The Trinity and Knowability

The Trinity is a mystery that is dogma and must be believed for one to call themselves a Christian.  This is a leap of faith, because though we know it is true, we are not able to understand everything about it.  Do we need to understand everything about it in order to believe?  Some would say that to believe we must have absolute knowledge of the subject.  To not have this knowability is a contradiction in eyes of many.

There are many things that we have knowledge of, but we do not know absolutely.  The medical field is constantly changing and filled with new advances, but just a few decades ago the damage of cigarettes on the human body was not well known.  Is this a contradiction in the medical field?  Do we not adhere to the advice of our doctor because we do not have an absolute knowledge of his field?  To have that line of thinking borders on insanity.

There is no tension between the trinity and its knowability.  The Trinity was revealed very slowly in scripture because to reveal it right away would lead Israel into Tritheism.  They simply would not have understood it.  The members of the Trinity were together at one time at the baptism of Christ, and Christ mentioned all three.  For those who have issues believing the Trinity, St. Augustine asks a very interesting question.  Do you believe Jesus rose from the dead though you have never seen anyone else do the same (Augustine 7.5)?  We love the Lord Jesus though we have never seen him, and we love the other members of the Trinity as well.  We see the handiwork of the Trinity all around us.  The Trinity is one God with three persons, and we love them because they are God.  It does take an element of faith like most things in life.  That illumination that faith provides assists in understanding it a bit more.  If we fully understand everything there is to know about God, then he ceases being God.

 

Works Cited

Augustine of Hippo. Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/130101.htm&gt;, accessed November 11, 2018.

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Patristic Testimony and the Trinity

If the Trinity is of such vital important to the faith and to the Christian life, what did the testimony of the patristic fathers have to say about it?  This question is asked because it is a question asked by some skeptics of the Trinity dogma.  While the Faith is explained in a plain and direct manner in the first centuries, the substance of the mystery is rightly shown in the following centuries.  The patristic testimony regarding the Trinity, has a definite influence on the doctrinal and liturgical life of the church now as it did then.

The work of the early church fathers can be divided in what is called Anti-Nicene and Post-Nicene.  The reason for these distinctions is because the Council of Nicea was a sort of dividing line because after Nicea the dogma of the Trinity was formally defined (Preuss 142).  At any rate, the first four centuries were crucial as dogma was not only defined, but even before then we see development and manifestation of the dogma in the liturgy (Garrigou-Lagrange Introduction).

At mass there are two creeds that can be said after the homily.  One is the Nicean creed, and the other is the Apostle creed.  The Apostles creed is only slightly older than its Nicean counterpart, but in it we profess the Trinity.  Though it is made up of a few lines it declared the divinity of all three persons of the Godhead, and it is a creed that we still profess today (Preuss 144).  Regarding this Garrigou-Lagrange states, “according to the arrangement of the Apostles’ Creed is the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost and those things attributed to them in the order of salvation” (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch. 1).

The creed itself is an extension of the sacrament of Baptism.  In Baptism, one is immersed, or water is poured on the head, three times in the name of each person of the Trinity (Lecture Notes).  The Trinitarian formula of baptism has biblical roots in such places as Matthew 28, but it was carried on into the liturgy and the writings of the Fathers.  Tertullian, a second century Christian writer, stated that the Trinity itself is the substance of the New Testament (Garrigou-Lagrange Ch.1).

There is also evidence of Patristic testimony in the doxologies in the early church and those in use today.  As was the case with Baptism, origins of these doxologies have their roots in the Pauline epistles where St. Paul writes the earliest doxologies.  The prayer that we sometimes call the “Glory Be” (Gloria Patra) today, has very ancient Christian roots (Lecture Notes).  Glory be to the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be.  World without end, amen.  This prayer reflected the publicly professed faith of the early Christians, and early Christian writers (Preuss 146).  It is one of the basic prayers taught to children at an early age to teach them the dogma of the Trinity.  It is one that links us today with great saints such as St. Justin Martyr, wo also was familiar with this doxology (Preuss 146).

The doctrine of the Trinity is echoed in the confessions of the early martyrs.  Patristic testimony celebrated these martyrs as heroes of the faith, and in some cases the patristics were among these martyrs.  These martyrs are celebrated in the liturgy on various feast days throughout the liturgical calendar.  St. Polycarp was martyred in 166 A.D., and before his martyrdom he gave glory all here persons of the Trinity (Preuss 145).  There were many others with St. Epipodeus and St, Euplus of Cantonia just to name a couple more.  These holy martyrs died for the Trinity because it was true.  Just because the dogma had not been formally defined does not mean that it had not always been taught.

 

Works Cited

Garrigou-Lagrange, Reginald.  The Trinity and God the Creator.  https://www.ewtn.com/library/THEOLOGY/TRINITY.HTM#05, accessed November 13, 2018.

Preuss, Arthur. The Divine Trinity.  https://archive.org/details/divinetrinityad00pohlgoog, accessed November 12, 2018.

St. Paul and the Eucharist

One of the central themes in all of Christendom is that of unity.  Though there are many denominations Christians everywhere consider themselves to be in the family of God.  However within the Catholic Church we have something that the other denominations do not.  We have the body, soul, and divinity of Christ present with us in the Eucharist.  In the Catholic Church we are a family, and in that family there are disagreements.  However when we receive the Eucharist we are submitting to our Lord and we become one with Him and with each other.  This unity is important in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  This is a nice introduction.

During the course of St. Paul’s missionary journeys he founded the church in Corinth.  The community seemed to have a problem with individuality, but it is not what we think individuality to be.  This was not someone expressing their personality, but individuals who were selfish and put themselves before the welfare of the community.  Laurance states “Many of the Corinthian Christians believe that all that is important is to know the fact of their salvation, and that this fact liberates them from duties of love to their fellow Christians or even to Christ (Laurence, Page 71). There was an individual who was fornicating with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:1).  This is bad enough, but the church did nothing to correct the issue.  This vital issue had the potential of ending the young church.  They were taking each other to court instead of working things out internally (1 Corinthians 6:1-6).  How does this look to the unbelievers around them?  They were not setting themselves about and living the example of Christ and their beloved Apostle Paul.  There were many other things wrong with the church, but when it came to the Eucharist.  Many within the church strayed from what they believed and received in an unworthy manner.

Paul is begins his lesson by reminding the Corinthians of Christ.  Laurance states “Contrary to all worldly wisdom and all expectations, God’s power is manifested in Christ’s humbling of himself and finally acceptance of death (Laurance, page 71).”  As previously stated the Corinthians were worrying about their own desires and seemed to forget about the fundamentals of the Gospel.  We are to act like Christ, and they were doing everything but that.

Christ loved us so much that He humbled himself and died for our sin.  Paul was reminding the Corinthians of this and the duty to love others more than yourself.  This is important in preparation to receive the Eucharist.  In mass we offer each other a sign of peace and we pray for each other.  It is in these prayers and offerings of peace that we humble ourselves and place ourselves at the service of others.  Paul was trying to emphasize the importance of this in proper Christian living.

To go along with this the Corinthians were not coming together properly to celebrate the Eucharist.  1 Corinthians 11:20, 21 says “When you meet in one place, then it is not to eat the Lord’s supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.”  Those that were well off in the world were flaunting it in the faces of those that had nothing.  This had the effect of making those less fortunate feel ashamed and it brought disgrace on the Church (1 Corinthians 11:22).  Paul, as a disappointed father, tells them he is ashamed.  Laurence states in plainly “To celebrate it (Eucharist) in a context of selfishness and division is to violate its very nature, to reject Christ who at the Last Supper and in his death shared himself completely.  Such a violation results in condemnation rather than blessing (Laurance, page 72).”

One could get the feeling from reading Paul’s letter that the community was in peril.  Someone was concerned enough to leak this information to Paul, and he swiftly wrote this epistle condemning their behavior.  Paul does this is a way that a father corrects a child.  He does it with love and he is trying to teach them by example.

Paul is telling the Corinthians, and us, that the Eucharistic meal is one which is firmly rooted in family.  In 1 Corinthians 11:26 Paul writes “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”  After performing the first mass at the Last supper our Lord was betrayed.  He was whipped, beaten, and had nails driven through His hands and feet.  To take this lightly one may as well be at the scene of the crucifixion with a hammer in hand.  We gather to remember that the Lord gave Himself for us and we are to follow His example by giving ourselves to each other.  If a member of the church lost a loved one then we all did.  If a member of the church is sick we are to all pray.  We are to help each other get to heaven, not step all over each other so we can get there first.

Paul reiterates the point of the Eucharist as a means of bringing the community together in 1 Corinthians 11:33, 34.  These verses read “Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.  If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so your meetings may not result in judgment.  The other matters I shall set in order when I come.”  Remember that there were certain members of the congregation that were using the church meeting as their own personal buffet.  This passage is not saying that one should not feed someone who is hungry, but is saying that everyone should get a portion of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is the high point of the church meeting.  We recall how unworthy we are to receive the Blessed Sacrament, and ask God to forgive us of our shortcoming and fill us with His grace.  We ask for the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they ask the same of us.  Paul is trying to tell the Corinthians that we are in this race together, and is beneficial and necessary that we help each other as a family.

Image result for st paul

Reference

1 Corinthians 11:20, 21 New American Bible

1 Corinthians 11:26 New American Bible

1 Corinthians 11:33, 34 New American Bible

Laurance, John D., S.J., ED.  Introduction to Theology. (Revised Second Edition)  Boston:  Pearson Custom Publishing, 2008.

Relationships And The Four Last Things

When studying grace, we see that it is not only a free gift from God, but that it has a strong relationship with other aspects of soteriology.  What is the relationship between freedom, grace, divine foreknowledge, predestination, and perseverance as they pertain to the Four Last Things?  The relationship between all aspects are intertwined, but it starts with grace.  This understanding is important when it comes to the four last things which are death, judgment, heaven, and hell.

As previously stated grace is a free gift from God.  As with any gift we can either accept it or we can reject it.  When we make the choice to accept grace we then have true freedom.  The supernatural grace given to us leads us to even greater freedom.  Regarding this Charles Journet writes, “It is not only God and man, grace and freedom, but God through man, grace through freedom, that does the good act” (Journet 2.5).  Grace and human freedom are furthermore related of divine foreknowledge.  1 Timothy 2:4 states that God “desires everyone to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (NRSV).  Though God desired it, not everyone will be saved in the end.  God knows, through divine foreknowledge, who with use their freedom and accept his grace.

Though one may accept grace, one must remain steadfast and ask God for the gift of perseverance (STII, Q109, A10).  Some Protestants would say that those who persevere are predestined, but predestination has a different meaning in Catholic theology.  According to Fr. John Hardon, “only the elect or predestined are members of the Church” (Hardon Ch. 3).  Thus, we can see the fullness of the relationship of freedom, grace, divine foreknowledge, perseverance, and predestination regarding the four last things.  Grace is at the forefront of them all, and grace is given from God through the church and her sacraments.

Works Cited

Aquinas, Thomas.  Summa Theologia. Trans. Thomas Gornall.  Blackfriars, St. Joseph, IN:  Ave Maria Press, 1981.  Accessed August 10, 2018.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

Journet, Charles.  The Meaning of Grace.   Princeton: Scepter Publishers, 1997.

Why Are There 27 Books In The New Testament?

There are many things that may come to an individual’s mind when it comes to sacred scripture.  Some may ask why there are so many translations.  Some may wonder if the Bible as we know it fell from the sky at Pentecost.  However many have questions on how we have the books we have.  For sure it was long and arduous process, but it was one guided by the Holy Spirit and the church.

One rule that was used to determine inclusion of the twenty seven books was linkage to an Apostle, or apostolic origin.  In the first three centuries after the church started there were many books bearing the name of various Apostles.  As an example there was the Gospel of Thomas, Luke, Peter, and the proto gospel of James.  In addition to these there were several hundred Acts and Apocalypses.  Some of these writings were spurious and contradicted the Gospel being preached by the church.

Apostolic origin does not mean that it has to be written by an apostle, but that an Apostle “stands behind writing in such a way that the essential teaching is preserved within it (Nichols, page 104).”  This would explain why the Gospel of Luke was included in the canon.  Great care was made to ensure that writings had apostolic backing, and if they did not they were denied canonical status.

Another rule that was used in determining if a book was worthy of the canon was its conformity to the faith of the church.  Would a collection of Holy writings from any religion be deemed authoritative if they contradicted each other?  The answer to the question is obvious.  The church used great care in determining that the twenty seven books in the canon were in compliance with what the church taught.

The church was able to do this by utilizing the oral tradition that was handed down from the Apostles.  As a Nichols documents “around 190 a bishop in Antioch stopped people from using the Gospel of Peter on the grounds that its author did not regard the human body of Jesus as real (Nichols, page 104).”  The church teaches that Christ was a real person, divine, and bled on the cross.  This writing taught that Christ was a spirit that entered into a man that was being crucified.  There were many writings like this floating around, and since they did not pass the test of orthodoxy they were not included in the canon.

Thirdly the writing had to be valued by the church that was respected for its own Apostolic origin (Nichols, page 104).  Perfect examples of this are the Epistles of Saint Paul.  There is little doubt that these writings are his for he states at the end of letters that he wrote them with his own hand.  Also he wrote them to churches that he started and they knew him very well.  These churches preserved these letters and read them in their liturgies.

Using these three criteria, the fathers of the church started to develop the New Testament.  The letters of Paul were among the first to be recognized in 90 ad and were being assembled in small collections.  The four Gospels were decided on around the year 200.  There were various canons proposed, but the Pauline letters and the four gospels seemed to have staying power.  Other books such as Revelation and Hebrews were battled over.  Some areas of the church accepted them and others did not.  There were also books with no apostolic link that were considered such as the Shepherd of Hermas and Clements letter to the Corinthians.  However they did not meet the criteria previously discussed and were denied canonical status. Through many debates and hefty quarrels we know that the canon was final by the end of the fourth century (Nichols, Page 105).

 

References

Nichols, Aiden. The Shape of Catholic Theology: An Introduction to Its Sources, Principles, and History. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

St. Augustine and the Trinity

The Trinity is a doctrine that some have had issue with since the earliest days of Christianity.  The great church father, St. Augustine, was not immune to having to deal with Christological heresies.  Though the heresies are Christological, they deal with the Trinity because Christ is the second person of the Trinity.  If a there is a false understanding of who Christ is, then there is a false understanding of what the Trinity is.  In discussing these various heresies, St. Augustine wrote treatise titled On the Trinity.  This has become known as one of his most difficult works and it took him sixteen years to complete (Augnet 2135).  His work is gift to all of us and shows various arguments supporting the equality of divine persons against Christological heresies.

In chapter one, St. Augustine warns the reader of those who commit heresy through the misuse of reason.  They fall into error by misinterpreting the sacred text through crude love of reason (Augustine Ch.1).  By doing so they miss the point of the text and somehow twist scripture to mean something it does not intend.  In all fairness, this is still something that happens today regarding the Trinity.  In chapter five, Augustine speaks of the unity of the divine persons.  He does this specifically by describing how the three persons are one, how they have individua work, and yet work together.  Augustine states in regard to their work, “Father does some things, the Son other things, and the Holy Spirit yet others” (Augustine Ch.5.8).  The Holy Spirit is the spirit of both the Father and the Son and was not begotten.  Just like the Father and the Son, the Holy Spirit has no beginning or end.

In Chapter six Augustine seems to be teaching against a type of modalism that was going around.  Some were saying that God was not immortal because he changed into the Son and Holy Spirit through time, or that somehow Christ was less that the Father.  Augustine brilliantly answers with scripture.  This is still a method that is effective today.  He quotes John 1:1 to show that Christ has always existed, and that the scriptures call Him God (Augustine Ch. 6.9).  He then alludes to the baptism of Christ in Matthew chapter 3 to show the unity and equality of the three.  Jesus is present, it was the Father’s voice that spoke, and it was the Holy Spirit that was present in the dove.  This shows that they all exist at the same time, in unity, equality, and that it is not one form changing to another.

In proving his case of equality among the Trinitarian persons, St. Augustine looks to 1 Corinthians 8:6 which states, “yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (NRSV).  This verse affirms the divinity of Christ by mentioning him in the same sentence as God.  Notice also how all things exist through the Father and the Son?  Each person of the Trinity has a clause, or duty, assigned.  One is not more important than the other, but they all work together for our redemption and salvation (Augustine 6.12).

Some may say that the verse mentioned above makes sense, but what of the Holy Spirit?  In Chapter 6, St. Augustine goes to great lengths to show that the Holy Spirit is equal to the Father and the Son.  The Holy Spirit is not something that had a point of origin.  In other words, he is not a creature that had a beginning and that will have an ultimate end.  The Holy Spirit is equal, coeternal, and of the same essence.  Regarding the Holy Spirit St. Paul writes in Philippians 3:3, “For it is we who are the circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and boast in Christ Jesus and have no confidence in the flesh” (NRSV).  Also in 1 Corinthians 6:9, St. Paul specifically mentions that our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.  We serve, worship, and ask the Holy Spirit for things just as we would the Father and the Son.  That is because they are coequal and God.

Image result for augustine and the trinity

Works Cited

Augustine. On the Trinity From Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, First Series, Vol. 3. Edited by Philip Schaff. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1887.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/130101.htm&gt;, accessed October 14, 2018.

Augustinians Australia. http://www.augnet.org/en/works-of-augustine/writings-of-augustine/2135-on-the-trinity/, accessed October 14, 2018.

The Letter to the Ephesians, Faith, and Marriage

Scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”  However, there are some books that have been absolutely instrumental in forming Christian doctrine and thought.  One of those books is Ephesians, and the other is Romans.  Raymond Brown writes “Among the Pauline writings only Romans can match Ephesians as a candidate for exercising the most influence on Christian thought and spirituality (Brown, page 620).”

Ephesians is also a source of controversy among various groups in Christendom.  One of the issues being addressed in the letter is that the love for God is not only singular, but requires love of neighbor and thus community.  A way of living faith is intertwined with the love of neighbor.  In is in this regard that one of the most popular passages of scripture is sometimes taken out of context.  Ephesians 2:8-9 states “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God-not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”  This is taken by the Sola Fide crowd as meaning that all we need is faith.  Believe Christ has forgiven you and you have nothing else to do.  This contradicts the context in which this passage should be read as the next verse puts it into perspective.  Ephesians 2:10 states “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

We are indeed saved by faith, but there is more to it.  We are a community of believers and we must take care of each other.  We are to take care of the poor, the sick, and intercede in prayer for our Christian brothers and sisters.  Our faith is to produce good fruit for the Christian community, because a faith kept to ourselves will ultimately die.

A second issue illustrated in the Epistle to the Ephesians is that marriage is compared to the relationship between Christ and the Church, which is a large development from the earlier letters. Marriage is given a spiritual position.  This is another portion of the Epistle that is taken out of context by some.  Ephesians 5:22 states “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord.”  Some take this to mean that wives are to “obey” the husband and be subservient.  However this is not the case as the other verses puts that theory to rest.  Ephesians 5:25 states “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” In a sort of ironic way I like to point out that obeying one’s husband is one thing; dying for one’s wife is another.

Brown states “The obligation for the husband to love is treated more extensively than the obligation of the wife to be subject, and both are rooted in God’s initial plan for union in marriage (Brown, page 624).”  Christ came and died for us because he loved us.  This is the responsibly of the husband, and that is to emulate Christ’s love to his wife.  In this regard we are to care, love, and serve just as Christ did for us.

Image result for ephesians

Works Cited

Brown, Raymond, An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

A Matter of Intent: Abortion and Moral Theology

It happens every day in our communities.  Every day women make a very difficult decision about whether to keep their babies or not.  However, instead of adoption many are choosing abortion.  According to data from the Centers of Disease Control, every day approximately 1,788 pregnancies are ended by abortion (www.cdc.gov).  What is abortion?  What is the official Catholic Church teaching on abortion?  Are there any circumstances where an abortion may be needed to save the life of the mother?  These questions will be explored over the course of this paper, but one thing is certain.  Life is precious, and it is something that must be protected from the beginning of life to natural death (Ostrowski 123).

In layman’s terms an abortion is the termination of a pregnancy before the time of gestation is complete.  The medical definition varies little and is states an “An abortion is a procedure to end a pregnancy. It uses medicine or surgery to remove the embryo or fetus and placenta from the uterus. The procedure is done by a licensed health care professional” (www.medline.gov).  The question of life is one that is central to the topic.  When does life begin?  If life begins at conception, then life is there and must be protected.  If life begins at some further point, then it stands to reason that terminating the pregnancy before that stated period is morally permissible.  Then there are those who are just unsure when the fetus becomes a living being (Kreeft 329).

With abortion defined, that leads to the next question.  What does the Catholic Church have to say about abortion?  It may come as a surprise to some to learn that church has a lot to say about the topic.  The church has defended life from its infancy.  Regarding this the Didache states, “you shall not murder a child by abortion nor kill that which is begotten” (newadvent.org).  The Didache is an ancient catechism in the church that dates back to the first century.  The issue of abortion is nothing new, but an ongoing battle for the unborn.  Also regarding abortion, the catechism states “Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law” (CCC para 2271).

The church gets its teaching on the subject from sacred scripture as well as sacred tradition.  Many places in scripture speak of God molding and creating life in the womb.  What is conspicuous by its absence is any mention as to at how many weeks of gestation life begins.  Sacred scripture makes it clear that it begins immediately.  Life begins upon conception.  One such verse is Jeremiah 1:5 which states, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, and before you were born I consecrated you; I appointed you a prophet to the nations” (NRSV).  If God knew us before the womb, it makes sense that he knew us when we were immediately placed into the womb.  To know is to imply a relationship, and one cannot have a relationship with something that is not alive.  Since the embryo is a person upon conception it must be defended as any person should be (CCC para 2274)

Church teaching holds that abortion is intrinsically evil, and as such is never justified.  The same can be said for many other things such as rape, torture, euthanasia, and kidnapping (Gaudiem et Spes para 27).  Though an individual may have the best intentions, it does not justify an act that moral law and revelation have deemed evil.  That is because absolute truth and morality are incapable of being changed.  Regarding this Saint Pope John Paul II writes, “If acts are intrinsically evil, a good intention or particular circumstances can diminish their evil, but they cannot remove it. They remain “irremediably” evil acts; per se and in themselves they are not capable of being ordered to God and to the good of the person” (Veritatis Splendor para 81).

Unfortunately, in today’s society, abortion is looked at like a basic human right.  Opponents of church teaching give a variety of scenarios to support the need for an abortion.  What if an abortion is needed to save the life of a mother?  What if the mother had uterine cancer and the only treatment was to remove the uterus, and thus, killing the child in the process?  These two examples may seem extreme, but they are ones often given by the pro-choice movement.  There are others, but these two questions will be the focus.  When it comes to the life of the mother there are many cases written about by world renowned doctors who say the opposite.  Dr. Collen Malloy wrote a letter to the editor of the Chicago Sun Times stating, “Abortion performed to “save” a mother’s life almost never — if ever — is necessary” (Malloy 2009).  This same article cites a statement by Ireland’s board of Obstetricians which states, “there are no medical circumstances justifying direct abortion, that is, no circumstances in which the life of a mother may only be saved by directly terminating the life of her unborn child” (Malloy 2009).

 

 

            The word that sticks out very prominently in the last quotation cited is the word “directly’.  This word is given in many church documents when they discuss abortion.  It comes down to a matter of intent.  Was it the intent to destroy the child in the womb, or was it the cause of something else?  In their book Life Issues, Medical Choices the writers state, “It is never moral to intentionally kill an innocent human being in order to lower the likelihood of adverse effects for someone else” (Smith & Kaczor 37).

This begs the question asked earlier.  What if a woman has uterine cancer and the only way to save her life is to remove the uterus?  To further complicate things imagine she has a husband and four other children at home.  This is truly a heart wrenching decision that must be made.  She can forgo treatment and die, and the child in the womb may possibly live.  Or she can have the treatment and live to take care of her four other children.  If she chooses to have the procedure it is not a direct attack on the child because it lacks intent.  In situations such as this the principle of double effect becomes relevant.  The reasoning for double effect requires the following four factors: “1.  The act itself is not evil.  2.  The evil is not a means to a good.  3.  The evil is not intended as an end.  4.  There is a proportionate reason for allowing the evil effect” (Smith & Kaczor 50).  The first step is satisfied because having a hysterectomy is not evil.  The second step is satisfied because the intent is not there.  The mother would much rather give birth to her child.  The third step is satisfied as the surgery is not intended to end the life of the child.  The forth step is satisfied because if she does not have the surgery she will die and leave her other four children without a mother.  The intent is not to have an abortion to live, but her uterus must be removed to destroy the cancer that will inevitably kill her if she does nothing.  There is an enormous difference between the two.  It is the intent that is intrinsically evil according to Humana Vitae (Pinckaers 53).

The above scenario is heartbreaking and does happen, but the moral teaching of the church deals with intent.  One should consult their physician and spiritual director or priest to get the best well rounded advice for the situation.  It is important to remember that these situations are highly emotional, and there is much pain and distress taking place.  The same goes for those who may have had an abortion in the past and they realize the mistake they made.

We live in a fallen world, and we have all sinned.  We all have some mortal sin that we have committed in the past.  It is vital to not judge and to show mercy.  In Matthew 5:7 our Lord says, “Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy” (NRSV).  We have been forgiven much and have been shown limitless mercy.  It is important to reciprocate it to those who are hurting because of their past mistakes.  In the very beginning of sacred scripture we read, “So God created humankind  in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them” (NRSV).  Each person, no matter their past, was created in the image of God.  As such, we are called to show everyone the dignity and respect that being made in his image calls for.  To summarize we must do what the Lord says in the beatitudes.  We must show mercy.  In Hebrew, showing mercy is being compassionate (especially expressed by רחום): showing pity at another person’s sorrow or misfortune, with the desire to alleviate, or, on occasion, even to suffer in the other’s place.  This is exactly what the Lord did for us when he suffered on the cross.

 

WORKS CITED

 

Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Doubleday Books.  New York, NY:  1995.  Print.

Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/reproductivehealth/data_stats/abortion.htm.  Accessed March 23, 2018.

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Kreeft, Peter & Tacelli, Ronald K.  Handbook of Christian Apologetics.  IVP Academic.  Downers Grove, Il: 1994.  Print.

M.B. Riddle. From Ante-Nicene Fathers, Vol. 7. Edited by Alexander Roberts, James Donaldson, and A. Cleveland Coxe. (Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Publishing Co., 1886.) Revised and edited for New Advent by Kevin Knight. <http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0714.htm&gt;.

Ostrowski, Thaddeus ed., Primary Source Readings in Christian Morality.  Winona, MN: Saint Mary’s Press, 2008, Print.

Pinckaers, Servais.  Morality:  The Catholic View.  St. Augustine’s Press.  South Bend, IN:  2001.  Print.

Pope John Paul II.  Veritatis Splendorhttp://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/encyclicals/documents/hf_jp-ii_enc_06081993_veritatis-splendor.html.  Accessed March 24, 2018.

Smith, Janet E. & Kaczor, Christopher.  Life Issues, Medical Choices:  Questions and Answers for Catholics.  Servant.  Cincinatti, OH: 2016.  Print

Tanner, Norman ed.  Vatican II:  The Essential Texts.  New York:  Image Books, 2012.  Print.

Divine Participation and Possession

The doctrines of divine participation and possession are key principles when it comes to the Christian life. This comes about by sanctifying grace, and through sanctifying grace we become partakers in the divine nature. The doctrines of participation and election are found in many places within sacred scripture. One such verse is 1 Corinthians 6:19 which states, “Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, which you have from God, and that you are not your own” (NRSV)? The Gospel of John, other Pauline epistles, and the first letter of John also describe the indwelling of God.
The early church fathers taught that to participate and began when one is baptized (Gleason 126). This is when sanctifying grace takes over the soul. The unbaptized soul is not capable being possessed by the Divine, but at baptism we become “Christ-bearers” (Gleason 126). St. Augustine also echoes this idea of the indwelling of God. He makes the point that all of creation points to the glory and divinity of God. However, God only dwells in certain things. Those who are not Christians and are not in a state of grace are indwelled with Christ.
There was very little historical development from the end of the patristic era until the scholastic period. This is where St. Thomas Aquinas made the comparison with man and other parts of creation. Only man was created with in the image of God, with intelligence, and only man can be called sons of God and adopted through the gift of grace (Hardon Ch. 5). From there the Protestant reformers made taught the imputation of the merits of Christ and objected to the historic church teaching about perfection in the soul (Hardon Ch. 5). The Council of Trent tried to correct the damage done by the reformers. Trent reiterated church teaching and stated that the baptized were reborn and become friends of God (Hardon Ch. 5).

 

Works Cited

Gleason, R.W. Grace.  New York:  Shead & Ward, 1962.

Hardon, John.  History and Theology of Grace.  Ann Arbor, MI:  Sapientia Press, 2005.

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