Why Must Catholic Clergy be Called by the Church?

Pietro Antonio Novelli, Priesthood (1779)
Pietro Antonio Novelli, Priesthood (1779)

Yesterday, I hit one of the last major milestones on the journey to becoming a priest: I finished a handwritten letter to my Archbishop, called a “petition for orders,” asking him to call me to the Order of Deacons. He’ll then respond (hopefully!) officially asking me to present myself for ordination to the diaconate this fall. When I shared this on Facebook, one of my friends asked why it was necessary to be called by a bishop.

It’s a good question, and points to a Biblical reality to which the modern Christian world is largely oblivious. Consider two cases: first, those who complain that it’s a violation of women’s “rights” that the Church doesn’t ordain women; second, those Protestant preachers who simply started their own church because they saw a gift in themselves.

From a Biblical perspective, both of these people are entirely in the wrong. You don’t just unilaterally decide that you’re going to be ordained and then declare yourself (or demand that the Church declare you) ordained, any more than a man can declare himself married to a woman who is refusing him.

The Biblical teaching on this is entirely clear. Look at the calling of the very first deacons, for example (Acts 6:1-6):

Now in these days when the disciples were increasing in number, the Hellenists murmured against the Hebrews because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. And the twelve summoned the body of the disciples and said, “It is not right that we should give up preaching the word of God to serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of good repute, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, whom we may appoint to this duty. But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word.” And what they said pleased the whole multitude, and they chose Stephen, a man full of faith and of the Holy Spirit, and Philip, and Proch′orus, and Nica′nor, and Timon, and Par′menas, and Nicola′us, a proselyte of Antioch. These they set before the apostles, and they prayed and laid their hands upon them.

St. Philip and the others didn’t just go to the Church and say “we’re deacons now,” or demand to be recognized as deacons or ordained as deacons. Rather, the institutional Church – here, the Apostles – saw a need, and called for seven men to be brought forward. The Body of Christ collectively selected seven, and the Apostles ordained them through the laying on of hands.

In this case, it was done through a mix of top-down and bottom-up selections within the Church: both the Apostles and the laity played a role in the selection process. Later in Acts, we see clergy being chosen simply from the top-down. So, for example, Acts 14:21-23 says of Paul and Barnabas:

When they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Ico′nium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting, they committed them to the Lord in whom they believed.

This top-down dimension is indispensable (cf. Hebrews 7:7), because the sheep don’t just choose their own shepherds. And the laying on of hands is not automatic, either. St. Paul warns St. Timothy in 1 Timothy 5:22, “Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor participate in another man’s sins; keep yourself pure.”

So thoroughly was it recognized in the Apostolic Church that no one could simply make himself a minister that St. Paul asks rhetorically, “how can men preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:15). The answer he’s expecting, of course, is that they can’t. Unless you’re sent, you don’t get to preach. In a tiny handful of cases, including St. Paul himself, this sending comes from Jesus Christ Personally. But overwhelmingly, even in the Apostolic era, it’s the Church doing the sending.

And this was true even before Christianity, as we learn from Hebrews 5:1-4:

For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins. He can deal gently with the ignorant and wayward, since he himself is beset with weakness. Because of this he is bound to offer sacrifice for his own sins as well as for those of the people. And one does not take the honor upon himself, but he is called by God, just as Aaron was.

The “Judaizers” of Acts 15 show the risk of what happens when this is ignored. Doubtless, these men thought they were doing great things for God, and that He had given them tremendous gifts and talents that needed to be shared in this way, but the truth was that their over-assessment of themselves, their lack of theological preparation, and their lack of a mission from the Church meant that they did a great deal of harm.  The Council of Jerusalem writes, in Acts 15:23-27,

“The brethren, both the apostles and the elders, to the brethren who are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cili′cia, greeting. Since we have heard that some persons from us have troubled you with words, unsettling your minds, although we gave them no instructions, it has seemed good to us in assembly to choose men and send them to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, men who have risked their lives for the sake of our Lord Jesus Christ. We have therefore sent Judas and Silas, who themselves will tell you the same things by word of mouth.

 

This, more or less, is the charge that St. Francis de Sales (1567-1622) brings against the Protestant Reformers many centuries later:

Now you cannot be ignorant that they neither had, nor have, in any way at all, this mission. For if Our Lord had sent them, it would have been either mediately or immediately. We say mission is given mediately when we are sent by one who has from God the power of sending, according to the order which He has appointed in His Church; and such was the mission of S. Dennis into France by Clement and of Timothy by S. Paul. Immediate mission is when God Himself commands and gives a charge, without the interposition of the ordinary authority which He has placed in the prelates and pastors of the Church: as S. Peter and the Apostles were sent, receiving from Our Lord’s own mouth this commandment: “Go ye into the whole world, and preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mark xvi. 15); and as Moses received his mission to Pharaoh and to the people of Israel. But neither in the one nor in the other way have your ministers any mission. How then have they undertaken to preach? “How shall they preach,” says the Apostle, “unless they be sent?” (Rom. x. 15)

But of course, this is a two-way process, just like in a marriage. The Church sends, but the men must accept being sent. So there it is: the reason that it’s necessary for all priests and deacons to ask to be sent by the Church.

216 Comments

  1. Your argument for the necessity of a call from a bishop makes sense. Your link to the reformation is weak. At least one movement of the reformation was started by a priest in response to the sale of indulgences (among other things). It was not out of a desire to be ordained without a call from a bishop. The argument about the ordination of women would be more compelling if it were actually possible for a bishop to call women if he wanted to do so.

    1. He said that all protestants lack authority, as they “send themselves” without being sent by a successor of the Apostles, not that all protestant sects started because they wanted to be ordained.

      Excellent article Joe. I didn’t know this!

      1. Sorry, let me rephrase that a little:

        He didn’t say that all protestant sects started because they wanted to be ordained, but that the operating principle of protestant “clergy” can be shown to be false through Scripture. Even the few original legitimate priests in early protestantism worked by this principle after all, even if they were ordained properly in the past.

    2. Marty,

      If the argument for the necessity of a call from a bishop makes sense, the rest follows. Briefly:

      1. Many of the Reformers, like the lawyer John Calvin, were laymen who just granted to themselves the authority to create their own church and to make themselves preachers.

      2. Those clerics, like Martin Luther, who rebelled were ordered by the Church not to preach certain teachings and went ahead and did so anyways. So if our standard is “how can men preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:15), who sent Luther to preach Lutheranism? Not the pope, not any bishop, not some sort of road-to-Damascus encounter with the risen Christ. Luther sent himself to preach Lutheranism. And sure, he was convinced he was right and that this was true Christianity. But that’s also true of basically every self-appointed preacher and televangelist in history, right?

      3. My argument with the women’s ordination thing was that no woman has a right to ordination because nobody at all has a right to ordination. That’s just an entirely wrong way to think about vocations. Thinking about instead from the perspective of Christ and the Church changes the whole discussion.

      I.X.,

      Joe

    3. I think you just want to argue. One does not need a strong argument to show the Protestant revolt was wrong, in all faucets, period.

  2. Well, let’s see.

    First, you seem not to appreciate the irony that the clergy you are seeking to join have appointed themselves to their positions within the Church, just like the Protestant pastors whom you claim are entirely wrong. Clearly God is not appointing the clergy, or we wouldn’t be burdened with so many very human scandals.

    Next, what is entirely backwards is the laity applying to the clergy as you are doing, when the clergy should be applying to laity. This is what in effect happens in the real world. When the clergy loses the confidence of the laity, the laity stops showing up, which is what has been happening as the churches close all over the Church’s European homeland. You shouldn’t be applying to the Bishop, but to your fellow Catholics in the pews, as it’s them you seek to lead. Those sitting next to you in the pews know you better than the Bishop, they would be the better judge of your qualifications.

    Next, while the “shepherd and his flock” concept may apply in the case of Jesus, it can not be applied blindly to the relationship between one human being and another. Some clergy are very wise, and some are not. The same is true of every member of the laity. For my own taste, I would suggest that the very best Catholics are too busy serving the needy to have time for giving sermons and conducting ceremonies in wonderful garments. If we want to be lead to where the rubber meets the road, we should probably be seeking guidance from those who are working in Catholic Charities.

    Before you join the clergy, you might consider this.

    Jesus never showed any interest in church construction fund drives, and yet Christian clergy around the world have built a multi-trillion dollar real estate empire, in a world where funds are desperately needed to serve those who are desperate. And most of the buildings constructed sit empty most of the time.

    Jesus never showed any interest in awarding himself titles, ranks or positions, nor in wearing fancy garments to announce his elevated status to the world, and yet for some reason most clergy seem to think such things are important.

    Jesus never showed any interest in writing books, preferring to focus his time on speaking with people he met in person, and yet Christian clergy so often seems obsessed with words, writing and books.

    Jesus was such an inconvenient speaker that his neighbors had him killed for it, an outcome Jesus never ran from, and yet so many Christian clergy seem terrified of saying anything that might rock the little comfy group consensus boat of those whose donations they depend upon.

    Are you sure you really want to join these “shepherds”?

    Would Jesus join them?

    Did Jesus join them when he had the opportunity to do so?

    1. Phil,

      Your idea that the Catholic hierarchy is manmade and a deviation from Christ’s intention should be easy to prove or disprove. You’ve claimed:

      First, you seem not to appreciate the irony that the clergy you are seeking to join have appointed themselves to their positions within the Church, just like the Protestant pastors whom you claim are entirely wrong.

      Wonderful! This is a crystal clear argument and you should be able to prove it easily if it’s true. So can you name any Catholic Cardinal or bishop or priest or deacon now or at any point in the last two thousand years who ordained himself? If what you’re saying is true, this should be a cinch.

      Because otherwise, if you can’t do that, if your claim is just blatantly false, then why wouldn’t I trust an institution that can be credibly traced all the way back to the Apostles and thus to Christ?

      Clearly God is not appointing the clergy, or we wouldn’t be burdened with so many very human scandals.

      Are we reading the same Bible? Because in mine, Jesus hand-picked Judas and the other Eleven, and very human scandals have been with us from the start. The idea that a Church founded by Christ would be run by only sinless clerics seems to misunderstand Christianity in a fundamental way.

      I.X.,

      Joe

      1. Joe, if God appointed the members of the clergy, why all the scandals? Why did God pick child rapists in some cases? Does God suffer from poor judgment?

        If God didn’t appoint the clergy, who did? Not the laity. Not aliens. It’s obvious. The clergy appointed themselves. Yes, the big clergy appoint the little clergy, that’s true. But it’s still a system where the clergy decides for themselves who will run the Church. It’s the same thing you were complaining about in your article, self appointment.

        I see you’ve completed ignored the question of whether Jesus chose to join the clergy of his day. I see you’ve wisely sidestepped the issue of how the clergy ignores the example of Jesus is some astounding ways, such as the creation of a trillion dollar real estate empire in the midst of great suffering.

        But ok, I can see there is no chance of persuading you out of clergy worship, so I wish you well and good luck with that. Once you’re in the system even if you should come to see all this, you won’t be able to say anything about it, or the big clergy will yank your meal ticket. Keep that in mind sir, to join the clergy is to end a real theological investigation.

        Just curious, when you are in the clergy, will you still respond to challenging questions with clever sarcasm? No offense Joe, but I suspect you’re a great blogger (sincerely) but probably not a priest. I’m not either by the way, few of us are.

        1. “if God appointed the members of the clergy, why all the scandals? Why did God pick child rapists in some cases? Does God suffer from poor judgment?”

          If God appointed the Twelve, why was one of them a thief? Why did God pick one that eventually betrayed Jesus to the chief priests? Does God suffer from poor judgment?

          If God chose David, then why the adultery with Bathsheba? Does God suffer from poor judgment?

          Is God’s judgment really the problem? Or is it the sinfulness of man? This line of reasoning is not going to end well for you.

          In the Parable of the Weeds found in Matthew 13, Jesus tells His disciples to anticipate corruption within the Church. He said:

          Matthew 13:24-30
          Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may root up the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’

          Notice it is not the world at large that is being described but rather the “kingdom of heaven” or Church that is portrayed as the field containing both wheat and weeds. Jesus does not indicate that weeds (sinners) should be uprooted from the field (Church) until the separation done at the time of the final harvest.

          Of course, sin and corruption in Church leadership should never be condoned but neither should they surprise us. The Church is not a paradise for saints who are already perfected but a hospital for the spiritually sick who are being healed.

          Jesus clearly taught that sin would be present in the Church, but He also taught that sins of individual Church leaders do not invalidate the authority of the positions those leaders hold. These sins, whether real or imagined, do not undermine the legitimate authority of the Catholic Church and do not provide an excuse for those who refuse to acknowledge and obey her. The authority given by God to the Church and the office of the Papacy is the same today as it was in the days of Peter, Linus, Anacletus and Clement because God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.

        2. “Joe, if God appointed the members of the clergy, why all the scandals? Why did God pick child rapists in some cases? Does God suffer from poor judgment?”

          Phil, if a Church leader is guilty of gross immorality, does his sin invalidate his position or authority?

          Many would say that it does, and they often use this line of reasoning to justify their denial of the authority of the Catholic Church. They cite historical events such as the Crusades, the Inquisition or reign of the Borgia Popes as evidence that the Church has lost its claim to moral and spiritual authority.

          Such a response, however, is unbiblical. For example, in Jesus’ teaching on “Moses’ seat” found in the opening verses of Matthew 23:

          “Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: ‘The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses’ seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.’” (Matthew 23:1-3)

          “Moses’ seat” is a phrase that referred to a position of legitimate teaching authority held by the teachers of the law and the Pharisees. Later, Jesus condemned these men as “hypocrites,” “blind guides,” “blind fools,” “serpents,” and a “brood of vipers.” But in the passage above, Jesus specifically instructed the crowds and his disciples to obey these leaders – despite their corruption – because of the authority of their position. That is sobering stuff.

          If it were true that immorality invalidated a religious leader’s authority, then why did Jesus command his followers to “obey and do everything” the scribes and Pharisees tell them? Jesus merely admonished his followers not to follow their hypocritical example. There is not even the slightest hint that their positions had been forfeited or abrogated because of their hypocrisy or immorality. If anything, the reverse is true because Jesus validated these leaders’ office by telling people to obey them. From this, we see that sin and corruption found in the individual office holders has no impact whatsoever on the authority of the office itself.

        3. Phil,

          You’ve rightly noticed that I’m focusing on your central argument: your dual assumptions that (1) if God had chosen the clergy, they wouldn’t have scandals (or perhaps just not big ones?) and (2) the existence of scandals therefore shows that they chose themselves.

          That’s because both of these claims are demonstrably false. I’m not resorting to clever sarcasm, either. I genuinely like that your errors are in the form of fairly-explicit assertions: a lot of other people assume those two things, but don’t articulate it.

          So let’s talk about each half:

          1) The Bible, Old and New Testament alike, contains countless example of God calling broken, unqualified people to lead His People. Randy does a good job enumerating some of the more obvious cases, but the full list of ‘scandals by God’s chosen’ would be a lot longer, and there’s good evidence that not all of them were Saints.

          You asked, “Joe, if God appointed the members of the clergy, why all the scandals?” Because they’re sinners. Because we’re sinners. A Church led by scandal-less people wouldn’t have any earthly leadership whatsoever, since none of us are perfect.

          Jesus puts it profoundly in John 6:70, “Did I not choose you, the twelve, and one of you is a devil?” In other words, He’s already presented your own objection more powerfully than you have. That pedophiles were priests is awful. That Judas was an Apostle is perhaps more shocking.

          It’s a theological question worth exploring why God chooses to paint His masterpieces with broken tools, but that He does is transparently clear from both Scripture and daily reality. So your first assumption is clearly false.

          2) Since the first assumption is false, the second one is too, since it is built upon the first one. But I want to add that it’s also transparently false because each of the men you’re criticizing was publicly called to orders and ordained. So the claim that these men (individually or collectively) ordained themselves is demonstrably false. That you persevere in defending such an obviously-false claim strikes me as bizarre.

          I.X.,

          Joe

          1. Hi again Joe,

            First, let me congratulate you on having such an active blog, and for being such a brave engager. Not always that easy to find in Catholic land, so is appreciated. I should have said that before anything else. Sincerely.

            On to your points…

            The fact that the Old and New Testament say that the clergy was chosen by God is reasonably suspect, given that those documents were written and edited by, yes, you guessed it, the clergy.

            Yes, we’re all imperfect sinners so there will always be troubles of various kinds, agreed. No argument there. I’m not proposing that any method could ever lead to perfection.

            I’m attempting to actually agree with your sentiment that it’s invalid for clergy to select themselves. I agree with that, and am simply applying your own statement to all clergy, and not just the other fellow’s clergy as you are doing.

            Who should select the clergy then? Who knows the candidates best? I propose it is those sitting next to the candidates in the pews. If the laity were to select the clergy then the buck would stop there, with the laity, and they would be responsible for all that is good and not so good about the operations of the Church. The laity would then own the Church, in all meanings of that word. They’d own the victories, and the defeats. They could no longer sit passively in the pews whining about whatever they don’t like, as the buck would stop with them.

            If some radical method of re-engaging the laity is not found the future of the Church can be seen today in the Church’s European homeland. The self appointed clergy will increasingly rule over empty churches.

            Jesus chose the original Apostles Joe, he didn’t choose all those who came after he was dead. Please note that this takes Jesus off the hook for all the crimes committed by the Church in his name, which is a good thing, right?

            Everyone to come after the Apostles were all just imperfect flawed sinners like the rest of us. Some were great men, some were not, to put it politely. And so the question becomes, who is in the best position sort through the pile of sinner candidates and select the best of the lot? I propose it those who know them best.

            How well do you know the Bishop you are applying to Joe?

            How well does he know you?

            Does the Bishop grasp that you are a skilled edgy pot stirring blog wordsmith? Do you know that you’re not going to be able to type your trademark edge once you have a collar? You’re going to have to chant the memorized company line in a dignified calm manner Joe. When I come shouting my revolutionary slogans 🙂 you’re going to have to say sweet things in reply. Up for that?

            If you say yes, then we might try an experiment. I will challenge you in every way possible, giving my highly imperfect rowdy childlike ego some free reign, and you reply in the manner which the clergy is limited to.

            LONG LIVE THE PROLETARIAT, I MEAN, UM, THE LAITY! 🙂

    2. “First, you seem not to appreciate the irony that the clergy you are seeking to join have appointed themselves to their positions within the Church, just like the Protestant pastors whom you claim are entirely wrong. Clearly God is not appointing the clergy, or we wouldn’t be burdened with so many very human scandals.”

      Phil, perhaps you are unfamiliar with the clear teaching of scripture which explains how Church leaders are to be appointed:

      2 Timothy 2:1-2
      You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus. And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.

      There are four generations of believers contained in this one passage: 1. Paul himself, 2. Timothy, who was Paul’s disciple, 3. those whom Timothy would disciple, and 4. those to whom Timothy’s disciples would preach.

      Paul commanded Timothy to hand on the gospel to reliable men and further to ensure that those men would also hand on the gospel reliably. This is the Biblical model, and it is the model that has been followed by God’s Church for 2,000 years. We refer to this as “apostolic succession”.

      The Protestant Church, on the whole, makes little or no claim for itself with regard to genuine Apostolic Succession because it has little desire to be seen in communion with the Catholic Church. Indeed, some “Bible Churches” have no bishops at all – having sprung from the sofas and chairs of a home bible study to the empty storefronts of local strip malls. But even those Protestant churches that do cling to the idea of organized hierarchy are still stymied in their claims of Apostolic Authority because, as Tertullian noted, their doctrines are found to be at odds with those of the Apostles who are found at the root of the Catholic Church.

      “But should they ever effect the contrivance [of composing a succession list for themselves], they will not advance a step. For their very doctrine, after comparison with that of the apostles [as contained in other churches], will declare, by its own diversity and contrariety, that it had for its author neither an apostle nor an apostolic man; because, as the apostles would never have taught things which were self-contradictory” (Tertullian, Demurrer Against the Heretics).

      1. Hi Randy, thanks for your informative comments.

        My reply would be that scripture was written by the clergy. This does not mean it is therefore all wrong obviously. But it does mean that scripture was written by imperfect sinners just like us, and that therefore the words within are as open to inspection and challenge as anything we might write.

        We might also challenge the very act of trying to nail these things down in print, given that Jesus seemed to show no interest in this activity Himself.

        1. “I will challenge you in every way possible, giving my highly imperfect rowdy childlike ego some free reign, and you reply in the manner which the clergy is limited to.”

          In other words, you will toss nonsensical contrived BS this way, and Joe, et al., will reply with Scripture, the Church Fathers, Aquinas, and simple documented history.

          Sounds like a deal. Knock yourself out.

    3. “Clearly God is not appointing the clergy, or we wouldn’t be burdened with so many very human scandals.”

      Really. So by this logic God did not appoint Jacob, Joseph, Moses, or Saul, or David.

  3. “…be run by only sinless clerics seems to misunderstand Christianity in a fundamental way.”

    Sounds Jansenist to me. No surprise there. As well, the ‘rich Catholics while the poor starve’ rant BS smells highly of bridge troll, either the angry fundavangelist or still-butthurt-about-Hillary progressive variety. Sad, one way or the other.

    I’d say the folks who run Catholic Charities here in Colorado Springs, and the Marian House that feed 600 people a day, are very fond – and protective of – their vested clergy.

    In any case, this abutment ain’t working out for you, Phil…..suggest you find another.

  4. “First, let me congratulate you on having such an active blog, and for being such a brave engager. Not always that easy to find in Catholic land, so is appreciated.”

    My my, talk about sarcasm….Matt 7: 3-5 applies.

    “The fact that the Old and New Testament say that the clergy was chosen by God is reasonably suspect, given that those documents were written and edited by, yes, you guessed it, the clergy.”

    So, you guessed it, Comrade Phil questions the sacredness of Scripture. No surprise there either. Small step from questioning to suppressing, especially when the proletariat, er, laity is engaged to enforce whatever is the New Orthodoxy against those troublesome old believers.

    What you’re suggesting has been tried, the dream of a sad, unkempt, whiskered 19 century monomaniac who in turn was inspired by earlier ideologues whose most visible legacy was a madam named Guillotine. And where the dream had temporary success, the hierarchy, far from withering away, morphed into central committees, then into nomenklatura, overseen by the Cheka, the NKVD, and the KGB. I’ll take my dictatorships divinely and apostolically ordained, thank you, because of that nasty tendency of men to ape the Prince of the World, as you repeatedly point out. God, through His Church, provides a check on men’s worst tendencies; your material dictatorship, the sky (or the depth of the cesspit) is the limit.

    You can always try your theories if you can get enough adherents to pay the rent in the ’empty storefront of strip malls’ to which Randy referred above. I would suggest California; there, they sufficiently have been cocooned for a surfeit of the educated ignorant to line your pockets and follow your lead. Don’t try Eastern Europe; they’ve been there, are a lot smarter, and it won’t end well for you….you might end up wishing you had stayed under your bridge.

  5. Hi Joe,

    I was going to not make a pest of myself again this time, but then the sermon this morning swerved into exactly the verses in Romans you cite and helped me through a bit I was chewing on. So, um, pestering again!

    A couple of thoughts:

    First, just to get it out of the way, I think we’re on the same page regarding appointing women as elders – Scripture gives a clear, imperative command on the appointment of elders, and that command specifies gender. No beef there; anything I have to say concerns the rest of your post.

    Second, you say:

    So thoroughly was it recognized in the Apostolic Church that no one could simply make himself a minister that St. Paul asks rhetorically, “how can men preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:15).

    But that’s a pretty substantial misuse of Romans 10, I think; the church is not really in view anywhere in that chapter. Romans 9-11 is Paul’s discussion of how salvation has come to both Jews and Gentiles, and how Israel is to understand their role in the current state of affairs. Romans 9 is unequivocally about God’s action in calling to himself who he will. Romans 10 continues in these theme, noting how God offers salvation to all men (v. 5-13). Paul gives, as examples of those preaching this call to Israel, the testimony of Isaiah (v. 16) and of the created order itself (v. 18).

    How, then, could Paul say, “How can they preach, unless they are sent (by the church)?” Did the church send Isaiah, or the heavens? Surely not; does Paul then appeal immediately to examples that contradict him? For that matter, can we really believe that Paul – who said of himself in Galatians 1:1, “sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father,” and whose thesis throughout that chapter is that his authority didn’t descend from the church – is now going to turn around and say, “Well, but you can’t preach unless you’re sent by the church?”

    That seems like something of a stretch! It seems like a much more natural reading of this passage is, “How can they preach, unless they are sent (by God)” – that it is God who sends, that men may preach and hear and believe and so call on him. That fits with Paul’s topic (that is, God’s action in saving Jews and Gentiles), it fits with his self-description (as one sent from God, not from the church), and it fits with the example “preachers” he uses in the next three verses (as both Isaiah and the heavens receive their charge directly from God, and not from an intermediary body). Even your own citation of Hebrews 5 says that it is God who appoints the priest – not other priests. So it seems like this passage actually reads against your thesis, and not in support of it.

    (Even if you disagree that this is the correct reading, would you agree that it’s a possible and plausible one, in context? Has the Roman Catholic Church infallibly stated the identity of the sender in v. 15 – or is this for you, as it is for me, a matter of private interpretation guided by wise older believers?)

    Third, it seems to me that your argument for the necessity of top-down appointment is lacking any kind of biblical imperative statement – in which it differs from the ordination of women. We have a very small number of ordinations that are actually described in Scripture. These examples follow the top-down example except when they don’t – as you note, Paul is a notable exception (and is fiercely defensive of the fact that this is okay, because the gospel comes from God and not men), and it’s actually the church as a whole who chooses the first deacons. That’s already something less than a universal pattern, in a short list of examples. Most of the remaining examples fit a common pattern: one experienced Christian, with training and exposure to the full gospel, arrives in a basically-brand-new church full of baby Christians, many of whom he may have converted himself (or converted those who converted them) in the preceding weeks or months. The experienced Christian, usually an apostle, then appoints leadership for the brand-new baby church.

    Is that surprising? Would we expect a group of new converts to behave any differently, regardless of the general necessity? I mean, if Paul walked into my church today, I’m pretty sure we’d still defer to his wisdom on appointing the new deacons – how much more, if none of us had known Christ for more than a year or so, and that only by Paul’s own witness.

    But – crucially – these are descriptive statements, and not prescriptive ones. We see that this is how elders were appointed, in these few cases; we’re never told that this was the only way that they could be appointed. Indeed, again, when we see a much more experienced and stable church (the one in Jerusalem), it’s the church body as a whole that takes the lead in appointing new overseers. It seems as plausible an interpretation to say that this is closer to the model for churches today, particularly given the paucity of new apostles to satisfy the other approach. And if there’s a plausible alternative, and Scripture never clarifies that one of these is necessarily and uniquely correct, it seems too much for us to denounce “bottom-up” elders as clear fakes.

    (Indeed, it’s not even clear that your proposed model is followed for your own bishops’ line of descent; Clement 44 says only that new elders were appointed “by other eminent men, with the consent of the whole church.” Are the other eminent men themselves ordained? It’s certainly not clear from that description, given that Clement otherwise refers to elders as elders – and if they aren’t, does that invalidate the whole sweep of Christian leaders since?)

    You’re making a very strong statement, here – “From a Biblical perspective, both of these people are entirely in the wrong” – and it doesn’t seem to me that you’ve made that case.

    As a final question, under your model, what would you say Christians without ready access to an ordained priest are to do? Surely they still preach the gospel. Do they baptize new converts? Do they celebrate communion? Do they put those in unrepentant sin out of the church? These things are commanded of all believers – are these churches then necessarily in sin, because they lack elders? What, in other words, are we to say of the church in Ethiopia – which, from Philip’s conversion of the eunuch until some unspecified later date, has no access to any ordained leadership? What about all those churches started by returning believers from the day of Pentecost? What about the churches that spread throughout Asia Minor?

    Or – to put things in a more modern context – what about the millions of Catholics in China who for many years had no access to such a chain of ordination? What were they to do, in order to be obedient Christians? My answer would be, “Appoint your elders and deacons, and carry on,” much as it is for the Protestants. What would you say of them?

    1. I would like to point out that the above is the first critique of Joe’s article that even bothered citing the Scripture–which is why I appreciate Irked’s responses.

      However, the fact that so many criticisms have avoided citing the Scriptures shows how difficult it is to justify bypassing Apostolic Succession and the importance of ordination, while actually understanding the Scriptures themselves. Clearly, we have no other model other than Elders (Titus 1:15) appointing Elders, or Apostles appointing Elders. Then, we have 1 Cor 12:28-31 which explicitly says we cannot take the roles and gifts that the Holy Spirit appoints to individuals. I cannot go make myself a teacher, apostle, or work miracles, or anything apart from being either the appointment or the ability by God.

      One is forced to conclude that the Reformation is by necessity, sinful in that it disobeyed the Biblical witness as to how we appoint church leaders to begin with.

      So, Protestants (I would have said the same) may concede this but then say it was some sort of justifiable sin given the circumstances. But, how much trust does this show in God? Athanasius opposed almost the whole world and given decades and several banishments, successfully reformed the Church of his day. God is gracious to His Church and to His people.

      What did Luther do? He had his friends kidnap him and he had German princes appoint new Bishops, and started a whole new Church, abandoning the Christian world and starting his own.

      We must be like Athanasius–not Luther.

      God bless,
      Craig

      1. Hi Craig,

        Thanks for the kind words. I obviously disagree that it’s hard to make the Protestant case here – and I’m not sure I understand your point regarding the spiritual gifts, on a couple of grounds: first, that eldership does not require a single specific gift (as opposed to being an overseer, which arguably requires the ability to teach); and second, that I don’t believe either of us is proposing that people bestow gifts on themselves.

        You say “I cannot go make myself a teacher… apart from being either the appointment or the ability by God.” Maybe I’m just not tracking your argument, but I don’t see why this would be a problem for Protestants – I’d just say that Protestant Christians are sometimes given the gifts of teaching, etc., by God, and thus are as entitled (and required!) to practice those gifts as any other Christian.

        1. Irked,

          Maybe the following will clear things up:

          The following quotation, also in 1 Corinthians, specifically says that God gives to the body of Christ all that it needs “so that there may be no schism in the body.” As we will see, by setting up one’s own teachers over the ones that God has appointed in the Church defies the Church order He has established. We can see this in 1 Cor 12:24-29-

          But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, so that there may be no division [schismata] in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another…Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they?

          The following are ramifications of the preceding teaching:

          -God supplies church leaders in the following chronological order: first apostles, then prophets, and third teachers. We only have teachers today.

          -Even if the above interpretation (first elucidated by Irenaeus in the second century) is incorrect, the only other possible interpretation is that Paul is putting these leaders in order of importance. Apostles, teachers, and prophets are kinds of people, not gifts per se, because Paul would have immediately afterwards mentioned kinds of people (miracle workers, healers, helpers, administrators, etc.) instead of gifts themselves if this were not the case.

          -So, in short, we see that Paul is citing that Apostles, prophets, and teachers are appointed to the Church. In the Scriptures we see Apostles appointed by Christ and Presbyters (who teach according to the Pastoral Epistles) appointed by those Paul has appointed to the task. So, in short, Apostles appoint Presbyters and Presbyters appoint Presbyters. Men appointed in this way are appointed by the will of God.

          -,u>Because of the preceding, we are not to appropriate the position of a teacher, prophet, or apostle as each is made one not by his own will but by the specific design and will of God. This therefore disallows for any man, no matter how wise or well-meaning, from setting himself as a teacher in the Church apart from being ordained by an Elder/Bishop. No legitimate church body can exist when one appoints himself to the governing and teaching of the church body, because only those “appointed [by God]” may serve in this role.

          -The Church body (“Christ’s body”) is not an invisible entity where people are merely joined by their common principles. To the contrary, it is as real as the individual members of the Corinthian church and the resurrected body of Christ Himself. This is not my opinion, this is the comparison Paul literally draws between real believers, in a real church, with a real risen Savior. This means that schism is the division of real believers from a real, institutional Church.

          -In light of this, the doctrine of the “invisible church” borders not only on Christological heresy (as the Church body is physical just as Christ’s resurrected body is physical), it ignores the simple reality that schism is meaningless in an invisible church. What constitutes a division among real people if we are not to include that they literally divide themselves institutionally and have differing loyalties?

          How can Paul warn the Corinthian church about schism if the Corinthians were invisibly united by the belief in Jesus Christ? Obviously, any invisible unity the Corinthian Christians might have had was inconsequential–they were called to visible, institutional unity via not appropriating the work of God in appointing only a few to be Apostles, prophets, and teachers.

          From: “The Wickedness of Schisms Proven By the Scriptures Alone”
          https://christianreformedtheology.com/2017/03/07/the-wickedness-of-schisms-proven-from-the-scriptures-alone/

          God bless,
          Craig

          1. Hi Craig,

            I’ll have to look at this more thoroughly tomorrow, but my immediate response is that this:

            So, in short, Apostles appoint Presbyters and Presbyters appoint Presbyters. Men appointed in this way are appointed by the will of God.

            … is precisely the point of contention: is it, or is it not, a divinely established truth that elders/overseers/presbyters/etc. can only be appointed by others of the same category? Unless that’s answered in the affirmative, the rest of argument goes nowhere.

            And to that point, I’d return to my original post. I don’t think anyone has shown that this is the model by which overseers must be appointed, and this article seems to assert it without further proof.

          2. … is precisely the point of contention: is it, or is it not, a divinely established truth that elders/overseers/presbyters/etc. can only be appointed by others of the same category?

            Yes. That’s the only Biblical example and 1 Cor 12 makes the point that no one can be made so apart from the will of God. If we know the context of 1 Cor 12, we know that Paul made Sosthenes and others elders, and not the Judaizers who he called “Super Apostles” in 2 Corinthians. So, obviously Paul was criticizing those who assumed titles such as Apostle and Teacher for themselves.

            God bless,
            Craig

          3. Hi Craig,

            So, obviously Paul was criticizing those who assumed titles such as Apostle and Teacher for themselves.

            Whoa, hang on there. There’s a stretch of time between 1 and 2 Corinthians, including at least one entire missing exchange of letters. I don’t think it’s justifiable to assume the “super-apostles” must be in view, here – Chapter 1 says that their current factions are about clinging too tightly to the supposed authority of just one of the actual apostles, which produces division.

            (Funny thing, that.)

            Paul speaks throughout these chapters on how they’re all to get along with each other without bickering needlessly or antagonizing each other – whether that’s over food sacrificed to idols (ch. 8-10), worship and the Lord’s supper (ch. 11), or spiritual gifts (ch. 12). What appears to be true is that some were holding up their gifts as deserving of special honor or necessity; Paul rebukes that, saying that all the parts are necessary, and that it is God who gives us each gifts to each according to his will. Elders aren’t even in view in this passage, unless we assume that “teachers” is necessarily the same appointment. (I would find that a little suspect, since “teacher” is conspicuously absent from the list of requirements for an elder in Titus 1 – when it’s present for the otherwise-repeated list for overseers a verse later!)

            Even setting that aside, the appointment of the church is nowhere described here, nor is there any indication that the will of God can only be acknowledged if manifested through some unbroken chain of descent. Indeed, in that regard this passage seems to argue rather against your position, because Paul’s thesis is that God appoints gifts as He will. If “teacher” and “elder” are to be taken as synonyms – well, then, God can appoint teachers among the Protestants, as well, and who will gainsay him?

            That “teachers” exist only where created by other teachers (or apostles) is neither stated nor implied in this passage.

          4. Irked,

            “Whoa, hang on there. There’s a stretch of time between 1 and 2 Corinthians, including at least one entire missing exchange of letters.”

            Are you sure about that? The second letter addresses the same topic of the sexually immoral brother (1 Cor 5) and the financial collection (1 Cor 16). We may be talking about a difference of months or maybe a year. Plus, almost all of Paul’s letters were against Judaizers…why wouldn’t Paul’s opposition in 1 Cor be the same?

            But forget the rhetorical questions–Paul explicitly says that there are, “factions [i.e. sects in the Greek] among you, that those who are approved may be recognized among you” (1 Cor 11:9), and in 2 Corinthians the Judaizers have letters of recommendation, style themselves apostles, and etcetera. He is accusing the people in 1 Cor 11-12 specifically of schism in the Greek. Obviously, he is not accusing Peter or Apollos of schism. He even says, ” I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes” (1 Cor 4:6). He is merely addressing the name of himself and other true Apostles as a way to refuse dignifying the Judaizers by name, something he refuses to do until the Pastoral epistles.

            “their current factions are about clinging too tightly to the supposed authority of just one of the actual apostles, which produces division. (Funny thing, that.)”

            I respectfully disagree, he is only figuratively addressing the real Apostles, because he is opposing the “super apostles” i.e. Judaizers.

            “What appears to be true is that some were holding up their gifts as deserving of special honor or necessity…”

            Gifts are only part of it. He speaks of titles, and if you read what I wrote and linked to, I explicitly argue that if he meant to conflate gifts with titles, he would have worded things differently.

            “Elders aren’t even in view in this passage, unless we assume that “teachers” is necessarily the same appointment.”

            They may not be. But, it seems clearer that Elders are the prophets and teachers he speaks of. This is why in 1 Cor 14 he speaks of everything being done in order, a prophecy, a teaching, etcetera. Unless the early church was a Quaker meeting house, the Elders are leading the worship. The Corinthian Church, being rather large, had more than one (we know Sosthenes and Crispus. Aquila, who was in Corinth, may have been a third Elder as the church met in his house.)

            “I would find that a little suspect, since “teacher” is conspicuously absent from the list of requirements for an elder in Titus 1 – when it’s present for the otherwise-repeated list for overseers a verse later!”

            Overseers are elders, so teacher is a requirement for both.

            “Even setting that aside, the appointment of the church is nowhere described here, nor is there any indication that the will of God can only be acknowledged if manifested through some unbroken chain of descent.”

            Let me state it plainly. The Bible only gives us one mode (Apostles appointing Elders, Elders appointing Elders.) Who are you or me, or anyone to invent some sort of new way? Aren’t we Sola Scriptura? If the Scripture gives no other model, aren’t we duty bound to follow it?

            I will give you the last word. May God bless you richly,

            Craig

          5. Hi Craig,

            Are you sure about that?

            Pretty sure, yeah. 2 Corinthians 2 talks about Paul’s recent “painful visit,” followed by a “letter of tears,” both of which are (as far as we can tell) events subsequent to 1 Corinthians. This is a pretty standard reading of the timeline – it’s uncontroversial enough to be the Wikipedia standard, for whatever that’s worth, but it’s easy to appeal to more scholarly people who say the same thing.

            Obviously, he is not accusing Peter or Apollos of schism.

            No, clearly not, but he does accuse the people of schisming by claiming one or the other of these men as their head – whatever the men in question would have said about it!

            I’m scratching my head here a little bit, because I don’t really know what I could say here that Paul doesn’t. He simply does say that some are claiming to follow Paul, or Apollos, or Peter. You can assume that isn’t what he means – that he’s using these as code words, and that he must really be talking about the Judaizers – but that isn’t what he says, and it seems like a pretty significant case of reading into the text.

            I mean, look at how he responds in Chapter 1: “Was Paul crucified for you? Were you baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God I did not baptize any of you.” He’s appealing to a specific historical fact, i.e. his relation to their baptism, to explain why [i]he specifically[/i] shouldn’t be the head of their religion – that doesn’t make a lick of sense if he’s just mad-libbing in “Paul” for “Frank the Super-Apostle.”

            I don’t really have anything else to say on this point, I guess, but I’m a little bit perplexed. Paul’s about as explicit as he could be as to what’s wrong – I don’t understand why we’d assume the problem must be something else. (I do think it’s a little bit hilarious that an overemphasis on Peter is already alive and kicking at this point.)

            He even says, ” I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes” (1 Cor 4:6).

            “These things,” i.e., “being servants and stewards” – the things that are figuratively true of the two of them, that he says in the first part of the chapter. “We aren’t literally your butlers, guys, but you get the point, right?”

            They may not be. But, it seems clearer that Elders are the prophets and teachers he speaks of.

            No, that’s not clear to me at all. They may be, but there’s no necessity presented here. That elders teach – and I did misremember on this point, confusing “elder” and “deacon,” with my apologies – doesn’t imply that only elders teach; “teachers” is a potentially broader category.

            Even then, though, there’s no indication that “teachers” may only be appointed by other teachers. That, again, has to be read into the verse.

            Let me state it plainly. The Bible only gives us one mode (Apostles appointing Elders, Elders appointing Elders.)

            To which I reply: the Bible never gives us any required mode at all. It shows us some examples – examples from a remarkable period of church history, and which almost without exception involve actual apostles. Even then, we see the church assembled choosing its own deacons, and the appointment of men to authority with no appeal to the church hierarchy.

            Set cases of direct apostolic appointment aside, and we have… what, Titus’s appointments? Maybe a couple of others? And many other cases where we simply don’t know how church elders were appointed. You’re asking me to infer a normative requirement from a very small set of descriptions, most of which include unique and irreplicable features.

            I want to stress that: you’re asking me to infer a requirement. You’re asking me to conclude that anyone not appointed according to these rules – rules which are not given in Scripture – is not really an elder. This isn’t just a matter of eh-maybe interpretation; you’re saying we are sure enough on this point to automatically write off anyone outside the tradition.

            And I simply can’t do that; Scripture doesn’t infer that far.

            A thought experiment: suppose I came to you and insisted that, any time the Holy Spirit is present, people must speak in tongues, or it’s not a real salvation. I point to the passages referencing tongues in the NT; I note the multiple instances where tongues do coincide with the Spirit (Pentecost, etc.). How do you ignore the Bible’s command, I ask you?

            Now, to me, these two scenarios have the exact same problem: they rely on a very small number of examples, most of which feature unique circumstances and direct apostolic involvement, and – crucially – they lack any kind of actual biblical command. But if you still feel this is evidence enough for elder-appointment to be a necessity… what’s wrong with my hypothetical?

            Thanks for the conversation!

    2. Irked,

      There are major problems with the ideas expressed in this post. You said:

      “But that’s a pretty substantial misuse of Romans 10, I think; the church is not really in view anywhere in that chapter. Romans 9-11 is Paul’s discussion of how salvation has come to both Jews and Gentiles, and how Israel is to understand their role in the current state of affairs. Romans 9 is unequivocally about God’s action in calling to himself who he will. Romans 10 continues in these theme, noting how God offers salvation to all men (v. 5-13). Paul gives, as examples of those preaching this call to Israel, the testimony of Isaiah (v. 16) and of the created order itself (v. 18).”

      I don’t think you appreciate the irony of saying that “the church is not really in view anywhere in that chapter” and then in the very next sentence saying that is about “how salvation has come to both Jews and Gentiles.” The word “church” literally means “called out ones.” It is absolutely impossible to be saved apart from being a member of Christ’s body, the Church. Paul is talking about how both Jews and Gentiles have been called into the Church! It’s actually quite disturbing to see such division brought between salvation and the Church. It belies a poor view of the Church which in turn belies a low view of Christ. Romans 11 makes the point clearer in verses 13-24 which directly refer to both Jews and Gentiles as “branches.” This furthermore calls to mind our Lord’s illustration that He is the Vine and we are the branches. Your argument here is a big false dichotomy between God’s action and the Church. This is actually a separation of the head from the body…which is a decapitation lol.

      The reason Jesus said to Saul on the road to Damascus “Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?” is that if you attack the body, you attack the person. If I assaulted your arm, I assaulted you. Jesus Christ and His Church are so radically united with each other that they form one Mystical Person. In further comments, you mentioned that Christ is the bridegroom and the Church is the bride. That’s absolutely true but you’ve forgotten something major there. Christ is married to His bride. What happens when a bridegroom marries his bride? The two become one flesh! So yes, it is absolutely correct to say that Jesus and His Church are ONE! We don’t have to divinize the Church, Jesus has already done so. As St. Athanasius so brilliantly put it: “God became man, so man could become God.”

      Furthermore, preaching cannot be considered an activity that takes place apart from the Church either. It is only members of the Church who can preach the Gospel and you seemed to agree that you cannot appoint yourself to that task. It would seem then that the point against the original protestant reformers still stands; they had no valid mission. St. Francis de Sales question to them was “who sent you?” Obviously not their duly appointed leaders in the Church whom they abandoned. Of course they might claim that God himself personally sent them in which case the follow up response is “prove it.” We’ve seen all to well the dangers of people claiming that God privately gave them a mission to “save the church” ala Joseph Smith and others. Honestly, protestants were not that different in how they saw their own mission.

      May God be with you.

      Matthew

      1. Hi Matthew,

        It seems like you’re parsing my words a little differently than I intended, there – apologies for the miscommunication! Would the meaning be clearer if I said that Romans 9-11 is the story of God calling His church from both Jews and Gentiles, and that the action of the church in sending is not in view, here?

        Because I certainly agree that those God saves are the church, and I don’t mean to communicate the contrary at all! But there’s still no basis for saying that this verse is about “the church sending,” for all the reasons I list above.

        Your argument here is a big false dichotomy between God’s action and the Church.

        Let me repeat the same questions I asked above: did the church die for me? Am I to worship the church and serve it only? If not, then I think it’s appropriate to note that these are two separate entities, as indeed Paul does in Galatians 1.

        Now. God certainly acts through the church – but God acted through the Assyrians, so that’s not a unique feature. God has a will for the church. More uniquely, God, via His Holy Spirit, indwells the members of the church, and promises to be present with them in the church and to supply their needs. But that the actions of God are identical with the actions of the church is an idea that appears nowhere in Scripture, and is pretty indefensible in the face of church history. It is wholly inappropriate to read a passage which says, “God does X,” and conclude, “And that must necessarily in all cases take the form of church action” – let alone “church action of this specific form nowhere commanded in Scripture!”

        It is only members of the Church who can preach the Gospel and you seemed to agree that you cannot appoint yourself to that task.

        Sure. God has to appoint you to it; that’s a principle we honor (albeit as imperfect followers) as well.

        No one in this conversation is claiming men appoint themselves to lead churches. The subject of debate is whether God only appoints men to that position through the line of RCC bishops – and that’s precisely the point that’s not been established.

        So yes, it is absolutely correct to say that Jesus and His Church are ONE!… As St. Athanasius so brilliantly put it: “God became man, so man could become God.”

        And as Athanasius would clarify in De Decretis, “while [Christ] is adored, because He is Son of the adorable Father, we adore, confessing Him Lord and God, because we are creatures and other than He,” emphasis mine. The actions of Christ are not our own actions, because we are not the same beings.

        Could I request that we set aside a father whom neither of us consider infallible, before this becomes a debate on secondary sources?

        1. Irked, you say:

          “Let me repeat the same questions I asked above: did the church die for me? Am I to worship the church and serve it only?”

          In a very real sense, yes the Church did suffer and die for you. The sufferings of the Church are the sufferings of Christ (Colossians 1:24, Romans 8:17, Philippians 3:10, 2 Corinthians 1:5). If the Church is the Body of Christ, and the Body of Christ was on the Cross, then we are there too in Him. Would you worship Christ’s physical body? I will agree and maintain that there is a Creator/creature distinction but that does not invalidate the principle of divinization/theosis of the Church.

          You say: “No one in this conversation is claiming men appoint themselves to lead churches.”

          Except that is precisely what the original protestants did. Every single original protestant reformer was born and baptized Catholic. They broke away from the Church and began their own without any authority to do so. They had no valid mission.

          You said: “The actions of Christ are not our own actions, because we are not the same beings.”

          The actions of the Church are indeed Christ’s actions (1 Corinthians 3:9, 1 Corinthians 16:10). Christ works in and through the members of His Body, the Church. The Head together with the Body form one Mystical Person. Yes, there is a distinction between the Head and the members which make up the Body but as St. Joan of Arc said:

          “About Jesus Christ and the Church, I simply know they are just one thing and we shouldn’t complicate the matter.”

          May God be with you.

          Matthew

          1. Hi Matthew,

            I think we’re drifting a bit from the original point, so let me try to recenter us. We aren’t debating divinization; we’re debating whether actions ascribed to God must necessarily be actions of the church, and in particular actions of the church in a specific way not demanded in Scripture. The one does not logically require the other – whatever our thoughts on the former, can we agree that there are actions attributed to God that are not the church’s to perform?

            If so, the remaining question is whether this particular action must necessarily be performed by the church – or, more specifically, by the elders of the Roman Catholic Church. Even if I accepted that the church could lay claim to all – all! – such actions, it’s simple to say: “Well, a Protestant pastor is appointed by his church” – and cut you fine gents out of the picture altogether.

            Or let me put that another way: the original question is, “Can only elders appoint elders?” I say no – look, see here, God sends, not the church. Your reply, as I understand it, is, “Yes, and wherever the Bible says ‘God’ we can substitute ‘the church,’ and so the church appoints elders. And where we say ‘the church,’ we can substitute ‘the Roman Catholic elders,’ because only elders can appoint elders.”

            Do you see the circularity of that? You can’t appeal to the unique authority of your elders to establish the unique authority of your elders.

            The actions of the Church are indeed Christ’s actions (1 Corinthians 3:9, 1 Corinthians 16:10).

            Neither verse you cite says that. These verses say that the work appointed to us is the Lord’s work; they do not establish that all actions taken by the church are Christ’s actions, nor that all actions undertaken by Christ must be undertaken by the church. They flatly do not say this.

            as St. Joan of Arc said:

            Was that before or after the Roman Church – or, apparently, God – burned her alive?

            This is what I mean by historically untenable: your denomination has done awful, awful things. So has mine! We are united in this, at least.

            But Christ didn’t murder Joan of Arc, or send the Inquisition against the Spanish Jews, as your denomination once did. Christ didn’t celebrate racism slavery in the American south, as mine once did. That was us – us, as the church, acting against the work we’d been assigned to do.

            And how dare we tar Him with that and say, “Oh, yes, His actions and ours – they’re exactly the same.”

          2. Darn it, “racism and slavery,” in that next-to-final paragraph You think you’ve got all the typos out, and then…

  6. Irked – good morning. Some good points…I will address a few and let others weigh in.

    Even your own citation of Hebrews 5 says that it is God who appoints the priest – not other priests.”

    Agreed. God *is* His Church. Given Jesus is speaking in both occasions, there is clear lineage between Matt 16:18 and Acts 9:4.

    “Or – to put things in a more modern context – what about the millions of Catholics in China who for many years had no access to such a chain of ordination? What were they to do, in order to be obedient Christians?”

    After the last Jesuit missionary to Japan was murdered in the mid-1600’s, Catholics in Japan, secretly and often in great danger of martyrdom, they kept alive such traditions, liturgies, and sacraments as they could, without ordained clergy, for over 200 years, until Commodore Perry’s forcible opening of Japan to the West. Upon landing, the first Jesuits to return to Japan were greeted by these secret Catholics, who told him they had been awaiting his return all that time, and immediately submitted to his (Apostolic) authority.

    There’s more, but I have to run….open to anyone else….Irked, thanks for listening….

    1. ABout the Japanese converts, it is worth pointing out that those cut off from the Church are still members of Her. RCism speaks of acts of perfect contrition, and Church history has put emphasis on sacraments by desire (meaning those who desire to be part of the Church and her sacramental benefits attain to it anyway.) Of course, sacraments by desire do not work when your closest Apostolic Church is within regular traveling distance…even if you are like the nomads who only took part in the sacraments once a year.

      God bless,
      Craig

    2. I would love to learn more about the secret Catholics in Japan. Could you give me a source for more information? Thanks.

    3. Hi AK,

      Agreed. God *is* His Church.

      Respectfully, no, He is not. (A note of clarification: I understand you to be expressing this sentiment in a fairly literal sense, because that seems the only way in which it can work – if you’re going to claim that, by default, anything said of God applies to you, you need to pretty literally be God! If that’s not the sense in which you meant it, much of my argument below can be ignored – but then it seems presumptuous in the extreme to assume this right on no stronger grounds than, “Well, God can do it.”)

      It is certainly true that Christ suffers with His church, that He identifies with us in our struggles, but this claim goes rather too far. Scriptural metaphors regularly distinguish between the two: bride and Bridegroom, lampstands and the One who walks among them. That Christ suffers with us – that to persecute us is to persecute Him, and that via His Spirit He indeed indwells us – in no way requires that we be literally the same. Was the church slain for my sins before the foundation of the world? Did the church create all that is, ex nihilo? Am I to worship the church, to pour praise and adoration upon it alone? If not, it ain’t God.

      Indeed, this would seem to be indefensible on the grounds of your own quote from Acts. The same Paul to whom Christ spoke those words would, after all, argue in Galatians that his authority come from Christ and not from the church.

      It in particular seems unjustified to claim that God is the particular institution of the Roman Catholic Church. If I was to buy your argument – well, then, fine! Protestants are also the church, I reply, and so we can stand in for God in that passage as readily as you can. I don’t think you can maintain this position without it spiraling off into a much bigger argument about the Petrine authority of the RCC – and, um, I’d like to avoid adding that to the pile today, because I have exams to write.

      After the last Jesuit missionary to Japan was murdered in the mid-1600’s, Catholics in Japan, secretly and often in great danger of martyrdom, they kept alive such traditions, liturgies, and sacraments as they could, without ordained clergy, for over 200 years, until Commodore Perry’s forcible opening of Japan to the West.

      And the underground Chinese Christians do similar things, as I understand it – including appointing their own bishops, a practice Francis recently condemned. But that’s kind of the point of my question: lacking any connection to the Catholic line of descent, the Japanese Christians still appointed leaders to teach and lead them. Do you condemn that behavior? Was this sinful? In what way is it distinct from Protestant appointment of ministers, elders, presbyters, and all the rest?

      1. Irked – I guess we’ll agree to disagree. Again, I see the direct correlation between Christ establishing His Church on Earth in the Matthew quote (which I understand on the Protestant side is subject to debate – on the Catholic, the clear conferring of Petrine authority is not) and then, saying to Saul, *not* ‘why are you persecuting My people,’ but ‘why are you persecuting “Me.” I understand that the identification of the “Me” Church that Christ established, apostolically, magisterially, etc., with Catholicism might be troubling to Protestants, who split off from and deny the authority of the Catholic Church…my only answer is that we are baptized brothers and sisters in Christ, that God has a plan for us all, and I pass on my faith by good example plus a willingness to discuss. You’ll never hear me say “I am saved and you are not.”

        “Lacking any connection to the Catholic line of descent, the Japanese Christians still appointed leaders to teach and lead them. Do you condemn that behavior? Was this sinful?”

        I wasn’t clear in my screed as I had to get to Mass. No, they weren’t sinful, quite the opposite, because they kept the Faith as best they could – which would mean appointing lay nominal leaders, I suppose – in the absence of lawful ordained authority, something for which they hungered and after many lifetimes were answered. If anyone in that great chain of faith had tried to pass himself off as a priest and claim the authority, say, to hear confession, grant absolution, or transubstantiate, then yes, that would have been a sin. The fact they waited patiently for generations, for that lone Jesuit to appear tells me that didn’t happen.

        Similar situations occurred in Communist occupied Europe and with the Church in Soviet Russia. There’s actually a very good Lighthouse Catholic Media CD called “With God in Russia” by Father Walter Ciszek, S.J., that describes that situation – inspiring for any Christian.

        1. By the way, I did give credit to Craig for his inclusion of the concept of intention and sacraments of desire, which are very salient points to the last part of my post.

          1. You are very welcome. Let me add we should not base our theology on ordination over highly improbable situations (i.e. if I become the guy on an island with a volleyball named Wilson, and I covet to live on another island, how do I confess my sin?). Rather, when we address matters of doctrine, we should be addressing what is normative (i.e. if the Church is still around, what then?)

            What I find in Protestantism is everything is reduced to what worked for the thief on the cross, while ignoring the reality most of us have a little more time on this Earth to be Christians than he did. In short, we must not base our theology on exceptions.

            Essentially, for Protestantism to work they must either posit that 1. there was a “great falling away” like the Mormons posit so that true Christianity was completely lost and had to be restored or 2. schism is a sin, just not that big of one (re-check Gal 5:21-22 on that one folks.).

            Both are sort of tenuous positions, not one you can long stand on when you realize those are your choices.

            God bless,
            Craig

        2. Again, I see the direct correlation between Christ establishing His Church on Earth in the Matthew quote (which I understand on the Protestant side is subject to debate – on the Catholic, the clear conferring of Petrine authority is not)

          Heh. Well, as far as that goes, we think the issue is pretty well settled, too – just in the other direction. Either way, that’s probably more of a thread drift than is worth getting into today.

          I understand that the identification of the “Me” Church that Christ established, apostolically, magisterially, etc., with Catholicism might be troubling to Protestants

          Well, I mean, the problem I have isn’t that it’s troubling; it’s that I don’t find the case persuasive. I stand by the arguments I made in the last post – Paul draws a distinction between Christ and the church, and unless we’re willing to say we worship the church, I think we have to as well.

          my only answer is that we are baptized brothers and sisters in Christ, that God has a plan for us all, and I pass on my faith by good example plus a willingness to discuss.

          Amen!

          If anyone in that great chain of faith had tried to pass himself off as a priest and claim the authority, say, to hear confession, grant absolution, or transubstantiate, then yes, that would have been a sin.

          So, let me try to say something twice, in a silly way and a serious one.

          The silly: hey, then, you can be cool with Baptists, too – our pastors never do any of those!

          The serious: I think this is actually part of the divide. At least some species of Protestants, mine included, don’t believe that any elders have the roles you outline – we don’t think confession, the sacraments, etc. are efficacious, and our understanding of communion doesn’t need a priest. Lacking that, I think what we view as “clergy” would be… pretty darned close to the sort of “lay leadership” you’re okay with.

          And that’s interesting, because it makes me wonder whether these other issues are the root of it: whether a debate on “Can you appoint your own elders?” only really makes sense given a common understanding of what an elder is and does – a shared understanding that our two perspectives just don’t have!

          1. Irked:

            Cool with Baptists? Of course! Had dinner with one, a close friend and co-worker Friday night. He has been in Bible Study Fellowship for 12 years; I am just finishing my fourth and last year of Denver Catholic Biblical School. The dinner discussion was epic Bible and eclipsed the quality of the Red Lobster shrimp plate.

            Dated a Missouri Baptist girl over 30 years ago. I’d take her to Mass and her comment “all that standin’ and sittin’….” Mine was, at the end of her service, “is that ALL?” Don’t you guys do anything else?” So I *get* your ‘species’ particular viewpoint.

            Who knows where all this civil talk will lead? You have a good night, my friend….

  7. “Why Must Catholic Clergy be Called by the Church?”

    Because the ecclesiastical model of the Church from the very first words of St. Gabriel to Mary at the ‘annunciation’ (celebrated yesterdey), is described as a ‘kingdom’ of monarchical nature, and not as a democracy, or meritocracy (as Phil, above, states might be a better ecclesiastical model of government for the Church). Note the caps. highlighting the enduring nature of ‘kingdom’ and ’empire’. :

    “…thou shalt call his name Jesus…and the Lord God shall give unto him the THRONE of David his father; and he shall reign in the house of Jacob for ever. And of his KINGDOM there shall be no end.” (Luke 1:31)

    “…John to the seven churches which are in Asia….And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth, …And Hath MADE US A KINGDOM, AND PRIESTS TO GOD and his Father, to him be glory and EMPIRE for ever and ever. Amen.” (Rev.1:5)

    “And they sung a new canticle, saying:Thou art worthy, O Lord, to take the book, and to open the seals thereof; because thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God, in thy blood, out of every tribe, and tongue, and people, and nation. And hast made us to our God A KINGDOM AND PRIESTS, and WE SHALL REIGN ON THE EARTH.” (Rev. 5:9)

    And how is this kingdom to grow to become an empire, and especially with Jesus not having physical offspring to transmit the Kingdom to? By claiming adoption of all the members of His Church into His kingdom. On Calvary, Jesus said to His Mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary: “Behold thy son”. And then He said to St. John His beloved apostle and disciple: “Behold thy mother”. Herein, John, and all of the other apostles are considered brothers of Mary’s Son and King, Jesus Christ. They are ‘princes’ of the New Kingdom that Christ has established on Calvary, as well as through His earthly ministry, and which Jesus calls ‘His Church’…ie: “You are Peter and upon this Rock I will build my Church and the gates of Hell shall not prevail against it”

    Moreover, it is the nature if every kingdom, by definition, to be filled with different hierarchical structures and social relationships, and with corresponding duties designed to keep the kingdom both properly functioning, as well as expanding. And this is no different for the Holy Church that Jesus established.

    So, why must Catholic clergy be called? Because this is how the ‘kingdom of Christ’, via the Apostles, found it to be the most suitable way of maintaining the unity of the kingdom, while at the same time fullfilling the command of Christ given to them at the Lord’s ‘Ascention into Heaven’:

    “And Jesus coming, spoke to them, saying: All power is given to me in heaven and in earth. Going therefore, teach ye all nations; baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. TEACHING THEM TO OBSERVE ALL THINGS WHATSOEVER I COMMANDED YOU: and behold I am with you all days, even to the consummation of the world.” (Matt. 28:19)

    It might be added that ordinations involve anointings, which transmit grace, blessing, power and holiness from God to those who are anointed, even as we learn from the Old Testament, i.e… from the anointing of King David by Samuel: “He sent therefore and brought him Now he was ruddy and beautiful to behold, and of a comely face. And the Lord said: Arise, and anoint him, for this is he. Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD came upon David from that day forward…”

    This is how they did things back during the kingdom of David. And it’s how the Catholic Church of Christ has done things since it’s very beginnings from the teaching of Christ in Israel, to Calvary, to the Ascention of Jesus into Heaven’, to the ‘Descension of the Holy Spirit at Pentacost’, to the ‘Acts of the Apostles’, to the growth of the ‘pre-Nicaean Church’, to the ‘Council of Nicaea’, to the conversion of all Europe, to the discovery and continuing conversion of peoples in ‘the New World‘….until our present day.

    The Church is based on the ‘kingdom model’, and that’s why ordinations are performed…’top down’.

  8. The current system of clergy selection has produced both good and bad results. Hopefully we all agree it’s in the interest of the Church for there to be more good and less bad. A quick review of a few examples…

    THE GOOD: Catholic Charities is the second leading provider of social services to the needy in the United States, topped only by the federal government. To me, this is a remarkable accomplishment, and a sterling example of Christianity at it’s best. The only problem I see here is that Catholics seem quite uninterested in discussing this great victory, which I find puzzling indeed. Let’s mark this up as a major win which was led by the clergy, a win which more should be said about.

    THE BAD: The Church’s trillion dollar real estate empire, a flagrant violation of Christian principle, having no justification at all in the words and acts of Jesus. Let’s label this as the clergy using much needed funds to create a glorious stage for themselves to perform on. Coming in a close second, the unfolding collapse of Catholicism in it’s traditional European homeland, which can only be labeled a monumental failure of leadership.

    The UGLY: The scandals are too ugly to rehash here, so that’s enough about that.

    You guys can stubbornly stick with the status quo and quote scripture (all written by the clergy) all you want but the bottom line is that if the bad should overwhelm the good, as the European example clearly shows, the existence of the Church may be at stake. No laity equals no one to pay the clergy.

    A compromise might be to stick with the current clergy system so as to not be distracted by endless combat on the issue, and then shift the focus to what the Church does best, Catholic Charities.

    Here’s how any Catholic can help implement this. If you’re donating money to the Church, ask where it’s going. If the answer is Catholic Charities open your hearts and wallets and do the best you can do. If the answer is church construction, say no thanks, and find a more Christian way to invest your hard earned funds.

    In the end, like it or not, the Church will be led by what the laity chooses to do with it’s money. That’s where the real power lies. I don’t believe God is running the Church. I think he gave humanity the Church and is giving us free reign to make the best of it that we can. It’s our boat to row, and in the end it will be the laity who decides where the boat goes.

    The Protestant Reformation occurred because many good people realized that much of the Catholic experience had become more to do with clergy worship than God worship. Perhaps the collapse of European Catholicism is arising from that same well. Be wary my friends, sticking with the status quo no matter what can come at a very high price.

    1. This sounds like a very worldly comment. Although money is used by the Church, the mission of the Church is evangelization, even as Joe noted with the apostles appointing deacons to take care of the ‘mammon’ issues. Money is very ‘secondary’ in everything religious and spiritual. And, anyone who actually attends the Liturgies at a Catholic parish frequently, or daily, knows that the life of a priest is more likely than not, the life of a ‘spartan’. They receive very low pay in comparison with their advanced degrees of education. This is the reality as I’ve seen it most of my adult life. It is a great sacrifice to be a priest. And I pray that God gives them all a ‘double portion’ of His grace for their great sacrifice. Once a person knows many priests personally, he will understand the great demands and obligations, of both time and energy, inherent of their vocations. But, fortunately the Lord is there to support them in these great labors.

      True Catholics ‘serve’ only God. Mammon is tolerated as a necessary evil, and is not to be served or loved in the Kingdom of Christ, the Church, on Earth.

    2. Phil – I thought about going to Scriptue to rebute some of your critique but it seems you only think Scripture you agree with is inspired and the the remaining is twisted by catholic clerics.

      I guess there are all types out there.

      1. Since Scripture – the basis for Christianity – was written by clerics and is questionable at best, perhaps we could convert the entire Catholic Church into a big 501c (3), and do away with all that spiritual nonsense. We could even get Mr Soros to organize it for us – maybe even merge with the Open Society Institute.

        I think I just made Phil’s day.

        1. No necessity to convert the US Catholic Church to a 501c…because it already is and has been for decades. 🙂

          It’s the USCCB.

          1. As a side note, many small groups in a parish can become 501c(3) if they can get their bishop to include them in the Official Catholic Directory of their local diocese. This is what the USCCB (United States Council of Catholic Bishops) uses to notify the IRS that these groups are ‘integrated auxiliary’ organizations of the Catholic Church… in case anyone ever wants to start a Catholic organization at their local parish.

  9. Thanks for the replies, even though they all so far are non-responsive to the points I made.

    At the very top of my post, I made sincere congratulatory comments to the clergy about Catholic Charities. Catholic Charities is the most impressive example of Catholicism in action, and nobody on the Catholic web wants to talk about it. The secret to renewing Catholicism in the West is right there under your noses, and you can’t see it, don’t want to see it, don’t want to say it. Very mysterious.

    1. Phil – You may need another statistic to bolster your argument. Catholic Charities accepts a large portion of its revenue from the federal government. Since such funding often comes with non-Catholic secular strings–(adoptions must be open to gay couples, for example), some Catholics refuse to support CC.

      1. Hi Margo, thanks for your input. I’d be happy to be further educated on the subject of CC, as to me it’s the most interesting part of American Catholicism.

        If large portions of the money funding CC are tax dollars that does change the situation, but it’s still a very worthy effort. The needy are still being served, and that’s the bottom line. I assume the clergy had a lot to do with establishing CC, so if true, I have no problem saluting them for that accomplishment, in fact I am eager to do so.

        I find it interesting that 1) some Catholics value ideology over human beings, and 2) there appears to be very little discussion of CC on the Catholic web. And, I find myself to be largely guilty of the very same failings, so I can relate to where these problems come from.

        What if every ideological article on the Catholic web concluded with a pitch for supporting CC? The top part of the article would explain the principles involved, and the conclusion of the article would show how to put the principles in to action. Why didn’t the Pope do this when he was speaking to the U.S. Congress, the richest legislative body in the world? Why did he content himself with theory, theory, theory, a recitation of the same old Catholic speech that everyone in Western culture already knows by heart?

        I propose that waaaay too much of the Catholic web, including my own posts, is about theory, theory, theory, theory, and waaaay too little is about action. If we had effective leadership, the balance between the two might be corrected. But sadly, we are supposed to worship the status quo no matter how calamitous it may become apparently.

        1. “Theory, theory, theory”….

          Is that a codeword for faith and belief? You seem to show the same contempt for those as you do for the clergy unless they are laicized social justice warriors, devoid of concern for the spirit. Which, as I recall, was a slight concern for the Gospel Jesus, just as were His concerns of Matthew 25.

          I have to admit, you are slick. Your insults are subtle (except where you basically accused Joe of being a clericalist sock puppet), you stay on message, and exhibit a veneer of ‘reasonable’ as you probe for weak links in Catholic strongholds who might think you have good intentions, and buy a slice of your c**p sandwich.

          Fulton Sheen once said, there are not 100 people in the US who hate the Catholic Church, but millions who hate what they *think* is the Church. Looks to me like you are one of the 100. What a victory for you and your kind, converting the Church into a secular redistributionist entity, to be swallowed bit-by-bit. I think you are about 30 years too late, but by all means, keep trying…it’s amusing to watch the creative ways the gates of hell tries to prevail.

        2. Hi Phil,

          Every Catholic, and every Christian, is called to follow Christ in everything that He said to us, did for us and taught by example to us. This is true ‘Catholic Charity’. It has no bounds, no limits to sacrifice, no time schedule, no vacations. It runs on the Divine Providence of God, and reacts to whatever God puts before one’s face, at any time and in any place, even as the beaten and severely injured traveler was put before the face, by God, of the ‘Good Samaritan’.

          I personally will never wait for an organization such as Catholic Charities to perform my works of Charity for me….no matter how much they do for others. An institution is much less efficient than an army of ‘lovers of Christ’ out there reacting to the situations as they come across them in life. You can never trust this Christian duty of love and care towards one’s neighbor to another person, or organization, so as to have them do this work for you. Every Christian, on the contrary, must bring the healing love of Christ to others by himself, and usually with little or no help, either financially, or spiritually, or emotionally… from anyone else…even those of his own faith.

          That’s to say, everyone has their own ‘beaten down traveler’ given to them by God to be a Good Samaritan to, whether it be your own wayward kids, addicted co-workers or family members, theologically impoverished friends and neighbors, deluded friends in new age movements, wacky cults and fraudulently founded religions, or maybe even wandering or straying souls found on internet blogs. A macro institution such as Catholic Charities can provide organization and ‘mammon’, but it cannot provide the true charity and wisdom that is needed from every follower and imitator of Christ to give true spiritual life to that macro charity. Only individuals filled with the Holy Spirit, filled with the charity and care of Christ, can do that.

          So, what you seem to refer to as ‘ideologues’ are those like myself who are trying to study carefully what Jesus wants them to do with their lives. Christians who search the Scriptures to find out examples of how to act with others, and how to be prepared to spiritually help anyone who might need such aid that they come across. They study the words and examples of Christ so that they can be like an EMT, or ambulance driver, but really are striving to be, for the Love of Christ, an ESCT or emergency soul care technician…the same as we find that the Lord was when He walked throughout Israel in so many Bible stories.

          So, institutions and a lot of ‘mammon’ will never take the place of the countless humble, hidden and mostly ignored servants of Christ in this world. Like Mother Theresa was before she was famous, they go about their business largely overlooked as losers and whacko’s, while the rest of the world chases fame, money, pleasures and worldly recognition ( as if these things had any value in Eternity).

          If ‘ideologues’ are those who study the Christian faith so that they can have Christ always living and working in their souls for the purpose that they might better serve their neighbor , all the while not neglecting their own spiritual and eternal welfare….then this is exactly what the world needs. And it needs a countless army of them.

          Best to you, in Christ, on your Christian journey.

          – Al

          1. Thanks for your quite articulate comment Awims. I tried to get to the heart of it here, where you said…

            “So, what you seem to refer to as ‘ideologues’ are those like myself who are trying to study carefully what Jesus wants them to do with their lives.”

            In reply I would ask, what is there to carefully study?? Doesn’t it boil down to the word love? The apostle John, a high ranking Biblical authority for those who require that, said, “God is love”. Three words.

            I’m proposing that theories, ideas, opinions, doctrines and scripture about love are not love. This paragraph, this post, is not love. Theology is only a collection of words, mere symbols which may point to love, but are not themselves love.

            To confuse theology with love (ie. God) is like confusing a person’s name with the actual person. That’s the primary threat to Christianity, we get confused and start worshiping the symbols, the theology, the clerics, all that which points to God, instead of the actual God, which as John said, is love.

            In our ordinary daily life most of the time we typically know right away what is the surrender of love, and what is instead defending the fortress of “me”. It rarely requires a lot of careful study.

            In fact, careful study of symbols may be the primary place we hide from love. As example, as I type these symbols I’m feeling quite the amazing Christian, but there’s nothing at all Christian about typing words, when I should be serving somebody other than the glorious sound of my own voice.

            I’m challenging the clergy, real theologians, and we wannabe theologians, including this one, because we’re all in the symbol business. That’s not Christianity, but talk about Christianity, something else entirely. It’s like talking about food instead of actually eating it, no life giving calories are consumed in the process.

            Thus, I renew my challenge to you. Let’s turn every “talking the talk” article on the Catholic web in to a sales pitch for Catholic Charities, or the specific love action of your choice. You’re right, it doesn’t have to be a big organization, it can be a small personal effort too. But whatever it is, let’s sell the real thing, instead of all this yack about the real thing, which is not at all the same thing.

            The holy yack is way too easy. I know this for sure, because even I can do it.

          2. Phil has slicked his message from denigrating the Catholic clergy and directly insulting Catholic theology to attempting a ‘don’t you understand God is Love’ guilt trip.

            News for you…we “got it” a long time ago and for you to sit on your internet dais throwing anonymous spitballs, lecturing people you don’t know and of whose charity you have no clue, is a sublime level of arrogance; the malleability of your delivery is very indicative of your character and intentions.

            But by all means, stay on target. Never know when one of your torpedoes will hit that one meter vent.

        3. Phil – Here is some info on CC:

          http://www.catholicculture.org/culture/library/view.cfm?recnum=7587.

          Therein referenced for more info is some discussion (by Rev. John Neuhaus) about Catholic identity (ideology) and Catholic service with secular strings.

          Regarding WORDS, may I shed scriptural light?

          John 1:1ff: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God; and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was made nothing that has been made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.”

          How do we describe God (and love) if we have no words? How do we communicate Him? Why has God given us His words if words are meaningless? And why did God give man the ability to ‘wordify’ his world by giving man the power to name substances within the world?

          1. Margo, Phil has already dismissed Scripture as something ‘edited by clergy’ and therefore, meaningless. Look several posts back, all the way up to the ‘holy yack’ comment of the most recent.

            I agree with you….beautiful quote limning the entire way and purpose of God’s covenant with his children. Lost on some whose agendas blind them to the truth. Sad. But the subtlety of the Prince of the world and those he dupes, underscores the need for us to be vigilant.

          2. AK,
            Agreed. I confess I’ve only skimmed early posts. My rhetorical questions will probably be answered by a repetition of ‘I don’t rely on Scripture since it is nothing more than words written by men.’

            Your double-edge swords are such that I send you smiling emojis.

          3. Margo, um thanks for the info link about CC, but a quick skim suggests it’s just right wing propaganda. As example…

            “Catholic Charities USA is one of the nation’s most powerful advocates for outworn welfare-state ideas, especially the idea that social and economic forces over which the individual has no control, rather than his own attitudes and behavior, are the reason for poverty.”

            Sorry, definitely not buying it. Evidence, did you know that 400 families own as much wealth as the bottom half of the U.S. population? The system is rigged Margo, that’s why so many struggle.

            Moving along…

            Yes, you may shed scriptural light, if you first understand that words are not “the light”, they are just words. “The light” is the act of dying to be reborn, or surrendering the “me” so as to make a space for God to be heard.

            You seem honest and insightful enough to realize that the primary use of words on the Catholic web is not to surrender the “me”, but rather to inflate it.

            Except for my posts of course, given that I am the greatest poster of all time, and winner of the 2016 Most Humble Man Competition. 🙂

          4. “….it’s just right wing propaganda.”

            Ooohhh…Comrades, to the ramparts! Shoot the ones in the top hats! And miters.

            “…did you know that 400 families own as much wealth as the bottom half ..”

            Do you include Soros, Steyer, Zuckerberg, Gill, et al., in that group or is it just the Koch Bros you single out because they don’t fall within your definition of Acceptable Social Justice Billionaire?

            “Yes, you may shed scriptural light, if you first understand that words are not “the light”, they are just words.”

            Guess what, Trotsky, no one here needs your permission to do or say anything. And if you have not gotten it by now, you are at odds with *everyone* on this blog, including the visiting Protestants.

            “You seem honest and insightful enough…”

            Think anyone is, by now, going to fall for your ‘faint praise’ condescension (more apologies to Alexander Pope)?

            Keep ’em coming….bandwidth is cheap.

        4. Phil,

          I agree with Margo. Words are necessary to understand the souls of others, communicated to us by word, and to express our own souls, in a likewise manner. Who, for instance, would know anything about the beautiful soul of St. Paul without his many letters? And Jesus Himself? How would we know the subtlety of His teachings without the Gospels containing His words being written down?

          And Jesus also tells us that it is through ‘word’ and ‘keeping words’ that we are saved. He says:

          “Amen, Amen, I say unto you, if any man keep my word He shall not see death forever.”

          And,

          “If any man keep my word, my father will love him, and we will come to him and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not, keepeth not my words. And the word which you have heard is not mine, but the Father’s who sent me.”

          I might add that the words of Jesus are many, and so to keep them means one must both study them carefully… throughout his entire life, and then try to put them into practice on a daily basis also.

          That is, if you truly love Jesus and the Father who sent Him.

          1. awlms – you are ALWAYS appreciated. Someday I hope to have your depth of Scriptural and Church Traditional acuity. I’m working on it.

            Margo – thank you. Your gentility is a necessary counterpoint to my teeth-grinding. I don’t appreciate sneering scurrilous attacks, however subtle and nuanced – on my Church and the clergy. Especially seminarians, having a son who is one….first-hand experience on just how much they give up to serve us all.

            Until this troll gives up and slinks elsewhere, I will be on his …..

          2. awlms,

            I too see value in words. In the Christian context the best use of words is to remain clear that words, ideas, beliefs, doctrines are all just symbols. Like all symbols, they point to the real thing, but are not themselves that which they point to.

            Symbols are just road signs, they aren’t supposed to be worshiped. And I’ll bet that nobody here still needs a road sign. You already know what love is. You already know when you’re doing it and when you’re not.

            Many of us want this to be complicated, because then we can pose ourselves as experts, and rank ourselves above somebody else, as I am doing in my posts. It’s a classic “me” operation that has nothing to do with dying to be reborn, love, or God.

            We want it to be complicated, but it’s not complicated. It’s ruthlessly simple.

            In every unfolding moment of our daily life we are surrendering the “me”, dying to be reborn, getting out of the way so God can get a word in, or we’re not.

            We don’t need to study the Bible to know which is which, because we already know.

          3. We don’t need to study the Bible to know which is which, because we already know.

            Me – what? And second quit setting up strawman arguments like worshipping words, clergy etc.. no one here does that.

            Btw how did you come to believe in Christianity (assuming you do) without the Bible or from someone else who relied on the Bible? I’m now convinced you are here to troll.

          4. It’s ruthlessly simple. Comrade Chaplain Phil just told us we don’t need to study nor understand the revealed Word of God. It’s all ‘holy yack.’

            Everybody buy that?

          5. Now…. how can we relate all this to “Catholic Clergy needing to be Called by the Church”?

            Maybe something like this: They no longer need to study and preach the Gospel of Christ, nor to take up their crosses and follow Him…..but by all means should promote everywhere the Beetle’s hit album “All you need is Love”.

            🙂

          6. You’re always appreciated also. And the range of your vocabulary is something else. 🙂
            I kind of just keep focused on the words of Christ, as there is no one else to teach as He does…and adding a bit of Church history when I can.

            Best to you always in the Lord,

            – Al

          7. awlms….and Margo…and Joe…Irked and Hans and Craig…et al….this place is rapidly becoming a second home because of you and your like, and the welcoming, learned, reverential and respectful discourse.

            Joe…what you (and a touch of the Holy Spirit) have wrought…..

          8. Amen.

            But I’d rather compare it to frequent religious discussion after a daily Mass with other devout Christians. At least in my parish, run by Dominicans, it is pretty easy to get into an in-depth discussion on almost any theological subject on any particular day. But to have the intelligent (and pius) Protestant members to chime in, is the great benefit of this blog.

            In any case, such Christian conversation is always of great value, as Jesus Himself taught us:

            “Wherever two or three are gathered in my name, there I am in their midst.”

            Blessings and thanks to all.

            – Al

  10. ” made sincere congratulatory comments to the clergy about Catholic Charities..’

    With apologies and attribution to Alexander Pope…”Damn with faint praise, assent with civil leer…”

    Nothing mysterious at all. You make the same mistake all faith-contemptuous secularists make…that the object of your thinly-disguised assaults are all zombiefied prognathous idiots who can’t see through your steaming bowl of warmed-over ‘if the Pope would liquidate the Vatican he could feed the poor for a day/month/year…’ dogpile. Try something original, like the database of every Bible-believing protestant in the Vatican supercomputer, or the Bishop’s miter is really a Babylonian Dagon fish head.

    Renew? More like bayonet the recovering wounded. The proletariat laity in whom you seem to have so much hope are the ones in my parish who gladly pony up not only record amounts of foodbank supplies for the needy, but also millions for a capital campaign that will expand our campus and make room for the growing numbers of families and ministries who together will do Christ’s work of evangelizing and catechizing, for decades.

    Bottom line….Ho, Satanas, go snarling back to the Open Society Institute and your face-melted mentor. In the meantime, I seem to be the only one paying any more attention to your spew, and I have better things to do.

  11. Who sent Luther to preach? This is a very good question, and it has several parts depending upon the moment you are looking at in his life. First, he was ordained by a bishop as a priest and monk. Second, he was sent to teach in the university by his abbot. Both of these are keeping within Catholic tradition and norms. Third, he was called to preach by the city council. This should anger any Cathiolic, but not for the reason one might assume. The city council was so concerned about the lack of an educated or trained preacher of the gospel for the people because the small army of priests in town were so busy with private masses for the dead (historical records show that there were 9,000 private messes a year in Wittenberg right before the Reformation started) that no one was preaching for the good of the parish. The bishop did not care enough for the spiritual well being for the people to assign a priest to preach. Can you imagine Lawrence, KS or Columbia, MO not having a single parish with a priest to publicly proclaim the gospel today and it being so bad that the city council asks one of the professors to preach for the public good? One needs to remember that so many orders were started for this very reason. No one was preaching to the gospel to the people! It should be seen in this light for why Luther was thinking he was reforming the church like so many orders before him.

    1. Those 9,000 masses were for the dead and said quietly along the side altars. It is good to know that bishops today care for the spiritual health of people in parishes that they will call and send priests today. There are many similarities to the ways of training and ordination between Catholic and Protestant today. I celebrate your calling and (God willing) ordination soon, Joe, for you are and will be a blessing to the Body of Christ. Reading your comments leads me to think that you do not have the same care and respect for my ordination and service to the Body of Christ.

      1. Rev. Hans,

        Reading your comments leads me to think that you do not have the same care and respect for my ordination and service to the Body of Christ.

        You know well my esteem for you. But just as it would be outrageous for me to demand that out of love and respect for me, you come to believe in the Catholic priesthood, so too it would be outrageous for you to expect me to abandon a belief in the necessity of Apostolic Succession (and the lack of it within most or all Protestant bodies) simply because of my love and respect for you.

        As Dominus Iesus 16 says, “the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery, are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church.”

        That doesn’t mean you can’t still do a lot of good, or that you can’t exercise authentic spiritual leadership within your community. I use your title “Rev” to recognize this fact. It just means that this mode of leadership isn’t the particular mode of Church leadership established by the Apostles and continued in an unbroken line of continuity with the Catholic (and Orthodox and Coptic) Church for the two thousand years since.

        I.X.,

        Joe

    2. I have been following this part of the debate, in between battling bridge trolls. Rev. Hans, from your time here, you know what Catholics believe and why. But I think that we also know we are not God, and aren’t going, ever, to say (repeating what I told irked, above) “I am saved and you are not’….not only because, not being God, we-don’t-know, but also because that level of arrogance is un-Christian….

      Respect is earned, and you have done that here. I hope I have done the same.

      1. AK, you have certainly earned immense respect here in these posts! Ordination does get personal, just like claiming some are not saved. Ordination is important. There have been some interesting joint statements on ordination recently between Lutheran and Catholic leaders.

        There has been a long debate within the Catholic church concerning legitimate ordinations, which goes all the way back to the Donatist controversy. It should be noted that the heretical group were the Donatists, and they were the restrictive group and were calling others ordinations illegitimate. The Catholic majority were more welcoming and had a broader view of ordinations.

        1. Thank you sir!

          Well, note though we may disagree on Apostolic Succession I will always refer to you as Reverend Hans…I in turn would want you to refer to my son as ‘Father Andrew” should he complete the last 4 years of his formation. Simple respect for both our differences, humanity, and nature as children of God – and dedication to spreading that Word.

          I also hold to the Gamaliel Principle. If something is of God, in His own good time, that ‘something’ will bear fruit and flourish. So while I have my opinions, based on what I believe is sound interpretation of Scripture, I humbly hold to God’s Own Time – which may be well after my earthly time – in the final judgement as whether something is His intent.

          In the meantime, smarter folks than I debate, and I read and learn. I’d like it even better if there were cookies.

        2. Rev Dark Hans, I appreciate your concern and obedience to a calling to serve God, but you confess–“We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic church.” Won’t you concede that your definition of catholic is in the broadest, invisible church sense and by “apostolic” you mean “teaches what the Apostles taught?”

          And, won’t you concede that the Fathers who wrote the creed specifically had in mind a visible institution and a direct, apostolic lineage through Elders appointing Elders who have been appointed way back specifically by the Apostles?

          So, what you confess is actually a complete re-interpretation of what the creed is meant to confess. Perhaps, in light of this, you may realize that the anti-donatists, some of which signed onto that creed, would specifically deny your ordination–not because you are a bad guy, but because of the huge importance of Christ’s visible, tangible Body and the necessity of Apostolic appointment (as Elders appointing Elders is the only model found in the Scriptures.)

          Perhaps you are a Swedish Lutheran and have a validly ordained Bishop. Then, if that is the case, then perhaps we have some common ground.

          I do not forget us fighting on the same side! I am not trying to say anything that would detract from your contributions here.

          God bless,
          Craig

  12. CK, I don’t believe in Christianity. Christianity is a word, a concept, an idea, a symbolic representation. I don’t believe in belief either. The word “belief” is of course just a word, and the act of believing is just a pile of words in one’s mind. The pile of words isn’t wrong, bad, or evil, it’s just not real.

    I believe in love.

    But, my belief in love is not love, is it? No, it is not, my belief in love is too is just a belief. My opinion about love, just an opinion, just another collection of symbols.

    Perhaps an example will help. For the sake of this example I will assume you have a spouse. So let me ask you this… Do you love your spouse? Or do you love your opinion of your spouse, your belief in your spouse, your ideas about your spouse?

    See the difference? Your spouse is one thing, a REAL thing, and names, beliefs, opinions and ideas about your spouse are something else entirely, just symbols. Simple, right?

    Ideas about God are not experience of God, but the experience of ideas. When we recycle the ideas about God in our mind we are worshiping our own human creations. This isn’t evil, it’s just not experience of God, that’s all.

    Consider the phrase “die to be reborn”. The whole point of the “die” part is for us to get out of the way so as to make space for God to be. If we’ve died properly, if we love, we aren’t there, and thus neither are our ideas. If we’re experiencing “me and my ideas” we’re not experiencing God, we’re experiencing “me and my ideas”.

    I realize all of this is quite inconvenient. I can’t help that, I just work here. Please remember, Jesus was such an inconvenient speaker that his neighbors happily chanted “Give us Barabbas!” That’s what Christianity is, a very inconvenient business. If everyone agrees with you, if you’re hiding safely within the comfy confines of the officially sanctioned group consensus gulag, you’re not following the example of Jesus.

    Jesus could have joined the clergy. He didn’t.

    Jesus could have obeyed the clergy. He didn’t.

    Jesus could have built beautiful churches. He didn’t.

    Jesus could have given himself titles and fancy garments. He didn’t.

    Jesus could have written it all down. He didn’t.

    Jesus could have chosen to play it safe within the group consensus. He didn’t.

    Jesus chose to rock the boat.

    1. How very 70’s.

      “Love” is just a concept, a jumble of words. To a child, one thing. To a sadist, another. To an SS Obersturmbannfuehrer, another. Which one is correct? The one that holds the MP-40 at your head? The one whose will prevails when might is the determinant?

      Nope..the One from Whom all love emanates….through the example of His Son’s Incarnation and sacrifice…guided by His written and revealed Word, through His Church…which, imperfect as it is, is far superior to the incoherent jumble of platitudes with which you have been feeding this forum.

      But you don’t get it….not even a little…..how sad for you….

    2. Phil,

      “The pile of words isn’t wrong, bad, or evil, it’s just not real.”

      If words are not real, then your writing and speaking and typing them is illogical and against (your) reason. Since we Christians don’t buy into your major premise, your fight here is against yourself.

      May the Peace of Christ’s love be with you.

      1. “The pile of words isn’t wrong, bad, or evil, it’s just not real.”

        When Jesus emphasizes over and over again in the Gospel: “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear”, Phil implies that there’s really nothing worth listening to, and so ‘don’t bother listening to Jesus even when He calls out for you to ‘hear’. As he says above, the admonitions of Christ…”it’s just not ‘real”. This is very ‘anti-Christian’. And Phil should consider repenting of his sins, even as Jesus said:

        “Woe to thee, Corozain, woe to thee, Bethsaida: for if in Tyre and Sidon had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in you, they had long ago done penance in sackcloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment, than for you. And thou Capharnaum, shalt thou be exalted up to heaven? thou shalt go down even unto hell. For if in Sodom had been wrought the miracles that have been wrought in thee, perhaps it had remained unto this day. But I say unto you, that it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment, than for thee. At that time Jesus answered and said: I confess to thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them to the little ones.”

        Then again, Phil apparently doesn’t believe in the words of Christ, because they are ‘not real, nor consequently in the ‘judgement of God’ that Christ teaches. So, this implies that he does not have ‘ears to hear’ and ‘eyes to see’…leaving him to his own devices. I’d suggest repenting to the greatest extent possible, because an eternity without the comfort of God is the consequence of turning away from Christ’s words and “narrow gate”… and traveling on the ‘broad and easy way’ which Christ discusses when He says:

        “Enter ye in at the narrow gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way that leadeth to destruction, and many there are who go in thereat.” (Matt. 7:13)

        All should keep Phil in their daily prayers…(but not as if we all similarly don’t need to be careful to “enter by the narrow gate”).

        1. awlms, I think Phil worships at the ‘Church of Phil’ and his level of pedantic disdain for everyone here was stunningly evident. He was not here to discourse, or to listen even a little to the collected wisdom this blog carries with it…just ‘if you’d only listen to Me, you’d realize everything you knew was meaningless symbols and I can show you Reality.”

          I am thinking a sociology professor from Berkeley on spring break at Esalen Institute, taking a course in Celestine group dynamics, and we were his project. Good thing they don’t grade, just give hugs.

          Prayers, indeed, for him…..

        2. awlms,

          None of us know what Jesus actually said. We know what other people said he said. That is, the people who weren’t silenced.

          Imagine that Einstein were to come here to explain his theory of relativity to us. How many of us would get it right?

          1. Without recording we really don’t know what anyone really said and even with video and recording it could have been fabricated . We don’t really know for sure if man landed on the moon.

            I also thought Timothy Leary was dead until Phil started posting. Alas I was wrong.

          2. Imagine that Einstein were to come here to explain his theory of relativity..”

            Is that a gedanken experiment they did at Esalen? How’d that work out for you?

      2. Margo, you’re right. Being here, and typing all this talking of the talk is an argument with my own insights. But I see that, and am willing to say it out loud. I’m not a role model, just a lowly typist. I see all this talking of the talk I’m doing as an affliction I’ve inherited from centuries of Catholic heritage up my family tree. I try to have a sense of humor about it.

        Sorry, nobody owns the word “Catholic”, so I will not cede that ownership to you or anybody else, nor should you cede it to me. As a matter of fact, the word “Catholic” doesn’t appear in the Bible even once, so even the hard core scripture worshipers need not be that concerned with who owns the word. Much ado about not very much…

        You guys are resisting my comments because you see there’s some truth in what I’m saying, and it’s a truth you’d rather not face at the moment.

        God is love, not talk about God.

        1. “You guys are resisting my comments because you see there’s some truth…”

          Trust us Phil…that’s a yuu-uuge “no.”

          It’s because you are a terminal narcissist and a capable only of simplex communication, or of understanding when you have lost any semblance of an audience.

          Also boringly pedantic in your obsessive and puerile means of instructing and convincing.

        2. Phil,

          The reality is that you should probably try to understand what you believe so that you can sum it up for others here in a coherent way. You have such a mixture of philosophies, part Christian, part Athiest, part Catholic, part new age, part hippy, etc… that it’s very difficult to assess what your trying to convey. Of course it’s easy for Catholics to do this, because we have a catechism in black and white text. But if you had a creed that you could start with, others would treat you and debate with you, according to your stated creed.

          Maybe you could figure it out and give it to us one day?

          1. Hi again awlms,

            Well, I’ve been explaining my doctrine. I don’t believe in doctrines.

            Or, to put it more carefully, I don’t think that ideas, words, concepts etc about God are very important in comparison to experience of God.

            All of us already know how to experience God. Die to be reborn. Love.

            It’s fun to type up a bunch of fancy talk, agreed there, but there’s really nothing complicated to figure out that requires a lot of explanation from experts, thus little need for doctrines etc. Thus, all our fancy talk is really just a form of ego entertainment. Not evil, just not important.

            The reality of experiencing God is simple. Ruthlessly simple. In any given moment, we love, or we don’t.

          2. Phil,

            The real issue with what you’ve been saying is this. When you say:

            “Well, I’ve been explaining my doctrine. I don’t believe in doctrines.

            Or, to put it more carefully, I don’t think that ideas, words, concepts etc about God are very important in comparison to experience of God.”

            First of all, it is a plain contradiction to say that your doctrine is to have no doctrines. Furthermore, it’s obvious from reading the New Testament (and the Old testament frankly) that Jesus and His apostles disagreed. To avoid this, you categorically and without good reason, dismiss what they have to say in said New Testament. Without any evidence, you judge the motives of the New Testament authors to be nefarious because you disagree with what they are telling you.

            As St. Augustine put it: “If you accept part of the Gospel and reject part, it is not the Gospel you believe in, but yourself.”

            I urge you to do research on the New Testament and the Early Church fathers with an open mind instead of bringing your unproven presuppositions to everything. Examine the motives of credibility for those ancient authors and what you find may surprise you.

            May God be with you

            Matthew

          3. This sounds too simplistic, and for the reason that we have biology and psychology to consider, not to ignore philosophy, theology and sociology. ‘Biology’ teaches that we are not angels. Your theory might actually work with them! But biology teaches we are not alone, but are dependent on other people for our physical survival. Go out and try to survive alone almost anywhere in the wild and you will probably be dead within 1 year, and probably within 4 months, even if yo are trained and strong.

            ‘Psychology’ teaches that we need communication to survive, as the world is a very difficult one to live in, physically. Again, we are not simplistic beings such as angels, we are very weak biological humans. And part of our strength in this world for physical survival is communication with other humans.
            so, it is psychology that tries to make sense out of our relationships with others and how they relate with us, on all levels, both for the good or for the bad…’until death do we part’.

            It is known that a baby monkey will choose a comforting doll, that looks like it’s mother, over ample food, even when it is very hungry or even dying. People need each other in this world, especially when very young. And it actually takes a very long time for a human to mature enough to take care of himself in this world. And, if anything goes wrong with this early development, very strange things happen to the person/child/ adolescents. I think, you might have seen the accounts of the rare cased of toddlers who have grown up with dogs instead of humans as companions because their parents we incapacitated to look after them, and feed them, and teach them. And these babies became very retarded due to the lack of human interaction. They actually became like dogs, they bonded with them. So, there is psychology to consider in this life, not only simplest love. True love is more complicated that that. True love includes biology and psychology into the equation, not just momentary spirituality.

            ‘Philosophy’, then, tries to figure all of this biology and psychology out to make sense of it. The Greeks back in 450 BC were good at it, and Socrates tried to figure out why we might be here in the first place. And, also, what is the ‘good way’ for a man to live and understand himself, and also the ‘best’ way to live with and associate with others (politics). So, philosophy and politics help us cope better when we ‘bump into’ the needs and problems of these other people that are trying to survive in this harsh world. And, when we associate with them to try to help them survive (because of love), we encounter their unique personalities, which might be either very similar or very different from our own. this is because every person not only has a different biology, but a different history of psychological and biological (including medical) development stemming from his earliest childhood.

            Then again, in ‘sociology’ we come across others in the world who do not want to love us or help us survive and thrive…. but rather, want to abuse, use, or enslave us for their own particular reasons. They might not want to help us thrive in the world, but rather to force us to make THEM thrive in the world even if we are to die, both physically and psychologically, in so doing. Maybe their experience and philosophy taught them a very different thing than your experience and philosophy taught you . And so we have what we call ‘sin’ between associated people to consider. Also, there are things a person does to himself that goes against his very good. In states of confusion, sickness of body, and insanity, people can hurt or even kill themselves out of either ignorance, carelessness or derange will. This is a sin not against another, but against ones own self. And sometimes another person out of love, can communicate to them that what they are doing is counter productive for them, and that it will turn out to be evil and will result in misery if they keep doing it. So, words actually ARE important and useful, because of this social condition. This experience is that of one who has wisdom, guiding one who does not have it, and teaching him by both word and example a better and healthier way to survive. It’s the same as a mother teaching a young son or daughter to be very careful when walking on a roof, playing with matches or swimming in fast flowing waters.

            So, what I’m trying to say, is that life is not as simple as you make it out to be. It’s a nice theory, but is not reality in any real way, shape or form. And we haven’t even gotten to ‘theology’ yet.

            Anyway, this is just a beginning. Life is way more complicated than you state due to the many interactions people have with one another. There are countless decisions we make every day just to get by in this world. This is to say, as said earlier: If we were created as angelic beings, love alone might be all that matters, as long as it is love of the ‘Creator’. Self love would not suffice, it would be evil. What joy is there in absolute loneliness? So, as we are not angels, but humans, your theory of ‘love alone’ is lacking. It just doesn’t conform to either physical or spiritual reality as most others in this world know it.

            Best to you on your journey of understanding,

            – Al

    3. I guess this is just another one of mankind’s many “ideas” also?:

      “And when the days of the Pentecost were accomplished, they were all together in one place: And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a mighty wind coming, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. And there appeared to them parted tongues as it were of fire, and it sat upon every one of them: And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they began to speak with divers tongues, according as the Holy Ghost gave them to speak.”

      1. The reply above was for Phil, in response to his saying, a few comments back:

        “Ideas about God are not experience of God, but the experience of ideas.”

  13. Hey Phil…in case you wanted to know why I have been on you….it’s not because of your micro-Heidiggerian 70’s-era ideas about reality vs thought, there are lots of weird ideas here…and it’s not your sophistic rejection of Scripture as the revealed Word of God, lots of that here as well. Not even your questioning of the validity of the Catholic clergy….that’s been debated before in a civil manner.

    No….it was your pretentious and patronizing attack on Joe’s integrity as a seminarian, all the while spouting your incomprehensible ‘pass me a zoom’ trascendento-babble…and having the olives basically to tell us how we could be enlightened as well, if we could just grasp concepts that were soooo simple, and as the one edified you made the journey from Olympus, or Big Sur, for our salvation.

    Sometimes you run out of cheeks, and pick up the sword. If Catholic Charities ever started to sound like you, I’d put *all* my donation $$ into real estate.

    Now, an expression from my cadet days…readyyyyy, disappear.

  14. AK, I don’t mind the challenges at all. No offense taken. Completely reasonable and fair. The challenger should be challenged just like everything else.

    But fewer posts that you’ve put more thought in to would be more interesting. As the thread heretic 🙂 I can only reply to so many people, and you’re not making the cut. But I think you could, if you tried a bit harder.

    1. My attempting to live up to your expectations would be irrational considering that those expectations don’t really exist. They’re just ideas, which are only symbols, which are irrelevant. Sorta like you and your sincere attempt to bring chaos to this forum.

      But you – and your ideas – have a nice day.

      1. The only reason for you to raise your game would be if you want me to read and respond to your comments. If that’s not your goal, then there is no problem needing a solution.

        1. Phil, Phil…not sure where you got the ‘raise my game’ thing, but let me revive another expression from my old cadet days: “Sir, you must have mistaken me for someone who gives a s*** for your opinion.”

          Seriously, your sense of self-importance and arrogance are afflicted with a near-terminal case of elephantiasis. I understand that you revel in both, and that most likely won’t change.

          Try to make up your mind whether we’re an insulated “gulag” worthy of only your lofty contempt, or ‘gee, Joe, you are to be congratulated for this blog and all its “interesting” people…while foolish consistency may be the hobgoblin of little minds (credit to RW Emerson), we here value it as a sorta indication we are not dealing with someone who is demonstrably schizophrenic, and worthy of reasoned response.

          And you can start by apologizing to Joe for your attack on his integrity, before you make *my* cut. Try hard…I know you can sublimate your narcissism for a few nanoseconds, all in the righteous cause of bringing more souls to nowhere.

          1. Hmm…

            You don’t give a @#$% about my opinion, but yet you’ve replied to almost every opinion you’ve ever seen me express.

            Raising your game would involve you not making it this easy to shoot fish in a barrel.

          2. Phil – if you could see through the haze of “Messiah Phil” you’d see I am far less interested in discourse or one-up with you than I am in helping to raise group consciousness 😉 about the nature of the disruptive force, masquerading as enlightenment, in their midst.

            On that, reverently and humbly, I have had some success.

          3. However, at this point, you are doing an admirable job of showing everyone pretty much , what they need to know about the Guru of the Bookless Church of Love and Me.

            You have done one thing that’s amazing…gotten Protestants and Catholics to agree on something…that you are either a joker short of a full deck, or somehow keyboarding through a time warp from 1973.

  15. Hmm….

    There is great engagement here on this blog, big round of applause from here for that. Seriously, Joe has done a great job of building an active site full of interesting people.

    But blog software was never designed for this much engagement. Given that this site will probably only get ever more popular over time, could I suggest a shift to forum software?

    Joe could still be the only one to start a thread, thus his article would be the first thing in every thread, which seems a good plan for focusing discussion, and Joe is a solid writer.

    Just a thought. The comment technology is just barely working now, and it’s likely to get more problematic over time.

  16. Awims,

    It appears the limits of blogging software are about to kill our dialog on this particular page. Don’t know if you’ll find this reply to your comment, but here’s a try…

    In arguing that my proposal is too simplistic, you said…

    “There are countless decisions we make every day just to get by in this world.”

    Well, that’s true enough. And in the vast majority of those decisions we already know what is love and what is not. This is proven by the great many people who live exemplary lives of love without ever reading a Bible or any other holy book. I’m married to one of these people, so the phenomena is very real to me, and can be to anyone who is not blinded by ideology in to thinking that their little club owns exclusive license to the experience of love.

    You went on to say, “…your theory of ‘love alone’ is lacking.”

    Yes, a “love alone” theory lacks the complications which we use to inflate the “me”, generate conflict, pose ourselves as superior to somebody else, and so on. Even on the Catholic web for instance, we can observe conflict in every direction, and it’s all made out of these unnecessary complications which you seek to defend.

    I agree it’s all quite entertaining. Joe starts off the page by proclaiming his preferred clergy, and by extension himself, superior to Protestant clergy. And then I come along and try to position myself as superior to Joe, and anybody else who will listen. 🙂 And then you come along and try to out superior me. These ego contests which we use to inflate the “me”, typically without being honest enough to admit it even to ourselves, are fun, engaging, addictive. They’re great blogging fodder!

    But it’s not Christianity. It’s talk about Christianity, something else entirely.

    As example, imagine we haven’t eaten in days and are very hungry. There’s a huge difference between eating food, and talking about food. There are no life giving calories in the word “food” or the word “God”.

    Christianity, like any of the best religions, is experience of God. God is ever present, so we don’t need to go find God in some book, we just need to “die to be reborn”, get out of the way, love. And to the degree “me” is silent, God can then be heard. It’s like turning down the volume of a blaring radio (the “me) so we can hear a bird singing quietly in the garden (God).

    You know all this already. As does likely anyone to have made it to this page. And so all that’s left is the moment by moment decision to die to “me”, or cling to “me”.

    It’s the brilliant simplicity of Christianity that makes it universally accessible to all of humanity.

    And then some “experts” come along and try to complicate it so that they can position themselves as experts, the advanced, higher, superior shepherd people who get to be in charge of a flock of lowly sheep.

    1. “It’s the brilliant simplicity of Christianity that makes it universally accessible to all of humanity.”

      Here you imply that you accept Christianity, yet you contradict about 99% of what it teaches….keeping only that 1% that you call simplicity.
      If Christ wanted that simplicity that you imply defies the essence of Christianity, then He would never have instated the Sacraments. Baptism would be a complex and demanding requirement, and the Eucharist even more complex and demanding. “Unless yo eat my body and drink my blood you have not life within you”. What’s that all about? Doesn’t sound so simplistic to me.

      And why did the Christians of the early Church need to go through rigorous catechesis before they could even learn about and receive the Eucharist? Why did they prefer torturous death sentences instead of just saying “love is all you need”, and sacrificing to idols, when encouraged by the Romans to deny Christ?

      So, your simplistic philosophy of Christianity is contradicted by all of Christian History. This is why I was wandering exactly what you believe, because you praise Christianity in one paragraph but then imply it doesn’t exist, or is not worthy of belief, in another.

      It seems that only ‘you’ know your religion, as such a relativistic and undefined ‘creed’ certainly wasn’t taught, or discussed, in any Christian literature that I have ever read.

      Thanks be to God for His holy Catholic Faith! which gathers the myriads of wandering and suffering sheep into a single, unified flock of the Good Shepherd…. Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ….now and for all eternity!

      Best to you.

      1. Sorry… largely unedited comment. Second sentence should read:

        If Christ wanted that simplicity that you imply defines the essence of Christianity, then He would never have instituted the Sacraments.” Other typo’s too…but you can figure them out.

      2. “Here you imply that you accept Christianity, yet you contradict about 99% of what it teaches….keeping only that 1% that you call simplicity.’

        Very elegant, awlms.

        Well, where have we seen permutations of that before? Once you dispense with the concept of One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church, why, anything goes. From the storefronts of Colorado Springs to Salt Lake City all the way to Phil’s “I never left Woodstock” Church of Me.

        There is no answer to Phil’s screeds, because he has at the outset nullified (by his arguments) the validity of Scripture. But as you ably point out, whatever he is hawking is not Christianity. Best analogy I can dream up is, a United States with neither a Declaration of Independence or a Constitution.

        I suppose it works for him. That he expects – or even seeks – traction in this forum is, at best a testament to the power of self-delusion.

      3. Awlms,

        Aha, I found you via a different link.

        I don’t accept Christianity in the way you mean it, a collection of beliefs etc. That’s just a huge pile of human interpretations which nobody can agree on, and which fuel never ending conflict even within each denomination.

        As example, note how the article on this page takes aim at Protestants, and proposes them to be inferior, based on a doctrinal dispute. If we leave the Protestants out of it, that doesn’t solve anything, because Catholics are at each other’s throats as well.

        The fuel source for all the conflict within religion is not the walking of the walk, but rather the talking of the talk. Here’s a simple formula.

        Thought divides.

        Love unites.

        I accept Christianity in the sense of experiencing love opening the door to God. Experiencing, and believing, two very different things. I propose that when ever we have the experience we don’t need the belief, just as once a hungry man has food in his mouth he no longer requires a belief in food.

        The point is to eat the food. Not make a lot of theories about it.

        All the complexities you refer to were cooked up by clergy so they could make a living playing the role of experts, and you embrace them because you like authority and complexity, as is your right. I have no complaint with your choice, I’m just explaining mine.

        1. “All the complexities you refer to were cooked up by clergy so they could make a living playing the role of experts..”

          Including the ones who were – and are – continually martyred for their faith, or give up many of the pleasures of life to serve God and man. No surprise here, given your disdain for thinking.

          “Thought divides.”

          Not in this forum – your thoughts only amuse, or elicit pity.

          “you embrace them because you like authority and complexity..”

          And you are in love with your mirror.

        2. Phil,

          I think you are describing what it will be like for those who are fortunate enough to enter the ‘Kingdom of Heaven. But for now we live with adversaries such a Satan who is trying to keep us from entering that eternal love and bliss. This is the time for trial and tribulation, even as Jesus demonstrated on the cross, and said, “Those who do not take up their cross and follow me, are not worthy of me.” So, I think you are mistaking our temporal world, wherein St. Paul says we are racing towards our goal of an eternity with Christ, with the Kingdom of Heaven which we acquire after our time here below has ended. For you, there seems to be no destiny either good or bad to attain, no adversaries, no opposition to threaten our eternal well being, no temptation of the world, flesh and devil.

          But Jesus says otherwise. He taught us “Pray always that you enter not into temptation”. He said “Keep watch, lest your house be broken into”…and “…you know not the hour when your Master returns”.

          So, you neglect all of the teachings and warnings of Christ but then insinuate that you have the ultimate understanding of Jesus, and that really, all these sayings of Christ are just distractions invented by the clergy throughout the ages.

          And if you believe what Jesus taught, that “God is Love”…why do you accept this one and only statement of Christ and neglect his multitudes of other warnings and admonitions? You trust Him only in this one statement…profound as it is? Why not the others?? Is He really NOT the ‘Good Shepherd, wherein He is trying to lead us, and protect our travel, to places where we don’t know where we are going..ie..Eternity, either near or far away, from God?”

          Again, you do away with all of the parts of Christ’s teachings that you either don’t understand or at least don’t value. You keep only the one…God is Love. But, how can you truly ‘attain’ and ‘maintain’ that love for all eternity? Jesus says “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life”. The Person of Christ is ‘The Way” to it, and He is the ‘Truth’ which also is the Goal, and then He is the ‘Life’ which is the Living power necessary to keep the Eternal Love enduring, and burning in our souls forever,’without end’.

          This is the Christian Faith. This is what He taught as our Shepherd. This is what His servants keep teaching, here below, until God brings this worldly era to an end. And for individuals it comes like a ‘thief in the night’…so fast does our earthly time pass.

          I just worry about all of those ‘unwise and foolish virgins’ that Jesus forewarn of, who squandered all of their time in vanity here on Earth, and then must live without “Eternal Love’ for all eternity.

          This is why I take the time to write to you. Not to beat you in an argument, but to help you see that we need Christ to lead us to this eternal life and love, because we who can’t even sustain our life on Earth for 100 years..how can we presume to sustain the spiritual life of our souls for all eternity? Jesus already warns us that we cannot get there on our own: “Without me you can do nothing”.

          I would prefer that every soul on Earth attain that blessed and eternal end that Christ promises through the careful following of the One Shepherd that God the Father, in conjunction with the Holy Spirit, has provided to for us to this end.

          May He have mercy on us all, and bring all mankind to that Eternal, never ending…Love and Divine Beauty… which is the Eternal God.

          May God lead you, and all other blog posters and commenters, to this blessed end.

          – Al

          1. Al,

            I propose the “Kingdom of Heaven” is not some mythical mysterious state that may happen sometime in the future, but a place available here and now any time we are willing to “die to be reborn”. The Satan you refer to is just our own clinging to the tiny prison cell of “me”. Satan is just ignorance of what is in our own best interest.

            Again, I gently remind you that none of us know what Jesus actually said, or what he meant. We know only what others of far lesser ability said he said, and what they think he meant, or what they wish he meant. This is the shaky foundation upon which all theology is built, and the source of the never ending conflict which plagues Christianity, a religion which is supposed to be about uniting human beings in love.

            Love is created by God, and is thus eternal, invulnerable.

            Interpretation is created by human beings, and so it is temporary, fragile, always in danger of being overwhelmed by some other interpretation. Thus, any religious experience built upon interpretation, ideas, concepts, doctrines etc will always be an experience rooted in fear. And fear will always lead to conflict, and conflict to suffering.

            Nobody can topple love. But anybody with sufficient rhetorical skills can rip any interpretation, including my own, to shreds. My talking of the talk is no different than your talk. Talk is talk is talk, whatever the talk, and whoever is talking. The word “apple” will never be nutritious food that can sustain us.

          2. “When one with honeyed words but evil mind
            Persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.”

            – Euripides

            And, I might add, the Faith…The Gates of Hell may vex, but never prevail.

          3. Hi Phil,

            I’m sorry to to say it, but I think AK’s analysis of your psychology, in many of his comments recently, was probably right in many ways. The more I consider your words, the more I think that your ideology is similar to ideas that are often the product of an LSD or psychedelic mushroom type ‘trip’… or some similar drug type experience. It reminds me of the story, music and documentary of the founder of the band Pink Floyd, Syd Barrett, and how he preferred his own drug induced revelations of truth and reality…to actual reality, and real truth. And nobody could convince him otherwise no matter how much they tried.

            I’m not saying that you are a drug user, or addict, in any way. But the way you write really sounds similar…even as AK has alluded to more than a few times using the 70’s to convey his idea. The insights that come from LSD / mushroom type trips can make a person have a very powerful experience of his own existence and reality, and during the 60’s and 70’s, so many idealistic youth thought that indeed this was the ‘dawning of the age of Aquarius’, a new world order of peace and love. And the psychedelic drugs made them seem so right, so full of truth, so innocent, so enlightened.

            I actually lived in San Francisco in the 60’s and 70’s and I knew beatniks and hippies personally as they were all over San Francisco at that time. And I still live only 30 miles away from this epicenter of the 60’s movement. I also attended UC Berkeley in 1982 and the streets were still full of people with ‘fried brains’ due to their expanded conscious experiences with psychedelic drugs. One guy sat on campus everyday dressed in polka dot clothes, looking up at the sky and tugging on an imaginary kite string that he really thought he was flying. He was there almost every day, in the same spot, flying his imaginary kite. Everyone referred to him as the ‘polka dot man’.

            I actually just googled him to see what I can find…and I found this quote:

            “In a newspaper interview, he said he originally slipped into this catatonic state while tripping on LSD in a Texas jail. He became fixated with the drain-hole of the urinal, staring at it for hours. And that was how he got locked into the “polka dot” concept. For years he wore a bizarre, clown-like costume covered with polka dots.

            The Polka Dot Man existed in this weird mute-deaf-dumb catatonic state for many years. Then one day he was sitting on the sidewalk in front of a building that happened to catch on fire. This fireman started screaming at him: “GET UP!! GET UP!!!” For some reason, the fireman yelling at him, ordering him to get up, pulled him out of his catatonic state. He began talking normally to people again, and was relatively normal for several years after that. The human mind is a peculiar thing.”

            I walked past that guy almost every day. I also talked with a guy everyone referred to as the ‘Orange man’, who was very similar. He dressed all in orange, head to toe and carried a orange colored back pack with multitudes of orange seeds and sometimes seedlings. He would offer anybody on campus these seeds and seedlings for free and almost every day. I remember talking to him but can’t remember the conversation. And there were many more like these.

            What I’m trying to say, is that your understanding of Christianity and religious truth seems to be very similar to the way that some of these people used to talk and describe their understanding of reality. There ‘trips’ took over their sense of reality (as everyone else knows it) and nothing could persuade them that they were really out of their minds. They had no common sense any more, trusting only in their own thoughts, wild though they may be.

            This is how it seems that you express your theology. It seems very similar. Again, not to say that you have ever abused, or used drugs. It’s just the similar way of expression in your writing that I recognize from the past.

            Anyway, drugs or no drugs, your understanding of Christianity is singularly bizarre, and I can’t imagine you have found anyone like yourself with your same religion concepts?

            But I still pray that you use some common sense, and understand that the Christian religion was founded by Jesus to be a true Church, and not a mere ‘thought or concept’. And Jesus, likewise, is not a concept, but an actual, historical, ‘Person’, God though is also.

            I pray that you are capable of listening to others, even as one would want those others in Berkeley to consider the ideas and help of others also. In the Catholic Church, this is why we have access to ‘spiritual directors’, so as not to fall into similar types of delusional thoughts or religious concepts.

            Best to you, and I hope your theology evolves to be more…’level headed’ so-to-say. But this requires the virtue of humility to be able to trust the opinion of others.

            – Al

  17. Well, the good news is, I can no longer follow these conversations in this blogging software. Links in emails don’t connect to comments being made. Bowing out for now. See ya on the flip side.

  18. Hi again Awlms, thanks for the ongoing exchange. Sorry to put this here, can’t keep typing in the section where you posted.

    It was not me,or Timothy Leary who said that “God is love”. It was the Apostle John.

    If you accept what John said as being true, then experience of God comes in the act of love, not in talk about God, not in theology. “Dying to be reborn” is an act of surrender. An act. Not theology, not doctrine, not tradition, not authority, not an idea. An action. The word “die” is an active verb.

    It’s true that I likely look more like Jesus than any of you 🙂 though I fail to see what this has to do with anything.

    You speak to me of common sense.

    Please show us the “common sense” in Catholic clergy building a trillion dollar real estate empire while millions starve, given that Jesus showed exactly no interest in church building construction, even though he was a carpenter.

    Please show us the “common sense” in high ranking Church clergy allowing child rapists to run wild all over Catholic children for decades.

    Please show us the “common sense” in a doctrine which proclaims abortion to be the ultimate evil, while at the same time being against contraception, the most effective way to prevent abortion in mass populations.

    Please show us the “common sense” in the Church turning it’s back on women becoming priests in a time when the shortage of priests is becoming a crisis.

    Please show us the “common sense” in the clergy losing the Church’s European homeland, an epic failure rarely discussed on the Catholic web.

    Please show us the “common sense” in there being almost no discussion of Catholic Charities on the Catholic web, even though this is one of the Church’s biggest victories, and the most credible example of real Christianity in action.

    Sorry dude, I mean you no disrespect, but I’ve tasted the “common sense” you’re referring to, and I think I’ll cast my lot with “God is love” instead.

    That said, surely no one else need make the same choice. I’m agreeable to a policy of “to each their own”. If it works for you to worship the clergy, what works is good, so go for it.

    I’m a typist, not an evangelist. As a typist my job is to at least try to type things that readers have not already read a thousand times. That’s my job. But it’s your job as a reader to decide for yourself what to do with what’s been typed. I’m happy with this division of labor, and thus have no objection to any reader who wishes to reject or ignore what I’m typing. You can yell at me too if you want, no problem, but please try to make the yelling interesting. 🙂

    Jesus was such an inconvenient speaker that his neighbors happily yelled “Give us Barabbas!!” at the drop of a dime. Jesus didn’t join the Jewish clergy of his day and be a good little boy who did what he was told by the authorities. Jesus got most of his friends killed. Jesus was a revolutionary, and not a worshiper of the status quo.

    1. do you know the Vatican doesnt own any jets it rents them and a japanese company restored the Sistine chapel for copyright priveleges because the Vatican doesnt have enough money.

      You are right in saying there wasnt any common sense by those bishops who let those priests do what they did it was an abuse.

      Contraception is also wrong so even if it would prevent abortion the Church wouldnt allow it “it is never lawful to do evil to do good”

      First of all baptized women are part of the baptismal priesthood but women cant be priests for ordination to be valid the person must be male. Jesus only called men to be his disciples and the Church has never allowed women to be ordanined priests.

      Also the Catholic Web isnt the magasterium it is websites run by Catholics if something isnt discussed it doesnt mean the Church ignores it.

      If and when you repent the Catholic Church is ready to accept you with open arms.

      God Bless

      1. Hi dineth,

        You’ve brought good points to the discussion.

        The decision not to ordain women as priests reflects virtuous prudence. I see the wisdom of the Holy Spirit guiding His Spouse here.

  19. “It was not me,or Timothy Leary who said that “God is love”. It was the Apostle John.”

    How do you know the Apostle John said that? How do you know that Jesus said anything at all about love? After all, isn’t your quote from that that ‘just a book, ‘ which was so heavily edited by clergy to meet its purpose of providing a living to ‘experts,’ entirely suspect? Or just the parts that fit your (increasingly obviously uneducated, transparent and vicious) narrative?

    You have become penultimately boring.

  20. awlms – funny, I grew up in the middle of the other epicenter of hippie/counterculture, spitting distance from New York City. I think the gritty, dark side of that era was much more on the surface in that region than in California, due simply to the climate and surrounding culture, though both in the end were equally dark. I saw it up close and personal, and it affected me deeply. The open and venomous contempt for the Church – a real flashback of those times- by the like of Phil is here thinly veiled in a layer of bland Summer of Love regurgitate. It’s easily recognizable by those – like you and me – who lived through it.

    ” As a typist my job is to at least try to type things that readers have not already read a thousand times.”

    That’s the funniest thing Phil has yet said. All he has done is cut and paste the same warmed-over dogs breakfast for each post he’s made, hoping to sew doubts in someone, anyone, craving the attention I suppose I have been affording, and that his poor, obsolescent self most likely gets nowhere else. But if one person, reading his posts and wavering, sees how you and I have responded to this malicious avatar of chaos and says, OK, I see, then the time spent will be worth it.

    I also think there’s another dynamic going on with Phil here, but I’ll keep it to myself so as to keep within the bonds of Christian charity. Ugh….

  21. Ha, ha, yes, the teaching “God is love” is surely a malicious avatar of chaos. 🙂

    How have you responded? In fear. This is the fate of any religious experience which is grounded in symbols, instead of the reality the symbols are pointing to. That’s the price tag for confusing symbols and reality, fear, leading to conflict, leading to suffering.

    Evidence.

    The fear can be seen in the way Catholics (and most other religions) circle the wagons in little enclaves of the like minded. The goal here is to have one’s own perspective validated by others. Only those who are willing to play the validation game are welcome. This page serves as an example of the emotions that quickly rise to the surface when the validation process is interrupted by inconvenient visitors. These emotions arise from fear…

    Observe carefully how online Catholics rarely if ever create sites that are intended to welcome REAL conversation with all of humanity, which presumably should be a primary purpose of Catholicism. They instead almost always create sites that are intended to talk almost exclusively to those who already agree with their particular interpretations. This defensive circling of the wagons arises from fear…

    This fear is not a personal failing of the particular people involved. Read that again.

    Nor is it a function of any particular ideology. Read that again.

    The fear arises instead from the fact that _ALL_ ideologies are human creations, and thus fragile and vulnerable to devastating destruction. Once this is understood, a process of jumping from one ideology to another is seen to be pointless, and a new relationship with theology is born.

    The conflict that arises from the fear that is built in to all ideology is very easy to observe across the Christian web, even within particular religions such as Catholicism. As you well know, the rhetorical combat between Catholics of various flavors is common, and often rather nasty. Please note, this is NOT a Christian phenomena exclusively. Every ideology ever created inevitably sub-divides in to internal warring factions.

    What we’re seeing on this page is that some inconvenient person has come along who can interrupt the group validation experience. You’ll first try to convert this person, then the knives will come out, and when none of that works the inconvenient person’s IP will be blocked, as the crowd in the marketplace cries, “Give us Barabbas!” 🙂

    So we will conclude this sermon with me comparing myself to Jesus, so as to generously provide the crowd with something new to yell about. Love in action! 🙂

  22. Still haven’t addressed my accusation of selective quoting. Crick-ets….what a shock.

    “How have you responded? In fear.”

    Nope. More like disgust and pity. As a Catholic, there’s little I fear. Bet the rest of the team feels likewise. Christ-centered Protestants, with great reverence, lovingly included.

    This started because you are an arrogant, abusive little twink, to the Catholic clergy in general and Joe in particular. I have a hard time sitting back and taking that, so I didn’t.

    So generous with your own deconstructionist Werner Ehrhard-isms. You once read a book on transactional analysis and suddenly you your own self have the Insight to overturn 2,000 years of Divinely-inspired wisdom. Right, Aquinas. You are arrayed with every minor-league guru/fuehrer/swami/maharishi/pundit throughout history who thinks they have discovered Truth under a rock in the backyard, or in their own chamber pot. And makes the same claims. Good luck with that.

    Jesus? More like a Swiftian Yahoo. Lift your head out of the bowl of your own ‘production’ (put delicately) and see that no one here is interested in your obsessively repeated cut-pastes. But like a tie-dyed wannabe prometheus, you must like repeatedly being field-dressed because you keep-coming-back….and no one has chained you to a rock, you can leave any time…

    But y’know…absent any other forum folks desire to post, I will let you have the last word. You’ve been sufficiently pilloried and I have a life.

    Sicut erat in principo, et nunc et semper….dude.

    1. Times and Signs:

      Abbot Vonier, in “A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist,” writes that all sacraments, particularly Eucharist, recall the past (“For as often as you shall eat this bread and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he Come.” 1 Corinthians 11:26). At the present, our partaking of a sacrament signifies our faith in the cause of our sanctification. The goal of sanctification? Eternal life. Signs and times of the perfect infinite perfection of our Lord. Praise be to God.

      1. Margo:

        Recently, I had a conversation with Mom (as I affectionately call the Blessed Mother). My son has some health problems, severe Crohn’s Disease, and it was recently making his life at seminary difficult past the tolerance point. I had a talk one morning, after a particularly bad phone call ….please, Mom, you know what it is to have a suffering Son…if all you ‘up there’ want him to be a priest, please *do* something….

        Two days later, he called…said that he was on a new digestive enzyme his long-term internal meds doctor had just discovered and, at a party in town thrown for the seminarians by one of their instructors, had eaten a piece of cheesecake for the first time in many years…and he felt fine. Before this, it would have put him on the floor for a night in agony or in an ER. Since then it has been nothing but “I feel great, can’t believe the difference….can’t wait to get through this last year of philosophy and start on theology”…he just found out next year he is going to be teaching elementary schoolers as part of his formation and he-can’t wait…..

        Just thought you’d like to hear this….not the only time we have been intervened with, by both light and dark sides….

        1. Hi Al –
          Thanks for sharing this story of a wonderful sign. If future trials visit your son, he may want to pray to the Cure d’Ars. That guy could barely speak, had great difficulty with learning, lacked a basic education, and yet became a saint – a priest for priests and the rest of us sorry folk.

          I appreciate your humor, your double-edge swords, slash and burn, and literary turns. Thanks!

  23. Hi Phil.

    My comment about the 1960-70’s, ‘expanded mind spirituality’ (often associated with some drug use)… which led so many people, even the Beetles, to travel across the world to find enlightenment, was not a put down, but a concern. That era flamed up quickly, but also faded away quickly, except for the remnants left in the current ‘liberal movement’ that we find today in the world. Most hippies found out that such mind expansion, in all physical reality, led to misery, discord, sickness and violence, wherein the ‘Summer of Love’ in the end produced countless ‘mean hippies’ who couldn’t tolerate the companionship of their fellow drug induced ‘lovers’. So, that experiment ended badly, and you would be surprised to find out how many hippies became Republicans, once they found ‘real wives’ and had children of their own, and actually found jobs and made money. The ‘loving’ communal experience and movement in Northern California, gradually returned to normalcy, as commune members got tired of their miserable existences and started slinking away back to regular society. One of my friends was the last remaining member of such a commune, and he is now the real estate agent that sold me a piece of property near his ranch, and told me the whole story. Needless to say he cut his pony tail off a long time ago and has a very fancy house way back in those Mendocino woods.

    Anyway, I really don’t know what inspired so many people to follow the John Lennon dream:

    “Imagine there’s no heaven
    It’s easy if you try
    No hell below us
    Above us only sky
    Imagine all the people
    Living for today… Aha-ah…

    Imagine there’s no countries
    It isn’t hard to do
    Nothing to kill or die for
    And no religion, too
    Imagine all the people
    Living life in peace… You…

    You may say I’m a dreamer
    But I’m not the only one
    I hope someday you’ll join us
    And the world will be as one.”

    This seems to be the philosophy that you gravitate to most, in reading our comments so far. And, the problem with the ideology is that it points to a ‘certain type’ of love, but really not the love that Christ points to, which is ‘eternal love’. Lennon’s ‘peace’ also points to a ‘worldly’ peace, not the peace that Jesus taught when He said:

    ” But the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring all things to your mind, whatsoever I shall have said to you. Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: NOT AS THE WORLD giveth, do I give unto you..”

    So we see that there are ‘twin’ types of love in the world. The love that comes from Christ and the Holy Spirit, and the false love that comes from the world, the flesh and the devil.

    To distinguish between the two, we need to both follow the words of Christ in the Gospels and then follow also other ‘sheep’ in the flock that makes up the ‘mystical body of Christ’. That’s why Jesus used the analogy of the sheep and goats…because there are many people of both types on the same road… either to Heaven and true love… or to Hell, which is far from true love.

    So, at least we can be comforted that we are not alone on the journey as if it would be the case if Jesus used the analogy… instead of sheep, ‘cats’. As everyone knows, it’s impossible to herd cats. So, according to Christ, we don’t need to fear our brother and sister sheep that are part of the ‘flock of Christ’, even though they might be sick, injured or tend to want to walk away. We should see this as normal sheep behavior.

    Why I was concerned about the expanded mind theology, is because this does not conform to the ‘sheep flock’ typology used by Jesus to describe his ‘kingdom’…but is individualistic and ‘singular’…as can be seen with the ‘polka dot man’. So, I’m actually happy that you aren’t going that far off…’the deep end’ and are at least quoting from the Gospel of John. By the way, John is my favorite apostle and I love everything that He wrote— Letters, Gospel and Book of Revelation. And, St. Francis was the saint that brought me back to the Catholic Church after being somewhat of a juvenile hippy myself. His love for Christ led me to a deeper study of the Gospels….and also the ‘lives of other saints’ and the entire history of the Christian Church.

    So, I’m happy to read that you study the Gospel of John. However, a lot of other things you write, regarding abortion, birth control, etc..seem to be far from the Gospel of John. Unless you’re talking of the…Gospel of ‘John Lennon’, maybe. I think it takes true wisdom to understand the Catholic Churchs’ stance on these issue. It takes a justice and wisdom that can put away worldly desires and pleasures to understand the ‘ultimate good’ desired, which is the divine will of the true God….but wherein some physical bodily control, and discipline, is necessary to conform to that Divine Will of God our Father.

    Best to you,

    – Al

  24. Al, you are an articulate talker of the talk, and I respect that ability in you. I do enjoy the craftsmanship involved in the sharing of such thoughts, and given the centuries of Catholic DNA going round in my blood, I do admit to an incurable interest in them.

    But, as we’ve discussed already, you feel these thoughts are important, whereas I think they are just human creations. Your interpretations of what love is, and my interpretations too, neither are love. Both are just talk.

    It’s like the church buildings which Christianity so reveres. These buildings often are spectacular works of human art, and they merit appreciation on that scale, but not a one of the church buildings holds a candle to the church that God built, the sky overhead. It is the purpose of my posts to refocus our attention away from that which humans have created, and towards that which no human could create.

    Sadly, I have a great deal more to say on these topics, 🙂 and we can go in to more depth should it interest you.

    As to hippies, I do agree there was much that was good and much that was flawed, like all human endeavors. Honestly, I doubt you know that much about it, as it appears you were just a spectator. I’m puzzled as to why you are comparing me to John Lennon the atheist, not that I mind, given that I’ve referenced God in pretty much every one of my posts. Lennon was very articulate, so should that be the comparison, I’m flattered.

    It’s interesting to me that you think you know the mind of God, and of Jesus too, and that this is called humility in the Christian tradition. 🙂 All I claim to know is what I’ve experienced personally, love works. If it pleases you to built a mountain of the most extraordinarily sweeping speculation on top of that experience, ok, that’s your call of course.

  25. Hi Phil,

    As the bar has closed and the bartender fell asleep about 4 hrs. ago, and the Sun is rising on the horizon…I’m going to have to make this last comment before I leave the bar.

    In many of your statements you seem to denigrate the works of man, whether they be communication skills, or artistic skills (cathedrals, etc..), or organizational skills(Church organizational hierarchies/ government/ canonical law, structures, etc..), because these lack the simplicity of your major thesis: God is Love.

    But, I see things differently, and Jesus also teaches differently, because the things that man does in this world has the capacity to ‘express and communicate love’ to others. This is not to say that men actually strive for this, but Jesus definitely desires that we express love through our actions and words, so that God might be made known better throughout the whole world. And as there are not just one part in a body, but many parts, each person is given talents with which he either will, or will not, use to express love to others while we live in this world. Now, that you state that the words we are writing are mere ‘vanity of vanities’ you might be correct to the degree that Jesus said…”In the judgement of God, you will be accountable for every idle word you speak”. However, this does not mean that we cannot communicate in all charity to others, for the benefit of each other. So, I view communication as an expression of love, and a gift from God, and that communication also includes all types of art, all types of inventions for the benefit of others, all types organization to get people working on the same page, etc… Every thing that men do, can be used for either good or evil, and Jesus notes : “Scandal is unavoidable, but woe to the man through which it comes”.

    And one last item, no man is perfect in this world and even the best need to have their feet washed by their brother’s even as Jesus did at the Last Supper. And this is because as the Lord says “The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak”. And also, even in His Church He describes many ‘weeds mixed with the wheat’, and ‘goats with the sheep’ and ‘wise virgins and foolish virgins’ mixed together…and almost indistinguishable from one another.
    So, it is not a surprise to find scandal inside the Church because probably 50%, or more, of it’s members might be the ‘weeds, goats and foolish virgins’. So it is not a new concept, as Jesus Himself teaches these things over and over in the Gospel message.

    But, does this mean that all are goats? Or weeds? Of course not. Nobody knows the number or the ratio but God. But it does mean that we are not to be surprised to find goats and weeds amongst the sheep and wheat in this world. And it might be good to note that we really don’t know to the degree that we ourselves might be ‘goats or weeds’. But this does not mean that we stop living or striving to do good and express love. This, at least, we can try to do, along with studying the words of Christ very carefully and then trying to put all of them into practice.

    As said, the Sun is now rising…the bar has been long closed…the bartender still snoring…and I’ve got to go find some oatmeal to eat.

    Until another day!

    May the Father, Son and Holy Spirit always guide and accompany you on your way,

    – Al

  26. Hi Al,

    I’m not denigrating the works of man, I’m just pointing out that they are the works of man. As I said, church buildings can be beautiful, but not on the scale of the sky, the cosmos. Words can be beautiful too, but they aren’t love. Human creations are impressive mostly in comparison to what other creatures on this one little planet can accomplish. On the largest of scales, human creations are not much at all.

    I do have, and have already offered, a reasonable compromise between the talking of the talk and the walking of the walk. I offer it to you again.

    I accept that all of us are human and thus we’re naturally going to be fascinated with our own creations, our own interpretations, our own talking of the talk, that is, with ourselves. I’m in this same boat with all the rest of you. So let us talk the talk.

    But we could be walking the walk at the same time. Every article on the Catholic web could start with the theory (talking of the talk), and then conclude with a pitch for implementing the theory in practice (walking of the walk). Not in some vague theoretical abstract manner, but in some specific concrete manner.

    => Every article on the Catholic web could be a tool for raising funds which are used to serve the needy.

    If Catholic Charities is deemed to somehow not be a pure and holy enough a vehicle for Catholics to support (where is the “rolling of the eyes” emoticon when you really need one?) then some other vehicle can be found.

    But watch, exactly nobody will be interested in this. And it is upon that evidence that I propose the religion has been corrupted by an excessive focus on ideology, on the very human creations of the clergy.

    What are you doing in a bar anyway? 🙂

      1. My God lad, you put my heart crossways thinking that raising money for charity with our talkin might be as rare as hen’s teeth. I think I’ll have me a pint of Gat and get a we ossified then. I will yea.

          1. On the more serious side….

            My ‘walking’ the walk’ last week was to distribute about 1/2 of the entire text of the ‘Autobiography of St Patrick’ to 600 people over 5 days, but mostly on St. Patrick’s day itself. I gave it out to packs of youth who were partying, in Benicia CA, and almost everyone received it well. It really was a ‘no brainer’ that all of these celebrants should know something about the man himself, and with a copy of his autobiography on hand, it would be absurd not to find out what he says of himself…on ‘St. Patricks Day’.

            I’ll be giving out pasts 34 and four…to complete the whole biography in the next few weeks. The whole thing would have been too much for them.

            So, this is primarily how I promote the faith, by holy literature distribution. I try to use the most historically accurate editions possible, preferably with autobiographies. This is why I don’t donate to Catholic Charities…because I need people to donate to me! 🙂

            It cost’s a lot of money and labor to give out literature for free. And, I’m a very lousy begger…as it’s too much trouble. It’s faster just get out and do the work myself. My wife and a few others help distribute.

            …now.. I’m off to clinic to care for me eyes… as they are a wee bit swollen, and me tooth loose.

  27. awlms – I love it, and so do the walking-around Joes and Jolenes on the ‘why/history” of something that people just do. I do believe they call what you did, the New Evangelization. I’d call it a blessed reprise of the old, honored Evangelization, and all the saints from St. Patrick on are proud of you.

    Love to tell you about the Confraternity of the Holy Shroud sometime, my small contribution to the same good work.

    Remember, duck and weave….

    http://www.shroudconfraternity.org

    1. Thanks AK. I’ll check out the link.

      Also, if you, or Phil, or anyone else would like the graphics of the St. Patrick autobio., for reading or future distribution next year (or anytime for that matter), I can e-mail you a PDF of them for your own printing. Parts 1 and 2 are only 2, 8 x 11 pages front and back. I print them on 110 index stock so people will also save them and not cram them in their pockets. I also put them on clear plastic bags for good presentation. Any who are interested can e-mail…[email protected].

      Yes, AK, …. the ‘New Evangelization’ in action.

      Best to all.

      1. And AK….I tried your duck’n and weav’n ….but me wife kicked me out of the house for breaking her loom. 🙂

        1. As Mary undoes knots, perhaps she can pull some strings to put some order back into your home.

          God bless. And keep up the good work y’all.

          1. Thanks Margo, and you too.

            The ‘loom’ was just referring to a corny joke from some recent comments. Some recreation after a lot of interesting religious conversation.

            Best to you.

          1. Pretty awesome exposition on the Shroud of Turin in that link. The slides note some info. that I’ve never seen before. And the comparison to the Pantocrator is also interesting.

            Thanks, AK. I’ll keep the site and recommend it to others, and I’ll keep studying up on the Shroud.

  28. Like the guy who bought his parents a parrot that could quote any Bible verse…when he called Dad and Mom, asking how they liked the gift, they said…Son, thank you so much….had no idea what kind of bird it was, but it was delicious….

    Glad you like the info. It truly is amazing and has inspired more than one conversion. I can share some of the story on email, probably this weekend – Biblical Studies class tonight, and homework tomorrow.

    Meantime…advice, he who fights and runs away, lives to fight another day 😉

    1. Or…maybe….he who runs away before a fight, lives another day to run away again, before another fight. I think that’s the official ‘cowards motto. 🙂

  29. Hey again Awlms,

    You wrote…

    “So, this is primarily how I promote the faith, by holy literature distribution.”

    My reply will set aside theology for now, to focus on the practical business of marketing.

    First, I should disclaim I know little about Irish culture, and so don’t really know the degree to which the following comments would apply there. If I understand correctly, Ireland is a very Catholic country, and so is perhaps receptive to holy literature distribution. It may be that our conversation has as much to do with the differences between Irish and U.S. culture as it does between Catholicism and Woodstockism. 🙂

    Here in the States, holy literature distribution would be the least effective method of promoting Catholicism. First, Protestants out number Catholics about two to one here, thanks to massive Catholic clergy malpractice in previous centuries. Second, we are a very commercial culture, and have already been overwhelmingly bombarded with advertising on every conceivable subject. Third, we’re an impatient and practical people, which you can perhaps see in my disdain for the mass production of empty sanctimonious platitudes which seems to characterize much of modern Catholicism.

    At least here in the States, serving the needy would be seen as far more credible than any effort to validate your own philosophy by pulling more folks in to it, which is seen to be all about you and your needs. As example…

    I’ve spent a lot of time on atheist forums over the years, mostly being yelled at and banned 🙂 and I can report that even while abuse is being heaped upon Catholic talk, there is generally respect for Catholic walking of the walk. Only the most hardcore fire breathing atheist ideologues insist on seeing Catholic Charities as some kind of scam, and they are a tiny minority within their own culture. So if it’s atheists you wish to open a door with, best save the talking of the talk for way later in the conversation.

    As seen from here, Catholic culture seems to be so lost in glorious abstractions that it’s largely blind to the practical business of effective outreach. Projects like Catholic Charities are your best calling card when reaching across the aisle to other communities, but Catholics seem to have almost exactly no interest in discussing it. And because Catholics are so intently focused on playing the role of lofty shepherd to we the lowly spiritual sheep, you seem largely incapable of learning anything new from outside your own closed circles.

    First you lost the Protestants (ie. most Catholics), and now in our time your European homeland as millions of Catholics quietly wander away never to be heard from again, but these epic failures have no effect upon Catholic culture, and the stubborn worship of the stagnant sleepy status quo continues without pause. It’s an oddly fascinating phenomena to observe from the outside, and a frustrating one for those who sincerely wish you well.

    I now calmly await my glorious public execution. Someone should at least pore a pint of Guinness on my head. Get to work! 🙂

    1. Hi Phil,

      Just for the record, I’m Irish by heritage not by birth. It just happens that St. Patrick’s Day was a week ago, and so I brought up the recent evangelization attempts of promoting his story as a means of introducing an incredibly inspiring autobiography to people who were gathered to celebrate his particular feast day. The absurdity of having 50,000 gallons of whisky sold due to St. Patricks day, and wherein not one of those whiskey drinkers probably has ever read an authentic account of who St. Patrick is, confounds me completely. And so, I made it a minor mission to open their eyes a little by giving his autobiography out at locations where these same partiers were celebrating.

      And, actually, the reason why I choose to distribute ‘lives of saints’ literature to inspire people, is less complicated that how you make it seem in your comment above. My simple reason for giving out such literature is because this is what ‘did the trick for me’ in helping me understand the Catholic faith as I never did before. This happened because I picked out a biography of St. Francis from a stack at a local library, read it, and was very quickly inspired as never before…like finding a ten foot high pile of gold in the woods… was from that biography quickly and completely ‘reverted’ back to my withering Catholic faith. So, this was probably the most profound religious event of my life.

      As I figure there are probably a few more folks out there, in the same state that I was at that time, I figured I could help some of them by putting a life of a saint before their eyes, without them having to stumble upon it at a library. And so, I bought a small printing press and started republishing these lives, starting with St. Francis, and giving them away for free almost anywhere I felt they might be adequately received. And even if only a few people are inspired, I’m OK with that. I just kind of follow the saying “what you have been given, give that to others”, and so this is simply what I do. I might note that my wife and I gave out about 6000 copies of selections from St.Bonaventure’s ‘Life of St. Francis’ last year, and especially on college campus’ in the SF Bay area, including UC Berkeley. And again, if only a few find inspiration from these readings I am still satisfied, because doing any amount of good, for the sake of the Lord, is much better than doing nothing. So St. Francis worked for me, maybe he will work for someone else also… who knows? So, this is why I take this route in my charitable efforts…over just giving money, or other physical goods out, (not to say I haven’t done my share of this in the past.)

      It appears that the bar opened again at 6AM sharp. 🙂

      Best to you,

      – Al

      1. Hi Al,

        Ok, you want to share what worked for you, I get it. I’m guessing saint stories might be most effective with people like you, formerly withered Catholics.

        My own withering is likely beyond repair, but the Catholic experience which often inspires me is visiting the oldest Catholic church in America, in St. Augustine Florida, a couple hours from our house.

        It’s not the church building so much, which I find to be both attractive and also appropriately modest. It is instead the church property, which is a beautiful piece of land on an inlet leading out to the ocean. Should you ever be this far east, I think you’d like it, and of course it’s historical for American Catholics.

        For us, Catholic saints come in the form of squirrels. 🙂 You would not believe how friendly the squirrels are at this place. They come down out of the trees and eat right out of your hand. You must understand that we’re raised and released about 1,000 squirrels (literally), and even the ones we’ve raised from birth don’t eat out of our hands once they’re released.

        There’s a great air of peace infusing this place, even if one has little interest in the shrines and such.

        1. I think you’re describing something of the sort that Jesus Himself was conveying regarding the nature of ‘beauty’. He said,

          “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith?”

          This is to say that the beauty of Solomon’s creations, including the temple that he built for God( maybe like your St. Augustine Church), cannot be compared to the beauty of a single ‘lilly of the field’, which is here today and gone tomorrow. So, you are correct in this. But also, Jesus mentions the beauty of the interior soul that can be ‘clothed’ with spiritual gifts and garments that God can give to it, if only a person allows this of the God, who wishes to cloth us in such beauty. At least this this is what Jesus teaches in this quote.

          However, after a soul has a portion of this God given ‘clothing’ or beauty, he also can then reflect some of this interior beauty through his own actions in life, one of which is to create ‘minor’ artistic creations of beauty, imperfect as they are, such as Cathedrals, works of poetry, music and literature, inventions, etc…

          But nothing competes with God’s glorious creation, which includes of course the human person. And so, I’m sure that St. Francis, also, would agree with you concerning the squirrels and natural beauty surrounding that Church. Would it that humans could be similarly beautiful, as God desires of us, at all times. But I guess that’s what Heaven is all about.

          1. Good morning Al,

            I see nature as the book that God wrote. To me, it is the most authoritative reference given that it’s not subject to the misunderstandings, ego trips, power agendas, competitive games etc that so easily make their way in to all writings by humans.

            Yes, humans are part of nature too, but we typically don’t experience ourselves that way, due to the inherently divisive of nature of thought, that which we’re made of psychologically. And so we typically speak from the illusion of division, even when we’re speaking about the experience of unity.

            As example, the word God is a noun, and like all nouns it implies a separation between this and that. But when we observe nature closely enough, we see that this assumed separation which we take to be an obvious given is actually an illusion. In the real world that God built, everything is connected to everything else to the point where the concept of “things” falls apart.

            Like you with your holy literature, I used to have a number of nature web sites where I tried to share what has most inspired me. But after a few years of furious coding and filming it finally dawned on me that it’s a fools errand to try to capture nature on a piece of paper or in a digital file, given that to convert nature in to a symbolic form is to kill what makes it so glorious.

            As I suspect by now, you can see that such insights tend to turn my typoholic hobby in to the kind of God created practical joke that AK is referring to.

            So God’s sitting around heaven, turns to Jesus and says…

            “Let’s make this Phil human articulate, get him really hooked on it, and then teach him how little words matter!”

            And then they both burst out laughing at the prankster genius of their plan. He he he….

            Well, that’s ok, cause I’m getting them back by using the words they inflicted upon me to punch big holes in Catholic dogmas, so take that Jesus! Two can play this game… 🙂

          2. Hi Phil,

            I will always use Christ as my teacher as this was the purpose of His incarnation in the first place. And for this I consider Him a great gift to us from God.

            Jesus says, ‘from the depths of the heart does a man speak’, and so speech or words (and actions for that matter) are only expressions emminating from the depths of our souls…which really no man will ever completely understand. However, limited though speech is for communicating what a soul understands or feels, it still has some power (and especially when united to corresponding actions…ie. ‘walk the walk’), to convey truth and love to others, and including expressions of love and thanksgiving that we might send back to our Creator.

            But, confusion comes when we realize that words and speech (and actions too) also come from the depths of hearts that are actually in servitude to ‘sin’, sin being a concept to describe a state that is out of harmony with Truth and love which are the primary attributes of God the Creator. Christ, our ultimate Teacher describes what I’m trying to say, this way:

            “If you continue in my word
            You shall be my disciples indeed.
            And you shall know the truth
            And the Truth shall set you free”

            and,

            ‘Amen, Amen I say unto you:
            That whoever committeth sin
            Is a servant of sin.
            Now the servant abideth not in the house forever
            But the son abideth for ever. ‘

            So we see that Christ is first talking about His teachings (words conveying the ‘depths of HIs heart’). Then says that a ‘continuation’ in pondering these teachings of His, over time, will eventually makes a man a ‘disciple indeed’. And then, the result is that a disciple will eventually come to ‘know the Truth’ by which the same Truth we are ‘set free’; That is, of our corrupt understandings of ourselves and our worldly existence, due to our own inherent sins, as well as the perverted teachings of other sinners around us. ‘The Truth’ that Christ teaches us, will set us free from the falsehood born of sin, and we will therefore no longer be under it’s power to make us ‘slaves’of sin.

            But what’s the problem of being a ‘slave of sin’?

            Christ also teaches, above, that only those who are in harmony with the truth, will ‘abide in the house forever’…as ‘the SERVANTt abideth not in the house FOREVER’ (all eternity).

            This should cause every person to have a fear of sin, and to seek the Truth wherever he can find it. But, if we have been sent a teacher from God, to help us find this truth, which in turn sets us free from slavery from sin, then, of course we should take advantage of these teachings provided. The result is, that being united in love and harmony to the ‘son who abideth forever’ we also will participate in His ‘sonship’, ….understanding the truth and love of God “in the house forever” with him (for all eternity).

            This is why people seek to be disciples of Christ, so that they might be freed of ‘slavery to sin’ in the depths of their souls and understanding. And then, they can also try to free other people who might also be enslaved, in anyway they are inspired to do so. And in all of this there is both process and time needed for learning the truth that Christ teaches . Some will learn fast, others slow, some not at all… and some under the influence of sin, will suppress the teachings of Christ through violence on those who follow it. Then again, there will also be false disciples, or ‘wolves in sheep clothing’, as Jesus says. And these also confuse many who would like to be true disciples of Christ, but are taught a perverted message that is actually full of sin. So, the teachings of Christ can be complicated by these other factors also.

            So, for myself, I wish to be free from sin…not a ‘slave to sin’. And so this is why I thank God for giving me Jesus Christ as a Teacher, whereby I might attain my goal of ‘growing’ in harmony with my Creator. And, in doing so, I also would like also to “Feed His Sheep”…as He asked St. Peter to do after His resurrection. And I try to do this with what ever sheep food I can find available at hand, and to the extent of my ability. Sometimes it’s very little, other times more abundant and nutritious. Sometimes the sheep food is filled with mostly fiber, lacking many nutrients… but other times it’s filled with vitamins and many essential nutrients. But, at least I’m trying…sinful that I am… for the love of God and neighbor.

            Best to you in Our Lord Jesus Christ

            – Al

        2. Good day, Phil. I’ve been away for a bit, now getting caught up on your and Al’s conversation. I really like your description of your experience of the church property in St. Augustine. What is the name of the church?

          Speaking of nature, words, and comedy, I was reminded of the movie “Groundhog Day” with Bill Murray. (The groundhog’s name is Phil.) It is a hoot. A young weatherman existentially repeats a day ad infinitum until he gets his speech and his actions right according to the girl of his dreams. He goes a bit insane with the frustrating inanity of his clock radio alarm waking him at the same time each morning with the same newsbroadcaster announcing the same day over and over and over.

          The hydraulic system in my husband’s car was overcome by rodents chewing anything in their way and by building a nest there. I didn’t think that was very friendly since it caused us some work-time and a $500 deductible. I wish they would have gone elsewhere to reproduce and eat. What good purpose do rodents serve other than being food for reptiles? So Catholic saints are squirrels? You raise them, set them free, and they don’t come back to eat out of your hands. Why do you think that is?

          1. Hi Margo,

            Anytime you have rodents anywhere, you should not be afraid of putting out traps. They really are very effective with just a little peanut butter as bait. Rodents often carry disease pathogens in their feces. You probably know this already, but if not here is some info:

            (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia):

            Hantavirus

            Hantaviruses are single-stranded, enveloped, negative sense RNA viruses in the Bunyaviridae family which can kill humans.

            They normally infect rodents and do not cause disease in these hosts. Humans may become infected with hantaviruses through contact with rodent urine, saliva, or feces. Some strains of hantaviruses cause potentially fatal diseases in humans, such as hantavirus hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome (HFRS) and hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS)—also known as hantavirus cardiopulmonary syndrome (HCPS)—[1] while others have not been associated with known human disease.[2] HPS (HCPS) is a “rare respiratory illness associated with the inhalation of aerosolized rodent excreta (urine and feces) contaminated by hantavirus particles.”[1]

            Human infections of hantaviruses have almost entirely been linked to human contact with rodent excrement, but recent human-to-human transmission has been reported with the Andes virus in South America.[2] …

          2. No Margo, not Catholic saints are squirrels. Squirrels at the oldest Catholic church in America act like saints, they are infused with peace. 400 years of Catholicism on that particular piece of ground has saturated the landscape with love. Support for your position, which went right over your head I guess.

      2. Al – Top o’ the morning’ to ya!

        Spring break is over. I’ve just now re-entered the Academy. A bit disoriented, I don’t know what time it really is, and I don’t know the name of the bar….However, I do have enough wit to question whether St. Francis is related to the Pope, why rodents made a nest in the hydraulic system of my spouse’s car, and how should I respond to climate change…Do you know how hot is it on Mars?, how much tickets cost, and when is the departure date?

        Cheers! I think I’m now fully awake.
        Onward Christian soldiers!

          1. Hi Margo, I’ll just clue you in on the ‘corny’ bar joke that you probably missed earlier.

            I was looking for a way to graciously exit the very long conversation over the last few days, and compared it to people in a bar, hours after it closed at 2am and still talking away, even though the bartender had already fallen asleep hours ago. I basically said that the Sun was coming up and it was time finally to leave. But, the joke morphed into a drunken Irish theme, and then, pretty quickly the serious conversation with Phil reignited again….and this is why the bar seemed to have ‘opened up again at 6AM in the morning…wherein a new day brings a continuation of the overly long conversation just as serious drunks often return to the bar in the morning to cure their hangovers from just hours before.

            So, that’s just an explanation. I was a little bit fatigued with all of the theology, and so enjoyed a little humor. However, I really do need to get back to some normal business, and so, I’ll need to ‘leave the bar’ again (commenting on this thread here)..very soon…and for good this time.

            So, I hope this explains the corny, fatigue driven, humor. It was just a little recreation, after a lot of theological conversation.

            Best to you,

            – Al

        1. Margo – I respond to climate change by donning or shedding a layer, maybe putting on gloves. We’re expecting 5-10 inches of “the end of snowfall in the American West” (as reported by the New York Times a few years ago) here today in Colorado Springs.

          ….Marching as to War…..with the Cross of Jesus going on before….

        2. Someone needs to get that lassie a cup of coffee! The name of the Bar is “Joe’s”.

          Regarding Mars…you better talk to Elon Musk…. Climate change? Wait to see if it happens, and then move to a better location. Rodents? ….Stop letting the potato chips drop between your seats. And St. Francis ….He was definitely related to the pope because Adam was their great, great, great, great grand pappy. 🙂

  30. “I now calmly await my glorious public execution.”

    Sigh…remember when I wrote this?

    “But like a tie-dyed wannabe prometheus, you must like repeatedly being field-dressed because you keep-coming-back….”

    God is a Catskill Mountain comedian, Phil. One both loving and just, but a comedian nonetheless. I’ve experienced it. The story would probably drop even your jaw. One never knows upon which of us or when, the joke will be, but one thing for sure, I have learned, it’s usually on the one most sure…of anything…..

    Why waste the Guinness in an alcoholic reprise of Luke 7:37? When you’re in Colorado Springs, why, let me know…..

    Peace and love be on you, Dude…..from the Book….comm out.

  31. AK,

    I wish to report I finally found something in your posts that I can understand, enjoy and agree with… 🙂

    “God is a Catskill Mountain comedian, Phil. One both loving and just, but a comedian nonetheless. I’ve experienced it. The story would probably drop even your jaw. One never knows upon which of us or when, the joke will be, but one thing for sure, I have learned, it’s usually on the one most sure…of anything….. ”

    Yes, the one most sure of anything, that describes me fairly. As it does Catholic culture at large. I agree with the comedian description, and like to think that the human condition is just a big practical joke. That is, somewhat embarrassing, very temporary, and nothing to take too seriously. Best to laugh along…

  32. Hi again Al,

    I must thank you for what is turning out to be a good conversation, even if we are talking past each other a bit. Mr. Whiney does wonder though if there would be any chance of persuading Joe to switch to forum software. Anyway, getting back to your post…

    First, again the gentle reminder, everything we know about Jesus comes filtered through the minds of imperfect ordinary sinner folks just you and me. We don’t know what Jesus actually said or meant, we know only what some very human people think he said and meant. Thus, this raises the question for me at least of where we might find a reliable source untouched by all our dirty little hands. I realize that this isn’t a big concern for you, and that’s your call of course.

    To continue with your points….

    I propose that the relationship between truth expressed in words and the real truth is the same as the relationship between your photo on Facebook and you.

    I like your definition of sin, which was…

    “…sin being a concept to describe a state that is out of harmony with Truth and love which
    are the primary attributes of God the Creator.”

    I like that, and for the sake of discussion would propose another definition of sin, as being lost in the illusion of separateness. I hear that in your quote, “‘The Truth’ that Christ teaches us will set us free from the falsehood born of sin.” I think that falsehood is the illusion of separateness, the fantasy of division.

    My complaint with the word “sin” is that it seems to have become a vehicle for the massive guilt complex which afflicts Catholic culture, which to my mind is kind of a form of psychological masturbation. I prefer to think of sin as ignorance, not a crime, but a failure to fully understand. For my taste, the blame and shame guilt and punishment process is better suited to the legal realm.

    You go on to say, “Christ also teaches that only those who are in harmony with the truth, will ‘abide in the house forever.” This seems a mean spirited doctrine which has done more harm than good. Whether it actually comes from Jesus is, as explained above, unknown. I prefer to see it like this.

    God is ever present everywhere, which is another way of saying God is all there is. Thus, it’s not possible to be divided from God.

    It is however very possible, indeed normal, to suffer the illusion of division from God. That illusion arises out of what we’re made of psychologically, human thought, which is inherently divisive in nature, that is, it operates by a process of division. The word “God” itself, as a noun, presumes a division which doesn’t actually exist anywhere except in our minds.

    Thus I reason, if we love in this life, the illusion of division will be eased and things will go better for us.

    But even if we don’t love, if we don’t understand, if we live in disharmony, hate and suffering, we’re all going to die so much sooner than we realize. And when we die the mechanical apparatus of thought will end, as will the illusion of division that it creates. I believe the Bible speaks to this in the Adam and Eve story, and the warnings from God about the “apple of knowledge” ie. thought.

    In short, none of us need saving, because we’ve never been separate from God, we only think we are. And thinking will end someday soon, absolute 100% guarantee that’s never been broken once.

    So I don’t fear sin, I just try to avoid it, because I know the suffering it will bring in the here and now.

    The “wolves in sheep clothing” thing is just an invitation to conflict that is the inevitable result of _ANY_ religious experience which is built upon a foundation of ideas, symbols, ie. that which is not real. This has been proven all throughout Christian history, and continues to this day on pretty much every Christian website. And we should note, this chronic epidemic of conflict in the Christian world (and other religions too) is primarily internal, between Christians. Point being, we can’t blame this conflict epidemic on anybody but ourselves.

    I propose to you that the source of the conflict is not personal moral failings, nor a weakness in Christian ideology. It’s much deeper than that, it arises out of the inherently divisive nature of thought. Evidence, every ideology ever invented inevitably sub-divides in to warring internal factions. The universality of this phenomena clearly points to a conflict source deeper than this or that person, or this or that ideology.

    All I can add to this pontificating bloviational out burst of a sermon, which appears to be almost infinite in nature, is that I wish we had forum software. 🙂

    1. All I can say is, I have faith in Christ and faith in His many followers, particularly the canonized ‘Saints’ throughout the ages. The charity in their hearts is very evident if you read their lives and writings. These Saints and servants of God… such as Francis, Augustine, the Desert Fathers, Martin De Porres, Rose of Lima, Theresa of Avila, John Bosco..etc….all have very notable signs of true charity and true holiness in their lives and writings. Their words ‘glow’ with holy faith, which is a witness to their likeness to Christ whom they evidently love. And Jesus even said….” You will know my disciples by how they love one another”…and this we find abundantly in their biographies and sayings. Deep wisdom is found with these holy servants of God…and there are thousands of them to study through Christian history.

      Anyway, you can doubt these things as you also doubt the words and teachings of Christ. It’s your own free will to do so. But still, the witness of these Christian teachings, and Gospel message, is something that even Hollywood and Disney could not duplicate… with all of their billions of dollars, assets and talents to try to surpass it in excellence. Their fictitious stories are patently mundane in comparison, even with all of their treasure and efforts used trying.

      So, for those who have ears to hear and eyes to see…they can hear the voice of the Shepherd calling them away from worldliness and sin. Regardless of how extreme it seems, they pay attention when this Good Shepherd warns:

      “And if thy right eye scandalize thee, pluck it out and cast it from thee. For it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell. And if thy right hand scandalize thee, cut it off, and cast it from thee: for it is expedient for thee that one of thy members should perish, rather than that thy whole body be cast into hell.”

      And so, this is why the sheep of the shepherd try to avoid sin, not only because they love the Shepherd, but because they listen to His warnings and trust Him…even as they would a mother who tells the child that a river is deathly dangerous until he learns to swim. And so, we are now children to God, Our Father, and Jesus teaches us like a good mother would…harsh though it might seem, due to our ignorance. But it is all because the Mother loves her children.

      And I know that you will have a problem with this…but it is all I can do…because I am a Christian, one who tries to be a disciple of Christ…as quoted in my last comment. And this gift of being a poor, sinful, lazy disciple of Christ is still the greatest treasure in this world for me…regardless of my multitudes of defects. Just the contemplation derived from the few words of the Gospels gives tremendous consolation to my soul even as Jesus said:

      ‘Come to me all you who labor and are burdened
      And I will give you refresh you.
      Take up my yoke upon you
      And learn from me
      Because I am meek, and humble of Heart
      And you shall find rest for your souls.
      For my yoke is sweet
      And my burden light.’

      May God give you His peace and light, both now and forever.

      – Al

    2. Thought inherently divisive? Why do we then try to think through ways to overcome division? Animals don’t think yet they are divided via prey-predator instincts.

      1. Margo asks…

        “Why do we then try to think through ways to overcome division?”

        We can think ABOUT overcoming division, but we can’t actually overcome division in thought, because thought is an electro-chemical information medium which operates by a process of division. As example, the noun, which conceptually divides a single unified reality, sometimes called God.

        Consider the phrase “I am thinking”. This phrase implies a division between “I” and “the thinking”. That division exists only conceptually, in symbolic form, not in the real world. And yet it’s a very compelling illusion.

        This insight is at the heart of your own religion. Love is an act of surrendering the thought generated fantasy division we call “me”. This is the Christian way of the West to describe and address the problem.

        In the East they often approach the very same human condition through meditation, which too is a surrender of thought and it’s primary fantasy product, the “me”.

        We can think about eating a plate of food, and that has it’s uses. But to get the nutrition our bodies require, we have to actually eat the food.

        We can talk about love. We can talk about meditation. And such talking has it’s uses. But to get the psychic nutrition our minds require we have to actually surrender, in love, or meditation, two different words for basically the same thing.

        1. Ok, right. Nor is division overcome by experience. Else our world would not have war.

          Now I must stop talking to you and start listening to the Lord in prayer.

          May the peace of the Lord be with you.

    3. “Thus, this raises the question for me at least of where we might find a reliable source untouched by all our dirty little hands.”

      They might not be as dirty as you think they are. Some quotes from Christ on this:

      1. “But when they shall deliver you up, take no thought how or what to speak: for it shall be given you in that hour what to speak. For it is not you that speak, but the SPIRIT OF YOUR FATHER THAT SPEAKS IN YOU.

      2. “Those who hear you hear me”.

      3. “…into whatsoever city or town you shall enter, inquire who in it is worthy, and there abide till you go thence. And when you come into the house, salute it, saying: Peace be to this house. And if that house be worthy, your peace shall come upon it; but if it be not worthy, your peace shall return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet. Amen I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city.

      4. “Because thou hast seen me, Thomas, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and have believed.”

      5. “But blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear. For, amen, I say to you, many prophets and just men have desired to see the things that you see, and have not seen them, and to hear the things that you hear and have not heard them. Hear you therefore the parable of the sower. When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, there cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart: this is he that received the seed by the way side. And he that received the seed upon stony ground, is he that heareth the word, and immediately receiveth it with joy.Yet hath he not root in himself, but is only for a time: and when there ariseth tribulation and persecution because of the word, he is presently scandalized. And he that received the seed among thorns, is he that heareth the word, and the care of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choketh up the word, and he becometh fruitless. But he that received the seed upon good ground, is he that heareth the word, and understandeth, and beareth fruit, and yieldeth the one an hundredfold, and another sixty, and another thirty. “

      1. You said…

        “Some quotes from Christ on this…”

        And I say, more precisely and accurately….

        Some quotes of what various clergy said Christ said.

        You haven’t yet grasped that everything you think you know about Jesus has been filtered through the minds of very ordinary imperfect people just like you and me.

        It’s as if I said, “Jesus wasn’t a carpenter, he was really a plumber”.

        And then you say… “Jesus was a plumber because Father Phil says so!”

        That is….. clergy worship.

        You are clearly sensible enough not to blindly believe what I write, so why do you blindly believe what some other strangers write??

        If the Bible was clear and beyond dispute, there would be no need for theologians, no need for clergy. Their very existence, and the fact that they have been arguing among themselves for 2,000 years, is sufficient reason for not blinding believing what they say Jesus said and meant.

        God gave us brains. The fact that you are a drunken fake Irishman in a bar talking to a pot fogged fake Catholic is no excuse for not using yours. 🙂

        1. Jesus gave the keys to His kingdom to Peter. Peter we accept as our first Pope. We listen and, with the gift of faith given to us upon our Baptism, we assent. We would rather be with Jesus’ giving the keys than with someone insisting that some man repeated this narrative from someone. We believe in the Holy Spirit inspiring the word of God through the men who wrote and the men who teach today. We assent with faith and with reason. Faith is a gift some of us accept and some of us reject.

          Peace to you.

      2. Hey awlms, my friend……had enough yet of the condescension, insults, arrogance, empty New Ageisms, contempt for Scripture (along with everything else you hold sacred), and thinly-veiled but pure, focused malevolent hatred of your Church disguised as “hey, dude, just a harmless ol’ hippie here??”

        Seems Margo has. I did awhile back. Up to you, but IMHO there comes a time for Matthew 10:14….when you’ve had enough of Matthew 7:6……

        Talk to you in email later….

        1. I’m a pretty patient man, and love my fellow neighbor, and can wait a long time like the father who waited for his prodigal son to come home. So, the problem is not Phil. I might wish he was more confident in the Gospel of Christ, but at least he has his focus on God as Love, which is a primary message of Christ. We also see it in the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. So, Phil it seems is at least half way to a solid Christian faith. But, really my concern is that their is possibility that this extended conversation might be irritating Joe…because it has deviated off topic about 3 days ago.

          So, I think I will respect Joe a bit and bow out of the present conversation, and again, no offense to Phil. And I will try to stay on topic a bit in the future comments.

          Peace and blessings to everyone…and it’s been a great conversation. I’ve enjoyed it… and getting to know you, AK better, as well as Phil and Margo. So, thanks for sharing your experiences and Christian faith. In Heaven, if we all make it there, we’ll have a lot of time to carry on the conversation. : )

          So, good bye until the next topic comes up…and I hope I’m not 86’ed…so… I need to keep repeating, over and over again… ‘go home when the bar closes!….otherwise there might be 6500 comments and we’d be coming up on Christmas! 🙂

          Again, best to you all.

          – Al

  33. Al, I think what you meant to say is that I’m halfway to YOUR INTERPRETATION of the Christian faith.

    There is not one Christian faith, but a thousand of them. As example, whatever you might think about abortion, contraception, gay marriage, women clergy and a thousand other things, literally millions of Catholics disagree with you. If you think the Vatican is the sole source of the one true authentic Christian faith, about a billion Christians disagree with you, including millions of Catholics.

    You sincerely want to embrace and defend the one right true answer, but you’re only going to be able to find that for yourself. It’s not your fault, nor is the fault of Catholicism or any other religion. Every ideology ever created on every subject suffers from this problem. All ideologies, houses built of sand. The problem is built in to the nature of thought, so no amount of effort can produce the one true ideology that can not be destroyed.

    We can however pretend that such a thing is possible, and I would have to agree that this fantasy does bring comfort to many people. But such comfort comes at the price of fear and conflict.

    On sites all over the net people of all kinds of ideologies huddle together in little defensive closed circles of the like minded, typing day after day after day to reinforce each other’s fantasy that they alone have “The Answer”. The game is, “I’ll validate your opinion if you’ll validate mine”. It’s a psychological business transaction, not a theological investigation.

    Those who can’t or won’t enter in to the mutual validation transaction always wind up being excluded by some method or another. It”s a routine process which unfolds with clockwork precision, whatever the ideology. First you’ll try to convert me. Then you’ll try to debunk me. Then you’ll yell at me. Then you’ll try to ignore me. And when none of that works, you’ll ban me. The mutual validation transaction is the highest priority, and all else falls before it. An editor on another Catholic site called this “the tribal nature of the net”, which seemed a pretty good description.

    Ok, I see this party is over, seems a good plan, so let’s see what happens in the next article from Joe.

      1. Matt and Trinh: Phil is a poor debate choice for several reasons: first, he is an unregenerate hater of faith in general and Catholicism in particular; second, he assumes that anyone of faith is a gullible fool who simultaneously will fail to recognize his honeyed condescension, and eventually fall for his endlessly cut-pasted “line” of BS – which if you look at his posts, he is a virtual archeological site of long-discredited and incoherent 60’s-era ‘human potential movement”-think – which he repeats ad nauseam, is capable only of that, and incapable of reasoned discourse.

        Having said, I intend every time I see Phil (or Phil pseudonymous) to call him out like (the comparison is done in great humility) John the Baptist on Herod.

        1. Phil is my real name, and I’d be grateful if you’d respond to what I’ve actually said (available in abundance) instead of characterizing my perspective in a vague wildly inaccurate hysterical manner. Or not, as you wish, it’s your reputation.

    1. Phil, you say: “There is not one Christian faith but a thousand of them.”

      That is incorrect. St. Paul says in Ephesains 4:5 “One Lord, one FAITH, one baptism.” There is only one authentic Christian faith and then deviations from that. This would be the case even if everyone disagreed with it except for one person. There would still only be one True Faith. Jesus is the answer and He established His Church to teach it. That is the claim of the Catholic Church. That is either true or false, no in between. If it’s true and Jesus is who He says He is, everyone should be Catholic and believe everything the Catholic Church teaches. If it’s not true, no one should be Catholic. Yes this does create division and conflict. Jesus promised as much when He said in Matthew 10:34-38:

      “Do not think that I have come to bring peace on earth; I have not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man’s foes will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.”

      May God be with you.

      Matthew

  34. Hi Mathew,

    You are referencing a theory that some Christians hold. I am referencing the reality that after 2,000 years no agreement has been reached among Christians about what the “one true faith” is. Indeed, this is true within Catholicism as well. If it weren’t true, then heated controversy would not be raging all across the Catholic web to this day.

    Yes, I agree St. Paul had an opinion on this. St. Paul was a human being, and not a god, so his opinion is as open to review as mine or yours. In his defense, St. Paul didn’t have the benefit of observing what would happen within Christianity over the longer term. From his time and place perhaps it was reasonable to conclude that Christianity would be one thing, I can see that.

    You realize of course that the quote you offered from Mathew is Jesus having a bit of a bad hair day ego maniac meltdown? Remember please, Jesus came to us in HUMAN FORM. He was a very wise, charismatic and articulate human for sure, but was embodied within the human form nonetheless.

    If God had wanted Jesus to come to us in perfect form, Jesus would have strode the Earth 100 feet tall so that there would be no mistaking his perfection. That’s not what happened. Jesus inhabited our imperfection so he could share our experience and speak to us from inside of where we are.

    And in sharing imperfection with us, Jesus sometimes did inadvisable things, like for instance, getting most of his friends killed. Perhaps the death of Jesus was unavoidably necessary, but half his followers too? A perfect hero does not drag half the team down with him. Jesus wasn’t a perfect hero, he was a real hero, a hero in human form. So if you’re intent on responding to every challenge by quoting Jesus as if that settles all questions, you’re kinda missing the point of the whole operation, imho.

    All that said, challenges are welcome, for according to my wife, I am not a God either. Who knew? 🙂

    1. Yeah I’m seriously concerned why you are here. This comment is manifestly non Christian as you basically insulted your Lord and your God (John 20:28). Yes, Jesus came to us in human form but He didn’t cease to be God by doing so. Your idea of coming in perfect form is quite laughable. It would be one thing if you came to this blog to learn about the Christian faith but you have so many presuppositions and pre-conceived notions that it’s basically impossible to educate you until you humble yourself. I’m sure everyone here would me more than willing to help you with any questions you might have but do NOT stride into here and pretend you know everything there is to know about Christianity when you openly dismiss the New Testament and insult Jesus Himself.

      Let me inquire though, you said that “St. Paul’s opinion is as open to review as mine or yours.”

      First of all, is that what you think Christianity reduces to? Mere opinions? Is there any truth of the matter to be found? The Catholic Church claims what she teaches is true, not opinion and thus, no it’s not subject to review. The claim is either true or false and that’s it. Jesus claimed to be divine. Either He’s a madman and shouldn’t be listened to, He’s a deceiver and shouldn’t be listened to, or He is your Lord and your God and you should worship Him.

      Second of all, St. Paul lived in the 1st century and directly spoke to Jesus (Acts 9). Don’t you think he’d have a bit better idea of what Christianity is then you do? Or do you love your own opinion that much? Check the pride my friend. As for quoting Jesus to resolve disputes, obviously this is done from a Christian standpoint. It’s pretty sad that you claim to know what Christianity is and then dismiss what Jesus has to say concerning it. I seriously don’t know why you bother coming here. Do you get a kick out of disrupting the faith of others? If that’s the case, you’re nothing but a troll and kindly leave. If you want to learn, stick around and inquire but humble yourself first.

      Third of all, you’re blatantly wrong to say that “Jesus got most of his friends killed.” This is so wrong on so many levels and I pray God forgives you because you don’t know what you just did. The only one of the twelve apostles to die during Jesus’s life on Earth was Judas. The others were martyred years later because the offered their entire lives to Jesus Christ. They willingly suffered martyrdom for His sake.

      I have a sneaking suspicion that you’re getting all of your opinions and information from the widely discredited “Jesus Seminar.” Once again I would ask, why do you trust your own or the opinion of ivory tower eggheads rather than the source material?

      May God be with you.

      Matthew

      1. Matthew, great and insightful response.

        And get ready for another heaping helping of 2 Peter 2:22, courtesy of Phil and his hatred of everything you believe.

      2. Matthew,
        Thank you. That idea that Jesus got his friends killed represents willful ignorance, stupidity, irrationality, and insanity. Anyone who knows a smidgeon of Christianity realizes that the serpent–the liar of all liars–using Adam and Eve, brought death to humanity. Through Jesus’ death and resurrection, He brought life eternal to humanity. Martyrdom is joyfully accepted by those who truly live with Christ in their hearts and minds and souls.

        Some people need to get a bit of Christ’s life. People who die for Him don’t need any words from any fool.

        1. MArgo – Phil is on the next thread, similarly infecting it. There, I just asserted my belief his intention is to clog up the discourse with his repetitive Proverbs 26:11 BS and shut down discussion.

          I am not going to respond to him anymore after the first few occasions of showing him for what he is, out of respect for Joe.

          I hope others will follow suit.

          1. For the record, I don’t have the ability to shut down discussion, which I clearly don’t. Anybody can post anything they want to at any time. You don’t have the ability to shut down discussion either, but you are welcome to try.

      3. Mathew, I credit you with sharing an authentically Catholic post. You might consider joining the clergy. You assume the only valid reason for someone to come to a Christian site is to learn from you the shepherd. Just so you know, it’s this kind of attitude that is causing the churches to empty out all across Christianity’s European homeland.

        I’m the least of your worries, as I’m still interested in Catholicism enough to discuss it daily. Don’t worry about me, worry about the millions who have quietly wandered away, and are never coming back.

        You might have noticed that the Catholic Church is lurching from one crisis to the next to the next in our time. The status quo is clearly failing and is poised to bring ruin down upon the whole enterprise. Thus, only simple logic is required to understand that continuing to do the same thing over and over can only lead to more chapters of the crisis.

        My writing philosophy can be summarized as follows.

        If the things we want to hear,
        could take us where we want to go,
        we’d already be there.

        If it is your goal that the Catholic Church should continue sliding ever downward in to ever more crisis, just keep stubbornly defending the failing status quo and those leading it with all your might, and you just might get there.

        1. Phil,

          It’s quite painful actually on how misguided and incorrect you are. The would that the state of the Church actually was the “status quo” you criticize. I can tell you from being on the inside, that the Church is in crisis but not because of orthodoxy, but because of heresy. And the reason she is in crisis is because far too many people in the Church (including unfortunately) some the the clergy, think too much like you. THAT is the reason so many are leaving. The ideas you have pushed here require virtually no sacrifice. They are so nebulous and relativistic. They do not require the demand of a change of life from vice to virtue. And they will lead souls straight into hell, perhaps unwittingly but there nonetheless. “Broad is the road that leads to perdition and many follow it.”

          You’re just plain incorrect to suggest that Catholic orthodoxy is pushing people away. Studies consistently show that more orthodox parishes/churches do better in attendance. People crave the truth; the straight dope if you will. The endless relativism is woefully inadequate to satisfy the human heart. Here’s proof:

          http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news/2016/12/14/liberal-churches-in-decline-while-orthodox-ones-grow-says-study-of-protestants-in-canada/

          You said: “You might have noticed that the Catholic Church is lurching from one crisis to the next to the next in our time. The status quo is clearly failing and is poised to bring ruin down upon the whole enterprise. Thus, only simple logic is required to understand that continuing to do the same thing over and over can only lead to more chapters of the crisis.”

          It’s once again painful because you have no idea how true this statement is. However, the crisis was caused by thinking such as yours and not by the actual faith. The only thing I would disagree with is that since the Church is protected by God, I know that despite how bad things look, she will prevail. You claim that the Church should abandon the doctrines that Jesus taught her in order to fill her pews. However, you utterly fail to see that the Church spread like wildfire in the 1st century with the strident doctrine and authority of the Apostles because they were teaching the TRUTH! Trust me, the Church will continue, despite her problems, to preach the Truth to a world drowning in relativism. She will continue in her divine mission to save souls and the gates of hell will not prevail.

          May God be with you.

          Matthew

          1. Matt: This whole subject was supposed to be on the concept that Catholic ordination is hierarchical reaching back to Matt 16:18.

            Phil here, early on, made a proposal: that the clergy should be appointed by the laity in the pews, and that Scriptural considerations of hierarchical appointment were invalid. He asserted that Scripture was ‘heavily edited’ by past clergy to give themselves a nice cushy life as resident experts, paid for by the gullible (us), and that Scripture, having no Divine imprimatur, is no more valid than any other extant theological paradigm or ruleset.

            My question to you is, do you think he presented an adequate case for that proposal?

            Also, that (despite his ‘concern’ that the Church is collapsing) the Catholic laity should defund the construction, operations, and maintenance of the places we worship, catechize, and evangelize, might be a consideration in assessing his proposal.

            Of course, I am directing this at you, in line with the topic.

          2. AK,

            “My question to you is, do you think he presented an adequate case for that proposal?”

            Obviously he hasn’t or he would have stopped lol. The presupposition used to dismiss the New Testament documents as having anything important to say is laughable on its face as are his reasons for why we should abandon what Christ has given to us.

            Matthew

          3. “Mathew, I credit you with sharing an authentically Catholic post.”

            Finally, Phil said something with which I can agree…. 😉

            I think the case for hierarchical appointments has been made and adequately defended. Amen….

          4. Matthew, thanks for your reply, but I must advise you that you don’t yet understand my views. If and when you did understand my views you might still reject them of course, as is fully your right. But at the moment you are investing all your energy in rejecting a stereotypical caricature. You are free to do that too if you wish, they’re your comments to say whatever you wish.

            Here’s just one example.

            One concept key to my views is the assertion that God is ever present everywhere in all times and places.

            I didn’t make that up, I learned it over 50 years ago as a child in Catholic confirmation classes. This concept is not Leninist Lennonist relativistic nebulous hippy drug culture having an orgy at Woodstock.. It’s classic Catholicism, and thus very appropriate for discussion on this site.

            It’s true that, starting from that very Catholic concept, I explore in directions that are not always part of the Catholic mainstream. I readily agree to this. Theologians have been conducting such explorations for centuries.

            Jesus himself broke from the mainstream status quo culture of his time and place. In fact, he did so to such a a degree that got him killed. Jesus didn’t worship authority, the status quo, the group consensus, the clergy. He wasn’t a good little boy who did what he was told. Jesus rowed his own boat in his own direction, and that is the example I am attempting to follow.

            Except that I’m a rank amateur at this, so the best I can do is get yelled at. No one has even threatened to kill me. I am so pathetic, what a loser wannabe! 🙂

          5. Phil,

            You said: “One concept key to my views is the assertion that God is ever present everywhere in all times and places.”

            That’s called the doctrine of omnipresence. I wonder, why do you hold to this doctrine of the Church about God and reject others? And it’s fine that you hold this because it is true but you seem to extrapolate things from this that do not logically follow in the least. For example: the unreliability of the New Testament documents, and the “imperfection” of our Lord Jesus Christ. You seem to think that because God is omnipresent, He must approve of everything people think about Him or something.

            You said: “Jesus himself broke from the mainstream status quo culture of his time and place. In fact, he did so to such a a degree that got him killed. Jesus didn’t worship authority, the status quo, the group consensus, the clergy. He wasn’t a good little boy who did what he was told. Jesus rowed his own boat in his own direction, and that is the example I am attempting to follow.”

            Jesus was completely obedient to legitimate authority and He taught us to do likewise (Matthew 23:1-2). Above all, He was obedient to His Father, even unto death on a cross. Jesus was the furthest thing from the “rebel” you want Him to be. He even said that we should “give to Caesar what is Caesar’s!” If you really want to obey Jesus, then do what He commanded and quit following the false Jesus you’ve made up. Listen to His Church as He told her:

            “He who hears you, hears me. He who rejects you, rejects me. And He who rejects me, rejects Him who sent me.” (Luke 10:16).

            May God be with you.

            Matthew

          6. “That’s called the doctrine of omnipresence. I wonder, why do you hold to this doctrine of the Church about God and reject others?”

            Cafeteria agnosticism?

            To head off the coming riposte…Matthew, you are spot-on about Jesus adjuring obedience to earthly authority. What the comeback is going to be is, how Jesus really was a rebel because he attacked the Pharisees and the Temple money changers. The simple reason for that…is because the Temple hierarchy were supposed to be representatives of an Heavenly kingdom, and comport themselves as such. That they did not and had not, was the reason for generations of Prophets warning against the behaviors that led to the various punishments levied on the nation of Israel. Jesus, who is God, was attacking the flawed and sinful perversion of the earthly representation of His Kingdom – the Temple hierarchy. Essentially, the Temple and all that was associated with it, were His to criticize. Of course, He knew where it was leading….both to His death and Resurrection, and to the destruction of the trappings of the Old Covenant (the Temple and the Jewish Priesthood) 40 years later, by the Romans in 70 AD, a necessary denouement to the complete institution of the New Covenant.

            Now…you might hear, how the current Church is just a clone of the apostate pre-destruction Temple hierarchy. My answer…anyone who thinks the Church Christ instituted in Matt 16:18 is not run by weak, sinful men – who could be more sinful than Peter, who lived with Jesus, broke bread with him, saw the miracles, and yet denied Him to His face – who sometimes let their fallen human nature overcome their Divine direction, is living in dreamland. Yes, it happens…and I heard a very wise priest in a Mass homily say, that when such course corrections are needed, circumstances and saints will arise to effect the needed re-orientations.

            I see it going on today, and am encouraged. In any case, the answer is not to tear down the whole edifice, groove on the rubble, and start a Church of What’s Happenin’ Now based on the guru dejour.

          7. A scripture that I read today is particularly apropos to this discussion:

            ! Timothy 6:3-5: “If any one teaches otherwise and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching which accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit, he knows nothing; he has a morbid craving for controversy and for disputes about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, base suspicions, and wrangling among men who are depraved in mind and bereft of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain.”

            Matthew

  35. “..you’re kinda missing the point of the whole operation, imho.’

    Your point, which exists only in your head which, as you said, is pot-addled. But hey, if it works for you….

    1. AK my friend, please try to raise your game. Challenges are good, more the merrier. Thread clogging little lazy quips, not as much. Remember, any time any of us post an email goes out to all subscribers. Make it worth their while.

      You have plenty of fuel for your challenge cannon, which is great. Just need to refine the aim a bit. Make me work at this dude. Don’t let me off the hook with posts like this one.

      Just a thought, ignore it with my blessing. I’ll drop this subject now, over and done.

  36. Your skill at condescension is almost as good as my ability to escape and evade, and counter.

    I prefer canon to cannon.

    Have a nice day. 😉

  37. Mathew, you said in regards to my statements…

    “The presupposition used to dismiss the New Testament documents as having anything important to say is laughable on its face as are his reasons for why we should abandon what Christ has given to us. ”

    I didn’t say New Testament documents have nothing important to say. I didn’t say you should abandon what Jesus has given to us. Please debate what I’ve actually said, and not claims of your own invention. Thank you.

    1. I’m sorry, hate to step back in here…..

      How could the New Testament have **anything** of value to say if, by your own accusation, they were “heavily edited” by the clergy so they could have comfortable lives as resident experts? Paid for, one assumes, by the gullible.

      And how do you know *anything** Jesus gave us if it is edited for cause?

      Matthew is spot-on.

      Bye, for now.

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