Saturday, April 19, 2014

What Catholics Believe, The Eucharist Part I

The following are some statements, in bold italics, about the Sacrament of the Eucharist in the Catholic Church. I don't pretend that these statements are exhaustive, but they are major points on the doctrine of the Eucharist.

The Sacrament of the Eucharist was instituted by Jesus at the Last Supper.

"The Lord, having loved those who were his own, loved them to the end. Knowing that the hour had come to leave this world and return to the Father, in the course of a meal he washed their feet and gave them the commandment of love.163 In order to leave them a pledge of this love, in order never to depart from his own and to make them sharers in his Passover, he instituted the Eucharist as the memorial of his death and Resurrection, and commanded his apostles to celebrate it until his return; "thereby he constituted them priests of the New Testament.""164  (CCC 1337; 163 Cf. Jn 13:1-17; 34-35; 164 Council of Trent (1562): DS 1740.)
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to His disciples said, “Take and eat; this is My body.” Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is My blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-28)
While they were eating, He took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, and said, “Take it; this is My body.” Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, and they all drank from it. He said to them, “This is My blood of the covenant, which will be shed for many." (Mark 14:22-24)
Last Supper by Juan de Juanes, 16th cent.

When the hour came, He took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it [again] until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”  Then He took a cup, gave thanks, and said, “Take this and share it among yourselves; for I tell you [that] from this time on I shall not drink of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  Then he took the bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which will be given for you; do this in memory of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which will be shed for you." (Luke 22:14-20)
For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night He was handed over, took bread, and, after He had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is My body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of Me.”  In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in My blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes. (I Cor. 11:23-26)

Maciejowski Bible, 13th Cent.
The Church has always believed and taken our Lord Jesus at His word when He said, "This is My Body...This is My Blood."  After all that He said in John's Gospel chapter six, we take Him at His word.  

"I am the bread of life. Your ancestors ate the manna in the desert, but they died; this is the bread that comes down from heaven so that one may eat it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; whoever eats this bread will live forever; and the bread that I will give is My flesh for the life of the world.”
The Jews quarreled among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat?” Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink. Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood remains in Me and I in him. Just as the living Father sent Me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on Me will have life because of Me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.” (verses 48-58; NAB)
Jesus repeats and emphasizes the eating of His flesh.  He never explains it away and never explains it as a parable.  We don't take His words as symbolic, but as spiritual truth.

The Last Supper is believed to be a Passover meal commemorating the Exodus.  In the New Covenant, Jesus is the sacrificial Lamb.

Jesus chose the time of Passover to fulfill what He had announced at Capernaum: giving His disciples His Body and His Blood:
Then came the day of Unleavened Bread, on which the passover lamb had to be sacrificed. So Jesus sent Peter and John, saying, "Go and prepare the passover meal for us, that we may eat it. . . ." They went . . . and prepared the passover. And when the hour came, He sat at table, and the apostles with Him. And He said to them, "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer; for I tell you I shall not eat it again until it is fulfilled in the kingdom of God.". . . . And He took bread, and when He had given thanks He broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is My body which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of Me." And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in My blood."166  (CCC 1339;166 Lk 22:7-20; Cf. Mt 26:17-29; Mk 14:12-25; 1 Cor 11:23-26.)
By celebrating the Last Supper with His apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus' passing over to His father by His death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom.  (CCC 1340)

This author has personally heard some protestants claim that the Last Supper was not Passover.  However, because of the words of the Gospel writers, it was and is believed by the Church that this was indeed the Passover supper.  The Passover meal and the by extension the Exodus takes on a special significance through Jesus' words and actions.
 In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial is not merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men.184 In the liturgical celebration of these events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of believers so that they may conform their lives to them.
In the New Testament, the memorial takes on new meaning. When the Church celebrates the Eucharist, she commemorates Christ's Passover, and it is made present the sacrifice Christ offered once for all on the cross remains ever present.185 "As often as the sacrifice of the Cross by which 'Christ our Pasch has been sacrificed' is celebrated on the altar, the work of our redemption is carried out."186  [184 Cf. Ex 13:3. 185 Cf. Heb 7:25-27. 186 LG 3; cf. 1 Cor 5:7.] (CCC 1363-1364)

The Eucharist nourishes the Church.
What material food produces in our bodily life, Holy Communion wonderfully achieves in our spiritual life. Communion with the flesh of the risen Christ, a flesh "given life and giving life through the Holy Spirit,"229 preserves, increases, and renews the life of grace received at Baptism. This growth in Christian life needs the nourishment of Eucharistic Communion, the bread for our pilgrimage until the moment of death, when it will be given to us as viaticum.[229 PO 5CCC 1392]
The Bread and Wine of the Eucharist are not simply that.
Give us this day our substantial bread. This common bread is not substantial bread, but this Holy Bread is substantial, that is, appointed for the substance of the soul. For this Bread goes not into the belly and is cast out into the draught Matthew 15:17, but is distributed into your whole system for the benefit of body and soul. But by this day, he means, each day, as also Paul said, While it is called today Hebrews 3:15 .  (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 23, On the Sacred Liturgy and Communion, 15)

A Catholic Tabernacle
Because the Body and Blood of Christ remain as long as the appearances of bread and wine remain, the Church worships the Blessed Sacrament outside of Mass.

The Church believes Christ's words, "This is My Body...This is My Blood," therefore she worships Christ in His most precious form.  He is there and He is present.  St. Cyril said of the Eucharist:
Consider therefore the Bread and the Wine not as bare elements, for they are, according to the Lord's declaration, the Body and Blood of Christ; for even though sense suggests this to you, yet let faith establish you. Judge not the matter from the taste, but from faith be fully assured without misgiving, that the Body and Blood of Christ have been vouchsafed to you.  (St. Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lecture 22, On the Body and Blood of Christ, 6)
So, if "the Body and Blood have been vouchsafed" then the Church must treat the Eucharist with the reverence due to God.  The Body not consumed at Mass is reserved in a tabernacle.
The celebration of the Eucharist in the Sacrifice of the Mass is truly the origin and end of the worship given to the Eucharist outside the Mass. Furthermore the sacred species are reserved after Mass principally so that the faithful who cannot be present at Mass, above all the sick and those advanced in age, may be united by sacramental Communion to Christ and his Sacrifice which is offered in the Mass.”[219] In addition, this reservation also permits the practice of adoring this great Sacrament and offering it the worship due to God.  (Redemptionis Sacramentum: On Certain Matters to be observed or to be avoided regarding the Most Holy Eucharist. From the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacrament, Rome, 25 March 2004, para. 129.)
"The Most Holy Sacrament is to be reserved in a tabernacle in a part of the church that is noble, prominent, readily visible, and adorned in a dignified manner” and furthermore “suitable for prayer” by reason of the quietness of the location, the space available in front of the tabernacle, and also the supply of benches or seats and kneelers." (Redemptionis Sacramentum, para 130)
This is a serious matter and not one to be profaned.

My intent is to write a part II to include a discussion on Transubstantiation.

Addendum from Scott:
I promised to share a story I heard our local priest tell from the pulpit on the Feast of Corpus Christi, he proclaimed it was absolutely true.   Since CathMom5 began this article on the Eucharist, I felt it fitting to add this story to her article.

Here's the story:
On the evening of the last day of his October 1995 visit to the United States, John Paul II was scheduled to greet the seminarians at Saint Mary’s Seminary in Baltimore. It had been a very full day that began with a Mass at Oriole Park in Camden Yards, a parade through downtown streets, a visit to the Basilica of the Assumption, the first cathedral in the country, lunch at a local soup kitchen run by Catholic Charities; a prayer service at the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen in North Baltimore; and finally a quick stop at Saint Mary’s Seminary.
The schedule was tight so the plan was simply to greet the seminarians while they stood outside on the steps. But the Pope made his way through their ranks and into the building. His plan was to first make a visit to the Blessed Sacrament.
When his wishes were made known, security flew into action. They swept the building paying close attention to the chapel where the Pope would be praying. For this purpose highly trained dogs were used to detect any person who might be present.
The dogs are trained to locate survivors in collapsed buildings after earthquakes and other disasters. These highly intelligent and eager dogs quickly went through the halls, offices and classrooms and were then sent to the chapel. They went up and down the aisle, past the pews and finally into the side chapel where the Blessed Sacrament is reserved.
Upon reaching the tabernacle, the dogs sniffed, whined, pointed, and refused to leave, their attention riveted on the tabernacle, until called by their handlers. They were convinced that they discovered someone there.
We Catholics know they were right — they found a real, living Person in the tabernacle!
Now, I've seen this story, verbatim, on several sites - all Catholic.  I do not personally doubt the veracity of this anecdotal situation, but for others reading along, I'd like some other, preferably non-Catholic, confirmation.  If you have any other information, please share in the comments of this blog.

Other sites with this story that I've found thus far:

Sunday, April 13, 2014

What Catholics Believe: Confirmation

The Sacrament of Confirmation is an essential sacrament in the Catholic Church.  Baptism, Eucharist and Confirmation constitute "the sacraments of Christian initiation."  Therefore, the Sacrament of Confirmation is not an option for faithful Catholics, it is that which completes the initiation into the Church.  (CCC 1285)  

Confirmation is the gift of the Holy Ghost upon the People of Christ, or the "messianic people" (those of the Messiah).  The fullness of the Holy Ghost was not something reserved for Christ alone, but something He gives to His People.  It is seen on Easter Sunday and even moreso on Pentecost where the Apostles were filled with the Holy Ghost and went forth into the world preaching the Gospel and baptizing - and to those who were baptized, they also received the gift of the Spirit in turn (CCC 1287).

Along with Baptism, the Laying on of Hands (aka Confirmation) are part of the initiation into Christian living and have been ever since the Catholic Church began, at Pentecost.  It is mentioned in the economy of salvation in Heb. 6:2 and thus is integral to salvation.

From very early on the use of oil to anoint the recipient of Confirmation was added.  Such an "anointing" is symbolic of being a Christian, for the Christ literally means the "Anointed One."  To be thusly anointed is part of that which makes one a "Christian." (CCC 1289).  We must also note that in the ceremony of the Sacrament of Baptism the recipient is also anointed with the sacred chrism (CCC 1241) and it is through the Sacrament of Confirmation that one acknowledges, accepts and confirms that baptismal anointing.

The anointing with the holy chrism is also symbolic of the seal of our Master upon us.  Like soldiers were marked with their leader's mark and slaves with their master's - we too are marked for God in this sacrament (CCC 1295).  Jesus Himself declares He is marked/sealed by the Father as well in John 6:27 "Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” (NASB).

From the CCC:
1302 It is evident from its celebration that the effect of the sacrament of Confirmation is the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit as once granted to the apostles on the day of Pentecost.
1303 From this fact, Confirmation brings an increase and deepening of baptismal grace:
- it roots us more deeply in the divine filiation which makes us cry, "Abba! Father!"; (Rom 8:15)

- it unites us more firmly to Christ;
- it increases the gifts of the Holy Spirit in us;
- it renders our bond with the Church more perfect (Cf. LG 11.);
- it gives us a special strength of the Holy Spirit to spread and defend the faith by word and action as true witnesses of Christ, to confess the name of Christ boldly, and never to be ashamed of the Cross: (Cf. Council Of Florence (1439): DS 1319; LG 11; 12).

Recall then that you have received the spiritual seal, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of right judgment and courage, the spirit of knowledge and reverence, the spirit of holy fear in God's presence. Guard what you have received. God the Father has marked you with his sign; Christ the Lord has confirmed you and has placed his pledge, the Spirit, in your hearts (St. Ambrose, De myst. 7,42:PL 16,402-403).
1304 Like Baptism which it completes, Confirmation is given only once, for it too imprints on the soul an indelible spiritual mark, the "character," which is the sign that Jesus Christ has marked a Christian with the seal of his Spirit by clothing him with power from on high so that he may be his witness.

So, who can receive this sacrament?   Every baptized person who is not yet confirmed can and should receive the Sacrament of Confirmation (CCC 1306).  It is obliged in Canon Law that we must receive this sacrament:
The faithful are obliged to receive this sacrament at the proper time. Parents and pastors of souls, especially pastors of parishes, are to take care that the faithful are properly instructed to receive the sacrament and come to it at the appropriate time. (CIC Canon 890)
Not only are we obliged to receive this sacrament, parents and pastors are to make sure those under their care are properly instructed and come into it at the appropriate time.  This is not something which we have the option to omit - nor the option to not instruct our children in and get them to the reception of the sacrament.  

Saturday, April 12, 2014

A Catholic Layman's Take on the "Twelve Differences Between Catholics and Protestants"

In researching a paper, I came across an article titled  Twelve Differences Between Catholics and Protestants.  The author did not say, in the article, what her affiliation was but claimed to be neutral for this article.  Here are her 12 "simple differences" and some clarifications from a Catholic layman.
Pope Francis

1. The Pope. Catholics have a Pope, which they consider a vicar for Christ — an infallible stand-in, if you will — that heads the Church. Protestants believe no human is infallible and Jesus alone heads up the Church.

Of course the pope is a "difference" between Catholics and Protestants.  The very name "Protestant" bespeaks of the protest of certain men and their followers in the 16th century who left the Church and founded churches on their own feelings, opinions, and personal interpretation of Scripture, and protesting against the authority and doctrine of the Church.

The pope is the vicar of Christ.  It is a title of honor as well as jurisdiction meaning that he is the earthly head of the Church, representing our true Head, Jesus Christ.  Christ Himself appointed Peter as His vicar when He said, "Feed My lambs...feed My sheep" (John 21:16-17).  This authority has been placed in the hands of subsequent popes with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Who is the Spirit and soul of the Christ's Church.

The pope however is not infallible in the way Protestants believe the word to mean.  Infallible does not mean he is sinless or never makes mistakes.  The pope goes to confession just like every other practicing Catholic does.  He is not perfect; he does sin.

Actually, infallibility is a charism (a gift or grace from God in order to do something God asks of us) given to the  pope which makes it impossible for him, as pope, to declare any error in doctrine.  This infallibility only applies to proclamations of doctrine that he has prayed over, has run by many theologians and bishops, and declared or proclaimed from the "chair of Peter."  While the pope's other writings and teachings are considered authoritative, they are not all infallible.

An example of an infallible declaration is the proclamation of the Immaculate Conception by Pope Pius IX in 1854:
...for the furtherance of the Catholic religion, by the authority of Jesus Christ our Lord, of the Blessed Apostles Peter and Paul, and by our own: "We declare, pronounce, and define that the doctrine which holds that the most Blessed Virgin Mary, in the first instance of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege granted by Almighty God, in view of the merits of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the human race, was preserved free from all stain of original sin, is a doctrine revealed by God and therefore to be believed firmly and constantly by all the faithful." [emphasis mine]

Notice the declaration (in quotes) and how it is meant to be for "all the faithful."  This type of proclamation is protected by the Holy Spirit.

St. Patrick's Cathedral, NYC
2.  Big, Fancy Cathedrals. Catholics have them; Protestants don’t. Why? Catholicism says that “humanity must discover its unity and salvation” within a church. Protestants say all Christians can be saved, regardless of church membership. (Ergo… shitty, abandoned storefront churches? All Protestant.)

I can only address some of the many reasons for the "big, fancy" Catholic Cathedrals.  1) They were meant to model the Church after the Kingdom of Heaven.  When one steps into a cathedral (especially the vaulted, medieval ones) you are meant to feel as if you stepped into that Heavenly place.  2) The stained glass windows, statues, wall paintings, mosaics and tapestries of the medieval and middle ages Cathedrals were there to tell the stories of Scripture to illiterate worshipers.   The vast majority of the population lived just above poverty level, with no time to sit and learn to read.  (Even Emperor Charlemagne was illiterate.)  Statues and pictures of saints tell the stories of these wonderful Christians who are a part of the family of God.  In other words, they are family portraits.  3) The artwork in the cathedrals was both education for the people and gifts from the artists (or patrons of the artists).  4) The cathedrals, generally, were built by the people over a century or more as  a gift to God--a form of worship to God.

I would like to know where the quote "humanity must discover its unity and salvation" within a church came from.  I'm not sure what the author is trying to imply here.  The Catholic Church believes that Christ founded one Church and meant it to stay one ("...and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.").  So, that is the unity, but it is not about the building.  The Church believes that salvation comes through the Church, however tangentially.  There is the salvation part, but that is not about the building either.  Maybe this is just a case of a Protestant not understanding Catholic vocabulary.?  Who knows.

While it is true that there are crappy store-front Protestant churches, there are also some pretty spectacular Protestant Churches such as the Washington National Cathedral, the Episcopalian Cathedral in DC which took over a century to build in modern times.

St. Walburga
3. Saints. Catholics pray to saints (holy dead people) in addition to God and Jesus. Protestants acknowledge saints, but don’t pray to them.

It is important to clarify here that Catholics do not pray to "holy dead people".  We talk to our living family members.  When we pray to the saints, it is indeed in addition to praying to God, but it does not replace praying to God.  One, we believe the saints to be alive ("He is not the God of the dead but of the living" Mark 12:27) and with Christ their Savior.  Two, we pray to them to talk to God for us, just as we ask the other members of the family of God on earth.

I don't know which Protestants acknowledge saints (except in the generic we're-all-saints way) apart from Orthodox and Lutherans, at least not in the same context.  Many Protestants believe that all "believers" (In quotes, because believers is whatever their personal definition of a believer might be) to be saints.  Therefore, the meaning of the word doesn't even correlate. 

Holy Water font
4.  Holy Water. Catholics only.

Here the author did not even explain if or why holy water is a problem.  Why holy water?  Yeah, that's a difference, of sorts...

Here are some points on holy water:
--Water was used to ceremonially wash the body before entering the Temple in Jerusalem and it was a custom in the early Church as well.
--Holy water is used for baptism.
--Holy water fonts are available in Catholic Churches to remind us of our baptism and ceremonially cleanse us upon entering the nave (the main body of the Church).
--Catholics are sprinkled with water at certain Masses, reminding us of our baptism and our baptismal promises.
--On the altar, the priest pours a small amount of holy water in the chalice, indicating the water which came from the side of Christ along with His blood.
--The priest purifies his hands (ceremonially washes) before the Eucharistic prayers.
--It is a sacramental, not magic.

Fr. Morris, seen on TV
5. Celibacy and Nuns. Catholics only.

Celibacy was advocated by Christ and soon followed by the Early Church.
The disciples said to him, 'If that is how things are between husband and wife, it is advisable not to marry.' But he replied, 'It is not everyone who can accept what I have said, but only those to whom it is granted. There are eunuchs born so from their mother's womb, there are eunuchs made so by human agency and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of Heaven. Let anyone accept this who can.'  (Matthew 19:10-12; emphasis mine)
The writings of the Church fathers show that, in the early Church, married priests were not the accepted norm in the main centres of Alexandria, Antioch and Rome. They were considered a "problem" that existed in the outlying regions. By the third century there were almost no married priests and several councils put the issue to rest until around the 9th century when many bishops and priests took wives and had children. The state of the priesthood fell to an all time low.  A huge problem emerged with priests "willing" Church property to their families. Up to that point, the principle of celibacy was never completely surrendered in the official enactments of the Church. In 1123, celibacy was made official. Although, throughout history there have been scattered instances of abuses of the Canon Law, the Roman Catholic Church has consistently stuck to this position on celibate priests.  (Catholic Bridge, "Why Can't priests get married?")
Ingrid Bergman in Bells of St. Mary's
In this day and age of clergy divorce, adultery, and "Preacher's daughters", the importance of singular dedication to God and their calling should be very apparent.  What some anti-Catholics do not understand is that there are married priests in the Catholic church.  Yes, they are the minority, but they do exist.  Celibacy is a discipline in order for priests and other religious to dedicate their whole lives to God without the distractions of spouse, children, and family responsibilities.  Men who become priests are responsible for a much bigger family--Christ's family.

In point of fact the Catholic Church is not the only church with nuns.  Both the Anglican church, and the Orthodox church have nuns, and the Lutheran church has "deaconesses".  I don't know much about Protestant nuns but Catholic nuns are women dedicated to Jesus Christ alone.  They spend their days praying for the salvation of the world and doing good (humanitarian) works.  This can only be a good thing.

6. Purgatory: Catholics only.

Yes and no.

Purgation  or Purgatory is not only Scriptural but traditional.

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.
1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned.  (Catechism of the Catholic Church)
Revelations 21:27 tells us that nothing impure will enter Heaven.

Purgatory is simply a place or state of being in which Christians are cleansed or purged of all stain of sin before entering Heaven.  It is neither a second chance, nor a place or state without hope.  Anyone who is in Purgatory or in the state of purging knows that they will be in Heaven once the cleansing is complete.  Since it is after this life, time does not exist there, so we cannot say that you spend a certain amount of "time" there because time doesn't exist there.

There are other Christian sects that believe in purification before Heaven but will not call this state or process Purgatory in opposition to the Church.  So, actually there are Protestant sects that do indeed believe in it, they just don't call it that.
7. Scripture: The be-all, end-all for Protestants is “the Word of God.” For Catholics, tradition is just important as scripture — maybe even more so.

What the blogger fails to point out is that Scripture is part of Catholic Tradition. It is the most important part of the Tradition of the Church.  It is extremely important to the Church and her members.

 "Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too - pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place - is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture."  (CCC 132)
Protestantism that I have personally experienced has traditions of their own that is every bit as important as Scripture.  Scripture alone as the "be-all, end all" is a protestant tradition not based in Scripture.

One of my favorites for Children
8. Catechism: Protestant kids memorize the Bible. Catholic kids get catechism.

It is not quite as black and white as that.  The "catechism" that Catholic kids "get" includes Scripture.  While Catholic Children don't memorize large chunks of Scripture word for word, they learn whole sections and stories by heart.  Ask any Catholic kid about Creation, Moses,  the Prodigal Son, or the Wedding Feast at Cana, the Last Supper, or the Passion of Christ, I bet you'd be impressed.  The catechism is a concise outline of the Faith passed down for twenty centuries which includes Scripture.  Children learn their Faith and learn why the Church believes what it believes.  The Catechism, including the children's version, is filled with the rich gift of Scripture. While many Catholic children can't spout memorized Scripture on demand, properly catechized children can tell others about what is in the Bible and what we believe about it.

Vatican Council II
9. Authori-tay: In Catholicism, only the Roman Catholic Church has authority to interpret the Bible. Protestants hold that each individual has authority to interpret the Bible.

 Yes, the Church has the authority to interpret Scripture.  Christ sent the Holy Spirit to His Church at Pentecost for this very reason.  He guided and inspired men who wrote the Scriptures, who taught the Scriptures, and interpreted the Scriptures.  The Holy Spirit-guided Church gave the Bible as we know it to the world--even the Protestants.  And, there has been nearly 2,000 years of Catholic theologians, scholars, and councils studying and interpreting Scripture, why would an individual believe they've come up with something new?  That is the height of hubris.

The error of individual interpretation of Scripture is what gave us the "33,000!" (I'm quoting the blogger, now) different Protestant denominations, churches, or communities--however they want to distinguish or name themselves.  There are protestants fighting protestants.  Just one example would be the importance of baptism for salvation: one groups says it is necessary, others say you're just getting wet.

10. Sacraments: Catholic are the only ones to have the concept of the seven sacraments (baptism, confirmation, the Eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and matrimony). Protestants teach that salvation is attained through faith alone.

Ironically, those that claim that their only authority is Scripture don't or won't understand that the only place that the words "faith alone" are found in Scripture, they appear in the negative.   

"So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead." (James 2:17, NAB)
"Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone." (James 2:17, KJV)
Faith produces fruit or it is dead, after all, "Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble." (James 2:19, KJV)     

These sacraments are beneficial in the order of grace and all seven were instituted by Christ.  God's free gift of grace helps us with our faith, and our faith gets stronger with each sacrament we partake in.
The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. (CCC 1131)

Mary, Mother of God
11. Holidays: Catholics have 10 Holy Days of Obligation (which mean they must go to Mass). Protestants are more like, “Just come to church on Christmas, that’s all we ask.”

This blanket statement is much too general.

Yes, the Catholic Church in America has 8 Holy days of Obligation (2 of the original 10, Epiphany and The Body and Blood of Christ, have been transferred to Sundays) in addition to our Sunday obligation.  The reality is that all Catholics are obligated to go to Mass every single Sunday of the year.  The other eight days are in addition to the Sunday obligation.

The Nativity (Christmas)
The ten (the eight with the other 2 now on Sunday) days are:  Mary, Mother of God (January 1), Epiphany (Sunday after January 1), Ascension (either the sixth Thursday of Easter or the seventh Sunday of Easter depending on the diocese), Body and Blood of Christ (Second Sunday after Pentecost), The Assumption of Mary (August 15), All Saints (November 1), Immaculate Conception of Mary (December 8) and Christmas Day (December 25).

As for Protestants, I don't agree with the blogger's blanket statement.  In the Baptist church in which I grew up, it was expected, if not an outright rule, that all good members of that church went to church on Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and Wednesday evenings.  Also expected was attendance to any "revivals" and extra prayer meetings.  You were told in the minister's message how you couldn't be a good Christian if you didn't give time and money to God.  I'm sure that this "obligation" is still true in many Protestant churches today.
The Eucharist and Heaven
12. Communion: In Catholicism, the bread and wine “become” the body and blood of Jesus Christ, meaning that Jesus is truly present on the altar. In Protestantism, the bread and wine are symbolic.

While true, this is a broad generalization.  The Catholic Church does believe in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist.  The main reason is because we believe Christ words literally.  We believe He meant what He said:

Then he took bread, ...saying, 'This is my body given for you'...He did the same with the cup after supper, and said, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood poured out for you.' (Luke 22:19,20)
Jesus took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and giving it to his disciples said, “Take and eat; this is my body.Then he took a cup, gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which will be shed on behalf of many for the forgiveness of sins." (Matthew 26:26-28)
Also, in the Orthodox and Lutheran traditions the bread and wine are more than symbolic, but expressed in a different way than the Catholic Church.

I, personally, feel sorry for Protestants who claim they believe in what Scriptures say, yet ignore what Scripture actually says.  If communion is just bread and wine (actually grape juice in most Protestants circles), what was the point of doing it in the first place?  Just going through the motions seems a lot less efficacious than believing in Christ's words.  

Conclusion: Christians have a lot more commonality than differences.  We all are sincerely trying to follow Christ and His teaching. Our Lord taught us to love God and love one another. Do I think Protestants are wrong on many levels?  Yes or I would not be a Catholic today.  I have found Christ, His Church, His family.  I am completely in love with my Savior and I believe that I am doing my best to follow Him and help my children know and follow Him.  Other Christians waste a lot of time, money, effort, and hatred on fellow Christians.  It is sad, really, because that is not what Christ intended. We are all God's children and we all deserve respect.

Movie Review: Noah 2014

Noah 2014 - 
"It's a complete waste of time and money."   So says my wife who went to see this movie on opening weekend.  One could say it is loosely based upon the Genesis account from the Bible - but that's about as close as one could get to relating it to Scripture.  According to the Mansfield New Herald "viewers will want this movie to end long before it does."

Most animals were "two-by-two" - but there were seven of some species.
Noah doesn't speak with God, he gets his inspiration through dreams.

Missing Pieces:
No mention of the 150 days it took the waters to recede.
No mention of the sacrifice offered to God when the flood was over.
No mention of "God" only "The Creator."
No mention of the wives of Noah's sons - and the only other female is a orphan girl who is reportedly barren.  Humanity doesn't stand much of a chance of continuing with these odds.

Added Pieces:
"Rock creatures" are Noah's "helpers" to build the ark.  My wife called them "Transformers."
Noah ponders killing his wife and family so that only the animals survive, as to not anger "The Creator" again.
A stowaway, "Tubal-Cain," is found on the ark after it is afloat.  Noah and Tubal-Cain have to fight it out. 

Now again I grant you, I have not yet seen the movie - and based upon my wife's review, I won't be seeing it in the theater.  I'll wait for it to come out on NetFlix or some other option.  When I do see it, I may have more to say/add to this review.

If any of you reading along have seen the movie and wish to add comments, please do.

Roger Ebert's Review

Fr. Barron's Critique

Steven Greydanus (NCR)

Atheist v Christian Perspectives

Thursday, April 03, 2014

Can Catholic Doctrine Change?

A friend of mine posed the following to me...
Thoughts? Change occurs in official (non-defined) Catholic doctrine like this: 
1. The doctrine is insisted on more and more sternly and vigorously. 
2. Then things go quiet. 
3. Then it is allowed that circumstances have changed, so that what may have been universally true is now only usually true. 
4. Then a few exceptions are made. 
5. Then no real attempt is made to implement the teaching. 
6. Then statements are made which indirectly contradict the teaching. 
7. Then it is stated that opposite of the original teaching is true and that in fact this is what was always taught, when the original teaching is rightly understood. 
This is certainly the case with usury, suicide, "the fate of unbaptized infants", the status of the Eastern Orthodox churches, and slavery.
My initial response was:
I am not aware of any of those being "universal teachings" to begin with. In order for me to comment I'd need to see the alleged original, universal teaching and contrast that with the alleged new teaching.
He said:
I don't think it was saying they were dogmatic definitions but were examples of "official (non-defined) Catholic doctrine."
I responded:
And I don't think I need to tell you that even "official" but "non-defined" doctrines can change. It is "official" that Latin Rite priests are not married, but this could change too - and there are already some exceptions to that "rule."
He said:
The rule that Latin Rite priests are not married (generally) is not doctrine, is it? It's discipline, right?
And continues...
I just thought the progression of such changes in what I shared was interesting.
I answered:
Well, I would prepare a better answer for you if I had a better premise to start from. I need to see the alleged original "universal" teachings first. Examine them in context and then compare. I've answered several of those already in discussion groups on ACTS - but would be willing to do so again on CathApol.
My friend was not real interested in getting into a more formal debate, but I do believe the statements made are commonly made - and thus do deserve an answer. 

I continue now:
You are correct, the matter of married priests is a matter of discipline, and one which can change and already is acceptable in some rites of the Catholic Church.  In my humble opinion, far too much emphasis is made on this subject.  It is a matter of vocation.  If one is called to the celibate priesthood, then they should heed the call.  If one is not so called, then they should pursue marriage where they can be fruitful and multiply (or at least have the potential for such).

The matter of usury is often related to the charging of interest on any loan of cash, however this perspective has changed - especially with the dawning of the 16th century and the advent of Protestantism, where charging interest became more and more commonplace.  Today "usury" would be defined as exorbitant interest which takes advantage of the poor and desperate - which, indeed, is the scriptural root of this concept (see Ex 22:25).  I find it interesting that in the parable of the talents, the servants who returned MORE than was given to them were rewarded for it and the one who returned exactly what he was entrusted with was cast out into the place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth, (Matt. 25:30) and was told that he should have at least invested in the bankers, where he could have earned interest on the money!  Scripture actually supports a FAIR collection and reception of interest (Matt. 25:27).  So, while challengers to the Catholic Church's position base their argument in a hyper-literal interpretation - they appear to be overlooking a broader interpretation which includes and even encourages participation in interest.  I would re-emphasize, this is not a matter of defined dogma and thus the Church can "teach" on the matter and "change" the teaching when it deems the teaching should be changed.  This is really a non-issue for apologetics for those who objectively look at it.

I am not aware of any change in Catholic teaching on suicide.  Thou shalt not kill includes killing of one's self.  It is a mortal sin to murder anyone, including yourself, so the conclusion could be drawn that one who successfully commits suicide has condemned themselves to Hell - but the Church condemns no one to Hell.  The teaching is clear, don't do it, but for one who does - well, only God is in the position of the Final Judge over the state of the soul at death.  What if the person after committing the act and before completely dying repents?  Again, God will judge whether that was sufficient or not.  Non-issue.

The Fate of Un-baptized Infants (aka Limbo):
Limbo was never a dogmatically defined teaching, though it was widely accepted and "taught."  Again, just because something is "taught" does not make it dogma.  If it's not dogma, it can change.  The Church does not reject the concept of Limbo - it just does not "teach" it anymore.  Again, another non-issue.

The Status of Eastern Orthodox Churches:
The "status" has not changed.  They are not in full communion with the Bishop of Rome.  The Catholic Church does not reject the legitimacy of Eastern Orthodox sacraments.  I am not sure what my friend is getting at here, this is not an apologetics issue.

Again, Scripture itself does not oppose all forms of slavery.  The matter is something which is a change in dogma, but a cultural change in discipline.  Again, this is not a matter which needs "defending."

What concerns me as well is my friend is a former Catholic and really should already know these answers.  I'm a bit surprised he is throwing these rather weak and stereotypical anti-Catholic arguments.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Singing Nun Appropriate or Not?

After my recent posting on the Singing Nun, I found another Catholic site just blasting her for what she did.  Here is what was said:
This Is Utterly Inappropriate.
If this is inappropriate,
then this is inappropriate, too

I do not know the stupid details of this certainly stupid TV transmission. What I see:
1) tattooed people;
2) people making the horns
3) A nun making the horns
4) Other nuns behaving like teenies considered stupid by her own classmates.
5) A fully secular song, that no amount of “but she means to give everything to God” can hide. With this mentality, Sister could have sung “like a virgin”.
6) “Ho un dono, ve lo dono”, my foot. You're a nun, Sister. You are supposed to spend your time praying and helping, not jumping around like you're on cocaine.

7) “Non capisco piu' niente”, says Raffaella Carra', “I can't understand anything anymore”. She obviously can't understand (I mean, she says so) how a nun can behave in that way. She is not the only one.

Dear Mundabor,
Things may not be quite how you have perceived and reacted to.  Let me respond to your numbered points:
1) tatooed people
I too have a bit of a problem with that, especially considering Lev. 19:28.
2) people making the horns
I too am a bit concerned when I see that, and that one judge definitely made the sign of the horns - at least it seemed that way to me, an American.  I'm not sure what that may mean in the Italian culture.  Still, it bothers me.
3) A nun making the horns
Well, that would bother me, but let's look at the possible "horns" made by Suor Cristina Scuccia:
First one:
No, that's the symbol for "telephone" - and indeed, even in Italian you can hear her saying "telefono" while she's making that symbol.

Second one:

Well, that one appears to be more akin to "hang loose" (the "Shaka") - in Hawaiian hand gestures:
OK, the third one:
Well, not quite again...  in Sign Language, that's the sign for "I love you."
So, not necessarily "the horns" as you say, Mundabor.  
4) Other nuns behaving like teenies considered stupid by her own classmates.
They were excited for how well their sister was performing.  Consider the fact that not all nuns are cloistered in convents.  
5) A fully secular song, that no amount of “but she means to give everything to God” can hide. With this mentality, Sister could have sung “like a virgin”.  
Well, I beg to differ.  There's a HUGE difference between expressing one's love for "no one but you" (Jesus) and singing "like a virgin, being touched for the very first time."  Just because a song is secular that does not make it blatantly sexual - as Madonna's (the very name she chose for her stage name is offensive to me based upon what she sang, how she dressed, etc.) "Like a Virgin."  

6) “Ho un dono, ve lo dono”, my foot. You're a nun, Sister. You are supposed to spend your time praying and helping, not jumping around like you're on cocaine.

7) “Non capisco piu' niente”, says Raffaella Carra', “I can't understand anything anymore”. She obviously can't understand (I mean, she says so) how a nun can behave in that way. She is not the only one.
And again,  not all nuns are cloistered in convents or monasteries.  Now, if you have evidence that she belongs to a cloister - THEN you have a better argument.  There IS diversity in vocations.  

In short, I believe you have over-responded to this piece.  

Now, how could your response be better worded and not necessarily scandalous (like publicly calling out a nun when you might not have all the facts straight)?  How about asking some questions?

1) Why all the tattoos, people?  I know they are popular, but they are also contrary to God's Word in Lev. 19:28.

2) Does holding out the pinky and index finger mean the same thing in Italy as it does in the USA?  Just curious because we see that as "devil horns."

3) Sister Cristina, could you explain to us what appears to be "devil horns" gestures?  

4) I'd leave that one out completely - non-cloistered nuns can be out in public and excited for what one of their sisters is doing.

5) I realize that the song you selected can be directed to Jesus, but it is a secular song sung by Alicia Keys, and there are so many Christian songs to choose from, some of which have even crossed over to the secular charts.  Wouldn't your energies and talent be better served if you sang something which did not have such a secular interpretation to it?

6 and 7)  Again, I'd leave those out.  Unless you have evidence that she belongs to a cloistered convent and is in violation of her vows - such accusations are scandalous and need not be aired in public.  Now I repeat, if you have evidence that she does belong to such a convent, or worse, is not a nun at all and is dressed that way as a publicity stunt.  That thought crossed my mind too, and if you look at other youtube appearances, her habit is different or she's not even wearing the habit (which it is possible those clips were recorded before she entered the vocation).

The above being said, I did a little more research myself and found this article, which expresses many of the same thoughts I had in watching the video.

It would seem her order is called to go out and evangelize in the world - and not remain cloistered in a convent somewhere (and that is a good vocation too, for those who are called to it).  
I would also bring out that the first judge who turned around, rapper J-Ax, was brought to tears by her form of evangelization - so perhaps she is reaching people for the Lord in ways that might seem strange to you.

In short, Mundabor, I believe you should post an apology and retraction of your article.

Scott Windsor<<<
AKA: CathApol

Friday, March 21, 2014

Italy's Singing Nun!

On Italy's version of The Voice, this nun catches everyone by surprise.  Pretty amazing!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Discrimination on Moral Grounds?

As I mentioned in an earlier blog, I have a friend who has asked me about my position on homosexuality in specific situations going on in society today.  He is asking for a "Catholic" response, and I said I would oblige.  I've also invited co-bloggers, cathmom5 and Nathan to add to this article and I have posted the same or similar questions to a group of Catholic friends and will include some of their comments too.  For the most part, the responses have been written without pre-reading what others have to say.  This article/blog has become truly a group project, and I invite those reading along to add their comments as well in the combox section.

First question:  On Dec. 20, 2013 Uganda passed a law criminalizing homosexuality.  Persons found guilty of homosexuality could be sentenced to life in prison (which previously it was a death sentence, they dropped that provision before passing the law).  Is it right for a country to make it a criminal offense (with a life sentence) for someone's choice in sexuality?
Scott's response:  Well, first off does a country have the "right" to set its own laws?  Yes.  Now, when those laws may impinge upon the human rights of their citizens, is it our responsibility to speak out?  I would say yes to that too.  So, to directly answer the first question, I do not believe it is "right" for a country to criminalize homosexuality.  At the same time, I reiterate my (already known) position - that homosexual acts are "wrong" and considered an abomination to our Lord.  In my opinion such morality should not be subjected to civil law, it is covered in divine law.  For those who do not share our Judeo-Christian belief system is it "right" to force our morality upon them?  I would say "No."

CathMom5's response:  No, I do not believe it is "right" for a country to make homosexuality a criminal offense; but I agree that we cannot control the legislature or laws of other countries.  In light of the Christian tradition, every person is made in the image of God and deserves to be treated with respect.  While I believe that the homosexual act is against God's law also, I don't believe that someone should spend the rest of their life in jail (let alone lose their life) for it.  We, America, Christians, etc.,  have no business in foreign laws; however, we should speak out when human rights and human dignity are violated.  We cannot force them to change their laws but we can speak out against such laws that strip humans of their dignity.

Nathan’s answer to the first question:
Although countries have a right to make their own laws, as any sovereign country has, I personally disagree with these Uganda laws and as a country built on freedom I agree on its population to lobby their government to change those particular laws. 

In case you didn’t know, the Catholic Church actively lobbied the Uganda government against instituting these laws ever since they declared its intentions about this proposed law.  A Wikileaks headline tells us that a U.S. diplomatic cable dated December 15, 2009, reveals that the U.S. Embassy to the Vatican lobbied the Catholic church to oppose the proposed Ugandan Anti-Homosexuality Bill.  According to the cable:

Embassy Vatican has actively lobbied Holy See officials to take a stand against pending legislation in Uganda that would criminalize homosexuality and in extreme cases, even punish it with death (reftel). On December 11, after the Ambassador raised USG (U.S. Government) concerns, Cardinal Antonelli Ennio, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family, reaffirmed the Church’s position that legal approaches to homosexuality are inappropriate. Antonelli admitted that he had not followed the Uganda controversy closely, but agreed that Catholic bishops there or anywhere should not/not support the criminalization of homosexuality. The Ambassador urged the Cardinal to make sure bishops in Uganda understood this.

And so we can see that not only do the US representatives of the Church but also the Vatican as well agreed that these laws should not be instituted because we can read later on in that same cable:

…The Vatican likely will not want bishops in Uganda to support the criminalization of homosexuality, so Embassy efforts may well translate into Vatican officials communicating with bishops in Uganda to reaffirm the Church teaching that homosexuality is a personal moral decision, which should not be penalized in any way by judicial authorities. The Vatican, however, likely will shy away from instructing the bishops directly to denounce the bill, as bishops everywhere are given a lot of leeway in deciding how to conduct pastoral work in their own dioceses.

On December 10, 2009, the Vatican confirmed this stand when it released a statement which opposed “all grave violations of human rights against homosexual persons,” particularly “the murder and abuse of homosexual persons are to be confronted on all levels, especially when such violence is perpetrated by the State.” The statement didn’t reference Uganda by name, but that last statement was taken as an oblique reference to the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill. Shortly before Christmas Day that year, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Uganda, Cyprian Lwanga, denounced the proposed Anti-Homosexuality Bill in his annual Christmas message from Rubaga Cathedral. That message was broadcast over several Ugandan television channels.

These responses make sense since they are perfectly aligned with official Catholic Church teaching on homosexuality.  Here is a copy/paste from our official teachings of the Church, the Catechism of the Catholic Church on how we as Christians are to treat those with same-sex attraction:

From the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

2357 Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity,141 tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered."142 They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved.

2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition.

2359 Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection.
Responses from other friends: 
"F" wrote:  I think the Uganda situation is indicative of what's wrong with our country. The people in any society have the right to decide for themselves what their society should stand for and what it will reject. Where the issues concerning homosexuality are put to the voters in our country, the homosexual agenda usually loses, which is why they go to the courts and legislatures.  Uganda and other African countries do not want homosexuality polluting their society, so they pass laws insuring it won't. I see nothing wrong with that.

And before anyone says homosexuality in itself is no sin, just remember what happens when you let the camel get its nose under your tent flap.

"A" wrote:   My personal view is that this law is on the same level as the repressive laws in the Islamic theocracies, those of pagan Rome and now of many other places.
Even after reading F's reply, I still would argue that the civil authorities - and that is who makes these laws and pretends to grant special rights  - whether in agreement or opposition to Divine Natural law - has no authority to do so.
IMO, civil authority is limited to control and regulate the safety and security of its citizens.  In all instances and matters where civil institutions have both authority and the duty to legislate the civil laws must coincide with natural and Divine laws.
Civil authorities may have the power and means to enforce laws, they have no right to impose sanctions nor to grant rights outside of their delegated authority - restrictions and punishments such as the 'law' you referred to, nor 'rights' to abortion, same sex marriages etc.
One can argue that civil laws which agree and coincide with Divine law are good, and I would grant that, but these laws would still be 'ultra vires' for the government, unless _all_ citizens agreed to live under that government - i.e I think that citizens can agree to abide to restrictions over and above what the strictest
minimum demands, but the government cannot impose extra duties or restrictions on its own, nor an a minority or even a large majority.
For, if we grant the majority that power, we have no reason to complain about the current state of affairs in the world.

John 8:11 Who said: No man, Lord. And Jesus said: Neither will I condemn thee.
Go, and now sin no more.
Ultimately, in none of these cases do the human courts have full knowledge of all the circumstances related to these 'transgressions', nor will the transgressors escape judgment altogether.  For Catholics we have confession for the rest, I would leave them to the 'just judge'.
While I am sure there is much more to this, these are the ideas I would base my argument on.

"O" (responding to "A")
"...this [Ugandan] law is on the same level as the repressive laws in the Islamic theocracies, those of pagan Rome and now of many other places."
I think a law may be described as repressive if, and only if, the law constrains a natural human desire to act. Laws which constrain unnatural human acts are in principle just laws. Such laws may denounce, prohibit, or punish unnatural behavior; these are matters of degree.  I think the severity of the law ought to be  restricted to that level necessary to protect or promote the commonweal.  The severity of the law is a matter of prudence for the governing body of the community.

People living in community, assuming they possess suffrage and political freedom, give up personal autonomy and submit to the restraints of justice as reflected in the community's expressed values (norms) and evidenced in the community's laws.

If Ugandans as a community believe homosexual activity is unnatural human activity and believe that tolerating such activity is contrary to the promotion of the commonweal then, it seems to me, the governing authority is obligated to evidence those beliefs in the community's laws.  Whether the law merely denounces or punishes is a matter of degree and prudence, but I think not principle.
"A" responds to "O" with:
"Whether the law merely denounces or punishes is a matter of degree and prudence, but I think not principle."
Point well taken, but:
If it is not a matter of principle, then would reasoning according to the same 'rules' not also give the 'community/government' the 'right' to confer 'rights' on its citizens, rights which promote " unnatural human acts ", 'rights' which condone/facilitate abortion, euthanasia etc, etc. ?? 

"O" replies:

I think not.
If the positive statement is true then so is its contrapositive.
If a law constrains a natural human desire to act then the law is unjust.
If the law is [not un] just then the law allows [not constrains] a natural human desire to act.
Abortion and euthanasia are not natural human acts.

Scott says:
I would add, abortion and euthanasia are acts which do harm to others.  I believe laws should protect others, especially those who cannot protect themselves.  I tend to be on the side of saying we should not be legislating an act between two consenting adults which (other than to their eternal soul) is doing no direct harm.  

Nathan replies:
But Scott, the Ugandans could very well believe that homosexual behavior is an actual danger to their society as a whole seeing as even with less than 7% of the US population of men having sex with men but account for more than 78%% of new HIV infections among males in 2010. A good case can be made for Uganda to punish  homosexual behavior as a method of protecting Ugandan society as a whole. (Source)

"O" responding to Scott:
" ... we should not be legislating an act between two consenting adults which (other than to their eternal soul) is doing no direct harm."

May I interpret the above to the following conditional statement?

"If an evil act does no immediate harm to the actors then society ought not prohibit the evil act."

Since "immediate harm" does not include the universe of "harms," the following conditionals can stand with the above as equally true.

"If an evil act does non- immediate harm to the actors then society may prohibit the evil act."

"If an evil act does harm to the commonweal then society ought prohibit the evil act."

I would agree with all the conditionals stated above as true.  Society's prudence would  determine the immediate and  future states of "harm" as used above.
Second question:  Should states be allowed to establish in law that it is permissible to refuse business to homosexuals.
Scott's response: I would not necessarily be in favor of a law specifying that a business may be permitted to refuse business to any "class" of people.  I think we get into shaky territory when we legislate morality on one side or the other.  The fact is, businesses already may "reserve the right to refuse service to anyone."  Using the law to beat people into submission over personal choices is a bit crazy.  The New Mexico case, where a photographer refused to shoot pictures of a same-sex union should not have been taken to court over this - the judge should have thrown this out as a frivolous case, but since he did not and even ruled in favor of the homosexuals, this story still (as of this writing) isn't over.

CathMom5's response:  Yes.  This is a different situation.  What happened to "We reserve the right to refuse service to whomever we choose?"  I don't believe that any Christian should be forced to, say, bake and decorate a "wedding" cake for a homosexual couple if they feel that it means that they are implicitly approving of such a union when that union is against their Christian morals.  Or, a woman who owns a home that she rents rooms from as a Bed and Breakfast.  She was going to give the two women who showed up at her door a room until they told her that the were a couple.  She said that she did not want them in her home.  I would also say that it is a rare thing that there is only one business, a bakery, a B and B, etc. in the area.  So, why can't that homosexual couple find a baker, or a B and B, or whatever business, that will provide that service for them--I'm sure that they are out there.  I'm sure that in the cases that have gone to court and hit the news, the homosexual couple was not only looking for trouble but happy to have found it.   I don't believe someone should be sued out of business because they refused to provide a service for a homosexual couple. A business should have the "right to refuse service."  I believe that laws are overdue that uphold a business owner's right to refuse service.  Our laws, our courts, our society is bending over backwards to give this very small minority of our population not equality but privilege.

Please make sure that the argument does not start to go the "that is exactly what happened to African Americans" route.  This false similarity keeps popping up.  I remember arguing about the "rights" of homosexuals in a 90's philosophy class and this came up.  "This is just like what happened to blacks before the civil rights movement."  While there may be parallels on the surface, it is not the same.  African Americans and those of other races in this country should, and now do, have the same rights--heterosexual or homosexual.  Our society was biased against Blacks because of their skin color, not biased on moral grounds. In my opinion, homosexuals would not have much bias against them if their sex life didn't become their whole identity.  They get away with bullying people because they cry "prejudice," and our society lets them be bullies because of a guilt complex over the despicable things people have done in the past.  

Nathan's response:  States should not institute laws that permit some to refuse service to homosexuals PROVIDED that the government does not COMPEL business owners to perform actions that directly go against their deeply held religious beliefs.  A bakery owner cannot refuse to bake a cake for a homosexual individual simply because the owner disagrees with his lifestyle BUT the owner shouldn’t be compelled to bake a wedding cake for a homosexual couple if he feels that to do so would be a public expression of agreement with ‘same-sex marriage’.  It’s not that business owners want to “refuse service” to gays simply because they’re gay; it’s that some business owners — particularly people who work in the wedding industry — don’t want to be forced to employ their talents in service of something that defies their deeply held religious convictions.

Cathmom5 responds to Nathan: I think you expressed what I meant to say better than I.  I don't believe any business should be "compelled" to do business with anyone.   I agree that a business (like a bakery) should not refuse service solely upon a person's sexual or perceived sexual orientation.  However, the owner of  a bakery may feel that baking a wedding cake crosses the line into condoning or participating in the celebration of a ceremony, and they should neither be compelled to make the "couple" a cake nor be sued out of business because they refused to do so.  And as I said--Why can't they go to another bakery?  I doubt there are many towns where there is one, single bakery (especially in a place large city like Seattle where a small business is having a tough time surviving after being sued by a homosexual couple for refusing to make them a wedding cake).  It seems that some homosexual couples go out of their way to make trouble for business owners who take a stand on moral principles.  

Responses from other friends:
"A" replies:
Based on my previous comments, my answer would be 'No.'

"M" answers:
This is a double edged question because what gives anybody the right to discriminate against another person just because of sexual orientation. However, having a law in place to protect such individuals harms others because those same individuals have the propensity to make vexious law suits. 

Third question:  Should states be allowed to define "marriage" as the union between a man and a woman, only - directly excluding the possibility of "same sex marriages?"
Scott's response: While I do believe states have the right to define marriage for which they grant licenses to, for those states which are permitting same sex unions, they should not use the term "marriage."  The term "marriage" should be reserved to what it has always stood for, the union of a man to a woman, period.  Like it or not, in our Judeo-Christian based society, "marriage" has scriptural roots, not secular.  Even in most non-Judeo-Christian societies, the norm is that marriage takes place within religious ceremonies.  The term "marriage" should be reserved for those who partake in Holy Matrimony.  By the same token, those who are non-religious and are contracted by the state and have that union overseen by non-religious magistrates should refer to their contract the same way homosexuals should - as civil unions, not marriages.  I realize that it is commonplace to refer to any such union as a "marriage," but in reality, without the witness of God's representatives, it is just a civil union.

CathMom5's response:  Yes.  I do believe that should be up to the states.  If the vast majority of the people in that state want "marriage" defined as only a union between a man and a woman, than they should have the right to vote that into state policy or law.  After all, our country was founded on Judeo-Christian principles which includes the efficacy and morality of marriage.  However, it seems the politically correct minority of the moment gets to make laws in their favor.

Nathan's response:  Should states have a right to define marriage as between one man and one woman?  Since marriage has been defined as between one man and one woman for many millennia, the question should be ‘should states have a right to define marriage in any way they choose?’  And I believe we ought not change what has been tried and true for thousands of years.   The States have no right to change the definition of any word, especially at the whim of what is popular at the moment.  The best they can do is possibly invent a new word, like ‘civil union’ and give the individuals in such a union the same rights as a married couple has with whatever exception the States population might deem exclusionary (like adoption for example).

Responses from other friends:
"F" responds:
Of course they should. States, i.e., the people, have a right to define the moral and cultural parameters of their society.  Above all, they should not be subject to the deviant behavior and questionable morals of minorities who live in their jurisdictions.

"A" posits:
While I do wish the state's laws always agreed with my own convictions, it seems an inescapable conclusion for me, that if we give the state the 'right' to define morality, how will we argue against any law which defines something against our convictions, something we consider immoral?

"M" writes:
Homosexuals are a minority group and they are intent upon imposing their values on the rest of us.   I disagree with the Dalai Lama on this matter since I do not believe that the state can redefine marriage so that deviants can destroy what we have.

HOWEVER, that being said, maybe we need to look at the whole picture of marriage. At the present time the act of marriage is carried out according to the civil law.   If we were to rely upon the Scripture then we might view marriage in a different way because in the ancient times there was no ritual, just a coming together with the consent of the parents, and a brief ceremony where the marriage took place.   When we marry we say vows to each other and this is in fact the act of marriage.  The celebrant is nothing more than a witness to those vows that the bride and groom say to each other, the rest is just ritual.  There is a lot more to marriage than that ceremony and I think we all know this to be the truth. It is a coming together and it is a commitment to each other to live the rest of our lives together.

Our civil authorities are out of control and this is true because the wrong kind of people get elected to the Parliament. These are the people with an agenda to destroy our civil society in order to rebuild according to their vision, and heaven forbid that they should ever get the chance to carry out their plans.

Homosexuals had a legitimate complaint regarding discrimination that they have faced because their relationships have not been legally recognized.  The question is: do they need marriage to have those relationships recognized.  There has been a shift in how they are expressing their angst about the discrimination that they have faced from insurance companies etc. as well as hospitals.  Yes, they have legitimate concerns, but do they need the institution of marriage to remove those legitimate issues?   Some of what the homosexuals are doing to formalize their relationships is absolutely ridiculous, and that includes two women dressing up as brides, or one woman dressed as a groom and the other as a bride.

If they want to have a commitment ceremony then fine… let them have their ceremony.  The State can recognize the partnership by simply recognizing that these couples have the same relationship as two heterosexual people living together who do not have that piece of paper that is called a marriage certificate.  I see no reason as to why homosexuals could not have a civil union agreement. It seems that they want more for their own devious reasons.

Scott rewords Question 3:
Rewording that a bit.... Is a state allowed to define *civil* marriage to allow for unions that could never be considered sacramental by the Church? (e.g., granting civil marriages to divorced persons; civil marriages to someone who has not been released from a religious vow or is a priest; or, in this case granting a civil marriage to 2 people of the same sex?

"O" replies:
... if we give the state the 'right' to define morality ..."
The state's  right to define morality is, I think, a sine qua non.
  • To be effective, a state must assume to itself a monopoly on violence. 
  • To insure domestic tranquility, the state must provide a civil means for citizen redress.
  • Morality is defined as the principles concerning the distinction between right and wrong or good and bad behavior
  • Therefore, the state must set moral standards.   
" Is a state allowed ... ?

When can one state judge another state's morality -- its definition of human rights?  Legal positivism, I think, prevents ever making such  judgments.

The philosophy of legal positivism prevents arguing for human rights outside the legal system per se.  Legal systems cannot criticize each other.  Other than lacking in internal consistencies, legal positivism does not allow argument regarding another state's jurisprudence.

If legal system A, claims that legal system B is immoral it must do so only from a reference to itself.  System B does not recognize the validity of system A, so the criticism by system A of system B is correctly disregarded as baseless by system B.

The Nazis leaders used legal positivism to defend themselves at Nuremberg. The only reason, the Nazis claimed, that they found themselves in the defendants' chair at Nuremberg was that they had the misfortune of losing the war.

The Nazis granted that their legal system was different than the Allies, and granted that fundamental German values were different than the Allies, one of which was the supremacy of the Aryan race. They incorporated their values into their laws that included the de-valuing of Jews relative to Aryans. The Nazis argued, therefore, that the systematic elimination of Jews was, in the German legal system, entirely valid. And, since, under legal positivism, the Allies could not judge the Nazis legal system as invalid, the Allies could not judge the defendants acts as criminal.

Jackson, the lead prosecutor, had to depart from the philosophy of legal positivism and proceed to a higher authority, a new and higher vantage point to prosecute the legal system of another country. He appealed to the basic principles of civilization in order to prosecute the jurisprudence of the Nazi legal system.
To transcend human law, Jackson successfully took recourse to natural law -- the Creator's law. 
One, I think, cannot appeal this particular Ugandan law to natural law successfully because the natural law and the Ugandan law are harmonious.