Vatican II…Reforming Council or Large Mistake?


The Second Vatican Council is a subject of much debate in the Church of today. Many Catholics embrace the “reforms” of the Council, while others staunchly appose it. Many Novus Ordo attendees embrace it, as their form of the Mass sprang from the aftermath of Vatican II. Some groups like the Sedevacantists condemn the Council as man-made error. Which one is true? Is the truth set in between these positions, or is one correct and the other wrong? Thoughts?

St. Justin Martyr: Faith and Reason


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St. Justin Martyr is important for many reasons, in fact, Pope Benedict XVI says that he is “the most important of the second-century apologist Fathers.”[1]Of course, St. Justin’s name is usually paired with his fate; however, it’s also important to note him, as many were in the early years, as a convert to the faith. Reviewing our text, we learn that Justin Martyr was born “about twenty miles to the north of the City of David in the ancient biblical town of Shechem”[2] around the year 100 A.D.

D’Ambrosio explains that Justin grew up in a pagan family, and during the time, it would be desirable to become one of the popular cloak wearing philosophers who were gathering their many disciples.[3] In the last month, listening to one of Bishop Robert Barron’s podcasts, Bp. Barron that if any of us desire to become men and women who are learned in our craft then we must put in the time. So Naturally, Justin’s desire to become a philosopher led him to the great libraries of Alexandria and Ephesus to perfect his craft.[4] During his time in these great cities of learning, Justin would be introduced to “numerous systems of thought—The Stoics, then Pythagoras, then finally Plato,” who would so heavily influence the thought of St. Augustine.[5]

Whilst learning from these various schools of thought, it was during this period in which St. Justin Martyr would be converted to the Christian faith. Pope Benedict gives a stirring account of Justin’s conversion story of a trailing old man saying, “he himself (Justin Martyr) recounts in the first chapters of his Dialogue with Tryphon, a mysterious figure, an old man he met on the seashore, initially leads him into a crisis by showing him that it is impossible for the human being to satisfy his aspiration to the divine solely with his own forces. He then pointed out to him the ancient prophets as the people to turn to in order to find the way to God and ‘true philosophy’. In taking his leave, the old man urged him to pray that the gates of light would be opened to him.” The story foretells the crucial episode in Justin’s life: at the end of a long philosophical journey, a quest for the truth, he arrived at the Christian faith.”[6]

It’s easy for modernity to dismiss this story as nothing more than a pious legend; however, if we take it at face value, can we not ask who was this mysterious old man? Are there mysterious in our lives that have led us closer to Christ? Have we encountered God and should we speak more to these revelations with our fellow Christians?

One of the great aspects of the Catholic faith is that is not an either; or religion, we’re not required by our Church to choose between faith and reason, but rather, we’re given the opportunity to have both; and; this system of thought has been exhibited in recent years by the 1998 encyclical of our patron, Pope St. John Paul II, Fides et Ratio. The foundation of the tradition of faith and Reason in our church is very much rooted in the writings and life of St. Justin Martyr. As Catholics, we’re accused of being superstitious by tired stereotypes forged by anti-Catholic rhetoric; however, the truth is that we’re not required to be anti-science but rather pro-science. Furthermore, we can’t be afraid of science because in studying the creations of God we can only move closer to God, the creator of the world, and ultimately nothing can be discovered that would invalidate Him. Of course, this train of thought, is what led men like Fr. Georges Lemitre—the Father of the Big Bang Theory and Augustinian Friar Gregor Mendel—the Father of Modern genetics.

We’re also charged with taking up the principles of Logic and philosophy, more of the realm of St. Justin, as D’ambrosio explains, “Justin did not then take off his philosopher’s cloak. Rather, he believed that it was only after baptism that he was finally entitled to wear it. In Christ, he had found the answer to every question, the key that unlocked all doors, just as the old man had promised.”[7]

After Justin’s conversion to Christianity, his desire for knowledge led him Ephesus where St. John the Apostle lived and died, and then from there, to Rome where St. Paul and St. Peter met their reward in which Justin would later take a share in it. It is in Rome where St. Justin Martyr writes two of his most important defenses of the faith, or apologies. Of course, an apology in the traditional sense doesn’t carry the same connotation as in our modern language,. Pope Benedict XVI explains, “the apologists had a twofold concern: that most properly called “apologetic”, to defend the newborn Christianity (apologhía in Greek means, precisely, “defence”), and the pro-positive, “missionary” concern, to explain the content of the faith in a language and on a wavelength comprehensible to their contemporaries.”[8]

Pope Benedict XVI further explains that it was the message of his apologies and its criticisms of pagan culture as “He founded a school in Rome where, free of charge, he initiated students the new religion…considered as the true philosophy. Indeed, in it, he had found the truth, hence, the art of living virtuously. For this reason, he was reported and beheaded in about 165 A.d. during the reign of Marcus Aurelius, the philosopher-emperor to whom Justin had actually addressed one of his Apologia.”[9]

[1] Pope Benedict XVI, Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2008),17.

[2] Marcellino D’Ambrosio, When The Church was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers (Servant Books: San Francisco, 2014), 47.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Pope Benedict XVI, 17.

[7] D’Ambrosio, 48.

[8] Pope Benedict XVI, 17.

[9] Ibid, 18.

St. Clement of Rome: Apostolic Succession and Church Unity.


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Marcellino D’Ambrosio in his book When the Church was Young poses two questions for the letter of Clement to answer:

#1 Was such a move by the young Christian upstarts legitimate to remove the established leaders of the church of Corinth?

#2 Is the leadership in the Christian community simply a function of popularity, talent, or political power?[1]

At this point, I’ll turn to those here who may have examined the material on how Clement answered these questions.

D’Ambrosio articulates that “in the letter, Clement insisted that the Apostles had intended an orderly succession of authority in the Church…this process of succession from the apostles was to be presented unbroken. This provides us (the faithful) with the earliest written reference to the idea of apostolic succession”[2] that was conveyed quite possible at the time by the active Bishop of Rome, depending on where one dates the letter, who would have known the teachings of the first Bishop of Rome and St. Paul on a personal level.

The Letter of Clement reads:

The apostles have preached the gospel to us from the Lord Jesus Christ; Jesus12 Christ [has done so] from God. Christ therefore was sent forth by God, and the apostles by Christ. Both these appointments,14 then, were made in an orderly way, according to the will of God. Having therefore received their orders, and being fully assured by the resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and established in the word of God, with full assurance of the Holy Ghost, they went forth proclaiming that the kingdom of God was at hand. And thus preaching through countries and cities, they appointed the first fruits [of their labours], having first proved them by the Spirit,16 to be bishops and deacons of those who should afterwards believe. Nor was this any new thing, since indeed many ages before it was written concerning bishops and deacons. For thus saith the Scripture in a certain place, “I will appoint their bishops in righteousness, and their deacons2 in faith.”[3]

 The Letter of Clement gives us from a disciple of Peter and Paul the foundational premises of two Catholic doctrines namely, Primacy of the Pope and Apostolic Succession. At this point, I’d like to pivot directly to Apostolic succession. I believe it to be important to understand this idea as a way for us to grow even deeper in our faith together. On a personal note, I arrive at my faith by two means, the first, is being a combination of St. Thomas Aquinas’ 3rd way “Why is there something instead of nothing?” and his 1st way a “Prime mover.” At this point, I’ve reasoned that there is God, the necessary being, but now I ask, “Who is this God and what can I know about him.” Apostolic Succession, teaching, authority, etc. are vital to me to answer these questions. If you listen to Podcasts, Bishop Robert Barron has one, and he regularly explains that Jesus’ teachings are great, but the most important aspect of Christianity is not what Jesus said but who Jesus claims to be. He claims to be God by the way. So How do we know if Jesus is who says is? Well, he called twelve apostles and appointed them to be fishers of men. Those same men were invested into the priesthood of Christ and bearing the same message that Christ is God they “laid hands” on those to succeed them, and those men did the same until our present day.

Now, stop, and ask yourself, Do you believe that Jesus Christ is God? I say, yes, and the reason why is that I have assented to this truth because a Risen Lord appeared to the Apostles, they chose to die for this truth, and their disciples chose to die for it as well. And that message, as well as the priesthood through unbroken succession, is with us today.

This truth has been preserved for us by Clement of Rome and by the Holy Spirit. Not convinced?

We can discover by reading his Apologia Pro Vita Sua that it was the Church Fathers and Apostolic Succession that convinced one of the towering intellectuals of the 19th century, Blessed John Henry Newman, to convert from Anglicanism to Roman Catholicism. No big deal, right? For Newman to convert to Catholicism was a social death sentence to arguably the brightest mind in England at the time.

Newman writes, far more elegantly than I, “All sects think it necessary that their Ministers should be ordained by other Ministers. Now, if this be the case, then the validity of ordination even with them, rest on a succession; and is it not plain that they ought to trace that succession to the Apostles?”[4] Furthermore, “A body of doctrine had been delivered by the Apostles to their first successors, and by them in turn to the next generation, and then to the next.”[5] “We say, ‘therefore the Apostles live in their successors.’ Christ implies, ‘therefore the body never died, and therefore it will rise again.’[6]

The unity of the Body of Christ rests on Apostolic Succession, this is what Clement of Rome means to explain to the young Christians in Corinth, this is what is at the heart of Jesus’ priestly prayer in the Gospel of John chapter 17.

Jesus says,

20 “I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, 21 so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you, that they also may be in us, that the world may believe that you sent me. 22 And I have given them the glory you gave me, so that they may be one, as we are one, 23 I in them and you in me, that they may be brought to perfection as one, that the world may know that you sent me, and that you loved them even as you loved me.[7]

So, how was Clement of Rome’s letter received? The Corinthians had a most grateful response to the “fatherly” correction[8] as they continued to read his letter as part of their Sunday worship for the next several hundred years.”[9]

The letter of Pope St. Clement I has survived to us today initially because it has been translated from Greek into many different languages. However, during some point in the history of the Western Church the letter was lost until in 1623 when the Patriarch of Constantinople gave the King of England a 5th century Bible called the Codex Alexandrinus which contained Clements letter calling for unity through Apostolic Succession. [10]

D’Ambrosio makes an interesting observation that “unfortunately, Clement’s letter was not available during the prior century when great arguments shattered the Christian unity in the West.”[11]


[1] D’Ambrosio, 6.

[2] Ibid, 6-7 Some scholars believe Clement to be referenced in scripture in Philippians 4:3 “Yes, and I ask you also, my true yokemate, to help them, for they have struggled at my side in promoting the gospel, along with Clement and my other co-workers, whose names are in the book of life[2]

[3] Clement of Rome, “The First Epistle of Clement to the Corinthians,” in The Gospel of Peter, the Diatessaron of Tatian, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Visio Pauli, the Apocalypses of the Virgil and Sedrach, the Testament of Abraham, the Acts of Xanthippe and Polyxena, the Narrative of Zosimus, the Apology of Aristides, the Epistles of Clement (Complete Text), Origen’s Commentary on John, Books I-X, and Commentary on Matthew, Books I, II, and X-XIV, ed. Allan Menzies, trans. John Keith, vol. 9, The Ante-Nicene Fathers (New York: Christian Literature Company, 1897), 241–242.

[4] Dave Armstrong, The Quotable Newman (Sophia Press: Manchester, 2012,) 37.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid, 38.

[7] New American Bible, Revised Edition (Washington, DC: The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2011), Jn 17:20–23.

[8] D’Ambrosio, 8.

[9] Ibid, 9.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

Thoughts about the Exodus and Conquest

I remember when Philip Augustine made his debut here, he mentioned he was doing academic work on the historical background of Israel’s sojourn in and Exodus from Egypt. Recently, I have been re-reading articles on the matter in “The Oxford History of the Biblical World” (ed. M. Coogan), as well as various online articles.

To be sure, the dating question is not easy. If we take the reference to Pithom and Rameses (Exod. 1:11) at face value, then this acts as a terminus post quem: the Exodus cannot happen before the reign of Ramesses II (assuming these projects were begun under Seti I). However, there are some possible references to Israel in the land of Canaan before this point: e.g. the “Shasu of Yahweh” mentioned in a topographical list at the Temple of Soleb, built by Amenhotep III c. 1400 BC (

Furthermore, the destruction of Jericho as described in Joshua has traditionally been viewed as problematic by scholars. Kathleen Kenyon excavated Tell es-Sultan, a site identified with Jericho, and concluded that it was destroyed c. 1500 BC by the Egyptians, not the Israelites. It was unoccupied after this point until much later. There was a small unwalled settlement nearby, however. This interpretation of the archaeological data presents a problem for the Biblical conservative: either there was no conquest of Jericho, or there was a conquest, but the story that “the walls came tumbling down” is a fiction.

In response to these sorts of problems, David Rohl proposed a “New Chronology”, but this has largely been rejected by other scholars in the field (though they have made some minor revisions as a consequence of his research). Conservative scholars continue to work with the traditional chronology and progress has been made to support the historicity of the  accounts in Genesis, Exodus, and Joshua, but there remains a divide between the camp of an early date for the Exodus and the camp supporting a late date. For interesting articles on the subject, see: .

For me, the Exodus is not a negotiable event. I am comfortable with various strands of interpretation within evangelicalism, but denying the Exodus is not something I can support. Exodus has many lessons to teach us, but two of the central ones are that God acts in history and that God is faithful to His people. Once we deny something like this, we start down a slippery slope that divests our faith of its supernatural and historical elements. Once these are stripped away, we have little reason to believe that God will intervene again in the future. If we lose belief in the Atonement and Resurrection, we become, to use the Apostle Paul’s words, “the most miserable of all men” (1 Cor. 15:19).

To be sure, Jesus is the foundation of our faith (Heb. 12:2). Apart from Him, we can do nothing (Jn. 15:5), while through Him, we can do all things (Phil. 4:13). Nevertheless, Christ came through Israel – when we attack the history of Israel, we attack the salvation story of which Jesus is the centre.

St. Clement of Rome, the Dating of the Letter of Clement, and Papal Primacy.


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The first Church Father that we’ll examine here in the Bell Tower Chapel is Pope St. Clement I of Rome. Of course with any person of antiquity, often what we know about the individual is pieced together from various sources, some of which may occur a generation or two after an individual has died.

Clement of Rome “Probably wrote in early 70,” as Catholic Apologist Jimmy Akin wrote in his book The Father’s Know Best, and that “Various ancient sources place him as the first, second, or third successor of St. Peter. (Most commonly, he is held to be the third, after Linus and Cletus.) He was the author of a single surviving Letter to the Corinthians, which is often dated around 95 A.D,” but Akin believes “this is too late a date.[1]

Pope Benedict XVI gave several audiences on the topic of the Church Fathers and specifically on March 7th, 2007 he spoke on Clement of Rome in which he said, “St Clement, Bishop of Rome in the last years of the first century, was the third Successor of Peter, after Linus and Anacletus. The most important testimony concerning his life comes from St Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons until 202. He attests that Clement “had seen the blessed Apostles,” Irenaeus had been conversant with them,” and “might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes” (Adversus Haer. 3, 3, 3).[2]

A magnificent introduction to the Father that we’ll spend this evening getting to know more about. One point that we can take from Pope Benedict’s reference Irenaeus’ words is that the early Church viewed Clement of Rome with the utmost respect, as well as, because his relationship with the Apostles, Clement was viewed with a special authority in their community. Pope Benedict explains, “The authority and prestige of this Bishop of Rome were such that various writings were attributed to him.”[3] As we learn more tonight, let us keep that in mind when reviewing some of the content of his Letter to the Corinthians.
The letter from Clement of Rome to the Church of Corinth, in which he didn’t sign, is also called by scholars The First Epistle of Clement to Corinthians. The reason that we know today who authored this letter is from various sources in the 2nd century A.D. who attributed him to the work. The letter written by Clement is a response to an uprising of young Christians who sought to remove and replace established leaders in the church of Corinth in response to the Roman persecutions under Emperor Domitian.[4] At this point, in regards to the historical record, we find a disagreement between Mr. Akin and Pope Benedict. As mentioned before, Akin believes that the Letter to the Corinthians’ dating at 95 A.D. is too late. He mentions in his book, “William Jurgens (American Catholic historian) points to internal evidence that places it no later than 80 or so (the date he favors) and possibly up to ten years earlier. John A. T. Robinson (New Testament scholar and Anglican Bishop) shows internal evidence that places it in the first part of the year 70. Specifically, Clement refers to sacrifices still being offered at the temple in Jerusalem, which was destroyed in July of 70. Clement also refers to the repeated crises that have prevented him from writing to the Corinthians until now, which is a likely reference to the violent “year of four emperors” in 69.[5]

Pope Benedict writes that the “These “calamitous events” can be identified with Domitian’s persecution: therefore, the Letter must have been written just after the Emperor’s death and at the end of the persecution, that is, immediately after the year 96.”[6]

Who’s right? Well to be fair, Pope Benedict doesn’t present any evidence with his assertion, this makes Akin’s point appear more convincing. However, Pope Benedict’s view is the historical consensus as conceded by Akin.

I say it’s fair game to speculate a bit. If you’re still reading up to this point, you may have mentally asked yourself, “Does twenty years matter with dating?” If the dating by scholars to 95 A.D. continues to hold true, this letter could be one of the first historically documented records of the doctrine of Petrine Primacy prior to its more solid conception under Pope Leo the Great. In this regard, we see a reversal of Galatians 2 where the successor of Peter corrects and takes “it upon himself to speak to the members of a Church founded by the Apostle Paul…that they needed to restore the properly authorized leaders of the church.”[1]

[1] D’Ambrosio, 7.

[1] Jimmy Akin, The Fathers Know Best: Your Essential Guide to the Teachings of the Early Church (San Diego, CA: Catholic Answers, 2010), 56.

[2] Pope Benedict XVI, Church Fathers: From Clement of Rome to Augustine (Ignatius Press: San Francisco, 2008), 7.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Marcellino D’Ambrosio, When The Church was Young: Voices of the Early Fathers (Servant Books: San Francisco, 2014), 5.

[5] Akin, 57.

[6] Pope Benedict XVI, 8.

Newman defends Papal Infallibility


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It was well-known that Newman had lively doubts about the wisdom of pronouncing on Papal Infallibility, so there was some surprise when, in his response to Gladstone’s critique, he did just that.

Newman’s defence of Infallibility deserves to be read in full, as it remains one of the best I know. That those who were making extreme claims for the dogma were as dissatisfied with it as those who disliked it; but as time has shown, Newman had it about right.

Gladstone had claimed that since the Pope was infallible in matters concerning faith and morals, and since there was no area of life which did not involve at least one of these, he was, in practice, able to command the civic and public allegiance of his subjects: ‘therefore Catholics are moral and metal slaves, and every convert and member of the Pope’s Church places his loyalty and civic duty at the mercy of another.’[iv] Far from shying away from the duty of obedience to those set in ecclesiastical authority, Newman, in the best Protestant style, cited the relevant passage from St. Paul (Hebrews 13: 17) enjoining submission to those placed in positions of authority and challenged Gladstone directly: ‘Is there any liberalistic reading of this Scripture passage?’[v] Catholics held that the Pope was the successor of St. Peter; that being so the obedience paid to him was only that demanded by Holy Scripture itself – and Newman denied utterly that obedience to that authority amounted to ‘slavery’. He drew an analogy between divine and human law. The Law, he argued, was ‘supreme’ and those under it were bound to follow its direction, but no one would claim it ‘interferes either with our comfort or our conscience.’ Newman attempted to correct the English obsession with the power of the Pope. Catholic consciences, like those of any Christian, were regulated by an ancient system of moral theology deriving from sources common to all: the Ten Commandments; the Pauline injunctions of Faith, Hope and Charity; and the practices of fasting, sabbatarianism and tithing; the Pope had little, if anything, to do with these matters. The Pope’s jurisdiction lay in matters ecclesiastical, not in civil affairs; Gladstone’s evident confusion of the two was, Newman commented wryly, the origin of his alarm.

Nor did Newman shy away from Gladstone’s attempt to link Infallibility and the Syllabus. He denied that any of the Pope’s words could be construed as releasing subjects from their allegiance to the State, or as condemning either freedom of the press or of conscience. Failing to anticipate where arguments for the latter would lead, Newman asserted that that no one would say that everything should be published, or that people had the right to unrestricted liberty; every State provided, in its laws, for limits to these things; it was the abuse of such liberty, not the liberties themselves, which the Pope condemned. It was the ‘liberty of self-will’ which was being anathematised, not liberty per se. The Syllabus was, Newman reminded Gladstone, a collection of propositions already condemned in the writings of previous Popes; it had been sent by Pius IX to his bishops, and could only be properly understood in that context; it contained no new matter by the Pope. None of this justified Gladstone’s equating the Syllabus with ex cathedra pronouncements of the Holy See: ‘Utterances which must be received as coming from an Infallible Voice, are not made every day, indeed they are very rare; and those which are by some persons affirmed or assumed to be such, do not always turn out what they are said to be.’ Patience was the ‘sine qua non’ when it came to the interpretation of documents emanating from Rome. It was quite untenable, in Newman’s view, to attribute Infallibility to the Syllabus; from this came all Gladstone’s errors.

Newman’s words are as wise and relevant now as they were then, treading a line between the claims of the Ultramontanes and the liberals. Understood aright, Infallibility is the guard against Christ’s Church teaching error; no more, no less.

[iv] Ibid., p. 39

[v] Ibid., p. 40.

The Didache and The Development of Doctrine.


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The Didache serves as a good catechism in addressing particular questions about God’s commandments. For example, What does “Thou Shall not Kill” actually mean when God commands the Hebrews to kill the Canaanites? What does “Thou Shall not commit Adultery” mean to the unmarried? [1]

The Didache addresses both of these topics:

Do not murder; do not commit adultery; do not corrupt boys, do not fornicate (have relations outside of marriage); do not steal; do not practice magic; do not go in for sorcery; do not murder a child by abortion or kill a newborn infant.[2]

 Marcellino D’Ambrosio, in his book on the Church Fathers, explains that this is earliest known documentation in Christian literature that murder in accordance with the fifth commandment includes abortion.[3] The document also references a code for sexual relations. Modernity attempts to profess that its views on human sexuality are new and progressive, but this could not be farther from the truth as explained by the Didache’s explanation on the sixth commandment for “In the Greco-Roman society of the time, religion had little to do with sexual morality. Adventuresome sexual exploration was the fashion.”[4]

One of the most interesting facts that we find in the Didache is the instruction of Baptism. When I was a teenager, there was a church that would have bonfires after every football game and most of the high school kids would go to eat free pizza and roast marshmallows. After awhile, the youth minister of this particular church began to attempt to convert us to his faith. It got to the point that this particular youth minister began to tell us Catholics, and other mainstream Protestants, that we were not immersed when we baptized like Jesus in the Jordan River then our baptism was not valid.

So why do we believe our Baptism to be valid? Again, I cannot stress this enough, studying the early Christians allows us to defend our faith. First off, scripture doesn’t necessarily say that Jesus was immersed, it says that “he went up immediately from the water,”[5] “And when he came up out of the water,”[6] So imagine yourself on a riverbank, you have go down a hill to get into the river and to get out of the river you “went up” from it, or you come “up out of the water.” Now, it’s very possible, and even probable that Jesus was immersed, but just because the Gospel records a particular event doesn’t mean it’s a formula. In fact, the only formula for baptism in the Gospel is given at the end of the Gospel of Matthew:

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age.”[7]

Now, this could just be my particular interpretations of these particular text, I would imagine the youth minister in Mt. Sterling would tell me that these are Catholic apologist proof texts. So, I ask, what were the early Christian understanding of baptism.

The Didache reads:

“Baptize in running water, “In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.” (note that the only no negotiable is based on scripture) If you do not have running water, baptize in some other (form of water). If you cannot in cold, then in warm, If you have neither, then pour water on the head three times “in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”[8]

The early Christians only understood two necessities: #1 The Scriptural Formula and #2 Water. Different variables of water were allowed, and sprinkling was also allowed by early Christians.

Please read the other posts in this series:

Discovering the Didache: The Oldest Catechism and The Didache and Christian Community

[1]D’Ambrosio, 12.

[2] Didache 2:2 Some argue that abortion was allowed in Judaism; however, we must also keep in mind that Divorce was allowed in Judaism as referenced in Mt. 19, but Christ explains the reasoning why Divorce displeases God. Regardless of Judaic arguments for or against abortion, our faith asserts that the Church has been given the authority to teach God’s will.

[3] D’Ambrosio, 13.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Mt. 3:16

[6] Mk. 1:10

[7] Mt. 28:19

[8] Didache 7:2

The Didache and Christian Community


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It’s natural to ask how the idea of community in the Didache pertains to Christians in our 21st century Church; the idea is very much rooted in Catholic “Body of Christ” Theology. The Catechism of the Catholic Church explains this in section 787-789:

II.        The Church—Body of Christ

The Church is communion with Jesus

787 From the beginning, Jesus associated his disciples with his own life, revealed the mystery of the Kingdom to them, and gave them a share in his mission, joy, and sufferings. Jesus spoke of a still more intimate communion between him and those who would follow him: “Abide in me, and I in you.… I am the vine, you are the branches.”216 And he proclaimed a mysterious and real communion between his own body and ours: “He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.” (755)

788 When his visible presence was taken from them, Jesus did not leave his disciples orphans. He promised to remain with them until the end of time; he sent them his Spirit. As a result communion with Jesus has become, in a way, more intense: “By communicating his Spirit, Christ mystically constitutes as his body those brothers of his who are called together from every nation.”219 (690)

789 The comparison of the Church with the body casts light on the intimate bond between Christ and his Church. Not only is she gathered around him; she is united in him, in his body. Three aspects of the Church as the Body of Christ are to be more specifically noted: the unity of all her members with each other as a result of their union with Christ; Christ as head of the Body; and the Church as bride of Christ.[1]

Recently, I’ve read the Spiritual Diary of St. John Paul II; published for the first time in English. The future Saint wrote about the importance of Christian community in 1978 in his notes, “’Koinonia,’ the community, is the third principle dimension of Christian existence.”[2] John Paul II would return to this theme many times in his diaries and in 1984 wrote reminding us now the dangers of living as an individual in our contemporary society that “Humankind threatened by ‘deindividuation! Contemporary Man. Christianity couters this with the reality of ‘communio’ the communion with God through Jesus Christ, through the mystery of incarnation; the communion of saints.”[3]

Naturally, this is why I have sought to call all of us here together, I desire to foster this community amongst ourselves, but there’s even more that we can do build our community. We need to follow Christ. Remember, the Apostles asked Jesus, “Where are you staying?” He replied, “Come and See.” (John 1:38-41) We encounter Jesus at every Mass during the Liturgy of the Eucharist in our community, we become a part of the Body of Christ during our baptism, but we grow even closer to him by partaking of His body in the Eucharist. As such we use the same language during the mass, we call our celebration of the Eucharist “communion” and before receiving the sacred Body, it is held up the words “The Body of Christ” are spoken prior to reception.

[1] Catholic Church, Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2nd Ed. (Washington: United States Catholic Conference, 2000), 208.

[2] Pope St. John Paul II In God’s Hands: The Spiritual Diaries of Pope Saint John Paul II (London: Harper One, 2017), 134.

[3] Ibid, 229.

The Origins of the Authority of the Pope (Part 2)

The Early Christian writing show us what Christianity believed from the time of the Apostles on through the centuries. Many of the First Christians were disciples of the Apostles and also their successors. Their writings show us Christian thinking of the first centuries, and how Christ’s teaching was understood. Who better to express the Apostles’ teaching than their own students? They certainly believed that Peter held a place of primacy among the Apostles.

Tatian the Syrian

“Simon Cephas answered and said, ‘You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus answered and said unto him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon, son of Jonah: flesh and blood has not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say unto thee also, that you are Cephas, and on this rock will I build my Church; and the gates of hades shall not prevail against it” (The Diatesseron 23 [A.D. 170]).



Was anything withheld from the knowledge of Peter, who is called ‘the rock on which the Church would be built’ [Matt. 16:18] with the power of ‘loosing and binding in heaven and on earth’ [Matt. 16:19]?” (Demurrer Against the Heretics 22 [A.D. 200]).

“[T]he Lord said to Peter, ‘On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven [and] whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. . . . What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when he conferred this personally upon Peter? Upon you, he says, I will build my Church; and I will give to you the keys” (Modesty 21:9–10 [A.D. 220]).


The Letter of Clement to James

“Be it known to you, my lord, that Simon [Peter], who, for the sake of the true faith, and the most sure foundation of his doctrine, was set apart to be the foundation of the Church, and for this end was by Jesus himself, with his truthful mouth, named Peter” (Letter of Clement to James 2 [A.D. 221]).


The Clementine Homilies

“[Simon Peter said to Simon Magus in Rome:] ‘For you now stand in direct opposition to me, who am a firm rock, the foundation of the Church’ [Matt. 16:18]” (Clementine Homilies 17:19 [A.D. 221]).



“Look at [Peter], the great foundation of the Church, that most solid of rocks, upon whom Christ built the Church [Matt. 16:18]. And what does our Lord say to him? ‘Oh you of little faith,’ he says, ‘why do you doubt?’ [Matt. 14:31]” (Homilies on Exodus 5:4 [A.D. 248]).


Cyprian of Carthage

“The Lord says to Peter: ‘I say to you,’ he says, ‘that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven . . . ’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. On him [Peter] he builds the Church, and to him he gives the command to feed the sheep [John 21:17], and although he assigns a like power to all the apostles, yet he founded a single chair [cathedra], and he established by his own authority a source and an intrinsic reason for that unity. Indeed, the others were that also which Peter was [i.e., apostles], but a primacy is given to Peter, whereby it is 0831cyprian-of-carthage0012.jpgmade clear that there is but one Church and one chair. . . . If someone does not hold fast to this unity of Peter, can he imagine that he still holds the faith? If he [should] desert the chair of Peter upon whom the Church was built, can he still be confident that he is in the Church?” (The Unity of the Catholic Church 4; 1st edition [A.D. 251]).

“There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering” (Letters 43[40]:5 [A.D. 253]).

“There [John 6:68–69] speaks Peter, upon whom the Church would be built, teaching in the name of the Church and showing that even if a stubborn and proud multitude withdraws because it does not wish to obey, yet the Church does not withdraw from Christ. The people joined to the priest and the flock clinging to their shepherd are the Church. You ought to know, then, that the bishop is in the Church and the Church in the bishop, and if someone is not with the bishop, he is not in the Church. They vainly flatter themselves who creep up, not having peace with the priests of God, believing that they are secretly [i.e., invisibly] in communion with certain individuals. For the Church, which is one and Catholic, is not split nor divided, but it is indeed united and joined by the cement of priests who adhere one to another” (ibid., 66[69]:8).



“But what is his error . . . who does not remain on the foundation of the one Church which was founded upon the rock by Christ [Matt. 16:18], can be learned from this, which Christ said to Peter alone: ‘Whatever things you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth, they shall be loosed in heaven’ [Matt. 16:19]” (collected in Cyprian’s Letters 74[75]:16 [A.D. 253]).

“[Pope] Stephen [I] . . . boasts of the place of his episcopate, and contends that he holds the succession from Peter, on whom the foundations of the Church were laid [Matt. 16:18]. . . . [Pope] Stephen . . . announces that he holds by succession the throne of Peter” (ibid., 74[75]:17).


Ephraim the Syrian

“[Jesus said:] ‘Simon, my follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for me. If they should wish to build what is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which my teaching flows; you are the chief of my disciples’” (Homilies 4:1 [A.D. 351]).



You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head—that is why he is also called Cephas [‘Rock’]—of all the apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all” (The Schism of the Donatists 2:2 [A.D. 367]).


Ambrose of Milan

“[Christ] made answer: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock will I build my Church. . . . ’ Could he not, then, strengthen the faith of the man to whom, acting on his own authority, he gave the kingdom, whom he called the rock, thereby declaring him to be the foundation of the Church [Matt. 16:18]?” (The Faith 4:5 [A.D. 379]).

“It is to Peter that he says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18]. Where Peter is, there is the Church. And where the Church is, no death is there, but life eternal” (Commentary on Twelve Psalms of David 40:30 [A.D. 389]).


Pope Damasus I

“Likewise it is decreed . . . that it ought to be announced that . . . the holy Roman Church has not been placed at the forefront by the conciliar decisions of other churches, but has received the primacy by the evangelic voice of our Lord and Savior, who says: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it; and I will give to you the keys of the kingdom of heaven. . . . ’ [Matt. 16:18–19]. The first see, therefore, is that of Peter the apostle, that of the Roman Church, which has neither stain nor blemish nor anything like it” (Decree of Damasus 3 [A.D. 382]).



“‘But,’ you [Jovinian] will say, ‘it was on Peter that the Church was founded’ [Matt. 16:18]. Well . . . one among the twelve is chosen to be their head in order to remove any occasion for division” (Against Jovinian 1:26 [A.D. 393]).

“I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but your blessedness [Pope Damasus I], that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which thecopy_of_st_jerome_writing_by_boelberner.jpg Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails” (Letters 15:2 [A.D. 396]).



“If the very order of episcopal succession is to be considered, how much more surely, truly, and safely do we number them [the bishops of Rome] from Peter himself, to whom, as to one representing the whole Church, the Lord said, ‘Upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of hell shall not conquer it.’ Peter was succeeded by Linus, Linus by Clement. … In this order of succession a Donatist bishop is not to be found” (Letters 53:1:2 [A.D. 412]).


Council of Ephesus

“Philip, the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See [Rome], said: ‘There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors’” (Acts of the Council, session 3 [A.D. 431]).


Sechnall of Ireland

“Steadfast in the fear of God, and in faith immovable, upon [Patrick] as upon Peter the [Irish] church is built; and he has been allotted his apostleship by God; against him the gates of hell prevail not” (Hymn in Praise of St. Patrick 3 [A.D. 444]).


Pope Leo I

“Our Lord Jesus Christ . . . has placed the principal charge on the blessed Peter, chief of all the apostles. . . . He wished him who had been received into partnership in his undivided unity to be named what he himself was, when he said: ‘You are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church’ [Matt. 16:18], that the building of the eternal temple might rest on Peter’s solid rock, strengthening his Church so surely that neither could human rashness assail it nor the gates of hell prevail against it” (Letters 10:1 [A.D. 445]).


Council of Chalcedon

Wherefore the most holy and blessed Leo, archbishop of the great and elder Rome, through us, and through this present most holy synod, together with the thrice blessed and all-glorious Peter the apostle, who is the rock and foundation of the Catholic Church, and the foundation of the orthodox faith, has stripped him [Dioscorus] of the episcopate” (Acts of the Council, session 3 [A.D. 451]).

Both history and the Scriptures point to Peter being made the leader of the earthly Church. Why object to it? Scripture teaches it; the first Christians believed it. A person who makes an attack on the papacy is either ignorant or wrongly informed. I would next like to study the one of the specifics of the teaching power of the pope, that is, infallibility.

{To be continued in The Origins of the Authority of the Pope (Part 3) Papal Infallibility}

Discovering the Didache: The Oldest Catechism.


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The first topic of discussion is not a single Church Father, but rather a 2nd century document called the Didache based on part of one of the oldest known Catechisms in existence called “The Two Way.”[1] The Two Way, as explained by Thomas O’Loughlin, Professor of Theology at the University of Nottingham, gave early Christians a choice between a way of life, either a way of life or death.[2] What the Didache tells us is how early Christians worshiped God and whether our development of our faith is either very different from the faith of early Christians or very much alike. An interesting fact about the document known as the Didache, which means “teaching” in Greek, is that it has been lost for nearly 1000 years before being found by a monk in Istanbul in 1873. The particular Orthodox monk’s name that discovered the Didache was Philotheos Bryennios; “born in Constantinople in 1833.”[3]

Bryennios’ story for me is an inspiring story, as a student of history, I’ve been taught various historical methods to aid my prowess as a historian. In his Book, Professor O’Loughlin explains that Bryennios had such a great aptitude as a scholar that his superiors found funding for him to attend a prestigious school in German to mold his budding skills as a scholar.[4] Interesting enough, it were these skills that gave him the simple perseverance while researching in the library of the Constantinople house of the Monastery of the Holy Sepulchre by simply looking through an entire manuscript that was already well known by scholars at the time.[5]

Now, from a historical perspective, I have to ask, what can be learned by the discovery of such a document? Did we discover that in fact Catholic theology had drifted far away from early Christians or did it faithfully adhere to the early doctrines of the early Church?

Let’s take a look and find out.

Thomas O’Loughlin gives a great foundation for understanding the Christian context of the Didache by framing it within the backdrop of the Judaic understanding of Deuteronomy 30:14-18. RSV

14 But the word is very near you; it is in your mouth and in your heart, so that you can do it.

 15 “See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and evil. 16 If you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you this day, by loving the Lord your God, by walking in his ways, and by keeping his commandments and his statutes and his ordinances, then you shall live and multiply, and the Lord your God will bless you in the land which you are entering to take possession of it. 17 But if your heart turns away, and you will not hear, but are drawn away to worship other gods and serve them, 18 I declare to you this day, that you shall perish; you shall not live long in the land which you are going over the Jordan to enter and possess.[6]

 Prof. O’Loughlin explains that “the people of Israel are presented with this choice: the way of covenant which leads to life and rejoicing in good things, the way of death which is the result of choosing another way and ignoring the commandments.”[7] As explained, by O’Loughlin, this challenge that was initiated by the Hebrews and adopted by early Christians by ending the idea of cosmic fatalism—being collateral damage of pagan gods—was revolutionary to a great many people in the world; therefore, was extremely attractive to new converts.[8]

The document reminds us that early Christians viewed themselves not as single individuals but rather as a community, as the advent of this type of thinking was created during the 16th and 17th centuries in the period commonly referred to as the Enlightenment. During the Enlightenment, the primary concerns of many philosophers and politicians was natural law and natural rights being inalienable to nature and essence of  humanity by the natural order of our creation. However, the detriment of this type of thinking has led to extreme philosophies of individualism, materialism, and scientism.

The Didache, in many ways, reminds us that our Western civilizations continue to move away from orthodox (small “o”) Christian thinking and culture. O’Loughlin says, in accord with choosing the way of life—following Jesus Christ—“the individual had to accept the way as a member of the people, but was the whole community that had to choose to sset out on the way of life. Moreover, when individuals abandoned the commandments then the whole community was in jeopardy.”[9]

[1] D’Ambrosio, 11.

[2] Thomas O’Loughlin, The Didache: A Window on the Earliest Christians (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2010), 30.

[3] Ibid, 1.

[4] Ibid, 3.

[5] Ibid, 5.

[6] Deut. 30:14-18 RSV

[7] O’Loughlin, 29.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid, 30.