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.

March 24, 2017

What Does “Catholic” Mean Anyway?


My recent post covering the five Epistles of Ignatius of Antioch to the Churches in Asia gave rise to some interesting discussions online, including one about the origin of the word “Catholic”. I knew the general answer, that the word means “universal” and that Ignatius was indeed the earliest author to use it, but I wasn’t satisfied with that. I wanted to dig deeper. Here is the result of my research.

Ignatius of Antioch

A discourse on the meaning of the word ‘catholic’ would hardly be complete without some mention of Saint Ignatius of Antioch who used it to describe the Church in his letter to the Smyrnæans in approximately A.D. 108. His message to the believers in Smyrna was clear: be subject to your bishop in all things concerning belief. This is the earliest known writing in which the Church is referred to as ‘universal’ and that leads many people to the conclusion that Ignatius was the first to give the Church her name, or at least the first to coin the phrase. Nothing in the text, however, supports the hypothesis that Ignatius was trying to do either. It appears more likely that he was using a common adjective to describe the whole body of believers everywhere, and that the phrase caught on amongst early Christian writers.

Here is an excerpt taken from the eighth chapter of Ignatius’ letter to the Smyrnæans (taken from The key line of interest has been emphasized and the phrase Catholic Church rendered in bold:

Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid. [Smyrnæans 8]

Here is the emphasized line in Greek (from TextExcavation), again with Catholic Church in bold:

οπου αν φανη ο επισκοπος, εκει το πληθος εστω, ωσπερ οπου αν η Χριστος Ιησους, εκει η καθολικη εκκλησια.

I would take the time to provide a word-for-word translation of the entire excerpt, but it’s not really necessary for this discussion. There are online lexicons and translators for that purpose, so if you are not familar with Greek, now might be a good time to check out some of these tools.


Let’s start with the noun in this phrase. This is the less controversial of the two words. Almost always rendered in English as ‘church’, the word ekklēsía really just means assembly or gathering, as in a group of people assembled together. It was the term used to refer to the principal assembly of the Athenian democracy over 400 years before Christ walked the Earth. So, which assembly of believers Ignatius is talking about? Since the letter was written for the Chirstians in Smyrna, is he only referring to that assembly? Obviously, no. Ignatius clarified his message by modifying this noun with the adjective καθολικη.


This adjective is actually a combination of two root words: κατά (katá) + ὅλος (hólos). According to Strong’s Concordance, κατά (2596) is a preposition that can have various meanings, such as “down from”, “throughout”, and “according to”. Likewise, ὅλος (3650) is an adjective that means “all”, “whole”, or “entire”. Note how the words are combined into a single adjective, καθολικη. When used to modify the word ekklēsía, one might read the phrase as “according to the entire assembly” or “throughout the whole church”. It requires no stretch of thought to see why the word “universal” is used in translation.

To take this one step further, please note the spelling of the word. The suffix identifies the word’s declension, which is a fancy way of saying number, case, and gender in a single word. Taking a glance at the Wiktionary entry for καθολικός, we can easily determine that for three grammatical cases, this variant of the word modifies a female noun (which εκκλησια is) and is singluar. Ignatius is talking about one church. This implies a level of unity beyond that of the local church and her bishop. Ignatius did not consider the Christian communities to be a loose federation of independent congregations, at least when it came to matters of faith.

Another Look

Now that we have examined the key words in question, let’s reconstruct the line in English based on the Greek above. Again, I am not going to explain every word as they can easily be referenced online. I used the Greek Dictionary Headword Search engine in the Perseus Digital Library at Tufts University to translate the line as follows:

The place where lights the bishop, there the multitude is one; even as, where is Christ Jesus, there is the whole assembly throughout.

Ignatius is clearly drawing an analogy that makes perfect sense in his plea for the Churches in Asia to remain in unity with their respective bishops who are, themselves, in unity insofar as the teaching of the faith is concerned. What’s more, this concept of the whole assembly of believers being ever-present with Christ is an expression of what Mircea Eliade would call sacred time and space, though whether Ignatius intended to convey this idea or if it was a product of divine inspiration will be left for discussion at another time.

Word Usage

Some make the argument that Ignatius coined the word καθολικη, based primarily on the observation that the word is not used in the Bible to describe the Church…in fact, it doesn’t appear at all in the Bible. (Such people also tend to be Fundamentalist Christians who only know the word “Catholic” as a proper name and who want to prove that the Church’s universal authority is illegitimate by claiming that Ignatius invented the word after the age of the Apostles and therefore it isn’t “Biblical”.) However, if the word καθολικη (or more properly, καθολικός) existed prior to the time of Christ and the Apostles (and was even found to be commonly used), then there should be instances of it in other Greek texts that predate the New Testament. Whether or not these texts are part of Sacred Scripture is, of course, immaterial, but it never hurts to start there.

The words κατά (2596) and ὅλος (3739) both appear numerous times in the New Testament (480 and 1411 respectively). The word καθό (2526), which means “according to”, is found four times (Rom 8:26, twice in 2 Cor 8:12, and 1 Peter 4:13). The word καθόλου (2527), which is an adverb meaning “entirely” or “at all”, is found once, in Acts 4:18: they instructed them not to teach at all in the name of Jesus. Browsing through Hatch & Redpath’s 1897 Concordance to the Septuagint (the Greek Old Testament), a similar pattern emerges: many references to the root words, a handful to καθό and καθόλου, and none for καθολικός. So, the root words and some similar words appear in the Bible, but the specific usage we are seeking here is not present.

A search of other Greek texts proves to be more fruitful. Again, using the Greek Dictionary Headword Search engine in the Perseus Digital Library, a search for words starting with καθολ resulted in over sixty hits across eleven works. Nine instances were found in the Histories of Polybius (200-118 B.C.), two of which concern making a “general assertion” (καθολικῆς ἀποφάσεως). The geopgrapher Strabo (63 B.C.-A.D.24; thus immediately prior to Jesus’ public ministry) used it in his work on Geography. The excerpt …ὥστ᾽ οὐδ᾽ ἔνεστι καθολικῶς εἰπεῖν ἐπὶ τῶν ἀπεριλήπτων τὸ πλῆθος… [Strab. 17.3] is translated in the accompanying English translation as “…so that it cannot be asserted generally of places indefinite in number…”, but could probably be reduced to “…it cannot be generally said…” So much for the notion that Ignatius was the original inventor of this word.

There are examples of the word being used by writers contemporary to Ignatius as well. The Stoic Philosopher Epictetus (A.D. 50-135) used the word six times in his Discourses. One sample drawn from that work is καθολικοῦ μέμνησο [book2, chapter 2], which is rendered in the accompanying English version as “Remember, then, the general rule…” but which could probably be simplified as “Remember generally…”. In a work called Tetrabiblos by Claudius Ptolemy (A.D. 100-170; yes, the same Ptolemy famous for his geocentric model of the universe), there can be found thirteen separate instances of the word with usages similar to those found in Polybius, such as to describe a calling, a custom, etc. Two more instances can be found in M. Antonius Imperator Ad Se Ipsum by Marcus Aurelius (A.D. 121-180). And so on and so forth. Even if the Perseus Digital Library contains a complete collection of ancient Greek texts, there is proof enough that the compound word καθολικός was common in ancient Greek texts, making Ignatius’ single use of it even less extraordinary.

Incidentally, the largest number of search hits (21 occurences) arose from the Church History according to Eusebius (~A.D. 260-341), six modifing the “assembly” (same usage as Ignatius), four in reference to letters or letter writers (i.e. epistles, as in the Catholic Epistles of Peter, Jude, James, and John), and the remainder modifying various other words to describe general knowledge, direction, order, etc. So, while this adjective was starting to grow in usage, it was still not used to refer exclusively to the Church, even in the Fourth Centruy writings of the Church Fathers.


Ignatius was not attempting to give a name to a universal church, or to coin a new phrase, but was simply using a common adjective to describe the collective of all Christian believers everywhere. In the long run, of course, that is what eventually happened. “Catholic Church” is a proper name that, today, specifically identifies an assembly of people around the world that is rooted in a common belief, and whose “headquarters” (if you want to call it that) is located in Rome. It is slightly more complicated than that, of course, because the Roman Church is just one of many that belong to this more universal collection of Churches, but then, this makes Ignatius’ message even more understandable for modern Catholics.

Addendum: New Questions

Doing this research has brought to mind two additional questions that will make for some interesting study in the future.

First, at what point in history did the word ‘Catholic’ become part of the proper name of the Church, and thus an adjective that exclusively associates whatever it modifies as belonging to the same? One might expect to find this usage prevailent in the writings of the Protestant Reformers and possibly even in Catholic writings in the years leading up to the Reformation. I have seen some claims online that explain how the Church didn’t have to qualify itself as Catholic until Protestant thought became widespread and uncontrollable. Perhaps this was the same reason καθολικός became so popular amongst the Church Fathers, as they were often combating the early heresies and wrote about how these strange beliefs contradicted the Church’s universal teachings.

Second, why does καθολικός not appear in Sacred Scripture? This may be much harder to answer, as it requires a deep understanding of ancient Greek and how the language evolved over time. It may have to do with the level of sophistication with which the various authors wrote. All of the examples given above where the word appears are from works written by scholars, philosophers, scientists, and even an Emperor! Their education, and thus their, command of the Greek language was undoubtedly superior to those common men who roughly incribed the stories of the Apostles while in hiding for fear of Roman persecution. Likewise, translation of ancient Hebrew writings, most of which had already been passed from age to age as oral traditions, into Greek may have dictated the use of simple language.

Perhaps these questions have already been answered in some scholarly works just waiting for me to discover.

January 21, 2017

Scottish Cathedral Permits Koranic Recitation


News broke last week about a cathedral in Scotland that permitted the recitation of a Surah from al Qur’an during the evening Epiphany service. To be clear, this was the Episcopal (i.e. Anglican) Saint Mary’s Cathedral in Glasgow, not the Presbyterian (i.e. Church of Scotland) Glasgow Cathedral. I soon found some still photos and then the video on YouTube (the highest-quality copy of which has since been removed). In them a young Muslim woman stands at a lectern shaped like an eagle as she sings in Arabic. Just beyond her sit a priest and the chancel choir in the transept of a beautiful old church. The sacred vessels are prepared and the rood screen adorned with strands of twinkling electric Christmas lights.

At first, I took this to mean that the Gospel reading (at what Catholics and many Anglicans would call a “Mass”) had been replaced with the Koranic account of the Annunciation and Nativity of Jesus, which is found in the nineteenth Surah (chapter) titled Maryam (Mary). This would, of course, undermine the very purpose of attending the Service, which is to hear the Word of God, receive some practical instruction in the faith based on those readings (the sermon), give thanks to God for his salvific work through his Son (the Eucharist), and then be sent out into the world to proclaim the good news to others. The Gospel message rests at the core of this mission. It is unthinkable to supplant the very basis of a Christian’s work with a non-Christian text.

Thankfully, this was not the case. True, the recitation was made during the Eucharistic service at Epiphany, but according to Provost Kelvin Holdsworth’s blog, the Eucharistic service carried on as usual: the expression of the community’s faith in Christ, the recitation of the Nicene Creed, and the proclamation of Christ’s divinity in the Eucharistic prayers. According to Holdsworth, the purpose for allowing the recitation was not to incorporate a teaching or form of worship from another religion into their own, but to make the Muslims who were visiting for that specific celebration to feel welcome and comfortable in the church. “Frankly, we think it is a good thing that Muslims are coming to church and hearing us proclaim the Gospel of Christ.” he writes. “No-one pretends that Muslims and Christians believe the same things. We know that Muslims don’t believe in the divinity of Christ – that’s a known and accepted fact. It isn’t surprising. […] We don’t do syncretism, we do hospitality.” Besides extending hospitality, the recitation also seems to have created opportunities for open dialogue between the Muslim and Christian congregants. Holdsworth adds that the recitation of selections from al Qur’an during Christian worship services is rare, but not unheard of, noting that it had been done a few years earlier in the very same Cathedral in the presence of the Bishop during a Lessons and Carols service without nearly the same amount of publicity or backlash.

And there certainly has been backlash. This service, “regarded locally as a good event” according to Holdsworth, was subsequently reported to the general online audience in a very negative way, giving rise to many hateful responses, including serious threats against the safety of the clergy and people of Saint Mary’s Cathedral. Considering that these responses were described by Holdsworth as Islamophobic, it can only be assumed that the majority of them came from Christians angered by the Cathedral’s actions. Indeed, highly-critical opinions of this event are not difficult to find on YouTube and other sites, and Christians seem to be the ones complaining about it. It seems quite ironic that those most concerned about Muslim violence against Christians would resort to threats of violence themselves. This can hardly be considered an appropriate Christian response.

One of the chief complaints that I have seen is that the Surah that was recited that Epiphany evening is particularly anti-Christian…which is actually a fairly accurate claim. Surah 19 begins with the annunciation stories of Zechariah and Mary, similar to what is found in the first chapter of Luke’s Gospel, followed by some mention of Old Testament Prophets, and then a foretelling of Paradise for the righteous and the judgement and punishment in which all non-believers are condemned to a fiery eternity. One of the worst things the unbelievers proclaim about God is that he had begotten a son, because having children is something that creatures do and it is not fitting for God to have a son. Well, that’s exactly what Christians do proclaim, isn’t it? I don’t know Arabic, so I couldn’t tell for myself which verses marked the beginning and the end of the recitation, but so far I have found several blogs claim that it ended with verse 36, which is at the end of the Marian narrative. Verse 35 is the first of two that state that God should not have a son (the other being verse 92) and was therefore included.

And what does the Anglican Church have to say? Only a day or two after the Epiphany service made Internet headlines, Bishop Michael Nazir-Ali, a prominent figure within the Anglican Communion and expert on Christian-Muslim relations, publicly condemned the practice of reading al Qur’an during Christian worship services and even called for disciplinary action for those involved at St. Mary’s Cathedral. He plainly explains that the Surah in question promotes the nontrinitarian heresy of adoptionism, this is, the belief that Jesus was not a true son of God, but merely adopted. This heresy has been around since the Second Century. Nazir-Ali’s condemnation brings us full-circle, back the the mission of the Church and the original purpose of the Eucharistic service.

Finally, on January 13th, the Scottish Episcopal Church released a statement on the matter, first recognizing the importance of interfaith work and then pledging to explore ways to strengthen interfaith relations in the context of worship. Regarding the specific controversy at St. Mary’s, however, the Primus is leaving that up to Provost Holdsworth and the Cathedral’s faith community.

July 28, 2016

Catholic Mass Bible Readings Coverage


Do Catholics read the Bible? You bet they do! But some other Christians want you to think otherwise. Here’s a good lesson on how to lie with infographics.

The Accusation

Catholics are often accused of claiming to be Christian and yet not reading the Bible. In one respect this is true, because the average Catholic is less likely to sit down and read the Bible from cover to cover in the same way an Evangelical Christian might. Like anything else, Catholic and Evangelical populations could be surveyed and the results analyzed statistically, and in doing so you will likely find plenty of people who do not fit the stereotype: Catholics that read their Bibles all the time and Evangelicals that don’t.

In Reality

What Evangelicals don’t realize is that Catholics hear much more of the Bible than they read. There are four readings (OT, Psalm, NT, Gospel) assigned for each holy day of obligation (i.e. all Sundays and certain feast days). There are also three “cycles” arranged such that the Gospel of Matthew is covered in Cycle A, Mark in Cycle B, and Luke in Cycle C. The Gospel of John is spread across certain days throughout the year, but especially in the seasons of Lent and Easter.

The Infographic

A year or so ago, someone I follow on Twitter posted an infographic, which can be found here on imgur, that plots the readings throughout the liturgical the year. The imgur post includes a bit of explanatory information about how to read the graph, followed by the following note to the reader: “Notice all of the blank space. Only 14.2% of the entire bible is read during mass over the course of three years.” Yikes! Only 14.2%? That’s not a lot!

Something’s Not Quite Right

Yes, the graph shows a lot of blank space; however, notice that time is depicted on the X-axis. This means that the plotted area does not actually represent the pure volume of content. How should this graph be read then?


I decided to conduct a little test to see how accurate the 14.2% claim actually is. To do this, the following assumptions were made:

  1. The graph is intended to be an accurate representation of the data.
    Which is the claim being made, right?
  2. Each of the black hash marks represent one holy day.
    There are 52 Sundays and about 5 non-Sunday Holy Days of Obligation, making 57 total. The year is depicted as a 286-pixel block, which means each mark should be 5.02 pixels wide on average. Indeed, spot-checking reveals that most are either 6 or 7 pixels wide, with a few as short as 4 pixels.
  3. Each of the black hash marks represent a unique section of Scripture.
    It is unclear exactly how the volume of content is presented here. Do the marks represent whole chapters? Individual stories? Segments of verses? But it doesn’t really matter, because the next assumption is that…
  4. The height of the plotted area represents 100% coverage of Bible content.
    The plotted area is 741 pixels in height. According to multiple sources on the Web, the Protestant Bible contains 1,189 chapters, which is greater than 741, so each mark can’t represent a chapter exactly. The Catholic Bible contains a few additional books, but not enough to allow for each pixel to represent two chapters.


The test required some simple graphical manipulation of the picture using a paint program (in the case I used GIMP). There were three basic steps:

  1. Remove time from the graph.
    This was done by extending each of the black hash marks to fully cover the year in which it was found. I did this for all marks in all three years, and then cut most of each year out, leaving only a thin ribbon to represent it’s coverage.
  2. Find the cumulative coverage.
    Using the layers feature, I moved a copy of each year’s content volume to form a column of combined (or cumulative) coverage.
  3. Compress the volume to determine percentage.
    This was tedious, but I removed all blank space between the bands of black on a copy of the cumulative column, resulting in a 315-pixel bar, and placed it on top of a grey, 741-pixel tall background.

The Result

My cumulative coverage columns are shown to the right of the original graph below. The columns for Cycles A, B, and C are labeled accordingly, the combined coverage column is labeled with a Sigma, and the percentage coverage column with a percent sign. The result is that a whopping 42.5% of the Bible is read during Mass on Sundays and Holy Days alone.


Notice that there is essentially full coverage of the Gospels over three years, nearly full coverage of the rest of the New Testament, a heavy concentration on certain Old Testament books (e.g. Genesis, Exodus, major prophets like Isaiah), and lighter coverage on books that even Protestants don’t pay much attention to (e.g. Numbers, Kings, Chronicles, minor prophets, etc.).


The poster’s claim that only 14.2% of the Bible is read during days of obligation is incorrect. This is obviously not a perfect test, because there are a lot of assumptions and unknowns about how the original author is depicting the data; however, the margin between 14.2% and 42.5% is far too wide to be simple error.

Is the imgur poster trying to mislead you, assuming you will simply take the graphic at face value? Maybe. I have considered the possibility that the 14.2% claim was based on the percentage of the plotted area covered by black pixels, in which case the poster actually misinterpreted the graph. It is not clear whether or not the person who posted the graphic on imgur and the author of the graphic are the same person.

Wait, There’s More…

This infographic covered readings for holy days on which Catholics are required (yes, not expected, but required by Church law) to attend so that they may hear them, live them, and share them with others. What is not covered are the readings for the rest of the week! Most Catholics don’t attend daily Mass, but those that do will hear even more of the Bible! You can visit the Liturgy page on the USCCB website for more details on that.

April 15, 2016

Why Christians Hate Religion

Filed under: Christianity,Religion — Brandon @ 4:58 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,


The word religion has gotten a bad reputation lately, not with atheists, but with Christians! I decided it was time to find out why. To quote the famous words of Inigo Montoya, “I do not think it means what you think it means.”

Haters Gonna Hate

Search for the hashtags #ihatereligion, #religionstinks, and #godhatesreligion on Twitter, Facebook, and even Instragram, and you will find posts (to use the term generically) from a variety of people stating why they hate religion. The reasons are often specific and the language quite emphatic. At a high level, the vast majority of the posters can be classified as belonging to one of two broad groups of people.

Atheists. As one might easily guess, Atheists comprise the first group. Some just want to rant, often targeting Christianity or Islam explicitly. The bases for their opinions are not new: religion is a collection of fairy tales, religion contradicts science, religion is only good for starting wars, etc. Others have simply lost their faith and deny God, usually because they are suffering from a great loss. Ever hear someone ask how a loving god could possibly allow something so awful (e.g. cancer, terrorism, etc.) to exist? But today I’m not interested in exploring why Athiests hate religion. It’s expected. It’s what they do. It’s in the name.

Christians. It’s the second group of posters that seems counterintuitive: Christians! After all, wouldn’t most people classify Christianity as a religion? This notion isn’t exactly new. You may remember a viral video released by Christian evangelist Jefferson Bethke in 2012 titled Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus. With almost 31 million views to date, it is still available on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. I’d really like to decompose the content of that video, but that’s a post for another day. Bethke’s message is that religion always interferes with one’s ability to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. The aforementioned posts sing pretty much the same tune. By the way, there are a good number of evangelical pastors that exude this message on social media channels, constantly re-enforcing the hate rhetoric amongst their followers.

On a side note, I really expected to see more posts from the spiritual-but-not-religious crowd, not so much the New Age followers, but the disenchanted Christians who for one reason or another have given up on church, but can’t bring themselves to totally give up on God. Common reasons for holding this position include hypocrisy within the church organization to which they belong and sheer boredom with the routine they’ve been forced to keep since childhood with no perceived benefit. Sometimes they claim to hate “organized” religion. Even if they really do hate religion, they don’t seem to be very vocal about it. You are more likely to hear them express their non-religiosity when you extend an invitation to attend a worship service.

What Is Religion Anyway?

It seems appropriate that if you are going to hate something so badly that you have to tell the world about it, then you should at least understand what it is first. Unfortunately, I don’t think that is the case with our Christian hater friends. Let’s take a moment to examine the meaning of religion and get a feel for what it really means to be religious.

Etymology. When it comes to defining words, I always like to start by studying their etymological origins. According to the Online Etymology Dictionary, religion is derived from French and Latin, and is defined by words and phrases like devotion, respect for the sacred, reverence, conscientiousness, moral obligation, faith, and worship. Given these definitions, it is hard to understand why any Christian would object to religion, since these words describe Christians of just about any stripe. Faith is obviously an important Christian concept, and any Christian excited about their faith will likely self-identify as being devoted to Christ. Christians worship in a variety of ways, some traditional, some contemporary (some with rock concerts). And based on the parables of Jesus, Christians generally agree that they are under a moral obligation to love their neighbors as themselves, even if they don’t believe it is required for salvation. Next, let’s examine how the word has been used by various writers throughout time.

Cicero (45 B.C.). In writing on the nature of the [Roman] gods, Cicero wrote, “Piety, as with other virtues, cannot exist as a pretense (i.e. an outward display only). Without piety, sanctity and religion must be eliminated, leading to a life of turmoil and great confusion.” [De Natura Deorum, Book I, Chapter 2] In this case, Cicero uses the word religionem, which can be translated as: conscientiousness, sense of right, moral obligation, duty. This agrees with the French usage explained above. It is noteworthy that Cicero distinguishes between those who offer an abundance of prayers and sacrifices for something (in the case of this text, for the long lives of their children) as a superstitious people and those who carefully read (and reread, i.e. study) about those things which the gods require in worship as being religious. The former are admonished and the latter praised. [De Natura Deorum, Book II, Chapter 28] Here, Cicero uses the word religiosi, meaning one who is devout, which again agrees with the etymology described above. [Please note, I am referencing Cicero only because his works are often cited to show how the English word ‘religion’ was derived from Latin. The fact that he writes in the context of a pagan religion is irrelevant to the usage and meaning of the word itself.]

Lactantius. Lactantius was an early Christian writer and advisor to Emperor Constantine. His work The Divine Institutes outlines the false worship of gods and the false wisdom of the philosophers, and then expounds upon true wisdom and religion, justice, worship, and how to lead a happy life. Like Cicero, Lactantius distinguishes between religion as the cultivation of truth and superstition as the cultivation of that which is false. He goes on to say that how one worships (e.g. which prayers are used) is not important in comparison to what one worships (i.e. the pagan gods vs. the one true God). In disagreement with the notion that being religious must come from learning, however, Lactantius claims that religion is derived from the bond of piety. God is, after all, our master and father, and deserves our full obedience. [Divinarum Institutionum, Book IV, Chapter 28]

Augustine (426 A.D.). Saint Augustine also employed religio to mean duty to God. In the tenth book of The City of God, Augustine explores the words that one might use to describe man’s duty to serve God alone. [De Civitate Dei, Book X, Chapter 1] Two chapters later, when commenting on Matthew 22:37-40, he says this about the love of neighbor: Hic est Dei cultus, haec vera religio, haec recta pietas, haec tantum Deo debita servitus (translated: Here is worship of God, here true religion, here right piety, here the service due only to God). Wait, did he just say ‘true religion’ and ‘God alone’? Evangelical Fundamentalists are often taken aback when they hear such words attributed to a Catholic patriarch; after all, shouldn’t Augustine be writing about worshiping statues of Mary and other such abominations? Maybe he too was spiritual but not religious, right? Wrong. In fact, he wrote a work titled On True Religion shortly before becoming a Catholic priest (390 A.D.). Primarily an appeal for the Christian faith to the Manicheans, it mentions much about religious rites and Christian discipline, and even the exclusion of members of other religious sects from the Catholic communion on the grounds that they differ in doctrine, despite similarities in their rituals. [De Vera Religiones, paragraph v,9]. Another point made by Augustine [paragraph x,19] with which many Christians would agree is this: “Don’t serve the creature instead of the Creator or have empty thoughts. That is perfect religion (perfecta religio est)“. Finally, he exhorts “Let religion bind us to the one almighty God” (religet nos religio uni omnipotenti Deo). In this last quote, Augustine clearly agrees with Lactantius that religion is more than mere duty, but a binding relationship with the Lord.

Thomas Aquinas (~1260 A.D.). In addressing the question as to whether or not religion directs man to God alone, Saint Thomas cites both Cicero and Augustine, explaining their various opinions, but reasons further that regardless of how the word evolved, it clearly denotes a relationship with God. Not only should be bind ourselves to God, and continually seek him, but we should always strive to recover the relationship with him that we lose whenever we sin. [Summa Theologica II-II, Q 81 A 1]

Modern Usage. Take a sample of definitions from modern dictionaries and you will find that the first definition will almost always refer to a belief (and worship) in a supernatural power (in a god or set of gods). This definition is usually followed, if not immediately, by a reference to rituals, ceremonies, observances, practices, teachings and rules. According to the same Online Etymology Dictionary article cited above, the English definition of a “particular system of faith” actually dates back to as early as 1300 A.D., not long after Aquinas wrote the Summa.

Ecclesiastical Usage. When the Church refers to someone being religious, it typically means that the person is a member of a religious order, living apart from society and according to a particular devotion. This refers, of course, to monks, nuns, and brothers and sisters in religious communities. These people bind themselves to God voluntarily in daily prayer and recitation of Scripture, and they make God the focus in every aspect of their everyday lives. The local parish priest is typically not a religious in accordance with this definition, though some parishes are run by, say, Dominican priests or Third Order Franciscans, to give two examples. Again, the notions of duty and binding, and even the concept of drawing oneself closer to God through re-reading are all present.

Pope Leo XIII (1885 A.D.) Returning to the modern meaning of religion as a particular set of beliefs, Pope Leo XIII had the following to say while examining the relationship between religion and the state:

To hold, therefore, that there is no difference in matters of religion between forms that are unlike each other, and even contrary to each other, most clearly leads in the end to the rejection of all religion in both theory and practice. And this is the same thing as atheism, however it may differ from it in name. [Immortale Dei, 31]

Clearly, this is a refutation of religious pluralsim, but it contains within it a basic principle born out of our own human nature: religious practice keeps man close to God. To keep from wandering into disbelief, man must find some way to bind himself with the Lord, and this binding, as we have seen in the previous excerpts, is itself religion.

Still Hating?

From what we’ve read above, it doesn’t sound like religion is a bad thing at all. In fact, it sounds like an essential part of maintaining a right relationship with God. So where does the negative connotation come from?

Without an exhaustive study of religious literature, it would be hard to pinpoint exactly when this mentality become popular, but traces of it can clearly be seen in American Christianity and the revival movement starting in the mid- to late-1800s. In order to demonize Catholicism, Christian writers and preachers (who were either ignorant of or chose to ignore everything we’ve covered thus far) have since gone to great lengths to paint the Church as a corrupt organization with satanic intentions and superstitious practices designed to achieve nothing but to keep its members as far from God as possible. This certainly shines through in works like Ellen G. White’s The Great Controversy (1888) and Loraine Boettner’s Roman Catholicism (1962). One might even successfully argue that these sentiments can be traced directly to Martin Luther. One quote attributed to Luther seems to use the word religious in the pejorative: “The Pope is a mere tormentor of conscience. The assembly of his greased and religious crew in praying was altogether like the croaking of frogs, which edified nothing at all.” If the hate for religion was seeded in Protestantism, it has been most effectively fertilized in Christian Fundamentalism.

Extreme Thinking

I will close with this thought. If religion is binding oneself voluntarily to God, then it is perfected in Heaven where his will is done perfectly. Only in Hell is one truly free from religion, as no creature therein has ever chosen to bind themselves to him, for if they had, then they would not be there presently. In the end analysis, all hate originates from one source.

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