Skip to comments.Catholic convert from Oregon coast becomes a priest (former Evangelical)
Posted on 06/17/2009 9:48:34 AM PDT by NYer
.- He grew up an evangelical Protestant in Oregon, suspicious of Marian theology. Now hes a Catholic priest and a physicist. Dominican Father Raphael Mary Salzillo was ordained last month in San Francisco and will take up an assignment at the University of Washington Newman Center and Blessed Sacrament Parish in Seattle.
Born Wesley Salzillo in 1976, he grew up in Florence, a small coastal town. The family converted to Catholicism in the early 1990s.
"My family raised me with a strong Christian faith and a very clear sense that Christ should be the most important thing in my life," Father Raphael Mary recalls, explaining that his faith after conversion remained "generic."
"I was not fully open to the truth that the Catholic faith has to offer," he says.
But when he was 16, a spiritual experience at Mass gave him the strong feeling he was being called to priesthood or religious life. He was not open to it at the time, so tried to convince himself it was just his imagination.
A top graduate from Siuslaw High, he went on to Caltech, earning a bachelors degree in applied physics. He attended graduate school and there he felt his vocation being clarified. At the same time, this scientist wrestled with turning over his will so completely.
"I wanted to choose my own religion rather than accepting the Catholic one as a coherent whole," he says, aware that many people today pick and choose within a body of faith. "In a way, choice had become a God for me, as it has to so many in our society."
Through study of church history and theology and deepening prayer life, he discerned that his own intellect and judgment alone could not fulfill his deepest yearnings. He decided to trust Jesus and the Church fully.
"It was through submission of my power of choice in matters of faith, that I came to know Jesus Christ in a much deeper way," he says.
The last part of his faith to fall into place was an acceptance of Mary. That spiritual movement allowed him to love Jesus more, he explains.
"It was Mary who brought me to finally accept my vocation, and it has been her who has sustained me in this life," he says.
He chose the Dominicans for their emphasis on doctrinal preaching and study, as well as their strong community life with "a streak of monasticism."
He studied philosophy and theology in Berkeley, Calif. and also served at the University of Arizona Newman Center.
Grace creates righteousness, obedience helps.
Once we are rescued, we have encouragements to do that which avoids more death: Love one another, forgive one another, rebuke one another.
Why, that could have been written by a Catholic. But how do you square that state of being "encouraged" with absence of free will on the part of the one doing the loving, the forgiving, etc.?
Helps what? Create righteousness?
And, again, you are not reading my posts. The will to do whatever we might do toward obedience is managed there by God Himself. That is what the Scriptures tell us. We are moved, managed, by God. Our wills are in bondage to whatever He desires.
Your organization is at odds with this claim, since it is persuaded that Semi-Pelagiansim is true. That is heresy, but it hasn’t stopped them for 1500 years.
In reality, there is no free will.
Got to run for the evening.
If the will to do good works is "managed by God Himself" then why does the scripture spend to much effort teaching us how to become righteous? Trust me, I read your posts, and I do not see an unambiguous answer. You pointed out, correctly, that sometime the Scripture should not be read literally, but you did not link it to the question posed. Then, a few times you said that the ethical teaching is there to convict us of our depravity, but you did not agree that that is the only purpose the ethical teaching is there. Then you said that the elect "cling to God" and are "encouraged" to do righteous things. Now you clarify that the clinging and the encouraging is managed by God. This does not add to a logical answer for me. Please explain.
If we have no real choice in how we behave, why does the scripture teach us how to behave?
I will respond to your questions and assertions on what the scripture really teaches and how the Church is wrong after I receive an answer I can understand, on this question.
I certainly respect your interest in getting to the bottom of these questions and am willing to do so, under one or two conditions...
1. You agree to not simply answer, “Well, that is Calvinism.” I really have no idea what “Calvinism” is, and I am not a proponent of any particular group. My interest is what the Scripture teaches and I am as willing to recognize Augustine as I am Calvin. I would be willing to recognize a truth taught by the RCC, such as the Triune God of Israel.
2. You agree to read the passages I present, even in their larger contexts. That is, to quote a certain verse from, say, I Cor. about “wisdom” misses the larger argument Paul is making about the tendency of the Corinthian believers to be enamored with scholasticism, a public hobby at that time. This subtlety cannot be captured in just one verse, but when you read the entire letter a person should be able to notice that the various encouragements to do this or that are not just a laundry list of do’s & don’ts, but part of a larger argument that the Gospel is not another “scholastic” fight between Paul & Apollos. Good theology recognizes the big picture, context, time lines and the audience spoken to.
Of course. I only refer to Calvinism for brevity but I really am asking for your personal views. Surely I will not say “because that is Calvinism, that is wrong”, but I reseve the right to say “Because of X, Y and Z, Calvinism is wrong on that point”. If I was guilty of argument by labeling, I apologize, it was not my intention. Obviously, a good deal of what you say or other non-Catholics say is nevertheless gospel truth.
While on that topic, as Catholic I am attempting to present the doctrines of the Catholic Church and so I try not to engage in personal interpretation of scripture. If I inadvertently fail to do so, I ask to be corrected by readers who understand Catholicism better than I. So it is fine for you to say “That’s Catholicism”.
I read your passages but since they usually cover several aspects in my response I concentrate on what I think is the key difficulty. One thing I avoid is responding to every phrase I might have a disagreement with or a question as it tends to dilute focus. I trust that if some larger context is relevant you will point that out and I will read it, and if you think I missed your point, well, correct me.
That is all very agreeable. And, of course, disagree with me because of “X, Y and Z”. Those are legitimate positions to take, and I very much want an argument to be either truthful or shown to be incorrect, primarily by Scripture. I care little if Calvin believed it or not. We have no heroes (save for One).
And, I recognize you are somewhat constrained to avoid what the Catholic Church deems “personal interpretation”, although I admit I have a hard time understanding what that means exactly. Do you have to refer to a particular reference manual that is the authorized commentary about a passage? For example, did you have to consult a scholarly text to state that, “God knew all along where Adam was (paraphrased)”?
Finally, that is fine to focus on the apparent central issue you believe is presented in any given passage; I, too, must do that for the sake of brevity and continuing the focus. And, I extend the same offer to you to argue a “larger context” point and correct me if I miss it on the first pass.
Now, could you repeat the question you proposed?
I have to leave for much of the afternoon, now. Will respond when I return.
The idea that the apparent ignorance of Adam's whereabouts shows Adam's free will is my own; I woudn't be surprised if someone pointed that out before me, and even that I have read it somewhere, but at this point I am not aware of such point being made.
The point that all the exhortations to virtuous life in the Scripture would be pointless if man had no free will is from Aquinas: Article 1. Whether man has free-will?
The earliest definitive teaching on free will is, to my knowledge, in Irenaeus: St. Irenaeus on Free Will (Adversus Haereses IV,37)
The question is, again, why does the Bible, and especially the New Testament make so many calls to righteousness and virtue if man has no free will to choose between behaviors?
I am referring to the exhortations to love God, love the neighbor as oneself, forgive others, be kind to the lowly and needy, give example of virtue to others, avoid judging others, avoid sin even at the cost of injury to oneself, and be perfect as our Father in heaven is perfect, all made by Christ Himself. A good summary of those is in the concluding chapters of the Letter to Romans starting with Chapter 12, -- the same letter that contains several prooftexts that you used.
Can you clarify what “private interpretation” is supposed to mean to you and other Catholics, then? I am aware that it is a partial quote from I Peter, but it seems to mean something different to you than I am used to hearing from other Catholics. They use it to set aside arguments that disagree with the official positions of the Catholic Church, claiming that my view is some spurious “private interpretation” and therefore invalid. This, although it is the plain sense of the text.
You, OTOH, used it to imply it would condition a response you might have otherwise made. Advise.
My understanding is that everyone reads the scripture and interprets it for himself under various cultural influences. A Catholic is advised to read the scriptures in the company of the entire Church, that includes the Fathers of the Church, the magisterial teaching, as well as with his own mind. However, since most Catholics don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of the entirety of the Church doctrines, — I don’t, — it is possible for me or for others to offer something that is at variance with the Church’s teaching. I would not consciously do that, and I believe that so far I presented the Catholic doctrine accurately, but still since we are on this topic, I should give this disclaimer.
I won’t, however, insist on my interpretation if it is shown to me to be at variance. I will instead study and adopt the magisterial teaching. That is, perhaps, the difference between the Protestant (speaking loosely) approach and Catholic or Orthodox approach.
There is a great diversity of interpretations that are available to a Catholic. The Church does not usually define doctrines unless some controversy forces her to it, and she moves very slowly even when the need arises. For example, very little is fixed in how the Revelation is interpreted, or where the covenant with the Jews stands today. There are subtle differences on our topic as well: Thomism sees a bit more active role of God in how He leads his elect compared to Molinism, and both are available to a Catholic.
I would say that it is incorrect to simply say “Your interpretation is private, therefore it is incorrect”. I am sure many would do so here in the heat of the rhetoric, but more accurately they should be saying: “This interpretation is perhaps among the several logical interpretations, but it is not what the Church has taught through the ages. Therefore, it is not what the inspired author meant when he wrote that passage, therefore it is incorrect”.
For example, if someone would argue that God is sometimes not all-knowing based on how the story of the Fall is told, and that the passages where He is described as omniscient are to be read figuratively, that would be a logical (let’s grant him that) interpretation that happens to be not patristically and magisterially correct, because the Church teaches that God is in fact all-knowing. However, if someone argues as I just did, that this passage is there to underscore that it was not God’s active will that Adam and Eve should sin, then that is a private interpretation that does not contradict anything the Church teaches, and so it is an available to a Catholic interpretation.
Thank you for that more complete explanation. I still have a question before we launch back into our discussion...
When you refer to the collective Fathers, it seems improbable that they are not at some slight variance with each other as to emphasis, or perhaps centrality of the issues in a passage. If this is the case (and you refer to a “diversity of interpretations”), how can there be a common understanding that becomes the “Church’s” position, the Catholic position on a passage?
Yes, they are at times incorrect. It is the consensus between them that matters. None of them is infallible by himself. It is not a trivial task to comprehend what is and what is not the patristic teaching. The Catechism is a great help, that is the closest the Church ever came to a complete definition of the Catholic doctrine.
I am still a little fuzzy about the connection you make between the teaching on a doctrine and the interpretation of a passage. From my vantage point, doctrines are summations of many passages, as they bear upon a particular topic. Some contribute much, others little. Collectively, they form a message about a matter that we come to call a “doctrine” or “teaching”.
While all passages contribute to our understanding, not all passages actually impact a doctrine. We used to joke about the gravitas of I Chronicles 26:18, “At the Parbar on the west there were four at the highway and two at the Parbar.” My life verse (just kidding).
Whatever...passages can be considered individually, within the context of their location. Correct?
I have to go for the evening. Check in tomorrow.
The Church arrives at a doctrine by looking at what the scripture says and what we can glean from the consensus of the fathers. We do not necessarily expect a doctrine to be found in the scripture already formulated in one passage or a collection of passages. At some point, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the understanding emerges that this, and not that, is what the Apostles taught; this is the authentic doctrine.
The hermeneutics are that words of Christ are given heavier weight than other content; that literal reading is preferred unless it can be easily impeached (”I am the door” doesn’t sound like literal meaning because there are several other metaphors in adjacent passages, that cannot all be literal); that innovative reading that is not detected historically is ipso facto suspect.
Both immediate context and passages from other parts of a book, or from different books can be relevant if they treat the related subject. For example, the promise to “the woman” that her seed will crush the Serpent in Genesis is relevant to Mariology which of course is concentrated around passages in Luke and John. So no, we should not limit ourselves to the immediate context.
Okay, understood. Back to your question...
“If we have no real choice in how we behave, why does the scripture teach us how to behave?”
There are two problems with this question. First, It may become a trick question, similar to “Can God make a rock bigger than He can pick up?” The problem is you have asked and answered it. It anticipates no other answer possible, beyond the obvious.
But, as we agreed before, the obvious answer is not always what the Scriptures provide.
Second, you are connecting admonitions about behavior to proof of “free will”. After all, if man is asked to do something, it must imply ability to do it. Otherwise God wouldn’t have asked. Thus, it rests upon a man’s will alone to obey or not. Correct? But, whether you are aware of this or not, such a perspective is Pelagianism.
Pelagius argued (beyond his error in rejecting original sin and other spurious concepts) against Augustine’s prayer that God “...ask what He would and grant what he asked”. Pelagius argued exactly what you are arguing. He agreed with Augustine that God could ask what ever He wanted, but that it would be absurd to have God ask something that we could not accomplish. You are doing the very same thing. You question, “If we have no real choice in how we behave, why does the scripture teach us how to behave?” is a Pelagian question.
I am aware that you are saying this is not Pelagian because grace is needed to accomplish obedience. But you then add that universally granted grace is already available to men sufficient to allow them to obey or reject. This is essentially what Pelagius argued.
Since all believers rejected Pelagius back when he was alive (350AD), it is curious that most Evangelicals and Catholics have now re-adopted his views. We reject that all things God commanded are possible, irrespective of the number of times He commands them. Why? Because, as the Law is a tutor to lead us to see the need of grace poured upon our failure, all obedience is managed and driven by God’s Spirit working in us for His good pleasure.
We are to try, exert, choose, act, think, behave, obey, comply, and all the other verbs you can think of. But, and this is a big “but”, God must be actively working in our wills and lives for us to even be wanting to do any of this. Our wills are in bondage to Him, they are not free. He opens eyes to see and energizes hearts to believe. The commands to obey are simply to demonstrate that what you thought was possible (obedience) is not.
If you wish to read many passages about God controlling the will of man, I will list those. But, I sense you are not persuaded by their content.
The commands to obey are simply to demonstrate that what you thought was possible (obedience) is not.
That answers the question, but how is it different from my guess at your answer in 347-349, namely that "the ethical teachings of the Scripture are there solely in order to prove to us our total depravity"?
Obviously, I think that answer is not satisfying, but before we discuss further I need to understand the answer in full.
When you claim that a “requirement” is given to compel a man obey on his own, you are making a Pelagian argument. Therein lies the connection.
“Requirements for holiness” are one thing. “Encouragements” for believers are another. Here hermeneutics comes into play. You say that a lot of weight is placed upon what Jesus said. We disagree.
Hermeneutically, you imply Jesus was here to teach “Christian living.” We fully, vigorously disagree. Here, again, our perspectives are miles apart. We understand that most of what Jesus was teaching during that “three year ministry” was to inform the Jews about the Law of Moses. The so-called Sermon on the Mount was a direct example of this claim.
In that Sermon, Jesus is saying, “You have heard (that the Law) said, ‘Thou shalt not kill’, but I say to you any man who calls his brother a ‘fool’ is worthy of Hell.” He was not teaching them “a better way”. He was driving them to say, “This crap cannot be done. It is impossible!” Much like the rich young ruler, when He told him to sell everything, give it all to the poor and follow Him. The man went away and Jesus says it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than a rich man to enter heaven. Impossible. The disciples said, “Well then, who can be saved?” “What is impossible with man is possible with God.” What they could not do for themselves, He could (and would) do.
This represents a great difference in viewpoint. What we notice is that most of you Catholic folks don’t do what it is you claim He is teaching. For example, you don’t tear out your eye or cut off your hands when they offend. You go to confession. Hmmmm. Even though these are direct orders. And, you don’t always forgive folks, even though you claim that you cannot be forgiven unless you forgive (Matt. 6:15).
We don’t even attempt to obey these “requirements” because we know that He was teaching them the tough strictures of the Law and demonstrating their depravity. And, on top of that, the audience is the Jews (read Matt. 15 and the Canaanite woman). We Gentiles are not grafted in until the blood is shed and the enmity (the Law) is abolished, Eph. 2.
In the NT epistles, you begin to see the “encouragements” for us Gentile Christians to follow. These are quite different from the “requirements for holiness” needed under the Law. Notice the grappling in Act 15. The encouragements stop some of the death we spread (due to our brokenness) and guide our thinking about what God may be accomplishing in us. We are to strive together with Him. BUT, even that effort, interest and willingness is a gift placed in our lives along with the ability to accomplish any of these good things. It is not self-induced.
Is this any “fuller”?
Without free will?
Well, never mind. You do not have an answer to either 357 or 365, and you've gotten repetitive evading the questions. However, this statement
you imply Jesus was here to teach Christian living. We fully, vigorously disagree.
... allows me to summarize our difference. That's the crux of it, isn't it?
In 203 I said
the Catholics have simple and plausible explanation for every scriptural prooftext the anti-Catholics throw at them, but the Protestants do not have an explanation for large swaths of the New Testament that Catholic theology follows without strain.
This exchange is a case in point. For some reason the Holy Scripture contains numerous repetitive exhortations to virtuous living. Jesus uttered them, St Paul repeated, them, St. Peter, St. James and St. John repeated them in their epistles. The very letter to Romans where St. Paul explains predestination and an absolute dependence of our virtue on the grace of God concludes with three chapters devoted to teaching Christian virtues. The Catholic read that as written and have no difficulty combining all that into a simple harmonious doctrinal whole: The Scripture teaches virtues because God wants us to be virtuous. No, it doesn't mean we don't need grace, it doesn't mean we are without blemish all the time, it means that we -- equipped with our free will -- can and must cooperate with grace. Those who do will be justified and God knows who they are. Those who don't, won't be justified. See Romans 2, Matthew 25, or any other scripture, in any order, from any context, any book. It is not complicated and is written for us to read, very plainly.
Contrast that with your hermeneutics -- the clever tool that allows you to dismiss anything you find inconvenient in the Scripture.
As Catholic, I'd rather stick with the Bible as written.
Clearly you are being stuck with something...it just doesn’t happen to be the Bible. “Harmonious”? The cult of Rome hasn’t set out a harmonious statement since it began peddling tripe to the masses. Since you cannot, or will not, handle Scripture without the “headquarters” party line, check out the movie “Luther” sometime. It has a light, but fair, treatment of the calamity that Roman monstrosity tried to pass off as virtue.
I don’t learn Christianity from movies.
Agreed. But, sometimes you can learn history from them. And, when you have fed on nothing but the party line for so long, it will occasionally give you an alternate view.
I am not ignorant of the history of the Reformation, can sympathize with some of the “reformers” complaints, and debate with Protestants in good faith and often here on FR.