Sunday, February 19, 2012

Re-Evangelization All Over Again

In one of the recent newsletters of Our Sunday Visitor (Jan. 15, 2012), a column by Msgr. Francis Mannion (pg. 19) answered questions about the reality of hell. Now, he believes there is one. But he also says that anyone who has loved or been loved will not end up there. He said he heard this idea "about 1970" and has believed it since then.

It doesn't surprise me this idea circulated in the 70's. All you need is love, right? This has been a pervasive idea among Christians. Of course love is a wonderful reality, an amazing characteristic of our Divine God. But we must also remember that Jesus Christ came to Earth for our redemption because of our sins. He is our true hero, for He overcame a terrible ordeal to win the victory. And he asks us to believe in Him so we may have everlasting life with Him (John, 3:16).

The idea that all religions are the same is called "Indifferentism." Evangelicals kept free of this ideology for a while, but mainstream Protestants and many Catholics subscribe to the idea that one spiritual path is as good as another. Some theologians subscribe to "Universalism," in which we are all acceptable. A part of this group may say this is due to Christ's redemptive act which included everyone, but some would not even go so far as to say we needed Him, but that God simply loves all of us and we are all just on different journeys to the great universal oneness of love we will all eventually experience. However, indifferentism is not new and was mentioned by Pope Gregory XVI in 1832. He quoted St. Augustine from an even earlier time (born 354 AD): “The branch has the same form when it has been cut off from the vine; but of what profit is the form, if it does not live from the root?” (20. St. Augustine, in psalm. contra part. Donat.)

A Church document called "Nostra Aetate" (proclaimed by Pope Paul VI in 1965) says though there may be some parts of truth in all religions, the whole Truth culminates in Jesus Christ. If you know Him, there is no reason to follow another religion. To me, Christianity is a combination of being able to read the Truth in the Scripture and experiencing it with Christ.

Love is a wonderful thing, but many people have loved some people and hated others. Criminals have loved. Did past tyrants and dictators love their children? Probably, at least to some degree. Are they prepared for or worthy of heaven? Remember, heaven is perfect.

There must be a way we are able to be righteous in heaven, and we are told how that can be. In Romans 3 (NAB), The Apostle Paul tells us no one can be justified in God's sight by observing the law (see verses 19 and 20), and this means we cannot act morally enough on our own. The next verses tell us: 21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, though testified to by the law and the prophets, 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction; 23all have sinned and are deprived of the glory of God.

John Paul II and Benedict XVI have called for a re-evangelization of the Church. I went through a time of doubt and even disbelief myself, influenced by these kinds of theology I have mentioned. Yet it is really worth thinking about the afterlife. The more I read the Bible and prayed, the more I believed you really do have to believe in Jesus Christ, that He was God, and that He came to save us from our sins to enter heaven. God the Father made Him the center of our lives and our hope, and He truly is.

People say a good God would not let people who never heard of Him go to hell. It is God's business how to handle that and should not be used as some excuse to not believe. Christians have faith that God is just, and things would not come out right if there was no justice. But He is also merciful. Each human being who has heard about Christ and has the opportunity to learn must work on their own soul to believe. Hopefully, they will come to do so, and then can help others do the same. The idea that we don't need to believe in Christ to get to heaven, which in my opinion is implied by Msgr. Mannion, is the very reason we need evangelization and re-evangelization.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Why Not Drop Out

I had been reading selections from various Christian blogs for a while, mostly linked from the New Advent home page. New Advent seems to have some process for going through various blogs and and giving choices from about 30-40 posts, some of which are new and some that have been there a few days. I didn't usually read more than 2 or 3 in a day, but I often read the comments for the blogs. (Although now I am getting more into writing my book again, so I will probably not do it as much anymore.)

Many commenters ask how people can still be Catholic, with all the problems we have had. Many times this refers to the sexual predator crisis, but also has hit upon prejudice against women and other problems. In the last month, more scandal has broken. Reuters reports that a highly-placed Vatican official was transferred out of the Vatican to become an ambassador in Washington because he was allegedly trying to clean up corruption. Supposedly contracts were given out of cronyism instead of the best bid. It is also rumored that a right-hand-man of the Pope is trying to manipulate the number of Italian Cardinals so that another Italian will be voted in as the Pope in the next election. Does this sound like the leaders really care about the flock?

It's not really surprising that people ask why we put up with it. Actually, many don't, and leave the Church. Look at Europe--a great many have left. In Latin America, many are going to Protestant denominations. The problem is, there are human failures that come through in other denominations also. We believe the Roman Catholic Church was the first Church, starting with the Apostle Peter in Rome. And compared to some of the past popes, we're actually probably not doing so badly at the moment (I'm not referring to the popes right at the beginning but for example right before the Reformation when they were trying to sell passes to heaven).

Remember, much love and care comes in the name of Catholicism. We have had hospitals, missions, schools, all meant to help people and improve their lives. These are usually unsung, everyday commitments to follow Christ as well as we can.

Still, to try to hide the bad is to make things worse, as is easily demonstrated by the predator priest fiasco. Many who belong to the Church believe that evil does exist. And evil is very bad indeed. It does not affect only those Church members who have been accused in the news or people who have landed in jail. It can get its hands on any of us. It delights in embarrassing the faithful. It makes every effort to do harm in the worst possible of ways. People can point and shake their heads at how awful things are with the Church. But if they don't recognize sin within themselves, they are the ones who are the worse for it. Because then they don't seek help. If they would think about it a little more deeply, they would realize that the evil they see means that evil exists. We are back with one of the reasons to be in the Church in the first place.

Those in the Church to seek help can find it. Christ died for our sins, and we can go to Him, and only Him, to find redemption.

It is true that while in this life we need to keep trying with all our effort, including prayer, to stay on the right path. Unfortunately, we have trouble with that. We are human, and evil doesn't quit. It keeps trying to get us to the wrong road. It is too often successful. But there is no where like the Church to remind us, when we enter it and kneel within, that something very important is at stake. Then we pray for strength to go on.

Not everyone is in the Church for the right reason. They may have been born into it and decided they want to stay for power, social reasons, pressure from family or whatever. But those who sense God's presence know how overwhelmingly greater He is than any trouble that comes. They know Christ's gift to us of everlasting life, if we only believe in Him (John, 3:16), overcomes any evil we face now.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

IC--Irreducibly Connected

The Indiana Senate passed a bill, SB 89, to allow the instruction of Creationism into the classroom. The Discovery Institute, which is the foremost think tank for Intelligent Design Theory (sometimes known as ID), condemns the bill as bad science and bad education. They think evolution should be taught, but also that persons should be allowed to bring up flaws in the theory. The Creation in question is probably that called Young Earth Creationism, in which some people believe God created the Earth around 6 to 14 thousand years ago.

I disagree with the Discovery Institute. I think we should have long ago come to the realization there are irreconcilable differences between Americans when it comes to our various religions (or lack thereof) and science.

Though the Discovery Institute has been the victim of abuse by the leaders of today's scientific community, they are willing to heap abuse on an even more vilified group, the Young Earth Creationists. They may not intend to be demeaning, and perhaps are even trying to help. But they are not very farsighted if this is the plan.

Our country is based on freedom of religion. We are getting far afield, acting as though we believe it was founded on scientific political correctness. Please remember, not all scientific theories are right. Albert Einstein at one time believed the universe had been eternal, without a beginning. He even fudged a calculation to make his math fit his theory. But he was proven wrong by astronomers, primarily Edwin Hubble, who confirmed that the Universe is expanding and therefore had a beginning, now called the Big Bang. Why is this a lesson that never seems to sink in?

If the Discovery Institute had been around when Einstein theorized the Universe was infinite, are they saying children had to be taught that's the way it is because Albert Einstein said so? This is when the children's believed the Universe had not been infinite, but they would be faced by authority figures who taught something against their own faith. And then later Einstein was proven wrong. Are we to say evolution is right, except it's OK to question it? The people at the Design Institute are themselves pandering to the politically correct scientific culture. If evolution is only one of various theories, it should be presented as such and the beliefs of others should be acknowledged from the start.

Though I talk here of whether a theory is correct, it is a separate but even more important matter that some Americans believe it is correct. As long as the religion of the person includes creationism, it is a matter of freedom of religion. Catholic bishops are recently incensed over an attempt by the government to impose insurance rulings on Church institutions. They say it goes against religious freedom. But where are they when the government has walked all over other denominations in demanding that evolution and only evolution be taught in the nation's public schools?

The Discovery Institute often presents the argument that the Supreme Court has already decided that Creationism is to be kept from the classroom. But there are hundreds of thousands of people marching every year in Washington DC to reverse the Supreme Court decision of Roe v. Wade in which abortion has been made legal. Writers from the Discovery Institute grouse regularly over the decision of US District Judge John Jones in the Dover, PA, trial but hold as unchangeable the Supreme Court decision. Maybe they have their reasons in their own agendas. They regularly talk about the Old Earth and fossils of millions of years old. Perhaps they are unwilling to stretch their abilities in order to consider others with different points of view, such as Young Earth Creationists.

"Irreducible complexity" is a phrase coined by one of Intelligent Design's proponents, Michael Behe. It is time to recognize that many people's belief systems are irreducibly connected to science. Faith forms our biology theories as it forms our laws and political systems. Some unabashedly start right from their Sacred Text and go from there. This is something the laws must reconcile, and not just collapse under the pressure of anti-religion groups who claim this teaching would be unconstitutional. The government enforces anti-religious views on students in the classroom--those whose mothers are unable to home-school them, that is. This is a large part of our population which is treated thus.

I know that to bring Creation Science into the classroom would be messy. People don't like it when they have to cope with other people's conceptions of truth. For example, those who believe in evolution don't want to think about design. But who are the intelligent ones? The persons who can understand only one point of view, or those who can see a variety of possibilities? Isn't that what scientific exploration is about?