Monday, March 26, 2007

Historical origins of the cult of the saints

Roman Catholicism still reveres those that it calls "the saints".

The political capital that the Pope makes from this and the unseemly haste to canonise the last Pope show that it is still an important business.
The Official Catechism (956) quotes from Lumen Gentium, the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church, one of the principal documents of Vatican II, on the intercession of the saints. "Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness.... They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.... So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped."

What is a saint in Scripture?

Does it refer only to those that the Pope has canonized? To these and also
to 'uncanonical' saints that are venerated regardless? Only miracle-workers?
Only martyrs? Anyone deceased who might have been at all good or at all
Christian? The New Testament provides this definition whenever it uses the
word hagios, which is rightly translated as saints: those who are
consecrated and sanctified unto God. It is clear from its various contexts
that it refers to ordinary believers in local churches. Paul even uses the
title for the Corinthians ( 1 Cor. 1:2 and very significantly I Cor. 6:1-2)
despite their being 'yet carnal' (I Cor.3:3). Were all apostles? Were all
prophets? Were all teachers? Were all workers of miracles? (cp. 1 Cor.
12:29). In the opening verses of Ephesians and Colossians Paul identifies
the saints with the 'faithful brethren' and not exclusively with the
overseers and deacons (Phil. 1:1). In Hebrews we find a whole chapter
devoted to why 'so great a cloud of witnesses' (Heb. 12:1) (greek.
martyrion - martyrs) are to be regarded as martyrion. Only by faith is the
message of chapter 11. These are of course not largely supposed to be saints
in the Roman Catholic system.

Historical origins of 'the mediation of the saints'

How then did the veneration of saints arise? Consensus among historians is
that what they term the 'cult of the saints' emerged in the fourth century.
Roman Catholic theologians would not deny that the beginning of the Roman
Catholic Church was in the establishment of Christianity in 330 AD, and as I
recall the motto of Roman Catholicism has been semper idem - always the
same. There is little doubt that 'Christianity' in the fourth century was
half-paganised. Constantine patronised important foundations of pagan
religion as well as Christian. Paganism was of course only suppressed in 385
it had coexisted officially with Christianity for this century and had been
recently revived under Julian the Apostate. Augustine reports a member of
his congregation:

'To be sure, I visit the idols, I consult magicians and soothsayers, but I
do not forsake the church of God. I am a catholic Christian'. Psalms 88
Sermon III.4.

Although the saint was regarded as residing in heaven, his intercession only
rested partly on that fact, the belief in his presence at his tomb was of
equal importance:

'Here lies Martin the bishop, of holy memory, whose soul is in the hand of
God; but he is fully here, present and made plain in miracles of every kind'
.

Gregory of Nyssa spoke of relation of praying to the saints with their
decomposed bodies or relics thus:

'those who behold them embrace, as it were, the living body in full flower:
they bring eye, mouth, ear, all the senses into play, and then, shedding
tears of reverence and passion, they address to the martyr their prayers of
intercession as if he were present.'


We must take note of the syncretistic influence of the spirit of the 3rd and
4th centuries - neoplatonism - which was influential amongst the
theologians, particularly the Alexandrian and Cappadocian fathers. The
policy of ecclesiastical authorities in the fourth century was to conserve
as much as possible, when churches replaced temples there was no sudden
change: services, pagan inscriptions, images and idols were kept. Cardinal
J.H.Newman in his book 'The development of the Christian religion'
catalogues an extensive list of Roman Catholic rituals which he admits to be
of 'pagan origin'. Msgr. O'Sullivan in 'The externals of the catholic church
' wrote similarly: 'thus, it is true that some Catholic rites are a
reproduction of those pagan creeds'.

We may look at the influence of the Hellenistic and Roman beliefs which were
still very much current in Late Antiquity. There was the ancient cult of
heroes whereby the dead were idealised, it was accepted that some form of
worship was due to the deceased in the family or in a public cult of
emperors and heroes. We find however a distinction kept between the cult
worship of the heroes and the gods. Tombs of Christian martyrs carried the
same name as those of the older heroes - heroon.


Augustine also speaks of how 'When peace came to the church, a mass of
pagans who wished to come to Christianity were held back because their feast
days with their idols used to be spent in an abundance of eating and
drinking' and that 'Pagans had now entered the church and brought their evil
habits with them'. We know that in external forms there was no real
difference between the pagan cult of the dead and the Christian feasts of
saints. Candles were burnt on graves, offerings were made of lamps, flowers,
ointments and foodstuffs. Practices such as leaving the infirm to spend a
night in the tomb of the saint for healing have their precursor in the cults
of the healer gods Asclepius, Sarapis and Isis. As in pagan custom also,
effigies of healed limbs were hung in thanksgiving. We know too that the
cult of relics was not unknown to antiquity - the bones of Theseus for
example.

The gods were localised and guardians of particular cities, a role the
saints came to assume. Direct substitution of saint for god was normal
procedure for instance Constantine's cousin Gallas brought the bones of St.
Babylas to Daphne to replace the oracle of Apollo there.

The concept of the patron saint was popular at this time, an invisible
friend for protection and inspiration. Ammianus Marcellinus relates the
theology of this at the time:

'The Theologians maintain that there are associated with all men at their
birth...certain divinities of that sort, as directors of their conduct.' For
the 2nd century rhetor Aelius Aristides it was the god Asclepius, for the
Christian poet Paulinus it was St. Felix. This was where the custom of a
Christian name came in. Baptism was supposed to have cancelled the influence
of the stars that had initially formed the personality, the individual was
given a new protecting spirit and new genius as well as taking the name of
the saint who was supposed to guarantee all this.

These protecting figures were called in to do their job at death
particularly. In the burial chamber of the Vincentii (late 3rd-early 4th
century) the lady Vibia is depicted being led into the feast of the gods by
her good angel. In 396 Lady Veneranda is depicted in her burial chamber
together with the martyr saint Petronilla - the supposed daughter of the
apostle Peter, and who hasn't been mentioned since. Worshippers lost many
advocates for their times of need when the temples and shrines were finally
closed and it is not difficult to speculate how they filled the void. (The
bulk of the evidence presented here is selected from 'The cult of the
saints: its rise and function within Latin christianity' by PRL Brown).

There are also social and political reasons for a particular rise of
interest in saints at this time, but in the interests of space I cannot
recount them here. We may not be inclined to doubt the Roman Catholic
scholar Karl Adam when he declares in his 'The spirit of Catholicism' (p.2):
'We Catholics acknowledge readily without shame, nay with pride, that
Catholicism cannot be identified simply and wholly with primitive
Christianity, nor even with the Gospel of Christ.'
The basis of prayer


In Christ's teaching on prayer, we are directed to pray 'our Father' because
the basis of prayer is the Father and child relationship. Earnestness,
amount of words and vain repetitions do not count (Matt. 6:7ff.). It is only
upon the basis of our sonship that we are heard. All our requests are to be
made known to God (Phil.4:6). Moreover, our access to God depends solely
upon Christ's work for us (Heb.10:19-22). We are raised to sit with him in
heavenly places (Eph.2:6). We come boldly to the throne of grace for help
in time of need therefore (Heb. 4:16). We know that there is only one
mediator between God and men and that is Christ (1 Tim.2:5). It is sometimes
said however that the infinite and perfect mediator we have in Christ is our
primary mediator and the saints are our secondary mediators. When however,
secondary evidence, reserves, ballots, braking etc. come into play it is
only once the primary has been proved insufficient. There is no possibility
of this being the case with Christ. The cult of the saints clearly
undermines therefore, the unique mediatorial glory and all-sufficiency of
Christ. Is his righteousness not enough that the "merits" of the saints
should be dispensed instead of his?

This is one obvious area where Roman Catholicism is not only far away from
the Gospel but actively undermining and counterfeiting it.

The best and surest way to please God

The best and surest way to please God, and gain a cheerful quiet heart in the way to heaven is, to walk with God in uprightness, (through faith in Jesus Christ,) being careful in nothing: but in every thing, by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, to make your request known unto God, which if you do, the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall so establish your heart and mind, in and through Christ Jesus, that you may live in a heaven upon earth, and may be joyous and comfortable in all estates and conditions of life whatsoever.

The Christian's Daily Walk, Rev. Henry Scudder, (Member of Westminster Assembly)

No love, no life

The life of Christianity consists very much in our love to Christ. Withoutlove to Christ, we are as much without spiritual life as a carcass when thesoul is fled from it is without natural life. Faith without love to Christis a dead faith; and a Christian without love to Christ is a dead Christian,dead in sins and trespasses. Without love to Christ, we may have the name of Christians, but we are wholly without the nature. We may have the form of godliness, but are wholly without the power. 'Give me thine heart' is thelanguage of God to all the children of men (Prov. 23:26). And 'give me thy love' is the language of Christ to all His disciples. Christ knows the command and influence which love to Him, in the truth and strength of it,has. It will engage all the other affections of His disciples for Him, that if He have their love, their desires will be chiefly after Him. Their delights will be chiefly in Him, their hopes and expectations will bechiefly from Him; their hatred, fear, grief, anger will be carried forth chiefly to sin, as it is offensive to Him. He knows that love will engage and employ for Him all the powers and faculties of their souls...If they have much love to Him, they will not think much of denying themselves, taking up His cross, and following wherever He leads them; love to Christ then being essential to true Christianity, so earnestly looked for by our Lord and Master, so powerfully commanding in the soul and over the whole man, so greatly influential on our duty.

Thomas Vincent

The True Christian's Love of the Unseen Christ

in 'Day by Day with the English Puritans'

Compiled and Edited by Randall J Pedersen published by Hendrickson

In-wrought faith

It is not faith as our act that unites savingly to Jesus Christ, but faith,
that in-wrought spiritual capacity which is of God.

We are made one with Christ through an in-wrought faith, through the grace
of faith, and not through the act of faith.

Alexander Comrie 1734 Scottish minister in Holland

Christ's Mediatorial Kingdom and the angels

As Mediator he [Christ] is carrying on a glorious scheme for the recovery of man, and all parts of the universe are interested or concern themselves in this grand event; and therefore they are all subjected to him, that he may so manage them as to promote this end, and baffle and overwhelm all opposition.

The elect angels rejoice in so benevolent a design for peopling their mansions, left vacant by the fall of so many of their fellow-angels, with colonies transplanted from our world, from a race of creatures that they had given up for lost. And therefore Christ, as a Mediator, is made the head of all the heavenly armies, and he employs them as his ministering spirits, to minister to them that are heirs of salvation. These glorious creatures are always on the wing ready to discharge his orders in any part of his vast empire, and delight to be employed in the services of his mediatorial kingdom.

This is also an event in which the fallen angels deeply interest themselves; they have united all their force and art for near six thousand years to disturb and subvert his kingdom, and blast the designs of redeeming love; they therefore are all subjected to the control of Christ, and he shortens and lengthens their chains as he pleases, and they cannot go a hair's breadth beyond his permission.

From The Mediatorial Kingdom and Glories of Jesus Christ by Samuel Davis, a Virginia preacher of the Presbytery of Hanover in the mid1700s.

The benefits of Family Worship

Families have hereby their communion kept with God, & thus are kept in the suburbs of heaven; hereby they tell him all their wants, and make known to him all their desires, cast all their care and burdens on him, consult him in all difficult cases, & get their resolutions.

John Brown of Wamphray (Covenanter)

School lessons in depravity

The Government has now pushed through both Houses of Parliament newregulations to make it illegal to discriminate against homosexuals inproviding goods, facilities and services, and in the exercise of publicfunctions. These regulations also cover schools and the teaching of thecurriculum in seeking to ensure the equal promotion of homosexuality in awide range of school subjects. This must be a matter of real concern forparents. While they have a legal right to withdraw their children fromReligious and Moral Education and Personal, Social and Health Education,they do not have such a right to withdraw their children from nationalcurriculum subjects. In Canada legislation extending the same kind ofprotections to homosexuals has been used by homosexual activists in aimingto force the promotion of their perversion in a range of school subjects.The Christian Institute have indicated that some councils already recommendthe promotion of homosexuality in national curriculum subjects such asHistory, English, Art and Music. There is also evidence of this being taughtin some schools.Various materials for sex education already used in Personal and SocialEducation (PSE) actively promote homosexuality as normal and acceptable andpromote homosexual households as 'families'. Many parents are unaware ofwhat is already being taught to their children especially in relation to sexeducation, which is being taught from the later stages of primary schoolupwards, and becoming increasingly more explicit in the early stages ofsecondary education. The prevailing approach assumes that it is unrealisticto expect young people to abstain from sexual activity. Instead the idea isto limit the inevitable through education by promoting contraception. Morethan this, sexual activity outside marriage is said to be a 'right' and a'choice' in such materials and the abortifacient 'morning after pill' ishighlighted as a means of contraception. It is a public scandal that themorning-after pill can be given to girls under 16 legally without anyparental knowledge or consent.

It is little wonder that the Government and the Scottish Executive arefinding teenage conceptions rising fastest in areas where special programmesto combat them have been implemented. Studies in recent years by Glasgow andEdinburgh Universities have shown that this kind of permissive sex educationhas failed to reduce the levels of unsafe sex or unwanted pregnancy despitemillions of pounds being poured into such initiatives. According to ValerieRiches in her book "Sex Education or Indoctrination: How ideology hastriumphed over facts" by Valerie Riches (published by Family & YouthConcern, Jubilee House, 19-21 High Street, Whitton, Twickenham, MiddlesexTW2 7LB www.famyouth.org.uk), this failure is because the government'sapproach to teenage sexual health is not based on research but on theideology that the state is the parent of everyone's children. She arguesthat sex education has never really been about preventing unwantedpregnancies and sexually transmitted infections, but about changing theshape of the family and increasing the role of the state. Valerie Richesidentifies the exclusion of parents from the knowledge of what is happeningto their children, as a key legal change campaigned for by sex educators andsexual health advocates.

Foremost in promoting this ideology is the International Planned ParenthoodFederation which receives 6.0 million per year UK Government funding. Itpromotes 'freedom of sexual expression' and 'sexual pleasure as a validsexual and reproductive health need for all young people' (defining 'youngpeople' as those aged 10-24) through its network of family planningassociations. These focus on permissive sex education at earlier ages,coupled with the provision of contraception to teenagers, including underagegirls, without the knowledge or consent of their parents. Parents have avital role and should not allow themselves to be undermined in this way. Arecent study of over 400 adolescents clearly showed that where parents,especially mothers, were the major source of sexual information, theiradolescents' sexual behaviour was restrained. The only sort of effectiveeducation which will reduce teenage conceptions and disease is that whichteaches abstinence outside of marriage. When the government wishes to reducesmoking amongst teenagers it promotes abstinence but fails to see that onlythis approach will change the UK's position as the teenage pregnancy capitalof Western Europe. How true it is that "the instruction of fools is folly"(Prov 16:22).

The Standards in Scotland's Schools Act 2000 sets out clear guidelines forschools in their conduct of sex education: materials are to be selected withgreat care and sensitivity to the age and understanding of pupils; schoolsare to consult with parents before introducing any sex education programmeto their children; parents are to be given the opportunity to view anymaterials in advance; schools are to be sensitive to parental concerns andtheir religious views; there is no statutory requirement for participationin sex education and ultimately therefore parents may withdraw theirchildren. Scottish Executive Circular 2/2001 states that, all parents andguardians have a legal right to be consulted when schools are developing orreviewing sex education programmes yet this is rarely if ever done. It isthe local school not the local authority which decides on the detail of anysex education programme. There is little control, however, in what schoolsteach in this subject; they are obliged merely to "have regard" togovernment guidelines. The Executive's "A Guide for Parents and Carers" alsoconfirms: "If you have a particular concern about the sex education beingprovided by the school for your child the first thing to do is to discuss itwith your child's headteacher". Parents ought to take this step and ask tobe be made aware under their legal right to preview sex education materials.It is worth noting that while a school may not be using some of the morenotorious materials, most secondary schools appear to be using other equallyexplicit materials which have shocked not only Christian but non-Christianteachers also.

Parents may not be aware that many of the most obscene materials being usedare not in printed form but are shown on video, given as part of lessonstaken by outside agencies or involve certain web-sites. We would encourageparents to find out not just what is to be taught but who is to deliver it -very often outside agencies like the local Health Authority are involved whohave an agenda of their own, namely the promotion of their sexual healthservices. Parents also have a right to withdraw their children from suchclasses. The UK Government's "Sex and Relationship Guidance DfEE 0116/2000"confirms that when formulating their statement of policy on sex education,the governors and head teachers of a school are required to state withinthis policy the right of a parent to withdraw their child from the school'ssex education programme. There is real pressure from such agencies as theBrook Organisation to make PSE a compulsory part of the national curriculum,meaning that parents would no longer have the right to withdraw theirchildren from it (0-19 Magazine, July 2005, p.14). At present, parents dostill have this right and therefore ought to give very serious considerationto exercising it. The Christian Institute briefing "Scottish Sex and DrugsEducation: What you can do to help at a local level" is very helpful inadvising parents in this regard.

One would question whether in view of the prevailing contempt for marriageand the law of God in society at large there can be many who are fit toinstruct our children in these matters. The Larger Catechism Q130 inspeaking of the sins of parents against their children in relation to thefifth commandment identifies the sin of "careless exposing, or leaving themto wrong, temptation, and danger". The wisest and safest course of actionwould be no doubt for parents to withdraw their children from such classesentirely. Only when we have dealt faithfully in relation to baptismal vowsin protecting our children from such permissive values will we, as parents,be able to say in sincerity: "Cease, my son, to hear the instruction thatcauseth to err from the words of knowledge". (Prov 19:27)

A Fountain Sealed - Spiritual Ordinances

In Song of Solomon 4:12 the church is compared to a garden shut up, a fountain sealed, which is to be understood not only in respect of the defence and protection God vouchsafes to His church (that none can destroy her) but also, because strangers and wicked men are not able to drink of her delicacies, or smell of her sweetness.

A spiritual sermon is a fountain sealed up; the spiritual administration of a sacrament is a garden enclosed. Superficial Christians understand not nor perceive the full sweetness thereof. There were many people in a throng and crowd about our Saviour, but only the infirm woman felt the efficacy come from Him. Although many may attend the ordinances, frequent the assemblies, few find the inward power of Christ derived unto their souls.

As, therefore, Thomas, though spoken wrongly on a false ground, said he would not believe Christ to be risen unless he saw His wounds and put his fingers into them, so neither must you believe your estate to be good and sound, unless you may see and feel the efficacy of Christ in His ordinances upon thee.

Anthony Burgess

Burgess was a member of the Westminster Assembly and wrote at least a dozen books that were based largely on his sermons and lectures. This extract is from a sermon contained in his major work, Spiritual Refining, a massive, two-volume work of 1100 pages that has been called an 'unequalled anatomy of experimental religion'.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Heresy and Vatican equivocation

The Vatican has censured the writings of Father Jon Sobrino, a Roman Catholic priest in El Salvador notorious as an advocate of liberation theology. Pope Benedict XVI has ordered the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to denounce publicly on March 14, 2007 certain writings by Fr Jon Sobrino, SJ a well-known theologian, for containing "erroneous" and "dangerous" theses and "notable discrepancies with the faith of the Church" that "may cause harm to the faithful".

There are no direct steps to remove Sobrino, to prevent him from "teaching Catholic theology" or to stop Roman Catholics from reading his books. The warning assumes that Roman Catholics will continue to read Sobrino's works and simply seeks "to offer the faithful a secure criterion, founded on the doctrine of the Church, by which to judge" what they will read. The warning ends vaguely "The purpose of this Notification is precisely to make known to all the faithful the fruitfulness of theological reflection that does not fear being developed from within the living stream of ecclesial Tradition."

It seems that in the late 1970s or early 1980s the Vatican accused him of denying that Christ was both "true God and true man". They later dropped the charges when Fr Juan Alfaro SJ defended him. The Vatican now say that Sobrino "does not deny the divinity of Christ" but that he fails to "affirm" it with "sufficient clarity". Also his writings "tend to exclude" Jesus' self-awareness of being divine". The Vatican are pulling back from what is quite obvious just because the language of this author is slightly obscure. Sobrino says "the limited human is predicated of God, but the unlimited divine is not predicated of Jesus" (Christ the Liberator, 223, cf. 332-333). He also says that "[The New Testament] makes clear that he was intimately bound up with God, which meant that his reality had to be expressed in some way as a reality that is of God". Sobrino believes that the major Councils of the early Church moved away from the historical Jesus.

The Vatican statement also notes that "In some texts some assertions of Father Sobrino make one think that, for him, Jesus did not attribute a salvific value to his own death: "Let it be said from the start that the historical Jesus did not interpret his death in terms of salvation, in terms of soteriological models later developed by the New Testament, such as expiatory sacrifice or vicarious satisfaction […]. In other words, there are no grounds for thinking that Jesus attributed an absolute transcendent meaning to his own death, as the New Testament did later" (Jesus the Liberator, 201). "In the Gospel texts it is impossible to find an unequivocal statement of the meaning Jesus attached to his own death" (Ibidem, 202). "…Jesus went to his death with confidence and saw it as a final act of service, more in the manner of an effective example that would motivate others than as a mechanism of salvation for others. To be faithful to the end is what it means to be human" (Ibidem, 204)."

The statement circles around these issues in a very equivocal way, hinting at but refusing to condemn the writings as heretical. Sobrino is simply guilty of "imprecisions". It shows that the Vatican is aware of error but feels that this is the most that it can do nothing to take firm action against it.

The reason that the Vatican has been reticent to condemn Sobrino overmuch is seen in the backlash against the statement by Jesuits across the world. In Italy, Australia and Brazil there have been protests. In Spain, three groups, the Association of Theologians of John XXIII, Somos Iglesia (We Are Church) and Christianity and Justice, a Jesuit study centre in Catalonia have attacked the statement accusing the Vatican of engaging "in a secret process, without discussion and in an authoritarian manner". In Germany, the Roman Catholic theological faculties of Graz and M√ľnster universities expressed their deep concern at the Vatican reprimand and avowed their full support for the theologian.

The Vatican must be more worried now than it was originally.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

The Reformation: a brief guide

TM Lindsay The Reformation: A Handbook, Banner of Truth 2006 ISBN 0-85151-932-6 pbk 277pp £ 7.75

At a time when Rome is claiming to have reversed the Reformation in our land and to have become the dominant religion once more, sound teaching on the history and principles of the Reformation are needed as never before. Originally written for the young, this is a clear summary of the history of the period. It would be hard to find a brief book on this subject that covers so much ground and is so easy to read. The book is valuable even simply for the chronological summary of the Reformation with which it concludes. There are also vital chapters on the principles of the Reformation and the Catholicity of the Reformers.

Lindsay is regarded as one of the foremost historians of the Reformation and this book represents a more manageable and accessible account than his two volume History of the Reformation in Europe. Lindsay is noted for giving attention to the social, political and intellectual context of the history of the Reformation, although this does not detract from his main emphasis upon the Reformation as a revival of religion. Besides the main countries such as Germany, France, Switzerland, England and Scotland; Denmark, Sweden and Holland are also covered.

Far greater space has been given to the Reformation in England than to any other country. We would assume that this is due to the complicated history of the progress of the cause of truth in that country. To a significant degree this was caused by the dependence upon the royal supremacy in ecclesiastical matters. Lindsay's own assessment is that “the royal supremacy gave the Church of England the halting character of its Reformation”.

Lindsay was Free Church professor in Glasgow. This book was first published in 1882 just after Lindsay had been engaged in defending his friend, the heretic Robertson Smith, during his prosecution in the church courts. If Lindsay sympathised with Robertson Smith's higher critical view of Scripture it is not apparent in this work, except where the Scriptures are emphasised solely as a means of grace while avoiding any reference to their infallibility.

We would emphasise, however, that the book is largely a straightforward historical summary and in this it has great value for all ages and levels of interest. It is a blessed thing to “remember the years of the right hand of the most High” and His “wonders of old” (Ps. 77:10-14). Books such as this can greatly help us in this respect.

(This review has been submitted for The English Churchman)

Monday, March 05, 2007

Rome's gay-friendly masses

A recent statement has been issued by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Westminster "concerning its outreach and ministry to homosexual persons" in parts of London's West End, and the desire of "a number of homosexual Catholics, together with their parents, families and friends, for pastoral care". These Masses have already been taking place and the diocese proposes as part of "its pastoral outreach to homosexual people" a bimonthly Mass to be held in Soho. http://sohomasses.googlepages.com/thestatements

The Masses have been running since July 2005, arranged by the "Soho Masses Pastoral Council" (SMPC) for "lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered [LGBT] Catholics, and their parents, families and friends". The diocese and the SMPC have been discussing how to take this forward SMPC has responded with satisfaction at "an agreement that [these Masses] will particularly welcome LGBT Catholics, their parents and their families". They state that "Being proudly lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered, and proudly Catholic is at the heart of this community of faith". http://sohomasses.googlepages.com/

Apparently there are "bidding prayers" which are used in these Soho Masses to celebrate and seek blessing for same-sex unions following their civil partnerships on the third Sunday of each month. This is an example of a recent bidding prayer used at St Anne's: "For all who have entered into civil partnerships during this past month, and for all who are keeping their first anniversaries around this time: that God will preserve them in love and faithfulness."

Rome's hypocrisy and ease at taking contradictory positions is quite astonishing. It seeks to present a public face that opposes homosexuality while condoning and encouraging it on the other in those that are happy to receive mass but still "proudly lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgendered". This brings the abmomination of the blasphemous mass together with the abomination of hoomsexuality. Rome is struggling every bit as much as the Church of England to cope with the diverse opinions on homosexuality that exist within its midst not to mention practice. The Anglican communion, without in any way commending its alarming confusion, is a lot more honest about these problems, however.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Bible rankings

The CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) has released their March figures for sales of Bibles in their stores during January.
Their Bible sales ranked as:
1 King James Version
2 New International Version
3 New Century Version
4 New King James Version
5 New Living Translation
6 English Standard Version
7 Holman Christian Standard Bible
8 New American Standard Bible update
9 The Message Eugene Peterson
10 Reina Valera 1960 (Spanish)

What is most obvious from this is that the Authorised Version remains the bestseller in the USA. It also noteworthy that the ESV has not managed to supplant even the New King James or New Living Translation. It is also notable that the TNIV has dropped off the list for this particular month. It is sad, however, that The Message, which is a particularly bad and dangerous paraphrase should be in competition with translations, albeit that many of these have paraphrastic qualities themselves.