Bugay On Catholicism and the Early Church

I stumbled across this article a few weeks ago which was listed as the current "featured article" on Triablogue.  It's an older article, but seeing as how they wished to "feature" it, (it is no longer the "featured" article) I figured it would be good to answer it.

John Bugay on Catholicism: What was the ancient church in Rome like?

Some time ago, I spent some time summarizing what some of the major commentators have been saying about the people and the network of house churches found in early Rome in the first century. This is the Rome to which Peter supposedly traveled, where it is thought that he may have died (though historically, there is practically no mention of him at all being in Rome; when Irenaeus talks about “…the church that is greatest, most ancient, and known to all, founded and set up by the two most glorious apostles Peter and Paul at Rome …” this is the reality to which he was referring, and it is this reality of which we can say he was not an entirely accurate reporter of history).

There is a reason why I’m going into such detail on this. Recently, I’ve been citing from the James Puglisi work How Can the Petrine Ministry Be a Service to the Unity of the Universal Church? In that work, I’ve quoted Herman Pottmeyer saying that “anyone who wishes to come to an understanding of the papal ministry cannot avoid dealing with the history of this ministry. The historical facts are not disputed...” In an earlier article from that same work, John P. Meier, a leading Catholic Biblical scholar, pointed out, “A papacy that cannot give a credible historical account of its own origins can hardly hope to be a catalyst for unity among divided Christians.” So the implication is that, until this point, the papacy has not given a “credible historical account of its own origins.”
I find it interesting that these Protestant apologists can't see the forest for the trees.  All we need point to is Scripture in this regard.  Jesus gave to St. Peter, alone, the authority to bind and loose whatsoever he chose in Matthew 16:18-19.  In John 21:15-17, just before Jesus ascends - in threefold manner He commands St. Peter to take care of His sheep.  The Good Shepherd was passing the reins to His Vicar.  We must say, Scripture is a "credible historical account of (the papacy) origins."

The recent book The End of Christianity begins (Chapter 1) with this little but bold proclamation:

The end of Christianity is not some far-off dream, nor is it on the verge of occurring. Instead, it happened two thousand years ago—in fact, Christianity never even began; it was stillborn….there is no such thing as the religion of Christianity; at best it is a multitude of related but distinct and often-enough opposed traditions, shifting and swaying with the winds of local culture and passing history … (Dr. David Eller, “Christianity Evolving: On the Origin of Christian Species”, Chapter 1 in Loftus, ed., ©2011“The End of Christianity”: Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, pg. 23.)

There’s no need to fear Eller. With this statement he immediately shows himself to be a hack, given that the life of Christ and the origins of Christianity are extraordinarily well attested in history.

But on the other hand, it is the Roman Catholic church and its constant protestations of its own authority, which are extraordinarily poorly attested in history, which give individuals like Eller the kind of toe-hold they need to bloviate and sell books. Eller’s statement is true about Roman Catholicism. Roman Catholicism was stillborn. That’s what Eller and the others can attack freely; it’s the falseness of Roman Catholicism that gives people like Eller the opportunities they have to attack Christ and Christianity.
Wow!  In reality, the Catholic Faith does not begin with Jesus Christ and the Apostles, for it was born out of Judaism.  If one takes, even a little time, to study Jewish culture and religion, and objectively looks at the culture of Catholicism - he/she would be astounded at how similar the two faiths are in many ways.  We must remember, ALL the Apostles and Jesus Christ Himself were all Jews.  They did not totally abandon Judaism when they became Christians - that would be foolish!  Our foundations are deeply rooted in Judaism.  

My wife and I took a course in Judaism, taught by a rabbi, at our local college.  At one point, after five straight weeks of Torah readings after Passover about how God desired His place of worship to be (the altar, candlesticks on the altar, angels on either side, incense, even the vestments of the priests) and my wife commented, "Wow, that's SO Catholic!"  Rabbi responded, "Where do you think you got it from?!"  It would appear that Eller and Bugay are attacking that which they really know little about.
But again, the historical work that is being done on the earliest church is going to be immensely helpful in sorting out fact from fiction. This historical work is going to be like Trigonometry and Calculus: these things will always be taught, so long as the subject is taught. But the question going forward will be, will anyone care to understand them?
And that is precisely MY point!  I do not believe folks like Bugay really understands what he's attacking.  The Trig and Calc (historicity) of the Christian (Catholic) faith has brought many great anti-Catholics TO the Catholic Faith - not away from it!  John Cardinal Newman, for one, comes to mind who fought against the Catholic Church and was looking for historic justification to remain Protestant - and one of his famous quotes is:  "To be deep in history is to cease to be Protestant."

Introduction and Summary
The nonexistent early papacy
In this article, Bugay links to yet another one where he refers to the papacy as "dishonest."  I find it interesting that one of the "scholars" he cites is none other than "Raymond Brown."  That would be "Fr. Raymond Brown, who was a bit of a dissenter and revisionist - OK, more than just a bit.  Bugay doesn't really demonstrate the "nonexistence" he claims - he pretty much just claims it.  
House Churches in the New Testament
I would not deny that early celebrations of the Mass took place in people's homes.  They also took place in the Catacombs.  Just a brief and objective look at history is all it takes to remind us - for the first 300 years of Christendom, the Church was under near constant persecution (with brief periods of "peace").
Households in Ancient Rome
Part 1: Households in Ancient Rome: An Introduction
Part 2: Christians and Jews in First Century Rome
Part 3: Commerce and Household Communities
Part 4: Household Leadership as Church Leadership
Part 5: Patronage and Leadership

The People of Romans 16
Aquila, Priscilla, Acts 18:2 and the Edict of Claudius
“I commend to you our sister Phoebe, διάκονον and προστάτις” 
Andronikos and Junia, Part 1 
Andronikos and Junia, Part 2
Again, we do not deny that even into the 4th century that the meeting place for Mass was often in people's homes.  As mentioned earlier too - they also met in the catacombs where they buried so many Christian martyrs.  In those catacombs they had places of worship literally carved into the walls.  I've been to one of those sites, the Catacombs of St. Callixtus.  The catacombs became places of worship as early as the 2nd century - long before Rome converted to Christianity in the 4th century.
What the early Catholics had to go through to find places to worship is quite a testimony to their dedication to Christ.  Within those catacombs too there were poisonous gases coming in through the walls, poisonous due to volcanic activity (we're not too far from Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius) so much so that one could not stay inside the catacombs for much more than an hour.  Even with better ventilation, to this day, they have to monitor and not permit visitors to stay inside for extended periods.  It's actually amazing just how much work they did to create the catacombs and incorporate places of worship within them in light of the fact that they could only stay inside them for short periods of time.  Anyway, this is what the early Church in Rome REALLY looked like - and we can still visit sites like this to this day.
Moving forward, my hope is, Lord willing, to continue to expand on this list and this material, and to make it available in an easy to digest form. In the same way that the printing press aided Martin Luther and helped the Reformation sweep across Europe, the Internet and its ability to make accurate information available immediately around the world, is only going to help to clarify the misunderstandings about Christianity and what it means to have faith in Christ.
While I agree, the printing press helped aid Luther's spread what he was teaching, what he taught was dissent, disrespect and counter to what has preceded him from some 1500 years.  The Internet, while it can be used to make accurate information available - like Luther and the dawning of the printing press, it also makes it easier to spread falsehood and lies.  As folks like Bugay "moves forward" I will continue to present counter-arguments in hopes to shed some light on what they say, and hopefully, one day, bring them home to the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Faith.  I do thank Bugay for this opportunity to share how the Early Church did indeed worship.  While undeniable that some of that worship took place in private homes - it also took place semi-publicly in the catacombs.  

The Gospel According To Mark

In a discussion on the Catholic Debate Forum I am involved in with an Atheist, the discussion of the Gospel According to St. Mark being a record of St. Peter's preaching came up.

MJ:  1 - Even under Christian and specifically Catholic assumptions, the universal consensus of the early fathers is that Peter's earliest preaching after Jesus died, is accurately reflected in Mark's gospel;
SW:  OK, while I have not read every single one of the ECFs (Early Church Fathers), I will grant you this.
MJ:  2 - Granting that historical consensus solely for the sake of argument, reading Mark's text constitutes reading the earliest version of Peter's preaching.
SW:  OK, so you grant this too - even if "only for the sake of argument."

MJ:  3 - I agree with the modern consensus of bible scholars that Mark did not write anything after 16:8;
SW:  I do not agree with this Modernist interpretation, and thus far the only source you've cited for this is the highly questionable JBC (Jerome Bible Commentary).
MJ:  4 - I agree with the modern consensus of bible scholars that Mark is the earliest published gospel among the 4.
SW:  Not that I think it really matters - but I do not agree.  I believe it is just as tenable that Mark relied heavily on the "Q" document.  AND, regardless of speculation on "Q" or "Mark wrote first" or "Matthew got his information from Mark" - NONE of that DISPROVES that Mark actually wrote what Peter preached.  
MJ:  5 - Under these presuppositions which are held by many Christians and Catholics, 
SW:  Wait!  You earlier stated that this is "consensus" and now you're just saying "many Christians and Catholics" (and, um, Catholics ARE Christians!). So much for consistency.

MJ:  (continuing point 5) ...and which I grant solely for the sake of argument, after Jesus died, the earliest testimony from Peter on the gospel said nothing about anybody seeing a resurrected Jesus.  
SW:  And as I pointed out in the other thread - 1 Peter 1:1 ff. is clearly St. Peter stating the fact of the Resurrection.

MJ:  (still continuing point 5)   The earliest version of Peter's resurrection message did not have more to say beyond what is asserted between Mark 16:1-8, in which case, Mark did not mention resurrection eyewitnesses, because in the earliest version of Peter's preaching, Peter did not mention them either.
SW:  That is pure speculation on your part.  Because some manuscripts do not have the verses after verse 8 does not mean they did not exist.  As long as we're speculating here, I say that the longer version was somehow lost or overlooked due to copyist errors - BUT - other, also very ancient manuscripts, DO have the longer ending and while NONE of the original autographs are known to exist today - it is plausible that they did exist when the other manuscripts (some of which date back to the second century) were copied.
SW:  The FACT is there are at least FOUR different endings to Mark's Gospel.  Another FACT is that none of the other three endings carry more weight than the traditionally accepted version.  For you to dogmatically state that there is consensus (without naming your sources which state such consensus AND without demonstrating there actually IS consensus) does not make for a valid argument.  Once you go dogmatic on us, as if there can be no other interpretation, then you're not arguing validly anymore.  To use a Catholic example (and please don't use this as an excuse to divert, this is JUST an example) prior to the definition of a dogma, like the Immaculate Conception, or more applicable to this discussion, the Canon of Sacred Scripture, faithful Catholics could - and some did - dispute or argue against or at least for some variation of what was later defined.  Once defined, however, no faithful Catholic can dispute or argue against the definition.  We MUST accept it because it was thusly defined.  When you dogmatically stated that a) Mark didn't write verses 9-20 of Mark 16 and/or b) that those verses do not belong to the Gospel - then you're not arguing validly anymore.

MJ:  6 - You will no doubt insist that Mark being an accurate reflection of Peter's preaching does not mean whatever Mark omitted was something Peter also omitted.  But when you make that argument, you are, in effect, saying that Mark omitted things from his gospel that he knew Peter had preached.  That position squarely contradicts Papias, who said Mark was careful to "omit nothing" from what he heard Peter preach.   And when you allege Mark may have omitted some of what Peter preached, I can buy that generally, but that theory is not plausible, under Catholic assumptions, if what you allege Mark chose to omit was Peter's own recollection of himself having personally seen the resurrected Jesus.
SW:  Please do not put words in my mouth,  Do no presume what my argument is or will be - allow ME to present MY position(s), and again I say please.

SW: 1) That which is "missing" from the earlier manuscripts may have been lost.  This does not mean Mark omitted those verses, but somehow a leaf was misplaced.
SW:  2a) The difference in writing style may be due to a copyist finding another older manuscript which included those verses and the style of that copy varied from the style it was added back to.
SW:  2b) Maybe Mark DID stop at verse 8 and St. Peter himself finished the chapter.  St. Peter, being a fisherman by trade, was likely not as well versed in words as his scribe, Mark, was.  Thus that is why Mark's more descriptive language was not used in verses 9-20.

SW:  2c)  The longer ending may have been "lost" to those couple of manuscripts which do not contain verses 9-20, but were not "lost" to those who copied them in the second century - as the original autographs may still have existed at that time.

SW:  3)  Your argument hinges so much upon acceptance of Papias' words - that "Mark's Gospel omitted nothing of what St. Peter preached."  Now, ask yourself - which version (which ending) was Papias referring to when he said Mark omitted nothing?  You can't answer that - none of us can - for all we have from Papias is what Eusebius tells us - and he doesn't tell us which manuscript Papias was referring to.  So, your "dogma" is reduced to speculation on ONE possible version. 

SW:  4)  Another fact here is, while you keep trying to tell me what I must adhere to as a "fundie Catholic," (I prefer the term "faithful Catholic" as all faithful Catholics hold to the fundamental truth taught by the Catholic Church), you falsely represent what a faithful Catholic "must" adhere to.  With regard to this subject, the only thing "defined" is the Canon of Sacred Scripture itself.  Thus, I "must" accept Mark 16:9-20 as belonging to the Gospel According to Mark.  What I don't "have" to be bound to is how those verses got there.  I am quite free to join you in speculating just how they got there, I just can't deny that they belong.  

SW:  I am kind of surprised that you have not mentioned "Q" yet.  Maybe you're not familiar with the "Q" arguments?


Accendat in nobis Dominus ignem sui amoris, et flammam aeternae caritatis. Amen. 
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Invincible Ignorance

An article I wrote a number of years ago, how many - I'm not sure, I did not date the article - on invincible ignorance.  The original can be found on the ACTS website:  

What is Invincible Ignorance?
An Article by Scott Windsor
First, let us begin this with a discussion of ignorance and culpability, in the eyes of the Church. For this, we will need to cite official Church documentation. I will begin with the Catechism of the Catholic Church (hereafter "CCC"):
1790 A human being must always obey the certain judgment of his conscience. If he were deliberately to act against it, he would condemn himself. Yet it can happen that moral conscience remains in ignorance and makes erroneous judgments about acts to be performed or already committed. 1791 This ignorance can often be imputed to personal responsibility. This is the case when a man "takes little trouble to find out what is true and good, or when conscience is by degrees almost blinded through the habit of committing sin." In such cases, the person is culpable for the evil he commits.
1792 Ignorance of Christ and his Gospel, bad example given by others, enslavement to one's passions, assertion of a mistaken notion of autonomy of conscience, rejection of the Church's authority and her teaching, lack of conversion and of charity: these can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct.
1793 If - on the contrary - the ignorance is invincible, or the moral subject is not responsible for his erroneous judgment, the evil committed by the person cannot be imputed to him. It remains no less an evil, a privation, a disorder. One must therefore work to correct the errors of moral conscience.
1794 A good and pure conscience is enlightened by true faith, for charity proceeds at the same time "from a pure heart and a good conscience and sincere faith.
These teachings deal primarily with ignorance of morality and whether or not an individual can be seen as culpable for their privations/disorders if they are not aware of them. This really has little to do with the teaching of Incincible Ignorance as it relates to the defined dogma of "There is no salvation outside the Church," (in Latin that's "extra ecclesiam nulla salus" and hereafter I will refer to the phrase as "EENS"). So. let us look at the CCC references to this subject:
846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body: Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. 847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:
Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.
So, we have the current teachings on the subject, let's look again at the definition of "ignorance."
Ignorance is lack of knowledge about a thing in a being capable of knowing. Fundamentally speaking and with regard to a given object ignorance is the outcome of the limitations of our intellect or of the obscurity of the matter itself. So far as fixing human responsibility, the most important division of ignorance is that designated by the terms invincible and vincible. Ignorance is said to be invincible when a person is unable to rid himself of it notwithstanding the employment of moral diligence, that is, such as under the circumstances is, morally speaking, possible and obligatory. This manifestly includes the states of inadvertence, forgetfulness, etc. Such ignorance is obviously involuntary and therefore not imputable. On the other hand, ignorance is termed vincible if it can be dispelled by the use of "moral diligence". Invincible ignorance, whether of the law or of the fact, is always a valid excuse and excludes sin. The evident reason is that neither this state nor the act resulting therefrom is voluntary. Catholic Encyclopedia
We're getting a clearer picture now on Invincible Ignorance. Such ignorance cannot be something that is voluntarily ascribed to. If one knows the teachings of the Catholic Church, with regard to salvation and membership in the Catholic Church, then one cannot claim Invincible Ignorance, for rejection of this knowledge has become willfull and voluntary. Invincible Ignorance applies to one who, "through no fault of their own" are ignorant of the Church's teachings in this regard.
Pope Pius IX says:
It must likewise be held as certain that those who are affected by ignorance of the true religion, if it is invincible ignorance, are not subject to any guilt in this matter before the eyes of the Lord (Singulari Quadem of December 9, 1854, Denzinger 1647).
Again we must stress, such ignorance is not voluntary. For one to know the teachings of the Church regarding salvation and membership in the Church, to willfully reject the Church after attaining such knowledge, makes them culpable of the rejection. I repeat the teaching in the CCC: Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it. It must also be added, the teaching on Invincible Ignorance is not a teaching that anyone will be saved, only that they may be saved. The teaching of Invincible Ignorance is a statement of the Church, not of God. Ultimately the judgment of any given soul is left to God. The Church has never made the teaching of Invincible Ignorance a dogmatic teaching and has never declared someone a Saint under the auspices of Invincible Ignorance.
There is a real danger that those who go about preaching Invincible Ignorance may be actually damaging souls, for they may give some a false sense of confidence that God may not hold them culpable for remaining outside the Catholic Church, even if they are willfully outside the Church. The truth of the matter is, as the CCC teaches, basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation. That is the teaching that Faithful Catholics should be preaching and evangelizing the world with, not some sense of complacency that one may be saved, even if they voluntarily have removed themselves from or never joined the Catholic Church, especially after having knowledge of the teachings of the Catholic Church in this regard.
Clearly, "ignorance" is a lack of knowledge - so whether someone is "ignorant" or not is not really the issue here. The real distinction comes in when we discuss whether the issue is "invincible" or "vincible." Let us borrow from www.m-w.com (Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary):
Main Entry: in·vin·ci·ble
Function: adjective
Etymology: Middle English, from Middle French, from Late Latin invincibilis, from Latin in- + vincere to conquer
: incapable of being conquered, overcome, or subdued Main Entry: vin·ci·ble
Function: adjective
Etymology: Latin vincibilis, from vincere to conquer
: capable of being overcome or subdued

One is considered "invincibly ignorant" only if the ignorance is incapable of being overcome. Thus, those who have never heard the Gospel and/or have never heard of the Catholic Church and her teachings may not be held culpable for the teachings. A point must be made here as well, even when the Church "teaches" on invincible ignorance, she says "may not be culpable," and never states such a person definitively will not be culpable. There is no guarantee for anyone whom the Church might see as invincibly ignorant, God is still the Judge. So, one who has never heard the Gospel and/or Church teaching is primarily whom the teaching on invincible ignorance is directed. There are some, however, who believe that even if they know the Gospel and/or Church teaching, that they too could be considered invincibly ignorant. Let's look again at "invincible" vs. "vincible." One is vincible IF their position has the possibility of being overcome. If it is possible that the position they profess is wrong, then they are vincible. Now, unless someone is claiming that they can personally be infallible - then they must acquiess that ANY position they take is vincible. Thus, one who openly rejects the Gospel and/or Church teaching cannot at the same time state that the Church might see them as invincibly ignorant.
We must also not overlook the part of the teaching that states, "through no fault of their own." Once one has made a choice in this matter, especially an informed choice, then invincibility is gone.
If we consider the logic, or illogic of a given argument, then for an argument to be "logical" it must also be falsifiable. It would then be illogical for one to make an argument that he/she is invincibly ignorant since to be "invincible" it would not be, by definition, falsifiable.
When presented with a "tough question" how do we answer? For example:
What of someone who "heard" the Gospel message from her mother, who beat her regularly when she failed to say her rosary at night. Could this person be considered "vincible" if she were to reject the Church and its teachings, which were delivered to her by an abusive madwoman?
The operative part of this question is the word "could." Certainly she "could" be held "vincible" but her culpability would likely be diminished. When "vincibility" is considered, we must also consider the methodology used to deliver the message. If the only exposure to the Gospel and Church teaching/authority is an abusive mother, then she is not receiving true Catholic teaching. It would be highly unlikely, however, that this was her only source of Catholic education. If she were taught appropriately then she would also have the resource of her confessor and/or spiritual advisor to help her cope with the difficult situation at home, and even perhaps get direction on how to help her abusive mother - a few too many unknown tangentials to fully answer that question, but that is the type of questions some of our detractors will ask. We must keep in mind that this teaching of Invincible Ignorance is an interpretation of men in the Church. It has never been "defined" as a dogma, but rather has been used as an explanation of how some who, no fault of their own, have not accepted the Gospel and/or the Apostolic Church that was founded by Christ on the Twelve Apostles, MIGHT be yet saved. Every time this teaching is taught from official responses by Rome (from councils and/or papal encyclicals) the teaching is they MAY be saved, not WILL be saved. I stress again the teaching in CCC 846, that the message we, as Catholics, must be presenting is not a "loophole salvation" of Invincible Ignorance but that "the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church." To preach anything less would falsely represent both traditional and the modern teaching of the Church.

Feast of the Assumption

 The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary - another example of "not-so-ordinary" days! These are COUNTING days - and...