Catholic

Is Islam a religion? – Response to a question

Istanbul,_Hagia_Sophia,_AllahThe question was asked, “According to Catholicism, is Islam a religion or a sect?” The answer is that Islam is a religion. It is by no means a sect – to claim this is to go directly against the mind of the Church. It is a slur that emanates from prejudice and hatred, not from true knowledge which is wisdom or from a genuine Christian spirit.

Islam is one of the three monotheistic religions in which the worship of the One, Indivisible God prevails, together with Christianity and Judaism. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – the God of Jesus Christ (His only-begotten and divine Son), Mary and Joseph – is also the God of Abraham, Hagar and Ishmael. To claim otherwise is a lie, no matter from where that claim may originate. Yes, God the Creator is Allah and Allah is God the Creator. Nowhere can this be seen more clearly than in the culture of the Maltese people where the God of Christianity – the God of Catholicism, to be precise – is referred to as Alla in the Maltese language.

Muslims worship the same God as Christians and Jews do – even though some, in all three religions, may take intense issue with this fact. Profound misunderstandings and misconceptions abound these days about Islam, especially among more than a few American Catholics, ‘professional’ or otherwise. Thus, for the sake of the truth which must always prevail, let us see what the Church says about Islam.

The teachings of the Catholic Church about Islam

“The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place among whom are the Muslims: these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day” – Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (1964).

“Then [we refer] to the adorers of God according to the conception of monotheism, the Muslim religion especially, deserving of our admiration for all that is true and good in their worship of God” – Ecclesiam Suam (1964).

“The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and doctrines which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men. Yet she proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is ‘the way, the truth and the life’ (Jn 1:6). In Him, in whom God reconciled all things to Himself (cf. 2 Co 5:18-19), men find the fullness of their religious life. The Church, therefore, urges her sons to enter with prudence and charity into discussion and collaboration with members of other religions. Let Christians, while witnessing to their own faith and way of life, acknowledge, preserve and encourage the spiritual and moral truths found among non-Christians, also their social life and culture.

“The Church has also a high regard for the Muslims. They worship God, who is one, living and subsistent, merciful and almighty, the Creator of heaven and earth (Cf. St. Gregory VII, Letter III, 21 to Anazir [Al-Nasir], King of Mauretania PL, 148.451A.), who has spoken to men. They strive to submit themselves without reserve to the hidden decrees of God, just as Abraham submitted himself to God’s plan, to whose faith Muslims eagerly link their own. Although not acknowledging Him as God, they venerate Jesus as a prophet, His Virgin Mother they also honor, and even at times devoutly invoke. Further, they await the day of judgment and the reward of God following the resurrection of the dead. For this reason they highly esteem an upright life and worship God, especially by way of prayer, alms-deeds and fasting.  (more…)

The Mystical Body of Christ – How does one become part of the Church?

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The Mystical Body of Christ – the Church

A lot of questions, contentions and assertions, often contradictory, have arisen lately about the matter of who is, or is not, part of the Church, the Mystical Body of Christ. Some have been correct. However, by far, the larger part of the contentions and assertions have all been either just partially correct or flat-out wrong. Some have been fueled by inadequate knowledge; others have been fueled by partisan denominational agendas. Misunderstandings and misrepresentations abound. Let us look, therefore, at who and what constitutes the Church.

The Church is made up of three parts: the (1) Church Triumphant, which consists of all those persons who are now in Heaven, enjoying the Divine Family in a direct manner. The (2) Church Suffering, which consists of all those souls who are still being purified in Purgatory, but who have now attained the assurance of reaching Heaven once their purification has ended. And (3) the Church Militant, the visible Church that consists of all those people on earth who are part of the Body of Christ.

How does one become part of the Mystical Body of Christ, the Church?

Entrance into the Body of Christ is through baptism of which there are three kinds: (1) the baptism of water, (2) the baptism of blood, and (3) the baptism of desire. Any person who receives any one of the above kinds of baptism is Christian, hence part of the Mystical Body of Christ (Paul VI, 1964. Lumen Gentium, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church). This is the official teaching of the universal Church, the fullness of which resides in the Catholic Church.  (more…)

They do not know God

biblethumpingPreach the Gospel and if necessary use words – Saint Francis of Assisi

More than a few Christians in America and beyond these days, but particularly in the United States, attempt to evangelize by thumping others on the head with their ‘values’ under a variety of rationalizations. Their judgmentalism, moreover, can oftentimes be considered nothing short of phenomenal. There can be no doubt that many of these Christians, including Catholics, are fundamentally sincere in their underlying intentions. However, they seem to have forgotten (1) that the above is not evangelization, but proselytization (which is “nonsense” – Pope Francis); (2) the words of Saint Paul in his first Letter to the Corinthians, and (3) the words of Christ in the Gospel of Matthew: “By their fruits you shall know them.”

Look at how much they love one another – Tertullian

No one has ever been attracted or won over to the One, True Faith by force. On the contrary. The more one name-calls others in a self-congratulatory manner in an attempt to ‘convert’ them – you know, those “over there” – the more seekers are driven away not brought closer to God. They are repulsed.

God gave every man and every woman free will when He created humankind in His own image and likeness. He, in fact, respects the decisions taken by our free will even when some of our choices cause Him great grief and sorrow. The sole conclusion that can, therefore, be reached from all of the above is that these Christians and Catholics do not know God other than by Name because if they did – if they knew Him, if they had truly met Him, at the very least, deep down in their hearts – they would know beyond doubt that, first and foremost, God is Love; Infinite Love.

Icons as Resistance

Discerning the true Church from the false church

1024px-Pope-peter_pprubensThe question has been asked, “How can we know which one is the true Church and which one is the false church in the confusion that is arising?” The short answer is simple.

As evidenced in Sacred Scripture, Jesus Christ said, “I say to you, ‘You are Peter and on this Rock I will build My Church, and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven. Whatsoever you shall bind upon the earth, it shall be bound also in Heaven, and whatsoever you shall loose upon the earth, it shall be loosed also in Heaven'” (Mt 16:18-19). Thus, Saint Ambrose said, “Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia, ibi Deus [Where there is Peter, there is the Church and there is God],” because Peter – the Pope – is the Rock, the guarantor of the Faith, and this by divine appointment. Christ Himself prays to the Almighty Father for the Pope.

Several, over the past few days, cognoscenti and otherwise, with an attempt at ‘strength in numbers,’ have claimed that the current Peter – that is, Pope Francis – is “propagating heresies.” But the very premise upon which their claims stand is false, because Christ Himself, Who is God, has declared the true Church to be indefectible. The Pope is, thus, himself indefectible in terms of the Faith and what is needed to be saved, precisely because the Church is indefectible. This is true not just when the Pope teaches ex cathedra under the charism of infallibility, as so many have both failed and keep failing to understand, but also when he teaches non-infallibly, albeit not at the personal level.

The guarantor of the Faith, the Rock, can never fall into the grave sins of apostasy, heresy or schism, because he is safeguarded from doing so by the prevenient grace of God – the operating grace, not the cooperating grace. Throughout the entire history of the Catholic Church, in which resides the fullness of the Church that was established by Jesus Christ while still on earth, no canonically-elected Pope has ever fallen into any one of these three sins or combination thereof while reigning as Pope, despite repeated claims to the contrary, precisely because of the ongoing gift of prevenient grace. Those who would claim otherwise are either inadequately schooled in the actual particulars of history or wilfully misunderstanding said history.

The above-referenced gift of grace, which has been granted to Peter and each one of his successors, and will keep on being granted to their successors until the end of all time, is not provided by God for the personal benefit of the Pope. It is provided for the benefit of all humanity, in order that the ark of salvation, which is the Church, never fails and the gates of Hell do not prevail.

The true Church, therefore, can easily be discerned to be where the Pope is, not where some might claim it to be or even desire it to be, because it is the Pope and no one else who has been granted the divine gifts of the charism of truth and the charism of a faith that never fails.

Regarding the ‘filial correction’ of Pope Francis

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Protestants in everything but name

A small group of professional Catholics has issued a formal ‘filial correction’ of Pope Francis, namely Correctio Filialis De Haeresibus Propagatis, in relation to seven purported heresies in the apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia [The Joy of Love]. A parallel group of laity is trying to do the same under the spearheading of a Bachelor’s-level American Catholic.

It should be noted that the above-referenced correction usurps, in both essence and fact, the role of the official Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in the Catholic Church. The signatories are lower-level theologians and clerics, together with a bishop who is actually in schism (SSPX, the Lefebvrites) from the Church. Most of them are well-known, staunch supporters of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass (pre-Vatican II), rather than the Ordinary Form. The correction has been organized by the Chair of the UK’s Latin Mass (Tridentine) Society.

Ubi Petrus, ibi Ecclesia, ibi Deus [Where there is Peter, there is the Church, there is God] – Saint Ambrose.

The following should be thus taken into consideration:

In matters of faith and morals, the bishops speak in the name of Christ and the faithful are to accept their teaching and adhere to it with a religious assent. This religious submission of mind and will must be shown in a special way to the authentic magisterium of the Roman Pontiff, even when he is not speaking ex cathedra; that is, it must be shown in such a way that his supreme magisterium is acknowledged with reverence, the judgments made by him are sincerely adhered to, according to his manifest mind and will. His mind and will in the matter may be known either from the character of the documents, from his frequent repetition of the same doctrine, or from his manner of speaking (Lumen Gentium #25, 1964, Dogmatic Constitution on the Church).

Magisterial decisions in matters of discipline, even if they are not guaranteed by the charism of infallibility, are not without divine assistance and call for the adherence of the faithful (Donum Veritatis #17, 1990, On the Ecclesial Vocation of the Theologian).

Even if the doctrine of the faith is not in question, the theologian will not present his own opinions or divergent hypotheses as though they were non-arguable conclusions. Respect for the truth as well as for the People of God requires this discretion (cf. Rom 14:1-15; 1 Cor 8; 10: 23-33 ) . For the same reasons, the theologian will refrain from giving untimely public expression to them. The preceding considerations have a particular application to the case of the theologian who might have serious difficulties, for reasons which appear to him wellfounded, in accepting a non-irreformable magisterial teaching (Donum Veritatis #27-28).

If, despite a loyal effort on the theologian’s part, the difficulties persist, the theologian has the duty to make known to the Magisterial authorities the problems raised by the teaching in itself, in the arguments proposed to justify it, or even in the manner in which it is presented. He should do this in an evangelical spirit and with a profound desire to resolve the difficulties. His objections could then contribute to real progress and provide a stimulus to the Magisterium to propose the teaching of the Church in greater depth and with a clearer presentation of the arguments. In cases like these, the theologian should avoid turning to the “mass media”, but have recourse to the responsible authority, for it is not by seeking to exert the pressure of public opinion that one contributes to the clarification of doctrinal issues and renders service to the truth.

It can also happen that at the conclusion of a serious study, undertaken with the desire to heed the Magisterium’s teaching without hesitation, the theologian’s difficulty remains because the arguments to the contrary seem more persuasive to him. Faced with a proposition to which he feels he cannot give his intellectual assent, the theologian nevertheless has the duty to remain open to a deeper examination of the question (Donum Veritatis #30-31).

The haters in the Catholic Church

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There are lots of them; lots. Especially in the United States; in particular, the South. And they all seek one thing: to stop the direction in which Pope Francis is taking the Catholic Church. A spiritual delusion born of unacknowledged pride and, yes, hatred.

Attempting to regain the 'glory' days of old both in the Church and in the public square (not going to happen in the expected way/s as we are moving toward increased brotherhood as the Church was in the beginning, not greater hierarchy), they mix politics with religion under the pretense of knowing more than others the will of God for both His Church and for humanity. They experience neither guilt nor shame in recruiting and attempting to impose their 'cause' by force on everyone else. By their own deeds, they fail to understand the very meaning of the word Catholic at its most basic.

Described as "American fundamentalists," "Catholic integralists/militants/Bible-thumpers," and so on, these individuals and cliques of individuals have been baptized into the Catholic Church, but they manifest to others neither its goodness nor its motherhood. They only show what exists deep down in their own heart – a "cesspool of hatred, venom and vitriol," that is neither Christian nor Catholic. Roundly condemned for their proselytizations on multiple occasions by the Pope himself (and not just by this Pope), these armchair theologians - evangelizers of "this rotten world," or "the [purported] remnant; foot soldiers for Christ," as they call themselves – operate on the premise that the more you 'thump,' the more people will listen to you and come around to your way of thinking. A fallacious, boastful premise if one ever existed.

Promoting schism instead of unity in the Church, they consider themselves the only ones who are going to save the Catholic Church from utter ruin and destruction; this even from her own clergymen, according to them. A proven delusion on both counts, given what Christ said about His Church. Moreover, woe betide anyone who either dares to disagree with them or points out the cognitive dissonance in their thinking, in particular within the contexts of the universal versus the tribal (skewedness evident to even a five-year-old), for they will revenge themselves by engaging in libel, slander, and then some; making a public mockery of the very God they profess to defend, turning both the internet and social media into "a graveyard of corpses strewn all around."

As one senior clergyman said, these

obsessed, scrupulous, self-appointed, nostalgia-hankering, virtual guardians of the faith or of liturgical practices are very disturbed, broken and angry individuals, who never found a platform or pulpit in real life, and so resort to the internet and become trolling pontiffs and holy executioners.

They conveniently forget that speaking in the manner in which they speak and acting in the way/s they act, they are scourging anew Christ Himself in His own Body. But who cares about that? For the record, never has Pope Francis said anything against the deposit of faith. Never. Not once. If they truly knew Scripture and the teachings of the Church, they would know that. But blinded by pride and ideology, these individuals 'know better.'

One thing seems to repeatedly elude these Catholics in their unbridled fanaticism. It is this: God is God and He will not be mocked. Not even by you; no matter what you may try. He will not be mocked, in particular by those who claim to speak in His Name.

The poison and cultism of fundamentalist Catholics

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“How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ while there is still a beam in your own eye? You hypocrite! First take the beam out of your own eye and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye” (Mt 7:5).

They seek to rebuild the Catholic Church into their own image – a cult – far, very far, from the Spirit of God. They claim, both in public and in private, to be the sole ones to possess and preach the ‘untainted’ Word of God in this time of worldly confusion, but in reality have neither one nor the other in their minds and mouths as their hearts are very far from God out of pride. Despite the shiny allure of initial appearances to the contrary, fundamentalist Catholics are never able to genuinely nourish other Catholics, other Christians, and seekers at the spiritual level with the Truth, apart from more of those of their own ilk, because they only have poison to give. One can tell by the constant negativity that comes out from them in particular toward those who refuse to agree with them.

God is not like that.

They claim to be humble, but in everyday life and in their public behaviors, they are anything but. They lie – yes, they are liars; children of none other than the father of lies who was a murderer from the beginning, as Christ said, and this despite having been baptized into the Catholic Church, which they so profess with their lips to love and ‘protect.’

Pharisees, therefore.

They lie without shame or compunction, and attempt to get away with as many lies as possible, to satiate their rage for having been exposed by the truth. In addition, they lie to continue denying, to their own selves, their multiplicity of sinful behaviors toward others; a multiplicity that is as endless as the rage lying impotent and unresolved in their own hearts. Fundamentalist Catholics thus manifest no problem fabricating stories in endless ways about the members comprising the People of God from both the top down and the bottom up, even while knowing these stories to be false and a grievous sin in their own right, since their underlying intent is no more and no less than virtual murder. The desire for revenge of these Catholics knows no limits in this regard, blinded as they are with the lust in their own hearts to be the sole ones in the whole world to ever possess the Truth. And, more close to home, to satisfy that insatiable lust for the ‘power’ to decide who is ‘in’ and who is ‘out’ of the Church, hence Heaven through the power of binding and loosing – a power they decidedly do not have.

Above all, fundamentalist Catholics speak without cease about carrying out all of the above in the Name of the Lord and in the name of ‘righteousness’ – to all intents and purposes, perversion. Blasphemy and sacrilege, therefore, if ever these were known to exist.

Only eight words of wisdom suffice for such Catholics: Go to confession and repent of your ways.

Christianity 101 – The ‘elder brother’ syndrome

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It seems to have become the fashion these days, particularly in the US, to tell other Catholics who might disagree with one’s particular take on Catholicism that, “You are not Catholic.” The phrase, “You are not Christian,” tends to be hurled in a parallel manner by those of Protestant bent, in particular the evangelicals. Both phrases, however, are theologically incorrect, not to mention that such phrases are often used as weapons toward the ‘undesirable’ other Catholic/Christian by the ever-so-correct under the rationalization of evangelization. An analogous weapon seems to be the phrase, “You are not part of the Body of Christ.”

Leaving aside, for the moment, that the word Catholic means universal, not parochial, thus any parochialism or tribalism under the name of the Faith is to be eschewed, one becomes a Catholic Christian by being baptized with the Trinitarian formula in the Catholic Church. In a similar manner, one becomes a Christian, as the term has been appropriated and is understood by several evangelicals, by being baptized by another Christian using the Trinitarian formula. And let us not even consider here the baptism of desire and the baptism of blood.

So who is a ‘real’ Catholic? Who is a ‘real’ Christian?

Both of the above persons given as example are real Christians and the first is a Catholic Christian. This ontological change occurs no matter whether one of them professes what is either to the liking or the disliking of the other. Both of them form part of the Body of Christ, since both have been validly baptized with the Trinitarian formula – irrespective of whether the self-righteous like it or not, or if they can or cannot prop up their own egos. Whether one is a practicing Christian or a practicing Catholic, or a good/bad Christian or a good/bad Catholic, does not enter into the equation.

For Catholics, therefore, to tell other similarly baptized Catholics, “You are not Catholic,” because the former disagree with the latter, is an oxymoronic, but highly misleading, statement that is unreflective of the truth. The widespread use of these phrases also reveals what seems to be a fundamental misunderstanding on the part of the ‘phrase-throwers’ (who would ‘evangelize’ others), in relation to what and who constitutes the Church and the Body of Christ. This leaves one wondering if the situation is not one of the proverbial case of the blind leading the equally blind. The same holds true for those who consider themselves just Christians.

The spiritual pride of American Catholics of fundamentalist bent

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The self-righteousness and spiritual pride – there is no other word for it – of fundamentalist-leaning Catholics in the United States has to be witnessed to be believed. It is a phenomenon in itself. Such Catholics seem to believe that it is they and, presumably, they alone who are ‘going to save’ the Catholic Church from ruin by going to Hell in the proverbial hand basket. They consider themselves part of ‘the remnant’ that is supposedly protecting the One True Faith from error, including ‘error’ coming from the Vatican.

As you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye – Jesus Christ.

Some of these Catholics refuse, even in public, even when asked directly, to accept the leadership of Pope Francis – the Vicar of Christ who holds in his hands the power to bind and loose in the Kingdom of Heaven (Mt 16:18-19). They do this despite knowing full well that such a refusal to assent, let alone consent, to the Magisterium of the Pope automatically places them, at the spiritual level, outside the very Faith and the very Church they profess to so love and ‘protect.’ Both assent and consent to the said magisterium are requirements of the Catholic Faith. Further, these individuals – self-appointed mini-demagogues who have far more in common with Sola Scriptura folks or the tight cult of Scientology, than true Catholicism – manifest no hesitation in engaging in widespread slander and libel, products of hatred, not just against the Pope himself, but also against priests who themselves follow the magisterium and who have done nothing to them.

Who am I to judge? – Pope Francis

A case in point is the recent release of the book Building a bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT community can enter into a relationship of respect, compassion and sensitivity, written by a well-known priest. Apart from the fact that it does have an eye-grabbing title, there is nothing – absolutely nothing – in the book that goes against faith and morals. The book itself has been granted the imprimi potest by the Superior of the Society of Jesus.

It should be noted that this site has no skin in the game, so to speak, in relation to this book. But justice demands that we do not stand idly by while something that is good becomes the recipient of the above kind of hatred, by Catholics no less. Silence would, otherwise, be tacit consent.

What does all of the above thus tell you about the real agenda of said American Catholics? Who, in reality, is trying to construct a ‘parallel’ Catholic Church – a Church built into his or her own image – despite claiming to love Her and all protestations to the contrary? Rather than manifest docility to the Spirit and to the Church given to humankind by Jesus Christ?

None of such fundamentalism is from God or of God.

None of it.

On unity and diversity in the Church

Unity

Ubi Petrus, Ibi Ecclesia, Ibi Deus

Pope Francis on unity and diversity in the Church (Homily for Pentecost, 2017):

“By His presence and activity, the Spirit draws into unity spirits that are distinct and separate among themselves (Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on the Gospel of John, XI, 11). He does so in a way that affects true union, according to God’s will, a union that is not uniformity, but unity in difference.

“For this to happen, we need to avoid two recurrent temptations. The first temptation seeks diversity without unity. This happens when we want to separate, when we take sides and form parties, when we adopt rigid and airtight positions, when we become locked into our own ideas and ways of doing things, perhaps even thinking that we are better than others, or always in the right, when we become so-called “guardians of the truth.” When this happens, we choose the part over the whole, belonging to this or that group before belonging to the Church. We become avid supporters for one side, rather than brothers and sisters in the one Spirit. We become Christians of the “right” or the “left,” before being on the side of Jesus, unbending guardians of the past or the avant-garde of the future before being humble and grateful children of the Church. The result is diversity without unity. The opposite temptation is that of seeking unity without diversity. Here, unity becomes uniformity, where everyone has to do everything together and in the same way, always thinking alike. Unity ends up being homogeneity and no longer freedom. But, as Saint Paul says, “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom” (2 Cor 3:17).

“So the prayer we make to the Holy Spirit is for the grace to receive his unity, a glance that, leaving personal preferences aside, embraces and loves his Church, our Church. It is to accept responsibility for unity among all, to wipe out the gossip that sows the darnel of discord and the poison of envy, since to be men and women of the Church means being men and women of communion. It is also to ask for a heart that feels that the Church is our Mother and our home, an open and welcoming home where the manifold joy of the Holy Spirit is shared.”