Saturday, May 28, 2005

An important petition

Please take the time to visit: and fill out the petition to the Holy Father for the Beatification of Pope Pius XII. This great Pope is much maligned by some in the media who attempt to portray him as having been "Hitler's Pope" or who accuse him of having been "silent" during the Nazi regime's satanic attempt to exterminate the Jewish people. This lie has been exposed by many important scholars and is contradicted by the facts of history. For example, The New York Times, which has been slandering this great Pontiff in recent years, ran an editorial back in 1941 which called him a "lone voice" speaking out against Hitler, his regime, and the persecution of the Jewish people.

My father met with Pope Pius XII back in March of 1958 and the experience left an indelible mark on him. He was struck by the heroic sanctity of this truly great wartime Pope and by his loving example. When my father died (in September of 2000 - the great Jubilee year), he left me a Rosary blessed by Pope Pius XII. And our family has a papal blessing from this Pope who, I am convinced, will be raised to the altars of Holy Mother Church someday.

Not soon enough as far as I am convinced.

Paul Anthony Melanson

The development of doctrine

Once again, an individual agitating for women's ordination at the Holy Cross Cardinal Newman Society website, has posed a challenge. He writes, "The Church, as an institution, moves slowly toward any change, probably as it should in most instances....By suggesting that women could be priests, one is not suggesting that Jesus got it wrong; rather, it is suggesting that Jesus and the Holy Spirit may have thought it was not the right time to have women priests, but that we've now advanced to the point where we can handle it."

The problem with this line of thinking is that while doctrine does indeed develop, it does not do so in the same way as knowledge in other fields. Divine Revelation and faith are unique. They do not originate in human observation and reasoning, and their truth transcends the cultural forms in which it was first expressed.

The linguistic expressions used by the Church in her dogmatic formulations do not exhaustively encapsulate the revealed truth. Therefore, while individuals on their own authority may not set aside the language the Church uses, the Church from time to time improves on such language. And such improvements can even become necessary to defend the faith against errors and to expound it in fresh social and cultural contexts.

And, to be sure, Christians today are in a position to articulate revealed truths in ways which were not available to the Apostles and this because the Church not only faithfully safeguards and hands on all that God revealed, but infallibly interprets it. So, as Vatican I and Vatican II teach, the Church grows in her understanding of the realities and words which have been handed down (see DS 3020/1800; Dei Verbum, No. 8).

But the Church may not contradict the truth which she has received from God. So, as Vatican I definitively teaches, the Church's dogmatic formulae should never be taken in a meaning different from the one the Church understood and understands in using them (see DS 3043/1818; Gaudium et Spes, No. 62). It follows therefore that legitimate and necessary development and reformulation of doctrine can never call into question anything which Catholics as a whole once have held with faith.

For a further explanation of the criteria of authentic development of doctrine, I would point readers of this blog to a work written by John Henry Newman (for whom the website mentioned above is named) and entitled "An Essay on the Development of Christian Doctrine" and published by Westminster, Md Christian Classics, 1968.

And what of this individual's assertion that "we've now advanced to the point where we can handle it" (meaning women priests)? Is this not the conceit of Famulus Wagner in Faust, who exclaimed joyfully "how marvelously far we have come"? This is not the attitude of Pope John XXIII, who said that the Church must leave her mark on every epoch and every land - and not vice versa. This is the perverse interpretation of Aggiornamento, an interpretation which means that the Church must be reformed in order to do justice to the "great progress" of our times, and to speak the "right language" to modern man, who has "come of age."

There are Bishops, priests and laymen who, blinded and overrun by various heresies, want to swim with the times and who fear the judgment of the world more than they fear God. For such people, all the current and modern tendencies and developments (in science, medicine etc) are progress and each and every change demanded by "progressives" who wish to build a church in their own image and likeness also constitutes "progress." These confused souls have forgotten (or choose to ignore) that truth is essentially unchangeable.

Lastly, the individual agitating for women priests at the Holy Cross Cardinal Newman Society website told another visitor to that forum that, "I don't think that you can say that no women are called to be priests because you don't know what the Holy Spirit is calling them to do." This is an obvious falsehood. We know that the Holy Spirit is not calling women to the Priesthood because the Magisterium, led by that same Holy Spirit, says that they are not.

But notice that whereas this individual asserts that the other visitor to the HCCNS forum doesn't know what the Holy Spirit is saying to women (a patent falsehood since the Magisterium speaks the truth in that same Spirit), he nevertheless feels confident in suggesting that both Jesus and the Holy Spirit "may have thought" that 33 AD "was not the right time" for women's ordination but that now (because Catholics are supposedly more "advanced") these two Divine Persons may now feel the time is right since we're at the "point where we can handle it."

God preserve us from such nonsense.

Until next time,
God love you all
Paul Anthony Melanson

Friday, May 27, 2005

Fulton John Sheen and Dogma

Way back in the 1970's, I purchased an excellent book written by my hero and good friend Fulton J. Sheen entitled "The Electronic Christian" and published by the Macmillan Publishing Company. In this important book (indeed every book written By Sheen could be labelled as important), the saintly Archbishop who thoroughly intrigued his audience throughout the 1950's as "Uncle Fultie" - a Catholic counterpart if you will to Milton Berle's "Uncle Miltie," explains the importance and indeed the necessity of a religion with Dogma. Here is his essay:

The modern man must decide for himself whether he is going to have a religion with thought or a religion without it. He already knows that thoughtless policies lead to the ruin of society, and he may begin to suspect that thoughtless religion ends in confusion worse confounded.

The problem is simple. The modern man has two maps before him: one the map of sentimental religion, the other the map of dogmatic religion. The first is very simple. It has been constructed only in the last few years by a topographer who has just gone into the business of map making and is extremely adverse to explicit directions. He believes that each man should find his own way and not have his liberty taken away by dogmatic directions. The other map is much more complicated and full of dogmatic detail. It has been made by topographers who have been over every inch of the road for centuries and know each detour and each pitfall. It has explicit directions and dogmas such as, 'Do not take this road - it is swampy,' or 'Follow this road; although rough and rocky at first, it leads to a smooth road on a mountaintop.'

The simple map is very easy to read, but those who are guided by it are generally lost in a swamp of mushy sentimentalism. The other map takes a little more scrutiny, but it is simpler in the end, for it takes you up through the rocky road of the world's scorn to the everlasting hills where is seated the original Map Maker, the only One who ever has associated rest with learning: 'Learn of Me...and you shall find rest for your souls.'

Every new coherent doctrine and dogma add to the pabulum for thought; it is an extra bit of garden upon which we can intellectually browse; it is new food into which we can put our teeth and thence absorb nourishment; it is the discovery of a new intellectual planet that adds fullness and spaciousness to our mental world. And simply because it is solid and weighty, because it is dogmatic and not gaseous and foggy like a sentiment, it is intellectually invigorating, for it is with weights that the best drill is done, and not with feathers.

It is the very nature of a man to generate children of his brain in the shape of thoughts, and as he piles up thought on thought, truth on truth, doctrine on doctrine, conviction on conviction, and dogma on dogma, a very coherent and orderly fashion, so as to produce a system complex as a body and yet one and harmonious, the more and more human he becomes. When, however, in response to false cries for progress, he lops off dogmas, breaks with the memory of his forefathers, denies intellectual parentage, pleads for a religion without dogmas, substitutes mistiness for mystery, mistakes sentiment for sediment, he is sinking back slowly, surely, and inevitably into the senselessness of stones and into the irresponsible unconsciousness of weeds. Grass is broad-minded. Cabbages have heads - but no dogmas. (pp. 74-74).

God love you Fulton J. Sheen....I couldn't have said it better.

Paul Anthony Melanson

A Troubling Advertisement at the Union Leader's Website

It has come to my attention that the Manchester Union Leader's website is running an advertisement for an organization calling itself "7" When one visits the Union Leader's website and clicks on the opinion link: one may find the advertisement for this organization. Upon clicking on the ad link, one is taken to the following website:

There, one is invited to participate in an online course which will explain "How genuine spirituality gave way to rigid dogma" and the "fine line that separates the two." Readers are then told that "Spirituality can be the most empowering, most liberating, most life-giving force in all the world...or it can be a tool for greed, manipulation and control. And its been exactly that for millions of people over the centuries."

For those who choose to take the "course," Perry Marshall will explain "key milestones in Church history" and will "dissect the most common lies" and "illuminate the fault line that separates genuine spirituality from empty religious dogma."

Empty religious dogma? As Catholics, we understand that Dogmas are those Church doctrines which the Church proposes for belief as formally revealed by God. And nothing revealed by God may be said to be "empty."

I would encourage faithful Catholics to register their complaint with the Union Leader by visiting the link I have provided and clicking on the "contact us" link.

God love you all,
Paul Anthony Melanson

Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A brief explanation....

For those who would say that I am being "uncharitable" in referring to those who clamor for women's ordination as being "mental and moral midgets," I would remind you that such people are really asserting that they are wiser than the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth. Such people are also arguing that Our Lord, in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, chose only men as priests because of cultural conditioning or that He committed an injustice for the sake of cultural expediency. This is nothing short of blasphemy.

In the words of the Rev. Dr. E.L. Mascall, "If the supporters of women priests are right, then Our Lord in instituting an exclusively male apostolate, was doing something which has deprived half the members of the Church from their legitimate rights for nearly 2,000 years. And it would be difficult in that case to feel very confident of either his moral or his intellectual integrity. And then it is difficult to see why we should attribute any authority to Him at all."

Again, who do we say Jesus is? Is He the Incarnate Word, the Eternal Logos, the Son of God - Second Person of the Blessed Trinity? Or is He simply a man who promoted erroneous ideas; ideas which have deprived women of their legitimate rights?


More zeal than knowledge

In his own day, the great philosopher Socrates warned seekers of truth to beware of those who possess "more zeal than knowledge." In our own time, an age which is marked by irrational pride and a tendency to reject anything which has the character of coming from above, there are individuals and groups who simply refuse to embrace episteme (knowledge) and who consequently fall into the idolatry of doxa (opinion).

For example, some years ago, certain women groups gave warning that they would not be argued out of becoming priests: "We reject out of hand any arguments or efforts on theological or historical grounds" (Sexuality, Theology, Priesthood, A Scholarly symposium on the ordination of women to the priesthood. Published by Concerned Fellow Episcopalians. San Gabriel, California, p.3).

This statement was the result of a Task Force chosen to study the status of women in a diocese in Pennsylvania. And one can find this same attitude at the Holy Cross Cardinal Newman Society website. There, several individuals have challenged the Church's clear and constant teaching for some 2,000 years that women are not called to the ministerial priesthood.

Now, agitating or screaming for change is not a Christian lifestyle. And the intelligent Catholic will answer the specious "theological" arguments which are founded on propaganda and slogans and which are appealing to those who find it too much of a mental effort to engage in any real thought. It is necessary that the intelligent Catholic should respond to the arguments of the uncritical and intellectually impoverished mind of the confused person who believes himself or herself to be wiser than the Holy Spirit who guides Holy Mother Church. It was St. Peter who exhorted Christians "to be always ready to give a reason for the faith that is in you."

Thankfully, there are serious and intelligent Catholics who are responding to this challenge. These defenders of the Faith understand that St. Peter's challenge imposes a duty, a responsibility, to correct the flawed thinking of mental and moral midgets who believe that polls, vote-taking, and lazy propaganda emanating from the mass-media or various other sources, can change salvation facts already decided by Almighty God. Polls may be interesting to look at, but such statistics have absolutely no theological decisional value whatsoever. The only real benefit such polls have for Catholics is to demonstrate the extent of the profound disorder in faith among Catholics (or other Christians) in a certain geographical area.

To date, not one of the agitators for women's ordination at the Holy Cross Cardinal Newman Society website has accepted my challenge to provide a sound theological argument from sacramental theology as to why women should be ordained to the ministerial priesthood. Again, as Socrates reminded us so long ago, beware of those who have "more zeal than knowledge."


Until next time,
God love you
Paul Anthony Melanson

Thursday, May 19, 2005

Pope John Paul II on formation of conscience

In his encyclical letter Veritatis Splendor, Pope John Paul II tells us that, "Christians have a great help for the formation of conscience in the Church and her Magisterium. As the Council affirms: 'In forming their consciences the Christian faithful must give careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church. Forthe Catholic Church is by the will of Christ the teacher of truth. Her charge is to announce and teach authentically that truth which is Christ, and at the same time with her authority to declare and confirm the principles of the moral order which derive from human nature itself.' (DH, 14). It follows that the authority of the Church, when she pronounces on moral questions, in no way undermines the freedom of conscience of Christians. This is so not only because freedom of conscience is never freedom 'from' the truth but always and only freedom 'in' the truth, but also because the Magisterium does not bring to the Christian conscience truths which are extraneous to it; rather it brings to light the truths which it ought already to possess, developing them from the starting point of the primordial act of faith." (No. 64.2).


Tuesday, May 17, 2005

The difference between a certain and a correct conscience

There is a difference in meaning between a certain and a correct conscience. The term "correct" describes the objective truth of the person's judgment, that in fact his conscience represents the real state of things. The term "certain" describes the subjective state of the person judging, how firmly he holds to his assent and how thoroughly he has excluded fear of the opposite. The kind of certitude which is meant here is a subjective certitude, which may easily exist along with objective error. It follows then that we have two possibilities here:

1. A certain and correct conscience.

2. A certain but erroneous conscience.

Now, a certain and correct conscience offers no difficulty and our obligation is therefore clear. A certain and correct conscience is merely the moral law promulgated to the individual and applied to to his own individual act. But the moral law must always be obeyed. Consequently, a certain and correct conscience must be obeyed. And what degree of certitude is required? It is sufficient that the individual's conscience be prudentially certain. Prudential certitude is not absolute but relative. As such, it excludes all prudent fear that the opposite may be true, but does not rule out imprudent fears which are based upon bare possibilities. The reasons are convincing enough to satisfy a normally prudent man in an important matter and this results in that individual feeling safe in practice while there is a theoretical chance of his being incorrect. In such a case, the individual has taken every reasonable precaution but he cannot guarantee against rare contingencies and "freaks of nature."

In moral matters, a complete mathematical certitude is not to be expected. This because when there is question of action, of something to be done in the here and now, but which also involves future consequences (some of which are dependent upon the wills of other individuals), the absolute possibility of error cannot be entirely excluded. However, it can be so reduced that no prudent man, one who is free of neurotic whimsies, would be deterred from acting through fear of it. Therefore, prudential certitude, since it excludes all reasonable fear of error, is much more than high probability, which fails to exclude such reasonable fear.

What happens when an individual is in possession of an erroneous conscience? That depends. If the error is vincible, it must be corrected. In such a case, the person knows that he may be wrong, is able to correct the possible error, and is obliged to do so before acting. A vincibly erroneous conscience cannot be a certain conscience. This is easily demonstrated. For example, an individual may have a merely probable opinion which he neglects to verify, (through laziness or fear of discovering that he is in fact in error), although he is able to do so. Or perhaps he may have judged certainly and yet erroneously at one point, but now begins to doubt whether or not his judgment was in fact correct. For as long as this individual did not realize his error, his conscience was invincibly erroneous; the error becomes vincible at the precise moment that the individual is no longer subjectively certain and has begun to doubt. Anyone who has read Dr. Scott Hahn's personal conversion story will recall that, when he realized the truth of Catholic teaching and that the Catholic Church was in fact the Church founded by Christ, he knew he had a responsibility to enter that Church. I would also refer readers to Lumen Gentium, No. 14 which deals with this subject.

If an error is invincible, there appears to be a dilemma. On the one hand, it doesn't seem right that a person should be obliged to follow an erroneous judgment; on the other, the individual is not aware of being in error and has no means of correcting it. But this dilemma is solved by recalling that conscience is a subjective guide to conduct, that invincible error and ignorance are unavoidable, that any wrong which occurs is not done voluntarily and therefore may not be charged to the agent. An individual acting with an invincibly erroneous conscience may in fact do something that is objectively wrong. However, since he does not recognize it as such it is not subjectively wrong. Such a person is thereby free of guilt by the invincible ignorance which is bound up in his error.

Conclusion: The will depends on the intellect to present the good to it. The will-act is good so long as it tends to the good presented by the intellect. It is bad or deficient if it tends to what the intellect judges evil. Invincible error in the intellect does not change the goodness or badness of the will-act, in which morality essentially consists. If an individual is firmly convinced that his or her action is right, that person is obeying the moral law to the degree that he or she can. If that same individual is firmly convinced that his or her action is wrong, that person is disobeying the moral law in intention, even though the act may not be objectively wrong.

I would recommend a thorough read of what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say with regard to forming a correct conscience.

God love you all,
Until next time
Paul Anthony Melanson

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

New Website

Dear Friends,

As many of you already know, I haven't been writing articles for this website for over a month now. I have been very busy with several writing projects and will be writing a "Theological Reflections" column for I will be writing pieces for this website as well now that I have finished with the projects in question.

I encourage you to visit this new website and to e-mail me with any thoughts you might have.

Thank you and God love you,

Paul Anthony Melanson
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