Many Catholics have been distraught by the radical departure from the basic and elementary message of the Catholic faith which, for 2,000 years, has always presented itself as the single Truth by which mankind will find salvation. Why is it that one of the globe’s most popular Catholic evangelists, Bishop Robert Barron, can go live on television and openly promote the idea that if a practicing Jewish non-believer in Christ, Ben Shapiro, were to simply follow his conscience, albeit under the auspices of God’s grace in Christ, he can escape the judgment of God and be saved in the last Day? Why is it that, when given the chance to clarify this (click here, Q&A begin @ minute 28:00), he shows no remorse for it, but rather persists in defending himself regardless of his promotion of indifferentism? Of course, Bishop Barron attempts to get this mess within the orange cones of Catholic orthodoxy by suggesting that the 2nd Vatican Council spoke to the possibility of attaining to salvation outside the confines of the Catholic Church and her physical sacraments. I’ve already written extensively (see here, here, and here) on why Barron’s public presentation still comes far from faithfully communicating the teaching of the Church even with the grant of said exceptional possibility. Continue reading
Ever since the 20th century, the Catholic Church’s Ecumenical movement has effected a massively different outlook on the scene of the world. From the 19th century backwards, Catholics believed that non-Catholics, and especially non-Christians, had no sure hope of attaining eternal life in Jesus Christ. Oh yes, I realize that Pope Pius IX speaks to the exceptional possibility of salvation outside the visible bounds of the Catholic Church (i.e. invincible ignorance and perfect contrition/charity under the auspices of God’s grace), but for the most part, if you were not a Catholic, your soul was in great danger of hell fire if you did not repent and enter into the Church through the holy bath of Baptism. Certainly, from the 17th century backwards, there was an even stronger sense that all who are without the Church and die in their sins will be damned. And yet, today we have Catholic scholars, high clergyman, and theologians professing to hold that, in the end, all men will be saved. Oh yes, they make sure they do not assert so blatantly that this is a certain fact of revelation, but a reasonable hope. Continue reading
On the 4th of February 4th of 2019, Pope Francis and Ahmad Al-Tayyeb, the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar Mosque both signed a document on Human Fraternity which contains the following statement:
Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action. The pluralism and the diversity of religions, colour, sex, race and language are willed by God in His wisdom, through which He created human beings. This divine wisdom is the source from which the right to freedom of belief and the freedom to be different derives. Therefore, the fact that people are forced to adhere to a certain religion or culture must be rejected, as too the imposition of a cultural way of life that others do not accept”
Some folks have claimed that this is heretical. Catholic theologian Dr. John Lamont, for example, says that this statement is “a clear, public repudiation of the Catholic faith”. Although not directly saying that Pope Francis intended to repudiate the Catholic faith, Bishop Athanasius Schneider, in an article entitled “The Gift of Filial Adoption“, attempts to emphasize that Christianity is the only religion willed by God.
Is the statement from this document necessarily heretical? This article will attempt to say that it is not necessarily heretical. However, that does not mean I am here arguing that Pope Francis intended an orthodox meaning necessarily. I am only here to demonstrate that the words, as stated, can be understood in an orthodox manner. Other theologians have already attempted to interpret it in an orthodox manner. For examples, see Dr. Chad Pecknold and Fr. Zed. Without belittling the statements of these intellectual giants, I intend to bring more evidence to this direction. Understand, however, that I’ve no particular benefit from defending the orthodoxy of the current Pope, nor do I seek that as a goal. In fact, I’ve wanted him to be put under Episcopal trial since the first year of his pontificate in order to be held accountable to the dogmas of the Catholic Church. What Cardinal Gerhard Müller’s recent Manifesto of Faith was great, but it is simply not good enough. With that said, if and when we do criticize the Pope, however, we should be as accurate as the sun is bright, and make sure there is no hole in our traps through which our opponents can escape with the trickery of words. And this is precisely why Pope Francis is so dangerous. He is not the sort of man who could easily be caught in a position like Arius, who made it clear what he was negating (i.e. the deity of Christ). Heretics such as Apollinaris, Eutychios, and Nestorios were great because you could actually discern what they were saying and negating. In our modernistic and psuedo-intellectual hierarchy today, we do not have the benefit of such clarity (see my article dissecting the mentality of Pope Francis)
Let me first begin by setting the stage of this joint document. In the first place, this was not an invitation from the Middle East for Francis to swoop in like the revivalist George Whitefield and begin open-air preaching to the populace on the necessity of conversion to Christ in order to escape the fires of hell. I wish he would do that, but that is clearly outside the intention of both the Pope and his hosts in the Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates . Rather, as the subtitle of the document suggests, the context was for World Peace and Living Together. The very opening begins with “In the name of God who has created all human beings equal in rights, duties and dignity, and who has called them to live together as brothers and sisters“. It goes on to mention innocent human life, the poor, the destitute, tortured, orphans, widows, refugees, victims of war, persecution, and injustice, etc,etc. It is quite plain that a Catholic Pope and Muslim Imam speaking to this are quite outside the purview of any evangelistic context through which one side is seeking to convert the other. This is very *down to earth*, in other words. It is far more basic to earthly peace than vital to everlasting happiness with God. The title, Human Fraternity, is precisely referenced in one particular line: “In the name of human fraternity that embraces all human beings, unites them and renders them equal“. There you have it. This document is speaking to the equal rights of all human beings that should be respected in order to best live out our time in the midst of religious, cultural, ethnic, and racial differences. Unless the orthodox Catholic wants to insist, contrary to religious liberty, that we should discriminate unbelievers as less-deserving of freedom, there isn’t a whole lot of exhortation to become Christian to be expected from this document. That is not the intention, nor the goal of it. The goal is stated very clearly in the middle of the document:
“In the name of God and of everything stated thus far; Al-Azhar al-Sharif and the Muslims of the East and West, together with the Catholic Church and the Catholics of the East and West, declare the adoption of a culture of dialogue as the path; mutual cooperation as the code of conduct; reciprocal understanding as the method and standard” and “call upon ourselves, upon the leaders of the world as well as the architects of international policy and world economy, to work strenuously to spread the culture of tolerance and of living together in peace; to intervene at the earliest opportunity to stop the shedding of innocent blood and bring an end to wars, conflicts, environmental decay and the moral and cultural decline that the world is presently experiencing.”
The goal of the document is to reach dialogue, tolerance, peace, cooperation, and understanding. This is not out of the blue, either. It is not news to anyone in the know that there has often been conflict, hostility, persecution, and even massive casualties caused by the friction created between Catholics and Muslims (at least). And for us Catholics, we shouldn’t see this as a horrible thing. As we shall see, this concept has been clearly taught in the Universal Catechism of the Catholic Church. How should Muslims coexist with Catholics, is the question. This is why the document goes on to speak of the protection of different persons of diverse religions, etc,etc. We aren’t expecting to be told we should suppress one or the other.
Now, I will dedicate the rest of this to the section that everyone keeps talking about. It begins with this:
“Freedom is a right of every person: each individual enjoys the freedom of belief, thought, expression and action”.
It is important that we see that this is the ground of the following comments to come afterwards. Freedom is the right of every person. This is none other than what the Catechism says. In paragraph 2106, the CCC states:
After reading a defense for Bishop Robert Barron’s misleading of Ben Shapiro, I had to give a response to what is becoming the standard apologetic for making a near full eclipse on the Gospel of our Lord. Someone asked if we could imagine this all from the other side, and how bad the “nones” (those with no religion watching) would have reacted to the idea that their souls are in danger if they don’t believe in Christ, or how badly Mr. Shapiro would have reacted if he were told that he is obligated to respond to the Gospel or else be condemned. This was my response to that. Continue reading
Bishop Robert Barron and Rabbi David Wolpe were both invited to come and speak on the Rubin Report on religion, enlightenment, and areas of agreement/disagreement. I did listen to it, and my personal take away was that it was very plain, without entertainment, and I was unhappy that there was not more discussion on their disagreement. In any case, someone brought to my attention a particular segment where Bishop Barron speaks about the unintended conformity to God that exists in even atheists, such as Christopher Hitchens, in his own ethical convictions for justice. The background of this section is Rubin’s topic of discussion on whether someone can erect a fresh and new world-view, which doesn’t have anything to do with Christianity, Judaism, or traditional religion, but which accounts for the existence of ethics. Rabbi Wolpe, in sum, conceded that this might be somewhat feasible, but there would be no root or soil to this enterprise, and so he wonders how long it would last without the foundation underneath which supports it. When it came time for the Bishop to answer, this is how it went: Continue reading
“It is not only one Church which is in peril, nor yet two or three which have fallen under this terrible storm. The mischief of this heresy spreads almost from the borders of Illyricum to the Thebaid. Its bad seeds were first sown by the infamous Arius; they then took deep root through the labours of many who vigorously cultivated the impiety between his time and ours. Now they have produced their deadly fruit. The doctrines of true religion are overthrown. The laws of the Church are in confusion. The ambition of men, who have no fear of God, rushes into high posts, and exalted office is now publicly known as the prize of impiety. The result is, that the worse a man blasphemes, the fitter the people think him to be a bishop. Clerical dignity is a thing of the past. There is a complete lack of men shepherding the Lord’s flock with knowledge.
“Ambitious men are constantly throwing away the provision for the poor on their own enjoyment and the distribution of gifts. There is no precise knowledge of canons. There is complete immunity in sinning; for when men have been placed in office by the favour of men, they are obliged to return the favour by continually showing indulgence to offenders. Just judgment is a thing of the past; and everyone walks according to his heart’s desire. Vice knows no bounds; the people know no restraint. Men in authority are afraid to speak, for those who have reached power by human interest are the slaves of those to whom they owe their advancement. And now the very vindication of orthodoxy is looked upon in some quarters as an opportunity for mutual attack; and men conceal their private ill-will and pretend that their hostility is all for the sake of the truth. Others, afraid of being convicted of disgraceful crimes, madden the people into fratricidal quarrels, that their own doings may be unnoticed in the general distress. Hence the war admits of no truce, for the doers of ill deeds are afraid of a peace, as being likely to lift the veil from their secret infamy.
“All the while unbelievers laugh; men of weak faith are shaken; faith is uncertain; souls are drenched in ignorance, because adulterators of the word imitate the truth. The mouths of true believers are dumb, while every blasphemous tongue wags free; holy things are trodden under foot; the better laity shun the churches as schools of impiety; and lift their hands in the deserts with sighs and tears to their Lord in heaven. Even you must have heard what is going on in most of our cities, how our people with wives and children and even our old men stream out before the walls, and offer their prayers in the open air, putting up with all the inconvenience of the weather with great patience, and waiting for help from the Lord.”
+ St. Basil the Great, Letter #92, “To the Italians and Gauls”
Of course, the Gates of Hell shall not prevail against the Church. We know this as certain since Christ our Lord promised so, and He cannot lie. However, ever since the beginning of the Christ-mission with the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost, the Church has seen massive ups and downs, and perhaps very few ups. Therefore, we should not be so shaken at devastating times in the Church. That the Gates of Hell shall not prevail does not mean the Church cannot be dwindled down to a few who hold to the Apostolic faith in comparison to the Masses. It does not mean the Church will always be numerous, rich, convincing, seen as credible, or filled with morally virtuous members. It means that Christ will sustain the root and shoot of the Everlasting Covenant as He instituted it, with all its means to be sanctified and glorified in her holy sacraments, for the sake of the “remnant” or the “elect” which have not been hardened to the truth. The Church survived 4th century Arianism, despite how St. Basil describes it. The Church has survived every other oncoming onslaught. It is always the story of Job, even if corporately applied to the New Israel, over and over again. Stay strong. Don’t expect every question to be answered. Focus on dying a happy death, and He who works His oxen with a light yoke and an easy burden will soon give you eternal rest.
Dr. Eduardo Echeverria, Professor of Philosophy and Systematic Theology at Sacred Heart Major Seminary, in his recent article entitled “History, unchanging Truth, and Vatican II” at the Catholic World Report, takes on a difficult task in attempting to relate together the absolute truth of Christian revelation and its transmission through the medium of changeable and historically-conditioned human expressions (i.e. doctrinal formulations within a certain social and historical context). Dr. Ed puts his finger on the right target by situating the veracity of the 2nd Vatican Council, at least partly, on whether we can maintain the enduring validity of the doctrinal content of the Church’s past doctrinal formulations while at the same time acknowledging the changeability in their contextualized framing.