Category Archives: Church

The failure of history without Christ

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On the failure of history—and historians—without Christ
By Dr. Jeff Mirus, Jan 29, 2015

Your Editor’s note: Our country’s beginning was framed with God and His Son in mind.

When I was a brash young graduate student in the very early 1970s, Professor Lawrence Stone tried to teach me that the English Revolution and civil war were essentially caused by social and demographic factors, and that the previous emphasis on religious differences was essentially laughable. I remember telling him, with my classic humility, that he had the cart before the horse. (Extaordinarly witty, no? But it is deceptively easy to draw down on a professor when you’re 22, you’ve been admitted to the Ivy League, and you already know everything.)

It so happened that Professor Stone did not like my attention to religious beliefs as historical motivators, and so he did what any open-minded sceptic would do: He tried to get my fellowship revoked so I could not continue to study at Princeton. Amazingly, this turned out to be a violation of the rules as long as my grades were good. But it also taught me a significant lesson about how academic reputations are made (usually by attacking someone else’s theory) and retained (usually by advancing students who have become your clones). Read More

Oldest known copy of the Gospels.

Archeologists are expecting the publication of what could be the oldest known copy of one of the Gospels.
The fragmentary text, taken from the Gospel of St. Mark, was reportedly discovered on a sheet of papyrus that was used for a mummy. Experts believe that the text dates back to the 1st century.
The discovery of the Gospel text has been surrounded by mystery because some scientists object to the process in which papyrus is removed from a mummy’s mask, thereby destroying the mask itself.

Go to: http://www.livescience.com/49489-oldest-known-gospel-mummy-mask.html

1st-century Gospel text found in mummy’s mask?

A mummy mask was one of the masks that the researchers took apart to reveal ancient papyri. This mummy mask is similar to the one that contained the first century gospel fragment.
Credit: Courtesy of Prof. Craig Evans

A text that may be the oldest copy of a gospel known to exist — a fragment of the Gospel of Mark that was written during the first century, before the year 90 — is set to be published.

At present, the oldest surviving copies of the gospel texts date to the second century (the years 101 to 200).

This first-century gospel fragment was written on a sheet of papyrus that was later reused to create a mask that was worn by a mummy. Although the mummies of Egyptian pharaohs wore masks made of gold, ordinary people had to settle for masks made out of papyrus (or linen), paint and glue. Given how expensive papyrus was, people often had to reuse sheets that already had writing on them. 

In recent years scientists have developed a technique that allows the glue of mummy masks to be undone without harming the ink on the paper. The text on the sheets can then be read.

The first-century gospel is one of hundreds of new texts that a team of about three-dozen scientists and scholars is working to uncover, and analyze, by using this technique of ungluing the masks, said Craig Evans, a professor of New Testament studies at Acadia Divinity College in Wolfville, Nova Scotia.

“We’re recovering ancient documents from the first, second and third centuries. Not just Christian documents, not just biblical documents, but classical Greek texts, business papers, various mundane papers, personal letters,” Evans told Live Science. The documents include philosophical texts and copies of stories by the Greek poet Homer. [See Images of Early Christian Inscriptions and Artifacts]

The business and personal letters sometimes have dates on them, he said. When the glue was dissolved, the researchers dated the first-century gospel in part by analyzing the other documents found in the same mask.

One drawback to the process is that the mummy mask is destroyed, and so scholars in the field are debating whether that particular method should be used to reveal the texts they contain.

But Evans emphasized that the masks that are being destroyed to reveal the new texts are not high quality ones that would be displayed in a museum. Some are not masks at all but are simply pieces of cartonnage.

Evans told Live Science, “We’re not talking about the destruction of any museum-quality piece.”

The technique is bringing many new texts to light, Evans noted. “From a single mask, it’s not strange to recover a couple dozen or even more” new texts, he told Live Science. “We’re going to end up with many hundreds of papyri when the work is done, if not thousands.”

Debate

Scholars who work on the project have to sign a nondisclosure agreement that limits what they can say publicly. There are several reasons for this agreement. One is that some of the owners of these masks simply do not want to be made known, Evans said. “The scholars who are working on this project have to honor the request of the museums, universities, private owners, so forth.”

The owners of the mummy masks retain ownership of the papyrus sheets after the glue on them is dissolved.

Evans said that the only reason he can talk about the first-century gospel before it is published is because a member of the team leaked some of the information in 2012. Evans was careful to say that he is not telling Live Science anything about the first-century gospel that hasn’t already been leaked online.

Soon after the 2012 leak, speculation surrounded the methods that the scholars used to figure out the gospel’s age.

Evans says that the text was dated through a combination of carbon-14 dating, studying the handwriting on the fragment and studying the other documents found along with the gospel. These considerations led the researchers to conclude that the fragment was written before the year 90. With the nondisclosure agreement in place, Evans said that he can’t say much more about the text’s date until the papyrus is published.

Destruction of mummy masks

The process that is used to obtain the papyri, which involves the destruction of the mummy masks, has also generated debate. For instance, archaeologist Paul Barford, who writes about collecting and heritage issues, has written a scathing blog post criticizing the work on the gospel.

Roberta Mazza, a lecturer in Classics and Ancient History at the University of Manchester, has blogged her concerns about the text as has Brice Jones, a doctoral candidate in religion at Concordia University.

When the texts are published the debate is likely to move beyond the blogosphere and into mainstream media and scholarly journals.

Biblical clues

Although the first-century gospel fragment is small, the text will provide clues as to whether the Gospel of Mark changed over time, Evans said.

His own research is focused on analyzing the mummy mask texts, to try to determine how long people held onto them before disposing or reusing them. This can yield valuable information about how biblical texts were copied over time.

“We have every reason to believe that the original writings and their earliest copies would have been in circulation for a hundred years in most cases — in some cases much longer, even 200 years,” he said.

This means that “a scribe making a copy of a script in the third century could actually have at his disposal (the) first-century originals, or first-century copies, as well as second-century copies.”

Set to publish

Evans said that the research team will publish the first volume of texts obtained through the mummy masks and cartonnage later this year. It will include the gospel fragment that the researchers believe dates back to the first century. 

The team originally hoped the volume would be published in 2013 or 2014, but the date had to be moved back to 2015. Evans said he is uncertain why the book’s publication was delayed, but the team has made use of the extra time to conduct further studies into the first-century gospel.
“The benefit of the delay is that when it comes out, there will be additional information about it and other related texts.”

For more information on this subject go to: Catholic World News, = CatholicCulture.org =
http://www.catholicculture.org/news/headlines/index.cfm?storyid=23795

Some “Catholics” are not really Catholics

Pope Francis: Some “Catholics” are not really Catholics
By Dr. Jeff Mirus Jun 24, 2014

Considering the subject of my last In Depth Analysis (Speaking clearly about dangerously imperfect communion with the Church), Pope Francis’ statement last Thursday that mobsters are excommunicated calls for additional comment. What did the Pope say, and how is it to be understood?

The key sentence in his homily in Calabria on June 19th is this: “Those who in their lives have taken this evil road, this road of evil, such as the mobsters, they are not in communion with God, they are excommunicated.” Our first question, then, must be about the meaning of “this evil road, this road of evil”. The antecedent to which “this evil road” refers is found earlier in the same paragraph:

When adoration of the Lord is substituted by adoration of money, the road to sin opens to personal interest…. When one does not adore the Lord, one becomes an adorer of evil, like those who live by dishonesty and violence…. The ‘ndrangheta (Calabrian mafia) is this: adoration of evil and contempt of the common good.

What are we to make of this?
The first thing to notice is that the Pope is here giving a homily to a specific audience. He is not articulating a point of Catholic teaching to the whole Church. The Magisterium is not engaged. We cannot, therefore, leap to the conclusion that Pope Francis is teaching that all who devote themselves to evil are formally excommunicated latae sententiae (that is, as an automatic result of their violation of a particular Church law).

Still less is the Pope pronouncing a sentence of excommunication (ferendae sententiae, that is, by a specifically passed sentence). For Francis describes the condition of these sinners not as an external judgment but as simply being “not in communion with God”. It is perfectly legitimate to assume that by “not in communion with God”, Francis means both not in communion with Christ and not in communion with the Church, for St. Paul’s letters reveal these to be exactly the same thing. But again the Pope appears to be talking about a condition, not a specific sentence, of excommunication.

Imperfect and Severed Communion
In my earlier essay, I wrote:
By a formal repudiation of something essential to the Church’s constitution, communion is wholly severed; membership is lost. Even without a formal repudiation, in any sort of persistent rejection of essential ecclesial authority…communion is at least impaired. It is fractured if not decisively broken; at best, it is rendered incomplete…. With respect to fractured or imperfect or impaired communion, this fracturing may be recognized as a complete break by excommunication. When that happens, the situation is clarified and all doubt is removed.

In this homily, Pope Francis is talking about those who are guilty of “adoration of evil and the contempt of common good”. Obviously, adoration of evil alone covers everything, but Francis presumably specifies contempt for the common good to make the human impact clear. From the congregation’s perspective, I suppose, it is one thing for someone to adore evil in the abstract; it is quite another for him to act in evil ways that harm us.

More to the point here, it is obvious that the adoration of evil is an absolutized description of a spiritual state that must inescapably not only fracture but decisively break our communion with Christ and the Church. The Pope does not fear to describe this as the habitual mindset of the Calabrian mafia, though he is also referring to all those who adore evil, which he sees as rooted in the “adoration of money” (cf., 1 Tim 6:10) and, even more fundamentally, in the failure to “adore the Lord”. There is scope for a lifetime of meditation here.

But is Francis therefore arguing that all those who fail to adore God are decisively out of communion with Him? I suspect the answer is yes if we are referring to those who consciously refuse to adore God, thus seriously embracing some evil as a substitute (pride, power, wealth, pleasure, etc.). And certainly there is a broader sense in which people can be very distant from God (though He is obviously never far from us) through their ambivalence toward and neglect of the Good, of which God is the sole source.

Principles and Signs of Separation
In any case, the Pope insists, in this Calabrian homily, that certain commitments are sufficient to create a real break between the soul and God, and therefore a break between the person and the Church. He specifies the decision to be a “mobster” as one of them. This raises a delicate question. Is every mobster living in mortal sin? Well, not necessarily: Mortal sin requires that we both understand the gravity of an evil and consent to it fully. Obviously there could be many mitigating circumstances, from a failure to recognize the evil to a lack of freedom in the position in which one finds oneself.

Yet the Church could make formal excommunication automatic for all mobsters latae sententiae, as she has for all who participate in abortions, or she could excommunicate all mobsters as a class ferendae sententiae. This would be a huge wake-up call even for those (if any) who are not guilty of mortal sin. It would force people to clarify their commitments, to recognize God’s will more clearly, to face reality and make a decisive choice.

However, that is not what Pope Francis was doing in this homily. What he was doing was stating that there are some commitments, choices and actions which either fracture or completely break our communion with Christ, even without a formal sentence of excommunication. He was demonstrating by example that it is not wrong to speak clearly about those who, despite their continued use of the Catholic name, have rebelled against God and ceased to be members of His Church.

“Do Not be Afraid of Confession”

“Confession is a reality check when I recognise how far I still have to go in the Christian life and receive the grace to go forward.”
London, March 07, 2014 (Zenit.org)

A Lenten Pastoral Letter from Bishop Mark Davies of Shrewsbury, England, to be read at Mass in all churches and chapels of the Diocese on the First Sunday of Lent, 9th March 2014:

My dear brothers and sisters, “I would like to ask you – but don’t say it aloud, everyone respond in his or her heart: when was the last time you made your Confession?” This is the question Pope Francis has recently put to us. The Holy Father continued: “Everyone think about it …” is it “two days, two weeks, two years, twenty years, forty years?”… And if much time has passed, do not lose another day. Go, the priest will be good. Jesus is there, and Jesus is more benevolent than priests, Jesus receives you, he receives you with much love.

Be courageous and go to Confession!” (General Audience of the Holy Father, 19th February 2014). This is the call of Pope Francis which I wish to echo at the beginning of Lent in this year which we have dedicated in the Diocese to peace and reconciliation (Pastoral Letter for Peace Sunday 19th January 2014).

For more of this article
And
Go to: Good confession – Catholics Come Home

Theologians at the United Nations

By WESLEY PRUDEN:

With my comments in italic

The U.N.’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, based in Geneva, scorches the Vatican for its transfers of errant — and in many cases, criminal — priests from one parish to another, in some cases giving a predator a virgin field for exploiting rapacious lust.

The parish environment is a sanctuary for some priests who, “by design,” find shelter under the cover of the Church to fulfill their desire to contact and prey on the most vulnerable—the children. How can the Church be aware of every man’s dedication and desire. The seminaries do the best job they can.

There’s little the Vatican can say about the scandal of its priests except to say it’s sorry, and the Roman church has done that. More than that, the Vatican has taken some steps to make sure that scandal will be resolved and certain amends made. But there’s a lot more to do, as the Vatican concedes.
If Pope Francis wants a few pointers on how to resolve this scandal permanently, I could offer the obvious tips. If priests must suppress the most compelling of natural or human instincts.
Rome will continue to recruit a large number of undesirables, men who are constitutionally unable to live up to the teachings of the church, no matter how hard they try.
The cruel irony is that little boys, struggling through the tender years of childhood, will suffer most. That’s not what Christian teaching is about, and the pedophile scandal hurts every Christian congregation, Catholic and Protestant alike. A priest, like every man, needs the civilizing influence of a woman.

The Meaning here is, every man needs the civilized influence of a mother.

Case in point about mothers: I have a brother and a sister. My mother was, I believe, neurotic and fringe-psychosis. My brother, in his boyhood, suffered under her an exposure-dominated relationship. The result of which led him to have, mentally, an unhealthy attitude of how he was to act. He never received professional help. Eventually he found an escape by going in the seminary; the shelter he was looking for failed and he was turned away. That setback caused him to loose his faith in the Church and then he quickly married a woman who also had a unhealthy relationship, but with her father. The marriage was traumatic—he continued to expose his ill behavior. Now my tormented brother is 80 and in a nursing home with dementia and unresponsive. Need I say more.

“The [U.N.] committee is gravely concerned that the Holy See has not acknowledged the extent of the crimes committed,” But the U.N. criticizes the Vatican for its “attitudes” on homosexuality, contraception and abortion, and piously says it should change its doctrines to make sure the rights of children, and their access to health care, are not abridged.

The U.N. is acting hypocritical by accusing the Church. The Committee on the Rights of the Child has not acknowledged its own crime, the promotion of abortion—the loss of countless unborn children.

The U.N. is obviously less concerned about the children than about taking shots at one of the important institutions of Western culture.

Pedophilia is a crime with neither justification nor defense, and neither are honor killings, female genital mutilation, gassing of children or recruiting children to fight wars that entertain imams and ayatollahs in certain benighted precincts of the Middle East. Where is the outrage?
Where is the outrage over the fact that Saudi Arabia, Syria and Uganda, where some of the worst crimes occur, have been members of the Committee on the Rights of the Child?

The theologians at the U.N. could instruct, with the firmness and passion it seeks to instruct Rome about changing its doctrines on homosexuality and abortion, that every man and every woman have the God-given right to decide for themselves what to believe, or whether to believe at all, and to change beliefs whenever it suits without worrying about the official goon and his beheading knife.
The religious teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, and indeed of any faith, is nobody else’s business unless or until it violates secular law. The children of the world deserve better than lives as pawns in a sordid political game.

Read more: http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2014/feb/6/pruden-theologians-at-the-united-nations/#ixzz2tnKCEWiW
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