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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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A DISCUSSION: About Purgatory, Peter and the Church

Recently I entered into a heated discussion with Dennis on an assortment of topics.  He is very negative to the Catholic faith.  PLEASE NOTE that it is an apologetical dialogue that might make some readers uncomfortable.

DENNIS:

Purgatory is a myth. Peter was Jewish so how could he be the first pope? I am no longer going to the catholic church because it is all symbolism over substance. It will be a pope (HOLY FATHER, WHAT A JOKE!) who will be the antichrist or at least be very supportive. I joined the catholic church before getting married 29 years ago and I told my wife (who is catholic) that many things the church did were wrong. After many years she agrees and my daughter has taken religious courses that prove the evils that exist.

FATHER JOE:

In the course of God’s progressive revelation to his people, the Jews had come to believe in both an afterlife and that atonement could be made for the dead. Jesus speaks about the afterlife drawing from the analogy of a debtor’s prison where none could be released until the last penny was paid. While the passion and death of Christ makes possible our redemption, he desires that we have both a saving personal faith in him and a corporate faith as members of his new People of God, the Church. Purgation is a sign of God’s gracious mercy. We must be transformed by grace and made perfect for heaven. If we belong to God, then he will finish what is started in this world. The saints of purgatory are all destined for heaven. As they approach the fire of God’s love, that eternal flame burns away the last vestiges of sin and vice. Temporal punishment is appeased and we are made truly holy. Such is no more a myth than our abiding faith that our Lord has gone ahead of us and that he prepares a place in heaven for his children.

The first called by Jesus were the Hebrew people. Salvation comes from the Jews. The apostles were all Jewish and yet at the Last Supper our Lord instituted both the priesthood and the Eucharist. Just as there are Semitic Catholics today, Peter was both Jewish and visible head of Christ’s Church, the Catholic Church. The Jews became the first Catholics.

You probably never really understood your Catholic faith to really know what you were rejecting. Did you ever sit down with a priest and ask your questions? Did you take advantage of adult faith formation in your parish? The odds are that you did not. There is no conflict between sacred signs and a faith of real substance. The problem is that you may never have known where to look for that substance or the meat of faith.

The Pope or Holy Father has even written a personal reflection on the life of Christ, now in two volumes. He preaches and witnesses to our Lord. Be careful of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. If God does protect Pope Benedict XVI and the faith and morals he teaches, then you slander not men but God. Only ignorant men filled with hatred would call the Pope by the demonic name of “antichrist.” Be careful that the joke is not on you.

You did not have to join the Catholic Church to get married in the Church. The fact that you entered a Church in which you placed no faith is tragic. It says nothing against the Church but volumes about your own lack of integrity and discretion. Why would you lie and say you believed when you did not? You should have shared your reservations then and withheld your prejudiced venom now.

I suspect that you undermined your wife’s weak faith and now delight that your child has also been stolen from the Church. Am I supposed to take these remarks seriously? I challenge you to bring your family to a strong parish-run Catholic instruction program. Bring your questions to the priest. You assume many things and there are plenty of misguided ministers ready to steer you away from Catholicism… not with a positive message of their own, but with a negative message against the Roman Catholic Church. They build themselves up by tearing others down. My Church preaches love, not hate.

DENNIS:

You tell me I assume many things. What about you? You assume I undermined my wife’s faith. You assume that her faith is weak when she has more faith than anyone. You assume that I am delighted that my daughter has been stolen from the church. WRONG! …AND BESIDES SHE IS HERE TO FOLLOW CHRIST not the church. I will never believe in purgatory no matter how persuasive your arguments. If Peter was pope, which I do not believe, then his successors should have been married like him. Perhaps then all this sick disgusting behavior would never have occurred? I will say no more, but I never personally attacked you like you have me. Some of your responses to others seem almost hateful. Trust me; I have done plenty of researching to draw the conclusions that I have. Stop thinking you are the only one with truths. Thanks for your time.

FATHER JOE:

Your assumptions about Catholicism are not coherently argued. You are working from a prejudiced view of the faith, not as one who is truly informed.

As for myself, mine is a faith seeking understanding. Catholics do not accept a blind faith that is at war with reason. We seek to know the truth from all the pertinent sources: the authority of the Church, the Sacred Scriptures, Sacred Tradition, philosophical and theological inquiry, dialoguing with other disciplines of learning, etc.

If your wife abandoned her religion in light of your postured conversion, it is only reasonable to assume that you undermined her Catholic faith. Indeed, you take delight that you have had a part in your family’s defection. I am sorry if you think I am rude but I find what you did to be reprehensible and dishonest.

Catholics regard our relationship with Jesus Christ to be intimately bound to our union with the Church. Our Lord makes himself and his saving activity present through the sacraments of the Church. Defection from the faith means a certain level of estrangement from our Lord, although as in your wife’s case, it might not be absolute. Only God is the ultimate judge as to whether such actions will cost people their salvation.

Peter was the first Pope, although the title was only used later. Being married or not married is beside the point. You would condemn celibate priests as well as chaste single people. Not everyone gets married. Some choose not to do so, like Catholic clergy, and others never meet the person with whom they want to settle down. Our Lord Jesus never married. The beloved apostle John never married. St. Paul never married. The Pope’s line of apostolic succession runs from both St. Peter and St. Paul, although the universal primacy passes down from St. Peter. You equate not being married with perversion and the child predator. You are a very sick and bigoted man. Why are you so angry? Why would you condemn the virginity of the Pope and so many priests? Yes, there have been a few criminals, but there are many of these among married men, too— even Protestant ministers.

I have not sought to be hateful, only truthful. Your allegations are in themselves of the most vulgar sort. It is hard to make proper responses to such bigoted allegations and ignorance. I suppose you would judge any response, as hateful. Part of the problem may be that you have neither the intellectual nor the spiritual tools to discuss such matters calmly and reasonably. That is one of the reasons why I suggested that you contact your local priest and maybe enter the continuing religious formation program. You should at least understand what you are rejecting.

Research has to go further than Chick comics and the ravings of anti-Catholic apologists who hate the Church. If you have nothing to fear, then go to the source… and speak and act with humility.

DENNIS:

I would love to talk to you personally and see if you would call me such things to my face. God have mercy on you for being so judgmental and hateful.

FATHER JOE:

You are upset with me? Listen, you come to “my” blog and assert the following:

  1. You bluntly stated that Purgatory is a myth.
  2. You illogically argued that Peter was Jewish and thus could not be Pope.
  3. You ridiculed the Catholic Church as placing symbolism over substance.
  4. You mocked the Pope, saying his title “HOLY Father” is a joke.
  5. You fall for the fundamentalist lie that the Pope is the antichrist.
  6. You joined the Catholic Church to marry your wife but never believed in what it taught (where is integrity?).
  7. You taught your wife and daughter that the Church was evil and so they defected with you.
  8. You will never believe in Purgatory no matter what sensible arguments I and others might make.

Either on the Internet or at my door I would tell you the same. I am not being mean to you, only truthful. Sorry if the truth hurts.

DENNIS:

It is not the truth that hurts. What hurts are the many lies the catholic church has told. I am glad I found out in time. Find out about things that go on inside the vatican: statue of Buddha placed on an alter; giving those of the wiccan faith a room to worship; the upside down cross that is satanic. I only want to leave a church. I am not leaving CHRIST. It is only HIS grace that can save us. The church was not built on peter but Christ. “The Rock the builders rejected became the cornerstone.”

Jesus told the criminal on the cross, “Amen I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” Jesus did not say anything about purgatory. I asked a priest about this and basically he said he defied the odds. I only laughed at this.

Only Jesus is HOLY not the pope.

Praying with people who practice witchcraft, worship Buddha, making the Nazi sign with Hitler, kissing the Quran… are these not signs of antichrist?

I married my wife because of love. Since then we have learned that many things the church teaches are lies. Have you never believed something at one time and then found out it was not what you thought?

You state I taught my wife and daughter these things. My daughter learned many of these things at university here in Canada. We still believe STRONGLY in JESUS CHRIST.

My non-belief in purgatory has nothing to do with salvation. It is only by GOD’S GRACE that we are saved. Acceptance of CHRIST as your savior is the only way to eternal life.

The catholic church has collected plenty of money over the years for saying masses for “SOULS IN PURGATORY.” If there is no purgatory then this money will be a testimony against it at the time of judgment. Great pastors and preachers like BILLY GRAHAM, DAVID JEREMIAH, CHARLES STANLEY, I could name many more, (hardly a list of wackos), do not preach about or believe in purgatory.
So the truth does not hurt at all, it sets one free.

FATHER JOE:

Say what you like, you are still running away from the truth (about yourself). I am a Catholic priest, but while convinced of the Church’s claims, I have studied the writings of the Reformers directly and as objectively as possible. I disagree with many of the views of the Protestant churches, but I have never pretended to be a Protestant. I would also not want to build my Church up by tearing down the religious beliefs of others. Christians of various denominations can find points of concurrence and work together for a more loving and just society. Not all non-Catholics are anti-Catholics. But you would fit the profile of a bigot against the Catholic Church. You classify Church teachings as lies. You even gloat about your prejudice. And, like so many of your ilk, you get basic facts wrong.

Someone wrongly placed a small Buddha statue on an altar during the Assisi Ecumenical Conference (not Vatican) back in 1986. Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Benedict XVI) was furious about the mistake.

I have no idea what the Wiccan reference is about. Such paganism is in direct conflict with Catholic teaching and worship. Indeed, several years ago there was an incident where Wiccans insisted on using a military chapel for their services. The U.S. Government cannot play favorites regarding the faith practices of uniformed men and women. The military code of conduct required that the Wiccans keep their clothes on. Afterwards, the Catholic priest and several Protestant ministers offered prayers and ritual to spiritually exorcise or cleanse the room and altar-table.

The so-called upside down cross is not satanic. It is the ancient symbol for the first Pope, Peter. Tradition has it that he was crucified upon an inverted cross. He requested it, not feeling worthy to die like his Lord.

I cannot know your conscience, and only God can judge you, but in my estimation, defection from the Church is a departure from Christ.

Christ is indeed the cornerstone of the Church, but Peter remains KEPHAS or ROCK. He says he will build his Church upon him and after his resurrection, he heals him with the threefold admonition to his question, “Do you love me?” Jesus says: FEED MY LAMBS; TAKE CARE OF MY SHEEP; and FEED MY SHEEP.

As for purgatory and the good thief, you are being silly. Temporal punishment can be remitted by earthly penance and endurance of suffering. Given that he had faith in our Lord and was repentant, dying on a cross next to Jesus must assuredly count for something. Our Lord promises a place with him in paradise. As for ourselves, even if we must pass through purgation, we are also promised a place in his mansion of joy.

All holiness belongs properly to God. But God can extend his presence and make us saints. We can be transformed by the mysterious holiness of God. We can apply the word HOLY to the Pope and to all who have a share in the eternal life of Christ.

You fault the Church for an errant ecumenism which the universal Church and Pope Benedict would not condone. Each can worship as his conscience dictates, but we would not blend the Christian dispensation into a mix with those outside the Judeo-Christian tradition. There can be separate acts of prayer, communal dialogue and debate, a cooperative exploration of the truth and a partnership in making a better world. But Catholics do not practice witchcraft, worship Buddha or any of the Hindu deities. National Socialism, along with Communism, was condemned by the popes, even prior to World War II. You hate the late Pope for kissing a Koran as a sign of human respect to the one billion plus Moslems in the world, well, then so be it. But you are chasing ghosts because everyone knows that the Pope places his faith in Jesus and not in Islam or Mohammad. Indeed, when Pope Benedict XVI urged Moslems to disavow violence as a means to bring about conversion, millions chanted, “Kill the Pope!” It seems that you might have more in common with these fanatics than the Holy Father. If the Pope is truly the Vicar of Christ and you oppose and ridicule him, would this not make you an antichrist?

I am glad you married your wife because of love. I became a priest because of love. However, I always tried to act honestly and from conviction. My entire life is dedicated to God’s service, loving God by ministering to his people. While a teacher, I am also a perpetual student. We can disagree about various points, but I do not see lies when I examine Catholicism. As a matter of fact, I would not accuse Protestant churches of lies, either. There are many good Protestant churchmen who study and teach and work with honesty and professionalism. You would not extend such words of courtesy to the Pope or to a lowly priest and pastor like me.

I am glad you still believe strongly in Jesus Christ. That may be the one element we share. The doctrine of purgatory is a facet of soteriology. We must be made perfect. The elect want to be made perfect. Everything is grace. We are redeemed, given faith and perfected by grace. We cannot save ourselves. Prayers for the dead are literally our way of adding our breath to that divine fire which purifies us like the gold in the furnace. In the end there will only be two realities, heaven and hell. Jesus is the way and the truth and the life. There is no other way to the Father. This is basic Catholic teaching 101.

The stipends for Masses are gifts to the priest. At one time they were the only resources he had to live upon. But the priest will apply the fruits of his Mass even without remuneration for the effort. Ultimately, the sacraments are free. The priest is duty-bound to pray for his people, living and dead. It will be upon that, that he will be judged.

I can give you a long list of popes, bishops, priests, deacons and laity who accept and teach about purgatory. Looking at your list, did you know that Billy Graham has said that the Catholic Gospel is the same as his? Did you know that he contacts the local Catholic churches when he does revivals and sends Catholics who answer the altar call to Catholic churches? Did you know that he has shared his pulpit with Catholic clergy? Evidently he does not see the doctrine of purgatory as an impediment in witnessing the faith alongside Catholics. Do you really think that your venom would please him? I would not be surprised that you turn on him now, like so many other Fundamentalist bigots have chosen to do.

Sometimes the truth does hurt. You say it does not. But that is the problem, it is supposed to hurt. The freedom that we know demanded the great “hurt” of the cross. Our Lord invites us to take up our crosses and follow him.

DENNIS:

I can no longer see any point in discussing things with someone who continues to assume so much about me.

FATHER JOE:

I assume nothing; you come out and reveal what you are about to us all.

DENNIS:

As for BILLY GRAHAM, sharing the pulpit with catholics does not mean he believes in purgatory.

FATHER JOE:

But it does mean that he sees no problem with such a belief and views Catholicism as a saving Christian faith.

DENNIS:

By accepting JESUS as our savior he enters us and lives HIS life through us.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, by accepting Jesus, we enter into his life and are transformed.  There is a two-fold movement.  We accept the redemptive intervention of Christ.  We believe in the infusion of divine grace.  We believe that Jesus enters us through the gift of Holy Communion.  Jesus became a man (coming to us) that we might have a share in his divine and eternal life (entering into the divine mystery).  You do not believe in such a transformation or becoming a new creation in Christ.  Those who reject purgatory tend to subscribe to the Lutheran view of juridical imputation.  This has been labeled by one critic as salvation by disguise.  We must enter into and make our own the mystery of Christ.  Christianity is an incarnational religion.  Christ lives in us.  We must give birth to Christ’s presence, proclamation and activity through our lives. 

DENNIS:

We are cleansed by the blood he shed for us.

FATHER JOE:

His blood makes possible the remission of sins.

DENNIS:

But basically you are saying that is not enough and that we need purgatory.

FATHER JOE:

No, you are saying that, Catholic teaching sees no conflict in the redemptive work of Jesus with purgatory. Our Lord makes possible our approach to God and our entry into heaven. We must still participate and accept his gift. Souls that belong to God but are not yet perfected, endure purgation as they approach heaven. Not all souls pass through purgatory.

DENNIS:

Purgatory therefore is a higher trump card than CHRIST.

FATHER JOE:

Purgatory is no trump card at all. Souls that pass through purgation are all headed toward heaven.

DENNIS:

As for the pope, he is the head of the catholic church, not all Christianity.

FATHER JOE:

The Catholic Church is the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church. All true Christians are in some fashion, even if tenuously, attached to this Church. In that sense, Catholicism is the purest form and the true Christianity.

DENNIS:

As for calling me silly about the criminal, fine if you want to resort to name calling, but this is an issue I prayed about and this is where God directed me, but as you have little respect for me you probably won’t believe me.

FATHER JOE:

I did not call you a “criminal.” Using the word, I was referring to the few misbehaving priests. What you said (about the good thief) was silly. And please be honest, you never had any respect for me from the very beginning. How could you, since you regard the pope as the antichrist and me as one of his minions. What do I think about you personally? I do not think I actually shared much of anything about that, except for a deep disappointment. You pray, and that is good. Prayer is certainly positive, but remember the posture of humility and the need to feed your faith with truth.

DENNIS:

Also I will repeat, just because I don’t want to attend the catholic church anymore does not mean a defection from Christ.

FATHER JOE:

Only you can know this in your own conscience. As for me, any departure from the Church would constitute turning my back on Jesus.

DENNIS:

Also I will credit you with teaching what you believe, it is just that I do not believe some of the catholic teachings and have moved on.

FATHER JOE:

That is fine, but remember this is my blog, and I have a right to express my faith here. I also get the last word.

DENNIS:

You say yourself there are only two realities, heaven and hell. I guess with purgatory no one will see hell.

FATHER JOE:

Why would you say this? The existence of hell is also Catholic doctrine. Once again, here is a statement that proves to me that you really do not understand Catholic teaching. Traditional Catholic eschatology is very clear. Some souls go straight to heaven (forever). Some souls go straight to hell (forever). Some souls go to heaven but pass through purgation (so that they can be perfect in heaven). Souls in purgatory have been forgiven. Like those in heaven, they have been washed in the blood of the Lamb. All souls in purgatory will go to heaven. When the end comes and the final consummation, there will be two realities, heaven and hell. Purgatory will cease to exist.

DENNIS:

Again, thanks for your time. The many things that you have assumed about me certainly do not demonstrate love. To call someone a bigot is HORRIBLE. I would never refer to someone this way even if I thought that way about them.

FATHER JOE:

You cannot have it both ways. You insult the Pope as the antichrist and imply that Catholicism is involved with witchcraft and false religion. I am a priest; mock and malign the Pope and the Church and you impugn me as well. I call it as I see it. I speak the hard truth in love. Yes, Dennis you are an anti-Catholic bigot. You might love Jesus but you have amply shown that you hate his Church. I am spiritually married to that Church and have given up wife and family to serve God with a single-hearted love. You probably feel that I have wasted my life. You have no love and no desire for priests or the sacrifice of the Mass in your life. I became a priest to offer the Mass for the living and the dead. I became a priest, so that like St. Paul, who was an ambassador for Christ and a minister of reconciliation, that I might bring our Lord’s forgiveness of sins to the lives of God’s people. This is not my job. This is my identity and vocation. But I guess I am talking to the wind. You are too far gone to understand. As you said, you have moved on. I will pray for you. Maybe one day you will wake up, and even if you do not come home to the Church, maybe you will again see that good Catholics are your Christian brothers and sisters? Enough said!

35 Responses

  1. peter brann you might not enter a protestant blog, but i think my coming here and reading you say that –shows me what wonderful men the Roman church produces and really makes me reconsider my own beliefs.

  2. To God be the glory. I hope that all the discussed topics here can benefit us all. We will just pray for the unbelievers. After all at the end of time God will say; “What you have done to the least of my brothers, you have done it to me.”

  3. Unlike Joe, I KNOW where I’m going.

    FATHER JOE: I deleted your half-dozen comments where you linked anti-Catholic sites. You actually get your religion from hateful CHICK tracts? I get mine from the Word of God and the living Church. And I know where I am going… maybe you should not be so presumptuous?

  4. Dear Fr Joe,

    I was brought up to believe that there were 4 possibilities after death, viz: Heaven, Hell, Purgatory and Limbo.
    Limbo was a concept, perhaps a little like the Jewish idea of shoel (rather than gehenna), and the nuns had difficulty explaining it to us as children, but it was where the little babies went who were not baptised after they died, and possibly goodly Protestants too. Almost all Roman Catholics would have to spend an eternity (!) in Purgatory and if enough prayers were said for our suffering souls and enough Masses offered up for us, and especially if a thoughtful family member happened on the magic formula on the Feast of All Souls, then that wretched and sinful soul would enter Heaven.

    Most Popes would probably use the ‘get out of goal card’ and go straight there.

    I can see it now as a sort of bizarre attempt to rationalise and explain that which remains, to a large extent, a mystery and one that is very much in God’s Hands (if He does in fact have hands at all!)

    But it is possibly from these naive at best and deceptive at worst exponents of description that our antagonists gain much ammunition.

    Just why anyone who did not share the beliefs of The Catholic Church would want to come onto a site like this and rant and rave about our false beliefs, trying, unsuccessfully, to defend their position by citing scripture without really knowing scripture, is way beyond my understanding. What is their motivation? Is it that, in reality, they are attracted to the One True Faith, but lack the courage to make the transition, or are they angry at God and want to score some sort of point against Him? I have never read anything from one of these detractors who has genuinely tried to convert us, Catholics, to what they see as the correct religion, rather they have just wanted to try to destroy something that is, without doubt, the One True Way.

    I came to this site some time ago with doubts and fears and uncertainities, but I have gradually grown in Faith and really get a tremendous amount from the forthright wisdom of your teaching, Fr Joe.
    And it is a real education to witness just how you deal with the silly rubbish of those who think they are being intellectually superior when they misquote scripture around such as; “calling anyone ‘father'”, and other even more vicious attacks around us ‘worshipping Mary’ and such twaddle.

    The last thing I would ever be attracted to doing would be to enter a Protestant blog, say, and condemn them for their inaccuracies, and even, say, their actively homosexual members. And I would certainly fight shy of entering an Islamic site, should one exist, and slandering the Prophet, lest I get a fatwah declared on me and I end up dead under Blackfriars Bridge!

    So, just what is it that generates so much vitriol and hatred and gives these very odd people the energy to read through all this stuff and try to rip it to shreds? It’s certainly beyond me. But as for purgatory, I tend to agree with your explanation, rather than the frightening picture painted by those nuns some 60 years ago, when they said that it was just like Hell but it would eventually end. I see it now as a process of purgation so that, only in perfection may I then be admitted into the rapture that is my heavenly home. It makes perfect sense to me now, and it might be even a sort of life review, a judgement process where I’m required to visit past episodes in my life where I’ve wounded others.

    Anyway, the possibility of purgatory is such a small aspect of being a practising Catholic as to be almost an aside to the reality that every day, if I so wish, I can attend Holy Mass and witness the enactment, not only of the Last Supper where He gave Himself to His Apostles, in His humanity, but also His death and His resurrection so that, as I become a partaker in that Sacrifice, I may enjoy that gift of salvation that Jesus gave to each of us should we choose to accept it.

    Time, as we know it and as it affects our mortal bodies, will cease to exist after I’m dead, and assuming it is before the Second Coming and The End of the World, which is most probable, I will have to face The Lamb before the Thrown. Don’t anyone try to tell me that, will not be an event of purgaton in itself. I, that which is me, with all of my past sins resting heavily on my soul will have to face the most beautiful entity that could ever exist, and stand before that which gave up His life that I might be with Him in eternity. It is just too conceited for anyone to suggest that there will be no purgation in that most just process, and I do not need to see it written down in black and white, in the Holy Bible to believe it. And if I’m wrong, so be it, but I will just ignore any angry sanctimoneous numpty telling me that I am wrong just because they have some sort of better understanding of scripture than me.

    So there!

    With love, as always, Paul.

    FATHER JOE:

    Limbo was a theological construct from the Scholastics and tried to find a medium between divine justice and mercy. I have a lot of respect for what they tried to do. They sought in creation the answer to a question which was not clearly answered to their satisfaction in Scripture. The philosophers argued that our natural end was happiness. The believer finds this happiness in union with God. They theorized that those who died before the age of reason without baptism might be preserved from the great loss of hell. Certainly, they were judged as not liability to the pain of the senses or the fires of hell. The definition of limbo insisted that they would not see God but live in natural happiness. This was compared to the happiness of the primordial Garden, albeit with an important difference, that Adam and Eve had a special and intimate relationship with God, at least until it was forfeited. The trouble with the Limbo teaching is that there is little in the way of support from the Bible or the early Church tradition. A number of the early Church fathers struggled with this question and argued that such children would suffer hell, although somehow mitigated from the punishment of those who were true enemies of God. In Thomas Hardy’s fictional story of Tess of the d’Urbervilles, or at least in the theatrical film, there is a poignant scene where the minister refuses to allow her illegitimate child to be buried in the church cemetery, given that the child was not baptized and thus in hell. Weeping, she finds a place in the fields where she opens the earth with her hands to bury her baby. Catholics, even prior to Vatican II, had a hard time with the notion that a good God would condemn any child. We stressed the urgency of baptism. Today, we insist upon remembering God’s goodness and entrust the little ones, including the aborted, to the mysterious and loving care of God. We were made for God. A purely natural happiness would eventually fail to satisfy. Limbo was a theory that entered many of the catechisms of the past. It was our best guess at the time. A number of orthodox theologians still argue that it may be the case, but their numbers are much diminished after the release of the current universal catechism.

    As for Purgatory, there never were any magical formulas. Rather, the Church offered indulgences in regard to the distribution of graces. Such still required a faith lived out through worship, penance and prayer. As you acknowledged, there was a lot of poor or simplistic catechesis. There is no “Get out of Jail” card as in Monopoly. Indulgences only function if a person is in a state of grace. Purification must be completed and the appeasement of temporal punishment must be satisfied. Purgatory is still very much a part of Catholic teaching. It is the basis for all prayer for the dead.

    Our antagonists have problems enough of their own than to be worried about Catholics. Limbo was a wonderful demonstration of a reasoned faith. Many Protestant groups treat faith and reason as entirely distinct preoccupations. They dismiss and fail to correlate the truths of science and philosophy with religion. They are the ones who make faith into a target for ridicule as something that is irrational and either harshly set in stone or entirely relative. Certain Protestant fundamentalist hardliners would condemn the unbaptized as damned, along with the entire population of billion-plus “papists,” another billion Moslems, and then all those who follow Eastern religions or no religion at all. Theirs is a world where almost everyone is destined for perdition. Others might allow the children entry, but more so than not, they view justification in a juridical way without any real spiritual advancement. “Repent and call upon the name of Jesus” and they would label you as SAVED. They do not pray for the dead because if you are not saved then you are in hell, making prayer worthless. Very few of these thinkers would posit that everyone is translated into heaven; although, today a more secular Christianity might suffer under this type of false universalism.

  5. wow……..one has to wonder why anyone so vehemently opposed to the Catholic Church would want to “waste their time” by finding and commenting on a priest’s blog/website?It seems that any rational human being with a love for Christ,or even simple human decency would,at the very least,have respect for another’s views or,at the most,find something more constructive to do with their time.I am very sure that when these folks turned their computers on,that this site did not take over control of their browser and force them to read Fr. Joe’s views all day.I also suspect that renegade catholics have never broken down their front doors,held a gun to their heads,and forced them to say the rosary,either,lol.If one really hates the church and what she stands for,that is sadly their right,we in the church will pray for them.But if these folks really have found so much “love for jesus”in their protestant churches,one can certainly not tell it by their words.

  6. Dear Fr Joe,

    If people only knew and realised the politics involved in the formation of the KJV version of The Bible, and the manipulation of certain translated words to satisfy the needs of King James they would, perhaps, see that all versions of Holy Scripture are far from pure as would be the implication in Nancy’s heartfelt rant. And that a man could decide to remove certain portions of the whole because he did not like them as Luther did and the Protestant church accepts is tantamount to creating a false religion.

    Nancy, my father killed himself, he was a Catholic, and was under severe mental strain. He struggled to balance the teachings of The Church with his actions, as we all do, but his sin was very serious. It was not the Church, or the false teachings of the church as you say that caused him to kill himself, it was a combination of his appropriate guilt and a serious mental illness.

    I was educated, from the age of 4 till I was 11, by the nuns of the order of La Sainte Union, and they managed to help me achieve a pass in the exam that enabled me to go on to 8 years in secondary school run by The Irish Christian Brothers. I have received a very good education.

    Some of those nuns were nasty people, some of those Brothers were nasty people, most were very ordinary and just a few were motivated purely by the Love of God. The Catholic Church never abused me, but some criminals, claiming to be members of a religious order did do exactly that. If you look around you, you will see it everywhere; in state run childrens homes, secular orphanages and even special schools. A few menbers of any organisation will seccumb to Satan’s demands and commit terrible deeds. This has never been accepted by My Church, but sadly, my Church has not done enough to stamp it out in the past.
    Only now is it making the whip and driving out the evil from the temple.

    I have used these last few years of my life to look more closely to the teachings of the Catholic Church and the teachings of Jesus as written down in the Bible. I am also reminded that St John says that if everything that Jesus taught was to be written down then there would not be enough books in the whole world to contain it. From that I understand that The Bible is not a complete instruction book but a sound foundation for further work and growth. I have looked very closely at all that you condemn us for, and it, I’m sad to say, is words of straw, just as Luther claimed were the works of James and for that reason alone he wanted to exclude the Book of James from the KJV. He was successfully persuaded not to do that, but he did have his way on many other books. There is not one single doctrine or dogma of my chusch that is not Biblical, and as for the ‘not going to Mass on a Sunday meaning that you go to Hell…..well perhaps it does. The commandmants given to Moses and accepted by the three main global religions as the Word of God clearly state: “Keep Holy the Sabbath”. The Jews were sticklers for this, they had many prohibitions for the Sabbath, and even challenged Jesus and His Apostles for ‘Working on a Sabbath’ We simply comply with with the Word of God as written in Holy Scripture and keep the Sabbath Holy by hearing Mass and resting from servile works……..I just leave the judgement part of it to God.

    And from a therapeutic perspective if nothing else, the tender love and acceptance I have received from a Catholic Priest in Confession has been great help……people pay psychologists hundreds of dollars to try to get that and yet God, through His Priests gives it for free……give it a try, it will cost you nothing, but perhaps dint your pride a little. Jesus told his apostles to do exactly what you claim He didn’t. I can’t understand you………..it’s written in the Bible should you look for it, and The Catholic Church follows the Book of Instructions to the letter.

    I was angry for a long time, and that was a necessary part of my journey through this vale of tears, but I had to let it go in the end and just accept the truth. The Catholic Church really is The True Church of Jesus Christ, and of that I have no doubt.

    With Love, Paul

  7. Hey Padre,

    Show me in the TRUE Bible, the King James Version, which states that your Catholic religion is the true religion.

    Show me in the Bible where it says the Virgin Mary was born without original sin.

    Show me why Catholics must confess their sins at least once a year to a priest who is also a sinner (most whom are THE biggest sinners by abusing young boys).

    Is it not true that Jesus died for our sins on the cross? True? Then why confess to another sinner when the job has already been done? Forgiveness of one’s sins is between the Christian & the Lord, true?

    You’re preaching false doctrine and I feel sorry for the gullible followers of your religion. It’s a shame that you Catholics give your primary attention to the Virgin Mary and glorify all these “miracles” she has done, as well as all your saints. Would that not be an abomination of the first commandment? Worshipping false idols? God did not create anyone to be more powerful than Him, so it’s all a bunch of bunk that a saint keeps you a safe driver, helps you in hopeless cases, helps you find things you misplaced, etc.

    I saw all of this when I was growing up with a Catholic mother that grew up and remained a very unhappy person from all the expectations your false religion imposed on her…if you eat meat on Friday, you go to hell; …if you don’t go to church every Sunday, you go to hell.

    I’m not blaming you personally for ruining my mother’s life and her eventually taking her own life. I’m blaming your religion and the false teachings that you pound into the heads of Catholics. The expectations that were thrown at my mother are what made her not want to live and take her own life over 11 years ago.

    The few times I saw my mother happy were when I brought her to a worship service at my Lutheran church. I prayed that she would be a member of my church, but thanks to the guilt your religion pounded into her head, it never happened.

    Shame on your religion! Shame on the false doctrine you preach! Shame on you, for living better than the parishioners that put money in your collection plate!

    I could go on more about the false teachings you are proud to preach, but my sugar and blood pressure are through the roof right now just thinking of the mental harm you have given to your followers. Shame on all of you priests and nuns… and thanks for all the beatings the nuns gave me.

    Nancy T

    FATHER JOE:

    On whose authority is the KJV more authoritative than any other bible? Whatever translation you use, a degree of trust is being placed in the translators and the ecclesial community or church which sponsors it. The Bible was not composed in English. Are you saying that divine inspiration was showered upon the English bishops who promoted their Bible, a text which originally included the Catholic books, but was eventually sanitized and censored for Anglican and Protestant tastes? In any case, no accurately translated and interpreted bible says anything that threatens Catholic claims.

    The “show me” arguments are among the silliest. Lutherans believe in the Trinity, show me where in the Bible this word is used! You can’t, because it is not there. Similarly, by inference and a living tradition, Catholics teach the doctrine of the Immaculate Conception, and many other truths as well. Mary is acclaimed as the most favored daughter or “full of grace” (Luke 1:28). We also read in Luke 1:47 the Magnificat from Mary’s own lips, “and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior.” Remember, that Jesus had not yet been born, and yet, she acknowledges that he is already her Savior. Just as Christ’s saving power touches us forward in history through faith and baptism, his redemptive Cross reaches back a few years and touches Mary at the very first moment of her life. The All Holy One would come into the world through a sinless vessel.

    Most priests are good and holy men and so your association of the priestly ministry with a few sick criminals is unwarranted and demonstrative of poor character. Every priest admits that he is the first sinner in his community, and yet, he has been configured by Christ and authorized by the Church to bring God’s mercy into people’s lives. The precept about confession once a year (if one is in mortal sin) is merely an attempt to encourage our people not to take sin lightly. Hopefully, penitents would take greater advantage of the sacrament of Reconciliation. Christ gave such authority to his Church so that his ministry might be extended through time and place. Paul speaks about how just such a ministry of reconciliation has been given them (2 Corinthians 5:18). Christ gave his Church the power to bind and loose (Matthew 18:18). Priests and bishops are the successors of the apostles, the ones to whom Jesus said, “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven. If you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:23).

    The whole basis for all the sacraments is the Paschal Mystery: the passion, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ. Jesus’ death on the Cross is the central redemptive act. Catholics believe this is true, but unlike you, we do not believe it is an act locked into past history. It is made present to us today so that we might encounter Christ and his saving mystery. We are all redeemed, but we live in the HOPE of our ultimate salvation. A person can refuse this great gift. Christians cannot argue the “once saved, always saved” business and then simply do what they want. We are called to faithful discipleship and, if we should sin, we should turn to repentance and the confession of sin. If things were as you say, they would run in conflict with the ministry of reconciliation given by our Lord and clearly practiced in the New Testament. Our sins dishonor God and hurt ourselves, but they also damage our relationship with one another, particularly in the Church or Mystical Body of Christ. You need not only a personal relationship with Christ but a corporate one in the new People of God or the Church that he established. Although our Lord makes the institution of this Church very clear, certain Protestants treat the Church as merely a place of fellowship which can make no demands upon them. This view falsifies Scripture and the witness of the first Christians.

    Are you still Lutheran? If you are then I bet you worship on Sunday, if you go to Church, that is. The Seventh-day Adventists argue that the Sabbath commanded in the Ten Commandments is exclusively Saturday. Because of this they chastise Protestants for following the lead of the Catholic Church which claims authority to place the gravity on the Sunday observance. So it seems that you accept some degree of Catholic authority; what we are arguing about here is how much? As for Mary, she is loved and venerated but she is not given divine worship. The saints are intercessors, just as we can pray for one another, but the power behind all miracles and the sacraments of the Church is Almighty God. There is no violation about the prohibition of false gods. Such an attack upon the Church regarding this issue stems from a deep-seated anti-Catholic bigotry and ignorance. The quaint custom of intercessory prayer to St. Jude to find lost items is hardly a doctrinal matter at all. Thanks are given to God and we honor his saints. We want an intimate relationship with the communion of saints. We hope to be counted in their number.

    I doubt you can honestly blame the Catholic Church for your mother’s unhappiness. People do not kill themselves merely because they are asked to abstain from meat on Fridays, and since the 1960’s the juridical disciplines have been largely limited to Lent. Further, while hell is a real reality, Catholics place great trust in God’s merciful love. We do not preach hell, but grace, faith and salvation.

    Catholic teachings have given hope and solace to many believers. It is not a religion of despair. Hopefully your mother knew this. God forbid that your detraction of the Church damaged this meaning of Catholic faith in her life. The Good News preached in the Catholic Church is that God loves us and wants to share his life and joy with us. It may be that your mother suffered mental and emotional distress that got the best of her. Such was not induced by Catholicism, but by a harsh world and human weakness. It is my prayer that our Lord and his blessed Mother would not have forsaken her, even though her life ended by her own hand. We leave judgment to God and trust in his mercy.

    The admission of guilt makes possible contrition or sorrow for sin. It echoes John the Baptizer’s cry, “Repent and believe!” You are wrong to assault the Catholic religion or to fault the Church for your mother’s plight. You cannot displace any guilt you personally feel upon the Church. Indeed, it seems to me that you are in need of spiritual healing and maybe forgiveness. Let the anger go before it poisons your life and faith. You did not really come here to debate religion put to strike out. You are hurting and so you focus upon the Church. I will add you and your needs to my prayers.

    The shame you spout is not on me or the Catholic faith, but with those who would malign the Church instituted by Christ. The Church speaks for those who have no voice of their own. The Catholic Church is an advocate for the poor, the oppressed and the unborn. You bear false witness against the Church and dishonor your mother’s memory. I suspect she remained with the Church not because of fear but because this was her home and she loved the Lord and his community of believers. I suspect you are angry because she did not join your faith community and seek salvation according to fundamentalist rules. Suicide aside, given that your mother died a Catholic, do you think she is with Jesus now? We leave such matters to God, but it has been my experience that anti-Catholic fundamentalists are far less tolerant and more judgmental than Catholics.

    Take your medicine and watch your sugar levels and blood pressure. As for the good nuns, they suffered much to take care of kids who were often very disobedient and unthankful. The good sisters built character and saved many souls. No, they were not perfect, but I am still amazed that critics can speak badly about a tiny nun teaching a class of fifty plus children as if she were a gladiator with a ruler. They kept discipline with their spiritual and moral authority. They worked long hours, ate little or poor food, made no money and did everything out of love. Well, these women who embraced sacrifice are quickly disappearing from the world. I suppose that will make you happy. But the world will be poorer for it.

    Father Joe

  8. Dennis said “Only Jesus is HOLY not the pope”…

    Does this statement imply that NO ONE can ever be holy?

    Woud Jesus be so unfair as to ask us to do something that is no possible to be achieved? I am talking about this passage:

    Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. Matthew 5:48

    Protestants presume that our sinfulness cannot be overcome… St John says

    No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.

    May God Bless you!

    Helen

  9. JV: father koe, your argumentation is absolutely baseless… nowhere in the bible telling us that there is an purgatory…

    FATHER JOE:

    If there were no substance to the arguments here then I would not post them. Further, the teachings defended are not simply my views but the teachings of Christ’s Church. This gives them a level of certitude and importance beyond what an ignorant anti-Catholic critic might contend.

    Scriptures which speak to the question of Purgatory and/or purgation:

    Matthew 5:26, 18:34; Luke 12:58-59 – Making an analogy for judgment to a debtor’s prison, we are told that we will not be released until we have paid “the last penny.”

    Matthew 5:48 – The Catholic view of justification is not the same as the Protestant view. Martin Luther espoused juridical imputation. However, Catholics hold the more Scriptural position of transformation or spiritual perfection. If not completed in this world then it must be completed in the next.

    Matthew 12:32 – Our Lord extends mercy but says that blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will neither be forgiven in this world “or in the next.” Such forgiveness implied here for venial sins is unnecessary in heaven and impossible in hell, so there must be a state of purgation.

    Luke 12:47-48 – Our Lord’s reference to either light or heavy beatings in the judgment immediately suggest purgation. Those in hell are alienated from God. Those in heaven know only joy.

    Luke 16:19-31 – We often suppose that the rich man was in hell and that the beggar Lazarus was in heaven. In truth, given that Christ opens the gates of heaven, the abode of Abraham into which Lazarus found himself may have been the Limbo of the Fathers (which no longer exists). The rich man was worried about his brothers and such compassion could not exist in hell. It is thought that the parable found him suffering in Purgatory.

    1 Corinthians 15:29-30 – This notion of “baptized for the dead” is neither explained nor given weight in St. Paul’s teaching; however, he cites it as evidence of faith in the resurrection. I would suggest that it reflects the desire of new Christians to intercede and pray for the salvation of friends and family who died without hearing and receiving the preaching of the Gospel. Just as all their sins are forgiven in baptism; they pray that their deceased loved ones will benefit from their intercession for them. We pray for those in Purgatory and our orations have value in the sight of God. Those in Heaven do not need our prayers and those in Hell are not disposed to benefit from them. Similar to 2 Maccabees 12:44-45, it was a venerable tradition of the Jews to pray for the dead. Christians would do likewise.

    Philippians 2:10 – The damned of hell would not submit or pay homage to God. If every knee must bend to our Lord, in heaven, on earth and “under the earth,” this last abode must be purgatory.

    2 Timothy 1:16-18 – Imploring mercy for the dead Onesiphorus “on that day” (the consummation and/or divine judgment) places the figure in purgation; anywhere else would not make sense.

    Hebrews 12:14 – Only that which is perfected and holy can come into the presence of God. What God begins, he finishes (even after death).

    Hebrews 12:23 – We are promised that the spirits of the just will be “made perfect.”

    1 Peter 3:19; 4:6 – Some have argued that these spirits were fallen angels, but why would our Lord waste his time preaching to the damned? Others have made reference to the Limbo of the Fathers, called hell in the Apostles’ Creed, but not the hell of the damned. However, it is strongly argued by various apologists that these souls who “had once been disobedient” might not be those in purgatory.

    Revelation 21:4 – Although those suffering mourning, tears and pain are usually regarded as those suffering in this world, some have argued that it also refers to those in purgatory. All tears will be wiped away and God’s children will know endless joy.

    Revelation 21:27 – Nothing “unclean” can enter heaven. Without purgatory, even those suffering from venial sins and the mere habit or attraction to sin would be cast into hell. Purgatory is the great gift of God’s mercy.

    Luke 23:43 – Protestants might point to the good thief as evidence that there is no purgation. But the argument fails on several counts. First, our Lord might have meant the Limbo of the Fathers (righteous dead) to which he would descend. Second, the experience of time after death is probably not the same given that we are separated from our bodies. Third, it is likely that the thief’s suffering on the cross (along with his profession of faith in Christ) sufficed for any purgation he might need in the life to come.

    Genesis 50:10 – “When they arrived at Goren-ha-atad, which is beyond the Jordan, they held there a very great and solemn memorial service; and Joseph observed seven days of mourning for his father.” Jews in Egypt prayed for the dead.

    Numbers 20:29 – “When Moses and Eleazar came down from the mountain, all the community understood that Aaron had passed away; and for thirty days the whole house of Israel mourned him.” Even from the earliest days, Jews offered prayer and ceremonial mourning for the dead. Such orations would speed the dead to God.

    Deuteronomy 34:8 – “For thirty days the Israelites wept for Moses in the plains of Moab, till they had completed the period of grief and mourning for Moses.” Why have such extended prayers if they were to no avail? Just like Catholics, they sought expiation and purification for the dead.

    Baruch 3:4 – “LORD Almighty, God of Israel, hear the prayer of Israel’s few, the sons of those who sinned against you; they did not heed the voice of the LORD, their God, and the evils cling to us.” Supplication is made for the living and the dead.

    Zechariah 9:9-11 – “Rejoice heartily, O daughter Zion, shout for joy, O daughter Jerusalem! See, your king shall come to you; a just savior is he, Meek, and riding on an ass, on a colt, the foal of an ass. He shall banish the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem; The warrior’s bow shall be banished, and he shall proclaim peace to the nations. His dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth. As for you, for the blood of your covenant with me, I will bring forth your prisoners from the dungeon.” We have here a prophecy regarding the Messiah. Their prayer will be heard the captives of the grave will be freed.

    2 Maccabees 12:43-45 – Not part of the edited or censored bible of Martin Luther and Protestantism, prayers are offered for the dead so that they might be freed from sin and given the gift of heaven.

    While the fire of hell is one of torment, the fire of purgatory is for purgation or perfection. There are many references to the consuming fire of divine love: Hebrews 12:29; 1 Corinthians 3:10-15, 17; 1 Peter 1:6-7; Jude 1:23; Revelation 3:18-19; Daniel 12:10; Wisdom 3:5-6; Sirach 2:5; Zechariah 13:8-9; and Malachi 3:2-3.

    JV: and nowhere in the bible telling us that peter became pope of catholic…

    FATHER JOE: There is ample evidence that our Lord made Peter the chief of his apostles. The early Church and the Catholic Church were one and the same. The word “pope” is simply a variation on his title as a spiritual “father” to the community. Our Lord gave him the keys of the kingdom and called him rock, saying that upon this rock he would build his Church. After the resurrection, Jesus healed Peter and commanded him to feed and care for his flock. Peter and his successors continue to do this. Peter is still with us and his name is Pope Benedict XVI. I have written posts about this before. Look up the citations.

    JV: infact the roman empire murdered a lot of early christians including the apostles….

    FATHER JOE: Yes, and the names of some of these early Catholic Christian martyrs are even in the Roman Canon of the Mass.

    JV: peter was crucified by roman empire which now vatican…

    FATHER JOE: Peter, the first Pope, is martyred by pagan Rome on an inverted cross. That is why the placing of the Vatican is so very important. The pagan Roman empire fell but the Church endured to this very day— praise God!

    JV: now how could peter became first pope of catholic?

    FATHER JOE: How could he not be? Christians converted their enemies with love and forgiveness. The persecuted religion eventually became the religion of a new empire. When even that empire fell, the Church survived. Earthly kingdoms come and go, but the Catholic Church spans the centuries. Such must represent a special protection of the Holy Spirit.

    JV: your wrong and you misleading the people… all the teaching of catholic is unbiblically sounds….

    FATHER JOE: No, the errors are yours. But your complaining is so pathetic I doubt it does much harm to true believers. The Catholic Church is the Mother of the Bible. She has nothing to fear from God’s Word. Stop parroting the ignorance of bigoted anti-Catholics. You are placing yourself on a precarious road.

  10. Father Joe to the rescue

    In my experience, anti-catholics are the most ignorant of Church doctrine and the early Church.
    Most of them have not heard of the Church fathers.
    If they have they would find how they support and agree with the doctrines of the Catholic Church.
    There are over 29,000 registered Protestant denominations and only one Catholic Church.
    The fundamentalist and Evangeliocal denonimations are the most embarrsasing. Remember, they believe that the world is 6,000 years old, and that dinosaurs and humans walked together. Not only are they ignorant on the history of Christianity, but they are ignorant of basic science as well.
    Most Evangelicals and fundamentalists, when shown thye truth can’t help but not believe you.
    After all, logic is not their strong point.

    And worst of all, they are proud to be igorant.
    What a disgrace to human lo9gic and reason.

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