Thursday, April 24, 2014

Brief Exchange with an Atheist on the Definitions of "Deism" and "Atheism" and Whether Mark Twain was an Atheist

 Mark Twain

This occurred on my blog. One "Robotczar" (safely anonymous, with no further access information known) commented on my 2006 paper,  "Were Abraham Lincoln and Mark Twain Atheists?" His words will be in blue.

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Your comment is remarkable in its utter non-interaction with anything in the post. But that is a fashionable thing to do in these days of lack of rationality and rational dialogue.

A couple of points: First, the religious try hard to make atheism have a very precise definition--one that has atheism apply to the smallest number of people. 

Really? I didn't notice that. Random House Dictionary ( defines atheism as:

1. the doctrine or belief that there is no God.
2. disbelief in the existence of a supreme being or beings.

That's not rocket science. The etymology is derived from the Greek atheos which means literally, "without god". The more recent origin was c. 1580s, from the French athéisme.

They have invented terms like "deist" to not count people as atheists, even though they don't believe in any sort of god that any real religion does.

You're just filled with interesting "factoids" (??) today. Random House Dictionary defines "deism" as:

1. belief in the existence of a God on the evidence of reason and nature only, with rejection of supernatural revelation (distinguished from theism ).

2. belief in a God who created the world but has since remained indifferent to it.

You're the one who has smuggled in the notion that deism is actually atheism because it involves no (supernatural) religion. But that is a non sequitur, since belief in God is not necessarily, inherently religious in the first place. Hence, many philosophers have believed in a bare theism, while not adhering to any particular religious view.

In other words, theism and deism are larger categories, that transcend religion alone. Deism is precisely a sort of "theism stripped of supernatural / religious elements." But it doesn't cease to be belief in God altogether, merely because it isn't "religious."

I have not noticed what you claim. If we look, for example, at what an actual deist states concerning the belief-system's origins, we see something very different from your scenario. See: "A Brief History of Deism" by Chuck Clendenen.

In fact, everyone is an atheist because they all don't believe in somebody else's god.

Again, that is your peculiar slant; and neither general nor dictionary usage. Atheism is a denial that God exists, not a denial of "somebody else's god."

But you show yourself at least an interesting thinker, if not particularly accurate to reality.

Second, even in these semi-enlighted [sic] times, a majority of the mindless despise atheists.

One would expect that. It's also true at the same time that many atheists utterly despise Christians and other religious believers as dolts and ignoramuses, as even a cursory glance at atheist sites online will quickly prove. Bottom line: folks of all stripes tend to be prejudiced against those who are different than they are.

Speaking for myself, I have infinitely more respect on many levels, for thoughtful, amiable atheists I have interacted with than for fundamentalist anti-Catholic Protestants: even though the latter are Christians.

Admitting to being one will guarantee you won't get elected, many people won't buy your stuff, and they won't let you marry their daughter or son.

There has been a lot of prejudice, yes, although if your definitions hold (which I deny), Thomas Jefferson was close to deist in belief, and he was the President over 200 years ago. Others are scarcely "religious" according to many of us who are that, including the current office-holder.

It's almost if not just as likely that an overtly religious person will also be scorned from high office. Thus, e.g., Rick Santorum was scorned and slandered in the 2012 primaries as a religious fanatic.

So, there is a big incentive to prevaricate, or avoid the topic. In the past this situation was even worse. Imagine what would happen to his sales if it got out that Twain was an atheist, which he certainly was.

Again, you merely assert things, which is not rational argument. My article gave actual quotes from Twain. But you simply ignore them and make your bald claims. This is most unimpressive.

"I do not fear death. I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born, and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.” -- Mark Twain.

This is not incompatible with Christianity, since we were not in existence before we were born, either; hence, proves nothing with regard to your claim. It does, I grant, imply that after death he will be nonexistent as well, but it's not absolutely certain from this one quote; therefore, more data is needed to make a final determination of Twain's beliefs regarding God or lack thereof. My article provided some of that, but you ignored it, which is almost par for the course today, since dialogue seems to be almost an unknown (if not despised) art anymore..

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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Reformed Apologist and Expert on Islam, Sam Shamoun Claims that the Catholic Church Murdered "An Estimated 50-68 Million People". My Reply

Sam Shamoun does great work in answering and refuting the claims of Islam. I have recommended his work in that regard for years now (even "liking" his Facebook Page): particularly on his Answering Islam site; and in fact we worked together one day some years ago in discussion with Muslims and had a very cordial meal at a restaurant afterwards. He has actually complimented my apologetics as well: at least that in defense of the Holy Trinity. We got along so well, he wrote afterwards (words in blue throughout):

I am reading your stuff since I think it is the most thorough and perhaps the best defense of Catholicism out there . . . Dave has been nothing but respectful and kind to me. He has shown me great respect despite knowing full well that I disagree with him on the essential issues.

When it comes to treatment of Catholicism, however, Sam, like too many Protestants, shows himself quite less capable of reasoned and sensible argumentation.

In the combox of one of his [public] Facebook threads (dated 4-9-14), he stated, initially replying to someone else: 

I don't believe the Roman Catholic Church is the one Jesus built, . . . Moreover, even though you claim that the Catholic Church has brought more people to Christ it has also murdered and persecuted more people in the name of Christ than anyone else, i.e. the Inquisition where an estimated 50-68 million people were killed by Rome. Just ask the Jews how they were treated by the Catholic Church. Thus, there has been no other denomination or institution that has done greater damage in turning people away from Christ than the Roman Catholic Church. [my bolding]

That caught my eye (being a cherished anti-Catholic myth that I have encountered many times), and I replied, citing his numbers:

Really? Please tell me the name of reputable historians who assert such an absolutely ridiculous figure. Thanks! I've yet to get a name after asking several Protestants who make this ludicrous claim.

And he counter-responded:

It's called Google. ;-)

So instead of deflecting away from the subject [which I didn't do; rather, I asked a simple clarifying question about his claim], ARE YOU DENYING the evil of the Inquisition? [note the clever changing of the subject] Better yet, could you please give me YOUR estimates for how many people your church murdered and YOUR justification for such atrocities? I will be waiting eagerly to read your sources and justification for this evil.

I've tried to post a very fair and balanced article titled "Estimates of the Number Killed by the Papacy in the Middle Ages and later" by David A. Plaisted, published in 2006, but due to its length I haven't been able to do so. I recommend you google it and read through it and tell me what you think since he examines the numbers of those purported to have been murdered by your church. In the meantime, please give me YOUR sources with the estimated numbers of people your church murdered during the Inquisition, and provide your justification for such atrocities, so we can take it from there. If you do not comply by providing what you deem to be credible and reliable sources then consider yourself banned from this page.

Gotta love that threat and "righteous indignation" at the end. Despite this surprisingly acerbic treatment, I replied at length. Here it is:

Plaisted has a Ph.D. in computer science. He's not an historian at all. So I ask for "reputable historians" and the best you can come up with is a computer science guy? That's laughable, and you can do far better. I know that for sure, because I've seen and recommended your work. But it's also a case study in severe bias against the Catholic Church and what it does to otherwise sound and able minds.

The actual numbers, of course, are just a few thousand, according to real (and competent) historians.  For starters, here are two non-Catholic, reputable historians:

1) Edward Peters, professor of history at the University of Pennsylvania, author of Inquisition (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989).

On page 87 of his book, Peters states: “The best estimate is that around 3000 death sentences were carried out in Spain by Inquisitorial verdict between 1550 and 1800, a far smaller number than that in comparable secular courts.”

2) Henry Kamen, a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and professor of history at various universities, including the University of Wisconsin - Madison; author of The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision (London and New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).

Their work is featured in the Wikipedia article, "Historical Revision of the Inquisition".

For copiously documented facts and figures, see:  “Beyond the Myth of The Inquisition: Ours Is 'The Golden Age'", by Brian Van Hove. Faith and Reason (Winter, 1992).

I do not "defend" the Inquisition as a practice, but what I do do (what you clearly have not done) is try to properly and accurately understand it in the context of its time (the Middle Ages and early modern periods). In those days, almost all Christians (not just Catholics; minus only a few small groups like Anabaptists and Quakers) believed in corporal and capital punishment for heresy, because they thought (here is the correct premise) that heresy was far more dangerous to a person and society than physical disease was. That is exactly right: heresy can land one in hell; no disease could ever do that.

So they believed in punishing the heretic for the sake of the good of the society. I deal with these issues at length, on my web page, "Inquisition, Crusades, and 'Catholic Scandals'".

What Protestants often do, however, in direct proportion to how much they are anti-Catholic, is to exercise a double standard in condemning the Catholic Church for engaging in this practice, and exaggerating grotesquely by positing ridiculous, ludicrous numbers that would be far more than the entire population of Europe in those days, and even enlisting clowns like Plaisted, who is not an historian, to bolster their uninformed prejudices.

This being the case, I inform my readers that Protestants (including Luther, Calvin, the English "reformers", Zwingli, Melanchthon et al) have a long list of "scandals" and inquisitions as well. In just one example among many, Martin Luther and John Calvin both accepted the execution of Anabaptists (by a mocking drowning) due to their belief in adult baptism. They considered this sedition. They also executed many Catholics in England, often by drawing and quartering and ripping out their hearts) simply for being Catholics (think: end of Braveheart: William Wallace was hanged, emasculated, disemboweled, his heart cut out, and all four limbs and head cut off). This is what Henry VIII and his successors did to many Catholics, simply for worshiping as their ancestors had done for 1500 years. I document this at great length and excruciating detail on my web page: "Protestantism: Historic Persecution and Intolerance".

I've answered your question in great detail, under penalty of being banned if I didn't. But I did. Now the ball's in your court. You can choose (and dare!) to keep this post up and reply to it in a reasonable manner (with substantiation from real historians this time, as I requested), or get rid of it as severely damaging to the myth you have tried to promulgate above. Your choice.

But since you have threatened to ban me, I will preserve this thread and my answer on my blog, in case you delete it and my careful work in answering your question is all in vain. I know all these dubious tactics from 18 years' experience online. I'm not naive enough to not preserve work I do from folks who love the delete button when they are unable to refute . . .

Dave Armstrong, let's try this one more time. Instead of plastering a book length response here which no one will read, answer my questions succinctly. I will even put this in caps in order to help you answer directly. PLEASE GIVE ME THE ROUGH ESTIMATE THAT YOU THINK WERE MURDERED BY YOUR CHURCH DURING THE INQUISITION WITH A LINK OR NAME OF A REPUTABLE SOURCE FOR ME TO VERIFY IT FOR MYSELF. SECONDLY, PLEASE PROVIDE THE JUSTIFICATION FOR YOUR CHURCH MURDERING THESE PEOPLE. Hopefully that helped you understand how not to answer and how to properly answer a question. Take care.

ALREADY DID ALL THAT. I wrote, "The actual numbers, of course, are just a few thousand, according to real (and competent) historians." You were obviously among the persons that didn't read my post (i.e., before you deleted it). I gave you two reputable historians (Edward Peters and Henry Kamen), and their books and credentials, and cited Peters, saying: " “The best estimate is that around 3000 death sentences were carried out in Spain by Inquisitorial verdict between 1550 and 1800, a far smaller number than that in comparable secular courts.” But I guess you didn't read that, either, since we're on this imbecilic, rude playground level you have chosen to descend to. I predicted that you might very well play the ""that's too LOOOONG for me to read!" evasion on my Facebook page, since you did it with someone else, and deleted his comment, too.

I also dealt with corporal and capital punishment as something done by almost all Christians during the late middle ages and 16th century period: a somewhat complex thing that we should try to understand rather than lie about. But I don't defend it in terms of actually favoring such a thing; never have. My position is that the early Church and current view of almost all Christians, of religious tolerance, is far preferable.

Extremely disappointing. I would have no more thought you would assert and dig in over something this stupid and idiotic than I would have thought you would become a Muslim.

I'll now remove the links I have had to your work with the Muslims, that have been up for years, and "unlike" your Facebook page, because in my opinion, you have lost all intellectual credibility. If you can lie and act like a complete ass and fool to this extent, towards a fellow Christian (one that you have even highly complimented in the past) and His Church, I no longer trust you to accurately represent Muslims and Islam.
For those who have any shred of fair-mindedness, here is the link to my reply paper again, before you delete this and block me [link to this paper].

May God bless you abundantly in all things, this Holy Week, as we recall with thankfulness, all that our glorious Lord and Savior and Redeemer Jesus did on our behalf in His passion and death on the cross, saving all who will humble themselves and call upon His name, in order to be saved in the end.

Sam then responded to another Catholic in the thread in a way that suggests he thinks the same about my reply:

. . . instead of making excuses to run away from defending your church's atrocities, why not try to respond in the same manner that I . . .  have done, instead of posting book length responses whose sole aim is to try to overwhelm your opponents with empty rhetoric masquerading as a substantive response? Try it since it will do your soul some good.

This is straight out of the James White Anti-Catholic Ultra-Condescension Handbook. Classic . . .

I wrote the above before his final parting shots. Am I a prophet or what? Here are his latest rantings:

Dave Armstrong, I was going to allow your post to stand because you managed to edit it down from a book length response filled with fluff and evasion to a manageable size where we can actual read through your bluster. However, seeing your rather stupid childish comments and accusations, i.e. "since we're on this imbecilic, rude playground level you have chosen to descend to. I predicted that you might very well play the 'that's too LOOOONG for me to read!' evasion", you have less than an hour to remove yourself from this page before I ban you. Moreover, next time I show up in Michigan I will be more than happy to set up a live debate between you and me on the satellite shows which I do out there. Then we will see who will end up sounding imbecilic and childish. Time is a tickin!

Gee, how original of you Dave Armstrong: [cites this paper] I guess I should be flattered that you have done a post on me, much like you have done with nearly every Protestant apologist from James White to Eric Svendsen. Is this how you try to get people to financially support your ministry, by giving the impression that you are capable of debating and refuting the "big guns" of Protestantism? It obviously isn't working now is it? You have less than 30 minutes to remove yourself as I ban you.

There you have it, folks. This is what you get, trying to have a rational discussion about historical facts with a raving anti-Catholic zealot. I never expected this from Sam. Apparently over time, he's become an embittered parody of a satire of James White: the Grand Poobah of the anti-Catholics and greatest slanderer of them all. And that is a sad thing to be.

[see also the Facebook discussion about this paper]

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Monday, April 14, 2014

Biblical Catholicism Booksite: Permanent 44-50% E-Book Discounts (ePub & Mobi: $4.99 / PDF: $1.99)

This is my new booksite: with its own domain name: launched on 13 April 2014. My friend Mike Mudd has been extremely gracious and generous with his time in designing it; and did a great job. 

As of this writing, I have 41 of my 43 books available, and new ones will be added as they come out (two in the next few months that I'm working on); also audio files of radio interviews. I'm now offering mobi files (which work with Amazon Kindle readers), as well as ePubs and PDFs for almost all titles (one is a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet file: my sharpest e-book: for The One-Minute Apologist: designed by my friend John O'Connor).

The standard, ongoing low prices are $4.99 for ePubs and Mobis and $1.99 for PDFs. All prices will be either $4.99 or $1.99. I will be offering free audio files from radio interviews soon, too.

It's simple, easy to remember, and a permanent deep discount. It's still the case that the middle man is eliminated and most of the profit from sales goes directly to me. If you want to support my work and directly benefit me by buying my books, ordering from this site is the way to do it. For those of you who don't know about my "situation": I'm a full-time apologist (12 years +), and my income comes primarily from book royalties (along with, also, generous contributions from supporters of my apostolate).

Most e-books sold by professional publishers are $8.99-$9.99. Thus, on my booksite you will save 44%-50% on all the books all the time. If you have less money to spend (who doesn't these days?!), you can buy one of my books for $1.99 as a PDF. It would be tough to find prices that low anywhere: i.e., for an established (still living!) author of over 40 books who has been published "officially" nine times, by five different publishers. If you can find lower e-book prices than this, please let me know. I'd love to see it!

The site sells all my books except for two recent ones. This includes my five published with Sophia Institute Press, which are several of my most well-known books (A Biblical Defense of Catholicism, The Catholic Verses, The One-Minute Apologist, The Quotable Newman, and Bible Proofs for Catholic Truths). I received express permission from Sophia to sell the e-books on my own.

It includes my book of Chesterton quotations, and also my notes for The Catholic Answer Bible (later expanded to The New Catholic Answer Bible with additional notes from Dr. Paul Thigpen). On my new site only, you can purchase the text of the inserts (minus the Bible). That brings you 44 one-page treatments of all the major topics, with Scripture and Catechism references. Just $4.99 (16 cents per topic!).

I hope you will visit and purchase often, and please spread the world if you would. This is my bread and butter. I'm bringing you prices as low as I can possibly make them and still get any profit at all. The idea is that folks will hopefully buy buy BUY, and then I'll make decent money in volume. But Catholic apologetics is a very tiny market, which is always my challenge.

I need lots of folks coming to my site who are predisposed to buy apologetics books. Thus, your prayers and spreading the message would be greatly appreciated as I launch this new venture. I don't have a bunch of capital that I can sock into advertising and technical services, so that everything is a spectacular success right away. It's just me, with my meager income, doing all I can.

All major credit cards are accepted, and you can also pay via PayPal if you so choose. The book files are almost instantly sent to your e-mail address for immediate reading. You can sign up at the site, so that all your address information, etc., will be saved for later purchases.

The master books page on my blog will remain open and updated as well. It includes links to all my books in all formats (including good old-fashioned paperback), with convenient links to info-pages for each book, so you can see how the prices work and what is available. I just updated it today. 

It's a great way to buy books very inexpensively. Again (I want to emphasize this), in buying from this site, there is no middle man, which means I receive almost 100% profit or royalties, minus only small transaction fees and a modest monthly fee for the site and use of Shopify. If you want low-cost books and you'd like to see me receive most of the royalties, then this is the way to go. 

Everybody's happy: you get low low prices, and I have more income coming in, so that I can continue my full-time apologetics apostolate and bring you more apologetics books and other materials all the time (as I've been doing since 1993, online since 1997, and full-time since December 2001).
I hope you will seriously consider purchasing some books. I'm here as your servant, entirely by God's grace and for His glory, always, in an effort to help Catholics become more confident and assured in our faith, to harmonize faith and reason, and to understand why we believe what we believe, in order to effectively share the Message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the fullness of the Catholic faith with others.

Happy reading! I'm honored and humbled and deeply grateful that you read my writing. All glory to God.

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Sunday, April 13, 2014

Books by Dave Armstrong: The Catholic Answer Bible

(published in September 2002 by Our Sunday Visitor. 1394 pages with 44 additional apologetics inserts: my contribution) 


The apologetics inserts explain and defend all of the basic Catholic doctrines and "controversial" issues, in capsule summary form, with more than 800 references to the Scripture and Catechism of the Catholic Church. The Catholic Answer Bible was updated as The New Catholic Answer Bible (2005): that had 44 additional articles by Dr. Paul Thigpen. It has long been Dave's bestselling book.

The PDF e-book file contains the apologetics inserts only, not the Bible, and is available for sale only through my own booksite. 


1. What is Apologetics?
2. How can we know anything about God?
3. Why do Christians believe that Jesus is God Incarnate?
4. Why do Christians believe that God is Triune?
5. Why do Catholics believe that Christ uniquely established their Church?
6. Where Did the Bible Come From?
7. Why do Catholic Bibles include the Deuterocanonical books?
8. Do Catholics believe in personal interpretation of the Bible?
9. Why do Catholics believe that Jesus wanted a pope to be the Head of His Church?
10. How could Peter be the first pope, since Paul rebuked him (Galatians 2:11-14)?
11. Do Catholics preach the gospel?
12. What do Catholics believe about the relationship of faith and works?
13. Why do Catholics believe that Jesus is bodily present in the consecrated host of the Eucharist?
14. Do Catholics believe that Jesus is sacrificed again at every Mass?
15. Is apostolic succession a biblical concept?
16. Can the office of the priesthood be found in the Bible?
17. How can Catholics believe in Mary’s Immaculate Conception, since the Bible teaches that all have sinned (Romans 3:23)?
18. How can the bodily Assumption of Mary be reconciled with the Bible, which seems to be totally silent about it?
19. Why do Catholics believe that sacraments are necessary?
20. Where are the seven sacraments found in the Bible?
21. Why do Catholics baptize infants?
22. Where is the notion of penance found in the Bible?
23. Why do Catholics confess to a priest rather than to God?
24. Why do Catholics distinguish between mortal and venial sin?
25. What do Catholics believe about praying directly to God?
26. How do Catholics explain the invocation of saints, since the Bible teaches that Jesus is the only Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5)?
27. Why do Catholics call priests father, in light of Matthew 23:9?
28. Why does the Catholic Church require celibacy for its priests?
29. How can the one true Church have sinners in it?
30. What is an indulgence? Does the Bible teach anything about it?
31. For what purpose do Catholic churches have statues of saints?
32. What biblical evidence for relics is there?
33. Are there prayers in the Bible that are repetitive like the Rosary and Litanies?
34. Why are Catholics required to attend Mass on Sundays and Holy Days?
35. What is the purpose of genuflection and making the sign of the cross?
36. Why do Catholics venerate Mary and the saints?
37. What does the Catholic Church teach about divorce?
38. Why do Catholics believe that using artificial contraception is wrong?
39. Why do Catholics feel so strongly about life issues?
40. Why do Catholics oppose abortion, euthanasia and capital punishment?
41. What do Catholics believe about the afterlife and judgment?
42. How can Catholics defend purgatory and prayers for the dead from the Bible?
43. Why do Catholics believe in an eternal hell?
44. What does the Bible and the Catholic Church teach about Heaven?


***INSERTS ONLY***: PDF $4.99

Last updated on 17 April 2013.

Wednesday, April 09, 2014

Annulment is Not “Catholic Divorce”

A widespread perception exists, among Protestants, secular society, and our Orthodox brethren, that annulment is simply a sophisticated, “playing with words” equivalent of divorce. This is untrue. The distinction between divorce and annulment is one that is routinely made even in civil law. It is not unique to, nor was it “invented” by Catholicism.

For example, The Oxford Companion to Law (edited by D. M. Walker, 1980; “Annulment”) states that “Annulment of a marriage is legislative or judicial invalidation of it, as in law never having existed, as distinct from dissolution [divorce], which terminates a valid marriage.”

The Church recognizes that a legitimate, sacramental marriage was never present from the outset, in a considerable number of scenarios. One has to enter into marriage with a free will and full understanding of what it entails. The proverbial “shotgun wedding” is a classic, commonly acknowledged case where the free will of at least one party is abrogated.

A person might, for example, get married to a practicing criminal, who did not reveal that he or she was, or someone with an unknown severe mental illness, or a violent person (who beats them every day after the wedding), or one who, say, turns out to be a spy from a hostile government, or one who is already married (bigamy). All of these scenarios (and many others) are illegitimate "marriages" and non-sacramental from the outset.

It is often noted that much higher rates of annulment occur today. Abuses in the process do, no doubt, take place, due to societal pressure and sin and human weakness. Those in the Church who compromise in this way will stand accountable to God. But the prevalence of abuse (I've learned, from talking to canon lawyers) is likely far less than is assumed.

It's also indisputable that more and more people have a limited understanding from the outset of what a sacramental marriage is, and what it entails; hence, such “marriages” were never sacramentally valid in the first place. This lack of knowledge would be an altogether valid reason for greater numbers of annulments.

The Old Testament distinction between a concubine and a wife is somewhat analogous to ours between a civil and sacramental marriage: itself the foundational premise of the concept of annulment. Concubines were distinguished from wives (Judges 8:31). God approved of sending away Hagar and her son Ishmael (Gen 21:12), not because they were evil or disparaged by Him (see Gen 17:20, 21:13, 17-20), but because Sarah was Abraham's wife in the full sense (akin to sacramental marriage).

Likewise, in Ezra 10:1-19, 44 (cf. 9:1-2, 14-15), many Israelites “put away” (10:19, RSV) the “foreign women” they had married, not simply because they were foreigners, but because they caused them to become corrupted by false religions and idolatry (see, e.g., Dt 17:17; Neh 13:23-28). This was essentially an annulment, as opposed to a divorce, because these unions had a serious impediment in the eyes of God and in light of His laws.

If one is looking for New Testament verification of the notion of annulment, the “except for unchastity” [sometimes, “adultery”] clause of Matthew 19:9 is interpreted by Catholic commentators (and the Church fathers, for the most part) as a case of non-matrimonial cohabitation as opposed to real marriage. In other words, Jesus was saying that if someone divorces his wife, he commits adultery, except in cases where he actually was not married in the first place. That is an annulment: straight from our Lord.

Moreover, the “Pauline privilege” has always been accepted by the Church:

1 Corinthians 7:15 But if the unbelieving partner desires to separate, let it be so; in such a case the brother or sister is not bound. For God has called us to peace.

The Church has held that a Christian is free to remarry in cases where two nonbelievers (generally unbaptized) marry, one later becomes a Christian, and the non-Christian departs. This is because the natural (or what we often call “civil”) marriage was not sacramental in the first place.

Hence, St. Ambrose wrote in 385 AD in his letter 19:7 to Vigilius: “Since the marriage ceremony ought to be sanctified by the priestly veiling and blessing, how can that be called a marriage ceremony where there is no agreement in faith?”

Likewise, Pope St. Leo the Great, writing in 459 to Rusticus (Epistle 167:4), stated, in reference to Abraham and Hagar:

. . . since the marriage tie was from the beginning so constituted as apart from the joining of the sexes to symbolize the mystic union of Christ and His Church, it is undoubted that that woman has no part in matrimony, in whose case it is shown that the mystery of marriage has not taken place.

In summary, then, annulments are recognized in civil law, and have an explicit biblical and patristic basis. Catholics need not fear any close examination of this issue.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Did Julian of Norwich Teach Universalism and Deny the Doctrine of an Eternal Hell?

In working on my book, Quotable Mystics and Contemplatives, I included Julian of Norwich [female] (c. 1342-c. 1416) and her book, Revelations of Divine Love

Later on Facebook, someone brought up the fact that it is claimed that she was a universalist (the belief that God saves everyone and/or that there is either no hell at all or that it is emptied at some point). I responded:
I didn't see any universalism when I went through her main book. People see a lot of things if they don't read in context.

The Bible and Christianity overwhelmingly (minus a few groups like Seventh-day Adventists) teach that hell is eternal and that unrepentant sinners will be tormented there forever. 

A quick search of Google reveals many sites making the false claim about Julian. But a search of her actual book shows otherwise. I did just that: doing a manual word search of her book, Revelations of Divine Love, in its plain text format (all of it on one web page). Here is what I found:
. . . I knew well that It was strength enough for me, yea, and for all creatures living, against all the fiends of hell and ghostly temptation. (ch. 4)

A universalist would not acknowledge a continuing hell, as she does here. Most would not mention hell at all. 

The dearworthy blood of our Lord Jesus Christ as verily as it is most precious, so verily it is most plenteous. Behold and see! The precious plenty of His dearworthy blood descended down into Hell and burst her bands and delivered all that were there which belonged to the Court of Heaven. (ch. 12)

I believe this is actually a reference to Hades, or Sheol, not hell. Unfortunately, KJV and some Catholic texts (e.g., "descended to hell") continue to use "hell" for this intermediate state that is neither heaven nor hell, but rather, what is called the netherworld or sometimes, the "limbo of the fathers." Jesus went there and took the saved to heaven. That's what she means here: God took all who belonged to heaven; not all to heaven. Big difference! But for those unfamiliar with this "hell" / "Hades" confusion, of course it could read as universalism.

For more on this aspect., see the Protestant apologetic paper, Did Jesus descend into Hell or Hades after he died on the cross? and the Catholic article, Did Jesus Really Go to Hell? by Stephen Beale (Catholic Exchange, 29 March 2013). Also, the Catechism of the Catholic Church states:
633 Scripture calls the abode of the dead, to which the dead Christ went down, "hell" - Sheol in Hebrew or Hades in Greek - because those who are there are deprived of the vision of God.480 Such is the case for all the dead, whether evil or righteous, while they await the Redeemer: which does not mean that their lot is identical, as Jesus shows through the parable of the poor man Lazarus who was received into "Abraham's bosom":481 "It is precisely these holy souls, who awaited their Savior in Abraham's bosom, whom Christ the Lord delivered when he descended into hell."482 Jesus did not descend into hell to deliver the damned, nor to destroy the hell of damnation, but to free the just who had gone before him.483

Footnotes480 Cf. Phil 2:10; Acts 2:24; Rev 1:18; Eph 4:9; Pss 6:6; 88:11-13.
481 Cf. Ps 89:49; 1 Sam 28:19; Ezek 32:17-32; Lk 16:22-26.
482 Roman Catechism I, 6, 3.
483 Cf. Council of Rome (745): DS 587; Benedict XII, Cum dudum (1341): DS 1011; Clement VI, Super quibusdam (1351): DS 1077; Council of Toledo IV (625): DS 485; Mt 27:52-53.

In chapter 27 is a statement that many have wrongly interpreted as indicating universalism: 

And for the tender love that our good Lord hath to all that shall be saved, He comforteth readily and sweetly, signifying thus: It is sooth [95] that sin is cause of all this pain; but all shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner [of] thing shall be well. These words were said full tenderly, showing no manner of blame to me nor to any that shall be saved.

"all that shall be saved" nor "any that shall be saved" implies, let alone requires, that all persons are saved. If, e.g., I'm a coin collector and refer to "all the coins that shall be saved," I'm not saying that I save all coins. And "any that shall be saved" is an even clearer indication of limitation, not universality.

In any event, Julian of Norwich makes a very clear statement of eternal condemnation in hell five chapters later:  

And in this sight I marvelled greatly and beheld our Faith, marvelling thus: Our Faith is grounded in God's word, and it belongeth to our Faith that we believe that God's word shall be saved in all things; and one point of our Faith is that many creatures shall be condemned: as angels that fell out of Heaven for pride, which be now fiends; and man in earth that dieth out of the Faith of Holy Church: that is to say, they that be heathen men; and also man that hath received christendom and liveth unchristian life and so dieth out of charity: all these shall be condemned to hell without end, as Holy Church teacheth me to believe. And all this [so] standing, methought it was impossible that all manner of things should be well, as our Lord shewed in the same time. (ch. 32; my bolding)

She accepts Church teaching (ch. 33):

And yet in this I desired, as [far] as I durst, that I might have full sight of Hell and Purgatory. But it was not my meaning to make proof of anything that belongeth to the Faith: for I believed soothfastly that Hell and Purgatory is for the same end that Holy Church teacheth, . . . 

Other more-or-less passing references indicate that she casually accepted the existence of hell:
For if afore us were laid [together] all the pains in Hell and in Purgatory and in Earth—death and other—, and [by itself] sin, we should rather choose all that pain than sin. (ch. 40)

For I thought in sooth were I safe from sin, I were full safe from all the fiends of hell and enemies of my soul. (ch. 49)

. . . all the pain that is in hell. (ch. 76)

Don't be fooled by those with an agenda: to bolster up heresies by recourse to quotes out of context and wholesale distortion of a person's beliefs. The universalists (like radical homosexual activists and feminists) are notorious for distorting biblical passages as well as the teaching of historic Christians. Now, with Google Books and Internet Archive and other online sources for books available, it's very easy to do a search just as I did, for key words, and to read in context as well. More than ever, we can learn on our own, and free ourselves from the distortions of mere controversialists and propagandists.

Elsewhere, she makes it very clear that she accepts all Church teaching:

But in all things I believe as Holy Church believeth, preacheth, and teacheth. For the Faith of Holy Church, the which I had aforehand understood and, as I hope, by the grace of God earnestly kept in use and custom, stood continually in my sight: [I] willing and meaning never to receive anything that might be contrary thereunto. (Revelations of Divine Love, ch. 9)

God shewed full great pleasance that He hath in all men and women that mightily and meekly and with all their will take the preaching and teaching of Holy Church. For it is His Holy Church: He is the Ground, He is the Substance, He is the Teaching, He is the Teacher, He is the End, . . . (Revelations of Divine Love, ch. 34)

Therefore, in summary:

1) She says she accepts "all" Church teachings.

2) She says she would never hold anything "contrary thereunto."

3) She states that the Church teaches about a hell and condemnation of men to same.

4) She makes several plain statements about hell and her belief in it.

5) The two supposed "proofs" of universalism in her writing are based on a misunderstanding of the hell / Hades distinction, and her words taken out of context and made to mean what they don't appear to mean in context (reading into them what ain't there).

6) Ergo, she believes in hell herself and disbelieves in universalism.

How anyone could conclude otherwise, given the data here, is beyond me. 

* * * * *

Thursday, March 13, 2014

"Pope Francis for Dummies": Helpful Resources for Folks Who Are Puzzled, Perplexed, or Bamboozled by Ubiquitous Media Imbecilities and Remarkably Christlike Words and Actions

I wrote on 9-20-13:

For all of you out there worried about the pope. Relax; chill. All is well. We have a pope who says the unexpected: a lot like Jesus. And, like Jesus, those who don't get it and are outside looking in, will misunderstand, and those who are in the fold will grasp what is being said, in the context of historic Catholic teaching, if they look closely enough and don't get hoodwinked by silly media wishful thinking.
Those who are outside often hear only what they want to hear (God loves everyone, even sinners!!!) and not what they need to hear (stop sinning; stop this sin . . .).

I wrote in a letter to a friend:

It's the same old dumb misunderstandings: media misreports what the pope said; never understand what he means in context, and in context with past teachings. Don't fall into their trap! Pope Francis is a good Catholic; nothing to be alarmed about at all. The world wants Christians to renounce their teachings. We're the guys who have never done so. We keep the same moral teaching that the Church had from the beginning: no abortion, no divorce, no contraception, no same-sex "marriages," etc. Virtually no one else has done so! So the attack is against us to change traditional morality, and we will never do that.

Nine things you need to know about Pope Francis's inaugural Mass (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 3-17-13)

Should We Be Concerned About Pope Francis's Inaugural Mass? (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 3-18-13)

Pope Francis on Homosexual Unions (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 3-20-13)

Behind the Campaign to Smear the Pope (Mary Anastasia O'Grady, Crisis / The Wall Street Journal, 3-22-13)

How Should We Understand Pope Francis Washing Women's Feet? (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 3-28-13)

Canon Lawyer Pete Vere on the Pope Francis Foot-Washing Controversy (Dave Armstrong's Facebook page, 3-30-13) 

Radical Catholic Reactionary Super-Site Rorate Caeli's "Cherished Friend" and Featured Pope-Basher, Marcelo González, is a Holocaust Revisionist (Dave Armstrong, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 4-8-13)

Pope Francis and lying to save life  (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 5-15-13)

Did Pope Francis Preach Salvation by Works?? (Fr. Dwight Longenecker, Standing on My Head, 5-23-13)

Dreadful Misleading Headline of Catholic Online Pins Heresy on Pope (Brian Kelly,, 5-23-13)

Did Pope Francis Say That Atheists Can Get to Heaven by Good Works? (Jimmy Akin,, 5-24-13)

Did Pope Francis poke Protestants in the eye? (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 6-4-13)

Pope Francis and the Vatican "gay lobby"—10 things to know and share (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 6-12-13)

From the IOR to the gay lobby: Pope Francis tells all on flight from Rio to Rome  (Andrea Tornielli, Vatican Insider, 7-29-13)

Seven things you need to know about what Pope Francis said about gays (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 7-29-13

Pope Francis and the Franciscan Friars (Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers, 7-30-13)

Don’t Tell the Press: Pope Francis Is Using Them (Elizabeth Scalia, First Things, 7-30-13)

Misinterpreting Francis [Homosexuality] (Edward Pentin, National Catholic Register, 7-30-13)

Franciscans of the Immaculate decree worries traditionalists (Catholic News Agency, 7-30-13)

Pope Francis on Homosexuality: Take a Deep Breath (Scott P. Richert, Catholicism, 7-30-13)

On the Pope’s Remarks about Homosexuality (Scott P. Richert, Crisis, 8-1-13)

What Did the Pope Really Say about Gays in the Priesthood?  (Fr. Regis Scanlon, O.F.M. Cap., Crisis, 8-5-13)

Pope Francis Uses the Terminology of "Extreme Traditionalism" (Some Quibbles with Kevin Tierney's Arguments) (Dave Armstrong, Biblical Evidence for Catholicism, 8-5-13)

Pope Francis Will Enliven the Benedict Legacy (Jeffrey Tucker, Crisis, 8-12-13)

What should we make of Pope Francis bowing when greeting people?  (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 8-30-13)

Is Pope Francis about to eliminate celibacy? (9 things to know and share) (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 9-12-13) 

What Pope Francis really said about atheists (Stephen Kokx, Catholic Vote, 9-13-13)

Did Pope Francis say atheists don’t need to believe in God to be saved? (9 things to know) (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 9-15-13)

Pope Francis Focuses on the Bigger Picture With New Interview (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register,  9-20-13)

Pope condemns abortion as product of 'throwaway culture' (Francis X. Rocca, Catholic News Service,

Go Home New York Times, You’re Drunk  (Steven D. Greydanus, National Catholic Register,  9-20-13)

Francis’ Interview and the Unexpected Unity of the NY Times and the Francis Haters (Mark Shea, Catholic and Enjoying It, 9-20-13)

Pope Francis Contradicts Himself! (Mark Shea, Catholic and Enjoying It, 9-20-13)

Francis Confounds the Associated Press (Elizabeth Scalia, The Anchoress, 9-20-13)

Francis and Benedict, Peter and John (Thomas L. McDonald, God and the Machine, 9-20-13)

The key to understanding Pope Francis: the 99 lost sheep (Phil Lawler,, 9-20-13)
Pope Francis and His Critics  (Scott P. Richert, Crisis, 9-23-13)

Pope Francis Has Not Diluted the Pro-Life Teachings of the Catholic Church (Fr. Frank Pavone,, 9-23-13)

The Mission of Pope Francis, S. J. (Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers, 9-23-13)

Report: Pope Excommunicates Priest for Supporting Gay Marriage, Female Priest (Dr. Susan Berry, Breitbart, 9-24-13)

The Papal Interview: A Survey of Reactions  (Joseph Meaney, Crisis, 9-25-13) 

Pope Francis and ‘The Interview’ (Abp. Charles Chaput,, 9-25-13)

Pope Francis: Every Unborn Child Has the Lord's Face (Andrew M. Greenwell, Esq., Catholic Online, 9-26-13)

A Big Heart Open to God: The exclusive [complete] interview with Pope Francis (Antonio Spadaro, S. J., America, 9-30-13)

Did Pope Francis just say that evangelization is “nonsense”? 8 things to know and share  (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 10-1-13)

The Pope, Abortion, Mercy and Context  (Fr. Frank Pavone, National Catholic Register, 10-1-13)

Is Pope Francis about to “rip up” the Vatican constitution? 12 things to know and share (Jimmy Akin,  National Catholic Register, 10-2-13)

The Pope’s Pro-Life Declaration “in Context”  (Dr. William Oddie, Crisis, 10-3-13)

Vatican: Scalfari Interview Misses Details, Conflates Facts (Edward Pentin,  National Catholic Register, 10-5-13)

Atheist interviewer didn’t take notes, record interview with Pope Francis: Vatican spokesman  (John-Henry Westen,, 10-7-13)

Pope Francis’s new letter to homosexual Catholics (9 things to know and share)  (Jimmy Akin,  National Catholic Register, 10-11-13)

Is Pope Francis going to let the divorced and remarried receive Communion?  (Jimmy Akin,  National Catholic Register, 10-22-13)

Why the media keep getting Pope Francis all wrong (Phil Lawler, Catholic Culture, 11-7-13)

Papal Style: Caring for Souls while Leaving Doctrinal Exposition to Others (Dr. William Oddie , Crisis, 11-19-13)

Pope's words in interview may not have been his own, Scalfari says (Andrea Gagliarducci, Catholic News Agency,  11-21-13)

Only Fools RUSH in Where Angels Fear to Tread: Limbaugh Excoriates Pope Francis Unfairly (Fr. John Trigilio, 11-30-13)

Would Someone Just Shut That Pope Up? (Patrick J. Deneen, The American Conservative, 12-5-13)

The Thing That Used to Be Conservatism Puts Out a Hit on Francis (Mark Shea,  National Catholic Register, 12-5-13)

The Controversy Over Evangelii Gaudium  (Rachel Lu, Crisis Magazine, 12-9-13)

Pope Francis addresses Marxism charges, women cardinals in La Stampa interview (Catherine Harmon, The Catholic World Report, 12-15-13)

Pope Francis takes on allegations and rumors about his papacy: 9 things to know and share  (Jimmy Akin,  National Catholic Register, 12-15-13)

Pope Benedict Defends Francis on Markets and Ethics (Andrew M. Haines, 12-16-13, Ethika Politika)

Pope Francis on the “parable” of the loaves and fishes: 11 things to know and share  (Jimmy Akin,  National Catholic Register, 1-1-14)

Don’t fall for this Pope Francis hoax: 5 things to know and share (Jimmy Akin,  National Catholic Register, 1-2-14)

Dialogue: Has Pope Francis Changed the Constant Catholic Prohibition of Contraception? (Dave Armstrong, 1-3-14)

What did Pope Francis say about the children of homosexual couples? 8 things to know and share  (Jimmy Akin,  National Catholic Register, 1-4-14)

Does Francis Really Have a Marxism Problem? (David Byrne, Crisis Magazine, 1-10-14)

Did Pope Francis baptize a baby whose parents aren’t married? 12 things to know and share (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 1-12-14)

Il Papa’s Not a Rollin’ Stone  (Christopher Manion, Crisis Magazine, 2-3-14)

The War on Pope Francis (M. Anthony Mills, Real Clear Religion, 2-3-14) [economics issues]

Quotes from Pope Francis [great website that notes the massive distortions and spin taking place about the pope; added on 2-8-14]

Judge Not (Tim Staples, Catholic Answers, 2-14-14) [Same-sex couples and homosexuality]

Vatican’s Cardinal Burke: Media is ‘mocking’ the Pope by creating a liberal caricature (Hilary White, LifeSiteNews, 2-25-14)

Did Pope Francis just diss apologists? 9 things to know and share (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 3-9-14)

The Media’s Fictional Francis (John Paul Shimek, The Catholic World Report, 3-13-14)

Pope Francis’s First Year (George Weigel, National Review Online, 3-13-14)

Did Pope Francis tell a divorced and civilly remarried woman she could receive Holy Communion? (Jimmy Akin, National Catholic Register, 4-23-14)

Vatican responds to Francis’ call to Argentinian woman; more details emerge (Catherine Harmon, The Catholic World Report, 4-24-14)

[see also my book, Pope Francis Explained: Survey of Myths, Legends, and Catholic Defenses in Harmony with Tradition]

* * * * *

Updated periodically with new relevant articles.