Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Amusing, but poignant...


This gave me a good chuckle, although I'm not sure if it's legit; there's a lot of church sign generators out there in cyberspace. But even still, it delivers a good message.

My son, the hero...


Over a year ago now, my son, even as a four-day old, played a crucial role in saving an unborn child's life. "How was this possible?" I hear you ask. Well, let me tell you the story (this story was published in a November edition of The Record newspaper):

My son, Robert, was born on April 18, 2008, and already, even in the short time he's been in my wife's and my life, is our little hero, in fact, you could say that he's a life-saver!



When my son was four days old, my wife and I decided to take him home. We left just before lunch; we were contemplating whether to stick around for the free hospital lunch, but since my son had just been fed and relatively relaxed, we didn't want to wait around at the hospital to feed him again a couple of hours later when we could just do so at home. My son received a clean bill of health and we were given the all-clear to head home.


Checking-out of the hospital took some time: there were forms to fill-out and sign and some payments to be made. This took a bit of time but we were out of the hospital reasonably quickly.


As we exited the hospital we noticed it was raining, and because I had parked a considerable distance from the hospital entrance, I suggested to my wife to wait near the entrance, under cover, and wait for me to bring the car around so our son wouldn't get wet or cold. At the same time we noticed four women, approximately in their mid-30s, making eyes (good eyes) at my wife and son. A newborn is cute, let's not deny that!


It took me a few minutes to bring the car around and as I was approaching the pick-up zone I noticed a couple of the ladies talking to my wife and looking at my son. As I parked the car and stepped out, the ladies passed-on their congratulations to me and my wife on bearing such a beautiful and healthy baby boy. My wife and I placed our son in the baby capsule in the back-seat and were about to head-off when I noticed a look of almost shock on my wife's face as she sat down in the passenger seat. I know people use the expression a lot, but it did look like she had just seen a ghost.


Thinking it was a case of light-headedness, I asked my wife if she was okay. She responded, "You wouldn't believe what just happened". Starting the car to exit the hospital grounds, I asked, "What happened?" and my wife began to explain.


One of the women that was with the four had just finished from the hospital. On leaving, this woman noticed my wife standing, waiting with our son in arms and wanted to have a look. My wife explained to me that this women had said, "They're just so beautiful when they're this small" After being so besotted by my son, this lady turned to one of her friends and said, "You know what? I've decided to keep it" to which the friend he had just spoken to replied with a relieved "Good."


My wife was then told that this woman had just left the hospital finding out that she was pregnant with her fourth child and was contemplating having an abortion. The sight of my son changed this woman's heart and mind so dramatically that at that moment any consideration of terminating the life growing inside of her had left her completely. No wonder my wife entered the car with that kind of look on her face!


My son had literally saved the life of another, an unborn! But the scenario made my wife and I think: had we stuck around for lunch (leave later) or decided to leave earlier, we would have missed this opportunity completely, and this woman who, by now would be seven months pregnant, would never have seen my wife holding our son and quite possibly never have had that change of heart and mind. We didn't need to try to convince this lady to keep her baby, nor were we even aware of the circumstances, all we had to do was be there with our four day-old son.


I will tell this story to my son when he is old enough to understand, but it is my hope that through stories like these and the influence of truth and revelation of the miracle of life, that parents (not necessarily the woman individually) have that change of heart and mind that this woman did just over six months ago now.


All life deserves a chance.

© Stephen Spiteri, October 2008

For more information on what the Catholic Church teaches on abortion and other pro-life matters, follow these links:

http://www.catholic.com/library/Abortion.asp - The Church's stance on abortion and what the Early Church Fathers taught on the matter.

http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p3s2c2a5.htm - Catechism of the Catholic Church; Section Two, Chapter Two, Article Five: The Fifth Commandment (Respect for Human Life).

Monday, September 28, 2009

Jesus, I would like to tell you what I am thankful for...



An advertisement appeared on TV tonight, and while I suspect it's intent was to promote (viral advertising) an Evangelical/Pentecostal church in the area, it directed viewers to click their way to a website and tell Jesus what they are thankful for by means of a message upload (a Twitter-type entry). I tried logging in to the website tonight, but to no avail, so I would like ot share here what I would like to most thank Jesus for in my life:



Jesus, thank you for giving us the Holy Catholic Church, which is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15), for founding it on Peter, the rock (Matthew 16:18) whose successor today continues to feed your lambs, take care of your sheep and feed them as you yourself instructed (John 21:15-17), and is unceasing in its mission to make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them all you have instructed us (Matthew 28:19-20).

Amen.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Quick thought on "sola fide" and "Bible only" Christians...



I was just reading the "mission statement" of a Pentecostal/Evangelical-type church here in the area, and this particular church teaches and believes in salvation by faith alone ("sola fide"). It's not uncommon for Protestants to believe this, but quite often these same Protestants tote the "sola scriptura" argument as well and that got me thinking to James' discourse on faith and works (N.B.: "faith and works", not "faith or works") in chapter two of his book, namely:


"What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to him, "Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed," but does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.



But someone will say, "You have faith; I have deeds."


Show me your faith without deeds, and I will show you my faith by what I do.


You believe that there is one God. Good! Even the demons believe that—and shudder.


You foolish man, do you want evidence that faith without deeds is useless? Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness," and he was called God's friend. You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone.


In the same way, was not even Rahab the prostitute considered righteous for what she did when she gave lodging to the spies and sent them off in a different direction? As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead. (v14-26, NIV)


If these "Bible only" Christians truly believe that the Bible is the absolute sufficient and infallible (exempt from liability to error) authority in teaching them their faith and of their salvation, then how can they subscribe to "sola fide" when the Bible also clearly states that faith alone will not save you? Are they really then "Bible only" Christians if they favour one teaching over the other when there is a clear contradiction? By what measure do they then claim, that between the two teachings, which one is right and which one is wrong?


If "sola fide" is correct, then that means that James' discourse on faith and works is incorrect, and thus the Bible is not absolutely sufficient and not an infallible authority.

What does the "sola fide" Christian have to lose by subscribing themself to faith and works?


Food for thought.


God bless.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Addressing student questions Part I of II...

I made mention in my last blog entry that I woud devote this entry to answering the last batch of questions a student of mine sent me during the week. So no dilly-dallying; let's get to the questions and answers (the second batch of questions will be answered in the coming days)!


1.) What denominations believe in Jesus? How is he viewed?
At last count, and according to the World Christian Encyclopedia (Oxford University Press, 2001), there were some 30 thousand Christian denominations world-wide. Yes, 30 thousand! Now, that's a large amount of groups of people that claim to believe in Jesus. Not all are the same, obviously, but to be classified as a true Christian group, there are some fundamental beliefs they must have concerning Jesus:


- that Jesus is God incarnate (God in the flesh, John 1:1-5) and that he is fully human and fully divine;
- that Jesus was sent by God to save us from our sins (John 3:16);
- that Jesus, God the Son, is one person of the Holy Trinity with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 13:14);
- that Jesus overcame death, the power of sin, by rising from the dead on Easter Sunday after being crucified on Good Friday on Mt. Calvary (Matthew 28:6);
- that Jesus will come again at the final judgement (Acts 1:11)


These are a few basic Christian beliefs pertaining to Jesus, but it's important to note that while they are few, if a "Christian" does not subscribe to any of these beliefs then they cannot be Christian by definition.


2.) What is heaven, purgatory and hell? What descriptions are given of them in the Bible?


The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes Heaven like this (relevant scripture references provided):


1023 Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they "see him as he is," face to face. (1 John 3:2, 1 Corinthians 13:12, Revelation 22:4)


1025 For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.


1027 This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him." (1 Corinthians 2:9)


1029 In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God's will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him "they shall reign for ever and ever." (Revelation 22:5, Matthew 25:21,23)


Purgatory is described this way:


1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.


1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: 



As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. (1 Corinthians 3:15, 1 Peter 1:7, Matthew 12:31)


Hell (where we don't want to end up!) is described in this manner:


1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire," and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!" (Matthew 5:22,29; 10:28; 13:42,50; Mark 9:43-48; Matthew 13:41-42; Matthew 25:41)


1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9):



Father, accept this offering
from your whole family.
Grant us your peace in this life,
save us from final damnation,
and count us among those you have chosen.

Further reading: http://www.infpage.com/concordance/lasthings.htm (Catholic Doctrinal Concordance)

3.) What roles do the saints play within the Catholic Church?

(Source: http://www.catholicapologetics.org/ap070200.htm)

The saints are presented to believers as role models whose lives are worthy to be imitated.

"... so that you may not become sluggish, but imitators of those who, through faith and patience, are inheriting the promises." - Hebrews 6:12


"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us" - Hebrews 12:1


"Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ." - 1 Corinthians 11:1


"Join with others in being imitators of me, brothers, and observe those who thus conduct themselves according to the model you have in us." - Phillipians 3:17


For when we look at the lives of those who have faithfully followed Christ, we are inspired with a new reason for seeking the city which is to come (Heb 13:14; 11:10). At the same time we are shown a most safe path by which ... we will be able to arrive at perfect union with Christ, that is holiness. In the lives of those who shared in our humanity and yet were transformed into especially successfully images of Christ (2 Cor 3:18), God vividly manifests to men his presence and his face. He speaks to us in them, and gives us a sign of his kingdom, to which we are powerfully drawn, surrounded as we are by so many witnesses (Heb 12:1), and having such an argument for the truth of the gospel. - Council of Vatican II, On the Church, No. 50

Part II coming soon.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Blog status update!

Hi folks!

I'm working on my next blog entry at the moment, but I just wanted to let you know that it's going to take a bit longer than normal, so don't expect to see it published tonight! By the end of the weekend would be a more reasonable time frame.

I've promised a student of mine that I would answer the questions they sent to me in the blog update and that I would feature them in it.

Until then,

God bless!


-Stephen

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Myth: Catholics are forbidden to read the Bible!

I've heard some anti-Catholic whoppers in my time (as short as it may be), but I think the one that humours me the most is when anti-Catholics claim that priests, bishops, the Pope, etc., forbid the faithful (the Catholic laity) from reading the Bible! Yeah, you read that correctly!

Now where I think this myth originates from is the time in Church history, before the invention of the printing press and the unavailability of having a Bible or the Sacred Scriptures made ready for the public.

There are stories of old Bibles (in Latin "Biblia Sacra" or "Holy Book") being chained to lecturnes, pulpits or tables in seminaries and monestaries, and many anti-Catholics believe this was done because the Pope and Archbishops did not want the faithful to read and therefore attempt to interpret scripture for themselves. In fact, the anti-Catholic will go on to say that Catholics were put to death, tortured and otherwise punished for attempting to interpret scripture for themselves! Now, let's not be naive: Yes, the Catholic Church has been responsible for persecuting and killing many of its own flock (it's not a history that I'm proud of, but I do know that experience/history is today's best teacher), and why? Not because of the attempt to interpret scripture for themselves by itself, no, but for misinterpretations of scripture that lead to heresies.

heresy (noun) (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/heresy)
1. opinion or doctrine at variance with the orthodox or accepted doctrine, esp. of a church or religious system.

2. the maintaining of such an opinion or doctrine.
3. Roman Catholic Church. the willful and persistent rejection of any article of faith by a baptized member of the church.
4. any belief or theory that is strongly at variance with established beliefs, customs, etc.

Am I condoning these persecutions and killings for heresies? No way, no! I think it's disgusting that they even happened in the first place, thus I'm not proud of this particular part of the the Church's history, and thank God we live in times where this doesn't happen anymore.

But what about those Bibles that were chained to lecturnes, pulpits or tables in seminaries and monestaries? Think about it: before the invention of the printing press, a Bible was a very rare thing to come by in those years where it was translated from Hebrew and Greek into Latin (382-396AD) and the invention of the printing press itself (1439AD by Gutenberg). Every Bible was hand-written, and copied hand-written, by monk scholars and so forth. This was a painstakingly long process and was done so with meticulous slowness and care. It was impossible for the Bible to be mass-produced like it would have been with the printing press, so obviously any Bible that was fully scribed and bound back then would be the equivalent to today coming across an original Shakespeare manuscript or the original US Constitution, which, I might add, is kept under lock and key, security guard upon security guard, laser infra-red detectors, etc., etc., at the National Archives, Washington, DC.

So why the security surrounding Bibles between the years of 396AD and 1439AD (i.e. invention of the printing press, but keep in mind the first printing press Bible wasn't produced until circa 1456AD with the same Gutenberg machine)? It wasn't because the Catholic Church didn't want the public reading the Bible, as in learning of its content, no; it was because of fear of theft and damage to the Bibles. It wasn't like pages could be sticky-taped back together if torn or a new copy could be ordered if the previous one had been damaged beyond repair. Each Bible took a long time to scribe and this was a very costly process (some have suggested the equivalent to three years' wages in today's money).

Would the National Archives let just anyone pick-up and have a read of the original US Constitution? Definitely not, and even those that are permitted to touch the document for restorative and preservational reasons, do so with great care and under hawkeye-like supervision! Why? For fear of theft and damage to the document.

Digressing...

A sad reality is that the Mass (Church) is the only exposure a portion of Catholics get to the Bible, and in saying so not a lot of Catholics actually take the time to read their Bible even when they are encouraged to do so by their priests, bishops, and especially by the Pope! I was quite fortunate to have been raised through the Catholic education system here in Australia, where I developed an appreciation for Sacred Scripture and have become quite fond of getting my face stuck into its pages during my formative and academic years. Reading the Bible is a habit that every Christian, not just Catholics, should develop because from it we have so much to gain!

Regressing...

So back to the myth, I think the most succinct way to respond to the idea that "Catholics are forbidden (or not encouraged) to read the Bible" would be to refer to what the Catechism of the Catholic Church (the official document outlining all of what the Catholic Church teaches across all four of its levels of teaching) says (points relevant to blog topic bolded for emphasis):

"And such is the force and power of the Word of God that it can serve the Church as her support and vigor, and the children of the Church as strength for their faith, food for the soul, and a pure and lasting fount of spiritual life." Hence "access to Sacred Scripture ought to be open wide to the Christian faithful." - par. 131



"Therefore, the study of the sacred page should be the very soul of sacred theology. The ministry of the Word, too - pastoral preaching, catechetics and all forms of Christian instruction, among which the liturgical homily should hold pride of place - is healthily nourished and thrives in holiness through the Word of Scripture." - par. 132


The Church "forcefully and specifically exhorts all the Christian faithful. . . to learn the surpassing knowledge of Jesus Christ, by frequent reading of the divine Scriptures. Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ. -par. 133

(CCC, V. SACRED SCRIPTURE IN THE LIFE OF THE CHURCH, PART ONE: THE PROFESSION OF FAITH, 1992)

In summary:

a) Paragraph 131 informs us that the Sacred Scripture should be made readily available and accessible by the Church to all faithful (and implicitly this tells us that we should get ourselves a Bible!);
b) Paragraph 132 informs us that development of understanding of theology stems from the study of the sacred pages (Sacred Scripture);
c) Paragraph 133 inforums us that the Christian faithful is urged (exorted) by the Church to learn of the wisdoms of Jesus Christ by the frequent reading of Sacred Scripture.

To summarise: Yes, Catholics are encouraged to read the Bible; no, we are not forbidden to read the Bible.

We know that knowledge of scripture is useful/profitable in making the man of God complete and thoroughly equipped for every good work (2 Tim. 3:15-17) and will allow us to be ready to make a defense if our faith is ever brought into question:

"But sanctify the Lord Christ in your hearts, being ready always to satisfy every one that asketh you a reason of that hope which is in you." - 1 Peter 3:15

We also know that the Church is the pillar and foundation of truth (1 Timothy 3:15) and a healthy devotion to both Sacred Scripture and the Church and her sacraments, offer us the fullness of the Christian faith. The Church and the Sacred Scriptures live together in a unique symbiosis, and it is in this symbiosis that we grow as a people of God, living in Christ.

Both the Bible and Church are important to me: both feed and nourish me spiritually; one is my home and community and gives me a family to share in public prayer and sacrament; the other I keep in my house and use in my private prayer and ongoing spiritual development.

Amen.

Monday, September 07, 2009

A Prayer for Unity Between All Christians



"Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called children of God." - Matthew 5:9

Sunday, September 06, 2009

10 Reasons Why the Catholic Church is NOT the "Whore of Babylon"

If there's anything that will make any poorly-informed Catholic's skin crawl, it's the anti-Catholic's accusation that the Catholic Church is the "Whore of Babylon". A lot of Catholics, unfortunately, do not take the time to study scripture In this blog entry I'll be giving 10 reasons why the Catholic Church is not the "Whore of Babylon" (the "whore" of Revelation 17), but some background information first.


What's the "Whore of Babylon"? Well, the "whore" is the figurative character in the book of  Revelation, chapter 17. Before the destruction of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem in 70AD, John (said to be "John the Apostle", the last of the 12) while held prisoner on the Isle of Patmos had visions of a great tribulation occurring in the near future (near future for him anyway). John's Revelation is written using imagery, symbolic writing, and a literary form and delivery that was intended for a 1st century Christian audience, namely people that came from the Jewish and the Gentile cultures.


What anti-Catholics focus entirely on when making their accusation against the Catholic Church, and I might add this is their only argument, as mentioned earlier, is the symbology and imagery used in Revelation 17. Let's take a look at what it says:


"And there came one of the seven angels, who had the seven vials, and spoke with me, saying: Come, I will shew thee the condemnation of the great harlot, who sitteth upon many waters, With whom the kings of the earth have committed fornication; and they who inhabit the earth, have been made drunk with the wine of her whoredom. And he took me away in spirit into the desert. And I saw a woman sitting upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was clothed round about with purple and scarlet, and gilt with gold, and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand, full of the abomination and filthiness of her fornication. And on her forehead a name was written: A mystery; Babylon the great, the mother of the fornications, and the abominations of the earth.



And I saw the woman drunk with the blood of the saints, and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus. And I wondered, when I had seen her, with great admiration. And the angel said to me: Why dost thou wonder? I will tell thee the mystery of the woman, and of the beast which carrieth her, which hath the seven heads and ten horns. The beast, which thou sawest, was, and is not, and shall come up out of the bottomless pit, and go into destruction: and the inhabitants on the earth (whose names are not written in the book of life from the foundation of the world) shall wonder, seeing the beast that was, and is not. And here is the understanding that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, upon which the woman sitteth, and they are seven kings: Five are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come: and when he is come, he must remain a short time.


And the beast which was, and is not: the same also is the eighth, and is of the seven, and goeth into destruction. And the ten horns which thou sawest, are ten kings, who have not yet received a kingdom, but shall receive power as kings one hour after the beast. These have one design: and their strength and power they shall deliver to the beast. These shall fight with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them, because he is Lord of lords, and King of kings, and they that are with him are called, and elect, and faithful. And he said to me: The waters which thou sawest, where the harlot sitteth, are peoples, and nations, and tongues.


And the ten horns which thou sawest in the beast: these shall hate the harlot, and shall make her desolate and naked, and shall eat her flesh, and shall burn her with fire. For God hath given into their hearts to do that which pleaseth him: that they give their kingdom to the beast, till the words of God be fulfilled. And the woman which thou sawest, is the great city, which hath kingdom over the kings of the earth." - Revelation 17:1-18 (D-R)


Okay, we've had a look at the chapter, and now why the Catholic Church is not the "Whore of Babylon", and in no particular order (some of these points are at some length and some are succinct, but don't expect a thesis; I'm sure you've got the means to review the issue further):


1.) What is most important to consider when reading Revelations 17, is that you don't read Rev. 17 as if it were the only chapter or entry of the book of Revelation; it has to be read in context with the ENTIRETY of Revelation. A lot of anti-Catholics make this mistake and thus scripture can be twisted (2 Peter 3:16) to create an entirely different meaning. When reading all scripture, for that matter, it's important to ensure that you're trying to read it through the eyes of the person that wrote it (i.e. what was the political and social climate of the time? What was going on in history? To whom was the book/letter/vision written for, etc.).


What also needs to be considered when reading Revelation 17 (and all of Revelation for that matter), is why John chose to use symbols and imagery in his writings. The early Christians were being persecuted: the Jews still didn't like them, and the Roman Empire was in league with the pharisees to hunt, arrest and execute "troublesome" Christians. John's Revelation was a WARNING to all who followed Christ of things to come. He spoke in symbols and imagery that 1st century Jew and Gentile converts to Christianity would understand. It had to be difficult for those not in the know to understand so that any plans to escape the city of Jerusalem would be thwarted by the authorities. John's Revelation, because of its codes, symbols and imagery, enabled many Christians to flee Jerusalem before the great tribulation; before the Holy Temple was destroyed in 70AD.


2.) The great whore in Revelation 17:1-6 is a symbol of pagan Rome, not Christian Rome. There is a big difference. Christian Rome did not exist in John's day, and throughout this passage the whore is spoken of in present tense, which means she existed at the time John penned the Apocalypse. The Roman Empire is also known as "the beast" in Revelation 17 because of the spread and strength of the Roman Empire of the time. Any reference John made to Rome in Revelations referred to pagan/pre-Christian Rome.


3.) The "great city" of Revelation 17 is how 1st century Jews referred to the city of Jerusalem (Jeremiah 22:4-8 for example), not Rome. "The great city" is a pseudonym for Jerusalem and is used throughout the Old and New Testaments. For kicks, let's have a read of Jeremiah 22:4-8 anyway:


"For if you will do this thing indeed, then shall there enter in by the gates of this house, kings of the race of David sitting upon his throne, and riding in chariots and on horses, they and their servants, and their people.  But if you will not hearken to these words: I swear by myself, saith the Lord, that this house shall become a desolation.



For thus saith the Lord to the house of the king of Juda: Thou art to me Galaad the head of Libanus: yet surely I will make thee a wilderness, and cities not habitable. And I will prepare against thee the destroyer and his weapons: and they shall cut down thy chosen cedars, and shall cast them headlong into the fire. And many nations shall pass by this city: and they shall say every man to his neighbour: Why hath the Lord done so to this great city?"


Compare that to what is said in Revelation 18:10...


"Standing afar off for fear of her torments, saying: Alas! alas! that great city Babylon, that mighty city: for in one hour is thy judgment come."


The Latin word through which "mighty" and "great" is dervied, which is the word you'd find in the Latin Vulgate to describe this city in Revelation 17, is the word "magnus" ("magni" or "manga" when used as an adjective), which means the following: "large; great; powerful; big". Personally I'm quite fond of the word as I have named it in the title of my blog ("The Spirit Magnus"), so I'm pretty sure I know of its meaning and the context it's being used in Revelation 17 (and 18:10). Rome, in the context of the book of Revelation or all of scripture for that matter, is never referred to as "the great" or "the mighty" city; Jerusalem is.


4.) Pay close attention to the wording of verses nine and 10 of Revelation 17:


"And here is the understanding that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, upon which the woman sitteth, and they are seven kings: Five are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come: and when he is come, he must remain a short time."


While the city of Rome is built around seven hills (Aventinus, Caelius, Capitolinus, Esquilinus, Palatinus, Quirinalis, and Viminalis; and note that these are hills, not mountains), is does not sit upon seven hills like Revelation 17:8-9 describe. Anti-Catholics also seem to forget that the Vatican - Catholicism's headquarters, if you will - sits only on one hill, Vatican Hill. Even if Vatican Hill was to be included as one of Rome's, Rome would then sit on eight hills and render the argument completely void. But since the anti-Catholic is willing to pin anything to the Catholic Church being where "the woman sitteth", if we applied their logic, then one could argue that these cities could also be the "Whore of Babylon" since they are also built on seven hills:


- Istanbul, Turkey
- Moscow, Russia
- Seattle, USA
- Tirupati, India
- Western Sydney, Australia
- Abergavenny, south Wales
- Ibadan, Nigeria
- Lisbon, Portugal
- Providence, Rhode Island
- Sheffield, England


What's interesting to note is that the city of Jerusalem is also a city that is built on seven hills, but I'll explain the significance of that later.


5.) The term "anti-Christ" and "666" ("mark of the beast") refers to Emperor Nero, as he was the first and most infamous persecutor of Christians. Again, referring to the wording of verses nine and 10 of Revelation 17:


"And here is the understanding that hath wisdom. The seven heads are seven mountains, upon which the woman sitteth, and they are seven kings: Five are fallen, one is, and the other is not yet come: and when he is come, he must remain a short time."


The "seven mountains" referred to here are very explicitly identified as "seven kings", and note how they are listed:


- Five are "fallen"
- One "is"
- The Other is "not yet come"


This refers to the seven Emperors (or "kings") of Rome, as follows (first, the "fallen" or "dead" and their period of reign):


i. Julius Caesar (49-44 BC), the First "Emperor" or "King"
ii. Augustus Caesar (31 BC-14 AD)
iii. Tiberius Caesar (14-37 AD)
iv. Caligula Caesar (37-41 AD)
v. Claudius Caesar (41-54 AD)


The "One" that "is" of course refers to Nero (Nero was the first Roman Emperor to "make war with the saints"; Rev. 13:7), emperor between 54 and 68AD, which fits perfectly with John's prophetic vision of the tribulation: the destruction of the Holy Temple in around 70AD. John spoke with great immediacy, as indicated in the very first chapter and verse of the book of Revelation:


"The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to make known to his servants the things which must shortly come to pass: and signified, sending by his angel to his servant John,"


It doesn't make sense that John could have been speaking about the Catholic Church due to the longevity and growth of Catholicism to the present day. Why speak with such urgency about something that hasn't happened yet (2000 years and still waiting) or about something that has not (and by the grace of Jesus Christ will not) faced a tribulation? This is not to say that the end times and the Second Coming will not occur, but as it says concerning the Catholic Church:


"And I say to thee: That thou art Peter; and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."


The emperor or "king" that is "not yet come" would logically refer to the emperor that succeeded Nero, Galba Caesar, who of course reigned for a short period of time just as Revelation 17:9-10 prophecised. Emperor Galba's reign only last seven months ("and when he is come, he must remain a short time"; Galba was murdered in 69AD.


6.) References to the "harlot" refer to the city of Jerusalem as the Jewish state - before the destruction of the temple - made "unholy alliances" with Roman officials to hunt, persecute and murder Christians. Remember this is what Saul/Paul did before his conversion. Agents of Rome worked closely with Jewish pharicees and high priests to capture Christians because the Jewish state was threatened by the early Christians. Christ, through his death and resurrection, had given his people hope and were now not afraid to speak up to authority. The "harlot" (a term used to describe something, be it a person or city, that has committed detestable deeds) is another name for the city of Jerusalem (Ezekiel 16:1-3, 26; Jeremiah 2:17-20; Isaiah 1:1, 21; just to name a few).


7.) Regressing somewhat to point number four, the city of Jerusalem is another city that sits on seven hills, much like the woman described in verse nine of Revelation 17. The seven hills of Jerusalem are as follows:


- Mount Gared
- Mount Goath
- Mount Acra
- Mount Bezetha
- Mount Moriah
- Mount Ophel
- Mount Zion


But ignore the references to hills or mountains for the time being; what this means is that a bride, Jerusalem, once pure, has committed atrocities by aligning itself with a corrupt power: the Roman Empire (pagan/pre-Christian Rome in the case of Revelation 17) and thus has become a "harlot". This is not the first time this has happened:


"You played the harlot with the Egyptians, your lustful neighbors, so many times that I was provoked to anger." - Ezekiel 16:26


"Has not the forsaking of the LORD, your God, done this to you ? And now, why go to Egypt, to drink the waters of the Nile? Why go to Assyria, to drink the waters of the Euphrates ? Your own wickedness chastises you, your own infidelities punish you. Know then, and see, how evil and bitter is your forsaking the LORD, your God, And showing no fear of me, says the Lord, the GOD of hosts. Long ago you broke your yoke, you tore off your bonds. ‘I will not serve,’ you said. On every high hill, under every green tree, you gave yourself to harlotry." - Jeremiah 2:17-20


"The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah, kings of Judah… How the faithful city has become a harlot, she that was full of justice! Righteousness lodged in her, but now murderers." - Isaiah 1:1, 21


"The Lord said to me in the days of King Josiah: ‘Have you seen what she did, that faithless one, Israel, how she went up on every high hill and under every green tree, and there played the harlot ? And I thought, "After she has done all this she will return to me;" but she did not return, and her false sister Judah saw it. She saw that for all the adulteries of that faithless one, Israel, I had sent her away with a decree of divorce; yet her false sister Judah did not fear, but she too went and played the harlot.'" - Jeremiah 3:6-8


Jerusalem, the City of God, once pure like the bride in Solomon's Song of Songs (Solomon spoke of the nation of Israel, but Jerusalem, it's great city, is explicitly mentioned several times), had become corrupt and like the harlot due to its unholy alliances. The Jewish state had whored itself out to the Roman Empire and had within it the spirit of Babylon; a spirit of apostasy and corruption from within: gleaming with righteousness on the exterior, but of a blackened soul and blood drunk. John knew this, and knew the pharisees within the Holy Temple were working with the Roman Empire to oust the Christians once and for all.


To put it into context, the Jews despised the Romans and had it not been for the financial and political benefits of Rome occupying the city of Jerusalem, the armies of Israel itself would not have tolerated the Roman Empire's presence. Think about it: Why would the pharisees say to Pontius Pilate when he wanted to release Jesus, "If thou release this man, thou art not Caesar's friend. For whosoever maketh himself a king, speaketh against Caesar" (John 19:12). The pharisees were trying to blackmail Pilate and knew that he would not risk the outbreak of rioting and socio-political uprising (Matthew 26:24).


The relationship the Jewish state had with the Roman Empire at the time was co-mutual: the Jewish state was able to subdue its people and those opposing the institutional oppression with the help of the Romans, and the Roman Empire was able to expand its empire by laying claim on the city of Jerusalem and other parts of Israel; this gave them port to the east. Jerusalem had sold out! There's no denying that!


8.) "Babylon" is destroyed by fire (Revelation 18:8, 17). We know that Emperor Nero fiddled while Rome burned (this is what he is pop-culturally famous for, apparently), but was Rome destroyed by the fires? No, it wasn't! Rome was only partially burned. Jerusalem, on the other hand, was completely consumed by fire as the Holy Temple was destroyed in 70AD.


God had promised blessings to the Jews if they obeyed (Deuteronomy 28:8) and seven curses if they disobeyed (Deuteronomy 28:15-20). God’s Covenant is effected by His Oath. The word "oath" is based on the word "seven." And so the number "seven" represents the Covenant. In Leviticus he threatens to punish the Jews with fire if they break the Covenant:


 "…if you reject my precepts and spurn my decrees, refusing to obey all my commandments and breaking my covenant, then I…


... if, despite all this, you still persist in disobeying and defying me, I, also, will meet you with fiery defiance and will chastise you with sevenfold fiercer punishment for your sins…" - Leviticus 26:15-16, 27- 28


It also had been prophesied that Jerusalem would be destroyed by fire:


"Son of man, make known to Jerusalem her abominations. Thus says the Lord GOD to Jerusalem … Therefore, harlot, hear the word of the LORD! …


... I will inflict on you the sentence of adulteresses and murderesses; I will wreak fury and jealousy upon you.
 
… They shall burn your apartments with fire and inflict punishments on you while many women look on. Thus I will put an end to your harlotry, and you shall never again give payment." - Ezekiel 16:2-3, 35, 38, 41
 
The burning of Jerusalem by fire also had theological significance. The city of Jerusalem is often referred to as a daughter:
 
" … They hiss and wag their heads over daughter Jerusalem:
‘Is this the all-beautiful city, the joy of the whole earth?’
…The LORD has done as he decreed: he has fulfilled the threat...
... He set forth from days of old; he has destroyed and had no pity,
…Cry out to the Lord; moan, O daughter Zion!" - Lamentations 2:15-18
 
Unfaithfulness to God is frequently compared to sexual immorality. The penalty for fornication by the daughter of the priest called for a special punishment. It was to be burned to death.


"A priest’s daughter who loses her honor by committing fornication and thereby dishonors her father also, shall be burned to death." - Leviticus 21:9


So, when Jerusalem was offered the grace to accept Christ, but instead rejected Him, she is referred to as the "Whore of Babylon" who is subsequently burnt to death.


9.) The Catholic Church does not have sovereignty over nations like the "Whore of Babylon" does as Revelation 17:18 indicates:


"The woman whom you saw represents the great city that has sovereignty over the kings of the earth."


Again this is a reference to pagan/pre-Christian Rome or apostate Jerusalem . Jerusalem, who had the role to bring God’s law to the rest of the nations, had a spiritual sovereignty over all the nations. In the case of the former, the dominion would be political; in the case of the latter, it could be a number of things: It could be spiritual dominion in that Jerusalem held the religion of the true God. It could be a reference to the manipulation by certain Jews and Jewish leaders of gentiles into persecuting Christians.


While the Catholic Church does its best to influence nations (i.e. governments) in matters of social justice, morality in legislation and so forth, it has no power over them! How often do we see lobbyists, pro-choice activists, social and political commentators telling the Pope and the Catholic Church to back off, to keep Church and State separate?


Anti-Catholics will lay claim that the Pope visiting world leaders and meeting with them, etc., is evidence enough to suggest that the Catholic Church has such sovereignty. Why isn't then the same argument then made about the Dalai Lama or any other single leader of government (the President of the USA, the Prime Minister of Australia, etc.)? The argument is self-defeating in its implicit double standard. It's clear that Revelation 17:18 is speaking of apostate Jerusalem or pagan/pre-Christian Rome.


10.) I'm going to stray from Revelation 17 for this one, mainly because I think a lot of anti-Catholics consciously miss this verse of scripture in Revelation and due to its poignancy.


One verse in particular stands out as the identity of the "Whore of Babylon"/"the great city":


"And their dead bodies shall lie in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified." - Revelations 11:8


Rome was never referred to (or "spiritually called") Sodom and Egypt; Jerusalem was, and it would be ridiculous to suggest that the Catholic Church was ever referred to as "Sodom and Egypt"; no basis can be given to such a claim.


Also consider the part to Revelation 11:8, "where also our Lord was crucified". Any historian can tell you that Christ was crucified at Golgotha (outside the walls of the city of Jerusalem), not the city of Rome. Rome was merely the home of the Roman Empire. To 1st century Jews, Jerusalem was the "City of God/YHWH"; the "great" city. Rome may be a "great city", but it is not THE "great city".


Was the Catholic Church responsible for the crucifixion and execution of Jesus Christ? No! Of course it wasn't! The Catholic Church bases itself on the life, death, and resurrection of Christ!


Again, Jerusalem had sold out by persecuting and putting to death its own prophecised Messiah, and was punished greatly with consuming fire for its years of harlotry in the years between the death of Jesus Christ and 70AD. When masses of  Jews were slaughtered in Jerusalem in 70AD, none of the Christians that had lived there were killed. They had escaped by leaving Jerusalem before the Romans came; they had been forewarned in the John's prophetic visions to get out of there.


*     *     *     *     *     *


So where does all of this leave us? Will these 10 reasons change anyone's mind on the matter of the "Whore of Babylon"? No, probably not, but hopefully what I have emphasised is the importance of a few things:


a) Read the Bible in context and always consider the social and political climate of the time, the intended audience of the reader, the intended message and its delivery (literary form), all of which having an influence on contemporary readings of scripture and no exceptions should be made when reading be it a single verse, chapter or book of scripture;
b) In a world today where Christian denominations are [sadly] fighting among each other to get bums on seats, things will get ugly and mud will be slung much like in an election campaign. The best way to discredit an "opponent" is to sling mud, concoct and create half-truths, or simply make denigrating claims against them. This is not what Christ wanted; Christ wants his Church to be One (John 17:21);
c) Anti-Catholics want to be right as opposed to actually being right. We all know a liar will begin to believe their own lies the more they propagate them; they become accustomed to the lie and have to follow through with it (i.e. maintain the lie) in order for it to reach any degree of credibility. This requires a couple of things: good acting; and a complete and conscious disregard or denial of absolute truth. Anti-Catholics are good at both and foolishly reject scripture that justifies the Catholic Church as the church that Christ himself founded!


For my fellow Catholics out there, take solace in the words that Christ himself gave us if you yourself are victim to these fallacious anti-Catholic claims:


"If the world hate you, know ye, that it hath hated me before you. If you had been of the world, the world would love its own: but because you are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you. Remember my word that I said to you: The servant is not greater than his master. If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you: if they have kept my word, they will keep yours also." - John 15:18-20


Continue praying for Christian unity, for understanding between Christians, for Israel and that our Jewish brothers and sisters may come to know Jesus Christ!


Amen.

Recommended viewing:


Book of Revelations and Catholic Mass