Weekend Roundup – News & Views – 3/25/17

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Catholic parents have an extremely hard time enlisting someone to be a “godparent” at their infant’s baptism because one of the requirements is that they attend mass every Sunday. That leaves out the vast majority of Catholics. This godparents business is meaningless ritual and few take it seriously. See my previous thoughts here. The Sicilian bishop in the above news report has announced Mafioso bosses can’t be selected as godparents anymore. Did you hear that Michael Corleone? But who is going to screen out the deviant priests?

It’s been fifteen years since the news reports broke out in a big way about pedophile priests. Why is the Catholic church still fumbling around with this?

The blunt truth is Catholic children (and adults) do not enjoy sitting through an hour of dreary liturgical ritual that doesn’t point anyone to the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

I think it’s interesting that Catholic journalists keep pointing to the nativist, anti-Catholicism of 19th and 20th century America. Let’s see, how did the Catholic church do in regards to religious freedom in the European and Latin American countries where it dominated? Given the enormity of the priest pedophile scandal and subsequent cover-up by the hierarchy, I wonder why this writer would choose to cast aspersions on the veracity of poor li’l Maria Monk.

It’s not much of a stretch to imagine the U.S. government persecuting evangelicals down the road for “hate speech.”

Catholics point to Thomas More as a champion of religious freedom because he chose death rather than support Henry VIII’s separation from Rome. But I recall reading that More enthusiastically persecuted Protestants while he was Lord High Chancellor. Sir More authorized Protestant “heretics” to be burnt at the stake. And you call that a champion of religious freedom?

Venerating statues is very important in the Catholic religion. The Our Lady of Fatima statue is making the rounds in anticipation of this year’s 100th anniversary of the alleged Fatima apparitions. This veneration of statues, so prevalent in Catholicism, is anti-Biblical.

Pope Francis is already greasing the skids for married priests. Women priests are going to take much longer. But God’s Word says the sacrificial priesthood was done away with by Christ’s once-for-all sacrifice on the cross.

Hey, the New York City diocese and the Peoria, Illinois diocese are STILL fighting over the corpse of former archbishop and television personality, Fulton Sheen. See my previous thoughts here. Can you imagine the apostles, Paul and Peter, fighting over a corpse? This has nothing to do with Jesus Christ.

Fatima 2017 – Capitalizing on religious fervor

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One of the high points for the Roman Catholic church this year will definitely be when pope Francis visits Fatima, Portugal on May 12th and 13th in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the alleged appearance of Mary to the three children there in 1917. Fatima is widely viewed by Catholics as the most important Marian apparition.

Coincidentally (or rather, strategically), the Vatican has just announced that Francis has officially recognized the miracle attributed to the intercession of two of the Fatima children – “Blesseds” Francisco and Jacinta (photo, middle and right), thus paving their way to sainthood. The third child who witnessed the alleged apparition, Lúcia Santos, has already been green-lighted for canonization. Could Francis declare all three individuals to be “saints” when he visits Fatima in May? That seems to be the case from the story below. Can anyone spell “opportunistic”?

It often takes the Vatican multiple centuries before they declare someone a saint but if a person was extremely popular the church has been known to capitalize on their fame by expediting the process (see pope  John Paul II, mother Teresa, and Fulton Sheen in the very short-term once the dioceses of New York City and Peoria, Illinois stop fighting over his remains).

Catholicism’s non-biblical concept of a “saint” fits their theology. For Catholics, a saint is someone who lived an extraordinarily holy life and is rewarded with a mediatorial presence in Heaven. In contrast, God’s Word says no one is good.

“As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” – Romans 3:10-12

“Not even one” includes Mary.

The Bible refers to the saints (“hagios” – set apart ones) as all those who have accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior and are reborn spiritually. And what about all those Marian apparitions? Mary is in Heaven worshipping her Savior. These alleged apparitions that point people to the Catholic gospel of sacramental grace and merit can either be attributed to religious hysteria or demonic activity. Evangelicals would be amazed at how much veneration/worship is accorded to Mary by Catholics in comparison to Jesus Christ. Catholics, on the other hand, would be amazed at just how little Mary is mentioned in the New Testament.

Nowhere in the Bible do believers pray to anyone other than God. In contrast, the Scriptures specifically warn against trying to communicate with the dead. Put man-made traditions aside and accept Jesus Christ as your Savior by faith alone and then ask the Lord to lead you to an evangelical church in your area. See here.


Pope Francis to proclaim Fatima visionaries saints during Portugal trip
https://cruxnow.com/uncategorized/2017/03/23/pope-francis-proclaim-fatima-visionaries-saints-portugal-trip/


For more on Catholicism’s unbiblical teachings on “saints,” see here.

For more on Catholic Mariolatry, see here.

Pious Roman Catholic, Bill “Mr. Big” McCormack, and the bloody docks of NYC

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I recently posted a general review of the 1954 landmark film, “On the Waterfront” (see here), but I would like to further explore some of the historical and religious aspects of the movie that were mentioned in the “Who Is Mr. Big?” documentary that was included in the Criterion Collection Blu-ray edition.

The “Waterfront” story was based on the wholesale corruption of those who controlled New York City’s and New Jersey’s docks. The labor required to load and unload ships on the bustling 19th-century New York City piers was both physically demanding and dangerous and was increasingly left to the Irish immigrants. By the 1920s, the Irish completely controlled the docks. William “Mr. Big” McCormack (see photo) controlled all of the stevedore companies. Joe Ryan, the figure-head president of the International Longshoreman’s Association (ILA) and the inspiration for the Johnny Friendly character in the film in reality reported to McCormack. That would be like the cat taking orders from the mouse. Racketeering and inhumane labor practices were rampant on the docks with nowhere to appeal. McCormack had city, state, and national politicians in his back pocket.

The Irish pier bosses also fostered close ties with the Catholic archdiocese of New York City. The relationship was symbiotic. McCormack, Ryan, and their associates contributed heavily to the diocese and the church big wigs, in return, blessed all union endeavors. Ryan attended daily mass at Guardian Angels church near the Chelsea piers in Manhattan. The pastor of the church was monsignor John J. O’Donnell, Cardinal Spellman’s right-hand man and “chaplain” of the murderous ILA. O’Donnell once commented on the union’s bloody boss, “He keeps his hands off the spiritual things of my church and I keep my hands off his business.”

Lovely.

When a loose cannon, Jesuit “liberation theology” priest, John Corridan, began making inquiries into the working conditions on the docks, O’Donnell warned him to back off “or else.” The subsequent investigations of waterfront crime relied heavily on Corridan’s observations and experiences. Karl Malden’s father Peter Barry character in the film was based upon Corridan.

The Irishmen who ran the piers dishonestly and often with blood on their hands were practicing and “pious” Catholics. Spellman and the archdiocesan hierarchy just looked the other way because the money was good and everyone respected each other’s “racket.” And Spellman had his own personal indiscretions to deal with. Jesus Christ was not present in any of these men. None of them knew the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ. It was all about power, control, and cash. That’s just the way it was.

I imagine priests had the same “see no evil…” relationship with the Mafioso Dons in the Italian enclaves. Where was the priest at Don Corleone’s daughter’s wedding reception in “The Godfather”? You know that in real life Mafioso weddings the priest would have been feted as one of the most honored guests.

Postscript: Generations of “Waterfront” viewers have been stymied by the scene at the 1 hour and 29 minute mark when an apparently wealthy older man shuts off the television after watching the waterfront crime commission proceedings and tells his butler not to take any more calls from Johnny Friendly. Who exactly was this mysterious figure? The suspense is over. Screenwriter, Budd Schulberg, was referencing Bill “Mr. Big” McCormack.

Please pray for Paul Washer after heart attack

PW

The media reported yesterday that 55-year-old preacher and missionary, Paul Washer (pictured), suffered a heart attack Monday night. See here.

A post on Paul’s Twitter account from one hour ago reports he’s doing well and resting comfortably. See here.

Please pray for Paul’s health.

There’s a ton of junk on the internet masquerading as “Christian,” but I’m grateful to the Lord for the sermons and teaching from godly preachers like Paul Washer. Paul’s sermons seem to specialize in zealous admonishment, not always easy to listen to but certainly needed in this day of wishy-washy, Laodicean Christianity.

Thank you.

“You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contenda. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.”

OTW

On the Waterfront
Directed by Elia Kazan and featuring Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint, Karl Malden, Lee J. Cobb, and Rod Steiger
Columbia Pictures, 1954, 108 minutes

By 1954, Elia Kazan was recognized as one of America’s most important and influential film and theater directors. But he was also widely despised for naming the names of former fellow communists before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1952. Kazan threw his energy into his craft and created what would be the masterpiece of his career; “On the Waterfront.” Students of Kazan see in the director’s previous nine films his gradual ascent to “Waterfront” and in the nine films that follow, we can see his gradual decline.

Plot

A longshoreman and ex-boxer, Terry Malloy (Marlon Brando), is indirectly involved in the murder of a fellow longshoreman who was scheduled to testify at crime commission hearings on the corrupt dockworkers’ union. Terry’s brother, Charlie (Rod Steiger), is the right-hand man of the ruthless union boss, Johnny Friendly (Lee J. Cobb). Terry becomes increasingly conflicted about his involvement in the murder, especially after he begins a relationship with Edie (Eva Marie Saint), the victim’s sister. When Terry is subpoenaed to testify against the union, he wavers. A Catholic priest, father Barry (Karl Malden), encourages Terry to do the right thing. Friendly murders Charlie because he can’t keep his brother in line. Terry finally testifies against Friendly but is viewed disdainfully as a stool pigeon by his fellow longshoreman. Terry goes down to the docks to work but is shunned by both the union men and the longshoremen. He confronts Friendly and a fight ensues. Terry is beaten to a pulp by Friendly’s goons but staggers to his feet with the help of Barry and triumphantly leads his fellow longshoremen back to work.

Commentary

Budd Schulberg based his screenplay on investigations into union corruption on the docks of New York City and New Jersey. Schulberg and Kazan were unable to interest Darryl F. Zanuck at Fox or the other studio heads in a movie about longshoremen so they turned to independent producer, Sam Spiegel. “Waterfront” was filmed in only five weeks and almost completely on-location in Hoboken, New Jersey on a shoestring budget. The film was enthusiastically embraced by the public. It was nominated for twelve Oscars and earned eight: Best Picture, Director, Actor (Brando), Supporting Actress (Saint in her film debut), Screenplay, Cinematography (Boris Kaufman), Art Direction, and Editing. Cobb, Malden, and Steiger had all been nominated for their performances as well. Leonard Bernstein’s powerfully moving nominated score should have won also. Waterfront has twice been voted by the American Film Institute as one of the 20 best American films ever made; #8 in 1998 and #19 in 2007.

Waterfront was a revelation to movie audiences in 1954. Most had never seen that level of realism in a film before. Brando’s performance in “Waterfront,” became the standard of American acting for decades. The rest of the method-trained main cast did an outstanding job and the film is remarkable for its use of many non-actors. Shulberg was able to get several of his ex-boxer friends bit parts in the film as mob muscle: Tony Galento, Tami Mauriello, Abe Simon, and Lee Oma. Brando’s and Steiger’s taxi cab scene is widely considered one of the most memorable moments of American cinema. Brando’s “I coulda’ been a contenda” was voted the third best movie quote ever by AFI in 2005.

Many viewed Terry’s testimony against the union in “Waterfront” as Schulberg’s and Kazan’s defense of their HUAC testimonies. There’s certainly parallels but to what extent fiction mirrored fact will continue to be debated.

“On the Waterfront” was released as a Criterion Collection Blu-ray in 2013 with the following bonus features:

  • Commentary featuring authors Richard Schickel and Jeff Young
  • Conversation between filmmaker Martin Scorsese and critic Kent Jones
  • Elia Kazan: Outsider (1982), an hour-long documentary
  • Documentary on the making of the film, featuring interviews with scholar Leo Braudy, critic David Thomson, and others
  • Interview with actress Eva Marie Saint
  • Interview with director Elia Kazan from 2001
  • Contender, a 2001 documentary on the film’s most famous scene
  • Interview with longshoreman Thomas Hanley, an actor in the film
  • Interview with author James T. Fisher (On the Irish Waterfront) about the real-life people and places behind the film
  • Visual essay on Leonard Bernstein’s score

Trivia fact: Towards the end of the film, Terry stares past Edie to a large passenger ship moving down the Hudson River. The ship was the Andrea Doria, which would make international headlines when it sank in 1956 off the coast of Nantucket, Massachusetts.

Additional thoughts from a believer’s perspective

I love this movie. Can you tell? I can’t help but break up a little bit each time I watch it. Kazan mentioned in an interview that even audiences in the Midwest could relate to Terry the New Jersey longshoreman because everyone is searching for love and “redemption.” Yes, everyone has a spiritual emptiness that they try to fill with relationships, careers, entertainment, hobbies, education, empty religion, fitness workouts, food, drugs and alcohol, etc. But the only One who can truly fill that spiritual void and actually redeem us from the chains of sin and unworthiness is Jesus Christ, the Lord!

Thank you, Jesus, for reaching down for me!

Weekend Roundup – News & Commentary – 3/18/17

FCS

I wasn’t able to post a weekend roundup last Saturday because of the windstorm damage/loss of power so it was difficult to limit myself to only ten news reports this weekend. They removed the neighbor’s tree from our roof Monday a.m. and I secured a tarp over the damaged area that afternoon, right before the two feet of snow came down from winter storm, Stella. The insurance agent is coming on Monday to look at the damage and we have a contractor lined up. I’m thanking the Lord today for heat and light!

The Christian bookstore located near us isn’t a Family store but it’s also struggling. It recently relocated to a smaller space within the strip mall to save on rent, but at least it’s now in a more prominent position in the middle of the strip rather than at the far end. It was always questionable just how “Christian” all these Christian book stores actually were. I visit our store every month or so just to look around but the inventory is dominated by TBN-friendly, prosperity gospel materials. Of course there’s also a Catholic section filled with books that tell the reader they must receive sacramental grace and then obey the Ten Commandments and church rules in order to merit Heaven.

A week doesn’t go by without another sordid tale linked to clerical abuse. When will the carnage stop? I suspect that if we had a vantage point overlooking centuries of church history we would see that we’ve only barely skimmed the surface.

No, the Reformation is not over. The fight to uphold the Gospel by grace through faith continues.

A church with a “gospel” completely dependent on clergy-administered sacraments can’t continue the status quo with the dramatic decline in priests.

Francis continues to rankle church traditionalists. The first story brings to memory a financially strapped Catholic friend of mine, Jimmy, and his wife who already had five children but brought a sixth, Down’s Syndrome child into the world because their priest forbade them to use contraceptives when they went to him for advice. The couple is now divorced and the mongoloid child was sexually abused by a sibling. Where was the legalistic priest when this family was disintegrating?

Many Catholics claim C. S. Lewis was on his way to becoming Roman Catholic and I would agree given his non-Biblical beliefs (see here), yet evangelical pastors quote him from the pulpit as if he were Christ Himself.

Creeds, confessions, and lists of beliefs

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I’m currently reading “God’s Word Alone: The Authority of Scripture” by Matthew Barrett. It’s book #3 in Zondervan’s series on the five “solas” of the Reformation. Dry theology? Hardly! As Christians, we stand on God’s Word ALONE rather than on the teachings and traditions of men. The book is well-written and the pages are turning pretty quickly (review to follow in a couple of weeks). This book – such a treasure – prompted me to post on creeds, confessions, and lists of core beliefs in general.

My wife and I attended an independent fundamental Baptist church for eight years after we accepted Christ. After a very long prodigal “season” we attended a Southern Baptist church for a year. For the last sixteen months we’ve been worshipping at a nondenominational evangelical church. The church began as a Baptist church and has a long history. Several years ago the church decided to shed the “Baptist” label to appeal to more people although Baptist teaching and polity are still followed.

I’m somewhat knowledgeable about the history of the Baptist movement and I’m personally most comfortable within that faith tradition. Evangelical churches generally have a list of basic beliefs they follow with the Gospel of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ at the core. There’s some evangelical churches that I couldn’t comfortably worship at because of their beliefs regarding secondary doctrines but we’re still all united in our faith in Christ.

Christians have been formulating creeds, confessions, and statements of core beliefs for centuries in an attempt to summarize the faith. Some statements have been more helpful than others. The early creeds were woefully deficient because they didn’t spell out exactly HOW a person appropriates the free gift of salvation by God’s grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone. Billions have recited the Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds over the centuries without ever accepting Christ as Savior by faith.

The Reformers of the 16th and 17th centuries strove to return the church to the simple, saving faith proclaimed by the New Testament church. The movement was centered around what came to be known as the Five Solas of the Christian faith:

  • Sola Fide, by faith alone.
  • Sola Scriptura, by Scripture alone.
  • Solus Christus, through Christ alone.
  • Sola Gratia, by grace alone.
  • Soli Deo Gloria, glory to God alone.

As evangelical Christians, we base our beliefs on God’s Word rather than man-made creeds but if you have to summarize the faith, the Five Solas ain’t a bad way to go.

Our previous pastor mentioned the Five Solas regularly in his messages but I haven’t heard our new pastor mention them once in the past seven months. I suspect that congregations throughout evangelicalism are hearing less and less about the Five Solas of the Reformation, all part of the dumbing down of doctrine that’s part and parcel of the popular seeker mega-church movement.