Reposting the Series ~ The Lamb of God Theme: Second Model

Lamb of God

The Lamb of God

 

Abridged from a work by: Rev. Msgr. Donald C. Hamburger

Model Two: Noah’s Altar, Ark and Rainbow – Genesis 5:28-7:28 – Prehistory

The rainbow is a sign of the eternal covenant God made with mankind: that He would never again destroy the world’s creatures by flood as He did in the days of Noah.

A Sketch of Noah’s Life: God looked down from the heavenly heights and saw how evil the people had become. This predates Moses who includes the story in the first book of the Bible about 1200 years before Jesus was born.

In Genesis 5:28 we read how Lamech became the father of a son and called him, Noah. The people of the world had become so wicked that God repented of having created them, so He decided to drown them with a great flood. But God found Noah to be a just man, so He told Noah to build a large ark and to take his wife, his three sons, and their wives into the ark as well as pairs of all the living animals and seven pairs of the “clean animals.”

God promised that He would establish a covenant with Noah. So Noah did all that God commanded him. Rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights and all flesh on the earth died. The waters rose over the mountain tops but finally the rain subsided and the ark settled upon the earth.

Noah sent a raven out, then a dove. When the dove returned she had a green olive branch in her beak and the second time she was sent out, she did not return. So Noah, his family and all the animals went out of the ark.

Then Noah built an altar to the Lord and offered sacrifices in thanksgiving; sacrifices of all the “clean” animals which he had taken into the ark. God then established His covenant with Noah, as mentioned earlier, using the Rainbow as an everlasting sign of His promise.

Pertaining to the Lamb of God theme, I perceive a development in two ways: 1) Noah built the first altar described in the Bible and 2) he specified that the sacrifice is offered in “thanksgiving.”

Hints: Since Noah used “every clean animal” for his sacrifice, he would have included the offspring of sheep and goats both of which were referred to as “lambs.”

After the waters of the flood subsided, Noah offered the sacrifice of “thanksgiving.” After experiencing the waters of baptism, a follower of the “second Adam” is able to offer the sacrifice of the Holy Eucharist. It is noteworthy that the Greek word from which “Eucharist” is derived also gives us the word “thanksgiving.”

With Noah’s safe deliverance from the floodwaters, there is a certain renewal of the human race; a second beginning. God repeats, almost word for word, the blessing given to our first parents: “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth . . .”

Noah as a Prototype of Jesus: Because the flood destroyed all mankind except Noah and his family, the human race received a new beginning from him. Through Noah’s ark the family is saved from the floodwaters just as by our baptism by water we enter into the barque of Peter and the hope of our salvation; for mankind was redeemed by Jesus, the second Adam who shed His Blood on the Cross. Thus we are washed by the blood of the Lamb, the “cleanest of all God’s creatures,” speaking only of His human nature.

The waters of baptism had just been poured over Jesus by John the Baptist when at the Jordan he announced, “Behold, the Lamb of God.”

So today, Baptism by water precedes the worthy reception of the Holy Eucharist, the Lamb of God’s sacramental Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity.

St. Peter alluded to Noah: “It was in the spirit also that (Jesus) went to the spirits in prison (hell, in the Apostle’s Creed). They had disobeyed as long ago as Noah’s day, while God patiently waited until the ark was built. At that time, a few persons, eight in all, escaped in the ark through the water. You are now saved through a baptismal bath which corresponds to this exactly . . .” (I Peter 3:18 ff.)

Because of God’s blessing to Noah and his family, they gave birth to a new generation of human beings. God repeated the blessing almost verbatim which He gave to Adam and Eve. Therefore, Noah is likened to a “new Adam.” So too, does Jesus, through the water of Baptism (spiritual rebirth), beget a new generation and Whom St. Paul calls a “new Adam.”

God cleansed the world of evil and sin by washing humanity in His great flood. This should remind us of the spiritual effects of our own Baptism. God accepted Noah’s sacrifice and used the rainbow as a sign of His new and everlasting covenant. Let the rainbow also remind us of God’s other covenants and especially the new and everlasting covenant which was made at the Last Supper; Holy Eucharist.

The CCC (71) says of God’s covenant with Noah:

“God made an everlasting covenant with Noah and with all living beings (Cf. Gen. 9:16). It will remain in force as long as the world lasts.”

Finally, it is interesting to discuss whether the story of the flood and Noah’s ark is concerning a universal flood over the whole earth or only covering that part of the world known by Noah and his contemporaries. Galileo later quoted by Pope John Paul II, gives us a good piece of advice: “The Bible tells us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go.”

The Voice of Peter

Most Rev. Fulton Sheen

This article was specially written by Most Rev. Fulton Sheen, Bishop of Rochester for the English edition of L’Osservatore Romano.

Christ and Peter

Psychology reveals that the human body, when it reaches a certain growth, begins to be conscious of itself. A moment comes when the child no longer says: “Baby wants”… but “I want”.

The Church as the Body of Christ revealed its heavenly consciousness when Christ complained to Paul who persecuted the Church: “Why do you persecute Me”. The earthly consciousness of that same Mystical Body was reached in Peter, the only person in all Scripture with whom God so associated Himself as to say “we”. The occasion was the paying of the tax. The Lord, as if he were putting His arm around Peter, said “In order that WE may not scandalize”. What a unity of the headship of heaven and earth! What a conscious unity of the Body of Christ, Christ and Peter.

The Pope’s Burden

But this intuitive awareness of headship in Peter and his present successor, Paul VI, makes each Pontiff also the most vulnerable man in all the world. To be vulnerable is to be accessible to every attack, worry and anxiety which happens to the Church in every area of the earth. As Paul VI told me: “I often find, in my letters and reports when I read them at night, a thorn. When I go to bed they have woven themselves together into a crown of thorns”. This unshielded and exposed personality makes the Pontiff like a solitary tree on a mountain top, exposed to all the blasts of the four winds. The father and mother of a family suffer for their children; the priest bears the wounds of his parishioners, but into that chalice held by the Vicar of Christ seeps all the sorrows, such as those caused by disciples: “some walk with Him no more”, or who leave the Eucharistic Banquet and “go out into the night”. It is in these moments the Pastoral heart is most pierced.

“Is it so, O Christ in heaven, that the highest suffer most…. That the mark of rank in nature is capacity for pain, That the anguish of the inner makes the sweetness of the strain?”

The agony in Gethsemane in some way becomes the agony of the Pontificate and to both there is dipped a common cup which the Father gives.

For that reason, it is not just our theology, our tradition and our faith which makes us pledge our loyalty to him; it is also our sympathy, a compassion so great that the world, if it looked closely, might see but one common tear falling down pontifical checks.

Peter’s Voice

It is his Voice to which we listen—for there is something special in it, as there was in the voice of Peter. St. Luke who recounts the scene in the outer court of Annas and Caiphas, as well as the scene of Peter knocking at the door of John Mark, makes Peter twice identifiable by his Voice. In both instances, it was a servant who recognized the Voice and each one refused to be negated in certitude that it was the Voice of Peter, for both “constantly reaffirmed”.

The background of the story is Peter’s miraculous escape from prison when his life was threatened by King Herod. He goes to the house of John Mark where the faithful of the Church are gathered in prayer. Present were John Mark, his mother, Mary; and her brother-in-law, Barnabas, and the servant Rhoda.

Rhoda answered the knocking; she recognized Peter’s voice who called to her, but did not open the door. Rather she ran and told everyone that Peter was at the door. Their response was twofold: either she was “mad” or else it was an apparition. A practical man, probably Barnabas, suggested that they give up liturgy for service and go and see if it was Peter.

Peter’s Voice Today

Does not this scene fit our modern times, when those who should be foremost in recognizing the voice of Peter, like the liturgical center of John Mark, and the disciples like Barnabas, are slow to do so, whereas the simple laity not only recognize it but insist upon its authenticity.

Now, as then, there are those in the house of John Mark who think that the voice is all apparition, that it is something out of the past, unreal and mythical or of another world.

Then there are those who when the simple people insist that it is the Voice of Peter, say that they are “crazy” or “mad”, and need to have their theological heads examined.

These two kinds of incredulity were manifested toward the Divinity of Our Lord. When the disciples were rowing in the darkness of a storm Jesus came walking on the waters, but they thought that He was a “ghost”. At another time because of His zeal, His own relatives thought Him “mad”.

But while the inner circle in the house of John Mark dialogued about the unsecularity of the voice and abused the simple for believing in it, Peter “continued knocking”.

The quality of Peter’s character is persistence. He was a fisherman and he knew patience and hope. But here it happens that he who knocks is the doorkeeper—the one who has the keys and is trying, as it were, TO GET INTO HIS CHURCH AND TO HIS PEOPLE. That knocking is no different from the knock of the Apocalypse where Christ affirms: “Behold, I stand at the door and knock”.

The Voice of Christ

That Voice is no different than the Voice of Christ: “He that heareth you, heareth Me”. And if we heed it not, do we not fall back into that anonymous authority of “they”—”They say”, “They no longer believe that”—Who are “They”? In the Holy Father, the Voice is personal and with joy we heed it echoing from Peter the day the Eucharist was announced: “Lord, to whom shall we go. Thou alone hast the Words of Eternal Life”.

Thou art Peter

We reaffirm our allegiance to the Voice of Peter in Paul VI, for we know that we share in Christ’s prayer for His Church only to the extent that we are united with Peter. In order to get the full flavor of the words of Our Lord, we use the second person singular:

“Simon, Simon, Satan demanded to have you (the plural i.e. that is you My disciples, My Church), that he might sift you (again the plural) like wheat. But I have prayed for thee (singular—i.e. for Peter) that thy faith fail not; and when thou have turned back to Me (after My Resurrection) that thou (Peter) shall strengthen thy brethren”.

In these days when Satan has been given a long rope, we want above all things to share in the PRAYER OF CHRIST for the preservation of faith. But we know that we can do this only through our union with Peter. To Peter, and now to Paul VI, we look for the never failing faith, for the assurance that neither the pillars of the Church, nor its inferior parts will ever be severed from the Church’s structure. With Ambrose we repeat: “Where Peter is, there is the Church”. God grant that we will not keep him “knocking”.

 

Taken from:
L’Osservatore Romano
Weekly Edition in English
11 April 1968, page 7

Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Another Relevant Essay

 

Scandals

by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen

Every now and then people come across a counterfeit bill, but I never knew anyone who, because of it, argued that the United States currency was worthless. Astronomers have seen spots on the sun, but I have yet to hear of one who denied that the sun is the light of the world. But I know many who pick out the failings and sins of a few Catholics and then say: “But, my dear, they don’t tell you everything! The Church is really the work of the devil.”

This extreme point of view starts with a fact: There are scandals. For example, some Catholic husbands and wives are unfaithful; some Catholic politicians are more crooked than those who have no religion; some Catholic boys steal; some Catholic girls worship the same saints as pagan girls: movie heroes or band leaders; some Catholic industrialists are selfish and hardhearted and totally indifferent to the rights of workers; some Catholic labor leaders are more interested in keeping their leadership by annual strikes than in cooperating for social justice. Then in the Papacy, there is Alexander VI.

What does all this prove, but that Our Dear Lord has espoused humanity as it is, rather than as we would like it to be! He never expected His Mystical Body the Church to be without scandals because He Himself was the first scandal. It was a terrible scandal for those who knew Him to be God to see Him crucified and go down to seeming defeat, at the moment His enemies challenged Him to prove His Divinity by coming down from the Cross. No wonder He had to beg His followers not to be scandalized by Him. If the human nature of Our Lord could suffer physical defeat and be a scandal, why should there not be scandals in Our Lord’s Mystical Body made up of poor mortals such as we? If He permitted thirst, pain and a death sentence to affect His Physical Body, why should He not permit mystical and moral weaknesses such as loss of faith, sin, scandals, heresies, schisms, and sacrileges to affect His Mystical Body? When these things do happen, it does not prove that the Mystical Body the Church is not Divine in its inmost nature, any more than the Crucifixion of Our Lord proved He is not Divine. Because our hands are dirty, the whole body is not polluted. The scandals of the Mystical Body the Church no more destroy its substantial holiness than the Crucifixion destroyed the substantial wholeness of Christ’s Physical Body. The Old Testament prophecy fulfilled on Calvary was that not a bone of His Body would be broken. His flesh would hang like purple rags about Him, wounds like poor dumb mouths would speak their pain with blood, pierced hands and feet would open up torrents of redemptive life – but His substance, his bones, they would be sound. So with His Mystical Body. Not a bone of it shall ever be broken; the substance of Her doctrines will always be pure, though the flesh of some of her doctors fail; the substance of Her discipline will be sound, though the passion of some of her disciples rebel; the substance of Her faith will always be Divine though the flesh of some of her faithful will be so carnal. Her wounds will never be mortal, for Her Soul is Holy and Immortal, with the Immortality of Love Divine that came to Her Body on the Day of Pentecost as tongues of living fire.

Coming to one of the major scandals, let it be asked: “How could a wicked man like Alexander VI be the infallible Vicar of Christ and head of His Mystical Body the Church?” For an answer, go to the Gospel text where Our Lord changes the name of Simon to Rock, and then made Him the Rock on which He built what He called “My Church.” Our Lord on that very occasion made a distinction very few ever think of: He distinguished between infallibility or immunity from error, and impeccability or immunity from sin. Infallibility is inability to teach what is wrong; impeccability is inability to do wrong. Our Lord made the Rock infallible, but not impeccable.

Immediately after assuring Peter that he had the keys of Heaven and authority to bind and loose, Our Blessed Lord tells His Apostles that He “must go up to Jerusalem,” and “must be put to death” (Matthew 16:21). Poor, weak, human Peter, proud of his authority as the Rock draws Our Lord to his side, and begins rebuking Him, saying: “God forbid, Lord! No such thing shall ever happen to You” (Matthew 16:22). On hearing these words Our Lord “turned around and said to Peter, ‘Get behind Me, Satan! You are an obstacle to Me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do” (Matthew 16:23).

A moment before Peter was called the Rock; now he is called Satan! In so many words Our Lord was telling him: “As a Rock upon which I build My Church, whenever you speak with the assistance of Heaven, you shall be preserved from error; but as Simon, son of Jonah, as a man, you are so frail, so carnal, so apt to be sinful, that you can become even like unto Satan. In your office you, as Peter, are infallible; but as man, Simon, you are peccable. The Power you have as Peter is My Making; the want of morals you have as Simon, is of your making.” Is this distinction between a person and his function hard to grasp? If a policeman directing traffic held up his hand and ordered you to stop, you would do so, even though you knew he beat his wife. And why? Because you make a distinction between his function as a representative of law and his person. I am sure that Our Lord permitted the fall of Peter immediately after the gift of Primacy to remind him and all his successors that infallibility would belong necessarily to his office, but virtue would have to be acquired by his own striving with the help of God’s grace. Whether the voice be sweet, or dull and grating, whether it be spoken with an accent or a flaw in grammar, we consider not the tone but the message. “Speak, Lord, for Your servant is listening” (I Samuel 3:9).

It is generally safe to say that those who know everything about the few bad successors of Peter, know nothing at all about the very many good ones. The wickedness of one man in authority is allowed to obscure a million saints. How many who dwell on the Vicars of Christ during the brief period of the Renaissance, ever dwell on their history for the other 1900 years? How many of those who exploit the bad few ever admit that of the first thirty-three successors of Peter, thirty were martyrs for their Faith, and the other three exiled for it? How many of those who concentrate on the bad example of a few know, or ever admit, that of the two hundred and sixty-one successors of St. Peter, eighty-three have been canonized for their heroic virtue, and that over fifty were chosen over the protest of their own unworthiness for such a high office, and that few can match in humility, wisdom and learning our present Holy Father, Pius XII? Anyone who attacks such a long line of martyrs, saints, and scholars must be certain of his own sinlessness to lay his hand on the few who revealed the human side of their office. If the revilers themselves are holy, pure and undefiled, let them pick up their stones. Our Lord said that it is the privilege only of those who are without sin to cast the first stone. But if they are not without sin, then let them leave the judgment to God. If they are without sin, they belong to a different race from you and me, for from deep down in our hearts a cry comes to our lips: “Be merciful to me a sinner.”

Turning to the scandal of bad Catholics, it must be remembered that Our Lord no more expected to have every member of His Church perfect than He expected to have perfect Apostles. That is why He said that on the last day He would throw the bad fish out of His net. Some Catholics may be bad, but that does not prove the Mystical Body is wicked, any more than because a few Americans who sell themselves to Russia, proves that America is a race of traitors. Our Faith increases responsibility, but it does not force obedience; it increases blame but it does not prevent sin. If some Catholics are bad, it is not because they are members of Christ’s Mystical Body, but rather because they are not living up to its Lights and Grace.

The psychology of those who are scandalized as bad Catholics is interesting. It means that they expected something better; if people who themselves are wicked, rejoice in the scandal, it is because they think they have greater authority for sinning than anyone else who fell. One never hears it said: “He is a bad Relativist,” or he is a “scandalous Humanist” or an “adulterous Ethicist,” because they never really expected anything better from them in the beginning. The horror that one feels at those who fall, is the measure of the height of virtue to which they expected to stand. We are grateful for the compliment of their being scandalized at our weak members, and for being intolerant with us about the very things they tolerate in others. They know that there are no other new lights possible if the sun fails! It is intellectually stultifying and morally easy to be a Communist; it is intellectually refreshing and morally hard to be a Catholic.

No ideal is more difficult of attainment. When anyone falls away from a Sun Cult he never has very far to tumble. But when a Catholic falls away, he is apt to be far worse than anyone else. The greater the height from which he falls, the greater the splash. “The corruption of the best is the worst.” No flowers smell worse than the rotted lily.

May we ask those who are scandalized with the failings of the Church, how perfect the Church would have to be before they would become incorporated into it as a living cell? If it were as perfect as they wanted it to be, do they realize that there would be no room for them? Just suppose for a moment, that Christ’s Mystical Body had no moral weaknesses; suppose that no monk ever broke his priestly vows to marry a nun and start a new religion – and this really happened; suppose that no bishop was ever just a business administrator and no priest ever disedifying and no monk ever fat, and no sister ever cross to children, and sanctity was as automatic as a parking meter; and suppose no one ever gave scandal to those who are on the outside to justify the way they were living. Would such a Church be the kind that Our Lord envisaged Who told us that cockle would be sowed with wheat, and that some of the children of the Kingdom would be cast out? If the Mystical Body were as perfect as the scandalized would have it, would not Her very perfection accuse and condemn us who are not saintly? Too high an ideal often repels rather than attracts. She would be so saintly that She would no longer allure ordinary mortals. She might even appear to the struggling souls as terribly Puritan, easily scandalized at our failings, and might even shrink from having Her garments touched by sinners like ourselves. Gone then would be the hope for those who are unholy or in sin. NO! The Mystical Body with none but perfect members would be a stumbling block. Then, instead of us being scandalized by Her, She would be scandalized by us, which would be far worse.

If the life of the Mystical Body had been one triumphant, blazing transfiguration on a mountain top, apart from the woes and ills of man, She would never have been the comforter of the afflicted and the refuge of sinners. She has been called like Her Divine Head, to be a redemptress, lifting men from the shadows of sin to be the tabernacles of grace where saints are made. She is not a far-off, abstract idea, but a Mother, and though She has been stained with dust in Her long journey through the centuries, and though some of her children have nailed Her Body and saddened Her Soul, yet there is joy in her Heart because of the children She has nourished; there is gladness in Her eyes, because of the faith She has preserved; there is understanding in Her soul, for She has understood the frailty of our flesh, and knows how to nourish it back to life. And in these qualities one divines the reason why Our Lord chose, not a saintly man like John, but a weak, fallen man like Peter as His First Vicar, in order that through his weakness he, and the Church of which he is the head, might sympathize with the weakness of his brethren, be their apostle of mercy and, in the truest sense of the term, the vicar of the Savior and the Redeemer of the world, Who came not to save the just but me, a sinner.

Our Lord often punishes His Mystical Body from time to time, by permitting some of the members or cells of that Body to separate themselves from it, but He punishes them still more. On the whole the world is right! We Catholics are not all we ought to be! The world is the way it is, because we Catholics are the way we are. Our Lord said: “If salt loses its taste, what is there left to give taste to it?” (Matthew 5:13). It is not the world we have failed, but Christ, and in failing Christ, we failed the world. But we beg those of you who see our failings to remember how hard it is for us to be everything Our Lord wants us to be. It is so easy to be a Democrat or a Republican or a “Cosmic Unifier,” but it is very hard to be a Catholic! Judge us not by our failings, as you judge not art by the feeble scribbling of a child. Look rather to our artistic masterpieces: the saints, and there are countless armies of them in the world. We have hurt you by our failings, and we beg your pardon, but we hurt Our Dear Lord more, and we shall do penance.

There are many of you who are scandalized by us, who, if you had the same Infallible Truth to guide you, the same Divine Eucharist to nourish you daily, would be a thousand times better than we are. We ought to be better than we are. And here I touch on the only unhappiness that comes to us as Catholics, and believe me, it is very real! We are unhappy because we are not saints. Will you therefore pray for us? Thanks!

God love you!

Catholicism: the Reason for My Hope Part III

Ordination to the Catholic priesthood (Latin r...

Ordination to the Catholic priesthood.

The Structure of the Church and the Continuity of Her Teachings

The structure of the Church that Christ founded has a structure that Christ imposed on Her. Just before He gave Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven that bind and loose on heaven and earth, Christ asked the disciples who the people said He was. The reply was this. And they said: “Some [say] John the Baptist; some, Elijah; and others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.”  Then Jesus said to them: “But whom do you say that I am?” And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answering, said to him: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona: because flesh and blood hath not revealed it to thee, but my Father who is in heaven.” (Matthew 16:14-17). In this way Christ dismisses the notion that the Church is a democracy that is ruled by the people’s vote or opinion. It is also, not a Church ruled by committee alone. It is ruled by God, through Peter acting alone and by the other apostles acting together with their head Peter. We can infer this rather easily by seeing Christ hand over the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven to Peter alone immediately after this scene and to this day we say that any Pope, occupies the chair of Peter and has use of His gift to bind and to loose. This indicates that this Theocracy will have a human face, a vicar or ambassador of Christ, to lead and guide the Church on earth.

So we already see in the embryonic Church a structure being loosely formed and the details being left to those who have been given the authority to do so. We have a head, a governing body and those that they deem fit to lead the people and shepherd the people. No other Church has this structure that we see developed in Matthew 16.

Later, after Christ had risen, He appears in the upper room and consecrates the apostles by breathing on them (reminiscent of the only other time in scripture that God breathed on man; when He gave life to our first parent Adam). This is a new spiritual gift. It is a new spiritual life given only to His apostles. And by their reception it signified a special gift of the Holy Spirit; the breath of God. And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and saith unto them, “Receive ye the Holy Spirit: Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” (John 20:22-23). This was the reception of the gift of Holy Orders given to our Bishops and Priests for the absolution of sins: a means to help Christians return to grace when they have failed Christ and the Church – sinning against God and man. It is why we must maintain an apostolic priesthood that received this power and grace; uniquely given to these men of the Church for our benefit.

In this way the Church has been anointed with an exclusive power which was afforded Her by Christ for the leadership and shepherding of His flock. For those who feel they need not confess their sins to a man, how would these men ever know what they were to “forgive or retain” unless the sins were confessed? It is illogical that any other meaning can be attributed to the above verses. Why confess to a mere man? Because Christ ordained it and also because when you have sinned against God, you have sinned against the men and women of the Church as well and must be forgiven by both. When the priest absolves your sin, he does so in persona Christi (in the person of Christ), his power coming from Christ Himself by way of the Holy Spirit as given to these first apostles. Now this gift has been passed on historically through the anointing of their successors right to our present time. So it is appropriate that  a man, chosen by God for ministering to the Church, is indispensable to the Church for mending the sin between the sinner and God as well as the Church which the penitent had professed to follow.

So here we can see the basic structure of the Church and what we today call Holy Orders: Pope, Bishop, Priest and Deacon (who has limited powers to help the priests and bishops).

The continuity of teaching is another important and relevant factor which I evaluated as an aspiring convert to the Church. For 2000 years, of martyrdoms, heresies, apostasies, corruption and scandal the Church has not ever violated as a teaching the Deposit of Faith that was delivered Her through Christ and the Apostles. All divine revelation ended when the last apostle died. This de fide teaching which was passed down via the spoken tradition and the written scriptures has over the years been codified in most of the important areas. They are inviolate, as the Church, acting as the world’s sworn protector of this Deposit, will not and cannot change a single thing that is contained therein.

As times change and customs in other countries differ from one another, we modify the unessential to become part of and integrated into the people being served; but we hold to the same de fide teachings unfailingly. Even if we could change them, our question would be: to which time in history and to which culture should we succumb? Would the Church be different and believe differently in every part of the world and at every time period? So we cannot do this with our divinely revealed teachings as they are to be preserved for all time.

It is one of the sad facts that we see the churches that have come out of the Catholic Church violate and deny many of these inviolable teachings. The most recent of these teachings that all Christianity embraced was the immorality of contraception. It was struck from the teaching of 1 single protestant denomination in the 1930’s and within a few years every protestant church had succumbed to the pressure of the secular world: for science had perfected a simple and an affordable way to practice contraception and the people were clamouring for it.

The Catholic Church cannot change this even if most of the Catholic’s would like us to. It is apostolic and biblical and is part of the everlasting deposit of faith that the Church is sworn to uphold. We cannot be seduced by the world on matters of grave error.

For these reasons, I find that having the assurance of a Church with a divinely chosen structure and a commitment to oppose the world on matters of essential teachings a great comfort.  She has guarded our faith faithfully for 2000 years and shows Herself to be a fortress that even the Gates of Hell will not prevail against.

Where Does a Church Get its Authority?

This might be presented as the argument of authority.

There are two recognized types of authority: One IMMEDIATE and the other MEDIATE. They could be characterized in the following way:

 Immediate Authority is unquestioned and undisputed authority that rests upon their inherent right which is a product of who the person is. They do not require any authority from another. Their authority is not different from their person: it is who they are in and of themselves. Immediate authority cannot be gained and is natural to who they are. This type of authority is absolute and apparent.

Mediate Authority: Authority that is given to someone by another with immediate authority. It is entirely dependent upon a person who possesses immediate authority and cannot be self-imposed upon themselves. This type of authority, which allows them to act with authority in a particular capacity, is practiced in the name of the immediate authority who bestowed this right upon them. Mediate authority can be specific and bounded to certain areas of concern or it can be all-encompassing and unbounded requisite to the wishes of the Immediate Authority. Mediate Authority can be passed on to others when a vacancy arises due to death or sickness. For instance a King sends his ambassador and his entourage to another country to negotiate with that country on a matter of state. If the appointed ambassador becomes incapacitated or dies on the trip, he can appoint another from his entourage to carry out the mission in his absence.

In Christianity, it would seem prudent to examine by what form of authority the church or pastor teaches. If one goes outside of the immediate or mediate authority then how can they posses a valid authority. Would they not merely possess that which men might choose in allowing them this authority or revoking it on a whim? But how can those without authority bestow that which they don’t possess: it is an invalid use of authority.

Did Martin Luther or John Calvin have Immediate Authority: in other words, are they Divine? The answer is obviously no. Did they receive Mediate Authority from Christ as did Peter and the Apostles? Again, the answer is obviously no and they made no such claim. Had they made this claim, as many individuals have over the centuries, would we be required to believe them without proof? The self-evident answer would seem to be no.

Luther, Calvin and Zwingli had no authority to defy the rightful authorities of the Church who received their authority directly from Christ. They abandoned the Church over disagreements and scandals in the Church without making use of the remedies that have been used by others the last 2000 years to correct and reform those who might scandalize the Church: for these disagreements and scandals started almost immediately. It is important to see how the Church reacted to the apostle James and the Judaizers and James’s response[1]. This was a big disagreement in the Church and threatened a rift in our Christian faith. James did not leave the Church on account of his disagreement. Instead, he left it to the Council of Jerusalem where Peter with much urging from Paul decided that the Judaizers could not burden new converts with circumcision or dietary laws. James accepted their authority. Contrast that with Luther and the others who left the Church and did not even attempt to settle their disagreements within the Church. They simply walked and started their own church without recognizing any authority but their own: authority they never possessed: for self-imposed authority is no authority at all.

Christ foresaw such problems when he warned the apostles that scandals would necessarily come[2]. But He also prayed for unity[3] among His followers. In fact they deny that the Bible, which they all claim for their authority, specifically relates the power that Christ (the Immediate Authority) gave to Peter[4] to lead His Church and to the Apostles[5] (acting together in union with Peter) to rule in His absence.

Without a known valid authority, who can decide what to believe? If it is simply the Bible that is the authority, then whose interpretation should be believed? Should each individual decide by their own understanding what difficult Scripture passages might mean? If so, how does this compare to anarchy where anyone can claim his own authority? The confusion is never ending with as many sets-of-beliefs as there are people on the planet. Each of us would, if we had a desire to do it, found our own personal church that conforms to our unique interpretations, personal likes, dislikes or preferences.

Licit authority seems to be at the very heart of the present disunity of Christianity. It can readily be seen in the fruit of the first separated churches (Lutheran, Calvinist and Baptist) who have divided over the years into nearly 30,000 churches, each with their own particular nuances in their theology. Though they mostly hold to the same major convictions of the Christian faith, the details have divided the One Church established by Christ into many disparate factions, scandalous to the desire of our Lord to remain as one.


[1] Read Acts 15

[2] For it must needs be that scandals come: __ Mt. 18:7.  The following verses state that the offenders should be rooted out: not that the body of the Church be abandoned.

[3] Holy Father, keep them in thy name whom thou has given me; that they may be one, as we also are. __ Jn. 17:11

[4] And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.__ Mt. 16:18

[5] When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. __ Jn. 20:22-23