Archive for the ‘Pharisees’ Category

Critique of Bishop Olmsted’s Response

December 25, 2010

Bishop Olmsted, responding to blogger criticism of his decision to remove the “Catholic” designation from St. Joseph’s hospital because it took the life of a child in defense of the life of the child’s mother, stated:

I really don’t read the blogospheres. I try to pray each day to find my identity in Jesus Christ. I start my day, every day, with an hour of adoration. I celebrate the Eucharist. I pray morning prayer, mid-day prayer, evening prayer, and night prayer. My identity comes from Christ. Christ is present in his living body, the Church. That’s my identity – it comes from that. If I’m unfaithful to that — then whether I’m looked at one way, or another – if I’m given praise or whether I’m given ridicule – it doesn’t matter. What I’m called to be is faithful to Jesus Christ and his Church.


A few responses:

1) He’s not going to win any bonus points from me for blowing off the blogosphere. Obviously, though, he’s under no moral duty to read what people write on the Internet or in the newspaper, or what they say on TV or over the radio. Whether the media is old or new, he’s not under a moral duty to take any interest in what other human beings have to say about things.

2) For someone who really thinks it doesn’t matter, he looked rather nervous and he sounded quite defensive. Perhaps, however, the nervousness had some other source, such as what his fellow bishops will be saying about his decision.

3) His mention of his adoration, Eucharist, and daily prayers is a reference to the fact that he is required under the canon law of his church:

Can. 663 §1. The first and foremost duty of all religious is to be the contemplation of divine things and assiduous union with God in prayer.

§2. Members are to make every effort to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice daily, to receive the most sacred Body of Christ, and to adore the Lord himself present in the sacrament.

§3. They are to devote themselves to the reading of sacred scripture and mental prayer, to celebrate worthily the liturgy of the hours according to the prescripts of proper law, without prejudice to the obligation for clerics mentioned in ⇒ can. 276, §2, n. 3, and to perform other exercises of piety.

§4. With special veneration, they are to honor the Virgin Mother of God, the example and protector of all consecrated life, also through the marian rosary.

§5. They are to observe faithfully an annual period of sacred retreat.

And again:

Can. 276 §1. In leading their lives, clerics are bound in a special way to pursue holiness since, having been consecrated to God by a new title in the reception of orders, they are dispensers of the mysteries of God in the service of His people.

§2. In order to be able to pursue this perfection:

1/ they are first of all to fulfill faithfully and tirelessly the duties of the pastoral ministry;

2/ they are to nourish their spiritual life from the two-fold table of sacred scripture and the Eucharist; therefore, priests are earnestly invited to offer the eucharistic sacrifice daily and deacons to participate in its offering daily;

3/ priests and deacons aspiring to the presbyterate are obliged to carry out the liturgy of the hours daily according to the proper and approved liturgical books; permanent deacons, however, are to carry out the same to the extent defined by the conference of bishops;

4/ they are equally bound to make time for spiritual retreats according to the prescripts of particular law;

5/ they are urged to engage in mental prayer regularly, to approach the sacrament of penance frequently, to honor the Virgin Mother of God with particular veneration, and to use other common and particular means of sanctification.

I bring this up simply to note that what he says he is doing is simply what canon law requires him to do.

4) These requirements are not as rigorous as the requirements for those in monastic life, but they do impose a significant daily burden on a person. The various hours require not just a quick “Hail Mary,” but reference to the books that dictate the particular prayers, hymns, and readings for that particular day and hour (there’s a great deal more discussion here, for those interested).

5) It’s easy to believe that the bishop has found his identity in this, which he has (exceedingly sadly) confused with Christ. A life of daily attendance on these requirements is a disciplined life that adheres to rules. Those who have been in the military may have seen men like this who found a sense of identity in the rules and regimes associated with that life. The prayers at regular intervals from a book that requires simply obedience, not thought, provide a regime that can be followed and give one a sense of belonging.

6) Such discipline is (in itself and without consideration of the end to which it is being put) a good thing. God has created men to obey. Indeed, it is even good to be regular in praying to God – not so that it will become a rote chore, but to be in the habit of turning to God to seek His aid, thank Him for His gifts, confess our sins, and praise Him for His greatness. Rome further perverts the matter by including all sorts of mariolatry into the regime, but that’s neither here nor there.

7) Rome, however, uses this as a yoke to place on the shoulders of their priests (bishops are priests too). It becomes a duty that they must do to please the Church and (it is implied) God. But God has not asked for this – God has not said that this is what will please Him.

8) I have to admit that when I heard this short speech, many verses flooded into my mind. The first passage was this:

Luke 18:9-14

And he spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and despised others: “two men went up into the temple to pray; the one a Pharisee, and the other a publican. The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself, ‘God, I thank thee, that I am not as other men are, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even as this publican. I fast twice in the week, I give tithes of all that I possess.’ And the publican, standing afar off, would not lift up so much as his eyes unto heaven, but smote upon his breast, saying, “God be merciful to me a sinner.’ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified rather than the other: for every one that exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.”

When questioned about his decision, this bishop put down his critics and exalted himself, based on his rituals. But he’s missing the point, what God desires is not the rituals, but the contrite heart:

Psalm 51:17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise.

What this attitude of following the rules of religious life in the Roman religion misses is what Jesus himself taught:

Matthew 5:20 For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.

9) A final passage also came to mind as fitting the situation.

Matthew 23:23 Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.

Here’s a bishop talking about going through his rote prayers – the minimal requirements of his clerical office, and yet he has just condemned a hospital that made the very difficult decision to use lethal force to defend the life of a woman from her child. Was that decision right? Ultimately God will judge, but normally lethal force is permitted in defense of life. If, in fact, the situation is as it has been reported, it appears that the woman had the right to defend herself.

10) I was also struck by the fact that the bishop’s stated identity was not Christ alone, but “Christ and the Church.” What he considers to be faithfulness to Christ is faithfulness to the rules of his church. However, in following the rules of his church, he’s not following God’s law. I’m not simply talking about his failure to allow self-defense to be a justification for killing in this case, but about the fact that he offers worship (hyper-dulia) to Mary, engages in idolatry (in the latria of what is truly bread), and seeks to be right with God (evidently) through faithfulness rather than by faith.

– TurretinFan

P.S. I was also a little surprised he didn’t mention Mary. But don’t worry, there’s an image of Mary based on the Guadalupe idol behind him.

Christ’s Objection to the Corban Exception

February 9, 2008

In Jesus days, the leaders of the Jews had developed a tradition whereby a child could refuse to assist his parents. In the following pericope, Jesus addresses that tradition:

Mark 7:9-13
9And he [Jesus] said unto them [the Pharisees and scribes], Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition. 10For Moses said, Honour thy father and thy mother; and, Whoso curseth father or mother, let him die the death: 11But ye say, If a man shall say to his father or mother, It is Corban, that is to say, a gift, by whatsoever thou mightest be profited by me; he shall be free. 12And ye suffer him no more to do ought for his father or his mother; 13Making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.

Let us see first the commandments that Jesus identifies:

Exodus 20:12 Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Deuteronomy 5:16 Honour thy father and thy mother, as the LORD thy God hath commanded thee; that thy days may be prolonged, and that it may go well with thee, in the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Exodus 21:17 And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death.

Deuteronomy 27:16 Cursed be he that setteth light by his father or his mother. And all the people shall say, Amen.

Jesus has identified both the positive and negative ordinances that are relevant. The first ordinance was: honor your parents, the second, if you dishonor your parents, capital punishment.

Nevertheless, despite these commandments, the Jews (meaning the leaders, the Pharisees and Scribes) sought to find exceptions.

Scripture states only that the way to meet the exception was to say “it is a gift,” by which we understand that they meant a gift to God. Scripture does not specify how they justified such a tradition.

According to one person with whom I was recently discussing the matter, the justification was an appeal to:

Numbers 30:2 If a man vow a vow unto the LORD, or swear an oath to bind his soul with a bond; he shall not break his word, he shall do according to all that proceedeth out of his mouth.

In other words, the justification would be that Numbers 30:2 can be used to trump paternal requests by vowing to give the item to God, and consequently tying ones own hands from granting one’s parents request. This is a rather ironic interpretation, when one considers the context of the verse.

Likewise, this same person suggested that Leviticus 27:28 might be used to justify the tradition:

Leviticus 27:28 Notwithstanding no devoted thing, that a man shall devote unto the LORD of all that he hath, both of man and beast, and of the field of his possession, shall be sold or redeemed: every devoted thing is most holy unto the LORD.

The point is that if you give it to God, it is God’s, and consequently you cannot sell it or redeem it. How could you sell it if you had already given it to God? Well, one might give some fraction of the fruit of the land to God. For example, someone might swear an oath to God that if God will give him a son, he will give God a third of the wheat that his land produces. The result is that every year, at harvest time, he needs to give that wheat to God, and not sell it.

So, how might someone seek to set those two verses against the first five? The answer is this, when your parents come to you for help, you swear an oath to give the things to God, which then prevents you from giving them to your parents. See? Ah, but wouldn’t that mean you had to give them to God? Oh, no. You see, you just give them to God conditionally, upon the condition that you live 200 years, or you promise to given them to God in 200 years. You see? Now, you never have to give up your stuff, either to God or your parents. Amazing, eh?

But, of course, such an interpretation of the latter two verses is plainly wrong, not only because it is so patently absurd (since the person has no real intent to fulfill his vow to God), but because it contradicts the commands to honor one’s parents. In other words, the interpretation is clearly wrong because it sets Scripture against Scripture. God authorized men to swear to Him and to devote things to him, but not in order to violate His commandments. A man may not lawfully swear an oath to kill an innocent man, although the Jews sometimes tried this:

Acts 23:12 And when it was day, certain of the Jews banded together, and bound themselves under a curse, saying that they would neither eat nor drink till they had killed Paul.

Nor would God honor such an oath. Those who make such foolish oaths place themselves under inescapable shame. So also with those who make oaths to avoid honoring their parents, or to steal, or to commit adultery.

God cannot be set against himself, but men are fond of trying to find ways to do so. The “Corban” exception was one such example, and (as noted above) Jesus pointed out that the Jews did many things like that.

May God give us grace not to elevate the traditions of men to the level of the Word of God,


Convicting Thoughts on the Lord’s Day

January 25, 2008

This author does not want Pharisaism (nor legalism either), and yet one cannot read accounts of even modern Jewish reverence for the Sabbath without being convicted that we could do more to reverence and sanctify the Lord’s day. More discussion here (link).

May God give us greater respect for the fourth commandment (Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy!),


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