• 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

    Jeff on Ask a Priest
    Constantine Stamboli… on Ask a Priest
    paxi1949 on How Far Can the Pope Go?
    Percy on Ask a Priest
    Theo hansen on Ask a Priest

Another Argument About the Pope

REBECCA: Catholics claim that the Pope is the visible head of the church and “Holy Father,” “Vicar of Christ,” “Sovereign Pontiff.” All of these are titles that rightly belong only to Jesus and to God.

FATHER JOE:

Your last question was about the institution of the priesthood. Now you switch gears and attack the papacy. Evidently, your questions are not sincere but merely apologetic ploys to attack the Catholic faith.

We speak about God, particularly in the Mass, as our Father most holy. Indeed, he is thrice holy, as expressed in the Sanctus; he is the source of all holiness. The use of “Holy Father” for the Pope is no absolute usurpation of the tile. It is merely that the Church sees herself as a family and her ministers as spiritual fathers. While the Pope, as successor to St. Peter, is the visible head of the Church; the true albeit invisible headship is that of Jesus Christ. The title, “Vicar of Christ,” belongs uniquely to the Pope as it would make no sense to call Jesus his own vicar. At one time in the evolution of the title, the Pope was called the Vicar of Peter. However, in meaning, it amounted pretty much to the same thing. Christ is the Redeemer and the great Pontifex or Bridge between heaven and earth. He gives us access to the Father. The use of the word Pontiff for the Pope is an immediate connection with the “keys of the kingdom” given the chief apostle by Christ. Nothing is taken away from our Lord by the Church; but you would strip her of the leadership commissioned by Christ.

REBECCA: There is not a single instance in the Scriptures where any of the above titles are applied to a man. The term, “Holy Father” is used only once in the entire Bible, and it is used by Jesus in addressing God the Father.

FATHER JOE:

The Church was something new. Stop playing word games and look at the truth. The history of the Church did not end with the Bible; rather it began there. There is ample evidence that unique authority was given St. Peter. Matthew 16:18-19:

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

When St. Paul addresses the Corinthians, he applies the title of “father” to himself: “For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (1 Corinthians 4:15). The use of the word “holy” signifies the holiness of the papal office. The Pope is called Holy Father precisely because of the divine charge given the Church and the particular protection given the apostle by Christ. The Pope is Holy Father only because God is our Father Most Holy. The early Church called all the members of the Church by the label “saint.” The word for holy and saint is essentially the same. Because of their charge over the Eucharist and to forgive sins, priests are sometimes called, “holy fathers.”

The last bit of your comment is what you intended to say all along. You hate the Catholic Church and associate the Pope with the anti-Christ. But the false teaching is yours. You join your voice to all the worldly opposition to Christ and his Church. The devil must surely laugh that he can have you fight against the Lord to whom you claim to have faith.

REBECCA: When one searches the Bible from cover to cover, he finds only one passage which gives an indication of a vicar of Christ or God. It is 2 Thess. 2:3-4 where it says, “Let no one deceive you in any way, for the day of the Lord will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition, who opposes and is exalted above all that is called God, or that is worshiped, so that he sits in the temple of God and gives himself out as if he were God.”

FATHER JOE:

The Thessalonians suffered under Dionysian seers or false prophets. What is prophesied here is a certain blasphemy either of the pagan emperor or of an anti-Christ figure. The emperor wrongly claimed godhood. This is not the role of a steward or vicar. We have many shepherds who participate in the authority and service of the Good Shepherd. The Pope does not seek worship toward himself but for the one true God. Christian worship always takes note of the Lord’s Supper and the Cross.

The charge given Peter is definitive; it is reaffirmed after the resurrection when our Lord heals the chief apostle (given his recent denials) and he is again told to lead and feed the flock of Christ. This charge is passed on for as long as the Church continues in existence. Read John 21:15-19:

When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep. Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”

The Great Saturday or Sunday Sabbath Debate #3

Cathy writes:

The Didache (Constitutions of the Holy Apostles) written in 70 AD:

“But every Lord’s day, gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned” (Didache 14).

“And on the day of our Lord’s resurrection, which is the Lord’s day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus, and sent Him to us, and condescended to let Him suffer, and raised Him from the dead. Otherwise what apology will he make to God who does not assemble on that day to hear the saving word concerning the resurrection…?” (Didache, Vol. 7).

“And how can he be other than an adversary to God, who takes pains about temporary things night and day, but takes no care of things eternal? Who takes care of washings and temporary food every day, but does not take care of those that endure forever? How can such a one even now avoid hearing that word of the Lord, ‘The Gentiles are justified more than you’ as He says, by way of reproach, to Jerusalem, ‘Sodom is justified rather than thou.’ For if the Gentiles every day, when they arise from sleep, run to their idols to worship them, and before all their work and all their labors do first of all pray to them, and in their feasts and in their solemnities do not keep away, but attend upon them; and not only those upon the place, but those living far distant do the same; and in their public shows all come together, as into a synagogue: in the same manner those which are vainly called Jews, when they have worked six days, on the seventh day rest, and come together in their synagogue, never leaving or neglecting either rest from labor or assembling together… If, therefore, those who are not saved frequently assemble together for such purposes as do not profit them, what apology wilt thou make to the Lord God who forsakes his Church, not imitating so much as the heathen, but by such, thy absence grows slothful, or turns apostate or acts wickedness? To whom the Lord says to Jeremiah, ‘Ye have not kept My ordinances; nay, you have not walked according to the ordinance of the heathen and you have in a manner exceeded them… How, therefore, will anyone make his apology who has despised or absented himself from the church of God?” (Didache, Vol. 7).

“…every Lord’s day, hold your solemn assemblies, and rejoice: for he will be guilty of sin who fasts on the Lord’s day, being the day of the resurrection…” (Didache, Vol. 7).

“On the day of the resurrection of the Lord, that is, the Lord’s day, assemble yourselves together, without fail, giving thanks to God, and praising Him for those mercies God has bestowed upon you through Christ, and has delivered you from ignorance, error, and bondage, that your sacrifice may be unspotted, and acceptable to God, who has said concerning His universal Church: ‘In every place shall incense and a pure sacrifice be offered unto me; for I am a great King, saith the Lord Almighty, and my name is wonderful among the heathen,’ [Malachi 1:11, 14]” (Didache, Vol. 7).

Lou writes:

I will comment on your references of Sunday-keeping before 100 AD. Your first reference to Sunday-keeping before 100 AD is the Didache. Unfortunately, the last ten volumes of the Didache is a most unreliable source. The first six volumes are recognized as containing the binding force of the Word of God, the rest (from which you gather your information) is the work of human compilation and contrivance. The Didache is, properly speaking, the first six chapters and no more.

Father Joe responds:

Good work, Cathy, you answered Lou’s challenge and he had to tell a fable to escape the trap he made for himself!

Turning to Lou, since its teachings ring as heretical to your SDA ears, you join the likes of F. E. Vokes in saying that the DIDACHE must be later fiction.

Sorry, Lou, I do not know who told you that the DIDACHE was a counterfeit, but you were misled. Cathy is again right on target. While there is an evolutionary character to the work, its style, language, etc. all point to its authenticity in its various sections. Fragments of the DIDACHE have been found in Latin, Coptic, Georgian, and Greek (particularly of the DOCTRINA that you oppose).

The DIDACHE TON DODEKA APOSTOLON is universally held as a first century Syrian document dated around 60 AD to 70 AD. That means that it was not written long after St. Paul’s letters and about the same time period as our Gospels. It has sixteen chapters in total. The first six that you hold in high regard deal with the “Way of Life” and the “Way of Death.” Chapters seven through ten deal with liturgical affairs like baptism, fasts, and the Eucharist. You reject these chapters, not because they reflect a different hand or a later date (which is not true) but because you find their content offensive. The fact that Christians could be involved with such “Catholic” things during the “living memory” period after Jesus puts your every dissent into question. You would be more consistent and honest to spurn the entire work. Chapters eleven through fifteen cover church laws and discipline, including THE PROPER KEEPING OF THE LORD’S DAY (Sunday) and the election of bishops. Chapter sixteen prophesies the Lord’s return WITH ALL THE SAINTS (oops! I guess they were not sleeping after all). Cathy was brilliant in mentioning this document. It undermines every misconception and lie (even if inadvertent) that you might conjure up.

The DIDACHE was well known in the early Church. There are even references to some of the parts you disavow. It influenced the APOSTOLIC CONSTITUTIONS and was promoted by St. Athanasius. It also includes the earliest known Church condemnation of abortion.

Since this document is authentic, Cathy has successfully answered your challenge to give testimony prior to 100 AD in favor of Sunday worship over the Saturday synagogue service (see first post). You need to respond intelligently, without subterfuge to the texts she gives you.

The PATHEOS Portal

http://www.patheos.com/Library/Roman-Catholicism.html

The PATHEOS portal advertises itself as “hosting the conversation of faith,” however— it does more than this, it seeks to reframe and/or to delineate religious truth. While several good Catholic blogs are hosted; it seeks neutrality with other religious or non-religious systems that is not possible without compromise and contradiction. For instance, while admitting that Catholicism “traces its history to Jesus of Nazareth,” which it defines as merely an “itinerant preacher,” the quick facts given stipulate the following:

  1. The Roman Catholic Church formed between the 3rd to the 5th centuries C.E.
  2. The bishops formed a “universal” church.
  3. The exact date of the beginning of the Roman Catholic Church is indeterminable.
  4. Many historians suggest that Pope Leo I (440-461) is the first to claim universal jurisdiction over the worldwide Church, thus initiating the rise of the papacy, a uniquely Roman Catholic structure.

While the nomenclature of “Roman Catholic” and “Pope” develops over time, the Church is directly instituted by Jesus Christ, God-made-man. The apostles were bishop-priests. There was no generic first and second century Christianity. Those who accepted Christ in faith and baptism were Catholic Christians. All the apostles and disciples were Catholic. The Virgin Mary was a Catholic. Jesus calls Simon ROCK or Peter and says that he will build his Church on this ROCK. He gives Peter the keys to the kingdom and universal jurisdiction as his visible shepherd. While there is certainly development, all the important elements go back to Christ and the apostles. Anti-Catholic critics have long contended for the late institution of the Church. Revisionist Catholics, even in academia, spout similar nonsense.  These are not credible historians, no matter what alphabet soup follows their names. It seems to me that while individual voices at PATHEOS are orthodox, the site is tainted by a religious relativism that spills over into the section about Catholicism. Might this represent the wrong type of ecumenism about which Pope Benedict XVI has warned us? I think so. There is no sense of the supernatural nature of Mother Church. Dissenting voices are given as much legitimacy as those which speak the truth. There is no imprimatur or protection to insure against misleading statements. Attempting to appease many authorities, there is a definite religious indifferentism and denominationalism. Both are contrary to Catholic teaching and are affronts to the truth.

Mark Shea has a good article on his blog (hosted at PATHEOS) entitled, “Why it’s Our Ruling Class vs. the Rest of Us.”  It alerts us to media consolidation and control of information, even religious information.  I did not even know that PATHEOS existed until after I looked at the post and had my eye drawn away to the ads and links.  I found it very unsettling and confusing.  I hope over time the problems can be fixed, but I fear a continuing tension and struggle over what is or is not genuine Catholicism.  

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.

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)

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 Forbidden to Marry

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

Any prohibition against the good of marriage is from the devil!

Now the Spirit explicitly says that in the last times some will turn away from the faith by paying attention to deceitful spirits and demonic instructions, through the hypocrisy of liars with branded consciences. They forbid marriage and require abstinence from foods that God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected when received with thanksgiving, for it is made holy by the invocation of God in prayer (1 Timothy 14:1-4).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

These words refer to a false asceticism and not to the practices of Catholic Christianity. The early Church, well into the Patristic period, had to deal with cults and movements which made all sorts of exaggerated claims and required various austere practices. Some urged a return to Jewish dietary laws. Others wanted to go even further with fasting and abstinence, perpetually destroying joy in the goods of creation. There were even movements which urged strict celibacy upon all the members as the only way to enlightenment and salvation. The Catholic position is quite different. Our use of fasting and abstinence is not perpetual and it is not a rejection of certain foods as unclean or unworthy of man. Rather, their absence, to coin a cliché, is to make the heart grow fonder. It is precisely because something like meat is good that we might temporarily abstain. Jesus himself fasted and prayed in the desert and alluded to it in the future as something his followers would do. As for marriage, Catholics believe that Christ raised it up to the level of a sacrament, a special sacred sign of his relationship as the bridegroom to his bride, the Church. It is a mysterious means of encountering the Lord himself and receiving grace. Obviously, if such is the Catholic view, we would not be seeking to degrade it by our practice of celibacy. Priests and religious vow celibacy freely, not because marriage is bad, but because it is very good. Celibacy becomes a wonderful gift, freely embraced, as a sacrifice for God and his holy people. Jesus was celibate. St. Paul not only practiced it but encouraged it. The celibate priest becomes a sign of contradiction reflecting the kingdom of Christ to a hedonistic world. It is not a rejection of love, but a selfless abandonment to divine love as manifested in service to God’s people, the Church. It is not a calling for everyone, just as not everyone is called to priesthood or consecrated life. The majority of people seek holiness in marriage and family life.

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

The Catholic Church claims its apostolic line through Peter and yet he was married, something not allowed for popes today.

And when Jesus had come into Peter’s house, he saw Peter’s mother-in-law lying in bed, sick with a fever (Matthew 8:14). Now Simon’s mother-in-law was keeping her bed sick with fever, and they immediately told him about her (Mark 1:30). But he rose from the synagogue and entered Simon’s house. Now Simon’s mother-in-law was suffering from a great fever, and they besought him for her (Luke 4:38).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

These references to Peter’s mother-in-law do indicate that Peter was married; although her absence from these texts might lead one to think that she experienced some mishap or might have been away. 1 Corinthians has Paul discussing his power to lead about a wife like Cephas (Peter) and there is a tradition that she was an early Christian martyr. But there is really very little we know about her. Be this as it may, the Catholic Church has never hidden the fact that Peter and other religious leaders of the Church were married. Indeed, the Catholic Church had a selective married clergy all the way up to the 12th century. The Fourth Lateran Council was quite decisive in mandating compulsory celibacy for any who would be priests of the Roman or Western Rite. The Eastern rites of the Catholic Church, to this very day (in Europe and the Far East) have an optional married clergy. These priests are in full union with Rome. Also, in our own nation many Protestant clergy, Lutheran and Episcopal, have entered into the Roman Catholic priesthood, even though they are married and have families. Those who are raised in the Western rite realize that celibacy is a special gift and a particular charism of our priestly experience. It is a sign of a wondrous single-hearted love. One of the fruits of this sacrifice is the availability that a priest can give to his prayers, study, and service. Any indication that Peter’s married state would affect apostolic succession is a low blow. Those who followed Peter had a spiritual and not a physical affinity to the great apostle. While the Church has known nepotism, such is the exception and not the rule. No one forces a young man to become a priest or brother. There is no coercion for a woman to become a nun. They know that vows of poverty, obedience, and celibacy are part of the package. If God gives a person a vocation in the Catholic Church, we believe that he will give him the graces and gifts to follow this life. The majority of men who leave the priesthood to get married ultimately have failed marriages. Promises are made to be kept. The problem is not the Church or God; the dilemma is people who are unwilling to surrender their lives fully to Christ. Marriage is also a sacrifice, amidst the joys. However, if we trust God and walk with him, he will guide our path.

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

Paul was single but thought we should have the freedom to marry. Catholics are too strict.

Do we not have the right to take along a Christian wife, as do the rest of the apostles, and brothers of the Lord, and Kephas? (1 Corinthians 9:5).

CATHOLIC TRUTH

The Catholic Church also recognizes the right of people to get married. However, the Church has a right of her own to regulate her ministries. Permanent deacons, Extraordinary Ministers of Holy Communion, Catechists, Lectors, Acolytes, and Lay Evangelists and Ministers all serve the Church and may be married. Would the anti-Catholic demand compulsory matrimony? I hope not. Those who opt for priesthood in the Roman Rite also freely embrace celibacy. This is no less than what St. Paul did. After listing all the various rights that a follower in Jesus possesses, he acknowledges that he has chosen not to use these rights for himself.

After listing the right to marry among many other freedoms, St. Paul says:

Yet we have not used this right. On the contrary, we endure everything, so as not to place an obstacle to the Gospel of Christ. … I have not used any of these rights, … (1 Corinthians 9:12,15).

After speaking about marriage:

This I say by way of concession, however, not as a command. Indeed, I wish everyone to be as I am, but each has a particular gift from God, one of one kind and one of another. Now to the unmarried and to widows, I say: It is a good thing for them to remain as they are, as I do, … (1 Corinthians 7:6-8).

Advice to virgins and widows:

Now in regard to virgins, I have no commandment from the Lord, but I give my opinion as one who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy. So this is what I think best because of the present distress: that it is a good thing for a person to remain as he is. Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek a separation. Are you free of a wife? Then do not look for a wife. If you marry, however, you do not sin, nor does an unmarried woman sin if she marries; but such people will experience affliction in their earthly life, and I would like to spare you that. I tell you, brothers, the time is running out. From now on, let those having wives act as not having them, those weeping as not weeping, those rejoicing as not rejoicing, those buying as not owning, those using the world as not using it fully. For the world in its present form is passing away (1 Corinthians 7:25-31).

More on virginity:

So then, the one who marries his virgin does well; the one who does not marry her will do better (1 Corinthians 7:38).

About a widow:

She is more blessed, though, in my opinion, if she remains as she is, and I think that I too have the Spirit of God (1 Corinthians 7:40).

Celibacy as a sign of the kingdom:

His disciples said to him, “If the case of a man with his wife is so, it is not expedient to marry.” And he said, “Not all can accept this teaching; but those to whom it has been given. For there are eunuchs who were born so from their mother’s womb; and there are eunuchs who were made so by men; and there are eunuchs who have made themselves so for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Let him accept it who can” (Matthew 19:10-12).