Question 50 - Saving the Church in Boston
Question 49 - Book recommendation for my reformed Presbyterian pastor
Question 48 - List of Infallible Doctrine
Question 47 - Apostles.....and/or......Disciples
Question 46 - Online Greek Septuagint
Question 45 - a Traditionalist asks
Question 44 - question on the second law of thermodynamics
Question 43 - Scripture Scholar Advice Needed :)
Question 42 - Atrocities in OT, related to Forrest article on Islam, Part 4
Question 41 - On Evolution
Question 40 - South Park Episode - Derogatory reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Question 39 - Atrocities in OT, related to Forrest article on Islam, Part 3
Question 38 - Atrocities in OT, related to Forrest article on Islam, Part 2
Question 37 - Greetings from Diego Garcia
Question 36 - Christmas: December 25?
Question 35 - Priestesses
Question 34 - The aether density and movement
Question 33 - Does God Love Sinners
Question 32 - Ensoulment and Frozen Embryos
Question 30 - A Gay Gene?
Question 29 - Natural Family Planning
Question 28 - ONE Campaign
Question 27 - Limbo
Question 26 - Official Church Permission to Correct the Pope
Question 25 - question about the new mass
Question 24 - Catholics at Protestant Weddings
Question 23 - 1% of Catholics...
Question 22 - Truths which must necessarily be believed explicitly
Question 21 - The Morality of Tattoos and Body Piercing by Father Peter Joseph
Question 20 - Objects
Question 19 - Question on a Second Marriage
Question 18 - Question on Mark Bonocore's View of the Atonement
Question 17 - Nonbelievers Too Can Be Saved, Says Pope??
Question 16 - Questions on the Church of Christ Debate
Question 15 - Geocentrism
Question 14 - Nonbelievers Too Can Be Saved, Says Pope??
Question 13 - Geocentrism and Miracle of the Sun of Fatima
Question 12 - Limbo consigned to history books?
Question 11 - The Wait Is Over: Jews' Messiah Now Kosher ??
Question 10 - Copulation after conceiving
Question 9 - Need some help with Mary
Question 8 - Para 121 of the Catechism: Has the Old Covenant been Revoked?
Question 7 - Tattoos
Question 6 - Word of God
Question 5 - open_letter_to_rc_apologists
Question 4 - Errors in the Catechism?
Question 3 - Pius XII versus Paul VI
Question 2 - Tattoos
Question 1 - Marriage and Baptism
Question 50- Saving the Church is Boston
We are trying to save the Church here in Boston and have a petition going. Our previous ones have given us good fruit. Your readers are the type who will sign the petition. Please post a link to http://www.christifideles.net/.
R.Sungenis: Will Do!
Question 49- Book recommendation for my reformed Presbyterian pastor
Dear Mr. Sungenis,
I have been a member of a reformed Presbyterian church for almost 10 years and am now doing what was previously unthinkable: I am seriously considering becoming catholic. Your website has played a very important role in this spiritual seismic shift. As you might imagine, my extremely intelligent and loving pastor (who happens to live across the street from me) has become very concerned about my spiritual journey. We had an extremely lively 2 hour discussion a month ago about my readings that left me exhausted and him saying "you are in very deep water!" and "whatever you do, do not become Catholic". What kind of literature do you recommend for a man like this? He is very bright and is very well read. He highly regards the Westminster Confession and the writings of John Calvin. He seems to be a very good debater--excellent "on his feet" (I have witnessed this numerous times). I am not yet a bible scholar nor a catholic apologist, so I really do not know how it is going to go when I have my next meeting with him...He is also a loved neighbor, so I just can not sneak out the back... The members of my church really do think of the Catholic Church as the greatest cult in Christendom. So, I will inevitably be having many passionate conversations with my horrified church friends.
Thank you very much for your book recommendation(s). I greatly appreciate and admire all of your hard work!!
B. Douglass: Stanley,
Robert has delegated some of the Q&A workload to me, due to time constraints.
Thank you for the commendation. It is greatly appreciated, as is your moral courage in considering conversion, in spite of all the social pressure you are facing.
Of course, I am going to recommend Not by Faith Alone, Not by Bread Alone, and Not by Scripture Alone by Robert Sungenis. They each build a solid biblical, historical, and logical case for the Catholic position. They are probably the most thorough treatements of these central issues of contention in print.
If your pastor hasn't read them already, I would next recommend to him the Letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch. He is one of the very earliest Church Fathers, the direct successor of St. John, and the whole ethos of his letters is very distinctively Catholic, especially regarding the sacraments, salvation, and ecclesiology. And John Calvin thought it took the Christian Church 500 years to muck up the gospel that badly!
Catholic Controversy by St. Francis de Sales is also a must. Partly by means of these essays, St. Francis de Sales converted 70,000 Calvinists to Catholicism in a relatively short period of time. Sort of presents a difficulty to the whole idea of eternal security. 70,000 committed Calvinists, and not one of them was actually regenerate? Must not have been, or else how did they fall back into idolatrous worship of the wafer God? James White once commented on his blog about how St. Francis de Sales "robbed" these people of eternal life, which isn't exactly the most logically consistent thing for someone who believes in eternal security to say. Often people reveal their theological instincts through off-hand remarks like this, and they are much closer to the truth than the theology they profess in their more deliberate remarks.
As a compliment to Not by Scripture Alone, I recommend Tradition and the Church by Msgr. George Agius. Protestants often complain that Catholic appeals to Tradition are nebulous, and this book does a good job of defining exactly what Tradition is.
Any Friend of God's is a Friend of Mine by Patrick Madrid should be helpful. Protestants of course always want to know why Catholics pray to "dead" saints, and this book is written to address that question.
Sadly, the most influential Catholic biblical scholars, those who get the most exposure in Protestant circles, tend to teach a liberal view of Scripture and allow that Scripture can contain errors. Your pastor may be under the impression that this represents authentic Catholicism (and if it did, he would be right to reject the Catholic Church). I would give him Providentissimus Deus by Leo XIII and Spiritus Paraclitus by Benedict XV to disabuse him of such notions.
For the biblical and historical case for Catholic ecclesiology, give your pastor Jesus, Peter, and the Keys by Butler, Dahlgren, and Hess and Upon this Rock by Stephen Ray.
I tend to be an empiricist, so I will next recommend The Incorruptibles and Eucharistic Miracles by Joan Carrol Cruz, Meet the Witnesses by John Haffert, Padre Pio the Stigmatist by Fr. Charles Carty, and the life of St. Francis of Assisi by St. Bonaventure. These works should be read with the words of Christ in John 14:12 in mind: "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father." If this is true, where are all the Protestant saints raising the dead, healing all manner of infirmities, flying in front of squadrons of war planes waving their arms about and yelling not to bomb the city (that was St. Pio), and spinning the sun around before the eyes of dazzled Portuguese Communists? There is simply no fulfillment of John 14:12 in all of Protestantism. But the books recommended above document how it has been fulfilled in Catholicism. As Christ said they would, Catholic saints have done greater works even than Christ.
On a similar note, though I'm going a bit off topic, it may also be helpful to point your pastor to St. Paul's clear teaching in 1 Corinthians that consecrated celibacy is objectively superior to marriage. I have two friends who are converts to Catholicism from a very unstructured "Jesus, me, and the Bible" type of Christianity, and they pored over the Bible in attempts to follow everything as literally as possible (except where it says to greet each other with a holy kiss :), and one of the things that seriously bothered them about Protestantism is that there is basically no celibacy anywhere. And St. Paul says he would have everyone celibate!
Finally, Catholic spiritual writers may help to soften your pastor to the Catholic Church. It's very hard to maintain that Catholics aren't Christians when you read the tremendous spiritual wisdom of for exampel Progress through Mental Prayer by Fr. Edward Leen and Introduction to the Devout Life by St. Francis de Sales. I remember reading an essay by a Protestant pastor who couldn't make heads or tails of St. Bernard of Clairveaux: when he read St. Bernard's devotional works whose object was Mary he could hardly believe he was a Christian, but when he read his devotional works whose object was Christ he couldn't believe he was not a Christian!
I hope I've been of help.
Question 48- List of Infallible Doctrine
Is there a definitive list of infallible Catholic doctrine?
-- Linda Yandow
B. Douglass: Linda,
The closest thing would be Denzinger and Ludwig Ott's Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma. There is no official, infallible list of infallible definitions. Indeed, sometimes whether such and such a doctrine is infallible is subject to debate. For example, Fr. Brian Harrison argues that the Catholic Church has infallibly taught that Eve was literally created from Adam's rib.
Question 47- Apostles.....and/or......Disciples
according to Scriptures was it just the Apostles who were given the power to bind and loose and forgive sins etc or also the Disciples...
B. Douglass: Jim,
The power to bind and loose was given first to the Apostles (Peter, James, John, Thomas, etc) alone (who are also called "disciples" many times in Scripture) at the Last Supper. Then they passed it on to whomever they ordained as their successors (Paul, Timothy, Titus, Ignatius, Polycarp, etc).
Question 46- Online Greek Septuagint
I was wondering if you could point me to an Online Greek Septuagint that has search features to be able to locate things. Please let me know.
Your Helper, >BR>Bobby L. Hesley
B. Douglass: Bobby,
Question 45- a Traditionalist asks
I thank God for your continued perseverance in proclaiming the truth in your site (even when it hurts). I believe Catholic Int'l is being used by God to awaken true Catholics about the reality of the present Catholic Church and the mess it has got into. Since I "converted" to traditional Catholicism and went into full communion with His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI (last May), I discovered the real beauty of our Church.
I have a few 'non-related' questions though; I hope you would reply as soon as you could:
1). Is there any logical or scriptural argument to those heretics (the "Iglesia ni Cristo") who claim that though Church history can prove the bishops of the Catholic Church (the Pope included) could trace their line back to the 12 Apostles, and are indeed were appointed as successors, nevertheless that doesn't guarantee its eventual fall into apostasy? Since, they claim that when the true apostolic church fell during Constantine's it gave to the eventual rise of Felix Manalo their prophet and then the INC in 1914.
B. Douglass: Catholic Answers has one tract devoted specifically to the claims of the Iglesia ni Cristo, and This Rock had a feature article on them in February 1990. Also, question one on CAI's Q&A board for September 2005 concerns an Iglesia ni Cristo argument. Finally, some anti-Catholic evangelical apologetics groups such as theBereans.net have articles opposing this sect, some of whose material may be salvagable. Other than that, the literature is not extensive, at least in English. However, since they share many beliefs in common with Jehovah's Witnesses (e.g. total apostasy of the early Church in contradiction to Matt 16:18; 28:20; John 14:16; 16:13, denial of the divinity of Christ, etc), much of the Catholic contra-Jehovah's Witnesses apologetic material you will find will be applicable to Iglesia ni Cristo as well. In general the arguments for the indefectibility of the Church will be similar regardless of who is denying it and to what degree. However, with those who deny the divinity of Christ there is an additional route of attack inasmuch as you can document that the early Christian Church (pre-Constantine) believed in the doctrine. This is witnessed by Ignatius of Antioch, Melito of Sardis, Theophilus of Antioch, Irenaeus of Lyons, et al.
2). All claimants to Catholicism (traditionalist, conciliarist, SSPX, sedevacantist, etc.) agree that a heretic (preferably, a formal one) cannot be Pope, and that if he insists he becomes Anti-pope. But what do we do about former Pope Vigilius, who was (although never condemned in any canonical court) a manifest Monophysite, and was an Anti-Pope before becoming Pope?
B. Douglass: I don't think Vigilius was a manifest Monophysite. It is true that he plotted with the monophysite Empress Theodora in order to gain the papal see (and 700 lbs. of gold to boot). However, it appears that he was simply taking advantage of her, as he soon stabbed her in the back. The Catholic Encyclopedia states "after [Vigilius] had attained the object of his ambition and been made pope he maintained the same position as his predecessor against the Monophysites and the deposed Anthimus. It is true that there is an alleged letter from the pope to the deposed Monophysite patriarchs, Anthimus, Severus, and Theodosius, in which the pope agrees with the views of the Monophysites. This letter, however, is not regarded as genuine by most investigators and bears all the marks of forgery (cf. Duchesne in Revue des quest. histor. (1884), II, 373; Chamard, ibid., I (1885), 557; Grisar in Analecta romana, I, 55 sqq.; Savio in Civilta catt., II (1910), 413-422]. The pope did not restore Anthimus to his office." What can we say, better an impious Pope than a heretical Pope. In any case, the Catholic Encyclopedia goes on: "It was not until the year 540 that Vigilius felt himself obliged to take a stand in regard to Monophysitism which he did in two letters sent to Constantinople. One of the letters is addressed to Emperor Justinian, the other to the Patriarch Menas. In both letters the pope supports positively the Synods of Ephesus and Chalcedon, also the decisions of his predecessor Leo I, and throughout approves of the deposition of the Patriarch Anthimus."
3). On the infallible dogma of "extra ecclesiam nulla salvs", can a heretic or a schismatic be saved if his conscience and reason is against conversion to the Catholic Church, provided he does not know the Catholic Church being the true church?
B. Douglass: Heresy and schism are just like any other mortal sin: to be guilty you need full knowledge and deliberate consent of the will. It is certainly possible to be a material heretic or a material schismatic, but still die in a state of grace. I explained in more detail in question 28 of July 2005.
4). Lastly, although I do not believe the Eastern "Orthodox" Church as really orthodox, since they deny the dogma of Papal Supremacy and Papal infallibility, is it required of me to believe otherwise; since I thought former Pope John Paul II think they were?
B. Douglass: The Eastern Orthodox hold objectively heretical beliefs, and anyone who denies this either doesn't know what they believe, doesn't know what the Catholic Church teaches, or isn't Catholic. John Paul II certainly used a lot of conciliatroy language towards them, but I would be quite surprised if he ever denied that they hold heretical beliefs.
Ad maiorem Dei gloriam,
P.S. By the way, I really liked your "double-edge" evaluation of Douglas Jones' argument in your book Not By Scripture Alone that we have no use of a infallible church interpreted by fallible members; its really useful for a traditionalist.
B. Douglass: Thanks for all your praise of CAI's work. I hope I've been of help.
Gloria in excelsis Deo,
Question 44- question on the second law of thermodynamics
Allow me to preface my question with my unwavering allegiance to the Catholic Church and her dogmatic declarations; including its position on the creation of the world as it relates to evolution.
As I understand the 2nd law of thermodynamics, in a closed system, 'things' will tend to break down rather than organize 'up'.
However, as I understand, the only truly closed system is the universe itself.
Further, the 2nd law of thermodynamics also states that a 'thing' can organize up, if something else in the closed system breaks down by a greater degree. For example, 'something' can organize 'up', by say an aggregate factor of 3, if 'something' else in the universe breaks down by an aggregate factor of 5.
Given this, is the 2nd law of thermodynamics a more incorrect pretense to argue against evolution? Given all the otherwise overwhelming evidence, I am unsure if this pretense is needed for its argument against evolution.
Or, is my understanding flawed or incomplete?
R. Sungenis: Jason,
The 2nd law actually applies to heat distribution, and that is why it is called "THERMO dynamics." It says that in a closed system, the entropy (e.g., randomness) of a system will increase. This is only natural, because as the molecules bombard against one another they will go off in all directions. Heat invariably travels. Thus, the 2nd law has been applied to inorganic energy distribution in the universe, and thus it is said that because of the tendency to increasing disorder, we shouldn't expect things to organize themselves into neat little categories, for that would take more work or "heat," as it were. If there is just so much "heat" already in the system, where is the object going to get the extra heat it needs? Somewhere along the line the "heat" transfer is going to break down, and continue to break down thereafter (which answers your "factor" issue above). This is true even in an open system, since unless the open system has an alternate source of energy the 2nd law will still apply. In biological systems (like us, for example) we get a constant supply of new energy from the food we eat, and that is how our system can function. The organizing principles at work in our body can only function if they can defeat the 2nd law, and it does so by getting an extra source of energy. In general, however, the 2nd law is only applied to the origins of inorganic matter in the universe.
Question 43- Scripture Scholar Advice Needed :)
Last night, a Prot neighbor and friend of mine was horrified to see some "legend" about "Bel" and a dragon being killed by St Daniel. I had read the Book of Daniel years ago but didn't remember that part. I converted 15 years ago so I wouldn't HAVE to read the whole Bible unless I wanted to :) I wondered about it, too, since it was in what looks like it could be an Ortho Bible (I gave it to her since we didn't want it...a beautiful gift a Sebian man gave us, but it's not RC) but there it is in my Douay Rheims. She has the New American Bible to compare to but we think that stinks. She had discovered this during a Bible "study" (I will never go!) with other Prots and they're outraged that a "myth" was added and I think she said it's in the epistles of James, too, but it's not in the DR there but only the Book of Daniel. She is open to hearing our side but what IS our side? I don't wonder about anything in the DR -- I just accept it, so I'm not much of a help to Protestants in things biblical.
Do you have any specific apologetics articles on it or is it just defendable under the general heading of "apocrypha"?
I'd like to give her a Douay Rheims for Christmas. Do you like the one with the Bp Challoner notes from Loretto? That's the one I have to spare although I think the Haydock might be better. Shall I wait? It beats the New American, I'm sure!
R. Sungenis: The story of Bel, the Dragon and Daniel in Daniel 14 is not a legend, it is real history. We have several verifiable event and time markers in the account to know that it is real history (e.g., the prophet Habakkuk; the king of Babylon - Evel merodach; Daniel in the lion's den for the second time). The only Catholics who would be calling this a legend are the liberals (those who made the commentary of the New American Bible). The events in Daniel 14 are no more fanciful than those in Daniel 2-7, which are all in the Protestant Bible.
Yes, get the Haydock. Forget the NAB commentary. It is neither "New" or the "Bible," but it probably is "American." :)
Question 42- Atrocities in OT, related to Forrest article on Islam, Part 4
SLA: I never accused the Catholic Church of annihilating non-Christians (at least not today; history paints a different picture), but since you brought up the point, I should myself point out that not every sect of Islam is waging war against non-Muslims.
R. Sungenis:The divine mandate to slaughter whole cities was given in the Old Testament, but it is no longer practiced in the New Testament, and thus never was a part of Christian principles. In the Christian age, we conquer the nations by preaching the Gospel.
SLA: But you nevertheless worship a deity who, in essence, is not a peaceful god. In fact, there are several verses in the Old Testament in which Yahweh is described as a god of war. It does not therefore make sense to call Christianity a religion of peace when its divine author is described as a god of war. Jesus also said that he did not come to bring peace, but to pit “brother against father, daughter against mother” [I’m paraphrasing]. That doesn’t sound very peaceful…
R. Sungenis: Because you're falling into the same trap you did before: trying to make the part equal to the whole. God is a God of peace, but he is also a God of wrath when men sin. When Jesus says that he brings son against father he is speaking about the fact that some in the family will side with the Gospel while others reject it. This causes division, inevitably. God demands our allegiance to him first. If some do not accept that, it will cause conflict, not only between familes but among all people.
R. Sungenis: My efforts to explain to you why, at times, God slaughtered whole cities was to give a rationale for the practice in the Old Testament. If God continues any of that today, that is in his secret will, but it has not been published as a doctrine of the Catholic Church.
SLA: I understood your explanations, but they were hardly convincing. They basically amounted to: “when people anger God too much, he’ll slaughter them! Why? Because he’s God!”
R. Sungenis: No, that's not what I said. That is merely your caricature. I said God punishes people when they sin, and that the adults are responsible for the welfare of their children.
SLA: Although the Catholic Church does not officially teach conversion by the sword, history shows she has been guilty of being a preacher of the word, but not a doer. You’ll counter-argue, of course, that you cannot judge the church by her bad apples -- this is exactly the same thing peaceful Muslims say about Islam.
R. Sungenis: This is not a discussion about either the Church's or Islam's aberrations.
R. Sungenis: Unfortunately for the Muslims, their attempt to mimic the Old Testament God is not only anachronistic, but it is also a misplaced claim that God is still speaking directly from heaven today. Christianity holds that God has completed his revelation in Jesus Christ and Scripture.
SLA: It may be anachronistic in your view, but not in theirs. After all, they worship Allah, not Yahweh.
Also, if Christianity holds that God has completed revelation in Jesus Christ, why do you have many articles on your website dealing with revelations from visionaries, the Virgin Mary, and something about Russia?
R. Sungenis: Because only general revelation has ceased; private revelation has not ceased, but private revelation must then be endorsed by the Church in order for it to be accepted, and even then, no one is obligated to accept a private revelation.
R. Sungenis: You are confusing Protestantism with the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church condemned the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and it condemns the war in Iraq as well. In fact, Nagasaki and Hiroshima held two of Japan's largest populations of Catholics.
SLA: No, I was speaking of Christians in general, not any specific group.
R. Sungenis: But we distinguish them, and that is because we have different beliefs.
SLA: am not aware of any official condemnation of the a-bombings and the Iraqi war. Many Catholics vehemently defend both.
R. Sungenis: Pope John Paul II did so.
R. Sungenis: Point well taken, except I only defend Catholic Christianity, and none of this applies to the Catholic Church. I, with you, condemn the Protestants who seem to be making an enterprise of war. The main impetus for the Iraq war is the misguided views of scores of Protestant evangelicals who think that the Bible says that God is going to restore the fortunes of the nation of Israel as he did in the Old Testament. Iraq is considered one of those "goyim" nations that is in the way of Israel's destiny. These Protestants have the ear of President Bush, who also claims to be one of them, at least when it is convenient to say so
SLA: I was critiquing Christianity in general, though I know Catholicism has its fine share of sordid chapters.R. Sungenis: I don't make any apologies for either Muslims or Protestants. All I can tell you is that if you want genuine Christianity, it is in the Catholic Church alone.
SLA: Isn’t that what everyone says about their brand of Christianity? =)
R. Sungenis: But isn't that what every agnostic says about Christianity when confronted with the distinctions it makes?
Thank you for the dialogue. It has come to and end
Question 41- On Evolution
Dear Mr. Sungenis,
I just read an article on Zenit that interviewed Father Pascual, LC on creation and evolution. Within the interview Fr. Pascual said:
"On the other hand, so-called creationism is also, as evolutionism, an ideology based, on many occasions, on an erroneous theology, that is, on a literal interpretation of the passages of the Bible, which, according to their authors, would maintain, in regard to the origin of species, the immediate creation of each species by God, and the immutability of each species with the passing of time."
Is he implying that we evolved from primates? I see this as conflicting with basic precepts of the faith: original sin, the Fall, Christ being the New Adam, I was wondering what Church documents speak about this subject, and if any agree with Father Pascual's notions. Thank you for your consideration.
R. Sungenis: Remnington, the Legoniarries of Christ have, since their inception, taken a pro-evolution stance. Yes, Father Pascual is implying we descended from apes. He is either a theistic evolutionist (that God programmed evolution into the universe from the beginning) or a progressive creationist (that God intermittently interevenes to allow evolution to continue to take place). None of this is supported by the Fathers, medievals or papal or concilar teachings. Moreover, the literal interpretation of Genesis has been taught by the Church for 2000 years, and it is still the dogmatic teaching of the Church despite the liberal prelates in Catholicism who are trying to pretend that it is no longer the case.
Question 40- South Park Episode - Derogatory reference to the Blessed Virgin Mary
Has the ADL been contacted regarding this flagrant assault on religious virtue? If not, shouldn't they be asked to intervene in this matter. Though their well- renowned for crying "foul" at the slightest criticism of Jews in general and the State of Israel in particular, isn't it high time they "put their money where their mouths have always been"?
BURT R. WEISSMAN
R. Sungenis: Yes, they should be asked, if for nothing more to get their denial to get involved on record. Believe me, they are enjoying this. They want nothing more than to see Christianity crushed, for it will vindicate their cause even more.
Question 39- Atrocities in OT, related to Forrest article on Islam, Part 3
Dear Mr. Sungenis,
The very same arguments you are employing in defense of your god are the very same arguments Muslims use to justify their atrocities against humanity. They believe their god has divinely ordained the slaughter of infidels, no matter what the cost, and no matter who may be in the way -- infants, women, or the elderly. In their view, they are extracting vengeance on Allah’s behalf. This is exactly the same scenario you have argued on behalf of in your responses thus far, i.e., the divine punishments in the Old Testament were carried out by the Hebrews at God’s command.
Of course, you will insist that the Muslims are not justified in their quest to annihilate non-Muslims because their god is a false one. But this is exactly how Muslims feel in regards to all who subscribe to a different religious worldview.
I may have ventured a bit off topic, since my initial intention was to point out the absurdity, and wicked deceptiveness, of Mr. Forrest’s article. He cannot logically contend that Christianity is any more of a religion of peace than Islam is. They are both equally peaceful, or both equally atrocious, in essence, and in deed.
I was bothered by the fact that Mr. Forrest conveniently failed to cite scriptures in which Christianity is portrayed in a different light. Anyone who has never been exposed to either religion would logically arrive to the conclusion that they are both equally vengeful and warring religions after reading their respective scriptures.
R. Sungenis: First of all, the Catholic Church does not go around annihilating people who are not Christian. The divine mandate to slaughter whole cities was given in the Old Testament, but it is no longer practiced in the New Testament, and thus never was a part of Christian principles. In the Christian age, we conquer the nations by preaching the Gospel. My efforts to explain to you why, at times, God slaughtered whole cities was to give a rationale for the practice in the Old Testament. If God continues any of that today, that is in his secret will, but it has not been published as a doctrine of the Catholic Church. Unfortunately for the Muslims, their attempt to mimick the Old Testment God is not only anachronistic, but it is also a misplaced claim that God is still speaking directly from heaven today. Christianity holds that God has completed his revelation in Jesus Christ and Scripture.
SLA: You might argue that Christians aren’t the ones strapping themselves to bombs and blowing themselves up in public places, or the ones who are flying planes into buildings. I would beg to differ. Who a-bombed Nagasaki and Hiroshima? A so-called Christian nation, led by self-proclaimed Christians.
R. Sungenis: You are confusing Protestantism with the Catholic Church. The Catholic Church condemned the bombings of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, and it condemns the war in Iraq as well. In fact, Nagasaki and Hiroshima held two of Japan's largest populations of Catholics.
SLA: Who bombed Dresden, Germany and killed thousands and thousands of innocent German civilians? A Christian nation, whose armed forces are made up of mostly self-proclaimed Christians. Who attacked Iraq without just provocation? Do you get my point?
R. Sungenis: Point well taken, except I only defend Catholic Christianity, and none of this applies to the Catholic Church. I, with you, condemn the Protestants who seem to be making an enterprise of war. The main impetus for the Iraq war is the misguided views of scores of Protestant evangelicals who think that the Bible says that God is going to restore the fortunes of the nation of Israel as he did in the Old Testament. Iraq is considered one of those "goyim" nations that is in the way of Israel's destiny. These Protestants have the ear of President Bush, who also claims to be one of them, at least when it is convenient to say so.
SLA: You might counter-argue that these people aren’t really Christian. Great, the peaceful Muslims say the same thing about warring Muslims.
Skeptic Liberal Agnostic
R. Sungenis: R. Sungenis: I don't make any apologies for either Muslims or Protestants. All I can tell you is that if you want genuine Christianity, it is in the Catholic Church alone.
Question 38- Atrocities in OT, related to Forrest article on Islam, Part 2
R. Sungenis: Let's say that you are a parent that spanks his children; or a judge who puts someone behind bars for a crime; or a nation that defends itself in battle against an aggressor nation. Would we then conclude that you are vengeful and not peace-loving? I don't think so. The same applies to God and His vengeance against the nations you quote above.
SLA: Mr. Sungenis, have you ever heard the phrase "there's a difference between child abuse and discipline"? What "loving" parent, pray tell, ravishes the wife of his son as a form of punishment? What "loving" parent slaughters his grandchildren to punish his son? Would not such a parent today be imprisoned, perhaps even executed? And would such a parent even be considered "loving" by you, or any other religious person? I think not. There is legitimate punishment, then there's outright "child abuse." But what God does in the Old Testament is beyond child abuse -- it is atrocious, and even that is an understatement.
R. Sungenis: You are taking the analogy in the wrong direction. The analogies I offered (including a nation defending itself) were for the purpose of demonstrating that there are times when need to administer physical force even though, by nature, we understand ourselves as peace-loving. The degree of physical force is dependent on the situation. Obviously, a parent who uses too much physical force ends up abusing the child. Incidentally, God agrees with that distinction, and, in fact, was the one who taught it to us (Eph 6:4; Pro 19:18).
In regards to the distinctions of the amount of physical force, Scripture has many of them. At times crimes are punished by fines, at other times by seclusion, at other times by public lashings, and in cases of capital crimes the punishment is by execution. It all depends on the severity of the crime and the intention of the perpetrator.
This brings us to the issue of God's command to slaughter all the inhabitants of a particular city. As you must have noted from my last email, such an occasion only occurs when the "iniquity has reached its full measure" (Genesis 15:16) or as 2Macc 6:14 says "as with other nations, whom the Lord patiently forbeareth to punish, till they be come to the fulness of their sins."
When iniquity has reached its fullness, then God, in his omniscient knowledge, has determined that there is no one good in the city who has the ability to be good. As we noted with Sodom and Gomorrah, they couldn't even find 10 righteous out of cities comprising tens of thousands of people.
In such cases, God will also include the infants and children in the punishment, and that is because the punishment is the consequence of the parent's sin against God. The parents know they put their children at risk of God's judgment if they sin, for they know God has given them responsibility for their children's welfare. When they sin against God they do so knowing that they put their children under divine wrath, and thus it is not God's fault, but the parent's fault.
God did the same to King David. When David decided to commit adultery with Bathsheba and have her husband Uriah murdered, as a punishment, God took the life of the baby born to Bathsheba, even though David prayed for mercy for seven days (2Sam 11-12).
One contingency here, however, is that, even though the baby becomes the victim of earthly retribution, he can escape eternal retribution. This is why David says in 2Sam 12:23: "I shall go to him, but he will not return to me."
This connection between the sins of the parents and the consequences upon the children should make any parent think twice about sinning against God. It is one thing to subject yourself to God's judgment, but it is quite another to put your children in harms way due to your own sin. And in certain instances, that punishment may go down to the third and fourth generation (Ex 20:5). This ought to tell us how serious God is about sin.
God had already established this rule at the beginning of time when he demonstrated that, for the one sin of Adam and Eve, the whole human race would be punished with death for their sin. Knowing this principle, man has no excuse. He knows what God may do to his children if he sins. Unfortunately, even though God makes the punishment severe, men still continue to sin against him, and that is the "mystery of iniquity."
SLA: Also, a foreign attack does not justify slaughtering the aggressor nation's children and women. By the logic of your God, Iraq would be justified in slaughtering all American children and women.
R. Sungenis: Iraq does not have any divine privileges. It is God alone who decides when, how, where and why to administer his ultimate justice.
R. Sungenis: The Scriptures you need to add to the equation are those which say that God does such things because he is punishing the people for their utter wickedness, a wickedness from which they will not repent. For example, in Genesis 15:16 God is promising Abraham the land of Canaan but says that Abraham's descendants will not be able to possess that land for another 400 years. Reason: "for the iniquity of the Amorite is not yet complete." In other words, the Amorites who would be ousted from the land were wicked people and God intended on removing them by having Abraham's descendants slaughter them. But that slaughter would not be allowed until God determined that the Amorites wickedness was so bad that it called for divine vengeance. God used Israel to be his sword in those cases. But later in Israel's history, they themselves became wicked and God then used foreign nations (Assyria, Babylon) to come in and slaughter Israel.
The first point is: God will use men to punish other men when wickedness appears.
SLA: I understand God is punishing those nations for their sin... what I cannot comprehend, try as I may, is why he would resort to such brutality to extract his vengeance. Isn't that the same thing Allah does in the Koran? Aren't his atrocities the punishing of "sin"? Is not rejecting Allah, in Islam, a sin? So how is Allah extracting vegeance on infidels anymore atrocious than Yahweh extracting vengeance on those he considers infidels?
R. Sungenis: Islam, as all other worldly religions, try to mimic the God of the Old and New Testaments and that is why we see similarities in their beliefs and practices. That is to be expected. But without the complete structure of the biblical testaments, any mimicking of them will at best be imperfect and often a distortion.
Question 37- Greetings from Diego Garcia
Good evening Mr. Sungenis, my name is Ulysses Zamora, I am a naval officer and I am currently stationed overseas in Diego Garcia. I am a devout Catholic and I consider myself a traditionalist and when I browse the internet I normally frequent many Catholic websites like EWTN, Catholic Answers etc, and I came across your website almost by accident. I have went through your website and found it to be thoroughly interesting. I especially enjoy reading your articles about science and geocentrism, it is refreshing for me to come across articles that deals with these issues in so affirmative and Catholic way, thanks and I am learning a lot from you.
I also wanted to say that I am currently discerning if I want to join the priesthood after I leave the Navy. I read your article about the number of homosexuals in the priesthood and I have to admit that I am stunned by those revelations. I knew of the scandal and knew how far the 'lavendar mafia' had penetrated the priesthood here in America, but reading your article really put a new perspective on my possible vocation to the priesthood. It made me angry to see what these modernist priests and bishops have done to our beloved Church, I try to be charitable and pray for their souls, but I have to admit it is difficult. My faith is not shaken in the Church, because I know Christ established the one true Church, but I don't know if I want to do something that is though of as being a gay profession.
What advice can you give me in this circumstance? Should I continue to pursue the priesthood? I feel a great need to serve the Church in some capacity, I feel the priesthood is the way to do it, but these figures and numbers you cite are truly disheartening. Thanks in advance for the advice. Lastly, I would like to purchase your study bible, but I wanted to know if your company mailed to FPO AP address before I ordered it. Again, I am praying for you and I have learned a lot just by reading all your articles, I hope you are able to respond to this email.
All the best and God Bless,
R. Sungenis: Ulysses, yes, pursue the priesthood, but don't get mixed up with the bishops of the United States. Most of them are corrupt. Very few are following the traditional faith. I would suggest that you hook up with the Fraternity of St. Peter. Contact Reverand Jackson at the Our Lady of Guadalupe Seminary in Denton Nebraska. Tell Fr. Jackson I sent you. God be with you.
Question 36- Christmas: December 25?
I've read your lengthy essay and I dare to say this: you've left something out.
I heard Pastor Arnold Murray of the Shepherd's Chapel give an exposition of Chapter 1 of Luke which puts the birth of Christ in September. The study is in his cassette tape #517 also.
It's actually very brief compared to your paper.
There are two lines of logic that converge on the September date. The second is shorter so I'll say it first. Luke 2:8 says that there were shepherds abiding in the field tending their flocks by night, as you recall. Well, he points out, the growing season ends in September, and there wouldn't be food for the sheep in the fields past mid October. It doesn't make any sense that the sheep and the shepherds would be in the fields in late December. Obviously this is very soft line of reasoning, but doesn't seem that strange, either.
The gospel starts out saying that things have been studied very accurately and are presented so that the reader can accept them with certainty.
Now he claims that there is a date embedded in the introduction to Zacharius. Zach is a Levite, but not only that, he is a member of the division of Abia (KJV) or Abijah (NAB). Go back to 1 Chron 24, and you see that the order of service of the Levites puts Abia (Abijah) in eighth place.
Then, he makes a leap which he doesn't explain. He says the Abia group would be serving in the Temple from June 13 to June 19, followed by a Sabbath. In the Temple, Zach sees Gabriel, and so on. So, Murray places the conception of the child of Zach and Elizabeth on June 25. Then, as Chap 1 of Luke goes on, six months later, the conception of Jesus would be taking place on Dec 25. Then, 9 mos later you are in September, and the shepherds are abiding in the field, etc.
The question to you is, have you ever considered the exegesis of Luke for the internal evidence of the general date (month) of Jesus' birth? Murray uses the "Companion Bible" ($100) and "a lot more" data is presented about Jesus' birth in Appendix 179 of the study bible.
Murray's argument is appealing, since it would be somewhat more simple, if it had the rigor that we'd like to see in it. And, of course, he asserts to his audience that the entire matter is "simple."
Obviously, this is an altogether different line of logic that in your article. thought you might be interested in it.
Murray also references Hos 14:4 to explain the Christmas tree. He shows how God uses "symbolism" of a tree for Himself. The "fir" tree (KJV, "cyprus" in NAB) has foliage year-round, suggesting everlasting life, hence is a symbol of God.
**** We've crossed email briefly earlier this year.
Rick Luczak Bay City Michigan.
R. Sungenis: Rick, first a few words about Arnold Murray. He and his son have some very unorthodox interpretations of Scripture, to say the least, so be careful. Second, regarding the birth of Jesus, the argument that the birth had to be in September because the sheep were in the fields before the growing season ends is not convincing. I've heard this argument many years ago. The fact is however, that sheep don't necessarily eat planted crops, so the "growing season" has little to do with their diet. They eat the grass of the field, which grows wild, sometimes well into winter. Also, shepherds didn't put their sheep in barns after September. Unless it was severely cold, they were out roaming the fields well into the winter months; which is especially true during the daylight hours, since daylight winters in Israel are not the harsh snowy days we get in northern United States. All indications are that Christ was, indeed, born on December 25. The patristic evidence is overwhelming. Unfortunately, Arnold Murray doesn't take stock in what the Church Fathers have to say, and thus he is at the mercy of his own mind.
Question 35- Priestesses
Dear Mr. Sungenis,
I just got home from a retreat I helped put together for a Confirmation group of about 80 students. The theme was on the Communion of Saints. In the end, during the final question/answer section, I answered a question which had to do with priestesses. My response was that women could not become priests because priests are representing Christ, in persona Christi, and as such, cannot be represented by a woman. Not to mention the legitimizing of homosexual unions if this is true. I thought Hebrews 5:1cf. would be sufficient to read to them. Also, I gave them an argument I heard from Dr. Peter Kreeft, that our human souls are feminine and God's Spirit is masculine, and therefore, the complementarity is appropriate as we are "filled with God's Spirit". I was wondering if the above argumentation is accurate, sufficient, or if there is anything more that can be said?
R. Sungenis: Laurence, if Peter is trying to say that, ontologically, our souls are feminine, then no, I would have to disagree. The closest that Scripture and tradition uses the feminine sexual identity is to call the Church the Bride of Christ, but that's where it stops. This is purely a figurative designation, not an ontological one.
Secondly, the priest who was in attendance, took hold of the mic and said that early on, women were ordained as deacons, and that St. Paul teaches this. Is this true, and where does this myth come from if untrue? He took me aside after my session was over and asked my opinion on whether or not the fact that Mary Magdalen being the first to witness the Resurrection is ample evidence that women have a role in the priestly ministry. My response was simply that, we are all, as baptized members of Christ's body, called to be evangelists-- as priests of the faithful. However, Mary did not offer up any sacrifices, as priests do, and she merely evangelized. He believes that in a few decades, women will become priests. What other evidence can I give him?
R. Sungenis: Laurence, we have three Internet Bible Studies on this issue. One of them deals specifically with the "deaconess" issue in Romans 16:1-2 and in the early Church. The other two deal with St. Pau'ls proscribing of females entering the priesthood. I will send those to you.
It does not help that he doubles as the Vocations Director of my Diocese. On a brighter side, he voiced his desire to re-assert the teaching that the Mass is a Sacrifice. I recommended your NBBA book, which I doubt he will purchase, but I will lend him my copy.
Thank you... and God Bless,
R. Sungenis: Well, if he understands it as a sacrifice, then he is halfway home to understanding why women cannot serve as priests :)
Question 34- The aether density and movement
I have a question.
If the universe contains these dense Planck particles, or whatever the aether is composed, how can there still be "free" movement in space? Don't they need to deal with the "stresses" of stars revolving and thus don't they need to have a certain strength?
These questions do not come from someone converting to heliocentrism, but from someone trying to understand geocentricity at a deeper level.
Your response would be much appreciated.
R. Sungenis: David, this may seem odd to us, but actually the more dense and lower temperatur some materials are, the less friction they create against moving objects. For example, a submarine will travel with less friction at greater depths in the ocean, even though the pressure is greater on the hull of the sub. Also, substances like Helium 4, when brought down to a few degrees above absolute zero ( about 2.5 degrees Kelvin) will act like a superfluid and produce no friction. In light of that, I find it interesting that the CMBR (cosmic microwave background radiation) that they have found in every direction of the universe has a constant temperature of 2.73 degrees Kelvin, and much of outer space is rarified Helium. Also, the firmament is not merely Planck particles. They are merely the foundational material at 10 ^ -33cm, in accord with present theories in Quantum Mechanics and String Theory. There are also other possible substratums, for example, the electron-positron net discovered by both Dirac and Anderson. There are other issues, but these will all be covered in my upcoming book, Galileo Was Wrong.
Question 33- Does God Love Sinners
I started a thread on Steve Ray's board titled "Does God Love Sinners."
I copied some of the verses you had posted on your web-site: PS 5:5; SIR- 12:6; LK 19:27.
Most people are so used to hearing that God hates the sin, but loves the sinner, (even though the sinner will not repent) that when they hear that God is capable of hateing someone, they just can't buy it.
I want you to look at a question a board member submitted that I don't quite know how to answer. I have this persons permission to e-mail you his question. I would like to post your answer on board.
TomWhat are you talking about? This has nothing to do with what it means to be in hell. Again, can anyone answer this question with some precision? What form does God's 'hate' take when God directs hatred toward those in hell? What? Does God develop loves and hates as we humans do, through the passage of time and on account of the visible actions of others?
No. God doesn't arrive at loves and hates as people do. God ordains the order of the universe from the beginning of time. This plan includes those who choose to reject him, and he prepares an eternal place for them so that they may fulfill their destiny and find their proper role in the order of things. The glory of God is satisfied by those in hell. They in no way diminish it.
So what's the hatred that God bears toward those in hell? It's nothing but the exclusion of sin and evil from the good and from God himself. It's not some ephemeral emotion that's comparable to human feelings
R. Sungenis: Tom, the way to answer this is to posit that God's "feelings" are not ephemeral nor are they the same as human feelings. God's "feelings" are as perfect in his divine essence as his intelligence and will are perfect. The problem that often surfaces here is that most people have no problem assigning perfection to God's intelligence and will, but they fail to assign the same perfection to his emotion, and thus they invariably characterize it as "ephemeral" or like "human feelings." It is not. God's intelligence, will and emotion are perfect. We are made in the image of God, and therefore we also have intelligence, will and emotion, but ours is flawed. The key is to get the critics to stop equating God's emotion with flawed human emotion.
Question 32- Ensoulment and Frozen Embryos
Is it true that the Catholic Church has never made an official express doctrinal pronouncement regarding the exact time (i.e., moment) of ensoulment? I am of the understanding that although the Church has never expressly stated the precise moment, it has implicitly stated it via the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception as declared by Blessed Pope Pius IX. I raise this point because there is an argument by the pro-aborts that tries to ridicule the notion of ensoulment taking place at the moment of conception in so far as they say frozen embryos show absolutely no sign of life whatsoever, yet these same embryos can be unfrozen, implanted, and come to full term. Their inference is that the Catholic position would necessitate the soul leaving the embryo when it is frozen and coming back when it is unfrozen. In your view what would be the best Catholic response to all this. Much thanks as ever for your anticipated reply.
James B. Phillips
P.S. I fully realize that the issue of ensoulment may be related to the issue of abortion, but that they are not interchangeable. That abortion is intrinsically evil in all instances is in no way dependent upon the time of ensoulment.
R. Sungenis: James, after some back-and-forth on the ensoulment issue, the definitive statement did not come until Pius IX. Here is a quote from my recent essay on abortion, which is presently on our Feature section: "Pope Pius IX stated the Church’s official position in a papal bull of 1869. A distinction between "fetus animatus" and "fetus inanimatus" would no longer be considered in any ecclesiastical decisions, whether it regarded Holy Orders or not. As such, Canon law, both the 1917 and 1983 codes, simply refers to "the fetus" without any distinctions." You can find the full article HERE
Regarding the embryos, since the Church decided that fetus animatus is not the criterion for ensoulment, then a frozen embryo does not serve as the criterion for whether the soul is present or not. Hence, if the embryo can be restored to animation, then this means the soul never left the embryo in the first place.
But even from a "fetus animatus" perspective, unless the embryo is frozen to absolute zero (0 degrees Kelvin or -273 degrees centigrade), then the molecules in the embryo are still moving, and thus there is "animation," even if it is on a basal level.
Question 30- A Gay Gene?
Mr. Sungenis, I hope you are doing fine. I had a question for you about homosexuality.
1. Are some people born disposed to homosexuality?
2. What are we to make of guys like my childhood neighbor who we all thought acted feminine since he was a child of 6 or 7 years old?
I know that homosexuals are trying to find the "Gay Gene" to prove that its genetic. I don't think it is, but then I have a difficult time explaning away number 2.
R. Sungenis: Jaime, there is no "gay gene." If a boy has acquired feminine tendencies at an early age, invariably there is something wrong with the family dynamics. Usually it is because of a domineering, suffocating or over-protective mother, and/or a father who has abdicated his role as head of the family, as well as not being a male model for his son. Also, teenage boys who are going through an identity crises can either entertain or indulge in homosexual activity. Often this is the case when the father of the teenager is not properly guiding his son through the adolescent stage of development.
Like any other sin, homosexuality is a temptation that tries to draw strength from our natural consupiscence. But homosexuality is in a special category since, according to St. Paul, it is the natural result of idolotry (Rm 1:18-24). That is why one of the most prominent sins to crop up in a society when that society has crossed the line into idolatry is homosexuality. This is also true in the present prelature of the Catholic Church. The homosexuality among a great majority of the priests and bishops is due to their rejection of the Catholic faith.
Question 29- Natural Family Planning
I have a question regarding natural family planning. My wife and I were married in September and I am still in graduate school studying interestingly enough, traditional catholic architecture, but she is supporting us for now. We practice natural family planning, but I question our use of it. We were taught by the church that its use is acceptable for reason such as financial support for a baby, but I feel that perhaps the churches teachings on NFP have been watered down. I feel that it is our choice of convenience not to have a child right now b/c it would be difficult on us since my wife is supporting me through school, but is that truly how NFP should be used. I was raised a protestant and my wife was raised catholic, but I have been taking RCIA classes b/c of my personal convictions on birth control and the eucharist. It's interesting because my wife is stuck on the way the church taught NFP to us and I'm somewhat questioning what we were taught and truly want to understand the appropriate uses and theology behind it. I have a tough time seperating pleasure from procreation b/c we are purposely charting her fertility!
Thanks for your Time
R. Sungenis: Mr. Measel, Humanae Vitae is the principle authority on the issue of reproduction. In it Paul VI allowed NFP only for serious reasons (e.g., health of the mother; poverty-line economic status). Hence, unless you fit into one of those categories, the occasions you are permitted to use NFP are severely limited. When couples begin to use NFP based on convenience rather than dealing with present problems, then they are on the slipperly slope.
Question 28- ONE Campaign
I have a Catholic friend who attends Mass more than weekly and accepts all Church teaching on faith and morals. However he gives money to the ONE Campaign is that being pushed by the pop group U2 and which is part of Make Poverty History. I have been to the ONE website and whilst I couldn't find anything on there that gave evidence to support my suspicion that this campaign supports activities that come under the heading of "reproductive rights" etc, the partner organisations to ONE include arms of the UN including UNICEF and UNFPA.
If my friend gives money to ONE, is he committing sin? I only ask this because the ONE campaign is supported by such as Pat Robertson who, whilst not being Catholic, does claim to support pro-life causes.
Can you help?
B. Douglass: David,
I didn't see the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) on the list of partner organizations to the ONE campaign. You might be confusing it with the UN Foundation. However, that is bad enough, and UNICEF is indeed on the list.
I don't know exactly in what capacity the ONE campaign works together with these organizations. Of course, if the ONE campaign participated in any of UNF or UNICEF's "reproductive rights" campaigns, it would be a sin to donate. If, on the other hand, the cooperation only entailed something more benign, a donation could be justified. Since I'm not sure one way or the other, and since the very fact that ONE is willing to touch UNICEF with a 10 ft pole is enough to give me pause, I would play it safe and donate to some other worthy charity, pending further information. The Catholic Encyclopedia says that it is a sin to perform an action of uncertain or dubious morality (article on doubt).
Pat Robertson is not an authoritative judge in this case, since he, like almost all Protestants, has rejected the constant Christian tradition of the sinfulness of contraception. Suppose he recieved an assurance that the ONE campaign did not support abortion or abortifacients, but only proper contraceptives. That might very well be enough to get his approval, but not the approval of a Catholic.
Question 27- Limbo
I have fought off going to SSPX since I became Catholic 23 years ago.
But, this garbage about no limbo will end up doing it.
Humans are not entitled to heaven. It is a free gift of God. He bestows it at His Will.
To postulate that those who die in Original Sin will receive the beatific vision seems to me to be outright heresy.
I understand the afterlife as thus. Please correct the following.
All living creatures have souls. Only humans have immortal souls. All humans will live forever.
A relationship with God is brought about through a relationship with Christ which is brought about through baptism and the sacraments. You cannot shortcut this process, but it is possible to receive the sacrament of baptism through desire or blood.
Heaven is like the being invited to a banquet feast. Purgatory is party of heaven but it is like entering the washroom to clean up BEFORE you enter the banquet. You know you are invited to the meal, but you dont want to join the others until you wash up, so to speak.
Limbo is part of hell only in the sense that the humans there do not see God. But they enjoy a natural happiness which isnt diminished by not enjoying the face of God as they never experienced it.
If Limbo is abandoned, it seems to me it makes heaven a place that humans are entitled to, negates the necessity of baptism, and undermines the need for baptism for children below the age of reason.
I would appreciate your thoughts.
B. Douglass: Albert,
You are right that it is heresy to suppose that those who die in original sin will go to heaven. However, that is not what the theological commission is proposing. They are proposing that we hope that God somehow extra-sacramentally redeems unbaptized children who die below the age of reason. Of course, the children would not merit this; God would do so as a free gift. Hence, getting rid of limbo would not necessarily imply that humans are entitled to heaven. Neither does it negate the necessity of baptism, since the imperative to be baptized remains regardless whether God is willing to make exceptions for those unable to recieve baptism. It is certainly true that, if Catholic parents were told that all unbaptized children definitely go to heaven, this would result (and indeed does result) in many putting off baptism excessively, with disastrous results. However, that is not what is being proposed here. The only way we can know for certain that children go to heaven is to have them baptized. Otherwise, we are simply in the dark, and can only commend them to the mercy of God. I cannot imagine any parent proceeding from this position to the conclusion that he ought to postpone baptism any longer than necessary.
Question 26- Official Church Permission to Correct the Pope
Hi Robert, I noticed in your previous Q&A's you were questioned on what authority you have to quote and even correct anyone, maybe even the Pope himself, on Faith issues. May I add another basis?
For those Catholics who seek official, doctrinal Church permission to correct any Church prelate, including specifically mentioned the Pope himself , in a matter of deviations from Faith, well, ok, here it is:
Constitutio Cum Ex Apostolatus Officio by Pope Paul IV, 1559:
"Whereas We consider such a matter to be so grave and fraught with peril that the Roman Pontiff, who is Vicar of God and of Jesus Christ on earth, holds fullness of power over peoples and kingdoms, and judges all, but can be judged by no one in this world — ***(even he) may be corrected if he is apprehended straying from the Faith.***"
Note that this Papal Bull is declared ex-cathedra (therefore infallible), in perpetuity, and signed with a consistory of 31 Cardinals co-signing the Bull.
Hard to prove that the Holy Ghost was NOT there. Pope St. Pius V was a Cardinal then, and later when he was elected Pope, reconfirmed CUM EX with his document INTERMULTIPLICES, and opened the canonization of Pope Paul IV.
The background of this Papal Bull is prophetic to our times and even ironic:
Paul IV suspected a popular Cardinal, Giovanni Morone, of having fallen secretly into the Lutheran heresy, and wanted to foil his ascendancy to the Papacy after his death, which was 6 months after the proclamation of this Bull.
Considering that now we have a German Pope who openly admires Luther and shows affinities for Lutheran theology, we can only guess that Providence knew about our times 400 years ago, and provided us with an infallible perpetual Papal Bull for our conscience and assistance.
This Papal Bull is fulminating against heretics and excommunicates them outright, even a future Pope, therefore, it is a favorite Church document for sedevancantist arguments. However, there is no need to adopt a sedevacantist opinion nor use Cum Ex Apostolatus to any extreme: it also gives permission to correct the Roman Pontiff in deviations from Faith.
Any Catholic who fears that each year is bringing a dimming of the True Catholic Faith against a Vatican onslaught of modernist alteration of Catholic doctrine, now can in open and full conscience, feel free to raise their voice to "correct deviations from the Faith", with a Papal Bull that seemingly trumps any and all other Church norm on the issue of fraternal correction of the Roman Pontiff.
You have Official Permission from Pope Paul IV (and reconfirmed by Pope St. Pius V) to correct anyone to the True Faith, even the Pope-- now use it. It is not a sin to correct the Pope to the True Faith, it is a Virtue. (Better know what you are doing, though, as not only you will be later judged by Men, but by Christ himself if you veer off to an extreme path that creates scandal and confusion.)
R. Sungenis: Daniel, thank you for your insights and information. It will be posted in our QandA section for everyone to see.
Question 25- question about the new mass
I would like to follow up on your answer about the validity of the New Mass.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent says, "For if we look to its value, we must confess that the Redeemer shed His Blood for the salvation of all; but if we look to the fruit which mankind have received from it, we shall easily find that it pertains not unto all, but to many of the human race. When therefore (our Lord) said: For you, He meant either those who were present, or those chosen from among the Jewish people, such as were, with the exception of Judas, the disciples with whom He was speaking. When He added, And for many, He wished to be understood to mean the remainder of the elect from among the Jews and Gentiles. WITH REASON, THEREFORE, WERE THE WORDS 'FOR ALL' NOT USED, as in this place the fruits of the Passion are alone spoken of, and to the elect only did His Passion bring the fruit of salvation."
That means that this particular time that "all" and "many" are not to be or can not be used interchangeably as it sometimes can be in Scripture.
Pope St. Pius V says, "Now if one were to remove, or change anything in the FORM of the consecration of the Body and Blood, and in that very change of words the [NEW] wording would fail to mean the same thing, he would NOT consecrate the sacrament."
The Council of Trent says that it does not mean the same thing.
Not only do you have a change of words that mean something differently but it also would change the intent of the priest if he meant or understood "all" to mean "absolutely everybody" which the Catechism says it doesn't. And since the Council of Florence dogmatically declared that the matter, form, and valid priest with right intention all must be present or the sacraments are invalid, the form and/or right intention would be missing at the English version of the New Mass.
How can the New Mass in English be valid using the words "all"?
Rome did not change the words. It was ICEL. Rome still today uses "many." This does not look good for the New Mass in the English speaking world.
B. Douglass: Steve,
First, while the Roman Catechism may not contain any moral or theological error, it's not infallible in its application of every Scripture passage. The interpretation it proposes is certainly possible, but not necessary. One could also understand Christ as referring to all, inasmuch as He died to merit grace and open the possibility of salvation to all. Second, the words "which is shed etc." are not part of the essential form of the sacrament. The words of consecration are simply "this is my body... this is the chalice of my blood." See Summa Theologica, par. III, Q. 78, art. 1. Objection 1 represents the position that the words surrounding "this is my body" and "this is the chalice of my blood" are necessary as well, and St. Thomas deals with it extensively in, naturally, reply to objection 1. Third, Rome may not have proposed the translation of "pro multis" as "for all", but Rome approved it. I think the indefectibility of the Church applies here. It seems incredible to me that a valid Catholic hierarchy could permit, without so much as a word of objection, an invalid and idolatrous mess to be foisted on so many millions of its faithful. And this isn't just the English speaking world we're talking about. The Spanish Novus Ordo says "por todos" just like the English.
Question 24- Catholics at Protestant Weddings
Where can I find the regulations regarding Catholics at Protestant Weddings? My Protestant Sister-in-Law is getting married in an Episcopal ceremony, and I'd like to know what, specifically, is allowed for my Catholic wife and I to do.
I hope the debate with the Church of Christ folks went well. Robert, you are in our prayers.
B. Douglass: Vince,
I don't see anything specific in Canon Law. I believe you are allowed to attend, so long as you have no reason to presume invalidity (e.g. a previous marriage). However, I would not participate in any Episcopal worship service celebrated before or after the wedding. Vatican II's Unitatis Redintegratio warns us "Witness to the unity of the Church very generally forbids common worship to Christians."
Question 23- 1% of Catholics...
Dear Ben Douglas,
In question #24 on Fr. Wiltgen by a fellow named Steve you answered:
"Actually, it was Jesse Romero who lumped Fr. Wiltgen together with the other trad authors in his list. I point out in my response how irresponsible this is. He's taking someone whom he probably knows absolutely nothing about, except that he wrote a book that is often cited by traditionalists, and putting his name in a list filled with sedevacantists, feeneyites, and people who believe that the central act of worship of Catholicism has been replaced by an act of idolatry for all but about 1% of Catholics. You're absolutely right: Fr. Wiltgen does not belong on that list, and putting him there borders on slander. The same goes for Michael Davies."
My question to you is this: Do the Feeneyites reject the Norvus Ordo Mass completely? I heard Bro. Francis, their superior, say on one of his Philosophy Series audiotapes that we (the Fenneyites) say that the Norvus Ordo Mass is valid but subversive -- and to be avoided -- whenever possible. Can you comment on this? Which Mass do you attend regularly?
B. Douglass: Tim,
Not all Feeneyites reject the Novus Ordo completely. I was referring specifically to the Dimond Brothers.
Bro. Francis seems to be endorsing the position of the SSPX, that the new Mass is valid but illicit. I reject this position. The new Mass doesn't express the Church's theology as well as the old, and it isn't as beautiful, but that doesn't make it illicit. I attend it quite frequently. I go to Novus Ordo daily Mass most weekdays, and the Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom on Sundays.
Question 22- Truths which must necessarily be believed explicitly
Thankfully someone pointed out another source to me regarding the truths which are essential to be believed explicitly -- Denzinger 1349 a and 1349 b:
Response of the Sacred Office to the Bishop of Quebec, Jan. 25, 1703:
"Q. Whether a minister is bound, before baptism is conferred on an adult, to explain to him all the mysteries of our faith, especially if he is at the point of death, because this might disturb his mind. Or, whether it is sufficient, if the one at the point of death will promise that when he recovers from the illness, he will take care to be instructed, so that he might put into practice what has been commanded him.
"A. A promise is not sufficient, but a missionary is bound to explain to an adult, even a dying one who is not entirely incapacitated, the mysteries of faith which are necessary by a necessity of means, as are especially the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation."
Response of the Sacred Office to the Bishop of Quebec, Jan. 25, 1703:
"Q. Whether it is possible for a crude and uneducated adult, as it might be with a barbarian, to be baptized, if there were given him only an understanding of God and some of His attributes. although he does not believe explicitly in Jesus Christ.
"A. A missionary should not baptize one who does not believe explicitly in the Lord Jesus Christ, but is bound to instruct him about all those matters which are necessary, by a necessity of means, in accordance with the capacity of the one to be baptized."
R. Sungenis: Mario, this just shows me why you are not understanding the issues. The above stipulation is regarding someone who is seeking formal Baptism from the Church, not someone who has never heard of the Church. Obviously, someone who is seeking formal Baptism, with water, must know and believe the dogmas of the Church. But we were talking about the "invincibly ignorant," if you remember our discussion.
Question 21- The Morality of Tattoos and Body Piercing by Father Peter Joseph
You may have read this already, but seeing the questino re. tattoos on your Q&A, I thought I would send this through for your information. The author is the Chancellor of the Maronite Diocese of Australia. You can find this article on the Latin Mass Magazine website.
R. Sungenis: Thomas, thank you for thinking of us. Actually, I already made reference to that article in my latest reply on tattoos. God be with you.
Question 20- Objects
Do you have a position on epistemology? Are "objects" only mathematical equations that our brains supply the variables to?
R. Sungenis: No, Kant's neumenal and phenomenal world is an anti-Christian philosophical idea. Mathematical equations can only describe the interactions of real substance, and that substance varies by the inherent characteristics put there by its Creator and is accessible to us by the senses, reason and divine revelation.
Question 19- Question on a Second Marriage
Mr. Sungenis, perhaps you missed the question I appended to my last email. Here it is again. I rely greatly upon your opinions. Thank you.
My wife and I are converts and traditionalists, and one of my wife's cousins is getting married (Protestant) in Colorado next summer. Actually, it's a second wedding; these are good country folks who don't ponder things like this, and don't know they should. The first marriage was a mistake (no children). Are we permitted to attend? I know many in Amchurch would say go right ahead, but I want to be sure we are abiding by what the Church has always taught. We have attended other family weddings prior to our conversion. We would not be actively participating in the ceremony. Thank you.
R. Sungenis: If it is a "second" wedding then it is illicit, since even according to the Scripture that Protestants use, a second marriage is an act of adultery unless the former spouse has died (Matthew 19:9). The only other way for a licit "second" marriage is for one to obtain an annulment from the first marriage, but then they would have to submit to the authorities of the Catholic Church in order to do so, and even then, there is no guarantee that an annulment will be granted. Hence, if you go to the wedding, you will be condoning adultery. Moreover, if you're level of interest rises above whether you should attend the wedding or not, then you should seriously consider informing your sister about the possible sin she is getting herself into.
Question 18- Question on Mark Bonocore's View of the Atonement
It is my understanding that the reason for Jesus' sacrifice was to appease the wrath of the Father from our sins, which is something only Christ could do since He was true God and true man. I have read your book Not By Bread Alone and I think your treatment on the nature and meaning of sacrifice in the Old Testament is brilliant, and makes the Atonement easy to understand. The reason Christ had to die makes a lot of sense once we understand what sacrifice really is, and why we as sinful humans are insufficient in atoning for the sins we commit. Only the God-man could do such a thing.
Now on to my question. I recently read an article called Catholic Atonement, available at www.catholic-legate.com, written by Mark Bonocore. His definition on this topic if anything I believe confuses the issue a bit more. I'd like to get your perspective on some of his comments. I understand that we reject the Protestant concept of Jesus having to be "beaten up" in our place as the penal substitution theory describes it. But I think Mr. Bonocore maybe jumps then to an opposite extreme in his attempt to rebut the Calvinistic concept of the Atonement. But perhaps I am just misreading Mr. Bonocore incorrectly. Hopefully you can provide some insight. Tell me what your thoughts are on these following quotes from Mr. Bonocore's article.
"We do not believe, and it is a BIG mistake to believe, that God the Father demanded the cruel torture and death of His only Beloved Son... the Father does not demand sin. God the Father is not some wrathful "Germanic sky god" (e.g. Odin), and He did not demand the death of Jesus so as to satisfy some sense of 'wrathful justice.' ... Rather, WE are the ones who demanded the cruel torture and death of Jesus. The Father merely demanded that Jesus go to the ultimate human extent of loving us ... This is why Jesus had to suffer and die, and not because of some arbitrary standard of justice imposed by the Father, but because of our refusal to become one-flesh with Him in any other way. ...in an act of solidarity and Covenantal intimacy, Jesus stood where any one of us (or all of us) should justly stand before the Law of God -- that is, as someone condemned to death ("death" being the wages of sin), and gave everything He could give as a human being (a perfect human being) -- His human life -- in order to redeem His fellow human beings --His Bride."
R. Sungenis: Joe, with all due respect to Mr. Bonocore (who is normally astute), I think he misses the mark here. I understand the distinction he is trying to make in separating the Father from the pagan concepts (and that is a good distinction), but the fact remains that Christ was a sacrifice for our sins. By definition, sacrifices are made to appease the one to whom the sacrifice is made, in this case, Christ to God. That is why Scripture continually calls Christ a "propitiation" before God the Father (Rm 3:25; 1Jn 2:2; 4:10; Hb 9:15; 1Co 5:7; Is 53:10-12). The Father sees Christ's sacrifice on our behalf and accepts it, and thus the Father gives us mercy. Granted, the Father isn't up in heaven wringing his hands in ecstasy and saying muuuhahahaa! when he sees Christ suffering and dying. God is just as moved with pity on Christ as we are, and much more. But the fact is, in order to preserve God's honor and appease his wrath, something had to be done, and God insisted that, considering Who He is, the only thing that could be done is for Christ do suffer and die. That is what the Garden of Gethsemene is all about -- when Christ asked for another way, God said this was the only way. We killed him, but God, in his mysterious way, used that suffering and death as the needed sacrifice for atonement.
Question 17- Nonbelievers Too Can Be Saved, Says Pope??
Bob: "They encapsulate the essence of Christianity. Pius IX both requires that we adhere to the doctrine of "No Salvation Outside the Church," yet shows that it applies to those who know the Church and her requirements but deliberately and willfully reject her."
This is absolutely false. You're making the dogma into a necessity of precept only, as though it didn't apply to those who haven't heard the Gospel. The Church is necessary as a necessity of MEANS: "Not only did the Savior command that all nations should enter the Church, but He also decreed the Church to be a **means of salvation**, without which no one can enter the kingdom of eternal glory." (Suprema Haec Sacra, 1949)
Please read Msgr. Fenton's book on the issue, "The Catholic Church and Salvation." It is eye-opening.
R. Sungenis: Mario, we've been over this before. First of all, Msgr. Fenton is not the Catholic magisterium. He never wrote anything close to what Pius IX put in Quanto Conficiamur Moerore. You're going to have to decide who your authority is: Pius IX or Msgr. Fenton.
Second, you still haven't proved what the word "means" means. You keep working off of the unproven premise the "means" means that they must be formal and actual members of the Catholic Church to be saved, even if they haven't heard of the Catholic Church or have no means of becoming a member. THAT is false, and Pius IX shows why in his encyclical.
The very document you cite from 1949 (Suprema Haec Sacra), doesn't take your rigid position since, although it affirms that "means" refers to necessity and not just precept, the part you left out is the modification Suprema Haec Sacra put on the "necessity," which applies to the invincibly ignorant. It states:
"God accepts also an implicit desire, so called because it is included in that good disposition of soul whereby a person wishes his will to be conformed to the will of God."
Why didn't you quote that part? Is it because you have decided that the word "desire" doesn't fit in with your theological vocabulary, just as you do with Chapter 4, Session 22, of Trent's decree that baptism of desire can suffice for water if the Church allows?
The only qualification of its own qualification that Suprema Haec Sacra put on its words were the following:
"But it must not be thought that any kind of desire of entering the Church suffices that one may be saved. It is necessary that the desire by which one is related to the Church be animated by perfect charity. Nor can an implicit desire produce its effect, unless a person has supernatural faith: 'For he who comes to God must believe that God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him' (Hebrews, 11: 6). The Council of Trent declares (Session VI, chap. 8): "Faith is the beginning of man's salvation, the foundation and root of all justification, without which it is impossible to please God and attain to the fellowship of His children" (Denzinger, n. 801).
Thus, it states that the only qualification is that the "desire" has to be a true desire characterized by charity and faith. We wouldn't expect anything less, since we can all agree that loveless and faithless people won't go to heaven, in any case. But, of course, we already know that from St. Paul, since if he says that a man can be justified by obeying the law God put on his heart (Romans 2:13), he must necessarily believe that he is obeying because he is answering to a supreme authority, the very authority who said that He put the knowledge of Himself in the very heart and conscience of all men, and by which they have no excuse for not turning to him (Romans 1:18-20).
Besides, Benedict XVI was talking about the people in Babylon who could be saved, and that was before the Catholic Church ever existed. Again, St. Paul states that those who did not have the actual Mosaic law still had the Mosaic law written on their hearts, and by obedience to that unwritten law on their hearts they could be "justified" (Romans 2:13), the same word "justified" that St. Paul uses for us who come into the Catholic Church (Romans 3:28-5:1).
Hence, your argument is with Scripture, Pius IX and Suprema Haec Sacra, not with me. Just to warn you, this QA is going on our board, as will all future questions on this topic.
Question 16- Questions on the Church of Christ Debate
How did it go with the Church of Christ minister you debated in the middle of November? Can you give us a few details of what went on?
R. Sungenis: Scott, the debate went very well. DVD's of it should be sent to me very soon. The debate was a total of four hours: two hours on Tuesday and two on Thursday. The crowd consisted only of Church of Christ members, which amounted to about 200 people. No Catholics were there. The COC people were very polite the whole two days, as well as quite cordial. Mr. Polk, my opponent, was also very polite. On the first night, Mr. Polk took the affirmative position, stating that Scripture was our sole authority. I, of course, took the negative. I did particularly well that evening, since I just hammared home that the very word Mr. Polk insisted upon ("alone") did not appear in the Bible. I also caught Mr. Polk in a trap, since he stated that because of 2 Thess 2:15: "God gave revelation that was not changed substantially from the written revelation." That is all I needed to topple his position, since if he admits that the oral tradition was only slightly different than the written, he admits to a separate oral tradition that the Church was commanded to keep. He later changed his mind and said that by "not changed substantially" he meant that it didn't change at all, but that, of course, was not what he said initially. The first night was rather easy.
The second night I took the affirmative in defending the position that Scripture and Tradition were our authorites. I sensed Mr. Polk knew he had to come back with some barn-burning material, so his voice got louder and he, at times, would chuckle out loud at the propositions I was making. For example, when I stated that Peter made the dogmatic decision to disallow circumcision in Acts 15, Mr. Polk tried to turn that around to make James the principle decision maker, and then laughed at my suggestion that Peter was the main man. Basically, Polk gave the same old tired arguments. Nothing new was presented by him. At one point we got on to the canon and I told the audience that Mr. Polk couldn't even tell us what books comprised the Bible, let alone show us where the Bible said that it alone was the only authority. Polk danced around this dilemma, claiming that the Apostles knew what the word of God was. I merely pointed out that we Catholics believe the same thing, but also that the Apostles passed down that information to the Church and it thus became part of tradition. I assured the audience that Mr. Polk's Bible was a product of tradition, either the COC's tradition from the 1600s or our Catholic tradition. Either way, it was by tradition, that is, God did not speak directly to Mr. Polk and tell him the contents of the canon. Mr. Polk knew what I was getting at, but he cleverly tried to deflect the issue so that the audience would not think he was trapped. What they were thinking I couldn't say, because most of them were very stone-faced. A lot of them shook my hand after the debate and thanked me for coming.
All in all, it was a productive time. All the money we raised from the venture from our patrons was spent. The plane and hotel cost $1239. The rental car was $264, and the cost of the debate room was $175. The other miscellaneous materials completed the expenses (e.g. food). I give my thanks to you and to all the CAI patrons who made this debate possible by their generous donations. You will receive a complimentary DVD when we get our master copy from the COC people. God bless you.
Question 15- Geocentrism
I really hope you reply to this.
I'm in a debate with a heliocentrist who claims that heliocentricity is more scientific than geocentricity. One aspect that kinda had me stuck was that he said that heliocentricity predicted some things that actually happened, whereas geocentricity had to simply adjust to them.
What I really need is twofold. Firstly, could you tell me if there is anything wrong with his statement. And secondly, has geocentricity made any predictions that came true? Does it need to make predictions in order to be scientific? And if there are predictions that have come true, could you give me at least 4 examples to give back to the heliocentrist?
I hope you can help me.
R. Sungenis: David, heliocentrism hasn't predicted anything that geocentrism couldn't predict. Even the Jet Propulsion Lab in California, although they use the "Solar System Barycentric Frame" to send out space probes, they check it for accuracy against the Earth-Centered Inertial Frame, the same frame that they use for the Global Positioning Satelittes. In effect, the Barycentric frame is superfluous because the ECI frame is the one that JPL, NASA and every other agency uses as their final authority, and the ECI frame is thoroughly geocentric! If you friend insists that there is something heliocentrism has predicted that geocentrism could not, ask him what it is. Don't let him bluff his way through it.
Question 14- Nonbelievers Too Can Be Saved, Says Pope??
Good morning Robert,
I just don`t know how statements from the Pope like this help bring people into the Faith which must be held for salvation. I just don`t understand why anyone would die for the Faith when it really doesn`t matter what you believe. You know I am just venting. I sure wish you were a Bishop. It sure seems like the Pope is teaching a different Faith from what I was taught. I sit back and think of everything that St. Rene Goupil (1642), Jesuit brother: St. Isaac Jogues (1646), Jesuit priest: and St. John Lalande (1646), suffered for the Faith. I wonder what this Pope would have done if he was with them? I wonder how many he would have brought into the Faith ? Probably not to many. What do you think? It`s very frustrating being a catholic with leaders that we have. As most of the non-catholics that I work with at Temple University always say" you don`t need to be Catholic to save your soul" just be a good person is all you need. Boy it sure seems like they know a lot more than us. Talk to you later. Suffering in Phila.
Take care and God Bless
Nonbelievers Too Can Be Saved, Says Pope
Refers to St. Augustine's Commentary on Psalm 136(137)
VATICAN CITY, NOV. 30, 2005 (Zenit.org).- Whoever seeks peace and the good of the community with a pure conscience, and keeps alive the desire for the transcendent, will be saved even if he lacks biblical faith, says Benedict XVI.
The Pope made this affirmation today at the general audience, commenting on a meditation written by St. Augustine (354-430).
On a rainy morning in Rome, the Holy Father's meditation, addressed to more than 23,000 people gathered in St. Peter's Square, concentrated on the suffering of the Jewish people in the Babylonian exile, expressed dramatically in Psalm 136(137).
The Pontiff referred to Augustine's commentary on this composition of the Jewish people, noting that this "Father of the Church introduces a surprising element of great timeliness."
Augustine "knows that also among the inhabitants of Babylon there are people who are committed to peace and the good of the community, despite the fact that they do not share the biblical faith, that they do not know the hope of the Eternal City to which we aspire," Benedict XVI stated.
"They have a spark of desire for the unknown, for the greatest, for the transcendent, for a genuine redemption," explained the Pope, quoting Augustine.
"And he says that among the persecutors, among the nonbelievers, there are people with this spark, with a kind of faith, of hope, in the measure that is possible for them in the circumstances in which they live," the Holy Father continued.
"With this faith in an unknown reality, they are really on the way to the authentic Jerusalem, to Christ," he clarified.
Continuing with his quotes from Augustine, the Pope added that "God will not allow them to perish with Babylon, having predestined them to be citizens of Jerusalem, on the condition, however, that, living in Babylon, they do not seek pride, outdated pomp and arrogance."
The Bishop of Rome concluded by inviting those present to pray to the Lord "that he will awaken in all of us this desire, this openness to God, and that those who do not know God may also be touched by his love, so that all of us journey together toward the definitive City and that the light of this City might also shine in our time and in our world."
R. Sungenis: Jim, this is really nothing different than what Pius IX already said regarding "invincible ignorance." If you remember, in the encyclical Quanto conficiamur moerore, Pius IX said the following:
"And here, beloved Sons and Venerable Brothers, we should mention again and censure a very grave error in which some Catholics are unhappily engaged, who believe that men living in error, and separated from the true faith and from Catholic unity, can attain eternal life. Indeed, this is certainly quite contrary to Catholic teaching. It is known to Us and to you that they who labor in invincible ignorance of our most holy religion and who, zealously keeping the natural law and its precepts engraved in the hearts of all by God, and being ready to obey God, live an honest and upright life, can, by the operating power of divine light and grace, attain eternal life, since God who clearly beholds, searches, and knows the minds, souls, thoughts, and habits of all men, because of His great goodness and mercy, will by no means suffer anyone to be punished with eternal torment who has not the guilt of deliberate sin. But, the Catholic dogma that no one can be saved outside the Catholic Church is well-known; and also that those who are obstinate toward the authority and definitions of the same Church, and who persistently separate themselves from the unity of the Church, and from the Roman Pontiff, the successor of Peter...cannot obtain eternal salvation."
These are some of the best words ever uttered by a pope. They encapsulate the essence of Christianity. Pius IX both requires that we adhere to the doctrine of "No Salvation Outside the Church," yet shows that it applies to those who know the Church and her requirements but deliberately and willfully reject her. This was the same climate in which Boniface VIII and Eugene IV issued their edicts, since there were many Jews in those days who were saying that they didn't need the Catholic Church's salvation in order to attain heaven (just as we have today). That is why Boniface and Eugene stress the words "unless they remain in the Catholic Church," because the issue is one of deliberate rejection of what they already know.
By the same token, Pius IX teaches that those who, through no fault of their own, do not know of the requirements of the Church, or even "biblical faith" as Benedict XVI said, will not be held accountable for something they don't know. You can't expected to obey the Bible if you don't have a Bible. They, too, can attain eternal life, provided that they have not deliberately and mortally sinned against God. They know God's laws because God has written them on their heart, so says St. Paul in Romans 2:14-15. According to St. Paul, they can be justified by obeying those laws written on their heart just as we can be justified by obeying the Church and the Bible. As he says beginning in
Romans 2:13: "For not the hearers of the law are just before God: but the doers of the law shall be justified. 14 For when the Gentiles, who have not the law, do by nature those things that are of the law; these, having not the law, are a law to themselves. 15 Who shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness to them: and their thoughts between themselves accusing or also defending one another."
So what Benedict XVI is saying is a biblical doctrine. Everyone in the world has the opportunity to be saved. God knows their hearts. He knows who is really trying to obey His laws and who is not. In fact, as Jesus once intimated, there are many parading their "faith" within the Church who pretend they are on their way to heaven, but who will be given the worst punishment in hell, because they are hypocrites. We have many bishops and priest like that today, as the recent sex scandal has revealed to all of us.
Speaking of reward and punishment, someone raised the question, and a legitimate question, concerning Benedict XVI's following statement:
"The question that really concerns us, the question that really oppresses us, is why it is necessary for us in particular to practice the Christian Faith in its totality; why, when there are so many other ways that lead to heaven and salvation, it should be required of us to bear day after day the whole burden of ecclesial dogmas and of the ecclesial ethos. And so we come again to the question: What exactly is Christian reality? What is the specific element in Christianity that not merely justifies it, but makes it compulsorily necessary for us? When we raise the question about the foundation and meaning of our Christian existence, there slips in a certain false hankering for the apparently more comfortable life of other people who are also going to heaven. We are too much like the laborers of the first hour in the parable of the workers in the vineyard (Mt. 20:1-16). Once they discovered that they could have earned their day’s pay of one denarius in a much easier way, they could not understand why they had had to labor the whole day. But what a strange attitude it is to find the duties of our Christian life unrewarding just because the denarius of salvation can be gained without them! It would seem that we – like the workers of the first hour – want to be paid not only with our own salvation, but more particularly with others’ lack of salvation. That is at once very human and profoundly un-Christian."
Benedict XVI is quite right. Some I know simply are not happy with their salvation unless they can exclude as many people as possible from going to heaven with them. But, as Jesus warned, they are like Pharisees who, Jesus said: "But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut the kingdom of heaven against men: for you yourselves do not enter in and those that are going in, you suffer not to enter" (Mt 23:13).
On the other hand, what Benedict XVI left out that is just as important is that God is fair and just, and will reward us according to our labors. As St. Paul says in Hebrews 6:10: "For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work and the love which you have shewn in his name, you who have ministered and do minister to the saints."
The parable in Matthew 20:1-16 of the workers in the vineyard does not bring out this aspect of Christianity, since Matthew 20 is focusing on the hypocrisy of the Jews rather than the reward of Christains. Unfortunately, many people misinterpret Matthew 20 for this very reason, and conclude that God is going to reward those who worked less the same as those who worked more. That is not true at all. In Matthew's parable, those who first came to the field represent the Pharisees who will not attain eternal life at all, since they are only interested in being paid for their services and are jealous of both the master and his other workers, which exposes their evil hearts. That is why Jesus concludes the parable in verse 16 with the words: "The first shall be last and the last shall be first," which, from other passages about the Pharisees, we know refers to the hypocrites being sent to hell (Luke 13:29-30).
Along these lines, the Church and Scripture teach that those who work the longest and hardest will be rewarded in heaven according to their labor. Thus, a man or woman, say, 70 years old, who has labored diligently all their Catholic life for the Church, and has done so with a pure heart in honor of God, will receive a much greater reward in heaven than a child who dies early in life. Those of us who have to suffer the risk of life and face the possibility of losing our salvation because of sin, will be much more greatly rewarded for having 'stuck it out,' than a child who dies and did not have to go through the trials and tribulations of life.
It's the same with those who, under Pius IX's "invincible ignorance," attain eternal life but have not come under the rigors of living the Catholic life or faced any persecution. They might attain eternal life, but they certainly won't be rewarded like the faithful Catholic who has remained in the bosom of the Church all his life. We know these things are true because God is just.
Question 13- Geocentrism and Miracle of the Sun of Fatima
Hi Robert, Have you considered the implications of the Miracle of the Sun of Fatima and Geocentrism? In particular, the Miracle of the Sun was not only done on October 13, 1917 and viewed by 70,000 to 100,000 people, but also in Tre Fontane Italy (Virgin of Revelation, semi-approved apparition) on April 12, 1981 and April 12, 1983, in front of thousands of people including many high-ranking Vatican clergymen, in which the Mass was interrupted for half an hour. Considering that some Catholic prophecies indicate that at the final days before the Second Coming of Christ, there will be signs in the sky, possible similar to the Miracle of Sun but viewed all over the world rather than locally, the the following effect would be measured by astronomy labs: -- The sun moves but -- the rest of the stars and the moon stays unmoved as usual The only real explanation of this Miracle of the Sun, is that the Earth is in the center of all bodies, and the sun itself moves the Earth. There is no "damage" done to the orbital factors of other bodies. If all solar system bodies move around the sun and then the sun really moves, there there is substantial solar system upheavals under a Heliocentric system. It would be great if on the next bona fide Miracle of the Sun, that a few professional astronomers could see it with their eyes, and be able to explain their Heliocentrism in view of a moving sun and non-moving solar system bodies. Lets see then, who gets the last laugh - Pope Urban VIII or Galileo (and the revisionist apology by Pope John Paul II). Since I am not quite learned this matter, maybe you could comment further what is the implication of the Miracle of the Sun to Geocentrism. Thanks,
R. Sungenis: Yes, Daniel, I did get it. As a matter of fact, I have a friend who knows people in Rome who saw the sun miracle in 1981 and 1982. So your information is corroborated, and it is just another sign of the truth.
Question 12- Limbo consigned to history books?
R. Sungenis: Daniel, Limbo was never a defined doctrine. As the article said, it is from the Latin word "limbus" which means "in the margin." That is, the Church was saying that they had to put these babies "in the margin" because they didn't know what to do with them in regards to their eternal salvation. Limbo was never a specific place; it was only a word that symbolized the Church's ignorance. But the matter hasn't changed. God didn't give the Church the knowledge in the past, and he is still not giving it in the present. If you read the document carefully, the Church is not now saying that these babies definitely go to heaven. It merely says "in the hope of eternal salvation.” The operative word here is "hope," and hope means that they don't know whether the baby goes to heaven, they only hope that God will do so. But that is saying the same thing as the old teaching of Limbo.
Question 11- The Wait Is Over: Jews' Messiah Now Kosher ??
The Wait Is Over: Jews' Messiah Now Kosher
Vatican affirms Jewish position; scholars scramble to decipher new doctrine. The complete document from the Vatican is here
Although it is long, it is simply stunning from the get-go.
A real denial of Christ as Messiah for everyone, all of it couched in the most one-sided, slanted, sugared, vague terms.
There are too many points for me to make of the above items, but I do have the following questions for the theological geniuses in the Vatican:
-- I am sooo impressed by the deep theological studies done on Catholic-Jewish issues, obviously long overdue since those retrograde Popes St. Peter et successors were not so enlightened as the Church of today, 2000 years later, and even more impressed that the above documents are studied with :
protestant arguments and theology
no reference to any previous Pope, Council, Saints or Patristic teachings in the past, except for Vatican Council II's NOSTRA AETATE and Popes Paul VI & John Paul II (the beginning of the New Church)
snippets of VERY selective, one-sided biblical quotes, taken out of context to create new context and a New Theology
amnesia of anything resembling Christ's reprobation of the Second Temple Judaism, except for throwaway remarks that it was in context and temporary to the Jews of their times.
absolutely no concern of the salvation of Jewish souls by avoiding them dying unjustified in their sins by not exercising the infallible sacraments of salvation given by Christ in the Bible, starting with Baptism.
absolutely no Fear of God (Christ) by the theologians of all of these novel doctrines, for the judgement of their souls
absolutely no concern for misleading the flock of the Church into the abyss of universalism, indifferentialism, and judaic errors.
the Arrival of the Messiah is studied and the book of Revelation is quoted with no studies on the Antichrist and Abomination of Desolation, and the Patristic and Catholic theologians in-depth studies that the Antichrist will be related to the Jews and Jerusalem.
-- If the "new and improved" Catholic Doctrine now authorizes on behalf of Christ's Church and Magisterium, that the talmudic Jews are theologically correct and truthful and waiting for a FIRST coming of Christ-Messiah, does this imply also approval of whatever person the talmudic Jews select as Messiah?
Is the Church bound to their selection, now that the Catholic Doctrine is to respect that selection?
By definition, any person the talmudic Jews select as Messiah that is NOT Our Lord Jesus Christ of Nazareth, is the/a Antichrist.
Oh, related to the above, I am looking forward to a Papal Encyclical of the Lamb of God in the Eucharist, and the Lamb Sacrificed to God in a soon-to-be-reconstructed Temple Mount Holy-of-the-Holies, and whether Catholics on an emergency basis, can go sacrifice some animals on the Temple Mount for their spiritual needs and justification of sins.
Sounds like another good ecumenical step!
R. Sungenis: Daniel, this is nothing new. First of all, the article was written by the Pontifical Biblical Commission. They have no more authority than you or I. They are merely a bunch of liberals with an official title who try to pass off their opinions as if they were the dogma of the Catholic Church. They are not. Their authority as even an arm of the pope was divested back in 1970. So the dogma of the Catholic Church hasn't changed, and never will change. Jews who don't know Christ are lost, and the only way they can be saved is to repent of their sins and become Christian.
You need to understand that in this time of apostasy God is allowing all the false beliefs of the liberals and modernists to come out so that He can use it all to judge them on the Last Day. They are stuck, because now they've written their heresies down on paper as a witness against them. As St. Paul said in 1 Cor 11:19: "For there must be also heresies: that they also, who are approved may be made manifest among you." Don't worry. God has everything in control. But the only way to expose these heretics is to let them write their garbage. We who know better know that God is planning a big surprise for them.
Question 10- Copulation after conceiving
What is the Catholic Church's teaching concerning a Catholic couple engaging in sexual intercourse during a pregnancy? Would the man be committing a grave sin by wasting his seed considering that sexual intercourse is primarily for procreation?
Thank you for your time.
Center Valley, Pennsylvania
R. Sungenis: Gene, no, he would not be "wasting his seed," since copulation, according to Church teaching (especially under the Vatican II popes) is both a unitive and procreative function, and the two are never to compete with one another or negate the other. The unitive promotes the unity of husband and wife. The same loving impulses that prompted the pregnancy also prompt subsequent intimacy.
Question 9- Need some help with Mary
Can you assist?
I am in a debate about Mary.
How can Mary be sinless, if the Bible states "all have sinned"? How is this not a contradiction?
R. Sungenis: It's not a contradiction because the context is speaking about Jews who claimed that they were not sinners like the Gentiles, not about Mary. If the context were arbitrarily expanded to include everyone in the world without exception, then even Jesus would not be exempt.
Question 8- Para 121 of the Catechism: Has the Old Covenant been Revoked?
I am the one who by happy happenstance suggested the adjustment to the home page link to your November debate in Florida. We were both quite surprised by the results!
I just ran across paragraph 121 of the 1992 Catechism (see below). Note the last clause (which doesn't necessarily follow from the rest of it). I recall you saying on many occasions that the new covenant supersedes/revokes the old. Is supersession the same as revocation, or have the same effect in this context? Is the Catechism in error on this? Thank you.
David E Capan
121- The Old Testament is an indispensable part of Sacred Scripture. Its books are divinely inspired and retain a permanent value,92 for the Old Covenant has never been revoked.
R. Sungenis: David, if you read paragraph 121 carefully you will see that the Catechism is using the term "Old Covenant" only in reference to the written words we now call the "Old Testament." It is those words which have never been revoked.
However, the phrase "Old Covnenant" is also used to designate a specific part of the Old Testament, namely, the Mosaic Law (see 2 Cor 3:6-14). In that sense, the "Old Covenant" has, indeed, been revoked (Hebrews 7:18; 8:13; 10:9; Gal 3:10-12).
Unfortunately, today there is a lot of confusion occurring because of the vague and ambiguous use of the phrase "Old Covenant" by prelates and theologians. They purposely don't tell you which definition of "Old Covenant" they are using, and thus a lot of people think when the see "Old Covenant has never been revoked" it means that the Jews still have a covenant with God. They don't. The only covenant in force today is the New Covenant. Anyone today who says that the Old Covenant has not been revoked, and by that they are referring to the Mosaic law, then they bring a curse upon themselves (Gal 3:10-12).
Question 7- Tattoos
So, I am confused. Your answer in May 05 was that we should not tattoo for moral and ethical reasons based on a now defunct Old Testament law. Yet, your answer in July 05 indicates that the Church directly forbids tattoos. If the July answer is correct, what I would like to know is, where does the Church say that? Other Catholic web sites seem to say that tattoos may not be forbidden. Does the Church have a positive statement against tattoos?
Thank you for taking the time to help me through this.
R. Sungenis: There is no direct command from the Church forbidding tattoos, but then again, there is no direct command from the Church on a lot of issues (e.g. there is no direct command from the Church forbidding smoking cigarettes). Rather, the Church gives us ethical principles and guidelines. Among these guidelines are teachings about the sacredness of the body; that the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; that the body is not to be mutilated; that the body is not to be subjected to harmful substances (including tattoo ink); and that if something we do offends another person's faith, it is better not to do it. In addition, I think two websites would be beneficial for you in this regard, one from Latin Mass and the other from Catholics United for the Faith.
Question 6- Word of God
Hello Mr. Sungenis, did you eat a lot of turkey? I had a question for you. I was listening to a debate between a Catholic and a protestant and noticed that protestants use the "word of God" and bible as synonyms as they talk, lecture, and debate. I know they are not the same thing. Can you give us an insight to this?
Soldier of Christ,
R. Sungenis: Jaime, they are half-right, as usual. The "word of God" can refer either to inspired oral tradition (1 Thess 2:13) or inspired scripture (2Tim 3:16), both of which are to be preserved by the Church (2 Thess 2:15).
Question 5- open_letter_to_rc_apologists
An Open Letter to Catholic Apologists From a Confused Layperson
Here I am a confused and disillusioned evangelical. What am I supposed to believe about the significance of baptism, or about predestination and election--which view is correct Arminianism, Calvinism, or something in between? And what about speaking in tongues? Have I not been baptized by the Holy Spirit because I don't speak in tongues like some people say? Everyone's reading the same Bible, but they're not all saying the same things. If only there were someone who could tell me exactly what to believe and end my confusion. Then along comes a Roman Catholic e-pologist who lays out the case for Catholicism, and it sounds great to me. He convinces me that all the Catholic beliefs that I thought were unbiblical really aren't. My whole problem was that I was trying to interpret the Bible without the infallible Catholic magisterium to tell me what it really means and without the knowledge of all those infallible traditions the Catholic church has been faithfully guarding all these centuries, and that's why I didn't know that Mary was born without sin, that she's the Queen of Heaven and the dispenser of all graces, and that Peter was the first pope. So I sign up for my nearest RCIA classes and eventually I'm confirmed into the Roman Catholic Church. When I'm not sure what God really wants from me, I can whip out my trusty Catholic catechism and find out everything I need to believe and do to remain a faithful Catholic. No more confusion. Just one big happy family, united in doctrine, one in faith! Great!
Once I start attending Catholic Church, I'm a little disappointed to find that there aren't too many people there who are really faithful Catholics. The people I talk to seem indifferent to Catholic dogma, often openly disagreeing with some of the basic teachings. Although most of them call themselves faithful Catholics, it's obvious that they're really not because they disagree on the dogmatic teachings of the church, and as I learned from the Roman Catholic e-pologist I talked to, that's the criteria for determining who's a faithful Catholic and who isn't. So because my faith is of the utmost importance to me, I want to fellowship with other faithful Catholics who feel as strongly as I do about my faith. I decide to go online and join a discussion board to talk to other faithful Catholics about our mutual faith. There I meet a Catholic, though, who begins sharing with me about the problems with the post-Vatican II Catholic Church. He tells me that the Church has strayed from the original faith. I tell him that it does seem strange to me to hear that documents that seemed to make it clear that no one could be saved outside the Catholic Church don't really mean what they sound like they mean, but that we can't be going around interpreting church documents on our own any more than we can the Bible. If something has been infallibly defined, we must accept it by faith. He then goes on to tell me that that's true, but that many people are confused about the infallibility issue. He directs me to a website that gives a good argument for the idea that the problem these people have is that they don't understand the difference between the Ordinary Infallible Magisterium and the ordinary, "authentic," non-infallible Magisterium. I read in this article why Vatican II cannot validly overturn the history of the Church in this matter and why. Now I'm a little confused. Vatican II certainly does seem to contradict prior Catholic teaching, but how can I be sure? I know I'm supposed to obey the infallible decrees of councils, but how do I know for sure what constitutes an infallible decree? But before I have a chance to get too disturbed by this newfound information, along come other faithful Catholics who tell me that this person is a schismatic because he doesn't submit to the authority of the Church. I wonder to myself. One person says that the changes of Vatican II don't meet the criteria for infallibility, and that they contradict prior teaching, so as a faithful Catholic, I should reject them. Another person tells me that a faithful Catholic would never reject an infallible teaching from the church, and Vatican II meets the criteria for infallibility. And before long, I begin to feel those same old feelings of doubt and insecurity about what to believe. But I put those thoughts aside for the time being.
I decide to educate myself more about my faith, so I pick up some books by Catholic scholars to see what else I can learn. I want to be sure that the authors I read are really faithful Catholics, so I look for books that bear the official seal of approval of the Church, the Nihil Obstat and Imprimatur. Imagine my shock when I find all kinds of divergent opinions in these books that stand in direct conflict with some of the defined dogmas I've been told I'm required to believe. Why are these scholars accepted by the Church and their books being officially approved by Catholic bishops? Why, instead, aren't they being disciplined or excommunicated? Why can they publicly teach heresy with an official seal of approval by bishops whose authority comes straight from Rome? This doesn't sound biblical to me, but I remember that I can't interpret the Bible if my interpretation leads me in a different direction from the Church--after all the church is the pillar and foundation of the truth, not the Bible--and the Church tells me that verse means that my interpretation of the Bible can never contradict the Church's. But still, this not only doesn't seem biblical, but it doesn't sound like the response from the early church to heretics, either. These early heretics were forced out of the church and roundly refuted by the church fathers--faithful Catholics if ever there were any, according to Catholics. But these scholars are teaching in Catholic universities and writing books with the approval of the Church. Huh?
Even so, in my newfound zeal for the Roman Catholic Church, I can hardly wait to share the good news with my Jewish neighbor, and tell him about the true Church that I've come home to, and to tell him that Jesus is the Messiah. But then I hear that the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says that Jews don't need to be evangelized because they already have their own covenant relationship with God. Of course, my first thought about that is that it seems very strange that Peter and Paul weren't aware of that, and that they wasted a lot of effort trying to evangelize the Jews. But then I remember that I'm not supposed to be interpreting the Bible for myself in these matters, so maybe I misunderstood all that stuff about sharing the gospel with Jews in the early church. Or maybe something has changed since then and although they were supposed to do that, we're not. Or maybe, oh never mind. I don't need to worry myself over these things anymore, because I have the Church to tell me what to do and what to believe, and these kinds of thoughts only lead to confusion and schism, so I try to ignore them. After all, I don't want to be accused of being my own pope. Still I'm curious about this, so I go online and ask other Catholics what they think. I find that many Catholics say that the American Bishops have no authority to make that decision, so they're free to disagree. Okay, I think, that settles it. I'll share the gospel with my Jewish neighbor. Just to ease my mind, I pull out my Catholic catechism again, so I can be reminded of all the unity I have with my Catholic brothers and sisters. But, much to my dismay, what do I find? According to the catechism, I'm supposed to faithfully obey my bishop. What now? Do I talk to my Jewish neighbor about his need to trust in Jesus Christ and the Church or not? Does my Jewish neighbor even need Jesus or not? Faithful Catholics are telling me that I should talk to him about Jesus, and yet according to the catechism, a faithful Catholic is to submit to the teachings of the local bishops who've told me that Jews don't need Jesus.
I'm in such a tizzy over these things, I go back to the e-pologist who first told me about the truth of the Catholic Church and ask him what I'm to do? Again, he reassures me that the Catholic Church is completely unified, and anyone who disagrees with his beliefs is a schismatic and should be ignored. He reminds me again that all faithful Catholics agree on all defined dogmas (and those are the only things of real importance), because by definition, that's what makes them faithful Catholics. Then suddenly some old familiar feelings start to surface. I remember the time when my fundamentalist church where I first believed the gospel told me to stick with them for the true interpretation of the Bible. Whenever I went to someone there with a question, they'd tell me that faithful Christians are unified over doctrine, and those who teach other things are introducing strange doctrines that tickle men's ears. "Just ignore them, believe the Bible, and if you're confused about anything, ask us," they'd say. But yet, as I met more Christians not from my denomination, they had some cogent sounding arguments of their own about why their beliefs were the true biblical ones, and they told me that my denomination was teaching some false doctrines. So I wondered, how do I know if my denomination is teaching the truth, and not these other people? That's why I left evangelicalism for Rome; so I wouldn't have to experience that kind of confusion anymore. But now here I am, and what's changed? Catholic apologists tell me that all "faithful Catholics" are united over the "important issues"--defined dogma; traditionalist Catholics tell me that the modern Church is teaching heresy (not infallibly, of course), and that "faithful Catholics" must reject this modern teaching that opposes the true faith; Catholic scholars who teach in Catholic universities are publishing officially approved books, even saying things like Jesus wasn't even born of a virgin, and Rome doesn't object, leading me to believe that these scholars must be considered "faithful Catholics" by Rome or they'd be removed from their positions and disciplined and eventually excommunicated if they don't repent and recant; and my bishops are telling me not to evangelize my Jewish neighbor because he doesn't need Jesus, and although Rome hasn't confirmed this teaching, they have told me that "faithful Catholics" are to obey the bishops, even though the "faithful Catholic" who showed me the "true Church" says these bishops are wrong, that they have no authority to teach what they're teaching, and that they can be ignored by "faithful Catholics."
These are just a few examples of the kinds of issues a thinking Catholic runs into. I could go on and on with many more, but these will suffice for now. Is there any Catholic apologist who can help me with this? I'd really like to be a "faithful" Catholic, but I'm afraid I don't know what that is anymore. What I find instead is that, for all their differences, Evangelicals seem to have more true biblical unity than Catholics. What I mean by that is they seem to embrace each other as brothers and sisters in Christ in spite of their differences. Could it be that it is really the Catholic system that is "unworkable," and that sola Scriptura really does promote biblical unity?
R. Sungenis: Ree, yes, the world is a confusing place and people are alike wherever you go. Sometimes it's hard to distinguish one group from another, and sometimes the Catholic Church seems more embattled than the Protestant denominations. Your experience in the world of religion, however, is not new. In fact, God himself became so frustrated with the confusion and apostasy in Israel that he gave up on them; not to mention the fact that almost as soon as he created Adam and Eve they rejected him and sided with the devil! The Apostles predicted that apostasy would run rampant in the Church as well (1Tim 4:1). In other words, Ree, you're not alone. Catholic, Protestant, Jew, or Muslim, we all have our problems. If you thought the Catholic Church was going to be some kind of nirvana on earth, then you were quite mistaken. All converts find that out eventually. Fortunately, however, we don't judge the legitimacy of the Church based on its renegades but on whether it is one, holy, catholic and apostolic. The only Church that answers to all those categories is the Catholic Church.
The Catholic Church, as embattled as it is, needs strong and sensitive people like you to carry on the fight. The very fact that you can see the problems in the Church means God has given you a special insight. Most other people lollygag through life, but not you. Know also that God is well aware of the problems. Surely he could snap his fingers and make it all go away. But he won't. He has allowed the struggle to go on for his own purposes, so don't be surprised if you see it occur on a daily basis. He is separating the good from the bad even now. Meanwhile, he has given you the ability to reason. That reason compels you to believe a simple fact of logic: there can only be one true Church. And your reason leads you to another simple fact of logic: that the true Church could not have started 1600 years after Jesus was on earth; nor could the early Church have lost its faith just a few decades after Jesus ascended into heaven, otherwise Jesus would be a liar, since he promised that the gates of hell would not prevail.
Rest assured, there will be Protestants who will exploit the problems in the Catholic Church so as to make you doubt its veracity. They will attack our weakest points. As long as we are on this side of the grave, it is going to be a struggle. Satan will mount his greatest attack against the true Church, and he will win a lot of battles. But we are guaranteed that he will not win the war. No institution on earth has survived his attacks, except the Catholic Church, for it has been here since the days of Jesus and the Apostles, and will be here until the end of time.
Question 4- Errors in the Catechism?
I am a protestant trying to journey into the Catholic Church. I have been very frustrated in my journey because I have had a hard time finding a Catholic Church that is really Catholic. I'm sure you know what I mean. The first RCIA program I was in was so heretical I just couldn't take it anymore and walked out. I put off joining the Church. I have at last found a promising Church. It is not perfect, but has a young priest who is orthodox. He is making changes as he is able. The Church is moving in the right direction. I am in RCIA at this Church. We are basically just going through the Catechism.
In my horror today I came across this paragraph:
424 Moved by the grace of the Holy Spirit and drawn by the Father, we believe in Jesus and confess: 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. On the rock of this faith confessed by St. Peter, Christ built his Church.
Robert, please correct me if I am wrong, but is this not the PROTESTANT position? That the rock is Peter's profession of faith, not Peter?
Robert, I have been told over and over to just ignore what the heretical Priests and Bishops and Cardinals say and go only by what is in the official Church documents. Isn't the Catechism an official Church document? Are you going to tell me now to ignore the Catechism? Who can I trust? I would like your take on this before I meet with our RCIA instructor. (Another very good man)
Thanks again for all your help!!
R. Sungenis: Terry, you can trust the Catechism. Very rarely does it make a miscue. The truth is, saying that the rock is built on Peter's faith and saying that it is built on Peter are one and the same thing, because that is how the Fathers of the Church saw it. They did not separate Peter from his faith, for even they said that the rock was built on his faith, but they also said it was built on Peter's person as well. The problem comes in when Protestants try to separate Peter from his faith and thus declare that the rock is ONLY built on the faith, not the person.
Question 3- Pius XII versus Paul VI
Dear Mr. Sungensis,
Thank you again for your website. Does Sacramentum Ordinis of Pope Pius XII make the New Rite of Ordination of Pope Paul VI invalid as some Traditionalists claim?
B. Douglass: Kavi,
Sorry for the extremely late response. In order to help me answer this question I asked to borrow a book from my priest, but he kept forgetting it week after week (you can't blame him when he has two parishes, a chapel, and a mission to minister to).
The claim that the new rite of ordination is invalid is absurd on its face. One would think that the Pope, and the entire Catholic Church for that matter, cardinals, bishops, theologians, the SSPX, and all, would recognize it if an invalid rite of ordination was being foisted upon the Church. So, needless to say, the "traditionalists" who are attempting to use Sacramentum Ordinis in support of this thesis are seriously abusing this document.
The Pope declares the following concerning the essential form of the Sacrament:
"[T]he only form [of the sacrament of Holy Orders], is the words which determine the application of this matter [the imposition of hands], which univocally signify the sacramental effects - namely the power of Order and the grace of the Holy Spirit - and which are accepted and used by the Church in that sense."
Any approved prayer of ordination which meets these criteria can be considered valid. The Pope goes on to relate the prayer of ordination currently in use in the Roman rite, stating that the following words are essential for the validity of the sacrament: "Grant, we beseech Thee, Almighty Father, invest this Thy servant with the dignity of the Priesthood; do Thou renew in his heart the spirit of holiness, so that he may persevere in this office, which is next to ours in dignity, since he has received it from Thee, O God. May the example of his life lead others to moral uprightness." The traditionalists whom you reference seem to be inferring, based on the fact that these words constitute the essential form of the Sacrament in the old Roman rite of ordination, that these words are the only words that could possibly fit the bill as the essential form in any rite!
However, there is a great variety of valid prayers of ordination within and without the Catholic Church, many of which Pius XII was certainly aware of. For example, in the Byzantine rite, priests are ordained as follows:
"Divine grace, which always heals what is infirm and completes what is lacking, ordains N., the most devout Deacon, as Presbyter. Let us therefore pray for him, that the grace of the All-Holy Spirit may come upon him" (Euchologion, Order for the Ordination of a Presbyter).
Notice that although this rite uses different words from the old Roman rite, it still signifies "the sacramental effects - namely the power of Order and the grace of the Holy Spirit." The essential form is there.
The Armenian Church ordains priests as follows: "Following the reading of the Epistle and Gospel, the bishop places his right hand on the ordinand's head... and recites two prayers that invoke the Holy Spirit. A blessing of the priestly vestements follows and the ordinand is vested in them, after which the bishop places his hands on the ordinand's head and then anoints his hands as well as his forehead. The bishop finally presents a chalice and paten holding unconsecrated bread and wine and says, 'Recieve these, because you have recieved power through the grace of God to consecrate and complete the Holy Sacrifice, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ'" (Peter D. Day, The Liturgical Dictionary of Eastern Christianity [Collegeville, Minnesota: The Liturgical Press, 1993] p. 215).
The Ethopians, West Syrians, East Syrians, etc. all have different rites, and since they meet the criteria stipulated above, they are valid.
The new rite of priestly ordination for Roman Catholic priests likewise fits the bill for the essential form of the sacrament (actually, it's hardly different from the old rite at all).
Question 2- Tattoos
Dear Mr. Sungenis,
We met briefly at the Kolbe Creation conference at Christendom College last year. I read a response on one of your logs that claimed that the Church forbids tattoos. I have been looking for where that teaching is. Can you please supply me with the reference? Someone has asked me about it and so far I have not been able to find it.
Yours in Christ,
The Reverend Deacon,
Eugene G. McGuirk
R. Sungenis: Rev. Eugene, unfortunately, I didn't say that the Church forbid tattoos, rather, that if we take the ethical principles from the Old Testament (e.g., 1 Cor 9:9, the practice of making tattoos is not something we would want to practice)
Question 1- Marriage and Baptism
17 years ago my husband and I were married. He was a Baptist so his family sent a certificate to my church that looked like a baptism record. Later my husband went to RCIA and we faxed a copy of the certificate to the RCIA director and my husband was confirmed this Easter. This Thanksgiving a relative of my husband casually mentioned that my husband was not baptized he was only dedicated. Apparently some Baptists have a ceremony that looks like baptism for infants complete with water, oil and godparents but the baby is only "given to God" instead of baptized. So my question is am I married or not? Is my husband Catholic or not? I can't get an appointment with our pastor for two weeks and in the mean time we're both sick with worry. Can you give me some direction until we can meet with our pastor?
B. Douglass: Dear Madame,
That's quite a tough question, and one that it's very important that I answer correctly, so I'm going to try to be very thorough and cover all my bases. However, I'll start by giving you the good news quick and up front. Your husband's desire for baptism, until thanksgiving implicit but now explicit, has almost certainly procured for him an extra-sacramental justification. So, he is Catholic.
It also appears from Canon law that your marriage is valid. Canon 1086 Sec. 1 says that a marriage between a baptized Catholic and one who is not baptized is invalid, but Sec. 2 of the same Canon says that one may be dispensed from this impediment if the conditions mentioned in canons 1125 and 1126 are fulfilled. If you read those canons, they simply specify the conditions that have to be met before a Catholic may marry a baptized non-Catholic, such as a Baptist. So, when you were going through all the proper channels to marry a man you thought was a baptized Protestant, you should have met all the conditions required for a dispensation to marry an un-baptized Protestant. That having been said, Canon law says only that one MAY be dispensed from the impediment if these conditions are fulfilled, not that one IS dispensed if these conditions are fulfilled. There may be separate dispensations for marrying a baptized non-Catholic as opposed to an un-baptized non-Catholic, and your bishop may have given you one when you needed the other, in order for your marriage to be valid. I would ask your pastor whether the dispensation you recieved applies to your situation.
It seems almost certain that the ceremony performed on your husband by his Baptist pastor was not a valid baptism. If the minister did not use the word "baptise", the essential form of the sacrament was missing, and if he did not intend to baptise your husband, the requisite sacramental intent was, likewise, not there. That having been said, I would urge to you check with the Baptist Church to find out exactly what type of ceremony they performed on your husband. Based on the information I have, I believe your husband will simply have to be baptised. However, if further inquiry reveals that the ceremony may have been a valid baptism, he will have to be baptized conditionally.
Moreover, your husband will have to be re-Confirmed. Here's St. Thomas Aquinas:
"The character of Confirmation, of necessity supposes the baptismal character: so that, in effect, if one who is not baptized were to be confirmed, he would receive nothing, but would have to be confirmed again after receiving Baptism. The reason of this is that, Confirmation is to Baptism as growth to birth, as is evident from what has been said above (1; 65, 1). Now it is clear that no one can be brought to perfect age unless he be first born: and in like manner, unless a man be first baptized, he cannot receive the sacrament of Confirmation" (Summa Theologica, par. III, art. 72, q. 6).
The same stipulation above applies here, viz., if you find out that your husband may have recieved a valid baptism, then the original Confirmation might be valid as well, so he would have to be Confirmed conditionally.
What a mess the novel and erroneous practice of the Baptist Church has made of things! My prayers are with you.