Brandon's Notepad

April 10, 2020

The Man of Sorrows

Today is Good Friday and I thought it fitting to share a work of art recently discussed in one of my religious discussion forums. The Man of Sorrows is a Western Christian iconic theme that displays the crucified Christ surrounded by the instruments of his Passion. In most examples, it shows him from the waist up, but in some examples, he is standing. The particular version I want to share today is the woodcut by Thielmann Kerver, a German artist active between 1497 and 1524. His Man of Sorrows was printed in early 16th Century prayer books. The one shown here is from a Book of Hours published in Paris in 1505.

I plan to do a more in-depth study of this piece, but for now, perhaps it can serve as a meditation on the Crucifixion in preparation for a holy Easter.

This picture is covered with symbolism. How many symbols of Christ’s Passion do you recognize? (If you need to enlarge the image, click on the image to open the source site).

December 2, 2019

Happy New (Liturgical) Year!

Filed under: Catholic,Christianity,Religion — Brandon @ 1:48 pm
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Happy New Year! Yesterday was the first Sunday of Advent, marking the beginning of the 2019–2020 liturgical year. The sermon at Mass was filled with the typical reminders that we ought to spent the next few weeks reflecting on our lives and preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus in the nativity, something we are urged to do every year at this time. It dawned on me that, in a way, we are making New Year’s resolutions, committing to changes in our lives that should in someway improve the condition of our souls. How is this really different than making New Year’s resolutions on January 1st? So often we resolve to exercise more, eat less, set aside time to read, spend more time with family, etc. Should we not make similar promises at the beginning of Advent to read more scripture, pray more often, and volunteer to help others?

November 8, 2019

The Latin Mass: Cult of Toxic Tradition

A few days ago, an article was published by the liberal news source National Catholic Reporter titled The Latin Mass becomes a cult of toxic tradition. Familiar with the source, I would normally ignore something like this, but I kept seeing it pop up in my discussion groups and news feeds, so I decided to see what the hype was about. The article, written by journalist Zita Ballinger Fletcher, is nothing short of appalling, so much so that it is worthy of meticulous review just to expose how bad it really is.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am not a traditional (a.k.a. “Trad”) Catholic In the sense that I attend the Latin Mass on a normal basis and/or refute the validity of the Second Vatican Council. Yes, I have attended a few Latin Masses and have an affinity for the language, but my interest in the TLM as liturgy is more academic than practical and I have very good reasons for being “post-Concilar”. With that said. let’s unravel this dandy piece of work.

The first line of the article really sets the tone. “One culture within the Catholic Church needing major reform is…the practice of the Latin Mass.” Of course, by “Latin Mass”, Fletcher is referring to the Tridentine or Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). This is the form of the Mass promulgated in 1570 by Pope Pius V and is named for the Council of Trent, out of which the form was created. The TLM was taken out of regular use in 1970 and replaced with the Novus Ordo Missae by Pope Paul VI, a result of the liturgical reform called for in another Council, Vatican II. The TLM is a valid form of the Mass and has been explicitly preserved for the benefit of those who still wish to practice it. Asking for its reform at this point is nothing short of, well, odd.

It’s important to note at this point that Fletcher doesn’t seem to be talking about the Mass here at all, but that she has a problem with the subculture that has grown around it. Let’s read on.

The second paragraph is quite problematic:

In a previous era, the Latin Mass was merely a uniform and standard way of celebrating the liturgy in the United States. In the wake of much needed reforms instituted by the Second Vatican Council, the Latin Mass has become a rallying point for change-resistant sects within the church. The ultra-conservatism practiced by these Latin Mass groups is radical and narrow-minded. They utilize the Latin Mass structure to wield control over believers — particularly women, who are reduced to a state of discriminatory subjugation in Latin rites. The stubbornly resistant, anti-modern practices of these Latin Mass adherents border on cultism.

First, the phrase “previous era” makes it sound both distant and irrelevant. That era lasted 412 years (~20% of the Church’s history) and ended a mere 50 years ago. Second, the TLM was not only used in the United States (which is only 243 years old and was founded mostly by Protestants), it was the standard form used throughout the Roman Church, which included all of Europe and various other regions. The claim that the reforms of Vatican II were “much needed” is not substantiated in this article at all, yet this phrase leads the reader to believe that said reforms would prevent the behaviors against which Fletcher is so vehemently opposed without providing so much as a logical proof (i.e. it’s a red herring). The remainder of this paragraph exposes the true agenda behind this article: discrimination against women through the use of mind control, and specifically in the United States. It’s a humanist political piece, not a religious one.

The third paragraph is as bad, if not worse:

The Latin Mass fosters clericalist structures in the church. The liturgy — spoken in an ancient language no longer in modern vernacular usage — places all power in the hands of the priest. The priest keeps his back turned to the people for most of the ceremony. Aside from making occasional responses, the congregation plays no active part in worship. All people inside the church are expected to kneel on cue at various points. The priest is at the center of the spectacle. He is separated from the people he is supposed to serve by an altar rail — a barrier that gives him privileges. To receive the Eucharist, people must kneel at his feet.

Clericalism is a pejorative term used to denote the “undue” deference to the clergy in all matters. This can be a real concern! One need only consider Jim Jones and David Koresh as extreme (and thankfully, non-Catholic) examples. This is the vehicle by which Trad Catholics are supposedly carrying out a maniacal plot against women and their individual freedom. In contrast, anti-clericalism is, in short, a rebellious refutation of Church authority. Fletcher must have been channeling her inner Loraine Boettner when she wrote this paragraph.

The rest of that excerpt can definitely be construed as an attack on the TLM — and truly on Catholicism itself. At this point, Fletcher has moved beyond admonishing the people who are allegedly exploiting this form of worship to describing “problems” with the Mass itself. She would do well to understand a few details about the Church to which she claims to belong. Things like the fact that, though Latin may be an ancient language, it is still the language of the Church and yes indeed, the priest does have power over things sacred by virtue of his ordination. The priest always faces (up to) God in the Mass because it is to God that the sacrifice is being made, regardless of whether the priest is oriented in the general direction of the people or not. Despite what most Catholics probably think about it, “active participation” is a throw-away term, because only the priest has the faculties to confect the Eucharist, and the presence or absence of other people and whether or not they are singing or giving verbal responses or silently praying rosaries is completely irrelevant. The altar rail is there to represent the separation of sacred space from the profane world (the sanctuary from the nave), just as the veil in the Hebrew temple did, and the notion that the barrier somehow endows the priest with special privileges or that the faithful are kneeling at his feet instead of the Real Presence of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist is completely baseless and (at best) shows grave ignorance of fundamental Catholic teachings. Oh, and the Mass is not a “spectacle”! Fletcher mentions later in the article that she sat in on a TLM because she wanted to receive Communion, but why do so if she considered it to be a mere performance?

Fletcher continues by explaining how Trad women, as part of their oppression, are “commanded” to wear long skirts instead of pants and to hide their beauty under veils, whereas no such rules apply to the men. I can’t help but wonder how many of these women she interviewed in preparation to write this article to ascertain whether they chose to dress modestly on their own or if their husbands demand them to do so. Journalists still do that sort of thing, right? If she did conduct such interviews, which I doubt, she certainly didn’t mention them.

Fletcher anticipates being challenged about ‘not really understanding what she is talking about’, and proactively reassures her readers that her opinion is based on “facts and personal experiences”. I’m not sure where the facts come into play, because the remainder of the article is pretty much all about her personal experiences.

This series of stories begins with how her mother, a divorced and fallen-away Catholic, decided to return to the Church (to the TLM specifically) for herself and to provide spiritual instruction for her daughter in the face of opposition from atheist family members. The experience at their chosen parish was not good, and it sounds like the priest and people there were misguided. It is understandable that this set off her spiritual journey on a bad foot. But wait, there’s more.

She then recalls an exchange with a somewhat creepy priest who seemed to be obsessed with veiling her hair and who lashed out when she objected. As written, this story sounds like a scene from a bad horror movie from the 1960s. Nonetheless, why should anyone doubt that she had a second bad experience like this one? It could happen. One thing is certain, however, veiling obviously bothers Fletcher deeply, because she interprets the covering of hair as a loss of freedom and explicitly equates the “Latin Mass cultists” to “religious extremists in the Middle East and Asia”. At last check, Latin Mass-goers don’t decapitate people.

There is a brief story about a run-in with a “chauvinistic” professor from her university and his wife, described as “a ghost of a woman” who “looked physically weak — almost ill”. The immediate conclusion one must draw is that, for the professor, “religion was a mechanism of abusive control”. It would be silly to assume that the professor’s wife was a bit eccentric perhaps, or that she suffered from depression or some physical ailment such as cancer, right? Did Fletcher bother to validate her suspicions in any way? If she really wanted to probe, she could’ve started a conversation with the wife, saying that she couldn’t help but notice her rosary and ask if she needed any prayers…but just assuming things about other people you don’t know is much easier..and safer!

The fourth story concerns a friend who “decided to brave the Catholic dating scene” (not sure what that means exactly) and who reported that the Trad males were “shopping for wives”, interviewing the girls about their theology and asking if they would consent to being veiled. In substance, this sounds a lot like traditional courtship, not dating. The difference? In courtship, getting to know a potential spouse is the goal. In dating, hormones tend to lead the couple’s way and it doesn’t always lead to marriage. So, way to go Trad guys for being responsible Catholic adults!

In the fifth and final personal experience, Fletcher describes how she found herself in attendance at a TLM prior to a speaking engagement. She observed how the congregation was filled with young families and college-aged men and women and wondered how they all got “sucked into this vortex of toxic, traditional radicalism”. Somehow, the changing of the times that led to liturgical reform after Vatican II is something different than the changing of the times between the Boomer generation and the Millennials, and the resurgence of a desire to worship according to the old rites is completely illogical and must be part of a diabolical plan involving the manipulation of wayward youth for some dark purpose. If that doesn’t sound paranoid enough, how about the observation of being “surrounded by veiled women who entertained themselves…by casting disapproving glances at my leggings and earrings”. This is very dark and it actually sounds like something a real schizophrenic would write (thus, exhibiting a serious lack of tact on Fletcher’s part on top of everything else).

The last story has a second part to it. At that Mass, Fletcher approached the rail for Communion and asked to receive in the hand. To her surprise, she was denied by the pastor! She received anyway (on the tongue), but then confronted an assisting priest after Mass about the ordeal, asking that he correct the pastor. She was shocked again when he declined to reprimand his superior, even after she reminded him of his “duty” to serve her as a believer. Yes, priests minister to the faithful, but they serve God first and foremost. They are not customer service representatives or table waiters. This incident, however, is relayed as more empirical “proof” that radical clericalism has been unleashed throughout the ranks of TLM parishes.

Not cringy enough? She flatly states that the term Novus Ordo is “a derogatory term used by Latin Mass cultists to denote regular English-language Masses.” It is certainly true that sedevacantists (those who believe that the Seat of Peter is truly empty and that every Pope since Pius XII has been a false Pope) impute a negative connotation on this phrase, but the fact is that the new order of Mass is, literally, the Novus Ordo Missae in Latin, and the definitive version of it is written in Latin, not English. And how is someone referring to Novus Ordo Catholics with a pejorative connotation any different than her referring to Latin Mass Catholics in the same way (or in her words ‘Latin Mass Cultists’)?

The paragraph that follows that account is worth examining as well. Long story short, the assistant priest makes a comment about how the old rites are just as sacred as the ancient rites of the Byzantine and Coptic Churches and that the new Mass is tolerated but not recommended. (For the record, not all TLM priests hold this position. Opinions vary between FSSP, SSPX, and other sects). She responds with:

I feel it necessary to point out…that the Byzantine and Coptic rites originate in the traditions of distinct Catholic churches in foreign countries. The Latin Mass, by contrast, is merely an extinct model of tradition practiced in the United States and other countries, and was never a separate church nor imported from a foreign country. Therefore the Latin Mass can be compared to Coptic and Byzantine churches as much as apples can be compared to oranges. No ancient Romans or native Latin speakers will be disenfranchised by changes made to the Latin Mass — just hardliners unable to let go of their particular ideology.

Again, Fletcher places heavy emphasis on the United States, as if the location actually matters. There are 23 Eastern Catholic Churches that span 5 different Rites, and most (if not all) have parishes (and even full dioceses) in the United States. Guess how many use the Novus Ordo. None. The claim that the Latin Mass “was never a separate church” is in itself nonsensical, but that the TLM was the order of Mass for the Latin Church within the Roman Rite for 412 years cannot be disputed as a historical fact, and it is the Latin Church to which most American Catholics belong today, so no, it isn’t extinct.

The last five paragraphs concern hypocrisy and tolerance, and Pope Francis’ stance on these things, and the irony couldn’t be thicker. Fletcher implies that the TLM crowd conforms to Francis’ description of hypocrisy, “appearing one way, but acting in another”. This is the polar opposite of what they do! They strive to keep a Catholic identity by acting as Catholics did for centuries. She quotes Francis in his metaphor that the Church is a tent and not a fortress, a call for diversity and inclusion, yet she demands that Trad Catholics conform. She states that “Compassion defines true Catholicism” and then scoffs at the passion these folks have for the old rites. She appeals heavily to the teachings of one Pope, Francis, but completely fails to recognize that another Pope, Benedict XVI, has already decreed that the TLM is not only valid, but that it was never abrogated and is to be allowed. And finally, she twists the words of our Lord “I desire mercy, not sacrifice” by which he meant that love for others far exceeds the prescribed animal sacrifices of the Jewish law; instead, she uses them to supplant the importance of the Mass, which contradicts Church teaching that the Eucharist is the “the source and summit of the Christian life.” (CCC 1324)

It is safe to conclude that this work cannot be considered a sound product of good journalism, and no one — especially Catholics — should take it seriously. There are no real facts present in this article at all, no surveys or statistics on which her claims can be based, and honestly, no attempt at real scholarship evident whatsoever. It is an opinion piece that is based heavily on emotion and confirmation bias, and the entire narrative sounds far more Protestant than Catholic. I am certainly sorry to hear that her experience with the Traditional Latin Mass has been far less than ideal, but it does not justify the copious shaming she doles out on those who have decided to live (or in the words of Saint Paul, to work out their own salvation) by a different set of rules than she does. So much for tolerance.

August 21, 2019

Inter Mirifica

Home > Religion > Christianity > Vatican II Documents > Inter Mirifica


Inter Mirifica is the Second Vatican Council’s decree on the media of social communications. It was the second document of the Council to be promulgated by Pope Paul VI (December 4, 1963) and the last for that year. The provisions of this document apply to almost everyone in today’s society, especially since media have surpassed unidirectional broadcasts and have become omnidirectional forums for social interaction.



  1. The Church welcomes and promotes technological discoveries that can reach and influence the whole of human society, communicating most readily news, views and teachings of every sort.
  2. Media can be of great service (i.e. entertainment, instruction, etc.) if properly utilized, but may be used for evil as well; thus, it is a duty of this Synod to address concerns regarding social communication.


  1. The Church has always been obliged to preach the Gospel, and considers it a duty to do so using the media of social communication and to instruct men in their proper use; thus, the Church has the right to have and employ these media as necessary/useful in Christian instruction (with assistance from Pastors and laity).
  2. Proper use of these media requires knowledge and conscientious practice of the norms of morality. The nature of what is communicated, the character of the media, and all circumstances/conditions under which communication takes place must be considered as the propriety of the message can be affected or changed. The influence of these media can be subtle, masking the real impact or need to reject.
  3. Ready access to news allows all to understand current events and contribute to the common good; thus, men have a right to this information (need-to-know basis), assuming it is true and complete (bounded by justice and charity) and its communication is proper and decent (respect for moral law and for rights and dignity of the individual).
  4. When it comes to the arts, the absolute primacy of the objective moral order must be upheld in light of controversies arising from false teachings about ethics and aesthetics.
  5. Depictions of moral evil can deepen our knowledge of humanity and, through drama, reveal and glorify truth and goodness, but should be subject to moral restraint, lest they harm instead of benefit souls (e.g. arouse base desires).
  6. Every member of society must fulfill the demands of justice and charity and thus strive to form and spread sound public opinion (which has great power today).
  7. Free-willed consumers of these media are obliged to favor options expressing moral goodness, knowledge, and technical merit, and to avoid those that lead to spiritual harm and evil. They may rely on the judgments of competent authorities and their instructed consciences.
  8. All such comsumers, but especially the young, should learn moderation and self-control, deepen their understanding of what they consume, discuss these matters with teachers and experts, and learn how to make sound judgements on them. Parents have a serious duty to guard againt communications that may be morally harmful, in the home or under other circumstances.
  9. All involved in the production and transmission of social communications have the primary responsibility for thier proper use. This is evident based on their influence. They should never put their agenda ahead of the common good, always respect morality, be mindful of the youth in thier audiences, and entrust religious content to experts.
  10. The public authority has special responsibilities to protect the common good: to safeguard true and just freedom of information (freedom of the press), to encourage spiritual values, culture and the fine arts, to guarantee the rights of consumers, to help fund projects (especially when they benefit children). and to enforce laws that protect public morals and the welfare of society.


  1. All Catholics should unite immediately to make effective use of media in various apostolic endeavors as appropriate. Harmful developments should be expected, especially where urgent efforts to advance morality and religion are needed. Pastors should fulfill their duty in this respect as part of their ordinary preaching responsibility. The laity (who consume the media) should bear witness to Christ and help in the pastoral activity of the Church through their various talents.
  2. Regarding specific types of media:
    • A truly Catholic press should be set up (by Church or laymen) to instill a fully Christian spirit into readers, to form/support/advance public opinion in accord with natural law and Catholic teaching, and to disseminate/explain news concerning the life of the Church. The faithful should be advised to spread and read this press for the formulation of judgments.
    • Decent films should be effectively promoted (e.g. through involvement in production, critical approval and awards, patronizing theaters owned/managed by Catholics, etc.).
    • Catholic radio and television programs (family-oriented) should be promoted, inviting people to share in the life of the Church and learn religious truths. Catholic stations must maintain excellent standards in programming.
    • Drama should serve the cultural and moral betterment of audiences.
  3. Priests, religious, and laymen with the proper skills for adapting media to the objectives of the apostolate should be appointed. Laymen (including critics) should be provided technical, doctrinal, and moral training.
  4. Instructional programs in the use of media (tailored for audiences of different cultural backgrounds and ages) should be encouraged in Catholic schools, seminaries, and lay apostolates (with aid of catechetical manuals).
  5. Catholic organizations and individuals should support media both financially and with technical ability, so as not to let the message of salvation be delayed/impeded.
  6. Every diocese should (one day) annually instruct the faithful on their responsibilities and invite them to pray and contribute funds for this cause (funds to be dedicated to this area).
  7. The Pope has at hand a special office of the Holy See, and the Council Fathers request that he extend the duties and competence of this office (including all media including the press) with the aid of experts from various countries, including laymen.
  8. Bishops must watch over, promote, and guide the works and undertakings by apostolates in their own dioceses, including the exempt religious.
  9. National offices for affairs of the press, films, radio and television are to be established everywhere (under a Bishop or committee thereof) and given every aid for the purpose of instructing the consciences of the faithful and to foster and guide their work in media.
  10. Said national offices should co-operate on an international plane, working also with international Catholic associations legitimately approved by the Holy See alone.


  1. The aforementioned special office of the Holy See (c.f. 19) is to issue a pastoral instruction expressing the general principles and norms of this sacred Synod.
  2. The Synod is confident that these instructions and norms will be accepted and religiously kept by all Catholics, and that by using them they will experience no harm as they brighten the world. All men of good will, especially those in charge of the media, are invited to turn them (by their proper use) solely to the good of society. As with ancient art, may these new discoveries glorify the name of the (unchanging) Lord.


  • It is uncanny how the theme of this document from 1963 is so relevant even today:
    • Social communication is highly-influential, and thus powerful.
    • It can be used for good or evil.
    • Its proper use must be taught and learned. Everyone has some responsibility.
    • The Church must take an active role in ensuring proper use.
  • The notion that depictions of moral evil can be beneficial (#7) is interesting. Did this mark a departure from prior Catholic thought?
  • The consumption of social communication should prompt discussion and understanding. (#10) Commentary is a built-in feature of most social-media platforms today — which is what makes them social. The problem is that the ability to comment does not ensure a response by teachers and experts, nor does it necessarily promote sound judgement. Indeed, commentary is often rude and insulting, and leads to arguments, and it promotes a basal judgement tenable to the parties involved in the discussion (which may or may not represent society or a part thereof in any meaningful way).
  • Note the responsibility assigned to parents in #10.
  • The entertainment industry as a whole has proven that it is not interested in taking on the responsibility of a moral authority (#11), but is completely motivated by profit and catering to whatever appeals to the masses in order to obtain it. As morality declines, the purity of the content follows.
  • Government (at least in the U.S.) shows little interest in protecting morality either. Might this be a result of the alleged “separation of church and state” or of the philosophy of personal freedom of the individual at all costs?
  • The Church has indeed leveraged media outlets for the betterment of Catholics everywhere. (#14) EWTN is a great example.
  • The diocese is supposed to dedicate one day annually to educating the faithful and raise funds for Catholic media. (#18) Does this actually happen? Is this just a second collection?

July 16, 2019

Sacrosanctum Concilium

Home > Religion > Christianity > Vatican II Documents > Sacrosanctum Concilium


Sacrosanctum Concilium is the Second Vatican Council’s constitution on the sacred liturgy. It was the first document of the Council to be promulgated by Pope Paul VI (December 4, 1963). The provisions in this document eventually led to the New Order of Mass (Novus Ordo Missae) about seven years later.



  1. Four goals of the Council:
    • increase vigor to life of the faithful
    • adapt institutions that can change to fit the times
    • promote Christian unity
    • call all of mankind to the Church
  2. Through the liturgy, the Church is made sacred.
  3. Practical norms should be established in the promotion and reform of the liturgy. These norms apply primarily to the Roman rite, but the principles and some norms apply to all rites.
  4. Obeying tradition, the various rites are held equal, to be preserved and fostered, and thus revised carefully.


I. The Nature of the Sacred Liturgy and Its Importance in the Church’s Life

  1. Christ, the Word made flesh, is the instrument of our salvation and perfect reconciliation with God. In Him we have the fullness of divine worship.
  2. The Apostles were sent to preach and to accomplish the work of salvation through the sacraments, especially baptism and the Eucharist.
  3. Christ is present in all liturgical celebrations (whole public worship): in the priest, in His Body, the Church, and in the Eucharist.
  4. The liturgy is a foretaste of Heaven.
  5. The liturgy is not the entire activity of the Church, for men must first be converted and do penance.
  6. The Church moves toward the liturgy and receives her power from it. The liturgy moves the faithful to be united in holiness.
  7. The faithful must be properly disposed lest they receive God’s grace in vain. Pastors must ensure that they are fully aware and engaged in the rite.
  8. Spiritual life is not limited to liturgy, but includes prayer: fraternal, interior, constant.
  9. Popular and ecclesial devotions in accord with laws and norms commended, but always surpassed by liturgy.

II. The Promotion of Liturgical Instruction and Active Participation

  1. Achieving the goal of full and active participation of the faithful in the liturgy begins with the priesthood.
  2. Liturgy professors must be trained.
  3. Liturgy courses to be required in seminaries/houses and principal in theological faculties, taught under theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and juridical aspects.
  4. Clerics in seminaries/houses to be given liturgical formation in spiritual life, with proper direction to foster understanding and participation.
  5. Secular and religious priests to be helped to understand the rites and live a liturgical life.
  6. Pastors must promote liturgical instruction of faithful and their active participation by word and example.
  7. Radio/TV transmission of rites (especially Mass) to be done with discretion and dignity under leadership of bishop-appointed persons.

III. The Reform of the Sacred Liturgy

  1. Some elements of liturgy are divine and immutable, others are not. Holy things should be expressed with more clarity. General norms hereby established:

A. General norms

  1. Liturgical regulation resides with the Apostolic See, with the bishop according to law, and with Competent Territorial Ecclesiastical Authority (CTEA) (limited). Priests may not change the liturgy.
  2. Tradition must be retained. Revisions require careful investigation. Unnecessary innovations must be avoided. New forms must grow organically from existing ones. Avoid notable differences in rites used in adjacent regions.
  3. Love of Scripture to be promoted. Lessons, prayers, collects, songs, actions and signs are derived from Scripture.
  4. Liturgical books to be revised ASAP by experts. Bishops worldwide to be consulted.

B. Norms drawn from the hierarchic and communal nature of the Liturgy

  1. Liturgical services are not private functions, but concern individuals in different ways according to rank, office and participation.
  2. Communal celebration is preferred over (quasi)private, especially Mass and administration of the sacraments.
  3. Each person (minister or layman) should perform (only his) office completely.
  4. Servers, lectors, the choir, etc. exercise genuine liturgical functions and should do so with sincere piety and decorum. They should be properly trained.
  5. Active participation includes acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, songs, actions, gestures, bodily attitudes, and reverent silence.
  6. Liturgical books to include rubrics for the people’s parts.
  7. No special honors for private persons or classes of persons aside from those for liturgical function, sacred Orders, or civil authority (when by law).

C. Norms based upon the didactic and pastoral nature of the Liturgy

  1. Liturgy is worship, but also instruction, not only in lessons and readings, but in prayer and song.
  2. Rites should be simple, short, clear, non-repetitious, commonly comprehensible, and self-explanatory.
  3. To connect words with rites:
    • There should be more reading from Scripture (varied and appropriate).
    • The sermon should be well-placed, exact, faithful, scriptural and liturgical, and focused on salvation (especially through the liturgy).
    • Liturgical instruction can include short directives and should use prescribed (or similar) words.
    • Bible services encouraged, especially on special days and when no priest is available (but Deacon or bishop-appointed person should preside).
  4. Regarding language:
    • Latin is to be preserved in the Latin rites.
    • Use of the vernacular language may be advantageous to the people and may be extended, first for readings and directives, then for prayers and chants.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will decide extent of use of the vernacular language, pending approval by the Apostolic See.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will approve translations of Latin texts into the vernacular language.

D. Norms for adapting the Liturgy to the culture and traditions of peoples

  1. Rigid uniformity not desired (unless faith or communal good is implicated; e.g. superstition or error). Genius and talents of races respected. Must harmonize with liturgy.
  2. Legitimate regional variations/adaptations (e.g. rubrics) permitted in liturgical books, but substantial unity of Roman rite must be preserved.
  3. CTEA (c.f. 22) will specify adaptations in sacraments, liturgical language. music, art, etc. per norms of this Constitution.
  4. Greater difficulties when more radical adaptation needed:
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will consider elements of tradition and culture and submit them to Apostolic See for consent.
    • CTEA (c.f. 22) will be allowed to experiment within limits.
    • Liturgical laws often raise difficulties, especially in mission lands, requiring employment of experts.

E. Promotion of Liturgical Life in Diocese and Parish

  1. The bishop is the high priest of his flock and liturgical life of diocese centers around him.
  2. But he can’t be everywhere, so local parishes under pastors are set up, and sense of community encouraged.

F. The Promotion of Pastoral-Liturgical Action

  1. Zealous liturgical promotion/restoration is sign of God’s protection and the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church.
  2. CTEA (c.f. 22) will set up a well-advised liturgical commission to regulate pastoral-liturgical action and to promote studies and necessary experiments before adaptations are proposed to the Apostolic See.
  3. Every diocese (or several together) to have a commission on sacred liturgy under the bishop to promote the liturgical apostolate.
  4. Every diocese should also have commissions for sacred music and for sacred art (these may be combined with commission on sacred liturgy).


  1. Christ gave the Church the Eucharist to perpetuate His sacrifice of the Cross.
  2. The faithful should not be strangers or silent spectators, but take part in the offering with the priest and learn to offer themselves.
  3. The following decrees maximize pastoral efficacy, especially on Sundays and obligatory feasts.
  4. The Mass is to be revised to clarify it’s parts and their connection, to be simplified but its substance preserved, with some parts discarded and others restored.
  5. Scripture readings are to be expanded over the course of several years.
  6. Greater importance is to be placed on the sermon. It should not be omitted on Sundays and feasts.
  7. The intercessory “Prayer of the Faithful” is to be restored, especially on Sundays and feasts.
  8. The vernacular may be used, especially for the readings and intercessory prayer, but also to parts pertaining to the people (c.f. 36 & 40). The people should also be able to say/sing the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin.
  9. Communion under both kinds may be granted as the bishop sees fit.
  10. The two liturgies that make up the Mass (i.e. Word & Eucharist) form a single act of worship and the faithful should be encouraged to participate fully.
  11. Concelebration extended under specified circumstances.
  12. A new rite for concelebration to be written.


  1. Sacraments sanctify men, build up the body of Christ, and give worship to God, but they also instruct, so the faithful should understand them.
  2. Sacramentals signify effects (esp. spiritual) obtained through Church’s intercession, properly disposing men and occasionally making them holy.
  3. The proper use of material things can (almost?) always be directed toward sanctification and praise.
  4. Some rites have made the use of these unclear, and so revision is necessary.
  5. The vernacular is particularly useful (c.f. 36) and rites will be prepared ASAP (c.f. 22)
  6. The catechumenate (period of instruction for converts) is to be restored.
  7. Initiation rites in mission lands can be adapted when compatible. (c.f. 37-40)
  8. Simple and solemn rites of adult baptism to be revised considering restored catechumenate, and new Mass written.
  9. Infant baptism rite to be revised, clarifying roles and duties of parents and godparents.
  10. Baptismal rite to have variants for large groups, mission lands, emergencies, etc.
  11. “Order of supplying what was omitted in the baptism of an infant” to be replaced. New rite for receiving validly baptized persons into the Church.
  12. Baptismal water may be blessed during the rite with short formula, except during Eastertide.
  13. Confirmation rite to be revised for clarity. Baptismal vows to be renewed. New introduction for Confirmation rite outside of Mass to be added.
  14. Penance rite and formulas to be revised for clarity of nature and effects.
  15. Extreme unction should more fittingly be called “anointing of the sick” and can be administered who one begins to be in danger of death, not when it is imminent.
  16. Continuous rite to be prepared for anointing of sick between confession and viaticum.
  17. Anointings and prayers to be adapted to correspond with varying conditions of the sick.
  18. Ordination texts and ceremonies to be revised. Opening speech by bishop may be in vernacular. All bishops present may lay hands in consecration of new bishop.
  19. Marriage rite to be revised to signify the grace and clarify the duties of the spouses. Regional customs retained. CTEA (c.f. 22) can create regional rite in conformity with law.
  20. Matrimony to be celebrated between sermon and intercessory prayers. Prayer for the bride may be in the vernacular. If outside of Mass, epistle and gospel readings and blessing required.
  21. Sacramentals to be revised to enable full participation and new ones added as needed. Reserved blessings to be few and in favor of ordinaries. Some may be adminitered by qualified lay persons in special circumstances.
  22. Rite for consecration of virgins to be revised. Religious profession/renewal to be created to achieve greater unity, sobriety, and dignity. Profession/renewal in Mass preferred.
  23. Burial rite to express clearly the paschal character of death and regional traditions are to be considered. This extands to liturgical color.
  24. Burial rite for infants to be revised, and special Mass provided.


  1. Praying the divine office is another way the Church ceaselessly praises the Lord and intercedes for the salvation of the world.
  2. It makes the whole day holy. It is prayed by priests, others by Church ordinance, and the faithful (in approved form).
  3. They fulfill the duty of the Church and represent her before God.
  4. Scripture can inspire pastors to offer praises of the hours more vividly. (1 Thes 5:11; John 15:5; Acts 6:4)
  5. That it may be better and more perfectly prayed, the Council decrees…
  6. Traditional sequence of hours to be restored to genuinely related to times of the day.
  7. Specific rules for Lauds and Vespers (chief hours), Compline, Matins, Prime (suppressed), Terce, Sext, and None.
  8. The divine office is the public prayer of the Church and a source of piety; thus adaptations may be made to make its use more profitable.
  9. Psalms distributed over more than one week. Revision of psalter to consider use of Latin, Latin Church tradition, etc.
  10. Regarding readings: more Scripture to be covered, other readings better selected, and martyrdom/lives of saints agree with historical facts.
  11. Hymns to be restored to original form, mythology and non-Christian content removed, additional selections to be added as occasion arises.
  12. Each hour to be prayed close to its canonical time.
  13. Choral-office communities bound to celebrate in choir every day in addition to Mass (e.g. orders of canons, cathedral/collegiate chapters, major orders, etc.).
  14. Major-order clerics not bound to office in choir are bound to pray the entire office every day. (c.f. 89)
  15. Rubrics can define when liturgical service can be substituted. Ordinaries can dispense or commute the obligation.
  16. Members of dedicated institutes perform the public prayer of the Church, even if in approved short form.
  17. Clerics not obliged to choir urged to pray in common. All should pray as perfectly as possible, both internally and externally. It should be sung as often as possible.
  18. Pastors should celebrate chief hours (esp. Vespers) in common in church on Sundays and feasts. Lay people are encouraged to participate.
  19. Regarding Latin:
    • Latin to be retained. Ordinary can grant use of vernacular (c.f. 36) for individuals for whom it is an obstacle.
    • A competent superior may grant use of (approved) vernacular, even in choir, to nuns and members of institutes.
    • A cleric can use the (approved) vernacular if praying with the faithful or people in previous line item.


  1. Christ’s work of salvation must be celebrated on various days throughout the year (Sundays, Easter, etc.).
  2. The annual cycle honors Mary as well, who has an inseparable with salvation.
  3. The annual cycle memorializes the saints and martyrs as faithful examples.
  4. Traditional seasonal discipline completes formation of the faithful through instruction, prayer, penance, and merciful works.
  5. The Church celebrates the paschal mystery every 8th day (Lord’s Day, Sunday). The faithful are bound (required) to celebrate.
  6. The liturgical year to be revised, and the seasons preserved/restored to suit modern times, their specific character to be retained, with local adaptations allowed (c.f. 39-40).
  7. Propers for feasts of the Lord should take precedence over propers for saints’ feasts.
  8. The twofold character of Lent (baptismal and penitential) should be emphasized.
  9. Lenten penance should be both internal/individual and external/social, take into consideration regional circumstances, and encouraged by CTEA (c.f. 22). The paschal fast should be kept everywhere on Good Friday and into Holy Saturday.
  10. Feasts of saints who are truly of universal importance should be celebrated by the universal Church; others can be left to particular Churches, nations, etc. to venerate.


  1. Music is the greatest art in the Church and is integral to solemn liturgy. Scripture, the Fathers, and the Popes agree. “[T]he Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship.”
  2. Liturgical worship is more noble in song, including the faithful with assistance of ministers. (c.f. 36, 54, 63, 101; i.e. use the vernacular)
  3. Sacred music to be preserved and choirs promoted, but bishops and pastors must ensure active participation of the faithful. (c.f. 28, 30)
  4. Music must be taught in seminaries, novitiates, houses, schools, etc. by trained teachers. Higher institutes of sacred music should be founded. Composers and singers (esp. boys) must be liturgically trained.
  5. Gregorian chant should be given first place, but polyphony and other forms should not be excluded. (c.f. 30)
  6. Three books of chant to be prepared (typical, critical, simple).
  7. Religious singing of faithful to be fostered so that norms and rubrics can be met.
  8. Missionaries to be trained in music so that worship can be adapted to incorporate native genius/art in mission lands.
  9. The pipe organ should be given first place, but other instruments may be used with consent of CTEA (c.f. 22, 52, 37, 40), only if suitable for sacred use and edification of the faithful.
  10. Composers should cultivate sacred music, not limited to music for large choirs but for small one and the faithful. Texts must conform to doctrine. Scripture and liturgical sources should be used.


  1. The Church has always been a patron of the arts and has admitted changes in materials and style as art progresses.
  2. The Church has not adopted a particular style. Her treasury of art must be preserved. Modern art must give due reverence and honor.
  3. Ordinaries should seek beauty (not sumptuous art), remove works repugnant to faith/morals/piety or that are mediocre, and build churches suitable for celebration of and full participation in the liturgy.
  4. Placement of images in churches for veneration to be maintained, but in moderation and in proper spatial order.
  5. Ordinaries judge the art, giving a hearing to the diocesan commission on sacred art, to experts, and to other commissions (c.f. 44-46).
  6. Bishops should imbue artists with spirit of sacred are and of liturgy in person or through priests. Artists should be trained. Artists imitate God the Creator.
  7. Canons and statutes to be revised regarding material things: building, altars, tabernacles, baptisteries, images, vestments, etc. CTEA (c.f. 22) empowered to make regional adaptations.
  8. Clerics to be taught about the history and development of sacred art.
  9. Pontificals reserved for those with episcopal rank or particular jurisdiction.


  • The Council would not object to assigning Easter to a particular Sunday of the Gregorian calendar provided that non-Catholic Christians agree.
  • The Council would not object to designing and introducing a perpetual calendar into civil society provided that a seven-day week with Sunday is preserved.


  • The first session of Vatican II convened on October 11, 1962. Pope John XXIII died the following June. Within a month, Pope Paul VI is elected, and the second session began September 29th, 1963. This document was promulgated just over two months later, on December 4.
  • Many of the visible differences between the old Mass and the new Mass are not found in Sacrosanctum Concilium. In fact, it may come as a surprise to some that many provisions and decrees contradict common practices found in the Mass today, including:
    • Latin is not eliminated, but is specifically retained, and the vernacular is reserved for certain uses
    • Gregorian chant is given preference over all other forms of sacred music
    • Pipe organs are given preference over all other instruments
    • Celebrating Mass versus populum is not mandated or even mentioned
  • The phrase “active participation” is prolific throughout.
  • Many revisions are called for, but there are very few details or limits.
  • There are a lot of provisions made for “mission lands” and regional variations/adaptations.

July 10, 2019

Justin Martyr’s First Apology

Filed under: Christianity,Religion — Brandon @ 4:05 pm

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This Second Century explanation of Christian belief was written as a plea to the Roman Emperor to end the unjust persecution of Christians in the realm. The chief charge against Christians was that of atheism, especially the refusal to make offerings to the Roman gods. Justin was a convert from Platonism (and several other Greek philosophies) and he used reason and logic to defend the Christian faith and prove that the charges were unwarranted. Found in this work are principles and practices still central to the Catholic faith today.


Justin (Iustinus) was born in Flavia Neapolis (Syria Palaestina) at the beginning of the Second Century, converted to Christianity in his early 30s, and was martyred for the faith in his mid-60s. This work has been dated around A.D 155


I chose to summarize this text by rewriting it in condensed and simplified language. The bracketed numbers indicate the transition between chapters as defined in the English Translation found at New Advent.

To Emperor Antoninus Pius, his sons, and the sacred Senate,

[1] I, Justin of Flavia Neapolis, present this petition on behalf of all who are unjustly hated and wantonly abused, myself included. [2] We ask that you, who are lovers of truth, judge us (Christians) based on an honest and thorough investigation and not on evil rumors, [3] for if any are found truly guilty after giving a testimony of their lives, then they should be punished, and if not, then it is only fair that they not be harmed, else the guilt be upon our judges. [4] A name alone is not an adequate basis for conviction or acquittal, for praise or punishment, yet the name “Christian” is being taken as proof against us. He who denies the name is acquitted and he who does not is punished, without any investigation into the deeds of either. All Christians are being accused based on the wickedness of a few, whereas those amongst your philosophers who are worthy of punishment themselves for these same crimes are instead praised. [5] If you would examine the charges made against us, you would know that we are not atheists at all. These accusations are the lies of demons masquerading as gods, about whom Socrates tried to issue a warning, yet he too was put to death as an atheist. [6] So, we are atheists with respect to those gods, but not with respect to the true God, who we adore (Father, Son and Spirit) and invite all to know. [7] Again, just as philosophers are called such regardless of their actual wisdom, some Christians are called such even if they are wicked; thus, we ask that each be judged and convicted on account of his own actions.

How then are you to recognize a Christian? [8] We know that we can deny the name and escape punishment, but we do not wish to live a lie, and in the end, dying for the name can only benefit us. For we believe (rightly or wrongly) that they who do God’s will are rewarded, and those who do not are punished eternally. [9] Christians do not worship idols, because they are just profane things shaped by evil men and to do so would be insulting to God who has ineffable glory and form. [10] We have been taught and we believe that God does not accept material offerings, but instead accepts those who imitate his virtues, for God created man on his own accord, and anyone who willfully chooses to do what is pleasing to God will be delivered from suffering and reign by his side. This is the message we desire all to hear and consider, yet we are set back by the accusations of demons. [11] Yes, Christians look for a kingdom yet to come, but not a human kingdom. [12] We also believe that it is impossible to hide from God and so choose to live good lives, and that should all men understand this, then none would choose wickedness even for a short time; therefore, Christians could be your valuable allies in keeping the peace. [13] Christians do not make offerings of blood, libations, or incense, but of thanksgiving in prayer and song for health, sustenance and salvation. We worship Jesus Christ, the Son of God, as well as the prophetic Spirit.

[14] Despite what our accuser demons have said to deceive you, we who once lived deeply in sin now live in accordance with the teachings of Jesus, which promote amongst other things [15] chastity, charity, [16] patience, honesty, not taking oaths, [17] obedience to civil authorities and paying taxes. This is because we believe that our lives will lead to eternal reward or punishment. [18] Death, should it truly be final, would benefit the wicked, but there are many known even to you who have professed that the souls of the departed persist. Show to us the same kindness, then, as we believe even more firmly in God than they do. All things are possible for God, and so we believe that we will receive our own bodies again after death, [19] an idea which should not seem any more impossible than the generation of human life as it occurs naturally. [20] These same (or similar) thoughts have been expressed by some of the poets and philosophers, so why then are we hated? [21] Likewise, what we claim regarding Christ — that he was begotten, crucified and died, rose from the dead, and ascended to Heaven — is not unlike what you believe about the Sons of Jupiter (save that Jupiter and his offspring are endowed with human weaknesses). [22] That he came to us through a peculiar birth and suffered a terrible death does not make him unique amongst the gods and heroes.

[23] We want you to understand these things about Christians. First, what we say is in accordance with the prophets of old (i.e. older than your writers) who spoke the truth. Second, Jesus Christ is the only Son of God who willfully became man and taught us so that the human race may be converted and restored. Third, before he came, demons (through the poets) spread rumors and lies about him, just as they have spread lies about us. [24] Others freely worship animals and other natural objects and do not even agree on which ones to worship, and yet we who often say similar things are wrongly executed for worshiping a different God than they do. [25] Though some of us once believed in the same gods as you, we have learned to despise them, and to pity those who still believe in them, because they have been deceived by devils. [26] Ever since Jesus ascended into Heaven, certain men have come forward claiming to be gods (and you did not persecute but honored them). There was Simon the Samaritan who performed mighty acts of magic in Rome (works of the devils within him), and he was called a god, and a statue near the Tiber was erected to his honor. Simon’s disciple, Menander performed magic in Antioch and persuaded many that they would never die. Marcion of Pontus is now teaching about a god greater than the Creator, causing many people to blaspheme and deny that God is the maker of this universe. These men and their followers are called Christians though they teach other things (much as those who disagree with the philosophers in their doctrines are often called philosophers as well), and we do not know if they commit the crimes of which we are accused, but we do know that they are not persecuted for them as we are who have not committed them. I have written a treatise against all the presently-known heresies, which I can provide if you would like to read it. [27] We have also been taught that infanticide (leaving babies exposed to the elements) is wicked [29] and doing so would make us murderers (for we marry only to have children, else we live continently). Moreover, nearly all of the babies who are left to die in this manner are gathered and raised to be prostitutes here and in every nation. You hire them and receive taxes from them when you should be banishing them. In pictures of your gods is often found a serpent, [28] which is the symbol of Satan, the prince of the wicked spirits, according to our writings. Jesus foretold that Satan and all who follow him will be eternally punished in everlasting fire. This punishment has been delayed by God only out of mercy for those who may still repent, even those yet to be born. God made men to be rational beings capable of choosing good; therefore, one who thinks that God does not care for these things either implies that God does not exist or asserts that God does not pay any regard to vice and virtue — or even that he delights in vice!

[30] What proof do we have that Jesus was not a magician like the men discussed above? Things that were prophesied about him have happened as predicted. [31] Jewish prophets, inspired by the Spirit, published their prophecies, which were preserved by the kings and eventually compiled into books in the Hebrew language. These books were later translated into Greek and sent to Egypt at the request of King Ptolemy. Though read by Jews everywhere, they do not understand the prophecies and have become our enemies, for the books foretell the entire life of Jesus and make clear that the Christ was not sent for the Jews alone. [32] It was Moses who first prophesied the coming of Jesus from the tribe of Judah, that he would be sought by all nations, and that he would enter his kingdom on a foal and endure a bloody passion. All of these things you can verify by inquiry. Isaiah was another who prophesied the same things in different ways, [33] and that he would be born of a virgin. These things were predicted by God through the Spirit so that when they came about, his people would recognize the Christ and believe. And when his coming was nigh, a messenger of God came to the virgin and foretold that her son would save his people from their sins, and this is why his name in Greek means Σωτήρ (Saviour). [34] Even the place his birth, Bethlehem in Judah, was foretold by another prophet, Micah, and this can be verified in the tax records registered under the rule of the first governor, Cyrenius. [35] It was also prophesied by Isaiah that Jesus would escape notice until he was a man and that he die upon a cross. The details in David’s foretelling of the crucifixion can be verified in the Acts of Pontius Pilate. Zephaniah, too, spoke of the foal. [40] The king and prophet David wrote extensively about the proclamation of Christ’s coming, and his goodness, and how kings would conspire against him, and how he will be victorious over all of his enemies, [41] and that he should be feared and praised for he reigns from the tree (cross). [45] David foretold of Christ’s ascension, and [47] Isaiah prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem, [48] the healing miracles of Jesus, the persecution and martyrdom of those who follow him, [49] the Jews’ rejection of him, [50] his humiliation, and [51] his majesty and might over his enemies. [46] Those who lived before Christ and lived reasonably can rightly be called Christians, whereas those who lived without reason were wicked and hostile to Christ. [52] And just as all of these prophecies have come to pass, so shall the ones that have not yet happened. For it has also been foretold that Christ will come into the world again in glory, giving immortality to the good and eternal punishment to the wicked. [53] And there are many other prophecies, but we find these persuasive enough for those who wish to understand and are not mere assertions without proof, like the fables about the Sons of Jupiter. Why would we choose to believe all of this ourselves without proof?

[36] It is important to hear the words of the prophets as if spoken by one voice, even if the words are attributed to different persons. The Jews did not understand this and thus did not recognize Christ when he came. [37] At times, the words are attributed to God the Father, [38] to the Son, [39] or directly to the Spirit himself. [42] Note also how the prophecies are sometimes stated in the past tense, as though they had already happened. [43] And lest our reliance on prophecy imply that we believe everything to be based on fate, it must be stated that our belief that reward or punishment is to be granted to each man based on the merit of his actions is predicated on the idea that each man has the free choice to avoid evil and do good. For if men by fate are either good or bad, then one could never be capable of being the other or to change his ways, and it would seem in the end that fate would actually be working against herself (unless virtue and vice have no objective meaning, which is an impious thought). No, the only inevitable thing is that reward and punishment is based on choice, and in this way did God create man uniquely. [44] The prophets teach the same, for Moses tells us that God presented a choice between good and evil to the first man and commanded him to do the good, and Isaiah proclaimed that those who willingly obey God will eat the good of the land but the disobedient will be devoured by the “sword” which is the everlasting fire. Plato said too that the blame belongs to he who chooses, but this he took from Moses who came before him. Indeed, anything that the philosophers and poets have said concerning the immortality of the soul came from the prophets. for the seeds of truth are found among all men, though they may not fully understand the truth and assert contradictions. God knows all that will be done by all men, and has made it known that rewards follow according to the merit of actions because he cares and provides for them; yet men are often forbidden under pain of death from learning the truth by those who wish to keep them enslaved. We not only read for ourselves, but present these truths to you with nothing to hide or fear, and if we win over only a few, it is still a gain.

[54] The unproven myths of the poets are the works of demons who influenced men to write about fantastic tales in an attempt to make the prophecies about Christ sound also like works of fiction. For example, the story of Bacchus, a Son of Jupiter, was fabricated in response to the prophecy of Moses, and of Perseus in response to Isaiah, and Hercules and Æsculapius to oppose other prophecies. [64] Likewise, the stories of the Daughters of Jupiter, such as Proserpine (also called Kore) and Minerva (called the first conception [ἔννοια]) have been fabricated in imitation of Moses. [55] They could not understand the crucifixion, however, so all references to it are symbolic. The form of the cross, for example, which resembles a man with arms outstretched, is ubiquitous in the world, as it appears in the masts of ships, in workmen’s tools, and even in the Roman standards. [56] This obfuscation of the prophecies was not enough, and the demons sent men (like the aforementioned Samaritans, Simon and Menander) to continue the work. [57] They also could not understand that Christ should be hidden after He came and could not convey the notion of eternal punishment, but only that the wicked should hate and kill us though we have no reason to hate them. [58] And so we now have heretics such as Marcion of Pontus in our midst. [59] As proof that the poets and philosophers borrowed ideas from Moses the prophet, consider the contributions attributed to Plato. The manner and materials used to create the world were described first by Moses. Also, the darkness that the Greeks call a god, Erebus, was derived from his story of creation. [60] Plato misunderstood the story of the bronze serpent and thus claimed that the second power (the Logos) was spread out crosswise in the universe. Likewise, reading about how the Spirit of God moved over the waters, he mentions a third power (the Spirit).

[63] How, then, did God appear to Moses? All Jews teach that God spoke to Moses through an angel in a burning bush, declaring that he was the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. But it was prophesied (even by Christ himself) that the Jews knew him not. Just as the Son of God was called (of old) the Word of God, he has also been called an Angel (because he has taken the appearance of an angel and of fire) as well as an Apostle (because he declares and reveals). The Jews did not recognize that Moses spoke, not to the Father, but to the Son in the burning bush. They do not recognize the Logos as the Son or that God even has a Son, nor was any of this revealed to them. But since the days of the prophets, the Son became a man by the will of God to suffer, die, and rise again so to conquer death and attain salvation for those who believe in him. From this we can reason that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, though dead, still exist and belong to Christ, for they were the first to search after God.

[61] It only seems fair to explain some of our practices, the first being the way in which we dedicate ourselves to God and are made new through Christ. All who believe begin with prayer and fasting (along with the community) for the forgiveness of their past sins. We then wash them in the water in the name of God, the Father, and of our Saviour Jesus Christ, and of the Holy Spirit. This idea that we must be born again was handed down to us by both Christ and the Prophets. [62] This practice of washing has been imitated by demons who require it in the temples, as well as the removal of shoes based on Moses’ account of the burning bush. [65] The brethren then gather and pray for the newly baptized person, and for the whole community of believers as well, that we, having accepted the truth (faith) and kept the commandments (works), may be saved eternally. After a holy kiss, the one presiding is given bread and a cup of wine mixed with water, and after giving a lengthy prayer of thanksgiving to which the people express assent by saying “Amen!” (γένοιτο; so be it), he distributes the bread and wine through the deacons, some of which is taken away to those who could not attend. [66] We call this food the Eucharist (Εὐχαριστία). It is reserved for those who believe, have been baptized, and live accordance with the teachings of Christ. And it is not common food, but is the very flesh and blood of Christ. (The demons have imitated this as well in the mysteries of Mithras.) [67] On Sundays, all believers who live nearby, from city or countryside, gather to listen to readings from the memoirs of the apostles and the writings of the prophets for as long as time permits, after which the one presiding provides verbal instruction with regard to what they’ve heard, and then the whole assembly partakes of the Eucharist as described above. Those willing and able contribute to the care of orphans, widows, the sick and the suffering, the poor, prisoners, pilgrims and all who are in need. This large assembly is held on Sunday, because it is the first day of God’s creation and the day Jesus Christ rose from the dead.

[68] In conclusion, if these things we say sound reasonable to you, then please honor them. If not, you may consider then nonsense, but do not punish those who do believe them with death as though they were your enemies. Injustice will not be overlooked by God. Your father, Emperor Adrian, wrote in a letter that by his authority proper judgment could be demanded, yet we make this appeal to you and provide this explanation because we know that what we ask is just.


  • Antoninus Pius was Roman Emperor from A.D. 138 to 161, whose reign was notably peaceful.
  • Justin begins by naming his father and grandfather. All sources agree that from these names we know Justin belonged to a pagan family. Also, the town of his birth was a colony established by Rome.
  • Justin appeals to the truth, as the Emperor and his sons “are called pious and philosophers, guardians of justice and lovers of learning”.
  • In Chapter 3, Justin quotes an unnamed source, “Unless both rulers and ruled philosophize, it is impossible to make states blessed.”
  • Chapter 4 exposes the hypocrisy of the Romans for allowing philosophers to not only escape punishment but to receive honor for committing the same crimes of which the Christians were being accused, atheism and blasphemy being chief among them.
  • In Chapter 5, Justin personifies Reason (i.e. Logos) as the incarnate Jesus.
  • In Chapter 6, a direct reference to the Trinity is made.
  • Christian mercy and justice are illustrated in Chapter 7: “For we will not require that you punish our accusers; they being sufficiently punished by their present wickedness and ignorance of what is right.”
  • Salvation by both faith and works is described in Chapter 8: “For, impelled by the desire of [eternal] life, we…hasten to confess our faith, persuaded and convinced as we are that they who have proved to God by their works that they followed Him…can obtain these things.”
  • Plato claimed that Rhadamanthus and Minos (demigods of Hades) would punish the wicked for a thousand years.
  • In discussing idols, Justin notes that the craftsmen use inferior materials “often out of vessels of dishonour” and that they “are practised in every vice”. Compare this with the Christian iconographers who use pure and natural materials and paint in prayer.
  • Also concerning idolatry, Is 44:9-20 and Jer 10:3 are referenced.
  • “We have been taught…” The English text actually states, “But we have received by tradition…”
  • In Chapter 10, Justin emphatically states that willfull acts of believers (“choosing them by means of the rational faculties He has Himself endowed us with”) are proof of their devotion to God and thus lead to salvation. He also states that the demons take “as their ally the lust of wickedness which is in every man”.
  • The second direct reference to the Trinity is made in Chapter 13.
  • Chapters 15-17 convey the teachings of Jesus about several topics primarily by paraphrasing scripture. Most of the material comes from the latter portion of Matthew 5 (starting at around verse 22), with some lines from Chapters 6, 7, 13, 19 & 22, as well as a few lines from Mark and Luke. The lines are not presented in the same order as they appear in Scripture, as a block quote for example, but in line with Justin’s argument as applicable.
  • Chapter 19 gives insight into how the ancients viewed life. The living body is created from very basic material and can return to basic material, “dissolved…like seeds resolved into earth”. Thus, why should the resurrection of the body be hard to believe?
  • Per the Wikipedia article on Simon Magus, the statue of Simon the Magician that Justin said in Chapter 26 was erected in Rome was discovered in the 16th Century, and the inscription that reportedly read Simoni Deo Sancto (Simon the holy God) actually read Semo Sancus, and was therefore not a reference to Simon at all, but to an older diety.
  • In Chapter 27, several details about Roman immorality are provided that would be superfluous here.
  • In Chapter 28, Justin makes a logical connection between the creation of man with rational powers who can choose to do good and the delay in God’s wrath against the powers of evil, so that every man — even those not yet born — has an opportunity to repent. This belief of the early Christians seems to contradict the concept of predestination, at least in the Calvinist sense.
  • The summary of Chapter 29 has been moved in between Chapters 27 & 28, and both the story of the youth who petitioned permission from Felix the Governor to become a eunuch as well as the reference to Antinous have been omitted for better continuity.
  • Infanticide is explicitly called murder in Chapter 29.
  • EDITORIAL NOTE: Chapters 31 through 60, 63 and 64 constitute a treatise on how the prophecies about Jesus provide enough evidence to warrant belief. Specific references to the prophecies of Moses, David, Isaiah, and others are made in order to show that what they claimed about the coming Christ had actually happened as predicted. It is important to note that because Justin’s explanation is lengthy and layered, I have rearranged the summarized material into a more logical sequence. This isn’t to say that Justin’s message is flawed, but that in shortened form, the narrative would sound very disjointed if the original order were to be followed exactly. The reorganization yielded four topical paragraphs: (1) Specific prophecies about Christ in Jewish literature, (2) notes on the nature, style, and interpretation of Jewish prophecy, (3) the work of demons to undermine and circumvent the prophecies, and (4) the manner in which God spoke to Moses.
  • In Chapter 31 we are given examples of how Sacred Scripture was inspired by the Spirit and preserved by men.
  • The English translation uses the work “predict” a lot in the chapters about Jewish prophecy. It is good to keep in mind the etymology of that word (pre- “beforehand” + dicere “to say”), because modern usage of the word connotes that the person making the prediction does so either by their own power or by the power of some supernatural force, but not typically by the power of God.
  • In Chpater 32, prophecies by Moses (Gn 49:10) & Isaiah (Is 11:1) are fulfilled by the foal on Palm Sunday and the bloody passion; also destruction of the temple is mentioned.
  • Chapter 33 Scripture references: Isaiah 7:14, Luke 1:32; Matthew 1:21
  • Chapter 34 Scripture references: Micah 5:2
  • Chapter 35 Scripture references: Isaiah 9:6, Isaiah 65:2, Isaiah 58:2, psalm ?, Zechariah 9:9
  • In chapter 35, Justin cites the Acts of Pontius Pilate as a source. It can be found in the Apocryphal Gospel of Nicodemus
  • In chapters 37-39, Justin illustrates how the words of prophecy can be attributed to different persons (Father, Son, Spirit) by providing excerpts from Isaiah.
  • Chapter 40-41 Scripture references: Psalm 18:1-6, Psalms 1 & 2, Psalm 95
  • Chapter 43 is a testimony regarding free will, responsibility/accountability for one’s actions, and control over one’s own salvation, and a denial of predestined fate.
  • Chapter 44 quotes Isaiah 1:16; the Oracles of Hystaspes & Sibyl & the Prophets forbidden by a law successfully established through men by demons.
  • Chapter 45 quotes Psalm 109 (110); Justin again claims that death is no harm to the Christians and that the unjust hate of the Romans will bring upon them eternal punishment.
  • Chapter 47-51 Scripture references: Is 64:10-12; Is 1:7; Is 35:6; Is 57:1; Is 65:1-3; Is 5:20; Is 52:13-15, Is 53:1-8; Isaiah 53:8-12; Ps 23 (24): 7-8; Daniel 7:13; also a second citation of the Acts of Pontius Pilate
  • Chapter 52 Scripture references: Ezekiel 37:7-8; Isaiah 45:24; Isaiah 66:24; there is a reference to Zechariah in Chapter 52 but cant identify the passage exactly
  • Chapter 53 Scripture references: Isaiah 54:1; Isaiah 1:9
  • Chapter 54 Scripture references: Genesis 49:10
  • Chapter 55, Roman standards: vexilla
  • In Chpater 56, Justin asks the emperor to destroy the statue of Simon.
  • In Chpater 57, Justin re-emphasizes that the Christians do not fear death, and those who have them killed “that we may be deprived of life and pleasure” would do well to learn the Christian doctrines and gain eternal life.
  • Chapter 59-560 Scripture references: Gn 1; Deut 32:22; Numbers 21:8
  • In Chapter 60, the physiology of the Son of God came from the Timæus of Plato.
  • Chapter 61 Scripture references: John 3:5, Isaiah 1:16-20
  • In Chapter 61, Justin explains the reason for baptism as handed down from the Apostles. He states that man is born “without our own knowledge or choice” and raised with “bad habits and wicked training”; thus, baptismal washing allows willful penitents to “become the children of choice and knowledge” and to be forgiven past sins. This does call into question the practice of infant baptism, though Justin does not even mention it, much less explicitly condemn it. He also states that baptism is also called “illumination, because they who learn these things are illuminated in their understandings”, which sounds somewhat Gnostic (though according to theologian Marcellino D’Ambrosio, this chapter is included in the Office of Readings).
  • Chapter 63 Scripture references: Isaiah 1:3, Matthew 11:27, Exodus 3:6, Luke 10:16
  • Chapter 64 mentions two Daughters of Jupiter. Proserpine was called Persephone in Greek mythology and was abducted by and eventually married Hades, king of the underworld. Minerva was called ἔννοια/énnoia, which means to consider or reflect upon, and Justin claims that her myth arose from Moses’ writing that the Word (the Logos, the very thought of God that is God) was present at the creation of the world.
  • Chapters 65-67 describe the Mass. Believers gather in prayer of petition, they share a kiss of peace, sacrificial gifts of bread and diluted wine are given to the “president” (one presiding) who prays a prayer of thanksgiving over them in the name of the Trinity, there is a great Amen!, the gifts are distributed to the people by the servers (deacons; no indication of sacramental orders here) to eat, and some is taken to those who were absent (still a common practice today). The Eucharist was reserved for those who believed the same thing as the community, who had been baptized and who lived according to Christ’s commandments; though Justin does not use any sort of technical language here, such as “free from mortal sin” (or even “remaining in the friendship of Christ”), it is obvious that the same meaning is intended, that the person partaking of the Eucharist is not working against the will of God or the teachings of Christ. The notion that the bread and wine are the very body and blood of Jesus is stated explicitly. Luke 22:19 Chapter 67 notes that readings of Scripture and a sermon based upon them were part of the Eucharistic celebration on Sundays, as well as an offertory collection to support widows, orphans, and others in need.

December 29, 2017

Ignatius’ Epistle To Polycarp

Filed under: Christianity — Brandon @ 5:19 pm
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Home > My Research > Christianity > Early Church Fathers > Ignatius’ Epistle To Polycarp


Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr of the early Church, wrote to Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna, wherein he imparts wisdom regarding behavior proper for a bishop, married Christian couples, and Christian communities in general.


Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, while imprisoned and in transport to Rome in about the year A.D. 108, wrote letters to several of the ancient Churches. He also wrote a personal letter to his friend and fellow bishop, Polycarp of Smyrna. Full authenticity of the contents of these letters is not generally accepted; however, the most egregious embellishments can be identified and removed using copies of the letters from different ages and sources. The original letters and contemporary copies have been lost to antiquity.


Two copies of this letter were used to produce the summary below. The English version provided the bulk of the material, and the Greek was used to gain clarity on specific points.

English: New Advent
Greek: TextExcavation

Also, the language search tools found at the Perseus Digital Library (Tufts University) came in quite handy for understanding the Greek.


The format of this letter is commensurate with Ignatius’ other epistles, though not identical. After the salutation and customary self-humiliation and praise of the recipient, The main topics of discourse are presented, of which this letter contains three. The first is a series of exhortations made to Polycarp, providing advice, counsel, and encouragement; this occupies the space of three-and-a-half chapters. After that, one chapter is dedicated to married couples within the Christian community and another to the duties of Christians in general. Finally, some specific instructions are given for Polycarp to carry out.

  • Salutation
  • Commendation
  • Exhortations
    • Keep a steady course
    • Maintain position in both flesh and spirit
    • Preserve unity
    • Model Godly forbearance
    • Lovingly support the faithful
    • Pray without ceasing (1 Thess 5:17)
    • Always seek understanding (continuous learning?)
    • Be watchful
    • Communicate
    • Bear the infirmities of all
    • Don’t just love good disciples, but humbly subdue the troublesome
    • There is no one solution to all problems
    • Big problems can be mitigated with consistent care
    • Always be “wise as a serpent, and harmless as a dove.” (Matt 10:16)
    • As flesh and spirit, you can deal with all evil: that is plainly visible and that which can only be revealed by God
    • Navigate well, that you and yours may reach God
    • Be sober, for eternal life is at stake
    • In all things may my soul be for yours, and my bonds also, which you have loved.
    • Don’t fear teachers of false doctrine (1 Tim 1:3, 1 Tim 6:3)
    • Stand firm despite relentless opposition
    • Bear all things…as you want God to bear with you
    • Grow in zeal
    • Weigh carefully the times
    • Look for Him who became like us and suffered for our sake
    • Protect widows from neglect
    • Permit nothing to be done without your consent just as you seek the approval of God in all you do
    • Assemble frequently (Mass?)
    • It is better that slaves submit out of glory of God than to be freed and become slaves to their own desires (c.f. 1 Tim 6:1-2)
  • Duties of Husbands and Wives
    • Flee from abuse and don’t remain silent about it
    • Women should be satisfied with their husbands out of love of the Lord (Eph 5:22)
    • Men should love their wives as Christ loves the Church (Eph 5:25)
    • If one can remain unmarried and pure without boasting or conceit, let him do so to the honor of God
    • Those who do marry should do so with the approval of the bishop, and thus according to God’s will, not for lust
  • Duties of the Christian Flock
    • Remain submissive to the bishop, presbyters, and deacons
    • Work together as servants of God
    • Please God, your general and employer, and do not desert him
    • Let your baptism, faith, love, and patience endure and protect you
    • Work, that you may be rewarded according to the value of your deeds
    • Be patient with one another as God is with you (Matt 6:19-21)
  • Instructions
    • Elect by solumn council a new bishop for Antioch
    • Correspond with adjacent Churches on my behalf
  • Commendations of Others
  • Farewell


Papal Primacy. In his salutatory remarks, Ignatius addresses Polycarp as one “who has, as his own bishop, God the Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ”. Historically, there has been much debate about Ignatius’ understanding of the Church in terms of structure, his vision of the local bishop as the spiritual leader over presbyters (as opposed to a Congregationalist view), and whether or not he recognized (even the notion of) the primacy of the Bishop of Rome. One might interpret this phrase to mean that he did not, in fact, recognize the Roman Bishop as anything but perhaps a distant peer, and that a bishop must give an account to no man but answer only to God himself. In my assessment, this conclusion is both over-reaching and anachronistic. The primacy of the Pope is not an issue being addressed in the letter at all, and Ignatius’ statement should not be taken as a testamony as such. This debate belongs to a different era (beit AD 381, 484, 654, 736, 867, 1054, 1281, 1472, or 1517).

Upon This Rock. At the beginning of Chapter 1, Ignatius claims to have “obtained good proof that [Polycarp’s] mind is fixed in God as upon an immoveable rock (πετραν)”. This phrase calls to mind the words of Jesus in Matthew 16:18, I tell you that you are Peter (Πέτρος) and upon this rock (πέτρα) I will build my Church.. No, Ignatius is (most likely) not alluding to Peter or the Papacy, but it is interesting that he describes Polycarp’s understanding of the faith in the same manner.

Subjunctive Mood. In the line from Chapter 1, “I entreat you…exhort all that they may be saved”, the verb for “saved” (σωζωνται) is in the subjunctive mood.

Sports Medicine. Like Paul, Ignatius likens the Christians to athletes (thrice in this letter alone) and to life as a race to be run with eternal salvation as the prize. He also notes that athletes are often injured, yet they still strive to win, that there is no one cure for all types of wounds, and that as athletes we must remain sober and ready.

Holy Battle Gear. Also like Paul (Eph 6:10-18), Ignatius speaks of putting on the armor of God (Chapter 6), complete with helmet (faith) and spear (love).

Good Works. Chapter 6 includes a line that states, “Let your works be the charge assigned to you, that you may receive a worthy recompense.” I found the Greek (τα δεποσιτα υμων τα εργα υμων, ινα τα ακκεπτα υμων αξια κομισησθε) and looked up each word, eventually coming up with “Where your work is stored, there your unbounded worth will be taken care of.” This sounded too similar to Matthew 6:19-21 to dismiss (to paraphrase: don’t store treasure on earth where it can perish, but in Heaven where it cannot be destroyed, for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also). I settled on the amalgamation of “Work, that you may be rewarded according to the value of your deeds” for the summary above and added the reference to Matthew.

December 28, 2017

Ignatius’ Roman Epistle

Home > My Research > Christianity > Early Church Fathers > Ignatius’ Roman Epistle


Ignatius of Antioch, bishop and martyr of the early Church, wrote to the Church in Rome, imploring that the faithful there not prevent his martyrdom.


Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, while imprisoned and in transport to Rome in about the year A.D. 108, wrote letters to several of the ancient Churches including the Christians in Rome. Full authenticity of the contents of these letters is not generally accepted; however, the most egregious embellishments can be identified and removed using copies of the letters from different ages and sources. The original letters and contemporary copies have been lost to antiquity.


Unlike his letters to the Churches in Asia, this letter is short and bears a simple message: don’t stop the Romans from killing me. It is clear from his salutatory introduction that he holds the Roman Christians in high esteem. He also suspects that they, out of brotherly love, will do anything they can to prevent his execution. Ignatius wishes to see the Lord and sees martyrdom as a direct path to this end.

Frankly, I find it difficult to glean much from this letter that could not be understood from reading the text itself. There is no hint of dogmatic beginnings or compelling exegesis to perform. Again the message is simple. The language, however, suffers from the disease of elegance, meaning that we modern readers have little patience for the flowery language employed, no matter how close to the original Greek the translator was able to render the English.

So, I feel that the best service I can provide at the moment is to do as I have done with other such writings and provide a more succinct rendition that may appeal to the current generation:

To the wonderful Christians in Rome,

[1]My prayers have been answered! I’m coming to see you as a prisoner and, God willing, to be executed in Rome. You who live there have ample opportunity to be martyred, but I had to go out of my way to make this happen. I’m just afraid that you, out of love, will prevent this from happening. [2]I may never have this opportunity again, so please, the best thing you could do for me is to just not say anything to anyone and let it happen. [3]Please do pray for an increase in my strength and resolve though. I would much rather be considered a true Christian after my death than to claim to be one and fall short. [4]Allow me to be eaten by the beasts, that my body be completely devoured so that no one must worry with my remains. [5]I hope the beasts attack quickly, and if they don’t attack me at all, I will provoke them! Bring it on! [6]Nothing in the world can profit me, for the world is death and Jesus is Life, and [7]I do not desire worldly food, but only the bread and drink of God, which is the flesh and blood of Christ. [8]I no longer want to live as man lives; pray that I obtain what I desire. [9]Pray also for the Church in Syria that I have humbly left behind. My soul praises you along with the other Churches that have met me with love along the way. [10]Tell those who have arrived before me that I am on my way. They are good people, so please show your hospitality to them.

Ignatius (a.k.a. Theophorus)
August 23rd

An Aside

If the letter above comes across as irreverent or even flippant, please know that this is not the intent. I’ve simply read with understanding Ignatius’ message and recast it in the words that might would be used by a modern English speaker. If anything, this is a reflection on our modern culture that devalues thoughtful personal correspondence and makes an idol of brevity. God only knows what Ignatius might’ve said if he had been limited to only 140 characters.

In all fairness, I am a modern English speaker too, and if I have misunderstood what Ignatius was trying to say, by all means, please bring it to my attention.

October 5, 2017

Amoris Laetitia

Filed under: Christianity — Brandon @ 4:22 pm
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Home > Religion > Selected Papal Writings > Amoris Laetitia


This is Pope Francis’ controversial exhortation (2016) that followed the two Synods on the Family (2014 & 2015).



  • The title (The Joy of Love in English) is derived from the first words of the document.
  • Paragraph 57 states, “The Synod’s reflections show us that there is no stereotype of the ideal family, but rather a challenging mosaic made up of different realities…”. This seems to be a deviation from the Church’s perennial teaching that both the Trinity and the Holy Family are indeed stereotypes of the ideal family. These examples are even cited in paragraphs 29 and 30.
  • Paragraph 78 clearly indicates that those in “irregular unions” do not (but may someday) enjoy sacramental marriage.
  • Paragraph 83 asserts that the Church rejects the death penalty.



  1. Family love is much desired today, especially by young people.
  2. The synod examined complex modern marriage/family issues to provide clarity to the Church.
  3. Solutions need not be doctrinal, but can differ by culture.
  4. The process was eye-opening. Contributions and considerations are recorded herein.
  5. It is fitting to write this in the Jubilee Year of Mercy.
  6. I will cover Scripture, current issues, Church teaching on marriage, love, pastoral advice, and a call for mercy and discernment.
  7. Many questions were addressed, hence the length of this writing. Read carefully and with purpose.

Chapter 1: In the Light of the Word

  1. The Bible is full of stories about families and their problems.
  2. The union of man and woman has existed since the beginning.
  3. The couple is made in God’s image, a sign of his creation.
  4. The fruitful love of the married couple is an image (icon) of God’s Trinitarian nature. Salvation history progressed through families, and thus, through the ability of the married couple to beget life.
  5. Love is an encounter, each giving the self to the other.
  6. The union is not merely physical, but the clinging of two souls in harmony.
  7. Children are a sign of continuity and are the building blocks of society.
  8. God should be found in the home, the domestic church.
  9. Faith is passed down through the family.
  10. Parents are responsible for education, and the children should respect them.
  11. Children are people, not property.
  12. Pain, evil, and violence can break up families, love and purity can be overturned by domination.
  13. The Bible also contains stories of family violence and hatred.
  14. Family problems are woven into Jesus’ parables.
  15. Thus, Sacred Scripture does not contain abstract ideas, but comfort for the suffering.
  16. Man is a laborer and work is essential to human dignity.
  17. Labor sustains the family and develops society.
  18. Unemployment, poverty, and hunger diminish the serenity of family life.
  19. Sin results in social degeneration and injustice; this includes the abuse of nature.
  20. Christ taught the law of love (by word and example), which bears the fruits of mercy and forgiveness.
  21. Love moves us toward tenderness.
  22. Thus we have examined the family in Scripture, a communion of persons in the image of the Trinity that should become an even greater dwelling place for the Holy Spirit.
  23. The Holy Family of Nazareth, and Mary in particular, are models for understanding the family experience.

Chapter 2: The Experiences and Challenges of Families

  1. The family is the future, and many studies have examined the challenges of today’s family, including the Synod.
  2. The family continues to evolve. It receives less outside support than in times past, but benefits from duty-sharing and improved personal communication.
  3. Extreme individualism is a danger to relationships, commitment, and the generous giving of self.
  4. In the light of such individualism, family life is seen as a benefit only when convenient.
  5. Christians cannot stop advocating marriage and should not impose it by rule, but should better understand and convey the reasons for choosing it.
  6. Marriage has been presented as an abstract theological ideal, with far more emphasis on the procreative aspect than on the unitive.
  7. Doctrine, bioethics, and moral issues have been the focus, not presenting marriage as a path to development, fulfillment, and grace.
  8. Thankfully, most people value permanent relationships and many experience the grace of the Sacraments, but too much pastoral energy has been spent denouncing worldliness instead of teaching how to find true happiness. The Church’s message is perceived as different from Jesus’ teachings.
  9. Christians cannot stop warning against cultural decline. Relationships are increasingly commoditized: consumed for certain benefits and then disposed of.
  10. The reasons for avoiding or postponing the start of a family are many. We must learn to arouse the courage of young people.
  11. Today’s culture does not harness affectivity, resulting in the inability of people (and thus marriages) to mature properly.
  12. Population decline is the result of politics, science, industrialization, social fears, consumerism, etc. The Church opposes State promoted/enforced population control.
  13. Weak faith in modern culture leads to distance from God and loneliness, both in individuals and in families. The State is responsible for helping young people realize plans for having a family.
  14. Public policy (juridical, economic, social, fiscal) should reduce family suffering (unemployment, healthcare, etc.) so that the family can nurture relationships within as well as participate in society.
  15. Irregular family constructs, war, terrorism, crime, and hardships of urban life contribute to the suffering of children. Scandalous abuse occurs when and where they should be the most safe.
  16. Migration can be beneficial to the family in some cases and destabilizing in others. Pastoral programs should be offered to those who leave as well as for those who stay behind.
  17. The family that welcomes a child with special needs is a special witness to faith and the gift of life.
  18. The same is true for the family that loves and cares for its elderly members, who too-often are considered a burden. The Church opposes euthanasia and assisted suicide as threats to the family.
  19. Poverty can greatly inhibit the personal growth of a child. The Church should offer comfort rather than judgment.
  20. Family life is often affected by everyday challenges such as job-related stress/exhaustion, addiction to television, lack of a common family meal, fear of the future welfare fo the children, etc.
  21. Drugs, alcohol, gambling, and other addictions contribute greatly to the breakdown of the family today.
  22. The weakening of the family threatens individual maturity, communal values, and moral progress of society. Only the family based on the traditional marriage can ensure the future of society. Other family constructs can only secure a certain level of stability at best.
  23. Some countries allow for polygamy, arranged marriages, and cohabitation (premarital and/or permanent), and legislation increasingly favors individual autonomy over the value of traditional marriage.
  24. The recognition of women’s rights has advanced in general, but a dignity equal with that of man is not yet fully realized.
  25. Men play an important role in family life and their absence is detrimental.
  26. Various forms of gender ideology deny the differences between man and women, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. Also, scientific advances allow for the separation of procreation and parenthood. Man today is tempted by culture to take the place of the Creator, instead of being a creature who respects what has been created.
  27. The challenges that families face today should drive missionary creativity.

Chapter 3: Looking to Jesus: The Vocation of the Family

  1. Families must be formed around the proclamation of the Gospel message (i.e. kerygma).
  2. Our teaching on the family must be inspired by, and indeed, can only be understood in the context of the Gospel message.
  3. This chapter is a summary of the Church’s teaching on marriage and the family.
  4. Marriage is a gift from God and must therefore be safeguarded.
  5. Jesus not only reaffirmed that marriage is indissoluble, but also taught that it is a restoration of God’s original plan for man.
  6. Jesus redeemed marriage and the family and bestows on them the grace to reflect the love of God and our communion with him.
  7. Jesus’ ministry was filled with interactions with families.
  8. The beauty of family life is exuded in the Nativity and the life of Jesus prior to public ministry.
  9. Nazareth can teach all families how to be a light in the world.
  10. Marriage is a community of life and love grounded in Christ through the spouses (Gaudium et Spes), and the Body of Christ is built up via the domestic church, making the Church manifest (Lumen Gentium).
  11. Church teaching has developed to include the responsibility of parenthood (Humanae Vitae) and the relationship of the family to the Church (Evangelii Nuntiandi).
  12. Family love is the way of the Church and, thus, marriage leads to holiness (Gratissimam Sane, Familiaris Consortio).
  13. Marital love based on the love of Christ becomes an icon of God’s relationship with his people (Deus Caritas Est), and love in general is a key principle of life in society (Caritas in Veritate).
  14. The Trinity resembles a family, and just as the Holy Spirit is a sign of the Father’s love for the Son’s bestowed at his baptism, so Holy Matrimony is a sacramental sign of Jesus for the Church.
  15. This sacrament is a sanctifying and salvific vocation, not merely a social convention, ritual, or sign of (human) commitment
  16. Marriage is a serious commitment of complete self-giving. The spouses become one flesh, just as Jesus took on the flesh of mankind.
  17. Physical union is expressed in complete consent; thus, marriage points to the mystery of the incarnation.
  18. The (Christian) man and woman are the ministers of this sacrament, which is manifested by their mutual concent and expressed in physical union. When a non-Christian couple is baptized, their (affirmed) marriage automatically becomes sacramental.
  19. The Gospel helps even immature and neglected marriages grow.
  20. Human relationships can only be truly understood in the context of Christ, yet (at least some of) the reality of marriage can be seen in other religious traditions.
  21. Pastoral care is warranted for those in irregular unions and the Church seeks the grace of their conversion, which, through deep affection and noteworthy stability, may lead them to sacramental marriage.
  22. Pastors must clearly state Church teaching while exercising careful discernment (situational awareness), and must not judge those seeking counsel.
  23. The conjugal union is naturally procreative. Children are the fruit and fulfilment of love.
  24. Man and woman share in the work of creation; thus they are instruments of God’s love.
  25. Having children is increasing becoming a small varible in a couple’s life plan, and the Church applauds couples who accept children into their lives, including children who are adopted or have disabilities.
  26. If the family is the sanctuary of life, then it is hypocritical for the spouses to reject or destroy it. Putting the right to one’s own body over the right of another to live effectively asserts that the other person is one’s property (sic. the right to choose when and how the property will be disposed of). This is the rationale for supporting the rights of conscientious objection and of a natural death (i.e. without treatment or euthanasia), as well as the rejection of the death penalty.
  27. The education of children is a right and duty of the parents, and all others involved (i.e. schools) are subsidiary and complementary, but cannot replace parents.
  28. The Church supports and assists parents in this vocation that is an intrinsic part of marriage.
  29. The family perpetuates the faith in its many facets. (CCC 1657)
  30. The Church is a family of families, and the Church and the family mutually benefit one anouther.
  31. Family love continually strengthens the Church, and the role of the family vocation is unique and cannot be replaced.

More to come…

August 23, 2017

Catholic Hate Groups


Amidst the many news articles and commentaries published last week about the violence in Charlottesville and the tearing down of Confederate statues, I happened to notice a few Tweets about the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hate Map. I ignored them until someone started to point out that fourteen Catholic organizations were included. I had to learn more.

The Southern Poverty Law Center

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) is a nonprofit organization that specializes in civil rights litigation. It was the brainchild of Morris Dees and was co-founded with Joseph J. Levin Jr. in 1971. Beginning with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK) in 1979, the firm continues to monitor several categories of hate organizations across the United States and files lawsuits on behalf of victims when hate-related events occur. The Wikipedia article about the SPLC includes a list of their most notable cases. As part of their monitoring, the SPLC maintains lists of organizations that conduct hate-related activities. The Hate Map featured on the SPLC website is a visualization of these lists that can be filtered by category and by State. (There is also a Wikipedia article dedicated to maintaining a cumulative listing, but it currently holds only three years of list data.)

What criteria must be met to end up on the map? The answer to that seems to be a bit subjective. The most basic criteria is that a listed organization attacks or maligns a specific class of people. Beyond that, inclusion is handled on a case-by-case basis. In the 2006 Winter Issue of the firm’s magazine Intelligence Report, the twelve (at the time) Radical Traditionalist Catholic groups are described, and it is clearly stated that their primary target is the Jews. The article was posted online in January 2007.

The Catholic List

Of the 917 organizations on the list, fourteen of them are categorized as “Radical Traditional Catholicism”. Here is the list as it appeared in August 2017:

  1. Christ or Chaos [Dr. Thomas A. Droleskeyis, Website]
  2. Culture Wars/Fidelity Press [E. Micheal Jones & James G. Bruen Jr., Website]
  3. Robert Sungenis [Website, Wikipedia]
  4. Catholic Family News / Catholic Family Ministries [Joseph John Vennari, Website, Wikipedia]
  5. Most Holy Family Monastery [Michael Diamond, Website, Wikipedia]
  6. In the Spirit of Chartres Committee [Website]
  7. IHS Press [Website, Wikipedia]
  8. Catholic Counterpoint [John Maffei, Fr. Gregorius Hesse & Fr. John O’Connor, Website]
  9. IHM Media [Website]
  10. Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary [Fr. Leonard Feeney, Website, Wikipedia,]
  11. Fatima Crusader, The / International Fatima Rosary Crusade [Fr. Nicholas Gruner, Website, Wikipedia]
  12. The Remnant Press [Michael Matt, Website, Wikipedia]
  13. OMNI Christian Book Club [Website]
  14. Tradition In Action (TIA) [Website]

All Wikipedia articles linked above include an indication that the organization in question is included on the SPLC list.


An examination if the organizations’ websites and related information, a number of similarities start to arise:

  • All of the organizations oppose (to some degree) the teachings of the Catholic Church.
  • Almost all of the organizations sympathize with schismatic (e.g. SSPX) or heretical groups.
  • Almost all of the organizations are owned/operated by or are based on the work of single individuals or small groups.
  • Many of them offer literature or share content written by the same authors (e.g. Sungenis, Vennari)
  • Only one organization appears to promote physical activities. The remainder author or publish literature.
  • None of the organizations appear to promote violence.

Wait…what? All of these organizations oppose the Church? Indeed. For those not familiar, there are a number of believers who identify as Catholic but who do not align themselves with the present-day Church. Vatican II was a breaking point for most of them due to its wide-sweeping reform in both the Church’s customs as well as her approach to man’s problems in the modern day. The Latin Mass was no longer the norm (thought by many to be forbidden), church architecture leaned toward the modern, and ecumenism seemed to trump dogma. Some view Pope Pius XII (d. 1958) as the last true Pope and consider all of the Popes that followed to be antipopes. This topic has become a hotbed for Catholesque conspiracy theories written à la Dan Brown.

While ecumenism typically involves building relationships and resolving differences with other Christian denominations (i.e. getting a little too chummy with those Protestant heretics), the post-conciliar Church also boosted its involvement in interfaith dialogue with members of other religions, particularly Jews and Muslims. Traditional Catholics (or “Trad Caths” as they are often called these days) only see this fraternizing as an opportunity to compromise the faith, and thus they label the modern Church and its leadership as traitors against Christ. They speak out vehemently against her, stating in no uncertain terms exactly with whom they do not believe the Church should associate and why. Recall that one criterion for being on the Hate Map is that the organization maligns (syn: defame, slander, vilify, slur and revile) a specific class of people? With that in mind, could it not be said that the literature associated with this movement isn’t only anti-Semitic, but anti-Catholic as well?

The real Catholic Church (headed by the real Pope) does not promote hate of any kind (as it is a mortal sin) and it does not compromise on faith and morals — even if some of its members do. Despite what the Traditionalists believe, the purpose of the Second Vatican Council was not to reshape the Church to conform with the world’s norms, but to understand how the Church could better serve the world in its Catholic ministry. It should also be noted that there are traditionalist Catholic groups on good terms with the Holy See who accept (in spirit anyway) the documents of Vatican II and who have been approved to practice the traditional rites of the Church.


It’s hard to believe that anyone would want to be called a racist or a hatemonger, but given their dedication to the cause, it is rational to assume that many wear it as a badge of honor. But is this true of the Radical Traditional Catholic crowd? A few articles I found would suggest the answer is an emphatic no! In Philadelphia Magazine’s 2013 piece What Hate Groups Say About Being Called Hate Groups, Catholic Counterpoint owner John Maffei, the follower of an anti-Semitic renegade priest, denies being a racist, stating that he is simply nostalgic for the way life used to be. Only a few days ago, on August 16th, Micheal Matt of The Remnant defended the 50-year-old newspaper after the local CBS television station in Minnesota, WCCO-TV, attempted to link it with the white supremacist protests in Charlottesville, VA based on the paper’s inclusion on SPLC’s list. He referred to the SPLC as a generator of fake news, which is a popular name for propaganda containing false or misleading information presented in a way that makes it look like real news from authentic sources. Similarly, two days later, Brother André Marie of the Slaves of the Immaculate Heart of Mary posted Civil Unrest Means Hate Map Time for Lazy Journalists, asserting that the SPLC profits greatly by framing conservative organizations as hate groups and providing false information to journalists and law enforcement, while ignoring leftist extremists. (It seems that the SPLC has cast a few stones in Brother André’s direction as well.)


While it is clearly wrong (indeed, quite sinful) to hate another person or group of people, it is not necessarily wrong to disagree with them. In fact, the right to harbor and even promote differences of opinion is protected by the Constitution of the United States (yeah, that whole First Amendment thing again, with its freedom of speech and religion). A line must be drawn somewhere, and it seems that the primary conflict between the SPLC and the “Radical Traditionalist Catholic” groups is that they don’t agree where that line should be. I invite readers to seek out and review the literature on their own. Does it call for the active extermination of the Jewish people? Or does it lay out in scholarly terms an argument based on hard facts that supports the notion that Jewish beliefs pose a real threat to Christianity? Is it somewhere in between? Does it attack people or ideas? How much of it is based on assumptions and speculation? And where is Dan Brown when you really need him anyway?

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