians who say that a business owner is the sole proprietor of his financial property, and therefore has the right to refuse service to anyone, for any reason, or no reason at all. The consequences of his discrimination will be played out in negative public attention and loss of business. The government should not get involved, and lawsuits should be denied.

May I suggest here that what we have is a case of political hysteria on both sides. Sadly, the whole thing is being fuelled by special interest groups, who usually benefit from such hysteria in the press and in the courtrooms. May I suggest here that allowing a Christian baker to refuse making a same-sex 'wedding' cake is not tantamount to institutionalised segregation, and at the same time, business owners do have a social contract with the public to not discriminate against customers based on some commonly accepted social standards. To illustrate my point, I'm going to use a hypothetical situation, which could really happen...

Suppose a Hindu couple, husband and wife, walk into a Jewish bakery. The couple asks for a very special cake to be made for their young Hindu son. The cake will mark a particular religious rite of passage. The cake will be white, with a red trim. On the top it will adorn a big swastika, similar to the image above. Now the Jewish baker is obviously a little disturbed by this. He politely tells the customers: 'Look, I'm sure this symbol has some special meaning to you, and that's your business, but you have to understand my people have suffered greatly under a symbol identical to this, and it causes me great distress to make this design. I will have to decline your request.' In addition, this particular Jew might also feel uncomfortable making a religious symbol for what he believes to be an idolatrous religion, but he courteously decides not to mention that. The Hindu couple leave the store quite distressed, because this bakery was the only bakery for miles around.

What should the Hindu couple do? How should the public, and the government, respond to this obvious case of discrimination? Should the Hindu couple sue the Jewish bakery? Do they have the right? Should the court then force the Jewish bakery to bake and design the cake they requested, or else face steep fines?

What I've done here is change the players and the design of the cake, but the situation is IDENTICAL to the case of a Christian baker who wouldn't bake a same-sex 'wedding' cake, or a Christian florist who wouldn't provide flowers to the same occasion, etc.  The question is, where does a customer's civil rights end, and the business owner's civil rights begin?

I'm going to offer my opinion here, which comes as both a Catholic Christian and an American citizen. I believe a customer's civil rights end when the customer demands that the business owner violate his conscience to participate in an act the business owner deems immoral or distressing. In the case of the gay couple, as in the case of the hypothetical Hindu couple, the persons of the homosexual and Hindu are not being denied service because they are homosexual or Hindu. What is being denied is a particular kind of service. It is the kind of service that is being denied, not the person being served. Forcing a devout Christian, or a devout Jew, or a devout Muslim for that matter, to bake a same-sex 'wedding' cake is a very distressing thing. It causes the Christian, Jew or Muslim baker to violate his conscience by participating in an act that goes against his/her religious beliefs. It is no different than forcing a Jewish baker to bake a Hindu swastika cake. Some Jews might do it, but others might not. It doesn't matter who would do it, and who wouldn't. What matters is the conscience of the people who wouldn't. The question is, do we live in a society that legally forces people to violate their conscience? And, is that really the kind of society we want to live in?

Even the very conservative Ozark Mountains of Southern Missouri have not been immune from this national debate. Recently, in the City of Springfield, a civil rights ordinance, passed by the city council, was put up for repeal by the voters in a city-wide referendum. The ordinance dealt with issues related to this. Even though a recent civil-rights commission found no evidence of discrimination within the city, the ordinance was passed anyway, giving the city sweeping powers to force businesses and schools to comply with anti-discrimination laws for homosexual and transgender persons, in a way that could violate the consciences of many people. The local Catholic bishop urged Catholics in the city to vote 'YES' in favour of the repeal of this ordinance. This was based on advice from his lawyers who informed him that the ordinance posed a significant threat to Church operations within the City of Springfield, as well as threats to local Catholic business owners and local Catholic schools. Many local Baptist, Pentecostal and Evangelical pastors also organised their church members to turn out and vote 'YES' for the repeal as well. The 'YES' campaign won by a very narrow margin, even though it was radically outspent by the 'NO' campaign, and the ballot language was confusing. In this case, the real victory was for small government, because repealing the ordinance prevented the city government from gaining more intrusive powers that it did not need and could not afford. The cost of enforcement of this ordinance was calculated to be very high. The State of Missouri already has strong anti-discrimination laws, and so does the City of Springfield. By repealing the ordinance, the city just reverted back to how the law was before the ordinance was passed, which was plenty strong enough.

In chatting with some supporters of the ordinance, I used the hypothetical Jewish baker and Hindu customer to make a point. I actually ran across one supporter of the ordinance who said that Jewish bakers should be forced to bake swastika cakes if Hindu customers ever request them. He then volunteered his rationale as to why he thought this. He said it was to 'avoid discrimination'. While I completely disagree with his conclusion, I must admit that his rationale was at least consistent. If avoiding discrimination against any customer's unusual or controversial request is the goal of our society, then yes, Jewish bakers should be forced to bake swastika cakes. But I don't agree with him! Why? Because I disagree that avoiding discrimination against any customer's unusual or controversial request should be the goal of our society. Should a black baker be required to bake a Confederate flag cake? Should a Catholic baker be required to bake a cake commemorating the Protestant Reformation?

So I must ask, if in the name of avoiding discrimination, we force Jewish bakers to bake Hindu swastika cakes, are we not committing some other kind of discrimination? What about discrimination against the Jewish baker, who is being forced to do something he finds morally reprehensible? The answer of some in our society would be to simply tell the Jewish baker that if he cannot follow city anti-discrimination codes, than he can no longer do business in our fair city. So now Jews can't do business in our city? For some, that's what it comes down to? It's not the Jewish baker's fault that some German politicians used that symbol to slaughter his people more than half a century ago. Just like it's not the Christian baker's fault that his religion teaches that same-sex 'marriage' is a sin and he/she shouldn't participate in it. The fact of the matter is, any society that forces Christian bakers to make same-sex 'wedding' cakes, is the same society that forces Jewish bakers to make swastika cakes. The swastika may not mean anything bad to the Hindu couple that requests it, but it may mean something horrible to the Jewish baker who is legally forced to design it.  The same goes for the same-sex 'wedding' cake. It may not mean anything bad to the homosexual couple getting 'married', or the people attending the 'wedding', but it may mean something horrible to the Christian baker who is being legally forced to design it. I don't know about you, but I don't want to live in a society that legally forces people to violate their consciences. What becomes of a society when business people are no longer allowed to have a conscience? What are the long-term social effects of this? Perhaps history might hold some answers for us. Maybe somebody ought to look into that.

What is even more troubling is our society's move toward redefining religious liberty. Currently, religious liberty means both 'freedom of worship' and 'freedom of conscience', but these cases regarding same-sex 'wedding' cakes and other similar matters, are seeking to drop 'freedom of conscience' from religious liberty. The idea is to limit religious liberty to just 'freedom of worship'. What is being said is that we are free to worship however we want, within the four walls of our church buildings, but outside of those four walls, we must conform to the standards and morality that our society and government tell us. It is, in effect, an attempt to limit God to chapels and cathedrals, but outside of those buildings, God's commandments are 'void where prohibited by law'.

I think the solution is common sense. If we want to live in a multicultural society, than the particular sentiments of each culture must be respected. Jews and Muslims should not be legally forced to handle pork products or bake swastikas. Christians should not be legally forced to participate in what they believe to be sin, and homosexuals should not be legally forced to agree with any of this. At some point the conscience of everyone has to be respected. In general commerce, discrimination against persons should not be tolerated, whether that be because of race, colour, sex, creed, or what they do in their bedrooms. However, business owners should simultaneously not be required to participate in acts they find objectionable to their consciences. In other words, people cannot be discriminated against, but actions that violate conscience can be. I think that's a reasonable solution for a reasonable society. Sadly, it seems our society and governments are moving in a direction that is becoming increasingly unreasonable, and this I find not only unfortunate, but also potentially dangerous.

END.

------------------------------------------------

Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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Thursday, May 07, 2015

The Rhine Flows Into The Tiber - Again

Martin Luther burns the Papal bull in the square of Wittenberg in the year 1520.
Oil Painting on Canvas by Karl Aspelin 1857-1922

'The Rhine Flows Into the Tiber.' Well, not exactly. The Rhine River in Germany doesn't really flow into the Tiber River in Italy, but it was the title of a great book, written by the Reverend Ralph M. Wiltgen. It has since been retitled 'The Inside Story of Vatican II'. The book highlights the profound influence of German-speaking bishops on the Second Vatican Council. It seems that post war Germany asserted a lot of influence on the Catholic Church over the last several decades, including many Germans holding high ranking positions at the Vatican, and one who even served as pope for eight years. However, the influence of German bishops has been a mixed bag. German clergy apparently only come in two flavours: uber-orthodox and uber-liberal. For example, Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, fits into the uber-orthodox category, as does Cardinal Gerhard Muller, Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. There are others too, both inside and outside the Vatican. Meanwhile, examples of the uber-liberal faction include Cardinal Walter Kasper and the current head of the German Bishops Conference, Cardinal Reinhard Marx. Both have a significant following in the Catholic Church in Germany.

Perhaps much of this can be explained by the collection methods of the Catholic Church in Germany. You see, in Germany, officially state-recognised churches are subsidised by the state in what is commonly known as the kirchensteuer or 'church tax'. There are a handful of European countries that do this, but Germany has the most notable version. Under the kirchensteuer German citizens are required to declare their religion on their tax forms. If they declare Lutheran, for example, a small percentage of tax revenue collected from them goes to the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church of Germany. If they declare Catholic, than a small percentage of tax revenue collected from them goes to the Catholic Church. etc. This amounts to about 8% to 9% of their annual taxes to the church in which they officially belong on paper. So you can imagine how incredibly convenient this is for the average church-goer. There is no need to put money in the collection plate, unless you want to throw in a few euros for good measure, because a good chunk of your annual income is already going to your church automatically. You never even see it. As it just comes out of your paycheck. For example; if you're a Catholic, and you make €50,000 annually, then you pay an annual income tax of 20% or €10,000. Now, of that €10,000, about 8% to 9% (depending on where you live) goes to the German Catholic Church. That's about €800 to €900.  In Germany, about 70% of all Church revenue comes from the kirchensteuer, so the churches are highly dependent upon it. Still, that's regular income, and it's steady income. This has made the Catholic Church in Germany one of the most well funded churches in all of Europe, indeed all the world! The Catholic Archdiocese of Cologne in Germany reportedly has assets at over €3.35 billion, which is more than the entire Vatican at only €2.64 billion! Now keep that in mind that this is just one single archdiocese -- the Archdiocese of Cologne. The Catholic Church in Germany consists of 7 archdioceses and 20 dioceses. The operating budgets of these dioceses are enormous, and it has made the Catholic Church in Germany one of the nation's largest employers. It has also created what some have called a 'lavish lifestyle' for many high ranking clergy within the German Catholic Church.

There is another dynamic going on in Germany in addition to this. The number of young people who continue to associate with the Catholic Church, even just on paper, is falling, as is the case with all Christian affiliations. While church attendance has reached a record low, numbers continue to drop, with no end in sight. With a drop in numbers also comes a drop in revenue, because even though Catholics remain legally associated with the Church on paper, a growing number of young Catholics, who no longer attend mass, are declaring 'no religion' to avoid paying the kirchensteuer. So the German Catholic Church is finding itself becoming increasingly irrelevant in the emerging German culture, and in order to maintain its revenue from the kirchensteuer, the Church has to make itself as attractive as possible, to as many people as possible.

Thus enters the Kasper-Marx proposal, which is to change the application of Catholic teaching on marriage and sexuality, allowing the divorced and remarried, along with practising homosexuals, to receive communion and no longer 'feel excluded from the life of the Church'. In typical liberal ideology, the answer to the failed liberal policies of the German Catholic Church is, of course, more liberalism! However, the German Catholic Church has a little problem. Unlike the Evangelical (Lutheran) Church in Germany, it cannot change its beliefs and practices with a simple majority vote of German bishops. It must get the worldwide Catholic Church, especially the Vatican, to go along with it.

By now you can clearly see that the German Catholic Church of the twenty-first century has fallen a long way from the German Catholic Church of the 1960s. Whatever moderate-liberal tendencies it had back then, have now degenerated into outright moral relativism, and many are saying that the love of money is the cause behind allot of this. I cannot stress this enough. The German Catholic Church of the 1960s was an entirely different church than it is today. The German-speaking bishops at Vatican II aren't even around any more. Those running the German Catholic Church today are their successors, and what we are seeing from many of them is a stunning lack of faith. Now, that doesn't include every German bishop. There are still a few good ones left. One cannot paint with a broad brush on these matters. I'm speaking of the majority here, not every single bishop or priest.

While there is no shortage of liberal bishops around the world, it is the German bishops who are pushing the new liberal agenda in Rome today. This is important, because as the Extraordinary Synod on the Family unfolded last year, many were taken by surprise, and the average lay Catholic simply did not know from whence the extreme push came. Sadly, Pope Francis took the brunt of the backlash for this, even though it is clear now that he was not the source of the problem. Now we know, not only what the problem is, but also from where it comes. The problem is a new push for sexual liberation within the Catholic Church, and the troublemakers are primarily the German Catholic bishops. As I said, there are other bishops too, from other places, but it is Germany that leads the charge. Furthermore, we also know why, or at least, we have a pretty good idea why. The German Catholic Church has an enormous operating budget, and it needs to keep that machine running, even if it means at the expense of orthodoxy.

I have made a personal promise to myself that I would not blog on the events of the upcoming Ordinary Synod on the Family as they happen, or for some time afterwards. I might comment on some official statements that are made, but as far as the inner workings go, I'll leave that up to more competent media sources, such as Church MilitantLifeSiteNews, the National Catholic Register and EWTN. Right now, however, a lot of new information is coming out about the German Catholic Church, and I believe it would be beneficial to all Catholics to know what it is, who is behind it, and how they want to use it. The German Episcopal Conference has released their working document for the upcoming October Synod on the Family. The full text of the document can be viewed in English here. I will pull out some notable highlights below, with my own commentary in RED...
...As a matter of principle, the faithful expect everyone to be accepted both in the Church and in society, regardless of their sexual orientation, Actually, what the faithful expect and what the Church teaches are often two different things. Still what should be expected is acceptance of the individual person without acceptance of the sinful behaviour. and that an atmosphere of appreciation towards all be promoted in the parishes. Hmm. Almost all responses concur with the view that is put forward in the human sciences (medicine, psychology), So now human sciences trump the word of God? namely that sexual orientation is a disposition that is not selected by the individual It is true that we often cant chose our temptations in life. and that it is unchangeable. Ha! Tell that to the thousands of homosexual persons who have changed. It is therefore confusing for the questionnaire to speak of “homosexual tendencies”, and this is considered to be discriminatory Ah! Discrimination. The greatest of all sins according to the liberal mindset....
...Only a small number of respondents fundamentally reject homosexual relationships as constituting a grave sin. Oh. So if German Catholics say its not a sin, then it must not be a sin. Right? The vast majority expects the Church to carry out a differentiated moral theological evaluation Wait! I thought this was only supposed to be about practice not doctrine!?! which takes account of pastoral experience and of the findings of the humanities. Most Catholics accept homosexual relationships if the partners practice values such as love, faithfulness, responsibility for one another and reliability, What a crock! The German bishops have nobody but themselves to blame for this and they know it. They refused to teach Catholic sexual ethics for decades. So it's no surprise that most German Catholics think homosexual relationships are okay. Now the German bishops are trying to tell us that because their clergy and laypeople no longer believe in Catholic sexual ethics, they must not be relevant any more. They create the problem, then they turn around and try to use the problem to change the teaching of the entire Catholic Church. but they do not thereby place homosexual partnerships on the same footing as marriage. For now! It is a matter of appreciating whilst at the same time stressing differentness. Gawd! Seriously? Some of the statements also favour a blessing for such partnerships which is distinct from marriage I'm sure they do. So what they want is Episcopalianism? That's not exactly a model of growth and success...
...On the basis of our pastoral experience, we would therefore like to explicitly emphasise the question which Cardinal Walter Kasper posed in his address before the College of Cardinals on 20/21 February 2014: “But if a divorced and remarried person is truly sorry that he or she failed in the first marriage, if the commitments from the first marriage are clarified and a return is definitely out of the question, Has anybody in Germany ever heard of an annulment? if he or she cannot undo the commitments of a second marriage without new guilt, Annulment anyone? if he or she strives to the best of his or her ability to live out the second civil marriage on the basis of faith Annulment? and to raise their children in the faith, Bueller?... Beuller?  if he or she longs for the sacraments as a source of strength in his or her situation, do we then have to refuse or can we refuse him or her the sacrament of penance and communion, after a period of reorientation?” Of course they're going to back the Kasper question, but what about Marx? Seriously, why are they even asking?
I mention Cardinal Marx here because the last question above is a joke. They know what the answer is. They just want Rome to officially say it, or back down to this kind of passive-aggressive question. Ideally, they would like Rome to back down, and give Germany permission to go ahead with their plans to admit to communion the divorced and remarried (adulterers) and practising homosexuals (sodomites). If Rome gives them permission, they win! However, if Rome does not give them permission, they win anyway, but just in a different way, because they make Rome out to be the bully, while they make themselves look like the poor oppressed German bishops who are just trying to give the people what they want. Cardinal Marx has already openly stated that the German Catholic Church will go ahead with their plans with, or without, Rome's approval. So, according to Marx and the German Bishops Conference, it doesn't matter what happens at the upcoming synod. It doesn't matter what Pope Francis has to say about it. Their minds are made up. The appearance is, they need to do this to secure their financial future, and like any common corporation, they will do whatever they have to do to secure the bottom line -- money! Orthodox Catholicism be damned, they need to secure their revenue!

If you would like to learn more about the situation in the German Catholic Church, a recent video on the matter was done by Church Militant. It can be viewed here. They of course are not the only ones who have touched on this topic. A growing number of Catholic media are beginning to recognise the grave situation that exists in Germany, and that what we saw at the Extraordinary Synod last year was in actuality the upheavals in the German Church surfacing among their episcopal emissaries in Rome. Just as we might see a child's tantrum as a sign of a deeper problem, so too the chaos that erupted at the synod last year might be seen as a sign of much deeper spiritual problems in Germany. What is going on in Germany right now might even rival the upheavals that led to the Protestant Reformation. For now we must pray that these upheavals do not contaminate Church teachings on marriage. After the Synod, we'll have to pray for the overall situation in Germany.

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'

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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Climate Change: Media vs. Pope

The Earth, as seen from Apollo 17

A shorter version of this essay first appeared on ChurchMilitant.Com.
'We are all responsible for the protection and care of the environment. This responsibility knows no boundaries. In accordance with the principle of subsidiarity it is important for everyone to be committed at his or her proper level, working to overcome the prevalence of particular interests.'
Do you find these words provocative? There were spoken by the pope. Does a pope have no business delving into the subject of environmentalism? You might be inclined to think these words came from Pope Francis, but they did not. They were actually uttered by Pope Benedict XVI in his Message for the Celebration of the World Day of Peace, on January 1, 2010.

His Holiness didn't stop there. In the same message, he said:
'Without entering into the merit of specific technical solutions, the Church is nonetheless concerned, as an "expert in humanity", to call attention to the relationship between the Creator, human beings and the created order. In 1990 John Paul II had spoken of an “ecological crisis” and, in highlighting its primarily ethical character, pointed to the "urgent moral need for a new solidarity". His appeal is all the more pressing today, in the face of signs of a growing crisis which it would be irresponsible not to take seriously. Can we remain indifferent before the problems associated with such realities as climate change, desertification, the deterioration and loss of productivity in vast agricultural areas, the pollution of rivers and aquifers, the loss of biodiversity, the increase of natural catastrophes and the deforestation of equatorial and tropical regions? Can we disregard the growing phenomenon of "environmental refugees", people who are forced by the degradation of their natural habitat to forsake it – and often their possessions as well – in order to face the dangers and uncertainties of forced displacement? Can we remain impassive in the face of actual and potential conflicts involving access to natural resources? All these are issues with a profound impact on the exercise of human rights, such as the right to life, food, health and development.'
What was this 'ecological crisis' the Holy Father spoke of? He was speaking of what is commonly referred to as climate change. The title of this message was 'If You Want to Cultivate Peace, Protect Creation', and you can view the whole message on the Vatican website here.

Judging by these quotes, it appears Pope Benedict XVI was not only a believer in climate change, but also an advocate for economic corrections to the problem. Such quotes may come as a shock to many Catholics in the United States, particularly faithful and orthodox Catholics, some of whom are inclined to the notion that environmental protection is a 'liberal idea' and has no place in the teaching authority of the Church.

The point of this commentary is not to champion climate change, or the alleged science behind it. Frankly, I could care less. As an asthmatic, I've always opposed air pollution, of any type, and so whether or not carbon emissions are raising global temperatures is of little consequence to me. My opposition to carbon emissions, and all the air pollution that usually goes along with it, began over forty years ago, long before it was trendy. It began as a child, when I found myself literally unable to breathe in my childhood home of Los Angeles county. Climate change means very little to a person who is struggling for air. In a very real sense, I am one of those 'environmental refugees' Pope Benedict XVI spoke of in 2010. I was forced to leave my childhood home as a young man back in 1993, to seek refuge in the Ozark Mountains of Southern Missouri, where the air is much less polluted, and the worst thing I have to worry about is pollens that irritate my allergies. That can be remedied with a simple pill, called an antihistamine, unlike the smog of Southern California from which there was no remedy, and no easy escape, except to flee the region entirely. I am however, one of the lucky 'environmental refugees', because I live in America, where work is relatively plentiful, and over the course of a decade, I was able to secure a whole new life in my new Midwestern home that is much better than the one I left in Southern California.

The real point I want to address here has nothing to do with the environment, air pollution, climate change, or the pope's teaching on it. The real issue I want to address here is how the words of our Holy Father are being played by the media, and political hacks, to create artificial division between Catholics. You see, there are forces who have a vested interest in getting Catholics to stop listening to our leaders, and it's a mistake to think these forces are just of the liberal-modernist persuasion. Some are of the libertarian persuasion, others are of the neoconservative persuasion. There are many forces, and each has its own ideology, but in all cases their goal, when it comes to Catholics, is the same. They wish to decouple our thoughts, words and votes from our Church leadership, and that my friends is a very serious problem. In the last major address before his retirement, Pope Benedict XVI warned us about the influence of the media over society during and after the Second Vatican Council. He cited the mainstream media for creating an artificial council, that bore little resemblance to the actual council that took place in Rome. Because of this, he lamented, the 'hermeneutic of rupture' was born, which resulted in great upheavals within the Church, upheavals that the Church still has yet to recover from. This 'council of the media' (a term he coined in that speech) has had the effect of corrupting the minds of Catholics, and turning them against the intentions of Catholic leaders. You can read the entire address on the Vatican website here. I'll take His Holiness' words a step further by insisting that this 'council of the media' never ended, but that it continues on today, and just as the media has changed in recent years to incorporate libertarian and neoconservative voices, so too the 'council of the media' has changed as well to reflect this. Today we not only have media voices pulling on Catholics toward the liberal-modernist agenda, but we also have media voices pulling on Catholics toward the libertarian-neoconservative agenda. In many ways, the ideological world we live in today is far more treacherous than that of the 1960s, and Catholics are now being pulled in multiple heterodox directions, instead of just one.

Ever since Rush Limbaugh publicly accused Pope Francis of teaching Marxism on his November 27, 2013 radio show, the libertarian and neoconservative side of the media has been pounding on the Holy Father, and unfortunately, many faithful and orthodox Catholics are taking the bait. How is this any different from the way the 'council of the media' duped many Catholics in the 1960s? It's no different at all, and so we have in our time a continuation of the 'council of the media', that may seek to pull Catholics in a different direction than that of the 1960s, but in the end, the result is the same. Catholics no longer listen to the pope or the leadership of the Catholic Church.

I started this commentary with Pope Benedict XVI's words on the environment and climate change. So now I come full circle with Pope Francis' much anticipated upcoming encyclical on the same subject. I obviously can't comment on an encyclical that hasn't been released to the public yet, but again, that's not the point of this commentary. The point of this commentary is to warn my fellow Catholics about what is going on in the 'council of the media' right now, even as you are reading this. Media and political forces, ideologically opposed to the theory of man-made climate change, are already undermining the moral authority of our Holy Father, and they are poised to attack just as soon as the encyclical is released, regardless of what it says. Likewise, traditional media and political forces, in favour of man-made climate change theories, are likely to use the upcoming encyclical as a license to advocate whatever socialist and/or population-control schemes they think they can get away with. The 'council of the media' will report this encyclical to be 'groundbreaking' and 'revolutionary' even if it isn't. They will make Pope Francis out to be the 'first environmental pope' even though history clearly shows that he's not. Pope Benedict XVI and Saint John Paul II had much to say about climate change as well.

My warning here is to beware the 'council of the media' and ignore much of what the press has to say about Pope Francis in regards to this. Surely the press will attempt to pull Catholics in many directions on this issue, but the greatest thing they could accomplish, indeed the one thing they would desire more than anything else, is to incite a schism in the Catholic Church, pitting faithful and orthodox Catholics against our pope. No prize would be greater to them. As for the environment and climate change, popes have made it their business for quite some time now. Francis is no different. We should listen to our Holy Father, not media outlets and political hacks. The popes have been trying to tell us something important for a while now, and it's a message that transcends scientific theories and controversial methods of data collection. As I said above, I have no vested interest in climate change models, because the environment I grew up in was already polluted decades ago, forcing me to leave, seeking a better life elsewhere. What three popes have said about the environment already played out in my own life. I could care less what the media (any media) has to say about the issue. When the pope's latest encyclical is released, I will consider his words with docility and obedience. For my faith in the petrine ministry is not dependent upon him agreeing with certain political ideologies and worldviews. My only concern is that the pope is Catholic, and as we've seen from two previous popes, talking about the moral implications of man's influence on the environment appears to be a very Catholic thing to do. These things do have an impact on people, and that in turn has an impact on souls.

END.

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Shane Schaetzel is a published author and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'FullyChristian.Com -- The random musings of a Catholic in the Ozarks.'


BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants

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