22 May 2009

Matthew Hollister

If you come across this, drop me a line please.


Thanks and God bless.

In Jesus and Mary,

18 May 2009

What is the Church?


It is a sad fact that Christians are divided and do not share a common belief on several key issues. The division in doctrine is one of the great stumbling blocks that non-believers have to deal with when looking at Christianity. Our Lord did not mean it to be this way. The night before He died, Jesus prayed for the Church that they may be one, even as the Father and the Son are one, so that the world may know that the Father sent the Son. Since Christian unity is of the utmost concern to Our Lord, we should do all in our power to resolve those differences. One way to do so is to learn and share what is the Truth, and then pray that those who are in error have the courage and humility to submit to the Truth of Christ. So one of the purposes of this blog is to share what I have found to be the Truth in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Tradition, and the constant belief of Christianity. There are several differences between Catholics and Protestants, but one of the greatest is the difference in ecclesiology, that is the belief of what exactly is the Church.

Now I am a Catholic, and I hold that the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded and that the fullness of the Truth can be found in the Catholic Church. So the answer to me is obvious, that Protestants should believe as Catholics believe. Protestants, however, would have to accept several doctrines that are foreign to them- teachings on contraception, the Virgin Mary, the Pope, the Sacraments, apostolic succession… and this can be a daunting task. The key to understanding all the things that Catholics believe is to understand what Catholics believe about the Church itself. If one finds the truth of the Catholic Church’s ecclesiology, what the Church is, then all the other objections give way and things begin to make sense. We must believe these teachings because Christ’s Church teaches them.

So what is the Church? Is it just the sum total of all Christians, an ‘invisible church’ whose members are known to God alone? Or is it a visible institution? Well, the Catholic faith teaches that the Church is the Mystical Body of Christ (Ephesians 4; Mystici Corporis Christi). Saint Paul says that we are baptized into the Body of Christ: “For as the body is one, and hath many members; and all the members of the body, whereas they are many, yet are one body, so also is Christ. For in one Spirit were we all baptized into one body” (1 Corinthians 12:12-13). The Church is the Body of Christ, not just symbolically, but so real that the Church acts as one organism and one that Jesus identifies Himself with. Again we read from Saint Paul, “If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together. Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it.” (1 Corinthians 12:27-28). Reminded of Saint Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus, we see that Jesus asks Paul “Why do you persecute me?” Paul was persecuting the Church… the Body of Christ!

Since the Church is a body, it must be visible. The New Testament shows that Christ founded a visible Church. It is evident that Our Lord intended a visible Church with authority. Only then can these words of Jesus make sense:

“If thy brother shall offend against thee, go, and rebuke him between him and thee alone. If he shall hear thee, thou shalt gain thy brother. And if he will not hear thee, take with thee one or two more, that in the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may stand. And if he will not hear them, tell the Church. And if he will not hear the Church, let him be to thee as a heathen and a publican.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

In the current Protestant model, it is impossible to tell the Church and for believers to hear the Church. Say, for example, that a Baptist and a Methodist get into a disagreement. Who would they go to for their conflict to be resolved? Also, let's think about the Bible. How did we get the list of the books for the New Testament? Obviously, there was no inspired list of books. Who would determine the requirements for a book to be considered canonical? Only a visible, institutional Church could decide what books were part of the New Testament and expect all Christians to believe them? Or consider the ecumenical councils. The First Council of Nicaea in 325 had to deal with Arianism. The Arians were a group of people who believed that the Son was not of the same substance as the Father, that there was a time that Jesus did not exist, therefore Jesus is inferior in some way to God the Father. Could we just use the Bible to defeat their heresy? That is what the Protestants would have us do, and it is a laudable attempt. The problem, however, is that the Arians used the Gospels to justify their position. They were lucky that they happened to agree on the 'canonicity' of the Gospels, but that wasn't a given either.. some people accepted less books and some accepted more than the 27 we have today that could clearly justify their beliefs.

There needed to be a definitive source of authority- the bishops, who had been given that authority by the men who ordained them. These men could trace their authority back to the apostles. When these bishops taught together, they formed the visible component of the teaching Church. The next question, then, is if these bishops had authority then... when did they lose that authority so the Protestant reformers could challenge them and break away?

Just some things to think about!

13 May 2009

Saint Augustine's and Notre Dame, Part 2

Father David Ruchinski has posted the following response regarding Father Gillespie's Notre Dame remarks.


For those who are interested in the pastor’s position regarding President Obama’s visit to Notre Dame, the following is a copy of the letter he sent to the White House last week.

Dear Mr. President:

I write to thank you for accepting the invitation to speak at Notre Dame’s Spring Commencement. I trust that you will share wise words with the graduates, their faculty, family, and friends.

I hope you will also take the opportunity to listen while you are there, to see the vital witness of a Catholic university in action, engaging in dialogue, in the pursuit of truth and living action. The sharp and, at times, embittering reaction of some to your invitation, may not represent all Catholics. But I think there is a unanimity of concern by Catholics and others of good will, at the possibility that your administration might broaden access to abortions, ease legal and legitimate restrictions, and compel cooperation by health workers and professional doctors, physician assistants, and nurses in performing abortions. I hope you will not try to lead our country in such directions. I certainly will not follow, nor will the vast majority of Catholics.

Like is a gift from God, to be valued and protected from conception to natural death. It is in defense of human dignity and worth that we oppose abortion and the death penalty. Life is a seamless garment, not to be ripped asunder or economically apportioned out to high bidders.

Please re-enter the dialogue with people who oppose abortion, and especially at Notre Dame with the Catholic Church, so that renewed witness may re-shape your priorities and policies. Just as the hope for stem-cell research can be realized in moral ways, so the desire to help pregnant women facing difficult decisions can be accomplished without taking baby’s innocent life.

As St. Paul argues in the Letter to the Romans (Rm 13: 1), since all authority comes ultimately from God, may you deserve the respect and honor (Rm 13: 7) we give you as our president: “he whom you serve is the Lord” (Rm 12: 11).


Rev. John D. Gillespie
Director of the Catholic Student Center

Fr. Gillespie believes strongly in the importance of dialogue as called for by Pope Paul VI in his encyclical Ecclesiam suam. At the heart of a university is respectful dialogue.


I tried posting the following, but my attempts were met by a blank screen except for the word "discarded". Haha! Not sure what that is about.

I am glad that Father Gillespie wrote to President Obama, laying out the Church's teaching on the sanctity of life.

I don't think anybody is trying to be 'intolerant' of people, but we must be 'intolerant' of certain ideas if 'tolerance' is to mean that we believe that President's Obama's position on 'choice' is a valid opinion to hold.

What the University of Notre Dame is doing is not dialogue. The president will be given an honorary degree, as well as a platform to speak. Matt brings up a good point in that the bishops of the United States clearly said in Catholics in Political Life:
"The Catholic community and Catholic institutions should not honor those who act in defiance of our fundamental moral principles. They should not be given awards, honors or platforms which would suggest support for their actions."

Some 75 bishops have come out and said that Notre Dame's decision is a serious error and a grave scandal. The point I like to consider is this: would we allow a hypothetical man who supports the right to kill daily 4,000 Jews? Of course not! The idea is completely ludicrous. We need to realize that the unborn baby is just as important as any human life, and that we should not honor those who support this genocide. Respectful dialogue is at the heart of the university, yes.. but the Catholic university MUST remain "Ex corde ecclesiae"- at the heart of the Church.

I'm Not the Only One Complaining

Well, I'm not the only one that "stirs the pot" it seems. I was looking at St. Augustine's blog tonight. The blog is used mostly for suggestions on ways to work through the financial situation.. but other topics come up in the comment box from time to time. Here is a comment from Monday, May 11.

NOTE: This is second hand information, so I can't vouch for the authenticity. The commenter was anonymous, and I don't know anyone who went to the 9 AM Mass this past Sunday. I was 150 miles away from Gainesville... thank God.

"According to the topic of this blog “Your Feedback Matters”, so I would like it to be known that I completely disagree with the Sermon given by Fr. Gillespie at the 9AM mass on May 10, 2009, in reference to Notre Dame inviting President Obama to speak. While I completely respect the position of President of the United States, this does not mean that the person holding this position has the right to violate my personal beliefs. Let me make it clear that it is not because Barack Obama is not Catholic that I oppose his speaking at Notre Dame; it is because Barack Obama is pro-abortion that I oppose his speaking engagement. Fr Gillespie needs to re-think his position as a Catholic priest if he truly believes it is okay for Notre Dame to invite Barack Obama, a known pro-abortionist, to speak at their Commencement ceremony."

Did Father Gillespie really defend the University of Notre Dame's decision to honor President Obama? Even though the bishops said in 2004 that Catholic universities are not to honor pro-abortion politicians? Even though some 75 bishops, including Bishop Galeone, have publicly come out against Notre Dame's decision? Hmm. I want to give Father Gillespie the benefit of the doubt- perhaps the sermon was misunderstood, or perhaps the commenter is a liar. It would be nice to have some confirmation either way.