We occassionally receive interesting questions on the e-mail. We try our best to respond to them all. The following are a few such examples that may have a more general interest. Both the questions and responses are edited to conserve space.
and much more...
12 January 2003 - The Baptism of our Lord
Question: Greetings and Blessings! Your site is the first apologetics site (Catholic, Protestant, Fundamentalist, Jewish, Muslim, etc...) that has perceived and preached the Faith the way it is requested of us - through dignity, charity, and ultimately, humility.
I have alarmingly felt spiritually challenged recently for many reasons. I came to the Church several years ago - through the example of Mary. But I had read many Muslim tracts concerning Christ's Divinity. Lo and behold, in reluctantly preparing a meditation this week for my small Parish community, The Baptism of the Lord was Staring me right in the Face. Here, with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, my mind has been re-opened to this Mystery of Christ's Divinity and Humanity. I know through patience and perseverance this Lent - and continuous prayer - I will join in His Glory this Easter Vigil as I did 4 years ago... God Bless you and your Ministry.
Reply: Thank you for the encouraging words.
22 December 2002
Question: I have been reading 2 Maccabees. My question is: Can there be salvation without Christ today? At the time of Maccabees there appeared to be the hope that God would save those believed. In today's time, is it still possible to attain salvation without knowing about Christ?
Reply: Thank you for the interesting question. This is a question that I have thought about and read about for many years, yet still do not have a satisfying answer. Perhaps we do not need to know the answer, since this is a question between God and the poor soul. Or maybe we will be the one damned instead for failing to evangelize properly!
Firstly, the saints during the time of Maccabees is not a problem in the Catholic understanding of salvation. Like Abraham and Moses, they were saved by Christ in anticipation. Since God did not fully reveal Himself yet in His Son, the Eternal Word made flesh, these saints would not have been aware of Jesus in the worldly sense. The main problem rests with people today.
Perhaps we must evangelize as though the knowledge of Christ is necessary for a soul's salvation. According to one story that I heard, some reporter asked Pope John Paul II a similar question during a dinner. After placing down his spoon, he stated that a person ignorant of Christ could be saved; however, the Catholic bishop of that diocese would not be saved. I believe some of that responsibility is on our shoulders too.
I do not believe that God could be so unmerciful that He would damn someone who was totally ignorant of Christ, even today. However, with modern technology and communication, there are extremely few people that can claim to be truly ignorant of Christ. Today people are either for, against or indifferent to Christ. Indifference to Christ may be worse than being against Christ. Evangelation is our responsibility too..."Go and preach all nations..." but an evangelation filled with love and true humility.
12 December 2002
Question: An agnostic/atheist friend occassionally accuses me of adding to world over-population due to my large family and refusal to use contraception. I'm not sure what the best way to respond is. Can you offer any advice? Thanks very much in advance,
Reply: This is an old accusation - about forty years old. Since I have five children, I am occasionally accused of it too. However, in the USA and Europe, population or at least the birth rate is actually starting to decrease. At any rate in the USA, overpopulation is a moot point. In Nebraska, there is concern about under population in certain rural communities.
I usually ask such folks: "Who is going to take care of you during your retirement?" They may have lots of money in their retirement plans, but let's get real. Their wealth is usually just bits in some computer. Now my children will be in the labor force that will support them. Once labor becomes scarce due to a lack of future workers, the cost of labor will greatly increase. This would simply drawf their retirement savings. Money by itself is worthless without labor.
Our recent (in the last century) increase in world population is not due to large families, but due mainly to longer life expectancies. More people are simply living longer, thanks to improved public hygene and medicine. Nothing wrong about that! A case in point is China's population. In the 1960s, it was 0.8 billion; now it is over 1.3 billion people - a 63% increase. In this time period, China had the "one-child policy" that was strictly enforced, but it also had a major improvement in public hygene. As a comparison, the USA population rose from 200 million in the 1960s to 250 million now - a 25% increase over forty years. In the USA, public hygene improvements occurred decades before the 1960s. Also these statistics include immigration. Please verify these statistics for yourself. Finally China has now a "women" shortage, thanks to the "one-child" policy.
30 June 2002
Question: Hello, I have been lately discussing with my girlfriend on whether I should convert to a Bible church. I am on the fence whether I should go to that church or should I remain Catholic. I was wondering does it matter if I worship God/Jesus in another church other than the Catholic church. Does this ensure my condemnation? Before you answer this please look at the issues I have in conflict with both churches...
...I do have some problems with the Catholic church that need to be answered. First of all, the saints that the Catholic church have promoted. How does someone prove to be a saint and why does the Pope have the authority to decide who will be a saint or not? For example, Padre Pio has been promoted to sainthood by our Pope. Many people even in the Catholic Church thought he was trying to hoodwink everybody when his hands and feet were crucified and were continually leaking blood. Also with the promotion of saints does this interfere with who we should be praying to? My Grandma (devout Catholic) would pray to St. Peter to ensure a safe trip every time she drove. Doesn't it say in the Bible that we should pray to holy Trinity and only to the holy Trinity.
Also how is it that the Pope is infallible. I thought the only human that is infallible is Jesus. How can the Pope be infallible, when in the past some Pope extorted their power over other governments? One more question. Now I have looked at the Bible and it states that we may personal pray to God for the forgiveness of sins rather than go to a priest to do it. With some priests doing indecent acts of adultery, homosexuality and child molestation how can I believe that he has authority over me when it comes to forgiveness. This proves that priest sin too. Why do I have to repent my sins to a person that sins himself? Why can't I pray to the Father personally for forgiveness. Please it would be much appreciated if you would write back promptly. I am taking this decision very seriously and I need to try to resolve it.
Reply: Thank you for the message. I am not a salesman for the Catholic Church nor do I want to be. But I will address a few of your claims against the Church in slightly different order.
All priests are sinners like the rest of us. St. Peter in the Bible confessed to Jesus that he was a sinner, yet Jesus still commissioned him as a fisher of men. "When Simon Peter saw this, he fell at the knees of Jesus and said, 'Depart from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man.'... Jesus said to Simon, "Do not be afraid; from now on you will be catching men." [Luke 5:8,10] A priest does not need to be sinless in order to forgive our sins in the Sacrament of Confession. The priest is not the source of the gift of forgiveness, so the priest needs not to be sinless. Jesus is the source of this gift and He is sinless. Nevertheless, since Jesus is no longer bodily on earth, He commissioned His disciples to forgive our sins. "The disciples rejoiced when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, 'Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.' And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.'" [John 20:20-23] The priest can forgive our sins in the Sacrament through the power of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit can work through them despite their sinfulness. Now Jesus only commissioned His disciples and not everyone to forgive sins. We cannot forgive each other's sins, as some "Bible-based..." churches claim. If Jesus intended that, He would have said this to the crowd and not just to His disciples in private. Even though I did not find it in the Bible, I have no doubt that God will forgive some of our sins, if we ask Him directly. But will He forgive any or all sins? What about sins against the Holy Spirit (Luke 12:10)? One example of a sin against the Holy Spirit is claiming that such-and-such a sin is really not a sin. If you do not believe that certain actions are a sin, then will you confess them to God? At least the priest can tweak your conscience. If we can ask God directly for forgiveness of any sin, then why did Jesus commission His disciples to forgive sin?
The recent scandal is a shame; however, in America only 0.7% of Catholic priests are/were accused or found guilty of sexual misconduct (300 case of misconduct over 40 years / 45,500 priests total in USA). The percentage is higher amount Evangelical pastors. The real problem is not priests, but irresponsible bishops who have followed a policy of "looking the other way."
It is not sinful or wrong to pray to saints in heaven. Now it is a grave sin to worship a saint or pray to a saint as a god. That would break the First Commandment. However, not all prayer is worship. In some prayers, we ask for help or something, we need, e.g. "Lord, please help me calm my temper." In some prayers, we ask for the well-being of another person - intercessory prayer. In some prayers, we give thanks - prayers of thanksgiving. These type of prayers are not necessarily worship. With intercessory prayer, we may ask one of our friends to pray for us - for example, in the case of illness. The Bible encourages us to pray for each other: "Brothers, pray for us..." [1 Thess 5:25]; "First of all, then, I ask that supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone, for kings and for all in authority, that we may lead a quiet and tranquil life in all devotion and dignity. This is good and pleasing to God our savior" [1 Tim 2:1-3] Praying for others does not end with death. We can ask the saints in heaven for help. This is not "conjuring up the dead" or worshipping the saints as gods. The saints in heaven rejoice for every repentant sinner: "I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance." [Luke 15:7 ]; "... pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful." [James 5:16] The saints in heaven are God's good friends, and their prayers are very powerful. The Book of Revelation shows this: "When he took it, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb. Each of the elders held a harp and gold bowls filled with incense, which are the prayers of the holy ones." [Rev 5:8]; "The smoke of the incense along with the prayers of the holy ones went up before God from the hand of the angel." [Rev 8:4] We do not pray to the saint in heaven as gods, but we pray with the saints to God. As a minor point, the Bible never uses the title "Trinity", so technically the Bible does not restrict us to pray only to the Holy Trinity.
St. Peter, the first pope, was a sinful man who committed the worst sin - the public denial of Christ - apostasy. Yet Jesus still commissioned him as the leader of His Church: "And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." Jesus Christ is the invisible head of the Church (Jesus ascended into heaven over 2000 years ago.); whereas, the pope is the visible head of the Church, who is commissioned by Christ. [Matt 16:18-19]
The pope is infallible in a similar sense to the Prophets of the Old Testament. The Prophets were only men but were commission by God through the Spirit. As a result, what they preached was infallible. Infallibility was the test of a true prophet of God. False prophets were fallible. Now the pope is not exactly like the Prophets. The Prophets were the beginning of God's Revelation which culminated in Jesus Christ, the Word made flesh. The pope is infallible, like the Prophets of Old, but the pope does not proclaim "new" revelations. The pope only safeguards the Revelation that has already been given to us through Jesus. As time goes on, we may have new understandings of the Revelation given by Christ. That is called the "development" of doctrine. But the pope is infallible in preserving the doctrine's faithfulness to the original Revelation. Even though the pope is infalliable, he still needs to do his "homework." A lot of work and investigations are devoted in the canonization process of saints.
So what, if the popes dominated a few governments. There is nothing sacred about governments. During the Middle Ages, the so-called Dark Ages, the papacy was the only glimmer of civilization. It was either the papacy or chaos. For example, after Constantine left Rome leaving it in chaos, Pope Leo had to take control in order to restore order and peace. The main reason that Protestants and secular humanists fear the papacy in controlling government is that they themselves want to dominate the government and public policies, e.g. The Moral Majority (1980s) and the ACLU. The Reign of Terror (France, 1789), Communism and Nazism are a few examples when secular humanists have dominated governments.
Finally, concerning St. Padre Pio, he was accused of hoodwinking the Church. But many accusations do not add up to a single guilty. Padre Pio was accused of many evil things during his life. The Church thoroughly investigated him, while he was alive, and found no evidence against him. In one case, a bottle of Sulfuric Acid was found under his bed. He was accused of using it to make his stigmata. Later another monk, who was jealous of him, confessed in planting the bottle under his bed. Even Jesus Christ was accused of being a drunkard, a glutton and a partner of Satan: "The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, 'Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.'" [Luke 7:34 ] Saints that are canonized by the Church undergo a thorough investigation. Some of these investigations may span over decades and even a century of years. I do not have the process memorized, but I could get a reference for you on the details.
If you are shopping for a church that fits your personal taste, then I highly recommend a "Bible-based..." church. There is a "Bible-based on personal interpretation" church for every taste and opinion. If not, then someone will eventually start a new one that does. The Yellow-Pages is a witness to that fact. But I do not believe that Jesus Christ died on the Cross, so as to appeal to our every taste and opinion. Jesus did died to save us sinners. As St. Paul warned: "...so that we may no longer be infants, tossed by waves and swept along by every wind of teaching arising from human trickery, from their cunning in the interests of deceitful scheming. Rather, living the truth in love, we should grow in every way into him who is the head, Christ..." [Eph 4:14-15]
20 June 2002
Question: Hi-I just came across your site and loved the articles. I am a believer and soon-to-be Catholic, but I have a question. I came up with the following which maybe you can help me understand: God knows what you will do before you do it. God knows everyone before they exist. God knows what you will do before you exist. Everyone chooses their own path, God just knows what you will choose. But why create the people that would sin in the first place? This implies some people are born to be tormented for eternity and some are created for heaven. But God loves everyone? So, why let some self-torment? Thanks.
Reply: That is a very good question that has tormented Christians for many centuries. Your question has caused some Christians to reject the idea of Hell, at least an eternal Hell. But without Hell, there would be no need for us to be saved. Without salvation, there would be no need for a Savior. As the line in the Exultet goes: "O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great of a Redeemer."
It is the question of free will and a loving God. Even though God could love us, we could not truly love God in return without free will. That is the "dangerous" part of love, the other person, whom we attempt to reach out to, may totally reject us. The same holds true for God. If there were no possibility of us to totally reject God (i.e. choose eternal Hell), then we could not love God. My computer will never love me, since it has no free will. Finally if we could never love God, then God's love would not be perfect. Love is a "two-way" street.
This is independent of God's knowledge. God could have created only people whom He foreknew would not reject Him. But this would be in a sense rather deceptive and dishonest on His part. God would be surrounding Himself with "Yes-men." God's love to us would not be true. It is easy to love those who agree with you. That is my knee-jerk response.
The problem of suffering and theodicy are problems that we all must meditate upon. They depend upon our understanding of love and of God, who is also Holy. If you ever come across an answer, please let us know!
25 June 2002
More Information: Hi-Thanks for the response! I did come up with an answer, and I think it has to do with Relativity. Time is a function of space, as Einstein demonstrated to us. Without space, there is no time. God is outside of time, since He made space, and is the Eternal. Therefore, the whole question, did God have (pre)knowledge of whom would go to Hell is actually illogical, since the (pre) has to do with linear time, which doesn't exist, except from our perspective. Of course, I wonder, is that answer limiting God? Saying that He couldn't see the future seems limiting at first, but since He lives in an eternal "Now," then there is no (pre). He can see the future only in terms of there being a future, ie, inside our universe, which He can certainly predict, but only AFTER creating us. :)Does that make sense to you? Thanks again.
Second Reply: Without invoking Relativity, Boethuis in his book, CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY, took the approach of God being in the "eternal now" in solving the evil vs. God's knowledge problem. I was thinking of refering you to this book, but that would have taken the fun out of it.
2 April 2002
Question: An atheist is continually trying to tell me not to be Catholic. He doesn't understand why I can be so narrow-minded and believe that the Catholic faith is a means of the fullness of the truth. He continually tries to tell me that God doesn't exist. That life is random. And that, according to philosophy he doesn't know if I exist. He has asked me to prove that Zeus doesn't exist. I'm not sure how to do this. I guess this is where you come in... He doesn't think that these are "good excuses" for a God. In trying to be a good Christian, I am trying to show charity towards him, but the more he talks about this issue the more attacked I feel as a Catholic. He assumes a lot of things in the Catholic church, and he doesn't research his assumptions, so then when I go to clarify what I believe, he disagrees. I often get frustrated with him. I often try not to get discouraged because I know that's what the devil wants me to do. Instead, I pray for him. I guess I feel that I can't answer his questions and I don't want him to not believe in God because of my ignorance. I would appreciate any help. Thank you and God Bless!
Reply: Thank you for the e-mail. Perhaps a few of his silly sophisms (mind games) could be examined more closely. First, if his philiosophy cannot even prove that you exist, then your friend must be insane for talking to an hallucination. Second, if life is a random occurrence, then life is an accident and does not have a purpose or destiny. Therefore, war would never be evil. War would be simply the elimination of accidents. War would not interfere with anyones destiny, since there would be no true destiny - Just one random event among many other random events. As one prominent evolutionist insists, we live in a world of "blind physical forces and genetics replication,...some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice." Third, you do not need to prove that Zeus exists or not. I do not worship Zeus; however, I do not need to disprove Zeus. Zeus never claimed to save us from our sins and death, so I am not interested in Zeus. There are few evangelists for Zeus today. If Zeus exists, he better get busy! The burden of proof is on your friend. If Zeus exists, then your friend has a big problem - his assumption is wrong. Finally if your friend were truly "open-minded", he would accept you as you are - a Catholic! Being open-minded is not necessarily a virtue, though. Gullible people are open-minded.
As you have already stated in your message, the above approach may be useless. Your friend appears not to want your or anyones answers. Nihilism is much safer and more comfortable for your friend. Perhaps the best thing you can do for your friend is to pray for him. A closed-heart is far worse than a closed-mind.
24 February 2002
Question: Well let me ask you a follow up question: how do we know that the Gnostic canon, Aryan canon, Marcion canon, Muratorian canon among other dozen of canons were the right one or at least one of them? These people also claim that they are inspired and believe (by act of faith) that their canon is the right one just like Christians. How do you separate the Christian canon from the rest?
Reply: As I stated in my last response, the autheniticity of our Bible canon cannot be easily proven by reason. We simply must have faith or put our trust in the teaching authority of the Catholic Church. As St. Augustine said: "I would not have believed the Gospel had not the authority of the Church moved me." There are arguments based on historical tradition, theological consistency, popularity and recognition by important people in the past, like St. Augustine. But in my opinion, all these arguments suffer from weaknesses. For examples, St. Jerome and St. Augustine, both highly respected authorities, did not agree on which books belong in the Old Testement. Also someone can cite Matt. 7:13-14 against the "popularity" argument.
20 Feb 2002
Question: How does Jesus' being the final sacrifice still require us to pay for our sins in Purgatory? Is Jesus not enough? Thank you.
Reply: Do you still sin or are you sinless? (I'm not getting personal; Simply ask yourself.) If you still sin, like the rest of us, then "Is Jesus not enough?" If you claim to be sinless, please read 1 John 1:8.
Also, are you still tempted to sin? If so, "Is Jesus not enough?"
Jesus' Sacrifice on the Cross covers our guilt, i.e. we can be forgiven for our sins. But we still have an attachment to sin. There are some sins that still attract us; even though, we may have been forgiven. We have to work hard each day to overcome our attachment to our "favorite" sins, in order to avoid them again. This is not the same as earning our way to Heaven, because our forgiveness is a gift from God. Temptation, which is not a sin, works off our attachment. We may never commit a particular sin again, but due to an attachment, temptation may torment us for the rest of our life. Without these attachments, temptation would be powerless over us. Purgatory is another gift from God that finally helps us overcome our attachment to sin, so we can better enjoy Christ's friendship in Heaven.
Also sin has bad consequences. First it spurns the friendship of God. Second it harms our neighbor and nature. There is nothing we can do to repair the friendship of God. Only Jesus can do that. But God still expects us to repair the harm done to neighbor or nature. As Jesus said: "...in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers (torturers), till he should pay all his debt. So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." [Matt 18:34-35] As an example, pretend that someone got mad at his neighbor and threw a rock through his window. Did he sin? Yes. Later he recognized his sin and prayed to Jesus for forgiveness. Does Jesus' Sacrifice on the Cross repair the window? No. Is he obliged to fix the window? Yes, God commands us to love our neighbor. In similar fashion, Purgatory is an opportunity to finally fix the mess caused by our sins. Even though Purgatory does not directly fix windows, it does help fulfill the love of neighbor. The fire of God's love burns away all the mess that prevents us from being holy and enjoying Heaven.
As St. Peter wrote in 1 Peter 1:6-7, our Faith, more precious than Gold, needs to be tested by fire. Trials and suffering can purify our Faith. The main objection to Purgatory is not that such a place or state exists, but rather are trials and suffering necessary since Jesus' suffering is enough? Of course, Jesus' Sacrifice on the Cross is enough, but God also allows us to suffer so that our Faith will be strengthened, and we are made more capable of loving (Rom 8:17; Col. 1:24). It is common experience that people are more willing to help even strangers during times of crisis. Oddly enough, suffering is part of the dignity of being human. Jesus suffered also as an example for us (1 Peter 2:21).
16 Feburary 2002
Question: I have two questions: 1)How can we prove that the Councils of Nicea, Laodecia, Rome, Hippo and Carthage picked the right New Testament Books. 2) Non-Catholics say that if they accept Christ as their personal savior, they are guaranted to go to heaven even if they committed sin afterwards. Can you give me some verses in the Bible that will show that if you commit serious sin after being "born again", you could miss out on heaven.
Reply: Thank you for the two excellent questions. 1) We cannot prove that the Councils of Hippo... picked the right New Testament (NT) Books. This is an act of faith. Fortunately almost all Christians (Protestants, Orthodox & Catholics) accept the NT Books, listed by the above Councils, as divinely inspired. This fact indirectly supports the Councils discernment. Contraversy only occurs over several Books in the Old Testament. 2) St. Paul preached to both believers and nonbelievers. However, he wrote his Epistles for believing Christians. He did not write to athetists or agnostics or pagans. As proof read the openning phrases of 1 Cor.: "To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those called on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:"[1 Cor. 1:2] Yet St. Paul clearly writes later: "But you yourselves wrong and defraud, and that even your own brethern. Do you not know that the unrigtheous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers... nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God." [1 Cor. 6:8-10] Through the grace of God there is hope though: "And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ...You are not your own; you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body." [1 Cor. 6:11,19-20] Elsewhere he writes: "Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient. So do not be associated with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light, for light produces every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth. Try to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Take no part in the fruitless works of darkness; rather expose them..." [Eph. 5:5-11] Also St. Paul, the ideal Christian, writes using "we": "For if we sin deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a fearful prospect of judgment and a fury of fire..." [Heb 10:26; also see 2 Cor. 5:10] Even with that, St. Paul always remains hopeful in the mercy and forgiveness of God, provided we repent.
26 November 2001
Question:...I am a convert to Catholicism...I have a question regarding the Catholic Christian's knowledge of whether or not s/he is in the state of grace. I understand that on an experiential/existential level we cannot be certain of the presence of sanctifying grace in our souls, yet (and this is my question), can we be certain of our being in the state of grace on a faith level?... If one looks at the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification, one finds a statement regarding assurance of salvation ...Does the Catholic-Lutheran agreement mean that Catholics can now also speak of assurance of salvation on faith-level? Since both sides now agree that "faith is the assurance of salvation."...Is it simply a matter of confusion about terminology? What are Catholics to make of the Catholic-Lutheran agreement that "faith is the assurance of salvation?"...
Reply:Thank you for the important question. Yes, as Catholics, we can have an assurance of salvation at this moment, knowing that we have repented and confessed all of our mortal sins in the Sacrament of Penance and have not committed new sins. However, we do not have the assurance of salvation in the sense of "once saved, always saved." We can later fall back into mortal sin and lose our salvation. Salvation in not irrevocable. Finally we are not saved simply because we "feel like" (i.e. experiential/existential level) we are saved.
As I understand the problems with the Catholic-Lutheran Joint Declaration, we agree in words but we may have different understanding of those words, especially "faith", and how those words are applied. Catholics can say "faith is the assurance of salvation" as long as we have the fuller understanding of faith as presented in the Bible. St. Paul recognized "faith working through love" [Gal. 5:6] and the "obedience of faith" [Roman 1:5], i.e. obedience to God's Commandments is necessary for our personal salvation and our personal faith. We also have faith that God does not lie or deceive or "change His mind." Some Christians may consider faith as only an intellectual assent. Others may understand faith as only a trust or belief in God's goodness and mercy. Yes, God is good but if I reject God through mortal sin, then I choose not to be saved. Catholics should have a fuller understanding of faith that also includes obedience to God's Commandments. Sin is a break in faith. [Numbers 5:6-7] In another way, we may speak of "faith", "hope" and "love" separately, but that "faith" which is the assurance of salvation can only exist along with hope and love. Finally, I do not imply that some authors of the Declaration have a narrow understanding of faith. I do not know the authors. I am only saying that Catholics can agree that "faith is the assurance of salvation", if they correctly understand faith. As a final point, this faith is a grace from God.
24 November 2001
Incoming Note: The recently published Leaflet printed below has been widely circulated around NZ churches and the public, and is passed on to you for your information. No reply is necessary.
(Attached was a venemous leaflet entitled "SEX and the Roman Catholic Clergy" and claims to be produced by the "NZ Protestant League." It crudely exposes the sex scandals that happened in the Catholic Church both today and long ago. According to it, priests during the Middle Ages "were spending their nights in bed with four or five women..." (sounds a little exaggerated). It also reminds us of the law suits against the Church today in the USA due to sex scandals of the clergy. As a result, Pope John Paul's Splendor of Truth, which "soundly condemns promiscuity", "has a hollow sound." It further claims that these scandals are caused by priestly celibacy and the fact that the Catholic Church is not really Christian. The tract encourages Catholics to leave the Church and join a "real" Christian church. Yada, yada, yada.)
Reply: Thank you for the leaflet. Even though obviously exaggerated and one-sided, Catholics cannot deny these shameful scandals. We must always be vigilant against such sins. Even among the Twelve Apostles, hand picked by Jesus, there was Judas Iscariot. These scandals should not be an excuse to sin but should be a call to personal repentance and holiness. We need to pray and fast for all priests, especially those who are weak. We also need to pray for those whom priests have hurt.
But has the other Christian churches performed better in their struggle against sin, especially without "celibacy"? I seriously doubt it. Late in his life after the Protestant movement was well established, Martin Luther said during a sermon: "We experience it daily that the people are seven times worse today than ever before under the Papacy; they are more avaricious, more unchaste, more envious, more intemperate, more dishonest..." [John Laux, CHURCH HISTORY, p.431] Today in the USA, Protestant churches are also being sued for the sex scandals of their clergy, but their clergy can marry. According to Philip Jenkins, a Penn State historian, it appears that while 0.2 to 1.7 percent of Catholic clergy have been guilty of pedophilia (child molesting), 10 percent of Protestant ministers have been found guilty of sexual misconduct, and 2 to 3 percent were pedophiles (Catalyst, May 1996). Even the Jehova Witnesses are having problems according to a recent news article, entitled "Witness Leaders Accused of Shielding Molesters" , published in the magazine "Christianity Today" (5 March 2001). The article reports on how other churches handle their cases. Several years ago in the USA, famous television Evangelists were caught in sex and money scandals. Today and locally, an Elder at a Protestant church openly practices abortions. The real scandal is that many Protestants think this is OK. Perhaps we are all too human and need Jesus Christ to save us all from our sins. It appears that the authors of the leaflet are throwing stones inside their glass houses.
8 October 2001
Question: What do you think are the main conflicts between faith and reason?
Reply: In my opinion, the major conflict between faith and reason is human arrogance. Faith and reason are simply two modes that humans have in obtaining knowledge. In faith, we accept knowledge through trust. In reason, we accept knowledge through personal sense experience or logical argument. As a scientist, I must put faith in the results of my fellow scientists. I cannot repeat every experiment, published in the literature, in order to personally convince myself. That would simply be a waste of time. Also knowledge concerning the future is not always accessible by reason alone. Faith is needed to cope better with the future.
On the other side of the coin with respect to religion, reason can be useful in explaining our faith to other people as St. Peter wrote in his Epistle: "...give a reason for the hope within you..." Reason can also help keep faith from collapsing into superstition. However, there are aspects of God, e.g. the Trinity, which are too sublime to be accessible by reason alone. Even though I believe that the existence of God can be proven by reason alone, the proofs are so abstract and the definitions of God are so impersonal that they are not satisfying to the contemporary human mind.
Faith and reason are different but complementary. They are meant to go together like "a hand in a glove." Yes, there are people on both sides who try to pit faith against reason, such as "religion vs. science". However, I believe that this is due mainly to ignorance and arrogance.
29 September 2001
Question: Hello, I am a Catholic in Lincoln and have two questions: 1)I do not understand why women cannot become Catholic priests and I cannot find any prohibition in the Bible. 2)Why can't priests be married, as a general rule. I know some converts are married.
Reply: Thank you for the questions. I do not have satisfying answers to them. To a certain degree, both restrictions, especially "celibate priests", are disciplines of the Church. These are similar to fasting one hour before receiving the Eucharist or fasting on Ash Wednesday or abstaining from meat on Lenten Fridays. The issue of women priests also involves the question of sacramental validity, which I do not fully understand. Before 1000 A.D., married priests were not uncommon in the Church. Concerning the problem of women priests, there is a good article written by Joyce Little; however, I have not read it yet.
One answer that I can give to both is that the Church and Christianity need not embrace the modern attitudes of egalitarianism. According to these attitudes of egalitarianism, we are all equal. We really do not have an intrinsic dignity or self-worth, but are simply all equal. Crudely put: "You are no better than I!" We may have apparent differences, such as different color eyes, hair or skin, but those differences are not significant. Therefore, since we are all substantially the same, we can all function the same. Equality substitutes for intrinsic dignity. Personal dignity arises from our personal accomplishments, e.g. academic degrees, annual salaries, job title or whatever. According to Christianity, we are all children of God. We are all created in the image of God. Because of this, we all have an intrinsic dignity. But God also created us differently with differing functions and roles. God has created some of us radically different. But this radical difference is not a problem, since we were still created in the image of God. Male and female are sexually and physiologically different. This difference is significant and physical, e.g. reproductive roles, hormones and the likes. These differences do affect our functions and roles in life. But these differences in roles do not affect our intrinsic dignity since we are still children of God. Christians do believe in equality of dignity because we believe that all human persons are created in the image and likeness of God, no matter how different we are, e.g. male vs. female, born vs. unborn, rich vs. poor, healthy vs. sick... Our personal dignity does not come solely from our own accomplishments but from God.
Perhaps a more direct response to your questions is that the priest is an icon of Christ. The Catholic understanding of reality includes both the natural and supernatural; whereas, a materialist assumes that reality is only natural. Our senses can only grasp the natural; however, our faith draws us to the supernatural. As aids, the Catholic faith offers "windows" to the supernatural. The sacraments are examples of such windows in that they are outward natural signs that confer inward supernatural graces. Icons are another kind of "windows." Icons are more than symbols. (I am also not talking about small computer pictures.) Now Christ is the husband of the Church (2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:21-33). This is similar to the Old Testament (OT) type where God the Father is the faithful husband of Zion (Is. 54:1-10). Jerusalem of the OT is seen as "Zion"; whereas, the Church in the NT is seen as the "New Zion" of God (Gal. 4:24-31; Heb. 12:22; Rom. 9:33). (The Church is more than a social club.) Since the priest is an icon of Christ, he is also seen on the icon level as a husband of the Church. The married priesthood on the icon level would be seen as polygamy. The women priesthood on the icon level would be seen as same-sex unions (1 Cor. 6:9; 1 Tim. 1:10).
14 August 2001
Question: The Evangelical, that my wife is dialoging with, has now taken to the historical attack. She states that Martin Luther broke with the Chruch because the Pope was selling indulgences. Was it the Pope or wayward bishops who were selling indulgences at the time?
Reply: According to Fr. John Laux (CHURCH HISTORY, 1945, Tan Books, 1989, p.421), Pope Julius II proclaimed a Plenary Indulgence that all could gain who confessed their sins, received Holy Communion and contributed according to their means toward the construction of St. Peter's Basilica. This contribution was considered a donation. Donations to the poor (i.e. almsgiving) or for the glory of God (i.e. building beautiful churches) are acts of charity. Sales are not. In Germany, the Dominican John Tetzel preached the contribution as a sale - buying souls out of Purgatory. It appears that Tetzel was clearly guilty of selling Indulgence. Tetzel was guilty of simony. The Pope was less so, since he intented it as a donation. However, even if the Pope were also guilty of selling Indulgence, popes can and do sin. This should not be too shocking for Catholics. Since the distinction between donating and selling is thin, the Council of Trent reformed the rules regarding the granting of Indulgences to prevent such abuses. Please read our tract on Indulgences for more information.
25 July 2001
Question: My wife was recently told by an Evangelical that no one can possibly keep the law. On some level we all break the law: whether it be losing our temper (our Lord spoke of being angry with one's brother as breaking the law), or saying "geez" or the like when surprised because this is a derivative of Jesus therefore taking the name of the Lord in vain, or making the bed on Sunday, therefore doing menial work, or not keeping custody of the eyes, etc., etc. No man can keep the law therefore it is not required. My ticket into heaven is Christ died for me and in the new order of grace if I accept Him as my Savior being born again this is all I need. What answer does one make based on Scripture? This person had many Scripture passages to support her case. Thank you.
Reply: Please read our tracts on Salvation. In a nut shell, we are saved by the grace of God earned by Jesus Christ on the Cross. This grace is a free gift from God. Without this grace, no one can follow the Law. Our salvation is a free gift from God, so that we cannot earn salvation through following the Law or doing good works. However, like any free gift, we can reject it or lose it. God does not force salvation on us. Since we now have this grace, we can follow the Law. Disobedience, in the new order of grace, is a sign of rejecting God's grace. We can still lose salvation by committing a mortal (deadly) sin. As Jesus said in the Bible: "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven." [Matt. 7:21] St. Paul writes about the will of the Father in 1 Thess. 4:3-8. Jesus will still judge us all according to our deeds as stated in 2 Cor. 5:10 and Matt. 25:33ff. Also closely read the Epistles of St. James and First John.
20 July 2001
Question: I am suspicion about Marian apparitions and have a hard time explaining them to people who are non-Catholic. We recently drove through Alexandria, SD where the Fatima Family Apostolate is and it was a wonderful experience that we happened upon. I think their family apostolate is a great mission and would like to be involved, though I am weary about Fatima. My wife is new to the faith and I had a hard time telling her about Marian apparitions. Oddly, I've actually been to Medjugorie and I did have a conversion there when I was 19 years old, in 1989. However, I believe my conversion was not based on the fact that I was in Medjugorie, but rather caused by God's outpouring of grace and my openness to it. It really turned me off about how people talk about the Marian messages and about future revelation. It made some people run around like scared rabbits. I get the feeling that this was also true about Fatima where secrets were given to the seers and they were actually shown hell. Is it all right for me as a Catholic to be turned off about these revelations, especially since the Pope has given his blessings to Fatima? I believe the Fatima children were extremely holy and are saints in Heaven, but I have difficulty placing my faith on their private revelations. Can you enlighten me on these issues and why we should/should not believe in them. Why does the Church condone organizations such as the Fatima Family Apostolate when it is possible that Fatima was a hoax? Also, aren't we approaching a works based justification when we condone things such as the First Saturdays? It seems to me a formula that if we follow it, then we will be saved.
I appreciate your time and your help in answering these questions and concerns. I also believe your apologetic mission is a wonderful resource. God Bless you.
Reply: Thank you for the message. We are not required by the Church to accept private revelations, even those from Fatima. In the case of Fatima, the Church has approved this apparition as "worthy of belief" but we are still not obliged to believe in it, since it is private revelation. The Church has only declared that the messages of Fatima are not contrary to the Faith (i.e. Public Revelation). The Fatima Family Apostolate is one example of its good fruit. The Pope, like any good Catholic Christian, can decide whether to believe in Fatima or not. Even though certain private revelations may be a hoax, God's will and grace can still work through us inspite of hoaxes and deception. One example is Jacob in the Old Testament.
The messages from Fatima may be fearsome, but God is awesome. Unfortunately we have lost that sense of God as Holy. As the Psalms remind us: "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." God is Love and Mercy, but He is also infinitely Good. His goodness demands justice. We should not take God's mercy for granted. We can hope that "all men may be saved" but that hope does not eliminate the reality of Hell. The Fatima prayer that ends each decade of the Rosary is a good reminder: "Oh my Jesus, forgive us our sins, save us from the fires of Hell, lead ALL souls to heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy." The messages of Fatima should be taken as hope and not with fear. Unfortunately there are some people who appear to take a sick pleasure in the idea of Hell. Some people seem to enjoy "condemning" other people to Hell. There are also those people who seem to enjoy being scared. We must pray for them.
I do not see the "First Saturdays" as a formula to salvation or merely good works that earn our way to Heaven. It is simply a good devotion, like praying the Rosary or the Angelus. It is a great opportunity to set aside extra time to be with God in a special way and enjoy His mercy and graces. Some Catholics may abuse them, but that does not make them bad. May God bless you and your wife.
23 May 2001
Question: My religion teacher assigned our class group projects dealing with the Church's views on certain ethical issues. My group is dealing with the area of animal rights. We are looking for the Church's teaching or stand on animal rights. Specifically, we need information on the use of animals in research and testing. Can you give us any helpful information, or any sites that may be useful?
Reply: Try this link...
The same article can be found also on this link...
20 May 2001
Question: Please I have been confronted in my class by my mates that are not Christians on the Church's stand on the use of condoms. They were on about what the Church offers Catholic couples who through no fault of theirs contract AIDS either through blood transfussion or careless use of needles. Are these couples to live the rest of their lives without having sex so as to avoid infecting their husband or wife as the case maybe? They also asked me what the Church does since the natural family planning that it advocates does not work for everyone. I couldn't help much and I will really love to defend my faith. I will be more than happy and grateful if you can help me out in the area.
Reply: Thank you for the questions. Condoms are notorious for their high failure rate as a contraceptive. If the condom can fail as a barrier to spermozoa, then it is dubious that it can be a 100-percent effective barrier against virus, bacteria, protein or whatever. A condom cannot ensure the safety of the other married partner, especially over long time periods. Eventually condoms can fail. But apart from that, the use of condoms is always morally wrong, since this is an abuse of the maritial act. Even though the situation in a married relationship where one is infected with AIDS is tragic, this does not justify the use of condoms. There are other similar tragic situations. For example, due to pyschological disorders or other serious physical illnesses, a married couple may not be able to have maritial relations for many years or even never. But these situations would not justify adultery. As the latter situations cannot be used to justify adultery, the former situation cannot justify the use of condoms.
Sometimes life can be tragic. Living the Gospel according to Jesus Christ can at times be very difficult. As Jesus reminds us: "Whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me." [Matthew 16:24] Even though difficult to accept by a hedonistic society, life is more than sex.
Concerning Natural Family Planning, there are several methods. Some may not work for some married couples, but it is rare that none of the methods would work. For example, the "Symptothermal method" may not work well for a couple; whereas, the "Billings method" may work well, or vice versa. However, I know of couples where even the "Pill" does not work. Unfortunately that is the reason that we have legalized abortion, since even contraception can fail. The main issue is not the "success" of a method, but the mentality against new human life. As long as married couples want to enjoy sex without being open to new life, we will have legalized abortion. Contraception does fail occasionally. If a couple uses contraception, because they are against having a baby, and it fails, then what? Abortion becomes the "backup solution."
Postscript (6 September 2001): According to a recent article in Chemical & Engineering News (27 August 2001, p.37, the weekly rag of the American Chemical Society) about research in finding a vaccine for AIDS, "THE ONLY REAL CHANCE of stopping the plague, most scientists believe, is with a vaccine. Health education by itself clearly won't do the trick."(emphasis is original) I seriously doubt that the article is refering to chastity-based health education. Also the article makes no reference to illicit drug use as a means of transmission. Reading between the lines, either people are refusing to use condoms consistently or condoms are failing. In either case, condoms do not work in stopping AIDS. The latter is the most likely reason.
12 April 2001
Question:..I was wondering ... What was the Catholic Church's response to the Holocaust, in general? I am writing a paper in my religion class on this topic and have gathered some information, but I dont think it is accurate. Please let me know, thank you.
Reply: Two recent, reliable books on the topic are Ronald J. Rychlak's HITLER, THE WAR AND THE POPE (Our Sunday Visitor, 2000)[A book review in First Things] and Ralph McInerny's THE DEFAMATION OF PIUS XII (St. Augustine's Press, 2001). The first book is more historical, whereas, the latter book deals more with the current trend to falsely accuse Pope Pius XII of doing nothing or even helping the Nazis. Rabbi Pinchas Lapide's book, THREE POPES AND THE JEWS, is a classic on this subject. On our websites, we have several links to articles. Also check out the search engines on PeterNet and EWTN Document Library. Once again, we have links to their engines. Simply click here.
9 April 2001
Question: I was wondering what is the Catholic Church's position on human cloning as well as animal cloning?
Reply: The most official document from the Vatican on the topic of human cloning is Donum vitae (Respect for Human Life) which is Instruction published in 1987. A link to the text is: http://www.ewtn.com/library/CURIA/CDFHUMAN.HTM It covers many related topics. Concerning human cloning, it states: "Also, attempts or hypotheses for obtaining a human being without any connection with sexuality through "twin fission," cloning or parthenogenesis are to be considered contrary to the moral law, since they are in opposition to the dignity both of human procreation and of the conjugal union."
A more recent article entitled "Reflections on Human Cloning" was composed by the Pontifical Academy for Life and published in L'Osservatore Romano on 9 July 1997. A link to its text is: http://www.ewtn.com/library/PROLIFE/ORCLONES.HTM Since it was published in the Vatican's newspaper, I would consider it at least semi-official. It also makes a few statements concerning plant and animal cloning. Zenit also has an interesting article on cloning at: http://www.zenit.org/english/archive/0104/ZEA010407.html#item3 Zenit appears to be faithful to Church teachings.
Another more recent official document concerning the Church's teaching on cloning is Pope John Paul's Address to the International Congress of the Transplantation Society, in particular paragraph 8. It is short, and it is in reference to organ transplantation. We have a link on our website to the text of that address. I found several articles concerning the Church's stance toward cloning on PetersNet and EWTN Document Library. Simply search using the keyword "cloning". We have links to their search engines. Simply click here. I hope this is helpful.
5 April 2001
Question:...I have come across many websites lately that attack the Catholic religion as being the most corrupt and evil institution in human history. There seems to be more and more of these sites on the Internet. I am fairly well read in the Bible and Church history. Most of it can be dissmissed. But there are 3 things that have troubled me on these anti-Catholic sites: 1) The Bent Cross. Is this really a figure of the anti-christ from 6th century satanists? How do you refute this? 2) St. Peters Square is in the shape of 8 segments. Is this very similar to the design of 8thfold path to satan, in demonology liturature? How do you refute a connection? 3) The recent photographs of the Pope on CNN clearly show the Pope on a big chair with an upside down cross carved into the back. How can this be explained?...
Reply: Thank you for the e-mail message. As Christians, we should expect calumny. Jesus warned us (Matt. 5:11; Luke 6:22) Even Jesus was accused of working with Satan (Mark 3:22; Matt. 12:24).
Sometimes it can be difficult to refute silly charges; however, I will try my best. 1) The bent cross is not particularly satanic. I seriously doubt that the Romans crucified Christ on perfectly squared beams. There may be anti-Christ symbols from the 6th century that bear a resemblance but resemblance does not prove a connection. During Wicca ceremonies, the people hold hands; however, I have witnessed people holding hands during Baptist ceremonies. Does that prove a connection? No! Some people like to hold hands. Many cultures before and after Christ used the cross symbol. Today some people try to connect the Nazi Swastika with the Christian Cross, since both bear a resemblance. However, the Swastika is a pagan symbol that predates Christ. 2) The "Eight-Fold Way" is another popular theme. I think it is more Buddist than satanic. Octaves are found in music, calendar dates (e.g. New Years Day is an octave of Christmas; traditional Jewish Passover.) and even chemistry (At least, for the first twenty-some elements in the Periodic Table). Elementary particle theory (e.g. Quarks) uses SU-3 Lie (pronounced "Lee") Algebra which resembles the "Eight-Fold Way." Traffic "Stop" signs in the US have eight sides. None of these are particularly satanic. 3) The upside-down cross on the Pope's chair is not too surprising, since it is St. Peter's Chair. "Peter was crucified at Rome with his head downwards, as he himself had desired to suffer". [Eusebius quoting Origen in his work "Ecclesaistical History", II, i.] St. Peter was crucified on an upside-down cross, because he did not want to be crucified in the same manner as our Lord and thus appear to be equal to Christ. The Pope's chair simply bears St. Peter's Cross. St. Andrew was crucified on an "X"-shaped cross for the same reason. Scotland's flag bears the St. Andrew's Cross. Nothing satanic about that...
24 February 2001
Question: Did Mary the mother of Jesus have other children?
Reply: The Bible never clearly states that Mary had other children. The early Christian writings also do not tell us that Mary had other children. Even in the early days of Christianity, it was a commonly held belief that Jesus was the only child of Mary, as Jesus was also the only Son of God.
Now the Bible does state that Jesus had brothers and sisters. But they could have been Joseph's children from an earlier marriage, adopted orphans (Orphans were not uncommon in those days.) or most likely cousins. In the Old Testament, Abraham and Lot were called both brothers and kinsmen. Also King David and Jonathan (Saul's son) were called brothers, but there was little family connection. According to John 19:25, "Standing by the cross of Jesus were his mother and his mother's sister, Mary the wife of Clopas, and Mary of Magdala", Mary had a sister named Mary. Mary was a popular name, but... In the New Testament, St. Paul calls Christians as "brothers and sisters in the Lord." Jesus even said that anyone who listened to Him was His brother and sister. St. Jerome in the 4th century addressed this issue in detail using the Bible in a tract.
In the Gospel According to St. John while hanging on the Cross, Jesus gives His mother Mary to John. This would be very strange, if Mary had other children, especially sons, to take care of her. Not only would this be strange, but it would have been a grave insult to her other sons. This insult would not only be from Jesus but also from Mary, since Mary did not stop Jesus.
18 February 2001
Question: I see that many Protestant faiths/colleges offer "at home" bible study courses. Does the Roman Catholic faith offer something similar? I looking for a self study Roman Catholic course that uses VCR tapes for lecture purposes, perhaps a study guide/self study questions and audio tapes. Would appreciate any assistance you can provide.
Reply: Please check out St. Joseph's Communications website and click on "Great Adventure" on the left-hand column or search on "Cavins." Jeff Cavins' and Scott Hahns' video series "Great Adventure in the Bible" is a good start. St. Joseph's Communications also have many other audio and video tapes by Jeff Cavins and Scott Hahns. There are many others authors too. This would probably be your best source. Ignatius Press should also have similar materials, and our website has a link to Ignatius Press.
24 Janaury 2001
Question: What is the Catholic Church's response to the international issues of self determination, genocide and victims of war?
Reply: Thank you for the question. The Catechism condemns genocide in paragraph 2313. Our website has a link to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, so please check out paragraph 2313. The immediately surrounding paragraphs have information on prisoners of war. Unfortunately I do not understand or recognize the context of "self determination". Finally Pope John Paul II's Encyclical, Evangalum vita, should have more on these topics.
23 December 2000
Feedback: ...I was perplexed to read, however, in several places on your website that the Protestant reformation was a "heresy." Although I quite agree that Luther & especially Calvin are ultimately wrong, I was a little jarred by the pervasive use of "heresy" in connection with Protestantism, because this is not the kind of language Pope John Paul II or Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger use when discussing Protestantism. Perhaps you are correct, but it seems rather pointless to engage in polemical sectarian bashing. The Catholic Church is going to win the day because She is Christ's Church, and the Pope and the Magisterium are Her teachers, and the ecumenical truths in the Joint Declaration on the Doctrine of Justification and Vatican II are the winning strategies to bringing Protestants back into the Church, not reactionary defensive sectarianism.
That's feedback for you. Do with it what you will...
Reply: Thank you for the feedback. We try not to be meanspirited or obnoxious, but sometimes being too concise can lead to abrasiveness. We had a similar comment from a Lutheran pastor, so we asked him for suggestions. Using his suggestions, we attempted to make our writings less abrasive. If you have any more explicit editions, please send them to us for consideration.
"Heresy" is not a dirty word. It means a partial truth or an exaggerated truth. We actually quote the Catechism for its definition. We try not to use it as a dirty word or an insult. We find heresies to be helpful "springboards" for understanding the true faith.
Also there are important issues that are polemic. It is difficult not to be polemic on polemic issues. Perhaps the Vatican may now take an irenic (non-polemic) approach, but some Catholics, like myself, believe that the Protestant reformers of old had some good points, and these points need to be addressed. We try our best not to be obnoxious, but we cannot avoid being polemic. Hopefully we also try to be charitable.
God may have created us all equal, but God did not create us all the same. The Vatican's irenic approach is effective for some people. The polemic approach may be effective for other people. Once again, thank you for your feedback.
23 December 2000
Question: I was at a RCIA gathering last night, and the speaker was insisting that the church reversed her teaching on Limbo. Where can I find information to refute this argument?
Reply: Thank you for the question. I am slightly confused by your question, though. Perhaps the speaker was confusing Limbo and Purgatory. Unfortunately people tend to confuse Limbo and Purgatory. Purgatory is a doctrine of the Catholic Church; whereas, Limbo is a theological opinion that was popular among theologians in the Middle Ages and later. St. Thomas Aquinas was the originator for the opinion on Limbo. Also 1 Peter has a brief reference to the "Limbo of the Father", but this is different than the Limbo for the unbaptized, especially babies.
A quick check in the index of the Catechism reveals no reference to Limbo. After searching the Catechism on the Internet, I still found no explicit reference to Limbo. But there is a reference in the index to Purgatory in paragraphs 1030-32. Paragraph 1261, which is concerned about unbaptized infants, does not mention Limbo.
According to the index in the book, THE CANONS AND DECREES OF THE COUNCIL OF TRENT, published by TAN Books, there is no reference to Limbo; however, there are four references to Purgatory. The Council of Trent dates back to the 16th century. I only glanced at the index and did not plow through the text.
Fr. John Laux in his book, MASS AND THE SACRAMENTS, which was originally published in 1928 and now republished by TAN Books, writes: "God has not revealed to us what becomes of those children who die without Baptism. They are certainly not condemned to hell. Some theologians say that they live in a place of natural happiness called the Limbo of Children."(p.17)
Dr. Ludwig Ott in his book, FUNDAMENTALS OF CATHOLIC DOGMA, makes two references to the Limbo of the Fathers (Limbus Patrum) but only one reference to Limbo of Children (Limbus puerorum). On page 114, he writes: "Theologians usually assume that there is a special place or state for children dying without baptism which they call limbus puerorum (children's Limbo)." He does make several references to Purgatory, though.
Even the BALTIMORE CATECHISM only refers to the Limbo of Children as a "common belief" and not as a doctrine of the Church. According to Question 632: "Q. 632. Where will persons go who -- such as infants -- have not committed actual sin and who, through no fault of theirs, die without baptism? A. Persons, such as infants, who have not committed actual sin and who, through no fault of theirs, die without baptism, cannot enter heaven; but it is the common belief they will go to some place similar to Limbo, where they will be free from suffering, though deprived of the happiness of heaven."
I should repeat that there are a few references in the Bible concerning the Limbo of the Fathers, e.g. Bosom of Abraham (Luke 16:22) or prison of the just (1 Peter 3:19).
The books, RADIO REPLIES, written by Frs. Rumble and Carty and now republished by TAN Books, do argue for Limbo of Children. But be careful, I do not find much official support of the idea of Limbo of Children. To the best of my knowledge, the Church has never officially spoken definitively on Limbo, so she has nothing to reverse on this issue. The Church has not officially condemned it either. Limbo is officially in limbo. I believe the speaker confused Limbo and Purgatory. The Church has not reversed her teaching on Purgatory. At any rate, the Church has not reversed her teachings on either. If you find more information, please let us know.
20 December 2000
Question: I'm seeking information on Mary as a baby and her years leading up to the Annunciation. I know she was born to St. Anne and St. Jochiam. I've heard stories of her being promised to God and being placed under the care of the religious leaders at a very early age. Age 3 or 4 or something in that age group. All part of the preparation for her destiny as the Mother of God. Is there any factual proof to these stories? If so where can I locate it or access it? I repeat these stories to others, and they are quick to question the truth of them. I believe somewhere in our Church's Traditional Teachings these truths must be documented, but I don't know how to reach them. I would appreciate any help or light you may be able to offer on this matter. Thank you
Reply: Unfortunately information on Mary's childhood is mostly unreliable. A similar statement can be said of information on Jesus' childhood, that is not in the Gospels (which is very little). Most of this information first appeared in the writings of the 2nd and 3rd century A.D. Recently there have been "mystics" who claim to have visions on this information, but these visions are private revelation at best. Unfortunately most of these sources are either quite strange or down-right silly. Even if they were truly reliable, it would be difficult to convince other people.
As a final point, I would not consider the history of Mary's childhood as part of the Church's Teaching Tradition. At best, it would be part of historical tradition (lower-case "t"). More accurately, it is pious legend or folklore. If my memory serves me correct, one of the recent (within the last 100 years) mystics is Emmerich. TAN Books, Inc. sells her books. I never read them myself, but my wife did. The stories she told me are similar to those that you mentioned in your e-mail.
24 December 2000
More Information: I have received some information...regarding the early life of Mary. The following URL: http://www.ewtn.com/library/PATRISTC/ANF8-10.TXT, is a link to a compilation of documents which includes "The Protoevangelium of James." It is considered "apocryphal" and so not necessarily accurate. However, it does not appear to poses any doctrinal problems, unlike the "Gospel of Thomas." I read it, and it certainly supports all the things I have been saying. It goes into great detail about St. Jochiam and St. Anna as well as Mary. Hope this will be of help to you. Have a Blessed Christmas and a happy New Year. God bless and thank you again for responding. In Christ peace
Second Reply: Thank you for the information. Yes, "The Protoevangelium" is one source. I could not remember it. It is part of the 2nd and 3rd-century Apocryphal literature that I refered to in my last reply. If it is on the EWTN website, it should be OK. The "Gospel of Thomas" is one source that verges on silly. I have included this link on our webpage. There is some additional information on St. Anne at: http://www.ewtn.com/library/MARY/01538A.HTM Once again, thank you and Merry Christmas.
23 November 2000
Question: I've read the website's response to the Seventh Day Adventist publication regarding the 'mark of the beast' and I was hoping to read an official repudiation of the belief that the Sabbath Commandment itself requires observance of Sunday when it was clearly delegated to 'the seventh day' or the Jewish name for our Saturday but perhaps just such repudiation in the website was in the repeated titles 'Hebrew Sabbath' and 'Christian's Lord's day', which in my opinion demonstrates a distinction between the two, the former being the actual day of the Commandment. Am I wrong?
Reply: Thanks for the message. Yes, you are right the "Hebrew Sabbath" and the "Christian Lord's Day" are two distinct days. Traditionally the "Christian Lord's Day" is considered Sunday; whereas, traditionally the "Hebrew Sabbath" is considered Saturday. The "Hebrew Sabbath" belongs to the Old Covenant; whereas, the "Lord's Day" belongs to the New Covenant. Jesus Christ rested in the tomb on Saturday - the "Hebrew Sabbath", whereas, He rose from the dead on Sunday. That is why Sunday is called the "Lord's Day." Every Sunday is a little Easter. Christ's death brought an end to the Old Covenant; whereas, His Resurrection began the New Covenant. Christians are a people of the Resurrection.
The Old Testament clearly commands the observance of the "Hebrew Sabbath", but the New Teastament does not. It should be noted that the Old Testament also clearly commands the observance of the sabbatical year and circumcision. Few Christians observe these today. Several places in the Gospels, Jesus is questioned about the Commandments, and He appears to ignore the Sabbath. He also got Himself in trouble for not observing the Sabbath according to the accepted norms of His day: "For this reason the Jews tried all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but he also called God his own father, making himself equal to God." [John 5:18] Jesus Christ did not disobey the Commandment, but as God, He can change the observance of the Third Commandment. His Apostles were already starting to observe Sunday ("the first day of the week") as the day of worship ("breaking the bread") in Acts 20:7. St. Paul clearly teaches that Christians no longer need to observe the Hebrew Sabbath: "Let no one, then, pass judgment on you in matters of food and drink or with regard to a festival or new moon or sabbath." [Col. 2:16] St. Paul in the Bible is as official as one gets. The Hebrew Sabbath is a type or foreshadowing of the Christian's eternal rest in Heaven. In Hebrews 4:8, the Old Testament people disobeyed the Sabbath, especially the sabbatical year, so God spoke through Joshua of "another day". The sabbath rest still belongs to the Christian people but in the form of eternal life in Heaven.
As a final point, the Bible never states that the "seventh day" is Saturday. That's tradition! I know that the "seventh day" is Saturday or the "first day" is Sunday from tradition and NOT from the Bible.
24 October 2000
Question: I went to Mass this weekend, and the Priest mentioned that it was not a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday. This blew me away because I'm of the idea that it is. I had done some research on this issue previously, and I found in the Catholic Cathechism that it violates one of the Church's commandments and that it is of a serious nature... I have come to believe that the Sunday Mass attendance fullfills the Third Commandment to keep holy the Lord's Day. With this in mind it becomes difficult for me to hear and try to understand what the Priest said about missing Mass not being a mortal sin... The Priest further clarified his point about missing Mass on Sunday, not being a mortal sin, by saying that "if we didn't attend Mass on Sunday we were the ones that were missing out on being fed and that it was our loss". I think this statement is true, but I hope that this is not the main reason that Catholics go to Mass, because if it is it becomes a bit selfish. I have come to believe after many hours of study that I go to Mass primarily to worship and give glory to my God by uniting myself with the Church and with Jesus Christ in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and secondly to get fed. There is no better form of Prayer than the Mass according to Pope Paul VI. Now that you know how I feel about the Mass, you can understand why the above mentioned statement made by the Priest seeems very contraversial to me. I plan to write to my Bishop, because I am confused as to how to lead the Catholics that have fallen away from the faith, and since I am very proactive evangelizing, well I need to have the Truth which is Jesus Christ. Thank you for you time and maybe you can shed some light on the subject. I would really appreciate it.
Reply: You are right; whereas, the priest appears confused. Perhaps the priest had some good intentions, but as you described the situation, his sermon was at best confusing and seriously misleading. Unfortuantely he is in a position that could terribly confuse many others. Please write charitibly to your Bishop in order to clarify this issue.
As you stated quite well, it is a mortal sin to miss Mass on Sunday without good reason. Although, if you are ill or due to an act of charity (e.g. caring for a sick person) and miss Mass, then you do not commit a sin. Also you can verbally ask your pastor for permission to miss Mass on a particular Sunday for good reasons (e.g. business trip), but usually the pastor will ask you to go later to a weekday Mass. Mass is more than a weekly "spiritual battery charging" experience. Mass is communal worship of God. I have no more to add. It appears that you are on the right track. Thank you for your message.
28 August 2000
Feedback: ...THE LORD JESUS CHRIST SAID TO HIS apostles "Call no man on earth 'father,' for ONE IS your FATHER, WHICH IS in Heaven."...
Reply: Thank you for the message and WARNING. So what does that mean? Is it a sin for me to call my Dad "father?" If Jesus really meant to "call no man 'father'" then why did Jesus call Abraham, who was only a man, "Father Abraham" in Luke 16:24. I believe you are grossly taking Matthew 23:9 out of context.
According to Luke's Gospel, Zechariah was "righteous in the eyes of God" [Luke 1:6]. Yet in his prayer to God and filled by the Holy Spirit [Luke 1:67], Zechariah refers to Abraham, a mere man, as "our father."[Luke 1:73] Stephen, before his martyrdom, called Abraham "our father" [Acts 7:2] and even St. Paul does the same in Rom. 4:11-12, 16-18. Finally the LORD God Himself in Gen. 26:3 and Josh. 24:3 (through the mouth of Joshua) said: "your father Abraham." St. Paul in Phlm. 1:10 and 1 Cor. 4:15 refers to himself as a father. Even the Commandment says: "Honor your mother and father."
The verses, Matthew 23:8-12, must be understood in their context, especially in the light of Matthew 23:12, "Whoever exalts himself will be humbled; but whoever humbles himself will be exalted." Jesus does not forbid us to use the titles: Rabbi (Master), Father or Teacher. Instead Jesus warns us not to use such titles in order to puff up our egos.
27 August 2000
Question: Come on, why you do all this? The Living God, Church and the fundamentals of the Truth, for centuries, were convinced that the earth is the center of the universe? Jesus said love, love people, love God, and what did the "real" church do? They made crusades, inquisitions, and even tolerated the holocausts, etc. What is the most important function of a Christian? To take care of poors? Holy Father, Holy Mother, but Matthew 23:9? What is the meaning of not to be part of the world? Who is Apocalipsis or Babylon? Why is the world a dangerous, terrible and sad place? Because the "real christians" are not the real Christians. Come on Christ, show me something really really nice, pure, true, simple, a cure to my heart, I know you can do it, then I got to look for it. Forgive the words, I'm Chilean, but the feeling is so real.
Reply: Thank you for your e-mail message. We have our Website in order to spread the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Catholic Church has preserved the entire Gospel Truth faithfully through the last 2000 years. The Church and the Gospel do not promise us a happy earthly life. The main mission of the Church is to proclaim the Gospel Truth and help, through the grace of God, to liberate each human person from the slavery of sin and to save each person from Hell. Helping the poor is an important job for Christians, but it is not our main mission. The truly poor man is the man who refuses to repent from his sins and accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Not many people starve from lack of food in our country (USA) but there are still many spiritually starving people.
Charity is the essence and hallmark of Christianity. Without charity, there cannot be authentic Christianity. But charity is more than philanthropy. Charity is also opposed to gossip. As Christians, we are called to be charitible to even rich folks.
Even though the Church's mission is to help liberate us from our sins, we are still sinners (hopefully repentant sinners). If we were not sinners, then we would not need Jesus Christ. Unfortunately this fact is a great scandal to the Church. However, it is unfair to judge the Catholic Church by the action of her people who do not live by the norms (rules) of the Church. There were even Popes who did not live by the norms of the Church. I agree with you, that is sad. But the Church survived these poor earthly leaders and grave scandals (those found in the Crusades, Inquisitions...), because Jesus promised to be always with His Church.
The Church is commonly accused of teaching that the earth is the center of the universe or more precisely "geocentricism." But the truth that the "earth orbits the sun" is not Gospel Truth. Scientific knowledge cannot save us from our sins, death or Hell. As St. Augustine wrote in the 4th century: "Christianity is concerned about how to go to heaven and not how the heavens go." [Paraphased] The Church did not officially teach that the "sun orbits the earth." If the Church did officially teach "geocentricism", then please cite the document. Now this was the popular opinion of the Middle Ages, since no one at the time could observe stellar parallex, not even Galileo. Aristotle's rational argument for geocentricism based on stellar parallex was difficult to refute. The infamous Galileo Court Case was not official Church teaching but disciplinary action. The Church was "called in" to settle a fight started by University professors.
Now you also appear to claim that the Church "tolerated the Holocaust." This is not true. The Church was simply powerless against the Holocaust and the Nazis. The Church, during WWII, did not have an army, bombs or tanks. The Vatican was also surrounded by Italy who were Nazi Allies at the time. The Vatican did send the Nazis many letters of protest, but these letters were ignored. Pope Pius XII carefully condemned the Holocaust in his 1942 Christmas Message, but he was ignored. The Catholic Bishops of Holland strongly condemned the Holocaust, but the Nazis retaliated by sending many Jews and Catholics to death camps the following day. It is true that 6 million Jews from all of Europe were killed in the Holocaust; however, 3 million Catholics in Poland alone were also killed in the Holocaust. The Catholic Church did not "tolerate the Holocaust." That myth started as Communist propaganda after the War and today is promoted by the Abortion Industry, the "culture of death" folks and other folks with an axe-to-grind against the Church.
Last edited on 20 April 2003
Return to Main Page