Lord his hope and confidence.
- Jeremiah 17:7
Immaculate Conception Church at 602 S. Camden Street, Richmond, MO 64085 US - Frequently asked Questions about the Catholic Church
Frequently asked Questions about the Catholic Church
Why Does the Catholic Bible have more Books than the Protestant Bible?
Why do Catholics believe that the universe and all life in it was created by, and is governed by, an all-powerful Spirit Being called God? What actual proof is there of God's existence and omnipotence?
Catholics believe that the universe is the creation, and the exclusive dominion, of an infinitely powerful Spirit Being, called God, because the evidence which points to that conclusion is so overwhelming that there is no room left for even the slightest vestige of doubt. First, there is the evidence of logic. Through the process of simple mathematical-type reasoning, man inevitably comes face to face with certain indisputable principles: Everything has a cause; nothing can bring itself into existence. Obviously there is a long chain of causes in the universe, but ultimately there must be a first cause, an uncaused cause. This uncaused cause we call ``God.'' (The theory of evolution, even if it could be proved, would not explain the origin of anything; evolution simply deals with what may have happened after matter came into existence.) Further, 1) personal creation (man) presupposes a superior Personal Creator, 2) universal order presupposes a Universal Orderer, 3) cosmic energy presupposes a Cosmic Energizer, 4) natural law presupposes a Universal Law Maker. Basic principles of reason such as these explain why so many of the world's leading scientists are firm believers in God.
Then, there is the evidence of divine revelation--on countless occasions God has revealed Himself by voice, vision and apparition (by means which are receptive to the human senses), and demonstrated His Omnipotence by stupendous, obviously supernatural miracles. Many of these revelations are a matter of authenticated historical record. The Scriptures, for example, are full of such accounts; and in modern times the world has been witness to such Heaven-sent miracles as those at Fatima, Lourdes, and St. Anne de Beaupré in Quebec, Canada, where the cured have left a forest of crutches in testimony. (The Lourdes Medical Bureau is open for examination by any doctor.) In addition, there is the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius which still takes place in Naples each year on September 19, his feastday; the incorruption of the bodies of many Catholic saints (such as St. Bernadette, who died in 1879); and the miraculous Eucharistic Host of Lanciano, Italy, which has been scientifically proven to be human flesh and human blood, type AB--to mention only a few of the miracles still on-going in the 20th century, which point to the existence of a God.
And lastly there is the evidence of human intuition. Psychologists have long known that every human being--the atheist included--intuitively seeks God's help in times of great calamity, and instinctively pleads for God's mercy when death is imminent. Hence the renowned Voltaire, who was so eloquent in his denial of God while he enjoyed health, fame and fortune, repudiated all of his atheistic writings on his deathbed and frantically sought the ministrations of a Catholic priest. Nikolai Lenin, as he lay on his deathbed, looked around him and frantically asked pardon of the tables and chairs in the room. For as hunger for food proclaims the existence of food, man's intuitive hunger for God proclaims the Reality, the Omnipotence and the Justice of God. Catholic belief in God, therefore, is purely and simply an expression of intellectual sanity.
Why do Catholics believe that God is three Persons, called the Holy Trinity? How can God be three Persons and still be one God?
Catholics believe there is one God consisting of three distinct and equal divine Persons--Father, Son and Holy Spirit--because on numerous occasions God has described Himself thus. The Old Testament gives intimations that there are more than one Person in God. In Genesis 1:26, God says, ``Let us make man to our image and likeness.'' In Isaias 9:6-7, God the Father revealed the imminent coming into the world of God the Son. In Psalms 2:7, we read, ``The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.'' And in the New Testament, God reveals this doctrine even more clearly. For example, at the baptism of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove, and the voice of God the Father was heard: ``This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.'' (Matt. 3:16-17). In Matthew 28:19, God the Son commanded the Apostles to baptize ``in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.'' And in 1 Cor. 12:4-6, the Bible refers to God with three names: Spirit, Lord, and God-- corresponding to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.
Three divine Persons in one Godhead may be incomprehensible to the human mind, but that is to be expected. How can man fully comprehend God's infinite make-up when he cannot fully comprehend his own finite make-up? We have to take God's word for it. Also, we can satisfy ourselves as to the feasibility of God's triune make-up by considering various other triune realities. The triangle, for example, is one distinct form with three distinct and equal sides. And the clover leaf is one leaf with three distinct and equal petals. There are many physical trinities on earth, therefore a Spiritual Trinity, who is God in Heaven, is not against human reason--it is simply above human reason.
Why do Catholics believe that Jesus Christ was God the Son--the Second Person of the Holy Trinity? Would it not be more reasonable to believe that He was a great and holy man... a religious leader of exceptional talent and dedication... a prophet?
Catholics believe that Jesus was God the Son, incarnate in human flesh, firstly because God's physical manifestation on earth, plus all the circumstances of that manifestation, were prophesied time and again in Divine Revelation, and Jesus fulfilled that prophecy right to the letter; secondly, because He claimed that He was God (John 10:30, 14:9-10 and numerous other passages), and He never deceived anyone; thirdly, because He proved His divinity by His impeccable holiness and the flawless perfection of His doctrine; fourthly, because only God could have performed the miracles He performed miracles such as walking on the sea, feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and, after His death on the Cross, resurrecting Himself from His own tomb; fifthly, because only God could have, in the brief space of three years, without military conquest, without political power, without writing a single line or traveling more than a few score miles, so profoundly affected the course of human events; sixthly, because only God can instill in the soul of man the grace and the peace and the assurance of eternal salvation that Jesus instills.
Why do Catholics believe that their Church is the one true Church of Jesus Christ? Wouldn't it be more reasonable to believe that Christ's true Church is a spiritual union of all Christian denominations?
Catholics believe that theirs is the one true Church of Jesus Christ, firstly, because theirs is the only Christian Church that goes back in history to the time of Christ; secondly, because theirs is the only Christian Church which possesses the invincible unity, the intrinsic holiness, the continual universality and the indisputable apostolicity which Christ said would distinguish His true Church; and thirdly, because the Apostles and primitive Church Fathers, who certainly were members of Christ's true Church, all professed membership in this same Catholic Church (See Apostles' Creed and the Primitive Christian letters). Wrote Ignatius of Antioch, illustrious Church Father of the first century: ``Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be; even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church.'' Our Lord said: ``There shall be one fold and one shepherd, yet it is well known that the various Christian denominations cannot agree on what Christ actually taught. Since Christ roundly condemned interdenominationalism (``And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.'' Mark 3:25), Catholics cannot believe that He would ever sanction it in His Church.
Why do Catholics believe that Peter the Apostle was the first Pope, when the word ``Pope'' doesn't even appear in Catholic Bibles? Just where does the Pope get his authority to rule over the Catholic Church?
True, the word ``Pope'' doesn't appear in the Bible--but then neither do the words ``Trinity,'' ``Incarnation,'' ``Ascension'' and ``Bible'' appear in the Bible. However, they are referred to by other names. The Bible, for example, is referred to as ``Scripture.'' The Pope, which means head bishop of the Church, is referred to as the ``rock'' of the Church, or as the ``shepherd'' of the Church. Christ used that terminology when He appointed the Apostle Peter the first head bishop of His Church, saying: ``Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona . . . Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.'' (Matt. 16:17-19). ``There shall be one fold and one shepherd.'' (John 10:16). ``Feed my lambs... feed my sheep.'' (John 21:15-17). The words ``rock'' and ``shepherd'' must apply to Peter, and they must distinguish him as the head Apostle, otherwise Christ's statements are so ambiguous as to be meaningless. Certainly the other Apostles understood that Peter had authority from Christ to lead the Church, for they gave him the presiding place every time they assembled in council (Acts 1:15, 5:1-10), and they placed his name first every time they listed the names of the Apostles. (Matt. 10:2, Mark 3:16, Luke 6:13-14, Acts 1:13).
In addition, there is the testimony of the Church Fathers. In the second century St. Hegessipus compiled a list of Popes to the time of Anicetus (eleventh Pope) which contained the name of St. Peter as first. Early in the third century the historian Caius wrote that Pope Victor was ``the thirteenth Bishop of Rome from Peter.'' In the middle of the third century St. Cyprian related that Cornelius (twenty-first Pope) ``mounted the lofty summit of the priesthood . . . the place of Peter.'' Even Protestant historians have attested to Peter's role as first Bishop of Rome, first Pope of the Catholic Church. Wrote the eminent Protestant historian Cave in his Historia Literaria: ``That Peter was at Rome, and held the See there for some time, we fearlessly affirm with the whole multitude of the ancients.'' Hence the source of the Pope's authority to rule over the Catholic Church is quite obvious: It was given him by none other than Jesus Christ--by God Himself.
Why do Catholics believe in seven sacraments, while Protestants believe in only two? Exactly what is a sacrament, and what does it do for a person?
Catholics believe in seven sacraments because Christ instituted seven; because the Apostles and Church Fathers believed in seven; because the second Ecumenical Council of Lyons (1274) defined seven; and because the Ecumenical Council of Trent (1545-1563) confirmed seven. In short, the enumeration, seven, arises from the perpetual tradition of Christian belief--which explains why that enumeration is accepted not only by Catholics, but by all of the other ancient and semi-ancient Christian communities--Egyptian Coptic, Ethiopian Monophysite, Syrian Jacobite, Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox.
To understand what a sacrament is, and what it does for a person, one must know the correct, the traditional Christian, definition of a sacrament. Properly defined, a sacrament is ``an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace'' (holiness) to the soul . . . that is to say, it is a divinely prescribed ceremony of the Church in which the words and action combine to form what is at the same time both a sign of divine grace and a fount of divine grace. When this special grace--distinct from ordinary, inspirational grace--is imparted to the soul, the Holy Spirit of God is imparted to the soul, imbuing the soul with divine life, uniting the soul to Christ.
As the Scriptures point out, this grace is the grace of salvation--without it man is, in a very real sense, isolated from Christ. And as the Scriptures point out, Christ gave His Church seven sacraments to serve as well-springs of this ineffable, soul-saving grace, the grace which flows from His sacrifice on Calvary:
BAPTISM--the sacrament of spiritual rebirth through which we are made children of God and heirs of Heaven: ``Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.'' (John 3:5. Also see Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:2-6).
CONFIRMATION--the sacrament which confers the Holy Spirit to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ: ``Now when the apostles, who were in Jerusalem, had heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John. Who, when they were come, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost.... Then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost.'' (Acts 8:14-17. Also see Acts 19:6).
The EUCHARIST--the sacrament, also known as Holy Communion, which nourishes the soul with the true Flesh and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, under the appearance, or sacramental veil, of bread and wine: ``And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said: Take ye. This is my body. And having taken the chalice, giving thanks, he gave it to them. And they all drank of it. And he said to them: This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many.'' (Mark 14:22-24. Also see Matt. 26:26-28, Luke 22:19-20, John 6:52-54, 1 Cor. 10:16).
RECONCILIATION--the sacrament, also known as Penance or Confession, through which Christ forgives sin and restores the soul to grace: ``Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained. '' (John 20:22-23. Also see Matt. 18:18).
SACRAMENT of the SICK --the sacrament, sometimes called extreme unction or the Last Anointing, which strengthens the sick and sanctifies the dying: ``Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord . . . and if he be in ,ins, they shall be forgiven him.'' (James 5:14-15. Also see Mark 6:12-13).
HOLY ORDERS--the sacrament of ordination which empowers priests to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, administer the sacraments, and officiate over all the other proper affairs of the Church: ``For every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins.... Neither doth any man take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was.'' (Heb. 5:1-4. Also see Acts 20:28, 1 Tim. 4:14). Also: ``And taking bread, he gave thanks, and broke; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me.'' (Luke 22:19).
MATRIMONY--the sacrament which unites a man and woman in a holy and indissoluble bond: ``For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.'' (Matt. 19:5-6. Also see Mark 10:7-9, Eph. 5:22-32).
There you have it, the Word of Christ and the example of the Apostles attesting both to the validity and the efficacy of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. In truth, every one of them is an integral part of Christ's plan for man's eternal salvation.
Why does the Catholic Church discourage Bible reading when, according to the Apostle, ``All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach...[and] to instruct in justice''? (2 Tim. 3:16)?
If the Catholic Church discourages Bible reading, the Pope, the thousands of Catholic Bishops, and the many millions of Catholic lay people, are not aware of it. For the Popes have issued pastoral letters to the whole Church, called encyclicals, on the edifying effects of Bible reading. The Catholic Bible far outsells all other Christian Bibles worldwide. In fact, it has always been thus. The very first Christian Bible was produced by the Catholic Church--compiled by Catholic scholars of the 2nd and 3rd century and approved for general Christian use by the Catholic Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). The very first printed Bible was produced under the auspices of the Catholic Church--printed by the Catholic inventor of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg. And the very first Bible with chapters and numbered verses was produced by the Catholic Church--the work of Stephen Langton, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury. It was this perennial Catholic devotion to the Bible which prompted Martin Luther--who certainly cannot be accused of Catholic favoritism--to write in his Commentary on St. John: ``We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of God, that we received it from them, and that without them we should have no knowledge of it at all.''
Why do Catholics believe that good works are necessary for salvation! Does not Paul say in Romans 3:28 that faith alone justifies!
Catholics believe that faith and good works are both necessary for salvation, because such is the teaching of Jesus Christ. What Our Lord demands is ``faith that worketh by charity .'' (Gal. 5 :6). Read Matthew 25:31-46, which describes the Last Judgment as being based on works of charity. The first and greatest commandment, as given by Our Lord Himself, is to love the Lord God with all one's heart, mind, soul, and strength; and the second great commandment is to love one's neighbor as oneself. (Mark 12:30-31). When the rich young man asked Our Lord what he must do to gain eternal life, Our Lord answered: ``Keep the commandments.'' (Matt. 19:17). Thus, although faith is the beginning, it is not the complete fulfillment of the will of God. Nowhere in the Bible is it written that faith alone justifies. When St. Paul wrote, ``For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law,'' he was referring to works peculiar to the old Jewish Law, and he cited circumcision as an example.
The Catholic Church does not teach that purely human good works are meritorious for salvation; such works are not meritorious for salvation, according to her teaching. Only those good works performed when a person is in the state of grace--that is, as a branch drawing its spiritual life from the Vine which is Christ (John 15:4-6)--only these good deeds work toward our salvation, and they do so only by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ. These good works, offered to God by a soul in the state of grace (i.e., free of mortal sin, with the Blessed Trinity dwelling in the soul), are thereby supernaturally meritorious because they share in the work and in the merits of Christ. Such supernatural good works will not only be rewarded by God, but are necessary for salvation.
St. Paul shows how the neglect of certain good works will send even a Christian believer to damnation: ``But if any man have not care of his own, and especially of those of his house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.'' (1 Tim. 5:8). Our Lord tells us that if the Master (God) returns and finds His servant sinning, rather than performing works of obedience, He ``shall separate him, and shall appoint him his portion with unbelievers.'' (Luke 12:46).
Furthermore, Catholics know they will be rewarded in Heaven for their good works. Our Lord Himself said: ``For the Son of man . . . will render to every man according to his works.'' (Matt. 16:27). ``And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.'' (Matt. 10:42). Catholics believe, following the Apostle Paul, that ``every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor.'' (1 Cor. 3:8). ``For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name, you who have ministered, and do minister to the saints.'' (Heb. 6:10). ``I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming.'' (2 Tim. 4:7-8).
Still, Catholics know that, strictly speaking, God never owes us anything. Even after obeying all God's commandments, we must still say: ``We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.'' (Luke 17:10). As St. Augustine (5th century) stated: ``All our good merits are wrought through grace, so that God, in crowning our merits, is crowning nothing but His gifts.''
Had St. Paul meant that faith ruled out the necessity of good works for salvation, he would not have written: ``. . . and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.'' (1 Cor. 13:2). If faith ruled out the necessity of good works for salvation, the Apostle James would not have written: ``Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only'? . . . For even as the body without the spirit is dead; so also faith without works is dead.'' (James 2:24-26). Or: ``What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him?'' (James 2:14). If faith ruled out the necessity of good works for salvation, the Apostle Peter would not have written: ``Wherefore, brethren, labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election. For doing these things, you shall not sin at any time. For so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.'' (2 Peter 1:10-11). If faith ruled out the necessity of good works for salvation, the primitive Christian Fathers would not have advocated good works in such powerful words. Wrote St. Irenaeus, one of the most illustrious of the primitive Christian Fathers: ``For what is the use of knowing the truth in word, while defiling the body and accomplishing the works of evil? Or what real good at all can bodily holiness do. if truth be not in the soul? For these two, faith and good works, rejoice in each other's company, and agree together and fight side by side to set man in the Presence of God.'' (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching). Justification by faith alone is a new doctrine; it was unheard of in the Christian community before the sixteenth century.
Why do Catholics worship Mary as though she were a goddess, when it is clear in Scripture that she was not a supernatural being?
Catholics do not worship Mary, the Mother of Christ--as though she were a deity. Of all the misconceptions about Catholic belief and practice, this one is the most absurd. Catholics are just as aware as Protestants that Mary was a human creature, and therefore not entitled to the honors which are reserved to God alone. What many non-Catholics mistake for adoration is a very profound love and veneration, nothing more. Mary is not adored, first because God forbids it, and secondly because the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, which is based on Divine Law, forbids it. Canon Law 1255 of the 1918 Codex strictly forbids adoration of anyone other than the Holy Trinity. However, Catholics do feel that Mary is entitled to a great measure of exaltation because, in choosing her as the Mother of Redemption, God Himself exalted her--exalted her more than any other human person before or since. Catholics heap tribute and honor on Mary because they earnestly desire to be ``followers of God, as most dear children.'' (Eph. 5:1). Mary herself prophesied: ``For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name.'' (Luke 1:48-49). Catholics know that every bit of the glory they give to Mary redounds to the glory of her divine Son, just as Mary magnified God, not herself, when Elizabeth blessed her. (Luke 1:41-55). They know that the closer they draw to her, the closer they draw to Him who was born of her. In the year 434 St. Vincent of Lerins defended Christian devotion to Mary this way: ``Therefore, may God forbid that anyone should attempt to defraud Holy Mary of her privilege of divine grace and her special glory. For by a unique favor of our Lord and God she is confessed to be the most true and most blessed Mother of God.'' Today 75% of all Christians still hold to this same view.
Why do Catholics confess their sins to priests? What makes them think that priests can absolve them of the guilt of their sins? Why don't they confess their sins directly to God as Protestants do?
Catholics confess their sins to priests because-- as it is clearly stated in Sacred Scripture--God in the Person of Jesus Christ authorized the priests of His Church to hear confessions and empowered them to forgive sins in His Name. To the Apostles, the first priests of His Church, Christ said: ``Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you.... Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.'' (John 20:21-23). Then again: ``Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.'' (Matt. 18:18). In other words, Catholics confess their sins to priests because priests are God's duly authorized agents in the world, representing Him in all matters pertaining to the ways and means of attaining eternal salvation. When Catholics confess their sins to a priest they are, in reality, confessing their sins to God, for God hears their confessions and it is He who, in the final analysis, does the forgiving. If their confessions are not sincere, their sins are not forgiven.
Furthermore, Catholics do confess their sins directly to God as Protestants do: Catholics are taught to make an act of contrition at least every night before retiring, to ask God to forgive them their sins of that day. Catholics are also taught to say this same prayer of contrition if they should have the misfortune to commit a serious sin (called a ``mortal sin'' by Catholics).
Why do Catholics believe that Christ is sacrificed in each and every Mass, when Scripture plainly states that He was sacrificed on Calvary once and for all?
Most non-Catholics do not realize it, but Christ Himself offered the first Mass at the Last Supper. At the Last Supper He offered (sacrificed) Himself to His Father in an unbloody manner, that is, under the form of bread and wine, in anticipation of His bloody sacrifice on the cross to be offered on the following day, Good Friday. In the Mass, not now by anticipation, but rather in retrospect, Christ continues to make that offering of Himself to His Father--by the hands of the priest. ``And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.'' (Matt. 26:26-28). Christ ordered His Church to perpetuate that sacrificial rite for the continued sanctification of His followers, saying, ``Do this for a commemoration of me'' (Luke 22:19)--so the Catholic Church complies with His order in the Mass. In other words, every Mass is a re-enactment of Our Lord's one sacrifice of Calvary. The Mass derives all its value from the Sacrifice of the Cross; the Mass is that same sacrifice, not another. It is not essentially a sacrifice offered by men (although men also join in), but rather it is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.
Christ's bloody sacrifice on Calvary was accomplished ``once'' (Heb. 10:10), just as Scripture says. The Catholic Church likewise teaches that the sacrifice of the Cross was a complete and perfect sacrifice-- offered ``once.'' But the Apostle Paul--the same Apostle who wrote this text in the book of Hebrews--also bears witness that the sacrificial rite which Christ instituted at the Last Supper is to be perpetuated--and that it is not only important for man's sanctification, but is the principal factor in man's final redemption. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, St. Paul tells how, at the Last Supper, Our Lord said: ``This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come.'' Thus at every Mass the Christian has a new opportunity to worship God with this one perfect sacrifice and to ``absorb'' more of Christ's saving and sanctifying grace of Calvary. This grace is infinite, and the Christian should continuously grow in this grace until his death. The reason the Mass is offered again and again is not from any imperfection in Christ, but from our imperfect capacity to receive.
Finally, the holy sacrifice of the Mass fulfills the Old Testament prophecy: ``For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.'' (Mal. 1:11). The Sacrifice of the Mass is offered every day throughout the world, and in every Mass the only truly ``clean oblation'' is offered, that is, Christ Himself; thus the Mass is the perfect fulfillment of this prophecy.
Why do Catholics believe their Holy Communion is the actual Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ? Why don't they believe as [most] Protestants do that Christ is only present symbolically, or spiritually, in the consecrated bread and wine?
Catholics believe that their Holy Communion, the Blessed Eucharist, is the actual Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ, because that is what Christ said It was: ``This is my body... This is my blood'' (Matt. 26:26-28; see also Luke 22:19-20 and Mark 14:22-24); because that is what Christ said they must receive in order to have eternal life: ``. . . Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you...'' (John 6:48-52; 54-56); and because that is what the Apostles believed: ``The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord?'' (1 Cor. 10:16). ``Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.'' (1 Cor. 11:27-29). Also, Catholics believe that Holy Communion is the actual Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ because that is what all Christians believed until the advent of Protestantism in the 16th century.
Wrote Justin Martyr, illustrious Church Father of the second century: ``This food is known among us as the Eucharist . . . We do not receive these things as common bread and common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior, being made flesh by the Word of God.'' Wrote St. Cyril of Jerusalem, venerable Church Father of the fourth century: ``Since then Christ has declared and said of the bread, 'This is my Body,' who after that will venture to doubt? And seeing that He has affirmed and said, 'This is my Blood,' who will raise a question and say it is not His Blood?'' In addition to the witness of Sacred Scripture and Christian tradition, Catholics have the witness of the Holy Eucharist itself: On numerous occasions great and awesome miracles have attended its dis- play, and seldom has its reception by the Catholic faithful failed to produce in them a feeling of joyful union with their Lord and Saviour. In the face of all this evidence, Catholics could hardly be expected to adopt the Protestant position.
Why is the Catholic Church opposed to birth control? Where in the Bible is birth control condemned as being contrary to the Will of God?
The Catholic Church is not opposed to birth control when it is accomplished by natural means, by self control. She is opposed only to birth control by artificial means, by the employment of pills, condoms, IUD's, foams, jellies, sterilization, non-completion of the act of sexual union--or any other means used to prevent conception from resulting from this act--because such means profane the marital embrace and dishonor the marriage contract. God slew Onan for practicing contraception (Gen. 38:9-10); the word ``onanism'' derives from Onan's deed. In fact, up until the Church of England's Lambeth Conference of 1930, which accepted contraception and thus broke with the Christian tradition, contraception had been considered by all Christian churches, both Catholic and Protestant, to be gravely sinful. The Catholic Church does not feel free to change the law of God, as do Protestants.
In the New Testament, there is only one instance where sin is punished by God with immediate death, this was the fate of Ananias and Saphira, a husband and wife who went through the motions of giving a gift to God but fraudulently kept back part of it. The Bible says they lied to the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5 : 1-11 ). In contraception, two people go through the motions of an act of self-giving, but obstruct the natural fruition of their act, i.e., the conception of children, which is the ultimate purpose for which God created sexuality. Sexual union is a gift from God to the married, but by practicing contraception, married couples are accepting the pleasure God built into the act and yet denying Him its purpose, new people. They are in effect mocking God. But ``Be not deceived, God is not mocked.'' (Gal. 6:7). Christ cursed the fig tree which, despite a fine external appearance, bore no fruit. (Matt. 21:19; Mark 11:14). Marriage is God's plan for populating Heaven, yet contracepting couples refuse Him the specific fruit of their marriage, which is children, when they engage in the act which should produce children yet frustrate the natural, God-intended result.
Further, the sin of ``sorceries'' or ``witchcrafts'' (``pharmakeia'' in the Greek--Gal. 5:20; Apoc. 9:21; 21:8)--which the Bible condemns along with fornication, murder, idolatry, and other serious sins--very possibly includes secret potions mixed to prevent pregnancy or cause abortion. Such potions were known and used even in the first century.
Common sense and conscience both dictate that artificial birth control is not only a violation of the Natural Law but is a perfidious insult to the dignity of man himself. For it implies free reign to physical impulses; it implies total disregard for the fate of the human seed; it implies utter contempt for the honorable birth of fellow humans, those fellow humans who are born as the result of a contraceptive having failed and whose very existence is therefore considered to be an unfortunate ``accident,'' rather than a gift of God; it implies the most extreme selfishness, for no advocate or practitioner of artificial birth control would have wanted it for his or her own parents. Further, contraception undermines the respect of husband and wife for each other and thereby loosens the marriage bond. Worst of all, many ``contraceptives,'' such as the IUD and most if not all birth control pills, work by actually causing an abortion early in the pregnancy; thus, this so-called ``contraception'' is in reality abortion--the killing of a human being--rather than the preventing of conception.
In every age there is some favorite sin which is accepted by ``respectable'' worldly Christians; in our times the ``acceptable'' sin is contraception--a sin which fits in perfectly with the view that the purpose of human life is to attain earthly happiness. The true Christian couple, on the other hand, will realize that God desires them to have children so that these children can come to know Him and love Him and be happy with Him eternally in Heaven. Marriage is God's plan for populating Heaven. How wise it is to let God plan one's family, since He loves children much more than do their earthly parents, and His plans for them go far beyond any plans of these parents. Innumerable stories are told of God's Providence to Christian parents who trusted in Him and obeyed His law. For those who have a true and serious need to space or limit the number of their children, the new methods of natural family planning based on periodic abstinence have proven to be extremely reliable (unlike the earlier ``rhythm'' methods) .
Finally, the Christian will realize that the self-denial involved in bearing and raising Christian children is a school of Christlikeness. Our Lord said: ``If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.'' (Matt. 16:24). But He also said: ``My yoke is sweet and my burden light.'' (Matt. 11:30). God promises sufficient grace to those who seek to obey Him. And the resulting peace of soul which the obedient married couple enjoys is beyond all price. Why does the Catholic Church make no exceptions when it comes to divorce? Does not the Bible say that Christ permitted divorce in case of fornication? (Matthew 19:9).
The Catholic Church makes no exceptions when it comes to divorce because Christ made no exceptions. When Christ was asked if it was lawful for a man to put away his wife ``for every cause,'' He replied that a man ``shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh . . . What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.'' (Matt. 19:3-6). And the Apostle Paul wrote: ``But to them that are married, not I but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband. And if she depart, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife.'' (1 Cor. 7:10-11). In Matthew 19:9 Christ does not permit divorce in cases of fornication. He permits separation. This is clear from the fact that those who separated were cautioned not to remarry. Read Mark 10-12 and Luke 16:18.
Also, we know that divorce is against Divine Law because it is plainly against right reason. Were it not for our man-made laws which ``legalize,'' popularize, and even glamorize divorce, discontented married couples would make a more determined effort to reconcile their differences and live in peace; they would be obliged by necessity to swallow their false pride and accept the responsibilities they owe to their spouses, to their children, to society as a whole, and to God. Any sociologist will confirm that there is far less immorality, far less suicide, far fewer mental disorders and far less crime among peoples who reject divorce than among the so-called ``progressives'' who accept it. ( Brought to you by The Augustine Club at Columbia University).
By What Authority does the Pope Rule Over the Catholic Church?
The Pope enjoys, by divine institution, "supreme, full, immediate, and universal power in the care of souls". The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, who exercises universal jurisdiction over the whole Church as the Vicar of Christ and the Successor of St. Peter. Jesus gave Peter special authority among the apostles (John 21:15-17) and signified this by changing his name from Simon to Peter, which means "rock" (John 1:42). He said Peter was to be the rock on which he would build his Church (Matt. 16:18).
In Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke, Simon's new name was Kepha (which means a massive rock). Later this name was translated into Greek as Petros (John 1:42) and into English as Peter. Christ gave Peter alone the "keys of the kingdom" (Matt. 16:19) and promised that Peter's decisions would be binding in heaven. He also gave similar power to the other apostles (Matt. 18:18), but only Peter was given the keys, symbols of his authority to rule the Church on earth in Jesus' absence.
Christ, the Good Shepherd, called Peter to be the chief shepherd of his Church (John 21:15-17). He gave Peter the task of strengthening the other apostles in their faith, ensuring that they taught only what was true (Luke 22:31-32). Peter led the Church in proclaiming the gospel and making decisions (Acts 2:1- 41, 15:7-12).
Early Christian writings tell us that Peter's successors, the bishops of Rome (who from the earliest times have been called by the affectionate title of "pope," which means "papa"), continued to exercise Peter's ministry in the Church.
The term "pope" derives from the Latin for "father," papa (Greek, pappas), also used to refer to bishops and to priests in the Orthodox Churches. The Coptic Patriarch of Alexandria is also known by the title "pope." But in Western Christianity, this term refers exclusively to the Roman Pontiff, called His Holiness the Pope, who governs the universal Church as the successor to St. Peter. "The office uniquely committed by the Lord to Peter, the first of the Apostles, and to be transmitted to his successors, abides in the Bishop of the Church of Rome," who is "head of the College of Bishops, the Vicar of Christ, and the Pastor of the Universal Church," and who possesses "by virtue of his office, . . . supreme, full, immediate, and universal ordinary jurisdiction power in the Church" (Canon 331).
The Pope is assisted in carrying out his office by the bishops, the cardinals and the various offices of the Roman Curia. The Pope also has an enormously important international role, as visible symbol of the unity of the Church and as a universally acknowledged spokesman for justice, for world peace, for morality, for the dignity of the human person and for the transcendent meaning of all life on earth. In recent years, this role has been exercised in particular through pastoral visits to many countries of the world by Popes Paul VI and John Paul II.
The pope is the successor to Peter as bishop of Rome. The world's other bishops are successors to the apostles in general.
The "Canon" (derived from the Greek word for rule) of Scripture comprises books of the Bible received in the Church as authentically inspired and normative for the Faith. The Catholic Church, through her Popes and Councils, gathered together the separate books that early Christians venerated; formed a collection (drew up a list or catalog of inspired and apostolic writings); and declared that only these were the Sacred Scriptures of the New Testament. The authorities responsible for settling and closing the "Canon" of Holy Scripture were the Councils of Hippo (393) and of Carthage (397 and 416) under the influence of St. Augustine (at the latter of which two Legatees were present from the Pope), and the Popes Innocent I in 405, and Gelasius, 494, both of whom issued lists of Sacred Scripture identical with that fixed by the Councils. The Church never admitted any other; and at the Council of Florence in the fifteenth century, and the Council of Trent in the sixteenth, and the Council of the Vatican (Vatican I) in the nineteenth, she renewed her anathemas against all who should deny or dispute this collection of books as the inspired word of God.
The Protestant Bibles have deliberately excluded seven complete Books that were in every collection and catalog of Holy Scripture from the fourth to the sixteenth century. Their names are Tobias, Baruch, Judith, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, I Maccabees, II Maccabees, together with seven chapters of the Book of Esther and 66 verses of the 3rd chapter of Daniel, commonly called "the Song of the Three Children". These were deliberately cut out of the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament started in the third century B.C. in Alexandria, Egypt and completed around 100 B.C.), based on the criticisms and remarks of Luther, Calvin, and the Swiss and German Reformers. Were it not for the resistance of the more conservative Reformers, Luther would have excluded the Epistle of St. James (which he called "an Epistle of straw"), the Epistle of St. Jude, the Epistle to the Hebrews, and the Book of Revelation from the Protestant New Testament as well.
When did the Church established by Jesus Christ get the name Catholic?
Christ left the adoption of a name for His Church to those whom he commissioned to teach all nations. Christ called the spiritual society He established, "My Church" (Mt. xvi, 18), "the Church" (Mt. xviii, 17). In order to have a distinction between the Church and the Synagogue and to have a distinguishing name from those embracing Judaic and Gnostic errors we find St. Ignatius (50-107 A.D.) using the Greek word "Katholicos" (universal) to describe the universality of the Church established by Christ. St. Ignatius was appointed Bishop of Antioch by St. Peter, the Bishop of Rome. It is in his writtings that we find the word Catholic used for the first time. St. Augustine, when speaking about the Church of Christ, calls it the Catholic Church 240 times in his writings.
Why Does God cause Evil?
The question that bothered St. Augustine as a young man is a question that bothers many people today.
Here is a good point we should keep in mind when we ask questions about God. We should never ask the question as if we are putting God in the box of the accused and then demanding that He explain Himself to us. Many people do this. When they see how many evil things happen to good people, they conclude either that there is no God or that God does not care.
True, at first it might seem that if God created all things, then evil must have been created by God (Is 45:7; Psalm 5:4). However, evil is not a “thing” like a rock or electricity. You cannot have a jar of evil. Evil has no existence of its own; it is really the absence of good. For example, holes are real but they only exist in something else. We call the absence of dirt a hole, but it cannot be separated from the dirt. So when God created, it is true that all He created was good. One of the good things God made were creatures who had the freedom to choose good. In order to have a real choice, God had to allow there to be something besides good to choose. So, God allowed these free angels and humans to choose good or reject good (evil). When a bad relationship exists between two good things we call that evil, but it does not become a “thing” that required God to create it.
Here is another illustration: If a person is asked, “Does cold exist?” the answer would likely be “yes.” However, this is incorrect. Cold does not exist. Cold is the absence of heat. Similarly, darkness does not exist; it is the absence of light. Evil is the absence of good, or better, evil is the absence of God. God did not have to create evil, but rather only allow for the absence of good.
Why does the church teach that marriage is a sacrament?
The sacraments make Christ present in our midst. Like the other sacraments, marriage is not just for the good of individuals, or the couple, but for the community as a whole. The Catholic Church teaches that marriage between two baptized persons is a sacrament. The Old Testament prophets saw the marriage of a man and woman as a symbol of the covenant relationship between God and his people. The permanent and exclusive union between husband and wife mirrors the mutual commitment between God and his people. The Letter to the Ephesians says that this union is a symbol of the relationship between Christ and the Church.
Do Catholics ever validly enter into non-sacramental marriages?
Yes. Marriages between Catholics and non-Christians, while they may still be valid in the eyes of the Church, are non-sacramental. With permission, a priest or deacon may witness such marriages.
What is the difference between a valid and an invalid Catholic marriage?
Just as individual states have certain requirements for civil marriage (e.g., a marriage license, blood tests), the Catholic Church also has requirements before Catholics can be considered validly married in the eyes of the Church. A valid Catholic marriage results from four elements: (1) the spouses are free to marry; (2) they freely exchange their consent; (3) in consenting to marry, they have the intention to marry for life, to be faithful to one another and be open to children; and (4) their consent is given in the presence of two witnesses and before a properly authorized Church minister. Exceptions to the last requirement must be approved by church authority.
If a Catholic wants to marry a non-Catholic, how can they ensure that the marriage is recognized by the Church?
In addition to meeting the criteria for a valid Catholic marriage (see question #3), the Catholic must seek permission from the local bishop to marry a non-Catholic. If the person is a non-Catholic Christian, this permission is called a "permission to enter into a mixed marriage." If the person is a non-Christian, the permission is called a "dispensation from disparity of cult." Those helping to prepare the couple for marriage can assist with the permission process.
Why does a Catholic wedding have to take place in a church?
For Catholics, marriage is not just a social or family event, but a church event. For this reason, the Church prefers that marriages between Catholics, or between Catholics and other Christians, be celebrated in the parish church of one of the spouses. Only the local bishop can permit a marriage to be celebrated in another suitable place.
If a Catholic wishes to marry in a place outside the Catholic church, how can he or she be sure that the marriage is recognized by the Catholic Church as valid?
The local bishop can permit a wedding in another church, or in another suitable place, for a sufficient reason. For example, a Catholic seeks to marry a Baptist whose father is the pastor of the local Baptist church. The father wants to officiate at the wedding. In these circumstances, the bishop could permit the couple to marry in the Baptist church. The permission in these instances is called a "dispensation from canonical form."
Why Does the Catholic Bible have more Books than the Protestant Bible?