Tuesday, April 29, 2008

More Talks from Una Voce 2004

Here are three other talks from the 2004 Una Voce conference in Cedar Rapids, IA. It was extremely cool to have a priest from the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (FSSP) alongside of a priest from the Institute of Christ the King (ICRSS) at the conference. It was a good opportunity for a little "cross pollination" between the two groups, both of which are doing excellent work.

Fr. Chad Ripperger, FSSP gave two talks:

In Tradition and Liturgy, Fr. Ripperger shows how the traditional Latin Mass is a fundamental witness to the fullness of the Catholic Tradition, what he calls a "monument" of our faith on the order of the most authoritative Creeds, papal definitions, and conciliar decrees.

In The Dangers of Modern Psychology, Fr. Ripperger highlights the essentially secular and un-Christian (and sometimes overtly anti-Christian) nature of the approach taken in much modern psychology.

Fr. Richard von Menschengen, ICRSS also gave two talks, but unfortunately I only captured one on tape:

Liturgy and Personality, a look at the thought of Dietrich von Hildebrand on this topic. Unfortunately, for some reason, I'm not able to upload this MP3 to my web site. I will complete this link as soon as it's available.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Traditional Latin Mass and the Family

Here are two talks I gave in 2004 at an Una Voce conference in Cedar Rapids, IA. The first is a short account of my conversion to the Catholic Faith, along with a brief explanation of my move to a more traditional outlook.

The second is a more detailed apologia for the primacy of the traditional Latin Mass as the center of a Catholic family's worship and devotion, as well as the essential element in the reform and renewal of the Church:

Surprised by Tradition (mp3)

The Latin Mass and the Family (mp3)

In the second talk I reference several issues and articles. For example, I think every Catholic should read the very incisive article by Father James McLucas, The Emasculation of the Priesthood, in which Fr. McLucas notes that many practices used to be the exclusive domain of the priest but have recently been permitted to others. This, he argues, harms the masculine identity of the priest and has led to disastrous results.

My quotation from Alice von Hildebrand comes from an interview with her entitled Present at the Demolition: A Philosopher Remembers and Reminds.

Msgr. Klaus Gamber's book The Reform of the Roman Liturgy: Its Problems and Backgrounds is happily back in print from Roman Catholic Books. This book was the single most influential in my own decision to have my family, as much as possible, assist exclusively at the traditional Latin Mass. You can read some powerful excerpts from the book here.

And one of the best articles on the topic of women and girls covering their heads at the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is Jacob Michael's Still Binding? The Veiling of Women and Meatless Fridays. It continues to amaze me that this practice of veiling, which harkens all the way back to the Apostles, was continuously practiced from East to West in every communion that can trace its origins to the Apostles, was explicitly ordered by the 1917 Code of Canon Law, and was never even mentioned (let alone explicitly revoked) in Vatican II, should have been so rapidly and universally set aside. I have absolutely no doubt that most Catholic woman after Vatican II ceased to wear head coverings out of ignorance and simply to go with the flow. But the fact is that it was a senseless (and illicit) disregard of a beautiful practice that is reflective of theological principles that will never change.

And here's an article about the conference in the secular Cedar Rapids Gazette: Gimme That Old-Time Religion.

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

St. Paul Teaches Sola Scriptura? Nope.

The verses most commonly advanced in support of the doctrine of sola Scriptura—that the Bible alone should be our standard for matters of Christian faith and practice—are 2 Tim 3:16-17: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” There are many reasons why these verses manifestly do not support such a sweeping claim.

We see immediately that for St. Paul to say that Scripture is “profitable” for correction, teaching, etc. falls far short of saying that is the sole source of these things. And for him to say that Scripture renders a man “adequate” is not to say that it is the sole source of God’s revelation. Some English translations render this word, which the NASB translates “adequate” (artios in Greek), as “perfect.” So some non-Catholic apologists argue that if the Scriptures can render a man perfect, he obviously doesn’t need the Church, Tradition, or anything else. But, besides being an overtranslation of the Greek word artios,[1] this line of reasoning is not applied consistently to Scripture by these same individuals. For example, St. Paul says in Eph 4:11-15:

"And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fulness of Christ. As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming; but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him, who is the head, even Christ." [my emphasis]

There is no mention at all of Scripture and yet notice St. Paul’s language: “all attain to the unity of the faith,” “to a mature man,” “to the fulness of Christ,” “we are to grow up in all aspects.” Yet no non-Catholic apologist has ever argued that apostles, prophets, evangelists, and pastor-teachers are sufficient and that therefore Scripture is not necessary.[2] Similarly, St. James says to, “let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing,” (James 1:4) and yet no proponent of sola Scriptura will argue that endurance or perseverance is all that is necessary for the Christian life and that therefore we don’t need the Bible. Clearly 2 Tim 3:16‑17 is being made to bear a burden that St. Paul never intended for it, if it is pressed to “prove” sola Scriptura.

Finally, while 2 Tim 3:16-17 teaches that the Scriptures will equip a man for “every good work,” this is a far cry from saying that the Scriptures contain all revealed truth from God and are the sole authority for faith. The Golden Rule—“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”—could be said to “equip a man for every good work,” since Jesus says that “this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matt 7:12). But no one would argue from this that we can dispense with the rest of the Bible.

2 Tim 3:16-17 are by far the strongest verses advanced in support of sola Scriptura. But this passage simply does not teach what proponents of this doctrine wish to make it teach. The fact is that Scripture nowhere claims what the Protestant “reformers” claimed for it, namely that it is our sole authority in matters of faith and morals. The doctrine of sola Scriptura itself is an unbiblical tradition of men.


[1] None of the standard Greek-English lexicons list “perfect” as a possible translation of artios.

[2] These categories of people represent the leadership of the Church both past and present. If one used the same logic as employed by proponents of sola Scriptura we could use these verses to argue for sola Ecclesia, the Church alone as our authoritative guide. But Catholic theology does not pit the Bible against the Church, nor the Church against the Bible. Both have a crucial place in God’s economy of salvation.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up?

Review of David Bercot's "Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up?"

This posting is to make available an essay--actually of book length itself--that I wrote in response to the book Will the Real Heretics Please Stand Up? by David Bercot. It's not the sort of project that I would ordinarily tackle, especially on this scale (178 pages!). But here's the story behind it.

A relative of ours had been drawn pretty strongly toward the Catholic Faith. Unfortunately, that journey ended up being diverted, then abandoned, and Bercot's book played some role in turning this person away from the Catholic Church. That miffed me, to be sure. But what really got me to look at the book in detail is when, through this family connection, it showed up at my parents' house with a note attached describing it as a good antidote to the dreaded Catholic disease. That made me very unhappy because the last thing in the world my parents need is more bogus reasons to dislike Catholicism.

I browsed it a bit while at my parents' house, then obtained a copy of the book when I returned home. Bercot's book has a certain surface plausibility and sincerity that draws the reader in. But I found, as I examined the arguments in more detail and especially as I looked up Bercot's references, that the veneer of plausibility is plastered over a very shoddy and misleading presentation of the evidence. Bercot starts out his book telling the reader that he's going to present only beliefs from the early Church that are supported by at least five witnesses. Sounds like at least an objective criterion. The problem is that Bercot frequently presents beliefs that he supports with fewer than five witnesses and sometimes with no witnesses at all. On the flip-side, there are doctrines in the early Church that were held by many more than five witnesses (e.g. baptismal regeneration, the Eucharist as a sacrifice, apostolic succession) which he summarily rejects. Then there's the hefty problem that one will sometimes look up Bercot's references (at least when they are cited correctly, so that you can look them up) and find that the text says something quite different than what Bercot asserts, even to the point of sometimes meaning exactly the opposite of what he says it means. Also, his allergy to "doctrine" and hints of problems with his Christology suggest to me that he has not completely shed his Jehovah's Witness upbringing. Overall, it's an almost entirely untrustworthy book, which makes it all the more galling that it would lead people to reject the Catholic Faith.

I started writing just a critique of Bercot specifically, for my family's benefit, but the project grew and grew until it became a sort of complete apologia for the fundamentals of Catholicism from the early Church Fathers, with Bercot as the catalyst for a particular way of presenting the information.

I am particularly happy with the chapters on "Purgatory" and "War and Capital Punishment". But I think the whole presentation is pretty strong. This work is by no means perfect (and if you catch any outright errors on my part, please let me know) but I hope it can be of some use.

See my review and critique here

Friday, April 11, 2008

It's Maple Syrup Time

We've tapped our maple trees and are busy cooking it all down for our annual supply of maple syrup. Each spring, the maple sap starts running. Here at our homestead we're able to gather just enough to supply us with maple syrup for the year.

The sap runs for the few weeks to couple of months during which we have freezing nights but above-freezing days. The taps are set into new holes drilled each year and then bags hung to capture the dripping sap. It takes between thirty and forty gallons of sap to yield one gallon of maple syrup. We usually get between 1 1/2 and 2 gallons of finished syrup.

Once you've gathered the sap you've got to boil it down. The first year we did this I boiled the sap on the kitchen stove. This is really slow and, as you can imagine, steaming off more than thirty gallons of water into your house is not exactly ideal.

The next two years I boiled the sap over a propane burner outdoors. Better, quicker, but still rather expensive from a fuel standpoint. Since wood is readily available and cheap around here, that's the real fuel of choice.

The last two years I've boiled on a homemade setup fabricated from a 55 gallon steel barrel fitted with legs, an exhaust pipe, and a cast iron door. I cut a hole in the top of the barrel, plopped in a stainless steel pan, and made a roaring fire in the barrel. The bottom of the pan is in direct contact with the fire and sap flows into the pan from a suspended coffee can with a small hole. This allows the sap to boil more or less continuously while replenishing the liquid lost.

You've got to tend the fire and watch the level regularly. I unfortunately burned the first batch this year by letting it boil down too far; I was inside doing the taxes and was alerted to my gaff by billows of sickly sweet smelling smoke wafting across my place (I wonder if I can deduct the loss?)

After we boil the sap most of the way down we finish it on the kitchen stove, where we measure its sugar level with a special hydrometer (to know when it's done) and then pour it, boiling hot, into mason jars to be sealed and stored in the cellar for the year. Aunt Jemima was probably a very nice woman, but believe me her product is junk compared to God's own real maple syrup.

E-Sword: An Incredible (Free!) Software Tool

A friend recently made me aware of a fantastic Bible software package. For a long time I used QuickVerse for computer Scripture study. It's a simple but inexpensive package. But when I (belatedly) upgraded my home computers to Windows XP, my version of QuickVerse stopped working and I was too cheap to upgrade.

What I would really like is one of the more advanced software packages out there for Bible research, including Bibleworks and Logos. But either of these, with the add-ons that I need (which include the original language texts of the Bible), are quite pricey.

Now I find that there's a free tool out there that does 99% of what I want to do. It's called E-Sword. Here's the main page: http://www.e-sword.net/downloads.html

Once you have the program, you can download Bible texts and other reference tools off of that site. From the main site I got:

  • Douay-Rheims Bible with the deutero-canonicals (Note that the author of this software is Protestant, so although he thankfully included support for the complete canon, the software does not include internal support for the complete text of Daniel and Esther.)
  • King James Version with Strong's numbers (very useful)
  • King James Version with "Apocrypha" i.e. the deutero-canon (Yes, the KJV was originally published with the complete canon of Scripture.)
  • Septuagint (LXX)
  • Vulgate
  • Keil & De litzsch Commentary on the Old Testament (a fairly conservative Lutheran commentary)
  • Brown-Driver-Briggs' Hebrew Definitions
  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia
  • Nave's Topical Bible
  • Robinson's Morphological Analysis Codes
  • Thayer's Greek Definitions
  • American Bible Society Maps
  • CIA World Factbook
  • Historical Atlas by William R. Shepherd
  • Ancient Mediterranean Maps
  • Ante-Nicene Fathers
  • Creeds of Christendom, by Philip Schaff (a useful, but sometimes hostile-to-Catholics, work on Christian creeds)
  • The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah, by Alfred Edersheim
  • The Temple - Its Ministry and Service, by Alfred Edersheim
  • Antiquities of the Jews and Wars of the Jews, by Josephus

(Many of the works above are from Protestant sources. Used with prudence, they remain highly useful for research.)

From other sites I have gotten:

  • Catechism of the Catholic Church (link)
  • New American Bible w/deuteros (link)
  • Catholic Encyclopedia (link)

This software package allows you to do quick searchs for words and phrases in the text of Scripture (including in the Greek or Hebrew). As you find verses of interest, you can view that verse in a "comparison" view which shows the verse as presented in all the translations (and original texts) you have installed.

And it is elegantly set up to allow you to capture your results and add commentary, so as you're working on a project you can keep all of your notes conveniently right in E-Sword. Here's a screenshot of a typical research session for me (click on it to get the full monty):

Highly recommended. And if you end up using the software, send a "thank you" and a few bucks to the author. Tell him you're a Catholic who loves God's written Word.