Ladder of Divine Ascent

Ladder of Divine Ascent, Step 1, Blog 1, On Renunciation of the World

Many pray for show, and John Climacus knows this. How a brother in the monastery treats those around him as a window into the true state of his soul. He who truly Loves God treats his brothers with respect and kindness and humility. He who truly Loves God repents of his failings when he treats his brothers poorly. Indeed, when John Climacus advises those who live in the world on how to live the solitary life, he doesn’t emphasize prayer and fasting, but rather he cares more how they treat their neighbors:

“Some people living carelessly in the world have asked me:
‘We have wives and are beset with social cares, and how can we lead the solitary life?’

I replied to them: ‘Do all the good you can; do not speak evil of anyone; do not steal from anyone; do not lie to anyone; do not be arrogant to anyone; do not hate anyone; do not be absent from the Divine Services; be compassionate to the needy; do not offend anyone; do not wreck another man’s domestic happiness, and be content with what your own wives can give you. If you behave in this way, you will not be far from the Kingdom of Heaven.’”
[…]

Greek and Roman History

Pondering the Death of Socrates in Xenophon, Plato, and Aristophanes

These works on the trial and execution of Socrates by Xenophon and Plato testify to their anger at the citizens of Athens for condemning their gadfly teacher and friend. Xenophon and Plato also show their anger at Socrates for the hubris and arrogance displayed in full force in his trial speech and his sentencing speech. They want to remind us that just as the Homeric heroes of the battle of Troy showed their hubris at the battlefield, so too did their hero Socrates show hubris in the public courtroom of Athens. […]

Vatican II

Can Good Catholics Read Hans Kung? Should Devout Catholics Read Hans Kung?

Can Good Catholics Read Hans Kung?  Should Devout Catholics Read Hans Kung?  We should all read books on theology, philosophy, and psychology with discernment, testing them first against Scripture then Church teaching, and you should definitely read the books by Hans Kung with discernment.  Most importantly, by learning more about why the Catholic Church was goaded into announcing this discipline against Hans Kung, we can learn anyone who wishes to read and discuss these timeless topics can do so with humility, without succumbing to pride. […]

Ladder of Divine Ascent

Ladder of Divine Ascent, Introduction

Marriage is a monastic calling. Marriages are only truly happy when each spouse puts the needs of the other first. Marriages are truly happy where the love each spouse has for the other is like the love St Paul describes, patient, kind, not jealous or boastful, not rejoicing in the wrong but rejoicing in the right, bearing all, believing always, hoping always, enduring everything, never failing.

Work, career and schooling are monastic callings. To get a good job, we spend many years of schooling to learn our trade or profession. If we spend all our school years partying and not studying, we pay for our lack of attention for the rest of our lives. To keep our job, we need to keep our bosses and customers happy. Even when know they are wrong, we bite our tongues and endure, because we work for them, and they are often right anyway. Our job is to serve them. If we mistakenly think they are there to serve us, we will have no job. If the company loses sight of their customers’ needs, the company itself may eventually bankrupt itself.

Child rearing is a monastic pursuit. When children are small they demand your attention, and sometimes they cry and you don’t know why. You can spend fun time with your children when they are little, playing with them and taking them places, or you can spend anguished time with them later, answering to judges and policemen. St Paul in Timothy teaches us that mothers are saved through child rearing if they lead a godly life. We are all saved if we put the needs and desires of others ahead of our own selfishness. […]

Civil Rights

American Evangelicals, Civil Rights, and Republican Politics

When we study the history of the Christian Church in America, we must ask ourselves, What role should the Christian Church play in our society, in our culture, in the making of the values of our nation?  What role SHOULD the church play?  What role DOES the church play?  There is always a spiritual contest between the church and our culture, this contest is summed up in the eternal question: Who is going to influence whom? Will the Church succeed in influencing our culture?  Or will our culture instead influence the Church? […]

Politics

Trump, QAnon and Fox News: Body and Soul Snatchers of My Christian Friends

Whenever I talk to my white Christian friends and tell them that I am a socialist liberal Democrat; that I support the social justice Catholic position so passionately advanced by Pope Francis; that Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, AOC, George Soros, Tom Hanks, and Hilary Clinton are not QAnon bogeymen kidnapping children; that I am both pro-life and pro-choice, with reservations, and am not pro-death; that Black Lives Really Do Matter deeply; when I tell them this and more, they bulge their eyes, point their fingers, and let out a high pitch screech screaming: Snake!  False Teacher! Satan’s servant!  Liberal!  Communist! Trump hater!  Baby killer!  Murderer!  Democrat! […]

Civil Rights

WEB Dubois: Souls of Black Folk, Fighting for Dignity

Should blacks compromise, or should blacks protest when facing discrimination and segregation? Should blacks compromise under the leadership of Booker T Washington, or should blacks protest under the leadership of WEB Dubois, who founded the NAACP? This question is a question each black person needs to answer for himself from the days of Jim Crow up to the present day. […]

Civil Rights

Up From Slavery: Autobiography of Booker T Washington

Booker T Washington’s autobiography, Up From Slavery, offers an interesting glimpse in what it was like to be born a slave, live through the tumultuous Civil War era, and as a young man to experience the consequences blacks faced with the end of Reconstruction when the Ku Klux Klan night-riders enslaved the former black slaves anew through terror by lynching them, burning their bodies and their farm and their churches, suppressing them and denying them justice, even denying them the ability to defend themselves in daylight through the courts. […]

Catholic Catechism

Council of Trent, The Reform Council Foreshadowing Vatican II

Was the Council of Trent a reactionary council?  This is a common perception, that the Council of Trent initiated the Catholic Counter-Reformation to defend the Catholic Church from the influences of the Protestant Reformation started by Martin Luther, and that the Vatican II Council was a rejection of Trent, steering the Catholic Church in a more liberal direction.  Father O’Malley’s history leads to a different conclusion, that the actual Council of Trent, as opposed to the later impressions of Trent, is really a progressive council that is a precursor to Vatican II.  Indeed, the documents of Vatican II and the subsequent Catholic Catechism both cite the Council of Trent extensively.

The post Reformation polemics are to blame for this misunderstanding of the nature of the Council of Trent.  In Father O’Malley’s words, “When Pope Pius IV confirmed the council’s decrees, he forbade the printing of commentaries or notes on them without explicit permission of the Holy See.”  The Pope really had no choice, the Catholic Church was besieged, had the Pope not restricted access to the minutes of the Council of Trent, protestants would have taken out of context and distorted the debates to discredit the Church.  But this prevented balanced scholarship on Trent for four hundred years, until Pope Leo XIII opened the Vatican Archives in 1880.

Also, when he confirmed the decrees of the Council of Trent, Pope Pius IV established the Congregation of the Council that functioned for four hundred years, until the time of Vatican II, 1966.  Many of these interpretations of the Council of Trent were more reactionary than the Council itself, partly in response to the polemic pressures encountered by the Catholic Church.  In Father O’Malley’s words, “the Congregation’s decision promoted the impression that the council answered all possible questions, even on subjects it in fact never addressed, and that is left little room for change or further development and local adaptation.  This impression became an integral element in the myths about the council.” […]