Sunday, June 25, 2017

Divine Worship: The Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite

Divine Worship Mass at Westminster Cathedral on January 11, 2016
Photo: Ordinariate Expats Blog, used by permission.
Recently, His Excellency, Steven Lopes, Bishop of the Personal Ordinariate of the Chair of St. Peter, gave an address at the Liturgical Institute at the University of St. Mary at the Lake in Mundelein, Illinois. This was on June 21, 2017. Here is a short excerpt...
Let me begin by articulating something of a thesis statement. I would like to state at the outset that our Ordinariate liturgy is often misunderstood and therefore not described correctly. 
Because our liturgy shares many traditional elements and gestures in common with the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, it is thought to be a type of “subset” of that form: “the Extraordinary Form in English” as it is sometimes called. But this is neither accurate nor, honestly, helpful. For one thing, the 1549 Book of Common Prayer, a principal source for the Ordinariate Missal, is older than the Missal of Saint Pius V, and has its own origins in the Sarum Missal, a variant of the Roman Rite going back to the eleventh century. My first goal today is for you to understand Divine Worship on its own terms, to see the historical and ritual context out of which it develops, and in that light to recognize how it might contribute to the ongoing renewal and development of the Roman Rite. 
And so my thesis: Divine Worship is more than a collection of liturgical texts and ritual gestures. It is the organic expression of the Church’s own lex orandi as it was taken up and developed in an Anglican context over the course of nearly five-hundred years of ecclesial separation, and is now reintegrated into Catholic worship as the authoritative expression of a noble patrimony to be shared with the whole Church. As such, it is to be understood as a distinct form of the Roman Rite. Further, while Divine Worship preserves some external elements more often associated with the Extraordinary Form, its theological and rubrical context is clearly the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. That I situate Divine Worship within the context of the Ordinary Form becomes a fact more discernable when one considers the dual hermeneutic of continuity and reform, which informs the project. 
read the full address here
So, based on Bishop Lopes' explanation of Divine Worship, it is NOT the Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite) in English, and it does a disservice to both Divine Worship and the Extraordinary Form to call it that. Rather, it is an entirely new form of the Roman Rite, neither Ordinary nor Extraordinary, but is more closely situated within the context of the Ordinary Form. Therefore, it can most accurately be described as the "Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite" or the "Anglican Form of the Roman Rite."

Personally, I prefer the term "Ordinariate Form" over "Anglican Form," not only because Bishop Lopes appears to prefer it, but also because it reduces confusion, not among Anglicans but among regular diocesan Roman Catholics. For some reason, whenever the word "Anglican" is mentioned, the thought "Protestant" registers in their minds. Immediately what follows is a myriad of questions such as...
  • Well, is it Catholic or Protestant?
  • Is this really Catholic at all?
  • What? Now their letting the Anglicans in without becoming Catholic?
  • Shouldn't these Anglicans just convert and become Catholic?
  • Is this liturgy just for Anglicans or can Catholics come too?
  • If Catholics go to this mass, do they become Anglicans?
  • etc.
I think the problem here is that the words "Anglican" and "Protestant" have been too closely associated with each other for far too long in the Catholic collective consciousness. This is why I go with the more innocuous term "Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite."

It's a shame really, because I do like the word "Anglican" and to me, it sounds more descriptive of what Divine Worship really is. So while I still do think the terms "Anglican Form" and "Ordinariate Form" are technically interchangeable, my experience dealing with diocesan Roman Catholics tells me to go with "Ordinariate Form" for the time being. It lowers resistance, reduces questions and breaks through the communication barrier. 

So Divine Worship really is the third form of the Roman Rite -- the Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite, written in Sacred English and containing therein the specific prayers and rubrics particular to the Anglican Patrimony for the last 1,000 years. These are based in the 11th century Sarum Missal, a Catholic liturgy used exclusively in England for 500 years prior to the English Reformation. In fact, the original 1549 Book of Common Prayer (a Protestant text) was based heavily on this medieval Catholic liturgy. So what we have in Divine Worship is the Catholic Church reclaiming a form of liturgy that was rightly hers to begin with. It is a form of liturgy that is in fact older than the Traditional Latin Mass (Extraordinary Form) in its origin.

I think its important for us to get a proper understanding of this. The Roman Rite now has three forms...
  1. The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite (always in Latin)
  2. The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite (many vernacular translations)
  3. The Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite (always in Sacred English)
Each form has its own particular prayers and rubrics that are specific to its kind, and each form is unique. As Bishop Lopes says, the Ordinariate Form of the Roman Rite finds itself in a closer context to the Ordinary Form, because it's part of the dual hermeneutic of continuity and reform.

Now that being said, who would appreciate Divine Worship? Traditional or Contemporary Catholics? I think its a mistake to assume one or the other. In fact, Divine Worship has a little in there for both groups. I think anyone who is Catholic would have good reason to appreciate Divine Worship. The truth is, I've seen Contemporary Catholics both like it and dislike it. I've also seen Traditional Catholics both like it and dislike it. It's really a matter of taste, and in truth, its not for everyone. Nevertheless, anyone is free to look into it and find out for himself.


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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

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A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
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Friday, June 23, 2017

We Are Rome - Europe Is Our Future

The American Nations as They Exist Today
These are Nations Based on Culture

In the early second century, I'm sure it would have been hard for anyone in the Mediterranean coast lands to imagine the fall of the Roman Empire. Rome had reached the zenith of it's power and influence. It's territory stretched from as far north as Britain, to as far south as Egypt, from the coasts of Spain, to the Persian Gulf. Not only did it have no equal in military strength (it was an ancient superpower), but nothing compared to it culturally either. Rome was, at that time, the unparalleled "standard" of civilisation.

But in just two centuries, all of that would come to an end. The empire was divided in half, voluntarily, between the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Byzantine Empire. The Empire in the West officially fell in AD 480. In the East, it lasted until AD 1453. The Western Empire enjoyed a brief resurgence under Christendom as the "Holy Roman Empire," which lasted from AD 800 to AD 1806, but none of that compared to the glory that once was Rome.

During the 2016 election cycle, I came to a startling conclusion. Looking back on the last sixty years of American history in the 21st century, I saw striking parallels with the early days of the Roman Empire. While I'm certainly not the first to see such parallels, I think I'm one of the few to pinpoint exactly where we are in that parallel history.

I see American history as progressing along much faster than Roman history. We're going through similar experiences, but at a much faster pace. For example; the American Civil War could be comparable to Roman-Gallic Wars that created the early territories of the empire. Since the end of the Second World War, however, America has been gradually heading toward an imperial state. It's run mainly by an oligarchy of banks, money cartels, oil companies and large corporations. Yet, like all empires, power is slowly consolidating into one man -- the President of the United States.

For decades the oligarchy (comparable to the ancient Roman Senate) has held a restraining leash on the president, preventing him from gaining too much power, and simultaneously controlling many of the decisions he makes. The democratic process is very easy to understand once you know who funds it. You see, presidential campaigns are very expensive to run, but not to worry, there are a handful of big-money donors who will be more than happy to foot the bill. It's just business you see, because all they expect to get out of it is a good return on their investment. Thus, the presidential winner is already bought and paid for before he ever puts his hand on the Bible and takes the oath of office. However, in this last election, with the emergence of Donald Trump, I recognised a paradigm shift should he win. Donald Trump is comparable to Julius Caesar in the American-Roman comparison. He is attempting to "Make America Great Again" by wrestling the office of the presidency away from the banking-corporate oligarchy. It does not matter if he succeeds or not. Nor does it matter if he survives his presidency. Because you see, he has set a new paradigm. Future presidents, in order to gain the support of the people, will have to prove that they're willing to stand up to the oligarchy. That means the president will need more power, and he will get it. If Congress doesn't give it to him, the people will demand it. Trump has just become the first, in an upcoming dynasty, of American Caesars.

Right now, in the first year of the Trump administration, Americans on the Right are going through their honeymoon period. Granted, it's a honeymoon the Leftist mainstream media and liberal judges would like to cut as short as possible, but it is a honeymoon nonetheless. The mantra of "Make America Great Again" is just a Right-wing version of the Left's "Hope and Change." Ultimately, both mean nothing, other than to serve as rallying cries around the change of power from one hand to the next. In the end, "Make America Great Again" will prove just as empty as "Hope and Change" did. The only real change we're seeing now is the rise of billionaire presidential candidates, who parallel the military Caesars of ancient Rome. The ancient Caesars conquered their enemies on the battlefield. The modern Caesars (Billionaire Presidents) will have vanquished their enemies in the business world. Americans, like Romans, will love them for it, and elevate them to the highest office of the land. Who's to say we won't someday see a President Jeff Bezos, or a President Bill Gates, or a even a President Mark Zuckerberg! It's all within the realm of possibilities now. These are the American Caesars. For these are the undisputed power brokers in American politics today. There will be a long line of them, and they will show the world the glory of the American Empire before it eventually and inevitably must fall.

So the good news is this. As bad as everything seems, I think the United States of America is going to stick around for a while, at least another several decades. I also think it's possible to take the Republic back, if the states will step up to the plate and rob Washington DC of federal powers through a Convention of States. So don't think for a second that we are prisoners of fate. We are not. We Americans can change our future, if we're up for it, and only time will tell if we are.

Regardless however, I think all good things come to an end eventually, and America is no different. I believe one of the reasons why so many Americans, particularly religious Americans, are convinced we are living in (or near) the end of the world is because, like the people of previous civilisations, we cannot imagine a world beyond what currently exists. A good number of American Protestants, particularly Evangelicals, equate the fall of America with the end of the world, and in that sense they are no different than the ancient Jews concerning the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. They could not imagine a world without the Temple, and so they assumed the destruction of the Temple would signal the end of the world.

Yet history tells us another story. History tells us that life goes on. Empires rise and empires fall. In God's eyes, it's all just a puff of smoke or a leaf in the wind. As far as the real end of the world, Jesus told us that will come in God's timing not ours. We cannot gauge the the end of time by the political affairs of this empire or that. Yes, we are given signs to look for, but none of those signs are dependent on the success or failure of any man-made empire.

The United States is, and has been for a long time, a political empire. The American Civil War established that beyond the shadow of a doubt. Any political union that one may easily enter, but not so easily leave, is by definition an empire. The case of the recent Brexit from the European Union proves that the EU is not yet an empire, because Britain could unilaterally leave. However, the American Civil War proved that this is not possible for any American state. No state could ever leave the American Union (USA) without gaining permission from at least 27 other states in a Constitutional Amendment, and even then it's sketchy as to whether or not Washington DC would still allow it. After all, Washington DC controls the army, so who's to say that the president won't nullify a state secession even if it's granted permission by 27 states? Yes, there is no question that America is an empire, but it has been one only with a puppet emperor (president) for a century and a half. Trump (America's Julius Caesar) will soon change that, and we'll finally get an emperor with some teeth. If not him, then the one who follows him for sure, just like Augustus was the undisputed "emperor-god" of Rome, following the adored (and hated) Julius who wanted the same adoration for himself. If Trump gets what he wants, then he will establish unquestionable American imperialism. If he doesn't, then the one who follows him will. Like I said, only a Convention of States can stop this domino effect now. Only that can return us to something a little closer to the Republic envisioned by America's Founding Fathers.

All empires, and republics, come to an end eventually. What follows them is what I find to be most interesting. The word "nation" is a bit misunderstood in American vernacular. We tend to think of "nations" as political entities. But in fact, the word "nation" is defined as: "a large aggregate of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory." This means that multiple nations can inhabit one country or political union. Political statehood or empire is not the same as a nation. Nations are common peoples. States or empires are political jurisdictions. They are not always one in the same. Case in point, the Roman Empire was made up of numerous nations. Each nation consisted of people who spoke different languages, practised different religions, and identified with different cultures. The same is true with the American Empire (USA). Don't believe me? Go ask the members of the Cherokee Nation in Oklahoma what they think. They'll tell you their people constitute a separate and distinct nation within the political jurisdiction of the United States, regardless if their members live on the reservation or not.

Common sense will tell you this as well. A native of New England is entirely different than a native of Arkansas. Granted, we all speak the same language (English) but New Englanders and Arkansans are radically different when it comes to culture and worldview. The question however is this: is this cultural difference really defined by state lines? In other words, is an Northern Arkansan really all that different from a Southern Missourian? Is a New Englander really all that different from a Michiganite? On the West Coast, is an Oregonian really all that different from a Washingtonian? Etc. I think the answer should be fairly obvious. National boundaries are all together different from state jurisdictions. In other words, when it comes to culture, state borders really mean nothing. What really matters is who your parents are and how you were raised. That determines your language, religion, culture and worldview -- your real nationality!

The above map shows twelve distinct North American nations, based entirely on the actual definition of a nation. These consist of groupings of large numbers of people based on language, religion, culture and worldview. When we talk about the United States, Canada and Latin America, this is who we really are. We speak three major languages: English, Spanish and French. That is our linguistic heritage. However, when it comes to religion, culture and worldview, it breaks down into even greater details, and more distinct characteristics. For example, while the Francophone people are pretty much contained to one province of Canada (with a small colony in Southern Louisiana), the Anglophone people and the Hispanophone people are divided into more than one subset "nations" based upon culture and worldview. The Hispanophone people are divided into two "nations" in North America: El Norte (meaning "The North") and the more southern Spanish Caribbean peoples. Meanwhile, the Anglophone people are probably the most divided, consisting of no less than seven distinct "nations."

Right now these "nations" really don't mean a whole lot outside of academic interest and regional pride. It's fascinating to study, and it does help us understand election patterns in the United States, but under our current political reality, they don't mean all that much. In the United States, we all consider ourselves "Americans" and so long as the empire remains, that is exactly what we shall be. Yet when the American Empire (USA) falls, and someday it will because history demands it, what will North America become? I think the above map gives us a good idea of what a Europeanised North America might eventually look like. Just as the Roman Empire fell, and fractured into multiple nation-states based entirely on the nationalities of its parts, so too the American Empire (USA) will one day do the same. Will there someday be a Nation of Appalachia, a Nation of Dixie (Deep South), a Nation of Cascadia (Left Coast), a Nation of New England (Yankeedom), a Nation of Midland, and a Nation of El Norte? I couldn't say. Knowing that requires a crystal ball, and I don't presently own one. But some of these peoples already identify themselves in distinct ways. For example; a number of people in my area of the Ozarks have identified themselves as Ozarkians for a long time, and in doing so, they don't just mean the area they live in, but rather an actual identity of some kind. Still yet, a growing number of Ozarkians are starting to identify themselves more with their ancestral and cultural kinsmen from Appalachia, and there is a growing Appalachian identity movement. It even has its own flag, believe it or not...

Appalachian Flag
Produced by the Appalachian Flag Company

Personally, I wouldn't mind flying one of these beauties from my back deck as I culturally identify with Appalachia thanks to the strong influence of my mother who was raised there.

Likewise, there are many people on the West Coast identifying themselves as Cascadians, and they too have their own flag identifying the region that spans multiple states, as well as the British Columbia province of Canada. The same could be said of other regions of the United States and Canada as well.

I don't know exactly what the future holds for North America, because I can't know. I do know this however, when the United States falls (and someday it will -- guaranteed), life will go on. People will reorganise and start over, with new nations, new flags, and new governments to replace the old. This is the way of history. It's the way it's always been, and it's the way it always will be, until the end of time. I write this essay primarily for my fellow Americans, many of whom seem to be stuck in an apocalyptic mentality. The United States of America is a great union, a magnificent empire, and a grand experiment. But all good things eventually come to an end. That's just the way the world works. It may not come to an end in our lifetime, but someday it will. It helps to start thinking outside of the traditional "American identity" box, and figure out where you stand culturally. What is your real cultural nationality? Who are you really? Yes, we know you're part of the American Empire (USA) and therefore an American. I am. So is my whole family. But we are more than that. My family is Appalachian by cultural nationality. What's yours?

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

BOOKS BY THIS BLOGGER...
A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism
for Protestants

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Bible Answer Man Goes on Catholic Answers -- Praises Catholicism

Hendrik "Hank" Hanegraaff
Bible Answer Man - Christian Research Institute

So let me tell you a little story about myself. Though I was baptised Lutheran, and raised an American Baptist, my family stopped going to church during my teens. This left me spiritually hungry. So at the age of 17, after the death of my grandmother, I began frantically searching for a spiritual tradition. I looked into Mormonism. I looked into the Jehovah's Witnesses. I looked into Christian Science, Armstrongism, Christian television networks, you name it I looked into it. By the age of 20, however, I settled down at a local Calvary Chapel (just six blocks away from my home in Southern California) and started listening to the Bible Answer Man broadcast on the radio. This was about the year 1990.

During that time, Hendrik "Hank" Hanegraaff ran the show with a partner, a fellow by the name of Ron Rhodes. The show was Evangelical in nature, but had a broad spectrum, recognising essential Christianity in a variety of different churches, including (believe it or not) the Roman Catholic Church. This is because the founder of the Christian Research Institute (CRI), and the Bible Answer Man (BAM) broadcast, was a fellow by the name of Dr. Walter Martin. Now Dr. Martin was raised in a Catholic school. Though an Evangelical himself, he was intimately familiar with the teachings of the Catholic Church. So he considered the Catholic Church as an errant church, which had gone astray, but still retained the essential elements of Christianity. Having died in the late 1980s, he left the ministry of CRI and BAM to Hanegraaff, who became the acting president. On Catholicism, Hanegraaff shared the same views as Martin. Rhodes did not. Rhodes eventually left the show, and went on to produce some anti-Catholic material and books. While Hanegraaff became the sole host of the BAM broadcast.

In the early years of my Christian re-awakening (early 1990s), I depended highly on Hank's radio show and the books he would recommend. I also began reading his books as well. I credit two people for taking my early Evangelical faith to a higher intellectual level. The first is Hendrik "Hank" Hanegraaff, and the second is Clive Staples Lewis, otherwise known as C.S. Lewis. Together, their books, combined with Hank's radio show, kicked up Evangelicalism to an intellectual level I desperately needed. I owe a debt of gratitude to both men for this.

By the late 1990s, long after I moved to the Ozarks, I followed the path of C.S. Lewis into Anglicanism, and spent a bit of time there, learning to distance myself from some anti-Catholic attitudes, as well as acquaint myself with liturgical worship and the sacraments. By the year 2000, my wife and I converted to the Roman Catholic Church, and we've remained Catholics ever since. When the Ordinariates for former Anglicans were created by Pope Benedict XVI between 2011-2012 we jumped on board and founded an Ordinariate community in Republic, Missouri -- St. George Catholic Church.

Hank Receiving Chrismation with Two Others
Throughout the years I have occasionally tuned back in to the BAM broadcast, and listened to Hank evolve on many of his personal beliefs. His venture into a Preterist interpretation of Last Days prophecy signalled to me that he was starting to trend in the same direction I was back in the late 1990s. I thought to myself that if he is trending toward a more catholic way of thinking on eschatology, I wonder if he'll start to go that way on the sacraments as well. However, some time after that I stopped listening for a while. Then just this year, in 2017, something amazing happened. Hank converted to Eastern Orthodoxy. He received the sacrament of chrismation (Orthodox confirmation) on Palm Sunday. It was at that point I knew something amazing happened, and I immediately started tuning back into the BAM broadcast to get more information. I had to use the Internet, because it wasn't long after this news had gotten out, that the local BAM radio broadcast was cancelled by the Evangelical Bott Radio Network. Thankfully, in this age of the Internet, we need not be subject to the censorship of anti-Catholics and anti-Orthodox anymore. As I listened to his explanation of his decision, and recount of his chrismation, my mind raced back to my own experience of confirmation in the Catholic Church some 18 years prior, on the Easter vigil of 2000.

Hank is now experiencing, as an Orthodox Christian, what we Catholic Christians have endured in this country for centuries. He's getting a small taste of it now, and I've written him to express my solidarity with him as a brother in Christ. The BAM broadcast has been cancelled on hundreds of Evangelical radio stations. Hank had been derided as a heretic and apostate -- accusations I am well familiar with myself as they are regularly levelled at me too. Yet he takes it all in stride and with a smile, because he has discovered our Eucharistic Lord. We Catholics would do well to learn from him on this and mimic his unwavering joy.

Now some of my Catholic readers will criticise Hank on this, chiding him for not going fully Catholic and embracing the papacy. I've even heard some people say "from heretic to schismatic" in regards to Hank. I believe this attitude is unwarranted. Here's why. As a former Evangelical I know what it's like to be on that side of the fence. I know the pressures and prejudices of that world. I lived in them. It's hard enough for Evangelicals just to overcome prejudice against liturgy and sacraments. Veneration of the Saints is extremely difficult to overcome. Invocation of the Saints in prayer is nearly impossible. Veneration and invocation of Mary requires nothing short of divine intervention from the Holy Spirit. I can easily see how an Evangelical could get past all these things, with God's help, and then get hung up on the papacy. What are we to say in such circumstances? Are we to tell the Evangelical it's an "all or nothing" deal. Are we to say, either you accept the papacy or live without the sacraments? I say no! While I encourage Evangelicals to keep studying and try to overcome their fears of the papacy, I recognise that some will just never be able to do it. For those who can't, there is Orthodoxy, and if an Evangelical has already decided to go Orthodox, I absolutely WILL NOT stand in the way. Personally, I think Catholicism would have been better, but at least with Orthodoxy I know they're getting authentic sacraments, recognised as valid by Rome, and doctrinal teaching that is vastly superior to anything out there in the Evangelical world. Let not perfection become the enemy of good. Orthodox are essentially catholic (small "c"), as all of their sacraments are recognised by Rome, including holy orders, and their churches are real "churches" in an ecclesial sense as understood by Rome. So when Evangelicals convert to Orthodoxy; that is good. It may not be perfect, but it is good. Let us recognise good for what it is. I do.

When it comes to good, the proof is in the pudding. While Hank doesn't make a habit of pointing people toward Catholicism (few Orthodox do), he does recognise the authentic Christianity of the Catholic Church, and he's given great complements to Catholicism and those within Catholicism. Just recently, Hank was interviewed as a special guest on the Catholic Answers Focus program. You can listen to it by iTunes here, or by streaming audio on the Internet here. I highly recommend you do so.

The conversion of Hank Hanegraaff to Orthodoxy was a watershed event in the Evangelical world. Unless you've been an Evangelical, you have no idea just how popular Hank is, and how dependent American Evangelicalism itself has become on the ministry of CRI and the BAM broadcast. His conversion to Orthodoxy has left (and continues to leave) a powerful impression. Already, I personally know two Evangelicals here in the Ozarks who are converting to Orthodoxy because of Hank's ministry. I have heard of several more Evangelicals here in the Ozarks looking into Catholicism now for the same reason. This is the real deal, and it's a paradigm shift in American Evangelicalism. Hank has led by example, and that example is having an impact.

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

BOOKS BY THIS BLOGGER...
A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism
for Protestants

Friday, June 16, 2017

The Benedict Option for Catholics -- Part II

St. Peter's Basilica
Vatican City State, Rome 

This is Part II in a series of articles I am writing on the Benedict Option for Catholics. See The Benedict Option for Catholics -- Part I for context.

When Jesus Christ came 2,000 years ago, he made it crystal clear that the Kingdom of God was at hand. What exactly did he mean by this? It's really very simple actually. The Kingdom of God is not some far off thing, as our Evangelical brethren often mistakenly think it is. Rather it had come upon the arrival of the King, and his name is Jesus of Nazareth.

When Jesus of Nazareth arrived on the scene in around AD 30, the King was here, and with the King came his Kingdom. His Kingdom was, and is, literally everyone who followed him. Throughout his ministry he compared the Kingdom of God to many things, but the mustard seed seems most appropriate. It started off very small, but then grew into something very large. The Church he established was this Kingdom of God, but we should not be fooled into thinking that it is the Kingdom in it's fullness. Rather, the Church (as we know it today) is just the Kingdom in part, or a deposit of the Kingdom, because the Kingdom will not come in its fullness until the King (Jesus of Nazareth) returns at the end of time.

However, it seems to me that when many of us think of the Church we almost never think of it as the Kingdom. We tend to think of the Church in more abstract ways, and in my opinion, this kind of thinking is toxic to our Christian growth and development. Jesus told us his Kingdom transcended international borders, and that it would be manifest wherever his followers were. The Kingdom of God does not reign from the outside, or from the top down. Rather, it reigns from the inside out. It enters this world through the hearts and minds of the King's subjects (Christians). It acquires land and territory wherever it's followers dwell. It subdues earthly principalities (monarchies, republics, dictatorships) whenever its leaders are subdued to Christ the King, and enact laws accordingly. The Kingdom of God, however, is not limited to these nations, nor to their governments or institutions. Rather, the Kingdom of God continues to reign with, or without, these things. It reigns in the hearts and minds of Christians. When this reign is extended to the civil realm, that's just an added bonus, a bonus not enjoyed by every generation.

The governance of the Kingdom of God is not through man-made authorities. Regional kings, queens, republics and dictators would never suffice as the representative (vicar) of King Jesus. Rather, King Jesus set up his own royal court. This is recorded in the gospels...
I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. -- Matthew 16:18-19
The "Kingdom of God" and the "Kingdom of Heaven" are the same thing. "Keys" are an Old Testament symbol of authority (Isaiah 22:22). They were given only to the king's prime minister. So Peter was selected by King Jesus to be his prime minister, but more than that, a key denotes succession. In other words, keys can be passed down from one generation to the next, and so likewise the prime ministerial duty of Peter would be passed down too. It's not uncommon for mortal kings (and queens) to outlive their prime ministers. This is because, in ancient times, prime ministers were usually selected from older (and presumably wiser) men, so as to give the king sound advice, and so the king might benefit from the wisdom of an older man. In modern times, prime ministers are usually elected by the royal subjects through democratic processes. When a prime ministers term is done, the people elect a replacement, but the king (or queen) remains. For example; Queen Elizabeth II, during the time of her reign, has had no less than 13 prime ministers under her, and that's just in the U.K. When you count the other nations that name her has sovereign, she has had over 160! So likewise, because King Jesus lives forever, he has had 266 prime ministers, starting with St. Peter and currently at Pope Francis. Beneath the prime ministers, a king usually has other ministers serving in his royal court. Under King Jesus these were originally the apostles of the Church. Today we call these the cardinals of the Catholic Church. Finally, a king must have sheriffs to extend the reaches of his realm beyond his castle and immediate city. In the Catholic Church, the Kingdom of God, these are the Archbishops and bishops. Each sheriff would have deputies to assist him in the governance of a region. In the Kingdom of God, these deputies are the priests and deacons, who assist the bishops in the governance of their dioceses, ordinariates, prelatures, or other juridic structures within the Catholic Church.

It is this understanding of the Church, as the Kingdom, that many of us have lost today, which is to our own detriment. However, it's not entirely our fault.

In recent centuries, the civil governments and institutions that were once Christian, and subdued by the Kingdom of God (The Catholic Church), turned away from their Christian character, and adopted instead various other forms of character.

The first was the characteristic of Protestantism in the 16th century, starting in Northern Europe (Germany, Switzerland, Scandinavia and Great Britain). This was a morphed type of Christian governance that rejected Christ designated Prime Minister -- the Pope. In turn, Christ's appointed Prime Minister (The Pope) was replaced by their own civil governments, acting in the place of the Pope. This in turn allowed the teaching of the Church to be morphed as well, into something entirely different than what Christ the King originally established with the Catholic Church.

The second was the characteristic of Secularism in the 18th century, started in the United States and France. This form of governance attempted to separate religion from the state entirely, and replace it with a humanist view of mankind and the world. This type of governance spread quickly in the 19th and 20th centuries, until almost the entire Western world is now engulfed in it by the early 21st century. Also by the early 21st century, a new militant brand of Secularism took root in the West, divorcing Christian religion from all influence over public morality, and marginalising Christians in society.

The third was the characteristic of Communism in the 20th century, started in Russia. This quickly spread into China and the Orient, as well as into Eastern Europe and Latin America. This form of governance attempted to destroy all religious influence over society in total. Unlike Secularism which has no creed at all, Communism pushed the creed of militant atheism. Under Communism the Church was actively and openly persecuted, and the state was considered "god."

As civil authorities adopted one of these three characteristics, it became very easy for Christians to adopt a view of the Church that is abstract and nebulous. This is especially the case in Protestant and Secular states, were multiple Christian denominations abound. Unless you know history, it becomes very difficult to distinguish where real Christian authority resides.

As the 21st century increases, and Secular governments continue to marginalise Christians, espousing a type of moral relativism that is completely foreign to the Christian mind, it is high time we begin thinking of the Church as the Kingdom again. We must understand first that it is not the Kingdom of God in its fullness, but even as just a deposit of the Kingdom of God, it nevertheless exerts absolute sovereign authority over the King's royal subjects -- Christians.

Catholic Christians are particularly fortunate among all Christians, because for us, the authority structure of the Kingdom, established by Christ the King himself, remains totally intact, wherein it is easy to identify and submit. So we Catholic Christians need to think of ourselves as royal subjects first and foremost. We are royal subjects of King Jesus. We are his Kingdom. Which means our PRIMARY GOVERNMENT is Jesus Christ our Sovereign. We are citizens of our respective countries secondly. Our citizenship in our respective countries always comes secondary to being royal subjects of his Highness Jesus Christ, King of kings.

Now our poor Protestant brethren can cling to this truth too, as well they should, but they are left to try to figure out things themselves, as to how the chain of authority works between Christ the King and their own personal lives. Thankfully, we Catholics have our King's sacred authority clearly laid out for us. It begins with Christ's Prime Minister -- the Pope -- who acts as the King's vicar (representative) just like any royal prime minister of any country speaks on behalf of the monarchy for that nation. So the Pope acts as Christ's Prime Minister for this Kingdom on Earth. It's not the fullness of the Kingdom of God, it is rather just a deposit, but that deposit bears with it infinitely more authority than any man-made civil government on Earth.

We need to think of ourselves as royal subjects of Christ the King first, and thus subjects of his deposit of the Kingdom of God (The Catholic Church). This must be our primary and absolute authority. When you think of following the laws, the first thing you should think about as a Catholic is following God's laws through the Church. We are part of a Kingdom, and Jesus is our King, therefore, we must follow the laws our King has given us through his prime minister, royal court and sheriffs. That being the Pope, cardinals and bishops. Only AFTER THAT should we consider the civil laws of the land.

So with that, what is a short summary of the Holy Laws of Christ the King, and his Kingdom of God...

The Two Great Commandments

  1. Love God with all your heart, mind, soul and strength.
  2. Love your neighbour as yourself.
These two great commandments summarise everything. Follow them meticulously, and everything else will just come along naturally. However, if you need some more details, our King (through his Kingdom Church) is quick to offer them...

The Ten Commandments

  1. Worship only God (Yahweh) the Holy Trinity. -- No false gods or idols allowed.
  2. Honour God's Name (Yahweh, Jesus & Emmanuel). -- Do not use them in vain or in disrespectful ways.
  3. Keep Holy the Sabbath Day. -- This was reinterpreted as Sunday by the first Apostles of Christ the King, who asserted their Christ-given authority over the Old Mosaic Law, because Christ is greater than Moses.
  4. Honour your father and mother. -- This means means to obey them while you're young, and then later care for them in their old age.
  5. You shall not murder. -- meaning you can't kill innocent people who aren't trying to kill you.
  6. You shall not commit adultery. -- This commandment forbids all sex (fornication, prostitution, pornography, homosexuality, masturbation, rape, incest, paedophilia, bestiality, necrophilia, etc., etc., etc.) outside of the natural marital act between one man and one woman -- a husband and his wife.
  7. You shall not steal. -- This includes theft, cheating people, depriving workers of a just wage, depriving employers of a full days work, fraud, tax evasion, etc.
  8. You shall not lie. -- Principally this is regarding a lie that hurts somebody, or deceives someone for personal gain, though all lies should be avoided as much as possible.
  9. You shall not covet your neighbour's wife. -- In other words, don't think about immoral sex of any type. Don't entertain the thought. Don't fantasise about it. Dismiss all such temptation as mere temptation and move on. (Temptation itself is not a sin. It only becomes sin when you entertain the temptation with intentional fantasies.)
  10. You shall not covet your neighbour's goods. -- In other words, don't think about feelings of envy, greed, and jealousy in reaction to what other people have.

The Five Precepts of the Church

  1. You shall attend Mass on Sundays and on holy days of obligation and rest from servile labour. We must "sanctify the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord" (Sunday), as well as the principal feast days, known as Catholic holy days of obligation. This requires attending Mass, "and by resting from those works and activities which could impede such a sanctification of these days."
  2. You shall confess your sins at least once a year. We must prepare for the Eucharist by means of the Sacrament of Reconciliation (Confession). This sacrament “continues Baptism’s work of conversion and forgiveness.”
  3. You shall receive the sacrament of the Eucharist at least during the Easter season. This "guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and centre of the Christian liturgy."
  4. You shall observe the days of fasting and abstinence established by the Church. "The fourth precept ensures the times of ascetics and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts and help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart."
  5. You shall help to provide for the needs of the Church. "The fifth precept means that the faithful are obliged to assist with the material needs of the Church, each according to his own ability."

Code of Canon Law


The Code of Canon Law is the official law of the Church that governs the administration of the sacraments, the hierarchy of the Church, and the rights of the Catholic Faithful. People who are experts in this law are called canonists. It's not the responsibility of regular lay people to know all of these laws, or how they apply. This is the job of canonists, bishops and priests. A good rule of thumb for laypeople is to simply talk to your priest whenever you have questions about such things as Baptism, Confirmation, Eucharist and Matrimony (marriage), etc.

Probably the biggest problem most Catholics have today is they don't consult the proper Church authorities on the subject of marriage. Catholics cannot marry people without talking to a priest first. This is because permission to marry must be obtained from the bishop. This is especially the case when marrying non-Catholics. Catholics cannot lawfully marry outside of the Church without the local bishop's permission. Any marriage contracted by a Catholic outside of the Church, without permission from the bishop, the Church automatically regards such marriage null and void. This is a real problem among Catholics in the West. And it's a big reason why so many Catholics deal with divorce and irregular marriages today. Of course, this canon law does not apply to non-Catholics, but Catholics are under the authority of the Church (the Kingdom of God on earth), therefore they must keep this law. You can read The Code of Canon Law by clicking here, but like I said, your local priest is the best person to go to with questions and concerns. It's not designed for common lay reading.

Civil Law


Catholic Christians are under the Kingdom first, and are obliged to obey the laws of the King (Jesus Christ) as administered by his vicars (pope, bishops and priests). This is his royal court, administrators and deputies. Beyond that, however, God has permitted civil authority to govern everyone outside his Church, and Catholics are obliged to obey the laws of civil authority, only insofar as they do not contradict the laws of King Jesus as administered in his Kingdom (The Catholic Church). When it comes to Catholics, we really do live in one jurisdiction overlapping another. The laws of the Kingdom come first, and they supersede the laws of the civil state. We must obey civil laws, but we must disobey or disregard them when they contradict the laws of the King and his Kingdom Church.

For example; Sharia Law (Islamic Law) opposes the laws of the King and his Kingdom in the very worship of God. Christians are commanded to evangelise, but sharia says they can't. Therefore Christians must ignore this civil law of sharia, even upon pain of death. For a law that contradicts God's law is no law at all.

Another example; divorce is permitted by the state under both sharia and Western secular governments. Under these laws, it is permissible for divorced persons to remarry. This violates the laws of the King and his Kingdom which forbids divorce. Therefore these divorce laws must be ignored. Catholics are not permitted to remarry after civil divorce unless the Church declares (by marriage tribunal) that the divorced marriage is "null," meaning it never existed to begin with.

Another example; civil law in many Western states permits persons of the same-sex to marry one another. This violates the laws of the King and his Kingdom. Therefore such civil laws must be ignored, and the Church must regard such "marriages" as automatically null and void. 

Another example; abortion is permitted as "legal" in many Western states. This violates the laws of the King and the Kingdom. Therefore such laws must be ignored and abortion must be regarded by Catholics as the murder of innocent children, and coerced physical assault on their mothers. Catholics who participate in such acts automatically incur the penalty of excommunication from the Catholic Church.

Another example; euthanasia is permitted as "legal" in a growing number of Western states. This violates the laws of the King and the Kingdom. Therefore such laws must be ignored and euthanasia must be regarded by Catholics as murder of the innocent. Catholics who participate in such acts automatically incur the penalty of excommunication from the Catholic Church. 

Lesser examples include the following...

  • Wearing immodest clothing in public is considered perfectly legal in the West, especially on beaches and in public pools, but this violates the King's laws of modesty. 
  • Viewing pornography is considered perfectly legal in the West, but this violates the King's laws against adultery, and coveting you're neighbours wife, even if you're single. 
  • Artificial contraception is perfectly legal in Western nations, but it is forbidden by the laws of the King. 

Catholics would be morally obligated to resist all pressures by society, corporations and the state to impose these things upon us. The point here is that we Catholics are not primarily under civil authority. The civil authority of our nation is a lesser authority. It falls beneath the Kingdom of God, which is our primary authority that supersedes all others. Now to be sure, King Jesus did command us to obey civil authorities only insofar as they do not try to subvert his authority. So when the government says "pay your taxes," King Jesus likewise says, "Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's but to God what is God's." In other words, "Pay your taxes, but give your allegiance to God." Likewise, the government of the Kingdom (the hierarchy of the Church) informs us to obey our governments in all things that don't encroach upon the authority of the Church. So if the civil laws post a speed limit, we obey that speed limit. If they demand a license, we get a license. If they demand fees, regulations, honours, we give them fees, and honours, while obeying their regulations. Again, we do all of this, so long as it never encroaches upon the authority of Christ the King, and the governance of his Kingdom Church.

What about civil duties, like jury duty? Again, we are obliged to do these things, so long as they don't encroach upon the authority of Christ the King and the governance of his Kingdom Church. So for example; if we are called to jury duty then we serve accordingly, so long as we are not asked to convict somebody for following the laws of God. Case in point; suppose somebody is on trial for refusing some stupid civil law that requires a parents to put their daughters on artificial birth control at the age of 14. (I'm not saying such a law exists, but considering the direction our society is going, it may not be a long way off.) The state may consider this in the interest of public health, and refusal to comply a matter of civil disobedience, even child abuse! If a Catholic juror ever found his/her self in such a trial, he/she would be morally obligated to acquit the parents regardless of what the civil law said. The laws of the King and His Kingdom take precedence.

What about military service? Again, we Catholics are free to serve voluntarily, and are obliged to comply with the draft, so long as we are never ordered to make war on the Christ the King or his Kingdom Church. For example; if Catholic soldiers were ordered by their superior officer to storm a cathedral, arrest the bishop and his priests, we would me morally obligated to resist (disobey) such orders, even at the risk of court marshal, for we cannot make war against our primary government. The bishop and priests are our King's governors.

What about the civil duty of voting? How are we to vote as Catholics? The Catholic Church has given several directives for good Catholic voting, much of which has been confusing, vague and sometimes inconsistent. Still, there is a very simple principle any Catholic could follow and be totally in compliance with our duties to Christ the King first. All we need do is vote for candidates who are the least threat to the Kingdom. In other words, we vote for candidates who pose the least threat to the freedom and autonomy of the Catholic Church. That's it. That's all there is to it. Usually, the candidates that pose the least threat to the freedom and autonomy of the Catholic Church, also tend to be those candidates who are most aligned with authentic Catholic teaching. Follow this simple principle, and you'll be serving Christ the King as his royal subject, as well as fulfilling your civic duty as a citizen of your state.

So how does all this relate to the Benedict Option for Catholics? Actually it relates quite a bit, because it's part of reorienting our minds toward a proper way of thinking about authority. The principle of the Catholic Church as the Kingdom of God on Earth is a way of thinking that has been lost for the last 500 years in Northern Europe and all of the English colony states. It's a way of thinking that has been lost to much of Western Europe for the last 200 years. Finally, it has been lost entirely to almost all of the world for the last 100 years. In other words, there is nobody left alive today who remembers what the world was like when most people thought this way. We are living in a time that is totally alien to anything our Christian ancestors have known. It's sort of like the Matrix films, wherein our intellects have been trapped in an alternate reality for so long, we have great difficulty wrapping our minds around anything different. We have to reorient ourselves for proper thinking if we ever hope to survive the coming storm of anti-Christian persecution, which is inevitable now. I've given you, my readers, much to digest for now, so I'll bring this installation to a close here. In my next instalment on this series, I'll suggest the methods and disciplines that will make this reorientation of thinking more practical and real in daily life.

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

BOOKS BY THIS BLOGGER...
A Catholic Guide
to the Last Days
Catholicism
for Protestants

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

An Open Letter to the Convention of States


In case you haven't heard yet, or you've been buried under a mountain of mainstream media news, there is a quiet revolution going on in the United States. Hidden behind the election of Donald Trump, and the Left-wing freak-out following it, there is a silent effort, moving ever-so-slowly behind the scenes, transcending political parties and partisan rancour. Perhaps the reason why the mainstream news media hasn't yet reported on it is because it hasn't yet hit the national scene, nor has it yet become a national issue, and we know the mainstream news media isn't all that interested in state and local matters. Yet as the revolution progresses through the state legislatures, one state at a time, the revolution grows. Many who heard of it originally laughed and scoffed at the idea. They said it would never happen. Yet, it is happening. We are already a third of the way there.

It's called the Convention of States Project, and this is how it works. The United States Constitution provides two ways for the Constitution to be amended. This can be found in Article 5...
The Congress, whenever two thirds of both Houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose Amendments to this Constitution, or, on the Application of the Legislatures of two thirds of the several States, shall call a Convention for proposing Amendments, which, in either Case, shall be valid to all Intents and Purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the Legislatures of three fourths of the several States, or by Conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other Mode of Ratification may be proposed by the Congress; Provided that no Amendment which may be made prior to the Year One thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any Manner affect the first and fourth Clauses in the Ninth Section of the first Article; and that no State, without its Consent, shall be deprived of its equal Suffrage in the Senate.
Okay, so let me break this down in the form of a high-school civics lesson review.

The U.S. Constitution is the Supreme Law of the Land. All three branches of the federal government have to follow it: the President, the Congress and the Courts. If they don't follow it, the United States ceases to be a republic, and then becomes a dictatorship, which will inevitably end in another bloody revolution. So it's in everybody's interest, including Washington D.C.'s, to follow the U.S. Constitution.

Now the Constitution can be amended (changed) in one of two methods, as we see in Article 5 above. Both ways are a two-step process.

The first method is through the U.S. Congress...
  1. The U.S. Congress passes a proposed amendment by a two-third vote in favour of, then sends it to the states for ratification.
  2. Three-fourth of the states (that's 38) must ratify it. Once it's ratified by three-fourths of the states, it becomes part of the Constitution.
The second method is through a Convention of States...
  1. The states (all by themselves) can call for a convention. When two-thirds (that's 34) make this call officially, by state legislatures, over one particular proposed amendment, the U.S. Congress is obligated to set the date and location. Then the states will send their own delegates to represent their states at the convention. This method effectively bypasses the U.S. Congress entirely, and leaves them out of the amendment-making process.
  2. The convention will then propose one or more amendments to the U.S. Constitution, but again, three-fourths (that's 38) of the states must ratify them before they become part of the Constitution. 
Under both methods of amending the Constitution, the states always have the final say. The first method of amending the Constitution has been used several times. The second method has never been used at all -- until now.

The Convention of States Project is an attempt to implement the second method for the first time in history, and I am convinced this method will prevail, precisely because so many people say it won't. It's easy dismissal is it's guarantee of success. So long as the mainstream media easily dismisses this movement, it stays off the mainstream news radar, minimising negative press. This gets it through its infancy stage unencumbered. By the time the mainstream press figures out this is "a real thing" it will be too late. The movement will have already gathered enough steam to push it through the final approvals necessary.


Currently, as of the date of this writing, we are already one-third of the way (12 states) to the states needed (34) to make this Convention happen. There are just 22 states left to go. My own home State of Missouri just passed the resolution last month, and Missouri is a bellwether state, which means it usually trends with the majority of the rest of the nation in election cycles. Getting the remaining 22 is not only a possibility, but actually a probability.

Why?

The Convention of States will happen for more reasons than just strategic planning and the media's clueless nay-saying. It's also about timing. We are living in an era of decentralisation, and this is a trans-national movement. As we saw with the successful Brexit vote, the attempted Scottish independence referendum, and the upcoming Catalonia referendum in Spain, decentralisation is on the minds of people all across Europe and North America. The idea of the superstate has become oh so 20th century, as Westerners are beginning to realise that the one-size-fits-all mentality of big continental unions really don't work as well as everyone had hoped. The Soviet Union crashed and burned in the early 1990s. The European Union has proved to be a disaster of epic proportions. The North American Union never really got off the ground, and now even the United States is not so "united" anymore. The Left-Right (Democrat - Republican) polarity in America has now become so incredibly toxic that national progress no longer seems possible. We are embroiled in a perpetual war between Liberals and Conservatives that never ends, leaving our nation to stagnate while the whole world changes around us. Our inner cities are crumbling. Crime is rampant. Riots have become the norm of political expression. Our national debt is crippling, and our trade deficit has made us dependent on our enemies for economic survival. Our people are over taxed, over worked, under paid, and everyone else is just unemployed. We are steadily heading toward a two-class society of haves and have-nots. The Left promised us "Hope and Change" while the Right has promised to "Make America Great Again," but deep down inside, we all know that no single American president could ever hope to right America's course. America is a Union that is headed for catastrophe, precisely because of our one-size-fits-all form of federal government. The Convention of States will happen because its time has come. It is needed, and it is necessary. For the Republic must take one last dying gasp, in an attempt to save itself, before it fades away. History demands it, and the American people are owed as much. For all the blood that's been spilled to preserve this nation, every political attempt must be made to resuscitate it. That's what the Convention of States is all about, and that is why it WILL happen.

If you have not yet supported the Convention of States, for the sake of our American forefathers, I urge you to do so immediately. SIGN THE PETITION. Then get on board and help any way you can. This will do more for the future of our children than any political election or campaign in our lifetimes.

I write the following for the delegates of this Convention, knowing that it will happen someday, and knowing that one day they will read this, among many other things I am sure. The following are my own suggestions for three Constitutional Amendments. These amendments are needed to decentralise America peacefully and orderly, allowing the 50 respective states to reclaim their own sovereignty and authority, as they see fit, and on their own terms and in their own time. One size does not fit all, and so, any attempt to save the Republic must acknowledge that.

Proposed Constitutional Amendments...
  1. Congressional Term-Limits: This is absolutely necessary, and it is also the primary reason for why the Convention of States is called. Congress will never limit its own terms by proposing a Constitutional amendment, so the states must do it for them. I propose no more than 4 total terms for a Congressman, and 2 terms for a Senator. This would limit every Congressman to 8 years in the House, and every Senator to 12 years in the Senate. This would give a career politician no more than 20 total possible years in Congress, which is more than enough time to get things done. Nobody should ever be in Congress more than 20 years. 
  2. Nullification Overturn: The respective states are sovereign under the American system of government. This is why many states are already using the nullification process to nullify federal laws that are unmanageable. For this reason I am proposing a Constitutional Amendment that if more than half of all states (26 in total) nullify a federal law in those states, that federal law itself becomes null and void in all 50 states, effectively spanking the U.S. Congress for incompetence, and forcing them back to the drawing board.
  3. Secession Provision: This may sound extreme at first glance, but it actually has a very solid purpose. The issue of secession was never actually settled by the American Civil War. The only thing that was settled as that a state could not unilaterally secede on its own accord. However, that doesn't mean that secession is impossible. One of the reasons why the federal government has bloated to a colossal size, and racked up an even more colossal debt, is because it faces no real check and balance on its power. We have checks and balances WITHIN the federal government, so that each branch can check and balance the others' power, but we have no check and balance ON the federal government itself. These were taken away slowly over the last 150 years. Therefore, I propose a Constitutional Amendment that outlines an orderly and legal process by which a state (by the will of the people not politicians) may peacefully and amicably secede from the Union. For example; when the people of a state, have voted by a majority vote of 50% + 1, in a referendum wherein no less than 50% of registered voters have participated, then a "Secession Convention" must immediately be called, bypassing the incompetent federal government (which likely caused the problem in the first place), and delegates be sent to the state seeking secession to negotiate a fair and reasonable solution to the problem. The solution could involve a trial period where certain reforms might be implemented in an attempt to preserve a union, or reasonable and fair terms of separation could be drafted. In the end, secession is a state matter, to be handled by the states, and the federal government must stay out. We've already seen what happens when the federal government handles such matters (1861-1865).
Personally, I don't believe the Secession Amendment will ever need to be used, if the Nullification and Term-Limits amendments are put into place and well implemented. The idea behind the Secession Amendment is to ultimately put the federal government on notice and serve as the ultimate check and balance on federal tyranny. Actual secession is not necessary, but the credible threat of secession is. It needs to hang over Washington D.C. like a Democlean Sword. It's more than that however, it also has a lot to do with the idea of Federalism and the Catholic principle of Subsidiarity. The federal government is designed to SERVE the states, not lord over them.

The point of all three Amendments is to change the direction of the United States, and return it to something more akin to what was intended by America's Founding Fathers. The idea here is to shift power back to the states. It's a counterbalance to the whole 20th century, reasserting the sovereignty of the states over the fed, acting as a check and balance on the fed, and putting the fed on notice. The political shenanigans in Washington D.C. will no more be allowed to have such a negative impact on the people of these United States. To the future delegates of the Convention of States, I ask that you prayerfully and seriously consider these Amendment proposals.

------------------------------------------------
Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'
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Tuesday, June 06, 2017

'Catholicism for Protestants' is Going Out of Print

My first book, 'Catholicism for Protestants' is going out of print. It's going back to the drawing board, to be revamped, expanded and updated. When I'm done, it will be an entirely different book. This means the last printing has been approved, and when that batch is gone, it's gone, and it's not coming back in its present form. Depending on when the new book is published, there may possibly be a time when it will be entirely unavailable.

I'm giving my blog readers a heads up now, so you can order your copies before they're gone. Think of this book as a piece of history, for me personally. It is my first book, but it won't be my last. Get your copies now, before they're gone.

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Description:
Catholicism for Protestants is excellent at "levelling the playing field" between Catholics and aggressive (Evangelical) Protestants, who frequently question the legitimacy of the Catholic Church and Catholic beliefs. It's excellent for Protestants who just don't understand Catholicism, and its even better for Catholics looking to explain the faith more effectively. Portions of this book are already in use in various RCIA programs around the United States.

The book contains a NIHIL OBSTAT from Reverend Allan Saunders, Censor Librorum, and an IMPRIMATUR from the Most Reverend James V. Johnston, Jr., Bishop of Springfield - Cape Girardeau (now the Bishop of Kansas City - Saint Joseph).
"There are many books addressing the difference between Protestants and Catholics. Some are very detailed and cumbersome; others are too simple or not complete in their scope. Shane Schaetzel has provided us with a simple question and answer format that is both complete and thorough, but also simple and easily approachable. May it be used to reach many souls for Jesus and his Catholic Church."    -- Steve Ray: Catholic Apologist, Author, Film Producer, CatholicConvert.com 

"Shane Schaetzel has done a great service to Protestants and Catholics alike by presenting Catholic truth clearly and simply through a series of questions and answers."  -- Fr. Christopher Phillips, Catholic convert and priest, AtonementOnline.com 

"A great read!"  -- Michael Voris: Catholic Journalist, ChurchMilitant.com

Thursday, May 25, 2017

Catholics in an Anti-Catholic Land

Melania Trump meets Pope Francis on May 24, 2017
Photo Credit: REX Shutterstock

I want to begin this essay by saying WELCOME to Melania Trump, who just revealed yesterday that she is a practising Catholic, and the first Catholic to live in the Whitehouse since the Kennedy administration. It was a pleasant surprise to learn this, and we welcome her with open arms. There are some who will point out what appears to be a marriage irregularity between her and Donald. Please note, that all good Catholics should give her the benefit of the doubt on this. We must assume that Donald Trump is making arrangements to take care of this problem, out of respect and love for his wife, assuming he hasn't already done so. We look forward to seeing Melania and Baron at mass now, and we thank her so much for coming out publicly, and taking this courageous stand for the Catholic Christian faith.

Now on to this topic of standing up for the Catholic faith. As my readers know, I am a catechist and apologist for the Catholic Christian faith. One of the things I do on this blog, and in my books, is dispel false information about the Catholic Church, while attempting to teach accurate information. This is for the purpose of knocking down walls that might obstruct some people from knowing the truth. When this happens, occasionally some people convert, while others at least have more respect for our faith.

However, it doesn't always work. There are some people who love falsehoods more than truth. There are some people who love anti-Catholic propaganda more than their brothers and sisters in Christ. Because you see, while I am certainly not the best apologist in the world, I know that even the best couldn't stop some people from believing and spreading anti-Catholic propaganda.

This is because the problem is primarily an emotional one and not an intellectual one. Having lived in the Protestant Evangelical/Fundamentalist world for the early years of my adult life, I can tell you that the vast majority of Protestant Fundamentalists have only a very cursory understanding of the Bible. They don't understand it. They've never done any serious study into it. They have no idea of its context, or even where it came from. And you know what? They don't care. For them, their faith is an emotional thing. It has very little to do with intellect, reason or even charity. It's about: "I'm right, truth be damned, and you better agree with me, or you're going to Hell." I lived with this mindset among many of my Fundamentalist brothers and sisters for the first 10 years of my adult Christian life.

Can you reason with such people? No. Can you get such people to see the truth? No. Can you get them to admit that they might be wrong? No. Is there any hope of helping them? No.

I know that last statement may seem shocking. How can I say there is no hope? Well, I can, and here is why. It has to do with free will. These people have actively chosen a path based on emotional needs, that has nothing to do with logic, reason or Scripture. It has everything to do with believing they are right, and emotionally affirming themselves in that belief, even if it means they have to condemn over a billion of their Christian brethren to Hell. In such cases, when I encounter such people, I make my case, back my points, and then graciously say goodbye. They're not worth getting into an argument over, nor are they worth my effort. When I make a case to these people, I do so not necessarily for them, but rather for anyone else who might be listening or reading. This is why it's so important to take the moral and emotional high ground. Casual observers need to see that we Catholics are the calm and rational ones in such confrontations. When we bow out of what is obviously going to become an argument, we must do so gracefully and with charity, so the casual observer can see that we're behaving as Christians, while our Fundamentalist brethren are acting hostilely and hysterically.

There are two things we need to understand about Anti-Catholic Protestant Fundamentalism...

First, it is dying. The whole thing is built on conspiracy theories and tired old prejudices that don't hold water under close examination. It has no solutions to the problems of this world, or even to personal family problems. It is generally escapist in nature, wherein adherents hope for a mystical Rapture to whisk them away while this world they hate burns behind them. They're almost always suffering from significant family problems. (I'm speaking from experience here.) Divorce is rampant among them. Extra-marital affairs are common. Cohabitation and children out-of-wedlock are regular occurrences. They have horrible financial problems, and sometimes legal problems too. All the while, they frequently present a facade that "all is well" and they're more "saved" than the rest of us. Because they've memorised a few Bible passages, they can present themselves as very knowledgeable, and this of course is designed to intimidate others -- especially Catholics. However, the reason why Protestant Fundamentalism is dying is because their children have seen through the facade. They've grown up in Fundamentalist homes and they know the whole thing is a show. Many of their friends are not Fundamentalists, and the last thing they want to do is condemn them to Hell, especially when that's their only support network, since their own families are usually so broken. As a result, the children of Fundamentalists are constantly leaving their Fundamentalist faith behind, so their parents think they are damned. The parents condemn the children to Hell, beg their friends for prayers, and then affirm that "all is well because Jesus approves." I've seen this pattern play out, over and over again, and I've been watching it for 30 years. Anti-Catholic Protestant Fundamentalism is dying.

Second, it will not go out quietly. You see, Anti-Catholic Protestant Fundamentalists believe they are the last Christians standing. So as they see their numbers gradually diminish, they believe this signals the end of the world. They believe the mythical Rapture is imminent now, and so they shout their poisoned message ever louder. "Repent! For the Rapture is coming! The END is at hand!" I've heard this message all my adult life, and even during my childhood. Nothing has changed. The more that Fundamentalists sense they're losing control, the more hysterical they will become. This means their Anti-Catholicism will intensify as they gradually fade away. With the availability of the Internet and social media, we can expect them to sound a lot bigger than they really are. That is their objective of course. In truth, they are a tiny and sad minority in the Christian world, but the image they'll project will be one of a juggernaut. In truth, only a tiny percent of Catholics will convert to their form of Fundamentalism. The vast majority of Catholics who leave the faith will go to either Evangelicalism (a much softer Protestant alternative) or stop going to any church altogether. So while it is true that Fundamentalism is dying, it is also true that we can expect them to get louder and more obnoxious as they fade away.

Nothing terrifies a Protestant Fundamentalist more than Catholicism in the news. For example; when President and Melania Trump visited the pope in the Vatican yesterday, Facebook and Twitter lit up with post from Anti-Catholic Fundamentalists going hysterical about the "New World Order" and the "Antichrist and False Prophet." I couldn't help but laugh. I heard the exact same thing at age 10 concerning Ronald Reagan and Saint Pope John Paul II. Welcome to the wonderful world of Protestant Fundamentalism; where conspiracy theories are commonplace, hysteria is the norm, and rational thinking is no longer necessary. We need to understand that Protestant Fundamentalism is really nothing more than the death throes of Protestantism in general. It is the last dying gasp of a religious movement, started in the 16th century, that is about to fly apart in every direction.

Protestant Fundamentalism came to these shores in the early 17th century, when the first Protestant colonial power (England) setup and fortified her colonies on the East Coast. It was the Catholic Spanish and French who originally pioneered North America, but with England emerging as the new European superpower, all that would soon change. The Catholic French were driven back into Quebec and Louisiana, as English Anti-Catholicism was firmly established on the North American East Coast. The American War of Independence managed to subdue the overt nature of English Anti-Catholicism within the colonies (now states), but it as still there beneath the surface. It re-emerged in the early 19th century with the rise of the American Party, also called the "Know-Nothing Party." Following the American Civil War it culminated with the rise, and later rebirth, of the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). By the late 19th to early 20th century, American Anti-Catholicism (English in origin) managed to accomplish economically what England could never accomplish with the penal laws. They managed to make Catholicism a handicap in a so-called "free country."

Protestantism began to die in the early 20th century with the introduction of Modernist tendencies. That's when Protestant Fundamentalism was born, in an attempt to resuscitate the corpse. Along with Protestant Fundamentalism came a resurgence of Anti-Catholicism. After all, Protestantism defines itself in opposition to Catholicism. So it only makes sense that any attempt to resuscitate the dying corpse of Protestantism would logically carry with it a profound and intense Anti-Catholic message. The 1928 presidential election was a turning point. Democratic candidate Al Smith (a Catholic), ran against Republican candidate Herbert Hoover (a Quaker), in what turned out to be one of the most nasty, mudslinging campaigns in modern history. Hoover won, but not before Smith was smeared with questions about his loyalty and patriotism because he was a Catholic. At that time, the Republican argument against Smith as that Catholics can't be trusted with high office, because of their loyalty to the pope. Simultaneously, the KKK initiated a smear campaign not only against Smith, but also against the Catholic Church in general, circulating fake news about uncovered oaths, allegedly sworn by the Jesuits and the Knights of Columbus, to kill and destroy anyone who stood in the way of a Catholic takeover of the United States. The matter was so serious that Congress was forced to conduct an official investigation. It was determined by Congress that the whole thing was a hoax perpetrated by the Klan, and that no such Jesuit or Knights of Columbus oaths exist. These Klan-sponsored fake oaths are still circulated among Anti-Catholics today, especially on the Internet.

The rest of the 20th century chronicles the slow-motion train wreck that is Protestantism, both in Europe and North America. Make no mistake about it, the apostasy in the West, we have witnessed in our lifetime, is in fact the collapse of Protestantism. While we have seen Catholicism suffer to, careful analysis shows that Catholicism only flounders insofar as it is united to Protestantism. On other words, the more Protestant-looking a Catholic parish is, the more it suffers and implodes as Protestantism collapses. The reason why Catholicism has suffered so much in recent decades is because in recent decades, Catholic leaders have tried to make the Catholic Church appear more Protestant. This is what happened when you tie your moorings to a sinking ship. It pulls your ship down with it! The Catholic Church will be liberated from this Western apostasy only when she cuts the ropes tying her to Protestantism.

As mainstream Protestantism collapsed during the 20th century, we saw most Europeans embrace Secularism, while in North America, there were two reactions. Some mainstream Protestants left Protestantism for Secularism, while a good number left for Evangelicalism, the softer and milder sister of Fundamentalism. Today, 90% of Evangelical churches are made up of former mainline Protestants and former Catholics. What we have witnessed here in the latter part of the 20th century was not the emergence of a new form of Christianity through evangelism. Rather, Evangelicalism is nothing more than the refugee camp that emerged after the collapse of mainline Protestant denominations. As mainline Protestants in America bolted, a great number of them filed into the Evangelical Protestant churches and megachurches.

The difference between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism is really nothing more than their attitude toward Catholics. Evangelicals are only mildly suspicious of Catholicism and are genuinely disinterested in the affairs of the Catholic Church. Sometimes they might even express some curiosity and cooperation with Catholics. Occasionally they'll acknowledge Catholics as their Christian brethren. Fundamentalists, on the other hand, are characterised by their classical Protestant approach to Catholicism. Like the German and English "reformers" they view the Catholic Church as a great threat to the spiritual and physical well-being of Christians. Having a strong Americanist component as well, they see the Catholic Church as a threat to the United States and a danger to all Americans. Logically speaking, if you're going to revive Protestantism, this is how to do it. Protestantism is defined by its opposition to Catholicism. So at least in this one area, Fundamentalists are making sense. If you're going to bring Protestantism back from the dead, whatever you do needs to have a very strong Anti-Catholic message. It is failing though, as more Americans prefer Evangelicalism to Catholicism. The softer and milder sister is much easier to adopt in this modern world. But Evangelicalism cannot save Protestantism. It's a dead end, because it acknowledges the possibility to Christianity outside of the Protestant belief system. A recent object lesson in this is the conversion of Hank Hanegraaff (The Bible Answer Man) from Evangelicalism to Eastern Orthodoxy. Hank, who's radio talk-show I've listened to for decades, had been an Evangelical all his life. His show was (and is) a staple of orthodox doctrine within the Evangelical world. However, in recent years he had been attending an Eastern Orthodox church, and just recently announced his conversion to Eastern Orthodoxy. This sent shock waves through the Evangelical world, and created a clear line of demarcation between Evangelicalism and Fundamentalism. Evangelicals, somewhat confused but accepting, continue to listen to his show and call in for questions. While Fundamentalists rejected his decision as outright apostasy from the Christian faith and blogged accordingly. (On a personal note, I've always respected Hanegraaff, and applaud his decision to join our Eastern Orthodox brethren.) Hanegraaff's conversion, however, demonstrates what I'm talking about. Evangelicalism's days are numbered, simply because they do acknowledge Christianity outside their fold, and when confronted with Christian expressions (like Catholicism and Orthodoxy), which are more deep and rich than their own, the likelihood of conversion is rather high. I say this as former Evangelical myself.

Today, in the early 21st century, two forms of Anti-Catholicism now exist in North America. The first is the tried and true Protestant Anti-Catholicism, kept alive by the diminishing number of Protestant Fundamentalists. The second is a newer, and more insidious, Secular Anti-Catholicism, which teaches that the only good Catholic is a bad Catholic, meaning one who doesn't practise the faith. We see in politics and media how the Secular Anti-Catholics operate, praising and rewarding bad Catholics for their "courage," and characterising good Catholics as "dangerous zealots worse than Islamic terrorists." (Yours truly is proud to wear that as a badge of honour, considering who it comes from.) I suspect with Melania Trump's recent decision to embrace her Catholic heritage, we can expect the Trump Whitehouse to now be attack by both types of Anti-Catholics -- Secular and Protestant. Please keep in mind though, that Protestant Anti-Catholicism is dying, so we can expect them to get even louder in the days ahead.

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Shane Schaetzel is an author of Catholic books, and columnist for Christian print magazines and online publications. He is a freelance writer and the creator of 'CatholicInTheOzarks.com -- Apologetics and random musings from a Catholic in the Bible Belt.'

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