No wine for communion? – Swine flu

The Catholic church is being particularly careful about Swine Flu.

Specifically, the bishops have requested that receiving Communion on the tongue, Communion wine from the chalice and shaking hands at the sign of peace at Masses in New Zealand cease.

Now that sounds reasonable. However the television news has been giving the impression that the communion wine is being withdrawn completely (it is generally served from a single cup in Catholic churches).

Holy Communion is the only ritual the Christian Church has. It is how Christ himself commanded we were to remember His death, and is not something anyone has a right to remove either element from. It is celebrated by all denominations, with some variations in style, but the essential elements (the body and the blood) are always there.

I don’t trust the news to report such issues accurately, so could a Catholic reader please confirm whether the wine is actually being withdrawn, or being offered in individual cups (as many Protestant churches already do)?

Offering in individual cups would be a sensible precaution. But no church has the right to entirely remove what Christ has established.I hope no church will put convenience and fear before remembering Christ.

UPDATE: According to ZenTiger and Lucyna Maria (see the comments here), the wine is being withdrawn, at least in their churches. Utterly disgraceful.

You may be interested in:
Swine Flu Myths (by MacDoctor – keep an eye on MacDoctor for good info on swine flu from a medical perspective).
Swine flu – false alarm? (New Zealand Conservative)

Vatican hosting conference on Evolution

Ok, I’m not officially here, but I couldn’t let this one pass! I had gained the impression that Pope Benedict was more conservative than his predecessor (who stated evolution was “more than just a theory”), but this throws that idea out the window.

I would have no problem with the Vatican hosting a conference that was genuinely “A critical appraisal” of Darwinism, looking at it from both perspectives and discussing the science behind it and how it relates to Christianity. But that is not how they are approaching the issue. From the Vatican News Service:

Saverio Forastiero:

“…biological evolution – which is assumed and discussed as a fact beyond all reasonable doubt…”

Fr. Tanzella-Nitti:

“…from the perspective of Christian theology, biological evolution and creation are by no means mutually exclusive.”

Now the idea that evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive is a valid opinion to hold. But when such views are being stated by people organising the conference, who should be approaching the issue from an unbiased perspective and allowing both sides of the story to be debated, it shows the tone of the conference.

The topic of the conference:

Fr. Leclerc explained that the congress will be divided into nine sessions, focusing on “the essential facts upon which the theory of evolution rests, facts associated with palaeontology and molecular biology; … the scientific study of the mechanisms of evolution, … and what science has to say about the origin of human beings”. Attention will also be given to “the great anthropological questions concerning evolution, … and the rational implications of the theory for the epistemological and metaphysical fields and for the philosophy of nature”. Finally, he said, “there will be two theological sessions to study evolution from the point of view of Christian faith, on the basis of a correct exegesis of the biblical texts that mention the creation, and of the reception of the theory of evolution by the Church”.

In other words, they will be considering evolution to be an established fact, learning all about those “essential facts” underpinning it, then finally looking at how this can be fitted into Christianity through “correctly” understanding the scriptures.

There is only one way that discussion is designed to go…

Evolution is not an established fact – there are many dissenters, including atheists who disagree on purely scientific grounds. But just like global warming, if you speak up you will generally be ignored by the media (or ridiculed if you are lucky to be noticed), and could lose your job. Furthermore in the opinion of many Christians it IS mutually exclusive with Christianity – Evolution requires death before the Fall (undermining the Cross). It also requires God to use millions of years of death and suffering to create a world he then pronounces to be “very good”, and requires passages clearly written as literal (even in the Ten Commandments) to be interpreted as figurative to squeeze the theory into the text somehow.

By accepting evolution as undeniable fact before the conference even starts, discussion is stifled, and the results are predetermined – just like in a Green Party discussion on climate change…

Christianity in China – Amity Press

We watched a video in church a week ago which claimed Christians were now able to worship freely in China. The video showed multi-million dollar churches built with government help, and a massive printing facility (Amity Press), producing bibles primarily for distribution within China.

This didn’t seem entirely correct, as it contradicts what we have been told for years regarding religious freedom within China.

It is hard to be sure about the accuracy of any information coming out of a communist country like China, but further investigation suggests:

  • Amity Press may be owned by the Communist government.
  • Amity Press only supplies bibles to the Three-Self Patriotic Movement (TSPM, the official government-approved church of China, the big churches shown in the video).
  • House-church members who buy these bibles from TSPM bookstores may be tracked down and forced to join the TSPM. If they refuse they may be arrested, beaten or worse. I hear the house churches may call the Amity bibles poison-snake bibles.
  • TPSM pastors are only trained in government-approved seminaries, where they are taught Marxism and liberal theology.
  • The TPSM cannot teach some doctrines which the government considers unacceptable, including the second coming of Christ and the resurrection of the dead (removing the heart of Christianity, see 1 Corinthians 15:12-14).
  • There appears to have been a crack-down on Christians in the lead-up to the Olympics.

It is hard to know the accuracy of the information I have just written. It is hard to know the accuracy of any information coming out of China. We need to be very careful not to just believe one source of information but actually read around and try to find the facts. This is extremely vital in this case as much of the money to set up Amity Press has been sent from the West.

If these accusations are correct, then the donations of Western Christians have been used to help persecute Christians in China. If these accusations are incorrect there is a lot of false information going around the place.

We know that China has no qualms about faking things in an Olympic opening ceremony (the singing young girl, the footprints, and the children from different ethnicities), and there are questions around their honesty in sport too. There is even more motivation for them to fake information about religious freedom. No Western Christian (like those producing the video we were shown) would be likely to deceive others about Christianity in China – all of us would be horrified about the way Christians are treated there. But the Communist party is perfectly capable of escorting visitors closely and ensuring they see just what the Party wishes them to see, and so fool both them and us.

We need to be very careful where we donate money, to be sure it is used for God’s work. But more importantly, we need to pray for our persecuted brothers and sisters in China and around the world. We are so free in this country that we become complacent, and forget how hard life is for Christians in other countries. We also need to pray for honesty in China.

For more information check out:

Billion Bibles

Voice of the Martyrs

Three Self Patriotic Movement on Wikipedia