Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Where have you been, Art?

Hi folks! I have been recuperating from an operation and during that time, I was doing several medical opinions for attorneys. It left me with little time to get my thoughts together. I am now back at regular work and I will get into the swing of things. There will be more posts to to come!

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

I Told You So!

Over the years, I have had many discussions with non-Catholics: some amiable, some not. One thing I have always reminded them about is that, in the end, the Catholic Church is the One True Church founded by Jesus Christ and that apart from her, there is no salvation. This has, of course, led to many a heated discussion with Prots lining up Bible verses that speak about faith while ignoring those that speak about the Church. After I have demonstated conclusively that the Bible clearly teaches a corporate message of salvation, not an individual one, the last line of argument of my opponents has always been: "Well, the Second Vatican Council called us separated brethren and you're are not compatible with that."

In rebuttal, I have always pointed these folks to Lumen Gentium 14 which says:

14. This Sacred Council wishes to turn its attention firstly to the Catholic faithful. Basing itself upon Sacred Scripture and Tradition, it teaches that the Church, now sojourning on earth as an exile, is necessary for salvation. Christ, present to us in His Body, which is the Church, is the one Mediator and the unique way of salvation. In explicit terms He Himself affirmed the necessity of faith and baptism(124) and thereby affirmed also the necessity of the Church, for through baptism as through a door men enter the Church. Whosoever, therefore, knowing that the Catholic Church was made necessary by Christ, would refuse to enter or to remain in it, could not be saved.

They are fully incorporated in the society of the Church who, possessing the Spirit of Christ accept her entire system and all the means of salvation given to her, and are united with her as part of her visible bodily structure and through her with Christ, who rules her through the Supreme Pontiff and the bishops. The bonds which bind men to the Church in a visible way are profession of faith, the sacraments, and ecclesiastical government and communion. He is not saved, however, who, though part of the body of the Church, does not persevere in charity. He remains indeed in the bosom of the Church, but, as it were, only in a "bodily" manner and not "in his heart."(12*) All the Church's children should remember that their exalted status is to be attributed not to their own merits but to the special grace of Christ. If they fail moreover to respond to that grace in thought, word and deed, not only shall they not be saved but they will be the more severely judged.(13*)

Catechumens who, moved by the Holy Spirit, seek with explicit intention to be incorporated into the Church are by that very intention joined with her. With love and solicitude Mother Church already embraces them as her own.

124 Cf. Mc 16, 16; Jn. 3, 5.

(12*) Cfr. S. Augustinus, Bapt. c. Donat. V, 28, 39; PL 43, 197: Certe manifestum est, id quod dicitur, in Ecdesia intus et foris, in corde, non in corpore cogitandum. Cfr. ib., III, 19, 26: col. 152; V, 18, 24: col. 189; In Io. Tr. 61, 2: PL 35, 1800, et alibi saepe.

(13*) Cfr. Lc. 12, 48: Omni autem, cui multum datum est, multum quaeretur ab eo. Cfr. etiam Mt. 5, 19-20; 7, 21-22; 25 41-46; Iac., 2, 14.


But like good prots, they do the same thing to the Documents of VCII that they do to Scripture: they ignore the parts of VCII that do not meet their preconcieved conclusions.

When the document Dominus Iesus was promulgated back in 2000, we had another spurt of criticisms by the unlettered who claimed that it "reversed" the teaching of VCII. But in fact it reitereted what LG 14 had said:

16. The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff.; Gal 3:28; Eph 4:15-16; Acts 9:5). Therefore, the fullness of Christ's salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord. Indeed, Jesus Christ continues his presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church (cf. Col 1:24-27),(47) which is his body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13, 27; Col 1:18).(48) And thus, just as the head and members of a living body, though not identical, are inseparable, so too Christ and the Church can neither be confused nor separated, and constitute a single “whole Christ”.(49) This same inseparability is also expressed in the New Testament by the analogy of the Church as the Bride of Christ (cf. 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-29; Rev 21:2,9).(50)

Therefore, in connection with the unicity and universality of the salvific mediation of Jesus Christ, the unicity of the Church founded by him must be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith. Just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ: “a single Catholic and apostolic Church”.(51) Furthermore, the promises of the Lord that he would not abandon his Church (cf. Mt 16:18; 28:20) and that he would guide her by his Spirit (cf. Jn 16:13) mean, according to Catholic faith, that the unicity and the unity of the Church — like everything that belongs to the Church's integrity — will never be lacking.(52) The Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is an historical continuity — rooted in the apostolic succession (53) — between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church: “This is the single Church of Christ... which our Saviour, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care (cf. Jn 21:17), commissioning him and the other Apostles to extend and rule her (cf. Mt 28:18ff.), erected for all ages as ‘the pillar and mainstay of the truth' (1 Tim 3:15). This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in [subsistit in] the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him”.(54) With the expression subsistit in, the Second Vatican Council sought to harmonize two doctrinal statements: on the one hand, that the Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, and on the other hand, that “outside of her structure, many elements can be found of sanctification and truth”,(55) that is, in those Churches and ecclesial communities which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church.(56) But with respect to these, it needs to be stated that “they derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”.(57 )

17. Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.(58) The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches.(59) Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church....(60)

22. With the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity (cf. Acts 17:30-31).(90) This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism “characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another'”.(91) If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.(92) However, “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged”.(93) One understands then that, following the Lord's command (cf. Mt 28:19-20) and as a requirement of her love for all people, the Church “proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way,
the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). In him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19), men find the fullness of their religious life”.(94)

(47) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen
gentium, 14.

(48) Cf. ibid., 7.

(49) Cf. St. Augustine, Enarratio in Psalmos, Ps. 90, Sermo 2,1: CCSL 39, 1266; St. Gregory the Great, Moralia in Iob, Praefatio, 6, 14: PL 75, 525; St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 48, a. 2 ad 1.

(50) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen
gentium, 6.

(51) Symbolum maius Ecclesiae Armeniacae: DS 48. Cf. Boniface VIII, Unam sanctam: DS 870-872; Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.

(52) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio,
4; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 11: AAS 87 (1995), 927.

(53) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 20; cf. also St. Irenaeus, Adversus haereses, III, 3, 1-3: SC 211,
20-44; St. Cyprian, Epist. 33, 1: CCSL 3B, 164-165; St. Augustine, Contra adver. legis et prophet., 1, 20, 39: CCSL 49, 70.

(54) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen
gentium, 8.

(55) Ibid.; cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 13. Cf. also Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 15 and the Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.

(56) The interpretation of those who would derive from the formula subsistit in the thesis that the one Church of Christ could subsist also in non-Catholic Churches and ecclesial communities is therefore contrary to the authentic meaning of Lumen gentium. “The Council instead chose the word subsistit precisely to clarify that there exists only one ‘subsistence' of the true Church, while outside her visible structure there only exist elementa Ecclesiae, which — being elements of that same Church — tend and lead toward the Catholic Church” (Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Notification on the Book “Church: Charism and Power” by Father Leonardo Boff: AAS 77 [1985], 756-762).

(57) Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.

(58) Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, 1: AAS 65 (1973), 396-398.

(59) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio,
14 and 15; Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Letter Communionis notio, 17: AAS 85 (1993), 848.

(60) Cf. First Vatican Council, Constitution Pastor aeternus: DS 3053-3064; Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 22.

(90) Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen
Gentium, 17; John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 11.

(91) John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 36.

(92) Cf. Pius XII, Encyclical Letter Mystici corporis: DS 3821.

(93) Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen
gentium, 14.

(94) Second Vatican Council, Declaration Nostra aetate, 2.


But they were STILL not persuaded, and I was open to more vilification.

Well, now we have the new document "Responses to Some Questions Regarding Certain Aspects of the Doctrine on the Church" which leaves no doubt as to what the Catholic Church teaches on this matter. In particular:

What is the meaning of the affirmation that the Church of Christ subsists in the Catholic Church?

Christ “established here on earth” only one Church and instituted it as a “visible and spiritual community”
[5], that from its beginning and throughout the centuries has always existed and will always exist, and in which alone are found all the elements that Christ himself instituted.[6] “This one Church of Christ, which we confess in the Creed as one, holy, catholic and apostolic […]. This Church, constituted and organised in this world as a society, subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the successor of Peter and the Bishops in communion with him”.[7]

In number 8 of the Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium ‘subsistence’ means this perduring, historical continuity and the permanence of all the elements instituted by Christ in the Catholic Church[8], in which the Church of Christ is concretely found on this earth.

It is possible, according to Catholic doctrine, to affirm correctly that the Church of Christ is present and operative in the churches and ecclesial Communities not yet fully in communion with the Catholic Church, on account of the elements of sanctification and truth that are present in them.[9] Nevertheless, the word "subsists” can only be attributed to the Catholic Church alone precisely because it refers to the mark of unity that we profess in the symbols of the faith (I believe... in the “one” Church); and this “one” Church subsists in the Catholic Church.[10]

[5] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 8.1.

[6] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.2; 3.4; 3.5; 4.6.

[7] Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution, Lumen Gentium, 8.2.

[8] Cf. Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, 1.1: AAS 65 [1973] 397; Declaration Dominus Iesus, 16.3: AAS 92 [2000-II] 757-758; Notification on the Book of Leonardo Boff, OFM, “Church: Charism and Power”: AAS 77 [1985] 758-759.

[9] Cf. John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 11.3: AAS 87 [1995-II] 928.

[10] Cf. Second Vatican Council, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, 8.2.


So to all of those people who have given me grief over the years and told me that I did not understand the teaching of my own Catholic Church: I TOLD YOU SO!

Tuesday, July 3, 2007

Springtime for Luther and Germany!

Bouncing around the web, I have run into several articles where Mr. James Swan and other dyspeptic Protestants have taken umbrage to my opinion of both Martin Luther, arch-heresiarch and apostate, and Fr. Joeph Lortz, a Catholic priest who was a fan of both Martin Luther and ADOLPH HITLER.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Fr. Lortz was both an admirer of Hitler and an APOLOGIST for Nazism. When Mein Kampf was published it was widely scorned in the Catholic Press. Fr. Lortz on the other hand wrote a pamphlet DEFENDING the book and making the case that Nazism and Catholicism were compatible. In fact he was a card carrying member of the Nazi party from 1930 all the way through the end of World War II. After the war, Fr. Lortz claimed that he had tried to quit the party when he had seen the excesses of Nazism, but that they wouldn't let him. Like Michael Corleone, "Everytime I tried to get out they pulled me back in." All we can say is that at the cessation of hostilities, Fr. Lortz's party dues were paid up.

Mr. Swan and his refluxing compatriots extol Fr. Lortz because he took a positive attitude towards Luther and broke with the usual Catholic criticisms of the man as a heretic who was intemperate in word and deed as well as mentally unstable and emotionally disturbed. Mr. Swan in particular likes to poke fun at the works of German priests Fr. Heinrich Denifle and Fr. Hartmann Grisar who both wrote multi-volume studies of Luther's life and writings and who found several serious flaws in the man. Fr. Denifle was a world class expert on medieval texts and Fr. Grisar was a renowned Church historian. Their works evaluated Luther in greater depth than the cursory pseudo-hagiography that he receives in most Protestant biographies.

Fr. Grisar's multi-volume work on Luther in English translation is available free on the Internet:


Fr. Denifle's books are also available on line in German:


In America in the 1910s, Professor Preserved Smith from Amherst College wrote several articles and books analyzing Luther from a Freudian perspective and finding evidence of psycho-pathology in him.

In 1937, a Copenhagen Psychiatrist, Paul J. Reiter MD wrote a 2 volume study, Martin Luther's World Character and Psychosis and the Influence of These Factors on his Development and Teachings which also demonstrated in detail from his own writings that Luther was mentally disturbed.

There is a review of Reiter's book here:


There was a brief summary of the findings of these scholars given in the Presidential address by Dr. William Langer delivered at the annual dinner of the American Historical Association at the Statler Hotel, New York City, on December 29, 1957:

Most striking, however, is the case of the greatest of the reformers, Martin Luther, who seems to me to reflect clearly the reaction of the individual to the situation I have been sketching. Luther left behind almost a hundred volumes of writings, thousands of letters, and very voluminous table-talk, suggesting an unusually self-analytical and self-critical personality.56 From all this material it has long been clear that he suffered from an abnormally strong sense of sin and of the immediacy of death and damnation. Tortured by the temptations of the flesh and repeatedly in conflict with a personalized demon, he was chronically oppressed by a pathological feeling of guilt and lived in constant terror of God's judgment. So striking were these traits that some of Luther's biographers have questioned his sanity.57

Here it is interesting to recall that one of our own colleagues, the late Professor Preserved Smith, as long ago as 1913, attacked the problem in an article entitled "Luther's Early Development in the Light of Psychoanalysis."58 Smith, who was remarkably Conversant with Freudian teaching when psychoanalysis was still in its early stage of development, considered Luther highly neurotic--probably driven to enter the monastery by the hope of finding a refuge from temptation and an escape from damnation, and eventually arriving at the doctrine of salvation by faith alone only after he had convinced himself of the impossibility of conquering temptation by doing penance. It may well be that Smith overdid his thesis, but the fact remains that his article was treated with great respect by Dr. Paul J. Reiter, who later published a huge and greatly detailed study of Luther's personality. Reiter reached the conclusion, already suggested by Adolf Hausrath in 1905, that the great reformer suffered from a manic-depressive psychosis, which, frequently associated with genius, involved a constant struggle with, and victory over, enormous psychological pressures. The point of mentioning all this is to suggest that Luther's trials were typical of his time. In any event, it is inconceivable that he should have evoked so great a popular response unless he had succeeded in expressing the underlying, unconscious sentiments of large numbers of people and in providing them with an acceptable solution to their religious problem.59
56. Karl Holl, "Luthers Urteile uber sich Selbst," Gesammelte Aufsätze zur Kirchengeschichte, I, Luther (Tübingen, 1921); Heinrich Böhmer, Road to Reformation; Martin Luther to the Year 1521 (Philadelphia, 1946), foreword; Karl A. Meissinger, Der katholische Luther (Munich, 1952), p. 2.

57. Hartmann Grisar, Luther (London, 1913-1917), I, 110 ff.; VI, chap. xxxvi, discusses many of these views but Grisar takes a more moderate stand. The most recent Catholic biography is that of Joseph Lortz, Die Reformation in Deutschland, which is a very model of reasonableness.

58. Amer. Jour. Psychology, XXIV (1913), 360-77.

59. Hausrath, Luthers Leben (Berlin, 1905); Reiter, Martin Luthers Umwelt, Charakter und Psychose (Copenhagen, 1937, 1941); Wilhelm Lange-Eichbaum, Genie, Irrsinn und Ruhm (4th
ed, Munich, 1956), pp. 375-78. See also Walther von Loewenich, "Zehn Jahre Lutherforschung," in Theologie und Liturgie, ed. Liemar Hennig (Cassell, 1952), pp. 119-70 and Martin Werner, "Psychologisches zum Klostererlebnis Martin Luthers," Schweiz. Zeitsch. für Psychologie, VII (1948), 1-18, who follows Smith's thesis closely. The argument hinges on the harshness of Luther's upbringing and the extent of his father fixation. Smith noted that on at least one occasion Luther asserted that he had entered the monastery to escape harsh treatment at home. His father's unalterable opposition to this step may have played a part in Luther's later decision to leave the monastery. According to Roland H. Bainton, Here I Stand: A Life of Martin Luther (New York, 1950), pp. 288 ff., Luther's decision (in 1525) to marry was at least in part due to his
wish to gratify his father's desire for progeny. Recent writers tend to explain away the harshness of Luther's youth, which indeed was probably less unusual and less important than Smith supposed. See Otto Scheel, Martin Luther (Tübingen, 1916); Böhmer, Martin Luther; Meissinger, Der katholische Luther; Robert H. Fife, The Revolt of Martin Luther (New York, 1957), pp. 5, 9, 99, 117 ff.; Bainton, Here I Stand, pp. 23, 25, 28 and chap. xxi passim, who insists that Luther's psychological troubles were of a strictly religious character, due to "tensions which medieval religion deliberately induced, playing alternately upon fear and hope."

More recently there have been other books on Luther which have confirmed much of what the two priests originally said:

Luther: An Experiment in Biography by Richard Marius (1975)

Luther: the Man and the Image by Herbert David Rix (1985)

Luther: The Christian between God and Death by Richard Marius (1999)

Here is a compilation of many worrisome statements by Luther that his defenders wish he had not written:


But still, Mr. Swan is on a one-man crusade to ignore this strand of modern scholarship and discredit people like me who want this information more widely disseminated. He insists that Fr. Lortz gives a more balanced picture of Luther and that all the rest of us are loony bigots. He dismisses scholars like Fr. Denifle, Fr. Grisar. Prof Smith, Dr. Reiter, Dr. Rix, Dr. Marius, etc. with a wave of his hand and we are supposed to believe that Luther was a great Christian hero who championed truth, justice, and the German way! We poor benighted Catholics need to get on the bandwagon and march to a Lutheran beat of rampant amoralism, purely forensic justification, and a religion based solely on what we have decided that we want to believe for ourselves.

And a Nazi shall lead the way...

Well, I think Mr. Swan needs a reality check. My pointing out Fr. Lortz's Nazi sympathies is not a mere ad hominem dismissal. Nazism -- as all ideologies -- had intellectual consequences and, as a Nazi, Lortz's admiration for Luther was not merely based on "fairness" or "scholarship". It was politically motivated and was a direct outgrowth of his Nazi ideology and Pan-German idealism.

The Nazi's LOVED Martin Luther. He was to them a great German hero who resisted the corrupting influence of non-Germanic outsiders like the Pope and the Southern European non-Aryan masses. Catholicism was to them an effeminate religion. Luther with his boldness and his support of unrestricted force (including rape, torture, mutilation, and execution) by the German Princes against the peasantry was their kind of guy. Luther was also a vituperate anti-Semite and recommended putting Jews to the sword in some of his writings. From a Nazi perspective, what's not to love?

There is a book Martin Luther: Hitler's Spiritual Ancestor by Peter F. Wiener that was published during WWII in England which is available free online which speaks about the admiration both Hitler and the Nazis had for Luther. You can read it here:


William Shirer in his magnum opus The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich also repeats this charge.

And then there is Karl Barth, the great Swiss Protestnst theolgoian. He had been teaching in Germany when the Nazis took over and he was instrumental in composing the Barmen Church Declaration which stated that Christianity and Nazism were incompatible. For his part in this, Barth was targeted for elimination and had to flee to Switzerland for his life.

Protestant scholar Robert McAfee Brown, wrote in Kairos: Three Prophetic Challenges to the Church, (Grand Rapids, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1990):

“Almost immediately after Hitler's seizure of power in 1933, Protestant Christians faced pressure to "aryanize" the Church, expel Jewish Christians from the ordained ministry and adopt the Nazi "Führer Principle" as the organizing principle of church government. In general, the churches succumbed to these pressures, and some Christians embraced them willingly. The pro-Nazi "German Christian" movement became a force in the church. They glorified Adolf Hitler as a "German prophet" and preached that racial consciousness was a source of revelation alongside the Bible. But many Christians in Germany—including Lutheran and Reformed, liberal and neo-orthodox—opposed the encroachment of Nazi ideology on the Church's proclamation. At Barmen, this emerging "Confessing Church" adopted a declaration drafted by Reformed theologian Karl Barth and Lutheran theologian Hans Asmussen, which expressly repudiated the claim that other powers apart from Christ could be sources of God's revelation. Not all Christians courageously resisted the regime, but many who did—like the Protestant pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Roman Catholic priest Bernhard Lichtenberg—were arrested and executed in concentration camps.”

Karl Barth argued that the Lutheran doctrine of the Two Swords made German Lutherans more susceptable to totalitarian takeovers and more passive towards unjust actions by the state. This doctrine originated with Luther himself. During the Reformation, political passivity and absolute support of the Prince/state to keep order was one of the prices that Lutherans had to pay in order to win the nobility away from Catholicism. By saying that Church and State wielded separate "swords" and that the Church should not interfere in state matters desensitized many Lutherans towards the horrors of the Nazi system. Around 85% of Lutheran ministers joined the pro-Nazi German Christian movement and large numbers of them wore Nazi regalia in the pulpit while preaching on Sunday.

For a balanced view of this complex historical issue see:


There is further evidence of the Nazi appropriation of Luther. Consecrated in 1935, the Martin Luther Memorial Church still stands in Berlin. Originally the Church bells and altar contained the swastika, but they were later removed because of post-war law that outlaws swastikas in Germany. Nevertheless, the church still retains many of the Nazi symbols and icons, including a muscular Aryan Jesus, Iron cross chandeliers, statues of Nazi stormtroopers, and a bust of Adolf Hitler. During the 30s, Nazi party members made up two thirds of the church attendance, where they also baptized their children.

The above picture from the church shows Nazi Soldiers and Aryan women surrounding a muscular Aryan Christ.

And above we have Adolph Hitler's likeness carved into the baptismal font. He is holding an SS serivce cap with a death's head emblem on the brim.

And here is a Nazi Luthertag [Luther Day] Commemorative Badge struck for Germany's Martin Luther Day on 10th November 1933. Strictly speaking not a Nazi award but, nevertheless, it was issued after Hitler's rise to power. Broad segments of the Nazi Party participated in Luther Day ceremonies across Germany every year.

Here are some quotations from Nazis about Luther especially highlighting his antipathy for Jews:


Luther was openly praised by Hitler in Mein Kampf. He referred to Martin Luther as a great warrior, a true statesmen, and a great reformer, alongside Richard Wagner and Frederick the Great. Here are some statements in this book about the Jews:


NB: This is the same book to which Fr. Lortz gave a glowing review.

The point of all this is to show that Fr. Lortz as a Nazi party member did not approach his study of Luther with scholarly detachment. He was motivated ideologically and politically to see Luther as not only a great man, but a great German, and a forerunner of Nazi ideology up to including its nacent anti-Semitism. Even after the war, Fr. Lortz continued to support a strong political leadership with totalitarian authority and found the democracies weak and ineffective. He had the same agenda for unifying Europe based upon Germanic Culture, an agenda that was not merely eurocentric but chauvinistic. He longed for the pre-Renaissance period in European history when the First Reich flourished. And he was still suspicious of foreign cultural influences. In essence, after World War II, Fr. Lortz was promoting the same things as a cure for the ennui of modernity that he had been advocating when the Nazis were in power except without the Swatikas, goose-stepping, and cool uniforms. And he never to my knowledge apologized for his involvement in Nazism. He just tried to "explain" it.

Meet the new Lortz: same as the old Lortz.

In summary, Fr. Lortz ignored a long standing school of Luther studies which had deep roots among Catholic scholars and replaced it instead with a "new direction" which just so happended to coincide with the Nazi appropriation of Luther as a German cultural icon. Meanwhile, support for the older critical view of Luther was growing even among Protestant scholars like Marius.

I proudly stand in the tradition of Fr. Denifle et al and I warn people that the foundation of the Protestant Deformation was in the psychopathology of one man-- Martin Luther -- whose melancholy and bipolar disorder touched a personal chord with many Northern Europeans but which had NOTHING to do with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It caused them to revolt against historic Christianity and to invent a new family of disparate religions that catered to bourgeosie morality and subjective personal needs, and not to either theological integrity or moral rectitude.

Fr. Lortz revolted against that tradition for political reasons and made excuses for Luther and Lutheranism in support of Nazism and its political agenda. As a Nazi, he saw Luther as a spiritual ancestor and forerunner of German cultural supremacy. Lortz's support of Nazism must be seen also as a support for all the horrors that the Nazis perpetrated on their world and the Nazis justified their program in part by referring back to Martin Luther and his teachings.

I leave it to my readers to decided which of us made the correct choice, and whose assessment of Luther is the most credible.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Aren't We always in a State of Mortal Sin?

During our debate in 1991, Mr. White asked me the following question:

Jesus told us that to gain eternal life we were to love God with our whole heart, mind, soul, and strength. But isn't it true that no one ever does that? Don't we always fail to love God enough? Isn't any sin a failure to keep that first and most important commandment? Aren't we always therefore in a state of Mortal sin?

What Mr. White was trying to justify the Calvinoid heresy of Total Depravity. But he had asked this question in other debates with Catholics so I was prepared for it. I responded:

That is a very poetic statement. but judged by the standards of poets, all of us are clumsy, anemic, and colorless boors. That is the problem with your interpretation. If we follow your reasoning to its logical conclusion, then we must do nothing but love God every minute of every day. We would not go to work. We would not feed our
children. We would not sleep or eat. Even the act of breathing would detract from our obligation to love God with everything we have.

No, James, this portion of Scripture is not meant to be taken in a crassly literal fashion. It is hyperbolic and allegorical. When I tell my wife that her eyes are limpid pools, and that I couldn't live without her, she actually knows that they are muddy brown and that if she were gone, I would learn to struggle on somehow. We need to understand the words of Jesus as an ethical statement that must be understood
practically. All he was telling us is that our love of God must be the first and most important relationship in our lives before all others. That is what the Three Evangelical Counsels undertaken by vowed religious are supposed to signify. These are Poverty, Chastity, and Obedience. The vow of Poverty means that you do not let any created thing come between you and God. The vow of Chastity does not merely deal with sex. In the religious life there is the discipline of "no particular
friendship" that also falls under this rubric so that you do not let any person come between you and God. Finally the vow of obedience is where we submit ourselves so totally that even your own self does not come between you and God.

God does not want to monopolize us. He just wants to be first in our affection. And He intends to reciprocate in kind. As St. Augustine taught, "God loves YOU as if you were the only creature that he had created."

If God gave us this commandment and told us that we needed to fulfill it but then set the standards so high that it was impossible, He would have been dishonest and cruel. Only a monster would place salvific obligations on mankind that were impossible to keep. But Jesus told us that his yoke was light and his burden was sweet. Therefore, he would not ask of us more than we could do and we need to interpret this commandment in a practical way, not an overly idealistic one.

Well, you can imagine Mr. White sputtering and his charges of how "unscholarly" and naive I was. He took umbrage because he thought that I was calling him a monster instead of warning him of what he was making God out to be.

But over the years I have realized that my answer was inadequate. There was more that needed to be said.

This is what Jesus actually taught in context:

Mat 22:35
And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him.
Mat 22:36
"Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the law?"
Mat 22:37
And he said to him, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.
Mat 22:38
This is the greatest and first commandment.
Mat 22:39
And the second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.
Mat 22:40
On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets."

On rereading this I realized that verse 39 is extremely crucial. It really does not add a second commandment. It tells us that that this other commandment is just like the first! But this other commandment tels us not only to love our fellow men and women, but also to love to love ourselves. At first I was confused but then I remembered what had been said elsewhere in Scripture:

Mat 25:31
"When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.
Mat 25:32
Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats,
Mat 25:33
and he will place the sheep at his right hand, but the goats at the left.
Mat 25:34
Then the King will say to those at his right hand, 'Come, O blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world;
Mat 25:35
for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,
Mat 25:36
I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.'
Mat 25:37
Then the righteous will answer him, 'Lord, when did we see thee hungry and feed thee, or thirsty and give thee drink?
Mat 25:38
And when did we see thee a stranger and welcome thee, or naked and clothe thee?
Mat 25:39
And when did we see thee sick or in prison and visit thee?'
Mat 25:40
And the King will answer them, 'Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'

Gen 9:5
For your lifeblood I will surely require a reckoning; of every beast I will require it and of man; of every man's brother I will require the life of man.
Gen 9:6
Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed;
for God made man in his own image.

And it all became clear to me. God has already told us that an ordinate love of our neighbor --and an ordinate love for ourselves -- is in itself love for God. All human beings carry God's image and so when we see ourselves and our fellow humans we should be seeing the image of God within. Loving our neighbor, feeding our children, eating, living, and breathing are all acts that honor God and glorify Him. When we fail to acknowledge the image of God in our fellow humans and in ourselves we are not breaking merely the second commandment. We are breaking the first. This extends even more so to those like Mary and the saints who bear in their lives a greater likeness to God than the ordinary person. To fail to honor them in proportion to their bearing of God's image is to fail to honor God rightly. And THAT would be a mortal sin.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Was the Good Samaritan Saved?

When I debated Mr. James "Pseudopodeo" White on the topic of Justification back in 1991, I asked him the question:

Was the Good Samaritan saved?

It was a trick question. No matter how he answered it, his Calvinoid system was in trouble. He did not realize that but he smelled a rat and instead of answering the question gave the dishonest excuse that since the Good Samaritan was not areal person, it was impossible to know.
In this post, we will explore this Gospel story and I will give you my response to Pseudopodeo's pitiful attempt at evading the obvious.
This is the story taken from St. Luke's Gospel:

Luke 10:25
And behold, a lawyer stood up to put him to the test, saying, "Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?"
Luke 10:26
He said to him, "What is written in the law? How do you read?"
Luke 10:27
And he answered, "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself."
Luke 10:28
And he said to him, "You have answered right; do this, and you will live."
Luke 10:29
But he, desiring to justify himself, said to Jesus, "And who is my neighbor?"
Luke 10:30
Jesus replied, "A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and he fell among robbers, who stripped him and beat him, and departed, leaving him half dead.
Luke 10:31
Now by chance a priest was going down that road; and when he saw him he passed by on the other side.
Luke 10:32
So likewise a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side.
Luke 10:33
But a Samaritan, as he journeyed, came to where he was; and when he saw him, he had compassion,
Luke 10:34
and went to him and bound up his wounds, pouring on oil and wine; then he set him on his own beast and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.
Luke 10:35
And the next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper, saying, 'Take care of him; and whatever more you spend, I will repay you when I come back.'
Luke 10:36
Which of these three, do you think, proved neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?"
Luke 10:37
He said, "The one who showed mercy on him." And Jesus said to him, "Go and do likewise."

The story begins when a Jewish scholar who was learned in the Mosaic Law (a kind of Rabbi) asks Jesus to give his interpretation of what was needed to gain "eternal life". In short, how does one get to heaven? Jesus responded by asking the scholar for his own opinion. The scholar answered quoting Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18 and Jesus affirmed that he was right.

But the scholar in good rabbinic fashion wanted to unpack this further and so he asked "And who is my neighbor?" St. Luke tells us that he actually wanted to "justify" himself. This is a euphemism for trying to make himself look good at Jesus' expense. There was an on going debate among the Rabbis whether or not a Jew had the same moral obligations to people outside the Mosaic Covenant that they did to those within the Covenant. For the sake of gaining eternal life, did one's conduct towards non-Jews "count".

Jesus turns the tables on him and tells a story instead of a non-Jew who comes to the aid of a Jew whom other Jews did not help. He even upped the ante. The ones who refused to help were a Priest and a Levite.

We need to make an important point about the story. The Jew who had been assaulted was "left half dead". This is a critical part of the story. Priests and Levites were ministers of the Temple and were forbidden to touch dead bodies or even blood other than that of sacrificial victims. Even in Jewish cemeteries today, there is a special area reserved for those of priestly lineage (kohanim) so that they will not render themselves unclean when attending a funeral or visiting a grave. When the Priest and the Levite passed by on the other side of the road, they were doing so out of a RELIGIOUS OBLIGATION. For all they knew, the man was dead and touching him would only defile them.

But then along comes the Samaritan. Again it is important that we understand who he is. The Samaritans were a Semitic people who lived in the area surrounding Mt. Gerizim in Israel. They were apparently descended from the Jewish tribes of Ephraim and Mannaseh, but when the Assyrians conquered Israel and carried most Jews into captivity, these people remained in Israel. The implication was that they were collaborators with the Assyrians. When the Jews returned from the exile, they shunned these people and the communities have been religiously separate ever since. The Samaritans have their own version of the Torah and their own traditions of observance separate from those of mainstream Judaism. they did not worship at the temple in Jerusalem but instead had their own rites performed on Mt. Gerizim.


At the time of Jesus, the Samaritans were looked upon by the Jews as heretics and infidels. They were considered even worse than the Romans because instead of being merely Gentiles (goyim) they were apostates. Family squabbles are always the worst.

So when the Samaritan came upon the injured Jew in the parable, he would have been considered the lowest of the low, a moral reprobate, and allegedly a person with no religious scruples. But because this man allegedly had no religious scruples (unlike the Priest and the Levite) there was nothing to prevent him from going to the wounded man's aid. Even the Jewish Scholar had to admit that the real neighbor to the injured Jew was the non-Jew who showed compassion to him. And Jesus advised the Scholar to be like that Samaritan and not like the Priest and the Levite.

So in this revolutionary parable, Jesus turned the world upside down. In the minds of the Jews in Jesus' day, the idea of a "good Samaritan" was an oxymoron while Priests and Levites were the most strictly observant of all Jews. Jesus extended the franchise for one's neighbor to include everyone even those considered to have abandoned the Mosaic Covenant. And he made it clear that such love was necessary to gain eternal life.

Now back to the debate.

After Pseudopodeo gave his evasive answer, I told him that it was a good thing that he did because whether he said "Yes" or "No" he would have been in trouble.

If he had said that the Good Samaritan was saved, it would have meant that someone who was NOT a Christian had gained eternal life by good works and not by faith in Christ.

If he had said that the Good Samaritan was not saved, then Jesus was holding up the behavior of a reprobate unbeliever as an example for us to emulate instead of the religious faithfulness of the Priest and the Levite.

Pseudopodeo became extremely angry and went into a tirade against me in his rebuttal, but he never dealt with the issue. That was pretty much how he responded during the entire debate.

So what of it? Was the Good Samaritan "saved"? We Catholics have no problem in accepting this. We understand that faith without works is dead and that good works are the fruit of a heart that loves God and -- more importantly -- is loved BY God.

It is obvious that Jesus rose above the bigotry of his Jewish co-religionists (and many of his subsequent followers) in seeing the good in men's hearts, even when they did not practice the true religion (which in his day was Judaism). As St. Peter would later say:

Act 10:34
And Peter opened his mouth and said: "Truly I perceive that God shows no partiality,
Act 10:35
but in every nation any one who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him.

If we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ we too must understand this. Jesus told us that Samaritans could be good (Luke 10:25-37), Publicans could be justified(Luke 18:10-14), and that a Roman Centurion could have more faith than any other man in Israel (Luke 7:9).

This can be a bitter pill for many religious people to swallow, but is essential to Christian discipleship that we acknowledge the good we find in other people who do not share our religious views. You see, salvation is a rescue mission, not a catechism quiz. It is God who saves us by his love and power, not we who save ourselves by our faith or our works. Those who seek him with an upright heart cannot fail to find him, even if they only do so with a flash of insight at the moment of death.

I wish that Mr. White could see that. But over the years he seems to have hardened his heart against his fellow men -- even those of us within Christianity -- who do not share his views. He continues to take every opportunity to attack, defame, misrepresent, and insult believers of other faiths. This is a danger about which all of us apologists need to be aware.

The real question each of us needs to ask himself is whether I have been a good neighbor, or just another religious pundit like the Priest and the Levite who has passed his brother on the wayside and left him for dead.

Monday, June 18, 2007

The Stupid Athiest: A Tautology

A Mason is obliged by his Tenure, to obey the moral law; and if he rightly understands the Art, he will never be a STUPID ATHEIST, nor an irreligious libertine.

The above declaration is read at the induction ceremony of a first degree Mason. I am not a Mason (No good Catholic can be) but I ran across this quotation in my reading and I have always admired the brashness of it. (Especially in light of the atheistic proclivities of Grand Orient Freemasonry.) Christians would think it terribly unkind to call an atheist "stupid" but unfortunately the reverse is not true. Being of a contentious sort myself, I think that we should "tell it like it is" and frankly, I find atheism to be the STUPIDEST idea I have ever heard.

Atheism is fraught with many internal contradictions. It attacks the act of faith IN God by affirming an epistemically similar act of faith AGAINST God. It declares that ultimately, nothing is ultimate! (?) The meaning of life is that there is no meaning to life. Human beings come from nowhere for no good reason and end up as rotting corpses having served no purpose in their lives. This is described to us as the "rational" way of life which will lead all men to true harmony. But since there is no melody, how can there be any harmony?

Then there are the self-serving denials. While we theists have to live down a rogues gallery of notorious religious fanatics, atheists have developed a virtual cottage industry in denying that any prominent atheist rotter was a "real" atheist. Lenin may not have believed in God, Enver Hoxha may have totally a suppressed religion in Albania, Stalin may have mocked Christ, Mao murdered millions in the name of no gods, and Hitler denied any need for a Supreme Being, but you will be happy to know that they were really not "real" atheists! They actually were non-theistic religious believers! Of course, that is not what collective atheism said immediately after the October Revolution. At that time they were all for the Communists. It seems you can only tell a "real" atheist in retrospect when he doesn't screw up. The strange thing is that as far as I can tell, atheist leaders have ALWAYS eventually screwed up and we poor benighted theists have had to go in and pick up the pieces. It seems that our modern atheists have decided that "rational" people not only must not believe in God. They also must not believe in anything. There can be no over-arching principle that might be the driving force behind one's life because THAT would be a religion. If we take that to its logical extreme and learn from the mistakes of the atheists of history, that means that atheists need to eschew the principles of atheism itself! Otherwise they will turn atheism into a religion. But isn't that notion of atheism a commitment to an over-arching principle? Doesn't that mean that all forms of atheism are a form of religious faith? Not according to the "real" atheists. They try to make a distinction between "real" atheists and "religious" atheists. But isn't that just a form of self-deception?

In other words, atheism reinvents itself in each new generation as the belief in no beliefs! (?) They do this in the hopes that everyone will be stupid enough not to connect previous forms of atheistic malfeasance with "new and improved" atheism. Then they go on to repeat the same mistakes that atheists had committed in the past. This is intellectual dishonesty and anarchy brought to a whole new nadir.

Christian theism has always tried to maintain a rational basis for its beliefs and practices from the very beginning. With regard to atheism, the Bible says:

Psalm 10:4 In the pride of his countenance the wicked does not seek [God]; all his thoughts are, "There is no God."

Psalm 14:1
To the choirmaster. Of David. The fool says in his heart, "There is no God." They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good.

Proverbs 1:7
The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.

Romans 1:19
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.
Romans 1:20
Ever since the creation of the world his invisible nature, namely, his eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse;
Romans 1:21
for although they knew God they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking and their senseless minds were darkened.
Romans 1:22
Claiming to be wise, they became fools...

So our Masonic friends have basically got it right. According to the Bible, the atheist is a fool and a moral reprobate. But there is something even more than that.

The very First Commandment of the Decalogue in Jewish tradition is:

Deuteronomy 5:6
YHWH is your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the house of bondage.

The next chapter expands this commandment:

Deuteronomy 6:4
"Hear, O Israel: YHWH is our God, YHWH is one ;
Deuteronomy 6:5
and you shall love the YHWH your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might.
Deuteronomy 6:6
And these words which I command you this day shall be upon your heart;
Deuteronomy 6:7
and you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise.
Deuteronomy 6:8
And you shall bind them as a sign upon your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes.
Deuteronomy 6:9
And you shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.

The point is that acknowledging YHWH as the one true God is COMMANDED of us. It is not an option. We are not merely permitted to believe in YHWH. We must do so.

Therefore atheism is not merely a foolish set of self contradictory ideas that leads to immorality. It is a sin against the first and greatest of the commandments. In short, atheism is a MORTAL SIN.

That is why the atheist must be rebuked. He is not being rational, or moral, or intellectually honest. He is committing the most fundamental of all sins and the one that make all forms of evil possible.

To commit a mortal sin is to act as if their were no God and no moral standard decreed by Him. It is functional atheism. Furthermore it is the stupidest act imaginable. Atheists themselves will try to argue that it is "better" to be an atheist. They thus acknowledge a hierarchy of values while at the same time denying that any such abstract hierarchy exists. The consistent atheist will admit that there are no moral standards and that anything goes which brings one personal satisfaction. But few atheists are consistent. Only people like De Sade, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Hoxha, Pol Pot, et cetera have lived consistently as atheists and their fellow atheists feel honor bound to condemn them.

It is this attachment to some sort of moral value, that is the last vestige of rationality in the atheist. Once the atheist abandons moral values, he has abandoned his reason and descended into both moral and intellectual stupidity. But it is so hard to get atheists to see this because they want to believe in something as long as it is not God. But any abstract idea such as right and wrong can have no universal epistemic value unless it exists in a mind. If there is a universal idea, there must be a universal mind: a Divine mind. And we are back to God.

The Reformed apologist Cornelius van Til stated it this way: Atheism presupposes Theism. I think he was right. Whenever someone thinks it is "better" to be an atheist than a theist, they are stating a universal idea that presupposes a universal hierarchy of values in a universal mind. They must believe in God in order to deny Him.

Atheism is the most serious of sins and it leads inexorably to all the other serious sins. as Jean Paul Sartre stated: If there is no God then all things are permitted. Yet "real" atheists go to great lengths to deny this. They need to listen to their own advocates to realize what they are really espousing.

Several years ago I was in dialog with an atheist on the web, and I asked him how he accounted for the existence of the universe. He told me that it "just was." I replied to him:

"I see. So this is what you are telling me:

Question: Why does the sun rise in the east and set in the west?
Answer: It just does.

Question: Why do people get malaria?
Answer: They just do.

Question: Why are people starving in Africa?
Answer: They just are.

Question: Why is there something instead of nothing?
Answer: There just is.

Essentially, you are copping out. The question "Why?" requires a comprehensive robust explanation for EVERYTHING and there is no final answer to it in the physical universe. The only sufficiently comprehensive answer to the question "Why?" is God. But in order to avoid admitting this, you have picked an ARBITRARY stopping point to forestall any further causal inquiry. Such an arbitrary stopping point can be set anywhere. Such a position represents the death of science, inquiry, knowledge, wisdom, and truth."

Theism gives us the most complete and intellectually valid understanding of the nature of reality. In grounds the existence of everything in a robust comprehensive cause that explains not only physical objects but ideas as well. Theism insists that things are as they are for a reason. Atheism ultimately can give us no satisfactory causal explanations. The idea of causation is one thing that makes man different from the animals. We can probe the depths of the ultimate causal question to its ultimate answer: God. He alone can explain why we are here. As such human epistemology is inherently theistic. As soon as we search for the reason why things are the way they are -- the ultimate act of rationality -- we are assuming a theistic worldview. As such, our reason OBLIGATES intellectually and morally us to believe in God.

So despite their protests, the atheists are stupid. They are guilty of intellectual and moral failings linked to their refusal to submit to any higher authority than their own preferences. But in their hearts many of them they know that there is a hierarchy of values and this is the one thing that can still save them. "The fear of YHWH is the beginning of knowledge." Until they realize that, they are not being intellectually honest, morally upright, logically consistent, or rational.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Another look at Judas Iscariot

The most vilified man in the history of Western civilization has been Judas Iscariot. His name alone conjures up the image of the ultimate betrayer. The conventional wisdom says that he was one of the 12 Apostles but was always a crook and a rotter who eventually betrayed God- Incarnate to his executioners for 30 pieces of silver. And then , wracked with guilt, Judas committed suicide.

Jewish author Hyam Maccoby in his book Judas Iscariot and the Myth of Jewish Evil (1992) opined that there was no historical Judas but that he was a personification of the Jewish people invented by the Early Church to vilify those Jews who did not follow Jesus. The very name "Judas" means "Jew" and Maccoby sees Judas Iscariot as the first Christian target of anti-Semitism.

Some modern authors have tried to rehabilitate Judas and make him into a(n) (anti-) hero who has been misunderstood. Such is the case in Tim Rice's Musical musical Jesus Christ: Superstar.

Recently, a 2nd Century gnostic Gospel of Judas has been discovered which portrays the other 11 Apostles as opportunists trying to set up a new "fleshy" religious system to make themselves rich. Judas is depicted as the only disciple to really understand Christ's message of "spiritual" salvation. For this reason, Judas betrays Jesus so that his "fleshy container" enclosing the God-spirit can be destroyed and the spirit let free. Judas acts out of contempt for the body at Jesus' behest. As a result, the 11 other Apostles supposedly stoned Judas and made up the story of his suicide.

I submit that all of these are ridiculous distortions of Judas that do not pay attention to what the Bible actually says about him. I submit the following ideas as an attempt to better understand who Judas really was, what he did, why he did it, and how we should understand him.

First of all, Judas Iscariot was one of the Twelve Apostles chosen by Jesus himself to be in his inner circle and literally in his messianic Sanhedrin. For this reason, even as a child I could never understand why Jesus would have let an evil person get so close to him. There must have been something good -- if not exemplary -- in this man for Jesus to have elevated him to such an intimate relationship with Him. I cannot believe that Jesus would pick someone just to be His betrayer. There must have been more depth and character to Judas of which we are unaware.

Much is made of Judas's surname "Iscariot". It is believed to be a variant on the word "Sicarii" which is the plural of the Latin word for "dagger" and was used as a euphemism for a contract-killer. There was a Jewish insurgent group called the Sicarii who advocated the overthrow of the Romans and were prone to violence and murder. But Judas became a follower of Jesus who did not advocate the use of force but of love of God and neighbor and reasoned discourse. If Judas had been a Sicarii, he must have given it up to follow Christ. Jesus made fools of his enemies by tripping them up and outsmarting them. Jesus was always eloquent and no one bested Him an an argument. By becoming not only a follower of Jesus but an Apostle, Judas must have eschewed the use of force in favor of didactic disputation. In many ways, Jesus' method was like that of the great prophets of old who likewise used words and stories as their primary way of motivating the people. Judas may have seen Jesus Messiah as a new prophet/king who would come to rule Israel with wisdom and truth.

The Gospels tend to magnify Judas' faults and portray him as a hypocrite. We are told that he held the common purse of the group and stole from it (John 12:6). But is that not a mere peccadillo of which many of us are guilty? Who hasn't padded an expense account or somehow funded a pet project from company funds? Mea culpa! I find the fact that Jesus trusted Judas with money to indicate that he was a better candidate to do so than any of the other disciples. He may have dipped into the till, but he also may have been very careful with how the money was spent and kept everyone on a budget. Maybe the other Apostles resented how Judas controlled the purse strings. Nobody likes a bean-counter.

We are also told that Judas was possessed by Satan (Luke 22:3, John 13:2) who goaded him into betraying Jesus. Demonic possession is rarely willed by the victim and one cannot necessarily be held responsible for one's actions when the possessing spirit has taken active control of the body.

In St. John's Gospel, Jesus is depicted as controlling all events. After the Devil enters Judas, Jesus says to him "What you are going to do, do quickly." and Judas went out to fetch the mob to arrest Jesus. Was he addressing Judas, or Satan, or both of them? It is obvious from all the Gospels that Jesus knew Judas was gong to betray him ahead of time. Yet He let it happen.

In summation, we have a highly placed and trusted disciple of Jesus with a history of violent insurgent activity in his past who had flaws and was the victim of demonic deception. This is the man who betrays Jesus to the High Priest and the Sanhedrin. And it looks like Jesus knew what he was up to and encouraged him to do so. Why did he do it? Did he intend to have Jesus killed? Was he just after money? Was Judas alone in his betrayal of Jesus?

At this point I want to draw attention to a parallel between Judas and St. Peter. BOTH were highly placed and highly trusted disciples. BOTH had a penchant for impulsiveness and violence. BOTH were warned by Jesus that they would betray Him. And BOTH were depicted as being possessed by Satan when they opposed our Lord's teaching about himself. But I think there was a specific difference about them.

St. Peter expected Jesus to declare himself the true Davidic king of the Jews and to lead a revolt against the Romans. he was willing to fight to try and save his Lord from the mob in the Garden of Gethsemane and actually followed Jesus into the High Priest's house in order to try and set Him free.

Judas Iscariot had eschewed his violent past and had become the disciple of the wisest man in Israel who could out-think and out-argue the cleverest Pharisee or Sadducee. He was looking forward to a non-violent kingdom where Jesus by His preaching would be acclaimed as King of the Jews without the need for any fighting.

We know what happened to St. Peter. He tried violence and it didn't work and so he resigned himself having his Lord be crucified. And we know how Jesus later forgave him and rehabilitated him.

What happened with Judas?

I sincerely believe that Judas did not intend to betray Jesus to his death. Instead I think that was trying to goad Jesus into a final confrontation with the High Priest which he thought Jesus would win.

Likely Judas had high hopes that when Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph He would cleanse the Temple and depose the Sadducean priestly faction which had charge of it. There were at least six other competing priestly groups that could have filled that void. But instead, Jesus tells parables and embarrasses the Pharisees and Sadducees, but does not depose them or try to alter the status quo.

Judas could have perceived this as a missed opportunity and decided that all Jesus needed was the right venue and the right situation to undermine the Jewish leaders and have the people rise up against them. With His eloquence, Jesus would make fools of them and they would be run out of town.

So he decided to go to the High Priest and offers to turn Jesus over to him to be tried as a heretic. Judas knew that under Roman occupation, the High Priest had no power to execute anyone and with Jesus' popularity Judas doubted that the Sadducees would ever try to have him assassinated. They would be the first suspects and the Romans would have taken that as an excuse to execute them. He was also quite sure that no Jew would ever turn a fellow Jew over to the hated Romans over a purely religious dispute. I think that he expected Jesus would have had a public trial before the Sanhedrin where His rhetorical skills would triumph and no one would get hurt.

When they offered Judas money, it was icing on the cake. The fools would be paying for their own destruction! Meanwhile, the money could go back into the purse and would be used to subsidize the Church.

(There is an interesting parallel here with OT sacrifice rules in the Book of Leviticus:

Lev 5:14
The LORD said to Moses,
Lev 5:15
"If any one commits a breach of faith and sins unwittingly in any of the holy things of the LORD, he shall bring, as his guilt offering to the LORD, a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued by you in shekels of silver, according to the shekel of the sanctuary; it is a guilt offering.
Lev 5:16
He shall also make restitution for what he has done amiss in the holy thing, and shall add a fifth to it and give it to the priest; and the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering, and he shall be forgiven.
Lev 5:17
"If any one sins, doing any of the things which the LORD has commanded not to be done, though he does not know it, yet he is guilty and shall bear his iniquity.
Lev 5:18
He shall bring to the priest a ram without blemish out of the flock, valued by you at the price for a guilt offering, and the priest shall make atonement for him for the error which he committed unwittingly, and he shall be forgiven.
Lev 5:19
It is a guilt offering; he is guilty before the LORD."

Note that Jesus was "bought" for thirty shekels of silver (the going value for a male slave) and that Judas tried to make restitution by buying Jesus back from the priests with silver. The priests took the money and they still sacrificed Jesus, the Lamb of God as a guilt offering for sin albeit unwittingly.

It should be noted that an "unwitting sin" was considered any unintentional breaking of the Torah or any intentional violation of it of which the sinner has repented so that he now wishes it had never happened.)

So I submit that Judas was not really intending to betray Jesus or sell Him out. He was trying to get him a "bully pulpit" so that He could make fools of the religious leaders of the Jews and lead to their downfall. And he certainly did not think that Jesus was in any physical danger.

This was Judas' way of forcing the issue and goading Jesus into taking the action that Judas thought he needed to do. Just like St. Peter, Judas was not listening when Jesus predicted his betrayal, passion, and death. Judas had his own agendas and wanted to "help Jesus along" with his mission.

Then everything started to go wrong. Jesus was not arrested in an orderly fashion. He was assaulted by a mob that beat him. There was no public trial but an informal (and illegal) private interrogation in the High Priest's house. Instead of dazzling his enemies with His eloquence, Jesus remained silent throughout the proceedings. He did not say anything in His own defense. At the end, the Sanhedrin voted him guilty of blasphemy and then they did the unthinkable: they decided to turn Jesus over to the Romans as a seditious revolutionary who advocated the violent overthrow of Roman rule. Jesus was thus condemned to death for being what Judas Iscariot himself had been before he became a follower of Our Lord!

Judas had never intended this to happen. He went back to the priests and tried to buy Our Lord back from them, but they refused. It was crazy, but Jesus was actually dying in Judas' place for the very crime of sedition that Judas had been guilty of!

Judas' plan had not only failed but Jesus was going to pay the ultimate price and in Judas' eyes he had single-handedly caused the downfall of the Messiah. It is no wonder that he became depressed. So depressed that he went out and hung himself in a secluded place. His body remained hanging for so long that his bowels became inflated with bacterial gases and his abdomen literally exploded and his bowels gushed out.

And so ended the life of Judas the betrayer of Christ.

I find the fate of Judas very sad. He likely never intended what had happened and he did not gloat about it. In fact, he regretted it all. So much so that he could not live with himself afterwards.

In a world that was motivated by pure justice in which the punishment fit the crime, Judas deserved no more than damnation. But we must remember that God does not work that way. He is the God of mercy and love who justifies the ungodly, rejoices more in the repentance of the sinner than in one hundred just men who have no need of repentance and counsels us to forgive our brethren from our hearts

We do not know the state of Judas' soul at the moment of his death. Most likely he received the just deserts for what he did. But I always hold out a hope that the man who told us to forgive our brother 70 times 7 times might forgive Judas this one time. He might count Judas' suicide as a disordered act of penitence by a man so sorry for what he had done that he could not think straight. Like my Lord, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked should turn from his evil ways and live (Ezekiel 33:11).

And this hope serves a higher purpose. If there can be hope for Judas Iscariot, then there is hope for the rest of us! And to be honest, I identify better with the poor screw-up who blew it than with those sleek and sassy saints who never seem to have taken a misstep. May God have mercy on us all!


Thursday, June 7, 2007

Sippo lays down the law!

In medical school and residency, there was an old dictum:

"See one, do one, teach one."

This was how you learned to do procedures and then spread the wealth of your knowledge and experience to other physicians-in-training.

When I was a med student at Vanderbilt, I expanded this dictum to encompass a the totality of a medical career. This became Sippo's Rule for Success in Medicine:

"See one, do one, teach one, publish one, name one after yourself."

Well, I have published several things, but I have never officially named anything after myself. That changes today. I have decided to formally introduce Sippo's Laws concerning life, Sippo's First Rule of Parental Discipline, an interesting mathematical conundrum that I call Sippo's Pizza Paradox, and finally Sippo's Lawyer Joke which has an interesting story behind it.

At this time there are three rules about life that I have developed which I call Sippo's Laws:

1) Sippo's First Law:

Anytime someone says "Everybody is {X}", it is an autobiographical statement.

Basically this rule states that pundits who make sweeping statements about human nature are actually talking about themselves, not other people.

For example, Sigmund Freud claimed that all boys want to kill their fathers and marry their mothers. This is the (in)famous Oedipus Complex which subsequent research has shown DOES NOT EXIST! The desire for patricide and maternal incest were Siggy's personal problem. He just felt less dirty if he could say that all boys have the same fantasy.

Another example is John Calvin's claim that all human beings are "totally depraved". In reality, we all have our faults, but "total depravity" overstates the condition of mankind. But go back and check out how M. Calvin treated his opponents (e.g., Bolsec, Servetus, and Castellio). If anyone could be described as follows, it was Calvin:

Romans 3:13 "Their throat is an open grave, they use their tongues to deceive." "The venom of asps is under their lips."
Rom 3:14 "Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness."
Rom 3:15 "Their feet are swift to shed blood,
Rom 3:16 in their paths are ruin and misery,
Rom 3:17 and the way of peace they do not know."

So ask not to whom the pundit refers. He refers to himself.

2) Sippo's Second Law:

Paranoid ideation is the projection of a guilty conscience.

This law says that what people fear the most from other people is exactly what other people need to fear the most from them. When Islamic terrorists say that they fear being polluted by Judaism and Christianity, having their families slaughtered, and their religion undermined, you can GUARANTEE that this is exactly what they plan to do to us.

3) Sippo's Third Law:

Life is a Chess Problem.
While it might be interesting to figure how the board got this way, the only really relevant question is, "What's the next move?"

In the breech, look forward into your problems, not backward into their causes. There will be time enough for that once the crisis is over.

Next we have Sippo's First rule of Parental Discipline:

Make Daddy (or Mommy) happy.

On those long car trips with kids, parents are always having to make up new rules on the fly for child behavior: "Stop looking at your brother. Quit blowing in her face. Stop touching his arm. Don't smile at her...." You feel like you are holding a Constitutional convention in a third world country populated by creatively malignant yet subtle sociopaths. We've all been there.

The above rule has several advantages over the usual ever-expanding list:

  1. The rule is simple and uncomplicated. So much so that even TEENAGERS can understand it.
  2. It selects one parent to be the disciplinarian: either Mom or Dad. That way there is no separate court of appeals.
  3. There is no need to elaborate on specific do's and don't's. If something is not going to make Daddy/Mommy happy, then it is wrong.
  4. It is designed to maximize parental satisfaction and not cater to a child's creative casuistry.
  5. It allows the parent a very wide latitude in determining which behaviors are and are not acceptable and whom to blame for the disruption.
  6. You don't have to care about who did what to whom. What counts is how it makes YOU -- the designated parent disciplinarian -- feel.
  7. Instituting this makes you look and fell feel smarter than both Dr. Spock AND Mr. Spock.

Now, on to Sippo's Pizza Paradox:

When you get a round Pizza Pie, it may have 6, 8 or even 12 slices.
In any case as you and your cohorts eat the pizza, you will inevitably reach a point where eating one more piece from either one side or the other of the remaining pie will leave you with half of a pizza.

The Paradox: Invariably the two pieces from which you can choose will be of different sizes!

In other words, taking either a larger or smaller amount from the same partially eaten pie will leave you with the same amount at the end: half a pizza. I know this sounds crazy, but like every rule of nature, this one always applies. I think it is a variation on the Banach-Tarski Paradox:


Pay attention next time when you get a pizza.

BTW, there is a solution to the Sippo Pizza Paradox: Eat the Bigger Piece and you will still have half a pizza left! By eating the bigger piece, you make your pizza larger!

Finally we have Sippo's Lawyer Joke. There is a story behind this one. When I was teaching the US Army Flight Surgeon's Course section on Chemical Warfare back in 1984, we had a woman in the class from the Southern California National Guard who was also a practicing attorney in Los Angeles. The folks in the class were teasing her about being a lawyer and one guy told this joke:

Q. Do you know why they are thinking of using lawyers instead of white rats for medical experiments?

A. Because there are more lawyers than there are white rats!

I overheard this exchange as I was setting up my notes and I chimed in. "No, the joke is okay, but it needs multiple punchlines reaching a climax." And on the spot, I told Sippo's Lawyer Joke:

There are three reasons why we should use lawyers in medical experiments instead of white rats:

  1. There are more lawyers than there are white rats.
  2. You don't get as attached to them.
  3. There are certain things that white rats will refuse to do!

The reason I bring this up is that 6 years later in 1991, I took my children to see the movie Hook starring Robin Williams as a grown-up Peter Pan. During a banquet sequence, he told my lawyer joke! I was incensed! Flattered. But incensed! It was a great joke, and now HE would get the credit for it. Well, this is my opportunity to tell everyone where that joke REALLY came from. I am not looking for royalties. I just want to set the record straight.