Thursday, February 26, 2009

Spitting in the Face of Jesus During Lent

Every now and then, I get press releases from the Cardinal Newman Society via email. Typically, I just read them and then go about my day. But, today's press release cannot simply be read and then forgotten. What I read today is probably one of the most tragic and heartbreaking things I've read this year:Justice demands outrage on behalf of all Catholics for what is taking place on these campuses during Lent. To praise debauchery at a time when we should be atoning for the effect that sin had on the suffering of Christ and continues to have on His Body, the Church -- well, you might as well spit in the face of Christ, like the scribes and Pharisees did.

Lamb of God, who takes away the sins of the world ... have mercy on us,
Mary, Our Lady of Sorrows ... pray for us,
St. Thomas Aquinas, patron saint of Catholic schools ... pray for us,
St. Michael the Archangel, our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil ... pray for us.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Exploring Catholicism: Part 5

[Also see Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4]

I haven't heard from my long-lost Catholic in a while but he emailed me recently with an update and a few questions. He gave me permission at the beginning of our dialogue to post our messages on my blog for the benefit of others. Here are his words and my response.

  • I have been visiting a few Catholic churches near my house and meeting with the priests. One priest gave me a pretty big book and I am basically ingesting it and it is answering a lot of questions (Catholicism by Richard P. McBrien. Have you heard of it? What is your opinion of it?).
I have never read it myself, but I have heard several negative things about it. In 1985, it was criticized by the U.S. Bishops' Committee on Doctrine. Fr. McBrien is outspoken in his defense of women's ordination and married priests, and he was very critical of the bishops when they stood up for life and taught that abortion was a non-negotiable issue.

Here are some articles on Fr. McBrien that address these concerns:I personally would not recommend his book.

  • At one of the churches they offer a group that helps you explore so i have been attending that. So what I have come to is a place where by the time I have a question usually between the book or the group it is answered fairly quickly. This is good and bad. I am glad to have my questions answered so quickly but I have enjoyed our dialogue. I greatly appreciate the time you put in to answer my questions no matter how ridiculous. So I imagine our correspondence will be even less than it has in the past (and it was pretty scarce there anway) but if you would like I will let you know where I end up at the end of this journey. thanks again for your time.
I am just thankful that you are still on the journey and that you are finding answers to your questions. Remember, the first place to go with any doctrinal question is the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

[After my first response, he wrote me back the following:]

  • I am glad that I wrote to you. Its funny because one of my first questions was what is the modern layout of the church because i didn't want to stumble into a misrepresentation. Maybe i have, but i am not tied to this one. Anyway, I have noticed McBrien's tendency toward liberal views, but he also gives an overview of other views that i have found helpful. Can you recommend a more conservative theology book? I have found that format to be very helpful.
I think a worthy replacement would be Catholicism for Dummies, by Fr. John Trigilio, PhD, ThD. Fr. Trigilio is a very good and wise priest who has been teaching the faith and answering people's questions about Catholicism for many, many years. He hosts the show "Web of Faith" on EWTN and is the president of the Confraternity of Catholic Clergy.

  • And for that matter, how might I find a church in correct belief? Are there any indicators? or i live in the Cleveland ohio area, have you ever visited any? I also visited a Byzantine Catholic church, any thoughts on that? thanks
This goes back to the whole "liberal" vs. "conservative" thing that I wrote about earlier, and in that post I mentioned a few indicators of each label.

As for your local Byzantine Catholic Church, that is a Catholic church of the Byzantine Rite, instead of the Roman Rite. It's still Catholic, it's just culturally different. By that I mean, Byzantine Catholics express their beliefs in a different way than we do (for example, we speak of "grace", they speak of "divine energy." We speak of "salvation," they speak of "theosis"), and their sacraments are celebrated differently. They even have their own Canon Law (the Code of Canons of the Eastern Churches). Since your introduction to Catholicism has already been so "Roman," you may want to stick with a church of the Roman Rite.

I hope that helps.

Pax Christi,

Monday, February 02, 2009

Poll-Release Monday #64

Iguess it's about time I did this, considering the fact that I haven't changed the poll in about five weeks! Here is your new poll question:
  • True or False?: "Because Baptism and Confirmation are not celebrated at the same time, the connection of Baptism to Confirmation is expressed by the renewal of baptismal vows."
What do you think? Vote in the poll in my sidebar.

Here are the results from the previous poll:
  • T or F? Since Confirmation gives the Holy Spirit to strengthen the believer in his witness to the world, the denial of one's faith requires a re-Confirmation.
    • True: 2 (4%)
    • False: 48 (96%)
The correct answer is:
  • False; cf. CCC, no. 1317: Confirmation, like Baptism, imprints a spiritual mark or indelible character on the Christian's soul; for this reason one can receive this sacrament only once in one's life.
Thank you all for voting!

Pax Christi,

Why Didn't Jesus Cast the First Stone?

I answered this question initially a while back (here), but I thought I would expound on it further for my upcoming Q&A in the parish bulletin. Here's what I wrote:

Q: Did Jesus break the Law of Moses by not stoning the woman caught in adultery?

Great question! The incident you are referring to is found in Jn 8:3-11. The Pharisees catch an adulterous woman and bring her to Jesus to see what He will do. You may want to open your bible to this passage so that you can have it on hand as I discuss what is happening here.

Now, at first glance, it may appear that Jesus did break the Law of Moses. After all, the Law stated that anyone who commits adultery must be stoned to death (cf. Lev 20:10; Deut 22:20-22), yet Jesus prevented this woman from being stoned. However, the truth is this: Jesus did not break the Law here, He fulfilled it.

First, we must keep in mind that the truest justice comes not when the Law is enforced by those who are themselves transgressors of it (as all mankind are), but when it is enforced by He who is sinless, who is in no way a transgressor of the Law of God (cf. Heb 4:15; 1 Pet 2:22; 1 Jn 3:5). When Jesus said to the Pharisees, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone,” He basically revealed to the crowd that He is the ultimate Judge, not the Pharisees (or anyone else, for that matter).

Once He established that, He went on to enforce the Law when He said to the woman, “Go and sin no more.” After all, the purpose or spirit of this particular law (which the Pharisees so often neglected) was to impress upon Israel the gravity of the sin of adultery. Jesus acknowledged this when He told the woman to never do it again.

Finally, note that stoning the woman would have meant the condemnation of both the sin and the woman. She would have died in sin and suffered total separation from God. But, Jesus came to condemn sin, not sinners. He came to save what was lost, not to lose it (cf. Lk 19:10; Jn 12:47; 18:9). So, by preventing the stoning while at the same time commanding the woman to “Go and sin no more,” Jesus condemns the sin but saves the sinner. In this way, He is both Just and Merciful, and He brings about the fulfillment of the law in question.

Pax Christi,

Catholic Perspective of the End Times

A parishioner recently emailed me the following question:
  • Protestants talk a lot about the “rapture” and the “tribulation.” What are these things and what is the Catholic belief about them?
Let’s take the “tribulation” first. The tribulation is a time of intense suffering and persecution that will take place around the time of the Second Coming of Christ. Most Protestants from fundamentalist denominations believe that Jesus will spare His elect (or His “chosen people”) from this tribulation by “rapturing” them before the tribulation begins. Supposedly, Christ will appear in the clouds and raise the souls of the elect up into the sky with Him where He will reign in a sort of parallel kingdom while the unlucky ones are left to toil on earth and suffer the wrath of the anti-Christ. If you are one of the ones “left behind” (remember those books that were so popular?), then there is still a chance for you, if you come to faith in Christ during the tribulation.

Many Protestants anxiously await this rapture, and their hope is rooted in it. It is indeed a comforting thought to know that one does not have to undergo any persecution as the world reaches its culmination … but it’s not biblical and it’s not what Catholics believe.

While we can be sure that there will be a tribulation in the end times, the Church also teaches that everyone alive will experience it, even the elect. This is stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (nos. 675-677) and clearly seen in the 24th chapter of Matthew’s gospel. Matthew also tells us that Jesus will come after the tribulation, not before (cf. Mt 24:29-31).

As for the rapture, Catholics do believe that at the end of time, human souls will “meet the Lord in the air” (cf. 1 Thes 4:17), but we don’t believe that this will take place in order to spare the elect from the tribulation. Instead, we believe that this meeting will take place between God and every soul that has ever lived, and it will be for the purpose of the “final judgment” (or the “general judgment”). When Jesus comes again the souls of all mankind will be reunited with their bodies and the works of every single person will be revealed to all. In this way, everyone will know why some souls received heaven and others hell, and the mercy and justice of God will be vindicated.

In other words, this “meeting the Lord in the air” (and similar verses that Protestants use to defend the rapture) actually explain what will take place in the final judgment. This can get complicated, but there are some good Catholic books on this topic that are very helpful. I suggest Will Catholics Be Left Behind? by Carl Olson, and The Rapture Trap by Paul Thigpen.

Pax Christi,
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