Bishop juristiction

Question from Stephen on 1/29/2008:

Dear Father, does a bishop have the authority to excommunicate catholics form around the world who visit an apparition site which he does not believe in? I am thinking that his authority only covers catholics in his own diocese. Thanks very much in advance stephen

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/30/2008:

Stephen, The local Bishop is the primary source of disapproval or approval for all in this matter. Fr. Bob Levis

Reserved Blessed Sacrament without permission

Question from Concerned Catholic on 1/29/2008:

My neighbor has a chapel in his home and has had it for 15 years now. It was built by his father as a coming home gift when he left the monastery after a stay of 8 years. The father told him that he wants him to continue praying as he did while in the cloister but to adjust the times to his work schedule. He has had many Masses said there by the pastor of his parish and many other priest-friends of his. One of the priests consecrated a few hosts to be left in the tabernacle in that chapel in a pyx. I asked him if he had permission from the local ordinary to keep the Blessed Sacrament in reserve. He said No and has no intention of obtaining permission to do so. I don't doubt this person's sincerity and prayerfulness. I can often hear him chanting the Divine Office daily in the morning and the evening. Could this person be excommunicated for having the Blessed Sacrament in his chapel without permission of the local ordinary? Not to mention the 150 various first-class relics of saints. Thank you for your time God Bless you Calumet

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/30/2008:

Calumet, He should have the permit of his Ordinary to reserve the Sacrament at home. Mass should be celebrated there twice a month. Fr. Bob Levis

Church of the Latter-day Saints

Question from Mary on 1/29/2008:

Does the Catholic Church recognize the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints as a religion? I thought the Church referred to the Mormon church as a cult.

Answer by Catholic Answers on 1/29/2008:


So far as I am aware, the Catholic Church does not consider the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (aka, the Mormon church) to be a cult. The Church considers the Mormon church to be a non-Christian religion because it does not recognize Mormon baptism to be a valid Christian baptism.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers

Praying to the dead

Question from Isabel on 1/26/2008:

I was recently speaking to a non-Catholic. I told her that I pray to the Blessed Mother. She told me that the Bible specifically forbids us to pray to anyone who has died. I am expecting that she will eventually give me some passages that she feels will prove her point.

I know that the Bible forbids us to contact the dead in a séance, but could you tell me how to explain in very simple terms and using passages from the Bible why we believe it's not only okay but important to look for the intercession of the saints?

If you wouldn't mind, please explain the passages that you use since I often have difficulty interpreting the Bible.

Answer by Catholic Answers on 1/28/2008:


Recommended reading:

What is the difference between talking to a saint and talking to a ghost?

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers

Why did Jesus have to suffer

Question from Tom on 1/30/2008:

Father, A friend of mine during a discussion on religion indicated her young son asked "Why did Jesus have to die to save us" She didn't know how to answer, nor do I. Why was it necessary for Jesus to die such a horrible death? Why not just spend his life on earth teaching and dying naturally? Thanks and may God bless.

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/30/2008:

Tom, Love has saved us. No one in his right mind as he contemplates the unbelievable suffering of Christ in his Passion, no one can doubt the reality nor the depth of his love for us sinners. The extreme love of Christ for us is also indicative of his Father's love for us. Bottom line, this love could not be magnified, neither Christ's nor his Father's love for us. Some of us sinners might despair once we realize how evil sin is, but not when we contemplate how personal and how deep the pain. God bless you. Fr. Bob Levis

Blessing by a Eucharistic Minister

Question from Tom on 1/30/2008:

Hello: I am currently in RCIA and I am wondering if it is appropriate for me to receive a blessing from a Eucharistic Minister while others are receiving the Eucharist. I thought this could only be given by a Priest or Deacon, but I see other RICA people being blessed by the Eucharistic Ministers. Thanks and may God bless, Tom

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/30/2008:

Tom, I am sure that you gain something if your Eucharistic Minister prays for you, but it is not the priestly blessing that is commonly conferred by the priest whose hands are specially anointed just for the blessing. Gpd Bless you. Fr.Bob Levis

Fr. Bossi returns to the Philippines, hopes to go back to his mission

Manila, Jan 30, 2008 / 04:37 pm (CNA).- The Italian missionary Fr. Giancarlo Bossi arrived back in the Philippines on  Monday aboard a Philippine Air Lines flight from Hong Kong, following a five month absence due to his having been kidnapped.

Fr. Bossi was in the news last June after he was kidnapped by armed men, whom he later identified as Abu Sayyaf members, near the rural southern Filipino town of Payao.

During his month long captivity Pope Benedict said that “Fr. Bossi is in his thoughts and prayers everyday.” “We are hoping and praying that the Lord helps us.” 

The same day that he was rescued, Fr. Bossi was asked what he would like to do now that he was free he replied that if his superiors let him, he would go back to Payao, a fishing town in Zamboanga Sibugay where he has been ministering. "I have to go back to Payao," he said. "My heart is still in Payao…. They say that a priest must also be a father and so as the father of my community it is my duty to return to my people, to my children.”

Upon his return to the Philippines, the Italian missionary priest said,  “I am happy to be back.”

He told the Philippines Bishops’ Conference news service (CBCP News) he will await instructions from his superior, Fr. Gianni Sandalo, regarding his next assignment.
Though he hopes to go back to Payao in Zamboanga Sibugay, he said “it may not be that easy.”

The March for Life and the Religion of Abortion


It goes without saying that the annual March for Life is one of the most exciting and unifying events in the international movement to defend life. 100,000+ pro-lifers converged on our nation's capital this week, more than half of whom were under the age of 25, and declared that the slaughter of the innocents is never going to be accepted as a permanent institution in our nation. Abortion-promoters would be hard-pressed to show the world that they could sustain such a massive public movement in their favor for 35 straight years. I can only say, "Bravo!" to all the people — especially the kids — who made great sacrifices to join us in Washington this week.

It also goes without saying that the little tin gods in the media did their level best to ignore and obfuscate this colossal event. When the homosexual propaganda film star, Heath Ledger, died of a drug overdose two nights before the March, that provided the hedonistic media the perfect reason to wail and gnash their teeth for a prolonged period of time about their immoral agenda and derail coverage of the life event. I will pray for Mr. Ledger's immortal soul, but at the same time, his death is a study in contrasts with the March for Life. The Brokeback Mountain star was only 28 at the time of his demise. It was his massage therapist who discovered his body that morning. A thumbnail sketch of his adult life might look something like this: Hollywood glitter, money and status, cohabitating with a girlfriend, a child out of wedlock, an activist for an immoral lifestyle, drug overdose and then death at a very young age. It's a real tragedy, but the culture of hedonism and death was dramatically played against the culture of life and life in Washington DC that day.

Not to be outdone by the godless media, the Planned Parenthood in Schenectady, NY also staged its own drama of the absurd. They dedicated a new 18,000 square foot killing center that day and had three members of the abortion "clergy" come out and "bless" it! What I have always said about abortion as a demonic religion was on graphic display in NY as we were marching for life in DC. Two "ministers" came to do the blessing from a "reformed" church — their view of "reform" is obviously different than ours. The (male) reverend used the occasion to proudly announce a new doctrine to the three dozen devotees of sacred abortion: the right to privacy is endowed by God, he said. Now, we cannot even find the "right to privacy" in the US Constitution and yet this fellow makes a new religious right out of whole cloth. Don't ask the demonic religion for a good grounding in history or logic. The other abortion clergyman was a rabbi who blew the shofar as a way to show support for reproductive rights. Our friend Rabbi Yehuda Levin who blows the shofar most years at the March for Life will have a field day with that one.

 The most absurd aspect of the blessing ceremony, however, was when the Rev. Larry Phillips of Schenectady's Emmanuel-Friedens Church led the congregation outside to lay hands on the brick and mortar and to declare that the killing center was "sacred ground." Ugh. The hierarchy (Planned Parenthood), the acolytes (clinic workers), the congregation (supporters) and the ministers were all at the abortion temple that day worshipping the god of abortion. And the demons were so pleased.

St. Paul reminds us in Ephesians 6 that our battle is not against flesh and blood. It is against the principalities and powers of this world of darkness. The darkness is spreading, but the Light of Christ shines forth in all those wonderful kids and their parents who showed the world that life will win in the end.

"The light shines on in darkness, a darkness that did not overcome it." (Jn 1:5)

mediation or intercession to Holy Mother and Saints

Question from wayne on 12/16/2007:

I am attending RCIA. I feel called to "come home" to the Church after stumbling 49 years in darkness and in my youth as a protestant. I have a question about praying to Holy Mother Mary and / or to the Saints or a Saint for intercession or for "mediation". 1st Timothy 2:5 says "there is one God,and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,...". Is praying to Mary and the Saints contrary to 1st Timothy 2:5?

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 1/27/2008:

Christ is the Mediator between God and man but this does not disallow further mediation between Christ and us. For instance, St. Paul often assures his Christian communities that he is constantly praying for them, which makes him an intercessor or intermediary on their behalf. Any response to his prayers is from Christ but he becomes a channel of petition. So, too, with Mary and the Saints of Heaven; they are fully members of the Church and in a position to pray for us to our Lord.

Wecome Home!

Father Echert

Paul's conversion in Acts

Question from Josh on 1/22/2008:

How are we to reconcile the apparent difference in these two accounts of Paul's conversion in Acts?

"The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, FOR THEY HEARD THE VOICE but could see no one." Acts 9:7

"My companions saw the light BUT DID NOT HEAR THE VOICE of the one who spoke to me." Acts 22:9

Thank you in advance for your answer.


Answer by Fr. John Echert on 1/27/2008:

The Book of Acts recounts St. Paul's mystical experience of Christ on the road to Damascus three times: once as described by the narrator and twice according to St. Paul’s own description (Chapters 9, 22, 26). We read in the first account:

9:1 But Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest 9:2 and asked him for letters to the synagogues at Damascus, so that if he found any belonging to the Way, men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem. 9:3 Now as he journeyed he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed about him. 9:4 And he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, "Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?" 9:5 And he said, "Who are you, Lord?" And he said, "I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting; 9:6 but rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do." 9:7 The men who were traveling with him stood speechless, hearing the voice but seeing no one.

In a subsequent account, we are told that those who were with Saul did not hear the voice:

22:7 And I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, —Saul, Saul, why do you persecute me?' 22:8 And I answered, —Who are you, Lord?' And he said to me, —I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.' 22:9 Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me.

The question naturally arises as to whether those who were with Paul heard the voice from heaven or not. Since Luke, who was systematic and skilled in writing, writes both accounts this seeming contradiction is all the more striking. First of all, let us admit that the distinction as to who is relating the episode--the narrator or as spoken by St. Paul--can account for minor differences due to perspective, while of course we recognize that Luke as author of Acts has recorded and written all three. But obviously it was not a true contradiction from Luke’s perspective, since he wrote it as he did. It would seem that the solution lies in what is meant by “hearing." In the Greek, the word for hearing can mean to physically hear and it can also mean, by extension, to perceive or understand what is heard. As such, both accounts can be accurate but from two perspectives: those with Paul heard some sound from the heavens but it was only intelligible to Paul, for whom the message was intended. A similar situation can be found in the Gospel of St. John (12:27-30), in which the voice of God is perceived as thunder by some and the voice of an angel by others, but it is clearly intelligible to Jesus.

Some further examples of this two-fold way of hearing or understanding this Greek word (akouo) are the following:

St. Paul writes the following in his first letter to the Corinthians: “14:2 For one who speaks in a tongue speaks not to men but to God; for no one understands (akouo) him, but he utters mysteries in the Spirit.

As recorded by St. Matthew our Lord used this Greek verb interchangeably: “13:13 This is why I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing (akouo) they do not hear (akouo), nor do they understand (suniami).

This reminds me of a modern idiom I heard years ago out in Washington D.C. One radio station used to run an ad in which the speaker said, "I hear what you are saying but I do not hear what you are saying." The translation: I hear words from your mouth by they make no sense to me. A simple analogy but accurate, I think.

Beyond the issue of the Greek meaning of the word for “hearing” there is the additional consideration of the Greek word for “voice,” (phona) which appears grammatically different in Acts 9 and Acts 22. Sometimes “voice” is rendered as “sound” or “noise” which in not intelligible and other times it is a voice that is understood. So we see that the Greek text of the Word of God is ambivalent enough to account for any apparent discrepancies, as we may perceive them within the limits of an English translation. ©

Thanks, Josh

Father Echert

Adam and Eve

Question from Dean Famiano on 1/10/2008:


This is from my post, please excuse it being so casual. I also posted what I feel was the answer to the question at too. If you feel like looking at it, let me know. Thanks, Dean:

God said to Adam and Eve, "Don't eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil".

That's fine, they should have listened to God.


They didn't KNOW that it was evil, because they didn't know what evil was!

Answer by Fr. John Echert on 1/22/2008:

They new that they were created by God and therefore were subject to Him in all matters. So they would have known that defiance of the command of God would be a mortal sin--deadly--for God had even told them that they would surely die, were they to disobey Him. It is built into our constitution and conscience to be able to distinguish right from wrong, and this was certainly the case with Adam and Eve, whose conscience was clear and not so clouded as ours.

Thanks, Dean

Father Echert

Hillary Clinton

Question from Daniel Koutroulakis on 1/25/2008:

Hi Judy, I would just like to express my opinion on Senator Clinton to the person who criticized the basketball coach for endorsing her. First off, other than her pro-choice belief, I really like Hillary. She has had 35 years of experience and would make a great president. I still don't understand why so many are making carping remarks at her. Although abortion should remain a major issue for Catholics voting, many other things have to be kept in mind such as the candidate's ability for foreign policy (a + for Hillary), Healthcare (+ again) Fiscal policies and the Economy, Energy policy/Global Warming, and Education also. (Hillary Clinton has greatly contributed to the advancement and reform of education) All in all, it would be safe to say that she is relatively "neutral" on the abortion stand, and I think the reason she would be pro-choice is because she was a woman of her time period when they had back-alley abortions. I would hope that there would be more Pro-Life politicians of course, but, it seems that the politicians that are Pro-life (such as Huckabee and Paul) are also, weak in a lot of other major fields such as fiscal and economic measures. This, in my opinion, is what makes choosing candidates so difficult, since some are strong on some issues, but, weak in others.

Answer by Judie Brown on 1/26/2008:

Dear Daniel

First of all, there is no such thing as "pro-choice," but rather there is pro-choice-for-a-mother-to-kill-her-preborn-child. Hillary Clinton is pro-abortion. That is a fact.

Back-alley abortion is never a reason to favor killing children, to advocate it or to support it in any way.

The fundamental right to life is far more important than any other question facing the electorate. Abortion is an act of murder, Daniel, and there is nothing political about that. It is a real tragedy that so many in our culture have simply relegated abortion to nothing but a political subject.

Abortion is a heinous crime, and any politician who favors direct killing cannot be trusted in any area.

Judie Brown

The Soul vs Personality

Question from J.A. on 1/19/2008:

Can you explain where one's personality ends and the soul begins? Personality seems to define who we are to others, but so many things can alter our personality such as mental illness, injury, disease, substance abuse, etc.

Is personality purely biological, and our soul's job is to try and control the instinctual will of the body? Can sin be considered the willful failure of the soul to do so?

I have heard of experiments where researchers have supposedly been able to reproduce "religious experiences" by stimulating different parts of the brain. This has made me wonder what part of my consciousness of "self" is purely biological and what part is my soul. Can you recommend any books that deal with this subject?

Answer by Richard Geraghty on 1/24/2008:

Dear J.A.

The reason why human beings can think and act is because they have souls. Sometimes, however, the body or the brain is so seriously affected that human being, the person, has little or no control. The Church takes the view that man is single being composed of body and soul. Thus what happened in the body affects the soul and what affects the soul affects the body. This is a philosophical view of man which does not depend upon measurement or experiments. The philosophy and the modern sciences study man differently. Look up a book on the philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas for his view on the body soul relationship in man. Any other suggestions from out there?

Dr. Geraghty

Jesus Suffering

Question from john on 1/17/2008:

Jesus suffers for each of his children (us) who fails to serve him and lives a sinful life essentially forsaking the gift he gave (eternal life). this must be true of those he has lost; ie those in hell.

so why does hell exist if it is just a continual source of suffering for Christ? and how can Christ suffer this vicarious suffering if he is in paradise??

it seems strange to me that there will eternally exist a place in which Jesus will have to watch the lost chilren, he LOVES, suffer!

is it Christs lot in eternity to suffer forever! its not fair i tell u!!!

Answer by Richard Geraghty on 1/24/2008:

Dear John,

We have to recall that God is absolutely perfect and, therefore, happy in himself. If he had not created the world, he would not be any less happy. If he has created the world, he is not any more happy. Now when God became man, he did not do this to make himself happy. He did it only to make man happy. Now as a human being on this earth, Christ felt sadder or happier at the fate of his creatures. But as God he was always happy no matter what his creatures did. We forget that because as human beings we cannot appreciate that kind of supreme and infinite happiness. When the saved finally see God face to face, they will share in this complete state of happiness. Some rebel at this picture of the saved being indifferent to those they might have loved on earth but are damned. They do not understand how the just will rejoice with God over the triumph of injustice. That is because they take the human viewpoint and neglect the divine viewpoint. Thus we judge God to be inadequate in some way because he does not feel or think like us. We forget that we are not capable of the love that God has for each of his creatures. There is no comparison between his love for our partners, children, relatives or friends and our love for them.

Dr. Geraghty

Overemphasis on Roe?

Question from Elaine on 1/21/2008:

Hello again! I had another thought which I'd like to express today and hope you will bear with me. I am a practicing Catholic and pro-life. This time of year, of course, pro-lifers hold commemorations of the Roe anniversary and it's often mentioned at Mass. I understand completely why this is done and commend those who do this. However, I believe the pro-life movement at times places so much emphasis on Roe that one can be left with two distorted impressions: 1) that legal abortion didn't exist before Roe, when the Supreme Court suddenly foisted it on an unsuspecting nation out of the blue, and 2) legal abortion will disappear if we can just get Roe overturned. As I am sure you know, Judie, the movement to legalize abortion started long before Roe and abortion on demand was already legal in a number of states (New York and California come to mind, but there were others) before Roe. What Roe did was simply to declare access to abortion a consistutional right that ALL states had to recognize. Also, abortion on demand didn't instantly start up everywhere on Jan. 22, 1973. The states whose abortion laws were struck down had to pass new ones and get regulations in place to implement them. What really happened in most places was that abortion providers who were already operating illegally simply set up shop legally and kept doing what they had already been doing. We have been hearing a lot about the 50 million or so babies aborted legally since Roe. I suspect that if Roe had never occurred or been decided the other way, the number of abortions since 1973 would have been much less but it would still have been very high, perhaps 20 or 30 million. And as I am sure you also know, overturning Roe alone would not end abortion. It would simply allow states to make their own legislation and that would mean many more difficult battles. I realize that Roe is a very, very significant event that merits continual commemoration and I would like to see it overturned some day. But I think pro-lifers would do well to remember that abortion existed before Roe and will continue to exist after it is gone. Prayer and other forms of action besides political will always be needed. Thanks again for your time.

Answer by Judie Brown on 1/25/2008:

Dear Elaine

You set forth the precise reason why the only goal worth pursuing is personhood ... total protection for every innocent person from fertilization until natural death.

Thank you!

Judie Brown

Our Father Prayer

Question from John on 1/25/2008:

When saying the Our Father Prayer at Mass.Our Priest always adds the final doxology "For the kingdom,the power and glory are yours,now and forever," on to the end of Our Father like the protestent churches.He says this makes the non-catholics feel more at home when they are in our parish.He also has our church standing at the Eucharist prayer during the Christmas and Easter season,telling our parish that this is a time of celebration and that we should be standing.

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/28/2008:

John, This doxology of praise is already part and parcel of the Liturgy. It occurs as the second prayer after the Our Father. No priest has the authority to rearrange the text of the Mass, no priest. But the priest can ask for standing at Mass since that if already the general rule (however, exceptions can be made and are today permitted.) Fr. Bob Levis

devine mercy image

Question from evin on 1/25/2008:

hi father im just wondering when jesus said to sr faustina that whoever venetrates the divine mercy image will not perish.Can you please explain what he meant by this and the best way to venerate this image without breaking the second commandment. thanks

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/25/2008:

Evin,When one looks at the image of the Mercy of Jesus which St. Faustina received, one does not adore the image of Jesus but adores the God behind the image, the Christ who ordered the image to be produced, and who promised many wonderful heavenly favors to all those who trust in the Mercy of the Christ reproduced in the image. Fr. Bob Levis

Receiving Communion

Question from Cindy Walker on 1/25/2008:

I would like to know if I am married to a divorced man who was married in the Catholic Church and does not have an annulment, if both of us are allowed to receive communion and are we still recognized as being a part of the church.

Thank you.

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/25/2008:

Cindy, No, your married status in not recognized by the Magisterium of the Church. Why not find a good priest and talk about rectifying it? Fr. Bob levis

Pro- Living


By Rusty Montgomery *

Once again, our country had the chance to face the reality that we have killed and continue to kill millions of unborn babies. This week provided a great opportunity for thousands of pro-lifers all over the nation to stand together for the cause of protecting human life. In my experiences of pro-life walks and conventions on a both national and state levels, these experiences build great confidence and hope for the future. However, at the same time, people returning to their homes lose the contagious enthusiasm after everyday life seems to creep back in. So we wonder: How we can continue to battle the culture of death and continue to be a disciple of life? There are many ways, but for time and attention’s sake, let me offer the following story.

There once was a great and powerful king of Egypt who was afraid of his people. Trying to control them he realized they were becoming too great in number, so he decided take an even bolder measure. He commanded all of his subjects to throw every baby boy into the river that was born of this particular group. 

Some time later, another king, who heard of a future king being born in a nearby town was threatened by this news and ordered the massacre of the new born boys in the city where this king was supposed to be born. 

In fear and anger, the kings wanted to kill the people who would threaten them, and so they did. And that is where we find ourselves today. The power in this country- government, lobbyist groups, media, MTV, and so many others, in the name of freedom and fear promote, control, and advise our country to kill and massacre our babies just like the kings of old. The killing started with them, and it continues in our culture with the same perspective: life is about me and anything that threatens that does not deserve to live.

The story about these kings is not finished. In the first story, in the midst of effort to kill all the young boys, there was a brave mother who saw her child as beautiful and good and decided to hide him as long as she could. When she realized his life was in danger, she put him into a small wicker basket and floated him down the river. She saved his life. In the second story, hearing of the massacres, the father of the young baby took him and his mother to a nearby place to hide and wait out the unfolding events. They returned home safely, and the baby lived.

The baby in the first story was adopted and given the name Moses. The baby in the second story was given the name Jesus. Ever heard of them?

The lives of Moses and Jesus were threatened by the practices of the kings and the cultures they lived in. Our lives are similarly threatened by power and the culture we live in. There was a chance because of the practices and laws that our country has adopted that we could have been aborted and not given the chance to live. Praise God that we are alive today.

You see, Moses and Jesus were spared. Somehow, in the workings of God’s providence and grace, they were spared and given the chance to live. But, not only were they given the chance to live, they fulfilled the plan of God in a powerful way. Moses led the Israelites out of Egypt and revealed to the people the law of God.  Jesus needs no explanation. He was the Son of God and died for us all that we might have life…end of story.

In the light of this history and our culture today, have you ever sat down and realized that you have been spared too? Somehow, in the workings of God’s providence and grace you have been spared and given a chance to live. To really understand this notion is simply overwhelming.

My friends, I strongly support the pro-life movement and everything that it stands for. We must protest the laws against life. We must encourage ethical scientific practices. We must promote good marriages and chastity. But you know what we also must do? We must live as if we have been sparred and redeemed. We must live as if God spared us for a reason and has and incredible plan for our lives just like that of Moses and Jesus.

Being spared comes with the awesome responsibility of not only promoting life, but truly LIVING LIFE.  The conversion of hearts is not going to come with the passing of a law or millions of people marching on Washington (while those are good things!). The conversion of hearts is going to come when we live out a lifestyle that embraces faith, inspires hope, and in love, offers a better way. This means that we smile more, love others more, and most importantly - love the Lord more. And in experiencing this love, our spirits will give life to others.

We can’t afford to be merely pro-life, we have to be pro-living, and in my eyes there is a big difference.

We have been spared and have been given life. Truly living that life in Christ and being a person of hope will stop the killing.

It is up to us…start living

God Bless You,


Bishops ask for restrictions on organ trafficking in Philippines


Manila, Jan. 30, 2008 ( - The Catholic bishops of the Philippines are asking for stricter regulations on organ donations, the Reuters news service reports.

The worldwide market for human organs to be used in transplants has created a small but lucrative business for merchants who offer a modest fee to donors, then pocket a handsome profit on the sale of the organ. The organ merchants target impoverished individuals who will provide a kidney for about $1,000; the organ can then be sold for over $3,500.

The prospects of donating or receiving an organ have made the Philippines a popular site for "transplant tourism," the World Health Organization reports.

Archbishop Angel Lagdameo of Jaro, the president of the Filipino bishops' conference, condemned the trafficking in human organs as "morally unacceptable." While supporting voluntary donation, he said that the procedure should never be done for profit and that human beings "cannot be treated as commodities."

British Tory leader argues for ban on "preachers of hate"


London, Jan. 30, 2008 ( - British Conservative party leader David Cameron has argued that "preachers of hate" should barred from entry into Great Britain, the BBC reports.

Cameron's comment was prompted by the case of an Islamic preacher, Yusuf al Qaradawi, who hopes to travel to London from medical treatment. Cameron said that the vistor would be "dangerous and divisive."

Alluding to a previous government decision to allow a visit by Ibrahim Moussawi, a Hezbollah spokesman, the Conservative leader said that he hoped the government "will not repeat the mistake of last December and make clear that Moussawi is not welcome in the UK."

Saying that the country's security is being undermined by an excessive attention to multiculturalism, Cameron suggested a blanket policy prohibiting representatives of Hezbollah from entering the country.

Holy water

Question from Eva on 1/29/2008:

I do not think it is appropriate to drink holy water but some people do. Is it all right to drink it?

Answer by Catholic Answers on 1/29/2008:


It depends on who you ask. Some people see no problem with it. Others do. So far as I know, the Church doesn't forbid it. My personal opinion though is that holy water is intended for external blessings, that drinking holy water can easily become a superstitious practice, and that those who feel themselves in need of spiritual cleansing should go to confession.

Michelle Arnold
Catholic Answers

Use of candles

Question from Nana Osei Kofi on 1/23/2008:

Why do Catholics use incence and candles in the church

Answer by Richard Geraghty on 1/29/2008:

Dear Nana,

They are helps to bodily creatures like ourselves to pay attention to spiritual realities.

Dr. Geraghty

Church in Italy insists on “abortion moratorium”


Cardinal Camillo Ruini

ROME, Jan 30, 2008 / 03:05 am (CNA).- During an interview on the Italian TV network La7, Cardinal Camillo Ruini, Vicar for the city of Rome, said the Church in Italy continues supporting a “moratorium” on abortion but has not called for a “revolt” against the current law.

“The Church in Italy is not calling for a revolt against law 194 (which legalized abortion in Italy), but it cannot be denied that this is an intrinsically evil norm, which authorizes the death of an innocent human being,” the cardinal said.

He pointed out that one way for respect for life to be recovered in the country is for Italian politicians to read law 194 “in a comprehensive way,” so that the provisions included in the law which oblige the state to take measures to avoid abortions and support pregnant women are applied.  “In fact, these provisions have been forgotten,” Cardinal Ruini said.

“We need to do everything possible to help women to welcome their children,” he went on, recalling that 85,000 abortions have been avoided in Italy in recent years thanks to assistance from Catholic centers.

“The reality of abortion is that it takes the life of a living human being: this is the source of all the problems,” the cardinal stressed.  “Abortion is a drama for the woman, for the man, for the entire family, and therefore the Church’s approach is one of charity in all cases and not hostile persecution.”

Cardinal Ruini responded to questions posed by Giuliano Ferrara, the director of the newspaper “Il Foglio,” which proposed the idea at the beginning of the year of a moratorium on abortion, similar to the moratorium on the death penalty passed by the United Nations.

Messages of Medjugorje

Question from John Smith on 1/22/2008:

Dr. Geraghty, You responded to a question about validity of Medjugorje on 1-22-08 with the following. “All I know is that the local Bishop of Medjugorje has not approved of the apparitions and, indeed, is quite suspicious of them. But so far Rome has neither approved nor forbidden pilgrimages there. At any rate, the question is still up in the air.

Dr. Geraghty “

You are correct that the local Bishop, and the previous Bishop have NOT APPROVED the alleged apparitions. You are wrong in saying pilgrimages are not forbidden. No priest can lead a pilgrimage to Medjugorje with the intent of seeing/or participating in anything related to Our Lady of Medjugorje. Also, the decision of an apparition being supernatural or not is under the jurisdiction of the local Bishop. Rome does not have the authority to overrule a local bishop on these matters.

Answer by Richard Geraghty on 1/27/2008:

Dear John,

Thanks for your note. However, I would hesitate to say that Rome cannot over ride the ruling of a local Bishop on this matter. As a matter of fact, the Popes have stayed out of this matter so far because it is customary for Rome to respect the competence of the local Bishop to judge this matter. I would not go so far as to say the Pope could not over rule the local Bishop if he chose to. Anyway, from what you say, it seems that priests would be forbidden to go there altogether. The reason why I bring this whole matter up is because many people have gone to Medjugorje in the past and of spoken very well of it. I would not to give the impression that it was all one big mistake. At any rate, the issue seems quite muddled.

Dr. Geraghty


Question from mary downing on 1/28/2008:


Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/29/2008:

Mary, Natural enough. Doesn't an adopted child call his adoptive mother "Mother" which she isn't. Fr. Bob Levis

Priest to be Dismissed for condemning birth control

Question from Nick on 1/29/2008:

Father Lewis, A priest was disciplined by his bishop for condemning birth control! And oh yes, the complaints came from a gay couple! I have to wonder why Catholics don't want to be taught the teachings of the Church. Either Christ founded the Church or he didn't. I think it's because people are embarrassed to admit their are sinners. In our self-absorbed culture reactions like this aren't surprising. The poor priest was just doing his job. But the truth hurts and sometimes love is not kind. It is simply easier to preach homilies that society already agrees with rather than say something that may cause some to feel uncomfortable. We really ought to be grateful for bishops like Chaput and Burke no?

This Priest should be commended NOT punished! Especially from WITHIN the Church! St. Basil the Great and others were banished from their churches for speaking the truth as well. A priest was dismissed from his parish in New England a few years ago for speaking so from the pulpit. Luckily, another bishop, knowing the story of what happened, quietly took him into his own discese. YOU WONDER WHY WE HAVE A SHORTAGE OF PRIESTS! Lack of reliance on God's providence. Just look at Bishop Burke's diocese and how in the last year 50 men got into the seminary over there in St. Loius! Goes to show you what happens when you put your faith in God

We've seen the following: Let's see: 1. Bishops have allowed - or encouraged - all manner of liturgical non-sense (if not sacrilege) for the last 40 years or so; 2. Bishops enabled, covered up and, in some cases, actually engaged in, sexual abuse on a widespread scale over that last 40 years or so; 3. Bishops have impotently watched while the number of priests and religious brothers and sisters has plummeted over the last 40 years or so; 4 Bishops have impotently watched as Europe and North America have become largely de-Christianized over the last 40 years or so.

Now I'm not trying to be disrespectful to this bishop at all. The fact is that our Church is made up of human beings. Whether they be priest, bishop, brother, sister, or laity; all of us need and use the confessional. "Good Catholics" know Church Teachings and Truths and should even a bishop act outside of that Truth we (the laity) will know it and question it.

Can. 212 §1 Christ's faithful, conscious of their own responsibility, are bound to show Christian obedience to what the sacred Pastors, who represent Christ, declare as teachers of the faith and prescribe as rulers of the Church.

§2 Christ's faithful are at liberty to make known their needs, especially their spiritual needs, and their wishes to the Pastors of the Church.

§3 They have the right, indeed at times the duty, in keeping with their knowledge, competence and position, to manifest to the sacred Pastors their views on matters which concern the good of the Church. They have the right also to make their views known to others of Christ's faithful, but in doing so they must always respect the integrity of faith and morals, show due reverence to the Pastors and take into account both the common good and the dignity of individuals.

Being concerned about a decision is not disregarding the authority of the Church, nor denigrating the bishop, so long as it is done respectfully for the office when doing so. You mentioned in another post that are we approaching another Nazi era. If we keep going the way we are we could see worse than that, perhaps a chastisement of Apocalyptic proportions.


Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/29/2008:

Dear Nick, It is hard for me to think I have the whole picture, of all that undergirds this suspension. There may be something of which you are not informed. I know many incidents of trouble centering on the application of "Humanae Vitae". I surely agree with you on the tragedy of any priest being dismissed, and a real shocker for doing his duty! God bless you. Fr Bob Levis

Format of Confession

Question from Tucker on 1/28/2008:

Father Levis, I was wondering when and how the church decided on how to format or "put together" the sacrament of confession the way we do it now. By this I mean how they do the prayers, the order, the absolution, etc. I already know how it came into existence but wanted to know how it became what it is now. I love going to confession each week and would like to know this.

I would like you to pray for me because I am discerning a vocation to the priesthood.

God Bless,

Tucker, age 14

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/28/2008:

Tucker, Like all the other acts of the Liturgy, Confession and how we do it is the result of concern, natural organic development out of the Bible. One sins, tells a priest, who absolves and forgives his sins, and next imposes some penance to make-up for the sins confessed. It is the most natural thing in itself. Fr. Bob Levis

Leaving the catholic church.

Question from Robert on 1/28/2008:

Hi my name is Robert. In 1999 I had requested my name be removed from the catholic church. I received a letter stating that my name has been removed. I was recently thinking is my name really removed or did they just put some mark next to my name? I got baptized and I did my first communion at the catholic church. since that time my involvement has been nil.

I'd like to know if my name has been totally removed from all lists or is my name still on the baptism/first communion lists? I would like to know for sure that my name has been removed from these lists and how can I go about to finding out? I'd like to know. For your own information I did not leave the catholic church for some wacky cult like you see on TV or did am I in some kind of wacky satanic group. I am just a guy who doesn't believe and just lives his life. I just don't like to be tied to anything that I am not part of. Or should I say that is not part of me. Thanks for any info. Regards, Rob.

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/29/2008:

Rob, You should call the parish of your Baptism for this info. Fr. Bob alevis

pro-life speech from our clergy

Question from Anon on 1/25/2008:

Dear Fr. Levis:

Why do our good Priests find it so hard to speak about abortion and contraception from the pulpit? Do they not realize that it is their responsibility. I have been attempting to spread the 40 Days for Life Campaign in my area. There are 45 Parishes in my County and only 5 have said YES in the past month. I find it a discouraging disgrace! How do I kindly encourage my Priests to get involved? This is not hard to do - it is free, and does not require a lot of work. I can't even get our Bishop to support this. I guess I am just after words of encouragement or some good advise from a wise Priest.

God Bless You Father for speaking the TRUTH.

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/28/2008:

Anon, /Some dioceses or areas are in a state of discouragement, of dryness. The average age of the priests in these areas is sometimes approahing 70 years of age. The shortage of priests is another demand on their energy and useful hours. Again, there are some very active pro-life groups and some priests are confident in the action of such groups and hold themselves free of pulpit responsibility. God bless you. Fr. Bob Levis

holy water

Question from laura on 1/28/2008:

I have another question, I forgot how to bless my house or my children with holy water-used to know yrs ago. Being a returning catholic-I am not sure of the correct words to use when blessing property eg house/car/kids' rooms and my children. I have holy water and basically dipped my clean hand in it several times and made the sign of the cross and said "I bless so-and-so room in the name of the father/son/holy spirit and ask for the angel's protection for so-and-so in keeping them safe. Thanks, Father for all your wonderful help and support and may you have many blessings in life-sincerely, laura

PS-i have tried researching and found too many information that confused me further.

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/28/2008:

Dear Laura, What a great post! A near tragedy with a beautiful ending! Thanks for sharing this experience with all our posters, and personally, for detailing the genuine services of this special priest!!!!! He was so good, so genuinely priest! See how God provides for you, Laura, and for your dear ones! YOu won't forget this priest, nor should you. Pray for all of us. Laura, use Holy Water as a laver of cleansing, as a wash against all the non-good in your home.You did just fine. Fr. Bob Levis

pro-life speech from our clergy

Question from Anon on 1/25/2008:

Dear Fr. Levis:

Why do our good Priests find it so hard to speak about abortion and contraception from the pulpit? Do they not realize that it is their responsibility. I have been attempting to spread the 40 Days for Life Campaign in my area. There are 45 Parishes in my County and only 5 have said YES in the past month. I find it a discouraging disgrace! How do I kindly encourage my Priests to get involved? This is not hard to do - it is free, and does not require a lot of work. I can't even get our Bishop to support this. I guess I am just after words of encouragement or some good advise from a wise Priest.

God Bless You Father for speaking the TRUTH.

Answer by Fr. Robert J. Levis on 1/28/2008:

Anon, /Some dioceses or areas are in a state of discouragement, of dryness. The average age of the priests in these areas is sometimes approahing 70 years of age. The shortage of priests is another demand on their energy and useful hours. Again, there are some very active pro-life groups and some priests are confident in the action of such groups and hold themselves free of pulpit responsibility. God bless you. Fr. Bob Levis

Hillary Clinton

Question from Daniel Koutroulakis on 1/25/2008:

Hi Judy, I would just like to express my opinion on Senator Clinton to the person who criticized the basketball coach for endorsing her. First off, other than her pro-choice belief, I really like Hillary. She has had 35 years of experience and would make a great president. I still don't understand why so many are making carping remarks at her. Although abortion should remain a major issue for Catholics voting, many other things have to be kept in mind such as the candidate's ability for foreign policy (a + for Hillary), Healthcare (+ again) Fiscal policies and the Economy, Energy policy/Global Warming, and Education also. (Hillary Clinton has greatly contributed to the advancement and reform of education) All in all, it would be safe to say that she is relatively "neutral" on the abortion stand, and I think the reason she would be pro-choice is because she was a woman of her time period when they had back-alley abortions. I would hope that there would be more Pro-Life politicians of course, but, it seems that the politicians that are Pro-life (such as Huckabee and Paul) are also, weak in a lot of other major fields such as fiscal and economic measures. This, in my opinion, is what makes choosing candidates so difficult, since some are strong on some issues, but, weak in others.

Answer by Judie Brown on 1/26/2008:

Dear Daniel

First of all, there is no such thing as "pro-choice," but rather there is pro-choice-for-a-mother-to-kill-her-preborn-child. Hillary Clinton is pro-abortion. That is a fact.

Back-alley abortion is never a reason to favor killing children, to advocate it or to support it in any way.

The fundamental right to life is far more important than any other question facing the electorate. Abortion is an act of murder, Daniel, and there is nothing political about that. It is a real tragedy that so many in our culture have simply relegated abortion to nothing but a political subject.

Abortion is a heinous crime, and any politician who favors direct killing cannot be trusted in any area.

Judie Brown

Kneeling To Receive Holy Communion


Question Can the faithful legitimately received Holy Communion kneeling?

Answer Yes. Here is a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship responding to this question on 2/26/03:

Prot. N. 47/03/L

This Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments has received your letter dated 1 December 2002, related to the application of the norms approved by the Conference of Bishops of the United States of America, with the subsequent recognitio of this Congegation, as regards the question of the posture for receiving Holy Communion.

As the authority by virtue of whose recognitio the norm in question has attained the force of law, this Dicastery is competent to specify the manner in which the norm is to be understood for the sake of a proper application. Having received more than a few letters regarding this matter from different locations in the United States of America, the Congregation wishes to ensure that its position on the matter is clear.

To this end, it is perhaps useful to respond to your inquiry by repeating the content of a letter that the Congregation recently addressed to a Bishop in the United States of America from whose Diocese a number of pertinent letters had been received. The letter states: "...while this Congregation gave the recognitio to the norm desired by the Bishops' Conference of your country that people stand for Holy Communion, this was done on the condition that communicants who choose to kneel are not to be denied Holy Communion on these grounds. Indeed, the faithful should not be imposed upon nor accused of disobedience and of acting illicitly when they kneel to receive Holy Communion."

This Dicastery hopes that the citation given here will provide an adequate answer to your letter. At the same time, please be assured that the Congregation remains ready to be of assistance if you should need to contact it again.

With every prayerful good wish, I am,

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Mons. Mario Marini

Removing Holy Water During Lent


Question Can the holy water be removed from fonts during Lent?

Answer No. Here is a letter from the Congregation for Divine Worship responding to this question on 3/14/03:

Prot. N. 569/00/L

Dear Father:
This Congregation for Divine Worship has received your letter sent by fax in which you ask whether it is in accord with liturgical law to remove the Holy Water from the fonts for the duration of the season of Lent.

This Dicastery is able to respond that the removing of Holy Water from the fonts during the season of Lent is not permitted, in particular, for two reasons:

  1. The liturgical legislation in force does not foresee this innovation, which in addition to being praeter legem is contrary to a balanced understanding of the season of Lent, which though truly being a season of penance, is also a season rich in the symbolism of water and baptism, constantly evoked in liturgical texts.
  2. The encouragement of the Church that the faithful avail themselves frequently of the [sic] of her sacraments is to be understood to apply also to the season of Lent. The "fast" and "abstinence" which the faithful embrace in this season does not extend to abstaining from the sacraments or sacramentals of the Church. The practice of the Church has been to empty the Holy Water fonts on the days of the Sacred Triduum in preparation of the blessing of the water at the Easter Vigil, and it corresponds to those days on which the Eucharist is not celebrated (i.e., Good Friday and Holy Saturda).

    Hoping that this resolves the question with every good wish and kind regard, I am,

    Sincerely yours in Christ,
    Mons. Mario Marini

Flags, Display of in Roman Catholic Churches (US)


Surprisingly to many, there are no regulations of any kind governing the display of flags in Roman Catholic Churches. Neither the Code of Canon law, nor the liturgical books of the Roman rite comment on this practice. As a result, the question of whether and how to display the American flag in a Catholic Church is left up to the judgment of the diocesan bishop, who in turn often delegates this to the discretion of the pastor.

The origin of the display of the American flag in many parishes in the United States appears [to] have its origins in the offering of prayers for those who served during the Second World War (1941-1945). At that time, many bishops and pastors provided a book of remembrance near the American flag, requesting prayers for loved ones -- especially those serving their country in the armed forces -- as a way of keeping before the attention of the faithful the needs of military families. This practice has since been confirmed in many places during the Korean, Viet Nam and Iraqi conflicts.

The Bishops´ Committee on the Liturgy has in the past encouraged pastors not to place the flag within the sanctuary itself, in order to reserve that space for the altar, the ambo, the presidential chair and the tabernacle. Instead, the suggestion has been made that the American flag be placed outside the sanctuary, or in the vestibule of the Church together with a book of prayer requests. It remains, however, for the diocesan bishop to determine regulations in this matter.

Purification of Vessels by Extraordinary Ministers


Question Is it permissible for extraordinary ministers to purify the sacred vessels after Holy Communion or after Mass?

Answer According to the General Instruction: "The vessels are purified by the priest or else by the deacon or acolyte after the communion or after Mass, if possible at a side table." (n. 238) The Notitae #238 adds that "The remarks on the priest, deacon and acolyte are applicable to a special minister who lawfully distributes communion."

God and Evolution



During the second half of the nineteenth century, it became common to speak of a war between science and religion.

But over the course of the twentieth century, that hostility gradually subsided. Following in the footsteps of the Second Vatican Council, John Paul II at the beginning of his pontificate established a commission to review and correct the condemnation of Galileo at his trial of 1633. In 1983 he held a conference celebrating the 350th anniversary of the publication of Galileo’s Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences, at which he remarked that the experience of the Galileo case had led the Church “to a more mature attitude and a more accurate grasp of the authority proper to her,” enabling her better to distinguish between “essentials of the faith” and the “scientific systems of a given age.”

From September 21 to 26, 1987, the pope sponsored a week of study on science and religion at Castel Gandolfo. On June 1, 1988, reflecting on the results of his conference, he sent a positive and encouraging letter to the director of the Vatican Observatory, steering a middle course between a separation and a fusion of the disciplines. He recommended a program of dialogue and interaction, in which science and religion would seek neither to supplant each other nor to ignore each other. They should search together for a more thorough understanding of one another’s competencies and limitations, and they should look especially for common ground. Science should not try to become religion, nor should religion seek to take the place of science. Science can purify religion from error and superstition, while religion purifies science from idolatry and false absolutes. Each discipline should therefore retain its integrity and yet be open to the insights and discoveries of the other.

In a widely noticed message on evolution to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, sent on October 22, 1996, John Paul II noted that, while there are several theories of evolution, the fact of the evolution of the human body from lower forms of life is “more than a hypothesis.” But human life, he insisted, was separated from all that is less than human by an “ontological difference.” The spiritual soul, said the pope, does not simply emerge from the forces of living matter nor is it a mere epiphenomenon of matter. Faith enables us to affirm that the human soul is immediately created by God.

The pope was interpreted in some circles as having accepted the neo-Darwinian view that evolution is sufficiently explained by random mutations and natural selection (or “survival of the fittest”) without any kind of governing purpose or finality. Seeking to offset this misreading, Christoph Cardinal Schönborn, the archbishop of Vienna, published on July 7, 2005, an op-ed in the New York Times, in which he quoted a series of pronouncements of John Paul II to the contrary. For example, the pope declared at a General Audience of July 19, 1985: “The evolution of human beings, of which science seeks to determine the stages and discern the mechanism, presents an internal finality which arouses admiration. This finality, which directs beings in a direction for which they are not responsible, obliges one to suppose a Mind which is its inventor, its creator.” In this connection, the pope said that to ascribe human evolution to sheer chance would be an abdication of human intelligence.

Cardinal Schönborn was also able to cite Pope Benedict XVI, who stated in his inauguration Mass as pope on April 24, 2005: “We are not some casual and meaningless product of evolution. Each of us is the result of a thought of God. Each of us is willed, each of us is loved, each of us is necessary.”

Cardinal Schönborn’s article was interpreted by many readers as a rejection of evolution. Some letters to the editor accused him of favoring a retrograde form of creationism and of contradicting John Paul II. They seemed unable to grasp the fact that he was speaking the language of classical philosophy and was not opting for any particular scientific position. His critique was directed against those neo-Darwinists who pronounced on philosophical and theological questions by the methods of natural science.

Several authorities on these questions, such as Kenneth R. Miller and Stephen M. Barr, in their replies to Schönborn, insisted that one could be a neo-Darwinist in science and an orthodox Christian believer. Distinguishing different levels of knowledge, they contended that what is random from a scientific point of view is included in God’s eternal plan. God, so to speak, rolls the dice but is able by his comprehensive knowledge to foresee the result from all eternity.

This combination of Darwinism in science and theism in theology may be sustainable, but it is not the position Schönborn intended to attack. As he made clear in a subsequent article in FIRST THINGS (January 2006), he was taking exception only to those neo-Darwinists — and they are many — who maintain that no valid investigation of nature could be conducted except in the reductive mode of mechanism, which seeks to explain everything in terms of quantity, matter, and motion, excluding specific differences and purpose in nature. He quoted one such neo-Darwinist as stating: “Modern science directly implies that the world is organized strictly in accordance with deterministic principles or chance. There are no purposive principles whatsoever in nature. There are no gods and no designing forces rationally detectable.”

Cardinal Schönborn shrewdly observes that positivistic scientists begin by methodically excluding formal and final causes. Having then described natural processes in terms of merely efficient and material causality, they turn around and reject every other kind of explanation. They simply disallow the questions about why anything (including human life) exists, how we differ in nature from irrational animals, and how we ought to conduct our lives.

During the past few years, there has been a new burst of atheistic literature that claims the authority of science, and especially Darwinist theories of evolution, to demonstrate that it is irrational to believe in God. The titles of some of these books are revealing: The End of Faith by Sam Harris, Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon by Daniel Dennett, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins, and God: The Failed Hypothesis by Victor J. Stenger. The new atheists are writing with the enthusiasm of evangelists propagating the gospel of atheism and irreligion.

These writers generally agree in holding that evidence, understood in the scientific sense, is the only valid ground for belief.

These writers generally agree in holding that evidence, understood in the scientific sense, is the only valid ground for belief. Science performs objective observations by eye and by instrument; it builds models or hypotheses to account for the observed phenomena. It then tests the hypotheses by deducing consequences and seeing whether they can be verified or falsified by experiment. All worldly phenomena are presumed to be explicable by reference to inner-worldly bodies and forces. Unless God were a verifiable hypothesis tested by scientific method, they hold, there would be no ground for religious belief.

Richard Dawkins, a leading spokesman for this new antireligion, may be taken as representative of the class. The proofs for the existence of God, he believes, are all invalid, since among other defects they leave unanswered the question “Who made God?” “Faith,” he writes, “is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. . . . Faith, being belief that isn’t based on evidence, is the principal vice in any religion.” Carried away by his own ideology, he speaks of “the fatuousness of the religiously indoctrinated mind.” He makes the boast that, in the quest to explain the nature of human life and of the universe in which we find ourselves, religion “is now completely superseded by science.”

Dawkins’ understanding of religious faith as an irrational commitment strikes the Catholic as strange. The First Vatican Council condemned fideism, the doctrine that faith is irrational. It insisted that faith is and must be in harmony with reason. John Paul II developed the same idea in his encyclical on Faith and Reason, and Benedict XVI in his Regensburg academic lecture of September 12, 2006, insisted on the necessary harmony between faith and reason. In that context, he called for a recovery of reason in its full range, offsetting the tendency of modern science to limit reason to the empirically verifiable.

Far from being able to replace religion, it cannot begin to tell us what brought the world into existence, nor why the world exists, nor what our ultimate destiny is, nor how we should act in order to be the kind of persons we ought to be.

Catholics who are expert in the biological sciences take several different positions on evolution. As I have indicated, one group, while explaining evolution in terms of random mutations and survival of the fittest, accepts the Darwinist account as accurate on the scientific level but rejects Darwinism as a philosophical system. This first group holds that God, eternally foreseeing all the products of evolution, uses the natural process of evolution to work out his creative plan. Following Fred Hoyle, some members of this group speak of the “anthropic principle,” meaning that the universe was “fine-tuned” from the first moment of creation to allow the emergence of human life.

A recent example of this point of view may be found in Francis S. Collins’ 2006 book, The Language of God. Collins, a world-renowned expert on genetics and microbiology, was reared without any religious belief and became a Christian after finishing his education in chemistry, biology, and medicine. His professional knowledge in these fields convinced him that the beauty and symmetry of human genes and genomes strongly testifies in favor of a wise and loving Creator. But God, he believes, does not need to intervene in the process of bodily evolution. Collins holds for a theory of theistic evolutionism that he designates as the BioLogos position.

Although Collins is not a Catholic, he approvingly refers to the views of John Paul II on evolution in the 1996 message to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences. He builds on the work of the Anglican priest Arthur Peacock, who has written a book with the title Evolution: The Disguised Friend of Faith. He quotes with satisfaction the words of President Bill Clinton, who declared at a White House celebration of the Human Genome Project in June 2000: “Today we are learning the language in which God created life. We are gaining ever more awe for the complexity, the beauty, and the wonder of God’s most divine and sacred gift.”

Theistic evolutionism, like classical Darwinism, refrains from asserting any divine intervention in the process of evolution. It concedes that the emergence of living bodies, including the human, can be accounted for on the empirical level by random mutations and survival of the fittest.

But theistic evolutionism rejects the atheistic conclusions of Dawkins and his cohorts. The physical sciences, it maintains, are not the sole acceptable source of truth and certitude. Science has a real though limited competence. It can tell us a great deal about the processes that can be observed or controlled by the senses and by instruments, but it has no way of answering deeper questions involving reality as a whole. Far from being able to replace religion, it cannot begin to tell us what brought the world into existence, nor why the world exists, nor what our ultimate destiny is, nor how we should act in order to be the kind of persons we ought to be.

Viewed as a scientific system, Darwinism has some attractive features. Its great advantage is its simplicity. Ignoring the specific differences between different types of being and the purposes for which they act, Darwinism of this type reduces the whole process of evolution to matter and motion. On its own level it produces plausible explanations that seem to satisfy many practicing scientists.

Notwithstanding these advantages, Darwinism has not entirely triumphed, even in the scientific field. An important school of scientists supports a theory known as Intelligent Design. Michael Behe, a professor at Lehigh University, contends that certain organs of living beings are “irreducibly complex.” Their formation could not take place by small random mutations, because something that had only some but not all the features of the new organ would have no reason for existence and no advantage for survival. It would make no sense, for example, for the pupil of the eye to evolve if there were no retina to accompany it, and it would be nonsensical for there to be a retina with no pupil. As a showcase example of a complex organ all of whose parts are interdependent, Behe proposes the bacterial flagellum, a marvelous swimming device used by some bacteria.

At this point we get into a technical dispute among microbiologists that I will not attempt to adjudicate. In favor of Behe and his school, we may say that the possibility of sudden major changes effected by a higher intelligence should not be antecedently ruled out. But we may take it as a sound principle that God does not intervene in the created order without necessity. If the production of organs such as the bacterial flagellum can be explained by the gradual accumulation of minor random variations, the Darwinist explanation should be preferred. As a matter of policy, it is imprudent to build one’s case for faith on what science has not yet explained, because tomorrow it may be able to explain what it cannot explain today. History teaches us that the “God of the gaps” often proves to be an illusion.

Darwinism is criticized by yet a third school of critics, one which includes philosophers such as Michael Polanyi, who build on the work of Henri Bergson and Teilhard de Chardin. Philosophers of this orientation, notwithstanding their mutual differences, agree that biological organisms cannot be understood by the laws of mechanics alone. The laws of biology, without in any way contradicting those of physics and chemistry, are more complex. The behavior of living organisms cannot be explained without taking into account their striving for life and growth. Plants, by reaching out for sunlight and nourishment, betray an intrinsic aspiration to live and grow. This internal finality makes them capable of success and failure in ways that stones and minerals are not. Because of the ontological gap that separates the living from the nonliving, the emergence of life cannot be accounted for on the basis of purely mechanical principles.

By its method, it filters out subjectivity, feeling, and striving, all of which are essential to a full theory of cognition. Materialistic Darwinism is incapable of explaining why the universe gives rise to subjectivity, feeling, and striving.

In tune with this school of thought, the English mathematical physicist John Polkinghorne holds that Darwinism is incapable of explaining why multicellular plants and animals arise when single cellular organisms seem to cope with the environment quite successfully. There must be in the universe a thrust toward higher and more-complex forms. The Georgetown professor John F. Haught, in a recent defense of the same point of view, notes that natural science achieves exact results by restricting itself to measurable phenomena, ignoring deeper questions about meaning and purpose. By its method, it filters out subjectivity, feeling, and striving, all of which are essential to a full theory of cognition. Materialistic Darwinism is incapable of explaining why the universe gives rise to subjectivity, feeling, and striving.

The Thomist philosopher Etienne Gilson vigorously contended in his 1971 book From Aristotle to Darwin and Back Again that Francis Bacon and others perpetrated a philosophical error when they eliminated two of Aristotle’s four causes from the purview of science. They sought to explain everything in mechanistic terms, referring only to material and efficient causes and discarding formal and final causality.

Without the form, or the formal cause, it would be impossible to account for the unity and specific identity of any substance. In the human composite the form is the spiritual soul, which makes the organism a single entity and gives it its human character. Once the form is lost, the material elements decompose, and the body ceases to be human. It would be futile, therefore, to try to define human beings in terms of their bodily components alone.

Final causality is particularly important in the realm of living organisms. The organs of the animal or human body are not intelligible except in terms of their purpose or finality. The brain is not intelligible without reference to the faculty of thinking that is its purpose, nor is the eye intelligible without reference to the function of seeing.

These three schools of thought are all sustainable in a Christian philosophy of nature. Although I incline toward the third, I recognize that some well-qualified experts profess theistic Darwinism and Intelligent Design. All three of these Christian perspectives on evolution affirm that God plays an essential role in the process, but they conceive of God’s role in different ways. According to theistic Darwinism, God initiates the process by producing from the first instant of creation (the Big Bang) the matter and energies that will gradually develop into vegetable, animal, and eventually human life on this earth and perhaps elsewhere. According to Intelligent Design, the development does not occur without divine intervention at certain stages, producing irreducibly complex organs. According to the teleological view, the forward thrust of evolution and its breakthroughs into higher grades of being depend upon the dynamic presence of God to his creation. Many adherents of this school would say that the transition from physicochemical existence to biological life, and the further transitions to animal and human life, require an additional input of divine creative energy.

Much of the scientific community seems to be fiercely opposed to any theory that would bring God actively into the process of evolution, as the second and third theories do. Christian Darwinists run the risk of conceding too much to their atheistic colleagues. They may be over-inclined to grant that the whole process of emergence takes place without the involvement of any higher agency. Theologians must ask whether it is acceptable to banish God from his creation in this fashion.

Several centuries ago, a group of philosophers known as Deists held the theory that God had created the universe and ceased at that point to have any further influence. Most Christians firmly disagreed, holding that God continues to act in history. In the course of centuries, he gave revelations to his prophets; he worked miracles; he sent his own Son to become a man; he raised Jesus from the dead. If God is so active in the supernatural order, producing effects that are publicly observable, it is difficult to rule out on principle all interventions in the process of evolution. Why should God be capable of creating the world from nothing but incapable of acting within the world he has made? The tendency today is to say that creation was not complete at the origins of the universe but continues as the universe develops in complexity.

Phillip E. Johnson, a leader in the Intelligent Design movement, has accused the Christian Darwinists of falling into an updated Deism, exiling God “to the shadowy realm before the Big Bang,” where he “must do nothing that might cause trouble between theists and scientific naturalists.”

The Catholic Church has consistently maintained that the human soul is not a product of any biological cause but is immediately created by God. This doctrine raises the question whether God is not necessarily involved in the fashioning of the human body, since the human body comes to be when the soul is infused. The advent of the human soul makes the body correlative with it and therefore human. Even though it may be difficult for the scientist to detect the point at which the evolving body passes from the anthropoid to the human, it would be absurd for a brute animal — say, a chimpanzee — to possess a body perfectly identical with the human.

Christian Darwinists run the risk of conceding too much to their atheistic colleagues. They may be over-inclined to grant that the whole process of emergence takes place without the involvement of any higher agency. Theologians must ask whether it is acceptable to banish God from his creation in this fashion.

Atheistic scientists often write as though the only valid manner of reasoning is that current in modern science: to make precise observations and measurements of phenomena, to frame hypotheses to account for the evidence, and to confirm or disconfirm the hypotheses by experiments. I find it hard to imagine anyone coming to belief in God by this route.

It is true, of course, that the beauty and order of nature has often moved people to believe in God as creator. The eternal power and majesty of God, says St. Paul, is manifest to all from the things God has made. To the people of Lystra, Paul proclaimed that God has never left himself without witness, “for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.” Christian philosophers have fashioned rigorous proofs based on these spontaneous insights. But these deductive proofs do not rely upon modern scientific method.

It may be of interest that the scientist Francis Collins came to believe in God not so much from contemplating the beauty and order of creation — impressive though it is — but as the result of moral and religious experience. His reading of C.S. Lewis convinced him that there is a higher moral law to which we are unconditionally subject and that the only possible source of that law is a personal God. Lewis also taught him to trust the natural instinct by which the human heart reaches out ineluctably to the infinite and the divine. Every other natural appetite — such as those for food, sex, and knowledge — has a real object. Why, then, should the yearning for God be the exception?

To believe in God is natural, and the belief can be confirmed by philosophical proofs. Yet Christians generally believe in God, I suspect, not because of these proofs but rather because they revere the person of Jesus, who teaches us about God by his words and actions. It would not be possible to be a follower of Jesus and be an atheist.

Scientists such as Dawkins, Harris, and Stenger seem to know very little of the spiritual experience of believers. As Terry Eagleton wrote in his review of Dawkins’ The God Delusion: “Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge is The Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. . . . If card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins [were asked] to pass judgment on the geopolitics of South Africa, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster.”

Some contemporary scientific atheists are so caught up in the methodology of their discipline that they imagine it must be the only method for solving every problem. But other methods are needed for grappling with questions of another order. Science and technology (science’s offspring) are totally inadequate in the field of morality. While science and technology vastly increase human power, power is ambivalent. It can accomplish good or evil; the same inventions can be constructive or destructive.

The tendency of science, when it gains the upper hand, is to do whatever lies within its capacity, without regard for moral constraints. As we have experienced in recent generations, technology uncontrolled by moral standards has visited untold horrors on the world. To distinguish between the right and wrong use of power, and to motivate human beings to do what is right even when it does not suit their convenience, requires recourse to moral and religious norms. The biddings of conscience make it clear that we are inescapably under a higher law that requires us to behave in certain ways and that judges us guilty if we disobey it. We would turn in vain to scientists to inform us about this higher law.

The tendency of science, when it gains the upper hand, is to do whatever lies within its capacity, without regard for moral constraints. As we have experienced in recent generations, technology uncontrolled by moral standards has visited untold horrors on the world.

Some evolutionists contend that morality and religion arise, evolve, and persist according to Darwinian principles. Religion, they say, has survival value for individuals and communities. But this alleged survival value, even if it be real, tells us nothing about the truth or falsity of any moral or religious system. Since questions of this higher order cannot be answered by science, philosophy and theology still have an essential role to play.

Justin Barrett, an evolutionary psychologist now at Oxford, is also a practicing Christian. He believes that an all-knowing, all-powerful, and perfectly good God crafted human beings to be in loving relationship with him and with one another. “Why wouldn’t God,” he asks, “design us in such a way as to find belief in divinity quite natural?” Even if these mental phenomena can be explained scientifically, the psychological explanation does not mean that we should stop believing. “Suppose that science produces a convincing account for why I think my wife loves me,” he writes. “Should I then stop believing that she does?”

A metaphysics of knowledge can take us further in the quest for religious truth. It can give reasons for thinking that the natural tendency to believe in God, manifest among all peoples, does not exist in vain. Biology and psychology can examine the phenomena from below. But theology sees them from above, as the work of God calling us to himself in the depths of our being. We are, so to speak, programmed to seek eternal life in union with God, the personal source and goal of everything that is true and good. This natural desire to gaze upon him, while it may be suppressed for a time, cannot be eradicated.

Science can cast a brilliant light on the processes of nature and can vastly increase human power over the environment. Rightly used, it can notably improve the conditions of life here on earth. Future scientific discoveries about evolution will presumably enrich religion and theology, since God reveals himself through the book of nature as well as through redemptive history. Science, however, performs a disservice when it claims to be the only valid form of knowledge, displacing the aesthetic, the interpersonal, the philosophical, and the religious.

The recent outburst of atheistic scientism is an ominous sign. If unchecked, this arrogance could lead to a resumption of the senseless warfare that raged in the nineteenth century, thus undermining the harmony of different levels of knowledge that has been foundational to our Western civilization. By contrast, the kind of dialogue between evolutionary science and theology proposed by John Paul II can overcome the alienation and lead to authentic progress both for science and for religion.

Illinois ranked 38th out of 50 states on Pro-Life laws


1/19/2008 8:29:00 AM
By Illinois Right to Life Committee -William Beckman

Americans United for Life (AUL) has released their fifth annual ranking of the most and least Pro-Life states. AUL works with state legislators across the nation to pass effective Pro-Life laws. This new national ranking of states shows Michigan in the lead, followed by Louisiana, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Kansas.

AUL's criteria covers each state's treatment of all Pro-Life issues and the final ranking depends largely on each state's enactment of prudent and well-supported laws limiting abortions as much as the Supreme Court has allowed. Among the laws that AUL looks for are informed consent, parental involvement for minors, abortion facility regulations, and abortion funding limits.

Illinois falls far short in all of these categories, leading to a ranking of 38th out of the 50 states. About the only positive to be drawn from this ranking is not falling into the bottom 10 - yet.

Illinois has no informed consent law on abortion so women are not given any facts about the adverse consequences of abortion before receiving one. Illinois has a parental notification of abortion law, but it still sits dormant waiting for a decision from Federal Judge David Coar on removal of the Federal injunction preventing enforcement of the law. Meanwhile, abortions on out-of-state minors continue to rise because Illiniois is a haven for bypassing the parental involvement laws in effect in all surrounding states. Only vigorous efforts from Pro-Life lobbyists and concerned citizens prevented passage of a bill in 2007 that would have revoked parental notification even before it could take effect.

It has been stated that veterinary clinics are more regulated than abortion clinics in Illinois. Weak abortion clinic regulations in Illinois can be attributed to a 1989 settlement accepted by pro-abortion Attorney General Neil Hartigan in a lawsuit filed by Dr. Richard Ragsdale, a Rockford, IL physician, against Dr. Bernard Turnock, the state's Public Health Director, challenging Illinois abortion regulations. lllinois taxpayers are required to fund so-called "medically necessary" abortions, essentially funding abortion-on-demand given the Federal courts' broad definition of "health" in the context of abortion.

Beyond abortion, some positives do exist under Illinois criminal law. The killing of an unborn child at any stage of gestation is defined as a form of homicide and Illinois defines nonfatal assaults on an unborn child as a crime. Illinois law also requires that viable infants who survive an abortion must be given appropriate medical care. These may be about the only positives keeping the Pro-Life ranking of Illinois above the bottom 10 states.

AUL lists a number of opportunities for improvement of Illinois laws, including informed consent, regulation of abortion clinics, and better protection of patients' end-of-life decisions. Unfortunately, with the current anti-life composition of the Illinois legislature, it is unlikely that real progress can be made on any of these issues in 2008.

William Beckman

Executive Director

Illinois Right to Life Committee

Debate over Turin Shroud Authenticity continues


1/20/2008 7:57:00 AM
By David Roemer -Spero News

Home World Culture Society Commentary Views Comments Forum Wiki PR Wire Bookstore Contact Commentary: Religion

Why the Turin Shroud is not authentic

When Delage said the man in the Shroud was Jesus, members of the audience shouted out "traitor" and shook their fists.

Friday, January 18, 2008By David Roemer

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Sign Pointing to Jesus

Since it first appeared in Lirey, France, in 1353, the Roman Catholic Church has encouraged the veneration of the Shroud of Turin without saying it is the actual linen sheet Joseph of Arimathea brought to the tomb of Jesus, as reported in Mark 15: 42-47. In 1670, for example, a department of the Holy See granted an indulgence to those who travel to the Shroud and pray before it, however, the decree explicitly states the spiritual reward is not based on the Shroud's authenticity. In an address given in 1998, Pope John Paul II, after referring to the mysterious image of Jesus on the Shroud, said: "the Shroud is thus a truly unique sign that points to Jesus, the true Word of the Father, and invites us to pattern our lives on the life of the One who gave himself for us."

Jesus, of course, is the founder of Christianity and the cofounder of Islam. He was also a Jewish prophet, an important aspect of the historical Jesus because of the Messianic hopes of the Jewish people. In deciding whether or not the Shroud is authentic, the theological meaning of the word sign in the pope's remarks should be considered. Essentially a sign is a reason to believe in revelation: "There were many other signs that Jesus worked in the sight of the disciples, but are not recorded in this book. These are recorded so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing this you might have life through his name. (John 20:30-31 NJB)"

Paul Vignon and the French Academy of Sciences

In a 1902 book titled The Shroud of Christ, the biologist Paul Vignon argued that the Shroud is authentic because the image depicts with anatomical accuracy a crucified man. Based on experiments performed in the laboratory of his mentor Yves Delage, Vignon also argued that the images are traces of Jesus' blood and stains from ammonia vapors produced by Jesus' body. Delage was an internationally acclaimed zoologist and a member of the powerful French Academy of Sciences.

Herbert Thurston, an English Jesuit, wrote an article of rebuttal titled, "The Holy Shroud as a Scientific Problem," for the February 1902 issue of The Month: A Catholic Magazine. Thurston said that the image on the Shroud was too delicate to have been created by ammonia vapors and that the 14th century artist who created the alter frontal of Narbonne was capable of the artistry the Shroud required. Due to the ravages of time and the fire the Shroud was subjected to in the 16th century, Thurston suggested, the image on the Shroud transformed into its present mysterious condition.

Thurston also described a 10th century ceremony in which a crucifix was wrapped with an alter cloth and placed in a mock sepulcher on Good Friday. On Easter Sunday, the crucifix was removed and the alter cloth was displayed with the proclamation, "Behold here, comrades, these are the linen cloths which were left behind in the empty tomb." Thurston pointed out that the drama of such a ceremony would be heightened if a painting simulated an imprint of Jesus' body made by his sweat and blood. Referring to the anatomical correctness of the image, Thurston said an intelligent artist might have guessed details like the crucifixion nails having to go through a bony part of the hand to support the weight of a grown man.

Thurston also wrote the 1912 entry on the Shroud in the Catholic Encyclopedia, now called the New Catholic Encyclopedia. Referring to the historical research of Canon Ulysse Chevalier, the article says the Shroud is definitely not authentic. The Catholic Encyclopedia speaks with a certain amount of authority because many of its authors and editors are licensed by their local bishops to teach Catholic theology.

On April 21, 1902, Delage gave a half-hour lecture titled, "The Image of Christ Visible on the Holy Shroud of Turin," to the Academy of Sciences. There were murmurs of disapproval from the beginning of the talk. When Delage said the man in the Shroud was Jesus, members of the audience shouted out "traitor" and shook their fists. For his safety, Delage had to make a quick exit from the auditorium.

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Pope Benedict XVI urged the Church to "pray without ceasing" as did Paul of Tarsus in his letter to the Thessalonians.The audience may have thought Delage was being insincere about ammonia vapors causing the image. It was a ruse, perhaps, to give specious scientific support to the authenticity of the Shroud. Because the Shroud was not destroyed by a decomposing body, its authenticity would support the historicity of the texts in the New Testament, such as Mark 16:1-8, reporting the empty tomb of Jesus. I am suggesting that Vignon deceived himself and Delage, who was an agnostic, in order to advance a pseudoscientific apologia for Christianity.

Fundamental and Dogmatic Theology

If this was Vignon's motivation, his ideas about fundamental and dogmatic theology were not well-grounded. There are a number of different categories of texts or traditions in the New Testament and extracanonical sources about the Resurrection of Jesus, not just the empty-tomb verses. There are the short proclamations of faith, such as 1 Corinthians 15:3b-7, and lengthy narratives like Acts, chapter 2. Another type of text is the conversion of Paul in Acts, chapter 9, which describes a heavenly radiance. There are also the postresurrection texts such as Math 28:16-20. Trying to bolster just one kind of text suggests a theological emphasis on that kind of text and distorts the gospel.

Fundamental theology or apologetics begins with the existential truth that human beings are embodied spirits. The qualifier existential means that this is not a scientific truth, but the foundation of a philosophical method of inquiry. Assuming or hoping that our existence is intelligible leads logically to the existence of an infinite being (God) who created finite beings. God possesses infinite power and knowledge by analogy with our own finite power and knowledge. This philosophy is called existential theism and the alternative points of view can be described as atheism, agnosticism, naturalism, materialism, and scientism.

If you ask an atheist or agnostic what their concept of God is you will get a wide variety of irrational responses. An example of an irrational concept of God is the one held by Marcus Borg who is a Fellow of the Westar Institute, which is famous for its Jesus Seminar: "I was experiencing a collision between the modern worldview and my childhood beliefs. The modern worldview, with its image of what is real as the world of matter and energy and its vision of the universe as a closed system of cause and effect, made belief in God-a nonmaterial reality-increasingly problematic. I had entered the stage of critical thinking, and there was no way back. (Borg, Marcus J., Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time: The Historical Jesus & the Heart of Contemporary Faith, 1994, p. 7) "

It is true that God is a "nonmaterial reality." Human beings are also nonmaterial realities, as well as material realities because we possess bodies. Borg-Hundere Distinguished Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University-apparently thinks that God is a ghost.

Naturalism is the meaningful and rational philosophy that nature is all that exists, but naturalists in the flesh are not anymore knowledgeable about God than Borg and his likes. The vacant response of naturalists to the cosmological argument for God's existence justifies calling the argument a proof. Materialism is irrational, but the appeal of such a simple view of the universe is easy to see. Scientism is a superstition by definition.

Popular explanations of why God exists focus attention on the immateriality and indefinability of human knowledge and free will. These proofs for the common man also use the absence of any scientific explanation for the origin of life and the Big Bang to argue that God created the universe.

The logically rigorous philosophical proof explicates the existential fact that there are many finite beings in the universe, all different from one another. The explanation of why finite beings are different is that a finite being is a composition of two correlative principles: essence and existence. Furthermore, finite beings cannot be the cause of their own existence because they can't exist except as finite. God, on the other hand, is a pure act of existence and can be its own reason for existing. Existential theism helps us to understand the Jewish name for God: "Moses then said to God, 'Look, if I go to the Israelites and say to them, "The God of your ancestors has sent me to you," and they say to me, "What is his name?" what am I to tell them?' God said to Moses, 'I am he who is.' And he said, 'This is what you are to say to the Israelites, "I am has sent me to you."' (Exodus 3:13-14 NJB) "

Fundamental theology continues by giving the reasons for believing God has communicated himself to mankind. Dogmatic theology is the study of the content of this communication or revelation. The Resurrection of Jesus is both an historical event and an object of faith. As an historical event it is the subject matter of fundamental theology and should be described as the Easter experience. As an object of faith it is the subject matter of eschatology and Christology.

Christians who believe and profess the ancient creeds are responding in faith to the historical Jesus by believing Jesus entered into a new and different life with God when he died and by believing the same good thing can happen to everybody. Christians believe in a bodily resurrection because the hope of everlasting life is a hope for a perfect fulfillment based on human experience without regard to any philosophical analysis of the distinction between one's self and one's body.

All three of the Abrahamic faiths profess that our freedom is before God, that our past is somehow gathered up when we die, and that our death is the defining moment of our lives. The disagreements between and among Christians, Jews, and Muslims is the subject matter of dogmatic theology, not fundamental theology, because all three religions believe revelation has occurred in fact.

Fundamental theology requires an understanding of how God, who exists outside of time and space, communicates with human beings. This question leads to the insight that faith is a supernatural gift from God as well as a free choice. Fundamental theology gives the grounds for believing and is a summons to believe, however, it is not a demand to believe. Fundamental theology does not justify saying those who decide not to believe in God's self-revelation are irrational. Fundamental theology does not prove the fact of revelation because the truthfulness of the content of revelation can not be seen in the light of reason, but can only be seen in the light of God's authority.

If Vignon was trying to proselytize his captive audience through Delage, he was not being guided by scripture: "Simply proclaim the Lord Christ holy in your hearts, and always have your answer ready for people who ask you the reason for the hope that you have. But give it with courtesy and respect and with a clear conscience, so that those who slander your good behaviour in Christ may be ashamed of their accusations. (1 Pet. 3:15-16 NJB)

If I am not doing my Father's work, there is no need to believe me; but if I am doing it, then even if you refuse to believe in me, at least believe in the work that I do; and then you will know for certain that the Father is in me and I am in the Father. (John 10:37-38 NJB) "

Irrationality of Humanism

In addition to history and philosophy, another reason to believe is the poor explanation nonbelievers frequently give for their lack of faith. Nonbelievers discredit themselves and in so doing make the case for religion more credible. Most nonbelievers don't even consider faith a possibility and their decision not to believe has no relevance to making a fully informed decision. While not believing in itself is not a fault or personal shortcoming of any kind, there is guilt when the reasons for not believing are irrational or dishonest. The American Humanist Association, for example, states in its manifesto of 1973: "Promises of immortal salvation or fear of eternal damnation are both illusory and harmful."

Saying that belief in salvation is illusory is tantamount to criticizing people who have decided to believe Muhammad, the Jewish rabbis, Jesus, disciples of Jesus, and the Hindu scriptures. It implies that accounts of these faiths are so unpersuasive that it is commendable to persist in the rational assumption that life ends in the grave. To say that mankind would be better off if no one feared God is to fantasize about a utopia.

John A. T. Robinson, a bishop in the Church of England, propagated his lack of faith and hope by quoting Paul Tillich's views on God and not mentioning Étienne Gilson's and Thomas Aquinas's explanation of why God is a supernatural being and a real being. Nor did he address the question of why people should be good and kind at the expense of their own interests if they do not experience what he calls hell and heaven. In the following quote, Robinson is saying our purpose in life is not to serve God in this world and love him in the next, but to "overcome estrangement and alienation" in this world: "It is this union-in-estrangement with the Ground of our being…that we mean by hell. But equally it is the union-in-love with the Ground of our being, such as we see in Jesus Christ, that is the meaning of heaven. And it is the offer of that life, in all its divine depth, to overcome the estrangement and alienation of existence as we know it that the New Testament speaks of as the 'new creation'. This new reality is transcendent, it is 'beyond' us, in the sense that it is not ours to command. Yet we experience it, like the Prodigal, as we 'come to ourselves'. (Robinson, John A. T., Honest to God, 1963, p. 80) "

1978 Nondestructive Tests on the Shroud

In 1951, Francis Cardinal Spellman canonically erected an organization called the Holy Shroud Guild, located in Esophus, New York, to promote devotion to the Shroud. Adam J. Otterbein, an American Redemptorist, was its founder and first president. Otterbein wrote the 1967 entry on the Shroud for the New Catholic Encyclopedia and said that the Shroud may be authentic. In 1978, the Holy Shroud Guild helped the team of American scientists with the acronym STURP get permission to perform five days of nondestructive tests on the Shroud.

STURP found that the body image is caused by the yellowing of the outer fibrils that make up the white yarn used to weave the Shroud, there being 100 to 200 fibrils in a cross-section of the Z-twisted yarn. The fibrils are made of cellulose and were discolored by a chemical process described as dehydrative oxidation or dehydration. The fibrils are either discolored or they are not and each discolored fibril has the same color. The density of the yellow fibrils varies to create an image like that of a black and white photograph with the yellow fibrils playing the role of black silver particles. The blood marks are red-orange encrustations caught in the fibrils and between the yarn. The question of authenticity is related to the question of what caused the dehydration, the variation in density of the yellow fibrils, and the blood marks.

After publishing in peer-reviewed scientific journals, the STURP scientists reported the results of their work to the general public in October 1981 in New London, CT. At a 300-reporter press conference the following exchange took place: "One chap decided to by-pass Joan Janney, who was chairing the meeting, and demanded of the forty scientists seated on the stage, "All who believe this is the authentic Shroud of Christ, raise your hand." Forty pairs of eyes just stared at him. "O.K.," he said, "all those who don't believe it's authentic, raise your hands." Forty of us sat still; none moved. (Heller, John H., Report on the Shroud of Turin, 1983, p. 216). "

The STURP scientists were just as enigmatic in private interviews with a reporter from a popular magazine which published a lengthy article about the Shroud. After describing STURP's findings, the reporter wrote: "No member of the STURP team will state what all this adds up to. When the question is posed directly, most of them tend to divide their personas into "scientist" and "layman." (Murphy, Cullen, "Shreds of Evidence," Harper's Magazine, November 1981, p. 47) "

This behavior is not candid and sincere and indicates the STURP members were confused about the question of authenticity. Another tortured soul is Geoffrey Ashe, a famous British cultural historian. After doing his own experiments with infrared rays and linen, he wrote: "The Christian Creed has always affirmed that our Lord underwent an unparalleled transformation in the tomb. His case is exceptional and perhaps here is the key. It is at least intelligible (and has been suggested several times) that the physical change of the body at the Resurrection may have released a brief and violent burst of some other radiation than heat, perhaps scientifically identifiable, perhaps not, which scorched the cloth. (Ashe, Geoffrey, "What Sort of Picture," Sindon, 1966) "

Ashe is saying the image on the Shroud is miraculous, but he tries to say it in a way that is rational and scientific. He uses the words intelligible and exceptional and the phrase unparalleled transformation rather than the words supernatural and miraculous. He probably feels uncomfortable, as well he might, discovering and reporting a miracle that is not in the Bible.

What Is a Miracle?

A miracle is not a phenomenon that violates the laws of science. A miracle is an historical event or sign that indicates a prophet is truly God's messenger. Thinking of a miracle as a violation of the laws of science isolates the sign from its historical context and strips it of its authenticating power. If you are explaining why you believe for your own sake or for the sake of others, giving a miracle this negative definition is an exercise in circular reasoning. Fundamental theology should be based on reason and history alone and not violate the drive we all have to be rational.

The reason the image on the Shroud is miraculous and is a sign of Jesus' authority is that scientists have failed so far to give a reasonable explanation of how the image was formed. The first scientist to try and fail was Vignon. It is an ongoing failure of science and history and an ongoing mystery. Whereas the Resurrection and healings of Jesus were miraculous events occurring at particular points in time, the Shroud is a miraculous artifact that will endure until its mystery is solved by scientists and historians.

Marvin Mueller is a research physicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Expanding on Thurston's explanation of why vapors could not have caused the image, Mueller explains why the Shroud should not be considered authentic: "There are only three classes of possibilities for the image formation: by human artifice, through natural processes transferring the image to the linen from a real crucified corpse, or by supernatural means. Of the third, not much can be said, because then all scientific discussion and all rational discourse must perforce cease .... But a lot can be said about natural processes. In terse summary, they can be ruled out definitely by the quality and beauty of the shroud image. (Mueller, Marvin, "The Shroud of Turin: A Critical Appraisal," The Skeptical Inquirer, Spring 1982, p. 27) "

Mueller's negative comment about "supernatural means" is perfectly reasonable. Kenneth Stevenson and Gary Habermas, two apologists for Christianity, criticized the STRUP team for adopting this scientific point of view. Stevenson and Habermas said STURP was wrong to consider only scientific causes of the image and to exclude "the possibility that the image had a supernatural origin" (Stevenson, Kenneth E. & Habermas, Gary R., Verdict on the Shroud: Evidence for the Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, 1981, p. 80).

What brought about this criticism is evidence the Shroud is not authentic. Before describing STURP's findings about the blood marks or stains, Stevenson and Habermas make the following admission: "The edges of these stains are also precisely defined. If the Shroud actually covered a real corpse, one wonders how the cloth was removed without smearing and dislodging the edges of the clotted blood. (same reference, p. 78) "

Robert Wild, an American Jesuit, used the smeared blood marks to argue the image was the work of a forger. After referring to Stevenson's and Habermas's invocation of a miraculous cause, he said: "My own religious faith certainly allows for the possibility of such miracles. But I am most hesitant to affirm such a miracle when a natural explanation suffices. In this case, it is far more likely that we have caught an artist or forger in a simple mistake. (Wild, Robert A., "The Shroud of Turin: Probably the Work of a 14th Century Artist or Forger," Biblical Archaeological Review, April 1984, p. 40) "

History of the Shroud

There is very little disagreement about the history of the Shroud. The following quote is from William Meacham, who is a pro-authenticity archaeologist and was involved in the planning of the 1988 carbon-14 test on the Shroud: "In sum, although the Shroud's history prior to 1353 is a matter of much rich conjecture and little firm evidence, there are numerous possible avenues by which the Shroud could have come down to us from the Jerusalem of A.D. 30. Genuine or forged, the absence of references to it in the 1st millennium is equally enigmatic. It must be admitted, however, that even if the Shroud's history could be extended back to the early Byzantine era, the case for its authenticity would not be significantly improved. (Meacham, William, "The Authentication of the Turin Shroud: An Issue in Archaeological Epistemology," Current Anthropology, June 1983, p. 287)

The Byzantine era is mentioned as a cut-off point because the Cloth of Edessa, which may or may not be the Shroud, appeared historically in the 6th century. There are only legends and semilegends connecting the Cloth of Edessa to the crucifixion of Jesus. The carbon-14 test indicated a 14th century date for the Shroud, much to the dismay of those who believed and still believe in the Shroud's authenticity.

Why Some Christians Think the Shroud Is Authentic

In the following quote, Meacham reveals the way he feels and thinks about the Shroud: "It is undeniable that the time has come, nay is long overdue, for a complete and proper C-14 dating of the cloth. If the Shroud is to be universally relegated to the status of a medieval oddity or forgery, at least let it be on the basis of solid and unassailable measurements of the C-14 content of the entire cloth, based on samples from several sites chosen specifically to address the issues and scenarios that have been raised. (Meacham, William, The Rape of the Turin Shroud: How Christianity's Most Precious Relic Was Wrongly Condemned, and Violated, 2005, p. 145) "

Meacham rebutted Mueller's arguments against authenticity rather lamely: "The fact that the exact manner of image formation is not and may never be known does not pose a serious obstacle to establishing the Shroud's authenticity. The absence of a satisfactory explanation of the image formation does not, as Mueller (1982:27) argues rather curiously, rule out natural processes and leave only human artifice or the supernatural. Rather, the information obtained from medical studies and direct scientific testing establishes the framework for the issue: the Shroud was used to enshroud a corpse, and the image is the result of some form of interaction between body and cloth and does not derive from the use of paint, powder, acid, or other materials which could have been used to create an image on cloth. (p. 289 in the above referenced issue of Current Anthropology) "

Mueller ruled out natural processes straightforwardly, not curiously. Regardless of Mueller's reason for rejecting any natural mechanism, Meacham does not suggest a possible natural mechanism, unlike Vignon. Meacham is saying there is no known mechanism for image formation and there is no way to connect the Shroud of Turin historically to the tomb of Jesus. So, why does Meacham think the Shroud is authentic?

Meacham and others are giving short shrift to the Shroud's status as an authorizing miracle. Instead, they prefer thinking of the Shroud as an icon that is either an authentic relic or a "medieval oddity or forgery," to quote Meacham. Like Vignon, they advance pseudoscientific arguments in favor of authenticity to justify their devotion to the Shroud. The idea that the Shroud is authentic is far-fetched and detracts from the Shroud's status as "a truly unique sign pointing to Jesus," to quote John Paul II.

The other possibility is that devotees of authenticity don't agree with the idea that a miracle is an historical event. They are not interested in a sign that justifies summoning mankind to believe in Jesus. They want an in-your-face violation of the laws of science in order to demand belief in Jesus.

Invention of Photography

Wild wrote the entry on the Shroud in the second edition of the New Catholic Encyclopedia. Wild concludes as follows: "In short, while many unanswered questions still remain, not least that of how the images came to appear on the cloth in the first place, it is most unlikely that this object is the authentic burial shroud of Jesus. (Shroud of Turin in the New Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. 13, pp. 95-97, 2nd ed. Detroit: Gale, 2003.) "

In the 1990s, two writers of popular books on historical and religious mysteries and Nicholas Allen, a professor of art at the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa, produced Shroud-like images using a pinhole camera (camera obscura) and photosensitive chemicals known in the Middle Ages. The pinhole camera was invented in the 11th century by a Muslim scientist, known in the West as Alhacen, and is described in the notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci. The writers, who admit Allen did a better job, make the following claim: "But the point is that before 1993 nobody had succeeded in creating an image bearing so many of the characteristics of the Shroud, including its puzzling anomalies. But now we have. (Picknett, Lynn & Prince, Clive, How da Vinci Fooled History: The Turin Shroud, 2006, p. 204) "

In their method, a linen cloth was covered with a mixture of egg white and chromium salts. A pinhole camera produced a latent image of a plaster bust on the cloth because light causes the mixture to become insoluble. The image was developed by carefully washing away the soluble mixture. The image was fixed just like messages written in invisible ink are made visible: the cloth was heated. Boiling the cloth in water removed all traces of the mixture, and an image remained as a scorch on the surface of the cloth.

Picknett and Prince show that the Lirey artifact of 1353 may not be the Shroud, which was exhibited in 1494. This means science has an extra 150 years of history to explain or discover how the image on the Shroud was formed.

More of David Roemer's writings can be found