Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Vatican II Was Just Pastoral - According To Popes

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: Pope Benedict XVI (while Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger) clearly stated the nature of the Second Vatican Council was pastoral, as the council defined no doctrine infallibly, and sought to maintain a lower profile than previous ecumenical councils....
The Second Vatican Council has not been treated as a part of the entire living Tradition of the Church, but as an end of Tradition, a new start from zero. The truth is that this particular council defined no dogma at all, and deliberately chose to remain on a modest level, as a merely pastoral council; and yet many treat it as though it had made itself into a sort of superdogma which takes away the importance of all the rest.

Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI
given July 13, 1988, in Santiago, Chile
This echoes the words of Pope Paul VI, who concluded the Second Vatican Council, and also stated it was purely pastoral in nature, having not applied the "note of infallibility" to any particular document....
In view of the pastoral nature of the Council, it avoided any extraordinary statements of dogmas endowed with the note of infallibility, but it still provided its teaching with the authority of the Ordinary Magisterium which must be accepted with docility according to the mind of the Council concerning the nature and aims of each document.
Pope Paul VI
General Audience, 12 January 1966
So why is this important? Well, ever since the close of the council, and the institution of the new mass five years later, many Catholics have treated the Second Vatican Council as if it were the definitive explanation of Catholicism for our time. They treat it as if all the previous Church councils were rendered obsolete or somehow irrelevant. In fact, according to Pope Paul VI and Pope Benedict XVI, the Second Vatican Council holds a lesser place in history than the First Vatican Council, or the Council of Trent, etc. Why? Because these councils clearly exercised the note of infallibility, defining doctrine in no uncertain terms. In effect, they were doctrinal councils, of the highest importance. While Vatican II was merely pastoral, outlining the desire for new methods and standards, but in no way defining new doctrine or exercising infallibility. Catholics need to understand this. THE CHURCH DID NOT CHANGE WITH VATICAN II. The Second Vatican Council MUST be interpreted in the greater context of the Church's previous two councils, which according to the popes, hold a higher place in history.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Evolution DOES NOT Contradict Christianity

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: It seems so strange to me that so many Christians get all worked up about this issue. As a young man, indoctrinated by the secular humanism of today's public education system, I embraced the neo-Darwinian theory of evolution to the point of nearly denying the existence of God. Then after graduating from high-school, I got back in touch with my Christian roots, and became a Bible-thumping Fundamentalist. It was at that point I rejected evolution completely and embraced the neo-Morrisian theory of creation. Looking back on it now, I just have to laugh. It's funny how this scientific theory has become such a polarizing wedge in our society, so that many people of science think they have to reject faith, and many people of faith think they have to reject science.

Converting to Catholicism was probably the best thing for my sanity. On this particular issue, it allowed my faith and reason to be integrated once again, where I can now evaluate the theory of evolution with an open mind, and without any threat to my faith as a Christian. In truth, I think both Charles Darwin and Henry Morris added tremendous contributions to the debate, and I think that both of them will go down in history that way. What is needed in the whole creation/evolution debate is a little HUMILITY! And I say that to both sides. Evolution is a scientific THEORY, but then literal creationism is a theological THEORY as well. As the great astrophysicist Stephen Hawking once said: a theory is the best understanding of reality we have -- until a better one comes along. (That's my own paraphrase anyway.) A little humility on the part of both evolutionists and creationists would go a long way toward restoring civility to the debate once again. The simple fact is, none of us where there at the creation of the world. None of us, neither scientist nor theologian, eye-witnessed the biological processes that led to the creation of the first man. The best thing we have to rely on is a guess. Scientists look at the fossil evidence and make educated guesses. Theologians look at the scriptural evidence, and it's peripheral context, and also make educated guesses. It was Charles Darwin (a professing Christian) who guessed about natural selection and the origin of species. It was Henry Morris (also a professing Christian) who guessed about the effects of water dynamics on the fossil record. Both men have given us quite a bit to chew on, and I dare say that both men have given us just a shred of truth about what really happened. Between the two of them, maybe we can start to figure it out.

The following article demonstrates how Catholic Christians need not fear the theory of evolution, so long as certain theological ground-rules are understood. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did...

(New Oxford Review) - ...If we look at evolution and how it affects various religious stands, we see how the Church's teachings have such a solid foundation that they are never truly threatened by scientific ideas.

In contrast, fundamentalist Christians base their faith on a so-called literal reading of the Bible. This creates fundamentalism's most embarrassing problem. The fundamentalist must insist that the "days" of Genesis are the days of our week that God created man directly out of the dust, and so forth.

The same problem occurs whenever the Bible -- understood in a way that allows no interpretation, symbolism, or development -- must encounter the world.

The Catholic Church knows that the Bible requires symbolic readings in some places and literal readings in others. The interpretive and teaching authority of the Church gives guidance to the reader of Scripture. The believer is not left alone with what he can understand or imagine. Therefore, the Church does not trap her children in simplistic worldviews. Whatever views science develops about evolution, the Catholic Church will have the resources, in Scripture and tradition, to develop trustworthy understandings that can reconcile science's theories with the truths of revelation.

Liberal Protestantism has made the opposite mistake of fundamentalism. It has been too quick to make accommodations. Liberal Christianity readily accepted Darwinism -- and it also often accepted the pseudo-scientific hypotheses of Marxism and Freudianism and a host of destructive 20th-century "isms." It has become sort of a Vichy regime for modern secularism, doing the bidding of the materialistic mindset while trying desperately to keep alive a sham of independence.

Scientific dogmatism looks at its experiments, assumptions, and hypotheses, and can see nothing else. The Catholic Church is able to look on creation as a whole, and see that there are too many "coincidences" for this all to be random. She can see the handiwork of the Lord in the evolution of man, and in the rest of creation. She can embrace the universe's mystery and paradox. As Augustine wrote in his Confessions, addressing God, "You are the most hidden from us and yet the most present amongst us.... You are ever active, yet always at rest. You gather all things to yourself, though you suffer no need.... You grieve for wrong, but suffer no pain. You can be angry and yet serene.... You welcome all who come to you, although you never lost them."

With such insight, the Church can see that God allows mankind to evolve, yet He still guides that evolution. The same holds true for all other phenomena: They may look random, and many may be random, but the Catholic faith holds that God steps in, in mystery and in hiddenness, to control the ultimate outcomes.

The Catholic mind embraces 2,000 years of history and wisdom -- and many more years, if you include the Church's Old Testament patrimony. Therefore the Catholic worldview, with its long memory, knows that what "enlightened opinion" held to be undeniable truth in A.D. 30 was forgotten by A.D. 500. Thus the Catholic mind is not easily impressed by the latest headline or alleged discovery.

Non-Catholic worldviews are truncated and skewed. For example, to the liberal Protestant, everything before, say, 1965 is a black pit of ignorance and oppression. To the fundamentalist, everything between, say, A.D. 75 and 1500 is a gaping void. To the proud scientist, everything in his field before his latest grant proposal is foolish error.

The dogmatic scientist refuses to believe what he cannot see and measure. The fundamentalist refuses to believe what he cannot find in his King James Bible. The liberal Protestant refuses to believe what he cannot read in The Christian Century or on the editorial page of The New York Times.

Evolution, in asserting the role of random events, is joined by contemporary physics and chaos science in finding that there is randomness in the cosmos. So, to answer to Einstein: Yes, God does play dice.

This seems compatible with the understanding that man is free. Catholicism has always seen that there is a large element of freedom in our lives. God even seems quite willing to let us roll the dice ourselves. However, God is still in control. A controlling agent can allow much randomness, yet still have ultimate control.

God rolls the dice too. Sometimes, however, He slips in a pair of loaded dice. He is willing to play the game; He rigs, however, whenever we play so badly that we jeopardize the ultimate outcome....

read full story here


Monday, February 2, 2009

Pope Pius IX and the Confederacy

THE CATHOLIC KNIGHT: One of the most overlooked facts of the American Civil War Era is the sympathy the South gained from Europe's most influential monarch - the pope of Rome.

Pope Pius IX never actually signed any kind of alliance or 'statement of support' with the Confederate States of America, but to those who understand the nuance of papal protocol, what he did do was quite astonishing. He acknowledged President Jefferson Davis as the "Honorable President of the Confederate States of America."

From this we can glean three things about Pope Pius IX...
  1. He called Jefferson Davis by the customary title "Honorable."
  2. He acknowledged him as president of a nation.
  3. In doing so, he (at least on a personal level) effectively recognized the Confederate States of America as a sovereign entity, separate from the United States of America.
News of this reached the North, and the Whitehouse was considerably irate about it, prompting a response from the Vatican that the pope's letter did not amount to an "official" recognition in the "formal sense."

The pope's letter to Jefferson Davis was accompanied by an autographed picture of the pope.

There are many possible reasons why this pontiff would be sympathetic to the CSA and her president, but the most likely one was that Pope Pius IX recognized in the traditional Christian culture of the South, a mindset opposed to the advance of liberal Modernism. You see it was Pius IX who composed the famous "Syllabus of Errors," which condemned the Modernist philosophies of liberalism, humanism, secularism and marxism. It is speculated that Pius IX saw in the Confederacy a political movement steeped in European Christian tradition, and therefore a potential ally against liberal modernism on the North American continent. Alas, the Confederacy was ultimately defeated, and President Davis was captured. As the 'Deconstruction' of the South commenced, and Davis awaited his trial, it is understandable why the pope would be sympathetic.

Pope Pius IX was a revered figure in the post war South. General Robert E. Lee kept a portrait of him in his house, and referred to him as the South's only true friend during her time of need. Both Davis and Lee were Episcopalians, as were many Southerners before the War, a denomination which had many things in common with Catholicism before the 20th century influence of Modernism of course. Davis was frequently visited by Southern Catholic nuns during his imprisonment, who delivered messages for him and prayed for his release. He eventually was released, having never stood trial, on the grounds that he committed no real crime. It is believed the majority of justices on the U.S. Supreme Court at that time acknowledged the right of secession.

Southern Americans of today should take comfort knowing that the old Confederacy did have a European friend, and it just happened to be one of the most respected men in the world - not only a head of state, but also the leader of the world's largest Christian religion. The day will come when Pope Pius IX will be canonized as a Saint. He has already been beatified, which puts him well on his way. When that day comes, Southerners will have a special bragging right, not enjoyed by many nations even today. They will not only be able to boast of his sympathies during and after the great War, but they will also have in their collective possession a relic of the man - a hand written letter and autographed photograph.

On The American Civil War:

The American Civil War cannot be cast in the simplistic terms of pro-slavery verses anti-slavery. Lincoln said the war had nothing to do with slavery, and General U.S. Grant said that if he thought the war was about freeing the slaves, he would turn in his sword and fight for the other side. Grant was also a slave owner before, during and after the war.

In contrast, General Robert E. Lee was an abolitionist. Many Southerners shared his views. President Jefferson Davis requested land owners to promise their slaves freedom in exchange for military service. The abolition movement was also growing in the South before the war. The 13th Amendment that legally freed the slaves, (not the Emancipation Proclamation), was actually ratified by many Southern states before many Northern states.

The historical fact is that the Civil War was a conflict between TWO slave nations - the USA and the CSA. Granted, the USA had already banned slavery in some states, but the same movement was growing in some CSA states as well. Historical revisionists have spent a little over 100 years trying to paint the Civil War as some idealistic holy crusade against the injustice of slavery. That image doesn't hold up to the historical facts. The Civil War was mainly about money and power - particularly taxes and investments. What the South did was no different than what America's Founding Fathers did during the American Revolution. Both were acts of rebellion and armed insurrection. Both attempted to establish free and independent nations. Both were dominated by slave economies. The only difference between them is this. In the American Revolution the rebels won. In the American Civil War they didn't.