Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Buying, Selling, And Apostasy

They have no eyes and see not,
They have no ears and hear not.
“And that no man might buy or sell, but he that hath the character, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” Revelation 13:17

“It was almost impossible to procure the necessaries of life, without exposing themselves of committing some act of idolatry. In the public market small images of the gods were placed, and no one was allowed to buy or to sell anything unless he had first burnt incense before them.” The Life and Martyrdom of St Sebastian.

“The Democratic bill, which was supported by the Obama administration, would make it clear that any employer providing health insurance would have to pay for any type of coverage specified by federal law.” From Effort to Override hobby lobby ruling fails.

Personally, I find the idea of threatening strange Gods as something more worthy of fear then the feminist demographic. I am sure that the Romans would have had no problem accepting the Christians worshiping Jesus as long as they did not neglect to worship the other Gods as well. Equality and everything you know! I must say that our pagan opponents have gone backwards from their ancient forefathers, in the past the Romans built great temples to the Gods, performed rituals with Priests, and offered incense. Instead of worshiping a piece of pretty stone, they demand that we have to worship silly pills, and not even by taking the little soul destroyers, but by paying for someone else's coverage to maybe use them.

They failed this time, but our current freedom from such force participation without incurring the wrath of the state may be coming to an end. We should not despair of this fact, rather we need to prepare for it. It is true that humility, a love for contempt, a hatred for human respect, love of simplicity, detachment from kin, land and property should always be things that we are trying to grow in. Are soldiers more diligent in training when they know that they may go into battle soon? Our Faith should always drive us to struggle manfully against the principalities and powers, but when we dull our spiritual vision through sin and neglect seeing a visible threat can perhaps spur us to the amendment of life that we need just to be saved from hell. Perhaps, these threats of future trials may not come to pass from the hands of God, if we all return more to the fear of God and good living.

“Let your Excellency consider, therefore, that your high dignity obliges you to do many things inconsistent with the spirit of Christianity: you have to be present at public shows, which are offensive to modesty, to charity, in a word to good morals, you have to preside at trials, where it is a foregone conclusion that innocent Christians be condemned. Wherefore, permit me to suggest, under the plea of ill health, or of advanced age, it would be proper to ask for a successor.” St Sebastian from The Life and Martyrdom of St Sebastian on Audiobook

Another thing worthy of comment is that in the future, as society goes more and more pagan, certain prevailing attitudes may be expected for certain positions of power and participation in certain evils. If we inoculate ourselves now with true wisdom, we will not have to agonize later. We all know it would be better to not have a Catholic president, than to have one who approved abortion and the resulting scandal arising from it. The same goes at smaller appointments, to the bench, to political offices, to the military and the corporate world. These things are not worth selling our souls for, they are trivial compared to the nobility of the adopted sons of God, they are served by men and deal with the dealings of men. Christians are served by Angels and deal with the divine law.

If we have not meditated on the possibility of losing our job and suffering poverty for righteousness sake, we should. Whether our bellies are filled with dread, or we rejoice for the possibility to suffer with Christ we should ask God to prepare our hearts to suffer for His sake.

My heart is ready, O God, my heart is ready: I will Sing, and rehearse a psalm. Psalm 57:7

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Are you an Ultramontanist?

There is a lot of talk these days about a kind of pervasive Ultramontanism in the Neo-Catholic world; not Ultramontanism in the classical sense, for understood classically, Ultramontanism, like the term "Integralism", was just a phrase denoting Catholicism affirming the infallibility of the pope.

In current parlance, we are not talking about fidelity to the Holy Father, but rather a kind of crass, undiscriminating Ultramontanism that is best characterized by the embarrassing spectacle of Neo-Catholic apologists tripping all over themselves to affirm every single prudential decision of the pope as not only good, but the best possible decision. In the judgment of the modern Ultramontanists, every utterance of the pope, no matter how banal or off the cuff, is treated as a profound insight; every administrative act or symbolic gesture he makes are examples of brilliant leadership; every prudential judgment and non-authoritative teaching treated as infallible truth. 

No matter what they might say, there is a very easy test to see if the person you are talking with actually subscribes to the kind of crass Ultramontanism I have described above. Ask them to:

First, cite one prudential action of the pope which you disagree with.

Second, cite one action or statement of the pope that you agree with, though you admit that good Catholics can be in disagreement about.

If you or your interlocutor cannot do either of these two things, they are Ultramontanists, no matter what they might say to the contrary.

When I presented this to one Catholic apologist, he told me, "It might happen that you in fact do agree with everything the pope does, while acknowledging that one is not bound to agree with every prudential decision of the pope." That's why the second question is so important - if you do in fact happen to agree with everything the pope does prudentially, then state one of these instances where you admit that others may disagree and remain in good standing.

Great related article from Rorate. 

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Brown Scapular: True Wisdom


A wish to speak today of a huge absurdity that exists in the Church today regarding salvation.  That so much effort is made to not even suggest that people are going to hell, while at the same time the snobbish condescension against the Brown Scapular of our Lady of Mt Carmel and the great promise of salvation to those who die wearing it. I pray that I am alone in having seen it, and that your ears have not had to suffer the irritation that mine have when suffering through the often times odious intellectual attacks against it.

I personally know of two priests, one who some might consider traditional and another who among his peers might be considered orthodox who have come far short from offering the esteem that this powerful sacramental deserves.   One likes to think it is superstitious the other likes to refer to it as a "thingy".

I must say that their are seldom found defenders of this great sacramental from the charge of superstition. There are so called “friends” of the scapular who give it only faint praise, who fall over themselves in their effort to downplay the promise of the brown scapular by pointing out that the scapular only works if you are not in mortal sin.  These statements injure the faith and confidence one can have in the brown scapular and injure its propagation. 

Lets us first consider a few things about the brown scapular.
1.  It is a sign of devotion and consecration to the Mother of God.
2.  It is ancient, going back at least 800 years and if you accept the annals of the order of Mt Carmel their devotion to Mary extends back to her even while she still walked the earth.
3.  It has received numerous blessings from the Church.
4.  Many Saints of the Church have worn it and recommended its use.
5.  Many miracles of the brown scapular are historical facts, attested to by numerous witnesses and they have occurred without ceasing sense the institution of the confraternity of the brown scapular. 

These should be reason enough for everyone to want to participate in the devotion to the brown scapular by devoutly wearing it even if it did not have the promise, that anyone who died wearing the brown scapular shall not suffer eternal fire.

What are some of its benefits, excluding the promise of salvation and the special protection of Mary.

1.  It is an act of religion when one wears it for the sake of devotion to the Mother of God.
2.  It is an act of humility to the Church and her Saints that recommended its use to grow in grace. 
3.  It is an outward sign of devotion to the Mother of God.
4.  The Church has decreed that the devout use of a devotional object merits a partial indulgence.
5. Its wearing is a constant reminder of the presence of God and our childlike intimacy with Mary. 

These repeated acts help us grown in virtue, honoring the Virgin Mary in front of men will lead to God honoring us in front of men, the partial indulgences help alleviate the sufferings of the holy soul or pay our debt due to sin and the reminder of Gods presence deters us from committing sin.  Even if people choose to be doubters of the great promise of salvation of the brown scapular, they cannot deny these facts.

However, the promises of the brown scapular are true: that of a good and holy death, and of our Lady’s protection.  How do we know? Because they have been proven many times by miracles.  If you are interested in hearing many historical and semi modern miracles please check out our Audiobook on miracles of the brown scapular.

You will find among the numerous stories of the brown scapular not stories of canonized Saints,  but stories of sinners often times people who lived very evil lives, but through the power of the brown scapular where either saved from unexpected deaths or given the grace of repentance.  

It would be superstitious to believe that the cloth in and of itself will save one from hell.  It would be presumptuous to believe that one will be allowed to die wearing the brown scapular.  But, it is neither superstition or presumption to put ones confidence and hope in Our Lady of the Brown Scapular even when one is in mortal sin, even when one is living a reprobate life.  When we sin against charity we may lose sanctifying grace, but we do not necessarily lose the theological virtue of hope.  Dearest reader, no matter what sin or sins you find yourself committing, never ever take off your brown scapular.  

Every day we wear the brown scapular we renew our plea to Our Lady, “I need your special help to be saved!”. How can such a plea be worthless even when we are in sin!  No one with unrepented mortal sin will enter heaven, but to hope that our lady by wearing her garment will provide the grace for repentance is true wisdom.

The sinner and the saint  who wear the brown scapular only are able to do it through the grace of God, since to wear the brown scapular with devotion is a good work and only God can do good.  And while I do accept that no one must believe in the brown scapular (being a private revelation) or that wearing it is not mandatory, I have sometimes pondered that those who hold it in scorn have not received the grace to wear it because they are currently on their way to hell.

But we do not want them to go to hell, and we do not want for anyone to lose out on the numerous graces that are available by the devout daily wearing of the brown scapular.  Last year Alleluia Audiobooks published an Audiobook devoted to only miracles of the brown scapular from the founding of the confraternity up till the early 20th century. To date it is our second most popular audiobook after the torments of hell, but we have received feedback that it was a great aid in increasing devotion to the brown scapular and people showed greater fidelity in wearing it daily.

In anticipation for the next feast of Our Lady of Mt Carmel we are hoping to receive enough user submissions of miraculous stories of the brown scapular from readers in order to put together a new Audiobook of miracles of the Brown Scapular in modern times.  To strengthen peoples confidence in the brown scapular and to confound its enemies. It is a great opportunity to help induce others to love and reverence our Lady of Mt Carmel.  I most earnestly implore you to submit your stories, to share this plea, and if you are a blogger to please also consider sharing this post on your blog so that we are able to collect enough stories to make another Audiobook to the Glory of God and Our Lady of Mt Carmel.

Our Lady of Mt Carmel, Thou has promise St Simon Stock that anyone who died wearing thy brown scapular shall not suffer eternal fire. Grant then me the grace to die wearing it, and protect me at the hour of my death with the last sacraments.  O Mother, pray for me that when I go before the judgement seat of God that your merits might be applied to the penalty due to my sins and that I escape the punishments of purgatory. Amen.

Friday, July 11, 2014

The Beauty of the Catholic Homeschool Mother


Recently, I attended the Southern California Catholic Home Educators Conference at St John the Baptist Church in Costa Mesa as a vendor for Alleluia Audiobooks.  I was there with a dual purpose, to hand out free Catholic audiobooks and to educate myself a bit on homeschooling as my oldest daughter will be starting kindergarten next year.  

What still brings me joy when I recall the conference is this: I had never seen so many modestly dressed women in one place at a single setting (even Mass).  I have lived in Southern California my entire life, and needless to say the standards for dress, especially when it gets warmer, aim more towards revealing than concealing.  

Not so among these faithful. I had the joy of interacting with many mothers who came by the booth who could not be accused of any of the following: bitter, weird, frumpy, socially awkward, unkempt, or angry. Rather, they were full of joy, modesty, kindness, and a general manner of behaving that could best be characterized as graceful.  

If you think about it, the life of a Catholic homeschool mother is one of exceptional modesty.  The vocation of motherhood (which is held out today with much contempt) is lived in the fullest manner: the personal supervision of the entire upbringing of a child without major delegation to another adult. To make the choice to homeschool one's children (and in a faithful Catholic way) will not win human respect among the majority of society, but rather a lot of ridicule.  Outside of close family and friends, the main work of this endeavor will go without praise (sometimes even within the family).  Children, who must be trained in the ways of virtue and learn wisdom through time, will oftentimes not show gratitude for the extent of the sacrifices that their mother and father make for them.

However, what should stand out to all, even if they do not have children or who never plan to homeschool: this work is done without payment and oftentimes at great sacrifice and expense. This fact, in my opinion, is one of the great indicators of the purity of heart that  homeschooling mothers practice. Perhaps you are saying "no duh!". But consider that many apostolates never get off the ground because of an unwillingness of those who do the labor to actually sacrifice the personal cash to make it successful. There is a book I have on ancient monastic writings from Ukraine that was recently translated from ancient Slavonic into English, most people probably do not know that the book even exists let alone some of the wisdom within its pages, but its copyright notification is so strict at the beginning of the book that I cannot even provide a direct citation (outside of a book review) without violating it.  I am certain you can think of other apostolates which either stifle themselves or have failed because of money.

Despite there being no economic incentive (other than viewing it as a cheaper alternative to private school) there are plenty of pitfalls that one can fall into that could damage purity of heart.  Many a monastery in history has shown how men vowed even unto poverty can fall into greed; we should not think that homeschooling children will preserve a family from worldly ambitions, delusions of grandeur, or the inordinate love of scholarships and high test scores.  However, the later opulence of some monasteries was not so easily found in the early days of monastic life where one needed to be sustained by a great religious fervor in order to persevere through the hard living.  One could get the feeling, with the absolute destruction of the Catholic education system by the modernists, that we are returning to the primitive rule, per se, of Catholic education.  St John Climacus and St Teresa of Avila both preferred monastic systems of a few monks to one elder over both solitary life and huge monasteries (though they acknowledged that each had their own distinct merits).  The intimacy for home life presents unique circumstances for the rooting out of vice and the development of virtue through correction that is more difficult when overseeing many students, or parents being separated from their children for long periods of time. 

There are some who have characterized the Catholic subculture as bitter, weird, cranky, and mediocre,   whose "scene" is overflowing with overly sentimental blogs and tacky Catholic memorabilia. What I saw at the Homeschooling Conference was the opposite, and I believe that the Catholic homeschooling subculture is and will continue to yield those great fruits of hope and charity. Kitschy JPII mugs and 3D Divine Mercy images  will pass away, but the fruit of homeschooling will yield great results that are eternal. 

Friday, July 04, 2014

Long Live the Republic!

I Love my country and often times I like it as well.  I make the distinction because a person is capable of loving something without liking it, an important distinction especially when dealing with others who we might find irritable.

England, France, Spain, Italy and other European countries rich in Catholic history are also drenched in Catholic blood, and these are not ancient memories from the days of the primitive church, but their sagas along with other nations can be found in the last few centuries.  

Why should Catholics love America?  In America as of today, it is still possible to practice our Holy Religion, unlike in China or Saudi Arabia where the Church is underground and savagely persecuted.  We can still condemn sin from the pulpit, unlike even Canada where if you condemn certain politically protected sins you might be found guilty of a hate crime. 

The right to private property, the ability to have as many children as one would like(unlike China), the right to own firearms, the right to home-school (unlike Germany), the freedom to tithe the amount you want to and to whom you want to (unlike Germany again).  These freedoms no doubt, are graces granted to us by God to do good by.  Americans may think that it is through the people that we have these freedoms  while we as Catholics know it is only through cooperation with the grace of God that we have them.

It greatly saddens me to see pro lifers, or traditional Catholics sometimes getting so caught up in the struggle for national righteousness, that they begin to hate our beloved country.  It is true that the ideas on which our nation were founded were short of the fullness of truth.  Yet, nations are made up of men and men sin and fall short of the Glory of God.  Ireland may invoke the Blessed Trinity in its constitution, yet who would dare say that their Government today is Godly. 

What if our country was worst and we enjoyed none of these freedoms?  Could we, should we still love it? Yes, we should, for the most simple reason of all.  We live here.

Even during the centuries of savage persecutions of the Roman empire did the Martyrs hate their country and there countrymen? No.  It is true they hated and spited  their “gods” or national demons, and that they refused to worship the emperor as a god.  These oppositions to evil though did not make them bitter, their Christian faith which was the contradiction to both the political and cultural life gave them the strength to suffer for their country and even at times for the benefit of the Emperors who made them suffer.

I believe St Sebastian, Captain of the Imperial Guard to the Emperor, and made defender of the Church by the Pope at that time is a most excellent example of patriotism and love of country.  St Sebastian was the captain of the guard to the notorious and savage persecutor of the Church, Diocletian.  Upon hearing that St Sebastian was a Christian he refused to believe it, as he considered the Christians to be his greatest enemies, so he summoned him and interrogated him.

Diocletian said to St Sebastian “Sebastian, I have raised thee to honor and distinction among the officers of the palace, because I looked upon thee as one of the most faithful of my friends.  Must I believe that all the while thou was an enemy of the gods, and that I entrusted my safety to one who was disloyal to me.”

To which St Sebastian responded “I have ever been faithful and loyal to you, I have constantly prayed to the God whom I worship, that he might give safety to your august person and to the Empire.  Of your idols of wood and stone I have never asked anything, knowing that they cannot give to to others what they do not possess” 

“Thou art then a Christian?” asked the Emperor

“I am a Christian such I have been from the days of my childhood, and it is for this very reason that I have always performed my duties faithfully and conscientiously”.

After giving that story St Sebastian was ordered to be put to death by being shot full of arrows.  However, after his execution he was resurrected from the Dead and confronted the emperor again, not in vengeance but in pleading during a solemn day of pagan worship.  

St Sebastian: “Harken to me, O Prince! The priests of your temples deceive you by their wicked falsehoods against the Christians.  They tell you, that we are enemies of the Empire; yet it is by your prayers that the Empire is made to prosper.  Cease your unjust persecutions against us, and remember the day of reckoning is near at hand, when you too shall be judged by an all knowing judge.”  (To hear more on the Life and Martyrdom of St Sebastian taken directly from the Acts of the Martyrs, sign up for Alleluia Audiobooks mailing list to be notified when it is available for download). 

Needless to say the Emperor did not have a change of heart, and had St Sebastian beaten to death at that point by clubs.  What tremendous loyalty this Captain of the Guard had and love this Saint had for the Emperor, and the Roman Empire!  Even after being put to death, he does not cease to excuse the tyrant, excusing his cruelty on the deceptions of pagan priests.  Can we hope to have such a burning charity for these United States of America and for our leaders?  

What a contrast of loyalty to a pagan leader to the memories of the Catholic States lead by noble kings.  Have you met a person who advocates the restoration of the monarchies of old based on these excellent memories.  I wonder how many traditional Catholics would feel about a Catholic Monarch if they wound up giving that power to a man like Prince Charles of England or even our Holy Father Pope Francis but with real Political Power.    

When we read such heroic old examples we should draw upon them and apply the examples of their virtue to our lives, and relay their stories so that other men become aware of the greatness of leadership characterized by a humble submission to God.  We should hope and labor to win over all of America  for Christ through conversion, and perfect our Government.  In the meantime we should show reverence and respect for the Laws, institutions, and customs of our nation and obey them in as far as we do not sin.  All authority, even the authority of our constitution (that makes no mention of the Holy Trinity), receives its authority from God whether it says so or not.  

The Monarchies of old are far removed from the political realities of today.  One can like the monarchs of old, as long as one remains loyal to the legitimate government now. By the ordering  of the world by God we are a republic and we should strive to serve him in the holiest way we can right now, not longing for distant governments or circumstances to come as per the warning of  St Francis De Sales.

“Do not desire faraway things, that is, things that cannot happen for a long time, as many people do, and by so doing wear out and waste their hearts to no purpose and expose themselves to the danger of becoming very discontented”  Introduction to the Devout Life.

Even if this country is becoming more hostile to Catholicism, may God preserve us my friends from becoming more hostile to it, may we find strength in the example of St Sebastian to pray for our leaders, the empire and  do our duties faithfully and conscientiously. 

Happy 4th of July, Long Live the Republic and God Bless America! 

Thursday, July 03, 2014

The Lost Practice of Christian Shunning

While certainly affirming our Lord's teaching to go out into the highways and by-ways to seek the lost and of being a light to the world, have you ever run across a situation where you simply cannot put yourself in the presence of a particular individual(s) because of the lifestyle they choose to live? People whose manifest and unrepentant sins are so scandalous that you believe it would be spiritually damaging for you or your family to engage with them in any way? People whom you basically shun or shut out of your daily life intentionally?

We all have these people - and maybe you feel a little bit bad about your approach to them? Maybe you feel conflicted. After all, you remember the "sinners and tax collectors" stuff from the New Testament and the "who is my neighbor?" stuff and you wonder whether it is really just to simply exclude a person from your life because of their sins. After all, you were a sinner and God did not exclude you.

My friends, this is not a happy-clappy blog, and I am not going to go into a moralizing lesson on how we ought not to shun these people. In fact, I am going to suggest the opposite: that your guilt is misplaced and that you are right to shun or shut out manifest certain sinners from your life. In fact, the Sacred Scriptures not only allow for such shunning, but positively command it in certain circumstances. Let us take a look and the long-neglected practice of Christian "shunning".

First, let us recall Matthew 10:12-15:

"And when you come into the house, salute it, saying: Peace be to this house. And if that house be worthy, your peace shall come upon it; but if it be not worthy, your peace shall return to you. And whosoever shall not receive you, nor hear your words: going forth out of that house or city shake off the dust from your feet.  Amen I say to you, it shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom and Gomorrha in the day of judgment, than for that city."

The only sin or evil that is mentioned here is the refusal of a person or persons to listen to the Gospel or be willing to receive a Christian in order to hear the Gospel. If this occurs, Jesus commands the disciples to "shake the dust from your feet"; in New Testament era jargon, this reflects a demonstration of repudiation or separation. Pious Jews used to do this after passing through a Gentile city to demonstrate their repudiation of the Gentile customs they had to endure whilst in a city on business. The command of Christ to do this signifies that the believer repudiates the unbelief of the infidel. But not only is the unbelief repudiated, but the believer must physically separate himself from the presence of the obstinate infidel by "going forth out of that house or city"; St. Paul and Barnabas do just this in Acts 13:50-51 after meeting hostility in Pisidia. They shake the dust off their feet and move on to another city, leaving the unbelievers to themselves. 

Note also our Lord not only commands repudiation and physical separation, but pronounces a woeful judgment on the unbelievers.

This is not shunning in the positive sense of a believer refusing to see a scandalous sinner; rather, it is the believer removing himself from the presence of obstinate unbelievers. But the principle is introduced that a physical separation from an obstinate infidel - and that word obstinate is key  - is sometimes necessary.

Jesus also discusses shunning in Matthew 18:15-17:

"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother.But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector."

First, note that this is applied to "your brother"; i.e., another member of the Church. That this is evident is denoted by Christ's reference to "the Church" as the authority the two brethren can take their problem to. If the errant brother was not also a member of the Church, why would the Church have jurisdiction to hear the case? So Christ applies this teaching to other Christians, not unbelievers in general.

Second, the obstinacy of the brother who refuses to listen "even to the Church" merits shunning. "Let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector" means shun him; it is common knowledge that pious Jews shunned the company and homes of Gentiles and tax collectors, and Jesus' admonition is that one remaining obstinate in his sins is to be shunned by the Church.

Let us go on to 1 Corinthians, where we see St. Paul has taken the concept of physical separation in cases of obstinate refusal to listen and applied it to cases of sexual immorality within the Church:

1 Corinthians 5:19-13

"I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.

Like in Matthew 18, we see the practice of shunning being invoked to deal with cases of obstinate sin within the Church. And in case Jesus' teaching was not clear enough, St. Paul goes to lengths to explain that he is not suggesting that Christians separate from the sinners of the world - for to do that, one would need to leave the world! On the contrary, it is those who call themselves Christian yet persist in sin who must be shunned. Notice also that, contrary to the conventional wisdom of the world, St. Paul assumes that Christians are discerning, judgmental people: "Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge?" 

But why do believers in obstinate sin -sexual immorality in this case - deserve to be shunned? Why not extend this to unbelievers as well? After all, sin is sin and scandal is scandal, right?

Well, not really. Adultery is always scandalous, but when adultery occurs in the case of a Christian it is especially scandalous because the Christian ought to know better. This is why St. Peter admonishes, "let none of you suffer as a murderer, a thief, a criminal, or even as a mischief maker" (1 Pet. 4:15), and also why Jesus warns that a Christian who falls into grave sin is in a much worse state than a sinner who was never in a state of grace to begin with (cf. Luke 11:23-26). In other words, there is particular scandal about obstinate sin or unbelief when one should know better. "If your eye is unsound, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the very light in you is darkened, how dense is that darkness! (Matt. 6:23).

Note that Paul recommends a very strict separation in the case of these obstinate sinners. We are not to "associate" with these people - and as if to make sure we understand how serious Paul is, he specifies that we are not even to eat with such people. He goes on to quote Deut. 17:7, which says "purge the evil from the midst of you" and has reference to the execution of the death sentence against Israelites guilty of worshiping other gods. Given this, it would be difficult to argue in context that Paul's admonition to shun sexually immoral Christians is not meant to be taken literally. This also demonstrates that Paul is not referring to a juridical excommunication - although excommunication is a kind of formal shunning on the part of the whole Church. Rather, he is referring to the way individual Christians are to treat other individual Christians who are habitually sexually immoral.

Finally, let us turn to 2 John 1:7-11 for the next development of the practice. Christ has given us the principle that obstinate unbelievers ought to be separated from, as well as members of the Church who are obstinate sinners; St. Paul uses the example of habitual sexual immorality among Christians as an practical example of Christ's precept and goes to great lengths to state that the separation should be total - we should neither "associate" nor "eat with" such person.

St. John the Apostle applies this to not only immoral Christians, but heretical Christians as well. Let us turn to 2 John 1:7-11:

"Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh; any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist! Be on your guard, so that you do not lose what we have worked for, but may receive a full reward. Everyone who does not abide in the teaching of Christ, but goes beyond it, does not have God; whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. Do not receive into the house or welcome anyone who comes to you and does not bring this teaching; for to welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person."

St. John is speaking clearly of doctrinal deviations, for he references anyone who "does not bring this teaching." In other words, heretics, those who obstinately refuse to "abide in the teaching of Christ". We are to neither welcome these people nor even let them into our houses. Like St. Paul, St. John advocates a total shunning of the heretic. But unlike Paul, John gives the rationale: "To welcome is to participate in the evil deeds of such a person."

This is an important point. Even if we personally disagree with homosexual acts, if we welcome a practicing homosexual who professes to be a Christian into our homes, we are in fact affirming his wicked lifestyle and thus sharing in his evil deeds. Remember, one of the traditional ways of partaking in the sin of another is by silence. Receiving one into the house signifies a kind of silence regarding the person's errors; unless of course you are visiting with the person for the express purpose of calling them to repentance - the correct context in which to understand Christ's eating with tax collectors and sinners, by the way - but the problem is too many people fraternize with heretical or immoral Christians whilst simultaneously keeping silent about their immoral lifestyles. They thus refuse to perform a spiritual work of mercy while affirming the sinner and thus sharing the guilt of their sins.

On the contrary, shunning is a type of admonition of the sinner, a kind of call to repentance by avoidance of physical communion - symbolizing that the obstinate sinner has broken communion with God and the Church. It is like a personal-social boycott against sin, and as such is actually a spiritual work of mercy.

By the way, St. John does not say this practice applies only to really bad heretics, but to "everyone" who does not abide in the teaching of Christ.

In St. John, we see the kernel of the traditional understanding of the relationship between "heresy" and "obstinacy"; heresy is defined as a kind of obstinate, inflexible refusal to believe or "abide" in sound teaching. The heretic and the habitually immoral Christian are to be shunned because their obstinacy is a scandal and to continue to commune and associate with them as if nothing were wrong would be to make us complicit in their sins. This is why St. Athanasius refused to receive communion with Arius and why St. John the Apostle removed himself from a public building when he learned a notable heretic was inside (St. Irenaeus, Adv. Haer. III.3.4).

So what sorts of practical conclusions can we draw here?

First, there are appropriate situations for actively shunning the company of other people. Who? According to the New Testament, other Christians who are obstinately living in sin, especially sexual immorality, as well as heretics. We do not go out of our way to avoid the sinners of the world - those folks are targets for conversion and anyhow its impossible to get away from them ultimately. But we do expect a certain degree of behavior and fidelity "on the inside" of the Church, to use St. Paul's language. Those Christians who obstinately refuse to maintain it ought to be avoided. What sorts of people in your life fit this description?

Second, that this shunning is physical and total - refusal to associate with, eat with, or even greet these people. How would this look in your life were it put into practice?

Third, that refusal to do so in fact makes us guilty of these people's sins. It is not an act of Christian charity to invite your lesbian niece and her girlfriend over for Christmas dinner while not saying anything to them about their sin. In fact, to do so would make you guilty of sharing in their sin. Examine your conscience here.

Fourth, in all these cases, Christ, St. Paul and St. John are all more interested in preserving the integrity and sanctity of the faithful believer than worrying about the feelings of the obstinate sinner being shunned. So should we.

Fifth, we need to keep this teaching in proper perspective. After a person repents, we are to welcome them back joyfully (cf. Luke 15:7, 2 Cor. 2:6-11, Luke 15:22-24). Furthermore, this cannot be used as an excuse to avoid evangelism. As we said above, this teaching clearly applies to those called by the name of Christ, not unbelievers in need of Christ.

Finally, it is not arrogant judgmentalism or Pharisaism. St. Paul himself affirms that it is our business to judge those "on the inside." Still, such judgments should be made in humility, not out of a sense of superiority.

So do not feel guilty that you did not invite your lesbian niece and her girlfriend to the family party. Put away your nagging questions about whether you ought to attend the third marriage of your Uncle Gary. You are doing the correct thing by shunning these people. To do otherwise is to affirm their evil deeds and partake in them. There is a place for shunning in Catholicism, and if we weren't so paralyzed by seeming judgmental or harsh, we would realize it.

"So shall you purge the evil from your midst." ~Deut. 17:7