Two Minute Apologetics

Below are some quick answers to frequently asked questions (FAQ's) that Catholics get.

What does the word "apologetics" mean?

The word "apologetics" is derived from the ancient Greek word apologia, which means, an apology. Not an apology in the modern sense of the word - which is to say you're sorry for something. But rather, an apology in the ancient sense of the word - which is to make a reasoned defense of something or someone. In ancient times, the word apology referred to the case a lawyer would make on behalf of his client.

Apologetics is about building the case for our Faith...learning how to explain and defend our Faith. Basically, there are 3 types of apologetics: natural apologetics, Christian apologetics, and Catholic apologetics. Natural apologetics builds the case for truths we can know from the "natural" light of reason. Truths that can be known without any divine intervention. Truths which the articles of our Faith rest upon and build upon. Truths such as the existence of God, the innate spirituality of the human soul, the objective reality of right and wrong...truths that our faith rest upon and build upon.

Christian apologetics, on the other hand, builds the case for divinely revealed truths - truths that cannot be known by reason apart from faith. Truths such as the reality of biblical miracles, the divinity of Christ, the Virgin Birth, and the Resurrection to name a few.

Catholic apologetics encompasses all of Christian apologetics - since Catholicism is the fullness of Christianity - but Catholic apologetics tends to focus on those truths of Christianity that are not generally believed by non-Catholic Christians. Truths such as: the Catholic Church having been founded directly by Jesus Christ; the papacy; the Sacraments; the Immaculate Conception, and others.

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Are there any basic rules for doing apologetics?

We need to always keep in mind 1 Ptr 3:15 which says, "Always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls you to account for the hope that is in you..." Always be prepared Scripture tells us! So, how can we "always be prepared" to make a defense of our Faith?

Rule #1: Pray. Pray to the Holy Spirit. Pray that He will give you the courage to share your Faith and the wisdom to choose your words carefully and profitably.

Rule #2: You don't have to know everything right now! Just learn a little bit more about your Faith each and every day. Read Scripture. Read the Catechism. Listen to apologetics tapes. Read books on or by the Saints. Learn a little bit at a time.

Rule #3: Luke 5:10, "Do not be afraid, henceforth you will be catching men. "Jesus said this to Peter, but He's also saying it to us. Will you make mistakes? Will you get into tight spots...when you start sharing your Faith with others? Of course you will, but Peter made mistakes! He got into tight spots. Yet, Jesus told Peter not to be afraid. Why? Because if we are sincere in our desire to share the truth with others...to share Jesus Christ with others...then Jesus will find a way to make something good come out of even our mistakes.

Rule #4: Always view a question about your Faith, or even an attack on your Faith, as an opportunity - an opportunity to share the truth. Stay calm and stay determined to bring light into darkness.

Rule #5: Don't get frustrated. Quite often Catholics get frustrated by what I call the doctrinal dance...you get asked about Purgatory, Mary, the Pope, the Sacraments all in rapid fire succession. Before you can answer one question, you're asked another. Just keep firmly, but gently, guiding the discussion back to one topic until you've said all you want to say...then move on.

Rule #6: Very, very important! Never be afraid to say, "I don't know," when asked a question about your Faith. Don't try to "wing it." However, always follow, "I don't know," with, "But, I will find out and get back to you." And make sure you do!

If you follow these rules, you will be prepared the next time God puts you in a position to explain and defend your Faith.

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Anything else we need to know about apologetics before we start engaging in it?

A few more basics about apologetics before we move into specific apologetics topics:

#1) Ingrain this into your psyche...the Bible is a Catholic book! The Catholic Church gave it to the world! Which means that there is nothing...nothing!...in the Bible that is contrary to anything in the Catholic Faith and there is nothing in the Catholic Faith contrary to anything in the Bible! Always remember that!

This is important to keep in mind because a lot of times folks will quote a passage from the Bible that "proves" the Catholic Church is wrong. Whenever someone quotes you a Bible verse that "proves" the Catholic Church is wrong on something, your response should be, "Amen, I believe what the Bible says! As a Catholic, I believe everything the Bible says! However, I don't agree with your personal interpretation of that passage." The reason you don't agree with their personal interpretation is because 100% of the time that you are presented with a verse that "proves" the Church wrong, either: a) the verse has been taken out of context, or b) the verse simply doesn't say what they are trying to make it say.

#2) And this flows right from #1, the Catholic Church can be defended solely from the Bible better than any other Christian faith tradition can be. There is actually a good bit in the various Protestant faith traditions that does indeed contradict the Bible. So, do not be afraid to engage non-Catholics in a discussion of the Bible.

#3) If you are ever asked a question about your Faith that you cannot answer, don't worry. There is an answer, you just need to go and find it. Simply respond, "I don't know, but I will find out and get back to you." Then find out and get back to them.

As Catholics, we need to reclaim the Bible. It is our book. We need to read it, pray it, learn it, and use it to bring our separated brothers and sisters back to the Church. If you keep these things in mind, you have started down the road to being a very effective apologist for the Catholic Faith.

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As Catholics, do we have to accept everything the Church teaches?

If you want to call yourself Catholic, but you want to pick and choose for yourself which of the Church's teachings to accept and which to reject, you give everyone else who calls themselves Catholic the right to do the same thing.

For example, you believe women should be priests...in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, paragraph 1577 states, "Only a baptized man validly receives ordination...For this reason the ordination of women is not possible!" You don't believe that...well, that's fine...[RIP] just tear that page out of your Catechism...you just made it a Catechism of your Catholic Church...not mine.

But remember, if you can throw doctrines out, so can everyone else who calls themselves Catholic. That gives Joe Parishioner over at St. Doubting Thomas Catholic Church the right to throw out the Church's social justice teachings...he doesn't feel like feeding the hungry, caring for the poor, and all that other "bleeding heart" stuff - Paragraphs 2401 -2463 [RIP]...he just made it a Catechism of his Catholic Church...not mine and not yours.

You believe contraception is okay? Paragraph 2370 says contraception is intrinsically evil! [RIP] Joe Parishioner doesn't like what the Church teaches on the death penalty - Paragraphs 2266-2267[RIP]. You don't like what it teaches on pages 55-60 [RIP]. He doesn't like what it teaches on pages 128-140 [RIP]

Can you see what's happening? I heard it said once that there is a shortage of vocations to the priesthood in the United States, but no shortage of vocations to the Papacy! If we don't believe in all of it, if we each appoint ourselves Pope and throw out a doctrine here or a doctrine there, then our faith is no longer Catholic.

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I had a friend ask me why Catholics have Crucifixes in our churches...don't we believe Jesus has risen? Why do we keep Him on the cross?

First of all, you would want to check out 1st Corinthians, chapter 1, verse 23. Paul says, "...but we preach Christ crucified..." Why does Paul preach Christ crucified? Doesn't he know Jesus has been raised from the dead? Of course he does! But, he knows that it is through the power of the crucified Christ on the cross that the bonds of sin and death are broken. As Paul says in verse 24, Christ crucified is the "power of God".

1 Cor 2:2, "For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified." Again, didn't Paul know that Jesus had risen from the dead? Of course, he did.

Paul preaches Christ crucified because an empty cross has no power. The cross that bears the beaten, battered, and bloodied body of Jesus Christ, however, that cross is the "power of God". This is why, we "keep Jesus on the cross," because we, too, preach Christ crucified. The Crucifix reminds us not only of God's power, but also His love for us - giving His only begotten Son up for suffering and death.

Also, here in this life we do not share so much in the glory of the Resurrection, as we do in the suffering of Jesus on the cross; after all, we must take up our cross daily if we are to follow Jesus, as it says in Lk 9:23.

And, we must die with Christ in order to live with Him as Romans 6:8 tells us. Where did Christ die? On the cross. The Crucifix serves to remind us of these things.

One other passage to keep in mind is Galatians 3:1, "O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified?" Did you catch that? Jesus was publicly portrayed, before their "eyes", as being crucified. Sounds kind of like they may have been looking at a Crucifix, doesn't it?

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I had a theology professor who told me that Adam and Eve were just myths, and that the rest of Genesis was all just legends...is that what the Church teaches?

Absolutely not! The Church has always taught that Adam and Eve were real people and were the first human beings from whom all other human beings are descended. In 1950, Pope Pius XII, in Paragraph 37 of an encyclical entitled Humani Generis, states, "...the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from [Adam] as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents." In other words, the Church teaches that all humanity descended from Adam and Eve. They had to be real for that to happen.

Paragraph #38, states: "This [encyclical], in fact, clearly points out that the first eleven chapters of Genesis...do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense..." Again, Adam and Eve are not myths, and the rest of Genesis is not legend. They are history in a "true sense."

Paragraph #39: "Therefore, whatever of the popular narrations have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things..." Can it be stated any clearer than that?

And listen to what the Catechism says, Paragraph #375, "The Church...teaches that our first parents, Adam and Eve..." No mention of a myth here.

Paragraph #404: "By yielding to the tempter, Adam and Eve committed a personal sin. Someone please tell me, how do myths commit personal sins?

Adam and Eve are not myths. Genesis does not contain myth or legend. That is Church teaching. Challenge anyone, who teaches differently, to produce their sources from a magisterial document. They cannot do it. They can, however, produce countless books and articles by "theologians". Not good enough.

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A friend of mine said that his church takes the Bible literally, but that the Catholic Church doesn't...is that true?

Actually, there is no truth to that, whatsoever. Catholics interpret the Bible in a "literal" sense, while many fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and others interpret the Bible in a literalist sense.

The "literal" meaning of a passage of Scripture is the meaning that the author of that passage of Scripture intended to convey. The "literalist" interpretation of a passage of Scripture is: "that's what it says, that's what it means."

Let me give you an example to illustrate the difference. If you were to read a passage in a book that said it was "raining cats and dogs outside", how would you interpret that? As Americans, in the 21st Century, you would know that the author was intending to convey the idea that it was raining pretty doggone hard outside. That would be the "literal" interpretation...the interpretation the author intended to convey. On the other hand, what if you made a "literalist" interpretation of the phrase, "it's raining cats and dogs"?

The "literalist" interpretation would be that, were you to walk outside, you would actually see cats and dogs falling from the sky like rain. No taking into account the popularly accepted meaning of this phrase. No taking into account the author's intentions. The words say it was raining cats and dogs, so, by golly, it was raining cats and dogs! That is the literalist, or fundamentalist, way of interpretation.

If someone 2000 years in the future picked up that same book and read, "It was raining cats and dogs outside," in order to properly understand that passage in the book, they would need a "literal" interpretation, not a "literalist" interpretation. Now, think about that in the context of interpreting the Bible 2000-3000 years after it was written.

Literal, or Catholic, interpretation vs. literalist, or fundamentalist, interpretation.

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How should I respond to someone who asks me if I've been saved, or born again?

Answer with a resounding, "Yes!" Tell them that it is through Baptism that you were saved, just as the Bible says in 1 Ptr 3:20-21 and that it is through Baptism, water and the Spirit, that you are "born again," just as the Bible says in John 3:5.

You see, many Protestants believe that they are saved by making one single act of faith at one single point in time in their lives. Nowhere does Scripture say such a thing. As Catholics, however, we believe that salvation is a process which begins with our Baptism and continues throughout our lifetimes, just as the Bible teaches us.

There are so many places in Scripture, which talk about how one is "saved", but not one of them says we are saved by one act of faith at just one point in time. As I just mentioned, 1 Ptr 3:20 says we are saved by baptism. In Hebrews 12:14 it says that we will not see the Lord unless we are holy, and that we have to strive for this holiness. In Matthew 6:14-15, it says we must forgive others or we will not be forgiven. Can you attain salvation if God hasn't forgiven you? No! So, our forgiving others is necessary for our salvation.

1 Tim 2:15 says that woman will be saved through bearing children, if she continues in faith and love and holiness with modesty. John 6:54 says we will have eternal life by doing something...eating the flesh and drinking the blood of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. In Matthew 19, verses 16 and 17, Jesus is asked directly what one must do to have eternal life. Did He say, accept me into your heart once and that's it? No! Jesus said to keep the commandments and you will have life.

Yes, as Catholics we are born again. And, as Catholics we believe that we were saved, as Paul says in Rom 8:24; that we are being saved, as Paul says in 1 Cor 1:18; and that we will be saved, as Paul says in Rom 5:9-10, provided we persevere and keep our eyes on the prize. Salvation is a process, just as Catholics believe, and just as the Bible clearly teaches.

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I have a friend who says that Baptism is a symbolic act and that it has nothing to do with salvation...how can I answer them?

Simple. By showing them what the Bible says. First, nowhere does the Bible say that Baptism is merely a "symbolic" act...that passage simply does not exist.

Second, let's see what the Bible does say about Baptism:
Ezek 36:25-27, it says, "I will sprinkle clean water upon you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses...a new heart I will give you and a new spirit I will put within you...and I will put My spirit within you..." Here, in the Old Testament, we have a foreshadowing of New Testament baptism.

Now, let's see if the New Testament corresponds to what we just read in Ezekiel. Acts 2:38, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Note that there is no symbolic language here...this is real! The Book of Acts says, "Be baptized for the forgiveness of your sins." Ezekiel says, "I will sprinkle clean water upon you and you shall be clean from your uncleanness." The Book of Acts says, "...and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Ezekiel says: "...and I will put My Spirit within you." Do you begin to see how God, in the Old Covenant, was preparing us for what He gives us in the New Covenant?

Acts 22:16 - "And now why do you wait? Rise and be baptized, and wash away your sins...". 1 Cor 12:13 - "For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body..." What body was that? The Body of Christ. 1 Ptr 3:21: "Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you..."

Scripture simply does not support the non-Catholic notion that Baptism is symbolic. Scripture does very directly and very clearly support the Catholic teaching that Baptism saves us; that Baptism makes us members of the Body of Christ; that Baptism washes away sin; and that through Baptism we receive the Holy Spirit...just as the Catholic Church teaches!

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Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest, rather than going directly to God?

Well, the quick answer is because that's the way God wants us to do it. In James 5:16, God, through Sacred Scripture, commands us to "confess our sins to one another." Notice, Scripture does not say confess your sins straight to God and only to God...it says confess your sins to one another.

In Matthew, chapter 9, verse 6, Jesus tells us that He was given authority on earth to forgive sins. And then Scripture proceeds to tell us, in verse 8, that this authority was given to "men"...plural.

In John 20, verses 21-23, what is the 1st thing Jesus says to the gathered disciples on the night of His resurrection? "Jesus said to them, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.'" How did the Father send Jesus? Well, we just saw in Mt 9 that the Father sent Jesus with the authority on earth to forgive sins. Now, Jesus sends out His disciples as the Father has sent Him...so, what authority must Jesus be sending His disciples out with? The authority on earth to forgive sins. And, just in case they didn't get it, verses 22-23 say this, "And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.'"

Why would Jesus give the Apostles the power to forgive or to retain sins if He wasn't expecting folks to confess their sins to them? And how could they forgive or retain sins if no one was confessing their sins to them?

The Bible tells us to confess our sins to one another. It also tells us that God gave men the authority on Earth to forgive sins. Jesus sends out His disciples with the authority on earth to forgive sins. When Catholics confess our sins to a priest, we are simply following the plan laid down by Jesus Christ. He forgives sins through the priest...it is God's power, but He exercises that power through the ministry of the priest.

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A friend of mine has been reading the "Left Behind" books that have all of this stuff about the "Rapture" in them...is there really going to be a "Rapture" like these books talk about?

No, there's not. The "Rapture" refers to a passage in First Thessalonians, chapter 4, which talks about Christians being "caught up" in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. Many Christians believe, and the "Left Behind" books promote, that this being "caught up" to meet the Lord will occur before the Great Tribulation which is headed our way in the near future. Christians will simply vanish, meet Jesus somewhere in the air, and then return with Him to Heaven to await the end of time

But notice, in verse 17, Paul says that "...we who are alive, who are left," shall be caught up. Remember that...those who are "left" get caught up to meet the Lord.

The "Left Behind" books get their name from a passage in Luke 17 and a similar passage in Matthew 24 which talk about the coming of the Lord being like the days of Noah and the days of Lot. Matthew 24 puts it this way: "As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man...they ate, they drank, they married and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the field, one is taken and one is left. Two women grinding at the mill, one is taken one is left."

"See," Rapture enthusiasts say, "One is taken, one is left...the Rapture! Jesus takes the Christians and leaves behind non-Christians!" Two problems with that interpretation: First, Jesus' coming is being compared to the days of Noah and the days of Lot. After the flood, who was left? Noah and his family...the good guys...the bad guys were taken! After Sodom and Gomorrah went up in smoke, who was left? Lot and his daughters...the good guys...the bad guys were taken! Second, remember 1 Thessalonians? It says that those who are "left" get to meet Jesus in the air. The good guys are left behind to meet Jesus.

In other words, you want to be left behind so that you can get caught up in the clouds to meet Jesus in the air and accompany Him back to earth at His 2nd and final coming. There will be no Rapture like the one the Left Behind books talk about...that view is not scriptural.

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The Bible clearly says that Jesus had brothers and sisters, but the Catholic Church teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin...how can you reconcile those seemingly different positions?

Mk 6:3 says, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and brother of James and Joses, and Judas and Simon, and are not His sisters here with us?" We need to realize a few things here about these "brothers and sisters": #1, there was no word for cousin, or for nephew or niece, or for aunt or uncle in ancient Hebrew or Aramaic - the words that the Jews used in all those instances were "brother" or "sister". An example of this can be seen in Gen 14:14, where Lot, who was Abraham's nephew, is called his brother.

Another point to consider. If Jesus had had any brothers, if Mary had had any other sons, would the last thing that Jesus did on earth be to grievously offend his surviving brothers? In Jn 19:26-27, right before Jesus dies, it says that Jesus entrusted the care of His mother to the beloved disciple, John. If Mary had had any other sons, it would have been an incredible slap in the face to them that the Apostle John was entrusted with the care of their mother!

Also, we see from Mt. 27:55-56, that the James and Joses mentioned in Mark 6 as the "brothers" of Jesus, are actually the sons of another Mary. And, one other passage to consider is Acts 1:14-15, "[The Apostles] with one accord devoted themselves to prayer, together with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus and with His brothers...the company of persons was in all about a hundred and twenty." A company of 120 persons composed of the Apostles, Mary, the women, and the "brothers" of Jesus. Let's see there were 11 Apostles at the time. Jesus' mother makes 12. The women, probably the same three women mentioned in Matthew 27, but let's say it was maybe a dozen or two, just for argument's sake. So that puts us up to 30 or 40 or so. So that leaves the number of Jesus' brothers at about 80 or 90! Do you think Mary had 80 or 90 children? She would have been in perpetual labor! No, Scripture does not contradict the teaching of the Catholic Church about the "brothers" of Jesus, when Scripture is properly interpreted in context.

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My Protestant friends say that their church goes by the Bible Alone, but that the Catholic Church has added a lot of man-made traditions to the Word of God...is that true?

No, it is not true. Protestants have as their sole rule of faith the written Word of God, which we find in Sacred Scripture. The Catholic Church has as its sole rule of faith, the entire Word of God, as it is found in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

All of the Word of God was at one time passed on orally...Sacred Tradition. Eventually, some of Sacred Tradition was written down...this became Sacred Scripture, which is written tradition. However, Scripture itself tells us that not all of the things that Jesus said and did were written down. And listen to what Paul says about "tradition":

2 Thes 2:15, "So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter." Traditions! Traditions taught by word of mouth, in other words, oral tradition, and traditions taught by letter. Traditions which they are being told to "stand firm and hold to". Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

1 Cor 11:2, "I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you." The Corinthians are being commended by Paul because they maintain the traditions that he passed on to them. Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

2 Tim 2:2: "and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." What we have here in 2 Timothy is an instance, in Scripture, of Paul commanding the passing on of oral tradition.

1 Thes 2:13, "And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the Word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the Word of God, which is at work in you believers." So, they received as the Word of God that which they heard, not simply that which they read in Scripture.

In other words, the Bible clearly supports the Catholic Church's teaching that the Word of God is contained in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

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In 1 Timothy it says that Jesus is our sole mediator, yet we pray to Mary and the Saints. Is that going against the Bible?

1 Tim 2:5 reads as follows: "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus..." "You see," we Catholics are told, "there is only one mediator between God and men, Jesus Christ. Therefore, praying to the saints goes against the Bible because you are making them mediators between God and man, you are diminishing Jesus' role as the sole mediator!"

Is that an appropriate interpretation of that passage? No, it's not and let's see why not.

In the O.T. we see that Moses, Abraham, and Job interceded on behalf of others... that's mediating between God and man. We know that it is okay to ask others here on earth to pray and intercede for us.... that's mediating between God and man. So, I think, once again, we have a situation where a passage of the Bible is being misinterpreted and misunderstood.

There is only one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ, but as members of the Body of Christ, He allows us to share in His mediation.

Also, Scripture tells us that we have only one foundation, Jesus Christ (1 Cor 3:11); but, Scripture tells us that there is more than one foundation (Eph 2:19-20). Scripture tells us that we have only Lord, Jesus Christ (Eph 4:4-5); but, Scripture tells us there is more than one lord (Rev 19:16). Scripture tells us that we have only one Judge, Jesus Christ (James 4:12); but, Scripture tells us there is more than one judge (1 Cor 6:2).

Contradictions in Scripture? No! Not when these passages are all properly understood in context. Jesus is the only foundation; Jesus is the only Lord; and Jesus is the only Judge. But, we are members of Jesus' Body. Therefore, we are able, according to the graces given by Christ, to share in Jesus' role as foundation, as lord, and as judge, and in other aspects of Christ, as well. Another example, as a father I share in God's role as Father, by His grace. And, so also, we, and the saints in Heaven, and the angels in Heaven, can share in Christ's role as Mediator.

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The Bible says to call no man Father, so why do we call our priests "Father"?

Matthew 23:9, "And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in Heaven." Notice, however, that this makes no distinction between spiritual fathers, which is what our priests are to us, and biological fathers. In other words, if you interpret this passage to say, absolutely, that no man is to be called father, you cannot distinguish between calling a priest, father, and calling the man who is married to your mother, father.

But, is that actually what this passage is saying? Or is Jesus warning us against trying to usurp the fatherhood of God? Which, in many ways, is what the Pharisees and Scribes were doing. They wanted all attention focused on them...they were leaving God, the Father, out of the equation. Which is why Jesus goes on to call them hypocrites, liars, and whitewashed tombs.

If you interpret this passage from Matthew 23 as an absolute ban against calling anyone your spiritual father, then there are some problems for you in the rest of Scripture. For example, Jesus, in the story of Lazarus and the rich man in Luke 16, has the rich man referring to Abraham as "father" several times. Paul, in Romans chapter 4, refers to Abraham as the "father" of the uncircumcised, the Gentiles. That's referring to spiritual fatherhood, not biological fatherhood.

In Acts 7:1-2, the first Christian martyr, Stephen, referred to the Jewish authorities and elders who were about to stone him as brothers and "fathers," as does Paul in Acts, chapter 22. This is referring to spiritual fatherhood. So, if you interpret Matthew 23 as saying we cannot call anyone our spiritual father, then you have a problem with Jesus, Paul, Stephen, and the Holy Spirit...they must have all gotten it wrong.

It is okay to call priests "father", just as it was okay for Jesus and Paul to call Abraham "father" and for Stephen and Paul to call the Jewish elders "father." As long as we remember that our true Father is God the Father and that all aspects of fatherhood, biological and spiritual, are derived from Him. And as long as we do not allow anyone else to usurp that role in any way, shape, or form, as the Pharisees and Scribes were prone to do.

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Why do Catholics call Mary the Queen of Heaven? Doesn't God rebuke the Israelites in the O.T. for worshipping a false goddess called the Queen of Heaven? Should we not refer to Mary with that title, therefore, since it is the title of a false goddess?

In Jeremiah 7:18, God is indeed upset with the Israelites for worshipping a false goddess called the "queen of heaven". However, just because God rebuked them for worshipping the false queen of heaven, doesn't mean that we cannot pay honor to the true Queen of Heaven...the Blessed Mother.

That type of thinking would lead you to believe that just because people worship a false god that they call "god," we, therefore, should not call the true God, by that same name...God...because that's the same title the idolaters use for their god! That is faulty logic and it makes no sense whatsoever.

Again, the fact that there is a false "queen of heaven", does not lead to the conclusion that we worship a false goddess when we call Mary the "Queen of Heaven." Just as the fact that there is a false "god", does not lead to the conclusion that we worship a false god when we call our Father in Heaven, God.

And there is a true Queen of Heaven, we see this quite clearly in Revelation 12:1, "And a great portent appeared in heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars..." Let's see. There's a woman...she's in Heaven...and she has a crown on her head. I could be wrong, but I don't think it's the maid! No! It is the true Queen of Heaven, Mary, the mother of the male child who is to rule the nations.

We do not worship Mary, we honor her, just as Jesus honors her. So, there is absolutely nothing wrong, from a scriptural point of view, in calling Mary the Queen of Heaven, and in honoring her just as Jesus honors her.

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In Romans, chapter 3, it says that none is righteous and that all have sinned, but the Catholic Church teaches that Mary is without sin...could you explain that in light of Romans chapter 3?

Romans 3, verse 10 says, "...as it is written: 'None is righteous, no, not one.'" Yet, James 5:16 says that the prayer of a righteous man availeth much. If absolutely no one is righteous, then who is James talking about? Luke chapter 1 says that Elizabeth and Zechariah were righteous before God. If absolutely no one is righteous, then how can that be? Is Scripture contradicting itself? No, the folks who interpret Romans as saying absolutely, without exception, no one is righteous, are misinterpreting that passage. They are failing to realize that the key to understanding Romans 3:10 is the phrase, "it is written."

Here in Romans, Paul is quoting from the O.T., Psalm 14 to be exact. In Psalm 14 it says, "The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God. They are corrupt...there is none that does good.'" But then that same psalm goes on to talk about the "righteous." Well, if none has done good, who are these righteous the psalm is talking about? Obviously, when the psalmist says that none has done good, he is talking about the fools who say there is no God. He is not talking about absolutely everyone.

Just so Paul when he quotes from this psalm. Paul is not saying absolutely no one is righteous, if he was, then how do you explain all the Old and New Testament passages that refer to the righteous? In Romans 3:11 it says that no one seeks for God. Does that mean that absolutely no one is seeking God? No, to interpret it that way would be ludicrous!

Just so verse 23 which says that "all have sinned". Babies haven't sinned, have they? Little children haven't sinned, have they? No! This is not an absolute. There are exceptions. What about John the Baptist? Did he sin? Scripture says that he was filled with the Holy Spirit even from his mother's womb. Can someone who is filled with the Holy Spirit his entire life ever sin? It's something to think about.

So, it is perfectly legitimate to say that these passages from Romans, when interpreted in context, in no way conflict with the Church's teaching on Mary being without sin.

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Why do Protestants not believe John 6 when it says that Jesus' flesh is real food and that His blood is real drink?

I don't know! In Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22, Jesus says of the bread, "This is my body." He says of the wine, "This is my blood." Not "this is symbolic of," or "this represents," He says "this IS." In John 6, He repeats Himself, like He does nowhere else in Scripture, to emphasize the fact that He expects us to eat His flesh and drink His blood and that His flesh is real food and that His blood is real drink.

Anyone who says He is speaking symbolically, and not literally, simply is refusing to look at all of the facts. Fact #1: The Jews took him literally, verse 52. Fact #2: His disciples took him literally, verse 60. Fact #3, the Apostles took him literally, verses 67-69. If everyone who heard him speak at the time took Him literally, then my question is: Why does anyone today, 2000 years after the fact, take him symbolically?

Also, in verse 51, Jesus says that the bread which He will give for the life of the world is His flesh. When did He give His flesh for the life of the world? On the cross. Was that symbolic? If you think Jesus is speaking symbolically here when He says that we must eat His flesh and drink His blood, then you must also conclude that Jesus' death on the cross was symbolic...it wasn't really Jesus hanging up there...it was symbolic flesh and symbolic blood.

Jesus is clearly talking about the flesh that He gave for the life of the world...He did that on the cross. Those who believe He is talking symbolically here in John 6, have a real problem when it comes to John 6:51. Did Jesus give His real flesh and blood for the life of the world, or was it only His symbolic flesh and blood?

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Many Protestants believe we are saved by Faith Alone and they say Catholic believe they can “work” their way into Heaven. How do you answer that?

First of all, I ask them to show me where in the Catechism, the official teaching of the Catholic Church, does it teach that we can “work” our way into Heaven? They can’t, because it doesn’t. The Catholic Church does not now, nor has it ever, taught a doctrine of salvation by works...that we can “work” our way into Heaven.

Second, I ask them to show me where in the Bible does it teach that we are saved by “faith alone.” They can’t, because it doesn’t. The only place in all of Scripture where the phrase “Faith Alone” appears, is in James...James 2:24, where it says that we are not...not...justified (or saved) by faith alone.

So, one of the two main pillars of Protestantism...the doctrine of salvation by faith alone...not only doesn’t appear in the Bible, but the Bible actually says the exact opposite - that we are not saved by faith alone

Third, I ask them that if works have nothing to do with our salvation...then how come every passage in the N.T. that I know of that talks about judgment says we will be judged by our works, not by whether or not we have faith alone? We see this in Rom 2, Matthew 15 and 16, 1 Ptr 1, Rev 20 and 22, 2 Cor 5, and many, many more verses.

Fourth, I ask them that if we are saved by faith alone, why does 1 Cor 13:13 say that love is greater than faith? Shouldn’t it be the other way around?

As Catholics we believe that we are saved by God’s grace alone. We can do nothing, apart from God’s grace, to receive the free gift of salvation. We also believe, however, that we have to respond to God’s grace. Protestants believe that, too. However, many Protestants believe that the only response necessary is an act of faith; whereas, Catholics believe a response of faith and works is necessary...or, as the Bible puts it in Galatians 5:6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumsion is of any avail, but faith working through love...faith working through love...just as the Church teaches. Back to top


How do I respond to someone who believes that only the "chosen" ones are saved? This person is a Calvinist. I realize there is the whole free will issue but I am curious as to the best way to respond to this person?

There are those among the Calvinists who believe that God has pre-destined people for Heaven, and that He has also pre-destined people for Hell. "Double predestination" is the term frequently used to describe this belief. They believe a person's fate is determined solely by God, and that the individual has absolutely no choice in the matter.

In essence, this boils down to a question of whether or not we have free will. Are we free to accept God or to reject God, or has that already been determined for us? If you can show someone who holds to this belief that Scripture is pretty clear that we do indeed have free will, then you just might plant some seeds of truth with them.

Luke 7:30, " ...but the Pharisees and the lawyers rejected the purpose of God for themselves, not having been baptized by [John the Baptist]." It was God's purpose that the Pharisees and lawyers be baptized by John - that they repent of their sins and turn to God. But they rejected God's purpose for them. How could they do that if they don’t have free will? If it was God's purpose that they repent and be baptized by John, then if the strict Calvinist belief is true, they would have repented and been baptized by John, but they didn’t and they weren’t. They clearly exercised free will in opposition to the will of God.

Luke 13:4-5, " Or those eighteen upon whom the tower of Siloam fell and killed them, do you think that they were worse offenders than all the others who dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, No; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish."

Jesus very clearly is saying to His listeners that they have it within themselves to change their fate. They are headed for death and damnation, but He tells them they can choose to repent and avoid that fate. In other words, Jesus clearly believes that these people have free will. If they did not have free will, they could not change their fate. And, if God has already predetermined their fate, then why would Jesus tell them they can change their fate?

1 Tim 2:3-4, " This is good and it is acceptable in the sight of God our Savior, Who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."

This pretty much seals the deal. God wants all men to be saved. It doesn't say God wants only the elect to be saved, but rather " all men." If God wants all men to be saved, then He certainly does not predestine any to Hell. Also, if God wants all men to be saved, and man does not have free will to oppose God's will, then all men are predestined for Heaven. Yet, no Calvinist would say that all men are among the elect. Which means, there is an inconsistency between this particular Calvinist belief and the Word of God.

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A Baptist friend of mine asked me where in the Bible does it use the word Pope or say anything about the Pope?

Well, you will not find the word “Pope” in the Bible. Just as you will not find the word “Trinity,” or the word “Incarnation” in the Bible. Yet, I’ll bet your Baptist friend believes in both the Trinity and the Incarnation.

Just because a particular word is not found in the Bible, does not mean that we should not use that word or that the theology implied by that word is somehow unbiblical. The word “Bible” is not found in the Bible, so does that mean we should not believe in the Bible? Of course not.

The fact of the matter is, even though the word “Pope” is not found directly in the Bible, the underlying meaning of that word is. The word “Pope” is derived from the Greek word, “pappas,” which means, "father" (Latinized as “papa”). In Isaiah 22, verses 19-24, we see God telling Shebna, who was the chief minister of the House of David, that he will be replaced in his office by Eliakim, and that Eliakim will have authority and will be a “father” [papa; pope] to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the House of Judah.

Also in this passage, God says that Eliakim will have the key of the House of David and that he “shall open and none shall shut; and he shall shut and none shall open.”

This passage from Isaiah was obviously on the Lord’s mind when he said to Peter, in Matthew 16:18-19, “And I tell you, you are Peter and on this rock I will build my church...I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven.”

Eliakim was the chief minister in the House of David. What is the new House of David? The Church. Who is the chief minister in the Church? Peter, and his successors - the Popes. Eliakim was given the key of the kingdom. Peter is given the keys of the kingdom. Eliakim had the authority to shut and to open. Peter had the authority to bind and loose. Eliakim was a father to the those in the House of David, just so Peter is a father to those in the new House of David - the Church.

So, since Peter is a “father” to those in the Church, just as Eliakim was a “father” to those in the House of David; and the word “Pope” means “father;” then we can say that the underlying meaning of the word “Pope” is actually found in the Bible - right there in Isaiah 22. And, we can further say, that Catholic belief regarding the role of the Pope is also found right there in Isaiah 22 and Matthew 16, as well as in other parts of Scripture.

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I was talking with an Evangelical co-worker and he said the Bible teaches that once we are “saved,” we can never lose our salvation. Is that true?

Absolutely not. In fact, the Bible is full of passages that either directly or indirectly contradict this doctrine of “Once Saved, Always Saved.” For example:

Rom 11:17-23, “But if some of the branches were broken off [the Jews], and you, a wild olive shoot [the Gentiles], were grafted in their place to share the richness of the olive tree [Jesus Christ], do not boast over the branches...For if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you...Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in His kindness; otherwise you too will be cut off.”

Paul is talking about how salvation has come to the Gentiles, while many of the Jews have rejected it. And he makes it very clear that once you have been grafted into Christ, you must “continue in His kindness,” or you can also be cut off. So, even after you’ve been saved, you can still be cut off from Jesus Christ.

This is further seen in Galatians, chapter 5. Verse 1, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery [sin].” If once saved always saved is true, then one cannot “submit again” to a “yoke of slavery,” and Paul’s warning makes no sense.

But Paul goes on in verse 4 to say, “You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” Paul is talking to Gentile Christians who had been wrongly taught by the Judaizers that they have to be circumcised and obey the Mosaic Law in order to be true Christians. Paul tells them that is false, and if they submit to circumcision and to the Old Law, they will be “severed from Christ.” If once saved always saved is true, though, they can’t be severed from Christ and, once again, Paul’s warning is meaningless.

We also have the Parable of the Prodigal Son, Luke chapter 15. The Prodigal Son was in his father’s house, and the father here is representative of God the Father. Then, the Prodigal Son leaves his father’s house and goes and lives a sinful life. In the end, though, he repents and returns to his father. After the Prodigal Son returns, the father says this of him in verse 24: “For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.”

In Evangelical terminology, to be dead is to be unsaved, and to be alive is to be saved. Notice very carefully, though, that the father says the son is alive “again.” In other words, the son was alive, or saved, when he was in his father’s house at the beginning of the parable; was “dead,” or unsaved, when he left his father’s house and lived in sin; then was alive again, saved again, when he repented and returned to his father’s house. Alive, dead, alive again. Saved, unsaved, saved again.

Once saved always saved? I don’t think so.

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I need some help. Sometimes when I share my Catholic faith with people, they mention to me that Catholics like to drink alcohol and how wrong that is. How do I respond to this?

I would ask them to tell you where in the Scriptures does it say anything about drinking alcohol being wrong? Quick answer: it doesn't. It says getting drunk is wrong, but it doesn't say merely drinking is wrong. In fact, it tells us just the opposite:

1 Tim 3:8, "Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine..." Obviously, it is okay for them to drink some wine, they just cannot be addicted to "much" wine. Moderation is the key.

1 Tim 4:4, "For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving." The materials from which alcohol is made are all natural materials made by God.

1 Tim 5:23, "No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments." Timothy is ordered to drink wine. All 3 accounts of the Last Supper in Matthew, Mark, and Luke have Jesus and the Apostles drinking wine (the "fruit of the vine").

Jesus' first miracle was to turn some 120-180 gallons of water into wine (John 2:3-10) for folks to drink. And, it was better wine than any of the wine that had already been served at that particular wedding.

Matthew 15:10-11, "Hear and understand, not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth..." Luke 7:33-34, "For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, 'He has a demon.' The Son of Man has come eating and drinking; and you say, 'Behold, a glutton and a drunkard..." Now, what do you think Jesus was drinking that they would have called Him a drunkard? Grape juice? I don't think so.

Now, this is not to say that He was a drunkard - obviously He wasn't. But, the only way someone could even begin to make that case would be if He was known to drink wine. You could not even falsely accuse someone of being a drunkard if they only drank grape juice.

In other words, Scripture gives strong testament to the fact that merely drinking alcohol is not a sin, but getting drunk on alcohol is.

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I heard criticism about the luxuriousness of the Vatican and St. Peter's, while there are so many poor people. Where did the money come from to build these things? How much of parish money goes "to the Pope"? Can you please give me some defense of this line of questioning?

First of all, if someone is critical of the Vatican, are they also critical of the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 6)? By all accounts, the Temple of Solomon would have made the Vatican look rather poor by comparison. Should the Israelites not have built the Temple of Solomon? Should they have used all the resources that went into it to feed the poor instead?

John L. Allen, Jr., Vatican correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter, mentioned the following in a talk he gave for the “Church in the 21st Century Initiative,” a few years ago:

“Contrary to popular impression, the Vatican is a spartan operation. Its annual operating budget is about $277 million. The University of Notre Dame's annual operating budget, by comparison, is $700 million. The Vatican's endowment is about $770 million. By contrast, the University of Notre Dame's endowment is $3.1 billion. The Holy See is indeed in need of financial support from the Catholic world, and American Catholics usually supply about 25 percent of the annual operating budget.

“What about the artwork—the Pietà, the Raphael frescoes, and so on? These treasures are literally priceless, but they appear on the Vatican books with a value of one euro. According to the [laws] of the Vatican City State, they may never be sold or borrowed against.”

The "wealth" of the Vatican has accumulated over the centuries and is basically art work, historical documents, and buildings. The Vatican views these buildings, historical documents, and works of art as belonging to all peoples - they are merely under the care of the Vatican. They are not for sell because the Vatican doesn't view them as its personal property too sell. Why not sell all the works of art in the Louvre? Or in New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art? Why not sell the Mona Lisa to feed the poor? Why don't museums sell off their Rembrandts and Van Goghs and Picassos to feed the poor?

Again, from John Allen’s essay: “About 20 years ago, Peter Drucker, the management consultant, concluded that the three most efficient organizations in history were General Motors, the 19th-century Prussian Army, and the Catholic Church. He put the Church on his list because it manages to hold a worldwide organization together with an exceptionally small central headquarters. For the 1.1 billion Catholics, there are about 1,700 people working in the [Vatican]. As Drucker pointed out, if the same ratio were applied to our government in Washington, D.C., there would be 500 federal employees working in the capital, as opposed to roughly 500,000.”

Just give people the facts about the Vatican’s “wealth,” and let them decide for themselves.

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I was in a religious discussion today and was asked why our commandments are different than the Protestant version. Can you help?

Our 10 Commandments do not differ from the Protestant version in content, there is simply a difference in how they are organized. The Protestants first two commandments are: 1) I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any false gods before me; 2) Thou shalt not make any graven images...you shall not bow down to them or serve them. And, their last commandment is simply: Thou shalt not covet.

The 1st two commandments, Catholic version are: 1) I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt not have any false gods before me; 2) Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain. And, our last two commandments are: 9) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's wife; 10) Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor's goods. So, the Protestants combine our #9 and #10, into their #10. While we combine the Protestants' #1 and #2, into our #1. Now, some folks say that the Catholics purposely leave out the graven image reference that we find in Protestant Commandment #2 so that we can worship our statues and all that kind of rot. Which is probably what this person you were talking to was getting at; but, you can take anyone to page 496 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church and show them that we did not leave out the prohibition on worshiping graven images.

In the left hand column of that page, you will see the whole first commandment written out just like it appears in Exodus 20. You have the long version on the left, the shorter version in the middle, and the traditional version for catechesis on the right. Notice the mention of graven images under Commandment #1?

In essence, we simply don't write the whole thing out, because we know that bowing down to (worshiping) graven images falls under: “Thou shalt not have any false gods before me.” Just so, the Protestants shorten the commandment about coveting. Go to page 497 of the Catechism (or to Exodus 20) and see all the things that are included in the, "Thou shalt not covet," section. The Protestants don't write out all those things, they just say, "Thou shalt not covet."

Does that mean they left out part of the Commandments so that they could indeed covet some things? No. It's understood that “Thou shalt not covet,” covers all of those things. Just like Catholics understand that, “Thou shalt not have any false gods before me,” means that we should not worship idols, or graven images, as false gods.

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I’m a Born-Again Christian and I was wondering why the Catholic Church doesn’t do the altar call to have people accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior since it says that you must make this declaration to be Born Again?

The Catholic Church does, in a sense, make an altar call at every Mass. When people approach the altar to receive Communion, they are indeed accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, as they accept His body and blood into their bodies. Jesus says in John 6, verse 51 and following, that unless you eat His flesh and drink His blood, you have no life in you. If you eat His flesh and drink His blood, you will have eternal life He says, and He will raise you up at the last day.

He repeats Himself on this matter in John 6 like He does nowhere else in Scripture. Catholics take Jesus' words literally - we believe what He says. That is why we believe we receive His actual body and blood during Communion (or the Lord's Supper as you might call it). So when a Catholic approaches the altar to receive Jesus in the Eucharist, they are saying with their bodies, “I believe.” And just minutes before they approach the altar, they have, with the recitation of the Nicene Creed, declared with their lips that they believe. They believe Jesus is the Lord and Savior of mankind and they believe He is present - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - in the Eucharist that they receive.

My question to you, however, is where does it say that someone must make a “declaration” in which they "accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior" in order to be born again? Nowhere does the Bible say such a thing. In fact, the Bible says that one is born again by being baptized. John 3:3-5 says that unless one is born of water and the Spirit (baptism) one cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

So it is through water and the Spirit that one is born again. All Catholics, by virtue of their baptism, are Born Again Christians. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that one should not make a declaration that Jesus is their Lord and Savior - we need to constantly proclaim our faith in Jesus Christ - but the Bible does not say that one is "born again" by making such a verbal declaration of acceptance of Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. And, I assume you want to go by what the Bible says, right?

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How do I answer my father-in-law (a Methodist) when he says he read the Catechism and it says that only those belonging to “The Church” will achieve salvation.

First, ask your father-in-law if he agrees with the statement that one must be a member of the Body of Christ in order to be saved. As a Methodist, he should say that he agrees. Then point out to him that the Bible tells us that “The Church” is the Body of Christ (e.g. Col 1:24). So, when we say that one must be a member of “The Church” in order to be saved, what we are really saying is that one must be a member of the Body of Christ in order to be saved.

So, I think there should be agreement between the two of you on that once “The Church” is identified as the “Body of Christ.” The real question is: Is the Catholic definition of “The Church,” as being the Catholic Church, the correct definition of what the Church is? Or, is the Methodist definition of “The Church,” which is generally along the lines of: All those who have accepted Jesus into their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior regardless of what denomination they belong to, the correct definition? (For an in-depth treatment of this topic, go to: www.biblechristiansociety.com and order the free talk - CD or mp3 download - entitled, “One Church.”)

Regarding what the Catechism teaches about “no salvation outside of the Church,” we need to look at a few paragraphs:

#846: "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.”

#847: “...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.

#848 says: “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, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."

What do these paragraphs tell us? 1) If you knowingly reject the Church and its teachings as the “ordinary” means of salvation, you cannot be saved. 2) Ignorance of Christ and His Church does not automatically incur damnation, nor does it automatically result in salvation, either. In other words, someone who is not formally a Catholic “may” be saved, if they have lived an extraordinary life, through some “extraordinary” means by which God joins them to the Body of Christ, the Church.

However, as #848 states, we (Catholics) have the “obligation” to evangelize all men. Why? Since Catholicism contains the fullness of revealed truth, it is logical to say that any person’s best chance of getting to Heaven - of obtaining that holiness without which no one will see the Lord (Heb 12:14) - is to be 100% Catholic and thereby have access to all the grace that God provides through the Sacraments, particularly through the Eucharist and Confession, as well as all the other treasures of the Church.

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What is this about the “brothers” of Jesus in the Bible? Did Mary have other children besides Jesus?

No. The Church teaches that Mary was a perpetual virgin. Yet, as you mention, the Bible does indeed mention the “brothers” of Jesus. Mark 6:3, “Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary and the brother of James and Joses and Judas and Simon...”

The “brothers” of Jesus are clearly mentioned, and named, in the Bible. So, Mary must have had other children and the Catholic Church is wrong when it dogmatically teaches that she was a perpetual virgin, right? Well, not so fast.

First of all, let’s look at Matthew 27:55-56. Here we see named some of the women who were at the Crucifixion. “There were also many women there, looking on from afar...among whom were Mary Magdalene, and Mary the mother of James and Joses...” It seems that the James and Joses identified in Mark 6:3 as the “brothers” of Jesus, indeed had a mother named Mary, but it was not the same Mary who was the mother of Jesus.

Furthermore, let’s look at Galatians 1:19. Paul is talking about when he went to Jerusalem to consult with the chief of the Apostles, Peter, and while there, “I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother.”

So, we have James, the “brother” of Jesus as mentioned in Mark 6:3, and James, the “Lord’s brother,” as mentioned in Gal 1:19. And this time James, the Lord’s brother, is identified as an apostle. So, if I’m a Bible-only believer - in other words, if the Bible is my sole rule of faith when it comes to all things related to the Christian Faith - then I have to admit that the James in Mark 6:3 and the James in Gal 1:19 are the same James; after all, how many brothers named “James” would Jesus have?

But there’s a problem for those who would say this James is the son of Mary, the mother of Jesus. You see, this James is clearly identified as an apostle. Yet, of the two apostles named James that we find in the list of the twelve apostles (e.g., Matthew 10:1-4), one of them had a father named Zebedee and the other had a father named Alphaeus - neither one of them had a father named Joseph! Which means, neither one of them was Jesus’ sibling. Neither one of them had the same mother as Jesus. So, the James mentioned in Mark 6:3 and Gal 1:19 as a “brother” of Jesus, is a brother in a broader sense of the word, he was not a brother in the sense of having the same parents.

Now, Catholic tradition (small “t” tradition), often identifies the James in Galatians 1:19 as someone who was not one of the twelve apostles. However, someone who goes by the Bible alone and who does not put any stock in “tradition” cannot use the argument from tradition, because they only accept the Bible as the authority in matters Christian. So, using the Bible alone, one cannot argue that the James in Gal 1:19 is a “third” James who had at some point been named an apostle because the Bible nowhere mentions such a thing.

So, when we look at the “brothers” of Jesus in the broader context of Scripture, rather than just focusing on Mark 6:3, we see that the argument against the perpetual virginity of Mary has no foundation in the Bible.

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I’m reading a book that refers to the Catholic Church as being the “harlot of Babylon” as found in Revelation chapters 17 and 18. How would you respond to that?

I would respond by showing that Jerusalem actually fits the description of the harlot of Babylon, while the Catholic Church does not. Rev 17:1 refers to the “great harlot." How is the nation of Israel, with Jerusalem as her capital often referred to in the Old Testament? As a harlot. Why? Because the relationship between God and Israel was often described in marital terms. Therefore, when Israel would worship false gods, she was described as a harlot. Hosea 9:1, "Rejoice not, O Israel...for you have played the harlot, forsaking your God. You have loved a harlot's hire upon all threshing floors." So we see that Israel is often referred to as a harlot in the Old Testament.

Rev 17:9-10 refer to the seven heads (verse 3) of this beast the harlot is riding on as being “seven hills.” This is why a lot of anti-Catholic folks identify the harlot as the Roman Catholic Church, because Rome is a city on seven hills. However, we see that the seven hills pertain to the beast on which the woman is seated, not the woman herself. I believe, as do most scholars I've read - Catholic and Protestant - that the beast is indeed symbolic of Rome and the Roman Empire. But, if Rome is the beast, then that "proves" the woman sitting on the beast is the Catholic Church, right? Not so fast.

Rev 17:18 says this: “And the woman that you saw is the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth." Some argue that the great city which has dominion over the kings of the earth is Rome. But, if verse 9, which refers to the beast the woman is seated upon, is referring to the city of Rome; and verse 18, which refers to the harlot, is also referring to the city of Rome, then the beast and the harlot are one and the same. Both are the city of Rome.

But, these are clearly two separate entities, so if one is Rome, then the other has to be another city - Jerusalem makes sense.

Some may say, "Well, of course the beast is Rome - the city on seven hills - but, the harlot is the city within the city, Vatican City, where the Catholic Church is headquartered." The problem is, though, there was no such thing as Vatican City until the early 20th century. When John wrote Revelation, he spoke of the harlot in the present tense: "...IS the great city which HAS dominion over the kings of the earth.” He could not have been referring to Vatican City.

Rev 17:16, "...the beast will hate the harlot; they will make her desolate and naked, and devour her flesh, and burn her up with fire." Does that mean that Rome will burn Vatican City? (There goes a bunch of tourist revenue!) If the beast is Rome (or the Roman Empire), and the harlot is Jerusalem, then we can see here a clear reference to the destruction of Jerusalem, by Rome, which sacked and burned Jerusalem in 70 A.D. - leaving her naked and burned up with fire - just as the Bible describes the harlot of Babylon.

Finally, the harlot of Babylon is referred to as the "great city," in Rev 17:18 and in a few verses in chapter 18. Yet, Rev 11:9 says, "...and their dead bodies will lie in the street of the GREAT CITY which is allegorically called Sodom and Egypt, where their Lord was crucified." The "great city" is where their Lord was crucified. Where was Jesus crucified? Jerusalem.

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Catholics say that faith and works are necessary for salvation and that one has to be baptized in order to be saved; yet, the Good Thief did no works and was not baptized, and still Jesus told him he would be in paradise. Doesn’t this prove Catholic teaching is false?

No, it does not. Luke 23:42-43, “And he [the Good Thief] said, ‘Jesus, remember me when you come in your kingly power.’ And He [Jesus] said to him, ‘Truly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise.’”

Is the Good Thief saved? Obviously he is, based on Jesus’ words. Does this prove that works and Baptism have nothing to do with one’s salvation? Definitely not. Let’s consider first the “works” part of this.

My question to anyone who says the Good Thief did no works is this: If he had not opened his mouth in defense of Jesus, would he have still been saved? Maybe, but we don’t know for sure. However, we can say with great confidence that he would not have received Jesus’ promise of Paradise if he had remained silent. So, the next question is: Was verbally defending Jesus while hanging on a cross, which prompted Jesus’ promise of Paradise, a work?

Indeed it was, especially when you consider what the Good Thief was going through. Many people do not realize that when one is crucified, they usually die by asphyxiation. Fluid slowly collects in their lungs making it harder and harder to breathe, until it gets to the point where they literally suffocate. In order to breathe, one must lift themselves up from their hanging position and take a breath. Well, to do that, you have to push up on two feet that just happen to have this huge nail sticking through them. This is why they broke the thieves’ legs to make them die quicker. By breaking their legs, it prevented the thieves from lifting themselves up to get air.

In other words, the mere act of breathing is something that is extremely painful. So the Good Thief, in order to speak, had to first press up on his feet to get air, which caused excruciating pain, and then he used some of this very precious breath to speak in defense of Christ. I consider it an incredible work for someone with nails through his hands and feet - struggling to breathe because of the fluid building up in his lungs - to use some of his precious breath to defend Christ. In spite of all his misery and pain, he thought of someone else before himself. How can anyone claim the Good Thief did no works?

Finally, let’s address the Baptism issue. The most important thing to remember here is that the New Covenant had not yet been instituted - the Old Covenant was still in effect. The Old Covenant equivalent of Baptism was circumcision (Col 2:11-12). This thief being a Jew, he was undoubtedly circumcised. Therefore, the fact that he wasn't baptized, as far as we know, is not relevant in this situation. Was Moses baptized? Was David? Was Abraham? No, but they were all circumcised and they were all saved - under the Old Covenant.

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I have a question for you that my son asked. In the Creed we read: "He ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from there He shall come to judge the living and the dead." His question is: At what time does this judging occur? Directly after death or at a later time?

There is a particular judgment at the moment of death, and there will be a general judgment at the end of time. The particular judgment is more like the kind of courtroom judgment we think of when we hear the word “judgment” - a determining of guilt or innocence.

At the moment of our death, we will be judged and our eternal destination - Heaven or Hell - will be decided. As it says in Hebrews 9:27, “...it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment.” We can see particular judgments for Lazarus and the Rich Man after their deaths (Luke 16:22-23). Paul laments how he would prefer to leave his body and be with Christ rather than stay here on earth (2 Cor 5:8; Phil 1:21-23), implying a particular judgment at the moment of death. We also see Scripture speak of the spirits of the just who have been made perfect and are already in Heaven (Heb 12:23), again implying a particular judgment after death.

However, the word "judgment" is often used to mean "vindication" or "defense." The general judgment, or Last Judgment, will not be so much one of deciding guilt or innocence - Heaven or Hell - as it is a judgment of the triumph of good over evil. Judgment in this sense would mean a vindication more than a courtroom style judgment. So, the Last Judgment is the final vindication of good over evil - the final and complete victory of good over evil that takes place at the Second Coming of Christ at the end of time.

At the Last Judgment the workings of God’s plan in salvation history, and every individuals role in that plan - for good or for evil - will be revealed to all (Catechism #677-679). Luke 12:2-3, “Nothing is covered up that will not be revealed, or hidden that will not be known. Whatever you have said in the dark shall be heard in the light, and what you have whispered in private rooms shall be proclaimed upon the rooftops.”

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Is there a scriptural reference that I can point to as justification for Catholics referring to Mary as the “Ark of the New Covenant?”

Well, we need to first turn to Rev 11:19, “Then God’s temple in Heaven was opened, and the ark of His covenant was seen within His temple; and there were flashes of lightning, loud noises, peals of thunder, and earthquake, and heavy hail.”

Then, we need to remember that there were no chapters and verses in the original, so we go on to read, in Rev 12:1, right after John says the ark of the covenant is seen, “And a great portent appeared in Heaven, a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars.” The woman, who brought forth the male child that will rule all nations (verse 5), is Mary. Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant. As the Ark of the Old Covenant bore the Word of God in stone, so the Ark of the New Covenant bears the Word of God in the flesh.

There is a fascinating parallel between chapter 1 of Luke and 2 Sam, chapter 6:

2 Sam 6:2, “And David arose and went with all the people who were with him from Baale Judah [which was a city in Judah] to bring up from there the ark of God.” Lk 1:39, “In those days Mary arose and went with haste into the hill country, to a city of Judah …”

2 Sam 6:9, “…and David said, ‘How can the ark of the Lord come to me? ’” Lk 1:43, “And why is this granted me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

2 Sam 6:10, “…but David took [the ark] aside to the house of Obededom the Gittite.” Lk 1:40, “and she entered the house of Zechariah …”

2 Sam 6:11, “And the ark of the Lord remained in the house of Obededom the Gittite three months; and the Lord blessed Obededom and all his household.” Lk 1:56, “And Mary remained with [Elizabeth] about three months …”

2 Sam 6:12, “So David went and brought up the ark of God from the house of Obededom to the city of David with rejoicing …” Lk 1:47, “…and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior…”

2 Sam 6:15, “So David and all the house of Israel brought up the ark of the Lord with shouting..” Lk 1:42, “…and [Elizabeth] exclaimed with a loud cry …”

2 Sam 6:16, “As the ark of the Lord came into the city of David…King David [was] leaping and dancing before the Lord…” Lk 1:41, “And when Elizabeth heard the greeting of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb…” Mary, the Ark of the New Covenant. Mary, the God-bearer.

Lk 1:35, “And the angel of the Lord said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you…” Ex 40:34, “The cloud [the shekina glory cloud of God] covered [or overshadowed] the tent of meeting, and the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle.” The tabernacle which just so happened to contain…the Ark of the Covenant. Same verb is used in both places, “to overshadow”, or “to cover”. 1 Kings 8:10-11, “And when the priests came out of the holy place, a cloud filled the house of the Lord, so that the priests could not stand to minister because of the cloud; for the glory of the Lord filled the house of the Lord.” Again, the shekina glory cloud covered or filled the house of the Lord.

The same verb again as used in Lk 1:35. This time, however, instead of it being the tent that Moses constructed in the desert, it was the newly completed temple in Jerusalem which Solomon had built. And, again, the same verb “to overshadow”, is used in all three places. And, what was in the holy of holies in the temple? The Ark of the Covenant. Still not convinced?

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I have an Evangelical friend at work who claims that the Catholic belief in Purgatory is not scriptural. What should I say to him?

2 Sam 12:13-18, “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.’ And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became sick…On the seventh day the child died.” Catholic Scriptural Principle #1 – there is punishment for sin even after one has received forgiveness.

Rev 21:27, “But nothing unclean shall enter it…” The New Jerusalem – Heaven. Catholic Scriptural Principle #2 – nothing unclean, nothing with the stain of sin, will enter Heaven.

Mt 5:48, “You, therefore, must be perfect as your heavenly Father is perfect.” That’s because of Principle #2 – nothing unclean will get into Heaven.

Heb 12:22-23, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living god, the heavenly Jerusalem...and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect…” The spirits of just men, made perfect. Catholic Scriptural Principle #3 – there is a way, a process, through which the spirits of the “just” are “made perfect.”

1 Cor 3:13-15, “…each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day [judgment day] will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” Where is this place that a man, after he dies, suffers loss, as through fire, but is still saved. Hell? No, once you’re in Hell, you don’t get out. Heaven? No, you don’t suffer loss in Heaven.

Mt 12:32, “And whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” Implies forgiveness in the age to come. Where can you go to be forgiven in the age to come? Heaven? You don’t need forgiveness. Hell? There is no forgiveness. Catholic Scriptural Principle #4 – there is a place, or state of being, other than Heaven or Hell.

Now, let’s summarize these four scriptural principles: There is punishment for sin even after one has received forgiveness. We have to be perfect as the Father is perfect, because nothing unclean will enter Heaven. There is some way, or process, by which the spirits of the just are made perfect. There is a place besides Heaven or Hell where you can suffer loss, yet be saved, but only as through fire; and where you can be forgiven of sins from a previous age. It all adds up to one inevitable conclusion - the Catholic teaching on Purgatory is indeed scriptural.

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My brother-in-law lives in [up-state] New York. His parish priest conducts "general confessions" and gives general absolution. Now my brother-in-law believes that he (no one) needs to go to private confession. Is this true? Please help me to respond to this.

Your brother-in-law's parish priest is doing something he should not be doing. If he knows the teaching of the Church on this matter, yet does it anyway, it could have serious consequences for his soul. And, if your brother-in-law no longer goes to private confession, it could have serious consequences for his soul, as well.

General confession and general absolution are the exception, not the rule. They are to be used, for example, in instances where the priest does not have time to hear the confessions of all those who wish to confess, and there is a danger of death for those who wish to confess but are unable to. The perfect example is if a priest is ministering to troops who are about to go into battle. If there are hundreds of troops who wish to confess, but only limited time before they go into battle, then the priest can give "general" absolution. However, any troops that survive the battle, then have to make a private confession and receive private absolution, or the general absolution is of no effect.

Or, another example, would be in situations where there are a large number of penitents and insufficient number of priests to hear their individual confessions in a reasonable time, and it may be many months before a priest returns to hear confessions again. This could be the case in a remote village in say Siberia, Africa, or South America.

In other words, the need to use general confession and general absolution at a parish in the United States is almost, if not entirely, non-existent.

You need to have your brother-in-law read the Catechism of the Catholic Church, pages 357-374, particularly paragraphs #1456 ("Confession to a priest is an ESSENTIAL part of the sacrament of Penance..."); #1483 (In case of grave necessity recourse may be had to a communal celebration of reconciliation with general confession and general absolution”), and #1484. He then would need to go to his priest and discuss this situation with him in light of the teachings of the Church on this matter as clearly given in the Catechism.

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I was taught from other Christian churches that baptism must be by immersion, but the Catholics sprinkle. I see nowhere in the Bible (that I can find) where it specifically states there is a certain way to be baptized, just that is says "by water". Can you tell me if there is any material on the matter or is that an "open to interpretation" thing?

In the Didache, which is one of the earliest, if not the earliest, non-scriptural Christian writings, it says this about Baptism: "The procedure for baptizing is as follows: after repeating all that has been said, immerse in running water 'In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost'. If no running water is available, immerse in ordinary water...If neither is practicable, then pour water three times on the head 'In the name of the Father...."

Again, this is not Scripture, but this is a window into the practices of the early Christians who learned directly from the Apostles and those appointed by the Apostles to leadership roles within the Church. They were baptizing folks by immersion and by pouring, or sprinkling.

Ezekiel 36:25-27, "I will SPRINKLE clean water upon you and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you...and I will put My Spirit within you..." What do you think is being talked about here? Water...a new spirit...cleansed of your uncleannesses? Baptism...by sprinkling.

Nowhere in the Bible does it say one has to be immersed in order to be "officially" baptized. People will point to Jesus’ baptism accounts which say that He “came up out of the water,” and use that to claim He was immersed. However, if you read all four of the accounts of Jesus' baptism side-by-side, you can make a very strong case that when it says, Jesus “came up out of the water," it does not mean He came up from under the water (immersion), but rather that it means He came up out of the river onto the bank. If you had a child swimming in a pool and you called to them and they “came up out of the water,” what would that mean? That your child was underwater but is now above water, or that he had come out of the pool altogether? It would be the latter.

Finally, in 1 Cor 15:29, Paul notes that there were folks baptizing on behalf of the dead. And, he doesn't specifically repudiate the practice. So, the Scripture tells us that there were Christians baptizing folks on behalf of the dead and nowhere does the Scripture say this should not happen. Paul himself offers no criticism of the practice. Why then does anyone believe that baptizing on behalf of the dead is not an acceptable Christian practice? Why? Because of the authority of the Church to decide such matters. Just as the Church can say that baptism on behalf of the dead is not acceptable, in spite of it clearly being practiced by some Christians in Scripture, so the Church can decide on the method of baptism. It has Christ's own authority to bind and loose on earth. And, what it binds and looses on earth, is bound and loosed in Heaven.

By the way, one can always elect to be fully immersed when baptized into the Catholic Church, and I know of folks who have done so. In other words, immersion is not a practice that is forbidden by the Church, it is just one that is not used as often as pouring.

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We are homeschoolers who have a very good friend who's a "Bible-Only" Christian. I try my best to be polite, explaining the best I can about what Catholic-Christians believe. During Lent, I took her to the Stations of the Cross at our parish, since her church "didn't do much before Easter." She seemed to enjoy it, even kneeling at the appropriate times (after several stations). However, when we got in the car, she questioned me on Veronica - saying she is not in the Bible and so on. How should I respond about Veronica? I am a convert of 12 years, so I'm comfortable with Sacred Scripture/Tradition, but our friend was really bothered by the fact that there is no "Biblical" evidence for Station 6.

You can start by telling her that the tradition of Veronica and the stations of the cross dates back to the earliest centuries of Christianity. No, nothing about her in the Bible. But, not everything that happened during Jesus’ Passion is recorded in Scripture. For example, the Bible doesn't tell us which shoulder Jesus carried His cross on. So, what if a movie shows Jesus carrying His cross on His left shoulder, when He actually carried it on His right shoulder? Or vice versa? Is that necessarily a bad thing?

To believe that the only things that happened to and around Jesus during His passion are the things recorded in the Bible, is to leave a whole lot of gaps in the story. The Bible simply doesn't cover 100% of what happened. So, are we necessarily wrong to believe Veronica wiped Jesus' face, just because the Bible says nothing about it?

I would simply ask her if she believes that everything that happened to Jesus during His Passion is recorded in the Bible? If she says, "Yes," then go through one of the accounts of the Passion and ask her why it only takes a few minutes to read about every single thing that happened to Jesus in a period of time that is somewhere around 16-20 hours long.

If she says, "No," that not everything that happened to Jesus during His Passion is in the Bible, then I would ask her if that doesn’t mean it is at least possible that Veronica did indeed wipe Jesus' face on His way to Calvary. She pretty much has to say yes, that it is a "possibility." If she says, "No," it's not at least a possibility, then I would ask her why. If she says, "It's not in the Bible,” then go back to the 1st question above.

If she says, "Yes," it could have happened, then simply tell her that it is not an article of the Catholic Faith that it did indeed happen. But, based upon the best information we have, we believe this 2000-yr. old tradition to be true. Therefore, we use this tradition as a point of meditation and prayer. It's just that simple. One doesn't have to believe that Veronica wiped the face of Christ in order to be Catholic. And, if she didn't wipe His face, that still doesn't nullify the prayers we pray at that particular station of the cross. God knows our intent and our hearts and He uses our prayers regardless of whether Veronica actually wiped the face of Christ or not.

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I have your CD, “Apologetics for the Scripturally-Challenged,” and I really liked the “Twelve Questions for Protestants” at the end of it. Do you have any more questions along those same lines?

Indeed I do...many. One question, in particular, that I like to ask folks who believe in the dogma of Sola Fide - salvation by “faith alone” - has to do with James 2:26. James 2:26 reads as follows: “For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead.”

With someone who believes in salvation by faith alone, I take them to this verse and simply ask: “Would you please explain to me what this verse means?”

And I point out to them that this verse is drawing a parallel between the body and the spirit on the one hand, and faith and works on the other hand. Faith is analogous to the body, and works are analogous to the spirit. The verse clearly expresses a simple truth, both body and spirit are necessary in order to have life - physical life. So, and I make sure to emphasize this point, for the analogy to hold, both faith and works are necessary to have life - spiritual life.

Which means the Protestant dogma of salvation by faith alone - Sola Fide - is one that will not lead to life. As the body alone, without the spirit, is dead, so faith alone, without works, is dead - as Scripture explicitly states in James 2:17. And dead faith does not lead to salvation.

Now, some defenders of the Sola Fide dogma will say that this verse, as well as all of the 2nd chapter of James, is simply saying that faith without works isn’t really faith. They will tell you that a “true” faith is a faith that works, but that the works have absolutely nothing to do with your eternal salvation. They say that works “show forth” your faith, but that it is faith alone that saves you - works have no impact whatsoever on your salvation.

If you hear that argument, then simply take their interpretation and try to plug it into this verse. Let’s try it: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works isn’t really faith.” What happened? The analogy between body/spirt and faith/works broke down. By plugging in the “sola fide” interpretation, you have radically altered the verse. In order to fix the analogy, we have to change the verse yet again: “For as the body without the spirit really isn’t a body, so faith without works really isn’t faith.”

By plugging in a sola fide interpretation, the verse becomes nonsensical. Are the bodies down at the morgue not really bodies? Of course they are! But they are dead bodies - without life. Just so, faith without works is really faith, but it is dead faith - without life. In other words, there is no such thing as salvation by faith alone - works are necessary to complete faith (James 2:22).

Another way you could read James 2:26, using a sola fide interpretation, is: “For as the body without the spirit is dead, so works show forth faith.” Huh? No matter how you try to do it, forcing a sola fide meaning into this verse just doesn’t work. Faith and works are both necessary for spiritual life, just as body and spirit are both necessary for physical life.

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Where in the Bible does it say anything about the Mass and the notion of it being a sacrifice?

Malachi 1:11, “For from the rising of the sun to its setting my name is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to my name, and a pure offering; for my name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.”

When this passage from Malachi was written some 450 years before Christ, the Lord’s name was not great among the nations - the word “nations” referring to the Gentiles. The Gentiles were pagan and they worshipped numerous gods. Sacrifice was not being offered to the Lord God in all the nations. So, this verse from Malachi is essentially a prophecy that refers to the time after Christ has risen from the dead and the Lord’s name was indeed made great among the nations through the spread of the Gospel.

Now, what does it say will be happening among the nations once the Lord’s name has been made great among them? It says from the rising of the sun to its setting incense is offered to the Lord’s name and a pure offering. (Most Catholics should be familiar with this verse since it is in the Eucharistic prayer - “From east to west a perfect offering is made.”)

Let’s look at that a bit more closely. First of all, this verse is referring to the worship of God, which is the context within which sacrifices, or offerings, are made to God in Scripture. Secondly, the offering spoken of here is twofold - an offering of incense and a “pure” offering. How many churches do you know of that offer incense at any of their worship services?

And what is this “pure offering” referring to? What is the only “pure” offering that has ever been made to God? The offering of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross at Calvary. In other words, this verse from Malachi is telling us that from the rising of the sun to its setting (all day long) some sort of worship service will be taking place among the nations (the Gentiles) in which they offer incense and the only pure offering that has ever been made - Jesus Christ.

What type of worship service do you know of that takes place in all the nations, all day long (every hour on the hour), where the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is continually offered to God? The Mass. Malachi 1:11 is a prophecy that perfectly describes what is happening at the Mass.

In the New Testament, Paul also very clearly describes the Mass as being a sacrifice when he links the “bread” and the “cup of blessing” to the sacrifices of Israel and to the practice of the Israelites eating the sacrifice that has been offered (1 Cor 10:16-18). Again, this is a description of the Mass where we participate in the body and blood of the sacrifice - Jesus Christ - by eating what has been sacrificed - Jesus Christ.

So, it is very clear, from Scripture, that the worship of God involves incense and a pure offering, or sacrifice. And, in New Testament and Old, we see the actions of the Mass described exactly as we experience them in the Catholic Church today. The Mass involves a sacrifice, the once for all - all time and all people - sacrifice of Jesus Christ. I will continue this discussion in my next article by looking at the Letter to the Hebrews.

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Where in the Bible does it say anything about the Mass and the notion of it being a sacrifice? (Cont’d from last week.)

Last week I talked about the Mass as sacrifice as seen in Malachi 1:11 and 1 Cor 10:16-18. This week I want to talk about how the Letter to the Hebrews reaffirms the notion of the Mass being a sacrifice.

Let’s look first at Hebrews 5:14, “Since then we have a great high priest Who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God...” So, we see that Jesus is our high priest. What does the Bible tell us is the function of the high priest? Heb 5:1, “For every high priest chosen from among men is appointed to act on behalf of men in relation to God, to offer gifts and sacrifices for sins.”

Jesus is our high priest, and a high priest’s duty is to offer sacrifice for sin. Now, how long is Jesus to be a high priest? Heb 5:6, “Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.” So, Jesus is our high priest forever, and the duty of the high priest is to offer sacrifice. So, if Jesus is going to be our high priest forever, then He needs some sacrifice to offer on our behalf forever, as it says in Heb 8:3, “...hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer.”

What does Jesus offer? Heb 9:12, “He entered once for all into the Holy Place taking not the blood of goats and calves, but His own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption.”

By reading Hebrews chapters 4 through 10, it becomes very apparent that the Old Covenant offerings of animals were merely a prelude to the pure offering (Malachi 1:11) of the New Covenant - Jesus Christ Himself. The offering of the high priests of old in the earthly Holy of Holies, was merely a dress rehearsal for the offering of the eternal high priest in the true Holy of Holies in Heaven.

Heb 9:24, “For Christ has entered, not into a sanctuary made with hands, a copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.” Jesus has entered Heaven and forever presents His once for all offering to the Father on our behalf. He is not, however, continually re-sacrificed, “for then He would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world” (Heb 9:26), rather He eternally presents His once for all sacrifice.

Every time a sinner turns to the Father for forgiveness, Christ, on our behalf, in effect says to the Father, “See, Father...see what I did for John. For Jim. For Sharon. For Megan. For Julia. For Bob.” He eternally offers His sacrifice on our behalf.

What happens at the Mass, is the priest, acting in the person of Christ, offers to the Father that same offering that Christ offers in Heaven. Heaven and earth are intertwined at the Mass and we actually enter into the offering of Christ’s blood that our High Priest eternally makes to the Father in the Holy Place, which is why the Mass is indeed a sacrifice.

One last thought, relating to the use of incense at Mass. In Revelation 5:8 and 8:4 we see golden bowls of incense, which represent the prayers of the saints, brought before the throne of God. If they’re using incense in the heavenly Mass, what’s wrong with using incense to symbolize the prayers of the saints, here on earth, especially since Malachi 1:11 says that it will be used in worship services? “For from the rising of the sun to its setting...in every place incense if offered to my name, and a pure offering.”

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I am active in many groups/teams that are made up of various faith based beliefs. Activities include faith based programs and services such as KAIROS prison ministry. At some of these a communion service is offered. I have been told that communion by someone other then an ordained priest, from the lineage of Peter, is not communion and there is no problem. It is just a symbol and not a real communion. What is the ruling on taking communion at these services?

In some of the various Protestant and Evangelical congregations, their belief regarding communion is very close to what Catholics believe. However, only a priest ordained by a bishop who has authentic apostolic authority can effect the change of bread and wine into the real body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ. Which means that these congregations, even though they believe they are receiving the Real Presence, are not actually doing so. They are receiving a piece of bread and some wine.

In most of the Protestant, Evangelical, and non-denominational congregations, however, not only do they not have a validly ordained priest, but they also do not even believe in the Real Presence. Their communion service is meant to be merely a symbol.

So, either way you look at it, it is essentially correct to say that in the Protestant, Evangelical, non-denominational, and other such communities, communion, or the Lord’s Supper, is merely a symbol. The question is, does that make it okay for Catholics to receive? The answer is: No, it does not.

In the Catholic Church, we believe the reception of Communion is the sign and symbol of union - union between Christ and those who receive Him, and union between all those who receive Christ in this sacrament.

In a marriage, the physical union of husband and wife is the sign and the symbol of union between the two. If there is no union - no lifelong commitment - then the sign of union should not take place. Which means sex outside of marriage is a lie - you are saying with your bodies that a union exists, that a commitment has been made, when no such union actually exists.

Just so, it is a lie for someone who is not Catholic to receive Communion in the Catholic Church, when there is first no union with the Catholic Church. When you receive Communion in the Catholic Church, you are saying with your body that you are in union with the Church and that you believe as we believe. And not just in regard to the Real Presence, but also in regard to the Pope, to Mary, to the other Sacraments, to the Communion of Saints, the priesthood, salvation, and so on. If there is no union, there should be no Communion.

The same holds when you receive communion in a non-Catholic faith tradition. You are saying, with your body, that you believe as they believe. You are telling everyone present that there is essentially no difference between what they believe about communion and what you, as a Catholic, believe about Communion. You are telling a lie with your body. That is why Catholics should not receive communion, or the Lord’s Supper, outside the bounds of the Catholic Church.

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Jesus said: “No one can enter the Kingdom of God without being born of water and the Spirit' (John 3:3-5). I have seen a good number of non-Christians living a righteous life. Will they not enter the Kingdom of God?

The Church teaches, as God clearly states in John 3, that Baptism is necessary for salvation. The Church believes that God wants all men to be saved, and therefore gives all men the opportunity for salvation. The "ordinary" means of salvation is through the Sacraments (beginning with Baptism) given to us by God through His Church. But, the Church holds out the possibility that there is some "extraordinary" means of salvation known only unto God, by which those who are not physically baptized may still receive the grace of salvation through Christ Jesus.

As St. Paul says in Rom 2, when speaking about those who have not the law, "...their conscience also bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or perhaps excuse them on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus."

The Church teaches that non-Christians who are invincibly ignorant of the truths about Jesus Christ and His Church, "may" be saved. In other words, it is possible for them to be saved, if they are indeed righteous, if they have never been told about Jesus, and had no way of finding out about Him and thereby believing in Him. If, however, they have been exposed to Christ, and know something of the claims of Christianity, yet have either rejected those claims or not investigated those claims (willful ignorance), then they may indeed have a difficult time come Judgment Day.

This is why it is so incumbent upon us, as Catholics, to do all in our power to bring Christ to the world, to bring Truth to the world. The best chance any person has to be with God in Heaven for all of eternity is to be a Catholic who is devout, regularly receives the Sacraments, and does all in their power to be holy. It is difficult enough to be holy with all the graces available to us as Catholics, how much more difficult for those who do not have Baptism, who do not regularly go to Confession, and who do not regularly receive the Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist! Therefore, we cannot simply sit back and say, "Well, these are good people, surely God will take them to Heaven even though they are not Christian." That is gambling with someone's soul based on a personal opinion, or on a "feeling."

By our Baptism we are all called to evangelize. If it's not something we are comfortable doing, then we need to pray to God to give us the strength and the wisdom to get out there and do it anyway. The lives of souls are at stake.

No one can say whether or not someone will end up in Hell, that is a judgment reserved for God alone. However, one can indeed say that getting to Heaven is not an easy thing and that we need all the graces possible in order to persevere in holiness to the end, and that the greatest graces available to us are found in and through the Sacraments. Therefore, one can conclude that those outside of the Sacraments have the odds stacked against them.

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Where in the Bible does it say anything about priestly celibacy? I have a friend who says that the Catholic Church is going contrary to the Bible by requiring celibacy for its priests.

There are two main Scripture passages that I turn to for support of the Church’s teaching on priestly celibacy. The first of these is Matthew 19:12, “For there are eunuchs who have been so from birth, and there are eunuchs who have been made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. He who is able to receive this, let him receive it.”

When Jesus says that there are those who have “made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven,” He is speaking figuratively, not literally. He is referring to those who live a celibate life in order to better serve the kingdom of heaven. Who do we know who fulfills these words of Christ? Who do we know that has taken a vow of celibacy - who has made themselves eunuchs - for the sake of the kingdom of heaven? Baptist ministers? Evangelical pastors? Episcopal priests? No, no, and no. No slight intended to the aforementioned ministers, but Catholic priests are the only ones I know of who fulfill these particular words of Jesus.

Here in Matthew 19:12, we see Jesus Christ saying something that applies most directly to Catholic priests. So, the discipline of priestly celibacy - and it is a discipline, not a doctrine - is indeed biblical

.

Now, the other Scripture passage I mentioned in support of priestly celibacy is 1 Corinthians 7:32-34, “I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord, but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided.”

Paul is telling us that one can best serve the Lord, and His people, by remaining unmarried. Not to say that you cannot serve the Lord while married, but rather to say that you can be more single-minded in serving the Lord if unmarried. It is simply a matter of common sense that when a person is single, they have more time to be about the affairs of the Lord then they do when they are married, and certainly when they are married and have children. The married man is indeed anxious, as Paul says, about worldly affairs and his interests are indeed divided.

So, in 1 Corinthians 7, we have another passage from the Bible that supports the practice of priestly celibacy. For those who argue against the Catholic Church’s practice in this regard by saying it is unbiblical, what they are actually doing is showing their lack of knowledge in regard to what Scripture really says.

It is also worth noting that a life of celibacy - priestly or otherwise - is a sign pointing to the hereafter. As it says in Matthew 22:30, “For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven.” So the example of celibacy given to us by our priests is a foreshadowing of our life to come.

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I have an Evangelical friend at work who claims that the Catholic belief in Purgatory is not scriptural. What should I say to him?

I want to answer that question by first using Scripture and then by using some common sense. From the perspective of Scripture, the word “Purgatory,” never appears in the Bible, so does that mean Purgatory isn’t in the Bible? Not at all. The word “Incarnation” is not in the Bible, but all Christians believe the Incarnation is a scriptural belief. The word “Trinity” is not in the Bible, but all Christians believe the Trinity is a scriptural belief. So, the mere fact that the word, “Purgatory,” does not appear in the Bible does not mean Catholics have to admit that Purgatory is a non-scriptural teaching, as we will see. To demonstrate the very scriptural nature of the doctrine of Purgatory, I want to first establish some Catholic scriptural principles. I will start in the Old Testament. In 2 Sam 12:13-18, it states, “David said to Nathan, ‘I have sinned against the Lord.’ And Nathan said to David, ‘The Lord also has put away your sin; you shall not die. Nevertheless, because by this deed you have utterly scorned the Lord, the child that is born to you shall die.’ And the Lord struck the child that Uriah’s wife bore to David, and it became sick…On the seventh day the child died.” What do we see here? David sins. David realizes he has sinned. David repents. David is forgiven - the Lord “put away” his sin. Yet, David receives punishment for his sin after he has been forgiven - his child dies. Catholic Scriptural Principle #1 – there is the possibility of punishment for sin even after one has received forgiveness. Let’s move now to the New Testament. Rev 21:27, “But nothing unclean shall enter it…” This is referring to the New Jerusalem – Heaven. Catholic Scriptural Principle #2 – nothing unclean - nothing, in other words, with the stain of sin - will enter Heaven. More Scripture. Heb 12:22-23, “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem...and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect…” Notice, it speaks of the “spirits” of just men (who, as Catholics would say, are those that died in a state of grace), who are in Heaven, and who have been “made perfect.” Catholic Scriptural Principle #3 – there is a way, a process, through which the spirits of the “just” are “made perfect.” 1 Cor 3:13-15, “…each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day [judgment day] will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundation [Jesus Christ] survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” Where is this place that a man, after he dies, has his works tested, and could suffer loss, as through fire, but still be saved? Hell? No, once you’re in Hell, you don’t get out. Heaven? No, you don’t suffer loss as through fire in Heaven. It must be somewhere else. Catholic Scriptural Principle #4 – there is a place, or state of being, other than Heaven or Hell. Now, let’s summarize these four scriptural principles: There is the possibility of punishment for sin even after one has received forgiveness. Nothing with the stain of sin will enter Heaven. There is some way, or process, by which the spirits of the just are made perfect. And there is a place besides Heaven or Hell where you can suffer loss, yet still be saved, but only as through fire. We’ve just, in essence, described Purgatory. Conclusion: Catholic teaching on Purgatory is indeed scriptural. Now, what about the common sense perspective on Purgatory that I mentioned earlier? Well, think about this: Are you perfect right now? In every single way - physically, mentally, emotionally, and/or spiritually...are you perfect? Do you have any attachment to sin? Do you never have a bad thought, say a bad word, do something you shouldn’t, or don’t do something you should? Do you ever get sick? I have asked a whole lot of people that question and I have never had anyone say to me that, yes, they are perfect. So, you’re not perfect. But, God forbid, let’s say you were to die this very instant and you were to go to Heaven. Would you be perfect in Heaven? Yes, you would be. You would be perfectly united to the Body of Christ, no more sin, no more pain, no more anguish, no more illness. Your soul would be free from sin and your body - after the Resurrection of the Dead - would be in its glorified state. You would be perfect in Heaven. Well, think about that. You die imperfect; but you enter Heaven perfect. How did that happen? There was some process by which the spirit of the just was made perfect. Your imperfections were “purged” from you. Call that whatever you want, but that process is what we Catholics call “Purgatory.” Back to top

This week I am going to start a series on Apostolic Authority and the Pope. I want to answer some questions such as: Who is the Pope? What is Apostolic Authority? Why is either important to us as Catholics? And so on.

So, let’s talk about Apostolic Authority and the Pope. I want to start off by laying down some fundamental principles about the Church. Some Catholic biblical principles. Before we can properly understand the nature of Apostolic Authority and the role of the Pope, we need to understand the nature and role of the Church. The first principle I want to mention is that Jesus founded one Church. As Jesus says in Mt 16:18, “and on this rock I will build my church.” He did not say I will build my “churches”. He used the word church. Singular. One. One Church. The second principle is that Jesus established an authoritative Church. A Church which can speak authoritatively regarding truth. In John 8:32, Jesus says, “...and you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free." The truth shall set you free - the truth shall save you, in other words - set you free from sin. To know the truth, then, is critical for us as Christians. To be saved, to reach Heaven, we need to know the truth! So, where do we find this truth? Where do we, as Christians, look for the truth. Well, for the Christian, what is the pillar and bulwark of the truth? The pillar and bulwark of the truth is the Bible, right? No! The Bible itself tells us that the pillar and bulwark of the truth is what? The pillar and bulwark of the truth is the Church! 1 Tim 3:15, the Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, says the following, “...I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth”. Paul says that the Church, not Scripture, is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. So, 1 Tim 3:15 tells us that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. In other words, when you go looking for truth, look to the Church. And, in order to decide on matters of truth, in order to fulfill its role as the pillar and bulwark of truth, the Church has to have - authority! Matthew 18:15-18 reads as follows, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But, if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." In other words, throw him out. Notice very carefully what this passage does not say! It does not say that we should consult Scripture to decide the dispute. It says to tell it to the Church. The final authority here is the Church. See how it says that if he refuses to listen even to the Church! Here, we see Scripture very plainly telling us that the Church is indeed a church with authority. If the Church is to speak authoritatively to the world on faith and morals, it has to have authority! So, Principle #2: the Church founded by Jesus Christ is an authoritative Church, it has the authority, from God, to decide disputes on matters of faith and morals. For many non-Catholic Christians, however, the Church does not have authority. For them, the Church is this invisible entity made up of all true believers, regardless of what denomination they are in. The various churches, or denominations, here on Earth, such as: the Baptist church, the Methodist church, the Presbyterian church, etc., are simply congregations of people who come together to worship and fellowship. But, they are not THE church. This idea of the church being invisible precludes the church from having any real authority. After all, if the church is invisible, how can it make authoritative decisions on matters in the visible world? For the Catholic Christian, however, we believe that the Church is both visible and invisible...that it has both body and soul, so to speak. The Church is the Body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23). The Church is the fullness of Christ (Eph 5:23). Jesus, the head of the Body, has both body and soul, he has a physical dimension and a spiritual dimension. So, it only makes sense that the Church, which is His body, has both body and soul, that it has both a physical dimension as well as a spiritual dimension. So, to say that the Church is merely spiritual, that it is the invisible unity of all believers, that it has a soul but not a body, doesn't make good scriptural sense. Principle #3: the Church is a visible Church, and it is characterized by doctrinal unity in the areas of faith and morals. In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father at the Last Supper in these words, "The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them [Jesus' followers], that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that thou hast sent me...” [verses 22-23]. The unity that Jesus is talking about here cannot be an invisible unity of all believers, it has to be a visible unity if the world is to see it and know about it. The Church has to be a visible Church! And listen to what Scripture has to say about the visible unity to be found within the Church: Acts 4:32, "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul..." 1 Cor 1:10, “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." Paul is appealing for unity, although not some kind of "spiritual" unity of all believers, but a real and tangible physical unity. In John 17, Jesus prayed to the Father that we, His followers, be one as He and the Father are one. Does God the Father believe, for example, in infant baptism, but God the Son does not? No! God the Father and God the Son have 100% unity of doctrine. For Christians to be one as the Father and Son are one, we should have 100% unity of doctrine. Okay, then. To sum up what I have said so far: 1) Jesus founded a Church - one Church, 2) the Church is authoritative - it speaks with authority on matters of faith and morals, and 3) the Church is a visible Church, and one of its characteristics must be doctrinal unity in the areas of faith and morals. Now, the question: Why is it so important to establish the authoritative nature of the Church? Well, as I alluded to earlier, we need an authoritative Church if we are going to be able to “know the truth” that sets us free, so we don’t have to guess at what is or is not true in matters of faith and morals. So that we don’t have to guess at what is good and what is bad doctrine. With an authoritative Church, we don’t have to guess. We can know the truth...with certainty...in matters of faith and morals. And, let me give you another example of why it is so important to have an authoritative Church. If the Church doesn't have authority, then the Bible doesn’t have authority, either. Think about. As Catholics, as Christians, we believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. In other words, that the Bible, when properly understood, contains no errors - it is inerrant! It is the inspired word of God and God doesn’t make mistakes! So, how do we know that the Bible is inspired? How do we know that it truly comes from God? How do we even know which books are supposed to be in the Bible? Because the Church tells us so. There is no list in the Bible of which books are supposed to be in the Bible. Do you understand the consequences of that for people who believe in the Bible and the Bible alone? Since the Bible does not have a list in it of which books are supposed to be in the Bible, we have to rely on a source other than the Bible, a non-biblical source, to tell us which books are inspired of God and which are notl And, what do you think that source might be? That’s right! The Church. Next week...Apostolic Authority and the Pope cont’d Back to top

This week I am going to start a series on Apostolic Authority and the Pope. I want to answer some questions such as: Who is the Pope? What is Apostolic Authority? Why is either important to us as Catholics? And so on. (Part 1)

So, let’s talk about Apostolic Authority and the Pope. I want to start off by laying down some fundamental principles about the Church. Some Catholic biblical principles. Before we can properly understand the nature of Apostolic Authority and the role of the Pope, we need to understand the nature and role of the Church. The first principle I want to mention is that Jesus founded one Church. As Jesus says in Mt 16:18, “and on this rock I will build my church.” He did not say I will build my “churches”. He used the word church. Singular. One. One Church. The second principle is that Jesus established an authoritative Church. A Church which can speak authoritatively regarding truth. In John 8:32, Jesus says, “...and you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free." The truth shall set you free - the truth shall save you, in other words - set you free from sin. To know the truth, then, is critical for us as Christians. To be saved, to reach Heaven, we need to know the truth! So, where do we find this truth? Where do we, as Christians, look for the truth. Well, for the Christian, what is the pillar and bulwark of the truth? The pillar and bulwark of the truth is the Bible, right? No! The Bible itself tells us that the pillar and bulwark of the truth is what? The pillar and bulwark of the truth is the Church! 1 Tim 3:15, the Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, says the following, “...I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth”. Paul says that the Church, not Scripture, is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. So, 1 Tim 3:15 tells us that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. In other words, when you go looking for truth, look to the Church. And, in order to decide on matters of truth, in order to fulfill its role as the pillar and bulwark of truth, the Church has to have - authority! Matthew 18:15-18 reads as follows, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But, if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." In other words, throw him out. Notice very carefully what this passage does not say! It does not say that we should consult Scripture to decide the dispute. It says to tell it to the Church. The final authority here is the Church. See how it says that if he refuses to listen even to the Church! Here, we see Scripture very plainly telling us that the Church is indeed a church with authority. If the Church is to speak authoritatively to the world on faith and morals, it has to have authority! So, Principle #2: the Church founded by Jesus Christ is an authoritative Church, it has the authority, from God, to decide disputes on matters of faith and morals. For many non-Catholic Christians, however, the Church does not have authority. For them, the Church is this invisible entity made up of all true believers, regardless of what denomination they are in. The various churches, or denominations, here on Earth, such as: the Baptist church, the Methodist church, the Presbyterian church, etc., are simply congregations of people who come together to worship and fellowship. But, they are not THE church. This idea of the church being invisible precludes the church from having any real authority. After all, if the church is invisible, how can it make authoritative decisions on matters in the visible world? For the Catholic Christian, however, we believe that the Church is both visible and invisible...that it has both body and soul, so to speak. The Church is the Body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23). The Church is the fullness of Christ (Eph 5:23). Jesus, the head of the Body, has both body and soul, he has a physical dimension and a spiritual dimension. So, it only makes sense that the Church, which is His body, has both body and soul, that it has both a physical dimension as well as a spiritual dimension. So, to say that the Church is merely spiritual, that it is the invisible unity of all believers, that it has a soul but not a body, doesn't make good scriptural sense. Principle #3: the Church is a visible Church, and it is characterized by doctrinal unity in the areas of faith and morals. In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father at the Last Supper in these words, "The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them [Jesus' followers], that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that thou hast sent me...” [verses 22-23]. The unity that Jesus is talking about here cannot be an invisible unity of all believers, it has to be a visible unity if the world is to see it and know about it. The Church has to be a visible Church! And listen to what Scripture has to say about the visible unity to be found within the Church: Acts 4:32, "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul..." 1 Cor 1:10, “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." Paul is appealing for unity, although not some kind of "spiritual" unity of all believers, but a real and tangible physical unity. In John 17, Jesus prayed to the Father that we, His followers, be one as He and the Father are one. Does God the Father believe, for example, in infant baptism, but God the Son does not? No! God the Father and God the Son have 100% unity of doctrine. For Christians to be one as the Father and Son are one, we should have 100% unity of doctrine. Okay, then. To sum up what I have said so far: 1) Jesus founded a Church - one Church, 2) the Church is authoritative - it speaks with authority on matters of faith and morals, and 3) the Church is a visible Church, and one of its characteristics must be doctrinal unity in the areas of faith and morals. Now, the question: Why is it so important to establish the authoritative nature of the Church? Well, as I alluded to earlier, we need an authoritative Church if we are going to be able to “know the truth” that sets us free, so we don’t have to guess at what is or is not true in matters of faith and morals. So that we don’t have to guess at what is good and what is bad doctrine. With an authoritative Church, we don’t have to guess. We can know the truth...with certainty...in matters of faith and morals. And, let me give you another example of why it is so important to have an authoritative Church. If the Church doesn't have authority, then the Bible doesn’t have authority, either. Think about. As Catholics, as Christians, we believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. In other words, that the Bible, when properly understood, contains no errors - it is inerrant! It is the inspired word of God and God doesn’t make mistakes! So, how do we know that the Bible is inspired? How do we know that it truly comes from God? How do we even know which books are supposed to be in the Bible? Because the Church tells us so. There is no list in the Bible of which books are supposed to be in the Bible. Do you understand the consequences of that for people who believe in the Bible and the Bible alone? Since the Bible does not have a list in it of which books are supposed to be in the Bible, we have to rely on a source other than the Bible, a non-biblical source, to tell us which books are inspired of God and which are notl And, what do you think that source might be? That’s right! The Church. Next week...Apostolic Authority and the Pope cont’d Back to top

This week I am going to start a series on Apostolic Authority and the Pope. I want to answer some questions such as: Who is the Pope? What is Apostolic Authority? Why is either important to us as Catholics? And so on. (Part 1)

-- So, let’s talk about Apostolic Authority and the Pope. I want to start off by laying down some fundamental principles about the Church. Some Catholic biblical principles. Before we can properly understand the nature of Apostolic Authority and the role of the Pope, we need to understand the nature and role of the Church. The first principle I want to mention is that Jesus founded one Church. As Jesus says in Mt 16:18, “and on this rock I will build my church.” He did not say I will build my “churches”. He used the word church. Singular. One. One Church. The second principle is that Jesus established an authoritative Church. A Church which can speak authoritatively regarding truth. In John 8:32, Jesus says, “...and you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free." The truth shall set you free - the truth shall save you, in other words - set you free from sin. To know the truth, then, is critical for us as Christians. To be saved, to reach Heaven, we need to know the truth! So, where do we find this truth? Where do we, as Christians, look for the truth. Well, for the Christian, what is the pillar and bulwark of the truth? The pillar and bulwark of the truth is the Bible, right? No! The Bible itself tells us that the pillar and bulwark of the truth is what? The pillar and bulwark of the truth is the Church! 1 Tim 3:15, the Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, says the following, “...I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth”. Paul says that the Church, not Scripture, is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. So, 1 Tim 3:15 tells us that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. In other words, when you go looking for truth, look to the Church. And, in order to decide on matters of truth, in order to fulfill its role as the pillar and bulwark of truth, the Church has to have - authority! Matthew 18:15-18 reads as follows, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But, if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." In other words, throw him out. Notice very carefully what this passage does not say! It does not say that we should consult Scripture to decide the dispute. It says to tell it to the Church. The final authority here is the Church. See how it says that if he refuses to listen even to the Church! Here, we see Scripture very plainly telling us that the Church is indeed a church with authority. If the Church is to speak authoritatively to the world on faith and morals, it has to have authority! So, Principle #2: the Church founded by Jesus Christ is an authoritative Church, it has the authority, from God, to decide disputes on matters of faith and morals. For many non-Catholic Christians, however, the Church does not have authority. For them, the Church is this invisible entity made up of all true believers, regardless of what denomination they are in. The various churches, or denominations, here on Earth, such as: the Baptist church, the Methodist church, the Presbyterian church, etc., are simply congregations of people who come together to worship and fellowship. But, they are not THE church. This idea of the church being invisible precludes the church from having any real authority. After all, if the church is invisible, how can it make authoritative decisions on matters in the visible world? For the Catholic Christian, however, we believe that the Church is both visible and invisible...that it has both body and soul, so to speak. The Church is the Body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23). The Church is the fullness of Christ (Eph 5:23). Jesus, the head of the Body, has both body and soul, he has a physical dimension and a spiritual dimension. So, it only makes sense that the Church, which is His body, has both body and soul, that it has both a physical dimension as well as a spiritual dimension. So, to say that the Church is merely spiritual, that it is the invisible unity of all believers, that it has a soul but not a body, doesn't make good scriptural sense. Principle #3: the Church is a visible Church, and it is characterized by doctrinal unity in the areas of faith and morals. In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father at the Last Supper in these words, "The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them [Jesus' followers], that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that thou hast sent me...” [verses 22-23]. The unity that Jesus is talking about here cannot be an invisible unity of all believers, it has to be a visible unity if the world is to see it and know about it. The Church has to be a visible Church! And listen to what Scripture has to say about the visible unity to be found within the Church: Acts 4:32, "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul..." 1 Cor 1:10, “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." Paul is appealing for unity, although not some kind of "spiritual" unity of all believers, but a real and tangible physical unity. In John 17, Jesus prayed to the Father that we, His followers, be one as He and the Father are one. Does God the Father believe, for example, in infant baptism, but God the Son does not? No! God the Father and God the Son have 100% unity of doctrine. For Christians to be one as the Father and Son are one, we should have 100% unity of doctrine. Okay, then. To sum up what I have said so far: 1) Jesus founded a Church - one Church, 2) the Church is authoritative - it speaks with authority on matters of faith and morals, and 3) the Church is a visible Church, and one of its characteristics must be doctrinal unity in the areas of faith and morals. Now, the question: Why is it so important to establish the authoritative nature of the Church? Well, as I alluded to earlier, we need an authoritative Church if we are going to be able to “know the truth” that sets us free, so we don’t have to guess at what is or is not true in matters of faith and morals. So that we don’t have to guess at what is good and what is bad doctrine. With an authoritative Church, we don’t have to guess. We can know the truth...with certainty...in matters of faith and morals. And, let me give you another example of why it is so important to have an authoritative Church. If the Church doesn't have authority, then the Bible doesn’t have authority, either. Think about. As Catholics, as Christians, we believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. In other words, that the Bible, when properly understood, contains no errors - it is inerrant! It is the inspired word of God and God doesn’t make mistakes! So, how do we know that the Bible is inspired? How do we know that it truly comes from God? How do we even know which books are supposed to be in the Bible? Because the Church tells us so. There is no list in the Bible of which books are supposed to be in the Bible. Do you understand the consequences of that for people who believe in the Bible and the Bible alone? Since the Bible does not have a list in it of which books are supposed to be in the Bible, we have to rely on a source other than the Bible, a non-biblical source, to tell us which books are inspired of God and which are notl And, what do you think that source might be? That’s right! The Church. Next week...Apostolic Authority and the Pope cont’d Back to top

This week I am going to start a series on Apostolic Authority and the Pope. I want to answer some questions such as: Who is the Pope? What is Apostolic Authority? Why is either important to us as Catholics? And so on. (Part 1)

-- So, let’s talk about Apostolic Authority and the Pope. I want to start off by laying down some fundamental principles about the Church. Some Catholic biblical principles. Before we can properly understand the nature of Apostolic Authority and the role of the Pope, we need to understand the nature and role of the Church. The first principle I want to mention is that Jesus founded one Church. As Jesus says in Mt 16:18, “and on this rock I will build my church.” He did not say I will build my “churches”. He used the word church. Singular. One. One Church. The second principle is that Jesus established an authoritative Church. A Church which can speak authoritatively regarding truth. In John 8:32, Jesus says, “...and you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free." The truth shall set you free - the truth shall save you, in other words - set you free from sin. To know the truth, then, is critical for us as Christians. To be saved, to reach Heaven, we need to know the truth! So, where do we find this truth? Where do we, as Christians, look for the truth. Well, for the Christian, what is the pillar and bulwark of the truth? The pillar and bulwark of the truth is the Bible, right? No! The Bible itself tells us that the pillar and bulwark of the truth is what? The pillar and bulwark of the truth is the Church! 1 Tim 3:15, the Apostle Paul, writing to Timothy, says the following, “...I am writing these instructions to you so that, if I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth”. Paul says that the Church, not Scripture, is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. So, 1 Tim 3:15 tells us that the Church is the pillar and bulwark of the truth. In other words, when you go looking for truth, look to the Church. And, in order to decide on matters of truth, in order to fulfill its role as the pillar and bulwark of truth, the Church has to have - authority! Matthew 18:15-18 reads as follows, "If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But, if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every word may be confirmed by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector." In other words, throw him out. Notice very carefully what this passage does not say! It does not say that we should consult Scripture to decide the dispute. It says to tell it to the Church. The final authority here is the Church. See how it says that if he refuses to listen even to the Church! Here, we see Scripture very plainly telling us that the Church is indeed a church with authority. If the Church is to speak authoritatively to the world on faith and morals, it has to have authority! So, Principle #2: the Church founded by Jesus Christ is an authoritative Church, it has the authority, from God, to decide disputes on matters of faith and morals. For many non-Catholic Christians, however, the Church does not have authority. For them, the Church is this invisible entity made up of all true believers, regardless of what denomination they are in. The various churches, or denominations, here on Earth, such as: the Baptist church, the Methodist church, the Presbyterian church, etc., are simply congregations of people who come together to worship and fellowship. But, they are not THE church. This idea of the church being invisible precludes the church from having any real authority. After all, if the church is invisible, how can it make authoritative decisions on matters in the visible world? For the Catholic Christian, however, we believe that the Church is both visible and invisible...that it has both body and soul, so to speak. The Church is the Body of Christ (Eph 1:22-23). The Church is the fullness of Christ (Eph 5:23). Jesus, the head of the Body, has both body and soul, he has a physical dimension and a spiritual dimension. So, it only makes sense that the Church, which is His body, has both body and soul, that it has both a physical dimension as well as a spiritual dimension. So, to say that the Church is merely spiritual, that it is the invisible unity of all believers, that it has a soul but not a body, doesn't make good scriptural sense. Principle #3: the Church is a visible Church, and it is characterized by doctrinal unity in the areas of faith and morals. In John 17, Jesus prays to the Father at the Last Supper in these words, "The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them [Jesus' followers], that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me that they may become perfectly one so that the world may know that thou hast sent me...” [verses 22-23]. The unity that Jesus is talking about here cannot be an invisible unity of all believers, it has to be a visible unity if the world is to see it and know about it. The Church has to be a visible Church! And listen to what Scripture has to say about the visible unity to be found within the Church: Acts 4:32, "Now the company of those who believed were of one heart and soul..." 1 Cor 1:10, “I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment." Paul is appealing for unity, although not some kind of "spiritual" unity of all believers, but a real and tangible physical unity. In John 17, Jesus prayed to the Father that we, His followers, be one as He and the Father are one. Does God the Father believe, for example, in infant baptism, but God the Son does not? No! God the Father and God the Son have 100% unity of doctrine. For Christians to be one as the Father and Son are one, we should have 100% unity of doctrine. Okay, then. To sum up what I have said so far: 1) Jesus founded a Church - one Church, 2) the Church is authoritative - it speaks with authority on matters of faith and morals, and 3) the Church is a visible Church, and one of its characteristics must be doctrinal unity in the areas of faith and morals. Now, the question: Why is it so important to establish the authoritative nature of the Church? Well, as I alluded to earlier, we need an authoritative Church if we are going to be able to “know the truth” that sets us free, so we don’t have to guess at what is or is not true in matters of faith and morals. So that we don’t have to guess at what is good and what is bad doctrine. With an authoritative Church, we don’t have to guess. We can know the truth...with certainty...in matters of faith and morals. And, let me give you another example of why it is so important to have an authoritative Church. If the Church doesn't have authority, then the Bible doesn’t have authority, either. Think about. As Catholics, as Christians, we believe that the Bible is the inerrant Word of God. In other words, that the Bible, when properly understood, contains no errors - it is inerrant! It is the inspired word of God and God doesn’t make mistakes! So, how do we know that the Bible is inspired? How do we know that it truly comes from God? How do we even know which books are supposed to be in the Bible? Because the Church tells us so. There is no list in the Bible of which books are supposed to be in the Bible. Do you understand the consequences of that for people who believe in the Bible and the Bible alone? Since the Bible does not have a list in it of which books are supposed to be in the Bible, we have to rely on a source other than the Bible, a non-biblical source, to tell us which books are inspired of God and which are notl And, what do you think that source might be? That’s right! The Church. Next week...Apostolic Authority and the Pope cont’d Back to top

Continuing this week with a discussion on Apostolic Authority and the Pope. Let’s do a quick review of the five Catholic scriptural principles we’ve discussed so far in relation to Apostolic Authority and the Pope: (Part 2)

1) Jesus founded a Church - one Church; 2) the Church is authoritative - it speaks with authority on matters of faith and morals; 3) the Church is a visible Church, and one of its characteristics must be doctrinal unity in the areas of faith and morals; 4) the authority of the Church is apostolic in nature - it’s comes from God the Father, through God the Son, to the Apostles and their successors; and 5) Apostolic authority is characterized by the charism of infallibility in the areas of faith and morals. At the end of last week’s article I was discussing the importance of the authority of the Church in regard to the Bible. The Bible, as we Catholics have it today, did not become officially set until more than 350 years after the death of Christ! And, there was no such thing as a Protestant Bible until almost 1500 years after the death of Christ! Our Old Testaments are different, but Catholic and Protestant alike have the exact same New Testament in their Bibles. But, again, for the 1st 350 years of Christianity, the New Testament, as we have it today, did not exist - the 27 individual books existed, but they had yet to be put together in a single canonical book that was recognized as inerrant Scripture. It wasn't as if there were just these 27 books that were written and everyone in the entire world just happened to know that they were inspired by God. There were quite a few other books that people claimed were inspired. A partial list includes the: Acts of Peter, Acts of Paul, Acts of John, the Apocalypse of Peter, the Kerygma of Peter, Acts of Andrew, Acts of Thomas, Apocalypse of Paul, the Gospel of Thomas, the Apocalypse of Thomas, and many others. Also, some of the books that are in our N.T. were very much disputed as to whether or not they were inspired Scripture. These included: the Book of James, the Book of Hebrews, 2nd Letter of Peter, the Book of Revelation, and others. It wasn't until the Synod of Rome, around the year 382 A.D., that the Church officially pronounced on the “canon” of Scripture. The “canon” is simply the list of books in the Bible...a table of contents, if you will. Now, there are some who say the Synod of Rome did not produce a canonical list of Scripture. If it didn’t, that doesn’t matter in the least. Because in 393 A.D., a gathering of the bishops of North Africa, at the Council of Hippo, made an official declaration on what was and was not to be considered “Scripture.” Same list as the Synod of Rome had supposedly decided upon. And, the Council of Hippo’s decision was ratified by another gathering of bishops at the Council of Carthage in 397 A.D. The decisions of these councils were then ratified by the Pope. That's how we have the books in the Bible that we have...the Catholic Church decided the matter. 46 books in the O.T., and 27 books in the New Testament. Martin Luther, some 1100+ years later, threw out seven of the books of the Old Testament, on his own authority, which is how the Protestant Bible came into being, with only 39 books in its O.T. So, if the Church does not have authority, then you could not attribute any “authority” to the Bible, because we would have no way of knowing exactly what the Bible is. And, even if we had the Bible, we would have no way of knowing it was inspired without the testimony of the Church. Every Christian today, who accepts the 27 books of the New Testament that the Catholic Church decided upon back in the 4th century, agrees with Catholics regarding the authority of the Church, whether they realize or not - and most of them don't realize it. Most Christians, Catholic or non-Catholic, don't know the history of how we got the Bible. Many, many Christians have never even considered the question: "Where did we get the Bible?" or, "How do we know the Bible is true?" Most people just accept from their parents or their pastor or whoever, that the Bible is true. But, the answer to both questions is...the Church. Where did we get the Bible? From the Church. How do we know the Bible is true? Because the Church tells us so. That's just one more example of why it is so important for us to establish the authoritative nature of the Church. Now, let's turn to the question of what exactly is the nature of the Church's authority? Well, probably everyone reading this would say that all authority, inside and outside of the Church, comes from God. Scripture tells us that. So, the authority of the Church is God's authority - plain and simple. But, is there a particular type of authority that we talk about in regards to the Church? We can find the answer to that question in the Creed we recite every Sunday: "We believe in the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church." Apostolic authority. The authority of the Apostles as given to them by Jesus Christ, who was Himself given authority by God the Father. And what authority did Jesus give the Apostles? Turn to Mt 28:18-19, "And Jesus said to them, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations..." And turn over a few pages to the Gospel of John, Jn 20:21, "Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’" So, we see in Matthew 28 that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Jesus. Who gives authority to Jesus? God the Father is the only one who can. And we further see in John 20 that Jesus sends the Apostles out as the Father has sent Him. How has the Father sent Him? With all authority in heaven and on earth. So, how were the Apostles sent out? With all authority in heaven and on earth. In other words, Apostolic Authority is the Authority of God the Father given to the Apostles by God the Son. So, Principle #4: The authority of the Church is apostolic in nature - it comes from God the Father through Jesus Christ through the Apostles. Now we're getting somewhere. God the Father sent Jesus, God the Son, to Earth with full authority in Heaven and on Earth. Jesus, just before He ascends into Heaven, sends out the Apostles with this very same authority. In other words, when you heard the Apostles pronounce on matters of faith and morals, you were hearing Jesus. Listen to what Scripture says: Lk 10:16, "He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me, and he who rejects me rejects Him who sent me." He who hears you hears me, and he who rejects you rejects me - that's pretty powerful. But, that was when Jesus was alive and still with the Apostles; what assurance do we have that that was still true after Jesus ascended into Heaven? Well, in John 14:16-17, we have our answer. It says, "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Paraclete, to be with you forever, even the Spirit of Truth...you know Him, for He dwells with you, and will be in you." The Apostles received the Spirit of Truth - the Holy Spirit. And then in verse 26 of John 14, "But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you." And in John 16:13, "When the Spirit of Truth comes, He will guide you into all the truth..." Jesus ascends into Heaven and then the Father sends the Holy Spirit in Jesus' name to be with the Apostles and to guide them unto all truth as they go out to teach all nations. So, the Apostles were able to teach on faith and morals without error - because they were guided by the Holy Spirit. In other words, they had the charism, or gift, of infallibility, after all, the Holy Spirit doesn’t make mistakes. And I want to talk for a moment here on the meaning of the word "infallible" in Catholic doctrine. If a person is “infallible”, it doesn’t mean they can’t commit a sin. If a person is infallible, it doesn’t mean that they can never make a mistake. If a person is infallible, it doesn’t mean they will always teach what they should - they might remain silent. In Catholic theology, if a person is infallible, it means that God will prevent that person from teaching error in the areas of faith and morals. Infallibility has nothing to do with mathematics, with biology, with physics or anything else outside of faith and morals. Infallibility is what is known as a negative protection - it simply prevents error from being taught. Principle #5 - Apostolic authority is an authority that is characterized by the charism, or the gift, of infallibility in the areas of faith and morals. Next week: Apostolic succession cont’d... Back to top

Continuing this week with a discussion on Apostolic Authority and the Pope...(Part 3)

Let’s do a quick review of the five Catholic scriptural principles we’ve discussed so far in relation to Apostolic Authority and the Pope: 1) Jesus founded a Church - one Church; 2) the Church is authoritative - it speaks with authority on matters of faith and morals; 3) the Church is a visible Church, and one of its characteristics must be doctrinal unity in the areas of faith and morals; 4) the authority of the Church is apostolic in nature - it’s comes from God the Father, through God the Son, to the Apostles and their successors; and 5) Apostolic authority is characterized by the charism of infallibility in the areas of faith and morals. In the Acts of the Apostles, ch. 8, we find the story of the an Ethiopian eunuch who was reading from the Book of Isaiah. In Acts 8, verses 30-31 it says, "So Philip ran to him, and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet, and asked, 'Do you understand what you are reading?' And he said, 'How can I, unless...[unless!]...someone guides me?' And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him." Scripture is plainly telling us that we need a guide to understand Scripture, and wouldn’t God give us an infallible guide? And listen to this passage in 1 John. 1 John 4:6, "We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." How did you know the spirit of truth vs. the spirit of error? Did it say one should pick up the Scriptures on their own and decide all by themselves, on their own authority, what is truth and what is error? No, you know what is truth vs. error by listening to those who are of God, in particular, the Apostles. As it says in 1 Ptr 1:12, these men are those who "preached the good news to you through the Holy Spirit sent from Heaven". The Apostles preached with the authority of God the Father as given to them by Jesus Christ Himself, and they were aided in using this authority by the third person of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit. In other words, they taught infallibly! Now, the next principle that I want to establish, and the last one before I speak directly about the Pope, is the principle of Apostolic succession. Principle #6: the Apostles passed on their authority, the authority of Jesus Christ, to other men, who then passed on that authority to still other men who followed them. Jesus said to the Apostles, "Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (Mt 28:19-20). A few things to note about this particular passage: 1) The Apostles are commanded to make disciples of all nations - all nations! All peoples all over the world! And, to enable them to do this, Jesus gives them all authority in Heaven and on Earth. But, for the Apostles, the last of whom died within 60 or 70 years of Jesus' death, this was simply not possible. So, in order for Jesus' command to make any sense, He must have meant it for not only the Apostles, but also for those who were to take the place of the Apostles. And, those who took the place of the Apostles had to have had the same authority as was given to the Apostles, how else could they make disciples of all nations? So, the Apostles can go and make disciples of all nations because of Apostolic succession - they live through their successors. Their authority lives through their successors. Another relevant passage is 1 Cor 12:28, which says, “And God has appointed in the Church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers...” It doesn’t say anything about “apostles” being appointed only for the 1st century Church. “God has appointed in the Church, first apostles...” The Church is still with us, therefore, there must still be Apostles in the Church. And, again, these apostles, these successors of the first apostles, must still have the apostolic authority that was entrusted to the original twelve. Apostolic succession. The second thing to note about Matthew 28:19-20: How could Jesus be with the Apostles, to the end of the age if the Apostles did not live to the end of the age? Again, they were all dead within 60 years or 70 years of Jesus’ death! They did not live to the end of the age, but, their successors still live, and will continue to live until the end of the age. So, Jesus can be with “them”, with the Apostles, to the end of the age because of Apostolic succession. The Apostles live to the end of the age through their successors; and, #3, the third thing to note about this passage in Mt 28, is that the mission of the Apostles is a teaching mission - therefore, the mission of the Church is a teaching mission. Jesus did not say, "Go and write the Scriptures and let everyone read them and decide for themselves what is true." No! He said to go and teach! Teach what? All that Jesus has commanded. Now, let’s look at the first passage of Scripture which gives us an example of Apostolic succession. Acts 1:15-26. "In those days, Peter stood up among the brethren and said, 'Brethren...concerning Judas who was guide to those who arrested Jesus...he was numbered among us, and was allotted his share in this ministry...it is written in the book of Psalms, 'His office let another take.' [In the Protestant’s King James Version, it says, “His ‘bishopric’ let another take.”] So, one of the men who have accompanied us during all the time that the Lord Jesus went about...one of these men must become with us a witness to His resurrection.' And they put forward two, Barsabbas and Matthias. And they prayed and said, ‘Lord, who knows the hearts of all men, show which one of these two thou hast chosen to take the place in this ministry and apostleship from which Judas turned aside...’ And they cast lots for them, and the lot fell on Matthias; and he was enrolled with the eleven apostles." First of all, Peter, states the necessity of replacing Judas. Of having another take his "office". This is very important to understand. The apostles held an office, the office of bishop. Listen to 1 Timothy 3:1, "The saying is sure: if any one aspires to the office of bishop..." The "office" of bishop. The same office our bishops hold today. This means that if one officeholder dies, another should always be appointed to fill the office - it connotes the principle of succession! You can't have a vacant office! The Apostles were the holders of the highest offices in God's family - which is the Church. So, when Judas turned away and then died, they appointed another to take his place...to take his office. The same happened with all the Apostles. When they died, others were appointed to take their office. The Apostles were the first bishops. They appointed, or ordained, others bishops as well. In other words, as the Church grew, they continually created new offices and ordained men to fill those offices. Next week: Apostolic Succession and the Pope... Back to top

We ended last week’s article with a discussion about the first instance of apostolic succession found in the Bible. Where else can we see Apostolic Succession in action? (Part 4)

We can see it very clearly in Paul's letters to Timothy and Titus - two bishops he had appointed. In 1 Tim 1:18, Paul says, "This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son..." What does this language connote? Paul, as we shall see in a minute, is passing on authority to Timothy as a "father" passes it on to a "son". In other words, as an inheritance. An inheritance that does not pass away. This inheritance, then, would one day be passed on to Timothy's successors. We see this language in several places in Paul’s letters to Timothy and in his letter to Titus. Titus 1:4, "To Titus, my true child in a common faith...” And Paul writes to others letting them know how they are to regard Timothy: 1 Cor 4:17, "Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ..." Timothy was sent with the authority of Paul. To carry this further, we can see that Paul passed on authority as a rule of faith, in other words, the authority Jesus gave to Paul did not die with Paul. Paul passed it on and expected those who received it from him to pass it on to others. And, Paul expected Christians to obey these men who received this authority. 2 Tim 1:13-14, "Follow the pattern of the sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus; guard the truth that has been entrusted to you by the Holy Spirit who dwells within us.” Guard the truth which has been entrusted to you. 2 Tim 2:2, “...and what you have heard from me before many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also." Timothy is to appoint, or ordain, others as he himself has been ordained. Right there we see four generations in the line of Apostolic Succession...”what you [Timothy] have heard from me [Paul] before many witnesses entrust to faithful men [the next generation of bishops] who will...teach others also [the fourth generation].” Titus 1:5-7, "This is why I left you in Crete, that you might amend what was defective, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you," What kind of position is he appointing men to? In verse 7 we see that these “elders” are actually bishops, "...for a bishop, as God's steward, must be blameless..." Titus is appointing, or ordaining, bishops. He has been given authority and he is likewise ordaining others with this same authority. And, as we can see from Scripture, this authority includes the authority to teach, which is the mission Jesus gave the Apostles: 1 Tim 1:3, "As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine." 1 Tim 4:11-13, "Command and teach these things...attend to the public reading of scripture, to preaching, to teaching." Timothy and Titus are told to command and teach, charge others not to teach different doctrine, appoint elders, and to guard the deposit of faith, to guard the truth, and to pass it on to others. How was this authority passed on from the Apostles to their successors? 2 Tim 1:6, "Hence I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands..." 1 Tim 1:18, "This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you," and in 1 Tim 4:14, "Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophetic utterance when the elders laid their hands upon you." In other words, this authority, from Paul, from the elders - or bishops - was passed on in a formal ceremony of "laying on of hands". Very interesting...that’s exactly what we do today, and have done for the last 2000 years. The Apostles, as "fathers", pass on not just their teaching, but their teaching authority. Where did they get their authority? From Christ. So their successors have the authority of Christ. This is the only way Paul could tell Timothy to "teach", "command", "rebuke" those over whom he has authority. Paul didn't say command them to read the Bible and interpret it for themselves. He also gave to Timothy the authority to “lay on hands” (1 Tim 5:22) - in other words, to ordain others. Only a bishop has this authority. Okay. Let’s recap what we’ve done so far and then let’s start talking specifically about the Pope. 1) Jesus founded a Church - one Church; 2) the Church is authoritative - it speaks with authority on matters of faith and morals; 3) the Church is called to show forth a visible unity - so that they world may see and believe; 4) the authority of the Church is apostolic in nature - it comes from God the Father through Jesus Christ through the Apostles guided by the Holy Spirit; 5) Apostolic authority is an authority that is characterized by the charism, or the gift, of infallibility in the areas of faith and morals; and 6) Apostolic authority, the authority of Christ Himself, does not die with the Apostles, but rather is passed on to the bishops, the successors of the Apostles, through the formal “laying on of hands”. Next week: The Pope.... Back to top

Continuing with our discussion on Apostolic authority and the Pope, I hope everyone can see how what we’ve discussed in the previous articles leads directly to the office of the Pope. Who is the Pope? (Part 5)

The Pope is the Bishop of Rome. So we can see that, as a bishop, he is a successor of the Apostles with all of the authority that entails. But, the Pope is not just the successor of any Apostle, but of the Apostle Peter, who was the first Bishop of Rome. Why is that important? Let’s go to Mt 16:15-19, “[Jesus] said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ And Jesus answered him, ‘Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.’” Several things to note here, but I want to first start with the keys. Peter is given the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Keys are the symbol of authority and power, but they also connote succession. After Peter died, did the authority symbolized by the keys just disappear? Jesus gave Peter this authority but it died with Peter? No! Peter passed the authority on to his successor, who then passed them on to his successor and so forth and so on down to Pope Francis, the 265th successor of Peter, the current holder of the keys of the kingdom of heaven. Peter’s authority as a bishop was passed on to his successors just as we have seen that Paul’s authority as a bishop was passed on to his successors. But let’s take a closer look at the keys, a Scriptural look. When we turn to Isaiah 22:20-22, we see that Jesus was using the identical language in Matthew 16 that Isaiah uses. In this passage from Isaiah, the Lord is talking to Shebna, who is the king’s prime minister, he is over the king’s household, “In that day I will call my servant Eliakim, the son of Hilkiah, and I will clothe him with your robe, and will bind your girdle on him, and will commit your authority to his hand; and he shall be a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. And I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and none shall shut; and he shall shut, and none shall open.” Authority is symbolized by the key. He is over the house of David. What is the new house of David? The Church. In the O.T., the king’s number one man, the prime minister, held the keys of the kingdom. He acted on the king’s behalf. In the N.T., the King, Jesus, is in Heaven, did he leave someone to act on His behalf? Yes, he left a prime minister, a holder of the keys...Peter...and Peter’s successors. And, one more thing, Jesus says that the gates of hell will not prevail against His Church. Well, if Peter or any of his successors as Bishop of Rome have ever taught error - in other words, the head of the Church leading the entire Church into error - then wouldn’t that mean that the gates of hell did prevail against His Church? In other words, it cannot happen because Jesus promised that it would not. Peter also has his named changed here - from Simon to Peter, which means Rock. And Jesus says, upon this rock, I will build my Church. Built on the rock of Peter. Some say that Jesus is really saying that He will build His church on Peter’s confession of faith - that Peter really isn’t the Rock. But, that just doesn’t make sense, grammatical or otherwise. Jesus spoke Aramaic. The Aramaic word for rock is kepha. So, in Aramaic, Jesus would have said, “You are Kepha and on this kepha I will build my Church.” Peter is the Rock! And what else does this passage tell us? That Peter received a special inspiration from God the Father. If God can do that with Peter, can He also not do that with Peter’s successors? Now, there are many who argue that Peter held no special place among the Apostles. Yet, as we see in Mt 16, Peter was given the keys to the kingdom. No other Apostle was accorded the same honor. Also, in John 21, after Jesus’ Resurrection, Jesus asks Peter 3 times, “Do you love me?” Each time Peter says yes. And Jesus says to him, “Feed my lambs...Tend my sheep...Feed my sheep.” Who is it that feeds and tends the sheep and the lambs? The shepherd. Jesus is appointing Peter to shepherd His flock in His absence. And, as we see in John 16, “there will be one flock, one shepherd.” Christ is The Shepherd, but Peter, and his successors (the Popes), stand in Christ’s place here on Earth. In the Acts of the Apostles, Peter is always the first to act. Read the 1st half of the Acts of the Apostles, it is all about Peter. Peter was the one who commanded that Judas be replaced. It was Peter who first said to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. In the Gospels, Peter was the one who walked on water. Turn to Luke 22:31-32, Jesus says, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you (the Apostles) that he might sift you (the Apostles) like wheat, but I have prayed for you (Peter) that your faith may not fail; and when you (Peter) have turned again, strengthen your brethren.” Jesus prays that Peter’s faith may not fail so that he may strengthen his brethren. Over and over again, we see Peter in a position of primacy. Peter, because of the power of the keys, was indeed put into a position of primacy over the other Apostles. He was made the Prime Minister of God’s kingdom. That is what the Pope is today. The Pope holds the keys to the kingdom. He teaches with authority. He strengthens his brethren - the other bishops - and all of God’s people. Whatever he binds on earth is bound in heaven and whatever he looses on earth is loosed in heaven. This binding and loosing pertains directly to his authority to teach infallibly regarding matters of faith and morals. If God binds or looses in Heaven what Peter and his successors bind or loose on earth, then the binding and loosing on earth must be free from all error. If it’s not, then God is putting His stamp of approval on error! And God wouldn’t do that. Now, one last Scripture passage to look at regarding the Pope. In 2 Peter 1:12-15; Peter says, “Therefore I intend always to remind you of these things, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. I think it right, as long as I am in this body, to arouse you by way of reminder, since I know that the putting off of my body will be soon, as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me. And I will see to it that after my departure you may be able at any time to recall these things.” Here Peter promises to see to it that Christians will “always” be reminded of and will “at any time” be able to recall the truths he is talking about, even after his death! But, what did he do? In what way did he “see to it”? Keep one finger on 2 Peter, and turn over to John 21:15-19. In John 21:15-19, Jesus tells Peter, “Feed My lambs...Tend My sheep...Feed My sheep...when you are old, you will stretch out your hands...This [Jesus] said to show by what death [Peter] was to glorify God.” Peter was crucified upside down. Notice the two connections between John 21:15-19 and 2 Peter 1:12-15? First, in John, we see the Lord showing Peter how he [Peter] will die. And, in 2 Peter, Peter is talking about “the putting off of my body...as our Lord Jesus Christ showed me.” Jesus shows Peter how he is to die; Peter takes us back to that moment...why? Also, in John, Jesus is soon to return to His Father. In 2 Peter, Peter is also about to go to the Father, he is about to put off his body. Jesus, before He goes, does something. He appoints Peter shepherd of His flock, thereby making sure that His flock has a visible shepherd to feed it and tend it. And, lo and behold, Peter, before going, says that he will do something to see to it that Christians will always be reminded of the truth, and which will enable Christians at any time to recall the truth. Or, you might say, that he was going to make sure that the flock was always fed and tended. Again I ask: What did Peter do to fulfill his promise in 2 Peter 1:15? As a Protestant, I would have no answer to this question, because nowhere does Scripture tell us. But, as a Catholic, I have an answer that makes a whole lot of sense. Could the answer to my question be that Peter did as Christ did and appointed a shepherd to feed and tend the flock after his departure? That he passed on the Keys to the Kingdom of Heaven that had been entrusted to him by Jesus Christ? Or, did Peter leave the flock without a shepherd? Did he leave the flock to feed and tend itself? Would the Lord leave the sheep without a shepherd after Peter died? Jesus established a Church through which He intended to make Himself known to the world in order to bring all men unto salvation. In order to accomplish this mission of God’s mercy, in order to bring the good news of salvation to all nations, the Church must be... must be...able to teach the truth at all times and in all places. If the Church is not protected from teaching error, then God’s people would have absolutely no trustworthy foundation upon which to build their faith. They cannot simply turn to the Bible, because the trustworthiness of the Bible depends completely upon the trustworthiness of the Church. For men to be saved...they must know what is to be believed. For men to be saved...they must have a perfectly steady rock to build upon when it comes to the teaching of truth. For men to be saved...God gave His Church the gift of Apostolic Succession. For men to be saved...God gave His Church the gift of the Pope. For men to be saved...God gave the Pope, and the bishops in union with the Pope, the gift of infallibility...so that God’s people could know the truth...and be set free! Back to top

Voting Principles for Catholics 1) “There are some things we must never do, as individuals or as a society, because they are always incompatible with love of God and neighbor. Such actions are so deeply flawed that they are always opposed to the authentic good of persons. These are called ‘intrinsically evil' actions. They must always be rejected and opposed and must never be supported or condoned,” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, USCCB, #22).

Principle: You cannot support something that is intrinsically evil. 2) “A vote for a candidate who promotes actions or behaviors that are intrinsically evil and gravely sinful makes you morally complicit and places the eternal salvation of your own soul in serious jeopardy,” (Catholic Times, September 23, 2012, Bishop Thomas Paprocki, Diocese of Springfield). Principle: By voting for someone who supports and advocates an intrinsic evil, you are participating in that intrinsic evil, and could possibly be jeopardizing your eternal salvation. 3) “Some issues involve ‘intrinsic evils’; that is, they can never under any circumstance or condition be morally justified. Preeminent among these intrinsic evils are legalized abortion, the promotion of same sex unions and ‘marriages’, repression of religious liberty, as well as public policies permitting euthanasia, racial discrimination or destructive human embryonic stem cell research,” (Clarification of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, Bishops of Dallas/Ft. Worth ). Principle: Abortion, same-sex “marriage,” and the repression of religious liberty are all intrinsically evil. Therefore, by voting for someone who advocates these positions you are participating in an intrinsic evil and could be jeopardizing your salvation. 4) “The right to life implies and is linked to other human rights—to the basic goods that every human person needs to live and thrive. All the life issues are connected, for erosion of respect for the life of any individual or group in society necessarily diminishes respect for all life. The moral imperative to respond to the needs of our neighbors—basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work—is universally binding on our consciences and may be legitimately fulfilled by a variety of means,” (Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, USCCB, #25). Principle: Both opposing evil and doing good - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, caring for the sick, etc. - are essential obligations. Issues that pertain to basic needs such as food, shelter, health care, education, and meaningful work are all linked to the right to life. 5) "Disregard for the right to life, precisely because it leads to the killing of the person whom society exists to serve, is what most directly conflicts with the possibility of achieving the common good...It is impossible to further the common good without acknowledging and defending the right to life, upon which all the other inalienable rights of individuals are founded and from which they develop..." (The Gospel of Life, Pope John Paul II, #72; #101) “We cannot make more clear the seriousness of the overriding issue of abortion – while not the ‘only issue’ – it is the defining moral issue, not only today, but of the last 35 years.” (Clarification of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, Bishops of Dallas/Ft. Worth ). Principle: Abortion is the overriding issue, the defining moral issue, of our day because it is from the right to life that all the other rights - the right to food, shelter, health care, religious liberty, etc. - flow and are made meaningful. 6) “As Catholics we are faced with a number of issues that are of concern and should be addressed, such as immigration reform, healthcare, the economy and its solvency, care and concern for the poor, and the war on terror...There are many possible solutions to these issues and there can be reasonable debate among Catholics on how to best approach and solve them. These are matters of 'prudential judgment.' But let us be clear: issues of prudential judgment are not morally equivalent to issues involving intrinsic evils. No matter how right a given candidate is on any of these issues, it does not outweigh a candidate's unacceptable position in favor of an intrinsic evil such as abortion or the protection of ‘abortion rights,’” (Clarification of Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship, Bishops of Dallas/Ft. Worth ). “Jesus tells us very clearly that if we don’t help the poor, we’re going to go to Hell...But, Jesus didn’t say the government has to take care of them, or that we have to pay taxes to take care of them. Those are prudential judgments...You can’t say that somebody is not Christian because they want to limit taxation. To say that it’s somehow intrinsically evil like abortion doesn’t make any sense at all,” (National Catholic Reporter, Interview with Archbishop Chaput, September 14, 2012). Principle: Not to have concern for, and not to care for, the poor, and the provision of basic human needs - food, shelter, healthcare, and so on - is intrinsically evil. However, the best way to address issues pertaining to the care and concern for the poor, and the provision of basic human needs, is a matter that can and should be discussed and debated. Disagreements as to the best way to address the concerns of the poor - more/less government; more/less taxes; etc. - are matters of prudential judgment. Two people can disagree on matters of prudential judgment and both still be in line with Church teaching. Principle: A candidate’s position with respect to matters that pertain to prudential judgments about immigration reform, healthcare, the economy, and care and concern for the poor, do not hold the same moral equivalence as a candidate’s positions on intrinsic evils such as abortion and same-sex “marriage.” Two people cannot disagree on matters of intrinsic evil and both still be in line with Church teaching. Principle: If a candidate gets it "right" in your eyes on matters of prudential judgment vs. their opponent; but is wrong on matters of intrinsic evil vs. their opponent; then the matters of prudential judgment cannot "make up" for being wrong on matters of intrinsic evil. So, those are a few principles that Catholics need to take into consideration when stepping into the voting booth. I will close with a couple of questions for those who would support someone who is a staunch supporter of abortion and abortion “rights,” not because you agree with their position on abortion, but because you agree with one or more of their other positions regarding government, taxation, welfare, education, the economy, and so on, and you think their positions on these issues outweigh their position on abortion. If you are one such person, please consider these questions carefully: Let’s say that the candidate you are voting for, instead of being a staunch supporter of abortion, and a supporter of the laws that allow for the killing of more than one million unborn babies each year, let’s say that candidate was a staunch supporter of laws that allowed for the lynching of one million black men a year. Could you still vote for that candidate? Would their position on healthcare or education or immigration outweigh their position on lynching? Or, let’s say, instead of supporting abortion, that candidate was a staunch supporter of laws that allowed for the gassing of one million Jews a year. Could you still vote for that candidate? Would their position on healthcare or education or immigration outweigh their position on lynching? Let’s be honest...you answered a strong, resounding, “NO!!!” to each of those questions, didn’t you? You could not and would not vote for a candidate who supported the lynching of even one black man, much less one million black men, no matter how “right” he or she was on the other issues. You could not and would not vote for a candidate who supported the gassing of even one Jew, much less one million Jews, no matter how right he or she was on the other issues. How, then, can one vote for a candidate who supports abortion “rights” and who supports laws that allow for the killing of over one million unborn children a year?! The only way one can do that is if they do not believe the unborn child is a human being deserving of full protection under the law. The only way one can do that is by devaluing the life of the unborn child. It is not my job here to tell anyone who they should vote for, but it is my job to let folks know what they need to consider when voting. Now, there are some who will say that the questions I posed above are a bit harsh. Well, I agree. But, before anyone emails me or calls me, please look at a picture of an aborted baby (you can find such pictures with an internet search) and consider if anything I’ve written is harsher than what happened to that baby. Back to top

The Not-So-Nice Jesus (Part 1)

In my travels around the country, speaking at various parishes and conferences, and here in the diocese as well, I sometimes come across folks who will gently (and sometimes not so gently) get onto me about the “tone” I use in my talks and in my newsletters. They will say things along the lines of, “You shouldn’t be so hard on Protestants;” “You should focus on what we have in common with non-Catholics and not on the differences we have;” “You can’t tell people that they’re wrong;” or, my favorite, “You need to be more gentle - like Jesus - when talking to non-Catholics.” Sometimes I get the feeling that people picture Jesus as if he were some sort of 60's hippie-type, going around flashing a peace sign and saying, “Hey man, peace...love...it’s all cool,” as opposed to what we see of Jesus in the Gospels. Don’t get me wrong, Jesus was the most loving person to ever walk this planet. And, we all need to be more like Him - and I’m at the top of that list. However, Jesus was not some sort of namby-pamby, wishy-washy, type of a guy who sat around in the lotus position all day thinking about how He could rid the world of all the negative waves. Jesus was a man of prayer (Matt 19:13; Mark 14:32; Luke 6:12), but He was also a man of action. And while quite often His actions demonstrated love, kindness, gentleness, and an overall concern for the human condition - not to mention a concern for the eternal well-being of all - there were times when His actions, especially if they were done in today’s politically correct environment, would be interpreted as being not so nice...He might even be called downright mean by some. He does not hesitate at times to give folks a verbal punch in the nose. For example, in Matthew 23, Jesus rips into the scribes and Pharisees, telling the crowd that they “preach but do not practice” (verse 3) and that they do everything just for show. He calls them hypocrites, blind guides, blind fools, children of Hell, extortionists, whitewashed tombs, and says that they are filled with iniquity. And He was just getting warmed up. He goes on to call them serpents, a brood of vipers, sons of murderers, and He asks them how it is they think they will escape being sentenced to Hell. And when the lawyers got upset with what Jesus said to the scribes and Pharisees in Luke 11, He ripped into the lawyers as well. And there are other instances recorded in the Gospels where Jesus got into it with all of these folks, and with the Sadducees, too. In other words, there were a number of occasions in the Bible where Jesus was not very nice. I would add, though, that even when He wasn’t being nice, He was always being charitable. Now, someone might say, “But, John, Jesus was only this way with the religious leaders of the time, He wasn’t that way with the folks in the pew, so to speak.” Well, not so fast. Next week: In other words, the anti-Catholic refuses to hear what Catholics actually believe about God, about Scripture, and about doctrine, even when presented with proof from the Catechism, Council documents, papal encyclicals, and the testimony of individual Catholics. They also take passages out of various Church documents, without context, and present them as “proof” that Catholic teaching is contrary to Scripture. When shown that these passages, when taken in context and interpreted as a Catholic interprets them, in nowise contradict Scripture, they refuse to accept what has been put before them and continue to preach their misrepresentations, half-truths, and outright lies. In other words, they are more comfortable believing ill about Catholicism, than they are making an honest attempt to search for the truth about Catholicism. That’s an anti-Catholic. A non-Catholic will consider what is put before them and, while disagreeing with the Catholic point of view, will still allow the Catholic to believe what we actually believe. They will not insist we believe something we don’t believe. They will respond to rational arguments instead of just ignoring them or arbitrarily declaring them to be wrong. I am not offended if someone disagrees with the Church or even hates the Church – it makes sense for someone who believes that the Church teaches error to hate the Church – but, as I often say, disagree with what we actually believe, and not what you mistakenly think we believe. And, if you wish to hate the Church, and teach others to do the same, then you at least have the responsibility to understand what it is you are hating – to understand what she actually believes and teaches. Back to top

The Not-So-Nice Jesus (Part 2)

In other words, the anti-Catholic refuses to hear what Catholics actually believe about God, about Scripture, and about doctrine, even when presented with proof from the Catechism, Council documents, papal encyclicals, and the testimony of individual Catholics. They also take passages out of various Church documents, without context, and present them as “proof” that Catholic teaching is contrary to Scripture. When shown that these passages, when taken in context and interpreted as a Catholic interprets them, in nowise contradict Scripture, they refuse to accept what has been put before them and continue to preach their misrepresentations, half-truths, and outright lies. In other words, they are more comfortable believing ill about Catholicism, than they are making an honest attempt to search for the truth about Catholicism. That’s an anti-Catholic. A non-Catholic will consider what is put before them and, while disagreeing with the Catholic point of view, will still allow the Catholic to believe what we actually believe. They will not insist we believe something we don’t believe. They will respond to rational arguments instead of just ignoring them or arbitrarily declaring them to be wrong. I am not offended if someone disagrees with the Church or even hates the Church – it makes sense for someone who believes that the Church teaches error to hate the Church – but, as I often say, disagree with what we actually believe, and not what you mistakenly think we believe. And, if you wish to hate the Church, and teach others to do the same, then you at least have the responsibility to understand what it is you are hating – to understand what she actually believes and teaches. Back to top

The Not-So-Nice Jesus (Part 2)

As I said in my last column, I occasionally have people complain to me about the “tone” of talks I give or of the articles that I write. They will say things along the lines of, “You shouldn’t be so hard on Protestants;” “You should focus on what we have in common with non-Catholics and not on the differences we have;” “You can’t tell people that they’re wrong;” or, my favorite, “You need to be more gentle - like Jesus - when talking to non-Catholics.” Last week I spoke to the question of being as gentle as Jesus, and showed that there were a number of occasions in Scripture where Jesus was not, in fact, very gentle in His treatment of some folks. Jesus could, when the situation called for it, throw a pretty stout verbal uppercut to the jaw and He could toss over a table or two in righteous indignation when necessary. This week I would like to address the attitude that we can’t tell people they’re wrong. I have to smile whenever I receive an email from someone who tells me how wrong I am to tell people they’re wrong. But, while the inconsistency of individual emails like that might be a bit humorous, we have, unfortunately, become a society where just about the only mortal sin that is recognized by society is the mortal sin of telling someone they’re wrong. Society tells us that it is a mortal sin to tell those who engage in same sex relations that they are wrong. Society tells us it is a mortal sin to tell people that no matter how many judges get it wrong - and no matter how many licenses are issued - there is not now, never has been, and never will be such a thing as same sex “marriage.” Society tells us that it is a mortal sin to tell a man and a woman who engage in sexual relations outside of marriage that they are wrong. Society tells us that it is a mortal sin to tell women who allow their children to be killed by an abortionist that they are wrong. And that societal attitude has frequently influenced those within the church. So Catholics quite often stay silent in situations where a family member or a friend or a fellow parishioner is involved in same sex relations, or adultery, or fornication, or contraception, or abortion. You see, we don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. We don’t want to upset anyone. We don’t want anyone to get angry with us. We just can’t bring ourselves to say anything to the people involved in any of these situations that might give them a hint that we think that their actions are morally wrong. Or, horror of horrors, that we might think they are...sinning. Mention the word “sin” in any of these situations, and watch for the reaction. “Who are you to JUDGE me?!” “Judge not lest ye be judged!” “Oh, so you’re the one who would have thrown the first stone, Mr. I’m Without Sin?!” And other such niceties will surely be tossed in your direction. So, we settle into a comfortable silence and justify our silence by saying, “Jesus would want me to just love them and pray for them...not to condemn them.” We pride ourselves on our tolerance. Well, Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that the problem in our country is not the lack of tolerance, but the lack of intolerance. The lack of intolerance for sin and error. So, we keep our mouths closed in order to avoid any unpleasantries. Or, even worse, we actually start to buy into the arguments. The only reason, for example, abortion is legal in our country today, is because Catholics allow it to be. “I’m personally opposed to abortion, but who am I to tell a woman she can’t have an abortion, after all, it’s her body?” I don’t know how many times I have heard Catholics, and Catholic politicians buy into the lie of that culture of death logic. Who am I to tell a woman that she can’t kill her baby? Really?! We have so many Catholic politicians who vote for pro-abortion laws and against pro-life laws - even here in Alabama! And, if we can’t speak of right and wrong in the area of morality, then it becomes relatively easy to transfer that same sentiment to the area of faith. We can’t tell Baptists they are wrong for believing that a single profession of Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior will irrevocably count them among the saved. We can’t tell Evangelicals that their belief in the Rapture is wrong. We can’t tell Lutherans they are wrong about the Pope not being the head of the universal church. We can’t tell non-denominationalists that a belief in the Bible as the sole rule of faith for Christians is wrong. Essentially, we can’t tell anyone they are wrong about anything. Which means, we are not being allowed to tell the truth. Society has adapted the words of Pilate as its motto: “What is truth?” Pilate asked Jesus. Truth is on trial today, just as it, or He, was on trial 2000 years ago. The truth is being crucified today as it was crucified 2000 years ago. Jesus tells us in John 18 that He came to bear witness to the truth, and that everyone who is “of the truth,” hears His voice. Well, if the truth is not allowed to even be spoken today without its proponents being shouted down, mocked, condemned, villified, and persecuted, then how is anyone to know the truth that will set them free (John 8:32)? Jesus spoke truth to error. Jesus spoke truth to sin. They crucified Him. Speaking the truth will make a whole lot of people a whole lot of mad. But, we have to speak the truth anyway. As I mentioned above, so many people believe they are avoiding the condemnation of others by not speaking the truth to people involved in sinful situations and sinful lifestyles, when actually it could be their very silence that condemns them. Jesus was sometimes gentle, sometimes not so gentle. He was sometimes calm, sometimes not so calm. However, He was always charitable. He was always thinking of the salvation of souls. Each of us has to always be thinking about the salvation of the souls of those around us. So, we each need to determine the best approach when speaking to others - our friends, our family, our co-workers - about the truth, whether it be about faith or about morals. And we cannot be afraid to speak the truth. We cannot be afraid to tell someone they are wrong when, according to the Church, they are indeed wrong. Back to top

I gave a talk on the 2nd Commandment to the Diaconate Formation class for the Diocese of Birmingham not too long ago, and I am going to break that talk up and share it in this column over the next three to four weeks. (Part 1)

My assignment was to speak to you on the 2nd Commandment. We first see the 2nd Commandment mentioned in Exodus 20, verse 7: “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” Most people who call themselves, “Christian,” are familiar with that Commandment - “You shall not take the name of the Lord your God in vain.” The thing is, though, this Commandment is often viewed as, what I call, a “2nd Tier” Commandment. The first tier Commandments are the really serious commandments. You know, such things as not worshipping false gods. Worshipping false gods, that’s pretty serious, right?! Then you’ve got the one about, “Thou shalt not kill.” Killing is pretty serious business. And, of course there is the one about adultery - that’s pretty serious, too. But then, you have those commandments that...yeah...okay...they’re commandments, but they’re not really as serious as those other ones I just mentioned. For example, “Thou shalt not bear false witness.” Well, you know, it’s not really okay to do it, but it really isn’t that big of a deal to tell a little lie now and then, right? A little white lie...no big deal. And this whole thing about coveting thy neighbor’s wife - well, what if she just happens to be pretty hot and what if he’s really a jerk and what if she would really be better off with someone like me? It’s not my fault if he doesn’t really deserve her, is it?! Besides, I’m just looking...there’s no harm in looking, right?! And this thing about keeping holy the Lord’s day. Hey, missing Mass every now and then, especially when we go on vacation - I mean, you can’t expect me to go to Mass when I’m on vacation - or if I catch an occasional round of golf on a Sunday morning, or maybe I miss a Mass during deer season... what’s the harm? Besides, I often feel closer to God when I’m out in the woods...out in nature...than I do when I’m at Mass with all of those holier-than-thou hypocrites. And this taking the name of the Lord in vain thing...well, if I let slip a GD now and then...or an “Oh my God!” Or maybe a “Jesus Christ!” It’s no big deal. It’s just something you say. It’s not like I killed somebody or somethin’. It’s not? Are you sure? As I’ve already mentioned, most people who call themselves Christian are familiar with the 2nd Commandment, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy god in vain,” which, again, we find in Exodus 20, verse 7. What most people are not aware of, however, is what immediately follows, “Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain, for the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” “For the Lord will not hold him guiltless who takes His name in vain.” Do you understand what is being said here? If you take the name of the Lord in vain, the Lord will not hold you guiltless. Lest you think that to be no big deal, please keep in mind Revelation 21:27 - which is talking about the New Jerusalem, or Heaven, and it says, “Nothing unclean shall enter it.” Nothing unclean will enter Heaven. In other words, nothing with the stain of sin will enter it...nothing with the stain of guilt...will enter Heaven. So, if you take the name of the Lord in vain, then you are not held guiltless - which means you ARE held guilty...guilty of sin...guilty of serious sin...and if you do not repent of this sin, you will go to Hell. You will not pass GO, you will not collect $200. And there is no “Get out of Hell Free” card. The Commandment about not taking the name of the Lord in vain - and this taking the Lord’s name in vain is also known as blasphemy - is a commandment that we overlook, or that we take lightly, at our own peril. In fact, it is such a serious sin, that in the Old Testament it carried the death penalty. The death penalty! In Leviticus 24:16, it says, “He who blasphemes the name of the Lord shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him; the sojourner as well as the native.” Death, by stoning, for taking the name of the Lord in vain. And you have to remember that a physical death sentence in the Old Testament for a particular offense oftentimes is generally a sign of a spiritual death sentence for that offense. Next week: The 2nd Commandment, cont’d… Back to top

The 2nd Commandment...continued: (Part 2)

Okay, as discussed in last week’s column, taking the name of the Lord in vain is a serious sin, but exactly how does one take the name of the Lord in vain? Well, there are the obvious ways - using the Lord’s name as part of a curse word...GD this or GD that. Or, literally cursing at God. Or, when something happens that maybe surprises you in a not so nice way - maybe your watching a football game and your team throws an interception; or you’ve stopped at a stop sign and just as you’re about to go someone runs the stop sign right in front of you - and you use the name, “Jesus Christ,” to express anger, disgust, or even malice. That is taking the name of the Lord in vain. Or, you simply view the name, “God,” as simply one word among many in the dictionary and you quite often find yourself saying, “Oh my God,” over the most common and even profane things. Or, on Facebook, or in emails, you use “OMG” all the time. You may not realize it, but you are taking the name of the Lord, your God, in vain, and you are quite possibly causing others to do the same. Are there other ways we can take the name of the Lord in vain? Indeed there are. It is not just by our words that we can blaspheme, but also by our actions. In Malachi 1:6, God says, “O priests, who despise my name. You say, ‘How have we despised thy name?’ By offering polluted food upon my altar.” You see, the priests were offering sacrifices of animals that were blind, diseased, lame, and so on. In other words, they were offering sacrifices that had blemishes, to the Lord, instead of offering Him the best of their flocks. So, they were despising the name of the Lord, taking the name of the Lord in vain, through the offering of tainted sacrifices. And I need to note here, that the name of the Lord and sacrifice are very much intertwined throughout the Bible. In Genesis 4:26, it says that after the birth of Enosh, son of Seth, son of Adam, “at that time men began to call upon the name of the Lord.” Does that mean the folks just kind of sat around yelling, “Lord...Lord?” No. There was something that was usually done when calling upon the name of the Lord - when seeking the Lord’s favor, when seeking His blessings. Several places in Genesis tell us about this: Genesis 12:8, “[Abram] built an altar to the Lord and called on the name of the Lord.” Genesis 13:4, “[Abram] ...journeyed...to the place where he had made an altar...and there [he] called upon the name of the Lord.” Genesis 26:25, “So he built an altar there and called upon the name of the Lord.” What is done on an altar? You make sacrifices on altars. Altars...sacrifices...are usually involved with calling upon the name of the Lord. When the folks in the Bible would call upon the name of the Lord, they would first build an altar and offer a sacrifice. That’s exactly what we do today in the Mass - we call upon the name of the Lord, while offering Him a sacrifice. We ask His blessings...we ask His favor...His grace...through the offering of a sacrifice. In fact, listen to what God says in Malachi, chapter 1, right after He tells the priests that they are despising His name by their defective sacrifices. Malachi 1:11, “For from the rising of the sun to its setting” - you may recognize that from the revised Eucharistic prayer - “For from the rising of the sun to its setting, my NAME is great among the nations, and in every place incense is offered to My name, and a pure offering; for My name is great among the nations, says the Lord of hosts.” Hmm...let’s look at this for a second...there is an offering, in every nation, from the rising of the sun to its setting - in other words, all day long - and this offering is one of incense, and a pure offering. What is the one and only truly “pure” offering ever offered to God? It is the offering of His Son, Jesus Christ, on the cross. This passage from Malachi is actually a prophecy of things to come, because in Malachi’s day, 400 or so years before Christ, God’s name was not great among the nations. And what occurs among the nations, today, in every place, something where incense is offered and a pure offering? The Mass - the offering of Jesus Christ - from the rising of the sun to its setting. The Mass fulfills this prophecy from Malachi. In the Mass, we call upon the name of the Lord, while we offer on the altar the pure offering of His Son. All of this gives us a greater understanding of why it is such a grave offense to God to take His name in vain. Because His Name IS great among the nations. And, it is great among the nations, because it is holy! In Luke 1:49, Mary says, “For He Who is mighty has done great things for me and HOLY is His Name.” And we offer sacrifice to His name. And what sacrifice do we offer? A pure sacrifice...the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. And if Jesus Christ gave His life in the name of God, for the name of God, by the name of God, so that God’s name would be great among the nations, then how dare we...how dare we!...ever take the name of the Lord, our God, in vain. God’s name is holy, so to treat it as something common, as something that is no different from any other word that might find its way onto our lips, or, even worse, to treat it as something profane and undignified and even vulgar, is a very serious offense. Next week: The 2nd Commandment, cont’d… Back to top

The 2nd Commandment...continued: (Part 3)

How does the Scripture tell us we should treat the name of the Lord? Read the Psalms. Psalm 5:11, “That those who love Thy name may exult in Thee.” Psalm 7:17, “I will sing praise to the name of the Lord.” Psalm 20:7, “We boast of the name of the Lord our God.” Psalm 29:2, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory of His name.” Psalm 30:4, “Give thanks to His holy name.” Psalm 33:21, “We trust in His holy name.” Psalm 34:3, “Let us exalt His name together!” We are to love the name of the Lord, sing praise to the name of the Lord, boast of the name of the Lord, give glory to the name of the Lord, give thanks to the name of the Lord, trust in the name of the Lord, and exalt in the name of the Lord. That is why it is so terrible when we take the name of the Lord, our God, in vain. We cannot honor the name of the Lord in all of these ways that Scripture talks about, while simultaneously taking the name of the Lord in vain. When we take the name of the Lord in vain, we are not honoring Him, we are not glorifying Him, we are not worshipping Him, we are not calling upon His name, we are not trusting in Him, and we are not praising Him. No...when we take the name of the Lord in vain, we are doing the very opposite of what God made us for. We are not just going against God, we are going against our very nature as human beings. We were made to glorify God. All of creation glorifies God. But man, alone among creation, has the option of taking the name of the Lord our God in vain. When we take the name of the Lord in vain, we are denying our very nature, we are denying who we are as human beings, and we are, in essence, spitting on the corpse hanging on the Cross. That is how serious breaking this commandment is. When it comes to the 2nd Commandment, we need to always keep in mind, that we were baptized in the name of the Lord - Acts 19:5; that we were washed, sanctified, and justified in the name of the Lord - 1 Corinthians 6:11; and that we were forgiven in the name of the Lord - 1 John 2:12. And we need to always keep in mind that people, for thousands of years, have sacrificed their very lives in the name of the Lord. Given all of that, I want to challenge each and every one of you reading this to do something that I believe will help keep you from ever taking the name of the Lord, our God, in vain. This was a challenge I issued at the last men’s conferences we had in Huntsville and Birmingham. I want to challenge you today to strive for holiness in a particular way. A not so obvious thing to do to “strive for holiness” (Heb 12:14) - something that might not occur to you in your day-to-day life. I challenge you to do one particular thing to strive for holiness in relation to the 2nd Commandment. I challenge you to give up...profanity. Now, you might be thinking, “C’mon, John, be real. Cussing is no big deal. It’s not like it’s a mortal sin or something. It doesn’t hurt anything or anyone to use a little profanity now and then.” Really?! Are you sure?! Listen to this: James, chapter 3, verse 10, “From the same mouth come blessing and cursing. My brethren, this ought not to be so.” This ought not to be so the Bible tells us! Think about this: When you’re at your church, who among you would walk up to the tabernacle and use a little profanity? The “F” word, the “S” word, the “B” words, the “A” word, or any other cuss word? Who would use any of those words right there in the presence of Jesus Christ? I dare say not one of you would. So, if you wouldn’t use those words in the church, why use them outside of the church? Let what you participate in at the Mass, week in and week out, affect what you do and think and say outside of Mass. Imagine, if every time you started to roll a little profanity off your tongue, you stopped, and instead you glorified God? If you will substitute the divine for the profane in your daily language, you will find yourself doing the same in other areas as well. I guarantee, folks, that if you work on purifying your tongue, you will find yourself also purifying your mind, body, and soul. You will find yourself striving for holiness. And you will find yourself farther and farther away from ever taking the name of the Lord in vain. Furthermore, what kind of witness for Christ do you give to people when you cuss? I mean really? How many of your family members, friends, or co-workers see Jesus Christ in you when you let loose with a cuss word or two? Model Christ in all things, folks...all things! Not too long ago, in front of the Pope and the College of Cardinals, Cardinal Timothy Dolan said that “no Christian is exempt from the duty of witnessing to Jesus and offering Jesus’ invitation to others in his own day-to-day life.” So, be a witness to Jesus Christ in everything you do and everything you say in your day-to-day lives. Reverencing the name of God honors Him. This is the beginning of treating each other with respect for the dignity that is based on our being created in the image of God. You are created in the image of God. Image Him, then, in all things - in thought, in deed, and in word. Job 1:21, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed by the name of the Lord.” Back to top

Question: I was chatting with a friend today about the seven books that Protestants exclude from the bible - and was asked a question I could not answer. I took your advice and did not "wing it". He asked where those books were quoted by writers of the New Testament. How should I respond?

Answer: The correct response to that question is: "What does it matter if those books are quoted by writers of the New Testament or not? Is being quoted in the New Testament the criteria for determining whether or not an Old Testament book should be considered part of the inspired canon?" If he answers, "Yes," then all you have to do is say, "Well, let me ask you this: Do you consider Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1st Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations, and Nahum to be part of the Old Testament?" He will, of course, answer that he does. Then you simply say, "Well, none of them are quoted in the New Testament, so, by your criteria they cannot be considered part of the O.T. canon." Then, ask him by what authority Martin Luther threw out those 7 books of the Old Testament that all Christians, everywhere, had considered as part of the Bible since the Bible was put together in the early centuries of Christianity? He had no authority to do such a thing, other than that which he rendered unto himself. After all of that, you can tell him that there are a number of places in the New Testament that refer directly or indirectly to passages from these seven O.T. books (Judith, Tobit, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, and 1 & 2 Maccabees). For example: Heb 11:35 – speaks of women receiving their dead by resurrection and that some refused to give in to their torturers that they might rise to a better life. Just so happens, that is referring to an incident in 2 Maccabees 7:24-29. One of the main themes of the Our Father - forgive others so that you may be forgiven - as found in Matthew 6:14, is clearly derived from Sirach 28:2. The words of Matthew 27:39-43, relating an incident that occurred when Jesus was hanging on the Cross, make the words of Wisdom 2:16-20 seem to be very prophetic indeed. In Romans 1:20, Paul clearly has the words from Wisdom 13:1 in mind, regarding men being able to know of the existence of God by the observance of nature. In fact, the whole passage of Romans 1:20-32 seems to be pulled from chapters 13 and 14 of Wisdom. Also, we see that James 1:19, about being quick to hear and slow to speak, comes straight from Sirach 5:11-13. So, right there we have examples of three of the books that Protestants refer to as being “apocryphal,” being quoted directly or indirectly, in the New Testament. There are other examples that I could have used as well, but those suffice to make the case. Which means that if someone wants to justify eliminating the seven books that Catholic Bibles have that Protestant Bibles do not have, by claiming they are not quoted in the New Testament, then they have a bit of a problem. Because, as I’ve shown, there are Old Testament books accepted as canonical by the Protestants that are not quoted in the New Testament, and there are Old Testament books not accepted as canonical by the Protestants, that are quoted in the New Testament. Back to top

I recently saw the new movie on the rapture starring Nicholas Cage. It made me curious as to exactly what the Catholic Church’s teaching on the rapture is? Do Catholics believe in the rapture?

First thing I want to do, before presenting the Catholic Church’s teaching on the “Rapture,” is present the Protestant view of the Rapture. Many people are familiar with the Protestant concept of the Rapture as portrayed in the above-mentioned movie, and in the Kirk Cameron movies of recent past, which were themselves based on the Left Behind book series - a book series based on the Protestant view of the Rapture. That book series sold somewhere around fifty million copies worldwide. Fifty million! And while these books are fiction, the authors claim that the theological premises of these books are straight from the Bible. Are they, though? Not in the least. In fact, the Bible actually says the exact opposite of what the Left Behind/Rapture folks think it says, as I will show. The Protestant view of the rapture is that, at some point in the not-too-distant future, Jesus is going to come part of the way back to Earth, stop somewhere in the upper atmosphere, gather up all of the “true believers,” and then turn around and head back to Heaven with all the Christians in tow. This event, when all true Christians get caught up to meet Jesus and get taken by Him straight to Heaven is known as the “Rapture.” All those who have “accepted Jesus Christ into their hearts as their personal Lord and Savior,” will simply disappear from the face of the earth. Cars will crash, planes will crash, and a whole host of other such events will occur because their drivers, pilots, and so on will have simply vanished. Then, after the Rapture, all the non-believers are left behind to suffer through the seven years of Great Tribulation, which will be characterized by war, rumors of war, famine, earthquakes, disease, false prophets, the coming of the anti-Christ, and a myriad of other not-so-nice things (see Matthew 24:4-24). The first Scripture verse folks turn to in support of this “Rapture,” is 1 Thes 4:16-17, “For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first; then we who are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air; and so we shall always be with the Lord.” The word, “rapture,” is a derivation of the Latin word which means to “be caught up.” So, this being “caught up” in the clouds to meet the Lord is the Rapture. But, let’s take note of a few things from this “Rapture” passage. First, we see that there will be a resurrection of the dead that occurs at this descent of the Lord from Heaven. Second, please note that nowhere in this passage does it say that Jesus descends from Heaven, stops mid-air, and then turns around and ascends back into Heaven with all of the Christians right behind him. Lastly, we see that those who are “left” will be the ones that will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air. I want to examine this last point a little more carefully here. The Left Behind series of books, which have spawned the Nicholas Cage movie and the other Rapture movies, gets its name from a couple of passages in Scripture that Rapture enthusiasts point to in order to “prove” their Rapture theology. These two passages are: Matthew 24:37-41 and Luke 17:26-36. Matthew 24:37-41 says the following: “As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they did not know until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of man. Then two men will be in the filed; one is taken and one is left. Two women will be grinding at the mill; one is taken and one is left.” “See,” the Rapture folks say, “two men are in the field, one is taken and one is left behind. Two women are in the field, one is taken and one is left behind. The good guys [believers] are taken and the bad guys [non-believers) are left behind. The Rapture! It’s right there in Scripture!” Oh, really? Not so fast. This is why it is necessary to read Scripture in context. What is the context of this passage where one is taken and one is left behind? Well, the context is “the coming of the Son of man.” Next week: Will you be left behind? Back to top

We’re talking about the “Rapture.” What do Catholics believe about the Rapture vs. what Protestants believe about the Rapture and, what does the Bible say about the Rapture, particularly as to whether or not it supports the Protestant view of the Rapture? (Part 2)

I left off last time talking about Matthew 24:37-41 and Luke 17:26-36. In these parallel passages, Scripture talks about the “coming of the Son of man.” And, how, at the coming of the Son of man, it will be like the days of Noah (Matthew and Luke) and the days of Lot (Luke). These passages speak of two men in the field, one is taken and one is left. Two women will be at the mill, one is taken and one is left. Rapture enthusiasts say, “See, one is taken and the other is left behind. That’s the Rapture!” This is why it is so important to remember context when reading anything, but especially when reading Scripture. The Bible says that the coming of the Son of man will be like the days of Noah and like the days of Lot. Well, let’s think about that. After the flood came, who was left behind? Noah and his family, right? The good guys were left behind. After Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by fire, who was left behind? Lot and his family, right? The good guys were left behind. So, if this coming of the Son of man is to indeed be like the days of Noah and the days of Lot, then when one man is taken and the other left behind; when one woman is taken and the other left behind; it is the good guys who are left behind, the bad guys are taken away. Which means, the very passages from which the Left Behind series of books got its name, actually say the exact opposite of what the authors of those books - and most readers of those books - think they say! In other words, there are some fifty million Left Behind books out there that are peddling bad theology - very bad theology. Unfortunately, millions of people are buying into what these books are selling and they are being led astray. But, can we be sure, absolutely sure, that Matthew 24 and Luke 17 teach the exact opposite of what Rapture enthusiasts think they teach? Actually, we can. First and foremost, because of the teaching authority of the Church, which nowhere teaches about a Rapture that is like that of the Left Behind books. But, even if you’re not Catholic, and you don’t give a rip about what the Church teaches, you can still be sure by simply looking at several other passages of the Bible. Let’s look at a few more Scripture verses to see if they support or reject this notion of a Rapture as put forth in the Left Behind books. Remember the passage from 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17? It talks about being “caught up” in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. This is the passage from which we get the word “rapture.” Well, who exactly is it that get’s caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord? The first folks who get caught up are the “dead in Christ.” Which means, that there will be a resurrection of the dead (a point which I will expand on a bit later). After the dead rise, then what happens? “Then we are alive, who are left, shall be caught up together...” (verse 17). And, Paul is actually repeating here what he said in verse 15: “For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord...” What do the “left behind” passages of Matthew 24 and Luke 17 say? That one is taken and one is left. What does the “rapture” passage of 1 Thessalonians 4 say? That those who are left will be caught up to meet the Lord. So, if you are one of the two men in the field, you want to be the one left behind. If you are one of the two women at the mill, you want to be the one left behind. Why? So you can be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air! All 50 million Left Behind books, and all of the Left Behind movies are based on passages that say the exact opposite of what the writers and film producers think they say. It would be funny, if it wasn’t so tragic that tens of millions of people believe this nonsense. Furthermore, let’s look at Matthew 13:36-43. This is where Jesus is explaining the Parable of the Wheat and the Weeds. “Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so it will be at the close of the age. The Son of man will send His angels and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and all evildoers, and throw them into the furnace of fire...” (verses 40-42). So, do you want to be the one taken when the Son of man sends out His angels, or do you want to be left behind? Next week: The resurrection of the dead... Back to top

Continuing with our discussion of the Rapture, I now want to look at something that I just mentioned in passing last week. (Part 3)

The “Rapture” passage from 1 Thessalonians 4:13-17, states that there will be a resurrection of the dead at this event that Protestant theology calls the Rapture. Verse 16: “For the Lord Himself will descend from Heaven with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first...” So, it is not just the living in Christ who supposedly disappear at the Rapture, but also Christians who have already died will rise from their graves and disappear as well! But there’s a problem here. A big problem! If we turn to the Gospel of John, chapter 6, we find something very interesting. John 6:54: “...he who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the... last day.” The LAST DAY! Those who eat His flesh and drink His blood, whether you take that literally or symbolically, Jesus is talking about folks who believe in Him...they are Christians. And they will be raised when? On the last day before the tribulation starts (the Rapture)? No, it doesn’t say that. On the last day before the appearance of the anti-Christ? No, it doesn’t say that either. It says on the last day...period! No qualifiers! John 6:39: “...and this is the will of Him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that He has given Me, but raise it up at the last day.” John 6:44: “No man can come to me, unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the...last day. John 11:24: “Martha said to [Jesus], ‘I know that he [Lazarus] will rise again in the resurrection at the...last day.” How come Lazarus has to wait until the last day? Why can’t he be raised up at the Rapture with all the other believers in Christ? Why? Because there is no Rapture before...the last day! John 6 shoots a big, big hole in Rapture theology. So, if you find someone who believes in the Rapture, before discussing 1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, go to John chapter 6. Ask them what Jesus means when He says...the “last day.” If they say He’s talking about the end of the world, then they have to agree with you that 1 Thes 4 cannot be talking about a pre-tribulation rapture or any other kind of rapture other than one that occurs at the end of the world. Jesus is talking about the dead being raised on the last day of the world in John, chapter 6. 1 Thes 4 is talking about the dead being raised. Therefore, since the dead aren’t raised until the last day of the world, then this Rapture... this being “caught up” to meet the Lord...is occurring on the last day of the world...not before. Now, if they try to say that when Jesus talks about the “last day” in John, chapter 6, He is actually talking about the last day before the tribulation starts, or the last day before the anti-Christ appears, or some other such thing, ask them to show you where it says that in the Bible. They can’t...because it doesn’t. You might politely point out to them that they are adding words to Scripture. It says, “last day, ” period. And besides, in John 12, verse 48, we have a verse that shows very clearly that the “last day” is, in fact, the last day of the world. In the dozen of so different scenarios that I have seen regarding the Rapture - there is no talk of a “judgment” of the wicked occurring at the Rapture. Believers are taken off the planet, non-believers are left. That’s it. No “judgment” of those who are left. In all the scenarios I’ve seen, judgment of the wicked, judgment of non-believers, judgment of non-Christians, is left until the end of the world. This last judgment is often referred to as the “great white throne judgment,” because in Rev 20, it has Jesus judging the dead while sitting on a great white throne. So, remember, all of the Rapture scenarios have the judgment of the wicked, of non-Christians, occurring at the end of the world. Now, back to John 12:48, Jesus says, “He who rejects Me and does not receive My sayings has a judge; the word that I have spoken will be his judge on the last day.” Those who reject Jesus, the bad guys, will be judged when? On the last day! Since judgment of the wicked occurs at the end of the world, the last day as mentioned here and in John 6, must be referring to the end of the world! Not the last day before the tribulation starts. Not the last day before the anti-Christ appears. The last day of the world. So, with just two verses, John 6:54 and 1 Thes 4:16, you have blown a huge hole in Rapture theology. And when you throw in John 12:48, you have made a pretty tight argument against the Rapture theology as presented in the Left Behind books and movies. Back to top

A few times now I’ve had this happen to me so I need some help. I would be sharing my Catholic faith with people and they mention to me that Catholics like to drink alcohol and how wrong that is. And it’s like they build this wall up around them and discredit any valid points that I would make afterwards. How could I respond to this?

First of all, I would ask them to tell you where in the Scriptures does it say anything about drinking alcohol being wrong? Quick answer…it doesn’t. It says getting drunk is wrong, but it doesn’t say merely drinking is wrong. In fact, it tells us just the opposite. 1 Tim 3:8, “Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not addicted to much wine…” What is Paul saying to Timothy here? He’s saying that it is okay for deacons to drink some wine, they just cannot be addicted to “much” wine. 1 Tim 5:23, “No longer drink only water, but use a little wine for the sake of your stomach and your frequent ailments.” Timothy is ordered to drink wine. All 3 accounts of the Last Supper in Matthew, Mark, and Luke have Jesus and the Apostles drinking wine (the “fruit of the vine”). Jesus’ first miracle was to turn some 120-180 gallons of water into wine (John 2:3-10), for folks to drink. And, it was better wine than any of the wine that had already been served at that particular wedding. 1 Tim 4:4, “For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving.” The materials from which alcohol is made are all natural materials made by God. Matthew 15:10-11, “Hear and understand, not what goes into the mouth defiles a man, but what comes out of the mouth…” Luke 7:33-34, “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine; and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son of Man has come eating and drinking; and you say, ’Behold, a glutton and a drunkard…” What do you think Jesus was drinking that they would have called Him a drunkard? He was drinking wine. Now, this is not to say that He was a drunkard - obviously He wasn’t. But, the only way someone could even begin to make that case would be if He was known to drink wine. Oftentimes, however, when I bring these verses up to show that the Bible does indeed allow for the drinking of alcohol, I will have someone tell me that what is being spoken of in these verses is “new” wine. And they go on to say that “new” wine is non-alcoholic or, in essence, simply grape juice. But, there are a couple of problems with that interpretation. First of all, in none of these verses does it say “new” wine. It simply says, “wine”. So folks who claim it is “new” wine are inserting a word into those verses that is not there. New wine is indeed specifically mentioned in several places in the New Testament (e.g., Matthew 9:17), but not in any of the verses cited above. Secondly, the Bible does not support the notion that “new” wine is non-alcoholic. For example, in Hosea 4:11 it states that “Wine and new wine take away understanding.” Well, I don’t see how non-alcoholic wine can “take away understanding.” Also, in Acts 2:13-15, on the Day of Pentecost, when the disciples, filled with the Holy Spirit, were speaking in the various tongues of all those who heard them, some of the people mockingly said, “They are filled with new wine.” Let’s re-word that according to the interpretation of those who say new wine is basically nothing but grape juice and see if it makes any sense: “But others mocking said, ‘They are filled with grape juice.’” Doesn’t make much sense, does it? Furthermore, listen to what Peter says in response: “For these men are not drunk as you suppose...” Peter obviously interprets the people as saying that the disciples are drunk on new wine. Well, it is not possible to get drunk on non-alcoholic wine, therefore the interpretation of new wine as being non-alcoholic is, again, not supported by the Bible. How could Jesus even begin to be accused of being a drunkard, if all He was drinking was grape juice? How could the deacons mentioned in 1 Tim 3 possibly be addicted to non-alcoholic wine? A non-alcoholic, “new” wine interpretation of these verses simply does not make any sense. The overwhelming scriptural evidence, Old Testament and New, is that drinking alcohol is not a sin, as long as it is done in moderation. Back to top

In your recent series of articles you talked about how contraception is contrary to God’s plan for married couples. When I talk to people about contraception, though, I am almost always asked the question about why contraception is wrong but NFP is okay when they both do the same thing - help someone to avoid pregnancy. How do I respond to that? (Part 1)

The argument that there is no difference between contraception and NFP (Natural Family Planning) is one that I hear very frequently when talking about this subject. So, are contraception and NFP basically the same thing? Are they morally equivalent? The answer is: “No, they are not,” and I’m going to explain how and why they differ. First of all, contraception is used exclusively to avoid pregnancy, whereas, NFP is often used to help achieve pregnancy. In fact, a particular kind of NFP technology known as naprotechnology is being used with great success in helping infertile couples conceive. The success rate of infertile couples using naprotechnology is quite often higher than that of couples using more widely known infertility treatments (and at a much lower cost!). (For more information on naprotechnology see: http://www.naprotechnology.com/infertility.htm or contact me and I can put you in touch with someone who uses it.) But, what about when NFP is used to avoid pregnancy, isn’t that basically the same as contraception? The argument here is that since the end is the same – no pregnancy – then the means to the end – whether NFP or contraception – are morally equivalent. Well, let’s look at an example and see if the means to an end matter, even when the end is the same. Let’s say we have two men, both of whom are the main breadwinners in their family. They both work at jobs where the desired end of their work is to provide support to their wives and children. One of them works at a bank. The other one, however, works at robbing banks. So, the end is the same – they both support their wife and children – but the means are different. So, are the means to the end morally equivalent, since the end is the same? Obviously not. One means of supporting your family is moral, the other is immoral. So, I believe I can safely say that the means to an end do indeed matter. That even though the end is the same, different means to that end can indeed differ in terms of their moral standing. Now, let’s look at NFP vis-a-vis contraception, specifically. What is contraception? Contraception – which means contra, or against, conception – is the deliberate frustration of the natural processes that occur in physical relations between a man and a woman. Contraception basically works by either resulting in the “spilling” of the man’s seed, or by interrupting the natural cycles of the woman and preventing ovulation. (Note: the birth control pill has both contraceptive and abortifacient properties – it either prevents ovulation (contraceptive), or, if ovulation and then conception occur, it causes changes to the lining of the uterus making it impossible for the brand new human being to implant in its mother’s uterus, thereby causing it to die (abortifacient)). In other words, contraception is the deliberate attempt to use a good given by God (physical relations between a husband and a wife), yet frustrate one of the God-given purposes of that good – the bearing of children. It intentionally separates the life-giving and love-giving aspects of relations between a man and a woman. Contraception is akin to bulimia in certain respects. With bulimia, someone will eat a meal, but then frustrate the God-given purpose of eating – to provide nourishment to the body – by intentionally causing that meal to be regurgitated. They want the pleasure of eating, but not the results. With contraception, they want the pleasure of sexual relations, but not the results. So, on the face of it, contraception is unnatural. NFP, on the other hand, in no way interferes with the natural God-given processes that occur between a man and a woman. The man’s seed is not “spilled.” The woman’s natural cycles are not interrupted. Everything is just as God created it to be. “But,” someone might say, “if you deliberately have relations only during the part of the woman’s cycle where she is infertile, then it is indeed equivalent to contracepting. Actually, it’s not, and I’ll explain why in next week’s article. Next week: NFP vs. Contraception, cont’d... Back to top

(Contraception vs. NFP - Natural Family Planning - cont’d from last week.) Last week I left off with the question of why having marital relations only during the infertile part of a woman’s cycle - as happens when using NFP - isn’t the same as contracepting? (Part 2)

Well, my answer to that is to ask a series of questions: Is it immoral for a husband and wife to have relations at any time during a woman’s cycle? The answer is, of course, “No.” Next question: Does God require of us that we have as many children as we are physically capable of having, or does He recognize that there are times when it is necessary for us to temporarily abstain from having children? I don’t know of any moral theologian who says God requires of us to have as many children as we are physically capable of having. Next question: Since God does not require of us that we have as many children as it is absolutely possible for us to have, does He then provide us with a moral means whereby we can temporarily abstain from having children when we have sufficient reason to do so? I believe the answer to that question is, “Yes.” and I believe it so because God has plainly given us a natural means by which to avoid pregnancies, and this means involves carefully considering the woman’s natural cycles of fertility. Last question: Does the Bible give us any indication as to whether or not contraceptive methods are acceptable in God’s eyes? The answer is, “Yes.” The one story in the entire Bible which involves a contraceptive practice is the story of Onan in Genesis 38. The result of Onan’s contraceptive practice? He dies! Which is one of the reasons why the Church tells us that contraception is “intrinsically evil” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2370). So we see, quite clearly, from the Bible, and the Church, that God is not pleased with contraceptive practices. The Bible shows us they result in death. So, to sum up these questions and answers: It is not immoral for a husband and wife to have relations during the infertile period of a woman’s cycle; God does not require us to have as many babies as it is theoretically possible for us to have. As such, He must have given us some morally-acceptable way to at least temporarily abstain from having children. And, He has shown us - in the Bible - that there are immoral ways to abstain from having children. So, is there a difference between NFP and contraception? Indeed there is. And, contraceptive methods, as we see in Genesis 38, lead to death. And we can see in our own times that death does indeed come from contraception. Physical death in the form of AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases that flourish because of the promiscuity made possible by contraception and the widespread acceptance and practice of same sex relations that is the natural consequence of separating the unitive (love-giving) aspect of sexual relations from the procreative (life-giving) aspects of sexual relations. Spiritual death that results from unrestrained lusts and sexual desires that are unleashed when the natural consequences of sex are separated from the sexual act itself. Men treating women as mere objects – within marriage and without - for their own gratification. Widespread pornography. Pre-marital sex. Extra-marital sex. The death of marriages. The death of nations and of peoples as their populations implode because of declining birth rates. The death of millions of unborn babies as the contraceptive mentality – the anti-life mentality – leads directly to the abortion mentality, and the deaths of the already born as the abortion mentality leads directly to the infanticide mentality and the euthanasia mentality. All of this is the natural consequence of the widespread acceptance of contraception. Death, death, and more death. With NFP, however, the love-giving and life-giving aspects of sexual relations are not separated. There is no natural outgrowth from NFP of all the horrendous consequences mentioned above that result from contraception. The NFP mentality, one of working within God’s design to temporarily avoid a pregnancy, one that restrains the passions, does not lead to any of the consequences that the use of contraception does. Next week: Non-Catholics and contraception... Back to top

(Contraception vs. NFP - Natural Family Planning - cont’d from last week.) Part 3

I will end my discussion on this topic by saying this: Contraception seeks the pleasure of a God-given good, while deliberately frustrating the God-given consequences of that good. NFP abstains from a God-given good, for a time, to avoid the consequences of that good. The former is illicit, while the latter is licit. Again, it’s akin to bulimia vs. fasting. When one fasts – let’s say you skip lunch for a while – to lose weight, you abstain from the pleasure of eating so as to temporarily avoid the natural consequences (taking on additional calories) of eating. You also train your will to control your passions, as you do with NFP and periodic periods of abstinence. With bulimia, you enjoy the pleasure of eating, and then participate in the unnatural act of intentionally regurgitating what you have just eaten in order to avoid the consequences of eating. Fasting - bulimia is analogous in that way to NFP - contraception. NFP vs. Contraception – are they the same? I don’t think so. I would like to close this series on NFP vs. contraception, by adding some historical information about contraception. All Christian faith traditions – Catholic, Protestant, and Orthodox – used to believe that contraception is morally evil, and I would like to quote some Protestant theologians as evidence of this: Martin Luther: “Onan [Genesis 38] must have been a malicious and incorrigible scoundrel. This is a most disgraceful sin. It is far more atrocious than incest and adultery. We call it unchastity, yes, a Sodomitic sin...Surely at such a time the order of nature established by God in procreation should be followed…He was inflamed with the basest spite and hatred…Consequently, he deserved to be killed by God. He committed an evil deed.” John Calvin: “[What Onan did] is a monstrous thing.” Adam Clarke (Methodist – 18th century): “The sin of self pollution, which is generally considered to be that of Onan, is one of the most destructive evils ever practiced by fallen man. In many respects it is far worse than [prostitution], and has in its train more awful consequences.” Johann Lange (Reformed – 19th century): Onan’s sin, a deadly wickedness, an example to be held in abhorrence, as condemnatory, not only of secret sins of self-pollution, but also of all similar offenses in sexual relations, and even in marriage itself…It is a crime against the image of God, and a degradation below the animal. Onan’s offense, moreover, as committed in marriage, was a most unnatural wickedness, and a grievous wrong." Thomas Scott (Anglican – 18th century): Onan’s habitual conduct, was not only unnatural and detestable in itself, but full of envy and malice, and not without something of the nature of murder in it; for the same principle would have induced him to murder a child born to him but accounted his brother’s, if he could have done it with impunity." Mr. Scott clearly saw that the contraceptive mentality leads to the abortion mentality and the infanticide mentality, as the pro-life movement has been saying for decades. It wasn’t until the Anglican’s Lambeth Conference in 1930 that any Christian faith tradition approved of contraception. The 1930 Lambeth Conference approved of contraception only in “rare” circumstances, but the hole had been punched in the dike. Even though most Protestant denominations condemned the decision of the Lambeth Conference at the time, within 20 or 30 years, pretty much all of them had changed their teaching on contraception. The Catholic Church stood alone on this issue. Aldous Huxley, a British writer who was actually an atheist, wrote his book, “Brave New World,” as a response to the Anglican decision at the Lambeth Conference to allow contraception. Even an atheist could recognize that to separate love from life in the conjugal act was contrary to nature and would lead to grave consequences for society. In his novel, the “utopian” world of the future features promiscuous sex (hook-up culture), human embryos grown in hatcheries [think test-tube babies], the separation of sex from reproduction (IVF), and so on. It is incredibly prophetic. Here is an atheist, using principles of natural law, who clearly recognizes, back in 1932, what the wide-spread acceptance of contraception would lead to; yet so many Catholics today, even with the horrible consequences of widespread contraception all around us, can’t see it. If you haven’t read the novel, please pick up a copy. Back to top

I have been puzzled recently by a couple of my Catholic friends who say that they don’t believe everything the Church teaches. I don’t understand why someone would stay in the Catholic Church if they don’t believe what the Church teaches. Have you ever come across anything like this?

I see this attitude all the time. People who pick and choose which of the Church’s doctrines and moral teachings they choose to follow and those they choose not to follow. The term most often used for these folks is Cafeteria Catholics - they pick and choose the articles of their “faith” like they pick and choose what they want to eat for lunch while going down the line in the cafeteria. Back to top

Your questions and answers always seem argumentative to me. Jesus didn’t tell us to argue with people, but to love them. He says that people will know us by our love. Pope Francis is saying the same thing. Why don’t you stop arguing with people and try loving them instead?

So, let me get this straight - you’re arguing that I should stop arguing with people, right? And, one other thing, I know you can’t be Italian if you equate arguing with someone as not loving them. Seriously, though, your question has some flaws in its underlying assumptions. The first thing to remember is that the purpose of this column is to answer questions. And most of the questions I receive are either from Catholics who have been challenged about their faith and want to know how to respond, or they are from non-Catholics - and sometimes even Catholics - who are disputing teachings of the Church. In other words, I am not “arguing” with anyone as much as I am simply responding to questions about, and attacks on, the Catholic Faith. I was told recently that all I do is debate with people because, according to this person, “apologetics, by definition, involves debate.” Well, no, it doesn’t. Bishop Foley wrote in a column in the One Voice several years ago that apologetics is, “The explanation of what we believe, and why we believe it.” So, what I do in these columns is not first and foremost debate, it is to teach and explain. I’ll debate, if necessary, but the intent is to teach, explain, and defend the truths of the Catholic Faith. Secondly, I was kidding earlier about the Italians (of which I am one) and arguing, but in all seriousness, where does it come from that arguing with someone, or debating with them, over what is and is not true in regard to God, the Church, salvation, the sacraments, and so on is the equivalent of not loving them? That’s a ridiculous correlation to make. You know, it seems the only mortal sin we have in society today is to tell someone they are wrong (unless of course you’re Catholic, then it’s okay for everyone to tell you you’re wrong). So, we can’t tell people that they are wrong to believe it’s okay for one man to “marry” another or for one woman to “marry” another. We can’t tell people it’s wrong to kill a child in utero. We can’t tell people it’s wrong to use contraception. We can’t tell people it’s wrong to commit adultery or to live together before marriage. We can’t tell non-Catholics they’re wrong about the Eucharist being merely a symbol, about confessing your sins to a priest, about the priesthood, about Mary, about once saved always saved, about the rapture, about authority within the church, and a host of other theological issues we disagree on. We can’t debate with them on matters pertaining to eternal salvation - because that’s just not nice, it’s not loving. We’re so afraid of “offending” people, that we’ve retreated from our duty to tell them the truth about Jesus Christ and the teachings of His Church. We’ve retreated from our duty to evangelize and bring others to Christ, or into a deeper relationship with Christ. We’re more concerned about being liked and being accepted then we are about teaching the truth in season and out. It almost seems like our culture has reached the point where the spiritual works of mercy - to admonish sinners and to instruct the ignorant - are now mortal sins. Yes, Jesus says they will know us by our love. But, isn’t it an act of love to risk being disliked, being yelled at or cussed at, being vilified and persecuted, because you cared enough to tell someone the truth about Jesus and the Church He founded? Jesus was indeed the most loving person to ever walk this planet, which is why He sometimes got in people’s faces - because He loved them. People tend to forget that Jesus went into the Temple, got after people with a whip (that He made), and turned over tables. Or that He called the scribes and Pharisees liars, hypocrites, white-washed tombs, sons of murderers, blind guides, and so on. He called the Canaanite woman a dog. He called Peter Satan. And there are several other instances where He wasn’t necessarily “nice.” But He always loved. So I reject the assumption that arguing with someone or debating with them is not loving them. Or it’s not being nice, or it’s somehow not being Christian. Especially when you are “arguing” or debating what is or is not the truth about Jesus and salvation and the teachings of the Church. St. Paul, upon entering a town or city for the first time, would first go to the synagogue and debate the Jews there for weeks and months on end. Why? Because he loved them. You need to present the truth in love, but you are not loving if you do not present the truth. Back to top

In one of your recent articles, you stated, “…nowhere does the Council [Vatican Council II] call for the priest to turn around and face the people rather than face God.” God is everywhere, so no matter in which direction the priest faces, he is facing God. (Part 1)

God is indeed everywhere but, according to the Church, He is present in a “unique” way in the tabernacles of the churches around the world. That is why, when we enter the church, we genuflect while facing the tabernacle. That is why, when we go to receive Communion, we genuflect or bow in the direction of the Body and the Blood. Could we say that since God is everywhere, it would be okay to genuflect while facing the parking lot before we enter the church? Would it be okay, since God is everywhere, to turn and genuflect, or bow, to the rear wall when we go up to receive Communion? No, neither of those actions would make any sense. I had a friend tell me once that he didn’t need to go to church because he could experience God while out hunting in the woods early on Sunday mornings. He said he was closer to God in the peace and tranquility of being out amongst nature early in the morning, than he was when at church. Is that true, since God is everywhere? No, it is not. He can indeed experience the presence of God out in the woods, but not in the same way that he can experience the presence of God in the church. God is physically present – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - in the tabernacle, He is not physically present in the woods. This idea that God is everywhere, is true in one sense, but it is also true that God is nowhere present on this earth in the way that He is present in the tabernacle. That is why we do not genuflect when we enter a Wal-Mart, even though God is everywhere. That is why we do not genuflect when we enter Taco Bell, even though God is everywhere. That is why we do not genuflect when we enter Bryant-Denny Stadium (although there may be some people who think we should), even though God is everywhere. Jesus is physically present in the tabernacle of the church. He is not physically present in the pews. He is not physically present in the narthex. He is not physically present in the sacristy. He is physically present in the tabernacle, and only in the tabernacle (except, of course, from the moment of the consecration until the time the Blessed Sacrament is again reposed in the tabernacle). Given that fact, it can rightly be said that the priest can indeed “face the people rather than face God,” when the context is the physical presence of God vs. the physical presence of the people, which is the context within which I was writing. So, the fact of the matter is, the priest is facing the people rather than facing God for most of the Mass. And, to be honest, that simple fact puzzled me more and more as I learned more about what the Mass is after coming back into the Church some years ago. The Mass is our principal act of worship. It is an act that takes place between the people and their God, not between the people and their priest. The people are led in this act of worship of their God by the priest. So it puzzles me as to why - if the priest is leading the people in the worship of God – why is he facing the people instead of facing God? Again, as I said in a previous article, I realize this is a hot button issue for many, but it is just something that puzzles me and it is something that I don’t think is properly understood by many Catholics . Now, I will gratefully attend Mass no matter which way the priest is facing, but I have to admit that I do not understand the liturgical reasoning behind turning the altars toward the people instead of towards the One Who is being worshipped. Now, there are those who say that in the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) the priest celebrated “with his back to the people.” But, if the priest is leading the worship, and not the object of the worship, then doesn’t it make more sense that he face the object of worship rather than face those doing the worshipping? When the priest was facing the tabernacle, he no more had his “back to the people” than the person in the pew in front of you has his back to you. All, priest and people alike, were facing God, the object of the worship. So, it seems to be a bit misleading to say that in the TLM the priest had his back to the people. He was, rather, simply facing in the same direction as the people, so as to lead the people in the worship of God. Some will argue that having the priest face the people emphasizes the communal aspect of “the meal” we are celebrating. I understand that as far as it goes, but the fact of the matter is, the Mass is first and foremost a sacrifice, not a meal. That’s why we have an altar, not a dining room table. And, as Cardinal Ratzinger once wrote, before becoming Pope, “the Eucharist that Christians celebrate really cannot adequately be described by the term 'meal'.” The point of all of this? There are aspects to the liturgy that Catholics are generally oblivious to, but which we need to know about, and consider, in order to fully appreciate what exactly it is we are participating in whenever we attend the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Back to top

You seem to be saying in your last few articles that the Church got it wrong when it turned the altars around to face the people. I do not, however, wish to make an unwarranted assumption and so I’ll just ask: Do you believe the Church was wrong to turn the altars to face the people and are you advocating for a return to the old way with the altar facing the tabernacle? (Part 2)

Not trying to be elusive here, but those are the wrong questions. The main point of these articles has not been what I believe or what I would or would not like to see. The whole reason for these articles was because of the question I received from someone who was feeling a bit put out by the use of Latin in the liturgy and the new life given to the Traditional Latin Mass. Her question seemed to indicate a fear of, and even anger towards, anything Latin. I have to be honest and say that I am always somewhat stunned when I see that kind of visceral reaction directed towards the liturgy – any authentic liturgy - whether it be directed toward the Traditional Latin liturgy, or it be directed to the new liturgy (the Novus Ordo). So, what I attempted to do with my articles was to educate folks as to why we are seeing and hearing more about Latin and the Latin Mass these days. And, the reason why we are seeing and hearing more about Latin and the Latin Mass, is because Pope Benedict is making a deliberate attempt to bring about what he believes is a much needed reconciliation between the pre- and post-Vatican II liturgies. As he said in a letter to the Bishops regarding his reasoning for wanting the Traditional Latin Mass to be more available, “I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio…It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church.” The reason we are in need of a liturgical reconciliation, according to Pope Benedict, is that there was a bit of a disconnect between the intent of Vatican II and the implementation of Vatican II, “Many people who clearly accepted the binding character of the Second Vatican Council, and were faithful to the Pope and the Bishops, nonetheless also desired to recover the form of the sacred liturgy that was dear to them. This occurred above all because in many places celebrations were not faithful to the prescriptions of the new Missal, but the latter actually was understood as authorizing or even requiring creativity, which frequently led to deformations of the liturgy which were hard to bear.” These deformations of the liturgy that the Pope speaks of, caused great wounds within the Church. The Pope is trying to heal those wounds by slowly bringing the liturgy back to what he believes was intended after Vatican II. He is moving slowly, it seems, in order to first educate the faithful and to allow for reasoned dialogue on these matters. Too often in the past, discussion of all things liturgical has resulted in passionate and sometimes heated exchanges, with each side putting labels on the other, that tended to deepen the wounds rather than heal them. Our Holy Father is calling for a new paradigm for the discussion of such matters: “The Congregation's response should thus make for a new, more relaxed discussion, in which we can search for the best ways of putting into practice the mystery of salvation. The quest is to be achieved, not by condemning one another, but by carefully listening to each other and, even more importantly, listening to the internal guidance of the liturgy itself. The labelling of positions as 'preconciliar', 'reactionary', and 'conservative', or as 'progressive' and 'alien to the faith' achieves nothing; what is needed is a new mutual openness in the search for the best realization of the memorial of Christ." So, my last few articles have, I hope in at least some small way, served to educate the faithful as to what is going on in regards to the liturgy of late, and why. I also hope that they will help to stimulate more discussion, in a reasoned and respectful manner, regarding the liturgy, so that the reconciliation Pope Benedict desires can continue to progress. The more educated we are on the liturgy, which is the source and summit of all that we are as Catholics, the better it will be for each of us individually, for our parishes, and for the Church as a whole. Am I advocating for the altar to be turned back around to face the tabernacle rather than the people? Let’s just say that I am advocating for what Pope Benedict is advocating for – interior reconciliation within the heart of the Church. Back to top

I had a former theology teacher at my parish’s school tell me that Vatican II changed the Church’s teachings on Adam and Eve and that the first few chapters of Genesis are to be considered as myths. Is that true?(Part 1)

No, it is not. Below are nine teachings of the Church regarding the first three chapters of Genesis. These teachings can be found in a document which was issued by the Pontifical Biblical Commission, and confirmed by Pope St. Pius X, in 1909. These teachings have been the constant teachings of the Church throughout the centuries, and the Pontifical Biblical Commission expounded them in 1909 as a response to the errors of the Modernists that had developed in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The Modernists were, among other things, denying the reality of Adam and Eve. Now, you might say, “John, this was before Vatican II, the question is: didn’t Vatican II change all of this?” No, it did not. We can find every single one of these nine teachings of Pope St. Pius X, as expounded by the 1909 Pontifical Biblical Commission, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) that was published in 1994. So, here they are, the nine teachings of the Church regarding chapters 1-3 of Genesis, as expounded in the 1909 document from the Pontifical Biblical Commission, followed each time by the paragraphs of the 1994 Catechism that carry the corresponding teachings: 1) The creation of all things out of nothing by God at the beginning of time...and including time; CCC #’s 296-299 2) The special creation of man; CCC #’s 355-359 3) The creation of woman from man [Eve was created from Adam’s rib - well, the Church doesn’t say that it absolutely happened in exactly that way, but it does teach that woman was created from man in some manner]; CCC #371 4) That all of humanity is descended from an original pair of human beings - Adam and Eve; CCC #’s 54-55, 359-360, 375, 390-392, 402-405, 407, 416-417 5) That Adam and Eve were created in an original state of holiness, justice, and immortality; CCC #’s 374-379, 384, 398, 415-416 6) That a Divine Command was laid upon man to prove his obedience to God [“Thou shalt not eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil” - again, exactly what that means, we don’t know. Was it really a tree with fruit that they weren’t supposed to eat? Probably not, but we don’t really know. But we do know that there was some command from God, laid upon man, to prove his obedience.]; CCC #’s 396-397, 399 7) The transgression of that Divine Command at the instigation of Satan; CCC #’s 379, 390-392, 394-395, 397-398, 413-415 8) The loss of the state of holiness, justice, and immortality of our 1st parents, because of their disobedience - Adam and Eve were kicked out of Paradise; CCC #’s 379, 390, 399-400, 410 9) The promise of a future Redeemer, a Savior - Gen 3:15, the protoevangelium, the first “good news”; CCC #’s 410-411 I doubt anyone will contend that the Catechism is pre-Vatican II. So, if the teachings of the 1909 Pontifical Biblical Commission on Adam and Eve are also found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church, then it is obvious that Vatican II did not change the Church’s teachings in regard to Adam and Eve. Back to top

In your column on Adam and Eve, you were saying that Adam and Eve were real people, but I have been told that Adam and Eve are merely representative of a number of “first parents” of the human race. What do you think of that? (Part 2)

Well, it’s not really what I think of that, the correct question is: What does the Church think of that? This idea that Adam and Eve are merely symbolic representations for a number of first parents is known as polygenism - multiple origins. Pope Pius XII addressed the belief in polygenism in an encyclical entitled “Some False Opinions Which Threaten to Undermine Catholic Doctrine,” also known as “Humani Generis.” Here is what the Pope had to say: “When, however, there is question of another conjectural opinion, namely polygenism, the children of the Church by no means enjoy such liberty.” The first conjectural opinion the Pope is talking about had to do with evolution and the Pope had said, in essence, that there are some open questions, some opinions, on evolution that the children of the Church have the liberty to hold to until such time as the Church authoritatively rules on those matters. No such liberty, though, in regards to polygenism. The Pope continued, “For the faithful cannot embrace that opinion which maintains either that after Adam there existed on this earth true men who did not take their origin through natural generation from him as from the first parent of all, or that Adam represents a certain number of first parents. Now it is in no way apparent how such an opinion can be reconciled with that which the sources of revealed truth and the documents of the Teaching Authority of the Church propose with regard to original sin, which proceeds from a sin actually committed by an individual Adam and which through generation is passed on to all and is in everyone as his own,” (Humani Generis, #37) If Adam and Eve are merely literary representations of a number of first parents, and there were actually multiple Adams and multiple Eves, then what happens to the Church’s teaching on Original Sin? It falls apart. Was it one particular Adam that committed a sin that was passed down only to his descendants and, therefore, we have some people born with Original Sin and some born without Original Sin because their “Adam and Eve” ancestors did not commit the original sin? Or, do we have multiple Adams committing multiple original sins? Or, is the whole doctrine of original sin merely a metaphor for the selfishness and pettiness and greed that we find when men gather together in a society, but it wasn’t actually a personal sin committed by a particular individual? And, if the doctrine of Original Sin falls apart, then what else happens? Well, the doctrine of Baptism falls apart as well. After all, if we are not born with Original Sin, then we have no need of Baptism - certainly, at least, not as infants. And if it is not Baptism that brings us into covenant with God, and it is not Baptism that is the beginning of our salvation, and it is not through Baptism that we receive the Holy Spirit, then how does all of that happen? And, if we are born without Original Sin, then that means we are born in covenant with God, which leaves open the possibility that we might not need a Redeemer to come and die for us on the Cross. In other words, if you try to monkey with the Church’s teaching on Adam and Eve, the repercussions go way beyond Adam and Eve. Which is why Pius XII stated that Catholics, in regard to polygenism, “cannot embrace that opinion...” Back to top

I’m a Born-Again Christian and I’ve been wondering why doesn't the Catholic Church do the altar call to have people accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior since it says that you must make this declaration to be Born Again? I see my sister and her husband going to church Sunday after Sunday with no clue to this...and know that they will not go to Heaven unless they receive the Lord with the prayer and that they must repent from their sin. I have had my sister become saved but haven't been able to approach my brother in law as of yet. Isn't this absence doing a dis-service to the people?

The Catholic Church does indeed, in a sense, make an altar call at every Mass. When people approach the altar to receive Communion, they are indeed accepting Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, as they accept His body and blood into their bodies. Jesus says in John 6, verses 51 and following, that unless you eat His flesh and drink His blood, you have no life in you. If you eat His flesh and drink His blood, you will have eternal life He says, and He will raise you up at the last day. He repeats Himself on this matter like He does nowhere else in Scripture. Catholics take Jesus' words literally...we believe what He says. That is why we believe we receive Him - His actual body and blood - during Communion (or the Lord's Supper as you might call it). My question to you, however, is where does it say that someone must make a declaration in which they "accept the Lord Jesus as their Lord and Savior" in order to be Born Again? Nowhere does the Bible say that. In fact, the Bible says that one is born again by being baptized. John 3:3-5 says that unless one is born of water and the Spirit (baptism) one cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven, and it is through water and the Spirit that one is born again. All Catholics, by virtue of their baptism, are Born Again Christians. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that one shouldn't make a declaration of Jesus being their Lord and Savior, but the Bible does not say that one is "born again" by making a verbal declaration of acceptance of Jesus as their personal Lord and Savior. And, I assume you want to go by what the Bible says don't you? And, yes, people must repent of their sin to go to Heaven. Does your sister or her husband ever go to Confession? Have you asked them? Confession, or Reconciliation (being reconciled to God), is one of the 7 Sacraments of the Catholic Church. So, yes, it is necessary for your sister and her husband to confess and repent of their sins in order to be saved. But, it is also necessary for them to forgive others (Matthew 6); to do the Father's will (Matthew 7); to keep the Commandments (Matthew 19); to feed the hungry and clothe the naked (Matthew 25); to love others (1 John); to care for their family (1 Tim 5); to strive for holiness (Hebrews 12:14); to do good works (Romans 2); to eat the flesh and drink the blood of the Son of Man (John 6); to be baptized (John 3 and 1 Peter 1:20-21), and so on. It is also vitally important to have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ for us as Catholics, but saying one little prayer does not necessarily establish such a relationship with Jesus. That's why we have the Sacraments, and all the other things that we have in the Catholic Faith - it's all about bringing us closer to Christ. It's all about preparing our bodies and souls so that Jesus can be formed within us (Galatians 4:19). And, there is no more personal relationship that one can have with Christ than to receive Him in the Eucharist (Communion). It is even more intimate and more personal than anything that occurs between husband and wife in a marriage. So, there is no absence in the Catholic Church in regards to bringing people to Christ. Everything in the Church is about bringing people to Christ. Again, when your sister and brother-in-law receive Communion, they are accepting Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Savior, even if they have never said some sort of sinner's prayer. Now, it is indeed possible that they are going to church every Sunday and not living lives that are pleasing to Christ. In other words, they could be on the path to Hell, but that is not the Church's fault. Again, everything in the Church is designed to foster one's relationship with Christ and His Body, the Church. If one ignores what the Catholic Faith offers, it is their fault, not the Church's. Finally, I would simply ask you to look into the Catholic Faith a little more deeply than you apparently have. You are making assumptions about the Catholic Church that are based on a lack of knowledge about the Church. There are a lot of misunderstandings out there about the Catholic Faith. I always tell people that if you want to disagree with what I believe - fine, you are certainly free to do so. But, please disagree with what I really believe, and not with some misperception, half truth, or even outright lie about the Catholic Church that someone has told you. All of us, as Christians, have a duty and responsibility to accurately represent differing faith traditions - even if, or maybe especially if, we disagree them. Back to top

A co-worker of mine, who is Baptist, said that nowhere in the Bible does it mention anything about annulments, so he claims that our teaching in this area is contrary to the Bible. How should I respond to him?

First, let’s be clear on what an annulment is. It is not a “Catholic divorce” as some have referred to it. An annulment occurs when the Church issues a decree of nullity in regard to a particular marriage. A decree of nullity is simply a pronouncement from the Church that a marriage never truly existed (CCC #1629). There could be different reasons for issuing such a decree, but it is basically saying that there was some condition, or conditions, present at the time of the wedding which served as an impediment to an actual marriage bond being formed. Does the Bible say anything about annulments? Well, yes and no. Your co-worker is right in that the word “annulment” is not mentioned in the Bible; however, the concept behind an annulment can definitely be found in Scripture. For example, the reason John the Baptist was put in prison and eventually beheaded was because he said to King Herod, “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife.” King Herod had married his brother Philip’s wife. Even though the marriage may have been legal from the standpoint of the prevailing secular law of the time, it obviously was not in accord with God’s law. So, this is an example of a marriage that was never truly a marriage in the eyes of God, even though it may have been a marriage in the eyes of the state. This is the type of marriage for which, in the Christian era, the Church would have issued a decree of nullity - an annulment - for. By issuing an annulment, the Church is simply saying what John the Baptist was saying in regard to Herod’s marriage - no true marriage ever existed. We find another example in Scripture of a situation where the Church would issue a decree of nullity if necessary. 1 Corinthians 5:1, “It is widely reported that there is immorality among you...a man living with his father’s wife.” Now, it does not say that this man had married his stepmother, he probably had not, but let’s assume for the sake of argument that he had. That, too, would be an example of a marriage that was not really a marriage in the eyes of God, and the Church would issue a decree of nullity which basically says just that - no marriage ever really existed. So, ask your Baptist friend if he thinks King Herod was lawfully married to Herodias. If he says, “No,” which is the correct scriptural answer, then simply say, “So, if the Church issued a decree proclaiming that Herod and Herodias were not really married, you would have no problem with that?” When he says that he would not have a problem with it, then simply tell him that he has signed off on the Church issuing annulments. Back to top

Nothing personal, but I’m really not a big fan of what you do. All of this apologetics stuff just seems to be filled with so much conflict and tension. How does that evangelize anyone? Whatever happened to St. Francis’ way of evangelization, “Preach the Gospel always and, when necessary, use words.”

(Continued from last week...) Again, do discussions about faith and morals sometimes involve conflict and tension? Absolutely. But, does searching for truth sometimes involve conflict and tension? Does loving others sometimes involve conflict and tension? Indeed they do. So, apologetics, just like any search for truth and anything that involves love, sometimes involves conflict and tension. But, do you want to know what can cause more conflict and tension than a Catholic who is versed in apologetics conferring with a non-Catholic on some issue of faith or morals? A Catholic who is not versed in apologetics conferring with a non-Catholic on some issue of faith or morals. I would be willing to bet that the percentage of Protestant churches in Birmingham that do not have at least one former Catholic in them is very, very low. There are, in fact, some very large Protestant churches in Birmingham that are made up of 20%, 30%, and even as much as 50% former Catholics. Why? Because those former Catholics were never taught how to defend their faith, so they had no answer when someone came up to them and asked them, “Are you saved?” Or, “Have you been born again?” Or, “Why do you Catholics call your priests ‘father’ when the Bible says ‘Call no man father?”’ Or, “Why do you Catholics say Mary was ever virgin when the Bible says Jesus had brothers and sisters?” Any one of those, or dozens of other, leading questions have started many a Catholic down the path that leads straight out of the Catholic Church. Why? Because they were defenseless. They didn’t know apologetics. And do you know the kind of conflict and tension that is caused in Catholic families when a son or daughter, a brother or sister, a mother or father leaves the Faith? And, even worse, the tension and conflict caused when these former Catholics come to a Thanksgiving or Christmas gathering of the family and sometimes talk about how Catholics are not “saved” and constantly question the faith of their family members? So, not only can apologetics bring non-Catholics, and fallen-away Catholics, closer to, and even into, the faith, but it can help keep Catholics in the faith and help them to deepen their understanding and love of that faith, while enabling them to defend that faith. Conflict and tension? Sometimes. But is love worth the risk? Is bringing people to Jesus Christ in the Eucharist worth the risk? I’ll close with a story about something that happened to me fairly recently. I moved to a new parish not long ago. A few weeks after being there, a young lady came up to me and said, “Do you remember me?” I told her she looked familiar, but that I couldn’t place where I knew her from. She said, “You spoke at a Theology on Tap meeting a few years ago and I was the one who hit you with a whole bunch of questions.” Immediately I remembered the exchange I’d had with her. She continued, “I was really mad at you that night, and so I started doing a lot of research so that I could prove you wrong.” And then she told me where that research born of conflict and tension led her...to an RCIA program and, a year or two ago, into the Church. She now receives Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. Was the conflict and tension worth it? Absolutely! Back to top

Nothing personal, but I’m really not a big fan of what you do. All of this apologetics stuff just seems to be filled with so much conflict and tension. How does that evangelize anyone? Whatever happened to St. Francis’ way of evangelization, “Preach the Gospel always and, when necessary, use words.” (Part 1)

Well, first of all, and I know this may be difficult for some to read, but St. Francis actually never said that, at least, not that anyone has been able to find in anything his early biographers wrote about him. Secondly, if you read about St. Francis, he actually used a whole lot of words in his evangelization efforts. One story in particular, about his meeting with the Sultan of Egypt during one of the Crusades, would probably stun a lot of folks as to how “in your face” he was with the Sultan. Anyway, to your point about apologetics being filled with conflict and tension, before I tell you why I disagree with what you’re saying, I want to first address what I believe is a larger societal issue that seems to underlie your contention. It seems, in my humble opinion, that just about the only mortal sin a person can commit in our society today, is to tell someone else they are wrong about something. We can’t tell the adulterer that he is wrong, so let’s have no-fault divorce. We can’t tell anyone abortion is wrong, so let’s just respect everyone’s privacy. We can’t tell homosexuals that same-sex relations are wrong, so let’s just live and let live. Again, telling someone they are wrong is just about the only sin one can commit in today’s society. So, in such an environment, debate becomes inherently wrong. Argument, in the classical sense of the word, becomes inherently wrong. Disagreeing with someone on issues of faith and morals becomes inherently wrong. Thus, engaging in apologetics seems to be inherently wrong under such a prevailing societal attitude. To tell those who disagree with Catholic teaching they are wrong, becomes a sin, of sorts. It is viewed as being filled with “conflict and tension,” and as being unnecessarily adversarial. But, it just isn’t so. First and foremost, apologetics is about seeking the truth. Jesus said, “Know the truth and the truth shall make you free,” (John 8:32). Apologetics is not about argument for argument’s sake, but about discovering truth. In order to help my separated brethren in Christ discover the truth that the Eucharist is indeed the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ, and not merely a symbol, I have to engage in apologetics. Second, and closely related to the above, apologetics is about love. If I truly love those who are not Catholic - whether they be Baptist, Evangelical, Presbyterian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, or even atheist - would I not want to do everything...everything!...in my power to bring them to Jesus Christ in the Sacraments, and, particularly, to bring them to Him in the Eucharist? I mean, if I really and truly believe that Jesus is present in the Eucharist, and that a Catholic can receive Him at any given Mass, then why would I not want to do all that I could to bring everyone into the Catholic Church so as to receive Him? Why would I not want to share the truth with them? Can I truly be said to love someone if I am unwilling to step out of my comfort zone to share the truths of the Catholic Faith with them? Now, do discussions about faith and morals sometimes involve conflict and tension? Absolutely. But, does searching for truth sometimes involve conflict and tension? Does loving others sometimes involve conflict and tension? Indeed they do. (To be continued...) Back to top

Are there any basic “rules” for doing apologetics?

1 Ptr 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to make a defense...” Always be prepared Scripture tells us! How can we “always be prepared” to make a defense of our Faith? Rule #1: Pray. Pray to the Holy Spirit that He give you the courage to share your Faith and the wisdom to choose your words carefully and profitably. Rule #2: You don’t have to know everything right now. Learn a little bit more about your Faith each and every day. Read Scripture. Read the Catechism. Listen to apologetics tapes. Listen to Catholic Radio. Learn a little bit at a time. Rule #3: Luke 5:10, “Do not be afraid, henceforth you will be catching men.” Jesus said this to Peter, and to us. Will you make mistakes and get into tight spots when you start sharing your Faith with others? Yes, you will, but Peter made mistakes and he got into tight spots. Yet, Jesus told Peter not to be afraid. Why? Because if we are sincere in our desire to share the truth with others...to share Jesus Christ with others...then Jesus will find a way to make good come from even our mistakes. Rule #4: Always view a question about your Faith, or even an attack on your Faith, as an opportunity - an opportunity to share the truth. Rule #5: Don’t get frustrated. Catholics often get frustrated by what I call the doctrinal dance...you get asked about Purgatory, Mary, the Pope, the Sacraments all in rapid fire succession. Before you can answer one question, you’re asked another, then another. Just keep bringing the discussion back to one topic until you’ve said all you want to say...then move on. Rule #6: Most important! Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when asked a question about your Faith. Don’t try to “wing it.” However, always follow, “I don’t know,” with, “But, I will find out and get back to you.” And make sure you do! Rule #7 Ingrain this into your psyche - the Bible is a Catholic book! The Catholic Church gave it to the world. Which means that there is no teaching in the Bible that is contrary to anything in the Catholic Faith, and there is no teaching in the Catholic Faith that is contrary to anything in the Bible. This is important to remember because a lot of times folks will quote a passage from the Bible that supposedly “proves” the Catholic Church is wrong. Whenever someone quotes you a Bible verse that “proves” the Catholic Church is wrong on something, your response should be, “Amen, I believe what the Bible says! As a Catholic, I believe everything the Bible says! However, I don’t agree with your very fallible personal interpretation of that passage.” And the reason you don’t agree with their personal interpretation is because 100% of the time you are presented with a verse that “proves” the Church wrong, that verse has either: a) been taken out of context, or b) simply does not say what they are trying to make it say - the words on the page do not match the words coming out of their mouth. As Catholics, we need to reclaim the Bible - it’s our book. We need to read it, learn it, pray it, meditate on it, soak in it, and live it. “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” St. Jerome said. And we need to be conversant in the Bible so that we can use it to plant seeds of truth with our separated brothers and sisters which will hopefully help dispel the myths and misconceptions they hold about the Church and build unity in the Body of Christ. Back to top

I’ve felt a need, or maybe I would call it a desire, to share my faith with some friends and family members. I’ve had opportunities to do so in the past, but never have because I simply don’t feel adequate enough to do so. How do I get started and overcome this fear?

1 Ptr 3:15 says, “Always be prepared to make a defense...” Always be prepared, Scripture tells us! Well, I’m going to give you a few “rules of engagement” as I call them, that will help you to overcome your hesitancy to share your faith. Rule #1: Pray. Pray to the Holy Spirit that He give you the courage to share your Faith and the wisdom to choose your words carefully and profitably. Rule #2: You don’t have to know everything right now. Learn a little bit more about your Faith each and every day. Read Scripture. Read the Catechism. Listen to apologetics CD’s (I’ve heard you can find some free ones at www.biblechristiansociety.com). Listen to Catholic Radio and watch Catholic TV. Learn a little bit at a time. Rule #3: Luke 5:10, “Do not be afraid, henceforth you will be catching men.” Jesus said this to Peter, but He’s also saying it to us. Will you make mistakes and get into tight spots when you start sharing your Faith with others? Yes, you will, but Peter made mistakes and he got into tight spots. Yet, Jesus told Peter not to be afraid. Why? Because if we are sincere in our desire to share the truth with others...to share Jesus Christ with others...then Jesus will find a way to make good come from even our mistakes. Rule #4: Always view a question about your Faith, or even an attack on your faith, as an opportunity - an opportunity to share the truth. No need to get angry when your faith is questioned or attacked. God has opened a door for you, step through it. Rule #5: Don’t get frustrated. Catholics often get frustrated by what I call the doctrinal dance...you get asked about Purgatory, Mary, the Pope, the Sacraments all in rapid fire succession. Before you can answer one question, you’re asked another, then another. Just keep bringing the discussion back to one topic until you’ve said all you want to say...then move on. Rule #6: Most important! Never be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” when asked a question about your Faith. Don’t try to “wing it.” However, always follow, “I don’t know,” with, “But, I will find out and get back to you.” And make sure you do! Rule #7 Ingrain this into your psyche - the Bible is a Catholic book! The Catholic Church compiled it and gave it to the world. Which means that there is no teaching in the Bible that is contrary to anything in the Catholic Faith, and there is no teaching in the Catholic Faith that is contrary to anything in the Bible. This is important to remember because a lot of times folks will quote a passage from the Bible that supposedly “proves” the Catholic Church is wrong. Whenever someone quotes you a Bible verse that “proves” the Catholic Church is wrong on something, your response should be, “Amen, I believe what the Bible says! As a Catholic, I believe everything the Bible says! However, I don’t agree with your very fallible personal interpretation of that passage.” And the reason you don’t agree with their personal interpretation is because 100% of the time you are presented with a verse that “proves” the Church wrong, that verse has either: a) been taken out of context, or b) simply does not say what they are trying to make it say - the words on the page do not match the words coming out of their mouth. As Catholics, we need to reclaim the Bible - it’s our book. We need to read it, learn it, pray it, meditate on it, soak in it, and live it. “Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ,” St. Jerome said. And we need to be conversant in the Bible so that we can use it to plant seeds of truth with our separated brothers and sisters which will hopefully help dispel the myths and misconceptions they hold about the Church and build unity in the Body of Christ. Back to top

I don’t have any apologetics questions currently in the queue, so I’m just going to share some thoughts on apologetics topics in general.

. First of all, I want to share why I think apologetics is such an important topic. You see, most Catholics know a lot of the "what" of the Catholic Faith, but not necessarily a lot of the "why" of the Catholic Faith. We know, for the most part, what we do and what we believe, but we're not always clued in to why we do what we do and why we believe what we believe. This is because, over the last 40-50 years or so, catechesis in the Catholic Church has not been nearly as good as it could have been in teaching the ins and outs of our faith. Which is why so many Catholics have left the Faith. I know of very few Catholic families in this diocese that haven’t had an immediate family member leave the faith. I have seen a number of different studies that show Catholics as being the largest single faith grouping in the United States. Care to hazard a guess as to what the second largest grouping is? Former Catholics. Whether they have simply stopped going to church altogether or they have left to join a non-Catholic Christian faith tradition or have left Christianity completely for Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Judaism, Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, New Age, or some such other religion, former Catholics are more numerous than any other single faith tradition in this country, except for Catholics themselves. But, even among those who currently identify themselves as Catholic, only a relatively small percentage of them attend Mass on a weekly basis. I have seen studies that suggest as low as 20% of those in the U.S. who self-identify as Catholics regularly attend Mass. That’s because a number of these self-identified Catholics could be classified as "cultural" Catholics. They are Catholic because their family - parents, grandparents, and so on - were Catholic. For them, attending the Catholic Church has more to do with the culture they were raised in, and a certain level of comfort that they experience, than in them actually fully believing what the Church teaches. In both of these cases, for those who have left the Catholic Church, or for those who are still in the Church but not "all in," and possibly just hanging on by a thread, I believe the problem generally lies in a lack of catechesis. They were never properly taught as children, or as adults, why we Catholics do what we do and why we believe what we believe. And if you don't know why the Church teaches what it does on the Eucharist, on Confession, on the other Sacraments, on salvation, on Mary, on contraception, on homosexuality, on same sex unions, on marriage, on the priesthood, and on all of the other articles of faith and morality, then what incentive do you have to stay? If you don't know the reasons why the Church teaches what it does, then you cannot know how important what the Church teaches is. And, if you don't know the importance of what the Church teaches, of how it matters to you - not just in this lifetime but the next - then, again, what incentive do you have to stick around? This lack of catechesis which results in people leaving the Church, or in being merely cultural Catholics, is oftentimes also behind the phenomenon of the "cafeteria" Catholic. A cafeteria Catholic is one who picks and chooses which articles of Catholic teaching they will accept, and which they will reject, in the same manner someone picks and chooses what they will eat for lunch while going through the line at the cafeteria. "I'll have some of that...no, none of that, thank you...yes I'll take that...oh, no, I don't like that at all," and so on. They accept a dogma or a doctrine here and there and reject a dogma or a doctrine here or there. A cafeteria Catholic usually is, however, bound and determined not to leave the Catholic Church. "Nobody is going to tell me what I have to believe and nobody is going to force me to leave my church - it's just as much mine as it is yours!" So, you might be asking yourself, what does all of this have to do with apologetics? Well, apologetics helps folks to understand the “why” of the Catholic Faith. I use apologetics as a tool, first and foremost, not for the evangelization of non-Catholics, but for the evangelization and catechesis of Catholics. As you learn to explain and defend the Faith, which is what apologetics is all about, you are actually learning about the Faith in a deeper way. You cannot explain what you do not know. You cannot defend what you cannot explain. Through apologetics, you are learning not just the what of the Faith, but also the why. That is how apologetics relates to the groups that I mentioned above - whether "former" Catholic, "cultural" Catholic, or "cafeteria" Catholic - the main disconnect in all of these groups with the Catholic Church is the lack of understanding, truly understanding, why the Church teaches what it teaches. That is where apologetics can make a difference - helping folks to understand the why. Understanding the “why” helps to innoculate those who are already “in” from being drawn away, and helps to bring those who have left, back in. Back to top

A friend sent me an article from a former nun who is no longer Catholic that uses the Catechism and scripture to back her up, and it makes sense. Just a short take from it: “There is no biblical reference to the assumption of Mary. The Gospel of John was written around 90 A.D....If Mary had been supernaturally assumed into Heaven, wouldn't John (the disciple that Mary lived with) have mentioned it? When Enoch and Elijah were taken up to Heaven, the Bible recorded it. With Elijah it was recorded in some detail.”

Actually, this excerpt from the ex-nun doesn’t make much sense at all. It is what is known as an argument from silence. The Bible is silent on Mary’s Assumption, therefore, it didn’t happen. Well, an argument from silence is usually not much of an argument, and that is certainly true in this case. For example, the Romans destroyed the Temple and pretty much burned Jerusalem to the ground in 70 A.D. Well, this is something that is an absolutely colossal event in salvation history - for both Jews and Christians. So, if we accept this ex-nun’s timing on when the Gospel of John was written, and using her logic, we would expect to see a mention of this momentous event in John’s gospel, right? Yet, nowhere in the Gospel of John is the destruction of Jerusalem mentioned. So, using the same logic that she used regarding Mary’s Assumption, the destruction of Jerusalem never happened. I mean, after all, the Bible records the destruction of the 1st Temple...the Temple of Solomon...so why doesn’t it record the destruction of the 2nd Temple and of the entire City of Jerusalem? Again, using the ex-nun’s logic, that means the destruction of the 2nd Temple and the burning of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. never happened. Bad logic. Bad argument. Another thing, nowhere does the Bible ever mention that contraception is okay. Yet, I’ll give odds that this ex-nun, as most non-Catholics (and, unfortunately, many Catholics) is all in favor of contraception. So, in this instance, even though the Bible nowhere mentions the acceptance of contraception, she’s okay with it. So, we have a bit of a contradiction amongst those who dismiss the Assumption of Mary on the grounds that it’s not in the Bible. They accept contraception, even though the Bible does not. They also have altar calls, even though the Bible does not. They also have Wednesday night church meetings, even though the Bible does not. I could go on, but I think you get the point. The Bible supposedly being silent on a particular Catholic teaching or practice is the excuse used to condemn that teaching and practice, while the Bible being silent on a particular Protestant teaching or practice means that those teachings and practices are okay. That is, pure and simple, hypocrisy. Besides, the Revelation of John, written after Mary’s Assumption, does indeed give us biblical support for the Assumption of Mary. Read Rev 12:1 and following. It tells of a woman, she is in Heaven, she has a body, and this woman is the woman who gave birth to the child who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron. Hmmm, I wonder who it could be talking about? In other words, this ex-nun’s argument is bogus, in more ways than one. Back to top

"Who says the Catholic Church is the authentic interpreter of Scripture? Answer – the Catholic Church. How do you know for certain that Rome is the true infallible interpreter? The Catholic church is not the only church that claims to be the true church with an infallible interpreter. There are the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many others who make this same claim.”

The Catholic Church does indeed claim to be the authentic interpreter of Scripture. Doesn't it make sense that the Church founded by Jesus Christ would claim to be the authentic interpreter of Scripture? In response to your questions, I would ask you: Who says that God is the one true God? God. Does that make His claim somehow illegitimate? Oh, sure, there are others making the claim that they are the authentic interpreters of Scripture, but doesn't that also make sense that there would be impostors who wish to usurp the authority of the one true Church of Christ by claiming that authority for themselves? The difference is, the Catholic Church has the witness of history on its side. When did the Jehovah's Witnesses get started? Was it 2000 years ago in Israel? No. Are there Jehovah's Witnesses temples in the Promised Land dating back to the early centuries? No. In Rome? No. Anywhere in the Middle East? No. The Jehovah's Witnesses have, in fact, no witnesses. The Mormons? Again, no witnesses. Did they start 2000 years ago in Israel? No. Did anyone else see the angel Joseph Smith claims to have seen? No. What about those gold tablets? No. Any evidence of those two great civilizations that Mormons claim existed on this continent 2000 years ago that supposedly annihilated themselves in an epic battle somewhere in what is now the state of New York? No. Archeologists can find arrowheads and pottery from small 10,000-year old Indian villages, yet not a single shred of evidence for either of these two great civilizations that Mormons claim existed just 2000 years ago. History tells us that Joseph Smith's claims hold no credibility whatsoever. The same holds for all the other pretenders to the throne. For all of them, they have no witnesses to bear out their claims. But, what about the Catholic Church? What witnesses does she have? Plenty. The witness of the Early Church Fathers, most of whom were bishops in the Catholic Church. They were not bishops in the Baptist church, or the Presbyterian Church of America, or the Mormon church, or the Lutheran church, or the Anglican church, or the Jehovah’s Witnesses. The witness of history. Historians of all creeds and of no creed will tell you that the papacy can be traced back 2000 years. That the Catholic Church was founded by Jesus Christ around the year 30 A.D. That the line of the Bishops’ authority can be traced to the Apostles. Was it the monks of the Jehovah’s Witnesses that preserved and copied the Scriptures in their monasteries over the centuries? No. The Mormon monks? No. The monks of any of the "non-denominational" churches? No. It was the monks of the Catholic Church that did so. Which church is it whose witness we rely upon for the canon of Scripture - to know that the Bible is indeed the inspired, inerrant Word of God? The Mormon church? No. The Evangelical church? No. The Jehovah’s Witnesses? No. The witness of miracles. No church, that I am aware of, claims the existence of ongoing miracles - miracles that have eluded scientific explanation even to this day - other than the Catholic Church. The miracles of bodies of saints that are incorrupt. Eucharistic miracles that date back centuries. The miracles of such things as the tilma of Juan Diego, which should have disintegrated into dust over 400 years ago and whose image still cannot be explained by science. The many historical witnesses that relate the miracles performed by the saints - the Catholic saints - throughout the centuries: healings, raising people from the dead, bilocation, and many many more. All of these witnesses, and more, point to one and only one Church as the authentic interpreter of Scripture - the Catholic Church. Back to top

In one of your articles a few months back you mentioned the “baptism of the dead.” I do not understand what you mean by that, could you please elaborate on that phrase?

1 Corinthians 15:29, “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?” What was going on here? Well, we don’t know for sure, but it seems that some Christians in Corinth began a practice of baptizing the living on behalf of the unbaptized dead, in the hopes that this baptism by proxy would somehow help the dead share in the promise of the Resurrection. This practice would have undoubtedly grown out of the Church’s teaching that Baptism is necessary for salvation (see, for example, John 3:3-5). Imagine being a new convert to the Faith, and knowing that Baptism is necessary for salvation, but also knowing that some of your family members or friends have died without Baptism. What will become of them if they haven’t been baptized, since Baptism is necessary for salvation? It seems these folks may have concocted this ritual of baptism of the dead out of love for their deceased family and friends and concern for their eternal salvation, but also out of a misunderstanding regarding Baptism and the particular judgment of the dead at the time of death and maybe even because of a misunderstanding regarding Purgatory. But, even though no one can really say for sure what this passage in 1st Corinthians is referring to, it is important to note that Paul did not condone this practice, he merely used it as an example of belief in the Resurrection. It is also important to note that the Church does not now, nor has it ever, taught that there is such a thing as a “baptism of the dead.” The reason I mentioned baptism of the dead in a previous article, is because I use this passage from 1st Corinthians 15 to “tweak” the theological noses of those who believe in the dogma of Sola Scriptura - the Bible “alone” as the sole rule of faith for Christians. What I do is take those who believe in Sola Scriptura to 1 Cor 15:29, read the passage to them, and ask them if baptism of the dead is a legitimate Christian practice. They will of course say, “No,” since no Christian faith tradition teaches baptism of the dead. I then ask them, “Well, if it’s in the Bible, and some early Christians were obviously engaged in this practice, and Paul nowhere condemns this practice, then by what authority do you deny that it is a legitimate Christian practice?” If they truly believe in the Bible alone as their only authority in Christian matters, then they’re stuck. Here is a practice that some early Christians were engaged in, and if the Bible nowhere condemns this practice, then how can they condemn it if they go by the Bible alone? The fact of the matter is, they do not believe in baptism of the dead as a legitimate Christian practice because of Christian tradition and the authority of the Church, not because of the Bible. So, here we have an example of people who believe the Bible is the sole authority in all matters Christian, yet they are relying on an authority other than the Bible for their belief that baptism of the dead is not a legitimate Christian practice. Oops. Back to top

I began taking a Catholic Bible Study course a few weeks ago. The teacher has degrees in Divinity and Theology. He says that the Bible cannot be taken “literally.” I understand that, am open to that and believe that; however, I was of the mind that the New Testament was true as written. He used the miracle of the loaves and fishes to challenge us as to whether we thought this “actually” happened or if the five thousand men listening to Jesus preach were moved to share the food that they had been hoarding. I left there, as did others in the group, feeling upset, confused, and a bit sad. We began to question whether the water became wine at Cana and if all other miracles can be dismissed as well. What are your thoughts on this and what should we do at our next class?

First of all, if you paid money for this course, ask for a refund. Secondly, tell your teacher that the official teaching of the Catholic Church, as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), is that Catholics are to indeed take the Bible literally. CCC #115: "According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual…” CCC #116: “The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: ‘All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.’” Third, say to your teacher that since this is a “Catholic” bible study, you would like for him to give you the official documents of the Catholic Church that teach what he was teaching. He won’t be able to do it because that is not what the Church teaches. There are no magisterial documents that say the miracle of the loaves and fishes was that Jesus got people to share the food they had been hoarding. Fourth, tell him that he obviously is not reading the passage on the loaves and the fishes in context. If the “miracle” was that Jesus got everyone to “share” their hidden food that they had been hoarding, then why would they want to make him king because of that (John 6:11-15)? I can just imagine one of the people present yelling, “Hey, he got us to share our food, let’s make him king!” And then all the other people start shouting, “Yeah! He got us to share, let’s make him king!” Really?! Also, if they were hoarding this food, why does it say that they filled twelve baskets with fragments from the “five barley loaves?” And please ask your teacher to give one historical document as evidence to support his interpretation of events - just one. We have an historical document, the Bible - it says what it says. It would make sense that one would need to rely on some other historical document, which gives a different account of events, in order to reach the conclusion that it didn’t happen the way the Bible relates it. But, your teacher has no such historical document. Nor does he have a document from the official teachings of the Church that says what he’s saying. What might be going on here is that your teacher may be experiencing a loss of faith. That’s at least a possibility. He may not believe Jesus performed any miracles because he may not believe Jesus was indeed God. After all, if Christ is indeed God, how hard is it to believe that He could perform a miracle? My advice to you would be to go back to this class one more time, but only to ask the teacher the things that I have presented here. Ask him to produce official Church documents and teachings that support what he is saying. And do not accept anything he might offer from this or that theologian. Theologians are not the Magisterium of the Church. Ask for an official magisterial document. And, when he cannot produce one - which, again, he will not be able to do - then simply ask him how he can present the Bible study as a “Catholic” Bible study when he is teaching things that are contrary to what the Catholic Church teaches. Vatican II tells us that, “Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy maintained and continues to maintain, that the four Gospels just named, whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation,” (Dei Verbum, #19). The Gospels hand on what Jesus “really did” while He was here. If the story of the miracle of the loaves and fishes is concocted, then Vatican II got it wrong, and the Church has gotten it wrong for 2000 years and you can throw out all confidence you may have had in the Bible and the Church. After saying these things to your teacher, I would leave and not come back to that particular Bible study. You might want to also let the pastor know, assuming that this occurred at a parish, what this person is teaching. Back to top

I had a friend of mine ask me why Catholics need a Catechism when there is the Bible? How would you answer that?

I would first ask your friend a few questions of my own. For example: Why do we need preachers, if we have the Bible? What can the preachers read from the Bible that we can’t read on our own? Why do we need seminaries to train ministers, when we have the Bible? Can the seminaries teach their students something that they can't read for themselves in the Bible? Ask your friend if they have ever gotten some insight about God by listening to someone preaching a sermon on a Sunday morning - an insight that they didn't get from their own personal reading of the Bible. I think they would probably have to answer yes. And the pastor they received that insight from probably learned something about God in the seminary they attended - something that they didn't get from their own personal reading of the Bible. So, what does all of that have to do with the Catechism? Well, the Catechism is essentially the same as a collection of Sunday sermons, on all the various parts of the Faith, compiled into one big book. It is a compilation of 2000 years of Christian wisdom and teaching. It doesn't take the place of the Bible, but it helps folks make better sense out of the Bible. It helps folks better understand the Word of God. Again, the Catechism puts 2000 years of Christian teaching in one place. If one takes the time to read the Catechism, they will notice hundreds upon hundreds of Scripture quotes and references. They will notice hundreds upon hundreds of quotes from the Early Church Fathers. They will notice hundreds upon hundreds of quotes from Church Councils. In other words, they will see 2000 years of gathered Christian wisdom. In the back of the Catechism, there is a scriptural index that contains 32 pages of scripture references - 32 pages! In Acts, chapter 8, we have the story of an Ethiopian eunuch, a very educated man (he was the Treasurer for the Kingdom of Ethiopia), a religious man (he had traveled all the way from Ethiopia to worship in Jerusalem), and he was reading the Bible while riding in his chariot. Philip asked him, "Do you understand what you are reading?" And how does the Ethiopian respond? Does he say, "Of course I do, I have the Scriptures and the Scriptures are all I need to understand anything about God?" No! The Ethiopian answered, "How can I, unless someone guides me?" That's what the Catechism is, it is a guide given to us by the Magisterium of the Church. A guide that helps us to better understand the Word of God. A guide that helps us to better understand the Christian Faith. It is the Apostles' teaching (Acts 2:42); it is Philip explaining the Scriptures to the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:30-31); it is the traditions that Paul taught the early Christians by word of mouth and by letter (2 Thes 2:15); it is the teaching that Paul commanded Timothy to teach to others who would then teach others (2 Tim 2:2); it is all these things and more. The Catechism does not take the place of Scripture nor does it contradict Scripture or "add to" Scripture or any such thing. It complements Scripture. It helps us to better understand Scripture. So, for the Catholic it is not a question of going by either Scripture or the Catechism, it is a question of going by both Scripture and the Catechism, since the latter does not contradict the former, rather it helps to explain it and deepen our understanding of it. Back to top

A co-worker of mine recently found out that I am Catholic and he came up and started a conversation with me that quickly turned (at his instigation) to religion. He basically said to me that he was concerned for the eternal salvation of my soul because I am Catholic and told me that I needed to accept Jesus into my heart in order to be saved. I got a little angry with him and let him know that I didn’t appreciate what he was saying and he need not bother talking to me about religion, or anything else for that matter, any more. After thinking about it, I realized I probably could have handled the situation a little better, but I am still a bit angry that he would assume I’m going to Hell just because I’m Catholic. I’m wondering where he gets off making an assumption like that, but I also would like to know how I could have handled it differently?

Ah, yes, the ol’, “All dogs go to Heaven and all Catholics go to Hell,” routine. To answer the first part of your question: “Where does he get off” assuming Catholics are not saved and are headed for eternal damnation, I’m going to say something that might shock you at first, but bear with me - I applaud him for doing what he did. I say that because, by him striking up that conversation with you he was actually showing you the love of Jesus Christ. That whole conversation grew out of his concern for the salvation of your soul. He took a big risk talking to you, especially at work, about such a topic; yet he did so because he wanted to bring you to Jesus Christ. Obviously, I disagree with his assumption that folks who are Catholic are necessarily going to Hell but, again, I admire him for his boldness and for the love of Christ that he was exhibiting for you. I cannot begin to tell you how much I admire that kind of attitude and how much I wish more Catholics had that kind of attitude…how much I wish that more Catholics would be concerned with the salvation of souls…all souls. So many times I have heard a Catholic say something like, “Well, my son married a Baptist girl and he started going to her church. I wish he was still going to the Catholic Church, but I have no problem with the fact that he’s going to a Baptist church.” They have “no problem” that their son (or daughter or brother or sister or mother or father) has left the Catholic Church and is now going to a Baptist (or Methodist or Presbyterian or Evangelical or…) church!? They have no problem that their family member has left the Eucharist – the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of Jesus Christ – in order to receive a piece of bread and some grape juice!? They have no problem that their family member no longer goes to Confession!? They have no problem that their family member has now rejected the Pope, Mary and the Saints, the priesthood, and many other gifts of God that reside in the Catholic Church!? That kind of attitude drives me absolutely bonkers! If you believe that Jesus Christ is truly present in the Eucharist, then how can you be “okay” with anyone leaving the Eucharist for something much less? Or, how can you be satisfied that a loved one, or a friend, or a co-worker, or anyone else - who is not nor has ever been Catholic - has never received the Eucharist in the first place? If you love them, if you care about them, do you not want to do all that you can to try and get them into the Church and to receive the Eucharist? We are often so concerned about offending someone, that we simply turn away from even making an attempt to share with them the truths of the Catholic Faith. Your co-worker was probably concerned about offending you as well, but he swallowed his fear, trusted in Christ, and struck up a conversation with you anyway. Now, you might say, “Well, but he offended me and so it backfired on him and I don’t want to have the same result.” Did it really backfire on him? Haven’t you been thinking about that conversation since you had it? Didn’t that conversation bother you enough that you had to ask someone about it? Isn’t that conversation making you think about your faith journey and where you are as a Catholic Christian? Even though you got angry, he was actually very successful in what he was trying to do. He planted a seed in your soul. A seed that the Holy Spirit is using to work on you and which may one day bear great fruit. We cannot hold back from evangelizing folks because we’re afraid of offending them. We have an obligation to share the truths of our faith with those around us and we cannot let fear of offending someone stop us. Jesus Christ was not afraid of speaking the truth. Jesus Christ was not afraid of offending anyone. As long as we speak the truth in love, with respect for the other person, we need not be afraid, because Jesus will use our efforts for the good of all involved, even if it doesn’t seem like we were initially successful. Our job is to throw the seeds out there, then pray for the Holy Spirit to do His job and bring those seeds to fruition. So, how could you have handled the situation differently? You could have thanked him for being concerned about the salvation of your soul and you could have told him that you have the same concern for his soul, and then asked him if he would be open to hearing about the Catholic Faith. And, in order to be better prepared next time, and there will be a next time, I would recommend (if I may do a little shameless self-promotion) a talk of mine entitled, “Apologetics for the Scripturally-Challenged,” that you can get for free – on CD or mp3 download – at my website: www.biblechristiansociety.com. It teaches you how to respond in just such a situation and turn the situation into an opportunity to evangelize. Back to top

In the confessional I told my priest that I had had a bad few weeks with my children - that I was really tired of dealing with them at times, yelling too much, not being as patient as I could be, and so on. I was really surprised when he told me that I had “done my duty” by being open to life to that point (I have six kids) and that it would be okay to “get on the pill” to avoid having any more children. Was he right to say what he said? I was really upset by the whole situation.

No, he was not right in what he said and it is very unfortunate that he would say such a thing. It is a sign of the extent to which the culture has influenced those in the Church rather than those in the Church influencing the culture. The Church teaches that “every action which...proposes...whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil,” (Catechism #2370; Humanae Vitae #14). In other words, the very nature of contraception is evil. Contraception is intrinsically evil and having a certain number of children does not change its use from evil to good. The end does not justify the means. Now, the Church does not require that a couple have as many children as they can possibly have, but there is a right way and a wrong way to space births. The wrong way, the evil way, is to use contraception. The right way, the way provided by God Himself, is natural birth regulation, also known as natural family planning or NFP. The Church teaches that it is okay to use NFP when there are “serious motives to space out births, which derive from the physical or psychological conditions of husband and wife, or from external conditions,” (Humanae Vitae #16). The Catechism says the following in this regard: “For just reasons, spouses may wish to space the births of their children. It is their duty to make certain that their desire is not motivated by selfishness...” (CCC #2368). And, from Vatican II, “When it is a question of harmonizing married love with the responsible transmission of life, the morality of the behavior does not depend on sincere intention and evaluation of motives alone; but it must be determined by objective criteria, criteria drawn from the nature of the person and his acts...” (Gaudium et spes #51,3). To discern their motives for wanting to space out births, the couple obviously needs to pray together and to closely examine their consciences, and they may wish to discuss it with their priest as well - although obviously not with a priest who believes contraception is okay. Never, however, should the means of spacing births involve artificial contraception. To knowingly and willfully use contraception when one knows that the Church teaches against it, generally constitutes grave matter and may very well put someone in a state of mortal sin and could endanger their eternal salvation. For a priest to tell someone that it is okay to “get on the pill” because she already has enough children is morally irresponsible and could very well constitute a mortal sin for that priest which could also endanger his eternal salvation. Which is why we need to continually keep our priests in prayer so that they may be bold in preaching and teaching the truth, the whole truth, that Jesus Christ has given to us through the Church that He founded on the Rock of Peter, and that they not be influenced by the culture of death in which we currently live and of which contraception is an integral part. God’s love is a pro-creative love. He creates because He loves. Love between husband and wife should mirror God’s love. It should be a pro-creative love. When someone uses contraception, their love becomes a selfish, anti-creative love and it no longer mirrors God’s love. Back to top

I work with a Baptist who says that since the Bible is “silent” on the matter of contraception, then it is okay to use it. Is he right about that?

No, he is not. The Church has taught for 2000 years that contraception is “intrinsically evil (Catechism #2370). While the Bible does not mention the word “contraception,” it does indeed mention a specific contraceptive practice, and God deals with that practice in a most serious manner: Genesis 38:9-10, “But Onan knew that the offspring would not be his, so when he went into his brother’s wife he spilled the semen on the ground, lest he should give offspring to his brother. And what he did was displeasing in the sight of the Lord, and He slew him also.” What’s going on here? Onan, Judah’s son, had an older brother named Er, who was married to Tamar. Er was wicked in the sight of the Lord and “the Lord slew him” (v. 7). Er died without having any children. In ancient Israel there was a law, the “levirate law,” which stated that if a married man died without children, his brother was obliged to marry the dead man’s widow, and the first son of this marriage was legally considered to be the son and heir of the dead man. This was so the dead man’s name would not be “blotted out of Israel” (Deut 25:6). When Er died, Onan married Tamar, his dead brother’s wife. But, Onan did not want to raise up offspring for Er, so when he went to have marital relations with Tamar, he did not complete the act, he instead spilled his semen (or seed) on the ground. This act of Onan’s so angered God that He “slew [Onan] also.” In other words, a contraceptive act on the part of Onan, was so repulsive in the sight of the Lord, that it resulted in Onan’s death. This is how Judaism, and all of Christianity, viewed this act up until the 1900's. All of Christianity, Catholic and non-Catholic, viewed contraception as a moral evil for 1900 years. In 1930, however, the Anglicans, at their Lambeth Conference, first allowed the use of contraception. And, after the 1930's, what do we start to see? We start finding some folks who, in order to justify the use of contraception, start re-interpreting this act of Onan’s, just as they had re-interpreted long-standing Judeo-Christian teaching on contraception. Now, after 1900 years of Christian teaching on the matter, these people start to say that Onan was killed by God not because he spilled his semen on the ground, but because he failed to obey the levirate law. Onan was slain by God they say, not because of a contraceptive act, but because he failed to raise up offspring for his dead brother. Two big problems with this re-interpretation, though: 1) The passage says the Lord slew Onan for what he did (spilled his seed), not for what he did not do (fulfill the levirate law); and 2) The Bible clearly tells us what the punishment for not fulfilling the levirate law is, and it does not require one’s life. In Deut 25:5-10, we see that the punishment for not fulfilling the levirate law is public humiliation, it is not death. These folks who are trying to re-interpret Gen 38:9-10 in order to justify the use of contraception, don’t really have a biblical leg to stand on. So, there is indeed a direct reference to contraception in the Bible. But, beyond that, Scripture tells us that God is love. And because He is love, He gives life. His love is pro-creative. His love gives life. When we separate love from life, as we do when we use contraception, then our love is no longer like God’s love. It is not pro-creative love. It is anti-creative love. It is selfish love. And when we separate love from life, when our love is no longer pro-creative, but anti-creative, selfish love, we start experiencing serious consequences - not just as individuals, or as married couples, but as a society. Just look around you to see what widespread contraception has led to. Back to top

There was a “Letter to the Editor” in a recent edition of the Birmingham News written by three Catholic couples that used the issue of the Health and Human Services contraception mandate to basically say that one can dissent from Church teaching and yet still be a “faithful” Catholic. I would like to take the next few weeks to answer several of the points made in that letter. Each week I will quote a section from the letter and then give my response. If you would like to read the letter in its entirety, you can do so by going to this website: http://blog.al.com/birmingham-news-commentary/2012/02/our_views_disagreeing_with_bis.html Letter: “Non-Catholics should understand that the Catholic bishops' recent dispute with the federal government is less about birth control than it is about internal church disagreements over who speaks for the Catholic Church in dialogue with government on matters of faith and morals. Many of us practicing Catholics adhere to the teaching of the 1965 Vatican II Council that, while the bishops have teaching authority, so their views are entitled to great respect, they do not have exclusive authority to speak to the government for the church in matters of faith and morals. Rather, each member of the church has a duty to form beliefs, to make judgments about faith and morals by following her or his conscience in light of Gospel values and reasoned consideration of both present circumstances and Catholic tradition, and to speak to their lawfully elected government as Catholics.” (Part 1)

Response: There is a line from one of my favorite poems, An Essay on Criticism, by Alexander Pope, that came to mind when I read the paragraph above: “A little learning is a dangerous thing, drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring.” It seems our letter writers did not drink deep enough in regard to the documents of Vatican II, because the claim that there is something in the documents of Vatican II that somehow gives each individual an authority equal to that of the bishops when speaking to the government (or anyone else for that matter) on matters of faith and morals is simply without merit. In the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), paragraph #77 speaks to the relationship between the “political community” and the Church. Here is some of what it has to say: “It is of supreme importance…to work out a proper vision of the relationship between the political community and the Church, and to distinguish clearly between the activities of Christians, acting individually or collectively in their own name as citizens guided by the dictates of a Christian conscience, and their activity acting along with their pastors in the name of the Church.” Christians may indeed speak to their government individually or collectively, but the words and actions of these individual Christians acting on their own, are not to be confused with the words and actions of those Christians acting “along with their pastors in the name of the Church.” In other words, individual Christians, acting on their own, have absolutely no authority to speak for the Church to the political community on matters of faith and morals. They do not speak “in the name of the Church” as do the pastors (i.e., bishops) of the Church. So, contrary to what was written in that letter, there are no “internal church disagreements over who speaks for the Catholic Church in dialogue with government on matters of faith and morals.” It is the pastors who speak for the Church. Every Catholic who understands and is faithful to the teachings of Vatican II would agree on this. Furthermore, paragraph #77 states: “But at all times and in all places the Church should have true freedom to preach the faith, to proclaim its teaching about society, to carry out its task among men without hindrance, and to pass moral judgments even in matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it.” Vatican II speaks of the right of the Church to “pass moral judgments even in matters relating to politics.” Note that nowhere does this paragraph, nor any part of this document, nor any Vatican II document, speak of the individual as having the same level of authority as the pastors of the Church “to pass moral judgments” in matters relating to politics. In fact, as mentioned above, Vatican II makes it quite clear that while the individual does indeed have certain rights and freedoms with respect to activities vis-à-vis government, it is, nevertheless, of “supreme importance” to distinguish these activities from those of the Church. Vatican II simply does not support the premise of the letter writers. Now, I do not wish to ignore the role of the individual and their conscience, as each individual does indeed have it within their capacity to form moral judgments in accord with their conscience and to act on those moral judgments. I will speak to that next week. Back to top

This week continues with my commentary on a Letter to the Editor that was in the Birmingham News a few weeks ago regarding the HHS Contraception Mandate. The letter can be found in its entirety at: http://blog.al.com/birmingham-news-commentary/2012/02/our_views_disagreeing_with_bis.html Letter: “Many Catholics do not agree that ‘Catholics consider to be immoral’ the birth-control measures provided by federal health care programs, as claimed in the Feb. 3 letter of the bishops of Mobile and Birmingham that was read from the pulpits of most Catholic churches. We are offended by the letter's suggestion that our disagreement with the bishops means we are not "faithful members" of the Catholic Church. We were not consulted by the bishops nor asked for our views on the matter. So, the bishops' cry that the "religious liberty" of the Catholic Church is being challenged raises the question: Whose religious freedom is being threatened? The freedom to choose birth control, a part of the prematernal health care of 98 percent of women in the U.S., is not in any way coercive. In fact, denying a woman access to a fundamental health care service available everywhere is coercive.” (Part 2)

Response: In last week’s column, the assertion of the letter writers that Vatican II gave individuals an equal standing as the Bishops, in terms of being able to speak to the government on behalf of the Church in matters of faith and morals, was shown to be fundamentally flawed and without merit. This week it will be shown that their understanding of matters dealing with “conscience,” is equally so. The Church does indeed teach that one must obey the judgment of his conscience. For a man to deliberately act against his conscience is to “condemn himself,” according to paragraph #1790 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). So, for the individual, the judgment of conscience holds a place of primacy, in a sense. However, that does not mean that the judgment of an individual’s conscience somehow trumps Church teaching. Unfortunately, there are many within the Church who seem to be operating under the mistaken notion that this primacy of the judgment of conscience for the individual, somehow holds a moral equivalency to the teaching of the Church. That simply is not so. The problem for the individual is that even though we have to obey our conscience, we have to first and foremost make sure our conscience is a well-formed conscience. Because only a well-formed conscience is “upright and truthful” (CCC #1783). It is indeed possible to have consciences that, not having been properly formed, make bad judgments. And the judgment of an improperly formed conscience can lead one into sin, even mortal sin. Since Vatican II was cited in that Letter to the Editor, let’s see what it says about forming one’s conscience. “In forming their consciences, the faithful must pay careful attention to the sacred and certain teaching of the Church.” That seems clear enough. And, if it isn’t, we have this from the Catechism, “…rejection of the Church’s authority and her teaching…can be at the source of errors of judgment in moral conduct,” (CCC #1792). In other words, if your conscience renders a judgment that is contrary to Church teaching, you are operating with a poorly formed conscience. To continue the quote from Vatican II, “It is [the Catholic Church’s] duty to proclaim and teach with authority the truth…to declare and confirm by her authority the principles of the moral order,” (Declaration on Religious Liberty, #14). So we see once more that the Church, not the individual, has - according to Vatican II - the authority to teach, declare, and affirm the principles of the moral order, and that the individual, in forming their conscience, “must pay careful attention” to the teaching of the Church. So someone can still sin, even if they are acting in accord with the dictates of their conscience, if their conscience is malformed and is telling them something that is contrary to the teaching of the Church. The judgment of conscience is not equivalent to the teaching of the Church. And, relating to the particular matter at hand, the Church teaches that contraception is “inherently evil” (CCC #2370). This truth is not going to change no matter how many “faithful” Catholics ignore it or reject it. As the Catechism states, “The education of conscience is indispensable for human beings who are subjected to negative influences and tempted by sin to prefer their own judgment and to reject authoritative teachings,” (CCC #1783). We all need to continually educate and form our consciences in a spirit of prayer, a spirit of humility, and a spirit of obedience to the Church that Jesus Christ founded. Through our obedience, we will enter into His rest, so today, “Harden not your hearts,” (Heb 4:5-7). Next week: Imposition of moral judgment… Back to top

This week continues with my commentary on a Letter to the Editor that was in the Birmingham News a few weeks ago regarding the HHS Contraception Mandate. The letter can be found in its entirety at: http://blog.al.com/birmingham-news-commentary/2012/02/our_views_disagreeing_with_bis.html Letter: “The current position of the bishops appears to be an attempt to claim the power to impose their moral judgments not only on the many non-Catholics who serve or are served by institutions affiliated with the Catholic Church, but on us faithful Catholics as well. We reject the implication that our disagreement with the bishops disqualifies us as faithful Catholics. We are the church, even more so than are the bishops, and we will not abandon, nor be driven from, the beloved community that is the home of our spiritual lives.” (Part 3)

Response: So far we have shown that the arguments of the letter writers with regard to the teachings of Vatican II, the moral standing of individuals vis-à-vis the Bishops in regard to who speaks for the Church, and the understanding of the formation and workings of conscience are fundamentally flawed and without merit. This week we will show, once again by using the documents of Vatican II, that their understanding of the Church’s hierarchy, and of the Church itself, is equally so. According to Vatican II, “Episcopal consecration confers, together with the office of sanctifying, also the office of teaching and ruling…In fact…by the imposition of hands and through the words of the consecration, the grace of the Holy Spirit is given…in such wise that bishops, in an eminent and visible manner, take the place of Christ Himself, teacher, shepherd, and priest, and act as His representative,” (Lumen Gentium, #21). So the statement, “We are the church, even moreso than the bishops,” is one that does not, in fact cannot, come from the pen of anyone who has actually read the documents of Vatican II. The Bishops, not the laity, are the successors of the Apostles. So says Vatican II. The Bishops, not the laity, have been given the authority of Jesus Christ, by virtue of their ordination, to uphold and defend the truth taught by the Church. So says Vatican II. Since my return to the Church some 22 years ago, I have encountered a phenomenon on too many occasions to count, that absolutely boggles my mind each and every time I run across it. Not too long after returning to the Church, I started encountering - in Bible studies, small group studies, in “Catholic” periodicals, and in one-on-one conversations - this idea that Vatican II had somehow changed the teachings of the Church. I was told at various times that Vatican II had changed the Church’s teaching on the priesthood, on marriage, on contraception, on Confession, on the Eucharist, on sin, on the liturgy, on this, and on that. But, a funny thing happened. After hearing all about the things that this Vatican II Council had changed, I decided to actually read the documents of Vatican II. Imagine my surprise when I found out that this Vatican II thing, while it had indeed changed some Church disciplines and practices, never changed a single doctrine or dogma of the Church. Not one! So, for the last 22 years, I’ve heard or read literally hundreds of people who claim Vatican II teaches things that it actually never taught. This particular letter being yet one more example of this phenomenon - what I find to be a profoundly sad phenomenon. So, if you ever hear someone say something about Vatican II changing this or that teaching of the Church, I can guarantee you that you will not get a specific citation to back up the claim. You won’t get it, because it doesn’t exist. There is nothing in any document from Vatican II that changes Church doctrine or dogma...nothing. I find it a bit ironic, that the Bishops’ response to the government’s attempt to impose its will on the Church, is being characterized as an attempt by the Bishops to “impose their moral judgments” on others. That is completely backwards - the government is doing the imposing here, not the Bishops. The Bishops are doing what they have been called by Christ to do, and people are reacting accordingly. As St. Augustine said, “People hate the truth for the sake of whatever it is they love more than the truth. They love truth when it shines warmly on them, and hate it when it rebukes them.” And what the Bishops of the Catholic Church do, is teach the truth. They do not attempt to “impose their moral judgments” on anyone. They teach the truth, and people quite often do not want to hear that truth. They teach the truth that they have been entrusted by our Lord Jesus Christ to teach, as shepherds of the flock that our Lord Jesus Christ entrusted them to lead. Back to top

I have a brother who has left the Church and now attends some Evangelical denomination. He told me that the seven “extra” books of the Old Testament that the Catholic Bible has, which the Protestant Bible does not have, are nowhere quoted in the New Testament and therefore should not be considered as part of the inspired canon of the Bible. Is he right in what he is saying?

First, let me identify the seven books in question here. They are: Tobit, Judith, Baruch, Wisdom, Sirach, and 1 and 2 Maccabees. These books have been part of the Christian Bible since the Christian Bible was put together as we now have it back in the late 4th century. Unfortunately, Martin Luther, in the 16th century, decided to take those 7 books out of the Protestant Bible and his fellow “reformers” followed his example. Now, regarding what your brother said about these books not being quoted in the New Testament and, therefore, they should not be included in the Bible, well, he’s missed the mark on that. For one thing, if the test for whether or not a book should be included in the Old Testament is it being quoted in the New Testament, then you need to also leave the following books out of the Old Testament: Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1 Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations, and Nahum. None of these Old Testament books are quoted in the New Testament, so, by your brother’s reasoning, none of these should be included in the Old Testament. In other words, your brother’s reasoning is not very sound. Your brother’s reasoning has another big hole in it because there are parts of ancient books that are referenced in the New Testament that are not part of the Old Testament. For example, the Letter of Jude, verses 6 and 9, are referring to the Book of Enoch and the Assumption of Moses, respectively. So, since these two books are referenced in the New Testament, would your brother then include them in his version of the Old Testament? I don’t think so. Finally, your brother’s reasoning is flawed because the New Testament does indeed quote and allude to passages from the seven books in question. For example: Sirach 28:2, “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.” Sound familiar? Matthew 6:14, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you.” Wisdom 2:17-18, “Let us see if his words are true...for if the righteous man is God’s son, he will help him, and will deliver him...” Matthew 27:43, “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if he desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Wisdom 15:7, “For when a potter kneads the soft earth...he fashions out of the same clay both the vessels that serve clean uses and those for contrary uses...the worker in clay decides.” Romans 9:21, “Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?” And, in Heb 11:35, we see a clear reference to the story we find in 2 Maccabees, chapter 7, of the woman and her seven sons. So, your brother was wrong, and his reasoning flawed, all the way around. Back to top

I was chatting with a friend today about the seven books that Protestants exclude from the Bible [Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1st and 2nd Maccabees] - and was asked a question I could not answer. I took your advice and did not "wing it". He asked where those books were quoted by writers of the New Testament. How should I respond?

The correct response to that question is a question: "Is being quoted in the New Testament the criteria for determining whether or not an Old Testament book should be considered part of the inspired canon?" If he answers, "Yes," then you ask, "Do you consider Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes, Esther, Obadiah, Zephaniah, Judges, 1st Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Lamentations, and Nahum to be part of the Old Testament?" He will, of course, answer that he does. Then you simply say, "Well, according to your criteria, they can’t be part of the Old Testament because none of them are quoted in the New Testament." At this point you can proceed to tell him that his criteria is obviously flawed. You could also tell him that all Christians, everywhere, had considered those 7 books to be part of the Bible since the Bible was put together by the Church in the early centuries of Christianity, and maybe ask him by what authority Martin Luther had decided to throw out those 7 books of the Old Testament? He will not have an easy time answering that one. If, however, he answers your initial question by saying, no, being quoted in the New Testament is not the criteria for determining whether or not an Old Testament book should be considered part of the inspired canon, then you simply say: “Well, then, what does it matter if those books are quoted by writers of the New Testament or not?” The fact is, though, that this is indeed a “test” that many non-Catholic Christians use to “prove” that Catholics are wrong to include those 7 books as part of the Old Testament canon. What they apparently don’t realize, is that there are places in the New Testament that do indeed refer, directly or indirectly, to passages from those 7 books, and you need to make sure your friend is aware of some of them. For example, in Hebrews chapter 11, it is talking about the faith of a number of Old Testament figures. In verse 35, it says, “Women received their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, that they might rise again to a better life.” This verse is referring to 2 Maccabees, chapter 7, where seven sons, and their mother, refuse to give in to torture so that they may receive the resurrection to life. A few more examples: Matthew 6:14 says, “For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you.” That just happens to be straight from Sirach 28:2, “Forgive your neighbor the wrong he has done, and then your sins will be pardoned when you pray.” It seems Jesus had that verse from Sirach in mind as He was giving us the Our Father. Matthew 7:12, the Golden Rule, “Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them.” Tobit 4:15, “And what you hate, do not do to anyone.” Jesus, in Matthew, was merely restating Tobit in a positive form. Matthew 7:16, “You will know them by their fruits.” Judith 27:6, “The fruit discloses the cultivation of a tree.” Matt 27:43, “He trusts in God; let God deliver him now, if He desires him; for he said, ‘I am the Son of God.’” Wisdom 2:18-19, “For if the righteous man is God’s son, He will help him, and will deliver him from the hand of his adversaries.” Romans 1:20, “Ever since the creation of the world His invisible nature, namely, His eternal power and deity, has been clearly perceived in the things that have been made. So [the fools] are without excuse…” Wisdom 13:1, “For all men who were ignorant of God were foolish by nature; and they were unable from the good things that are seen to know Him Who exists…” James 1:19, “Let every man be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger…” Sirach 5:11-13, “Be quick to hear…If you have understanding, answer your neighbor; but if not, put your hand on your mouth.” In other words, this “test” that some have devised regarding the 7 books that are in Catholic bibles, but not in Protestant bibles - Tobit, Judith, Wisdom, Sirach, Baruch, 1st and 2nd Maccabees – that they need to be quoted in the New Testament in order to prove their Old Testament canonicity, is flawed in two ways: First, there are several Old Testament books, mentioned above, that all Christians – Catholic or not – accept as canonical, yet they are not quoted in the New Testament; and second, there are indeed direct and indirect New Testament references to passages in those 7 books that Catholic bibles have, which Protestant bibles do not have. The larger question is: Who is it that gets to decide which books should be in the Bible or not – the Church, or Martin Luther? Back to top

I am Catholic and have been so for 61 years. I attended Catholic school with instruction of course of catechism daily. I have been reading [your] Apologetics 101 each week. I am a bit confused. It is not clear to me in the Bible that God, Jesus ever say that you have to belong to the Catholic Church. Jesus our savior died on the cross for everyone. As I remember, I was taught in school by the Sisters of Mercy, that God is everywhere and you can talk to Him anywhere, you can see Him in everything you do. You should try to live your life as He would, try your best to treat everyone as He did, in other words live as He did. We all fall short but continue to try daily. There are good people everywhere in this world. I believe that when I die and go to heaven, there will be people from all walks of earth, not just Catholics. In the beginning of your weekly articles I thought that was what you were conveying. God is for everyone right? As long as you believe in God, and that Jesus died for us. I am Catholic, it is a part of me. I have always sort of taken pride in the fact that I was taught that Our church was not exclusive but Catholic meaning everyone or All. What exactly are you saying that if you do not try to convert others to the Catholic faith or whatever church you attend, you are lacking in your belief? (Part 1)

I love questions like this! This person basically disagrees with what I have written in my last few columns on the question of whether or not “God wants everyone to be Catholic.” However, she is giving me the opportunity to clarify for her what I have said as she obviously recognizes that she may have misunderstood what I had written. In other words, she is engaging in dialogue in a very adult and Christian manner. She could have just as easily simply said nasty things about me to others behind my back, written the Bishop to say that I need to be fired for what I write in my column, or sent me anonymous hate mail - all of which has happened. But she had the Christian decency and courtesy, and the courage, to simply write me and talk to me directly about it. Whether we end up seeing eye-to-eye or not, this person, in a very simple manner, has shown the love of Christ for me, and I respect that. Now, to her questions, which will undoubtedly take a couple of weeks to answer fully. First of all, let me state, dear Questioner, that even though I am indeed arguing that God wants everyone to be Catholic, that does not necessarily mean that I am arguing that every non-Catholic goes to Hell, or any such thing. I would also argue that God wants everyone not to sin. Does that necessarily follow, then, that I am arguing that everyone who sins goes to Hell? No, not at all. If that were the case, then St. Peter could go ahead and shut the gates to Heaven right now because, since Mary’s Assumption, there are none but sinners seeking entrance to Heaven. So, even though I am arguing that God wants everyone to be Catholic, it does not necessarily follow that I am arguing that only card-carrying members of the Catholic Church go to Heaven. It is not my place to say who goes to Hell or, for that matter, who goes to Heaven. As St. Paul says, “It is the Lord Who judges...” (1 Cor 4:4). What exactly, then, do I mean when I say that God wants all men to be Catholic and that we, as Catholics, should believe that? All I am saying with that argument, is that God wants all men to know and believe the truth. Dear Questioner, would you disagree with that? Do you know of someone that God does not want to have the truth? And I have good grounds for making that claim, as Jesus Himself said, “...and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” It is truth that sets us free - free from our bondage to sin. Is there someone that Jesus does not want set free from sin? And, to know the truth is to know Jesus, as Jesus is truth itself: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6). Is there someone who Jesus does not want to know Him? Jesus also tells us, “For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to bear witness to the truth,” (John 18:37). So, Jesus Christ has made it very clear that truth is very important for salvation. This is why Scripture tells us, in 1 Timothy 2:4, that “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” So, I hope you will agree with me that God wants all men to know the truth. Okay, I think we can agree that God wants all men to know the truth, but what does that have to do with God wanting everyone to be Catholic? Well, the simple answer is, because we believe the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth as given to us by Jesus Christ (CCC #819). Do you believe what the Catholic Church teaches about itself or not? If you do, and you also believe that God wants everyone to know the truth, then the logical conclusion is that God wants everyone to be Catholic. It’s just that simple. Furthermore, I would ask these very simple questions: Do you believe that Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist - body, blood, soul, and divinity? If you do, then who is it you believe God does not want to receive Him in the Eucharist? But, if you don’t believe Jesus is truly present in the Eucharist, as the Church teaches, then why are you Catholic? Why would you be a member of a Church that teaches what you believe to be a lie? Next week: Who goes to Heaven? Back to top

“It is not clear to me in the Bible that God, Jesus ever say that you have to belong to the Catholic Church.” (Cont’d from last week…) (Part 2)

The Catholic Church teaches that it is THE Church founded by Jesus Christ, and that it contains the fullness of the truth as given to us by Jesus Christ through the Apostles. So, no, the Bible never specifically states that one has to belong to the “Catholic Church,” but if God wants everyone to know the truth, and if the fullness of the truth is in the Church founded by Jesus Christ, and if the Catholic Church is what it says it is - THE Church founded by Jesus Christ which contains the fullness of the truth - then it is a very simple and logical thing to conclude that God wants everyone to be Catholic. Yet, I have had a number of Catholics tell me that they “feel” I’m wrong on this, or that it’s not “ecumenical” to say things like this, but not one of them has given me a reasoned argument for why my conclusion in this matter is wrong. Folks, truth is not based on our feelings – no matter how much we might wish it were so. If anyone believes I am wrong on all of this, then, “Come, let us reason together,” but please leave your feelings out of it. If someone wanted to send me an argument, based on reason and logic, as to where my premises are wrong or where my conclusion is wrong, that’s a dialogue I would be more than happy to entertain and to publish. Reasoned dialogue helps all sides grow in understanding. The only way that I can see that I am wrong on this, though, is if one of the following is true, either: 1) God does not want everyone to know the truth; or, 2) The Church founded by Jesus Christ does not contain the fullness of the truth; or, 3) The Catholic Church is wrong and it is not THE Church founded by Jesus Christ and it does not contain the fullness of the truth. I don’t see how anyone who knows anything of Scripture could claim either #1 or #2 above (although I’m sure someone might try). I can see how someone who is not Catholic could claim #3 is true, but I don’t understand at all how anyone who is Catholic could claim that #3 is true. Because, if you call yourself Catholic, yet you believe the Catholic Church is not THE Church founded by Jesus Christ and that it does not have the fullness of the truth as it claims, then you are a member of a Church that is, essentially, a fraud, and that is, basically, lying to you, and I cannot understand why someone would stay in a Church that they believe is lying to them. You wouldn’t send your children to a school where you believed the teachers were lying to them. You wouldn’t work for someone you believed was lying to you. You wouldn’t have as friends people you believed were lying to you. You wouldn’t marry someone you believed was lying to you. So, why would you stay in a church that you believed was lying to you? I don’t get that at all. That’s why I am continually befuddled by these folks I occasionally see on TV who claim to be Catholic yet believe the Catholic Church is wrong when it says it is the one true church, or that women cannot be priests, or when it opposes same-sex relationships, or in its teachings on contraception, or on any number of other of its doctrines and moral teachings – I always yell at the TV, “Then why are you Catholic?!” Now, mind you, I’m not talking about people here who maybe don’t have a proper understanding of what and why the Church teaches what it does on these particular topics, and therefore their questions or their doubts are based on a lack of understanding or confusion; no, I’m talking about folks who know what the Church teaches on these issues and just flat out reject it. I keep asking myself, “Why would someone want to be a member of a church that they believe is wrong in its teachings?” But, I’m just a simple man and I don’t have a Masters degree in Theology or any such thing, so I could be speaking outside of my competency on these matters, which is why I welcome any reasoned arguments to the contrary. And, all of this is why I claim that the way you answer the question: “Does God want everyone to be Catholic?” is of utmost importance. If you answer, “Yes,” then it helps to motivate you to evangelize those within your circle of influence. Not by beating them over the head with the Bible, or with the Catechism, or with what the Pope or Vatican II said or anything like that. But by simply waiting, and being prepared, for opportunities to speak to them about the faith, opportunities to demonstrate the love of Christ to them, opportunities to plant seeds of truth with them. But, if you answer, “No,” to the question, then it causes you to stop and ponder the question: “If I don’t believe the Catholic Church has the fullness of truth, then why am I Catholic?” Back to top

“There are good people everywhere in this world. I believe that when I die and go to heaven, there will be people from all walks of earth, not just Catholics…God is for everyone right? As long as you believe in God, and that Jesus died for us.” (Cont’d from previous weeks…) (Part 3)

Who goes to Heaven? As long as you are “good people” and “believe in God and that Jesus died for us,” then it doesn’t really matter if you are Catholic or not when it comes to the question of salvation, does it? I think this is a very dangerous attitude to have. Not dangerous physically, but dangerous spiritually for those souls that are not Catholic, and even for the souls of Catholics. This attitude is essentially a minimalist attitude. As long as someone believes in God and that Jesus died for us – in other words, as long as they believe in the minimum requirements - then they’re “in,” right? You don’t need the healing balm of the Sacrament of Reconciliation. “Therefore confess your sins to one another…that you may be healed,” (James 5:16). You don’t need the life-giving graces received through the Eucharist. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you,” (John 6:53). You don’t need Baptism. “Amen, amen, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God,” (John 3:5). Furthermore, you don’t need to listen to the teachings of those the Lord has appointed to govern His church. “He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me,” (Luke 10:16). Nor do you need the fullness of truth. “You will know the truth, and the truth shall make you free,” (John 8:32). Just believe in God and that Jesus died for us, and you’re good to go. This minimalist attitude is dangerous to souls, because just as it is not up to us to judge someone as being bound for Hell, neither is it up to us to judge someone as being bound for Heaven. As Paul tells us in 1 Cor 4:5, “Do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, Who will…disclose the purposes of the heart.” Paul didn’t even judge himself as being “acquitted,” (1 Cor 4:4). I think we too often give ourselves an excuse for not evangelizing our fellow Christians, for not stepping out of our comfort zones, for not taking the chance that someone might get mad at us if we talk to them about the richness and the wonders of the Catholic Faith, by taking the attitude, “Oh, they’re good people, and they believe in God and that Jesus died for our sins, so they’ll be in Heaven just like me.” The fact of the matter is, folks, that even as Catholics, with the fullness of the truth, with the Eucharist, with Confession, with the priesthood, with the other Sacraments, with Mary and the Saints as our prayer partners, with all the treasures we have in our faith, it is still not easy to get to Heaven. It is something we have to work at. “Strive for peace with all men, and for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord,” (Heb 12:14). We have to strive for holiness. And if this holiness is difficult to achieve with all we have in our Church, how much more difficult for those who do not have the Eucharist? For those who do not have recourse to the Sacrament of Reconciliation? For those who do not actively participate in the Communion of Saints? Do we really want to take the chance with their souls based on our assessment of them being “good people.” Is that really showing them the love of Christ? Can someone who is not Catholic get to Heaven? The Church says it is possible, but how much more of a chance would these “good people” have at getting to Heaven if they had all the treasures of the Catholic Church to help them become “holy people?” The whole point of these articles the last few weeks has been to get people to think. To think about what we are denying our Baptist, Evangelical, Methodist, Episcopal, Presbyterian, non-denominational, etc. brothers and sisters in Christ, by not being willing to take a risk and share with them what our Faith has to offer. Folks, the numbers show that, in Alabama, the percentage of Catholics among the population has been around 3% - 4% Catholics for about the last 80 or 90 years or so. For a Church whose Mission Number One is evangelization, for a Church whose members are called, by virtue of their Baptism, to evangelize, that shows that we are not doing our job. We are failing our neighbors. Do we really believe that Jesus Christ is present – Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – in the Eucharist? If we do, then what are we doing to bring others to meet Him there? If we don’t, then what are we doing there in the first place? Back to top

I’ve been reading your column for several months now, and I get the sense from what you write that you are of the opinion that God wants everyone to be Catholic. Is that a fair assessment of your belief?

Indeed it is! I don’t know how someone who is Catholic could believe otherwise. Let’s look at the evidence. First of all, Scripture tells us that God “desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” (1 Tim 2:4). So, God wants all men to know the truth. Secondly, we see that Jesus Christ is the “way, the truth, and the life,” (John 14:6). So, God wants all men to know Jesus Christ, because Jesus Christ is the Truth and God wants all men to know the truth. Thirdly, the church “is His body, the fullness of Him [Jesus Christ] Who fills all in all,” (Eph 1:23). So, God wants all men to be members of the church because the church is the fullness of Jesus Christ, and Jesus Christ is the Truth, and God wants all men to come to the knowledge of the truth. Finally, since the Catholic Church is the one true Church founded by Jesus Christ, then God wants all men to be Catholic. Now, you will get argument from many quarters as to whether or not the Catholic Church is the one true Church of Christ, but for those who call themselves “Catholic,” there should be no argument on whether or not God wants everyone to be Catholic. And I say that for two reasons: 1) If God wants everyone to be Catholic, as the logic employed above tells us He does, then all Catholics, who pray “Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven,” should want everyone to be Catholic as well, and, 2) It’s a matter of charity. Do we truly love our fellow man, or not? If we do, then would we not want everyone to have what we have? Would we not want everyone to receive Jesus in the Eucharist as we receive Him in the Eucharist? If it is a matter of charity to feed the physically hungry so that their stomachs are full, how much more a matter of charity it is to feed the spiritually hungry so that their souls are full! And everyone who is not receiving Jesus Christ - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - in the Eucharist is indeed spiritually hungry whether they realize it or not. So, since God wants everyone to be Catholic, and since it is a matter of charity that we share what we have with others, then it behooves us, as Catholics, to do all in our power to bring everyone we can into the Catholic Church. In Vatican II’s Dogmatic Constitution on the Church (Lumen Gentium), paragraph 17, it states: “For the Church is driven by the Holy Spirit to do her part for the full realization of the plan of God, who has constituted Christ as the source of salvation for the whole world.” The Church as a whole “is driven by” the Holy Spirit for the salvation of the whole world. We then, as individual members of the Church, need to a driven by the Holy Spirit in our desire for the salvation of all. Through our baptism, each and every one of us is called to the task of evangelization. Let us begin this new year, then, by resolving to take the task of the salvation of souls a bit more seriously than we may have done in the past. Let us resolve to be a driven people. Back to top

Does God want everyone to be Catholic?

This is actually the title of a brief talk I gave at the recent Strong Men Strong Faith Conference, and I also gave an expanded version of it at St. Peter the Apostle parish a couple of weeks ago. It is my belief that this is one of the most important questions that we can ask ourselves as Catholics, and that how we answer this question determines how inclined, and how effective we are, in evangelization. So, over the next couple of weeks I’m going to be discussing that question in this column. Does God want everyone to be Catholic? I am willing to bet, for many of you reading this, that question has never ever entered your mind. But it needs to, because it is such an important question. The answer to that question will determine some very important things. And, I know there are folks reading this who are not Catholic, and I don’t want to exclude anyone, so if you are not Catholic, I want you to think about that question in terms of your faith tradition. Does God want everyone to be Baptist, or Evangelical, or Methodist, or Episcopalian, or whatever your particular faith tradition is? So, even though I will be focusing this column on the Catholic Faith, because the majority of folks reading it are Catholic, I invite you to focus that question on your particular faith tradition. Now, why is this such an important question? Well, we can see why by examining the possible answers and seeing what ramifications each one of those answers holds. There are only two possible answers: “Yes,” God wants everyone to be Catholic; or, “No,” God does not want everyone to be Catholic. First, let’s look at what it means to answer that question in the positive, that, “Yes,” God wants everyone to be Catholic. I believe, personally, the answer to that question is indeed, “Yes.” I believe that God does indeed want everyone to be Catholic. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be doing what I do in regards to evangelization. Also, if you think about it, it only makes sense that many of the martyrs who died trying to bring the Faith to the various parts of the world, believed likewise. From an evangelization standpoint, I believe it is imperative that every Catholic should believe this way. And, again, not to leave anyone out, I think it is imperative that every Baptist, Methodist, Episcopalian, Evangelical, etc. should believe that God wants everyone to be a member of their faith tradition. Why?! Why do I say that? I say that, because truth matters. If you believe you have the truth, then wouldn’t God want everyone else to have that same truth? The Bible tells us that Jesus established a church. And what does the Bible tell us about the Church founded by Jesus Christ? In 1 Tim 3:15, the Bible tells us that this Church is the pillar and ground of the truth. In other words, it is the upholder and foundation of the truth. The Bible also tells us, in Ephesians 1:23, that this Church founded by Jesus Christ is the Body of Christ and is the “fullness of Him Who fills all in all.” The Church is the fullness of Jesus Christ - the Bible is very clear on that. And Jesus Christ says in John 14:6 that He is the truth. So, if the Church is the fullness of Jesus Christ, as the Bible says, and Jesus Christ is the truth, as the Bible says, then the Church founded by Jesus Christ contains the fullness of the truth that has been given to us by Jesus Christ. Furthermore, the Bible tells us, in John 16:13, that Jesus Christ sent the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Truth, to guide His Church into all truth. So, this Church that the Bible tells us was founded by Jesus Christ; this Church that the Bible tells us is the pillar and ground - the upholder and foundation - of the truth; this Church that the Bible tells us is the fullness of Jesus Christ - the fullness of the truth; this Church that the Bible tells us is guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of Truth; this Church must teach us what?! Error?! No! This Church must teach us truth...it cannot teach us error. The Church founded by Jesus Christ must teach the truth...the fullness of the truth. It cannot teach error! So, does God want everyone to be Catholic, or Baptist, or Lutheran, or Evangelical, or whatever your particular faith tradition is? As I have just shown, from the Bible, the Church founded by Jesus Christ contains the fullness of the truth that He has made known to us about Himself and it does not teach error. Does it not make sense, then, that if a church doesn’t, at the very least, claim these things for itself, that it cannot be the Church founded by Jesus Christ; the Church which contains the fullness of the truth as given to us by Jesus Christ; the church that does not teach error? Given that, we need to ask: What does my church claim about itself? And for me, as a Catholic, I need to specifically ask: What does the Catholic Church claim about itself? Well, it turns out that she in fact claims to contain the fullness of the truth given to us by Jesus Christ and claims that she does not, in fact cannot, teach error in the realm of faith and morals. So, the Bible tells us that the Church founded by Jesus Christ contains the fullness of the truth, and that it does not teach error, and here is the Catholic Church claiming to contain the fullness of the truth, claiming that it does not teach error, and also claiming to have been founded directly by Jesus Christ. Next week: The ramifications of answering, “Yes”… Back to top

Does God want everyone to be Catholic? (Cont’d) (Part 2)

Last week I showed that, according to Scripture, the church must teach us truth without error because: a) it was founded by Jesus Christ (Matt 16:16-19); b) it is the pillar and ground - the upholder and foundation - of the truth (1 Tim 3:15); c) it is the fullness of the truth (Eph 1:23; John 14:6); and d) it is guided into all truth by the Holy Spirit - the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). Based on that, I talked about how one clue as to whether or not a church is founded by Jesus, is if it at least claims: a) to be founded directly by Jesus Christ; b) to contain the fullness of the truth that Jesus Christ revealed to us through His Apostles; and c) to teach without error in the areas of faith and morals. The Catholic Church at least claims all of these things for itself. If whatever church you are in doesn’t at least claim these things for itself, then you have some thinking and praying to do, because of the implications of that. And, as a Catholic, I believe what my Church teaches. If I didn’t believe what my Church teaches, I wouldn’t be Catholic. I would have to be one big hypocrite to go around saying I was Catholic, professing every Sunday that I believe in “one, holy, CATHOLIC, and apostolic church,” but then not actually believing what the Church teaches and believes. Even if the Catholic Church is right, though, and it is the Church founded by Jesus Christ, and it does contain the fullness of the truth as given to us by Jesus Christ, would that necessarily mean that God wants everyone to be Catholic? Let’s look again into the Word of God and see what it says. In 1 Tim 2:4, the Bible says this, “God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” The Bible tells us God desires that all men “come to the knowledge of the truth,” and it lets us know that coming to the knowledge of the truth is tied up with being saved - with salvation. Knowing the truth saves us...it sets us free. So, if the fullness of the truth resides in the Catholic Church, and God desires everyone to know the truth, then it only makes sense that God DESIRES all men to come to the Catholic Church, where the fullness of truth resides? Or, if you believe the Baptist church has the fullness of the truth, then does it not make sense that God DESIRES all men to come to the Baptist church? And the same is true of the Evangelical church, the Methodist church, the Presbyterian church, and so on. Truth matters. It is important. Knowing the truth is linked to salvation! Now, do you understand the ramifications of answering, “Yes,” to the question of whether or not God wants everyone to be Catholic? If God wants everyone to be Catholic, so that they can share in the fullness of the truth that is Jesus Christ, the fullness of the truth that leads to salvation, what does that mean for you? It means you’ve got to get into the game, folks! We can no longer be content with thinking something like, “Well, my son - or daughter or brother or sister or whoever - is no longer Catholic, but it’s okay, because at least he’s still going to a Christian church.” No! If the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth, then your son does not currently have it. And Scripture says, in John 8:32, “And you will know the truth and the truth shall set you free!” Your son no longer receives the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. And Scripture says, in John 6:54, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” If the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth, then God wants your son to be Catholic - God wants your son to share in the fullness of the truth that is Jesus Christ - God wants your son to receive Him in the Eucharist. What are you going to do about it?! And we can no longer be content with thinking about a friend or a co-worker, “You know, Jim’s a good guy, he loves the Lord, it doesn’t really matter if he’s Catholic or not.” It doesn’t really matter if he doesn’t have the fullness of the truth? It doesn’t really matter if he doesn’t receive Christ in the Eucharist? It doesn’t really matter if he doesn’t receive the graces of the Sacrament of Reconciliation and of all the other Sacraments? You know, if Jim is such a good guy without the fullness of the truth, without the Sacraments, imagine what kind of incredibly holy guy he could be with the fullness of truth and with the Sacraments! God wants Jim to be Catholic - God wants Jim to share in the fullness of the truth that is Jesus Christ - what are you going to do about it?! I want to emphasize this, for Catholic and non-Catholic alike. For Catholics, if we do indeed have the fullness of the truth…the fullness of Jesus Christ; if we do indeed receive the Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity of God the Son every time we go to Mass; then I ask you: Which of your family members, friends, co-workers, classmates, or neighbors do you believe God does not want to have the fullness of Jesus Christ? Which of your family members, friends, co-workers, classmates, or neighbors do you believe God does not want to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist?! Next week: The ramifications of answering, “No”… Back to top

Does God want everyone to be Catholic? (Cont’d) (Part 3)

I closed last week by asking two questions of Catholics: 1) Which of your family members, friends, co-workers, classmates, or neighbors do you believe God does not want to have the fullness of Jesus Christ; and 2) Which of your family members, friends, co-workers, classmates, or neighbors do you believe God does not want to receive Him in the Holy Eucharist? Now, I would like to address any non-Catholic brothers and sisters in Christ who may be reading this. If your church has the fullness of the truth - the fullness of Jesus Christ - then you need to do what you can to convert everyone to your church. Everyone! Especially us Catholics! I mean, think about this, if the Catholics are right, and we receive Christ – we literally receive Jesus Christ - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity – in the Eucharist, then anyone who is not Catholic needs to join up ASAP so they too can receive God in the Eucharist. But, if the Catholics are wrong, and if what we think is God under the appearance of bread and wine, really isn’t God - it really is just bread and wine - then we need someone to convert us to the truth, because in that case we are literally worshipping a piece of bread and some wine as God Almighty Himself! If that host is not God, then we Catholics are in a world of hurt! If we are wrong, then we are worshipping a false God and we need to get some help. The truth matters, folks. And we need to respond accordingly. God is counting on us to spread the Word. God is counting on us to share the truths of our faith with those around us. If we truly love our neighbor, and we believe we have the truth, then we will want them to have what we have. To not care - to be indifferent - as to whether or not they receive it is worse than hating them. Now, let’s look at the ramifications of answering in the negative: “No,” God does not want everyone to be Catholic.” Remember, if you’re not Catholic, insert your faith tradition here. If you answer, “No,” to that question, that God does not want everyone to be Catholic, then you are basically saying one of two things: Either, 1) Truth doesn’t matter; or 2) Your church does not have the fullness of the truth. Think about it. Let’s say you, as a Catholic, believe your Church does indeed have the fullness of the truth given to us by Jesus Christ, but you don’t think it’s all that important that other people have that truth. You read John 8:32 and what it says to you is, “You will know the truth and nobody else really needs to.” No! “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free!” God wants everyone to know the truth and to be set free. Or maybe, if you’re Catholic, you believe the Catholic Church is wrong when it says that it contains the fullness of the truth. You disagree with the Catholic Church on a doctrine here or a doctrine there. Well, if that’s what you believe, then I have just one question for you: Why are you a member of the Catholic Church? Why would you say the words, every Sunday, “I believe in the one, holy, CATHOLIC, and apostolic church, when you don’t? Why would you attend a church that you believe could be, and probably is, teaching error in one or more ways? This goes for Catholic and non-Catholic alike. Why would you attend a church that you believe does not contain the fullness of the truth, when the Bible very clearly shows us that the Church founded by Jesus Christ does indeed contain the fullness of Him Who is the Truth? The Church founded by Jesus Christ and guided by the Holy Spirit does not teach error, period! Jesus’ Church will not lead you astray...ever! Jesus’ Church is the pillar and ground of the truth! Jesus’ Church is the fullness of Jesus Christ Who is the Truth! Jesus’ Church is guided by the Spirit of Truth into all truth! So, whether Catholic or not, if you believe the answer to the question, “Does God want everyone to be Catholic?” - or whatever your particular faith tradition - if you believe the answer to that question is, “No,” then you have a lot of soul searching to do and a lot of praying to do, because you are obviously in the wrong place. This is why the question: Does God want everyone to be Catholic? Is such an important question. Whether your answer is, “Yes,” or “No,” it requires something of you. It requires you to leave your comfort zone and do something. Either to reach out with the truth to those around you if you answered, “Yes,” or to go looking for that church that contains the fullness of the truth if you answered, “No.” Back to top

A woman at my parish identified herself as a "linguist expert." And, as such, she stated that in Jesus' language (I'm assuming Aramaic) "Abba" does not translate into "father," but rather into a generic, non-gendered, parental address. Do you know if "Abba" does indeed translate into "father"?

It appears your “linguist expert” may have been influenced by a feminist ideology that has strayed from the path a wee bit. Adherents of this particular form of ideology would prefer God be spoken of as “Mother/Father God,” or just “God, our Mother,” and they often refer to God with the personal pronoun, “She.” So, in order to bolster their argument for doing this, they have to say the sort of things that your “linguist expert” did. But, there are a few problems with what your “linguist expert” said. First of all, the word, "Abba," is used 3 times in the New Testament: Mark 14:36, Romans 8:15, and Galatians 4:6. And, each time it is used, it is used in conjunction with the word, "Father," as in "Abba, Father." The verses do not say, “Abba, generic, non-gendered parent.” Second, I do not claim to be a “linguist expert,” but I can pick up a Bible Dictionary and read it. In the "Dictionary of the Bible" (editor John L. McKenzie, S.J.), it says this: “Abba (Aramaic emphatic form of 'ab, ‘father,’ employed as vocative), a word uttered by Jesus and employed by early Christians with Greek translation given in each passage...Aramaic epistles indicate that it was a familiar address used by children; in this sense Jesus used it in invoking the Father in the great crisis of His life [the Garden of Gethsemane - Mark 14] and it was taken up by the early Church." It says quite clearly that “abba” means “father,” and that it was a "familiar" address, not a generic non-gendered parental address. Which means it's more like Dad, or Daddy. Also, notice that the "Dictionary of the Bible" says that it was used "with Greek translation." In other words, the 3 passages that say "Abba, Father" are the Aramaic word "Abba," with the Greek translation of that word, "Father," right next to it. So, the writers of Sacred Scripture, inspired by the Holy Spirit, thought the word “abba” meant “father.” Also, from the "Oxford Companion of the Bible," (editors Metzger and Coogan), we read this: “Abba. The word for ‘my father’ or ‘the father’...Originally, abba was probably a child's word, but it had become an accepted way of speaking to or about one's father.” Nothing in the context of how it is used in Scripture, nor anything in the definition of the word itself, points to it being a "generic, non-gendered parental address.” To think otherwise is to be more concerned about pushing a particular ideology than with making a proper translation. Back to top

I am confused as to what to believe about the first few chapters of Genesis, especially in regards to science and evolution. I have been told that the story of Adam and Eve is just that - a story - and so we are free to believe in evolution. However, I have also been told that we, as Catholics, have to believe in Adam and Eve and that all people descended from them. But, how does that fit in with evolution? I’m a bit confused. (Part 1)

That is a very interesting question, and it is one that is going to take me more than just one column to answer. Let me start my answer with a general statement: There is no conflict, never has been and never will be, between what the Church teaches and what science teaches. God is the author of religious truth, and He is also the author of scientific truth. That being the case, there can be no conflict between authentic religion and authentic science...truth cannot conflict with truth. Given that, how then are we to view the Creation stories of Genesis? Were Adam and Eve real people? Or, do they merely represent, at a symbolic level, all of the early human beings? Where does evolution fit into the picture? Doesn’t evolution necessarily conflict with the Creation stories? Are Catholics allowed to believe in evolution? Do Catholics have to believe in evolution? Before I can answer those questions, I need to introduce two opposing concepts of biblical interpretation: literal vs. literalist. The Catechism tells us, in Paragraphs #110 and #116, that the “literal” meaning of a biblical passage simply refers to the meaning the author of that passage intended to convey. In other words, what was the author trying to tell you? The literal meaning of a passage takes into account such things as the historical and cultural background of the author, the literary genre being used, idioms of speech used in a particular culture and language, and so forth. Sometimes the meaning of the author is not readily apparent without some further investigation. Sound scriptural interpretation seeks first and foremost to discern the literal meaning of any given passage of Scripture. Catholics are to take a “literal” approach to reading and interpreting the Bible. On the other hand, the “literalist” meaning of a biblical passage simply refers to the meaning of the words as they are written on the page. That’s what it says, so that’s what it means. No taking into account the culture within which the author lived, the historical setting of the writing, the author’s background, idioms of speech, or any such thing. This is a rather unsound way of interpreting the Bible. Yet, many Fundamentalists, Evangelicals, and others often use this methodology in their approach to Scripture. To illustrate the difference between these two concepts, consider how you would interpret the phrase, “It’s raining cats and dogs,” if you read it in a book. Should we use a “literalist” approach and assume the words simply mean what they say? Were cats and dogs really falling from the sky like rain? Or, should we use a “literal” approach and take into account some other factors - like idioms of speech - rather than just looking at the words on the page to try and understand what it is the author was trying to tell us? It’s obvious, isn’t it? Taking into account idioms of speech from 21st century American English, any reader would know that the meaning the author was trying to convey was that is was raining really, really hard. Using a “literal” approach, we are able to properly discern the author’s meaning. If we had used a “literalist” approach, we would have missed the true meaning of the author’s words by a country mile. Okay, that’s a quick explanation of literal vs. literalist. Catholics take a literal approach to Scripture. We take into account more than just the words written on the page in order to try and understand the meaning of any given verse or passage of Scripture. And, now that we know the difference between these two approaches to interpreting Scripture, we can use this knowledge to begin answering the questions about Adam and Eve and evolution that I asked at the beginning of this column. But, I don’t have room to continue the discussion in this column, so I’ll get back to it in next week’s column. Before I get out of here, though, I want to just mention four differing beliefs regarding Adam and Eve and evolution that I will be highlighting in the next couple of weeks. They are: 1) Young Earth Creationism; 2) Old Earth Creationism; 3) Theistic Evolution; and 4) Atheistic Evolution. The difference between a literal and literalist approach to Scripture, and the impact each approach has on a person’s beliefs, will become apparent as I discuss each of these four views. Next week: Young Earth Creationism vs. Old Earth Creationism... Back to top

I am confused as to what to believe about the first few chapters of Genesis, especially in regards to science and evolution. I have been told that the story of Adam and Eve is just that - a story - and so we are free to believe in evolution. However, I have also been told that we, as Catholics, have to believe in Adam and Eve and that all people descended from them. But, how does that fit in with evolution? I’m a bit confused. (Part 2)

(Cont’d from last week.) “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth,” (Gen 1:1). The question is, though, “Exactly how did God create the heavens and the earth?” Was it six 24-hour days? Or, does each “day” simply represent a passage of time? Was evolution a part of the creation process? Is Genesis simply a nice story...a myth? In this article I want to talk about two views of creation - Young Earth Creationism and Old Earth Creationism. Young Earth Creationism is the belief that the words of the creation account are to be taken exactly as they are written - this is a more “literalist” interpretation of Scripture. God created everything in six days. In addition to that, we are to take the words of the genealogies of Adam (Genesis, chapter 5) and Shem (Genesis, chapter 11) as they are written, and when you add up the years of the lives of Seth and Enoch and Methuselah and Arpachshad and Eber and Nahor and all the others down to Abraham, along with the known amount of time from Abraham to now, Young Earth creationists calculate the earth to be about 6000 - 7000 years old. Thus the term, “Young Earth.” They believe the science that says Earth is billions of years old, and that inter-species evolution occurred, is flawed in its methodology. Old Earth creationists, however, use a more “literal” interpretation of Scripture (remember from last week: a literal interpretation is one that tries to discern the meaning the author was trying to convey to us, and does not simply take the words on the page at face value). Old Earth creationists believe that the author of Genesis was not trying to give us a linear timeline of creation or a scientific treatise regarding creation. They believe that each “day” of Genesis is merely the author’s way of showing a passage of time, without necessarily meaning 24 hours. Scripture tells us that a “day” to the Lord is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as a day (2 Ptr 3:8). We could also say that a million years is as a day to the Lord or a billion years, for that matter. Why? Because God lives in one day...the same day...forever. Being eternal, there is no passage of time with God - it is all the eternal present to Him. So, Old Earth creationists have no problem with the science that claims a very old age for Earth. Like the Young Earth creationists, though, they do not accept the claims of inter-species evolution. Common to both points of view is the belief that God created everything out of nothing and, through a special act, created Adam and Eve at a particular point in time. Both believe that all of humanity is descended from this common pair of ancestors - Adam and Eve. Where they disagree, for the most part, is on the timing of it all. There are some problems with Young Earth Creationism, however, that Old Earth Creationism does not have. For example, just looking at the words on the page in Genesis 1, we see the order of creation, beginning in verse 11, is: plants, animals, Adam and Eve. However, in Genesis 2, the order of creation, beginning in verse 5, is: Adam, plants, animals, Eve. It’s a different order. A Young Earth creationist has a problem here that the Old Earth creationist does not. The literalist, or Young Earth, interpretation of Scripture seems to result in a conflict between Genesis 1 and Genesis 2. The literal, or Old Earth, interpretation recognizes that the author, in both creation accounts, is simply wanting to convey to us that man is the pinnacle of creation. There is no conflict between the two creation accounts because the author is, again, not trying to give us a linear timeline of creation - in either account. He is simply telling the story in the best way he knows how to convey the truths of creation. Also, Young Earth Creationism, as previously mentioned, runs contrary to the accepted scientific evidence on the age of the earth. Old Earth Creationism does not. That is not to say, however, that Young Earthers dismiss the science outright as if religion simply trumps science and no discussion to the contrary is necessary. No, they have rational arguments and they offer evidence to back up their points of view. But, they have a tougher row to hoe to convince folks on this than do Old Earthers. Now, to close this brief discussion, you might be surprised to know, that a Catholic may believe either of these points of view - Young Earth or Old Earth. The Church has not authoritatively ruled on this question of the age of the earth - and probably never will - since it is a matter for the realm of science to determine. So, a Catholic is in good standing with the Church whether they are a Young Earther or an Old Earther. Next week: Theistic Evolution vs. Atheistic Evolution Back to top

I am confused as to what to believe about the first few chapters of Genesis, especially in regards to science and evolution. I have been told that the story of Adam and Eve is just that - a story - and so we are free to believe in evolution. However, I have also been told that we, as Catholics, have to believe in Adam and Eve and that all people descended from them. But, how does that fit in with evolution? I’m a bit confused. (Part 3)

(Cont’d from last week.) Okay, now to the question of evolution. As I mentioned last week, Catholics may believe in Young Earth Creationism or Old Earth Creationism, but the question is: Can Catholics believe in evolution? And, does a belief in evolution necessarily contradict what the Church teaches on Adam and Eve? The answers are: yes, and no. Yes, a Catholic can believe in evolution (with some qualifications); and, no, believing in evolution does not necessarily contradict what the Church teaches on Adam and Eve. Catholics can believe in what is generally referred to as Theistic Evolution. This is the belief that life evolved from lower forms to higher forms (macro evolution - or what I call inter-species evolution), after God’s creation of the earth and the heavens out of nothing (Genesis 1:1), but that at some point God stepped in with a special creation of Adam and Eve, which was essentially an “ensoulment,” if you will, of pre-existing human-like creatures. What Catholics cannot believe in, however, is that all of creation came to be simply as the result of chance, without any purpose whatsoever, and that man evolved from lower life forms purely by accident. In other words, Catholics cannot believe in atheistic evolution. We have to believe that there is a God and that He was directly involved in the process of creation and evolution, if you believe in evolution. The problem atheists have in explaining atheistic evolution, is that the raw materials of evolution had to come from somewhere, and they have no scientific explanation for it. Where did the universe come from? How did it originate? Why is there something instead of nothing? These are all questions that a belief in atheistic evolution has difficulty contending with; whereas, theistic evolution has no similar difficulty. Theistic evolution, however, does have some difficulties of its own, in regard to the Catholic Faith, unless you allow for some qualifications. First of all, the Church teaches that Eve was created - in some way, shape, or form - from Adam (CCC #371). Exactly how this was done we do not know. Was it a rib from Adam, or is the rib merely a metaphor for whatever the process was? Furthermore, the Church teaches that Adam and Eve were created in an original state of justice and holiness - they would not suffer or die as long as they “remained in the divine intimacy,” (CCC #375-376). This cannot be attributed to merely natural processes. Also, the Church teaches that all of mankind is descended from our “first parents,” Adam and Eve. In other words, a belief that mankind descended from a number of “first parents,” and that Adam and Eve are merely symbolic of all of these first parents - a belief known as polygenism - is not consistent with Catholic teaching. So, a Catholic can believe in evolution, with some qualifications. Which means a Catholic can take one of three positions in regard to the first three chapters of Genesis - you can be a Young Earth Creationist, an Old Earth Creationist, or a Theistic Evolutionist - and still be a Catholic in good standing. And, the good thing is, no matter which of these three positions you take, science is continually moving closer and closer to what the Church teaches. For so long people have been taught that science is the enemy of religion, but that simply is not true. As previously mentioned, there can be no conflict between authentic science and authentic religion, since God is the author of both. Next week: Science and Genesis... Back to top

I am confused as to what to believe about the first few chapters of Genesis, especially in regards to science and evolution. I have been told that the story of Adam and Eve is just that - a story - and so we are free to believe in evolution. However, I have also been told that we, as Catholics, have to believe in Adam and Eve and that all people descended from them. But, how does that fit in with evolution? I’m a bit confused. (Part 4)

(cont’d) I mentioned last week that science is continually moving closer to what the Church has taught in regard to Genesis for 2000 years. Let’s look at some of the ways in which this is happening. First of all, the Church has taught, from the beginning, that God created everything out of nothing. The Church teaches that the universe had a beginning, and that it will have an end. The Church teaches that all of mankind is descended from an original pair of human beings, that we call Adam and Eve. So, what does science teach? Well, for hundreds of years, beginning with the “Enlightenment” (so-called because people thought they could use science and reason to move society away from the “superstition and intolerance” of the Catholic Church), “scientists” began moving toward the view that the universe was eternal - that it had no beginning and would have no end. This was a predominant view of cosmology into the early 1900's. However, in the 1900's, the view of a finite universe - a universe with a beginning and with an end - began to dominate scientific thought. We see this most notably with the Big Bang Theory. Furthermore, in the latter part of the 20th century, many scientists have come to believe that the material universe came into being out of nothing. All of matter simply appeared in an infinitely dense point called a singularity, and then expanded from that point. So, one of the latest cosmological theories is that matter came into being out of nothing. Hmm...where have I heard that before? As science advances in the realm of the origins of the universe, we are seeing it move closer and closer to the 2000-yr. old teaching of the Church on Genesis and creation. But, what about Adam and Eve? Surely science and the Church are way far apart in that area? Well, not so fast. Beginning not too long after Darwin, evolutionists taught that man descended from a number of pre-human ancestors at various places around the planet, which meant the current human population was descended from multiple lines of homo sapiens - thus precluding the possibility of there having been an Adam and Eve as taught in Genesis. This belief in multiple lines of human ancestry, however, began to be called into question in the latter half of the 20th century. An increasing number of paleoanthropologists, geneticists, and scientists from other fields of study began to believe that humanity is in fact descended from a much smaller number of ancestors. In fact, geneticists have now theorized that all of mankind is descended from a single woman - Mitochondrial Eve - and from a single man - Y-Chromosome Adam. But, scientists believed these two common ancestors of all of mankind actually lived tens of thousands of years apart. So, any thought of Genesis and the Church actually being right about an Adam and Eve was quickly dismissed amongst those who “knew better.” Yet, just this year (2013), two new studies have come out that suggest Mitochondrial Eve and Y-Chromosome Adam may have lived at the same time. One study estimates Adam lived 120,000 - 156,000 years ago, while estimating Eve lived 99,000 - 144,000 years ago. Lots of overlap there. The other study postulates Adam as having lived 180,000 - 200,000 years ago, which coincides with the estimates from previous studies of when Eve lived. So, according to these scientific studies, the one man from whom science thinks all of humanity descended, and the one woman from whom science thinks all of humanity descended, may have possibly, just possibly, lived at the same time. Does this conclusively “prove,” from a scientific standpoint, that the Church was right in regards to Adam and Eve as the first parents of all mankind? No, it does not. But it does put science and the Church in the same ballpark. Whether it be the creation of everything out of nothing, or the belief that the universe had a beginning and will have an end, or the teaching that all of mankind is descended from a single pair of human beings - our “first parents” as the Catechism calls them - science is moving closer and closer to what the Church teaches, and has taught for 2000 years. Again, this is not to say that Church teaching has been scientifically verified, and that all scientists agree with what the Church teaches, but I just find it quite fascinating that the author of this book of supposed “myths” and “superstitions,” writing some 4000-years ago, was able to get so close to what modern science is just now discovering. Go figure... Back to top

You’ve been talking about Young Earth Creationism and Old Earth Creationism and Theistic Evolution the last few weeks. I’m curious to know as to which you believe? I think I have it figured out, but I don’t want to make any assumptions.

(cont’d) This week I want to explore the concept of the “faith of atheists” that I mentioned in last week’s column in relation to Atheistic Evolution. At first, the concepts seems like an oxymoron - since atheism is essentially defined as having no faith. At least, no faith...in God. But, atheism does have its own god that it has faith in...the god Science. Again, it seems like an oxymoron - faith in science - since science is often thought to be bereft of faith. Science is based on facts, theorems, proofs, and such, right? Many atheists actually believe science to, in fact, be the enemy of faith. Well, what people need to understand, is that science can only take us so far, and the beliefs of many atheists go far beyond where their god Science can take them. I have already touched on this in a previous column when I mentioned that there are questions about creation and evolution that atheists have difficulty dealing with. Atheists believe in evolution through natural processes which, they say, precludes the necessity of a Creator. Oh, really?! Where, one might ask, did the raw materials of evolution come from? Atheists have no explanation for where they came from - for where the universe came from. For why there is something rather than nothing. Atheists just say, “Well, the universe just came into existence by complete blind chance.” So, one moment there was nothing, and the next moment - POOF! - we have a universe, just by accident. How convenient! Atheists also believe that life is simply a bunch of chemicals that came to a boil in some primordial soup and was sparked into existence by an errant streak of lightning. That, essentially, a living organism just popped into existence one day from non-living matter. Something living came from something non-living...completely by accident. They also believe that man is directly descended from the one-celled organism that was brought to life out of this ancient chemical soup. That this one-celled organism turned into a multi-celled organism that turned into a fish that turned into an amphibian that turned into a reptile that turned into a lower mammal that eventually turned into man. Well, I don’t have the space to go into it here, but there are a lot of questions about evolution that I have never been able to get an atheist to answers. Lots of questions. Just one quick example: ask an atheist which reptile man descended from. Or which amphibian or fish man descended from. They can’t answer you. Yet, they believe that man did indeed descend from a fish, an amphibian, and a reptile. Faith. The scientific method involves observation and experimentation. The god of atheism is science, yet atheists believe in a lot of things that the scientific method has never demonstrated to be true. Atheists believe matter came into being from nothing, just by random chance. They’ve never seen it happen, and no experiment has ever proven it, but they believe it. Science, or faith? They believe life originated from non-life, just by random chance. They’ve never seen it happen, and no experiment has ever proven it, but they believe it. Science, or faith? Atheists believe lower species evolved into higher species, just by random chance. They’ve never seen it happen, and no experiment has ever proven it, but they believe it. Science, or faith? Just from a probability standpoint, the chance of any one of those things happening by pure random chance is infinitesimally small. For all of them to happen, to produce life as we know it, by random chance - is pert near impossible. Yet, atheists believe it. Science, or faith? Which is why I say the average atheist may have as much faith, if not more, than the average Christian. Christians at least have evidence for their belief in God - from the observation of nature, miracles, the historical accuracy of Scripture, from philosophy, and so on. Atheists have no evidence for the non-existence of God. The scientific method cannot now, nor will it ever be able, to “prove” the non-existence of God. Yet, without one shred of scientific evidence for the non-existence of God - these folks who believe in science alone - have a dogmatic belief in the non-existence of God. Which is why I contend that atheism is actually a faith...a religion. And, since we have separation of church and state in our country, then I believe we should not allow atheism into our schools. Back to top

I have always thought the Parable of the Good Samaritan was all about helping your neighbor, but someone told me you give a talk with a different take on it. I would be interested in reading your take and in knowing where I can get a copy of your talk.

Well, it’s not really my “take” on the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) that I mention in my talk on that subject. It’s the “take,” or interpretation, of the parable that was seen by St. Jerome, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and some other Church Fathers. And their interpretation of the parable is not so much “different,” as it is deeper. It definitely is not in conflict with the standard interpretation that most folks see on the surface of the parable, which is to help those in need. Rather, they took it to the next level. The interpretation of the parable as seen by the aforementioned Church Fathers is that not only does Christ call us to offer physical aid to those in need, but He calls us to offer spiritual aid, as well. The meaning that these Fathers saw in the Parable of the Good Samaritan was this: The man who was attacked, beaten, and stripped on his way from Jerusalem to Jericho represents Adam and all of Adam’s posterity - meaning all of us. Jerusalem, whose root word - “salem” or “shalom” - means “peace” in Hebrew - represents the state of peace and innocence man was in at his creation, which the man leaves by going down to Jericho, which represents the state of sin. The robbers represent Satan, who strips Adam and his posterity of their innocence and of their natural faculties and leaves us with a wounded nature. The priest and the Levite who pass by and offer no assistance, represent the Old Covenant, which cannot save us, while the Good Samaritan represents Christ and the New Covenant, which can save us. The donkey, or the beast as some translations say, represents Christ’s humanity on which He carries us. The inn the wounded man is brought to represents the Church, and the innkeeper represents Peter and his successors. God, knowing that fallen man - wounded man - needs His help, shows mercy on man by coming down to earth - by assuming man’s nature - to heal man’s wounds. To make man’s wounds His own. Jesus carries all of mankind on His back, so to speak. He brings us to the Church, where we find aid and comfort and are able to heal our wounds by His grace, and where the innkeeper - St. Peter and all the popes, and the bishops and priests in union with them - continue to care for wounded man until Jesus’ return. So, the spiritual meaning of the parable is that the Good Samaritan is not just some heroic figure from a story, but that it is Jesus Christ Himself. And if Christ can stoop down to help us in our hour of need, then we are called by Him to do the same for others. And we do this not by just providing for someone’s physical needs - feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and imprisoned (see Matthew 25) - but by providing for their spiritual needs as well. And the best way to do that is by doing what Christ did, bring them to the Church. The talk I give which expounds on this is entitled, “Living the Word of God to Bring Justice and Peace,” and can be found on the “Free Tapes/CDs” page of the website: www.biblechristiansociety.com. I hope to also have it available on the “Free Downloads” page of the website in a few weeks. Back to top

A Protestant friend questioned the statues of Mary and the saints in the Catholic churches. After reading the Old Testament I think having anything on an altar in church could be interpreted as a false idol. The Jews were protected by God as long as they did not place statues of anything on an altar and kneel before it. I now find the statues in church and the intercession prayers to anyone but God as against God's greatest commandment "To love God". The only prayers I find in the Bible are The Our Father and The glory be to God. As a cradle catholic I was taught that statues and pictures were only icons. Possibly the Old testament Jews thought the same thing.

The placing of statues in Catholic churches is in no way equivalent to the worship of a false idol and is in no way a violation of God’s commandment. The first commandment reads as follows: “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them or serve them (Ex. 20:2–5). The key thing to remember here is that God does not place an absolute prohibition on graven images, rather He prohibits anyone to worship (“bow down to”) these images. If God was instituting a prohibition against all statues and such, would He then turn around and tell someone to make a graven image? Absolutely not. Yet, that’s exactly what God did. Exodus 25:18-19, when God was giving the Israelites instructions on how to build the Ark of the Covenant, what does He say? “And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat. Make one cherub on the one end, and one cherub on the other end; of one piece with the mercy seat shall you make the cherubim on its two ends.” On top of the Ark of the Covenant, God commands the making of graven images! And, where was the Ark of the Covenant kept? In the Holy of Holies. So, God commands graven images on top of the holiest object of the Israelites and commands that this object, along with its graven images, be kept in the holiest place known to the Israelites. Is God contradicting Himself? Well, He is if you interpret Commandment 1 as saying that making a statue and putting it in your church is the equivalent of worshiping that statue. He’s not if you understand that God did not prohibit statues or the placing of statues in churches, but rather prohibited the worship of those statues as if they were gods. Furthermore, in Numbers 21:8–9, God commanded a bronze serpent to be made and told Moses to have the Israelites who had been bitten by serpents God had sent as punishment, to look upon the bronze serpent in order to be healed. And, read the description of the details God commands for the construction of the Temple of Solomon in 1 Kings 6 - all sorts of images of things in heaven above and on the earth below. So, no, statues in the Catholic Church do not violate God’s commandment about worshiping false idols. As shown above, if Catholics are violating God’s commandment by having statues in their holy places, then God Himself violated His own commandment by ordering statues in the Holy of Holies. Back to top

When Catholics pray that Mary is “our life, our sweetness, and our hope,” that proves beyond any reasonable doubt that they do indeed worship Mary. To say that Mary is your life and your sweetness and your hope is to elevate her above Jesus, because Jesus is actually the life, the sweetness, and the hope of all true Christians.

You are taking that quote about Mary being "our life, our sweetness, and our hope," from one prayer that Catholics are known to pray. This prayer is known as the "Hail, Holy Queen." I find it curious that you would take one line, from one prayer, that not all Catholics even know, and use that one line from that one prayer to portray Catholics as elevating Mary to a place above Jesus. May I ask if you have ever bothered to read the Catechism - the official teaching of the Catholic Church - to see what it says about whether or not we consider Mary to be divine? Or have you read the documents of any Church Councils, Vatican Council II in particular, or any papal encyclicals or any other such official Church documents to see what they say about whether or not Catholics consider Mary to be divine? No, of course not. You, as a non-Catholic, read one line, in one prayer, and you think you know what Catholics believe and teach about Mary? Well, let's go through that whole prayer, shall we...and I will tell you what it means to a Catholic. As a Catholic, I think I have the right to explain what a Catholic prayer means to me, don't I? 1) Hail Holy Queen - Mary, as mother of the King, is Queen Mother, is she not? And, she is with Jesus in Heaven, therefore, she is holy, isn't she? 2) Mother of Mercy - Jesus is mercy, and Mary is His mother. So, we can indeed say she is the Mother of Mercy. 3) Our life - she is our life in that she undid what Eve had done. As sin entered the world through one woman's disobedience, so Life entered the world through one woman's obedience. Mary gave us the One Who is Life itself. She gave us Life. God sent Life to us through Mary. 4) Our sweetness - Mary, united to Christ from the moment of His conception, is indeed our sweetness. Wouldn't Jesus think the same of His mother? Do you think Jesus may have, at some point in His life, said something about His "sweet" mother? Are we not to imitate Christ in His feelings for His mother? She is our sweetness, again, because from her, absolute Sweetness came into the world. 5) And our hope - we believe Mary was raised, body and soul, into Heaven to be with her Son. That, too, is our hope...to be raised, body and soul, into Heaven to be with her Son. We hope that her Son will one day raise us up to Himself, as He did His mother. In that sense, she is our hope, because Christ did for her what we hope He will do for us. 6) To thee do we cry - we ask Mary to intercede for us, just as we ask any member of the Body of Christ to intercede for us. What is wrong with that? Will you pray for me that I will be saved? If so, you have interceded for me through prayer...does that mean I worship you because I asked you for prayer? Absolutely not. 7) Poor banished children of Eve - that's who we are. We are currently banished from Paradise, from our homeland, and it is to there that we strive to return. 8) To thee do we send up our sighs, mourning, and weeping - we ask Mary to intercede for us, but we also share our trials and struggles with her, as any child does with their mother. 9) Turn then, O most gracious advocate...Wait a minute! I thought Catholics believed Mary is a goddess of some sort! That she could grant us our every wish and desire? But, she's just an advocate...an advocate with whom? Or should I say with Whom? Why don't you latch onto that line of the prayer to portray what Catholics really believe about the relationship between Jesus and Mary and us? Doesn't fit what you want people to believe about us, does it? 10) Thine eyes of mercy towards us - Mary, as a member of the Body of Christ, perfectly united to Christ in Heaven, is merciful and takes pity upon us. 11) And, after this our exile - we are indeed exiles here on Earth. 12) Show unto us the Blessed Fruit of thy Womb, Jesus - why, if we Catholics put Mary above Jesus, would we be asking her help in reaching Jesus? 13) O clement, o loving, o sweet virgin Mary - she is indeed all of those things. That is the prayer that many Catholics pray. There is nothing theologically wrong with it. There is nothing un-Christian about it. There is nothing in it that elevates Mary above Jesus. Unless of course, one is ignorant of the whole, or many parts, of Catholic teaching and wants to pluck a line or two from this prayer and use it out of context. Is it fair to Catholics for non-Catholics to decide for us what we mean when we say something? If I say to you that I believe it's raining cats and dogs outside, are you justified in telling people that Catholics believe cats and dogs fall from the sky like rain? If you don't know our teachings, if you don't know our faith, if you don't know our language, then you don't know us. Please do not presume to tell a Catholic what he "really" believes, when you are so uninformed regarding our teachings. Back to top

There was a “Letter to the Editor” in a recent edition of the Birmingham News written by three Catholic couples that used the issue of the Health and Human Services contraception mandate to basically say that one can dissent from Church teaching and yet still be a “faithful” Catholic. I would like to take the next few weeks to answer several of the points made in that letter. Each week I will quote a section from the letter and then give my response. If you would like to read the letter in its entirety, you can do so by going to this website: http://blog.al.com/birmingham-news-commentary/2012/02/our_views_disagreeing_with_bis.html Letter: “Non-Catholics should understand that the Catholic bishops' recent dispute with the federal government is less about birth control than it is about internal church disagreements over who speaks for the Catholic Church in dialogue with government on matters of faith and morals. Many of us practicing Catholics adhere to the teaching of the 1965 Vatican II Council that, while the bishops have teaching authority, so their views are entitled to great respect, they do not have exclusive authority to speak to the government for the church in matters of faith and morals. Rather, each member of the church has a duty to form beliefs, to make judgments about faith and morals by following her or his conscience in light of Gospel values and reasoned consideration of both present circumstances and Catholic tradition, and to speak to their lawfully elected government as Catholics.”

There is a line from one of my favorite poems, An Essay on Criticism, by Alexander Pope, that came to mind when I read the paragraph above: “A little learning is a dangerous thing, drink deep or taste not the Pierian spring.” It seems our letter writers did not drink deep enough in regard to the documents of Vatican II, because the claim that there is something in the documents of Vatican II that somehow gives each individual an authority equal to that of the bishops when speaking to the government (or anyone else for that matter) on matters of faith and morals is simply without merit. In the Vatican II document, Gaudium et Spes (Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World), paragraph #77 speaks to the relationship between the “political community” and the Church. Here is some of what it has to say: “It is of supreme importance…to work out a proper vision of the relationship between the political community and the Church, and to distinguish clearly between the activities of Christians, acting individually or collectively in their own name as citizens guided by the dictates of a Christian conscience, and their activity acting along with their pastors in the name of the Church.” Christians may indeed speak to their government individually or collectively, but the words and actions of these individual Christians acting on their own, are not to be confused with the words and actions of those Christians acting “along with their pastors in the name of the Church.” In other words, individual Christians, acting on their own, have absolutely no authority to speak for the Church to the political community on matters of faith and morals. They do not speak “in the name of the Church” as do the pastors (i.e., bishops) of the Church. So, contrary to what was written in that letter, there are no “internal church disagreements over who speaks for the Catholic Church in dialogue with government on matters of faith and morals.” It is the pastors who speak for the Church. Every Catholic who understands and is faithful to the teachings of Vatican II would agree on this. Furthermore, paragraph #77 states: “But at all times and in all places the Church should have true freedom to preach the faith, to proclaim its teaching about society, to carry out its task among men without hindrance, and to pass moral judgments even in matters relating to politics, whenever the fundamental rights of man or the salvation of souls requires it.” Vatican II speaks of the right of the Church to “pass moral judgments even in matters relating to politics.” Note that nowhere does this paragraph, nor any part of this document, nor any Vatican II document, speak of the individual as having the same level of authority as the pastors of the Church “to pass moral judgments” in matters relating to politics. In fact, as mentioned above, Vatican II makes it quite clear that while the individual does indeed have certain rights and freedoms with respect to activities vis-à-vis government, it is, nevertheless, of “supreme importance” to distinguish these activities from those of the Church. Vatican II simply does not support the premise of the letter writers. Now, I do not wish to ignore the role of the individual and their conscience, as each individual does indeed have it within their capacity to form moral judgments in accord with their conscience and to act on those moral judgments. I will speak to that next week. Next week: The role of conscience… Back to top

A few weeks ago your article mentioned the rubrics of the Mass. I’ve always had a question about everyone holding hands during the Our Father...is that a violation of the rubrics?

Technically, the rubrics pertain to the instructions for the priest during the Mass. So, from that standpoint, for the people to hold hands during the Our Father is not a violation of the rubrics. For the priest to hold hands with the altar servers and the cantor or anyone else, however, that would indeed be a violation of the rubrics. Also, as noted in the previous article, the word “rubrics” has often come to be used to describe all of what is written in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), which contains the instructions for the actions of both the ministers and the people during the Mass. Nowhere in the GIRM does it say, “The people are not supposed to hold hands during the Our Father.” But, as I pointed out in that last article, the general rule regarding liturgical instructions is: If the instructions do not tell me I can do something, then I cannot do it. Given that, it seems that the people holding hands during the Our Father is indeed an abuse of the liturgical instructions for the Mass that we find in the GIRM. I know that’s not going to be a popular answer, but truth often suffers that burden. And, as liturgical abuses go, holding hands during the Our Father would definitely not be at the top of the list, but it is what it is nonetheless. However, it should also be noted that if a family does it at Mass among themselves, it remains a private gesture, but if the whole congregation does it, it is now a public gesture and a violation of the rubrics. Now, someone might say, “What’s the big deal? What harm is there in holding hands with those around you?” I would answer that with four points: 1) This is a gesture that was introduced illicitly into the Mass. If it’s “okay” to allow one unauthorized change to the GIRM, no matter how “harmless” it may seem, what’s to stop other unauthorized changes to the GIRM from creeping into the Mass? Which is exactly what has happened. 2) Jesus says that he who is faithful in little things, can be trusted with much more (Mt 25:21; Lk 16:10). Scripture also tells us that Jesus is concerned with every iota and every dot of the law and that it’s not a good thing to relax even the least of the commandments (Mat 5:18-19). So, even though it may be a “little thing,” should we not strive to be faithful in all things? 3) The liturgical instructions for the ministers and the people are filled with signs and actions that have very specific reasons for being part of the Mass and convey very specific meanings. The entire congregation holding hands at the Our Father interrupts the flow of those signs. 4) Finally, on a purely practical level, holding hands during the Our Father can be very distracting. Have you ever had someone next to you who is coughing the entire Mass and then, at the Our Father, they reach out to hold your hand with the hand they’ve been coughing into? Or, have you ever held hands with someone with sweaty palms? That definitely hinders my ability to concentrate when praying the Our Father. Then there is the visual distraction of those who twist themselves to hold hands with people in front of them and behind them. Again, I realize that this answer to your question may not be a popular one, but I have to answer truthfully. I would simply ask the reader to consider all of these things in his or her heart. Back to top

Every verse in the New Testament where the word for baptism is used is a verse that proves that baptism is to be by immersion. The very meaning of the word proves that. The Greek word baptizo means “to plunge, dip, immerse” something in water. Catholics are wrong, therefore, to baptize by any means other than total immersion.

First, in Matthew 28:19, we are given the formula for baptism, but nowhere does Scripture give detailed instructions on how baptisms were actually performed. This claim is based not on Scripture, but solely on the definition of the word “baptizo.” The problem is, though, the word “baptizo,” in addition to meaning “immersion,” can also mean “to wash” or “to cleanse.” So the argument is faulty at its core. Second, according to this argument, everywhere the Greek word “baptizo” is used in the New Testament, we should find it referring to immersion. But this is not the case. For example, Luke 11:38 states: “The Pharisee was astonished to see that He [Jesus] did not first wash [baptizo] before dinner.” Was the Pharisee expecting Jesus to be totally immersed in water before eating dinner? No! We see from Mark 7:3-4, that the Pharisees had, as did all the Jews, a tradition of washing their hands before eating. Mark 7:3-4, “For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, do not eat unless they wash [nipto] their hands, observing the tradition of the elders; and when they come from the market place, they do not eat unless they wash [baptizo] themselves.” So, the Pharisees usually washed their hands before eating and, if they were particularly dirty, as they would be after coming from the market, they would “baptizo” themselves. And what did this consist of? Well, we see in Luke 7:44-46 that this included not just the washing of hands, but also the washing of feet and the anointing with oil. Nowhere do we find mention of the Jews totally immersing themselves or their dinner guests in water before eating a meal. In other words, we see that “baptizo” did not always mean “immersion,” it also meant “to wash.” Let’s also look at the Acts of the Apostles for more evidence to show that in the Bible the equation “baptizo = immersion” is not always true. In Acts 1:4-5, Jesus tells the Apostles to stay in Jerusalem and wait for the baptism [baptizo] of the Holy Spirit. So, if “baptizo” equals “immersion,” then we should find Scripture telling us of the immersion of the disciples in the Holy Spirit, right? But, that’s not what the Bible says. In Acts 2, we have the Holy Spirit coming down upon the Apostles on the Day of Pentecost. And it is very interesting to note how the Bible describes this “baptizo” of the Holy Spirit that Jesus spoke of. Does the Bible say the Apostles were “immersed” in the Spirit? No. In verses 17, 18 and 33, Scripture speaks of the Holy Spirit being “pour[ed]” out. Baptism, here the baptism of the Holy Spirit, is identified in the Bible with the action of pouring rather than the action of immersion. Very interesting. To sum up, this entire argument rests on the insistence that the word baptizo means one and only one thing - immersion. Yet Scripture, as I have shown, contradicts that argument. Back to top

My brother-in-law (an Evangelical) hit me with something the other day that I did not know how to respond to. He said the Catholic Church teaches that the Pope is infallible, but that he can’t be infallible because the Bible says that all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23). How do I respond to him?

Well, the first thing you need to do is to tell him that the gift, or charism, of infallibility that the office of the Pope has been given by Jesus has nothing to do with whether or not the Pope can sin. The word that would apply for someone who does not sin is “impeccability,” not “infallibility.” In Catholic doctrine, if a person is “infallible”, it doesn’t mean they can’t commit a sin. The Pope can, and indeed does, commit sins. Also, if a person is infallible, it doesn’t mean that they can never make a mistake. The Pope can, and does, make mistakes. In Catholic theology, when we speak of the “infallibility” of the Pope, it means something very specific. It means that God will prevent him from teaching error, when he is teaching as the head of the Church, to the entire Church, in the areas of faith and morals. Infallibility has nothing to do with mathematics, with biology, with physics or anything else outside of faith and morals. Infallibility is what is known as a negative protection - it simply prevents error from being taught. Recently we had the situation in the news where it was being reported that Pope Benedict had changed the Church’s teaching on contraception. The news media were reporting this because of something the Pope had said to someone who had been conducting an extensive interview with him. I’ll use this as an example of what I mean when I say that the teaching on infallibility is “very specific.” First of all, the Pope did not change the Church’s teaching on contraception - his comments were misconstrued by a media that generally does not understand Church teachings in the area of morality, and what they do understand, they generally oppose. But, let’s say for the sake of argument that the Pope had said that it was now “okay” to use contraception. Would this have been an “infallible” teaching? The answer is, “No, it would not.” That’s because one of the three main criteria for an infallible teaching was absent: The Pope was not speaking to the entire Church. He was giving an interview to a private individual. Nothing that he says to a private individual, or to a group of people (e.g., in a papal audience), can be said to be infallible (unless, of course, he is speaking about settled teachings of the Church). Again, for the Pope to be speaking infallibly, he has to: 1) Be speaking as the head of the Church, 2) To the entire Church, 3) In the areas of faith and morals. Also, it needs to be said that the Pope cannot arbitrarily change the moral teaching of the Church. As the Catechism says, artificial contraception is “intrinsically evil” (CCC #2370). So, even if the Pope had told his interviewer that contraception was “okay,” that would not mean that an intrinsic evil is no longer intrinsically evil and that the Church all of a sudden reversed 2000 years of teaching on the matter. The Pope can hold to error in matters of faith and morals. The gift of infallibility, however, means that the Holy Spirit will prevent him from teaching that error to the entire Church. Back to top

Why do Catholics believe the Pope cannot commit a sin? Does the Bible say anything about someone being infallible other than Jesus Christ?

Actually, Catholics do believe the Pope can commit a sin and, the fact that the Pope regularly goes to Confession, tells us he does indeed sin and that he acknowledges these sins and seeks healing from those sins in the Sacrament of Reconciliation It seems you are confusing “infallibility” with “impeccability.” Impeccability means that someone cannot err. Catholics do not believe the Pope is impeccable, we believe the Pope is infallible. By that we mean the Pope, when speaking in his role as head of the Church, to the entire Church, in the areas of faith and morals, cannot teach error. Those three conditions have to be met for the Pope’s gift of infallibility to come into play: 1) The Pope is teaching as the head of the Church; 2) He is speaking to the entire Church - not, for instance, privately to a group of friends or even when giving a homily at St. Peter’s; and 3) He is speaking on faith or morals - not, for instance, on biology, or math, or chemistry, or any such thing. Infallibility is what is known as a negative charism. We believe the Holy Spirit will not allow the Pope to teach error to the entire Church. It does not mean that the Pope will always be forced by the Spirit to teach what he should, it just means that he will be prevented from teaching error. This charism of infallibility protects the Church from being led down a false path. There are numerous Scripture verses that support Catholic teaching on this. I always like to first point to 1 John 4:6, “We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” If you were to ask the average “Bible Christian” how they know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error, how they would respond? They would say they know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error by picking up the Bible and reading it for themselves. Yet, the Bible teaches us here in 1 John 4:6 that we know the spirit of truth from the spirit of error by listening to someone - by listening to the leaders of the Church. You can distinguish between those who are and are not of God by seeing who does and does not listen to the leaders of the Church. It seems the leaders of the Church would need to be infallible for John to have written such a thing. In Matthew 16:18-19, Jesus gives Peter the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven and tells him that whatever he binds and looses on earth will bound and loosed in Heaven. And, in Matthew 18:18, Jesus gives the other Apostles, along with Peter, that same authority. If the Apostles had the authority to bind and loose things that were also bound and loosed in Heaven, you can be quite sure that they had the gift of infallibility. After all, God would not put Himself in the position of binding and loosing error. There are many more verses I could point to, but I’ll give just one more: Luke 10:16. Jesus sends out the disciples telling them, “He who hears you hears Me, and he who rejects you rejects Me.” So, if you reject the teachings of the leaders of the Church, you are rejecting the teaching of Jesus Christ Himself. Pretty powerful argument for papal infallibility. Back to top

In infant baptism, Catholics teach it is through the faith of the parents that the infant is given the gift of salvation. However, I thought "we" have to receive that gift ourselves? An infant cannot understand or know if he/she wants to receive the gift and, like a tangible gift, we don't open or receive gifts for others. How can you say that the faith of our parents can justify us?

As Scripture states, “Unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the Kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit,” (John 3:5-6). And, “It is the spirit that gives life, the flesh is of no avail,” (John 6:63). When we are born into this physical world, we are born into Adam and of the flesh. Well, as Scripture states, the flesh is of no avail. Why is the flesh of no avail? Because the flesh cannot save us. Due to the stain of Original Sin communicated to him by our original parents, when a child is born of the flesh, he is born outside of a covenant relationship with God. Being outside of a covenant relationship with God means one cannot enter the Kingdom of God. Therefore, everyone born of the flesh, in order to enter the Kingdom of God, must be born again of water and the Spirit - Baptism - in order to be born into Christ and of the Spirit; in order to come into a covenant relationship with God. And, just as a child does not need to give its consent to be born into the flesh, to be born of the 1st Adam; so a child does not need to give its consent to be born into the Spirit, to be born of the 2nd Adam. This is why I always say that the practice of infant baptism is the most obvious sign that Catholics believe salvation is an absolutely free gift of God’s grace, because the infant can make no act of faith nor do any work, yet he receives salvation. Salvation is free! We can do nothing - neither faith nor works - to merit our transition out of the flesh and into the spirit. It is only by God’s grace. As Ephesians 2:8-9 says, “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this in not your own doing, it is the gift of God.” If it was necessary for an infant to “understand or know if he/she wants to receive the gift,” then what would happen to all of those infants that never reach the age of reason? They were born of the flesh, but they were never born again of the Spirit. But the flesh is of no avail. Your reasoning results in the closing off of the Kingdom of Heaven to any infant that dies before the age of reason. And, if you would argue, “Well, infants who die before the age of reason go to Heaven regardless,” then you would be contradicting yourself because you would be saying that those infants were justified (saved) without ever being able to “understand” the gift of their justification. Also, we actually do have an instance in Scripture of someone being saved through the faith of others. In Mark 2, we have the story of the paralytic who is lowered by four men, through a hole in the roof, down to where Jesus was preaching. And the Word of God tells us that when Jesus saw “their” faith, He forgave the sins of the paralytic. So here’s an instance where the faith of others did indeed lead to someone’s salvation. So, again, through the faith of the parents, an infant receives the free gift of God’s salvation in the Sacrament of Baptism. It is not the parent’s faith that justifies the child, but it is through the parent’s faith that God’s grace in the Sacrament of Baptism justifies the child. When that infant reaches the age of reason, however, then he or she must respond to that free gift - they must open the gift - with both faith and works, in order to remain in Christ. Back to top

I have a co-worker who says he is a Christian, but does not believe Jesus is God because “Scripture nowhere says Jesus is God.” Are there any verses of Scripture that I can point him to that actually say Jesus is God?

First of all, believing that Jesus is God is one of the core beliefs that identifies one as a Christian. So, even though your co-worker calls himself a Christian, he is not one. Regarding whether or not there are any verses of Scripture that say, “Jesus is God,” yes, there are plenty that say so directly and indirectly: Titus 2:13, “...our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ...” Jesus is directly referred to as “God and Savior.” Titus 3:4, “...God our Savior...” 1 John 4:14, “...the Father has sent His Son as the Savior of the world.” Scripture refers to Jesus Christ as the “Savior” and refers to the “Savior” as God. Also, in Titus, it states that Jesus gave Himself to “purify for Himself a people of His own” (Titus 2:14). And, in 2 Cor 6:16, it has the “living God” saying this: “I will be their God and they will be my people.” Well, we’re Jesus’ people and we’re the people of the living God...hmm. Isn’t then Jesus the living God? John 10:30, “I and the Father are one.” John 17:11, “That they may be one, even as We are one.” What human being would ever say, “I and the Father are one?” How can Jesus and the Father be one, if Jesus is not God? Isaiah 62:5, “...as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.” Matt 9:15, “Can the wedding guests mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them?” God is the bridegroom. Jesus is the bridegroom. Therefore, Jesus is God. Romans 9:5, “to [the Israelites] belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, Who is God over all...” The Christ, Jesus, is God over all...so saith the Scriptures. How can Jesus be God over all, yet not be God? John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Jesus, the Word, is referred to directly as God. Rev 19:16 refers to Jesus Christ as “King of kings and Lord of lords.” Yet, Deut 10:17 refers to the Almighty God as “God of gods and Lord of lords.” How can Jesus be Lord of lords if the God of gods is Lord of lords, unless, of course, Jesus is God? Heb 1:6 has the Father telling the angels to “worship” Jesus. Isn’t God the only one deserving of worship? Rev 19:10 tells us to “worship God.” But, God tells His angels to worship Jesus. Hmm. John 5:21, “For as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whom He will.” John 5:26, “For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son also to have life in Himself...” Isn’t God the only one Who can give life to Whom He will? Isn’t God the only one who can have life “in Himself”? Yet Jesus does. In Exodus 3:13-14, Moses asks God His name. God replies that His name is “I Am.” In John 8:58, how does Jesus identify Himself? “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am.” Jesus identifies Himself by using the name that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob used to identify Himself. What happens? The Jews try to stone Him. Why? Because stoning is the punishment for blasphemy. So, either Jesus blasphemed, by applying God’s name to Himself, or He was indeed God. Finally, there is the verse that leaves absolutely no doubt, John 20:28, when Thomas says to Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” It’s really hard to get around that one. Back to top

In a previous column you gave a number of passages of the Bible that point to Jesus’ divinity, but I had a Jehovah’s Witness come to my door who read a verse where Jesus says something about the Father being greater than he is. Is that verse in the Catholic Bible and, if it is, doesn’t that point to Jesus not being God, since he says he isn’t equal to the Father?

The verse you are referring to is indeed in the Catholic Bible. John 14:28: “You heard Me say to you, ‘I go away, and I will come to you.’ If you loved me, you would have rejoiced because I go to the Father for the Father is greater than I.” How can the Father be greater than Jesus, if Jesus is indeed God? After all, if Jesus is God, then He would obviously be equal to the Father. So, does the Father being greater than Jesus mean that Jesus can’t be God? Not at all. What Jesus is saying here can be interpreted in two ways, neither of which denies Jesus’ divinity. The first, is that Jesus is speaking of His human nature in relation to the Father’s divine nature. Is not the Father’s divine nature greater than Jesus’ human nature? Indeed it is. In the Athanasian Creed, for example, it says Jesus is, “Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood.” St. Augustine says we, “Acknowledge the twofold nature of Christ - the divine, by which He is equal to the Father; the human, by which He is less than the Father.” So, we have to keep in mind the two natures of Christ - human and divine. The Word Incarnate, as man, is less than the Father; whereas, the Eternal Word, as Son, is equal to the Father. The other possible way to interpret what Jesus says in John 14:28 is that the Father is greater than Jesus, not in the sense of nature or of being more complete, better, more excellent, or any such thing, but only in the sense of divine origin. The Father is “greater than” Jesus in the sense that Jesus is begotten of the Father. Jesus proceeds from the Father, but the Father proceeds from no one. St. John Chrysostom, “If anyone will contend that the Father is greater, inasmuch as He is the cause from which the Son proceeds, we will bear with him and this way of speaking, provided he grant that the Son is not of a different substance or nature.” St. Hilary of Poitiers, “The Father is greater than the Son: but this is said in respect to generation - as a father is to a son - and not of classification...The possession of a paternal designation is permissive of a distinction; but there is no distinction as to nature.” St. Basil the Great, “The Son is second in order from the Father, because He is from Him; and in dignity, because the Father is His origin and cause...The Son is not, however, second to the Father in nature, because the Godhead is one in each of them.” Either of these interpretations of John 14:28 are valid and are consistent with the rest of the New Testament. As I did indeed point out in an earlier column, there are a good number of verses that directly, or indirectly, identify Jesus as God. Both of the interpretations mentioned above fit perfectly well with all of those verses; whereas, an interpretation of John 14:28 that says Jesus is not God, is in direct contradiction to the rest of the New Testament. Back to top

I was talking to a non-Catholic friend today about Christianity in general, and he happened to mention that Christians are not supposed to eat pork. Is that true, and where does he get that from? I had no idea what to say to him. Is there something in the Bible about this?

In the Mosaic law of the Old Testament, the Israelites were forbidden from eating the meat of various “unclean” animals, pigs being among them (Leviticus 11:1-8). So, pork was a forbidden food for the Jews as it comes from pigs. The first Christians, who were all Jewish converts, initially maintained these dietary restrictions, as they did other parts of the Mosaic Law. When Gentile converts started coming into the Church, however, things started to change. The Gentiles had been under no such dietary restrictions. They also had no tradition of circumcision, as the Jews had. So, the two cultures - Jewish and Gentile - started to clash within the Church. A group of Jewish Christians, known as the Judaizers, started going to the Gentile converts and telling them that they basically had to follow all of the Jewish customs and practices - which included circumcision and unclean foods - in order to be fully Christian. This caused a great deal of confusion and division amongst the Gentile converts, which we can read about in Paul’s Letter to the Galatians (see 1:6-9; 2:11-15; 5:1-6) and led directly to the first great council of the Church - the Council of Jerusalem (Acts of the Apostles, chapter 15). The Council was called to deal with the question of whether or not the Gentile Christians had to follow the practices of the Mosaic Law. The main argument was about circumcision, but as you read in Acts 15:5, it was also about the entire Law of Moses, which included the clean vs. unclean animal restrictions. The verdict of the Council was that only a few things had to stay in effect in regards to Christian practice vs. Jewish practice. Those things are found in Acts 15:19-20. Abstaining from pork is not one of the requirements. Also, read Acts chapter 10, particularly about Peter's vision involving unclean foods (verses 9-16). The Gentiles were under no obligation to not eat pork, or the other unclean foods, and when they were brought into Christianity, they never had that obligation placed upon them. Unfortunately, many among those who call themselves Messianic Jews in our day and age, are acting like the Judaizers and are teaching that Christians have to, in essence, obey many of the tenets of the Mosaic Law. But, as I’ve shown, their teaching is not supported by the Bible. Ask your non-Catholic friend where in the Bible, given the passages you can now show him, does it say that the Law of Moses, in particular the prohibition against eating pork, is to be applied to Christians? Quick answer: it doesn't. Back to top

I have been attending a Catholic Church in the diocese in which the priest and congregation sing some of the parts in Latin. I am curious as to why the Catholic Church is bringing this back and in some parishes even saying the mass entirely in Latin. It appears that the Church is going back to traditionalism. How does this (Latin) entice new people to the Catholic faith? If I were looking for a Christian faith to join and visited a parish with Latin, I would take Catholicism off my list. I, myself, have considered looking elsewhere for a new faith because of this. Shouldn’t the church be looking forward and seeking out modern ways to entice newcomers? To many outsiders, the Catholic Mass is already very dry and boring with all of its prayers through Mass, let alone adding in Latin. Please advise and help me understand the Latin importance in this modern age.

There are a number of things here that I would like to address, so it seems that this will undoubtedly be a two or three part response. First of all, I am very concerned that you would look elsewhere for “a new faith,” because Latin is being used more often in the liturgy. The question I would ask you is this: On what do you base your faith? Either you believe that the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth, or you don’t. I believe the Catholic Church does indeed have the fullness of the truth, as given to us by Jesus Christ through His Apostles, so if the Church started using Tuareg, Aramaic, ancient Greek, Taushiro, Kaixana, or even Klingon, in the liturgy, I would still be Catholic, because my faith is not based on the language or languages used by the Church in its liturgy. It is based upon Jesus Christ and His truth. So, if you believe the Catholic Church has the fullness of the faith as given by Jesus Christ to His Apostles, and as transmitted by those same Apostles to their successors, the Bishops, and to us by the Bishops, guided by the Holy Spirit, down through the centuries, then could singing a few prayers in Latin really cause you to walk away from the truth of Jesus Christ? Conversely, if you do not believe the Catholic Church has the fullness of the truth as given to us by Jesus, then you need to either examine more closely the claims of the Church, or you need to go in search of that church that does indeed have the fullness of the truth of Jesus Christ. You see, Jesus founded a church, and the church Jesus founded does not have partial truth or half truth, it has the whole truth and nothing but the truth. And, if the Catholic Church doesn’t have the fullness of the truth, then it is not the Church founded by Jesus, and you need to be out there looking for the church that was. So, you really need to think about and pray about, what exactly it is you base your faith on. Now, regarding the Latin. I’ll be honest and say that I am not necessarily a big fan of the Latin language, either. Yet, even though it is being used more in the liturgy, I am still Catholic. I’m also not a big fan of bad singing, bad homilies, bad theology, or bad liturgy, and I have experienced plenty of all of those things at one or more of the parishes I’ve been in during the 22 years since I’ve come back into the Church. Yet, I am still Catholic. I am also not a big fan of the oftentimes unnecessary use of extraordinary ministers at Communion, the general lack of reverence at Mass, the lack of modesty in dress at Mass, and don’t even get me started on the state of catechetics and evangelization in the Church. Yet, I am still Catholic. And, you know what, I have never ever liked the whole sign of peace thing. Yet, I am still Catholic. In other words, things are not the way that I necessarily would like them to be in the Church, either. Well, too bad for me. So, am I going to leave the Eucharist, the Sacraments, the true priesthood, the Communion of Saints, the Vicar of Christ, and possibly jeopardize my eternal salvation because of all of these things that I don’t like? I don’t think so. The truth is the truth, and to stick with the truth oftentimes requires sacrifices – sometimes big sacrifices, and sometimes small sacrifices. Whenever something goes on in the Church that I don’t like, all I have to do is look at the Crucifix and I think to myself, “I guess He didn’t much like being nailed to a cross, either, did He?” And my problems get put in their proper perspective. Next week: Why Latin? Back to top

I have been attending a Catholic Church in the diocese in which the priest and congregation sing some of the parts in Latin. I am curious as to why the Catholic Church is bringing this back and in some parishes even saying the mass entirely in Latin. It appears that the Church is going back to traditionalism. How does this (Latin) entice new people to the Catholic faith? If I were looking for a Christian faith to join and visited a parish with Latin, I would take Catholicism off my list. I, myself, have considered looking elsewhere for a new faith because of this. Shouldn’t the church be looking forward and seeking out modern ways to entice newcomers? To many outsiders, the Catholic Mass is already very dry and boring with all of its prayers through Mass, let alone adding in Latin. Please advise and help me understand the Latin importance in this modern age. (Part 2)

Having discussed last week why being upset over an increased use of Latin in the liturgy is not a good reason to look “elsewhere for a new faith,” I want to now turn my attention to the use of Latin in the liturgy. There are two distinct, yet related, issues here: first, the use of Latin in the Novus Ordo (the new Mass), which is the Mass we are all familiar with; second, the more frequent use of the Latin Mass itself, also known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass, and all of the recent commotion around it. Okay, so why Latin? Why are we seeing more parishes use Latin in parts of the Mass, the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God), for example? Well, the biggest reason I can think of is: because the Church tells us to. At the Second Vatican Council, the Church said, “The use of the Latin language...is to be preserved in the Latin rites,” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #36). Yet, contrary to the very clear words and intent of the Council Fathers, the Latin language was quite often abandoned wholesale in the years immediately following Vatican II. Commenting on that situation, Bishop Slattery of Tulsa had this to say, “...it was not a wise decision to do away with Latin in the Mass. How that happened, I don’t know; but the fathers of the Council never intended us to drop Latin. They wanted us to hold on to it and, at the same time, to make room for the vernacular...” But, why does the Church tell us to hang on to Latin in the liturgy? Well, one reason is because Latin is the official language of the Church. All Church documents are promulgated first and foremost in Latin. The papal encyclicals - first done in Latin. The Catechism - first done in Latin. All documents, liturgical or otherwise - first done in Latin. Truth be told, it is a bit of a misnomer to call the old Mass the “Latin” Mass, because the Novus Ordo, the new Mass, was first promulgated in Latin. Which is why we are soon to get a new Mass translation, because the current English translation was not as faithful to the Latin as it could have been. So, both the old and the new Mass can rightly be called “Latin” masses. Another reason the Church tells us to hang on to Latin in the liturgy, is because it connects us to the past, to our traditions. For over a thousand years our forefathers in the faith worshipped in Latin. To banish Latin to the outer darkness is like banishing grandpa to the outer darkness because he only speaks Italian, or Polish, or whatever. The Latin language is a part of our story, a part of who we are, a part of our heritage, as Catholics. I mentioned last week that I am not a “big fan” of the Latin language. That does not mean, however, that I do not respect the language. I simply prefer English to Latin. That is the result of an American nativistic bias more than anything else, though. I suppose if Latin were used in some prayers on a regular basis, not just once in a blue moon, and if our missalettes had the Latin version of some of the prayers, I could grow more accustomed to the language. You know, as Christians, I think to harbor bias that is based more on a lack of familiarity with someone or something, rather than anything else, is not really becoming of us. I think we should try to be more tolerant and open-minded with regard to such things. Next week...The Resurrection of the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Back to top

I have been attending a Catholic Church in the diocese in which the priest and congregation sing some of the parts in Latin. I am curious as to why the Catholic Church is bringing this back and in some parishes even saying the mass entirely in Latin. It appears that the Church is going back to traditionalism. How does this (Latin) entice new people to the Catholic faith? If I were looking for a Christian faith to join and visited a parish with Latin, I would take Catholicism off my list. I, myself, have considered looking elsewhere for a new faith because of this. Shouldn’t the church be looking forward and seeking out modern ways to entice newcomers? To many outsiders, the Catholic Mass is already very dry and boring with all of its prayers through Mass, let alone adding in Latin. Please advise and help me understand the Latin importance in this modern age. (Part 3)

Having discussed in my last article the reason for the increased use of Latin in the Novus Ordo (the new Mass), I want to now address the question of the resurrection of the “traditional Latin Mass” (TLM), also known as the Extraordinary Form of the Mass. Why is the Church bringing back the TLM, or “going back to traditionalism” as you put it? The very question itself displays the reason why. Blessed John Paul II, along with Pope Benedict, both of whom were participants in Vatican Council II, recognized that the changes in the Mass, in the liturgy, that occurred after Vatican II, went beyond what the Fathers of that Council intended. The Council Fathers wanted a reform of the liturgy or, I think it is more proper to say, they wanted an authentic renewal of the liturgy, but somehow things went a bit too far. It is apparent from reading the documents of Vatican II, that the Council Fathers wanted a renewal of the liturgy that built upon the old and which reflected continuity between the old and the new. Instead, the baby was tossed out with the bath water, so to speak. The fact that you, as well as many others, are asking questions like this, speaks to the point – we Catholics are generally ignorant of our liturgical patrimony, our liturgical heritage. This is because the liturgical reforms of the 60’s and 70’s, which were supposed to make Catholics more aware of what is going on at the Mass, to draw Catholics into a deeper participation in the Mass and a deeper understanding of the Mass have, for the most part, failed in their purpose and intent. Ignorance of our liturgical heritage, of which the TLM is a significant part, has led to us being generally even more ignorant of the liturgy than we were before. Why do we do what we do at Mass? What is the meaning of the Mass? What are the meanings of the words, the prayers, the actions of the priest and the congregation? What is the purpose of the Mass? In large measure, Catholics generally have little to no understanding of the underlying purpose and meaning of the Mass, nor of its connection to the Old and New Testaments and to the Sacred Tradition of the Church. I would argue that a liturgical rupture of sorts, occurred between the Traditional Latin Mass and the Novus Ordo, and that rupture has led to Catholics being less knowledgeable about the Mass and less engaged in the Mass than would have been the case if there had been greater continuity between the old and the new. If the actual words of Vatican II had been followed, I believe we would have seen a much smoother transition between the two forms of the Mass. As I mentioned in my last article, if one actually reads the documents of Vatican II, they would see that nowhere does the Council call for the wholesale abandonment of Latin in the liturgy. In fact, it is just the opposite (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #36). Nowhere does the Council call for Gregorian chant to be abandoned. In fact, it is just the opposite: “Gregorian chant, as proper to the Roman liturgy, should be given pride of place,” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #50). Nowhere does the Council call for individual “tinkering” with the Mass. In fact, it is just the opposite: “Therefore no other person, even if he be a priest, may add, remove, or change anything in the liturgy on his own authority,” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #22). Nowhere does the Council call for, and I know this is a hot button issue with a lot of folks, but nowhere does the Council call for the priest to turn around and face the people rather than face God. To quote then Cardinal Ratzinger on this, “To the ordinary churchgoer, the two most obvious effects of the liturgical reform of the Second Vatican Council seem to be the disappearance of Latin and the turning of the altars towards the people. Those who read the relevant texts will be astonished to learn that neither is in fact found in the decrees of the Council.” Abandoning, almost overnight, the more than thousand year heritage of the Traditional Latin Mass has led to an even greater liturgical ignorance among Catholics than otherwise would have been the case and has resulted in many, such as yourself, having what seems to be a visceral reaction to that heritage and anything associated with it, and it has also left some open wounds – wounds that need to be healed. And, it has led to some liturgical “creativity” which I’m sure the Council Fathers never intended. Next week: Healing the wounds. Back to top

I have been attending a Catholic Church in the diocese in which the priest and congregation sing some of the parts in Latin. I am curious as to why the Catholic Church is bringing this back and in some parishes even saying the mass entirely in Latin. It appears that the Church is going back to traditionalism. How does this (Latin) entice new people to the Catholic faith? If I were looking for a Christian faith to join and visited a parish with Latin, I would take Catholicism off my list. I, myself, have considered looking elsewhere for a new faith because of this. Shouldn’t the church be looking forward and seeking out modern ways to entice newcomers? To many outsiders, the Catholic Mass is already very dry and boring with all of its prayers through Mass, let alone adding in Latin. Please advise and help me understand the Latin importance in this modern age. (Part 4)

You are not the only person that I have seen or heard getting angry when it comes to Latin and to the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM). But, what you need to understand, is that when the Novus Ordo Mass was introduced, and the TLM was abandoned virtually overnight, it created some deep wounds...wounds within the Body of Christ...that needed to be healed. A lot of people felt like they had had their heart ripped out. Many tried to adapt and adjust, but then they were almost immediately faced with a certain amount of "creativity" in the liturgy that only wounded them more deeply. In spite of the words of Vatican II, individual priests began to tinker with the liturgy to make it more in line with their own personal opinions of what the Mass should be and with their own private vision of the "spirit of Vatican II." Some priests would often change the wording of prayers - adding words here, taking them out there - or they would ignore the rubrics and other such liturgical abuses. Such abuses, among other things, led to a schism here and a schism there and to many people simply leaving the Church altogether. The Body of Christ was wounded. There were also many who did not go into schism, but were deeply wounded by these abuses, nonetheless. And, as Scripture tells us, what affects one part of the Body affects all parts of the Body. The liturgy of the Church - any authentic liturgy of the Church - whether in English or in Latin, should not be a source of pain, nor a source of anger and bitterness, for anyone who calls themself a Catholic. That is why Pope Benedict has taken steps to, in essence, reevaluate the liturgical reforms of the 60’s and 70’s in light of the Church’s ancient liturgical tradition. And the first step in this reevaluation is to go back – back to the point where the wounds were inflicted, back to the point of rupture between the old and the new – and try to restore the connection between the two forms of liturgy. This, he hopes, will heal wounds, promote harmony, and create an atmosphere where an authentic renewal of the liturgy may flourish. In a letter to the Bishops that accompanied his Motu Proprio, “Summorum Pontificum” (a document from the Pope making the Traditional Latin Mass more available to all), Pope Benedict said, “I now come to the positive reason which motivated my decision to issue this Motu Proprio…It is a matter of coming to an interior reconciliation in the heart of the Church.” In making the TLM more available, the Pope is helping this reconciliation to occur by allowing each of us to rediscover our liturgical heritage and to participate in this liturgical “treasure,” as he has called it. And it seems our Pope knows his business, because his actions have already led to some healing in the Body of Christ, as we have seen right here in our own diocese. And they have led to discussions that may result in even greater healing in the Body in the future. As I have stated previously, Latin is not necessarily my cup of tea, so I can somewhat understand where you’re coming from. But, instead of reacting with anger and bitterness, we need to be a bit more open-minded and try to understand what the Church is doing and why. And, we need to do our part to help promote the healing, the reconciliation, and the authentic liturgical renewal that our Pope is trying to engender. If that means that we have to come out of our comfort zones a bit, well then, so be it. Just look at the Cross and ask yourself if He would do any less for you. As Archbishop Fulton Sheen used to say, “Jesus came to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.” Back to top

I was raised Catholic, but have been an Evangelical Bible Christian for the last 35 years. I am questioning where I belong and re-thinking Catholicism because of Catholic radio. I went to Mass a few weeks ago, and I can't help but feel like there is no heartfelt participation by the congregation and even the priest. There was very little singing by the people and the sermon from the priest was pretty bland. I almost want to come back to my upbringing, but not sure if I can get past this stumbling block. I have seen and felt the enthusiasm in my bible church and feel like this is something I would have to give up to come back to Catholicism. Can you help me with this? More than anything, I want sincerity in my worship.

My question to you is: Which is more important, the way other people react to the truth, or the truth itself? Are there Catholics who just go through the motions at Mass and who, in general, just go through the motions of being Christian? Absolutely. Are there members of the clergy who don't properly instruct their people and give bland and fairly meaningless homilies? Absolutely. Are there parishes where the singing leaves a whole lot to be desired? Absolutely. But, again, do you allow those who don't appreciate the priceless treasure they have right in front of them to keep you away from that treasure? Would you have allowed the reactions of the twelve apostles on Holy Thursday to keep you away from Christ? After all, one of them betrayed Him, one of them denied Him, and 9 of the other 10 abandoned Him. Would you have said, "Well, if that's how those closest to Him react, then I don't want to have anything to do with Him?" Should the sincerity of worship, or the seeming lack thereof, be the determining factor in what you believe to be true? Mormons worship very sincerely, and they have some incredible singing. Muslims are very sincere in their worship...they stop, wherever they are, five times a day to hit their knees and pray. The trouble is, sincerity has nothing to do with determining truth. People can be very sincere in their worship, and still be very sincerely wrong in their beliefs. Also, you need to consider that Catholics, in general, are not as emotional in their worship service as are Protestants. Why not? Because we don't need to be. Now, that's not to say that we shouldn't have good homilies and more participation in the singing and the prayers and such, but our worship service is not about making us feel good, or putting us on an emotional high, it's about worshipping God. The God Who is physically present in the Eucharist - Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity - in a way that He is not present in any Protestant congregation. And, while it is indeed possible that at any particular parish there is a lack of "heartfelt participation," it is also possible that the participation which on the surface doesn't appear to be heartfelt, is actually much more heartfelt and much more intimate than at other churches...it simply isn't expressed in an outward manner. Catholics have a lot we can learn from our Protestant brothers and sisters - particularly in the areas of fellowshipping, Bible reading, preaching, singing, and so on. However, we have something that no Protestant church has - the fullness of the truth as given to us by Jesus Christ. We have the Eucharist and the other Sacraments. We have the Priesthood, the Pope, the Magisterium, and so much more. So, again, the question you need to consider is whether the way people react to the truth is more important to you than the truth itself. Back to top

A small question originating from your discussion of polygenism. Did you mean to take the position that in rejecting polygenism, our Church at the same time requires believing Catholics to also believe as a matter of dogma in the literal reading of the Bible?

In my discussion of polygenism (the belief in more than one set of original parents for mankind), I said nothing at all about the “literal reading of the Bible.” I simply pointed out what the Church requires its children to believe about that particular topic as quoted from “Humani Generis” and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and the ramifications to Church doctrine of a belief in polygenism. Also, when discussing Church teaching, it is not my “position” or opinion that counts, what counts is what the Church teaches. That is why I quote from papal encyclicals, Church Councils (particularly Vatican Council II) and the Catechism. Regarding, however, the “literal reading of the Bible,” it might surprise you to know that the Church does indeed require Catholics to read the Bible literally: “According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual, the latter being subdivided into the allegorical, moral, and anagogical senses,” (Catechism, #115). The Catechism continues: “The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: ‘All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal,’” (Catechism, #116). In other words, the literal sense of Scripture is the most important sense, because if you don’t get the literal sense of the words right, then you cannot get the spiritual sense of the words right, since the spiritual sense is based on the literal sense. But, what does the Church mean when it speaks of the “literal sense” of Scripture? The literal sense of Scripture is simply the meaning that “the human authors truly wanted to affirm and that God wanted to reveal to us by their words,” (Catechism, #109). And, in order to properly discern the sacred authors’ intentions, “the reader must take into account the conditions of their time and culture, the literary genres in use at that time, and the modes of feeling, speaking, and narrating then current,” (Catechism, #110). So, the Church does indeed insist on a literal reading of the Bible. It does, however, warn against a “literalist” reading of the Bible. What’s the difference between a literal and literalist reading of Scripture? Again, the literal meaning is simply the meaning the author intended to convey. A “literalist” reading of Scripture is, essentially, taking the words on the page at absolute face value. No taking into account literary genre, culture, idioms of speech, the author’s intent, and so on. To give an example of the difference between the two, consider the phrase: It was raining cats and dogs. The literal meaning, the meaning the author intended to convey? It was raining really hard. The literalist meaning, taking the words at absolute face value? Cats and dogs were falling from the sky like rain. The former is very Catholic, the latter is very fundamentalist. So, again: Yes, Catholics are to read the Bible literally (check out paragraphs 105-119 of the Catechism for more on this particular topic). And, yes, according to the Church, the literal sense of the early chapters of Genesis, the meaning the author of Genesis intended to convey, is that all of humanity descended from one original pair of human beings - Adam and Eve. Back to top

In a previous column you stated that "there is nothing in the Bible that is contrary to anything in the Catholic Faith, and there is nothing in the Catholic Faith that is contrary to anything in the Bible." There are numerous behaviors in the Old Testament contrary to the teaching of the Catholic Faith: concubinage, slavery, slaughter of inhabitants of conquered cities, idolatry, and so forth. My feeling simply is that your statements, although well intentioned, are overly broad.

This is a perfect example of what is known as a ”literalist” interpretation. This is the mode of interpretation that a lot of Fundamentalists use when reading Scripture. A literalist interpretation of something is to look at the words on the page and say, “That’s what it says, so that’s what it means,” without taking into any account whatsoever the context of the words or the author’s intended meaning. This is as opposed to a “literal” interpretation of Scripture, which is the mode of interpretation that Catholics should use when reading Scripture. A literal interpretation seeks to interpret something in accord with the author’s intended meaning. To do this we generally have to consider a number of factors: 1) the context within which a particular passage appears; 2) the culture within which the author is writing; 3) the type of writing - historical narrative, apocalyptic writing, poetry, etc.; 4) idioms of speech; and so on (see #109 - #114 of the Catechism). An example of literalist vs. literal would be if I had gone to a concert the night before and I wrote to a friend that there were “a million” people there. When my friend read that, would he take it to mean that there were exactly one million people at the concert (literalist interpretation), or would he take into account that in the English language we often use technically imprecise language to convey information, and interpret my words to simply mean that the concert was really crowded - which was my intended meaning (literal interpretation)? The literal interpretation is the meaning the author intended to convey. The literalist interpretation is: that’s what the words say, so that’s what they mean. Oftentimes the two meanings are exactly the same, but then, as in the example I used, sometimes they are not the same. So, back to the question: of course concubinage, slavery, idolatry, the slaughter of inhabitants of conquered cities, and so on are opposed to Catholic teaching. But, when I said in my previous article that there is “nothing in the Bible that is contrary to anything in the Catholic Faith,” the context was one in which I was talking about how Protestants often try to use the Bible to “prove” this or that Catholic doctrine or dogma to be wrong - saying that the Catholic Faith is unbiblical. In other words, in context, I was referring to the doctrinal teachings of the Bible not being contrary to any of the doctrinal teachings of the Catholic Church. I was not referring to every single practice mentioned in the Bible - murder, rape, lying, adultery, idolatry, and all other manners of sin - as not being contrary to the Catholic Faith. To interpret what I said in such a literalist manner is to do an injustice to my intent. And, if such a misinterpretation can occur when one English-speaking 21st-century American is interpreting another English-speaking 21st-century American, imagine what kind of crazy misinterpretations can occur when someone today brings a literalist, or fundamentalist, mode of interpretation to the reading of Scripture - words written 2000-4000 years ago by Hebrew-speaking writers in the Middle East. It can, and does, lead to a lot of bad interpretations of the Bible Back to top

I heard someone mention something about the “rubrics” of the Mass and I wasn’t exactly sure what they were talking about?

Strictly speaking, the rubrics of the Mass are the instructions in the Missal that tell the priest what he is to do at Mass. In the Missal, the prayers the priest is to recite are written in black, while the instructions (rubrics) for the priest are written in red. This is why they are called “rubrics,” because the word comes from the Latin word “ruber,” which means “red.” I have seen, however, a number of people who use the word in a more general manner to refer to all of the instructions for the Mass that are found in the General Instructions of the Roman Missal (GIRM). In the GIRM there are instructions that are specifically for the ministers, and there are instructions that are specifically for the people. You can generally find the instructions meant for the people in the missalettes that are out in the pews. They are usually italicized. For example, you might see in the missalette the instruction “Sit” for the First Reading or “Stand” for the Alleluia or Gospel Acclamation. These instructions, or “rubrics,” however, don’t just tell us when to stand, sit, or kneel, they also instruct us on other postures we are to assume during Mass. During the Penitential Rite, for example, you will see in the missalette the instruction to “Strike breast” when we say the words, “Through my own fault,” and during the recitation of the Creed, the people are told to “Bow” when we say, “By the power of the Holy Spirit he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.” These instructions, or liturgical norms, from the GIRM will also indicate when it is appropriate to say or not say certain prayers. For example, in the missalette, at the beginning of the Profession of Faith, we are told that the Creed is to be recited by all “On Sundays and solemnities.” At the beginning of the Apostles Creed, the instructions state that it “may be used at Masses with children.” These liturgical norms also tell us which prayers of the priest we are to respond to. Reading in the missalette, at the “Prayer of the Altar and the Gifts,” it says, “If no song is sung, the priest may pray aloud, and all may respond,” and then it gives the people’s response: “Blessed be God forever.” At the “Prayer Over the Gifts,” we are told, “The priest says the prayer over the gifts, and all respond,” and we say, “Amen.” So, again, the rubrics are, specifically, the instructions in the Missal that tell the priest what he is to do at Mass. But, as mentioned, I’ve seen people use the word in a broader sense to refer to all of the instructions for Mass, for the ministers and the people, that we find in the GIRM. But, in addition to the instructions we see written out for us, we need to understand a very important principle in regard to the rubrics, or instructions in the GIRM, and that is this: If the instructions do not say we can do something, then we cannot do it. We speak and act when and how the instructions tell us to speak and act, but in the absence of an instruction saying we can do something, then it is generally assumed we cannot do it. In secular society, the general principle is that if there is no law saying we cannot do something, then we can do it. In Church society, the general principle is that if there is no law saying we can do something, then we cannot do it. These rubrics and instructions are the Church’s liturgical norms which protect our official, communal worship from the whims of the individual, the imposition of idiosyncrasies and material heresy, and ensure that it does not become the private possession of any one person but remains the treasure of the entire Catholic community. Back to top

Not too long ago was the Gospel reading of the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes [Matthew 14:13-21]. We had a visiting priest that day, and in his homily, he said that the real “miracle” of the story was not some miraculous multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, but that Jesus was able to get the people who did have food, to share it with those who did not. Is that what really happened?

There is absolutely no reason to believe that anything other than a miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fishes is what really happened. According to the Church, “The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through His disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of His Eucharist,” (Catechism, #1335). The Church calls the multiplication of the loaves and fishes a miracle. With all due respect, getting people to share with one another, is not a miracle, unless of course one has a very dim view of human nature. Furthermore, there is not one shred of evidence, either from the text itself, or from any early Christian writings, that even hints that what actually happened was Jesus got people to share, or that this story was in any way intended to convey a message of sharing. This story was so important, that it is one of the few that is mentioned in all four Gospels. It makes no sense that the Gospel writers put as much importance on Jesus getting people to share as they did on His Baptism, on the Eucharist, and on the Crucifixion. What has happened in the last several generations, beginning with some Lutheran theologians in Germany in the 19th century, is that the theological disciplines have been infected with a notion that there really is nothing miraculous in the Bible. The “miracles” of the Old Testament are just the explanations of a superstitious people for events they can’t explain and the “miracles” of the New Testament are simply stories told by the Matthean community or the Johannine community or such to help people better accept the message and teaching of Jesus, but they didn’t really happen. The seeds of this notion eventually were planted in the minds of a number of Catholic theologians as well, and this notion grew throughout the 20th century and came to full fruition in the 60's and 70's. That’s when we really start seeing Catholic theologians pushing ideas like the multiplication of the loaves and fishes was really Jesus getting people to share. Or, that Jesus didn’t really walk on water, He was actually walking on a sand bar that apparently no one but He knew about. Or, that Jesus wasn’t really resurrected, He was really buried in a shallow grave and His body was eaten by dogs, that’s why no one could find it. And, unfortunately, there was much more where that came from. A number of years ago I took an Old Testament theology class at a Catholic college and on the first day of class, the professor said: “One of the things I hope to do in this class is to disabuse you of the notion that the Old Testament and New Testament have anything to do with each other.” After an objection from another student, I asked the teacher, “What about the road to Emmaus story?” He said, “What about it?” I said, “Well, in it Jesus points out all the places in the Old Testament that refer to Him.” The professor’s response? “That never happened.” He said that story was simply a literary device used by the Lucan community to convey a particular idea about Jesus. I was stunned, but the rest of the semester was just more of the same. Fortunately, he did not succeed in disabusing me of the notion that the Old and New had nothing to do with each other, which is why I had to settle for a “B” in the class. Such has been the unfortunate state of way too much of Catholic theology in the last 40 years or so, but the good news is that the tide is starting to turn and that notion of there being nothing of the miraculous in Scripture, which was planted back in the 19th century and saw its full flowering in the 70's, seems to be on its last legs. Back to top

I began taking a Catholic Bible Study course a few weeks ago. The teacher has degrees in Divinity and Theology. He says that the Bible cannot be taken “literally.” I understand that, am open to that and believe that; however, I was of the mind that the New Testament was true as written. He used the miracle of the loaves and fishes to challenge us as to whether we thought this “actually” happened or if the five thousand men listening to Jesus preach were moved to share the food that they had been hoarding. I left there, as did others in the group, feeling upset, confused, and a bit sad. We began to question whether the water became wine at Cana and if all other miracles can be dismissed as well. What are your thoughts on this and what should we do at our next class?

First of all, if you paid money for this course, ask for a refund. Secondly, tell your teacher that the official teaching of the Catholic Church, as found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), is that Catholics are to indeed take the Bible literally. CCC #115: "According to an ancient tradition, one can distinguish between two senses of Scripture: the literal and the spiritual…” CCC #116: “The literal sense is the meaning conveyed by the words of Scripture and discovered by exegesis, following the rules of sound interpretation: ‘All other senses of Sacred Scripture are based on the literal.’” Third, say to your teacher that since this is a “Catholic” bible study, you would like for him to give you the official documents of the Catholic Church that teach what he was teaching. He won’t be able to do it because that is not what the Church teaches. There are no magisterial documents that say the miracle of the loaves and fishes was that Jesus got people to share the food they had been hoarding. Fourth, tell him that he obviously is not reading the passage on the loaves and the fishes in context. If the “miracle” was that Jesus got everyone to “share” their hidden food that they had been hoarding, then why would they want to make him king because of that (John 6:11-15)? I can just imagine one of the people present yelling, “Hey, he got us to share our food, let’s make him king!” And then all the other people start shouting, “Yeah! He got us to share, let’s make him king!” Really?! Also, if they were hoarding this food, why does it say that they filled twelve baskets with fragments from the “five barley loaves?” And please ask your teacher to give one historical document as evidence to support his interpretation of events - just one. We have an historical document, the Bible - it says what it says. It would make sense that one would need to rely on some other historical document, which gives a different account of events, in order to reach the conclusion that it didn’t happen the way the Bible relates it. But, your teacher has no such historical document. Nor does he have a document from the official teachings of the Church that says what he’s saying. What might be going on here is that your teacher may be experiencing a loss of faith. That’s at least a possibility. He may not believe Jesus performed any miracles because he may not believe Jesus was indeed God. After all, if Christ is indeed God, how hard is it to believe that He could perform a miracle? My advice to you would be to go back to this class one more time, but only to ask the teacher the things that I have presented here. Ask him to produce official Church documents and teachings that support what he is saying. And do not accept anything he might offer from this or that theologian. Theologians are not the Magisterium of the Church. Ask for an official magisterial document. And, when he cannot produce one - which, again, he will not be able to do - then simply ask him how he can present the Bible study as a “Catholic” Bible study when he is teaching things that are contrary to what the Catholic Church teaches. Vatican II tells us that, “Holy Mother Church has firmly and with absolute constancy maintained and continues to maintain, that the four Gospels just named, whose historicity she unhesitatingly affirms, faithfully hand on what Jesus, the Son of God, while he lived among men, really did and taught for their eternal salvation,” (Dei Verbum, #19). The Gospels hand on what Jesus “really did” while He was here. If the story of the miracle of the loaves and fishes is concocted, then Vatican II got it wrong, and the Church has gotten it wrong for 2000 years and you can throw out all confidence you may have had in the Bible and the Church. After saying these things to your teacher, I would leave and not come back to that particular Bible study. You might want to also let the pastor know, assuming that this occurred at a parish, what this person is teaching. Back to top

What I want to do over the next few weeks, is to draw some parallels between the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Marriage, and to show how the two, become one, in both Sacraments. I hope by doing so that this will possibly broaden your understanding of both of these sacraments - giving you a better understanding of the Eucharist, in marital terms; and a better understanding of marriage, in Eucharistic terms. Then, I want to look at some of the Church’s teachings in certain areas, using these parallels. First, though, I want to establish this parallel between the Sacrament of the Eucharist and the Sacrament of Matrimony. And I want to do that by starting where you should always start - “In the beginning...” The Book of Genesis. Genesis, chapter 2, verses 21-24: “So the Lord God caused a deep sleep to fall upon the man, and while he slept, took one of his ribs and closed up its place with flesh; and the rib which the Lord God had taken from the man He made into a woman and brought her to the man. Then the man said, ‘This at last is bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man.’ Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife and they become one flesh.” (Part 1)

What do we have here? We have woman being made from man, and from the very moment of this creation, we see the Word of God putting the relationship between Adam and Eve, the first man and the first woman, into a marital context. “Therefore a man leaves his father and his mother and cleaves to his wife, and they become one flesh.” God, put Adam into a deep sleep, then, in some mysterious way, created Eve from Adam’s flesh - exactly what God did and how He did it, we don’t know. Was it a rib, or is the rib just the best way the ancient writer could understand and describe what happened? Again, we don’t know for sure. But, we know that Eve was created in some manner from Adam. One flesh became two, but then God joined the two back into one. Through marriage...the two become one. And here in Genesis 2, we are given the correct sequence of events leading up to the two becoming one. There is a 3-step process here: Step 1) The man leaves his father and mother. In other words, he makes a decision to leave the home of his youth and to establish his own household. He has made a commitment. He’s not leaving his father and mother for some trial period of time; or to make a test run. He has made a commitment. Without a commitment, there is no marriage. Step 2) The man cleaves to his wife. The Catechism describes the marriage ceremony in this way: “...the spouses...seal their consent to give themselves to each other through the offering of their own lives,” (Paragraph 1621). The man cleaves to his wife. He gives himself totally and completely to his wife. All that he is and all that he has he gives to her. He gives his very life to her...and she does likewise with her husband. This is what happens during the marriage ceremony. Husband and wife cleave to each other. And, as the Catechism states in paragraph 1623, “...the spouses, as ministers of Christ’s grace, mutually confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony by expressing their consent before the Church.” Again, through mutual consent - and mutual commitment - husband and wife confer upon each other the sacrament of Matrimony. Step 3) And they become one flesh. Husband and wife join together in the marital embrace, and the two become one flesh. Remember how Adam described the woman? As “flesh of my flesh and bone of my bone,” because she was taken from man. What had originally been one flesh - man, was made into two - man and woman, and now it is one again, through the Sacrament of Matrimony. The Sacrament of Matrimony is a process...a process that is extended over a certain length of time. It begins during the marriage ceremony, where husband and wife cleave to one another - they declare their mutual consent and commitment to each other before God and before man - but it is not until the first time husband and wife come together physically, in the marital embrace, that the sacrament is completed or finished. It is not until the first time husband and wife come together physically, in the marital embrace, that the sacrament is said to be “consummated”. It is consummated. The two have become one. Husband and wife have been joined together by the power of God. The physical joining between husband and wife is the sign and the seal of the mystical joining between husband and wife that is done by God. This joining by God is, again, said to be consummated the first time husband and wife join together physically and intimately. And, every time after that, when husband and wife join again in the marital embrace, it is the sign of the mystical joining done by God. Every time husband and wife join again in the marital embrace, they are, essentially, renewing their wedding vows...committing themselves, totally and completely, all over again. They are giving their lives, completely and totally, just as they did on the day of their wedding. Next week: It is consummated... Back to top

In this series of articles, we’re looking at the parallels between Marriage and the Eucharist. (Part 2)

We left off last week talking about how when husband and wife come together in the marital embrace for the first time, the marriage is said to be consummated. The two, have become one. And, every time husband and wife join together physically after that, they are, essentially, renewing their wedding vows...committing themselves, totally and completely, all over again. They are giving their lives, completely and totally, just as they did on the day of their wedding. They are, in a very real sense, re-presenting themselves to one another, and to God. They are, in a very real and mysterious sense, present again at their own wedding. The marital embrace brings husband and wife back to that day when they were joined together by God; and particularly it brings them back to the moment that the joining was consummated. The physical and intimate union of husband and wife is the sign of the sacrament. It should never be looked at it as just a physical union. It should be seen as a renewal of the marital vows...as a total self-giving to one another. Again, the Sacrament of Matrimony is said to be finished, or consummated, the first time husband and wife engage in physical relations...the first time they “know” each other. Let me shift gears here for a moment and take you to the foot of the cross. To the crucifixion of our Lord and Savior. Jesus has just poured Himself out for all of us...for all of mankind. He has given Himself totally, and without reservation...for us. Beginning a few hours earlier, in the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus freely committed Himself to God’s plan for our salvation. He had said to the Father, not My will, but Thine be done. Now, here He is on the cross, and what does He say at the very moment of His death? John 19:30 tells us: “When Jesus had received the vinegar, He said, ‘It is finished;’ and He bowed His head and gave up His Spirit.” In the Douay-Rheims version of the Bible, that passage reads this way: “Jesus therefore, when He had taken the vinegar, said, ‘It is consummated.’” It is consummated. What was consummated? His total giving of Himself was consummated. The total giving of His very life...which had begun several hours earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane...was consummated. And, who was this total giving of self for? He gave Himself up for His bride, the Church. Ephesians 5:31-32, “For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and shall cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one. This is a great mystery, and I mean in reference to Christ and the church.” The language of marriage is used here in reference to Christ and the Church. Step 1) For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother. Jesus left His Heavenly Father to put on the mantle of humanity...he humbled himself to become one of us. Jesus left His earthly mother, Mary, because it was time for Him to establish His own household..the Church. He had made a commitment. A commitment to us for our salvation. That was His whole purpose for being here. He left His Father and mother for us. Step 2) And he shall cleave to his wife. Jesus gave Himself to us fully, without reservation. He cleaved Himself to us in the Garden of Gethsemane when He said to the Father, not my will but thine be done. He cleaved Himself to us when He freely consented to give His body up for scourging and abuse. He cleaved Himself to us as He carried His cross through the streets of Jerusalem. He cleaved Himself to us when He allowed Himself to be nailed to a cross. And, when He had given Himself totally and completely for us, He said, “It is consummated.” Step 3) And the two shall become one. Through His death, Jesus made us one with Himself. Colossians 1:21-22, “And you, who once were estranged...He has now reconciled in His body of flesh by His death, in order to present you holy and blameless and irreproachable before Him.” And we see this same theme again in Ephesians, chapter 5, verses 25-27, “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her, that He might sanctify her...that He might present the church to Himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing....” In both Colossians and Ephesians we see Christ giving Himself up for us, dying on the cross for us, so that we may be “presented” holy and blameless and irreproachable before Him, without spot or wrinkle. And where is it that we are “presented” to Him? Well, where is it that the Bride is presented to the Bridegroom? At a wedding! We will be presented to the Bridegroom in Heaven, at the wedding feast of the Lamb! Revelation 19:7 says, “Let us rejoice and exult and give Him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His bride has made herself ready...And the angel said to me, ‘Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.’” Next week: From the side of Christ... Back to top

Continuing our series on the parallels between the Sacraments of Marriage and the Eucharist, we talked last week about the consummation of the marriage between man and woman and the consummation, on the Cross, of the marriage between Jesus and His Church. We left off by mentioning the Bride being presented spotless and without wrinkle to the Bridegroom – Jesus Christ – at the marriage supper of the Lamb in Heaven. And, again, we see from Ephesians 5, that the Church is the Bride of Christ. Which means that we, as individual members of the Church, are also the bride. We, as members of the Church, are all, in a sense, individually brides of Christ. (Part 3)

Now, a few more parallels between the Sacraments of Marriage and the Eucharist. The bride of Adam came from where? From Adam’s side. The Bible tells us that God put Adam into a deep sleep and while he was sleeping, God took a rib and formed Eve. Where does the bride of Christ, the Church, come from? The Catechism, quoting St. Ambrose, says, “As Eve was formed from the sleeping Adam’s side, so the Church was born from the pierced heart of Christ hanging dead on the cross,” (#766). In other words, as Christ “slept” the sleep of death, His side was pierced, and from His side was created His spouse. From His side poured forth water and blood. The Church Fathers saw in this the waters of baptism and the blood of the Eucharist. It is through the waters of Baptism that we become members of the Body of Christ, of the Church, and it is through the blood of Christ in the Eucharist that we are able to receive Christ’s total giving of Himself. It is through the Eucharist that we receive the very life - the blood - of Christ. It is through the Eucharist that the two become one. Marriage and the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the Body of Christ. And during the Mass, we re-present this Body to the Father. We re-present Christ’s sacrifice...His total self-giving, His being poured out on the cross...we re-present all of that to the Father. Every time we give ourselves to our spouse totally and completely in the marital embrace, we are re-presenting the total giving of self that we made on our wedding day. The Eucharist is a participation in, the re-presentation of, a past event that is made present...the Crucifixion. At the Crucifixion, Christ gave Himself...poured Himself out...totally and without reservation for us. Whenever husband and wife are physically intimate, it is a participation in, the re-presentation of, a past event that is made present...their wedding day. On their wedding day, each spouse gave themselves...poured themselves out...totally and without reservation for each other. When husband and wife “know” each other for the first time after their wedding, God says, through the Church, “It is consummated.” A process of total self-giving, which began several hours earlier with the free consent and commitment of each spouse, is consummated. The two have become one. When Jesus died on the cross, a process of total self-giving, which began several hours earlier in the Garden of Gethsemane, with the free consent and commitment of the spouse...when the self-giving was complete...when all that could be given was given...God said, “It is consummated.” Husband and wife become one...through the marital embrace. How do we become one with Christ? Through the Eucharist. The Eucharist is the ultimate marital embrace. The physical joining between bridegroom and bride is the sign and the seal of the mystical joining between bridegroom and bride that is done by God. The marital embrace brings bridegroom and bride back to that day when they were joined together by God; and particularly it brings them back to the moment that that joining was consummated. Every time the bridegroom and the bride embrace, the bridegroom should give himself completely and totally to the bride...every time the bridegroom and the bride embrace, the bride should be completely open to receiving the bridegroom into her body. In the Eucharist, the Bridegroom gives Himself completely and totally to the bride...we, the bride of Christ, should be completely open to receiving the Bridegroom into our bodies. Receiving the Eucharist is a more personal and more intimate act than anything that occurs between husband and wife. We generally, however, don’t view it that way. As we receive the Bridegroom into our bodies, what are we receiving? We are receiving His love...Scripture tells us that no greater love hath man than this, to die for his friends. We are also receiving His life. In John 6:54, Jesus tells us that whoever, “Eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” The Eucharist is all about giving us life...eternal life. By receiving the Eucharist into our bodies we are receiving God’s own life into ourselves. We are receiving Life itself. Next week: Christ formed within us... Back to top

Marriage and the Eucharist. We ended last week with John 6:54, “He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life.” The Eucharist is all about giving us life...eternal life. By receiving the Eucharist into our bodies we are receiving God’s own life into ourselves. We are receiving Life itself. (Part 4)

Listen to what Paul says in Galatians 4:19, “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you.” We need to have Christ formed within us. Christ, through the Eucharist, is giving us His very life. Christ, through the Eucharist, is planting the seeds of eternal life in our bodies. Seeds that will hopefully grow, aided by the Holy Spirit, until Christ is fully formed within us. Through the Eucharist, through receiving Christ into our bodies, the two have become one. In the marital embrace, the wife receives her husband’s love and his very life within her. And he is planting the seeds of life that could very well grow until a life is fully formed within her. The two, husband and wife, have become one. And the two becoming one is most readily apparent when the marital embrace results in the conception of a new life. The two have become one have become three. It is here, in the life-giving and love-giving act of marital intimacy, that the family of man most closely mirrors the family of God...the Trinity. Can you see how the Sacrament of Marriage is inextricably linked to the Sacrament of the Eucharist? How God’s relationship to us is most clearly mirrored in the relationship of husband and wife? How the Holy Spirit proceeds from the life-giving and love-giving relationship between the Father and the Son, just as a child proceeds from the life-giving and love-giving relationship between husband and wife? In the Eucharist, the Holy Spirit in a sense “overshadows” us and we receive Jesus into our bodies. The Annunciation, was, in some ways, a pre-figuring of the Eucharist. The Holy Spirit overshadowed Mary and the two became one became three. The Bible starts off, in Genesis 2:24, with marriage. All through the Bible, Old Testament and New, the relationship between God and Israel, and then between God and the Church, is described in marital terms. And then, in the Book of Revelation, at the end of the Bible, at the end of time, we have the eternal Wedding Feast of the Lamb...the eternal union between Christ and His Bride, the Church, in the New Jerusalem. Do we approach the Eucharist within a marital framework? Do we see it as the very intimate act that it is? Do we allow ourselves to be completely open to receiving Jesus...to receiving His love...to receiving His life? Do we keep in mind His total self-giving...His being poured out on the cross for us, whenever we receive Christ in the Eucharist? Are WE offering ourselves totally and completely to Him? Are we pouring ourselves out for Him? Are we allowing Him to change our lives? Are we allowing Him to plant the seeds of eternal life within us? Are we allowing Jesus to be formed within us? Or, do we allow the receiving of the Eucharist to become routine? Just one action of many that we participate in at the Mass? Do you mentally tell yourself, “Okay, Father’s holding up the host, we’ll be out of here in 15 minutes.”? Do we approach relations, and particularly our physical relations, with our spouse within a eucharistic framework? Do we realize that whenever we “know” our spouse, that we are re-presenting ourselves fully and totally to him or her? That we are back on our wedding day and are re-presenting ourselves before God? That we are participating in an act of love that gives life, and that this act is a sign of the life-giving love that God gives to us? Do we contemplate these things? Do we raise physical intimacy with our spouse to a sacramental level, instead of a mere physical act? Now, having drawn some of these parallels, let me ask the question: What if Jesus did not give all of Himself to us? What if Jesus held back the life-giving aspect of the Eucharist? In other words, what if we received His body and blood, but Jesus then did something to prevent that Body and Blood from producing life within us? We received the Body and Blood, but it was somehow prevented from forming Jesus within us? I think you may have an idea where I’m going here. The question of contraception. Society says, no big deal. Most Catholics say, no big deal. But, looking at the marital embrace within a eucharistic framework, do you maybe see now why it is such a big deal? When a man and a woman use contraception, then the man is saying to the woman, “I am giving myself to you, but I am not giving myself completely and totally and without reservation. I am holding something back. I do not wish to share the life-giving aspects of this act with you. I do not want the two to become one” Or, the wife is saying, “I do not want to receive all of you with no exceptions. I do not wish to receive you completely and totally and without reservation. I do not wish to receive the life-giving aspects of this act from you. I do not want the two to become one.” Next week: Pro-creative love... Back to top

To continue with our parallels between Marriage and the Eucharist, when we receive the Eucharist, when we receive Christ into our bodies, we are receiving the very life of Christ within us. Galatians 4:19, “My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you.” Christ be formed in you. Through the Eucharist, Jesus is planting the seeds of life - His life - within us. (Part 5)

When a wife receives her husband in the marital embrace, she is receiving his very life within her. He is planting the seeds of life within her. Through contraception, the life-giving aspect of that act is held back. What if Jesus held back the life-giving aspect of the Eucharist from us? What if Jesus decided not to give Himself fully to us? What if Jesus prevented us from receiving life in the Eucharist. What if Jesus prevented us from having His life conceived within us through our reception of the Eucharist? What if Jesus, in a spiritual sense, contracepted? Could anyone ever consider that to be a good thing? And what exactly is it that we are holding back from our spouse through contraception? Is it just one little aspect of who and what we are as human beings? Could you say, “Well, I’m not going to share this one aspect of me with my spouse, but I’m willing to share all the hundreds and hundreds of other aspects of myself with my spouse. In other words, I’m willing to share 99.9%, but just not 100%.” I don’t think so. Listen to this passage from Genesis, chapter 1, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness.” And in Genesis 5 it says, “When Adam had lived a hundred and thirty years, he became the father of a son in his own likeness, after his image.” God created man in His image and likeness. Man participates in this act of creation to produce children in his image and likeness. Scripture tells us that man is doing something God-like in the act of physical generation. The act of creating life, is, in my opinion, where man most closely imitates God and most closely cooperates with God. The act of creating life is where man mirrors God most closely. Think about it. God and man, working together to bring new life into the world! A new body with a new, eternal soul, into this world. Is this just .1% or some other small percent of who we are? Is the aspect of our humanity where we participate in the act of creation with God Himself, is that aspect of our humanity just one aspect among hundreds of others? No! When we contracept, when we do not share ourselves fully and completely and openly and without reserve with our spouse, we are not sharing with our spouse one of the two major aspects of who we are as human beings. We were created to love and to give life. That is what the marriage act is all about...giving love and creating life. To withhold either love or life from our spouse, is to withhold a major aspect of who we are as human beings. God is love. And because He is love, He gives life. His love is procreative...pro-creative. His love gives life. When we separate love from life, as when we do when we use contraception, then our love is no longer like God’s love. It is not pro-creative love. It is anti-creative love. It is selfish love. And when we separate love from life, when our love is no longer pro-creative, but anti-creative, selfish love, we start experiencing serious consequences - not just as individuals, or as married couples, but as a society. Just look all around you at the hell that has been created by the separation of love and life...astronomical divorce rates, abortion, out-of-wedlock births, test tube babies, human cloning, pornography, homosexual marriage, AIDS and other sexually-transmitted diseases, and on and on it goes. When we receive the Eucharist, when we receive Christ into our bodies, we are receiving the very life of Christ within us. Again, He is planting the seeds of life within us. When a wife receives her husband, she is receiving his very life within her. He is planting the seeds of life within her. Again, what if Jesus decided to contracept in a spiritual sense? What if Jesus held back the life-giving aspect of the Eucharist from us? What if Jesus decided not to give Himself fully to us? What if Jesus held back the very aspect of the Eucharist that the Eucharist was designed to convey...Life!? That’s what we do when we contracept. We hold back the life-giving aspect of the marital embrace - the very aspect that the marital embrace was designed, by God, to convey. Can that ever be a good thing? God put the two aspects, love and life, together in the physical union between husband and wife. When we contracept, we are separating what God has put together. We are separating love from life. And doesn’t Scripture say, let no man rend asunder what God has joined together? Next week: Why non-Catholics cannot receive Communion in the Catholic Church... Back to top

(Marriage and the Eucharist, cont’d.) Why are non-Catholics not allowed to receive Communion in the Catholic Church? (Part 6)

It’s because receiving Communion in the Catholic Church, when you are not a member of the Catholic Church, when you have not committed yourself completely and totally to the Church, is like having sex outside of marriage. A lot of folks reason that since sex is a gift from God - after all God gave us our sexual desires - then it can’t be wrong to use that gift and act on those desires. It doesn’t matter if one is married or not. Especially if it’s two consenting adults. Well, we’ve shown that God’s way of doing things involves 3 steps: 1) Commitment, the man shall leave his mother and father, 2) Marriage, he shall cleave to his wife, and then 3) The two shall become one. The physical consummation of the marriage is the sign that there is a lifelong commitment already in place. It is the sign that these two people have given their very lives to each other. It is the sign that God has joined these two people together. Sex outside of marriage is a lie. You are speaking a lie with your body. You are saying I am committed to you for life with your body, when actually no such commitment exists. It is a lie, a very serious lie. You are lying to the person you are committing this act with. And, even if you are “in love”, it is still a lie. Why would you want to engage in a lie with someone you are supposedly in love with? When you put step #3 - the two shall become one - before steps 1 or 2, you are messing with God’s plan for marriage. And whenever you mess with God’s plan, something unpleasant will eventually result. Sex outside of marriage is getting things out of order. There is no lifelong commitment in place, therefore the sign of that commitment, physical intimacy, should not take place. To be sexually active outside of marriage is to be consummating a commitment that does not exist. It is engaging in a lie. Drawing the parallel, a lot of non-Catholics believe that they should have the right to receive the Eucharist in our Church. They even get offended when they are told that they can’t. A lot of Catholics believe it’s no big deal if non-Catholics receive the Eucharist. But allowing non-Catholics to receive the Eucharist is, again, tantamount to approving of sex outside of marriage. If a person is not a Catholic, then that means that they are not fully united to the Church. They have not made a total commitment to the Church. The Eucharist is the sign and source of unity among Christians, and particularly so for Catholic Christians. It is the sign that the two have become one, and that the many have become one. If someone is not a Catholic, even though they may believe what Catholics believe about the Eucharist actually being the Body and Blood of Christ, they cannot receive Communion. They are not fully united to the Church, no lifelong commitment has been made. No commitment...no consummation...no Eucharist! When we receive the Eucharist, we are saying, with our bodies, that we believe what the Catholic Church teaches...in its entirety. We are saying we believe not only what the Church teaches on the Eucharist, but we are also saying that we believe what it teaches on the priesthood, on the Communion of Saints, on the Sacraments, on Mary, on the Mass, and on and on. If someone who is not Catholic receives Communion, then they are saying to us, with their bodies, that they believe all that Catholics believe. That they have made a commitment and they are consummating that commitment. But, they don’t believe as we do! And they haven’t made that commitment! That’s why they’re not Catholic. Therefore, for them to receive the Eucharist, would be a lie. They would be lying with their bodies before God and before man. Just as those who engage in sexual relations outside of marriage are lying with their bodies to each other and to God. So, if anyone ever asks you why Catholics do not allow non-Catholics to receive Communion, you can simply say that it’s because we don’t believe in sex outside of marriage. That is why we do not allow non-Catholics to receive Communion in the Catholic Church...we do not want them to engage in a lie. And that is why we, as Catholics, cannot receive Communion in Protestant churches. We would be saying, with our bodies, that we believe as they believe. But we don’t, so it would be a lie before man and God to receive Communion, or the Lord’s Supper, in a Protestant church. So, again, if anyone ever asks you why non-Catholics cannot receive Communion in the Catholic Church, simply ask them if they are in communion with the Catholic Church. Ask them if they believe all that the Church teaches, on everything, not just on the Eucharist. If they say no, ask them why it is they want to receive Communion in the Church when they are not actually in communion with the Church? Ask them why they want to receive the sign of unity, when there is no unity? Make it clear to them that the act of receiving Communion in our Church is a declaration that they believe as we believe. And, if they don’t believe as we believe, then, should they receive the Eucharist, they are committing a lie with their bodies and it would be an egregious offense against the Church and against God. Tell them it is just like sex outside of marriage. They want the consummation before they’ve made the commitment. Next week: Same-sex “marriage”... Back to top

(Marriage and the Eucharist, cont’d.) Finally, one other area where we can use these parallels between the sacraments of Marriage and the Eucharist to help us form an appropriate response, is this idea of same-sex “marriage”, so-called. A very hot topic these days. (Part 7)

There is not now, never has been, and never will be, such a thing as a same-sex “marriage.” It doesn’t matter how many judges issue how many licenses and how many wedding ceremonies take place - there will never be such a thing as a marriage between two men or two women. God is the author of marriage. He made it. He defined it. He joins the two together. God has defined a marriage as something to unite one man and one woman. Period. One man cannot marry another man and one woman cannot marry another. Why? The two cannot become one. For the two to become one, there has to be a life-giving bridegroom and there has to be a life-receiving bride. Between two men, there is no one to receive the life of the bridegroom. Between two women, there is no bridegroom to give his life to the bride. Consummation is not possible in either situation. A union, as such, between two men, would be as if Jesus wanted to give us His life in the Eucharist, but we had no way of receiving it. It would be as if Jesus died on the Cross, but never instituted the Eucharist. A union, as such, between two women, would be as if we all wanted to receive the life-giving force of Christ in the Eucharist, but there was no life-giving force to receive. It would be as if Jesus instituted the Eucharist, but then never died on the cross for us. There can be no such thing as a same-sex marriage, because there is no such thing as “life-giving” love, love that produces life, in a same-sex union. Two men cannot produce a life between them. Two women cannot produce a life between them. It is a physical impossibility. Therefore, same-sex “marriage” is an impossibility in the eyes of God. St. Paul tells us in Romans, chapter 1, that the desire of a man for another man, or of a woman for another woman, is unnatural. But you don’t have to believe in the Bible, or even in God, in order to understand that St. Paul was correct. All you have to do is look at the body of a man and the body of a woman and you can easily discern that nature has designed a certain complementarity between the bodies of men and women. So, just from a simple observation, we can discern that nature designed a complementarity between the bodies of men and women. We can discern that sex was designed by nature, to 1) be the physical union between a man and a woman, and 2) to perpetuate the survival of the species. Same sex unions go against nature in both regards. A man’s body was designed to join to a woman’s. A woman’s body was designed to receive a man’s. So, same-sex unions are contra nature. They are inherently unnatural. And, if nature does indeed have a creator, then if same-sex unions are contrary to nature, it is safe to say that they are contrary to nature’s creator. This is not about being “mean” to two people who are “in love” and it has nothing to do with “homophobia” or anything of the sort. It actually is an act of charity to oppose what society is trying to impose. If the Catholic Church is correct and homosexual acts are indeed acts of “grave depravity” and they are indeed “intrinsically disordered” (Catechism, #2357), then the most important thing to consider is the salvation of the souls of those committing these acts that are contrary to nature and contrary to nature’s God. It is not mean, or somehow homophobic, or anything else of that nature to desire the good for a person and, particularly, to desire the ultimate good for a person - the salvation of someone’s soul. The best thing a person can do if you know of someone who is struggling with same-sex attraction is to talk to them about God’s love for them...and to give them whatever support you can to help them live a chaste lifestyle. And, it just so happens that the Diocese of Birmingham has recently seen the establishment of a chapter of Courage, which is an apostolate of the Catholic Church that ministers to persons with same-sex attraction (www.couragerc.org). If you would like to find out more about the Courage chapter here in the Diocese of Birmingham, you can call the Courage chaplain at: 256-221-8844. All calls are completely confidential. Marriage and the Eucharist...the two shall become one. I hope this series of articles has helped you to see and understand how intimately and intricately these two sacraments are linked together, and that they have helped you to look at marriage from a eucharistic point of view, and to look at the Eucharist from a marital point of view. Back to top

My brother, who has left the faith, is particularly hung up on Catholic teaching about Mary. He gets really irritated by all of the various titles we give Mary: Queen of Heaven, Mother of God, Co-Redemptrix, Mediatrix, Ark of the New Covenant, and so on. Do you have any suggestions as to what I can say to him about all of this?

This week I’ll speak about Mary as Mediatrix and Co-Redemptrix. In the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), it states the following: “This motherhood of Mary in the order of grace continues uninterruptedly from the consent which she loyally gave at the Annunciation and which she sustained without wavering beneath the cross, until the eternal fulfillment of all the elect. Taken up to heaven she did not lay aside this saving office but by her manifold intercession continues to bring us the gifts of eternal salvation…Therefore the Blessed Virgin is invoked in the Church under the titles of Advocate, Helper, Benefactress, and Mediatrix,” (CCC #969). Mary is called Mediatrix because she continually aids us, her children, through her prayers and intercession. Lest anyone should think, however, that by calling Mary “Mediatrix” we are putting her on an equal par with Jesus, the Mediator, the Catechism specifically addresses that complaint: “Mary’s function as mother of men in no way obscures or diminishes this unique mediation of Christ, but rather shows its power…No creature could ever be counted along with the Incarnate Word and Redeemer, but just as the priesthood of Christ is shared in various ways both by his ministers and the faithful…so also the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a sharing in this one source,” (CCC #970). In other words, Mary cooperates with the unique mediation of Christ between God and man, as do many others. Mary is given the special title of “Mediatrix,” though, because of her unique role in that cooperation with her Son. It was, after all, her, “Yes,” to God that allowed Jesus to become the one Mediator between God and man. And that is the reason she is also referred to by many as Co-Redemptrix. This is the title that I have found most often offends the sensibilities of other Christians, and is most often misunderstood by many Catholics. I had a Catholic caller to my radio program last week (2:00-4:00 PM, Mondays, on 1480 AM in Birmingham), who objected to calling Mary “Co-Redemptrix” because “that puts her on an equal footing with Jesus.” I asked her one simple question: “Does the co-pilot of an airplane have the same standing and authority as the pilot of the plane?” She thought for a second and then said, “No.” The same logic applies to the title of “Co-Redemptrix.” The prefix “co,” means “with.” It does not mean “is equal to.” In a few of Paul’s letters he mentions his “co-workers.” These people do not, however, have equal authority and standing with Paul, rather they are simply working with him. Neither does Mary have the same standing or authority as Jesus. Rather she worked with Him, she cooperated with Him, in a unique way, in His role as Redeemer. Thus the title, Co-Redemptrix – “with” the Redeemer. Mary played a unique role in our redemption. God gave us His Son, through Mary. Salvation…Redemption…came into the world through Mary. That can be said of no one else in the history of mankind. That fact of salvation history is what the title, Co-Redemptrix, reflects. That title in no way declares, or even implies, that Mary is equal to Jesus. Back to top

“I was a little surprised that you decided to make a defense of the Co-Redemptrix Marian title this past week...For one, I think it isn’t theologically correct. Secondly, even if it were, it’s not something the Church should promote. (Part 2)

On the theological correctness issue, the prefix ‘co’ doesn’t necessarily mean subordinate as it is used in your example of a co-pilot. A co-chair usually means two persons acting equally as chairmen of a board or organization. Further, I also disagree that just because Mary cooperated with God to bear a son that it means she plays a unique role in our redemption. Should Judas’ mother be titled as co-betrayer? Or Hitler’s mother as co-mass murderer? Lastly, even if we use your preferred analogy of co-pilot, a co-pilot is fully capable of piloting the plane and landing it if the pilot is incapacitated or otherwise unavailable. Is Mary fully capable of redeeming us if Jesus isn’t available? If your answer is that she is somehow capable of redeeming us, then according to the Council of Trent, I’m afraid you might be anathema. To put the co-pilot argument to bed, Mary requires and received Christ’s redemption, while the co-pilot does not require the pilot to fly the plane. Besides the theological correctness or incorrectness, I also think we as Catholics need to take into consideration whether we should be developing theologies and teachings that don’t contribute to people’s better understanding of Christology.” A: Okay, a few things to note here: 1) I was not defending the use of the title “Co-Redemptrix.” I was merely explaining what it means so that the person who originally wrote in could make a reasonable response to his fallen-away brother on that issue. I do not advocate for the use of the title, but neither do I oppose it. However, the use of the title, as I explained it, is not outside the bounds of Church teaching, so it is indeed theologically correct in that regard. And, if the Church should ever declare it to be dogmatically so, then I’m sure it will have sufficient reason and justification to do so and I would back the Church’s decision 100%, as I would hope all Catholics would. 2) The prefix, “co,” does indeed mean “with,” and the title “Co-Redemptrix,” as used by those who advocate for that title, simply means that Mary cooperated with Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in a unique way to bring about the redemption of mankind. Your disagreement on that point baffles me. Did someone else bear the Christ child? Can it be said of anyone else in human history that they are daughter of the Father, mother of the Son, and Spouse of the Spirit? Was anyone else there at the moment of His birth, the beginning of His ministry, and the moment of His death? Did someone else love Him and care for Him and nurture Him in His childhood? It is a fact that she played a unique role in our redemption. Also, your analogy about Mary and the mothers of Judas and Hitler misses the mark by a good bit. God did not ask Judas’ mom nor Hitler’s mom if they wanted to bear a son who would be known as the “son of perdition” or an “evil monster,” respectively, and would be responsible for the death of God or the death of millions. So, those mothers had no formal cooperation in what their sons did in that respect. So, no, they cannot rightly be called “co-betrayer” or “co-mass murderer.” Mary, however, was different. God saw fit to ask her. God asked for her cooperation in what He was about to do. So, again, she did formally cooperate in the redemption of men in a way no one else ever will. To be continued... Back to top

“I was a little surprised that you decided to make a defense of the Co-Redemptrix Marian title this past week...For one, I think it isn’t theologically correct. Secondly, even if it were, it’s not something the Church should promote. (Part 3)

On the theological correctness issue, the prefix ‘co’ doesn’t necessarily mean subordinate as it is used in your example of a co-pilot. A co-chair usually means two persons acting equally as chairmen of a board or organization...even if we use your preferred analogy of co-pilot, a co-pilot is fully capable of piloting the plane and landing it if the pilot is incapacitated or otherwise unavailable. Is Mary fully capable of redeeming us if Jesus isn’t available?...To put the co-pilot argument to bed, Mary requires and received Christ’s redemption, while the co-pilot does not require the pilot to fly the plane. Besides the theological correctness or incorrectness, I also think we as Catholics need to take into consideration whether we should be developing theologies and teachings that don’t contribute to people’s better understanding of Christology.” A: (Continued from last week.) Regarding “co-pilots” and “co-chairs,” the first observation I would make is that no analogy, particularly an analogy in regard to Jesus and Mary, is perfect. In 1 Corinthians 15, there is an analogy of sorts between Adam and Jesus. Well, the analogy between the first Adam and the last Adam is obviously not a perfect one. After all, the first Adam was not both God and man, and the second Adam never sinned. I could go on, but those two points suffice to make the argument that no analogy is 100% perfect, even if that analogy is found in the pages of Scripture. So, I agree, the co-pilot analogy was not perfect, but it does nevertheless hold in relation to the point being made, just as the analogy in 1 Cor 15 holds for the point it was making. Calling Mary “Co-Mediatrix” in no way implies that Mary is equal to Jesus, just as the co-pilot is not equal to the pilot. That was the point, and the only point, of the analogy. Again, the prefix “co,” in both cases, means “with.” Regarding co-chairs, if two people are both co-chairs, then they are indeed equal. But, if one is the chairman and one is the co-chairman, then they are not equal. Jesus is Redeemer, not Co-Redeemer. Mary is Co-Redemptrix, not Redemptrix.. All of which is to say that your statement about whether Mary is “fully capable of redeeming us if Jesus isn’t available,” is a non-sequitur...it makes no sense in relation to the point being made. No, Mary does not redeem us and yes, she requires Christ’s redemption. But none of that is relevant given the context of the argument that was being made. The fact that the co-pilot can fly the plane if the pilot is not there is basically irrelevant. Now, regarding your argument that the title Co-Mediatrix is inappropriate because we should not be “developing theologies and teachings that don’t contribute to people’s better understanding of Christology,” There are theologians who probably agree with you, but there are also theologians who would strongly disagree with you on that point. I would have to say that the same, or similar, argument was undoubtedly made before the dogmatic declaration on the Immaculate Conception and the dogmatic declaration on the Assumption, and has been made ever since both of those declarations. Yet, the Church saw fit to make those dogmatic declarations regardless of the opposition. I will close by saying that I hope all Catholics will abide by, and vigorously defend, any and all doctrinal or dogmatic teachings of the Church. In this particular instance, since one is currently free to argue either side of the issue, I would simply hope that it be done with charity and with all due respect to the other person’s right to agree or disagree. I will conclude, however, by saying that when we one day see the glory and the honor that God has bestowed upon His perfect daughter in Heaven, we may be a bit ashamed that we did not pay even more attention to her here on Earth. Proper veneration of Mary does not distract from Jesus, but leads us directly to Him. Back to top