“Just another guy with a blog.  No big whoop.”

October 19, 2009

In Search of the "Great Apostasy": A Catholic Response to Mormon Claims

Since its inception in 1830, the Mormon Church (Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) has denied any continuous historical connection with Christianity.

Mormonism's founder Joseph Smith, claimed that in 1820 God the Father and Jesus Christ appeared to him in the woods near his home in Palmyra, New York. Jesus said that for the proceeding 1700 years (give or take a century — Mormonism can't say exactly) the world had been living in the darkness of a total apostasy from the gospel.

This was the answer to a question young Smith had been pondering. "My object in going to inquire of the Lord was to know which of these sects was right, that I might know which to join. . . .I asked the personages who stood above me in the light, which of all these sects was right (for at this time it had never entered into my heart that all were wrong), and which I should join. I was answered that I must join none of them for they were all wrong; and the Personage who addressed me [Jesus] said that all their creeds were an abomination in his sight; that their professors were all corrupt"

Smith convinced his credulous followers, most of them simple rural folk, that he'd been chosen, in what Mormons have come to call the First Vision, to be the first post-apostasy prophet — God's hand-picked agent charged with restoring the true gospel.

Over the next several years Smith purported to have received additional revelations from "heavenly personages." He claimed that after establishing his church in Palestine, the resurrected Jesus appeared in South America to the Nephites (Jews who, Smith said, had migrated to the New World between 600 and 592 B.C.) and organized a parallel church there (3 Nephi 11-28).

The new prophet seized on Jesus' words in John 10:16 ("I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd") as proof of the Lord's impending South American travel plans. The exegesis might impress one unfamiliar with the New Testament, but the usual understanding is that the "other sheep" Jesus referred to were the Gentiles, to whom the gospel also was extended.

Smith claimed the Nephite church had the same hierarchy and ordinances as its sister church in Palestine — living prophets, twelve apostles, seventy disciples — but things didn't go well for either church. Both collapsed under the weight of pagan influences, dissolving into complete apostasy.

The late Bruce McConkie, a Mormon apostle and, during his life, perhaps Mormonism's leading theologian, explained things this way: "This universal apostasy began in the days of the ancient apostles themselves; and it was known to and foretold by them. . . .With the loss of the Gospel, the nations of the earth went into moral eclipse called the Dark Ages. Apostasy was universal. . . [T]his darkness still prevails except among those who have come to a knowledge of the restored Gospel."[1]

Mormons believe the church Jesus established in Palestine, before its disintegration, was identical to the Mormon Church of today, with ceremonies such as baptism for the dead, a polytheistic concept of God (including eternal progression, the notion that God was a man who evolved into a god and that worthy Mormon males can evolve into gods), and other peculiar Mormon beliefs. The fact that no historical evidence exists to corroborate this position doesn't put much of a dent in the average Mormon's mental armor. . . . (continue reading)

Genesis Front-Man Phil Collins Can't Play Drums Anymore

This is sad news. I've been an avid fan of Genesis since 1976, when the group's drummer, Phil Collins, took the lead after former front-man Peter Gabriel left the band to pursue a solo career. Under Collins' leadership, the band scaled new heights of musical diversity and commercial success. But it's being reported that, due to complete numbness in his hands following his recent neck surgery, he's simply unable, at least for the time being, to hold the drumsticks. I do hope that problem is only temporary and that it passes soon.

In the meantime, here's a tasty Genesis video to enjoy. I don't know if Phil Collins is Catholic, or even if he is religious, but I'm sure he and his family (and the band) would appreciate any prayers you could spare for his healing.

The Persecution of Belmont Abbey College

The Weekly Standard reports on this growing controversy:

On July 30 of this year, a regional office of the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) notified Belmont Abbey College, a small Catholic institution not far from Charlotte, N.C., that its policy of not covering contraception in its employee health insurance plan violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the landmark law forbidding discrimination in employment on the basis of race, sex, and other characteristics.

The letter, sent by the EEOC's district office in Charlotte, informed Belmont Abbey that the EEOC had made a "determination" that by "denying prescription contraceptive drugs," the college was "discriminating based on gender because only females take oral prescription contraceptives."

The letter came as a shock to Belmont Abbey, because a little less than five months earlier, on March 12, that very same EEOC district office had issued a completely different determination: telling the college that its investigation had left it unable to conclude that there were any "violations of the statutes." The commission dismissed the complaint brought by eight members of the Belmont Abbey faculty challenging the legality of Belmont Abbey's anti-contraceptives policy.

[N.B.: If you would like to help Belmont Abbey College in its fight to maintain its Catholic identity, please donate securely online to its "Chancellor's Fund," which has been set up specifically for this purpose. This fund is administered directly by Abbot Placid Solari, O.S.B., the Abbot of Belmont Abbey.]

To Belmont Abbey's administration, the March ruling had made sense. The Catholic Church deems the use of artificial contraception by members of either sex to be immoral. Although North Carolina, along with at least 24 other states, requires employers to include contraceptive coverage in health plans that cover other prescription drugs, North Carolina also, along with about 20 other states, grants an exemption to any tax-exempt "religious employer" that has the "inculcation of religious values" as one of its primary purposes and "employs primarily persons who share the religious tenets of the entity."

Belmont Abbey, a 1,300-student institution that has received citations for excellence from U.S. News and the Princeton Review, was founded by Benedictine monks in 1876 and houses a Benedictine monastery on its premises. Its president, William Thierfelder, had discovered in 2007 that its employee health plan covered not only contraception but abortion and sterilization, also forbidden by Catholic teaching, and he moved quickly to have the terms of coverage changed. The college was certain that it fell well within the North Carolina religious exemption.

The implications for religious liberty in the EEOC's newly-arrived-at decision to ignore the good-faith beliefs of a religious institution closely affiliated with a religious order (Benedictines still do much of the teaching at Belmont Abbey) are obvious.

"This is the first time that an unelected bureaucrat has expounded a novel -theory of law in this fashion and applied it to a 150-year-old small religious college in North Carolina," Eric Kniffin, legal counsel for the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, which has taken on Belmont Abbey's case, told me in a telephone interview.

Right now the college has the option of trying to arrive at a mutually satisfactory "conciliation" with the EEOC and, if those efforts fail, bringing a lawsuit against the commission. Neither Belmont Abbey nor the EEOC will discuss the current status of, or provide further details about, what sort of negotiations might be taking place.

But there are further implications. In taking its current stance, the EEOC is attempting to override not just the conscience-clause laws of nearly half the states but also federal court precedents. Even if a religious institution isn't involved, it's still an open question as far as the federal courts are concerned whether an employer's refusal to pay for contraceptives for its employees--which, in the case of birth-control pills, can add an extra $350 or so per year to the cost of hiring every female employee of reproductive age who is on the pill--really constitutes employment discrimination, either under the original 1964 act or under its 1978 amendment, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act.

The latter bars discrimination "on the basis of sex" because of "pregnancy, childbirth, or related medical conditions." Contraception, of course, isn't pregnancy but a means of securing its opposite. And while birth control pills can confer health benefits, such as regulating menstruation or treating hormonal skin conditions, the reasons most women take them have more to do with lifestyle than health. . . . (continue reading)

"Did You Go to Mass This Past Sunday?" Michael Moore Puts Sean Hannity on the Spot

Who would have guessed that Michael Moore, of all people, would get the upper hand on Sean Hannity on this issue? (Or at least appear to.)