Sunday, September 28, 2008

Financial crisis

The news about the nation's current financial crisis has been very critical. I'm not an economist so I don't pretend to understand everything that's going on. But I've been praying for people who are most affected by it, especially those who have lost their homes or their jobs and are facing an uncertain economic future.
St. Joseph, the saint of divine providence and friend of workers, pray for us!

Sunday, September 14, 2008

The Triumph of the Cross

"How radiant is that precious cross, which brought us our salvation!
In the cross we are victorious,
through the cross we shall reign,
by the cross all evil is destroyed!"

From the liturgy

This feast comes so soon after 9/11. Recalling the horror of that day, this striking image captures the reality that God always brings good out of evil.
I pray for all those who suffered that day and for all those who are still suffering from its effects, especially the loss of loved ones.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Latest banned book: Paul, Least of the Apostles!

Our best-selling life of St. Paul has been banned from at least one Catholic bookstore! Considering that banned books usually sell quite well, I anticipate a brisk rise in sales.

More seriously, though, here's the story:

Last Monday an email was forwarded to me from another department in our publishing house. It was from the bookstore Aquinas and More, and contained some questions about one of our publications: Paul, Least of the Apostles." The bookstore manager thinks that the book is problematic and withdrew it from their shelves.
In case anyone reading this has heard of this controversy, I am posting here my reply which will hopefully clarify things. The 5 points I am responding to are taken directly from the email.

Thank you for your note concerning the book Paul, Least of the Apostles. We are always happy to receive feedback from our readers. I can understand your concern that the books that you promote will be faithful to Church teaching. We also have this at heart and make great efforts to insure that our books present the Catholic faith accurately. That is why we are taking your concerns seriously. I am presenting each of your points in what follows:

1. Are you aware that Mr. Decaux's sources are overwhelmingly Protestant/Calvinist? 11 of the 13 books in his bibliography are such.

I’m assuming that your concern here is that Protestant authors would be misleading. I can understand this, and it is important to read such works with a critical eye. Yet, as I’m sure you will agree, scholars need to be aware of a wide variety of works in writing about their chosen field. To list a book in the bibliography does not necessarily imply agreement with everything in that work. It is simply meant to show that the author has done his homework, so to speak. The list of sources for each chapter gives more details about the wider works cited. Many of these are Catholic authors. Because the book was written in French, of course, quite a few of the works are from French authors.

Actually, three of the thirteen titles listed in the bibliography are by Catholic authors, and one is a collection of the works of Josephus, an ancient source. The Protestant authors of the other works are generally regarded as reliable mainstream authors. James Dunn, for example, has done quite an exhaustive study on St. Paul. The work by E. P. Sanders is regarded as ground-breaking in terms of his study of Paul’s relationship with Judaism. Granted, not everything that writers say may be acceptable to Catholics. But scholars do need to be aware of the wide range of work being done in a field. [A note I'm adding now: Pope Benedict lists the works of several Protestant, Jewish and Orthodox authors in his book on Jesus. This includes the very liberal writers Harnack and Bultmann. Surely this doesn't make the Pope suspect of unorthodoxy, does it?]

2. Are you aware that the author says St. Paul was neurotic?

Can you clarify what you are referencing here with the exact quotation?

3. Are you aware that the author quotes Nietzsche, the great atheist philosopher, in giving opinions about St. Paul?

I am assuming that you are referring to this section: Some have recalled the conversion of Saint Augustine who felt the need of “stopping time” to put order in the “tumult”—he too—of his thoughts and feelings. Nietzsche said: “Whoever would be some day the bearer of an important message remains quiet for a long time; whoever wants to produce lightening must for a long time be a cloud.”

The context refers to Paul’s three years in the desert before he started his mission. The quote from Nietzsche brings out that point in a rather striking manner, it is not meant as an endorsement of Nietzsche’s philosophy in any way. Rather, it seems quite apropos to the context.

In his recent encyclical Spe Salvi, Pope Benedict XVI draws on the work of seven non-Catholic philosophers. In doing this he is not endorsing whatever errors may be in their writings, but he is expressing a typically Catholic readiness to rejoice in truth wherever it is found. The sisters and staff at Pauline Books and Media also wish to follow our Pope in this attitude.

4. Are you aware, in a lengthy section around page 106, that the author denies the Petrine ministry and distorts Paul's letters to "prove it?"

Could you clarify with quotations the exact material that you find problematic here? This section of the book deals with the controversy surrounding the question of Jewish Christians in the early church and the use of Jewish customs. It is a point of history that Paul did in fact oppose Peter on some aspects of this issue, as Paul says in Galatians, so the disagreement between Peter and Paul is a matter of the Scriptural record. It would seem far-reaching to conclude that the author has Paul rejecting the Petrine ministry. Decuaux is dealing with the situation as it was at the time. It took hundreds of years for the question of the Petrine ministry to be worked out in practice. As I’m sure you know, papal infallibility wasn’t defined until 1870.

5. The final chapter of the book uses the apocryphal "Acts of Paul" and includes a lengthy excerpt. The Church has never recognized this work as legitimate.

It is true that the Church has not accepted the Acts of Paul as a canonical work. However, that is not how our book is presenting it. The introduction to this section clearly states that the Acts of Paul is an apocryphal work. The author points this out, along with some reasons for caution concerning it. It is not presented as if it had Scriptural authority. Nevertheless, it is an ancient work that is of interest to those studying the life of Paul. We thought that some readers might like to read an ancient text about Paul’s martyrdom. The introductory information provided about it should alert them to the nature of the work and what to expect from it.

The Church has sometimes used elements from apocryphal works even though they are not canonical. For example, the liturgical feast of St. Joachim and Ann uses the names for Mary’s parents that are found in the Protoevangelium of James, an apocryphal gospel. But information from it has found its way into the liturgy. So, it seems that the Church might be telling us that we can learn something from apocryphal works, even if it is nothing more than a snapshot of how some early Christians thought about these matters.

Hopefully these responses will help to resolve some of your concerns about this book, Mr. Davis, and serve to indicate our own concern for a correct presentation of Catholic teaching while leaving room for an author’s opinion on non-dogmatic matters. To this purpose, in our publishing apostolate we do our best to take to heart the words of St. Paul to the Philippians: “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” (4:8)

If I can be of any further assistance in this matter, please do not hesitate to contact me.

Praying for God’s blessing upon you and your family, I remain,


Sr. Marianne Lorraine, FSP

Order your banned book here


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

"Seek God, not the works of God"

The quote is from the late, saintly Cardinal van Thuan. He suffered for 13 years in Communist prisons in North Vietnam, including many years in solitary confinement. Once he was regretting how he was unable to carry out his ministry for his people. Suddenly in his heart he heard the words, "Seek God, not the works of God." He realized he was feeling bad because he couldn't do works for God. But God was telling him that he didn't need those works; he needed to seek God.

I like to think about it on those days when it seems like frustrations bedevil everything I do! God doesn't need me to do great works. He needs me to love him and his people.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Thoughts on Paul

For the year of St. Paul, I'll be posting some thoughts on St. Paul by our Founder, Blessed James Alberione. They were collected by Sr Susan Helen Wallace, FSP

Saul Becomes Paul

“St. Paul – at first Saul, the enemy of Jesus – becomes his close friend, to the point of living of him: ‘Christ … lives in me’ (Gal 2:20).”

“All of St. Paul’s power is in Jesus Christ.

As in his life, so it was in prayer.

He affirms, ‘… It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me’ (Gal 2:20) and ‘For to me, living is Christ….’ (Phil 1:21). He only knows Jesus, and of Jesus his preaching is full.”

Palin and apostasy

This is not a political blog and I usually don't write about politics. But yesterday I saw this post at America magazine saying that Palin is guilty of apostasy! The reason? Apparently she was baptized in the Catholic Church. When she was 12 her parents left the Church and brought her with them.

If you think it odd that America would be discussing apostasy, consider the conclusion drawn:
"For the rest of us, it is beyond hypocritical for certain conservative Catholics to denounce Joe Biden because he is Catholic and does not support making abortion illegal while applauding a self-described 'hockey Mom' who is skating close to apostasy. The Church's sacramental traditions and beliefs are as worthy of respect and defense as our moral traditions and beliefs.”

OK, now I get it. We have to be concerned about Palin's supposed "apostasy" because this supposedly levels the playing field in regard to what other Catholic politicians do about abortion. In other words, there's no moral difference between a 12-year old following what her parents tell her about religion, and an adult senator supporting abortion rights, thus cooperating in that evil.

To be sure, I hope and pray that one day Governor Palin will return to the fullness of the faith. But her unfortunate departure from the Catholic faith is totally irrelevant to the question of voting.

Yes, the Church's "sacramental traditions and beliefs are as worthy of respect and defense as our moral traditions and beliefs.” But there's a difference between them when it comes to public policy.
The state has an obligation to protect and defend human life, including the life of the innocent unborn. When it fails, politicians need to act to insure life is protected. That is why the question of a politician's stand on abortion is so important to consider when voting.
But whether or not a politician believes in the Real Presence, or the infallibility of the Pope, or any other article of the Creed, is not relevant to public policy. I don't foresee Congress voting to define any dogmas, do you? Are we supposed to give politicians a test on the Catholic Catechism before we cast our vote? If that were the case, there would be no one at all to vote for!