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    Fr. Joseph Jenkins

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Holy Family Teens Preparing for Confirmation

We celebrated Spirit Day here yesterday for our teens!

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Faith Challenged By Scripture

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A person who is struggling with faith wrote the following:

I was raised “catholic” but now I am considering leaving “catholicism” along with belief in “god.” I honestly cannot come to believe in “god” anymore. I used to be such a fervent believer in him but I have come to the realization that I no longer believe in him. The more I read the “bible” and verses like the ones below the more I become disillusioned with Christianity.

Deuteronomy 25:11-12 / Genesis 38:8-10 / Deuteronomy 21:18-21 / Exodus 35:2 / Leviticus 20:13 / Isaiah 13:13-16 / Exodus 21:20-21 / 1 Timothy 2:11-12 / Colossians 3:22-23 / Luke 14:26 / Deuteronomy 22:13-21 / Isaiah 40:8

This does not seem like the “word of god” to me— of a being who is supposed to be all knowing and perfect. Rather it is the work of an individual with a primitive way of thinking. Many times I tried to convince myself that the “god” of the Old Testament was different but sadly that is not the case since most Christians believe that “god” is eternally unchanging as is expected of a perfect ‘know it all’ being. I have many more problems with the “bible,” including inconsistencies with history and science. I also don’t like the fact that everything in the “bible” has to be watered down especially the negative portions. Why can’t I just read it for what it is, why does it have to be read metaphorically. When Jesus said that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves I understood the message loud and clear. So why are other portions, which are just so ridiculous, have to be read symbolically or metaphorically? I honestly cannot believe in “god” anymore. I tried but I just can’t bring myself to honestly and sincerely believe anymore. I don’t consider myself an evil person but the more “scripture” I read the less I believe.

Here is my response:

First, the Bible is not dictated word for word in a manner that invalidates the learning and life experiences of the human authors. The nature of the instruments (as human beings) has to be respected. Anything more controlling would be a form of possession, and that devilish business undermines human dignity. We are men and women, not pencils. The light of God’s truth shines through but as through the prism of the human condition. We see this ultimately with the incarnation and the one who is the Light of the World. Consequently, the coarseness and cruelty that upsets us in the Old Testament says more about mankind and sin than it does about God. The passion and death of Jesus is his confrontation with such a mindset. What was tolerated before is now challenged so that it might be healed and perfected.

Second, we must acknowledge that the Bible was written by many authors, exhibiting many styles, over a great deal of time and in many places. The oldest books may go back as far as the 16th and 12th century BC. The Scriptures also contain many forms of literature: histories, speeches, prophecies, legal codes, parable stories and mythology, poetry and hymns, etc. One must understand what one is reading if it is to be interpreted correctly. Jesus gave us a Church so that the truths of faith might be faithfully transmitted without dilution or corruption. While it is inspired by the Holy Spirit, this same Spirit in the Church preserves the truth. The Holy Spirit also grants us the gift of faith. The Bible is not a manual on how to live your life. The Bible is not a science book. It is a library of books that chronicles God’s activity in salvation history and our response. You should not make the Bible out to be something it is not. If you want an easy listing of moral certainties then pick up the universal catechism of the Church.

God as a perfect Spirit is unchanging and has within himself all perfections: knowledge, power, goodness, holiness, eternal, etc. But God must communicate with us in time. All we know is change. One day we are a child and the next we look into the mirror and see wrinkles and white hair. God enters the human family: the Word becomes Flesh. He suffers and dies for you and me. Jesus is the ultimate revelation of the Father. He lowers himself to our level so that we might better know and love him. While you like his words about love, you are ready to renounce Jesus as a divine Person and his real presence in the Eucharist. Why are you more willing to see mankind as a cosmic accident than as a providential creation with an eternal destiny? That is not much of a trade-off.

Old heresies often raise their ugly heads. Marcionism was a dualism insisting that the “harsh” and “bloodthirsty” deity of the Old Testament could not be the same as the “loving” Father of Jesus. This view was rightly condemned by the Church. Jesus is the long-promised Messiah and even our Lord says that “salvation comes through the Jews.”

I would like to say that man’s capacity to understand grows but I am often amazed at the depth of ignorance and error, even in the modern world. The deity of ISIS Islamic extremists is a throwback to the view of God as one of law over love, of forced conversions, and of espousing death to infidels. By contrast, the God of truth, justice and mercy is reflected in the courageous men and women who are tortured and beheaded for their Catholic faith and for the love of Jesus. While you reject God because your interpretation will allow no clash in models; the Christian martyrs witness to the truth with courage. They embrace in their agony what you throw away in your leisure.

Genesis 38:8-10

Then Judah said to Onan, “Have intercourse with your brother’s wife, in fulfillment of your duty as brother-in-law, and thus preserve your brother’s line.” Onan, however, knew that the offspring would not be his; so whenever he had intercourse with his brother’s wife, he wasted his seed on the ground, to avoid giving offspring to his brother. What he did greatly offended the LORD, and the LORD took his life too.

Often cited against the sin of masturbation and/or coitus interruptus, the situation again reflects an ancient code (pagan and Jewish) about raising a child up for one’s dead brother. Onan has no problem with enjoying the sexual act, but his selfishness will not allow a child to be conceived. If there is no progeny then no inheritance will have to be shared with his brother’s family. While Christians do not follow this legal code, and would object to such an understanding of the marriage bed, we can see in the story a divine negative verdict against those who would separate the conjugal act from its natural fertility. In any case, Onan is disobedient to what he perceives as his obligation under the law. Disobedience always invokes a reckoning. Given that he acts against life, his life is demanded of him. Remember that God is the author of life. We belong to him. If he should demand our life, it is his right.

Exodus 21:20-21

When someone strikes his male or female slave with a rod so that the slave dies under his hand, the act shall certainly be avenged. 

If, however, the slave survives for a day or two, he is not to be punished, since the slave is his own property.

The ancient world kept slaves. These rules here were to make the masters of men accountable. While we disagree about such bondage, we can appreciate the yearning for justice. There is still slavery in certain parts of the world. The seed of freedom planted in the New Covenant would take a while to germinate and grow. Christians were urged to treat slaves as brothers and sisters in Christ. Later slavery was tolerated until that time that debts were paid off or savages were civilized and given the true faith. Popes condemned slavery in the 1600’s and yet it would remain an institution in the United States until 1865. Dissent is not something new, as today the full humanity of the unborn is compromised. It became ever clearer that in Christ all are given grace and regarded the same— Jew or Gentile, free or slave, man or woman— all possess a precious dignity. Freedom is our birthright as children of God and everyone has natural rights. Here is one of the clearest instances of the organic development of doctrine.

Exodus 35:2

On six days work may be done, but the seventh day shall be holy to you as the sabbath of complete rest to the LORD. Anyone who does work on that day shall be put to death.

This is part of the Decalogue, although later Jews and Christians would not have any part of a death threat. Ancient peoples often attached the death penalty to matters they wanted obeyed— Canaanites did this, the Egyptians, the Babylonians, and of course, the Romans, etc. The preference would be to imitate God because we want to be like him or because we love him. This particular law also reflects the human condition. Men need rest just as they require work. This law would prevent men from being forced to labor without a day of rest where they could worship God and find their leisure. Today we have forgotten this and poor people are sometimes forced to work seven days a week to put food on their tables and to care for their families. We live in a world which no longer either loves God or fears him.

Leviticus 20:13

If a man lies with a male as with a woman, they have committed an abomination; the two of them shall be put to death; their bloodguilt is upon them.

We should not get caught up with the death penalties enacted by the ancient peoples. While we find it abhorrent, the emphasis is on the accompanying value, not the censure. When you do not have jails and are desperate to keep an organized society, societies typically enact harsh measures. This proposition here comes as part of a much longer list, each with a similar penalty: occult worship (6), dishonoring parents (9), adultery (10), incest (11 & 12), and bestiality (15). Here the prohibition is against the sin of homosexuality. Are you upset because the Scriptures and the Church teaches against homosexuality? Catholicism would say it also conflicts with the natural law. We must love our disoriented brothers and sisters; but we cannot give our approbation for immoral behavior. Those who are truly homosexual are called to lives of celibate love and service. How do you feel about the other sins listed? They have their advocates just as homosexuality did. During my lifetime there has been a major paradigm shift. That which was almost universally regarded as abhorrent and criminalized is now esteemed by our secular humanistic society as a basic right. The Church cannot dismiss objective truths so easily or because of the changing fads and fashions of the day. Doctrine can develop, but a reversal here would be in stark conflict with what came before. The accidentals of faith can sometimes change, the substance cannot.

Deuteronomy 21:18-21

If someone has a stubborn and rebellious son who will not listen to his father or mother, and will not listen to them even though they discipline him, his father and mother shall take hold of him and bring him out to the elders at the gate of his home city, where they shall say to the elders of the city, “This son of ours is a stubborn and rebellious fellow who will not listen to us; he is a glutton and a drunkard.” Then all his fellow citizens shall stone him to death. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst, and all Israel will hear and be afraid.

Again, note that we are not under the many Hebraic laws but saved by faith and the Lord’s gift of grace. These dictums do not apply to Christians. The ancient society to which they applied no longer exists. While capital punishment clashes with the Church’s ethic for life, what was it that the people of old were seeking to foster? First, this passage is not in reference to a small child but to an adult (man). Second, his rebelliousness is not over minor issues. He is self-preoccupied to the extent of neglecting his parents and the community. He is abusive and dangerous. The stakes were high, life and death. It may be that the threat of ultimate punishment turned many of these men around. The law here was connected to a religious society. They did not make a distinction between secular or civil law and religious tenets.

Deuteronomy 22:13-21

If a man, after marrying a woman and having relations with her, comes to dislike her, and accuses her of misconduct and slanders her by saying, “I married this woman, but when I approached her I did not find evidence of her virginity,” the father and mother of the young woman shall take the evidence of her virginity and bring it to the elders at the city gate. There the father of the young woman shall say to the elders, “I gave my daughter to this man in marriage, but he has come to dislike her, and now accuses her of misconduct, saying: ‘I did not find evidence of your daughter’s virginity.’ But here is the evidence of my daughter’s virginity!” And they shall spread out the cloth before the elders of the city. Then these city elders shall take the man and discipline him, and fine him one hundred silver shekels, which they shall give to the young woman’s father, because the man slandered a virgin in Israel. She shall remain his wife, and he may not divorce her as long as he lives. But if this charge is true, and evidence of the young woman’s virginity is not found, they shall bring the young woman to the entrance of her father’s house and there the men of her town shall stone her to death, because she committed a shameful crime in Israel by prostituting herself in her father’s house. Thus shall you purge the evil from your midst.

Do you not remember the story of the woman caught in adultery and how Jesus challenged the angry crowd? He said, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” They all walked away. Jesus came to bring mercy, even when the woman was guilty. He also preached against divorce, something that is affirmed here. You wrongly get caught up in the graphic elements. All these things must now be viewed in light of Christ. How is it then that these elements of ancient Judaism would cause you to dismiss your faith in Jesus Christ? Either you have not thought this through, or this whole comment with citations is a ploy from a non-believer to ridicule the faith.

Deuteronomy 25:11-12

When two men are fighting and the wife of one intervenes to save her husband from the blows of his opponent, if she stretches out her hand and seizes the latter by his genitals, you shall chop off her hand; show no pity.

And how often do you suppose this actually happened? The religious gravity is not cruelty but upon the gift of fertility and respect for manhood. Destruction of a person’s faculty in the transmission of human life was regarded as a serious crime. It robbed a man of his posterity and remembrance. Remember, the early Jews had a poor understanding of an afterlife. They placed the emphasis upon children and property. This is one of many civil laws that were not unique to the people called by God. It is merely an ancient legal code. God calls us from where we are with all our ignorance or sophistication. Notice the law that follows it forbids carrying different weights in your traveling bag, so that men might not cheat each other when scales are used in purchases. The code that proceeded about marriage would mandate marriage within a family to carry on a brother’s name and linage. As with the Mosaic code on divorce, this would conflict with Christ’s teachings on the nature of marriage. Jesus would speak about their hardness of hearts. God’s passive will tolerates certain weaknesses and sins because of the freedom he gives us. We are not ants or robots. Not everything in the Old Testament reflects God’s direct will. The Bible is not a manual or rule book. It is a chronicle of salvation history. You have to read it as such and place the emphasis upon Christ and the teachings of his Church. God shows us his face and his will over time. While the deposit of faith is now fixed, it develops through our reflection and deepening understanding.

Isaiah 13:13-16

For this I will make the heavens tremble and the earth shall be shaken from its place, at the wrath of the LORD of hosts on the day of his burning anger. Like a hunted gazelle, or a flock that no one gathers, they shall turn each to their own people and flee each to their own land. Everyone who is taken shall be run through; and everyone who is caught shall fall by the sword. Their infants shall be dashed to pieces in their sight; their houses shall be plundered and their wives ravished.

This is part of a collection of oracles from various sources that focus upon foreign nations. While God’s people were indeed guilty of barbarism (we even see this in the psalms), the point here is divine retribution and judgment. The emphasis is that death will overtake everyone. There was also the appreciation that this existence is messy. There is violence and death awaiting us in a fallen world. Our life belongs to the Lord. Because of sin, we deserve to die. Jesus would fail to come as this kind of military Messiah. Rather, he brought mercy and not the sword. However, at the final consummation, he will be the true Pantocrator— the Lord of Judgment. Those who love the Lord need not fear. Those who disobey him have every right to be afraid. It does not mean that God directly desires child murder and rape.

Isaiah 40:8

“The grass withers, the flower wilts, but the word of our God stands forever.”

What do you find objectionable about this? It means that God’s Word does not forfeit its binding force. God keeps his promises. Did you write the wrong citation?

It is at this stage that you turn your disdain to the New Testament. Are you really a Christian? Were you ever?

Luke 14:26

“If any one comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple.”

This is an example of Hebraic hyperbole. It is an artifact of language. There is no exclamation point for emphasis. Jesus does not mean that we should literally hate our parents and family. That would be absurd. Jesus uses similar hyperbole when he says let the dead bury the dead or to pluck out your eye or cut off your hand. Jesus is actually saying that there is urgency to embracing the kingdom. Now is the appointed time. We should not delay or even allow familial relations to inhibit our acceptance of the Gospel. Jesus takes the family, our most prized human institution, and says that even that should not get in the way of following him. Note that Peter and Andrew left everything to follow Jesus. The boats would have to be used by other family members or friends for fishing. Jesus was making his apostles into fishers of men. It must also be said that in the early days of the Church, pagan families often opposed and tried to block the conversion of members. The words of our Lord would urge strength in the face to opposition and even betrayal.

Colossians 3:22-23

Slaves, obey your human masters in everything, not only when being watched, as currying favor, but in simplicity of heart, fearing the Lord. Whatever you do, do from the heart, as for the Lord and not for others, knowing that you will receive from the Lord the due payment of the inheritance; be slaves of the Lord Christ.

Paul did not invent the institution of slavery but Christianity was altering it. Master and slave have the same dignity. This must be measured with verse three: “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all and in all.” Read God’s word in a contextual way. Often slaves had to work off just debts for their freedom. It was quite different from the tyranny of slavery in America. But as I said before, Paul’s words about our equality in Christ would eventually bring such subservience to an end. Here Paul is sharing his hierarchical view— one that still influences the constitution of Christ’s Church: wives subordinate to husbands (18), husbands love your wives (19), children obey your parents (20), and fathers do not provoke children (21). The mention of slavery falls within such a schema. We are all called to service. We are all servants or slaves of God. Even the Pope is called “the Servant of the Servants of God.” He is literally a slave for the Gospel and the Church. He lives not for himself, but for Christ and his people.

1 Timothy 2:11-12

A woman must receive instruction silently and under complete control. I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man. She must be quiet.

While it is doctrine that priests must be male, and I would cite this as apostolic evidence that such male leadership reflects the divine will, it probably refers to an immediate accidental about worship in the time of Paul. Not everything in Scripture and Tradition is unalterable doctrine. There are certain disciplines, even apostolic ones that can be abrogated. I think here about women’s dress or the mantilla veils that were once popular with women in church. Of course, today women are permitted to read the Old Testament and New Testament epistles in church. The citation here was principally concerning pagans or Gentiles who had recently converted. Women oracles and prophetesses (often possessed by demons) were a problem that Paul did not want to see translated to the churches. They would swoon, speak gibberish and cryptic remarks. Paul saw this as distracting from the truth of Christ. It may be that such women were seeking to wrestle authority away from the men who functioned as the legitimate shepherds.

You want a simplified or literal Bible and yet why should revelation be absolute baby talk? The things of God are far more complex than the inside of a car or computer. To reduce their repair manuals to what you would make the Bible would leave everything broken. It is past time to grow up. God’s Word is not broken, you are. We all are as sinners, me too. But in Jesus there is healing and salvation.

The Situation We Face

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I have been giving some thought to the pressing issue of keeping our young people Catholic and in the Church. Before I lay fault at the proper doorposts, it must be said that many of our parents are faithful in raising their children in the faith and insuring the opportunity for the sacraments. When their kids abandon the faith and Mass attendance, these good people are the first ones who feel guilty and wonder if there be more they could have done. But they did their duty and there comes a point where we have to let go and trust the Holy Spirit. Similarly, there are pastors and catechists who try program after program in hoping that the next one might turn matters around. They join their tears to those of heaven praying that prodigals might come home and that the children might be counted among the saints. Too many have forgotten God. Too many have turned their backs on the practice of their faith.

I would not want to condemn anyone, even parents who are themselves “fallen away” Catholics. God will be their judge. But of course, we can target many sources for the current problem. Whole generations of Catholics were poorly catechized. Poor text books and an air of dissent infected the Church. I recall tried-and-true books being thrown away because they represented the thinking of “the old pre-Vatican II Church.” And yet, this mentality betrayed a false dichotomy. There are no two churches. The accidentals may change but the deposit of faith is faithfully transmitted generation after generation in the one true Church instituted by Jesus Christ. The later publication of the universal catechism was an attempt to correct any false thinking about this issue. Our appreciation of doctrine can develop but the public revelation is fixed. What is objectively true will always be true. The false “spirit of Vatican II” has been exposed and in many circles has increasingly lost sway as a general segment returned to orthodoxy. This is cause for hope.  Those resisting it have necessarily found themselves set adrift.  The truths of faith were never denied by the Magisterium, but progressive theologians and their enthusiasts wrestled to place the whim of men over the wisdom of God.

There is no denying that the dominoes began to fall. The damage was done.  Religious relativism, a false view of universal salvation, and the moral failure of churchmen to live out the faith compounded the situation. People fell away from the Church. The stakes did not seem as high as they once did. Meanwhile, the world was changing and Western Christian culture was collapsing. The process had begun prior to Vatican II. Indeed, the Enlightenment and later the French Revolution were signposts to what was fast approaching. Pope Pius IX promulgated his Syllabus of Errors. Pope Pius X confronted Modernism. When Vatican II arrived, many had hoped that there might be a dialogue with the modern world. Unfortunately, the world did not play fair and the council was unable to forestall the many negative agencies poised against her. A secular humanism was quickly taking hold. Man would be regarded as the measure of all things. The degree of hubris involved here would have been unthinkable in much of our earlier history. The “God is Dead” movement of the 1960’s and 70’s was thought by many as the final result of this movement. But there was more to come. Today many do not consider God as dead but rather, while rejecting the incarnation, declare that Man is God. The love of science, which in its place is a good thing, becomes a kind of idolatry where technology and the media are secular sacraments. There is the fantasy and/or pseudo-science that even death will one day succumb to man’s genius. Paralleling all this there has been the ascendance of a new paganism, expressed through heightened eroticism (homo- and heterosexual) and a general vulgarity in speech, music and behavior. Pleasure is sought as an ends to itself, not as an element of a greater good.

What does the baptized Catholic believe today? It is amazing how many false assumptions are made about the faith. While the Church teaches intelligent design and the complementarity between science, theology and philosophy; many view Catholicism through the prism of Protestant fundamentalism. Enthusiasts for evolution ridicule the Church for a literalism which she does not profess. Neither does Catholicism embrace a blind faith, which is rightly decried as mindless. While recognizing mystery, we espouse a faith seeking understanding and as a true companion to human reason. The Church argues for modesty and yet is not puritan in her aesthetic appreciation for the human body and the beauty of sexual love as a part of the divine plan. Nevertheless, some critics (even Catholics) mock the Church as if it is a Calvinist congregation or one knotted to Jansenism. The Church seeks to work with non-Catholics for a better world and for the remittance of human suffering; however, despite false allegations from traditionalists, lays hold to no ecumenism that would compromise her singular faith claims. It has also been a sad discovery that many Catholics suffer an impoverished understanding of the Trinity, the meaning of the incarnation, the value of the Mass, the mystery of the real presence in the Eucharist, the nature of the afterlife and the prayers for the dead, etc. Indeed, some believers deny the existence of hell despite the biblical testimony and the presence of evil that demands the full measure of divine justice. The occult has also infected believers, substituting magic for supernatural faith. It is ironic that atheism and the occult should simultaneously infect members of the Church. We need to do all we can to correct the errors of our times. There is no reincarnation. There is no parallel oriental bad force that counterbalances the good. We do no become angels after death as popularized in movies. The dead human body is a corpse. The human soul is a ghost. We are promised restitution in the resurrection of the dead. I cannot begin to say how many Catholics do not know the truth about these matters. Yes, even those in the pews need correction and a renewed formation. But, other than with preaching how do we do this? Many will not attend special classes or even online workshops. They fail to attend bible study or instruction classes. As for those not in the pews, is there any way left to bring them and their children home? How can the message of the Church compete with the many voices of the world?

Infant Baptism & Coerced Baptism

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Questions from Dina:

Why does it make sense to baptize a child who doesn’t know what is happening, or what about forced baptism over the centuries? Why does either have an effect? In one case the baby knows nothing and int he other you have an unwilling “convert” who wants nothing to do with the Catholic faith?  Thanks!

Response from Father Joe:

We do not force baptisms upon adults. Missionaries often endured great hardships and even suffered martyrdom in bringing the faith to others around the world. Unwilling converts cannot be validly baptized or received into the Church. This has always been the case. The situation with children depends upon several points:

1. The apostolic and patristic tradition of baptizing whole households, including the children of believers.

2. While a child has not yet reached the age of reason, parents may profess faith on behalf of a child with the expectation that they will raise the child in the faith and insure the sacraments of penance, holy communion and confirmation. There are three sacraments of initiation, not one: BAPTISM, EUCHARIST, and CONFIRMATION. At confirmation that person will make for himself the profession and promises made by parents at baptism.

3. The Church is the sacrament of salvation. Catholics are called both to a CORPORATE faith in Jesus as well as a PERSONAL one. This corporate element, linked to the communion of the saints, is why parents can profess faith for a child. We do not come to the Lord alone.

4. After the age of reason, an unbaptized child must take catechesis and make the baptismal promises himself.

5. The sacraments, including baptism, do what they are intended to do. They were instituted by Christ for his Church.

6. Baptism is more than an acknowledgment or affirmation of saving faith, it accomplished the following:

  • Makes one a temple of the Holy Spirit;
  • Accesses sanctifying grace;
  • Conforms a person to the likeness of Christ;
  • Washes away sin (original sin);
  • A person is spiritually adopted as a son or daughter of our heavenly Father;
  • Incorporates us into the Catholic Church;
  • We become a Christian; and
  • We enter the doorway to the sacramental life.

 

Anointing & Faith Healing

JOANA:  Father, my question is about faith healers and quack doctors.  Are they considered genuine or given the power to anoint a sick person?

FATHER JOE:

Only Catholic bishops and priests have the authority to offer the official Anointing of the Sick. It is a sacrament of the Church and very closely connected to the priestly charge over the sacraments of Penance and the Eucharist. It is an element of the priest’s power to forgive sins or function as a minister of reconciliation. God is at liberty to grant or to facilitate physical restoration and yet the most important element is spiritual healing.

The definition of a “quack doctor” is that he is a fraud. There are too many of those around.

The issue of “faith healers” is more complicated as they include both Catholics and Protestants. There might be an anointing or just the laying on of hands and prayer. God can use whomever he wills. A constant theme of mine is that we should not seek to stifle or ridicule where the Holy Spirit might be active. We can discern something of the truth by the fruits but must be ever on our guard against deception.

I recall an expose several years ago where a minister used a portable receiver in his ear to learn about attendees at the revival or meeting.  The information was whispered to him from a pre-show interview with volunteers. It gave the appearance that the minister was somehow clairvoyant and knew their ills before they came forward. Some of those healed were plants and others had been sent to a special hospital where they were treated but told to keep quiet about the medical intervention. Others got caught up in the euphoria of the moment, claimed healing, only to find themselves still belabored by pain or crippled when the meeting was over and the cameras were off. There was one minister who used to berate those not healed, saying that it was their own fault and that they did not have sufficient faith.  Of course, the organizers were still very quick to pass the money basket to the assembled throng. 

However, with all this said, the miraculous sometimes happens. Miracles of healing are often reported and investigated in the process of canonizing saints. The late Fr. John Lubey here in Washington, DC, (and the priest who married my parents and baptized me), regularly offered healing services along with Mass. People would sometimes collapse (sleeping in the Spirit) when he placed his hands on their heads. He told me that the ministry started in the late 1950’s when he blessed a woman who suffered from a disintegrated hip.  She returned a week later walking with ease and holding x-rays that showed a perfectly formed hip. He was a very humble man and regarded ALL priests as “healing” priests.  He gave all credit to our Lord and never asked for any money for his services.

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.

Baptism & Born Again

ANTI-CATHOLIC ASSERTION

This spiritual decision for Christ cannot be identified with water baptism or with any so-called saving works and certainly there is no foundation for infant baptism.

John 3:3,7: Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born anew (again), he cannot see the kingdom of God. . . . Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born anew.’”

CATHOLIC TRUTH

This spiritual rebirth is intensely important for Catholics. Ours is no juridical imputation of righteousness; rather, we are literally remade into a new creation. Deleted from the pericope by our protagonist is this line, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit” (John 3:6). Faith in Jesus and an abiding trust and obedience to him brings us to the baptismal font. The Scripture citation here is still incomplete. It also states, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of heaven” (John 3:5). The font of life-giving waters is known as the “tomb and womb” of the Church. We die to our old self, to sin; and we are reborn to Christ and the life of grace. We become temples of the Holy Spirit and are configured to Christ’s likeness as adopted sons and daughters of God. Our rite of initiation is not circumcision, but baptism into the name of the Trinity. Faith and baptism also makes us members of the new People of God, the Church of Christ. This theme of unity has always been important among the faithful. The Scriptures themselves narrate that sometimes whole households were converted to the faith (see Acts 16:15; 16:33; 1 Corinthians 1:16). During this period and again with the development of second penance and regular confession, babies were also brought forward for initiation. The bond joining the members of Christ’s body was understood to be so intimate and important that parents and sponsors could make a profession of faith for a child who had not yet reached the age of reason. Mortality rates being high, this was of crucial emotional importance to parents and had eternal ramifications for the children. Jesus himself had urged, “Let the children come unto me, and do not hinder them.” Over time, the final anointing of the baptismal ceremony (Confirmation) was separated from the first part, often reserved for the visiting bishop. Similarly, first Eucharist was also delayed until the child was older.

When records are not available or when there is some doubt of validity, the Catholic Church will offer a conditional baptism to candidates seeking entry into the believing community. However, if their prior Baptism in a Protestant community is deemed authentic, then they make an act of reception and subsequently receive Confirmation and Holy Communion. Baptism is a one-time sacrament which forever configures a person to the Lord. Technically, we equate the “born again” experience with baptism, although it can be personally affirmed with confirmation and a fuller sharing in the gift of the Holy Spirit. We might also experience exaltation at prayer which can give an emotional high or a special satisfaction to our faith. Christians baptized in the Catholic Church, even as infants, who seek and receive baptism in Protestant churches are in fact disavowing their prior baptism. What they are saying is that our baptism is null-and-void and that Catholics are neither Christians nor “saved,” using their language. This distortion of the truth is a terrible happenstance. Catholics were the first Christians and Catholicism is the TRUE Church. We love and pray for our Protestant brothers and sisters; we join their chorus in praising God for giving us such a wondrous redeemer as Christ; however, we cannot rejoice in the ignorance of our own or the bigotry of others which steals from our ranks.

For more such reading, contact me about getting my book, DEFENDING THE CATHOLIC FAITH.