Answering Common Objections
Allison Tobola Low, MD, MA
Why do we call our priests “father”? Are Catholics not aware that Jesus explicitly forbid this? Matt 23:9, Jesus says, “Call no one on earth your father, you have but one father in heaven.”
R: Jesus did say this but have you looked at this in its entire context? In this chapter, Jesus is rebuking the often hypocritical scribes and Pharisees. He is telling the people to observe what they teach but not what they themselves do. Jesus says in verses 4-10, “they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear…but they themselves will not move them with their finger…they love the place of honor at feasts…and salutations in the market places and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ…”
If Jesus intended for us to literally never call any man on earth father then he also said no one should be called rabbi or master. Yet today we still call Jewish leaders rabbi. A person can receive a Master’s degree in studies. The word used here for rabbi can also mean ‘teacher’ yet we call educators today teachers. Plus, we all call the man biologically responsible for our existence our ‘father’. But I never hear any objections to these titles. It seems words from this passage are taken to be used almost exclusively to object to calling Catholic priests ‘father’. But if one objects to priests being called ‘father’ one should be consistent and object to all of these other titles (rabbi, teacher, master) as well as using “father” in any setting. But do you celebrate “Father’s Day”? Do you call your male biological parent “father”?
But before we resort to eliminating these titles for people, we need to discuss whether or not this is what Jesus actually intended to mean here in this passage.
In this passage, Jesus is pointing out is that in Jewish society, the scribes and Pharisees were often referred to as rabbis, fathers, masters yet because of their lack of holiness and unfaithfulness to God’s teachings, they were not deserving of these titles. Rather than being rabbis and teaching the people they were being hypocrites. Rather than being fathers and guiding and protecting their people from error, they were leading their people astray. Rather than being true masters of the Word of God they were only outwardly faithful while inwardly were far from God.
Scripture shows us we are to understand Jesus speaking in a figurative way and not to take Jesus literally to mean no man on earth was to ever be referred to as father. Where?
First, if Jesus meant no man was to literally ever be called a father, he breaks His own rule. In Lk 11:11 Jesus says, “What father among you would hand his own son a snake when he asks for a fish?” Jesus says there will come a time when “a father will be divided against his son and a son against his father…” in Lk 12:53. In Matt 19:19 Jesus reiterates the commandment calling us to “honor your father and mother”.
St. Paul refers to himself as a spiritual father to the Christians. He writes, “For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you be imitators of me…” (1 Cor 4:15-17). People such as Paul and Stephen refer to the fact that Jews and Christians viewed Abraham, Isaac and Jacob as our “fathers” in the faith (Rom 4:12; Acts 7:2).
These passages show us Jesus did not mean to literally call no man father but rather this title was one with certain expectations and the scribes and Pharisees were not living up to these expectations. Eph 3:14-15, Paul writes, “I bow my knees before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named…” Family here is Gk patria, also translated as fatherhood. So God is the model Father and all earthly fathers are to imitate Him in this role – this is the expectation.
The Church has always called her bishops and priests “fathers” as we see with St. Paul. This is because the Church recognizes that like our earthly fathers who help bring new life into the world, who provide food and sustenance for our lives and who provide counsel and guidance for their children, Catholic priests do this in a spiritual way. Catholic priests help bring new life into the world at the baptismal font and in the Confessional; they provide supernatural nourishment in the Eucharist and in their preaching the Word of God; and they provide encouragement, guidance and even rebuking us when necessary to help us stay on the path that leads us to our heavenly home.
I see Catholics kneeling in front of statues and praying. It seems Catholics not only worship statues but also break the commandments by even having statues.
R: As Catholics we worship God and God alone. We do not worship Mary or the Saints in heaven or the angels. We do not worship any human being. Kneeling can be an outward gesture to suggest worship but if you kneel by your bed holding a Bible, are you worshiping your bed or your Bible? No. Similarly, kneeling before a statue does not mean we are worshiping that statue.
It is true God gives us the commandment that says (Ex 20:4-5), “I am the Lord your God…You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself a graven image or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above or that is in earth beneath…you shall not bow down to them or serve them, for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…”
As Catholics we are obligated to keep this commandment. However, this commandment does not forbid the creation of statues in and of themselves. If God had intended this to mean that no statue of a creature should ever be made, then God soon after this will command Moses to break the commandment, which would be unreasonable. God cannot contradict Himself – either a statue of a creature could be made by men or it could not be made, both cannot be true. God will command Moses to make two golden angels – two Cherubim – to set on top of the Ark of the Covenant (Ex 25:10-22). God will command Solomon to have two statues of olive wood to be made for the sanctuary of the Temple (1 Kings 6:23; 7:13-51). God will command Solomon to place statues of bulls, oxen, vegetation and flowers within the Temple as well. There is another instance when God commands Moses to create an image. During a time in the wilderness when the Israelites were disobeying God, poisonous serpents were sent into the camp and if bitten a person would die. The people repented and called on God to help them from this plague. God then told Moses to make a bronze serpent to put on top of a standard – a pole – and if a person had been bitten by a snake, he could look upon this bronze serpent and be healed – they would not die (Num 21:6-9). Here we see not only to God command an image to be made, God also used this image as an instrument for healing.
So what does God’s commandment mean?
If we look ahead in the future at the story of the Israelites with this bronze serpent we can see an answer. Several hundred years after God had told Moses to create the bronze serpent, the people still had this image in their possession. It was a reminder of God’s interventions in their lives as well as of God’s love and mercy. However, we are told in that there came a time during the reign of King Hezekiah that the people not only used this image as a reminder but began to worship this image. We are told that they began to burn incense to the bronze serpent. This is a phrase equivalent to worship. The people had turned this bronze serpent into a god – they were practicing idolatry. It was in this moment that we are told the good King Hezekiah took the bronze serpent and destroyed it. Rather than elevate men’s minds to God, the image was turned into an idol and thus had to be destroyed (2 Kings 18:4).
We also see the Israelites created the golden calf and what was the problem (Ex 32:7-8)? They worshiped it! It was a god to them. Thus, some of the Israelites were killed but all were seen as having broken God’s covenant in this act. But when Catholics have images of angels or Saints in heaven or of Jesus Christ Himself, it is not the images we pray to nor worship. We use these images as visual aids. Looking upon the image of Christ we are drawn to the reality of Jesus – who He is, what He has done for us. Looking upon the angels and Saints are minds are lifted to heaven where all faithful creatures of God are unceasingly giving glory to God and experiencing infinite happiness and we are reminded that this is where we too one day hope to be. Images can help to teach us like we see in many stain glass windows, teaching us the story of salvation. They can help us block out distractions in prayer by keeping our minds more focused. We are reminded that the Saints and Angels are cheering us on and praying for us.
Why do you worship Mary?
R: we do not worship Mary. The Church has never and will never teach this. If anyone ever tells you we worship anyone but God they are wrong. If you ever see a Catholic kneeling before a statue as we have already discussed this does not mean we worship that person or that statue.
Who is Mary? Mary is the mother of Jesus. She carried Him in her womb, gave birth to Him, raised Him, cared for Him. She was His mother in every way. Who is Jesus? Jesus is God – the Second Person of the Trinity. Therefore, we can say that Mary = mother of Jesus = mother of God. This does not mean that Mary is the mother of God the Father. And she is not the mother of God the Holy Spirit. Mary is not eternal. Mary is a human person but one chosen to be the mother of Jesus who is the Second Person of the Trinity, God the Son, who became man.
Since Mary is the Mother of God, she has been chosen by God for this unique role. There has never and will never be a human woman given a role more special or more unique than Mary.
Jesus being her loving son would have honored Mary both while on earth and even in heaven because Mary is His mother. We are to imitate Christ in every way and as such we are to imitate how He honors Mary His mother. We also are to honor her. This does not mean treat her as a god. This does not mean we worship her. It means we give her great respect and praise. Because of God’s grace she had a unique role in our salvation. We are not saved because of her – our salvation is because of Jesus alone. But Mary said yes to God and God’s will for her life. In doing so she became the instrument through which God became man. Mary also cooperated with grace such that she was faithful, loving, obedient to God in every way. She was docile to the HS in her life. We are to honor her for this.
Turning to the Bible, we see Elizabeth recognizing this fact and calling Mary “blessed among women” (Luke 1:42). This phrase is a superlative. In English we may say a person is tall, another taller and a third is the tallest. In the Hebrew language they did not have these forms of words so instead of saying one is the tallest they would say one is tall among men. Similarly, by saying Mary is blessed among women is a phrase meaning she is the most blessed among all women.
Following this, Mary credits the grace of God (Luke 1:46-55) and gives the prophecy we are now fulfilling – “henceforth all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). For the past 2000 Catholics have been fulfilling this prophecy by giving Mary the honor she deserves.
In Scripture, we are told to give honor to whom it is due (Romans 13:7), especially to those among us who are “worthy of double honor” (1 Timothy 5:17). Examples of those deserving honor include disciples like Peter and Paul who laid down their lives for Christ, as well as religious leaders who dedicate their lives to God. Another person falling into this category is the Virgin Mary who was humble, obedient, faithful and docile to the will of God throughout her life. All those who have gone before us and have been faithful to God, persevering until the end and who are now in heaven deserve our honor and respect, and Mary, being the most perfect disciple and the mother of Jesus deserves the highest honor.
Why do you confess your sins to a man rather than to God?
R: The Church teaches we are to confess our sins to God and has never taught a human person can, by his own power, forgive sins. The Catechism of the Catholic Church is clear: “Only God forgives sins” (1441).
Now, how are we to confess our sins to God and how are we to receive His forgiveness? We do this in the way Jesus instructed us – through His appointed ministers to whom He gave this authority to act in His name without qualifications or conditions. “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any they are forgiven, if you retain the sins of any they are retained” (John 20:22-23). Jesus uniquely gives the authority to either forgive sins or not forgive sins to His Apostles.
They may claim that in John 20:22-23 Jesus is simply commanding all Christians to forgive sins. We see this elsewhere like in the Lord’s Prayer where we are commanded to always forgive others if we want God to forgive us.
It is true Jesus commands us to always forgive others, but this itself is evidence of the unique authority the Apostles receive from Jesus. In John 20:22-23, Jesus tells the Apostles not only “the sins you forgive are forgiven” but also “the sins you retain are retained.” Christ establishes the Sacrament of Confession, through which those ordained with this power of Christ can absolve a person of their sins or refuse to forgive sins when this is warranted. To further support this, Jesus also tells the Apostles in Matthew 18:19, “whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven, whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven,” a power that relates to doctrine as well as to discipline, including whether or not a sin is forgiven. By this statement, Jesus also indicates there is a promise of divine protection because when the Apostles make decisions to bind and loose, these will be upheld in heaven.
This unique authority given, though not applicable to every Christian, is handed down through ordination to the successors of the Apostolic office. In 2 Corinthians 5:18, Paul, a bishop, tells us he has been given “the ministry of reconciliation” and the authority to forgive sins, while making it clear he is doing so as an instrument of Christ (2 Corinthians 2:10). This authority is also demonstrated in 1 Corinthians 5:5, when Paul excommunicates an unrepentant Christian man living in an immoral relationship with his mother-in-law. This authority to forgive sins has been handed down from Christ to the Apostles to their successors the bishops, who have also bestowed this power upon priests, which is why we confess our sins to Catholic priests and bishops.
Why do you follow traditions of men and not the Bible alone?
R: Jesus does rebuke the Pharisees for following “traditions of men” (Mark 7:8-9) but Jesus does not criticize traditions in general but rather those that are corrupted versions of teachings and laws handed down from God. In the example Jesus addresses, the Jews were obligated to tithe as well as to take care of the parents especially when they were aging. The Korban was an offering often monetary that was set aside/consecrated to God. Some of the Pharisees had circumvented their obligation for caring for their parents by claiming the money they would have used for their parents had been set aside for the korban and was not available. Jesus rebuked them because they had misused tradition. The law had been to tithe but it also included honoring their parents. Neither of God’s laws should negate the other. Thus in Mark 7:13 Jesus says they had made void the word of God through their tradition and in Mark 7:8 “you leave the commandment of God and hold fast the traditions of men”
We can see in the Bible that Christians were not to corrupt tradition but there was a God-given tradition, a sacred tradition, that was handed down from Christ to the Apostles to the Christians and this tradition was to be obeyed and held as sacred.
1 Cor 11:2: I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you
2 Thess 2:15: So then brethren stand firm and hold fast to the traditions which you were taught by us either by word of mouth or by letter
2 Thess 3:6: keep away from any brother who is living in idleness and not in accord with the traditions you received from us
Nowhere does the Bible tell us the only source for truth is the Bible itself. In actuality, the Bible tells us that if we want to know the fullness of truth we are to look to the Church. 1 Tim 3:15; Eph 3:10
And the Church established by Christ was founded on Peter and the Apostles to be the first leaders and they then appointed their successors the bishops and over the centuries the bishops have continued to protect and pass down all of the Revelations given to us by Christ and these truths are handed down both by word of mouth and by letter and these are the oral and written traditions or also referred to as Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture. And the Church is the official interpreter as well as the protector of these truths. We would not have the Bible as we know it today without the Catholic Church. We would not understand some of the truths revealed about Jesus Himself, the Incarnation, the Trinity and salvation without the Church.
Have you been saved?
R: “Yes, I’ve been saved the Bible way – through the gift of God’s grace. But this salvation is a process as Scripture tells us – so I have been saved as in Eph 2:8/Rom 8:24; I am in the process of being saved and remaining in the right relationship with God as in 1 Cor 1:18, 1 Cor 15:1-2, 2 Cor 2:15 and Phil 2:12; and I hope to be saved by remaining faithful to Christ as in Matt 24:13, Mk 13:13, 1 Cor 3:15 and 2 Cor 7:10. And I must persevere to the end as in Heb 3:14, 1 Cor 9:27, 1 Cor 10:12 and Rom 11:22, otherwise I will be “disqualified” and “cut off”. By cooperating with God’s grace I can have faith and good works. This process includes being baptized in obedience to Christ as in 1 Pt 3:21, Gal 3:27 and Rom 6:3-4. I must also persevere in my faith and good works throughout my earthly life. My salvation past, present and future is all through the grace of Jesus Christ. I simply must respond to the love given to me.”
Have you been born again?
R: Yes I have been born again the Bible way through baptism.
And the Bible tells us not only is baptism necessary for salvation it is the normative means through which we are born again in Christ / made a new creation in Christ.
Jesus even commands this when He sends out all of the Apostles, Matt 28:19 – “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit…”
1 Pet 3:21, Peter clearly tells us, “Baptism…now saves you.” And it says in Mk 16:16, “He who believes and is baptized will be saved.”
Jn 3:3-5 where Nicodemus comes to Jesus who tells him, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born anew he cannot see the kingdom of God.” Nicodemus is confused by this so Jesus clarifies, “Truly, truly I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” Jesus tells us here that one must be baptized and receive the Holy Spirit in order to enter heaven.
In Acts 2:38, Peter calls people to repent and be baptized, and we see throughout Acts when people convert this is followed by baptism (Acts 8:37; 9:18; 10:48; 16:15; 22:16.
Baptism is truly regenerative – we are renewed and given grace and the forgiveness of sins! Acts 2:37-38; 22:16. Also Titus 3:3-6
And this regeneration and renewal is also what Paul talks about in Rom 6:3-4 when he refers to baptism and shows that through baptism we are given a newness of life in Christ.
Why do Catholics believe we must work our way to heaven? [They say: Scripture tells us we are saved by faith alone (Romans 3:28; Ephesians 2:8-9). All we need to do is to accept Jesus into our hearts as our personal Lord and Savior and confess He is Lord and we will be saved (Romans 10:9). Faith alone is the only thing needed to be saved. Good works done are a sign of true, genuine faith but are not necessary for salvation.]
R: I want to first clarify, in no way does the Church teach one must “work their way to heaven.” No one can do this – it is impossible! As Catholics we believe we are saved by grace alone. This grace is a free gift from God offered to all men – we do not and cannot earn it. What the Bible teaches, and thus what the Church believes, is that those who cooperate with grace will be enabled to have faith and do good works and one must persevere in this grace until the end of our earthly life. Our cooperation with grace will produce both faith and works – not one without the other.
As to the argument that we are saved by faith alone, does the Bible truly teach faith in Jesus is the only thing we need to be saved? What if you had faith so great, when you said “move” to the mountains, you trusted God would move them – is this faith all that you would need to be saved?
The Bible actually teaches otherwise. We see in 1 Corinthians 13:2, Paul tells us, “if I have all faith so as to remove mountains but have not love, I am nothing.” And if we continue reading the next passage, Paul even says if I have faith so great I am willing to be burned to death for my faith (martyrdom), but I do not have love, “I gain nothing” (13:3). Paul is showing us it is not faith alone that saves us but rather it is “faith working through love” (Galatians 5:6).
In the Bible there is only one place where you will find the words “faith alone” together in the same verse – James 2:24. In the Epistle of James we find:
What does it profit, my brethren, if a man says he has faith but has not works? Can his faith save him? . . . So faith by itself, it if has no works, is dead . . . You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone . . . For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead (James 2:14-26).
If you look at the entire New Testament in context and not just picking a verse here and there, you will see neither faith alone nor works alone does anything. Rather, as St. James tells us, a living faith is one that is inseparable from works (and these works include charitable acts as well as obedience to God’s will).
Scripture tells us elsewhere some of the requirements for entering heaven: keeping the commandments (Matthew 19:16-17); doing charitable works (Matthew 25:31-46); doing the will of God (Matthew 7:21). We will be judged by what we do in this earthly life (2 Corinthians 5:10; Galatians 6:7-9). And Jesus tells us we must have faith and be obedient (John 3:36).
In order to enter heaven we must have grace in our soul and cooperate with it so that we can be faithful and obedient and ultimately enter heaven.
All sin is the same, it is an offense against God we are all guilty of.
R: All sin is an offense against God as sin is an act of disobedience to God. Freely choosing to turn away from God / God’s will / God’s love. It is a failure in genuine love for God and neighbor. It dishonors God. With all sin there is some degree of alienation and injury to our relationship with God.
Two types of sin: (CCC 1055-56) = Mortal Sin and Venial Sin
Also see this in Scripture: 1 John 5:16-17 – “there is sin that is not deadly”; Matt 5:19 – “one of these least commandments”; Jn 19:11 – “greater sin”
Mortal sin: “Deadly” sin. Destroys relationship between God and man. Destroys charity in the heart of man. Completely opposed to and contradicts love. Losing charity in the soul does not mean that a person in the state of mortal sin cannot be a nice person or cannot be kind. It does not mean that they cannot show a natural love to their spouse or to other people. But with mortal sin one does turn away from God completely and loses this charity in their hearts. Mortal sin is also the complete loss of sanctifying grace in the soul. Involves a grave violation of God’s law. Man completely turns man away from God. All mortal sins must be confessed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation or Confession or Penance. Christ using the priest as His instrument can then forgive mortal sins through this sacrament if the conditions are met.
“Lesser” sin. Wounds relationship between God and man. Offends and wounds charity but allows charity to subsist. It is disordered but not opposed to love of God and neighbor. Sanctifying grace remains in the soul. These are not “deadly” but they still weaken us.
The Church warns us not to minimize or merely dismiss these venial sins. Even though not grave like mortal sins they do weaken us and make us more prone to commit other venial sins as well as even weaken us making us more vulnerable for mortal sin. We are encouraged to confess even venial sins in the Sacrament of Confession but this is not required. Our venial sins can be forgiven by confessing our sins to God in prayer.
For a sin to be mortal, three conditions must together be met (CCC 1857):
(1) grave matter. Involves something serious and grave
(2) committed with full knowledge. You KNOW it is serious and grave
(3) committed with deliberate consent. You do it anyway, without coercion
Example: A few examples – Missing Mass on Sundays and Holy Days of Obligation without a serious reason. Adultery. Participating in some way in an abortion. All involve serious matter. When done knowing they are mortal sins yet doing them anyway you are guilty of mortal sin.
Other ways to know what is mortal sin: Catechism of the Catholic Church, talking with a priest about specific situations, examining the Ten Commandments. Reading Scripture which gives us examples of mortal sin in 1 Cor 6:9-11 and Rev 21:8
How can you be Catholic and believe it is the Church founded by Christ with all of the scandals in the Church? Christ tells us to judge a tree by its fruits.
R: The scandals that occur are horrific and it is always inexcusable for things like this to happen. However, judging the Church based on these particular people is like seeing an apple tree producing bushels of abundant, delicious fruit but then upon find one rotten apple deciding to cut the entire tree down. This is unreasonable – the fruitfulness of the apple tree is based on the fruit that is utilizing all the life-giving nutrients the tree offers. With the Church, her true fruits are the Saints – those who, throughout history, have listened to her, obeyed her, participated in the Sacraments regularly and heeded her advice related to the spiritual life.
And the reality that there are both good fruits and bad fruits in the one, true Church was predicted by Christ Himself. He built his Church on men – sinners not holy angels – and He said that until the Last Day, there would be not only wheat but also weeds, both good fish and bad fish, within His Church (Matthew 13:24-30, 47-50). But because of this, Jesus also promised to protect His Church from corruption and apostasy: “the gates of hell will never prevail against it,” (Matthew 16:18) and “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20), not leaving you orphans (John 14:18).
The fact that over the past 2,000 years there has been immorality among the members of the Church and yet the Church has not been destroyed, indicates to me Christ is keeping His promise of Divine protection!
Is hell real? It seems like a good God could not allow people to suffer for all eternity like that?
R: Hell is real and not just a theoretical possibility. Jesus warns us that many people go there. He says, “Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few” (Matt. 7:13–14).
Hell is an eternal state of existence for those who have freely chosen to reject God and His love. The existence of hell is not related to God’s goodness. Hell exists because of God’s perfect justice. But more than that, those who spend eternity in hell have freely chosen to reject God, to disobey God.
Mark 9:43–48 Jesus warns us, “If your hand causes you to sin, cut it off; it is better for you to enter life maimed than with two hands to go to hell, to the unquenchable fire…It is better for you to enter the kingdom of God with one eye than with two eyes to be thrown into hell, where the worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched.” And in Revelation 14:11, we read: “And the smoke of their torment goes up for ever and ever; and they have no rest, day or night, these worshipers of the beast and its image, and whoever receives the mark of its name.”
You have heard that it was said to the men of old, “You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.” But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, “You fool!” shall be liable to the hell of fire. (Matt. 5:21-22)
And do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul; rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell. (Matt. 10:28; see also Luke 12:5)
Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither the immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor sexual perverts, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor robbers will inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor. 6:9-10)
Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21)
For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction. (Phil. 3:18-19)
For he will render to every man according to his works: To those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; but for those who are factious and do not obey the truth, but obey wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. (Rom. 2:6-8)
Those who do not know God and those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus shall suffer the punishment of eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might (2 Thess 1:8-9)
God did not create hell so much as He allowed for its possibility. God does not will this for anyone but respects the free choice many will make to remain separated from God forever in hell. During this earthly life, God offers us His grace, it is a free gift merited by Christ. We have a choice: we can choose life or death. If we reject God, disobey Him, reject His grace and do not repentant, we have chosen hell. But if we cooperate with God’s free gift of grace and persevere in it until the end, because of God’s mercy heaven will be our reward.
Why do Catholics baptize infants? Babies cannot have faith and the Bible says that we must have faith to be saved.
R: Nowhere in Scripture does it clearly tell us that we are to baptize infants. However, it is also true that nowhere in Scripture does it clearly tells us that we are NOT to baptize infants. There are suggestions though that infants were baptized.
Acts 2:38-39 again. “And Peter said to them, “Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.” Peter says that this promise of the forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit that are given at baptism are promised to ALL who God calls AND that this includes the children!
Matt 19:14 we see Jesus telling His disciples, “Let the children come to me and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of heaven.”
Lk 18:15-16 – “Now they were bringing even infants to him that he (Jesus) might touch them; and when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to him, saying, “Let the children come to me, and do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God.”
Jesus says to ALL of these also – infants and children – are to come to Him. And how does Scripture tells us one is united to Christ? Rom 6:3-4 Paul tells us one is united to Christ through baptism! We also see here the kingdom of heaven belongs to ALL! How does one enter heaven? John 3:5 tells us in order to enter heaven we must be born from above by water and the Holy Spirit (baptism), and Jesus does not mention any exceptions. [And there are other passages such as Mark 16:16 and 1 Peter 3:21.) Therefore, this suggestions baptism is to be offered to all.
Paul in his writings suggests that baptism has replaced circumcision. Col 2:11-12, we now have a circumcision made without hands which is the circumcision of Christ = baptism. Old Covenant circumcision is no longer needed.
[What was Old Covenant circumcision? In order to be a member of the Jewish family –a member of God’s Chosen People – one had to believe in the God of Israel and then all males had to be circumcised. Circumcision was the first act made as part of the covenant one entered into with God. Now as a Jew, if they converted to Judaism when they were older they would be baptized as an adult. However, if one was born into a Jewish family, the law required that all male infants were to be circumcised at 8 days of age.
How is it possible for an 8 day old infant to enter into a covenant with God? The parents of the infant would promise to raise the child in the Jewish faith and would make the promises of the covenant for the child until he was older and then the child could continue renewing the promises of the covenant on his own.
Understanding this, Jesus, Mary, Joseph, the Apostles and Paul himself all were Jewish. They would have fully understood and practiced circumcision as Jews.
With Christ however, this practice of circumcision was no longer needed. And instead of circumcision, how do we enter into the New Covenant with Christ? As Scripture tells us, it is through Baptism! And as Paul shows us here in Colossians, baptism is the new circumcision – as Paul calls it “the circumcision of Christ”!
With that being the case, we can also see that it would not be difficult for the Apostles and Paul to baptize infants. If baptism is the new circumcision, as with circumcision in the Old Covenant, the infants would enter into the covenant with the parents making the promises of the covenant for them until they were older. And more than that, if Paul did NOT want infants to be baptized, why give a parallel that would suggest otherwise?
When a person converts to Christianity, often we are told their entire household also is baptized.
Acts 16:15; 16:33; 1 Cor 1:16
Who is included in the “whole household”? This would have included the immediate family members of any age as well as any slaves that were a part of the household. Granted we do not know how many children were in each of these households and we have no idea how old the children were. However, there definitely is no mention of exceptions – it does not say entire households were baptized except for infants and children under the age of reason. And it is likely there were infants/young children in one or more of these households so if baptism not for infants why no mention of the need to exclude these ages?
The evidence suggests that ALL are called to be baptized in order to enter heaven. Based on Scripture, one cannot state that baptism of infants is forbidden and there is no way we could state that this was not the practice.
Why do you believe in Purgatory – this is found nowhere in the Bible
R: The word purgatory is not in the Bible but neither is the word Trinity or Incarnation but the teaching is there on all these things.
Often there are many misconceptions about what purgatory is with a common thought being it is a second change for those who committed grace sins or it means that Jesus’ death on the cross was not sufficient to save us. But the doctrine of purgatory does not mean these things.
To best explain purgatory let me first start with a question: Scripture tells us that for all of us we will die and be immediately judged (Heb 9:27). If we were all to die at this moment, how many of you can say that you are absolutely perfect and pure of heart? I know for myself I am striving for holiness but I definitely fall short of perfection. However, the Bible tells us in order to enter heaven and be in the presence of God we must be perfect, clean, pure and holy.
Rev 21:27 – nothing unclean can enter into presence of perfect God
Mt 5:8 – those to see God must be pure of heart
Whosoever comes into God’s presence must be perfectly pure, for in the strictest sense God’s “eyes are too pure to behold evil” (Hab 1: 13)
So what happens if I love God and am trying to avoid sin but still have worldly attachments or sinful inclinations? Plus, even after our sins are forgiven there are still consequences to our sin and it is possible when we die we may not yet have done adequate penance for all of our sins. What happens? Because we are not pure of heart and perfect we cannot be in heaven so because of God’s mercy, those who die in a state of grace BUT are not yet purified, holy, perfect will experience Purgatory. Purgatory exists because of the mercy of God. If there were no purgatory, this would also likely mean no salvation for most people. If someone dies in a state of unrepentant mortal sin and if they have rejected God or do not love God, in justice they will spend eternity in hell. However, as the Catechism says, one who dies WITH sanctifying grace in their soul BUT who is not yet perfect and not perfectly purified. These are assured eternal salvation (assured heaven) BUT they cannot enter heaven yet. They must first be purified and must achieve the holiness required to enter the joys of heaven (CCC 1030-1031)
Scripture tells us:
Malachi 3:3 says “He (Jesus) will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver.”
Dan 12:10 – “Many shall be refined, purified, and tested, but the wicked shall prove wicked…”
Wis. 3:5-6 – “… Chastised (disciplined) a little, they shall be greatly blessed, because God tried them (tested them) and found them worthy of himself. As gold in the furnace, he proved them, and…he took them to himself…”
1 Peter 1:6-7 – “…you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire”
This refining and purifying – also known as sanctification – starts in our earthly lives. However, it is not always completed at our death making purgatory a necessity!
1 Thess 5:23 – “May the God of peace Himself sanctify you wholly; and may your spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ”
St. Paul, in Phil 1:6, says, “May God who has begun a good work in you bring it to completion”.
There are abundant passages that can be used to support the doctrine that there exists after this earthly life a state of purgation for some that is necessary before the person is able to enter heaven. I will choose 3 of these.
*Paying the Last Penny:
*Matt 5:26 and Lk 12:59: Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.”
*Matt 18: 23-35: “Therefore the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his servants…‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?’ And in anger his lord delivered him to the jailers, 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.”
In all of these passages Jesus shows that a consequence of sin is a prison sentence given to us by the Father. It is implied that one can be released from the prison once the debt is paid. This prison could be metaphorical of spiritual prison here on earth but there is also an analogy with God being the judge in these instances. And God ultimately judges us after death. We know that hell is eternal so it is a prison but not one that you can be freed from. Heaven would never be compared to a prison as it is paradise. So this suggests there exists a prison that is the consequence of sin that one can be freed from after the punishment is paid for/remitted. This is purgatory.
**Saved through fire
*1 Cor 3:15
Writing to the Christians in Corinth, while addressing the issue of sin to this community of believers, tells them that their foundation is Jesus Christ. He tells them that each must build upon that foundation, and it is each one’s choice how they will do this. “Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw– the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:11-15).
What happens to gold and silver when they are burned? What about wood, straw and hay? Gold and silver are purified, whereas wood, straw and hay would be burned away. These are referring to our actions and deeds. Those actions that are done in faithfulness and obedience are purified and those that are imperfect are burned. As this process takes place, Paul tells us one would suffer loss but because they are believers they would be ‘saved but only as through fire’. So one will be saved – this means ultimately they will be in heaven. However, they will only be saved through fire. What does this fire mean? This cannot be heaven because there no one suffers. And he cannot be referring to hell because once there one is lost and cannot be saved. This sounds like a vivid description of the purifying fires of purgatory. As Paul shows, impurities and defilements will be burned away in fire and then we can enter heaven – our final salvation.
Emphasizes again that this purification is necessary
**Prayers for Dead
*2 Macc 12:39-46
Judas Maccabees and his men were are in the midst of battles, Judas had many victories. They have another battle in which they had been fighting for a long time and Judas’ men were tired. Judas prayed to God for help and then we see Judas and his men successful in causing their enemy to flee. This chapter continues with Judas and his army keeping the Sabbath day.
“On the next day, as by that time it had become necessary, Judas and his men went to take up the bodies of the fallen and to bring them back…Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jam′nia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen. So they all blessed the ways of the Lord, the righteous Judge, who reveals the things that are hidden; and they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out…He also took up a collection, man by man, to the amount of two thousand drachmas of silver, and sent it to Jerusalem to provide for a sin offering. In doing this he acted very well and honorably, taking account of the resurrection. For if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead. But if he was looking to the splendid reward that is laid up for those who fall asleep in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Therefore he made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin
Non-Catholics do not recognize the book of Maccabees as being a part of the Bible or as being divinely inspired. But regardless this book is historical and gives us insight into the beliefs of the Jews at this time. This passage clearly shows us that the Jewish people DID believe in praying for the dead and in purification after death. When we look at this, what was the sin committed? There is no evidence that these men were worshiping these idols as gods and we are TOLD that these men fell asleep – died – in godliness. This makes it clear their act was not a mortal sin. But they were using these amulets as good luck charm superstitiously – this is still a sin but not a mortal one. So these men died faithful to God but in venial sin. Then we see Judas and his men pray for the fallen. If these dead had went to hell, there is no need to pray for them. Hell is eternal and one cannot be saved. If the dead had died perfect and had gone to the place for the righteous how would pray benefit them?
The fact these Jewish men prayed for the dead and the fact we see this was a holy and pious act suggests that their prayers were beneficial to the dead. This then suggests to us there is another state that exists and one where a person is still in NEED of our prayer and this is the state of purgation where men are purified and made perfect. And this also shows the Church did not invent the teaching on purgatory as some claim. The Jews did and still do believe that a process of purification exists after death and that we are to pray for the dead. This is a revealed truth.
What about all of the wealth and riches in the Vatican? It seems hypocritical. Why not give this money to the poor? How is all this wealth a sign of humility?
R: First of all, the pope himself has little or no personal wealth. As far as the magnificent buildings and artwork, much of it has been gifts from artisans and artists throughout the centuries. The land owned by the papacy was also a gift. But the pope is the recipient and custodian of these treasures, not their ‘owner’. They all belong to the entire Church, handed down from previous generations, and are something for the whole world to treasure and enjoy.
Secondly, if you are critical of the Vatican particularly St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museum, then you would also have been critical of the Temple of Solomon (1 Kings 6) because by all accounts, the Temple of Solomon would have made the Vatican look rather poor by comparison. Should the Israelites not have built the Temple of Solomon? Should they have used all the resources that went into it to feed the poor instead?
As to the Vatican, contrary to popular impressions and propaganda, this city state is not wealthy relatively speaking. Its annual operating budget is about $300 million. The University of Notre Dame’s annual operating budget, by comparison, is $700 million. Harvard’s is $3.7 billion. The Vatican’s endowment is about $1 billion. By contrast, the University of Notre Dame’s endowment is $3.1 billion. Harvard’s is $30.7 billion. The Holy See is indeed in need of financial support from the Catholic world, and American Catholics usually supply about 25 percent of the annual operating budget. As one example, the Vatican does not even have air conditioning in most of its offices. During the heat of the summers, workers rely on the open windows for relief.
What about the artwork—the Pietà, the Raphael frescoes, and so on? The “wealth” of the Vatican has accumulated over the centuries and is basically art work, historical documents, and buildings. The Vatican views these buildings, historical documents, and works of art as belonging to all peoples – they are merely under the care of the Vatican. They are not for sell because the Vatican doesn’t view them as its personal property too sell. These treasures are priceless. Plus, had the Church not protected this art it likely would have been destroyed over the centuries. So much of what is preserved there is part of our heritage. One could also ask: Why not sell all the works of art in the Louvre? Or in New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art? Why not sell the Mona Lisa to feed the poor? Why don’t museums sell off their Rembrandts and Van Goghs and Picassos to feed the poor?
Even if the Church wanted to sell these treasures in Vatican City she could not do so without breaking the law. What some do not know is that in 1870 when Italy took the papal states by force, Italy agreed to not take Vatican City and allowed it to remain its own independent nation state. However, this was done through a concordat and in this agreement, the Holy See promised to keep the artistic and scientific treasures existing within Vatican City and the Lateran Palace always open to scholars and visitors. As part of the agreement the Holy See can charge admission if it chooses but they can never sell these treasures legally.
What about the wealth and the churches around the world? For one, these do not belong to the pope. Dioceses around the world are for the most part financially independent and it is a decision of the bishop as to what is sold within his diocese. However, most of the treasures within a given diocese is the result of the labor and donations of the people who do so to honor God. Likewise, many of the great cathedrals of Europe were built with donations and labor from the poor, who wanted to build such monuments to God’s goodness and sovereignty. Most of these treasures are not for sell and are priceless.
To look at Scripture, one can refer to Matt 26:6: “A woman came up to him (Jesus) with an alabaster jar of very expensive ointment and she poured it on his head as he sat at table. But when the disciples saw it they were indignant saying, ‘Why this waste? For the ointment might have been sold for a large sum and given to the poor.’ But Jesus aware of this said, ‘Why do you trouble this woman? For she has done a beautiful thing to me. For you always have the poor with you but you will not always have me.’”
It is important to also point out that the Catholic Church, though not the wealthiest organization by any means, it is the world’s largest charitable organization, running and supporting countless charities, relief organizations, hospitals, and similar enterprises at great cost to the Church.
But the answer to the problem of the poor is not for the Catholic Church to sell all that it has and uses (it couldn’t do that if it wanted to) but rather for all people to live out the virtues of charity and justice that the Church calls us to. If each one of us, regardless of our religious background, lived out to the fullest the corporal works of mercy (feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty, clothing the naked, providing shelter for the homeless, visiting the sick and imprisoned, burying the dead), we would eliminate poverty.
Why do you hold the Primacy of Peter and his successor the bishop of Rome (the pope)?
R: Because in Scripture it is evident Peter was the chief/preeminent Apostle and had a unique role among the Apostles while also being a servant to the other Apostles as well as the entire Church.
There is a great deal of evidence for Peter’s unique role but I cannot include anything exhaustive here. Let me provide just a few proofs for this claim.
Primacy / “First”
Of the 12 Apostles, who was the first called by Jesus? Andrew
BUT in every scriptural listing of the names of the Twelve Apostles, who is listed first? Peter (See Matt 3:16; 10: 2-4; Mk 3: 16-19; Lk 6:12-19; Acts 1:13)
Why is this? In these lists of the names of the 12 Apostles, it says “first, Simon called Peter…”. In Greek the word for first is protos. This does not necessarily mean the first chronologically. It also means ‘foremost’, ‘best’, or ‘chief’. You will also note that the other apostles are not listed as ‘second’, ‘third’, etc., because it is Peter’s designation that is of importance.
[We also see the word protos in 1 Tim 1:15 where Paul says that he is the ‘foremost (protos) of sinners’.]
The only Apostle to formally have their name changed by Jesus was Simon and his name was changed by Jesus to Peter. [James and John were given a nickname sons of thunder but this was not a formal name change. Paul was not a name change but rather the Greek name of Saul.]
This is significant because throughout the Scriptures, when a person’s name is changed, especially if changed by God, it indicated the person had a new mission or calling pertaining to this new name. Recall Abram to Abraham in Gen 17:5 and Jacob to Israel in Gen 35:10.
With Simon, Jesus changed his name to Kepha (or Cephas) which is Aramaic. This was transliterated into Greek to be Petros and in English it is Peter. Kepha (or Cephas) is the Aramaic word for “rock”.
For brevity sake I cannot get into all the evidence but the NT shows us Peter is the chief Apostle in so many other ways including: Peter is always the spokesperson for the group of Apostles, he is mentioned by name more than 3x as often as any of the other Apostles, oversees the election of Judas’ successor in Acts 1, gives the first sermon after Pentecost, performs the first miracle after Pentecost, first to excommunicate a heretic – Simon the magician – in Acts 8, walks on water (briefly), Jesus pays Temple tax only for Himself and Peter (Matt 17).
Jesus prays personally only for Peter, Lk 22: 31-32
Jesus says to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold Satan has demanded to sift all of you (plural) like wheat, but I have prayed for you (singular) that your (singular) faith may not fail. And once you (singular) have turned back, strengthen your (singular) brethren.”
Satan wanted all of the Apostles to fall away and indicates all will be attacked by Satan in some way. But Jesus prayed for Peter singularly. Jesus then tells Peter he will fall away for a time but once he turns back, Peter is given the task of strengthening the other Apostles and disciples.
This passage is used widely by the early Church Fathers as evidence of infallibility and the role of Peter and his successors.
Peter is to care for Jesus’ entire flock, Jn 21:15-17
Jesus asks Peter 3 times if he loves Him. Peter each time answers yes. In response Jesus tells Peter to ‘Feed my lambs’, then ‘Tend my sheep’ and then ‘Feed my sheep’. Jesus is the one true Shepherd (Luke 10:16) but He tells Peter personally that he now being given charge of Christ’s flock while Christ is away. Peter is to spiritually nourish and care for Jesus’ entire flock. Peter is given both the ‘lambs’ which are the people as well as the ‘sheep’ which are the pastors/priests themselves. Additionally, it is important to note the Greek. The word for ‘feed’ is ‘bosko’; this word means to ‘feed’ but also has a figurative meaning which is to teach and promote the spiritual welfare of the members of the Church. Also, the Greek word used in this passage for ‘tend’ is ‘poimaine’. This word actually has a stronger meaning that is lost in translation; it means to ‘shepherd’ but also means to ‘rule’ or to ‘govern’. Jesus does not give the role of shepherd/pastor exclusively to Peter, BUT Peter is the only Apostle given the command to tend and feed the sheep and lambs directly from the lips of Jesus. And this role has been maintained by the Pope the past 2000 years. The pope, following the footsteps of Peter, holds a unique position and has extraordinary privileges. Like the other Apostles, the bishops also have an important role in the Body of Christ. The pope is the supreme shepherd and leader of the Church, yet this role does not exclude Christ who is the Head nor the other bishops, cardinals, priests and laity as all being members of the Body of Christ, each with their own unique roles.
Peter the Rock
Matt 16:18-19: “…Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it.”
In Aramaic Jesus says you are “Kepha / Cephas” and on this “kepha/cephas” I will build my Church.
In Greek, this is transliterated to you are “Petros” and on this “petra” I will build my Church.
Kepha/Cephas and Petros and Petra all mean Rock. As does the English word Peter.
In Greek, because rock is Petra, this was made into a masculine form in order to be applied to the man Simon Peter – Petros.
Petra and Petros both mean rock. It is inaccurate to claim that Petros means little stone and Petra means big boulder as some claim.
When it says “you are Peter and on this rock”, looking to the Greek, it should be literally translated as “you are Peter/Rock and on this very same [taute te] rock I will build my Church”.
[Of note, the KJV translators had no problem translating the Greek “taute te” as “this same” or “the same” in other passages: 2 Cor. 9:4-5; 8:6; 1 Cor. 7:20; Acts 13:33.]
Peter given the Keys of the Kingdom
Matt 16:18-19: “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona…I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever you bind on earth shall have been bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall have been loosed in heaven.”
Keys are an ancient symbol of power and authority. Special reference is made to Is 22:22. In this OT passage we see that the king gave his prime minister the keys to his kingdom so that anytime he was away, the prime minster was put in charge. The keys given opened and shut all doors of the palace and this was symbolic of the prime minister having access to all of the kingdom. The ‘office of prime minister’ in the house of Judah (the Davidic Kingdom) was held by the one second only to the King himself, the highest office in the land. The prime minister is ‘over the household’, meaning that he exercises a unique, final authority in the name of the King. Second, the holder of this office was identifiable for wearing certain vestments that pertained to the office. Third, one of the functions of the prime minister was to be ‘a father to the inhabitants of Jerusalem and to the house of Judah’. This role did not detract from the King’s role as the ultimate ‘father figure’; rather, the prime minister shared in the role in a subordinate way and reflected the ‘fatherhood’ of the King to his people. Finally, the wording of Is 22:22 is one of succession. What Shebna gave to Eliakim, Eliakim would one day die and pass on the office to someone else.
In Matthew’s Gospel, we see similarly that Jesus, the King, gives Peter the keys to His kingdom which shows that Peter was, in a way, made prime minister of Jesus’ kingdom. Once Jesus had ‘gone away’ (ascended into heaven), Peter would then be in charge. The Apostles, all having been Jews, would have immediately recognized the analogy. And as Catholics we can see how all of these roles of the prime minister are fulfilled in Peter and his successor.
“Binding” and “Loosing”
In Rabbinical Judaism, the words signify rabbinical decisions – to bind is to give a decision that imposes an obligation, and to loosen is to give a decision that removes an obligation. These decisions applied to doctrine, discipline and one’s status in the community.
Matt 16:18-19 and Matt 18:18. Peter first and then all of the Apostles are given the power to ‘bind’ and ‘loose’. We are told that whatever they bind or loose on earth, so it is in heaven.
Gates of hell will not prevail against His Church
Jesus would protect this Church that He is building on Peter for all ages. The Church would never be destroyed.
Many are confused about what the Church teaches about infallibility as I have had some non-Catholic Christians falsely believe that we, as Catholics, have to believe everything the pope says. This is not a proper understanding of infallibility or the role of the Pope and Magisterium.
What is the Magisterium? It is the teaching office of the Church. It is exercised by the Pope alone when he teaches officially on matters of faith or morals, or it is exercised by the whole “college” of bishops together with the Pope on matters of faith or morals.
Most Magisterial teachings are ordinary.
The Pope’s ordinary teachings are issued in the course his normal activity: his encyclicals and other documents, various addresses, etc. – teachings he intends to be definitive on matters of faith and morals. [Off-the-cuff statements, media interviews, homilies, books they author, etc, are not necessarily examples of the pope exercising his teaching authority as these can contain his personal opinion as a bishop.]
The college of bishops also has an “ordinary and universal” Magisterium. This is seen whenever the individual bishops in union with the pope teach the same faith as all the other bishops around the world.
These “ordinary” teachings are also seen when an Ecumenical Council teaches definitively but without issuing a solemn definition. (An Ecumenical Council is one where bishops from around the world are present or represented and the Council is approved by the pope.)
Occasionally, the Magisterium issues extraordinary definitions of doctrine.
This can occur when the Pope teaches ex cathedra (which means ‘from the chair’) and these are statements issued by the pope officially and he solemnly defines some truth of the faith (can only be on matters of faith and morals).
This can also occur when an Ecumenical Councils issues official and solemn definitions on matters of faith and morals.
Where does infallibility come in?
First some definitions:
Inspiration – this means one is guided by the HS through a special positive Divine assistance. The human agent is not merely preserved from error but so guarded that what he writes is truly the word of God and God Himself is the principal author. The example of this which we have are the inspired Scriptures.
Inerrancy – This means without error. This applies to the Scriptures.
Infallibility – This means that the Holy Spirit is safeguarding truths by preventing one from the possibility of making an error. This does NOT mean that the Holy Spirit is telling a person what to say or how to say it. The Holy Spirit is simply preventing the person from making an error. This only applies to specific situations. This does NOT mean that the person/people making the infallible state are holy and upright in their lives. This is a gift from God to protect all of the truths revealed by Christ to His Apostles from error and corruption as they continue to be handed down to us today.
The charism of infallibility can occur in either the ordinary teachings or the extraordinary teachings discussed above but it is fully engaged only in definitive Magisterial teachings on faith and morals. Usually it is explicitly stated that something is being defined definitively but not always. Some things are taught repeatedly by the Magisterium over the centuries such that it can be considered definitive.
Keep in mind, the pope can give his opinion on various matters and in various way but this is not infallible. Pope Benedict XVI is a brilliant theologian and one of smartest men alive but as pope when he gave his opinion it was never an example of an infallible statement. We do not hold everything the pope says to be without error. Impromptu comments, content of the pope’s Wednesday audiences where he is teaching, homilies at Mass, etc, are not infallible. When the Magisterium issues a document it is not necessarily infallible as some documents are mere recommendations or summary statements of discussions that have been held. Additionally, the idea of infallibility does not mean that when a statement is made it will be given with full clarity. Infallibility does not prevent a formal statement being made on an issue by the Magisterium from being vague and causing confusion – what the Holy Spirit protects is that these formal statements will not teach error. Although individual bishops may err in their official teachings about faith and morals, the Magisterium never does.
Why do you believe in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist?
R: Because Scripture tells us this is the reality. This is so evident in both Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition that from the beginnings of the Church and for over 800 years, the truth of the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist was never questioned. And it was not until the 16th century that the Real Presence in the Eucharist was rejected on a larger scale. The earliest Protestants Martin Luther, John Calvin and King Henry VIII found the evidence for this truth overwhelming such that they could not outright reject the teaching of the Real Presence. [Luther and Calvin modified the doctrine from what the Church held but still believed in a Real Presence.]
As to specific examples there are so many I could give but for brevity sake, I will show you this using the some of the words of Jesus as well as some of the words of St. Paul.
(1) Jesus’s Own Words
Jesus teaches that He is the new manna and superior to the manna received by the Israelites. This new manna will be miraculous as well but will give one eternal life. Jesus continues and ultimately emphasizes that as the new manna, we are to eat His flesh and drink His blood. He repeats this several times. Taking Jesus literally those listening begin to grumble as the idea of cannabalism was offensive. But Jesus’ response in verse 55 uses the Greek word “alethos” which means really, truly, most certainly: Jesus says, my flesh is alethos food and my blood is alethos drink. In addition, when John is writing the account of this event, he tells us Jesus commanded us to “eat His flesh” using the Greek word “phago” in verse 23-53, which means ‘to eat’. However, once those listening began to grumble not knowing how it was possible for them to literal obey Jesus, there is a change in the Greek word John used for ‘to eat’. In verses 54-58, the Greek word “trago” is used. Now rather than becoming less literal due to the skeptics in the crowd, this word is actually more emphatic as it means “to gnaw or chew” [as in meat]. So after Jesus is challenged, John shows us that Jesus’ command is more emphatic – He commands us to “gnaw/chew” His flesh. These words made such an impact on those listening to Him that we are told many of Jesus’ disciples walk away at that moment and never return because they could not accept this teaching. Those listening heard Jesus and recognized He was speaking literally but many did not understand how this was to be accomplished. Unfortunately, rather than remain faithful and trust Jesus, we see some chose to reject Him and walk away finding this simply too hard to believe and accept.
It is likely the Apostles and disciples that remained with Jesus did not fully understand the meaning of Jesus’ words but they knew who Jesus was and would not leave Him. Then, one year later at the Last Supper, Jesus reveals exactly how His words were to be obeyed: Matthew 26:26-30, Mark 14:22-26, Luke 22: 14-20, and 1 Cor 11: 23-26
Jesus takes the bread and then the wine saying, “This is my body” and then “This is my blood”. It is through the Eucharist they would fulfill Jesus’ command in John 6 to “eat His flesh and drink His blood”.
(2) Another powerful testimony to the Real Presence is St. Paul
1 Cor 11:27-30 = “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord.” “Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself.” “That is why many among you are ill and infirm, and a considerable number are dying. If we discerned ourselves we would not be under judgment.”
St. Paul demonstrates here that if you do not come worthily to receive the Eucharist you are truly defiling Jesus Himself – these are not symbolic words Paul is using. Paul continues by pointing out to the Christians that if they receive the Eucharist without discerning the Real Presence they bring judgment on themselves and attributes some of the suffering and death of Christians to the unworthy reception of the Eucharist. These are harsh words yet powerful proof of the Real Presence in the Eucharist.
“Why did the Catholic Church add 7 books from the Bible?”
Response: If you examine history, you can find that in reality it was the result of the Protestant Reformation that 7 books were removed from the Bible. From the year 400 AD until 1500’s all Bibles had 73 books. As a result of the Reformation, Protestant Bibles today have only 66 books
The 7 books in question are from the OT: Tobit, Sirach, Wisdom, Judith, Baruch, 1&2 Maccabees. Also parts of Daniel and Esther are different
The history of the Bible is long and I recommend resources such as Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger by Gary Michute. But for a very brief summary:
The Old Testament was completed before the time of Christ but even during the time of Christ the Jewish people had various canons of the Scriptures. There was no formal list of books among the Jews until 200-300 AD when they eventually did decide on a formal canon (a formal list as to what books they held to be inspired).
Prior to the Jews determining their canon of the Old Testament Scriptures, Christians debated as to which books should be held as inspired in the Old Testament until the 4th century.
The New Testament was completed by 100 AD. For the next several centuries there were debates as to how many books were to be held as inspired in the New Testament until end of 4th century (there were many forgeries claiming to be inspired as well as other orthodox writings in existence).
Ultimately several Local Councils were held to determine the formal canon of Scriptures for Christians. These were the Councils of Rome (382 AD), Hippo (393 AD), Carthage (397 AD)
They gave decrees on the formal canon of the Bible = 46 books in OT, 27 in NT = total 73 books. This decree on the Bible was approved by the pope from all three councils. All Councils since that time that addressed the Bible affirmed this canon
The Bible had 73 books until things changed after the Reformation. This began with Martin Luther. He ejected the Church, rejected doctrines including Purgatory. He refused to accept 2 Maccabees because supported doctrine of Purgatory. He had issues with other OT books as well as James, Hebrews and others in NT. Ultimately Luther decided to accept 27 NT books but rejected 7 in OT. His reasoning was because the Jews in the 1500s accepted only 39 books in OT this is what Christians should hold to. He rejected the 1100+ year tradition of the Christians accepting 46 books in the OT (73 books in the Bible). He called these 7 disputed books the “Apocrypha” / uninspired. Initially Protestant Bibles contained these books but labeled them the “Apocrypha” and put them in an appendix. Over time, since held to be uninspired, they were removed from most Protestant Bibles.