Three Christian Views on Excommunication (And Why Two of Them Are Wrong)

 

Expulsion of the Cathars from Carcassone in 1209 (1415)
Expulsion of the Cathars from Carcassone in 1209 (1415)

Within Christianity, there tend to be three major views of the place of excommunication:

  1. We shouldn’t excommunicate anyone, because it’s not merciful.
  2. We should excommunicate, because we want to purify the Church of the damned.
  3. We should excommunicate, because it’s merciful to sinners.

So which of these views is the one endorsed by Scripture? Number three. In fact, the first two are rejected outright within the Bible itself.

To those who fall into the first camp, who reject the place of excommunication within New Testament Christianity, I would point you to Jesus’ words in Matthew 18:15-18,

If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.

Jesus is solemnly entrusting the Church with the power to bind and loosen, and this is closely tied with the Church’s ability to excommunicate unrepentant sinners. And it’s more than just an ability. Jesus actually instructs it as the appropriate course of action to be taken in the case of certain unrepentant sinners. They are be ostracized, in the way that the Jews of the time treated Gentiles and tax collectors.

St. Paul, writing in Romans 16:17, similarly instructs: “I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them.”

So excommunication is Biblical, but it’s easy to understand why some people are uncomfortable with it, and find it contrary to mercy. After all, some of the noisiest defenders of excommunication defend it for the wrong reasons. As Rex Edwards of Columbia Union College wrote back in 1976:

EXCOMMUNICATION has been regarded by ecclesiastics as the ultimate disciplinary measure. As a “weapon” it has been conspicuous for its abuse. It has been employed as a penalty, often plunging the defendent into a situation of abysmal irreversibility. Luther in his “Discussion of Confession” emphasizes the punitive aspect of excommunication, while Calvin declares it to be a public ecclesiastical censure for the purpose of purification.

But excommunication isn’t treated as punitive in Scripture, and the idea that we are the ones who will purify the Church is actually an idea condemned by Jesus in Matthew 13:24-29,

Another parable he put before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field; but while men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. So when the plants came up and bore grain, then the weeds appeared also. And the servants of the householder came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then has it weeds?’ He said to them, ‘An enemy has done this.’ The servants said to him, ‘Then do you want us to go and gather them?’ But he said, ‘No; lest in gathering the weeds you root up the wheat along with them. Let both grow together until the harvest; and at harvest time I will tell the reapers, Gather the weeds first and bind them in bundles to be burned, but gather the wheat into my barn.’”

So the servants of the Lord want to go and try to purify His Kingdom by separating out the wicked from the righteous, but Jesus stops them from doing so, since their attempts to do so would surely result in unjustly condemning the righteous. Instead, He tells them to let the weeds grow alongside the wheat until the harvest. When the DIsciples ask what this means, He explains (Mt. 13:40-43):

Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire; there men will weep and gnash their teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

So it’s the job of the angels, not us, to purify the Church. And they’re going to do it at the Last Judgment, not now. In other words, the entire Protestant attempt to create a holy Church by creating a Church of only the righteous, of only the saved, failed from the start because Christ told them not to do it.

All of this is to say that creating a “wheat-only” Church isn’t why we excommunicate. And yet, we are to excommunicate. So if that isn’t the reason, what is?

For the good of sinners.

Scripture is quite clear on this. When St. Paul writes the Church in Corinth, he’s aghast that they are letting a man openly engage in a sexual relationship with his other stepmom. In fact, they had become proud of what they apparently thought of as their tolerance and mercy. St. Paul rebukes them for this, writing (1 Corinthians 5:1-5):

It is actually reported that there is immorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.

For though absent in body I am present in spirit, and as if present, I have already pronounced judgment in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present, with the power of our Lord Jesus, you are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

He goes on to issue a general call for excommunication (1 Corinthians 5:9-13):

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men; not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But rather I wrote to you not to associate with any one who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”

So St. Paul clearly doesn’t fall into the “don’t excommunicate” camp, and he’s not impressed with the false tolerance of those who do.

But notice why he calls for the man’s excommunication. He orders him to be delivered to Satan “that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.” In other words, you publicly condemn the man for the same reason you would tell a student that he’s failing: not to write him off, but to let him know that he needs to get his act together while there’s still time. Better to be condemned now and repent, than to be indulged in your sins now and condemned at the Last Judgment.

And note well, St. Paul’s tough love worked. Or at least, so it seems from his follow-up letter to the Corinthians (2 Corinthians 2:5-11):

If anyone has caused grief, he has not so much grieved me as he has grieved all of you to some extent—not to put it too severely. The punishment inflicted on him by the majority is sufficient. Now instead, you ought to forgive and comfort him, so that he will not be overwhelmed by excessive sorrow. I urge you, therefore, to reaffirm your love for him. Another reason I wrote you was to see if you would stand the test and be obedient in everything. Anyone you forgive, I also forgive. And what I have forgiven—if there was anything to forgive—I have forgiven in the sight of Christ for your sake, in order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes.

There’s a time to shame the sinning man, and there’s a time to comfort him so he isn’t overwhelmed by his shame and sorrow. In other words, the excommunication was medicinal, it was for his good. Rather than looking on the sinning man as an enemy of the Church, Paul looked on him as an erring brother who needed to be rebuked to be brought back in line.

And Paul lays this model of Church discipline out succinctly in 2 Thessalonians 3:6, 14-15:

Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. […] If any one refuses to obey what we say in this letter, note that man, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not look on him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.

That’s a perfectly clear endorsement of the third of the three ways that I laid out above: excommunicate, but out of love, not an attempt to create a perfectly-pure Church.

So there it is: the basic case for why we should (and why we shouldn’t) excommunication.

For next time: excommunication in the early Church, in the Middle Ages, and the problem of excommunication within modern Protestantism.

136 Comments

  1. Joe, to my reading you’ve not really explained why excommunication is necessary or appropriate.

    Ok, if we feel someone is on the wrong path we could warn them. In principle this makes sense, if we sincerely feel there is a problem, it can be a loving act to bring the subject up, agreed.

    But why excommunication? Why are we not content with bringing the subject up, warning a member of the community of a possible danger, and trying to help them if we can?

    And what happened to humility? When did we become the sole authority on the largest of questions, so confident of our infallible ability that we consider ourselves qualified to play the role of judge and expeller? Judgment, judgment, judgment, shame, shame, shame, guilt, guilt, guilt, and so on without end. Could it be that these obsessions of the Catholic mind say as much about our own problems as those we are judging? Let he who is without sin cast the first stone. What happened to that?

    And why do we of Catholic DNA have such a fixation with minding everyone else’s business? Have we completed all our own business and now need a new job to do, is that it? Are we all Love Masters, and having completed the course are ready for a new assignment?

    And when we mind other’s business without their invitation, as I am doing here, what good does it ever do? You’re just going to ignore me right? Ok, understood, but that’s what everyone else is going to do with your free unsolicited advice too. My warning to you, and your warning to others, it all falls on deaf ears unless the help is requested.

    Finally, any notion that the Creator of All Reality is going to condemn any of it’s creations to an eternity in hell is the brain child of small twisted minds who wish to worship a small, stingy, hateful, violent God, that is, a mirror of themselves. Attempting to hide the cruel empty starkness of such a philosophy in a soft cozy comforter of sanctimonious rationalizing Biblical fancy talk is a transparent effort easily seen through.

    If we simply must excommunicate somebody, let’s start there. To those who wish to worship a creator of hell, I suggest to you The Islamic State, they could be right up your alley. Why mess around with mere excommunication when you could literally be both judge and executioner?

    1. Didn’t you read the first quote that Joe posted above? It is Jesus Christ’s teaching on the subject. All who are Christians are careful listen to Christ when He teaches. So, is it a surprise that the Church follows such teaching and ‘excommunicates’, occasionally, those who refuse to be publicly corrected by the Church? Jesus hereby gives His disciples, and their successors until the end of the world, the ultimate authority regarding who is and who isn’t a member of Christ’s Church.

      Read again what Joe cited, above, from Matthew 18:15-18. Is this simple teaching too hard to understand? :

      “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

    2. Phil,

      You claim (upon no evidence, and contrast to countless direct statements in the Bible) that “any notion that the Creator of All Reality is going to condemn any of it’s creations to an eternity in hell is the brain child of small twisted minds who wish to worship a small, stingy, hateful, violent God.”

      To this, I would say, “And what happened to humility? When did [you] become the sole authority on the largest of questions”?

      I’m supposed to reject the Scriptures, given to us by God, because you say that they’re stupid? And those of us who aren’t willing to do this are the arrogant ones?

      I.X.,

      Joe

    1. Precisely.

      It is one thing to excommunicate. It is quite another to do so knowing (and willing) that the secular authority will take that excommunicant, torture and kill him (or her), which is exactly what the Catholic Church endorsed and did beginning at least with the 2nd Lateran Council, if not prior.

      1. The Catholic Church has corrective power and could excommunicate and kill heretics.

        The Church did in the Papal States.

        This is not surprising as Moses had more people killed in two days than the Spanish Inquisition did in 300 years.

        Moses was the first Inquisitor

        1. You are aware this runs counter to he argument in the OP right? If you simply wanted to stop the propagation of heresy simply imprison the heretic for life in a theocratic state.

    2. The lesson here is that officials of the Catholic Church are human beings. As such, they are subject to all the same kinds of maladies and mistakes the rest of us can become embroiled in. It’s not really fair to worry about the Middle Ages at this point, but we can see some of the very same kinds of problems arising in our own time, in the form of the child rape horror, endless rumor of scandal at the Vatican bank and so on.

      The point here is not to demonize the clergy, for there are clearly many good people within it, doing many goods things. The point is to realize that the clergy are people, imperfect human beings. Thus, it’s entirely inappropriate to simply memorize and chant whatever they might say. You would never consider doing that with me, nor me with you, and this is a very sensible procedure which should be applied to all human interactions, including with those who appoint themselves to be spiritual shepherds.

      Catholics are an intelligent people. God gave us brains. We’re supposed to use them.

    3. He just sound like a Christian, but he doesnt understand the scriptures, or we can not make God more good and merciful than he has already made and claim himself to be. In short, universal theology is a mess

  2. I mostly agree with this: the church should put people out of itself, and it does so at least in part for those people’s own good. (I don’t think this is the only good purpose served by expelling unrepentant sinners from the assembly, but I definitely agree that Paul holds it up as one such purpose.

    That said, a couple of objections:

    1) Why the dig at Protestants? You say…

    In other words, the entire Protestant attempt to create a holy Church by creating a Church of only the righteous, of only the saved, failed from the start because Christ told them not to do it.

    … but if that’s a general Protestant goal, it’s news to me! I mean, most obviously, many of us don’t believe there is such a thing as the capital-C Church; we just believe in churches. You indirectly cite Luther as saying that excommunication is punitive – but Luther’s actual statement in that document is a criticism of the RCC for using excommunication as punishment.

    (Which, as Craig notes, they did! Jan Hus’s excommunication was the first step in his eventual murder, and Joan of Arc’s excommunication was literally a death sentence.)

    So what gives? What are you basing this claim of a “Protestant attempt” upon?

    2) My biggest issue with the application here is that “excommunication” is, as I understand it, an act of the Roman Catholic Church – the broad, overarching organization. That’s nowhere in view in these passages, which give instruction to the local church – the only group that could assemble to hear testimony regarding this awful thing Bob had been doing that merited expelling him. That fits with Christ’s testimony in Matthew 18, where it’s the next escalation from “two or three witnesses,” and it works just as well with Paul’s words in Romans and 1 Corinthians, again delivered to a particular local church to handle themselves. Thus the instruction: Don’t meet with them. Don’t eat with them. Paul doesn’t even identify the people involved, because no one outside the churches in question is affected here.

    And it seems like that’s the most substantial flaw in the Catholic Church’s application of these passages – they make them a matter of how the unrepentant sinner relates to all Christians, everywhere, instead of an act of local church discipline.

    3) So, again, I want to state that I agree that separating someone from the church is an appropriate reaction. But I’d like to go back to something you said a few weeks ago:

    Church leaders say and do things we dislike: sometimes, these things are foolish; sometimes, even sinful. And yet, we’re not told to have no dissensions unless we disagree. We’re told to have no dissensions.

    You say in the comments to the same post that there’s a “Biblical injunction to total Church unity,” and this is a theme I’ve seen you raise before. But clearly “total Church unity” and “no dissensions” does not preclude turning to another apparent Christian and saying, “You’re in unrepentant sin; you’re not obeying Christ, and you’re not interested in changing that; we can no longer worship together.” Even in Catholicism, that’s an acceptable thing to do to another Christian.

    And I agree – it is! It is the biblically mandated correct action to take. It must, therefore, not be a contradiction of the command to unity. That is, Christ’s command to unity is not intended to say that we cannot forcibly reject people teaching (or living in) error; rather, it’s to be understood in the context of these other New Testament passages.

    In light of that, would you agree that for a Protestant – believing as we believe, that the Roman Catholic Church is in deep theological error, and is acting contrary to Scripture – that the required action is to reply, “We can’t be part of the same church?” I’m not trying to say that these Protestant beliefs are clearly correct – I’m just saying, for someone who’s persuaded that they are correct, and who sincerely is persuaded that the Catholic position is indefensible… would you agree that, from that position, their only moral option is to act as they do?

    1. It is worth saying that back then there was only one local church in town. This goes back all the way to the first century. Ignatius wrote that th hose who do anything no matter how holy apart from the Bishop destroy themselves. So your view of there being no Church but rather churches is an anachronism. Otherwise good points.

      1. Hm. It seems like you’re parsing my words in a different sense than I mean them there – or maybe I’m just misunderstanding you! Let me see if I can clarify.

        It’s certainly true that Paul speaks of, let’s say, “the church,” singular, in Corinth – because there’s only one! But it’s also true that the New Testament speaks of churches rather than Church – that is, that it identifies many different individual churches (sure, with one to a city), rather than identifying one uber-organization with authority over all the rest.

        As far as that goes, Scripture explicitly uses “churches” from time to time – so, for instance, Acts 16:5 (“So the churches were strengthened…”) or Revelation 1 (“To the seven churches in Asia”). For that matter, both of the epistles cited above – Romans and 1 Corinthians – use the word in the plural, in Romans 16:4 (“all the churches of the Gentiles”) and 1 Cor 11:16 (“we have no other practice – nor do the churches of God”). So I don’t think that reading is at all anachronistic, as far as it goes – and, in context, it seems like references to what should be done by the church are most commonly addressing how local churches should behave, rather than being structure for some organization with authority over all the many churches.

        In that regard, it seems to me that the reading of “church” as “Church” – as, in particular, the RCC – is the more anachronistic.

        Ignatius wrote that th hose who do anything no matter how holy apart from the Bishop destroy themselves.

        Sure, and in Ignatius’s historical context, “bishop” is generally a local church elder, rather than part of a descending hierarchy.

        1. Irked,

          When the New Testament says “churches,” it is speaking of local congregations. However, if the Church is the Body of Christ, how many bodies does Christ have? lol. This is why the Nicean Creed affirms “ONE, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church.” The “churches” mentioned in the New Testament were all in union with each other. It wasn’t like there was a Baptist community across the street from a Methodist community across the street from a PCA community lol. As St. Paul said in Ephesians 4:5 “One Lord, One Faith, One baptism.” In Matthew 18:17, Jesus doesn’t say “take it to your church” but rather “take it to THE Church.” And that’s the same Church He builds on Peter/Peter’s faith in Matthew 16. One Church.

          As for Ignatius of Antioch, I’m afraid you’re making a false dichotomy. Here’s what he says in his epistle to the Symrnaeans Chapter 8:

          “See that you all follow the bishop, even as Jesus Christ does the Father, and the presbytery as you would the apostles; and reverence the deacons, as being the institution of God. Let no man do anything connected with the Church without the bishop. Let that be deemed a proper Eucharist, which is [administered] either by the bishop, or by one to whom he has entrusted it. Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church. It is not lawful without the bishop either to baptize or to celebrate a love-feast; but whatsoever he shall approve of, that is also pleasing to God, so that everything that is done may be secure and valid.”

          May God be with you.

          1. Hi Matthewp,

            However, if the Church is the Body of Christ, how many bodies does Christ have?

            I’m happy to agree that sometimes the word is used to refer to the invisible church, that is, the full body of Christ, the set of all Christians everywhere – but if you’d like to assert its meaning is a specific organizational structure, that needs evidence.

            Regardless, those uses are rare; by sheer numbers, the New Testament generally uses the word to refer to single, local bodies. I’ve cited a few examples, in the writings of Paul, Luke, and John, but it’s easy to pull out more dozens more.

            Which makes sense, I think, given that ekklesia is the exact same word used to refer to single, local synagogues prior to Christianity’s adoption of the term. So, for instance, when Christ says, “Tell it to the church,” that makes total sense to a contemporary audience; he could as easily have said, “Tell it to the synagogue.” (For that matter, we see a number of cases in very early Christianity where “church” and “synagogue” are literally identical uses – many of the earliest Christians still view themselves as a perfected Judaism and, as per Acts, continue to meet in the synagogue.)

            Further, in a very practical sense, Christ and Paul’s words only make sense if directed to a local church: how, exactly, am I and two or three of my fellow first-century peasants supposed to present Bob’s sin before some over-organization that (a) doesn’t know us, (b) doesn’t know Bob, and (c) is nowhere near us geographically? How is the over-church meant to stop meeting and eating with Bob, given that they’ll never meet him?

            Or are we to take “the church” as synonymous with “the elder” – under the RCC’s reading that the elder is the agent of a larger hierarchy? Surely not – that’s ahistorical regarding the role of elders, first, and more pressingly makes no sense in Christ’s command to his apostles that they take matters of discipline before increasingly broad groups of believers: one, then three, and then “the assembly.”

            All these passages present requirements that make perfect sense for a local congregation, and very little beyond that.

            As for Ignatius of Antioch, I’m afraid you’re making a false dichotomy.

            A dichotomy between what and what? My statement was that, to most folks in Ignatius’s time, the bishop/elder is a local authority and not (as he is in the RCC today) a low rung in a broader hierarchy. Indeed, we see the local independence of bishops asserted even up through Cyprian. Nothing in your quote contradicts that.

          2. Irked,

            You said: “I’m happy to agree that sometimes the word is used to refer to the invisible church, that is, the full body of Christ, the set of all Christians everywhere – but if you’d like to assert its meaning is a specific organizational structure, that needs evidence.”

            First of all, what other bodies do you know of that are invisible? Christ’s body is visible. This is actually a kind of ecclesial docetism. The body is and always has been visible and structured. Otherwise, no one could tell who belonged to it because no one could see it. I already provided the specific organizational structure mentioned by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12. Only an organizational structure can discipline it’s members with a penalty like excommunication. I have no problem saying that this discipline can be handled at the local/diocesan level but you still need a structured hierarchy to do that. Otherwise, no one would be bound to obey their leaders in the Church. Without an actual authority in the Church, and without that Church being visible and structured, it is impossible to excommunicate anyone for anything. Furthermore, Paul clearly was under the impression that He had authority and He used it when necessary as Joe pointed out in 1 Corinthians 5. Also look at what he tells to Titus in Titus 2:15

            “Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

            In the protestant paradigm, Titus could be disregarded if you personally disagreed with his interpretation of scripture.

            You say: “Regardless, those uses are rare; by sheer numbers, the New Testament generally uses the word to refer to single, local bodies. I’ve cited a few examples, in the writings of Paul, Luke, and John, but it’s easy to pull out more dozens more.”

            I’m not so sure that you are correct in terms of the usage of the term but it suffices to say that it is used in both ways and therefore, what I said was true regarding the oneness of the Church articulated in the Creed. There is only one true Faith because Jesus only has one Body (1 Corinthians 10:17). I can likewise pull out dozens of instances where the word “Church” refers to the entire Body of Christ.

            You say: “Further, in a very practical sense, Christ and Paul’s words only make sense if directed to a local church: how, exactly, am I and two or three of my fellow first-century peasants supposed to present Bob’s sin before some over-organization that (a) doesn’t know us, (b) doesn’t know Bob, and (c) is nowhere near us geographically? How is the over-church meant to stop meeting and eating with Bob, given that they’ll never meet him?”

            I already said that things can be handled by the local diocese but there is a chain of command and appeals can be made and sometimes a higher authority steps in. That is what Paul did to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 5. Paul used his disciplinary authority on the Corinthian Church because they weren’t doing enough. Also, sometimes the local Church makes a bad decision in which case, an appeal can be made to someone higher up the chain of command. We are Soldiers of Christ and as such, we should expect the Church to function much like an army (except our weapons are spiritual of course).

            You say: “Or are we to take “the church” as synonymous with “the elder” – under the RCC’s reading that the elder is the agent of a larger hierarchy? Surely not – that’s ahistorical regarding the role of elders, first, and more pressingly makes no sense in Christ’s command to his apostles that they take matters of discipline before increasingly broad groups of believers: one, then three, and then ‘the assembly.'”

            Christ doesn’t say “the assembly” he says “the Church” in Matthew 18:17. I already pointed out, there has to be someone with authority in the Church otherwise excommunication is impossible. Paul was not “the assembly” in Corinth but nonetheless, he directed the Corinthian Church to excommunicate the sexually immoral man in 1 Corinthians 5 which they then did.

            You said concerning Ignatius of Antioch: “A dichotomy between what and what? My statement was that, to most folks in Ignatius’s time, the bishop/elder is a local authority and not (as he is in the RCC today) a low rung in a broader hierarchy. Indeed, we see the local independence of bishops asserted even up through Cyprian. Nothing in your quote contradicts that.”

            You articulated a false dichotomy between a Bishop being a “local church elder” and being a member of a “descending hierarchy.” The truth is that a Bishop is both. Ignatius clearly makes a distinction between a Bishop and a Presbyter (elder). The Mono-episcopal structure was firmly in place in his day and remember, he knew and learned the faith from John the Evangelist. And furthermore, a Bishop is not a “low rung in a broader hierarchy.” It’s actually the highest degree of Holy Orders that exists. A pope is ordained to the same degree of Holy Orders that any validly ordained Bishop is. The pope’s specific authority comes from his universal jurisdiction and specific charisms tied to the papal office. A Bishop is a successor of the apostles and has a high amount of authority and dignity in the Church. Far from a “low rung” indeed. Yes, Bishops do have authority to set some rules in their respective dioceses but that doesn’t mean they are completely independent from the rest of the Church. Paul exercised authority over multiple congregations. Titus exercised authority over all the congregations in Crete. Likewise did Timothy in Ephesus. The Catholic authoritative paradigm is extant from the beginning. The protestant paradigm is manifestly not.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          3. Hi Matthewp,

            First of all, what other bodies do you know of that are invisible? Christ’s body is visible.

            Well, from our earthly perspective, spiritual bodies – particularly metaphorical bodies – are often invisible to us. Christ’s body is not currently visible to us on earth; nor are the angels, etc. No doubt things look different from the vantage point of heaven!

            Otherwise, no one could tell who belonged to it because no one could see it.

            Well, yes. And that’s quite true: we don’t know for an absolute infallible fact who is and is not the body – hence, to return to our host’s original post, the note that the wheat and tares will not be separated until the last day. What you describe is exactly the universal church as we see it!

            I already provided the specific organizational structure mentioned by St. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12.

            Indeed! One body, whose head is Christ – but if there’s any temporal authority below Christ and above the churches, Paul says nothing of it.

            By no means do I contest that we are one faith, one body, whose head is the Lord – and there’s simply nothing further here to appeal to.

            Only an organizational structure can discipline it’s members with a penalty like excommunication… I already pointed out, there has to be someone with authority in the Church otherwise excommunication is impossible… I already said that things can be handled by the local diocese but there is a chain of command and appeals can be made and sometimes a higher authority steps in.

            The organizational structure presented for discipline is the local church.

            To address several bits at once: you say the hierarchy is necessary to have “a penalty like excommunication” with “a chain of command” – but that something like the modern RCC sense of excommunication is intended here is precisely the point of contention. We can’t assume it’s the correct form in order to defend its form; that’s circular.

            Furthermore, Paul clearly was under the impression that He had authority and He used it when necessary as Joe pointed out in 1 Corinthians 5.

            Paul’s very clear that he was appointed an apostle with authority directly from Christ, yeah – no argument! And yet even the apostles are told, in matters of discipline, “Take it to the church.”

            Look, I’m certainly not arguing that no one in the church has authority! Elders and deacons are appointed to authority, gifted by God for their task. But that this authority amounts to a hierarchy with a single temporal head simply isn’t found in Scripture.

            And let’s say the apostles are granted special authority over all Christians. The fact remains that we have no more apostles; whatever exception they may have been, it’s ended.

            Also look at what he tells to Titus in Titus 2:15

            “Declare these things; exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you.”

            Sure. And the source of Titus’s authority is the gospel – that he stands firm on Christ’s revelation. This is a truth we now share, because we have (among other things) the book of Titus – it’s an authority you and I both partake in, to rebuke and encourage in line with revealed truth.

            I can likewise pull out dozens of instances where the word “Church” refers to the entire Body of Christ.

            Can you? Not a passage where we can say, “Well, you could read that either way,” but where we clearly see it necessarily means the full body? Dozens? I would be curious to see that.

            That is what Paul did to the Corinthians in 1 Corinthians 5.

            Paul is the founder of the Corinthian church. He is the eldest Christian member of that body, given authority as an apostle. More to the point, he firmly insists that the church’s authority is to be Christ and not some human chain including him (“What, after all, is Apollo? And what is Paul?… Neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.”). Further, in Galatians he flatly denies being in a chain of authority descending from Peter.

            And even then, look at his instruction to the church: that when they are assembled, they are to hand this man over. It’s still the work of a single local church – absent their founding member, who therefore plainly states his judgment on the matter. The church acts! They act with biblical instruction from their elder, as is the model in Protestant churches even today, but the church is the one to put the man out!

            Where, in any of this, is a persistent chain of monarchical hierarchy with authority over churches?

            Christ doesn’t say “the assembly” he says “the Church” in Matthew 18:17.

            It is literally grammatically impossible for Christ to say one and not the other; the words are the same in Greek. We understand the context as being “the assembly of Christians, that is, the church,” but “church” is a word we made up to help distinguish context.

            (Which I think was a good thing to do! But the church is the assembly; at the most basic grammatical level, it is the synagogue of Christ.)

            You articulated a false dichotomy between a Bishop being a “local church elder” and being a member of a “descending hierarchy.” The truth is that a Bishop is both. Ignatius clearly makes a distinction between a Bishop and a Presbyter (elder).

            Ignatius doesn’t seem to give any indication that bishops are an extension of a larger authority (save Christ himself!) in this letter. What’s your basis for saying he understood them in this way?

            The Mono-episcopal structure was firmly in place in his day

            That’s not clear at all. As you note above, Ignatius distinguishes the (singular) bishop and (plural) presbyters. Many churches appear to have had only one or the other; Corinth, for instance, seems to have only a ruling presbytery council, to judge from Clement’s letter to them. Can you demonstrate that “one bishop” was the only pattern followed in the early church? More critically, can you demonstrate that these bishops were consistently understood by the fathers as part of a descending hierarchy centered on the pope?

        2. Hi Irked,

          The only ‘churches’ at that time attempted to follow the same teachings since Paul traveled and wrote his letters to different churches but his teachings applied to all. Each community had specific issues but each had issues in common–re the circumcision and meat-eating controversy, resolved by council. Paul warned the early believers not to claim different teachings since all were baptized into the one Christ, not into Paul or Apollo (I don’t have citations but will deliver them you want.)

          Just as mankind descended from one set of parents, the church (choose your capital C or small c, choose your singular or plural church), The Church descended from one Christ.

          1. Paul warned the early believers not to claim different teachings since all were baptized into the one Christ, not into Paul or Apollo (I don’t have citations but will deliver them you want.)

            Just as mankind descended from one set of parents, the church (choose your capital C or small c, choose your singular or plural church), The Church descended from one Christ.

            Amen! So to do we today – imperfectly, but seeking Christ in his Word and by the Spirit to do better. If anyone claims a teaching not in that Word, let him be reproved for it – and, if necessary, expelled from the body.

          2. Hi Irked,
            We follow scripture, yes! And we follow the meaning of scripture, sometimes as literal, sometimes figurative, sometimes its sense (with our reason) and by analog (our reason), and perhaps other ways, as supernaturally led by the Holy Spirit, with the experience difficult to put into words as when we are overcome by awe or understanding or piety (these ideas too are scriptural).

            Good day!

        3. “..Sure, and in Ignatius’s historical context, “bishop” is generally a local church elder, rather than part of a descending hierarchy.”

          A ‘descending hierarchy’ is a broad definition of ‘Kingdom’, or ‘Empire’, which typology is used throughout Sacred Scripture, and which is why Jesus, on the Cross, is identified as “King of the Jews”. Christ also teaches us to pray “THY KINGDOM come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”. So, again, the model of His Church is patterned both in Heaven, and on Earth, as a ‘Kingdom’.

          So…it is clear that the Catholic Church has followed this organizational model from it’s very beginning, as Craig rightly notes with Ignatius’ demand for loyalty towards the appropriately appointed bishops in about 100 AD. And we see this continuing, as the Church expanded over the next decades and centuries, following another metaphor used by Christ… that of the ‘seed’ growing to a great tree:

          “It is as a grain of mustard seed: which when it is sown in the earth, is less than all the seeds that are in the earth: And when it is sown, it groweth up, and becometh greater than all herbs, and shooteth out great branches, so that the birds of the air may dwell under the shadow thereof.”

          Now, everyone should understand that this analogy portrays a ‘kingdom’ or ’empire’, because of the way that a seed germinates and grows. Even though very small it has it’s own integrity and when growing into a seedling it doesn’t eject it’s newly formed stems and leaves away from it to start new clones, separated from it… but rather rather,forms small stems and small branches that themselves grow larger, which in turn produce their own sub-divisions of new stems and new branches. This is the typology that Jesus uses to describe His future Church. (It’s also interesting to note how He includes the ‘birds of the air’ finding rest in that tree/Church.)

          And then again, the very name “Catholic” is translated from the Greek as ‘Universal”. So, this also signifies organizational unity of doctrine, kingdom and empire. And referring bact to the ‘tree’ it also portrays ‘universality’, as any branches that are separated form the trunk, wither and die. Jesus teaches this when He says:

          “I am the true vine; and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me, that beareth not fruit, he will take away: and every one that beareth fruit, he will purge it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now you are clean by reason of the word, which I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abide in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine: you the branches: he that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing. If any one abide not in me, he shall be cast forth as a branch, and shall wither, and they shall gather him up, and cast him into the fire, and he burneth.”

          So, we see that Christ is the source which supplies the living nutrients to the vine’s branches, and ‘the Father’ guards, protects, tends and prunes the same vine as the expert horticulturist or ‘husbandman’.
          And in all of this we understand there is the typology of ‘universalism’ , ‘catholicism’ (in Greek), and integral growth and expansion, all of which took place in the early Church, as is described very well in Eusebius’ Ecclesiastical History, written in about 310 AD.

          And by 325AD, if we look carefully at the 20 canons of the Council of Nicaea, we can get a snapsot of how the Church actually grew from a seed to a small sapling in just the 325 years since Christ’s birth. We note, for instance, how the small band of apostles sent their ordained successors to new territories, such as Alexandria in North Africa, and how the bishop (epískopos) there, over time, grew to be an archiepískopos, governing a huge area of Egypt, Libya and the rest of North Africa. So, this clearly demonstrates a form of ecclesiastical government patterned after to typology of a hierarchical kingdom, even as Jesus said it would. Read canon 6 for instance, to understand this clearly:

          “Canon 6

          Let the ancient customs in Egypt, Libya and Pentapolis prevail, that the Bishop of Alexandria have jurisdiction in all these, since the like is customary for the Bishop of Rome also. Likewise in Antioch and the other provinces, let the Churches retain their privileges. And this is to be universally understood, that if any one be made bishop without the consent of the Metropolitan, the great Synod has declared that such a man ought not to be a bishop. If, however, two or three bishops shall from natural love of contradiction, oppose the common suffrage of the rest, it being reasonable and in accordance with the ecclesiastical law, then let the choice of the majority prevail.”

          Does not this convey the nature of the Church to be in fact “hierarchical” after the pattern of ‘the Kingdom of God’ described by Christ in His many parables?

          So, coming back around to excommunication, we see that Christ gave the ‘keys’ of the kingdom to Peter, and Peter gave the keys to His successors. And throughout Church history the ‘Universal’ Church has always scrutinized who would and who would not be included in it’s ‘communion’. When, people started teaching doctrines that disagreed with the entire body of the Catholic Church, they were cut off as heretical groups. and, as Joe said, this was for their own good, that they might correct their errors and be united again to the ‘Universal’ Church that Christ founded.

          1. A ‘descending hierarchy’ is a broad definition of ‘Kingdom’, or ‘Empire’, which typology is used throughout Sacred Scripture, and which is why Jesus, on the Cross, is identified as “King of the Jews”. Christ also teaches us to pray “THY KINGDOM come, thy will be done, on Earth as it is in Heaven”. So, again, the model of His Church is patterned both in Heaven, and on Earth, as a ‘Kingdom’.

            Christ identifies a king of that kingdom, one shepherd – himself. He identifies one other level of authority: the under-shepherd, the pastor/bishop/elder. I have no beef with either of those rankings. My complaint is that Rome asserts itself as an intermediary authority – a “mid-range shepherd,” if you will – and that’s a position that Scripture knows nothing of.

            So…it is clear that the Catholic Church has followed this organizational model from it’s very beginning, as Craig rightly notes with Ignatius’ demand for loyalty towards the appropriately appointed bishops in about 100 AD.

            Again, that’s a command regarding under-shepherds. While I don’t agree with Ignatius on this matter, there’s nothing here that suggests temporal hierarchy beyond the single-church level.

            And then again, the very name “Catholic” is translated from the Greek as ‘Universal”.

            I certainly believe in the catholic church! I just don’t believe in the Roman Catholic Church.

            And referring bact to the ‘tree’ it also portrays ‘universality’, as any branches that are separated form the trunk, wither and die. Jesus teaches this when He says:

            Indeed. We connect to Christ: priests, to his High Priest. There’s nothing here regarding intermediary levels; if this passage were all we had, we wouldn’t even know of undershepherds. (Thankfully, it isn’t!)

            We note, for instance, how the small band of apostles sent their ordained successors to new territories, such as Alexandria in North Africa, and how the bishop (epískopos) there, over time, grew to be an archiepískopos, governing a huge area of Egypt, Libya and the rest of North Africa.

            We do see the growth of errors in this time, yes – of bishops in their pride and political influence asserting authority over other Christians. But even then, the idea of a central head is poorly developed – thus, for instance, do Cyprian and Athanasius condemn the whole notion of a “bishop of bishops.” In the very canon you cite, we see that bishops are still only regional powers – Alexandria, Rome, and Antioch are peers.

            I would turn to this very passage and say: how can you, reading a discussion three hundred years later, claim that the idea of the papal hierarchy is remotely an accepted truth in the early church?

          2. The very idea that there are “metropolitans”/ archiepískopos by 325 demonstrates clearly the trajectory and organizational structure and development of the early Catholic Church. Again, it is a snapshot of how the ‘ecclesiastical seed’ became a ‘seedling’, and the ‘ecclesiastical seedling’ a sapling (..and which same Church is now an ‘ecclesiastical tree’ of large size.0 This is the historical reality of 2017 years of Church history.

            If you want to get into the details of the role of the bishop of Rome in all of this, you need to review the many posts on this subject that Joe has provided over the last 5 years. Therein are provided many details and proofs, and much controversy as well in the commenaries… but what is not suitable for arguing again here, and at this time. Maybe Joe will resurrect the subject again in the near future?

            Suffice it to say, if we read carefully Eusebius’ Church History (about 310 AD) we find a clearly hierarchical Church. Anyone who simply takes the time to read it’s short 250 pages, or so, can clearly understand this;… Unless, of course, you think this early work describes a Church that has already apostatized from the Christian faith, or that the history itself is merely based on lies.

          3. Irked, Titus appointing bishops in the entire island of Crete is an obvious example of a bishop with control over lesser bishops in an entire region.

            God bless
            Craig

          4. Irked,

            Craig emphatically nailed it. Likewise, 1 Timothy 1:3 demonstrates that the same is true with Timothy in Ephesus. Yes there were multiple bishops present in both cities which would make both Timothy and Titus Archbishops. We see this in the Catholic Church today. Very large dioceses sometimes have auxiliary bishops to assist the Archbishop (L.A. for instance). Whereas no protestant minister has any authority beyond his own congregation and even then, that congregation in many instances can throw that minister out if they don’t like him.

            Do you seriously think that everyone is included in what Paul said to Titus in Titus 2:15? For what it’s worth, all the verbs and pronouns in that verse are second person singular in the Greek. Furthermore you said something like Titus’s authority comes from “the gospel.” Does this mean that if someone in Titus’s congregations in Crete using his own interpretation of scripture decided that Titus was no longer preaching “the gospel,” he could then be just in making a schism? Somehow, I don’t think Titus or Paul would be very impressed with that. Furthermore, that is exactly what the circumcision party attempted to do to Paul! They rejected Paul’s authority based on their dislike of what Paul was saying.

            You also asked where in scripture does authority go beyond the local Church. Read Acts 15. A binding decision was made there that was binding on ALL local Churches. Anyone who wanted to dismiss the Jerusalem council’s decision would find themselves excommunicated from the Universal Church. No one could justify schism on the idea that they disagree with the Council’s interpretation of Amos 9.

            You asked for all the times in which the word “Church” is used to refer to the entire Body of Christ. Here goes:

            Matthew 16:18, Acts 5:11, Acts 15:22, 1 Corinthians 10:32, 1 Corinthians 12:28 (really the whole chapter), 1 Corinthians 15:9, Galatians 1:13, Ephesians 1:22, Ephesians 3:10, Ephesians 3:21, Ephesians 5:23, 24, 25, 27, 29, 32 (these ones especially), Philippians 3:6, Colossians 1:18, 24, 1 Timothy 3:15

            Honestly, there were some I left off that list that were I think would be appropriate (Matthew 18:17 for instance) but these are beyond dispute.

            And concerning Ignatius, have you read his letters? In each one, he identifies a single man as a bishop of a city/area (in his letter to the Romans, he identifies himself as Bishop of Antioch). He mentions most of them by name.

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          5. Hi awlms,

            The very idea that there are “metropolitans”/ archiepískopos by 325 demonstrates clearly the trajectory and organizational structure and development of the early Catholic Church.

            I absolutely agree; I think there’s a clear centralizing trajectory, which has partially (but not fully) developed 300 years after Christ, and which eventually finds full expression in a hierarchy descending from the pope. But agreeing that this was the church’s trajectory, as a matter of historical record, is a far cry from establishing that it should have been the church’s trajectory. As Protestants, we see the gradual slide into a monarchical form as a gradual leaving of the truth, not as a gradual conformance to it.

            But at a minimum, if there are – even three hundred years later! – only regional powers, it seems like the whole thrust of Matthewp’s argument above falls apart: if the circumstances of Nicea still qualify as “one faith, one body,” then a multitude of churches that are separate and independent (save for their common head in Christ) do as well. If “one faith, one body” is not an argument that there must be a singular human authority (because the church in this period didn’t have a singular human authority!), I’m happy to leave it there.

            (Definitely agree that there’s enough to talk about here without relitigating the papacy entirely, in any event!)

            Unless, of course, you think this early work describes a Church that has already apostatized from the Christian faith, or that the history itself is merely based on lies.

            I don’t think apostasy is a binary thing; I think errors were present in the church of that time, as it adopted an authoritarian slant, but were still a lot milder than they’d eventually become. But, I mean, major apostasy was present within just a couple of years – look at Corinth!

            So we have to take all the church fathers with a grain of salt. And Eusebius definitely fits that pattern; he’s writing with an agenda (as are we all!) and is interpreting the world to fit that agenda. (In his particular case, he supports a particular interpretation of Christ’s divinity, and a strongly hierarchical story helps him there.)

            But again, even what hierarchy is present in the fourth century doesn’t seem sufficient to sustain Matthewp’s argument above, and (for the moment) that’s my larger concern.

          6. Hi Craig,

            Well, so as in our last conversation, context matters here. Titus is sent to an island full of baby Christians, converted (apparently) while Paul and Titus have been with them, with Titus staying on as Paul leaves. If this is sometime in the mid 60s AD, they’re missing big pieces of the New Testament – some because Paul probably didn’t show up stocked with fifty Gospels of Mark, some because they just haven’t been written yet. In those circumstances, I don’t think it’s at all weird that their spiritual father would leave somebody behind to foster them and get them on their feet – that’s not too different from how a lot of Protestant church plants work today. I don’t think we can read that as normative for a church that is on its feet, that contains Christians who have followed for decades, and that has the full Scriptures to inform them – and in particular, there’s still nothing there that mandates, “This is the one means by which bishops are to be appointed, and their authority derives from the authority of the one appointing them.”

            What, after all, is Apollos? Or what is Paul?

          7. Hi Matthewp,

            Do you seriously think that everyone is included in what Paul said to Titus in Titus 2:15?

            Certainly not “everyone,” but I don’t think Titus has a unique status, either – odd circumstances, sure. He clearly has a unique authority in those particular circumstances (as the only experienced Christian, the only one with the full gospel, and so on), and I would expect that to hold still today – a missionary in an untouched field, say, would be fully justified to appoint elders for his new converts.

            The core question here is, “What is the source of Titus’s authority?” Is it Paul? Is it Christ? Is it the truth, entrusted once for all to God’s holy people? And on what do we ground our answer to that question?

            Furthermore you said something like Titus’s authority comes from “the gospel.” Does this mean that if someone in Titus’s congregations in Crete using his own interpretation of scripture decided that Titus was no longer preaching “the gospel,” he could then be just in making a schism?

            Paul consistently treats the gospel as something that can be understood – perhaps not in its finest particulars, but that its core saving message is knowable. (And he seems to be correct; for all the divergence in Protestant circles today, those of us who would still call Scripture the authority still tend to land pretty close together, as far as salvific truth goes.)

            So to your hypothetical: well, first, where is this person even getting the gospel? Paul and Titus are the ones who have brought it to Crete in the first place; how do you then turn around to them and say, “I don’t think the thing you’ve just said says what you just said”? Thus the charge against the circimcizers: that they’re bringing another gospel, something entirely other to the truth preserved in Scripture.

            But I certainly think that the Cretans would have been encouraged to use the actual gospel they were given in order to seek the truth – to argue from that gospel even against a wayward apostle. After all, that’s what we see Paul do to Peter in Galatians.

            You also asked where in scripture does authority go beyond the local Church. Read Acts 15.

            By all means, let’s do! In Acts 15:3 we see that the church in Antioch sends Paul, Barnabus, and some others to Jerusalem, to request that church’s help in resolving a problem. They ask for an intervention by the Jerusalem church – a church whose elders still contained the living apostles! – for instruction, in part because (as v.24 notes) the troublemakers were also coming from Jerusalem, and apparently claiming to speak for that church. (Note that Antioch does not for this reason accept the testimony of the circumcizers as truth!) Throughout, this process is at the initiation of Antioch; in v.22 the whole Jerusalem church participates in the response.

            That’s great! But (a) again, this is a request for help that comes from Antioch – something that’s rare, but not unprecedented today, and (b) today we’re pretty short on churches full of the direct apostles of Christ to which we can appeal.

            I mean, look, the Council of Nicea was appealed to upthread. That very document lists Antioch as an independent authority, of the same order as Rome or Alexandria. If you want to say that Antioch was instead permanently subservient to another church, did the Council of Nicea err in this pronouncement?

            You asked for all the times in which the word “Church” is used to refer to the entire Body of Christ. Here goes:

            Thanks for the list! I’d quibble with several of those – the references to Acts in particular seem to be the local church – but I agree, many of those read most naturally as “the set of all believers.” But none of them suggest a meaning of “church” that is “the organizational hierarchy;” as I argued with awlms, I don’t think you can even argue there is such a singular hierarchy for most of the first three or four centuries.

            And concerning Ignatius, have you read his letters? In each one, he identifies a single man as a bishop of a city/area (in his letter to the Romans, he identifies himself as Bishop of Antioch). He mentions most of them by name.

            Sure, but that isn’t my question. My question was, is it your contention that the “single bishop” model is the only acceptable model in the early church, with “group of presbyters” a heterodox creation? Is it your contention that when Ignatius says “Bishop,” he assumes an agent of a larger temporal hierarchy? And if so, to either of those, on what grounds?

          8. Irked

            The church plant thing is possible, sure. But by conceding that temporary church plant archbishops existed, then it is no leap of the imagination to state that they continued existing . I am typing on a phone so I cannot go in more detail, but certainly certain cities like Corinth and Ephesus controlled certain regions in biblical times. This means we had the seeds of metropolitans, arguably different one than the Big 5, very early on.

          9. Hi Craig,

            Realized I was starting to lose the thread of the conversation, so let me see if I can refocus myself a little bit. We’ve been spinning off of your original comment:

            So your view of there being no Church but rather churches is an anachronism.

            And I think the key, clear point here – and the one I’m trying to defend – is that this is exactly backwards: that the idea that there is a singular Church, rather than churches, is anachronistic.

            By that, as discussed upthread, I don’t mean to imply that “church” is never used to refer to all Christians at once – it sometimes is! But the Catholic view on excommunication – the thing I was originally arguing against – requires that “church” indicate a single common organizational structure from which all authority descends.

            Suppose that we accept, for the sake of argument, that the early church has people in archbishop-like offices. (To your question, yes, I think it’s plausible that they do – though let me come back to this in a moment.) What remains true, even then, is that there is no singular institution: there is, in a very real sense, no Church. Again, we see this even as late as Nicea – while they clearly claim that there are regional bishops, they explicitly don’t acknowledge a central authority. It seems to me that, at best, that gets you… well, “Churches,” if that makes sense: provincial organizations that firmly insist on their own independence.

            So to that point – to our original bone of contention – I don’t think the existence of archbishops much matters; it just doesn’t go far enough. If there is no singular church authority in the first century, then Christ can’t have meant “tell it to the singular church authority” – and indeed an alternative reading, one more consistent with the majority use of “church” in Scripture, with the pattern of the command, and with the everyday usage of the term, immediately presents itself.

            ***

            Setting our original point of aside, I think it plausible that in many cases there were people who were treated as regional authorities, more or less from the beginning; it seems like human nature that the early “megachurches” would have influence over the rest in their area. For that matter, if I was an elder appointed by Titus, I’d probably continue to view him (rightly) as a spiritual mentor, and that seems like it could easily enough grow into a tradition of deference.

            But. But.

            But we can view that in two different ways. We can say, “Well, the churches appointed people as regional authorities, at least some of the time, as a matter of historical record.” That’s quite different from, “The churches were morally obliged to have regional authorities over them, with other authorities over those people, and so on.”

            In other words, suppose that there was a church near Alexandria that did not agree with the Alexandrian bishop – that argued, let’s say, that his teaching was heretical and inconsistent with the gospel they had received from Christ. We can look at that in two ways: we can either say, “Well, the bishops are basically a human invention, and Local Church X can and should follow the gospel even where it contradicts the bishop,” or we can say, “The bishop is their divinely-appointed authority, because their church is part of a divinely-appointed organizational chain, and they need to submit to what he says.”

            And on that topic, if all we had were the examples of Paul appointing Titus and so on, I might be tempted towards the latter view. But that isn’t all we have, and Paul flatly – flatly – denies the latter view. In Galatians 1-2, he denies every relevant postulate. He denies that he’s part of a chain of authority stemming from Peter, or from the church in Jerusalem more generally. He denies that those esteemed in Jerusalem are of an authoritative level different from other Christians: “whatever they were makes no difference to me; God does not show favoritism.” He denies that Christians are to submit to leaders in error, holding up his own opposition of Peter as an example. Indeed, he harshly rebukes the Galatians for abandoning the gospel they’ve been previously given at the instigation of any authority whatsoever, explicitly including both apostolic and spiritual authorities in his reply: “Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!”

            How can these words be understood, but that Paul thinks (1) they have the gospel, in a form such that teaching can be checked against it, (2) they can interpret the gospel and understand the core of its message, and (3) they should defend that message against anyone who appears teaching a novel theology? How can we read them except as a flat denial that they are to suborn what they see in the gospel to any human authority?

            I’m not suggesting that wise Christian council is irrelevant, here – otherwise, why would Paul write to them? And this doesn’t contradict what we see in the case of, say, Titus: a case where the people of Crete are still receiving the gospel for the first time, and desperately need help in first establishing themselves. But those criteria don’t apply to an established church, already entrusted with the gospel – and so I see no way of arguing that such churches were intended by Paul to be required to submit to a higher organization.

            And again, if the churches are not required submit in this way, we can’t read these passages in a way that requires submission.

        4. Hi Irked,
          Today I was reading a chapter on ‘The Church’ in Karl Barth’s God Here and Now, and I was puzzled at what he says (p. 79, Routledge Classics).

          “The essence of the Church is the event in which the Holy Scriptures as the prophetic-apostolic witness to Jesus Christ carry through the ‘demonstration of the Spirit and power” (and thus their self-attestation) for particular men, so that these men receive the freedom to know themselves as men enlightened and overcome by this witness, i.e., by Him to whom this witness points….It may by no means point elsewhere–not even elsewhere in addition.”

          These are hard words for me to accept. Is not the essence of the Church those who first heard the word from Jesus? And THEN, Jesus chose Peter for a specific leadership function. Jesus’ giving the keys to Peter, the look of Jesus to Peter after Peter’s denial, the post resurrection miracle of the multitude of fish, Jesus’ asking whether Peter loved him, and Jesus’ saying, “Feed my sheep.” were signs of Peter’s unique call. All of these and other favors allowed Peter to accept his call. That call allowed Peter, no other disciple, to heal the beggar at Jerusalem’s gate and that call endowed Peter to proclaim the word at Pentecost, the birth of the Church. This was prior to scripture being written.

          Question: How might I understand Paul’s call if there was no written word at that time? How does this make sense in light of Barth’s words? Do Barth’s words not account for the special case of Paul?

          Thanks.

          1. Sorry. I meant to inquire, last paragraph, how Barth accounts for Peter! I’m taking from one to give to the other…

          2. Hi Margo,

            So, a caveat up front: I’m not a big student of Barth’s, and I tend to think he was a little bit of a nut – brilliant, sure, but a brilliant nut. More charitably, his philosophical underpinnings and mine diverge enough that I may not be the best person to ask to interpret him. Let me see what I can say.

            Maybe it would help to reply with a question, first: what does it mean to you to say “the essence of the church?” Not, like, what specific thing do you think it is, but when you call something, “the essence of the church,” what do you want that phrase to convey? Lacking that, I’m not sure how to answer your “Is not…” question.

            But let me look at the main body of your paragraph:

            And THEN, Jesus chose Peter for a specific leadership function. Jesus’ giving the keys to Peter, the look of Jesus to Peter after Peter’s denial, the post resurrection miracle of the multitude of fish, Jesus’ asking whether Peter loved him, and Jesus’ saying, “Feed my sheep.” were signs of Peter’s unique call. All of these and other favors allowed Peter to accept his call. That call allowed Peter, no other disciple, to heal the beggar at Jerusalem’s gate and that call endowed Peter to proclaim the word at Pentecost, the birth of the Church. This was prior to scripture being written.

            So of course we as Protestants don’t agree with the Catholic interpretation of these passages. Look, for instance, at the “Feed my sheep” exchange on the seashore. We understand that, not as a special appointment demonstrating Peter’s special authority, but as a sign of a relationship-mending that Peter alone needs: three chances to affirm Christ, for three times that Peter denied Him. That doesn’t raise Peter above his fellows – it just establishes that yes, he’s still one of them!

            Likewise, we generally understand the “keys” passage in the context of the “binding and loosing” part of the subsequent phrase – keys being what you need to lock things up! In Matthew 18, that second phrase is said of all Christ’s disciples; whatever it signifies, it signifies it for all of them.

            Healing, again, is not a gift unique to Peter. Acts 5 says simply that “the apostles” performed many signs and wonders. More specifically, Paul raises the dead – a rarer miracle by far, and yet (rightly) not one that’s taken to imply Paul’s leadership of the apostles. Paul heals the cripples (Acts 14, 19, and 28) and casts out demons (Acts 16); heck, Acts 19 says that even cloths that had touched Paul could heal.

            (None of this should be taken to say that Peter was not a prominent and influential leader among the apostles – merely that his influence was not a specific spiritual appointment, like I argued regarding archbishops to Craig, above. In many ways, Acts shows an important transition in the early church: from the leadership of Peter, the apostle to the Jews, to Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles. The Jerusalem Council is the clearest pivot point, where the Gentiles are accepted as full equals – and at that council, it is James who seems to be in charge. None of these men, however, ever claims headship over the others; indeed, what we have of their writing portrays them merely as apostles and elders among others.)

            How might I understand [Peter]’s call if there was no written word at that time? How does this make sense in light of Barth’s words? Do Barth’s words not account for the special case of [Peter]?

            I imagine either of us would understand these things only poorly, lacking any written word! I think we see that in, say, the Corinthian church, where people do begin claiming that Peter or Paul or others are a special category above the rest. Thank the Lord that we’re not dependent on word-of-mouth to sort through some of these difficult things.

          3. Hi Irked,

            Who do you align with philosophically? I really haven’t read many Reformation scholars. A bit of Luther with his inquisitors, Bonhoeffer, today Barth, Tillich and a few others whose names I don’t remember.

            First, it seems I too hastily read Barth. On re-reading, he seems to say the essence of Church is Jesus Christ, with Scripture as the instrument to know Him. Barth worded his sentence such that he seemed to suggest Scripture as the essence. That idea discomfited me. I had this image of a Bible in a building, Barth calling that church.

            I am a child of what used to be called a “mixed marriage,” with one parent Protestant, the other Catholic. I grew up thinking of Mass as church. Although the entire family attended Sunday Mass, we always said we were going to “church” rather than to Mass. Perhaps that is why I equate the two.

            But on a theological note, I wonder whether I am too far off the mark. The Mass does incorporate Scripture with a 3-year cycle to include all the gospels in addition to selections from Hebrew Scripture, Psalms, and Epistles as they relate thematically. There is preaching and prayer and praise. There is the memorial of the sacrifice. Then there is the Living Presence. Given so that we may conform ourselves more unto Him.

            I would be so bold as to claim that the Mass encapsulates the Good News–the essence of church–in two words, Jesus Christ, in more words–God Incarnate and descended so that man may ascend through the power of the Holy Spirit given to the Church to abide with it forever.

            I am hopeful that I have time tomorrow to talk a bit again about Peter (maybe Paul too). I am not certain I understand where the keys in Matthew 18 appear. Is it in the power to loose and bind on earth as in Heaven?

            In the meantime, Irked, may God bless. Holy Passion Sunday.
            [Why are you Irked?]

          4. Who do you align with philosophically?

            Charles Spurgeon is a pretty decent match: Baptist, Reformed, etc.

            Barth worded his sentence such that he seemed to suggest Scripture as the essence. That idea discomfited me.

            It would discomfit me, too. Whatever Christianity is, you can’t summarize it without mentioning both Christ and us.

            I am hopeful that I have time tomorrow to talk a bit again about Peter (maybe Paul too). I am not certain I understand where the keys in Matthew 18 appear. Is it in the power to loose and bind on earth as in Heaven?

            Yep, that’s what I was trying to express: we generally see the idea of “you have keys” and the idea of “you can bind and unbind” as being basically the same thought: because you have keys, you can lock things up or unlock them.

            In the meantime, Irked, may God bless. Holy Passion Sunday.
            [Why are you Irked?]

            And you as well!

            (It’s a very old joke; I used to mock-threaten some friends that if they did such-and-such in a board game, I would be “surpassingly irked.” The nickname stuck, and I use variations of it as an online handle a few different places.)

          5. Hello Irked,

            We certainly do differ on Peter’s importance. In my feeble way I suggest that Peter was chosen as an authority. Why else would Jesus have renamed him “Rock” (alluding to the mountain where the Commandments were given, the Sermon on the Mount, the mount where Noah’s Ark came to rest, etc.)? Why would Jesus have given Peter keys prior to giving the powers to loose and bind (as you say He gave to all later). And Peter’s preaching at Pentecost and his healing at the Gate of Jerusalem preceded the preaching and healing of other disciples. He was eminent. He was first. He is spoken of in scripture at great length, more than any other disciple.

            You wrote, “…Look… at the “Feed my sheep” exchange on the seashore. We understand that, not as a special appointment demonstrating Peter’s special authority, but as a sign of a relationship-mending that Peter alone needs: three chances to affirm Christ, for three times that Peter denied Him. That doesn’t raise Peter above his fellows – it just establishes that yes, he’s still one of them!”

            Yes, one interpretation of Jesus’ three requests to Peter may have been to bring Peter back “into the fold.” But if Peter needed reassuring, surely all disciples but John needed it too since all but John had deserted Jesus as he hung dying on the cross.

            Why did Jesus not reassure Peter after Peter’s refusal to accept Jesus’ suffering? There, Matthew 16:23, Jesus calls Peter “Satan,” but does not follow this with bringing Peter back into the fold with any words of warm reassurance. Rather this is followed by a call to deny oneself, to lose one’s life rather than gain the world. No warm and fuzzy love there. Instead, a call to follow and take up one’s cross. Peter surely smarted. He’d just been called “Satan” by the Son of the living God.

            Peter was the first of the disciples to know that Jesus was the Son of God. (Matthew 16:21ff). And how did Peter know this? Jesus said it was the Father who had revealed it to Peter. Not Jesus. There reveals authority. Some things Jesus knew and was at liberty to reveal. Other functions and knowledge were left to the Father to reveal.

            Jesus was obedient, unto death, to the will of His father, despite the indication in Matthew 26:39 that he would it were otherwise. That is an indication of obedience. To an authority.

            In nature, there is a hierarchy among the animal kingdom, divided into predator and prey. Man stands at the pinnacle of the animal kingdom. There is a hierarchy of angels.

            Man naturally forms a hierarchy to organize and to frame almost all complicated, cooperative human activity. The father is the authority in the family. The CEO oversees the corporation. The teacher rules in her classroom.
            The commander-in-chief calls the army’s shots. Without hierarchical authority, chaos ensues.

            There is the mediate hierarchy of the Trinity itself. The son is obedient to the Father. The Holy Spirit (given to man to remain with us forever) proceeds from the love between the Son and the Father. God the Father, in his wisdom, chose not to reveal Himself (else we die at the sight), but chose his only begotten son, like us in all but sin, to mediate between us and Him.

            The authority of the Church is not a maniacal dictatorial monster. Vatican II contains a document which speaks to episcopal collegiality and how that relates to the pope. Ex cathedra (infallible pronouncements) are also governed by rules and not all words from the pope’s mouth represent these (contrary to what many people think!)

            Best to you.

          6. Hi Margo,

            Hello Irked,

            In my feeble way I suggest that Peter was chosen as an authority.

            Definitely. He was an apostle of Christ – an apostle to the Gentiles, as Paul later attests. He was an adopted son of God, a royal priest – as are all Christians, by his own attestation. It’s the specific nature of the authority, and in particular the idea that it was handed down to successors, with which I take issue.

            Why else would…

            Let me try a thought experiment here that will maybe help to clarify my issue with the “Why else would…” argument.

            Suppose I come to you and explain that Paul is the foremost apostle. Look at Christ’s words in Acts 9 – he specifies that Paul is “my chosen instrument,” a description which connotes authority. Paul, I point out, wrote more of the New Testament than any other human being – he was uniquely gifted with infallibility, again a sign of the Spirit’s special mark upon him. Paul speaks the most at the Jerusalem council – he’s the only one to speak up twice, because it’s his opinion that matters most. Indeed, in Galatians Paul claims an authority independent from (and not subservient to!) the other apostles – he alone claims a tradition that does not descend from them. He not only says that their authority matters nothing to him, he even dares to rebuke and correct them in their shortcomings; look at how he publicly upbraids Peter, clearly a sign that Peter is subservient to him. (For that matter, Paul saw more deeply into the truth than Peter, who admits that it’s hard to understand Paul’s writings.) Paul performs more miracles than anyone else (other than Christ) in the New Testament. Paul has power over demons. Paul alone raises the dead. Paul lays on hands and conveys the Holy Spirit. Paul alone “was snatched up into the third heaven.” It’s Paul who will soon present the gospel to the emperor himself, as Acts draws to a close – and Paul alone who has a clear connection to the church in Rome. All of these are proofs that God favored him over all his peers – why else would they be in the record?

            Or, I say to you, John is the preeminent apostle. John wrote the most of any of the actual disciples – five books to Peter’s two. John alone is identified as “the disciple Jesus loved;” surely this a sign of a unique relationship, and therefore a unique responsibility. John is the only one present at the cross – where Peter falls away, John stands fast. It’s to John that Jesus commits his mother, and by extension the church. Why else, after all, would this passage appear, except that we’re supposed to see ourselves “beholding our son” who will care for and guide us. The spirit of John survives in the church today – Jesus implied that John would remain until His Second Coming, and indeed John alone is given a vision of that Second Coming. Finally, John is the last of the apostles (last as he was first, as the Scriptures say) given the longest to shepherd his flock – that is, all the church.

            Or maybe I claim James – the very half-brother of God! Or maybe it’s someone else – Apollo, let’s say.

            I’m being long-winded here, and I hope not offensive – but do you see my point? You can probably look at each of those and say, “That’s an awfully big conclusion to reach on awfully thin evidence” – and exactly. There are a dozen other explanations for each of the events I list above; probably the simplest explanation for all of them is that each of God’s apostles was a unique person, and Christ interacted with each of them uniquely.

            But uniqueness doesn’t imply that one of them was in charge over the others. Peter preaches at Pentecost, Paul preaches to Caesar, but neither proves anything. Peter to the Jews, Paul to the Gentiles; Peter the rock, John the one Jesus loved – the particular meaning you’re asking for simply doesn’t appear in the text, and the same hermeneutic that would lead us to Peter’s preeminence works equally as well for the other two. In other words, the problem of reaching big, sweeping conclusions on thin evidence is that we conclude too many things – it just isn’t useful as a way to arrive at the truth!

            And what do we find Scripture saying of any of this? In Luke 9, Jesus hears the disciples arguing over who is greatest – a discussion that, per Matthew, comes right after the “keys to the kingdom” bit – and he does not say, “Guys, we just settled this, Peter’s in charge.” He says instead, basically, “Guys, this is a dumb thing to talk about. Serve each other, and serve me, and don’t worry about someone being in charge.” In 1 Corinthians, we see Paul ruthlessly berating the Corinthians for thinking that one or the other of the apostles is preeminent. To conclude there’s such a thing as a “greatest apostle,” we have to work from thin evidence, against the clear testimony of Scripture. That’s exactly the same hermeneutical method that lets Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses and the rest reach their erroneous conclusions; we cannot emulate it.

            So I completely agree with you: this…

            Man naturally forms a hierarchy to organize and to frame almost all complicated, cooperative human activity.

            … is absolutely true. We like hierarchy. We like human hierarchy. Lacking a clear human authority to appeal to, we naturally start sorting ourselves out into a ranking. That’s what the disciples try to do in Luke 9; it’s what the Israelites do in 1 Samuel, when they cry out, “Give us a king!”

            And it’s a mistake.

          7. Hi Irked,

            I’m in a giant hurry, so disorganized and brief but a few harried thoughts.

            It’s not a mistake if the Spirit chooses. There were kings who were wise and truly good too (just as there are popes who were one or another). The lay Christians didn’t choose or ask for Peter. He was given them.

            There is a governing and there is a reigning. The Holy Spirit reigns or rules while bishops govern or administer. As bishops, each has administrative jurisdiction over a geographic. They are equals but only one may be the Bishop of Rome. (That is not to say that there may arise more than one Pope!) Of course each person has special gifts; I am more like Peter (personality) and I admire yet struggle with Paul (he’s very SMART). In the Church, when difficult situations arise within one or more geographical churches, (should gentile converts to Christianity be circumcised?), the bishops convene a council and together pray and debate and conclude. No one claims that Pope Francis has the intellectual gifts of St. John Paul II. The collegial body evidently believed, with the Holy Spirit, that he was the man for the current hour which seems to need reminding of pastoral mercy. Although a certain Pope may wish his approach become cannon law, that won’t always be happenin’.

          8. Hi Margo,

            It’s not a mistake if the Spirit chooses.

            Sure. That’s the critical “if.” But there are cases where the human instinct to hierarchy is a mistake, and Israel’s desire for a king was explicitly one such – God outright says that this request is a sign they’ve abandoned Him. That was my point in citing it: we can’t just assume that human hierarchy is always the way God wants us to go, because we know that sometimes that’s a sinful human impulse rather than an appropriate one. So when you say…

            There were kings who were wise and truly good too (just as there are popes who were one or another).

            … then that’s true – but it’s also true that Israel wasn’t supposed to have a king.

            I understand the rest of your post, but it seems like we’re basically asserting things at this point. That’s how things work in the Catholic Church, yes; is that how they’re supposed to work? On what grounds do we say yes or no?

            To that last, I’d say, “Well, Scripture.” And my hope in that long, rambly post of mine was to say that we can’t, with good exegesis, find evidence in Scripture to support the theory of Petrine supremacy – that we could, with equal ease, construct Pauline or Johannine theories, and that in all cases we’d be drawing inferences Scripture just doesn’t support.

          1. Well versed in everything…I would not go that far! I have read a few of his works cover to cover but he has wrote volumes of works so I am by no means a completist. I am nearing finishing all of the fathers in the second century (I still have to finish book five of against heresies). Soon my website should be updating on that but converting to Orthodoxy means I have been reading secondary sources again. Plus I am moving. It has been crazy!

          1. Craig,
            1. The site mentioned does not bring forth the article.
            2. I have a copy but never read it; I was wondering if there were any insights you had applicable to Joe’s article. Specifically I was curious about Augustine’s take on the interaction of grace in one’s ease of accepting rebuke.
            3. I was particularly curious about our rebuking a “brother” (as Joe quotes 2Thessalonians 3:6ff) vs. our rebuke of someone outside our community. This seems apropros today.

            Don’t worry if you aren’t able to give a look. I think I’m onto the gist.
            Best in your move and your study.

          2. Margo

            I am sorry I am pulling blanks. I know in Augustine’s works against the Donatists he minced no meat about how schism put their eternal souls into jeopardy. He also was in favor of using state force to ban schismatic churches citing the scripture “compel them to come in.” But we are asking about excommunication. I am unsure of how he responded to Pelagius being kicked out, then put back in, then kicked out again.

            God bless
            Craig

  3. Let’s escape the theory realm, get down to the details of this, and create a truly informative and practically useful thread.

    How do I get excommunicated?

    Joe is almost clergy, so he probably knows. C’mon guys, you love me and all, so help me out here.

    1) I’m officially baptized and confirmed, so I must be on the books in the Vatican somewhere.

    2) And as I’ve proven here on this site, I’m an adamant fire breathing devilish communist hippy heretic who refuses to follow the teachings of Jesus, as can only be known by the members of this site whose personal interpretations are exactly THE TRUTH, given that they know the mind of the creator of all reality in every possible detail.

    So, I’m sure you’ll agree, the next step is obvious. Because you love me so much and want to warn me of my impending eternal torment in the lowest reaches of hell which was created by a loving God just for this purpose, to be loyal to Joe’s teaching, and of course that of the Church, you must now get me excommunicated, and kick my sorry evil butt the @#$%% out of the Catholic Church!!!!

    When do we get started? I’m sure you’ll understand, this spiritual child sheep is anxious to be saved by you the all knowing Holy Shepherd.

    What do I have to do? Do I have to perform some truly evil act, or is puncturing your fantasies of holy superiority enough? Is there an express lane??

    Thank you for loving me soooo much!!!!

    1. Phil,

      You have already excommunicated yourself. With your disdain for the Catholic Church which baptized and confirm you, with your many heresies and blasphemies, for your apostasy, you have actually incurred excommunication “latae sententiae” (which means the sentence is already passed) according to Canon Law. Believe it or not, yes this is meant to warn you of the danger you have placed your soul in. And furthermore, these are not merely our interpretations. These come from the Catechism, from the Saints, from the Scriptures. You dismiss all three whenever it is convenient for you. You resent what the Catholic Church has always believed and taught.

      I wonder when exactly you began to reject the clear warning of damnation from Scripture and most definitely from our Lord Jesus Christ. Your ideas begin to make sense since the rejection of this dogma makes the whole faith irrelevant. However, I wish you would not pretend to admire our Lord Jesus Christ when you so clearly despise what he has to say. One example from Matthew 25:41-46

      “Then he will say to those at his left hand, ‘You that are accursed, depart from me into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels; for I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not give me clothing, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’ Then they also will answer, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not take care of you?’ Then he will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life.”

      Yes Phil, the God of Love, Who Is Love, will allow a soul to descend into hell for eternity. In fact, He would not be a God of Love if that were not the case. The God of Love who created us with free will respects that incredible dignity, even if it means a person freely rejects God forever. God in His infinite wisdom permits this. Hell is the final guarantee that everything we do in the body matters. If the unrighteous were never punished, then sin would have no consequence and everyone could be as evil as they wish and sin with impunity.

      I believe it was Archbishop Fulton Sheen who responsed to the question “what if someone doesn’t believe in hell?” His answer was “they will when they get there.” Yes Phil, these are warnings because we do NOT want you to go there. We love you. We love your soul too much not to warn you of the danger you have placed yourself. Speaking of Archbishop Sheen, you would do well to read this from him:

      http://catholicsaints.info/hell-by-venerable-fulton-sheen-26-march-1933/

      I’ll repeat what I said earlier which is why are you here? From your last comment you appear to have an ax to grind against the Catholic Church in which you were raised, baptized, and confirmed. What did the Catholic Church ever do to you? Are you interested in learning why the Catholic Church teaches what she teaches or would you rather complain and stomp your feet? If the latter, kindly leave. If the former, learn how to dialogue respectfully.

      May God be with you.

      Matthew

    2. Phil. Almost all who leave the Church do so because they love one or more of their favorite sins more than they love the church.

      And then, after they leave the Church, they heap opprobrium upon it as a way to try and dissipate the psychic tension they experience produced by the cognitive dissonance of abandoning the Church they once loved, the Church Jesus established for two purposes; that is, they try to attack the Church and make it appear it is unworthy of your love and fidelity.

      Said otherwise, it really has much to do with Pride.

      Salvation
      Sanctification

      Only you, Phil, know which of the Seven Cardinal Sins (maybe even more than one) you chose over Jesus and His Salvation and Sanctification but heresy means to choose, and you have done so and you must either live with the consequences (Hell) or chose metanoia and repudiate your bad choice and return home to seek Salvation and strive for Sanctification.

      You still have time to chose but only while you are alive.

      2 John 9 revelas to you, and to all, the consequences of your choice.

      1. ABS,
        Superb. Your description is so apropros. Cognitive dissonance is the ‘thought’ related form of the supernatural fact. When one rejects the gifts of Baptism (and sealed at Confirmation), the gifts, being eternal since they are of the Holy Spirit, still reside within one’s memory, heart, soul, and spirit. Heaping the stench of sin on the gifts lessens neither them nor their power. When the psychic tension does not dissipate, other persons and institutions are blamed.

        Blessings.

      2. Hi AMB, thanks for that restatement of the hell theory. Yes, I still have time to choose, and I choose to roll my eyes at the tiny violent God created and worshiped by tiny twisted minds. Others are of course free to make their own choice.

        I have no fear of excommunication, the clergy, or any human’s interpretation of something somebody said thousands of years ago about what somebody else said, because I believe separation from God _IS AN ILLUSION_ created by the inherently divisive nature of thought, ie. the human condition.

        This is not a song written by John Lennon when he was high on LCD and having an orgy at Woodstock.

        It is instead a perspective informed by the Catholic doctrine I was taught as a child which stated…

        God is ever present everywhere in all times and places.

        Ever present.

        Everywhere.

        All times.

        All places.

        There’s no where else for me to be but in God my friend.

        In my best guess, Jesus was a highly sensitive very insightful person who had this experience, perhaps while in the desert, and saw accurately that he was God. As are you, and me, and everything else.

        The only exception I can see is my former neighbor with the chronically barking dog, who is obviously an agent of Beelzebub. 🙂

        1. “…my former neighbor with the chronically barking dog..”

          I suspect there’s a reason the dog was barking – dogs often can sense, y’know, bad stuff before us humans, with all our intervening thoughts, reason out the fell possibilities…

          And the ‘former neighbor’ thing….hoo-boy, wonder if the local po-lice have ground-penetrating radar…God knows what they might find in Phil’s backyard…

          Take the hint, Phil…just leave….

    3. “I’m officially baptized and confirmed”

      “Confirmed” in what? What is ‘firm’ about any of your doctrines…or ‘non-doctrines’? To be ‘confirmed’ in the Catholic faith, is to accept all of the teachings of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

      And yes….’we love you and all’. But that doesn’t mean that we abandon even one iota of the truth that is taught by the Church which Christ founded. The Church is not just a ‘pot-fogged’ smoke in party where ‘nothing really matters’. It is a body of believers, a ‘kingdom’, described by Christ, where every single action that we do, and word that we utter, is scrutinized in an eternal way, as Christ taught: ” But I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment.” (Matt. 12:36) So, everything matters, everything is important and has eternal implications in our life here on Earth.

      Best to you, but I would certainly suggest that you read carefully all four Gospels of the Sacred Scriptures… as the words of Christ are found there, upon which Gospel the Church was built, and spread, until this very day.

      Maybe then you will be reunited to this Church which you claim to have been ‘confirmed’.

      1. Al, I am simply reporting the facts. When I was a young teen, approximately 478 years ago, I completed the official confirmation process at our Catholic Church.

  4. Mathew,

    I’m looking for real life details. As example, who has been excommunicated in recent years, and what exactly did they do to earn the expulsion? Shouldn’t we know that? These details seem important, both for those like myself who seek excommunication, and those like yourself who seek to avoid it, right?

    I excommunicated myself?? I’m in the clergy now? Who knew!! Seriously, I take Joe at his word that he’s studied this subject in some depth, and I see no mention in his article of one excommunicating oneself. In fact, such a concept seems a blatant denial of what Joe actually said.

    It seems pretty clear to me that some official in the Church has to perform the excommunication, somebody other than me has to explicitly and formally toss my butt out of the Church and off the list of official Catholics. So who exactly, and what do I have to do to qualify?

    Joe said people like me should get the boot. Do you agree or not, yes or no? If no, why? If yes, let’s get down to business.

    To answer your last question, I’m doing exactly what everyone else in all of Christendom is doing, customizing Christianity to my own taste. We can debate this if you want, but I’m attempting to stay on the subject of excommunication.

  5. Thank you, but um, look, read Joe’s article again. It says nothing about the offender bearing the burden of contacting some Bishop or reading a pile of ever changing obscure small print theological legalese.

    Joe’s article says, if the person in question is violating the standards to some degree as yet unspecified, they should be excommunicated by the Church (in love, as a warning etc).

    I the heretic bear no burden here. I have no job to do. You bear the burden of identifying me as a problem child, bringing the problem to my attention, and if I do not fall in to line, having the appropriate Church official excommunicate me.

    I’m already going above and beyond my responsibility here by raising no objection to the excommunication. I’m making your job easier. Don’t let such cooperation confuse you in to thinking this is not your job. At the least you should report me to the clergy if you don’t feel qualified to perform any other function in this matter.

    Look guys, you traditional Catholic types are always wanting to point the finger of blame and shame, judge, condemn, and keep things in tidy order. So here I am, a mess, making all kinds of trouble, setting a bad example, questioning everything, disturbing the status quo, and requesting that you do the very thing you say you have a responsibility to do. I’M AGREEING WITH YOU!

    So stop screwing around and get to work.

    Or, if you prefer, just be honest and admit all this talk is just a bunch of talk.

    There’s a cliche for this situation, isn’t there? Hmm… Oh yes, here it is.

    Put up or shut up.

    I

    1. Phil,

      What motivates you to act like this? You’ve spent a great deal of your free time of late writing what appear on the surface to be outrageous and desperate cries for help. I assume you’re not so immature that you actually want to be excommunicated (oh bold rebel!), so what is it that you really want?

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. Joe, is it outrageous to ask if you are going to do that which your own article suggests must be done?

        Yes Joe, I ACTUALLY WANT TO BE EXCOMMUNICATED because that will be my statement, my real world action, my no BS commitment, that we have nothing to fear from pieces of paper in some drawer at the Vatican.

        This action is a statement of my faith Joe. God is ever present everywhere at all times. I learned that from the priests Joe, learned it from the priests. I can’t help it that they are apparently unable to grasp what it means.

    2. Phil – do you even attend Mass? You’ve already excommunicated yourself.

      What I gather from reading some of your postings you are a lonely guy looking for someone to engage you. Many have obliged.

      You think pretending to be a bad boy makes you special as you act in the same manner you denounce us traditional Catholic types. You are here judging and pointing fingers.

      Typical.

      1. CK, you’re arguing with Joe’s article, not with me. Joe’s article states it is YOUR responsibility to at least report me to the clergy. I agree with Joe. Apparently, you do not. Take it up with him.

        1. Phil – there is nothing to report. You don’t partake of the Eucharist at my church and if you where publicly promoting your crazy ideas and receiving the Eucharist where I attend I would say something to the priest. Not for my sake but for yours.

          Give me your real name, address and where you partake of the Eucharist and I will let your priest know. Feel better now?

          1. CK, read Joe’s article. Your job to get me excommunicated. Your job. Joe has my real name, get it from him.

    3. You were already told Phil, that you have incurred excommunication latae sententiae by being committing apostasy and heresy. The relevant Canon law is 1364. If you were to attend mass in the state you are in now, you should not receive communion. And you should only return to the sacrament of confession if you are willing to repent of said apostasy and heresy which I encourage you to do.

      I find it amusing that you accuse us of “wanting to point the finger of blame and shame, judge, condemn.” I am not the judge of your soul. I am only judging your words and actions that you have presented here on this blog. God sees your heart and He will be the judge of your soul and His judgement will be fair and there will be no arguing with it. What you have demonstrated is that you do not like what Jesus had to say, do not like what Paul had to say, and do not like what the Church has to say. We know why but would invite you to lay your presuppositions aside just for a moment and maybe you will learn. Why do you continue to refuse? And furthermore, if you have no intention of learning or possibly being corrected, why do you remain?

      Matthew

      1. Mathew, to answer your last sentence…

        I came here to TEACH. Just like you, every other member of this site, and just about everybody all across the Catholic web. That’s what Catholics do, we give sermons, we tell other people what to do, what to think, how to measure up to our standards, and so on. I’m doing EXACTLY what you’re doing in all your posts to me. So look in a mirror my friend, and you will see me there.

  6. Hi Joe,

    Fair question. Rude and silly, but I don’t care about that, so no worries.

    If I understand it, you see being Catholic as a choice. It’s not a choice for me. It’s hundreds of years of Catholic DNA driving the boat here, I’m just along for the ride.

    I’m Catholic in the sense of being _incurably_ interested in these topics, and in sharing many personality traits with most of those I meet on the Catholic web. As example, almost everything you read on the Catholic web is somebody’s sermon, and that’s me to the ninth degree too. You like to judge, me too. You like to mind everyone else’s business, me too. You’re intelligent and articulate, same here. You grasp that your writing needs an edge to engage, I get that too. The list of similarities goes on and on.

    You see a HUGE difference between us, because you see religion as ideology, and clearly our philosophies do differ. I see ideology as a crutch, a highly imperfect and very divisive means to an end, something one does while trying to talk oneself in to having religious experience. That’s what religion is to me, experience, not talk about experience. This talk I’m doing now is not religion. It’s talk. I get the difference. You may not.

    We understand Jesus differently obviously. You’re focused on memorizing what somebody said Jesus said. I’m focused on trying to do what Jesus actually did, being a very inconvenient loud mouthed person who rocked the stagnant status quo of his time to it’s foundation, rejected all human authority, and charted his own course. No, I’m not comparing myself to Jesus, just trying to follow the example of what he himself actually did while he was alive.

    What do I want? I want to rock your socks Joe. Just exactly the same thing you want to do, and do a pretty good job of.

    Ah yea Joe, I want you to do what you yourself said is required in your article. You’ve already warned me of my transgressions. So now it’s time for you to do what you say must be done. Get to work Joe. Earn those clerical robes. Excommunicate my ornery butt, without further delay. Put up, or shut up.

    1. Phil – I have no idea if your smart or not but it’s difficult for you to rock anyone’s socks off if you continue to contradict yourself and reach conclusions on contradictions. Take your comment

      “We understand Jesus differently obviously. You’re focused on memorizing what somebody said Jesus said. I’m focused on trying to do what Jesus actually did, ”

      What are you saying? You know what Jesus did based on what someone “said” he did. On top of that you told us the clergy made a lot of this stuff up!

      My socks are blown off but not for the reason you hoped.

      1. Dodging and weaving CK, you’re dodging and weaving.

        I proposed that Jesus was not a status quo joiner, or a clergy obeyer. He had the opportunity to join the Jewish clergy and play by their rules, and he declined, and did his own thing. In fact, he felt so strongly about doing his own thing that he choose death over submission to authority.

        Do you dispute this interpretation, or not?

        Yes, or no?

        Wait, stop, before you try to find some clever way to have your cake and eat it too, just face the question and answer it. You don’t have to do so publicly if that’s too scary. I’m not demanding your public surrender, I’m just suggesting you use the brain that God gave you, instead of just chanting memorized clergy talk.

        Should Jesus come again, I seriously doubt it will be to pat us all on the head and tell us what a good job we’re doing, because we don’t need Jesus for that, given our expertise in this department. If Jesus comes again, it will most likely be to inspire another needed course correction. And that my friends, is going to make a lot of people unhappy, especially those with clerical power….

        Just like happened the last time.

    2. Phil. Religion means bond with God and it is He who established it originally and there has only ever been one true religion but many false ones.

      Like Lucifer, you refuse to serve but as Bob Dylan sang, “You’ve got to serve somebody, it may be the Devil it may be the Lord but you’re gonna have to serve somebody.”

      Father-to-be Joe does not see God as an ideology but you have become blind to the truth owing to your pride.

      ASK is an acronym you could profit from pursuing.

      Ask the Lord what is the cause of the God-Shaped hole in your will, intellect, and memory.

      Seek The Lord while He may be found.

      Knock and He will open the door to His love.

      Jesus did not come to chart His own course. He came to do the will of His Father.

      The One True Holy Roman Catholic and Apostolic Church rarely excommunicates anyone anymore and it sure is hell not about to interrupt its salvific work to go out of its way to officially declare you excommunicated.

      If it will make you feel better, print up your own sign of excommunication and wear it on a sandwich board and march around your local town denouncing the Church you so obviously hate.

      O, and hate is much superior to indifference for hate can become love – and it often does for those who became apostate and discovered life apart from their Creator, Redeemer, and Saviour is not at all that.

      Sure, you may become the toast of other atheists and agnostics but to seek the approval of that sad crowd is an odd desire

      1. ABS, you said…

        “Religion means bond with God”

        That’s a good start of a description. To put it more precisely, religion is a process of transcending the illusion that we are separate from God. We can discuss how the illusion is generated if you want.

        “Bonding” isn’t accurate technically, because we were never divided from God in the first place. This comes straight out of the Catholic doctrine that God is ever present everywhere at all times.

        I see this, and the rest of you don’t, for the simple reason that I’m conducting a real investigation, and the rest of you are just chanting memorized words and phrases you’ve learned from the clergy.

        In any case, this is why I’m not being a hero by embracing excommunication, because I’m putting nothing at risk.

  7. Look guys, sorry to say this, but I understand this process better than you, probably because I’m older.

    You’re unable to defeat the posts, so now you’re trying to change the subject to the poster, in hopes of having better luck there. This is a very amateur debate tactic, just so you know. I don’t mind, continue if you wish. I probably just have a very small penis, I’m sure that explains it. 🙂

    You’re circling the wagons defensively around your cherished status quo, because that is the vehicle you use to imagine yourself as superior to ordinary human beings. Like most sites on the net, this is a mutual validation transaction, with each of you agreeing to declare other members right so long as they perform the same service for you.

    As you can I can see, I completely totally suck at the mutual validation transaction business. No talent for it whatsoever. 🙂

    1. Phil,

      I think people are trying to move on because this conversation is dumb. You don’t seem to be asking any sort of genuine question, and seem to be certain that you’re “winning,” despite literally nobody (Catholic or non-Catholic) agreeing with you so far.

      I’m fascinated by the Truth and coming to a deeper knowledge of Him, but it’s a waste of my time to engage in mere ego-stroking. Nobody here is doing the “Whoa, what an edgy secularist” thing you seem to be wanting to provoke. Nobody’s like “Wow, you’re spiritual but not religious! You invented your own Jesus? wowwwwww.” It’s the same hackneyed middle-class pseudo-religion de jour that so many in the West have sleepily stumbled into. It’s just not the brazen avant-garde heresy you’re trying to make it out to be. Sorry, I guess?

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. Joe, this is called the “above it all” defense. It’s a very common and kinda amateur debate tactic too. But ok, if it’s the best you can do, it’s the best you can do.

        1. “Joe, this is called the “above it all” defense. It’s a very common and kinda amateur debate tactic too. But ok, if it’s the best you can do, it’s the best you can do.”

          Funny. When you have no coherent response, you say the say c**p to me. You really need to….

          ….wait for it….

          …..up your game… 😮

      2. So Joe, which is it?

        1) Are you going to follow the teaching in your own article and seek my excommunication?

        OR…

        2) Are you going to admit to us that your article is just a bunch of nice sounding talk?

        I don’t mean to pick on you personally, but the Catholic web is filled to overflowing with nice sounding talk that doesn’t really mean anything, so I’m trying to figure out if that’s the case here too. If it is, ok, no problem, I like to type nice sounding talk sometimes too.

        You’re presenting yourself Joe as no nonsense, no deviation, strict follower of the official Catholic rule book.

        So is that true or not? Yes, or no?

        1. Phil,

          This might be a little off topic.

          I’ve lived almost my entire life in San Francisco, and had a business where many of my customers were ‘same sex’ orientated. And, I can say that the spirit in which act and sound (style of communication) pretty much seems the same personality traits as many of these former customers. It seems that conflict concerning the Church’s stance on human sexuality/ gay marriage/ pornogrphy, etc… makes those who have same sex attraction or porn addictions, rebel against the Church very much as you do, and also to express their opinions in a similarly illogical, confused, renegade and passionate way as you do.

          If this is the case, the Catholic Church does not consider ‘same sex attraction’ to be a sin, but rather a disorder(But all porn addiction is sinful). And many Catholics I know have the ‘same sex attraction’ disorder, but live very admirable celibate lives and are honorable members of the Catholic parishes that they participate in. If ‘same sex orientated individuals’ would only understand that a life of celibacy can be a highly satisfying one, even as Joe and all other seminarians understand, they would probably be much more joyful and satisfied with their lives. Moreover, even those heterosexuals who are married, need to live largely chaste lives with their spouses, unless similar ‘disorders’ develop in their marriages and family, leading to all kinds of evil consequences, such as divorce..

          I’m just taking a guess here, because your argumentation is so highly bizarre that it must be something of the sort, similar to what ABS noted, when he said: “… it seems Almost all who leave the Church do so because they love one or more of their favorite sins more than they love the church. And then, after they leave the Church, they heap opprobrium upon it as a way to try and dissipate the psychic tension they experience produced by the cognitive dissonance of abandoning the Church they once loved…”.

          So, it seems that you have some deep psychological ‘axe to grind’, probably of a sexual nature, which causes you to challenge all of the commenters, and the administrator also, even as almost no other commenter has done before, at least as long as I can remember. And whatever your problem, it’s definitely possible to resolve it with prayer, study and competent spiritual direction.

          Just my honest opinion…coming from decades of living in the “rainbow” city of San Francisco.

          1. Ha, ha, ha! And I was only kidding when I snorted that I must have a very small penis, and that’s my problem. And here you come to take it seriously, what a hoot.

            Here’s the deal Al. I’ve been HAPPILY married 37 years to the same woman, first and only wife, for life. I don’t live in the rainbow city, I live in the American south.

            What you’re attempting here is so incredibly transparent, I can’t believe a person of your intelligence can’t see it.

            You can’t defeat my points, you can only characterize them. Seeing that, you’re trying to change the subject from the posts to the poster, in the hopes you’ll have better luck with that. It’s a junior high school level debate tactic. Embarrassing!

            I’m not gay, but I TOTALLY understand why many gay people have a problem with the Church. It is primarily Catholic theology (inherited by some Protestants) which has been the source of centuries of often violent, and always utterly pointless, oppression of that community.

            Another good reason for me to demand immediate excommunication! How’s that coming anyway? Are you going to do anything about it, or is insulting my penis all you know how to do? 🙂

          2. I don’t think being married changes Al’s point, but regardless all of our irreligious behavior is ultimately not motivated by logic, but rather sin. My cross to bear before being Christian is pride, and it is still daily a struggle. I think this comes out in my writing and speaking (if you ever watched me online). That being said, when you see my typos, hasty judgments, and speech issues it is clear that I have nothing to be proud of.

            So no one here knows what your cross to bear is or who you have come across in your life that has made that your cross to bear–but this much is obvious that you are fighting somethings. Your way with words does seem a little like what Al was talking about to say the least–but you are right your battle with sin might not be sexual. But it is something. All of us have something.

            God bless
            Craig

          3. Hi Al,
            St. Thomas talks about sin. He specifically talks about contention, obstinancy, discord, audacity for novelties as daughters of vainglory. Sins of disorder, sins of moderation are often related to lust according to Aquinas.

            We are seeing the same language, you and I.

          4. P.S.: STA reasons that sexual lust is self-love. And by contrast, one has hatred for God, inasmuch as God forbids the desired pleasure….etc.., etc.

          5. Craig, so if I disagree with you I must be suffering from some kind of sickness. That’s your point, right?

            Has it occurred to you that, as a genetic Catholic, I’m doing exactly the same thing all the rest of you are doing?

            I’m endlessly preaching, I’m judging, I’m condemning, I’m calling out the hypocrites, I’m intelligent and articulate, basically well meaning, I like to swing the sword of rhetorical theological combat, I have a weakness for sanctimonious platitudes and so on. All classic Catholic attributes.

            These are not my personal properties Craig, they are the properties of Catholic culture at large. Look in the mirror Craig, and you will see me.

            I don’t fit in here on this blog ideologically, that’s true. You’re getting all confused by this.

            Otherwise I am you and you are me and we are all together. Everything you don’t like about me has arisen out of the centuries of Catholic DNA going round in my bloodstream, same for any good you might see.

            Look at the tone of Joe’s articles. Now compare them to the tone of my posts. Same thing. Different ideology, but same tone, same mindset, same skill with words, same incurable need to teach, to type.

      3. Joe, you’re fascinated by the truth. I can relate to that. But here’s the problem…

        The truth can not be contained in words. Words and ideas are symbols Joe. They point to real things, they are not themselves real. The word God is not God, it’s just a word. The Bible is not God, it’s just a book. All these symbols can do is point to something. They contain no “truth” within themselves.

        God is real Joe, he’s the real world, that which would still be there if we burned all the books and forgot all the words.

        Symbols are not the path to God Joe. They are the primary obstacle. As example, as I type this I’m all caught up in the wonder of my words, I’m living in my head, in the realm of symbols, in abstraction, and have been missing a wren chirping just outside the window. I’m living in Phil’s kingdom right now, not God’s kingdom.

        God’s kingdom is what God created Joe, not what we created. You’re focused on the Apostles kingdom, the Pope’s kingdom, your own kingdom. Very small places indeed compared to God’s kingdom.

        Here’s a simple example. Consider the church buildings that so fascinate all of Christendom. Those buildings were built by us, they are our kingdom, and we go there to worship our own achievement. If we wanted to worship God’s kingdom instead, the building actually gets in the way of seeing the sky, that which God created.

        Think about it Joe. Jesus never built a church building, even though he was a carpenter. He gave his sermons out under an open sky, in God’s kingdom. And then the clergy immediately ignored this teaching and rushed right in to building stages they could perform on.

        It’s the same thing with symbols, books, words, doctrines. They are our creations. They don’t take us to God, they distract us from God.

        ——————-
        Symbols are made of thought, the very thing causing the illusion that we are separate from God.
        ——————-

        Thought operates by dividing the single unified reality called God in to a million conceptual pieces. Thus we get the concept “me” and the concept “God”, which are supposedly two different separate things. But the apparent separation exists only in the conceptual realm, only in our heads. It’s a compelling illusion for sure, but an illusion nonetheless.

        Religion doesn’t take us back to God Joe, because we’ve never been gone from God, never could be. Religion helps heal the illusion that we’re divided from God.

        But not religious words Joe. Religious experience. Words can’t take us back to God because they are made from that which creates the apparent separation.

        Love Joe. Not words about love. The experience of love. That’s what helps heal the illusion. Love does not operate by a process of division.Just look around you Joe. Ideology (ie. thought) divides one human from another. Love brings them together.

        Once you get this, your relationship with theology and clerical authority will be transformed.

      4. Glad to weigh in here again, if only briefly (have to get to my Biblical Studies class).

        There are so many places I could go on Phil from the last two threads: his sublime level of arrogance; his early-on digs at Joe, and the Church in general hoping to get us gullibles on board with defunding (he has no interest in the poor, only in depriving the Church of resources); his manipulations (“they try to convert me, then they get out the knives, then they ban me” – hoping to head off, by pre-emptive embarrassment, just that chain of events); his denigration of Scripture while **using** it to make his points (Gospel of John, dude…looo-ooove is there…but it was heavily edited so the “expert” clergy could have comfy lives”); his refusal to answer my points about how love can be measured without a transcendent referent (that’s about when he comes in with ‘you’re **just** not up to my game, but if you try hard…”)…there’s more, but you get the idea.

        This about says it all:

        “I see this, and the rest of you don’t….”

        All of us are crazy…except Phil…..

        Folks, saw this a long time ago…we are dealing with a twisted, malevolent, possible psychotic with an endless hatred of the Church and everyone here….a passable manipulator who keeps-coming-back and as you can see, is just getting meaner as he becomes more transparent. One moment he will be the smug debater, then the guru holy man who just wants you to see the Truth, and then, the angry ‘I’ve been discovered, and have nothing to lose at this point….’

        This is a serious case of Matthew 10:14, one way or the other, because this character is here ONLY to disrupt and sew chaos.

        IMHO….

        1. And OBTW…I know there may be a sad, heartbreaking reason for this tri-polar schizoid behavior….but none of us is going to ‘therapize’ Phil from our distance, because that’s emphatically not what he wants.

          You have to want to be helped….try to feed this dog, and you’ll lose a hand.

          1. “Here’s why I see some things you don’t AK. I’ve probably been here on the planet three times longer. I obviously can take no credit for that.”

            So, having misread those tea leaves, we’re all waiting for your alt-‘splanation just why you are so much more of a philosopher than …me.

            And while you’re at it, you might tell us – as I asked multiple posts ago – why it’s OK for you to quote Scripture as an authoritative source but for the rest of us, it’s off-limits as an unreliable melange of falsehoods heavily edited by selfish clergy….?

            Not to mention…without a real Divine transcendent referent, the ‘love’ of which you speak, the love that inspires some to man that soup kitchen, is any more good or true or beautiful then the love of the SS Oberst, as he guns down a pit full of untermenschen to make the world safe for his blonde children. Again, asked two threads ago…still unanswered….

        2. And here we see another person who doesn’t do what they say. Thought you were ignoring me AK? What happened to that? And you continue to misrepresent my ideas in every way possible, a fine example of good Christian behavior I guess, right?

          Here’s why I see some things you don’t AK. I’ve probably been here on the planet three times longer. I obviously can take no credit for that.

          1. Oh, Phil…

            You are crystal clear. You have lost the debate – if there ever was one – and your audience – if you ever had one. You are pathetic.

            And I am 63 this year….Methuselah.

    1. ABS, You have made my day. Wonderful video of a beautiful girl with a great voice. I didn’t get the lyrics perfectly well, but the title says something.

  8. Joe said,

    “Jesus is solemnly entrusting the Church with the power to bind and loosen, and this is closely tied with the Church’s ability to excommunicate unrepentant sinners. And it’s more than just an ability. Jesus actually instructs it as the appropriate course of action to be taken in the case of certain unrepentant sinners.”

    This is becoming hilarious. If you guys don’t act to have me excommunicated, it will be YOU ignoring the words of Jesus. Which means you’ll have to be excommunicated too, right? But because no one has the balls to excommunicate me apparently, I’ll still be here, and within the Church.

    I hereby officially warn all of you that you are out of compliance with Church doctrine and that your immortal soul is thereby in danger.

    1. Real name, address, church you attend, Parrish, what you think of the Church how often you receive the Eucharist and I’ll get the ball rolling for you. A picture would also be helpful….

      1. Joe has my real name, and I give him permission to release it to you.

        There’s only one other person in the world with my name best I can tell, and he’s in Canada. I’m in the states. Baptized in Syracuse NY, confirmed in Ormond Beach Florida. That should be sufficient.

        Again, the burden here is on YOU, not on me. This is not a favor you are doing for me, it’s you fulfilling your own responsibility, according to the doctrines you have chosen for yourself.

        1. Phil – the burden is on you not to irritate me because of love and your religion of love. ITS ON YOU not me!!! It’s fulfilling your the responsibility of the religion created by you!!!! According to the doctrines you have created for yourself based on parts of the Bible you have personally determined are inspired through your vast knowledge, research, and flashbacks.

          You have already excommunicated yourself. That is Church law you rebel you… I know you are very very very intelligent and all with a twist of bad boy…im blushing…ok I must stay focused… I follow Church law according to “gasp” the Church’s interpretation of such law, not wacky Phils interpretation.

          So tell me where you regularly attend mass and partake of the Eucharist. If you don’t do that there is nothing to report, oh wise one.

          You show your ignorance. Excommunication is a favor, an act of mercy, that’s done for you. If you can’t grasp this simple teaching why should I listen to you on more complicated issues? You have cool writing skills but horrible comprehension skills.

          I’ll do my part once I get the information. I will need to verify it all as you don’t come across as very stable or honest and you certainly are not consistent in your thoughts.

          I will run with it once I get it.

          I’m done feeding the troll in you. It only encourages bad/nutty behavior. I will continue to pray for you and your wife though.

          As Craig likes to say – I’ll give you the last word.

          Peace out.

        2. “There’s only one other person in the world with my name best I can tell, and he’s in Canada.”

          …After 37 years of marriage to the same woman… you should really consider telling your wife your name. She’s probably wondering. 🙂

    2. Phil,

      I’m happy that you aren’t afflicted with ‘same sex attraction’. As I said, it was only a presumption, because of the way you that express yourself, it seems very similar to those who indeed do have the condition.

      But, In any case I also think Craig is right. You seem to be repressing something.

      But this doesn’t mean that others don’t care for you. And, I for one don’t have no problem with your eccentricities, as I have dealt with people like you almost my entire life…each one having his own peculiarities. So, you’re not alone. However, I feel sorry for you. I also pray for you, that God enlightens you with His truth.

      Anyway, I consider you, in all charity, in the same way that St. Anthony Claret describes below, from his autobiography. For those that haven’t read it, it is something you really don’t want to miss. He was an extraordinary missionary and Saint, and preached here in the America’s. He wrote about his motivations for being a missionary, and of his great love for the souls that he met who were on the wrong path. He wrote:

      “Perhaps you may tell me that they are only going to insult me and that I should leave them alone and not bother about them. No, my good brethren. I can’t abandon them: they are my own dear brothers and sisters. Tell me, if you had a very dear brother who was so sick that he was delirious and in his fever insulted you and said every foul thing in the world to you, would you abandon him? I’m sure you wouldn’t. You’d feel all the more sorry for him and do everything you could for his recovery. Well, that’s the way I feel about sinners. The poor creatures are just delirious. That makes them all the more deserving of compassion. I can’t abandon them. I have to work for their salvation and pray to God for them, saying with Jesus Christ, “Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they’re doing or saying.”

      “When you see a condemned man on his way to the gallows, it moves you to pity. If you could do something to free him, you’d do it. Well, brothers and sisters, when I see a person in mortal sin, I see someone drawing nearer with every step to the gallows of hell. And seeing him in this unhappy state, I happen to know the way to free him: that he be converted to God, ask God’s pardon, and make a good confession. Woe betide me if he doesn’t. ”

      “Maybe you’ll say that a sinner isn’t interested in hell, or doesn’t even believe in it. All the worse. Do you think that this will stop him from being damned? Indeed no; rather it’s an even clearer sign of his fatal condemnation, as the Gospel says: “He who does not believe will be condemned.” Bossuet remarks that this truth does not depend upon whether a person believes in it; even though he doesn’t believe in hell, he’ll go there if he has the misfortune of dying in mortal sin, no matter what his opinion on the subject.”

      “I tell you quite frankly that whenever I see sinners, I grow restless, I cannot quiet down, I cannot be consoled, my heart goes out to them. To give you an idea of how I feel, I’ll draw a comparison. If a loving mother saw her child in danger of falling from a high window or into an open fireplace, wouldn’t she run and shout, “Look out, baby, you’re going to fall!” Wouldn’t she run up behind the child and take hold of him and pull him back if she could? My brothers and sisters, you should know that grace is stronger and braver than nature. Well then, if the natural love a mother feels for her child can make her run to him, shout at him, take hold of him, and pull him back from the brink of ruin, that is just what grace does in me.” (Autobio. No. 208-211.)

      *************************************

      I hope you enjoy this example of great ‘saintly’ love. St. Anthony Claret (c. 1807) had a ‘golden heart’ that I hope even Phil would admire. And if you read a lot of these ‘golden hearted’ saints…maybe you won’t want to be excommunicated after all. You would be out of their good company. 🙂

      Best to you,

      – Al

    3. The combustible combination of ignorance and arrogance is blowing-up all over this thread.

      You, sir, are a walking land mine.

      Who can excommunicate?

      Excommunication is an act of ecclesiastical jurisdiction, the rules of which it follows. Hence the general principle: whoever has jurisdiction in the forum externum, properly so called, can excommunicate, but only his own subjects. Therefore, whether excommunications be a jure (by the law) or ab homine (under form of sentence or precept), they may come from the pope alone or a general council for the entire Church; from the provincial council for an ecclesiastical province; from the bishop for his diocese; from the prelate nullius for quasi-diocesan territories; and from regular prelates for religious orders. Moreover, anyone can excommunicate who, by virtue of his office, even when delegated, has contentious jurisdiction in the forum externum; for instance, papal legates, vicars capitular, and vicars-general. But a parish priest cannot inflict this penalty nor even declare that it is incurred, i.e. he cannot do so in an official and judicial manner. The subjects of these various authorities are those who come under their jurisdiction chiefly on account of domicile or quasi-domicile in their territory; then by reason of the offence committed while on such territory; and finally by reason of personal right, as in the case of regulars.

      http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05678a.htm

  9. Al, same sex attraction is not an affliction. It’s that sick twisted theology which has led to the pointless oppression and suffering of millions of entirely innocent people over centuries. And you, being the exemplary Catholic that you are, want to keep fueling that theology. Shame on you Al, shame on you.

    Who was it that raped children for decades and then covered it up putting even more children at risk?

    It wasn’t the gay community Al.

    It wasn’t hippies Al.

    It wasn’t the Playboy Mansion Al.

    Who was it Al? Who was it that raped kids on an industrial scale for decades and then tried to sweep it all under the rug? Whose sexuality has gone totally off the rails?

    Yep, that’s right Al, the very people I’ve been challenging all over this blog, and the very people you’ve been worshiping all over this blog, the Catholic clergy.

    Ok, you’re not a bad guy yourself, I see that. You just have absolutely no clue.

    1. Same sex attraction is a rare abnormality in nature as can be proven by mammal biology, of which humans are a part. Male and female mammals, including humans, have physical traits normal to their gender, which largely determines their relationships with others of their same species. Females are naturally given instincts for maternal care, and especially for their young offspring. Males, on the other hand, not so much. Males have instincts for protecting their female mates, defending physical territory, competing for mating rights, hunting prey, etc…

      Male mammals typically compete for females…not for other males. They compete AGAINST other males. And so, a male mammal that would seek to mate with another male mammal would certainly be a biological abnormality worthy of some National Geographic, or Discovery Channel biologists spending millions of dollars investigating the rare occurrence.

      This is why same sex attraction is an affliction, because it similar to other afflictions whether they be physical or mental…even as is Down Syndrome, epilepsy, orschizophrenia. It’s not to say that it doesn’t happen, but just that it is highly abnormal ‘disorder’ in the natural world.

      Your reference to child molestation is another issue. And Jesus teaches on the subject in the Gospel:

      “But he that shall scandalize one of these little ones that believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be drowned in the depth of the sea.” (Matt. 18:6)

      However, this is also an abnormality. And most clergy are not perverts, as you imply. Moreover, you probably think that the Church as done nothing to remedy this problem. If you Google ‘safe environment program’ you will find training on how to spot perverts and child molesters. I have already taken the short, on-line, course… it is required by all active parish volunteers who outreach to the public in my Diocese of Sacramento, CA. So, you will note how people like myself are obliged to report signs of sexual perversion while we perform our evangelization and social service duties. We also report all other types of child or elderly abuse. It’s a great program.

      Best to you.

      Best to you.

      1. Al….I think this discussion – of evil misdeeds done within (but not by) the Church – are worth discussing in this forum topic of excommunication, not as a bludgeon wielded by Phil in feigned and highly-selective righteousness, but as an example of fallen humanity exploited by the evil one. Fr. Amorth said at one time, the smoke of Satan had entered the Church. No surprise there…

        Put this way…let’s say you were the commander of 8th Air Force in WWII, and were given broad general responsibility to use your resources – chief among them, heavy bombing aircraft – to prosecute the war in pursuit of European Theater strategy. Would you send your formations against a small Alsatian town, or against the industrial and political/population centers of Dusseldorf, Mainz, Schweinfurt, and especially, Berlin?

        Well, Satan is the commander of this world, and his prime target in his war against the humanity he hates is the Big One, the Catholic Church. And sometimes in history, he scores a hit, with weak, fallen insiders who do the deeds, and those who cover up, leaving the damage to the Church and the human wreckage as punishment to us all – the vast majority – who did neither. But, Al, as you pointed out, the Gates of Hell will not prevail, saints will arise among the clergy and laity to fix the problem, and in 100 years it’ll be an atrociously sad but never-to-be repeated piece of battle history in the war between evil and God’s Church…Satan will have to find something else to attack, and he will….and hopefully, we’ll be ready for it.

          1. Margo! You learned emoji’s!

            And I did not know that was not Fr. Amorth’s original quote – thanks for enlightening me. 😉

            My son read his book,…after finishing, he said, if I can, that’s what I want to do as a priest. Fight the devil….directly.

    2. Iy was, and continues to be, public school teachers who commit sexual crimes at a rate higher than ministers of any denomination

      1. Great link as usual, ABS. The reduction of moestatioin cases since 2009 is probably because of the ‘safe environment training ‘ that I discussed above. At my parish, there are about 200 clergy and laity who have taken the mandatory program. All of the Knights of Columbus, Legion of Mary, multiple church choirs, catechists, school teachers, St. Vincent de Paul society, Deacons, Priests, Office workers, etc… We also signed about 25 pages of contracts that we read, confirming things like…”you agree not to perform your volunteer work under the influence of alcohol, drugs etc..”.

        So, at least in my parish we have hundreds of eyes looking for the tell tale signs of predatory child abusers, perverts, etc…

        This is great news for the Church. And as many of the priest molester’s of the past were committing homosexual crimes….that the Church screens it’s seminarians for ‘same sex orientation disorder’…is also a great thing. It’s great that the Church can get back to the business of theology.

        Again, ABS, it’s a great link. I hope Phil takes a look at it. Truth and statistics are far superior to gossip and…. ‘fake news’. 🙂

        1. “…that the Church screens it’s seminarians for ‘same sex orientation disorder’..”

          Yes, they are doing this, and understandably.

          Off-topic…tight also be an interesting and timely topic for Joe’s blog….what of those so afflicted, who prayerfully are resisting the impulses and temptations? Check out the video’s and writings of Eve Tushnet….raised secular Jewish, daughter of a renowned Harvard law professor (who is slightly to the left of V.I. Lenin, incidentally), she knew from an early age she was same-sex attracted, which her family accepted…and as she said, after being introduced to Catholicism, her hunger for the Eucharist was stronger than any earthly desires. So…she is a committed celibate, and devoutly Catholic theologian/writer. I find her, and those like her, beyond inspirational.

          What of the courageous ones who make that kind of commitment?

          1. I’m sure there will be many such souls, as you describe, in Heaven for all eternity, and in a relationship with God so close… that, in comparison, their glory will be like the shining Sun, while our’s …Dollar store flashlight…with a leaking, half dead, AAA Eveready battery in it.

            It’s like the widow who put in her last 50 cents into the temple collection, but it was more than all that the ‘Scribes and Pharisees’ put in, even though their sum appeared to be large.

            I think it is clear that the Lord judges us ‘relative to one another’. And thus the saying: “those that have been given much….much will also demanded of them”.

            Best to you, AK.

          2. Hi AK, I have a friend who knows Eve and suggested her book to me. I found her story compelling (at the same time that some of it troubled me–another story, another day). I recall that her father clerked for U.S. supreme court justice Blackmun who wrote for the majority in Roe/Wade. It is no surprise that Eve picked up some of those influences. The more astounding wonder is that she chose eventually to deny them.

            Thanks for your teaching! I will keep your son in prayer. God bless him.

        2. “It is no surprise that Eve picked up some of those influences. The more astounding wonder is that she chose eventually to deny them.”

          Remember what I said in a post quite some time ago, that I was of the opinion that God has the sense of humor of a Catskill Mountain comedian….and just at the point of ones highest pride, the joke will always be on you.

          I am sure Mark Tushnet wonders about that…

          Thank you, so much…appreciated more than you know….

  10. Phil, Phil….

    My goodness…as time goes by, I note your posts are getting increasingly formulaic, and dare I say, frantic…they were repetitive early on two threads ago. You really need to up your game if you want to meet the high canonical correlative abilities of the theologians and savants on this blog. Perhaps you could take some time to, you know, self-examine…meditate, empty…then sort out those thoughts….purge all the past inculcations by self-absorbed, malevolent, homophobic, child-raping clergymen…the come back and, why, you’d be unencumbered and ready to thrust and parry with more and better Erhardian witticisms, maybe even up to our standards.

    Cranking up the Risperdal might help as well….believe me, we have YOUR best interests at heart….

  11. Joe et al.,

    The word ‘brother’ in Scripture above (Matthew 18, 1 Corinthians, 2 Thessalonians) begs the question of what the church response should be to those outside the church, in the world.

    As to executions resulting from Middle Age excommunications, perhaps these considerations held weight then, but we don’t consider these today:
    1) Very brief life expectancy – ?what was it?
    2) Within European Christendom, among the majority of the multitude, the firm belief of eternal spiritual life compared to the brevity of earthy existence.
    3) The effect of the death penalty as a deterrence and a help, therefore, to others who may be tempted.

    To us believers, what is more important? Life on earth or life with Christ after this one?

    One more question: Who said to St. Monica that she ought to talk more to God about Augustine and less to Augustine about God? Thanks.

    1. All points above are valid considerations. Life in the past, before antibiotics, before purified water and sanitary food storage, before modern surgery, before pain killers and root canals….was all very tenuous. In some ways this was a blessing, because everyone needed to be aware, at all times, of the fragility of life. There were so many funerals in those days, that death was always in front of their eyes.

      But these days, people seem to think that we will live forever on this Earth, as if we no longer are subject to natural laws. People are very careless with both their bodies and their souls…and with a ‘go pro’ camera strapped to their head, will risk their lives for a 30 second video of themselves. As long as it gets 50,000 views on YouTube, they don’t mind having multiple fractures in their bones that will be with them for the rest of their lives.

      So, yes, we live in a very different world now. The sorry thing is that the hard life actually made people more devout back then, with death always knocking at the door. People these days don’t think that the ‘thief’ will come when not expected. They think that their ADT security system will protect them from the judgement of God, and the eternal review, whether good or evil, of every act and word, performed or spoken in their lives.

      God help us all…because it is only too easy to be infected with this ‘worldly’, anti-Christian perspective of life. And, eternal thanks be to God, Our Father, for sending us Jesus to remind us of the holiness of life, and giving us the strength to live according to this holiness (with sacraments available for this purpose)…and which holiness will also last forever in the souls of those who ask for it from God.

  12. Here’s a simple example. Consider the church buildings that so fascinate all of Christendom. Those buildings were built by us, they are our kingdom, and we go there to worship our own achievement. If we wanted to worship God’s kingdom instead, the building actually gets in the way of seeing the sky, that which God created.

    Try reading Exodus, Ace.

    http://haydock1859.tripod.com/id403.html

    You display no love of God and you clearly hate those who do. You are possessed of a wicked spirit.

  13. One other point about Excommunication is that it assumes that the person excommunicated has been ‘communicated’ with, or catechised, in the first place. This is to say, that if a person was very poorly catechized to begin with, they really don’t have much to be taken away from them. They are really just pagans, with a thin veneer of Catholicism decorating some parts of their lives.

    What is needed for such people is what is called “The Kerygma”. St. John Paul II describes it briefly as this:

    In the complex reality of mission, initial proclamation has a central and irreplaceable role, since it introduces man “into the mystery of the love of God, who invites him to enter into a personal relationship with himself in Christ” and opens the way to conversion. Faith is born of preaching, and every ecclesial community draws its origin and life from the personal response of each believer to that preaching. Just as the whole economy of salvation has its center in Christ, so too all missionary activity is directed to the proclamation of his mystery.

    The subject of proclamation is Christ who was crucified, died, and is risen: through him is accomplished our full and authentic liberation from evil, sin and death; through him God bestows “new life” that is divine and eternal. This is the “Good News” which changes man and his history, and which all peoples have a right to hear (Redemptoris Missio 44).

    and,

    “The vital core of the new evangelization must be a clear and unequivocal proclamation of the person of Jesus Christ, that is, the preaching of his name, his teaching, his life, his promises and the Kingdom, which he has gained for us by his Paschal Mystery.

    The lay faithful too, precisely as members of the Church, have the vocation and mission of proclaiming the Gospel: they are prepared for this work by the sacraments of Christian initiation and by the gifts of the Holy Spirit”. They have been “in their own way made sharers in the priestly, prophetic, and kingly functions of Christ.” Consequently, “the lay faithful, in virtue of their participation in the prophetic mission of Christ, are fully part of this work of the Church” and so should feel called and encouraged to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom.”(Ecclesia in America, 66)

  14. “St. John Paul II describes it briefly….”

    Al – where did St. JP II write this – reference?

    Thanks again for the enlightenment!

      1. At this link above, it also introduces the term Kerygma in this way:

        “Kerygma is a term that is largely unfamiliar to most Catholics. Kerygma (from the Greek keryssein, to proclaim, and keryx, herald) refers to the initial and essential proclamation of the gospel message. The word appears nine times in the New Testament: once in Matthew (12:41), once in Mark (16:20), once in Luke (11:32), and six times in the letters of St. Paul (Rom. 16:25; 1 Cor. 1:21, 2:4, 15:14; 2 Tim. 4:17; and Titus 1:3). To put it simply, the kerygma is the very heart of the gospel, the core message of the Christian faith that all believers are call to proclaim.

        Kerygma is distinct from didache, another Greek term that refers to teaching, instruction, or doctrine. While kerygma means the initial gospel proclamation designed to introduce a person to Christ and to appeal for conversion, didache (what we commonly refer to today as catechesis) concerns the fuller and more extensive doctrinal and moral teaching and instruction in the Faith that a person receives once he has accepted the kerygma and has been baptized.”

        1. …sigh…every time I come on this blog I realize I just-how-much I don’t know….I need to win a lottery so I have more time to read… 😉

          Thanks again!

          1. Hi AK,

            Now you know why we have such a problem in the Church, because the Kerygma is often neglected with Catholics who were baptized at birth, and add to that the often very poor catechesis, and by liberal minded catechists. This great defect of both Kerygma and Catechesis causes almost all of the problems and misunderstandings that we have in the Church today. Thus the need for the laity to get out there and start evangelizing our fellow Catholics with true and orthodox Catholic doctrine.

            But…Joe is certainly doing his part!

          2. I know…I have to back off arguing with brick walls, Biblical space aliens and flakes like micah and cjones and phil, and hit the books more…

            Present company such as craig and irked….definitely excluded. We may not agree, but we’re all civil and respectful, and I am guessing we all learn something. I certainly do.

          3. Now you know why we have such a problem in the Church,…”

            Al, don’t I know it. So many lost opportunities, and worse, over the last half-dozen decades. But problems are there to be recognized and solved. The things I see going on in the Church today, the great new scholars, opportunities like the Biblical School I am about to finish, and Augustine Institute Apologetics which my wife starts this Fall…these things, if they even existed in the 50’s-90’s they sure escaped my notice, and were not being implemented or their existence made known as vigorously as they are today.

            As for Joe doing his part, yes, he is a piece of the puzzle. The Internet is Corinth…a city full of paganism and sin. The Pauls of the net – like Joe – are doing signal work turning the city around, even if only a few at a time.

          4. Hi AK,

            It really shouldn’t matter too much the persons who we are debating with, evangelizing or catechizing, as in the end it’s not really our responsibility whether they are benefitted, or not, by tour religious discourse, as long as we are doing our best in all patience and charity. Result are not guaranteed in any way. St. Monica was very patient with her son Augustine for many long years, and that holy patience was particularly why she was canonized a Saint by the Church. She didn’t consider him a waste, but with tears and prayers and admonitions to him…she kept on doing her best for the sake of his soul.

            In the end, it is only God who knows what will come from a persons evangelization efforts, and also the particular timing of that conversion. Maybe only one word, or charitable action of yours, will be remembered by a person that you conversed with, and at the end of his life he will reflect, and turn and beg mercy from God at that time? No one knows.

            This is why I included the quotes on ‘Kerygma’, above, because that IS what we need to be busy at: proclamation of the love of Christ. We might not know the results of the proclamation, we just need to keep on doing it at any time that God gives us the ‘chance encounters’ in life. but, of course we can go looking for them, as Joe does with this blog. And Christ says, “The harvest is great but the laborers are few”, so we never need to get upset if some..even many…people reject us and our attempts at bringing the love of Christ to them. and this is because it might not be their time yet. It might be the guy who is standing next to him’s time, someone who we wouldn’t even expect.

            One good example of this from the Legion of Mary: The founder, Frank Duff, once was asked if he ever met a man who he considered beyond hope of converting….someone so nasty that he just gave up on as ‘hopelessly lost’. And he hesitated, not remembering any, but then said ..”Oh, yes, there is a man I’ve talked to for about 30 years now, and he is so cranky, agitated, and firm in his rebellious ways, that after all this time trying to reach him, I’m sorry to say, I think that this guy is hopeless.”

            Then Frank Duff said, “But almost as a rebuke to me directly from the Lord, for talking about this ‘hopeless man’…that it was not more than a week or two later, that I saw this very same man at Mass on Sunday.” So, his conclusion is that NO ONE is without hope, and we need to be patient and persevering with all. The lives of the saints also have many other examples such as these…and it is really such patience that gets them canonized in the end. This patience is a sign of love for our ‘brothers’, even as Jesus had patience with St. Peter…and Judas … and ‘the doubting’ St. Thomas… and the Roman soldiers…and the ‘good thief’….even to the end.

            So, I’m sure that we need to be very patient with others, even as Jesus was, because only God nows if the seeds that we plant will ever sprout and grow…maybe and maybe not. But we know that it IS our job to keep spreading the ‘holy seeds’ that Christ talked about in His parables where ever we see an opportunity.

            Keep up the good work, and best to you always.

            – Al

        2. Al – got your last one. Suffice to say, this is like the final scene in ‘Casablanca’…

          “Henri, this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship….”

          (cue the last few notes of, not the Marseillaise, but a sung Litany of Loreto…. 😉 )

  15. Here’s an excellent story from “The Little Flowers of St. Francis” demonstrating how the Church needs to be very patient before excommunicating anyone. In this story we see how even famous thieves of his time became close companions of St. Francis, and ended their lives in great sanctity and union with God:

    **********************************************************

    “As St Francis went one day through the desert of Borgo di San Sepolcro, and was passing by a castle called Monte Casale, he saw a young man of noble mien, and elegant in appearance, coming towards him, who thus addressed him: “Father, I would willingly be one of thy monks.” St Francis answered: “My son, thou art young, noble, and delicate; perhaps thou wouldst not be able to endure poverty and hardships.” The young man said again: “Father, are you not men, like me? If you, then, can support these things, through the grace of God I shall be able to do so likewise.” This answer greatly pleased St Francis, and giving the young man his blessing, he received him immediately into the Order, and gave him the name of Brother Angelo. And this young man was so remarkable and so distinguished, that shortly after he was named Guardian of the Convent of Monte Casale. At that time there were three famous robbers in that part of the country, who did much evil in all the neighbourhood. Coming one day to the said convent, they asked Brother Angelo, the guardian, to give them something to eat. The guardian, reproving them harshly, answered thus: “Cruel robbers and murderers, you are not ashamed to deprive others of the fruits of their labours, and you have the audacity to come here and devour that which is given in charity to the servants of God – you who are not worthy of the earth which bears you, for you neither respect man nor the Lord who made you. Go about your business, and do not appear here again.” Then the robbers went away in anger, much troubled by these words. Shortly after, St Francis arrived at the convent with a sack of bread and a little vessel of wine, which he and his companion had begged; and the guardian related to him how he had sent away the robbers. On this St Francis reproved him sharply, saying that he had behaved most cruelly, for sinners are brought back to God more easily by kindness than by harsh words. “Wherefore,” said he, “our Master Jesus Christ, whose Word we have promised to observe, says that the whole need not a physician, but they that are sick, and that he came not to call the just, but sinners, to repentance; for which reason he often sat down to meat with them. As, then, thou hast acted against charity, and against the Gospel of Christ, I command thee, in the name of holy obedience, to take with thee this sack of bread, which I have begged, and this little vessel of wine, and go after the robbers, over the hills and across the valleys, until thou meet with them. And when thou hast found them, give them from me this bread and wine; and then, kneeling down before them, thou shalt humbly confess thy fault, begging them, in my name, not to do evil any more, but to fear God and never again offend him. If they consent to this, I promise to provide for all their wants, and to give them continually both meat and drink; and when thou hast told them this, thou shalt humbly come back here.” Whilst the guardian went on the errand of St Francis, the latter began to pray, asking God to touch the hearts of the robbers and bring them to repentance. The obedient guardian, having found out their retreat, presented to them the bread and wine, and said and did what St Francis had commanded; and it pleased God that as the robbers ate the bread of charity which St Francis had sent them, they reasoned thus among themselves; “Alas for us, miserable men that we are! What pains await us in hell; for not only have we robbed, beaten and wounded our neighbours, but we have likewise taken away their lives, and yet for all these cruel deeds we feel no remorse of conscience, and no fear of God! and behold this holy friar who is come to us, for a few unkind words, which we merited most justly, has humbly confessed that he was wrong, and has brought us likewise bread and wine, with a most gracious promise from the holy St Francis. These men indeed are holy religious of God who merit his Paradise, and we are sons of perdition, worthy of the pains of hell; and each day we add to our perdition, and we know not whether yet, because of our sins we have committed hitherto, we can find mercy in the sight of God.” One of them having spoken thus, the other two answered, saying: “Most certainly thou speakest truly; but what are we to do?” “Let us go,” said one of the others, “to St Francis; and if he gives us a hope that our sins may find mercy in the sight of God, we will do what he shall command us to save our souls from the punishment of hell.” This counsel pleasing the others, they agreed to go immediately to St Francis; and having found him, they thus addressed him: “Father, because of the multitude of our sins we dare not look for mercy from God; but if thou hast a hope that he may have pity on us, we are ready to do what thou shalt order, and do penance for our sins with thee.” Then St Francis bade them stay, and with much kindness and charity comforted them, giving them many proofs of the mercy of God, and promising them to ask the Lord to have pity on their sins. He told them that his mercy knows no bounds, and that were their sins without number the mercy of God is even greater, according to the word of the Gospel and of the Apostle St Paul, who says our Blessed Lord came into the world to save sinners. The three robbers on hearing these words resolved to renounce the devil and his works; and St Francis received them into the Order, in which they did great penance. Two of them died shortly after their conversion, and went to heaven; but the third survived, and, reflecting on his sins, he did penance during fifteen years. Besides the ordinary fasts which he observed with the brethren, he fasted at other times three days in the week on bread and water, went barefooted, wore no other vestment but his tunic, and never slept after Matins. During this time St Francis passed from this miserable life. ….” (Chapter 26)

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