*BEST OF DTB #192* A man of 10 decades

Posted by John Benko - June 18th, 2012

What is the measure of a life whose eyes have seen 10 of some the most significant decades in modern history? 10 decades unequaled in  technological advancement but also unmatched in gratuitous violence and bloodshed. On the day my Dad was born, in 1929, our nation was about the same distance from the Titanic disaster as we are now from the start of Bill Clinton’s second term. The space that separated us from the miraculous events of Fatima and the end of World War 1 is now what separates us from 9/11.

My Dad entered the world just as the Roaring 20′s were about to come to a crashing halt. He was 4 months old when the stock market dropped 11%. Try to imagine the Dow dropping by 1400 points today in a day. It is not merely a passage of time, my Dad is a living witness to some of the most violent transformation in world history, much of the impact of which will be debated for decades to come.

The man whose life has now spanned 14 Presidents, from Herbert Hoover to Barack Obama and 5 wars (serving in 2 of them), has been colored by what he has seen, in both good ways and bad.

As the few remaining grains of sand pour out from the hourglass of his life, a legacy will endure. 5 Sons, 14 grand-children (13 living, 1 deceased) and half a dozen great- great children will press on to renew the pursuit of what he always had hoped to acheive- a legacy of love, family and values and not one of monuments.

My Dad was married before his 22nd birthday and had endured the Great depression and 3 wars before he reached 40. He was married the same year that Bobby Thompson’s shot was heard ’round the world and Doris Day sang the Tennessee Waltz. It was a different time, unimaginable to the eyes of today’s generation. Dwight D Eisenhower was the President of the United States. That was the last time our nation was led by a war hero. American patriotism was at it’s zenith, families were not afraid to leave their doors unlocked and kids prayed in school and said the Pledge of Allegiance. In my Father’s family, his two sons were altar boys preparing for the priesthood.

Who could have guessed what was coming? It was the Pope who said we were about to enter a phase when families would have to become living martyrs for their faith because of the rise of evil in the world. Who could have known that it was the end of America’s age of innocence?

It was on a Friday in November when shots rang out in Dallas, Texas. Those shots didn’t merely take down a President, they shattered the innocence of a nation. The explanation given to a grieving nation was so absurd as to insult our collective intelligence. How fast we fell from the notion that our government could be trusted.

The assassination of John Fitzgerald Kennedy heralded the beginning of the reviled government, a trend that continues to this day.
So despised was Lyndon Johnson and the Vietnam war that it ripped our nation in two like had not been seen since the civil war. Unfortunately, it divided our family, and that was the exact hell into which I was born.

Luke 12:52-54 52 For there shall be from henceforth five in one house divided: three against two, and two against three. 53 The father shall be divided against the son, and the son against his father, the mother against the daughter, and the daughter against the mother, the mother in law against her daughter in law, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. 54 And he said also to the multitudes: When you see a cloud rising from the west, presently you say: A shower is coming: and so it happeneth:

During the 1960s and early 70s, his two twin sons put him through sheer hell as they got into drugs and the wrong crowd and became involved in gangs and the anti-Vietnam war movement. It would only be fair to say that he put them through hell as well. There was war and there was my mother having a nervous breakdown. It was not a pretty time.

This, and the shockingly difficult transition to civilian life for this retired Army Master Sargent was a crushing blow that I am only now beginning to understand. It was in the midst of all the chaos that his other 3 sons grew up, having all 3been born, on military bases. My brother George was born in September of 1963 in Panama. It was only a couple of months before the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

My parents vowed that their next son would be named John Fitzgerald in honor of the memory of our nation’s only Catholic President. As it happened, it was me who was born, in Fort Meade, Maryland, a year after George, almost to the day and I have carried the name John Fitzgerald Benko ever since. My parents never got over me becoming a Republican in the early 1980s.

My brother Jeff, the 5th son, was born in Fort Belvoir, Virginia. It was about three years later that my father retired from the army and him and my mom moved into the home in Lorton where they still live today.

On the day I was born, my father was 35 years old. He was almost 37 when his last son was born.

To put this in contrast, I turned 37, the day before 9/11, with my oldest starting her freshman year in high school and our baby boy having passed away 3 1/2 years before.

I have only now come to understand that my early relationship with my father was doomed from the start. This was a man that was beaten down by life in ways that I was about to learn.

My families story was one of almost constant tragedy and hardship and it was one of those tragedies where I can look back in retrospect and see just how painful it was for my father that he and I could not connect. The date was January 17th, 1977. It was a day after the 25th birthday of my father’s twin sons and 4 days before the birth of his second grandchild. It was on that day that I was in a sledding accident that nearly cost me my life. As I went into seizures and a coma, my poor father rushed to the hospital. There were no cell phones then, there were no text messages, no updates of any kind. Just a 12 year old son desperately clinging to life, and a father speeding to be at his side.

It took about 45 minutes for my dad to get to the hospital in Fort Belvoir. By that time, the doctor’s had come to the conclusion that my situation was grave and my poor dad arrived just in time to see me loaded into the ambulance and the ambulance speed away, rushing me to Walter Reed hospital in Washington, DC. No update, no text message.

This was before the day when every hospital had a helicopter and an ambulance was a fully functional ICU. Ambulances then were for one thing- get the patient to the hospital as quickly as possible. In my case, that meant 80 miles per hour or more, all the way to Washington DC, weaving in and out of traffic, shooting down the shoulders and the emergency lanes. My poor dad did not even know where I was going. He had only one option. He had to keep up with that ambulance no matter what. That is exactly what he did. It is about 50 miles from Manassas, VA to Fort Belvoir Va to Washington, DC and my father, who I have never seen drive more than 50 miles per hour, drove that whole distance with the gas pedal mashed to the floor, swerving, panicking, crying.

I didn’t understand it until later, but when my dad broke through the door of that emergency room, I was barely clinging to life. I didn’t see the white expression or the tears washing down his face and the sheer hatred I had towards my father froze my heart too much to allow me to believe it. Yes, at 12 years old, I hated this man and I firmly believed that he hated me. When the family told me what he looked like, I had to believe they were either lying or that it was my brother George who he thought was in that ambulance.

Can even God forgive such hatred?

I am not going to whitewash my relationship with my dad. It was hell. My anger towards him was not at all without merit but my hate was. Hate is a vile and corrosive poison that ruins lives, starts wars and leads to damnation.

What did my father receive for his heroic ride? He and my mother were given the news that they needed to prepare for the worst, that it was more than likely that I was not going to survive the night.

The key to learning to love someone is empathy. Empathy, not sympathy. To empathize with someone is to walk in their footsteps. It was only in the aftermath of my personal family tragedy that I came to understand how it is for a parent to be hated by their own child. This is a monstrous cross.

Through the years, I tried to reach this man and he tried to reach me. I was 38 years old when that finally happened.

We now understand each other.

I can now know that had I died that night in January of 1977, his chance to reconcile with me would have died with me. My Father is dying now but he is reconciled with God. Could that have happened if I had not lived?

This much I know. Without the hope of being fully reconciled with my kids, and seeing them reconciled with God, I don’t know that I could have the will to live. Yesterday was very likely the last Father’s day I will ever have with my dad but there have now been enough for me to say “well done, dad”.

You taught me about love. You taught me about bearing burdens and carrying crosses. You taught me the values of honesty, integrity and that the most valuable things life offer are those that money cannot buy. Most of all, you taught me to never give up on life and love and that love really can move mountains. You made faith and forgiveness and salvific suffering real to me and not theological abstracts. You have pointed the way to heaven.

The value of the ascent to the summit is directly proportional to the size of the mountain. Yours is priceless.

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*BEST OF DTB #191* Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus

Posted by John Benko - June 4th, 2012

Earlier today, I got dressed down pretty good on Facebook by a good friend of mine who happens to be a non-catholic Christian. Did it tick me off? of course! These kind of things always do.

Yet, after a few moments of cooling down, I came to accept the fact that I probably deserved it- at least partly.

No one wants to look at the ugliness inside them, least of all me. Depending on who I am talking to, there are times when I find myself explaining what things mean and there are times that I find myself just being mean. There are times that I strive to be insightful and times that I strive to only be inciteful. There are times when I contend for the faith and other times when I am just being contentious.

This ugly streak all boils down to the deadliest of the deadly sins- pride. Pride is one of those sins that will always blow up in your face, sooner or later and that is exactly what happened to me tonight, as my own provocative words came back to haunt me.

Me and this friend go back about a decade and he has witnessed some of my most unfortunate outbursts firsthand, so I was a little taken aback that he didn’t automatically know what my little game was but I digress.

I grew up a White, Catholic, Conservative which means that I am hated by about 1/4 of the Country for my race, 1/4 for my faith and 1/4 for my politics. Instead of running from it, I learned to embrace it. I learned how to take my enemies venom and use it against them.

In a left-wing chat room,I used to go on and on about how George W Bush was the greatest President in the history of the world. I even used to call him King George the 43rd. Did I truly believe this? Of course not! However, I did get hours of intense pleasure watching the reaction. In minutes, I was able to drive a dozen or so hippie left-wingers into a frothing frenzy. I enjoyed it so much, in fact, that I actually went much further in my provocations and said things that I would not care to repeat here.

Again, my friend witnessed these things as well.

How does that bring us to where we are today?

Well, there are those things I say that are part of the large library of public material that is Deeper Truth Blog- that is, articles, videos, shows debates….. and then there are the occasional tussle with an online idiot. I am, unfortunately, not unlike anyone else in that I can reach my breaking point. Sometimes, the latter can spill over into the former and that is exactly what happened here.

It all started with a blog post and corresponding show stating 25 reasons why you can stake your eternal salvation on Catholicism. My friend took issue with this statement, I stand by it, without reservation. In a 2 hour show, we covered the 25 topics;

  1. The Church is ONE (unified).
  2. The Church is HOLY (set apart)
  3. The Church is CATHOLIC (universal)
  4. The Church is APOSTOLIC (descended from the apostles)
  5. The Church is EUCHARISTIC (understands the truth of Jesus’ body, blood, soul & divinity)
  6. The Church is SACRAMENTAL (following the Scriptural model)
  7. The Church is COMMUNAL (countering the ‘me alone’ nonsense)
  8. The Church understands DENIAL OF SELF (as a cost of discipleship)
  9. The Church is the only one that makes sense of SUFFERING (again, as a cost of discipleship)
  10. The Church is HISTORICAL (it is impossible to support any other church historically).
  11. The Church has a long history of MIRACLES (a proof of it’s veracity that scripture requires)
  12. Detractors lie about it’s TEACHINGS (a proof of it’s veracity that scripture requires)
  13. Detractors lie about it’s HISTORY (a proof of it’s veracity that scripture requires)
  14. Opponents of it’s INFALLIBILITY have searched in vain to find a contradiction in teaching.
  15. The Church passes the GAMALIEL test like no other in history.
  16. Only the Catholic church fulfills the PERPETUAL PRIESTHOOD.
  17. Only the Catholic church gave us THE BIBLE.
  18. Only the Catholic church is HATED BY THE WHOLE WORLD.
  19. Only the Catholic church understands MARY.
  20. Only the Catholic church gets the COMMUNION OF SAINTS.
  21. Only the Church can claim people like ST LAWRENCE, ST FRANCIS and JOHN PAUL II
  22. Only Peter was given the KEYS TO THE KINGDOM
  23. Only Catholicism can fulfill JOHN 20:23
  24. Only a Catholic Priest can perform an EXORCISM
  25. Jesus meant what He said in LUKE 10:16 and MATTHEW 18:18

Do I believe any other church fulfills these 25 attributes? I do not. Do I believe that any other church was founded by Jesus Christ? I do not. I affirm- and always have- that the Catholic Church is the one and only fullness of truth as established by Jesus Christ.

Fullness of truth is the key. The Catholic Church is the only church on earth that is 100% right in doctrines of faith and morals. 100% right, 100% of the time. I am saying it boldly lest I be accused of talking out of both sides of my mouth. All other Christian churches are inferior to Catholicism. All have an inferior worship, all have an inferior deposit of truth and faith. None are the perfection of truth Jesus Christ gave us. All of them are man-made and contain false doctrines. That is a fact and I won’t apologize for saying so. In fact, I put churches in italics because I am in agreement with Pope Benedict XVI that only Catholic Churches are truly Churches because a Church is a place of worship and only in a Catholic Church does genuine Christian worship take place. Non-Catholic Christian churches are not really churches at all, but faith communities. We can deal with that in another article.

The leaders of the church- the ministers-are dispensers of Grace (Ephesians 3:2). Therefore the idea of Sola Fide, Sola Christus, Sola Scriptura is Sola Bologna.

Does God want you to become a Catholic? Absolutely. Is it possible to be saved without being a Catholic?
Yes, I can say with certainty that it is possible for some non-catholics to be saved. How many? Which ones? That is impossible for me to answer because I have to know the condition of the soul. There are some who obviously cannot- murderers, adulterers, homosexuals and those who revile the Catholic church, cutting off the possibility of grace. These are just a few examples.

Let’s deal with the last group, because that is the entire point of this piece.

As I said before, there is only one Church. That is the Catholic (or Universal ) Church. If you have a valid baptism (in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit), you are a member of the Catholic church, whether you like it or not. Even if you are a non-Christian who, given the opportunity would have chosen to join the Universal church, you are inside that Church by a Baptism of desire. Those who, through their own reasonable efforts, can come to know the truth of Catholicism and stubbornly refuse to do so, will be lost. Those who persist towards the truth humbly, all their lives, will be saved according to the amount of light within them and the level of effort they put forth.

Matthew 25

14 For it is as when a man, going into another country, called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 
15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one; to each according to his several ability; and he went on his journey. 
16 Straightway he that received the five talents went and traded with them, and made other five talents.
17 In like manner he also that received the two gained other two. 
18 But he that received the one went away and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.
19 Now after a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and maketh a reckoning with them. 
20 And he that received the five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: lo, I have gained other five talents. 
21 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things,
 I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 
22 And he also that received the two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents:  lo, I have gained other two talents. 
23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful
 over a few things, I will set thee over many things; enter thou into the joy of thy lord.
24 And he also that had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art a hard man, reaping  where thou didst not sow, and gathering where thou didst not scatter; 
25 and I was afraid, and went away and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, thou hast thine own. 
26 But his lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I did not scatter; 
27 thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the bankers, and at my coming I should have received back mine own with interest. 
28 Take ye away therefore the talent from him, and give it unto him that hath the ten talents. 
29 For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not, even that which he hath shall be taken away. 
30 And cast ye out the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness: there shall be the weeping and the gnashing of teeth.

Thus, the path of salvation is more difficult for the one with more knowledge because more is expected of Him. Nevertheless, there are certain truths taught in the Scriptures about Salvation. According to the ordinary means, the Eucharist is necessary for Salvation (John 6, 1 Corinthians 10, 1 Corinthians 11), confession of sins to a Priest is as well (John 20:23) as is Baptism (John 3:5, 1 Peter 3:21).

Since these are ministered by the Church, it can be said (and has been) Extra Ecclesium Nulla Salus (There is no salvation outside the church). However, there is a caveat and that is where I, frankly, have been a little less than forthcoming to some of our more rabid detractors.

You see, I am well aware that the catholic haters have heard this term and decided that it means that all catholics believe all non-catholics are automatically going to hell. Since some of these people are so hate-filled as to defy reason, I am sometimes provoked into using this phrase as a club to bludgeon them.

In other words, I toss out the phrase and watch them twist and spin. I know what it means….. I just don’t tell them. Is this a nice thing to do? No, it isn’t. I’m really working on avoiding this tactic.

Nevertheless, what does Extra Ecclesiam Nulla Salus really mean?

The Church’s understanding of the significance of the phrase: “Outside the Church there is no salvation” is expressed in its Catechism of the Catholic Church, 846-848, 851 as follows:
“Outside the Church there is no salvation” – How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:
“Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 14).
This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and His Church:
“Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience — those too may achieve eternal salvation” (Second Vatican Council, Lumen Gentium, 16).
“Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6), the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men” (Second Vatican Council, Ad Gentes, 1).
Missionary Motivation. It is from God’s love for all men that the Church in every age receives both the obligation and the vigor of her missionary dynamism, “for the love of Christ urges us on,” (2 Corinthians 5:14; cf. Apostolicam actuositatem 6, Roman Missal 11). Indeed, God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Timothy 2:4); that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the prompting of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God’s universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary.
This conjunction of statements in the Catechism makes it clear that the Catholic Church sees the dogma “outside of the Church there is no salvation” as the basis for the missionary activity of the Church, because those who are innocently outside the Church but are also seeking to follow the will of God are thus the proper object of the Church’s missionary activity – so as to bring them explicitly the saving truths of the Christian Faith which they are seeking, and by which God desires to effect their salvation through the knowledge of Jesus Christ. “And this is life everlasting that they know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom Thou hast sent.” (John 17.3), “And there is not salvation in any other. For neither is there any other name under heaven given to men, wherein we must be saved.” (Acts 4.12)
The Catechism explicitly affirms this interpretation in paragraph 161 by insisting upon the necessity of actual faith in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One Who sent Him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation (cf. Mark 16:16; John 3:36; 6:40; et al.). “Since ‘without faith it is impossible to please [God]‘ and to attain to the fellowship of His sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life `but he who endures to the end,’” (Vatican I, Dei Fillius 3; cf. Matthew 10:22; 24:13 and Hebrews 11:6; Council of Trent Decree on Justification, 8)

The Popes quoted above as stating that outside of the Church there is no salvation did not see this statement as contradicting their other statements that salvation is possible for those who, while not knowing the Church as necessary for salvation and thus not explicitly entering the Church, nevertheless accept whatever grace Christ gives them and thus receive what the Council of Trent called Baptism of Desire.

There are, of course, those who are struggling with invincible ignorance about our most holy religion. Sincerely observing the natural law and its precepts inscribed by God on all hearts and ready to obey God, they live honest lives and are able to attain eternal life by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace since God who clearly beholds, searches, and knows the minds, souls, thoughts, and habits of all men, because of His great goodness and mercy, will by no means suffer anyone to be punished with eternal torment who has not the guilt of deliberate sin.

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