Saturday, March 06, 2010

Bishop Has His Say

On Thursday I gave my missive regarding the controversy that has erupted in the wake of an anti-Catholic pamphlet being given out at Pigeon Forge High School which asserted that the Holy Eucharist of Our Lord is from the devil. Father Jay Flaherty, the pastor of the offended student, has had his say as well.

Yesterday Knoxville Bishop Richard Stika had a few select words about the uproar and the Baptist pastor who didn't quite understand the tempest that his church has inadvertently stirred:

As bishop of the Diocese of Knoxville, I wish first to state my deep respect and love for my Protestant brothers and sisters, with whom we acknowledge and worship but one Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

I also wish to acknowledge the many Christian denominations, including the many Baptist churches in East Tennessee, with whom we pray and work in solidarity, according to the truths of the Gospel, in order to promote a culture of life. This culture of life is based on a Christian anthropology that recognizes man and woman as images of God, an essential truth for the formation of a correct vision of society. I am thinking also of our shared efforts in promoting and protecting the sanctity and dignity of every person in the womb and of the holy institution of marriage and the family as our Heavenly Creator designed them to be. At this moment, however, I am greatly saddened by the reprehensible acts of prejudice and hatred of a few souls who, out of ignorance of Catholic teachings, have promoted the distribution of anti-Catholic tracts.

These tracts contain outright lies and blatant exaggerations.

The rationale one Baptist pastor gave in support of distributing these reprehensible, discriminatory, and bigoted tracts was that he was trying to point out the primary difference his church has with Catholics: the belief that a person does not and cannot work his or her way to salvation. Unfortunately, this pastor does not have a correct understanding of what the Catholic faith teaches in this regard.

Bishop Stika then takes a moment to give a short theology lesson:

In Catholic theology, the term justification means the cleansing of a person's sin and the communication- by grace-of "the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ" (Romans 3:22) through baptism. Additionally, Catholics take very seriously the Sacred Scripture, "Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only" (James 2:24).

Perhaps some Christians misinterpret both Paul and James, thus concluding that their statements about faith and works contradict each other. This is simply not true. There are differences in emphasis but no contradictions in teaching if one understands both properly. Paul and James agree that both "faith" and "works" are essential to Christian life.

Jesus himself makes this crystal clear in his description of the Last Judgment (Matthew 25:31-46). From his judgment seat, the Lord will welcome into his eternal kingdom those who fed the hungry, welcomed the stranger, clothed the naked, and visited the sick and imprisoned-in other words, those who saw Christ in the suffering and acted in response, inspired by the love of God. Those who did not perform these "works" of love will "go off to eternal punishment" (25:46).

His Excellency then vigorously defends the Eucharist:

Regarding the reprehensible leaflet titled "The Death Cookie": The Catholic doctrine of the Real Presence asserts that in the Holy Eucharist, Jesus is literally and wholly present-body and blood, soul and divinity-under the appearances of bread and wine. Some Christians attack this doctrine as "unbiblical," but Catholics believe that the Bible is forthright in declaring it (1 Corinthians 10:16-17 and 11:23-29 and, most forcefully, John 6:32-71).

For the Bishop of Knoxville to feel compelled to issue a press release to defend against a Chick Tract means that the person who was given the tract was deeply hurt and disturbed by it, and that is probably an understatement. The sad part is that hundreds if not thousands of these bigoted leaflets are circulating all over East Tennessee. I have developed quite a collection of them in order to keep them from falling into the hands of others and promoting falsehood, bigotry, hatred, heresy, and yes, even apostasy among the general population. Such a lengthy press release over something like this is bound at some point in the future to raise the eye of somebody in Rome.

Oh, and Pastor Jonathan Hatcher at Connor Heights Baptist Church says he won't be distributing "The Death Cookie" anymore-but other Chick tracts are okay.

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