Michael Hager’s Conversion Story

by Steve Ray on October 23, 2019

Here is a conversion story you will probably both enjoy. You can also visit Michael’s apologetics website at TheBibleCatholic.com. His whole conversion story is here.

The Beginning: I was born to, and raised in, a protestant family. My mother was a Southern Baptist, my father a Presbyterian. We mostly attended the Presbyterian Church, but I suspect that was because of the close proximity to our house more than anything.

As many mothers do to their children, mine forced me to attend our church youth group. I didn’t really kick and scream about it but I remember as many teenagers do, I didn’t want to go. Turns out it wasn’t so bad. There were a couple of people that I knew and I made new friends fairly quickly. And besides, there were girls there!

One evening as we gathered waiting for “Fellowship” night to start, one of the regular girls brought a visitor, a Catholic friend of hers. It was one of those moments with birds, spring, music, or maybe it was just teen male hormones but I remember meeting my future wife as clearly today as if it had happened last night.

God gifted me with artistic and musical talent. In High school, I was a rock and roll drummer and it’s one of the things that helped attract my future wife to me. When we graduated High School, I sold my drums, bought a twelve-string guitar and began to teach myself to play.

God set the seeds of music ministry in me when I got involved with a Baptist youth choir and band. I played drums, or guitar and sang. I became proficient enough that eventually, I played guitar and sang to my bride as she walked down the aisle at our wedding.

We raised a family with a daughter between two boys and I confess that we did not do a good job of raising them in the church. We attended both Catholic and Presbyterian churches on weekends when it was convenient. I sat patiently through the mystical mumbo jumbo of the Catholic Mass only because I knew it was important to my wife, not because I understood a word of it. All of our children eventually accepted confirmation into the Catholic Church but they grew, went off to college, married and had kids of their own and all of them pretty much carried the lazy attitude about church-going that we had taught them. It’s not their fault, it is mine alone.

God gave me a gentle nudge in 1998. At least that’s the next time I listened to Him, although I didn’t realize it was Him yet. He sent me an offer of a new job in Florida. The closest church to our new home was a Catholic Church just a mile from our house. We began to attend regularly and I even joined the Choir and sang at two masses every Sunday. In the four years we lived there, the priest who we loved and befriended asked me only once if I had ever thought of converting, but when I told him of my misgivings of being unwelcome at communion, he failed to offer me a reasonable rebuttal and I continued along as usual, the only Non-Catholic in the group. (more on that below)

A correction in my training: I used to have a flaring temper problem. A seriously out of control temper that would flare up at anything that disturbed me to the point of embarrassment to my family. I will tell you now that God has His plan and He doesn’t work exclusively inside the Church. He hits you with anything that might get your attention and during a Franklin Planner training session (required by my new employer), the instructor, of no particular relation to the lesson plan said: “The only person in the world who can make you angry or upset is yourself.” I won’t preach on that idea, I’ll let you mull it over for yourself, but it washed over me like a warm ocean wave and I have seriously never been out of control angry at anyone since that day. God knew I needed that to prepare myself for accepting the peace and love of His teaching. He knew that I could not preach His word with that anger built up inside of me. I needed the peace of Christ, but first I needed the peace in my soul to accept His peace.

For the whole story, click here.

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Whatever that was, it wasn’t a ‘stunt’

By Ed Peters, Canon Lawyer
October 22, 2019

0D436026-B326-4085-B445-A02DAF27AA46A few days ago men removed some female figurines (centerpieces for several weird ceremonies in Rome the last few weeks) from a church and tossed them into the Tiber River. Vatican spokesman Paolo Ruffini dismissed the act as a “stunt”. Regardless of how one assess this act, however, I think it not accurate to describe it as a mere “stunt”.

A “stunt” is a gesture that calls attention to a problem but does not itself solve the problem. For example, chaining oneself to a lamppost could call attention to the plight of the unjustly imprisoned but does not itself free the imprisoned. Standing on the corner with one’s mouth duct-taped might call attention to the suffering of the voiceless but does not itself give them a voice. Such acts are stunts, good stunts or bad, but in the end, stunts. What the Tiber men did was different.

Removing these figures from a church and tossing them into the Tiber does not simply call attention to the problem of setting up such objects in a church it also removes the statues from the church and thus solves the problem of having them set up in a sacred place. Such an act, good act or bad, is more than a “stunt”, it is form of direct action against a problem.

The Vatican having ruled out the possibility that the nude statues might represent the Virgin Mary or ‘Our Lady of the Amazon’, it is disputed whether the figurines portray the Amazon pagan goddess Pachamama or (at least per a handful of Vaticanisti) merely some vague “life force”. It is not for me to opine on who or what the objects actually represent and if someone wants to argue that chanting to and bowing before figurines of naked women does not count as worshiping strange gods, well, who am I to say?

But a fuller assessment of the act of these two men does not rest solely on whether the figures are demonic or merely faddish. Canon 1210, addressing the dignity of Catholic holy places in general, states: “Only those things which serve the exercise or promotion of worship, piety, or religion are permitted in a sacred place; anything not consonant with the holiness of the place is forbidden…” And Canon 1220 § 1, addressing churches specifically, states: “All those responsible are to take care that in churches such cleanliness and beauty are preserved as befit a house of God and that whatever is inappropriate to the holiness of the place is excluded.”

Theses canons, in my view, do not simply preclude the placement of obviously demonic or pagan artifacts in our churches, but rather, require those in charge of sacred places to set up objects that are positively conducive to Christian prayer and worship. If, as the Congregation for Divine worship stated in 1987(*), the mere fact that that some music is admittedly beautiful does not justify its performance in churches, then all the more so should church authorities be on guard against setting up objects widely and reasonably seen as representing pagan deities in Catholic sacred spaces. I suggest (and more to the point, the Code of Canon Law understands in, say, Canon 214), that the faithful have the right to trust that what they see in Catholic sacred places is actually there in service to the sacred and is not simply a gesture toward some form of political correctness or the latest cause du jour, to say nothing of it possibly being simply evil. Ignoring concerns about the proper use of sacred space with a shrug and a ‘we don’t really know what it is’ is to ignore the positive duties that Church leadership owes to the faithful.

As a man of law I am also a man of order and, as a rule, I hold that removing objects from private property is not an act of good order. But then, neither is setting up idols (whether to demons or to secular causes) in Catholic churches an act of good order. Over time the disregard of law by those in charge eventually brings about disregard of law by those subject to it. And that in turn can result in acts that are much more than mere “stunts”.

* See Cong. for Divine Worship (Mayer), excerpt from let. “Qua in mentem quaedam normae quoad ‘Concerti nelle chiesa’ revocantur” (05 nov 1987), Communicationes 19 (1987) 179-181.

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Did the Church Ever Support Slavery?

by Steve Ray on October 20, 2019

By Steve Weidenkopf   September 18, 2017

Many years ago I attended a conference organized by a national Catholic organization on the topics of marriage and human sexuality. One of the speakers was a professor from Creighton University who, in the middle of his talk on contraception, launched into a long tangent about how the Church had never condemned slavery in the past, which “proved” that the Church had made a mistake, and so perhaps it’s teaching on contraception would be viewed as incorrect in the future (a viewpoint he agreed with).

I did not get the opportunity at the conference to talk with this professor about his erroneous statements about the Church and slavery, so I emailed him and we engaged in a courteous exchange in which I pointed him in the direction of several papal condemnations of slavery, which he dismissed out of hand. He ignored the historical record because it did not fit with his agenda of changing Church teaching on contraception.

Sadly, this is not an uncommon tactic by those with an animus against the Church. Many believe, as this professor did, that the Church approved or at least tolerated slavery, especially of Africans and Native Americans in the New World. Scholars argued that the Church was either late in condemning slavery or actively supported it. But like many other historical myths about the Catholic Church, this one does not withstand scrutiny of the historical record.

The myth persists because there were individual Catholics who supported slavery or owned slaves. Scholars with an ax to grind use these examples as “proof” of the Church’s malfeasance without drawing the necessary distinction that what individual Catholics may do does not necessarily reflect the authoritative teaching of the Magisterium.

Moreover, scholars have routinely failed to distinguish between different types of slavery. The Church has consistently and constantly condemned the practice of “unjust servitude,” which usually entailed the enslavement of a certain race or for economic gain. But Western society since ancient times permitted just title servitude; that is, the involuntary servitude imposed on criminals or prisoners of war. Just title servitude was considered permissible as recently as 1949 when the Geneva Convention allowed nations at war to conscript prisoners of war for labor. In this case, the Church has always demanded humane treatment of slaves by their masters and even encouraged their emancipation. The failure to recognize these distinctions between types of servitude has led many scholars to declare falsely that the Church failed to condemn slavery.

The Church was born into a world where slavery was a lynchpin of society. Imperial Rome was built and sustained on the backs of slaves; the complete abolition of slavery in Rome was unthinkable and impractical. Despite societal acceptance of slavery, the Church made no distinction between slaves and freedmen in its membership. The equality of believers in a highly class-stratified society was one of the attractions that the Church held for the people of Rome.

Once Emperor Constantine legalized the Church in A.D. 313, its teachings influenced Roman laws and policies. Church funds were used by Christians to redeem slaves, especially prisoners of war. One former slave even rose to become pope (Callistus I) in the early third century! Still, slavery continued in Europe even after the collapse of imperial rule in the late fifth century, but as the Church’s influence increased the institution of slavery decreased until it was completely eradicated in Christendom.

Unfortunately, slavery returned to European society in the fifteenth century, with the conquest of the Canary Islands and the discovery of the New World. But from 1435 to 1890, a succession of popes condemned the slave trade and slavery in no uncertain terms. The first pope to do so was Eugenius IV (r. 1431-1447), who in his 1435 bull Sicut Dudum demanded that Christians free all enslaved natives of the Canary Islands within fifteen days; failure to do so would incur automatic excommunication. Thus, fifty-seven years before Columbus’s first voyage, the Roman pontiff unequivocally prohibited the enslavement of native peoples.

In 1537, Pope Paul III (r. 1534-1549) issued a bull, Sublimus Dei, which taught that native peoples were not to be enslaved. In 1591, Gregory XIV (r. 1590-1591) promulgated Cum Sicuti, which was addressed to the bishop of Manila in the Philippines and reiterated his predecessors’ prohibitions against enslaving native peoples. In the seventeenth century, Urban VIII (r. 1623-1644) promulgated Commissum Nobis (1639) in support of the Spanish king’s (Philip IV) edict prohibiting enslavement of the Indians in the New World.

The need for cheap and abundant labor in the colonies is what led to the African slave trade. This new form of bondage was also condemned by the popes, beginning with Innocent XI (r. 1676-1689). In 1741, Benedict XIV (r. 1740-1758) issued Immensa Pastorum, which reiterated that the penalty for enslaving Indians was excommunication. In 1839, Gregory XVI (r. 1831-1846) issued In Supremo to condemn the enslavement of Africans. Pope Leo XIII (r. 1878-1903) promulgated two bulls condemning slavery in 1888 and 1890.

Yet despite the many papal condemnations of slavery, European colonists continued to enslave Africans and New World natives until the nineteenth century. Papal denunciations of slavery were so harsh and so frequent that the colonial Spanish instituted a law forbidding the publication of papal documents in the colonies without prior royal approval.

It is ironic that the Church is falsely accused of either supporting slavery or failing to condemn it, when the wholesale enslavement of Christians by Muslims (estimated at one million people), especially the Ottoman Turks from the sixteenth to the eighteen century, is all but ignored. Finally, it is disingenuous to equate the immoral behavior of individual Catholics with official Church teaching. The fact that some Catholics owned slaves or participated in the slave trade is not an indictment of the Church, but rather an illustration that Catholics will sometimes ignore the clear teachings of the Church.

For more information on this and may other common anti-Catholic historical charges, see Steve Weidenkopf’s new book, The Real Story of Catholic History: Answering Twenty Centuries of Anti-Catholic Myths, available late September and available now for pre-order from Catholic Answers Press.

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Was He Ready to Die?

October 19, 2019

It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul, it was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different. Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They […]

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Etiquette at Mass: Reasonable Do’s and Don’ts for Polite and Proper Worship

October 18, 2019

20 Things TO DO And NOT DO at Mass. These are not rules that will get you banished from the Church, but things that are mostly common sense — polite conduct to enhance our worship and that of those around us. 1. Fast before Mass. It is required that one fasts for at least 1 […]

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Museum, Jordan River, Jericho, Qumran, Dead Sea, Camels & Farewells

October 18, 2019

The final day of our pilgrimage, a trip which has gone wonderfully smooth, spiritually, organized and fun. But today is our Optional Day where we mainly do fun things and go down into the Jordan Valley. Floating in the Dead Sea and camel riding is alwa…

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Stunningly Beautiful and Well-shot Nature Commercial – “What a Wonderful World”

October 17, 2019

This is eye-candy with some of the finest nature shots with animals and scenery. Published as a promo to a new series on the earth, David Attenborough did a fine job of showing the magnificence of God’s creation. What a Wonderful World. Enjoy!

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Church of Agony, Grotto of Our Lord’s Arrest, Tomb of Mary and more

October 16, 2019

We started the day with Mass at the Church of Agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Near the Garden of Gethsemane is the cave where Jesus and his disciples were spending the night when Judas came and betrayed him. Nearby is the Church of the Tomb of Mary, are also called the Church of the […]

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In the 1850’s – “Pro-slavery” or “Pro-Choice”?

October 16, 2019

“Many in the 1850’s also considered themselves “pro-choice” rather than “pro-slavery”. History repeats itself…”  (Obianuju Ekeocha  Twitter@obianuju) In other words, I am personally against slavery, but I think people (or the states) should have the freedom to choose.

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Via Dolorosa and Calvary, Mount of Olives and Zion; Rain!

October 15, 2019

An early start doing the Via Dolorosa and Mass at Calvary. Up the Mount of concluding with my talk “The Story of Salvation from Adam and Eve until Today”. Mount Zion and lots of rain which is very unusual. Watch for part two of today which was dinner and dancing in Bethlehem. Enjoy!

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Dinner & Dancing in Bethlehem

October 15, 2019

Great evening eating a whole lamb and dancing local Danika dancing with young Christians.

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“Dear Mr. Bible Guy, Thanks for Confronting my Son…”

October 15, 2019

Posted in National Catholic Register: Dear Mr. Bible Guy Who Tried to Convert My Son and His Friends: These kids don’t just know the Bible, the Catechism, and Church history. They know how to think. Excellent article written by Jennifer Fitz Dear Christian Bible Guy, I want to thank you for coming up to my son and […]

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Bethlehem all Day and Exclusive Entrance to the Tomb

October 14, 2019

Bethlehem is a unique city in the Palestinian West Bank. we spend the day here starting out in our favorite caps on olivewood store where we know there are quality products and where it’s safe to use credit cards and to have things shipped. A lot of the olive wood being sold in Israel today […]

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What is the Earliest a Mass can Start on the Preceding Day to Fulfill the Obligation for a Sunday or Holy Day Obligation?

October 14, 2019

A question on Mass-start times that warrants attention by Dr. Edward Peters Recalling, in the wake of a some recent discussions of Mass obligations, that I had promised some time ago to set out some materials for use in reasoning through another Mass attendance question, I offer some of that now. This question concerns, What is the […]

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From Galilee to Jerusalem with a lot in between

October 13, 2019

Day 4 is always a big day since we move from Galilee to Jerusalem. We start out with Mass at Capernaum at the home of Jesus and Peter. It is Sunday so very appropriate that the readings here are “Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood” (homily here). I always give my talk Defending the […]

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Who Are the Poor I’m Supposed to Care For?

October 13, 2019

As we leave our rented apartment in Rome and walk towards St. Peter’s Square I notice a ragged, filthy woman sitting on a piece of cardboard with a baby laying lethargically in her arms. She looks up with mournful eyes and pathetically mumbles something as she reaches out hoping I’ll put coins in her hand. […]

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