Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Be Thou Peter, by Fr. Depauw


The following letter was originally sent, without any publicity, as a private communication between a priest and the Supreme Pontiff who, two years earlier, had blessed and commissioned him as leader of the CATHOLIC TRADITIONALIST MOVEMENT.

Only when, after waiting for three months, the C.T.M. was informally notified that no formal "fatherly reply" could be expected, was it decided to make the letter public, both in print and on tape, under the title "Be Thou Peter."

Soon translated worldwide into Dutch, French, German, Italian and Spanish, the 1967-letter soon became, and still stands today, as the unequalled "anguished cry" of the post-Vatican II "Suffering Church."

Sent August 15, 1967,
by C.T.M. President, to Pope Paul VI

Your Holiness:

I still vividly remember that December 1, 1965 evening when Your Holiness personally blessed me and my work with the traditionalist Catholics who selected me to be their spokesman. I shall never forget the crushing handshake of Your Holiness after I had candidly stated that we, traditionalist Catholics, were ready to collaborate most loyally with Pope and bishops for the implementation of the decisions of the Second Vatican Council, but would continue to oppose the false interpretations of those decisions which were already then causing so much confusion in the minds and hearts of our Catholic people.

I equally remember how Your Holiness literally begged me to urge the Catholics I was to lead in their fight for "TRUTH and TRADITION" not to lose faith in the Church. And Your Holiness justified that request by stating: "Once the dust stirred up by the recent Ecumenical Council will have settled down, the Church will come out of all this with renewed strength and vigor."

May I humbly submit that during this past year and a half I have labored as hard as any human individual could to do precisely what Your Holiness asked me to do: to keep the faith in our Church alive among those Catholics who had justifiedly become alarmed to the point of publicly asking themselves and others: "What, in the name of God, is happening to our Catholic Church?!" And may I add that one of the principal aspects of my efforts to keep that faith in our Church alive has consistently been the stressing of belief in the divine foundation of the Roman Papacy and respectful loyalty to its present incumbent, Your Holiness, Paul VI.

Already then, December 1, 1965, Your Holiness asked me to realize that our Church was going through "one of the gravest crises in its history." If such a description of our Church's condition was true then, how much more can the same be said of our Church today! To say that it has gone from bad to worse would be the understatement of the century.

Today's condition of the Catholic Church is beyond the point of doctrinal heresy, factual schism and even apostasy. It is in a state of chaos and utter collapse resulting from the systematic destruction of first our liturgical and other traditions, and now our very beliefs and morals.

In 1965 we respectfully petitioned Your Holiness to ensure that our American bishops correctly implement the newly promulgated Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, and to permit the retention of at least one Latin traditional Mass a day for the millions of Catholics of the "Latin" Rite who continued to find much deeper spiritual satisfaction in the traditional Mass than in any of the novelties now made available in their churches.

We also begged Your Holiness to urge the greatest moderation upon certain members of the post-conciliar Liturgical Commission in Rome, and to prevent the unbelievably radical and useless changes which they were then fanatically preparing and which were bound, we pointed out, to increase the confusion and despair which the first liturgical changes had already produced among the Catholics, priests as well as lay persons.

Not only have our 1965 requests been ignored, but those of us who dared to publicly submit them have been ridiculed, maligned, defamed, ostracized, and, yes, persecuted. (I need not remind Your Holiness of what I personally have suffered at the hands of our "liberal" Church Establishment under the leadership of the same Baltimore archbishop whom your advisors placed on your list of new cardinals at the very time he was being investigated by your Holy Office on charges of heresy.)

In open violation of all past and present liturgical directives, the Roman Catholic Liturgy, once the envy of all other religions, has for all practical purposes been destroyed. And it gives us very little personal satisfaction to know that all those responsible for this destruction were in advance irrevocably anathematized by the still valid solemn decree of the Council of Trent: "If anyone says that the Mass ought to be celebrated in the vernacular only, let him be cursed." (Canons of the Most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, n. 9.)

Coercive changes have subrogated our traditional practices with the "litniks" of our Church Establishment daily intensifying their attempts to subjugate the "people of God" to becoming "Protestant" Catholics.

Our churches are no longer Catholic in appearance, atmosphere or aim. Tables looking like butcher blocks or ironing boards have replaced our altars in perfect harmony with the 16th century Protestant Reformation directives bent on destroying the belief in the dogma of Transubstantiation and the sacrificial nature of the Mass and replacing it with a symbolical transignification-communal meal.

Our Holy Mass has disappeared an in its place our people are offered a holy mess of vernacularized vacuum stripped of the surety, serenity, uniformity, and dignity of our traditional Latin liturgy.

Hymns associated with the anti-Catholic rebellions of Luther, Calvin and Wesley have unceremoniously uprooted our cherished Catholic hymns to our God and the Blessed Mother, while our uniquely Catholic Gregorian and polyphonic music has been discarded for sounds and instruments sometimes borrowed from the decadent milieu of young human animals.
Communion rails are ripped out and Holy Communion is refused to the "people of God" unless they stand (not kneel) to receive Him at the mention of Whose name all knees should bend, if one is still to trust the text of the "unrevised" New Testament we were given at one time in our Catholic institutions.

The Most Blessed Sacrament, to be reserved in "the central place of honor" according to the legitimate liturgical directives, is relegated to an obscure shoe box-type niche, playing much less than second fiddle to the throne-type chair of the presiding clerical Buddha set up in dead center of a religious flavored discotheque-barn from which the traditional statues and Stations of the Cross have been shipped to the nearest auction gallery or antiques shop.

A steadily increasing number of once unsuspecting Catholics are suddenly realizing that, as we predicted more than two years ago, they are gradually, first with subtle and then with increasing bold changes in the liturgy, being ushered into a humanistic rite of a universal brotherhood meal expressive of the existentialist pantheistic concepts of an illuminated "one-world-religion" preparing the way for a communist controlled "one-world-government."
But, not only our liturgical traditions have been destroyed. The very beliefs and morals of our Catholic heritage are now up for grabs in our so-called "Church of the Aggiornamento." Steadily, day in and day out since Vatican II, silt has subversively been shunted in to the minds of the Roman Catholics in America.

Our "Catholic" universities, seminaries, and colleges are bluntly rejecting the religious character that justifies their existence, and their teachers of the "new theology" are calling into question, if not outright rejecting, every tenet of our doctrinal heritage. Not only are they now ridiculing the objective and historical value of both Scripture and Tradition, but they are even eliminating such fundamental Christian beliefs as the Divinity of our Lord and Saviour, His virgin-birth, as well as the belief in the Blessed Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost now very nonchalantly replaced with the unholy trinity of Marx, Freud and Teilhard de Chardin.

Sunday after Sunday our traditional dogmas and moral precepts are denigrated with pseudo-modern preachments of Socialism or worse emanating from our pulpits occupied by "new breed" clergymen whose pathological obsession with sex has brought them to the low point of not only advocating the end of clerical celibacy, but even of condoning fornication, homosexuality, trial marriages, artificial birth control, divorce, and abortion.

Our Church Establishment's press and radio and television presentations are totally captured by the same heretical forces. And our once respected nuns not only have become nonentity "nones" with absurdity of demeanor and dress, but are sabotaging the religious instruction of our youngsters and children by replacing our traditional catechisms with brain-washing religion (?) books subtly poisoning the minds of our coming generations into gradual acceptance of first a unitarian, then a pantheistic, and finally an atheistic philosophy of life.

While some of our American cardinals and bishops are way in front of these apostatic hordes of religious rioters, the rest of our hierarchy are burying their heads in the sand, rocking their consciences to sleep with the proverbial "Everything will be O.K.!" or trying to compensate for the trust and respect they no longer command among their own Catholic people by hob-nobbing with those outside-the-fold merely to produce nothing but a superficial inter-faith harmony built on the swift sand of doctrinal compromise and false hopes.

Your Holiness, we traditionalist Catholics, see the evil visibly extant and reject any portion of that evil!

Your Holiness knows better than any other person how we of the C.T.M have bent backwards to remain loyal and obedient to both the spirit and the letter of the recent Ecumenical Council, including those of its non-doctrinal decisions of which we could understand neither the necessity nor the usefulness. However, taking a closer look at the "Conciliar" church forced upon us in the name of Vatican II, and simply judging the tree by its fruits, we are tempted to agree with one of your own immediate collaborators in Rome who has been quoted as characterizing the recent Vatical Council as "a sinister farce acted out by a number of good-for-nothings, some of whom, despite the gold crosses on their chests, don't even believe in the Holy Trinity or the Virgin."
Your Holiness, we were, we are, and we intend to remain members of the CATHOLIC Church, and we refuse to become absorbed into any new CONCILIAR church! WE CONDEMN AND REJECT THE CONCILIAR CHURCH!

In spite of all the gigantic and expensive promotional techniques used to "sell" it, the "Conciliar" church fails to fascinate the public, and refuses to spiritually refresh the individual. Instead it is repugnant to the point of rejection so tragically evident in the all-time low of our conversion rate and religious vocations, and the pathetic trek of our most loyal and devout Catholics transferring the almost snuffed out candle of traditional Catholic beliefs and practices from our desecrated churches to the underground sanctuary of their hearts and homes.

Your Holiness, if no IMMEDIATE ACTION is taken by YOU, the public reality of the Catholic religion will phase out very soon. Already the memory of a "real" Mass is fading away from the minds of our younger generation, while their elders are growing indifferent or bitter over a Church which, if all her former beliefs and practices were so irrelevant as to be replaced so quickly and drastically, they prefer to forget as the biggest hoax ever on record.

Your Holiness, take one last, hard look at the dying embers of your Church and ours! And decide, bluntly and honestly, whether you wish to be a POPE, Vicar of Jesus Christ, Supreme Pontiff of the one true Church, or to perpetuate your current image of the BISHOP of Rome, the first among equals, with a place of HONOR but without authority within the ranks of a so-called "college" of bishops.

With no personal offense meant, we must truthfully confess that we are not the least interested in Bishop or even Patriarch Montini. The true affection and obedient respect
which we still have for you goes to you only as Pope Paul VI, Vicar of Christ, Supreme Pontiff, with true power of JURISDICTION over all Catholics, including patriarchs, cardinals, and bishops. Only a POPE who is willing to exercise his God-given prerogatives can save the Church now from further disintegration!

Does Your Holiness remember how you enthusiastically took my hands in your that December 1, 1965, when I respectfully but candidly told you that we, traditionalist Catholics, do not believe in two thousand five hundred little popes but rather in two thousand five hundred bishops and one Pope?

This statement of policy of our C.T.M. still holds today with this difference: But for a few exceptions which we can count on the fingers of one hand, WE NO LONGER BELIEVE IN OUR BISHOPS WHO BETRAYED YOU AND US, but we still believe in a Pope! We even still believe in Pope Paul VI if he starts doing immediately what he failed to do so far: ACT LIKE A POPE!
Your Holiness, may I most respectfully but with the candidness of a grown-up son who loves his father deeply tell you, that, contrary to what your entourage of flatterers tells you, your image to the traditionalist Catholics, your most loyal sons and daughters, has been one of a very weak Pope who contradicts today what he affirmed yesterday, and wastes his energy in trying to reconcile the irreconcilable: water and fire, error and truth, modernism and traditionalism.
We of the C.T.M. still refuse to join the increasing number of Catholics all over the world who accuse you of being part of the team out to destroy the Church we once knew, and of being less interested in remaining the Supreme Pontiff of Christ's one true Church than in becoming the Chief-Chaplain of a new one-world religion in the service of a one-world government.
We of the C.T.M. still have pent up in the reserve of our hearts the enthusiastic loyalty we, traditionalist Catholics, exclusively set apart for our Supreme Pontiff. And we would like nothing better than to forget the past four years and shower our loyalty on a Paul VI turned into a new Saint Pius X who had the courage to face the reality of enemies within our own ranks and the integrity to condemn them. The first four years of your pontificate, Your Holiness, have been disappointing to the most loyal of your sons and daughters. But, late as it is, you still have the opportunity to once more be capable instead of culpable.

May we, the traditionalist Catholics whose unworthy spokesman I am, help Your Holiness out of the impasse your enemies cornered you into, by humbly submitting to you the following two requests:

Publicly announce via all available international public media that you are again exercising the prerogatives of the Supreme Pontiff of Christ's One True Church, and that the interregnum of Vatican II is over.

Let the world know that the Second Vatican Council started as an honest try on the part of a wonderfully sincere but shamefully abused old man, the unforgettable "good Pope John," but turned out to be a horrible mistake.

Maybe it was precisely the fear of this horrendous possibility that caused the Holy Ghost to have Pope John declare from the very start that Vatican II, unlike all previous Ecumenical Councils, was not a DOCTRINAL Council but simply a PASTORAL one, thus leaving the door open for any future Pope to eradicate it from the records.

Your Holiness, when honest people commit a blunder they admit it and try to undo it as quickly as possible. Vatican II has so far produced nothing but confusion and disunity among the people of God's Church. It takes humility and courage to admit that even a Pope, outside the realm of his infallible ex cathedra definitions, can commit a blunder. But it is this kind of humility that endears a truly great leader to his subjects. Even so, you know better than all of us together that to lose face is nothing compared to losing souls.

Rescind that falsely interpreted and abused "Collegiality" decree IMMEDIATELY and PERMANENTLY. The burden of the Papacy cannot be shared and was never intended to be. To Peter and to him alone were given the keys of the Kingdom. Peter and Peter ALONE was appointed to strengthen the faith of "his brethren," the first bishops who governed the primitive Church not just WITH but UNDER Peter. Stop wearing that bishop's mitre and place the papal tiara back on your anointed head where it was placed the day you accepted to serve as Christ's Vicar and Supreme Pontiff. You accepted the job; you have tasted the privileges -- now, taste the responsibilities; they are the two sides of the same coin. Give us another opportunity to let the world know once again that: "HABEMUS PAPAM! We have a Pope!"

Stop accepting decisions made by your alleged "advisors." Stand on your own two feet! These advisors have led you and the Church into the abyss of their anti-Christ activity. They have forced you into a world position of being apparently at ease in such impossible situations as your praying at the pantheistic monstrosity of the United Nations' "meditation room," your denying to the favorite visionary child of Fatima the favor granted to publicly known, unrepentant examples of degraded womanhood, your hobnobbing and exchanging symbols of religious authority with leaders of what still are heretical or schismatic sects, and above all, your lending respectability to the leaders of international Communism, which is still out to destroy our Church and all other religious bodies for that matter.

Stop listening to the politically attuned and diabolical-oriented "advisors" who have infiltrated the highest echelons of our Church, exactly as Our Lady foretold in her last message of Fatima which has been unjustifiedly withheld from our Catholic people for seven years now.
Stop listening to the red and purple-clad crypto-atheists who are readying your Alitalia jet for another melodrama in Moscow, of all places!

Listen instead to the genuine Roman Catholic, the traditionalist "man and woman in the pew" who want their Pope to act like a Pope; the same Catholic who continues to kneel when receiving his living God in Holy Communion; who still prays the Rosary to his Mother in Heaven; who still genuflects at the words "And the Word was made flesh by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary: and was made man"; who still reads the Last Gospel of St. John in his or her worn-out missal; who still says the Leonine prayers after Mass for the conversion of Russia; who still abstains from meat on Fridays; who still goes to church on Sundays instead of Saturdays; in one word, the traditionalist Catholics who refuse to turn their backs on the Son of God for any son of man, despite the red or purple he proudly preens.

Establish a new "Vernacularist Rite" for those interested in it, and publicly revitalize our now dormant centuries-old Latin Rite by eliminating from it the prelates and priests who planned its destruction.

If there are still persons who prefer to continue in the now de facto existing "non-Latin" rite, we certainly do not wish to deprive them of that satisfaction. We would only suggest to them that they in turn request Your Holiness to do some spiritual cleaning in their non-Latin sector of your Church, and clean house of such cancer spots as Baltimore, Chicago, Detroit, San Francisco, Atlanta, Oklahoma, San Diego and other Worcesters which coercively infect the whole. Friends on the surface, the heretical pseudo-cardinals and bishops in command of those dioceses are your enemies behind your back, Your Holiness.

We, traditionalist Catholics, however, can no longer have ANYTHING to do with an Establishment that has completely betrayed the traditions and the beliefs of the Church of our Fathers.

We have received information that the upcoming Synod of Bishops scheduled for next month in Rome is at last willing to recommend the celebration of one mass in Latin each Sunday in each parish for the benefit of those of us described as older Catholics who failed to adapt themselves to the so-called "aggiornamento."

While we might have gratefully accepted this arrangement two years or even one year ago, today we must sorrowfully label such proposal as "too little and too late!" WE ARE NO LONGER PART OF THE CONCILIAR CHURCH ESTABLISHMENT, and no belated Latin Mass left-overs can now satisfy the spiritual hunger of the traditionalist Catholics. We just could not stand the smell of a dwelling where we would have to live again under the same roof with the Shehans, the Deardens and other Codys of an Alfrinkitis-infected Conciliar church which has "entered into a league with death, and made a covenant with hell." (Isaias, 28, 15.)

Your Holiness, I fully realize how presumptuous it would be for me to approach Your Holiness on matters of this nature in simply my own personal behalf. However, may it please Your Holiness to accept the following concrete proposals as coming from the millions of distressed and suffering loyal Roman Catholics whose spokesman I have become in the United States of America, as well as from the countless other Catholics with whom our Movement has coordinated its efforts in twenty-eight other countries.

It is in the name of those millions of loyal Roman Catholics that I now formally request Your Holiness to establish a new "vernacularist rite" for those interested in it, and publicly revitalize our now dormant centuries-old Latin Rite by eliminating from it the prelates and priests who planned its destruction.

This rejuvenated Latin Rite will, of course, incorporate the doctrines of the traditional "Profession of Faith" as well as its concomitant Anti-Modernistic oath, and will live by the laws and liturgy that existed on October 9, 1958, the day the saintly Pope Pius XII went to his eternal reward.

The Mother that generously allows some of her children to keep their Abyssinian, their Alexandrian, their Antiochian, their Armenian, their Byzantine, their Chaldean and other rites, should do no less for her LATIN Rite children, who are tired of being treated as the proverbial stepchildren and feel equally entitled to this public acknowledgement of their maturity and love of our Faith.

We respectfully request that Your Holiness personally and immediately, without going through any of the customary red-tape delays, allocate to the "vernacularists" certain churches, rectories, schools, convents, and seminaries to fill their needs, while at the same time solemnly reaffirming the established property rights of the Traditionalist Roman Catholics of the Latin Rite over all other Roman Catholic church buildings and properties in the U.S.A.

We respectfully request that Your Holiness appoint the Moderator of the C.T.M., the Most Reverend Bishop Blaise Kurz, the principal Ordinary of the Traditional Latin Rite in the U.S.A., and empower him to proceed with the immediate consecration of new bishops selected from the list of one hundred and fifty-six American priests who have joined me in this last all-out effort to save our Church.

May I also inform Your Holiness that these priests, the cream of the crop, have also been joined by fifteen Sisters, eleven Brothers, eleven seminarians, and two thousand one hundred and twenty-eight American families, who are ready to immediately organize and support our renovated centuries-old Latin Rite for the spiritual benefits of millions of other Catholics who have secretly expressed their support to us and are only waiting for Your Holiness' public seal of approval to publicly join our ranks.

Your Holiness! In the name of Jesus Christ, your and our Lord and Saviour, have the courage to disperse the false shepherds and listen to your own conscience! Prove once again to friend and foe alike that the Gates of Hell did indeed not prevail. Stir the embers of a dying Church and, with gallant despair, make her once more a House of Refuge in lieu of a house of refuse. Bind instead of grind the gnawing wounds of Christ's Mystical Body.

Holy Father! We beg you to leave the dead-end Appian way into which your advisors steered you. We do not want you to grace the pages of future history books as one of our weak Popes and your picture in them captioned with "Paul, the Weak" rather than "Paul, the Great." Let history recount Paul VI as the Pope who put the Church on G-U-A-R-D again, the Pope who, after one of the gravest crises in her history, gave back to the Church her attributes of Greatness, Uniformity, Authority, Respect, and Dignity.

Your Holiness! It would indeed be most inconsistent for the spokesman of loyal traditionalist Roman Catholics to become the sender of ultimata in his dealings with the Supreme Pontiff of his Church. However, I would be remiss in my responsibilities to you, our Pope, and to the people I represent, if I did not state unequivocally that the patience of the traditionalist Catholics has reached the breaking point.

We can no longer remain part of an Establishment ready for the final ravishment of our Holy Mother the church. We must and will break the chains that still keep us forcibly tied to a system of negating Christ, trampling on sacred traditions, lampooning once-revered liturgical and penintential practices, destroying the faith and morals of future generations, and perpetuating a hierarchy and clergy publicly committed to replacing once voluntarily accepted responsibilities with a life of fulfilled personal ambitions and moral duplicity.

Your Holiness! If we do not receive a satisfactory answer from Your Holiness or at least are given an opportunity to discuss our requests and proposals with Your Holiness personally-within the next month, we shall consider our requests denied and our proposals
rejected, and draw the sad and tragic conclusion that Our Mother the Church has temporarily abandoned the best ones of her children.

I pray to God and to His blessed Mother whose Assumption we commemorate today -- and millions all over the world are joining me in this prayer -- that such a dark and tragic day will never come. But, if we have no other choice, we will jealously protect the small but still burning candle of our traditional Catholic Faith, and patiently carry on our spiritual "Resistance" movement without the hoped-for papal approval.

I owe it to Your Holiness to herewith honestly state that, in the full realization of our responsibility to God, to our Church and to the souls entrusted to our care, we are ready for any eventuality to the point of having taken the measures necessary to guarantee the valid apostolic succession within our ranks.

Holy Father! Do no reject the best and most loyal ones of your sons and daughters! But, even if Paul VI would close his soul and heart to us -- Quod Deus avertat! -- We will not reject the papacy!

Abandoned by you, we would sorrowfully pray and wait for the day a new successor of St. Peter would open his arms again to those of his children whose only crime it was to live up to the admonition of your patron saint: "Even if an angel from heaven should preach a gospel to you other than that which we have preached to you, let him be cursed." (GAL. 1, 8), or of those other early Church leaders who taught us: "We ought to obey God rather than men." (ACTS 5, 29).

Dear Holy Father, at one time I was warned by my friend-turned-traitor, your former Delegate in Washington -- now Cardinal Vagnozzi! -- that you could well be swayed by your "advisors" into replacing your 1965 blessing to me and the C.T.M. with even the sternest of disciplinary measures. He was unable to scare me because I still have enough of the simple faith of a child to believe that no Vicar of Christ could ever capitulate into that kind of abyss.

Meanwhile I shall continue to resist any self-styled "little pope" who tries to intimidate me into surrender, and continue to cite to him the words of St. Thomas More who forfeited his earthly life in defense of the true Church. When the prosecuting Shehan of his days asked this man for all seasons: "Come on, More! Do you wish to be considered wiser and of better conscience than all the bishops and nobles of the realm?" St. Thomas replied: "My Lord, for one bishop of your opinion I have a hundred saints of mine; and for one parliament of yours, and God knows of what kind, I have all the general councils of the Church for a thousand years!"

Dear Holy Father! Permit me to summarize this long letter to Your Holiness by redirecting to YOU the anguished cry you directed to US, the loyal traditionalist Catholics, on September 1, 1963: "The day is growing late. Become convinced that it is necessary to work today, immediately, that not an hour can be lost. The need is immense and most urgent. Come and help us to tell the world where is truth and where is error!"

Prayerfully expecting Your Holiness' fatherly reply to this final anguished cry of today's "Suffering Church" I beg to remain.

Your loyal and devoted son in Jesus Christ,

(s) Father Gommar A. DePauwPriest since 1942 -- President, C.T.M.
For more on Father Depauw, click here: http://www.dailycatholic.org/issue/04May/may24ttt.htm

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Was Jesus born on December 25th?

In a post earlier this week, we examined a biblical argument from the chronology of Saint Luke's Gospel for identifying the birth of Christ our Lord in late December.

Today, let us take a look at the same subject from the perspective of Sacred Tradition.
The argument for Christ's historical birth on December 25 has two parts. The first part relates to the Blessed Virgin Mary's role in the Apostolic Tradition. The second part explores the the early Fathers regarding the date of Christ's birth. By the way, I'm preparing another post that will briefly look at Pope Benedict XVI's argument for the Divine Nativity having taken place on December 25. Look for that on Christmas Day.
Immaculate Mary: Mothers Never Forget

Ask any mother about the birth of her children. She will not only give you the date of the birth, but she will be able to rattle off the time, the location, the weather, the weight of the baby, he length of the baby, and a number of other details. I'm the father of six blessed children and while I sometimes forget these details (mea maxima culpa), my wife never does. You see, mothers never forget these details.
Now ask yourself this: Would the Blessed Virgin Mary ever forget the birth of her Son Jesus Christ who was conceived without human seed, proclaimed by angels, born in a miraculous way, and visited by Magi? She new from the moment of His divine Incarnation in her womb that He was the Son of God and Messiah. Would she ever forget that day?*
Next, ask yourself this: Would the Apostles be interested in hearing Mary tell the story? Of course! Do you think the holy Apostle who wrote, "And the Word was made flesh" was not interested in the minute details of His birth?

Whenever I walk around with our seven-month-old son, people always ask "How old is he?" or "When was he born?" Don't you think people asked this question of Mary?
So the exact birthday (Dec 25) and the time (midnight) would have been known in the first century. Moreover, the Apostles would have asked about it and would have, no doubt, commemorated the blessed event that both Matthew and Luke chronicle for us.
We Americans have a federal holiday for Martin Luther King, Jr on January 16. We also celebrate the birthdays of George Washington and Abraham Lincoln. If Americans so regard the birthday of a man who ended racial segregation, would not the Apostles regard the birthday of Christ our Savior?
In summary, it is completely reasonable to state that the early Chistians both knew and commemorated the birth of Christ. Their source would have been His Immaculate Mother.

The Church Fathers Testify to December 25

In the previous post, we showed that Christmas could not have been a Christian attempt to replace a pagan holiday with a newly minted Christian holiday. Further testimony reveals that Catholics claimed December 25 as the Birthday of Christ prior to the conversion of Constantine and the Roman Empire.
For example, Saint Hippolytus writes in passing that the birth of Christ occurred on a Wednesday on December 25. Saint Hippolytus wrote this sometime between A.D. 200 and 211! Here's the quote:
"The First Advent of our Lord in the flesh occurred when He was born in Bethlehem, was December 25th, a Wednesday, while Augustus was in his forty-second year, which is five thousand and five hundred years from Adam. He suffered in the thirty-third year, March 25th, Friday, the eighteenth year of Tiberius Caesar, while Rufus and Roubellion were Consuls." - Saint Hippolytus of Rome, Commentary on Daniel
Also note in the quote above the special significance of March 25, which marks the death of Christ (March 25 was seen to correspond to the Hebrew month Nisan 14 - the traditional date of crucifixion).**

Christ, as the perfect man, was believed to have been conceived and died on the same day (March 25). In his Chronicon, Saint Hippolytus states that the earth was created on March 25, 5500 B.C. Thus, March 25 was identified by the Church Fathers as:

  • the Creation date of the World
  • the date of the Annunciation and Incarnation of Christ
  • the date of the Death of Christ our Savior
In the Syrian Church March 25 or the Feast of the Annunciation was seen as one of the most important feasts of the entire year. It denoted the day that God took up his abode in the womb of the Virgin. In fact, if the Annunciation and Good Friday came into conflict on the calendar, the Annunciation trumped it - so important was the day in the Syrian tradition! It goes without saying that the Syrian Church preserved some of the most ancient Christian traditions and had a sweet and profound devotion for Mary and the Incarnation of Christ.

Now then, March 25 was enshrined in the early Christian tradition and from this date it is easy to discern the date of Christ's birth. March 25 (Christ conceived by the Holy Ghost) plus nine months brings us to December 25 (the birth of Christ at Bethlehem).
Saint Augustine confirms this tradition of March 25 as the Messianic conception and December 25 as His birth:

“For Christ is believed to have been conceived on the 25th of March, upon which day also he suffered; so the womb of the Virgin, in which he was conceived, where no one of mortals was begotten, corresponds to the new grave in which he was buried, wherein was never man laid, neither before him nor since. But he was born, according to tradition, upon December the 25th.” - Saint Augustine, De trinitate, Book 4, 5.
In about A.D. 400, Saint Augustine also noted how the schismatic Donatists celebrated December 25th as the birth of Christ, but that the schismatics refused to celebrate Epiphany on January 6 since they regarded Epiphany as a new feast without a basis in Apostolic Tradition. The Donatist schism originated in A.D. 311 which may indicate that the Latin Church was celebrating a December 25 Christmas (but not a January 6 Epiphany) before A.D. 311.

Look for the third and final part tomorrow on Christmas (Pope Benedict on December 25 and Christmas).

In the meantime, since it is December 24, let us contemplate Joseph and Mary arriving in Bethlehem walking about looking for shelter for the coming night. Then they are allowed to use the stable cave and around noon Saint Joseph begins to prepare the place for the miraculous event. Joseph and Mary must have been full of quiet expectation. May they pray for us as we also eagerly await the Christ Child.

Godspeed and Merry Christmas,

 Taylor Marshall

 * A special thanks to the Reverend Father Phil Wolfe for bringing the "memory of Mary" argument to my attention.

** There is some discrepancy in the Fathers as to whether Nisan 14/March 25 marked the death of Christ or his resurrection. Regarding this problem, here is an external post on Julius Africanus and the dating of Christmas and the meaning of March 25.

Friday, December 02, 2011

An Introduction to Scholastic Philosophy

An Introduction to Scholastic Philosophy

The philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas was the marvel of the Middle Ages and the crown jewel of Catholic scholarship. Yet, Aquinas’ philosophy was in many ways the culmination of 1,600 years of Greek philosophy. Much to the boon of Christian philosophers at the time, the philosophy of Aristotle was rediscovered during the Middle Ages after having been lost during the downfall of the Roman Empire 1,200 years earlier. The philosophy of Aristotle gave St. Thomas Aquinas and his contemporaries the tools they needed to prove the reasonableness and rationality of the Catholic faith. This unique blend of pagan wisdom (the philosophy of Aristotle) and revealed wisdom (the Scriptures and teachings of the Church) was called Scholastic philosophy. The most famous Scholastic philosophical work was St. Thomas Aquinas’ five-volume treatise Summa Theologica. In the Summa Theologica, Aquinas used the doctrines of the Church as a springboard for exploring the deepest questions of philosophy.

Aristotle’s Definition of the Nature of Being and the Material

Since scholastic philosophy relies on many of the principles of Aristotle’s philosophy, it is necessary to explore Aristotelian principles before delving into scholastic works such as Summa Theologica. Perhaps the most important Aristotelian principle is the idea of being and an understanding of what all things are composed of. In modern thinking the answer to such questions as, "what is the nature of things?" seems simple. We are taught at an early age that all things are composed of atoms, and that atoms are the building blocks of all matter. Modern scientific teaching holds that the nature of a human is strictly material; a man is nothing more than matter (composed of atoms) and energy. Since science can show us that atoms truly exist (we can see them in electron microscopes), and that we are composed of carbon based molecules, water and electrolytes it seems reasonable to conclude that we are strictly a collection of atoms and energy. Aristotle, however, did not buy into this line of reasoning. Although some of his contemporaries believed that the ultimate basis of being is atomistic, Aristotle believed that it was false to say that being is defined only by the sum of its parts. The reason the atomistic theory is fallacious is that the substantial form of a material or being can not be located in any part of the substance (such as atoms, sub-atomic particles, quarks, etc.) rather, parts such as atoms are predicated to an already existing substance. In other words, something must be the basis of material things, and simply subdividing the material into smaller and smaller particles does not allow us define the nature of the material thing.

Therefore if we want to understand what a thing is in the philosophic sense, we must define a thing as a whole before predicating parts and quantity to it. Aristotle believed that when we ask the question "what is a thing composed of?" or "what is the nature of a being or thing?" the answer lies in the substance of that thing. Substance is a philosophic term that is defined as the primary mode of being. All things are composed of a substance. Therefore, the basis of reality lies in substances. Atoms and other particles are real, yet they are only parts of the whole. This is why substance is called the primary mode of being. Now, it is important to realize that substance is not an imaginative concept, it is a rational concept. This means that we can’t picture what a substance is in our imagination; rather we must use rationality and logic to understand it.

In addition to the primary mode of being, substance, all things have secondary modes of beings called accidents. Accidents are those things that allow us to imagine a being or thing. Accidents inhere in a substance and give it physicality. Aristotle defined ten categories of being which allow us to answer the question, "what is a being or thing composed of?"

The Ten Categories of Being

    1. Substance
    2. —Substance is the primary mode of being and defines what a thing is. Substance is the foundation of reality and cannot be pictured in the mind without also picturing the accidents that inhere in the substance.
      The remaining categories of being are accidents: secondary modes of being.
    3. Quantity—
    4. quantity allows us to define the parts in a substance. For example, a tabby cat has two ears, two eyes and a multitude of atoms and genetic material.
    5. Quality—
    6. quality is a descriptive term such as, the softness and brown color of a tabby cat.
    7. Relation—
    8. relation identifies the relative state between two objects. For example, that tabby cat has the same color fur as the Angolan cat.
    9. Action—
    10. the action of the subject is also an accident. Action does not necessarily imply motion or change. For example, "the tabby cat is sitting still" is a valid action accident of the cat.
    11. Passion—
    12. In the philosophic sense, passion is defined as change. For example, we can say that the aging process of the tabby cat is a passion.
    13. Location—
    14. Location is also an accident. For example, we could say that an accident of the tabby cat is that it is sitting on top of the sofa.
    15. Posture—
    16. Posture identifies the spatial orientation of the subject. For example, we can say the tabby cat is sitting with all four feet on the floor and it’s tail is in motion.
    17. Temporality—
    18. Temporality is the affectation of time on the subject. For example, the tabby cat is seven years old.
    19. State—
    20. State seems to imply change in the subject which allows us to identify it from other subjects. For example, the tabby cat currently has both eyes closed and is falling asleep.

    We can clearly see that nine of the ten states of being are accidental. Yet, only the primary mode of being, the substance, defines a being or object. For example, we could say that the length of President Bush’s hair is a quantitative accident. If he were to cut his hair there would be a change to his accidental qualities (the length of his hair), but he would still be President Bush because his substance has not changed. We should also note that accidents do not exist separately from a substance. Rather, they inhere in a substance. The length of someone’s hair does not exist separately from a person. Therefore, no substance can be imagined without its inherent accidents and no accident can exist separately from a substance.

    Potentiality and Actuality

    The concept of potentiality and actuality is critical to scholastic philosophy. Actuality and potentiality are opposites that describe the state of a substance. Actuality describes the exact form, state, position and the rest of the ten categories of being as they apply to some object. If we use the tabby cat example, we can say that the categories of being such as the cat’s posture, location, qualitative properties, quantitative properties, etc. actualize the cat. In other words, the cat is actual simply because it exists. However, the cat not only has actuality, it also has potentiality. The cat is capable of changing any of its accidents by simply moving, shedding fur, aging or even changing its substance (such as when the cat changes from a living cat into a corpse after death). In this sense, we say that the cat has a potential to change. All material things have both actuality and potentiality simply because of their virtue to change.

    The reason the concept of potentiality and actuality is important to scholastic philosophy is because it is the central pillar in Saint Thomas Aquinas’ cosmological proof for the existence of God. Consequently, an understanding of the Aristotelian concepts of potentiality and actuality is necessary for scholastic and Christian philosophers.

    Prime Matter and Substantial Form

    Now that we understand the difference between a substance and an accident as well as the ten categories of being, we can attempt to further understand what exactly a substance really is. Aristotle believed that a substance is composed of prime matter and form. Prime matter is not the same thing as physical matter (the kind we usually think of as composed of atoms). Instead, prime matter should be thought of in terms of potency and actuality. Prime matter is nothing more than pure potency. It is the substantial underlying reality of all things, and as such, has the potential to become anything. Prime matter (since it is substantial) has no physical appearance, quality or quantity. Prime matter cannot even be thought of separate from form. Form is what allows prime matter to become substance. For instance, all of the elements on the Periodic Table (such as iron, gold, silver, mercury, etc.) can be thought of as comprised of prime matter. The thing that differentiates the elements from each other is their form. Silver and gold are composed of the same prime matter but have different form. Form and prime matter constitute the substance of any object, and the substance of that object is inhered with accidents that give the substance a physical character.

    Substantial Changes vs. Accidental Changes

    We have already learned that the accidents of any object can change. An accidental change of this nature does not affect the substance of the object. If a cat changes its posture, its accident of location changes, yet it is still a cat. A change of accident will not cause the cat to become anything else.

    However, there can be changes to the substance of an object. If an object’s form were to change, then the object’s substance would likewise change. This type of change is called a substantial change. For example, if a cat were to walk off a cliff and fall 60 feet to its death, it would undergo both an accidental change (due to the change of the cat’s posture and location) and a substantial change (caused by the death of the cat). We can no longer call the cat a living animal; instead it has substantially changed into a corpse. A similar thing occurs in chemical reactions. If a substance such as iron were to combine with oxygen, the iron would become iron oxide: rust. The change from iron to rust involves a substantial change in the form of the iron. The oxidation process renders a change in the substance of the iron into something new.


    One criticism to Aristotle’s unique view of the world is perhaps the fact that modern science seems to view the world in a substantially different manner. It can be argued that in the example of the cat, the feline DNA comprises the real nature of the cat; not some strange idea such as substance. In other words, the parts determine the whole. However, this view, mechanistic materialism, is fundamentally flawed. If we were to appeal to DNA as the fundamental reality of the cat (as if DNA was a building block for the cat) we would still need to explain the parts of the DNA. Otherwise, how do we explain what these parts are if DNA is the prime building block of the cat? A mechanist materialist would probably then appeal to the atom as the prime building block of DNA and hence the cat. Of course, atoms are composed of sub-atomic particles, which demand explanation. These particles are also made of sub-particles, and so on… Eventually, the materialist must arrive at some particle which is the fundamental reality of the cat; the one thing that makes the cat real. However, even if he were to stop his sub-atomic chain at such a particle (such as pure energy or super-strings) he would still have to explain where the particle derives its "reality". In this event, the materialist would just admit that the energy particle (for arguments sake lets call it a super-string) just is real; it has no explanation for itself and must be a completely simple reality. If he did this he would find himself agreeing with Aristotle. Why? The reason is that the materialist will have agreed that the super-string is a fundamental reality. The super string has mass, quality (such as brightness or texture), quantity and possibly other modes of existence called accidents by Aristotelian thinkers. The materialist must agree that the fundamental particle (the super-string) has accidents, otherwise where does the quantity, quality, position, posture, etc. of the cat come from? If the materialist agrees to the fact that the super-string is a fundamental reality with accidental qualities, then he has just defined an Aristotelian object. His object has substance (a primary mode of being which fundamentally just is) inhered with accidents (secondary modes of being which give the substance discernable characteristics). In the end, the materialist will be forced to admit the reality of substance and accidents over the philosophy of an endless string of mechanistic materialism. We can also simply say that the cat just is a simple substance inhered with accidents that are divisible into parts (DNA, proteins, atoms, quarks, super-strings, etc.) The cat is defined as a whole rather than a sum of parts. The cat is fundamentally composed of primary matter with the form of a cat. The parts (such as cat DNA and its constituent atoms) are also feline since the form of the cat is inherent in every part of the cat. The substance of the cat determines the parts to be what they are. An individual atom separate from the form of the cat is substantially different because the substance of the atom is atomic, but an atom in a cat is only part of the whole: therefore its substance is feline. The bottom line is that a whole must be defined first before parts can be predicated to it.

    I will leave the reader with one last example to drive home the difference between the mechanistic materialist view of matter and the Scholastic view of matter. Certainly, most of us have learned from science that an atom is almost entirely composed of empty space; there is very little material in the atom (protons, neutrons and electrons). Rather, the mass of the atom is constituted in the nucleus and the majority of the atom is an empty void with electrical charges (electrons) orbiting the nucleus. A materialist will often point out that a solid object such as a table is nearly entirely composed of empty space due to the spacing of the mass particles in the atoms. The question which remains unresolved is then why does the table seem qualitatively solid (it has color, weight, firmness) if it is composed only of empty space with comparatively tiny subatomic particles? The quality of the table cannot come simply from the quantity of the parts. This suggests that the table is essentially prime matter and form which has the secondary properties of quality and quantity.


    Aristotle’s philosophy is latent in the works of the Scholastic philosophers. The idea of substance and accidents form the basis for the Christian metaphysical understanding of the world. St. Thomas Aquinas and his peers use the metaphysics of Aristotle to explore everything from the nature of man to the nature of God. Additionally, Aristotle’s ideas of actuality and potentiality are manifest within the Scholastic understanding of causation and the creation of the Universe. For the Scholastics, it seems that a great debt is owed to Aristotle. It was in Aristotle, that the philosophers first truly learned to seek for wisdom in the intellect rather than the imagination and sought for knowledge in rationality without limiting themselves to the world of sensation.

    --S.M. Miranda