Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Enmity Between Catholicism and Totalitarianism IV


Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.

Albert Einstein, Time Magazine 1940

We ought to truly acknowledge and heartily proclaim: Bishop Cornelius of Rome occupied his episcopal see at a time when a hostile tyrant was making threats of punishments...against God's priests. Yet the emperor admitted that he would have received more calmly and tranquilly the news of a rival emperor than the report of the recent election of another bishop of Rome. Cornelius first
defeated with a bishop's strength the tyrant who later died in battle by force of arms.


Eusebius, History of the Church Fourth century A.D.
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2. The Papacy: The Standard Bearer of Catholicism and the Bulwark Against Political Tyranny:

We come to the second reason why the Catholic Church can answer the claims of the Totalitarianism of the State:

Unlike Protestantism, Judaism and Islam, the Catholic Church possesses a centrally defined office and an authoritative voice who gives official interpretation to what it teaches; and that voice is that of the Bishop of Rome; better known as the pope or the papacy. His entourage of Church officials- mostly comprised of Cardinals and Bishops –is the prophetic teaching office of the Church; also known as the Holy See or the Magisterium. For two thousand years faithful Catholics have believed that the authority of the pope, who is the successor of St. Peter, not only originates with Jesus Christ but is exercised in his stead. Such an authority cannot be easily dismissed by factions and dissenters.

There are two advantages of having a well-defined, central authority in the Catholic Church:

First, the pope provides clarity as to what an authentic Catholic is. It furthermore represents the longstanding teachings of the Church. It is possible, therefore, to identify faithful or orthodox Catholics from dissenters or nominal Catholics. In the last fifty years, the confusion between the authentic and the nominal Catholic resulted from a failure of the clergy to exercise its God-given, disciplinary authority. On the other hand, one of the challenges which face Westerners with regard to Islam is that it is difficult to discern between an authentic-mainstream Muslim and a radical Muslim who preaches jihad as it understood by terrorists. Indeed, there is no leading imam who can authoritatively speak for Sunni, Wahhabi, and Shia Muslims; or who can authoritatively render an official interpretation of the Koran; especially with regard to the true meaning of jihad. There may be consensus among some circles, but certainly no follower can be reproved by a central authority founded by Mohammad, the founder of Islam.

The same difficulty applies to Judaism and Protestantism. In the Lutheran denomination alone, there are several divisions; some differing on doctrinal matters. Both Judaism and Protestantism are fluid and quite adaptable to the times and the conditions in which it finds itself. As Albert Einstein indicated, when the tidal wave of totalitarianism comes ashore, religions or ideologies that are fluid and impressionable break down quite easily and are silenced.

The second among the advantages of a well-defined, central authority in the Catholic Church is that it is much more resistant to being absorbed into the State. From the very beginning of the life of our Lord, the State proved to be a menace. Even as an infant, the Messiah proved to be a threat to King Herod. Certainly, it does not have to be this way nor was it this way all the time throughout the history of the Church. Nevertheless, in her early years the Church felt the full wrath of the pagan State. The teaching by Jesus to his followers that they should give to God what belongs to God and give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar resulted in much bloodshed. After all, in ancient paganism, everything belonged to Caesar. And let there be no doubt, the Roman Emperors and many political leaders to come took great offense to this new and revolutionary doctrine of Christianity. Today, it is greeted with even less enthusiasm by Totalitarian States.

The Catholic Church, therefore, has a demonstrated heritage of reminding governments that its power is limited and is meant to be at the service of the people. Time and time again Catholic bishops checked and pushed back the overreaching advances of the State. In matters relating to the liberty of the soul or the sovereignty of the Church, civil authority had no jurisdiction.

Bishop Ossius of Cordoba, who presided at the first General Council of Nicea on behalf of Pope St. Sylvester, wrote tin 356 A.D. to the Roman Emperor Constantius, reminding him who he was before God. He said, “Cease these proceedings, I beseech you, and remember that you are a mortal man. Be afraid of the Day of Judgment and keep yourself pure thereunto. Do not intrude yourself into ecclesiastical matters; neither give us commands concerning them but learn from us.” Writing to the same emperor, Bishop of Cagliari, reinforced the message of Ossius by writing: “I want you to know that despite all of your cruelty you lie helpless at the feet of God’s servants and all your imperial pomp Is for us nothing for us you are with all of your authority of your empire only a passing breeze.”

That same century, St. Ambrose, bishop of Milan, was engaged in a physical confrontation with the Christian Roman Emperor, Theodosius II. It just so happened that the emperor killed 6,000 Thessalonians in an uprising. After this unjust onslaught, the emperor presumed to enter the cathedral in Milan. However, St. Ambrose physically withstood him, demanding that he do public penance; and public penance he did.

These confrontations between the Shepherds of the Church and the Roman Emperors were monumental. Interestingly enough, they did not simply draw the line between the Church and State by simply writing letters and books; with a face to face confrontation as St. Ambrose did with the Roman emperor Theodosius II and as Pope St. Leo the Great did with Attila of the Hun, they put their lives on the line. They impressed upon Christians that heads of State whose authority was not absolute or supreme but instead it was be at the service of the people. As St. Paul said in Romans 13 reminds us, their authority is from God. Our Lord himself reminded Pilate, "You would have no power over me if it had not been given to you from above."

Among the two hundred and sixty six popes in the Church’s history, there are countless letters to Emperors, Kings, Presidents and Dictators. Animated with the Spirit of Christ, they gave voice to the rights of God and the superiority of the spiritual order over that of the political; reminding rulers of the fleeting nature of civil authority and that one day it they will be held accountable. Their words to the powerful took on a similar tone to the following passage from the book of Wisdom: “Hearken, you who are in power over the multitude and lord it over throngs of peoples! Because authority was given you by the LORD and sovereignty by the Most High, who shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels!” (6:2-3)

The Catholic Church has within its storehouse the means of not only resisting political tyranny but building up, once again, all that was good in Christian civilization. But chief among the means by bring this about is the successor of St. Peter, the pope. Through his ministry, dissenters can be distinguished from faithful Catholics and the Church Universal is prevented from being co-opted by the State. These are two important advantages which strengthen the enmity between Catholicism and totalitarianism.

Next blog- The third reason why Catholicism can give answer to the claims of the Totalitarian State: The intellectual heritage of its moral and political theology.

The Enmity between Catholicism and Totalitarianism III


It lies in the very nature of man that something must be supreme, something must take the place of the divine when this has been excluded; and this substitute for God, according to a predominant philosophy, is the State.

James Cardinal Gibbons, 1919 Pastoral Letter to the Catholic Church in America
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I. Catholicism is Spiritually Totalitarian:

We come to the first reason why Catholics can answer the claims of the Totalitarian State:

First, Catholic spirituality is totalitarian in nature. Totalitarianism is only a blessing in the spiritual realm. But when the life of faith wanes and ceases to inform daily life, the political order takes its place. The State is more likely to be a servant when granted limited power. However, when assuming unlimited power, it invariably behaves like a master. Hence, dedication to a religion or ideology on a part-time basis or adherent who put forth half measures is in no position to withstand the Totalitarian State, be it Secular or Islamic.

It has become more apparent that the drive of Secular totalitarianism in the United States will spare no part of daily life if left unchecked. What was considered off limits by imperial and autocratic States of old, is now subject to scrutiny by the modern State. The following areas, once considered to be of the private sector, is now within the control of federal, state and local governments: a child's diet in public schools, light bulbs, student backpacks, corporate profit margins, health care and banking. With a few setbacks here and there, the political momentum is favoring an unprecedented expansion of the jurisdiction of the State. When we consider the Islamic State, on the other hand, it will undoubtedly have different priorities; nevertheless, it will be no less totalitarian than its secular counterpart. In either case, religious liberty among Christians will not be tolerated.

An alternative, therefore, to Secular and Islamic totalitarianism must be all-encompassing and every bit as totalitarian. This cannot be emphasized enough. In its truest essence, the Catholic Faith is meant to be a way of life twenty four hours a day and seven days a week. The reason why Dawson assigned religion to the sphere of the absolute is because God, eternity, morality and spirituality touches upon every aspect of human existence. With respect to the Church, there is no phase of life that does not fall under its purview. Indeed, it encompasses the totality of life.

In every parish, for instance, a priest baptizes infants, oversees the education and sanctification of children and adolescents, prepares young couples for marriage and presides at their wedding, and most important, prepares the dying for eternity. What is more, confessions are heard from people whose age ranges from eight to a hundred years of age. And to be sure, there is not a sin that a priest hasn’t had to absolve.

The Divine Liturgy (or the Mass) is yet another expression of the life of the Church which is celebrated every day. In this venue, the same Scripture readings are proclaimed throughout the world. The clergy also prays the Divine Office (composed of Scripture and prayers of the Church) at least four times a day, and in every continent so that there is a uninterrupted hymn to the Lord throughout the whole world.

To repeat, the impact of Catholicism on the human person, by its very nature, is spiritually and morally totalitarian; this, more so than any other religion. But as Dawson indicated, when the Faith is relegated to the relative or private sphere, hence only occupying a small portion of human existence, what fills the void is too often a political form of totalitarianism. This has been demonstrated time and time again throughout history.

The Catholic Faith, if it be fully applied, orders life from within; thus making political interventions less necessary. No doubt, the regularity of prayer, the examination of conscience, spiritual reading and a firm resolve to amend one’s life are just a few means through which a Catholic becomes a better person and a law abiding citizen of the State. From these daily spiritual exercises, a network of sound relationships is bound to result; relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children, among neighbors, among citizens and the political give and take between the State and the citizen is better secured.

The second reason why the Catholic Church can best answer the claims of the Totalitarian State…on the next blog.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Emnity between Catholicism and Totalitarianism II


Overview:

There are two kinds of totalitarianism that are mounting a campaign against the American way of life: Secular totalitarianism from within and an Islamic totalitarianism from without. Both are poised to radically change life as we know it.

Historically, the Catholic Church inspired principles and virtues which led to the veneration of the individual person over that of the State or any institution. Public institutions come and go but unlike institutions the individual person possesses an immortal soul. As Pope Pius XI said in his encyclical On Atheistic Communism, man is a microcosm, a world in miniature. With the Light of the Gospel illuminating the dignity of the human soul, the State ceased to be supreme. In early Christianity, the Bishops of the Church reminded emperors, kings and civil leaders that they are the servants of the people. But as the influence of Christianity faded in modern times, the cult of the State reared its ugly head again. Unlike its pagan predecessor, however, the post-Christian or the modern State has, as the twentieth century has shown, capable of being totalitarian. With modern technology, it is possible for the State to be omnipresent, controlling every component of society.

There are four reasons why Catholicism can answer the claims of the Totalitarianism of the State. Ultimately, any kind of sectarian religion or ideology which relies only on ideas- and here I include Conservatism -can help stem the tide of an all-powerful State as a defensive measure but only with a temporary result. The answer to totalitarianism has to go deep and it has to cover the spectrum of human existence for favorable results to be permanent.

First, Catholicism is totalitarian in the best sense of the word. There is not a facet of life which does not come under the purview of God and which is not ministered to by the Catholic Church. The response to the Totalitarian State cannot be met with partial commitments or half measures; the answer must be total.

Second, unlike Judaism, Islam or Protestantism, the Catholic Church possesses a central authority that is well-defined and one that speaks for all Catholics. It is the prophetic teaching office of the pope which is also known as the papacy. This two-thousand year old office through which St. Peter continues to minister has served to keep the Church from being absorbed into the State.

Thirdly, the Catholic Church is the only religious body that has a two thousand year moral and political theology. With developed and well-defined principles Catholics can mount a consistent and coherent response to political totalitarianism; one that is grounded in the truth of God and human nature. However, if a church is as fluid as, let’s say, the Anglican Church has been over the last century, changing fundamental doctrines, then conformity to an all-powerful State is all the more likely.

Fourth and last point, and probably the most important, is the fullness of grace and moral vigor the Lord confers through the Catholic Church. Through the Sacraments, and principally through the Divine Liturgy, Jesus Christ gives his life; and it is in the initiation of these mysteries of Christ that people were not only sanctified but civilized. Ideas alone or even truth alone is insufficient in sustaining a Christian civilization.

More on the next blog-

The Enmity between Catholicism and Totalitarianism


For if the State has become too totalitarian, that is because the average Christian has not been totalitarian enough.

Christopher Dawson, Religion and the Modern State 1935
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In previous blogs I proposed that the only religion capable of withstanding totalitarianism is the Catholic religion. With other points to be made about the issue or topic at hand, there was little room to elaborate on these auxiliary points. As a postscript to the blogs which stated that there is a natural enmity between Catholicism and the Totalitarianism of the State, below is an attempt to give its rationale.


Preface:

Christopher Dawson, a Catholic historian, wrote in 1935 just a few years before World War II that it is only by belonging to the City of God, or the Catholic Church, that “we shall find an answer to the claims of the Totalitarian State. For if the State has become too totalitarian, that is because the average Christian has not been totalitarian enough." From the nineteenth century into the twentieth century Europe had become more and more secular. What Christianity lost in terms of influence, totalitarianism gained. As James Cardinal Gibbons said in 1919: “[I]t lies in the very nature of man that something must be supreme, something must take the place of the divine when this has been excluded; and this substitute for God, according to a predominant philosophy, is the State.”

As history bears witness, one of the saddest episodes of human cruelty in the twentieth century was the Third Reich's campaign against the Jews in Germany. Albert Einstein, who was of Jewish descent, was surprised by who would and who would not come to the defense of his persecuted people. Due to his prejudices, he could not anticipate who would answer the claims of the Totalitarian State. In the December’s edition of Time Magazine, 1940, he said that he looked to the universities and the great editors of newspapers for help as his people were being rounded up and sent to concentration camps. However, these so-called champions of freedom were silenced. But one institution did publicly resist Hitler’s ruthless totalitarian campaign and that was the Catholic Church. He continues:

Only the Church stood squarely across the path of Hitler’s campaign for suppressing truth. I never had any special interest in the Church before, but now I feel a great affection and admiration because the Church alone has had the courage and persistence to stand for intellectual truth and moral freedom. I am forced thus to confess that what I once despised I now praise unreservedly.

Time and time again throughout her two thousand year history, the Catholic Church served as the balance against the overreaching arm of the State. From the very beginning, in the Apostolic era, the followers of Christ were persecuted by the State. Indeed, the Catholic Church was always conscious of that tension between her mission to save souls and the State's duty to govern. And the future is sure to bear out that she is the only one that can ward off the Totalitarian State. This is not to say that Catholics will be only ones resisting the totalitarian claims; indeed there are many who are unaffiliated with the Church who are fighting the good fight. However, as we will see, the Catholic Church possesses the God-given ability to salvage all that is praiseworthy in Western Civilization. After all, it is due to her inspiration that this civilization came into being to begin with.

The overview and the four reasons why there is an inherent enmity between Catholicism and the Totalitarianism of the State in the next blog.

Monday, February 21, 2011

The Sermon on the Mount: Raising the Moral Standard III


As opposed to the Mosaic Law, Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, puts the emphasis first and foremost on a person's interior; that is, on his thoughts and desires. As the saying goes: “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny.” But in the absence of God's presence in souls, the Mosaic Law was powerless to restore morality. It was an exterior system of rituals which had more symbolic value than anything else. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, a new spiritual order would be forthcoming.

The prophet Ezekiel prophesied the following: “I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts. I will put my spirit within you and make you live by my statutes, careful to observe my decrees.” Jesus came to fulfill this passage from the prophet Ezekiel through his public ministry, his death and resurrection and the sending of his Spirit from heaven. In the Sermon on the Mount, he raises the moral aim of his followers. With the impending infusion of the Holy Spirit into willing souls, Christians would be given a new moral power; as such, the demands of the moral law would be elevated.

It is important to understand that the new family of God would not only be given a new law but would also have a divine model in which to imitate. Nevertheless, the observance of the moral law and the imitation of his example would prove to be insufficient. In the New Covenant, the people of God would be called to live the very life of Christ. The interior life of God- which is none other than the Holy Spirit -is communicated through the Sacraments. From this union with God, we can think with Christ and live as he did.

The Sermon on the Mount: Raising the Moral Standard II


The Hebrew religion with all the prescribed rituals would have to appeal to the senses, that is, it was physical in nature and its observances had to be exact. All this was to symbolize man's lot in relation to God. To be sure, the Lord had not abandoned mankind completely but his fellowship with him was strained. In many ways, God assumed the role of a master instead of a Father. All this because the Sons of God (Seth's descendants) chose to marry the Daughters of Men (Cain's descendants); in so doing they signaled their faith was secondary thereby taking a fateful step away from their Creator and Friend.

If, after reading the Old Testament, God seems severe and even caustic at times, it was because man had created this relationship. But God, who is a loving Father, did not let man walk wander too far off the path.

Some time had passed when the descendants of Noah and his three sons wanted to make a name for themselves by building the famous tower of Babel. This enterprise, however, was displeasing to the Lord. He subsequently intervened and divided humanity along ethnic lines into seventy-two nations. Confusing their language, God has prevented this enterprise from going forward.

It wasn't until Pentecost that the Holy Spirit once again descended upon humanity to restore both its moral power and fraternal unity. This would be realized only through Jesus' relationship with the Father; and this divine relationship would not only be revealed by the Spirit who binds them together but men, women and children would be invited to partake of this relationship.

With this backdrop in mind, the significance of the Sermon on the Mount can be better understood. Jesus fulfilled his Father's will with perfection; and he did this in the Spirit. Knowing that his followers would possess the same Holy Spirit he possessed, he would then elevate the demands of the moral law. In other words, he raised the bar and demanded more than what was previously demanded by God in the Old Testament. For instance, he said, “You have heard that it was said to your ancestors, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills will be liable to judgment. But I say to you, whoever is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment.'” Our Lord continued: “You have heard it said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you, everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”

More on the next blog-

The Sermon on the Mount: Raising the Moral Standard


Jesus fulfilled the law because he lived out his life in the Holy Spirit. That is to say, the Spirit of God dwelling within him, inspired every one of his thoughts,words and deeds. Our Lord perfectly conformed to the will of his Father by means of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. The prophet Isaiah foretold this when he said, “The spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him: a spirit of wisdom and of understanding, A spirit of counsel and of strength, a spirit of knowledge and of fear of the LORD, and his delight shall be the fear of the LORD.” However, prior to the descent of the Holy Spirit at Petecost, the human race, as a rule, was devoid of these divine gifts.. Indeed, man was at the mercy of his own human frailty.

Before God flooded the earth- even after Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit -his Spirit had abided with mankind. But when the descendants of Seth (God's faithful) had relations with women who belonged to the tribe of Cain (the unfaithful), known as the “Daughters of Men.” (Gen. 6:4). It was this act of infidelity on the part of Seth's tribe that moved the Lord to punish humanity and baptize the world, as it were, with forty days and forty nights of rain. As the story goes, God's favor fell upon Noah and his family; and the rest is history. But even more important than the flood itself was the withdrawl of his Spirit. He said, “My spirit shall not remain in man forever, since he is but flesh.” Upon the departure of his Spirit, knowledge of God, the spiritual gifts, the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity, and that mark of civility which characterized Christian civilization centuries later, would scarce in the Old Testament world.

After exiting the ark, the Lord established a covenant with Noah. But the world would not be the same: as when the Lord had walked side by side with Enoch. No. The new rules that were to govern mankind resembled what Charles Darwin coined as “the survival of the fittest.” Indeed, God inaugurated an “eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth” policy; murder would be met with the death penalty; instead of living on plants alone, man would eat animal flesh; and in the post-flood world animals would become ill-disposed towards humans through fear. The main point to keep in mind is that from the flood onward, the standard of morality lowered considerably. For instance, God never approved but nevertheless condoned polygamy and concubinage among his servants such as Abraham, Jacob, Moses and David. Warfare was brutal, capital punishment merciless, and divine punishment was severe and even dramatic at times. Human beings without God's Spirit were like little children who did not understand a well reason argument as to why certain things were morally good or evil. Like a spoiled and unruly child, they were only able to appreciate the impact of God's heavy hand against their backside.

More on the next blog-

Saturday, February 19, 2011

What America can learn from Caesarea Philippi IV


[B]y pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient Church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious Apostles, Peter and Paul, that Church has the tradition and the faith which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the Apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition.

Just as there are four regions of the world in which we live, and four universal winds, and since the Church is disseminated over all the earth, and the pillar and the mainstay of the Church is the Gospel, the breath of life, it is fitting that she have four pillars [i.e., four Gospels], breathing immortality on every side and enkindling life in men anew.


-St. Irenaeus, 180 A.D.

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In the eighth century B.C., the descendants of Abraham had fallen away from the worship of Yahweh, the one true God, and turned to other gods. From amidst this religious confusion, the prophet Isaiah raised his voice and told them to return to the rock from which they were hewn; the rock being father Abraham. It was on this rock where God's lighthouse shined the light of truth. Similarly, St. Irenaeus, Bishop and Martyr in the second century A.D., found himself surrounded by those who had succumbed to error and had fallen away from the Gospel preached by the Apostles. In order to demontrate the truth of the Gospel it wasn't enough debate his opponents using Scriptural passages; instead, he simply pointed to those churches that were founded by the Apostles. The most important among them, he said, was the church of Rome where St. Peter and St. Paul had laid its foundations. This Church, he continued, is superior in origin and all other churches must agree with it. Because from her proceeds the breath of immortality which enkindles life in men anew.

As we have said, Jesus founded his Church upon the Rock, who was St. Peter. This Rock became a mountain which covered the earth. (cf. Daniel 2:35) For centuries, the nations would stream toward this mountain to receive the knowledge of God. The ministry of St. Peter continues to this day through Pope Benedict XVI. From him comes the religious and moral certainty amid a confused world. It is the same Rock that Abraham represented; it is the same Rock upon which Christ built his Church; and this Rock is none other than God himself. As our Lord promised, the gates of hell would not prevail against it. If hell cannot prevail against it, neither can Islamic and Secular totalitarianism.

On the other hand, the ambivalence of religious pluralism and egalitarianism is no match for Islamic and Secular totalitarianism. The deference paid to other religious leaders by Liam Neeson may be the etiquette in Hollywood; disavowing the Christian identity of America by President Obama during a press conference in Turkey may have been a politically correct posture; however, this neutrality and open-mindedness, so highly esteemed now days, makes for a poor foundation for any civilization.

Western Civilization, if it is to retain the blessings of God, must return to the Rock from which it was hewn. From the ministry of St. Peter, better known as the papacy, the truth about God, life, love, sex, marriage, contraception, abortion and euthanasia can be known with certainty. From this Church comes “the breath of immortality and the enkindling of life anew.” But the further we drift from this mountain, the further we drift from Christian morality. As history bears witness, the alternative to Christ's moral law is the darkness of pagan morality. If you recall, this pagan morality is aptly represented by ancient Caeserea Philippi where the cult of the State and the worship of many gods flourished. Inseparable from this religious confusion was the prevalence of human cruelty and incivility.

There are many opinions about Christ today and what he actually taught. Nevertheless, the truth of faith and morals, so necessary for our stability and happiness, is to be found coming from the Rock upon which Christ built his Church.

Friday, February 18, 2011

What America can learn from Caesarea Philippi III


In regards to religious truth, the open-mindedness and the non-committal attitude of actor Liam Neeson and President Barak Obama is reminiscent of the pre-Christian world. Yet, it is believed to be a mark of politesse and civility. Despite the fine trappings, it is a step backwards. Deference to and tolerance of all religions has value up to a point. If such a gesture is taken to mean that all religions have equal value then it is pushed too far. Apathy towards the differences between religions, in the end, leads to the rejection of all religions. As such, principles pertaining to God and his laws lose credibility and hence fail to bind the consciences of people. What is left are man-made moral codes which are invented to serve the interests of the powerful.

This brings us to Caesarea Philippi where St. Peter stepped forward to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of Living God. As stated earlier, his profession of Faith was inspired by God the Father. And it is through the office of St. Peter and his profession that God would guarantee religious certainty. St. Peter, the first of among a long list of popes, would err and falter as a man. But as the Shepherd of the Universal Church his profession of Faith and his teachings would be preserved from error. Indeed, he would be the voice of Christ for the Church and for the world. This charism that was given to him at Caesarea Philippi was a charism that would be communicated to every one of his successors. In every era, through the successors of St. Peter, God provided a standard bearer of spiritual and moral truth.

To express the permanence and reliability of God's instrument of communicating truth, Jesus used the biblical image of a Rock to name Peter. In fact, the name “Peter” itself means Rock in Aramaic. In the Old Testament, the term “rock” was originally applied to God. But it also was used by the prophet Isaiah in reference to Abraham: “Listen to me, you who pursue justice, who seek the LORD; Look to the rock from which you were hewn, to the pit from which you were quarried; Look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth...” (51:1-2) Therefore, in the Old Testament, the name, “Rock” was not exclusively applied to God; it was also bequeathed to Abraham as well. It had a two-fold meaning of fatherhood and security from evil and error. As the Psalmist prayed, “LORD, my rock, my fortress, my deliverer, My God, my rock of refuge, my shield, my saving horn, my stronghold!” Similarly, in the New Testament, St. Paul said that Christ was referred to as the spiritual rock that followed Moses in the desert. And yet, Jesus himself changed the name of Simon to Peter, meaning Rock. His ministry as the Rock of the New Testament was, like Abraham, a father of God's people and a source of religious certainty. To be sure, as the First Vatican Council taught, religious truth can be known with certainty.

In the meantime, there was the huge rock in the background at Caesarea Philippi; the hollowed cave, which was impressed into the rock, is where the multitudes from many nations worshipped false gods. But upon a new rock, a rock that would be made into a mountain, our Lord would build his Church. This rock or stone would strike down the Roman Empire with a spiritual sword as the prophet Daniel prophesied: “But the stone that struck the statue [the iron statue represented the last of the great pagan empires...the Roman Empire] became a great mountain and filled the whole earth.” About this mountain Isaiah said, “The LORD'S house shall be established as the highest mountain and raised above the hills. All nations shall stream toward it...” (Isaiah 2:2-3)

Conclusion: What America can learn from Caesarea Philippi IV

What America can learn from Caesarea Philippi II


Jesus asked his Apostles, “Who do men say that I am?” The place where this pivotal question was answered to this question is every bit as important as the answers the Apostles give.

After the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D., almost forty years after this question by our Lord was posed, thousands of Jewish fugitives were caught and were forced to participate in gladiator games in Caesarea Philippi; most of whom died. If truth be told, first century Caesarea Philippi epitomized what was wrong with the world. Human cruelty was sponsored by the State and the cult of the State, through which Augustus was worshipped as a god, was prominent. Furthermore, the famous cave near the ancient city hosted the worship of Canaanite, Greek and Roman gods. From this, superstition flourished.

Religious confusion and uncertainty is never an isolated phenomenon. Invariably, it begets moral uncertainty which in turn gives birth to social disorder. Religion, morality, the social order and the political order are indivisibly linked together. What we believe about God determines how we live, how we treat others, how we understand the family and how we govern. In the case of ancient paganism, the endless number of fictional gods was symptomatic of man’s attempt to make God into his own image. When religion becomes this arbitrary, so does the moral code by which people live. And let there be no doubt, when the moral law is subject to such easy manipulation, the body politic and the State can justify any behavior. Slavery, blood sports, infanticide and even human sacrifices were all State-sanctioned practices in every part of the globe at one time.

This moral darkness was only to be dispelled when God took the initiative to reveal himself in the person of Jesus Christ, the long awaited Messiah. And it is only through an exclusive and singular dedication to this Divine Person in human flesh that the Light of God was to disseminate throughout the world.

In Caesarea Philippi, the question posed by Jesus Christ demonstrated just how the light of religious certainty was to be established. Again, he asked: "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" The Gospel of Matthew continues: “They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter said in reply, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus said to him in reply, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’” (Matthew 16:13-19)

As the Apostles indicated, there was no consensus as to who Jesus was. Making reference to the rumors in Palestine, the Apostles cited four different answers as to who he might be. When human beings are left to their own devices, when they rely on their own wisdom, what inevitably follows is contradiction and error. In the Gospel of John, during Jesus’ sermon on the Eucharist, there were hecklers among the crowd who protested the eating of raw human flesh. Of course, they misunderstood our Lord’s message. However, their misunderstanding was an occasion for Jesus to remind his listeners just how limited human wisdom is. He said, “It is the spirit that gives life, while the flesh is of no avail.” Not his flesh, but it is human flesh, that is, human ways of thinking that are the problem. And the problem is to be remedied by the infusion of the Holy Spirit. It is the Third Person of the Holy Trinity that compensates for the limitation of human understanding. St. Paul puts it yet another way: “For the Spirit scrutinizes everything, even the depths of God…Now the natural person does not accept what pertains to the Spirit of God…The spiritual person, however, can judge everything but is not subject to judgment by anyone.”

Going back to Caesarea Philippi, the Apostles gave the indication that the Jewish people were just as confused about Christ as the Gentiles were about their many gods. But St. Peter, inspired by the Father, came forth to profess Christ as the Messiah, the Son of the living God. A new day had dawned. Religious certainty would be possible, not only for St. Peter and the Apostles, but for the whole world.


More on the next blog-

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

What America can learn from Caesarea Philippi


Religious uncertainty is at the heart of ailing civilizations. Liam Neeson, accomplished actor and the voice behind Aslan from the movie the Chronicles of Narnia, said in an interview: “Aslan symbolizes a Christ-like figure but he also symbolizes for me Mohammed, Buddha and all the great spiritual leaders and prophets over the centuries.” Technically speaking, he is correct. C.S. Lewis, a Christian apologist and author of Chronicles of Narnia, created Aslan to represent Christ. But as for Neeson, his "open-mindedness" is indicative of the religious uncertainty and the moral malaise so common among celebrities. The same can be said for political leaders. President Barak Obama, during a press conference in Turkey of April, 2009, made the claim that America is not a Christian, Jewish or Muslim nation. Admittedly, over the last several decades America has lost much of its Christian character. However, to say that it has no religious identity and then to leave it at that, is not only misleading but it is emblematic of a lack of religious and moral resolve in the political world. In short, total and exclusive dedication to one creed, to one faith, and even to one God is not a virtue not highly esteemed in Western Civilization; nor was it in the first century. Indeed, our post-Christian world is beginning to look like the pre-Christian world of old.

Speaking of the pre-Christian world, ancient paganism expressed its religious uncertainty by worshipping many gods. It is no exaggeration to say that for every town there existed a different god. And to proclaim any single religion as having a “monopoly on truth” or being exclusively privileged as God’s own- as Christianity did -was deemed to be the height of arrogance and worse yet, stubbornly intolerant.

It is important to remember, however, that when beliefs yield to error or habits become vice, they rarely stand alone. It is more true to say that an error or vice exist in families. Values tend to conglomerate around kindred values. Religious uncertainty, for instance, gravitates towards relativism, moral equivalency, and so-called non-judgmentalism. This extended family of values becomes a well-defined belief system with social and political implications. Today, these values marked by uncertainty are dignified with a label such as “religious pluralism;” or a person who holds them is referred to as "open-minded." But once a cluster of values solidifies and gains momentum- thus forming a belief system or a way of life -it naturally opposes contrary values. In the case of religious uncertainty, its opposition is directed against spiritual absolutes, moral obligations and well defined creeds.

Much like today, the Greco-Roman Civilization in the first century was no exception to the aversion towards religious certitude. This ancient civilization was riddled with spiritual darkness and religious confusion. As the prophet Isaiah testified: “The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; Upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone.”(9:2) This great light was none other than the religious certainty that Jesus Christ offers the world.

In order demonstrate just how religiously uncertain the world was, our Lord brought his Apostles to Caesarea Philippi. This city was named after a Caesar Augustus and King Herod. Its population was predominantly non-Jewish, that is, Gentile or, if you will, pagan. One of its main attractions was a cave embedded in a huge rock formation; or as Josephus said, “a great cavity in the earth.” This was a place where many gods were worshiped. A pool of water existed in this cave, the depths of which were unknown. For the pagans, this measureless depth was to symbolize the bottomless pit of Hades. Their ritual would consist of throwing their sacrificed animals into this pool in hopes that their gods would be appeased. Later, after the Roman Empire annexed this land, Roman temples were to be built in front of this cave to honor their gods; which included a cult dedicated to Caesar Augustus. In pagan Rome, emperors were given divine status.

It was within the milieu that Jesus posed the following question to the Apostles: Who do men say that I am?

More on the next blog-

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

The Political Significance of Celibacy: It's Impact on the Separation of Church and State


In the twelfth century, St. Ivo, bishop of Chartres, wrote to Pope Paschal II:

"When kingdom and priesthood are at one, in complete accord, the world is well ruled, and the Church flourishes, and brings forth abundant fruit. But when they are at variance, not only smaller interests prosper not, but even things of greatest moment fall into deplorable decay.”

Throughout history, when religions fell under the disfavor of the State they were often suppressed. But when a religion received State sponsorship, religious and civil authority often fused into one. From this a theocracy emerged under which the Emperor, Pharaoh, or King ruled. But this old pagan error led to a kind of totalitarianism where the State became all things to all people. This political system was fraught with problems, as Pope Benedict XVI indicated. He said, “The fact is that when politics want to bring redemption, they promise too much. When they presume to do God's work, they do not become divine but diabolical.” There is one mark of the Catholic priesthood which makes the separation between the Church and the State a visible one; a mark signifying that our citizenship is from a "holy nation" whose Fatherland is heaven. This mark of distinction is none other than priestly celibacy.

The State legitimately has a vested interest in marriage because from it children are reproduced. Indeed, under the tutelage of parents children are made into citizens. And like parents, the Catholic Church is a Mother. But in her case, she reproduces children for heaven; and her maternal function primarily resides in the priesthood where the sacraments- the nourishment of the faithful –are given.

What sets the Church apart from the State and what distinguishes the priest from your average citizen is celibacy. Jesus said some men are Eunuchs (i.e., celibate) “because they have renounced marriage for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Priests have been set aside to belong entirely to God. By renouncing marriage, they are enabled to espouse the Church as their Bride. Perhaps, this is why St. Paul said, “…the one who marries his virgin does well; the one who does not marry her will do better.” It is a mistake, therefore, to associate the priest of God with being single. Quite the contrary! The priest is married to a beautiful but jealous Spouse who takes up all of this time. St. Peter Damien said that the priest, by “virtue of his ordination, contracts a marriage with the Church, and he cannot be a bigamist."

Hence, while families produce citizens for the common wealth, the priesthood produces citizens for heaven. This is why St. Paul can say to the Corinthians, "For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you." (I Cor. 4:15) Approximately three hundred years later Pope Siricius confirmed that the bishop or priest fulfills this maternal function of the Church by begetting children of God. He said, “How would a bishop or a priest dare preach continence and integrity to a widow or a virgin, or yet how would he dare exhort spouses to the chastity of the conjugal bed, if he himself is more concerned about begetting children for the world than begetting them for God?” Like the Father who eternally begets his Son; the priesthood of Christ participates in this mystery by begetting spiritual children. That's right! Holy Orders is a fruitful sacrament and has every bit to do with reproduction as Matrimony does. Indeed, boys and girls who were once children of Adam are made into children of God through the anointed hands of the priest. They are born the first time from their mother's womb only to be reborn through the waters of baptism.

To an all-powerful State who wants no rivals, a priesthood dedicated to the making of citizens of a supernatural order is often a threat to their imagined omnipotence. To be sure, the celibacy of the priesthood is a sign that the followers of Christ are a “chosen race and a holy nation” whose “citizenship is in heaven.” Their vocation is a living testimony that a holy nation exists beyond our earthly homeland; the only borders of which are to separate the saved from damned. The jurisdiction of the State can only go so far. Its governance does have the power to affect flesh and blood; but not the soul; nor can it reach beyond the grave. When priests espouse the Church and become fruitful, it is a reminder to the State that its powers are limited.

“Hearken, you who are in power over the multitude and lord it over throngs of peoples! Because authority was given you by the LORD and sovereignty by the Most High, who shall probe your works and scrutinize your counsels!” (Wisdom 6:2-3)

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Table of Contents


Former commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, Archbishop Charles Chaput, recently wrote that, “Some 70 percent of the world's people live in nations – regrettably, many of them Muslim-majority countries – where religious freedom is gravely restricted.”

To understand the tension between the Middle East and Western Civilization, it is essential to grasp the underlying and historic tension between Islam and Christianity. In a secular society, religion is either considered to be a taboo topic or dismissed as unimportant all together. Nevertheless, what lies beneath the surface of the daily news are spiritual and theological principles at work. These principles inform, and in large part, shape international politics. When we gauge politcal developments within a religious context then U.S. relations with Egypt, Iran and the Middle East comes into sharper focus. Conversely, a world view based only on political considerations is shortsighted and harmful to American interests.

For instance, when the political force of Islam seemed to be dormant and a non-factor in 1938, Catholic historian, Hilaire Belloc, predicted its resurgence (read his quote in the first blog of this series). He maintained while the political power of Islam seemed negligible, the religious intensity of Muslims never waned. This religious intensity, he continued, would eventually prove to be politically advantageous. Whereas in the West, the opposite was true: America and Europe’s political and military superiority made itself felt all over the world. However, the religious seriousness among Westerners decreased considerably during this period. Because Belloc understood the importance of religion as an index of future political developments, he was able to anticipate what others in the secular West dismissed.

Below is the series of blogs entitled Islam, Democracy, and Dictatorships. As you scroll down keep in mind that the most recent is on top and at the bottom is the first blog of the series. As such, the table of contents will be in the reverse order (as you see them scrolling down). You can either scroll down or click the title on the right hand column in the February archives. Below, are the title of the blogs with a brief description:

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Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: The Tension between Church and State VIII:

In the eighth blog of the series, the difference between Mohammad, the founder of Islam and Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity is explained. The former was a political and a religious leader; the latter claimed to be first and foremost a spiritual leader. In addition to their teachings, the religious and the political character of these two founders would give shape to the Church and the State relations among their followers.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: The Difference Between Allah and the Holy Trinity VII:

In the seventh blog of the series, the doctrine of Allah is contrasted with the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Here, the emphasis is given to how the Three Persons in one divine nature relate to one another and how this divine relationship determines the order of creation, redemption and what effect it had on the political order.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: To Rule as a Father and Servant VI

In the sixth blog of the series, we see how the God of Christianity is ”incarnational” in that he communicates his life and message through people. In his wisdom and mercy the Lord has chosen not to act alone but rather to require an active cooperation with man. In the Genesis account, the seeds of representative government were established when the Lord delegated his authority to Adam in naming the animals. Fast-forwarding to the Gospels, Christ demonstrates to the Apostle what religious and civil authority is in the washing of the feet at the Last Supper. He further bid them not rule like the Gentiles did- lording over others and making their authority felt. Rather, any God-given authority is meant to serve; not to be served.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Brutality in an Unbaptized World V

Fifth blog: In the book of Malachi and then again in the Gospel of Luke, part of the mission of the Messiah and his forerunner, St. John the Baptist, is to turn the hearts of fathers toward their children. The implication is that before Christ father’s hearts were not turned toward their children. From reading ancient literature and even the Second Book of Kings we can easily surmise that the hearts of fathers had grown cold after Original Sin. Of course there were exceptions, but by and large men were not family friendly; especially when we consider the universal practice of child sacrifice. This barbaric ritual was not only practiced among Gentiles or pagans, but the Israelites were seduced by this cult when they fell away from the worship of Yahweh. But with the coming of the Holy Spirit, hearts of stone were turned into natural hearts. Fatherhood, according to the plan of God, became a reality and subsequently served as a model for State rulers. With that said, the religion of Islam lacks this dimension both in its theology and its politics.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: The Plight of Women IV

The fourth blog: It is said that Islam bears much similarity to Judaism in the Old Testament; not in its rituals as in its male dominance. There is a biblical reason why women were suppressed and assumed a second class status, not only in ancient Judaism but in the Greco-Roman civilization. The plight of women was changed, however, with the Incarnation of Christ and the Immaculate Conception of Mary. With the fullness of Christ’s redemptive power, he chose Mary as an instrument in restoring the original God-given status of women; this honorable social status was Eve’s for the keeping before she forfeited it through her disobedience to God. But when the public ministry of our Lord began, the social effects of grace began to materialize with his respect for women. In the years that followed, with the redemption of the feminine principle, women were in a position to refine and better the violent and aggressive extremes of masculinity; extremes which was so common in the ancient world.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Ishmael the Father of Arab Muslims III

The third blog: Arab Muslims trace their ethnic and religious heritage back to Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar. The profile of Ishmael, in part, traces out the antipathy that would play out between the Arab people and the surrounding nations. In addition, the discussion of the character of men in the Old Testament is introduced. Not only women were at a disadvantage from the suppression of their gender, but men did not benefit from all that the strengths of femininity could bestow.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Three Basic Characteristics II

As the political, economic and military power of Western civilization increased, the practice and influence of Christianity was relaxed. But just the opposite was happening in the Middle East. In addition, the three characteristics of this series of blogs on Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships was introduced.

1. The religion that Mohammad founded was fashioned in likeness of Old Testament Judaism; thus putting a strong emphasis on the masculine dimension of God. This lent itself to male dominance in Islamic civilization (its counterpart is to be found in Western Civilization where a feminization is pronounced).

2. The theology of Islam, that is, what the Koran teaches about God's rule over the human race, is essential in understanding whether or not Islamic civilization is adaptable to democracy.

3. Mohammad, the founder of Islam, was a religious and political leader wrapped in one. It followed, therefore, that in the religion of Mohammad there is little distinction between Church and State.


Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Why Religion Matters

Again: If you want to understand the tension between the Middle East and Western Civilization, it is essential to grasp the underlying and historic tension between Islam and Christianity.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: The Tension Between Church and State VIII


“Let the emperor hear the voice of a free priest…It is unworthy of an emperor to refuse freedom speech and unworthy of a priest to remain silent…For priests nothing is so dangerous before God and so infamous before men as refraining from expressing their views.”

-St. Ambrose, (Fourth Century A.D.)

“The people have been awakened, as it were, from a lengthy dormancy. In face of the state and in the face of their rulers they have assumed a new attitude- questioning, critical, and distrustful. Taught by bitter experience, they oppose with increasing vehemence the monopolistic reaches of a power that is dictatorial, uncontrollable, and intangible. And they demand a system of government that will be more in accord with the dignity and freedom of the citizenry.”

-Pope Pius XII, Radio Message Dec. 24, 1944

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Mohammad was a political and religious leader. He, along with his followers, conquered other nations by the sword. And henceforth they grew in number. In early Christianity, on the other hand, the followers of Christ were put to the sword and as result, their numbers multiplied. Tertullian, an early Church Father, said, “The blood of martyrs is the seed of the Church.”

Unlike Mohammad, Jesus Christ never claimed to have political authority. In fact, he drew a sharp distinction between Caesar and God. His kingdom was not to be confused with the State. According to St. Augustine, the tension of City of God and the City of Man would endure until the end of time. Throughout the centuries, this tension would turn into outright conflict; a conflict between the Church and the State. For the first three hundred years of Church history, Christians were martyred by the thousands. It was even reported that out of the first thirty popes, twenty-nine died a martyr’s death. And should we be surprised? Since the beginning of his earthly life as an infant, Herod, representing the State, tried to hunt the new born Messiah down and kill him. At the end of his earthly life, it was Pilate, again, representing the State, who appeased the angry mob by sentencing our Lord to death. Even with the hostility the State would exercise against Christ and his followers, the Catholic Church always held that political authority comes from God and as such, whatever just laws that are decreed should be obeyed. As St. Paul said, Let every person be subordinate to the higher authorities, for there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been established by God. (Romans 13:1)

According to Catholic political theology, the authority of the State originates from God. However, this civil authority is communicated or given to the people for whom it is meant to benefit. It is then the people who decide what kind of government they wish to be subjected to. The main principle here is that State or civil authority exists for the people and it is therefore determined by the people. Like the work of creation and redemption, political authority comes from God and is entrusted to citizens of any given nation; and it is through the citizenry that political power is conferred on the ruler.

Autocracies and dictatorships violate these principles. In Islam, political authority does not reside in the people; it instead resides in the State; which is often indistinguishable from the religion of Islam. To be sure, the distinction between Church and State is, at the very least, blurred in Muslim nations. As such, the check and balance benefit, the purpose of which is keep the State in check, is weak at best. To be sure, there is no single institution possessing moral authority, similar to that of the Papacy or Holy See, to offset or challenge an aggressive Islamic State. In any case, the State- Islamic or Christian -needs to be held accountable by an institution of a higher authority. This institution, what Catholics know as the Church, ought to have the interests of the people in mind. Absent this accountability, unlimited power naturally accrues to the government. Indeed, where religion and politics converge into one or where religion is absent all together, very often what emerges is totalitarianism.

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: The Difference Between Allah and the Holy Trinity VII


“The task entrusted to the Church is to communicate this Spirit to God’s creatures so that all members who receive it are made alive…Where the Church is, there is the Spirit of God, and where the Spirit of God is, there is the Church and the totality of grace.”

-St. Irenaeus, (Second Century A.D.)
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A Democratic-republic presupposes a network of relationships; starting within the family, extending into neighbors and then rippling out into society at large. Sound economies and political systems are also built upon trustworthy and solid relationships. Historically, any given network of relationships was inspired by religion. What we believe about God’s relationship with man has a profound effect on the interactions people have with each other. As was indicated, these ideas give birth to certain kinds of governments and economies.

In Mohammad’s time (at the beginning of the seventh century), among Eastern Christians, there were many debates about the Three Persons of the Holy Trinity and the divine and human nature of Jesus Christ. For Mohammad, these doctrinal intricacies were deemed too complicated. He wanted a simple doctrine; much like what the Jews already believed: One God who was one person. As for Jesus, he was a prophet but nevertheless just a man. To this day, the simplicity of Islam is attractive to a good many people.

In contrast to Allah- whose main attribute is power, the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is a divine family of Three Persons. You heard it said, “God is love.” He is love precisely because he a family of Three Persons in one divine nature. And these Three Persons are eternally bound in a relationship with one another. From the Father, the Son is generated. The Son was also known as the “thought” or the “wisdom” of God in the Old Testament (Proverbs 8; Sirach 24). But when the Father spoke to humanity, the Son then became known as the Word of God; the Word that would reveal the fullness of the Father. And from the Father and through the Son, the Holy Spirit proceeds- as if from two parents -only to unite the Father and the Son in love. It is not only with one another they relate, but through one another. This latter point is key in understanding how the Holy Trinity, the Christian God, interacts with the human race and how people relate to each other.

Take for instance, the creation of the first family in book of Genesis. You will notice the manner in which they were created is a microcosm of how the Father, Son and Holy Spirit relate to one another. After forming Adam’s body, the Lord breathed life into him. And from Adam’s side, Eve was created. But life was given to her only through Adam. And from their spousal love came forth their first born.

Moving on to how God redeems humanity, it is important to note that the order of redemption reflects the order of creation. In other words, God redeems and reveals himself in much the same way as he created. In both cases, the Lord uses human instruments to achieve his goal. In Catholic theology, the Church is the oracle of God, the voice of Christ. As for the pope, he is not only the successor to St. Peter. No. The head of the Apostles, according to Catholic doctrine, continues his ministry of leading and teaching the faithful (from heaven) through each pope throughout the ages. And through the words of consecration spoken by every bishop or priest at Mass, Jesus Christ comes to us body, blood, soul and divinity. In the confessional, through the words of absolution spoken by the priest, Christ himself forgives our sins.

God’s act of creating through- redeeming through –sanctifying through –and speaking through human means and even matter has inspired democratic principles. If political authority resides in the people, as the Catholic theology holds, then they will take ownership being that it belongs to them. Furthermore, as the custodians and the beneficiaries of political or State authority, citizens are more likely to set up a government that is accountable to them and one that will serve them with justice. Since it is impossible for everyone to govern, it is natural, therefore, that they communicate their political authority to their representative leaders. And it is through these leaders that State authority- originating from God which is then bestowed on the people –is applied.

More on the next blog-

Monday, February 7, 2011

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: To Rule as a Father and Servant VI


“Since nothing ever happens out of Heaven except with a finesse of all details, I believe that the Blessed Virgin chose to be known as "Our Lady of Fatima" as a pledge and a sign of hope to the Muslim people, and as an assurance that they, who show her so much respect, will one day accept her divine Son too.”

Bishop Fulton Sheen, The World’s First Love
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The God of the Koran assumes a different character than the God of the New Testament. For Muslims, to identify God as Father is too closely associated with human fatherhood. According to them, Allah is a Supreme Being who transcends any human imagery. Perhaps, this is why God’s love is not emphasized as much as his power. And as far as man and woman are concerned, they are not considered to be the image of God. Again, it is too anthropological for Islamic theology. Or to put it another way, Muslims resist any kind of “incarnational” theology whereby God is believed to communicate himself through people and through creation itself. And as for the nature of Jesus Christ, God becoming man in is a stumbling block for the followers of Mohammad.

When interpreting Mohammad’s teachings, one can surmise that God’s rule over mankind does not operate through humanity, as it does in Catholic theology; rather, it is imposed on humanity. But according to the Catholic Church, cooperation with God and submission to him are both necessary. With Islam, the emphasis is put on man’s submission while mention of cooperation with God is virtually non-existent. Furthermore, natural law, that is, the moral theology which holds that actions are intrinsically good or intrinsically evil, finds no place in the Koran. As for the purpose or “why” of God’s law, the God of Islam might respond to our questions with something like, “Because I told you so.” Whereas with the God of Christianity, he is believed to justify his laws on rational grounds; there is a reason why God does what he does. In the bible, the universe has its laws of nature; and as such, we can discover those laws and use creation to our advantage. This is why science flourished in Christian civilizations. But for Muslims, the notion that God respects the laws of nature and the natural law (i.e., moral law) puts limitations on his omnipotence. For them, any human behavior can be justified if God is believed to will it.

In the book of Genesis, the seeds of representative government were planted when God delegated the responsibility of naming the animals to Adam. The God of Muslims, on the other hand, would probably name the animals himself. Indeed, according to Islamic theology men do not participate in Divine Authority; it is only imitated, not delegated. But as for the Christian view, Pope Leo XIII reminds us that parental authority not only finds its origin in God, but it also borrows its binding force from God; especially when a father and a mother is loving and just. In other words, God communicates his fatherly love through good parenting. What is more, a mother and father not only cooperate with God in procreation but also in their “governance” over their children. And this leads us back to the proper role of the State.

A father’s power and authority is principally motivated by his love for the child; and his desire to see his child’s welfare realized. When Jesus washed his disciple’s feet, he not only set in motion a standard for Church authority; he also set a standard for political leaders. He asked, "Do you realize what I have done for you? You call me 'teacher' and 'master,' and rightly so, for indeed I am. If I, therefore, the master and teacher, have washed your feet, you ought to wash one another's feet. I have given you a model to follow, so that as I have done for you, you should also do.” (John 13: 12-15) This ceremony had monumental significance for how people were to be ruled in Christian civilization. It was a model of leadership to be emulated by all: parents, clergy, teachers, and civil authority alike.

During the same ceremony, the Last Supper, the following words would change would change the political landscape forever. Jesus summoned them and said, "You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and the great ones make their authority over them felt. But it shall not be so among you. Rather, whoever wishes to be great among you shall be your servant; whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave. Just so, the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many." (Matthew 20:25-28) “Not to be served but to serve” was a novel idea in ancient paganism; and it is a political principle which does not sit well in the Islamic political world. Keep in mind, Islamic theology is the basis for Islamic politics. And Allah, to be sure, is an omnipotent God whose full power and authority is brought to bear on his subjects. This, in part, is why governments in Muslims nations tend to favor dictatorships more than democracies.

Our third and last consideration in the next blog-

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Brutality in an Unbaptized World V


“That in the realm of morals one thing stands out, the unquestioned prevalence of cruelty in the unbaptized world. Cruelty will be the chief fruit in the moral field of the Modern Attack, just as the revival of slavery will be the chief fruit in the social field.”

Hilaire Belloc, The Modern Phase

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Male dominance in Islam- untempered by the female principle and deprived of the sacramental benefits of the Holy Spirit –leads us to our second consideration:

2. The theology of Islam, that is, what the Koran teaches about God's rule over the human race, is essential in understanding whether or not Islamic civilization is adaptable to democracy.

As we read in the book of Malachi and the Gospel of Luke, turning “the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” implies something. It implies that father’s hearts were not turned toward their children; that fatherly love among men had grown cold over the centuries. Among the Roman Emperors and in Herod Dynasty, for instance, fathers killed their sons if they got in the way. Infanticide was also common in the most civilized parts of the world. And in worst case scenarios, human sacrifices were practiced on every continent. For instance, where the State of Illinois is today, there was an Indian tribe called the “Mound Builders,” also known as the Natchez Indians. This sun-worshipping tribe, it was recently discovered, practiced human sacrifice. Even with Israel and Judah in the Old Testament, upon falling away from the exclusive worship of Yahweh and thus adoring other gods, succumbed to the ritual of child and human sacrifice. “They immolated their sons and daughters by fire, practiced fortune-telling and divination, and sold themselves into evil doing in the LORD'S sight, provoking him till, in his great anger against Israel, the LORD put them away out of his sight.” (II Kings 17:17-18) This is what unredeemed human nature is capable of. We take it for granted what Christ has meant to the world and the civilizing effect he has had on human beings.

As Belloc said, one thing stands out, the unquestioned prevalence of cruelty in the unbaptized world. But out of this darkness, God promised that a new day would dawn for humanity. Seven hundred years before the Incarnation of Christ, the Lord spoke through the prophet Ezekiel: “I will sprinkle clean water upon you to cleanse you from all your impurities, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. I will give you a new heart and place a new spirit within you, taking from your bodies your stony hearts and giving you natural hearts.” (Ezekiel 36:25-26) With natural hearts, men would turn toward their children and become the fathers they were created to be. With a new and generous diffusion of divine grace from heaven, there arose a new understanding of God himself. In days of old, he was Yahweh, the Almighty, the Supreme Being, whose name was not to be pronounced. With the coming of his Son, however, he was also to be looked upon as a Father.

St. Paul reminds us: “For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, ‘Abba, Father!’ The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ.” (Romans 8:15-17)
No longer are we mere slaves or subjects under a Divine Master. Jesus told his Apostles that he no longer called them slaves- as they once were –but friends. And as friends of God, Jesus would tell them everything he heard from his Father.

Divine fatherhood and friendship, therefore, produced the political effect of freedom. The rights of the soul were paramount and not to be transgressed by the State. And where the Gospel had taken root, the iron fist of State authority was pacified. Indeed, despotic rule was transformed into a governance tempered by the laws of Christ. Rulers had the model of fatherly authority under which to rule. As Pope Leo XIII said, "...the authority of fathers of families preserves a certain impressed image and form of the authority which is in God 'of whom all paternity in heaven and earth is named.'" Civil authority which approximates to this standard governs well.

However, this kind of filial intimacy with God is foreign with Muslims. In Islam, God is not to be considered a Father; nor is man and woman believed to be the image of God. These theological considerations inform the political principles in the Muslim nations. And to be sure, they will be explored in further detail in the next blog.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: The Plight of Women IV


“No free communities ever existed without morals; and as I observed in the former part of this work, morals are the work of women…”

Tocqueville, Democracy in America
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What was true in the Old Testament is also true in Islam. Before Christ, the full force of masculinity was unleashed and untempered. It could not strike the balance that it was created for because it was deprived of the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, as stated previously, it did not benefit from the strengths of womanhood mostly because women were suppressed in one way or another. As James Cardinal Gibbons said, “In Ancient Greece, women were in an unending tutelage, slavery, instrument of man’s passion.” In ancient Judaism, women fared a little better but even there women took a back seat to men. A passage from Sirach seems to represent the attitude of Jewish men towards women: “In woman was sin's beginning, and because of her we all die.” (25:23) Of course, he was referring to Eve.

Yes, Eve did initiate the rupture with God but there is a reason why she was targeted by the Serpent; it was due to her moral superiority as a woman. Despite conventional wisdom, the proposition that “morals are the work of women” is a truth of human nature, statistically demonstrated, biblically confirmed and it was taken for granted by our ancestors. For this reason, fair or unfair, she is held to a higher standard.

Satan, as an angel of pride, targets only the best. He knew that if he took down Eve, Adam would fall without a fight. And yet, that is exactly what happened. Because Eve was an instrument of the Serpent in bringing down Adam, God saw to it that her punishment involved Adam. The Lord said, “...and he shall be your master.” With these words, Eve and her female descendants were knocked down a couple of pegs. She was originally given the name of “Woman;” a name signifying her individuality and one who was to be an equal companion with Adam. But that was before her sin. Afterwards, Adam renamed her Eve, that is, "mother of the living."

The companion of Adam went from being identified as an individual to being identified by her role; which is a kind of curse. Indeed, it was the worst plight for a woman up to the time of Christ to be barren; incapable of fulfilling the role as a mother. For instance, when St. Elizabeth finally was able to conceive St. John the Baptist, she proclaimed, “So has the Lord done for me at a time when he has seen fit to take away my disgrace before others.” (Luke 1:25) Before her Sarah, Rebbecca, Rachael and Hannah, once barren themselves, all felt that same disgrace.

Symbolic of this malediction was the prescription given by God in Leviticus 12. For in the purification rite, when a mother gave birth to a daughter, she was ritually unclean for fourteen days; whereas if she were to have a son, it would only be seven days. The purification rite would also be twice as long for a mother who gave birth to a daughter, in contrast to a son. Now, certainly this is not indicative of God loving male infants more than female infants; rather, it is symbolic of the dark shadow Eve would cast over all women to come. To be sure, ancient pagan civilization and even Judaism reflected this by the low status they assigned to women. It cannot be denied, therefore, that Eve’s punishment weighed heavily on women.

With the coming of Christ, however, things would change. The dignity of women was restored; restored in a special way through Mary, his mother. After all, she was the first woman (and person for that matter) to be conceived outside of Satan’s dominion and Eve’s shadow. Beginning with her Immaculate Conception (which was the first effect of Christ’s saving grave), God redeemed the human race in general and women in particular. Indeed, as “Blessed among women,” Mary would be God’s instrument is restoring the female sex to its proper place.

This New Covenant grace began to have its social effect during our Lord’s public ministry. The inclusion and honoring of women by Jesus was in stark contrast to the social norms of his day. In the centuries that followed, as Rodney Starks demonstrated in The Rise of Christianity, “Christian women did indeed enjoy considerably greater status than did pagan women.” Unlike the unbaptized world, widows, virgins and infertile women received special care and were also venerated (cf. I Timothy 5:3). The veneration of women continues to this day in the Catholic Church by giving the Blessed Virgin the highest honor among human beings; and throughout the year, the Church celebrates the lives of many saintly women. They are known as feast days.

Although a woman’s social dignity was no longer was exclusively linked with childbearing, St. Paul reminds us that women “will be saved through motherhood;” (I Timothy 2:15)that is, for those women who are called to that vocation. In any case, whether it be a virgin, mother or widow, a woman would enjoy equal status with men in Christ. The same Apostle also said, "For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free person, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal. 3:27-28)

The elevated station of women, through sanctifying grace, had a beneficial effect on men too. The Christian mandate that "husbands should love their wives as their own bodies" not only made men better husbands but better fathers. And fatherhood is a vocation through which authority is exercised in love. As the Angel Gabriel said to St. Zachariah about his son John: “He will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah to turn the hearts of fathers toward children…" (Luke 1:16) Turning “the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (Malachi 3:23) would have a profound political effect in Christian civilization. It tempered the power of the State and gave its authority a fatherly dimension. Indeed, civil authority went from assuming the posture of a master to that of a servant; a servant of the people who sacrificed himself for the common good.

Suffice it to say that Muslims, as an unbaptized people, did not benefit from this work of restoration by Jesus Christ; a work of bringing balance to the human race. Men, women, rulers and subjects in Islamic civilization suffered and continue to suffer from similar limitations we find in the Old Testament.

Next blog: The second characteristic of Islam as differentiated from Christianity: Understanding God and his rule over the human race.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Ishmael the Father of Arab Muslims III


An excerpt of the speech that began the Crusades by Pope Urban II in 1095:

“That land which as the Scripture says ‘floweth with milk and honey,’ was given by God into the possession of the children of Israel Jerusalem is the navel of the world; the land is fruitful above others, like another paradise of delights. This, the Redeemer of the human race has made illustrious by His advent, has beautified by residence, has consecrated by suffering, has redeemed by death, has glorified by burial.”

“Islam and Christianity clashed not because they failed to understand each other but because they understood each other perfectly well.”

Dinesh D’Souza, What’s So Great About America?
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The religion Mohammad founded has long been considered by Catholics as a heresy; and not as a foreign religion. This was especially the case from the seventh century up to the Middle Ages. Mohammad simply accepted some Catholic doctrines and rejected others. By not accepting the fullness of God’s Revelation, his followers were to be deprived of the sanctifying effects of the Holy Spirit. As such, Islam would take on the likeness of Judaism as it existed in the Old Testament.

Arab Muslims claim to be the racial and spiritual descendants of Ishmael, son of Abraham and Hagar. Both Jews and Christians have had no reason to challenge this claim. Given this, the three great monotheistic religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam all see the patriarch Abraham as their founder and common father. Nevertheless, with the Jewish people, Christians believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac (not Ishmael) and Jacob.

As you may recall, Abraham was married to Sarah. However, Sarah was barren and they desperately wanted a son. Hence, Sarah decided to have her servant from Egypt, Hagar, to serve as a stand in “surrogate mother.” Hagar conceived from Abraham’s seed and was then pregnant with child. Sarah, being jealous of Hagar, sent her packing. During Hagar’s exile in the desert, and Angel of the Lord appeared to her and said, "You are now pregnant and shall bear a son; you shall name him Ishmael, For the LORD has heard you, God has answered you. He shall be a wild ass of a man, his hand against everyone, and everyone's hand against him…" (Genesis 16:11-12) This message from the Angel seemed to be prophetic. Indeed, it foretold the militant-like nature of the Arab people and the enmity that would exist between them and other nations.

This brings us to the first characteristic of Islam; one which makes it markedly different from Christianity. This distinguishing trait further shapes how Muslim nations govern their own.

1. The religion that Mohammad founded was fashioned in likeness of Old Testament Judaism; thus putting a strong emphasis on the masculine dimension of God. This lent itself to male dominance (its counterpart is to be found in Western Civilization where the feminization of men is taking place).

If you know your Old Testament, you will also know that women were marginal (or second class) and the feminine principle in general was repressed. What was left remaining was a heavy dose of testosterone in Judaism. This was even more the case in the ancient pagan world. Indeed, in the world before Christ the masculine principle was untamed and it often manifested itself in violence, aggression and sexual exploitation. In the absence of grace men could go the way of the bachelor who, without regard to marital or family obligation, indulged in sensual pleasures. And/or he go the master who sought to lord over others so as to dominate and conquer other men. Women were too much under the shadow of men to be his equal or “better half.” As such, the feminine principle was in no position to temper and refine man’s coarseness and incivility. Even among God’s chosen ones men practiced brutal warfare and applied severe disciplinary measures. The prophet Elijah, for instance, after winning a contest against 400 other false prophets with the help of God’s intervention, had “their throats slit” as a punishment (I Kings 18:40).

Yet, there is a biblical reason why the world, including Judaism, had extraordinarily high testosterone levels. This gender imbalance can be traced to Eve’s punishment. And its remedy did not come until the Immaculate Conception of Mary, which was but the prelude to the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

The fuller context to Eve’s punishment in the next blog-

Friday, February 4, 2011

Islam, Democracy and Dictatorships: Three Basic Characteristics II


An excerpt from an article on how Constantinople was lost to Islam in 1453 after having belonged to Eastern Christianity (Byzantine Empire) for over a millennium:

“Wherever nature is fairest and most beneficent, there man is frequently most feeble or most degraded. All history warns us that we are not made to pass our days amidst the sweets of a fertile garden, inhaling its odors, plucking its flowers, and tasting its luscious fruits. It is in the struggles against difficulties that all that is best in man is nurtured into vigor and preserved from decay. Through labor we live, in enjoyment we die. The thorn of a rose tree is a better friend to us than all the perfume which exhales from its blossoms.”

Catholic Periodical: The Rambler, 1854
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The Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople as its capitol, was softened by comforts of prosperity before falling to the Muslim Turks of the Ottoman Empire. In modern times, while Islam was politically on the decline- especially during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries -the Christian West was on the ascendancy. But with progress and political power what inevitably follows is moral dissolution. Western Civilization is going the way of the Byzantine Empire. As the saying goes: “Civilizations die from suicide, not from murder.”

Guglielmo Ferrero, who wrote the book Ancient Rome and Modern America in 1914, warned us of the following paradox which very few people understand when they are at the height of prosperity: “A civilization is not always in reality richer and stronger in times when it bears the most visible marks of so being. We are rather apt to find that when it is most dazzling and outward seeming, its decadence has already begun.” Certainly, we have seen the apex of America’s political power and technological progress in the twentieth century only to be followed by a steep moral decline among the people.

As bleak as that may sound, Christianity is still a live option; at least in America. If we are serious about receiving the wise counsel the Scriptures, the Saints and the Catholic Faith has to offer, then we will be in a position to see Islam, Christianity and the political world as it really is. And even more importantly, we will be in a position to do something about it. But first, we have to begin by giving religion its due.

To begin with, there are three characteristics of Islam that differentiates itself from Christianity. These characteristics, which are theological in nature, shape the political science of Muslim nations and how they govern their own.

1. The religion that Mohammad founded was fashioned in likeness of Old Testament Judaism; thus putting a strong emphasis on the masculine dimension of God. This lent itself to male dominance in Islamic civilization (its counterpart is to be found in Western Civilization where a feminization is pronounced).

2. The theology of Islam, that is, what the Koran teaches about God's rule over the human race, is essential in understanding whether or not Islamic civilization is adaptable to democracy.

3. Mohammad, the founder of Islam, was a religious and political leader wrapped in one. It followed, therefore, that in the religion of Mohammad there is little distinction between Church and State.

More on the next blog-