Sunday, April 18, 2021

Catholic - Orthodox schism?

The blogger, Aidan Kimel, who is not a theologian but a blogger, dammit (as also am I), wrote a humorous post the other day commenting the Pope's beard. While it is definitely entertaining and shows that he still possesses a creative edge in his writing, I actually thought it would be interesting to consider on a more serious note the question of Catholic and Orthodox unity. Obviously, a lot of people are deeply passionate about this issue in both the Catholic Church and the Orthodox Church. But let's begin first from the Traditionalist perspective of the Catholic Church. According to the New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia,
After a series of wanton aggressions, unparalleled in church history, after [Michael Caerularius] had begun by striking the pope's name from his diptychs, the Roman legates excommunicated him (16 July, 1054). But still there was no idea of a general excommunication of the Byzantine Church, still less of all the East. The legates carefully provided against that in their Bull. They acknowledged that the emperor (Constantine IX, who was excessively annoyed at the whole quarrel), the Senate, and the majority of the inhabitants of the city were "most pious and orthodox". They excommunicated Caerularius, Leo of Achrida, and their adherents.
The same New Advent entry also highlights at the beginning of the article that the present schism could be said to date from the year 1472, not the year 1054, and that the Orthodox and Catholic schism must not be looked at as a single event but rather as a series of contributing factors, one leading to another. But as can be seen, the Byzantine Church was never formally excommunicated in toto by the Roman Church! The New Advent Catholic Encyclopedia was a publication from 1912 indicating this is the most Traditionalist perspective on the issue.

This is in concurrence with Met. Kallistos Ware's position from his monograph The Orthodox Church. Even up until the collapse of the Roman Empire in 1453, Crusaders and Orthodox Christians would hold joint services together. Something that would have been repudiated had, in fact, the Orthodox been excommunicated by the Latins! If the present schism dates only with the repudiation of the Council of Florence by the Orthodox bishops in 1472 then it is reasonable to suggest that not only were the Crusaders Latin and Catholic, they were also Latin and Orthodox! They would have been the first Western Rite Orthodox visitors of Eastern Rite Orthodox parishes.

The terms Catholic and Orthodox were essentially regional terms at first used to describe Christians. As the term Catholicus became more synonymous with the word Orthodox. The Latin describes general, universal, upholding all things, and the Greek word describes right glory. The two words have slightly different meanings but Catholicus came more and more to meaning the latter term and almost virtually met the Greek meaning. To describe the Latin Church in the West as Orthodox is not theologically invalid if it is indeed an Orthodox Church! I once was asked by two of the daughters of one our deacons at my parish if I was a Roman Catholic or an Orthodox Catholic to which I replied, "of course I'm an Orthodox Catholic! All Catholics are Orthodox! Unless they're bishops, then they're heretic Catholics!"

On the schism, my own priest has also stated the inherent difficulty involved in ascribing the schism at any point in time since there are severe theological nuances, not just in the Catholic Church but also in the Orthodox Church, of what would constitute a valid unity. Current canon law upholds the validity of Orthodox sacraments and legal practices. A Catholic can in an emergency, go to an Orthodox priest for the Eucharist or Confession or to receive any other sacrament. Whether the Orthodox priest is willing is another story all together. My own priest has concelebrated a Divine Liturgy with, if I recall the story correctly, a Romanian Orthodox priest before. Since their bishops were both named the same, he only commemorated their bishops by name but omitted the name of the Pope.

The Blessed Theophylact, Bishop of Ohrid, is another primary example of the problems in dating the schism to 1054 AD. He wrote numerous commentaries on the New Testament and is referenced as a Greek Father in St. Robert Cardinal Bellarmine's De Controversiis. Theophylact lived from 1050-1107 and his commentaries on the New Testament were included in Latin theological manuals. Theophylact upheld the doctrine of the Petrine primacy. I include this note because one problem that Aidan Kimel brings up in his article is the obvious issue of Papal primacy. A little known fact is how the Orthodox have traditionally upheld it. The contention is that Rome fell into apostasy. Essentially, one could reasonably argue that the schismatic Orthodox were the first sedevacantists but that's another discussion. Bp. Athanasius Schneider has even commented that in a meeting he had with an Orthodox priest and a theologian, the theologian said to him, "I believe in the dogma of the primacy of the pope....But we Orthodox could never accept the papacy in the form which it is now lived and practiced by Pope Francis....We could even accept Vatican I, the primacy and infallibility, but as it was practically lived out by Leo the Great and Gregory the Great, for instance." (Christus Vincit, 140)

I think this is the primary issue for Traditionalists in both the Orthodox and Catholic Church as Traditionalists place the stronger emphasis on the consensus patrium. While the Pope is infallible, it is only an infallibility in defining already existing doctrine. Being a final arbiter in legal disputes, etc. But the primacy and infallibility has been bloated into this nonsensical idea that every word that flows from the mouth of the Pope is dogma and every action he does is orthopraxy. That's nonsense and it never would fly. Until then, I greatly appreciate the humor from Aidan Kimel!

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite - On Sight

St. Nicodemos's Handbook of Spiritual Counsel continues on the idea of the mind and goes now to sight. Sight is the most reliable sense. I remember when I was younger, the pastor at our non-denominational church once talked about how many of us would be fine losing our hearing but our sight, if we lost our sight, we would lose so many images of beauty. We can certainly all recall the healing of the man born blind. We think of him as blind for he could not see but we see that his spiritual vision was much better than many of us. Jesus doesn't talk about the deaf leading the deaf, he speaks of the blind leading the blind. When a blind man leads a blind man, it is inevitable they will bump into things.

Not too long ago, a blind man stepped into our parish with his cane looking for the entry to the nave. We have three doors of entry into the nave. One on the side, the main doors, and a set of doors in the baptistry. The former and the latter have been locked lately. This man tried to get into the nave through the door on the side. Another parishioner and I had to help him find the entry into the nave. Many of us cannot imagine being without our gift of sight because it provides a guide for us. But when we have become slaves of our bodies, it can destroy us too. The sight, for this reason, fuels the mind and the thoughts of the mind the most.

St. Nicodemos is no opponent of vision. He describes sight as "the most regal of all senses". As mentioned, it is both dependable and most knowledgeable. It gathers information and feeds it to our mind. This is why it is important we guard our sense of sight so strongly for if we are feeding ourselves with sights of immorality, we are feeding our mind nothing but immorality and negativity. Whether this be porn, a lustful glance, or violent imagery, we are sending negative images to our minds. Sight is how we touch things that we cannot touch with our hands is how St. Basil describes sight. St. Gregory the Theologian tells us that the "[l]amps of the eyes touch the untouchable".

The eyes both serve us but they can lead us away from God. Some may have seen my comments about flashing shoes in church. St. Nicodemos says, "[t]he eyes can distract the mind very quickly and cause it in a flash to slip into the place of sin." This is why when we are in church, it is very important not to dress in such a way that would cause our brother to stumble and not to create a spectacle of ourselves leading people away from the right worship of God. Because the eyes absorb so much information that is fed to our minds, the eyes can become both a primary cause of sin and a spiritual benefit for our souls. When we look toward an icon, we fill our mind with holiness, but when we look away from the icon we are led away from that vision of holiness. Eyes, according to Our Lord, can even lead into the sin of adultery (Matt. 5:27-30). We even observe how when Lot was fleeing from the city of Sodom with his wife and daughters how a glance upon the city turned her into a pillar of salt!

Looking at the tree led the woman into sin (Gen. 3:6). Looking at the daughters of men led the sons into fornication (Gen. 6:2). The angels who led Lot out of Sodom guarded their eyes (Gen. 19:1). David saw Bathsheba and was led into adultery (2 Sam. 11:1). The same Holy King also cries out to God "turn my eyes away from seeing vain things!" (Ps. 118:37) O, how sight can betray us so easily! Alexander the Great refused to look upon the daughters of Darius! St. Syngletike, the Holy Mother who wrote so much on guarding the thoughts of the mind and how to conquer these thoughts, tells us:
"If ever by thought an inappropriate fantasy comes to us, it must be expelled by reason. Thus, shut your eyes to this image. Remove from it the flesh of the cheeks, cut away the lips and imagine then a mass of bones which is deformed."
St. Syngletike's advice on governing the mind is employed here to show us how intricately linked the sense of sight is to that of our thoughts. All the moral theologians agree, sin begins in the mind and with the thought.
My friend Michelle gives us an example of
St. Syngletike's discipline in action

We can see how reliable the sense of sight is but from looking can come lusting while no-looking comes no-lusting. This is why the blind man who was healed by Our Lord retained such perfect spiritual vision. He never, at any point in his life, was feeding his mind negative imagery. He could not lust. And while St. Nicodemos mentions how women can easily lead men into sin, he also notes how we can lead ourselves into sin through our own attraction to ourselves. He comments on the hierarchs and priests who have fallen into sin by looking through mirrors! They fill their minds with the image of themselves and are distracted with how they appear to others so much that they fall in love with themselves. We can all recount the story of Narcissus who began to gaze upon the image of himself in the water and fell in love with his own beauty. Narcissus would then be drowned as a result of his shameful act of self-love! Let us guard ourselves from lusting after ourselves.

St. Nicodemos gives a final warning about sleep. For in sleep, many visions in the mind are fed and we must be cautious not to be attached to sleep. It is important to govern our sleep patterns such that we do not end up becoming dreamers. We see in this final warning about sleep how much more intricately connected the sense of sight is to the sense of the mind. It is no wonder St. Nicodemos starts with the mind and proceeds immediately from sight to the mind! There is a lot more that could easily be said about sight and its connections to our sense of thought, but for now, what I will say is let us guard our sight so that we may govern our thoughts!

Monday, April 12, 2021

Did Jesus laugh?

One of the things about Eastern Christian spirituality that many Westerns (and for that manner, Easterners) don't understand is that the life of the Christian is spent weeping far more than it is laughing. In fact, laughing was actually considered sinful in the earliest spirituality. Jesus most certainly spent no time laughing. This comes as a surprise to those of us so acquainted to laughing but in fact, there is precedent to establish this. St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite, warns us:
Fear lest, when you laugh, the Master, who blesses those who lament, but deplores those who laugh, be angered; for lest the Devil, discovering your effusive laughter, cause your soul to lose fear of God and to forget what is profitable to you. (Christian Morality, Discourse VII citing St. John Chrysostom's That an Ascetic Should Not Engage in Buffonery)
At first, it seems like only a specific type of laughter is condemned in the ancient writings but there is actually something much more spiritually enlightening about this that can be further expounded on in the iconography of the Church. Laughter distracts us from the mission that we are in which is one of constant spiritual combat against the passions. A soldier ought not laugh during battle. A soldier's mission is to fight. He has no time for laughing. If he were to laugh on the battle lines, the enemy would quickly pick out his weakness and lapse and strike him more easily than had he not been laughing. The basic message is when we're at war with Satan, there ought to be no screwing around! There may be certain times of spiritual enjoyment and great joy in this life that we can reflect on but to break out in laughter is a sign of a drunkard!

He tells us how St. Basil's Ascetical Constitution teaches that an ascetic should not utter levities and imposes the penalty of not receiving antidoron on a monk who does. There, we see that a monk cannot even receive the holy bread that has not been sanctified and handed out after the liturgy. If this is such a "natural thing" that we can speculate that Jesus laughed, then how is it that such a penalty can be imposed upon a monk? It is clear that there is something spiritually detrimental to laughing. St. Nicodemos cites St. Gregory the Theologian: "Laughter meriteth laughter from those of sound mind; all laughter, forsooth, but especially the meretricious sort."

We see in Scriptures four different accounts of the Lord weeping. Once when He raised Lazarus from the dead. Once when He walked into Bethlehem on Palm Sunday. Once when He bore witness that one of His disciples would betray Him. And once in the Garden of Gethsemane when the time of His suffering was drawing near. Not once is it recorded in Scriptures of Jesus ever laughing. Indeed, He declares, "Woe to those who laugh!" (Luke 6:21, 25) There is a time for mourning and there is a time for laughter (Eccl. 2:2). But the time for laughter has not come. Blessed are those who mourn for they shall laugh. This should not be concluded that laughter then is for now for the Beatitudes give us an eschatological expectation. We shall laugh in the coming Heavenly Kingdom. Not now. Listen to Holy Father Abba John Climacus:
In your heart be like an emperor, seated high in humility, commanding laughter: "Go!" and it goes; and sweet weeping: "Come!" and it comes; and our tyrant and slave, the body: "Do this!" and it does it. (The Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 7)
Laughter may be a small sin but the more we guard against the small sins, the more we are able to guard against the larger sins. For we shall always be on the lookout to guard against these larger sins as we know what great spiritual damage they can bring to us but how we tend to overlook the small sins! If we can guard even against these tiny sins, we shall overcome all sin.

When I was younger and was a Protestant, we would find it reasonable to speculate on the infant Jesus and how He allegedly cried and laughed and did all sorts of things that a baby would be expected to do. But the problem is that there is an assumption we held to as Protestants. Namely that the Virgin Birth was otherwise an ordinary birth without anything else theologically significant about it. How wrong! The Virgin Birth of Christ was the restoration of an Edenic conception and birth. It was birth pains that came after the first sin! It was defects that came after the first sin. Jesus was born the way that Adam and Eve were originally created to have children! It would behoove us to dispel these images that the infant Jesus held any of the defects of an infant born under the stain of original sin.

Finally, in iconography, do you see the moods on these icons? They are, for the most part, expressionless. They portray neither anger, laughter, sadness, or any other emotion. They are icons of the Holy Ones who have been made perfect like Christ so it is fitting they show the arms they took up in the battle against the Evil One. They are stoic, like soldiers, showing no emotion during the heat of the battle. May they pray for us and shelter us from the Evil One!

Sunday, April 11, 2021

Flashing shoes in church...

We seriously need to address this pandemic in our church. I doubt that I am the only parishioner who has photosensitivity issues and I have raised this question before and yet the inconsiderate parents at the parish seem to always smack it down with the whole, "Kids will be kids!" mantra. It's dumb and idiotic and I've had enough. I fled from the parish today because of all these shoes going on which should not be worn at all. Parents need to be pastorally instructed not to dress their kids in such a way that it distracts congregants. Being charitable is not the same as being tolerable toward such an obvious distraction. Being charitable does not mean that your brethren should have to suffer in silence or "look away" when he is in church trying to just pray with you and yet the flashing lights keep pouncing up into his eyes. It is not your brother who ought to be charitable here. Charity is not the attitude of putting up with silliness like this! If you, dear parent, wish to make it to Heaven, show some charity, dress your kid in proper attire, or you and your brother will be lost! I damn near was tempted to throw my car key and scream out in the parking lot, "I HATE THIS [EXPLETIVE] PARISH!!!" This should not be someone's experience when they go to worship Our Lord on a given Sunday.

You, the parent, are in charge of your kid. Unless you want the State to decide that your kid can be vaccinated without your discretion, or that your kid can receive puberty blockers without your discretion, or pick up the TV remote and watch whatever shows they want to watch, then you should cease and desist with the excuse that "Kids will be kids!" You shirk your parental responsibilities by letting them wear such shoes in church to the detriment of many of the faithful. Especially with a photosensitivity that I have which is more severe at times than at others, I cannot worship my Lord in Church and the parish serves no benefit to me. I am fully justified in stating that "I hate this parish" the more that this evil perniciousness is allowed to continue on but do not allow me to be justified in this. Instead, exert your parental responsibilities. Show me that hating the parish is a true sin to be shamed of. Show me that God dwells in your parish by behaving charitably and being more conscientious toward your brother and all of your venerable brother. You have full authority over what shoes your kid wears to church and if you are not more conscientious of the fact that you will be dressing your kids for church on a weekly basis when you buy shoes, you have nothing but yourself to blame for the mistakes your children make!

I am tired of being constantly bullied by parishioners here. I concur with St. John the Evangelist that if any one hates his brother, he is not of God. Well if your brother has told you that he is photosensitive and the flashing shoes have become a distraction to his worship, do not dismiss him by flippantly telling him to be more charitable. He has already exercised charity toward you in telling you this about himself. It is now on you to humbly submit yourself in charity and refuse to allow your kids to wear flashing shoes. Why the hell would I continue going to a parish in which flashing shoes will be constantly distracting me away from the worship of God? Why would I continue to even bother putting up with such a parish? If this is the attitude that God's people treat me with, then it must be better to just wallow around outside the church! Until Holy Transfiguration fixes this problem, I will not be attending divine services there any more. It's a sickening situation. Even my godparents, who I have gently told this already, continue to allow their children to frolic around in flashing shoes. I'm done putting up with the problem. I'm done being told to be "silent and charitable". Flashing shoes should not be worn in church, PERIOD. If you end up missing me, then you'll fix this problem. But if you don't want to fix this problem, then bye. Be a community of charity, not one in which your brother is forced into a situation where he must persistently tolerate that which is a strain to him.

The development of doctrine in the Lerintian canon

It certainly is one thing to insist on Tradition over novelty but how do we arrive on what is Tradition and what is novelty? Can doctrine develop? If doctrine does develop, how can we tell what doctrines then to weed out? Under the banner of "doctrinal development" heretics have successfully imputed the errors of modernity into the Church in recent eras. Heretics prefer to insist that "doctrinal development" moves the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Cardinal Parolin, one of the current Pontiff's chief promulgators of heresy has even attacked orthodox Catholics for holding the orthodox position of the Church that Catholic doctrine can't change!

"Doctrinal development" is the recent mask that is used to flush into the Church the heresies so how can we weed out what is false doctrine and what is pernicious heresy in today's Church? We appeal once again to the rule established by St. Vincent of Lérins! He states, "the growth of religion in the soul must be analogous to the growth of the body" (Commonitory, ch.XXXIII, 55). Here begins the comparison of how doctrine is meant to develop. The body naturally grows from an infant into a youth and finally into an old man. But where does the body, in its development, ever add a third arm or cut out its own parts? Certainly a body can be wounded but that's not a natural development! We'd consider that a defect. It's not meant to grow like that. It's not supposed to grow with an amputated limb or an extra limb. The modern heretics nefariously conceive this as not only plausible growth but also as "natural development"!

St. Vincent continues with the analogy:
"In like manner, it behoves Christian doctrine to follow the same laws of progress, so as to be consolidated by years, enlarged by time, refined by age, and yet, withal, to continue uncorrupt and unadulterate, complete and perfect in all the measurement of its parts, and, so to speak, in all its proper members and senses, admitting no change, no waste of its distinctive property, no variation in its limits." (ibid, 56)
It remains for God's Church to cultivate what the Fathers have sown so that it may grow properly in the garden without being tossed around and mixed up with weeds and tares so that "[t]hey may receive proof, illustration, definiteness; but they must retain withal their completeness, their integrity, their characteristic properties" (57).

We must follow the whole of the Fathers and grow their doctrines. We hold that which has been taught consistently and by the majority of the Fathers. St. Vincent elaborates on what we now know as the doctrine of the consensus patrium, the true Magisterium of the Church and not the pernicious lie of whatever it is the earthly hierarchy holds at a given time!
"Whom yet are we to believe on this condition, that that only is to be accounted indubitable, certain, established, which either all, or the more part, have supported and confirmed manifestly, frequently, persistently, in one and the same sense, forming, as it were, a consentient council of doctors, all receiving, holding, handing on the same doctrine. But whatsoever a teacher holds, other than all, or contrary to all, be he holy and learned, be he a bishop, be he a Confessor, be he a martyr, let that be regarded as a private fancy of his own, and be separated from the authority of common, public, general persuasion, lest, after the sacrilegious custom of heretics and schismatics, rejecting the ancient truth of the universal Creed, we follow, at the utmost peril of our eternal salvation, the newly devised error of one man." (ch.XXVIII, 72)
The first principle we take away is that doctrine develops according to the natural laws of growth. It does not mutate, it does not change, but is cultivated and pruned in order that it remains what it was planted in order to become. The second principle is that the majority testimony of the saints and the Fathers of the Church has become the advisory council for the Church. This is the Magisterium. It's not a deviant catechism that's been published with the personal opinions of a Pope or a Bishop, it's not an encyclical standing out on its own, its the overall consensus of what has already been affirmed. The pastoral documents are non-dogmatic because the clergy throwing them out as of late know that they are deviations from Tradition. We are currently undergoing a test in the Church right now between the deviant heretics and the faithful orthodox. During this trial, the orthodox have been aggressively persecuted. If your brother is attempting to follow, to the best of his abilities, the ancient canons of the Church, even if it deviates from the obvious current positions of the pernicious authorities in the Church, do not dissuade nor harass him, exhort him to continue and join him in his efforts! Do not become among those on who will end up contributing to the reason he shall be declared "blessed" by Our Lord!

Thursday, April 8, 2021

The Lerintian canon

St. Vincent of Lérins is the attributed author of the Commonitory though not much is known about him other than that he was a prisoner at a monastery of the island of Lérins. It has also been hypothesized that St. Vincent even wrote the Athanasian Creed based on the statements of Trinitarian theology that St. Vincent establishes. St. Vincent is a proponent of antiquity over novelty and because of this, his canon has been heeded by traditionalists of many denominations of Christianity. By what authority does your particular denomination heed? For many Catholics, we live under this impression that we're the only Christian expression of the faith that gives heed to authority. We have a Pope. We listen to him. It's whatever he says. We love our catechisms. Etc. But this is not how the authority of our faith has historically taken root.
I have often inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent in learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church. (The Commonitory, ch. II, 4)
St. Vincent asks the following and gives an answer, "What, if some novel contagion seek to infect not merely an insignificant portion of the Church, but the whole? Then it will be his care to cleave to antiquity, which at this day cannot possibly be seduced by any fraud of novelty." (ch. III, 7) If it is a small portion, then we follow the decrees of an ancient General Council, if there be any, above all else. The Catholic Christian is obligated to hold fast to the doctrines of antiquity over and above all other novelties. This is how the Catholic faith has been preserved and handed down to us through the ages. There may be many who hold to the novelty but St. Vincent instructs us to follow the example of the martyrs and confessors who held fast to the antiquity of the faith over the novelties that the wolves had been stating was the Catholic faith (ch. V). There are many instances throughout history of this whether it be on the Apollinarianism, Donatism, Arianism, iconoclasticism, etc. But the Catholic faith was only preserved through the final rejection and denunciation of these errors.

Appealing to Galatians 1:8, St. Vincent affirms that "if any one, be he who may, attempt to alter the faith once for all delivered, let him be accursed" (ch. VIII). There may be eminent and well-learned men who arise doing this...reject them! (ch. 10) Could it be an angel? Reject it! A friend? Accursed! The Lerintian canon is simple. These men are permitted to fail in order to test one's faith in God. I remember my mentor when I was an Anglican. He was a Ruthenian Catholic deacon and he always talked about how he was "old-fashioned", trusting only in God, not the earthly hierarchy. I learned much about the Christian faith from him. I took this to heart very well. We put our trust in God, not in Tertullian or Origen of whose errors were particularly great to us because they were so well-learned (XVII-XVIII) The true Catholic, according to St. Vincent, "will believe that, and only that, which he is sure the Catholic Church has held universally and from ancient time; but that whatsoever new and unheard-of doctrine he shall find to have been furtively introduced by some one or another, besides that of all, or contrary to that of all the saints, this, he will understand, does not pertain to religion, but is part of a trial" (ch. XX, 48)

We now turn to that great and saintly enunciator of our Catholic faith, Abp. Marcel Lefebvre who was one of the few who took a stance against the regime of novelty in the Church at its earliest goings. How then, are we to understand the authority of the Pope? Does doctrine develop? That doctrine develops, Lefebvre refutes,
But, one will object, the dogma that makes Mary the Mother of God only dates back to 431, transubstantiation to 1215, papal infallibility to 1870, and so on. Has there not been an evolution of? No, not all. The dogmas which have been defined in the course of the ages were contained in Revelation; the Church has just made them explicit. When Pope Pius XII defined in 1950 the dogma of the Assumption, he said specifically that this truth of the assumption into heaven of the Virgin Mary, body and soul, was included in the deposit of Revelation that had already existed. (Open Letter to Confused Catholics, 125)
Quoting Bossuet, he writes "When it is a matter of explaining the principles of Christian morality and essential dogmas of the Church everything that does not appear in the Tradition of all time, and especially the early times, is from then on not only suspect but wrong and to be condemned" (ibid). And "we must not forget the Church is not totalitarian society of the Nazi or Marxist type" (142). The Pope can only be infallible when he has defined an already established position of the Church but in assessing whether a Pope is to be condemned for heresy is subjected to the degree he intended to bind the Church to his error (148). When we look at the document Fratelli Tutti of Pope Francis, we read a lot of errors into it. And many people have lost the faith that Francis is the Pope. But to what extent the document is infallible needs to be assessed. As a sober friend of mine stated, "the document is not infallible". Precisely! Not only did it not declare itself to be infallible but it is writhe with error and fraud! Can we accept Vatican II? All of the dogmatic councils are binding but the Vatican II Council was not conferred dogmatic standing by the Popes. The Popes did not wish this. We cannot abrogate the Council of Trent or the First Seven Ecumenical Councils, because they were declared dogmatic. Vatican II, we can accept the statements in it that pertain to religion and the Tradition of the Church, but we are not bound to accept the whole of (127).

So let us defend then that which was believed everywhere, always, and by all! Amen!

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Capital punishment - a response to my bishop

Recently, I wrote to my bishop calling on him to clarify the Church's stance on capital punishment. I also conferred with someone I know to be quite knowledgeable and trustworthy what the Church's position on this is and he told me two things, "1. Stay away from online discussions, these are damaging to the soul. 2. Tradition upholds the usage of capital punishment. Period." This is why you may have seen me veering away from online discussions lately but it has enabled me to write my own thoughts down on this blog much more lately, not to mention it has freed me to devote more time to reading and praying which have been extremely beneficial for the soul. But I also decided to write to the bishop calling on him to clarify the Church's stance as what he included in our February issue of our Eparchial magazine I believe is spiritually damaging to the Melkite Eparchy. That is specifically the Abp. José Gómez's letter to the Biden administration, which, while overall decent, also included a note that the Catholic Church has in its mission to seek the abolishment of the death penalty. And is this accurate about the Abp. José Gómez?

Let me just say, I put not trust in princes whether they be the princes of the State or the princes of the Church. Even to people who have applauded President Vladimir Putin's advances in Russia, I have been saying to them lately to use cautious optimism. I used to think that Putin was the greatest leader too but he is only human. And my bishop is also no exception to that rule. Even as people tell me he is "one of the good bishops", I always tell them that I don't know much about him so I cannot make that affirmation or denial. But based on the latest exchange, I can say that even if he is one of our "better bishops", the Church is in a very sore position. Lately, I asked him to clarify this statement because I know fully well what the Tradition of the Church is on this position. I showed to him the following citations:
For one, God commanded Saul to kill all of the Amalekites. When the Holy Prophet Samuel confronted Saul about his refusal to do as God commanded and Saul's efforts to keep the King of the Amalekites as his prisoner, the Holy Prophet Samuel killed the wicked king right in front of Saul's face. We know the rest of the story. Saul became possessed with an evil spirit and the Holy Prophet Samuel was vindicated. 
The thief on the cross who repented accepted that he had been justly condemned to death. Jesus even affirms that God commanded the death penalty in Matt. 15:1-9 and in Mark 7:1-13. 
Pope Innocent I states in ad Exsuperium, Episcopium Tolosanum, "It must be remembered that power was granted by God, and to avenge crime the sword was permitted; he who carries out this vengeance is God's minister (Romans 13:1–4). What motive have we for condemning a practice that all hold to be permitted by God? We uphold, therefore, what has been observed until now, in order not to alter the discipline and so that we may not appear to act contrary to God's authority." 
The document anathematizing Martin Luther, Exsurge Domine, condemns Luther's position "that heretics be burned is against the will of the Spirit". 
St. John Chrysostom states the following: "You see how he has furnished him with arms, and set him on guard like a soldier, for a terror to those that commit sin. For he is the minister of God to execute wrath, a revenger upon him that does evil. Now lest you should start off at hearing again of punishment, and vengeance, and a sword, he says again that it is God's law he is carrying out." Homily 23 on Romans 
St. Joseph of Volotsk states: "Were not the Orthodox emperors and holy fathers at the ecumenical and local councils merciful and clement? But they commanded to all, wrote in the holy canons, and ordered to all future generations that kings, princes, and judges commit heretics, and especially apostates, to terrible punishment and death, along with murderers, robbers, and other criminals." Homilies 16, in The Enlightener, or the Denunciation of the Heresy of the Judaizers cited in Met. Hilarion Alfeyev's Orthodox Christianity, vol. I: The History and Canonical Structure of the Orthodox Church 
This position is further maintained by St. Nicodemos the Hagiorite in Christian Morality when he speaks of the punishments that await those who practice sorcery. "The Sixty-fifth Novel of Leo the Wise ordains that whoever is found practicing magic in any to receive the ultimate punishment and to be punished as rebels against the emperor are." He goes on to exhort this form of punishment recommended by Leo the Wise and other emperors as "just laws".
The Ven. Pius XII further stated, "Even when it is a question of the execution of a condemned man, the State does not dispose of the individual’s right to life. In this case it is reserved to the public power to deprive the condemned person of the enjoyment of life in expiation of his crime when, by his crime, he has already disposed himself of his right to live." (The Moral Limits of Medical Research and Treatment)
To these could also be added the affirmations of St. Augustine of Hippo and St. Thomas Aquinas:
However, there are some exceptions made by the divine authority to its own law, that men may not be put to death. These exceptions are of two kinds, being justified either by a general law, or by a special commission granted for a time to some individual. And in this latter case, he to whom authority is delegated, and who is but the sword in the hand of him who uses it, is not himself responsible for the death he deals. And, accordingly, they who have waged war in obedience to the divine command, or in conformity with His laws, have represented in their persons the public justice or the wisdom of government, and in this capacity have put to death wicked men; such persons have by no means violated the commandment, You shall not kill. (City of God, Bk 1, ch. 21) 
Punishment ought to be proportionate to the fault. But in a fault not only is there an aversion of the mind from the last end, but also an undue conversion of it to other objects as ends. Not only then should the sinner be punished by exclusion from the end, but also by other things turning to his pain. 2. No one is afraid to lose what he does not desire to gain. They then who have their will turned away from their last end, have no fear of being shut out from it. Consequently that mere exclusion would not be enough to call them off from sinning. Some other punishment then must be employed, which sinners may fear. 3. One who puts to undue use the means to a certain end, not only is deprived of the end, but incurs some other hurt besides. Thus inordinate taking of food not only does not bring health, but further induces sickness. But whoever sets up his rest in creatures does not use them as he ought: he does not refer them to their last end. Not only then ought he to be punished by going without happiness, but also by experiencing some pain from creatures. Hence divine Scripture not only threatens sinners with exclusion from glory, but also with affliction in other ways. Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire (Matt. xxv, 41). He shall rain nets on sinners: fire and brimstone and the breath of stormy winds shall be the portion of their cup (Ps. x, 7). (St. Thomas Aquinas, Contra Gentiles, Bk. 3, ch. 146) 
Hereby is excluded the error of those who say that corporal punishments are unlawful, and quote in support of their error such texts as, Thou shalt not kill (Exod. xx, 13): Let both grow until the harvest (Matt. xiii, 30). But these are frivolous allegations. For the same law which says, Thou shalt not kill, adds afterwards: Thou shalt not suffer poisoners (maleficos, pharmakous) to live (Exod. xxii, 18). And as for both growing until the harvest, how that is to be understood appears from what follows: lest perchance in gathering the tares ye root out along with them the wheat also: in this passage then the killing of the wicked is forbidden where it cannot be done without danger to the good, as happens when the wicked are not yet clearly marked off from the good by manifest sins, or when there is ground for apprehension that the wicked may involve many good men in their ruin. The fate of the wicked being open to conversion so long as they live does not preclude their being open also to the just punishment of death. Indeed the danger threatening the community from their life is greater and more certain than the good expected by their conversion. Besides, in the hour of death, they have every facility for turning to God by repentance. And if they are so obstinate that even in the hour of death their heart will not go back upon its wickedness, a fairly probable reckoning may be made that they never would have returned to a better mind. (Ibid, ch. 147)
In addition, the Catechism of Pope Pius X states:
It is lawful to kill when fighting in a just war; when carrying out by order of the Supreme Authority a sentence of death in punishment of a crime; and, finally, in cases of necessary and lawful defence of one's own life against an unjust aggressor.
But in 1992, an incredible change was made to the teaching of the Church by Pope John Paul II. Pope John Paul II and his two successors demanded the Church to start seeking the abolishment of the death penalty. But Pope John Paul II knew better than Pope Francis. You couldn't change the teaching by asserting the death penalty was "morally inadmissible". You had to change the death penalty subtlely. I pointed this out to Crazy Church Lady and she sharply noticed this too but this is because Pope John Paul II himself was working craftily and deceitfully to change the Church teaching on this issue. Note what the 1992 Catechism of the Catholic Church says:
Assuming that the guilty party's identity and responsibility have been fully determined, the traditional teaching of the Church does not exclude recourse to the death penalty, if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor. (2267)
If you note, in none of the texts from the saints or the fathers do you see the assertion that capital punishment is only included as a possible punishment "if this is the only possible way of effectively defending human lives against the unjust aggressor". In fact, the Traditional teaching of the Church is to the contrary. There is no assumed reason other than the two following: 1. government, being subjected to God, has been given the authority to wield the sword of God's vengeance on Earth and 2. capital punishment is a just punishment given by the legitimate authorities. As the former aforementioned whom I trust clearly stated, "Tradition upholds the usage of capital punishment by legitimate authorities. Period." Not "Tradition upholds the usage of capital punishment by legitimate authorities if you can't safely isolate them from society".

It gets even worse when you consider what the USCCB's Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church states. Reading the following, I was rather horrified at the utter incompetence and lack of awareness of our bishops! Even though the edition was printed in 2011,it's frightening that they state:
Modern society in fact has the means of effectively suppressing crime by rendering criminals harmless without definitively denying them the chance to reform....The growing aversion of public opinion towards the death penalty and the various provisions aimed at abolishing it or suspending its application constitute visible manifestations of heightened moral awareness. (405)
Say what?!? Even with talk in favor of gay marriage and abortion growing in that decade in which they wrote that they are able to contend that the growing aversion of public opinion towards the death penalty constitutes visible manifestations of heightened moral awareness? Did the Tsars not have the option of Siberia? What is more isolating than Siberia? Nope. According to the bishops, isolation and the abolishment of capital punishment was only made available recently! The bishops have been clueless for years! The bishops demonstrate in this statement that they have no regard for moral theology unless it concerns the abolishment of the death penalty. Now to return to my own bishop's response to the previous texts I showed to him.
Daniel. I do not have the time to fully address the issue of capital punishment. We cannot accept the Old Testament thinkings about this since Christ came to fulfill the Old and brings with him a change. But it is quite clear from the commandments from the Old and New Testament: "You shall not kill!" Capital punishment is killing. Certainly there may be opinions of theologians, saints and fathers, but the rule is clear. I suggest you sit with a good scripture scholar to properly understand the scripture and not twist its message to what you like or believe. To my understanding the Matthew and Mark texts are not accepting to kill, and the thief on the cross has nothing to do with this issue. Best wishes and prayers, [xxxxxxxx]
I'm going to reason he is within his best intentions but a lot of what he said in his response is plain wrong. For one, he does not actually properly address the issue of the text in 1 Kings 15 in which God commands the slaughter of the Amalekites. And further, he actually twists Scriptures when insisting that the commandment "Thou shall not kill" condemns capital punishment. The texts in Scripture that reference capital punishment use the word muwth (putting to death) and the text that gives the condemnation of "Thou shall not kill" uses the word ratsah (to kill in such a way that one incurs blood guilt, murder). Capital punishment is muwth (putting to death), not ratsah (murder). And I studied Biblical Hebrew. Third, it is not a "twist" of Scriptures when one is trying to understand the Scriptures in light of what the fathers and the saints say! It is an attempt to follow the consensus patrium established by the Lerintian canon to the best of my ability and it is shocking that he would make such an insidious accusation. Fourth, he does not address that Jesus claimed that God gave the commandment that one must be put to death for dishonoring their parents. And what is this craziness of the fathers and saints having opinions regarding the moral law? Did we send to Heaven people who willfully neglected the moral law of God? Um, sorry, no, we did not! Either the moral law is subjected to opinions or capital punishment is harmonious with the moral law as the Church has always taught.

*Earlier, I wrote it was the 1993 Catechism but Pope John Paul II published it in 1992.