Time passes and the old defenders of the faith and the dissenters are passing from the world. Today there are new faces about whom we must become familiar. One of these is Cardinal Reinhard Marx. He is now on everyone’s radar. What are we to think?
I’m having a difficult time understanding the Penitential Rite at Mass.
If we have gone to confession and confessed our sins, why are we supposed to call them to mind at Mass?
Aren’t we forgiven and isn’t that an invitation from the Evil One for us to continue to dwell upon our sins?
Didn’t the Psalmist say that our sins have been removed from us as far as the east is from the west (Psalm 103)?
Catholics do not believe in the notion of “once saved, always saved.” We return to Confession again and again to have sins forgiven. Similarly, the Mass forgives sins, although we are generally asked to refrain from taking Holy Communion if we are in a state of mortal sin. The Penitential Rite does indeed have a type of absolution and we often speak of it as forgiving small slights or venial sins. The movement of the liturgy parallels the outreach of John the Baptist and later Christ and his apostles. The pattern established is a simple but important one: REPENT and BELIEVE.
At the beginning of Mass we want to spiritually prepare ourselves. Unlike Confession, where we acknowledge particular acts of personal sin; at the beginning of Mass, we reflect upon our general sinfulness and continuing need for conversion. Sins may be forgiven, but sometimes the bad habits, selfishness and weakness of the flesh causes us to sin again. In any case, we are not yet the Christians we are supposed to be. The Mass is a powerful instrument in our transformation ever more and more into the likeness of Christ. Further, while the absolution of Confession forgives sins, we still owe God penance to appease for the temporal punishment due to sin. The Mass possesses infinite graces to assist in this regard.
It is the true that the devil would have us deny the Lord’s mercy. We should not doubt the power of the priest’s absolution and the truth that sins are forgiven in Christ. However, we could also sin by presumption, supposing that we no longer needed divine mercy and grace. We are called to be counted among the saints. But the truth be told, most who walk the earth are still sinners who struggle daily with the world, the flesh and the devil.
As for the psalms, remember that they were written long before the coming of Christ and his redemptive work. They could offer a limited foreshadowing or anticipation of what was to come, but that is all.
Psalm 106:4-5: “Remember me, LORD, as you favor your people; come to me with your saving help, That I may see the prosperity of your chosen ones, rejoice in the joy of your people, and glory with your heritage.”
The forgiveness and salvation often beseeched by the Hebrews was more connected to the nation than individuals. If God looked with favor upon you, it was interpreted through prosperity, land and children. Jesus brings a different kind of mercy. He is the Messiah who conquers the devil, sin and death— not the Romans. He tells us to pursue the imperishable treasure of heaven. The New Jerusalem or New Zion is not the political state of Israel, but the kingdom of God— a kingdom that breaks into the world first through the person of Jesus and later through the Church.
LIFE NEWS had a peculiar story from Sarah Terzo about a Methodist minister who termed concern for aborted children as “idolatry.” It eludes me how Methodism can possibly excuse the sin of abortion, especially since its founder condemned such practices among the Native Americans he encountered. The late Reverend John M Swomley (former president of Americans for Religious Liberty and VP of the pro-abortion ACLU) wrote in his 1999 book, Compulsory Pregnancy: the War against American Women:
“Opponents of abortion in America have attributed to fetal life a sacredness that is actually idolatry… Fetal idolatry denies a woman’s right to control her body, her life, her destiny, all of which must be sacrificed to an embryo or fetus once she is pregnant… Fetal idolatry shows no mercy. … One of the major critiques of idolatry about unborn life is its lack of concern for the abundant or purposeful life to which all of us should be called. No one of us should be an unwanted child or have to experience emotional abandonment or lack of compassion and love in childhood.”
Notice how the advocates for life are labeled in a negative fashion as the “opponents of abortion.” Instead, we would argue that these men and women are “proponents of birth.” They oppose abortion out of a profound respect for the dignity of persons and the right to life. He is wrong to deny the sacredness of life and his charge of idolatry makes him one with Caiaphas who arrested and condemned Christ. Christians believe in an “incarnational” faith. We are transformed into the likeness of Christ by grace. We are given life and eternal life by the constant operation of the Holy Spirit. We have nothing of our own. Abortion, like all crimes of murder, violates a commandment and seeks to usurp from God what rightfully belongs to him as the author of life. Every child, born and unborn, reflects the Christ Child. It is for this reason that abortion attacks the incarnation. Jesus was Lord even in the womb. In “potency” every child could have been the Christ Child. I suppose the author might attack the sacredness of human life as idolatry just as certain critics attack the Eucharist as such. But Christ enters into human flesh— he is the living Word of God— he is the bread of life and the chalice of salvation— he is made manifest in the Mystical Body of the Church. Swomley’s theology is too shallow to appreciate this. Of course, he conveniently dismisses entirely the objective nature of the situation. Regardless of whether one is a believer or not, the unborn child is a human person and the rights of human persons are incommensurate. In other words, the rights of the mother do not trump the rights of a child to life outside the womb. The real choice and freedom is not over the commission of murder but in regards to marriage, chastity and engaging in sexual intercourse.
Describing the unborn child exclusively as a fetus and embryo, he seeks to distance himself from the fact that we are dealing here with two persons, not one. This is a major flaw in his argument. He has taken sides and just as blacks were once regarded as “property” by slave owners and Jews as “non-persons” by genocidal Nazis, he would wrongly strip the unborn child of his intrinsic dignity as a person and member of the human family. As a Christian, does he still believe in the infusion of a soul? Apparently, he does not. He buys into the ludicrous argument that a baby is only a baby if he or she is wanted. He would argue that it is preferred to kill a child than to allow that child to be adopted by parents who would love and nurture him or her. When we strip away the lies, his views and those of like-minded revisionists is nothing short of monstrous.
There is no “fetal idolatry.” But there is idolatry here and that is in placing human capriciousness over objective truth. It is an idolatry that worships the selfish woman and her choice over divine cooperation in the sacred act of creation. It is the idolatry to demons that want the blood offering of innocent children.
His reference to an “abundant or purposeful life to which all of us (but evidently not the child) should be called” is the rehashed argument from utility. It runs smack into opposition with the very notion of sacrificial love that defines Christian discipleship and parenthood. This argument from utility says that if the unborn child should make us sad or hurt our prospects or cause inconvenience, then the child can be terminated or destroyed. He argues that the unborn baby is only counted a baby if wanted and loved. This same impoverished thinking would threaten the elderly and the sick. If life stops being fun or there is insufficient productivity then it becomes okay to pull the plug or even to poison grandma’s IV. Similarly, if there is too great an expense to keep us around, then this thinking makes us disposable. The quality of life for some is given the higher gravity over the quantity of life for others. It is true that no one should be “unwanted” or “abandoned.” This mandates a change or movement in us to make room at the table of man for others. Instead, he focuses on termination or killing those “unborn” people so that they might not have to feel our resentment. He calls this mercy. It is not.
Ninety something years old, Swomley died a few years ago. He was known not only for his liberal views but for his distrust or even bigotry against Catholicism and its influence in the United States. He was regarded as a theologian and taught Methodist seminarians. However, his views were formed more by a secular humanism than by the Gospel and Christian tradition. Is it true that Methodist churches largely share his perspective? I hope not because it is absolutely diabolical. It is worrisome because LIFE NEWS also reported:
- Methodist Health Care Ministries gave almost half a million to the nation’s top abortion provider Planned Parenthood.
- The United Methodist Church opposed the bill to ban late-term abortions.
Methodist doctrine could at one time be narrowed to the creeds and its hymnal. Unfortunately, such objective clarity is hard to find today. Methodism not only tolerates abortions but as an enabler pays for them. Demonstrating how far they were willing to go, the bewildered church organized opposition to efforts that would have banned partial birth “infanticide.” This seemed to violate reason, itself. Even if confused people had doubts about the humanity of the unborn, here we were talking about the killing of nine month old babies ready to be born.
When so-called Christians espouse such things, hell must be laughing. But such hardness of hearts is really a cause for tears. Everyone has value. Everyone is loved. Every child is God’s gift and abortion (as well as infanticide) throws that gift back into the face of God. Dear God save us!
Where do we ever see person praying to another human being in the Bible?
We see plenty of instances where people pray together and where prophets pray over their people. Catholicism sees almighty God as the proper object of all prayer. Obviously we are not going to notice much in the way of praying for sanctoral intercession while the gates of heaven are closed and the righteous dead are still awaiting their Savior in the limbo of the fathers. I am often amazed that Christians still interpret so very much with the eyes of the Old Testament instead of the New.
Please don’t say tradition or something like that.
In other words, you want me to accept your terms from the very start and deny a basic element of Catholicism and true Christianity. The New Testament itself arises from Sacred Tradition. This font of revelation did not disappear after the complete Bible was composed and compiled by the Catholic bishops at Hippo.
Think about what you are saying.
The trouble is that YOU are not thinking enough about what you are trying to say. None of us come to God alone.
How God ever forget to tell us such an important part of our faith?
God did not forget anything. The trouble is that bigots dismissed the authority instituted by Christ, threw out Christian traditions going back to the apostles, and then settled on an edited version of the Bible missing books.
How can it never be in the Bible? Do you ever ask yourself why? Or do you just believe because it’s tradition.
I already said the Bible is not silent. When Catholics pray to the saints, they are asking that they pray for and with them. We do not pray to them as deities. This is the same intercessory prayer that was realized among the Jews and later in the community of the Church. In Christ, all are alive. Do you argue that the saints are asleep or that they cannot hear us? Have you no appreciation of the communion of the saints? Look at the petition or supplication of the Hail Mary Prayer: “Pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.” Is your faith so personalized that you will allow no one, walking on earth or among the blessed of heaven, to pray for and with you?
The Catholic practice is based upon a profound hope in the resurrection. Here are some pertinent verses in the Bible where supplication is offered for others: 1 Timothy 2:1; Matthew 18:19-20; James 5:13-16; Ephesians 6:18; Isaiah 62:6; Philemon 1:1-25; and Job 1:1-22.
You are simply ridiculous!
Only God can forgive sin. The only way a person can get God to forgive his sins is through God’s Son and perfect sacrifice, Jesus. The way to the Father is through the Son. There is nowhere is Scripture that says priests can forgive sin. It is quite clear when Jesus healed the paralytic that only God and the Son could forgive sin.
Yes, since sin is an offense against almighty God, it belongs to God to forgive sin. This is not contended. Where we disagree is about how goes about pouring his mercy upon us. The incarnation is a theme that runs through Catholic doctrine. God is made present in Jesus Christ. Jesus who is God is made present in his Word. Jesus who is God is made present in his Church. Jesus who is God is active in his ministers or priests. Jesus who is God is present and saving in his sacraments. The Mass offered by ordained priests is understood as a re-presentation of the saving oblation of Jesus. The ordained presbyter participates in the one (high) priesthood of Jesus Christ.
Christ is the center of everything. He is the divine pontifex or bridge to the Father. There is no way to the Father except through the Son. All this is Catholic teaching. None are saved apart from Christ. Your assertion that the Scriptures do not support the ministry of reconciliation cannot be substantiated. Indeed, it would make no sense for Jesus to establish a Church and then to make her impotent to extend his forgiveness. The work of Jesus is the work of the Church— the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of souls.
Here are some pertinent Scriptures:
Matthew 16:19 – “I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”
John 20:23 – Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”
2 Corinthians 5:17-20 – So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
James 5: 16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.
James 5: 19-20 – My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.
In Mark 2:5-12, with the healing of the paralytic, Jesus did not correct the scribes because there was nothing to correct. No one but God and the Son can forgive sin.
Twice you have made a distinction between “God and the Son.” You do understand that Jesus is God, right? God in Jesus Christ is revealed as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
Actually, the scribes are questioned for their “reasoning about these things” in their “hearts.” They are not only desperately trying not to believe but not to love. Jesus heals the paralytic to prove that he has the power to both heal and forgive. The physical operation points to the spiritual. We will later see similar miracles in the ministry of his apostles. They will be imbued with Christ’s power and something of his authority.
Secondly in John 20:23, Jesus was not speaking about priests. He was speaking about Apostles and their special authority that was given to them. Nothing in Scripture says “Apostle Authority” can be passed down, e.g. the authority to forgive sin and to write Scripture. However it does mention appointing elders. Priests are being ordained as elders not as Apostles. They did not inherit any special “Apostle Authority” and frankly there is nothing to suggest they did.
Actually, it was only with the reformation some 1,500 years later that this succession in authority and transmission of power was questioned. The Apostles would lay hands upon their successors, the Episcopoi or Bishops and they in turn would ordain Presbyters (Priests) and Deacons. We find this truth fully realized in the early Church, especially during the Patristic Period. You speak from a severe ignorance of history. Indeed, even within the period of the Acts of the Apostles, the numbers of apostles expands beyond the dozen that followed Christ. Christ established a Church and gave men to shepherd in his name. It would make no sense to do so and then strip that Church of his saving presence and power.
The simple fact of the matter is the Catholic Church is corrupt and “gave” itself the “authority” to forgive sin in order to fund its coffers through indulgences and encourage men to sign up for the Crusades and go to Heaven.
There is no fact here at all, just a bigoted opinion. Our Lord called sinners to himself and the Church does the same. The Church is holy because Christ is holy. Indulgences were abused by some but reflected our sense of communion with the saints. The merits of Christ have lasting value, both those performed by him and those made possible with him in others. As for the Crusades, they were an attempt to keep the Holy Land open to pilgrims and to defend the Christian faith. Again, there were abuses, but this was the central thrust. The Western world is again threatened by a radical militant Islam; but this time will there be any Christian Knights to defend it?
Since only God can forgive sin, praying to God is all the matters. Priests, the saints or Mary are not needed as intermediaries. Thinking of them in any such way (besides people whose actions should be emulated) clouds the direct link between people, God, and the forgiveness of sin through his Son.
Your religion collapses under numerous contradictions. You deny the Church any legitimacy, and along with it reject true fellowship in Christ, the communion of the saints, priestly ministry, and the sacraments. You would not even have a Bible were it not for the Church that collected the books, translated the texts and transmitted it down through the centuries. Christ said that he came to establish a Church and yet you seem to miss that important biblical truth. Just as the Jews needed each other and even made atonement for the dead; so do Catholic Christians. Devotion goes way beyond hero worship or simple imitation. We are bonded to them in love and love is always active. Love always has a role. When our Lord tells us to abide in LOVE, this is precisely what he means. Love is more than sentiment or empty words. Love is always realized in prayerful intercession and acts of charity. Otherwise, it is not really love. It is foolish and arrogant to think otherwise.
Also praying to God doesn’t change anything except for forgiveness from sin. God is perfect and as such never changes his mind. How could we trust a covenant with Him if he changed his mind? God may use prayers as a mechanism of miracles but they did not “convince” God to do anything. He was already planning on doing it. So intercession from a horde of saints and Mary has no effect. This isn’t a democracy. More or less voices in support a person don’t change anything. Praying to saints doesn’t make it more or less likely that a miracle will happen.
You miss the whole point. Prayer is never about changing God but about transforming us. God is the source and the fruit of our prayer. The Holy Spirit gives us faith and makes prayer possible. God is perfect but we are sinners. While the Scriptures speak in an anthropomorphic way about God, Catholicism appreciates the philosophical concept of God as the Unmoved Mover. In other words, in God as Spirit there is no potency. It is peculiar that you have borrowed these Catholic principles given that they are not clearly found in Scripture but rather in Church tradition and philosophy.
God knows what we need and yet he wants us to call upon him. It may seem that he anticipates our requests, because from our perspective he answers— God always answers. Prayer or dialogue with God is not about changing God’s mind but about conforming our own hearts and minds more closely with Christ’s. It is in Christ, a divine Person incarnate, that we experience the revelation of God that makes a supernatural faith possible. If we pray with faith, we are told that trees can be uprooted and mountains moved. Would you deny the Bible on this? We can join with one another in our prayers— both the living in pilgrimage on earth and the living in glory within heaven. Prayer like sacraments have efficacy because the Spirit of God has power. Catholics do not view God as a genie in a lamp upon which we can press our wishes. When we pray to God it is always approach from the posture of humility. The Catholic stance always echoes, “Thy will be done.”
Prayer is meant to form a more personal relationship with God and for people to find forgiveness with God. By praying to Mary or Saints this goal is obscured and misconceptions regarding the truth of forgiveness and salvation are formed. This is why Protestants don’t do it. The only way to salvation is through the Son. All this other hogwash is just obscuring and confusing this fact.
Your reductionism of prayer is pathetic. Before you would try to teach others, you need to be better informed. Otherwise, the blind will lead the blind. I know informed Protestants who would be embarrassed by your caricatures of Catholicism and by statements that conflict with teachings in their own denominations.
As I said before, Christ and his redemptive work opens the gates of heaven to us. He makes possible our approach to the Father. This is Catholic and Protestant belief. Protestants disagree (in some cases) about intercessory prayer because of views about justification or the status of the saints in heaven. How would I as a Catholic priest explain prayer?
Prayer, at its heart, is communication with God. All true prayer, even intercessory prayer, has as its proper object— almighty God. Prayer is both personal and communal. We approach God as individuals and as members of a faith family. The prayer we first learn as children is the GIMME prayer. Some adults never learn any other type of prayer. This is sad, even tragic. It can make us selfish, concerned with “self” instead of with “other.”
There is nothing wrong with petition but it is not sufficient by itself. We submit our needs before God knowing that he loves us and will provide for us. All prayer acknowledges the basic dependence of the creature upon the Creator.
The most important oration is that of the saints and angels. It should also be ours— the prayer of praise or adoration. We honor God just for being God. He is the source of our existence. Something of his majesty shines back to us through the order and beauty of creation. We praise God, yes even if nothing should be received in return. He is all perfect, all knowing, all loving, and all good. Glory be to God! Hosanna in the Highest! Alleluia!
There are also prayers of contrition where we approach God with sorrow over sin, desiring his mercy. Imperfect contrition would have us fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell; perfect contrition would have us grieve in love over how our sins afflicted the Sacred Heart, literally the source for our Lord’s Passion and Death. It saddens us that we have offended God when we should have loved him above all things. Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!
There is also a place for Thanksgiving. Indeed, the word EUCHARIST means to give thanks. Catholics thank the Lord in their morning offerings and evening prayers. We thank God before meals. We thank him at the Eucharist or Mass, the great communal prayer that has within it all the forms of prayer.
The Eucharist is viewed as our opportunity to enter into the prayer or saving action of Christ. It is are-presentation of Calvary. We encounter both the saving REAL PRESENCE of Christ in Holy Communion, but also his oblation that makes true atonement for all the sins of the world. It is a command performance. The Lord told his apostles at the Last Supper to “do this in remembrance of me.” The word that helps us to understand here is “amnesis,” meaning that which is remembered is made present. Jesus refers to himself at the Supper as the Lamb of God. He shares the cup of his covenant. A covenant cannot be established with fake blood— only real blood. There is a great mystery given believers. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the word, have mercy on us! Grant us peace!
The “Church” is rotten to the core: centuries of corruption, war, theft, distortion of Scripture, and the covering up of sexual abuse of children. Continually chanting that “the Catholic Church” is the only true Church changes nothing. I can safely say Jesus would be disgusted by the Pope sitting on his golden throne as children starve across the world and lack basic education and medicine.
The Church was instituted by Christ and preserved by the Holy Spirit. Condemnation of the Church is blasphemy against God’s handiwork. Your criticism also trespasses into the area of sinful calumny. It is one thing to be critical; it is another to be prejudiced. You are the latter. The history of the Church is the history of the world. The legacy of the Church is the testimony and witness of the saints. We still live in a world of corruption, war and greed. Often the Church is the one voice which speaks out for healing, peace and charity. You would silence this voice; or worse yet, to allow the sins of a few to negate the blessings and miracles she has brought into the world. The Catholic Church is the Mother of the Bible. The distortion belongs to those who dismiss her life you. You define yourself by your hatred of all things Catholic. The Catholic Church has done more to protect children and to care for the world’s poor than any other non-governmental institution. I bet you have done little or nothing for the poor and hurting, either at home or around the world. We run thousands of schools and hospitals and yet you condemn the Church for leaving people in ignorance and sickness. Hypocrite, deal with the plank in your own eye before condemning the Church and others for the splinter in theirs!