Love and Marriage Go Together like a Horse and Carriage - This famous line from a Broadway musical might be paraphrased as follows "Holy Communion and Reconciliation go together like prayer and grace".
Two quick points about the situation in the American Church.
1) The lector who reminds every one at the beginning of Mass to turn off their cell phone should also remind people not to go to communion if they have not gone to reconciliation “lately” or “if they have serious sin on their souls” or “if they are not Catholic” or …… This business of having 95% of the congregation go to communion is “nuts”. Is there no serious sin in the world?…. Once the percent going up to receive drops to say 50%, those that should not go to communion, for instance Catholic politicans who support legalized abortion, will not feel so isolated and left out if they don’t go.
2) Communion given to someone standing up is so utterly inconsistent with the real nature of the host. If the host is the “body blood soul and divinity” of God, any body posture other than kneeling is nonsense. ….. and having people kneel would reinforce the sense of sin and the need for reconciliation before receiving – mentioned in #1 above.
All should remember that, like it or not, religious ritual and practice has to be consistent with belief. Ask any anthropologist. (prepared by Hugh Murray on 1/12/14 )
The Islamic Concept of Abrogation Needs far more Attention
- (Note: Diana West in her book American Betrayal devotes part of Chapter One to a discussion of this issue, She mentions the valiant effort of Major S. C. Coughlin, US Army Reserve, who tried to get leadership in Washington to acknowledge and discuss this issue.)
To understand this concept and its importance is critical to understand that Mohamad wrote the Koran over two decades. During the initial phase Mohamad was in Medina. He was vulnerable and attempting to gain followers so he preached a religion of peace and love.
During his later years, he was operating out of Mecca and was interested in conquering other tribes and other geographic areas. The parts of the Koran written during this time of military expansion contain “fighting verses” instructing the faithful to kill the unbelievers, subjugate other Abrahamic people (e.g. Jews and Christians), and finally to make Koranic dictated shiria controlling law in the conquered areas.
However, there was a problem because the early parts of the Koran preached mutual love, respect, and peace among all people while later portions preached conquest and subjugation. Mohammad realized he had created a document that had huge internal conflicts. He solved this problem by putting in a verse at Sura 2:106 that says in effect “if a later verse is opposed to a earlier verse the later verse is binding”. In other words, the later verse abrogates the earlier verse.
For 85% of Muslims the peaceful verses are the ones they live by. However, for the remaining 15% the commands of the entire book are taken very seriously. Abrogation is a reality for them, and so they follow the later “fighting verses” set down by Mohammad, as he got older. Out of this 15% comes the likes of the Tsarnsev brothers, Al - Queda , the Taliban, the Benghazi attackers, etc.
POPE WEIGHS IN ON THIS ISSUE
Pope Benedict XVI mentioned this internal contradiction in his Regensburg speech delivered in 2006. In this talk the Pope pointed out that God is perfect, and therefore has to be unchangeable.
He went on to discuss the concept of Logos. The original Greek definition of Logos was wisdom or true understanding.. Later this definition was expanded under Jewish influence to include the idea of a wise messenger coming to bring understanding. But as used by St John the term Logos means God’s wisdom which manifests itself as His Word which is the person Jesus, the Christ, the Second Person of Trinity, and, last but not least, the Messiah who came to save all men from their sins.
Benedict then did a little explaining about how the wisdom of God is made manifest in the universe, in all the scientific truths man has uncovered and continues to uncover. God’s Logos manifests in His unchanging laws governing the universe from which we learn about His unchanging nature, about His unchanging love of man, etc.
Benedict then quoted from Emperor Manuel II of Constantinople who in the 14th century used the word Logos and remarked that “for God not to act with His Logos is contrary to God’s nature. It is contrary to God’s nature, and therefore unreasonable, to make war (on people) in order to convert people (to another religion)”
Benedict explained how contrary Islamic teaching is to the idea of an unchanging God. The Pope said “for Muslims , God is absolutely transcendent. His will is not bound up even with rationality. The Pope pointed out that the Muslim philosopher Ibn Hazn went so far as to state that God is not bound even by His own word, and that nothing would oblige him to reveal the truth to us. Benedict was referring to the fact that the Koran says “Allah erases what He will, and establishes (what He will), and with Him is the source of law”
But Benedict was trying to make a broader point. He wanted to point out that even many modern day Christians are prepared to pick and chose what parts of God’s truth they will accept; and the situation is even worse where modern atheists and agnostics take as their “gospel” the scientific truths which God has placed in nature and have just as firmly rejected the God who devised and created all these same scientific truths. Benedict was pointing out that departure from fullness of God’s Logos whether, by Muslims or modern atheists, can lead to missteps, war, and human suffering.
MUSLIMS REACT TO THE POPE’S REMARKS
Muslims leaders missed the Pope’s broader point about God’s truth being unchanging and simply attacked the Pope , destroyed several Catholic Churches, murdered several priests and nuns, and issued a fatwa asking for the death of the Pope.
Muslim leaders also pointed out that the Christian God is not always unchanging either. Judeo Christian leaders countered by saying God’s basic message is love of others regardless of their beliefs and God only requires a departure from that general command when a special situation obtains.
In the Judeo Christian Bible, God has on occasion issued specific commands which He later sets aside. An example, of such a change in God’s command, is found in the Book of Joshua , requiring the Jews to defeat and expel the Canaanite from the land as they came out of the Sinai desert and crossed the Jordan to settle in Canaan. This was a special situation because God wanted the chosen people to live in an integrated Jewish state where the Messiah could be born and from which He could deliver his message of universal salvation for all, Jew and gentile alike.
A COMPARISON INVOLVING ISLAM
A word or two should be said about how Islam, as opposed to say Christianity, decides how to apply God’s edicts to concrete situations.
In Christianity the Catholic Church issues timely documents that instruct the faithful on how to behave vis a vie difficult situations or pending controversies where faith and morals are implicated. These well reasoned statements cover a wide array of issues. A few examples from the last century are informative : how to conduct a just war, what features should be a part of a just economic system, the proper way for couples to regulate the size of their families, the death penalty, what a believer must do to be saved , the reality of sin, etc. Generally the issues addressed involve faith and morals.
These Catholic statements are referenced by Catholics , by other Christians, and by others around the world of different faiths. These foundational Catholic statements build on each other. Of course, they began with Christ’s life, actions, and statements. Then there were the statements and writings made by Christ’s contemporaries who had encountered Him (e.g. Peter, Paul, etc.). Over the centuries the Catholic issued a number of interceptive and teaching statements that built on these earlier statements. These interpretive and teaching statements have been refining Catholic teaching for 2000 years. This process has created a very impressive, integrated guide to proper morals and beliefs without being highly proscriptive about most of life’s activities. This is possible because Christ’s basic command was quite simple “love God” and “love your neighbor” and because the early apostles decided that Christ had established a new order that borrowed from, but mostly displaced, the old Jewish order.
(A little aside: Many people think of the Bible as being something different than the Church’s statements over the years. This is both true and false. The Bible was not commanded by Christ; rather it was the Church that decided in the early fifth century that a compendium of Jewish writings and early Christian writings needed to be made. Additionally the Church employed the services of Jerome, a language scholar, to translate all this material into proper Latin . The resulting document, called the Vulgate, was hand copied by monks for 1000 years until the printing press was invented. So the Bible came to be by the actions and decisions of the Catholic Church, but its content comes from earlier writers who foresaw Christ’s coming, or told the story of the chosen people, or saw Christ in person. )
Of course, Islam, when it was first organized, had a central authority that administered all three : the civil government, implementation of shiria law, and religious practice. This central authority was called the caliph . Early on there was a split that separated the Sunni from Shia. This split occurred over which method should be used to pick the successor Caliph and who should be eligible for selection.
The Shia branch (today found mostly in southern Iraq and Iran) retained a system of central authority represented by the Ayatollahs who have graduated from their religious schools like the one in Qom. These trained clerics pick their own leaders and these religious leaders in turn screen candidates for political office. These politicians can have varying platforms but acceptance of Shiria is required.. However, the Shia branch only represents about 10% of Muslims.
The remaining 90% falls in the Sunni branch. This side of Islam is now very splintered particular since the Ottoman Empire, which had provided a centralizing authority for most Muslims, fell apart in 1918 after losing WWI. The lands which the Ottoman Empire supervised were vast. The European powers that supervised the division of these Ottoman lands decided to create several new countries out of these areas. And they further decided to separate political power from religious power. However, the Islamic religion is quite proscriptive about daily life and was obviously designed with the expectation that religious and political leadership would be operating off the same “song sheet” particularly in majority Muslim countries.
Sunni theologians have tried to issue interpretations that bolster the moderate Sunnis against the violent Sunnis, but so far the violent actors have listened to the radical emmas from their radicalized mosques rather than the scholars. Of course, money is an issue as well and so far rich Muslims from Arabia have been prepared to fund schools that teach about violence and the violent actors as well. .
WHY MODERATE MUSLIMS DON’T CONDEMN THE VIOLENCE
The Islamic world suffers because its Holy Book, the Koran, moved from peaceful statements in the early verses to very violent edicts and very proscriptive edicts in later verses additionally it has this specific edict in the Koran requiring that the later violent verses override the earlier peaceful verses.
The situation for Muslims is nearly impossible. Those who wish to follow strict shiria and engage in violent acts against non-Muslims are sanctioned, but they are a small minority. Whereas the majority moderate Muslims, who are attracted to the early peaceful verses of the Koran, are cowed because clearly the correct interruption of the Koran’s abrogation sura, puts the fighting Muslims in the theological “driver’s seat”. This fact explains why moderate Muslims don’t roundly condemn the radical’s behavior. The fighting verses allows a true Muslims to condemn moderate Muslims as heretics if the moderates criticizes the violent Muslims for engaging in acts approved by the “fighting verses”. So the moderates hold their tongues fearing retribution if they speak out.
OTHER PENDING DIFFICULTIES
This situation is really bazaar particularly considering Islam has over one billion adherents and considering that over 85% of Muslims are moderates. There are only about 15% prepared to engage in violence or support those who would.
Obviously any sensible religion would find a way to reinterpret the fighting verses of the Koran in such way as to take religious violence off the table. However the Islamic world lacks a central authority, like the Pope, who can speak definitively and thus reign in the “nut cases”.
The Koran itself makes things more difficult. The Bible was written by men who were under the influence of or being inspired by God. The Koran, on the other hand, is an exact transcription of words spoken to Mohammed by God. So Christian leaders working with the Bible have a lot more room to interrupt verses than Islamic leaders have.
SOLUTIONS ARE FEW IN NUMBER
Globalization is forcing people of different religious traditions into ever closer contact. Random unilateral violence against civilians is anathema to ths process.
If it continues, history indicates there are really only two or three paths that can be taken to rectify the situation. 1) Societal separation where in Islamic people are separated from others (e.g. the wall separating the Jews from Palestinians in the Holy Land. ), 2) a war of subjugation where one side is made subject to the winner, and the degree religious toleration may be quite small. (e.g Serbia following the Battle of Blackbird field in 1839 allowed the practice of the Islamic faith but the Serbian Orthodox faith was pre-eminent in the land.) 3) complete destruction and/ or complete removal of the losing population allowing people to stay if they convert otherwise insisting they be deported. (e.g. the treatment of Jews and Muslims following the re-conquest of Spain by Christians in the early sixteenth century.)
However, perhaps a government structure might be invented that will allow the installation of a new moderate caliphate supervising both the government and religious sectors? Such a government might require a strong set of local governments that can implement the national government’s policies and keep control over any local challengers to moderate preeminence. The national caliphate might include modern day Syrian, Jordan, Turkey, northern Iraq, Egypt, Sudia-Arabia, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, the Emirates, etc. The small government units would be composed of no more than 50,000. This would require that places like Bagdad would have several dozen units. The leaders of each unit would be elected from a list of candidates approved by the Califate. Local units would have intrusive police that would try to discover any and all plot to engage in violence. Perhaps in this way the violent elements might be controlled while giving the Muslims would again have a Caliphate. A method to select future Caliphs would be tricky. Perhaps a council of leaders of the local units could meet ,like the College of Cardinals, to elect a new Caliph. . - .............
(prepared by Hugh Murray on 2/7/2014)
Both Mystery and Majesty are Important at Mass
- The Mass is a re-enactment
of the events that occurred the evening of the first Holy Thursday and during
the first Good Friday. During this period, Christ instituted the
practice of using bread and wine to create, through the process of
transubstantiation, His own body and blood which he instructed his apostles to
eat and drink. He also instructed them to engage in this process of
transubstantiation with communion following, all done in remembrance of him.
On the next day, Jesus Christ, an innocent man convicted on
trumped up charges, was put to death. Those who killed him did not realize they
were fulfilling Old Testament prophecy. Thus the God-man was killed as a
sacrifice, or propitiation, for the sins of mankind, those sins already
committed and those to be committed in the future. This perfect sacrifice for each
man's benefit was of course the greatest act of love that could
Out of these two events the Mass was born. In each
Mass bread and wine are consecrated and through transubstantiation converted into the body and blood of Christ. Then the body and blood of Christ,
retaining the appearance of bread and wine, is offered to God the
Father as a reminder of Jesus's sacrifice on the cross
2000 years ago. The faithful through the priest asks that God the Father not
look upon the sins of those present but take note of the faith of those present
and smile upon the quality and perfection of the gift being offered.
The Mass then has a communion where the faithful receive
the Body and Blood of Christ in the form of bread and wine.
Mass then is a re-enactment of the consumption of Christ's Body and Blood but it
also the re-enactment of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross.
the forgoing is grasped it is easy to see why mystery and majesty have to be the
overwhelming emotion generated in the faithful person's heart when he attends
Mystery is engendered by the miracle of
transubstantiation which occurs at every Mass. Majesty is engendered by the mere
fact that the God-man who died for everyone's sins is coming into the presence of the people
present. Both of these feeling are magnified when those present are invited to
come forward to receive.
The question for the Church today is
simple. Does the Mass in its current form convey enough mystery and majesty to
give the people attending a sense of the scope and importance of the Mass? A
second question follows from the first. Could the Mass, in common use in the
parishes today, be improved?
.......(prepared by Hugh Murray on 3/7/2014)
The Catholic Magisterium is a Precious Treasure for all Christians -
Over 2000 years the world's Christians in general, but more
particularly members of the Catholic hierarchy, have developed, refined, and
preserved the Christian faith. This product referred by some as Catholic tradition
is more officially referred to as the Magisterium. It is mostly focused on those
things Christians should believe and moral practices Christians should follow.
However, it also includes official statements (e.g. the Nicene Creed) and the
official amalgamation of early writings, called the New Testament.
So what groups are, to one degree or
another, impacted by or make reference to the Magisterium? The list from most
affected to least affected are the regular Catholics, Traditionalist Catholics,
the Orthodox, the main line Protestants (e.g. Episcopalian, Lutherans,
Presbyterians, Methodists,), Biblically focused Churches (e.g. Church of
Christ, Assemblies of God, Baptists, Independent Mega Churches) , and finally
loosely affiliated groups (such as the Mormons, Christian Scientists, etc.)
Now it is important to look at these groups to see how they use
the truths contained in the Magisterium:
1) Catholics are most
closely connected to the complete Magisterium whose definition began with
Peter's talk on the first Pentecost Sunday and has gone on until Vatican II. This
deposit of Catholic tradition includes everything believed and practiced by
Catholics beyond that which is not explicitly set out by Jesus. The Church
fathers after taking what Christ did or said, while clarifying it with study of
the Old Testament and the application of logic, were able to set down several
dozen of points of proper belief and proper moral conduct.
This body of doctrines were most recently set out in the Catechism of the Catholic Church
commissioned by John Paul II. They include moral injunctions against certain
popular practices: birth control, homosexual activity, heterosexual activity
outside of marriage, etc. They include definitions of and the historical roots of
the seven sacraments (e.g. Baptism, Confirmation, Holy Eucharist, etc.). They
include the foundations for specific Christian beliefs (e.g. Christ's two natures, the Incarnation, the Annunciation, the Resurection, the institution of the seven sacraments, etc.)
In today's world the particular person charged, in a special
way, with defending the Magisterium, in the court of public opinion, is the
Pope. This is the reason why some Catholics get excited when Pope Francis speaks
about loving homosexuals without mentioning the Church's teachings on the evil
of homosexual sexual activity. Of course, Pope Francis is following Jesus'
injunction that "we love each other"; he is not saying that the Church's
doctrine is changed or extinguished. He is just extending his hand in love as he
does to all sinners.
2) The Traditionalist and Orthodox are a
varied group. These Christians possess the true sacraments, including the
Holy Eucharist in Mass, because their priests and bishops have all been
consecrated by bishops who can trace their linage of ordination back to one of
the twelve apostles. These accept the Magisterium to a point but not all the
way through Vatican II. The Traditionalist accept all teachings until 1962; the
Orthodox until 1054. Vatican II contained some advance in doctrine which the
Traditionalist could not accept. The Orthodox split was building from about 700
AD on and was finally consummated in 1054 when a personality clash developed
when strong willed emissaries from Rome could not get along with the Patriarch
of Constantinople. The two sides ended up issuing Bulls of Excommunication
against each other.
3) Main Line Protestant Churches
accept a surprisingly large amount of the Magisterium. All accept baptism and
some version of holy communion. They also accept most of the Nicene Creed,
including belief in man's fallen state and need for Christ's salvation, the
Trinity, eternal life, heaven and hell, etc. In the moral sphere these believers
don't accept all the injunctions that Catholic accept, but they always feel they
have "to explain" way they are departing from the Magisteriums' injunctions. So
a Main Protestant Church might accept artificial birth control or Church
sanctioned homosexual unions. Both of these are departures from the Catholic
Magisterium so you can be certain that members of that congregation will have
been instructed in the "logic" justifying the departure.
4) Bible based Christian Churches would include one of a
kind mega churches, and some Baptist Churches. These churches are a little less
clear on such things as the Trinity and the sacraments. They are very attached to
the Bible, and since Baptism is explicitly called for in the Bible they do
Baptize, but generally only adults not children. After reading from the Bible
the message to the faithful is ask god for forgiveness with your whole heart and
do good works and you will be saved. Statements of doctrinal belief like a creed
are limited or totally absent, and no could say that they have much knowledge or
understanding of the Magisterium explicitly. However they have implicit
understanding of the Magisterium's teaching and support its moral codes more
faithfully than many main line Protestants (see 3 above).
5) Churches loosely attached to Christianity are generally churches that have
developed their own scripture or holy book and so the Bible has become for them
the second source of wisdom. The Mormons have the Book of Mormon, the Christian
Scientists have the wittings of Mary Baker Eddie, etc. These Churches honor
Christ but have selectively emphasized some aspects of Christ's work or life to
support their invented religion. The Magisterium might be support in their
doctrinal struture or it might not, but any formal connection is probably
There are, of course, large numbers of
people who are essentially "unchurched" . These people might claim some
allegiance to some congregation, but their knowledge of or interest in the
teachings of their congregation is quite small
Obama is a example of such a loosely attached individual. These people have
gained no knowledge or appreciation of the Magisterium. They get their value
systems from questionable sources. In Obama's case, he obviously feels that the
value system he learned at the Harvard Law School is adequate. If the courts say
it or if the government enacts it then it is valid and good. Of course, the truths of the
Magisterium pre-existed these courts and these governmental bodies. This
misunderstanding can be very disruptive as indicated by Obama's attempt to get
Catholic institutions to pay for procured abortions and birth control for their
employees. The President seems genuinely taken aback by the strong Catholic
response to his program.
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This page hopes to bring a common
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Hugh V. Murray, who can be reached at email@example.com