Pope Paul VI announced a few weeks ago that the bones of Peter had been discovered. His announcement read: “For our part, we believe it our duty—in the present state of archeological and scientific conclusions—to give you and the church this happy announcement, bound as we are to honor sacred relics, backed by reliable proof of their authenticity.”
The tradition upon which Rome relies claims that Peter traveled to Rome where he was crucified with his head down by Nero somewhere between 64 and 67 A.D. This same tradition claims that he was buried in a common cemetery where later the Emperor Constantine built the first basilica of Saint Peter.
This is an important link in the evidence that the bones discovered belong indeed to Saint Peter. An archeologist of the Romish Church led a team which found the bones in 1953 in a Vatican storeroom. They were placed there some years earlier by a group which had unearthed many bones under the basilica in 1940. The proof that these bones belonged to the apostle is based upon writings around the tomb wall where the name of Peter was found and where a rudely scrawled inscription read: “Peter is within.” But the proof is very weak. The bones were admittedly found in a common cemetery, and the only proof that these bones are Peter’s is the presence of Constantine’s basilica. But it is not even known with certainty whether Constantine built the basilica; and it is quite certain that Constantine had no idea at all where the bones of Peter were. The answer to this given by the archeologists is simply: “Do you think that Constantine would have been such a fool as to build a tomb for the wrong bones?” The answer for anyone who is acquainted with Constantine is: “Yes, indeed.”
This is more than a pious fraud and is indicative of the utter foolishness which still pervades the Romish Church.
THE CHURCH’S ABSURDITY IN SOCIAL ACTION
The First Presbyterian Church in Chicago takes her social calling seriously. Under her minister, Rev. John R. Fry, the Church has taken part in the distribution of a $927,000 anti-poverty grant intended to give the poor job training. It has done its work particularly among the Rangers, one of the biggest gangs of hoodlums on Chicago’s South Side. The Church has spent about $25,000 in bail bonds and legal fees alone to help Rangers when they run afoul of the law.
At a recent U.S. Senate Subcommittee meeting, chaired by Senator John McClellan, testimony was given which indicated that the Church had become a place where the Rangers “laid around, goofed around, smoked pot, gambled, drank, and cleaned guns” and planned “armed revolution.” This testimony included some evidence that Rev. Fry had himself given orders for the killing of a dope peddler. The charges are, of course, denied by the minister. But the fact is that, on a police raid, fifty-eight weapons were found in the Church building. Fry had promised to turn the weapons over to police but had not done so. His excuse was that the police had refused protection from a rival gang. Fry’s sympathies are all with the hoodlums. He charges the police of robbing young men of their manhood, of acting in such a way that insurrection becomes mandatory and obligatory if one is to remain honorable. He has also charged that white America and the Church are guilty of “monstrous crimes” against blacks and that the responsibility for the present urban crisis rests completely on violent white law and order.
Leaders in the Presbyterian Church and in the National Council of Christian Churches have hastened to Fry’s defense.
There is a sad and bitter irony here. Not only has the Church abandoned the gospel in favor of social action, but rather than making their vaunted social action an instrument of spreading the gospel, as they claim is their intention, the Church itself becomes guilty of the same conduct as renegades from society and common hoodlums who make war against God-appointed authorities. The result of this sort of thing can only be disaster for the Church and for the country.
QUESTIONS OF CHURCH PROPERTY
The Supreme Court of the United States has agreed to hear the case of two Savannah congregations which left the Presbyterian Church in the U.S. (Southern) charging “revolutionary, fundamental, unlawful, and radical diversion from the Presbyterian faith.”
These two churches had been granted legal right to the property by the Georgia Supreme Court although under the Presbyterian system of church government used in that denomination a congregation which leaves the denomination forfeits all right to that property. So the Supreme Court will have to rule on whether these two congregations which left because of liberalism may keep their property even though the rules of the denomination say otherwise.
There are far-reaching issues at stake in the matter.
For one thing, the Supreme Court has precedent decisions which bar the highest court in the land from entering into the internal and doctrinal affairs of the individual denominations. The precedent is that the highest ecclesiastical assemblies rule with finality on all these matters, and the courts must accept these rulings.
But the two congregations charged basic doctrinal deviations from the creedal and historical stand of the denomination especially in the field of civil rights, civil disobedience and the war in Vietnam. The Georgia Supreme Court ruled they could maintain their property and agreed that the departures from church doctrine were substantial. The Supreme Court ruled in favor of the two congregations in the face of the precedent defined above on the grounds that the departure had been “absolute.” There is precedent for this in a decision of 1907 made by the Georgia Supreme Court.
The whole case has sent cold shudders down the spines of Protestant leaders. In their push for ecumenism, they had counted heavily on the power which was theirs over possession of church property. They have always proceeded cautiously in their ecumenical endeavors and waited with action until they could have favorable decisions from the higher ecclesiastical bodies. Then they could expect that almost all the individual churches would follow their leadership down the ecumenical road because they held the club+, of church property over their heads. Any congregation which refused to go along would automatically lose its property to the denomination. Few congregations have the moral and spiritual stamina to make such a choice.
But now this could be changed. If the U.S. Supreme Court upheld the Georgia ruling, any congregation which could prove basic doctrinal change could retain its own property no matter what the parent denomination did. There are many, many local congregations itching to leave their denominations because of apostasy who would jump at such an opportunity. No wonder ecumenical leaders are getting nervous chills. Their dream for denominational unity would be badly shattered and their drive for one denomination would receive a fatal blow. Their leverage over local congregations would be gone.
The ruling will be made, after hearings, this Fall.
THE ROCKY ROAD TO SAINTHOOD
Many millions of Roman Catholics want to make Pope John XXIII a saint. The road is a long one. Beatification is the first of two lengthy processes on that road. The second process leads to canonization. But beatification itself involves three steps. First of all local tribunals set up where a candidate was born, lived and died, gather evidence for a preliminary hearing. They weigh all the evidence, organize it and send it to Rome. There the evidence is scrutinized and an attempt is made to refute it by a “devil’s advocate.” If the case survives, it must be approved by the Congregation of Rites—a group of cardinals and by the pope.
The next step involves the establishment of the candidate’s “heroic virtue.” A postulator tries to establish this while a devil’s advocate tries to destroy it. A brief is written, submitted to the cardinals and the Pope once again. If accepted the Church is ready for the third step.
The third step requires that the validity of two miracles be established. This validity is only after a three-fold examination. Pope John is this far along the road that the possibility of miracles is being investigated. But now a 23 year old novice of a religious order has come up with some proof. She was dying of cancer. Last minute and desperate surgery failed to help. The last rites of the Church were given and she was prepared for death which seemed but days away. Her fellow sisters prayed to Pope John. At about 2:30 P.M. on May 25, 1966 an attending nun saw that her condition was hopeless. But a few minutes later the dying sister saw Pope John next to the bed. He laid his hand on her stomach and said: “Now don’t be afraid. Everything is over. You are well. Ring the bell and call the sisters from the chapel. You have no fever. You will eat normally. The wound is closed. Have the doctor come, have him write his testimony, have X-rays taken—because one day they will be useful.” The result was a complete cure including the immediate healing of the latest surgical incision. The sister is alive and well today.
The interesting part of it is that Pope John, in this appearance, took considerable care to insure his own canonization by reminding the sister to prepare evidence of the miracle. I do not ever read of the apostles doing this.
ACTIVITIES OF CONCERNED PRESBYTERIANS
Although last year’s president of the General Assembly of the Presbyterian Church US (Southern) asked the Concerned Presbyterians to disband, they voted to continue their existence. This group of laymen within the Church fighting for the historic stand of the Church, will in fact, step up its activities. Two matters will occupy most of their attention. The first matter is the proposal to permit union synods and presbyteries within the United Presbyterian Church USA. This proposal will allow for any presbytery or local Synod to unite with presbyteries and synods of other denominations without the approval of the General Assembly. It has been called “a back-door merger.”
The other matter will be the union with the Reformed Church of America. While the Concerned Presbyterians will not officially come out either for or against this proposed merger, they will circulate material weighing the pros and cons. The hope is that this will aid the churches is reaching final decision on the matter.