Saturday, June 20, 2015

Critique of Chris Ferrara's Radical Reactionary Hit-Piece in Opposition to Pope Francis' Christian Environmentalism

By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong

Radical Catholic reactionary and quasi-schismatic Christopher A. Ferrara published a critique of Pope Francis' encyclical Laudato si at the reactionary Remnant website. It's entitled, On the Pope's Encyclical, 'Laudato Si’: Talk to the Animals - After All, You’re One of Them (6-18-15). I shall proceed to write a rebuttal of it. Ferrara's words below will be in blue.

* * * * *

. . . Pope Francis attempts to fashion yet another post-conciliar novelty in the Church: a call to “ecological conversion,” 

This is no novelty at all. In fact, it is such an old-fashioned, non-novel Christian worldview that it hearkens all the way back to Genesis and Adam and Eve:
Genesis 1:28 (RSV) And God blessed them, and God said to them, "Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the air and over every living thing that moves upon the earth." 

The crux of the "issue" in many ways, is what "dominion" means. The pope has given us an extended treatise on that very thing, and many others. This entails ecology or environmentalism: stewardship over God's creation. The staunchly orthodox, saintly Fr. John A. Hardon, in his Modern Catholic Dictionary, defined "dominion" as follows:
Ownership of material goods, entitling the owner to proprietary rights, i.e., to use, change, keep, or dispose of what one owns. Christianity views dominion as not absolute, but always relative to the common good of society.

See that last part? Applied to Genesis 1:28, it means that man's dominion is "not absolute" but rather, integrated into the common good of society (and by extension here, the earth). This is not a new thing in Catholicism, but a very old thing in man's existence. The pope deals forthrightly with these fundamental aspects of Christian environmentalism and stewardship:
67. We are not God. The earth was here before us and it has been given to us. This allows us to respond to the charge that Judaeo-Christian thinking, on the basis of the Genesis account which grants man “dominion” over the earth (cf. Gen 1:28), has encouraged the unbridled exploitation of nature by painting him as domineering and destructive by nature. This is not a correct interpretation of the Bible as understood by the Church. Although it is true that we Christians have at times incorrectly interpreted the Scriptures, nowadays we must forcefully reject the notion that our being created in God’s image and given dominion over the earth justifies absolute domination over other creatures. The biblical texts are to be read in their context, with an appropriate hermeneutic, recognizing that they tell us to “till and keep” the garden of the world (cf. Gen 2:15). “Tilling” refers to cultivating, ploughing or working, while “keeping” means caring, protecting, overseeing and preserving. This implies a relationship of mutual responsibility between human beings and nature. Each community can take from the bounty of the earth whatever it needs for subsistence, but it also has the duty to protect the earth and to ensure its fruitfulness for coming generations. “The earth is the Lord’s” (Ps 24:1); to him belongs “the earth with all that is within it” (Dt 10:14). Thus God rejects every claim to absolute ownership: “The land shall not be sold in perpetuity, for the land is mine; for you are strangers and sojourners with me” (Lev25:23).

which requires a subtle demotion of man to merely a part of the natural world.

This is sheer nonsense. The "superiority" of man is casually assumed:
We do not understand our superiority as a reason for personal glory or irresponsible dominion, but rather as a different capacity which, in its turn, entails a serious responsibility stemming from our faith. [220; my bolding]

The passage above about dominion makes it crystal clear that man is "above" the other creatures of the earth; having dominion over them. There is no difference here at all with historic biblical, Catholic theology. But if a cynical, reactionary mind like Ferrara's wishes to invent one, according to his erroneous preconceived opinions, it is always easy to state a falsehood without demonstrating it (as he does throughout his piece). He engages in extended soliloquies of his own fancies and imaginary myths, while I prefer to stick to documentation from the actual text, and citations of it, with commentary; along with relevant biblical citations.

. . . an Orthodox Archbishop by the name of John Zizioulas, representing the Ecumenical Patriarchate of Constantinople, who—don’t you know?—is very big on environmentalism.

Of course he is, because it is a Christian responsibility to be good stewards of the earth : God's creation and gift to us. Why is this perceived as a bad thing? It's similar to the radical Catholic reactionary (and, too often, mainstream traditionalist) jaded view of ecumenism. They take the worst examples of corruptions of it (liberal indifferentism and religious relativism) and collapse that into the supposed entire (or orthodox) meaning of the word ecumenism. It just ain't so. But they continue doing it, as part of their own isolated, self-absorbed, warped pseudo-tradition.

The same (analogously) is done with environmentalism. The radical "ecclesiological right" assumes that left-wing zealots completely own that discussion and that there is no such thing as a Christian, biblical, legitimate environmentalism or conservationism. That just ain't so, either. Newsflash: Jesus is Lord of all of life, and that includes care of the earth and its natural resources. Pope Francis has done us all a great service by engaging in the entire discussion under the grand framework of biblical / Christian premises and assumptions and categories. He "unsecularizes" the conversation. It will never be the same again, for anyone who takes this encyclical seriously.

Yesterday I completed the task of slogging my way through the Italian “draft” of this 185-page book-length excuse to tie the Church’s credibility to eco-fascism and the global warming scam, which appears to be identical to the final document released today. As the world knows, Sandro Magister leaked the “draft” to the press two days ago at the cost of his Vatican press credentials.

Isn't it interesting that Ferrara has no qualms whatsoever about reading a mere "draft" (in Italian) of the encyclical, that he himself openly states was leaked. He's very transparent, indeed brazen, about it. But why, I wonder, would any serious commentator do such a stupid thing? He couldn't wait another day or two before opening his big mouth and proceeding to trash the caricature of the straw man that he creates of the document? Is this some juvenile desire to be "first" or something?

By contrast, I carefully read the entire encyclical before making my commentary on it, complete with many extended citations, from the official English document, posted on the Holy See website.

Ferrara published a "summary" of his hostile analysis at Lifesite News. Time-permitting, perhaps I will critique that as well, in due course. Now, for those of you who wonder why I have urged folks to avoid this website, here is a prime example. It publishes the bilge of one of the most notorious radical Catholic reactionaries, trashing the pope. That alone is grounds for any orthodox, obedient Catholic to ignore Lifesite News altogether. With all the alternative news and theological sources out there, you don't need to patronize a venue that sees nothing wrong whatsoever in Ferrara's radical reactionary analysis. It spreads poison and cancer in the Body of Christ.

. . . the massively verbose Vatican documents of the post-conciliar epoch, . . . 

This is a plainly empty-headed remark. Who cares about length? I could document many examples of the Remnant's own hyper-verbosity, but anyone can check that out for themselves. Surely, our era is not unique in terms of prolixity, nor in nuanced or "difficult-to-read" expression. To give but one historical example, how about St. Thomas Aquinas' 13th century five-volume Summa Theologica? He considered that to be merely an introductory work of theology. He wrote at the very beginning of it:
Because the doctor of Catholic truth ought not only to teach the proficient, but also to instruct beginners (according to the Apostle: As unto little ones in Christ, I gave you milk to drink, not meat -- 1 Corinthians 3:1-2), we purpose in this book to treat of whatever belongs to the Christian religion, in such a way as may tend to the instruction of beginners.

Yet to today's reader it appears almost impossibly complex; so much so that several recent attempts have been made to summarize or abridge or selectively quote it (I undertook
one such effort, myself).

Not to mention the Bible itself . . .  Has Ferrara read that all the way through (I did, 37 years ago)? Did he not suffer through the usually remarked-upon dry legal passages of Leviticus, or all the "begats"? Or how about reading in the two books of Chronicles, basically the same thing that was already recorded in 1 and 2 Kings? The four Gospels overlap, for heaven's sake! Would Ferrara go after them, too, for unnecessary length and reiteration?

I have found that those who complain about length of other writings, invariably engage in long, long pieces of writing, themselves. I often observed this with regard to anti-Catholic opponents. They would critique my "verbose" writing, and proceed to write, -- unashamed and blissfully unaware --, tedious, boorish tomes of four, five times greater length. I concluded that such complaints (due to the double standard) were in fact, almost wholly reflective of their underlying hostility to a given document. If they agreed with it, such remarks would never be made. But since they don't, they complain about mere length.

Depth is not to be frowned upon. It's not an "either/or" scenario. People need to stretch their intellectual and spiritual horizons, too, and be challenged.

I always say that people manage to spend plenty of time in front of the idiot box or reading 500-page novels (many of dubious value, to put it mildly). They'll study reams and reams of materials in college, to prepare for their vocation / occupation. But when it comes to God, all of a sudden we are supposed to dumb down and read only short things. Why should the Holy Father bow to the short attention spans and the sad "sound-byte" / Twitter reality of today? 
 His general audience addresses are short, if someone must have brevity. Different strokes . . . It's much ado about nothing: what is called obfuscation or obscurantism.
I would like to focus on one of the most troubling aspects of what we all expected would be yet another eruption of a Vesuvius that has been burying everything in its path with rhetorical lava over the past two-and-a-half years. 

Now here is a prime (textbook, classic) instance of the very thing he (unjustly) complains about. He condemns supposed "rhetorical lava" in Pope Francis, yet engages in it himself, with this abjectly idiotic, sophistical remark. In fact, I would characterize pretty much his entire hit-piece as "rhetorical lava" (or much worse, but we are in mixed company).

He cites, undocumented, a portion of the "leaked" document:

The human being, even supposing evolutionary processes, involves a novelty not fully explainable by the evolution of other open systems. Every one of us has in himself a personal identity able to enter into dialogue with others and with God Himself. The capacity for reflection, reasoning, creativity, interpretation, artistic elaboration, and other original capacities demonstrate a singularity that transcends the realm of the physical and biological. The qualitative novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within the material universe presupposes a direct action of God, a peculiar calling to life and to the relation of a Thou to another thou.
Presumably, this is some version (from who knows where?) of what the official Vatican document translates as follows:

81. Human beings, even if we postulate a process of evolution, also possess a uniqueness which cannot be fully explained by the evolution of other open systems. Each of us has his or her own personal identity and is capable of entering into dialogue with others and with God himself. Our capacity to reason, to develop arguments, to be inventive, to interpret reality and to create art, along with other not yet discovered capacities, are signs of a uniqueness which transcends the spheres of physics and biology. The sheer novelty involved in the emergence of a personal being within a material universe presupposes a direct action of God and a particular call to life and to relationship on the part of a “Thou” who addresses himself to another “thou”. The biblical accounts of creation invite us to see each human being as a subject who can never be reduced to the status of an object.

Note the difference in the first sentence ("novelty" vs. "uniqueness"). Remember the old debate about "liberal" translations of the Vatican II documents? It's deliciously humorous that now, radical Catholic reactionary Ferrara does the same thing: citing a non-official "leaked" translation of an official papal document, rather than exercising the supreme patience of waiting all of a day, or two at the most, to get the Real Thing. Ironies never cease, among the endlessly foolish reactionaries.

Ferrara makes one of his more remarkably ludicrous assertions in response to this portion:

I searched in vain for a reference anywhere in the main text of LS to what we fundamentalist Catholics commonly, however quaintly, refer to as “the soul.” There is none, save a passing reference in paragraph 233, occurring in the final few paragraphs of the document as part of a kind of “Catholic supplement” to an otherwise thoroughly humanistic presentation of the “ecological crisis.” 

It does nothing of the sort. Let's tackle these fathomless imbecilities one-by-one. The argument over the lack of the word "soul" is a (to me, quite comical) version of the old Jehovah's Witnesses "argument" that the Bible doesn't contain the word "Trinity." Indeed it doesn't. But is the concept there? Absolutely! I have pages and pages of trinitarian passages from he Bible in two of my books. The term "virgin birth" is not in the Bible, either. "Magisterium" isn't there; nor is "pope" or "Blessed Virgin Mary" or "sacred heart" or "immaculate conception" or "ecumenical council" or "transubstantiation" or "Assumption" [of Mary] or a host of other good Catholic terms.

Likewise, the concept of the soul is found in several places in this encyclical, when the Holy Father discusses man made in the image of God (see sections 65, 67, and 84), or the notions of human uniqueness among creatures, as seen in section 81 above and often elsewhere. What the pope states in section 81 is perfectly consistent with St. Thomas Aquinas' statement about the soul in his Summa Theologica:

The rational soul can be made only by creation; which, however, is not true of other forms. The reason is because, since to be made is the way to existence, a thing must be made in such a way as is suitable to its mode of existence. Now that properly exists which itself has existence; as it were, subsisting in its own existence. Wherefore only substances are properly and truly called beings; whereas an accident has not existence, but something is (modified) by it, and so far is it called a being; for instance, whiteness is called a being, because by it something is white. Hence it is said Metaph. vii, Did. vi, 1 that an accident should be described as "of something rather than as something." The same is to be said of all non-subsistent forms. Therefore, properly speaking, it does not belong to any non-existing form to be made; but such are said to be made through the composite substances being made. On the other hand, the rational soul is a subsistent form, as above explained (75, 2). Wherefore it is competent to be and to be made. And since it cannot be made of pre-existing matter--whether corporeal, which would render it a corporeal being--or spiritual, which would involve the transmutation of one spiritual substance into another, we must conclude that it cannot exist except by creation. (I, q. 90, a. 2c)

Remember, the above is for "instruction of beginners" according to St. Thomas. Yet we are supposed to bristle under Pope Francis' intolerably difficult and lengthy prose. The pope reiterates what Pope Pius XII stated in 1950 in Humani Generis (section 36): that man's soul is a direct supernatural creation by God. He is saying that biology (including a posited evolution) cannot explain it; that it "transcends the spheres of physics and biology." Yet Ferrara calls the encyclical a "thoroughly humanistic presentation." Poppycock! Has anyone ever heard a biology professor or teacher discussing the supernatural creation of the soul? That's theology, not biology.

Ferrara is full of hot air if he wants to make out (rather astonishingly) that this is a secularist-type "humanistic" presentation. It is anything but that; the utter opposite of it. I collected in my initial commentary many examples of the pope's blatant defiance of mere "scientism" (a thing that both C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton wrote a lot about) and materialistic science:

It cannot be maintained that empirical science provides a complete explanation of life, the interplay of all creatures and the whole of reality. This would be to breach the limits imposed by its own methodology. If we reason only within the confines of the latter, little room would be left for aesthetic sensibility, poetry, or even reason’s ability to grasp the ultimate meaning and purpose of things. [199]
Dialogue among the various sciences is likewise needed, since each can tend to become enclosed in its own language, while specialization leads to a certain isolation and the absolutization of its own field of knowledge. This prevents us from confronting environmental problems effectively. An open and respectful dialogue is also needed between the various ecological movements, among which ideological conflicts are not infrequently encountered. [201]
Environmental education should facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning. [210]
Then too, there is the recognition that God created the world, writing into it an order and a dynamism that human beings have no right to ignore. [221]
The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things. [233]
Standing awestruck before a mountain, he or she cannot separate this experience from God, and perceives that the interior awe being lived has to be entrusted to the Lord . . .  [234]
As an apologist (34 years and running, including nine years in my evangelical Protestant period) who has been openly, frequently skeptical of the rampant materialism present in much of science today, I was ecstatic to see reflections such as these, which are thoroughly biblical:  literally soaked in biblical and Catholic tradition. Yet Ferrara is so blind that he can't see it. It's truly amazing.

In fact, at the beginning of Chapter Two of this book called an encyclical Francis poses this amazing question (not accurately stated in the official English translation): “Why insert [inserire] in this document, addressed to all men of good will, a chapter referring to the convictions of faith?” That a Pope would view the “convictions of faith” as an insertion (or inclusion) in a papal encyclical tells us all we need to know about the problem with Laudato Si’.

This is as stupid as his previous barb. There are different functions of documents, even papal ones. Different things are directed to different people. The pope stated outright that he is writing more so to "all men" in this encyclical:

3. More than fifty years ago, with the world teetering on the brink of nuclear crisis, Pope Saint John XXIII wrote an Encyclical which not only rejected war but offered a proposal for peace. He addressed his message Pacem in Terris to the entire “Catholic world” and indeed “to all men and women of good will”. Now, faced as we are with global environmental deterioration, I wish to address every person living on this planet. 

There is nothing whatsoever wrong with that. The pope writes to all men, as a great leader of mankind. He receives much respect from many non-Catholics. He is using his "bully pulpit," so to speak (to borrow a phrase from Theodore Roosevelt). Why is this objectionable? It's entirely biblical, as well as in accord with some of the emphases of Vatican II.

St. Paul wrote about "I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some" (1 Cor 9:22). He sought common ground with the pagan Athenians, when addressing them (Acts 17:16-34). Jesus commended a pagan Roman centurion for his sublime faith (hardly seen among Jews, as He said). St. Peter interacted with the Roman centurion Cornelius, and brought Gentiles into the Church (Acts 10). Pope Pius XI wrote his encyclical, Mit Brennender Sorge (14 March 1937), in German, in order to address the growing Nazi menace. Ferrara acts, dumbfounded, as if all this were the most novel thing in the world. The pope writes:

62. Why should this document, addressed to all people of good will, include a chapter dealing with the convictions of believers? I am well aware that in the areas of politics and philosophy there are those who firmly reject the idea of a Creator, or consider it irrelevant, and consequently dismiss as irrational the rich contribution which religions can make towards an integral ecology and the full development of humanity. Others view religions simply as a subculture to be tolerated. Nonetheless, science and religion, with their distinctive approaches to understanding reality, can enter into an intense dialogue fruitful for both.

He is merely using diplomatic, ecumenical language in this section. It's as if he is conveying the message: "I have sought to write, above, in the spirit of what all men have in common. Now please permit me to more specifically address my own Catholic flock [unspoken assumption: where we share common premises not shared with all other men]." I've done a similar thing, many times, in conversations with atheists (I just met with six of them over dinner, eleven days ago). I will be defending Christianity in general or speaking about areas where we agree, then I note that I am talking specifically about Christians, or Catholic Christians. It is a reminder that people talk in different ways to different people (back to Paul in 1 Corinthians 9:22). That's the reality of effective, adult, constructive discussion.

But Ferrara doesn't get it. This inability to grasp differences in genres or styles of language, or various approaches to diverse audiences, is widely characteristic of radical Catholic reactionaries; strikingly in common, in many ways, with the wrongheaded woodenly literal biblical and theological analyses of Protestant fundamentalists, and also with comically flawed and fallacious atheist analyses of the Bible and Christian beliefs. The latter tendency is a thing I will deal with (I note in passing) in my next book.

Let us assume that the words to which Francis has apparently put his name are to be taken according to the ordinary signification of words, as opposed to what Jimmy Akin will undoubtedly tell us they “really mean” in one of his “things to know” con jobs.

My friend Jimmy Akin has to write his frequent analyses of the pope's words precisely because of nitwits like Ferrara who can't figure them out on their own, and must cynically distort them, to their own nefarious ends (quasi-dissent, quasi-schism, Luther-like private judgment, and radical Catholic reactionary error). If it weren't for the liberal dissidents and reactionary fools like Ferrara, and those who swallow up the dim-witted "analyses" of same, Jimmy could do many other things. But he, like me, is forced to deal sometimes with such folly, in order to help protect the flock from being hoodwinked. It's part of our duty as apologists.

I've written two books about radical Catholic reactionaries like Ferrara [one / two] and have a large web page devoted to them. I'd love to do many other things, too, believe me, but as an apologist, I sometimes have to spend time (as I am today on this Saturday afternoon, for no pay) refuting silly, idiotic stuff like this: precisely because some (not a small number of) Catholics will fall for it. If there is any "con" here, it is assuredly Ferrara's flatulent pseudo-analysis, not Akin's.

LS declares that by some unspecified “direct action” of God, man has “emerged” as a “personal being” from the material universe, but possessed of a “qualitative novelty” that distinguishes him from the other animals that have also “emerged” from the material universe via “evolutionary processes.”

Yes; this is Catholic dogma: the soul is a supernatural creation (i.e., not, by definition, subject to any biological processes or laws at all), and man is above other creatures. Ho hum. ZZZzzzz . . . . This is some sort of supposed "scandal" for Ferrara's oh-so-fertile brain to confront? Ferrara makes a big deal of the phrase, “qualitative novelty”, from his "leaked" version. The official version simply has "uniqueness" (twice in sec. 81, seen above). Is that objectionable to Ferrara, too: that man is "unique" among creatures?

Man was created from matter by any account: whether through evolutionary process or by a special instantaneous creation. Catholics are freely allowed to take either view. What is not permitted is to believe in a "materialistic 'creation'" that excludes God. That is where the essence of the battle in theology and apologetics -- with the secular world -- really lies. The Holy Father takes great pains in this document to emphasize that very thing time and again.

In Genesis we read that “the Lord God formed man of the slime of the earth: and breathed into his face the breath of life, and man became a living soul.” We do not read that man is “qualitative novelty” emerging from an evolutionary process as a “personal being.”

Nor do we read it ("qualitative novelty") in this (official) document; only in Ferrara's "leaked" one. By making hay of this one phrase that isn't even there (and taken out of context), he only makes himself look even more silly and foolish, many times over, than he already is. But these unsavory tactics have become part-and-parcel of the ongoing cottage industry of misrepresenting and misunderstanding this great pope.

If Ferrara insists on waxing indignant over evolution (like all good fundamentalists do), it should be noted that it is only mentioned three times in the document (sections 18 and 81, twice), and in the latter, he states, "even if we postulate a process of evolution, . . ." (my emphasis). That is hardly an enthusiastic advocacy of the theory of evolution, although the pope himself likely believes in theistic evolution. It has never been a mandatory belief for Catholics. It's permitted as one interpretation of the origins of creation and human life in particular.

But some Catholics seem to have the most difficult time accepting different permitted beliefs among other Catholics (e.g., the debate of Thomists and Molinists regarding predestination). They demand that everything be dogmatic and infallible at the highest levels. The question of biological evolution is simply not in that category. Durational process as part of creation was held or discussed as a possibility at least as far back as St. Augustine; also by St. Thomas Aquinas. Let Ferrara quibble with them if he chooses to. I won't be reading . . .

Because man has a soul, he is ontologically superior by his very nature to every other living creature, indeed all living creatures put together.

. . . which is why the pope taught this very thing, casually referring to "our superiority" in section 220. Pope Francis maintains the traditional concept of "dominion" (mentioning it eight times). All he does is deny that the dominion should be "absolute" (67, 117) or "tyrannical" (83) or "irresponsible" (83, 220), and he denies that it should include "attacks on nature" (66). He positively asserts that it essentially amounts to "stewardship" (116): which anyone who understands the biblical teaching on this has already been quite aware of, long before this document. One might regard the encyclical as a helpful development (even a "striking" one) of the biblical and Catholic notion of dominion over / stewardship of the earth, but as such, it is not at all inconsistent with what has come before.

God does not forget even things as trivial as sparrows sold at market for a pittance; infinitely less so each man with his immortal soul, who is worth far more than any mere animal. That is the point of Our Lord’s teaching. . . . But man has not lost his intrinsic superiority to all other animals, nor his title to governance over them.

No kidding. DUH!!!!! Nothing in this encyclical is inconsistent with this understanding. It's standard practice of the radical reactionaries to fight straw men, rather than actual opponents or views. The RadCathRs have been doing this for two years with Pope Francis. Why should Ferrara be any different? He's the quintessential radical reactionary; the poster-boy, so he can't and won't  depart from the template and the ferociously spinning playbook and hackneyed talking points.

So why does Francis not state the simple truth that God endowed man with an immortal soul of infinite worth, thereby setting him above all other creatures?

He does do exactly that, as I have been showing! Here's some more: he refers to the "unique worth" of human beings (90). He notes "the inalienable worth of a human being" (136) and "our unique place as human beings in this world and our relationship to our surroundings" (15). This isn't good enough for Ferrara? Well, whoop-de-doo! Who cares? The pope has in fact done what our relentless critic claims he has not done.

To the extent that he does not do so as explicitly as Ferrara would like (which is a much more minor question), I submit that it is because it is elementary Catholicism, known to any sharp, adequately catechized fourth-grade Catholic child. One need not state the obvious over and over. It is assumed, and stated more than enough in this document. "It's in there" (like the old soup commercial said).

Ferrara even stoops so low as to chide the pope for not citing additional words of a particular Gospel passage, as if he wished to exclude certain elements. This is beyond childish. It's embarrassing to have to even have to take my time to refute such patent nonsense. But if I convince even one person to start ignoring Ferrara and his reactionary crowd, it will have been well worth it.

Ferrara goes on to even greater heights of attack and ridicule at the end of his screed, most of which I will not dignify with specific point-by-point reply. Suffice it to say that the pope has reiterated man's dominion, and has not taught any form of vegetarianism. That's all anyone needs to know, in order to disregard the last third of Ferrara's empty-headed attack.

He quibbles, for example, with Pope Francis' A Christian prayer in union with creation near the end of the encyclical. Here again he shows his profound biblical ignorance. Many Catholics suffer from this deficiency. I'm grieved (but not surprised) that Ferrara is among them. Holy Scripture indeed contains passages such as the following:

Psalm 69:34 Let heaven and earth praise him, the seas and everything that moves therein.
Psalm 148:3-5, 7 Praise him, sun and moon, praise him, all you shining stars! [4] Praise him, you highest heavens, and you waters above the heavens! [5] Let them praise the name of the LORD! For he commanded and they were created. . . . [7] Praise the LORD from the earth, you sea monsters and all deeps,
Isaiah 42:10-12 Sing to the LORD a new song, his praise from the end of the earth! Let the sea roar and all that fills it,the coastlands and their inhabitants. [11] Let the desert and its cities lift up their voice,the villages that Kedar inhabits; let the inhabitants of Sela sing for joy, let them shout from the top of the mountains. [12] Let them give glory to the LORD, and declare his praise in the coastlands.
Luke 19:37-40 As he was now drawing near, at the descent of the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen, [38] saying, "Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven and glory in the highest!" [39] And some of the Pharisees in the multitude said to him, "Teacher, rebuke your disciples." [40] He answered, "I tell you, if these were silent, the very stones would cry out."
Romans 8:19-23 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God; [20] for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; [21] because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God. [22] We know that the whole creation has been groaning in travail together until now; [23] and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies.

That's a lot of Bible to ignore! Right from King David, the prophet Isaiah, our Lord Jesus, and the apostle Paul. Are we to believe that they can write these sorts of thoughts, but Pope Francis cannot simply say, "Father, we praise you with all your creatures"? It's absolutely asinine.

Rather than search for Scripture to support (or refute) his views, Ferrara prefers to cite St. Francis of Assisi in supposed opposition to his namesake pope. And the key word there is "supposed" . . .

Ferrara, most appropriately, ends with wholesale mockery:

Today I read a blog post . . . accompanied by a still shot from the TV series All in the Family, whose title expresses quite well the deepening absurdity of this pontificate: “Time to Turn off the Francis Show and Stay Faithful.” I would love to turn off The Francis Show, but the problem is that The Francis Show cannot be turned off. If only it could.

Friends, I strongly recommend that you turn off the Chris Ferrara farce of a "show." Follow the Holy Father; not clowns in a sideshow. He won't lead you astray. This is how God designed His Church. Popes aren't perfect. Paul rebuked Peter for hypocrisy. But they can be trusted, with faith in God's promises and oversight, for doctrinal and pastoral instruction. Ignore bloviating boorish boobs like Ferrara (except to read refutations of him, such as this post). But don't ignore the pope, whom God selected to lead His One true Church.

This encyclical is a wonderful way to become acquainted with Pope Francis' ever-insightful orthodox teaching and ingratiating style.

* * * * * 

See also my initial enthusiastic reaction to Laudato si.

See also the Facebook cross-posting of this piece. The combox contains further comments and interactions (some with Ferrara), which are not present in the comments here).

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Pope Francis' Encyclical Laudato si: A Beautiful and Profoundly Wise Statement of Christian Environmentalism and Theology of Creation

Acadia National Park, Maine

By Catholic apologist Dave Armstrong
(6-18-15, 2:30 PM ET)

I read the whole thing a short while ago. There are innumerable riches here, and a fabulous integrated treatment of environmental / resource problems. This will clearly become the definitive Christian statement on the topic. For too long, Christians have been accused of being (or, too often, actually were in practice) indifferent to the problems of the earth and the environment: as if we merely want to exploit the earth and her resources, rather than (the biblical view) being stewards of God's marvelous creation. I think this encyclical will go a long way towards dispelling those notions. The secularists don't "own" this discussion, anymore than they own economic or demographic or "nature of the marriage and family" discussions. Along these lines, the Holy Father observed:

An inadequate presentation of Christian anthropology gave rise to a wrong understanding of the relationship between human beings and the world. Often, what was handed on was a Promethean vision of mastery over the world, which gave the impression that the protection of nature was something that only the faint-hearted cared about. Instead, our “dominion” over the universe should be understood more properly in the sense of responsible stewardship. [116]

Once we start to think about the kind of world we are leaving to future generations, we look at things differently; we realize that the world is a gift which we have freely received and must share with others. Since the world has been given to us, we can no longer view reality in a purely utilitarian way, in which efficiency and productivity are entirely geared to our individual benefit. Intergenerational solidarity is not optional, but rather a basic question of justice, since the world we have received also belongs to those who will follow us. [159]

. . . a mistaken understanding of our own principles has at times led us to justify mistreating nature, to exercise tyranny over creation, to engage in war, injustice and acts of violence, . . .  [200]
It must be said that some committed and prayerful Christians, with the excuse of realism and pragmatism, tend to ridicule expressions of concern for the environment. Others are passive; they choose not to change their habits and thus become inconsistent. So what they all need is an “ecological conversion”, whereby the effects of their encounter with Jesus Christ become evident in their relationship with the world around them. Living our vocation to be protectors of God’s handiwork is essential to a life of virtue; it is not an optional or a secondary aspect of our Christian experience. [217]

[W]e are not disconnected from the rest of creatures, but joined in a splendid universal communion. [220]

I particularly like the Holy Father's emphasis on blending and harmonizing Catholic "environmental" and social teaching:

There can be no ecology without an adequate anthropology. [118]

Today, the analysis of environmental problems cannot be separated from the analysis of human, family, work-related and urban contexts, nor from how individuals relate to themselves, which leads in turn to how they relate to others and to the environment. There is an interrelation between ecosystems and between the various spheres of social interaction, . . . [141]

He "humanizes" and "Christianizes" important scientific discussions that are usually hyper-secularized in the false dichotomy habitually drawn between science and God. I love that! It's a direct "punch to the nose" to a ludicrously compartmentalized and intellectually bankrupt secularism and excessive scientism (i.e., a materialistic version of science that is logically self-defeating, given the origin and history of that same science: which was overwhelmingly theistic):

It cannot be maintained that empirical science provides a complete explanation of life, the interplay of all creatures and the whole of reality. This would be to breach the limits imposed by its own methodology. If we reason only within the confines of the latter, little room would be left for aesthetic sensibility, poetry, or even reason’s ability to grasp the ultimate meaning and purpose of things. [199]

Dialogue among the various sciences is likewise needed, since each can tend to become enclosed in its own language, while specialization leads to a certain isolation and the absolutization of its own field of knowledge. This prevents us from confronting environmental problems effectively. An open and respectful dialogue is also needed between the various ecological movements, among which ideological conflicts are not infrequently encountered. [201]

Environmental education should facilitate making the leap towards the transcendent which gives ecological ethics its deepest meaning. [210]

Then too, there is the recognition that God created the world, writing into it an order and a dynamism that human beings have no right to ignore. [221]

The universe unfolds in God, who fills it completely. Hence, there is a mystical meaning to be found in a leaf, in a mountain trail, in a dewdrop, in a poor person’s face. The ideal is not only to pass from the exterior to the interior to discover the action of God in the soul, but also to discover God in all things. [233]

Standing awestruck before a mountain, he or she cannot separate this experience from God, and perceives that the interior awe being lived has to be entrusted to the Lord . . .  [234]

He takes on unisexism as well:

[V]aluing one’s own body in its femininity or masculinity is necessary if I am going to be able to recognize myself in an encounter with someone who is different. In this way we can joyfully accept the specific gifts of another man or woman, the work of God the Creator, and find mutual enrichment. It is not a healthy attitude which would seek “to cancel out sexual difference because it no longer knows how to confront it”. [155]

He (quite appropriately and relevantly) ties in the incarnation and eucharistic theology with environmentalism:

For Christians, all the creatures of the material universe find their true meaning in the incarnate Word, for the Son of God has incorporated in his person part of the material world, planting in it a seed of definitive transformation. [235]

It is in the Eucharist that all that has been created finds its greatest exaltation. Grace, which tends to manifest itself tangibly, found unsurpassable expression when God himself became man and gave himself as food for his creatures. The Lord, in the culmination of the mystery of the Incarnation, chose to reach our intimate depths through a fragment of matter. . . . Joined to the incarnate Son, present in the Eucharist, the whole cosmos gives thanks to God. . . .The Eucharist joins heaven and earth; it embraces and penetrates all creation. The world which came forth from God’s hands returns to him in blessed and undivided adoration . . . [236]

He even includes a magnificent passage on the Blessed Virgin Mary:

Mary, the Mother who cared for Jesus, now cares with maternal affection and pain for this wounded world. Just as her pierced heart mourned the death of Jesus, so now she grieves for the sufferings of the crucified poor and for the creatures of this world laid waste by human power. Completely transfigured, she now lives with Jesus, and all creatures sing of her fairness. She is the Woman, “clothed in the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars” (Rev 12:1). Carried up into heaven, she is the Mother and Queen of all creation. In her glorified body, together with the Risen Christ, part of creation has reached the fullness of its beauty. She treasures the entire life of Jesus in her heart (cf. Lk 2:19,51), and now understands the meaning of all things. Hence, we can ask her to enable us to look at this world with eyes of wisdom. [241]

I very much resonate with the pope's social ideas, since I am a distributist ("Let us keep in mind the principle of subsidiarity, which grants freedom to develop the capabilities present at every level of society, while also demanding a greater sense of responsibility for the common good from those who wield greater power" [196] ), and critic of the many excesses of corporate capitalism and materialism ("profit cannot be the sole criterion to be taken into account" [187] / "nor should the economy be subject to the dictates of an efficiency-driven paradigm of technocracy" [189] ), as well as the evils of Marxism and Communism (and pollution, strip mining, etc.). I'm also a strong critic of anti-child contraceptive mentalities, and (obviously) pro-life, as any Catholic should and must be.

The pope refused to ignore the wholesale slaughter of preborn human beings:

Since everything is interrelated, concern for the protection of nature is also incompatible with the justification of abortion. How can we genuinely teach the importance of concern for other vulnerable beings, however troublesome or inconvenient they may be, if we fail to protect a human embryo, even when its presence is uncomfortable and creates difficulties? [120]

Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? [123]

The mindset which leaves no room for sincere concern for the environment is the same mindset which lacks concern for the inclusion of the most vulnerable members of society. [196]

I am a passionate nature lover and conservationist, and very concerned with the preservation of nature's beautiful resources. My actual views are often in stark contrast with the gross and slanderous caricatures of some (online; several, former friends or supposedly friends) who have sadly made themselves my "enemies."

I've been absurdly accused of being "more Republican than Catholic" and a "neo-conservative" etc. (not to mention, a supposed "defender" or "advocate" of torture: something that has NEVER been true at any time). Nothing could be further from the truth. I am in many ways what is called a political conservative, but I'm also a distributist and strong advocate of Catholic "third way" social teaching. I can't be cynically put into a box that I am not in fact in. The Church is infinitely more so a guide to my worldview and approach to life and thought than any flawed, always-compromised-in-some-way mere political party would or could ever be. My positive reaction to this encyclical is but one of innumerable indications of my true positions on issues.

In the next two weeks, for example, I will be visiting the magnificent Redwood trees on the coast of California. These forests are but 10% as large as they used to be. Someone got wise and took efforts to preserve the small remnants of the once vast forest. The national forest system gathers needed resources of lumber without destroying the ecosystems in the forests. We have learned about how to respectfully treat mother nature and mother earth. I visit old-growth forests in every state where I can find them. Often, they are just a few acres in areas that were once completely covered with these primeval forests.

Since it is the hot-button issue usually coupled to analysis of this encyclical (from many folks, even before they have read it), I note in passing that I disagree with a very tiny portion of it: the section about global warming (I disagreed with virtually nothing else, upon first reading). "Warming" is mentioned only nine times in the entire encyclical. This is a question of scientific "facts" and interpretations, that have nothing to do directly with the Catholic faith or the magisterium; hence, a Catholic is completely at liberty to respectfully disagree. Briefly summarized, this is my position:

1. There are indeed some real and verifiable changes in climate and the global environment in recent years.

2. Global warming is a myth. The actual temperature data regarding the entire earth shows no temperature gain over the last twenty years or so: in stark contrast to the previous alarmist predictions. This is an indisputable fact; not mere speculation or theory. The doom-and-gloom prophets have been wrong again and again; including, e.g., dire warnings about population growth and inability to feed ourselves. Al Gore stated in 2000 or so that the polar ice cap (surrounding the north pole) would be no more by now. It is in fact flourishing and growing. There simply is no discernible "trend of global warming" [167; also, 175]. With all due respect, the pope is mistaken in this regard.

3. It is highly questionable (based on various scientific evidences) that man is primarily or even significantly responsible for these changes (by use of fossil fuels, etc.). Many scientists believe that they are almost entirely the result of the natural cycles of nature.

4. It is highly questionable (based on various scientific evidences) that climate change will be catastrophic anytime soon, if ever.

Another quibble I would have is the absence of an espousal of nuclear energy, which is a very practical and attainable alternative to fossil fuels (which are blamed for much in the encyclical). It is mentioned in passing, twice: negatively (section 184) and semi-negatively (104). This appears to presuppose the leftish opposition to nuclear energy, which is "dissed" almost without argument anymore. Thus, one prime, existing alternative to what is deemed (rightly or wrongly) to be one of the primary environmental "problems" is ruled out from the outset.

Pope Francis wrote:

There are certain environmental issues where it is not easy to achieve a broad consensus. Here I would state once more that the Church does not presume to settle scientific questions or to replace politics. But I am concerned to encourage an honest and open debate so that particular interests or ideologies will not prejudice the common good. [188]

I urge everyone to read and digest this wonderful and positively innovative encyclical. It's a goldmine of wisdom. I could easily quote 200 parts of it as especially noteworthy and "quoteworthy." Here are a few examples of its innumerable gems of insight:

113. . . . [H]umanity has changed profoundly, and the accumulation of constant novelties exalts a superficiality which pulls us in one direction. It becomes difficult to pause and recover depth in life. If architecture reflects the spirit of an age, our megastructures and drab apartment blocks express the spirit of globalized technology, where a constant flood of new products coexists with a tedious monotony. Let us refuse to resign ourselves to this, and continue to wonder about the purpose and meaning of everything. Otherwise we would simply legitimate the present situation and need new forms of escapism to help us endure the emptiness.

114. All of this shows the urgent need for us to move forward in a bold cultural revolution. Science and technology are not neutral; from the beginning to the end of a process, various intentions and possibilities are in play and can take on distinct shapes. Nobody is suggesting a return to the Stone Age, but we do need to slow down and look at reality in a different way, to appropriate the positive and sustainable progress which has been made, but also to recover the values and the great goals swept away by our unrestrained delusions of grandeur.

Since the market tends to promote extreme consumerism in an effort to sell its products, people can easily get caught up in a whirlwind of needless buying and spending. Compulsive consumerism is one example of how the techno-economic paradigm affects individuals. Romano Guardini had already foreseen this: “The gadgets and technics forced upon him by the patterns of machine production and of abstract planning mass man accepts quite simply; they are the forms of life itself. To either a greater or lesser degree mass man is convinced that his conformity is both reasonable and just”. This paradigm leads people to believe that they are free as long as they have the supposed freedom to consume. [203]

The emptier a person’s heart is, the more he or she needs things to buy, own and consume. [204]

Many people know that our current progress and the mere amassing of things and pleasures are not enough to give meaning and joy to the human heart, yet they feel unable to give up what the market sets before them. [209]

If someone has not learned to stop and admire something beautiful, we should not be surprised if he or she treats everything as an object to be used and abused without scruple. [215]

A constant flood of new consumer goods can baffle the heart and prevent us from cherishing each thing and each moment. To be serenely present to each reality, however small it may be, opens us to much greater horizons of understanding and personal fulfilment. Christian spirituality proposes a growth marked by moderation and the capacity to be happy with little. It is a return to that simplicity which allows us to stop and appreciate the small things, to be grateful for the opportunities which life affords us, to be spiritually detached from what we possess, and not to succumb to sadness for what we lack. This implies avoiding the dynamic of dominion and the mere accumulation of pleasures. [222]

[N]o one can cultivate a sober and satisfying life without being at peace with him or herself. An adequate understanding of spirituality consists in filling out what we mean by peace, which is much more than the absence of war. [225]

Here is the URL of the encyclical on the Holy See website.

Read it for yourself! We can do that now. It's easier than ever. Let the Holy Father in his great wisdom and charity guide you. You don't need apologists like myself to be your interpreter, if you can read and think for yourself. Perhaps this post can be a sort of general introduction, but no more than that. We need to read and ponder and digest his words; not have them spoon-fed to us through the multiple filters of the secular media (or the equally ridiculous histrionics of the radical Catholic reactionary crowd), or apologists or Catholic journalists, or anyone with a blog and an opinion. The very notion of any of those scenarios is a farce.

You will be edified and enriched beyond measure.

* * * * *

Friday, June 05, 2015

Books by Dave Armstrong: Proving the Catholic Faith is Biblical: From Priestly Celibacy to the Rosary: 80 Short Essays Explaining the Biblical Basis of Catholicism

 [completed on 2 August 2014; 245 pages. Accepted for publication by Sophia Institute Press on 11 November 2014; to be released in August 2015]



Introduction [see below]

I. Bible and Tradition (Authority)

1.Tradition is Not Always a Bad Word in Scripture +
2. The Catholic “Three-Legged Stool” vs. Sola Scriptura
3. Tradition: Short Reflection & Basic Explanation
4. The Bereans & “Searching the Scriptures”
5. Ten Deuterocanonical References in the New Testament
II. Doctrine of the Church (Ecclesiology)

6. The Catholic Church: Why we Accept Her Claims
7. Catholic Ecclesiology & the Jerusalem Council [read original longer dialogue]
8. Three Biblical Arguments for an Authoritative Church +
9. “Call No Man Father” & Calling Catholic Priests Father *
10. We Believe All that the Catholic Church Teaches
11. On the Scandal of the Outrageous Claim to be a Church
12. On Whether God Would Protect His Church from Error [read original longer dialogue]
13. Are Church Councils More Authoritative than Popes?

III. Priestly Celibacy

14. Short Exposition on Catholic Priestly Celibacy
15. The Celibate Priesthood as a Higher Calling
16. A New (?) Argument for Mandatory Priestly Celibacy [read original post and Facebook discussion]

IV. Theology of Salvation (Soteriology)

17. Works Can be Good or Bad, Just as Traditions Are
18. Faith & Works (But Not Justification) in Isaiah Ch. 1
19. Catholic Soteriology in John 3:36 (“Disobey the Son”)
20. Hebrews 3:14 (Lots of Catholic Theology on Salvation)
21. Unanswered Prayers of Jesus as a Counter-Reply to Limited Atonement
22. John 12:32 vs. John Calvin & Limited Atonement
23. God Doesn't Predestine the Damned (2 Thess 2:10-12)

V. Purgatory and Penance

24. Prayer, Penance, & the Eternal Destiny of Others
25. The Abundant Biblical Support for Lent *
26. Divine Chastisement (or, Purgatory in This Life) *

VI. The Holy Eucharist and the Sacrifice of the Mass

27. Mystery is No Basis for Rejecting Transubstantiation *
28. On the Nature of Idolatry
29. “The Apostle Paul Says He is a 'Priest'?! Where?!”

VII. Sacramentals, Devotions, and Worship

30. Sacramentalism & the Bible +
31. Biblical Support for Ritualistic & Formal Worship +
32. Is the Rosary “Vain Repetition”? *

VIII. The Communion of Saints and Angels

33. Asking Saints to Intercede is a Teaching of Jesus *
34. Praying to Angels & Angelic Intercession *
35. Worshiping God Through Images in Holy Scripture
36. Martin Luther's Belief in the Invocation & Intercession of Mary & the Saints, as Late as 1521 [read online]
37. The False Doctrine of “Soul Sleep”
38. New (?) Biblical Argument for the Veneration of Saints: God “In” & “Through” St. Paul

IX. The Blessed Virgin Mary (Mariology)

39. Biblical Arguments for the Perpetual Virginity of Mary *
40. Holy Ground & the Perpetual Virginity of Mary *
41. Rationalist Objection to the In Partu Virginity of Mary
42. Martin Luther & the Immaculate Purification of Mary*
43. Mary's Immaculate Conception & the Bible*
44. Quick Biblical Proof that Mary is the Mother of God
45. The Bible & the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary *
46. Mary the “Queen Mother” & “Queen of Heaven”
47. Mary as the Woman in Revelation 12 [read longer original dialogue]
48. Biblical Analogies for Marian Apparitions

X. Papal Infallibility

49. Protestant Difficulties Regarding Papal Infallibility
50. The So-Called “Infallibility Regress” Objection [read original longer dialogue]

XI. Christology and Trinitarianism

51. The Bible “Never Says that Jesus is God”? Wrong! +
52. The Holy Trinity Proven from Scripture +
53. Is Trinitarianism Demonstrable from Scripture Alone?
54. Trinitarian Baptismal Formula & “Jesus Only” Baptism
55. Should God the Father be Visually Depicted in Paintings?
56. Satan's Tempting of Jesus as a Proof of His Divinity
57. Jesus' Divinity & Matthew 21:16 (cf. Psalms 8:2)
58. Jesus is Explicitly, Directly Called “God” (Romans 9:5)
59. Jesus' Agony in the Garden vs. “Be Not Anxious” [read original longer article]

XII. Marriage and Sexuality

60. Annulment is Not Catholic Divorce
61. Contraception: “Be Fruitful and Multiply” *
62. Contraception: God Blesses Parents with Children *
63. Contraception: Onan's Sin & Punishment [read online]
64. Reply to an Attack Against NFP & Spacing of Children
65. Contraception, Murder, & the Contralife Will
66. Does the Bible Condemn Homosexual Acts?
67. St. Paul's Argument from Nature Against Homosexual Acts (Romans 1) [read original longer 
68. The Prohibition of Premarital Sex in the New Testament
69. Does 1 Corinthians 7:36-38 Sanction Premarital Sex? [read original longer dialogue]
70. Thoughts on Women's Ordination

XIII. Hell, the Devil, and Demons

71. Philosophical Defense of the Necessity of Hell [read original longer dialogue: Parts One and Two]
72. The Stupidity of the Devil
73. Demon Possession & Modern Bible Translation Bias
74. The “Conditional” Possibility of Universalism Refuted

XIV. Philosophy, History, and Apologetics

75. Thoughts on a Perfect God Creating an Imperfect World
76. Can God be Blamed for the Nazi Holocaust?
77. The Inevitability of Development of Doctrine *
78. New Testament Proofs of Noah's Historical Existence * [read online]
79. Jesus' Use of Socratic Method in His Teaching [read on my Facebook page]
80. Apologetics Isn't Saying You're Sorry for Your Faith! + [read online]

* * * * *

* = originally published in Seton Magazine: The Premier Online Magazine for Catholic Homeschoolers (from March to July 2014). See my author page with links to all the articles.

+ = originally published in The Michigan Catholic: the official newspaper for the Archdiocese of Detroit (from May to August 2014). See my author page
with links to all the articles.


 This is a collection of writing that is precisely described in the book title: essays that are 1) short (usually two or three pages), 2) characterized by lots of biblical argumentation, and 3) in defense of Catholicism (apologetics). Most of them came about as a result of my ongoing efforts to comment on issues that regularly come up in “worlds” of Catholic apologetics and theology online.
The relative brevity of the chapters are indications of the trend in my apologetic writing for many years now: precise, “quick” answers to apologetics questions. For better or ill, this is the world that we live in, and the apologist must make efforts (as St. Paul did, and as Vatican II stressed) to “meet people where they are at.”
I don't deny the continuing utility and necessity of longer treatments (my “corpus” still contains plenty of those!), but most people prefer shorter essays, and their interest in theology and apologetics generally doesn't extend to treatise-length expositions. This is all the more true for beginners in theology.
Many of these essays were written as columns for Seton Magazine, which is devoted to Catholic homeschoolers. Those were all around 800 words. Others (1000 words in length) came from my regular column in The Michigan Catholic: the official newspaper for my archdiocese of Detroit.
Additionally, some were originally posted as part of my work in the Internet forum of The Coming Home Network from 2007-2010 (I was the head moderator during that period), and several were initiated on Facebook as well.
What all have in common is the desire to answer the questions that people ask, and to make the Catholic faith more understandable, leading to a confident belief, and the ability to “make a defense” (1 Peter 3:15) for this faith as opportunities arise. By God's grace I hope I have accomplished these goals.
Thanks so much for reading, and God bless you!