VIVA CRISTO REY!

Viva Cristo Rey; Long live Christ the King!  This was the battle cry of the Cristeros, religious freedom fighters who defended their faith during the persecution of the Catholic Church in Mexico from the mid 1926 to 1929.

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Today I would like to share with you a little known part of Mexican History with a concentration on the Cristero Wars that occurred from 1926-29. I will touch upon Mexico’s struggle to build a democracy, the reclaiming of lands, the Constitution of 1917, and the factors involved that led to the government in Mexico outlawing Catholicism on a whole. But before I can explain how and why this occurred I must first explain what led to the persecution and to do that we need to touch upon the history that led up to the Cristero Revolt against the Mexican Government.

After gaining her independence from Spain in 1821 Mexico began over a course of 100 years to build a democracy of its own. A little over a decade later in 1833, the clergy was excluded from teaching in the public schools.  The reclaiming of lands had been a heated issue and between the years of 1855 and 1857 the government took back the land that was claimed by the Church during the Spanish Conquest 400 years prior.  The government headed by President Benito Juarez issued numerous edicts which are known in Mexican history as the Laws of Reform. The first decreed the absolute separation of Church and state. Others nationalized all Church-owned land; prohibited public officials from attending religious services; made tithing illegal; abolished male monastic orders; prohibited female orders from accepting new members; made civil marriage obligatory and legalized divorce.

In 1877, General Porfirio Diaz seized power and ruled Mexico for the next 34 years.  Diaz, wanting to maintain stability and order, didn’t enforce the restrictions on the Church through the Constitution like his predecessors.  By the 1890s the Mexican Congress began a series of meetings out of which trade unions were organized, schools of agriculture and the arts were established, the public health systems were improved, and there was even a campaign against unjust labor contracts.

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Then, in 1910, a revolt against Diaz was launched by Francisco I. Mader. He ruled until 1913 until he was overthrown and murdered by General Victoriano Huerta. Huerta was soon opposed by another group of revolutionaries calling themselves the Constitutionalists. Their leader, a state governor named Venustiano Carranza, was prepared to allow the Church some rights, like maintaining her school system, but he was outnumbered in his group’s leadership by men wanted to “liberate” Mexicans from the private practice of religion. By mid-1914 the Constitutionalists seized church buildings and jailed or exiled bishops, priests and nuns.

Their activities increased with The Constitution of 1917 which set out to enforce social rights through a series of laws known as articles. Article 3 required that all elementary education, public or private, to be run by the government; Monastic vows as well as monastic orders were outlawed by Article 5. Article 24 barred public worship. Church-owned buildings were declared to be property of the state by Article 27.  Article 130 forbade all religious publications.

These articles were largely ignored by the clergy and after several tense years between church and state, at the end of February, 1926, the then President Calles sent a message to all state governors urging them to take immediate action toward the enforcement of the constitutional articles on religion. In a speech a few days later he declared: “As long as I am President of the Republic, the Constitution of 1917 will be obeyed.”

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On July 2, 1926 the government published a decree of 33 articles which would become known as the “Calles Law.” Its effect was to require uniform enforcement on a nationwide basis of all of the constitution’s anti-Catholic provisions, and it spelled out penalties for infractions by officials who failed to enforce the law, as well as by private citizens.

On July 24 the Vatican decided to withdraw all their priests from all the nation’s churches.  Sunday, August 1, 1926, for the first time in more than four centuries, no priest served morning Mass. Deprived of Mass, many of the people, who were mostly peasants living on the land revolted. Their revolt became la Cristiada, the Cristero Rebellion.

These peasant fighters called themselves Cristero’s and were known to exclaimed “Viva Cristo Rey! as their battle cry.  The government treated these freedom fighters with the greatest contempt and brutality once captured.  According to Author Jean Meyer “No prisoners were taken; civilians taken as hostages were murdered. Torture was systematic, and was used not only to obtain information but also to prolong suffering, and to oblige Catholics to renounce their faith, since death was not sufficient to persuade them to do this.

The actual war, raged mostly in states in the center and west of the country. There were a large number of refugees. A half-million Mexicans moved from the countryside and settled in cities. Another half-million made their way across the border into the U.S. This was how modern Mexican communities in cities like Los Angeles were built.

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The Cristeros didn’t have much of a chance after the United States government sent Ambassador Dwight Morrow into Mexico to negotiate a deal with President Calles.  Writer Jean Meyer said of Morrow: “The personal friendship that existed between the remarkable Ambassador Morrow and President Calles was accompanied by close political collaboration. Morrow, in his diplomatic capacity, played an essential role in the settlement of the religious conflict, and, as a financier, he assisted his Mexican colleague. Thanks to his good offices, the Government was able to purchase directly from United States arsenals ten thousand Enfield rifles, ten million rounds of ammunition, and aircraft with American pilots.”

Money remained a problem for the Cristeros until the very end, which was needed to buy rifles and ammunition. What money the Cristeros had was raised by themselves in three main ways: from a tax in territories they controlled; from the robbery of federal trains; and from kidnappings.

The ammunition came from the Women’s Brigades. Which consisted of 25,000 mostly unmarried women between the ages of 15 and 25.  The Women’s Brigades smuggled ammunition right to the Cristeros: hiding the ammunition in coal and cement.  They even devised ways of hiding bullets in there undergarments.

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In the end 40,000 Cristeros died defending their Faith, while the government suffered a loss of 60,000 federales.  The government expelled 400 foreign priests in 1926, while 3,600 priest remained in Mexico. Ninety of them would be executed before the war ended. In the states where the war was fought, there were no more than about 100 priests in the whole countryside. Fifteen of them served as Cristero chaplains. Five priests fought in the battles, two of them becoming generals.  Another 25 actively assisted the rebellion anyway they could.

In 1929 the government and the Church came to terms. The Government refused to change the Constitution but agreed to be relaxed in its enforcement of it.  On the government’s side, the war was too expensive and their debt to the American government kept getting bigger.  From the Churches side, they were disturbed by the effects the closure of the churches were having on the faithful and the loss of human lives this conflict was responsible for. An arrangement was made and documents drawn up.

The documents of the arrangement were signed in Mexico City on June 21, 1929. Archbishop Diaz communicated to Gen. Degollado to order the Cristeros to lay down their arms as a matter of religious obedience.  The Cristero fighters readily obeyed the Archbishops order. On July 3, less than two weeks after the arrangements were signed, Fr. Gen. Pedroza was shot by a government firing-squad. He was the very first of 5,000 Cristeros who were hunted down and murdered by the government in the next few years. Most of those who managed to survive fled to the United States.

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This largely unknown part of Mexican history was recently portrayed in the film “For Greater Glory” starring Andy Garcia.  In the government’s attempt to liberate itself from its past, to set up a democracy and to reclaim its land from what it looked upon as invaders, it forgot that the hearts of men are less likely to be conquered then their land.  This miscalculation was responsible for an uprising that hurt the economy and caused the deaths of many of its citizens. I hope you learn a little bit of Mexican history that you never knew before and I hope this article will inspire you to learn more about this important time in the history of Mexico.

~ John Andrew Dorsey

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“Whatever You Can Do to Stop Communion in the Hand Will be Blessed by God” ~ Fr. John Hardon S.J.

Not to oppose error is to approve it, and not to defend the truth is to suppress it” – Pope St. Felix III

The decline of belief and faith among Catholics has been spiraling downward ever since the introduction of Communion in the hand in 1969. What started out as disobedience among a few select bishops in Belgium in the 1960’s, has now been spread like wildfire among the average Catholic worldwide, in what is largely known in the Catholic world as a third rail topic. There is widespread confusion as to how this can be a disobedient act when it has been approved by the Church. The facts are that Communion on the tongue is still the law of the Church, while Communion in the hand is an exception to the law granted by an indult, which was granted with severe reservations by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical letter “Memoriale Domini”. Fr. Matthias Gaudron explains how this happened in his book The Cathechism of the Crisis in the Church, “Communion in the hand was first practiced without any authorization in a few very progressive groups against the explicit rules of the Church.” And it is that fact that I will explore further in this essay. Fr. Gaudron continues, “On May 29, 1969, the Instruction Memoriale Domini took cognizance of this disobedience and reiterated in detail the advantages of Communion on the tongue” (156). Fr. Gaudron explains that after a survey was given to the bishops about whether not they would be in support of introducing Communion in the hand, 58 percent opposed it, and only 27 percent were in favor of it (156).

The outcome of this practice has been a large diminishing of the belief of the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. A gallop poll taken only a few years ago, the results of which were referenced in the Remnant Newspaper, indicates that just 30 percent of U.S. Catholics now believe in the True Presence. The other 70 percent did not, and their belief system was sprinkled with an odd mixture of Protestant belief and Catholic Theology, or they simply had no understanding of authentic Catholic teaching.

The first objection one gets initially when approaching this subject is a mistaken notion that goes like this: But Jesus gave the Apostles Communion in the hand; therefore we are doing what Christ did at the last supper. There are two major things wrong with that statement. First of all, this is an assumption. And even if Jesus did indeed give Communion in the hand to the Apostles, we have to keep in mind that the Apostles were priests and Bishops, possessing consecrated hands.

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Secondly, there is a traditional custom of middle-eastern hospitality that was definitely in practice in Jesus’ time, and still exist to this day, which is, the host feeds his guests with his own hand, placing a symbolic morsel in the mouth of the guest. A thorough reading of the text of St. John’s Gospel states (13:26-30): “Jesus answered, ‘It is he to whom I shall give this Morsel when I have dipped It.’ So when He had dipped the Morsel, He gave It to Judas… So, after receiving the Morsel, he [Judas] immediately went out…” Would Jesus have placed a wet Morsel into Judas’ hand? That would not only be unlikely, but very messy. Wouldn’t He had expressed the gesture of hospitality to the person of Judas, whom He called friend later that evening in the garden, most especially during the institution of the Eucharist at the Last Supper with Holy Communion, “giving Himself by His own Hand”?

There is a faction of progressive Catholics who either knowingly or unknowingly obscure the facts of history. They mistakenly believe that they are returning to the ancient practice of the early Christians. But the facts show that this simply isn’t the case. It is true that Holy Communion in the hand did indeed happen. However, when we read the Early Church Fathers we discover the reasons for why Holy Communion in the hand was allowed. It was only tolerated during times of Church persecution.

Dr. Taylor Marshall has researched this subject and reports that Saint Basil had this to say on this subject. “Communion in the hand is allowed only in two instances, 1) under times of persecution where no priest is present, 2) for hermits and ascetics in the wilderness who do not have priests.” This point needs to be stressed; it was a rare exception, and not the norm. Otherwise, according to Saint Basil, to receive Communion in the hand was considered a “grave immoderation” under normal circumstances. This practice goes way back in Church history. One of the earliest references we have about it is from Pope St. Sixtus I, who reigned from 115-125 AD, “it is prohibited for the faithful to even touch the sacred vessels, or receive in the hand”. Saint Paul himself mentions the importance of the Eucharist repeatedly in the scriptures and how one should not approach it unworthily in 1 Corinthians chapters ten and eleven.

Belief in the Real Presence in the Eucharist is taken straight from scripture. When Jesus told His disciples that “My Flesh is real food and My Blood real drink” (Jn. 6:55), His disciples took Him literally and said, “This sort of talk is hard to endure! How can anyone take it seriously?” (Jn. 6:60). St. John’s Gospel continues to report; “Jesus was fully aware that His disciples were murmuring in protest at what He had said” (Jn. 6:61). John then states that, “From this time on, many of His disciples broke away and would not remain in His company any longer. Jesus then said to the Twelve Disciples, “Do you want to leave Me too?” (Jn. 6:66-67). “The Twelve stayed with Jesus because they trusted His words” (Jn. 6:69-71).

Jesus was fully aware that the departing disciples understood His teaching literally. If Jesus had only meant that they would eat his Body and drink his Blood symbolically, He would have said so before they walked away. And there are plenty of places in Scripture where the disciples were confused about His teachings so Jesus retold the parable in a way they could understand it, making the message clearer to them. Since He didn’t try to re-explain what He meant when instituting the Eucharist, we know that He meant His words literally, and of course, not in a cannibalistic sense, but supernaturally.

For the last thousand years, and right up to today, Eucharistic miracles have continued to occur that baffle believers and non-believers. Now, thanks to modern technology and modern science, we can examine them thoroughly. The subject of which has been written about extensively in Joan Carroll Cruz’s book, Eucharistic Miracles. Another wonderful book about the origins of the Eucharist, and as to why Jesus would establish such a practice, which by the way goes straight back to the Old Testament and Ancient Judaism, I highly recommend Dr. Brandt Pitre’s book, Jesus and the Jewish Roots of the Eucharist.

The teaching on Christ’s Eucharistic Presence was not sincerely contested until the eleventh century, a thousand years after He instituted it. According to Rev. Regis Scanlon, Berengarius of Tours began teaching that Christ was present in the Eucharist only “as mere sign and symbol” and that after the consecration, “bread must remain.” Berengarius held, “That which is consecrated (the bread) is not able to cease existing materially”. In the thirteen century, St. Thomas Aquinas names “Berengarius, the first deviser of this heresy,” claiming that the consecrated Bread and Wine are only a “sign” of Christ’s Body and Blood.”

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St. Thomas gives a valid reason why bread and wine does not remain once the consecration takes place, “Because it would be opposed to the veneration of this sacrament, if any substance were there, which could not be adored with adoration of “latria”.” Meaning, Catholics would be guilty of the sin of idolatry by worshipping the bread and wine. Therefore, the physical nature of bread and wine no longer remains, it only appears to remain.
The Council of Trent (1545-1563), agrees with what St. Thomas correctly taught:

If anyone says that in the sacred and holy sacrament of the Eucharist there remains the substance of bread and wine together with the body and blood of our Lord Jesus Christ, and denies that wonderful and singular conversion of the whole substance of the bread into the Body, and of the entire substance of the wine into the Blood, the species of the bread and wine only remaining, a change which the Catholic Church most fittingly calls transubstantiation: let him be anathema (79).

This Council was called to declare Catholic Truth that was being challenged by the Protestant Revolt led by Martin Luther, a renegade Monk who suffered from severe scrupulosity, and sadly, due to his misinterpretations of scripture, as well as his adding to and removal of them, split the Church, leaving us today with over 34,000 Protestant groups and counting.

By the time of the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), there were in place a somewhat large faction of progressive theologians, many of whom were censored by Pius XII, who managed to get themselves invited into the Council by Pope John XXIII, and to even participate in its preceding’s. These theologians were successful in holding sway at the Council, much to the orthodox bishops frustrations, and helped to word the sixteen documents produced from the Council with ambiguous language that has confused the faithful right up to this day. Then, in 1969, some of these same theologians helped to promulgate a new Mass by eliciting the aid of the then current Pope Paul VI. With this Mass in place, the rapid decline of Catholic belief, Mass attendance, and religious vocations began.

Adding to this confusion was the progressive undertakings of a group of bishops who incessantly had one agenda in mind, the introduction of Communion in the hand. Communion in the hand was illegally introduced into Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, and the United States. The Church adamantly opposed this disobedient and abusive practice from the very beginning. According to Bishop Laise, from his book Communion in the Hand, On October 12, 1965, the “Consilium” wrote to Bernard Cardinal Alfrink, Archbishop of Utrecht, Netherlands, “The Holy Father does not consider it opportune that the sacred Particle be distributed in the hand and later consumed in different manners by the faithful, and therefore, he vehemently exhorts [that] the Conference offer the opportune resolutions so that the traditional manner of communicating be restored” (32).

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Pope Paul VI vehemently looked for a solution to this crisis. He considered two options, either close the door to all concessions, or allow the concession only where its use was already established. The Pope took a risk and asked for the opinions of the local bishops to help him in this growing disobedience. Unfortunately, the bishops did not help Pope Paul VI, but opened the doors even wider for abuse. Communion in the hand was introduced without authorization, the Pope persistently opposed allowing it but decided to grant an indult, but only where its use was firmly established so as not to call attention to the disobedience of those bishops among their flock.

Pope Paul VI’s compromise was the document Memoriale Domini (May 29, 1969), while reconfirming that Communion on the tongue is “more conducive to faith, reverence and humility.” The Pope wisely cautioned that Communion in the hand “carries certain dangers with it which may arise from the new manner of administering Holy Communion: the danger of a loss of reverence for the August sacrament of the altar, of profanation, of adulterating the true doctrine.”

There are plenty of Catholics who sincerely believe that it makes no difference on how they receive Communion. They don’t understand the law of the Church, the history, or the warnings against receiving Communion in the hand. Pope Paul VI again repeated in Memoriale Domini the Churches position on this matter, “He should not forget, on the other hand, that the position of the Holy See in this matter is not a neutral one, but rather that it vehemently exhorts him to diligently submit to the law in force (Communion on the tongue).

The truth of the matter is that Communion in the hand was spread through disobedience to the Pope. Pope Paul VI tried hard to put into place many obstacles to slow this disobedient practice from spreading. In Memoriale Domini he stated four restrictions; (a) the indult could only be requested if Communion in the hand was an already established custom in the country, and (b) if by a secret vote and with a two-thirds majority the episcopal conference petitions Rome, c) then Rome would grant the necessary permission, (d) once the permission was granted, several conditions had to exist simultaneously (among these conditions, no loss of sacred particles and no loss of faith in the Real Presence) (En réponse à la demande). If any of those conditions were not met than Communion in the hand was not permitted, even with the indult. These restrictions are part of the Pope’s instructions which are found attached to his document Memoriale Domini.

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However, the American bishops successfully managed to maneuver around Pope Paul VI’s restrictions. The late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin, the then president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, unsuccessfully attempted twice to establish Communion in the hand in America, in 1975 and 1976. Unfortunately, he finally prevailed in May 1977 when Communion in the hand was illegally authorized in the United States. The bishops totally ignored Pope Paul VI’s requirements expressed in his indult about not allowing the practice of Communion in the hand where it was not already established.

Proceeding on their own initiative, the American bishops decided to vote on whether not they could get this disobedient practice introduced into their own country, despite all the historical evidence and warnings by Saints and Doctors of the Church throughout Her two thousand year history, warning against such a practice.

After the initial voting had concluded, Archbishop Bernardin reported that the vote had fallen short of the required two-thirds of all legally present members and that the matter could not be concluded until the absent bishops were polled. Bernardin was dead-set on getting Communion in the hand one way or another, even if it had just been voted down. To get around the lack of votes, bishops who were not present, retired, or even dying, were polled illegally.

Canon lawyer, Fr. Kunz, has stated that obtaining votes from absent bishops absolutely invalidates the petition for an indult, making the indult non-void. This tactic manipulated and masterminded by Cardinal Bernardin to acquire the votes simply makes the indult invalid, since only members present at the meeting could legally vote. Renowned theologian Fr. John Hardon, S.J., stated in 1997, “To get enough votes to give Communion on the hand, bishops who were retired, bishops who were dying, were solicited to vote to make sure that the vote would be an affirmative in favor of Communion in the hand. Whatever you can do to stop Communion in the hand will be blessed by God.”

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The result of Cardinal Bernardin efforts in swaying the American bishops into promoting Communion in the hand, resulted in the Holy See granting permission for the indult which allowed Communion in the hand in the United States. The National Catholic Register quotes Bishop Blanchette:

“What bothers me is that in the minds of many it will seem that disobedience is being rewarded. And that troubles me because if people persist in being disobedient, and that is used as a reason for changing the discipline, then we’re very close to chaos or what I would call selective obedience, which is no obedience at all.” (National Catholic Register, “Bishop Blanchette: A Clear Call for Obedience,” June 12, 1977)

Having been a Catholic for eight years, I have witnessed the lack of reverence and indifference among Catholics who go to Communion. The majority receive in the hand, their body language and stance clearly shows that they either don’t believe in the Eucharist, or simply haven’t been told about Who and What It truly is. All polls are consistent with what I and other Catholics have suspected all along. Since the illegal introduction of Communion in the hand, belief in the Real Presence has not only plummeted, it is simply not being taught nor emphasized.

It wasn’t until October of 2008, over four years of being a Catholic, did I have the good fortune of meeting a traditional Catholic Priest, Fr. Isaac Mary Relyea, who not only instructed me properly on this Church teaching, but on many others as well.

Communion in the hand, and the lack of solid Catholic formation, has certainly attributed to this loss of faith. Fr. John Hardon has affirmed, “Behind Communion in the hand, I wish to repeat and make as plain as I can, is a weakening, a conscious, deliberate weakening of faith in the Real Presence.”

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So today it seems we are stuck with Communion in the hand. Pope Benedict XVI has spoken out numerous times that he is not in favor of this practice. He has even made it known that anyone attending his Mass in Saint Peter’s Square must receive Holy Communion kneeling and on the tongue. It would be wonderful if the holy Father would entirely do away with this practice, most especially since it was only granted permission through an illegal voting process, and since it was introduced through an act of disobedience.

Faithful Catholics like myself either look the other way, try to educate others, or simply avoid a Mass that allows Communion in the hand. Today, I have taken the last option and attend only the Tridentine Mass, or the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, codified by Pope Pius V in 1570. There is nothing in the rubrics that will allow Communion in the hand, it is the most ancient form of the Mass in existence, having been instituted over 1,500 years ago. Myself, and others pray for the day the Church fully returns to Her traditional practices and Communion in the hand is nothing more than a bad footnote in Church history, and an extinct one at that!

~ John Andrew Dorsey

Bibliography

Gaudron, Fr. Matthias. Catechism of the Crisis in the Church.

Kansas City: Angelus Press, 2010. Print.

Iacono, Kevin D. Dello. Semper Fidelis. Kevin D. Dello Iacono,

2007. Web. 27 Nov. 2012

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament Ed. Curtis Mitch

and Scott Hahn. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2010. Print. Rev.

Standard Vers.

Laise, Most Rev. Juan Rodolfo. Communion in the Hand: Documents

and History. Boonville: Preserving Christian Publications,

2011. Print.

Marshall, Dr. Taylor. Canterbury Tales. Dr. Taylor Marshall,

2012. Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

Paul VI, Pope. “Memoriale Domini.” EWTN. Eternal World

Television Network, n.d. Web. 28 Nov. 2012.

Scanlon, Rev. Regis. Catholic Culture. Rev. Regis Scanlon, 2012.

Web. 27 Nov. 2012

Schroeder, Rev. H.J. The Canons and Decrees of the Council of

Trent. Trans. Rev. H.J. Schroeder. Rockford: Tan, 1978.

Print.

Toon, Howard. “Communion in the Hand while Standing: What’s the

problem?” Remnantnewspaper.com. The Remnant, 5 Jan. 2012.

Web. 27 Nov. 2012.

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November 11, 2013 · 11:16 pm

FAITH AND REASON

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Saint Thomas Aquinas

“Faith Seeking Understanding” ~ Saint Anselm of Canterbury (1033-1109) 

St. Thomas Aquinas is considered the greatest Catholic philosopher and theologian. He’s renowned for his unique ability of demonstrating harmony between faith and reason, and between Christianity and philosophy. His five proofs of the existence of God have withstood the test of time and are still taught at any good Catholic seminary to this day.  It can be argued today that science is now pointing the way to God.  Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity, the Hubbell Telescope, DNA Molecules, and just last year the Higgs Boson particle, all seem to display some sort of intelligence working behind the scenes in the universe.

800 years ago Saint Thomas Aquinas argued this idea very effectively and as a result, his philosophy and theology have been taught in Catholic seminaries and schools since the 13th Century.  As a young man, Thomas was introduced to the works of the Greek philosopher Aristotle.  Much of his life was devoted to studying Aristotle’s teaching, exploring its logical principles and demonstrating its value for Christian thought.  The idea of the Unmoved Mover was introduced by Aristotle 1,600 years before the birth of Aquinas.  Thomas Aquinas supported Aristotle’s idea and demonstrated that the motion we have today is traceable to an initial motion originator, referred to by millions of people throughout countless civilizations as the Supreme God.  Aquinas was a Catholic Priest from the Dominican Order who taught theology throughout Europe. He was a prolific writer, and his greatest work, the Summa Theologiae, states his conviction of the natural harmony between faith and reason.

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Aquinas sees reason and faith as two ways of knowing. “Reason” covers what we can know by experience and logic alone.  From reason, we can know that there is a God and that there is only one God; these truths about God are accessible to anyone by experience and logic alone, apart from any special revelation from God.

“Faith” covers what we can know by God’s special revelation to us, which comes through the Bible and Catholic Tradition. By faith, we can know that God came into the world through Jesus Christ and that God is triune (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). These truths about God cannot be known by reason alone.

According to Aquinas, faith builds on reason. Since faith and reason are both ways of arriving at truth — and since all truths are harmonious with each other — faith is consistent with reason. If we understand faith and reason correctly, there will be no conflict between what faith tells us and what reason tells us.

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Saint Thomas Aquinas five ways to know the existence of God:

  • PROOF I – From Motion
  • PROOF II – From Cause
  • PROOF III – From Necessary and Contingent Being
  • PROOF IV – From Levels of Perfection
  • PROOF V – From Order

Proof one from motion states that everything that we see in the universe is in motion.  Like a leave falling from a tree, a river, people etc.  And everything in the universe didn’t get itself in motion.  It was placed in motion by something or someone else.  Saint Thomas refers to this as the first mover.  There has to be a first mover who itself was not moved and yet is the cause of all motion.  Hence, the unmoved mover.  A train needs an engine to get into motion.  We had to have parents who got together to put us into motion.  But your parents aren’t the source of ultimate motion, because they had to be placed in motion.  In order for you to learn to talk and walk, you had to be placed in motion intellectually by someone who has actualized the knowledge and can communicate that to you.  The unmoved mover is not in motion physically he is not in motion intellectually.  Nothing, no one moved Him.  He is pure actuality, pure act.  The unmoved mover can’t walk from here to there, he’s already there.  If He could He wouldn’t be the unmoved mover.  He can’t come to learn something because he already knows it.  He is pure actuality.

Proof two from cause, states everything has a cause.  This is one of the foundational principles of the scientific method.  When we see anything in the universe we know it has a cause. Which means that if everything in the universe has a cause then that means nothing in the universe can explain itself.  Therefore there must be an uncaused cause.  Like the unmoved mover there must be an uncaused cause.  And what that tells us is the unmoved mover and uncaused cause has no beginning and therefore He must be eternal.

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Proof three from necessary and contingent being.  Everything in the universe can either be or not be.  There must be a being who did not receive its being from anything else.  The reason you can either be or not be is because you received your being from someone else. Just like the Sun can either be or not be.  The Sun received its being from something else, something or someone created it.  We received our being from our parents.  So there must be a being that is pure being, having not received its being from something else.  Its essence is existence.  Here’s an interesting tidbit, in the Bible, in the chapter 3 of Exodus verse 14, God revealed himself to Moses in this way – I AM WHO I AM.  Meaning pure being, or eternal.

Proof four from levels of perfection states that when we look around the universe we see things in various states of perfection.  That being the case, there must then be a being that gives all perfection but did not receive its perfection.  Meaning the unmoved mover and the uncaused cause has all perfection.

Proof five from order states that when we look around in the universe we see things ordered to ends that they did not devise.  Meaning they had nothing to do with order itself.  We had nothing to do with our own creation any more than a flower, an animal, a planet, the sun etc.  There are purposes and orders designed within ourselves that we didn’t give ourselves.  Therefore, there must be an ultimate source of all purpose that did not receive its purpose from anyone else.

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Of course, Saint Thomas’ proofs do not absolutely prove the existence of God because they can be argued. It is faith that provides the bedrock for belief in God.  Nevertheless, these five proofs can help show that Christianity is a rational religion.

Science tells us that the Universe began 13.7 billion years ago.  Physicists tell us that all the galaxies and stars in the Universe can be traced back to one singular point.  They call this singularity, or the big bang theory.  Some faith based people refer to singularity as creationism. Physicists have a hard time with the concept of singularity when they try to get back to the moment of creation, because they always end up running into infinity.

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Albert Einstein in his theory of relativity E=MC2, breaks now like this; Energy = Mass x the speed of light (2).  Meaning it took a whole lot of energy to create a little bit of mass.  Energy is another form of matter and matter is another form of energy.  And physicists agree that energy has a beginning point.  Energy is another form of matter and matter is another form of energy.   They are relative to each other.

Science today can look at a DNA molecule, a human cell and see that it has almost a million working parts inside it.  The human body has 3 trillion cells in it with almost one million cells inside each cell that operate like machines inside of machines that are so complex and precisely designed that Microsoft founder Bill Gates once remarked that, “One human cell makes my greatest super computer look like child’s play.

godNewEvidence1

Last year physicists declared that they have uncovered the elusive Higgs Boson particle or the “God Particle”, which is a subatomic particle that holds all other particles together, sort of like a glue particle.  It is believed that everything in the universe at one point was all together, one mass.  But after the Big Bang things separated and took on different properties.  The particles that we are made up of – protons, neutrons, and electrons, have mass but no one is sure why.  Physicists now believe that there is an exchange of particles, infused particles, subatomic particles that give them mass which hold us and the universe all together – the God Particle.

So in conclusion we covered Aquinas’ five proofs of the existence of God, from Motion, from cause, from necessary and contingent being, from levels of perfection, and from order.  We covered the ways that science seems to be pointing to God from Einstein’s theory of relativity, through DNA molecules, and most recently the Higgs Boson Particle.  Therefore, faith seeks understanding and reason can point to faith.  Catholic theology states that faith is a gift that has to be cultivated through the reading scripture and the writings of the Doctors of the Church.  I would like to end with a quote from the late and now Blessed John Paul II, who said, “Faith and reason are like two wings on which the human spirit rises to the contemplation of truth; and God has placed in the human heart the desire to know the truth — in a word, to know himself — so that by knowing and loving God, men and women can come to the fullness of the truth about themselves”.

~ John Andrew Dorsey

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If I May Respond to Kipling

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IF you can keep your head when all about you 
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise:

I was once asked by a priest what I received from my parents in terms of character.  After pondering this for a moment I answered him that from my mother honesty, and from my father the strength to fight for my beliefs. It is no secret that life at times truly is a struggle, and how we deal with those struggles largely depends on the advice we are given.  The main character of Rudyard Kipling’s “If”, gives advice to either his son, or a young man he is fond enough of to give advice in a deeply philosophical way, summing up a lifetime of experiences which should wisely set the young man down the path to wisdom, as well as a way to live among his fellow creatures, advice that would have come in handy if I were given it at an earlier age.  I will describe how the main character of “If”, explores emotions, dreams, winning and virtue, while describing how I connect to its advice from a past and present perspective.

The advice from “If” begins with the main character stressing the need to remain calm during moments of crisis and accusations (Lines 1-2).  Immediately following that the fatherly character advises the young man to trust himself when others doubt him, but to also weigh that doubt to strengthen his trust (3-4).  I could never count the many times I have not done as the character wisely says to do.  My household was one of strife and stress.  Remaining calm during the storm was never on the agenda at my house.  The one acceptable emotion was anger.  If you wanted to get your point across you could only do it one way, by yelling.  Our idea of trusting yourself was actually a cover for over confidence and arrogance, an issue that got me into trouble many times, but actually managed to get attention, albeit usually the wrong kind.  Temperance in areas of raging emotion was rarely exercised.  I particularly like the advice on humility, “don’t look too good, nor talk to wise”, a tough one for a “cool” teenager with something to prove (8).

Bob Dylan said in one of his songs that reality has too many heads.  Illusions come in many guises and in different times in one’s life:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;

If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,

If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster

And treat those two imposters just the same:. (9-12)

As one that has had the tenacity to dream and not the fortitude to sustain it, this smacks hard.  One of the last things I asked my ex-wife was whether or not she knew what it was like to watch a dream die.  She never answered at the time, but I now know she did.  As a former actor intent on meeting success through screenwriter and independent filmmaking while maintaining a marriage with a displaced New Yorker, those lines jump off the page.  The character uses Triumph and Disaster in the form of nouns while describing them as identical imposters (11-12).

How many of us have had our own words twisted and used against us, and by people that we secretly see as beneath us: “If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken / Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools” (13-14).  Gossip, I once heard is the Devil’s Radio, and backbiting can be a National Sport.  As a practicing Roman Catholic, I know full well the damage this can cause to one’s soul and to one’s reputation.  Not only should you not engage in such activity, we must also deal with the injustice against us with great humility and charity.  Not always an easy task.

 It is my faith that attracts me to this poem, as it reads like the sort of wisdom found in a devotional book written by a Saint.  Perseverance is key, and so the main character continues: “Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken / And stoop and build’em up with worn out tools” (15-16).  Repairing the damage to a soul, a mind, or reputation, is more difficult than repairing a house or car.  I remember a story I heard once about a Saint who asked a couple to pluck a chicken on the way to dinner at his residence, he was very specific about that, to the puzzlement of the couple.  Once they arrived to the Saints home he instructed them to go back and pick up all the feathers that they left strewn along the way.  They of course protested that this was impossible.  And the Saint remarked, “And so it is with the false words that you have spread against your neighbor once they have left your lips.”  The couple was guilty of backbiting and helped to ruin the good reputation of a townsman.

Life can be a game of chance or risk.  Sometime it seems we must be able to risk it all in order to achieve the gain that will either make us or break us.  And so the character advises further:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings

And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,

And lose, and start again at your beginnings,

And never breathe a word about your loss: (17-20)

I have always been a risk taker.  When I was twenty-three years old I packed a suitcase and headed to New York to become an actor.  Success eluded me, but adventure was found along the way.  I have teetered many times on whether or not this was right for me or wrong, and how my life would have been different if I had pursued another path:

If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew

To serve your turn long after they are gone,

And so hold on when there is nothing in you

Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!” (21-24)

What I have taken from this is that our past made us who we are today and our future will be built on the past mistakes of yesterday.  Wisdom is the key that unlocks the door to knowledge.  Complaints and regrets do not bring forth good fruit; they only keep alive the burdens from our past.  Without hope man loses the reasons to continue.

If I have learned anything in life, it would be the need for balance.  The fatherly character hits on this point in a social way, “If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue / Or walk with Kings – – nor lose the common touch” and strikes a nerve (25-26).  Having been in this situation many times I’m touched by this seemingly simple virtue.  My father has an eighth grade education and was a welder for thirty-five years.  I married into an upper-middle class family in New York, the hoity toity crowd of Long Island.  The difference was painfully apparent and awkward.  Today I’m proud of the fact that I possess the wisdom to straddle both worlds, and in my sales profession this is an ability that has definitely help.

Confidence is a necessary ingredient for any type of success in this world: “If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you / If all men count with you, but none too much”; true, and self-reliance is more beneficial than having the bulk of the burden of others who are reliant on you (27-28).  Some men have the strength to carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, and some would rather have all their teeth extracted without sedatives then to be in their position.  I use to carry the burden of the world on my shoulders as a young struggling artist, but the world was oblivious to my plight, so I got crushed.  The reason for the crumble was simply poor direction.  Since then I know full well the value of good advice.  Reading this poem reminds me of how difficult it is to pick out a greeting card for children from dysfunctional families.  I once had an idea to start my own line of Dysfunctional Family Greeting Cards to save myself the agony of reading syrupy sweet salutations for families of proper pedigree.

 It is so easy to be distracted in our world today.  And it is always so difficult to not let criticism take us down the path of false pride and anger. The main character cautions the young man towards wallowing in disagreeable moments, “If you can fill the unforgiving minute / With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run”; and I might add, to carry on with flights of more uplifting flow (29-30).  Saint Paul writes in 2 Timothy 4:7, one of his last letters before his execution, “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith.” This reminds me that when I set my course toward my goal I must fight to keep my focus on that goal, and not let little arrows of doubt or disappointments detract me from that ultimate good end.

 The main character now shifts to the conclusions of the many “If’s”, he has sprinkled along the way and sums up his point, if one can do all these things: “Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it / And- – -which is more- – -you’ll be a Man, my son!”, quite a lofty prize for anyone!  Now my focus shifts once again to the Gospels where Christ warns us in Matthew 16:26, “For what doth it profit a man, if he gain the whole world, and suffer the loss of his own soul? Or what exchange shall a man give for his soul?” Which begs the question, what is it that the world is offering to the man that he finds so worth having?  Of course that can’t be known, and is open for interpretation.  Having once wanted to “gain” the whole world and not ever having given thought to my soul, that statement forces me to pause.

Pope Benedict XVI said recently that we live under a dictatorship of relativism today, where objective truth is losing the battle over emotionalism.  You will hear a lot of people begin a sentence with, “I feel”, rather than “I think”. I once heard a priest say that we are much worse than the pagans of old, yesterday pagans worshipped false gods, and today they worship the self.  As a Catholic I’ve been taught to conquer my passions in order to save my soul.  This is thought of as medieval to those enslaved to their passions, or just plain ignorant and a waste of time.  I have become a student of Catholic Theology and a proud proponent of the Catholic intellectual tradition.  G.K. Chesterton once famously said, “The Christian ideal has not been tried and found wanting; it has been found difficult and left untried”. But perhaps the main character of “If” has the same thing in mind, who’s to know from what little we can discover about his personal intentions in the poem.

Either way, my own personal growth from stumbling upon various bits of wisdom accidentally along the way over the course of forty-two years might have been just want I needed.  Some can handle wisdom better in tiny chunks rather than all at once.  When it comes to eating, learning, or spiritual growth, it seems to work out better in little spurts rather than to force it all at once.  However, some people are forced to grow up a lot faster than others, but in either case, as we Catholics say, it is all God’s Will.

~ John Andrew Dorsey

Bibliography

Kipling, Rudyard. “If.” A Choice of Kipling’s Verse. 1943.

     Poetry Foundation. Web. 2012.

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The Order and Codification of the Gospels

Long before the atom was split, time was split; fissioned so sharply that it cut history in two. B.C. and A.D.. Nothing that will ever happen again will have so much importance. What happened temporally and spatially since is a reaction for or against that event.

~ Ven. Fulton J. SheenImage

The four Gospels of the Bible have arguably had more of an influence on Western Civilization in the last 2,000 years than any other writings from antiquity.  There are various theories about when they were written.  But all do agree that they were composed somewhere between the middle and end of the first century. Out of the four Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke are referred to as the Synoptic Gospels.  They share this distinction because they include many of the same stories, usually in the same order, using similar phrasing. There are three main schools of thought toward the order in which the Gospel’s were written; the Jerome Tradition (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John), the Markan priority theory (Mark, Matthew, Luke, John), and the Clementine Tradition (Matthew, Luke, Mark, John), all of which are based on a particular theory as to who wrote first.

The order in which the Gospels are laid out in our Bible’s today is of the Jerome Tradition. The Jerome Tradition places each Gospel in the Bible in the order it was understood to have been written.  Not many have contested that John’s Gospel was the last to be composed.  According to the recent Ignatius Catholic Study Bible published in 2010, John’s Gospel was composed by at least A.D. 100, and that most scholars date it somewhere in the 90’s of the first century (157). According to Kenneth Baker in his book Inside the Bible, “Most place it about A.D. 90, when John was an old man, but there are also persuasive arguments that St. John’s Gospel was written before the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70” (253).

Some have contested that the Gospel of Mark may have been the first Gospel to be written. Those people hold to the Markan priority theory, claiming that Mark was the first of the three Synoptic Gospels, and that the other two synoptic writers, Matthew and Luke, used Mark’s Gospel as one of their sources. Their theory is based on the fact that Mark’s Gospel was written in “poor Greek”, whereas Matthew and Luke are not.  They believe that the other two authors cleaned up the language and form in their Gospels.  Kenneth Baker disagrees with this theory and believes that Matthew was more than likely to have been the first Gospel written, “Scholars of the past hundred years have tended to place Matthew late in the first century, after the fall of Jerusalem.”  In fact, the majority of scholars are in agreement that all of the Gospels were written in the first century.  Baker continues, “A good case can be made from ancient tradition and from the language and ideas in the Gospel that it is early and indeed the first of the four Gospels” (235).

Dennis Barton in his work, The Authors of the Gospels, is in favor of the Clementine Tradition, (Matthew, Luke, Mark, John), “Every ancient historical source says the Apostle Matthew wrote the first Gospel and most of them record that it was in Hebrew or at least in a Semitic language or style” (V: 27/5/12).

And those sources include the Early Church Fathers, Papias (c. 60-130), Irenaeus (c. 130-200), Origen (c. 185-254), Eusebius (c. 260-340) Jerome (c. 340-420), and Augustine of Hippo (c. 354-430).  Barton also claims that it is unlikely that Matthew, an eyewitness and actual Apostle would have borrowed anything from a non-apostle or actual eyewitness like himself.

Baker believes that the Gospel of Mark was composed close to the year A.D. 60 (242).  Several scholars believe that Mark was written around 70 A.D. before the fall of the Temple in Jerusalem, and that this can be found in the Gospel itself.  According to the new Ignatius Catholic Study Bible we read, “In MK 13, Jesus prophesies the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple.  This was fulfilled in A.D. 70, when the Romans violently destroyed the Holy City.”  They go on to describe Mark’s lack of reference to this historical fact, “Mark, however, makes no mention of this as a past event, nor does he give detailed information about the catastrophe that would indicate he was writing after the fact” (61).  This is an interesting point worth considering.

Mark was a traveling companion of Peter, and it is believed that Peter dictated to him this Gospel from his memories and experiences living with Jesus all during His three year ministry. Mark’s Gospel is known for its poor grammar when compared to the other two Synoptic Gospels.  Dennis Barton quotes scripture scholar Dom Bernard Orchard who believed that the reason for Mark’s roughness of language is due to dictation and his desire to capture the story and its details quickly from a live speech, “The Gospel of Mark is in no way the smooth product of a skilled author sitting at a desk, but has all the vividness, the inconsistencies, and the peculiar turns of speech, that one finds in actual transcripts of live speeches, for example, sudden breaks, asides, anacolutha [incoherence within a sentence] and so forth” ((RO 273)) (V:28/3/12). Unlike the other Gospels, the Gospel of Luke is the only Gospel where the nativity story is contained.

It is in the Gospel of Luke that we learn of Jesus’ birth in a stable, His circumcision as an infant, and the finding of Him in the Temple at the age of twelve.  Many scholars believe that Luke could only have been given such details from Mary the Mother of Jesus herself.  Again, there is a division among scholars as to when Luke’s Gospel was written.  Some believe that it could have been composed as early as the 60’s, while others suggest the 90’s. Kenneth Baker explains from Inside the Bible, “The book was written about 64 A.D., before the date of St. Paul.  The literary form and the theology of the book clearly show that it is the work of a Gentile Christian written for Gentile Christians” (248).  One thing they are certain of is that Luke was a traveling companion of the Apostle Paul.  Luke is also known to have written the Book of Acts contained in the New Testament, which describes the birth of the Church, and the adventures of the remaining apostles.

The proponents of the Clementine Tradition base their theory on the writings of Clement of Alexandria (c 150-215), which were preserved by the historian Eusebius who quoted from Clement’s book: The Outlines, “And again in the same books, Clement states a tradition of the earliest presbyters about the order of the gospels; and it has this form. He used to say that the earlier-written of the gospels were those having the genealogies” ((EH 6:14, 5-7 and RO 166r)) (V: 24/5/12). With this statement, Clement referred to the Gospels which contained the genealogies of Jesus as having been written first, meaning Matthew and Luke’s Gospel.  According to Dennis Barton’s work, Clement is the only early historian to actually mention the sequence of the writing of the Gospels. He was also the bishop of the diocese founded by Mark.  All of Mark’s possessions would have been housed somewhere in that diocese, and most likely under the watchful care of Clement of Alexandria.

Another interesting bit of information in regards to the Clementine Tradition comes from a quote by an anonymous author of the late fourth century by the name of Ambrosiaster.  There is a passage in one of his writings which alludes to a fascinating and theological arrangement of the Gospels that is based more on its contents rather than order in which they were written:

The gospel is arranged according to the order [of their contents] rather than in chronological order. Therefore, Matthew is put in the first place because he begins from the promise, that is, from Abraham to whom was made the promise of the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ. Next comes Luke, because he relates how this incarnation took place. Third comes Mark, who witnesses that the gospel preached by Christ has been promised in the Law. Fourthly, John … ((AS and RO 201-2)) (V: 24/5/12).

Regardless of which Synoptic Gospel came first, one thing we know for certain is that they were written in the first century, twenty-forty years after Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.  The other certainty we have from scholars and theologians is that two of the four Gospels are eyewitness accounts.  The Gospel of John and Matthew were written by two of the original apostles, men who lived with Jesus and heard Him teach and speak.  Another interesting tidbit is that John’s Gospel is the only one where we have Christ’s final words from the cross, “It is finished.”  This is interesting because according to scripture and tradition, John was the only Apostle who witnessed the crucifixion.

Award winning journalist Lee Strobel interviewed Dr. Craig Blomberg, professor of New Testament studies at Aberdeen University in Scotland, in his book The Case for Christ on the eyewitnesses to Synoptic Gospel history.  Dr. Bloomberg states,

“It’s important to acknowledge that strictly speaking, the Gospels are anonymous.”  Which they are, however Bloomberg acknowledges the traditional understanding of who those authors are, “But the uniform testimony of the early Church was that Matthew, also known as Levi, the tax collector and one of the twelve apostles, was the author of the first Gospel in the New Testament; that John Mark, a companion of Peter, was the author of the Gospel we call Mark; and that Luke, known as Paul’s ‘beloved physician,’ wrote both the Gospel of Luke and the Acts of the Apostle” (22-23).

Another question sometimes arises when discussing the Gospels and that is this; how was it that the Gospels were placed in the Bible and by whose authority?  To answer this question we go to Rev. Henry Graham in his book, Where We Got the Bible, “The Church existed before the Bible; she made the Bible; she selected its books, and she preserved it.  She handed it down; through her we know what is the Word of God, and what the word of man” (40).

The Catholic Church convened the Council of Carthage in the year 397 A.D. in order to fix the Canon of Scripture once and for all, and in the process, compiled the bestselling book of all time, the Bible.  The main criterion came down to this, the oldest writings that were used in Christian worship, and the ones that came from an original Apostle, or one that traveled with one in the first century, were the only ones considered worthy of being included in the Bible.

There was an abundance of writings scattered about for the last four centuries, all vying for a place of authenticity.  And there was no shortage of poorly translated text that were in conflict with each other.  The Church had to wade through these various writings to determine which were the most accurately translated from the original sources.  The Church had three sources at their disposal to help guide them.  The first source used came from Greek manuscripts that contained the writings in its original language. There were over four thousand original Greek sources used in this process, the oldest dated back to 125 A.D. The second source used came from translations of those original sources that were checked for accuracy by comparing the two.  The third source that was used came from referencing the ancient Church Fathers writings who quoted these Scripture passages often in their own writings (25). And by so doing, they were able to gain an understanding as to what text were highly used and trusted most by the Church in worship services and private study.

Setting the Canon at the Council was no easy task.  The writings were broken up into three classes. According to Rev. Graham, “These classes were (1) the books “acknowledged” as Canonical, (2) books “disputed” or “controverted”, (3) books declared “spurious” or false” (34). The majority of the disputed books were forgeries from the second, third, and fourth century.  Those books claimed as an author an apostle who was long dead before its writing.  Others were questionable only slightly, but in the name of prudence and caution they were excluded, not for their content, but its authenticity.

It has to be noted that the majority of inaccuracies in the text were of a trivial matter, and had to do with the order of the words and the spelling of them.  According to Dr. Homer Kent Jr., Dean of Grace Theological Seminary, “With the wealth of documentary evidence at our disposal for determining the true text, biblical scholars are in much better position than are textual scholars of any other ancient literature” (26).

One thing we know for certain is the aftermath of the writings of those Gospels. The world was dramatically changed. Art, architecture, Universities, Western Law, modern science, and the idea of free market economics were all effected and developed due to their having been written.  To illustrate that point here’s a quote from the late Archbishop Fulton Sheen:

Long before the atom was split, time was split; fissioned so sharply that it cut history in two. B.C. and A.D.. Nothing that will ever happen again will have so much importance. What happened temporally and spatially since is a reaction for or against that event (16).

How the Gospels were written, by whom, and when they were written has fascinated scholars and Christians for almost two thousand years.  Their influence is unquestionable.  The only thing questionable for some is its contents and its Catalyst.  For those with faith this is a non-issue, but for those without faith it is everything.

 

~ John Andrew Dorsey

Bibliography

Baker S.J, Kenneth. Inside the Bible. San Francisco: Ignatius,

1998. Print.

Barton, Dennis. The Authors of the Gospel (According to the                                                                                                                                                       Clementine Tradition). Church in History, 2012. Web. 16 April. 2012.

Graham, Rt. Rev. Henry G. Where We Got the Bible. North

Carolina: Tan, 2010. Print.

Ignatius Catholic Study Bible: New Testament Ed. Curtis Mitch

and Scott Hahn. San Francisco: Ignatius, 2010. Print. Rev.

Standard Vers.

Kent Jr., Homer A. “How We Got Our New Testament.” Grace

Theological 8.2 (1967): 22-26. Print.

Sheen, Bishop Fulton. “A Conviction Need by the Mind.” Toledo

     Blade 4 Feb. 1962, Ohio ed.: 16. Print

Strobel, Lee. The Case for Christ. Grand Rapids: Zondervan,

1998. Print.

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Welcome to the World

One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.

~ G.K. Chesterton

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     I want to share with you an event in my life that I believe has helped shape me into the person I am today.  After being a somewhat indifferent person for many years over world events, the nationwide tragedy of September 11, 2001 helped me to discover the importance of staying connected to the world around me.

     One year after the attacks on the World Trade Center, an Englishman very causally said these words to me, “Welcome to the world.”  His remark came right after I had voiced my sorrow about the tragedy, and the fact that I use to live in New York City.  I’ve had thoughts about whether or not I sat next to some of these people who died tragically on 9/11; the World Trade Center was one of the stops by train made on my way to work.

     His words seemed cold and callous to me, delivered as they were by a foreigner. He could sense my apprehension by the delay of my response to his reply.  After a short pause he proceeded to explain to me what it was like to live in Europe all your life, where terrorist attacks have been more common;  especially the attacks of the Irish Republican Army on English targets.  We were having dinner together, discussing a business venture and my relocation to England, a prospect I was very excited about.

     After the reality of what the rest of the world had been enduring for some time was brought to my attention, I slowly realized that I had not been very global in my thinking all of my life.  I had become accustomed to thinking only inside the parameters of the North American continent.  My thinking was isolated geographically, and so was my awareness as to the rest of the world’s troubles.

      For example, upon hearing that there was an earthquake somewhere, the thought would immediately send worry and fear into my consciousness.  But upon hearing that the tragedy was somewhere in a remote part of the world I never heard of, a sense of relief and detachment would enter my mind.  As if the tragedy was less a tragedy because it didn’t happen on American soil.  Pondering it now, I can clearly see the callousness in my thinking.

     A few months before my meeting with the Englishman, my company had informed me that they choose me over twenty-two other people to live in England for while they attempted to merge with a German company.  The Englishman, Tony and I, were to attempt to sell our American and German hydraulic systems to the English manufacturing industry.

     I moved to Manchester, England in January of 2003.  This was at the time when our then President George Bush and the Prime Minister Tony Blair had been contemplating an invasion of Iraq.  Talk of war was in the air everywhere I went, pubs, restaurants, museums, you name it!  By March of that year the invasion was underway.

     Being an American abroad at this time was somewhat challenging.  I soon discovered that Americans are not so well liked in the world.  On a trip to Venice, Italy for my birthday, I befriended some Canadian backpackers who told me point blank that if I wanted better treatment in Europe I should tell people that I was Canadian; they weren’t joking.

     Upon my return to Manchester, I was nicely asked to leave a pub by a concerned patron who calmly explained that some of the other patrons are not fond of Americans here, and that in interest of my safety I should go elsewhere.  On the whole, the English were very upset with Tony Blair’s siding in with George Bush.  In fact, everywhere I went, after it was discovered that I was an American, the first thing they wanted to know was whether or not I was a supporter of George Bush and the war in Iraq.  Luckily, for me I was not; this helped ease some of the tension.

    Another thing I noticed while frequenting the many pubs in England, was how well informed the average Englishman is in regards to world politics.  Everywhere I went, everyone one I talked too, from cab drivers, to constructions workers, to pub owners, I was continuously amazed and humbled by their grasp of world events.  I on the other hand felt like the “ignorant American”.

     Eventually my time in Europe came to a close and I was sent back home, but home now seemed somewhat different; actually I was different.  Living in England was truly a humbling experience.  Before I left for Europe, I was a lot less concerned for the cares of the world.  I could very easily be described as the indifferent and self-centered American who just wanted my cable and big screen TV after a hard day’s work.  I grew up during the 1980’s when that type of attitude was prevalent, especially among my generation.  Upon my return home, I found myself paying closer attention to the BBC, as well as global news on CNN.  I no longer shrugged my shoulders upon hearing of tragedy in foreign lands.  I stopped feeling any sense of entitlement just because I was lucky enough to be born in the Land of the Free.  Living in England made me feel part of the global village, a citizen of the world so to speak, where all human life was important and deserving of the highest consideration, no matter what barriers might have been artificially created either by me or anyone else.

~ John Andrew Dorsey

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The Policies and Truths of the Spanish Inquisition

“The Catholic faith is like a lion in a cage. You don’t need to defend it – you simply need to open the cage door.” – Archbishop Fulton Sheen

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There is a lot of false information about the Spanish Inquisition still lingering everywhere in the world today.  Newspapers, mass media, and even text books perpetuate these falsehoods and keep them going, handing them down to the next generation. In this piece I will attempt to open the cage door to the truth about the Spanish Inquisition. Today, thanks to unbiased scholars whose works are checked and revered amongst their peers, we can help clear up these misconceptions by checking the historical facts with actual documentation that clearly point out that what we think we know about the Inquisitions is a lot different than what they really were.

An inquisition is the act of inquiring deeply; a thorough investigation.  The Inquisitions were conducted by the Roman Catholic Church to discover and suppress heresy.  Heresy is defined by the Catholic Church as the willful and persistent rejection of any article of faith by a baptized member of the church.  All Catholics are obliged to believe all the teachings of the Church, otherwise they are no longer Catholic. The Churches duty then, as it is now, is to make sure that no self-proclaiming Catholic pervert the teachings of the Church and lead others astray from the truths of the faith.

The common belief amongst most people was that the Inquisition forced millions of people to convert or die, and that the inquisition used extreme methods of torture to force all non-Catholics to convert to Catholicism or be burned alive at the stake.  The truth is much different.  The inquisitions were put in place to protect both guilty and innocent people from the gross injustice of state leaders and mob aggression, establishing a level of justice and order throughout much of Europe.

According to Professor Henry Kamen’s, The Spanish Inquisition – An Historical Revision there was less terror, bigotry, and persecution associated with it than has been previously believed. Another reference was Professor Edward Peters book “Inquisition”; he states: “There was never, ‘The Inquisition’, a single all-powerful, horrific tribunal, whose agents worked everywhere to thwart religious truth, intellectual freedom, and political liberty. That is ‘The Inquisition’ of folklore, martyrology artwork, and post-Enlightenment fiction.”  Other sources I pulled from in my research was a BBC Television documentary titled The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition., and Brenda Stalcup’s, The Inquisition (Turning Points in World History).

I have chosen to focus mainly on the Spanish Inquisition of 15th century Spain.  The Spanish inquisition was instituted to look into the matter of the conversos, who were Jewish and Muslim converts to Catholicism.  None of the inquisitions were started just to round people up and force-feed them the Catholic Faith or burn them at the stake. Inquisitions were always begun in response to a specific problem that was being very poorly handled.

In the year 711 the Muslims invaded Spain and had complete rule of the country until 1492.  By 1502 the Christians reclaim Spain and the rulers issued an order requiring all Muslims to convert to Christianity, and when this didn’t work, they imposed brutal restrictions on the remaining Spanish Muslims.  Many people in Spain were resentful and distrustful of the Muslims and Jews and sometimes formed mobs to attack them, forcing them to convert or die, many converted, but their conversions were regarded with suspicion because they had been forced.  These forced conversions were neither handled nor endorsed by the Catholic Church and yet today the motivation for them is laid solely at the feet of the Church. I must also note that the motivation for the Inquisition in Spain came not from the church, but from the king and queen of Spain who asked for an Inquisition to be conducted.

Professor Kamen notes that, “Taking into account all the tribunals of Spain up to about 1530, it is unlikely that more than two thousand people were executed for heresy by the Inquisition and that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries fewer than three people a year were executed in the whole of the Spanish monarchy.” The flip side to this is that some inquisition officials were unjust and cruel and wrongly punished both innocent and guilty people.  I’m not here to say that the inquisitions were without blame, but I would like to show that by and large the courts of inquisition were the most just and humane legal systems that existed anywhere in Europe at the time.  And they were started to protect people from unjust treatment, not to harm them with unjust rulings.

The majority of people were found to be innocent of heresy and allowed to go free. They were brought to an orderly trial without torture, the evidence was heard and they were found to be innocent and then they were released. Torture was only used in 2% of cases.  In Spain under Queen Isabella’s rule about 15,000 people were convicted of heresy but repented and were accepted back into the Church. Unfortunately, a little over 2,000 people were convicted of heresy and burned at the stake.  There were not as many deaths as the popular press claims. Numbers have often been inflated to as high as 9 million by the popular press, with absolutely no scholarly research. This figure is completely incorrect. A broad range of scholars, many of whom were not Catholic, have carefully studied the Inquisitions.   Now am I saying that those two thousand don’t matter?  No, and I’m not saying that it’s OK to burn people at the stake.

Now here’s how the Inquisition functioned.  The court of inquisition would have priests stay in a town or village for a month or so preaching, teaching and hearing confessions. This was called the period of Grace for anyone who wanted to could confess and be forgiven during this period.  If the people accused of heresy repented that was the end of the matter.  If they did not they would be tried and if found guilty the inquisition officials would decide on the method of punishment.

However, most people were not burned at the stake. Common punishments included being required to perform certain good works such as helping to build a church, going on a pilgrimage, or even participating in a crusade.  Stricter punishments could be fines, whipping with rods and wearing colored crosses.  A guilty person might also be imprisoned or excommunicated in which case they would be handed over to the secular authorities.  The inquisitions didn’t actually execute people, if someone’s sentence was serious they would be excommunicated and then punishment was up to the civil courts.

Torture was NOT used as a form of punishment, but for getting at the truth.  Torture was used as a last resort when guilt seemed probable but there was no other way of being certain of the truth.  Very infrequently, the defendant and sometimes even the witnesses were tortured for a short period not to exceed 15 minutes.  Although it was sometimes ignored, the rule was that no one was allowed to be tortured more than once, and the type of torture could not cause maiming or death or even the risk of death.  But many judges recognized that innocent people would sometimes confess to things they didn’t do while being tortured just so the pain would end. So a lot of the judges would not attach too much weight to testimony received under torture.  Keep in mind that torture existed long before the courts of inquisition and the Church was always leery about allowing it at all.

Another example people give for why the inquisitions were so bad, is that when a person was accused of heresy he wasn’t allowed to know who his accuser was.  It’s true that accusers’ names were usually kept secret; this was done because there had been times when the accuser and his family were threatened or even killed for reporting someone to the inquisition.  However, the court balanced this out by letting the accused person produce a list of all his known enemies.  Then the court would investigate to see if any of these people had falsely accused the defendant.  If the accuser was one of the defendants’ listed enemies, the court would take his accusations with a HUGE grain of salt.

Remember, the inquisitions weren’t perfect, but most of the time the courts succeeded in holding to a legal standard much higher than anywhere else in the world at that time.  Even today injustice exists in our court systems.  Professor Kamen states; “A comparison with the cruelty and mutilation common in secular tribunals shows the Inquisition in a relatively favorable light. This, in conjunction with the usually good level of prison conditions, makes it clear that the tribunal had little interest in cruelty and often attempted to temper justice with mercy.”

So, in conclusion, who do we blame for the Inquisition: Christianity, the Catholic Church? I don’t think so.  Blame human nature, and blame also a propaganda machine that was so effective that “even today it is difficult to separate fact from fiction.”  So thanks to recent scholarship we can help lay aside a lot of the bias and false historical claims about the Spanish Inquisition.  I have quoted notable sources and provided factual and statistical information.  And I want to make this clear, I believe firmly in free will, and I don’t believe that divinely orchestrated gift was properly exercised during this time in history.  However, I also believe in the truth.

~ John Andrew Dorsey

Bibliography

Author: Professor Henry Kamen

Title: The Spanish Inquisition

Publication Info: Yale University Press, July 1999

Edition: 1st ed.

 

Author: Professor Edward Peters

Title: Inquisition

Publication Info: University of California Press; April 1989

Edition: 1st ed.

 

Author: BBC Television Documentary

Title: The Myth of the Spanish Inquisition

Publication Info: BBC Television Documentary

Edition: 1st ed.

  

Author: Brenda Stalcup

Title: The Inquisition (Turning Points in World History)

Publication Info: Greenhaven Press; September, 2000

Edition: 1st ed.

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