Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Where Do Methodists Go From Here?

Holy Mass Procession According to Divine Worship
Our Lady of the Atonement Catholic Church, San Antonio, Texas

About a year ago I wrote an essay entitled "Where Do Episcopalians Go From Here?" It chronicled the demise of The Episcopal Church (TEC), the American branch of the Anglican Communion, which centres around the issue of acceptance of homosexuality. Early in this century, 2003, The Episcopal Church made history by consecrating its first open and practising homosexual man as a bishop. This particular man, Gene Robinson, left his wife and children to eventually "marry" his same-sex partner. Some years later, 2010, The Episcopal Church would make history again by electing its first open and practising lesbian woman as a bishop -- Mary Glasspool. These acts, combined with the general liberal trajectory of The Episcopal Church over the last four decades, have gutted the denomination of its membership, and ultimately resulted in some disciplinary action from the worldwide Anglican Communion.

Now, so it would appear, the United Methodist Church (UMC) has embarked on the same trajectory of The Episcopal Church. In essence, the UMC is about where TEC was in 2003. The biggest difference however is the size of the denomination. The Episcopal Church was a relatively small US denomination when it embarked on its liberal trajectory back in the 1970s at only about 3.5 million members. That number has declined significantly over the last four decades. The United Methodist Church, however, currently has a membership of about 7.6 million members, over double the size of TEC in the 1970s. So the effect of this recent decision will have a much larger impact. What is that decision? On June 15, 2016 the Western Jurisdiction Conference of the UMC elected Karen Oliveto, and open, practising and "married" lesbian, as a bishop. As a result, the UMC has just found itself in a crisis. Where it goes from here is unknown, but it would be fair to speculate that the UMC is following TEC along the same path.

So what is Methodism exactly? Where did it come from? Why does it appear to be following the same path as Anglicanism? From a Catholic perspective, it's not really that far fetched. Methodism is itself a direct offshoot of Anglicanism. Methodism sprang forth from the Church of England in the 18th century, under the teachings of John Wesley, his brother Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield. Both John and George were Anglican clergy. What began as a reform movement within Anglicanism eventually became its own denomination apart from the mainstream Anglican churches. The name "Methodist" communicates exactly what the movement was about. They lived the faith according to a "rule" or "method." What was originally a word of mockery was embraced by John Wesley as a title of honour.

Methodists fall under the umbrella of Evangelical churches, and it was one of the first churches to start the Evangelical movement. The distinguishing characteristics of Methodism include...
  1. Assurance of salvation,
  2. Priesthood of all believers,
  3. Primacy of Scripture,
  4. Works of Piety,
  5. Christian Perfection.
Like Anglicans, Methodists have both high-church and low-church traditions. Some churches will put a heavy emphasis on liturgy, others will not. In a lot of ways, Methodism could be looked at as a more Evangelical form of Anglicanism, and historically speaking, that would be a correct assessment.

The United Methodist Church (UMC) has been trending in a more liberal direction for the last couple decades now, and it's clearly following the trajectory of The Episcopal Church. That being said however, it should be noted that while the UMC represents the largest Methodist denomination in the US, it is not the only one. Some alternate examples include: African Methodist Episcopal Church (AME), Free Methodist Church (FMC), and Christian Methodist Episcopal Church (CME), just to name a few. However, the UMC is the flagship of Methodism in the US, and while this decision to consecrate a homosexual bishop probably won't garner the same media attention as did the same decision in TEC, the long term impact won't be much different.

A great deal of the future depends on what the national leadership of the UMC does in response. If they respond assertively by breaking with the Western Jurisdiction Conference, they may be able to prevent a much wider schism in the long term. However, such assertiveness is not likely. What we can more likely expect is a wrist slapping, if even that, which won't be enough. Our experience in the Anglican Communion tells us that problems like this don't get better. They only get worse, as is their nature. Because once they've gone this far, they demonstrate a completely unwillingness to turn back.

In the long run, this will result in a much wider schism, but its not the kind of schism one would think. Methodists will just "vote with their feet," to use an American expression, and leave the UMC. Some will go to other Methodist denominations. Some might try to start their own. The vast majority, however, will just go shopping for a whole new denomination entirely. Granted, not all of them will do this. Indeed, a good number of Methodists actually agree with the decision to consecrate active homosexuals, and are quite pleased that its finally been done. At the same time, however, sitting in the pews next to them, are fellow Methodists who know this violates God's will, as revealed through Scripture and Tradition, and will not likely be able to abide by it for very long. So what I'm saying here is the type of schism the UMC can expect is the same type we saw in TEC. It's not so much a mass exodus of people in the pews, but rather a slow trickle of people leaving, much like a leaky faucet. Gradually, over time, the congregations will thin out. Those who remain in the pews will get older. Blonde and brunette hair will turn grey. Children will become more sparse, and slowly, the UMC will cease to grow and eventually begin to shrink.

In the city of Springfield Missouri, where I live, there are no less than 14 UMC churches. Some of them are pretty good size. Members of these congregations often fancy themselves as more liberal than the surrounding Baptist and Pentecostal churches. However, while most Methodists might consider themselves more liberal than other Protestants, there are probably a good number who disapprove of the election of openly homosexual bishops. Currently, there are no Free Methodist Churches (FMC) in Springfield, that I am aware of, but I would surmise that it won't be long before one is planted now.

The FMC is generally thought of as more conservative than the UMC. Worship style, however, is much more Evangelical in nature, less liturgical and ceremonial. Some might consider this another step away from classical English Christianity. They would be right.

Might I suggest there is another way? What is transpiring right now in TEC and the UMC is a tragedy, and usually tragedy results in schism, but there is a way to turn a tragedy into triumph.

In 2009, Pope Benedict XVI created a means for Christians to be reunited in ecumenical unity, under the doctrinal protection of the pope, the Bishop of Rome. The provision was originally designed for Anglicans, but Methodists were kept in mind too. In fact, the provision can just as easily apply to Methodists, and a good number of Methodists are already starting to take advantage of it. The provision is called Anglicanorum Coetibus, which means "groups of Anglicans," and it is an apostolic constitution that allows Christians of English heritage (Anglican Patrimony), which is a heritage that Methodists share, to come into the Catholic Church under their own canonical jurisdiction. While still under the Roman Rite, and the Roman Code of Canon Law, these converts have their own bishop, their own parishes, and their own English traditions, as well as their own unique pastoral approach. Many of the priests in this jurisdiction (called an "ordinariate") are married and have children. They were former Anglican clergy who have been ordained as Catholic priests now. All of this functions directly under the pope and the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF).

Could Methodist individuals, groups, or entire congregations take advantage of this? Yes, they most certainly could. So far it's just been individuals, but groups and congregations could as well. For example; it is certainly possible for a male Methodist minister, who is married and raising a family, to take advantage of this apostolic constitution, along with his entire congregation. The whole congregation could come into the Catholic Church together, as a unit, and be made a parish within this ordinariate. The minister could then be ordained a Catholic priest.

Is it possible? Yes, it most certainly is, as this was the very thing Anglicanorum Coetibus was designed for. Granted, it was originally foreseen that Anglicans would be the first to take advantage of this provision, and they most certainly have. Three ordinariates have already been created: the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of Walsingham for the UK, the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter for North America, and the Personal Ordinariate of Our Lady of the Southern Cross for Australia and Oceania. Within these ordinariates we are not only seeing the reunification of Protestants with Catholics, but also the reunification of Protestants with each other. Anglicans and Methodists now worship together under the same roof again, united with Baptists and cradle Catholics, all within One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church. It is the completion of the ecumenical movement -- realised! The ordinariates were specifically designed for Christians of English heritage, which is something that Anglicans and Methodists share in common.

Six years ago I embarked on this mission to bring the ordinariate to my home in the Springfield Missouri area. Today that dream has materialised in the form of Saint George Catholic Church. This is because I used to be an Anglican, and my wife was baptised Methodist. We loved the liturgy and tradition of English Christian heritage, and we didn't want to see it lost. We understood that the only way to preserve it was within the doctrinal safety of the Catholic Church. It is a doctrinal framework that is merciful and compassionate to people struggling with homosexual temptations, but at the same time does not cave in to the pressures of sentimentality and moral relativism.

What I'm saying is this. It can be done. There is hope. All is not lost. The Catholic Church has given us a way. We can turn tragedy into triumph. We can turn schism into unity. We can turn crisis into serenity. We can put aside this sexual revolution and get back to the business of preaching the Gospel and building the Kingdom of God. It can be done. There is hope. We now have the tools. And to be quite honest with you, it's a whole lot of fun too. There is nothing more satisfying than knowing God's plan for this world and your place in it.

So I'm encouraging those Methodists in the UMC, who are discouraged by what they see going on in the national denomination, to take courage and be strong. There is hope. You don't have to sacrifice your beliefs and principles on the altar of political correctness. Nor do you have to wonder off into another Methodist denomination, or some other denomination. Nor do you need to start a new Methodist church under the "Free Methodist" banner or some other banner. You can turn this whole thing around and do something positive with it. You can use it to help heal the divisions in Christianity, rather than further them. This is especially true if you are male clergy within the UMC. There may even be a place for you within the Catholic priesthood, and you can lead your congregation to greener pastures in the process.

You'll never know until you investigate and see for yourself. I would like to encourage my Methodist brothers and sisters in Christ, particularly those in the UMC, to look into the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of Saint Peter discretely. You can rest assured your privacy will be protected. Find out what the process is, then pray about it, and maybe even tell a friend.

END.

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

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

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants

Please share this story. Social media links provided below for your convenience... 

Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Only Good Catholic is a Bad Catholic

An anti-Catholic cartoon shows Cardinal Francesco Satolli, who was appointed in 1893 as the first Papal Delegate to the United States, casting an evil shadow of Pope Leo XIII across America.

Let me tell you how it is really is in America. I converted to Catholicism in 2000 for very strong religious convictions, and those convictions cause me to believe what the Catholic Church teaches is true. That belief causes me to try my best to act in accordance with Church teaching, and that belief means that I don't try to change Church teaching to accommodate my own personal vices, or my own personal gain. This is what it means to be a "good Catholic." Notice I didn't say "perfect Catholic." I said "good Catholic," and that means one who sincerely tries to live by the faith, confesses when he fails, and never, EVER tries to change or twist the Church's teachings to accommodate his own personal vice or gain.

1875-Thomas Nast anti-Catholic cartoon
from Harper's Weekly magazine.
Early Colonial America was a rough place for Catholics in the 16th through 18th centuries. It wasn't nearly as bad as Britain of course, which is why so many English and Irish Catholics gave up everything to move to this continent. Still, it wasn't very hospitable for Catholics here either. In many of the English colonies, being Catholic was literally illegal, just like it was in Britain, and Catholic worship was absolutely forbidden. Eventually however, and gradually, religious tolerance prevailed in the colonies, until around the time of the American Revolution, when Catholics were free to exist (not flourish but exist) in the emerging United States of America. Catholics were by no means considered equal, of course, but they were tolerated - barely - even though King George III's toleration of Catholicism in Quebec was part of the reason why the colonies chose to rebel from the empire in the first place (read more on that here). Yes, English colonists (early Americans) tolerated Catholics -- barely. Which means they didn't try to kill us -- usually. They didn't burn down our churches -- most of the time. Nor did they bring harm to our families -- on an average day. However, it was permissible to deny Catholic men a good job, and you could legally keep Catholics out of your neighbourhood. Hate speech against Catholics was common, typical and expected in 19th century America, especially from behind the pulpit in many Protestant churches. In fact, there was even a political party in early 19th century America, called the "American Party" which was staunchly dedicated to anti-Catholic prejudice. This party was unofficially called the "Know-Nothing Party" because members were instructed to say "I know nothing" when asked about its inner workings. By the late 19th century, anti-Catholicism was enshrined into most state constitutions, in what are called Blaine Amendments, still a part of forty out of fifty state constitutions to this very day.

Conditions for the average Catholic in North America were so bad by the middle to late 19th century, that the life expectancy of an average Catholic man was about 30. This is because the only jobs they could get were in coal mines, dockyards, sweatshops and other places where the working conditions were so poor that men usually died prematurely. Thus a disproportionate number of Catholic women in America were widows, often forced to work themselves, along with their young children, in similar sweatshops, just to survive. This was the primary reason why the Knights of Columbus was formed, as a means for Catholic men to care for their brother's widows.

Anti-Catholic cartoon, from Guardians of Liberty, 1943,
Published by the pillar of Fire Church in Zarephath, NJ.
One would think that, by the 20th century, things would get better for Catholics. Indeed, they did, but anti-Catholic prejudice still remained in a very nasty way. With the rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan in the 1920s, Catholics became the target of cross burning, church vandalism, personal assault and anti-Catholic propaganda. In 1928, a popular New York politician, himself a Catholic, dared to run for President of the United States. Governor Al Smith lost his bid for the Whitehouse, in part because of a nasty lie, concerning a bogus oath, the Knights of Columbus allegedly recite, which swears to kill Protestants and overthrow America in obedience to the pope. The scandal got so big that the bogus oath was read into the United States Congressional Record, and investigated by the U.S. government. It was determined to be a outright lie. (As a side note, I am a 4th degree Knight of Columbus myself, and I can testify the alleged oath is totally bogus and an affront to everything the Knights stand for. It is still circulated on the Internet today by anti-Catholics of various types.)

By the middle 20th century, mainstream anti-Catholicism changed in America. Oh sure, one can still find the old-school anti-Catholic propaganda among some Protestant fundamentalists and hate groups. However, the majority of anti-Catholics managed to get smarter. They figured out how to oppose Catholicism, without looking like bigots. It's really quite brilliant actually. It was built on the old Blaine Amendments from the previous century, and its principle is what allowed this nation to elect its first "Catholic" president in 1960 -- John F. Kennedy. The principle is simple, and JFK defined it succinctly in his speech to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association on September 12, 1960. You see, in order to be accepted by the political establishment in America, all a Catholic need do is accept the premise of the Blaine Amendments, and divorce his religion from his political conscience entirely. Kennedy put it as follows...
But let me stress again that these are my views. For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me
Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.
This was the foundation of the new Anti-Catholicism which would plague American Catholics from the 1960s onward. In it, Catholic politicians are judged by how well they subscribe to the teachings of the Catholic Church. So long as they are willing to disobey the Church, break its precepts and laws, and do so in the name of this nebulous idea of "the public interest," they are smiled upon by the political establishment, especially the Democratic Party. However, to his credit, John F. Kennedy said something else that is generally not adhered to by many Catholic politicians today...
But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.
That is something a good number of Catholic politicians never do. They almost never resign over conscience violation, but rather promote the idea that they are "personally opposed to," a certain issue, "but, they will not force their views upon the public interest." They do this for their own political gain, allowing themselves to adopt positions that will further themselves in politics, while simultaneously distorting the teachings of the Church in the process, and bringing great harm to American society. This is called the "Mario Cuomo Position," the former governor of New York and also a Catholic, who is most remembered for saying he was "personally opposed to abortion," while supporting public laws that favoured abortion on demand.  Since then, the Democratic Party has lavishly rewarded Catholics who held to this mindset. So in short, the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic, meaning one who can give some mental recognition of the teachings of the Church, but never act upon them in any concrete way. In fact, he may even act against them, in the name of the "public interest," with no mind to his conscience at all.

Today, in the Democratic Party, the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic, meaning one who is willing to violate the moral teachings of the Church. Those willing to do this are rewarded with appointments and nominations to high-ranking government positions. Meanwhile, Catholics who are faithful to the teachings of the Church are typically derided as a "threat" and a "danger" to democracy, freedom and civil rights, much in the same way Catholics were derided by anti-Catholic propaganda in the 19th century. We saw this scenario play out in the 2004 presidential election with the nomination of John Kerry to the presidency. Then again in 2008 and 2012, with the nomination of Joe Biden to the office of vice president. Alas, we're seeing it once again in 2016, with the nomination of Tim Kaine to the office of vice president by Democrat presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

From court appointments, to presidential nominations, modern anti-Catholicism has materialised in the form of coddling Cafeteria Catholics. Promising rewards for not following the teachings of the Church. However, if you're one of those "dangerous" Catholics who actually does believe and obey the teachings of the Church, you will be shunned and shamed, regarded as unfit and unworthy for government office.

Sadly, this form of prejudice could not prevail without the assistance of Catholics. By that I mean Catholics who have sold out their consciences, and their souls, usually for political gain or personal vice, and there are plenty of them to go around. Without "Catholic" politicians like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry, Nancy Pelosi, Mario Coumo, Joe Biden and Tim Kaine; this form of prejudice would fail. In order to work, you need "useful idiots," willing to sell their souls, enabled by complicit clergy, willing to silently let them do it.

END.

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

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

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants

Please share this story. Social media links provided below for your convenience... 

Thursday, July 21, 2016

AUTHENTIC CHRISTIANITY

The first Eucharist, depicted by Juan de Juanes (AD 1562)
How do you know the church you attend is really the Church Jesus Christ established? Many Christians believe in this nebulous idea of the "invisible Church," which is a notion that there really is no visible Church in the world today, but rather, all "true" Christians are bound together in an invisible way, via the Holy Spirit, and only God knows who belongs to this "invisible Church." This is how most Christians deal with the fact that there are so many different denominations, and each one teaches different things. In a way, the "invisible Church" notion has an element of truth to it, but it is not "the truth" in total. To rely on it entirely is a cop out. It's a way of saying that there is no answer, and we just have to settle with the idea that there is no visible representation of the Church of Jesus Christ.

But is that true?

Could it be we're missing something? The Bible says that Jesus Christ founded just one Church -- not two, not three, or four-thousand, but one. And in his time, the Church was very visible. So is there a way we can determine what is really Christ's authentic Church, meaning the one he actually established? I think so. In order to figure that out, however, we're going to have to look at what Jesus actually taught us in the Bible. I encourage you to look up each verse I cite here in the Bible, to make sure what I'm telling you is true and accurate. I've hyperlinked them to three parallel Bible versions for simplicity and ease: The King James Version (KJV), the New International Version (NIV) and the New American Standard Bible (NASB)...

A Visible Authority Structure

In John 15:16 we read that Jesus chose special men to be his apostles. He didn't say that everyone could be his apostles. Rather he specifically chose certain men. Then in John 20:21 we read that Jesus gave those apostles his own special mission. In Matthew 28:18-20 we read that Jesus had all authority, and he delegated the authority of this mission to these apostles. Notice he didn't delegate it to anyone else, just to these twelve men. What did that authority include?

For starters, it included the authority to forgive sins, which we read in John 20:22-23. Stop and consider that. This was one of the biggest criticisms Jesus got from the Pharisees. Jesus would forgive people's sins, and then the Pharisees would say; "who can forgive sins but God?" Then Jesus proved he had the authority to forgive sins by performing a miracle. Here in John 20:22-23 we read that Jesus specifically shared this authority (to forgive sins) with his apostles. Notice he didn't share it with just anybody, but only his apostles. In 2nd Corinthians 5:17-20, the Apostle Paul states that this "ministry of reconciliation," meaning the authority to forgive sins, has been passed on to the apostles, and they now exercise this authority in Christ's name. In James 5:13-16, the Apostle James instructed the early Christians that the "elders" of the Church, and the Greek word for "elder" is "presbyter" here, also had the authority to forgive sins.

Wait a minute! 

How did the "elders" or "presbyters" suddenly acquire the authority to forgive sins? I thought that was reserved only to Jesus and the apostles, right? Well, it was initially, but the Bible tells us in Acts 1:12-26 that the apostles, having been given all authority by Jesus Christ himself, were permitted to choose replacements for themselves, giving them the same authority. They replaced Judas with Matthias, and they did this by their own authority, which Jesus had given them. After being chosen, Matthias was counted as having equal authority with the original apostles that Jesus had chosen. We also learn in Acts 14:23 that it was the habit of the apostles to appoint elders (presbyters) of the Church in each city they visited. However, it appears the apostles weren't the only ones with this authority. In Titus 1:5, Paul instructs Titus (a bishop) to appoint elders (presbyters) too. This is important, because in 1st Timothy 4:14 we learn that this authority to forgive sins, among other things, is passed through the "laying on of hands," and Paul warns Timothy in 1st Timothy 5:22 not to "lay hands" just on anyone, but he must be careful and selective. Then Paul specifically lays out the qualifications for this "laying on of hands" in 1st Timothy 3:1-8, where he designates the bishop in Greek as epískopos, and deacons in Greek as diákonos. In 1st Timothy 5:17 Paul uses the Greek word presbyteros (or presbyter) for what is commonly translated as "elder." So from these two passages we see that the authority structure in the early apostolic Church was divided into three categories. The first is called apostle/bishop/overseer. The second is presbyter/elder. The third is deacon/servant. I will simplify by calling the first office "bishop," the second office "presbyter," and the third office "deacon." The Scriptures seem to indicate here that the office of bishop is equal to that of an apostle, and shares the same full apostolic authority with it. The second office of presbyter appears to be a lesser office, which shares some of the apostolic authority, but not all of it. While the third office of deacon seems to share the least apostolic authority.

So back to 2nd Corinthians 5:17-20, in which we learn that the apostles had vested authority to forgive sins into certain appointed men, and these are not just anybody, but certain and specific appointed men. Then we see these include the bishops, who's authority is equal to the apostles, and the elders (or presbyters), in James 5:13-16, who act as assistants to the bishops, and have been given the authority to forgive sins.

Now does this disturb you? Does this go against everything you've been taught? Well, it's in the Bible, and it's pretty plain and simple for anyone to see. If we say that anyone has the authority to forgive sins, we deny the plain teaching of Scripture which limits this authority to just some individuals. At the same time however, if we say nobody but Jesus has the authority to forgive sins, then we commit the same error as the Pharisees, and we deny the plain teaching of Scripture which says that Jesus shared this authority with specific men, who in turn shared it with other specific men. If you say you believe in the Bible, you cannot deny this. However, you need not take my word for it. Read the Scriptures I've linked to and see for yourself.

So does your church teach that only specific men (bishops and presbyters) have been given the authority to forgive sins? Is your church arranged in an authority structure of bishops, presbyters and deacons? If not, then your church is not following the Bible, and dare I say, it's probably not the Church Jesus originally founded.

Now this visible authority structure Jesus established doesn't stop there. Ephesians 4:11 tells us the Church Jesus originally founded was very hierarchical, and that there are different layers of authority. The bishops share full authority with the apostles, while the presbyters share partial authority and work for the bishop. Lastly the deacons share the least authority and also work for the bishop, usually assisting a presbyter. The bishops and presbyters have the authority not only to forgive sins, but they have other authorities too. The bishops, in particular, who are equal to the apostles in authority, also have the authority to speak with Christ's voice (Luke 10:16), authority to legislate rules of conduct within the Church (Matthew 18:18), as well as the authority to discipline members of the Church when they disobey and refuse to repent (Matthew 18:17).

Yet a Church with multiple leaders, and no singular voice to round them all up, would be a divided Church indeed. Jesus Christ is the King, right? So what is he the King of? If you said "the universe" you would be correct, but during his whole ministry he spoke of this thing called the Kingdom of God. Luke 22:29-30 tells us that Jesus is the King, and his Church is the beginning of the Kingdom of God. So Jesus is the King of his Kingdom the Church, and like any King, he appointed a prime minister to act on his behalf. In Matthew 16:18-19 we see where Jesus appointed Peter to be his prime minister. The "keys" in this passage are symbolic of power, and they are very reminiscent of the "key" of power given by Hebrew kings to their prime minister servants in Isaiah 22:21-22. Jesus is using the same imagery here. The Apostle Peter was given the symbolic "keys" of authority to Christ's Kingdom (The Church), and because of this he received the fullness of authority as Christ the King's prime minister. In Luke 22:32 we are told that Peter's faith would strengthen the other apostles. In John 21:17 we are told that Peter is Christ's chief shepherd. In Mark 16:7 the angel is sent to announce Christ's resurrection to Peter by name. In Luke 24:34 the resurrected Christ appeared to Peter before any other apostle. In Acts 1:13-26, Peter acted as the leader in the first meeting of the apostles after Christ's ascension. In Acts 2:14 Peter led all the others at Pentecost. In Acts 2:41 it was Peter who received the first converts to Christianity. In Acts 3:6-7 it was Peter who performed the first miracle after Pentecost. In Acts 5:1-11 it was Peter who judged the evil doers, and inflicted the miraculous judgement upon them. In Acts 8:18-21, it was Peter who excommunicated the first heretic -- Simon Magus (Simon the Magician). In Acts 10:14-44 it was Peter who received the revelation to admit Gentiles into the Church. In Acts 15:1-35 it was Peter who headed the first Church Council and pronounced the first dogmatic decision. In Galatians 1:18 we learn that Paul had to visit Peter as the Chief of the Apostles. While the Scriptures tell us that Peter was far from perfect (Galatians 2:11-14), they mention his name 195 times, more than the rest of the apostles combined, and when the other apostles are mentioned, it is often as "Peter and his companions" (Luke 9:32; Mark 16:7). Peter spoke on behalf of the apostles on multiple occasions (Matthew 18:21; Mark 8:29; Luke 8:45; Luke 12:41; John 6:69).

So the Bible tells us clearly that Jesus originally established a hierarchical Church, in which he placed Peter at the top as his prime minister. It also tells us that the apostles, including Peter, could pass on their authority to successors through the "laying on of hands."

Is your church hierarchical? Can your church leaders trace their ordination back to the apostles? Is there somebody in your church functioning in Peter's position as his successor, a prime minister to Jesus Christ the King? If not, then your church is not following the Bible, and is probably not the original Church founded by Jesus Christ.

So we have seen above how the Church Jesus Christ established was clearly visible through the authority structure he created for it, and could be experienced by their authority to forgive sins, legislate, discipline and appoint new authorities to follow the old. For a supposedly "invisible" Church it certainly has some very clearly visible characteristics. However, not all organisations that call themselves "churches" fit the Biblical description I outlined above. That doesn't mean they're not Christian organisations. They can be. However, while the Church may be an organisation, not every organisation is the Church. There are lots of Christian organisations, and communities, and fellowships, but there is only one Church established by Jesus Christ. Organisations that claim to be this Church must demonstrate that they are following what the Scriptures say about the Church. Unfortunately most church-like organisations simply do not.

Again, I'm just using the Bible here. We must stick to the Bible. Right?

A Visible Sign of Christ's Presence

Christ promised that his Church would not be left orphaned. We are all familiar of the gift of the Holy Spirit, which is of course invisible. However, In 1st Corinthians 11:23-26, we see that the Apostle Paul tells us that Jesus promised a visible manifestation of his own body and blood, which would be with the Church until he returns at the end of time. This is a visible and physical manifestation of Jesus Christ. Now the Bible also tells us that this manifestation in The Lord's Supper is not just symbolic, but that it is real. You see in John 6:35-69 Jesus foretold that he would send his body and blood under the appearance of bread and wine. Notice in this passage that Jesus did not say the bread and wine would just be symbolic of his flesh and blood, but that it would be his literal flesh and blood, and that it would just appear to be bread and wine. For this the Pharisees thought he was crazy, and many of his own disciples left him. Jesus didn't go running after them to explain himself further, or correct some "misunderstanding" on their part. Nor did he ever bother to further explain this mystery. He simply said the bread would become his flesh and the wine would become his blood, that his disciples must eat and drink of it, and that was that. In every other case, when Jesus spoke in parables and symbolism, he always explained what these parables and symbols meant to his apostles. He didn't do that concerning his command to consume his body and blood. He simply told them to do it, and that was that.

Then in Matthew 26:26-28, Mark 14:22-24 and Luke 22:19-20, Jesus instituted his supper as his literal body and blood. You will notice that in each of the synoptic descriptions of the Last Supper, all three of them use the verb "is" to describe what the bread and wine become. In each Biblical citation, Jesus specifically said: "this IS my body" when speaking of the bread, and "this IS my blood" when speaking of the wine. He didn't say: "this represents my body" or "this represents my blood." No. He said "is," and last time I checked the dictionary, "is" means "is." Webster's Dictionary defines the word "is" as: equal, homogeneous, uniform, for or from different individuals of the same species. In other words, it means "the same."

"Is" means "is."

It cannot mean anything else. Jesus said "this IS my body" and "this IS my blood." If we say that Jesus really meant that it "represents" and he didn't really say what he really meant, then we make ourselves out to be higher than Jesus, because we imply that Jesus didn't know what he was really saying.

The apostles sure knew what he was saying, for in John 6:35-69 they almost left him over it. Then in 1st Corinthians 10:16, the Apostle Paul clearly spelled out what Jesus meant. He asks rhetorically; is it not participation in his literal flesh and blood? Then he spells out very clearly the penalty for those who do not believe it in 1st Corinthians 11:27-29.

There is no mistake about it. Jesus told us the bread and wine would become his literal body and blood when we celebrate the Last Supper. The early Church had to be reminded of this, which means that part of the miracle is that their senses were restrained in such a way as to not see or taste it, but the reality of Christ's flesh and blood is present anyway.

However, it wasn't just something anybody could do. A certain type of person had to be selected to ask for this change to occur, and in 1st Corinthians 11:23-24 we see that Paul says: "I received what I passed on to you." Likewise, in the synoptic gospels, we see that Jesus passed this on to his apostles only, not to his average disciple in the crowd. So the authority to call upon God, to transform the bread and wine into Christ's body and blood, was given to the apostles alone. They in turned passed it on to the bishops, who in turn share it with the presbyters. Nowhere does the Bible say that common everyday Christians can do this. They must have received the "laying on of hands" by the apostles and/or their successors (the bishops).

Lastly, Luke instructs us in Acts 20:7 that the practice of the Apostolic Church was to celebrate the Lord's Supper weekly, on the first day of the week, which is Sunday. Yet many churches today only celebrate the Lord's Supper monthly, and some even less often.

Does your church celebrate the Lord's Supper weekly like they did in the Bible? Does your pastor have succession from one of the apostles, so that he may call upon God to make the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ? Does your church even teach that the bread and wine literally become the body and blood of Christ? Or does your church teach that it is only symbolic? If your church teaches that communion is only symbolic, your pastor has no succession from the apostles, and your church celebrates the Lord's Supper less than once a week, then it is clearly not the original Church founded by Jesus Christ we read about in the Bible.

Invisible Church?

For a Church that is supposed to be invisible, it sure has some very visible signs that anyone can clearly see. According to the Bible, the original Church, founded by Jesus Christ, has a hierarchical authority structure of bishops, presbyters and deacons. It is headed by a bishop who is the successor of the Apostle Peter. The bishops and presbyters have the authority to forgive sins. They also have the authority to call upon God to ask for him to change the bread and wine into the literal body and blood of Christ. Then we have the body and blood of Christ itself, again another very visible sign of the Church. It doesn't look very invisible to me. In fact, it seems that the authentic and original Church, established by Jesus Christ and his apostles, is very visible and easy to see. All we need to do is look for the Church that has these characteristics.

Can you think of a Church that has these characteristics? There are literally thousands of churches today, but among them, which one has these characteristics? Is it any of the following...

  • Lutheran Church -- founded AD 1517 -- Martin Luther
  • Reformed Church -- founded AD 1520 -- Ulrich Zwingli
  • Anglican Church -- founded AD 1534 -- King Henry VIII
  • Presbyterian Church -- founded AD 1560 -- John Knox
  • Baptist Church -- founded AD 1605 -- John Smyth
  • Methodist Church -- founded AD 1739 -- John Wesley
  • Pentecostal Church -- founded AD 1900 -- Charles Fox Parham
  • Assemblies of God -- founded AD 1914 -- multiple ministers

The list goes on and on, but none of these organisations bear the marks of the authentic, original and visible Church founded by Jesus Christ in AD 33. Only one Church bears these marks, outlined clearly in the Bible, and that is the Catholic Church. 

That's not to say these other churches aren't fine Christian organisations. They are, and indeed, God has used them to bring the gospel to millions. But it's not the complete gospel -- is it? There are some things missing; some important things left out. I've spelled out a few of the big ones above, but there are more, much more.

To learn more about some specific issues, feel free to browse my Apologetics Page, or read my book Catholicism for Protestants. Beyond that I recommend you call the pastor of a local Catholic Church for more answers. You can find one easily with a simple Google Maps search, or browsing through the yellow pages of your phone book. If you're having difficulty, this map might help.

Sometimes talking to a Protestant who converted to the Catholic Church can be helpful too. So if you're looking for a Catholic Church made up almost entirely of converts, with a pastor who is himself probably a convert, I recommend this map here.

Lastly, this essay is specifically directed toward Christians who live in my immediate area. If, and only if, you live in the Springfield Missouri area, and you would like to learn more about the original Church that Jesus Christ founded, you may contact me privately by email: Shane (at) CatholicInTheOzarks (dot) com. Or you can private message me through my Facebook Page. Remember, I'm extending this offer to local people only. I can't possibly respond to inquiries from all over the country and the world. So if you live in the Springfield Missouri area, you may contact me personally if you wish. State your name, the town you live in, and a short question or two. 

END.

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

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

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants

Please share this story. Social media links provided below for your convenience... 

Monday, July 18, 2016

A Catholic Vote 2016

1976: Little Sisters of the Poor vote - via LA Times

This is a private opinion blog of one Catholic. On this blog, I don't represent the opinion of any diocese, jurisdiction or parish. I just represent one opinion -- my own. The title of this essay is "A Catholic Vote" not "The Catholic Vote" because I speak from the Catholic community not for it. Nevertheless, my voice has just as much a right to be heard as anyone.

Truth be told, there is no such thing as "THE Catholic Vote," because "THE Catholic Vote" has been so divided for a generation now. The truth is, most Catholic Americans vote right along with the general public, split almost to the same proportion, and in my opinion, that is an indictment and nothing to brag about. It means that rather than the Church influencing the culture, the culture has influenced the Church, and most dioceses across the United States have become little more than public institutions that reflect popular opinions on politics, rather than Catholic teaching.

The problem ultimately goes up the ladder and straight up to the bishops. "The buck stops with them." In the Catholic Church, it ALWAYS DOES. If it doesn't stop with them, then they're not doing their jobs as bishops. Each and every bishop in America must take responsibility for the way the majority of active Catholics in his diocese votes. That's the cold, hard truth about the job. If a bishop's faithful are voting for candidates and issues that are at odds with what the Church teaches, than he (the bishop) is responsible for that. I'm not trying to be uncharitable here. I don't envy them. It's lonely at the top, and they have all of my empathy. I wouldn't want their job in a million years! Yet this is the job Christ has called them to. It is their vocation, and they are responsible for it.

Here are the statistics among religious voters in the last four presidential elections from the Pew Research Center...



When we examine the Catholic vote, we see that it's basically divided between "White Catholics" and "Hispanic Catholics." It appears that White Catholics vote Republican by a narrow margin, while Hispanic Catholics vote for Democrats by a very large margin. These results are revealing on one level. When it comes to social issues concerning the Pro-Life cause, America's Catholic bishops have been negligent in getting the message out to Hispanic Catholics. It would seem there is a real gospel deficit here. The problem is already bad among White Catholics, but Hispanic Catholics are twice as likely to vote for a pro-abortion (pro-death) candidate than White Catholics are. I'm sorry to be so blunt on the racial divide in the US Catholic Church here, but I didn't create the statistics. The Pew Research Center did. If you don't like these statistics, don't shoot the messenger. Take it up with them please.

My main concern is this. Why are Hispanic Catholics so much less likely to vote according to the teachings of the Church, especially on issues concerning life? Again, I don't blame Hispanics, because you see, as I said above, the Catholic Church is a hierarchical system, so the buck doesn't stop with them. It stops with the US Catholic Bishops. If Hispanic Catholics are more likely to vote in favour of abortion, euthanasia, baby-harvesting, and anti-family issues, then we must ask why? Why are the bishops not teaching them the same gospel values as White Catholics? How come White Catholics are more likely to vote for Pro-Life candidates and Hispanic Catholics are not? Obviously being White doesn't automatically make one more Pro-Life. So it has to be something else. It seems that in America anyway, Hispanic Catholics vote against the teachings of the Church far more often than White Catholics do. So if that is the case, somebody somewhere is dropping the ball when it comes to teaching Hispanic Catholics the unconditional Pro-Life value of Catholic Social Teaching. Now I would say somebody is dropping the ball with White Catholics too, but I think the case is much worse with Hispanic Catholics.

Again, the buck stops with the US Catholic Bishops. It always does.

Personally, I think the problem is a lack of clarity from the US Catholic Bishops. It has to be. It seems that if 40% to 45% of White Catholics think voting for a Pro-Abortion candidate is "okay" then our bishops have failed to make their message clear to 40% to 45% of White Catholics. Meanwhile, if 65% to 75% of Hispanic Catholics think that voting for a Pro-Abortion candidate is "okay" then our bishops have failed to make their message clear to 65% to 75% of Hispanic Catholics. That is an EPIC FAILURE. It's bad on the White Catholic side. It's horrendous on the Hispanic Catholic side. So what's the problem here? Are there not enough Spanish-speaking bishops? Actually, I think the problem isn't that simple.

I'm sure there are enough Spanish-speaking bishops to get the message out, and besides that, most Hispanic Catholics in the USA speak perfect English anyway. I think the problem is message not language. Every year since I became a Catholic in 2000, I have read the bishops' voters guide, and every year I have found it to be confusing, contradicting, and poorly organised. It's gotten so bad I don't even bother to read it anymore. The US Catholic Bishops have failed to get their message across, because it seems, they themselves don't even know what their message is. Confusion at the top results in confusion all the way down the ladder, and so it seems, in the USA anyway, it is the Hispanic Catholics who are being deprived the most when it comes to the Gospel of Life.

So now that I've given you my analysis of the problem, I'll present my own understanding of American politics from a Catholic perspective. This is not THE Catholic perspective. It is "A" Catholic perspective, because you see, I am not a bishop, nor am I even a priest. I am a laymen. I speak from the Church and not for it. Nevertheless, I have taken the time to study the Church's Social Teaching myself, and this is how I interpret it...
  1. PRO-LIFE: The Gospel of Life is the most pressing issue facing our American culture today. A society that accepts the wholesale murder of unborn children does not value life at all. It is the same society that will go to war at the drop of a hat, support violent revolutionaries in other countries without thinking twice about it, and help big business deprive workers of rights and fair compensation for their labour. A failure to support the Gospel of Life results in a failure of everything else. A nation without a Pro-Life ethic has NOTHING, and everything else is just an illusion. Therefore this is a non-negotiable issue. Catholics are morally obligated to vote for the most Pro-Life candidate in any election.
  2. PRO-FAMILY: The traditional family is the cornerstone of civilisation. Any society that undermines the traditional family is in the process of committing slow social suicide. Same-sex "marriage," along with easy "no-fault" divorce, legalised prostitution, public nudity and indecency all work toward destroying the traditional family. They are means of slow social suicide and every Catholic is morally obligated to vote for candidates that oppose them.
  3. RELIGIOUS FREEDOM: Christian religion, particularly Catholic religion, is essential to the survival of Western civilisation. Catholics are always morally obligated to support candidates that fight for religious freedom and protection of personal conscience. Any candidate that wouldn't do this is a potential tyrant that might persecute the Church, if it became politically expedient to do so.
  4. PRUDENTIAL MATTERS: All other matters, such as immigration, healthcare, minimum wage, gun control, foreign policy, etc., are called "prudential matters," which means that while the Church may hold to a "preferred" position on each one, Catholics are free to vote their conscience, assuming their conscience is well informed. It is possible for Catholics to hold a good-faith position on multiple sides of these matters, because they are prudential, which means they relate to good judgement. They are not essential. Issues one through three are essential. 
So if a candidate happens to hold a favoured position on some prudential matters, but then violates one of the three essentials above, that candidate disqualifies himself from consideration, because he violated an essential. The only time a Catholic may vote for a candidate who violates one of the three essential matters above, is if his opposing candidate violates the same essential even more so. For example; let's say Candidate A believes abortion is okay in the first trimester of pregnancy. That would be a violation of the number one essential (Pro-Life) issue, and would normally disqualify that candidate. However, if Candidate B (his main opposition) believes that abortion is okay all the way up until birth, than that would be worse than Candidate A. So in order to stop Candidate B from getting into office, it would be morally licit to vote for Candidate A.

So now, to make this extra CLEAR, for the sake of CLARITY, I am going to apply this principle to the 2016 presidential election.

Republican candidate Donald Trump has stated that he supports abortion in some cases, and that he supports the work of Planned Parenthood on some things. This would normally disqualify him from a Catholic vote based on Catholic moral teaching. However, he has also vowed to nominate Pro-Life judges and he's selected a strongly Pro-Life vice presidential running mate Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has stated that she supports abortion in all cases, all the time, even into the third trimester (which is infanticide), and even killing a baby the day before it's due to be born. She has vowed to support Planned Parenthood unconditionally in all cases. She has received ample endorsements from Pro-Abortion organisations, and wants to make abortion an unchangeable "right" for all women. This position is considerably worse than Donald Trump's position from a Catholic perspective. So in order to stop Hillary Clinton from getting elected, it would be morally licit for a Catholic to choose the "lesser of two evils" and vote for Donald Trump.

Of course, if a Catholic cannot stomach voting for either one of them, there are some smaller third-party candidates running, and a couple of them are okay from a Pro-Life Catholic perspective. These include...
  1. Mike Maturen of the Solidarity Party (read more here)
  2. Darrell Castle of the Constitution Party (read more here)
Catholics would likely find more in common with the Solidarity Party ticket, while Evangelicals might prefer the Constitution Party ticket. If a Catholic wants to support either one of these candidates instead, for the sake of political purity, they would be morally justified. At the same time however, Catholics can also support the lesser of two evils by voting for Trump / Pence over Hillary Clinton.

Now some people are asking how I, as a devoted Catholic, could vote for Donald Trump for president. Here is my answer.

Yes, I'm Catholic. I vote for the candidate who is Pro-Life, or at least more Pro-Life than the other candidate. It really is that simple. This election is a super easy choice for me. I don't vote for candidates I love. I vote for candidates I hate the least. Since we are currently living through the greatest Holocaust (of unborn children) in all of human history, voting is fairly easy. I vote Pro-Life, so I always vote for the most viable candidate who is more Pro-Life than the other.

That being said, I'm going to vote for Trump / Pence in the November 2016 election, not because I like Donald Trump. Truth be told, I like Mike Maturen a lot more. But Mike Maturen (as much as I love and respect him) cannot beat Hillary Clinton in November, and Donald Trump possibly can. So in the name of stopping Hillary Clinton, I will vote for Donald Trump, and as a Catholic it is MORALLY LICIT for me to do so.

You see, if I lived in Germany in 1932, I would have voted for the guy who hated Jews the least and didn't want to kill them. Maybe I would have had to settle for a guy who still hated Jews, but if he hated them less than Hitler, and didn't want to kill them, that would be an improvement. Granted it's not perfect, but it would be better than Hitler. So you see, some issues are far more important than others. I would vote to stop Hitler in 1932, just like I will vote to stop Hillary in 2016. I hope I've made myself perfectly clear on this.

I would appreciate similar clarity from our US Catholic Bishops. I understand they cannot endorse particular candidates, and I don't want them to. What I do want is crystal clarity on the Pro-Life issue, if nothing else, because I think it's a travesty that so many White Catholics in the US are not being reached with this message. As bad as that is, I think its a crime that so many Hispanic Catholics in the US are being left out of the message entirely. I hope our bishops will learn how to communicate with White Catholics better, but I sincerely hope they will learn how to START communicating with Hispanic Catholics in the first place.

END.

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

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

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants

Please share this story. Social media links provided below for your convenience... 

Monday, July 11, 2016

The Missouri State Flag

I've always been a flag person. I suppose one of these days I'll get a full size flag pole and mount it in my yard somewhere. For now, however, it hangs from my back porch. I like different kinds of flag, and the more unusual or rare, the more likely I am to fly them. For now, I'm flying the Missouri state flag, because we're honouring it this month.

Being the kind of flag guy I am, I tend to be a little picky about them. I personally think a flag should be simple and uncluttered. The colours should be plain, and not noisy. In my personal opinion, the message of a flag should be conveyed with symbols and not words. That's part of the fun of deciphering their meaning. Keeping all that in mind, here is the current Missouri state flag...


It's nice, but I see a few problems, and apparently I'm not the only one. In 2001, the North American Vexillological Association surveyed its members on the designs of the 72 U.S. state, U.S. territorial and Canadian provincial flags. The Missouri flag ranked in the bottom 25, 48th out of the 72. That's not too good really. I personally think we could do a little better, but at the same time, I don't think we need to make radical changes. By in large, Missourians don't like change. "If it ain't broken, don't fix it": is a saying I hear often around my state. Well, I think our flag is just a little broken, and so I personally believe it only needs a little fix -- nothing drastic.

The red, white and blue bars are modelled after the French tri-colours. I think that's appropriate, since Missouri was part of French territory before it was sold to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. Large solid bars on a flag are usually a positive thing, as they simplify the design and make it easy on the eyes. These three bars represent valour (red), purity (white), vigilance and justice (blue).

The current flag has a modified version of the state seal in the middle. I think that is the problem. First and foremost, the seal is not properly outlined. The circle of 24 white stars (representing Missouri as the 24th state) on a blue ring, bleeds into the blue bar on the banner. This makes it look uneven, off centre, and not well planned. The inner part of the seal itself is noisy. The 24 stars are repeated, once again, over the seal, which is redundant. Then we have the words on the seal which are very small. Tell me, when a flag is waving in the wind, can you read such words on a flag? I can't. Personally, I don't think you should put words on a flag at all, but if you must, they should be large bold and short, so as to make reading it possible. The seal itself is fine, for a seal. Actually, it looks great when hung as a coat of arms in a state building. On a flag however, that's an awful lot of clutter. Most people can see the two bears holding the seal, but they can't make out what's in it. In the inner portion of the seal are three elements; a bear, a crescent moon, and the United States eagle. Flags are about symbolism, so making sure that symbolism is visible is important. The U.S. eagle is a beautiful work of art, but in our state flag, its tiny. You can barely see it. It's also out of place. This particular rendition of the U.S. eagle is part of the Great Seal of the United States of America. It doesn't belong on Missouri's flag. It belongs on the dollar bill. It belongs in federal buildings. It belongs on podiums used by federal officials when they make speeches. It doesn't belong on the Missouri flag. So that leaves us with the crescent moon and bear. The bear represents strength and bravery, and the crescent moon represents the newness of statehood and the potential for growth.

Recently while perusing the Internet, I came across a proposed alternative to our current state flag, which solves the problems with the seal, but still retains some of its elements, while simultaneously simplifying the flag, and making as little changes as possible. The designer is Jared Entzminger, and he has designed many alternative flags you can view here.


This proposed flag solves a lot of problems. One, it retains the circle of 24 stars, but it "centres" them by providing a white outline to prevent the blue ring from bleeding into the blue bar. The white outline does bleed into the white bar, but it still works because it does so symmetrically on both sides. The elements of the bear and crescent moon are retained nicely, and clearly visible. The small lettering is removed, and the cluttered seal is still present but in representation only, not in actual print on the flag. I think this is a nice alternative, and I do hope the people of our state will give it some consideration.

END.

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

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

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants

Please share this story. Social media links provided below for your convenience... 

Friday, July 08, 2016

Toward the East


What you're witnessing in the video above is Pope Francis celebrating the regular Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo) mass, ad orientem (facing east). Yes, that is Pope Francis, and yes, he is celebrating a regular mass, and yes, he is facing liturgical east, with his "back to the people." Gasp! Oh, the horror! Oh, the humanity! In all seriousness though, this is legit, and Pope Francis has a lot more planned. Just listen to the man he appointed as the liturgical chief for the entire Catholic Church. Cardinal Robert Sarah, from the West African Republic of Guinea, had the following to say...
Cardinal Robert Sarah
I want to make an appeal to all priests. You may have read my article in L’Osservatore Romano one year ago (12 June 2015) or my interview with the journal Famille Chrétienne in May of this year. On both occasions I said that I believe that it is very important that we return as soon as possible to a common orientation, of priests and the faithful turned together in the same direction—Eastwards or at least towards the apse—to the Lord who comes, in those parts of the liturgical rites when we are addressing God. This practice is permitted by current liturgical legislation. It is perfectly legitimate in the modern rite. Indeed, I think it is a very important step in ensuring that in our celebrations the Lord is truly at the centre... 
And so, dear Fathers, I ask you to implement this practice wherever possible, with prudence and with the necessary catechesis, certainly, but also with a pastor’s confidence that this is something good for the Church, something good for our people. Your own pastoral judgement will determine how and when this is possible, but perhaps beginning this on the first Sunday of Advent this year, when we attend ‘the Lord who will come’ and ‘who will not delay’ (see: Introit, Mass of Wednesday of the first week of Advent) may be a very good time to do this. Dear Fathers, we should listen again to the lament of God proclaimed by the prophet Jeremiah: “they have turned their back to me” (2:27). Let us turn again towards the Lord!... 
I would like to appeal also to my brother bishops: please lead your priests and people towards the Lord in this way, particularly at large celebrations in your dioceses and in your cathedral. Please form your seminarians in the reality that we are not called to the priesthood to be at the centre of liturgical worship ourselves, but to lead Christ’s faithful to him as fellow worshippers. Please facilitate this simple but profound reform in your dioceses, your cathedrals, your parishes and your seminaries. 
-- Cardinal Robert Sarah, Sacra Liturgia Conference in London, July 5, 2016, source
So there it is, Pope Francis' own liturgical chief has spelled it out in no uncertain terms. While he stops short of requiring it of all clergy, he explicitly states that it absolutely SHOULD BE DONE, and there is no legitimate excuse for it not to be done. Now obviously we need to do a little explaining here. What is meant by "facing east" or ad orientem worship? First things first, we are not Muslims. Nor are we copying the Muslims. That's ridiculous. The Muslims copied us, not vice versa. Christians have been worshipping God facing liturgical east for centuries prior to the invention of Islam. Mohammed was imitating Christians when he mandated that Muslims face Mecca while worshipping Allah. So lets be clear about that up front. Second, once again, we are not Muslims. When Christians talk about facing east, we don't always mean literal east. We're not Muslims here. Granted, in an ideal world all of our chapels would be facing east, but we don't live in an ideal world, now do we. Some chapels face north, others face west, and some even face south. That's really no bother to us, because when Christians talk about "facing east," what we mean by that is liturgical east, not literal east. When we say liturgical east, what we're saying is the priest and congregation face the Lord together, all turned in the same direction, whatever literal direction that may be. They may all be facing north, or south, or west, or east. It doesn't matter, so long as the priest and congregation are facing the same direction together. That is what is meant by facing "toward the east," or ad orientem. Sometimes the Latin term versus dominum is used instead, which means "facing the Lord." This is the posture all Catholic priests used up until the introduction of the Ordinary Form (Novus Ordo) liturgy in 1970, and a good number of them continued to do so for a while thereafter.

Some of course will scoff at all of this, implying that the pope's liturgical chief has "gone off the rails" and doesn't reflect the mind of the pope in this. Of course, we have that video above of Pope Francis celebrating mass ad orientem himself, but if that's not good enough, let's see what Cardinal Sarah has to say about the authority he's been given on these matters...
Indeed, I can say that when I was received in audience by the Holy Father last April, Pope Francis asked me to study the question of a reform of a reform and of how to enrich the two forms of the Roman rite. This will be a delicate work and I ask for your patience and prayers. But if we are to implement Sacrosanctum Concilium more faithfully, if we are to achieve what the Council desired, this is a serious question which must be carefully studied and acted on with the necessary clarity and prudence... 
At this point I repeat what I have said elsewhere, that Pope Francis has asked me to continue the liturgical work Pope Benedict began (see: Message to Sacra Liturgia USA 2015, New York City). Just because we have a new pope does not mean that his predecessor’s vision is now invalid. On the contrary, as we know, our Holy Father Pope Francis has the greatest respect for the liturgical vision and measures Pope Benedict implemented in utter fidelity to the intentions and aims of the Council Fathers... 
Before I conclude, please permit me to mention some other small ways which can also contribute to a more faithful implementation of Sacrosanctum Concilium. One is that we must sing the liturgy, we must sing the liturgical texts, respecting the liturgical traditions of the Church and rejoicing in the treasury of sacred music that is ours, most especially that music proper to the Roman rite, Gregorian chant. We must sing sacred liturgical music not merely religious music, or worse, profane songs.  
We must get the right balance between the vernacular languages and the use of Latin in the liturgy. The Council never intended that the Roman rite be exclusively celebrated in the vernacular. But it did intend to allow its increased use, particularly for the readings. Today it should be possible, especially with modern means of printing, to facilitate comprehension by all when Latin is used, perhaps for the liturgy of the Eucharist, and of course this is particularly appropriate at international gatherings where the local vernacular is not understood by many. And naturally, when the vernacular is used, it must be a faithful translation of the original Latin, as Pope Francis recently affirmed to me. 
-- Cardinal Robert Sarah, Sacra Liturgia Conference in London, July 5, 2016, source
So according to Cardinal Sarah, the source of his authority on this matter is Pope Francis himself, who specifically asked him to do this. It doesn't get much more official than that folks! The only way it can become more official is if the pope mandates it as a matter of canon law in some kind of motu proprio, which could eventually happen of course, but no guarantee. Based on what Cardinal Sarah has relayed to us now, it wouldn't be far fetched to say it may happen someday. For now, however, it is just strongly suggested by the pope's number one liturgy czar. In other words, the proverbial "writing is on the wall." Some form of a mandate may come, eventually, but who knows when, or what it will be. It might be in a year, two years, or ten years. Who knows? For now the directive has just been given with a strong push, or a very persuading nudge, or whatever you want to call it. There it is. The smartest thing our bishops and priests can do at this time is recognise that the nudge has been given, and act to get out in front of this movement.

Cardinal Sarah is not calling us to return to a time before the Second Vatican Council. Rather, he is calling upon bishops to actually implement the Second Vatican Council, as it was written. Vatican II never called for the style of liturgy we commonly see celebrated in most Catholic parishes and cathedrals today. What we have today is a sort of ad hoc reinterpretation of Vatican II, based almost entirely on Western cultural bias. For example...
  • the removal of Latin and Gregorian chant,
  • the removal of altar rails,
  • the removal of high altars,
  • the removal of kneelers from the pews (common on the West Coast, USA),
  • the introduction of altar girls,
  • the introduction of the priest facing the people,
  • the introduction of extraordinary ministers of holy communion,
  • the introduction of communion in the hand,
  • the introduction of contemporary praise and worship music,
  • the introduction of extra-liturgical "traditions" into the liturgy.
Vatican II never called for a single one of these things. They are Western inventions, created by a Western cultural bias, and have nothing to do with what Vatican II actually said. This is why I wrote in a previous essay that Vatican II Actually Saved Catholicism, because you see it has and it will. This is because Vatican II has never been properly implemented yet. In fact, its never really been implemented at all, at least, certainly not as the conciliar fathers envisioned it. It has saved Catholicism in some ways, as I pointed out in my previous essay, and it will save it in other ways, when it is properly implemented. Because you see, when it is finally implemented, the way the conciliar fathers intended, it will present to us a very different Church than what we see today. Cardinal Sarah is leading the way on this, and he is doing so at the direction of Pope Francis. To resist Cardinal Sarah on this issue, is to resist the will of Pope Francis. We should all keep that in mind.

END.

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

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

BOOKS BY THIS AUTHOR...
Catholicism for Protestants

Please share this story. Social media links provided below for your convenience...