Archives for August 2010

Elsewhere: Christ not Christianity


Anne Rice, a well known novelist and Catholic “revert” (from atheism), has declared that she loves Christ but not Christians. Reading what she wrote, it is clear to me that she rejects Christ’s Church. In essence, she is proclaiming a special theology in which she is the only member.

This is nothing new, of course. Many people have their very own, customized versions of Christianity. They reject Church authority, interpret Holy Scripture to their liking and disregard the rest. Nothing is sinful, unless they say it is. Nothing is immoral unless it clashes with the value system they personally evolve. Truth is always relative.

In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life.

Personally, I find it very offensive that she says this in Christ’s name. If she is going to do so, she should know what she is talking about! Moving on, there is clearly a great deal of confusion jammed into few words.

The Church is not anti-gay in the slightest, but condemns all sinful acts for the sake of souls. We are pro-life and pro-family – which artificial birth control perverts. The Catholic Church has a distinguished and continuing history in support of science and all that it reveals of God’s creation. We are certainly not anti-Democrat or against any other political party. We are pro-God and place Him first.

She has us on the anti-secular humanism charge. The dictionary defines it as “the doctrine emphasizing a person’s capacity for self-realization through reason; rejects religion and the supernatural.”

The Anchoress (a/k/a Elizabeth Scalia) has a somewhat different and more scholarly analysis from mine:

So, what she is refusing is not so much church teaching, which she incorrectly represents, but the worldly distortion of church teaching both as it is misunderstood and too-often practiced. I do not know how anyone could read the USCCB’s pastoral letter, “Always Our Children” and then make a credible argument that the church is “anti-gay.”

But then, I do not know how anyone can read Humanae Vitae and credibly call the church anti-feminist or anti-humanist.

I do not know how anyone can read Pope John Paul II’s exhaustive teachings on the Theology of the Body and credibly declare the church to be reactionary on issues of sexuality or womanhood.

I do not know how anyone can read Gaudium et Spes and credibly argue that the church is out of touch with the Human Person or Society.

I do not know how anyone can read Fides et ratio and credibly argue that the church does not hold human reason in esteem.

I do not know how anyone can look at the Vatican supporting and funding Stem Cell Research, or the even the briefest list of religiously-inclined scientists and researchers and credibly argue that Christianity is “anti-science.”

Anne Rice wants to do the Life-in-Christ on her own, while saying “Yes” to the worldly world and its values. She seems not to realize that far from being an Institution of No, the church is a giant and eternal urging toward “Yes,”, that being a “yes” toward God – whose ways are not our ways, and who draws all to Himself, in the fullness of time – rather than a “yes” to ourselves.

Please read the entire article.

Either way you may look at it (at face value as I tend to – or more charitably as Elizabeth does), Anne Rice is wrong. We must pray for her and pray that her high-profile remarks do not lead others from the truth.

Elsewhere: where Catholics marry


Catholics take marriage very seriously. Marriage is a life-long vocation and getting wed is a sacrament.

Yet, due to the influences of secular society, some Catholics ask to wed in venues outside of a church. As it happens, even some priests serving as chaplains on cruise ships would sometimes agree to on-board weddings (now explicitly forbidden by the Vatican).

Recently, Father Serpa addressed this on Catholic Answers in his apologetics forum response to a question on the topic.

I find it a sign of the times that we so often get this question and others like it. Why can’t we be married at the beach or in our family home?

No one ever asks if an ordination to the priesthood or the final profession of a religious sister or brother can take place in a garden. These vocations are automatically associated with the worship of God and it is understood that a church is a building specifically designed for and designated as a place for worship, i.e., acknowledging God to be who He is. It is unlike any other place.

Unfortunately, weddings make a lot of money for a lot of people. So our culture demands a whole array of unnecessary attachments to this most significant and sacred of events–to the point that they take over. There is a television series-not an individual program, but a series–that is just about the wedding dress. Week after week young women are encouraged to obsess over a dress they will wear only once-hopefully. Recently I noticed in the TV listings a program about Disney dream weddings. The further weddings become whimsical fantasies, the less likely the bride is to be grounded in what the wedding and marriage are really all about.

Like the ordination to the priesthood and the profession of the vows of religious life, marriage is all about GOD! The bride and the groom are all about God, because everyone who has ever lived is all about God. We are His idea. He created us for Himself. Union with God is the goal of every Christian vocation, including marriage. In fact, Pope John Paul II called marriage the primordial vocation because it peoples all other vocations. Our blessed Lord likened the relationship He has with His Church to the relationship of husband and wife.

The further away the wedding wanders from its sublime God-centered context, the more obscure its significance becomes in society. Certainly, Mass can be celebrated anywhere. But it is most appropriately celebrated in church and for the most part, it is. The Church, in the light of a secular world that relegates religion to the sidelines, very wisely insists that Catholic weddings take place in church. It is sadly another sign of the times that so many priests and religious of my generation haven’t a clue to all this.

Fr. Vincent Serpa, O.P.

The Last Supper

Last Supper

It is Thursday, just before dinner. Our Lord is tired but there will be no rest. For the most part, His ministry is over and the foundation of His Church laid. Time is now short.

This week has been a busy one. After arriving by donkey last Sunday, He spent the entire night in Bethany praying. Returning to Jerusalem for the day on Monday, He cleansed the Temple (yet again). Tuesday was filled with teaching then retiring to the Mount of Olives. Yesterday, a woman anointed Him with an expensive jar of alabaster in the home of Simon the leper. Judas began his plot of betrayal.

There will be no sleep tonight. In the Garden of Gethsemane Jesus will pray, be betrayed and condemned by religious leaders. He will stand before Pilate and Herod. By morning Pilate’s “sentence” will be swiftly and zealously carried out. Tomorrow afternoon He will be dead.

Tonight’s Passover celebration will be the final meal with the twelve. How will this precious time be used?

Recall this part of what we now call the Bread of Life Discourse:

Jesus said to them, “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”

This shocked and confused his disciples. Many left Him, but by their faith (if not understanding) the twelve remained. Jesus did not call to those who left nor explain Himself in any other way. His words were clear, blunt and not symbolic. Those who chose to leave correctly understood this.

This night – this last meal – would not be about earthly sustenance. Nor would it be a time for parables. Time was far too short for symbolism. No, tonight Jesus would give the Apostles holy food in the form of His body and blood. This is the means by which He will remain in direct communion with us. This is what He spoke of earlier.

While they were at supper he took bread, said the blessing, broke the bread and gave it to his disciples saying:

Take this, all of you, and eat it: this is my body which will be given up for you.

“This is my body” were Jesus words (widely accepted as accurately translated). Jesus could have said “this represents my body” or “accept this bread in memory of my physical sacrifice” or similar phraseology. He did not. This was no time to be obtuse. He said simply, plainly and without any ambiguity what-so-ever “this is my body.”

In the same way, he took the cup filled with wine. He gave thanks and giving the cup to his disciples said:

Take this, all of you, and drink from it: this is the cup of my blood, the blood of the new and everlasting covenant. It will be shed for you and for all so that sins may be forgiven. Do this in memory of me.

“This is the cup of my blood” was similarly intended. Jesus could easily have shown other intent with a longer explanation or using a word other than “is.” He did not because He said what He meant.

Jesus chose this night, in this last meal, to give us the Eucharist. The words He said to consecrate bread into His Holy Body and wine into His Precious Blood are said unchanged in the Catholic Mass. Those words are said “in persona Christi” (“in the person of Christ“) under His authority through the direct succession of the Apostles.

In that upper room, Jesus invited us to consume His flesh and blood as true food and true drink. In doing so that night, those present joined themselves to Him, and He to them. Catholics do the same at every Mass. We do not re-enact the Last Supper but continue His earthly feast and our direct, personal intimacy with Him. Happy are those who are called to His supper!