The Cornerstone Baptist Church of Colorado Springs, Colorado has a lawsuit on its hands. It seems that in 1991, 1992, and 1993 the congregation sponsored a church carnival for children. Fliers were sent out promising the children fun, food, drinks, candy, balloons, games, carnival prizes, and a water fight with squirt guns. The church advertised the event as the “world’s biggest water fight.”
Now a bigger water fight has started, because nowhere did the fliers promise the children baptism, and that’s exactly what many of them got.
A suit brought by numerous outraged parents alleges that the Baptist church’s pastor, Dean Miller, and other defendants “harassed, threatened, intimidated, frightened, and shocked all of the plaintiff children. . . with threats of the devil, the sting of bees, and other such intimidating imagery. . . . [The children were] herded, led, directed, enticed, tricked, and inveigled into a room. . . where they were directed to remove their clothes [making them] naked in that room in front of a host of strangers.” After being given robes, the children were led to a dunk tank and baptized without their parents’ knowledge.
The 23 children who were baptized were afterwards sent home, some without the church even taking their names and telephone numbers. And though none of them were ever contacted by the church again, they all had an interesting story to tell their parents.
Paulette Lamontagne, a mother of twin girls who attended the 1993 carnival states, “I came home from work that evening, and we were sitting around the dinner table just talking about the day, and I asked them about the carnival. . . .They said, ‘We were baptized.’ . . . I was shocked.”
The alarmed mother called the Baptist church to demand an explanation. Although she left messages with the staff, she never received a call from Pastor Miller.
“Basically, they laughed at us,” she said. “I was raised a Catholic, and baptism was always a big family affair.” In fact, Lamontagne’s children had already been baptized as infants.
Another plaintiff, Annie Peterson, stated, “I’m a born-again Christian, and when I accepted Jesus into my life, I was baptized in the waters. . . . Yes, I evangelize and try to save souls too, but you don’t just corral a bunch of kids, trick them into thinking they are going to a carnival, give them a half-hour sermon, and then dunk them in a pool.”
The independent Baptist church continues to insist that it has a right to evangelize and then baptize the children, but it has now reinstated an old practice. Prior to 1991, its volunteer carnival staff was required to get written permission from parents to baptize their children at the carnival, but, Pastor Miller said, this was discontinued because “it slows us down.” Now it has been reinstated.
The world’s biggest water fight? In a case that has potential one day to be ruled upon by the Supreme Court, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Texe Marrs and James White are individuals known to long-time readers of This Rock. They are anti-Catholic writers who have found mention in these pages before.
Lately, though, they’ve been having a tussle between themselves. Texe Marrs is a “King James Onlyite” (a person who believes that only the King James Version of the Bible should be used), and James White recently published a book attacking this view.
To give Marrs credit where credit is due, he unearthed an interesting piece of information about White.
White had been signing his e-mail (including e-mail to Catholic Answers staffers) with tag lines like: “James White, B.A., M.A.; Scholar in Residence, College of Christian Studies, Grand Canyon University; Director, Alpha and Omega Ministries; Faraston Theological Seminary.”
Around the office we’ve wondered about the propriety of piling up such titles after one’s name (besides, who bothers using the initials “B.A.” to credit himself with having a bachelor of arts degree?). We’ve wondered about Grand Canyon University (“the school where you ride the burro down to class”), but Texe Marrs actually bothered to look up the place!
In the August 1996 Bible Believers’ Bulletin, Marrs wrote a piece called “JAMES WHITE: SCHOLAR IN RESIDENCE” and stated, “I also note that Mr. White has signed correspondence with the pompous and arrogant title, ‘Scholar in Residence, School of Christian Studies, Grand Canyon University.’ Scholar in Residence?
“We checked to see if such an institution as Grand Canyon University, which I’d never heard of before, even exists. It does. But, we discovered that it’s teeny-tiny and just begun ‘School of Christian Studies’ I has only ‘2, 3, or 4 instructors on staff.’
“And Mr. White? Well, yes, the school confided, he is listed as a ‘Scholar in Residence.’ But the official we talked to couldn’t explain why. The school told us flat out that James White is not ‘in residence,’ has no office on campus, and has never taught a single course there, though he’s expected to do so starting this spring in an adjunct status. (How curious to claim to be a lofty ‘Scholar in Residence’ when one is not even in residence!)”
Now we just need to find Faraston Theological Seminary.
Ann Landers is not known for being an unbiased or accurate source of information about the Catholic Church. One may remember a number of months ago when she made the near-racist remark that the pope was anti-woman because he is a Pole—a remark for which she later apologized.
Well, she’s made another inaccurate statement concerning the Catholic Church, but this time with support from a member of the Catholic clergy.
After receiving a letter from “Bothered in Boston”—a person troubled by seeing non-Catholics receiving Holy Communion at a funeral Mass—Landers said she consulted “a Jesuit friend, an expert in canon law,” Fr. Robert J. Geisinger, who told her, “Sometimes non-Catholics are present at church ceremonies and are unaware that it is inappropriate for them to receive Communion. It would be best at those times not to make an issue of it and to inform the person of the situation at a more private moment.”
Sorry, but the situation should never be allowed to get to that stage in the first place.
What should happen is that prior to Communion the priest should tactfully explain the situation, pointing to the guidelines for receiving Communion that are published in the parish’s missalettes. It saves a lot of pain and scandal that way. Non-Catholics will not take offense when Catholic liturgical regulations are explained to them politely.
Catholic Update is a four-page insert published by St. Anthony Messenger Press and put into the bulletins of many parishes. While much of what is said in Catholic Update is good and faithful to the magisterium, much is mediocre, and some is just plain bad. Almost every issue contains something erroneous, unfaithful, incomplete, or disobedient. One gets the impression the publication is about “updates” the authors want made.
A good example is a recent issue written by Fr. Leonard Foley, O.RM, publisher of St. Anthony Messenger and a well-known author and speaker. This issue, titled “Holy Communion From the Cup,” at one point takes a detour from its main topic and discusses what is suitable matter for the Host.
It says, “One of the most important moments in the Mass, as we shall note, should be the breaking of the bread. For various reasons, most parishes do not have ‘breadlike’ material, but very thin wafers which do not give one a vivid experience of eating bread. Some parishes bake their own bread—a practice that greatly deepens the meaning of bringing up of the gifts.
“In some places, recently, ‘pita’ bread has been introduced. It is made of wheat, with only a slight amount of yeast—so little, it is said, that it may be eaten by those who cannot take yeast. These soft, flat ‘loaves’ can be easily broken. Because the Church specifies that unleavened bread be used, however, some find objection in using this form.”
The use of unleavened bread was the original manner in which the Eucharist was celebrated. The night on which Jesus was betrayed was one of the days of unleavened bread, when Jews were not allowed to keep yeast in their houses. Jesus thus said the first Mass with bread containing no yeast (basically, Jewish matzoh bread, which is eaten in wafer form at Passover).
If some moderns don’t view this as sufficiently “breadlike” (it is bread, after all), it is because they have an erroneous notion of what bread is and of what bread is suitable for the Eucharist. If the unleavened form was bread-like enough for Jesus, it should be bread-like enough for us.
More fundamentally, Fr. Foley’s piece encourages flat-out disobedience to the liturgical laws of the Church.
While the Church does celebrate the Eucharist with leavened bread in the Eastern rites, in the Latin rite only unleavened bread is permitted. Pita bread is not allowed in the Latin rite, and it is not sufficient to encourage its use and then note that “some find objection in using this form” when in reality the Latin rite has forbidden its use!
What Catholic Update has done is encourage parishes to violate the liturgical rights of their parishioners, for “[t]he Christian faithful have the right to worship God according to the prescriptions of their own rite [as] approved by the legitimate pastors of the Church” (Code of Canon Law 214).
Ever since Henry VIII created the Church of England and seized our church buildings in England, there has been a problem keeping them filled. During the Penal Era, attendance at Church of England services was compelled by law, and fines were imposed on anyone who didn’t show up to hear the two- or three-hour services that were common.
Since non-Anglicans are now allowed not to attend Anglican churches on Sunday, many don’t. In fact, the Church of England itself has hit some pretty hard times, and many of the buildings it owns are no longer used and have been closed down and deconsecrated, though they are still a financial drain.
Recently, a plan has been suggested for what to do with them. Rather than tear them down, they might be turned over to members of other religions. You heard us right, not just to members of other Christian groups, but to members of other religions entirely.
The Anglican church’s Board of Mission suggested that, while Christian groups would get priority, some of the unused churches could be given to Muslims, Sikhs, and Hindus.
This has not gone over well with all of the Anglican clergy. Rev. Julian Litten of Walthamstow in East London said he was appalled at the idea of giving Christian churches to Muslims when “to be a Christian in some Muslim countries means certain death.” He added that this would communicate the idea that the Church of England was dying in England’s inner cities and was letting Islam take over from Christianity (which largely happens to be true, but that doesn’t mean one should advertise the fact).
Still, the plan has its supporters, and the Right Rev. David Smith, Anglican bishop of Bradford, said a report favoring letting Muslims have some of the churches was “sane and sensible.”
One option, of course, would be to give the churches back to the Catholic Church, which built many of them in the first place and from which they were “appropriated” for the Church of England.
Many Catholics were stunned when Catholic Digest, normally a rather middle-of-the-road publication, featured former New York governor Mario Cuomo on its cover and carried a piece praising him—in spite of the fact that, although Cuomo professes to be a Catholic, he is strongly pro-abortion and had supported abortion during his term in office.
Following the piece, outraged Catholics called the publication to cancel their subscriptions. Ouch!
Well, the September issue of the Digest contains an editorial trying to justify the magazine’s running a puff piece on Cuomo. The editorial, titled “LOOKING FOR THE GOOD,” states, “Several [sic—we’ve heard the number was quite large] of you wrote or called me in late June about our putting Mario Cuomo on the July cover of Catholic Digest. . . . I know that some of you (especially in New York) were concerned about my choice of the cover subject because of his views on laws banning abortions.
“The cover picture was meant to call attention to an article that neither mentioned nor endorsed every view Cuomo espouses, but did highlight a value—gratitude to parents, spouse, and the American opportunity—that many of you share.
“Our featuring a public figure doesn’t imply blanket support of all that person’s activities or opinions, any more than our reprinting an article from a particular source implies our support for everything that source publishes. We look for the good in periodicals and in people.
“Catholic Digest will never repudiate Church teaching. Neither will we exclude imperfect Catholics: the alienated, the dissenters—even sinners. . . . Jesus called the wayward to sin no more, but didn’t reject them. . . . Mario Cuomo is not a saint. Most of us aren’t. We are stragglers and strugglers who fall and get up again and try to do better.”
Thanks, but try again. Rationalization of a stupid, offensive, scandalous decision will not cut it. The article didn’t imply blanket support; it was a snow job disguised as a puff piece, praising the man as if he were Mr. Family Values (“[showing] gratitude to parents, spouse, and the American opportunity”).
The problem is not about excluding sinners. The problem is that, unlike Jesus, Catholic Digest did not call the wayward to sin no more. Cuomo is not a struggler trying to do better on the abortion issue. He is proud and unrepentant in his support of “terminating” children.
With people who are self-righteous in their sin, Jesus took an entirely different tack. Read Matthew 23 to see what he said about leaders who were a bad moral influence—he called them hypocrites, whitewashed tombs, vipers, and other unpleasantries.
Like Catholic Digest, Jesus was “looking for the good,” but he recognized that sometimes the only way to encourage someone to become good is by calling attention to the evil so it can be eliminated.