Eunuchs in the choir

Moral theologians at loggerheads? So it may seem to us amateurs. Let’s try to understand the problem by starting with natural law which underpins our moral decisions. This is based on our understanding of human nature as God has created it. Thus we recognise the obligation to keep promises because we see that we are social animals. Similarly taking human life is wrong. But neither of these is unconditional because there are (rare) circumstances which can justify exceptions. This contrasts with another approach to natural law which is sometimes called physicalism or biologism.

Here what we look at is structure. It tells us that certain actions are wrong because they are a misuse of human structure. The Catechism describes them as intrinsically evil. An obvious example is a homosexual act which involves a mismatch between the organs and the activity. This approach is deep in our traditional morality because it is seen as a direct defiance of our created nature. For example, were we to follow Aquinas’s thinking, we would judge that self-abuse was, by nature, more grave than rape. He sees it as a direct sin against God’s law expressed in creation, while rape is wrong through a misuse of right reason. (He speaks of the status of the act not the guilt of the sinner.)

Many intrinsic evils are concerned with aspects of sexuality, but the principle goes beyond this. Take lying. The Catechism tells us that, by its very nature, it is a profanation of speech, whose purpose is to communicate known truth to others. The only alternative is “discreet language” – a phrase which has caused controversy in its time. A characteristic of an intrinsically evil act is that it can never be justified through motive or circumstances. It may however be allowed as an unintended side effect. Thus sterilisation for its own sake is intrinsically wrong, but incidental sterilisation caused by, say, a needed hysterectomy is allowed.

But there are problems in this approach. A good example may be taken from Humanae Vitae “God has wisely ordered the laws of nature and the incidence of fertility in a way that successive births are naturally spaced…” Yes and no. What God has done is to use his great creative algorithm of evolution for this purpose. So it does not follow that the natural fertility rate will always match different cultural circumstances. Paul VI apparently did not take evolution into account though he had less excuse than the medieval Aquinas. Evolution, too, is an element in the nature God created.

Other problems can arise from this increase of human knowledge. Thus it was once held that kidney transplants inter vivos constituted the intrinsic evil of mutilation since it was not for the sake of the donor. Modern medicine has caused a rethink. In the words of the theologian Gerald Kelly SJ “it is not only morally justifiable but, in some instances, heroic”. Once controversial, it is now in the Catechism. A reverse example was the readiness at one time, to allow Vatican choristers to be castrated for the sake of their singing.

It would appear to us outsiders that there is a tension between those moral theologians who hold fast to the principles of intrinsic evil, and those who, while recognising the anomaly built into the structure of certain acts, argue that a moral decision needs, at the personal level, to take also into account intention and circumstances. In the end we are not saved by the law but through our determination to follow the good as we discern it to be.

But this may not be the last chapter. When Pope Francis was questioned about the use of contraception in the matter of the Zika crisis, which is thought to be a serious threat to the development of the foetus, he accepted that, in such a serious emergency, it could be justified. “The Church can’t say an act is “intrinsically evil” and absolutely forbidden, and yet be permissible under certain circumstances. That’s just not intellectually coherent.” wrote Michael Kelly SJ in Global Pulse.

Unsurprisingly, this triggered considerable heated controversy. Janet E Smith, that doyenne of thoughtful orthodoxy, described it as potentially mind-blowing. Was it an off the cuff remark to be disregarded? No, it was subsequently confirmed by his spokesman. Was the Pope heretical? Unlikely, but not impossible. Or was he anticipating Amoris Laetitia by reminding us that the discernment of conscience justifies moral conclusions — even those contrary to explicit law?

Here he follows Aquinas who teaches that we are bound by conscience even if we are objectively wrong. The Exhortation requests pastoral respect for all decisions of conscience, while requiring us to be constantly open to our deeper understanding of what God requires from those who love him. The change of emphasis, if not of doctrine, is profound.

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About Quentin

Science Editor, Catholic Herald. Portrait © Jacqueline Alma
This entry was posted in Bio-ethics, Catholic Herald columns, Church and Society, Pope Francis, Quentin queries and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

97 Responses to Eunuchs in the choir

  1. pnyikos says:

    One of my colleagues, Prof. Chris Tollefsen, and the well known philosopher Prof. Robert P. George of Princeton University, take a much more hard-headed approach to lying than to murder. Whereas they accept the innocence of someone who kills in self-defense if that is the only alternative to being killed, they maintain that lying is intrinsically evil and cannot be indulged in even to save one’s life or the lives of others (as in the classic case of someone hiding Jews is asked by a Nazi Gestapo member whether there are any Jews in the house). And they have statements by Aquinas to back them up.

    Even a misleading statement like St. Athanasius saying (to pursuers wanting to know where he is) “You are heading in the right direction. Keep going.” was a (venial) sin according to them even though there is no actual falsehood stated.

    To me, this contrast between the treatment of the 5th and 7th Commandments is inherently incoherent and cannot endure in the long run. This also applies to Aquinas’s bizarre elevation of rape above masturbation, which I think all but a few (Dominican?) admirers of Aquinas have long ago rejected.

    • Brian Hamill says:

      The problem which is manifest here over considering lying as an intrinsic evil and so has no exceptions is that this approach elevates philosophy over psychology. One can do enormous damage, including the indirect killing of someone in the case of a Nazi pursuing a Jew, by sticking to this principle. In that situation the Nazi had no right to a correct reply so he can be given an incorrect one. In a court of law, an interrogating counsel has no right to the knowledge which a priest gained in Confession; he can therefore be given an incorrect answer to the question ‘Did this person confess to murder in his confession?’ A child can be given an incorrect answer by a parent when he or she asks an inappropriate question. These are all sensible psychological responses. Philosophers, and theologians, should not consider their discipline has a monopoly on truth.

  2. pnyikos says:

    The case of the Zika virus is still evolving, I believe, and I think it was premature of Pope Francis to make comments that would lead many to think contraception is justified if one knows one is harboring the virus. It is a matter of increased probability, not certainty, that one’s child will be microcephalic, The degree of difference is still far from settled.

    Furthermore, we may need to update our attitude towards microcephaly. There are very few Down Syndrome children due to their ruthless extermination by abortion, and this rash of killings is now recognized by most thoughtful Catholics as a tragedy. Lower in intelligence than average though children with Down Syndrome are, they are also more naturally affectionate and loving than average, and there are long waiting lines for adopting them. We need to know whether there are similar compensating factors for microcephaly.

    I made similar points in Second Sight not long ago and refer readers there for more details:

    https://secondsightblog.net/2016/02/04/what-does-the-church-do/#comments

  3. Nektarios says:

    We have been over these issues many times over the years in different approaches.

    So whites ‘conscience’ is it something innate? Is it something nurtured by parents, education philosophy, psychology?

    In the natural man, that is a non-christian in the true sense, then his or her conscience is fallen with all the rest of his or her faculties.

    If one’s conscience is produced by nurture, then it is no longer something that exists in freedom,
    but is a patchwork of influences of and by others and enforced by others secular or religious.
    If conscience is determined by nurture it is simply a matter of conditioning.

    Such conditioning cannot and does not hold for the spiritual man at all. He/she has a conditioned conscience, but the spiritual person with that life of Christ in him or her is being extricated from it and is above it and beyond it.

    We have revisited this topic in various ways over the years, as I say, but as Christian people I am surprised that we are fixated almost on the earthy, and solely on that which is of the old nature and not giving place to the new life and being we have in Christ with all its properties and potentials?

  4. Nektarios says:

    Correction – delete the word ‘whites’ I don’t know where that appeared from at all???

    • twr57 says:

      Maybe you tried to type ‘what is’ got it not quite right, and your spell-checker did the best it could?

      • Nektarios says:

        twr57

        That may well explain it, I did not even notice it at the time – now what is your view so far on the present topic?

  5. Alan says:

    The connection between “physically unsuited to” and “wrong” looks uncertain. There are all manner of activities that people engage in that they aren’t well adapted/designed for and yet only some are suggested to be a misuse on that basis. I would have expected more consistency if one told us something sound about the other.

    • Quentin says:

      The formal argument goes something like this – using my original example. God created us man or woman. Among other things, we know this from the different structure of sexual organs. It is immediately clear from this structure that they are designed (by God) for heterosexual rather than homosexual) intercourse. Therefore to use them homosexually is to go against God’s intentions written in his creation.

      This is the same argument as saying that, if we want our new washing machine to work as intended by the maker, we must use it according to its nature. However, if we own the machine we are free to do so. We are not however free with regard to our human nature which was created by, and belongs to, God.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Quentin.
        I believe that also applies to the Sacrament of marriage, if one is using abortifaciants Unless they are removed and confessed before they receive the Sacrament.
        I read the controversy of Pope Francis ‘ where by he is saying that some can receive the Blessed Sacrament after a divorce a some can’t. That makes a lot of sense to me.
        Obviously when the ‘contraceptive devices are removed the couple would receive a blessing, as they would already be in a civil marriage relationship.

    • Alan says:

      The formal argument seems clear. But without the given example it seems flawed when applied in principle. I had a friend who was a keen diver. Snorkelling, wreck diving, even cave diving. He had some remarkable video footage. I particularly remember a visible salt/fresh water boundary layer that had settled out within an undisturbed flooded cave. Crystal clear water with what looked like a second submerged surface. As clearly as we don’t appear designed for homosexual sex we appear very poorly designed for diving/snorkelling. It is as plain as the nose on our faces (rather than the backs of our heads like some aquatic mammals) that we aren’t biologically suited to these activities. Our vision is impaired, our hands and feet have little webbing and, of course, without artificial aid the activity would likely kill us within minutes. The formal argument, as described, concludes that this pastime is wrong. Against our nature. As trivial as the example might seem, is there some reason why the biological design argument shouldn’t apply here too?
      I remember the example of the washing machine. A different analogy might help explain my view. When I was quite young I once fashioned a dart gun out of sewing needles and a retractable pen. Potentially it could have been quite dangerous. It was, at the least, quite effective. My brother can attest to that, his leg having been the target of the first live fire test. This is not what sewing needles or pens were designed for and it is wrong. But I don’t think that it is wrong “because” of the alternative use. That connection does not seem to follow.
      Consider a different misuse of those tools. I might, if I had the knowledge and the skills, perform an emergency tracheotomy on a person who would otherwise die. I don’t think that even the creator (of the pen or the needle) would consider this wrong.
      I would have strayed from the designer’s plan in both cases. What makes one case seem right and one case seem wrong looks to be something other than straying from the manufacture’s intent.
      Perhaps God is not like this and right and wrong are decided differently. But that doesn’t seem to me to be something we can discern from our biology.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Alan.
        I don’t believe that your example compares with the abortifaciants effect with regards to Sacramental Marriage..
        Maybe I have misunderstood you.
        When teaching NFP I had to get the couple to sign that if they misused the practice , that they would not have an abortion, or else we couple not teach them.
        Smoking could be another example also alcohol misused.

      • St.Joseph says:

        meant to say could not couple

      • Quentin says:

        I agree that the formal argument may properly be questioned in its applications. It was first adopted when it was believed that God created man, and all his anatomical details, directly. Our understanding of evolution should make us wary. Thus, when we see that homosexuality persists in the population, we might ask whether it contributes in some ways to the benefit of society. And of course weight needs to be given to the psychological state.

        Having said that, I would still hold the view that our biological structures are strongly suggestive of how we should, or should not, use them. My secular argument here would be that the dynamic of evolution is toward the preservation of life. Thus the onus of proof lies with the argument that the biological indications should be ignored or overridden.

        It is on stronger ground when we get away from the solely biological. Thus, if we accept with the ancients that man is a social animal, we may infer that certain moral norms are needed in order that society should flourish.

        I don’t think your argument on diving holds up; though it does make us refine the formal argument. Artificial assistance to deep diving does not deny or abuse any of our faculties; it enhances them – much as a telescope enhances our ability, or my spectacles reduce my myopia. Similarly the emergency tracheotomy is undertaken in service of life. Your dart gun is not an aspect of human nature – though your brother might think it to be a sin against charity.

      • Alan says:

        Quentin – “Having said that, I would still hold the view that our biological structures are strongly suggestive of how we should, or should not, use them.”

        Like the pen used to help someone breath the dart gun looks to enhance my abilities. An ability to launch projectiles is one that I share with several other species. It isn’t that artificial enhancement or the purpose that the pen was originally designed for that seems to determine whether I should or shouldn’t use it. I might defend life with it, I might gather food with it, or I might deliberately harm someone innocent with it. Right and wrong, should and shouldn’t, all with the same tool.

        Quentin – “It is on stronger ground when we get away from the solely biological. Thus, if we accept with the ancients that man is a social animal, we may infer that certain moral norms are needed in order that society should flourish.”

        I’m not sure what you mean by this. I agree that certain moral norms are important to society but that doesn’t suggest that they all deserve to be preserved regardless does it? Should/do they stand and fall on more than just their own merits?

        Quentin – “Similarly the emergency tracheotomy is undertaken in service of life.”

        This intent is roughly what I imagine to be more indicative of whether we should or shouldn’t use/do something … whether it differs from what it was designed for or not.

      • Alan says:

        St Jospeh – “I don’t believe that your example compares with the abortifaciants effect with regards to Sacramental Marriage..”

        Sorry St Joseph. My reply was to Quetin’s post rather than yours.

  6. G.D. says:

    I tend to agree broadly (if not as fundamentally) with Nekarios here.

    Quentin … “A characteristic of an intrinsically evil act is that it can never be justified through motive or circumstances. It may however be allowed as an unintended side effect.” …..

    Is not the state of creation – as we know it and live it – after ‘the fall’ due to an (The?) ‘intrinsically evil act’? So all ‘actions’ we do (from our own volition!) ‘unintended side affects’?

    (Of course that means God ‘allowed’ something that was ‘unintended’. Not sure how that paradox is resolved; but it’s not a problem for me.)

    Thanks be for the intrinsic eternal presence of the Holy Spirit’s omnipresent influence & guidance. (Acknowledged by a.n. other or not).

  7. Brendan says:

    There is no doubt in my mind that my human nature – i.e. inclination to follow Gods Law – is fixed on having been won over by faith in Him through Divine Revelation , in being made in His own ” image and likeness ” , and separated from other creatures , as proclaimed through His Church . Gods Word then , transcends all possibilities. Culture ‘ evolves ‘ through the human race because we are itself the materials through which at any time culture is ‘ made ‘. We cannot foresee an ‘ exact ‘ culture because of the infinite nature of the possibilities involved in ‘ change. ‘ Only God ‘ knows’ with certainty.
    Any ‘ Pope ‘ relying on Gods Law ( Natural ) – when speaking ‘ ex cathedra ‘ cannot hope to factor-in differences in cultural change when ‘ exhorting ‘ the Church/World to take a position on any given ‘ culture ‘ of society. He would be foolish if he did. ‘ Amoris Laetitia ‘ is such a document , in that it continues the time-honoured competence ( from God ) to acknowledge the fact that it is incompetent in changing the Laws of God ; but given the obvious change in evolutionary state of culture of a time it proposes new pastoral change among’st Catholic Culture ( and the world ) to effect ” a deeper understanding [ through constant respect for each others conscience ] of what God requires from those who love Him. ”
    The ‘ Synod ‘ having shown that Church leaders/theologians are at ” loggerheads ” over just this point , reflects more misunderstandings/confusion onto the ‘ faithful ‘ of The Church’s capacity to override doctrine rather than avowing change in society through pastoral practice , by and through upholding Divine Ordinance.
    In effect , the change we make in ourselves metamorphoses into a ‘ change’ in ‘ culture ‘ – The Kingdom of God. As is often repeated …. ” to live is to change, to be perfect [ like our heavenly Father ] is to have changed often .” – Newman.

  8. Vincent says:

    I notice that Clifford Longley has written, in The Tablet: “Almost without meaning to, Francis has shot Humanae Vitae” dead “(16 April). He has a further letter on this in the 21 May issue. Quentin refers to this in the context of a changing emphasis in the approach of the Church towards moral questions.
    Others have referred to Pope Francis’ view, but there hasn’t been a big public fuss. Is this because HV is seen as already dead, and the Pope merely plugging the corpse?

  9. Brendan says:

    In the Phillipines , January 15th 2016 – Pope Francis praised ‘ Humanae Vitae ‘ and Pope Paul for …” having the strength to defend openness to life…” Does this sound like a Pope whose is..” plugging a corpse ” ? ‘ The Tablet ‘ would be the last place from which I’d take my queue.
    To disappoint ( I’m sure for many )…. ” the report of my death was an exaggeration .”

    • Vincent says:

      I, too, applaud the value of being open to life. But the particular biological requirement of HV should not be at the expense of all the other values which are involved and which need to be considered. HV is centred on a claim that natural law prohibits the use of contraception under all circumstances. Pope Francis has identified a circumstance which can justify artificial contraception. Thus either HV or Pope Francis is correct. You can’t have both.

      • Brendan says:

        In which case Vincent I defer to Church Teaching and not Pope Francis in his ‘private capacity ‘. Let conscience hold way !

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent.
        Pope Francis when he mentioned contraception in the case of the Zika virus, he must have known it would not be 100 % safe to prevent a pregnancy.
        The danger I see from his remark and that is only in the fact that if one did become pregnant from the use of a condom, they may abort the baby!!
        There is a big difference between condoms an abortifacients.
        Perhaps Holy Mother Church would have been better informed by listening to Pope Paul V1 on HV and we would be more experienced in the knowledge of Natural Family Planning today and not be 50 years behind the knowledge we have.
        When Pope Francis speaks he is also speaking to the world, so Catholics would already understand what his message is all about.

      • Vincent says:

        St Joseph, the only 100% effective contraception, including nfp, is to abstain entirely from sex. So the same problem remains.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent.
        Fertility Awareness is 100% effective is taught and used properly.

        I have plenty of letters and experiences of that .
        Someone using Fertility Awareness probably will not have an abortion .

      • Vincent says:

        Not so, St Joseph. Reliability is a combination of the reliability of the method and the reliability of using the method correctly in practice. On this basis condoms are more reliable than nfp. This would be particularly so in the circumstances to which the Pope was referring. You can teach uneducated people how to use condoms in a few minutes, you cannot teach nfp to whole populations like that — even if you had qualified trainers on the ground. It doesn’t help to suggest impractical solutions.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent
        Condoms also can not be used correctly, nor can the contraceptive pill .
        I don’t know what you are trying to say here, it make no sense to me now.
        Why do you think there are so many abortions now, also how many after morning pill used.
        Or are couples having sexual intercourse without protection,
        I think there are more flaws in your thinking than in the use of NFP, God did not make a mistake, Man did.
        Amazing as I have mentioned before, Man can go to the Moon…that is saying something about progress.
        I had to teach 4 couples before I could pass the second exam to teach, one being my daughter-‘That’s what mothers do!!’
        We have to look towards the future now to remove the sins of the past and not make negative statements , I am surprised at you; You always seem to be logical!

      • Vincent says:

        St Joseph, we have to be realistic. It takes time to teach nfp, and it takes time to train teachers. There are over about 50 million women of childbearing age in Brazil (just one of the many countries affected by Zika). You may like to work out how many nfp teachers would be needed, taking into account the low levels of education and the relatively low standard of living. I would suppose that the whole process, it it were remotely possible, would take months or years to complete. Meanwhile there would be a very large number of abortions which could have been avoided had condoms been been available through ordinary channels, and the vulnerable population strongly encouraged to use them until adequate vaccination against Zika was available.

        I am sure that you would consider abortion much graver than using condoms. But your preferred solution in fact would provide the opposite of what you wish.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent,
        One doesn’t have to ‘teach’ NFP.
        Intercourse once a month, for married couples(as I have said before) That would cut down the risks they know what the consequences are if they become pregnant. Are the risks worth it,?
        It is up to them entirely.! There are doctors there to advise them. They understand their fertility when they want to become pregnant’!
        I am speaking with regards to Catholics, I am sure the rest of the world are using some sort of contraception or abortfacients anyway or living with partners
        Better to begin now than wait for another 50 years, we have to start somewhere.
        No good being negative.
        We as Catholics ought to be paving the way and we can do that with the Grace of God.
        If that was the only sin in the world, I think the Holy Father was wrong to call it contraception. Abstinence is contraception. People are confused. He ought to have made it clear!
        Did he say condoms?

  10. Brendan says:

    ” sway ” for ” way “.

    • Vincent says:

      Even better than way or sway, why not look at both, and make up your own mind? That’s what conscience requires. Neither are infallible, and both are the product of human reason — of which you have your fair share.

  11. Nektarios says:

    Conscience is a strange thing, isn’t it? It speaks to us out of the blue, it warns us when we are in moral danger. At other times it can appear silent as the grave.

    To constrict conscience to a sense of morality, with our petty, human, secular, political, religious, theological and philosophical aspects of our thinking about what is moral, is in fact, or so it seems to me, to do damage to conscience, seeking to influence conscience, but we only initially constrict conscience,
    then if that continues, our conscience becomes calloused, that which is one of the most sensitive aspects of our being in relation to the will of God.

    If we think our conscience needs guiding and controlling, then I doubt if we have yet fully realised the gift of conscience God has given us.
    Conscience operates at a different level from our earthy linear approach to life.
    In seeking to control conscience by means of morality, with such arguments that would tie the wisest in knots and leave then imprisoned in guilt.
    When our conscience speaks to us, it does not engage in some sort of moral dialogue with us, no it convicts us, it may condemn us, but thankfully conscience does not leave us there, If we are attentive to it, or sensitive to it, it convinces us what we are thinking or doing is wrong or sinful.
    Now being convinced, and obedient to it, God will provide for us a way of escape.

  12. Brendan says:

    Nektarios – unless one is a sociopath , conscience is ever-present… ” aboriginal vicar of Christ .”
    I can’t imagine ( assuming I’m reasonably sane by the grace of God ) living for one nano-second without acknowledging that my ‘ conscience ‘ is there to be answered. Given that, I don’t understand what you mean by ” silent as the grave .” What is conscience if it is not constructed through moral conceptuality , but not ‘tied ‘ to concept i.e. political , philosophical etc. This conceptuality is based on Natural Law ..Gods Law. Would you have it any other way ? To this I defer to my upbringing and belief in The Catholic Faith. I accept as a non- Latin Rite Catholic ( notice I’m trying to be fair to you here ) I assume you may position yourself in another hierarchy of principle(s).

    • Brendan says:

      Again Nektarios – Conscience does not always ‘ convict ‘. It is ‘ neutral ‘ in the sense ( again assuming sanity ) that it awaits a moral response … thought and/or action .. from the lived respondent. Our Christian background/belief defines that moral response.

      • Brendan says:

        Sorry – rephrase to …” Our moral response is defined by ones Christian background/belief. “

    • Nektarios says:

      Brendan

      Conscience was in and with our first parents before the Law of Moses was given. Note what they did after they partook of the forbidden fruit, – hearing their conscience, they tried to hide themselves.

      God’s Law is just that, it is God’s. Here is the principle, God’s law is not man’s invention, nor is it a moral construct by man. But more that, Conscience is divine. It is God’s monitor on the soul.
      It leads us to the Law of God, and the Law of God not only condemns us all, but is also there as a Teacher to lead us to Christ.

      What man has done with God’s Law is to exclude God as the Author of it, and man has place himself as god there, and that morality is to keep their own sense of order by what ever means even if at times they are immoral.
      Alas these morals keep changing like fashions, as the former moral keeps breaking down or being superseded. That is why man’s ideas and enforcement of morality is doomed to failure repetitively as the sorry history of mankind demonstrates.

      Our conscience is not there to be answered, but to hear it, listen to it, and act accordingly.
      What I mean by ‘silent as the grave’, was the state of a seared conscience which is a serious state to be in, where one’s conscience is so called, because it neither hears or feels anything of their conscience.
      Dead in other words.

      • Brendan says:

        I appreciate that a person can be completely ” dead to sin ” … ”the wages of sin is death [ to conscience ] etc. ”… ; but for most of humanity at least to ” act accordingly ” means to have answered the call of ones conscience – in reality the arbiter of our decision making. We know and can demonstrate in this world only in our dimension of ‘ flesh and blood.’ In the next we shall ..” [ know ] see ourselves as God sees us .” For me Nektarios , you emphasise the supernatural too much leaving little room it seems for the natural and the playing out of free-will in the human condition…. necessary to complete the story of our Salvation.
        We are in a relationship with God as He was/is with us when he physically lived among’st us , His ‘ creation.’ Otherwise we should act like ‘ spirits ‘ or ‘ ghosts ‘. Marxism would love that !

  13. Brendan says:

    Good counter to Vincent, St.Joseph. ” One cannot do a wrong in the belief that a good my come from it.”
    Therefore Church Teaching stands on its integrity as a whole. The exception ( which Catholics believe conforms to the mind of God, and can trump even ones reasoning capacity through sheer ‘ faith ‘ ) which ‘ proves the rule ‘ in my experience is that God gave ” The promise ” to Peter and the First Bishops of the Church as a guarantee of this ‘ integrity .’ …. no matter what set of circumstances the world/humanity conjures. In this matter then the Church ( God ) cannot lead the faithful stray….. not however as a way of ” escape ” ( a worldly concept ), as Nektarios would have it.

    • Quentin says:

      Brendan( and others), if you are contributing to a mini conversation do try to get your response connected to the item by using reply. I do not know to which of St Joseph’s remarks you are referring.

    • Nektarios says:

      Brendan

      You say, ” For me Nektarios , you emphasise the supernatural too much leaving little room it seems for the natural and the playing out of free-will in the human condition…. necessary to complete the story of our Salvation.”

      I wonder if you fully comprehend what you wish to describe here?

      You know of course, what will is and that it lies in our fallen nature? Therefore it is not as free as you think it is, nor will it go God’s way either.

      I also wonder if you are fully comprehending the heights and depths and width of our Salvation in Christ? The natural man cannot receive spiritual things nor are they discerned
      by the natural man. He/she would be walking it darkness.

      You right, ‘it leaves little room it seems for the natural and the playing out of free will.’

      Well, Brendan, I do not need to apologise for that.
      Ones ‘free -will as you call it, will find every means to satisfy Self, the me, the ego call it what you will, but you are right it is supernatural to truly be a Christian, to live as a Christian in this world.

      Our free- will being of the old nature will go against us. Therefore we as Christian are not living according to our old nature with its passions and desires, but embarked on fighting the good fight of faith.
      Playing religious, morality games with this, one is in danger of making shipwreck of ones Salvation.

      • Brendan says:

        There is no apology needed Nektarios. From my point of view there is a ‘split ‘ between us not easily explained. I am no theologian, but for myself- not entirely believing in the ‘ supremacy ‘ of free will – it’s all we have to ‘go on’ in living out the Christian life , believing finally in a trustworthy God in all things. Otherwise I would have to deny my own ‘ humanity ‘ which free -will is part of.
        I may be short of the mark here – but I don’t believe so – when I say that this is the major theological fault-line between Western and Eastern Christianity , spiritually and in practice. This is not a criticism , but you seem to reflect the opposing side to me of that proposition ( hermeneutic ).

  14. Brendan says:

    Bear with me while I give personal testimony in retrospect ( I can see no other way ) as why I believe my
    conscience is supreme , underpinned by informed Church Teaching. Needless to say this event bears no reflection on my wife (long-suffering ?) who remains my ‘ rock ‘ and takes no part in the consideration of this….for propriety’s sake. This is ‘ my ‘ story.
    Finding ourselves still childless after ten years , my wife ( Anglican ) and I not in tune with the spirit of the age ( que sera ,sera ! )…. IVF, fertility tests etc. …in the mid 80’s , decided to embark on a course of adoption through The Diocesan Catholic Adoption Agency… ( thinks !?! are there any by name Catholic left today ?)
    Probably at that time in need of Gods mercy and forgiveness a much as any one , I set forth.
    It was only after an initial meeting with a religious sister at the Diocesan Offices that we realised that there were very few infants to be adopted ( abortions were taking its toll ? ) and that we would have to go on a waiting list. However there appeared to be plenty of young children available for adoption , particularly the disabled.
    In a group meeting with other Catholic/mixed couples, it was pointed out by sister that to complete the requirement of the Local Health Authority , the male applicant would have to produce a sample of
    semen (by masturbation/onanism ) for testing before proceeding to the next stage of adoption. Of course given the context , I was rather taken aback. Why asking later of sister this was this necessary – as given Catholic Teaching I had scruples about proceeding in this way – her answer was that it was compulsory and that there was no getting around my difficulty. Echoes here of State v. Church . It seems then that it presented no stumbling block to previous or indeed current applicants. We left confused/bemused etc. , in our own different ways……. to sort out our future together.
    Just to say that, we’re still married after 39yrs. and have remained childless. Life has held compensations for us both.
    The point I am trying to make is not about mine or the Church’s/ Local Authority’s moral stance on this issue , but on the belief that years later , ‘ I ‘ now believe that the correct stance was taken ( given my inauspicious spiritual/psychological bearing at that time ) by me , not fortuitously but in response to Gods voice through the Teaching of His Church.
    If anyone cares to respond, don’t be shy.

  15. St.Joseph says:

    Brendan,
    Thank you for your very personal testimony.
    NFP also is taught to find out the cause of fertility.As I found out by many couples who would not have conceived without the help of NFP.
    However we have moved on from there now with the Pope Paul V1 Institute, The NaPro Technolgy
    Revolution since 2012.New Hope in Fertility founded by Dr Thomas W Hilger the home of NaPro Technology and the Creighton Model Fertility Care System.
    I believe it started in Ireland then Scotland.
    I was speaking to a gentleman at my daughters in-laws at lunch last Sunday and he was saying how his grandaughter had 3 miscarriages and spent thousands on IVF treatment over the years.
    I mentioned NaPro to him as I did to a neighbours niece who had the same experience, she is now on her third pregnancy.
    This information will be too late for you Brendan but there may be someone looking in who it will help !
    http://www.popepaulv1.com. I hope that is correct but just typing in NAPRO or the Pope Paul Institute will bring it all up, is on Face Book and has ‘You Tube’ information.
    God Bless you for your faith and your trust in God.

    • Brendan says:

      Thank you for the timely update – if not for my wife and I !
      Thank God the Church has woken up since our time. I’ll keep you on file and pass and ‘pass it on ‘ a all Catholics should….young youth are waiting !
      There are no ” eunuchs ” in The Kingdom of God.

  16. Nektarios says:

    Quentin & fellow readers and bloggers

    I have been mulling over the several topics recently and this one of course, and it seems there is a preoccupation with Morality.

    I question this approach and ask is Morality really Christianity?

    You remember the deputations that were sent to John the Baptist John asking who he was. John’s Gospel chapter 1:19-34. You will get a fuller account in Luke chapter 3.

    Morality really has one question, what shall be do?
    Morality has only one course of action and that is, correctness.
    Is this Christianity. Well, no it isn’t.

    I have read it on this blog several times, that people are not going to Church these days, but if they love, there is God; if they show kindness, there is God. Mostly the people that say this are moral philosophers and humanists. But, has any of that got anything to do with Christianity? Well no it hasn’t actually.

    So what is Christianity actually?
    Well it is a very different way from Morality and religion as we know it. It is a new way altogether.
    Read through Isaiah 40: 1-5. Isaiah was given this prophecy, that included John the Baptist and the coming into the world the Son of God, some 800 years before His appearing.

    In Isaiah 40: 3 Make straight a highway for our God.
    God was coming, and we had to make straight a highway for our God.
    The old paths of the Law and rites and observances and morality were not enough, so God Himself was to come into the world to change all that.

    In Isaiah 40: 4. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill shall be brought low. The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places made smooth.

    What is he talking about? We exalt not only morality, but learning, riches, degrees of every type,
    religious, and religious edifices that have been raised up like mountains and hills, shall be brought low.
    All the crooked things, all the corruption religious, secular, philosophical, scientific, psychological
    shall be made straight.
    All the rough places, in us in society and Church, shall be made smooth.

    What about the valleys in verse 4? Every valley shall be exalted.
    What does he mean? This is speaking to those who can’t lay claim to anything high, or learned,
    or having no opportunity.
    To those who have no righteousness of their own. Who when they went to the temple could only beat their chest, and cry, Lord have mercy on me a sinner.
    These people are in the valleys of this life and they shall by Christ be raised up to places of honour with God. The poor and needy, those who really feel their need of Christ on account of their sin. Those who are in the valleys of helplessness and sorrows misery and pain, those folks shall be raised up, and those who think by their achievements, religious positions on the intellectual mountains and lesser ones on hills, shall be brought low.

    What does our Christianity consist of? Have we got the real thing or think we do? This prophecy is being outworked even as I type this. We are all included in this prophecy of Isaiah, where are we?

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios.
      Would you be thinking about Pantheism, not that I understand what it means in great depth.

      • Nektarios says:

        St. Joseph
        Not particularly, I was thinking more on the pre-occupation with morality, its question, what shall we do? And moral correctness within the Christian Church. I was asking, as this aspect of morality in different ways appears regularly on the blog and I ask is this really Christianity?
        I sought to give an overview of what Christianity is actually.

  17. G.D. says:

    God is Love. The Bible clearly states so.
    Morality riches learning, & all else, aren’t.
    They are gifts, means, to be used
    in the service of Love.
    To lead us to recognise and accept
    the fullness of God. In love.
    All the rough places
    – in us et, where anything is not in the service of love –
    will be made smooth. Yes. Because of Love. God.
    Christianity is the realisation of that love in the Christ;
    wherever that Christ is embodied. In Love.
    The rest is mere partial reflections, that we perceive
    as separate individuals, disunited, to justify our lack of Unity.

    (There was no direct ‘reply’ link to the previous post)

  18. ignatius says:

    Nektarios:

    “Not particularly, I was thinking more on the pre-occupation with morality, its question, what shall we do? And moral correctness within the Christian Church. I was asking, as this aspect of morality in different ways appears regularly on the blog and I ask is this really Christianity?
    I sought to give an overview of what Christianity is actually…”

    i do get rather worried about the seemingly schizophrenic nature of your thinking. When the rich young ruler asked:
    ” Good Master what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”
    Jesus gave him two straight simple answers in the form of moral imperatives, the first of which was not difficult but the second was a little trickier. The young man went off a little glum and Jesus had both empathy and compassion for him.
    You will know of course that what a man is on the inside shows out on the outside through his deeds. You will also know that the bulk of the bible , both New and Old testament is concerned with what men must do..morality and ethics are about what we do upon the face of this earth in order to co operate with the bringing in of the Kingdom of heaven…what is it you find so complicated about that?

    • Nektarios says:

      Ignatius
      Please drop your put downs they are rather tiresome and show weak arguments.
      That said, let me say to you, Morality has never brought in the Kingdom of God. Where do you get that idea from, not from Holy Scriptures that’s for sure?

      If our Morality could bring in the Kingdom of God, Christ would never have come into the world. If our Morality was sufficient to satisfy a thrice Holy God, the Father would not have sent Him.

      Man in his fallen nature is not holy, is incapable in his old nature of being holy, though man can present what appears to be holy, but it isn’t.

      One must be regenerated, born again, before one can co-operate with God. Being merely religious is not enough. Being morally correct in not enough.

    • G.D. says:

      Nektarios / Ignatuis /All .. Amoris Laetitia. Pp 234-5. A good read for us on this topic.

  19. tim says:

    Vincent (May 21, 2016 at 2:24 pm)
    …” Reliability is a combination of the reliability of the method and the reliability of using the method correctly in practice. On this basis condoms are more reliable than nfp”
    Do you have evidence of that?.

    • Vincent says:

      Sorry Tim — I missed your question. This is normally measured by the reliability of the method and its usage in practice, the figures I have are: male condoms: in theory 98%; in practice 85%. So St Joseph is correct about the difference. NFP is 95-97% in theory and 75% in practice. So, on these figures, she is wrong about this. Given that NFP is more complex, this is what you would expect. (I leave aside the fact that condoms can be used in 5 minutes, while NFP takes three or more cycles to be safely set up.
      See https://www.optionsforsexualhealth.org/birth-control-pregnancy/birth-control-options/effectiveness .

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent.
        What is ‘three cycles in a lifetime of fertility’.
        Mother Teresa taught fertility awareness with coloured chalk on the pavements, they did not need to know the Physiology of NFP.
        If one is fertile abstinence is necessary.
        Why are you so negative in such a natural way to plan a family. God knows best.
        Remember we were discussing the Zika Virus not family planning-you are muddying the waters
        I had to learn and understand all things relating to NFP, which includes coming off the Pill to breast feeding and the menopause, learn the signs of so many causes of unfertility, I think you are. confused. Of course being a male you would be.
        I don’t take too much notice to statistics.
        We are here to help women and to do God’s Will. Unless you believe it isn’t His Will!

      • Vincent says:

        St Joseph I love your two sentences: ” I think you are. confused. Of course being a male you would be.” followed by “I don’t take too much notice to statistics”. Lovely!

        I am not at all averse to nfp; I think it’s an excellent method; I speak from many years of experience. It should be strongly promoted by the Church.

        What is three cycles in a lifetime of fertility? It’s a lifetime indeed if you get pregnant and, catching Zika, your baby is born with a severely damaged brain. Remember that infection can occur after the pregnancy has started.

        This is a serious point. If the Church was merely trumpeting that there was no need of artificial contraception because nfp would do the job for millions of people, it would be laughed out of court.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent.
        You are even more confused now.!
        It is not impossible to avoid pregnancy when the Zika virus requires a responsible method of protection, are you saying that a condom is more responsible than abstaining from sexual intercourse when fertile ( to take it to the extremes for abstainence 10 days out of 31.)
        This is a serious subject the Zeka virus, where I I believe your comments are totally in ignorance. Also totally irresponsible neglecting to give the correct information to uninformed women, who are trying to protect their babies.
        As I said we are not speaking about family planning where if a couple get pregnant they will have a baby free from the virus.
        Love is the answer not sex.
        Where is your ‘morality?

      • Vincent says:

        St Joseph, I don’t think I have anything more to add. We have had an important exchange — which others may like to read. It starts with a question from Tim. May 23 9:19 am

      • Vincent says:

        I should have added that Zika can be spread through sexual intercourse. It can travel with the sperm of an infected man. http://www.cdc.gov/zika/transmission/ This would appear relevant to the usage of condoms.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent.
        I only have two things to say with regards to your comment and that is ,’Speaking to Catholics as the Church holds the only perfect answer to Truth’ whilst you say that male sperm holds the Zika virus so a condom should be used.If that is what one chooses to do then so be it-however Catholics should remain faithful to church teaching and only use a condom for the sake of the Zika virus infecting the female even though it is not 100% safe from the infection, during the infertile period, then abstain from sexual intercourse during the fertile period.
        You see Vincent God always has the last WORD!
        Is that clear enough for you to understand!!

  20. ignatius says:

    Nektarios,
    Do please try and curb your tendency towards rudeness.

    “If our Morality could bring in the Kingdom of God, Christ would never have come into the world. If our Morality was sufficient to satisfy a thrice Holy God, the Father would not have sent Him…”

    On this website we, as Catholics, are concerned with the bringing in of the kingdom of God, that is why we are concerned with morality. You may remember that in baptism an individual is claimed for the kingdom of God in the name of the Father, the son,and the Holy spirit. You may also remember that, at confirmation we receive the holy spirit in greater measure from the laying on of hands. It is a matter of course then that we may wish to conform our actions to that which we believe to reflect the model which Christ taught us. Since we remain as fallen creatures striving towards holiness but yet weak in the flesh then it is only natural we will have an interest in morality so what exactly is the the problem with Catholics discussing issue of morality on a catholic website?

    • ignatius says:

      PS As to what scripture says regarding actions then its probably time you sat down and read prayerfully through the gospels. For example The parable of the Sheep and the Goats in Matthew 25 makes clear that Jesus was very concerned with what people did and that what people did would have eternal consequences. I also get the distinct impression that your command of scripture is rather a partial one, hence the tendency to be fixated upon one interpretation spoke.

    • Nektarios says:

      Ignatius

      Where am I demonstrating a tendency towards rudeness.

      You say, ‘On this website we, as Catholics, are concerned with the bringing in of the kingdom of God, that is why we are concerned with morality.’

      Very well, it is the Kingdom of God, it is a spiritual Kingdom. The inhabitants are the Children of God. This all came into being because of our totally failure and sinfulness.
      Redeemed by the son of God, and All His children will be there in that Kingdom.

      When the Gospel comes to one and they are born again, the Kingdom of God has come to that person. It is personal because God is personal, therefore the Kingdom of God is within us. We are citizens of heaven. This world, is doomed to destruction. All our works, even our works of morality are as filthy rags in God’s sight.

      There is no such thing as Catholics, or Protestants or Orthodox or another religious group in heaven, only God’s children, adopted, and will for ever reign with Him.

      As to your second posting, well, you know I was an Evangelist and a Pastor for many years. Yes, I know Holy Scriptures, yet you think I am ignorant of them.
      As I said, Ignatius, your put downs are are just tiresome.

  21. ignatius says:

    Hi Nektarios,
    Sorry to be such a tiresome person for you in your evidently exalted state but I was simply asking you to reflect a little on Mathews gospel and the close relationship between theory and practice that exists in spiritual life. I wonder have you tried an Ignatian guided retreat ever? You might find it helpful. I too have been an evangelist and a pastor but more recently I have found reflecting on the gospels to be very helpful in deepening my understanding of faith issues; the words of Jesus are really is worth thinking about a bit you know, in fact they seem to be inexhaustible in their riches, so that one never really knows them as much as one might think.

    • Nektarios says:

      Ignatius
      Thank you for this.
      That is Orthodoxy, the the theory and the praxis of the Christian life. Well, like everything else in this life it has its ebbs and flows.

      I read some of Ignatius thinking. The spiritual director to my wife is a great advocate of it and teaches it at such retreats.

      I think it is an age thing with me, where I have the time and leisure sometimes to spend
      going over old ground, refreshing my memory, reflection and prayer.
      Retirement also gives me the opportunity to catch up with reading of worthy spiritual tomes.
      Ephesians.3 is the scriptural Apostolic teaching on the inexhaustible riches in Christ.

      As to your last point, I can agree with that. The more I know, the less I seem to know and the more there is yet to discover.
      I am not in some exalted state, sure footed in what I usually write perhaps, and yours can be far more in an exalted state than mine.
      In the snippets that I glean from time to time about you, I am amazed at how similar in many ways, and the people we came across on our spiritual journey. God bless you.

  22. ignatius says:

    Nektarios,

    Ha ha! Yes I’m sure we would find time for a few stories and a laugh were we to meet.The phrase ‘iron strikes iron’ springs to mind. Sure footed isn’t a bad way to be as we keep trying to find our way up that mountain.In the prison where I work we seem to thrive best on the parables but, as you say, Ephesians 3 is breathtaking. Bless you too Nektarios.

    • Nektarios says:

      Ignatius

      I am sure we would have plenty of stories and laughs should we meet. We do meet here on the blog, and it does not need to be iron strikes iron – ah and sparks may fly all the time eh?
      The parables are good if one is communicating with non-Christians in particular.

      Ephesians, as with the other Epistles in the NT are for the believers in Christ only.
      You are right Ephesians 3 is breathtaking and the inheritance of all the saints.
      Ephesians is arguably one of the most sublime books of the NT.

  23. tim says:

    Nektarios (May 20, 2016 at 6:12 pm)
    Sorry, Nektarios, I am too easily distracted by trivia – small problems that one may help to solve are more attractive than large ones where one flounders. However, since you challenge me, I have to say something, however feeble.
    Rules are helpful in nearly all cases. Checklists are good – use by pilots in air travel cuts down disasters. They help you to fight rationalisations for courses of action that you really want to take and really should avoid. But against that – it is too well established – by St Paul, in particular – that the truth makes us free of superficial rules. We are bound only by the need to follow our conscience – and love must always turn the scales.
    These sweeping generalisations are important, but don’t solve particular problems.

    • Nektarios says:

      Tim
      Glad you could get around to answering amidst your distractions.
      The trouble is, Tim, so many don’t read Scripture like their forebears did. In some places in the past, they were discouraged from reading Scriptures in Ireland in particular.
      So many who claim to believe, have seldom if ever read St Paul the Apostle, let alone what the believer is set free from in Christ. It is tragic to observe.
      Perhaps, what Ignatius and I said above on Ephesians might whet the appetite to go read and discover what is ours in Christ, what that inheritance actually is.

      In the Gospels we have the message of the OT. prophesies concerning Christ – He had now come into the world to seek and to save that which was lost.

      Our conscience will fail us, it is not totally dependable and certainly will not see us safe in the arms of Jesus in heaven on the last day.
      As Christians, Jesus is our Lord and Master, as well as being our God and our friend.
      The life we have, is His life in us, and He knows what is the best for us and seeks to bring it about.
      Yes, we will still have problems and trials and tribulations in this world, But if we truly follow Jesus, we will overcome everything, even death itself.

      • St.Joseph says:

        Nektarios.
        The Catholic School in Ireland I went to, we not only had to read the Gospels but write them down from memory.
        We heard the rest at Holy Mass.
        Also I read them from my grandmother’s Missal often.
        I suppose you are thinking of those who could not read or write!
        There were a lot of vocations to the priesthood in Ireland,

  24. Vincent says:

    I have been reading this last correspondence about the importance of morality, and I have some difficulty in understanding why there is a problem. It is abundantly clear from the New Testament that the law is given its meaning from the first principles of love God and love your neighbour. The law in all its detail is simply bearing witness to the application of these leading commandments in different situations. It tells us how to love either positively or negatively (telling us about boundaries we must not cross.)

    Consequently we cannot claim that we love Christ unless we do what we can to follow the way he tells us to love him — either directly or through love of our neighbour (which is the same thing). So morality is right at the heart of the Christian life and we are obliged to think about how our love is in practice to be carried out. There may of course be some special souls who are so focussed on God that they automatically behave morally in all circumstances. I am not one of them, and I do not think that I have ever met such a person.

    • Nektarios says:

      Vincent
      A person has to be born of the Spirt first to co-operate with God and receive Christ as Lord and our Saviour. This is not something we do, but something God by His Holy Spirit does.

      Our sense of morality before God is as filthy rags. the practice of OUR morality is viewed the same way by God. Before God, there is not one righteous, no not one.

      If we would have a true morality, it has to be one that is perfect.
      You rightly say, you are not one of them. Vincent, welcome to the rest of humanity. Our sinnership we alone are very familiar with – yes?

      This is why Christ came down from Heaven to give us life, whereas before we were dead in trespasses and sin. Our Morality, is doomed to failure, because it is so very imperfect.
      What Christ departs to all who believe in and on Him and Saviour, Lord, and God, is His perfect morality, which is, His perfection, which is righteousness and godliness and holiness before Him.

      Incapable as we were to receive it, He not only has forgiven all our sins, past, present and future. He (Christ Jesus) has accomplished it all
      It is not our righteousness, morality, or other activity, religious or otherwise, but only God’s activity in us, which is God working in us both to will and to do of His good pleasure, that will succeed.

      We can argue and discuss many aspects, but this the working of God in us, is the only route to Salvation and return to Heaven as a Child of God.
      Attempting to climb up to heaven some other way is like Our Morality, doomed to failure.

      Trust in the Lord, and He will do in and for you more than you can ask or think.

  25. Vincent says:

    Nektarios, perhaps you can help me out here. Jesus tells me explicitly that I must love God and love my neighbour. In order to do that I must use my reason to discern how I do this in practical circumstances. Having made the best judgment I can, I must then choose to do that — which requires an act of my will. Now, unless I misunderstand you, you appear to be saying that I (and you presumably) am too corrupt either to discern the good or to choose it. Could you explain how your view squares with what Jesus requires me to do.

    • Nektarios says:

      Vincent

      The Law of God, the 10 Commandments in particular condemns us does it not, for we are unable of ourselves, or in our old nature and because of weakness of the flesh cannot fulfil the Law of God.

      Secondly, what is the Salvation of God? Why is God doing this for man, if we could save ourselves, Love god and our neighbour perfectly?
      The natural man may choose to be religious but he cannot will or choose God.
      Therefore, Vincent, it is clear, to love God or ones neighbour, perfectly, can only be done by God doing something and that is, Christ fulfilling the Law in every respect concerning ourselves.
      Giving us a new nature that does choose God and does love ones neighbour.

      • G.D. says:

        That’s very concisely put. And i agree God does it, has done it, for all mankind.

        The problem i have is when someone assumes ……
        Them that conform to a (my) Christian (denomination’s) appreciation of what Salvation means, are saved in Christ. Those that don’t conform to a (my) Christian view, are obviously outside of God’s choice. And not saved. Because God chooses not to save them.

        Yes, all very nicely, cut and dried. And self justifying.

      • Vincent says:

        Nektarios, it seems to me that you are wrong about the way salvation works. You are right to say that this can only be done by God doing something, but you seem to be describing a kind of divine whitewash. We remain as foul as we are, but God treats us as if we were holy. The truth of the matter is that, if we are fit for salvation, we are in fact holy. And this holiness is actually ours. Grace is not some additive, It truly enables us to change into holy people, doing holy works. Since, as you have said elsewhere, our good works are irrelevant, I assume that you prefer to adopt the 16th century heresy. which Luther introduced. The principle is often described as sola fides. Unfortunately fifteen hundred years too late for Christianity.

  26. ignatius says:

    Nektarios,

    Vincent and G.D. above have presented to you the most compelling case. I would urge you to take seriously what has been said. Put down your shield of self justifying doctrine and take up say the Gospel of Matthew or Luke. Work through one of the gospels, very slowly and very carefully without applying your reflex evangelical mindset (which is essentially a form of systematic theology.) Spend a week or so at it, or, better still go on one of those retreats you mentioned earlier, give yourself the opportunity to meet with Jesus in a fresh way.

  27. G.D. says:

    Nektarios, please don’t feel ‘got at’ by my criticism.
    Your view is your view – acceptable and of valid content.
    But there is an underlying ‘fundamentalistic’ block that makes it sounds very ‘black or white’.
    There must be many shades of ‘grey’ in God’s plan to accommodate our hard heartedness – or no one would freely accept salvation.

  28. Nektarios says:

    G.D. & Ignatius

    It is not with me one needs to argue your case, but with Apostolic doctrine and teaching and what the Lord teaches in so many parables. God does not bow to us, does not give in to our hardness of heart, rather he gives us a new one in Christ. God is Light and in Him there is no shadow of turning. There are no grey areas as far as God’s mind or thinking or actions are concerned.
    We have many shades of grey, due mostly to our ignorance of God, also we think we can have God and also have our cake and eat it. That is a dangerous presumption to hold.

    Ignatius, I have read Systematic Theology, but also Catholic theology and the Theology of the Orthodox. I am aware at different levels of what the Gospels teach and exhort.
    If you think I have got something wrong, show me from the Scriptures and where what I have said contradicts it?

    • G.D. says:

      I give up! Nothing gets through.

      • Nektarios says:

        G.D
        Oh no, don’t give in, simply argue your case better.
        Modernists have departed from Holy Scriptures and what they convey to us. Many over the decades have done the same. That in part has led to where the Church is these days, with young people in particular, into confusion about God, Christ, the Holy Spirit, Salvation
        Sin, life, death, and eternity, heaven or hell.
        This is where the Modernists, the humanists and the liberals has led the Church.
        Please notice, G.D., in what you say in the posting earlier, God is not the centre, but self.
        God will have compassion and do the bidding of the Self? Really, then ones understanding of God is lacking somewhat.

  29. Nektarios says:

    Vincent

    You say, ‘Nektarios, it seems to me that you are wrong about the way salvation works. You are right to say that this can only be done by God doing something, but you seem to be describing a kind of divine whitewash. We remain as foul as we are, but God treats us as if we were holy. The truth of the matter is that, if we are fit for salvation, we are in fact holy.’

    To answer you, You say, what I was suggesting was’ a divine whitewash.’
    What was being said was simply, what we will of ourselves in our old nature cannot ever merit Salvation.

    Salvation is of God. He has done all to make it possible when we are sinful, spiritually dead, lost and blind.
    What a true child of God is, is a new creation altogether, while our old nature remains what it was after the Fall.

    I can go into all the other aspects you mention, but it would be too long for the blog. I will just mention one as it is important:
    You say, ‘The truth of the matter is that, if we are fit for salvation, we are in fact holy. And this holiness is actually ours.

    Then what fits us for Salvation? Surely it is nothing we have done, but in everything what Christ has done. It is the holy Life of Christ in us. All this proceed and communicated to us by the Holy Spirit in our new nature which is our life in Christ.
    As to your old nature, we all have to battle with that till our last breath.

    Does God look at you or me and see a perfect holiness? God looks at the Son and sees Him and we in Him. It is not our holiness or righteousness He sees, but that of His Son Jesus Christ.

    • St.Joseph says:

      Nektarios.
      Christ lives in me and I live in Him.
      We put on a new cloak of holiness, which you describe
      One can not commit abortions or abortfaciants lies and deceit etc and then consider them selves ‘holy; There is no need for ignorance in an ill informed conscience in this day and age.
      A saying of my mother RIP was, ‘A house devil and a street Angel.

    • Vincent says:

      God created us with reason, with which we are able to discern right from wrong, and he gives us free will which enables us to accept or refuse the grace of salvation he offers us.

      • St.Joseph says:

        People do not always know right from wrong.

      • Nektarios says:

        Vincent
        Yes, But before that happens,God regenerates us which we know nothing about initially. That is, God brings us to life, that which was spiritually dead.

        One does not have to be a Christian to know right from wrong, but that in theological terms is called, ‘common grace’, which does not save anyone.
        Like our Lord said to Nicodemus, ” that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I say unto you, Ye must be born again.”
        Please don’t make the mistake either, Vincent, that so many others do, that Salvation begins with and is all about us, it isn’t. Rather, it is all about the glory of God.

      • Vincent says:

        St Joseph, people often misidentify right and wrong, or fail to consider whether something is right or wrong, or choose the wrong. But we are assured that everyone who has the use of reason has the capacity to make the distinction. (Otherwise, they could not be held responsible for the wrong they are doing in sinning.)

      • St.Joseph says:

        Vincent.
        Thank you for your reply.
        That is why I am a Christian.

    • pnyikos says:

      Nektarios, you seem to be relying a great deal on what St. Paul wrote in some places while ignoring other things he wrote. In particular, you seem to think highly about what he wrote in Romans 2 through 7 about us not being justified by following “the law.” But you need to interpret this in the light of what he wrote, for example, in Corinthians 5 where he exhorts them to cast the lover of his stepmother out of their congregation. Consider also how he contrasts the way of ‘the flesh’ [I forget in which epistle] with the fruit of the Spirit. You would also do well to read Romans 1, where he talks about how God will judge people, and how their consciences will either accuse them or excuse them.

      In the light of such matters, I believe that when Paul speaks in Romans 2 through 7 about not being justified by “the law” he is using a standard Jewish term for the Torah (Pentateuch) and not what we Catholics call “the moral law”. The Torah has a huge number of prohibitions, including many dietary ones from which Paul himself sought to free Gentile converts to Catholicism.

      On the other hand, he would not have wanted to free them of the obligation to follow the Ten Commandments, some of which Jesus himself recalled to the rich young man. [In fact, he even strengthened the Eighth by leaving off “against thy neighbor,” having had to teach the parable of the Good Samaritan with its ideal of treating everyone as one’s neighbor.]

      By the way, my interpretation of “the law” also makes sense of Jesus’s words, “Do not think I have come to abolish the Law and the Prophets…not one jot or tittle shall be changed.” In this context, “the Law and the Prophets” is a way of referring to the Old Testament. And indeed, Christianity has not abolished the Old Testament but has simply added the New Testament to it.

  30. G.D. says:

    “Nektarios says:
    May 25, 2016 at 3:33 pm
    G.D
    Oh no, don’t give in ……. Please notice, G.D., in what you say in the posting earlier, God is not the centre, but self.
    God will have compassion and do the bidding of the Self? Really, then ones understanding of God is lacking somewhat.”

    OK .. I try again …. Never did i intend, or imply, the Self is the centre … may be you could enlighten me where you got that from?
    Of course God is the centre, Alpha and Omega. A ‘circle of life’ with no beginning or end.

    Yes i did try to convey that God’s compassion does (has eternally even!) heal the ‘sinful’ nature of mankind. That’s what God does in Salvation. Yes, through Christ (for them that God reveals Christ) in a specific acts of grace.
    All that is NOT disputed by me. As i said your ‘content is valid’. (For a Christian appreciation of Salvation).
    You seem to misunderstand so often peoples expression.
    (Sometimes i feel quite deliberately!).

    So … since you ask i will try again ….. Later. Time for one of my hours of prayer … in the Name of the Father Son and Holy Spirit ……..

    • G.D. says:

      Nektarios, I don’t see how anything anybody says will affect you at all, but said I’d try so …..

      I said ….. “But there is an underlying fundamentalistic block that makes all you say a black or white..” …. By that i mean – in your eyes You are right, anything else is wrong.
      You then proceed to use scriptures, out of context, to justify your views & condemn other’s.
      Anyone can do that if they choose to – many do. (Read the Watch Tower for instance!). Counter quote for counter quote, which is a misuse and abuse of scripture.
      Mere self justifying self interpretation.
      And i for one will not use it as such.
      (To discuss the meaning of scripture is a totally different exercise than using it as above).

      I said ….. ‘There must be many shades of ‘grey’ in God’s plan to accommodate our hard heartedness’ …. PLAN not mind as you infer. Grey in quotations – which means what? – not to be taken LITERALLY!
      (Which it seems you do? To justify self opinion or denigrate others, when it suits?).

      You say …. ‘There are no grey areas as far as God’s mind or thinking or actions are concerned. …. ‘ No there is nothing grey ABOUT God; again i never inferred such. Your mind needs to present it as such to justify your OWN view – for your OWN satisfaction; to justify your OWN conclusions to YOURSELF! Just as your OWN uses of scripture do.
      (God having a mind or thinking is debatable in itself. Literally speaking. Should i accuse you of heresy for saying so?).

      As for the ‘grey’ PLAN … i mean God has included many means and ways within creation (that are NOT BLACK or WHITE) for man to accept forgiveness (salvation).
      That is how, as you say, ‘God brings us to life, that which was spiritually dead.’

      You seem to limit salvation and God, to YOUR understanding of how God has done that for you; and your OWN way of interpreting scripture.
      I don’t assume that. If i did no one would be free to ACCEPT grace other than the way i ‘experience’ it.
      Which would be a subconscious inflation of MY OWN ego to god like status!
      >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>> I only CONJECTURE : do not ASSERT <<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<<
      But, it seems to me, that is the way you debate God!

      • Nektarios says:

        G.D.

        In your final part to your posting above, Your last paragraph.

        You say, You seem to limit salvation and God, to YOUR understanding of how God has done that for you; and your OWN way of interpreting scripture.

        Let me put it this way, as no scripture is of private interpretation. I do not limit God’s Salvation. Nor am I in confusion or doubt how God has done that in me.
        I do not interpret Scripture, they interpret themselves.
        What I have to be attentive to, sensitive to is what it is saying, not just in the one tests, but throughout Scripture OT and NT.

        If you are trying a hatchet job on my credibility, then you have done a poor job of it, but in doing so, you give your own position way along with your weaknesses.
        I am not criticising you, G.D. just stating the obvious to me from what you have posted.

    • Nektarios says:

      G.D.

      You say, ‘Yes i did try to convey that God’s compassion does (has eternally even!) heal the ‘sinful’ nature of mankind.’

      He does not heal sinful nature, but rather gives us a new nature with a spiritual new birth.

      If I misunderstand peoples expressions, it is because they are at variance with Scripture as a whole, Apostolic teaching the Church is supposed to be based upon.
      They tend to lean to their own understanding, give their own interpretation to it, that you falsely accuse me of – hence I said it proceeds from self, not that you categorically said it.

      The most precious thing you have in this world is the Bible and what it contains. To turn it into a matter of option right or wrong, is to treat it with less that reverence.

      • G.D. says:

        First post from you ….
        “Please notice, G.D., in what you say in the posting earlier, God is not the centre, but self.”
        Second post from you …
        “I said it proceeds from self, not that you categorically said it.”
        ????

        You say ..
        “If I misunderstand peoples expressions, it is because they are at variance with Scripture as a whole, Apostolic teaching the Church is supposed to be based upon.”
        … of course … ‘they are at variance with scripture’ … your interpretation is right … !??

        Maybe it’s because i don’t understand the meaning your words correctly, but they do seem to indicate exactly what i said in my post.

  31. Nektarios says:

    G.D.

    You say, ‘But there is an underlying fundamentalistic block that makes all you say a black or white..” …. By that i mean – in your eyes You are right, anything else is wrong.
    You then proceed to use scriptures, out of context, to justify your views & condemn other’s.’

    In both counts you are wrong. Now that you have stated it, prove it from what I have said previously.

    Again G.D. instead of arguing your case, you are metaphorically throwing stones and insults.

    You say, ‘There are no grey areas as far as God’s mind or thinking or actions are concerned. …. ‘ No there is nothing grey ABOUT God; again i never inferred such. Your mind needs to present it as such to justify your OWN view – for your OWN satisfaction; to justify your OWN conclusions to YOURSELF! Just as your OWN uses of scripture do.’

    On the one hand you say that is right, then you launch a potted psychology, about my view, my satisfaction, my justifying conclusions to myself, and finally my uses of Scripture.
    I will say only this by way of reply, No Scripture is of private interpretation.

  32. G.D. says:

    I give up. Nothing gets through.

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