What Does It Take To Be A Martyr?

As any honest observer should concede, the doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church is not cast in stone. If cast in anything at all, it most likely would be something more malleable - like silly putty.

A few years ago, the American bishops provided an example of the amazing adaptability of RCC doctrine to the prevailing social atmosphere and the moods of church leadership. Before looking at a recent 'mood swing' of the cult that uses the motto Semper Idem (Always the same), it would be well to refresh ourselves with a couple of definitions from my Catholic dictionary:

DOCTRINE OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH: A generic phrase for the teachings of the Church regarding faith and morals, given by her Founder, Jesus Christ, to the Apostles for the salvation of all. "Doctrine" means the contents of Divine Revelation, as well as each specific tenet of the Faith. There are various levels of doctrine (e.g. de fide definita, "common teaching," etc.).--Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Ed., Catholic Dictionary, © 1993, Our Sunday Visitor, Inc

As the Church Lady used to say, "Well, now. Isn't that special?"

It appears that in the matter of doctrine, as in just about everything else, the RCC has established a sliding scale. I wonder. Does having "various levels of doctrine" mean that some teachings are to be believed without reservation while others are to be believed not quite as much, not as much, even less, etc.? Or does it mean that some RCC teachings are undeniably true, others not quite as true, hardly true, etc.?

What ever happened to plain, ordinary biblical truth? If something is not true, then it is false. There are no degrees or levels of truth. Yet it would appear that, in as much as has to do with RCC teaching (which is what "doctrine" means), 'truth' either is presented or to be accepted according to a variable scale. Hmmmm. Interesting.

Another definition from my Catholic dictionary:

MARTYR…One who gives up his or her life rather than deny Christ and the Gospel. A martyr strives for conformity to Christ and is willing to part with his or her earthly life rather than reject God. The Church's history is dotted with the heroism of martyrs. St. Augustine contended that martyrs are made not by the suffering endured but by the motive compelling them to relinquish their lives.--Peter M. J. Stravinskas, Op. cit.

So, it would appear that a martyr is an individual so committed to the Lord that he would accept death before denying God. It is not the suffering or dying that makes martyrs, but their motive that earns them the title. I can accept that.

If the above is true or not quite true or almost true and to be believed or almost believed or pretty much believed, then how can the following conform to even the very malleable understanding of the RCC priestly hierarchy?

The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr., the Southern Baptist minister, civil rights leader and inspirational orator, is a leading candidate to be declared a martyr by the Roman Catholic Church.--Michael Paulson, Bishops propose King for martyrdom, San Antonio Express-News, Jan 14, 2000, p. 13A

Let us examine this recent ecumenical/New Age example of politically correct RCC adherence to flexible doctrine.

Martin Luther King Jr., was not a Roman Catholic, at least I was not able to discover anything saying that he was. Since he was not Catholic, it is quite possible that in accordance with Catholic doctrine he may not have been saved. If he was not saved, he was a heathen in Catholic eyes. Hmmm

How many times have we been reminded that outside the Catholic Church there is no salvation; thus membership in the Church is necessary.?

This dogma of the RCC is defined, declared and repeated in: the Athanasian Creed: Denz 39, 40 [75, 76]; Lateran IV. The Catholic Faith, Chap. 1: Denz.430 [802]; Pope Boniface VIII, Bull Unam Sanctum: Denz. 468-69 (870, 875]; Florence, Decree For the Jacobites in the Bull Cantata Domino (1441) of Pope Eugene IV: Denz.714 [1351]; and -Pope Pius IX, Syllabus of Errors, 16,17: Denz 1716-17 [2916-17]. (LG: 14; UR:3)

Well, perhaps the U.S. Catholic Bishops who proposed King for inclusion in the list of 20th Century martyrs that John Paul II intended to publish on May 7, 2000 qualifies for other reasons. [NOTE: The list was not published as scheduled] Let us see.

Did he prefer death to denying God? I don't think we really know. Certainly, the man was brave, perhaps fearless, in the face of angry civil authority and social oppression but is that the same thing? The man is justly honored as a leader of the movement for civil rights and social justice in the USA. When he was murdered, he was not standing firm against religious oppressors attempting to force him to deny his God. Quite the contrary. At the time of his death, he was deeply involved in the struggle for labor rights, a very secular issue.

Tod Brown, Bishop of the Orange County, California Diocese, was quoted as saying:

Martin Luther King, whom I held in great personal esteem, is somebody who was in many ways a charismatic figure and a prophet in terms of civil rights…His whole rationale had a strong spiritual basis and he immediately came to mind when we started thinking about citizens of this country. I am hoping his name will go forward.--Michael Paulson, Op. cit.

Okay. Bishop Brown has nice things to say about King, but nothing in the above quote offers any reason for placing MLK's name right up their with Stephen, or Philip or James the Just or any other true martyr of the Christian faith. And, it would appear, nothing in the Bishop's statement seems to conform to the purpose of the Pope as stated by Paul Henderson, the man in charge of the Jubilee Year 2000 office at the National Conference of Catholic Bishops, who told us that:

What the pope wants to do is, during this jubilee year, in some way to honor men and women of the 20th century who have died because of their faith.--Ibid.

Not many folks know whose names were on the Pope's list, but the smart money is betting that there likely were the names of some who suffered under oppressive regimes such as Nazi Germany, Stalin's Russia, etc.

The Pope's list was not published on May 7th as promised; instead, we were informed that the Vatican had some 12,000 candidates to evaluate. The folks in Rome did not say when the list of honorees would be released. Subsequent searches on my part failed to come up with the promised list. I suspect that Archbishop Stepinac of Croatia was on that list. You remember him. He's the guy who cooperated with the Ustashe Regime and German armed forces as they sought to bring a "Final Solution" to the "problem" of Serbs, Jews and Gypsies unfortunate enough to have been living in Croatia during World War II. The interested reader can learn more about Stepinac's involvement in the Croatian Holocaust by clicking here.

Don't you just have to wonder what other famous 20th century Americans were nominated for inclusion in the pope's list of martyrs? Since being Catholic and dying for the Catholic faith appear not to be necessary requisites for inclusion, one can think of many who might qualify. Some names to conjure with are

- Madalyn Murray O'Hair. She died for her lack of faith (or was it just those gold krugerrands?
- Jimmy Hoffa. He must have believed in something.
- Adolph Hitler. And he was Catholic.
- Mahatma Gandhi. He was a social activist, just like MLK.
- Margaret Sanger. She was big on eugenics and founded the organization that became Planned Parenthood. She had faith in racial superiority.
- Etc.

The whole idea is ludicrous. Not that a civil rights leader or a toady to Nazi murderers could be declared a martyr for his faith but that secular-humanist considerations should be key factors in choosing whom to recognize for the depth of their faith.

I would suggest that, in future, the members of the National Conference of Catholic Bishops would do well to spend some time evaluating the increasingly New Age tendencies of their apostate church.

12 For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
13 Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things are naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.
--Hebrews 4:12-13

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