An Interaction with a Liberal Catholic

Here is a posting of emails between Hugh and a Catholic who was questioning the validity of the Magisterium. It covers many of the Liberal issues of our time. His initial email hit me with a ton of stuff that was not on my radar about the way people twist our Catholic message. His name is Bert.

Bert, a liberal Catholic writes

From: "Bert"
To: Hugh
Subject: your website
Date: Wed, 12 Jan 2005 22:49:46 -0500

Dear Hugh:

Happened upon your website while searching for information on 'Fathers of the Church'. There is no question in my mind that you are passionate about your faith...Secondly you profess a great love for the Church. That is good too.This week the Church will focus on 'Ecumenism'. ...This might be a good time to reflect on the statement made by theologian Hans Kung:"there can be no peace in this world until there is peace among all the religions".

As Catholics we need to be increasingly aware and respectful of the many other religions in our community. If we Christians are genuinely interested in resolving our differences among each other and other religions we need only do one thing. ... All it will take is for people to change their belief about religion and God. That's all.

... It is our attachment to the defence of our faith that keeps us at odds with one another. ...Every time we profess that we think we know God better than the next person, we cause that person or group sadness and pain. The pain eventually translates into fear and hatred. If God were truly allowed to be the all-pow­erful, all-loving One, we would know that love does not need to be defended because love does not know attack.

The minute we think that our religion is the only one, we're in trouble. ...The minute we draw lines and separate ourselves from our neighbours because we think we 'have a corner on the "faith market," we're in trouble. The minute we teach who is going to heaven and who is going to hell, we're in trouble. Mother Teresa said: "We need to teach the Muslim to be a better Muslim, we need lo teach the Jew to be a better Jew, and so on." ...So how can we begin to change our fixed beliefs?

... Perhaps we should admit no one- religion possesses all there is to know about God. ... We could move' out of our comfort zone and listen to what else God has to say about the creatures we are called to love. ...

From Muslims, the church can learn prayer, fasting, and almsgiving; from Hindus, meditation and contemplation; from Buddhist, detachment from material goods; from Confucianism, filial piety and respect for elders; from Taoism, simplicity and humility; from animists, reverence and respect: for nature and gratitude for harvests. Together, we become as one.

Apologetics appear to struggle with many things. Apostolic succession, liberalism, modernism, secularism, protestantism, dogma, doctrine, etc. etc. and most of all, it seems, "the need to be right!" ...I do not recall Jesus ever insisting that we should all become Jews, certainly he was.Some apologetics are even busy rewriting history defending the Spanish Inquisition, Crusades, and any other dark era's in Church history (I have plenty of my own).When we rewrite history in such a fashion we miss the opportunity to forgive and be forgiven. Perhaps I lack the zeal of an apologetic to promote the Catholic Church - but I have no difficulty promoting the need to love God, with all our heart, soul and mind and love our neighbour as you love yourself....

...More and more books by Catholic Apologetics are appearing in the religion section of our bookstores. Though they do not readily identify themselves as apologetics,authors such a George Weigel [1][1] and Robert P. George [2][2] vigorously call for Church reform.But that reform appears to be in opposition to Vatican II and demands a return to the 'good old days' presumably when the Church possessed much more religious and political power.

Apologetics may have a place, ...if it sees Catholicism as somehow more authentic, more holy, or somehow higher than other traditions, and uses apologetics to justify that, then there's something wrong with that approach, and it does run counter to the spirit of Vatican II' s new openness to ecumenism. ...Religious arrogance has no place in this world. Apologetics appears to hold an extremely narrow view focused only on itself. Perhaps they have not heard the Good News! ... About the only thing that I will defend is that no one religion or person has the absolute truth - only God! I know God loves me, as I am. I need to love my neighbour just as he is. ....

Yours truly,

Bert M.

Hugh Responds:

Sent: Sunday, January 16, 2005 4:37 PM

Thanks for your input Bert.

I am used to interacting with Evangelical Christians, so I am kind of out of my element in speaking with you, my site was not built to speak to many of your issues...

On my opening page I say I am not an apologist, traditional apologetics is too oppositional for me. There will be many Hindus and Muslims in heaven, and some will spend much less time in purgatory than me. But that does not mean Jesus is not the *only* way. (More about that here) The Pope and Mother Theresa, our two great ecumenicalists, would never renounce Jesus by saying he is not the *only* way.

And I totally agree with you that there is much to learn from other religions. I have gained tremendously from them ...I also gained from going to university, but I would not say that the secular humanism I learned there would get me into heaven.

I guess you and me are just on different pages. By your comments and the crowd you lump me with, I guess you feel I bounce to the right. I would suggest I stand in the middle, with the Pope...

The conservatives (SFX) give the Pope heck for being too Liberal and the Liberals (such as the Catholic New Times) give him heck for being too conservative ...I'm not at all part of the "pre" Vat II traditionalist crowd. If you find anything on my site that conflicts with Magisterial teaching from the office of the Pope then feel free to point it out by cutting and pasting my words in an email (with the page reference) with excerpts of the Vatican magisterial documents that I am in conflict with. I will immediately change them. I am totally comfortable hanging with the Vatican Magisterial teaching on all issues, including the VAT II documents, (but not interpretations of them that put words in their mouths and undermine their intent, such as Catholic New Times has done)

..On the other hand, from a quick internet search, it appears that you are in conflict with the Vatican on many things, including condoms, but that is another issue.You do not seem to have any problem with getting into apologetic style debates with people(including me) who are in opposition to issues that you are passionate I have difficulty understanding why you are so against apologetics in general, except that they often defend Magisterial teachings which it appears you disagree with.

I find it odd that some people who want to change the Church hold the Pope and Mother Theresa up as examples of the true faith in action on things like Ecumenism but condemn them on issues such as contraception. If the Pope and Mother Theresa are faithful like you say, let us consider all of their teachings. I'm totally cool with that. But it appears that they are just being used as pawns by some people who have an agenda to undermine the Magisterium. And the Pope and Theresa many times have condemned this attempt to make the Church "Politically correct". I totally agree with the Pope and Theresa on Ecumenism. But there are many issues that you are in direct conflict with them about. I used to feel exactly as you do about many things, I've had much experience in other disciplines... new_age

I became Catholic in 1995 and have been going to Catholic Church since 1988. I think Ecumenism is a critical component to Evangelization but not as a means to validate the "Many paths, One God" theory.

In Jesus' time, everyone believed in God, the Moabites the Philistines, the Babylonians, etc ...Jesus was not at all interested in finding what everyone had in common. He said quite plainly. "I am the way the truth and the life, no one comes to the father except through me." Jn14:6

Only three possibilities exist for me with respect to this.

  1. Jesus was deluded and crazy
  2. Jesus was serious and he truly is who he said he is
  3. The Church wrote that into Scripture and he never said it, making them liars.

My experience with Jesus tells me he's not at all crazy which rules out #1 for me, the early martyrs died at the teeth of lions. People very rarely are willing to die for something they lied about. I believe it is #2.

It was no problem for him to hang out with the Samaritans or the Romans, because he is the way and he had the means to save them...he Evangelized them. He didn't ask them to teach him what they believed.

Mother Teresa, being the Saint that she is, knew what her gifting live and work among Hindus, and Muslims and to be a shining example of Jesus the only saviour....She would never in a million years say that Jesus is not the only way into heaven... She simply wanted Hindus and Muslims to become better in their own faith because she knew that it would draw them closer to the point where they would see the limitations of their understanding of God, that their path up the mountain runs into a cliff, leaving them ripe for conversion. She also did not want her work inhibited by militants who were all around her, who generally aren't very good practitioners of the faiths they fight for...She knew how to survive in an environment that had her surrounded by many Muslims and Hindus who were hostile to Christianity. She knew how to pick her battles. And she would much rather shake up the fat rich western world than create an uprising against her in the poor Eastern World. That was her mission and she lived it incredibly well.

Jesus told the Jewish people that they would not find heaven unless they came through him.that's pretty blatant Evangelization and a direct attempt to convert people. In fact that is why they killed him. And he would rather die than to renounce who he was...And I would rather die than to renounce or compromise who he is.

The early Christians could have blended in just fine...and Christianity would have washed away in a sea of Gnosticism, Aryanism and many other heresies that threatened its existence. But they didn't "compromise" their religion and say "Christ is just one of the many ways to heaven, just do your thing and follow your heart, you will get there...and we'll follow our way and we'll see you at the summit of the spiritual mountain" Instead, they chose to die at the teeth of lions. They would not shut up about Christ and who he is and they were killed for that reason and if they wouldn't have died for the integrity of the faith you and me would not be Catholics today and very few people would really know who Christ was.

Vat II was a great event, it acknowledged the new reality, the world has changed and modern society is no longer Christian exclusively. It was very wise that the Church got off its position of no dialogue....but VAT II never said that other religions are valid paths to Heaven, what they said is that we are to engage in dialogue with them...Vat II documents clearly reiterate what the Church has always said ...There is no salvation outside the Church and if a Hindu is saved it will be because of their ignorance of the role of the Church and God's mercy and ability to see into their heart, and to realize that Christians failed to properly evangelize him. I know that to our modern ears that sounds "intolerant." But if the Church didn't say that it they would be lying. Just as if Jesus didn't say he was the only way he would have been a liar. That's why he said it, because it is true.

  1. are-non-christians-saved
  2. relativism

You say "love does not need to be defended because it knows no attack"

Actually that doesn't sound like something Christ would say, much more likely from Buddha, or Krishna.

Paul went to the Greeks and argued in Greek, he went to the Romans to argue in Latin, he loved these people but he knew if he did not defend what had been shown to him, it would die with him ...Jesus took a stick and chased the money changers out of the temple...He was not at all an "anything goes" type of a guy...

At any rate your email is well taken and if you care to point out specific places where you think I go over the top I will look at them and consider whether God is using you to try to soften my message...As it stands there is no apologist I have seen that is softer than I'm pressed to think of where I would change much without saying that the early martyrs of the 1st centuries died for nothing, and I should not make any effort whatsoever to do my part to stop what modern society is trying to do to us, which is basically neuter our voice against stuff like gay marriage, abortion, and throwing the Eucharist, Mary, confession, penance, Purgatory and many other Dogma's to the wind as our Evangelical brothers have done. That is why it appears that the some Catholics are poised to start a new denomination. And it does not surprise me that they are offended when someone defends the traditions handed to us which Vat II painstakingly defended.

The reason that apologetics has become so popular is that the attacks on the Church today are coming from all directions and we have not undergone this kind of persecution for centuries. And it is getting worse. Being from St. Catherine's one would think you would see what is happening here in Canada. And if you think we are moving in a healthy direction then I am very sad.

My opinions on issues that you alluded to are here.:

  1. why_catholics_against_gay_marriage.php
  2. how_did_this_site_get_built.php
  3. contraception.php
  4. inquisition.php



Bert Writes

Date: Mon, 17 Jan 2005 20:48:49 -0500

Dear Hugh:

Thank you for taking the time to read my rather lengthy epistle (e-mail dated January 12) and responding to various issues presented therein.

My e-mail to you was intended to expand upon the work you are doing through your detailed and very artistic web site with a special emphasis on Christian Unity celebrated this week.

Last night we celebrated a wonderful ecumenical evening with other Christian faiths in our community.How I hope that one day it will include people from other non-Christian denominations.It was not all that long ago that Catholics were forbidden to even enter a Anglican Church building.

My concerns regarding Apologetics, Catholic or otherwise, is simply this:it tends to be exclusive, i.e., "our church has all the answers" . . . and as long as you follow our rules . . . you will be saved!! When it comes to claims of' having all the answers the Roman Catholic Church at times is no exception.Few Catholics today know that Catechism of the Catholic Church still insists that "Outside the Church there is no salvation". While it goes on to explain that "this affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church", it must be quite unsettling for other Christian denominations and therefore will remain a stumbling block toward any attempts to become more ecumenical. Vatican II took quite another view of this sticky problem. Please refer to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) especially LG 15 and 16.At the same time you might want to look at the Decree on Ecumenism.The final sixteen documents contain some of the most profound and energetic calls for spiritual renewal ever experienced in our Church.

What is so sad about Vatican II today is the limited knowledge most Catholics have about the monumental change that this council brought to the Church other than moving the altar and celebrating the mass in the vernacular. Today, more than ever, people are hungry for a peace and understanding that only God can bring.His justice and love knows no boundaries and reaches far beyond our limited understanding.

In recent years large numbers of Catholics have left their Church because they no longer felt they were being heard within their own Church or were swept up by the more charismatic and accepting influences of the Christian Evangelical movement .Church attendance according to the latest statistics has never been lower.Why is that?If more than ninety percent of the population believes in God and are actively seeking a spiritual connection what must the Church do?Again, Vatican II attempted to answer these questions but that so far, has been met with much opposition.It seemswe are moving further away from the mystery and closer towards pragmatic interpretation or belief in God, i.e., fundamentalism!!!

Only a deep or personal relationship with Christ and all those he places in my path (of which you are now one) sustains me in this pursuit to help bring about his Kingdom here on earth. Yes, there are times when I fail completely and miserably, but I know I have a God who loves me, will pick me up in the palm of His hands and bring me back into the Light.As I grow in faith and understanding of God I realize that we must move beyond mere rules and regulations, doctrines and dogmas (1) and try to see the world with His glasses.

Hugh (also my son's name) you have presented me much to reflect on, and there is a great deal more I would like to share with you, but for now,please continue in your calling and know that my prayers are with you. Thanks for sharing your gift of peace and acceptance with all those He places in your path.

Yours truly,Bert M.

P. S."Love does not need to be defended because it does not know attack."Comes from a reflection on 1 John 4:7-21.

(1) There is no agreed upon list of dogmas in the Church.One must examine an individual doctrine to see if, in fact, it meets the necessary criteria.The criteria are as follows:

a) it must be contained in Sacred Scripture or in the post-biblical Tradition of the Church, and as such considered part of God's revelation.

b) It must be explicitly proposed by the Church as a divinely revealed object of belief.

c) this must be done either in a solemn decree or in the Church's ordinary, universal teaching.

Hugh Responds:

Sent: Wednesday, January 19, 2005 10:20 PM

Hi Bert

I appreciate your desire for unity. I have that desire too. You say:

"Vatican II took quite another view of this sticky problem. Please refer to the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium) especially LG 15 and 16.At the same time you might want to look at the Decree on Ecumenism.The final sixteen documents contain some of the most profound and energetic calls for spiritual renewal ever experienced in our Church."

Let us examine the documents you quote. The first section of the LG lays out a definition of Church.

4. The Spirit dwells in the Church and in the hearts of the faithful, as in a temple (cf. 1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19). guiding the Church in the way of all truth (cf. Jn. 16:13) and unifying her in communion and in the works of ministry, he bestows upon her varied hierarchic and charismatic gifts, and in this way directs her; and he adorns her with his fruits (cf. Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Cor. 12:4; Gal. 5:22).

So now having established what the "Church" is, the "hierarchic" Church. They can go on with the business of talking about unity. Specific sections of Church documents were never meant to be read out of context of the entire document. The first 15 sections of the LG prepare us for section 15 and 16. In section 15, the desire for Unity was expressed, but never does it redefine the Church as something not under the authority of the Magisterium. Nor does it infer that Unity denies the claim of Jesus that he is the only way, and the claim of the Church that it is Christ's vehicle for to transmit and guard Jesus' teachings.

15. The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but who do not however profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter.[14] .in order that all may be peaceably united, as Christ ordained, in one flock under one shepherd.[17] Mother Church never ceases to pray, hope and work that this may be achieved, and she exhorts her children to purification and renewal so that the sign of Christ may shine more brightly over the face of the Church.

This passage says that we want to get along with them, but with the view to bring them back under the guidance of the Magisterium.

16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways.[18]

This clearly shows that the objective is to help them receive the Gospel. It shows that the Moslems are related to the people of God. Bert, if you were related to my family you would not be a full member of my family, but simply a relative. I may or may not leave you something in my will. It would depend on your heart and my generosity.

But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Moslems

The passage begs the question "What is the plan of Salvation?"Christ stated the plan of salvation very plainly "I am the way the Truth and the life, no one comes to the father except though me." (John 14:6)

But who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience-those too many achieve eternal salvation."

The LG qualifies this statement with:

Without any fault of theirs, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God, and who, not without grace, strive to lead a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is considered by the Church to be a preparation for the Gospel [20] and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.

The LG shows that it is through honest ignorance that they will achieve salvation, not through the validity of their path.The LG 16 goes on to say that those who become:

...vain in their reasonings, have exchanged the truth of God for a lie and served the world rather than the Creator (cf. Rom. 1:21 and 25). Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair.

In the following line it becomes clearer:

...Hence to procure the glory of God and the salvation of all these, the Church, mindful of the Lord's command, "preach the Gospel to every creature" (Mk. 16:16) takes zealous care to foster the missions."

We don't think the LG could be any clearer than this. Preach the Gospel Gospel of Christ. Don't water down the message and do that in friendly dialogue with other faiths. The final kicker in this paragraph is when we look at the reference they quote from Mark 16:16.

"The one who believes and is baptized will be saved; but the one who does not believe will be condemned."

The LG paragraph 15-16 are very clear.

  1. There is only one God.
  2. There is only one way to God, through Jesus.
  3. There is only one body on earth set up by God to administer and oversee the ministry of Jesus, the Catholic Church.
  4. There is only one authority that has full discernment over what the Holy Spirit is saying to the Church, the Magisterium.
  5. We are commanded to "preach the Gospel to every Creature," not just other Catholics.
  6. We should do that in a spirit of love and honest heartfelt dialogue.

Bert, I appreciate your desire to find evidence that the Catholic Church is very open to the idea that "every path up the mountain is valid", but It is highly erroneous, if not immoral to use scholarly sounding arguments to persuade people (who don't know the LG), that VAT II supports the "Every path is valid" vision. I implore you to stop using the Lumen Gentium, Mother Theresa, and the Pope in this way, which is not at all in alignment with the vision of those great saints, and is not what is said in the LG.

If, for the sake of Unity, Jesus had not said "I am the way the truth and the Life, no one comes to the father except through me" he would have been a liar who was not doing his Father's will. If, for the sake of unity, the Martyrs had said "all paths lead to heaven, so you follow yours, I will follow mine and we will see you at the summit" they would be liars and would have been lost to eternity, and Jesus' Church with them. If, for the sake of unity, the Catholic Church did not say "Outside the Church there is no salvation" it would be lying and would not have been following Jesus' orders for it. (Mat 18:18)

Authority and hierarchy are hard concepts to sell these days. Businesses are adopting a horizontal organizational charts. Kids are swearing at their school teaches. The public is pulling apart politicians. Perhaps these are all progressive ideas, but Catholics think this age has authority-phobia. There is hierarchical and structural authority in the heavens among the angels and heavenly creatures (Archangels, Cherubim, Seraphim etc). The Bible shows that Angels only activate under authority, when they are told what to do by their superior. (Job, 38:7, Gen 3:24, 19, 21:17, 22:11, Acts 7:53, Ex 23:20-23, Judg 13, 6:11-24, Isa 6:5, 1 Kgs 19:5, Jude 1:9, Rev 12:7 etc.) It a powerful testimony to the Catholic approach to Church. God is not at all afraid of structural authority. Catholics think the Hierarchical Structure of the Church was divinely inspired by God and revealed to those who formed it in the early centuries of Christianity. (Jn 17:20-23, 1 Cor 1:10; 12:25 Phil 1:27 Eph 4:13-15, Eph 4:5).

If we are to believe Scripture and to look at the example of history, Jesus never meant for this to be a "democracy." If God's people knew what was best, we wouldn't have needed Jesus in the first place. Jesus said "If anyone will not welcome you or listen to your words, shake of the dust from you feet as you leave that house or will be hated by all because of my name" (Mat 10:22)

Bert Says: >> When it comes to claims of' having all the answers the Roman Catholic Church at times is no exception.

Hugh Responds:I would say that is not accurate. The Catholic Church never claimed that it had all the answers. The spiritual realm is a vast universe of which we are only given a small glimpse. The church is the first to admit it doesn't all the answers. The Church simply says is that there are things that have been revealed to it that it is sure about. These few things are infallible. Kind of like, Scientists don't know all the planets in the universe but we do know for sure there is a planet called Mars, and there are certain characteristics about this that we can claim without a shadow of a doubt. That is Dogma. If scientists said there is no Mars, just to satisfy the "Flat Earth Society" they would be lying. And if the Church denied what it was then it would be lying. I understand that you feel it does not make other religions "comfortable" with us. But everyone, including you, and your "many paths", think that their vision is the true vision. There is only one Truth, and it is not Subjective... to say everybody's truth is valid is called relativism...

I have a blind friend. He didn't believe there was a car coming down the street. That was his Truth and he believed it. He was wrong. The car hit him and broke his leg.

Jesus said "I am the Truth." so was he lying or not? If the Church denied it was founded by Jesus it would be lying.

Bert Says:>>>>(1) There is no agreed upon list of dogmas in the Church.One must examine an individual doctrine to see if, in fact, it meets the necessary criteria.The criteria are as follows:

Hugh Responds:I'm not sure if I understand what you mean by "agreed upon." I suggest we may discern almost all Dogma of the Church according to the criteria you correctly stated and as such may draw of a fairly comprehensive list of Catholic Dogma such as that which Ludwig Otto has done. Those who would like throw out the Magisterium would also like to throw out many of the Dogma's that have been laid out, and that is quite sad, and also quite dangerous to Christ's message.

Bert, I believe you are a follower of "dogma" as I am. The only difference is that I am following the Dogma set forth by the authority to which Jesus gave to exercise it. While, many of the "dogmas" you are following are set forth by theologians who feel they have found a new and progressive vision for the Church. They desire a "French Revolution" in the Church where the authority is wrestled from the Magisterium and given to the people.

They are not the first to have that vision. Martin Luther had a similar vision 500 years ago. Let us look at the fruit of that experiment in Christian Unity. 33,500 denominations and counting, with an average of 500 denominations a year being added, each one claiming the other has it wrong. This is not Unity. Luther's experiment was a total failure. In fact there is not one Church around today that even vaguely looks like what Luther envisioned...that includes Lutheranism. That experiment has caused more division than the Magisterium ever could do in a million years. Christ's call to unity was through the one Church that he founded.It is the Catholic Church, as administered by the Magisterium. A timeline of it is here..timeline_of_catholic_church.php

Bert Says:"In recent years large numbers of Catholics have left their Church because they no longer felt they were being heard within their own Church or were swept up by the more charismatic and accepting influences of the Christian Evangelical movement."

Hugh Responds:That is true, and is not the first time in history this has happened... in John 6:56-66 many of Jesus disciples left. Everyone deserted Jesus because he said "I am the bread of me or else..." Jesus turned to the original 12 and said "will you leave me too?" Peter said "where would I go..." Jn 6:53. I feel like Peter. And even if, like on that day, only 12 Catholics are left practicing fidelity to the Magisterium at the end of the ages, I want to be one of those 12.During the Arian heresy most of the Church went bad, many bishops too. But it was defeated and the Church survived. During the Reformation everyone said the Church is going down, but it is presently larger than all the other denominations combined; all 33,500 of them. In North America the Church is smaller but overall, it is still growing faster than ever, especially in the third world where people have not become fat and arrogant. St. Paul said:

"for the time is coming when people will not put up with sound doctrine, but having itching ears, they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own desires, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander away to myths" (2 Ti 4:3)

The Magisterium cannot bend to the whims of the people the way the United Church and the Anglican Church have done. Those denominations tried satisfy the "itching ears" of the people and they are on the brink of extinction. They have not increased their numbers. They have only compromised the integrity of Jesus' message, for the sake of the "people's desires". My uncle was an Anglican minister, before his passing, and an Anglican magazine which still are delivered to my aunt describes the financial precipice upon which the Anglican Church stands. Why would we think a "French Revolution" in the Catholic Church would yield any different results?

Bert Says 'Love does not need to be defended because it does not know attack."Comes from a reflection on 1 John 4:7-21.

Hugh Responds:I see nothing in this passage that says "Love does not know attack". It says "Love knows no fear". The letter is supporting future Martyrs on their mission. John said "fear has to do with punishment" 1 Jn 4:18. In other words if they are afraid, then they are thinking that their martyrdom is a punishment from God, rather than a reward. He is calling them to Love. We must remember this letter was written when the persecution was in full swing and many of John's contemporaries had already been martyred. John called us to love those who persecute us.the kicker of the passage is exactly what we have been discussing "God's love is revealed to us in this way "God sent his only Son into the world so that we might live through him" (1 Jn 4:9) And earlier in the Chapter he says.

"Not every spirit is to be trusted but test the spirits to see whether they are from God...this the proof of the spirit of God: Any spirit which acknowledges Jesus Christ come in human nature is from God, and no spirit which fails to acknowledge Jesus is from God; it is the spirit of the antichrist, whose coming you have heard of; he is already at large in the world." (1 Jn 4:1-3)


Bert, I would love to be able to say, yes everybody is on a great path and no one will go to hell... But I would be a liar if I did that and at the end of my life, I would stand before Jesus with that lie on my heart, knowing that I steered people, who could have been saved, away from the Truth. Just because I was afraid to make them feel uncomfortable. Jesus was not at all afraid to make people feel uncomfortable.

"Woeif I do not preach the Gospel." (1 cor 9:16)

I urge you to temper your call to Catholic reform. I do not see world peace coming through relativism where every religion is right and no one is wrong. If you were in a room full of women and said "I'm a woman too" just to fit in and keep the peace, you would not standing in the Truth. You would not be true to yourself, and you would end up sowing more seeds of division in the long run because you denied something that you know deep down, without a shadow of a doubt, that you are man. There is one truth about that and all the clever dialogue in the world won't change that. Nor will it change the Truth about Jesus...

I love your heart for the Lord, and I urge you to return to the Magisterial teachings. It does not mean that we abandon unity, we can still love those we pray with. I spend much of my time with Evangelicals and non-Christians. I have Moslem friends and I have a phone prayer partner who is an orthodox Jew who attends daily synagogue and calls me a couple of times a month and we pray together. We have mutual respect, but we do not cast away the teachings of our religions for a superficial and false unity.

More importantly, by maintaining the integrity of Jesus message, and adhering to his teaching body, we are not abandoning him for who we live, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

Sent:To Burt....Thursday, January 20, 2005 11:06 PM

>>>Bert Says: There is only one authority in my faith life and that is God.If the institutional of Church, Temple, Mosque, or Synagogue doesn't point us toward the ultimate Truth they will be of no help.This is my passion:to help each other find the Truth!

Hugh Responds: Hopefully, I'm helping you do that, and I am learning about the "liberal movement" in the meantime. Which is probably what God wants me to see. In all of our interactions I don't get a sense that we have the same regard for Scripture, and this is quite difficult for me to accept because I'm used to dealing with Evangelicals who at least take Scripture seriously, and think it is an ageless message, that doesn't need to be minimized with phrases like "that was then this is now"

So without a common point of reference we have pretty little we can continue on. But I appreciate the learning experience.

I'm hard pressed to understand how you can say you are Catholic, if you do not submit to its authority. I would say that you have functionally set yourself apart from it, but find it more convenient to fight against it from within....And I believe behind your message of love you have a very driven and steady purpose that you defend with all the enthusiasm and rhetoric with which apologists defend the Magisterium. The purpose is to overthrow the Magisterium and prescribe the new vision of the church according to north east US Boston area theologians, and similar people. It is a dogma, based on relativism. but like I say, I'm the wrong guy to talk to about it because I just can't relate. We don't think Love means anything goes.

Bert Says: When Vatican II clearly stated "salvation is possible even apart from explicit faith in Christ or even apart from any religious faith at all" (LG16) but is later contradicted in other documents such as the Catechism, you must admit we have a problem.That fact cannot be called 'a highly erroneous, if not immoral use' of searching for the Truth!Does Jesus not ask us to use all our talents and gifts?

Hugh Responds: Please feel free to send me the section of the LG and the Catechism back to back which you feel conflict with each other ...I see no conflict whatsoever.

Bert Says: >Please,also accept the fact that I, like you, freely accept that "[Jesus is] the way, the Truth and the life, no one comes to the Father except through me".You might want to look at that quote more generously and think of it in these terms:Jesus' unconditional love made it possible for all human kind to receive salvation!Why do we always wants to put conditions on that?

Hugh Responds: Because I think he did. And so does the Scripture. But we don't see eye to eye on the importance and timelessness of Scripture so I understand how we see it differently.

Bert Says: Clearly you seem to put conditions on the faith lives of our other Christian brothers and sisters by insisting that they must be brought back under the guidance of the Magisterium.At the same time that does not seem to reflect God's meaning of the term 'Ecumenism". The God that we need to (re)discover will be infinitely more loving, understanding, and forgiving, than all the religious rhetoric in the world.

Hugh Responds: I don't insist that they come back to the Magisterium. I insist that we not give up the Magisterium to blend in with them...Christianity did not get built that way, nor will it survive that way. We don't think.

Bert Says: > >When you suggest that my heart is listening to the wrong "dogma"I want to suggest to you only that God's ways are not our ways. If it works for you, then that's were you need to be.

Hugh Responds:that is Relativism... which turns on itself in any critical analysis. The statement that "If it works for you, then that's where you need to be" itself is a dogmatic absolute statement, I suggest every time you write an article you are trying to evangelize people to your point of view. relativism

Bert Says: God is perfect love isn't it?

Hugh Responds: Have you never disciplined you son because you do not want them to go the wrong direction. You do not tell your kids, "do whatever you want to do, stay out as late as you like, have sex all you like...etc.."

My child, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, or lose heart when you are punished by him;for the Lord disciplines those he loves and chastises every child whom he accepts. Endure trials for the sake of discipline. God is treating you as children; for what child is there whom a parent does not discipline?If you do not have the discipline in which all children share, then you are illegitimate and not his children; Moreover, we had human parents to discipline us, and we respected them. Should we not be even more willing to be subject to the Father of spirits and? live? For they disciplined us for a short time as seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, in order that we may share his holiness. Now, discipline always seems painful rather than pleasant at the time, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness (Heb12:5) punishment

I do appreciate you desire to reshape to Church into what you consider more loving and accepting. I will have to agree to disagree how that will come about. I spend over an hour a day in quiet time with the Lord including mass, I experience his love more and more each day. And I feel him afirming me in my path...

I wish you the best in your ministry.


Bert writes Date: Fri, 21 Jan 2005 13:48:04 -0500

My dear brother in Christ, Hugh:

...Ecumenism is a subject dear to my heart. I like to think that a thirty- five plus years of marriage to my 'cradle Catholic' wife, Ann,isa living example of that...

The Bible, Koran or Torah can be a wonderful tool(s) to help us find God. As can Tradition or tradition.But they can also be used as a weapon(s) of mass destruction. Witness throughout history and what is happening today in the middle east.Read any of Catholic scholar's Karen Armstrong books on the topic. It was her book, "The Battle for God" which first alerted me to the dangers of fundamentalism. Catholics are (thank's to the Magisterium)taught to read the Bible interpretively or contextually not literally. It surprises me however how many Catholics are unaware of the difference and freely accept fundamentalist views or ideas presumably because it has the word 'God' in it.The Catholic Church has always been the leader in faith formation when it comes to primary education. Once kids have been confirmed however it seems to stop. Adult faith education is virtually none existent. Faith is a dynamic, it does not stand still, it needs constant nourishment. Revelation is ongoing it did not stop at the end of the seventh day in Genesis!An adult mind requires an adult faith to sustain it. The Magisterium must help us to achieve that goal.

And, that brings me to your rightful concern Relativism. Presumably you mean "If it feels good do it or go for it". At my age (62) if it feels good - something is wrong. Just kidden!We are all children under the eyes of God.The lessons we need to learn from sitting at His lap are never ending - isn't that neat?It reminds me of a popular 60's or 70's song "I [God] have a never ending love for you".That message should keep us all young and eager to learn more and more. Today more and more adults, like you,have graduated from childhood, hopefully having received the proper guidance and discipline, and now they must go out into the world to face the greater challenges.This means that your parents, teachers, guides, etc., eventually have to say: 'alright we have taught Hugh/Bert to the best of our ability, now we must let him go!From here on, he/she must learn directly from the Master'.This is what I believe the Magisterium is struggling with. This is the matter at the very core of the issue we have been talking about. Vatican II, I believe, was well aware of that problem, and wanted to help, however that required change and we all know how difficult that is.Do you follow me?

One more important point about 'relativism' (as I understand it from you) - Many of us never 'graduated' into adulthood because we did not receive all the love, discipline (as you so beautifully underscored with the reading from Hebrews) and understanding we needed.So, in many ways we are deficient, and broken vessels,but that is where God comes in if we allow Him.He would not say 'Gee, you're hopeless, you're a horrible sinner and a mess, or I can't work with you, first you need to become a Catholic, here read these rules on how to behave properly and then come back. Hugh, you know the answer:God would open His arms immediately and say, welcome back, I accept you just as you are. Let me heal you from all your pain and suffering. Let me help you grow and realize how Holy, how precious, and how much We need you today.

I have very much enjoyed communicating with you.You have helped me tremendously with regard to the role of the Magisterium. Continued dialogue, as opposed to throwing bricks, are essential if we are to make this world the Kingdom for which we pray....

Your friend in Christ,

Bert M.

Hugh Responds:

You got me thinking about the "left" and the "right". The difference, between the far right and the far left, is that on the far right (fundamentalist mentality) people throw bricks (i.e., war, intolerance etc), and on the far left (Inclusiveness, relativism) people throw bricks wrapped up in parcels of 'love and acceptance" but they are nevertheless just as destructive against what they are targeted against. (i.e., the institution of marriage, the 11 year old girls who are shown explicit anal intercourse in sex education classes, the teenage boys who are encouraged express "love" with other boys, the unborn baby who sucks its thumb waiting for a doctor to tear its head off with a pair of fore snips, the little humans who are conceived and destroyed so someone could rob them of their stem cells etc.)

I would suggest that these forms of liberalism are every bit as extreme and dangerous as the right wing intolerant fundamentalists that they criticize. And if you feel the Magisterium's position on these basic issues of human dignity and life are extreme then you are making a powerful case for the very reason we need the Magisterium. We don't think humanity, or the Catholic Church is at a point where it is, as you suggest, mature enough to govern itself without the Magisterium. We don't think it ever will be.

About Relativism:If everybody's position and point of view is valid like you say, then why are you publicly trying to influence Catholics with your point of view? Why not just leave everybody be and say "oh well, the Catholics believe the Magisterium has the authority, that's their truth and everybody's truth is valid, so it must be valid"?

But that is not your approach. You try to influence people away from that belief because you do not think it is valid. Your prescription for world peace is that you want the whole world to abandon their truths about exclusivity and accept your truth that says "any path that is exclusive is not valid."

You trumpet the virtue of being tolerant, but you are very intolerant of intolerant people. If you, standing at the centre of your belief system, don't even believe your "One God, Many Paths" theory (obvious from the condemnation of "Exclusive" paths) how do you hope that everybody else will, and how on earth do you think it will bring unity? It's like the song "Imagine" by John Lennon. He says, "I hope some day you will join us and the world will be as one." Huh? If everybody joins the same philosophy of course there will be unity.

But what if everybody joins a lie, does that make it true, I think that is like lemmings going over a cliff. And I submit that Relativism is a lie which is obvious because not one person who subscribes to it actually believes it. They say "every belief system is valid" and then turn 180 degrees and make an absolute statement "any system which is exclusive is not valid."

This is completely opposite to what the Pope does. He meets and dialogues and looks for places to cooperate but *never* compromises Christ's message or the message of truth. We have to ask ourselves "what is more important, truth or unity" The Pope puts Truth above unity, with unity a close second. That is how I believe we will approach true tolerance, inclusiveness and unity in diversity.

You are right about the dangers of reading the Bible and taking things out of context. I often deal with fundamentalists who take Bible passages out of context to the dismay of the Truth. Catholics do not have to fall into the trap of fundamentalism is because we have an authority on earth that is higher than the Bible. It is the Magisterium. The reason why I have found our discussions difficult is because you do not hold either the Bible or the Magisterium as the authority.

Now I understand that you will say you only have one authority, God. And then I would ask you how he speaks to you. And you might answer with something warm like. I intuitively know his will because I am a prayerful person. This is Martin Luther's answer. Except, Martin Luther said"God and the Bible" together are the only authority." This new liberal movement has taken it one step further and said"me with God are the only authority"

I would like to quote that I like from the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 & 12 book:

"Of course, it is reasonable and understandable that the question is often asked: "Why can't we take a specific and troubling dilemma straight to God, and in prayer secure from Him sure and definite answers. This can be done, but it has hazards....any man, who tries to run his life ... by this kind of prayer is a particularly disconcerting individual. To any questioning or criticism of his actions he instantly proffers his reliance upon prayer for guidance in all matters great or small. He may have forgotten the possibility that his own wishful thinking and the human tendency to rationalize have distorted his so-called guidance. With the best of intentions, he tends to force his own will into all sorts of situations and problems with the comfortable assurance that he is acting under God's specific direction. Under such an illusion, he can of course create great havoc without in the least intending it." (PG 103-104)

I understand that God often lets us intuitively understand his will, in fact he wants us to pursue it. That is how I came to build my web site. But I also suggest that many of our ideas that we think are from him are nothing but rationalizations. (i.e., a guy says "I'm attracted to men" I guess God made me that way and so I guess its OK) What happens then? The cycle of sin begins and 20 years later Priests in the Netherlands are being dragged to jail for refusing to marry two men. (In another 10 years and it will happen here too!)

We can have a reality check of what we think God is inspiring us about by checking our "inspirations" against what the Magisterium teaches. And the Magisterium will *never* teach something that is against the Bible. That is another Dogma. If our "inspiration" is in conflict with Magisterial teachings (or the Bible), then we probably are dealing with plain old rationalization, instead of "inspiration." Jesus promised to protect the Magisterium from error. The only reason why we can trust the teachings of the Magisterium is because that is what Jesus promised. The Magisterium is not the authority because of the imperfect personalities who make it up during any period of history. It is the authority because that is Jesus' will. History, Scripture, the earliest Christians, Old Testament prophets, and every other lover of truth points to that. That is an absolute statement that is non negotiable, to be a Catholic.

Now you can either believe that God protected the Magisterium or not. But if you don't then you are rejecting the very core belief of Catholicism. And as such, although you may be a "card carrying" Catholic, you have functionally separated yourself from it. Andthat is fine, if you wish to do that.

In a previous email I think I clearly showed line by line that the Lumen Gentium was not what you claim it to be. You have yet to show me a Vat II document that supports the "one God, many paths" philosophy, and where the Magisterium has contradicted itself in the current Catechism. I'm still open to some real evidence to back up your accusations, (and they are accusations, even if couched in beautiful language) against the Magisterium.

Anyway Bert, I guess God has used you and our emails to write the genesis an article on something I wanted to stay away from. Liberal Catholics fighting against the Magisterium. God is so funny, every time I tell him I'm tired and want to stay away from some particular attack on the Church, he always sends me a sincere soul like you, to write a bunch of emails to start off the article to defend his most precious Church.

Topics for "Liberal" Catholics

  1. Women's ordination
  2. Married priests
  3. Gay marriage
  4. Contraception
  5. Abortion
  6. Lumen Gentium
  7. Letter to a liberal
  8. Mary's role
  9. Dogma
  10. Inquisition
  11. Did the church squash women mystics?
  12. Joan of Arc
  13. Galileo
  14. Muslim faith
  15. Why is the Church so slow to change?
  16. Da Vinci Code
  17. Relativism
  18. New Age
  19. Church against women?
  20. Father James Martin's book: Building a Bridge: How the Catholic Church and the LGBT Community ...