BRANDON: You recently converted to Catholicism after serving as an Anglican priest for many years. What drew you to the Catholic Church?
MICHAEL WARD: It was a long process—at least twenty years in the making. I view the change not as a turning of my back on my Anglican and Evangelical past, but rather as a continuation, a confirmation, even a completion of all that was best in that experience. Obviously, I can't go into any fine detail here about all the causes and reasons, but for me the change involved, among many other things, the following seven items, which I list in no particular order:
First, a concern about Biblical interpretation. I came to realize that it's not enough just to say, "Scripture is my final authority" and quote a text to prove a point, because the devil can quote scripture! One must have an authoritative interpretative community and tradition within which one approaches the Bible. Sacred scripture and sacred tradition are actually co-ordinate sources of authority: you can't have one without the other, and can only find your balance with them both together. I've been helped a good deal on this by a little book by Mark Shea, By What Authority? An Evangelical Discovers Catholic Tradition.
Second, sexual ethics. I had to write an essay on that subject when I was training to be an Anglican priest and, for the first time in my life, I read the relevant papal encyclicals (like Humanae Vitae). These caused me to sit up and take notice, because they actually made sense to me as did no other tradition of sexual ethical teaching that I was (or am) aware of. I began to see that the contemporary Protestant confusions on sexual ethics were in large part traceable to decisions made in the 1930s, on the seemingly unimportant matter of contraception. But from that apparently small change in doctrine, all the other developments have unfolded, with an iron inevitability. It’s all of a piece. Our current controversies about what constitutes marriage, for example, are part of the same moral earthquake that began rumbling so quietly in the ‘30s but is now rocking almost everyone and everything. Catholic sexual ethics contains many hard teachings, to be sure, but it makes sense, it holds together, and it also comes hand-in-hand with the graces of the sacraments that help us to live by those teachings—especially the sacrament of reconciliation, without which we’d all be permanently adrift!
Third, Peter. The more I looked at the Biblical teaching about Peter, the more I was convinced that he was commissioned into a very special office by Christ when he gave him “the keys” and said "on this rock I will build my Church". But Christ also says to him, "I have prayed for you that your faith fail not." Is it likely that Christ's prayer would not be answered? And if Christ is with the apostles "to the end of the age" (as per the close of Matthew's Gospel), does this not mean that the Petrine office would continue indefinitely, in the successors of Peter, the bishops of Rome, as, indeed, we see beginning to happen even before the death of the last apostle (according to Clement’s Letter to Corinth)? To be sure, many popes have been wicked, and the papacy has gone through tumultuous periods, but the tradition of Christian faith and morals has still been securely handed on, even to the present day. This is surely what one would expect, if the office has been properly constituted. The office-holder may be better or worse depending on the particular person, but the office never loses its constitutionality or authority.
Fourth, Mary. I began to be aware that Mary was a real blind-spot for me, and that my ignorance of her role in salvation history had a seriously detrimental impact upon my understanding of Christ. It was only when I edited a book on heresies (Heresies and How to Avoid Them: Why it Matters What Christians Believe) that I was brought face to face with my own tendencies towards a Nestorian view of Mary. (Read chapter 3 of that book to discover what Nestorianism is, if you don’t already know!) Since becoming a Catholic, I have found that Marian devotions have been a tremendously rooting and enriching part of my spiritual life. She is the archetypal disciple, in whose very body God chose to dwell, in the unfathomable mystery of the Incarnation. And the place given to Mary in Catholicism helps explain also, at least in part, why Catholics have kept their head on sexual ethics, despite the modernist ethical earthquake. The femininity of the Church, and of all human beings vis-a-vis God, is constantly brought home to one by Mary’s example. The dignity of womanhood is affirmed, and all of us, men and women together, are reminded of the importance of contemplation and receptivity, of the need to say, with Mary, “Be it unto me according to Thy word”—and to let that affect our very bodies, as she did.
There are three more reasons, all of them worthy and then he answers additional questions.
President Drew G. Faust Harvard University Office of the President Massachusetts Hall Cambridge, MA 02138
Dear President Faust,
I am writing to ask you to use your office to intervene to shut down the terribly ill-advised and totally insensitive Satanic Mass that’s supposed to take place on Monday, May 12 at the Queens Head Pub within Memorial Hall.
To argue, as the Extension School’s Press Release did, that it’s about education or freedom of expression or assembly or religion is silly. We all know that if there were to be a seance to communicate with the soul of Adolf Hitler, Harvard would never countenance it, first because we’re clearly dealing with conjuring evil, and second because it would be terribly injurious to Jewish members of the Harvard community and the wider community.
We also all know that if an “independent student organization” were trying to host an event in which there would be reenacting the burning of a copy of the Koran, it likewise would never be permitted, because Harvard would never associate itself with the desecration of Islam’s sacred text or allow its name or property to be used in something that would obviously outrage the spiritual sensibilities of Muslims.
A ceremony invoking Satan, mocking the Catholic Mass and desecrating what Catholics believe to be the Body of Jesus Christ — or if, implausibly, an unconsecrated host will be used, something that is at least meant to symbolize the Eucharist — should be treated in the same way.
It’s not enough for Harvard to put out a press release saying that Harvard doesn’t “endorse the views or activities of any independent student organization.” Harvard simply would never allow itself or its properties to be associated with events that mock the religious beliefs, desecrate the sacred texts, or insult the spiritual sensitivities of Jews or Muslims. Likewise it wouldn’t allow its reputation or institution to be affiliated in any way with the activities or views of an “independent student organization” that was reenacting the lynchings of African Americans or homophobic attacks or violence against women. Harvard would act decisively in those situations, both out of just concern for its own reputation but also out of moral outrage against such insensitivity that clear thinking, ethical people immediately recognize as evil.
You have a special responsibility over Harvard’s reputation as well as occupy the most prominent position of all to demonstrate what Harvard stands for. Please grasp that Harvard’s present acquiescence to allowing its campus to be the setting for this Satanic Mass and its up-until-now anemic response have already brought the University local, national and international derision. The Founders of Harvard would, I think, be ashamed that a school to which they gave the motto Veritas: Christo et Ecclesiae would allow itself to be used in any way whatsoever as the staging for Satanic worship.
Yesterday I was asked by about two dozen people about what my alma mater was doing in allowing this mockery of Catholicism and this acquiescence in the conjuring of evil. I replied that I can’t fathom how this “dear mother” would have lost its capacity to see clearly and promptly how outrageous this is and that for the first time in my life I’m really embarrassed to be associated with Harvard. I’m sure there are many other alumni who are similarly ashamed.
There’s still time to remedy this situation and clearly communicate that mockery and desecration of the religious rites, objects, and sensitivities of others have no place at Harvard.
By shutting this event down and not just dissociating itself from what was supposed to happen but by forcefully condemning it, you would not only remedy the damage to Harvard’s reputation that has already taken place but set the type of example for educational institutions and the broader culture that Harvard has prided itself in setting for 378 years.
I’m hoping that you will use your office to respond as strongly to this insensitivity as NBA Commissioner Adam Silver recently used his office to respond to Donald Sterling’s racist comments.
That’s what this situation warrants. That’s what you have the power to do. And that’s what I’m asking and praying that you will do.
Children in the womb should have the same legal standing as other children, the Supreme Court of Alabama ruled Friday.
The decision upheld the prior conviction of Sarah Janie Hicks for “the chemical endangerment of her child,” when she exposed her unborn baby to cocaine. The boy, referred to as “JD,” was born testing positive for cocaine.
The 8-1 decision reaffirmed the Alabama Supreme Court’s ruling in a similar case last year that the word “child” includes “unborn child.”
Friday’s decision was a review of the lower Court of Criminal Appeals’ conviction of Hicks.
According to Justice Tom Parker, who wrote the majority decision, “It is impossible for an unborn child to be a separate and distinct person at a particular point in time in one respect and not to be a separate and distinct person at the same point in time but in another respect. Because an unborn child has an inalienable right to life from its earliest stages of development, it is entitled not only to a life free from the harmful effects of chemicals at all stages of development but also to life itself at all stages of development. Treating an unborn child as a separate and distinct person in only select respects defies logic and our deepest sense of morality.”
Fr. Pavone, national director of Priests for Life, referred to the decision as a unique instance of “common sense and logical consistency.”
I don't find many Catholic bloggers I follow linking to or saying much about Matt Walsh and it's puzzling to me, particularly since I'm developing a a bit of a man-crush on the dude. He has things to say that just resonate.
If you want to adopt some blasphemous, perverted, fun house mirror reflection of Christianity, you will find a veritable buffet of options. You can sift through all the variants and build your own little pet version of the Faith. It’s Ice Cream Social Christianity: make your own sundae! (Or Sunday, as it were.)
And, of all the heretical choices, probably the most common — and possibly the most damaging — is what I’ve come to call the Nice Doctrine.
The propagators of the Nice Doctrine can be seen and heard from anytime any Christian takes any bold stance on any cultural issue, or uses harsh language of any kind, or condemns any sinful act, or fights against evil with any force or conviction at all. As soon as he or she stands and says ‘This is wrong, and I will not compromise,’ the heretics swoop in with their trusty mantras.
They insist that Jesus was a nice man, and that He never would have done anything to upset people. They say that He came down from Heaven to preach tolerance and acceptance, and He wouldn’t have used words that might lead to hurt feelings. They confidently sermonize about a meek and mild Messiah who was born into this Earthly realm on a mission to spark a constructive dialogue.
The believers in Nice Jesus are usually ignorant of Scripture, but they do know that He was ‘friends with prostitutes,’ and once said something about how, like, we shouldn’t get too ticked off about stuff, or whatever. In their minds, he’s essentially a supernatural Cheech Marin.
Read the comments under my previous post about gay rights militants, and you’ll see this heresy illustrated.
That post prompted an especially noteworthy email from someone concerned that I’m not being ‘Christlike,’ because I ‘call people names.’ He said, in part:
“You aren’t spreading Christianity when you talk like that. The whole message of Jesus was that we should be nice to people because we want them to be nice to us. That’s how we can all be happy. Period. It’s that simple.”
Be nice to me, I’ll be nice to you, and we’ll all be happy. This is the ‘whole message’ of Christianity?
Jesus Christ preached a Truth no deeper or more complex than a slogan on a poster in a Kindergarten classroom?
A provocative claim, to say the least. I decided to investigate the matter, and sure enough, I found this excerpt from the Sermon on the Mount:
“We’re best friends like friends should be. With a great big hug, and a kiss from me to you, won’t you say you love me too?”
Actually, wait, sorry, that’s from the original Barney theme song.
God help us. We’ve turned the Son of God into a purple dinosaur puppet.
I don’t recognize this Jesus.
This moderate. This pacifist. This nice guy.
He’s not the Jesus I read about in the Bible. I read of a strong, manly, stern, and bold Savior. Compassionate, yes. Forgiving, of course. Loving, always loving. But not particularly nice.
He condemned. He denounced. He caused trouble. He disrupted the established order.
On one occasion — or at least one recorded occasion — He used violence. This Jesus saw the money changers in the temple and how did He respond? He wasn’t polite about it. I’d even say He was downright intolerant. He fashioned a whip (this is what the lawyers would call ‘premeditation’) and physically drove the merchants away. He turned over tables and shouted. He caused a scene. [John 2:15]
Assault with a deadly weapon. Vandalism. Disturbing the peace. Worse still, intolerance.
In two words: not nice.
Not nice at all.
Can you imagine how some moderate, pious, ‘nice’ Christians of today would react to that spectacle in the Temple? Can you envision the proponents of the Nice Doctrine, with their wagging fingers and their passive aggressive sighs? I’m sure they’d send Jesus a patronizing email, perhaps leave a disapproving comment under the news article about the incident, reminding Jesus that Jesus would never do what Jesus just did.
Personally, I’ve studied the New Testament and found not a single instance of Christ calling for a ‘dialogue’ with evil or seeking the middle ground on an issue. I see an absolutist, unafraid of confrontation. I see a man who did not waver or give credence to the other side. I see someone who never once avoided a dispute by saying that He’ll just ‘agree to disagree.’
I see a Christ who calls the Scribes and Pharisees snakes and vipers. He labels them murderers and blind guides, and ridicules them publicly [Matthew 23:33]. He undermines their authority. He insults them. He castigates them. He’s not very nice to them.
Jesus rebukes and condemns. In Matthew 18, He utilizes morbid and violent imagery, saying that it would be better to drown in the sea with a stone around your neck than to harm a child. Had our modern politicians been around two thousand years ago, I’m sure they’d go on the cable news shows and shake their heads and insist that there’s ‘no place for that kind of language.’
Pope Francis surprised his own master of ceremonies on Friday by confessing his sins to an ordinary priest in St. Peter's Basilica.
The pope was presiding at service intended to show the importance he attaches to the sacrament of reconciliation, commonly known as confession.
After reading a sermon, he was to have gone to an empty confessional booth to hear confessions from ordinary faithful as some 60 priests scattered around the huge church did the same.
His master of ceremonies, Monsignor Guido Marini, pointed him toward the empty booth but the pope went straight to a another one, knelt before a surprised priest, and confessed to him for a few minutes.
He then went back to the empty one and heard the confessions of a number of faithful.
Video of the event, from the Catholic News Service, follows:
My Friend Joe Milne who suffers from Ushers syndrome, was deaf from birth. She had bilateral cochlea implants fitted which allow her to hear for the first ever, this is the moment they are switched on!
Barack Obama and Pope Francis sat down with two translators, and one can’t help but think they were sorely needed. Not just to bridge the gap between the Pope’s Spanish and the President’s English, but between the moral vocabulary of the church of Christ and the strange language of liberalism.