Sunday, December 30, 2012

3 false mantras intended to silence the Church

In today's entry, I examine 3 mantras or buzz terms extant in today's media and culture, each of which are logically flawed arguments, and each of which are intended to gather support for the censorship of the Church. Sometimes these statements are made by non-Catholics, and sometimes they are made by those who claim to be Catholics in good standing.


This type of argument is perhaps most commonly seen in news story comboxes.

An ABC News commenter writes: "As soon as the Catholic Church cleans their own moral house – they can tell Catholics and Non-Catholics how to live their lives." A Minnesota Minnpost commenter writes: "Until the Catholic Church can clean up there own sins, [they don't] have any right to talk about any law." In another paraphrased echo, a Nov. 2012 CNN blog responder writes: "The catholic church needs to clean up their own pedophile-filled sewer before they try telling anyone else how to think."
Admittedly, comboxes are havens for high emotion and bombast. But this mantra is extraordinarily prevalent and not exclusive to comboxes. I distinctly remember 670 The Score host Mike North, prior to his departure from the station a few years ago, make the exact same argument in response to some public statement from a member of the clergy.

But all of these comments have the same basic demand. The Church must remain silent as long as sin exists within it. The problems with this argument are multifold.

To begin, these arguments, all recent, are founded on the myth that the Church does not address sins within the Church, particularly with regard to the pedophilia scandal of recent years. The folks over at have cataloged a number of statistics on the improvement in Church self-policing in the last 10 years, in addition to stories often overlooked, such as false accusations that have falsely nourished the myth of universal sex abuse or other scandal in the Church. The Church has also permitted third party investigations, including the vast and recent John Jay report last year. The Church has called for seminary screening to include psychological tests in an effort to prevent infiltrators from abusing the priestly office. Early in the exposure of the scandal, the American Church brought in Kathleen McChesney, a former FBI agent to remedy the situation. The Church's response goes on and on. To argue that the response could be "better" or not is beside the point. Those who argue the Church doesn't address these matters are simply advancing falsehoods.

Secondly, these comments calling for silence are often addressed to priests or bishops who are by all accounts innocent of any scandal. What justice is there for my local priest, innocent of the crimes of a minute percentage of his peers, to suddenly forfeit the entire purpose of his ministry and refuse to teach morality from the pulpit? The demand is nonsensical on its face.

And third, imagine the following analogy. Mr. & Mrs. Smith have two sons. The elder son is caught taking harmful and illegal drugs. The parents have a talk with the elder son. But soon after, he acquires the drugs again, and is involved in an ongoing drug problem. Meanwhile, Mrs. Smith finds out that Mr. Smith has a certain addiction to visiting strip clubs. This has caused an obvious additional rift in their marriage and in the family. Finally, the youngest son decides to become a petty thief. Mr. and Mrs. Smith have a talk with the younger son, explaining to him that it is wrong to steal. The younger son back-talks to his parents, to those in charge of "shepherding" him. He tells his parents they have enough sin to deal with in their household. The parents admit their problems and their ongoing efforts to solve them, but the younger son ignores the concession. He says "until" they "clean up" their sins, he will go on stealing. The younger son demands the parents' voice be silenced.

At the end of the day, where does the younger son fail? Do the parents have problems in their home? Yes. Do they admit the problem? Yes. Are the parents still the parents? Yes. Does the younger son ever confront the idea that stealing is wrong? No. That is where the younger son, the one who attempts to silence those who love him, fails. Stealing is right or wrong independent of the parents' personal problems. The association made by the youngest son is therefore flawed. And regardless of their ongoing issues, loving parents retain every right and obligation to articulate the immorality of thievery.


Another method to avoid confronting the teachings of the Church is to accuse the Church's positions of being archaic or old-fashioned.

Raymond Gravel, an openly dissident Canadian priest, is quoted: "The leaders of the Catholic Church...have locked themselves up in their archaic and obsolete doctrines...they refuse any re-definition of marriage that would allow homosexual couples to legalize their union." Pamela Haag, appearing in the Huffington Post (whose erroneous, anti-papacy material I addressed previously) writes in defense of abortion and modern "sex": "Without access to affordable, reliable, convenient birth control, heterosexual men's and women's sex lives are effectively rolled back to the pre-Griswald 1930s." Following the Pope's recent utilization of Twitter, an anti-Catholic cartoon caricatured the Pope as saying: "This 21st century technology is great for spreading my 15th century views on gays, women and contraception!"
What is perhaps most peculiar about this line of argumentation is the insinuation that if an idea has an older or ancient pedigree, it must be wrong. Again, the accusation is nonsensical on its face. My eyebrow of suspicion is especially raised at the lack of similar accusations against modern scientists who continue to advance Isaac Newton's 17th century views on gravity and physics. Or where are the opponents of the applicability of Shakespeare's 16th century philosophies on love and other realms? Let's not even mention those professors who keep using Pythagoras' archaic 6th century B.C. mathematics!

The main point, of course, is that this "appeal to modernism" (argumentum ad novitatem) logical fallacy fails to confront the substance at hand. Consider abortion. For example, if the Church teaches abortion is wrong because it kills a person in the womb, then attempting to confront that claim by calling it "archaic" neither defeats the Church's position nor supports the arguer's position. It doesn't tell you anything about the validity of the argument. It instead treats it like a style of clothing. It says, "The Church has been pro-life for 2,000 years––you wouldn't want to support that any more than bell-bottoms, right? You'd be out of fashion!"

Secretly, the "archaic" line of argument defeats itself, for its logic defers to a future postulator that calls it old-fashioned.


Let's cut right to some examples:
Quoted in the UK Telegraph, a dissident group that rejects Church doctrine called the Church "mysoginist," "homophobic," and "intolerant." A gay rights group in England named Cardinal Keith O'Brien "Bigot of the Year," for believing same-sex unions are not "marriages." In May 2012, NY Times opiner Maureen Dowd wrote an article which warned in the headline of "the church's intolerance," and went on to claim that the Church is "intent on loyalty testing, mind control and heresy hunting. Rather than all-embracing, the church hierarchy has become all-constricting."
Let's forget for a moment about the 800-lb gorilla of irony who ghost wrote Ms. Dowd's column, and how her column is a test of the Church's loyalty to Ms. Dowd's views, is an attempt to influence the minds of her readers to her position, is an accusation that the Church has violated Ms. Dowd's defined heresies of "intolerance," and has constricted the Church's option on doctrine to the boundaries Ms. Dowd has set. I don't even know what to make of the "mind control" comment, but I pray I am not writing this with the spiraling eyes of a drone.

But what is the issue here, once again? None of these name-calling monickers confront the Church's actual position. They are strawmen or perhaps, more accurately, non sequiturs. If the Church believes that a sacrament, such as the priesthood, demands terrestrial representation of that which it signifies, and therefore maleness must be characteristic to depict Christ, the incarnate male bridegroom of the Church, then what productivity is there in simply shouting "mysoginists!" as a response? The same would apply to the Church's view of the complimentarity of males and females with regard to marriage, or the Church's view of life, etc...

If one refuses to confront the Church's position on the natural and theological plane and foundation from which it is taught, one can hardly seek refuge in name-calling as an adequate substitute. Instead many of the accusers have set up certain doctrines of their own. And those who do not comply are branded bigots of some sort.


There was a time when anti-Church accusers would prop up the Inquisition as one of a handful of historical events when trying to establish mistrust in the Church. Their view of the Inquisition was that the Church forced people to comply with Church doctrines or face quantifiable persecution. Today, that same activity is taking place and now faces the American courts. Catholic or other religious institutions are threatened under penalty of potentially crippling fines to embrace the state's doctrine of the virtue of funding birth control, abortifacients, and other bodily dysfunctioning sterilization procedures. Those who do not comply are branded as bigots, intolerant, archaic, and told to clean their sins before fines or potential arrests to civil disobedience are administered. What is it but a 21st century "Inquisition"? Have the Church's critics gone so far as to become what they have purported to loathe?

In 1942, C.S. Lewis's book The Screwtape Letters was published. It is a fictional tale utilizing theological perspectives. In it we read letters from a master demon counseling his apprentice as to how to lead a certain man assigned to the apprentice to hell. Page 1 contains the following excerpt:
Your man has been accustomed, ever since he was a boy, to have a dozen incompatible philosophies dancing about together inside his head. He doesn't think of doctrines as primarily "true" or "false", but as "academic" or "practical", "outworn" or "contemporary", "conventional" or "ruthless". Jargon, not argument, is your best ally in keeping him from the Church.
And so when you see various false mantras assigned to the Church in an effort to silence Her, remember to ask yourself, what is the Church's actual position? Can I articulate it in a way the Church would recognize as Her own argument? Is dismissing the Church's position as "archaic" or "intolerant" an adequately reasonable or just response?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Wallpaper: Night Church Silhouette

I recently put together the below desktop wallpaper graphic of a church silhouetted at night. Inspiration for the image came in part from the Catholic Church at Cambridge.

Download your free The Catholic Voyager Night Church Silhouette wallpaper! (Just click the size you prefer below and it will open in a new window. Right click the image and chose "save image as" to download.)

Friday, November 30, 2012

Suffering & Heroic Christianity

For many Christians, events and circumstances of the world try their resolve and the faith to which they have devoted themselves. In such dark hours, or even dark days or years, a weary child of God may find him or herself wondering how circumstances can burden so long or intensely. They might even be bombarded by others who tell such Christians that they are the cause of their own suffering. Perhaps even another Christian preacher who professes a prosperity gospel tells them their trials are due to some sin or deficiency in their very faith. Perhaps these weary Christians pray for the same things over and over and never see an answer in accord with the petition. They feel a type of emptiness or distance from God. And they ask themselves, does not divine revelation speak of Christians having "hearts that burn within" (Luke 24:32) for Christ? Shouldn't that be always? And does not God say "Ask and you shall receive"? (Matt. 21:22) And so the crosses they bear and the distance they feel from divinity become matters of suffering and can challenge their faith.

As difficult as it sometimes may be, such Christians may consider remembering the totality of divine revelation and the wisdom of the saints.

Consider the Biblical book of Job, perhaps the most famous work in human history regarding the matter of suffering. Job is an icon for a righteous person who suffers in spite of his righteousness. He is a precursor to God incarnate, who humbled Himself and accepted unjust suffering at the hands of His own creatures.

Job is stricken with a variety of physical and financial afflictions and the loss of family. Only after a lengthy period of grief is he renewed, his "losses" recovered multifold (Job 42:10) so to speak, with restored health, family, and treasures. The restoration to this "new life" reminds us of the eternal life anticipated by a Christian that supersedes all previous joys in life. It is the "treasure in heaven" that is the prize on which the Christian sets his eye. (Luke 18:22)

The man Christ, just as many of his suffering Christian followers thereafter, cried out to God to be spared the suffering, bloody "cup" which he endured and to which he was headed. (Matt. 26:39) Yet it seems this petition was not answered in accord with how it was stated. From that point, Christ remained in suffering, and was scourged and crucified, the ultimate innocent man, suffering the ultimate penalty. Christ had added a caveat to his prayer, that ultimately, to let God's will be done. And after all his suffering, the Christian witness testifies to his resurrection and glory.

Thus, in these examples of Job and Christ, the Christian may not necessarily know the mechanics of the value of suffering and how it can be converted into great spiritual treasure, or how we are purged by it into holiness. But the Christian can have reason to believe that value exists because of these accounts, especially in regards to Christ. If Christ was God incarnate and accepted suffering in solidarity with man which lead to glorification, then should not the grieved Christian hope for the vanquishment of the darkness?

There is here, perhaps, an inspiring truth for the suffering Christian. Great is the faith of the one who remains faithful even in darkness. Consider the words of saints:
Blessed Angela of Foligno says that the prayer most acceptable to God is that which we force and constrain ourselves to say. Such is the prayer we turn to not for the pleasure found in it or because of our own inclination but purely to please God." (St. Francis de Sales, Introduction to the Devout Life)
As for my outer man, it too, since the spirit does not respond to it, is so besieged that it finds nothing to refresh it on the earth if it follow its human instinct. No comfort is left it save God, who works all this by love and very mercifully in satisfaction of His justice. To perceive this gives my outer man great peace and happiness, but happiness which neither lessens my pain nor weakens the siege. (St. Catherine of Genoa, Treatise on Purgatory, chap. 17)
Great power, says St. Francis, is there in a prayer made with pain. St. Catherine speaks of the siege she endures, and even though she is able to recognize the love of God in her suffering, the pains are no less weakened. These are two venerated saints whose words can inspire those in the midst of such suffering. Even if the pain remains, they can take consolation through it, that great is their prayer from the cross, as is their faith, following in the footsteps of Christ whom first showed the obedient way through suffering.

To maintain hold of the cross, following the Lord through the trial is to exhibit heroic Christianity. It is to be like a docile child, trusting of his parent as he is led through an unpleasant situation he cannot understand even with explanation, yet the parent knows it is for his benefit.

A parable comes to mind, the Parable of the Two Sons (discussed previously at TCV), when reflecting on this image of the heroic Christian who faithful through feelings of darkness.
28"What do you think? A man had two sons; and he went to the first and said, `Son, go and work in the vineyard today.' 29And he answered, `I will not'; but afterward he repented and went. 30And he went to the second and said the same; and he answered, `I go, sir,' but did not go. 31Which of the two did the will of his father?" They said, "The first." Jesus said to them, "Truly, I say to you, the tax collectors and the harlots go into the kingdom of God before you. 32For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the harlots believed him; and even when you saw it, you did not afterward repent and believe him. (Matthew 21: 28-32)
In this parable, the good son is the one who originally didn't want to do the father's will. Yet in spite of his instinct to resist, he overcomes his lethargy. He overcomes his obstinance. He conquers his lack of desire. It is this son who resembles the heroic Christian. The heroic Christian does not depend on constant feelings of a burning heart to respond to God. The heroic Christian understands that this earthly pilgrimage is not the final order, and that when he "asks" he can expect to receive, if not in this life, then multifold in the eternal life. He knows this because the master he trusts first showed the way, even if the pain persists as he follows.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Wisdom from the Diary of St. Gemma Galgani

It's All Saints Day today. It seems appropriate to post about a saint. Recently I finished reading the Diary of St. Gemma Galgani. A little background on this saint, thanks to Glenn at Born in 1878, she was an Italian mystic, and at the time of her writing, she was 22. She was advised to write this journal at the prompt of her spiritual director. She passed away at age 25. I usually use an ereader now, and below are some of the highlights I made and additional reflections on this modern saint.

[E]yes that have been mortified will see the beauty of Heaven. (p. 10)

St. Gemma recalls numerous encounters she has with apparitions of Christ, saints, and her guardian angel. The previous quotation was told to her by her guardian angel. The eyes are often mentioned in Scripture for both good and bad. Job, feeling the torments of earthly life, cries out:

For I know that my Redeemer lives, and at last he will stand upon the earth; and after my skin has been thus destroyed, then from my flesh I shall see God, whom I shall see on my side, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. (Job 19:25-27)
There is a certain goal for Job to "behold" God. Divine revelation gives another perspective on the "eyes" in the Gospels. For instance, in shocking language, it is written:
And if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out and throw it away; it is better for you to enter life with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into the hell of fire. (Matt. 18:9)
And so we are taught by the voice of God through Scripture 2 realities. 1) We must remove our "sinful eye"; and 2) The one who does this, in an ironic twist of sorts, ends up with the ultimate beatific vision in heaven. St. Gemma's angel encapsulates this idea in a tidy sentence.

The days pass and here I am always in the same worldly abyss. (p. 19)

It is not unique to St. Gemma to express grief in a Christian's place in the world. A few years ago, I read St. Padre Pio's letters to his spiritual director, and he often felt terrible weight and pain, particularly when he could not "feel" God's love. As I understand, Bl. Mother Teresa of Calcutta expressed similar sentiments in her letters. Some interpret this skeptically, as a pock mark of sorts against Catholicism or those who walk in the way of the Church. I see it entirely the opposite. I'm reminded of the words of Christ:
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?  (Matt. 5:46)
If we look at these saints, like St. Gemma, feeling the strife of the world in light of Christ's counsel, there is evidence of a phenomenon. These saints retained their faith in Christ even through the darkest hours. There were times when they rejoiced, but they didn't demand the constant feelings of joy in order to keep coming to Christ's table, to keep believing in his promises spoken as the Incarnate Son of God. St. Gemma repeated a paraphrase of this sentiment more than once in the diary. It speaks of a heroism in her resolve against the weight of the worldly pilgrimage. The idea can be inspiring rather than discouraging. Such saints exhibit love for Christ.

Later, she demonstrates exactly the kind of love born of conviction rather than emotion or feelings:

Sunday has arrived. What indifference, what dryness! Still, I do not want to abandon my usual prayers. (p. 24)

This is a similar aspect of love to which married couples are called. They vow to remain faithful "in good times and in bad." Both married and unmarried saints, as members of Christ's bride, the Church, are thus called to love in good times or bad. The inclusion of St. Gemma's heavy sentiments in her diary is rather an inspiration.

That night I suffered a lot because I too wanted to go to heaven, but no one thought to take me. (p. 29)

St. Gemma wrote this after telling of her vision of a Mother Giuseppa who appeared to her and thanked her for praying and offering penance to help Mother Giuseppa attain the heavenly joy. St. Gemma's longing to go to heaven is reminiscent of St. Paul:
I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. (Phil. 1:23-24)
You see how Paul, too, desires to "depart" and be "with Christ" in heaven. The Christian soul feels a sense of detachment to the world, belonging somewhere "else," so to speak. Yet, Paul, and St. Gemma, stayed true to their devotion, work, and prayers in accord with the call they received. There remains a certain importance in toiling in the world during one's life. As one of my professors noted, this is the time, the opportunity for "merit." Recently, I saw Dr. Peter Kreeft speak, and one of the lines he said that remains with me is, "Grace perfects nature." In Catholic theology, the world is not just some fallen place of evil, even if it is a pilgrimage "on the way" to point B. We remember that Christ came incarnate to the world. Mary, giving birth to personified grace himself, delivers grace into the terrestrial realm. As dwellers of this place, we can receive that grace made possible through his solidarity with mankind. Elsewhere St. Gemma wrote:

I find a little peace only in that bit of suffering Jesus sends me, offering it first for sinners, and in particular for me, and then for the souls in Purgatory (p. 23)

As members of "Christ's body, the Church" (eg. Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:24), we suffer in union with him. It is because we are "sharing" Christ's suffering that there is merit and power to our toil. You see in the second-to-last quote how St. Gemma, though she had an inward desire to depart this world and go to heaven, plods in this world for the sake of her soul and for others. This is another example of love working through this saint.

[H]e brought me a cup of coffee... (p. 31)

These words, St. Gemma spoke regarding her guardian angel. It got me thinking that I would not complain if my guardian angel did some chores for me, perhaps starting with laundry.

Whoever reads these things, I repeat again, should not believe, because they are all my imagination... (p. 43)

This, St. Gemma wrote after describing an encounter with the Virgin Mary in which the Blessed Mother cradled her. Read in isolation, the statement sounds like an admission that her mystic experiences are an illusion. But such is not the case in the context of the diary, or even the remainder of the sentence which says:

Whoever reads these things, I repeat again, should not believe, because they are all my imagination; nevertheless I agree to describe everything because I am bound by obedience, otherwise I would do differently.

St. Gemma expressed displeasure in her diary at having to write it. But what is revealed here is that her spiritual directors recognized something in her that they wished to preserve. Other times revealed that her visions went beyond something mental, such as when she wrote of attacks by the devil. On one occasion, she wrote that the

devil gave me such a strong shove that I fell off the bed, causing me to bang my head on the floor with such great force that I felt a sharp pain; I fainted and remained on the ground for a long time before regaining consciousness." (p. 31)

Additionally, she would sometimes speak that her "head would take off." I read this book in English, so I am not certain what the original Italian may have said, but she used this phrase in the context of having a vision. So when she wrote that one should not believe her story about the Virgin Mary holding her, she seems to refer to it occurring in her "imagination" as opposed to in some physical encounter. As well, she distinguishes at other times incidents where her "head would take off" with other visions:

When my guardian angel comes, I am awake, and my head does not take off; Jesus, my Mom and sometimes Brother Gabriel make my head take off; but I always stay where I am; I always find myself in the same place, it's just that my head departs. (p. 13)

It is statement such as these that shed light on her description of the Marian vision occurring in her "imagination."

Finally, I wanted to point out two other occasions in which St. Gemma's name has recently come across my path.

The first is in the previous "saint" book I read, Padre Pio: Under Investigation. The book re-prints an April 7, 1913 letter from Padre Pio to Fr. Agostino. After the letter, the author, Castelli, notes that this letter from Padre Pio was "one accused of being the product of plagiarism because of the consonance, of language and theme, with a private apparition to Saint Gemma Galgani." (e-location 875) The author produces the case, however, that Padre Pio's letter was authentic, not plagiarized, and that his experience was only similar to St. Gemma's. It is interesting to note once again, the similarity in the experiences of some saints, not only with suffering, but here with the character of an apparition and inspiration of words.

The second is from another book I reviewed, The Rite. The book opens with a vivid description of an exorcism and the dialogue exchanged between the demon and the priest. During the ordeal, the priest determines that the demon is writhing against the presence of some unseen saints in the room, and at times fought against these unseen figures at which it screamed. One was Mother Teresa of Calcutta. One was Bl. John Paul II. And the other was St. Gemma Galgani. The author, Baglio, determined from the possessed victim, that St. Gemma "was dressed in her traditional black, and looked very much as she had in her twenties." (p. 2)

It is what the saints do. They serve as members of Christ's body, members that do spiritual battle on behalf of the Church. All the more sense does Paul's analogy of the Church's "body" with parts of a human body having parts that work together. (cf. 1 Cor. 12) And some saints, it seems, are called to be part of the fighting hands of Christ's body.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Update on Indiana vs. Planned Parenthood

Following is an update to the 2011 story involving the state of Indiana's attempt to withhold Medicaid funding to Planned Parenthood (PP) of Indiana. PP argues that Indiana cannot exclude it from federal Medicaid funds.

Since that time, a district judge blocked the state's attempt to withhold those funds. This past Tuesday, October 23, a ruling by the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago supported that decision and argued that Indiana must give Medicaid dollars to PP.

The circuit court's opinion can be read here (PDF). The circuit court judges were Diane Sykes (who wrote the opinion), Richard Cudahy, and Michael Kanne. 

The opinion explains the matter thusly:
Under § 1396a(a)(23) state Medicaid plans “must” allow beneficiaries to obtain medical care from “any institution, agency, . . . or person, qualified to perform the service.” This is individual-rights language, stated in mandatory terms, and interpreting the right does not strain judicial competence.
That means anyone qualified to perform a medical service covered by Medicaid must receive federal  Medicaid funds, according to the circuit court's opinion.


However, the court's own analysis of the case may not adhere to that criteria. First, let's look at the rationale for why PP is considered a "qualified" provider, as well as the definition of "qualified" the court claims to be following (emphasis mine):
Although Indiana has broad authority to exclude unqualified providers from its Medicaid program, the State does not have plenary authority to exclude a class of providers for any reason—more particularly, for a reason unrelated to provider qualifications. In this context, “qualified” means fit to provide the necessary medical services—that is, capable of performing the needed medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner. The defunding law excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, violatingits patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice.
We now read ahead to the court's dismissal, for example, of two of Indiana's arguments from precedent that they can view PP as an unqualified provider. Here is the first, retold in the the circuit court opinion (emphasis mine):
Indiana also points to 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(b)(14), which allows states to exclude providers who are in default on their student-loan payments, and from this provision makes another argument by implication: If the states may refuse to subsidize student-loan delinquents with Medicaid dollars, then they must have the authority to “avoid indirect financing” of any “non-Medicaid” conduct. But like § 1396a(p)(1), this statute merely stipulates a particular ground for excluding a Medicaid provider; it does not imply that the states may establish any rule of exclusion and declare it a provider “qualification” for purposes of § 1396a(a)(23). That would make the free-choice-of-provider requirement a nullity.
And the second (emphasis mine):
Nor does Guzman v. Shewry, 552 F.3d 941 (9th Cir. 2009), help Indiana’s case. There, a provider was suspended from California’s Medicaid program based on a pending criminal investigation. He claimed that federal law occupies the entire field of regulation pertaining to Medicaid and therefore preempted the state’s disciplinary measure. The Ninth Circuit rejected this argument, relying in part on 42 U.S.C. § 1320a-7(b)(5), which provides that the states may suspend or exclude providers from participating in Medicaid “for reasons bearing on the individual’s or entity’s professional competence, professional performance, or financial integrity.” The court remarked that this provision presupposes state regulatory authority over provider qualifications. Guzman, 552 F.3d at 949. 
Here we have two examples of precedent provided by Indiana's attorneys. Both were examples of Medicaid funds legally being withheld from an entity apart from that entity's competence to perform medical services. Remember, the 7th Circuit Court on Tuesday insisted:
“qualified” means fit to provide the necessary medical services—that is, capable of performing the needed medical services in a professionally competent, safe, legal, and ethical manner. 
Both examples presented by Indiana demonstrate that competency to perform a particular medical service can be trumped by factors unrelated to those medical services. I did not see the 7th Circuit Court address that aspect of Indiana's argument. And yet, in its opinion, the 7th Circuit Court specifically ruled against Indiana because it supposedly disqualified PP for reasons other than it's ability to perform certain medical services:
The [State of Indiana's] defunding law excludes Planned Parenthood from Medicaid for a reason unrelated to its fitness to provide medical services, violating its patients’ statutory right to obtain medical care from the qualified provider of their choice.
The 7th Circuit Court's opinion here is worded such that there are no reasons to withhold Medicaid funding from any entity capable of performing certain medical services. Yet, Indiana's lawyers produced several examples (such as the 2 described above) that demonstrate that is not ultimately the decisive factor. A doctor behind on student loans can still legitimately perform medical services. In the example in which there was a criminal investigation on the provider, the 7th Circuit Court considered it okay to suspend their Medicaid dollars even though there was no guilt at the time the funds were withheld. As well, one of the reasons the 7th Circuit Court supported that opinion is because of the question of the "financial integrity" of a provider. We'll take another look at that aspect of PP's financial statements in a moment.

More from the 7th Circuit opinion:
It is true that Medicaid regulations permit the states to establish “reasonable standards relating to the qualifications of providers.”  42 C.F.R. § 431.51(c)(2). But Indiana claims plenary authority to exclude Medicaid providers for any reason, as long as it furthers a legitimate state interest—here, the State’s interest in avoiding indirect subsidization of abortion. This sweeping claim conflicts with the unambiguous language of § 1396a(a)(23) and finds no support in related Medicaid statutes and regulations. 
The opinion went on from that paragraph to reiterate that "qualified" means competent to perform the medical services in question. The opinion reiterates that standard over and over. In other words, the state can establish "reasonable standards" relating to what is a "qualified" provider––the 7th Circuit Court insists Indiana's criteria is unreasonable on the grounds that PP is able to perform certain procedures covered by Medicaid. Yet the court was willing to suspend that standard altogether as we saw in the examples of the cases on student loans or a pending investigation, as well as other cases presented by Indiana to the courts.


Recall from The Catholic Voyager's previous coverage on this case, the state of Indiana submitted to the district court the following argument that PP has not demonstrated that it separates Medicaid funds from abortion services:
PPIN’s audited financial statements for 2009 and 2010 give rise to a reasonable inference that it commingles Medicaid reimbursements with other revenues it receives. ... financial statements provide no record that PPIN [Planned Parenthood of Indiana] makes any effort either to segregate Medicaid reimbursements from other unrestricted revenue sources or to allocate the costs of its various lines of business, whether abortion, family planning, cancer screenings, or other services. ... Medicaid, as a revenue line, is shown with other unrestricted sources of income ... This indicates that, while PPIN may not receive Medicaid reimbursements related directly to abortions (as federal and state laws generally prohibit), the Medicaid reimbursements it does receive for other services are pooled or commingled with other monies it receives and thus help pay for total operational costs.
In other words, PP uses Medicaid funds to pay for total operational costs, which of course includes abortion services not covered by Medicaid dollars. The only comment on this matter I saw from the 7th Circuit Court opinion reads as follows:
Planned Parenthood also performs abortions. The organization uses private funding to support its abortion services and takes steps to ensure that public and private funds are not commingled.
That's it. There is no substantiation that PP prevents Medicaid dollars from going to abortion services other than a cursory statement that it does so. The claim begs the question. The circuit court's opinion is filled with supporting documentation and analysis except on this point. What of the PP's audited financial statements as described by the state of Indiana during the district hearing?

It may be telling, however, that the circuit court's opinion elsewhere implies that Medicaid dollars do indirectly pay for PP's abortion services. Recall this earlier quote: 
But Indiana claims plenary authority to exclude Medicaid providers for any reason, as long as it furthers a legitimate state interest—here, the State’s interest in avoiding indirect subsidization of abortion.
The circuit court's opinion describes the matter, in their own words, as Indiana avoiding "indirect subsidization of abortion." The court's opinion is not qualifying the statement as Indiana's "perception" only, but rather describing the situation as it exists.

So on the one hand, the court dismissively claimed PP separates use public funds from abortion services, and on the other, indicates that PP uses public funds indirectly to subsidize abortion.

Elsewhere, the 7th Circuit Court's opinion suggests the same thing:
The point [of defunding PP] is to eliminate the indirect subsidization of abortion....Act 1210 aims to prevent the indirect subsidization of abortion...
In rebutting this argument, the court does not challenge Indiana's assertion that PP is using public funds to subsidize abortion. It rather seems to admit the claim as fact. Instead, the court insists repeatedly that PP must be funded simply because it is capable of performing other covered medical services.

After reading through the opinion, I was thus left vexed. It seemed that Indiana's strongest argument against funding PP was dismissed with no rebuttal, with no detailed explanation. Instead, the peripheral criteria of PP's "capability" to perform other funds appeared to be inconsistently described as the basis by which a provider must receive Medicaid funds.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Book Review: Padre Pio Under Investigation

Padre Pio Under Investigation: The Secret Vatican Files by Fr. Francesco Castelli is a chronicle centered on a 1921 Church-sanctioned investigation of the mystical phenomena surrounding Padre Pio (Now St. Padre Pio). I give it 8 out of 10 stars.

The book is largely a catalog of the report presented by Bishop Raffaello Carlo Rossi who was assigned to the investigation. This report remained unpublished until the time of this book's publication in 2011. From this book, we get a window into Rossi's journey day-by-day over the period of one week as he interrogates various priests at Padre Pio's convent at San Giovanni Rotondo in the province of Foggia, Italy. We are also treated with first hand Q&A interrogations of Padre Pio including regarding his stigmata, the gift of perfumes, and instances of bilocation.

One of the greatest values of this book is the source material. These testimonies were taken during the third year (out of 50) of Padre Pio's visible stigmata. We learn how the vast majority of Padre Pio's acquaintances held him in high regard and how his detractors were a very small minority whose accusations were deemed faulty or unfounded.

Many accusations that still are echoed to this day are addressed in these 1921 interrogations. For instance, one would not be hard-pressed to find on the internet skeptics of Padre Pio's stigmata who claim he used acid at the convent to create the wounds. This was an issue directly asked to witnesses at the convent as well as to Padre Pio himself. For this particular question, we learn that "each convent kept its own healing herbs and medicines" (ebook Loc. 714) and according to witnesses and Padre Pio himself, carbolic acid was used for a time to disinfect smallpox during 1920 (Loc. 2123). Padre Pio himself was sanctioned to administer those injections (Loc. 3051).

Rebuttals to skeptics' accusations are not limited to convent residents alone. Two doctors and a professor of medical pathology had examined Padre Pio a combined four times prior to Bishop Rossi's investigation. The examinations of these medical professionals were referenced and considered multiple times during Rossi's investigation. He gives us detailed accounts of their recorded observations of Padre Pio's stigmata. Although I would like to have read more source material from those in the medical community who examined Padre Pio's body, Rossi does directly quote from their reports from time to time. For instance, Rossi quotes Professor Bignami's bewilderment at Padre Pio's wounds: "What is impossible to explain with the knowledge we have of neural necrosis is the perfectly symmetrical location of the lesions described." (Loc. 1669)

Throughout this investigation, we are also given a picture from the eyes of that time of those surrounding Padre Pio. This includes the convent-frequenting "Pious Women" who were significant witnesses to Padre Pio's gifts and value of his counsel.

We are also given an idea into Rossi's honesty as he includes many instances of supposed miracles some of his over-zealous fans of, or perhaps enemies of, Padre Pio that were unfounded, some even denied by Padre Pio himself.

This book may seem redundant to some readers. The first part of the book offers author Castelli's insights into the investigation, which quotes from Rossi's report numerous times. Then, in the core of the book, Rossi's report is provided, and to the reader, many of the quotations are now familiar.

Also of value is a following portion of the book. Castelli includes multiple letters of spiritual direction from Padre Pio's then-spiritual director, Father Benedetto Nardella, giving us a window into both Padre Pio's life as well as Fr. Benedetto's.

As well, the book is refreshing at a time today when the Church is painted in secular avenues as merely an evil institution of cover-up. The book provides a window into the seriousness with which the Church's Holy Office took the phenomena surrounding Padre Pio, and the reluctance that existed in affirming or promoting it. A timeline ends the book, chronicling many years in which Padre Pio was forbidden from publicly celebrating the Liturgy or hearing confessions. And these sanctions were applied despite Bishop Rossi's favorable report to Padre Pio's character and the merit of the mystical phenomena surrounding him.

I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in St. Padre Pio or the operations of the Church.

Monday, September 24, 2012

The canon of scripture, Damasus, and the "Gelasian Decree"

In some non-Catholic circles, there exists an argument against Pope Damasus having decreed the canon of Scripture at a council in Rome, ca 382 A.D. Here is an example from the One Fold blog arguing against Catholic apologist John Martignoni:
What John is referring to when he says the “canon was set at the Council of Rome in 382 A.D,” is actually a list from the Gelasian Decree produced in the sixth century and sometimes falsely attributed to the council of Rome.
A similar claim is made by Protestant historian F.F. Bruce:
What is commonly called the Gelasian decree on books which are to be received and not received takes its name from Pope Gelasius (492-496). It gives a list of biblical books as they appeared in the Vulgate, with the Apocrypha [sic] interspersed among the others. In some manuscripts, indeed, it is attributed to Pope Damasus, as though it had been promulgated by him at the Council of Rome in 382. But actually it appears to have been a private compilation drawn up somewhere in Italy in the early sixth century. (Bruce, The Canon of Scripture, p. 97)
One of the apologetic reasons for claiming the 382 decree on the canon is false is because the text in question includes the longer Catholic canon with 7+ books1––what Bruce calls the "Apocrypha." Catholics today refer to these texts as the Deuterocanon. Those opposed to the authenticity of the 382 decree are apparently averse to admitting to the antiquity of the Catholic canon. Admittedly, this is peculiar, because One Fold, perhaps following the admission on page 97 of Bruce, admits that the longer Catholic canon was declared at Hippo (393) and Carthage (397), just a few years later anyway.
The first ecclesiastical councils to classify the canonical books were both held in North Africa — at Hippo Regius in 393 and at Carthage in 397 — but what these councils did was not to impose something new upon the Christian communities but to codify what was already the general practice of those communities. (ibid. 97)
It's worth noting that Bruce admits the longer Catholic canon was "already the general practice" of the early Christian communities.

Nevertheless, what of the authenticity of Pope Damasus proclaiming the longer canon in 382? Catholic historian William Jurgens writes as follows:
The first part of this decree has long been known as the Decree of Damasus, and concerns the Holy Spirit and the seven-fold gifts. The second part of the decree is more familiarly known as the opening part of the Gelasian Decree, in regard to the canon of Scripture: De libris recipiendis vel non recipiendis. It is now commonly held that the part of the Gelasian Decree dealing with the accepted canon of Scripture is an authentic work of the Council of Rome of 382 A.D. and that Gelasius edited it again at the end of the fifth century, adding to it the catalog of the rejected books, the apocrypha. It is now almost universally accepted that these parts one and two of the Decree of Damasus are authentic parts of the Acts of the Council of Rome of 382 A.D. (Jurgens, Faith of the Early Fathers, vol. 1, p. 404)
So, according to Jurgens, both Damasus and Gelasius included the canonical list, but Gelasius added additional forbidden texts. Whether this took place at the "end of the fifth" century or the "sixth" century, as Bruce asserts, they are apparently speaking of the same Gelasian text. The question is whether or not what Gelasius wrote in the 5th/6th century was an innovation from the 382 Decree of Damasus as One Fold and Bruce assert.

It seems to me, the Decree of Damasus in 382 at the council of Rome is the more historically sound. Here's why. In 1912, the author Ernst von Dobschütz, gave his historical rationale for doubting that Damasus made a decree on the canon at Rome in 382. He points out that in the Gelasian decree is a quotation from St. Augustine dating from 416. Therefore, he denies that any other part of the decree could have originally been from Damasus in 382. From this, he concludes that the entirety of Damasus' decree has "no historical value." We see, of course, that this is specious reasoning. After all, if Damasus declared a canonical list in 382, and Gelasius in the 5th/6th century added to that a quote from Augustine, that would not erase Damasus' original declaration.

All these dates and names can be confusing. But here's the apparent timeline:
  • 382 - Pope Damasus makes his decree on the larger Catholic canon
  • 416 - Augustine makes his comments.
  • 5th/6th century - Gelasius takes Damasus' decree, and edits it, adding to it the Augustinian quote and lists other apocryphal texts
If Gelasius added an Augustinian quote, it has no effect on what Damasus declared. Yet von Dobschütz concludes the entire Decree of Damasus is worthless. Bruce apparently echoes this historical view by calling into question the dating of the canonical list in Damasus' decree.

Another Protestant resource confirms Jurgens and the timeline I have posited above:
A council probably held at Rome in 382 under St. Damasus gave a complete list of the canonical books of both the Old Testament and the New Testament (also known as the 'Gelasian Decree' because it was reproduced by Gelasius in 495), which is identical with the list given at Trent. (The Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church, 2nd ed., p. 232)
Thus, we have sound evidence that the longer Catholic canon found acceptance from councils ancient and more recent including Rome (382), Hippo (393), Carthage (397), Nicea II (797), Florence (1442)Trent (1546) and Vatican I (1870). It is this canonical list that has found consistency throughout the centuries.

1For the text of the decree on the canon at the council at Rome (382), see Gary Michuta's Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger, page 126-127, or refer to the Latin text here.

Friday, September 14, 2012

TV star Donna D'Errico on her Catholic faith

In recent news, Donna D'Errico, former prime time TV star, has been talking about her renewed Catholic faith. I first read about this at Catholic Vote. The story was in reference to an interview she did with Fox411, in which she expressed her affinity for the Divine Liturgy and the Rosary. See also her recent interview at Ignitum Today.  Pro-Catholic stories like Donna's among the world of celebrities are uncommon. As a follow to that interview, I asked her if she would answer a few short interview questions for my blog, and she was kind enough to reply. Here is her interview with The Catholic Voyager:
TCV: Recently, you articulated that you've made mistakes in life, and eluded to something you've worn for the past 6 years. Can you expound on that item and what it means to you? 
DD: I was referring to my Brown Scapular. I was enrolled into the Brown Scapular many years ago, and have not removed it since. 

TCV: Who is your favorite saint and what about them appeals to you? 
DD: Saint Monica. Her struggles in her marriage resonate with me. 

TCV: Today there are many "Catholics" who dissent with a variety of Church teaching. For example, there are politicians, some nuns and even priests, actors, or actresses who disagree with the Catechism on abortion or doctrines like how priests must be male to sacramentally represent Christ. Would you consider yourself a "traditional" Catholic who embraces the doctrines of the Church? Or do you see yourself as having views opposed to those taught in the Catechism?  
DD: If your beliefs are not in full accordance with the Baltimore Catechism, then you're not Catholic.

TCV: What advice would you give to young people today, especially young ladies, who are adverse to religion, on what the Church has to offer? 
DD: I'm not sure what advice I could give to anyone who is adverse to religion. I'm certainly no missionary. I returned because outside of it, I was lost and headed down the wrong road. I don't buy into the new-age mindset that everyone is automatically saved and automatically goes straight to Heaven. It sounds really nice and all, but it's just not the case. If you die with mortal sin on your soul, you go to Hell - plain and simple. The one, true, Canonically correct, pre-Vatican II Catholic Church offers everything you need to be able to make it into Heaven. 

TCV: You recently mentioned support for Ron Paul as opposed to either major party candidate. Do you feel that the nation could stand to benefit from a third party leader outside the major-two-party system? 
DD: Yes. Although it wasn't always this way, candidates who represent either of the two major political parties are largely all the same person. You may as well cover your eyes and throw a dart, and decide who to vote for that way. They are puppets, controlled by puppeteers. The only chance we have of getting someone in office who is not controlled by the "powers that be" is by voting for the person rather than the party.
I want to thank Donna for her response to my interview request and for all her interviews in which she courageously has spoken with the conviction of truth on things Catholic such as the Liturgy, the Rosary, prayer, and Confession.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Misinformation on Creationism and Evolution

The Osgood File is a mini radio show played on some radio stations throughout the nation. On August 23, 2012, the host, Charles Osgood, reported on Autism risk as it related to the father's age of the child. You can read the whole thing here if you're interested in the Autism study.

One of the parts that caught my ear was the following of Osgood's statement:
...most mutations are benign. And in fact, they're the essential engine of evolution - or, evidence of the Hand of God, if you're a creationist. It's the way that organisms change over time.
As it is stated, it appears that Osgood believes there is a void between someone who believes there is a Creator and someone who believes in the theory of evolution. Osgood's statement is made as a contrast. As we've discussed on this blog, there is a sentiment that religious belief and science are at odds, and Osgood's statement fits in with this myth.

Truth be told, not all Creationists must be anti-evolution. In fact, such believers aren't even a rare exception. And Osgood did not qualify his statement.

Although evolution is a matter of science and not theology, the idea is not incompatible with Catholic theology as long as it does not attempt to eliminate God from the ensoulment of humans. For example:
Taking into account the state of scientific research at the time as well as of the requirements of theology, the encyclical Humani Generis considered the doctrine of "evolutionism" a serious hypothesis, worthy of investigation and in-depth study equal to that of the opposing hypothesis. Pius XII added two methodological conditions: that this opinion should not be adopted as though it were a certain, proven doctrine and as though one could totally prescind from revelation with regard to the questions it raises. He also spelled out the condition on which this opinion would be compatible with the Christian faith, a point to which I will return. (Pope John Paul II, Truth Cannot Contradict Truth, 1996)

Further expounding on Pope Pius XII's Humani Generis, Pope John Paul II continued:
Pius XII stressed this essential point: If the human body take its origin from pre-existent living matter, the spiritual soul is immediately created by God ("animas enim a Deo immediate creari catholica fides nos retinere iubei"; "Humani Generis," 36). Consequently, theories of evolution which, in accordance with the philosophies inspiring them, consider the spirit as emerging from the forces of living matter or as a mere epiphenomenon of this matter, are incompatible with the truth about man. Nor are they able to ground the dignity of the person.
So essentially, evolution is not incompatible with the faith, so long as it does not claim to interfere with the theological matter of the soul––a matter outside the bounds of science.

One of the pertinent statements in Pius XII's Humani Generis reads as follows:
[T]he Teaching Authority of the Church does not forbid that...research and discussions...take place with regard to the doctrine of evolution, in as far as it inquires into the origin of the human body as coming from pre-existent and living matter -- for the Catholic faith obliges us to hold that souls are immediately created by God. (Pope Pius XII, Humani Generis, #36, 1950)
It is thus not a matter of religion being opposed to science. Even in 1950, when scientists were less clear on evolution, Pius XII specifically welcomed research on evolution. He then referenced the matter of "Catholic faith" which teaches that God creates the soul.

Thus, Osgood's blanket statement contrasting those who believe in evolution versus those who believe in Creation beckons clarification.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

How to keyword search the Early Church Fathers

This post contains a helpful free method I use when trying to keyword search the Early Church Fathers without falling into websites that do not provide source material or that quote-mine. Some of you may have figured this out, but I will share all the same. Here is a sample: Peter keys
Substitute for the bold words "Peter keys" with whatever keywords you want. Then paste the whole line into Google's search field, and that's it!

The search will turn up pages at New Advent of Church Fathers and councils containing those keywords. Click here to see what the search results for the above looks like. Try your own keywords on various topics or even include a Church Father's name, such as "Chrysostom priest" to see texts of St. John Chrysostom containing the word "priest." The sky's the limit––baptism, Liturgy, purgatory, sacrifice, whatever you wish! This is not an exhaustive search, of course, as New Advent does not contain every single text from ECFs, but it is very useful all the same.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Catholic moments in the book "World War Z"

I recently read World War Z by Max Brooks,  a 2006 novel chronicling a zombie apocalypse. The movie comes out later in 2013. There are a few references I call "Catholic/God moments" in the book––some not so flattering, some quite positive. Mind you, the variations seem to be due to the author's choice of the characters' opinions. The whole book is a compilation of fictional interviews conducted by the narrator. So each chapter is filled with numerous "interviews" with different characters. In general, my sense was that God generally was portrayed favorably if there was any such "message" from the story. Below are the related excerpts I highlighted. My apologies for any excerpts I missed while reading it. Following each excerpt is its corresponding page number/e-reader location.
The narrator interviews a "Philip Adler," a "Catholic" who "joined the throngs of visitors to the pope's wartime refuge." He describes his wife as "Bavarian," and she made a "pilgrimage to Saint Patrick's Cathedral." (108/1899) 
An interviewee named Joe Muhammed claims, "Every year some lawyer or priest or politician tries to stoke that fire for whatever side best suits them." (155/2710) 
The character Roy Elliot, a filmmaker, states: "But I do know that just like all those ex-atheists in foxholes, most Americans were still praying for the God of science to save them." The interviewer responds to that comment with, "But it didn't." The subject responded that "it didn't matter," and that his film documentaries about cutting edge military technology were "psychological war winners." (163/2835) 
Todd Wainio, one of the soldiers interviewed, spoke of his battle partner: "Sister Montoya, fifty-two years old, she'd been a nun, still was I guess. Five three and a buck even, she'd protected her whole Sunday school class for nine days with nothing but a six-foot iron candlestick." (273/4672) 
One of the interviewed characters is "Father Sergei Ryzhkov" of the "Holy Russian Empire." I presume he is Russian Orthodox, but the text is not specific. He details his role as a chaplain during the war. At one point, he states, "soldiers killing themselves had cost the Lord too many good souls. Suicide was a sin, and we, his servants––those who had chosen to be his shepherds upon the earth––were the only ones who should bear the cross of releasing trapped souls from infected bodies!" (My note: In Catholic teaching, suicide does not mean a soul is lost. CCC#2282 states: "Grave psychological disturbances, anguish, or grave fear of hardship, suffering, or torture can diminish the responsibility of the one committing suicide." This would relate on the qualifications for a sin to be mortal: CCC#1857  For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met: "Mortal sin is sin whose object is grave matter and which is also committed with full knowledge and deliberate consent.")(294/5044) 
Andre Renard, one of the book's many combatants, describes the horrors of escaping the enemy in underground tunnels: "you dash through the passageways, bash your head on the ceiling, crawl on your hands and knees, praying to the Virgin with all your might for them to hold for just a little longer." (308/5301) 
Maria Zhuganova, another character in the "Holy Russian Empire" remarks: "All that religious dogma, that's for the masses. Give them their opium and keep them pacified. I don't think anyone in the leadership, or even the Church, really believes what they're preaching." (327/5625)

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Joe Paterno: Still the scapegoat?

Media asserts Paterno guilty of cover-up

The Freeh Report was an investigation on Jerry Sandusky's crimes at Penn State University and those involved. After it was released, the media swelled with comments such as these:
Jerry Sandusky was accused of a 15-year reign of pedophilia on young boys ... Paterno knew. He knew all about it. He'd known for years. He knew and he followed it vigilantly. That's all clear now after Penn State's owninvestigator, former FBI director Louis Freeh, came out Thursday and hung the whole disgusting canvas on a wall for us. (Rick Reilly, ESPN)
Another example:
Paterno did nothing to stop Sandusky. He was, said former FBI director Louis Freeh, who wrote the report, "an integral part of this active decision to conceal." (Gene Wojciechowski, ESPN)
The Freeh report determined top Penn State officials, including Joe Paterno, had intentionally tried to cover up Jerry Sandusky’s child sex abuse. (Anne Danahy, Centre Daily Times)
In short, it seems to be a forgone conclusion among the media and those who embrace their account that Joe Paterno willingly covered up sexual crimes against children.

I first wrote about this Sandusky incident as it pertained to Paterno back in November 2011, questioning the amount of evidence incriminating Paterno as an accomplice in covering up sex crimes against children. I mentioned the Catechism's definition of justice as giving God and neighbor their due.  The sentiment, of course, still applies.

In perusing the Freeh Report, I have found it difficult to locate any smoking gun against Paterno, that he knowingly covered up sex crimes as journalists like the above assert.

The above mentioned Wojciechowski believes the following is the incriminating portion. He quotes a January 2011 exchange by Paterno before a grand jury:
Question to Paterno: "Other than the [2001] incident that Mike McQueary reported to you, do you know in any way, through rumor, direct knowledge or any other fashion, of any other inappropriate sexual conduct by Jerry Sandusky with young boys?"
Paterno: "I do not know of anything else that Jerry would be involved in of that nature, no. I do not know of it. You did mention -- I think you said something about a rumor. It may have been discussed in my presence, something else about somebody. I don't know. I don't remember, and I could not honestly say I heard a rumor."
In May 1998, the Freeh Report states that there was an email from A.D. Curley stating "Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands." The email is said to be in reference to an incident that Curley and vice president Gary Schultz (who was also head of campus police) were investigating regarding the eventually-found-guilty perpetrator Jerry Sandusky from 1998. (And by the way, the Freeh Report admits that it assumes the reference to "Coach" in that email pertains to Paterno. p. 49)

In reading Paterno's reply to the grand jury question, he mentioned that a rumor "may have been discussed in [his] presence, something else about somebody." He said he didn't remember and didn't consider what little he claimed to remember as a "rumor." The media has incriminated Paterno. That much is obvious. But there are key statements in the Freeh Report itself that bring a grayness to Paterno's involvement that the media, and combox commentators have not given much attention.

Lesser-known claims from the Freeh Report about the 1998 incident
University Police Department Chief Harmon emails Schultz:  “Weʹre going to hold off on making any crime log entry.  At this point in time I can justify that decision because of the lack of clear evidence of a crime.” (p. 20)
Personally, I have not found an article mentioning the investigation by campus police about how the police did not find "clear evidence of a crime." Further, the Report mentions local police's involvement:
Sometime  between  May  27,  1998  and  June  1,  1998,  the  local  District  Attorney  declined  to  prosecute  Sandusky  for  his  actions  with  the  boy  in  the  shower  in  the  Lasch  Building  on  May  3,  1998. (p. 46)
But very little has been stated by those angry at Paterno about police involvement. None of the articles I cited at the start even mention "police." But keep in mind the above statements about the police involvement in 1998 and consider this thought exercise. Let's assume for a moment that Paterno was fully aware of this 1998 police investigation and that they dropped the case. Common arguments like Wojciechowski's that "Paterno did nothing" are out the window. Police were involved at the start. They investigated, they didn't find evidence, and the local D.A. dropped it. What is Paterno, in 1998, supposed to have done at that point? He should go to the campus and local police and tell them they are wrong? He should interfere with the investigation? Those would be rather nonsensical expectations, Paterno not being a detective notwithstanding.

Remember, the 2011 question before the grand jury to Paterno asked him "do you know in any way, through rumor, direct knowledge or any other fashion, of any other inappropriate sexual conduct by Jerry Sandusky."  Sandusky had not been found guilty at the time of that question. The question is actually rather awkward. On the one hand, it's asking Paterno if he "knew" of sex crimes, including through "direct knowledge," but in the same breath it asks if Paterno "knew" by way of "rumor." At that point, barring evidence that Paterno first-hand knew Sandusky's guilt (which no one asserts), Paterno could not say he "knew." He mentioned there may have been conversations in front of him but he didn't consider them rumors. The meat of the question was wether or not Paterno "knew" Sandusky was guilty of some crime in the past. He may well have been wishy-washy on the "rumor" part of the question, because even with that, he couldn't really say he "knew" Sandusky was guilty. I think it is possible that writers like Wojciechowski assume too much when they claim Paterno "lied," or at least make more of Paterno's awkward answer than it is.

The Freeh Report's non-specific comments about what Paterno knew about the 1998 and 2001 investigation

In the Freeh Report's timeline and account of the 1998 incident, these are excerpts from which people apparently conclude Paterno was fully aware of what was going on with Sandusky:
[Sometime between May 4-30, 1998] Curley notifies Schultz and Spanier that he has “touched base with” Paterno about the incident. Days later, Curley emails Schultz:  “Anything new in this department? Coach is anxious to know where it stands.” (p. 20)
The above comment tells us nothing of what Paterno was told. Is it possible that Curley gave every waking detail about the accusations against Sandusky? Yes. Is it possible that Curley updated Paterno without giving much detail? Yes. One thing is certainly apparent between this information and the statements about police involvement––Paterno was not involved with the investigation. Even the Freeh Report only describes him receiving undisclosed updates of some kind from A.D. Curley. Even if Paterno did know everything, as my above thought exercise noted, the police found no cause. How can Paterno be involved in a cover-up? What sort of clairvoyant 20/20 hindsight is he supposed to have come up with at the time? Why should we expect Paterno, who is not a policeman, to overrule an investigation of which he wasn't part?

Even though Paterno was not involved in the investigation, and even though the Freeh Report is consistently vague as to what Paterno was actually told by those conducting the investigation, the Report still bundles Paterno along with the others as if their knowledge was equal. The Report states:
While  no  information  indicates  University  leaders  interfered  with  the  investigation,  Spanier [then-Penn State president], Schultz, Paterno and Curley were kept informed of the investigation. (p. 39)
Regardless of this statement's lack of specifics, the Report elsewhere suggests that the chain of information varied among these persons. In fact, the Freeh Report, referring to its already vague statements about what Paterno knew about the 1998 incident added this comment:
After  Curley’s  initial  updates  to  Paterno,  the  available  record  is  not  clear  as  to  how  the  conclusion  of  the  Sandusky  investigation  was  conveyed  to  Paterno. (p. 51)
One accusation made by the Freeh Report suggests that the Paterno family lied about Paterno's knowledge of the 1998 incident. The Report states:
Paterno’s family has publicly denied that Paterno had knowledge of the 1998 incident. (p. 53)
The footnote for that assertion points to the following family statement:
[O]ne outrageous and baseless claim that cannot go unchallenged is that Coach Paterno knew about a 1998 incident involving Jerry Sandusky that was investigated by local law enforcement. There is indisputable evidence showing that Coach Paterno was not informed about that investigation, as well as the Coach’s own sworn testimony to that effect.
On the one hand, the family could be mistaken. Granted. However, when comparing the two statements closely, it could be the family is referring to Paterno's knowledge of "local law enforcement's" investigation, whereas the Freeh Report blanketly refers to Paterno's knowledge about the incident in general. It may be possible the Freeh Report read too much into the family's statement, because the Freeh Report does not produce specifics that Paterno was told about local police involvement.

Vague statements about Paterno's knowledge of the 2001 Sandusky incident can also be seen in the Freeh Report and elsewhere. Paterno learned of the 2001 incident when assistant coach Mike McQueary told him about what he saw in the showers. It is unclear exactly what McQueary told Paterno at that time. According to Paterno's grand jury testimony, he was not given details. Paterno testified:
Well, he had seen a person, an older — not an older, but a mature person who was fondling, whatever you might call it — I’m not sure what the term would be — a young boy. [He said it was] Jerry Sandusky ... Obviously, he was doing something with the youngster. It was a sexual nature. I’m not sure exactly what it was. I didn’t push Mike to describe exactly what it was because he was very upset. 
To complicate matters, it seems McQueary's own claims about what he saw have varied.

The Freeh Report continues with non-specific second-hand assertions about what Paterno knew about the incident:
Spanier, Schultz and Curley meet and devise an action plan, reflected in Schultz’s notes: “3) Tell chair of Board of Second Mile 2) Report to Dept of Welfare. 1) Tell JS [Sandusky] to avoid bringing children alone into Lasch Bldg who’s the chair??” The plan is confirmed in a subsequent email from Schultz to Curley. Curley emails Schultz and Spanier and says he [Curley] has changed his mind about the plan “after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe [Paterno] yesterday.” Curley now proposes to tell Sandusky “we feel there is a problem” and offer him “professional help.” “If he is cooperative we would work with him to Curley emails Schultz and Spanier and says he [Curley] has changed his mind about the plan “after giving it more thought and talking it over with Joe [Paterno] yesterday.” Curley now proposes to tell Sandusky “we feel there is a problem” and offer him “professional help.” “If he is cooperative we would work with him to handle informing” the Second Mile; if Sandusky does not cooperate, “we don’t have a choice and will inform” DPW and the Second Mile. (p. 23-24)
Somewhere on the radio or in a news article, I heard a member of the media make much ado about the bold part of the above statement. This media member was suggesting that Paterno told Curley to soften the plan to protect Sandusky. Yet the Freeh Report tells us nothing like that. As in the 1998 incident, all we have are notes from Curley talking about how he said something to Paterno, but we don't know what. We don't know if Paterno suggested anything to Curley. Assuming Curley's statement is true, he may have changed his mind of his own accord after talking with Paterno. And as in the 1998 incident, Schultz, the head of campus police, was involved. There's no real "evidence" of Paterno covering up anything.

One other statement the Freeh Report includes also indirectly indicates its inability to produce any specific knowledge Paterno had that demonstrated that he covered up a crime:
Witnesses  consistently  told  the  Special  Investigative  Counsel  that  Paterno  was  in  control  of  the  football  facilities  and  knew  “everything  that  was  going  on.” (p. 51)
What does that mean that he knew "everything"? If that is verifiable, then there should be no problem demonstrating that Paterno knew Sandusky was guilty. Yet the Report produces no such evidence. It just sounds a little like they couldn't find anything against Paterno so they gathered unnamed witnesses who simply said, "He knew everything!" Such "evidence" would hardly hold up in court.

Paterno knew he wasn't a detective

It is quite possible that people who criticize Paterno for not "doing something" treat him with 20/20 hindsight. He's not a detective and may not have considered it his place to trump those in charge of campus investigations. In fact, that's what Paterno was quoted as saying shortly before his death:
I didn’t know exactly how to handle it and I was afraid to do something that might jeopardize what the university procedure was,” he said. “So I backed away and turned it over to some other people, people I thought would have a little more expertise than I did. It didn’t work out that way.” (Joe Paterno, Jan. 2012, commenting on the 2001 incident he learned from McQueary)
And to the grand jury in January 2011:
Q: You indicated that your report was made directly to Tim Curley. Do you know of that report being made to anyone else that was a university official?Paterno: No, because I figured that Tim would handle it appropriately.
In other words, it is rather plausible that Paterno did not consider it his place to go around trumping the decisions of authorized investigators, such as the campus and local police, or the director of campus police himself. And yet Paterno comes under fire from the media as being involved in some kind of cover-up, willingly protecting a pedophile.

The Paterno family feels the same way. In July 2012, after a media frenzy incriminated Paterno, the family released the following statement:
[W]e want to take this opportunity to reiterate that Joe Paterno did not shield Jerry Sandusky from any investigation or review. The 1998 incident was fully and independently investigated by law enforcement officials. The Freeh report confirms this. It is also a matter of record that Joe Paterno promptly and fully reported the 2001 incident to his superiors. It can certainly be asserted that Joe Paterno could have done more. He acknowledged this himself last fall.* But to claim that he knowingly, intentionally protected a pedophile is false.

Many members of the media have filled in the blanks in the Freeh Report where non-specific information is given regarding Paterno. But it seems more reasonable that it's tricky to make a conclusion. This is not to be obtuse and refuse to see any guilt in Paterno if any evidence should surface that points to him actually committing a cover-up crime or even gross negligence that can be identified without the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. If that evidence exists, I have not seen it. On the other hand, if Paterno did not engage in a cover-up, which I think is still a viable possibility given the non-specifics in the Freeh Report, then it speaks to a media, current Penn State officials, and a duped public's emotionally charged reaction to incriminate him without cause.

Meanwhile, according to Yahoo Sports, both Paterno's family and former Penn State President Graham Spanier have claimed there are "inaccuracies in Freeh's report." The family intends to conduct its own investigation of the Freeh Report's claims.

Another paragraph in the Catechism may serve as a nice closing:
CCC#2477 Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury. He becomes guilty of rash judgment who, even tacitly, assumes as true, without sufficient foundation, the moral fault of a neighbor.
So far, I think this case pertaining to Paterno may well lack that sufficient foundation.

EDIT August 26, 2012: A new biography called Paterno suggests that Paterno did not have the motive to cover up for Sandusky. The book contains quotes from Paterno indicating that he did not involve himself in the investigations, nor did he show knowledge of Sandusky's crimes, insisting even to his son that he's "not omniscient." (sample story at ABC News)

*Paterno was quoted as stating "With the benefit of hindsight, I wish I had done more." I think the key to this quote is "with the benefit of hindsight." Unfortunately, at the time of these incidents, Paterno did not have that benefit.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

What is Purgatory?

According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw -- each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Cor. 3:10-15)
Often, in forumland, I have encountered many fictional caricatures of what the Church teaches purgatory to actually be. With an emphasis on Scripture, let's review this doctrine.

All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. (CCC#1030)
I think anyone who chooses to defend or discredit purgatory must remain focused on this core definition.

Perhaps the most common accusation I hear against purgatory is something like: "Purgatory denies the sufficiency of Christ's work on the cross." The logic is if man has to undergo some purification even after he has been joined to Christ's perfect sacrifice, then it means we are "adding" to Christ, calling him insufficient. But as we will see, there is no such thing "adding" to Christ in the teaching of purgatory. And as we shall see, the doctrine of purgatory is most sound theology.


I think the following Scriptural verses express well the purpose of Christ's sacrifice:
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God. (1 Pet. 3:18)

Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all iniquity and to purify for himself a people of his own who are zealous for good deeds. (Tit. 2:13b-14)
Notice that nowhere in these or any Scriptures is a statement that a true Christian will permanently be free of sinful faults or tendencies once he becomes a Christian. Nor is there a Biblical text asserting that a Christian will not suffer from consequences of sin. Verses like the former above that refer to Christ dying for "sins" are distinct from a statement saying Christ erases all consequences of sin or that the purifying power of his death is applied once to a soul, never requiring further sanctification (i.e. holiness).

You will often hear Catholic teaching refer to "temporal" consequences or punishments due to sin. A person should take a moment to reflect on the term "temporal" which is distinct from "eternal." The evangelist John makes such a distinction between what is also called a venial or mortal (sin leading to death) in his epistle: 1 John 5:16-17. Scripture contains a number of examples distinguishing various degrees of sin. Any temporal consequence of sin suffered by a repentant sinner is not forever. Thus, temporal consequences of sin neither conflict with the sufficiency of Christ's work to bring us eternal life.

Another passage referencing the need even for those who belong to God to incur purification is in Hebrews:
It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons; for what son is there whom his father does not discipline? If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. ... he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant; later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ... make straight paths for your feet, so that what is lame may not be put out of joint but rather be healed. Strive for...the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Heb. 12:7-14)
In this passage are very noteworthy statements that douse the accusation that the need for purification even after becoming a Christian should be an affront to Christ's sacrifice.
  1. Those who are already God's "sons" (cf. eg. Gal. 3:26) still endure discipline under God.
  2. One of the purposes for this is to conform His children to "His holiness."
  3. Parts of God's children remain "lame" in need of "healing."
  4. And the holiness to which this leads is that which makes God's children fit to "see the Lord."
A few verses later, the text in Hebrews fortifies this teaching by telling God's children that those who come to their final inheritance have to come to a place dwelt by "the spirits of just men made perfect." (Heb. 12:23)

Purgatory in no way denies that Christ's redemptive work is the means by which all mankind must follow in order to attain heaven. Purgatory, like Tit. 2:14 above, reflects the need for the soul to be purified. And this need can remain even after one becomes a Christian but prior to full union with God in heaven.

As well, in Catholic theology purgation takes place by no other power than Christ. Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, wrote in his book Eschatology in the section on purgatory, in the context of 1 Cor. 3:10-15 (quoted at top):
What actually saves is the full assent of faith. But in most of us, that basic option is buried under a great deal of wood, hay and straw. Only with difficulty can it peer out from behind the latticework of an egoism we are powerless to pull down with our own hands. Man is the recipient of the divine mercy, yet this does not exonerate him from the need to be transformed. Encounter with the Lord is this transformation. It is the fire that burns away our dross and re-forms us to be vessels of eternal joy. (Ratzinger, Eschatology, p. 231)
This ties in well with Hebrews 12 above. The point is, if God should effect purification even after a person becomes His adopted child, it in no way affronts the power of the Crucufixion but rather illuminates its merciful scope.

An example from Romans
Another example can be seen in Paul's letter to the Romans:
If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit which dwells in you. So then, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh -- for if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live. (Rom. 8:11-13)
Dr. Scott Hahn expounds thusly on the passage:
[L]ook at this, "we are debtors," we still have a debt to pay; not because Christ hasn't paid it but because Christ has paid it once and for all, and through the Holy Spirit in His mystical body, He applies that. (Hahn, Purgatory: Holy Fire from Answering Common Objections St. Joseph Communications.)
Earlier in his discourse, Hahn foreshadowed the significance of Romans 8 by saying:
...Christ has accomplished our redemption. It's over and done with. He has finished it. But then He sends the Holy Spirit to apply it, and the application of redemption is just as essential
St. John Chrysostom speaks similarly regarding the power of the Spirit, distinct from our power, to cleans us from sin in our suffering:
What sort of deeds then does he mean us to mortify? Those which tend toward wickedness, those which go after vice, which there is no other way of mortifying save through the Spirit. For by killing yourself you may put an end to the others. And this you have no right to do. But to these (you can put an end) by the Spirit only. (St. John Chrysostom, Homily 14 on Romans, ca 390 A.D.)
In the letter to the Romans, Paul follows the idea that we in the Spirit are still "debtors" with the following:
For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the spirit of sonship. When we cry, "Abba! Father!" it is the Spirit himself bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom. 8:14-17)
So essentially, when we suffer such that we "put to death the deeds of the body" (i.e. sins), it is the Spirit effecting Christ's finished atoning work to us, purifying us from all stain of sin.

This is the essence of Peter's and James' teaching that love "covers a multitude of sins." (1 Pet. 4:8, cf. Jam. 5:20) Whether it be debt or uncleanliness, the essence of the figure is the same. All aspects of the negative must be removed in order to make that soul pure for heaven.


If one examines the text of Matthew chapter 5, one sees that Christ follows His discourse on the beatitudes by reiterating the commandments as well as other exhortations such as "love your enemy." The chapter is concluded with: "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mat. 5:48)

As previously cited, the book of Hebrews (12:23) likewise refers to souls "made perfect" and "the holiness without which no one will see the Lord." There is a certain "degree" of holiness, if you will, necessary to see the Lord. Those in Hebrews 12 who were already God's children, still endured His discipline so that they might achieve that holiness.

If we consider statements referring to heaven itself, we see that "nothing unclean shall enter it" (Rev. 21:27). And if we consider the prayer taught by Christ himself, we know he exhorts us to pray that God's "will be done on earth as it is in heaven." (Mat. 6:10) And we have already established that perfection, purity, and holiness are prerequisites to enter heaven.

But isn't Christ's righteousness imputed to the Christian so God doesn't see any blemishes or consequences of sin anyway?

The Hebrews 12 passage is one example that belies this teaching. If God only sees the holiness of Christ in His children, He would not chastise them for the sake of their holiness, because there is nothing imperfect about Christ's holiness.

In Catholic teaching, "Justification is not only the remission of sins, but also the sanctification and renewal of the interior man." (CCC#1989, Council of Trent 6.7a)

The Church does not consider the common "forensic-only" idea of justification a satisfactory doctrine. For example, 19th century theologian Robert Shaw, expositing on the Westminster Confession of Faith of 1646 stated:
Justification, according to the use of the word in Scripture, must be understood forensically. ... [J]ustification does not lie in infusing righteousness into a person, but in declaring him to be righteous on legal grounds; and, like the sentence of a judge, it is completed at once. (Shaw, Exposition of the WCF, p. 147)
Without knowing if Shaw was referring to a particular form of the root word "just" in Scripture, it is still not difficult to find many forms of the term that do not refer to a forensic declaration alone. For example, Mat. 12:37 states: "by your words you will be justified." The Greek word dikaiwyhsh is the verb there in the future tense translated "will be justified." Here, justification is contingent upon action by the individual, not merely a legal declaration apart from actual righteousness (done by the person with grace, of course). As an adjective, the Greek word dikaioi appears twice in the parable of the sheep and goats (Mat. 25:37, 46) in reference to the just persons who did indeed exhibit holiness.

As well, throughout the New Testament we are shown Christ performing a healing juxtaposed with the forgiveness of sins. Take for instance the healing of the paralytic:

And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him; and when they had made an opening, they let down the pallet on which the paralytic lay. And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, "My son, your sins are forgiven." Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, "Why does this man speak thus? It is blasphemy! Who can forgive sins but God alone?" And immediately Jesus, perceiving in his spirit that they thus questioned within themselves, said to them, "Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, `Your sins are forgiven,' or to say, `Rise, take up your pallet and walk'? But that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins" -- he said to the paralytic -- "I say to you, rise, take up your pallet and go home." And he rose. (Mark 2:4-12)
Therefore, we see how a merely forensic acquittal does not satisfy the context of true healing transpiring in the text. Was the paralytic merely "declared" healed while his physical imperfection remained? No, the paralytic was truly healed. Jesus shows the audience he did this for the purpose of showing them that the man's sins had been healed though they could not sensibly perceive so. If we say Christ actually healed the man's physical affliction, but merely declared healed the man's spiritual afflictions, then we do violence to Christ's use of the miracle to show us the unseen.


One consequence to sin is due to the original sin inherent in all human beings---everyone must undergo temporal death (e.g. Rom. 5:12, 1 Cor. 15:21). Even though death entered the world through Adam, a Christian is not spared this consequence of man's fallen nature simply by becoming Christian.

Another example is when Jesus tells us that sin results in a "slavery" to the sin. (John 8:34) This is another consequence of a sin even if one has repented of the sin. If a lifelong drug addict who treated drugs as a "god" above God offers true repentance, his previous sins against the first commandment will no longer prevent him from entering heaven. The eternal consequences of the sin are taken away. Yet, is such a man always immediately cured of his attachment to the drug? No, this consequence of the sin may remain with him for the rest of his life. He may even take the drugs again and again due to the "slavery" that he fostered from a life of sin. To be freed from the temporal consequences, he should pray for healing, perhaps seek help, and practice discipline.

Another example of temporal consequences after forgiveness is in the Old Testament.
David said to Nathan, "I have sinned against the Lord." And Nathan said to David, "The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die." (2 Sam. 12:13-14)
In this passage, David repents of his killing of Uriah and affair with Bathsheba. God puts away David's sin in the sense that David shall not die an eternal death in hell (cf. 1 King. 2:1-10, Rev. 20:14). Yet David is afflicted with temporal consequences. He must live the rest of his earthly years suffering from the death of his son.

In the New Testament, we see a related figure depicted in the story of Zacchaeus (Luke 19:1-10). Zacchaeus expresses his faith in Jesus by including the promise: "if I have defrauded any one of anything, I restore it fourfold." (v.8) Jesus responds by rejoicing that "salvation has come" to Zacchaeus' house. Zacchaeus, of course, demonstrates not just an outward repentance for violating another. He seeks due restitution for the violation.

Another short parable appears in various forms regarding imprisonment without release until a debt is paid (Mat. 5:23-26, Luke 12:57-59). A few verses later we see Matthew write: "be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." (Mat. 5:48) And immediately after that is the story of when Christ teaches the "Our Father" prayer to the disciples. He says to pray: "forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors." (Mat. 6:12) In the Greek, the word translated for debt is ofeilhmata. This word refers to something "owed" or "due." 


From the earliest times of the Old Testament, sin was often presented in a financial light. It became a debt one must pay. In order to make proper restitution for the sin, the sinner was called to atone in various ways, balancing the ledger so to speak, canceling a debt with a credit. Other figures in the OT included sin as a weight that required lifting or as a blemish that needed washing. In one of my theology classes, I did a paper on Proverbs 16:6, pertinent to this subject.
By loyalty and faithfulness iniquity is atoned for, and by the fear of the LORD a man avoids evil. (Proverbs 16:6 (15:27a in LXX))
If we delve into the Greek of this passage, the phrase "loyalty and faithfulness" finds a variety of translations in different Bibles. Often it refers to love and faith. The Greek Septuagint renders the phrase: eleēmosunais kai pistesin. The latter term there, rooted by pistis, is recognizable as the Biblical term for faith. The root of eleēmosunais has 11 occurrences in the New Testament, usually translated as “alms.” Pope John Paul II agrees the term refers to "almsgiving."

The root of the term for "atoned" there is kippēr. Dr. Gary Anderson, in his book Sin: A History, defines this as "to wipe away sin" or in other forms of the verb, "to wash away sin." (Anderson, Sin, p. 16) In fact, the early Church, in both the west and east, interpreted the term in exactly that way. Both St. Cyprian (ca. 250 A.D.) and St. John Chrysostom (ca. 390 A.D.) cross-reference Proverbs 16:6 with the "washing" episode of Luke 11:37-41.
While he was speaking, a Pharisee asked him to dine with him; so he went in and sat at table. The Pharisee was astonished to see that he did not first wash before dinner. And the Lord said to him, "Now you Pharisees cleanse the outside of the cup and of the dish, but inside you are full of extortion and wickedness. You fools! Did not he who made the outside make the inside also? But give for alms those things which are within; and behold, everything is clean for you. (Luke 11:37-41)
In this passage, Christ identifies almsgiving as a means by which one can “cleanse” that which is “inside.” The Pharisees were concerned about cleaning the physical body, but Christ emphasized cleaning the spiritual body. Almsgiving accomplished the washing of the spiritual body "within."

Proverbs elsewhere refers to the impurity and uncleanliness of earthly natives due to sin: "Who can say, "I have made my heart clean; I am pure from my sin?" (Prov. 20:9) And we already established that such impurity is incompatible with heavenly union with God.


One might ask, if the transformation in purgatory is an "encounter with the Lord," as Cardinal Ratzinger stated, then how can we purge our sins with alms while still on earth? Isn't that something "in addition" to God who alone sanctifies? How can the Biblical text refer to the cleansing power of almsgiving in both the Old and New Testaments!

First, we must remember, that's what texts like Prov. 16:6 or Luke 11:41 say. Second, we must not consider our works done by the power of grace as something alien to, nor in competition with, Christ. Catholic teaching states the following:
In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere "to the end" and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. (CCC#1821)
A Scriptural passage, among other related ones, comes to mind in light of this teaching. First, is the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30; Luke 19:12-28). In the parable, the three servants are given gifts by the master. Two servants are fruitful with their gifts. One buries his gift and is sent where there is grinding of teeth, the figure of hell. The two good servants were only able to accomplish anything of value because of the master's gift. Grace is also a gift of God. Cardinal Charles Journet writes:
God is bound to give grace to all, but he is not bound to give it equally. He gives his servants one, two or five talents, to each according to his capacity (Mt. xxv. 15). (Journet, The Meaning of Grace, III.10.g, 1957) 
If a soul should accomplish something of value, such as giving alms as Christ taught in Luke 11, the soul is not detached from Christ when accomplishing the alms. This is also the figure of the Vine and the Branches (John 15:1-10). The branches can bear fruit only if they are attached to the vine. Branches in a vine bear fruit only because they receive the nutrients from the vine. (cf. Council of Trent, 6.16) To deny the value of a Christian's work is to actually deny the power of the source himself!

Peter teaches similarly:
As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. (1 Peter 4:10)
Just as in the above interpretation of the Parable of the Talents, grace is a gift to be utilized (no matter how "much" one receives). Here, Peter exhorts us to utilize grace for "one another." This fits well with Luke 11 when Christ tells us to give alms. This action is done under the power of grace and is nothing "in addition" to the work of Christ. In the words of St. Augustine:
"[O]nly grace works every one of our good merits in us, and God, when He crowns our merits, crowns nothing other than His own gifts." (Augustine, Epistles 194:5:19)
The Council of Trent uses a similar paraphrase:
God forbid that a Christian should either trust or glory in himself, and not in the Lord, whose bounty towards all men is so great, that He will have the things which are His own gifts be their merits. (Council of Trent, 6.16)
Paul teaches that we are members of one body which is Christ himself (Eph. 1:22-23, Col. 1:24). The love we exhibit in that body is an extension of Christ's love, his very Passion:
If children, then heirs, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him. (Rom. 8:17)
...that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death. (Phil. 3:10)
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice in so far as you share Christ's sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. (1 Pet. 4:12-13)


In the previous verse from Peter, I also bolded the phrase "fiery ordeal which comes upon you to prove you." Fire is frequently used in Scripture to reference purification, often in the context of precious metals. Later in that same letter, Peter writes:
In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 1:6-7)
Therefore I counsel you to buy from me gold refined by fire, that you may be rich... (Rev. 3:18) 
This idea of being "tested (or refined/tried) by fire" is a reference to the ancient process of smelting. In smelting, a precious metal is exposed to fire. The metal is freed from various impurities that burn at different temperatures. The result is pure gold or silver without bits of valueless debris attached to it. The Old Testament references this imagery as well:
The promises of the LORD are promises that are pure, silver refined in a furnace on the ground, purified seven times. (Psalm 12:6)
Behold, I have refined you, but not like silver; I have tried you in the furnace of affliction. (Isaiah 48:10)
In the whole land, says the LORD, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. (Zech. 13:8-9)
Two of the passages from which St. Augustine derived an understanding of purgatory also involved fire and/or gold and silver. He writes:
From these words it more evidently appears that some shall in the last judgment suffer some kind of purgatorial punishments; for what else can be understood by the word, Who shall abide the day of His entrance, or who shall be able to look upon Him? For He enters as a moulder's fire, and as the herb of fullers: and He shall sit fusing and purifying as if over gold and silver: and He shall purify the sons of Levi, and pour them out like gold and silver? (Mal. 3:2-3) Similarly Isaiah says, The Lord shall wash the filthiness of the sons and daughters of Zion, and shall cleanse away the blood from their midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning. (Is. 4:4) (Augustine, City of God, 20.28, ca 415 A.D.) 
Numerous other texts use the same imagery. Keep this idea in mind: Frequently, Scripture communicates purification through the image of fire and gold or silver.

One of the most common passages pointing to the idea of Purgatory is the one quoted in the opening of this article:
According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and another man is building upon it. Let each man take care how he builds upon it. For no other foundation can any one lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw -- each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire. (1 Cor. 3:10-15)
Notice the imagery of smelting in the passage. There are six materials that fall into two categories. Gold, silver, and precious stones will survive higher temperatures. Wood, hay, and straw will burn up quickly. The result will be pure gold and silver. At the end of the passage, the figure is equated with what happens to the individual––the worthy soul is "saved" after passing through the fire applied on "the Day."

St. Thomas Aquinas explicitly associates this passage with Purgatory.
[H]e shows the means by which it will be disclosed, namely, by fire; hence he continues: because it shall be revealed with fire, namely, the day of the Lord: for the day of judgment will be revealed in the fire which will precede the face of the judge, burning the face of the world, enveloping the wicked and cleansing the just. Ps 96 (v. 3) says of this: “Fire goes before him, and burns up his adversaries round about.” But the day of the Lord which occurs at death will be revealed in the fire of purgatory, by which the elect will be cleansed, if any require cleansing: Job (23:10) can be interpreted as referring to this fire: “When he has tried me, I shall come forth as god.” (Aquinas, Commentary on Corinthians, 164)
His 13th century work follows a long list of Early Church Fathers who also reference this passage to purgatory after temporal death or speak of purifying fire in general. For example:
In his wisdom God employed contradictory means, that is, he used irrational nature as clothing. The garment of skin has all the properties belonging to an irrational nature: pleasure, anger, gluttony, greed, and similar tendencies which allow man to choose between virtue and evil. Man lives by his free will. If he concludes that his nature is irrational and opts for a better manner of life, he cleanses his present existence which is contaminated by evil and vanquishes irrationality through reason. But if man follows his irrational passions with the help of the skins belonging to irrational beasts, he will be advised in another way to choose the good after his departure from the body because he now knows how good differs from evil. He can only partake of the divinity unless he has purged his soul of filth by the cleansing fire.  (St. Gregory of Nyssa, Concerning Those Who Have Died (aka "Sermon on the Dead"), ca 382 A.D.)
Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) built upon the precedent of cleansing fire and smelting:
If [Purgatory] is understood in a properly Christian way when it is grasped christologically, in terms of the Lord himself as the judging fire which transforms us and conforms us to his own glorified body, then we shall come to a very different conclusion [than theologian Gnilka who denied a purgatorial interpretation of 1 Cor. 3:10-15]. Does not the real Christianizing of the early Jewish notion of a purging fire lie precisely in the insight that the purification involved does not happen through some thing, but through the transforming power of the Lord himself, whose burning flame cuts free our closed-off heart, melting it, and pouring it into a new mold to make it fit for the living organism of his body? (Ratzinger, Eschatology, p. 229, 1988)
The consistent point in these interpretations related to 1 Cor. 3 are that the purpose of the cleansing fire is to make us fit for heaven.

An objection to the traditional understanding of 1 Cor 3:10-15
One may encounter non-Catholic objections to the traditional understanding of 1 Cor. 3:10-15. 19th century Protestant theologian Adam Clarke offers some objections still in use today:
If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss - If he have preached the necessity of incorporating the law with the Gospel, or proclaimed as a doctrine of God any thing which did not proceed from heaven, he shall suffer loss - all his time and labor will be found to be uselessly employed and spent. (Clarke, Commentary on 1 Corinthians)
Clarke limits the application of the passage to preachers alone. Yet the greater text belies this conclusion. Paul begins the excerpt by referring to the foundation laid by his ministry, followed by the ministry of Apollos, and growth caused by God (3:5-8), which includes Paul's audience, "God's field." (v. 9) The passage is then immediately followed with "Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit dwells in you?" (v. 16) This of course would apply to any Christian. Clarke's interpretation overlooks that all Christians have a responsibility to build upon the laid foundation that is Christ. But in Paul's theology, all those with the Spirit are called to "building up the church." (1 Cor. 14:12, cf. Eph 4:11-12) Clarke concludes the "loss" suffered by the preacher is likely the waste of "his time and labor." Yet this does not appear in the text, nor does it account for v. 15 which states that the person will go through fire.

Clarke continues with an explicit rejection of purgatory.
The popish writers have applied what is here spoken to the fire of purgatory ... The fire mentioned here is to try the man's work, not to purify his soul; but the dream of purgatory refers to the purging in another state what left this impure; not the work of the man, but the man himself; but here the fire is said to try the work: ergo, purgatory is not meant even if such a place as purgatory could be proved to exist; which remains yet to be demonstrated. 
Here, Clarke disembodies the work from the man. He seems to only read the first half of verse 15 but not the second: "If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire." In Clarke's understanding, the work and the man are separate alien things. Yet Paul states that the person will be saved "through fire." Elsewhere, Paul uses language expressing the commingling of a work with a person. For example, in his same letter to the Corinthians: "Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful." (1 Cor. 13:4) A person is patient or kind. Love cannot exist without a person to exercise it. If we read 1 Cor. 13:4 with the eye Clarke uses for 1 Cor. 3, we would have to say love, and not the person exercising it, is patient or kind. Yet Paul is describing a person by the person's work. If we go back to 1 Cor. 3:15, it now makes sense. The fire will try the works, as in the person with regard to his/her works.

Pope Benedict XVI (the former Cardinal Ratzinger), recognizes this feature of the text in an encyclical:
In this text, it is in any case evident that our salvation can take different forms, that some of what is built may be burned down, that in order to be saved we personally have to pass through “fire” so as to become fully open to receiving God and able to take our place at the table of the eternal marriage-feast. (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 46)
Perhaps Clarke's greatest failure in interpretation is in neglecting the figure of purification in the passage––smelting gold and silver. Refer again to the passages at the start of the section labeled "Gold & Silver." Paul echoes the Scriptural tradition of purifying precious metals. Clarke's opposition to purification in the passage also places him at odds with the many ECFs (linked above) who recognize the purifying quality of the imagery.

In order to capture the basic idea of purgatory, perhaps a visual demonstration may also help.

Certainly, additional Scripture could be cited to support the positions in the above illustration. Of interest, the famous Christian apologist C.S. Lewis embraced the idea of purgatory for the very reason that he acknowledged unclean stains remnant on earth-faring humans.
Our souls demand Purgatory, don't they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, 'It is true, my son, that your breath smells and your rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things, nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy'? Should we not reply, 'With submission, sir, and if there is no objection, I'd rather be cleaned first.' 'It may hurt, you know' - 'Even so, sir.' (C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1964, p. 108-109)
In basic form, the idea unfolds thusly: At Point A, the terrestrial soul retains blemishes and failures, incurs temporal consequences of sin, and remains prone to sin. At Point B, the heavenly soul has been ever purified from such imperfections. Simple reasoning recognizes the necessary transformation from Point A to Point B, simply because Point A and Point B are different. To go from unclean to clean, a cleansing must occur.

As Cardinal Ratzinger put it:
The essential Christian understanding of Purgatory has now become clear. ... It is the inwardly necessary process of transformation in which a person becomes capable of Christ, capable of God and thus capable of unity with the whole communion of saints. (Ratzinger, Eschatology, p. 230)

Historically, Christians have sometimes referred to measurements of "time" in purgatory.  For instance:
What years of Purgatory will there be for those Christians who have no difficulty at all in deferring their prayers to another time on the excuse of having to do some pressing work! If we really desired the happiness of possessing God, we should avoid the little faults as well as the big ones, since separation from God is so frightful a torment to all these poor souls! (St. John Vianney (1786-1859), Sermon on Purgatory)
However, to measure purgatory by the units of some worldly clock is not part of the essential doctrine. Notice that even in St. John Vianney's excerpt, his reference to "years" corresponds to the severity of faults that need purgation. His theology is accurate insofar as the figure he uses. To give a parallel example, think of how many Christians have referred to heaven "above" or hell "below." Yet the doctrines referenced in this language are not bound to certain geographic altitudes that can be terrestrially located. In similar fashion, the cry of the historical Christian about how "long in purgatory" a soul must spend traditionally corresponds to severity of purgation commensurate with the sinful stains that need cleansing.

Cardinal Ratzinger likewise recognized that earthly time is not part of the doctrine:

The transforming 'moment' of this encounter [Purgatory] cannot be quantified by the measurements of earthly time. It is, indeed, not eternal but a transition, and yet trying to qualify it as of 'short' or 'long' duration on the basis of temporal measurements derived from physics would be naive and unproductive. The 'temporal measure' of this encounter lies in the unsoundable depths of existence, in a passing-over where we are burned ere we are transformed. To measure such Existenzzeit, such an 'existential time,' in terms of the time of this world would be to ignore the specificity of the human spirit in its simultaneous relationship with, and differentation from, the world. (Ratzinger, Eschatology, p. 230)

In both the Catholic and Orthodox Churches, prayers for the dead are common (cf. Macc. 12:38-45; 2 Tim. 1:16-18). Now, reasonably speaking, those in heaven do not need our prayers, and those eternally lost cannot be helped by our prayers. The prayers are therefore offered for those temporarily in some other condition. The Catechism teaches thusly:
From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. (CCC#1032)
Certainly, a third party praying for someone's well being is grounded firmly in Scripture, as even Paul requested others pray for him (see references in prior post Praying to Saints: A Visual Aid). Think also of the above mention of how Christians are members of the same, singular body, which is Christ's body. There is nothing alien about members of the body offering prayers for one another.

Pope Benedict confronts the question directly in his encyclical:
Now a further question arises: if “Purgatory” is simply purification through fire in the encounter with the Lord, Judge and Saviour, how can a third person intervene, even if he or she is particularly close to the other? When we ask such a question, we should recall that no man is an island, entire of itself. Our lives are involved with one another, through innumerable interactions they are linked together. No one lives alone. No one sins alone. No one is saved alone. The lives of others continually spill over into mine: in what I think, say, do and achieve. And conversely, my life spills over into that of others: for better and for worse. So my prayer for another is not something extraneous to that person, something external, not even after death. In the interconnectedness of Being, my gratitude to the other—my prayer for him—can play a small part in his purification. (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 48)