Tarry for the Nonce

October 19, 2005

I Don’t Mean to Be Confrontational, But . . .

Filed under: Rambles — lmwalker @ 9:56 am

I went to a meeting of the Y.A.C.H.T. last week. I doubt I will be welcomed back. The speaker was Father Michael Sparough, S.J.. He spoke on the Lord’s Prayer.

During the course of the evening, Fr. Sparough made the offhand comment that the “kingdom” was not the Church. This is a completely minor point (and unimportant to the substance of his talk,) but it was in direct contradiction to the teaching of the catechism, which says most specifically that:

  • The kingdom of heaven was inaugurated on earth by Christ. “This kingdom shone out before men in the word, in the works and in the presence of Christ” (LG 5) The Church is the seed and beginning of this kingdom. (CCC 567)
  • Since that day, the Kingdom announced by Christ has been open to those who believe in him: in the humility of the flesh and in faith, they already share in the communion of the Holy Trinity. By his coming, which never ceases, the Holy Spirit causes the world to enter into the “last days,” the time of the Church, the Kingdom already inherited though not yet consummated. (CCC 732)
  • “Henceforward the Church, endowed with the gifts of her founder and faithfully observing his precepts of charity, humility and self-denial, receives the mission of proclaiming and establishing among all peoples the Kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth the seed and the beginning of that kingdom.”(CCC 768)
  • As Lord, Christ is also head of the Church, which is his Body. Taken up to heaven and glorified after he had thus fully accomplished his mission, Christ dwells on earth in his Church. The redemption is the source of the authority that Christ, by virtue of the Holy Spirit, exercises over the Church. “The kingdom of Christ [is] already present in mystery”, “on earth, the seed and the beginning of the kingdom”. (CCC 769)
  • The Church is ultimately one, holy, catholic, and apostolic in her deepest and ultimate identity, because it is in her that “the Kingdom of heaven,” the “Reign of God,” already exists and will be fulfilled at the end of time. (CCC 865)

If a lay person with no theological training is able to grasp the concept of a “kingdom” as the people of God – living and dead – tied together in a universal Church, I was more than somewhat perturbed to hear a teacher of the faith denying it. I asked Fr. Sparrough to clarify his comment and suggested that perhaps I misunderstood him, since he seemed to be in opposition to the catechism. I should have been more forceful in my language, because he reiterated his position and attempted to cite the Nostra Aetate (and more specifically, its comment that “The Church, therefore, exhorts her sons, that through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, they recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values found among these men.”) as justification for his proposition that the Church is not synonymous with the kingdom, but is in fact a “servant” of the kingdom – one of many faiths. This is also in contradiction to the catechism, which has the utmost respect for most other faiths, but believe them to be lacking certain elements of truth. The Vatican II document he cited says precisely this: in other faiths, embrace the Truth you find and discard the error. Father Sparrough attempted to misrepresent this teaching as an “I’m right. You’re right. We’re all right.” This is logically impossible – and lame, lame, lame to boot.

Either he believes the Catholic Church is the “pillar and foundation of Truth” or he does not. Each person has their own path to God, of course, and the Catholic Church encourages each person to find their way, but for a teacher of the Catholic faith to teach something that is not the Catholic faith under the auspices of being the Catholic faith is not only deceptive, I hear it gets one in big trouble with the Man upstairs (see James 3.)

So this is more or less my public service announcement that Father Michael Sparough, S.J. hasn’t a thorough grasp of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and he teaches things in contradiction to it. Should you be placed in the position of being a student of this Jesuit (on one of his Charis retreats, for example) please take his discussion of points of doctrine with a grain of salt. And then verify them later with a Bible or other definitive source.

That is all.



  1. Wow! Impressive!

    I must say that I was there. And after his poetic display of acting out the creation of the world, I stopped paying much attention to him. I figured he’s kind of nutty, and I usually don’t listen to nutty people. Of course, had I looked him up beforehand (I didn’t even plan on attending that evening, but someone *ahem* made it seem like a good idea), I would have realized I was in for a disappointing treat:
    In residence with the Jesuit community of Loyola University…and innovative approaches to spirituality….

    We all know that Jesuits are a bit odd, and anytime I see ‘innovative approach[es] to spirituality,’ it usually makes me want to throw up. Afterall, wasn’t it Loyala that had a witchcraft class on its schedule?
    Oh look, its still there on pg. 60 of the current course schedule.
    Tpcs: Contemp Sociology……. SOCL 280 001 2790 3 LEC TuTh 11:30AM-12:45 MUND-606 Schott,Sarah
    Course Topic: Witchcraft/Magic & Power

    How Catholic can it really be if it promotes this type of thing? We could give it the benefit of the doubt and hope that it is on the dangers of witchcraft…although I doubt that, seeing as how its the sociology class that is reserved for examining a contemporary sociological research issue in detail.

    Let’s see how many witchcraft classes UIUC is offering this year…oh look, there are none.

    Comment by Andrew P. — October 19, 2005 @ 12:35 pm

  2. I have a rare opportunity to disagree with you, Pavman . . .

    And after his poetic display of acting out the creation of the world, I stopped paying much attention to him.

    While I concur that his theatrical interpretation of the creation was not really to my taste, he does have an acting background and I applaud his decision to give his life and talents to the service of the Church.

    We all know that Jesuits are a bit odd, and anytime I see ‘innovative approach[es] to spirituality,’

    I don’t know anything about the orthodoxy of the Jesuits in general. I hesitate from condemning an entire order based on the imprudent comments of a single man.

    As for his “innovative approaches to spirituality,” I figure different people come to their understanding of spirituality in different ways. I rely heavily on philosophy and reason, because that’s what speaks to me. Others see signs and miracles in the world around them. Others “feel” a sense of the Almighty. I think there are many different avenues to spirituality and innovation is not out of place if it speaks to a segment of the population.

    How Catholic can it really be if it promotes this type of thing?

    I sorta see your point, but then again taking a class on Karl Marx doesn’t make one a Communist. With wicca and druidry attracting so many (especially) youth, I wouldn’t say the course is necessarily to be denounced on its face. It’s good to understand where other people are coming from.

    Comment by laura — October 19, 2005 @ 3:00 pm

  3. I don’t know anything about the orthodoxy of the Jesuits in general. I hesitate from condemning an entire order based on the imprudent comments of a single man.

    First off, this feels like a bait because I never said they weren’t Orthodox, I merely said they were ‘odd.’ I hope you aren’t starting to read my mind. I didn’t even know he was a Jesuit until your post. I did try to warn you about Y.A.C.H.T clubs…

    If there’s one thing I know, its this: The Jesuits do not have a good reputation when it comes to orthodoxy. Just ask any non-Jesuit priest about the Jesuits (better yet, ask a serious seminarian).

    That last article at least leaves a beacon of hope for the Order. I am sure there are some great exceptions to the rule.

    The story a while back (give or take 3 years ago) was that a Loyola witchcraft class encouraged the exploration of, well, witchcraft. It wasn’t like studying witchcraft in the classical hands-off approach to a subject, from what I understand, it was like experimenting with it. There’s a fine line between studying something and participating in it, but I believe this was crossed. Is it still being crossed? Probably not, but you never know. Its hard to find useful information on the internet when you google for ‘loyola’ and ‘witchcraft.’ And it was very difficult to find the course description for the class I posted. There’s no real course information on that page.

    As for the term ‘innovative spirituality’…it sounds too much like an encoded message to me. Its as if there’s a new form of spirituality that hasn’t been revealed yet, but is vis-a-vis Fr. Sparough, and he’s going to show us the light. I agree that spirituality can take many forms and there are many different ways spirituality can lead one to Christ; however, it is equally valid to say that not all forms of spirituality are correct, and that some, although they are under the guise of goodness, are merely evil in disguise. This is why we must test the spirit to ensure it is truly from the Lord. I can lend you some interesting books if you’d be interested in this subject.

    If this one man is teaching error, then perhaps that’s a direct sign that he should be ignored. I merely inferred that he was full of error when he stepped into the mind of God, if you will, by his show that he put on. I ignored him fairly early on. He did have some valid points, but, all-in-all, it wasn’t remotely intellectually or spiritually satisfying. The first question he posed made me think he was a bit nutty as well. When you pointed out his error, that merely confirmed my intuition. I am sure his conscience wasn’t bothering him about what he said, and I do believe he was sincere.

    I hesitated to post originally, but I figured it would be worth noting. I don’t really have the time for this, so I’ll leave it at that for now.

    Comment by Andrew P. — October 19, 2005 @ 5:59 pm

  4. Hi Laura,

    Well researched! I am glad to be teaching religious ed by your side!


    Comment by Brian — October 25, 2005 @ 5:30 pm

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