Does the Mega-Diocese foster sexual scandals and bad priests? Yes

The 2002 Boston Scandal, the Cardinal McCarrick Scandal, and the Pennsylvania Grand Jury Report reveals that the bishops are at ground zero in this scandal.

  • Some bishops didn’t properly vet seminarians and admit perverts.
  • Some bishops ordained mental disturbed, predatory priests.
  • Some bishops covered the crimes of Judas priests.
  • Some bishops relocated the predatory Judas priests.
  • Some bishops made secret payouts to victims to keep them quiet.
  • Some bishops have been molesting and having homo-relations with seminarians and priests.

The laity are shocked that so-called Episcopoi (Greek word for “bishop” meaning “supervisor” or “overseer”) could do such horrible things and still show up smiling for photos after the post-confirmation ceremonies. How could this be?

Continue reading the article below or watch the video Youtube version here:

Three Reasons for Sexual Scandals:

  1. Denial of Christian Faith. These clerics are secretly atheists, agnostics, or Satanists who see the Church as a social justice network that pays well and provides a lifestyle of insurance, income, retirement and unquestioned access to compromised men and vulnerable children.
  2. Homosexuality. The 2004 John Jay Report publicized that 80% of priest abuse victims are male. The orientation of abuse was overwhelming homosexual According to James Martin and Larry Stammer, 15–58% of American Catholic priests are homosexual in orientation. Father Dariusz Oko of Poland has suggested that 50% of the bishops in the United States are homosexual.
  3. Evolution of the Mega-Diocese. Since 1900, the concept of the Catholic diocese has morphed into something that would not be recognized by Christians of the medieval period, and certainly not by the Church Fathers.

Today, I want to focus on the third. The problem of the Mega-Diocese: what it is, how it happened, and how it leads to clericalism and sexual abuse.

I am NOT stating that the Mega-Diocese is the root cause of sexual scandal or that eradicating it will fix everything! We need a a refocus on intrinsic evils, formation of true consciences, biblical literacy, removal of sexual active bishops/clergy, orthodox theological, Thomism, liturgical reverence, and heroic priests. But the Mega-Diocese is certainly infertile soil for these changes. Read on to discover the historic origin of this deformation and why it fosters abuse.

Picture above: a bishop gathered with his diocese.

What is a Mega-Diocese?

A Mega-Diocese is a diocese so enormous that a bishop cannot oversee it. Remember “bishop” in Greek is επίσκοπος (episcopos) which means “overseer.” Epi means “over” as in the word epidermis. Skopos means “see” as in the English words scope and telescope.

A Mega-Diocese is a diocese so enormous that a bishop cannot oversee it. Click To Tweet

We all desire lower Student/Teacher Ratios:

Parents eagerly search for schools with a low teacher/student ratio. Everyone in education knows that as you raise the teacher/student ratio, scores and academic performance go down. 12 students to 1 teacher proves to produce higher scores and better outcomes. 40 students to 1 teacher proves to produce lower scores and more drop outs.

But we currently have very high Disciple/Bishop Ratios:

What we have created over the last 150 years (since the loss of the Papal States, really) is an insanely high disciple/bishop ratio with regard to bishops. Bishops belong to the magisterium in union with the Pope. Magister is Latin for teacher. The bishop is the primary teacher. So we are discussing a student/teacher ratio here, as well. As the disciple/bishop ratio increases, what do we see? Lay people know their faith less (akin to lower scores), and they drop out at higher numbers (leave the church).

Currently here are the number of baptized in the top 4 USA archdioceses:

1  Los Angeles 4,174,304
2 New York 2,521,087
3 Chicago 2,442,000
4 Boston 2,077,487

How can a bishop manage this? He cannot. Not even Saint Paul could manage this? So how did we get here?

How did we get high Disciple/Bishop Ratios?

In the Patristic and Medieval Church, every wrinky-dink town had it’s own bishop. For evidence look at Italy:

  • Italy has 227 dioceses. 116,350 sq mi and population of 60,483,973 people
  • USA has 167 dioceses. 3,796,742 sq mi and population of 325,719,178 people

Here are 2 maps that I created for reference:

What we see here is that the Catholic Church from AD 100-1500 was appointing a bishop for almost every “town” in Italy since a bishop should be able to geographically access his flock.

Italy has 227 dioceses. USA has 167 dioceses. This is wrong for the USA and it's contrary to subsidiarity. Click To Tweet

After 1520, but especially after 1870, the Catholic Church slowed down its bishop appointments, and the Papacy began to settle for “mega-dioceses.” By the 1900s, this problem was everywhere in the United States and has become ridiculous since the death of Pope John Paul II.

In 1950, the bishop of Los Angeles served 832,375 lay Catholics. In 2016, the archbishop of Los Angeles was responsible for 4,392,000 lay Catholics.

How the Mega-Diocese Fails Christians:

The Mega-Diocese is based on the presumption that one man can shepherd a million people and oversee hundreds of priests (both are impossible). The Archdiocese of Los Angeles has 1,117 priests and 4,392,000 baptized laity. One bishop can not oversee 1000+ priests. One bishop cannot be shepherd for 4.3 million people. For reference, the entire population of England in AD 1086 was 3.6 million. Imagine if all of England in AD 1086 had only one bishop! Ridiculous.

The Mega-Diocese is based on the presumption that one man can shepherd a million people and oversee hundreds of priests (both are impossible). Click To Tweet

Enter the Legal Fiction of Auxiliary Bishops:

In order to “fix” this problem, the Popes began to appoint “Auxiliary Bishops.” According to Apostolic example, Patristic custom, and ancient Catholic Councils, a bishop must be a bishop of a geographic place. So you cannot have 3 bishops of the same geographic region. For Saint Ignatius of Antioch or Polycarp, multiple bishops in one place would be a schismatic and heretical act. There is only one geographic bishop for one geographic place. 

So the Popes (initially Pope Leo X) created a legal fiction called Auxiliary Bishops with titular sees. The Pope appoints the Auxiliary Bishop to a geographical diocese that no longer exists, and then sends that auxiliary bishop to work inside the diocese of another bishop. Incidentally, the Pope that first allowed this legal fiction was the infamous Medici Pope Leo X (the same Pope whom Martin Luther spoke out against in 1517). Previous popes had banned the custom of auxiliary bishops with fictional titular sees.

For example, Bishop Robert Barron (to choose the most well-known auxiliary bishop) is an auxiliary bishop in Los Angeles. However, since every bishop must actually be a canonical bishop of his own geographical area, Bishop Barron is actually the titular bishop of “Macriana in Mauretania” – an ancient Berber town in Algeria.

On paper and in reality, this canonical appointment to Macriana in Mauretania is ridiculous. Bishop Barron has nothing to do with Macriana and we shouldn’t create the legal fiction of bishops over non-existing “sees.”

In the early Catholic Church, Bishop Barron would simply be bishop ordinary of his pastoral region of Santa Barbara. He would simply become Bishop of Santa Barbara – not Pretend Bishop of “Macriana in Mauretania” but really serving the people of Santa Barbara under the auspices of the geographical bishop of Los Angeles. What a mess.

I’m not blaming Bishop Barron or any auxiliary bishop for this situation. They are obeying the directives of canon law and the Pope and are in good faith with regard to their appointments. There are great men serving as auxiliary bishops throughout the world. But when we look at it from a systemic point of view, it reveals an ecclesiological problem that contradicts both the Council of Nicea and biblical and patristic theology about the local ecclesia.

How to fix the Mega-Diocese? Break it up with Subsidiarity

The Mega-Diocese is an offense against the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity – the doctrine that matters ought to be handled by the smallest and most proximate competent authority – not by a Cardinal Archbishop living 90 miles away who also has the direct canonical care of souls for 1 million people. It’s a mistake to ask a bishop to be responsible for 1 million people and 1,000 priests. It’s a crime against the laity, too. The Mega-Diocese is bad for everyone.

The Mega-Diocese is an offense against the Catholic doctrine of subsidiarity - the principle that matters ought to be handled by the smallest and most proximate competent authority - not by an archbishop living 90 miles away who… Click To Tweet

When we see a public school teacher with 50 students in a class, we know its bad for the teacher and bad for the students. Everyone loses. Same the episcopal-diocesan structure.

How do we fix the Mega-Diocese problem? Obviously, a diocese of over one million souls is too big and too spread out. We need to follow the custom of ancient popes and have many, many, many more dioceses and bishops appointed. We need ecclesial subsidiarity. If Italy has 227 dioceses and the USA has 167 dioceses, we have an apparent problem. Creating more Mega-Dioceses and more and more auxiliary bishops will yield more abuse inside a broken system.

How big should a diocese be? 

There were around 150-250,000 Catholics in the Archdiocese of Paris during the medieval era. It may seem extreme, but I don’t see the benefit of having a diocese any bigger than that. If a bishop had 100 priests and 100,000 people, it would be a manageable situation.

Still don’t believe me, ask Moses:

The biblical Mega-Diocese of Moses in Exodus 18 and the advice of Jethro:

Moses was exhausted overseeing the 400,000 Israelites under his pastoral supervision. His father-in-law Jethro observed this and rebuked Moses while providing a solution to break up his “Mega-Diocese”:

13 The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening. 14 When his father-in-law (Jethro) saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

15 Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. 16 Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

17 Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. 18 You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone….21 But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens. 22 Have them serve as judges for the people at all times, but have them bring every difficult case to you; the simple cases they can decide themselves. That will make your load lighter, because they will share it with you. 23 If you do this and God so commands, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people will go home satisfied.”

If Moses couldn’t handle it, so also the modern bishop cannot handle it. Moses followed the advice of Jethro. He appointed men to oversee “thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.” He didn’t place men “over 10,000 or even 100,000.” That’s too much! In other words, Jethro tells Moses: “Lets practice pastoral subsidiarity.”

In other words, Jethro tells Moses: Lets practice pastoral subsidiarity. Click To Tweet

It’s comical that my own enormous state of Texas has – 15 dioceses! The disciple/bishopratio here is horrible. Moreover, bishops spend entire weekends driving out into the country for confirmations at their parishes hours away.

Just like parents with kids in the school district, we lay people should beg and ask for a better disciple/bishop ratios. Say no to more auxiliary bishops. That’s a cheap bandaid covering the wound. The Archdioceses of LA and NYC should be broken into the 5 dioceses. The reason it won’t happen now is money. But in a pastorally sensitive church, those Mega-Dioceses would be prudently divided into 5 geographic dioceses. Let an auxiliary bishop simply be a bishop of that deanery and call him “bishop ordinary.”

The Archdioceses of LA & NYC should be broken into the 5 dioceses. The reason it won't happen now is money. But in a pastorally sensitive church, those Mega-Dioceses should be divided into 5 dioceses. Let an auxiliary bishop… Click To Tweet

Until we break up the Mega-Dioceses, do not expect clerical sexual scandal to get better or heal. The Mega-Diocese is unaccountable, noisy, not policed, and unsupervised. The Mega-Diocese allows the predatory priest (and bishop) to wear camouflage. Meanwhile a bishop close to his people and even closer to his priests as “father to fathers” is both more accountable and a better supervisor as episcopos.

I’d love to hear more recommendations, objections, and thoughts, especially from laity and clergy existing within the Mega-Diocese structures. One thing that I didn’t cover is that Mega-Diocese usually have low native seminarian counts and low ordination counts. They statistically cannot produce vocations. If the bishop is the sacramental “father of fathers,” then he is the overworked “absent father figure” within a Mega-Diocese. Vocations are not conceived by absent fathers.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Pray for the Church ad Jesum per Mariam cum Petro,
Dr Taylor Marshall

If the bishop is the sacramental father of fathers, then he is the overworked absent father figure within a Mega-Diocese. Vocations are not conceived by absent fathers. Click To Tweet

PS: I would also add that bishops should be chosen from among the local presbytery or at least from near regional dioceses, and not “imported” from elsewhere. Moreover, bishops should not be moved all over the nation like bishop pieces on a chess board. A bishop should stay the bishop of one place for life…like marriage. St John Fisher, pray for us.

Angels having Relations with Humans within Jude and 2 Peter and 1 Enoch

Genesis 6 has a confusing reference to “when the sons of God came in to the daughters of men, and they bore children to them” and how this occurrence led to Yahweh flooding the earth. What does this mean?

Sometime around the 200s BC a Jewish document called “Book of Enoch” or 1 Enoch was produced. It gives all the details on how angelic beings copulated with human women and created a cosmic mess before the Flood. And here’s the interesting problem we have:

Saint Jude (Jude 1:14-15) directly quotes this non-biblical document known as “Book of Enoch” or 1 Enoch:

Jude 14–15
It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying:“Behold, the Lord came with ten thousands of his saints to execute judgment on all and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him.”
1 Enoch 1:9

Behold, he comes with ten thousand saints to execute judgment upon all, and he will destroy all the ungodly and convict all flesh of all the deeds of their ungodliness that they have ungodly committed in an ungodly way, and of all the arrogant and hard words which sinners have spoken against him.

It’s not only this direct quotation of 1 Enoch by Jude, but Jude (and 2 Peter) allude to the fantastical events of 1 Enoch, namely the sexual encounters of fallen angels with human women, which gives birth to the nephilim or “giants.” The birth of the giants, according to 1 Enoch, is the reason for the Noah’s Flood.

And this belief is also found in the canonical book of Wisdom:

“And from the beginning also when the proud giants (γιγάντων) perished, the hope of the world fleeing to a vessel, which was governed by thy hand, left to the world seed of generation.” (Wisdom 14:6)

The author of Wisdom clearly associates the flood to a divine genocide of the race of the giants (γιγάντων) to leave the world a “seed of generation.” (Saint Paul quotes from Wisdom about 7 times – so Saint Paul also likely hold this belief.)

Let me tell you the story of Angels and Giants that 1 Enoch tells:

In 1 Enoch, Yahweh sends 200 angels to guide and instruct humanity. These 200 angels are called “Irin” in Aramaic and “Egregoroi” in Greek. Both words mean “Watchers.” These Watchers corrupt humanity by teaching them evil arts such as cosmetology (sorry ladies), sorcery, astrology, and the arts of war.

These angels also seduce human women and copulate with them. The women give birth to nephilim or giants. God causes these giants to fight and die. Then the souls of the giants turn into demons that haunt and tempt humans for the rest of time.

  • So Yahweh binds these 200 evil angelic Watchers into “Tartarus.”
  • What is Tartarus? In the Homer’s Iliad, Zeus teaches that Tartarus is “as far beneath Hades as heaven is above earth.” Tartarus is the deepest part of the underworld, far below Hades.
  • It’s noteworthy that the term “tartarus” is used by Enoch and 2 Peter. This signals the blending of Hebrew history with Greek mythology since Greek myth depict Zeus (after 10 years of battle or titanomachy) sending the older primordial deities called Titans into the deep dungeon abyss of “tartarus.”

Notably 2 Peter explicitly uses Enoch’s word “Tartarus” for the condemnation of fallen “angels.” Jude and 2 Peter use almost the same words, but 2 Peter uses “Tartarus”:

Jude 6
And the angels who did not keep their own position, but left their proper dwelling, he has kept in eternal chains in deepest darkness for the judgment of the great day. 
2 Peter 2:4a
For if God did not spare the angels when they sinned, but cast them into Tartaros and committed them to chains of deepest darkness to be kept until the judgment;

It seems that 1 Enoch (and maybe Jude and 2 Peter) have assimilated the titanomachy legend of Zeus condemning the Titans into Tartaus into a legend about Yahweh condemning the 200 angelic Watchers into the chains of Tartarus. But in the 1 Enoch legend the crime is that of angels procreating mutant giants with human women.

“And when the angels, the sons of heaven, beheld them, they became enamored of them, saying to each other, Come, let us select for ourselves wives from the progeny of men, and let us beget children.” (1 Enoch 7:2)

The resulting children are called nephilim in Hebrew or gigantes (giants) in Latin and Greek. In 1 Enoch, the historical Enoch goes to God and seeks to make intercession for the forgiveness of the giants. God refuses and the giants are condemned. This part of the story is referred to in Sirach:

“He was not propitiated for the ancient giants who revolted in their might.” (Sirach 16:7)

The Dead Sea Scrolls contain 10 copies (!) of the Book of Giants – a work that describes in detail the conception of giants in Genesis 6 from the union of women and angelic watchers. The giants were warriors and cannibals. This theology was an important part of the theology of Second Temple Judaism.

Church Fathers who explicitly teach that angels copulated with women and bred giants in Genesis 6:

Justin Martyr, Tatian, Clement of Alexandria, Origen, Tertullian, Irenaeus, Athenagoras, Commodianus, Ambrose of Milan.

In the City of God, Saint Augustine taught that the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 were simply human ancestors of Seth and that they bred with the evil daughters of men/Cain. This became the received tradition in the post Augustinian Christian West. It’s notable, however, that his mentor Saint Ambrose believed that the “sons of God” were in fact angels that copulated with humans.

What’s going on here in the Hebrew tradition?

The “Legend of the Watchers” in 1 Enoch was written in the Maccabean period before Christ. It’s could be a Jewish appropriation of a Greek myth but it’s likely explaining how the Hellenistic invaders are:

  1. The Gentile invaders of the Holy Land (312-63 BC)
  2. Greeks teaching and requiring Jews to follow pagan customs
  3. Greeks marrying and copulating with Jewish women
  4. The production of “hybrid” Greek/Jewish children that are considered “monstrous”
  5. The need to destroy and drive out the Greeks by means of the Maccabean Revolt (167-160 BC)

The titanomachy of Enoch is not historically “Zeus vs. Titans” or “Yahweh vs. Watchers,” but Judah Maccabeus vs. Greeks.

How does Catholic Christianity understand the “angels and tartarus” sections?

Saint Augustine and Saint Thomas Aquinas (both had not read 1 Enoch) interpretted the passages in Jude and 2 Peter in this way:

  1. Before the flood, the “sons of God” were the righteous humans and the “daughters of men” were the female daughters of evil humans from Cain. These women were evil and and they seduced the noble and righteous sons of Seth.
  2. They interbred and this lead to the moral corruption of humanity.
  3. God sent a flood to kill everyone since they were all now a mixture of sons of Seth and daughters of Cain.

The solution here is to read “sons of God” not as “angelic beings” but as holy humans. It’s plausible and it has become the accepted tradition in Catholicism. However, ever since the Flood, good people have been interbreeding with evil people. And we know that the child of a holy mother and an evil father can turn out either good or bad. There are not “evil genetics.”

We can see here that the problem of intermarrying between the righteous and the wicked didn’t suddenly stop because water covered the land.

So it seems that Genesis describes a “water genocide” of a corrupted angel-human species. And certainly 1 Enoch is following the idea. If Jude (and 2 Peter) considered 1 Enoch as theological true, this would mean that at least one (or two) Apostle(s) believed the Enochic legend of the Watcher angels being sent to “Tartarus” because they had deceived humans and copulated with them.

The Enochic Legend as a theological device in Jude and 2 Peter:

Regardless of whether Jude and 2 Peter believed the Enochic “Watcher-Angel legend,” we know for a fact that they applied it as a teaching paradigm for their contemporary Apostolic Church:

  1. There are false heretical teachers that were once part of the Apostolic Church
  2. These have fallen away from Christ and are teaching Christians false doctrine and sin
  3. These heretics are having illicit sex with Christians (their lust here and in Revelation is highlighted)
  4. These heretics will be judged in the same way as the Watchers: they will be locked up in the dark tartarus forever.

If Jude and 2 Peter did not quote and/or reference 1 Enoch, we could cast off 1 Enoch forever as a Jewish oddity. But since there is a theological reference of 1 Enoch within Jude and 2 Peter, it provides a challenge.

I’m curious, how do you read the canonical passages of Genesis 6, Jude, 2 Peter (as well as Wisdom, Sirach and several Dead Sea Scrolls that promote the idea of giants as children of human women and demonic angels) in light of 1 Enoch? Secondly, do you think Jude and 2 Peter take the Enochic Watcher-Legend literally or are they simply using it to make an contemporary application against lustful heretics?

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: I recorded a podcast on the role of 1 Enoch in the Noah film that came out a few years ago starring Russell Crowe as Noah. You can listen to it by clicking here: Podcast on Noah (2014 Film) and 1 Enoch.

6 Facts about the Fatal Brain Injury of St Thomas Aquinas

On March 7 1274, the greatest Catholic mind died from brain trauma. Here’s a timeline of what happened brought you to by the New Saint Thomas Institute:

Aquinas Cropped 470 wide

  • Sometime in 1273: The sacristan Domenic of Caserta observes Thomas Aquinas to be levitating in prayer with tears before an icon of the crucified Christ. Christ said to Thomas, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?” Thomas responded, “Nothing but you, Lord.”
  • Dec 6 1273: While celebrating the Mass of Saint Nicholas, Thomas went into ecstasy. Thomas’ friend and secretary Reginald later asks him: “Master, will you not return to your work?” Thomas Aquinas replied: “I can write no more. All that I have written seems like straw.” Thomas no longer works on the Summa theologiae.
  • Pope Gregory X asks Saint Thomas Aquinas to reconcile the Greek Orthodox bishops at the Second Council of Lyon in France to be held on 1 May 1274.
  • Early 1274, Thomas strikes his head on a tree branch along the Appian way near Monte Cassino. It’s not clear whether this happened while he was riding a horse or whether the branch or log was already on the ground.
  • Thomas recovers and continues his journey to the port. His health fails again and he is taken to the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova. While he was conscious, he gave a commentary on the Song of Songs, as had Saint Bernard.
  • March 7, 1274: His brain continued to swell. He received Last Rites and his last words were: “I receive Thee, ransom of my soul. For love of Thee have I studied and kept vigil, toiled, preached and taught….” and then he was received into Heaven by Jesus Christ.

From this timeline, you can perceive the deep mysticism of Thomas Aquinas. Many wrongly assume that Thomas was an aloof college professor or academician. Far from it. He was a mystic full in love with Christ and driven to preach in teach in the parish churches and in the universities.

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I’d like to share two FREE resources for you to help you fall more in love with Saint Thomas Aquinas:

  1. Here is a free book titled Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages. It is currently the most popular introduction to Thomas Aquinas available on amazon.com. You can have it free by clicking here.Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages
  2. Here’s a free podcast: “The Secret Life of Thomas Aquinas” in which I discuss the unknown mystical elements from the life of Thomas Aquinas. Click here to listen.
  3. Here is a free video called “7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas”. This video will help you see the various levels of the spirituality and theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas in only a few short minutes. Watch it here.
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If you’re a Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, you can explore the dozens of video lessons on Saint Thomas Aquinas in our Philosophy and Thomistic Studies online curriculum by clicking here.

If you’d like to try taking online classes on Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Mariology, Apologetics, Church History, and/or Medieval Theology, please explore the New Saint Thomas Institute: newsaintthomas.com.

Intro to Thomas Module

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Dr. Taylor Marshall

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129: Aquinas Why Fish and No Meat in Lent PLUS the Demonic Incubus and Sucubus! [Podcast]

Join Dr Taylor Marshall this week as he explains why Thomas Aquinas thought animal and bird flesh caused a higher human sexual libido and how it relates to our customs for fasting and abstinence during Lent. Believe it or not, what Saint Thomas says in the 1200s about diet is actually confirmed by testosterone studies in our time.

We also look Eastern Catholic Church Bible translations AND the demonic sexual apparitions of the sucubus (female version) and incubus (male version) attested to by Augustine and Aquinas.

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129: Aquinas Why Fish and No Meat in Lent PLUS the Demonic Incubus and Sucubus! [Podcast]

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7 Reasons to Love Thomas Aquinas (His Theology as Ancient Beauty)

In 1879, Pope Leo XIII sought to revitalize Catholic thinking with what he called the “ancient beauty” of the “renowned teaching of Thomas Aquinas.”

“With wise forethought, therefore, not a few of the advocates of philosophic studies, when turning their minds recently to the practical reform of philosophy, aimed and aim at restoring the renowned teaching of Thomas Aquinas and winning it back to its ancient beauty.” (Pope Leo XIII, Aeterni Patris, 25)

Yet in the last 70 years we have observed in secular culture (but even inside Catholicism) a turn to the ugly and grotesque. An extreme example of this would be a “Crucified Cow” on approved display in a parish chapel of Saint John the Baptist of Kuttekoven, Belgium. Lesser examples would sterile or ugly churches, or altar appointments meant to shock the mind, rather than elevate the mind contemplation of glories of our Savior Jesus Christ. As we will see, ugliness is related to ugly theology.

Beauty as Intro to Goodness and Truth:

Long before Christ, Socrates identified the True with the Good and the Beautiful. In his Symposium, Plato has Socrates explain how Beauty is the “Intro Course” to good philosophy. Socrates says that Beauty leads to “fair practices” (Good) and that in turn leads to “fair notions” (Truth).

“The true order of going is to use the beauties of the earth as steps along which to mount upwards for the sake of that other beauty: from fair forms to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions until he arrives at the idea of absolute beauty.”

The tri-fold flow moves from 1 to 3  like this:

  1. καλόν kalon “beautiful,” leads to:
  2. ἀγαθόν agathon “good,” which leads to:
  3. ἀληθές alethes “true”

Thomas Aquinas as “Ancient Beauty”

Pope Leo XIII was prophetic in referring to the writing of Thomas Aquinas as “Ancient Beauty.” Most Catholics wrongly assume that the Thomas Aquinas is head-in-the-sky, ivory-tower, academic speculation that no layman could possibly understand. Regretfully, I once heard a sermon in which the priest told the congregation that Thomas Aquinas is “too hard” and that nobody should try to read him! I almost stood up and hollared “heresy!” Thomas Aquinas wrote that his Summa theologiae was written to “instruct beginners” and to give them “milk and not yet meat.”

Thomas Aquinas is Beautifully Accessible:

Against the false claim of that good-willed but misled pastor, Saint Thomas Aquinas can be easy, simple, and accessible to any Catholic who is able to read. I am so convinced of this that I earned my Ph.D on the Philosophy of Thomas Aquinas, and I have made it is my life goal to make the world “a more Thomistic place.”

Over the last five years, I have helped over 100,000 people get started with studying Thomas Aquinas with a short (free) book: Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages (digital download for free).The hardcopy version of Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages is the most popular intro book on Thomas Aquinas available at amazon.com. I’ve been told by seminarians and priests across the world, that this is the book that they begin with and recommend to others. Again, I make it available to everyone for free by clicking here.

I have also helped another 10,000 Catholics with online courses on getting started with Saint Thomas Aquinas through the New Saint Thomas Institute.

7 Reasons to Love Thomas Aquinas:

Since today is the feast of Saint Thomas Aquinas, I’m sharing one of our most popular 9 minute videos with you. It is titled “7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas” and I will share 7 reasons why Thomas Aquinas can change your life, change our culture, and change our evangelism efforts as Catholic Christians. Please watch it and leave a comment.

This video will share the profound “ancient beauty” of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Please share it with others on this feast day of Saint Thomas Aquinas. It will also introduce you to a series of over 100 similar video lessons culminating in our online Certificate Programs (click here to see one example of our 7 Current NSTI Certificates).

If taking online video courses (all through the lens of Thomas Aquinas) is something that interests you, check out the New Saint Thomas Institute – the worlds largest online Institute for studying Saint Thomas Aquinas, Saint Augustine, Mariology, Catholic Apologetics, Church History, and (recently) New Testament Studies. Visit us at New Saint Thomas Institute and read our NSTI Student Reviews.

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Dr Taylor Marshall

Concerning the Death of Unbaptized Infants by St Gregory Nazianzus

Two of the most rewarding practices for a Christian are 1) reading the Bible from beginning to end, and 2) reading the sermons of the Church Fathers. One of the greatest theologians and orators of the Church Fathers is Saint Gregory Nazianzus. He is simply called Saint Gregory “the Theologian” in the East because of his precise and excellent presentation of theology.

Since the Apostles and Church Fathers universally recognized that baptism was the instrumental means by which Jesus Christ removes sin and infuses grace, they also received the pastoral question of what happens to unbaptized babies. Before we look St Gregory the Theologian, let that sink in. The presumption is that infants should be baptized.

Not only that, but we know from the Eastern Fathers and from Western Fathers like Cyprian, Ambrose, and Augustine that baptized infants were confirmed and received the Holy Eucharist. We Roman Catholics would do well to request that the Apostolic and Patristic practice of paedo-communion (infant communion) be rightfully restored to our children.

Here is Saint Gregory “the Theologian” Nazianzus on the death of unbaptized children:

Will you know everything in Heaven? Thomas Aquinas answers

Will you know everything in Heaven? This question is best answered by exploring the spiritual gift of “counsel.”

One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is “counsel.”

What is counsel? Thomas Aquinas defines counsel in this way:

Again, it is proper to the rational creature to be moved through the research of reason to perform any particular action, and this research is called counsel. (STh II-II, q. 52, a. 1).

So counsel is research led by the influence of the Holy Spirit. Thomas also explains how it relates to the virtue of prudence – making right decisions.

It might be asked whether this gift of counsel remains in Heaven. Do the saints in Heaven need counsel? Do the angels need counsel?

Thomas says that counsel remains in the blessed and in the angels. Why?

Because the human saints and the angels in Heaven do not know everything. Contrary to what you may have learned in Sunday school, God doesn’t reveal everything to us in Heaven. There will remain mysteries.

The Blessed Virgin Mary knows more than the angels and saints, but she is still limited in our celestial knowledge. Only the Persons of the Trinity (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) know all things. Only the three person of the Holy Trinity are omniscient.

Because humans and angels in Heaven are not omniscient, we will continue to seek spiritual counsel. Angels are guided into helping those on earth. Even humans are guided by counsel from the Holy Spirit in aiding those on earth. Yes, Holy Mary, Saint Joseph, Saint Peter, Saint Therese of Lisieux, and your guardian angel continue to exercise that spiritual gift of “counsel.”

And we on earth especially need spiritual counsel. How do we gain it:

  1. by not clouding our minds with venial or mortal sin.
  2. by checking in with the Holy Spirit frequently throughout the day “Am I living your will for my life?”
  3. by reading the documents written by the Holy Spirit – Sacred Scripture. Here we find explicit teaching and advice for our lives.
  4. by explicitly asking the Holy Spirit to give us counsel on difficult problems in our lives.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

PS: You might also enjoy my Podcast: Did the Holy Spirit really appear as a Real Dove?

Is Our Salvation Based on the Concepts of Debt and Law?

I just happened upon your blog so I admit that I have not read your books or very much of your blog. However, it concerned me that in this article, you suggest that our salvation was accomplished by payment of a debt.

I am a Catholic and that is not what I believe. The concept of “debt” implies that sin is a sort of legal problem rather than an ontological one. However, I will hold off (for now!) on sharing any further thoughts because quite possibly I have misunderstood you.

Thank you Mary. I love how you hold off on judgment and ask for clarity. So often in the Catholic theological community, people start casting stones. I appreciate your moderation, prudence, and charity. Let’s look more deeply on this topic of debt and law.

“Ontological” = referring to being:

For new readers, by “ontological,” Mary means “having to do with our being or nature” (from Greek ὄν (gen. ὄντος) meaning being. Ontology is the study of being.

If you’d like to get a dictionary or lexicon of all these philosophical words used in Catholic theology, please download my book (for free), Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages (top right corner of taylormarshall.com).

Ontological or Debt/Law?

Salvation is ontological (the elevation of our human nature) and entails Christ transforming us “in Him” into “new creations.” We partake of the divine nature of Christ through His humanity. The hypostatic union becomes the bridge by which we partake of the divine nature. We are deified and in the Beatific Vision, Thomas Aquinas teaches that we will become “deiform” while remaining human and creatures.

So yes, ontological all the way. Catholics (like the Eastern Orthodox) teach that salvation is chiefly a transformation and elevation of human nature.

However, Scripture is replete of examples also discussing salvation in terms of both law and debt/remission.

It’s true Protestants focus almost solely on legal/forensic categories and hence Catholics tend to move away from them. This is a mistake on the Catholic’s part.

We are “freed from the law”. We are “justified” (legal term). Our debts are paid. The jubilee remission of debts is inaugurated by Christ.

Our terms “remission” and “redemption” (to buy back) are financial terms.

The Greek word for “redemption” is strongly legal and financial: ἀπολύτρωσις. It literally means “buying back from, re-purchasing, winning back what was previously forfeited.”

Saint Paul repeatedly refers to how the baptized have been “purchased” by the blood of Christ: “you were bought with a price” (1 Cor 6:20).

Christ Himself uses money examples as an analogy of sin remission: “And out of pity for him the lord of that servant released him and forgave him the debt” (Matthew 18:27). “So, summoning his master’s debtors one by one, he said to the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’” (Luke 16:5). “And forgive us our debts, As we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12).

It’s not either ontological or legal/debt. It’s all. It’s both/and.

Thomism on Nature and Law

As a Thomist, I would go on to say that all true law (lex) must necessarily based on being (esse). In fact, if a law does not conform to being (natural law), according to Thomas it is not a law at all.

This is why Thomas divides history and covenants into three epochs: Natural Law (Adam to Moses), Old Law (Moses to Christ), and New Law (Christ till Parousia).

For him “New Law” is just another way of saying “New Creation.” Law and ontology are parallel.

You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Godspeed,
Dr Taylor Marshall

9 Facts about Saint Joseph (Plus Old vs Young Joseph Debate)

Happy feast day of Saint Joseph. Here are 9 Facts about Saint Joseph for our edification:
St Joseph

  1. The name “Joseph” in Hebrew means “he increases.” We get it from the Greek form of Ιωσηφ (Ioseph), which comes from the Hebrew name יוֹסֵף (Yoseph). Saint Bernard of Clairvaux taught Joseph was rightly named, because God “increased” the gifts and graces that were in the world through Saint Joseph (Hom. 2 super Missus est).
  2. Saint Joseph is not mentioned in Mark’s Gospel, but he features in Matthew and Luke. He is only briefly mentioned by Saint John when he writes: “Jesus the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know” (John 6:41-51).
  3. Saint Joseph is described in Greek as a τέκτων or “tekton,” which is translated as “carpenter,” but it is better translated as “artisan.” A tekton is anyone involved in physical construction and repair. Joseph may have worked with stone, wood, metal, cement, clay, and other substances. The words “technology” and “architecture” are related to the Indo-European root for tekton.
  4. Joseph, while of the House of David in Bethlehem, lived in Nazareth, which is only a 40 mile (65km) walk to Jerusalem. Nazareth was a suburb of the town of Sepphoris described as:”Rich, cosmopolitan, deeply influenced by Greek culture, and surrounded by a panoply of races and religions, the Jews of Sepphoris were the product of the Herodian social revolution – the nouveaux riches who rose to prominence after Herod’s massacre of the old priestly aristocracy.” (Aslan, Reza. Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, 44)This places Joseph, Mary, and Jesus in the proximity of a wealthy, Gentile culture. Most craftsmen in this region would likely have learned Greek and perhaps Latin to serve the economy of Sepphoris. This is why some speculated that Christ our Lord knew Hebrew (as a student of Scripture), Aramaic (as a native of Nazareth), Greek (Gentile language of politics and commerce), and Latin (language of Roman occupants).
  5. History testifies to two traditions of Saint Joseph – the Old Joseph (widower) and the Young Joseph (virgin) traditions. I personally follow the Young Joseph tradition as I think it’s more historical and more biblical. I’ve detailed the debate here: ARTICLE the Old Joseph (widower) and the Young Joseph (virgin).
  6. Saint Joseph was truly married to the Blessed Virgin. This was debated and settled in the early Church. Some people wrongly state that Mary was an “unwed mother” and this is blasphemy. See my article: “Thomas Aquinas 12 Reasons Why Joseph was Married to Mary.”
  7. It is speculated that Saint Joseph never sinned (confirmed in grace) and that he was sanctified before birth – but not at conception like the Blessed Virgin. Francisco Suarez, Jean Gerson, and Saint Alphonsus Ligouri each teach that Saint Joseph was sanctified and regenerated in his mother’s womb prior to birth. Sacred Scripture teaches us that the Prophet Jeremiah and Saint John the Baptist received this honor of sanctification in the womb. The eminent theologians above, notably Saint Alphonsus – a doctor of the Holy Church, extend this privilege to Saint Joseph. They even teach that Saint Joseph was confirmed in the grace, which means that he was so filled with grace that he never committed a mortal sin or a deliberate venial sin.
  8. Some also speculate that since there are no relics of Saint Joseph, he was assumed bodily into Heaven. Francis Suarez maintained St. Joseph was taken up into heaven bodily. St. Bernardino of Siena, Gerson, and St. Vincent Ferrer held the same. St. Francis de Sales points out the fact that nobody claims the tomb of St. Joseph and that there are no relics of this saint. Then he continues in Les Vrais Entretiens Spirituels:Surely, when Our Lord went down into Limbo, St. Joseph addressed Him in this wise: “Be pleased to remember, Lord, that when you came down from Heaven to earth I received you into my house and family, that I took you into my arms from the moment you were born. Now you are going back to Heaven, take me with you (body and soul). I received you into my family, receive me into yours; I took you in my arms; take me into yours; I looked after you and fed you and guided you during your life on earth; stretch forth your hand and lead me into life everlasting.”Some have speculated that Saint Joseph was among the “saints” who were resurrected shortly after the death of Christ on Good Friday: “And behold, the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom; and the earth shook, and the rocks were split; the tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised, and coming out of the tombs after his resurrection they went into the holy city and appeared to many” (Mt 27:51-53).
  9. It’s common practice to bury a statue of Saint Joseph to sell one’s home. This comes from a condemned divination practiced called “Deprecation of the Saints,” whereby a person places a sack on a saint’s statue head or hides a statue in the closet or otherwise treats a saint statue disrespectfully until a request is granted. This is why folklore states that you’re supposed to dig up the Saint Joseph statue after the sale of the home to “reward” him for granting a request. It’s probably not a wholesome practice. Perhaps its better to place Saint Joseph’s statue in a place of honor in the home for intercession through Saint Joseph to our Lord Jesus Christ for the sale of one’s home. (Though feel free to debate this the comments box.)

Have a happy and holy Feast of Saint Joseph. Saint Joseph pray for us.

Question: Do you think of Saint Joseph as an older widower or as a young guardian? You can leave a comment by clicking here.

Dr. Taylor Marshall

Timeline: How Thomas Aquinas died of a Brain Injury on March 7

On March 7 1274, the greatest Catholic mind died from brain trauma. Here’s a timeline of what happened brought you to by the New Saint Thomas Institute:

Aquinas Cropped 470 wide

  • Sometime in 1273: The sacristan Domenic of Caserta observes Thomas Aquinas to be levitating in prayer with tears before an icon of the crucified Christ. Christ said to Thomas, “You have written well of me, Thomas. What reward would you have for your labor?” Thomas responded, “Nothing but you, Lord.”
  • Dec 6 1273: While celebrating the Mass of Saint Nicholas, Thomas went into ecstasy. Thomas’ friend and secretary Reginald later asks him: “Master, will you not return to your work?” Thomas Aquinas replied: “I can write no more. All that I have written seems like straw.” Thomas no longer works on the Summa theologiae.
  • Pope Gregory X asks Saint Thomas Aquinas to reconcile the Greek Orthodox bishops at the Second Council of Lyon in France to be held on 1 May 1274.
  • Early 1274, Thomas strikes his head on a tree branch along the Appian way near Monte Cassino. It’s not clear whether this happened while he was riding a horse or whether the branch or log was already on the ground.
  • Thomas recovers and continues his journey to the port. His health fails again and he is taken to the Cistercian Abbey of Fossanova. While he was conscious, he gave a commentary on the Song of Songs, as had Saint Bernard.
  • March 7, 1274: His brain continued to swell. He received Last Rites and his last words were: “I receive Thee, ransom of my soul. For love of Thee have I studied and kept vigil, toiled, preached and taught….” and then he was received into Heaven by Jesus Christ.

From this timeline, you can perceive the deep mysticism of Thomas Aquinas. Many wrongly assume that Thomas was an aloof college professor or academician. Far from it. He was a mystic full in love with Christ and driven to preach in teach in the parish churches and in the universities.

I’d like to share two FREE resources for you to help you fall more in love with Saint Thomas Aquinas:

  1. Here is a free book titled Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages. It is currently the most popular introduction to Thomas Aquinas available on amazon.com. You can have it free by clicking here.Thomas Aquinas in 50 Pages
  2. Here is a free video called “NSTI: VIDEO: 7 Reasons to Love Saint Thomas Aquinas”. This video will help you see the various levels of the spirituality and theology of Saint Thomas Aquinas in only a few short minutes. Watch it here.
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If you’re a Member of the New Saint Thomas Institute, you can explore the dozens of video lessons on Saint Thomas Aquinas in our Philosophy and Thomistic Studies online curriculum by clicking here.

If you’d like to try taking online classes on Thomas Aquinas, Augustine, Mariology, Apologetics, Church History, and/or Medieval Theology, please explore the New Saint Thomas Institute: newsaintthomas.com.

Intro to Thomas Module

Saint Thomas Aquinas, pray for us!

Dr. Taylor Marshall

You can leave a comment by clicking here.