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Polemic Exchange Against Anti-Catholicism

This is a continuation of a discussion from a previous post:

The Catholic Church, Salvation & Peter

DENNIS:

You tell me I assume many things. What about you? You assume I undermined my wife’s faith. You assume her faith is weak when she has more faith than anyone. You assume that I am delighted 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 what your arguments. If Peter were pope, which I don’t 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 child predators. 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. A statue of Buddha was placed on an altar. They gave those of the wiccan faith a room to worship. The use of the papal upside down cross 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 the 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 that 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 this money will be a testimony against it at the time of judgment. Great pastors and preachers like BILLY GRAHAM, DAVID JEREMIAH, CHARLES STANLEY, and I could name many more, is hardly a list of wackos who 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. Jesus 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. 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 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 old 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 criminals, fine if you want to resort to name calling. But this is an issue I have 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:

What you said 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 that 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. 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, and the many things that you have assumed about me which certainly don’t demonstrate love. To call someone a bigot is HORRIBLE. I would never refer to someone this way even if I thought that 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!

DEE:

Wrong! Jesus did not establish the Catholic Church. Read your history. The Catholic Church was established by the Pagan Sun Worshiper, Emperor Constantine, in 313 AD.

FATHER JOE:

I would not regard bigoted Jack Chick tracts to be a real or reliable portrayal and history of Catholicism. Would you say that people who like basketball are sun-worshippers for using a round ball? An image of the Holy Spirit as a dove surrounded by colorful stained-glass at St. Peter’s in Rome is hardly a pagan symbol! The Church uses many symbols and these are often misinterpreted (intentionally) by anti-Catholics. Catholics do not worship the sun but rather the one who created the sun. Read reliable history… the Catholic Church was instituted by Jesus Christ. After centuries of persecution and the blood of the Catholic martyrs, the Emperor Constantine made Christianity a lawful religion of the empire.

FABIOLE:

Wonderful discussion, Father Joe, your arguments are so clear that I believe in time those bigots could and will shed their anti-Catholic lenses. It’s a shame that one bad word against Blacks, Jews and Homosexuals would have the courts and others at one’s doorstep. But calling the Catholic names gets a pass. It’s no wonder that only intellectual Protestants convert to the true Church. One main reason is that they can read. We must pray for them so that they can see the truth and not be led by their anti-Catholic leaders who spit out hateful, unchristian and vile messages. They should practice what they preach and not spread hateful and untrue messages to their tiny flocks. Study the history of the Christian church, not from the 1500’s but back to the early Fathers of the Church! Clearly, many of the anti-Catholic participants to the discussion do not realize that the Bible was not put together until the third or fourth century. Also there is nothing in the Bible that supports Sola Scriptura or the Bible Alone.

God the Father & Priestly Fathers

This discussion emerged within a series of comments from what is commonly regarded as an Internet troll or spammer.  Typical of such efforts, the critic here uses the “cut-and-paste” method of extracting text from old anti-Catholic works and then inserting the material (without attestation) into the comment fields or message boards of others. The style change is the usual give-away.  The modern media allows even a silly and ignorant anti-Catholicism a voice to plague Catholic sites and to tear down the faith of weak Catholics.  While many would erase such comments, I try to turn them into teaching moments. 

RONIE:

Mister Joe, I am sorry but I will not call you as others address you. Christ said call no man Father.

FATHER JOE:

I have discussed the issue of priestly fatherhood before, as well, but let me repeat myself:   

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

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 off your hand or foot. 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 the 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).

RONIE:

Dear Mister Joe, this is in regard to your answer to me and the text:

“Matthew 23:9 – And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven.”

Sorry but I have to say this, you are out of context. The “Father” in the above text refers to “God the Father,” which is Spiritual, and the verses to which you refer, like Matthew 19:29, Mark 10:29, Romans 4:16, refer to our earthly fathers. The fathers of our flesh must be called fathers, and as such we must give them reverence; but God only must be allowed as the Father of our spirits, (Heb. 12:9). Our religion must not be derived from or made dependent upon any man. Our flesh fathers do not have authoritative power over men’s consciences in matters of faith and obedience, in which God and Christ are only to be attended. Christ’s sense is that he would have his disciples not fond of any titles of honor at all. Much less would he have them assume authority over men, as if they were to depend on them— as the founders of the Christian religion— the authors of its doctrines and ordinances— and to take that honor to themselves which did not belong to them. Neither would he have them even choose to be called by such names, as it would lead people to entertain too high an opinion of them. It would take off of their dependence on God the Father.

You know Mister Joe, these titles the scribes and Pharisees love to be called. Kindly check your verse in 1 Corinthians 4:14-16. I notice that there is a text “for I became your father” which is not found in the Greek text. I more agree on this verse found in the KJV below:

1 Corinthians 4:14: “I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you.”

1 Corinthians 4:15: “For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel.”

1 Corinthians 4:16: “Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me.”

FATHER JOE:

The proper title for a cleric is Father, Reverend or Pastor. Why should I spend any time with a person who begins with a deliberate act of disrespect? But given that our Lord would want repentance and conversion for both the ignorant and the bigoted who blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, I will try to make a short response. Admittedly, I have little confidence that anything I might say will penetrate the walls fabricated by those who are obstinate against the truth and closed to the movement of divine grace.

You begin by seeking to “clarify” this text: “And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven” (Matthew 23:9). Actually it is best that we look at the entire section and our Lord’s use of Hebraic hyperbole (verses 1 to 12):

Then said Jesus to the crowds and to his disciples, “The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat; so practice and observe whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men’s shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with their finger. They do all their deeds to be seen by men; for they make their phylacteries broad and their fringes long, and they love the place of honor at feasts and the best seats in the synagogues, and salutations in the market places, and being called rabbi by men. But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brethren. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called masters, for you have one master, the Christ. He who is greatest among you shall be your servant; whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

The authority of the Church instituted by Christ would eventually supersede that of Moses and his successors in leadership, the Pharisees. The bishops of the Catholic Church sit in the seats of the apostles. The popes govern from the Chair of Peter. Jesus establishes both a new People of God and the accompanying authority. Our Lord was critical about the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and pleaded with his apostles that it should not be so with them. He gave them the example of the foot-washing and urged humility in service. The hyperbole stresses that the ministers of the Church should not seek earthly rewards, titles and esteem, but rather that imperishable treasure of being in right relationship with God. The titles rabbi, father and teacher (or master) would continue to be used. Even St. Paul speaks of himself as a spiritual father. Lost in translation is the peculiar Hebrew form of stressing a point by pushing a matter to absurdity: call no man father or teacher or rabbi; if your eye causes you to sin, pluck it out; if your hand causes you to sin, cut it off. These matters were never meant to be understood in a literal fashion. Apart from the truth of Christ, no one is a genuine teacher. In conflict with the fatherhood of God, no fatherhood is genuine.

You say that my reference to “father” is out of context. You must be kidding! You are the one who gives no real context at all. Indeed, you treat Scripture as if it were written originally in English. Instead of respecting the message and historical setting, you offer an illogical and contrived explanation that goes against the practices and writings of the early Christians. They were close to the source and were in a position to know the truth. They did not understand this text as you do.

The text cannot be dissected as you attempt. The meaning is that there is no true fatherhood which usurps or conflicts with the fatherhood of God. This includes both spiritual fathers (as with St. Paul) and with our biological or adopted fathers. Matthew 19:29 and Mark 10:29 speaks about the family of the Church and the communion of the saints. Romans 4:15 makes mention of Abraham as our father in faith. God calls him forth and his family becomes a tribe and later a nation. He is a crucial starting point in the history of salvation.

The texts you cite either contradict or do not support your view. The Church sees herself as a family and addresses God in her prayers as FATHER MOST HOLY. Priests, bishops and popes are spiritual fathers in that they perpetuate the teachings and mission of Jesus Christ. The Church fully subscribes to the understanding of her membership as brothers and sisters to one another. In faith and baptism, Jesus is our elder brother and Mary is the queen mother. We are adopted sons and daughters of our heavenly Father. The reference to earthly fathers means any type of fatherhood here on earth. Our mortal fathers, no matter if biological, adopted or spiritual, must reflect divine fatherhood or else they are false. There is nothing here that says that biological fathers are exempt. Further, your citation of Romans 4:16 is in reference to Abraham, not almighty God. He is called the father of all.

Parents are the primary educators of their children in the faith. They constitute the “little church.” You wrong Christian fathers by reducing them to roosters who service hens. St. Paul tells us that the Christian husband/father is the head of the home just as Christ is the head of the Church.

You next write (uncorrected here as above for grammar): “Christ’s sense is, that he would have his disciples not fond of any titles of honor at all, and much less assume an authority over men, as if they were to depend on them, as the founders of the Christian religion, the authors of its doctrines and ordinances, and to take that honor to themselves, which did not belong to them, nor even choose to be called by such names, as would lead people to entertain too high an opinion of them, and take off of their dependence on God the Father.” What you write is absolute gibberish. Indeed, your run-on sentence even defies linguistic diagramming. And yet it makes more sense than what you usually write. Of course, you did not write it. You stole it. You plagiarized. You borrowed the work and genius of another to foster the pretense of knowing what you are talking about. These are not your words, but those of one who was a polemicist against Catholic claims. As I said before, you prefer parroting the enemies of the Church instead of learning objectively and directly from her own mouth. These words come from an EXPOSITION OF THE ENTIRE BIBLE written (between 1746 to 1763) by John Gill.

The commentary here is not your own and I dislike dialoguing with cut-and-paste intellectual thieves. However, despite this and the convoluted language, I will try my best to parse it out. Our Lord was not so much against titles as he was concerned that “show” not replace “substance.” The title “apostle” itself becomes one of great distinction. Our Lord was often called “master” or “teacher” or “rabbi.” He explicitly gave his authority to his apostles and sent them out to baptize the nations. He explicitly gave Peter the power of the keys and the power to loosen or bind over sin. He tells him, after the resurrection, to feed his sheep and to care for his flock. It is quite evident that Jesus gave them such authority as shepherds to the community. This authority would be passed down to others. Failure to see this demonstrates your blindness to important passages in the Word of God. Jesus, himself, was the founder of the Christian religion, i.e. the Catholic Church. He is the ultimate source of revelation. He would send his Spirit to insure the Church’s fidelity to the truth, the doctrines and ordinances that men should know and follow. As I have mentioned before, the great apostle Paul spoke about himself as a spiritual father. There was no prohibition, either about the title or the function. The spiritual title of FATHER given to a priest in no way detracts from the fatherhood of God. Indeed, he becomes a flesh-and-blood symbol of God’s abiding love and mercy in the faith community.

Just because the Pharisees allowed their titles to go to their heads does not mean that such must always be the case for others. The title “father” is an expression of endearment.

“I write not these things to shame you, but as my beloved sons I warn you” (1 Cor. 4:14).

Paul admonishes the Corinthians as his beloved children. There is definitely a fatherly relationship.

“For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the gospel” (1 Cor. 4:15).

This is a somewhat archaic Protestant translation. A better translation is the RSV, also Protestant (but acceptable to Catholics):

“For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel.”

The reference to “father” is in the Greek text as is the term for being begotten of a father:

ἐὰν γὰρ μυρίους παιδαγωγοὺς ἔχητε ἐν Χριστῷ ἀλλ’ οὐ πολλοὺς
πατέρας ἐν γὰρ Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ
διὰ τοῦ εὐαγγελίου ἐγὼ ὑμᾶς ἐγέννησα

“Wherefore I beseech you, be ye followers of me” (1 Cor. 4:16).

More than followers, he is literally urging them to imitate him. He sends Timothy as his emissary and calls him his “Beloved and faithful son in the Lord.” The spiritual fatherhood of every priest is akin to that of the apostle Paul.

A brief aside:

While I might sound harsh at times (in this and other posts), it is hard not to become emotionally involved about matters that priests take very personally.  Critics would strip priests of their spiritual fatherhood and label them as minions of Satan and/or the anti-Christ.  There have been a few deletions of the more insensitive material in this particular post.  

Is it impolite for a priest to offer correction and to be blunt? 

Is it rude to speak the truth? 

I received criticism to this effect, and apparently from a Catholic.  But the person in this post, and those narrated in others, often do not come for a sincere and simple discussion, but rather, to ridicule the priesthood and the Church.  I try not to be hurtful.  I avoid foul language.  Nevertheless, I stand by my negative assessment of such anti-Catholicism and the poor people who swallow and spout it. Some people are moved by gentleness and others must be shaken up a bit.  We see this in the ministry of Jesus where he was gentle with the outcasts and marginalized but harsh with others like the scribes, lawyers and pharisees. 

The Catholic Church, Salvation & Peter

MARTHA LEE:

The Catholic Church according to its practice and compared to Biblical injunctions is tantamount to a cult.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, it is more likely that your religion is the cult. Catholicism is true religion and the Church directly instituted by Jesus Christ. Catholicism is the most genuine form of Christianity.

RONIE:

Mr. Joe, can you tell me in your own understanding the meaning of Church?

FATHER JOE:

Mister Joe?

  • The Church is the Mystical Body of Christ.
  • The Church is the great Sacrament of Salvation.
  • The Church is the House that Jesus built.
  • The Church is that community of faith which receives its life from the Eucharist.
  • The Church is built on the foundation of Christ (invisible head) and the ROCK of Peter (visible head).

This information is elsewhere on this site. Look it up next time.

DENNIS:

Purgatory is a myth and 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 the visible head of Christ’s Church, the Catholic Church. They 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.

RONIE:

It is very clear. By the way, your explanation about church is different and it is more complex. You know church is not a house or a building, Church is called the Bride of Christ, and also is called the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12-14). Its members all have different functions. It is composed of saved and baptized believers; that’s why Christ love the Church. The word “Church” in Greek is “ekklesia” which means “called out assembly.” Peter is not the rock because the 12 disciples, knowing well the Old Testament, recognized the Rock as a description or name for God.

“He is the Rock, His word is perfect” (Deuteronomy 32:4).

“The Lord is my Rock, and my fortress…” (Psalm 18:2).

“For Who is God save the Lord? Or who is a Rock save our God” (Psalm 18:31).

We see here that there is no other Rock than God, not even Peter. Jesus Christ is the foundation Rock on which the Church is built. Oh, by the way Mr. Joe, Peter did not even reach Rome. The only man who was sent by God to preach to the Gentiles was Paul. Also, if Peter is your first Pope, why until now are priests not allowed to marry, since Peter had a wife? (see Matthew 8:14)

FATHER JOE:

I am not sure what you read, but I have spoken numerous times about the Church as the bride of Christ. Indeed, the Mass is a sacramental participation in the marriage banquet of heaven. This Church is one and the same with the Catholic Church. The members of the Church have different functions and gifts. We make distinctions between the clergy and the laity. Baptized believers with faith in Jesus live in the hope of their salvation. Your reference to the “saved” might be criticized under the sin of presumption. Jesus loves the Church as his own body.

The term “ekklesia” was originally a political term for the calling together of an assembly. It becomes descriptive of the assembly of the Church. Christ calls us both to a personal faith in him and to a CORPORATE faith as his Church. I suspect that you would tend to minimize this latter understanding. No one is saved apart from Christ; no one is saved apart from the Church.

Moving on, I am sorry, but Peter is the ROCK because Jesus said so.

“And I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades shall not overpower it,” (Matt. 16:18).

Our Lord is the foundation stone of the Church. He gives something of his own authority to Peter and his successors to shepherd his flock. There is no contradiction in that Jesus is also called our rock of safety and refuge. Peter is literally a chip off the old block.

There is ample historical evidence that Peter reached Rome. The problem you face is that you exclude any information not put forward in the Bible. That would also exclude the works of the Church fathers and the legacy of the saints. Or maybe this is not true? You do seem to esteem the interpretive works of reformation anti-Catholics like Gill even more than the Bible. Excavations have discovered the tomb and the bones of Peter, clearly marked. The Holy See sits upon the twin pillars of Peter and Paul. As for priests getting married, the fact that Peter has a wife says nothing about the discipline of celibacy as practiced by Jesus, Paul and others. Celibacy is not so much a doctrinal matter as it is one of Church discipline. Disciplines can change or even be revoked; doctrines cannot.

The Catholic Church is NOT a Cult

This is a follow up discussion from the initial debate with Nicholas who runs an anti-Catholic website. The following discussion shows that he has many bedfellows.

KYRIE:

Deuteronomy 4:2: “Never add anything to what I command you, or take anything away from it. Then you will be able to obey the commands of the LORD your God that I give you.”

What part of “Never” is unclear?

“Come out of her my people” (Revelation 18:4).

FATHER JOE:

The Catholic Church is faithful to Christ. Those who would use these verses against Catholicism are themselves seriously in the wrong. They minimize or reject the significance of the Church. Jesus said that such critics would best have a millstone tied around their necks and be thrown into the sea before leading any of the little ones astray. Jesus established the Catholic Church. He promised us that the gates of hell would not prevail against her! (Acts 12:1-24)

ROB:

The question at hand is whether or not the Catholic church is a cult. I’d like to expand the discussion by asking you if you think a cult is a religious system whose dogma is adhered to at least as much as its quest for fostering spiritual growth. Far too many times I’ve encountered churches that put more energy into kneeling, standing, kneeling again, standing again, etc, until I wonder if I’ll have any cartilage in my knees when it’s over. Church services shouldn’t be choreographed. Spirituality is supposed to be the main focus. Cults seem to place extremely tight and rigid emphasis on all the pomp and circumstance in lieu of fostering healthy relationships with our Heavenly Father. Tragically, that seems to be the case with Catholic churches.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, it is the other way around. Cults usually minimize liturgy and sacraments. Ritual is formalized to ensure the fidelity of faith and worship. Remember, that Catholicism is both a corporate and a personal faith. As for pomp, the reformed liturgy is not sensational at all. It essentially consists of the LITURGY OF THE WORD and the LITURGY OF THE EUCHARIST. It is fairly simple really. But the meaning it has for God’s people is tremendous. As for liturgical gestures, it is a sad truth that many do not understand what they fully signify.

KOLOSTYAK:

Is this is a joke, or a bad joke? The Church is a cult. It’s not a Branch Dividian-esque cult, but that doesn’t change the applicability of the word. With words as the topic, read up on “pride.” Have a debate on the merits of that topic. There is at least one seminarian who thinks there is such a thing as “good pride.” *cough*

FATHER JOE:

Better watch your cough, because your cold seems to have affected your head and thinking. Webster defines cult as “a religion regarded as unorthodox or spurious.” The Catholic Church is the Mother Church of all Christianity. She is not a cult but represents true Christianity. I am unsure what you mean by “pride” unless you are trying to make a homosexual connection. Are you a gay seminarian?

JAMIE LEE:

[Comments deleted.]

FATHER JOE:

Let me intrude to admit that I deleted the pages of anti-Catholic garbage that you purloined from a bigoted website (I traced it with GOOGLE). The sources go back to the anti-immigrant Know-Nothing movement of the 1800’s. It is a shame that anti-Catholics must rely upon ignorant half-truths and outright lies to make their points; but, prejudice has never been known for its honesty and reliance upon reason.

JAMIE LEE:

I have read all the commentary above and strongly disagree with all of the Catholic arguments and some of the Protestant arguments. Some of these I will gladly address at a later date as I am short on time at the moment. The one thing I want to leave for the moment is a bit of a history lesson specifically for our friend Father Joe. This is also a lesson that others may mull over and respond to at their own discretion. A full discussion on the matter is quite welcomed. Father Joe has stated quite clearly that “Jesus established the Catholic Church”. This, sir, is an erroneous statement. Jesus established followers of our Fathers Word and His teachings…His followers (Christians) established a church, soon to have separated into many different belief systems based on what THEY thought were the teachings of our Christ Jesus.

FATHER JOE:

Sorry, but it will not wash. Study the Church any further back than five centuries and the Church you encounter in the West is the Roman Catholic Church. The fracturing of the Church came with the printing press and political rivalry between princes. Our Lord made the apostles his bishop-priests at the Last Supper. He gave us the Eucharist and gave to the Church the power of the keys to forgive sins. Read the Bible and the writings of the Fathers of the first few centuries. The vision they give us of the Church is very Catholic. The Bible itself was ratified at the Council of Hippo. It is a Catholic book!

JAMIE LEE:

Many of the ‘rituals’ and ‘beliefs’ and ’symbols’ of Catholicism were stolen from the pagans when the Church went out and conquered their lands, forcing them to build Catholic churches on the sites of their pagan temples. Thus the Catholic church received many things from the pagans they slaughtered and conquered in the name of God.

FATHER JOE:

Catholic Christianity brought Jesus to both Jews and pagans. The Church sought to transform and Christianize a pagan world. Centuries of Christians faced torture and murder. The early martyrs were Catholics in a Church persecuted by pagan Rome. Pagans killed Catholics, not the other way around. However, this Church would one day come up victorious. The beliefs were handed down from the apostles as the deposit of faith. Jesus told the apostles to go out to the whole world and to baptize in the name of the Trinity: the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Ablutions were often followed with anointing and here we have the accompanying confirmation. Jesus took bread and wine and said this is my body; this is the cup of my blood (of a new covenant). He made the apostles his first bishop-priests by telling them to “do this in remembrance of me.” He told them that they would have the power to forgive sins and St. Paul calls the shepherds, “ministers of reconciliation.” The epistle of James speaks about the sacrament of the sick and how the priests of the Church bring healing to others. The wedding feast of Cana is where our Lord performed his first sign; Jesus is imaged as the groom and the Church as his bride. Every marriage as a sacrament points to this reality.

JAMIE LEE:

To this day in some churches in Europe, you can look up in the rafters of many churches and see what is called the “foillate mask.” This is a portrayal of the pagan god, Pan, left behind by the slaves of the countryside who were forced to build these monolithic buildings of worship.

FATHER JOE:

Such a charge is absolute nonsense! You just oppose the artistry and beauty of the great cathedrals. By the way, it is called a “foliate mask” and such is simply a carved face. Our places of worship were built and decorated as a way as to raise our thoughts to heaven. Some of the great churches took generations to build. They were built by people in love with Christ and wanting to please God by the gift of their craft and hard work. These churches are testimonies of faith!

JAMIE LEE:

On the same note, this is also how it came to be that the ‘Church’ started to worship Mary as the ‘Queen of Heaven.’ The pagans, being forced to worship our Lord, built a statue in the likeness of their goddess Diana and handed over it to the officials stating that it was the image of the mother of God. This way they were able to go to the ‘Catholic’ church and ‘worship,’ but really the whole time they were paying homage to their own deities.

FATHER JOE:

Pick up a reliable history book and you will find a different story. The Christians destroyed many idols but discovered that statues once dedicated to pagan deities could sometimes be salvaged and given a new and worthwhile meaning. A statue of a woman holding a child made them immediately think about Mary and the baby Jesus. You probably oppose any type of religious art. As for the title MOTHER OF GOD, it was known in the East as the THEOTOKOS. It regards a form of communication through idioms. Mary is a creature like you and me. However, her child is the God-Man. The title does not make Mary into a goddess; rather, it defends the full divine personhood of Jesus Christ. Those who opposed the title (Nestorians) were charged with denying or compromising this divinity. You have actually fallen into an ancient Christian heresy. Do you believe that Jesus is God come down from heaven? If not, then you are not even a Christian, of any sort!

JAMIE LEE:

There are many other instances to be discussed here, and I assure you that this and all the others I have in mind to post be historical fact and may be looked up and studied.

FATHER JOE:

Sorry, there is no history in your distortions, just angry fantasy.

JAMIE LEE:

I leave you now with this thought; if Jesus established the Catholic Church, then why were Paul, the rest of the apostles and the followers of Christ in the time of the Bible not holding the same ceremonies as the Church does today? Answer: They are the rites of man, thought up and adopted by man and are a shear pompous expression of man, a proclamation to be the only way to God. I am sorry my friend, but Jesus did NOT create the Catholic Church and only HE is the true way to the Father.

FATHER JOE:

I have often detailed how all the sacraments of the Church find their source in the Gospels. Indeed, St. Paul gives us the institution narrative of our Lord at the Last Supper and says that he hands on what he received. As an apostle-priest this is literally the wording he used in offering the Mass! While the Church has made various adaptations, the sacraments, called MYSTERIES in the early Church, were instituted by Jesus. The Church uses words, ritual and art to bring men and women to the Good News of Jesus Christ. The Church is the great sacrament of our encounter with Christ, his mystical body as detailed in Scripture. Jesus is the Way and the Truth and the Life. But, you know neither our Lord nor his Church as you ought.

JAMIE LEE:

Oh, dear Father Joe, I mean no disrespect by the things I say, but I can clearly see that the facts I have pointed out have deeply disturbed you and have made you angry. This, I assure you, were certainly not my intentions. I must say that I find it quite disturbing that you would delete my latest entry that I borrowed from another web site. Isn’t it better that the others who read this great debate understand the depth of it. This ‘anti-catholic garbage’ as you call it should be the center of discussion.

FATHER JOE:

Then those who wrote it and not those who purloined it are the ones to initiate the discussion. Copying and pasting pages of material into the comments fields is a practice of spammers and flamers. I doubt non-Catholic bloggers would like to have the entire Catholic Encyclopedia downloaded to their sites.

JAMIE LEE:

To set the record straight dear friend, I am in fact a Christian, a devoted one at that. I’m just not a Catholic. I seek God where ever I may find Him and yearn for his presence in my life daily. My wife, on the other hand, IS a Catholic. I have yet to understand many things, but I’m sure that our thoughts and beliefs can be shared and discussed in more detail as time allows.

FATHER JOE:

Sharing and dialogue is not what you did. You posted anti-Catholic material that is rooted in half-truths and outright lies. Even many educated Protestants would have rejected the material I deleted. Much of it has already been covered in past discussions.

JAMIE LEE:

I will debate more later on, though I do wish you had allowed for that borrowed piece to be a foundation for the upcoming days. God bless you Father.

FATHER JOE:

I am a busy pastor. I can discuss one topic at a time but not volumes of propaganda. Keep your comments short and to the point. Also, make them original. I am not interested in debating bigots who have already been dead a century or more. If you are going to question Catholic teachings, then use Catholic source materials. It will save us a lot of unnecessary corrections. Peace!

MICHAEL:

Jamie Lee, Jamie Lee, you’re having a discussion with a man who gave up his entire life to be with and to serve God alone. Give the man the benefit of the doubt by maintaining an open mind. Fr. Joe is very right. You know that God doesn’t tell us everything. Why? Because if He revealed it all to us right now we would die. This peanut-size brain of ours couldn’t handle it and our eyes aren’t capable of seeing it, YET. We wouldn’t have the need for any faith either. God preserves these things for us in the next life.

Your remarks remind me of those of St. Thomas the apostle after the resurrection of Jesus. Jesus did indeed create the Catholic Church through St. Peter (one, holy, Catholic, and apostolic). These are the four true marks of Christ’s real Church here on earth.

FATHER JOE:

Jamie probably has a perfectly normal brain. The trouble is that it has been filled with poisonous ideas. Christians can disagree about their interpretation, but the facts of history are pretty clear.

JAMIE LEE:

Well Father Joe, I must say, I am a little disappointed that at this time you are not interested in a debate with me. I myself am trying to understand your beliefs and WHY anyone would hold to them. As I said previously, my wife is Catholic though she does not practice her faith. There are many points I would like to discuss.

FATHER JOE:

I would suggest you visit CATHOLIC ANSWERS. They have full-time apologists ready to play with you. Right now, I have finished a funeral, come back from the Confirmation retreat, just concluded Palm Sunday Masses, attended Confirmation prep, still have sick calls to perform, a family counseling appointment, two house blessings, and all the Holy Week and Easter services with which to deal. Your life might be empty, but mine is full.

JAMIE LEE:

I do have a question for you though; By ‘Catholic source materials’ do you mean material written by and for Catholics? Is this the material I should get my arguments and future material for debate from?

FATHER JOE:

Yes, look to primary sources, starting with the Bible, writings of the Church fathers, Papal and conciliar teachings, and approved catechetical texts, etc.

JAMIE LEE:

I’m trying to keep this short my friend, but I just have a couple of questions, if you would please answer without thinking me long winded: Why do you burn incense in the church?

FATHER JOE:

Incense was once used in processions because the streets were smelly. Church use can be traced to Jewish usage. The sweet smell symbolizes the odor of sanctity and the rising smoke represents our prayer ascending to heaven. It is symbolic language or ritual. There is nothing supernatural about the sacramental of incense. It adds to a ceremony as do flowers and candles and such.

JAMIE LEE:

Why must I confess my sins to a Priest?

FATHER JOE:

Not all sin must be confessed to a priest, although Catholics are urged to bring all serious sins to their Confessor. The authority goes back to Christ:

“On the evening of that day, the first day of the week, the doors being shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood among them and said to them, ‘Peace be with you.’ When he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. Then the disciples were glad when they saw the Lord. Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (John 20:19–23).

We have not only an individual relationship with God but also a corporate relationship with Christ, in the Church. The sacrament of penance makes possible our spiritual healing as part of something greater than ourselves. Sin hurts the whole body of the Church. The priest represents both Christ and the Church. While we can ask for personal forgiveness, the absolution of the priest heals us as members of the Church.

JAMIE LEE:

And lastly for now, how does praying to Mary repetitively after confession absolve me of said confessed sin to a Priest?

FATHER JOE:

Repeating the Hail Mary after Confession does not absolve you from sins. It is a possible penance (other prayers and/or acts could be substituted) demonstrating our repentance and making amends for the temporal punishment due to sin.

Catholic Church is a Cult— NOT!

The following is a debate on the matter of true religion and the cult. While the charge is leveled against Catholicism, it actually sticks against Nicholas who represents a radical variation of SDA belief. Nicholas operates the anti-Catholic PRESENTS OF GOD website.

Nicholas writes:

Let us start with definitions from The American Heritage Dictionary, © 1985 by Columbia University Press:

Cult: —n. 1. A system or community of religious worship and ritual. 2. a. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or bogus. b. Followers of such a religion or sect. 3. a. Obsessive devotion or veneration for a person, principle, or ideal, esp. when regarded as a fad. b. The object of such devotion. 4. An exclusive group of persons sharing an esoteric interest. —Modifier: a cult figure.

Bogus: —adj. Counterfeit; fake.

To call a Church and or a collection of Churches a cult, the burden of proof would have to be upon the one proclaiming such a bold statement. For a church to be a cult, I would have prove that they are teaching “counterfeit” doctrines not found in the Word of God, therefore making themselves “2. a. A religion or religious sect generally considered to be extremist or bogus.” A Christian church that does not do as the Word of God requires is easy evidence of being a cult to anyone with even a basic knowledge of God’s Word. All one needs to do is share what the “cult” teaches with what the Bible (which CATHOLICS CLAIM as their book) teaches. And the truth will come out as easily as Isaiah proclaimed…

Isaiah 8:20: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

Catholic response:

Okay, the first definition would apply to any “cultus” or ritual. The second definition would apply to Nicholas’ religion of hate, even if it is a religion of ONE. The third would apply more to fans of Elvis Presley than to members of the Church. The fourth definition is in regards to aficionados of Science Fiction and other such things. If there is anything bogus here, it is the religion Nicholas and others of his mindset have manufactured.

An honest individual would be hard-pressed to call any religious movement a cult unless his appreciation is shared and confirmed by others in an intelligent and cautious manner. Nicholas exudes neither of these characteristics. Indeed, cults have traditionally been minority movements, suffering from syncretism and often preoccupied with eminent judgment. Having said this, there are no easy classifications. For example, is a cult still a cult when it balloons in size like the Church of Latter Day Saints? Traditionally Catholicism has considered the following to be cults: Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Pentecostals, Seventh Day Adventists, the Unification Church, and even the YMCA and the Salvation Army (although these last two organizations have toned down their religious peculiarities). Since Nicholas shares so many of the teachings of the Seventh Day Adventists, but not all, he would also fit into this category. While an atheist might think we are ALL nuts; the verdict from traditional Christianity is that these are man-made and deceptive spiritual movements.

Nicholas writes:

Billions of people realize that MANY doctrines seen in today’s churches have indeed been FIRST invented in the Roman Catholic Church many years prior. But what are we to say about these doctrines? Are they Biblical? Are they found in God’s Word? I would like to transfer the burden of proof now to all those reading this post. I have “…searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:11) and I must be honest with you. I have NOT found Biblical evidence for the doctrines found in the Roman Catholic Church. MANY of these doctrines can be found practiced in other churches as well. Making it easily seen as fact that the Roman Catholic Church is THEIR “Mother” and they are her “daughters,” they do as she would ask them to do. I dare YOU to give me the Scriptural facts that proclaim the inventions of the Roman Catholic Church as Biblical doctrines spoken by God in His Word. If you cannot, you must admit that you are following that which was formed by the Antichrist. Show me the verses that proclaim the Roman Catholic doctrines / rituals as Biblical!

Colossians 2:8: “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.”

Catholic response:

Nicholas gives us a text that precisely could only emerge from a cult leader or stratagem:

1. He opposes mainline religion, in this case Catholic Christianity.
2. He becomes the singular interpreter of Scripture and the arbiter of religious truth.
3. He feigns honesty and may actually believe something of his deception.
4. He posits another institution as utterly evil, in this case Catholicism.
5. He castigates the opposition as formed by the antichrist and thus under judgment.
6. He implores (here implicitly) that listeners leave the Church and join him.

The only thing missing is the poisoned punch or a comet to die by. He offers no proof for his claims, but always has a random Scripture verse handy.

He seems to forget that Catholicism is NOT a “sola scriptura” Church. Catholics can find many supportive verses, but they do not live by the Bible alone. His argument has more appeal for Protestants and lazy Catholics than a Catholic who truly knows his faith. I suspect that Nicholas is hoping to catch the dumb fish; intelligent believers might run home to Rome after a taste of his poison– thank God!

Nicholas writes:

Here is my list of bogus Catholic doctrines and rituals:

SACERDOTAL MASS, PRAYERS FOR THE DEAD, THE SIGN OF THE CROSS, WAX CANDLES, VENERATION OF ANGELS AND DEAD SAINTS, DAILY MASS, EXULTATION OF MARY AS MOTHER OF GOD, PRIESTS WEARING SPECIAL CLOTHING, PURGATORY, LATIN LANGUAGE USED IN WORSHIP, PRAYER OFFERED TO MARY, DEAD SAINTS, AND ANGELS, THE OFFICE OF POPE, KISSING OF THE POPE’S FEET, KISSING OF THE POPE’S RING, TEMPORAL POWER OF POPES, POPE = GOD ON EARTH, PONTIFEX MAXIMUS, POPE HOLDS KEYS TO HEAVEN AND EARTH, POPE CARRIED ON PORTABLE THRONE, VENERATION OF CROSSES, STATUES, IMAGES AND RELICS, HOLY WATER, USE OF SALT IN HOLY WATER, CHRISM, PRIEST’S BLESSINGS, BAPTISM OF BELLS, INFANT BAPTISM, CANONIZATION OF DEAD SAINTS, FASTING ON FRIDAYS DURING LENT, CELEBRATION OF EASTER, CELEBRATION OF GOOD FRIDAY, CELEBRATION OF CHRISTMAS, DAILY SACRIFICE OF THE MASS, THE ROSARY, THE INQUISITION INSTITUTED BY THE COUNCIL OF VERONA IN 1184 AD, SALE OF INDULGENCES, SEVEN SACRAMENTS, TRANSUBSTANTIATION, AURICULAR CONFESION (CONFESSING TO A PRIEST), ADORATION OF A WAFER (COMMUNION), THE SCAPULAR, THE BIBLE FORBIDDEN TO LAYMEN IN 1129 AD BY COUNCIL OF VALENCIA, TRADITION PLACED ON SAME GROUND AS SCRIPTURE, THE APOCRYPHA, IMMACULATE CONCEPTION OF MARY (WITHOUT SIN), INFALLIBILTY OF POPE IN MATTERS OF FAITH AND MORALS, ASSUMPTION OF MARY, MARY AS QUEEN OF HEAVEN, MARY AS CO-REDEEMER, MARY AS MOTHER OF THE CHURCH, IMAGE WORSHIP INSTITUTED BY COUNCIL OF NICEA IN 787 AD, TORTURE AND KILLING OF OVER 100 MILLION CHRISTIANS, THE PERPETUAL VIRGINITY OF MARY, POPE JOHN PAUL STATES EVOLUTION = FACT, CHURCH SANCTIONED BINGO AND GAMBLING, LOYALTY TO CHURCH NECESSARY FOR SALVATION, CHANGE OF SUNDAY AS SABBATH INSTEAD OF SATURDAY, CHURCH AND STATE COMBINED, ENFORCEMENT OF CHURCH DOCTRINES UPON GENERAL PUBLIC, THE NATIVITY OF JESUS DECEMBER 25TH, THE NATIVITY OF ST. JOHN JUNE 24TH, HOT CROSS BUNS, 40 DAYS OF LENT, DEAD VISITING LIVING ON ALL SOULS DAY, BURNING INCENSE, CHANTS, THE CRUCIFIX, WEARING OF RELIGIOUS IMAGES, MYSTICISM, PENANCE, INDULGENCES, AND SALVATION BY WORKS, NUNS, CONVENTS, etc.

Catholic response:

Without explaining how certain practices must be signs of a cult, he gives a long list and demands Scriptural verification. In other words, he has gutted Christianity of its beauty and truth and now he wants accolades for his perverse surgery. Nicholas is a smooth operator. What he does here is a cover-up for his inability to debate or dialogue regarding the points of opposition. He mentions such a multitude of topics that it leaves the reader speechless. Who has time to write upon each of these matters? Unable to respond adequately in short order, Nicholas translates silence or quick web posts as a victory for him. Many of these subjects were addressed on his now defunct message board; however, he immediately deleted or ridiculed answers without ever addressing the concerns of others. Habitually, he would not even amend factual mistakes. Sometimes he would become quite irate when a Catholic answered from tradition and the catechism; it was outside the parameters within which he wanted an answer. He wants everything on his terms— however; to fully ascribe to his reductionism is already to capitulate upon an adequate response— upon the genuine truth. Smart discussion gives Nicholas a headache. When cornered on the message boards of others, he would sometimes retreat behind an anti-intellectual attitude, slamming those who used words longer than four letters or who presented arguments with which he could not deal.

Nicholas writes:

The Roman Catholic Church has indeed invented numerous “doctrines” that cannot be verified in the slightest sense with Scriptures. Sure there is a couple that if one was to twist Scriptures could “appear” to be of God. But when the full context of the Scriptures are given, even a “babe in Christ” can see the truth before their eyes for it is written that “you cannot deceive the very elect” (See Matthew 24:24) If you are not in the Catholic Church but your church embraces any or all of the list of inventions mentioned then your church is seen as a daughter of the “Mother.”

Catholic response:

Ah, here Nicholas condemns almost every Christian on the planet. All the mainline traditions can claim Catholicism as the Mother Church. The two hundred million plus Orthodox believers of the East with their priests and sacraments can be included in this colossal spurning of Christianity as it has come down to us in history. This leaves Nicholas with few allies; and if he is wrong, which he is, even the good Lord is not on his side.

Nicholas talks about how others twist bible verses and yet here this is precisely what he does. The elect of God do indeed see the truth. Yes, it is in the Bible; however, the Living Church also proclaims it. Nicholas violates his very contention. If the Bible alone sufficed, then we would not need his explanatory notes. However, he has to add his own spin to the texts so that they will reach their desired end. Catholicism uses Scripture in a contextual way– explaining the meaning and elaborating upon the development of biblical themes through theological reflection. Nicholas forces the Bible to support his given subject matter. He is guilty of the very crime about which he laments.

Nicholas writes:

Revelation 17:5: “And upon her forehead was a name written, MYSTERY, BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH.”

Catholic response:

I explained in a post which Nicholas deleted how this harlot and abomination was the Rome of the ancient pagans, not the Rome of Christianity and the Catholic Church.

Nicholas writes:

Understand if you cannot explain the above doctrines being embraced in your Church with your Bible then you must admit that this verse speaks unto you this day.

Catholic response:

I have tried to explain, but Nicholas deleted my posts, sometimes (at his own admission) without reading them. This illustrates his intellectual dishonesty and deep-seated hypocrisy.

Nicholas writes:

1 Timothy 4:1: “Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils….”

Catholic response:

We see something of this in the return of paganism and in various New Age movements. We also see something of this betrayal of the Christian faith in people like Nicholas who seek to remake the Gospel in their own image.

Nicholas writes:

If you choose to ignore the simple truth it is only because you have embraced the lie for so long that you have become deaf to the Holy Spirit as did Ephraim…

Hosea 4:17: “Ephraim is joined to idols: let him alone.”

The Lord saw that Ephraim continued to ignore the truth he was sharing with him. Therefore the Lord LEFT Ephraim alone. Now that the Holy Spirit has left, the lie of Satan will be so embraced that it will appear as truth to even those that would say “Lord, Lord.”

Catholic response:

The Lord has promised to remain with us until the end of the age. Yours is the reinterpretation and novelty. In some ways yours is more an Old Testament religion than one that reflects the new dispensation of Christ.

Nicholas writes:

Matthew 7:22: “Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?”

They thought they were Christians. They appeared as Christians to many. They did many wonderful works in His name as does the Roman Catholic Church and many other Churches embracing her “doctrines of devils.” But what was it Jesus said about that day when the whole world thought they were Christians?

Matthew 7:23: And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

Catholic response:

Be prepared Nicholas, these could be the very words that you will hear from our Lord’s lips. You carelessly blaspheme against the works of the Holy Spirit in his Church, making faith possible and giving efficacy to the sacraments. It is Nicholas that has called Catholic teaching the “doctrines of devils.” If it is indeed the truth of Jesus then you have cast yourself in the role of the disbelievers who sought to trick Jesus in his speech and who dismissed his words and works as that of a demon. Making no distinction about those things upon which you might concur with Christians, you seem to reject the entire Good News preached by Christ’s Church.

Nicholas writes:

Are you sure the Church you embrace is seen by the Lord thy God as His Church?

Catholic response:

This is my question to YOU.

Nicholas writes:

Or does the list I have given of “invented lies of Satan” open your eyes and make your heart pound within your chest in fear? The Holy Spirit will not continue to warn you day in and day out my friend. Sooner or later, like Ephraim, you will have heard His voice for the last time….

Catholic response:

Sorry, none of this happens. Some of the things on your list are not even part of the deposit of faith. Other subjects are misunderstood by you and your few associates. I have tried to respond on individual matters, but you go in a rage and then delete the posts.

Nicholas writes:

2 Thessalonians 2:10-12: “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.”

Catholic response:

Is this what has happened to you? Is this why you will not even correct black-and-white factual matters? Is this why you show such animosity toward Catholicism? Dear God in heaven, it causes me to shudder to imagine that such might be the cloud that surrounds your heart and mind.

Nicholas writes:

And when you ignore Him, you will be open to the strong delusion that has drawn you away in the first place. It will appear as “of Him” when in fact is it of Satan. Keep in mind; if you CANNOT verify what your Priests, Pastors, or Preachers proclaim from the Word of God, then it is NOT of God. It is actually that simple….

Catholic response:

And so you stand absolutely alone? No, our Lord established a Church to preserve us in the one true faith of Christ. Protestantism and cults have fractured themselves into thousands of communities— each believing different things— each claiming to possess the truth. Personal interpretation that ignores the working of the Holy Spirit among the shepherds appointed by Christ can only lead to a further corruption of the Gospel. We do not stand alone. Yes, we have the Scriptures, as understood within a horizon of tradition in a living and teaching Church. Would you utterly reject the holiness and learning of those who have dedicated themselves to the Gospel of Christ? Would you dismiss as irrelevant the charism of truth given the teachers of faith in the Catholic Church? Alas, I guess you would— and so you trust no one (as you have said before)— I suspect you can join no church because you have made yourself a church of one.

Nicholas writes:

Isaiah 8:20: “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

Catholic response:

Ah, Isaiah is talking about the word from God that he is proclaiming as a prophet of the Most High. The New Israel also has prophets of the living Word, Jesus Christ. These evangelizers find a singular focus in the ministers of the Catholic Church.

Nicholas writes:

Truth is truth!

Catholic response:

You would best sign off your posts with “Deceit is deceit!”

Prophecies: Malachy, Fatima & Padre Pio

GENUSLILIUM: Father, I have some important questions to ask. My first questions are about false prophets or prophecies. How do I know if they are false, or true?

FATHER JOE: You do not mean true prophets but fortune tellers and soothsayers. I would regard most if not all as false. This does not mean they are or are not sometimes pious people. As for private revelation, the Church does not require you to believe one way or the other. Just stay prepared for the coming of Christ. Either at the end of the world or upon your death, you will meet Jesus. That is for sure!

GENUSLILIUM: I am concerned about the Prophecy of St. Malachy. He had detailed visions of 112 Popes until Doomsday, also known as The Biblical Apocalypse. The current Pope, Benedict XVI is the 111th named Pope, so is it true that only 1 pope remains until the return of Jesus?

FATHER JOE: The so-called prophecies probably do not belong to St. Malachy. They are curiosities, but I put no trust in them.

GENUSLILIUM: My next question is about the prophecies from The Miracle at Fatima. I truly believe in our Blessed Mother, and I have no doubt that her appearances are true. In the third prophecy that Lucia wrote, it specifically states, according to eyewitnesses, that the Pope would betray the flock and turn his sheep over to the slaughter devised by Lucifer himself. John XXIII fainted because he thought he would be the Pope who would open the door to Satan and that he would be the long awaited anti-pope. Is this true? Please explain.

FATHER JOE:

This is not the third prophecy of Fatima and the history you cite is bogus.

“The third part of the secret revealed at the Cova da Iria-Fátima, on 13 July 1917: I write in obedience to you, my God, who command me to do so through his Excellency the Bishop of Leiria and through your Most Holy Mother and mine. After the two parts which I have already explained, at the left of Our Lady and a little above, we saw an Angel with a flaming sword in his left hand; flashing, it gave out flames that looked as though they would set the world on fire; but they died out in contact with the splendour that Our Lady radiated towards him from her right hand: pointing to the earth with his right hand, the Angel cried out in a loud voice: ‘Penance, Penance, Penance!’ And we saw in an immense light that is God: ‘something similar to how people appear in a mirror when they pass in front of it’ a Bishop dressed in White ‘we had the impression that it was the Holy Father’. Other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious going up a steep mountain, at the top of which there was a big Cross of rough-hewn trunks as of a cork-tree with the bark; before reaching there the Holy Father passed through a big city half in ruins and half trembling with halting step, afflicted with pain and sorrow, he prayed for the souls of the corpses he met on his way; having reached the top of the mountain, on his knees at the foot of the big Cross he was killed by a group of soldiers who fired bullets and arrows at him, and in the same way there died one after another the other Bishops, Priests, men and women Religious, and various lay people of different ranks and positions. Beneath the two arms of the Cross there were two Angels each with a crystal aspersorium in his hand, in which they gathered up the blood of the Martyrs and with it sprinkled the souls that were making their way to God.”

Pope Benedict wrote about the third secret:

“A careful reading of the text of the so-called third ‘secret’ of Fatima … will probably prove disappointing or surprising after all the speculation it has stirred. No great mystery is revealed; nor is the future unveiled…. The purpose of the vision is not to show a film of an irrevocably fixed future. Its meaning is exactly the opposite: it is meant to mobilize the forces of change in the right direction. Therefore we must totally discount fatalistic explanations of the ‘secret’, such as, for example, the claim that the would-be assassin of 13 May 1981 was merely an instrument of the divine plan guided by Providence and could not therefore have acted freely, or other similar ideas in circulation. Rather, the vision speaks of dangers and how we might be saved from them…. The concluding part of the ‘secret’ uses images which Lucia may have seen in devotional books and which draw their inspiration from long-standing intuitions of faith.”

GENUSLILIUM: My other question is about the prophecies of Padre Pio. Is this real? How do we know if it’s real or false? My heart tells me its true, but I do not want to be misled.

FATHER JOE: We should not regard such things too literally. The fact of tribulation and suffering for believers requires no great stretch of the imagination. Look at the hedonism, perversity and anti-life mentality that afflicts our society. The prophecy of blood, also noted by the late Pope John Paul II, will require courage from the faithful. We need to remember the words, BE NOT AFRAID.

GENUSLILIUM: Jesus said that no man knows the hour or the day of the End of Days. Even Jesus didn’t know. Only his father did. But Jesus added that he hoped that those who will live in the Final Generation would look for the signs in the hope their suffering would not be so great.

FATHER JOE: Certainly Jesus as God is aware of such things. What was meant was that it was not for him to divulge God’s time-table while he was still in the world. I suspect that it was an element of his divine knowledge which he placed behind him (in a sense) so that he could truly be like us in all things. But ours was no amnesiac God and he could always call upon his divine knowledge.

GENUSLILIUM: It also disturbs me that people call the Catholic Church “satanic” and “demonic.” It really discourages me, because I know the Catholic Church is right because they do not make excuses for sin, or change their beliefs to fit with the “New Age.” It hurts me because immediate family members have said these things to me, and I know better. How do I respond to them without stating an argument because it always turns into one, and it makes me very upset. All I want is for me, and my children, and the ones I love to go to Heaven, how can I get through to them?

FATHER JOE: The best response any Catholic can make to such charges is the witness by fidelity and holiness of life. We leave the conversion of souls and the movement of grace in others to God.

GENUSLILIUM: Okay. Thank you Father for clearing those things up for me. It is kind of scary thinking about the whole anti-pope, 3 days of darkness, and the 112 popes left, when we are at our 111th.

Should I get blessed candles, salt and holy water because of what Padre Pio has told us? or is it not necessary?

FATHER JOE: Sacramentals are nice. People should keep holy water and blessed candles in their homes. However, I would not get all bent out of shape about apocalyptic prohesies. Remain in a state of grace and do not give in to fear.

GENUSLILIUM: If the prophecies of the 112 popes were not made by St. Malachy, who do you think could have made that up? Whoever it was was pretty accurate on the popes we have had thus far.

FATHER JOE: You can read a great deal into them. Their accuracy is arguable.

GENUSLILIUM: Do you think we are living in the Final Generation?

FATHER JOE: Me or the kids after me? Ponder your own death, not the end of the world. We know our days are numbered.

FINAL NOTE

Genuslilium gave me a list of web sites where his/her material was gathered.  One was a site on the paranormal but it was not a Christian source.  Indeed, the information seemed deiberately wrong as if one were trying to see how gullible Catholics might be.  Another site was purportedly about the Divine Mercy.  However, it was a hodge-podge of information from both approved and unapproved sources. We should be careful of sites that use the appeal of popular devotions to push an agenda of conflict with the authentic Catholic Church in union with the Holy See.  The one given to me for review demonstrated an animus against the reformed liturgy and too much gravity upon private revelation.  The third site I reviewed, and I have opted not to list them here, focused upon the prophecies of Malachy but then added its own peculiar brand of mysticism and devotionalism.  Indeed, it actually had messages from innerlocutions or visions not approved by the Church. Anyone can go online and claim that God or Mary is speaking through him or her. I would steer clear of such sensationalism. Stick with the the universal catechism and the Catholic Bible!