Sunday, November 10, 2013

"The U.S. Must Embrace the Holy See"

The United States must embrace the Vatican, wrote Francis Rooney, former U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See in a USA Today op ed. The “cordial but cooling relations” between the U.S. and the Vatican, he suggested, have not taken into account the Holy See’s diplomatic role in the world. He argued that the Catholic Church could be much more helpful to U.S. global diplomatic interests and challenges if the relationships would be warmer.

“No institution on earth has both the international stature and the global reach of the Holy See — the ‘soft power’ of moral influence and authority to promote religious freedom, human liberties, and related values that Americans and our allies uphold worldwide.”
Claiming that it is a lost opportunity, Rooney pointed out that U.S. President Barack Obama has only visited the Vatican but once in his nearly six years in office.

In 1984 President Ronald Reagan established full diplomatic relations, Rooney said, because “he realized that he could have no better partner than Pope John Paul II in the fight against communism.” That fight, through the collaboration of the U.S. and the Vatican, led to the downfall of European communism. George W. Bush expanded the U.S.-Vatican relationship.

“The United States and the Holy See remain two of the most significant institutions in world history, one a beacon of democracy and progress, the other a sanctum of faith and allegiance to timeless principles,” Rooney said. “They are natural partners.” He added that “America’s foreign policy is much more likely to succeed with the support of the Holy See. “No two sovereigns are more naturally aligned than the United States and the Holy See…”

“While the Obama administration has been in conflict with the Catholic Church on a range of issues from abortion to contraception,” he said, “it is clearly in America’s national interests to strengthen diplomatic ties with the Holy See to advance our interests around the world.”

Rooney also pointed out that the Church has powerful ways of persuading nations, including bilateral relationships that help find diplomatic solutions to “international predicaments…” The Vatican represents more than a billion people on the global stage, said Rooney. Its power and influence is often underestimated. It has no military and a negligible economy (though it owns vast resources), but it is the “soft power” of its moral influence, which gives it a greater reach and influence than almost any other nation on earth. And the nations acknowledge this power.

Rooney is promoting a closer alliance between the U.S. and the Holy See, a relationship described in scripture as fornication with a prostitute or whore. See Revelation 17:1, 2, 18:3, etc.

“Through the two great errors, the immortality of the soul and Sunday sacredness, Satan will bring the people under his deceptions. While the former lays the foundation of spiritualism, the latter creates a bond of sympathy with Rome. The Protestants of the United States will be foremost in stretching their hands across the gulf to grasp the hand of spiritualism; they will reach over the abyss to clasp hands with the Roman power; and under the influence of this threefold union, this country will follow in the steps of Rome in trampling on the rights of conscience.” Great Controversy, page 588

The Vatican maintains diplomatic ties in a number of ways with the current Obama administration. They are generally not very public as they were with George W. Bush, and they are sometimes strained. But political winds change. The Vatican may have to bide its time until a more favorable political wind arises in the United States. A change will certainly come. In the mean time, it is hard to ignore the vast influence of the Catholic Church in global politics.


Other related news: Sunday Assembly founds an atheist church

Be faithful in the little things

Luke 16:10 He who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much; and he who is unjust in what is least is unjust also in much.

The following text is from 
The Great Controversy, pages 621-624

Had not Jacob previously repented of his sin in obtaining the birthright by fraud, God would not have heard his prayer and mercifully preserved his life. So, in the time of trouble, if the people of God had unconfessed sins to appear before them while tortured with fear and anguish, they would be overwhelmed; despair would cut off their faith, and they could not have confidence to plead with God for deliverance.

The importance of confession and genuine repentance
Satan leads many to believe that God will overlook their unfaithfulness in the minor affairs of life; but the Lord shows in His dealings with Jacob that He will in no wise sanction or tolerate evil. All who endeavor to excuse or conceal their sins, and permit them to remain upon the books of heaven, unconfessed and unforgiven, will be overcome by Satan. The more exalted their profession and the more honorable the position which they hold, the more grievous is their course in the sight of God and the more sure the triumph of their great adversary. Those who delay a preparation for the day of God cannot obtain it in the time of trouble or at any subsequent time. The case of all such is hopeless.

Those professed Christians who come up to that last fearful conflict unprepared will, in their despair, confess their sins in words of burning anguish, while the wicked exult over their distress. These confessions are of the same character as was that of Esau or of Judas. Those who make them, lament the result of transgression, but not its guilt. They feel no true contrition, no abhorrence of evil. They acknowledge their sin, through fear of punishment; but, like Pharaoh of old, they would return to their defiance of Heaven should the judgments be removed.

Jacob's history is also an assurance that God will not cast off those who have been deceived and tempted and betrayed into sin, but who have returned unto Him with true repentance. While Satan seeks to destroy this class, God will send His angels to comfort and protect them in the time of peril. The assaults of Satan are fierce and determined, his delusions are terrible; but the Lord's eye is upon His people, and His ear listens to their cries. Their affliction is great, the flames of the furnace seem about to consume them; but the Refiner will bring them forth as gold tried in the fire. God's love for His children during the period of their severest trial is as strong and tender as in the days of their sunniest prosperity; but it is needful for them to be placed in the furnace of fire; their earthliness must be consumed, that the image of Christ may be perfectly reflected.

The Importance of Exercising Faithfulness
The season of distress and anguish before us will require a faith that can endure weariness, delay, and hunger--a faith that will not faint though severely tried. The period of probation is granted to all to prepare for that time. Jacob prevailed because he was persevering and determined. His victory is an evidence of the power of importunate prayer. All who will lay hold of God's promises, as he did, and be as earnest and persevering as he was, will succeed as he succeeded. Those who are unwilling to deny self, to agonize before God, to pray long and earnestly for His blessing, will not obtain it. Wrestling with God--how few know what it is! How few have ever had their souls drawn out after God with intensity of desire until every power is on the stretch. When waves of despair which no language can express sweep over the suppliant, how few cling with unyielding faith to the promises of God.

Those who exercise but little faith now, are in the greatest danger of falling under the power of satanic delusions and the decree to compel the conscience. And even if they endure the test they will be plunged into deeper distress and anguish in the time of trouble, because they have never made it a habit to trust in God. The lessons of faith which they have neglected they will be forced to learn under a terrible pressure of discouragement.

We should now acquaint ourselves with God by proving His promises. Angels record every prayer that is earnest and sincere. We should rather dispense with selfish gratifications than neglect communion with God. The deepest poverty, the greatest self-denial, with His approval, is better than riches, honors, ease, and friendship without it. We must take time to pray. If we allow our minds to be absorbed by worldly interests, the Lord may give us time by removing from us our idols of gold, of houses, or of fertile lands.

The young would not be seduced into sin if they would refuse to enter any path save that upon which they could ask God's blessing. If the messengers who bear the last solemn warning to the world would pray for the blessing of God, not in a cold, listless, lazy manner, but fervently and in faith, as did Jacob, they would find many places where they could say: "I have seen God face to face, and my life is preserved." Genesis 32:30. They would be accounted of heaven as princes, having power to prevail with God and with men.

The "time of trouble, such as never was," is soon to open upon us; and we shall need an experience which we do not now possess and which many are too indolent to obtain. It is often the case that trouble is greater in anticipation than in reality; but this is not true of the crisis before us. The most vivid presentation cannot reach the magnitude of the ordeal. In that time of trial, every soul must stand for himself before God. "Though Noah, Daniel, and Job" were in the land, "as I live, saith the Lord God, they shall deliver neither son nor daughter; they shall but deliver their own souls by their righteousness." Ezekiel 14:20.

Now, while our great High Priest is making the atonement for us, we should seek to become perfect in Christ. Not even by a thought could our Saviour be brought to yield to the power of temptation. Satan finds in human hearts some point where he can gain a foothold; some sinful desire is cherished, by means of which his temptations assert their power. But Christ declared of Himself: "The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in Me." John 14:30. Satan could find nothing in the Son of God that would enable him to gain the victory. He had kept His Father's commandments, and there was no sin in Him that Satan could use to his advantage. This is the condition in which those must be found who shall stand in the time of trouble.

It is in this life that we are to separate sin from us, through faith in the atoning blood of Christ. Our precious Saviour invites us to join ourselves to Him, to unite our weakness to His strength, our ignorance to His wisdom, our unworthiness to His merits. God's providence is the school in which we are to learn the meekness and lowliness of Jesus. The Lord is ever setting before us, not the way we would choose, which seems easier and pleasanter to us, but the true aims of life. It rests with us to co-operate with the agencies which Heaven employs in the work of conforming our characters to the divine model. None can neglect or defer this work but at the most fearful peril to their souls.

The apostle John in vision heard a loud voice in heaven exclaiming: "Woe to the inhabiters of the earth and of the sea! for the devil is come down unto you, having great wrath, because he knoweth that he hath but a short time." Revelation 12:12. Fearful are the scenes which call forth this exclamation from the heavenly voice. The wrath of Satan increases as his time grows short, and his work of deceit and destruction will reach its culmination in the time of trouble.

Click here for more excerpts from The Great Controversy

Friday, May 3, 2013

Pope Francis Has a Few Words in Support of Leisure

On Tuesday, “Pope Francis: His Life in His Own Words,” a book of conversations with the man who was then Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio, will be published in English (Putnam; $24.95). These interviews from 2010 with two journalists in Argentina yield cute facts about the new boss of the church — a favorite movie? “Babette’s Feast” — but not much interesting theology.
But one passage in the book, at first glance rather slight, ends up insinuating a radical note into the proceedings. On a close read, it seems that Pope Francis believes that we must — indeed, that God is calling us to — relax.
Responding to the question, “Do we need to rediscover the meaning of leisure?” Pope Francis replies: “Together with a culture of work, there must be a culture of leisure as gratification. To put it another way: people who work must take the time to relax, to be with their families, to enjoy themselves, read, listen to music, play a sport. But this is being destroyed, in large part, by the elimination of the Sabbath rest day. More and more people work on Sundays as a consequence of the competitiveness imposed by a consumer society.” In such cases, he concludes, “work ends up dehumanizing people.”
Some pages later, he derides people who think of themselves as Catholic but don’t make time for their children. This is an example, according to Pope Francis, of living “with fraud.”
Catholic social teaching is known for promoting the idea that workers deserve dignity, which includes rest. But Pope Francis seems to be saying something more: that an authentically Christian life includes a proper dose of leisure and family time. That may sound unusual coming from a man whose tradition valorizes solitude and monasticism, and whose clergy members are not permitted to take spouses or beget children.
The idea of a Catholic exalting the Sabbath sounds particularly peculiar in the American context. In the United States, Catholics were never the great proponents of Sabbatarianism, observing Sunday as a special day, for worship or rest. That was a Protestant thing.
From the moment the Puritans arrived, they began enforcing laws to reserve Sunday for churchgoing. Over time, what came to be called “blue laws” covered different activities, and varied by state. Some laws forbade hunting on Sunday, others the sale of liquor, others any commercial activity. In religious towns, cultural norms made some recreation, like sports, taboo as well. As a child being raised in a Pentecostal family, John Ashcroft, the former attorney general, wasn’t allowed to ride a bicycle on Sundays.
Over time, the official justification for the laws had changed, but it was still Protestants who pushed for them. “In the 1820s, they would say this is a time to pause to reflect on our religious obligations to God,” said David Sehat, a historian at Georgia State University. But by the 1870s, “they started using Pope Francis’ justification: a time to spend time with family, for ‘the preservation of health and the promotion of good morals,’ ” to use one jurist’s language.
And the temperance movement, which of course supported laws against Sunday liquor sales, was Protestant in character. Activists often depicted Catholic immigrants as drunkards.
Today, the laws are disappearing, relics of a time when Protestant culture was more dominant. Connecticut, for example, finally decided to permit Sunday liquor sales last year. And in the United States, Sunday has lost its sacred character. Most Christians see little conflict in going to church in the morning, then watching a football game — maybe with the family, or maybe at a sports bar — in the afternoon.
The Sabbatarian tradition is upheld, in a serious way, by some small groups of religious Protestants and, of course, by observant Jews. And, it so happens, by those who think of themselves as both Christian and Jewish. “Messianic Jews,” who believe in the divinity of Jesus but pay special attention to the Jewish roots of Christianity, are often very attached to Sabbath observance.
Sarah Posner, a staff writer for the Web site, recalled a conference of messianic Jews she attended last year in Ellicott City, Md. “They weren’t selling their books, CDs and DVDs on Saturday, because they didn’t want to exchange money,” Ms. Posner said. “But they were using electricity” — which traditionally observant Jews would not.
Our religiously diverse country includes those who call their weekly day off from smartphones a “secular Sabbath.” Some groups may not even have a concept of Sabbatarianism. In Islam, for example, “there’s a deep theological objection to the idea that God rested on the seventh day,” according to Marion Holmes Katz, a scholar of Islam at New York University. “The idea of God resting seems to imply God being tired. So the whole idea that you refrain from work as some sort of ritualized recapitulation or symbolic nod to the process of creation — it’s not one that has any traction in Islam.”
But in Catholicism, as Pope Francis suggests, the Sabbath actually is supposed to matter — the whole day, not just Mass. For as the catechism teaches, in Paragraph 2185, “On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord’s Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body.”
The Catholic Church has been recovering this teaching at least since 1998, when Pope John Paul II published his apostolic letter “Dies Domini.” There, he writes that “even in those countries which give legal sanction to the festive character of Sunday, changes in socioeconomic conditions have often led to profound modifications of social behavior and hence of the character of Sunday.”
Last October, about 250 bishops met in Rome for a conference on the movement called the New Evangelization, which focuses on reawakening faith in those already baptized. One of their conclusions was, “Even though there is a tension between the Christian Sunday and the secular Sunday, Sunday needs to be recovered” — in keeping, they wrote, with John Paul’s “Dies Domini.”
Of course, those who preach a relaxing Sabbath, with friends and family, are often working hardest on the day they exalt. For clergy members, the Sabbath is the busiest workday of the week. One charm of the book “Pope Francis” is how much we learn about the new pope’s pastimes, like reading the German Romantic poet Friedrich Hölderlin and listening to Verdi’s operas. One imagines that now, more than ever, Sunday is not his day for leisure reading, nor a good time to catch a showing of “Babette’s Feast.”

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

European Sunday Alliance Insists on Work-Free Sunday

On Sunday March 3, 2013, the European Sunday Alliance held its annual European day for a “Work-Free Sunday.” Using the theme “Stop Sunday Work Now!” the alliance called on members to take action by handing out flyers, holding meetings and calling on citizens to demand that the European Union establish a work-free Sunday throughout all of Europe.

“ Synchronization of working time which includes the work-free Sunday is crucial. Only if this happens can health, safety and dignity of all citizens be promoted. Only in this way will all citizens be able to reconcile their personal, family and professional life. Only by this is social cohesion guaranteed as it enables people to gather, employers and employees alike,” says the Alliance.

The European Sunday Alliance includes churches, unions, civic societies and employers as well as workers. It was founded in 2011 and is continuing to increase in membership.

The Alliance is seeking to elevate Sunday recognition from level one – Sunday closing laws – to level two – Sunday rest laws – and demand that all European citizens have free time on Sunday for the common good. These laws are foundational to eventually requiring a global worship described in Revelation 13.


Saturday, February 16, 2013

Historic Ecumenical Move

After seven years of talks, leaders of U.S. Roman Catholic and four Protestant churches have signed a historic agreement in which they will formally recognize each other’s liturgical rites of baptism. The five denominations include the Roman Catholic Church, the Presbyterian Church (USA), Christian Reformed Church in North America, Reformed Church in America and the United Church of Christ.

 The signing was part of the opening day activities of the national meeting of Christian Churches Together in the U.S.A.

 Prior to the agreement, the Catholic Church didn’t always accept the baptisms of the Reformed churches, while the Reformed churches normally accepted Catholic baptisms.

 The agreement says, “For our baptisms to be mutually recognized, water and the scriptural Trinitarian formula “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19-20) must be used in the baptismal rite.”

 The churches wanted to assure one another that they had the same liturgical practices and a common theology in order to recognize each other’s baptism.

 “It’s a historical moment.” said Ruben Armendariz, associate presbyter of the San Antonio-based presbytery of the Presbyterian Church.

 “This ecumenical effort, this mutual recognition of baptism, is part of our response to Jesus’ prayer that ‘we may all be one,’ said Bishop Joe Vásquez of the Catholic Diocese of Austin.”

 As the ecumenical movement marches forward, reformed churches continue to yield their faith and harmonize it with Roman Catholicism; they are paving the way to eventually enforce the image of the beast.

 “When the leading churches of the United States, uniting upon such points of doctrine as are held by them in common, shall influence the state to enforce their decrees and to sustain their institutions, then Protestant America will have formed an image of the Roman hierarchy, and the infliction of civil penalties upon dissenters will inevitably result.” Great Controversy, page 445


Tuesday, January 8, 2013

NDAA Removes Guarantee of Trial by Jury

On January 2, 2013, U.S. President Barack Obama signed the Fiscal Year 2013 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). This renewed his unconstitutional power to detain U.S. citizens indefinitely without trial and deprive them of their right of due process. Attempts were made by some lawmakers to amend the unconstitutional provisions of the bill, but these were stripped out of the bill during the reconciliation process between the House of Representatives version and the Senate version. Senator Rand Paul opposed the final bill, and complained in a statement that “The decision by the NDAA conference committee, led by Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) to strip the National Defense Authorization Act of the amendment that protects American citizens against indefinite detention now renders the entire NDAA unconstitutional… Removing those protections now takes us back to square one and does as much violence to the Constitution as last year’s NDAA. When the government can arrest suspects without a warrant, hold them without trial, deny them access to counsel or admission of bail, we have shorn the Bill of Rights of its sanctity. “Our Bill of Rights is not something that can be cherry-picked at legislators’ convenience,” said Mr. Paul. “When I entered the United States Senate, I took an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution. It is for this reason that I will strongly oppose passage of the McCain conference report that strips the guarantee to a trial by jury.”

 One hundred years ago it was predicted that every principle of the U.S. Constitution will eventually be repudiated. See Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 5, and page 451.