Saturday, December 15, 2007


Every year at this time we begin to see the very familiar sight of Salvation Army volunteers ringing their bells alongside the little red buckets. And every year, or at least for the last few, I have sent out the following reminder.

There is no doubt that the Salvation Army does great good in our society. However, the Salvation Army openly encourages the use of contraception and also supports abortion, although less openly.

Obviously, these are two activities of the Salvation Army that Catholics cannot support either directly, or indirectly, as would be the case with any donations either of time or money.

While one may argue in favor of the good the Salvation Army does as justification for your donation, the fact that there are comparable Catholic organizationsthat do not compromise Catholic Teaching, would negate any such justification and perhaps expose you to some form of moral culpability for what we know to be sinful.

For your reference I am copying the Salvation Army statements on Birth Control and Abortion directly from their website. I am also providing the link to the actual posting.

Pay close attention to how both the statements on Birth Control and Abortion begin with lofty sounding moral platitudes and scripture references but end up allowing for practices Catholics cannot accept.

This is especially dangerous because it’s harder to spot. A blatant pro-abortion organization is much easier to identify. The Salvation Army is a supposed Christian organization that uses Christian language to hide, intended or not, immoral practices.

One more thing: Such a position is not unique to the Salvation Army. Almost all non-Catholic Christian religions have similar positions. This is the logical result of Protestantism where the sole authority ultimately relies on one’s personal interpretation of Scripture and not on the Teaching Authority that Jesus himself has left us: His Church.

Birth Control

The Salvation Army believes that sex and its proper use is a gift, created, ordained and blessed by God and intended to find expression only within the context of a loving marriage relationship. The Salvation Army believes that sexual expression within marriage has a number of divinely intended purposes including: procreation (Genesis 1:28, 9:1,7); companionship (Genesis 2:18); unity (Genesis 2:24, Matthew 19:4-6) and pleasure (Song of Songs).

The Salvation Army supports the desire of many married couples to limit the number of children in their family and believes that there are morally acceptable, contraceptive solutions available to achieve this end. (emphases mine)

The Salvation Army encourages the use of birth control methods that are contraceptive (i.e. that prevent conception) versus the use of methods that are abortifacient (i.e. that prevent implantation after fertilization). The Salvation Army is opposed to abortion as a means of birth control. (emphases mine)

(Also, note how the SA tries to put a moral face on this by saying it supports those means which are “not abortifacient.” The bottom line is that we can’t always be sure, especially with chemical contraceptives, if in fact the baby is not actually killed.))

The Salvation Army does not oppose sterilization as a means of contraception. However, because it is generally irreversible in nature, such a procedure should be undertaken only after full consideration is given to spiritual, moral and practical ramifications. (emphases mine)

(The Catholic Church teaches that sterilization is “morally unacceptable” – CCC 2399)


Note: The support of abortion is very well veiled but is apparent in the 4th paragraph in the words “Such decisions”. In other words, despite all the preceding rhetoric, the SA ultimately allows that abortion is licit when it is the result of an informed decision. In contrast the Catechism of the Catholic Church which affirms the “moral evil of every procured abortion” (CCC – 2271).

The Salvation Army believes in the sanctity of all human life and considers each person to be of infinite value and each life a gift from God to be cherished, nurtured and redeemed. Human life is sacred because it is made in the image of God and has an eternal destiny. (Genesis 1:27) Sacredness is not conferred, nor can it be taken away by human agreement.

The Salvation Army deplores society's ready acceptance of abortion, which reflects insufficient concern for vulnerable persons, including the unborn. (Psalms 82:3-4)

The Salvation Army holds to the Christian ideals of chastity before marriage and fidelity within the marriage relationship and, consistent with these ideals, supports measures to prevent crisis pregnancies. It is opposed to abortion as a means of birth control, family planning, sex selection or for any reason of mere convenience to avoid the responsibility for conception. Therefore, when an unwanted pregnancy occurs, The Salvation Army advises that the situation be accepted and that the pregnancy be carried to term, and offers supportive help and assistance with planning.

The Salvation Army recognizes tragic and perplexing circumstances that require difficult decisions regarding a pregnancy. Such decisions should be made only after prayerful and thoughtful consideration, with appropriate involvement of the woman's family and pastoral, medical and other counsel. A woman in these circumstances needs acceptance, love and compassion. (emphases mine)

When an abortion has taken place, The Salvation Army will continue to show love and compassion and to offer its services and fellowship to those involved.

Note: It is difficult to ignore the seeming moral superiority of this language of love and compassion. However, an innocent life has been taken. A murder has occurred. The SA allows for this and thus participates in grave moral evil. Make sure you’re not part of it.

Advent Thoughts

As you know, the true liturgical season of Christmas starts on Christmas, not ends with it. What most of society considers to be the Christmas Season, is in fact the Season of Advent.

So with all the “stuff” of Christmas surrounding us: the parties, the decorations, the music, the “happy holidays”, the shopping… what’s a Catholic to do? Do we ignore “the world” and ascetically hold out from the Christmas “busy-ness” that buzzes around us?

That’s not likely unless you live in a cloister. The world has co-opted the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas as its Christmas Season (the malls begin a little earlier), and let’s face it, most of us Catholics are shopping, partying, and decorating along with the rest of the world.

However, there’s nothing keeping us from keeping an “inner Advent”. The Advent Season is, liturgically, a time of preparation. The traditional means of preparation for the Church is prayer and fasting. And there’s nothing keeping us (most of us) from doing just that.

When I was kid (yes, in the “pre-Vatican II days”) I remember well that we were asked to give up something for Advent. One doesn’t hear much admonition to do that anymore. But whether we hear about it or not, it’s still a venerable and recommended practice.

In past years I tried to “fight back” against the world by refusing to put up a tree (or at least decorate it) until “the night before Christmas (that’s the traditional way). I tried to ignore the holiday buzz, avoided the malls, avoided saying “Merry Christmas”, and do whatever I could to at least keep some sort of an “exterior Advent”.

This year I gave up the fight. The tree was up in our house just after Thanksgiving. Christmas CD’s started playing. Lights were up all over the house. “Christmasy” movies were rented, etc.

However, this is probably my best personal Advent in a long time simply because I’ve decided to “return to my roots” and do exactly what the Church has said to do: fast and pray.

Now, I’m a wimp when it comes to real fasting, so I just decided to give up a few things (sweets – especially donuts, fried stuff, red meat, and beer). No real hunger, but just enough self-denial to remind me its Advent. And as you can see, it’s stuff I (and probably you, too) should do without anyway. (Well I’ll have to think about the beer.)

I’ve also put more emphasis on praying with the family (a nightly rosary or some other prayers and readings). Again, stuff we should be doing anyway.

The wisdom of the Church never ceases to amaze me. Even these terribly small acts of prayer and mortification (if I can even call it that!) have given me a certain something this Advent Season that I haven’t experienced in a long time, if ever.

I call it a “certain something” because I don’t have a name for it. It’s not joy or peace or any cliché sort of feeling. My real world troubles aren’t any lighter. The financial pressures of expecting an 11th child are more overwhelming than ever.

I also hurt my back a few weeks ago (just in time for Advent) and have been moving about in pain for awhile. The irony of the back injury is that it, of course, is coinciding with the busiest time of year for us at our store – where I am the primary employee as well as the owner.

I could go on, but I find my most frequent conversation with God is “Okay, Lord, what do you have in mind NOW?” I would call it a “broken record”, but I doubt there are very many folks out there in the Ipod generation who would even know what a “broken record” is.

So what is the “certain something”? Here I do the “prayer and fasting” thing and the troubles pile on. What’s up with that? I’ll just call it a certain peace that comes from knowing that you are doing what you are supposed to be doing regardless of the feelings that one may or may not have. (In my case it’s the “not have”.)

Also, I’ve noticed that there is an absence of despair or at least the temptation to it. I personally have many reasons to despair or at least descend into a chronic state of exacerbation. Perhaps it’s just a merciful numbness to the difficulties that swirl around me.

No matter. Thanks to the wisdom of the Church, my parents, and the Benedictine Sisters of yesteryear who imparted it to me, I know what is TRUE, and that is the greatest gift of all! Truth is the real source of peace and the original gift of Christmas.

I also have, for the first time in my life, an expanded understanding of Christmas. It’s the Church’s teaching, but I’m just getting it. (I’m 51, so it’s never too late for anyone to learn new stuff.) Here’s what I mean.

In the past I would read the readings and prayers and Advent admonitions that led up to Christmas with a certain attempt to be “thankful” for Christ’s coming. But to be honest I could never quite get “into it”. I kept trying to recreate the first Christmas in my mind and “get in the mood” as they say.

This year, I am beginning to understand Christmas the way the Church understands it: we celebrate the First Coming of Christ as a preparation and reminder of His Second. The real thing here is to “get ready”, to light the candles and turn the lights on not to just remember some stable scene that happened two millennia ago, but to get ready and be ready for Him who is coming again, and coming “like a thief in the night”.

We’re not just talking “end of the world” stuff or some sort of “Apocalypse Now”. We’re talking the end of “your world”, of “my world”. It’s called Death. Jesus is coming for us. It could be tonight, tomorrow, in the next 2 seconds for that matter. But He’s coming. Keep you lights on….and give up something while you’re waiting.

Mary Christmas

Tim Rohr
December 15, 2007

Tithing...and other stuff

A few days ago I was in conversation with a Protestant friend and the subject of tithing came up. He made the statement that “Catholics don’t tithe”.

Of course some Catholics do tithe (give 10% of their income to the Church). What he meant was, of course, that the Catholic Church doesn’t teach or at least emphasize a strict tithe as does his religious denomination.

I mentioned that the Catholic Church does not teach tithing because Jesus never did. There was a pause in the conversation. It’s difficult for folks who live by “sola scriptura”, who believe that the Bible is some sort of step by step manual for every move, to deal with glaring scriptural realities such as this one.

Jesus never negated giving and caring for the poor. Of course not, this was one of His primary messages. But He never used the word “tithe”.

Tithing wasn’t the main topic of conversation so I bounced over it and moved on.

A few days later, while researching a different topic altogether I came across some interesting stuff in the OT about tithing that one rarely hears about. The verses are so striking that I thought there must be some important commentary about this somewhere. However, neither the Jerome Biblical Commentary nor the Navarre Bible says much about it.

The scripture in question starts at Deuteronomy 14:22.

"Each year you shall tithe all the produce that grows in the field you have sown; then in the place which the LORD, your God, chooses as the dwelling place of his name you shall eat in his presence your tithe of the grain, wine and oil, as well as the firstlings of your herd and flock, that you may learn always to fear the LORD, your God.”

Now, if I was a protestant and took the whole teaching on tithing in the OT literally, I would see here that I am supposed to actually consume my tithe. But of course, people don’t bring grain and cattle to church these days, they bring money, so the consuming of the tithe wouldn’t literally apply, right? The following verses have something to say about that.

“If, however, the journey is too much for you and you are not able to bring your tithe, because the place which the LORD, your God, chooses for the abode of his name is too far for you, considering how the LORD has blessed you, you may exchange the tithe for money and, with the purse of money in hand, go to the place which the LORD, your God, chooses.”

Okay, so bringing cash instead of a cow is cool with the LORD. But now look what He says to do with the money!

“You may then exchange the money for whatever you desire, oxen or sheep, wine or strong drink, or anything else you would enjoy, and there before the LORD, your God, you shall partake of it and make merry with your family.”

Eh? What’s up with that? We’re supposed to party with it? Looks like either way, whether you bring the fixins’ or buy the fixin’s the main deal is to “eat, drink, and be merry” with your “first fruits”. The only stipulation is that the LORD is invited – that you “eat in His presence”.

Another shock to the fundamental literalist is the recommendation that we imbibe on “wine or strong drink”! As you know many of our non-Catholic brethren abstain from alcohol due to the admonitions in the scriptures against drunkenness. But looks to me like there’s a time to not only enjoy “strong drink” but to even get drunk! Consider the following form Proverbs 31:6-7:

"Give strong drink to him who is perishing, and wine to those in bitter distress; let them drink and forget their poverty, and remember their misery no more".

Now that’s interesting! According to the inspired word of God there are times when it is God’s will that you just get drunk and forget about it. Hmmmmmmmm.

Latin Lesson for 34th Sunday in Ordinary Time

May I recommend getting your own copy of the Daily Roman Missal (ed. James Socias). It’s a wonderful resource: readings for all Masses, weekday and Sunday, all 3 cycles, Proper of the Saints, Common Masses, Ritual Masses, a summary catechism, and loads of Devotions and Prayers. The beautiful leather binding and gold gilt pages make you want to respect what’s in it…something the disposable Missalette lacks.

But the feature that I most enjoy about the missal is its inclusion of Latin. The missal employs Latin alongside the English in the canon and also inserts it at the Responsorial and Alleluia verses.

While some do not see any reason to pay attention to the Latin, I personally find it absolutely fascinating. As you may know, Latin is our Catholic ancestral language (one of them – Greek is the other). Latin is also the official language of the Church. So if you want to know what the Church really says about something, you need to “go to the Latin”.

This is the same reason Biblical scholars “go to the Greek” – since it’s the language in which most of the Bible was written, or at least has come down to us. No serious student of the Bible doubts the importance of “going to the Greek” in any genuine study of the Bible. Thus, we shouldn’t doubt the importance of “going to the Latin” when we are searching for the truth in matters as regards our Liturgy and official Church teaching.

I am not a Latin scholar, but Latin resources are easy enough to come by these days. One particular resource is Latin Grammar – Grammar Vocabularies, and Exercises in Preparation for the Reading of the Missal and Breviary. Since we are at present more concerned with the study of Latin as it regards our Faith and not the reading of Virgil or Cicero, this book (and its companion “Second Latin”) would be an excellent and focused resource. Other excellent resources are only a click or two away online. But back to the topic at hand.

The side by side translations of the Responsorial and Alleluia verses sometimes amaze, amuse, or at least interest me. Here is an example.

This past Sunday, (34th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle C), the Responsorial Verse reads:
“The Lord comes to rule the earth with justice.”
The accompanying Latin text reads:
“Venit Dominus iudicare populos in aequitate”.

Let’s do a word by word translation:

Venit - Venit is a third person singular perfect indicative active verb, and is the main verb of the sentence. Thus, we get: “came” or perhaps “has come”.

Dominus – Lord

Iudicare – to judge

Populos – people

In – in
Aequitate – equity or justice

The words are quite easy and almost a transliteration, thus you almost don’t need a dictionary.

The actual translation is:
“The Lord has come to judge the people in equity (justice)”.
And again, the English translation in the missal is:
“The Lord has come to rule the earth with justice”.
Since the English translation of the Lectionary is authorized by the USCCB we cannot question its legitimacy so we won’t. We can and should however dig more deeply into texts to better understand and grow from them just as a student of the Bible would want to get at the words behind the words to get a better sense of the biblical message.

In this case, I see the Latin giving us a full sense of God as Judge, something we don’t hear much about anymore, along with such related topics as sin, hell, purgatory, judgment, etc. I don’t know about you, but I need constant reminding about my “End”. Sometimes it’s the only thing that keeps me good. I’d like to say that I choose “Good” because I want to please God. But I don’t. Perhaps I’m not spiritually mature enough, so the “fear of the Lord”, helps me in times of great temptation.

But let’s continue the Latin Lesson just a bit more. Again, I in no way want to slight or slander the English translation as we must accept it as valid and licit. But the word study here is valuable.

There are those who may say “well, it may not be an exact translation but it still gives the same sense or the same meaning”. Maybe it does, but the bottom line is what the Latin actually says and what it doesn’t say.

The English uses the word “rule” instead of “judge”. In Latin, “to rule” is “regere”. There is no relation here to “judge”. It’s a completely different word with a completely different sense. Obviously the Latin wanted to stress that God will judge us … and that there is something to judge!

The English translation uses the word “earth” instead of “people” (populos). “Terra” is the Latin word for “earth”. While it could be argued that “earth” implies its human inhabitants why not just use “people” since that is what it actually says? Also, only “people” can be judged since only people have free will and thus something to judge. God won’t be judging the rocks and dirt.

The above discussion reveals an obvious attempt to “soften” the message of the scripture, something that happens quite frequently in the current Lectionary and in more contemporary versions of Scripture. While we cannot contend with the translator’s right to make such modifications, I believe we should ask ourselves if a “kinder, gentler” message is what our culture needs just now. I personally think not. Yes, God is infinitely loving and merciful. But He is also infinitely JUST. I wonder if we understand the implications of that.

The "Brothers of Jesus" and the Perpetual Virginity of Mary

The Perpetual Virginity of Mary is a DOGMA of the Catholic Church. A DOGMA is a teaching of the Church that is “binding” on the faithful. That means if you don’t accept it you’re outside the Church. Pretty serious stuff!

Non-Catholic Christians (NCC’s) generally do not accept this Teaching. They commonly reference Mt. 13:55: “And are not his brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Judas?” as evidence that Jesus had “brothers” and therefore Mary must not have been a perpetual virgin. Lesser known are the “sisters of Jesus” found in the very next verse: “And are not all his sisters with us?” (NRSV-CE) Wow! If you take the word “all” as in “all his sisters”, it sounds like not only was Mary not a perpetual virgin but that she must have been perpetually pregnant!

However, there is a problem with this assumption regardless of the number of the supposed siblings of Jesus: It’s NOT in the Bible! It is our NCC friends who make the claim that in order to believe something it has to “be in the Bible”. However, NOWHERE in the Bible does it ever say that Mary had other children. NOWHERE! Thus, by the NCC logic of “the Bible Alone”, there is simply NO scriptural evidence that Mary was not a perpetual virgin.

The common Catholic “apologetic” or response on this issue is to point out that in the language which Jesus spoke (Aramaic) there is no word for “cousin” and thus the word “brother” or “sister” was used to indicate a cousin relationship. While the “cousin” apologetic is correct, it seems to be rather ineffective as evidenced by the fact that it rarely convinces an NCC to the Catholic side. Thus it is probably much better to use their own doctrine “the Bible Alone” to show that irregardless of their belief about Mary’s Perpetual Virginity, there is no evidence in the Bible to the contrary. NCC’s will have to agree with you on that point.

But what of the brothers and sisters of Jesus? Yes, they could have been cousins, but they could also have been blood brothers. Many early sources, most notably the Protoevangelium of James, make reference to the fact that Joseph may have in fact been a widower and thus could have had children by a previous wife. Thus the “brothers” (and “sisters”) of Jesus certainly could have been his half-brothers (and sisters).

There is also another problem with the NCC thinking on this. Most NCC’s accept that Joseph died while Jesus was an adolescent. (The last time we hear of Joseph is in Luke 2 when he and Mary find the 12 year old Jesus teaching in the Temple.) It is interesting to note that no mention of siblings is made at this time. So if we stay with the “Bible Alone” approach of our NCC friends, then we have to assume that no siblings had yet been born.

However, by the time we get to the initial accounts of Jesus’ public ministry when He is approximately 30 years old, we, if we take the NCC interpretation of Mt. 13:55, have to accept that Jesus had at least 7 siblings: the four brothers, as named in the passage, plus at least 3 sisters (“all his sisters” implies that there had to be at least 3 – “all” implies more than one, and if there were only 2, the word “both” would have been used).

Doing the math, Joseph and Mary would have had to have had 7 more children in 18 years. Not impossible, however, Mt. 13 implies that at least the males are adults. Also, in order for the “sisters” to have been “here with us”, the girls probably were not infants, and must have at least been in their teens. So subtract at least 10 years from the 18 and we get 8, meaning Mary had to have had at least 7 children in 8 years. Also not impossible, but then we’d have to believe that either Mary found another husband after Joseph died or Joseph must have lived a lot longer (and have been a lot healthier!) than what 2000 years of tradition (both Catholic and NCC) has left us.

It is hoped by now that you deem all this adding, subtracting, assuming, and implying to be a bit ridiculous. It is. And that’s why our Church has not cared to address it. It also demonstrates what happens to those outside our Church who do not have any authority other than their own private interpretation of Scripture.

The Catholic Church has the authority of Christ who did not leave us a Bible, but a Church, and a teaching authority for that Church, which He meant to continue and protect until the end of time (Mt. 16:13). And that same Church has proclaimed Mary as “Ever-Virgin”. There is simply no evidence, Biblical or otherwise, to the contrary.

A personal note to Catholics: While it is encouraging to see a great interest among Catholics in “Bible Study” it is proportionately discouraging to see a great lack of interest in “Doctrinal Study” or a study of what our Church teaches, particularly those teachings which come from the chair of Peter which Jesus himself established. The two studies certainly do not have to be opposed. In fact, they are not. They are part of one and the same teaching and good for those who understand and teach in this way.
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