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More Voices from the Other Side: Divorce & Remarriage

This is a follow up post to a previous one focusing on “the other side” of divorce and upon those spouses who wanted to preserve their unions. The issue of Church censure, annulments and remarriage weigh heavily in the discussion. Here are a number of voices in dialogue about this important matter. The first respondent begins by remarking upon Karl’s charges against the last two popes for not doing enough.

FATHER LONE RANGER:

Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are part of the problem? I do not think so. They have sought to address the problem of invalid annulments, but many canonists will not listen to them. The Holy Father has wanted to prevent scandal and so there is a great deal of communication that is never made privy to the general public. The issue is and was extensive dissent, not simply among ragtag theologians, but wholesale among bishops and chancery clergy.

Why does the problem remain? Liberal theologians are also often canonists and the same passivity that the Church exhibits towards politicians and morals is also revealed when facing distraught divorced people who want to erase a mistake and marry again. For all practical purposes, the Church is involved with a silent schism and the Pope knows that if he pushes too hard, the bulk of the American Church will defect, bishops and all. It will be England and Henry VIII revisited with a vengeance.

[At this point he offers a prayer for Karl.]

Dear God, we ask you to bring healing to Karl and justice to the cause that he feels so deeply. Easy divorce is a violation that attacks at the heart of the marriage bond. Vows are made and should be kept. Marriages are not ended by judicial decree or even by Church courts, but by the death of a spouse. Then and only then is a true marriage ended, and yet, even here, there is no end to the love that a husband and wife share. Bless Karl in his life, and watch over and protect his five children. The fruit of married love is real and everlasting (Holly, Mary, Margaret, Monica and Karl Michael). May the good Lord envelop Karl in his loving embrace and give him peace. Amen.

Sign the petition against No-Fault Divorce:
http://www.catholicmarriagepetition.org/index.htm

MARY:

Many of us have been abandoned by our spouses. Life is tough, Karl. But we are not living for joy & happiness on this earth. We are trying to get to HEAVEN …. There is justice after this life if not during. This is why we pray & pray for conversion in our unfaithful spouses so that their hearts will be softened and they return to Christ before their death and be able to obtain heaven. And we pray and pray for ourselves …for the grace to be faithful to God’s Law (especially that of living a chaste life, which is so very lonely) and the grace to imitate Christ in His meek carrying of His cross. And we pray for our children that their hearts not be hardened by the pain of loss they suffer or by being witnesses to bad example (most likely) from both parents.

No, Karl, life is not fair. I also lost a son in a car accident. Does this give me the right to rage against God at the injustice? To rage against others who have not lost children simple because they do not share this particular cross? …To ignore my surviving children, and my other duties because of my pain? My answer to these questions has been NO! You might be surprised how others answer these questions…peek in on a support group for bereaved parents, you may be shocked. As sad as these situations may be or should I say as sad as the sufferings we all face in life may be, we must be willing to do what we can to correct injustice on this earth without going against God’s Law (because the end never justifies the means). Then, we must accept our fate as God’s Will for us and continue to serve Him in love.

WI CATHOLIC:

Although I do not fight in the same way or anger as Karl does, I have to agree with him on nearly everything he has said about the lack of help/assistance for those of us who believe/KNOW that we ARE in a Valid Marriage no matter what a civil divorce court has said, or the world has said… OR Tribunals have said.

I have been told to “Trust the Holy Spirit” and petition the Tribunals, with the additional statements that the alcoholism is a clear indication of NULLITY, and would be adequate grounds to a Null Decision.

Point One: I do not believe alcoholism (sickness and heath, better or worse, good times and bad) are grounds for determining that our marriage was NULL on the day we appeared before God and Man and pledged our vows “all the days of my life.”

Point Two: I am not able to sign the basic forms that are needed to petition due to the fact that I must state that I believe my Marriage to have been Null from the beginning. I do NOT believe that.

Point Three: In a Church which teaches/has always taught that ALL marriages are VALID until proven beyond doubt that they were not, before a Tribunal, I cannot buy into the fact that the Tribunals are being led by the Holy Spirit when the first contact with Respondents is to call my spouse my “FORMER SPOUSE.” Sorry, but the Civil Law means nothing, and my spouse is still my spouse regardless of that decree. CIVILLY he may not be, but in my Church, he is! To me, and to many other faithful spouses who live their vows regardless of what MAN says, in obedience to what GOD says (Jesus Himself four times in the Gospel, as well as in Church teachings)–this is a slap in the face, and a clear indication where “the spirit” lies… and discernment can lead one to believe that it may well be a “false spirit of compassion” that rules the day in our US Tribunals that seems to favor those who destroy the marriage, often by adultery/divorce/civil marriage to the “lover”/and finally, a petition to annul the first marriage in favor of the second, which was based on adultery to begin with.

Point Four: Sites with an appealing name such as “Save Our Sacrament” are not pointed out to be dissident. “Internal Forum” is blatantly featured, in spite of the fact that it is NOT to be used for Marriage/Divorce, and no one in the hierarchy calls them on it publicly. No one preaches the Truth on Internal Forum in the local parishes where it is “taught” by priests, etc. It is allowed to stay online for years (as in St Anthony Messengers article by Fr John Catoir on the topic). THIS is SCANDAL.

http://www.saveoursacrament.org/

S.O.S. is a member of Catholic Organizations for Renewal (COR).

http://www.cta-usa.org/COR.html#list

Yet, the very cry of most of us who do NOT want NULL verdicts, but the TRUTH of the VALIDITY of our marriages is corrupted by this website. What is promoted there is not saving the Sacrament. It is watering down Truth to fit society’s plunge into the Pit. It is, essentially, what Henry VIII said/taught after Rome refused to grant a NULL verdict about his marriage to Catherine of Arragon.

I do love my Church, and there is no place else I would go. I could not leave Him (The Eucharist) any more than I can quit my vows. To do so would be doing to HIM what my spouse did to ME so long ago— Desertion— forced unilateral divorce— attempting to say that something that EXISTS never really did in the first place.

Yet my Church, which used to defend those of us who remain faithful till death, vehemently, has done this to us by allowing the US Tribunals to grant so many NULL verdicts and to tell us that this is “right” and “true” and “spirit-led.”

If there is a schism here in the US, it will ONLY be VISIBLE evidence of what is already happening! “My people PERISH for lack of KNOWLEDGE!” …of TRUTH. Truth needs to be preached, and to be acted on, or “the spirit of compassion” (which I firmly believe is a False spirit) will continue to overtake Truth. While the Gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church—many of the members of that Church may end up on the other side of those very Gates.

In our situation, the civil wife KNOWS the Truth, and told our children that they (civil wife and my spouse) cannot go to Communion because according to the Church, they are living in sin—her words in the very beginning of that “marriage.”

Another in our family, an in-law, was told by her priest-friend that as long as SHE knew in her heart that the first marriage wasn’t valid, she could avoid the Tribunal and still receive Communion…and she does on the rare occasion she attends Mass.

No one refutes this from any pulpit in our area (and I would be willing to bet, in few nationally). In fact, I have heard only ONE sermon on Jesus’ words on divorce (I believe they show up once every three years in the Gospel readings of Sunday Mass, though it MAY be twice) in all the years since our separation in the early 80′s! And that was watered down….

Karl has very valid points. His anger is, in many ways, justified.

Too many are willing to compromise to “protect the feelings” of those in the pews who may need to hear Truth in order to save their very souls. It is Truth that sets us free, not compromise, not justifying Sin and condoning it with an official “verdict” that is based on today’s psychiatric diagnoses.
His People Perish for Lack of Knowledge… and Hell is for Eternity.

FATHER JOE:

The bit about “sickness and heath, better or worse, good times and bad” are not in reference to things that would invalidate a marriage in the present. If you become a drunk after you are married, there are no grounds for invalidation. If you develop psychosis after marriage, you are still married. If a man has a fishing accident with a hook while on honeymoon and castrates himself, as long as there has been a consummation, he is truly married. But, if any of these things happen prior to the marriage day, then the couple is out of luck. Annulments are granted because people conceal problems from the priest and sometimes try to do so even from themselves. An annulment means they should NEVER have gotten married in the first place and that the sacrament or natural bond is not really present. There is a legal union (both in the Church and in civil society) and for that reason children remain legitimate even after an annulment.

Alcoholism can vary by degrees; however, a person who is grossly incapable of dealing with his own life can hardly make a marital commitment to another. Like paralysis, certain maladies can make the fulfillment of marital duties impossible or highly improbable. If such is the case before the vows are taken and on the appointed day for a marriage, the bond could indeed be invalidated. Indeed, if priests are aware of a problem like alcoholism, we are forbidden to marry the couple. I ask about addictions and diseases prior to witnessing marriages. If they lie to me that deceit can also invalidate the marriage. People have a natural right to marriage, but some like me freely renounce that right and others are incapable of it because of either faulty intention, dishonesty, impotence, addiction, hatred (rejection) of children, physical incapacitation, sexual corruption, or mental aberration.

A person who is HIV positive cannot be married lawfully in the Church to a non-infected person because non-contraceptive intercourse required for consummation is possibly deadly to the spouse. A paralyzed man cannot engage in the marital act and get married, with the possible exception of those with artificial intervention to restore potency. Couples who are sterilized are routinely required to attempt surgical reversals in order to have a sacramental wedding. People who are mentally deranged and/or who take drugs for mental diseases are not normally able to marry. Medication to control various mental illnesses would deform a fetus. Alcoholism or any other kind of serious drug addiction invalidates the marriage vows and bond. A heroin fiend cannot truly fulfill his vows and is lying to his beloved and the priest. The same goes for gross alcoholism. It is a sickness, but there is a moral element related to it. I knew a man who was an active alcoholic who had his prior bond annulled on the grounds that his addiction made him incapable of marriage. He then wanted to get married again but a “monitum” prohibited any priest or deacon from marrying him until a doctor certified that he had found sobriety. He remained a drunk and so he could not marry again. The last time I saw him, he was begging for money on the streets.

You write: “I am not able to sign the basic forms that are needed to petition due to the fact that I must state that I believe my Marriage to have been Null from the beginning. I do NOT believe that.” Fine and good, you should not sign them if you disagree. Indeed, if such is your conviction, you should never remarry even if the spouse does so, in or out of the Church. Marriage is a one-time sacrament. I cannot say that the Tribunals are always right about these things. The culpability is more upon them than any individuals they mislead. However, the process, while imperfect, is an attempt to protect the indissolubility of marriage while being compassionate to those who might have grounds for nullity.

I am not familiar with the website SAVE OUR SACRAMENT although I am familiar with internal forum between couples (usually elderly) and the pastor. They are required to live as brother and sister and they are not to advertise the nature of their relationship so as to avoid scandal. I worked with just such a couple many years ago who were in their 90′s. They have since passed away.

If your husband has civilly remarried, he is not in good standing with the Church. He is still required to go to Sunday Mass and to make sure that any children receive the sacraments. However, as long as he cohabitates with this other woman, the status is regarded as adultery and no personal sentiment or feeling on his part would allow him to receive communion. Indeed, he cannot receive absolution from a priest, either. He is apparently in a state of mortal sin. His in-laws are grievously wrong to tell him otherwise. They are numbing his conscience and that of his civil-wife to the fact that their eternal salvation is at stake.

I cannot speak about your case because I do not know the particulars. Since there is a civil marriage, I take it that no annulment was granted. If you felt that the first marriage was the valid one, then you are right to oppose the annulment, although they are sometimes granted despite opposition. If your husband and his civil-wife were really good Catholics, they would not want to live in an adulterous relationship. If you really loved someone, would you do something that would deprive them of the Eucharist and maybe even cost them their salvation in Christ? I asked this of a priest who left and attempted marriage. He said he loved the girl. I argued that he did not love her enough and that he was selfish. Better for a priest to suffer in his loneliness than to cost another the gift of sanctifying grace and the reception of the Blessed Sacrament. He did not know what to say. He knew I was right. He said he would get laicized. But at that time he was still married to the Church and what if she should die before laicization was granted? He would have to live with the terrible possibility that he sent to hell the person he most loved in the whole world.

I preach upon this subject of divorce and annulments, as well as upon the crisis of premarital sex and cohabitation. Not all priests are silent. I am sorry about your pain. You can pray for him and continue to witness to your vows. We all want joy, but often what we get is the Cross.

WI CATHOLIC:

I have reconciled myself to living my vows alone till one of us dies. Our civil-forced-divorce was way back in 1985, and I have long been able to praise Him and to forgive my spouse. I pray for him and for the civil wife all the time. (She and I have spoken; she has been praying for my health recently, much to the chagrin of xxxxxxxxx). My primary desire is his salvation and sobriety, as well as mine. Hers is secondary. Reconciliation at this stage is totally up to God Himself.

Yes, it is MY understanding also what counts is prior to marriage, and the wedding day itself, not what is diagnosed 10 plus years after the marriage. But that is not what happened in our area, and it is not what I have been told by at least three priests. I have been me telling THEM this fact.

I can believe that you do teach on the subject, Father Joe, because you are one of the rare ones who speaks of this topic ONLINE, too. But in most places, it is avoided like the plague.

Civil divorce is taken as proof that the marriage was not a marriage most of the time now, or “it would not have ended up in the divorce courts.” But this is not true.

We are still a largely forgotten group of very Faithful Catholics, most often looked upon as pitiable, rigid, angry, bitter… even “pus-filled.” I assure you, most of us are not. When WE plead, “Save our Sacrament,” WE are begging the Church to stand with us regarding the validity of our marriages. We are not looking for a “way out,” but help to work toward reconciliation, healing, and maintaining the validity and permanency that Jesus Himself insisted upon.

As for Internal Forum, I cannot begin to claim the education others have, but I have spent the past 25 years learning as much as possible. One source:
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, Cardinal Prefect of the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF), and now Pope Benedict XVI writes forcefully on the subject of the indissolubility of marriage. He concludes such a statement regarding the International Theological Commission’s Propositions on the Doctrine of Christian Marriage:

I would underscore that what is at stake in respect to the teaching of the indissolubility of marriage is nothing less than the Church’s fidelity to the radicalism of the Gospel. “The severity does not derive from a purely disciplinary law or from a type of legalism. It is rather a judgment pronounced by Jesus Himself (Mk 10:6ff). Understood in this way, this severe norm is a prophetic witness to the irreversible fidelity of love that binds Christ to His Church. It shows also that the spouses’ love is incorporated into the very love of Christ (Eph. 5:23-32).”[6]

In short, because marriage is an irrevocable covenant established by God, it is not a mere personal and private act. Marriage consent pertains to the common good and directly effects the Church. Subsequently, a mere personal and private act cannot substitute for a judgement of marriage nullity. In determining such a grave matter, only the Church herself, acting in the name of Christ, has competence to pass judgement.

http://www.cuf.org/Faithfacts/details_view.asp?ffID=54

God bless! (I can still understand Karl’s anger and frustration.)

KARL:  Hang in there, WI Catholic, I do love the Catholic Church, just can’t live with her.

WI CATHOLIC:  Thank you, Karl. God bless you!

Questions & Answers About Miscellaneous Matters

Does it really matter to what church a person belongs as long as he does what is right?

While we must all live and believe according to the dictates of conscience, objectively speaking, if a person wants to be assured of knowing and doing what is right, he will belong to the right or true Church. The various churches are not the same. Christ directly established the Catholic Church and saving truth subsists in her.

Why are there so many sinners in the Catholic Church?

This is no truer for the Catholic community than it is for others. Christ called to himself sinners and the Catholic Church has been ever faithful in doing the same. We seek the repentance and conversion of souls. We leave ultimate judgment of the weeds and the wheat to our Lord.

Cannot a person be an honest and faithful Christian without going to church?

He may on some level be a believer, but such a person is not a good Christian. The true Christian realizes that just as he is indebted to neighbors and friends, so too does he have debts before God. He was made for God. The Christian approaches God, not as an isolated individual, but as a member of a family of faith, a new People of God. It is our duty to go to Church and every Catholic is required under pain of mortal sin to participate at Sunday Mass.

Why is not fidelity to the Bible sufficient for a union of faith?

The problem is that the “right meaning” of the Bible must be followed for such a unity. The so-called bible churches all claim to follow the Bible and yet they are divided from each other and the fragmentation continues. The union of faith mandates an infallible teacher or interpreter of the Bible as well as a membership willing to submit their judgment to higher authority.

Why do Catholics believe in dogmas instead of the Bible?

Catholic dogmas of faith are generally the teachings of the Bible defined and elaborated upon by competent authority.

Are there not many roads leading to heaven?

Our Lord, Jesus, said that there would be one fold only– one faith, one Church, and one God. No, there is only one road to heaven and that is the one Jesus has marked for us. Truth is not relative, especially upon this point. Christ cannot contradict himself. This gives great impetus to our missionary and evangelization campaigns. However, Catholics themselves should as St. Paul reminds us, “Be of one mind,” and be configured to Christ (Phil 2:5). God certainly judges us according to what we know to be true and how we live out our faith in good conscience. The Church prays for her own and even for those outside her fold. She seeks to embrace them and save them. Who can estimate the efficacy of such intercessory prayer?

Can we believe in a Catholic Church as the true Church but not in the ROMAN Catholic Church?

No, we cannot. They are one and the same. No matter whether the rite is Western or Eastern, the head of the true Church is the bishop of Rome, the Pope.

Do we not all believe in one God?

Most, but not everyone is monotheistic. Mormon doctrine actually holds for polytheism (multiple gods). Religions from the East are also bringing pagan gods into the picture of our culture. Some believe in no god at all. Others define him in unacceptable ways. Further, we do not practice the same things that we were commanded. It should also be said that the devil knows there is one God and it does him no good.

Why do Catholics believe in teachings that are said not to be understandable?

While we do not understand the intrinsic nature of certain doctrines, we know they must be true because God who will not and cannot deceive us revealed them. Of course, there are still natural mysteries that we do not entirely comprehend, and yet, we believe and experience them as true.

Why do Catholics fail to wash one another’s feet as Christ commanded in John 13:1-15?

Actually, it is done on Holy Thursday. The bishop washes the feet of twelve men. This command was not given to all, but to the apostles. It is intimately connected to the call to ministry and priesthood. Jesus did not offer this ritual as a required act for salvation, but only as a reminder of humility modeled after our Lord, himself.

Why do Catholics burn incense in church since Isaiah 1:13 says: “Incense is an abomination to me”?

God rebuked the people for their sins while offering incense to him. God himself commanded the offering of incense, but only as long as it was done with a pure heart.

If Catholics are so good then how can the Church excuse the persecution of Protestants in Spain during the Inquisition?

The civil government of Spain used religion to promote its agenda of unification and national security; the Church did not sanction the harsh treatment of Protestants. Ferdinand and Isabella established the Inquisition for more political than religious reasons. The Jews and the Moors faced the blunt of the assault. The latter group was seen as an enemy of the state. The royal officers who made up the inquisitors also persecuted bishops and priests when it suited their political aims. They imprisoned the Archbishop of Toledo for sixteen years. Repeatedly, the popes protested against the inquisition.

Did Protestants ever persecute Catholics?

Martin Luther advised his followers to kill the popes, cardinals, bishops, and all who would defend them. John Calvin unmercifully persecuted those who disagreed with his views. John Knox was so ruthless that some 17,000 so-called witches were burned in Scotland alone in the course of forty years. Knox said that people were bound in conscience to execute the queen and to kill all the priests. In England, Catholics were fined a hundred dollars a month for failing to participate at Protestant worship. Irish Catholics were imprisoned in dungeons, hanged, drawn and quartered, and faced other frightful ends because of their fidelity to the Catholic faith.

Is it not the Galileo affair, in which he was imprisoned, proof that the Catholic Church opposes progress?

The Pope merely refused to accept proofs that Galileo offered to prove the theory that the earth moves around the sun. Galileo tried to prove it from the Bible, which was impossible. Protestants and Catholics alike rejected his proofs. Nevertheless, the Church honored Cusa and Copernicus who maintained similar theories. However, they claimed as their scientific opinion, only what they could prove.

Since there is nothing in the Bible about it, how can Catholics contend that St. Peter was the bishop of Rome?

Much of what we know comes from tradition. Archeological work and the evidence are that St. Peter was executed in Rome. Pious tradition and Christian lore tend to fill out the story:

St. Peter started his apostolic work ten days after the ascension, about the fifteenth of May in the year 34 AD. He remained four years in Jerusalem and preached the gospel there. Afterwards, he traveled to Antioch where he remained seven years, preaching and administering Church affairs. He left Antioch and returned to Jerusalem where he was imprisoned. Miraculously delivered (Acts 12), he went and preached the gospel in Rome. He performed many miracles and the Church flourished. From that location, he began to send bishops and priests throughout the known world. After seven years, the Emperor Claudius banished him from Rome. He visited Britain, Carthage, and Alexandria and finally returned to Jerusalem. It was there that St. Paul consulted him regarding the Gentiles and the observance of circumcision (Council of Jerusalem). St. Peter decided that the Gentiles were not bound by this matter of the Mosaic law. When Emperor Claudius died, the infamous Nero succeeded him. Peter returned to Rome, just as Aquilla and Priscilla had done. Two years later, St. Paul joined Peter as a prisoner in Rome. During the 22nd year of St. Peter’s Roman pontificate, Nero set the city on fire. The emperor placed the blame on the Christians and persecution ensued. St. Peter left Rome again. The 24th year, he returned and foretells his death (Acts 1:14). St. Peter and St. Paul had frustrated Simon Magus’ magical arts. The two apostles were thrown into the Mamertine prisons for nine months, where St. Paul composed his second letter to Timothy. They converted Process, Martinian, the keeper of the prison, and 47 prisoners. St. Peter miraculously caused water to spring forth from the prison floor in order to baptize the new converts. This well is still preserved. In the 25th year of his Roman pontificate, St. Peter and St. Paul were sentenced to death. St. Peter was crucified upon an inverted cross on Mount Janiculum (feeling unworthy to die precisely like his Lord). St. Paul was taken to the Salvia waters about four miles south of Rome and beheaded. When St. Paul’s head fell under the sword, it made three bounds and a fountain is said to have sprung forth at each place where his head hit the ground. Three fountains are still venerated at the site.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.

Questions & Answers About Relics & Holy Pictures

Why do Catholics show honor to the relics of saints?

One could also ask, why does a child save his dead mother’s ring? Why are the belongings of those we love sometimes treated as sacred? Why do fans collect memorabilia of their sports heroes and entertainment stars? The story is told about a very old man who insisted in his will instructions that a locket of hair and a particular handkerchief be placed in his casket. It turned out that these were the only items that he possessed from a girl who had suffered a fatal accident when he was a young man. He loved her. He still loved her. Relics, no matter whether they be something used or worn by the departed saint, or something contacted to the body after death, or even a part of the body itself, all point to the life and extraordinary discipleship of the faithful departed. They remind us that the bonds of faith and life are not destroyed by death. Love is stronger than death. In the case of saints, relics are tangible reminders that true holiness is possible. Relics, especially of the body, provide an intimate connection with the departed. Such relics are held in special esteem because the living bodies of Christians are temples of the Holy Spirit. The souls of the righteous live with God and one day they will rise body and soul with Christ. The Christian sees the dead body, not crudely as an empty husk, but as an element of our personhood esteemed for its past powers and consecrated by the grace of God. We treat the bodies of the faithful departed with a profound respect and reverence. Every corpse reminds us of our Savior who was brought down from his cross and laid in a tomb. We have been signed in Christ crucified. And yet, we know the promise of what waits for us on the other side of the cross.

Nevertheless, is it not idolatry to honor relics, even in they are parts of a person’s dead body?

No, it is not idolatry. Of course, as with devotion to saints, error exists in the extremes. If one were to offer divine worship to things and persons, living or dead, then it would be idolatry and a serious sin. The Church, herself, teaches this. Rather, by honoring the friends of God, we honor God himself.

Do Catholics use relics as talismans, believing while they wear or carry them, that no evil can befall them?

This question has to be very carefully answered because we live in times when there has been a resurgence of witchcraft in naturalist and new age cults. Some of this unfortunate business is infecting our young people and entering the mainstream. It is peculiar that in our technological age and scientific culture that many of the old superstitions are reappearing, albeit in refashioned guises. Certainly, kids use to do such things as carry a rabbit’s foot for good luck, although having four of them did the rabbit no good. However, what was once done in fun has taken on the pallor of a religion. While some people will wear crosses and attribute little if any meaning in the practice; others use religious symbols and items to ward off bad luck and curses. Sometimes they even commit sacrilege in pseudo-religious rituals.

I recall one time finding wax figures used in such diabolical practices, along with profane candles and statuary of the saints (dressed in strange voodoo clothing) hidden in a church. A woman from Haiti turned out to be the culprit. She had tainted her Catholic faith with pagan superstition. This is a terrible sin and a grave offence against God.

Having offered this warning, it must be said that in Catholic circles it is held that relics might avert evil. However, the object itself has no magical power! The relic becomes an expression of our faith, just as we may voice it in words and actions. If our faith is real and actualized in charity, then God may indeed see in a relic a call for assistance. Further, the saint represented by the relic may also intercede and pray for us.

How do we know that the so-called saint is actually in heaven?

We can know it from the holy life they lived while still in the world, by the wonders and miracles he performed, and by the scrutinizing canonization process itself in the Catholic Church.

Does the Bible say anything about us honoring relics?

Look at Exodus 13:19: “And Moses took the bones of Joseph with him; for Joseph had solemnly sworn the people of Israel, saying, ‘God will visit you; then you must carry my bones with you from here.’” Now read Acts 5:15-16: “They even carried out the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and pallets, that as Peter came by at least his shadow might fall on some of them . . . . the sick and those afflicted with unclean spirits . . . were all healed.” Another passage is Acts 19:11-12: “And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them.” All this goes to prove the importance of relics, particularly when grounded in Christian faith. But how could it be any other way? Like the hemorrhaging woman, who believed that touching the mere tassel of our Lord’s cloak would bring her healing, may we also use wisely the things of God.

Moving on to a related topic, why do Catholics keep holy pictures in their homes?

These images bring to mind the lives and virtues of the saint they represent. They inspire us to imitate their example.

But, if this is all it is, then why do Catholics kneel down and bow before such pictures and statues?

These representations assist our imaginations. While the custom of bowing at official engagements has been largely lost in secular greetings; it has been retained in regards to religious practice. We bend at the waist as a signed of greeting and respect to an old friend in heaven (whom the image represents). If we fall to our knees, we are actually taking a humble stance before Christ himself who has often shined ever so brightly in the lives of his saints.

Does the Bible say that we are permitted to make pictures and statues in honor of the saints?

First of all, we are doing little more externally than what civil society does in putting up a statue in honor of a famous citizen or soldier. Second, there is ample precedent for such a practice in the Bible. (The reason for the Hebrew reservation regarding images was because so many of the peoples around them actually worshipped false gods of stone.) We read in Exodus 25:18: “And you shall make two cherubim of gold; of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat.” In Numbers 21:8-9, we read: “And the LORD said to Moses, ‘Make a fiery serpent, and set it on a pole; and everyone who is bitten, when he sees it, shall live.’ So Moses made a bronze serpent, and set it on a pole; and if a serpent bit any man, he would look at the bronze serpent and live.” The brazen serpent foreshadowed (as a type) Christ and his saving cross. Honoring the Ark of the Covenant, “Joshua rent his garments and fell flat on the ground, before the ark of the Lord until evening, both he and all the ancients of Israel.”

Nevertheless, how can this be reconciled with the divine prohibition, “You shall not make a picture or any other likeness . . . thou shall not adore them, nor serve them” (see Exodus 20:4)?

Context here means everything. Otherwise, one would have to say that the Word of God contradicts itself. The invisible God of the Hebrews absolutely forbid the making of images for purposes of divine adoration. However, he did not prohibit images as such. Indeed, in the case of the ark, they were mandated. Of course, given the inclination of the early Jews to fall easily into idol worship, it is no wonder that the prohibition was often extended and made more severe.

Making a secular comparison, many of us adorn our homes with statuary, paintings, and photographs. We have them for beauty and for sentimental reasons. Is a picture of one’s child or a grandmother vain idolatry? I think not. Neither are depictions of saints and other holy personages.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.

More Craziness: Child Killed as a Motorcycle Racer!

Again, what the heck is going on? We got 14-year-old girls trying to circle the globe alone in boats and now we have a dead 13-year-old boy who got killed motorcycle racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway! When I was a kid young teens rode bicycles but were not allowed to ride motorcycles. There is a big difference in weight and speed. A boy this age is probably only in seventh grade. Peter Lenz of Vancouver, Washington, fell off his bike and was run over by another motorcycle. The injuries were severe and he did not make it. We are told that he was “an accomplished rider.” Now come on, how can a 13-year-old boy be an accomplished anything… that is unless he is Mozart writing concertos at 5 years-of-age? By the way, composing music is not usually harmful to your health, motor vehicles frequently are.

Making matters even more bizarre, the rider who struck him was 12-year-old Xavier Zayat! Yes, you heard me right, a mere sixth grader! That is grammar school guys, come on! The news report says that it was not certain that the boy’s parents were even in town. As with the boat-girl, why would parents allow their kids to take such risks with their lives? These kids reach speeds as high as a hundred miles an hour! Is there a lot of money and fame involved? I am really scratching my head. Competing with riders from 12 to 18 we are told he was a rising star. Well, that star has certainly set now and on a boy who should have had his whole future ahead of him.

If you ask me, young teens should not be allowed to race motorcycles until they are old enough to have a regular driver’s license. Yes, I would shut this bizarre business down. The more we hear about this, the stranger things become. We are also told that he had been riding for six years… motorcycles! That means he started when he was only 7 years-old! Yes sir that is what I want to see coming down the highway towards me, a first grader on a Harley! Not!

Missed by a few strong critics of this post and advocates for such racing, here are words I shared in the comments section below:

I should add, my deepest condolences to his family. While I might not understand why children are allowed in such a sport, the tragedy here is real and painful. You are all in my thoughts and prayers. May he rest in peace.

Why Did Pope John Paul II Kiss the Koran?

Although a number of years have passed, many still wonder, why did Pope John Paul II kiss a Koran presented to him? The debate rages on.

FATHER JOE:

Is it not a book that speaks directly against the Catholic faith? Does it not reduce the Son of God to a mere prophet? Did not the popes of the past demand its burning? The answer to all these questions is YES, and yet what the Holy Father did was more complicated than what the anti-Catholic and/or sedevacantist spin-doctors might say about it.

One critic argues that it was a blasphemous act, showing his “hatred” of God and his apostate defection from the true faith. It was none of these things. The Pope is on the record about the differences between Catholics and the followers of Islam. Let us look at the situation. The Pope longed to go to Iraq in order to walk in the footsteps of Abraham, claimed as a “father in faith” by Muslims, Jews, and Christians. Pope John Paul II saw firsthand the depth of man’s inhumanity to his brothers and sisters. Our history as a world is written in blood. As illustrated in his repeated “mea culpa,” he strives for a new understanding between peoples where dialogue, tolerance, and cooperation will replace anathemas, persecution, and rivalry. Abraham is an integral figure of unity in turning things around politically. Looking at the incident in question, the Holy Father received a delegation that included the Shiite Imam of Khadum Mosque, the Sunni President of the council that operates the Iraqi Islamic Bank, and a member of the Iraqi Ministry of Religion. The invitation of a papal visit was renewed. They even went so far as to say that it would be “a grace from heaven.” While Iraq has been guilty of real violations of human rights, this Islamic state was the most tolerant of Christians than any of its Islamic neighbors. Many Catholics held positions in government, commerce, education, etc. The Chaldean Patriarch of Babylon (Iraq), His Beatitude Raphael I Bidawid, was a major spokesman for the delegation. He applauded the Pope’s actions and words as a true sign of concern from the Successor of St. Peter. (Christians represented 5% of the 20 million people in Iraq. Catholics of the large Chaldean rite [implementing the Aramaic language] and of the smaller Latin rite represented 80% of all Christians there.) It was said that a papal visit would confirm the faith of Christian believers while showing forth a genuine love for all in this mostly Muslim nation.

The Koran was a gift to him from the delegation. Islamic peoples are not casual in the giving of gifts. It represents the giver. They knew perfectly well that the Pope was a Catholic Christian, but they gave to him that which was regarded as most important in their life, their own holy book. Thus, at the end of the audience, the Pope showed his deep appreciation to this intimate self-donation, by bowing and kissing the Koran as a sign of respect. Such a gesture ran totally against the grain of crusades and condemnations. It did not mean that the Pope accepted all that was in the book, only that his love for the Muslim people, and the Iraqis in particular, was genuine. He makes the first move, not in the capitulation of our faith, but in the recognition that the followers of Jesus and those who cherish Mohammed should not be engaged in name-calling, or worse, killing each other. The Pope appreciated the suffering of the Iraqi people, particularly the women and children. It showed he did not look down upon them but had a genuine respect for them within the brotherhood of man.

DISCUSSION

COLETTE: I am thinking he does not know what the Koran says about Catholics. Was he pressured into it? Did he wrongly think this is was consistent with ecumenical dialogue or what? I cannot imagine any good reasons. There are none. Let’s face it— it was a crazy thing for a true Roman Catholic Pontiff to do. Would the leader of Islam do this with the Bible?

FATHER JOE: It seems to me that the Holy Father opted for the moral high ground. We cannot worry that such respect would not be reciprocal. His teachings clearly professed his faith in Jesus Christ. This gesture to the Koran is not dissimilar from his kissing the soil of nations he visited. It is a sign of human respect, but not a profession of faith or an imprimatur upon the Koran. The book was a visible symbol of a people and the Pope showed them welcome. It might also be seen as an invocation for peace between the Christians and Moslems.

RAY: I suspect that many of you do not know much about Islam. The Pope understood Islam and recognized the many messages we hold in common. People, who feel they must hate something, in order to love something else, are the reason why there are world wars and much suffering in the world.

FATHER JOE: True Christians hate sin, not sinners. One might show human respect to something like the Koran, particularly given its antiquity and meaning to so many; however, this is all a Christian and Jew can do. It is not our book. We neither acknowledge it as inspired nor as inerrant. We do not claim it as God’s Word. Indeed, it conflicts in many places with what God has genuinely revealed to us as his truth.

MANNY: It just goes to show that John Paul II saw the light before he died. I love this picture even though most so-called Christians are fearful of his simple act of kissing the Koran. He was a good man who had all the qualities of one who will go to heaven, even if he was not necessarily following God’s religion of choice. People in general need ever more to practice what they preach. We need inter-faith knowledge, understanding, and acceptance of other faiths. The religious hatred toward the Koran is very disturbing. This just goes to show that FEAR is the root of all evil. It is a shame that people from supposedly religious Christian backgrounds have commented in a very non-religious way about the Pope’s kissing of the Koran. He kissed the Koran out of respect, realizing that the three religions of the Middle East are not as dissimilar as some believe. He respected Islam. This is something that religious Christians should applaud and not criticize. Anyway, may he rest in peace.

LOLA: I read a third of the Koran and could not go any further when I read that a husband could hit his wife if she misbehaved. It is written that it is okay to kill Jews when they have been given two previous warnings. Jesus never said to kill anyone; he was the prince of peace. There are major contradictions! Well, I suppose I have read more of the Koran than most Moslems and more of the Bible than most Christians. The Pope kissing the Koran was not a wise thing to do. One can accept a copy of the Koran as a gift without compromising your own beliefs. This should especially be so for the Pope, who is the big honcho of the Catholic faith. Maybe the reason we have so many different religious beliefs is because God wants to test the tolerance of our hearts before we are taken home to him? One last comment, if you have half-doubted your faith then you have only half-believed. Just because your parents were of a certain religious faith, it does not mean that you should follow in their footsteps and maybe become a puppet on a string.

FATHER JOE: Christians can follow in the footsteps of parents and the long line of the saints and still not be puppets.  We, as Catholics, seek objective truth, both as revealed by God and in nature itself.

PAUL: I believe that what he did was an extremely spontaneous gesture of respect for Muslims, but not a belief in Islam per se. He was the kind of man who would even debase himself on behalf of others. If it were not a spur of the moment decision – if he had had time to think about it – he would not have done it because of the confusion it engendered. As the successor of Peter it is not his place to do such things. Like most of the fruits of Vatican II (thus far) it has caused more disorder and faithlessness than it has engendered. But because it was a holy act, just as it was a Holy Council, as Catholics, we should believe that it was ultimately good. An interpretation of it which enhances the faith will eventually prevail. The upcoming changes to the language of the Mass, the Motu Propio, etc. are the beginning of this with respect to Vatican II. But even clown masses and celebrants wearing cheese hats probably have a place in the Church of Christ. And popes make mistakes too. They are only human.

RYAN:

Kissing something is not necessarily a gesture of complete acceptance: It can signify love or respect. Think of this in the eyes of a Muslim. They are giving their most holy book, the holiest of their possessions to this man. To them, it is the word of God. What an honor for the Pope (or any person) to receive this most precious gift from them. His kiss was a show of respect and love for the Muslim people, not the Koran’s message itself.

My thoughts drift back to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Indy and his companions come to a very poor village where the people are starving. They are presented with food that would make most of our stomach’s turn. Still, when his companions are shy about eating, Indy urges them to eat anyway: the food offered is the equivalent to a week’s offering in the village.

Biblically, we can look at Luke 19:1-10 (among others) for guidance. Zacchaeus, though rich in possessions, realized the meaninglessness of hoarding his riches upon the arrival of Jesus. He gives half of his belongings to the poor, and pays back the extorted four times over. Upon seeing this, Jesus says: “Today salvation has come to this house, because he too is a son of Abraham. For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save the lost.”

Always look at the giver, and not the gift. Jesus looked at the former, and all Christians should follow his example. His blessed Pope John Paul II followed his way, knowing full well that his obedience to Christ would cause him to be smeared. May we all be as brave as him.

MISTER JOE:

Wow, Father Joe!!! What a master stroke of Spin Doctoring Genius you display in your defense of the Pope’s kissing of the abominable book. I think you should go to work for the Democratic Party and tow Clinton’s line, “It depends on what you mean by ‘is.’”

Do you even have the slightest idea what is written in that book? For that matter, did the Pope have the foggiest idea what is written in it? What I have read in it is nothing less than satanic and demonic.

If you are really interested in knowing what the Quran says, then you must learn the Arabic language, and then find an un-sanitized copy of the Quran (in the Arabic language) and read it for yourself. A friend, who was working in Saudi Arabia, brought back to the USA a Quran he had obtained from a mosque, after befriending a mullah.

However, I seriously doubt that you will indulge in such undertaking.

FATHER JOE: I have read the Koran. Make no mistake about it; the book is full of errors and fanciful stories. Have you read it? Interpretation of the Koran is difficult because of inconsistencies. Some argue that earlier texts for mercy or toleration are superseded or made void by the later more harsh statements. Pope Benedict received death threats when he charged the Islamic community with disavowing violence. Unfortunately, the Koran is the source for such sentiments as espoused by the so-called Moslem extremists. Pope John Paul never said he agreed with the book or that it was inspired. He offered no act of worship or submission to a false religion. In the interest of peace, he welcomed his visitors by humbly accepting that which they most cherished. The kiss was not one of adoration but as in the liturgy, a kiss of peace. We can pray that it may have a transformative effect for good.

SIBYL: The true sons (and daughters) of Abraham are those that believe Jesus is The Christ, Savior and LORD, The I AM…that He is the Model, The Ikon of Man, Husband, Friend, Brother. See Matthew 3:9, Luke 3:8, John 8, Acts 3 and 13, Romans 9, Galatians 3.

FATHER JOE: Then what about the Jews?

SIBYL: John Paul II made a grave error in kissing the book Mohammed wrote.

FATHER JOE: Such was a gesture of human respect, not divine worship. His guests knew that. There can be no doubt that the late Pope was a Catholic and not a Moslem. While you can disagree about an act of courtesy, it would be wrong to view this as a grave religious error. Your fundamentalism is showing. I am reminded of a Protestant iconoclast insisting that kissing statues and images is idolatry.

SIBYL: Moreover, the Roman Catholic Church Catechism’s # 841 is extremely dangerous and misleading.

FATHER JOE:

[CCC 841] The Church’s relationship with the Muslims. “The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind’s judge on the last day.” (Lumen Gentium 16)

There is nothing outside of God’s providence, even the sins and errors of men. God’s will cannot be circumvented. While this speaks to the plan of salvation, the rest merely takes the Moslems at their word. They believe in one God. Monotheism is a higher and truer form of religion than polytheism. This is a basic appreciation from the philosophy of God. They look upon Abraham as their father, as do the Jews and in a spiritual way, as do Christians. The Pope and the catechism never say that Islam is fully a true religion. Such can be said for Catholic Christianity and for Judaism. All that is good in Judaism is embraced by the Church. Salvation comes from the Jews.

Moslems believe that God the Creator is the one true God who must be adored. They also believe that God is merciful and the final judge of all. Their religion has many errors, but about these essential points, we are in agreement. Notice how short the statement is. There is much about which we disagree. However, you would not even allow this small fragment of concurrence.

SIBYL: Mohammedism is a perverse mixture of the worship of the goddess of Ishtar, Judaism, and Christianity. Mohammedism produces a malevolent, mendacious, misogynistic male, full of hate, lust, lies and death, domination, bondage, war. In fact, Mohammedism produces the anti-christ, the opposite of Christ, who is Love, Truth and Life, who gives freedom, joy, life and peace.

FATHER JOE: There are plenty of antichrists in Christian garb as well. Anyone who sins and who refuses to repent is opposed to Christ.

SIBYL: Mohammedism is a metastasizing political religious system that does not tolerate or abide anything but domination and submission to its dictums and dogmas. You shall know them by their fruit.

FATHER JOE: (I suspect that given style transitions, you are quoting something.) Yes, but we should not be quick to judge. Further, we should not scapegoat an entire people because of the sins of a few. Some would judge of all Catholicism by the sinful acts of sick priests or by the abuses of Catholics in history.

WILLIAM: I can’t understand what’s so controversial about this event; it was a beautiful gesture by a beautiful man. If anyone could be seen as a great Christian, I think it would be the late Pope John Paul II. May he rest in peace.

CHRISTINE: I now know why our churches have emptied. We are no longer strong.

SHUKOUR: I believed there is no such thing in the Koran as a directive to kill Jews.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, there are directives in the Koran for what is apparently murder, both toward the Jew and the Christian. Often castigated as infidels or idolaters, the language is that of intolerance. Reconciliation is only recommended if one’s Judaism or Christianity is renounced for Islam. Radical Islam stresses such passages as below and does not cower from using violence for its ends:

[2.191] And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out, and persecution is severer than slaughter, and do not fight with them at the Sacred Mosque until they fight with you in it, but if they do fight you, then slay them; such is the recompense of the unbelievers.

[3.28] Let not the believers take the unbelievers for friends rather than believers; and whoever does this, he shall have nothing of (the guardianship of) Allah, but you should guard yourselves against them, guarding carefully; and Allah makes you cautious of (retribution from) Himself; and to Allah is the eventual coming.

[3.85] And whoever desires a religion other than Islam, it shall not be accepted from him, and in the hereafter he shall be one of the losers.

[5.33-34] The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and His apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement, except those who repent before you have them in your power; so know that Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. (This literally means, convert or die! When Pope Benedict XVI recently recommended that world Islam denounce such violence, millions of protestors chanted and displayed signs, “Kill the Pope!”)

[8.12] When your Lord revealed to the angels: I am with you, therefore make firm those who believe. I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them.

[8.60] And prepare against them what force you can and horses tied at the frontier, to frighten thereby the enemy of Allah and your enemy and others besides them, whom you do not know (but) Allah knows them; and whatever thing you will spend in Allah’s way, it will be paid back to you fully and you shall not be dealt with unjustly.

[8.65] O Prophet! urge the believers to war; if there are twenty patient ones of you they shall overcome two hundred, and if there are a hundred of you they shall overcome a thousand of those who disbelieve, because they are a people who do not understand. (This is sometimes translated as, “The unbelievers are stupid; urge the Muslims to fight them.”)

[9.5] So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful.

[9.28] O you who believe! the idolaters are nothing but unclean, so they shall not approach the Sacred Mosque after this year; and if you fear poverty then Allah will enrich you out of His grace if He please; surely Allah is Knowing Wise.

[9.29] Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection.

[9.30] And the Jews say: Uzair is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away! (Literally this is interpreted as “The Jews and the Christians are perverts; fight them.”)

[9.123] O you who believe! fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness; and know that Allah is with those who guard (against evil).

[22.19-22] These are two adversaries who dispute about their Lord; then (as to) those who disbelieve, for them are cut out garments of fire, boiling water shall be poured over their heads. With it shall be melted what is in their bellies and (their) skins as well. And for them are whips of iron. Whenever they will desire to go forth from it, from grief, they shall be turned back into it, and taste the chastisement of burning. (Here torture against Jews and Christians is recommended.)

[47.4] So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoners, and afterwards either set them free as a favor or let them ransom (themselves) until the war terminates. That (shall be so); and if Allah had pleased He would certainly have exacted what is due from them, but that He may try some of you by means of others; and (as for) those who are slain in the way of Allah, He will by no means allow their deeds to perish. (This is sometimes translated as, “Do not hanker for peace with the infidels; behead them when you catch them.”)

SHUKOUR: Do you know that most of the prophets of Islam were Jews that include Jesus a.s., Moses a.s., etc.

FATHER JOE: No, I did not know that and the reason is simple, it is a lie. Moses and Jesus are embraced and reinterpreted by Islam, but they did not preach or teach the dictates of Islam. Islam was only founded by Muhammad in 622 AD. Although he argued that his was a restoration or purification of Judaism, historical research shows this contention cannot be sustained. Islam represented something new, although with many borrowed elements. Angered when Christian monks uncharitably expelled him as stupid from their community, Muhammad set off to create his own religion. He combined elements of the various tribal religions and their gods with that of the Jews and Christians. The majority of converts to Islam in its first days came from polytheistic tribal religions. A large number of deities were worshipped, including that of the moon and the goddess of the sun. Christians and Jews were initially invited into the movement, but Muhammad’s so-called revelations became increasingly antithetical to their beliefs and practices.

SHUKOUR: In the Koran, a chapter is devoted solely to Jesus a.s.’ mother, Mariam or Mary who happens to be Jewish.

FATHER JOE: Salvation comes from the Jews. Mary was a Jewish maiden. Muslims accept the Catholic teaching of her as a virgin giving birth to Jesus. However, despite the teachings of Christ and that of the apostles, they reject that he is both God and Savior. Jesus is much more than a prophet. He is the Way and the Truth and the Life. Muhammad could never get his head around the Trinity. Indeed, the Koran errs in its description of the Trinity as believed by Christians.

SHUKOUR: No mention of Muhammad s.a.w’s mother. We, Muslims should be angry that Muhamad s.a.w’s mother was not mentioned and considered to be the greatest mother and woman for Muslims to follow instead of Mary.

FATHER JOE: Muhammad was purported raised early on by a nurse. Halima. As a baby, Muhammad seemed to have epileptic seizures. It was feared that he was demon possessed. His mother took him back but then quickly died and he was passed off to his grandfather. Evidently, there is not much one can say about his mother. However, Muhammad had access to the Christian gospels. Luke especially, spoke a great deal about Mary. Such becomes a source text for Muhammad’s reworking.

SHUKOUR: But we Muslims accepted wholeheartedly and loved and revered Jesus a.s.’s mother to be followed especially in the concept of motherhood and the excellent characteristics of a woman accepted by God!

FATHER JOE: Yes and no, for while Muslims love and respect Mary to a certain degree, they would not understand her as the chief of the saints in offering intercession, and the full significance of the Catholic dogmas.

SHUKOUR: The Koran also mentioned that since Christians and Jews are peoples of the book; that we, Muslims, should engage them in the kindest manner and that Muslims should engage them in dialogues in a friendly manner.

FATHER JOE: Yes, there are places in the Koran where such sentiments are expressed. But then they are spoiled by sections espousing forced conversions and violence. Interpretation of the Koran is problematical. Since it is not consistent, some authorities argue that the later harsher stipulations overrule or abrogate the earlier statements for friendship. Unlike the Bible, where we see progressive revelation realized in Christ where the primitive harshness of the Old Testament is replaced with the admonition for love and mercy in the New, the Koran seems to grow more intolerant as Muhammad became increasingly frustrated and unsatisfied. Further, while as a priest I can show human respect to Muslims, Catholics neither believe that Muhammad was a prophet nor that the Koran was inspired or from God. This statement alone would earn a Christian (or Jew) imprisonment and maybe the death sentence in certain Islamic strongholds.

SHUKOUR: My dear friends, Muslims also revered Jesus a.s. and Muslim children were told fascinating stories about Jesus a.s., his birth, his mission etc.

FATHER JOE: Yes, and Christians would judge the refashioned stories as largely fiction.

SHUKOUR: Muslims revered Jesus a.s. second to Muhammad and the only difference with Christian belief is that Muslims believed that Jesus a.s. never dies on the cross but was taken up into heaven by God as God loved Jesus a.s. so much that he (God) did not want Jesus a.s. to suffer the torture.

FATHER JOE: Christians regard this as both as unsubstantiated and as blasphemous. We regard Muhammad as the founder of a new religion, but not as a prophet. Christians understand Jesus as a divine person with a complete human nature. Jesus suffers his passion and death as his great redemptive work to save us from our sins. Further, we believe that Jesus Christ conquered the grave by rising from the dead, ascending to the Father and now sits on his right hand, and that he sent his Holy Spirit to inspire and to protect his Church. Islam rejects the entire kerygma of salvation as understood by Catholics.

SHUKOUR: Muslims believe that Jesus a.s. is still in heaven and are eagerly waiting for him (Jesus a.s.) to return in order to bring peace in the “now troubled world” of ours.

FATHER JOE: Catholics believe that Jesus is in heaven but that as God he cannot be limited to heaven. We believe, as the true Scriptures and the sacred traditions of the Church teach; that he is present in the gathered assembly and Church; he is present in the Word proclaimed; he is present in his priests; and he is present in his sacraments and the Eucharist.

SHUKOUR: And also, Muslims do believe in the Bible brought by Jesus a.s. as words of God. It is believed as a holy book and is one of the cornerstones of the faith of Islam that include the Koran, Torah etc.

FATHER JOE: No, Muslims do not believe in the Bible. They approve of elements only. They place the authority of the Koran over that of the Bible.

SHUKOUR: That which is taught in the Bible, Torah, etc. is also contained in the Koran as a full guidance of a way of life approved by God!

FATHER JOE: There are purloined elements of the Bible in the Koran, as well as from the now defunct tribal religions which Muhammad encountered. However, the Koran rewrites, subtracts and adds to the biblical testimony.

SHUKOUR: My dear friends, I’m just sharing with you a bit about Islam, the Koran and about the Muslims so that we can avoid a misunderstanding.

FATHER JOE: I can well appreciate your effort, but from my perspective, and I say this respectfully, the misunderstanding is yours.

EYNAR: Is it so hard to understand? He was a real Muslim in his heart. To kiss the Koran is more than to accept it. So Christians, are you more clever and faithful than him? I really love him as a Muslim.

FATHER JOE: Really, it is not so hard to understand. There is no such thing as a “Muslim in his heart,” just a recognition by the Pope that the one God of Christians is the one God worshipped by Muslims. The Pope taught and lived the Catholic faith. His witness is part of the public record. As a Muslim you can love the late Pope. But while he also displayed human respect, he professed Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. He was the visible head of the Church established by Jesus. He believed in the Trinity, and thus that Jesus is divine and human.

CHUCK: I was fascinated with your collected, inspiring discussion and explanation of Christian teachings. My intent is to educate myself on the truths of Islam as my son has recently become fascinated with a young Muslim girl. I am torn by the impulse to protect him from becoming complacent in his religion in an effort to win her affection. On the other hand, he has been raised to love and accept all people. Although their relationship is still in its infancy, can you say something about serious relationships between a Muslim young woman with religious parents and a Christian young man with the same? Mind you that I have received advice from other Christians to “stop the relationship immediately.”

FATHER JOE: The Archdiocese of Washington tried to impose a moratorium on Catholic-Muslim weddings a number of years ago. Given that such marriages have an extremely high failure rate, as much as 90%, such relationships are very problematical. I would advise against such dating. Respecting practicing Muslims and having romantic relationships must be distinguished. The former is admirable, the latter is precarious. It is best not to allow such things to heat up. If the young lady wants to convert to Christianity that would change the dynamics in their favor; however, she might face alienation from her family. Indeed, in some countries a conversion of this sort could bring imprisonment, torture or even death.

JESSICA:

How can the “Vicar of Christ’s” actions be justified? The Quran, Surah 4:157 it states:

YUSUFALI: That they said (in boast), “We killed Christ Jesus the son of Mary, the Messenger of Allah”; but they killed him not, nor crucified him, but so it was made to appear to them, and those who differ therein are full of doubts, with no (certain) knowledge, but only conjecture to follow, for of a surety they killed him not.

He kissed a book that undermines all of Christianity. Without the Death and Resurrection of JESUS CHRIST there is no Christianity or Catholicism. Or for that matter no “Vicar of Christ.” And this was done by a man who claims to be infallible? And yes I do sound upset, because I was Catholic, I went through RCIA twice. Two times because I wanted to learn as much as I could before I agreed to accept the teachings of Catholicism. Given the history of the church, etc. there was a lot to accept. But John Paul II’s actions were…. I can understand him wanting to make peace with the Iraqi peoples, or stepping into a Mosque, even accepting a Quran. But kissing the Quran? No. And no I do not believe that he is Muslim, or accepted Islam. I believe he is Catholic. But he sinned. He went against GOD. The one question that I ask is WWJD?

FATHER JOE:

It seems that upon this question I must continually return to cover old ground. No Christian contests that the Koran is a non-Christian book which speaks against many of the tenets of our faith. Not only does it deny the redemptive work of Christ but also his divinity. Further, despite an inconsistency in its remarks, there are sections which disparage Christians and admit violence against them for purposes of conversion. It is quite clear from the late Pope’s books, letters and talks that he believed and taught the Christian kerygma. That is why there is silliness to such debates as this. The question that anti-Catholic fundamentalists and sedevacantist traditionalists ignore is this: Given that the Pope is a Christian, why did he kiss the book? It was no action of apostasy. Rather, it was a gesture of respect and benignity to his visitors and world Islam. Any legitimate answer brings us back to the fact that the Pope is both a religious leader and a head of state. Christians must seek to live in peace with the world’s one billion plus Muslims. What would you have had the Pope do, throw the book back into the faces of his guests? Would you have preferred that he spat upon it? While it may not be our custom, gifts are traditionally kissed. Men even kiss men in parts of the Middle East and Orient. Place yourself for a moment into the cultural setting of the Islamic representatives. The Koran signified their greatest treasure. It stood for them and their identity as a people. The Pope’s gesture said to them, that despite our differences and difficult past history, we love you and want to live in peace with you. The tactics of the past meant both adversity and bloodshed. What would Jesus do? While we can argue prudential actions, I think he would seek the same aims as the Holy Father. The Pope is the visible head of the Church and Christ is the invisible head. The Pope is the Vicar of Christ. What would Jesus do? I think that in the Pope we have already seen it. However, modern day Pharisees and scribes are aghast and filled with hypocritical rebuke and disdain. Just as Jesus was rejected by his own for association with tax collectors, sinners and gentiles; the Holy Father was slandered for reaching out to the great historical enemies of Christianity. As an aside, your comment confuses infallibility with impeccability. Within certain constraints, and regarding faith and morals, Popes are infallible but not necessarily sinless. The Popes even have priest confessors.

If you were a convert who has since left Catholicism, then you apparently could not think and believe with the mind of the Church on other matters, too. I will keep you in prayer that you might one day return to the safe harbor of faith… before it is too late. We know how you feel about the Koran, but I would urge you to read the writings of the late Pope and his successor. You might take special benefit from the Bible, particularly the Gospels, and the universal catechism. The latter work was promulgated under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II. Since you have spent time reading the Koran, you should at least spend a little time reading the Church’s books. It is funny in a way. You condemn the Pope for kissing the outside of a book while you evidently opened the Koran and read a portion of it. The latter was once an offense given that the Koran was on the Index of Forbidden Books. What would Jesus do? Jesus will never abandon (as you have) the Church that he founded.

Questions & Answers About Prayer, Fasting & Blessings

What is the prayer book from which priests and religious read?

Called the Liturgy of the Hours or the Breviary, it is one of the principal ways, along with the Mass, that the Church seeks to pray unceasingly throughout the world. Priests and religious use the Breviary as a staple in their prayer life. It is a form of prayer mandated for them and optional for the laity. It structures prayer during the day: Office of the Readings, Morning Prayer, Daytime Prayer, Evening Prayer, and Compline.

What constitutes this book?

It consists of Scripture lessons, readings from the Church fathers and saints, prayers composed by the Church, and most prominently, the psalms. The psalms are recited and chanted because they were the prayers Jesus would have known by heart and prayed daily. The psalms consecrate the Breviary as the prayer book of Christ. There are also hymns in the book. Several editions and translations exist. In the United States there is both an edited one volume and a complete four volume set.

What is the purpose?

It insures prayer and gives unity to the Church’s prayer all over the world. When used by priests, it allows them to imitate Christ in rendering constant intercession for the people.

What is the origin of the Angelus prayer?

Churches would call people to prayer three times a day by ringing the church bell. This was introduced by Pope Urban II in 1095 AD to invoke Mary’s protection upon the crusaders. After the conflict, it was retained as a special way to thank God three times a day for the blessings of redemption merited through Christ.

What is the Rosary?

What is it not? The Rosary is a collection of many prayers into one; and yet, it is a simple prayer, introduced by St. Dominic in the thirteenth century and highly approved by the Church. It is called the Rosary because it is composed of a series of beautiful prayers and meditations about the principal stages in Christ’s life, which are strung together one after the other like a garland, in other words, like so many beautiful and fragrant roses. Christ’s life is divided into the joyful, sorrowful, glorious and luminous mysteries.

Why do Catholics repeat the same prayers in the Rosary? Is it not vain repetition?

Is it vain repetition to breathe one breath after another? Does a lover ever tire of telling his beloved, “I love you”? No, there is nothing vain here. Like the angels who eternally praise God as “Holy, Holy, Holy,” we say certain holy prayers and praises over and over. The core prayer is the HAIL MARY, sandwiched between an OUR FATHER at the beginning of each decade and closed with a GLORY BE and an optional FATIMA ASPIRATION. There are five events recalled and meditated upon. The opening prayer is the APOSTLES’ CREED and after an OUR FATHER, three HAIL MARYs are said (for an increase of faith, hope, and charity). The Rosary concludes with the HAIL HOLY QUEEN.

Outside the Rosary, other prayers of importance for the Catholic would be the ACT OF CONTRITION, the REGINA CAELI (substituted for the Angelus during the Easter season), GRACE BEFORE & AFTER MEALS, the STATIONS OF THE CROSS, and various novenas and litanies, etc.

Why do Catholics also do things like fast?

Actually, there is far less of it than there used to be. Fasting and abstinence (avoiding meat) was once much more strictly regulated. Unfortunately, many people have misunderstood the change regarding Friday abstinence. It was not utterly revoked. Rather, one could substitute another form of penance or mortification. Many people either did not know this or simply failed to sacrifice something else. Catholics fast because Jesus fasted (Matthew 4:12). Indeed, he told us to fast (Matthew 1:16,18). Also, St. Paul fasted (2 Corinthians 4:10) and the other apostles did so too (2 Corinthians 6:5). Good people under both the old and the new dispensation have fasted as a sacrifice to God, to firm up their discipline, and to prolong their life (1 Corinthians 9:27).

Why do Catholics abstain from meat on the Fridays of Lent and are asked to render some similar penance on Fridays throughout the year?

It is not because meat is bad, but precisely because it is good. We abstain as a small sacrifice in remembrance of the death of our Lord on a Friday. Today, the Church requires that Catholics abstain from meat on Ash Wednesday and all Fridays of Lent. On Ash Wednesday and Good Friday, Catholics are both to abstain from meat and to fast.

What is a blessing?

It is a holy action whereby the priest invokes the divine blessing on persons or things, just as Jesus did when he blessed children, bread, fish, and other objects.

What does the Church bless through her ministers?

The Church blesses houses, fields, persons, and about any object that can benefit people.

Why does the Church use holy water?

It is a suitable substance, reminding us of our baptism and faith, to bless people and things. It is a wonderful symbol (sacramental) to wash us from venial sin and to protect us against the evil spirit.

When do Catholics use holy water?

Catholic Christians sign themselves with the water upon entering and leaving the church. They also use it at home: upon rising and retiring, before prayer time, upon going out, etc.

Why are people sometimes sprinkled with holy water at Mass?

It is because we should be cleansed and sanctified when we enter into God’s house and his abiding presence there. We also recall our baptism.

For more such material, contact me about getting my book, CATHOLIC QUESTIONS & ANSWERS.

Our Pro-Life Commitment

The Cemetery of the Innocents

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Here is a picture of me and the Knights of Columbus who set up 721 crosses that represent the children lost to abortion in one hour of one work day.  This MEMORIAL OF THE INNOCENTS was set up at Holy Family Church in Mitchellville in 2009 and every year since then.  We often have it up until the annual March for Life in Washington, DC.  We received a lot of support although there were a few complaints.  One lady argued against putting such a thing up at Christmas time.  I explained that Advent and Christmas was the perfect time.  During Advent we recall the Christ-child in the womb and on Christmas he is born.  We are reminded that every child is a reflection of the Christ-child.  Another person argued that it was insensitive as she was a pro-choice Catholic.  I told her that she was deceived.  There is no such thing as a pro-abortion Christian; abortion attacks the central mystery of the Incarnation.  Abortion is murder and as such it is a repudiation of Christ’s Gospel of Life.

One of my favorite memories is working with the American Life League back in 2005 and the CRUSADERS FOR LIFE.  Here is a reposting of the news around that event at my old parish, Holy Spirit Church:

A.L.L. Crusaders Come to Washington 2005

A dozen young people from colleges across the country walked from Augusta, Maine to Washington, DC in “Defense of the Catholic Church” and to spread the message that you cannot be Catholic and pro-abortion. Nevertheless, while many have applauded young people for taking up the “right to life” cause, this group of remarkable crusaders was purportedly banned from speaking in churches by several dioceses like Philadelphia and Baltimore.

Myself, Dr. Grier & a Crusader

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The American Life League ran a series of stinging ads challenging the American bishops to enforce canon law and to protect the Eucharist from sacrilege when pro-abortion politicians and others (who have made such “public” stands) take it upon themselves to receive Holy Communion. The young people have shown no spite or anger, only sadness that some of the nation’s shepherds have chosen to remain on the sidelines. One priest remarked that the ads in protest were so severe that the American Life League owed the leaders of the Church an apology. However, others thought that these good men should at least have shown the same respect and hospitality to the young marchers for life as they have in the past to the high profile anti-life politicians. While they were able to find lodging in the city, they attended 9:00 AM Mass at Holy Spirit Church on Friday, July 30 and were invited to say a few words afterwards. I contacted the archdiocese’s Pro-Life Office several weeks earlier about the matter to insure a level of approbation and to insure proper discretion.  (Although the ads pained him, to his credit, Cardinal McCarrick did not formally forbid the young people to speak in his churches. Throughout, nothing the young people said violated the archdiocese’s rules against participation in partisan politics– they did not name politicians by name, did not tell people for whom they should vote, and spoke with respect in regard to the Church’s shepherds.)  Following the celebration, a reception was held in the Parish House were the young people had a hearty breakfast and got to meet parishioners. Also in attendance was SK Reginald Grier, a parishioner, a fourth degree Knight of Columbus and volunteer member of the archdiocesan Office for Black Catholics. John Stakem, a Knight of Columbus from St. Pius X Council, and past parishioner was present, too. John Stakem and Joseph Markauskas were long-time pro-life volunteers and were involved with the local pregnancy center. Joe and Betty Markauskas had even offered to give the young people housing while in town. We were very pleased that the director for the Forestville Pregnancy Center was present, Chyllene McLaughlin, along with her assistant. We wanted to communicate to these young people that they were not alone. Holy Spirit Parish, the Knights of Columbus, and the Pregnancy Center in the larger pro-life community, was very much behind them.

ALL Crusaders at Holy Spirit Parish

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May God bless them for their sacrifices and may their witness bear fruit.

DISCUSSION

FRANK:  News releases indicate that the Church after Vatican II had converted the Kennedys and other Catholic politicians into believing that the liberal backing of the culture of death is acceptable.

FATHER JOE:  What news releases were these? Cite them; I would like to read further. As far as I recall, John Kennedy was chastised by churchmen for his liberal response about how little his faith would inform his work as president. As for the other Kennedys and the issue of abortion, I fail to see how Vatican II can be blamed for their pro-abortion stances. I have read and studied all the Vatican II documents and post-conciliar documents. Nothing comes to mind that would condone such thinking against the Gospel of Life. Are we throwing mud again? Give me specifics, please.

FRANK:  Having attended the seminaries after Vatican II where the divinity of Christ was challenged, as well as the papacy, and all that was to be infallible before the “Catholic reformation” of 1962-1965; what is your take on recent developments and the continued blasphemies to this day condoned by the Church where the USCCB still can’t come to a consensus to deny our Lord to baby-killing Catholic politicians?

FATHER JOE:

Certainly there was a heightened stress upon the humanity of Christ in many theological schools after Vatican II. However, I do not recall ever being taught that Jesus was not a divine Person.

Fr. Patrick Granfield taught my class on the papacy at Catholic University and his lectures defended the Holy Father’s authority with a great deal of explanation.

Those things that were changed were not deemed infallible but rather mutable accidentals. This thinking was even shared by Pope Pius XII prior to Vatican II on matters like the prehistoric generation of human beings and the liturgy.

A revision of the liturgy was in the working stages going back to the 1930′s and 40′s. The reformed liturgy we have now has lasted a few decades and will probably remain for many more, although with the old liturgy alongside and with continuing adaptations by the Holy See. We have had to suffer the experimental phase, but Pope Benedict XVI said that such has come to an end.

As for the passivity of churchmen in reference to Holy Communion and the standing of pro-abortion politicians, such is also not attributable to Vatican II. The Church has gone through periods in the past where it was the lackey for parliaments, kings and queens. The Popes made clear statements from the 1600′s onward that slavery was detestable and should be abandoned. However, Catholics owned slaves in the colonies and later in the United States of America. The Jesuit landowners of Maryland had slaves. Bishops were often mute on the subject, except for admonishing their baptism in the faith. Dissent is not something new but something very old.

PADRE XYZ: 

Father Joe, Your welcome to the pro-life young people did not go unnoticed. I know it cost you personally.  I think you can be rude and you definitely lack tact, but it did take some nerve to stand virtually alone and make the challenge against silence or business as usual.  You honestly shared your heart to the bishops and your brother priests.

You asked…

Would you give communion to Nazis who promoted the murder of Jews?

Would you give communion to White Supremacists who incited the lynching of Blacks?

Why should we prize the life in the womb any less or their murders as somehow less grievous?

Silence befell all the big guns. You lost a lot of friends that day. If you had career hopes in the church, they were suddenly shattered. Hushed and whispered voices were the only response, “How do we shut this priest up?”

You became an embarrassment. I could not do what you did. You angered a lot of people. You took a promise of obedience and you were reprimanded for your slight as an act of betrayal. Some of us witnessed it, although you were left unnamed.

You changed after that, became quiet, even sullen. It was as if something died in you. You gained weight.

I know you were disappointed in me. But to be frank, I was afraid. Who are we to question the shepherds over us? What happens if we tell the majority of Catholic politicians they are no longer welcome at the altar?

Take care of yourself.

FATHER JOE:  I was going to erase this comment. I still might. If you are who I think you are, email me. Peace!

(I am not really brave.  I speak my mind and I love the Church.  When all is said and done, I do as I am told.  I am the Church’s man.  Some would contend that I am too conservative or right wing.  But how can we be too committed to the Gospel of Life?  Every day I work to control my temper.  As long as I can remember, I have been very passionate about our faith and its values.  Am I ambitious?  Like most priests, it is nice to know that one is appreciated and that one’s talents are acknowledged.  However, by comparison to most priests that I know, my rating would be very low.  It is not false humility but the truth when I say that I count myself as the least of my brothers.  As for the bishops, it must be a frightful responsibility they carry.  Who would want it?  They are criticized from every side.  It is easy for us to judge, but we do not walk in their shoes.  Pray for priests and pray, especially for our bishops.  They are Christ’s apostles in the world today.)

DR:  I nominated you for a pro-life blog award (FATHER JOE Blog).

JOHN:  Fr. Joe, abortion is murder. These babies can’t speak for themselves. Other bishops have stood up and said priests should not give communion to pro-choice politicians as they have the power to stop the murder (Bishop Burke-former bishop of St. Louis archdiocese and Bishop Finn of Kansas City diocese, for instance.) I’m glad priests like you and Fr. Frank Pavone speak out on this issue. It’s a serious matter and it should be treated as such. Thanks for all you do.

LENBER:

“President Bush has had a very cozy relationship with the Vatican, and set a presidential record by meeting with the Pope six times.”

Very cozy indeed, sometimes for the good, and at other times for utterly and criminally contra-productive [things], such as siding with Bush in Criminal Wars (for the Vatican just Abortion is a Crime) or siding with Israel on their Criminal Occupation of Palestine.

All Thanks to Vatican II Double Crossers.

FATHER JOE:  I am not sure I would coin the Bush Doctrine or International efforts in such negative terms. However, as for the Pope, you seem to be terribly deceived. The Vatican opposed the invasion of Iraq. Tarek Aziz (the former president) was a Catholic. He made a retreat in Rome and saw the Pope (John Paul II) the week prior to the invasion. The state of Israel is also not entirely happy that the Vatican, again and again, sides with Palestinians (who are largely Islamic but include an ancient Christian community). Formal recognition and diplomatic ties were held up because of Vatican concerns for the Palestinian people. The late Arafat, at the end of his life, remarked that he saw the Vatican as his ally in the conflict for Palestinian rights. Zionism was condemned by both the UN and by the Church. Arafat used to attend the Christmas Mass in Bethlehem with his wife (who is a Christian). The Catholic Church is no one’s stooge, not for Bush and not for Israel. The Holy Father (both JPII and BXVI) has spoken to President Bush, (he meets a lot of people) and they share much in regard to the unborn, however on matters like the Middle East and capital punishment, there is a great divide.

MICHAEL:

Tomorrow marks the 36th anniversary of Roe v. Wade.

Think of the millions of lives that were snuffed out in this “free” country.

May God have mercy on us!

GENUS LILIUM:

I am completely against abortions. I have children and I have learned that some vaccinations are grown off of human diploid cells from aborted fetal tissue, not to mention all the other chemicals, heavy metals, and animal products. That seems like it might be a problem to me. Now that I know this, would it be wrong for me to continue to vaccinate my children? Is it just a money scheme? I really don’t want that stuff in my kids.