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Interfaith Pollution of the True Faith?

I thought it was a joke or exaggeration, but when I visited the website for the Catholic diocese of Hallam in the UK under Bishop Ralph Hesket I was shocked to see that charges of religious relativism or indifferentism might have merit.  As part of a national interfaith outreach, Christian believers were encouraged to visit and honor pagan shrines.  I fail to fathom how this is either genuine dialogue or true ecumenism.  Despite the directions given, Catholics should not bow to pagan images or eat the food that has been offered to idols.  Christians were persecuted and even martyred in the early days of the faith for refusing such acts that compromised the true faith and pampered superstition.

Indeed, the early apologists argued that despite the generosity of the pagans toward the poor, Christians should not eat the food of pagan sacrifices because the pagan deities were actually demons.

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Moses was commanded to remove his sandals when he encountered God in the burning bush. But what we have here is an image of Buddha and a pagan shrine.  While these locations may hold anthropological interest for learned Christians, most would best avoid such places. As Christians we may honor persons and give deference to religious liberty that also protects our rights in a multicultural society, but we should not underestimate the general ignorance and tottering faith of many Christians.  Already many are adopting Eastern ideas about the yin and yang of the Tao, the transmigration of the souls, the spirituality associated with yoga, and a pantheistic view of creation.

The removal of shoes may be a small concession but the added flower presentation and material sacrifice of money, mimics or parallels the offertory at Mass.  Christ and the Church he instituted is the one way that God has established for our salvation.  No one comes to the Father apart from Jesus Christ.  A confession of faith can be made both in words and with gestures.  We must be wary of making a wholesale compromise of the truth. Buddhism is incompatible with the Christian kerygma.  Pope John Paul II was criticized for his assessment in CROSSING THE THRESHOLD OF HOPE.

Do we draw near to God in this way? This is not mentioned in the “enlightenment” conveyed by Buddha. Buddhism is in large measure an “atheistic” system. We do not free ourselves from evil through the good which comes from God; we liberate ourselves only through detachment from the world, which is bad. The fullness of such a detachment is not union with God, but what is called nirvana, a state of perfect indifference with regard to the world. To save oneself means, above all, to free oneself from evil by becoming indifferent to the world, which is the source of evil. This is the culmination of the spiritual process.

While some might note Buddhism as more a philosophy of negation than a deistic religion, the diocesan guidelines also threaten to taint the faith of believers under an effort to show respect to the adherents of Hinduism.

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The early Christians were put to death for refusing to throw the smallest fleck of incense into the fire for an idol of Rome and its emperor. Just as we would not expect Hindus to bend the knee and cross themselves in our churches; neither should Hindu shrines be honored by Christians with bowing before the idols of false deities. This act impugns the heroic sacrifices of the early martyrs. Such concession signifies a cowardice to accusations of intolerance where there should be a brave act of witness that promotes the missionary spirit within the scope  of both understanding and charity.

Christians need to respect the Eastern effort to discern truth while not abandoning our own rich inheritance.  The missionary effort, going back to the days of St. Francis Xavier, had many successes.  But we must admit that the faith also suffered from the stigma of being Western and foreign.  Right or wrong, the saint regarded all the Hindus as devil worshipers.  This is part of our historical faith inheritance.  Doors were closed where the Sermon on the Mount and the Beatitudes might have opened them.  There is said to be an evolution in Hinduism toward monotheism; but this truth is already realized in Christianity.  We must be careful that weak Christians do not embrace Eastern religion due to an attraction to the strange or exotic.

Pope Paul VI stated in NOSTRA AETATE the following:

Thus in Hinduism, men contemplate the divine mystery and express it through an inexhaustible abundance of myths and through searching philosophical inquiry. They seek freedom from the anguish of our human condition either through ascetical practices or profound meditation or a flight to God with love and trust.

We would not deny any elements that are true in such religions, but there are also wrong turns and false understandings (error).  All salvation truth subsists in the Catholic Church.  We do not have to look elsewhere. People who are largely ignorant of their own rich Christian faith inheritance might be lost if we are passive to their involvement in other religions.

Catholics should bow or genuflect before the Christian altar, or the Crucifix or the Blessed Sacrament in the tabernacle but NOT before the image of alien gods.  Definitely they should not eat the food given to them, demons or not.

1 Corinthians 10:18-22 – Look at Israel according to the flesh; are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar? So what am I saying? That meat sacrificed to idols is anything? Or that an idol is anything? No, I mean that what they sacrifice, they sacrifice to demons, not to God, and I do not want you to become participants with demons. You cannot drink the cup of the Lord and also the cup of demons. You cannot partake of the table of the Lord and of the table of demons. Or are we provoking the Lord to jealous anger? Are we stronger than he?

At a time when exorcisms are on the rise, this is the height of idiocy.   We can respect persons and work together for a more civil and caring society; however, we should not do so at the cost of our immortal souls.  Ignorance of the truth may save some from the full weight of judgment.  However, our Catholic and Christian community will be judged according to our understanding and fidelity to the revelation of Christ that is passed down to us in Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition.

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Catholics and other Christians might visit such sites for educational purposes. They should do nothing that suggests worship. Pope John Paul II argued that the Allah of the Muslims is the same Father God of the Christians. This may be, but there remains much that divides us, particularly the role of Jesus as Lord and Redeemer. The Pope states:

Some of the most beautiful names in the human language are given to the God of the Koran, but He is ultimately a God outside of the world, a God who is only Majesty, never Emmanuel, God-with-us. Islam is not a religion of redemption. There is no room for the Cross and the Resurrection. Jesus is mentioned, but only as a prophet who prepares for the last prophet, Muhammad. There is also mention of Mary, His Virgin Mother, but the tragedy of redemption is completely absent. For this reason not only the theology but also the anthropology of Islam is very distant from Christianity.

A gesture for peace is also fine, as long as we do nothing to undermine or apologize for our identity as Christians. We should also insist that the Islamic community become more pro-active against discrimination and violence against Christians throughout the world.  Otherwise, gestures of human respect (not divine worship) become empty.

While we can respect others, we should not be giving directions to Christian believers on how to commit idolatry.

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The Sikh religion is inherently pantheistic.  We believe that God maintains creation but he cannot be identified with it.  While its tenets include reincarnation and various Hindu teachings; it is monotheistic, rejects the caste system and the use of idols.  It also espouses a syncretism where it tries to unite various beliefs from disjointed sources.  Christianity might adopt elements of culture and even the symbols of others (as it did in the Roman and Greek world) but the content is always that of the Gospel.  The blunt matter is that, no matter how interesting, this still constitutes a false religion for Catholics.  Ours is a jealous God.  He will not share us with others.

While certain traditionalists would attack overtures toward the Jews, we must always acknowledge that Judaism is a true, albeit natural religion.  While they have yet to embrace the revelation of the Trinity, the Jewish faith was called into existence by Almighty God.  Pope John Paul II insisted:

The New Covenant serves to fulfill all that is rooted in the vocation of Abraham, in God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai, and in the whole rich heritage of the inspired Prophets who, hundreds of years before that fulfillment, pointed in the Sacred Scriptures to the One whom God would send in the “fullness of time” (cf. Gal 4:4).

We have a genuine historical and faith relationship with the Jews that we do not share with other religions. Interfaith efforts should not be so diffusive that we lose sight of this fact.  The Jews are our elder brothers and sisters in faith.  Their story is part of our story.  The truths of the faith preserved and passed down by the Hebrews made possible the coming of Christ and his kingdom.  While we believe that Jesus is the promised Messiah and the fulfillment of the covenant, God has not forsaken his first people.  God keeps his promises.  There are NOT two covenants.  Both Pope Benedict XVI and the late Cardinal-priest Dulles clarified that there is ONLY one covenant. The covenant of old now embraces (in Jesus Christ) both the first and the new People of God. We pray and hope that those first called will one day come to a full awareness of the fulfillment in Christ.

Twelve Easter Insights

jesus-clip-art-90(1) A new day has dawned.

(2) The promise of old has been fulfilled.

(3) The breech is healed.

(4) The salvific work of Christ has redeemed us from the devil.

(5) While the primordial trespass brought suffering and death into the world– Christ’s fidelity ushers forth healing and life.

(6) Nothing will ever be the same again.

(7) Death is conquered if not entirely undone.

(8) We no longer need fear the specter of death.

(9) The grave will not consume us.

(10) No one need live in vain.

(11) Like the apostles we are called as witnesses to the saving truth.

(12) Christ becomes the pattern of our discipleship: we must die with Christ if we hope to live with him.

SCRIPTURAL LITANY OF MERCY #2

Litany Composed by Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P. (MAGNIFICAT)

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Offered at the 9:30 AM Mass at Holy Family 12-20-15

Throughout the ages, almighty God has manifested his unfailing mercy.
Oh infinite, divine mercy, you are:

Response: Lord, have mercy on us.

Elijah’s unlimited jar of flour feeding the widow.
Elijah’s victory over the prophets of Baal.
The tiny whispering sound Elijah heard on the mountain.
The cure of Naaman the leper.
The new eyesight given to Tobit.
The conquering might of Judith.
The intervention of Esther that saved her people from destruction.
The valor of the mother with her seven martyred sons.
The compassion shown to Job.
The shepherd sung of by the Psalmist.
The lover sought in the Song of Songs.
Divine Wisdom, overlooking sins so that people may repent.
The comfort proclaimed by the Prophet Isaiah.
The expiation of guilt proclaimed by the Prophet Isaiah.
The wolf and the lamb grazing together.
The voice that formed us in our mother’s womb.
The new law within us, written on our heart.
The new heart and new spirit replacing our stony heart.
The spirit and flesh put on once-dry bones.
The rescue of the young men from the fiery furnace.
The espousal of the Lord of the unfaithful wife.
The fish that swallowed Jonah, saving him from drowning.
The preaching of Jonah, converting the great city of Nineveh.
The Day of the Lord foretold by the prophets.

Fourth Sunday of Advent

December 19 & 20, 2015

Celebrant: Almighty God and Father, You have created all things and know the desire of every heart. In this Year of Mercy, we reflect on your great love for us, and acknowledge our sinfulness and need for your healing mercy. Trusting that you never tire of forgiving us, we open our hearts to receive your forgiveness and love. Having encountered you, Mercy itself, and guided by the Holy Spirit, may we witness to the love we have received by sharing it with those most in need: the hungry, the homeless, the afflicted, and the oppressed. We ask this through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

(Archdiocesan Prayer for Mercy)

Responding & Praying for a Critic of Catholicism

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PAUL:

You know Father Joe, you sound a lot like the secular scientist Richard Dawkins who if you don’t just take his word as fact without any REAL evidence, then “you’re stupid!”

You have only church practices to back your claim about Mary’s holiness.

If I’m not wrong, doesn’t God say, “There is none righteous, not a single one”? Doesn’t he say, “All have fallen away”?  Doesn’t he say, “All have fallen short of the glory of God”?  Now I’m sure you’ll have a very convincing argument for Mary’s not being included there but is that based on biblical teachings or the churches practice?

What did Christ day about the teachers of the law? Be careful to judge others Father Joe lest you be judged likewise!

There’s only 1 Judge I know. I’d appreciate you not praying for me thanks as you’ll probably go in front of a statue of Mary to do so. It’s no wonder Jesus called the teachers hypocrites!

P.S. If you can’t reply without so much anger in you, maybe it’s time for you to shut down your blog eh? FATHER and LEADER of the flock!

FATHER JOE:

Ignorance is not the same as stupidity, or at least it need not be.  We can be properly informed and grow in the truth.  Dawkins negates any philosophy or religion that falls outside of his limited scope for truth.  Dawkins does not deny all evidence, but he does throw out much of the richness that belongs to human culture and genius.  I throw nothing out.  We can be informed through science, philosophy and religion.  We can be edified by mathematics or a poetic sonnet.  We can learn from dissertations or from fanciful myths.  I believe that God speaks to us in natural law and in his revealed Word.  How is it then that I am like Dawkins?  Indeed, would you not be the one to show him essential agreement and kinship in discounting Sacred Tradition and the teaching role of the Magisterium?

Actually, in regard to Mary’s holiness, we have the testimony of Scripture, as I have earnestly attempted to demonstrate to you.  You are the one who would question Mary’s divine election as the immaculate Mother of our Savior.  Why would you question God’s providence or his power to give his Son a pure vessel through which to enter our world?  Original sin was passed to us through human generation.  It would make no sense for Christ as the All Holy One to take his humanity from sinful flesh.  The privilege of the Immaculate Conception was not simply to honor Mary but to protect the divine dignity of Jesus Christ.  Mary is hailed by an angel as “full of grace.”  She is the most favored daughter of God chosen to be the holy Mother of the Messiah.

Yes, all have fallen short of the glory of God.  Yes, we are sinners.  It was precisely for this reason that Mary calls Jesus her Savior.  However, in her case there is prevenient grace.  Mary is preserved from sin by the same saving Cross that transforms us through faith and baptism.  Mary does not save herself.  Jesus does for her what he will do for us who believe in him.

The testimony of Scripture comes to us through a living Church.  It must be understood within the context of the tenets and worship of that faith community.  Your rejection of the Church and her traditions results in numerous false interpretations.  However, I doubt you will appreciate how the disjointed interpretations you give are severed from any kind of logical or authentic hermeneutics.

Our Lord criticized the Pharisees and Scribes as blind guides and hypocrites, but he did not deny that they received their authority from God.

“The scribes and the Pharisees have taken their seat on the chair of Moses. Therefore, do and observe all things whatsoever they tell you, but do not follow their example. For they preach but they do not practice” (Matthew 23:2-3).

The Pope sits in the cathedra or chair of St. Peter, to whom our Lord gave the keys of the kingdom and renamed as the ROCK upon which he would establish his Church.  The Magisterium is composed of those bishops who teach in unity with him Priests are also given apostolic orders and are charged to teach what the Church teaches.  Thus, you may not think much of me, but if you were consistent, you would take seriously to observe what the Catholic Church teaches.  Instead, you ridicule the messengers and reject the message.  If you do so from ignorance then you may still be open to Christ’s mercy.  If you do so from enmity, then the warning about judgment also applies to you.

Christ will judge souls, but the teaching Church and her ministers are charged to proclaim the truths of faith.

Why would you reject my offer of intercessory prayer for you?  Is it just because of an expressed malice against Mary?  I fear that a proper discernment of spirit would disclose a poorly disguised diabolical oppression.  On this account I will redouble my efforts.

“Dear Lord Jesus, you made yourself a slave so that men might be free.  You were renounced by the crowd so that we might be claimed by God as his children.  You were mocked by the soldiers and crowned with thorns all so that we might be made members of your kingdom.  You suffered the scourging and passion so that a broken world might be healed.  You died on the Cross so that we might live.  Dear Jesus, you are the SAVING NAME, and we ask you to open the eyes and to soften the heart of Paul who has commented on this Blog.  Let him know the love you have for him.  Forgive his sins and join him ever closer to the family of faith.  We offer this prayer in Jesus’ Name, the one who is the Son of God and the Son of Mary.  Amen.”

Again, I will extend to you the Peace of Christ.

Jesus, Mary & the Apostles

A discussion with Paul on some matters about which he has a dispute.

PAUL: What is the true meaning and definition of being an Apostle of Jesus?

FATHER JOE:  There are varied definitions given but Catholicism would tend to restrict the term to the chief Disciples of Christ.  The Church is apostolic in the succession of Holy Orders through the “laying on” of hands, in the perpetuation  of Jesus’ ministry and in our constant teaching from the deposit of faith revealed to the early Church and passed down to us.

PAUL: Doesn’t it mean walking with and following the actual person you are trying to emulate?

FATHER JOE:  Yes, but that is a generic dictionary definition of the word apostle, not a theological or doctrinal distinction.

PAUL: I think that we have been called disciples and based on the true meaning of apostle, no one on earth, at least present day earth, can be called an apostle.

FATHER JOE:  The Catholic Church believes the authority of the Apostles is passed to the Bishops of the Church.  Pope Francis is singular among the Bishops because he is viewed as the Successor of Saint Peter (and for that matter, Saint Paul).

PAUL: So if Jesus, as the Catholic Church says, interchangeably meditates/intercedes for us to the Father then why do we also need Mary to pray/intercede/meditate for us? In regard to Jesus this is biblically based as is the fact that the Holy Spirit speaks to the Father in groans that words cannot express. Both Jesus and the Holy Spirit are in full nature also God.

FATHER JOE: 

(I think by “meditates” you actually mean “mediates.”)

The problem with your statement is that it does not sufficiently express Catholic teaching.  The Word became flesh and in his mortal life Jesus revealed to us the face of God, how to pray and how to live out our discipleship.  He prayed in his humanity because it is an essential element to the incarnation and our humanity.  However, after his Paschal Mystery (suffering, death and resurrection), Jesus the Lord ascended to his place at the right hand of the Father.  He transforms and facilitates our approach to the Father.  We do not ask Jesus to pray to God for us because he is God.  We address our prayers to the Father in Jesus’ name.

Jesus is a divine Person, as is the Father and Holy Spirit.  There are three eternal generations in the Blessed Trinity.  Remember the classical definition from the councils of the Church:  there are three divine Persons but one divine Nature in God.  God is still one.

We can intercede and pray for each other.  Indeed, Mary and the saints in heaven can do so for us still in earthly pilgrimage.  God is still the direct object of all prayer, even intercessory.  Asking others to pray for us does not displace God from his dais.  We are all creatures, even the angels, although they are spiritual and not composites like ourselves.  The saints of heaven share in our Lord’s risen life and continue to love us and to pray for us

The mediation of Christ is not interchangeable with sanctoral intercession.  Christ is the Mediator, Lord, Redeemer and Savior.  We approach him both individually and with a communal faith.  The latter is very much the purpose for which he instituted the Church.  We do not approach God alone.  Just as God called to himself an Old Testament people— so too does he claim the Church as a new People of God.  Church membership includes the faithful on earthly pilgrimage, the souls in purgation and the saints of heaven.

We offer our prayers to the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit.  Christ is the bridge between heaven and earth.  He is the Way and the Truth and the Life.  If it were not for the Holy Spirit there could be no faith and no prayer.  We could not say “Jesus is Lord” if it were not given us by the Holy Spirit.

PAUL: By the way, I find NO biblical reference to Mary being our spiritual mother. Thank you.

FATHER JOE:  I have already written at great length about the Blessed Mother and would invite you to search the pages of my site.  Mary is given to us as our Mother at the Cross through our emissary Saint John.  A phrase I repeat again and again is that “the Mother of the Redeemer becomes the Mother of all the Redeemed.”  Mary will always be the Mother of Jesus.  Believers are members of the Mystical Body of Christ (which is extremely biblical).  Mary is the Mother of Christ where ever he should be found.  If we are grafted to Christ and have been transformed by grace into his likeness then she sees something of her Son alive in us.  We imitate Christ’s filial relationship of love to Mary.  We are made members of the royal household of God.  Through faith and baptism we are made adopted sons and daughters of the Father.  Thus, Christ the King becomes our elder brother in faith and Mary assumes her crown as the Queen Mother.  Peace!

Once Saved, Always Saved?

KATHLEEN:

Hello, I am a “catholic.” I firmly believe that through my faith in Jesus he has saved me. I, along with everyone else who believes in Jesus already has salvation. We are not going to hell. So my question is why would a “catholic” want or need to wear a scapular? How can one save what is already saved? And isn’t their belief in Jesus enough for salvation?  Thank you for input.

FATHER JOE:

You may be a Catholic, but your assessment of “blessed assurance” is representative of a Protestant view. Indeed, it is the sin of presumption for a Catholic to view himself as irrevocably saved. Certain evangelicals believe in the “once saved, always saved” interpretation that emerged from Martin Luther’s teaching of juridical justification through imputation. Simply put it means that after a faith profession in Christ one is saved regardless of personal sins and weaknesses. Supposedly, we are masked by Christ when the Father looks upon us. The Catholic understanding is different. The ancient Catholic truth has to do with being born again as a new creation. We must be transformed. Faith and baptism makes us members of God’s people, but just as faith can grow, it can sour. The Evangelical would say that if a person becomes a grievous sinner that their earlier faith was counterfeit. Catholics would not nullify or doubt such faith. Instead, we argue that we must grow in the life of grace.

Your view would dismiss a lot more than scapulars. If you are already saved then you would need no sacraments, no Mass, no Eucharist and no Church. That is why those who hold such ideas reject the divine mysteries and reduce the “Church” to a place for fellowship and making converts. Catholicism is the true Bible Church and views salvation in terms of faith and obedient works in charity.

I would recommend that you attend a Parish RCIA program and relearn your Catholic faith.

Catholics live in the sure and certain HOPE of their salvation in Christ. Salvation is God’s free gift to us. But faith is defined as more than believing with our heads. The apostles understood faith as something lived out in faith and obedience. It is in this manner, and the reception of the sacraments, that the life of grace grows within us. The spiritual life is not stagnant but dynamic. We must always be properly disposed to God’s mercy and strength.

Here are some passages for spiritual reflection:

Matthew 7:21 – “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven.

John 5:28-29 – Do not be amazed at this, because the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voices and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation.

Philippians 2:12 – So then, my beloved, obedient as you have always been, not only when I am present but all the more now when I am absent, work out your salvation with fear and trembling.

Hebrews 5: 7-10 – In the days when he was in the flesh, he offered prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered; and when he was made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him, declared by God high priest according to the order of Melchizedek.

Hebrews 10:26-27 – If we sin deliberately after receiving knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains sacrifice for sins but a fearful prospect of judgment and a flaming fire that is going to consume the adversaries.

James 2: 17-24 – So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead. Indeed someone might say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works. You believe that God is one. You do well. Even the demons believe that and tremble. Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless? Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar? You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called “the friend of God.” See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead….You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone.

Community, Intercession & Apostolic Men

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CHARLES:

You are simply ridiculous!

Only God can forgive sin. The only way a person can get God to forgive his sins is through God’s Son and perfect sacrifice, Jesus. The way to the Father is through the Son. There is nowhere is Scripture that says priests can forgive sin. It is quite clear when Jesus healed the paralytic that only God and the Son could forgive sin.

FATHER JOE:

Yes, since sin is an offense against almighty God, it belongs to God to forgive sin. This is not contended. Where we disagree is about how goes about pouring his mercy upon us. The incarnation is a theme that runs through Catholic doctrine. God is made present in Jesus Christ. Jesus who is God is made present in his Word. Jesus who is God is made present in his Church. Jesus who is God is active in his ministers or priests. Jesus who is God is present and saving in his sacraments. The Mass offered by ordained priests is understood as a re-presentation of the saving oblation of Jesus. The ordained presbyter participates in the one (high) priesthood of Jesus Christ.

Christ is the center of everything. He is the divine pontifex or bridge to the Father. There is no way to the Father except through the Son. All this is Catholic teaching. None are saved apart from Christ. Your assertion that the Scriptures do not support the ministry of reconciliation cannot be substantiated. Indeed, it would make no sense for Jesus to establish a Church and then to make her impotent to extend his forgiveness. The work of Jesus is the work of the Church— the forgiveness of sins and the salvation of souls.

Here are some pertinent Scriptures:

Matthew 16:19 – “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.”

John 20:23 – Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” And when he had said this, he breathed on them and said to them, “Receive the holy Spirit. Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained.”

2 Corinthians 5:17-20 – So whoever is in Christ is a new creation: the old things have passed away; behold, new things have come. And all this is from God, who has reconciled us to himself through Christ and given us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting their trespasses against them and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.

James 5: 16 – Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The fervent prayer of a righteous person is very powerful.

James 5: 19-20 – My brothers, if anyone among you should stray from the truth and someone bring him back, he should know that whoever brings back a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.

CHARLES:

In Mark 2:5-12, with the healing of the paralytic, Jesus did not correct the scribes because there was nothing to correct. No one but God and the Son can forgive sin.

FATHER JOE:

Twice you have made a distinction between “God and the Son.” You do understand that Jesus is God, right? God in Jesus Christ is revealed as “Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Actually, the scribes are questioned for their “reasoning about these things” in their “hearts.” They are not only desperately trying not to believe but not to love. Jesus heals the paralytic to prove that he has the power to both heal and forgive. The physical operation points to the spiritual. We will later see similar miracles in the ministry of his apostles. They will be imbued with Christ’s power and something of his authority.

CHARLES:

Secondly in John 20:23, Jesus was not speaking about priests. He was speaking about Apostles and their special authority that was given to them. Nothing in Scripture says “Apostle Authority” can be passed down, e.g. the authority to forgive sin and to write Scripture. However it does mention appointing elders. Priests are being ordained as elders not as Apostles. They did not inherit any special “Apostle Authority” and frankly there is nothing to suggest they did.

FATHER JOE:

Actually, it was only with the reformation some 1,500 years later that this succession in authority and transmission of power was questioned. The Apostles would lay hands upon their successors, the Episcopoi or Bishops and they in turn would ordain Presbyters (Priests) and Deacons. We find this truth fully realized in the early Church, especially during the Patristic Period. You speak from a severe ignorance of history. Indeed, even within the period of the Acts of the Apostles, the numbers of apostles expands beyond the dozen that followed Christ. Christ established a Church and gave men to shepherd in his name. It would make no sense to do so and then strip that Church of his saving presence and power.

CHARLES:

The simple fact of the matter is the Catholic Church is corrupt and “gave” itself the “authority” to forgive sin in order to fund its coffers through indulgences and encourage men to sign up for the Crusades and go to Heaven.

FATHER JOE:

There is no fact here at all, just a bigoted opinion. Our Lord called sinners to himself and the Church does the same. The Church is holy because Christ is holy. Indulgences were abused by some but reflected our sense of communion with the saints. The merits of Christ have lasting value, both those performed by him and those made possible with him in others. As for the Crusades, they were an attempt to keep the Holy Land open to pilgrims and to defend the Christian faith. Again, there were abuses, but this was the central thrust. The Western world is again threatened by a radical militant Islam; but this time will there be any Christian Knights to defend it?

CHARLES:

Since only God can forgive sin, praying to God is all the matters. Priests, the saints or Mary are not needed as intermediaries. Thinking of them in any such way (besides people whose actions should be emulated) clouds the direct link between people, God, and the forgiveness of sin through his Son.

FATHER JOE:

Your religion collapses under numerous contradictions. You deny the Church any legitimacy, and along with it reject true fellowship in Christ, the communion of the saints, priestly ministry, and the sacraments. You would not even have a Bible were it not for the Church that collected the books, translated the texts and transmitted it down through the centuries. Christ said that he came to establish a Church and yet you seem to miss that important biblical truth. Just as the Jews needed each other and even made atonement for the dead; so do Catholic Christians. Devotion goes way beyond hero worship or simple imitation. We are bonded to them in love and love is always active. Love always has a role. When our Lord tells us to abide in LOVE, this is precisely what he means. Love is more than sentiment or empty words. Love is always realized in prayerful intercession and acts of charity. Otherwise, it is not really love. It is foolish and arrogant to think otherwise.

CHARLES:

Also praying to God doesn’t change anything except for forgiveness from sin. God is perfect and as such never changes his mind. How could we trust a covenant with Him if he changed his mind? God may use prayers as a mechanism of miracles but they did not “convince” God to do anything. He was already planning on doing it. So intercession from a horde of saints and Mary has no effect. This isn’t a democracy. More or less voices in support a person don’t change anything. Praying to saints doesn’t make it more or less likely that a miracle will happen.

FATHER JOE:

You miss the whole point. Prayer is never about changing God but about transforming us. God is the source and the fruit of our prayer. The Holy Spirit gives us faith and makes prayer possible. God is perfect but we are sinners. While the Scriptures speak in an anthropomorphic way about God, Catholicism appreciates the philosophical concept of God as the Unmoved Mover. In other words, in God as Spirit there is no potency. It is peculiar that you have borrowed these Catholic principles given that they are not clearly found in Scripture but rather in Church tradition and philosophy.

God knows what we need and yet he wants us to call upon him. It may seem that he anticipates our requests, because from our perspective he answers— God always answers. Prayer or dialogue with God is not about changing God’s mind but about conforming our own hearts and minds more closely with Christ’s. It is in Christ, a divine Person incarnate, that we experience the revelation of God that makes a supernatural faith possible. If we pray with faith, we are told that trees can be uprooted and mountains moved. Would you deny the Bible on this? We can join with one another in our prayers— both the living in pilgrimage on earth and the living in glory within heaven. Prayer like sacraments have efficacy because the Spirit of God has power. Catholics do not view God as a genie in a lamp upon which we can press our wishes. When we pray to God it is always approach from the posture of humility. The Catholic stance always echoes, “Thy will be done.”

CHARLES:

Prayer is meant to form a more personal relationship with God and for people to find forgiveness with God. By praying to Mary or Saints this goal is obscured and misconceptions regarding the truth of forgiveness and salvation are formed. This is why Protestants don’t do it. The only way to salvation is through the Son. All this other hogwash is just obscuring and confusing this fact.

FATHER JOE:

Your reductionism of prayer is pathetic. Before you would try to teach others, you need to be better informed. Otherwise, the blind will lead the blind. I know informed Protestants who would be embarrassed by your caricatures of Catholicism and by statements that conflict with teachings in their own denominations.

As I said before, Christ and his redemptive work opens the gates of heaven to us. He makes possible our approach to the Father. This is Catholic and Protestant belief. Protestants disagree (in some cases) about intercessory prayer because of views about justification or the status of the saints in heaven. How would I as a Catholic priest explain prayer?

Prayer, at its heart, is communication with God. All true prayer, even intercessory prayer, has as its proper object— almighty God. Prayer is both personal and communal. We approach God as individuals and as members of a faith family. The prayer we first learn as children is the GIMME prayer. Some adults never learn any other type of prayer. This is sad, even tragic. It can make us selfish, concerned with “self” instead of with “other.”

There is nothing wrong with petition but it is not sufficient by itself. We submit our needs before God knowing that he loves us and will provide for us. All prayer acknowledges the basic dependence of the creature upon the Creator.
The most important oration is that of the saints and angels. It should also be ours— the prayer of praise or adoration. We honor God just for being God. He is the source of our existence. Something of his majesty shines back to us through the order and beauty of creation. We praise God, yes even if nothing should be received in return. He is all perfect, all knowing, all loving, and all good. Glory be to God! Hosanna in the Highest! Alleluia!

There are also prayers of contrition where we approach God with sorrow over sin, desiring his mercy. Imperfect contrition would have us fear the loss of heaven and the pains of hell; perfect contrition would have us grieve in love over how our sins afflicted the Sacred Heart, literally the source for our Lord’s Passion and Death. It saddens us that we have offended God when we should have loved him above all things. Christ, have mercy! Lord, have mercy!

There is also a place for Thanksgiving. Indeed, the word EUCHARIST means to give thanks. Catholics thank the Lord in their morning offerings and evening prayers. We thank God before meals. We thank him at the Eucharist or Mass, the great communal prayer that has within it all the forms of prayer.

The Eucharist is viewed as our opportunity to enter into the prayer or saving action of Christ. It is are-presentation of Calvary. We encounter both the saving REAL PRESENCE of Christ in Holy Communion, but also his oblation that makes true atonement for all the sins of the world. It is a command performance. The Lord told his apostles at the Last Supper to “do this in remembrance of me.” The word that helps us to understand here is “amnesis,” meaning that which is remembered is made present. Jesus refers to himself at the Supper as the Lamb of God. He shares the cup of his covenant. A covenant cannot be established with fake blood— only real blood. There is a great mystery given believers. Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the word, have mercy on us! Grant us peace!

CHARLES:

The “Church” is rotten to the core: centuries of corruption, war, theft, distortion of Scripture, and the covering up of sexual abuse of children. Continually chanting that “the Catholic Church” is the only true Church changes nothing. I can safely say Jesus would be disgusted by the Pope sitting on his golden throne as children starve across the world and lack basic education and medicine.

FATHER JOE:

The Church was instituted by Christ and preserved by the Holy Spirit. Condemnation of the Church is blasphemy against God’s handiwork. Your criticism also trespasses into the area of sinful calumny. It is one thing to be critical; it is another to be prejudiced. You are the latter. The history of the Church is the history of the world. The legacy of the Church is the testimony and witness of the saints. We still live in a world of corruption, war and greed. Often the Church is the one voice which speaks out for healing, peace and charity. You would silence this voice; or worse yet, to allow the sins of a few to negate the blessings and miracles she has brought into the world. The Catholic Church is the Mother of the Bible. The distortion belongs to those who dismiss her life you. You define yourself by your hatred of all things Catholic. The Catholic Church has done more to protect children and to care for the world’s poor than any other non-governmental institution. I bet you have done little or nothing for the poor and hurting, either at home or around the world. We run thousands of schools and hospitals and yet you condemn the Church for leaving people in ignorance and sickness. Hypocrite, deal with the plank in your own eye before condemning the Church and others for the splinter in theirs!