• Our Blogger

    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

  • The blog header depicts an important and yet mis-understood New Testament scene, Jesus flogging the money-changers out of the temple. I selected it because the faith that gives us consolation can also make us very uncomfortable. Both Divine Mercy and Divine Justice meet in Jesus. Priests are ministers of reconciliation, but never at the cost of truth. In or out of season, we must be courageous in preaching and living out the Gospel of Life. The title of my blog is a play on words, not Flogger Priest but Blogger Priest.

  • Archives

  • Categories

  • Recent Posts

  • Recent Comments

    David Ortiz on Ask a Priest
    Emily on Ask a Priest
    Anonymous on Ask a Priest
    Marisa on Ask a Priest
    Susan Hammaker on Ask a Priest

Purgatory, Religious Life (Nuns) & the Pope

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

Catholics propose many things not supported in the Scriptures, like Purgatory, Nuns and the Pope. It is a serious sin to add to the Bible. Moving to the matter of the Pope, he is a man who takes upon himself the honor which belongs to God alone. People do not need the Pope to know the will of God. The testimony of Scripture is that the Holy Spirit guides each believer to all truth. All anyone needs is a bible and the Holy Spirit. The papacy has no special commission to teach; it is the pathetic attempt of the blind leading the blind. Disaster awaits them all. Catholics should abandon this man-made system which prevents them from personally knowing Jesus and being saved. Turning to Purgatory, it is purportedly a place where sins are purified after death. However, the Bible says that Jesus does this. Our fate is sealed with death– heaven or hell– nothing more.

[Not to add to the Bible] Add nothing to his words, lest he reprove you, and you be exposed as a deceiver (Proverbs 30:6).

[Regarding the absence of the Catholic Purgatory] Hence, now there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus (Romans 8:1). Just as it is appointed that human beings die once, and after this judgment, so also Christ, offered once to take away the sins of many, will appear as second time, not to take away sin but to bring salvation to those who eagerly await him (Hebrews 9:27-28).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

The citation of Proverbs contends that we must not add anything to God’s revelation; taken in the strict sense of the fundamentalist, it would logically mean that everything written (including Scripture?) after the fifth century B.C. (the date of this book’s composition) is inauthentic. Not being very rational, even with their own principles, they will deny and run away from such a position. The Catholic Church adds nothing that alters the substantial message of salvation; indeed, she validates much that the anti-Catholic would steal from God’s hands. While religious life is mentioned, fundamentalist anti-Catholics are never clear about what is wrong with consecrated life. Having spoken about the Pope elsewhere, I will not add much here. The Scriptural and historical evidence is abundantly clear that the Papacy was an institution finding its roots in the significant mission given St. Peter by Jesus, himself. Even the Orthodox churches, who are not in union with the Holy See, view the Pope as the first among equals. As for Purgatory, I fail to see how the Bible texts quoted say anything to challenge this doctrine of faith. The soul in Purgatory is destined for heaven. Jesus has indeed rescued him from the death of sin. However, since we believe that justification is not so much imputation as it is transformation, the soul must be perfected and purified before entry into heaven. The fire of God’s love itself burns away the residue of selfishness to which we cling. Temporal punishment for sin is paid and the little sins which plagued us, as well as evil habits or vices, are eradicated and we are healed. Often Purgatory has been compared to a prison, but it might better be likened to a hospital. Indeed, if Purgatory is the hospital of the afterlife, then hell is the cemetery for dead souls, who have forfeited the divine life, clung to mortal sin, and hate both God and man. The Catholic citation of 2 Maccabees brings another issue to the forefront, the deletion of a book of the Bible by Protestant reformers. Of course, it still shows the orthodox mindset of the Jews regarding prayer for the dead and what Jesus would have held as one who acknowledged by words and then by his own person, the resurrection.

[Expiation for the dead] Judas rallied his army and went to the city of Adullam. As the week was ending, they purified themselves according to custom and kept the sabbath there. On the following day, since the task had now become urgent, Judas and his men went to gather up the bodies of the slain and bury them with their kinsmen in their ancestral tombs. But under the tunic of each of the dead they found amulets sacred to the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids the Jews to wear. So it was clear to all that this was why these men had been slain. They all therefore praised the ways of the Lord, the just judge who brings to life the things that are hidden. Turning to supplication, they prayed that the sinful deed might be fully blotted out. The noble Judas warned the soldiers to keep themselves free from sin, for they had seen with their own eyes what had happened because of the sin of those who had fallen. He then took up a collection among all his soldiers, amounting to two thousand silver drachmas, which he sent to Jerusalem to provide for an expiatory sacrifice. In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the fallen to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin (2 Maccabees 12:38-46).

[Clear implication that there is forgiveness of sins in the next life] “And whoever speaks a word against the Son of Man, it shall be forgiven him; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit, it will not be forgiven him, either in this world or in the world to come” (Matthew 12:32).

[Must be made perfect before entering heaven] The treasure and wealth of nations will be brought there, but nothing unclean will enter it, nor any[one] who does abominable things or tells lies. Only those will enter whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life (Revelation 21:26-27).

Mary is Called the Mother of God

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

Mary is only the mother of the mortal or human Jesus, not God. Jesus, as God, pre-exists, even before creation (note John 1:1). God has no beginning– no mother.

He allowed himself “for a little while” to be “made lower than the angels,” that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:9).

If Mary was actually God’s mother— giving birth to God himself— she would be God:

You are my witnesses, says the Lord, my servants whom I have chosen to know and believe in me and understand that it is I. Before me no god was formed, and after me there shall be none (Isaiah 43:10).

Your throne stands firm from of old; you are from everlasting, Lord (Psalm 93:2).

But you, Bethlehem-Ephrathah, too small to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel; whose origin is from of old, from ancient times (Micah 5:1).

Who [Christ Jesus], though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance … (Philippians 2:6-7).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

The anti-Catholic who made this argument against the title Mother of God did not do his homework. He failed to properly define the title; he failed to appreciate the Catholic position regarding Christ as divine; and he fell into an ancient heresy against the identity of Christ. It is a perfect example of the old cliché, “Those who do not know the past are doomed to repeat it.” A response is problematical, because it is hard to take such a stab against Catholic faith regarding Mary seriously. Catholic school children could see the holes here. The heresy espoused here is known as Nestorianism after Bishop Nestorius who rejected the term Theotokos or God-bearer (Mother of God) for Mary. He argued that she was only the bearer or mother of Christ’s human nature. To his credit, Nestorius was concerned that the title was too similar to that which had belonged to goddesses, like Isis, Demeter and Hera as “mother of the gods.” Ultimately, what was at stake was more than an honor for Mary. The real issue was who is Jesus? Yes, he was God and yes, he was a man. However, the position of Nestorius tended to divide Jesus into two sons. The unity of Christ was endangered. Never did the title Mother of God imply that she was divine or a goddess. Mary was and always will be purely a human creature. This is the Catholic position. The title Mother of God does not have ontological properties regarding her identity. Christ is the pre-existent Logos, the Word, and author of life. This is the Catholic understanding, often lost in the drivel of ignorant and bigoted anti-Catholics. According to Roman usage, the title Mother of God represents a particular form of speech known as communicatio idiomata– the communication or exchange of idioms. Another example would be the expression that in Jesus, “God died on the cross.” Obviously, as a perfect Spirit, God as God cannot die. However, because of the inseparable identity of Christ as the God-Man, his death by virtue of his human nature can be ascribed to him according to his ultimate identity– the Son of God. Similarly, while the Lord only takes his human nature from Mary, she, like all mothers, is the mother of the whole identity of her child. The only difference is that her child happens to be God. The anti-Catholic posits a metaphysical meaning to the title Mother of God which the Catholic Church had never given it. This title protects the unity between the divine and human natures of Christ, one divine person.

Elizabeth’s greeting:

“And how have I deserved that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:43).  {See also John 2:1; 19:25; Matthew 13:55}

Unity in Christ:

For in him dwells the whole fullness of the deity bodily … (Colossians 2:9).

Mary Remained a Perpetual Virgin

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

The critic argues that Mary and Joseph had children, the brothers and sisters of Jesus.

“‘Is not this the carpenter’s son? Is not his mother called Mary, and his brethren James and Joseph and Simon and Jude? And his sisters, are they not all with us? Then where did he get all this?’” (Matthew 13:55-56).

“‘Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, Joses, Jude, and Simon? And are not also his sisters here with us?’ And they took offense at him” (Mark 6:3).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

Mathew’s quoted text itself intimates that the people speaking do not know what they are talking about. They cannot fathom where Jesus has received his special authority and wisdom; indeed, by designating him as “the carpenter’s son,” they are even in the dark about his virgin birth as the incarnate Son of God. If they can be wrong about St. Joseph being the biological father of Jesus, then a cursory reading of these Scriptures may lead us into a similar error regarding Mary and the other family members. Note that they are listed as kin to Christ, cousins perhaps? Nothing more can be certainly determined from the Oriental custom of calling all such, “brothers and sisters.” Not once is Mary called “their” mother. Actually, the phrasing is quite careful to separate Mary, as the mother of Jesus, from these other brethren. Another point of interest is that Jesus on the Cross entrusts Mary to his apostle John, rather than to these kin. If they were actually half brothers and sisters, such would have been understood as a great insult to the family. It just was not done. Another point of correction is the presence of Mary as the beloved matriarch of the early Church. She was protected and cherished by the believing community. This same family of faith, who knew Mary so intimately, would transmit as part of our living sacred tradition the truth that Mary remained a perpetual virgin. Also, such virginity was befitting the dignity of Jesus Christ as the unique God-Man and Savior. Looking at the Scriptural citations, there are certain practical problems to the use of these bible passages in the anti-Catholic’s arsenal. Look at the names of the brethren here; Mark 15:40 informs us that James the younger and Joses (Joseph) were the sons of another Mary who was related to the Virgin Mary. As for the others, they may have been cousins, or if a second century work entitled The Protevangelium of James is to be trusted, the children of Joseph from a previous marriage. The image of a widower would collaborate the tradition that Joseph was much older than Mary. Such a view was also supported by other ancient authorities: Origen, Eusebius, Gregory of Nyssa, and Epiphanius. St. Jerome, knowledgeable in Latin, Greek, and Hebrew, argued that they were cousins. He asserted that Mary (a sister to the Virgin Mary?), the wife of Clopas (also known as Alphaeus), was the actual mother of the brothers and sisters of Christ.

Two of the brethren of Christ are listed as children of another Mary:

And some women were also there, looking on from a distance. Among them were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses (Joseph), and Salome. They used to accompany him and minister to him when he was in Galilee — besides many other women who had come with him to Jerusalem (Mark 15:40-41).

Semitic usage of brother and sister applied also to nephews, nieces, cousins, and others:

He recovered all the possessions, besides bringing back his kinsman [BROTHER] Lot and his possessions, along with the women and the other captives (Genesis 14:16).

Laban said to him: “Should you serve me for nothing just because you are a relative [BROTHER] of mine?” (Genesis 29:15).

Then Moses summoned Mishael and Elzaphan, the sons of Aaron’s uncle Uzziel, with the order, “Come, remove your kinsmen [BROTHERS] from the sanctuary and carry them to a place outside the camp” (Leviticus 10:4).

Mary & Tradition: Offensive to God?

Recently, I was shockingly dismayed by the citation of Jeremiah 7:18-20 against the Catholic practice of honoring the Virgin Mary. The passage reads:

The children gather wood, their fathers light the fire, and the women knead their dough, to make cakes for the QUEEN OF HEAVEN, while libations are poured out to strange gods in order to hurt me. Is it I whom they hurt, says the Lord; it is not rather themselves, to their own confusion? See now, says the Lord God, my anger and my wrath will pour out upon this place, upon man and beast, upon the trees of the field and the fruits of the earth; it will burn without being quenched.

Because of a similarity in the title, “Queen of Heaven,” this quotation was used against the Mother of Jesus. Talk about silly! The anti-Catholic bigot often mixes his apples and oranges in trying to discredit Catholic teachings and practices. The citation has nothing whatsoever to do with Mary. There is no violation of the worship which is due to God alone. The text in question has to do with Ishtar, the Assyro-Babylonian goddess of fertility. This pagan worship was initiated under Manasseh and was restored after the death of Josiah. Pagan worship, then as now, is considered an abomination by Jews and Christians alike, including the first Christians, Catholics. Such a citation has no other objective than to play on the ignorance of others. Indeed, it violates the commandment regarding the bearing of false witness against another.

Why do we call Mary the Queen of the Saints? The answer is simple. Jesus came to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom. His ministry, his parables, indeed, his very own person, is the breaking of the kingdom into our world. Jesus is hailed as Messiah upon his entry into Jerusalem and marked as King upon his Cross at Calvary. If Jesus is our king, then what is Mary? Obviously, she is the Queen-Mother. The rejection of this title for her is a repudiation of the royal lordship of Christ himself! This knocks down another straw man argument, that the Mary of Catholic faith and piety is not the Mary of the Bible. The anti-Catholic apologist goes so far as to insert the Virgin Mary into any Scripture text or historical chronicle regarding a pagan goddess, as in the quoted passage. This distortion of God’s Holy Word has only one objective, and that is to deceive. Irrational prejudice and the lack of any authentic argumentation propel such a polemic.

Anti-Catholics also suffer from an intensely privatized faith. They cannot stand the fact that alongside our worship of God and trust in our one Mediator, Jesus Christ, that we also address ourselves to our beloved family members who have gone ahead of us into the next life. Mary and the saints are still members of the Church, and having made it to the promised shore, we remember them and they pray for our ultimate salvation. However, tell this to an anti-Catholic bigot, and he will explode— you’re only suppose to pray to Jesus! He forgets that Jesus founded a Church, not simply a multitude of unrelated and separate personal relationships. Such people claim that there is no evidence for talking with others beyond this world. And yet, in the Transfiguration itself, Moses and Elijah appear with Jesus and he apparently enters into dialogue with them. Peter wants to set up three booths, so that this moment can be preserved and that they too might commune with the great prophet and deliverer. But, the image disappears. The transformation of Christ hints at his resurrection, the time when the righteous will be given a share in his life and when the Spirit of God will give birth to the Church. Our unity with the saints is in Christ. Attention paid to members in the Mystical Body of Christ is not detraction from the Lord.

One critic listed 1 Timothy 2:5 as a repudiation of the Catholic practice of calling upon Mary and the saints. It reads as follows:

For there is one God. There is also ONE MEDIATOR between God and the human race, Christ Jesus, himself human, who gave himself as ransom for all.

This says absolutely nothing about the Catholic prayer practice. We also believe that Christ is the one Mediator between ourselves and God. He makes possible our prayer being received by the Father. His is the acceptable sacrifice. He is the ransom that buys us back from the devil and opens up the gates of heaven. All this is Catholic doctrine; however, you would not know it from reading those who oppose us. This citation, almost creedal in composition, comes within a contention that “supplications, prayers, petitions, and thanksgivings,” particularly those in a liturgical context, are to be offered for all, even for the pagan. Throughout the centuries, the Church has continued to remember in prayer the non-believer and to invite him into her ranks. The presence of Jesus can be found in the Church, making her a singular vehicle for salvation.

An anti-Catholic critic also quoted Mark 7:9 and Mark 7:13 against the role of tradition as understood in the Church. However, since the Catholic Church precedes and was party to the composition of the Scriptures, particularly the New Testament, the continuing role of living tradition makes perfect sense. The Catholic Church assembled the books of the Bible and established by her God-given authority the Scriptural canon. Except for a few subtractions, the Protestant churches retained this canon. We even have a letter from a bishop of Rome (the Pope) written before the last of the New Testament had been composed! The citations from Mark say nothing against the living tradition of the Catholic Christian community following Christ:

And he said to them, “Well do you NULLIFY the commandment of God, that you may KEEP your own tradition!”

“You make void the commandment of God by your tradition, which you have handed down; and many such like things you do.”

These words do not convey our Lord’s full view regarding tradition. First of all, he was speaking about his own Hebrew tradition, particularly the heavy yoke of many laws placed upon the shoulders of everyday people. This sort of tradition protected the status-quo: the Pharisee could fulfill the various rubrics, with a few well-chosen exemptions, but the poor hard-working people would find it difficult to impossible. The Lord came to proclaim liberation; obviously such bondage would run against the grain of this message. However, the Lord also followed certain other traditions, and obviously the commandments, as a good Jew. The same could be said for his family who followed the ritual in regards to sacrifice and his Presentation at the temple. Prior to the verses mentioned here, we read: “For, letting go the commandment of God, you hold fast the tradition of men, the washing of pots and of cups; and many other things you do like these.” The Lord’s concern here is very specific, and does not speak to the living tradition of making manifest the Gospel in our daily lives. The verses following have Jesus challenging the Jewish dietary regulations. He is concerned that people put so much emphasis on external observance that they fail to nurture any genuine faith and love of God in their hearts— a love which spills over in our treatment of one another. All this is lost on the one who hates the Church and her practices; hatred by definition makes the truth of the Gospel obscure.

The new universal catechism represents no retreat from the orthodox positions of the Catholic Church; indeed it is an amplification and succinct summary of the ancient faith given us by God. While it was hoped that this wonderful work would break new ground among the Church’s enemies, they distort and manipulate it just as they do the Bible. This is most sad. One critic dismissed the whole catechism by quoting Acts 4:12:

[Speaking of Jesus] “There is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved.”

He contended that the matter could not be made any clearer. Again, remember, he was dismissing the importance of the Church and the Virgin Mary. A sure sign that his categorization is “all wet” is the fact that the universal catechism cites the verse from Acts three times: CCC #432, #452, #1507. It sure does not seem that the Church is avoiding it to me.

[CCC 432] The name “Jesus” signifies that the very name of God is present in the person of his Son, made man for the universal and definitive redemption from sins. It is the divine name that alone brings salvation, and henceforth all can invoke his name, for Jesus united himself to all men through his Incarnation, so that “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

What in this statement does the fundamentalist find disagreeable? That Jesus is God? That his alone is the saving name? What?

How about this other reference in the universal catechism?

[CCC 452] The name Jesus means “God saves.” The child born of the Virgin Mary is called Jesus, “for he will save his people from their sins” (Mt. 1:21): “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”

Oops! Perhaps here is the trouble? The catechism mentions the Virgin Mary as his Mother! Sometimes anti-Catholic bigots talk as if they are embarrassed that Jesus had a mother. Any good mother can tell us, that motherhood does not end with birthing a child. A true mother’s heart always beats in harmony with that of her child— the joys and sorrows of his life are also her own. Such is the measure of maternal love. Jesus is and always will be, the Son of Mary, and she will always be, the Mother of our Savior.

To this day, the efficacy of the sacraments and the ministry of the Church, hinges upon the powerful and saving name of Jesus. Those who hate and oppose the teachings and work of the Church will discover themselves in opposition to Jesus, himself.

[CCC 1507] The risen Lord renews this mission [“In my name … they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover” (Mk. 16:17-18)] and confirms it through the signs that the Church performs by invoking his name. These signs demonstrate in a special way that Jesus is truly “God who saves.”

Jesus continues his work among us. This is most important. Some treat the mystery of Christ as if he is dead and gone. The name of Jesus still commands authority and power. All the mysteries of the Church, the role of Mary and the saints— everything— is founded on the Lord. We celebrate the Immaculate Conception, as an honor given Mary so that the Savior might enter the world through a sinless vessel.

We remember Mary as a special intercessor, just as at Cana, because we know that she is of one heart and mind with her Son. We love her just as Jesus loved her. She is acclaimed as the Mother of God, a title which protects the truth of her Son’s divinity. She is the Mother of the whole reality of her child. Would critics separate Jesus into two sons or deny his divinity? I hope not. She suffered at the Cross. What, not in the Bible? Come, let us be reasonable. What loving mother could see her innocent child betrayed, scourged, and crucified— and not be moved? To the very depths of her being she was devastated; she is indeed the Sorrowful Mother. We turn to her, not because she is more compassionate than God, but because she is a wonderful window to the Divine Mercy which is Christ. What, our family does not make possible our salvation? Well, maybe not a family of mere flesh and blood; but we are members of a spiritual family, looking to God as our Father, Jesus as our elder brother, and Mary as the new mother of many sons and daughters. This family relationship, the Church, grafts us to Christ himself and grants us the sure and certain hope of our salvation.

We would ask that those imprisoned in a religion of bigotry and deceits to come out into the light and to join the faith community established by Jesus himself, the Catholic Church:

“Therefore, come forth from them and be separate,” says the Lord, “and touch nothing unclean; then I will receive you and I will be a father to you, and you shall be sons and daughters to me, says the Lord Almighty.” (2 Corinthians 6:17-18)

Did Jesus Renounce His Mother?

Anti-Catholics often misunderstand or narrowly interpret passages so as to ridicule Catholic teachings. They are quite fond of doing this in regard to the Virgin Mary. A favorite such passage is Matthew 12:46-50:

While he was still speaking to the crowds, his mother and his brethren were standing outside, seeking to speak to him. And someone said to him, “Behold, thy mother and thy brethren are standing outside, seeking thee.” But he answered and said to him who told him, “Who is my mother and who are my brethren?” And stretching forth his hand towards his disciples, he said, “Behold my mother and my brethren! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven, he is my brother and sister and mother.”

The anti-Catholic proponent will make many claims which run against the traditional understanding of this incident and which find little if any support from the text itself. He will suggest that these “brethren” are children of Mary, even though she is never called their mother and extended families of that time would usually include many cousins given the honor of being called a brother. Indeed, the linguistic limitations of these people would require such a designation. The critic will also contend that Mary and the family are aggravating Jesus by their attempted interruption. Instead, it seems that Jesus uses their appearance as a special opportunity to speak about a spiritual kinship which is superior to that of blood. Further, the religious bigot will suggest that Jesus is discounting the intercessory role and honor due to Mary. They will say that Jesus stretches forth his hand toward his disciples and not toward Mary, as if this supports their claim. What they fail to appreciate is the very real possibility that Mary and the brethren are counted among his many followers and/or disciples. Note that the crowd recognizes Mary and the brethren. They are familiar faces. Why have they come? They accompany Mary, who like any good mother is concerned about her Son. From Bethlehem to Calvary, she will not abandon him. Things are heating up. Not everyone is happy with Jesus. He has chastised his listeners as “an evil and adulterous generation” and the Pharisees for “blaspheming against the Holy Spirit.” They will almost certainly seek to retaliate. She does not come to silence him, but to be in solidarity with him.

Those who hate the Mother of Jesus will deny that Jesus is praising her. They refuse to understand that Mary was the first disciple of her Son. As the handmaid of the Lord, she affirmed the message of an angel and received the Savior into her womb. She is the precursor of all the disciples in hearing and doing God’s will. Oddly enough, there is another passage which proves this point and yet it is also used by certain fundamentalists to belittle Mary, Luke 11: 27-28:

Now it came to pass as he was saying these things, that a certain woman from the crowd lifted up her voice and said to him, “Blessed is the womb that bore thee, and the breasts that nursed thee.” But he said, “Rather, blessed are they who hear the word of God and keep it.”

Jesus does not mean to be demeaning of Mary’s maternity. Indeed, he is again elevating her status as the one in whom the Word has come to true fruition. It is in this regard that she is a model to others. If we receive the Good News, then we too can give birth to Jesus in each and every generation. Others will see him and know that he is really alive and meaningful through our discipleship. Also, note that as the fruit of Mary’s womb, the ultimate honor that the woman is giving is directed toward Jesus. The humility of Christ will not allow himself any idle and empty admiration. During his mortal life, he will be lifted up, not by flattery, but by our sins— and then upon a cross. He redirects their focus to his true meaning and reality, the living Word of God. He calls the crowd to receptivity and obedience.

Such questions as the relevance and role of Mary are often deliberately distorted in anti-Catholic bible study. Stock answers are prepared to beguile gullible Catholics and ignorant Protestants. Despite the widespread re-emphasis upon the Scriptures under Catholic auspices today, they will assert that such endeavors are neither serious nor encouraged. This is one of their many deceits. Lacking any definite teaching authority, they reduce the meaning of bible passages to that of personal interpretation, contend that it should be obvious to all, and then bitterly fight with their fellow fundamentalists who, with the same sincerity, disagree with them on certain texts and doctrines— so much for crystal clarity.

When rumors were flying that the Holy Father might declare Mary the co-redemptrix, anti-Catholic opponents became particularly virulent. (By the way, it was revealed that the rumors had no foundation.) However, the truth of such a teaching, even without a formal definition, is improperly defined by critics. The foes of truth contend that this title would make her an additional author of salvation. This is not the Catholic position. Rather, Mary’s role is subservient to that of her Son. Because of her unique position as the one first touched by the redemptive power of Christ’s Cross, her sinless maternity resonates with the saving work of her Son. She offered herself to God as the vessel of our salvation. She surrenders her Son at Calvary. His pain is her pain. She was intimately united to her Son in faith, hope, and love. One could even contend that she died a kind of vicarious martyrdom at the crucifixion. The knife long prophesied, pierced her heart. Her participation in the saving work of her Son was quite unique. Further, she continues to perform a role as our Spiritual Mother, given to us through our emissary John at the Cross. The Mother of the redeemer became the Mother of the redeemed. While on a different level, we are also called to participate in extending the message and work of Christ.

Mass as Sacrifice & Eucharist as Really Jesus

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

Jesus, once and for all, died for sins. This saving act is never to be repeated. He now sits at the right hand of God and does not reappear to us in the Mass as a corpse’s blood and flesh.

Jesus dies once:

But this one [Jesus] offered one sacrifice for sins, and took his seat forever at the right hand of God; now he waits until his enemies are made his footstool. For by one offering he has made perfect forever those who are being consecrated. The holy Spirit also testifies to us, for after saying: “This is the covenant I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord: ‘I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them upon their minds,’” he also says: “Their sins and their evildoing I will remember no more.” Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer offering for sin (Hebrews 10:12-18).

Christ upon the Cross:

Therefore, when Jesus had taken the wine, he said, “It is consummated (finished)!” And bowing his head, he gave up his spirit (John 19:30).

Remembrance, not the forgiveness of sins:

For I received from the Lord what I also handed on to you, that the Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and after he had given thanks, broke it and said, “This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until he comes (1 Corinthians 11:23-26).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

The Mass is a sacrifice and Holy Communion (through transubstantiation) is the actual body and blood of Jesus Christ.

It is true that Jesus died once and for all. His saving death is unique and the risen Lord will never die again. This is also Catholic doctrine. Further, the Catholic Church also agrees that Holy Communion is not the flesh and blood of a dead Christ. However, everything else is misunderstood by the anti-Catholic critic. The Mass is a real sacrifice in that it resonates in perfect harmony with Calvary. Each celebration of the Mass is not a new slaughter of Christ Jesus. Sometimes, when spoken about as a repetition of the Cross, this confusion arises. The Mass is a sacramental (use of sacred signs) and unbloody re-presentation of the sacrifice of Christ. Like a time machine, we are transported to Calvary and are present at the one saving act of all history. The only thing missing at the Cross was our own self-offering with and in Jesus. The appearances of bread remain, but the sacred elements constitute the risen Lord— body and soul, humanity and divinity– without division or diminishment. There is but one high priesthood in Christianity, that of Jesus Christ. Every ordained priest allows his very self to be appropriated by Christ in a participation in the one priesthood which offers true worship. If the Mass and Calvary are one and the same, then of course it is a sacrifice of propitiation, one which forgives sins. The covenant of Christ is not a stagnant affair locked in past history, the remembrance of the Eucharist makes present what it celebrates. It is a renewal of the new covenant in Christ’s body and blood. The Hebrew notion of “anamnesis” is not like our impoverished nostalgia-type of remembrance. The words of institution said by the priest at Mass, recall the saving supper of the Lamb and make him present— both in his person (his identity) and in his saving activity. The sacrifice of Calvary, re-presented to us throughout time and place, calls us all to unity in the Lord. The Lord himself tells us that unless we eat his body and blood, we can have no part of him. Paul’s words from 1 Corinthians are not merely an academic exercise in studying the institution narrative of the Lord’s Supper. These words were familiar to St. Paul because they constituted the liturgical tradition he had received. These are the words with which St. Paul, an apostle and priest of the new dispensation, offered the Eucharist. Note that after mentioning the Lord’s command to repeat his new ritual, St. Paul talks about our need to be worthy in its reception. Otherwise, we would be held accountable. Unless there is a “real presence” of Christ in the consecrated bread and cup, such a warning would be incoherent. He forewarns them against any further abuse at the Lord’s Supper, including overeating. (Remember, in the early Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper was attached to a regular meal.) It is precisely because of the efficacy of the Eucharist in regard to the forgiveness of sins, (the realization of divine mercy), that St. Paul talks immediately about judgment if we neglect or abuse the privilege.

We must properly understand 1 Corinthians 11:23-27. Look at the last verse; it only makes sense if the Eucharist really is the risen Christ:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord (1 Corinthians 11:27).

Self-examination is necessary if we are to appreciate the command to unity which flows from Jesus’ giving of himself and our requirement to repeat his sacrifice with the same spirit of self-donation:

For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself (1 Corinthians 11: 29).

Is the Roman Catholic Church Christian?

One of the most unintelligible and repugnant of slurs is the accusation that the Roman Catholic is not a Christian. Such a mentality fails to appreciate the historical evidence which details the Catholic Church as the first and the legitimate Christian community established by Christ. The alternative to such thinking would be that Christianity disappeared entirely for 1,500 years only to reappear with the Protestant Reformation. Would our Lord abandon his Church and allow the truth to be eclipsed throughout the centuries? Of course not— there is no logic to such a view. The Lord promised that he would never abandon his Church, even unto the end of the world.

One anti-Catholic proponent declared that practically all the “precepts” of the Roman Catholic faith contradict the Scriptures. However, a thoughtful reading of the Bible will reveal that quite the opposite is true: the Bible validates the Catholic religion. While the critic uneducated to Catholic terminology and faith might use the word “precept” to include all things Catholic, it is actually understood in the Church as an ecclesial positive law. Just as civil society needs laws by which civilization may be maintained, so too does the community of the Church need laws for good order and to insure the furtherance of the Christian life.

The first precept stipulates: “You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.” It is very much related to the commandment to keep holy the Sabbath Day. Coincidentally, it was the Catholic Church which transferred the commemoration of this day from Saturday to Sunday. Thus, there is at least one matter where many anti-Catholics acknowledge the authority of the Pope over their lives and religious observance. We are called to worship on the Lord’s Day. What is so terrible about this? Nothing! Those who hate the Mass forget that Jesus told his friends at the Last Supper to repeat it in memory of him.

The fourth precept is very much like it: “You shall keep holy the holy days of obligation.”

The second precept stipulates: “You shall confess your sins at least once a year (if you are in serious sin).” Coincidentally, it was the Catholic Church which allowed such repeated penance to be practiced so that fallen away Christians might be allowed reentry into the faith community. Initially, serious sin after baptism cast a member from the community as not one of the elect. Thus, the practice of Catholics in repentance and seeking reconciliation with God and with the Church after conversion and initiation can be traced back to the Catholic leadership’s use of the keys to the kingdom. What is so terrible about encouraging a prodigal son or daughter to come home? Nothing! Those who hate Confession forget that Jesus gave the power to forgive sins to his Church.

The third precept stipulates: “You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season.” Coincidentally, even the narration of the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians is a recounting of the manner in which the Pauline Eucharist was celebrated. Did the Lord not say that unless you ate his flesh and drank his blood, you could have no part of him? Thus, the renunciation of the Lord’s Supper by many anti-Catholics is disobedience to a direct command from Christ and is a rejection of an apostolic testimony from the Scriptures. What is so terrible about fulfilling a mandate from Christ? Nothing! Those who ridicule the host as a “wafer God” blaspheme against the Lord.

The fifth precept stipulates: “You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.” Did the Lord not fast? Did not John the Baptizer mortify his flesh? They most certainly did. Knowing the value of discipline as a help to Christian character and as an inducement to selfless prayer, the Church recommends such austerity. What is so bad about imitating our Lord? Did he not say that a day was coming when the bridegroom would be taken away– a time for fasting? He sure did. Those who reject such penance are often the first to run away from any suffering inherent in following Christ.

The Catholic faithful are also duty bound to support the Church, materially and spiritually. Do not even non-Catholic churches take up donations and free-will offerings? Sure they do. Most of what is collected in Catholic Churches goes back into the work of the Gospel.

Anti-Catholic cults have some nerve calling the universal Church of Christ a cult. The so-called compassion such enthusiasts exhibit in stealing away Catholic membership is merely a symptom of their egoism. Instead of conforming themselves to Christ, they refashion Christ to themselves and to their message. Theirs is often a messianic cult of personality. Beware if such people tell you that they really care. The true prophet is humble and is always alert not to allow his own message to displace or overshadow that of Christ– even when it is a truth we personally would rather not hear. The Good News of Christ can be consoling; however, it can be very challenging as well. Sometimes the Church is attacked, not for what she believes but for what individuals and/or groups within her did in the name of religion. Often the abuses of the Inquisition or Crusades are listed as prime examples. Much of the Inquisition was the work of various governments and in some cases the Holy See pleaded for clemency and mercy. Further, many Protestant groups were also quite good at killing Catholics when they happened to stand in the way of their objectives– as in England. Such is not just the failure of religion; it is the failure to give Christianity a chance. Many figures for the death tolls are thrown around but they are also largely exaggerated. We must not lose sight of the fact that there were also positive objectives to movements which might have gotten out of hand. The threat of Islam was very much like that of Communism during the Cold War. The Inquisition was to insure that the Catholic Christian faith was safe in Western Europe. The Crusades were to give free access to the Holy Land for Christian pilgrims. The latter task met with limited success but resulted in an agreement where such pilgrimages continued into modern times. Another consequence of the Crusades, now recognized in Israeli law, is the right of Christians, albeit Catholics, to maintain many of the important religious sites in the Holy Land. All are welcome to these sites. Many missionaries and the Franciscans in particular have sacrificed much to insure this right of Christians. Long before the non-Catholic churches and cults came into existence, the Catholic Church was conducting operations which would come to the benefit of all Christians. It should also be noted that the Catholic Church is today at the forefront for the defense of human and religious rights. The understanding of such liberties, as with many doctrinal matters, sometimes only becomes clear over time and after a certain development. The greatest holocausts in all history are happening right now, especially with abortion; we are hardly in a position to pass judgment on the past. While suffering and death was once counted in hundreds and thousands, it is now numbered in the millions. The mindset of both Catholics and Protestants in days gone by was that the murder of the soul was as serious, if not more so, than the murder of the body. This perspective was what led to a severity toward which we would cringe today. Oddly enough, the love of God and the desire for the salvation of others was often still an ingredient. Hopefully, Catholics and Protestants can learn from the past; however, such has yet to be demonstrated.

Of course, anti-Catholic critics only want to fight the old battles all over again. One of their heroes is John Wycliffe (c. 1325-1384). He challenged the property rights of well-to-do clerics who fell from a state of grace, claiming that such resources then fell to the secular prince or monarch. Such anticlerical views ironically made him popular with poor priests. However, he got into real hot water over unorthodox views toward the Eucharist. He never meant to deny the doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ in Holy Communion, as the anti-Catholics do as a matter of course. Many of his views were ultimately judged heretical; but, he could hardly be the poster boy for the fundamentalists today. Indeed, he was quite devout until he had a stroke while at Mass. He believed in an ordained priesthood along Catholic lines but insisted upon evangelical simplicity. Another of their heroes is William Tyndale (c. 1494-1536). Leaning toward the humanism of Erasmus, he engaged in several debates with St. Thomas More over Christianity and the Catholic faith. More was a devout Catholic and Tyndale, while he had started out that way, had gravitated toward Protestantism. Both men would find themselves facing execution. Influenced by Martin Luther, Tyndale made a translation of the New Testament. It is interesting that Tyndale’s views were so unorthodox that not only did Catholics find him suspect, but the Lutherans forced him to leave England for Germany. He was not above breaking the law to bring about reformation. Regarding many matters, the views of these two men would be closer to Catholicism than to any anti-Catholic fundamentalism.

The issue with these two men and the Catholic faith was not their stress on the Scriptures, but upon interpretations which ran contrary to the consensus of the Church throughout the centuries. This is still the state of affairs; although anti-Catholics often paint a stark picture of deviation between Scriptural revelation and doctrinal truth.

Peter the ROCK of the Church

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

Jesus Christ alone is the foundation of the church. Peter was a mere man like ourselves. He was not even the best of men. Note that the Lord declared Peter to be “Satan” (Matthew 16:23) when he rebuked the prospect of Christ’s betrayal and death. Peter rejected Cornelius’ effort to worship him, saying, “Get up. I myself am also a human being.” (Acts 10:26). The Pope would do well to pay heed to this admonition when his lost souls bow to him and kiss his ring. He is not worthy of worship!

…for no one can lay a foundation other than the one that is there, namely, Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 3:11).

Jesus said to them, “Did you never read in the Scriptures?” (Matthew 21:42).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

The foundation stone of the Church is Peter. The critic’s citation of 1 Corinthians is purposely misleading. He gives a fragment of a text and twists its meaning to his purposes. Let us look at the previous verse of which 11 is a part: “According to the grace of God given to me [St. Paul], like a wise master builder I laid a foundation, and another is building upon it. But each one must be careful how he builds upon it, …” (1 Corinthians 3:10). Catholics would agree that Jesus is the center of our Christian faith; however, this passage is about the accountability of those in God’s service. It is in this sense that it refers to Peter, Paul, and any and all of the other shepherds of the Church. Peter is only a rock in a secondary sense to Christ who is the true foundation stone. He is the visible head of the entire Church, the Vicar of Christ. Jesus Christ is the invisible head. Peter and subsequent popes have been given a privileged place in the Church to care for the Lord’s flock. He is to be trustworthy and steadfast like a rock against the storms of sin, of flesh, and of the world. Peter’s failure in appreciating the saving task which Jesus had to undergo would earn him a rebuke; later his denial of Christ would earn him shame. However, despite his weaknesses, he is the one selected out by Christ as the head of the Apostles and the “rock” upon which Christ would build his Church. Note that the roles of the builder and the rock seem to blur or to be interchanged in the Scriptural texts. Something of this becomes understandable if we appreciate the incarnation of Christ by grace in his followers. The Church is holy because Christ is holy. The ministries and works of the Church are also Christ’s. He identifies himself and his authority especially in his Apostles and in their successors. Note later in 1 Corinthains 3:16: “Do you not know that you are a temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” Later, in chapter 4, verse 1, St. Paul says something which wonderfully resonates with the Pope as the Servant of the Servants of God: “Thus should one regard us: as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries (sacraments) of God.” The business about worship is hardly worthy of a response. We do not worship the Pope. We respect and honor him as an important and holy personage, but no more. Is a man on one knee proposing marriage to his beloved stealing the worship proper to God? No. Is the custom of a man kissing a lady’s hand blasphemous? No. Is the bow rendered to royalty a violation of God’s due? I sure hope not. Again, the anti-Catholic bigot proves his silliness and stumbles over himself in bearing false witness against Catholicism.

[Christ’s promise to St. Peter that he will be the head of the Apostles and visible foundation the Church together with him] Simon Peter answered and said, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Then Jesus answered and said, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to thee, but my Father in heaven. And I say to thee, thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven; and whatever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Matthew 16:16-19).

[Our Lord healed Peter from his thrice denial and makes him shepherd of his entire flock] When, therefore, they had breakfasted, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, Son of John, dost thou love me more than these do?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, dost thou love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” A third time he said to him, “Simon, son of John, dost thou love me?” Peter was grieved because he said to him for the third time, “Dost thou love me?” And he said to him, “Lord thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.” He said to him, “Feed my sheep” (John 21:15-17).

[Peter confirms the faith of the other Apostles, alludes to papal infallibility in faith] “But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith may not fail; and do thou, when once thou hast turned again, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:32).

Teaching Authority: Is the Pope the Holy Father?

The Papacy is one of the favorite targets of anti-Catholics. I recently read one who contended that calling him “Holy Father” was the equivalent of calling him God. How anyone can give such silliness any credence is beyond me. The title signifies that the Pope functions as a father to God’s family. He is a visible sign of the unity and authority of the Church founded by Christ. Even though Christ’s true father was almighty God in heaven, is it not beyond a doubt that he treated his foster father Joseph with all the respect one would render such a parent? Sure. Similarly, the Pope functions as a kind of foster father over the People of God. He is the successor of St. Peter and the Vicar of Christ. As the term of unity for the Church, the Pope’s fatherhood is modified with the word holy. The Church is holy, not because of the presence of a sinful membership, but because Christ is holy. He sends his Spirit to sanctify the Church and to safeguard the authority he established. Turning to a more mundane level, all our men should function as holy fathers in their families and in the community. It is an element of male identity which can be amplified by the transformative presence of Christ.

While it is true that the overture, “Holy Father,” is noted in the Scriptures in reference to God, it appears in a passage stressing the unity of God’s people who enter into the divine life and love, itself. Christ is the ultimate term of our peace and unity; however, he has given us teachings, sacraments, and authority to manifest and express these sacred realities. We read in John 17:11-12:

“And I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I am coming to thee. Holy Father, keep in thy name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one even as we are. While I was with them, I kept them in thy name. Those whom thou hast given me I guarded; ….”

Note that he who shares in the one priesthood of Christ, from the lowliest clergyman to the greatest of bishops, accepts unto himself the title of father. This is the pattern given by Christ for his family of believers. Our fatherhood is to make real and to point to the one who is the Father of all. Following in the footsteps of Jesus, we still take seriously the charge of guarding those given to us by God. As Christians, we bear the name of our Lord in our identity and address all our prayers to the Father Most Holy– God in heaven. There is no confusion in the affectionate titles of reverence given priests and Popes and the wondrous Fatherhood of almighty God.

This same critic contended that Catholics look upon the Pope as the Holy Spirit. Absolutely crazy! He concludes this wild idea from the fact that the Pope and Bishops are protected by the Holy Spirit in offering authoritative teaching and interpretation of Scripture. However, Protestants also take sides between conflicting ministerial authorities and publish many tracts and books on religion, even on the internet. If we are only to rely on the Bible and personal interpretation, then logically they should have no books at all; indeed, other than quoting Scripture, it would seem that no minister, even an anti-Catholic one, could tell another believer what he can and cannot believe. Of course, such is not the practice. Every anti-Catholic bigot has made himself into his own Pope– and without the universal authority given by God, I should add.

In seeming opposition to the Catholic position of a divinely established authority to help us properly understand the Scriptures, anti-Catholics like to cite 1 John 2:27:

As for you, the anointing that you received from him remains in you, so that you do NOT NEED anyone to teach you. But his anointing teaches you about everything and is true and not false; just as it taught you, remain in him.

The Catholic Church does not deny the value on a personal basis of invoking the Holy Spirit so that we might remain in the truth. Indeed, there is a traditional prayer to this effect often recited by Catholics before reading the Bible. However, this in itself does not negate the presence and/or need for a universal authority to assist us in the truths of God. The words in this quotation were directed toward many in the Church leadership, too. The admonition of this letter is not against the teaching authority of leaders in the Christian community; after all, John himself who writes this letter under the inspiration of the Spirit is also exerting something of his own authority as an apostle. (Remember, the bishops are successors of these apostles!) The warning in John’s words is to remain faithful to the truth given to you (plural), the Church, as opposed to the heretical teachings of the Gnostics who at that time sought to dilute the membership and to alter the Gospel. Gnostics were a false Christian sect who denied the humanity of Christ. They failed to understand how an earthly Jesus could be revelatory of the Father. John’s words are in defense of the incarnation of Christ as one of us. There is nothing here contrary to Catholic faith.

Mean-spirited, anti-Catholics insinuate that the Pope is the beast of Scripture prophecy and that he is an anti-Christ. This maligning of an office and the men who have filled it is quite tragic. If it were not for the strength of the Popes and the Catholic Church, we would be following the superstitions of the Mongul horde or the religion of the Islamic invaders. So much for thanks! The Popes and the Church have preached Christ crucified for two thousand years; and the price we receive in return, is a share in that crucifixion at the hands of people who claim to follow Jesus. Although originally referring to Gnostics, and not Catholic Christians by any standard, the letter reviewed here does offer some wisdom regarding anti-Christs who oppose the true Church and faith (1 John 2:18-19):

Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that the antichrist was coming, so now MANY ANTICHRISTS have appeared. Thus we know this is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of our number; if they had been, they would have remained with us. Their desertion shows that none of them was of our number.

This “last hour” is literally the interim between Christ’s death and resurrection and his second coming. These “antichrists” are adversaries of Christ, false teachers, who distort the faith handed down to us in the Catholic community. Apostate teachers prove their faithlessness by abandoning the true Christian community. Was this not what the original Protestant reformers did a number of centuries ago? Is this not what a number of former Catholics have done in our own day? Certainly it is. We are the Mother Church going back to the early apostolic community. Reformers may have taken a few sacraments and our book, the Bible with them, but their breech was an assault upon the Church of Christ. Again, we find that passages ignorantly quoted by the foes of the Church actually vindicate her reality and mission. Charges of apostasy fall back upon the anti-Catholic pseudo-Popes. We need to pray that the Holy Spirit will enlighten them to the truth before it is too late.

Priests are Often Addressed as Father

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

Catholics are wrong to call their ministers, “Father,” a title that is reserved to God.

“And call no one on earth your Father; for one is your Father, who is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

This is an example of a Scriptural literary form known as Hebraic Hyperbole. It is like the passage that admonishes tearing your eye out or cutting your hand or foot off. It is a way of speaking to give heightened emphasis. The fundamentalist reads everything as if the primary language is English and the author contemporary. This is also an example of taking a verse out of context and distorting its meaning. Verse eight says to call no one Rabbi or teacher. However, do we not use this word all the time? Further, if this line is absolute against Catholic priests who possess a spiritual fatherhood, then what about our foster fathers and biological fathers? It would have to apply there as well. Almost no one would agree to this. It is a wonderful sign of respect and relationship. The matter about which the Lord is concerned is that his disciples not imitate the Pharisees in their pride and hypocrisy, lording their positions over others. God is the true and ultimate Father of all. If any fatherhood does not flow from and participate in divine fatherhood, then it is a lie and oppressive. St. Paul speaks of himself as a spiritual father in his first letter to the Corinthians and admits that there are other such fathers, although not many. The shortage of vocations to priesthood is still a matter with which we must deal.

[In speaking of our priorities] “He who loves FATHER or mother more than me is not worthy of me” (Matthew 10:37).

[About marriage] “For this cause a man shall leave his FATHER and mother, and cleave to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Matthew 19:5).

[Placing discipleship to Jesus first] “And everyone who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or FATHER, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name’s sake, shall receive a hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting” (Matthew 19:29). {see also Mark 10:29}

[Abraham is called father] For this reason, it depends on faith, so that it may be a gift, and the promise may be guaranteed to all his descendants, not to those who only adhere to the law but to those who follow the faith of Abraham who is the FATHER of all of us, … (Romans 4:16). {see also Romans 4:11-12,17}

[Treatment of elders] Do not rebuke an older man, but appeal to him as a FATHER (1 Timothy 5:1).

[Enduring trials] For what “son” is there whom his FATHER does not discipline? (Hebrews 12:7). {see also Hebrews 12:9}

[My favorite and very similar to calling the priest, Father] I am writing you this not to shame you, but to admonish you as my beloved children. Even if you should have countless guides to Christ, yet you do not have many FATHERS, for I became your FATHER in Christ Jesus through the gospel. Therefore, I urge you to be imitators of me (1 Corinthians 4:14-16).