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Abortion and Other Evils

Are All Pro-Lifers Men?

Pro-lifers, particularly male pro-lifers, get this objection all the time. Generally it goes like this: “You are a man. Fie on you for speaking about abortion. It behooves you not to even have an opinion!” Some people seem to think that since men cannot get pregnant, they are not allowed to have an opinion about abortion. I have heard a number of persons add that pro-lifers all seem to be white men in particular. Interestingly enough, I have heard the “you are all white men” objection solely from white men. However, I will focus primarily on the question as to whether we are all men before discussing the objection that we are all Caucasians, since I think that is more relevant (and a more common complaint).

First of all, if what pro-choice advocates are saying is that most or all pro-lifers are men, the objection is not even very accurate. Statistics show that there is actually a very narrow difference. From 2015 to 2018, 2015-2018 47% of men and 44% of women in the U.S. typically choose the pro-life label while 50% of women and 46% of men choose the pro-choice label. As a matter of fact, it is roughly equal at about 19% of both men and women who say that abortion should be illegal under all circumstances (I am one of them and in my opinion they are the only true pro-lifers). So I could hardly say it is fair to say we are all men.

More importantly, however, even if we were all men, that would still not discredit the pro-life position, the reason being that the entire argument is an ad hominem. How does the fact that all pro-lifers are male make their logical argumentation less valid? Now a pro-choice advocate might say it does not concern men. In a sense, that is true. Certainly, I am not in utero, for which reason the legality of abortion does not really effect me, nor indeed am I a woman, for which reason I am not about to experience an undesired pregnancy. However, we tell people to do or not to do things which do not effect us all the time. For instance, in the case of protecting the environment, the world will most likely not become inhabitable in our time on account of climate change, much less in the lifetimes of older individuals who are more often the one in charge of such policies. Now many will argue that on account of them being older, they do not seem to care about doing their job to combat pollution and other such things as much. That may be true, but it is not the point. Certainly they ought to try to protect the environment, though perhaps not for their own sake, for the sake of future generations. Honestly, I myself am glad to have been given the chance to be born and I would like others to have a similar chance. If a fetus is a human person, does not a man have as much right to speak out for those who have no voices as a woman does?

And second of all, are all the pro-lifers actually white? According to pew research in 2021, the pro-life stance is most common among Caucasians, as 42% say abortion should be illegal in most or all cases, although they are actually followed closely by Hispanic people at 40%. 31% of African-Americans and 30% of Asians hold the same view. I would note that Hispanic people are actually very close to Caucasians while African-Americans and Asians are about ten lower and also at roughly at the same level.

But again, this is another ad hominem, and a somewhat racist one as well. Whatever does the color of one’s skin have to do with abortion? Is it racist for a white person to oppose abortion because black people are more likely to get pregnant out of wedlock? That is like saying one wishes to legalize drugs to keep African-Americans out of prison. For cultural reasons mostly, drugs are unfortunately more common in the African-American community, but it is still somewhat unreasonable to say it is “helping” African-Americans more than any other group to de-criminalize drugs on that account, since it is not as if persons of African descent have a greater temptation toward cannabis or cocaine than any other group—and the same could be said of abortion. But whatever is the case, again it could be said that none of this discredits the logic of the arguments of pro-lifers. Indeed (and I say this as a minority myself) how can it not be anything but racist to claim that a human being should not have an opinion on a given issue (especially an issue which does not concern race whatsoever) on account of the color of his skin?

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On Protestants

Was Augustine a Protestant?

I read St. Augustine’s work, On Grace and Free Will some time ago. I meant to write a post on it, but never got around to it. I am bringing this up because it is frequently claimed by the Reformed camp that Augustine taught Justification by Faith Alone and double predestination. Concerning double predestination, all I can say is that they clearly have not read it. In the very first sentence (as Augustine sets out to write about for the entire book), he states, “With reference to those persons who so preach and defend man’s free will, as boldly to deny, and endeavor to do away with, the grace of God which calls us to Him, and delivers us from our evil deserts, and by which we obtain the good deserts which lead to everlasting life: we have already said a good deal in discussion, and committed it to writing, so far as the Lord has vouchsafed to enable us. But since there are some persons who so defend God’s grace as to deny man’s free will, or who suppose that free will is denied when grace is defended, I have determined to write somewhat on this point to your Love, my brother Valentinus, and the rest of you, who are serving God together under the impulse of a mutual love.” Throughout the book, he could not be plainer. In chapter two, he states, “There is, to begin with, the fact that God’s precepts themselves would be of no use to a man unless he had free choice of will, so that by performing them he might obtain the promised rewards.” Clearly, since St. Augustine believed in such free will, he believed Man had a choice as to whether he was saved or damned. I will say no more on the matter.

Before I am accused of Catholic bias, I will point out that Martin Luther himself stated: 

“Augustine has sometimes erred and is not to be trusted. Although good and holy, he was yet lacking in the true faith, as well as the other fathers…But when the door was opened for me in Paul, so that I understood what justification by faith is, it was all over with Augustine.” (Luther’s Works 54, 49) 

But let us examine Augustine’s words ourselves. One quote worth bringing up is the following: 

“‘He was handed over for our offenses, and he rose again for our justification.’ What does this mean, ‘for our justification’? So that he might justify us, so that he might make us just. You will be a work of God, not only because you are a man, but also because you are just. For it is better that you be just than that you are a man. If God made you a man, and you made yourself just, something you were doing would be better than what God did. But God made you without any cooperation on your part. You did not lend your consent so that God could make you. How could you have consented, when you did not exist? But he who made you without your consent does not justify you without your consent. He made you without your knowledge, but he does not justify you without your willing it” (Sermons 169:13 [inter A.D. 391-430]).

As before, this shows that God wishes a man to consent to allowing His grace to work in his life (ruling out the claim that Augustine was a Calvinist. Furthermore, Augustine believes God makes us just and does not simply “declare” us just—which is the Catholic position as oppose to the Protestant. But if this is not proof enough, let me point the reader to one more thing he said:

“Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead are benefited by the piety of their living friends, who offer the sacrifice of the Mediator, or give alms in the church on their behalf. But these services are of advantage only to those who during their lives have earned such merit, that services of this kind can help them. For there is a manner of life which is neither so good as not to require these services after death, nor so bad that such services are of no avail after death; there is, on the other hand, a kind of life so good as not to require them; and again, one so bad that when life is over they render no help.” (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Love 110)

So Augustine believed in Purgatory and that those who are living can make benefit for them on earth.

Augustine was not Protestant.

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On Protestants

A Biblical Defense of the Baptism of Infants

Fundamentalists and evangelicals have been known to object to the Catholic Church’s teaching on baptism of infants. They usually claim that one should not be baptized until he can choose for himself to accept Christ as his Lord and Savior. This is partially because, unlike Catholics (and some more mainline Protestants), to them baptism is only a symbol rather than an actual sacrament by which someone becomes a Christian and is purified from sin. Since only adults and older children can really accept Christ for himself (for one thing, two-month-olds probably do not have sin), only such persons should be baptized. Following I will explain why it is scriptural to support infant baptism.

Now our Lord said in John 3:5, that no one can enter heaven unless he has been born again of water and the Holy Spirit. At another time, He asserted, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 19:14)

Now Baptists and others would probably say that this refers to older children who can walk. I suppose I see why one might come to that conclusion. However, the parallel passage in Luke 18:15 states: “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he might touch them.” The greek is βρέφη (bréphe), which in Greek literally means “baby”. Such persons were most likely far too adorable to walk.

Now, probably the most common objection to this is that although it says nowhere in the Bible that baptism is restricted to adults (although, by the way, baptism of infants is clearly condemned in the Book of Mormon, not that that matters (see Moroni 8:12)), it never mentions infants being baptized. I hardly think this is problematic. For one thing, at the beginning of the Church, it was usually adults who ended up converting. There were no cradle Christians and most babies are not likely to convert on their own accord (I mean to say, perhaps Grogu would, since he is strong in the Force, but generally speaking, most would not).

However, I think it is actually stronger evidence that we never once in all of scripture read of a child who is not baptized until after he has made a decision in Christ. If infant baptism were not part of Christian teaching, one would suppose that children of Christian parents would join the Church only after they reached the age of reason. However, nowhere in scripture does it say this. It can therefore be reasonably concluded that, as baptizing was a Christian practice, infants were not excluded from it.

Nevertheless, I can do better than that. Does the Bible ever say that infants and young children can be baptized? As a matter of fact, I can. In Acts 16:15, we read that Lydia was converted by Paul’s preaching  “she was baptized, with her household”. Again, we read the jailer whom Paul and Silas converted to the Faith Acts 16:33 “was baptized at once, with all his family.” Again, in 1 Corinthians 1:16, Paul says, “I did baptize also the household of Stephanas.” This must include more than just the spouse or else Paul would have said “I did baptize Stephanas and his wife.” The same could be said of the other mentions of households in Scripture.

Now, a Baptist might say that we do not know the exact ages of the children, which is correct. In some of these, they may have all been above the age of reason, but then again, just as likely if not more so, they might have been infants. However, the New Testament gives a pattern of whole households being baptized. Since it is not explicit one way or the other—and infants are not mentioned as an exception—we can assume that whole households ought to include infants.

Furthermore, Paul places baptism as the new (and much less painful unless the baptized person is drowned) version of circumcision. “In him also you were circumcised,” Paul says, “with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of flesh in the circumcision of Christ; and you were buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.” (Colossians 2:11-12) The comparison would have been an appropriate one. In the Old Testament, if an elderly man wished to become a Jew, he would have to believe in God and be circumcised. In the New Testament, such an old man wishing to become a Christian would have to believe in God and be baptized. In that way, since the children of Jews were typically circumcised in infancy, it makes sense that the children of Christians would be baptized in infancy in anticipation of the Faith in which they would indeed be raised (unless, of course, something similar were to happen to them as happened to Grogu and the other Jedi younglings and they were killed or taken from the Jedi temple before they could be indoctrinated by a cult into following the “Jedi way”).

Now, a Fundamentalist or evangelical type might say that baptism requires faith and therefore, since an infant cannot have actual faith, he should not be baptized.  Although infants are included in the law he establishes, requirements of that law that are impossible to meet because of their age are not applicable to them. The same was true of circumcision; faith in the Lord was necessary for an adult convert to receive it, but it was not necessary for the children of believers. It is true that Christ prescribed instruction and actual faith for adult converts, but his general law on the necessity of baptism (John 3:5) puts no restriction on the subjects of baptism.

For instance, in John 8:24, our Lord says: “I told you that you would die in your sins, for you will die in your sins unless you believe that I am he.” Surely, no Christian would claim that, since infants cannot believe, they are all going to hell. Yet it does not say “unless you believe that I am he—unless you happen to be an infant.” But He simply says, “unless you believe that I am he.” So unless a Baptist is going to claim that all infants are going to hell, there is no reason to presume they should not be baptized.

“Baptize first the children, and if they can speak for themselves let them do so. Otherwise, let their parents or other relatives speak for them”—St. Hippolytus The Apostolic Tradition 21:16 (A.D. 215)

“Every soul that is born into flesh is soiled by the filth of wickedness and sin. . . . In the Church, baptism is given for the remission of sins, and, according to the usage of the Church, baptism is given even to infants. If there were nothing in infants which required the remission of sins and nothing in them pertinent to forgiveness, the grace of baptism would seem superfluous”—Origen, Homilies on Leviticus 8:3 (A.D. 248)

“The custom of Mother Church in baptizing infants is certainly not to be scorned, nor is it to be regarded in any way as superfluous, nor is it to be believed that its tradition is anything except apostolic”—St. Augustine, The Literal Interpretation of Genesis 10:23:39 (A.D. 408)

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All verses are from the Revised Standard Version

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On Protestants

A Biblical Defense of the Divinity of the Holy Spirit

Happy Fourth of July! I apologize that this article has nothing to do with the Fourth of July, but the Holy Spirit is more important than America anyway so be happy with that.

Now whenever Catholics make the sign of the cross, they say “In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Ironically, in spite of the fact that we reference His divinity all the time, a lot of trinitarians, including my fellow Catholics, forget the fact that the Holy Spirit is literally God. In my third grade Sunday school, a teacher kept on referring to the Holy Spirit as “it” and I got annoyed. The same teacher, I believe, was also under the impression that Christ might have sinned at some point in his life and I (the third grader) corrected her. I do not know what I would do now, but my eight-year-old self was not afraid to suppose that I knew more than the teacher about theology (and perhaps I did). In the meanwhile, there are many other sects which outright deny the divinity of the Holy Spirit and even His personhood, claiming that the Holy Spirit is the force or power which comes from God, rather than as God himself. I seek to prove from scripture in this following article that first, the Holy Spirit is a Person and second that He is God.

A common reason for supposing that the Spirit is an impersonal force is on account of the Greek word pneuma which is neuter. One might say that although Father and Son are personal, masculine terms, it can be concluded that they are Persons while the Spirit is not. However, first of all, Greek nouns do not always follow natural gender. For instance, the Greek word rhabdos, meaning “wand”, is masculine as well. However, unless we think that Gandalf’s wizard staff in The Lord of the Rings should be considered a separate member of the Fellowship (Gandalf’s staff’s arc is so relatable, do you not think?) we should suppose that the fact that “wand” is a masculine noun does not necessarily mean the wand is a person. If we are really supposed to conclude from the reference to the Holy Spirit as spirit that He is impersonal, we must say the same of the Father, as it is written, “God is spirit (pneuma), and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (John 4:24) And again it is written of the angels, “Are they not all ministering spirits (pneumata) sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?” (Hebrews 1:14) So according to this logic, both God and the angels are impersonal forces. 

Following this reasoning, in John 14:26, it is written, “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.” The word for “Counselor” here is Paraklētos, a masculine noun, not neuter. More importantly, there are the words “he will teach you all things”. The word for “he” here is ekeinos, which is masculine. St. John could have used ekeino, the neuter, but he did not. As it is, “he” implies a Person, not an impersonal force. And if the Holy Spirit is to “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you”, He is clearly a person, as action follows from being. Many other verses seem to bear a similar message:

“And I will pray the Father, and he will give you another Counselor, to be with you for ever, even the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it neither sees him nor knows him; you know him, for he dwells with you, and will be in you.”—John 14:16-17

“But when the Counselor comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness to me; and you also are witnesses, because you have been with me from the beginning.”—John 15:26-27

“Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth; for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you. All that the Father has is mine; therefore I said that he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”—John 16:7-15

If the Holy Spirit teaches the truth, speaks, and declares things that are to come, He is personal.

This comes to a fair objection that the Holy Spirit is described as being “poured out” once or twice in the Bible. A good example of this is Acts 2:14-18:

 But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them, “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words. For these men are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day; but this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And in the last days it shall be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams; yea, and on my menservants and my maidservants in those days I will pour out my Spirit; and they shall prophesy.

This is an excellent point and I see why someone would bring it up. However, I would not say this proves anything. In Psalm 22:4, a messianic psalm dealing with Christ’s passion, the Psalmist says, “I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint; my heart is like wax, it is melted within my breast.” Hence Christ, who is clearly a Person, can also be poured out.

But if the above is not proof enough, I would also argue that Scripture says the Holy Spirit is omniscient. Paul states in 1 Corinthians 2:11, “For what person knows a man’s thoughts except the spirit of the man which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God.” It would require infinite knowledge to comprehend the thoughts of God, which are infinite. (see Rom. 11:33-34)

But perhaps it is most important to consider Hebrews 3:7-10,

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says, “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion, on the day of testing in the wilderness, where your fathers put me to the test and saw my works for forty years. Therefore I was provoked with that generation, and said, ‘They always go astray in their hearts; they have not known my ways.’

From this it can be concluded that the Holy Spirit is identifying himself with God, for He identifies himself as the one who said: “They always go astray in their hearts; they have not known my ways” and was provoked by the Hebrews in the wilderness.

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All biblical passages are from the Revised Standard Version

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The Saints

Bl. Vasyl Velychkovsky

No one guessed which saint I was going to do today… Now I am depressed…

Continuing my series about saints, I have chosen someone who is not technically canonized yet, but he is a blessed who has a feast day, so he counts close enough. His name is Bl. Vasyl Velychkovsky.

Vasyl was born in Stanislaviv, in then Austria-Hungary on June 1, 1903 (an excellent day and year which I remember vividly). In 1920 he entered the seminary in Lviv and five years later, he was ordained a priest and took religious vows in the Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, better known as the Redemptorists. In other words, he was a priest-monk type (or so I can put it no plainer). He preached and taught in Volyn. In 1942 he became abbot of the monastery in a city called Ternopil. What happens next is the fault of the Communists. (they may be the ones a person would always blame if he sees the green-skinned Wood-Elves in the 1977 cartoon, The Hobbit, but that can be ignored).

Bl. Vasyl was arrested in 1945 by the NKVD and sent to Kiev during the religious persecution. The official punishment was death, but the Soviets nicely changed it to ten years in hard labor (in other words, a cruel concentration camp) because they were just so nice in that way.

On release in 1955 Vasyl went back to Lviv, and was ordained a bishop in 1963. What the Soviets should have learned from the Romans is that persecution never works to actually quell Christianity and the proper way to do so is to make Christians grow comfortable and lukewarm, but apparently the Soviets were no history scholars. In 1969 Vasyl was imprisoned again for three years for his religious activities. Released in 1972, he was exiled outside the USSR. He then did what anyone does if he does not like the political climate at the time—he moved to Canada. He went to God on account of his injuries from prison in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on June 30, 1973. He was seventy years old (why his feast day is three days too early, I do not know.

Thirty years after his death, Vasyl Velychkovsky’s body was found to be almost incorrupt, except for the fact that his toes had fallen off, which were subsequently divided to be used as holy relics (it is a very Catholic thing to distribute body parts of holy people throughout the world, by the way).

He was beatified in 2001 by Pope St. John Paul II. On July 20, 2014, at the Marian Shrine of Our Lady of Zarvanytsia in Ukraine, Sviatoslav Shevchuk, Major Archbishop of Kyiv-Halych, solemnly proclaimed Vasyl patron of prison ministry for the Ukrainian Greek-Catholic Church. A prison minister might as well pray to him—especially, I think, if the minister is trying to share Christ with the inmates. Also, if the reader happens to be a prisoner somewhere under the charge of religious activity (which I sincerely hope is not the case now) or risking it (which is also unfortunate), I think you ought to ask Bl. Vasyl for his intercession.

Bl. Vasyl Velychkovsky

Pray for us

Bl. Vasyl Velychkovsky

Categories
The Saints

St. Florentina of Cartagena

I have been feeling somewhat overwhelmed with school lately (or rather, I had been feeling busy when I wrote this; by the time this is posted, it will be summer). So I decided to do something a little different this week—that is, talk about a saint, specifically a lesser known one. Today, June 20, is the feast of St. Florentina of Cartagena and she is the topic of discussion for this article.

St. Florentina was born in roughly the middle of the sixth century in Cartagena, Spain. She was raised a Christian and her family definitely definitely had no deficit of…sanctity. She had three brothers, St. Leander, St. Isidore, and St. Fulgentius—which means she had a lot of saints. They became Iberian bishops in the time of the Visigothic dominion, so there were a lot of clergy as well in her family and she never got any nieces or nephews (or, according to the gender neutral term, “nephlings”). Unfortunately, I do not have any clergy in my immediate family. My father was one of thirteen and raised Catholic, but only three of them actually kept the Catholic Faith. My mother was raised Protestant. I have two sisters—neither of whom, of course, are eligible to become clergymen, but they do not seem to be discerning a religious vocation at the moment. Well, hopefully they will at least become saints. At the moment, I do not have anyone canonized in the family…

Anyway, returning to St. Florentina, her older brother, St. Leander, actually entered the monastic life before becoming a bishop. He seems to have been a good influence on his younger sister, since he led her to also have interest in the ascetic life. Florentina associated herself with a number of virgins and started a religious community. Their convent is said to have been the convent of S. Maria de Valle near Ecija (Astigis), where Florentina’s brother, St. Fulgentius, was bishop.

The exact date she became a nun is not known, but it must have occurred before 601, since her brother, St. Leander, who died in 600 or 601, wrote an extant work for her dealing with a nun’s rule of life and with contempt for the world (“Regula sive Libellus de institutione virginum et de contemptu mundi ad Florentinam sororem”, P.L. LXXII, 873 sqq.). Leander lays out a rule for how cloistered sisters should live their lives. He strongly advises them to avoid interaction with women living in the world, and with men, especially youths. He advises strict temperance in eating and drinking, gives advice concerning the reading of and meditation on Scripture, enjoins equal love and friendship for all those living together in community, and exhorts his sister earnestly to remain true to her holy state in life. Florentina regulated her life according to her brothers advice.

It might also be noted that St. Isidore wrote a work called De Fide Catholica Contra Judæos which he wrote at his sister’s request and dedicated to her. It is unknown precisely when she died, but it must have been in the early seventh century. She is only venerated as the patroness of the diocese of Plasencia, but I think it also reasonable to call on her if the reader happens to be a young woman, or even a young person in general, who is discerning a religious or monastic vocation. Those currently living the monastic or cloistered lifestyle might as well call on her if they are feeling discouraged or wearied by their life. And in general, one more saint to pray to can never hurt.

Next week, I will probably be doing another saint and see if I can start a series. For those of you who are disappointed by the lack of apologetics in this article, never fear: the Chivalric Apologist will return! In the meanwhile, I want you to guess on whom I will write next. It will be on June 27 and I seem to be able to find seventeen saints whose feasts fall on those days. It will be someone I had not heard of before, since I think the lesser known saints are in more need of articles.

St. Florentina of Cartagena

Pray for us

St. Florentina
Categories
On Protestants

A Biblical Defense of the Bodily Assumption of Mary

I have stalled long enough, though I have basically defended every other Marian doctrine. This week, I would like to defend the bodily Assumption of the Mother of God into heaven from Scripture. Most or nearly all Protestants reject this claim as unbiblical. I suppose I understand that from those who adhere to Sola Scriptura, since it is not directly described in Scripture. Still, it is there, which I will describe as follows.

The corporeal assumption of Mary into heaven, as oppose to certain other Marian doctrines such as the Spiritual Maternity, the Immaculate Conception, the Dispensatrix of Graces, and the Heavenly Queenship, is actually quite simple to comprehend. In short, the doctrine states that “the Immaculate Mother of God, the ever Virgin Mary, having completed the course of her earthly life, was assumed body and soul into heavenly glory.” (Munificentissimus Deus 44)

A Protestant must accept this, at least in theory, is possible, since the same happened to Enoch and Elijah. Many Protestants furthermore believe that it will happen to all true Christians in the End Times. So, unless the Bible says specifically that the Virgin died, Protestants cannot rule that out as a possibility.

Typically, Protestants deny the Immaculate Conception. I think the Assumption makes logical sense from the premise that the Mother of God was conceived without stain of Original Sin. I defended that doctrine here, for those who are interested. The point is, Mary did not have the guilt of Original Sin, so it is unfitting that she would share in their punishment by her corpse decomposing.

It can also be noted that Jesus was born under the law (Galatians 4:4) and followed the command to honor His father and mother. The Hebrew word for “honor” does not imply bestowing mere courtesy, but the bestowal of honor and glory. By preserving Mary’s body from corruption, Jesus fulfills the command to honor his mother in a way that only a divine Son could.

So, where does it say specifically in the Bible that Mary was assumed into heaven? I quote this passage at length:

“Then God’s temple in heaven was opened, and the ark of his covenant was seen within his temple; and there were flashes of lightning, voices, peals of thunder, an earthquake, and heavy hail. And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars;  she was with child and she cried out in her pangs of birth, in anguish for delivery. And another portent appeared in heaven; behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and seven diadems upon his heads. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven, and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to bear a child, that he might devour her child when she brought it forth; she brought forth a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which to be nourished for one thousand two hundred and sixty days.” Revelation 11:19-12:6

This presumably comes to the first, obvious objection: how do you know this is Mary? Well, Protestants will immediately raise a number of objections. Their usual interpretation is that she is a remnant of the kingdom of Israel. I would not say that this has nothing to do with Israel, but more importantly she is both Mary and the Church. The term is polyvalent symbolism. For example, The beast in Revelation 13 is a fusion of the four beasts in Daniel 7. As Protestant author Gregory Beale writes: “Most of Revelation’s symbols have multiple associations or meanings and the interpreter can never be sure that all the multiple meanings of a symbol have been discovered.” (John’s Use of the Old Testament in Revelation, 59)

My problem is that the excessive persecution of the woman by the dragon described in this section does not make sense if she is a remnant of the kingdom of Israel. The Christian remnant was rarely singled out for persecution. Certain Christians, in fact, thought that Gentiles should not be allowed to be baptized unless they were first circumcised—although this was, of course, condemned in Acts 15. Now a Protestant might point out the Jewish Wars and the terrible destruction of the temple in A.D. 70, but Christians were not singled out then. In fact, the Christians received Christ’s warning. If Protestants are admitting that this refers to the Jews in general as well as the Christian remnant of them, this is admitting to polyvalent symbolism. Some Protestants would insist that Christians who held onto their Jewish traditions were looked down upon in the Medieval period, but to the best of my knowledge, they were not openly persecuted. I imagine Jewish Christians were killed by the Ottomans, but also were practicing Jews and gentile Christians. At any rate, I am doubtful that this passage was talking about simply something that occurred mainly during the Middle Ages, without reference to the early Church or Church history in general. So it makes sense that Revelation is referring to the persecution of the Church by Satan.

Some would argue that since the woman is referred to as a “portent”, she cannot be a literal mother, but since she is also referred to as a “sign” in Isaiah 7:14, I do not think this to be particularly strong. Others would say that this cannot be the “Catholic” Mary, because she had birth-pangs, which are a result of Original Sin, which she did not have (see Genesis 3:16, Isaiah 66:7). However, her birth pangs were, as Simeon prophesied, “a sword will pierce through your own soul also.” (Luke 2:35) Her “pangs of birth” began at the Annunciation and would continue from the cradle to the cross, where she suffered with her Son as prophesied by Simeon to be painfully fulfilled in John 19. So the supposition that this refers to Mary at least in part makes the most logical sense, because she gives birth to Christ. In some sense, at any rate, the woman is Mary. Protestant scholar Ben Witherington agrees, “I would suggest, then, that this figure is both the literal mother of the male child Jesus and also the female image of the people of God. Again, the text is multivalent!” (What Have They Done with Jesus?: Beyond Strange Theories and Bad History—Why We Can Trust the Bible 130)

If it follows that she is Mary, this begs another question: how do I know that Mary was assumed into heaven based on this passage? First of all, it should be noted that she is described as “a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars”. So it seems she has a body. One might question why this matters since Revelation obviously uses symbolism in its descriptions. However, when referring to the dead, John refers to, “souls of those who had been slain”. (Revelation 6:9) Again, in Hebrews, there is referenced, “the spirits of just men made perfect”. (Hebrews 12:23) She, however, is seemingly described as corporeal.

More importantly, directly before the first mention of the woman clothed in the sun, the Ark of the Covenant is revealed to be in heaven. There were no chapters and verses when John wrote it, which means this was all written in the same breath. This is not the first time Mary was associated with the Ark of the Covenant in Scripture. In Luke 1:35, St. Gabriel says to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.” The word for “overshadow”, ἐπεσκίαζω/episkíazo is used in Exodus 40:35 and Numbers 9:18,22 when God came to dwell in the Ark.

The similarities do not end there. In 2 Samuel 6:9, David declares: “How can the ark of the Lord come to me?” David then took the Ark aside to the house of Obededom the Gittite and it remained there for three months. In Luke 1:43, Elizabeth declares, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Mary then remains in the house of Elizabeth for three months—only to name a few of the many places in Scripture where Mary seems to fulfill the role of the Ark.

The Ark of the Covenant was the holiest object in Israel because it contained the bread from heaven, the staff of Aaron, and the Ten Commandments and because the Spirit of God overshadowed it. Uzzah died for touching it without permission. (2 Samuel 6:6-7) Let us not even get started on the Philistines in 1 Samuel 4-6 who tried to steal the Ark who kept on getting tumors yet persevered nonetheless (until it turned out that the Philistines who lived in Ekron finally had some common sense at any rate…). 

So considering the reverence God commands for an inanimate object, one might suppose that God would not allow the woman who gave His Son a human nature by which He might die for our sins, whose room was a tabernacle where God Himself corporeally dwelt, to decompose and become tasty and immaculate food for worms.

The reader probably groaned at that one.

Now since the Ark of the Covenant is revealed to be in heaven in Revelation, as makes logical sense because Mary is the New Ark of the Covenant, it is reasonable to assume (no pun intended) that she was bodily assumed into heaven. Mary’s body is in heaven, since her body is the Ark of the New Covenant.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

All Scripture passages are from the Revised Standard Version

Categories
On Catholics

What is Papal Infallibility?

Today, I will explain Papal Infallibility. I wish I could say this is directed at fundamentalists and evangelicals. Indeed, of all areas in fundamentalist apologetics, I have seen nothing more straw than what is written on Papal Infallibility. Unfortunately, many Catholics fall into the same error. For instance, Ann Barnhardt, among the first promulgators of beneplenism, states:

“So, since we have already established that assenting to Bergoglio’s heresies and apostasies and eventually entering into the Antichurch which he is constructing is to deny Christ, then it MUST logically follow that Bergoglio is not Peter, and Bergoglio is NOT the STANDARD of schism, but rather the VECTOR of schism.  Schism is the disease, and Bergoglio is the TICK that spreads it.  The True Peter cannot be the vector of schism, and the standard of schism, because Peter cannot both BE and NOT BE The Rock.  This is called the Law of Non-contradiction. Something cannot be both itself AND its negation.  It is also called ‘God’s infinite, unfailing love for His Church and mankind.’  It’s also called, ‘common sense.’”

I find it odd that she would claim that Francis cannot be Peter for denying Christ. (see Matt. 26:34) Right after Christ calls Peter “the Rock” (Matt. 16:18), by the way, He names him “the stumbling block” (Matt. 16:23). I will not call Pope Francis a heretic, as God alone can judge the Pope. Still, even if he were a formal heretic, that would not disprove the teachings of the Catholic Church nor the validity of his pontificate.

Anyway, we must understand what papal infallibility actually is. As defined by the First Vatican Council, papal infallibility occurs when “the Roman Pontiff, when he speaks ex Cathedra, that is, when in discharge of the office of Pastor and Teacher of all Christians, by virtue of his supreme Apostolic authority, he defines a doctrine regarding faith or morals to be held by the Universal Church, by the divine assistance promised to him in blessed Peter, is possessed of that infallibility with which the divine Redeemer willed that His Church should be endowed for defining doctrine regarding faith or morals: and that therefore such definitions of the Roman Pontiff are irreformable of themselves, and not from the consent of the Church.” (Pastor Aeternus IV:9) This very rarely happens. In fact, most Popes go their entire pontificates without defining any dogma. I have heard, in fact, that this has only occurred with the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption since its dogmatic definition. This does not mean that this is all we must believe, as there is such a thing as conciliar infallibility. All Ecumenical Councils are infallible on the grounds of faith and morals. There have been twenty-two of them so far, including the Council of Jerusalem in Acts 15. Some would object that John 17:17 states, “Sanctify them in the truth; thy word is truth”, claiming that God alone is infallible. I do not think this particularly strong, seeing that they view every book in the Bible as infallible, in spite of the fact that they were written by inspired authors, not channeled by the Holy Spirit Himself. The Pope is never infallible by his own power.

Now, I should probably mention the usual objection to this produced by Catholics saying that nothing Popes say can be ambiguous or heretical. Earlier on in this chapter, Pastor Aeternus says:

“And the Roman Pontiffs, according to the exigencies of times and circumstances, sometimes assembling Ecumenical Councils, or asking for the mind of the Church scattered throughout the world, sometimes by particular Synods, sometimes using other helps which Divine Providence supplied, defined as to be held those things which, with the help of God, they had recognized as conformable with the Sacred Scriptures and Apostolic Traditions. For the Holy Spirit was not promised to the successors of Peter that by His revelation they might make known new doctrine, but that by His assistance they might inviolably keep and faithfully expound the Revelation, the Deposit of Faith, delivered through the Apostles.

“And indeed, all the venerable Fathers have embraced, and the holy orthodox Doctors have venerated and followed, their Apostolic doctrine; knowing most fully that this See of holy Peter remains ever free from all blemish of error, according to the Divine promise that the Lord our Savior made to the Prince of His disciples: ‘But I have prayed for you, so that your faith may not fail, and so that you, once converted, may confirm your brothers.’ (Lk 22:32). 

“This gift, then, of truth and never-failing faith was conferred by heaven upon Peter and his successors in this Chair, that they might perform their high office for the salvation of all; that the whole flock of Christ, kept away from the poisonous food of error by them, might be nourished with the pasture of heavenly doctrine; that the occasion of schism being removed, the whole Church might be kept one, and, resting on its foundation, might stand firm against the gates of Hell.”

Pastor Aeternus IV:6-7

So some have alleged that the “gift of truth and never-failing faith” prevents the Pope from falling into any sort of heresy, apostasy, or schism which would put him outside of the Church. The main problem with this argument is that it proves more than it intends. “And indeed, all the venerable Fathers have embraced, and the holy orthodox Doctors have venerated and followed, their Apostolic doctrine; knowing most fully that this See of holy Peter remains ever free from all blemish of error.” All blemish of error includes not only formal but also material heresy. “This gift, then, of truth and never-failing faith was conferred by heaven upon Peter and his successors in this Chair, that they might perform their high office for the salvation of all.” But if the gift of never-failing faith means that he can never commit a mortal sin against the virtue of faith, then the gift of truth should mean that all the Pope’s teachings are infallible—an idea which to the best of my knowledge no theologian has ever claimed. As shown above, the Council goes on soon after to give the exact conditions for when the Pope’s teachings are “free from all blemish of error”. He is only protected by these gifts when he is speaking “in this Chair”, that is, Ex Cathedra.

Most theologians after Vatican I would agree with me. This is significant, unless one is going to argue that all these reputable theologians were heretics. For instance, Noort writes:

“All theologians admit that the pope can make a mistake in matters of faith and morals when so speaking: either by proposing a false opinion in a matter not yet defined, or by innocently differing from some doctrine already defined. Theologians disagree, however, over the question of whether the pope can become a formal heretic by stubbornly clinging to an error in a matter already defined. The more probable and respectful opinion, followed by Suárez, Bellarmine and many others, holds that just as God has not till this day ever permitted such a thing to happen, so too he never will permit a pope to become a formal and public heretic. Still, some competent theologians do concede that the pope when not speaking ex cathedra could fall into formal heresy.”

Msgr. G. Van Noort Christ’s Church. p. 294 1957

And again Coronata:

“It cannot be proven however that the Roman Pontiff, as a private teacher, cannot become a heretic — if, for example, he would contumaciously deny a previously defined dogma. Such impeccability was never promised by God.  Indeed, Pope Innocent III expressly admits such a case is possible.” (M. Coronata, Institutiones Iuris Canonici (Rome: Marietti, 1950), vol. 1, p. 316.)

And Fr. E. Sylvester Berry in 1955 says:

“The Council declared the Roman Pontiff personally infallible when speaking officially as head of the universal Church, but left untouched the question whether the Pope in his private capacity, or in his official capacity as bishop, primate or patriarch, can fall into heresy or teach heresy.Some theologians maintain that he can. Straub cites Hadrian II and Innocent III as favoring this opinion.”

The Church of Christ: An Apologetic and Dogmatic Treatise, p. 273

Horatius Mazzella, S.J. in 1915 says:

“By virtue of the gift of infallibility, the Pontiff cannot fall into heresy when he speaks ‘ex cathedra’: this was defined in the Vatican Council. But the theologians dispute whether he can, as a private person, become a true heretic, adhering publicly and pertinaciously to an error against faith.”

Praelectiones Scholastico-Dogmaticae, Vol I, Torino, 1915, p. 545.

Finally, in an article published in 1974, Cardinal Sticker said no theologian believes a Pope is unable to fall into formal heresy:

“First of all it is necessary to say that the prerogative of infallibility of office does not prevent the pope as a person from sinning and therefore from becoming personally even a heretic. In fact, no theologian today, even if he accept unconditionally the infallibility of the Roman pontiff, asserts thereby that the pope, speaking in the abstract, cannot personally become a heretic.”

The Catholic Historical Review, 1974, Vol. 60, No. 3

I honestly do not see why a Pope cannot become a manifest heretic, unless we are to assume the Faithful would follow him blindly into error. After all, examining history, many Popes have lived scandalous lives in other ways. The whole point of this is to say that whether you like him or not, even if you think he is spewing heresies every day, Pope Francis is the successor of Peter and we owe him our submission. Papal infallibility does not mean that we cannot disagree with him. Also, the fact that Popes in the past have disagreed with each other does not render Catholicism false. Fundamentalists should seriously make sure that they know what papal infallibility is before trying to prove it wrong. The Catholic doctrine of papal infallibility and the fundamentalist propaganda about it are two entirely different and completely contrary ideas.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

Categories
On Orthodox & Mormons

Three Common Anti-Mormon Myths

I know it seems odd for a Catholic to be writing this, but I think this is very important for us, as Catholics and especially as apologists, to keep in mind, first of all because I know what it is like to have my beliefs straw-manned as a Catholic and so, according the the Golden Rule, it would be wrong to do the same to others and second, if we really want converts from Mormonism, we should make sure we understand their doctrines correctly. Without further ado, therefore, let us discuss three common anti-Mormon myths. I am only discussing the current official Mormon doctrine. Whether the Presidents and Elders previously taught something different is none of my concern.

Mormons believe God lives on a planet called Kolob

First of all, Kolob is not a planet, but a star mentioned in the Book of Abraham. According to Abraham 3:9, God said to Abraham: “And thus there shall be the reckoning of the time of one planet above another, until thou come nigh unto Kolob, which Kolob is after the reckoning of the Lord’s time; which Kolob is set nigh unto the throne of God, to govern all those planets which belong to the same order as that upon which thou standest.” So it does not say God lives on Kolob or in its system, but simply that he lives near it. This is actually not too incredible since Anthropomorphites—in other words, in their view God the Father has a body and has always had one. I suppose it is not too incredible that such a God’s physical throne could be located somewhere in the universe (although we, as Catholics, can fairly say that heaven is not in the universe, of course). God apparently reckons His time by that star. I do not know what that means, but it is difficult to understand, for example, the passage in Genesis about the Nephilim as well. It is certainly not incredible, all the same, that God can name a star if He so wills.

Mormons believe women cannot be deified

Catholics, of course, believe no one can be deified in an absolute sense. However, Mormons would argue that “As man now is, God once was; as God now is, man may be”, does seem to extend to women. As a matter of fact, in LDS doctrine, God is married to one goddess. An argument could be made that the truth is more heretical than the anti-Mormon myth. However, there is a Heavenly Mother according to LDS doctrine. According to their viewpoint, “No matter to what heights God has attained or may attain, he does not stand alone; for side by side with him, in all her glory, a glory like unto his, stands a companion, the Mother of his children. For as we have a Father in heaven, so also we have a Mother there, a glorified, exalted, ennobled Mother.” (Elder Melvin J. Ballard, Sermons and Mission Services of Melvin Joseph Ballard, 205)

If that is not evidence enough for the LDS belief, see the following quote from President Rudger Clawson, “It doesn’t take from our worship of the Eternal Father, to adore our Eternal Mother, any more than it diminishes the love we bear our earthly fathers, to include our earthly mothers in our affections. In fact, the love of one is a compliment of our love for the other.” (“Our Mother in Heaven,” Millennial Star 72, September 29, 1910).

I am not saying this is a good thing. As a Catholic, I do not approve of worshipping goddesses or claiming that God is married to them. However, I want to make sure people understand what Latter-day Saints actually believe rather than a contrived version of their doctrine. I am not entirely sure whether a Mormon would agree to saying they “worship” the Heavenly Mother, but if they hold her in equally high honor and regard as they do the Father, that is technically worship. She does not take much part in their formal worship, but she is still seen to be there and be worthy of honor.

Mormons believe that God had conjugal relations with the Blessed Mother

Thank goodness this is not true. It is certainly not the official LDS doctrine at any rate. It seems it is thought that Jesus did have the DNA of both the Heavenly Father and the Blessed Mother (because, as I said, Mormons are Anthropomorphites). However, it is thought not to have occurred by the literal conjugal act, but through some miraculous intervention. 

Remember when we are trying to evangelize Mormons, we must follow the Golden Rule. If we continually claim that they believe things they do not, then what makes us better than fundamentalists who say they random things the Pope says to reporters make for official Catholic teaching or that Catholics believe they can “earn” salvation, denying the sole sufficiency of Christ’s salvific work? We must focus on debunking what Mormons actually believe rather than what others say about their doctrine.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

Categories
On Protestants

A Biblical Refutation of Sola Scriptura

By Sola Scriptura, I mean the doctrine that the Bible alone (apart from the deuterocanon), apart from Tradition handed down by the apostles orally through the Fathers to us, is to be our doctrinal basis for all we need to know about God. I would call this the cornerstone of Protestant theology, without which all else fails, since if one accepts all doctrines unanimously accepted by the Fathers and seriously considers the more common Patristic teachings, there is only so far from Catholicism one can get. Some Protestants are alright with seeing the Scriptures to some degree through the lens of the Fathers, but rejecting what the Fathers taught (even unanimously) if they do not believe they can find it in Scripture.

Now the Council of Trent specifically condemns Sola Scriptura in these words: “No one, relying on his own skill, shall, in matters of faith, and of morals pertaining to the edification of Christian doctrine, wresting the sacred Scripture to his own senses, presume to interpret the said sacred Scripture contrary to that sense which holy mother Church, whose it is to judge of the true sense and interpretation of the holy Scriptures, hath held and doth hold; or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers.” (Sess. IV Decree Concerning the Edition, and the Use, of the Sacred Books)

Now a Protestant usually bring up the objection of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” I suppose I see why one might suppose this suggests Tradition comes second. However, that is certainly not what Paul meant. Consider Ephesians 4:11-15, for instance: 

“And his gifts were that some should be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ; so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the cunning of men, by their craftiness in deceitful wiles. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ.

With verses such as this in mind, if 2 Timothy 3:16-17 proves the sole sufficiency of Scripture, Ephesians 4:11-15 even more so proves the sole sufficiency of Church authority. So Paul in Ephesians 4, says that the Christian believer is equipped, built up, brought into unity and mature manhood, and even preserved from doctrinal confusion by means of the teaching authority of the Church. For this reason, it is more reasonable to suppose the Church and Scripture are both equally necessary and important for teaching.

Similarly, James 1:4 says: “And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.” If we apply the same principle, steadfastness alone, apart from faith, hope, charity, and grace from God is necessary for salvation.

After all, Paul says “all Scripture is profitable”, not “Scripture alone is completely sufficient”.

As a matter of fact immediately proceeding in 2 Timothy 3:14-15, Paul says: “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings which are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” So he was clearly talking only about the Old Testament since the New Testament had not been written yet in Timothy’s childhood, so I think this as a prooftext for Sola Scriptura is a bit of a leap.

Some Protestants would say that Tradition is bad, quoting the following verses:

“And why do you transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition?” (Matthew 15:3)

“You leave the commandment of God, and hold fast the tradition of men.” (Mark 7:8)

“See to it that no one makes a prey of you by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the universe, and not according to Christ.” (Colossians 2:8)

However, this has the recurring them of being traditions of men—not tradition passed down from Christ orally through the Twelve Apostles. Scripture does not specify here concerning written and oral writing. At another point, Paul says: “Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us.” (2 Thessalonians 3:6) So not all “tradition” is bad.

Others would cite at various times when the Scripture mentions “the Word of God”. However, this can also refer to oral teaching. As it is written, “And we also thank God continually because, when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as a human word, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13) Surely at this point Paul cannot be referring to the written gospels which were probably not all yet written. He says they “heard” it from them, suggesting it was preached. Acts 13:48-49 states, “When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.” Clearly, as the gospels were not written yet at this point, “the word of the Lord” refers to oral teaching. So according to Paul, the spoken word of the apostles is the infallible Word of God.

It is also written: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter.” (2 Thessalonians 2:15) 2 Timothy 3:16 was written specifically for members of the hierarchy and one bishop in particular. Now Protestants would object that the same teaching spoken was written down. Actually, I would agree with that insofar as all Catholic doctrines are at least implicitly contained in Scripture. However, it still follows that the spoken words of the apostles are infallible. So should we not trust what the Fathers actually conceded unanimously (for example, Baptismal Regeneration, Apostolic Succession, and so forth)? And even if they are not unanimous, should we not take their word more seriously? And if so, you would soon find that you must be either Catholic and Orthodox, not Protestant and believe in an infallible Magisterium.

Honestly, I think if God had intended us to go by Sola Scriptura, it is reasonable that it must be very, very clearly stated in Scripture. Otherwise, one is already applying Sola Scriptura (asserting a degree of authority of interpretation to himself) in order to originally verify it.

Bonum Certamen Certemus

I am the Catholic of Honor

All Scripture verses are from the Revised Standard Version