Saturday, March 29, 2014

Michael Voris Instructs The Holy Spirit

Michael Voris basically makes his living from criticism of Church hierarchy. He has recently made a public statement that he is drawing the line at the Pope and will not engage in public criticism of the Holy Father. His followers, rightfully, have asked how he can justify tearing into the bishops but not the Holy Father when the Pope is saying the same things about which Voris is so critical of the bishops.  Voris says it doesn't matter how bad the pope is, we are not free to criticize him. In effect, Voris is not saying that he likes or agrees with the pope, but since the pope does sit in the Chair of Peter, Voris will refrain from criticizing him.

And Voris wonders why his followers cannot understand him.

I for one, am glad Michael Voris has decided to draw some kind of line in the sand, even if it is too little and too late. However, Voris has now stepped into a new area of criticism in that he is now giving the Church advice on how she should choose the men who are to be priests. He recently did a Vortex episode in which he maintains that if a man does not have a strong father figure in his life, he should be rejected for the priesthood because he is not a strong man.

First, it should be stated that Holy Mother Church definitely has set down rules as to who is allowed to enter the priesthood. Not every man who enters the seminary is actually called by the Holy Spirit. There are men who enter the seminary in order to run away from something.  No man can enter the priesthood without a direct calling from the Holy Spirit. The Church in her wisdom realizes this. And because of the abuse scandal, the Church has placed certain restrictions on homosexuals entering the priesthood. But this is directed towards those who have not fully renounced their homosexuality.  This is from the 2005 document, which you can read HERE:
In the light of such teaching, this Dicastery, in accord with the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, believes it necessary to state clearly that the Church, while profoundly respecting the persons in question cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practise homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called "gay culture."
As a further clarification, the document says:
Different, however, would be the case in which one were dealing with homosexual tendencies that were only the expression of a transitory problem - for example, that of an adolescence not yet superseded. Nevertheless, such tendencies must be clearly overcome at least three years before ordination to the diaconate.  
The document also states:
There are two inseparable elements in every priestly vocation: the free gift of God and the responsible freedom of the man. A vocation is a gift of divine grace, received through the Church, in the Church and for the service of the Church. In responding to the call of God, the man offers himself freely to him in love. The desire alone to become a priest is not sufficient, and there does not exist a right to receive sacred ordination. It belongs to the Church - in her responsibility to define the necessary requirements for receiving the sacraments instituted by Christ - to discern the suitability of him who desires to enter the seminary, to accompany him during his years of formation, and to call him to holy orders if he is judged to possess the necessary qualities.
However, Michael Voris does not seem to believe in the process of discernment. He feels that if someone lacked a strong father figure, that automatically disqualifies a man for the priesthood. Voris starts out by explaining how the lack of a strong father figure can hurt the development of boys into men. And he actually makes some good points. But he then uses this reasoning to say that no one who was without a strong father figure while growing up is eligible for the priesthood.

From Voris:
The culture is awash in these young men – many of whom have physically matured now into middle aged men and even older.
And they have also entered the Catholic clergy, in some places in droves.
And there is little else more dangerous than a man who does not know how to harness his masculinity .. presenting himself before a congregation with a roman collar on his neck.
Weak men being ordained .. and even consecrated to bishop has been the bane of the Church for the past 50 years.
I have looked throughout the Bible, and nowhere do I find anything that says if you don't have a strong father figure, then you better not even think about being a priest. In fact, there is that pesky statement that says with God all things are possible. Michael Voris, however, evidently does not believe this. According to him, The Holy Spirit is not enough. Men who did not have strong father figures are beyond the transforming power of the Holy Spirit and should not be in the priesthood.

Voris then goes on to explain just why these "fatherless" men are so unqualified for the priesthood:
We call them “Father”, but they are ill-equipped to bear such a noble title – not totally their own fault. The anger some of these men feel is not entirely unjustified.
They were victimized in their youth. Turning around to look for a father to draw them up out of their silly selfish boyhoods, they had no one. They deserved – had a right to such a man – but one was not there.
No one was available. So they had to go in search of something or someone to fill the role of father. Often enraged while at the same time despondent of their lot in life, they could encounter all kinds of mischief – and the diabolical is always prowling around doing its best to ensure they did.
Many men in the priesthood and the episcopate have undergone this kind psychological stress – they are truly victims. Having been ordained, they carry this trauma into their priesthood and become paralyzed in their new found role of father or shepherd.
Father Donald Calloway
Father Don Calloway is a member of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception.  You can find Fr. Calloway's story HERE.  The story starts out as follows:
Heroine, cocaine, opium, marijuana, excessive alcohol, not to mention hallucinogenic drugs like mushrooms (psilocybin) and LSD – he consumed most of these before the age of 18, many before he turned 14, the addictions growing stronger as the existential emptiness deepened. What sounds like an introduction to a Hunter S. Thompson novel actually constitutes the autobiography of a Catholic priest. Fr. Donald Calloway of the Marians of the Immaculate Conception retells his dramatic and heart-wrenching life story in No Turning Back: A Witness to Mercy.
As a destructive youth, Calloway spent his adolescence succumbing to temptations large and small, from sins of the flesh with constant promiscuity, to crimes against the law with thousands of dollars of grand theft in stolen merchandise, as well as nightly partying with friends consuming all forms of drugs and addictives while listening to heavy-metal music.
Michael Voris would tell us that a man such a Father Don Calloway would be eminently unqualified to be a priest. He lived such a debauched life that there is no way he could ever lead a congregation. Voris needs to tell this to all the tens of thousands of people that Father Calloway is leading to God.

Then, of course, there is St. Augustine. This is the story of his father, which you can read HERE:
Patricius, the father of Augustine, was a man whose darker qualities sorely tested the Christian charity of his wife and his older son. ...

Patricius (Patrick) worked in the local Roman administration.

He was a decurion, which meant that he was a town councillor with the duty of collecting taxes.
Although he belonged to the influential class in the local society, Patricius lived in difficult financial circumstances.

Augustine said that his father owned only a small amount of land.

His vineyards were worked by slaves, and Augustine had a slave (called a pedagogue) who took him to school.  Patricius seems to have had nothing remarkable either in mental ability or in character.

He was a lively and sensual person, and one who easily became angry.

He was entirely taken up with his daily concerns. He was hostile to the Christian church until the end of his life.

Thanks to the efforts of Monica, Patricius died a baptised Christian.
The father of St. Augustine seems to have died a holy death, but he sure didn't live a holy life.  So, according to Michael Voris, St. Augustine should have most definitely been rejected from the priesthood.

Voris explains why "weak men" must be barred from the priesthood:
Weak men, psychologically and emotionally weak men, who have never been taught how to be a father, can lead the flock astray with little effort because they do not understand because they have never been taught, that a father lives for his children and not himself.
But a weak man, is weak specifically BECAUSE he has this paradigm totally backwards. He lives for himself, for his own desire to be accepted and not rejected. And too many men in authority in the Church are unwilling to eschew this basic human desire, fueled by rage and self-doubt, in favor of the needs of their flock.
They crave being admired – or advancement up the clerical ranks – clinging to these things in the belief they are loveable.
So a paralysis has set in, where the most common approach on the part of leaders is to offend as few of the faithful as possible. The RATIONALIZATION is of course, that this is done for the sake of unity.
I wonder if Michael Voris has ever read the Gospel accounts of the apostles. Men don't come a whole lot weaker than those who were handpicked by Jesus Christ to found His Church. The first apostle to be chosen, Matthew, was a tax collector, which meant he was a professional thief who collected large amounts of money and then kept most of it for himself. They all, with only one exception, ran away when Christ needed them most. They argued about who would be greatest. Our Lord even accused Peter of working for Satan when Peter said he would never allow Christ to be crucified. None of these men were admirable, respectable men in society. They were just a rag tag bunch with major character flaws whom most would dismiss as insignificant and unimportant men.

Yet, Judas was the only one to be lost from this bunch of weak, vain and cowardly men. The rest went on to become strong men of God willing to give up their very lives for the Gospel. That is the power of the Holy Spirit. Our own personal weaknesses and failings mean nothing to God. The key is how much we submit to the power of the Holy Spirit to TRANSFORM who we are. To dismiss a man from the priesthood just because of his background without any discernment of his heart and attitude goes against everything God says.

It is interesting that Michael Voris, whether he realizes it or not, is portraying the priesthood as just another profession in which we need "qualified" men.   Yes, we do need qualified men for the priesthood, but as stated earlier, the only real qualification is a calling by and submission to the Holy Spirit.  Our Lord decides where we will be in His Body, the Church. And as He tells us, he does not look at who we are or the things as we do.

When the prophet Samuel was choosing a king for Israel, God told Samuel:
"Do not consider his appearance or his height, for I have rejected him. The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart."  (I Sam. 16:7)   
Isaiah 55:8 tells us, 
"'For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,' declares the LORD."  
In fact, St. Paul writes that God purposely picks those the world considers weak to achieve His purposes:
Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful.  (I Cor. 1:27)
In this Vortex episode, Voris pronounces his usual judgment on the priests and bishops:
We need to pray and sacrifice mightily for our priests and bishops my fellow Catholics – the Church will be impotent in fighting the powers of hell, of storming the gates of hell with weak men as leaders.
Everyone has psychological junk to deal with. But there comes a time in the lives of some, when it must be dealt with and laid aside – or those incapable of dealing with it must at the very least recognize it and STEP aside.
Again, Voris totally discounts the work of the Holy Spirit with the statement, "the Church will be impotent in fighting the powers of hell, of storming the gates of hell with weak men as leaders." Just where does Voris think our strength as a Church comes from? Is this the Church of Strong, Manly Men or the Church of God? And again, Voris takes it upon himself to tell duly ordained priests and bishops to "STEP aside." When did Michael Voris become judge and jury over people's souls?

This is certainly not to say that we don't have weak priests among us. We always have and we always will. Judas was only the first. But does this weakness come from the lack of a strong father figure and/or some other character flaw, as Voris would have us believe? Or is it the result of abandoning their relationship with their Heavenly Father? Doesn't weakness in all of us, not just priests, come from the fact that we have not totally submitted ourselves to Our Lord, that we are trying to do things "our way" instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to work within us?

Not every man is qualified for the priesthood.  In fact, only a tiny percentage of men are actually called into this great vocation.  But let's leave it to the power of the Holy Spirit and Holy Mother Church to make this decision, not lay people like Michael Voris.

Every time I think Michael Voris has jumped the shark, he goes even further. His hubris seems to know no bounds. He condemns and criticizes priests and bishops with abandon, telling them that they are headed for hell and they need to get out of the church. Voris tells us that the institutional church we see around is nothing but a sham, and that only he and others who think like him constitute the true church. They are the only "faithful" Catholics. If you don't agree with Voris, you belong to the "Church of Nice", which he says is the great false church of our time.

There is a reason why Voris is not allowed by his bishop to use the word "Catholic" in his organization. I use to be a loyal follower of Voris, and I understand his appeal. He seems to give concrete answers to all the confusion around us. But I have learned that we need to stay far away from anyone who stands in constant criticism of the Church and purports to know more than those who have been ordained to watch over our souls.

It doesn't matter what has happened to you in life. It doesn't matter how low you have sunk. The Holy Spirit can completely remake you into a child of God. Don't listen to people like Voris who say you don't have what it takes. Alone, you don't have it. But if you submit your will to God, He will raise you up and use you in ways you would have never dreamed.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Lord, Let Me Never Stop Searching

In writing the last few posts here, I have been doing a lot of thinking about the scribes and pharisees and why it is that they were the only ones whom Jesus publicly rebuked during His earthly life. For point of clarity, it has been pointed out to me that Our Lord also rebuked the money changers in the temple. However, Jesus' rebuke of the money changers was a rebuke for one specific action - desecrating the temple - rather than who they were as people. This is found in Matthew 21:12-13:
Jesus entered the temple courts and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. “It is written,” he said to them, “ ‘My house will be called a house of prayer,’ but you are making it ‘a den of robbers.’”
The words of Jesus Christ to to the Pharisees and scribes was directed precisely to who they were as human beings.  And Our Lord's words were nothing short of scathing.

Mark 12:38-40:
“Beware of the scribes who like to walk around in long robes, and like respectful greetings in the market places,  and chief seats in the synagogues and places of honor at banquets,  who devour widows’ houses, and for appearance’s sake offer long prayers; these will receive greater condemnation.”
To the Scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 23:4-7):
They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger. “But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments. “They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.
And Matthew 23:27-28:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness.  “So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.
And Mark 7:6-8:
“Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written,
“‘This people honors me with their lips,
but their heart is far from me;
in vain do they worship me,
teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’
You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.”

There are more, but I think you can get the idea from the above scriptures.

We have no record of Jesus publicly rebuking anyone else. He never even rebuked those who were possessed with demons. He rebuked the demons, but never the people. The first man he called to be an apostle - Matthew - was a tax collector, which meant he was a professional thief, collecting large amounts of money from the people and pocketing a good portion of it. Jesus, as far as we know, did not say a word to Matthew about his corrupt practices. The only thing Jesus said to him was, "Follow me." And the amazing thing is, Matthew did so without hesitation.

Jesus met public sinners throughout his ministry and had no problem whatsoever in socializing with them, for which He received constant criticism from the Pharisees.  The Pharisees would never think of sullying themselves by getting anywhere near a public sinner, and they accused Christ of making himself a sinner by associating with them.  Jesus characterized their rebukes in Matthew 11:19 when He said, "The Son of man came eating and drinking, and they say, Behold a man gluttonous, and a winebibber, a friend of publicans and sinners."

God does not tolerate any form of sin, so we know that Jesus' association with sinners did not mean he was endorsing sin in any way, but like the woman taken in adultery, he was extending mercy to people so that they would be able to repent and turn from their sinful lives.  But why didn't Our Lord extend this same mercy to the Pharisees and Scribes?  Why, unlike his actions towards others, did Christ feel the need to publicly rebuke the Pharisees and Scribes, and to do so in such harsh, unrelenting words?

In Matthew 7:7, Jesus told us that in order to find him all we had to do was ask:
Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.
What has this got to do with anything? The sinners our Lord met - adulterers, prostitutes, publicans, thieves, etc. - were all seeking something. They knew something was missing in their lives. They didn't know what it was, but they thought if they could just fill it with that "one" thing - be it sex, money, power, etc. - then they would be happy.  They were searching, but like the old song says, they were "looking in all the wrong places." Our Lord, seeing this, would go to them and gently say, "I am the Way, the Truth and the Life." Our Lord showed them kindness and compassion, never the harsh and unbending criticism He displayed towards the Pharisees.  

This is beautifully illustrated in the story of the woman Jesus met at the well, which is depicted in John 4. The woman was a Samaritan, and as we are told in verse 9 of John 4, Jews do not associate with Samaritans. So when Jesus was sitting at the well and asked her for a drink of water, he was violating serious social protocol. And the woman knew it. At first she was very defensive, and said "You are a Jew and I am a Samaritan woman. How can you ask me for a drink?" Her contemptuous tone did not deter Jesus in the least, and He very compassionately answered, "If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water." (Verse 10)

Not only was this Jew speaking to her, a Samaritan, but he was speaking kindly to her.  She had never experienced anything close to this in her life.  But she did not understand Jesus' answer, and she was also still somewhat skeptical about what He really wanted, so she asked Him, "Sir, you have nothing to draw with and the well is deep. Where can you get this living water? Are you greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well and drank from it himself, as did also his sons and his livestock?"  (Verse 11)

An interesting side point.  Venerable Fulton Sheen pointed out how this woman becomes progressively more respectful towards Jesus as the conversation ensues.  She starts out calling him "You Jew."  In the next statement, she calls him "Sir."

Jesus answers the Samaritan woman by telling her He has what she has been searching for (verses 13-14):  "Everyone who drinks this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life."

The woman is deeply intrigued, but she still doesn't understand Jesus (verse 15):  "Sir, give me this water so that I won’t get thirsty and have to keep coming here to draw water."

At this point, Jesus very kindly points out that she has a problem in her life that needs to be corrected. He asks her to call her husband. She says she has no husband. In verses 17-18, He responds, "You are right when you say you have no husband. The fact is, you have had five husbands, and the man you now have is not your husband. What you have just said is quite true."

The woman realizes that Jesus is not trying to condemn her in any way. He is merely stating a fact. But the issue of her failed marriages is not something she wants to talk about, so she tries to change the subject: "Sir, I can see that you are a prophet. Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem."

Jesus does not go back to the problem with her marital status, but instead answers her statement about worship (verses 21-24):
“Woman, believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
Here, Jesus is saying to a Samaritan woman that her people have no idea what true worship is and that salvation is from the Jews, their avowed enemies.  Yet she takes no offense at this, because in this same statement our Lord is describing true worship to her, and now she is beginning to understand.  She knows that Jesus is speaking of that for which they all seek (verse 25):
The woman said, “I know that Messiah” (called Christ) “is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us.”
Then Jesus tells her outright:
“I, the one speaking to you—I am he.”
Our Lord brought salvation to the Samaritan woman not by scolding her and telling her she needed to turn from her sinful lifestyle.  She came to salvation, or at least the knowledge of who Jesus was, because Jesus told her that He was what she was searching for.  He told her to stop looking in the wrong places, and instead look at Him.  And when she did, she was thoroughly convinced.

So why couldn't Jesus do this with the Pharisees and Scribes? Because the most important element in the equation was missing - the Pharisees and Scribes were not looking. They were convinced they had all the answers. They looked at themselves and saw only goodness personified. They had supreme self confidence. They were completely and totally infected with the most serious of spiritual sicknesses: self righteousness and self confidence.

Despite His harsh criticism of them, Our Lord loved the Pharisees and Scribes as much as anyone else, and longed for them to accept Him. But he was up against a stone wall with them.

The Pharisees knew they were the "chosen people." As they told Jesus, Abraham was their father. God had worked directly through the Jews throughout the centuries. They had a couple thousand years of tradition. Their religious practices had been tried and proven throughout the centuries. They didn't need a poor uneducated Nazarene carpenter, who was rumored to be a bastard child, telling them about God. And this Jesus was constantly flouting their traditions and practices. Why, he and his followers didn't wash their hands before eating, as the Law said. They picked corn on the Sabbath! They socialized with non Jews. And Jesus even healed on the Sabbath - a deed worthy of stoning!

They knew the people were listening to Jesus and following Him, but the people were all so stupid, anyway. These common people did not have the education and training that the Pharisees and Scribes did. The people didn't know the law, so why pay attention to anything they say.

The Gospels teach us that often those who appear to be the most hardened sinners are sometimes much closer to Christ than those who appear to be "righteous." Why was Jesus able to reach the Samaritan woman at the well but not the Pharisees? Because the woman at the well was searching. She knew that she didn't have all the answers, she knew something was missing in her life. And all it took was Our Lord to compassionately show her the right way to go and her life was changed. The Pharisees would have treated her contemptuously, if at all, and scolded her for her sins, and that would have left her right where she was.

As Christians, we must never become self complacent. We must never think we have it made, that we have learned all we need to know, and there is no further room for spiritual growth in our lives. Once we do that, we have taken ourselves out of the Lord's Hands. Once we think we have it all together and therefore have the right to judge others and most especially those put in charge of our souls, we are in big trouble spiritually because we are putting a huge wall between us and the mercy of God. We have, in effect, become Pharisees.

Terry Anderson of Abbey Roads posted a beautiful prayer on my blog from Saint Claude de la Colombiere. There is one line in it that especially touched me:  "As for myself, Lord, all my confidence is my confidence itself. Because You Lord, only You have secured my hope."

Lord, let me never depend on myself. Let me never stop searching for you.

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