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November 8, 2011
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I’ve begun a new site, dedicated particularly to helping recent college graduates
September 21, 2010
Q: Why do Catholics believe that the bread and wine are not just bread and wine but actual blood and flesh? It looks and tastes like bread and wine to me. Jesus also said, “I am the door” and “I am the vine” but we don’t say that vines and doors are Christ.
A: The simplest answer is that Christ said “This is my body…this is my blood”, and we take his words as being truthful and literal, as have the overwhelming majority of Christians throughout history.
From the “bread of life” discourse in John 6, Jesus indicates his intent to be really present in the Eucharist. The Jews wanted a sign that Christ was of God. Christ replied “I am the bread that has come down from heaven” and that it was necessary to “eat my flesh and drink my blood” were they to have life in them. The asked, “how can this man give us his flesh to eat?” He only reiterated the necessity of eating his flesh. He uses a Greek word trogon, which means to chew or gnaw. Moreover, to figuratively “eat the body and blood” would call to mind a grave and blasphemous disrespect (cf. Psalm 27:2, Micah 3:1-4), making a figurative interpretation more doubtful.
St. Paul clearly states as well that, “whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord…For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself” (1 Cor 11:23-30). This is pretty harsh language for something that is merely a symbol.
Now it is true that Christ said, “I am the way” and “I am the door.” But Christ never said “this door is me”, or “this vine is my body”. But He did say, “this is my body” over the bread, and “this is my blood” over the cup (the only time he mentions the New Covenant was at the last supper).
As to the appearance of remaining bread and wine, the answer to this lies in the concept of ‘transubstantiation’. If I shaved my dog Fido, removed aleg, painted him blue, etc, he’d still be a dog. But if he died, he’d cease to be a dog, and have utterly changed his substantial being, becoming a pile of Fido-shapped fertilizer. The appearance matters not, but only the underlying substance. This is precisely what ‘transubstantiation’ means (achange of substance). That God himself could appear as bread and wine ought to be no stretch of the mind for those who believe that he could appear as a man. Jesus had the mere appearance of a man, but he was God.
September 20, 2010
Q: What are Marian apparitions? What do I have to believe about them? What if they are on a grilled cheese sandwich?
A: A Marian apparition is a purported miraculous appearance of Mary on Earth. “Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history.” (CCC #67)
When a purported apparition has ceased, the Church will launch a formal inquiry regarding the matter, looking particularly at what was revealed. If nothing can be found which contradicts the teachings of the Church—which are divinely protected—then it may be given the title of constat de supernaturalitate, which means that it is not beyond reason that the apparition was of supernatural origin. Often these purported apparitions are accompanied by miracles, which give credence to their validity. Many, however, are not given this “sanction” by the Church, for various reasons. Some are denied, being clearly of human origin, or containing error. Upon others, the jury is out.
As for what one must think of the apparitions, the Church is merely assessing the credibility of the claim. If the Church’s investigations have revealed no contradictions with the faith; that is all. They are matters of private revelation, not public, and so are not binding on any particular members of the Church. Nothing is doctrinally asserted, and one is not required to have any form of devotion to them. A Catholic may choose to believe or not believe and remain in good standing. However, such devotions can deepen our knowledge and expression of our faith.
As for purported apparitions on sides of buildings—and even, yes, grilled cheese sandwiches—the Church has never given any form of sanctioning to these events. It is not outside of the realm of possibility that such images could be given to bolster the faith of someone. Nevertheless, one ought always to defer to the teaching of the Church and the public revelation of the scriptures when seeking to discern the message of a private revelation.
May 5, 2009
A news post about a teacher “defaming” creationism has spured me to make this post. I think there is a lot of odd beliefs out there, potentially on both sides of the argument, but I also think that Creationism and Evolution don’t have to be at odds (though I’d favor the latter over the former if it came down to it). I’d like to posit at least one way they could be joined, mentioned below as “the illusion of age”. But first…
St. Augustine once wrote:
“It not infrequently happens that something about the earth, about the sky, about other elements of this world, about the motion and rotation or even the magnitude and distances of the stars, about definite eclipses of the sun and moon, about the passage of years and seasons, about the nature of animals, of fruits, of stones, and of other such things, may be known with the greatest certainty by reasoning or by experience, even by one who is not a Christian. It is too disgraceful and ruinous, though, and greatly to be avoided, that he [the non-Christian] should hear a Christian speaking so idiotically on these matters, and as if in accord with Christian writings, that he might say that he could scarcely keep from laughing when he saw how totally in error they are. In view of this and in keeping it in mind constantly while dealing with the book of Genesis, I have, insofar as I was able, explained in detail and set forth for consideration the meanings of obscure passages, taking care not to affirm rashly some one meaning to the prejudice of another and perhaps better explanation” (The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 1:19–20 [A.D. 408]).
“With the scriptures it is a matter of treating about the faith. For that reason, as I have noted repeatedly, if anyone, not understanding the mode of divine eloquence, should find something about these matters [about the physical universe] in our books, or hear of the same from those books, of such a kind that it seems to be at variance with the perceptions of his own rational faculties, let him believe that these other things are in no way necessary to the admonitions or accounts or predictions of the scriptures. In short, it must be said that our authors knew the truth about the nature of the skies, but it was not the intention of the Spirit of God, who spoke through them, to teach men anything that would not be of use to them for their salvation” (ibid., 2:9).
“Seven days by our reckoning, after the model of the days of creation, make up a week. By the passage of such weeks time rolls on, and in these weeks one day is constituted by the course of the sun from its rising to its setting; but we must bear in mind that these days indeed recall the days of creation, but without in any way being really similar to them” (ibid., 4:27).
“[A]t least we know that it [the Genesis creation day] is different from the ordinary day with which we are familiar” (ibid., 5:2).
The Church certainly is not anti-science. People often will raise the Galileo controversy, missing entierly the fact that it wasn’t heliocentric revolution that got Galileo in trouble, for Copernicus posited the same thing in his work a generation earlier, dedicated it to the pope, and had it very warmly received! In fact, it has been one of the largest supporters of science in the history of the world. The Church teaches “there can be never any real discrepancy between faith and reason. Since the same God who reveals mysteries and infuses faith has bestowed the light of reason on the human mind, God cannot deny himself, nor can truth ever contradict truth.” (CCC 159)
Vatican I defined that everyone must “confess the world and all things which are contained in it, both spiritual and material, as regards their whole substance, have been produced by God from nothing” (Canons on God the Creator of All Things, canon 5). All of creation is subject to the divine plan and will of God, and nothing acted apart from that will. This much is clear. What is not particularly clear is how we must understand certain passages.
Genesis 1 and 2 – certainly wellsprings of contentious interpretations – use metaphorical language to relay a real event in our primordial history (CCC 390). We can know that at least one of the two chapters is not literally true because they present different orders of creation. Indeed, laying down a literal, scientific ordering of creation does not seem to be what the author of Genesis has in mind. One supposes that what such descriptions are doing are primarily showing the importance and intentional creation of man, both confirming man is no accident and is made in the image and likeness of God himself.
God could have created the animals and even man through a guided natural process of evolution, or he could have created them on the spot as they were, and a Catholic is free to believe either in good conscience at this time. But this raises an interesting point of speculation: supposing God created Adam instantly, how old was he? 15? 30? “Middle-aged”? Nope. He’d have been one day old. And being one day old, he would have been created with the “illusion of age”. And if God can do that with the man, one sees no reason he couldn’t do it with the universe…
…But then if he can create it to make it look like it has history, there is no reason to suppose he couldn’t just create it with such an actual history either. [digg http://digg.com/general_sciences/The_Illusion_of_Age]
The short answer is thus: The Catholic Church permits one to hold a range of opinions regarding Evolution, so long as none of them contradict truths of the faith. The range of acceptable beliefs is wide.
March 25, 2009
EDIT: On second thought, I think I’d support legislation that permits scientific experimentation only on “unfertilized embryos”…
Not that anyone will notice, but Clinton has been spouting his mouth off about things he obviously has no clue about – and he’s not being caught in his ignorance (or worse). Had similar comments come from W., we’d already have dedicated web-pages…but because it’s Slick Willy, we are either turning a blind eye or – worse – stupid enough to believe him (or not know otherwise).
Bill Clinton doesn’t know basic biology. He doesn’t know what an embryo is. Bill Clinton thinks embryos can be fertilized (and more over that they are not fertilized). AND, Sanjay Gupta (Obama’s Pick for Surgeon General) never catches him in his glaring mistakes.
From CNN’s transcript, the following may be glimpsed:
CLINTON: If it’s obvious that we’re not taking embryos that can — that under any conceivable scenario would be used for a process that would allow them to be fertilized and become little babies … then I think the American people will support this. …
GUPTA: Any reservations?
CLINTON: I don’t know that I have any reservations, but I was — he [Obama] has apparently decided to leave to the relevant professional committees the definition of which frozen embryos are basically going to be discarded, because they’re not going to be fertilized. I believe the American people believe it’s a pro-life decision to use an embryo that’s frozen and never going to be fertilized for embryonic stem cell research, especially since now, not withstanding some promising developments, most of the scientists in this field and the doctors will tell you they don’t know of any other source as good as embryonic stem cells for all the various things that need to be researched.
But those committees need to be really careful to make sure if they don’t want a big storm to be stirred up here, that any of the embryos that are used clearly have been placed beyond the pale of being fertilized before their use. There are a large number of embryos that we know are never going to be fertilized, where the people who are in control of them have made that clear. The research ought to be confined to those. …
But there are values involved that we all ought to feel free to discuss in all scientific research. And that is the one thing that I think these committees need to make it clear that they’re not going to fool with any embryos where there’s any possibility, even if it’s somewhat remote, that they could be fertilized and become human beings.
What in the world?! How could you miss such blatant gaffes? There is a serious difference between thinking that the pro-life position is wrong on this issue for legitimate reasons, and thinking the pro-life position is wrong for illigitimate un-truths.
God help us!
March 24, 2009
From an article over at WorldNetDaily,
A senior Harvard research scientist confirmed that Pope Benedict XVI, who endured heavy criticism for declaring that condom distribution programs worsen the AIDS epidemic in Africa, was actually correct.
Dr. Edward C. Green, director of the AIDS Prevention Research Project at the Harvard Center for Population and Development
Studies, told National Review Online last week that despite AIDS activists and media outlets pounding the pope for downplaying the effectiveness of condoms, the science actually supports the Catholic leader’s claim.
“The pope is correct,” Green told NRO, “or put it a better way, the best evidence we have supports the pope’s comments. ”
“There is,” Green added, “a consistent association shown by our best studies, including the U.S.-funded ‘Demographic Health Surveys,’ between greater availability and use of condoms and higher (not lower) HIV-infection rates. This may be due in part to a phenomenon known as risk compensation, meaning that when one uses a risk-reduction ‘technology’ such as condoms, one often loses the benefit (reduction in risk) by ‘compensating’ or taking greater chances than one would take without the risk-reduction technology.”
According to Green, however, the pope’s critics have bought into a common myth about condoms and AIDS.
“We have found no consistent associations between condom use and lower HIV-infection rates,” said Green, “which, 25 years into the pandemic, we should be seeing if this intervention was working.”
Instead, Green noted, the pope’s encouragement of Africans toward monogamous sexual relationships has proven to be a much more effective strategy:
“The best and latest empirical evidence indeed shows that reduction in multiple and concurrent sexual partners is the most important single behavior change associated with reduction in HIV-infection rates,” Green said.
In Uganda, according to a report in Science magazine, teaching about AIDS and promoting monogamy has led to a dramatic turnaround in the country’s AIDS epidemic.
“Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is preventable if populations are mobilized to avoid risk,” states the report’s summary. “Despite limited resources, Uganda has shown a 70 percent decline in HIV prevalence since the early 1990s, linked to a 60 percent reduction in casual sex. The response in Uganda appears to be distinctively associated with communication about [AIDS] through social networks. Despite substantial condom use and promotion of biomedical approaches, other African countries have shown neither similar behavioral responses nor HIV prevalence declines of the same scale. The Ugandan success is equivalent to a vaccine of 80 percent effectiveness.”
When will we learn. When will we stop putting our own adgendas before the health and well being of others. When the fall has been undone, one supposes…