Regína sacratíssimi Rosárii, ora pro nobis!

December AD 2008
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

“Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right”?
The Hebrew Language and Abraham
Why Should I Not Read Protestant Literature?
The Moral Aspects of the Great Depression (Continued)


“Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right”?

    Question:  In connection with the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, what is a “Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right”?  How does a group become one?  What is their significance for the rest of us in the “traditional community”?  MR

    Answer:  The Church recognizes two major divisions of those living in communities with a defined Christian mission specified in its “constitutions” or “rule.”

    Firstly, the broad term “religious institute” denotes communities or groups of communities in which the members take public vows either temporarily or perpetually.  Usually, such vows bind the religious to observe the evangelical counsels of poverty, chastity, and obedience.  Religious institutes are governed in the 1917 Code of Canon Law under canons 487-672.

    Those in religious congregations take simple vows, either perpetual or temporary—if such vows are broken the action is sinful but not invalid—a religious in simple vows might marry or hold property validly but sinfully.

    Those in religious orders take solemn vows—vows which invalidate any act which violates them—one in solemn vows is no longer capable of marriage or property ownership.

    Secondly, there are “societies of common life without vows,” or “secular congregations,” whose members also live in communities following the evangelical counsels, but who are not under any public vow.  These societies are governed under canons 673-681, and under some of the canons applicable to vowed religious.

    Among the more well known “secular congregations  are the Beguins, founded at Liége in 1186 ... the Brothers and the Sisters of the Common Life, both founded by Gerard de Groot during the fourteenth century ... the Oratory established by St. Philip Neri at Rome in the sixteenth ... the Congregation of the Mission, begun by Saint Vincent de Paul in the seventeenth ... the Sulpicians ... the Eudists ... the fathers of the Precious Blood, the Paulist Fathers, the Maryknoll Missionaries.”[1]

    In the 1983 Code, “institutes of consecrated life” (n.c.573-606) include the vow taking “religious institutes” which live the common life (n.c.607-709), and “secular institutes” in which members live in the world (n.c.710-730).  The “societies of common life without vows,” are renamed “societies of apostolic life” and are governed under the new canons 731-746.

    To fully answer the question we must make the distinction between organizations founded with the approval of a local bishop and the consent of the Holy See, and those founded with the approval of the Holy See.  If the rule is approved only by the local bishop the organization is “diocesan,” but when the rule is or becomes approved by the Holy See the organization is or becomes “pontifical.”

    So the “Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, a Society of Apostolic Life of Pontifical Right” to which the question refers, is, in traditional terms, a “pontifical society of common life without vows.”

    Their significance can only be determined by their actions over time.  If they receive valid ordination, offer the true Mass and Sacraments, teach the authentic Catholic Faith, and urge authentic Catholic morality, they will be a force for good in the Church—lacking any one of these things they will be just another “Indult” group.

Origins of the Hebrew Language

    Question:  Did the Hebrew language originate with Abraham?  RVM

    Answer:  Abraham is said (Genesis 11:31) to have come to Haran from “Ur of the Chaldees.”  As with many biblical place names, there is discussion as to exactly where Ur was located.  Some say it is near the Euphrates River, about 150 miles southeast of Babylon in modern day Iraq—others put it near Edessa in the south of modern day Turkey, on the Mediterranean. (The trip up the Euphrates to Haran would have been long but quite possible—Edessa is just a few miles north of Haran)  In any event, Abraham’s birth language would have been either a Chaldean or Aramaic dialect.[2]

    The Hebrew Abraham learned was one of  the languages of Canaan, which also included Edomite, Ammonite and Moabite.  These are all descended from the much larger group of “Semitic” languages, which include the Middle East and North Africa.  The Semitic languages belong to the even larger “Afro-Asiatic group, which also includes the Egyptian with which Abraham would have dealt on his stay there.  When Abraham returned from Egypt (Genesis 20), it was to Garara, a town just north of the Negev, about a fourth of the way from the Mediterranean to the Dead Sea, where the language would have been Hebrew.

    The captivity in Egypt beginning only a few generations later, most likely influenced the Hebrew of the Jews.  The captivity in Babylon most certainly did.

Why Should I Not Read Protestant Literature?

    Question:  Why should I not read Protestant literature?  I have a coupon for a free subscription to a very attractive magazine, but you said I shouldn’t send it.

    Answer:  Protestantism began only in the sixteenth century, with Martin Luther and a number of others who tried to make radical changes to the Faith that came down to us from our Lord and His Apostles.  Protestants are not necessarily bad people nor people with evil intentions, but they do urge a number of changes to historic Christianity that are dangerous to the Faith.  If you read enough of their literature you may gradually begin to think that their changes are part of the authentic Christian Faith—as part of your own Faith—particularly if you are not reading Catholic writers as well.

    These changes vary from one Protestant denomination to another, for no one teaches with authority, and there is a strong emphasis on private interpretation.

    In general:  They claim that one is saved by faith alone, without regard to one’s actions, and that those who have been saved will all go immediately to heaven.  They deny the existence of Purgatory and the usefulness of prayers for the dead.  They deny that prayer to, and veneration of, the Blessed Virgin and the saints is of any use—and may claim that it is positively sinful.  They claim that the Bible is the only rule of faith, and that each person is guided by the Holy Ghost to interpret it for himself.  They deny that our Lord established a visible Church with teaching authority and jurisdiction over the faithful.  They deny the sacrificial nature of the Mass as the re‑presentation of the Sacrifice of Calvary.  Most will deny the Real Presence of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament, and will deny all or most of the Sacraments.  They have no priesthood, although their ministers may be well educated men and women.  The magazine in question denied the Trinity, and seemed to urge replacing the Christian liturgical calendar with the Old Testament calendar of the Jews.

Many of the denominations allow remarriage after divorce, and contraception.  Some allow homosexual marriage and even abortion and euthanasia.

    In more extreme cases one can find rationalist Protestants who write as though Jesus was just a clever fellow with a lot of profound things to say—not one resurrected from the dead, not a miracle worker, and certainly not the Son of God.

    A significant number of Protestants are “dispensationalists,” believing that the Old Testament prophesies were not all fulfilled in Christ and in His Church, but remain to be fulfilled during and after a great war in the Holy Land—a war that they eagerly await and in which they support Israel against its neighbors and the peoples it has already conquered.  This “Christian Zionism” is not only false religion;  it is a deadly threat to world peace.  They want to hasten the end of the world.[3]

    There are a few Protestant authors who would pose little or no threat to the faith of a well educated Catholic—C.S. Lewis comes to mind—no doubt there are others.  Lewis was a traditional Anglican, possessing a theology quite similar to that of Catholics.  But the key here is that one ought to be a well educated Catholic before taking on the writings of any non-Catholic—one ought not expect to learn the Faith from them!  One does not become a “well educated Catholic” simply by reading the Baltimore Catechism—that is only an introduction for children.  If you are looking for religious reading, Father has a short list of books that are essential to everyone’s Catholic education.[4]

    The Church is not trying to hide anything from the faithful, but is concerned that in reading non-Catholic religious literature they may make erroneous ideas their own, and lose the truths of the Catholic Faith, which we have from Jesus and His Apostles.

Morality of the Great Depression

[Continued from last month:]

    Question:  Were there moral aspects of the Great Depression?  A lot of people suffered for well over a decade.  Shouldn’t someone be held responsible?

● The Banks ●>

    Going back to the goldsmiths of the late middle ages, bankers were accustomed to engaging in “fractional reserve banking,” in which they would give receipts to their customers who left gold or other lawful money in their safekeeping.  The receipts or “banknotes” might themselves circulate as a sort of “money,” as long as their holders were confident that the notes could be redeemed on demand for gold or government coin.  The notes were more convenient than gold or coin, so people tended not to redeem them as long as confidence in the bank remained high.

    Some early genius recognized that in most times the banks did not need to keep all of the gold on hand for which they had issued receipts—indeed, the only question was how small a fraction was adequate to cover the demands for receipt redemption that might be expected.  In short, there might be a lot more receipts in circulation than gold or coin in the vault—the bank could inflate the currency by issuing receipts backed only partially by gold.  Banks failed if they over-extended themselves and caused their depositors to lose confidence and demand redemption of all of their receipts in gold.  But the possibility of failure was a good thing, with fear motivating the banker to be conservative in his dealings, keeping a large reserve fraction.  Still, one has to question the morality of loaning something which he does not have, and obligating the borrower to repayment.

    As we have seen, the US Constitution places the responsibility for coining money and regulating its value on the Congress.  It does not provide for the federal chartering of banks or any other institutions, such charters being the prerogative of the States.  Nonetheless, the US had seen the coming and going of three federally chartered central banks—The First (1791-1811) and Second Banks (1816-1836) of the United States, and the National Banks under the act of 1863—before the advent of the Federal Reserve System in 1913.  (Yet another central bank, The Bank of North America, predated the Constitution, under the Articles of Confederation.)  Central banks exist in a sort of “twilight zone” between national governments and the large firms of the banking industry.  For our purposes, their most important functions include the creation of money, the establishment of interest and reserve rates, and being the “lender of last resort” to unsound banks in danger of failure. 

    The Federal Reserve Act of 1913 came out of a plan by the large bankers to protect themselves against failures such as they had experienced in 1907.  Instead of eliminating fractional reserve banking, or severely limiting it, the Federal Reserve Act institutionalized it under the control of a banking cartel empowered by the Federal Government.  The Federal Reserve would decide how much lawful money or gold had to be kept on hand or at a reserve bank, and how much could be loaned to customers.  Since 1971, gold is no longer the basis of the “money pyramid,” having been replaced completely by Federal Reserve credits—no gold at all backs the dollar.  The Fed might provide funds to a bank in need by “rediscounting” the promissory notes of the bank’s customers and other commercial paper.  (A loan is “discounted” by the originating bank so that the amount repaid exceeds that borrowed in accordance with the annual interest rate and duration of the loan.)  This discount rate set by the Fed is a key component in determining the interest rates at which banks will make loans to their customers.

    Perhaps the most significant power of the Fed is the ability to determine the amount of money in circulation.  If it buys bonds from the US Treasury, it credits the government’s bank account with new money that is spent into the economy as the government makes purchases and payments.  It can contract or expand the money supply by selling or buying Treasury bonds from the open market, thus moving dollars out or into circulation.

    The banks will continue to retain only a fraction of their deposits in reserve, lending the rest into circulation, but the Fed can and does control the size of the fraction.  In practice, the fractional reserve banking will inflate the money created by the Fed five or ten-fold or more (by 100 ÷ reserve percentage).[5]  A more conservative bank may hold larger reserves, but in good times doing so brings a competitive disadvantage relative to bolder banks.

    The theoretical justification for all of this is said to be keeping the economy at the “right” rate of production ... so that inflation is neither too high or too low ... keeping prices stable ... keeping unemployment at an “acceptable” level ... keeping wages “fair” ... keeping the nation “prosperous” ... encouraging/discouraging savings or consumption or investment ... protecting the nation from economic disturbances ... managing international relations....  All of these things cannot be done simultaneously, so the theoretical justification changes from time to time, and depends upon who is doing the justifying, and under what circumstances.

    Historically we have seen that the bankers can not or will not keep money supplies and interest rates at true market levels.  If money is too freely available for a period of time, people tend to invest in unnecessary production goods.  When the bankers then contract the money supply to reduce the inflation they created, loans are called in and those who had been expecting to serve the demands of a growing economy are put out of business.  This “boom and bust” cycle can be anywhere from moderate to catastrophic in it effects on the economy.

    In practice the system works to protect the interests of a small group of financial people, and to allow politicians to cater to special interests with enough votes to keep them in power.  The Fed creates money for the politicians to spend by inflation. rather than by imposing unpopular tax raises.

    The technical workings of the Federal Reserve and its monetary functions can be found in most Economics‑101 textbooks, in sufficient detail for anyone with an interest.  What most of these books leave out, though, is an examination of the implications of such awesome powers being delegated to those who control the finances of the national economy.  They are more concerned with fitting the this piece of the economic pie into a model which is highly biased toward government control.  What happens if those in control—through malice or ignorance—do the wrong thing or fail to do the right thing?  The monetary power exists to control the economy—who decides what the outcome of that control should be?

    In good times, the ability to expand the money supply through fractional reserve banking hurts those who hold dollars by inflating them.  It can also create a false sense of prosperity by making lots of money available to investors in new productive capacity.  In bad times fractional banking can be catastrophic, with bad loans causing the money supply to shrink as rapidly as it expended in good times, with borrowers having to cut back in a chaotic and unplanned way, liquidating assets at fire-sale prices.

[To be continued]


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