Monday, December 20, 2010

Pope Benedict wrote me a letter!

A couple of months ago, I wrote a letter to Pope Benedict pledging my support and prayers for him and the Church. Today I received a response to this letter, which came to me from the Assessor for General Affairs of the Secretariat of State of the Vatican, Monsignor Peter Brian Wells. The pope also enclosed a photo of himself. I am very happy about this and have attached a photo so you can see what it looks like.

Friday, December 17, 2010

"Conservatives" support coercive abortion!

Bill C-510, which was introduced into Canadian Parliament and which was known as Roxanne's Law was voted down by Stephen Harper and his so-called "conservatives". The bill would make it a crime to coerce someone to have an abortion. Obviously this sounds like a very common sense law, but it did not pass. Therefore, is not illegal for a man to demand that his girlfriend or wife have an abortion and indeed coerce her into doing so.

Abortion has taken on a life of its own. Rights to abortion have trumped all other rights, including human rights. A man could be charged if he coerced his wife to have her ears pierced, but coercing her to kill their child is alright.

The bill was named after Roxanne Fernando who was savagely murdered by her boyfriend when she refused to have an abortion. I guess this is ok to some people, since abortion is of such importance.

Shame on you Stephen Harper and your supposed "Conservatives"!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Benedict XVI: Faith Purifies Reason



When visiting the Holy Father, men should wear a suit, ladies should wear a black dress and veil, and babies are required to wear the cutest outfit possible.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

I can't wait...

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

5 Reasons the New Atheism is a religion

The New Atheist movement is one which is characterized as distinct from previous atheism in its level of attack against theism. Religion is called dangerous, even child abuse! After reviewing the God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, eminent philosopher Alvin Plantinga warns readers that "one shouldn't look to this book for even-handed and thoughtful commentary. In fact the proportion of insult, ridicule, mockery, spleen, and vitriol is astounding."

There were atheists from previous generations, but they were far more reasonable and much less insulting. I remember reading something from Bertrand Russell, an atheist from the early to mid 20th century, and in one of his "scathing" attacks on religion, he wondered how the God of Christianity is different than the "homeric gods". Nowadays, book by prominent atheists are simply verbal attacks on Christians and Christianity (and sometimes, but not often, other religions).

However, despite their attack on religion, I believe the New Atheism is a form of religion. This statement will appear anathema to any atheist, but I believe if you look at the evidence, you will see some startling similarities. By the way, when I say the New Atheism is a religion, I don't mean the moderate kind, I mean full-on fundamentalism. Let's look at some evidence.

1) Attacks on believers
The New Atheists attack non-believers the same way a fundamentalist would attack the "powers of evil". They don't just personally not involve themselves in religion, but they decry it as sinister, stupid, abusive, etc. They say it should be eradicated. Just replace a Christian fundamentalist and his views on Satan with an atheist and his views on theism, and you will find many similarities.

2) The New Atheism is evangelical
Richard Dawkins and others have extolled non-believers to become evangelistic. To spread the news of atheism and to convert as many people to their belief system as possible. Any time they see a Christian-related event, they become infuriated and demand that it be removed. Atheists are now spending thousands of dollars erecting giant billboards and painting city buses imploring people to "convert" to atheism.

3) The New Atheism has saviors
I spend a fair bit of time on youtube watching videos by atheists and theists, especially with debates, and one thing I've noticed is the unquestioning admiration atheists have for their leaders. The oft-quoted leaders of the movement are Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Daniel Dennett, and Sam Harris. Anywhere a video of one of these men appears, you will see comments below which rival praise given to religious figures like Jesus or Mohammed.

I did a search in youtube for Christopher Hitchens and the first result was a video he made attacking Mother Teresa, who is almost universally loved. Yet despite this, all the comments praise Hitchens as having "opened up the eyes of countless thousands to the tyranny of religion", and other comments condemn Mother Teresa. None criticize him nor praise her. They just hang on his every word and hold him atop a pedestal.

The first result after I typed Dawkins, there was a video from CBC. The top two comments were:

"Richard is one of the most patient men that has ever lived.
He trounced that mouth breather and never raised his voice."

"comparing intelligence. interviewer is a tent and dawkins is the CN tower. must be so frustrating talking to such idiots"

The commenters compete to be the most praising of their beloved leaders and are ready to attack and defend them in battle. They are the foot-soldiers of this new movement.

The four atheist horsemen are constantly met with unbridled adulation. They have a free pass to say anything and know there will be a mob eager to back them up. How is this different than the Nazi followers of Hitler or the government officials of Stalin who were afraid to be the first person to stop clapping. It seems Richard Dawkins could criticize one of his followers' mothers and they would thank him for it. This type of uncritical adoration is rarely seen outside of cults or North Korea.

4. There are scriptures
The God Delusion, god is not Great, Letters to a Christian Nation, have taken their place as atheist scripture. They are required reading for any good atheist. In fact, I've never met anyone who is a self-proclaimed atheist who hasn't read at least one of these books. They fly off the shelves as soon as they are published, purchased by adoring fans. Sort of like an atheist Bible.

5. There are atheist "bible studies"
I know many atheists whose main topic of conversation is atheism. They will gather after work in their homes to discuss atheism, to read atheist books, and to discover ways of being a better atheist. There are support groups, meetings, conventions, and other events all on this topic. I used to work at an office near a guy who would constantly talk about atheism. His friends would join in the conversation as he constantly extolled the virtues of atheism and derided theism. If a group of people constantly talked about the Bible, they would be called Bible-thumpers or Jesus freaks.

Conclusion
It seems to me that for atheists to define themselves simply as people who do not believe in "a god", really doesn't tell the whole story. I believe the need for religion is inherent in every person, even for the new atheists. The new atheists have saviors, scripture, and bible study. They are uncritically receptive of their atheist leaders and spend countless hours studying their non-belief. They have a religion, they just don't want to admit it.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Responding to Hitchens in the Hitchens-Blair debate

The following are my responses to some of the accusations made by Christopher Hitchens. This is kind of "what would I do" in that particular case.

1) Northern Ireland
I think this was one of Tony Blair's biggest blunders. He brought up Northern Ireland to defend religion as a good thing for peace. Basically he said that religious leaders got together to bring peace to North Ireland. In his rebuttal, Hitchens picked up on this to ask rhetorically where the violence came from in the first place. In fact, Blair was responding to an audience member question concerning violence in Africa. Obviously if I were in that situation, I would not have voluntarily brought up Northern Ireland.

However, if the topic came up and I had to address it I would say religion in North Ireland was an incidental part of the conflict. The lines were drawn between Catholic and Protestant but the reason was that the conflict had to do with whether Northern Ireland belonged to the Republic of Ireland or Great Britain. The Catholics happened to be from Ireland and the Protestants were from Great Britain. Therefore, the conflict didn't originate because the Catholics were using rosary beads, but because those of Irish and thus Catholic descent were being treated unfairly by Protestants and perhaps the other way around. But it was not primarily or even partially due to religion.

2) Religious conflict in general
the topic of religious conflict was brought up often. It was said to cause division. It was implied that if people didn't have strong religious beliefs or any, then there would be less conflict because people wouldn't kill each other just because they are the wrong religion.

However, this relies on many glaring fallacies. One implication is that without religion everyone would just "get along" and there would be no conflict. However, this is absurd. Most wars are not caused because of religion. In fact, a recent analysis found that only 10% had religion as an effect on wars. Most of the time it involves land or resources. In fact, the study found that religion actually reduced wars because it formed a type of commonality among people. Take Europe for instance. Europe is separated by country, region, language, way of life, dialect, etc. but the one thing that united it was its Christian religion. Everyone in Europe felt united by this fact. Yes, there were conflicts, but with this commonality, it actually reduced conflict.

3. Non-religious regimes
Blair made a good point here by saying that many atheistic regimes (you know, the most violent and destructive regimes in human history) had at their core the goal of eliminating religion. To believe that non-religion will bring peace is absurd. Just look at history at the factions which attempted to destroy religion.

4. Religion and its effect on human behavior
Hitchens said that religion causes people to feel guilty about natural instincts and urges and that this is a terrible thing. I do not believe that Blair rebutted this point adequately. Yes, the Church does believe in self-control and not acting on all instincts. But then again, who does? I may feel like relieving myself, but no one would consider it "repressed" if I waited until I reached a bathroom to do so. In fact, they may thank me for not urinating on their carpet. Married men are expected not to cheat on their wives. Do we see this as repression also? If a man does this behavior, is it bad that he feels guilty? The point is, there are many behaviors which we control in order to bring more happiness in the long run. To make it seem like religion somehow "represses" us by not letting us act out every urge is absurd.

5. Root of Good and Evil
One point that wasn't addressed by Blair was the root cause of good and evil. I acknowledge that atheists or agnostics can do good works for charity and so on. But the question is what is right and what is wrong? Where do morals come from? I do not think an atheist can answer such a question. They can only say that it is a social convention or a group decision, but there can be no imperative reason to do these things. Biologically, wouldn't it make sense for me to kill all men around my age to increase my chance of passing my genes down through as many women as possible? Why is this wrong? What if I decide it isn't wrong? Who can challenge my decision? I believe there are universal, unchangeable morals that are not just social conventions, and therefore there is a power greater than humanity, the morals are not just in our mind, but they exist in the universe.


6. Hitchens says to keep religion out of public
Although Hitchens attempts to appear as though he agrees with Tony Blair that we ought to respect religious freedom, he in fact does not. He goes on to say that he does not want religion taught to children in schools or for any religious talk to happen in public. So what does he propose replace religion in schools? Obviously atheism, which is itself an ideology. By banning any talk of religion in the public sphere, what will replace it? Obviously non-religious or atheistic talk. See, when it comes to these issues, it is impossible to just "remove" religion. It is instead replaced by another philosophy.

7. Religion has a real impact
I believe the point that Tony Blair really failed to make was that religion really does cause a difference. So many religious people have given up all material possessions to follow God more closely. People like Mother Teresa and St. Francis. They gave everything to the poor and made it their life work. But they were also very personally holy. They bore wrongs against them patiently, they prayed for those who persecuted them. Our greatest example is Jesus Christ. Even as he was being killed, he prayed for his captors. I think the level of self-giving and good that is brought to society through religion is far greater than what comes from non-religion. This is not about a competition, it's about the source of motivation. I think religion has transformative power.

For an example of this, look at the Roman empire. Christianity insisted on ending the gladiator games which saw thousands of people killed, not to mention lots of animals. Christianity forbade the common practice of infanticide. It set up hospitals, not just for the rich who could afford it, but for all people rich and poor. Schools were established by religions. This did not spring forth from the secular non-Christian society of the time. Without religion the world would be a much bleaker place.

8. People of faith only act out of fear of hell or desire for Heaven

This is an old canard which is used by Hitchens. I say it's an old canard because, as Tony Blair points out, Christians generally do not think along these lines. Generally Christians see the examples of Jesus, Mary, and the Saints, and feel those people are most fully living their humanity, and that their actions make a world a much better place. They then seek to emulate these great examples and bring peace and love to the world. Hitchens presents the Christian motivation in very crass and selfish terms. As though the only reason a Christian helps a stranger is because they will get to heaven that way.

However, this is clearly false. Mother Teresa clearly did not believe that the bare minimum she must do to get to Heaven is to devote her entire life to helping the poorest of the poor in India. In fact, Catholic doctrine is very generous in this regard. Although the Church supplies countless examples of heroic virtue, we are simply expected to avoid committing serious sin and to follow Christ's commandments. However, many Christians go well beyond this to do things which are truly extraordinary. This is not the mark of someone doing something just to get a reward.

A good analogy would be that in order to receive a chocolate bar from a charity, a person must pay $1. If everyone only paid the minimum $1, we could perhaps claim they are just paying the $1 to get a reward. However, if some people have paid $100 or $1000 to the charity and only took one chocolate bar, it would be safe to assume they really truly wanted to give to that charity for its great work.

9. Pope and Extra Ecclasiam Nulla Salus
Hitchens called Pope Benedict's comments that the Catholic Church is the one true Church "positively sinister". Perhaps even more puzzling is that Hitchens implied that the Church "used" to teach that, then stopped and now Benedict is "restoring" it. That's absolute nonsense. This has always been a Catholic teaching. Many people may find the statement offensive, but if you think about it, it's not that shocking. The Church is saying that it's teachings are correct because of its holy mandate. Other religions also have truth in them, but only the Catholic Church has the "fullness of the truth". How could it be otherwise?

10. Faith as surrender of reason.
Hitchens uses another old canard by claiming the false dichotomy between faith and reason, or science and religion. But this is a nonsensical distinction. The Church believes in science and many top scientists have been Catholic, even priests. The father of genetics, the originator of the Big Bang theory, many seismologists, sinologists, etc. have been Catholic priests. To pit faith and reason as adversaries really contradicts reality and history.

11. Oxfam, Doctors without Borders, etc.
Hitchens said he supports non-religious organizations which do good work. He used this to prove his point that you don't need religion to help others. Well, Oxfam was actually started by Quakers. Amnesty International was founded by a Catholic.

Conclusion
Religion has been a catalyst since its start for charity throughout the world. I believe Christianity best exemplifies this because of its witness to goodness and truth. It revolutionized the way the world thinks about poverty and helping one another. To ignore this fact is to ignore reality. However, we must not confuse religion with charity only. Charity stems from the beliefs of a religion. In Christianity, our belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God opens our ears to his words. We listen not just to his advice on charity, but on all other topics as well.

We've experimented with eliminating religion and we've seen the results. Human life is devalued and there are tens of millions of deaths. Religion is a force for good because it unifies people and teaches us how to treat our adversaries with love. Not everyone follows the rules of a religion, but that is not a defect on the part of that religion, but of the people perpetrating crimes.

The Christian Church truly shaped our Western civilization. The ideals we live by and which other countries strive for are rooted in our religious beliefs. To know history is to know that religion is a force for good in the world.

Were the odds stacked against Tony Blair in his debate with Hitchens?

As I mentioned in my previous blog post, a few days ago, there was a debate between Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens on whether religion was a force for good in the world or not.

I believe the odds were somewhat stacked against Blair in this debate for several reasons. However, despite these, I do think Blair did reasonably well.

Here are some reasons:

1) Most of the audience started out in favour of Hitchens.
According to a pre-debate poll, 57% of attendees were in favour of Hitchens' proposition that religion is not a force for good in the world. Only 22% agreed with Blair that religions is indeed a force for good. Right from the start the audience was more in favour of Hitchens. However, both gained around 10% by the end of the night, which was half each of the undecided watchers. But this represents a greater win for Blair, since it is about a 50% increase. For Hitchens, it represents around 20%.

2. More applause for Hitchens
Hitchens could hardly open his mouth without being met with applause from the audience. This is because after the opening remarks, the moderator allowed applause. Obviously part of the reason for this is that there were 3 times more fans of Hitchens than of Blair. Sometimes Hitchens had to tell the audience to stop clapping so much.

3. Blair had to defend all religion
This was a difficult task because no one claims to be an adherent to ALL religions. Therefore Hitchens could bring up very violent religious sects to try to prove that religion wasn't a force for good, and Blair was forced to defend those.

4. Blair has less experience in formal debates
I'm not sure if this debate is considered "formal", but what I mean is this particular debate type where two speakers address a particular issue in a certain order. Hitchens is well known for hundreds of debates, but I'm not sure the same can be said of Blair. Blair was prime minister of course, but the prime minister can use many techniques to appeal to people which do not necessarily involve logical debate. I think Hitchens has more debate experience plus this is really his area.

Given the circumstances, I think Blair did a good job.

What Tony Blair did wrong in his debate with Christopher Hitchens

A few days ago, Tony Blair and Christopher Hitchens met in Toronto to debate whether or not religion is a force for good in the world, with Blair of course arguing the affirmative.

Being a Catholic blog, my main critique will be of Tony Blair's presentation of religion and how well he did and a rebuttal of some of Hitchens' points.

My overall reaction is that Tony Blair could have done better. Hitchens used many of the arguments he has used in past debates, and the main theme he was espousing was that religion is unnecessary, and indeed can be contrary, to world peace.

Here are some things I think Tony Blair did wrong:

1. Blair was too conciliatory
Often times it was hard to tell if Blair was arguing that religion was a force for good or whether religion can be just as good as non-religion. He spent far too much time affirming that non-religious people can be "just as good". I think he should have left it up to Hitchens to make these types of points. In fact, much of the time Blair seemed to make points in support of Hitchens' position and Hitchens even acknowledged this at one point.

It was really up to Blair to show why religion does GOOD in the world, not why it isn't really that bad. Hitchens even joked that he was bargaining down Blair from his original position.

2. Blair defended ALL religion
Another mistake I think Blair made was that he lumped all religions into one big category. Now this may have been necessary given the broad topic. But I think it would have been wiser to defend one religion. The reason for this is that by defending all religions, Hitchens took advantage and brought up Wahabism as an example of a religion, which Blair is then forced to defend.

Blair should have taken Christianity as his main religion of defense, since he is Christian and knows more about it than other religions.

3. Blair kept saying religion has done bad things
Again, I'm not saying he's necessarily wrong, but I think Blair spent an inordinate amount of time repeating that religion has caused a lot of problems in the world. This point can be, and was, made by Hitchens, and I don't think he needed any help.

4. Blair equated Humanism with Religion at times
Of course humanism, the secular kind anyway, is inherently atheist. Hitchens advocated in the debate that humanism was the correct path instead of religions. However, instead of indicating the problems with humanism, Blair basically said some people might do good because of humanism but some people do good because of religion. He failed to differentiate the two.

I think Blair needed to make stronger points and not try to be so conciliatory and non-offensive. He did not show strongly enough why religion was UNIQUELY able to be a force for good in the world, rather than a "possible" force.

However, I do think there were odds stacked against Blair to start with, which I will explore in my next blog post.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Why the Church is right about Condoms


Over the past few days, much hoopla has been made about the pope's most recent comments where he spoke about condom use. As I've mentioned in previous blog posts here and here, the pope did not say condoms are now permissible.

In this article I will explore why the Church's stance on condoms is the correct one.

The Church is officially against the use of artificial contraception, including condoms. It is important to make some distinctions here. Officially, the church is only concerned with marital relations, because sex outside this context is considered grave matter. This means objectively it is sinful, although subjectively it may not be. Therefore, official teachings concerning the specifics of a gravely immoral act would usually be superfluous. For example, the Church has not yet made any comment on the use of a condom during a homosexual act, because homosexual acts are considered gravely immoral anyway, and the use of a condom is irrelevant in this case.

Having made those clarifications, let's explore the main point of this article. The pope said last year that condoms are not the solution to AIDS in Africa. He was met with outrage over these comments. The reason is many people rely on the following mentality when dealing with the HIV/AIDS epidemic:

1) HIV and AIDS is a serious problem in Africa
2) People spread HIV through promiscuous sex, which is human nature and thus unchangeable
3) Condoms reduce the risk of transmission in a given sex act
4) Condoms are the solution to the problem.

Anyone would agree, which includes the pope as well I would assume, that the first and third premises are correct. It is scientifically shown that a condom reduces the risk of transmission of HIV/AIDS in a particular sex act vs. not using one. Nobody believes that the rate of transmission stays the same with or without condom use. Of course, everyone also agrees that HIV and AIDS are a serious problem in Africa.

It has been shown that condoms are 85% effective against HIV/AIDS, so naturally if there is a given sex act, there is a reduction in the risk of transmission.

Above, the conclusion (4) that condoms are a solution, automatically follows if the other three premises are correct. However, I believe, as does the pope, that premise #2 is false, and that is the specific premise that is being challenged by the pontiff. He believes the only real solution to the AIDS crisis in Africa is through a change in behavior.

This change includes not having sex outside of marriage. Just imagine if the rate of AIDS in a country started off at 1%. If everyone followed the rule of waiting until marriage to engage in sex, at most the rate would go from 1% to 2% and then drop. The disease could only spread to another partner and that's it. What happened in reality though was that the 1% infected many others who then infected many more and so on until the rates grew exponentially.

If condoms were introduced, the exponential growth would not stop, but would only be slowed. There is an 85% rate of effectiveness with condom use, and therefore a 15% failure rate. That means that with everyone using condoms, AIDS would be spread at 15% the normal rate, assuming behaviors do not change. This may sound great, but really it is only delaying the inevitable. Also, I am assuming a lot here. I am assuming a 100% rate of use within a country from a 0% rate to begin with, which is unheard of. However, this is the goal of many organizations such as the UN. Many people believe that with complete condom use, AIDS will decrease. It will not. Even if the rate of transmission slows, it is still there. Their perfect solution just reduces the rate of spread, based on the assumption that behavior is unalterable. Plus, it will continue to grow exponentially by definition.

Let's take the rate of HIV transmission for heterosexual sex without a condom of around 0.75%. The UN and others' perfect solution is to reduce this rate to 0.1125% and leave it at that. Of course, once again, this is assuming the country goes from 0% use to 100% use. The main problem with this "solution" is that the rate will continue to increase. Think of it like interest rate. If you are getting a 0.75% interest rate, your money will grow faster, but with 0.1125%, your money will still grow and continue to grow faster and faster. This "perfect" solution does not solve the problem at all.
On top of this, using condoms have been promoted as "safe sex". They are not presented as offering a reduction in the risk of infection, but rather as solving the problem. People use them as complete security against disease and therefore people are far less inhibited when it comes to sex. It gives them a sense of invulnerability.

Of course, everything I've said so far has been based on the assumption that people are incapable of changing behavior. That going from promiscuity to fidelity is impossible. But I disagree. I have much more confidence in people than others do. I think society can change for the better.

What the pope is proposing is a perfect solution. If people waited until marriage to have sex with a single partner, there would not be an exponential growth of the AIDS epidemic. It would flatline and eventually disappear.

Some may ask about married couples where one partner has AIDS. The Church would say that the loving thing to do is NOT risk infecting one's partner with a terrible illness. Whether that risk is one in 150 or one in 900, putting someone at risk of contracting a lethal disease is always immoral.

Therefore, if people listened to the Catholic Church, AIDS would cease to spread COMPLETELY. It is not an 85% solution, it is a 100% solution.

In order to really understand the Church's stance vs. the rest of the world, we must look at real world examples. In Uganda, there was a dramatic reduction in AIDS cases, unlike anywhere else in Africa. Why? Because they started to employ the ABC strategy, which is Abstinence, Be faithful, and if necessary, use a Condom. This is unlike other African countries whose main focus was the distribution of condoms. The countries with the highest use and availability of condoms experienced an increase in infection rates. Only Uganda which focused on Catholic values saw a reduction.

In this case, we can see that people really can change behavior, and the impact is positive. If condoms were the solution, Africa would have been rid of HIV and AIDS long ago, or at the very least there would be no new cases. However, that scenario is a mere dream. The rates have actually increased. They say it is easier to find condoms than it is to find clean water in Africa. Billions of Western dollars flood Africa with money for condoms every year with little impact.

What the pope is constantly saying is that the real and sustainable solution to the AIDS epidemic is a change in values and actions. If people were faithful to marriage and those with HIV/AIDS did not infect others, the disease would disappear completely. Why must we have such little confidence in humanity?

Some believe that the pope is unconcerned with AIDS in Africa, but the fact is most people suffering from AIDS receive treatment from the Catholic Church. Many scientists have explicitly or implicitly confirmed what the pope is saying. A Stanford University study found that the ABC approach was the most successful because it emphasized abstinence and faithfulness, as the pope has.

Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies, said the evidence shows that the pope is correct in his assertion that condoms are not the solution.

This debate is rarely about science, it's about ideology. Condoms are seen as sexually liberating. No longer must a couple be completely committed in order to have sex, but sex can be enjoyed as a casual activity between people. Condoms in some way undermine the old paradigm of sex being connected with birth and have "liberated" us sexually. It's a fairytale that, despite the evidence, has continued to survive. To suggest that the solution lies in sexual morality is anathema to modern society's notion that sex is only about self-gratification. I believe most of the attacks on the pope are motivated less out of concern for HIV and AIDS patients in Africa but more out of a fear of religious conservatism which argues that not all sexual activity is permissible. If you doubt this theory, I suggest you read comments on articles concerning the pope on condoms. Nearly all of them are personal attacks on the pope and refer to his age or position and say he has no authority on sexual matters. Rarely do these comments reflect a concern for the people of Africa unless they are accusing the pope of somehow indirectly killing them.

The world needs a strong moral voice instead of more condoms. I hope the pope continues to speak up for what is right despite voices of opposition.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Other religions on the Trinity

The Christian doctrine of the Trinity is an important one because it shapes how we understand God. The formulation often cited is Three Persons, One God. This concept is not readily understandable and presents challenges. However, by studying Scripture and through the teaching of the Church, Christians give their assent to this idea.

The belief is that in all ways the three persons, God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit are united as one God. They act in unison and are of the same being. The persons are in no way separate. St. Patrick used to represent the trinity as a shamrock. We do not say there are three shamrocks, but one, and each is the same, acting in unison in all things.

Some have said the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, can be compared to God, his Word, and his Wisdom. One priest I heard one time said it's like the lips to speak, the words, and the sound. They are all one, yet different.

However, none of these concepts give a perfect analogy, because each one implies a difference in the three, which there is not.

Back to my original topic, and that is how other religions view the Trinity.

Islam
In Islam, there is an incorrect understanding of the Christian Trinity. Mohammed writes, in Sura 5:116-120:

And behold! God will say: "O Jesus the son of Mary! Didst thou say unto men, worship me and my mother as gods in derogation of God'?" He will say: "Glory to Thee! never could I say what I had no right (to say). Had I said such a thing, thou wouldst indeed have known it. Thou knowest what is in my heart, I know not what is in Thine. For Thou knowest in full all that is hidden.


This says that some believe Jesus, Mary, and God the Father make up the Trinity. However, this is a view held by no Christian Church in recorded history. As mentioned above, the Trinity consists of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Having said that, Islam is strongly against the concept of the Trinity. In many verses, the trinity is presented only to be rejected.

Hinduism
Hinduism has its own form of trinity, involving Brahma the creator, Vishnu the sustainer, and Shiva the destoyer. This is not the same as the Christian trinity, in that each of these gods have their own separate roles and do not act in unison. Also, they cannot be called "one God", but rather three separate gods. Also, Hinduism is pantheistic so ultimately everything is a part of Brahmin, which is the supreme being that encompases everything.

Judaism
Judaism does not affirm a belief in the Trinity either. However, they do still wait for a messiah and believe in God's spirit.

Ayyavazhi
A rare religion that began as an offshoot of Hinduism in the 19th century, Ayyavazhi has a concept of a trinity to which is adheres.

They involve:

* The Soul - The Soul of Ultimate God
* The Spirit - The Spirit (Karana Sarira) of Narayana
* The Body - The Body of Muthukutty (Human Being)



As far as I know, most of other religions do not have a concept of a trinity. It is interesting to see how various religions would relate to this Christian doctrine.


Good video to watch:

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pope Benedict and Condoms Video

4 Things about the Pope and Condoms

There's been a pile of controversy over the pope's comments about condoms in a book coming out on Wednesday. Most of it has been misinformation which has snowballed into an all-out lie. Here's the top 4 things you need to know:

1) Artificial Contraception not approved by Church
The pope did not approve of condoms to be used as contraceptives. The church clearly forbids all forms of artificial contraception and nothing the pope said violates this.

2) Comments referred only to male prostitutes
The pope's comments referred only to male prostitutes. Obviously the Church has made numerous comments on the immorality of homosexual sex, plus the fact that these acts are inherently nonreproductive, the use or non-use of condoms becomes a moot point. The main objection to the use of a condom is its contraceptive quality. In a situation that can be nothing but non-contraceptive, the objection becomes moot.

3) Pope did not say it is good for gay men to use condoms
The pope did not say a gay man using a condom to prevent the spread of AIDS or HIV is doing something morally good. Rather, the intention behind him using it can be the beginning point of a sense of morality. Basically the thought of the gay man to protect the health of his partner is at least the beginning of a sense of morality on the issue, even though everything about the situation is immoral.

4) Not official teachings
These are the personal thoughts of Pope Benedict, and in no way can be construed as a change in Catholic teaching on the issues of artificial contraception and birth control. In order for something to be an official church teaching, the pope must declare it using formal and official Church channels such as publishing an encyclical or papal bull. In order for something to be declared infallible, the criteria is even more stringent and is very seldom used.

------------------------------------------

The media is having a field day with this as usual. There are broad pronouncements that the Catholic Church has completely altered its teaching on condom use and contraception in general. However this has not occurred. This is being completely blown out of proportion. To get my broader treatment of this, please go here.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pope Benedict XVI did not say condoms are acceptable

Yesterday news came out that Pope Benedict has changed the Church's stance on condoms and that they are now allowed under certain circumstances. However, this assertion is false, and I will show you why.

The BBC has proclaimed the following:


"Some parishioners have welcomed Pope Benedict's remarks over the acceptable use of condoms in exceptional cases, to prevent the spread of HIV.

The Vatican has long opposed condoms as an artificial form of contraception but the pontiff has suggested using condoms might not always be wrong."

The Guardian, another British paper wrote an article titled "Pope Benedict's condom U-turn"

Others have gone even further stating Pope Benedict now allows condom use.

Is this accurate? I think it's important to be objective to find out exactly what the pope said and meant. It's not about what I want him to have said or what I think he should have said, but what he actually said. And the same goes for other groups as well.

The pope was, in a very rare event, being interviewed by reporter Peter Seewald, who asked him about his comments on condoms. Here is what was said:


Seewald: . . . In Africa you stated that the Church’s traditional teaching has proven to be the only sure way to stop the spread of HIV. Critics, including critics from the Church’s own ranks, object that it is madness to forbid a high-risk population to use condoms.

Benedict: . . . In my remarks I was not making a general statement about the condom issue, but merely said, and this is what caused such great offense, that we cannot solve the problem by distributing condoms. Much more needs to be done. We must stand close to the people, we must guide and help them; and we must do this both before and after they contract the disease.

As a matter of fact, you know, people can get condoms when they want them anyway. But this just goes to show that condoms alone do not resolve the question itself. More needs to happen. Meanwhile, the secular realm itself has developed the so-called ABC Theory: Abstinence-Be Faithful-Condom, where the condom is understood only as a last resort, when the other two points fail to work. This means that the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality, which, after all, is precisely the dangerous source of the attitude of no longer seeing sexuality as the expression of love, but only a sort of drug that people administer to themselves. This is why the fight against the banalization of sexuality is also a part of the struggle to ensure that sexuality is treated as a positive value and to enable it to have a positive effect on the whole of man’s being.

Then later, the interviewer asks a follow-up question, and it goes as follows:


Seewald: Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?

Benedict: She of course does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless, in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality.

Of course, the media cannot detect nuance and make clear distinctions about what the pope is or is not saying. The pope is not talking about using condoms, but rather the intention behind it. He says the intention to reduce harm to another human being is a first step.

That would be no different than talking about the good intention of a man who is euthanizing his suffering wife as a first step toward compassion. The intention of the man is to reduce suffering which is a good intention, even if euthanasia is never permissible. So it's not contradictory.

As a preeminent theologian, Pope Benedict realizes that a good intention is a good first step for any action, even if the action itself proves evil. A woman who prostitutes herself to make money to support her child is another example. The intention to help her child is a good first step.

The subtlety was sorely missed by the media who threw the baby out with the bathwater by declaring the Church is now in favour of condom use.

It's also important to note that the pope's comments do not constitute an official declaration by the Church. This may be a concept that's hard for non-Catholics to understand, even some Catholics. The pope was not speaking in an official magesterial way when he was doing this interview, so it does not carry any legal force. It was not an encyclical, or papal bull. It's similar to if President Obama made a comment on the weekend to a friend. It wouldn't immediately become law in the United States.

This reminds me of the evolution debate with regards to the Catholic Church when blaring headlines asserted that Pope John Paul II believes in evolution or the Church officially accepts evolution, etc. But again, the subtlety was missed. All the pope at the time said was that evolution can be an acceptable theory on the physical development of the human body as long as it does not violate Catholic priniciples. However, he further clarified that the Church does not take any official stance on scientific issues so that is up to each individual. That does not mean that the Church officially endorses evolution, but that it does not forbid anyone from believing in certain scientific theories. The Church "accepts" evolution no more than it "accepts" Young Earth Creationism. The Vatican stays out of the business of science, unless it conflicts with faith and morals.

Beware any time you see a newspaper article declaring that the pope has reversed a decision or changed a teaching. It's probably a misunderstanding on the part of the paper.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Catholic freedom in China

A major issue for Catholics in China is freedom. The communist government first introduced by Mao Zedong does not allow Catholics freedom to worship, but only the illusion of such. Loyalty to the Pope is forbidden and high ranking officials have been imprisonned. Others have been martyred, such as Fr. Beda Chang, from the Society of Jesus.

Of course, the government of China wishes to maintain an image of freedom by offering its own version of Catholic Churches. These churches are forbidden from recognizing the Supreme Pontiff of the Church and must follow rules set out by the government. Many priests have been forced to take menial jobs to support themselves.

This all started in the late 1940s when Mao came to power and forcibly introduced communism. During this violent and tumultuous time, Mao went after religious institutions including the Church. One very disturbing video I saw showed Chinese government agents destroying a statue of the Virgin Mary and replacing it with Mao's official portrait.

People even today in China bow before statues of Mao. He replaced religions with worship of him, a most distasteful practice. Mao specifically targetted Christians more than Buddhists because he wanted to demonstrate that Christians were less welcome because they came from outside, even though the Church has a relationship with China going back to the 8th century.

China established its own imitation Catholic Church called the Chinese Patriotic Church. On the surface, it appears quite similar, however there are differences. The Church was founded in 1949 and does not accept theological development made by the Church after that date.

It does however accept the revised version of the Catechism and the Code of Canon Law. Also, some have reported that the Pope is prayed for by name, which is a positive sign.

There is however an underground Church, which completely follows the pope. It is illegal and those caught can be prosecuted. When Pope John Paul II died in 2005, he had named a cardinal in secret, it had not been publically released and is referred to as "in pectore" (close to the chest). I believe only that cardinal knew. However, upon the death of the pope, the name will remain hidden. Many have speculated that the named cardinal could have been from China, given the lack of religious freedom.

China must allow freedom of religion if it is to advance as a modern nation. People are innately born with freedom and this includes freedom of worship.

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Did God create evil?



In the Bible, it says that God created everything and that everything he created was good. So what about evil? Did God create evil? We would say that anyone who creates evil is a sinner, so has God sinned?

A simple syllogism is presented:

1) God created all things
2) Evil is a real thing
3) God created evil.

It seems inescapable. So we are faced with a dilemma. Fortunately, there is a solution.

St. Augustine, one of the most important Christian figures, wrestled with this idea for a long time. He once belonged to the Manicheans who believed there were two Gods or two forces, one Good God of the New Testament and one Bad God of the Old Testament. But orthodox Christians affirmed that God is one and there is but one God. So more thought was necessary.

The solution to the question is that Evil is not a thing. It is a privation of good. Is it possible to take a number of things which are all good and by using them against God's will, we deprive them of their good.

A good analogy I read tonight is that evil is like blindness. Blindness is not a thing, sight is. Blindness is the absence of sight, but that does not make it any less real. It is the absence of something good. Another example is light. The absence of light is darkness, so in that sense darkness is not a thing, but an absence of something. If you could remove dark, there would simply be more dark.

Another interesting point is that it's the misuse of something good that renders it evil. A knife is good, a hand is good, people are good, even movement including thrusts are good, but if a man thrusts a knife into another man, the action is evil. As we can see, there is no thing in this scene that is evil. Only the choice is evil.

We have free will. Otherwise, we would be automatons. Some believe that God has absolute control over our every action. If that were the case, how could we justify the existence of hell? Without free will, what choice did they have? I believe this hypothesis is absurd.

God is good and from him only good comes. I heard a story about a nun who said when she took her final vows, she was marrying Jesus. She said it wasn't like a normal marriage because she always knew that if something was wrong, it was her fault.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

My new video on the Canon of the Bible

This was a major project for me. Please support me so I can continue to make these videos.

Birth Control is contradictory

Because those who use it have no interest in either birth or control.

- Bishop Fulton J. Sheen

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Please support me

Friday, October 22, 2010

Barriers to Debate



I've made an observation lately concerning debates and people's positions on issues. People often get caught up in a particular position, usually liberal or conservative. They become so entrenched in defending their broader agenda that they miss the nuance, the grey areas.

People sometimes fail to see relevant details when they make absolute pronouncements. This often comes in the form of liberal vs. conservative.

I just read an article on the proposed sex education program being introduced in Ontario. Some parents found it offensive because it taught very young children about anal and oral sex, sexual identity, gay marriage, etc. However, the debate deteriorated into one about whether people were for or against sex education.

The liberal side claimed the conservatives were afraid of sex and that they wanted to keep kids in the dark, but that they wanted children to receive proper sex education.

The conservatives on the other hand said it was absurd to teach children these immoral things in schools, especially at such young ages.

What ended up happening was that neither side listened to the other. A simplistic charicature was developed. The conservatives were afraid of sex education, while the liberals wanted to teach kids every immoral act under the Sun.

And that's how so many debates happen. I should say arguments.

But it goes further. A person who considers him or herself liberal will feel the need to defend liberal values no matter how absurd or immoral they may be. The liberal would never dare speak AGAINST the proposed sex education curriculum in Ontario because that would be against the liberal value of no sexual morals. They then turn to mocking conservatives who hold sexual values.

Another example is conservatives who feel they must support the death penalty. Within the community of conservatives, this is sort of a litmus test. In order to be conservative, you must support the death penalty. But it becomes absurd when someone is ALWAYS in favour of the death penalty. They may be shown evidence of innocence, or shown the inmate was too young or not mentally competant. However, because the conservative is "for the death penalty", he must support it in all cases.

We live in a society that loves "sound bites". Nobody wants to sit and think logically about a situation. They'd rather know if a situation is black or white, good or evil, for or against. Liberals simply ask themselves if something is a conservative value, and if so they are against it. Conservatives may do the opposite.

Going back to the above issue concerning sex education in Ontario schools. Instead of saying you're either for unlimited sex education or for no sex education, it is better to sit down and carefully review what is to be taught. Conservatives are certainly not against sex education. But they may not want everything being taught. If liberals stopped for a second trying to advocate a point of view, they may realize they also don't want their kids learning all that stuff.

If you read an encyclical by Pope Benedict, there is not simplistic language. He doesn't just label something as "evil" and then never talk about it or react with anger. He breaks an issue down, analyzes it, etc.

I guess the reason I am writing this is because I am disappointed by the low standards of debate in the media or in person. It is just so predictable. Either someone is for no taxes and no government or they are for communism. Either someone is for any and all forms of sexuality, no matter how perverse, or someone never wants anyone to learn anything about it at all. Either someone believes practically everyone deserves the death penalty or there should be no prisons. Either a person eats red meat at every meal or they believe meat is murder.

In order to find the truth, we must break down barriers and stop polarizing issues to such an extent. We must read the fine print so to speak. This doesn't mean we cannot take a strong point of view. It simply means we try to discuss issues with intelligence and rationality.

Catholic News October 22, 2010

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Response to Comments on Obedience

I received the following comment on my last blog post called "Obedience". I will post the comments and my responses to them below:

Question from J. Merrick:

Hello,Perhaps we are in disagreement, perhaps not. In reading this article I found no real reason answering the question of "why?" why we shouldn't question so many things.I offer Romans 13:1 paraphrased and the following as a possible addition."Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God."

Given that the papal system claims the title of the church established by christ - they would therefor be God's earthly authority figures.

I don't think that excludes questioning, just submission to God as we also see in scripture that God wants us to seek him and know him. Like children we can question why we do things or what certain things are of our parents, thus as children of God we can also inquire to the reasons and deeper reason why we practice exactly as we do.

Even the most persistent questioning is not dissent and there is absolutely nothing problematic about desiring to learn God's truth.

We've all heard the quote by Dr. Timothy Leary "question authority", but many others have said likewise such as Buddha, Dalai Lama, Thomas Jefferson, Gandhi, Galileo, Confusious, Socrates, Plato, etc.

In studying each you'll find some are encouraging questioning of tradition, but not advocating abandonment of it, while others are more anarchistic in their statements.We can also spin the phrase "question authority" differently too and make it rather "ask authority questions".Either way we, our questioning should be about seeking truth, and as you said not simply about condemning or judging authorities such as priests and bishops in order to discredit their authoritative position.

With all that said, we can also validate through questioning as well. For example the Roman Catholic church and papal system claims authority as the Christ's church (see below for references opposing). We can also question and validate or discredit claims of authority as well. Ultimately we seek God and must discern false prophets or error in claims. The sun revolves around the earth - Galileo and others were condemned by the church and thankfully the church has progressed beyond condemnation of scientific questioning of matters not directly related to its core beliefs. The vatican is alongside the scientific community at the forefront of science and questions about God's creation. In that respect so can we can pose questions to and about leaders on all matters concerning doctrine, dogma, practices and claims of authority.

There are historical references and evidence that may or may not someday prove the authoritative position the Roman Catholic Church claims thru the papal system. That the Roman Catholic church is not the first church set in place by christ but rather a schism of predating catholicism. The difference between the 2 being the term "Roman". Many questions remain on the factual historical establishment of the Roman Catholic Church as presented in articles pertaining to the history of catholic schisms, nestorian christians and the dead sea scrolls. If in my lifetime the Roman Catholic Church is proven to have been NOT the original but a schism, surely there will be an uproar and even many in denial. This should not however be feared. Doctrine is not infalliable - original dogma is not directly affected.


My Response:
Thank you for your long and well thought-out questions and comments. I will attempt to respond to some of your queries.

In terms of questioning things, I think that's a good thing. In fact, this blog is designed to answer many questions that people have concerning the Catholic faith. In Peter 3:15, he says always be prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in you. So it advocates apologetics.

Also, the Church is interested in giving people answers, and thus provides resources such as the Catechism of the Catholic Church to provide answers with evidence to questions people pose.
I was not really referring to questioning beliefs or practices, but rather people who spent inordinate amounts of time focusing on the priest or bishop and his proper use of rubrics throughout Mass. For example, whether he said all the prayers correctly, or if his homily was strongly worded enough, etc.

But I also wanted to address the issue of authority. In the Catholic Church there is an authority, which I believe was given to the first apostles by Jesus Christ. He gave them the power to bind and loose. He gave Peter the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, which in ancient times meant to give someone authority while the king was gone. These are found in the Bible. There is mention by Paul of the priests and bishops and he refers to the ones he is teaching as his children in the faith. So we can see a hierarchical system here. However, we must not confuse this with "power" so to speak. One of the titles of the pope is "the servant of the servants of God". He is the greatest servant, not the most powerful master. He serves the people.

We believe that the bishop has real authority in spiritual matters. In fact, generally speaking, each bishop is the highest authority. The buck generally stops there. The pope of course does have an ultimate authority over the entire church, but each bishop retains a level of authority.

Your quote from Romans 13:1 was quite appropriate for this situation. And you're absolutely right when you say we can and should question things about our faith. Look at the Church Fathers. They were the original followers of Christ who left many texts. In them, they explain and defend the faith. Thomas Aquinas, one of my favorite saints, spent his lifetime compiling answers to every conceivable question people have concerning the faith. His most famous work, the Summa Theologica, is about three times bigger than the Bible.

So questioning is certainly an integral part of the Christian faith. In fact, that's why the Church is such a strong advocate of religious freedom throughout the world. The bishop of New York was in favour of the mosque and community centre being built near ground zero because it represents freedom of religion. The Vatican has decried moves like the minaret ban in Switzerland because it reduces religious freedom. The Church believes we must see the Truth and everyone must have the option to do so.

You mention also Galileo. The Church is our guidance on faith and morals only, and does not deal with science. That's why for example, the Church does not definitively declare the age of the Earth, because it is a scientific issue. You can believe whatever you want about it. Same goes for evolution. Only when it touches matters of faith and morals does the Church move in to say something about it. So with evolution for example, the Church says we must believe that there were two original parents. Now, if we did evolve from a lower life form, we can believe that, but there were two of these lifeforms that were infused with a human soul and thus our first parents. But anyway, I digress, back to Galileo.

In order to respond to what you said about Galileo, I will quote myself from a previous blog post:
Galileo was a strong Catholic who happened to be an astronomer. He was very popular in his day. He made friends with many top Vatican officials, even the future pope. He was well respected. His theory of heliocentrism was nothing new. Copernicus, a loyal Catholic cleric, had pioneered the theory several decades prior. Galileo attempted to further his research in this field.

At the time when Galileo was proposing his theory, another theory, proposed by Ptolemy many centuries prior, was very widely accept by scientists. The theory was that of geocentrism (the Sun revolving around the Earth). This was the dominant view in the scientific community, not just the religious community.

Galileo made several wrong moves when it came to his presentation of his theory. He demanded that church officials accept it as true, even though it was far from proven. Galileo even wrote a book in which he put the popes words and theories into the mouth of a character named Simplicio (similar to Simpleton). Obviously this was very insulting.

The Church said that until a theory can be proven, it should not be presented as fact. This was very wise, especially considering that several aspects of Galileo's theory proved wrong. For example, he believed the Sun was the centre of the universe, whereas we now know that the Sun also moves around an orbit at an even faster rate than the Earth.

The Church was not against science, and certainly not against astronomy. In fact, many churches used their tall towers as planetary observatories. Many of the first astronomers were Catholic and even religious (clergy). The first person to propose the big bang theory was Fr. Lemaitre, a Catholic monseigneur (high ranking priest).

Many want to say the Church has always been against science, but this is simply untrue. Monks were responsible for transmitting practically everything we know of ancient Greek and Roman science and culture. Gregor Mendel, a priest, discovered the field of genetics. The first European universities were founded by popes.

The Church did apologize for how Galileo was treated many years later. He was arrested, but he was put under house arrest in his large home. I think it's important to have the full story on this issue.

You're also right in saying the Church is at the forefront of science. For example the Pontifical Academy of Sciences is a well respected scientific community, which includes Stephen Hawking.
Now I will address your last point about Catholic vs. Roman Catholic. The Church is official called the Catholic Church and always has been. During the Second Vatican Council in the 1960s, the term "Roman Catholic" does not appear in the literature. The pope is the head of the Catholic Church. In fact, there are 22 other Catholic Churches beside the Roman one. Those are all called Eastern Catholics, but have specific names like Maronite Catholic Church, Chaldean Catholic Church, etc. They are all in communion with the pope. The term Roman Catholic is used to denote the Chair of Peter which is is in Rome. But terms are terms. We must look at the evidence for what is the real Church. You mention a schism, however there is no historical evidence for such a thing happening. The Catholic Church can trace its history all the way back to Jesus through apostolic succession. No one can simply come from the outside and become a leader in the Church. They must be ordained by an existing bishop. This way, there is a preservation of lineage.

This is actually the first time I've even heard that the Roman Catholic Church is a schism of the original Catholic Church. When did this happen? In any event, why did it happen? We can see the practices of the early Christians, all the way back to the first century, and their beliefs and practices correspond to those of the Catholic Church today. You can look to non-biblical sources such as the Didache for examples. Even the Protestant reformers acknowledged that without the Catholic Church there would be no Christianity. All other Churches, including Protestant and Orthodox, are offshoots of the Catholic Church. In order to claim there was a kind of schism, some evidence must be shown. Which pope went from being "Catholic" to "Roman Catholic"? I ask because there is an unbroken line of succession so one of them must have "switched". Where is the record of one church splitting from another? Of course, there are countless heretical churches, but they are all well documented. Until recently, until people started using revisionist history, it has been acknowledged that the Catholic Church has been here from the start when Jesus founded it upon Peter, the Rock.

I hope I was able to answer some of your questions. Thanks for your comments.

Phil

Obedience

I find a growing discussion among serious Catholics on the orthodoxy of their spiritual leaders and of fellow Catholics. While I think this discussion is good and necessary, I believe for some it has taken a place of predominance. A certain scrupulosity has developed beyond correct belief and action into a sort of obsession which threatens to overshadow the true purpose of our spritual lives.

One concrete way in which this happens is by the constant questioning of our religious authorities (namely the priests and bishops) and their motives. I think sometimes we must place obedience above our own display of piety.

It's difficult to draw a line to say people can question this, but not that. However, I would like to offer some of my personal guidelines, while keeping in mind I claim no authority on this matter.

I think if it gets to the point where the main discussion after Mass are the possible violations of the rubrics, there may be an issue. I know some strict Catholics whose ONLY topic of discussion are lay and religious who have violated some rule or regulation.

Obviously, it is important to notice these things and to take steps to avoid them, but when our entire religious discussion is on that topic, it's problematic.

Also, there is a tendency to question the teachings of priests and bishops. While this is good in moderation, it can easily turn into a full time career. It gets to the point where not only do people look for mistakes, they look for "sins of omission". e.g. the priest's homily was morally sound, but he did not have strong enough language about this or that.

Often, bishops are criticized because they do not eliminate every bad apple from the entire faith community of that area. Anything short of 100% orthodoxy from every person is considered a failure of the bishop.

My basic point is that while noticing abuses is a good thing, we cannot place ourselves above the priests and bishops. They do have spiritual authority over us and we must sometimes put our own concerns and opinions second. We cannot make ourselves the lawmaker of the Church. We must humbly submit ourselves to authority, just as priests do for the bishop.

Having said that, we are members of the Church and have the duty to notice grave abuses in order that God is not sacrileged.

So let's practice caution. We are not teachers entering into a Church to evaluate everyone's performance. We are penitents who are striving to do our best to obey God's will, and we must do this with humility and respect.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

"The state has no place in the bedroom of the Nation"

"It's certainly the most extensive revision of the Criminal Code since the 1950s and, in terms of the subject matter it deals with, I feel that it has knocked down a lot of totems and over-ridden a lot of taboos and I feel that in that sense it is new. It's bringing the laws of the land up to contemporary society I think. Take this thing on homosexuality. I think the view we take here is that there's no place for the state in the bedrooms of the nation. I think that what's done in private between adults doesn't concern the Criminal Code. When it becomes public this is a different matter, or when it relates to minors this is a different matter."


These words were famously uttered by Pierre Trudeau as Justice Minister (later Prime Minister), in 1967. That would be the 100th anniversary year of Canada's confederation.

These words make absolutely no sense whatsoever. They have a sort of mass appeal that makes them popular with the general populace, but when analyzed, they fall flat and make no sense.

Most people believe the state does have a place in the bedrooms of the nation.

What if a child is being sexually assaulted? Would the state turn a blind eye to that?

What if a woman was being raped in a bedroom?

For that matter, what if a person is being abused or even killed in a bedroom?

Obviously the state does have a say in what happens in the bedrooms of people.

To be fair, what Pierre Trudeau was actually trying to say was the state has no place in dictating what homosexual acts are legal and which are illegal.

So, people should be clear about what that saying means.

The problem is making the leap from homosexual acts being legal to gay "marriage" being legal also. It's difficult to legislate on a non-violent act between two consenting adults that will not directly harm others. I mean if two people wanted to dress up as chickens and dance around the house, they could do that as well, despite the fact that it has no benefit.

So what about gay "marriage". Well, this is another matter. It's no longer a private thing. Once gay "marriage" is legal, schools must encourage children to "decide" their sexuality, to offer classes on homosexual lifestyles, etc. Adoption agencies are forced to adopt children to two men or two women despite that organization's moral belief that such unions are not best for children. Religious institutions must rent their properties for homosexual celebrations which violate their moral code. A child's welfare is trumped by gay rights. It enters into a completely new category. Society suffers when such a ruling is made.

Marriage is, by definition, the union of a man and a woman. If we redefine marriage to include same-sex couples, there is no logical reason to exclude any other grouping, such as a father and daughter "marriage", one man and 5 women, a sort of "daycare" arrangement where a group of say 20 men and women decide to form a fluent group of people who raise any children in that arrangement. Who is to say that these groupings cannot be included in the defintion of "marriage", since we are completely throwing out what marriage actually is.

We must love and respect all people, whether gay or straight, but this does not mean that each person must be treated exactly the same. Just because a father cannot legally marry his daughter does not mean he has fewer rights than everyone else. Any man has the right to take advantage of the laws concerning marriage, or any woman for that matter. But we do not all get the right to change the law based on our whims.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Are you ready for your death?

How many people think of death every now and then or ever? Should you?

Well, I think you should. Last night I was awaken by what sounded like someone in my apartment around 5:30am. It was really scary. I got up and carefully checked the whole house, but there was nothing there. My conclusion is that someone was upstairs and the sound traveled below. It was really quite creepy because it sounded like someone was right outside my door. I even thought I heard it again after I went to bed again.

I said a prayer to ward off any evil spirits. Then I went back to sleep. Around 8:30 I woke up again, and noticed Manasi just called, so I called her back. We chatted for a bit, then I went back to sleep.

When I went back to sleep this time, I had a very vivid and scary dream. Someone had entered my apartment. I got up to check who it was. Some large man wearing probably a leather jacket came in and went into the living room. I repeated hello hello over and over but he did not respond. I began to wonder if he was deaf.

But then he came into my room. Eventually he was joined by another man of similar description. The first man told me he was there to kill me. I was terrified. I realized he was a hitman. I had no idea this was a dream and thought for sure it was real. I had even asked myself if it was and came to the certain conclusion that this was indeed happening.

I couldn't make a cell phone call. I tried to divert his attention to something else while I secretly dialed 911. Eventually I had my phone in my hand and could possibly dial 911. However, I think I woke up before anything could happen. However, I do remember diverting his attention somewhat successfully.

I remember asking the other man if I could see a priest. Convinced they would kill me, I wanted to make a confession before death. To me that is the most terrifying possibility. It's not so much death itself but the afterlife.

That dream ended, and not too long after I was awaken around 9:30 by Tom upstairs who was knocking on the door and ringing the doorbell. That was also rather alarming. I assumed it was Manasi, but it wasn't. I came out in my housecoat to see what was going on. He told me I had to drive my car out because the excavating equipment would make it impossible to leave for the rest of the day till the night. So I quickly got dressed and went outside. He said they were starting in 5 minutes.

Anyway, after this traumatizing night, I realize people must consider their eternal fates. Are you prepared? Specifically are you ready for heaven?

I believe in these matters we must follow our consciences and be as careful as possible. For me, that means confessing any mortal sins to a priest, because that's how I believe Jesus instituted the act of forgiveness. I also believe forgiveness is possible through a perfectly contrite confession to God. What is perfectly contrite? It means you are sorry for your sins because you love God so much and are so sorry for having offended him.

I think a lot of people are way too casual on this topic. They believe one of the following:

1) The afterlife doesn't exist. We just turn to dust.

2) The afterlife exists but surely they are going to Heaven because God will forgive them anyway.

3) They were saved, and therefore no further action is required. All past, present, and future sins are blotted out and heaven is guaranteed.

4) We must be in a state of grace with God, and therefore we must strive to avoid sin as much as possible and if we do sin to confess them to another.

5) The afterlife exists but they are going to Hell



Here are my responses to those propositions:

1) The afterlife doesn't exist. We just turn to dust.
Are you willing to risk everything to believe this proposition? Are you 100% certain that the afterlife doesn't exist? Are you sure there isn't even a 0.1% chance that it does? Even if you believe there is but a 0.1% chance that Hell exists, you should take actions which will get you to Heaven. Why? Because the consequences are eternal. If the afterlife is eternal, as is usually the portrayal, then this life is a mere flash, much less than 0.1% of our entire existence. So mathematically it makes sense to live a good life in a way which would prepare us for Heaven even with just 0.1% belief in it.


2) The afterlife exists but surely they are going to Heaven because God will forgive them anyway.
This is called presumption, and it's considered a sin. It's the opposite of the moral value of despair, which is an abandonment of all hope that one will enter into Heaven. I will cover this in section 5. Presumption is an inordinate level of hope. It forsakes "fear of the Lord" in favor of seeing God as a servant to our desires.

St. Gregory from whom we get the term "Gregorian Chant", believed presumption to be a "daughter" of pride (or vainglory as he put it). I agree that presumption contains a strong element of pride, like a spoiled child who assumes his parent will not punish him no matter his misdeed.

This belief may have come from a commonly held opinion today that because God is Love (Deus Caritas Est), he could not allow anyone to go to Hell. However, this belief is not supported by evidence. Jesus speaks more about Hell than he does about Heaven. God is not only Love but also Justice. He gives each person free will and therefore the ability to either follow God and worship him, or to reject God and separate himself from him. A person is free to choose Hell and God will not overpower his free will decision.


3) They were "saved", and therefore no further action is required. All past, present, and future sins are blotted out and heaven is guaranteed.

This is a commonly held belief, which is similar to #2, however with some key differences. A strong literal reading of this belief has both reassurance and horror attached to it. It is reassuring to be 100% certain of one's salvation. But it is equally terrifying to believe that those incapable of hearing God's word should perish in eternal damnation. It would be as if God created them with no chance of redemption.

How does the horrific conclusion follow from the first? Well, it doesn't from necessity, but in practice, it usually does. Those who believe in once saved always saved, typically believe in a strict sense of salvation requiring an individual to be "saved".

However, I believe both of these extremes are false. The Gospels indicates that one must strive for salvation. However, salvation is something to be attained in the future, not something that we do and finish on Earth.

In Philippians 2:12, St. Paul says: "work out your salvation with fear and trembling." In other places, salvation is shown as being a process. Indeed, why would Jesus command people to tell their sins to "one another" and to let a "mere man" hear confessions if after being saved, salvation was guaranteed? It would make no sense.

As far as those invincibly ignorant, meaning they had no way to ever hear the Gospel, I believe they too can be saved. However, it goes beyond simply not hearing the Gospel. Even those intimately familiar with the Bible and the Church could potentially be saved without baptism, confession, or any assent of belief, if they are invicibly ignorant. The Catholic Church teaches that there are two types of people who may not be saved: 1) Those who know that Jesus and his Church are necessary for salvation yet never enter into the Church 2) Those who are among the faithful, who although knowing the truth of the Church, abandon it.

4) We must be in a state of grace with God, and therefore we must strive to avoid sin as much as possible and if we do sin to confess them to another.
I believe this is the most accurate representation of the afterlife. This represents humble submission to the will of God and contrition for our sins. It rejects pride and undue certainty which causes hubris. We acknowledge that we are pitiful sinners in need of God's redemption. It involves listening to God's voice and following his commands.


5) The afterlife exists but they are going to Hell
This is perhaps the saddest view of the afterlife. I met a man one time who clearly said he understood the Gospels but he is rejecting them and by doing so he knows the the consequences, including Hell, and he accepts that.

To me, his position is virtually oxymoronic. How can one understand Hell and all it entails then willfully choose it? I believe in our society there's been a sort of revision of what Hell is. Classically Hell is a complete separation from God. What it is actually like can only be expressed with symbolism, because it is not like Earth. The Christian tradition maintains that Heaven and Hell are outside of time and space. Therefore, the type of suffering experienced in Hell is uncertain.

The Catholic Catechism says the following about hell:

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity.
Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire."617
The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

In terms of what hell is like, I point out where it says: "The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God."

I will be writing another blog post soon on whether hell must be the worst imaginable place. If you would like more information on what the Catholic Church has to say about hell, visit the catechism, and read starting at section 1033.

6) Only Heaven exists
Once again, this is a notion which has gained particular popularity in our culture. It varies slightly from a previous belief in which the person believes they will definitely go to Heaven and not possibly to hell. In this belief, it is posited that everyone goes to Heaven regardless because there is only a Heaven and hell doesn't exist. A nun once told me that hell doesn't exist. I met this nun this past weekend at the Basilica.

To believe only Heaven exists would mean Jesus was making up hell to scare people, and that hell had been revealed to the Jews in the Old Testament for the same reason. But we have no other accounts of God lying and never clarifying his position. How can we summarily dismiss hell, simply because it is unpleasant? We must provide evidence.

7) Notes:

7.1 Theologians

Some theologians have proposed the idea that although hell exists, it is possible that everyone has and will go to Heaven. They may not even teach that this is the case, but rather that it is theoretically possible. I agree with this assessment. The Church has never proclaimed someone to be in hell.

7.2 Belief becomes reality

A popular idea held by many, which is not enunciated, is that their beliefs will determine reality. So if the topic of hell is brought up, they will say "I don't believe in hell", as if their lack or belief in it, will cause it to not exist. We were raised in schools where teachers threw out a question and everyone's opinion was written on a white board and everyone was congratulated for being correct. From this, we have many people who think because they believe something, it becomes reality.

If they believe hell doesn't exist, then it doesn't. If they don't believe in an afterlife, then it doesn't exist.

The only being who can "think" something out of existence is God. Not surprisingly, many have placed themselves on this level, by acting as final arbiter of moral choices.

7.3 Afterlife is man-made

Many think hell was just "invented" by religious leaders in order to control the actions of people. Threatening someone with hell will make them operate the way you see fit, if they trust you as a moral authority.

However, this theory falls flat on many levels:
- Those pronouncing hell must also follow the moral code they prescribe. The past two popes, for instance, have gone to confession regularly, perhaps once a week or more. Pope John Paul II practiced self-mortification, and was not concerned about the food he ate or other material things. These would not be the actions of people who were creating ideas to scare people to do their will. These men lived (and live) very strict, moral lives, as do most of the Church law-givers. When was the last time you heard someone say "I want a wealthy, luxurious life. I think I will become a priest." I don't think so.

- Jesus spoke of hell (or Gehenna) often. He had no intention of gaining any kind of temporal power or matieral wealth. Jesus only spoke the truth and Christians and Muslims believe he was free from sin completely. A sinless man does not promote a lie.

- Our gift of free will radically allows us to decide the course of our lives. If we choose to disobey God and to seek separation from Him rather than closeness, God, in his eternal justice, cannot force us to love him. He will honor our free will decisions.


I suppose I could continue talking on this subject for quite some time. The basic point is that people must be ready. Live the life you believe God wants you to live.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Monday, October 04, 2010

Next Radio Show: Today at 8:00 EST (7:00pm Central)

Listen to my show tonight at 8pm Eastern Time, 7:00 Central

Please post any questions or comments you have as a comment to this post, and I will read them on the air.

Or you can call into the live show at (818) 394-8550. Or email philinaberdeen@gmail.com

Tonight's topics will include:
- Nobel prize for in-vitro fertilization
- Druidism being acknowledged as an official religion in the UK
- Protest over company that refused to make "gay" cupcakes
- Michael Crichton on environmentalism as a religion
- Reaction to relatively young people at Mass
- Sex abuse in schools

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Next radio show today at 1:30ET (12:30pm Central)

Call in and ask your question. Or reply with a question as a comment here. You can ask anonymously. The phone number is 818-394-8550 or email philinaberdeen@gmail.com

Comments also welcome.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Next radio program at 1:30pm Eastern (12:30pm Central) Today

To listen to my live show, click the play button in the column to the right.

To call in, dial (818) 394-8550.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Next Program on Monday, September 26 at 1:00PM EST (12:00PM Central)

Please call into the show. Press the play button on the right to hear the live episode, or if it is not playing, to hear the latest episode.

The number to reach me on the air is 1 (818) 394-8550.

Or you can add a comment to this blog post or email me at philinaberdeen@gmail.com

I'm now on the air until 3pm ET. Please call in.

Listen by pressing play on the side

Friday, September 24, 2010

Next Radio Program at 1:00 ET Today

Hey everyone,

I will be airing my next radio broadcast today at 1:00PM Eastern Time (12:00 Central). The show is 2 hours.

To listen, go to http://www.blogtalkradio.com/holymotherchurch/2010/09/24/the-catholic-faith-discussion-forum

As usual, I will be discussing Catholic issues, but also general issues of morality, ethics, etc. from a Catholic perspective.

Please feel free to call into the show at 1 (818) 394-8550.

I will also answer qusetions I receive via email. There are two ways to reach me:

1) Comment on this blog post
2) Email me at mailto:philinaberdeen@gmail.comwith subject RADIO SHOW

Hope you can listen in!

Phil

Thursday, September 23, 2010

My radio show is on the air right now - please listen

Hi everyone,

I have a Catholic Radio Show which is on the air right now.

You can listen here: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/holymotherchurch/2010/09/23/the-catholic-faith-discussion-forum-1
Please call in. I have no callers so far. The number is 1 (818) 394-8550

Don't be shy!

Phil

Monday, September 20, 2010

Could dust threaten the Sistine Chapel

It seems the millions of visitors to the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican City are carrying dust and pollen with them. This may cause problems down the road and so the Vatican is looking at ways to protect the artwork.

Here is the full article:

Tourist crowds threaten Vatican's Sistine Chapel

(AP) – 1 hour ago

VATICAN CITY — The Vatican Museums chief warned that dust and polluting agents brought into the Sistine Chapel by thousands of tourists every day risk one day endangering its priceless artworks.

Antonio Paolucci told the newspaper La Repubblica in comments published Thursday that in order to preserve Michelangelo's Last Judgment and the other treasures in the Sistine Chapel, new tools to control temperature and humidity must be studied and implemented.

Between 15,000 and 20,000 people a day, or over 4 million a year, visit the chapel where popes get elected, to admire its frescoes, floor mosaics and paintings.

"In this chapel people often invoke the Holy Spirit. But the people who fill this room every day aren't pure spirits," Paolucci told the newspaper.

"Such a crowd ... emanates sweat, breath, carbon dioxide, all sorts of dust," he said. "This deadly combination is moved around by winds and ends up on the walls, meaning on the artwork."

Paolucci said better tools were necessary to avoid "serious damage" to the chapel.

Visitors who want to see Leonardo da Vinci's "The Last Supper" in Milan must go through a filtration system to help reduce the work's exposure to dust and pollutants. This has made seeing da Vinci's masterpiece more difficult: 25 visitors are admitted every 15 minutes.

The Sistine Chapel, featuring works by Michelangelo, Botticelli and Perugino, underwent a massive restoration that ended in the late 1990s. The restoration was controversial because some critics said the refurbishing made the colors brighter than originally intended.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Hilarious Protestor

While some were protesting with simplistic slogans like Nope to the Pope, one man had a hilarious poster that showed his true Catholic understanding and sense of humour.

Check out the story here: http://liveshots.blogs.foxnews.com/2010/09/19/one-protester-the-pope-would-have-liked/

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Papal Protestors Oppose Freedom of Religion

Isn't it so ironic? Secularists, atheists, and the liberally-minded all say that people have the right to believe or do anything they want. If you want to have sex with anyone, go right ahead. If you end up pregnant, get an abortion if you want. If you want to have a religion, have one, but if you don't want one, then don't. So much choice. Freedom in their minds is the ability to do anything one wants. Ironically though, behind this thin veneer of freedom, we find a dictatorship. You can believe anything you like, as long as it agrees with them.

Kind of reminds me of Henry Ford when he said you can have any color car you want, as long as it's black. A prominent group of atheists including Richard Dawkins is protesting the Pope's visit to Britain. Along with him are many secularists and liberals in general who want the pope nowhere near the UK.

They say the state should not be sponsoring the trip of the leader of a Church which condemns the killing of children in the womb, restricts (as Jesus did) the ministerial priesthood to men, and which upholds the traditional views on marriage which preclude homosexual unions and contraception.

They say we are free to believe anything we want, as long as we support abortion, female ordination, homosexual unions, and contraception. Sounds like doublespeak to me. Kind of like calling North Korea, which doesn't hold elections and oppresses its people, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea.

These individuals do not want freedom, they want oppression. They demand that everyone support their agenda and allow all kinds of moral evil, while at the same time preventing people from upholding traditional values.

While the Pope calls for freedom of religion and conscience, these tyrants say the state should do all in its power to eradicate religion and religious belief. Only atheism, they say, can be acceptable. Richard Dawkins gets so much media attention where he is able to express all his atheistic beliefs. He writes books which sell to millions of people. Yet when another man, namely Pope Benedict, is invited to offer his thoughts, Richard Dawkins is livid. He even tried to have the pope arrested.

Richard Dawkins and his atheist cronies have no real power right now and yet when the pope visits they receive extraordinary levels of media coverage. With the little power they have, they try to destroy freedom of religion, they say any expression of a thought contrary to theirs should be banned, and they generally try to create an atheistic totalitarian regime.

Imagine what they'd do if they had any real power.