Wednesday, August 30, 2017

A Catholic Conversation: Sola Scriptura

Actual conversations with people of other beliefs

In this series I will present actual conversations I have had with people of differing faith traditions.  Some are email conversations, some are recollections of verbal conversations.

The following is a Facebook conversation I had with someone I used to go to church with about Sola Scriptura.  I have attempted to remove all identifying information regarding the person I was speaking with but other than that and spelling / grammar errors it is exactly what I posted.

The conversation references a quote from the well known Protestant theologian, R.C. Sprouls.  I might actually have it quoted and referenced in the post, but for the sake of new readers the quote from Mr. Sprouls is that "at best" what we can know about the books that make up Scripture is "a fallible list of infallible books."

And now, with out further delay: A Catholic Conversation on Sola Scriptura

Hey ________,

Thank you so much for the charitable tone.  In several other discussions I’ve had, I have rarely found the level of charity you have presented here.  Thank You.

If, again, you would permit me to respond: I love having these conversations.  I hope you find it equally charitable.   Proverbs says, “Iron sharpens iron” (27:17); I believe that understanding each other’s beliefs will better help us when we stand shoulder to shoulder as Christ’s co-laborers, battling the world, the flesh and the devil while spreading the Good News to every living thing.

That being said, due to family, work and school (both mine and the kids) I probably will not be able to respond more.  Since you were kind enough to leave me an additional resource, I will do the same.  I invite you to utilize it to help answer questions and difficulties you might have regarding my beliefs.

Please know that in no way does my critique of Sola Scriptura mean a critique on you or the millions of other faithful, holy Christians that practice it.  You, and many, many other non-Catholic Christians, have helped show me what it means to allow Jesus to live in your hearts.  Thank you.

I completely and whole-heartedly agree that Scripture is a binding authority, and that it is the inspired written Word of God.  I believe, with the Catholic Church, that not only is Scripture a binding authority on the faithful, it is God-breathed and profitable for a host of things in order that the man of God may be equipped for every good work.  If you would like a deeper understanding of how high the Catholic Church places Scripture, please read ‘Dei Verbum.’  (Google it, it’s free on the Vatican website).

My only critique is of the word “alone”.  Against this, I will present only three arguments here, but these are by no means the only ones.  I have them numbered for clarity.

1) I absolutely agree with Sproul and the article that just because the Catholic Church determined the cannon of Scripture that it does not directly follow that the Catholic Church is infallible.  The Biblical case for Church and Papal infallibility I must leave for another day.

But recognizing that the Church determined the cannon of Scripture, that fact alone is devastating to the Sola Scriptura claim, if it is to hold to even the definition presented in this article.

If Sola Scriptura is the sole and final authority, then to stay true to its own principle it must determine the content of Scripture: I must be able to find, in Scripture Alone, why 3rd John – which doesn’t even mention Christ – is in Scripture, but Clement’s 1st Letter to the Corinthians is out.  (Clement may be the one mentioned in Paul’s letter to Philippians , was baptized by Peter and learned under Paul and John.  For Catholics, he is also the 4th pope.)   

However that is a logical impossibility: every non-Catholic Christian I have ever had this discussion with agrees that Scripture cannot and did not determine itself.  Therefore, by that logical argument alone, Sola Scriptura cannot be true.

In addition, whatever determined the content of Scripture must have had authority equal that of Scripture.  (You cannot have more in the effect than is present in the cause, which is the Law of Cause and Effect).  If it did not have authority – or if that authority is not recognized, at least implicitly – then there is no argument against Joseph Smith adding the Book of Mormon, or for Ellen White for adding her writings, or for anyone to alter Scripture eliminating things they don’t agree with or adding things they believe.

If that authority was not equal that of Scripture, we have the problem of a greater effect than in the cause – a logical impossibility – or of appealing the legitimacy of the lessor authority (the cause) to the greater authority (the effect) which is also a logical impossibility.

So my first argument is the fact that Scripture Alone could not and did not determine itself and whatever did determine the content of Scripture must have authority equal that of Scripture.  This shows that “Sola” Scriptura cannot be true.

2)  For my second argument let me present an experiment here:  Read this phrase out loud:

“I never said you stole money.”

Do you understand that phrase?  I hope so.  Do you know what I meant?  Sure.  Could you accurately teach someone else what I was saying?  Well let’s see.

Now I want you to repeat the phrase, this time emphasizing the word separate by the dots.

“…I… never said you stole money.”  What does that mean now?  That someone said it, just not me.

“I never …said… you stole money.” How about now?  It means I thought it or wrote it but did not say it.

“I never said …you… stole money.” Now it means I said someone else stole it.

“I never said you …stole… money.”  Now it means I said you borrowed it, or found it but not stole.

“I never said you stole …money…” Now it means I said you stole something just not money.

Do you see how the meaning changes dramatically?  Which one did I mean originally?  

My second argument is that using “Only” Scripture, we cannot know with certainty the meaning of words and phrases in Scripture, which can only be accurately communicated by the spoken word, unless we apply an outside source.

This is also true if applied to translations:  Sola Scriptura cannot tell us whether or not a translation is good or even accurate.  A good example is the Greek word “Epiousios” found in the two Lord’s Prayer narratives (Mt 6:11 and Lk 11:3).  Besides those two usages, there is no other usage of the word found in all of history.  Scripture alone cannot tell us what it means.  Yet everyone translates it “daily” except St. Jerome, the first to translate the entire Scriptures into Latin – he was hundreds of years closer to the sources and knew Greek.

Another good example is translating ancient Hebrew.  I’m sure I’m telling you nothing new by saying that ancient Hebrew does not have vowels.  The consonant only words can have multiple meanings if the “vowels” are applied differently.  For an example in English:  “RP” could mean “rope”, “rap”, “reap”, or “rape”.  Scripture Alone cannot help us with that, we must appeal to an outside source that has authority, or all of the authority of the Old Testament is suspect.

The article and most other Protestants I discuss this with agree that there is “some place” for tradition and “proper” exegesis (sources outside of Scripture).  But if Sola Scriptura is true and faithfully applied, we find ourselves using circular logic, which is illogical:  I appeal to Scripture as my final or sole authority, but I need some outside source to help me understand that Scripture, but that outside source must be subject to Scripture, which is my final and sole authority, but I need some outside source to help me understand the Scripture that shows me whether or not the outside source is valid to help me know what the first Scripture says in the first place!  Whew!

So that outside source must, again, have authority, or be backed by authority, equal to that of Scripture so we can have certainty about the meaning of what we are reading and not get caught in yet another logical impossibility.

3) My third argument has to do with how Sola Scriptura is actually applied: the application of Sola Scriptura shows that it cannot work.

Most non-Catholic Christians would agree that if someone wants to learn how to live as a Christian, all they need to do is pick up a Bible, start reading and the Holy Spirit will guide them to know the truth.  Every essential thing we need to know to get to heaven is clearly stated in Scripture, as I’ve been told.

But what happens when two Christians, both claiming Scripture and the Holy Spirit’s guidance, come up with two opposite ideas on salvation.  Let’s use, for example, baptism:  If one person claims that Scripture says baptism is only an ordinance and has no actual role in salvation, but another person claims that Scripture says that baptism is necessary for salvation, what decides between them?   Both claim that the Holy Spirit inspired them to find this truth.  They both cannot be right.  Does the Holy Spirit create division?  No.  Well, then who is wrong not only about their reading of Scripture, but about being led by the Holy Spirit?

I’ve had numerous non-Catholic Christians say that due to sin people sometimes misinterpret things.  That is absolutely true, but that doesn’t solve the problem because I cannot look into the hearts of these two people to see who is more sinful; and even that would not eliminate the possibility that the “more sinful” person is actually right.  This is dealing with salvation: heaven and hell are on the line.

What actually happens is they will start two different churches, both claiming the truth, both claiming to be Sola Scriptura, both claiming inspiration of the Holy Spirit… but at least one of them is leading people astray.  Is this what Christ meant when he said the Holy Spirit would lead us into all truth?  Is this what Christ prayed for when he prayed that all of us should be one?  Is this what St. Paul commands of us when he says that we should not disagree on ANY point of the faith?

To try to rectify the discrepancy between what Scripture plainly says against division and what was happening, two lists were created - Essentials and Non-essentials - and the quote from St. Augustine: “In Essentials, unity; in non-Essentials, liberty; in all things, Charity” was applied.  But there are two problems with this: 1) Different denominations disagree on what is essential and non-essential, all claiming the Bible and the Holy Spirit; 2) If Sola Scriptura is true then we should find this idea of “essentials and non-essentials” in the Bible and a clear list of each so that anyone can pick up the Bible and know what is essential and what is not.

As you well know, there are people who claim the Bible and the Holy Spirit to wrongly justify homosexuality, abortion, divorce / remarriage, contraception, slavery, racism, genocide (religious and racial), and a host of other evils. 

But of no less eternal importance are also the contradictory Bible Alone based claims of:  

1)      Predestination or Free Will

2)      Salvific, efficacious Baptism or mere ordinance and symbol

3)      Infant Baptism: valid or heresy

4)      The Lord’s Supper: Real Presence and required (High Lutheran, Anglican and Orthodox) or “Spiritual Reality” and necessary (Calvinistic – as I’m sure you know Calvin believed that a proper understanding of the Lord’s Supper was essential for salvation), “Spiritual Reality” but not required (some Reformed) or “Symbol only” and not necessary (Zwingli and followers)

5)      The role of works in salvation:  The only thing you need (Pelegianism), Christ did His part now we do ours in addition to His (Semi-Pelegianism); Faith and Works both necessary but both empowered by the free gift of Grace; or Works not necessary just Faith (as mental assent) only; or if you do try good works you’re going to Hell.

6)      The role of intercession of Saints in heaven: good and helpful practice but not necessary or you’re going to hell if you do it.

7)      Even the nature of the Holy Spirit Himself is debated: a thing, not divine, subservient to the Father and Son and should not be worshiped (Oneness Pentecostals, some other Pentecostals, Assemblies of God) or God and our worship of Him is required.

Why does this happen?  Because Sola Scriptura really means: my sole rule / final authority for faith is [my interpretation of] the Bible.  If a belief agrees with [my interpretation of] Scripture, then I accept it; If a belief doesn’t agree with [my interpretation of] Scripture, I reject it. 

I recall talking with people about why we chose the denomination we did when starting __________ church.  The response was something similar to: they agree with us more than the others.  The question arose in my brain: aren’t we supposed to look for the one that is True by God’s standards, regardless of what I believe, how I read or interpret Scripture?

When private interpretation of that sole, final rule of authority enters the picture, anything goes.  If someone is justified in interpreting, “This is My Body” as “This is not My Body” or “So you see it is by works we are justified and not by faith alone” as “so you see it is by faith alone that we are justified and not by works” and still claim the Holy Spirit led them, how are we to deny someone from saying “No one comes to the Father except through me” actually means there are other ways to the Father (Universalists) Jesus is just one of them; or Jesus never claimed to be Divine and therefor isn’t (Jehovah’s Witness’); or even that the translation is wrong and John 1:1 really says “…the Word was with God and the Word was a god” (Mormons).

I sympathize with you, when you say you’d be lost without Sola Scriptura.  I wasn’t sure what to do when I started realizing this at ________ church. either.  I tried to bring up some of what I was finding in Scripture, but I was told I was not right.  But wait, Scripture and the Holy Spirit were guiding me.  How can anyone else say that is wrong?  Under what authority do they say that? (Boy is that a dangerous question!)

Do you remember the first question Tricia and I asked at the Membership Class?  We asked: “Where did the Bible come from and why should we believe it?”  No one answered.  If we cannot answer those questions with certainty, then we can never hope to rely on Scripture Alone with certainty.  Sproul answers those questions by saying: we can’t know the content of Scripture with certainty.  That’s a similar answer I’ve received from numerous other non-Catholic Christians.

But God did not leave us orphans.  God did not intend for these questions to remain unanswered, or answered with a ‘shrug’.  Christ is Truth (Jn 14:6) He wants us to know Him with certainty (1 Tim 2:4).  So what system did God set up to help us solve these issues?  Where are we supposed to appeal when we get into the above types of discussions?  To what did Paul and Barnabas appeal when they couldn’t solve the problem of circumcision? 

Well that’s a topic for another day.  (Doh!  I HATE cliff hangers!! J )

God Bless you on your Journey of Faith and thank you for being a part of re-introducing my wife and I to the Life Transforming Jesus.

Fidei Defensor Green Bay

P.S.  Here is that resource I told you about:

Sola, Sola, Toil-a and Trouble-a

A brief overview of the Protestant and Catholic view of Sola Scriptura.

            As the Reformation of the 1600’s came into full force, the proponents of the reformers rallied around five “Sola” phrases: Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus and Soli Dei Gloria (‘Sola’, ‘Solus’ or ‘Soli’ all being Latin for ‘Alone’).  Translated these phrases are By Scripture Alone, By Faith Alone, By Grace Alone, By Christ Alone and for the Glory of God Alone.  These pillars of the Reformation were presented as the true way of Christian life and practice, ultimately resulting in a follower’s soul going to heaven after death.  Because the Catholic Church agrees with 3 of these (Sola Gratia, Solus Christus and Soli Dei Gloria) the remaining two became the rallying cry of the reformers and their followers: Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide.  (As an aside, some Protestants – then and now - see ‘Solus Christus’ as another major difference between Catholicism and Non-Catholic Christians because of their misunderstanding of intercessory prayer and the Communion of Saints; a misunderstanding that persists today).  These points of contention - ‘Sola Scriptura’ and ‘Sola Fide’ - still quickly become apparent whenever Catholics and non-Catholic Christians begin to speak about theology or different religious practices and beliefs, though they may not necessarily use those exact phrases.

The Catholic response to the Solae of the Reformation was, and is, more complex and in depth then can be stated in a short phrase or five.  However, in general, the Catholic response is that from a Biblical, historical and logical point of view, Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide, while presented with good intention, have lead to a greater fracturing of Christian believers and greater confusion of Christian beliefs than any other set of beliefs introduced or developed prior to it or since. 

In this article we will look at Sola Scripture, the Bible Alone, belief system an attempt to present an accurate understanding of the belief system and then the Catholic position.

Sola Scriptura – the Protestant Position

          Sola Scriptura is the belief that “Scripture Alone” is the authority for the Christian in deciding matters of faith and morals.  As Wikipedia’s entry on the five Solae states, “Sola scriptura is the teaching that the Bible is the only inspired, authoritative word of God, is the only source for Christian doctrine, and is accessible to all—that is, it is perspicuous [easy to understand] and self-interpreting.” 

This doctrine is shown in churches being labeled as “Bible”, “Bible Based” or “Bible Alone” churches.  A ‘Fundamentalist’ church will automatically include the “Bible Alone” belief as well.  Practitioners of Sola Scriptura, in conversations about faith and morals, will often make statements like “There is no authority outside the Bible”, “Where is that in the Bible?”, “If the Bible says it, it’s true”, “There is no truth outside the Bible”, “The Bible says it, I believe it, that settles it”" or similar phrases.  All practitioners of Sola Scriptura state that their entire system of beliefs, necessary for salvation, in one way or another came from the Bible only.  Most Protestants espousing this view also reject any kind of tradition to aid in the interpretation or implementation of the words found in the Bible stating it is a “man-made tradition” or a “tradition of men”.

            To support the Sola Scriptura claim Protestants appeal to certain passages in the Bible:

2 Timothy 3:16-17 “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work…” (NIV).

Acts 17:11 “Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” (NIV)

1 Corinthians 4:6 “….’Do not go beyond what is written’…” (NIV)

Mark 7:8  You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.” (NIV)

            There are other verses used to support this view, but for the sake of greater brevity, I leave it to the reader to explore them.

            Sola Scriptura is a necessity to give a sense of unity among a group of believers that has dismissed an authoritative, interpreting system that renders binding decisions upon its membership.  Once Martin Luther threw off the Catholic Church, the Magisterium and the Pope as authority, it was necessary to unify under something or the movement would have fallen apart.  The only authoritative thing that was left was the Bible alone.  Sola Scriptura is as much about being anti-Catholic authority and anti-religious authority as it about being pro-Bible and uniting.  Although many Protestants have not been instructed, explicitly, about the anti-Catholic / authority part of the belief, it has resulted in an overall mistrust of any “non-Biblical” religious practice (as defined by the individual interpreting the Bible).

In practice, it is difficult to find out what one particular denomination (or person) means by Sola Scriptura.  Despite the definitions given above, in reality, there is no one definition of Sola Scriptura. 

There are denominations (some Anglican, Lutheran and Episcopalian) that espouse a “sacred tradition” that can effect certain beliefs on faith and morals, but still claim to be a Sola Scriptura belief system.  This was also Martin Luther's belief.  He accepted things like the definition of the Trinity determined by ecumenical councils and the Marian Doctrines / Dogmas even though much of both are not explicitly stated in Scripture.

Others say that the Essentials of belief (the core beliefs one must espouse to be a Christian) must be explicit in the ‘plain text’ of the Bible with absolutely no interpretation or tradition effecting them – which is actually not humanly possible -  but the non-Essentials (the beliefs that can be disputed between Christians while still remaining Christian - again as defined by the individual or group) can be implicit. 

Still others state that both the Essentials and the non-Essentials must be explicitly stated.  This is John Calvin's position where no creeds, no councils, no person - interestingly enough - can interpret Scripture, only the Bible.  John Calvin then made himself the sole authority on what is or is not stated in the Bible and imprisoned people who disagreed with him.

Still others believe that both the Essentials and the non-Essentials can be implicit but must be based on Biblical texts.  All these belief systems would say they believe in “Sola Scriptura”.  The bottom line is the different denominations do not agree on how to apply Sola Scriptura so it is difficult to pin down at times.

             Sola Scriptura relies on two sub-pillars: the Bible is perspicuous [easy to understand] and that Scripture is completely self-interpreting [if someone doesn’t know what a passage in Scripture means, there is always another passage that will explain it].  As was stated to me “Anyone can pick up a Bible and know what is needed for salvation.”  This is what is meant by “perspicuous”; the Bible is easy to read and easy to understand the basic theological points.

            There is also an understood unlimited right to private interpretation.  This means the individual, presumably by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, has the total right to interpret Scripture as they see fit, and no other authority can bind an interpretation on them.

            With Sola Scriptura also comes the idea that no one can be “infallible” except the Bible; we, as fallen humans, cannot be infallible.

            To sum up Sola Scriptura, in general, means one appeals all faith and moral decisions to the Bible only and rejects any system, or person, that claims to interpret the Bible or speak authoritatively about faith and morals.  One merely needs to pick up a Bible, pray to the Holy Spirit and start reading.

Sola Scriptura - The Catholic response

            The Catholic position is three fold: that Sola Scriptura is not logical, historical or even Scriptural.  The Catholic position continues that logic, history and Scripture points to a God-given Tradition and a visible, authoritative (as well as invisible and spiritual) Church established and empowered by Christ, able to make binding decisions that, along with Scripture, are the authorities for the Christian in matters of faith and morals.

            The Catholic position that Sola Scriptura is not logical starts with the realization that Scripture is not perspicuous, nor is it completely self-interpreting, nor does one have an unlimited right to self-interpretation.

            The Scriptures are not perspicuous, the Catholic position continues, by the initial realization that all the original languages of Scripture are no longer spoken: Koine Greek, Ancient Hebrew and Latin.  No living person, without training, can pick up the original Scriptures (if we still had them) and know anything, let alone what is needed for salvation. 

            Another point made is that many Scriptures seem to contradict: the two seemingly different genealogies in Mathew and Luke.  Most Christians have been instructed that one genealogy is Christ's natural genealogy and the other is Christ's royal genealogy, however that explanation is found nowhere in Scripture and must be 'taught' to new Christians first coming across this difficulty.  There are numerous other 'contradictions' that cannot be rectified from Scripture alone.

            Additionally, says the Catholic, adding in for a moment self-interpretation, if one is allowed to interpret phrases in Scripture like "This is My Body" as "This is NOT My Body" how can one be sure of any phrase in Scripture ("I am the Way the Truth and the Life" could, by the same reasoning, be interpreted "I am NOT the Way...)

            The Catholic position continues that Scripture being perspicuous is not supported by Scripture:  2 Pet 3:16 "...There are some things in them [St. Paul's letters] hard to understand, which the ignorant and unstable twist to their own destruction, as they do the other scriptures."  When Scripture itself says that it is 'hard to understand' how do Protestants interpret that as Scripture being perspicuous (easy to understand)?

            The last point against Scriptures being perspicuous we will address is the number of arguments resulting in new Christian groups.  If Scripture was truly perspicuous there would be one obvious way of understanding verses.  However, instead there are 30,000+ (and growing daily) groups of Christians that cannot agree on issues as minor as robes for ministers and instruments during service to major issues such as Baptism (what it does and who it's for ), women ministers and even how one gets to heaven.  All of those groups claim that the Bible is easy to understand and most state that their belief system is 'clearly' stated in Scripture.

            The Catholic position also shows that Scripture being completely self-interpreting is false and leads to a huge problem.  Take a situation where a Christian reads a passage and does not know what it means.  Sola Scriptura states there are other passages which completely explain what the first passage means.  But how does that Christian find them, using Sola Scriptura?  How does the Christian know he has the correct passage?  How does the Christian know he has understood the second passage correctly?  While some Sola Scriptura practitioners will say the Holy Spirit will guide the Christian, this fails to account for the multiple interpretations of identical passages by different Christians all claiming the Holy Spirit led them; most Sola Scriptura practitioners will say you can use extra-biblical sources to help guide you (provided you don’t take that as authoritative). 

But this leads to another problem: how does the Christian know the external source – whether it be a book or pastor – is right?  “That’s easy,” says the Sola Scriptura practitioner, “take it to Scripture!  If you use an external source you only need to make sure it doesn’t contradict Scripture.  If it does [contradict] then you know it’s a false source.  If it doesn’t then you can use it as a guide, just not an authoritative guide.”

But all this does is push the buck down the road.  How does the Christian know that the verses they are comparing the external source with are the correct verses?  How does the Christian know those verses, if they are correct, are being interpreted correctly?  He could look for other verses in Scripture to interpret those, but then he’s just back as square one again.

            The Catholic case against the reasonableness of Sola Scriptura continues with a look at the 'unlimited right to self-interpretation'.

            Eventually, Martin Luther himself even saw the weakness in the idea of ‘self-interpretation’:  "There are almost as many sects and beliefs as there are heads; this one will not admit Baptism; that one rejects the Sacrament of the alter; another places another world between the present one and the day of judgment; some teach that Jesus Christ is not God. There is not an individual, however clownish he may be, who does not claim to be inspired by the Holy Spirit, and who does not put forth as prophecies his ravings and dreams. " (cited in Leslie Rumble, Bible Quizzes to A Street Preacher [Rockford, Ill.: Tan Books, 1976], 22).

            But the case against this idea is rooted in Scripture itself:  First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation…” (2 Pet 1:20).  The word ‘Prophecy’ does not refer, as many think, only to future predictions, but means God’s Word.  A Prophet is one sent by God to preach what He tells them.  A prophecy is what a Prophet says.

            The larger Catholic case against Sola Scriptura continues with a study of history, not just of what Christians in history stated about the issue, but the historical context and how Sola Scriptura could not have even been sustained prior to the 16th Century.

            The Christians of the first few years of the Church had not written any of the New Testament yet and were too busy preaching it orally, to even do so.  The Christians who came to Faith through this preaching could not have practiced Sola Scriptura because there was no 'Scriptura' to be 'Sola' about.  What about when Scripture was written?  We will explore that shortly.

            How about the next generation after the Apostolic generation and subsequent teaching?  Obviously, says the Protestant, Sola Scriptura was not only possible because the Bible was written, but it must have been preferred to the 'game of telephone' called Tradition.  A brief study of history not only shows this to be untrue, but quite the opposite.  Yes, all the books that would eventually make up the New Testament were all written, but so were hundreds of other writings all claiming to be of Apostolic origin or otherwise Inspired.  There was no clear decision on what books were and were not Scripture until the local council of Rome, the councils of Nicaea and Carthage nearly 300 years after the death of the last Apostle.  Until then some groups included works like 'Letter of Clement to the Corinthians', 'Shepherd of Hermes' and other groups excluded works like 'Revelation', '2nd Peter', '3rd John' and 'Letter to the Hebrews'. 

            So how did the Truth get transmitted so that souls would be saved?  Through oral Tradition: the passing of information from teacher to student.  This Apostolic Tradition, given to the next generation from the Apostles who received it from Christ Himself, is appealed to immediately and consistently whenever a dispute arises in the first several hundred years of the Church:  "As I have already observed, the Church, having received this preaching and this Faith, although scattered throughout the whole world, as if occupying but one house, carefully preserves it.  She also believes these points [of doctrine] just as if she had but one soul, and one and the same heart, and she proclaims them, and teaches them, and hands them down, with perfect harmony, as if she possessed only one mouth.  For, although the languages of the world are dissimilar, yet the import of the Tradition is one and the same." (St. Irenaeus of Lyons Against Heresies 1:10:2 (c. A.D. 189)).  Consistently, when a new teaching would arise, the teachers of the Apostolic Tradition would immediately ask the bearer of the new teaching from who they learned it.  They didn't mean just the last person they heard it from; they wanted the 'Golden Chain' of instruction.  The recipients would be able to rattle off the list of teachers they learned their information from, going all the way back to an Apostle.  Even today, although it would be impossible to memorize, Bishops of the Catholic Church, have documents showing their chain of Apostolic Succession going back to one of the Apostles.

            How do we know, contends the Protestant, that Tradition isn't like a game of telephone where the end message is completely warped from the original message?  In at least two ways, replies the Catholic. One: it was nothing like a game of telephone.  In the game, the rules are that a person may only hear the message once and point of the game is to have an end result that is humorously different than the original.  In the handing-on of the Deposit of Faith or Apostolic Tradition the hearers knew this was no game.  They knew that accuracy was imperative.  Additionally they could go back to their source more than once and in reality they often sat at the feet of and listened to their source person for years before teaching it themselves.  In many cases the person could 'cross reference' what they had heard with other teachers.  In the game of telephone would the result change if any person was allowed to hear from anyone before them, as often as they liked and in the end, if the message stayed the same, everyone was given a candy bar?  Of course.

            The Catholic case continues: not only historical documents, but historical context makes Sola Scriptura impossible.  Even in the modern era, but especially in eons past, the number of people who were illiterate exceeded the number of people who could read.  Some estimates of the literacy rate in history state that until the invention of the printing press (in the 15th Century) literacy was confined to the few upper elite.  Protestants today still report having difficulty teaching Sola Scriptura in illiterate nations.

            Additionally, prior to the printing press, Bibles were expensive and tedious to make.  A Bible may take three years to write, 100 sheep's worth of velum to create and cost somewhere between 3 and 10 years average salary, not to mention that the Bibles were extremely cumbersome.  To add 'insult to injury' the barter system of most of the world until very recently, would have made purchasing large quantities of Bibles, so that every person could read for themselves, ridiculous.  One can only imagine in jest a deal of hundreds of thousands of chickens, potatoes or gallons of milk for 1,000 Bibles!

             Spreading the Gospel to all the world could not have been done if God meant for it to be done by Sola Scriptura.  The modern Protestant practice of handing out Bibles on street corners would have been impossible.

The Catholic Catechism states: "Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture, then, are bound closely together, and communicate one with the other. For both of them, flowing out from the same divine well-spring, come together in some fashion to form one thing, and move towards the same goal." (Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) paragraph 80).

The final point brought up here is Sola Scriptura is self-refuting.  For Sola Scriptura to be true by its own definition it must be in Scripture.  However a simple computer search of any translation will not find the phrase “Scripture alone” or “Sola Scriptura” anywhere.  As to the verses used to support Sola Scriptura (listed above), the first thing to realize is that not one of them say “Bible alone” or “Scripture alone”.  There isn’t even one close.  2 Tim 3:16-17 is probably the most often cited verse – almost used at times as a proof text – but it merely says that Scripture is “God breathed” and “profitable”.  The rest of the adjectives in the verse are in reference to the “man of God.”

But the nail in the coffin of Sola Scriptura belief is the canon of Scripture, that is, what books make up Scripture.  Nowhere in Scripture does Scripture say what books belong in there.  Some will point to the table of contents in their bible, however, that page was added by the publishing company and is not part of inspired Scripture.  But even if, let us suppose, the table of contents was part of the body of work called “the Bible” the bible would have to show that the table of contents belonged in Scripture!  This argument alone puts the Sola Scripture practitioner on the horns of a dilemma: the Sola Scriptura practitioner must either rely on the authority of the Catholic Church councils that decided the content of Scripture – which would be rejecting Sola Scriptura – or to hold with Sola Scriptura they must say with R.C. Sproul (very well-known Protestant theologian) that the best that can be said of Scripture is it is a “fallible list of infallible books” and in saying so undercut all ability to appeal to Scripture with any certainty.  For if the Christian cannot be certain that the book of the bible they are quoting from actually belongs in the bible, they cannot use it as an authoritative source.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Don't Tollerate Intollerance!?!

     I had heard a rumor that, some years ago, a college student scrawled on the sidewalk in chalk the following: DON'T TOLLERATE INTOLLERANCE!
     I half thought this to be one of those legendary commentaries on the state of "higher" education that had festered into fact.   But then, while watching the news recently I saw a sign that had written on it, "DON'T TOLLERATE INTOLLERANCE!"  Now the sign was stenciled with each letter being a different color in a pattern, so someone took a lot of effort, time and energy to make the sign... but apparently not a lot of thought.
     The context in which this sign was held was not important - unfortunately, I think most people of any stripe, age, race, creed, education level would think the sentiment a good one - what is important is the lack of education in our educational system.
     What if I were to type the following: "I can't type in English."  What is wrong with that?  How about a speaker that says, "I don't have the ability to speak."  What about someone who says, "Don't believe anything I say."  Unfortunately most people would just nod their heads and say, "Oh, O.K."
     Years ago it was decided - by who? - to eliminate a whole subject from the educational system.  So complete was this decision that not only do 99% of schools NOT have this subject today, you have to ask some of our most experienced members of society before we find one who remembers it as a subject.
     What subject was it that was so useless, so superfluous, so unwanted that it was systematically eliminated from virtually all schools across, not only the country, but the world?


     Logic: the ability to think correctly, rightly, properly.  "Wait!," you revile.  "NO ONE CAN TELL ME WHAT TO THINK!!"  Well, you're right.  No one can tell you WHAT to think, but we can know if 'what' you're thinking is correct or not.
    "But there isn't a 'right' way or a 'wrong' way to think!"  Oh really?  Is that idea - that there isn't a 'right way' or 'wrong way' to think - right?  According to the premise - that there isn't a right or wrong way to think - that idea itself can't be right or wrong... so it refutes itself.
     And already we are at the crux of the problem of this entire post...  Relativism.  The belief that everything is relative, there are no "rights" or "wrongs", and "what's good for you is good for you; what's good for me is good for me."  Relativism is summed up in the phrase "It is absolutely true that there are no absolute truths."  The problem with Relativism, besides that it has infected almost every aspect of our life, is that it is always a self-refuting proposition.  That is the logical fallacy name.  What it means is that the idea proposed contradicts and nullifies itself; it means that if the idea proposed is true, then the idea proposed would also be false at the same time.  This is impossible and therefore incorrect.
     Take the phrase that sums up and defines all Relativism: It is absolutely true that there are no absolute truths.  Think about it.  If there were NO absolute truths then how is the statement "it is ABSOLUTELY TRUE that there are NO ABSOLUTE TRUTHS" true?  It contradicts and nullifies itself.  If it is true, then it is false at the same time.
      Every form of Relativism nullifies itself, or self-refutes.  Take, "There is no 'correct way' or 'incorrect way' to think."  Ask:  "Is that idea correct?"  Do you see it now?  If that idea is correct, then that same idea cannot be correct.  It nullifies itself.
     Let's now go back to the original idea that started this post:  "Don't Tolerate Intolerance!"  Ask: what does "Don't Tolerate" mean?  It means being intolerant towards something.  That is the definition of "intolerance": the prefix 'in' meaning negative or 'not', 'tolerate' meaning... well... tolerate.  So if we are to be "Intolerant" to "Intolerance" we will be "intolerant" towards statements such as "Don't tolerate Intolerance" because the statement itself is intolerant.  If the idea is accepted then it must be rejected at the same time.

Are we dizzy yet?  That's a good sign of Relativism at work...
    The reason Logic was eliminated - purposely - from the educational system is that it is impossible to break down the moral fabric of society (and the institutions that promote them) if our children are learning that there is a right way to think; that we can know if something is an impossible (aka 'illogical') thought and therefor should not be followed.  
     Logic, more than nearly any other subject, clearly leads one to the proper conclusion that God exists and there are objective moral truths we must live our lives by.  Logic is now only reserved for the realms of "higher education" where, as Dr. Peter Kreeft (professor of Philosophy at Boston College) says they teach philosophies so illogical, so stupid, it takes a Doctorate in Philosophy to believe them.
     Folks, we can think any thought under - and even over - the sun.  We can "imagine" almost an infinite possibility of things.  That doesn't make any of them correct or even worthy of voicing.  We need to bring logic back into our thoughts, discussions and public square.  Unfortunately that might mean being "tolerant" of "intolerance."
     A great resource to begin with (it's good for even middle schoolers) "The Fallacy Detectives." One to use later in life, "Socratic Logic" by Peter Kreeft.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Private! Keep Out!

Reasons Catholics Don't Share Their Faith

    Fidei Defensor has had a great summer!  We've been out spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ and His Church at the farmer's market virtually every Saturday this summer.  We even made it down to Manitowoc for Kite Fest.  All over we have been talking to Atheists, Agnostics, non-Christians, non-Catholics and many Catholics.  Interestingly enough we've had many, many Catholics tell us that they're so pleased to see a fellow Catholic doing street evangelization and that it bolsters their own faith.
     But why don't more Catholics do this?  In a previous Facebook post (Mar 20th 2015) we answered the adage "I follow what St. Francis said, 'Preach the Gospel boldly; only when necessary use words.'" Feel free to browse in the Facebook page archives for the answer (hint: St. Francis never said it.)  Today we're going to be looking at another excuse many Catholics use to not talk about the faith:  My faith is a private matter.

    There are a couple problems with this adage: 1) According to the Catholic Church, no it's not  2) Since when does 'private' mean 'never talk about'?

    The Catechism of the Catholic Church is pretty plain on whether or not we should verbally share our faith:  Paragraphs like 848 state that we have "...the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."  Numerous whole encyclicals from numerous popes down through the ages have practically begged the laity to verbally evangelize and explain the faith to others.  Evangelii Nuntiandi by Bl. Pope Paul VI and Evangelii Gaudium by Pope Francis are just two of the many examples.
    But two of my favorite examples are from the earliest section of the Catechism and a document from Vatican II.  In the Decree on the Missionary Activity of the Church it states, "... evangelization is the fundamental task of the People of God."  Who are the 'People of God?'  Every one of us who belong to Christ.  From the laity to the pope... soup to nuts if you will.  Our "fundamental" i.e. Primary, most basic, most important and everyday task is to talk about the faith to others... Catholics and non.
     My other favorite example is paragraph 14 of the Catechism.  Notice how close to the beginning this is.  This is one of the first things the writers / compilers of the Catechism thought of... and it goes like this:  "Those who belong to Christ through faith and Baptism must confess their baptismal faith before men."
     Are you baptized?  Do you believe in God?  Then you must "confess" (verbally) your faith before other people.  Notice this is a command.  Not a request; not optional.  When we're going through our examinations of conscious at the end of the day are we adding the omission of NOT talking about our faith to others that day?

    To further deal with our original excuse we must ask ourselves: Since when does 'Private' mean 'never share?'  Almost everything else that is 'private' has some condition under which we share it.  I would think telling someone else about the best, most fulfilling way to live their lives would be one.  I mean, what would we think of a Doctor who kept a cure for a miserable condition back because he thought it was 'private?'  We even have safety exceptions to HIPPA laws.  If a patient admits suicidal or homicidal ideations to a counselor in session, the counselor is able (some would say 'bound') to let the proper authorities know.

     In the end, the best way to deal with this objection is to respond with this simple one line:  Our faith is NOT private... it is DEEPLY PERSONAL but NEVER private.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Taking it to the Streets!

Fidei Defensor at Farmer's Market

     Today my family and I had the blessing of Evangelizing near the Saturday farmer's market in Green Bay.  What a blessing.  Again, as always, there was not a single negative conversation.  Quite the contrary we were struck so profoundly that:

My Family and I have committed to being at the farmer's market most, if not all, Saturday mornings we can.

Please Join us: bring your own lawn chair.  The only thing we ask from you is prayer, you do NOT have to talk to anyone... However...

 This was my wife's first time going out Street Evangelizing.  As we talked ahead of time, she was nervous.  What I told her was to just come out, observe and pray; she didn't have to say anything.  The first person to stop and talk with us after my wife came, was such a great conversation that my wife was right in there sharing as well.  Why?  She said it's so natural! 
     We had about six conversations of varying length in the 2 1/2 hours we were there. 
1) We had a man we'll name Matt who was career military and with his wife, daughter, son-in-law and grandchildren.  His daughter had been pressuring him to come back to confession.  Matt and I had a great conversation about being the leader of his family.  Showing them that this is what they need to get to heaven.  I asked Matt - who was a Sgt. - if he didn't know what the objective was, or where to go, could he ever lead his men there?  He agreed, understood where I was going with it.  He took a pamphlet on Confession including a examination of conscience.  He said he was just visiting in the area, but he was going to go to mass with his daughter and son-in-law the next day (and go to confession at his next earliest convenience).
2) Next was a man who did not give his name.  He came up to us with a pained look and said, "Can you pray for me?  I'm struggling with addiction, badly."  We prayed with him for healing and guidance.  I also told him of a friend of mine who is overcoming alcoholism with great help from the Rosary.  I gave him a pamphlet about Mary's intercession.
3) Next we had Pamela.  Pamela had just recently come back to the Catholic Church after decades away.  She stated she didn't leave over any of the teachings, she had been hurt and was very mad over that hurt.  It took her years to realize that the Catholic Church is made up of sinners in need of a Savior, just like everyone else; and the people who had hurt her had done so not because of Catholic teaching, but against Catholic teaching.  She was VERY interested in joining our group and even helped Evangelize the next man who came to the booth!
4) While talking to Pamela, an unnamed man came to the booth.  He was reluctant to say much, but through our non-pressure questions, told us he used to be Catholic but left because "I started reading the Bible" and some people showed him, from the Bible, how the Catholic Church was wrong.  I asked him what his biggest objection was.  The man said that Catholic Church doesn't believe that we are saved by "Faith Alone".  I agreed with him that we absolutely need faith in Jesus Christ, the Father and the Holy Spirit in order to be saved.  I told him a little of my story, of how reading the Bible, as a Protestant, I ran across the only place in Scripture where the phrase "Faith Alone" appears.  I asked him if he knew where that verse was.  He did not.  I showed him my Bible, James 2:24 which says, "So you see a man is justified by works and NOT BY FAITH ALONE."  I told him that the Catholic Church always taught that God's grace enables us to have faith and to do meritorious works.  Again, only by the Grace of God.  I invited him to explore what the Catholic Church actually teaches and invited him back saying, "You're welcome back anytime.  We need people like you."  He took a pamphlet on Faith Alone.
During this conversation, Pamela jumped in and told him her story about how she had been hurt, and came back through forgiving the people who hurt her.  SEE HOW NATURAL IT IS TO SHARE CHRIST?
5) We had a young man (20's) run up and take a pamphlet on "Why Be Catholic?" and leave right away.  He was with a group of men about the same age and my guess is he didn't want to be embarrassed by his friends by talking to us, but was still interested enough to take a pamphlet.
6) We had numerous people say they were Catholic and thanking us for being out there.  They told us to keep it up!
Please pray for us and all those people.  Again, if you want to join us and just observe, we'll be out at the Nicolet National bank (the drive through side) most Saturday mornings.  Come Evangelize with us!  Share Christ with a world living in quiet desperation.
God Bless,
Fidei Defensor

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Woman to Pope: "Be a Man!"

The Power of Women in the Catholic Church

     Recently, after a talk, in the question and answer session, a question was posed that could have been taken two different ways.  While I do not recall the specific wording the two different meanings were 1) The Catholic Church was man-made, why should we believe in it 
2) The Catholic Church is only for males why should we follow it.
     At the time, I answered the first way but it got me thinking that maybe they meant the second way.  Especially with the entire secular media believing that Pope Francis is going to ordain female deacons any day now, I thought I'd address the second possible meaning.
     Rephrased the question becomes:  Isn't it unbalanced or unfair that men have all the power in the Church?  This is a great question and the answer speaks to (though doesn't answer entirely) other issues such as people with Same Sex Attraction, Transgendered issues, Abortion, the Divorce culture and many others.
    What I will NOT do is spend my time saying, "Well, Jesus appointed 12 men..." as I saw an obviously ambushed Jesuit Priest on CNN start with.  This line of reasoning doesn't make sense to people who don't already deeply believe in Scripture and / or Catholic Teaching. 
    What I WILL start with is explaining that this question is the pinnical of a tall tower based on science, philosophy and finally revelation.  But our world has destroyed the base of the tower; the foundation upon which that pininical rests, several stories up.  So for us to discuss this question, I need to back up...

XX or XY and Nothing else

     "God created them male and female" Genesis tells us.  But we don't need Genesis - or any Divine Revelation for that matter - to tell us that there are men, there are women and they are different.  But maybe we do.  Today we have people who think science is wrong in this matter.  These are some of the same people who would tell you that science proves religion is wrong, but in this case I guess their "religion" trumps science.  However I think everyone would agree that our in our physical bodies there are only XX or XY chromosomes.
     But can't we become "trapped" in the wrong one?  This is not supported by science, religion or philosophy.  I don't think we need to dive into science or religion to see this but I will take a brief fly-by of the philosophy.  What people who believe "we" can become trapped in the "wrong body" are espousing is a type of Gnosticism: a belief system that came on the scene in the 1st Century AD.  While Gnosticism has many distinctive beliefs that keep cropping up over and over throughout history, one of them is that Spirit and Matter are completely separate.  Spirit is 'good' and Matter is 'bad;' hence my 'mind' (who I think I REALLY am) is good and my body (what "I'm" trapped in) is bad.  A latter manifestation of Gnosticism, Manicheism, practiced a form of ritual suicide to "release" the good spirit from its fleshy prison.  (Marital intimacy and becoming pregnant was also seen as evil since that "trapped" a good soul in a fleshy prison).
     Mix this with a heaping dose of Relativism - the belief, in part, that there are no objective truths and we must disbelieve our senses, including the objective truth and sense of our physical bodies as part of us - and you get the modern belief that "gender" is arbitrary and "I" (as different from my body) can decide what my "real" gender is... and then I can force you to believe this to.
     What proper philosophy, like Thomism, shows us is that the soul is what animates the body and is the body's form.  We can no more be "trapped" in the wrong body then electricity can be "trapped" in the "wrong" electrical circuit - so to speak.  They are part of the same thing.  There's much more to a soul / body unity than that, but I think the analogy suffices for what I'm trying to say.  However, we can have feelings that do not corospond to reality: I once met a woman who felt that the local diocese was sending in the "Priest SWAT team" into her house, at night, to do exorcisms on her - but then would disappear without a trace, because they were all trained ninjas.  I think we all recognize that her feelings did not corospond to reality.
    We could get side tracked here for a while, but I think it is enough to say that science, religion and proper philosophy shows us that there are only two possible, objective realities: male and female / men and women and they are different from each other.

Feminine Genesis

     Our Western society has decided, for some time now, to devalue women and despise what it means to be 'woman,' eventually making it so meaningless that being a 'woman' is now an arbitrary choice that one can make one day, but chose against the next.  Yes, other cultures devalue women by physically demeaning them and legally making them second class citizens to men, but ours is much more sinister with it.  While, legally - and obviously correctly - our Western legal system gives equal rights under the law to women, it is our culture that has not embraced the underlying reasons for this.
     In Genesis, when "Woman" (Eve's original name) was created, she was created from "Man's" (Adams original name) rib.  Jewish commentators have thought about this for centuries longer than Christian.  Their question was, "Why the rib?"  Their answer was that Woman was not created from Man's head  - she should not rule over Man; neither was she created from his feet - she should not be subservient to Man;  rather she was created from his rib to be equal dignity, equal worth and equal value to Man.
     Where our culture gets all messed up with this is it only sees the value in a woman in one of two ways: 1) How she can please a man and 2) How she can be like a man.  Take a look at most popular "women's" magazine covers in the grocery checkout isle: between the cover model and articles they're all about how a woman can please a man.  I'm not even going to address the popular "men's" magazines...  Look at the beer adds:  The supermodel is drinking the same thing as the man, and as much of it as the man.  Look at the movies and T.V.: a woman must look a certain way, act a certain way and interact in a certain way to be like, just as good as or pleasing to a man.  Look at the workforce.  What does the modern thought say?  Women must work the same jobs at the same hours for the same pay as a man.  Some of that IS legitimate but it still begs the question:
     Why is a man the standard by which women's worth is judged?  Shouldn't women be their own standard?  Shouldn't a women be valued for being the best Woman she can be and not for how much she's like (or liked by) a man?

Equal, not Identical

    What the Catholic Church has always taught - though understood more fully today - is that men and women have equal value, equal dignity and equal worth but not identical roles.  I can think of no better way to sum this up than with Dr. Peter Kreeft's statement, "Women are better than men at being women; and men are better than women at being men."  This is Catholic teaching.  Men and women each have their own, unique, irreplaceable, positive contributions to society and life BUT there are differences that the other cannot do.
     Case and point: I am of the opinion that God gave the Priesthood to only men to make us men feel like our roles were almost as important as women's.  WAIT DID YOU READ THAT RIGHT?  Yes.  I believe that the all-male priesthood was given to men to make us men feel like our rolls were almost as important as a woman's.
     So what is this role that women were given that is so highly important, so powerful, so valued?
The all-woman Motherhood.   None of us would exist without it and I, as a man, cannot be "ordained" into it, no matter how much I may think it unfair.
     I'm in agreement with G.K. Chesterton.  He, jokingly, did not believe in equality of the sexes. Since he lived in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries, one would be tempted to think he thought men were better.  This is incorrect.  Chesterton believe WOMEN were far more valuable and important to society.  Paraphrasing one of Chesterton's essays, Chesterton states that a man means only little to the many people he encounters each day.  A woman, on the other hand, means the UNIVERSE to her children.  It truly is the hand that rocks the cradle changes the world.
    This isn't to say that a "woman's place is in the home" or that a woman shouldn't do anything but get pregnant as many times as she can.  But it does mean that we need to understand AND RECLAIM woman AS WOMAN and not as a man. 
   This is what the Catholic Church has always taught; this is the entire point of Pope St. John Paul the Great's encyclical "Letter to Women."  Going back to Biblical times, the Catholic Church was one of the first, and certainly the most influential force, in showing that women are more than just property; that women have equal dignity, worth and value as men.  In a time where women were property and even in the progressive - for the day - religion of Judaism, women could be "put away" (divorced) without right or council and women's testimony was weighed 1/4 of that of a man's; in that culture and time Paul writes this bombshell (inspired by the Holy Spirit): "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Gal 3:28) or "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her...Even so husbands should love their wives as their own bodies... For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." (excerpts from Eph 5:25-33).  Other passages near there show that a husband's role is NOT living for himself, and using his wife in the process, but instead "that he might sanctify her."
    In the modern day, the Catholic Church is still telling women that they have intrinsic, infinite value AS WOMEN, not in how a woman can please, or be like a man.  In these, and many more ways than I can list here, when properly understood, the only Truly FEMINIST movements have been in the Catholic Church.  All others have been masculinist movements.  This is shocking to the modern mind, raised on and accepting of the degradation, demonization and demoralization of true feminism.

 Women's Power in the Church

      So am I saying that women have no power or roll in the Catholic Church's decisions other than to have kids?  Absolutely not, though let us not just pass over that!  Again, NONE of us would be here with out women embracing the blessing (and cross) of the all woman Motherhood (of which I cannot participate in, no matter what I self identify as).  But the Catholic Church doesn't see that as women's only roll either.  Several of the Doctors of the Church - those Saints whose writings we can rely on for accurate, official, Catholic Teaching - are women: St. Theresa of Avila, St. Therese of Lisieux; St. Edith Stein and others; soon-to-be St. Mother Theresa told bishops, and even St. JP II what to do, at times, in decisions that effected her ministry (She also made then Pres. Bill Clinton absolutely speechless by taking him to task for his stand on abortion; an encounter which I have no doubt factored into Clinton's decision to sign some pro-Life legislation). 
      If it hadn't been for women, our churches would have collapsed in America in the last 50 years:  As we've lost the sense of what "Woman" is, so we have lost what it means to be "Man."  Men have shirked their rolls for far too long.  Women have been there to pick up the pieces that men drop - as they always have.  Recall, when weak men in the Church gave into the demands of a secular king and moved the Papal offices and residence to France, one woman - who knew one of her unique rolls as woman (as any wife knows) is to spur men on to be better men (read: give them a swift kick in the pants) - approached the pope with a message.  St. Catherine of Sienna told Pope Gregory XI to his face, "ESTO VIR!" ( or "BE A MAN!") and get the Papacy back to Rome where St. Peter founded it.  Pope Gregory promptly moved the Papacy back to Rome.  Notice what St. Catherine is and is NOT saying in this?  She is saying: This is wrong.  You are wrong. YOU need change this.  She is NOT saying: Our rolls are identical, but you're just oppressing me.  Give ME this roll and I'LL change it myself.
    But isn't that one of the powers of women as Woman: to show what real manhood is too?  When we know the differences, the different roles, and appreciate them, we know how to help each other, unite with each other and lead each other to Christ.  This kind of unity is so absolute and full that it can create new life!  When we blur those lines, devalue each other's differences, roles, become jealous of each other and try to be identical to each other, that is when we are truly divided, devalued and eventually come to the conclusion that gender is arbitrary, that children are a burden and marriage is nothing special.
    Please, women, continue your absolutely necessary, tremendously powerful and uniquely beautiful role in our Church.  We all need you and we are all infinitely indebted to you, as women.

God Bless,
Fidei Defensor