Thursday, June 30, 2011

Miracles Of Soho

Soho, in the West End of the British capital, has had a rather dodgy history. Wikipedia notes that, by the mid-19th century, “all respectable families had moved away, and prostitutes, music halls and small theaters had moved in.” So had Rev. Arthur O’Leary, who, in 1792, established in Soho the first Catholic church since the Reformation that had not been located on some foreign embassy’s territory. The parish first worshipped in a ballroom rented from the creditors of a bankrupt Regency theatrical impresario, Teresa Cornelys, one of Casanova’s many lovers.

The parish built a church in 1893, and St. Patrick’s became a Catholic home for many in the London émigré community. In the 1930s, St. Patrick’s was surrounded by bars where inebriated intellectuals and writers argued long into the night. Their drunken revelry, like much of London’s life, was interrupted by the German Blitz, during which a Luftwaffe bomb came crashing through the ceiling of St. Patrick’s and buried itself in the floor without exploding.

As my colleague Stephen White puts it, Soho today is a “world-class spiritual wasteland…a playground of the middle and upper classes, a trendy night spot that sells just about anything a man could want. It’s not so much a poor neighborhood as it is a wicked neighborhood. It’s a place dedicated to the appetites and built on prodigality.” And in the midst of that prodigality is St. Patrick’s — a model Catholic parish and one of the flagships of the New Evangelization.

Led for the past decade by Rev. Alexander Sherbrooke, a man of no small dreams, St. Patrick’s has just completed a magnificent restoration that has turned a once-drab church into a golden gem of architecture and decoration: for Father Sherbrooke believes, with Benedict XVI, that beauty is a privileged pathway to God in a secular age. While the church was being restored, its dank basement was dug out and a state-of-the-art community center built for the parish’s extensive work with the homeless and the destitute. Up in the church’s bell tower is a chapel for Eucharistic adoration, where volunteers pray from 7 p.m. to 11 p.m. every night, and where two telephones bring requests from all over the world to an “SOS Prayer Line.”

The Eucharist is at the heart of St. Patrick’s life, for, as White put it after his eight months of work there, “the demands of discipleship in that environment leave no room for lukewarmness. Anyone who was going to leave left long ago. The Eucharist quite simply drives the life and work of the parish. This is not a theological truism but an actual fact learned from experience. And that experience is transformative.” The Eucharist, in a daily rhythm of Mass and eucharistic adoration, is the dynamic force behind the church’s street evangelization programs and its work with the homeless.

Eucharistic piety is also at the center of the St. Patrick’s Evangelization School, the acronym for which (SPES) is, not coincidentally, the Latin word for “hope.” Each year, ten or so young people come to St. Patrick’s for an academic year’s worth of intense catechesis, spiritual formation, street evangelization, and work with Soho’s down-and-outs, while they take turns manning the SOS Prayer Line during adoration. It’s an experience straight out of the Acts of the Apostles, with 21st-century technology providing new opportunities for these young men and women to give witness to the hope that is within the followers of the Way.

After more than a year of renovation (during which the parish’s many ministries continued), the church was reopened in early June with three days of festivities, including Masses celebrated by Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Westminster and George Cardinal Pell of Sydney. I was invited to give a lecture on the middle day of the three and spoke on the emergence of Evangelical Catholicism — sacramental, biblical, robustly missionary, service-oriented — as the fruit of Vatican II. It seemed an appropriate theme, for St. Patrick’s today embodies exactly what the Council imagined for the world church: a new Pentecost.

Source: Crisis Magazine

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Tuesday, June 28, 2011

How Can I Know The Will Of God In My Life ?

Q: How can I know what the will of God is in my life? I have been suffering physically for almost a year. I have been praying for healing and others have been praying for me. How do I know if it is God’s will that I continue suffering? I don’t know whether to keep on praying for healing or to just accept this suffering as God’s will. I pray that I may know His will but so far can’t figure out what it is.

A: Clearly, you have a passionate desire to know and embrace God’s will in your life. You should be so grateful for this desire! You are “hungering and thirsting for righteousness” (Matthew 5:6), and so, you are blessed!

The spiritual life is, in its most basic elements, nothing less than a following of Christ, an imitation of him. And his very food – the thing that he hungered for and the thing that nourished and strengthened him – was “to do the will of the one who sent me” (John 4:34). The mere fact that you submitted this question is sure proof that the Holy Spirit is hard at work in your heart, and that you are making an effort to collaborate with him. On the other hand, the interior turbulence that the situation is causing you is most likely not from the Holy Spirit. I hope the following thoughts can help put you more at ease.

Before trying to answer the specific question about your physical suffering, we have to make a theological distinction. The phrase “God’s will” can cause confusion if we don’t identify two broad sub-categories, so to speak: From our perspective, God’s will can be either indicative or permissive.

God’s Indicative Will

God can indicate that he wants us to do certain things – this is his indicative will. In this category we find the Ten Commandments, the commandments of the New Testament (e.g., “love one another as I have loved you” [John 15:12], “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…” [Matthew 28:19]), the commandments and teachings of the Church (e.g. fasting on Good Friday), the responsibilities of our state in life, and specific inspirations of the Holy Spirit (e.g. when Blessed Mother of Teresa was inspired to start a new religious order to serve the poorest of the poor).

The field of God’s indicative will is humongous. In touches all the normal activities and relationships of every day, which are woven into the tapestry of moral integrity and faithfulness to our life’s calling, plus the endless possibilities of the works of mercy (thus obeying the commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself” [Mark 12:31]).

Yet it not only consists in what we do, but also in how we do it, which opens up the whole arena of growth in Christian virtue. We can wash the dishes (responsibilities of our state in life) with resentment and self-pity, or with love, care, and supernatural joy. We can attend Sunday Mass (Third Commandment and commandment of the Church) apathetically and reluctantly, or with conviction, faith, and attention. We can drive to work (responsibilities of our state in life) seething at the traffic jams, or exercising patience. When we ask ourselves, “What is God’s will for me?”, 88% of the time (more or less) God’s indicative will is crystal clear.

God’s Permissive Will

But the phrase “God’s will” also touches another category of life-experience: suffering. Suffering, of one type or another, is our constant companion as we journey through this fallen world. God has revealed that suffering was not part of his original plan, but rather was the offspring of original sin, which ripped apart the harmony of God’s creation. His indicative will to our first parents in the Garden of Eden was “do not eat the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” (Genesis 2:17). They disobeyed. Human nature fell; creation fell; evil attained a certain predominance in the human condition, giving rise to “the overwhelming misery which oppresses men and their inclination towards evil and death” (Catechism, 403).

Here is where the distinction between God’s indicative and permissive will comes in. God did not desire or command Adam and Eve to rebel against his plan, but he did permit them to do so. Likewise, throughout human history, God does not will evil to happen (and its consequence of suffering), but he does permit it. He certainly didn’t explicitly will the Holocaust, for example, but, on the other hand, he did permit it.

The question of why God permits some evil and the suffering that comes from it, even the suffering of innocents, is an extremely hard question to answer. Only the Christian faith as a whole gives a satisfactory response to it, a response that can only penetrate our hearts and minds through prayer, study, and the help of God’s grace (See Catechism #309). St Augustine’s short answer is worth mentioning, however. He wrote that if God permits evil to affect us, it is only because he knows that he can use it to bring about a greater good. We may not see that good right away; we may not see it at all during our earthly journey, in fact, but Christ’s Resurrection (Easter Sunday) is the promise that God’s omnipotence and wisdom are never trumped by the apparent triumphs of evil and suffering (Good Friday).

How Long Is Too Long?

Your first question, then, can be answered like this: You can know the will of God in your life through the commandments and the responsibilities of your calling (God’s indicative will), and through the circumstances outside of your control that God permits (God’s permissive will). The physical suffering you are facing is clearly a circumstance that seems out of your control; it would most likely fit into the category of God’s permissive will.

Your second question, though, is harder to answer. How long should you pray to be delivered from this suffering? A few reflections may help you have greater peace in this difficult dilemma.

Pray Freely

First, praying to be delivered from suffering is fine. It is one of the fruitful responses to suffering, because through that prayer we exercise our faith, hope, and love for God, along with the precious virtues of humility and perseverance. Jesus prayed for deliverance in Gethsemane. St Paul prayed to be delivered from the “thorn in his flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7). But, this prayer of petition should always be offered with a condition: “Lord, let me be healed of this affliction, if it be your will.” We have to trust that if his answer to our prayer is “no” or “not yet,” that answer flows from his infinite love and wisdom, even if we don’t particularly like it.

Accepting God’s Current Answer

Second, as long as God has not healed you, either through a miracle or through the natural, prudent steps that you have taken (medical attention, for example), we know that he is still permitting your suffering. In that sense, it is his permissive will for you to continue bearing this cross. So, for now, this is part of God’s will for you.

I say “part” because God’s indicative will still applies. Even in the midst of our sufferings, we must strive to remember that by following the commandments and fulfilling the responsibilities of our state in life, we are glorifying God, building his Kingdom, and following Christ. We should try to avoid letting our crosses blind us to the integral picture of our Christian discipleship (which includes continued participation in the Sacraments, prayer, and loving others as God has loved us).

Learning to Live with Mystery

Third, on a very practical note, it is not always easy to know when to stop praying for a particular petition. In the Gospel, Jesus exhorts us to “pray continually and never lose heart” (Luke 18:1), and even tells us a couple of parables to illustrate the point (see Luke 18 and Luke 11). He also promises: “Ask and you shall receive” (Matthew 7:7). And yet, St Paul had the experience of asking for the thorn in his flesh to be removed – repeatedly – and God did not give him what he asked for.

There is a mystery here. St Augustine explains that God sometimes refrains from giving us the specific thing we ask for, because he wants to give us something better; he wants to respond to a deeper desire from which the specific petition flows.

Learning From St Paul and A Practical Tip

Perhaps in your case St Paul’s example can be helpful. He kept asking for the thorn in his flesh to be removed, until he received this answer from God: “My grace is enough for you; my power is at its best in weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9). With that answer, he no longer felt a need to ask for healing.

As long as you feel in your heart the desire to be healed of your affliction, continue to bring your petition to the Lord. But in order to avoid becoming obsessed with or confused by the painful situation and God’s mysterious response, perhaps it would be helpful to make your petition in the form of an established devotion. For example, you can make the Nine First Fridays devotion for this intention. Or you could do a novena to St Pio Pietralcina or to Our Lady of Good Remedy during the first nine days of every month. By circumscribing your petition for healing within an established devotion of some kind, you can be at peace that you are doing your part (persevering and not losing heart), while not letting your struggle disturb or dominate all the other aspects of your Christian discipleship.

You can be assured that I will join my prayers to yours, that God’s will be done, and that you find the peace that comes from God’s embrace even as you share in the pain of his Cross.

Source: Catholic Spiritual Direction

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Sunday, June 26, 2011

A Closer Look At Charismatic Renewal

It has now been over twenty-five years since the Charismatic Renewal took root in the Catholic Church. For many, beleaguered by the rampant secularization of the Church and the consequent eradication of the supernatural, it held out the hope of a genuine spiritual renascence; one fostered by a renewed and ever more intimate relationship with the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, confirmed in the abundance of supernatural "gifts." Many did return. However, as with all renewals, not a few, caught up in the initial fervor and bedazzled by the promise, let subjective analyses of this phenomenon suffice, neglecting difficulties posed by a rational evaluative approach. Unfortunately, subjective perceptions can never be held as the standard of truth, if we are to make an honest assessment of the Renewal. This article proposes that a movement that has swept Protestantism over the past ninety odd years, and has made significant inroads into the Catholic Church throughout the last twenty-five, is deserving of more serious scrutiny by those who have fostered its growth and those responsible for maintaining the integrity of the Catholic Faith. It is hoped that this modest study will provide several useful approaches toward the evaluation of certain aspects of the Renewal, that a more refined theological understanding may evolve and present inconsistencies or difficulties be resolved.

Pentecostal Origins of American Charismatic Renewal

Classical Pentecostalism, from which the "neo-Pentecostalism" of the Charismatic Renewal derives, is essentially a form of fundamentalist evangelical Protestantism and has derived much of its substance from the Methodist Revival Movement of the nineteenth century. The movement, dubbed the "Holiness" Movement, was an effort to revive the Wesleyen doctrine of "entire sanctification." This took the form of a distinct second blessing, which conferred the gift of total interior conversion, enabling the recipient to lead a life of genuine moral perfection. This "second blessing" manifested itself at revivals as an often intensely emotional experience of a purely subjective nature. The term "baptism in the Holy Ghost" was used by some preachers to describe this experience, echoed in the contemporary analog, "baptism in the Holy Spirit." A distinction should be made however, inasmuch as charisms did not accompany the "Holiness" experience.1

The birth of Pentecostalism is attributable to one Charles F. Parham, a former "Holiness" preacher, master and founder of the Bethel Bible School, Topeka, Kansas. The presumed date of the birth of the movement is said to have been January 1, 1901, and was an outcome of Parham's teaching methodology, which was quite simple. Using the Bible as sole textbook, an "appropriate" question would be introduced, to be answered through the study and researches of his students. As fate would have it, Parham posed the question: "What is the scriptural sign of a true baptism in the Holy Ghost?" Their conclusion, gleaned from the pages of Acts: speaking in tongues. Several days and nights of prolonged prayer prepared the enthusiastic students for the coming of the Holy Ghost. On January 1, 1901, Agnes Oznam, a Bethel student, requested that Parham lay hands on her head, while the group of students fervently prayed. Agnes is recounted, as a result of this, to have spoken Bohemian as well as several other languages. Within days, this phenomenon had been experienced by all the students and the movement was truly born.2

It is essential to note from the aforementioned episode the dramatic theological shift in the concept of "baptism in the Holy Ghost" as originally understood within the context of the "Holiness Movement." From this point on, most "classical" Pentecostals would subscribe to the notion that tongues must accompany the "baptism in the Holy Spirit" in order to authenticate the genuine bestowal of power given for effective witnessing to Christ.3

It is unnecessary to recount the phenomenal growth of the various Pentecostal denominations which arose from Parham's modest experiment. By 1925 there were some thirty-eight denominations in the United States alone.4 In its recent expansion within the past few decades outside of the United States, it has outstripped all other denominations in its phenomenal rate of growth.5 What is necessary to note is that the "neo-Pentecostal" outbreak of the last few decades was the direct cause of the parallel phenomenon which attained to such gigantic strides within the Catholic Church that, ". . . Bishop McKinney (U.S.) expressed in the early days of the renewal, to attend at least half a dozen prayer meetings before making a decision either to reject it or participate in it."6

That this direct causal relationship exists is evident in the inception of the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement. This occurred in the Spring of 1966, when Drs. William Storey and Ralph Keller, lay faculty members at Duquesne University, having been disappointed in their apostolic endeavors, and influenced by Keller's reading of John Sherril's, They Speak in Other Tongues, sought out a means whereby they might be filled with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, after the manner of the early apostles.7 This led to participation in several neo-Pentecostal prayer meetings, held in a Pittsburgh suburb, in the hope that they might learn how to receive the "baptism of the Holy Spirit." After attendance at several meetings, two of the four attending Catholics requested that hands be laid on them and they then began to undergo the Pentecostal experience of speaking in tongues. The experience was shared with a group of Catholic students on retreat, in February, 1967, from which the first neo-Pentecostal prayer group was formed on a Catholic campus. From there the movement spread to Notre Dame and beyond.8

Some Theological Difficulties

This brief introduction to Charismatic roots in the Pentecostal tradition gives one sufficient fuel to anticipate some of the serious theological difficulties Charismatic groups have had to contend with; not the least of which is the "baptism in the Spirit," so central to the entire Pentecostal and Charismatic experiences.

One can clearly discern the problem the Catholic faces when he confronts the fact that he has received the Holy Spirit in the Sacrament of Baptism; but further, he has received another indelible character upon his soul, that of the Christian soldier, receiving "the sevenfold gift of the Holy Ghost"9 by which is imparted "full growth and perfect spiritual strength."10 It becomes quite evident that the intention of the original Holiness and Pentecostal evangelists was to "create" an experience which would beg God to provide these very gifts (recall Wesley's "second blessing"). The superfluity of such an experience could not be doubted by any faithful and reasoning Catholic. To do so would be to call into question the validity of the Sacrament of Confirmation and implicitly the teaching authority of the Church. Furthermore, the Pentecostal implication that it is necessary that some visible sign such as was manifest in the diversity of tongues at Pentecost is clearly refuted by the authority of the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church. The problem is further compounded by the verifiable fact that the form of tongue speaking accompanying this frequently and almost universally expected imparting of this gift, bears no resemblance to the specific form of tongue speaking manifest through the Apostles at Pentecost. This will be more fully discussed.

How then is the Charismatic to justify the centrality of the "baptism in the Spirit"? Unfortunately, any explanation must be relegated to the realm of speculative theology, which must ultimately submit to the authority of Rome. As a preliminary, Francis A. Sullivan, S.J. and Simon Tugwell, O.P. agree that the term "baptism in the Spirit," from a Catholic viewpoint, is "exegetically unsound, theologically confusing and risky pastorally."11 Fr. Sullivan finds no evidence that there was the expectation on the part of the Christians in the early Church to receive a "second blessing" by which they would receive the fullness of Spirit, in the Wesleyen sense.12 This is a clear refutation of Pentecostal theology. However, the experience of this "baptism in the Spirit" must somehow be explained. Two interesting explanations have been proposed.

The first is extracted from the Malines Documents13 drawn up by a number of theologians and leaders of the Charismatic Renewal, at Malines, Belgium, in 1974. The documents distinguish between the "theological" sense and the "experiential" sense of the term "baptism in the Spirit."14 The first refers to the Sacrament of Initiation (baptism); the second refers to "the breaking forth into conscious experience of the Spirit, who was given during the celebration of initiation."15 As these documents are preliminary in defining and resolving some of the difficulties raised by the renewal, they are not exhaustive. Regrettably, the specific relationship between the Sacrament of Confirmation and the highly problematic "baptism in the Spirit" is not specifically analyzed or developed. This appears to be of central import to the discernment of the full theological implications. But as the matter stands we must rely primarily upon the "experiential" definition in our analysis, leaving us with a major problem. That is, the "conscious experience of Spirit's power already given in baptism" leaves us an unfortunate void due to its intangible nature. One can readily see why some Charismatics would insist upon the experience of the charisms, especially tongues, an immediate and verifiable sign of the Spirit's breaking forth into consciousness. For this reason Fr. Sullivan attempts another approach.

Fr. Sullivan attempts to integrate the experiential with the theological sense by saying that Catholic Charismatics are "baptized in the Spirit" in the Biblical sense, which includes both "the theological and experiential senses."16 He believes that the reality is a new "outpouring of the Spirit" that is working in their lives.17 The "outpouring" refers to the theological sense, while "working" refers to the experiential sense.

Sullivan finds no difficulty with the experiential sense, as "everyone" agrees that the "baptism in the Spirit" is a heightened awareness of the workings of the Holy Spirit. He makes sure he stays clear of Pentecostal contamination by making clear that the Malines Documents allow that this experience is not necessarily immediate, but rather, that it may take place by way of a "growth process." (Keep this in mind, as it appears to refute Fr. Sullivan's theological argument formulated below.) Unfortunately, this view makes it more and more difficult to see the significance of an increasingly indeterminate experience.

Regarding the theological sense, Fr. Sullivan sees justification for speaking about a "new sending of Spirit" in light of the Angelic Doctor. He feels such a concept conforms to Thomistic theology, if we are, in fact, dealing with "a decisively new work of grace, such as can be described as 'moving into a new act or state of grace'."18 He argues that in keeping with Thomas' concept of innovatio, that is, there must be a real innovation in the person in whom the Holy Spirit dwells in a new way, we should find new acts or states consonant with such a sending.19 These were exemplified in the writings of St. Thomas, by the graces distinctly charismatic and not sacramental. However, Fr. Sullivan emphasizes that in keeping with St. Thomas' concept of innovatio, we could not speak merely of the conferring of a charism as this "sending," but rather, there must be a new way of the Spirit's indwelling, implying a new personal relationship with the Spirit, bringing a new work of grace in their life.20

Unfortunately, having eliminated the necessity of some concrete manifestation of the charismatic gifts in conjunction with the "baptism in the Spirit," it becomes evident that Fr. Sullivan's argument loses its validity. He does, however, attempt to deal with the problem of "gradual growth in awareness," by arguing that we need not limit ourselves in this life to but one "sending" of the Spirit, but, in the sense in which he has argued, there may be many "sendings." The basic problem with this approach lies in finding some norm for identifying "states of grace" indicative of such experiences. One can see the obvious difficulties encountered when the criteria of "tongues" is eliminated. Finding Catholic explanations for Protestant innovations is an arduous task.

The Gift of Tongues

The manifestation of speaking in tongues is central to the theology of many of the Pentecostal denominations, though by no means universal. Today many modern Pentecostals have adopted a position that the accompanying manifestation, one considered essential, is no longer so. However, when all is said and done, two things truly stand out to distinguish Charismatic prayer groups from all others. These are the "charisms" of "tongues" and healing. Both are intriguing and to a great extent perplexing. But of these two, we must admit that speaking in tongues is by far the more enigmatic. Confusion reigns when we enter into this area, and for very good reasons.

First, the manifestation of the phenomenon of tongues, as observed from the turn of the century up to the present, has been primarily within the Protestant theological context. One will recall that the original movement initiated by Charles Parham, rested upon the foundation of a so-called inspired meditation upon Scripture, unsubstantiated by any authoritative pronouncement or exegetical support of his conclusion. He readily assumed that the appropriate sign of "baptism in the Spirit" was a manifestation of the speaking in strange tongues, which he interpreted to mean foreign languages not known to the one manifesting the phenomenon. This approach, obviously problematic from the Catholic vantage point, raises many serious questions: What precisely constitutes the charism of tongues as manifested by the Apostles with the descent of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost (Acts 2)? Is this the same charism as spoken of by Paul to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 14)? If we can precisely identify what this gift is, is it still bestowed in this era? What precisely is the phenomenon of tongues as manifested within the Pentecostal and more importantly Catholic Charismatic movements? What is the criterion by which we may judge a true manifestation of the gift of tongues? Based upon this criterion, what can we say about the authenticity of present day manifestations? This is but a partial list.

The first of these questions poses some difficulties. Regrettably, there is scant evidence within the body of Patristic writings dealing with the phenomenon of Acts 2. The general opinion regarding the nature of the manifestation at Pentecost is found in several passages of Irenaeus', Against Heresies, in which he describes the Pentecost event ". . . from whence also, with one accord in all languages, they uttered praise to God."21 From that point on this seems to have been the accepted position of the Church.22

And what of 1 Cor. 14? We are left only with an admittance by St. John Chrysostom that the passages involved were obscure.23 Indeed, they remain so. As Fr. Sullivan points out, today two schools of thought are divided on the matter. The first holds to the position that Corinthian glossolalia was the speaking in foreign languages. The second holds that the gift spoken of by St. Paul was that of ecstatic utterance.24 It is not within my competence to judge as to the merits of either exegetical proof. That burden lies with the Church. Nevertheless, both sides garner support experientially.

The first position rests upon the common opinion of the Church Fathers and the renderings from the lives of the Saints. It is evident from these that the speaking of foreign tongues has manifested itself not only at Pentecost, but in the lives of such saints as St. Hildegarde, St. Vincent Ferrer, and St. Francis Xavier.25

The second position infers that the phenomenon known as "tongues of jubilation" was known among such saints as St. Teresa of Jesus and John of the Cross.26 It seems that St. Isidore of Seville expressed the meaning of "jubilation" as effusive exultation which "erupts by means of a voice."27 "It is an effusion of the soul."28 An attempt is made to demonstrate the similarities between "jubilation" and the modern "singing in tongues"; however, a question arises, when one regards the fact that the Fathers and other Christian writers who spoke of "jubilation" never identified the phenomenon with the "gift of tongues."29 Fr. Sullivan admits that this is so, and makes the simple observation that this was probably so because tongues had always been understood to mean the "miraculous ability to preach the Gospel in foreign languages that one has never learned."30

However, by about 1000 A.D., the Rituale Romanum expressed the view of the Church which has remained to this day: that the facility in strange tongues or the mysterious ability to understand such as spoken by another can be seen as a sign to be weighed with other evidence in cases of demonic possession.31

The second question, regarding the manifestation of tongues beyond the close of the Apostolic age, can be briefly dealt with. St. Thomas, relying on the authority of Augustine, judged the manifestation at Pentecost to be a special sign specific to the Apostolic age, and one which ceased thereafter.32 Augustine, in the Epistle to St. John, concluded that the charism of tongues manifested at Pentecost was intended as a sign for the ages which followed, that the Gospels were to be preached "through all tongues over the whole earth."33 It follows from this that the particular significance of tongues in this light would make future repetitions superfluous. It is true, however, that the ability to converse in an unknown foreign tongue has been known to have occurred in the lives of a number of saints, as cited above. However, these manifestations have occurred in the cases of individuals of extraordinary sanctity, and with a lower frequency than many of the other gifts, such as healing and prophecy. What is the precise nature of the phenomenon prevalent amongst members of the Pentecostal and Charismatic movements? To begin with, it will simplify matters if we limit ourselves to phenomena specific to the aforementioned groups. If we do, we may, on the basis of existing empirical evidence, safely conclude that modern glossolalia bears no resemblance to xenoglossia, the phenomenon of speaking a foreign language unknown to the speaker and known to another present.34 In other words, the phenomenon bears no resemblance to the event of Pentecost. Undoubtedly, this fact might have sent shock waves through the original Pentecostal movement, considering the literal fundamentalist framework of Parham, its inadvertent founder. Evidently, there has either been a significant change in the species of sign manifested since the early days at Topeka or observations and impressions of the original phenomenon were erroneous.

Then what precisely is this modern phenomenon? Fr. Sullivan has described some of the linguistic research done in the field of glossolalia, which have yielded some interesting results. Most significant is the research of Professor William G. Samarin, Professor of Anthropology and Linguistics at the University of Toronto. A linguistic analysis of contemporary glossolalia revealed that there were no systematically organized linguistic patterns to such vocalizations, basic elements essential to any comprehensible human language.35 What then is glossolalia? Fr. Sullivan sums it up nicely when he writes, ". . . glossolalia is human speech that sounds like human language."36 That apparently is the reason glossolalia has been frequently mistaken for xenoglossia. It is hardly distinguishable from actual language and can easily be thought to be an ancient or "exotic" language. Samarin's results are supported by the researches of James R. Jaquith, who recognizes the superficial resemblance to language in certain aspects of its structure.37 Fr. Sullivan admits that, though xenoglossia might occur, he has no knowledge of a single scientifically verifiable case of this phenomenon.38

With the scientific dismissal of xenoglossia, the foundation of Pentecostalism has evaporated. Yet Pentecostals have found justification for their contention that the phenomenon they experience is in fact the "gift of tongues" spoken of by Paul in his admonitions to the Corinthians (1 Cor. 14). This presupposes that the use of the Greek word glossa, used in the text, was in fact referring to language, and not an obscure, archaic, obsolete or foreign word or expression.39 Fr. Sullivan tries to demonstrate that the first usage, language, is the only sound one. Once this contention is exegetically established, an interesting argument (from Paul) follows:40

According to 1 Cor. 14:2, "Anybody with the gift of tongues speaks to God, but not to other people because nobody understands him when he talks in spirit about mysterious things."41 Therefore glossolalia is a heavenly language, intelligible to God and not others. It is an utterance in spirit (from the soul?) about mysteries (spiritual?).42

The contention is also made that glossolalia is a personal gift for self-edification (1 Cor. 14:4)43 "The one with the gift of tongues talks for his own benefit, but the man who prophecies does so for the benefit of the community."44

Furthermore, the tongue speaker does not intellectually comprehend the meaning of what he is saying and must therefore receive the "gift of interpretation" to understand (1 Cor. 14:13, 14).45 "That is why anyone who has the gift of tongues must pray for the power of interpreting them. For if I use this gift in my prayers, my spirit may be praying but my mind left barren."46 This seems to indicate that tongues are a gift useful in praying,47 and interviews with tongue speakers seem to yield that this is precisely its primary function, whether in private or group prayer.

Paul goes on to explain the possible scandal which might occur if the uninitiated view a potential chorus of tongue speakers and deem them mad (1 Cor. 14:23, 24). He therefore admonishes them to avoid such an occurrence by allowing that only two or three tongue speakers speak at most, one at a time, and only if there is an interpreter. Otherwise, they must speak to God and themselves in silence (1 Cor. 14:27-29).48 This is a most interesting passage, as it clearly refutes the wild and uncontrolled speaking in tongues often justified by practitioners in a number of Pentecostal and Charismatic group settings.

This can be summed up by saying that St. Paul's description of tongues appears to be one of language-like speech, unintelligible to both speaker and hearer, and useful primarily in the context of prayer.49 A parallel between these attributes of Pauline "tongues" and the modern phenomenon can be drawn, lending some support to the contention that modern glossolalia is indeed some form of Biblically recognizable phenomena.

This argument is interesting, and raises once more the question as to whether the actual Pauline sense of "tongues" is closer to that of foreign languages, or some form of "ecstatic utterance." Fr. Sullivan cites exegetical and psychological evidence in the hope of resolving the issue, but the issue is far from resolution.50

Once more, however, we must reiterate that we are on very shaky ground when Biblical exegesis remains unsupported by Tradition. The unalterable fact remains that the contemporary phenomenon can in no way be equated to the Church's understanding of the "gift of tongues" as manifested at Pentecost.

There are still two other important aspects of the modern phenomenon which need be described, if a complete understanding of glossolalia is to be acquired. These are, first, the subjective characteristics which appear to be universal to the phenomenon, and second, the actual context in which the experience occurs.

Regarding the subjective aspects of modern glossolalia, several important universals can be derived, from an analysis of the testimonies and evaluations of testimonies cited by Sullivan, Dearn, and Kelsey:

Glossolalia is effortless speech, requiring no rational formulation of speech sounds.

The individual can control the facility of speaking in tongues consciously at will.
There is the feeling that one can communicate with God with perfect expressiveness (in a way that is unsuitably achieved by ordinary language).
There is the feeling of emotional release.
The experience does not appear to involve an altered mental state, or induction of trance, except during the initial acquisition of the "gift," and then not always.
The communication is a joyful experience.
Many adherents perceive an increase in religious fervor and psychological integrity.
The laying on of hands is not a necessary procedure in the acquisition of tongues, but may enhance the process.

How then is modern glossolalia acquired? I am familiar with two alleged cases of individuals who have acquired the "gift of tongues" within the context of private prayer.51 However, for the vast majority of practitioners, acquisition occurs within the context of group prayer, sometimes accompanied by the laying on of hands. For Catholic Charismatics, the context is specifically "baptism in the Spirit"; and this requires a certain amount of preparation, theological, as well as psychological. For our purposes it will suffice to restrict ourselves to an examination of one of the more popular schools of Charismatic preparation, the Life in the Spirit Seminars, developed by the Word of God Community out of Ann Arbor, Michigan. Its popularity and prevalence in the field is demonstrated by the fact that as of March, 1991, the guidebook given to all seminar participants, had entered its thirtieth printing, with 1,690,000 copies in print.52

That preparation for the "baptism in the Spirit" appears to have a significant role in the actual acquisition of "tongues" is clearly attested to by Fr. Sullivan, who does not hesitate to admit that there appears to be a high correlation between the stress laid on the attainment of this "gift," with the "baptism in the Spirit" and the actual acquisition.53 One need only read the Seminar's Team Manual to see how much stress is laid upon the acquisition of this "gift."54 Fr. Sullivan readily admits this.55 Other emphases cited by Dearn, include "upbuilding and encouragement, and openness to the reception of the gifts of the Holy Spirit."56 The actual "baptism in the Spirit" involves the praying of the group for those participating in the seminars, that they might receive deeper awareness or release of the Holy Spirit. Being open to the "new life in the Spirit" is the attitude that is cultivated.57

This preparation is of paramount importance, for it is essential to enable the candidate for "baptism in the Spirit" to let go of the natural resistance (and for some, repugnance) that one has for the surrendering of one's vocal chords to the Spirit.58 As Fr. Sullivan explains, "The motive which the Manual presents is that speaking in tongues will give the person 'a clear experience of what it means to have the Holy Spirit work through him'59."60 In essence, the seminars enable one to take this "leap," by creating an intense desire for the "gift." Here is an excerpt from the guidebook which demonstrates this process:

When you live in the spirit, the Spirit prays in you. Let him pray in you often during the day, sometimes in English, sometimes in the new tongue he has given you. Even if you have only a few syllables in a new tongue, or if you are not sure of it, pray in that tongue every day and it will grow. God's word encourages you.61

Kelsey cites a parallel procedure used to "encourage" reception of "baptism of the Holy Spirit," taken from a booklet entitled, The Gift of the Holy Spirit, by J. E. Stiles, a former member of the Assemblies of God, one of the largest Pentecostal denominations.62 The salient characteristics include: encouragement that the "gift" is already given; instruction that he will receive the Holy Spirit when hands are laid on him; instruction that he is to expect the Spirit to move on his vocal chords; admonition that he need cooperate in this "movement"; encouragement to release all fears that the experience may be false; use of deep breathing, coordinated with telling self one is receiving the Spirit.63

It is clear that there is a method of induction used to foster the acquisition of tongues, in the aforementioned instances. My observations of the process of induction lend themselves to the following outline of the technique:

Frequently, though not always, there is a period of group training, during which are achieved the following: a) desire to receive the experience, fostered by exegetical and theological explanation and exhortation and b) encouraged reduction of inhibitions, enabling the surrender of conscious control of one's vocal chords.
The induction of the experience within the group's prayer service or "experience." This is sometimes accompanied by the laying on of hands.
Continual exhortations and suggestions related to remaining open to the "gift," sometimes including recommendations for habitual reinforcement of the use of this gift, or practice to acquire it fully.

Though the above discussion is in no way exhaustive, it is applicable to vast numbers of individuals who have, within recent decades received the "gift of tongues." The implications of a "formula" for producing such a desired effect strike most obviously at the very heart of the Charismatic and Pentecostal Movements. A gift acquired by skillful planned effort, or at worst, subterfuge, can hardly be gratuitous.

We must finally deal with the last two questions posed, regarding the criteria for evaluations and ultimately our judgment upon the phenomenon.

First, it has become quite evident from our discussion that although it may be admitted by numbers of Pentecostals and Charismatics that the phenomenon of tongues need not necessarily accompany the "baptism in the Spirit," nevertheless it is a much coveted and sought after confirmation of the event, so much so, that extraordinary pains are taken to maximize the possibility that the novice might readily receive the manifestation of "tongues." I believe that I have sufficiently demonstrated that there are not sufficient theological grounds to support the Pentecostal notion of "baptism of Spirit" which has its origin in questionable theological speculation. It is clear that the phenomenon was an attempt to produce what can be termed from the Catholic perspective as a pseudo- sacrament, paralleling confirmation. Attempts by Catholics to redefine this experience as a "release of Spirit" already given in baptism and confirmation appear weak when held up to closer scrutiny. But more importantly, the signs of this "second blessing" have been shown to bear no resemblance to the scriptural event of Pentecost, upon which the original notion of "baptism of the Holy Spirit" supposedly rests. Remarkably, some Catholic proponents of Charismatic Renewal do continue to propagate this patently false conception of Biblical parallels. The guidebook for the Life in the Spirit Seminars incorporates meditations which suggest that this "baptism" is essentially the experience of the Apostles at Pentecost, an allegation which clearly demands refutation.64 Though the Team Manual recognizes the problem with such an approach,65 it is surprising that such an erroneous notion should be allowed to be propagated. Further, the phenomenon of tongues which accompanies this "baptism in Spirit," when subjected to empirical studies, admits of no actual manifestation of xenoglossia. However, cases of xenoglossia occurring outside the lives of exemplary Catholics of proven sanctity, have been judged by the Church to be a possible manifestation of the demonic, indicating that any manifestation of "tongues" occurring in significant numbers of individuals be open to rigorous examination by the Church.

But what of glossolalia in and of itself? How does this stand up to the criteria of the Church, regulating the acceptance of miraculous phenomena as authentic? Can glossolalia in any sense constitute a visible sign from God, in confirmation of this outpouring of Spirit? The criteria of Pope Benedict XIV admits that a miracle need only be above the powers of corporeal nature (i.e., angelic intervention).66 If we allow for even a wider sense, some have argued that a miracle "need not even be strictly beyond the powers of corporeal nature, provided it be a truly prodigious event, one at least highly unlikely even to result from natural forces alone."67 Admittedly, glossolalia does occur in some religious context and during the experience of prayer, an essential element, if we are to discuss the matter at all. But is this manifestation truly prodigious; unlikely to occur from natural forces alone? Further, is this religious context one which provides for the proof of authentic Revelation, the essential element of all truly miraculous phenomena, according to the First Vatican Council?68

From our brief study we can readily conclude that the phenomena "appears" at first to be supernatural in character, as it is essentially precipitated in the context of prayer. However, a deeper examination reveals some interesting elements, namely:

a) There is well-founded evidence to indicate that the phenomenon is produced through a systematic method of induction. This involves on occasion self-suggestion (telling oneself) and other methods of psychological manipulation. A correlation can be drawn between the use of such techniques and the favorable results obtained (i.e., ability to speak in tongues).

b) To say that the experience could be in any way interpreted as prodigious in any sense, is absurd. It is a very common phenomenon that occurs with great frequency in the widest variety of assemblages. It is interesting to note that Manuel Pittson, of the Department of Psychiatry of the University of Washington, has defined glossolalia as "a stereotyped pattern of unconsciously controlled vocal behavior."69

c) It has never been fully determined that the phenomenon cannot occur (be learned) outside of the context of prayer. Are there persons outside of Christianity who can produce the identical effect? Can anyone learn to speak in tongues? This must be resolved before any merit can be given to the subject. I believe that the key lies in the passive surrender of vocal control to either unconscious or perhaps preternatural forces. Even if we could admit that St. Paul spoke of a second form of tongues to the Corinthians, we must admit a distribution of gifts. It certainly appears that more than a few receive it. It is possible that anyone and everyone willing to surrender may receive this "gift."

Is glossolalia a proof of Revealed Truth? An authentic miracle can never occur as divine confirmation of another religion as a whole, or of a truth or teaching contrary to Catholic doctrine. If occurring outside of Catholicism the miracle could never be construed as confirming an erroneous religion or truth, but only confirm the truth of the Catholic Faith unmistakably. Obviously, serious problems arise in this context:

The phenomenon of Pentecostalism has demonstrated that it appears independent of Catholic Truth and has been used to confirm a host of denominations which must by their existence outside the Catholic Church contain error. And what can one say of unity, considering the number of denominations that have arisen from the original experiment of Parham. In 1964, Kelsey listed some twenty-six bodies that were formed between 1919 and 1960.70 I do not have recent statistics, but the growth of Pentecostalism has outstripped that of all other Christian denominations, and this has become of no small concern for the Church, whose base in traditionally Catholic nations has steadily eroded.
The theological grounds from which the movement blossomed forth were erroneous. From the principle of Sola Scriptura, to the dubious theology of the "second blessing," Pentecostalism appears to be an experience seeking a theology. Catholic theologians find they must abandon Protestant speculation and create a new theology, quite speculative and quite shaky.
I am uncomfortable with the methods used by the Life in the Spirit Seminars, particularly the suggestion implied by the guidebook that there is a parallel between the reception of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost and at Ephesus, and the reception of the "baptism in the Spirit."71 Furthermore, despite the creation of a Catholic Team Manual, the guidebook is used both by Protestants and Catholics, and for this probable reason, conspicuously omits Catholic doctrinal statements. Scripture is emphasized as one's guide, in the absence of any positive reference to Tradition. Does this effect a danger to the integrity of the Catholic Faith? I am wary. In my opinion there also seems to be a subtle form of coercion in such admonitions as "If you are unwilling to receive the gift of tongues, you are putting a block on the Lord's work and the Holy Spirit will not be free to work in you."72 It seems strange that acceptance of this "gift" should be a requisite for the free operation of the Holy Spirit in the individual. It might be countered that there is only suggested an openness to any of the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and that rejection of any of these would be resistance to God's grace, hampering the operation of the Holy Spirit. But then why the undue emphasis on tongues? It is also interesting to note that the candidate, during the third week of the seminars, is prepared to answer three questions to be posed during the fourth seminar, pertaining to his commitment to Christ. These are to be proposed just prior to his being prayed over to receive the "baptism in the Spirit,"73 and are followed by a prayer to be meditated upon, which specifically states, "I ask you to baptize me in the Holy Spirit and give me the gift of tongues."74 I await the thorough examination of the program by competent ecclesiastical experts to evaluate what appear to be glaring defects which have gone unchecked for too many years.

It must be added that there is a school of thought which does attempt to reconcile the seeming universality of "tongues" and its supernatural actuality, within the context of renewal.75 This is done by defining the charisms as supernatural in mode rather than in a radical essential way. What would distinguish the charisms within the context of the Christian community as opposed to identical phenomena outside the Christian context would be the fact that "these acts are performed in the power of the Spirit, glorify Christ, and are directed in some manner toward the building up of the Christian community."76

At this juncture we are left with a fundamental problem, that of the discernment of spirits. Clearly this analysis has raised questions which can only ultimately be answered by the careful reflection and pronouncement of those to whom Our Lord has entrusted the deposit of the Faith. There is a clear and immediate need to have a more precise standard whereby authenticity might be judged, and greater supervision by competent authorities to insure that the faithful are free from the kinds of false and suspect theologizing we have demonstrated exists. There is also the matter of a kind of psychological conversion prevalent, as regards the phenomenon of "tongues" which calls for serious scrutiny of the motives behind this, and greater discernment in evaluating the phenomenon in its varied contexts. Finally many have spoken of the genuine benefits of the renewal, particularly a greater awareness of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, however one of the prevalent notions, which has freely circulated over the years is that there is a tendency toward indifferentism, which can lead to an abdication of the Faith, perhaps the most serious issue which needs be addressed.

Source: Catholic Culture

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Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Doctrine Of Purgatory

God created man that he might possess his Creator forever in the beatific vision. Those who die in the state of enmity toward God are deprived of this happiness. Between these extremes are people who are neither estranged from God nor wholly dedicated to Him when they die. What will be their lot after death?

The response of faith is that nothing defiled can enter heaven (Rev 21:27), and therefore anyone less than perfect must first be cleansed before he can be admitted to the vision of God.

If this doctrine of Catholicism is less strenuously opposed than the one on hell, over the centuries it has nevertheless become something of a symbol of Rome. Historically, the Reformation was occasioned by a dispute over indulgences, with stress on indulgences for the souls in purgatory. Since that time, the existence of an intermediate state between earth and heaven has remained a stumbling block to reunion and its final acceptance by the Protestant churches would mean a reversal of four hundred years of divergence.

Too often the eschatology of the Catholic Church is considered her own private domain, when actually the whole of Eastern Orthodoxy subscribes (substantially) to Catholic teaching on the Last Things, including the doctrine on purgatory.

Those In Purgatory

When we speak of the souls of the just in purgatory we are referring to those that leave the body in the state of sanctifying grace and are therefore destined by right to enter heaven. Their particular judgment was favorable, although conditional: provided they are first cleansed to appear before God. The condition is always fulfilled.

The poor souls in purgatory still have the stains of sin within them. This means two things. First, it means that the souls have not yet paid the temporal penalty due, either for venial sins, or for mortal sins whose guilt was forgiven before death. It may also mean the venial sins themselves, which were not forgiven either as to guilt or punishment before death. It is not certain whether the guilt of venial sins is strictly speaking remitted after death, and if so, how the remission takes place.

We should also distinguish between the expiatory punishments that the poor souls in purgatory pay and the penalties of satisfaction which souls in a state of grace pay before death. Whereas before death a soul can cleanse itself by freely choosing to suffer for its sins, and can gain merit for this suffering, a soul in purgatory can not so choose and gains no merit for the suffering and no increase in glory. Rather, it is cleansed according to the demands of Divine Justice.

We are not certain whether purgatory is a place or a space in which souls are cleansed. The Church has never given a definite answer to this question. The important thing to understand is that it is a state or condition in which souls undergo purification.

The Catholic practice of offering prayers and sacrifices for the dead is known as offering suffrages. These suffrages are offered both by the individuals and by the Church. They are intended to obtain for the poor soul, either partial or total remission of punishment still to be endured.

Who are the faithful that can pray effectively for the poor souls? They are primarily all baptized Christians but may be anyone in a state of grace. At least the state of grace is probably necessary to gain indulgences for the dead.

The angels and saints in heaven can also help these souls in purgatory and obtain a mitigation of their pains. When they do so, the process is not by way of merit or of satisfaction, but only through petition. A study of the Church's official prayers reveals that saints and the angelic spirits are invoked for the Church Suffering (i.e., those in purgatory), but always to intercede and never otherwise.

Contrary Views

Since patristic times there have been many who have denied the existence of purgatory and have claimed it is useless to pray for the dead. Arius, a fourth-century priest of Alexandria who claimed that Christ is not God, was a prime example. In the Middle Ages, the Albigenses, Waldenses, and Hussites all denied the existence of purgatory. Generally, the denial by these different groups of heretics was tied in with some theoretical position on grace, or merit, or the Church's authority. But until the Reformation, there was no major reaction to Catholic doctrine on the existence of purgatory.

With the advent of the Reformers, every major Protestant tradition — the Reformed (Calvinist), Evangelical (Lutheran), Anglican (Episcopal) and Free Church (Congregational) — took issue with Roman Catholicism to disclaim a state of purification between death and celestial glory.

John Calvin set the theological groundwork for the disclaimer, which he correctly recognized to be a part of the Protestant idea that salvation comes from grace alone in such a way that it involves no human cooperation:

We should exclaim with all our might, that purgatory is a pernicious fiction of Satan, that it makes void the cross of Christ, that it intolerably insults the Divine Mercy, and weakens and overturns our faith. For what is their purgatory, but a satisfaction for sins paid after death by the souls of the deceased? Thus the notion of satisfaction being overthrown, purgatory itself is immediately subverted from its very foundation.

It has been fully proved that the blood of Christ is the only satisfaction, expiation, and purgation for the sins of the faithful. What, then, is the necessary conclusion but that purgation is nothing but a horrible blasphemy against Christ? I pass by the sacrilegious pretences with which it is daily defended, the offences, which it produces in religion, and the other innumerable evils, which we see to have come from such a source of impiety. Institutes of the Christian Religion, III, 5

Calvin's strictures have been crystallized in the numerous Reformed Confessions of Faith, like the Westminster Confession of the Presbyterian Church. "Prayer is to be made," says the Confession, "for things lawful, and for all sorts of men living, or that shall live hereafter; but not for the dead, nor for those of whom it may be known that they have sinned the sin unto death" (Chapter XXI, Section 4).

In the Augsburg Confession of the Lutheran churches, it is stated that "the Mass is not a sacrifice to remove the sins of others, whether living or dead, but should be a Communion in which the priest and others receive the sacrament for themselves" (Chapter XXIV, The Mall).

The Thirty-nine Articles of the Anglican Communion, which in the United States is the Protestant Episcopal Church, are equally clear. They place the existence of purgatory in the same category with image worship and invocation of the saints:

The Romish Doctrine concerning Purgatory, Pardons, Worshipping and Adoration, as well of Images as of Relics, and also Invocation of Saints, is a fond thing, vainly invented, and grounded upon no warranty of Scripture, but rather repugnant to the Word of God (Article XXII).

Standard formularies of the Free Church tradition simply omit mention of purgatory from their Confessions of Faith, with a tendency in the United Church of Christ towards universalism. Thus life everlasting is univocally equated with blessedness, the "never-ending life of the soul with God," which means "the triumph of righteousness (in) the final victory of good over evil, which must come because God wills it" (Christian Faith and Purpose: A Catechism, Boston, p. 21).

A fine testimony to the ancient faith in purgatory occurs in the authoritative Confession of Dositheus, previously referred to. This creed of the Orthodox Church was produced by a synod convened in Jerusalem in 1672 by Patriarch Dositheus. The occasion for the creed was Cyril Lucaris, who had been elected Patriarch of Alexandria in 1602 and of Constantinople in 1621, Lucaris was strongly influenced by Protestantism and especially by Reformed theology. His Protestant predilections aroused the opposition of his own people. He was finally strangled by the Turks, who thought he was guilty of treason.

The Confession of Dositheus defines Orthodoxy over against Protestantism. It is the most important Orthodox confession of modern times:

We believe that the souls of those that have fallen asleep are either at rest or in torment, according to each hath wrought. For when they are separated from their bodies, they depart immediately either to joy or to sorrow and lamentation; though confessedly neither their enjoyment nor condemnation are complete. For, after the common resurrection, when the soul shall be united with the body, with which it had behaved itself well or ill, each shall receive the completion of either enjoyment or of condemnation. Such as though involved in mortal sins have not departed in despair but have, while still living in the body, repented, though without bringing any fruits of repentance — by pouring forth tears, by kneeling while watching in prayers, by afflicting themselves, by relieving the poor, and in fine by showing forth by their works their love towards God and their neighbor, and which the Catholic Church hath from the beginning rightly called satisfaction — of these and such like the souls depart into Hades, and there endure the punishment due to their sins which they have committed.

But they are aware of their future release from thence, and are delivered by the Supreme Goodness through the prayers of the priests and the good works which the relative of each perform for their departed — especially the unbloody Sacrifice availing the highest degree — which each offers particularly for his relatives that have fallen asleep, and which the Catholic and Apostolic Church offers daily for all alike. It is not known, of course, when they will be released. We know and believe that there is deliverance for them from their dire condition, before the common resurrection and judgment, but we do not know when (Decree XVII).

An unexpected development in contemporary Episcopalianism is the verbal admission of Article XXII of the Thirty-nine Articles alongside a belief in prayers for the dead sanctioned by the American Book of Common Prayer. Among others, one oration reads: "O God, whose mercies cannot be numbered, accept our prayers on behalf of the soul of thy servant, and grant him (her) an entrance into the land of light and joy, in the fellowship of thy saints" (p. 34). Masses for the faithful departed are also offered in the High Church Episcopalianism.

Biblical Elements Of Purgatory

The definition of the Catholic Church on the existence of purgatory is derived from Sacred Scripture and the Sacred Tradition, which Christ promised would enable the Church to interpret Scripture without error. In particular, the Church relied on the writings of the early Fathers in defining this article of faith.

The classic text in the Old Testament bearing witness to the belief of the Jewish people in the existence of a state of purgation where souls are cleansed before entering heaven is found in the Book of Maccabees. Judas Maccabeus (died 161 BC) was a leader of the Jews in opposition to Syrian dominance, and Hellenizing tendencies among his people. He resisted a Syrian army and renewed religious life by rededicating the temple; the feast of Hanukkah celebrates this event.

In context, Judas had just completed a successful battle against the Edomites and was directing the work of gathering up the bodies of the Jews who had fallen in battle. As the bodies were picked up, it was found that every one of the deceased had, under his shirt, amulets of the idols of Jamnia, which the Law forbade the Jews to wear. Judas and his men concluded that this was a divine judgment against the fallen, who died because they had committed this sin of disobedience. The sacred writer describes what happened next:

So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden and fell to supplication, begging that the sin that had been committed should be wholly blotted out.

And the noble Judas exhorted the people to keep themselves from sin, after having seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He also took a collection, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, each man contributing, and sent it to Jerusalem, to provide a sin offering, acting very finely and properly in taking account of the resurrection. For if he had not expected that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead; or if it was through reward destined for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, so that they might be set free from their sin (2 Mac 12:42-46).

The Maccabean text shows that Judas, and the Jewish priests and people believed that those who died in peace could be helped by prayers and sacrifices offered by the living. Luther denied the canonicity of seven books of the Old Testament (the Deuterocanonical books), including the two books of Maccabees. But even if the text were not inspired, as an authentic witness to Jewish history in pre-Christian times it testifies to the common belief in a state of purgation after death and in the ability to help the faithful departed by prayers of intercession on their behalf. Jewish tradition since the time of Christ supports this view.

There are also certain passages in the New Testament that the Church commonly cites as containing evidence of the existence of purgatory. In the Gospel of Matthew, Christ warns the Pharisees that anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven either in this world or in the next (Mt. 12:32). Here Christ recognizes that there exists a state beyond this world in which the penalty due for sins, which were pardoned as to guilt in the world, is forgiven. St. Paul also affirms the reality of purgatory. In his first letter to the Corinthians, he says that "the fire will assay the quality of everyone's work," and "if his work bums he will lose his reward, but himself will be saved, yet so as through fire" (1 Cor 3:13, 15). These words clearly imply some penal suffering. Since he connects it so closely with the divine judgment, it can hardly be limited to suffering in this world, but seems to include the idea of purification through suffering after death, namely in purgatory.

The Fathers On Purgatory

During the first four centuries of the Christian era, the existence of purgatory was commonly taught in the Church, as seen in its universal practice of offering prayers and sacrifices for the dead.

The most ancient liturgies illustrate the custom in such prayers as the following: "Let us pray for our brothers who have fallen asleep in Christ, that the God of the highest charity towards men, who has summoned the soul of the deceased, may forgive him all his sin and, rendered well-disposed and friendly towards him, may call him to the assembly of the living" (Apostolic Constitutions, 8:41).

Equally ancient are the inscriptions found in the catacombs, which provide numerous examples of how the faithful offered prayers for their departed relatives and friends. Thus we read from engravings going back to the second century such invocations as: "Would that God might refresh your spirit . . . Ursula, may you be received by Christ . . . Victoria, may your spirit be at rest in good . . . Kalemir, may God grant peace to your spirit and that of your sister, Hildare . . . Timothy, may the eternal life be yours in Christ."

Writers before Augustine explicitly teach that souls stained with temporal punishment due to sins are purified after death. St. Cyprian (died 258) taught that penitents who die before the Sacrament of Penance must perform the remainder of any atonement required in the other world, while martyrdom counts as full satisfaction (Epistola 55, 20). St. Cyril of Jerusalem (315-386) described the sacred rites of the Liturgy with the comment, "Then we pray also for the dead, our holy fathers, believing that this will be a great help for the souls of those for whom the prayer is offered" (Catechesis, 32).

St. Augustine not only presumed the existence of purgatory as a matter of divine faith, but also testified to this belief from the Scriptures. Among other statements, he said, "some believers will pass through a kind of purgatorial fire. In proportion as they loved the goods that perish with more of less devotion, they shall be more of less quickly delivered from the flames." He further declared that the deceased are "benefited by the piety of their living friends, who offer the Sacrifice of the Mediator, or give alms to the Church on their behalf. But these services are of help only to those lives had earned such merit that suffrages of this could assist them. For there is a way of life that is neither so good as to dispense with these services after death, nor so bad that after death they are of not benefit" (Enchiridion 69, 110).

Augustine's most beautiful tribute to purgatory occurs in the book of his Confessions, where he describes the death of his mother Monica and recalls her final request, "Lay this body anywhere at all. The care of it must not trouble you. This only I ask of you, that you remember me at the altar of the Lord wherever you are." Augustine complied with his mother's desire and admits that he did not weep "even in those prayers that were poured forth to Thee while the sacrifice of our redemption was offered for her" (Confessions, IX, 11).

After the Patristic period, the Church did not significantly develop the doctrine of purgatory for many centuries. Then in the twelfth century, Pope Innocent IV (1243-54), building upon the writings of the Fathers, expounded in detail upon the doctrine. In context, Innocent was concerned with reuniting the Greek Church which had been in schism since the Photian scandal in the ninth century. He appealed to the Greek's belief in a state of purgation as a point of departure from which to bring them into communion with Rome. In a doctrinal letter to the apostolic delegate in Greece, he discussed the common belief:

It is said that the Greeks themselves unhesitatingly believe and maintain that the souls of those who do not perform a penance which they have received, or the souls of those who die free from mortal sins but with even the slightest venial sins, are purified after death and can be helped by the prayers of the Church.

Since the Greeks say that their Doctors have not given them a definite and proper name for the place of such purification, We, following the tradition and authority of the holy Fathers, call that place purgatory; and it is our will that the Greeks use that name in the future.

For sins are truly purified by that temporal fire — not grievous or capital sins which have not first been remitted by penance, but small and slight sins which remain a burden after death, if they have not been pardoned during life (DB, 456).

The Second Council of Lyons, convened in 1274, used the teaching of Pope Innocent IV in its formal declaration on purgatory. This declaration stated:

If those who are truly repentant die in charity before they have done sufficient penance for their sins of omission and commission, their souls are cleansed after death in purgatorial or cleansing punishments . . . The suffrages of the faithful on earth can be of great help in relieving these punishments, as, for instance, the Sacrifice of the Mass, prayers, almsgiving, and other religious deeds which, in the manner of the Church, the faithful are accustomed to offer for others of the faithful.

The next major pronouncement by the Catholic Church regarding purgatory came shortly before the Council of Trent, from Pope Leo X who condemned a series of propositions of Martin Luther, including the following:

Purgatory cannot be proved from the Sacred Scripture which is the Canon. The souls in purgatory are not sure about their salvation, a least not all of them. Moreover it has not been proved from reason or from the Scriptures that they are beyond the state of merit or of growing in charity (DB 777-778).

The Council of Trent went further, including in the Decree on Justification an anathema of those who deny the debt of temporal punishment, remissible either in this life or in the next:

If anyone says that, after receiving the grace of justification the guilt of any repentant sinner is remitted and the debt of eternal punishment is blotted out in such a way that no debt of temporal punishment remains to be paid, either in this life or in purgatory, before the gate to the kingdom of heaven can be opened: let him be anathema (DB 840).

Fifteen years after the Decree on Justification, and shortly before its closing sessions, the Council of Trent issued a special Decree on Purgatory, as well as corresponding decrees on sacred images, invocation of the saints and indulgences. It was a summary statement that referred to the previous definition and that cautioned against some of the abuses that gave rise to the Protestant opposition:

The Catholic Church, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, in accordance with Sacred Scripture and the ancient tradition of the Fathers, has taught in the holy councils, and most recently in this ecumenical council, that there is a purgatory, and that the souls detained there are helped by the prayers of the faithful, and especially by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar.

Therefore, this holy council commands the bishops to be diligently on guard that the true doctrine about purgatory, the doctrine handed down from the holy Fathers and the sacred councils, be preached everywhere, and that Christians be instructed in it, believe it, and adhere to it.

But let the more difficult and subtle controversies, which neither edify nor generally cause any increase of piety, be omitted from the ordinary sermons to the poorly instructed. Likewise, they should not permit anything that is uncertain or anything that appears to be false to be treated in popular or learned publications. And should forbid as scandalous and injurious to the faithful whatever is characterized by a kind of curiosity and superstition, or is prompted by motives of dishonorable gain (DB 983).

Most recently, the Second Vatican Council in its Constitution on the Church renewed the teaching of previous councils on eschatology, including the doctrine of purgatory. "This sacred Council," it declared, "accepts with great devotion this venerable faith of our ancestors regarding this vital fellowship with our brethren who are in heavenly glory or who, having died, are still being purified . . . At the same time, in conformity with our own pastoral interests, we urge all concerned, if any abuses, excesses or defects have crept in here or there, to do what is in their power to remove or correct them, and to restore all things to a fuller praise of Christ and of God" (Chapter VII, no. 51).

Meaning Of The Doctrine

Although not defined doctrine, it is certain that the essential pain in purgatory is the pain of loss, because the souls are temporarily deprived of the beatific vision.

Their suffering is intense on two counts: (1) the more something is desired, the more painful its absence, and the faithful departed intensely desire to possess God now that they are freed from temporal cares and no longer held down by the spiritual inertia of the body; (2) they clearly see that their deprivation was personally blameworthy and might have been avoided if only they had prayed and done enough penance during life.

However, there is no comparison between this suffering and the pains of hell. The suffering of purgatory is temporary and therefore includes the hope of one day seeing the face of God; it is borne with patience since the souls realize that purification is necessary and they do not wish to have it otherwise; and it is accepted generously, out of love for God and with perfect submission to His will.

Moreover, purgatory includes the pain of sense. Some theologians say that not every soul is punished with this further pain, on the premise that it may be God's will to chastise certain people only with the pain of loss.

Theologically, there is less clarity about the nature of this pain of sense. Writers in the Latin tradition are quite unanimous that the fire of purgatory is real and not metaphorical. They argue from the common teaching of the Latin Fathers, of some Greek Fathers, and of certain papal statements like that of Pope Innocent IV, who spoke of "a transitory fire" (DB 456). Nevertheless, at the union council of Florence, the Greeks were not required to abandon the opposite opinion, that the fire of purgatory is not a physical reality.

We do not know for certain how intense are the pains in purgatory. St. Thomas Aquinas held that the least pain in purgatory was greater than the worst in this life. St. Bonaventure said the worst suffering after death was greater than the worst on earth, but the same could not be said regarding the least purgatorial suffering.

Theologians commonly hold, with St. Robert Bellarmine, that in some way the pains of purgatory are greater than those on earth. At least objectively the loss of the beatific vision after death, is worse than its non-possession now. But on the subjective side, it is an open question. Probably the pains in purgatory are gradually diminished, so that in the latter stages we could not compare sufferings on earth with the state of a soul approaching the vision of God.

Parallel with their sufferings, the souls also experience intense spiritual joy. Among the mystics, St. Catherine of Genoa wrote, "It seems to me there is no joy comparable to that of the pure souls in purgatory, except the joy of heavenly beatitude." There are many reasons for this happiness. They are absolutely sure of their salvation. They have faith, hope and great charity. They know themselves to be in divine friendship, confirmed in grace and no longer able to offend God.

Although the souls in purgation perform supernatural acts, they cannot merit because they are no longer in the state of wayfarers, nor can they increase in supernatural charity. By the same token, they cannot make satisfaction, which is the free acceptance of suffering as compensation for injury, accepted by God on account of the dignity of the one satisfying. The sufferings in purgatory are imposed on the departed, without leaving them the option of "free acceptance" such as they had in mortal life. They can only make "satispassion" for their sins, by patiently suffering the demand of God's justice.

The souls in purgatory can pray, and, since impetration is the fruit of prayer, they can also impetrate. The reason is that impetration does not depend on strict justice as in merit, but on divine mercy. Moreover, the impetratory power of their prayers depends on their sanctity.

It is therefore highly probable that the poor souls can impetrate a relaxation of their own (certainly of other souls') sufferings. But they do not do this directly; only indirectly in obtaining from God the favor that the Church might pray for them and that prayers offered by the faithful might be applied to them.

However, it is not probable but certain that they can pray and impetrate on behalf of those living on earth. They are united with the Church Militant by charity in the Communion of Saints. At least two councils approved the custom of invoking the faithful departed. According to the Council of Vienne, they "assist us by their suffrages." And in the words of the Council of Utrecht, "We believe that they pray for us to God." St. Bellarmine wrote at length on the efficacy of invoking the souls in purgatory. The Church has formally approved the practice, as in the decree of Pope Leo XIII granting an indulgence for any prayer in which the intercession of the faithful departed is petitioned (Acta Sanctae Sedis, 1889-90, p.743).

A Problem

A major problem arises regarding the forgiveness of venial sins in a person who is dying in the state of grace. When and how are they remitted? Is the forgiveness before death? If so, by what right? What has the person done to deserve forgiveness, since it is not likely God would remove the guilt of sins that were not repented of. Or is it after death? But then how can this take place, since ex hypothesi the person can no longer merit or truly satisfy, but can only suffer to remove the reatus poenae.

According to one theory (Alexander of Hales), venial sins are always removed in this life through the grace of final perseverance, even without an act of contrition. Remission takes place "in the very dissolution of body and soul," when concupiscence is also extinguished. Few theologians look on this opinion favorably, both because there is nothing in the sources to suggest that final perseverance remits guilt, and because everything indicates the need for some human counterpart in the remission of sin.

Others claim (e.g., St. Bonaventure) that forgiveness occurs in purgatory itself by a kind of "accidental merit" which allows for the removal of guilt and not only satispassion in virtue of Divine Justice. If anything, this theory is less probable than the foregoing because it presumes there is a possibility of merit after death.

Blessed Dun Scotus and the Franciscan school say the deletion takes place either in purgatory or at the time of death. If in purgatory, it is on the assumption that the expiating venial sins is nothing more than remitting the penalty they deserve; if at the time of death, it could be right at the moment the soul leaves the body or an instant after. In any case, Scotists postulate that remission occurs because of merits previously gained during life on earth. This position is not much favored because it seems to identify habitual sin with its penalty and claim that venial sins are remissible without subjective penance.

The most common explanation is that venial sins are remitted at the moment of death, through the fervor of a person's love of God and sorrow for his sins. For although soul on leaving the body can no longer merit or make real satisfaction, it can retract its sinful past. Thus, it leaves its affection for sin and, without increasing in sanctifying grace or removing any penalty (as happens in true merit), it can have deleted the reatus culpae. The latter is incompatible with the exalted love of God possessed by a spirit that leaves the body in divine friendship but stained with venial faults.

Source: Catholic Culture

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5 Myths About Worship In The Early Church

As the forthcoming new translation of the Roman Missal debunks the myth that liturgical language must be so banal that even the muppets on Sesame Street can understand it, it’s a good time to examine five other untruths that have been wreaking havoc on the Church’s worship in recent decades.

1. Mass facing the people. After studying free-standing altars in early churches, liturgists in the 1930s concluded that priests once celebrated Mass “facing the people,” and that it was only under the influence of decadent medieval clericalism that they “turned their backs” to them. This myth was much in the drinking water at the time of Vatican II (1962-1965). Later, some scholars began to reexamine the evidence and found that it did not support their thesis at all, and that in fact there had been an unbroken tradition — both East and West — of priest and congregation celebrating the Eucharist in the same direction: eastward.

Pope Benedict XVI, who endorsed the most recent book refuting the versus populum error, has been trying to make the facts of the case better known. But in the past generation, millions of dollars have been spent destroying exquisite high altars and replacing them with altar-tables, all in conformity to “the practice of the early Church.” Would that this myth were busted earlier.

2. Communion in the hand and under both kinds. Myths about Holy Communion follow a similar pattern. Fifty years ago, the claim that “Communion in the hand” was the universal practice of the early Church was believed by everyone, even by those who didn’t wish to see the practice resuscitated. Now we’re not so sure. What we can say is that some early Christian communities practiced Communion in the hand, but Communion on the tongue may be just as ancient. And when Communion in the hand was practiced, the communicant received from a priest (and only a priest), most likely by putting It in his mouth without his other hand touching it. And in some places, a woman’s hand had to be covered with a white cloth!

We are more certain that the Roman Church once administered Holy Communion under both species (just as the Eastern churches have always done), but we don’t know exactly how. One interesting practice, which was in use by the seventh century, had the deacon distributing the Precious Blood with the use of a golden straw. Some think he dipped the straw in the chalice (which only he or a priest or bishop could touch), closed one end with his finger, put it over the communicant’s open mouth, and then lifted his finger to release the contents.

In other words, Holy Communion was probably not administered in the fast-food manner we have today, with a “grab-and-go” system of multiple efficient lines that move from one station to the other, and the communicant touching the Host or Precious Cup with his own hands. Our current arrangement may have more in common with the Protestant than the patristic. Significantly, Benedict XVI, a careful student of the Church Fathers, no longer administers Communion in the hand.

3. The vernacular. Another widespread myth is that the early Church had Mass “in the vernacular.” But when Jesus worshipped in the synagogue, the language used was Hebrew, which had already been dead for 300 years. And for the first three centuries in Rome, the Mass was mostly celebrated in Greek, not Latin, which was only understood by a minority of the congregation.

When the Mass was eventually translated into Latin, it retained foreign elements such as the Hebrew amen and alleluia, and even added some, such as the Greek Kyrie eleison. Moreover, the Latin used in translating was deliberately different from what was being spoken at the time: It had curious grammatical usages and was peppered with archaisms. In other words, even when the Mass was celebrated in a language people could understand, it was never celebrated in the “vernacular” — if by that term we mean the common street language of the day.

The reason for this is simple: Every apostolic Church — to say nothing of every major world religion — has always had a sacred or hieratic language, a linguistic toolbox different from daily speech specially designed to communicate the transcendence and distinctiveness of the gospel.

4. Lay ministry. Another perduring myth is the idea that the laity were “more involved” in the Mass than they were in later ages. In our own day, this has spawned a multiplication of liturgical ministries for lay folk, such as lector, etc. The reality is that in the early Church, all of these roles were administered by the clergy. In fact, the early Church had more ordained clerical offices (the former minor orders) than it does today. The Council of Nicea in 325, for instance, talked about fine-tuning the office of “subdeacon.” This tells us one thing: that subdeacons were already a fixture in the landscape before the council was convoked. Lay Eucharistic ministers were not.

5. The pre- vs. post-Constantinian Church. Lurking behind all of these myths is a powerful “meta-myth,” the claim that there was a rupture in the life of the Church after the Emperor Constantine legalized Christianity in the fourth century. The Church before Constantine, the meta-myth goes, was simple and pristine, a Church “of the people.” After Constantine, however, the Church became clericalist, hierarchical, and corrupted by the desire for grand buildings and highfalutin’ ceremonies.

The truth is that although the Church did indeed change — in some ways for the better and some for the worse — there was far more continuity than rupture. The Church before Constantine already had firm distinctions between clergy and laity, and she already recognized the importance of beautiful art, architecture, symbolism, and solemnity. After all, the Last Supper took place during the Passover, which was itself highly ritualized, and every Mass is a consummation of the ornate liturgies of synagogue and Temple. Indeed, a Eucharistic liturgy in the second or third century was longer, more hierarchical, and more symbolically brocaded than a Sunday Mass today. And since pews are a Protestant invention to accommodate long sermons, you either stood or knelt on the floor the entire time.

Like a bad virus, the myth of a utopian, pre-Constantinian, kumbaya-singing Church continues to impair. A typical example is the 2001 video A History of the Mass, produced by Liturgy Training Publications, one of the more influential purveyors of information about Catholic worship in the United States. After describing an idyllic, egalitarian community in which bishops gave up their seats for poor widows at the Eucharistic table, the narration shifts with the ominous words: “But then… the Emperor Constantine became a Christian.” You can imagine what follows (see here and here).

Moreover, even if every one of these myths were shown to be true, it would still not justify returning to the patristic era. In 1947, Pope Pius XII prophetically warned against archeologism, an “exaggerated and senseless antiquarianism” which presumes that the older is better than that which has developed organically over time and with the approval of the Church (Mediator Dei 64). The pope was worried about liturgical innovators who would leapfrog over 1,900 years of sacred tradition and divine inspiration. He was right to worry, but not even he foresaw the extent to which that targeted Golden Past would be a reconstruction of dubious accuracy.

Source: Crisis Magazine

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Friday, June 24, 2011

Satanism, Witchcraft And Church Feminists

According to the authoritative Encyclopedia of American Religions, there are two basic types of overtly Satanist groups to be found operating in North America today. The first of these is the "sickies," composed of "disconnected groups of occultists who employ Satan worship to cover a variety of sexual, sadomasochistic, clandestine, psychopathic, and illegal activities."[1] In this branch of Satanism, which is sometimes used to rationalize paedophilia as well as the perversions cited above, one can expect to find those individuals engaged in grave robbery, sexual assaults and the ritual blood letting performed on animals and more rarely, human beings. According to the Encyclopedia, the "sick" Satanists are not theological in their approach.

The other branch of Satanists is said to be the groups that "resemble liberal Christian theologies with the addition of a powerful cultural symbol (Satan), radically redefined."[2] These groups "take Satanism as a religion seriously," and should not be confused with the "sickies" described above.[3]

Although Satanists are neatly compartmentalized, or some might say isolated by most of the standard or official sources, it should be noted that there is overlap between the two groups. Some followers of "theological Satanists" have been involved in horrific crimes. In addition, Satanists who do break the law may actually be less dangerous than those who are more theological in their approach. So, in a totally secular vein, a teenager who spray-paints the side of a Church with a Satanic symbol is obviously less destructive or dangerous than a devil worshipper who spends years writing articles and appearing on talk shows.

Anton LaVey

From its earliest years, rock music has been permeated with impurity and egomania, both highly symptomatic of Satanism. Aleister Crowley, for many of the younger generation the most famous Satanist of all time, could be said to have a strong influence on various rock-stars. But it is more certain that such a dubious honour can be attributed to Anton LaVey. In 1966, in San Francisco, LaVey gained instant notoriety by declaring the dawn of the Age of Satan, later compiling the Satanic Bible which has reportedly sold 600,000 copies. As would be expected, this "bible" simply takes the reverse stand to be found in Christian Scripture, urging followers to indulge their carnal and other appetites and to seek revenge instead of bestowing forgiveness on others.

Approximately ten years ago it was estimated that there were about 100,000 Satanists living in the United States.[4] This figure has likely become larger in recent years through the numerous Satanic websites now available on the Internet and the immense notoriety of rock star Marilyn Manson who is believed to have been directly influenced by LaVey.

Satanism & Witchcraft

Witches assert that Satan is a Christian, not an "old religion" concept. However, despite the strong protests of many witches, Anton Lavey and other Satanists have claimed a direct kinship with these practitioners of witchcraft and their beliefs. One of LaVey's books entitled The Compleat Witch (sic) can be found in many occult shops. According to the Encyclopedia of American Religions cited above, "Satanists do share in common the magical world-view of witches."[5]

LaVey and his followers have declared themselves to be atheists with Satan and God seen as mere symbols. Since his autobiographical assertions have been described as falsehoods, this is most likely just more of the same, but in 1975 LaVey's "apostasy" led to the formation of the Temple of Set, led by Michael Aquino, a former U.S. intelligence army officer. The Temple bases its "theology" on Egyptian motifs and declares Satan to be real, not symbolic.

When LaVey was at the height of his fame, he attracted famous entertainers like Sammy Davis Jr. and Jayne Mansfield. He also attracted Susan Atkins, one of the Charles Manson "family" which committed a series of atrocious murders in the late sixties in California.

The Power of Evil

Those who have attempted to laugh off Satanism as youthful rebellion or the harmless buffoonery of crackpots have not bothered to investigate the evils that the direct invocation and praise of the devil can bring into the world. Montague Summers' exhaustive work, The History of Witchcraft, describes in detail the horrific evils perpetrated by witches and worshippers of the Devil over many centuries. One only has to read of the sexual perversion and widespread practice of the black mass in France to understand that it was not just a desire for so-called liberty, equality and fraternity that led to the enthronement of a prostitute as the goddess of "reason" in Notre Dame Cathedral. When the French celebrate their "glorious" Revolution each year on Bastille Day, it's doubtful many fully appreciate its Satanic and Masonic roots, or know of the orgies of the Satanists that occurred on the night after their Catholic king, Louis XVI, was murdered before the Paris mob.

By their very nature, deriving as they do from the Father of Lies, manifestations of Satanism have always appeared disguised, far removed from their true source. In the late nineteenth century few of the ardent followers of the "atheist" Karl Marx knew of the terrible violence and bombastic praise of Satan that were to be found in the feverish poetry which the founder of Communism wrote as an adolescent and a young man. When Friedrich Nietzsche wrote The Anti-Christ in the late 1800s before going insane, who would have believed that his praise of aristocratic supermen crushing what he saw as the weak and the mediocre, would result in the occult-obsessed Nazis building a shrine one day in his honour in Berlin? When the poet and Satanist Charles Swinburne wrote his politically seductive and influential "Song of Italy" in 1867, how many of his readers appreciated the fact that its hero, the arch-Mason Giuseppe Mazzini, played such a central role in the destruction of hundreds of Italian churches and the eventual seizing of the papal states?

New Evils Surpass The Old

Although manifestations of the diabolical have obviously been great in the past, there has never been a time in human history when sins that cry out to Heaven for vengeance have been so widespread. Pope John Paul II in his great encyclical Gospel of Life has told us that we are living in a "culture of death" where millions of unborn children are killed with the consent of their mothers. Sodomy is being accepted both inside and outside the Church as just another human variant, on a par with race, ethnic background and so on. No faithful Catholic can fail to be concerned about where Modernists are taking us since the ambiguities of Vatican II opened the way for the establishment of the "New Church."

The issues of abortion and homosexuality have only highlighted the widespread apostasy of many Catholic women who in centuries past might have been relied on to play an essential and central role in the Church as primary educators, mothers, wives and women religious. For women, apostasy has gradually taken shape under the name of a new religion based not on the teachings of Jesus, but on the foundation of the old lies of Gnosticism and the new "matriarchal" heresy of modern witchcraft, or Wicca, which has taken mere decades, not centuries to establish itself.

Every Catholic should be aware that no one over the past hundred and fifty years was more influential in popularizing the "rituals" and laying the foundation for this new demonic women's religion than the Satanist Aleister Crowley and his disciple Gerald Gardner.

Aleister Crowley

Rebelling at the early age of eleven against his parents' strict Brethren Protestantism, Crowley did not become an agnostic or atheist as many of the university educated men of his generation did, but a direct worshipper of Satan. Even while still listening to his devout mother reading the Bible in their comfortable English home, he admitted he had taken a fancy to the "false prophet" and "the Beast whose number is 666."[6]

Attending Cambridge in the 1890s, Crowley joined the "magical" society known as the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn, which David Barrett's book on sects and cults asserts, "clearly owed much to Freemasonry, with large elements of the Cabbala, astrology, alchemy and related subjects."[7] (Freemasonry often figures in the founding of heretical sects from the Rosicrusians to the Mormons). At around this time, Crowley was rumoured to have been involved in nocturnal graveyard activities — and even necrophilia — along with another soon-to-be-famous student, William Duranty. In the early thirties, Duranty would become the honoured and world-famous New York Times correspondent to the newly formed Soviet Union, spending a full ten years blatantly lying to millions of people about what was really happening in Russia. He was rumoured to have been blackmailed into supporting the Stalinists due to the discovery of his necrophiliac tendencies by the Soviet secret police.

Besides being an obvious influence on perhaps the most influential liar of the twentieth century, Crowley is credited with having popularized "Magick" in England and having brought it to America at the turn of the century. He defined the word as "the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity to the will."[8] His influence is so broad amongst esoteric groups in the Western World today, that it would be impossible to describe them all in the space of this article. However, his influence on laying the foundation for Wicca, or the modern practice of witchcraft which so influences Catholic feminists today, must be discussed in detail.

Crowley's Influence on Gerald Gardner & Wicca

Despite the fact that he engaged in disgusting acts like "baptizing" and crucifying frogs to blaspheme Christ, and was also a liar, a physical coward, a homosexual and a morphine addict, Crowley never lacked friends and fellow travellers in the world of "Magick." In 1912 he was visited by the German Freemason, Theodor Reuss, and together, along with another Mason named Franz Hartmann, a companion of Theosophy leader Madame Blavatsky, they founded the Order of the Templars of the East. This Order embodied yoga teachings along with sexual rites, including homosexual ones instituted by Crowley.

The most important of the initiates to Crowley's new order was Gerald Gardner (1884-1965), a Freemason who is credited with founding the Wiccan religion, which is composed mostly of converts who came into the "craft" since the early 1960s. The entire movement in fact, is not ancient at all but very new. The Encyclopedia of American Religions states that "rather than being initiated into a pre-existing Wiccan religion, it appears that Gardner created the new religion out of numerous pieces of Eastern religions and Western occult and magical material."[9]

It was Crowley, however, not Gardner, who authored the central Wiccan creed: "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law."[10] Modern witches such as the late Robin Skeleton have described the debt that witchcraft owes to Crowley. Again, the authoritative Encyclopedia of American Religions puts Wicca into its proper perspective stating that the "basic rituals were adapted from ritual texts such as the Greater Key of Solomon, the writings of Aleister Crowley, and Freemasonry."[11]

By 1949 Gerald Gardner had published a novel about witchcraft and then, after the repeal of the Witchcraft Laws in England in 1951, he published his highly influential Witchcraft Today, a book based on the academic studies of English anthropologist Dr. Margaret Murray, who argued that the medieval witches didn't worship the Devil, but were followers of pagan, women-dominated religions that predated Christianity. She called these forms of alleged religions "Dianic" after the goddess Diana. Murray's theories have been immensely popular with feminists, particularly those with access to public money, such as the producers of the Canadian National Film Board "documentaries" The Burning Times and The Goddess Remembered. Eminent historians such as Richard Cavendish, however, have described Murray's theories as "full of holes."[12]

Other scholars have found "no evidence whatsoever for a religion of one Goddess; early Pagan religions were pantheist rather than female monotheist."[13] Even those deluded followers of Gardner who have traced their ancestry to those accused of witchcraft in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, have not found evidence that the "craft" was continued in the intervening centuries.

Wicca Explained

Wicca is actually polytheistic, its pantheon consisting of the Horned God which is viewed as the consort of the Goddess, and the Triple Goddess herself, whose aspects are the maiden, the mother, and the crone. The basic form of Wicca is the coven (or base community), which consists ideally of 13 people who meet regularly to practice their so-called craft. The number is significant; it is a mockery of the number 13 which composes Jesus and his 12 apostles.

Covens cast spells which sometimes mock the Eucharist. They often worship in the nude. Modern witches practice "psychic healing," dance, chant, lay hands on one another and use storytelling in the coven to raise anger directed against the so-called patriarchy (i.e., the arch enemy, God the Father). In some spells they attempt to inflict harm on others, although this is supposed to be done only on those who may have banned others first. In a "banishing spell" published in Canadian witch Robin Skeleton's publicly-funded The Practice of Witchcraft, the first words read as follows: "If this one has hurt this other one, let him be racked with the same pain."[14]

Despite the commonly heard nonsense that Wiccans are life-affirming, Skeleton presents in his book an even more appalling spell to "cause a natural miscarriage." This bit of malevolent free verse begins with the lines "Take back this gift. Let the womb release the human fish in its bubbled seas. Unclench the gut. Let the birth run out that none may be hurt in flesh or heart. . . etc."[15] The caster of the spell used to ask the "goddess" to kill an unborn child is told that it will be stronger magic if an egg is broken into a dish and then buried in the earth.


Although founded by the male disciple of a male Satanist who died only fifty years ago, the Wiccan faith has grown enormously amongst women across North America, becoming a significant belief system for dedicated feminist leaders who are self-trained and work cooperatively. Wiccans strongly deny any relationship to devil worshippers, however, their faith, like that of the Satanists, appeals to those who detest the idea of authority or order emanating from God the Father.

Gnosticism (based on the notion of a select few possessing superior "knowledge") is central to understanding the witchcraft of medieval times and that of modern witches today. According to Montague Summers, the witchcraft condemned by the medieval popes was gnostic heresy. It "was not sorcery nor any cult of witches renewing and keeping green some ancient rites and pagan creed, but a witch-cult that identified itself with and was continually manifested in closest connection with Gnosticism in its most degraded and vilest shapes."[16] In her book The Gnostic Gospels, author Elaine Pagels makes the connection to Gnosticism when she described a feminist revolution of late antiquity which referred to God as "the Mother,"[17] another name for the "goddess" that is central to the beliefs of religious feminists.


"WomanChurch," which shares the general mindset of the Wiccans but doesn't describe itself as witchcraft, uses feminist consciousness raising to achieve a level of knowledge where one can be the equal of Christ. According to Cornelia Ferreira, who has studied feminism and its relationship to Gnosticism extensively, WomanChurch groups celebrate revelation as their "Word" obtained from dreams and fantasies according to the psychology of the modern arch-Gnostic Carl Jung.[18] They forgive each other according to their sacrament of Penance and celebrate their Eucharist, which "is not the transformation of the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ," but in the words of a WomanChurch leader, the transformation of the community "into the body of the new humanity, infused with the blood of new life."[19] The Eucharist, which Catholics know is the Real Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, is reduced by feminist gnostics to the community of women made "holy" by the worship of themselves in the group. The revelation of Christ is not fixed in time for these gnostics. Instead, in the manner of thinking of Carl Jung or Karl Rahner, Christ develops in the consciousness of the worshippers who gain understanding of themselves.

Rage Against God the Father

Both the old witches of the past and those of today are noted for their rage against God the Father (or to use the modern term, "patriarchy") found in everything even remotely authoritative, hierarchical or male-dominated.

This hatred of God the Father or the Yahweh of the Old Testament can be one of the essential elements of Gnosticism and permeates the literature of the religious feminists. Since God the Father is perceived as evil, to many gnostics so is His Son who abandoned the world, leaving it in the hands of the Catholic Church, the chief symbol of worldly oppression. The witches of the medieval times "looked to Satan for power and pleasure in this world and for a happy future in the next, and they vilified Christ as a traitor and a cheat, who had made promises which he did not keep, and who had gone away to live in heaven while Satan remained with his faithful on earth."[20]

When God the Father is viewed as Satanic, so of course are the commandments which He gave to Moses. In the gnostic world, Cain is a hero and so are the Sodomites whom God the Father judged and destroyed. Matter itself, created by Yahweh at the beginning of the world, is also considered by some extreme Gnostics, such as the immensely bizarre, procreation-hating Albigensians, as a manifestation of what is not wholly spirit, and therefore evil. Witches claim to worship or venerate the natural world, but only on their own terms as worshippers of strange gods. These gods have nothing whatsoever to do with the Creator of the Universe or His divine Son Jesus Christ. In fact, they are His antithesis.

Wicca & The Catholic Church

Straightforward Wicca or the similar but theologically more ambiguous WomanChurch have moved into many areas of the Catholic Church through feminist "theologians," feminist-inspired local activists and disgruntled nuns. These Church feminists prey on weak or unorthodox bishops who in turn naively try to involve them in a Church they despise. A good example of the product of this episcopal lack of orthodoxy or naivety, coupled with succumbing to bullying, is the infamous "Green Kit" ("Women in the Church Discussion Papers") issued by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) in 1985. If there were any doubts at that time that religious feminists had run amok in the Church, they were dispelled when faithful Catholic women found items in the kit's bibliography written by pro-abortion feminist nuns. Today almost every conservative Catholic publication has featured a horror story of some form of witchcraft or earth-goddess-inspired liturgy being performed in some Catholic Church in some large North American city.

Two of the most influential "Catholic" Wiccan, or WomanChurch figures to be found opposing the Church today are Mary Daly and Rosemary Radford Ruether.

Ex-nun Mary Daly teaches lesbian witchcraft. She has written several books, including the anti-male and anti-Catholic Beyond God the Father and. Wickedary, a dictionary of sorts for witches. In Wickedary Daly defines the Beatific Vision as: "the 'face to face' vision of god in patriarchal heaven promised as a reward to good Christians; an afterlife of perpetual Boredom: union/ copulation with the 'Divine Essence'; the final consummate union of the Happy Dead Ones with the Supreme Dead One."[21]

Dr. Rosemary Radford Ruether, an influential speaker and writer who authored Sexism and God-Talk, was named to the overtly pro-abortion Catholics for Free Choice board back in 1985.

In true gnostic style, Reuther has described the "patriarchal" Church as an "idol of masculinity" to be broken up and ground into powder.[22]

Typical of most WomanChurch feminists, Ruether has no problem defying Church teaching on homosexuality. In 1985, when promoting her soon-to-be-released Women-Church: Theology and Practice of Feminist Liturgical Communities, Ruether promised a feminist largely "Catholic" audience that one chapter would contain "liturgies for healing" from painful experiences "such as coming out as a lesbian. Not that being a lesbian is unnatural, but that the way we've been repressed by homophobia is unnatural."[23] At this same gathering she urged participants to establish female "base communities," "Women-Church groups," or "covens."


Another strong influence on Catholic women, but one who is less hypocritical than the "Catholic" feminists, is Starhawk, a self-professed witch and author of the modern witch tome The Spiral Dance: A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess. Starhawk calls witchcraft "a religion of ecology"[24] and urges, as most Wiccans do, the replacement of the present (i.e., Judeo/Christian based) culture of Western society. In gnostic fashion she omits the Creator from His Creation, stating that "the world is born, not made, and not commanded into being."[25] In her book she quotes Mary Daly's blasphemous depiction of God the Father as "spawned in the human imagination and sustained as plausible by patriarchy" all for the "oppression of women."[26]

Starhawk leaves little ambiguity about where she is coming from when she says that the "Horned God" was "deliberately perverted by the medieval Church into the image of the Christian Devil."[27] "The God of the Witches is sexual"[28] she says. "Our God wears horns" she continues, "but they are the waxing and waning crescents of the Goddess Moon, and the symbol of animal vitality." Perhaps missing the irony of her words, she overstates her case when she writes that the Horned God "is black, not because He is dreadful or fearful, but because darkness and the night are times of power, and part of the cycles of time."[29]

In Catholic circles, Starhawk gained notoriety through her association with former Dominican priest Matthew Fox (now out of the Church) who once employed her to teach ritual at his Holy Names Institute in California. Fox is a leading exponent of the gnostic-inspired and ecology-based Creation Spirituality, a movement that has now lost much of its novelty, but is still popular amongst many liberal Catholics. One of Fox's other major associates is David Spangler, a New Age high priest who has claimed that "Lucifer works within each of us to bring us to wholeness."[30] In her book The Hidden Dangers of The Rainbow, Constance Cumbey states that Spangler has "uttered some of the most outrageous blasphemies ever spoken against Jesus Christ and God the Father."[31]

The Lilith Phenomenon

A relatively new Satanic phenomenon, which shows the power that occult-based evil has been gaining in the world, is the growing popularity of Lilith, a recently invented feminist icon signifying rebellion against men and the patriarchal God. Just this summer. North America was the scene of the Lilith Fair, a two-month, 37-city concert tour billed as a celebration of women in music. The Fair raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for various feminist causes, and managed to get its main performer, Vancouver singer Sarah McLachlan, on the front page of Time magazine. In interviews, McLachlan has shown the hostility typical of religious feminists towards Christianity. She has publicly used four letter words to denounce Catholicism, which she describes as "backward."

The Lilith Fair performances featured Planned Parenthood booths where condoms were handed out along with abortion information, the latter being particularly appropriate as Lilith has been described as an ancient Hebrew infant-slaying demon. Like the Wiccan religion which was largely created by two men, Aleister Crowley and Gerald Gardner, the Lilith phenomenon has little basis in anything other than fevered imaginations. Unlike the more sophisticated historical inaccuracies spawned by Margaret Murray, Lilith is a facile pop theology pulled from Jewish lore, and refashioned completely by feminists desperately looking for a new non-male spiritual focus.

The myth of Lilith seems to have first gained a significant foothold through "The Coming of Lilith," penned by Judith Plaskow, not surprisingly a student of dissidents Rosemary Radford Reuther and Mary Daly. Plaskow's essay on Lilith is a major staple of the feminist essays to be found in Womanspirit Rising. According to the Plaskow version, Lilith was supposed to be Adam's first wife fashioned like him out of dust. She fled from Adam because he was too domineering. Like Lilith, Eve too became disenchanted with God and Adam, so she jumped over the wall of the Garden of Eden, joined Lilith and discovered the "bond of sisterhood."

In the Jewish Talmud of the 4th and 5th centuries, "Lilith appears simply as a female demon based on an account of the Judgement found in Isaiah 34:14 "the satyrs will call to one another, and there shall Lilith (the night hag) alight."[32] Satanist Anton LaVey lists Lilith in his Satanic Bible as one of the names of the devil. Given her place in Jewish lore, it is not surprising that for many hundreds of years Jewish mothers used amulets to keep Lilith from banning their children.

Sister Mary Collins

Sister Mary Collins, O.S.B., of the Catholic University of America, put Lilith and Christian feminists into proper perspective for Canadians when she discussed "The Challenge of the Feminist Movement for the Transmission of Christian Faith" at an August 1989 conference celebrating Ottawa's St. Paul University's centennial as a Pontifically Chartered Institute. Collins opened by describing how Lilith confronts God and Adam, and how she (Lilith) has captured the essence of the challenge of the feminist movement to Christian faith. Collins continued by describing how Christian feminists will change the structures, roles and ecclesial institutions of Christianity.

In a particularly illuminating passage that echoes Mary Daly and Starhawk's notion of the Catholic Church as the enemy of women, Collins states: "What they (Christian feminists) are voicing is their adult awareness that the Christian tradition which has formed and nourished their life of faith is itself malformed and toxic for women."[33]

Important to Be Informed

Faithful Catholics are naturally repulsed by Satanism and witchcraft, so they tend to avoid studying them in any detail. In general this is a good idea, as the world of the occult is chaotic in the extreme and insufferably disgusting and illogical. This of course is to be expected as its author, as previously said, is Satan, the Father of Lies. It is important, however, that Catholics be wary of those who reject legitimate religious authority or who appear to be obsessed with the "environment" and so-called women's rights while not respecting the sanctity of unborn human life. Support for Satanism in the mainstream media rarely comes directly, but is disguised as a plea for freedom of expression or belief. Similarly, support for witchcraft appears as a plea for tolerance and understanding of those who simply wish to return to a pre-industrial world where women could enjoy "natural" well-being and spirituality without being "oppressed" by men. In recent years, many high-school-girls and university women have become fascinated by Wicca because they are attracted by its simple rituals, seductive emphasis on ecology, and supposed sexual freedom.

Simon Magus

When the Acts of the Apostles was written, the Church was made aware of the evil of the occult through St. Peter's strong condemnation of Simon Magus, an early gnostic. Early Christians had no trouble understanding the fact that the practice of magic and the pagan worship of idols was diabolical. In the eyes of the first saints and martyrs, all pagan deities were of the devil, and had to be shunned immediately. Even death was preferable to submitting to the worship of false gods. Nothing has changed over the past two thousand years, except perhaps the high level of naivete and apostasy amongst so many Catholics.

Source: Catholic Culture

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