Going the rounds in Catholic circles: "Just say know to gnosticism."
William Oddie, former Anglican clergyman, on those who think converts convert merely because it's the pluralist thing to do:
"Everyone is on a pilgrimage, and what that means is that since there are no final answers any more, movement is the important thing: Ask questions, keep going, change your mind frequently, so if you are wrong you won't be wrong for long.
"You won't be right either, but then, thinking you are right about anything is to be avoided at all costs; and since the Church of Rome (according to the same people) is just as much in a state of chaos as anyone else, it is now all right to become a Roman."
UFO magazine ran an article by Jeff Mitchell listing "common claims in the UFO field and their probability ratings." Two samples from an accompanying chart:
1. "Claim: Alien experimentation and evolutionary enhancement of human genetic material.
"Probability: Very likely.
"Comment: If I was an alien, traveling across the universe, a representative of my superior culture, I would strive to improve the lot of the pathetic barbarians I discover. Rather than watch helplessly as we bomb ourselves to extinction, I would as unobtrusively as possible help us by tinkering with our genes. Any change would be an improvement."
2. "Claim: Fatima event of Marian phenomena, lights in sky, prophecy.
"Comment: Marian phenomena is [sic] always impressive and duplicates many elements of the UFO phenomena [sic]. This Fatima event is extremely mystical, spiritual and gnostic (as opposed to religious). No regime wants to recognize bona fide miracles, since it undermines their [sic] authority. Why did Rome kill Christ? Aliens may be supremely spiritual entities and are a threat by undermining authority of the state."
The Foundation for Ancient Research & Mormon Studies, the Mormon Church's "archeological investigations" department, is sponsoring a "Lands of the Book of Mormon Tour" in November 1991 and again in February 1992.
For $2,995 you can see such sights as:
1. "Lake Atitlan: A good candidate for the waters of Moron [sic].
2. "Oaxaca and the ruins of Monte Alban: A probable site for the Jaredite land of Moron [sic].
3. "Grijalva River: Possibly the river Sidon.
4. "Villahermosa and La Venta Park: Likely remnants of the Jaredite civilization.
5. "Lake Catemaco and the Tuxla Mountains: Thought to be the Hill Cumorah region" [evidence of a move away from the claim that Hill Cumorah is in New York State].
Those thinking about going on the tour are advised to read Matthew 15:14 before sending in a deposit.
End of a church? Elizabeth Clare Prophet, founder and leader of the Church Universal and Triumphant, still insists a conglomeration of communists, aliens (the outer space kind), and fallen angels are conspiring against her church, which teaches New Age mysticism, astrology, apocalypticism, and the teachings of the "ascended masters."
Her church, which has been around 34 years, received considerable attention when nearly 5,000 members gathered at four dozen bomb shelters in Montana, north of Yellowstone National Park.
For weeks cars and trucks laden with the worldly goods of the faithful made their way to the remote, 30,000-acre property owned by the church, there to await war with the Soviet Union. (Church members paid as much as $6,500 for space in one of the bomb shelters. It was not said what good the money would be to the church if war obliterated the country.)
After the war that never came, Prophet said she never told people the end of the world was at hand. She said the bomb shelters--including one designed to hold 756 church employees--were prepared for a 12-year period of bad karma that began on April 23, 1990.
Not all of the shelters have been completed, and Montana authorities ordered the removal of 650,000 gallons of gasoline and diesel fuel after underground leaks occurred. The state has filed a lawsuit against the church and has banned further construction on the property until an environmental impact report is completed.
The unfulfilled prophecy and the ensuing legal troubles have resulted in a steep decline in membership and donations. Letters to members from Prophet say they will not get her "blessing and mantle" unless they contribute more.
Footnote: Moira Lewis, one of Prophet's three daughters, is at work on a tells-all book. She claims her mother is a fraud and a spendthrift.
Catherine deLaubenfels teaches a class on the Holocaust at La Reine High School, a parochial school in Suitland, Maryland. "One reason we were interested in doing [the course] in the Catholic school system is because the Catholic hierarchy does not have a good track record, and it certainly did not during the Holocaust. The Pope [Pius XII], well, he did nothing, and the Vatican even helped Nazis escape at the end of the war."
What the young people afflicted with this libel could use would be a good history of the papal response to the Nazis, which includes Pius XI's encyclical Mit Brennender Sorge (With Burning Anxiety) and concludes with the Chief Rabbi of Rome, Israel Zolli, converting to Catholicism in part because he was impressed that Pius XII was the only leader who really did anything to help the Jews.
Some people are very hard to deal with, not because they have abrasive personalities, but because they have swallowed so much intellectual pap. How do you begin a fruitful discussion with them--is one even possible?
Consider the case of Dina Bisjak of Alpine, California, age 49, owner of Earth Dancer Books: "I was a fanatic Catholic for years; I was holier than the pope. But I reached a point where I wanted to find out about other religions. On my fortieth birthday I decided I wanted to celebrate my own spirituality."
Today Bisjak is engaged in feminist religious rituals allegedly based on "the Native American Indian medicine wheel ceremony." The rituals include, for older women (most are well past 30), the "croning ceremony," in which someone who turns 60 dons a robe and walks across a red carpet to a throne. Thereafter she is officially a crone.
On another front, a newspaper reported that Cheryl Costa, who goes by the name Lady Cassandra, is "a high priestess in the tradition of the ancient Celtics." We didn't know the ancients played basketball.
Handed out at a prayer meeting at a Catholic church in Aberdeen, Washington (Seattle Archdiocese) was a prayer, titled "The Eucharist," with these lines:
"She was cute, nice build, a little too much paint,
"wobbly on her feet as she slid from her barstool,
"and on the make.
"'No, thanks, not tonight,'--and I gave her Eucharist. . . .
"I laughed at myself,
"and told myself,
"'You, with all your sin,
"and all your selfishness,
"I forgive you,
"I accept you,
"I love you.'
"It's nice, and so necessary to give yourself Eucharist. . . .
"My Father, when will we learn
"talk Eucharist--you cannot philosophize
"about it. You do it.
"You don't dogmatize Eucharist."
Last year Youth for Christ/USA relocated its offices from a 13,000-square foot building near Wheaton, Illinois to a 68,000- square foot facility in suburban Denver. (Point of comparison: Catholic Answers' new and improved offices occupy less than 9% of YFC/USA's.) The move cost $4.2 million. (Our cost in moving was less than one-half of 1% of that.)
This amount was supposed to have been covered by donations, but the donations fell short by more than $1 million. To cover the shortfall, other property owned by YFC/USA has been put up for sale.
The financial problems led to the resignation of president Dick Wynn, who had been with the ministry for 29 years. YFC/USA was founded in 1945, by Billy Graham and others, when several successful local ministries came together. Today affiliated chapters around the country send the national headquarters about 3% of their nondesignated income as dues, and the main office handles insurance, materials, and national programs.
Despite its bottom-line woes, YFC/USA has been successful in promoting Evangelicalism among students, especially those in college. There is no comparable activist organization for Catholic students. (The Newman centers are supposed to take care of a student's individual spiritual needs, but, on the whole, make no attempt to evangelize.)
Good-bye subsidy, hello cash: A revised concordat with the Italian government meant the Church no longer would receive a guaranteed stipend. But this "loss" has resulted in more money coming in.
Taxpayers have the option of sending a certain percentage of their tax lira to the Catholic Church, the Seventh-Day Adventists, Pentecostal churches, or the government--much as we have the option of earmarking funds for presidential campaigns.
Of the 57% who chose to earmark money, few Italian taxpayers have chosen the government as the beneficiary of their largess. Most have gone with the Catholic Church, the result being the Church now gets about 50% more than it did under the old system--even though only one in four Italian Catholics attends Mass.
Good-bye, Tony Alamo. Everyone's favorite fugitive has been nabbed in Tampa by U.S. Marshals. He was wanted for unlawful flight to avoid prosecution on child abuse charges (ordering four men to hit an 11-year-old 140 times with a paddle). He also was wanted for threatening a federal judge and for civil contempt. (No charges are pending, we're told, for his uncivil contempt against the Catholic Church.)
Missionary Pal is a "reference guide for [Mormon] missionaries & teachers." It includes a listing of "notable changes instituted by the Roman Catholic Church." Our favorites:
"The doctrine of purgatory. Approx. [A.D.] 593.
"The doctrine of purgatory recommended. 1439. [See, we can believe in something for 846 years before getting around to recommending it.]
"Blessing of the Pope's feet. Approx. 709.
"The pealing of bells. Approx. 965.
"The peal of bells for mass. Approx. 1227. [Perhaps it took 262 years to figure out when the pealing was to be done.]
"Forgiveness of trespasses. Approx. A.D. 1003. [Our goof--we thought forgiving one another's trespasses started with the Our Father.]
"Articulate [sic] confession of the people to the Priest. Approx. 1215. [Prior to this time all confessions were inarticulate, which caused hearing loss in priests.]
"Exclusion of Pope for self exile. Approx. 1416. [Any guesses what this means?]
"The Book of Apocolypse [sic] officially introduced into the cannon [sic--ka-boom!] of scripture. Approx. 1546.
"Belief in the templar [sic] power of the Pope. Approx. 1864. [Just six years before the popes lost most of their temporal power.]
"Intellectual supremacy of the Pope. Approx. 1907. [It may have taken a long time, but St. Pius X finally pulled the papacy ahead of the crowd.]
"All Catholics ought to be christened into the church. Approx. 1908. [If they already are Catholics, why bother to christen them?]
Circle October 12 on your calendar. That's the date Women for Faith & Family will be having its national conference in St. Louis. The title is "Workers in the Lord's Vineyard," and the theme comes from the Pope's recent encyclical on missions and evangelization, Redemptoris Missio.
The lineup of speakers at press time includes Catholic Answers' Karl Keating, Bishop Austin Vaughn, Helen Alvare, Fr. Paul Mankowski, S.J., and Fr. Mitchell Pacwa, S.J.
Women for Faith & Family is perhaps the largest grassroots group of activist Catholic women--certainly it's the largest group of women supporting the Catholic faith in its entirety.
For further information on the conference, call (314) 863-8385.