Whether it is Better to Obey God or Men

The surreal atmosphere of the present “crisis of fear” which is being relentlessly exploited by the media and its political allies brings into sharp focus the courageous reply of St. Peter and the apostles before the Sanhedrin as recorded in chapters 4 and 5 of Acts of the Apostles. “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you rather than to God you must judge… We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 4:19; 5:29) Christians now find themselves in a similar situation with the sudden closing of churches by secular authorities, thus preventing us from fulfilling the divinely mandated obligation to worship God as a community.

This is no small matter because one’s duty to God actually supercedes any civil duties. Christ clearly drew this distinction when he said, “render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” (Mt 22:21) Therefore, obedience to Caesar does not excuse one from the far greater obligation of obedience to God. St. Thomas More expressed this relationship concisely and beautifully on the scaffold only moments before his martyrdom. “I die the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” Continue reading

Is the Catholic Church Biblical?

Many Christians today question whether the Catholic Church is actually Biblical. Such a question is highly paradoxical for the simple historical reason that the entire New Testament originated from within that very same church. Note that St. Paul wrote his early epistles well before all four gospel accounts were even composed. This means that when Paul refers to the authority of Scripture (as in Romans 15:4), he can only be referring to the Old Testament canon known as the Septuagint ─ not the Bible we know today, because the New Testament part of the Bible did not yet exist.

This fact raises an interesting point. During his entire life on earth, Jesus Christ never wrote a single line of Scripture. He certainly could have done so but he chose not to. Instead what he left us was an oral tradition in custody of the Church which he founded. It was the leaders of this same Church who would eventually compose the New Testament, and centuries later decide which of the countless texts then circulating among various Christian communities were divinely inspired ─ and which were not. This final canon of 27 books plus the Hebrew Scriptures containing 45 books were confirmed by Church authorities at the end of the fourth century, some 300 years after the death of the last apostle, John. This means that the authority of the Bible rests upon the authority of that apostolic Church founded by Jesus Christ who commissioned it to “go therefore and make disciples of all nations.” (Mt 28:19) Continue reading

The Gift of Time ~ 2020

A blessed Christmas and happy new year to you all. Another year rolls by and suddenly it’s 2020 ~ a year to restore our vision, one might hope. But vision seems to be an increasingly disfavored quality in today’s culture of anxiety, fear, and polarization as various factions compete to “fix the world” according to their own preconceived agendas. Yet caught up in that worldly frenzy we also stand to loose the very thing that God once set foot on this mortal coil to give his restless creatures: PEACE. Today one must work overtime to restore that vision of interior peace which, after all, is God’s vision as well.

Peace is, to a large extent, dependent upon our knowing who we are and the humble acceptance of our relative insignificance – not our imagined importance – in this broken world. After all we have very little time at our disposal in the great scheme of things, and how we use that limited time may well determine our ultimate state of happiness. This thought struck me forcefully as I was counting down the hours and minutes to midnight on December 31. Continue reading

John 8:7 on “Casting Stones”

Colorado Special Masters Report asserts clerical “Guilt by Association”

With the unqualified blessings of four Colorado bishops and following the same biased template laid out by the 2018 Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report, former U.S. attorney Robert Troyer on October 24 released the Special Masters Report (the Report) on clergy child sexual abuse in all three Colorado dioceses. I will here limit my observations to my own Archdiocese of Denver but those observations could well apply in principle to the two sufragen dioceses. The report spans a 70 year period from around 1949 to the present found 123 cases of abuse, including alleged abuses, in the archdiocese ─ a distinction clearly overlooked by the Report.

Clerical abuse is a reprehensible disorder which ought never to be tolerated. Nevertheless the current “Me Too” hysteria only seems to be muddying the waters. What we now increasingly see is a rash of unverified allegations from decades long past being blithely fobbed off as established facts. Just so, the evidentiary standards adopted in this Report appear to be rather slim ─ i.e., whether “from our investigation it is more likely than not that a child sex abuse incident occurred.” Who determines what is “likely” and what is not? This is a purely subjective standard which demands no substantial evidence of wrongdoing. Continue reading

The “New Passover” Today

For 500 years now the Eucharist has been a source of contention and doctrinal division among Christians. Yet it is entirely Scriptural. In fact Catholic Eucharistic Liturgy boasts of its deeply Jewish roots going back to the very first Passover. From its very institution at the Last Supper it has been understood as the New Passover which institutes a New Covenant just as the Mosaic Passover instituted the Old Covenant. By reviewing the Book of Exodus, we can see the close correlation between that first Passover and Christ’s later institution of the Eucharist.

Anticipating their departure from Egypt, Moses instructs the people, even before the actual Passover event, “You shall observe this as a perpetual ordinance for yourselves and your descendants. Thus you must observe this rite when you have entered into the lands which the Lord will give you as he promised.” (Ex. 12:24-25) Similarly, at the last supper Christ exhorts his disciples thus. “Do this,.. in memory of me. For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes,” (1Cor. 11:25-26) Does the first rite not anticipate the second? And what is it that both rites are actually commemorating? It is the imminent deliverance of God’s people, the first from slavery to the Egyptians, the second from that slavery to sin which is synonymous with bondage to Satan. Continue reading

Does God Will Suffering?

A close friend of mine recently fell into a severe emotional state when a good priest friend, who had suffered a long and painful bout with brain cancer, finally succumbed to the disease. How could God have allowed such a horrible thing to happen? Fr. M was still quite young and apparently had many good years ahead of him. When I mentioned that perhaps this was God’s will for Fr. M my friend lapsed into a bitter state of denial. “I don’t believe that God had anything to do with it,” he snapped back as if unable to reconcile a loving, merciful being with a deity who could actually will such terrible suffering on such a good and decent man.

I had no quick answers to his complaint, yet something deep inside me said that no matter how unpleasant the implications God, in fact, not only permits us to suffer, to which my friend would tacitly agree, but more to the point there are times when God positively wills us to suffer. It is on this second point that my friend and many fellow Christians would violently disagree. In fact, the all too common depiction of God as some cosmic sadist has likely turned more people against religion in our materialist, pain-averse culture than ever before. A mass consumerism which promises instant gratification has somehow robbed us of the former stoicism by which our great-grandparents quietly accepted pain and suffering as natural parts of life. Continue reading

Connect the Dots: Violence Beget Violence

Now that domestic terrorism is becoming a regular weekly event I wonder, should we permanently start flying our flags at half mast? Of course, my deepest prayers and sympathies go out to the victims and families of the irrational and savage violence being perpetrated in places like El Paso and Dayton. But in official responses from the leadership class I keep hearing the same worn and tired narratives, i.e. We need to address “access to guns,” “ammunition magazines,” “video violence,” the current “mental health crisis,” etc., as if taking guns off a shelf will magically turn psychotic killers into model citizens. But if not guns, such deranged domestic terrorists will surely resort to homemade bombs, axes or knives, bottles of acid, even large vehicles to commit their reckless mayhem.

Unfortunately, the one thing that politicians, journalists, and countless activists on both sides of the divide seem strangely reluctant to bring up, much less actually admit to, is that fundamentally what our society is now dealing with is not a “mental health crisis” but a moral health crisis. Continue reading

Of Angels, God, and Men

What are angels and what effect, if any, do they have in our lives? To begin with, angelic and human natures are totally separate and distinct forms. People often confuse angels with deceased persons, probably stemming from countless Hollywood depictions such as Clarence, the angel in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Real angels are spiritual beings who have never been attached to a body. Just so you and I will never become angels because we are human, something entirely different in both essence and nature. Catholic teaching has long insisted that our special human dignity derives from the fact that we are made in the image and likeness of God. But if God is pure spirit it would seem more likely that he is reflected in his angels, not men and women. Yet man actually bears a closer resemblance to God than even the highest angelic hosts. We know this because God himself took the form of a man, not an angel, in the person of Jesus Christ.

Angels are quite literally God’s ministers who execute his divine will in the universe as they have from the beginning. They are of the spiritual order which is superior to and in control of the material order. They are like cosmic traffic cops charged with implementing and directing the physical laws of nature. Science may understand, for instance, how gravity hold stars, planets, even galaxies together and can even make mathematical predictions based on it’s laws. But what science cannot fully answer is why gravity exists in the first place and what mysterious forces cause it to behave as it does. In other words there must be, behind all the physical sciences, some Divine science which ultimately orders the cosmos. Continue reading

Weaponizing History

What should the proper attitude towards history be? Today, campus ideologues and Antifa iconoclasts are busily knocking down monuments or eradicating any positive memories of the past. Consider the case of Notre Dame University which recently covered over some century old murals of Christopher Columbus using the “doublespeak” mantra of, “not concealing anything but rather to tell the full story,” so claimed university president Rev. John Jenkins. (But how does erasure tell a story?) Such academic politicians are especially adept at distorting, altering, or re-interpreting genuine history as a cheap propaganda tool. I call it “weaponizing history,” using the past as a weapon to smite one’s opponents or, more often, to advance some favored agenda.

These kinds of historical abuses should raise serious questions about what is a proper attitude towards history in our modern world. Obviously a good faithful historian is truthful in so far as the limitations of documentation allows. But beyond that, good history neither embellishes the past needlessly nor is it used as a blanket condemnation of persons or events already transpired. It needs to be objective and fair minded, taking into consideration the context of culture, belief systems, even geography ~ all of which have enormous bearings on human activity in any age. But too often the grievance mongers only aim is to hijack history for personal gain. Continue reading

Out of India

The former crown jewel of the British Empire proudly proclaims itself today as the world’s largest democracy. With four times the population of the world’s second largest democracy (the United States), India is undoubtedly a nation with an important future. Within a few years it is set to surpass even China, becoming the world’s largest nation. But India is also a land deeply influenced by its long and fascinating past. It is by far the world’s largest melting pot comprising at least 22 different languages and countless ethnicities among its people.This amazing amalgam of humanity is squeezed into a land area less than a third the size of the United States and no society on the planet can boast of greater diversity socially, culturally, or even geographically. Its terrain ranges from steaming tropical jungles in the south to mighty watered plains along the Ganges and the perennially ice bound ranges of the high Himalayas.

Surprisingly, this exotic sub-continent at the center of Asia is also one of the earliest cradles of Christianity, a fact of which very few Westerners are aware. The Catholic faith in India can claim a lineage of nearly 2,000 years, when the apostle Thomas arrived on its western shoreline around the year 50 AD. India, in fact, was quite well known to the Romans who traded with it heavily for spices, especially pepper. St. Thomas most likely landed here on a trading vessel loaded with Roman coins. Following his Master’s instructions to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.” (Mt. 28:19) Continue reading