Category Archives: Personal

Governments, democracy, and the Truth

Yesterday, we had a relatively good sermon about Catholics and the government. The main theme was a Catholics responsibility towards government is trumped by a Catholics responsibility towards God.

Yet two (philosophical) points formed in my mind as I was listening:

Can we still speak about the government as an external reality in a democracy??
In a representational democracy (or an indirect democracy) am I not the government in the act of voting?? (Allow me to remind everyone that Australia is a constitutional monarchy.) Jesus’ point still stands but it needs to be adapted to a modern situation. Conversion includes a desire for a just society! 

My point is that our vote counts! No more voting along party line but along issue lines!

Is the government really interested in truth?? Or just in freedom??
I think this is a central philosophical point. The recent debate in Victoria had little to do with truth but had a lot to do with freedom. Maybe naively we assume that people are interested in truth? I think the modern mind assumes that truth is the outcome of an act that has been undertaken freely. 

That does not mean we adopt a modern world-view and assume truth is unimportant. But it means we need to evangelize people into the idea of truth being important in their life! We need to proclaim again that there are objective guiding principles to life.

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Adjectival theology No 325532

You all know I have a thing about adjectives that are used in general theological discussion. Today I stumbled upon the following from the United Episcopal Church of North America:

Biblically Sound, Sacramentally Orthodox, Apostolically Valid

I’ll admit that my brain has been on holidays but I have no clue what the above means. But I am completely bamboozled by the last one: Apostolically Valid. Is there another form of validity?? Someone care to explain??

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Do computers make us smarter??

Having spent last night at a Parent Information Session on the Laptop Program(me) that had a constant refrain – Computers make us want to learn more and make your kids smarter – I wonder if computers actually have made us smarter?!?!

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Is repetition wrong??

Scene 1: Lutheran Baptism
We went to a Lutheran baptism this Sunday. (We went to the Vigil Mass on Saturday, in case you were wondering.) The service was very nice, especially the music. The sermon was (surprisingly) good. Alas, a little disembodied: is it really the Gospel of Jesus that challenges us or Jesus himself??

The liturgy was classical Western in shape and was done within the established rite of the Lutheran Church of Australia. The Baptismal Rite replaced the Penitential Rite at the start of the service – that is, it followed the Sign of the Cross – and included the Creed and the Lord’s Prayer. These two were then omitted in the service – that is, there was no Creed after the Sermon, nor was the Lord’s Prayer said during the Eucharistic Liturgy.

Scene 2: Perpetual Rosary
Our parish had a Perpetual Rosary on the Feast of Our Lady of the Rosary. For three hours before Mass, parishioners gathered before the Blessed Sacrament to pray for the defeat of the Abortion Law Reform Bill.

I admit that I have not spent that amount of time on my knees for many years. Our kids joined us for the last hour. The oldest three kneeled for the whole hour to say the Rosary. (No 2 is especially effected by it all!) I have not been that effected by a devotion for a while. (The last time was when I was exposed to the Divine Mercy Chaplet.) After it was all over I wanted it to start again.

The two could not be further apart. I admit that the first created a emotional response more to do with our particular past rather than any theological problems. But it did make me wonder: is repetition fundamentally wrong?? Our kids seems to enjoy and flourish in a daily routine that is largely based on repetition – they have the same breakfast, we say our prayers together in the evening, etc. No 4 is especially attached to routine and repetition.

One may quote Matthew 6:7 (KJV) in this connection: But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking. To my simple reading (I am no Scripture scholar and I have not looked at the Greek) the end defines the act as wrong not vice versa. (And, just stating the obvious, I do not think any Catholic every things that the number of Rosaries makes the prayer worthy but rather the attitude.)

So I ask again: is repetition fundamentally wrong in a religious context??

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Evangelism, apologetics, catechesis??

Q: What is the difference between evangelism, apologetics, and catechesis?
A: Not method but CONTEXT! The context sets the intended end.

The same discourse can be evangelistic, apologetic, or catechetical depending on the context.

  1. When addressed to someone who has no relationship with Jesus, it is evangelistic.
  2. When addressed to someone outside of the Church but with a relationship with Jesus, it is apologetic.
  3. When addressed to someone inside the Church, it is catechetical.

So the end of the discourse is:

  1. Faith in Jesus
  2. Full communion with the Church
  3. Full intimacy and communion with Jesus in the Church

The methods may be slightly different. Yet the context establishes the intended end of the discourse and, hence, the terminology used.

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Traditionalism defined??

Terra has an interesting post about Traditionalism: What is a traditionalist? Last part!. Terra is to be congratulated for wrestling with the question of identity for traditionalists (something, btw, I have raised before). I am no theologian, nor am I a philosopher, but my simple reading of the post leaves me a little unimpressed. I somehow feel the answer raises more questions. Allow me to ask a couple:

A traditionalist is loyal to the Pope but believes that (1) Tradition is a quite distinct concept from the Magisterium, and (2) there are limits, prescribed by the Church, to papal infallibility.

The problem remains: who says? Is separation of Tradition from Magisterium traditional? Is it not, in fact, the opposite?? Without a doubt there are limits but who decides where these are??

Tradition has content that is distinct from Scripture and to the Magisterium.

This begs the question: which is? Jesus is the Word of God that is transmitted through Tradition, Scripture, and the Church. Jesus communicated himself to the apostles and this communication continues in the Church through the line of bishops in communion with the successor of Saint Peter. What exactly is the content that is distinctive from the Magistrium?

I wonder how the above stands with Dei Verbum?

My issues with the above is the flip-side of my argument with Protestantism: why the absolutes? Protestantism absolutizes the Word of God in Scripture, Traditionalism the Word of God in Tradition. Both separate the Word of God from the Church and have no choice but to elevate private judgement. Further, I wonder where the starting point is: what has led these people to adopt this position within the Church?

The constant name-calling and triumphalism does not help endear me to it. (Okay, I will now be called a neo-con or a Magisterialist!) Maybe work with people rather than against everyone who does not conform to your ideas. There are many faithful Catholics who happily attend the Ordinary Usage who would be more than happy to help their fellow Catholics who are attached to the Traditional forms of the liturgy but are put-off by the negativity and name-calling.

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Catholic by choice since 2007!

Dear Mr Self-appointed-internet-Protestant-Apologist,

Thank you for flooding my Inbox with your emails. I was completely unaware of the numerous Biblical texts that you quote. Where were you when I struggled and wrestled with these questions for years, reading and studying? Where were you when I struggled with my identity and was looking for answers? Yet I am so grateful to you for finally pointing out the error of my ways.

So I became a Catholic by conviction because I believed that theology, logic and history all pointed one way. But no! You showed me that 2000 years of history must give way to novelty. That the collected experience of those who have offered their life in faith to Jesus must give way to the newest evangelism programme that strives to be relevant. All by accepting your way of looking at the world. My education and reading have been null and void until you explained the plain truth to me. I really enjoyed that you set all the rules for our discussion and then changed them mid-sentence.

You finally showed me what Roman Catholics really believe without ever stepping inside the Church or looking at the Catechism. You showed me the error of my ways without ever wrestling with your own identity and the open contradictions within your thoughts. But I now realize that I was too hung up on the gift that God gave me – my sanctified common-sense.

The straw-man you set up was easily burned by your slogans. Your misunderstandings and historical inaccuracies really didn’t lessen your point that much. Making fun of my devotional life, especially the parody of the Mass you entertained me with, really opened my eyes.

But above all, I thank you for not talking to me but rather at me. After all I am only an ignorant Roman Catholic. Monologue is so much fun! Without a doubt your ideas are so new and indisputable that I have no choice but to surrender the faith of all the great Saints and adopt your interpretation of Christianity. I look forward to the next Apologist who visits my Inbox to tell me that all the other apologists have got it wrong and I need to accept his interpretation.

Yours sincerely,

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