Jeffrey Miller

Oct 072015

With the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family now in session and everything that has led up to it, I have seen lots of reactions. There is the “finally” crowd who think the Synod will be changing Catholic teaching and are happy about it and there are the doom and gloomers who think the Synod will change Church teaching and are not happy about it.

So I was all set to write a “Don’t Panic” post and relate the current situation in the Church to Church history. I even had it set as a reminder to write something on that subject.

Then I saw Thomas L. McDonald’s post today The Catholic Church Will Survive: Putting Crises in Perspective. If I was much smarter and was an excellent writer this was the post I would have written.

So just read his post instead. Still I will go ahead and meander on the subject myself since the subject must seek release from my brain and that’s what my blog is for.

I am no Church historian, yet the subject does interest me as a amateur and what I have read has intrigued me and helped me try to put things into perspective. It seems to me the Church is always in crisis. We are always coming to some decision point and when we come to a decision there are still waves of effects from even a moment of clarity. This of course is followed up by the next crisis.

The Book of Judges shows that ebb and flow of repentance and falling back into sin. Over and over we see pattern in the Old Testament. The false idea of progress where just the passage of time leads to moral progress is one of those things that can only be believed if you conveniently ignore all of human history and the evidence of your eyes. Still even with that caveat, many seem capable of doing just that. The prophets were never called to affirm the current moral climate, but to denounce it. No surprise that prophets were unpopular. Oddly we have people today claiming a prophetic message who affirm negative moral trends. No surprise that they’re popular and don’t contain martyrs among them.

All of the rest of Church history follows the same template of rise and fall. This is certainly unsettling in every age. Still much of the New Testament is written in response to some problem or other. The pastoral letters are not about how everyone has converted to Christ and are spreading the Gospel to others. Sure this is one aspect, but mostly there are the day-to-day problems dealing with discipline and just plain heresy. Without all this drama no doubt the New Testament would be much shorter.

Rising from the persecution stage of the early Church we again run into the same series of problems facing the Church. Most notable in this early period is the Arian heresy which gained many adherents including many of the Easter Bishops. Not to mention other concurrent heresies in those times and the ones that followed them. I could easily imagine being a Catholic blogger during those times generating link-bait papyrus despairing at Arian episcopal appointments and the banishment of Athanasius once again. To have the Council of Nicea overwhelmingly reject Arianism and yet Arianism was strengthened in regards to power and influence in the Church. Plenty of factions and double-dealing behind the scenes. Agendas and people using theology for a power grab. Yeah nothing has changed.

The time of the Council of Nicea is no real exception. Heresy and corruption are mainstays of Church history along with the saints God raised up in those times. There has never been some idyllic golden age in the Church and there won’t ever be for the Church Militant.

When I first heard the reports regarding the Secret Synod from Edward Pentin I was not surprised. There have always been factions and those plotting to change theology. In fact I would have been more suspicious if such groups did not come to light. The advocates for itching ears always have some new enlightened view to proclaim from their elitist heights. Bad theology always gains adherents as it tends to excavate the narrow way and reduce the need for repentance.

I am no Pollyanna just invoking the truth that the “Gates of Hell will not prevail against the Church.” True as that is there is a lot of damage that can be done that is just short of “prevail.” Still I am not worried that Church teaching is going to be changed. Time and time again at these points of response to crisis, documents produced do not support the current error. Sure there are ambiguities and certainly no guarantee that the orthodox views are stated perfectly. These documents are not inspired and often not even inspired in the other sense.

No the documents that will come out of the Extraordinary Synod of Bishops on the Family do not give me premonitory indigestion. It is almost always the pastoral response that concerns me. Regardless how clear a document is and orthodox it is. It is always the pastoral practice that subverts it. Humanae Vitae did not end discussion regarding the moral licitness of contraception. It was ignored by Bishop conferences, priests in the confessional, down to the practice of the laity. Contraception was a good case in point regarding how so many thought the Church as going to change her teaching. Lots of drama then also regarding the The Pontifical Commission on Birth Control which overwhelming supported contraception in saying it was not intrinsically evil.

Usually what happens is that dissenters find the easiest way to undermine Church teaching is not to teach it or have it taught. Make everything a matter of conscience, an individualist unformed conscience. Since this time around the issues regard divorce and remarriage regarding Communion and to some extent homosexual acts, dissent will take different paths. It is not as if dissenters will be able to publicly “remarry” people or conduct same-sex weddings. Such public dissent would take the same disciplinary path as attempting to ordain women.

As a pessimistic-optimist I will be able to deal with both the clarifying and maddening aspects of the results of the Synod. Don’t Panic, but pray instead.

Photo credit: Good Advice via photopin (license)

Oct 062015

There are some things when I run across them in a novel, movie, or even religious discussion immediately set off alarm bells for me. One of them is anything involving the Nephalem. It just never turns out well and most often very silly. Another is Constantine. Constantine gets blamed for a lot by a lot of different groups. At least with the Nephalem, it is something rather mysterious with little scriptural reference. When it comes to Constantine we actually have a wealth of historical information from Christian and Pagan sources. Still Constantine is often used to pointed to as a corruptor of “pure” Christianity and the cause of the great apostasy. From Dan Brown to starters of new religions the start was not from history, but as a required plot line to justify what goes after.

I was naturally delighted when I first found out Rod Bennett was releasing a new book called The Apostasy That Wasn’t: The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church. A semi-sequel to his wonderful Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words. The appellation that somebody “made history come alive” is probably overused. Often I found that the author had made history interesting, but not fully alive to my intellect. Rod Bennett does make history come intellectually alive for me with his deft use of storytelling, historical writings, and the fruit of his research.

The introduction starts with a stroll to a period while he was still a Protestant and coming across a place in Tennessee called “Fields of the Wood” built up by a Preacher scandalized by the divisions in Christianity. Who was bringing back the “true church” and started a new congregation. This struck regarding how often this pattern has occurred. The person scandalized by the divisions who promptly create yet another division. The Bullwinkle-syndrome where the optimist church reformer says “This time for sure!” as he pulls another church out of his hat.

Rod Bennett describes the history of Preacher Tomlinson and this preachers own version of the Great Apostasy. This same pattern can be seen with the Latter-Day Saints, Jehovah Witnesses, Islam, and really most of Protestantism. Rod Bennett’s thinking about this preacher’s history led him to realize “Don’t I have, when it comes right down to it, a ‘Great Apostasy’ theory of my own?” This insight led him to studying church history and the reading of the Church Fathers. I think at this point it is mandatory to insert the Blessed John Newman quote “To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant.” Otherwise I could lose my Catholic blogger license.

I was not unfamiliar with this tumultuous and exciting period of Church history. Warren H. Carroll covers this period quite well in one of his volumes of “A History of Christendom.” Still I found it contextualized better and I especially appreciated the lead up in history to Constantine and the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. The state of the Church and how between waves of persecution it was out in the open with various levels of toleration. Even with Diocletian there was originally some toleration before the worst of the persecutions began. It was all much more complicated than the incorrectly simplified history of Constantine being the first to grant such toleration. Especially the erroneous idea that he made Catholicism the official religion of the empire.

He also paints the state of the empire with Rome depopulated and great cities like Alexandria lapsing from their Catholic faith. This historical backdrop sets the stage for such a fascinating piece of Church history. The rise of the Arian heresy by the priest Arius, the calling of the council, and the whole wonderful story of St. Athanasius. The story of Athanasius came so alive for me along with the conjecture that he had gotten involved with St Antony and the Desert Monks at a rather early period of his life. I often felt like I was reading a novel as this history played out. The real story is so odd and seemingly implausible that it only works as history.

Rod Bennett really is a master storyteller and fully employs his skills in describing this period of history along with presenting the actual texts that we have. This is certainly a period of history with many surviving texts from those involved along with of course the Councilar texts. His subtitle is “The Extraordinary Story of the Unbreakable Early Church” and this certainly fits the billing. The Arians had all the power on their side. They had most of the episcopacy of the Eastern bishops and the ear of the Emperors. The figure of Athanasius was unimpressive, but his mark on history wasn’t.

I totally loved this book. So much so that no doubt it also goes on my re-read list.

Oct 062015

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from from 5 September 2015 to 4 October 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.

General Audiences




Papal Tweets

Sep 292015

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from from 15 August 2015 to 28 September 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.


Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences





Papal Tweets

Sep 242015

There is the semifamous American phrase “Wait til your Father gets home!” This phrase was suppose to be invoked by the mother after a rough day with the kids. Implying that the kids were going to “get it” when the Father found out about what they had been doing during the day.

What reminded me of phrase is the Pope’s visit to the United States. Apparently we think of the Pope in just this light. That when he visits we want him to deliver the comeuppance for all the wrong doing. To be the militant scold like a prophet of old. That he should be grimacing when photographed with politicians who are at odds with the Catholic faith. That whatever are most important topic is should be on the lips on the Pope at every opportunity. We don’t want the Pope to be a diplomat, but somebody as brash as Patton.

I say this especially as I find myself guilty of this. Pouring through his speeches to look to see if his priorities align with my own narrative. Not listening to the Pope, but playing doctrinal bingo trying to fill my card. It is as if I suspect that people have no idea what the Church teaches so if the Pope doesn’t forcefully speak about something no one will know. The problem is not that people don’t know what the Church teaches in general, but the why behind it.

It is oh so easy to be hypercritical regarding the Pope’s visit and to see everything as a series of “might of beens.” If only the Pope had said this. So many Catholics loved when Blessed Mother Teresa was not shy at all on abortion at the National Prayer Breakfast with the Clintons. Yet even a loving rebuke did not affect any change in behavior regarding abortion by Bill or Hillary Clinton. It seems obvious to me that Pope Francis is following St. Francis de Sales when the Saint wrote “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.”

So I am fighting against my own tendencies in that I want clear forceful rhetoric. A “Wait til your Holy Father gets home.” That politicians get a rhetorical pummeling.

As even the casual reader of this blog might know I have a great fondness for the writings of SF author and convert John C. Wright. For his blog posts excoriating political correctness and progressive ideology. Yet I love him even more for his clear-eyed sanity.

I thought my readers might also be interested, as this Pope seems to have stirred up more controversy among the lazy and chattering crickets of the press corps than any Pope since World War Two.

My reaction is one of delight. I believe the Holy Spirit Himself must have prompted Pope Benedict to retire, something that has not been done in centuries, to make way for this next man.

Now, let me explain one thing: my opinion of Pope Francis is not based on the newspaper reports. I am a newspaperman and newspaper editor from way back, and I know how the press works, and I do not trust them.

The lazy and dishonest mainstream press has decided to portray the Holy Father as some sort of Leftist reformer or Marxist revolutionary, and, to my intense disgust, the lazier elements of the rightwing alternate press has followed suit.

The first dozen or so times the press quoted something that sounded extraordinary, and I took the time to trace the comment back to its original source, I found that, in context, the Holy Father’s comment was entirely orthodox, and entirely in keeping with the traditional teaching of the Mother Church since time immemorial.

It happened over and over again. Reading about the support of His Holiness for the Global Warming fraud, or his Marxist disdain for capitalism, I looked up the original document or original report, only to see some utterly orthodox Christian teaching on stewardship of God’s gift of the Earth to Man, or Christian warnings against wealth and worldliness as old as Moses.

And after a dozen times, my openmindedness creaked shut: I now simply dismiss, sight unseen, any such extraordinary quotes. Perhaps the Pope in his private opinions leans more to the Left than the average American. I care not. The Church has, in history, blossomed under the Emperors of Rome and Byzantium, who were elected by the army; under sacred kingship, under parliaments, under republics, and even under the tyranny of the Turks. The Church has also opposed all these things because She opposes the world. The Church will be here long after America sinks under the weight of our own corruption, long after the collapse of the North American Federation which comes next, or the Co-Dominium World-State, or the Long Night, or the Instrumentality of Man or the whatever comes after that.

I dare say that the Church will still be here, and her teaching will be remembered, unchanged, as a magician once said of the unicorn, “she will remember them all when men are fairy tales in books written by rabbits.”

Therefore I dismiss and despise the press-created image of the Pope as an illusion, as gossip, as nonsense. Why the Good Lord has decided to arrange to have the press, our natural enemy and the enemy of the faith, be charmed and pleased by this Pope, I have no idea. God’s ways are not our ways. What shall come of it, not even the wise can foresee.

To that I say amen.

In a related post today he wrote:

The Pope, as all Popes and bishops before him since the time out of mind, repeats the Christian teachings on mercy, eschewing greed, and being proper stewards of the Earth. The Catholic social teaching has been explicit for a century, and implicit from eternity.

If Francis gives greater emphasis to what seem to American conservatives to what are typically Leftwing topics, this is a call to stir you out of your self regard, and to realize that the socialists stole and perverted the concepts of altruism and service to the poor, not to mention stewardship of the environment. The Dark Lord does not create, he only corrupts.

Sep 212015

Via my email a family business called Dolls from Heaven.

Dolls from heaven are 18 inch Saint Dolls. They come with an outfit based on what the Saint wore during their life. They also come with a book that will inspire children to become saints. Our first Doll is Saint Therese of Lisieux. Saint Therese is one of our favorite saints. She has not only inspired our family but millions of people with “her little way”. We hope that our Therese doll will encourage young children to make Jesus the focus of their lives.

We also made an additional outfit , her second dress is Therese’s Sunday best; this outfit was inspired by her childhood and her love for going to church. Our hope is to have her debut before Christmas 2015.

Sep 212015

So I was watching Season 4, Episode 4 of Longmire and heard this being said:

“My brother would have been a good man if there was somebody there to shoot him every moment of his life.”

So either that line was a homage to Flannery O’Connor or just a blatant rip off.

In her story “A Good Man is Hard to Find” at the end of the story is the semi-famous line:

“She would of been a good woman,” The Misfit said, “if it had been somebody there to shoot her every minute of her life.”

Either way certainly Flannery O’Connor influenced.

As for the show Longmire itself. It is one of those shows I found interesting, but one that also slowly developed. The story arc has spanned the four seasons so far and with a plot arc pay off early in season 4. This show is very character driven where dialog does not fill all screen time. Slowly developing camera shots and seeing the wheels of the mind think on the problem to be solved. No doubt not for everyone, but I like long story arcs and solid season ending cliffhangers. I also like the misdirection where the seeming suspect is almost always not the actual wrongdoer. Even when you have gotten the flow of this device as used in the show I found myself falling for it most times. So either this is craftily done or I am just easily duped.

Sep 152015

pope-francis2-300x187This version of The Weekly Francis covers material released in the last week from from 3 September 2015 to 15 September 2015.

The Weekly Francis is a compilation of the Holy Father’s writings, speeches, etc which I also post at Jimmy Akin’s The Weekly Francis. Jimmy Akin came up with this idea when he started “The Weekly Benedict” and I have taken over curation of it.


Daily Homilies (fervorinos)

General Audiences



Papal Tweets

Sep 082015

Today two related motu proprio’s were issued which reform the annulment process in both the western and eastern Catholic churches.

As usual Jimmy Akin provides a good summary Pope Francis Reforms Annulment Process: 9 things to know and share. The documents also have not yet been translated to English.

Canon lawyer Ed Peters also has a A first look at Mitis ludex with more analysis coming later.

What I find more interesting than an attempted streamlining of the annulment process, but the seriousness of the Church’s teaching on marriage. Really only the Catholic church is a champion of the indissolubility of marriage and takes Jesus’ teaching seriously. This is partly true of the Orthodox churches, but in these various churches there have also been some accommodations regarding remarriage.

On the outside people see canon law and the various rules as something piles on and not essential. Yet when you look closer you can see how it is theology that informs it. The Church has thought deeply on Jesus’ teaching on the indissolubility of marriage. This has lead to an understanding that in some cases there is a defect at the beginning that prevented a valid marriage from occurring. A possible lack of consent or intent. The easiest and obvious example being a “shotgun wedding” which would be no marriage at all. What constitutes such an initial defect is something that has developed over time like much of the Church’s theology as it is deepened.

It is also interesting to look at Protestant denominations and non-Christian splits from Christianity regarding how they deal with what Jesus taught on marriage. I am reminded of what Jesus said “Moses permitted you to divorce your wives because your hearts were hard.” It is I believe accurate that basically these other denominations and groups have reversed back to Moses. Whenever you talk about Protestantism you can hardly ever lump them all together in making a statement. Still I can’t think of any examples of any kind of investigation into a marriage when there is an attempt at a subsequent marriage after divorce. There is no parallel to the annulment process outside of the Catholic church, except for the Eastern Orthodox churches which have some process (although with some differences regarding the theology of marriage).

Mostly it seems outside the Church marriage and divorce has become something unfortunate, but it would be too much of a burden for people to actually take Jesus’ teaching seriously. The attack on marriage is nothing new and Anglicanism in part flowed from creating a justification for divorce and remarriage. It is very easy to have empathy for people in irregular marriage situations. Listening to a lot of Catholic radio you often hear wrenching stories regarding this. A lot of the kerfuffle regarding the Synod on the Family such as Cardinal Kasper’s suggestions flow from such empathy. Unfortunately such suggestions do not flow from the theology regarding marriage. The legal maxim “Hard cases make bad law” can be restated as “Hard cases make bad theology.”

I have really come to love the Church’s teaching on marriage. Especially as I had initially grasped the idea of the indissolubility of marriage as an atheist. I love how deeply the Church as taught on this and the practical applications that have flowed from it. That is also includes the common sense approach that there should be separation and the allowing of civil divorce in cases of abuse. The Church is really the last defender of the reality of marriage. Not that I am Pollyannish in believing the clergy and the laity have done a bang-up job teaching and living this truth. We all too easily think it is out of hardness of our hearts to not allow divorce when Jesus said the opposite.

Sep 082015

When it comes to books on the Early Church Fathers there seems to be an increasing wealth of good books on the subject. One of my favorite books in this area is Rod Bennett’s “Four Witnesses: The Early Church in Her Own Words”. The reason I so loved this book is that Rod Bennett is a natural storyteller along with being a good historical researcher. His writing not only brought these men alive, but the historical era as well.

So I was delighted to find another book on the Church Fathers that was as readable as “Four Witnesses” because of storytelling and grasp of the history. This book is Marcellino D’Ambrosio’s “When the Church Was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers.” This book covers the period from Saint Ignatius of Antioch to St. Gregory the Great. The actual category as to the time period of early Church Fathers is rather loosely defined and subjective as the the end of it. Marcellino D’Ambrosio offers a good definition. “The Church Fathers are those great Christian writers who passed on and clarified the teaching of the apostles from approximately the second through eight centuries.” This definition makes more sense when you think of early ecclesiastical writers such as Origen and Tertullian as it does not rely on the writer’s sanctity or full orthodoxy.

I am generally read in this era of history and so the stories of the men contained were not unfamiliar to me. Still I learned a lot along with history being put into further context. This book is much more than a historical litany of facts. The presentation brought to me a larger view and helped me integrate the information I already knew with the wealth of stories regarding these men. Plus while this book contains a good sample of their writings, it makes you want to go to the sources to read more. This was totally an engaging read that will not just pass out of my memory in a fog of facts. When I compared this to Rod Bennett’s book I consider that high praise indeed and these two books together certainly have my recommendation.