Friday, April 24, 2009

The Catholic Scapegoat

This isn't a topic I rather enjoy writing about, but it is still an important issue.

The Catholic Church has achieved notoriety as an institution which has covered up child abuse, passed around abusive priests, and cared more about protecting its reputation than protecting its children. Supposedly it was caused by the particularly secretive Catholic hierarchy and the fiendish practice of celibacy.

I had to deal with these accusations while I was considering entry into the Church, and I found that with a proper look at the real facts, and not the media hype, we see that this problem isn't what the media makes it out to be.

As Catholics, we need to care most about what we are doing to protect our children, and what we can do to avoid repeating our sins in the future. On the other hand, if we are over-cautious, we can end up killing our ability to interact with our Catholic family, and to act as Christians at all, due to our suffocating paranoia.

But we must also recognize that we are not alone in our sins. Our Church does not face these troubles because she is Catholic (with perverting doctrines). No. She faces them because she is comprised of humans. We can see the truth of this if we look at the stories, few and far between as they may be, that show the truth about other institutions. This truth, which mostly seems to escape the media, also escapes legislators, who even now, are still creating legislation that unfairly targets Catholic schools, while leaving public schools alone.

Though I've read the same thing in many media outlets, I will presently quote a statement by the Catholic League's Bill Donohue:
“In 2007, the AP did a major report on this subject. It concluded that child sexual abuse in the public schools was ‘a widespread problem,’ saying there was ‘a deeply entrenched resistance toward recognizing and fighting abuse.’ Moreover, offending teachers are moved from one school district to another, so often that they are called ‘mobile molesters.’

“Two years earlier, author and educator John Seryak concluded that ‘The problem in education dwarfs the Catholic Church problem.’ And a year earlier, Dr. Charol Shakeshaft, the nation’s leading authority on the issue, estimated that ‘the physical abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse of priests.’ So common is the transfer of offending teachers that it is called ‘passing the trash.’
We can clearly see in these, and other accounts, that school administrators acted exactly the same as Catholic administrators (Bishops) by transferring offenders, except that Catholic Bishops did at least try sending many of the abusers to counseling. Note that this was before we realized how ineffective counseling tends to be in these situations. We also see that school teachers are just as likely as our clergy (supposedly corrupted by celibacy) to commit abuse.

I am happy for the probing into the Church. Fine, tear us open, help us to be free from our dark secrets, but don't ignore the problem everywhere else it appears. Tear open public schools, other churches, and any other organizations which have hidden similar crimes.

While this does not, and never could, excuse us from our own failings, it does raise a serious question about the media. Are they really so interested in saving children, or are they really just out to crush the Catholic Church?

When the Catholic Church is the one group which stands most firmly against the culture of death, and the media is the not-so-subtle propaganda arm of the culture of death, I'm not sure we have to wonder.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

The Hierarchical Principle

For me, in coming from a Protestant position, one principle unlocked a great deal of the challenges presented by Catholicism. I'm not sure if it has a name, but I will call it "The Hierarchical Principle."

For me, unlocking this principle was key to understanding many things:

Why do Catholics have a Pope and Bishops?
What's with the Marian dogmas?
Why the Praying to Saints?
Why call priests "Father?"
Why have priests?

You see, Protestants tend to simplify things. This makes Protestant doctrine easy to understand and quick to learn (at least the basics). As far as hierarchies go, they like it simple: "There's God, then beneath that is us, then there's the rest of Creation." [Note: I may be leaving out a few levels on both sides, but I think you'll get the point] Catholics see these major levels as well, but we also see levels within each of those categories. A Protestant insists that Jesus has given him direct contact with God. A Catholic agrees, but he also sees the purpose in having contact with everyone on the levels between ourselves and God. Thus, a Catholic may praise Mary as being his superior, but a Protestant, only seeing God as his superior sees this as idolatry.

To sum up the principle, I would first relate a common Catholic statement, "Protestants see things as either/or, where Catholics see things as both/and." This is used for Faith and Works, Scripture and Tradition, prayers to God and Mary, etc.

But for some of these things a hierarchical model is more appropriate: "Catholics see some things as both/and-to-a-lesser-extent." Catholics honor God, and because of God they honor Mary. Catholics believe in the ultimate authority of God, and in the subservient authority of the Bishops.

To help explain how this plays out further, let's see how the principle works with Church Authority: In the Gospels Jesus said, "As the Father has sent me, I am sending you [Jn 20:21]," to the Apostles. He also gives a special higher authority to Peter [Matt 16]. Then, after this, the Apostles ordain Bishops to succeed them. This creates a structure something like the following:

God the Father>Jesus>Peter>Apostles>Bishops>Presbyters & Deacons>Laity

Then, after the deaths of the Apostles, and after some clarification on the roles of Bishops, Priests, and Deacons we ended up with the modern structure:

God the Father>Jesus>Pope>Bishops>Priests>Deacons>Laity (divided futher: Parents>Children)

In observing this structure we recognize that each is due honor according to his office. Having an authority other than God does not conflict with God's authority because 1) Its authority is God-given, 2) We recognize that God's authority is higher, and thus, 3) Divine commands outweigh the commands of Bishops etc.

We can look at a similar hierarchy of physical fatherhood:

God, the Ultimate Father>our Ancestors>our Biological Father>Us>our Children

Or in all created and uncreated things:

God>Angels>Man>Animals>Plants>Inanimate Objects

God alone is worthy of all glory and praise, and is the source of all holiness and the ultimate recipient of all praise for holiness. But because God exhibits his holiness through the lives of his saints, we still see a hierarchy of holiness extending down to created beings, for which we give honor and praise:

God>Mary>the Saints in Heaven>the saints on Earth

Understanding that this is the way God works, both in nature and in religion, is a great key to understanding Catholicism. Understanding this, we realize it is not only acceptable to honor Mary, or to honor our father and mother, but it is indeed right, and is God's will. God enjoys sharing his things with his creation, he shares his love, his authority, his supernatural gifts, and even his praise. We are just required to make sure that the greatest honor is given to God.

For one, this would mean that if our priest tells us to do something which we well know to be contrary to God's law, we must object. We must also avoid trying to play people lower on the hierarchy against God, like we would if we said something silly like, "Mary, God has not helped me in my efforts as a thief, but you are far kinder, so please help me steal a car." That would be idolatrous, insulting to God's loving nature, and gravely sinful.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

To Nullify Scripture

In the most absurd statement yet, declares that, "The Roman Catholic faith has shown a willingness to raise the pope above Jesus Christ and the Bible by giving him the right to nullify Scripture through papal decrees."

I can see that they would feel compelled to believe that this is true in order to maintain their own Protestant positions, but it is a false accusation. The Church has no power to nullify scripture. It would be absurd to claim such a power when it is the Church herself who declared the scriptures to be infallible.

They then state, "The conscience of the biblical Protestant (like that of Martin Luther) is bound by the Bible alone." I found this humorous, as Luther is a perfect example of someone who gave himself the power to "nullify scripture." Indeed he nullified several whole books. He also changed the meaning of scripture by inserting words (like the "alone" part of "faith alone") in the text itself and adding commentary in the margins.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

"Christian Answers"

I stumbled across a website called "Christian"

I can agree with a lot of what I've read on the site so far (not that I've read much), but there are some oddities, which is why I'd recommend reading Catholic sites instead. Here are some of the problems I ran into on their "Aren't all religions the same?" page:

I found this statement strange: "Actually, true Christianity is not a religion, but a person, Jesus Christ." I'm not sure this makes any sense. According to Peter Kreeft, the three aspects of all religions are "creed, code, and cult" or "theology, morality, and liturgy." Now, Christianity can be summed up as "Our relationship with Christ" [see The Relationship], but these three aspects are a part of that relationship. Also, Judaism, Islam, and other religions can sum themselves up as "Our relationship with God (or the gods)." This means that Christianity, unique as it may be, is a religion. Now is Christianity Jesus Christ? Is my marriage the same thing as my wife? That's a silly question. They are confusing the person of Jesus Christ with the abstract concept that is Christianity.

Really, this is just another group trying to convince those folks who say, "I like faith, but not organized religion," that Christianity isn't what they think it is. But saying that Christianity is not a religion is either ignorant, or worse, deceptive.

Another strange thing they did was this: first, they identified themselves as being "Orthodox Christian" at one point when comparing the Christian versus the Jewish views of Jesus. Then they claimed that "Christianity" believes in "the Bible alone" while Roman Catholicism (notice, this is something different from "Christianity," and they lump it in with Mormonism and Christian Science) believes in "the Bible plus."

While I can concede that Catholicism does rely on "the Bible plus," I obviously cannot agree that this means we are not Christians. In fact, this accusation would also apply to the unmentioned Eastern Orthodox churches. This puts the writer in an odd (but not uncommon) position of arguing that the two oldest, and most traditional, branches of Christianity are not orthodox, despite their strict adherence to the early Christian creeds which define the central tenets of Christian orthodoxy.

Further, I would argue that while we are "Bible plus" Christians, we are still "God's Word alone" Christians. This being the true barometer for the fullness of the faith, we are left noting that these Protestant Christians are indeed relying on "God's Word minus," and they are even relying on "the Bible minus" since they have removed certain books from the traditional canon, and since they interpret away verses that contradict the "pluses" they themselves have added, these being the very concept in question, sola scriptura, and its brother, sola fide, along with their popular cousin, "disagree with everything the Pope says if at all possible."

Friday, April 3, 2009

Bill Clinton on Embryos

God, deliver us from politicians!

Yes, you heard him. Bill Clinton thinks it's wrong to destroy an embryo "if" there's a chance that it might one day be fertilized...

In case you missed the key word there, answer this question: What kind of embryo isn't fertilized?

I don't even think this needs comment (Feel free to comment).

For more about stem cell research I recommend reading this list of treatments that have resulted from adult stem cells.