Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Dogma and doctrine

If you have ever wondered how dogmas of the church are different than other doctrines, Jimmy Akin has provided a graph that explains it. I've summarized it below. 

Has been infallibly taught by the Church as something that is divinely revealed.
Examples: Divinity of Christ - Defined by First Council of Nicaea (A.D. 325). 
Assumption of Mary - Defined by Pius XII (Munificentissimus Deus; 1950). 
Infallible Doctrine
Has been infallibly taught by the Church but not (or not yet) defined as divinely revealed.
Examples: Priesthood is reserved to men - Defined by the Church’s ordinary Magisterium (cf. Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fidei 11). 
Anglican orders invalid - Also infallible doctrine (cf. Doctrinal Commentary 11). 
Non-Infallible Doctrine
Is taught by the Church but has not been infallibly defined. 
Examples: Bishop and priest are two different ranks of holy orders - This question was settled at Vatican II, which taught that “by episcopal consecration the fullness of the sacrament of orders is conferred” (Lumen Gentium 21). Council did not use the language needed to infallibly define this. 
Mormon baptism is invalid - First taught by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (decree, June 5, 2001). Since the CDF cannot teach infallibly, this must be non-infallible doctrine. 
Theological Opinion
Is not taught by the Church but is permitted by the Church.
Examples: The fire of purgatory is Christ himself - Mentioned by Benedict XVI as an opinion of some recent theologians (Spe Salvi 47). 
There are 9 choirs of angels - See John Paul II (general audience, August 6, 1986).

If you want more freebies from Jimmy, check out 

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

This made me laugh

The good thing about defending your positions by blogging is that you can't fall prey to the fake watermelon technique. 

Infant Baptism

I attended the baptism of Tyler Spoden last Sunday, and I'll be a godparent for Mary Claire Kramer this upcoming Sunday. In honor of these baptisms, I wanted to write something about infant baptism (which I know I've covered briefly in other blog posts). Our first masters course at the New Saint Thomas Institute walked us through the basic structure of the Summa Theologiae. The example used in this course just so happened to be on the defense of infant baptism! 

I was already familiar with the structure of the Summa as I had already read parts of the Summa prior to this course, but it was still a nice refresher. 

The below comes from where you can get a free copy of the entire Summa.  My notes are in red to explain the structure of the Summa if you are unfamiliar with it.

STh III, q. 68, a. 9
[This stands for the third part, question 68, article 9]

Article 9. Whether children should be baptized?
[St. Thomas always starts his articles with objections that are raised against the Catholic position.  So objections 1-3 listed below are NOT the beliefs of Thomas Aquinas or the Catholic Church, but are the objections that are raised by non-Catholics.  Keep in mind that St. Thomas wrote the Summa between 1265-1274 (the year he died before it was finished).  You'll notice that the objections being raised in his day are the same old objections that we hear today.]
Objection 1. It seems that children should not be baptized. For the intention to receive the sacrament is required in one who is being baptized, as stated above (Article 7). But children cannot have such an intention, since they have not the use of free-will. Therefore it seems that they cannot receive the sacrament of Baptism.

Objection 2. Further, Baptism is the sacrament of faith, as stated above (39, 5; 66, 1, ad 1). But children have not faith, which demands an act of the will on the part of the believer, as Augustine says (Super Joan. xxvi). Nor can it be said that theirsalvation is implied in the faith of their parents; since the latter are sometimes unbelievers, and their unbelief would conduce rather to the damnation of their children. Therefore it seems that children cannot be baptized.

Objection 3. Further, it is written (1 Peter 3:21) that "Baptism saveth" men; "not the putting away of the filth of the flesh, but the examination of a good conscience towards God." But children have no conscience, either good or bad, since they have not the use of reason: nor can they be fittingly examined, since they understand not. Therefore children should not be baptized.

[Next comes the basic position of the Catholic faith]
On the contrary, Dionysius says (Eccl. Hier. iii): "Our heavenly guides," i.e. the Apostles, "approved of infants being admitted to Baptism."

[Next comes an explanation and defense of the Catholic position]
I answer that, As the Apostle says (Romans 5:17), "if by one man's offense death reigned through one," namely Adam, "much more they who receive abundance of grace, and of the gift, and of justice, shall reign in life through one, Jesus Christ." Now children contract original sin from the sin of Adam; which is made clear by the fact that they are under the ban of death, which "passed upon all" on account of the sin of the first man, as the Apostle says in the same passage (Romans 5:12). Much more, therefore, can children receive grace through Christ, so as to reign in eternal life. But our Lord Himself said (John 3:5): "Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." Consequently it became necessary tobaptize children, that, as in birth they incurred damnation through Adam so in a second birth they might obtain salvation throughChrist. Moreover it was fitting that children should receive Baptism, in order that being reared from childhood in things pertaining to the Christian mode of life, they may the more easily persevere therein; according to Proverbs 22:5: "A young man according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it." This reason is also given by Dionysius (Eccl. Hier. iii).

[Finally, St. Thomas goes through each of the objections raised in the first section and tears them apart like a samurai]
Reply to Objection 1. The spiritual regeneration effected by Baptism is somewhat like carnal birth, in this respect, that as the child while in the mother's womb receives nourishment not independently, but through the nourishment of its mother, so also children before the use of reason, being as it were in the womb of their mother the Church, receive salvation not by their ownact, but by the act of the Church. Hence Augustine says (De Pecc. Merit. et Remiss. i): "The Church, our mother, offers her maternal mouth for her children, that they may imbibe the sacred mysteries: for they cannot as yet with their own heartsbelieve unto justice, nor with their own mouths confess unto salvation . . . And if they are rightly said to believe, because in a certain fashion they make profession of faith by the words of their sponsors, why should they not also be said to repent, since by the words of those same sponsors they evidence their renunciation of the devil and this world?" For the same reason they can be said to intend, not by their own act of intention, since at times they struggle and cry; but by the act of those who bring them to be baptized.

Reply to Objection 2. As Augustine says, writing to Boniface (Cont. duas Ep. Pelag. i), "in the Church of our Saviour little children believe through others, just as they contracted from others those sins which are remitted in Baptism." Nor is it a hindrance to their salvation if their parents be unbelievers, because, as Augustine says, writing to the same Boniface (Ep. xcviii), "little children are offered that they may receive grace in their souls, not so much from the hands of those that carry them (yet from these too, if they be good and faithful) as from the whole company of the saints and the faithful. For they are rightly considered to be offered by those who are pleased at their being offered, and by whose charity they are united in communionwith the Holy Ghost." And the unbelief of their own parents, even if after Baptism these strive to infect them with the worship ofdemons, hurts not the children. For as Augustine says (Cont. duas Ep. Pelag. i) "when once the child has been begotten by thewill of others, he cannot subsequently be held by the bonds of another's sin so long as he consent not with his will, according to" Ezekiel 18:4: "'As the soul of the Father, so also the soul of the son is mine; the soul that sinneth, the same shall die.' Yet he contracted from Adam that which was loosed by the grace of this sacrament, because as yet he was not endowed with a separate existence." But the faith of one, indeed of the whole Church, profits the child through the operation of the Holy Ghost, Who unites the Church together, and communicates the goods of one member to another.

Reply to Objection 3. Just as a child, when he is being baptizedbelieves not by himself but by others, so is he examined not by himself but through others, and these in answer confess the Church's faith in the child's stead, who is aggregated to thisfaith by the sacrament of faith. And the child acquires a good conscience in himself, not indeed as to the act, but as to thehabit, by sanctifying grace.

I encourage you to go through the Summa at the website and check out any of the articles that interest you.  Each article is structured the same way as above.  I think that Saint Thomas really shines in his articles on the passions of the soul, habits of virtue and vice, natural law and grace. I think you will find that it is not as daunting and intimidating as most people think. If you are a beginner to philosophy and/or theology, start with part III of the Summa which deals with the Incarnation and the sacraments. Also, you can read things out of order if that is easier for you. For example, you may want to read the reply to the objection right after reading each objection. 

New Saint Thomas Institute

Howdy folks!  It's been a long time since I've posted something (life has been busy lately!), but I have something worth posting.  

I am fortunate enough to be one of only 500 charter members of the New Saint Thomas Institute created by Dr. Taylor Marshall.  Enrollment is currently closed, but check it out at if you are interested in learning more about it.  Enrollment will be opening up again at some point in the future.  At the institute, he is offering college level courses in philosophy and theology with a different focus each month.  The teachings of Thomas Aquinas ("the Angelic Doctor") will be front and center in these classes.  

Dr. Marshall is currently the Chancellor at Fisher More College and blogs at  After looking at Fisher More's website, I'm convinced that it is one of the best Catholic colleges in the country.  

I owe a big thank you to my mother who was able to sign me up for the institute while I was flying to San Francisco for work on the morning that enrollment opened.  Otherwise, I might have missed one of those 500 spots that filled up.