Happiness and Eternity

The Issue: All over the world, the Catholic Church is persecuted by Protestant fundamentalists and members of other religions. Why is this so?

My Response: I can't speak for the whole world, so I'll just look at the situation in America. Catholic faithful, and the cult to which they have entrusted their hopes for eternity, are a persecuted minority. At least that seems to be one of the favored images they project. As anyone who has engaged in apologetics with a defender of the Catholic Church surely must know, whining over how those they refer to as 'Fundamentalists' mistreat Catholics and Catholicism is a patented mantra Romish apologists will chant at the slightest provocation.

Beats me how they are able to find justification for their claim of being persecuted or, for that matter, a minority. Granted, there are places in the world where professing Catholics are not in the majority. However, the RCC claims that some 1.1 billion souls are huddled under the wings of Mother Church. That's some 17% of the world's population. Some minority.

The predominant 'religion' in the United States is Protestantism. According to the current CIA Fact Book for America, our religious preferences are: Protestant 52%, Roman Catholic 24%, Jewish 1%, other 13%, none 10% (2002 est.). If those numbers are accurate, that means there are some 70-plus million Catholics in America today.

Being persecuted and economically-challenged seems to be the way the Catholic Church prefers to be seen by the impoverished masses who make up the great bulk of her claimed membership. That makes sense to me. It must take a lot of psy-war expertise to convince the members of an impoverished Catholic parish in a Mexican mining town where the mine has been closed that those fat, sleek cardinals and bishops who celebrate Mass in great, gold-filled cathedrals are followers of the same religion as they are.

That great incorporeal body calling itself the Catholic Church has no interest in riches or worldly power. I reckon all the priests and religious who flesh out the ethereal form of Mother Church just want to be accepted as good old boys who willingly share the hardships of those whose spiritual and, to great extent, physical lives they control. Wait! That's not correct. To control is to exercise power, and the folks who run the Romish cult don't think much of power. They don't think much of wealth or fame, either—if we are to believe the following:

1723. The beatitude we are promised confronts us with decisive moral choices. It invites us to purify our hearts of bad instincts and to seek the love of God above all else. It teaches us that true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement - however beneficial it may be - such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature, but in God alone, the source of every good and of all love:

All bow down before wealth. Wealth is that to which the multitude of men pay an instinctive homage. They measure happiness by wealth; and by wealth they measure respectability.... It is a homage resulting from a profound faith ... that with wealth he may do all things. Wealth is one idol of the day and notoriety is a second.... Notoriety, or the making of a noise in the world - it may be called 'newspaper fame' - has come to be considered a great good in itself, and a ground of veneration. (John Henry Cardinal Newman, 'Saintliness the Standard of Christian Principle,' in Discourses to Mixed Congregations (London: Longmans, Green and Co., 1906) V, 89-90.)Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), 2nd Ed., © 1994/1997 United States Catholic Conference, Inc.

I agree completely with the Catechism's assertion that true happiness is found in God alone. This should not be construed, however, as meaning that other forms of happiness cannot be attained in this life. Certainly, there is great happiness when a mother first holds her newborn child, or when that child says, "I love you, Daddy." Such wonderful moments as these can be sources of great joy, and they are not dependent upon the beneficiary's worldly wealth, power or position. They come from the heart. The kind of happiness that the Catechism refers to, true happiness, does not originate in the heart, or anywhere else in man. It comes from God.

In his letter to the church at Galatia, Paul compared the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,
20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,
21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
-- Galatians 5:19-24

That true happiness has nothing to do with worldly things. No man can obtain to true happiness on his own. It begins with God. It is the joy that Paul mentioned in verse 22 of the above passage. That joy, that happiness if you will, is founded on eternal spiritual realities and God's unchanging promises. True happiness is that sense of well being that comes from knowing that all is well between oneself and the Lord (1 Peter 1:8). It is not the product of favorable conditions, and can exist even when one's circumstances are at their worst (John 16:20-22). It is a gift from God, not something believers should try to manufacture. Rather, we are to delight in the blessings we already possess (Romans 14:17; Philippians 4:4)

There is a kind of false happiness that many seek. The Apostle lists, in verses 19-21 above, some of the ways the unredeemed seek that semblance of happiness. Those who deny Christ or who are striving to work out their own salvation under the law live in iniquity. They aren't all guilty of every type of sinful behavior, nor do they all manifest these behaviors to the same degree. Paul's laundry list, which is but representative of the multitude of ways the lost have discovered for expressing their iniquity, focuses on three areas: sex, religion and human relationships.

Let us look briefly at Paul's list one area at a time, bearing in mind always the Catechism's assertion that "true happiness is not found in riches or well-being, in human fame or power, or in any human achievement - however beneficial it may be - such as science, technology, and art, or indeed in any creature." As we go down the list, it should become apparent that the phantom entity known as the Catholic Church, together with her priests and religious, appears to covet those very things she teaches cannot bring true happiness. At the same time as these seem to seek happiness in worldly things, seek to increase themselves, so also do they diminish God. How different from the example set by John the Baptist when his disciples questioned him about Jesus (John 3:30).

As I run down Paul's list, please understand that I am not saying that all members of the Catholic priesthood or religious manifest every type of sin. I also am not saying that only Catholic priests and religious are guilty of these sins. Sadly, there are no perfect humans since Christ ascended to sit at the Father's side. The saints also sin. The difference is that our sins are forgiven, our sin debt paid in full for all eternity by the substitutionary atonement of Jesus Christ.

In verse 19, the Apostle addresses sexual sin. The glossary appended to the Catechism defines adultery as sexual relations between two partners, at least one of whom is married. No mention of gender, nor of the precise nature of those illicit relations. I suspect that, in the tomes of Canon Law, what constitutes sexual relations is spelled out. I just have to believe that definition has a Clintonesque quality.

The Greek word translated adultery is moicheia. Easton's Revised Bible Dictionary provides a more precise definition of the term as it was understood by those to whom Paul wrote:

Conjugal infidelity. An adulterer was a man who had illicit intercourse with a married or a betrothed woman, and such a woman was an adulteress. Intercourse between a married man and an unmarried woman was fornication. Adultery was regarded as a great social wrong, as well as a great sin. The Mosaic law #Nu 5:11-31 prescribed that the suspected wife should be tried by the ordeal of the "water of jealousy." There is, however, no recorded instance of the application of this law. In subsequent times the Rabbis made various regulations with the view of discovering the guilty party, and of bringing about a divorce. It has been inferred from #Joh 8:1-11 that this sin became very common during the age preceding the destruction of Jerusalem. Idolatry, covetousness, and apostasy are spoken of as adultery spiritually #Jer 3:6,8,9 Eze 16:32 Ho 1:2:3 Re 2:22 An apostate church is an adulteress #Isa 1:21 Eze 23:4,7,37 and the Jews are styled "an adulterous generation" #Mt 12:39 Comp #Re 12:1ff.

I find it interesting that the simplistic definition of adultery provided in the CCC fails to include the Scripture's metaphorical use of the term to refer to spiritual adultery. Leaving that out, of course, avoids the necessity of examining RCC doctrine and practice for such things as idolatry, covetousness and apostasy. By the way, did you know that female Catholic religious who take their final vows are married….to Jesus? That's His ring on their fingers, or so they say.

The next sin in verse 19 is that of fornication (porneia). The Catechism's Glossary provides a quite precise definition for this sin:

FORNICATION: Sexual intercourse between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. Fornication is a serious violation of the sixth commandment of God (2353)CCC, Op. cit.

Such a precise definition of fornication would appear to serve the interests of the consecrated Catholic community very well, for it ignores the much broader sense the word has in the Greek. Strong's Dictionary offers these definitions for the same word:

1) illicit sexual intercourse
1a) adultery, fornication, homosexuality, lesbianism, intercourse with animals etc.
1b) sexual intercourse with close relatives; Lev. 18
1c) sexual intercourse with a divorced man or woman; Mk. 10:11,12
2) metaph. the worship of idols
2a) of the defilement of idolatry, as incurred by eating the sacrifices offered to idols

Wow! Look at all those kinds of sins Cardinal Ratzinger and his Interdicasterial Commission neglected to include under this heading. A quick glance at how Greek-speaking folks understood the word 2000 or so years ago suggests why Mother Church goes with a limited definition. Were the RCC to accept the Greek understanding of the word, think how difficult it would be to explain, much less justify, things going on in monasteries and convents among folks who claim to have consecrated their lives to serving God. Then, of course, there's the issue of worshipping idols which, of course, Catholics never do. Ha!

This brings us to uncleanness. The Greek word is akatharsia, and it means more than just needing a bath, as these definitions from Strong's show:

1) uncleanness
1a) physical
1b) in a moral sense: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living
1b1) of impure motives

The final type of sexual sin mentioned in verse 19 is aselgeia, or lewdness, which Strong's defines in these terms:

1) unbridled lust, excess, licentiousness, lasciviousness, wantonness, outrageousness, shamelessness, insolence

Uncleanness and lewdness, as the persons to whom Paul wrote would have understood the terms, has been rampant in the Catholic Church for centuries. It seems, however, that people ignored it, apparently not wanting to know what goes on in the dark corners of Catholic institutions. Only recently have these abominations have become public issues due, largely, to the brave efforts of a few honorable Catholic priests and religious and to the heroism of victims of priestly sexual predatory behavior.

From the historical record, and today's headlines, it would appear that Popes, bishops, priests and religious of the Catholic Church have been seeking happiness through illicit sex and idolatry virtually since that church drifted away from true Christianity. How hypocritical that the RCC should teach, in paragraph 1723 of her Catechism, that true happiness is not to be found in such pursuits.

In verse 20, Paul refers to religious works of the flesh in words that should burn the eyes of every Catholic who reads them:

20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

Without even touching on the reverence/honor/worship tendered to Catholicism's multitude of statues, icons, medals, body parts, etc., it can easily be demonstrated that the Catholic Church and her consecrated representatives have long been guilty of rendering homage to the two idols mentioned by Cardinal Newman in the quotation included with paragraph 1723 of the Catechism: wealth and notoriety

That the Catholic Church has coveted and accumulated wealth for centuries is self-evident. Visit a Catholic cathedral church or basilica. Wander where you are able within the Vatican's chapels and museums. Visit the palatial residences of bishops. What will you see? A multitude of magnificent edifices filled to the brim with great works of art created by masters, and so much gold and precious jewels that the mind cannot calculate their value.

And the riches keep pouring in. There was a time when the Catholic Church owned, outright, nearly half of western Europe, as well as extensive holdings in Africa, the New World, and the Orient. The Catholic Church owned 48% of the land in Norway before it was confiscated about the time of the Reformation in 1536. Just prior to the French Revolution, the Catholic Church owned about 1/5th of the land in France—about the same percentage as the aristocracy. By 1802, the atheistic French Republic had confiscated all the land and property belonging to the Catholic Church and about half of that owned by the nobility—an interesting comment on which group was deemed the greater oppressor of the masses.

Have things changed since the Catholic Church's good old days? Not on your life. She might not own so much land these days, but the money keeps rolling in.

With new allegations of sexual abuse surfacing almost weekly, Catholic dioceses across the U.S. face hundreds of millions of dollars in additional claims. Many now wonder: Can the church actually go broke? The short answer is no. In the U.S. the Catholic Church collects revenues totaling around $7.5 billion annually. Even more impressive are its vast property holdings, which include everything from cathedrals and schools to beachfront retreats, stately mansions, golf courses and television and radio stations. But the real secret of the church's financial strength is that each of the 178 Roman Catholic dioceses in the U.S. organizes its affairs separately; nearly all employ a highly complex and decentralized legal structure that so far has effectively shielded their assets from legal claims brought against priests -- Frank Gibney, Jr., Can a Church Go Broke?, TIME Magazine -- US Edition -- June 3, 2002 Vol. 159 No. 22. © 2007 Time Inc

The above quotation does not mention her many other business enterprises, which include international banking, hotel chains, manufacturing, etc.

How rich is the Catholic Church? I recall that, in the mid-1950's, the Catholic Church responded to a wave of international criticism of the small effort she appeared to be making to relieve the wretched condition of millions in the wake of two great wars and countless revolutionary uprisings around the globe by, she claimed, taking an inventory of all her holdings. According to the survey, the world was told that the total worth of the Catholic Church was in the neighborhood of $50,000,000 [That's about $370 million in 2007 dollars]. I do not have that survey, nor do I know where it might be found. Therefore, I offer this information as an unsupported recollection, to be taken at face value. Not that it matters, for no one, at least no one outside the highest levels of the Catholic hierarchy, really knows how much property and other holdings are owned or controlled by the Catholic Church. Not the government of the United States. Not the Internal Revenue Service. And how could anyone know? No one audits the Catholic Church.

. . . lawyers and plaintiffs must act as forensic investigators, digging through real estate title-transfer records and questioning local officials about church management of various charitable entities. They are finding, for instance, that church authorities regularly keep only records of the book value — rather than the current market value — of certain properties. The Stockton diocese, for example, in 1998 valued its multimillion-dollar cathedral at $28,000, the cost to build it in 1942. -- Frank Gibney, Jr., Op. cit

In 1974, Madalyn Murray O'Hair—a researcher with no love of religion—published a book entitled Freedom Under Siege: The Impact of Organized Religion on Your Liberty and Your Pocketbook. That out-of-print book, the American Atheist informs, was "one of the most thorough exposes of church wealth and ecclesiastical holdings" up to that time. O'Hair gathered much of her information from open sources, including church documents. In the chapter entitled Render Not Unto Caesar (The Church as Big Business),

she revealed the scale of religion-controlled wealth. Roman Catholic assets, for instance, exceeded the combined holdings of the titans of the American corporate world -- Standard Oil, American Telephone and Telegraph (AT&T), and U.S. Steel. Corporate "fronts" like Angelus, Inc. were essentially holding firms for the church, controlling lucrative properties, operating businesses and concealing ecclesiastical lucre.Church Can't Go Broke – Incorporation A Trend, © 2002, American Atheists, Inc.

In paragraph 1723 of the Catechism, quoted above, Cardinal Newman's words name a second idol that certainly seems to apply to the Catholic Church: notoriety. When the Cardinal wrote those words, I doubt he had in mind the kind of notoriety that has resulted from the revelation of the Church's handling of incidents involving priestly sexual abuse of children and adolescents. Perhaps he was thinking of something like the ballyhoo attendant to every little thing John Paul II does. That seems to fit Newman's definitions of notoriety: "making of a noise in the world" and "newspaper fame." Mother Church certainly does appear to have made an idol of public acclaim, which, again in the Cardinal's words, appears "to be considered a great good in itself, and a ground of veneration."

Another of the "religious" sins Paul mentions in verse 20 is that of witchcraft. Down through the ages, the Catholic Church has been an active practitioner of rites that must be considered witchcraft. I am talking of things like ringing consecrated bells to knock night-flying witches off their broomsticks, using 'magic candles' to prevent sore throats, scattering "holy water" to drive off demons, etc. Then, there's the practice of hanging a string of rosary beads from your rearview mirror or putting a little idol of St. Christopher on one's dashboard to guard against traffic mishaps. How about that little ritual made famous by Mother Angelica on EWTN? I am talking about the special incantation to sell a house quickly; the one involving putting an idol of St. Joseph in a Mason jar and burying it upside down in the front yard while muttering the words of a typically Catholic spell.

The other sins of religion are self-evident. However, I believe that the sin of wrath—or is it hatred?—merits consideration. America's Catholic bishops have determined that Jews are not to be evangelized. They say this is because Jews have their own covenant with God and don't need Jesus to be saved. Could it be that the Catholic hierarchy is not aware that the very first people to hear the Gospel preached all were Jews? I suggest that this decision is but one more link in the centuries-long chain of the Catholic Church's hateful actions against Jews. What could be more hateful than to not obey the Great Commission commandment to preach the Gospel to all the nations? The Catechism, citing words of Christ, supports the message of the Great Commission:

74. God 'desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth':(1 Tim 2:4 .) that is, of Christ Jesus.(cf. Jn 14:6 .) Christ must be proclaimed to all nations and individuals, so that this revelation may reach to the ends of the earth:

God graciously arranged that the things he had once revealed for the salvation of all peoples should remain in their entirety, throughout the ages, and be transmitted to all generations.(DV 7; cf. 2 Cor 1:20 ; 2 Cor 3:16 - 4:6 .)CCC, Op. cit.(My emphasis)

When I see the leadership of the Catholic Church teach one thing as a God-given commandment and then, a few years later, change the intent of that teaching to something quite the contrary, I am minded of that Church's motto, Semper Idem (Always the Same). What a sad joke.

The sins Paul enumerates in verse 21 are in the area of human relationships. There are no esoteric meanings involved here. While it seems likely that the Apostle had reference to orgiastic pagan worship when he wrote of drunkenness and revelries, the reference can be extended to include all forms of rowdy or crude behavior.

21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

Verse 21 includes a warning that those who participate in such activities will not see Heaven. The key to understanding Paul's meaning lies in the sense of the Greek word prasso, which is translated in the KJV as do. Strong's defines the word thusly:

1) to exercise, practise, to be busy with, carry on
1a) to undertake, to do
2) to accomplish, perform
2a) to commit, perpetrate
3) to manage public affairs, transact public business
3a) to exact tribute, revenue, debts
4) to act

As used in this passage, prasso is describing habitual behavior. Certainly, believers can and do the things mentioned. However, Paul here is referring to people who continually are involved in such activities and who are not at all repentant. They are unregenerate and will not enter the Kingdom of God that Christ rules over today; nor will they be included in the Lord's millennial kingdom or the eternal state of blessing that will follow.

Think about it. Throughout its history, priests and religious of the dark kingdom known as the Catholic Church have routinely been involved in many of the sexual, religious and interpersonal sins Paul condemns in verses 19-21. It is clear that such habitual and unrepentant behavior marks a person as unregenerate and excluded from entering into the eternal blessings of Christ. Does it not logically follow that those who are guided by these unredeemed sinners will march behind them straight through the gates of Hell?

Paul closes the passage with an admonition to believers:

25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.
-- Galatians 5:25-26

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