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    The Shaping of Biblical Criticism: A Catholic Perspective on Historical Criticism

    Reformed Protestantism and Catholicism share common ground in their centuries-long interaction, and often battle, with the historical-critical method of Scriptural interpretation. Protestants and Catholics alike have often viewed this method as a direct threat to the historical and theological integrity of the Biblical texts. Many other Protestants and Catholics have alternatively embraced historical criticism to varying degrees, either by appropriating it to replace traditional interpretive methods, or attempting to harmonize it with those same methods. This article revisits the history of the historical-critical method through a summary and review of Scott Hahn and Benjamin Wiker’s 2013 book Politicizing the Bible: The Roots of Historical Criticism and the Secularization of Scripture 1300 -1700. We also seek to present a Catholic perspective on this controversial and still potent force in contemporary Biblical scholarship. This article was written by Ray Stamper and Casey Chalk. Continue Reading…

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January 22, 2015

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015: Day Five, “You have no bucket and the well is deep”

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — Casey Chalk @ 12:00 am

The woman said to him, “Sir, you have no bucket, and the well is deep. Where do you get that living water? Are you greater than our ancestor Jacob, who gave us the well, and with his sons and his flocks drank from it?” Jesus said to her, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.” The woman said to him, “Sir, give me this water, so that I may never be thirsty or have to keep coming here to draw water.” (John 4:1-42)

The Samaritan woman presumes that when Jesus speaks of water, He is speaking of the same water of which she has come to draw from the well. She is physically thirsty, and has come to draw water. This stranger at the well claims He can draw living water and give her a drink. It may not be much to say the woman likely thought “What the heck is this guy talking about?” This stranger has no bucket, and the well is far too deep for him to simply bend over and scoop up a handful of water. Yet Jesus is speaking at a deeper, metaphorical level, of a different kind of well and a different kind of water. The woman’s confusion is natural, and to be expected. If a stranger were to approach us speaking in a metaphorical and cryptic language about deep spiritual matters, we would naturally be suspicious, confused, possibly a bit defensive. Jesus is a total stranger, speaking in an atypical metaphoric language about much different matters than what the woman was likely accustomed to hearing or speaking about.

Sometimes our approach to those of different faiths or religious traditions can be similar to that of the Samaritan woman. Our own customs, language, cultural idioms and historical and philosophical reference points shape the way we hear, understand, and communicate. We bring all kinds of baggage, both consciously and subconsciously, to any conversation about religion. God, Jesus, Scripture, grace, justification, salvation, sin: all words with profound and different meanings based on our own background, upbringing, study, and personal experiences. If we don’t take the necessary time to listen, to reflect, to ingest what another person says, we may actually miss his or her point entirely. “You have no bucket,” we are inclined to say, when our family member, friend, or acquaintance may not be talking about the same thing as us. “The well is deep,” we tell the person, not realizing what he or she is really saying. When we hear certain words or phrases, our own subjective experience and understanding may prevent us from realizing the person may mean something very different from what we presumed. We might even find that we have to take the time to appreciate what words, phrases, ideas, might mean to another person, in another paradigm, that contrasts and conflicts with our own.

Jesus indeed had no bucket, and the well was too deep for him to draw the water the woman needed to quench her thirst. But He was speaking about an entirely different reality – a spiritual reality with its own language, its own meaning, its own truth. He indeed could give her water, but a water not of this world, but of God Himself. The Samaritan woman, in a moment of profound grace, started to get it. “Whatever water you are talking about, if it means never being thirsty again, I want it,” we can imagine her thinking. Her humility, her desperate need for truth and God, enabled her to begin to see what had been so obscured by her own cultural upbringing. If we want to participate in such life-changing, thirst-quenching interactions, we will need exactly that kind of humility and openness exemplified in the Samaritan woman at the well.

God, spring of the living water, awaken us to the truth that the gifts of the other are an expression of your unfathomable mystery. Make us sit at the well together to drink from your water which gathers us in unity and peace. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

January 21, 2015

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015: Day Four, “Then the woman left her water jar”

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — Beth Turner @ 12:00 am

Just then his disciples came. They were astonished that he was speaking with a woman, but no one said, “What do you want?” or, “Why are you speaking with her?” Then the woman left her water jar and went back to the city. She said to the people, “Come and see a man who told me everything I have ever done! He cannot be the Messiah, can he?” They left the city and were on their way to him. (John 4:1-42)

This year’s week of prayer for Christian unity focuses on the text of John 4:1-42, a lengthy dialogue between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. During this year’s week of prayer for Christian unity, we read it with an eye towards how Christians might engage in difficult dialogue with one another. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is responsible for this practice, and there is material published every year to help Christians to meditate on and to pray for unity.

The Samaritan woman came to the well for water. After her encounter with the Lord, she thought little of the water jar she had been so intent to fill only hours before. What happened? Her physical thirst, no doubt, remained. What was it that was so compelling about her encounter that she became forgetful of her important errand?

We know the answer is Jesus. He is a compelling man. But I think it’s also important to focus on the question. What was it, for this woman, that was so compelling about Jesus? Plenty of people hear about Jesus and His works, and they dismiss Him for one reason or another. So when one is compelled to love Him, it is worth asking the question…why?

Do we ever stop to wonder about, and ask this question of, those on the other side of the Tiber? For a while after my conversion, I did not. Or if I did, I quickly supplied an answer which knew too little and assumed too much about a lot of people I had never talked to. What would happen if we asked this question honestly – Catholics of Reformed Christians, Reformed Christians of Catholics – and listened patiently for an answer, without interrupting to pose our objections? And what would happen if we answered the question honestly, without feeling like we had to fend off all possible objections that our interlocutor might pose before she had a chance to pose them?

To give an example, I used to hear Reformed Christians speak about grace. They gushed about it, they sang about it, they asked for it in prayer, they ended sentences in ordinary conversation with it, they named their children after it, they explained all manner of events in their lives as evidence of God’s grace. As a member of those communities, however, I did not understand what grace was. I could not have defined it for you, nor could I point to an occasion when I had experienced it. I had experienced gratitude, need, remorse, love, providence, and any number of other things that seemed to be associated with it, but not grace.

As a Catholic, however, I now understand grace. Not only can I define it and describe it using the words of the Scriptures and the Catechism, but I can finally say that I know grace. And now that I know grace, I can understand why Reformed Christians would leave their water jars for it! As a result, I rejoice that my Reformed Christian brothers and sisters are compelled to give God praise and thanksgiving for His grace.

As I mentioned in the post on day one, there is the Catholic faith, and there is any individual Catholic, grasping at that faith and trying to conform his life to it. There is the Reformed Christian faith, and then there is the individual Reformed Christian, grasping at that faith and trying to conform his life to it. Many of the contributors and commenters here at Called to Communion are very knowledgeable about the Catholic faith and the Reformed Christian faith. But do we sometimes also stop to ask this Christian or that Catholic what has compelled Him to love the Lord? And do we listen closely for an answer, without preparing our objections ahead of time?

May we be anxious to find that which we share in common; those truths about Our Lord that have compelled us all to leave our water jars to follow Him.

Loving God, help us to learn from Jesus and the Samaritan that encounter opens for us new horizons of grace. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

January 19, 2015

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015: Day Two, “Tired of the journey, Jesus sat down facing the well”

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — Casey Chalk @ 12:00 am

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, “Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John’— although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon.

That Jesus was “tired out by his journey,” offers further insightful commentary on ecumenical dialogue. Often when opportunities for important conversations regarding faith and morals present themselves, we are not at our best. We are distracted by responsibilities related to family, work, school, and the like. We are overwhelmed by the daily trials of our lives and the frustrations of our own sins and failings. We might have been intending for a different kind of conversation, one that would not so easily provoke strong feelings or lead our heart rates to spike. And, if we have already spent much time talking or debating religion, we may be tired from what can sometimes seem like a lot of fruitless arguing that won’t amount to much but more frustration and discouragement. We can get exhausted just thinking about discussing or contemplating issues that are so complicated, so controversial, so difficult to explain or comprehend. It’s easy to be cynical when it comes to talking about religion. We may feel like we’ve already covered this ground before, and are skeptical that anything new or good could possibly come from re-visiting old wounds. Theology is not easy, and talking about religion with people with whom you disagree is not typically “fun” (at least, not for most of us).

Yet as so frequently happens, when we least expect it, we find ourselves right smack dab in the middle of an intense conversation about religion. We may be anxious about whether or not we’ll be able to effectively and accurately represent our own beliefs and why we believe them. We may be inclined to be more interested in “winning” than talking. We may be more focused on just getting our own point across and moving on with our lives than doing the hard work needed to have a fruitful and charitable conversation. And we may especially have trouble listening, especially if we’ve already decided we’re definitely right or that our opponents are definitely wrong.

Yet we, like Christ, must seek to take the higher road if we want to have conversations that will be profitable and glorifying to God. Even at moments of weariness, distraction, or intense emotion, we must sympathize with those with whom we disagree. We must, as much as the Holy Spirit allows, appreciate, love, and understand our interlocutors. We may not be persuaded by their arguments, but we must at least try, as best as we are able, to understand and appreciate them objectively. Ecumenical dialogue, in a very deep sense, is a family affair. We are all of the same family, that of Christ Himself. Disagreements within the family are often the ones that hurt the most, elicit the most passion, and cause the most strife. Yet for the sake of the family, for the sake of its unity, we must have those conversations, because it is only through the dialogue, the mutually-shared experiences, that we can hope to reconcile and be “one,” as Christ so fervently prayed in John 17:21. We must put aside our tendencies for skepticism and cynicism regarding the possibilities of religious dialogue, in the hope that we might in some small way honor the Lord Jesus’s request that we indeed be “one,” as the Father and the Son are one. Let us pray that we might find opportunities, even in our weariness, to sit at the well where Jesus sat, and accept the opportunities to talk and listen. Who knows who might happen to walk by and offer the opportunity for a life-changing conversation?

Gracious God, we are weary of conflict, cynicism, and the felt need to win arguments. Allow us to rest at the well. Refresh us with the water of unity drawn from our common prayer. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

January 18, 2015

Week of Prayer for Christian Unity 2015: Day One, “It is necessary to go through Samaria”

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — Beth Turner @ 12:00 am

Now when Jesus learned that the Pharisees had heard, ‘Jesus is making and baptizing more disciples than John’— although it was not Jesus himself but his disciples who baptized— he left Judea and started back to Galilee. But he had to go through Samaria. So he came to a Samaritan city called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob had given to his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was there, and Jesus, tired out by his journey, was sitting by the well. It was about noon. (John 4:1-42)

This year’s week of prayer for Christian unity focuses on the text of John 4:1-42, a lengthy dialogue between Jesus and a Samaritan woman. During this year’s week of prayer for Christian unity, we read it with an eye towards how Christians might engage in difficult dialogue with one another. The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity is responsible for this practice, and there is material published every year to help Christians to meditate on and to pray for unity.

As most Christians know, Jews and Samaritans avoided associating with one another at the time of the ministry of Jesus. The religious dispute between them centered on the proper place to offer worship to God. In addition, after conquest by the Assyrians, foreigners had brought false gods to the region of Samaria. So the religion of the Samaritans came to be regarded by the Jews as impure.

This is often how Catholics and Reformed Christians view one another. We look towards one another as Jews towards Samaritans. The religion of the other is impure. Based on that observation, we adopt interior attitudes to hold each other at a distance. It is not long before we are exaggerating each other’s faults (either aloud or in our own minds) and nursing wounds inflicted in the attempt at dialogue. Behaviors which turn friendships cold and make conversation at family meals shallow and unpleasant often ensue.

The place from which we all begin, however, is a love of true and pure religion. Even more than that, we acknowledge that the truest form of religion and the best way of life is found in the person of Jesus. We also share the Scriptures, which witness to this Truth and this Way. For the Catholic, he may have the fullness of truth in the gift of faith given to him at baptism, but it is almost certain that he does not possess its fullness consciously and explicitly at every moment and in every detail of his life. Therefore, his religion – the religion which he is making his own, grasping ever more fully by the gift of God – stands to be purified.  For the Reformed Christian, he has the witness of the Scriptures in his very hands. His religion also stands to be purified by deeper knowledge and understanding of these texts. It is our love of true and right religion that can be an occasion to prod us forward together, even though we stand at odds on many questions.

Taking Samaria to represent a land filled with people whose religion seems impure, and a land that reminds us of ancient wounds, we can see how this text calls Reformed Christians and Catholics to “go through” one another’s lands. We might begin by putting aside old wounds inflicted by a careless word or gesture in heated dialogue. For who of us has suffered an insult in dialogue with other Christians comparable to what Our Lord suffered when He was mocked on the cross? And He forgave! We might also begin by being certain of the faith we hold. Who of us has not been somewhat embarrassed to find that we did not understand the teachings of Jesus or the Catechism as well as we thought we did? And that we stood in need of correction? We can remember that each of us seeks a religion that is pure and true. Though some distance seems inevitable, we should try not to lose contact or cease communication with those whose faith we formerly shared. We should also not avoid speaking about matters of faith with each other. When we do speak about them, it should be done with great care, without haste, with discerning minds, and with charity.

We ask God to fill us with a love for pure religion and a love for one another, that our souls may soon enter a land of communion and remain there.

God of all peoples, give us strength and courage to go through Samaria to meet our brothers and sisters from other churches. Allow us to go with an open heart so we may learn from each other. In the name of Jesus we pray. Amen.

January 1, 2015

Basil and Gregory: An Appeal to Protestants From Friendship

Filed under: Blog Posts — Casey Chalk @ 6:46 am

A reflection on the importance of friendship in ecumenical dialogue in honor of the feast day of St. Basil of Caesarea and St. Gregory Nazianzus, two early Church Fathers with a deep and life-long friendship.

(Continue Reading…)

November 13, 2014

Feminism, Conscience, and the Church: How Reformed Baptist Natalie Richardson Became Catholic

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: — Guest Author @ 3:17 pm

Natalie Richardson is a stay-at-home mom to one boy and a freelance writer on the side. She grew up in a Reformed Baptist home, but after meeting a Catholic who knew his stuff, she attempted to convert him, failed and became Catholic herself in 2012. She, her husband and child now live in Tennessee.

(Continue Reading…)

November 9, 2014

Please Stop Reinventing The Wheel: An Invitation To Peter Leithart

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: , , , — Jason Kettinger @ 3:07 pm

The contributors here at Called To Communion have previously replied to Peter Leithart. His recent “Staying Put” essentially repeats everything he said in “Too catholic to be Catholic,” so I shall not belabor the points made in our response to that post.1 (Continue Reading…)

  1. See also “Peter Leithart’s “The Tragedy of Conversion” to Catholicism or Orthodoxy.” []

November 8, 2014

Welcome Beth!

Filed under: Blog Posts — Casey Chalk @ 3:08 am
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Called to Communion is very pleased to announce that Beth Turner, wife of CTC veteran Barrett Turner, has officially joined our ranks as a contributor. Please welcome Beth, who recently graced our website with an excellent ten-part series on the rosary. (Continue Reading…)

October 30, 2014

Does the Center Hold? The Story of Fr. Albert Scharbach’s Journey from Westminster Theological Seminary to Catholic Priest

Filed under: Blog Posts — Tags: , — Guest Author @ 9:00 pm

The following is a guest post by Fr. Albert Scharbach. One of the ironies of my new job as a College Guidance Counselor at Mount de Sales Academy in Catonsville, MD is that I get to attend daily mass offered by a priest who graduated from Westminster Theological Seminary. This Fall I have come to know Fr. Albert Scharbach as a true man of God, an excellent homilist, and a wonderful dad to his seven children. He currently serves on the staff of Bishop Denis Madden and as administrator of Mount Calvary Church. – Jeremy Tate (Continue Reading…)

October 28, 2014

Concluding Thoughts (Leo, the Rosary, and Christian Unity, part 10 of 10)

Filed under: Blog Posts,Catholic Life and Devotion — Beth Turner @ 11:49 am

This is the final post in a ten part guest series by Beth Turner, the wife of Barrett Turner. Beth and Barrett were received into full communion at Easter 2010 and live in Virginia with their four children. Beth’s story of her journey into the Catholic Church can be found at Saved by Love: A Seminary Wife’s Journey. (Continue Reading…)


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    August 31, 2014

    Radio Maria Interview with Tom and Jessica Brown

    Filed under: Blog Posts,Podcast — Tags: — Tom Brown @ 7:38 pm

    Our very own Tom Brown and his wife Jessica recently were interviewed on Rebecca Cherico’s program on Radio Maria, Conversion Keeps Happening. They discuss aspects of their conversion from the PCA to the Catholic Church. The interview is available here. (more…)

    April 16, 2014

    An interview with Dr. Thomas Madden on the Medieval Catholic Church

    Filed under: Podcast — Casey Chalk @ 7:52 am

    Protestant criticisms of the Catholic Church frequently target the medieval Catholic Church as a prime example of the Church’s problematic relationship with politics and the secular order. These critics often claim that the medieval Church was ruled by a greedy hierarchy bent on increasing its power in Europe and abroad, eager to silence or even eliminate its detractors or opponents, and rocked by internal scandals, corruption, and ultimately confusion. The seeds of the Reformation, so many Protestants believe, were sown during this tumultuous period where attempts at reform, like conciliarism, were destroyed underfoot by power-hungry popes. (more…)

    November 11, 2012

    How the Church Won: An Interview with Jason Stellman

    Filed under: Podcast — Bryan Cross @ 6:16 pm

    Jason Stellman

    In July of this year, Jason Stellman wrote a Called To Communion guest post titled “I Fought the Church and the Church Won,” in which he explained briefly why he was becoming Catholic. Last week I had an opportunity to talk with Jason about this paradigm change, and the four years of internal wrestling that preceded it. (more…)

    June 17, 2012

    Podcast Ep. 17 – Jason & Cindy Stewart Recount Their Conversion

    Filed under: Podcast — Tags: — Tim A. Troutman @ 6:14 pm

    In this episode, Tom Riello, a former PCA pastor, interviews Jason Stewart, a former pastor in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church, and his wife Cindy on the topic of their conversion to the Catholic faith in 2011. Jason earned his Master of Divinity from Mid-America Reformed Seminary (Dyer, IN) in 2005, and subsequently served for five and a half years as pastor of Trinity OPC in eastern Pennsylvania. Jason and Cindy currently live in Rockford, IL, and have four children. He is completing a two year course of study with the Diocese of Rockford’s Diaconal Program.

    (more…)

    February 17, 2012

    David Anders on Catholic Answers: February 13, 2012

    Filed under: Podcast — David Anders @ 11:45 pm

    David Anders

    Open Forum for Non-Catholics
    David Anders on Catholic Answers, Monday, February 13, 2012.
    (more…)

    August 2, 2011

    Episode 16 – Stephen Beck’s Conversion Story

    Filed under: Blog Posts,Podcast — Tags: , , — Jeremy Tate @ 8:00 am

    Stephen Beck

    Stephen Beck was raised Evangelical, but read his way into the Reformed world. He became a member of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church and then the Presbyterian Church in America. Stephen and his family were received into the Catholic Church on the Easter Vigil of 2011 at St. Andrew’s by the Bay Catholic Church in Annapolis, Maryland. He has a Master’s degree from St. John’s College in Annapolis and is currently pursuing a Ph.D. in Greek and Latin at the Catholic University of America. Stephen is a brilliant thinker with a deep love for Jesus Christ and the Catholic Church. In this episode, Stephen’s personal friend and regular CTC contributor, Jeremy Tate, interviews him to find out the reasons behind his conversion.

     

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    July 16, 2011

    David Anders on Catholic Answers

    Filed under: Podcast — David Anders @ 8:23 am

    David Anders

    On Friday, July 8, I was the guest on the Catholic Answers Live radio program, taking calls and questions from non-Catholics. The one-hour broadcast featured the following questions and discussions:

    7′ A discussion of John Calvin’s view of his relation to the Catholic Church, the Catholic positions he affirmed, and his rejection of denominationalism.

    15′ A discussion of the Catholic doctrine of communion of the saints, and whether the saints can hear our prayers.

    22′ A discussion of legalism and scrupulosity among Catholics.

    28′ Why is it difficult for Protestant leaders who recognize the truth of the Catholic Church to become Catholic? Wouldn’t remaining Protestant, in order to hold on to reputation, livelihood, etc. be contrary to Protestant theology?

    33′ What are some resources for non-Catholics who want to understand the differences between Calvinism and Catholicism?

    36′ What is the Catholic understanding of the relation between divine sovereignty and human freedom?

    41′ How does the Catholic understanding of justification address the Reformed claim that the scriptural evidence supports the Protestant notion of justification by the imputation of the alien righteousness of Christ to the believer?

    51′ What is the Catholic position on eternal security and the possibility of apostasy, and what is the support for that position?

    Listen to the program:

     

    Or download it by right-clicking here.

    November 24, 2010

    Episode 15 – The Conversion of Annie Witz (OPC)

    In this episode, Tom Riello, former PCA minister, interviews Annie Witz, a convert from the OPC (Orthodox Presbyterian Church).  Annie’s father is an elder in the OPC church and serves on the board of Westminster Seminary California.   Annie shares her personal conversion story from being a devout OPC member to a Catholic in the Melkite Greek Catholic Church (an Eastern Catholic Church).  Of particular interest is the role that the women saints, especially the Blessed Virgin Mary, played in her conversion.  We are thrilled to have our first female guest on the show!

     

    To download the mp3, click here.

    August 25, 2010

    Episode 14 – A Presuppositional Apologist Becomes Catholic

    Tom Riello interviews Marc Ayers on the topic of his conversion to the Catholic Church. Marc was a ‘disciple’ of Dr. Greg Bahnsen. Hear him tell how his presuppositional apologetic method helped him see the need for a divinely instituted authority, namely the Catholic Church.

     

    To download the mp3, click here.

    May 30, 2010

    Episode 13 – Holy Orders

    Filed under: Podcast — Tags: , , — Tom Riello @ 4:25 pm

    In this episode, Tom Riello interviews Tim Troutman on his recent article “Holy Orders and the Sacrificial Priesthood.” Who are the rightful shepherds of Christ’s flock?  Is Holy Orders truly a sacrament?  These and other questions are addressed in this episode.

     

    Download the mp3 by right clicking here.

    For older posts, visit the archives.

    Called to Communion Radio

    CTC Radio can be heard Tuesday through Thursday at 2:00 PM Eastern, available through the following media: Live with video, Podcast, EWTN.COM, Sirius Sattelite, Iheart Radio, The EWTN app, Short wave, and, of course, through the local catholic affiliate radio stations.



    December 1, 2014

    CTC Radio Update

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 1:59 pm

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    Called to Communion Radio is now available four days a week.
    CTC Radio can be heard Monday through Thursday at 2:00 PM Eastern, available through the following media:

    Live with video

    Podcast

    EWTN.COM

    Sirius Sattelite

    Iheart Radio

    The EWTN app

    Short wave,

    and, of course, through the local catholic affiliate radio stations.

    October 20, 2014

    Divorce & Remarriage Revisited

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 10:29 am

    A few weeks back I wrote an article titled: “Marriage, Divorce, & Communion: The Upcoming Synod on the Family.” In the article, I discussed the Catholic doctrine on the indissolubility of marriage and what it means for civilly divorced and civilly remarried Catholics. Based on the teaching of Christ, the Church’s longstanding practice has been to deny communion in these cases.  As to whether the Church could change her doctrine on marriage or her discipline based on that doctrine, I wrote this:

    The Church has no power to change this teaching, because it is the teaching of Christ. (Matthew 19:11-12) This is something the non-Catholic media often misunderstand. The Church’s dogma on marriage is not a “policy” that can be changed, any more than the Nicene Creed is a “policy.”

    In the weeks since I wrote that article, the Synod of Bishops generated a lot of media attention and, quite frankly, a lot of confusion. Did the Synod suggest a change to the Church’s doctrine or practice in this matter? Some media outlets would have you think so.  The main source of confusion was a “midterm report” supposedly summarizing the discussions at the Synod. The document suggested that “some synod fathers” were in favor of a change of “present regulations.” The report was neither seen nor approved by the Synod Fathers prior to its release. Instead, it provoked vehement protests among the bishops. (The most controversial statements of the report were not concerned with divorce and remarriage.)

    Days after the release of the relatio, the synod Fathers insisted that their objections be made known.  Reports of each of the discussion groups (organized by language) were published on the Vatican’s Website Thursday, October 16.  The following selections are some of the remarks from synod Fathers on divorce, remarriage, and the sacraments.

    Circulus Gallicus A (French language group) wrote:

    On the connection between the divorced/remarried and the sacraments of reconciliation and the Eucharist . . . it is important not to change the doctrine of the Church on the indissolubility of marriage and the non-admission of the divorced/remarried to the sacraments.

    Circulus Angelicus A (English language group) wrote:

    We did not recommend the admission to the sacraments of divorced and re-married people, but we included a very positive and much –needed appreciation of union with Christ through other means.

    Circulus Angelicus B (English language group) wrote:

    On the subject of the admission of the divorced and remarried to the Eucharist the group stressed two principles flowing directly from God’s Word: 1) the clear affirmation of the indissolubility of a valid sacramental union, while humbly admitting that we need a more credible way of presenting and witnessing to that teaching; 2) The strong desire to invite and embrace sincere Catholics who feel alienated from the family of the Church because of irregular situations.

    Circulus Italicus A (Italian language group) directed attention on this issue to the teaching of St. John Paul II in his Familiaris Consortio, section 84. In that document, the Saint wrote:

    The Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist.

    It is true that the traditional doctrine and practice of the Church are were not universally acclaimed at the Synod.  The final version of the Relatio (released October 18) ackowledged this. Clearly, some of the Synod Fathers were searching for a way to “soften” the Church’s position.  In his final speech, Pope Francis also acknowledged division among some of the bishops. Strangely, he did not make his thoughts plain on the controversies in question. He did, however, conclude the Synod by beatifying Pope Paul VI. Of his predecessor, Pope Francis said:

    Before the advent of a secularized and hostile society, he could hold fast, with farsightedness and wisdom – and at times alone – to the helm of the barque of Peter, while never losing his joy and his trust in the Lord.

    To what was Pope Francis referring when he spoke of Paul’s holding fast in the face of a secular and hostile culture? He didn’t say. But we we remember Blessed Paul today mostly for his courageous stand on behalf of the Church’s long-standing tradition on human sexuality and the necessity of openness to life.

    Neither the the Synod nor the Pope issued any teaching documents, nor has there been any change to Church law. The final message of the Bishops, published on October 18, ended on a postive note of continuity:

    Conjugal love, which is unique and indissoluble, endures despite many difficulties. It is one of the most beautiful of all miracles and the most common.This love spreads through fertility and generativity, which involves not only the procreation of children but also the gift of divine life in baptism, their catechesis, and their education.

    September 25, 2014

    Marriage, Divorce, & Communion: The Upcoming Synod of Bishops

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 9:31 am

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    Listeners to CTC Radio often ask about the Catholic teaching on marriage, divorce, and communion in the Catholic Church. With them in mind, I have attached a brief article I wrote for One Voice, the newspaper for the diocese of Birmingham.

    To listen to CTC Radio, tune in to EWTN at 2:00 PM Eastern Tuesday through Thursday.
    Podcasts are available here

      Here is the Article:

    There will be an extraordinary session of the Synod of Bishops in October to discuss “pastoral challenges of the family in the context of evangelization.” No doubt the synod will discuss many issues, but none has garnered more media attention than the status of civilly divorced and remarried Catholics. In particular, the media have focused on the question of their eligibility to receive communion. Cardinal Walter Kasper encouraged speculation about a change in the Church’s discipline by asking a consistory of cardinals in February whether or not the Church should continue to refuse communion to civilly divorced and remarried Catholics. As the synod approaches, it seems appropriate to reflect on what the Church can and cannot change about her doctrine and discipline.

    What is the rationale for barring the civilly divorced and remarried from Holy Communion? The answer to this requires an understanding of Christian marriage. According to the teaching of Christ and the Catholic faith, Christian marriage is by definition a lifelong union, effected by a promise of fidelity and the intent to raise a family, elevated by Christ to the dignity of a sacrament. It is always indissoluble under any and all circumstances.

    To understand the current discussion, the key point to emphasize is the indissolubility of a valid Christian marriage. The Catechism states:

    Thus the marriage bond has been established by God himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom. (CCC 1640)

    The Church has no power to change this teaching, because it is the teaching of Christ. (Matthew 19:11-12) This is something the non-Catholic media often misunderstand. The Church’s dogma on marriage is not a “policy” that can be changed, any more than the Nicene Creed is a “policy.” In this regard, the Church’s Magisterium is a servant of the truth, not its master. The Catechism says, “Yet this Magisterium is not superior to the Word of God, but is its servant. It teaches only what has been handed on to it.” (CCC 86)

    Because marriage is indissoluble, a validly married Catholic who obtains a civil divorce from a judge and then contracts another civil marriage is objectively in the state of ongoing adultery. Jesus said, “Anyone who divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her. And if she divorces her husband and marries another man, she commits adultery.” (Mark 10:11-12) Again, following the teaching of Christ and the words of Sacred Scripture, the Church has no choice but to withhold communion from those deemed to be in grave sin. (1 Corinthians 5:5; 1 Corinthians 11:27-29; Matthew 18: 17)

    Some have asked whether or not a person could “repent” for a failed first marriage, receive the sacraments of reconciliation, and then be admitted to communion while remaining in an invalid second marriage (i.e., a relationship the Church deems adulterous). This proposal fails to take into account the doctrine on Christian marriage and the doctrine on reconciliation and penance. By definition, there is no forgiveness of sins and no reconciliation as long as one intends to persist in grave sin. St. John Paul II explains, “Without a sincere and firm purpose of amendment, sins remain ‘unforgiven,’ in the words of Jesus, and with him in the Tradition of the Old and New Covenants.” (Dominum et Vivificantem) If a valid marriage exists, all subsequent unions are adulterous by definition. “Repentance,” in this context, must mean repentance for the subsequent union, whatever else may be involved.

    The Church does recognize some situations in which reconciliation with a spouse is impossible and in which subsequent civil unions have resulted in children being born. In these cases, the Church sometimes permits the parents in these unions to remain together for the sake of the children, provided they agree to live as brother and sister. This is not a tacit recognition of the subsequent marriage, but rather an unusual and, quite frankly, difficult concession that Catholics must make for the sake of children.

    What then could the Church change? Theoretically, some change is possible to the process by which Catholics obtain annulments. It is highly unlikely, however, that such changes could dispense with canonical expertise or judicial process, since the declaration of nullity is a finding of juridical fact and requires moral certainty on the part of the judge. The most likely outcome to the Synod is a deepening pastoral emphasis on the means and the virtue of chastity, and a renewed catechesis on the meaning of Christian marriage. A good deal of ink has been spilled on this topic and I fear that many people may have unfulfilled expectations for what the Church can and will do. Let us remember the Bishops and the Holy Father in our prayers, and ask that they have wisdom and grace to communicate the Church’s teaching with compassion and clarity.

    September 11, 2014

    Television Interview with Johnette Benkovic

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 5:00 pm

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    My television interview on Women of Grace is now available here.

    We discuss the new radio show, Called to Communion, as well as my path to the Catholic Church.

    September 9, 2014

    Do We Really Meet Christ in the Sacraments?

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 7:53 am

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    Catholics and some non-Catholic Christians disagree about the nature of the sacraments. Are they merely signs? Do they really conform us to Christ? (more…)

    September 4, 2014

    Scripture and Tradition

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 9:09 am

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    How do we know the will of God for the Church? On CTC Radio today, I hope we can generate discussion about Scripture and Tradition.

    I welcome your emails at ctc@ewtn.com

    There is also live video feed from the Radio Studios at http://www.ewtn.com/radio/radiolive.asp

    Here, finally, is a short text I prepared for One Voice, the Diocesan paper for the Diocese of Birmingham. (more…)

    September 2, 2014

    Called to Communion Radio

    Filed under: Radio — David Anders @ 12:33 pm

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    Dear Friends,

    Today at 2:00 PM Eastern, we launch the new EWTN Radio Show Called to Communion.

    We hope to encourage collaboration across media (internet and radio) as we continue to discuss what divides us as Christians and as human beings. (more…)

    For older posts, visit the archives.

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