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Last year I featured two posts on Maundy Thursday.  One was ‘What is the Triduum?’

The other is called ‘Maundy Thursday: “One of you will betray Me”‘.  As I can add nothing more to it, I therefore invite you to read the story behind Holy Thursday and ponder the significance of its traditions as events unfold in John 13.

My 2009 posts for Wednesday of Holy Week were ‘Spy Wednesday: Judas offers his services’ and ‘What is Tenebrae?‘  If you are unfamiliar with Spy Wednesday, please read last year’s post for background on what it is and what happened that day.  The Tenebrae post explains the hearse (candelabrum) used in Holy Week services.

Picking up from my Palm Sunday post, we see that, to many, Jesus was viewed as a potential upset to the established religious and political order of the day.  The Jewish hierarchy were more concerned with this than the Romans were.  After all, the Romans made no attempt to stop His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. 

On Spy Wednesday, the chief priests were still looking for someone to inform on Jesus’s whereabouts so that He could be brought to trial.  His raising Lazarus from the dead in Bethany was a step too far and threatened their status quo.  Certainly, more people would have believed in Him after that final miracle.  What if a considerable number of people became followers of Christ? What about the people throwing palm branches at Jesus’s feet on Palm Sunday?  They could have led a religious rebellion against the Jewish Establishment.  The chief priests could be replaced, their authority overturned.

Caiaphas was the high priest that year.  He had a vested interest in keeping things the way they were.  Caiaphas met with his council and explained to them that if Jesus wasn’t brought for trial and condemned to death, the nation would be destroyed.  Of course, he meant the religious status quo, but he posited it as a patriotic struggle. To this he added the threat of death to all the chief priests at the hands of the Romans in quashing a rebellion.  Naturally, the thought of their own deaths brought the hierarchy on side.  Yet, remember that Jesus came in peace not as the focal point for a revolution.  Ironically, looking ahead a few decades in history, we see that Rome did quash a rebellion — by the Jewish people themselves in 70 AD.  Titus Vespasian put 1.1 million Jews to death.  The Romans destroyed the Temple.     

And so, Caiaphas prophesies that Jesus must die for the nation.  He didn’t consciously intend to use those words, but let’s not forget that God puts people to use for His own plan.  Many people find this problematic: why would God have His own Son killed?  It seems so cruel.  In ‘The Plot to Kill Jesus’, John MacArthur explains:

Historically, the high priest was God’s spokesman, as Caiaphas was in this case, except he was unaware he was prophesying. The very words of evil by which Caiaphas condemned himself were the same ones the Holy Spirit used to convey the truth of God. Using the evils of Satan to His own end, God was able to use Caiaphas’s own words to declare the effect of Christ’s death. God uses human instrumentation–even the hatred of men. Christ’s crucifixion on the cross is an enduring illustration of that. It was the worst thing men could do, yet it accomplished the greatest blessing on their behalf.

On Spy Wednesday, Judas offers his services for 30 pieces of silver. (Today’s illustration comes courtesy of Sidrom.com.)  As I explained last year:

Looking at Judas, we see a man who went with the tide.  Why did he follow Christ?  Did he, like the crowds, expect some great act from Jesus?  Were his expectations as a disciple basking in Jesus’ greater glory left unfulfilled?  Or was he, like so many of us, just an opportunist, ready to follow — and capitalise on — whatever wave of sentiment was sweeping among the people?  The sum of money he received was worth a few months’ salary, possibly less.

As we will see, the crowd will also play their part in the days to come.  Some awaited more miracles — more excitement — from Jesus and were disappointed that He was ‘only’ preaching at the Temple after overthrowing the money changers’ tables on Monday. 

The Son of man goes as it is written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of man is betrayed! It would have been better for that man if he had not been born.  Matt. 26:24

When I was growing up, America was a deeply religious country and remained so until the last decade.  What a difference a few years makes!

The Barna Group surveyed 1,005 adults in America in February 2010.  The respondents answered questions about the significance of Easter, which recalls Christ’s resurrection from the dead. It is the most important feast of the Church year. 

Here are highlights of the findings:

– 67% understand there is a theistic element to Easter, although some described it as Passover or a holy day

– Only 42% correctly linked Easter with Christ’s resurrection

– Only 2% described it as the most important Christian feast day

– 2% think that Easter recalls the birth of Christ

– 2% believe it commemorates Christ’s ‘rebirth’

– 1% said it was Christ’s second coming

Clearly, there is some theological confusion amongst Christians!

Those most likely to celebrate Easter by attending church are

– Evangelicals (93%)

– Megachurch members (86%)

– Born-again Christians (81%)

– Weekly churchgoers (77%)

As far as Catholic and Protestant perceptions go:

– 65% of Catholics celebrate Easter as a holy day, although only 37% could connect it with the Resurrection

– 78% of Protestants view Easter as a holy day and 51% link it to the Resurrection

Only 31% of respondents said they would consider inviting an unchurched person to attend service with them on Easter Sunday. 

Barna Group’s president and researcher for this survey, David Kinnaman, has bad news and good news about the findings.  Bad news first:

… most Americans continue to view the Easter holiday as a religious celebration, but many of them are not clear as to the underlying reason for the occasion. Perhaps most concerning, from the standpoint of church leaders, is that those who celebrate Easter because of the resurrection of Christ are not particularly likely to invite non-churched friends to worship, suggesting that their personal beliefs about Jesus have not yet translated into a sense of urgency for having spiritual conversations with their acquaintances.

Now, for the better news:

Realistically, if all of the people who said they would bring unchurched people with them on Easter were to follow through, America’s churches couldn’t handle the overflow. The statistics project to something like 40 million church regulars who claim they are likely to bring someone as their guest. If each of those people brought just one adult as their guest, that’d be the equivalent of adding 115 new people per Christian congregation. That would more than double the size of the average church! That is clearly an over-estimate.

But we shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that so many people are at least open to the idea of offering such invitations to their friends and family. One of the challenges to pastors and other church leaders is to find out what’s actually preventing them from following through on that willingness.

Why not make arrangements to invite a friend along to church this coming Sunday — Easter!    

Read more at Barna’s site in ‘Most Americans Consider Easter a Religious Holiday, But Fewer Correctly Identify Its Meaning’.

(Note to readers: My 2009 Tuesday of Holy Week post was ‘The High Priests plot against Jesus’

Hello, Mr Jordan

The only way I have of reaching you is through a blog post, as your commenting system allows only Google account holders to write in.  On several occasions I’ve typed in a comment — positive — only to find that WordPress and other ‘open’ systems are disallowed.  (N.B. You can modify this, if you wish, as I’ve been able to comment on many other Google ‘blogspots’.)

To the subject of your March 2, 2010 post, ‘A Time to Die: Can Baptists learn from Anglican revitalization?’  The Fresh Expressions scheme may not be 100% in keeping with orthodoxy.  I did a couple of posts on it last year and, previously, heard it discussed in our parish.  My inner warning came when no one involved from my local churches could answer my basic questions cogently!

I have written posts which explain Fresh Expressions including one of its ‘fresh expressions’, Messy Church, which is for children.  Please note, in particular, the comments following the Messy Church post. 

Fresh expressions initiatives don’t always encourage orthodoxy through eventual church worship, proper Bible study or catechism. We are not talking about the Westminster Confession of Faith or the 39 Articles of Religion here. 

So, I’m not sure you would necessarily intend to promote Fresh Expressions (or fresh expressions) as a way of reviving orthodox Anglicanism once you read more about it.  A number of ‘fresh expressions’ (Fresh Expressions initiatives), by the way, involve Anglican-Baptist collaboration, which is fine, but the Fresh Expressions parent programme relies on postmodernism and emergent church techniques.  I would be happy to correspond with you further privately on this subject should you have any questions.
 
Thank you in advance for your time and consideration.  Yours is an excellent blog, one which I read regularly.  I wish you continued success in your online work for the glory of God and His Son Jesus Christ.
  
Your friend in Christ
Churchmouse

(Last year’s Monday of Holy Week posts included ‘Jesus and the money changers’ and ‘If this is the first time you have received palms’.)

Throughout Lent 2010, Churchmouse Campanologist has examined error in our churches.  Today’s message is particularly for the ordained — priests, ministers and pastors — yet one readers can appreciate.  Please give the following thought this week as we look forward to Easter and Christ’s Resurrection.  Many of my readers and I hope that you will think of this throughout your ministry, not just today.

What follows are excerpts from a post on Anna Wood’s blog, The Cross Is All (see Blogroll).  In addition to being a blogger, Anna is a godly wife, mother and homeschooler.  Her post is entitled ‘Open Letter to Pastors’.  Here’s a taster, so please be sure to give her a visit to read it in its entirety (emphases mine):

Dear Man of God,

You’ve been given a great and fearful job by Almighty God. As I sit before you week after week, I hunger for spiritual meat. I can no longer stand a cotton candy diet. Teach me the deep things of God. I want the truth about myself: I am a sinner and all of my “good-deeds” are but filthy rags before the Lord. My efforts are nothing and will never be enough to take me to heaven. I need you to explain what you have spent so long studying. Tell me how to please Him, how to obey Him, how to honor Him. I don’t want to hear a single word about how to secure a good life. If I need motivating, I will turn to my husband.

Stop talking to me about God’s love exclusively. I know He loves me. Jesus’ death on the cross proves that. I need to know that He is holy and a consuming fire. I need to know that He demands holiness from His followers. To explain only His love is to make Him sound like Santa Claus. He isn’t. He is amazingly powerful and all-together beautiful God Who sacrificed His only Son for me! Tell me that. Tell me what I must now do to honor that sacrifice. Don’t be afraid to step on toes–Jesus never was afraid to do so. As loving and kind as He was, Jesus was also very confrontational when the need arose. He never once told someone that they needed to think more of themselves or strive to be happier. He told them that they were sinners who were defiling God’s laws. When He saw faith, He commended it and He gave His followers everything that they needed in order to grow spiritually; however, when He saw disbelief, He wasn’t ever shy about saying so

The world, Jesus said, will hate us. Have you taught me how to live so that I will be hated? Have you taught me to obey God even when it hurts me? Have you taught me that His holiness is His first attribute and the one through which all of His other attributes must be seen and understood? Don’t comfort me or pretend that everything is okay. It isn’t okay. People are dying everyday without Jesus. That’s true in the world, of course, but it’s also true in the church. Too many of our churches have become nothing more than a social club pandering to the lifestyle of comfort and ease that we Americans seem to expect…

Teach us the boldness that it takes to stand alone for and with God. Teach me how to obey God out of a heart of love rather than by following a legalistic formula. Teach me that claiming “Christian liberty” and talking about God’s grace doesn’t mean that I have a right to live anyway I want to. “Shall we sin that grace may abound? God forbid.” That was Paul’s answer. It is still the answer today

If we are not here to obey God, why are we here? Tell me, please. Remind me that we are here to obey God and grow in Christ-likeness, to edify the believers and to reach the lost. Help me to remember that amid the rush of my daily life. Help me to have my priorities straight so that I might be pleasing to Jesus in all that I do. Teach me to focus on heaven so that my life here on earth might make sense. Help me to know that I am made for another, better World. Help me to love God enough to want to live and die for Him. Tell me the truth about hell: a place prepared for the devil and his followers also awaits those who do not bow before an Almighty and Holy God in repentance and obedience. Help me to live in such a way that I might be prepared for heaven and may never hear those awful words, “Depart from Me, I never knew you.”

Preacher, you’ve been called by God to preach His Word. Now is the time to start really doing just that. As you do so, my everlasting thankfulness and my prayers will go with you.

God bless you,

Anna Wood

Soli Deo gloria

Last year, in ‘The greatest reality story of all time begins on Palm Sunday’, I alluded to the socio-political aspects of Jesus’s teachings and miracles. 

I know of a priest who likes comparing the donkey on which Jesus rode into Jerusalem to a battered pushbike.  The priest says, ‘Look how humble He was.’  That seems to miss the larger issue. By focusing only on His humility, the priest misses the message of using a donkey in peace instead of riding in on a steed in conflict. 

Jesus’s miracles and teachings unsettled the Jewish hierarchy and the Roman administrators. They wondered what He was capable of and what His ultimate purpose was.  Would he overthrow the Jewish faith?  Would he overthrow the government?  He threatened the well-established, highly comfortable status quo of both religious and secular leaders, who had a tenuous love-hate relationship with each other.  Therefore, Jesus had to go before He upset the apple cart.

Raising Lazarus from the dead was the last straw as far as the Jewish hierarchy was concerned.  Lazarus and his sisters Mary and Martha were prominent, respected citizens in Bethany.  Everyone knew of them, so imagine the excitement among the townspeople in finding out that Jesus raised the much-admired Lazarus from the dead. Some of them had only just attended his funeral!  Word of this miracle travelled quickly, even then. 

Prior to Jesus’s visit, the people of Bethany were comforting the deceased’s sister, Mary, whilst Martha — ever the practical hostess — welcomed them into their home.  (This raises the Mary versus Martha debate. At the risk of appearing insensitive in our age of emotion, I wonder if Mary needed more consolation because her faith was weaker than her sister’s?) So, there was an emotional investment and deep friendship on both sides.  Naturally, Jesus’s miracle was likely to produce — and did produce — more who ‘believed on Him’ (John 11:45).  As far as the Establishment was concerned, this had to stop.  Who knew where it might lead?  What would happen if everyone came to believe that Jesus was the Messiah?

Now, there were degrees of belief about this miracle.  Whilst some were brought to faith in Christ, others rationalised it away from Jesus’s being the Son of God.  Another group of people ignored the miracle altogether and saw Jesus as an even greater enemy. (These people would never become believers.  They saw a sign from Him and disregarded it.) It was this last group whom the Pharisees — the legalists — were trying to locate.  ‘Give us information about His whereabouts so that we may seize Him.’  And some did collaborate with these learned men.  (We’ll come back to this on Spy Wednesday.)

So, on Palm Sunday, the news on the street is that Lazarus is alive and well, thanks to Jesus. Jerusalem was a busy place that day, as the Jews needed to perform certain religious rituals in preparation for Passover.  Thoroughfares would have been crowded, people were energised about the upcoming feast and there was much talk about what had happened in Bethany.  There was also speculation about where Jesus was and if he would show up in town that day, as He had done the two previous years.  Many loved to see Jesus.  Yet, many stood on the sidelines, cynically observing and hoping for trouble, much as a tabloid journalist might.  John MacArthur calls those people ‘Jesus watchers’.  They had a certain hardness of heart.

Today, we have church watchers — people we know, journalists and authors who can hardly wait to pile in and opine about the latest ecclesiastical news.  There are also the über-rationalists — among them some churchgoers — who try to explain away Jesus’s divinity, His miracles, His teachings.  Like the Jesus watchers of Palm Sunday, today’s church watchers are also hard of heart.  Satan works on the hearts of the church watchers the same way he operated on the Jesus watchers.  A hard heart often denotes barren ground for faith. 

The Jesus watchers and some of the fickle here-today-gone-tomorrow opportunistic ‘believers’ saw the tide turn and, by the end of the week, would be crying for Jesus’s condemnation at the hands of Pontius Pilate.  More on Wednesday.

For further reading:

John MacArthur: ‘The Plot to Kill Jesus’

It’s hard to believe that Lent 2010 has gone by so quickly.  It seems as if Ash Wednesday were only yesterday.  I hope that those of us observing Lent in our own quiet, prayerful ways have obtained spiritual enrichment and an even deeper faith.

Catholic Encyclopedia examines the practices and history of Holy Week, this ‘holy of holies’ in the church year.  Catholics, along with many Anglicans and Lutherans, will be observing it through prayer and attendance at church services, principally Palm Sunday, Maundy Thursday, Good Friday and, the greatest feast of the Church year, Easter Sunday.

For those new to Holy Week, what can they expect and how did it come about?  What follows are excerpts from New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia entry:

– From an attentive study of the Gospels, and particularly that of St. John, it might easily be inferred that already in Apostolic times a certain emphasis was laid upon the memory of the last week of Jesus Christ’s mortal life. The supper at Bethania must have taken place on the Saturday, “six days before the pasch” (John 12:1-2), and the triumphant entry into Jerusalem was made from there next morning. 

– … it in any case existed in Jerusalem at the close of the fourth century, for the Pilgrimage of Ætheria contains a detailed account of the whole week, beginning with the service in the “Lazarium” at Bethania on the Saturday, in the course of which was read the narrative of the anointing of Christ’s feet. Moreover, on the next day, which, as Ætheria says, “began the week of the Pasch, which they call here the “Great Week”, a special reminder was addressed to the people by the archdeacon in these terms: “Throughout the whole week, beginning from to-morrow, let us all assemble in the Martyrium, that is the great church, at the ninth hour” …

– In the first of his festal letters, written in 329, St. Athanasius of Alexandria speaks of the severe fast maintained during “those six holy and great days [preceding Easter Sunday] which are the symbol of the creation of the world”. He refers, seemingly, to some ancient symbolism which strangely reappears in the Anglo-Saxon martyrologium of King Alfred’s time. Further he writes, in 331: “We begin the holy week of the great pasch on the tenth of Pharmuthi in which we should observe more prolonged prayers and fastings and watchings, that we may be enabled to anoint our lintels with the precious blood and so escape the destroyer.”

– … it seems probable that throughout the Christian world some sort of observance of these six days by fasting and prayer had been adopted almost everywhere by Christians before the end of the fourth century. Indeed it is quite possible that the fast of special severity is considerably older, for Dionysius of Alexandria (c. A.D. 260) speaks of some who went without food for the whole six days (see further under LENT). The week was also known as the week of the dry fast (xerophagia), while some of its observances were very possibly influenced by an erroneous etymology of the word Pasch, which was current among the Greeks. Pasch really comes from a Hebrew meaning “passage” (of the destroying angel), but the Greeks took it to be identical with paschein, to suffer.

Today, then, would be what was known in the early Church as Lazarus Saturday, when Jesus raised Mary and Martha’s brother from the dead (John 11:1-45).  Nowadays, this is commemorated as a feast principally in the Eastern Orthodox Church and Eastern Catholic Churches which follow the Byzantine Rite.  

In ancient times, Lazarus Saturday was the day when hermits left their isolation to return to their monasteries for Holy Week prayers and services.  Sts John Chrysostom and Augustine of Hippo wrote homilies about the significance of this day. 

Scripture readings and hymns allude to Lazarus’s being brought back to life as a foreshadowing of Christ’s Resurrection on Easter.  St John’s Gospel illustrates Christ’s dual nature — the human, asking where Lazarus’s body is lying (to which the ever-practical Martha replies, ‘Lord, by this time he stinketh’) and the divine, commanding him back to life.  The faithful are also asked to remember that Jesus’s bringing Lazarus back to life alludes to His releasing us from the bondage of sin bringing us to a new life in Him.  

Lazarus Saturday is a day of hope but mitigated celebration, as limited fasting occurs.  The Greek Orthodox bake a special spice bread, lazarakia, to enjoy.  This is the day when women and children gather to make palm decorations for the next day, Palm Sunday. 

By raising Lazarus from the dead before Your Passion,
You confirmed the universal resurrection, O Christ God!
Like the children with palms of victory,
We cry out to You, O Vanquisher of Death;
Hosanna in the highest! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord!
  — Troparion for Lazarus Saturday

The news seems to be awash with articles about paedophile priests, past and present.  The Catholic Church appears at the forefront of this scandal, although other churches (e.g. Anglican, Baptist) and other faiths (Jewish) have also been caught up in this damning sin.  And, lest we be in any doubt, by ‘damning’, the Bible says this sin sends us to Hell.

I don’t want to spend a lot of time on a subject which has been sensationalised and gets most of its steam from allegations rather than proof.  There does seem to be a concentrated effort on attacking the Catholic Church — and the Pope — as a means of bankrupting it through compensation claims.  I believe that as time goes on we will see that an organised group of secularists, atheists and special interest groups are at the forefront of this effort, which can only be described as anti-Christian. After all, if you want to take down Christianity, you start at the top. Furthermore, what other church has the worldwide name brand that the Catholic Church does?  ‘Anglican’ or ‘Baptist’ will never resonate as loudly as the word ‘Catholic’.  Even those Christians who find the Catholic Church totally antithetical to their religious views must surely see that a lot of these allegations and the extrapolation that goes along with them do Christianity as a whole no good. 

So, let’s look at a few facts in the discussion with statistics from the John Jay College of Criminal Justice report about cases and settlements in the United States.  Between 1950 and 2002 (emphases mine throughout):

–  Our analyses revealed little variability in the rates of alleged abuse across regions of the Catholic Church in the U.S. — the range was from 3% to 6% of priests

– Less than 13% of allegations were made in the year in which the abuse allegedly began, and more than 25% of the allegations were made more than 30 years after the alleged abuse began.

– Approximately one-third of all allegations were reported in 2002-2003, and two-thirds have been made since 1993. Thus, prior to 1993, only one-third of cases were known to Church officials. The allegations made in 1993 and 2002-2003 include offenses that allegedly occurred within the full time period from 1950-1993 and 1950-2002.

– The amount of money already paid by the Church, as a result of allegations, to victims, for the treatment of priests and for legal expenses reported in our surveys was $472,000,000. That figure is not the total paid by the Church to date — 14% of dioceses and religious communities did not report dollar figures. In addition, survey responses were filed over a 10-month period and would not include settlements and expenses incurred after surveys were submitted. In addition, no diocese reported the recent and highly publicized $85,000,000 settlement. If we include the $85,000,000 reported settlement, the total cost paid by the church exceeds $500,000,000.

You can read much more at the link.

On March 13, 2010, the Vatican published an interview with Msgr Charles J Scicluna, the ‘Promoter of Justice’ for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith.  Excerpts follow:

Question: Monsignor, you have the reputation of being “tough”, yet the Catholic Church is systematically accused of being accommodating towards “paedophile priests”.

Answer: It may be that in the past – perhaps also out of a misdirected desire to protect the good name of the institution – some bishops were, in practice, too indulgent towards this sad phenomenon. And I say in practice because, in principle, the condemnation of this kind of crime has always been firm and unequivocal. Suffice it to recall, to limit ourselves just to last century, the famous Instruction “Crimen sollicitationis” of 1922.

Q: Wasn’t that from 1962?

A: No, the first edition dates back to the pontificate of Pius XI. Then, with Blessed John XXIII, the Holy Office issued a new edition for the Council Fathers, but only two thousand copies were printed, which were not enough, and so distribution was postponed sine die. In any case, these were procedural norms to be followed in cases of solicitation during confession, and of other more serious sexually-motivated crimes such as the sexual abuse of minors.

Q: Norms which, however, recommended secrecy…

A: A poor English translation of that text has led people to think that the Holy See imposed secrecy in order to hide the facts. But this was not so. Secrecy during the investigative phase served to protect the good name of all the people involved; first and foremost, the victims themselves, then the accused priests who have the right – as everyone does – to the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. The Church does not like showcase justice. Norms on sexual abuse have never been understood as a ban on denouncing the crimes to the civil authorities.

Q: Nonetheless, that document is periodically cited to accuse the current Pontiff of having been – when he was prefect of the former Holy Office – objectively responsible for a Holy See policy of covering up the facts…

A: That accusation is false and calumnious. On this subject I would like to highlight a number of facts. Between 1975 and 1985 I do not believe that any cases of paedophilia committed by priests were brought to the attention of our Congregation. Moreover, following the promulgation of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, there was a period of uncertainty as to which of the “delicta graviora” were reserved to the competency of this dicastery. Only with the 2001 “Motu Proprio” did the crime of paedophilia again become our exclusive remit. From that moment Cardinal Ratzinger displayed great wisdom and firmness in handling those cases, also demonstrating great courage in facing some of the most difficult and thorny cases, “sine acceptione personarum”. Therefore, to accuse the current Pontiff of a cover-up is, I repeat, false and calumnious

Q: How many have you dealt with so far?

A: Overall in the last nine years (2001-2010) we have considered accusations concerning around three thousand cases of diocesan and religious priests, which refer to crimes committed over the last fifty years.

Q: That is, then, three thousand cases of paedophile priests?

A: No, it is not correct to say that. We can say that about sixty percent of the cases chiefly involved sexual attraction towards adolescents of the same sex, another thirty percent involved heterosexual relations, and the remaining ten percent were cases of paedophilia in the true sense of the term; that is, based on sexual attraction towards prepubescent children. The cases of priests accused of paedophilia in the true sense have been about three hundred in nine years. Please don’t misunderstand me, these are of course too many, but it must be recognised that the phenomenon is not as widespread as has been believed.

Q: The accused, then, are three thousand. How many have been tried and condemned?

A: Currently we can say that a full trial, penal or administrative, has taken place in twenty percent of cases, normally celebrated in the diocese of origin – always under our supervision – and only very rarely here in Rome. We do this also in order to speed up the process. In sixty percent of cases there has been no trial, above all because of the advanced age of the accused, but administrative and disciplinary provisions have been issued against them, such as the obligation not to celebrate Mass with the faithful, not to hear confession, and to live a retired life of prayer. It must be made absolutely clear that in these cases, some of which are particularly sensational and have caught the attention of the media, no absolution has taken place. It’s true that there has been no formal condemnation, but if a person is obliged to a life of silence and prayer, then there must be a reason

Q: Where do these three thousand cases come from?

A: Mostly from the United States which, in the years 2003-2004, represented around eighty percent of total cases. In 2009 the United States “share” had dropped to around twenty-five percent of the 223 cases reported from all over the world. Over recent years (2007-2009), the annual average of cases reported to the Congregation from around the world has been two hundred and fifty. Many countries report only one or two cases. There is, then, a growing diversity and number of countries of origin of cases, but the phenomenon itself is much reduced. It must, in fact, be borne in mind that the overall number of diocesan and religious priests in the world is four hundred thousand, although this statistic does not correspond to the perception that is created when these sad cases occupy the front pages of the newspapers.

Q: And in Italy?

A: Thus far the phenomenon does not seem to have dramatic proportions, although what worries me is a certain culture of silence which I feel is still too widespread in the country. The Italian Episcopal Conference (CEI) offers an excellent technical-juridical consultancy service for bishops who have to deal with these cases. And I am very pleased to observe the ever greater commitment being shown by Italian bishops to throw light on the cases reported to them …

You can read more at the link.

When people condemn the Church for these terrible sins — and I am in no denial that these have been proven in some cases — we would do well to ask ourselves if those doing so wish to see it healed or dead on arrival.  Many people of weak or no belief dislike Pope Benedict XVI because he is a man of strong faith.  I would not be surprised if the groups I described earlier in the post are trying to get him to resign by piling stress upon stress upon him until his health fails. Then, in their unbelief, they can ‘lobby’ the conclave to elect a left-wing Pope consumed by theological error. Only an apostate Christian would want this to happen.

Well, that’s among us laymen.  But what about the bishops?  Why aren’t they speaking up?  What about their spiritual state? Damian Thompson and his readers give their views in ‘Pope Benedict can expect no help from his enemies in the Vatican’.  As commenter Crouchback says of a daily Mass (March 19, 2010, 4:47 p.m.):

It took all my strength just to sit through ……I blew my top after mass letting one unfortunate parishioner know exactly what I thought of the ghastly charade we had just sat through.

The Bishops can’t even arrange for a Catholic Mass, then how are they ever up to doing anything else.

Like dealing with all this muck….

Time for the Good Priests, we all know who and where they are to form an Extra-Ordinate…..a Traditional Bishop, United to the Pope, a group of priests and Traditional Parishes through out the country, any one wanting proper Catholicism can come and lend a hand… 

And, yet, the Pope was once a leftist-leaning Catholic with regard to Vatican II.  He appears to have seen the errors of his ways with regard to Modernism.  Can we not spare a prayer or two his way?  Some of us feel divorced from Catholicism, yet … ‘there but for the grace of God …’

Without further ado, what follows is the concluding part of John MacArthur’s sermon on discernment.  Find out about how Satan works through false teaching — deception, deceit, denial and more.  You won’t regret it.

After I watched the following videos about discerning error, I happened to think of Dives and Lazarus in the Gospel of Luke (16:19-31), where Dives (literally, ‘rich man’) is burning in everlasting hellfire for his sins, including the way he treated Lazarus the beggar.  Dives begs Abraham to allow Lazarus to touch the tip of his tongue with a drop of water as his thirst is so great.  Abraham refuses.  Dives then asks Abraham to send Lazarus to his brothers to tell them that what Scripture says is true — that we will be called to account for our sins and that we may perish in fire if we do not repent.  Jesus relates that Abraham says, ‘If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be convinced even if someone rises from the dead.’

Those are Jesus’s words from His own parable.  Note how He alludes to His own death and resurrection.  Yet, we are reading and hearing false teachers all the time, guys (mainly) who want to minimise Jesus and Scripture.  They say that Jesus was a teacher, not our Saviour.  Jesus is our best mate, not the Way, the Truth and the Life.  Some of us may have a rude awakening one day if we continue believing that. 

Are our pastors, vicars and priests encouraging us to read the Bible, understand it and apply it to our lives?  Not enough are, which is a problem.  Because when we don’t know or understand what the Bible says, how can we spot error? 

John MacArthur knows and loves the Bible.  You have read his sermons on this blog or others or perhaps on Grace to You (under Resources in the left-hand column).  If you haven’t heard him speak, you will enjoy these videos and will look forward to reading more Scripture yourself, if you aren’t already.  He will tell you — simply — what error is and how to spot it. 

Each video is about 9 minutes long, by the way.  Tune in here tomorrow for Parts 4 – 6.

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