Thursday, May 24, 2012

Catholic Q&A: Part 26

This post continues my series of short answers to common questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

I know Constantine waited until his death bed to be baptized. Could it work that way to live a life of sin and then be baptized right before death?

Yes, as unfair as it sounds, someone baptized at the very end of his life will go to heaven, even if that life was filled with many sins. We have to uphold the power and efficacy of Baptism. If a person is baptized with water in the Trinitarian formula, his sins are forgiven. Period. He's a child of God now. Everything that would destroy the divine life within him has been removed.

This sort of deathbed salvation reminds me of the parable of the workers in the vineyard (cf. Mt 20:1-16), where those who worked only in the last hour of the day received the same pay as those who worked all day long. Let us not "grumble at the householder" (vs. 11) or "begrudge his generosity" (vs. 15). God can do what He chooses with what belongs to Him.

As an aside, such a person will probably have to undergo a significant purging first (that's what Purgatory is) but heaven will be his. I say this purging is likely because, while baptism washes away all sin and it's punishment, that person will still have his attachments to sin (by that I mean, his tendency to find certain sins very appealing) and concupiscence (his tendency to sin at all) and his other bad habits that he developed and nurtured over many years.

If a divorced person remarries with out an annulment, is that person living in sin his whole life after that? What if he isn't Catholic?

The Church holds everyone to the same standard here. It is a serious sin to divorce and remarry. The person who does this is "living in sin" only so long as he engages in marital relations with the new spouse. If someone in this situation confesses his sin and vows to cease all marital relations with the new spouse (to live "as brother and sister" is the common phrase) then that person is no longer said to be "living in sin" and is free to receive Communion.

What is a gentle way to respond to those who say "Jesus isn't on the cross anymore" in reference to the crucifix?

You could always say, "I know." Haha, seriously though, I wrote a blog post a while back that should give you all the information you need for the next time this comes up. See "Why Do Catholics Keep Jesus on the Cross?"

Do indulgences even exist in Catholicism and what are they anyways?

Yes they do. An indulgence is the remission of the temporal punishment that is due to sin. Since human beings have a temporal dimension (our bodies, this life we live) and an eternal dimension (our souls), the sins we commit have a temporal effect and an eternal effect. When you receive absolution in the confessional, the eternal effect is remitted or removed. When you perform your penance, the temporal effect is removed. But, sometimes people don't adequately atone for the temporal effect of their sin. Sometimes they forget to do their penance, or they don't do penance for the sins they don't confess. This sort of suffering, in the world, builds up and must be remedied. Indulgences are the remedy.

Beyond that, the best thing to do would be to read what the Catechism has to say on this subject. See nos. 1471-1479. I realize this subject can be confusing. If after reading this you are still a little foggy on what indulgences are, just let me know.

Pax Christi,

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Ascension of the Lord: More Information

Day late and a dollar short is practically my life motto. Fitting then that I am just now getting around to a post on the Ascension. But, perhaps the timing is not all bad. If the homily you heard at Mass yesterday did not do much to explain the readings to you or to help you understand the Feast of the Ascension, this post will be of help to you. At any rate, the implications of the Ascension should be at the forefront of our minds this week as we prepare for the Feast of Pentecost.

For more information on the Ascension of Jesus Christ, see the following articles:

Pax Christi,

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Catholic Q&A: Part 25

This post continues my series of short answers to common questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

I know Protestants and Catholics have different versions of the Ten Commandments but how did the ancient Jews list them? And if there are actually 14 or 15 commandments, why are only 10 on the list?

The ancient Jews (as in, Old Testament Jews) didn't list them. They simply went by what was revealed to them by Moses and preserved in the books of Exodus and Deuteronomy. The refining of the Commandments into a list of ten came much later, by the first century Jewish scholars Philo and Josephus. This list seems to be much less than what we find in the Bible because the purpose of the list is to take all the statements about a particular sin and group them together under one umbrella statement. This makes the moral law easier to remember. It's a catechetical device, a teaching tool. Once one memorizes all ten, then he has the gist of it and he can turn to the Bible (or the Catechism, for that matter) to get the full elaboration on each one.

For more information, also see my short debate on the numbering of the Ten Commandments.

Why is a sea shell used during a baptism?

Sea shells don't have to be used, but they often are because they remind us of the sea, of the rivers and bodies of water that the Church used for baptism in the Apostolic period. When this symbolism is incorporated into baptism (in the container used to pour water on catechumens, in the design of the baptismal font, or in the vestments of the priest) we are in a sense united with the very first converts to Christianity.

Is cosmetic plastic surgery frowned upon by the Church and God, since it's pretty much saying that I'm not happy with the way God made me?

Yes, I would say that plastic surgery for vain or prideful reasons is generally frowned upon. One would not want to give God the message that He didn't get it right the first time. Whether or not this is actually sinful depends on the reasons why a person is doing it. This is the sort of thing you have to take on a case-by-case basis, instead of making a blanket prohibition.

I think the closest statement on this in the Catechism comes from no. 2297: "Except when performed for strictly therapeutic medical reasons, directly intended amputations, mutilations, and sterilizations performed on innocent persons are against the moral law."

The candle next to the tabernacle...they all have a red cover over the candle that I've seen...does the red color have a meaning?

I'd imagine most sanctuary lamps are red to remind us of the Precious Blood. But, you do occasionally find them in other colors, or clear. The only thing mandated by liturgical law is that it be a candle fed by wax or oil and not a light bulb.

Pax Christi,

Tuesday, May 08, 2012

What Is a Freemason? Can a Catholic Be One?

Old handbooks of Freemasonry (or simply “Masonry”) define the organization as "a peculiar system of morality veiled in allegory and illustrated by symbols," or "a science which is engaged in the search after the divine truth." In America, most people treat Freemasonry as if it were simply one of many fraternities that a man could join. But, Freemasonry is very much a religion.

The practice of Freemasonry includes temples, altars, a moral code, worship services, vestments, feast days, a hierarchy of leadership, initiation and burial rites, names and symbols for God and heaven, a unique understanding of the requirements for salvation, liturgical texts, covenant oaths, religious doctrines -- basically all of the elements of a formal religion. Members advance through degrees, which open up to them more and more of the secret Masonic beliefs and rituals.

Many if not all of these doctrines and practices are at odds with the Catholic faith. Here are just three:
  • Universalism: Freemasonry teaches that the only requirements for salvation are performing good works and believing in a deity of some kind. All religions are equally valid, and mention of Christ is forbidden in the lodge.
  • False oaths: Every Masonic candidate must make an oath to freemasonry and its secrets, under pain of death or self-mutilation, and this while not even knowing all the "secrets" to which he is taking an oath.
  • Anti-Catholicism: Most Masons of low degree never experience this, but once one advances to the 30th degree, the anti-Catholic nature of Freemasonry is revealed. Upon initiation to this degree, the person crushes with his foot the papal tiara and the royal crown, and swears to free mankind "from the bondage of Despotism and the thralldom of spiritual tyranny." The history of the Masons, especially in Europe, is filled with aggression and political upheaval for the sake of suppressing Catholicism.
For this and many other reasons, Catholics have always been forbidden to join the Masons. According to the “Declaration on Masonic Associations” from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (Nov. 26, 1983), the principles of Masonic associations “have always been considered irreconcilable with the doctrine of the Church and, therefore, membership in them remains forbidden. The faithful, who enroll in Masonic associations are in a state of grave sin and may not receive Holy Communion” (para. 3).

For more information about the Masons, see the following links:
Pax Christi,

Saturday, May 05, 2012

Catholic Q&A: Part 24

This post continues my series of short answers to common questions about Catholicism. For the previous parts in the series, see the "Catholic Q-A Series" blog label.

Does Jesus talk to all of his people or only to certain people?

Jesus talks to whoever will listen. You don’t even have to be one of His people! Keep in mind that Jesus talks to people in a lot of different ways: through the words of the Bible (especially the Gospels), through prayer, through the words or example of a Christian, and in rare cases through a vision or audible voice. Jesus calls all people to be united with Him.

Who are the disciples?

A disciple is a student or follower who emulates the example set by a master and seeks to identify with the master’s teachings. In the New Testament and in reference to Jesus, the word “disciple” can refer to any follower of Jesus, or more specifically to one of the 12 apostles.

How is Isaac a type of Christ?

There are many similarities between Isaac and Jesus.
  • Both of them were miraculously born: Isaac was born of Abraham and Sarah who were at the time too old to conceive children. Jesus was conceived within Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • The covenant promise of God is preserved by them: When God promised Abraham that he would be the father of many nations, the fulfillment of the promise began with the birth of his son, Isaac. Jesus of course instituted the New Covenant promises of grace and salvation through faith in Him.
  • Both were obedient to their fathers unto death: There is no indication that Isaac resisted the sacrifice that his father Abraham intended to perform. Jesus, of course, willfully submitted to the crucifixion that was the plan of the Father for Him (cf. Phil 2:8).
  • Both carried the wood for their sacrifice: Isaac carried the wood up Mt. Moriah that Abraham was to use to make a burnt offering of his son. Jesus carried the wood that became His Cross.
  • Both are called the “only-begotten son”: Isaac is the only-begotten son of Abraham (cf. Gen 22:2), Jesus is the only-begotten son of the Father (cf. Jn 3:16).

Is pre-marital sex a mortal or a venial sin?

Assuming you do it with full knowledge and free consent of the will, engaging in pre-marital sex is a mortal sin. From the Catechism, we read:
2390 The sexual act must take place exclusively within marriage. Outside of marriage it always constitutes a grave sin and excludes one from sacramental communion.

Is abortion a mortal sin?

As with the last question, if you perform an abortion or procure one (or help someone to procure one) with full knowledge that the act is gravely sinful and with full consent of the will, then you commit a mortal sin. Again, from the Catechism:
2322 From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a "criminal" practice (GS 27 § 3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life.

Pax Christi,

Wednesday, May 02, 2012

In Defense of Trinitarian Baptism: Part 3

Here is the final installment of my response to Steve Welborn's comments in refutation of Trinitarian baptism and in defense of speaking in tongues as the sign of authentic baptism. Also see Part 1 and Part 2. Like before, his words will be indented and italicized.

Paul, baptized in the Name of Jesus. Why should you care? Because Paul said in Galatians 1:12 "For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ."

So if anyone were going to baptize in the titles (matthew 28) it would of been Paul. But he didn't because that is not what Jesus told him to do.
Please show me in Scripture where it says that Paul baptized in the name of Jesus. I can't seem to find it anywhere. Was Gal 1:12 supposed to be your proof? If so, I don't see how it says what you think it says. All Paul is saying here is that the gospel he preached and continues to preach came from a special revelation from Christ that he received.

There is no salvation when being baptized in the titles - no matter who tells you otherwise. No Church, No Pope, No Bishop - Not even another Apostle, nor Angel can change the doctrine of the Apostles.
Amen to that last part! And a correction: It is not the Catholic Church that has changed the doctrine of the Apostles, your church has. In Part 2 I said I wouldn't get into this, but now I think it might be necessary.

Look at the historical record. Every person who became a Christian for the first 1500 years of the Church did so through Trinitarian baptism. That was the practice that emerged from the Apostolic period and it continues to be the practice for the churches who have not abandoned what was always done for some "new" and "better" way.

I'll just show you the evidence from the first 400 years, lest I belabor the point:
The Didache (70 AD): "After the foregoing instructions, baptize in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, in living [running] water. If you have no living water, then baptize in other water, and if you are not able in cold, then in warm. If you have neither, pour water three times on the head, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Before baptism, let the one baptizing and the one to be baptized fast, as also any others who are able. Command the one who is to be baptized to fast beforehand for one or two days" (Didache 7:1).

Tatian the Syrian (170 AD): "Then said Jesus unto them, ‘I have been given all authority in heaven and earth; and as my Father has sent me, so I also send you. Go now into all the world, and preach my gospel in all the creation; and teach all the peoples, and baptize them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit; and teach them to keep all whatsoever I commanded you: and lo, I am with you all the days, unto the end of the world’ [Matt. 28:18-20]" (The Diatesseron 55).

Hippolytus (215 AD): "When the one being baptized goes down into the water, the one baptizing him shall put his hand on him and speak thus: ‘Do you believe in God, the Father Almighty?’ And he that is being baptized shall say: ‘I believe.’ Then, having his hand imposed upon the head of the one to be baptized, he shall baptize him once. Then he shall say: ‘Do you believe in Christ Jesus . . . ?’ And when he says: ‘I believe,’ he is baptized again. Again shall he say: ‘Do you believe in the Holy Spirit and the holy Church and the resurrection of the flesh?’ The one being baptized then says: ‘I believe.’ And so he is baptized a third time" (The Apostolic Tradition 21).

Tertullian (216 AD): "After his resurrection he promises in a pledge to his disciples that he will send them the promise of his Father; and lastly, he commands them to baptize into the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, not into a unipersonal God. And indeed it is not once only, but three times, that we are immersed into the three persons, at each several mention of their names" (Against Praxeas 26).

Origen (248 AD): "The Lord himself told his disciples that they should baptize all peoples in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit . . . for indeed, legitimate baptism is had only in the name of the Trinity" (Commentary on Romans 5:8).

The Acts of Xantippe and Polyxena (250 AD): "Then Probus . . . leapt into the water, saying, ‘Jesus Christ, Son of God, and everlasting God, let all my sins be taken away by this water.’ And Paul said, ‘We baptize thee in the name of the Father and Son and Holy Ghost.’ After this he made him to receive the Eucharist of Christ" (Acts of Xantippe and Polyxena 21).

Cyprian of Carthage (253 AD): "He [Jesus] commanded them to baptize the Gentiles in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. How then do some say that though a Gentile be baptized . . . never mind how or of whom, so long as it be done in the name of Jesus Christ, the remission of sins can follow—when Christ himself commands the nations to be baptized in the full and united Trinity?" (Letters 73:18).

Eusebius of Caesarea (323 AD): "We believe . . . each of these to be and to exist: the Father, truly Father, and the Son, truly Son, and the Holy Ghost, truly Holy Ghost, as also our Lord, sending forth his disciples for the preaching, said, ‘Go teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.’ Concerning whom we confidently affirm that so we hold, and so we think, and so we have held aforetime, and we maintain this faith unto the death, anathematizing every godless heresy" (Letter to the People of His Diocese 3).

Cyril of Jerusalem (350 AD): "You were led by the hand to the holy pool of divine baptism, as Christ was carried from the cross to this sepulcher here before us [the tomb of Jesus at Jerusalem]. And each of you was asked if he believed in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. And you confessed that saving confession, and descended three times into the water, and again ascended, and in this there was suggested by a symbol the three days of Christ’s burial" (Catechetical Lectures 20:4).

Athanasius (361 AD): "And the whole faith is summed up, and secured in this, that a Trinity should ever be preserved, as we read in the Gospel, ‘Go ye and baptize all the nations in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost’ (Matt. 28:19). And entire and perfect is the number of the Trinity (On the Councils of Arminum and Seleucia 2:28).

Basil the Great (367 AD): "The Holy Spirit, too, is numbered with the Father and the Son, because he is above creation, and is ranked as we are taught by the words of the Lord in the Gospel, ‘Go and baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost.’ He who, on the contrary, places the Spirit before the Son, or alleges him to be older than the Father, resists the ordinance of God, and is a stranger to the sound faith, since he fails to preserve the form of doxology which he has received, but adopts some newfangled device in order to be pleasing to men" (Letters 52:4).

Ambrose of Milan (379 AD): "Moreover, Christ himself says: ‘I and the Father are one.’ ‘One,’ said he, that there be no separation of power and nature; but again, ‘We are,’ that you may recognize Father and Son, forasmuch as the perfect Father is believed to have begotten the perfect Son, and the Father and the Son are one, not by confusion of person, but by unity of nature. We say, then, that there is one God, not two or three gods" (The Faith 1:1[9–10]).

Gregory of Nazianz (380 AD): "But not yet perhaps is there formed upon your soul any writing good or bad; and you want to be written upon today. . . . I will baptize you and make you a disciple in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost; and these three have one common name, the Godhead. And you shall know, both by appearances and by words that you reject all ungodliness, and are united to all the Godhead" (Orations 40:45).

Jerome (382 AD): "[S]eeing that a man, baptized in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, becomes a temple of the Lord, and that while the old abode is destroyed a new shrine is built for the Trinity, how can you say that sins can be remitted among the Arians without the coming of the Holy Ghost? How is a soul purged from its former stains which has not the Holy Ghost?" (Dialogue Against the Luciferians 6).

Gregory of Nyssa (383 AD): "And we, in receiving baptism . . . conceal ourselves in [the water] as the Savior did in the earth: and by doing this thrice we represent for ourselves that grace of the resurrection which was wrought in three days. And this we do, not receiving the sacrament in silence, but while there are spoken over us the names of the three sacred persons on whom we believed, in whom we also hope, from whom comes to us both the fact of our present and the fact of our future existence" (Sermon For the Day of Lights).

Augustine (400 AD): "Baptism in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost has Christ for its authority, not any man, whoever he may be; and Christ is the truth, not any man" (On Baptism, Against the Donatists 4:24 [57]).
This data basically leaves you with two options:
  1. Jesus allowed basically all of Christendom to act in error regarding a fundamental requirement for their salvation for over 1500 years, or
  2. You might just be wrong about the formula for baptism
Which one is it, Steve?

If you were baptized in the titles - you still have the sin of adam upon you. You are not saved by Water and Spirit, you did not receive the Holy Spirit if you did not speak in tongues. How would someone know you have it if they did not hear you? This is also scriptural and should be followed.
First, regarding me still being in my sin, that's not what Christians have always believed and taught. Excuse me, but I think I'll go with "the faith once for all delivered to the saints" over some denomination that was founded in the 20th century (assuming your church is even that old).

Secondly, as for speaking in tongues, if we follow your logic we're forced to say that:
  • the 3,000 from Acts 2:37-41 didn't receive the Spirit,
  • the Samaritans from Acts 8:12 didn't receive the Spirit,
  • the eunuch from Acts 8:38 didn't receive the Spirit,
  • Saul didn't receive the Spirit (cf. Acts 9:18; 22:16),
  • Lydia and her household didn't receive the Spirit (cf. Acts 16:14-15),
  • the jailer and his household didn't receive the Spirit (cf. Acts 16:33),
  • the Corinthians from Acts 18:8 didn't receive the Spirit.
After all, it doesn't say that any of them received the gift of speaking in tongues when they were baptized! Is that really what you're prepared to say?

Finally, how will people know I've received the Spirit if I don't speak in tongues? First of all, they'll know it because they'll believe that's what happens when a person is baptized. Secondly, they'll know by the love I show my neighbor (cf. Jn 13:35) and by the fruits of the Spirit that I exhibit (cf. Gal 5:22-23). If the Spirit is bearing fruit in your life, I'm pretty sure that means you've received the Spirit.

This isn't just for ancient times folks, this was suppose to continue, for Peter in Acts 2:39 said "39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the LORD our God shall call."
If this was supposed to continue after the apostolic period, how come the historical record shows that the Church that emerged from this period was baptizing in the Trinitarian formula and not "in the name of Jesus"? Your practice is a novelty! I'll take that "ancient times" teaching!

Obey Acts 2:38 - Its your salvation at stake.

Pax Christi,
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