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Anonymous wrote:

Hello Mr. Humphrey:

I am a fellow Christian and I attend a Baptist church. I fully admit that I know almost nothing about the Catholic Church, and I would like to find out more. I have many questions and would very much appreciate it if you could e-mail me back some answers.

  • Do Catholics believe in a personal relationship with God?
  • Must your sins be confessed to a priest?
  • What is the Catholic view on Purgatory, Heaven and Hell?
  • Does the Vatican support issues like:
    • abortion, or
    • gay and lesbian behavior?
  • What does Catholic theology say about those in the Protestant divisions of Christianity, that is, do you believe that:
    • Baptists
    • Alliance, and
    • other similar churches will go to Heaven?
  • What is the Catholic view on the Jewish people?
    • Are they saved or must they believe in Jesus to be saved?
  • What do Catholics believe about:
    • Mormons
    • Mennonites, and
    • Jehovah's Witnesses?

Thank-you!

Your brother in Christ,

Anonymous

  { Can you answer questions from a Baptist who knows nothing about your faith but is interested? }

Mike replied:

Hi, Anonymous —

You stated:
Do Catholics believe in a personal relationship with God?

Yes, we definitely do! Read John 6:51-70.

One of the problems is that some Catholics, don't take the responsibility for developing that personal relationship seriously. Catholics receive many graces when they attend Sunday Mass in a state of grace. Many times the problem comes down to not participating actively with the grace they have been given.

This is where one of the biggest problems in the Church lies!

  • What's so special about John 6:51-70?

Here, Our Lord is clearing telling us that unless we eat His Body and drink His Blood, we have no life within us. In a non-cannibalistic manner, we consume the Body and Blood or Our Lord and He strengthens us spiritual and physically for the week to come.

In my opinion, you can't have more of a personal relationship with God than this!

You said:
Must your sins be confessed to a priest?

Yes, in doing so we are obeying Jesus. Read John 20:19-23 and James 5:13-16.

You said:
What is the Catholic view on Purgatory, Heaven and Hell?

From the (CCC), Catechism of the Catholic Church:

I Believe In Life Everlasting

1020 The Christian who unites his own death to that of Jesus views it as a step towards him and an entrance into everlasting life. When the Church for the last time speaks Christ's words of pardon and absolution over the dying Christian, seals him for the last time with a strengthening anointing, and gives him Christ in viaticum as nourishment for the journey, she speaks with gentle assurance: Go forth, Christian soul, from this world in the name of God the almighty Father, who created you, in the name of Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, who suffered for you, in the name of the Holy Spirit, who was poured out upon you. Go forth, faithful Christian! May you live in peace this day, may your home be with God in Zion, with Mary, the virgin Mother of God, with Joseph, and all the angels and saints.... May you return to [your Creator] who formed you from the dust of the earth. May holy Mary, the angels, and all the saints come to meet you as you go forth from this life.... May you see your Redeemer face to face.

I. The Particular Judgment

1021 Death puts an end to human life as the time open to either accepting or rejecting the divine grace manifested in Christ. The New Testament speaks of judgment primarily in its aspect of the final encounter with Christ in his second coming, but also repeatedly affirms that each will be rewarded immediately after death in accordance with his works and faith. The parable of the poor man Lazarus and the words of Christ on the cross to the good thief, as well as other New Testament texts speak of a final destiny of the soul — a destiny which can be different for some and for others.

1022 Each man receives his eternal retribution in his immortal soul at the very moment of his death, in a particular judgment that refers his life to Christ: either entrance into the blessedness of heaven — through a purification or immediately, — or immediate and everlasting damnation. At the evening of life, we shall be judged on our love.

II. Heaven

1023 Those who die in God's grace and friendship and are perfectly purified live for ever with Christ. They are like God for ever, for they "see him as he is," face to face: By virtue of our apostolic authority, we define the following: According to the general disposition of God, the souls of all the saints . . . and other faithful who died after receiving Christ's holy Baptism (provided they were not in need of purification when they died, . . . or, if they then did need or will need some purification, when they have been purified after death, . . .) already before they take up their bodies again and before the general judgment — and this since the Ascension of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ into heaven — have been, are and will be in heaven, in the heavenly Kingdom and celestial paradise with Christ, joined to the company of the holy angels. Since the Passion and death of our Lord Jesus Christ, these souls have seen and do see the divine essence with an intuitive vision, and even face to face, without the mediation of any creature.

1024 This perfect life with the Most Holy Trinity — this communion of life and love with the Trinity, with the Virgin Mary, the angels and all the blessed — is called "heaven." Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme, definitive happiness.

1025 To live in heaven is "to be with Christ." The elect live "in Christ," but they retain, or rather find, their true identity, their own name. For life is to be with Christ; where Christ is, there is life, there is the kingdom.

1026 By his death and Resurrection, Jesus Christ has "opened" heaven to us. The life of the blessed consists in the full and perfect possession of the fruits of the redemption accomplished by Christ. He makes partners in his heavenly glorification those who have believed in him and remained faithful to his will. Heaven is the blessed community of all who are perfectly incorporated into Christ.

1027 This mystery of blessed communion with God and all who are in Christ is beyond all understanding and description. Scripture speaks of it in images: life, light, peace, wedding feast, wine of the kingdom, the Father's house, the heavenly Jerusalem, paradise: "no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man conceived, what God has prepared for those who love him."

1028 Because of his transcendence, God cannot be seen as he is, unless he himself opens up his mystery to man's immediate contemplation and gives him the capacity for it. The Church calls this contemplation of God in his heavenly glory "the beatific vision": How great will your glory and happiness be, to be allowed to see God, to be honored with sharing the joy of salvation and eternal light with Christ your Lord and God, . . . to delight in the joy of immortality in the Kingdom of heaven with the righteous and God's friends.

1029 In the glory of heaven the blessed continue joyfully to fulfill God's will in relation to other men and to all creation. Already they reign with Christ; with him "they shall reign for ever and ever."

III. The Final Purification, or Purgatory

1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven.

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire: As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.

1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred Scripture: "Therefore Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin." From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God. The Church also commends alms giving, indulgences, and works of penance undertaken on behalf of the dead: Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.

IV. Hell

1033 We cannot be united with God unless we freely choose to love him. But we cannot love God if we sin gravely against him, against our neighbor or against ourselves: "He who does not love remains in death. Anyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him."
Our Lord warns us that we shall be separated from him if we fail to meet the serious needs of the poor and the little ones who are his brethren. To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God's merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called "hell."

1034 Jesus often speaks of "Gehenna" of "the unquenchable fire" reserved for those who to the end of their lives refuse to believe and be converted, where both soul and body can be lost. Jesus solemnly proclaims that he "will send his angels, and they will gather . . . all evil doers, and throw them into the furnace of fire,"
and that he will pronounce the condemnation: "Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire!"

1035 The teaching of the Church affirms the existence of hell and its eternity. Immediately after death the souls of those who die in a state of mortal sin descend into hell, where they suffer the punishments of hell, "eternal fire." The chief punishment of hell is eternal separation from God, in whom alone man can possess the life and happiness for which he was created and for which he longs.

1036 The affirmations of Sacred Scripture and the teachings of the Church on the subject of hell are a call to the responsibility incumbent upon man to make use of his freedom in view of his eternal destiny. They are at the same time an urgent call to conversion: "Enter by the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is easy, that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard, that leads to life, and those who find it are few."
Since we know neither the day nor the hour, we should follow the advice of the Lord and watch constantly so that, when the single course of our earthly life is completed, we may merit to enter with him into the marriage feast and be numbered among the blessed, and not, like the wicked and slothful servants, be ordered to depart into the eternal fire, into the outer darkness where "men will weep and gnash their teeth."

1037 God predestines no one to go to hell; for this, a willful turning away from God (a mortal sin) is necessary, and persistence in it until the end. In the Eucharistic liturgy and in the daily prayers of her faithful, the Church implores the mercy of God, who does not want "any to perish, but all to come to repentance": Father, accept this offering from your whole family. Grant us your peace in this life, save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen.

You said:
Does the Vatican support issues like abortion or gay and lesbian behavior?

The Church has always been against abortion going back to the Didache, the "Teaching of the Twelve Apostles", a document that was written around the late first century to early second century of the Church. Abortion is the killing of a live baby in a mother's womb. This is always wrong and demonic at heart.

The Church and the Bible teaches that the behavior and acts of homosexuality are a grave sin against the God-given nature of man and woman; he physically created both of them to be partners in love. Catholics should love, care and pray for the sinner; striving to correct the practicing homosexual, in charity, while hating the sin. Courage is a great resource for this.

A family member once told me she thought the Catholic Church hated gay people. I explain to her that just the opposite is true. That the Church, more than any other organization on the face of the earth, loves those, in the true sense of love, addicted to same-sex behavior, but loves them to much to see them in the lifestyle they are in. This is why the Church supports apostolates like Courage.

You said:
What does Catholic theology say about those in the Protestant divisions of Christianity, that is, do you believe that:

  • Baptists
  • Alliance, and
  • other similar churches will go to Heaven?

I recommend you read all the questions and answers under our "No Salvation Outside the Church" section. There are only three pages but after you go through all the postings, you will have a very strong understanding of:

  • What the Church teaches, and
  • What the Church does not teach.

There can be a lot of confusion and misunderstanding in this area.

You said:

  • What is the Catholic view on the Jewish people?
    • Are they saved or must they believe in Jesus to be saved?
  • What do Catholics believe about:
    • Mormons
    • Mennonites, and
    • Jehovah's Witnesses?

This is what the Catechism states on the issue.

The Church and non-Christians

839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."

The relationship of the Church with the Jewish People.
When she delves into her own mystery, the Church, the People of God in the New Covenant, discovers her link with the Jewish People, "the first to hear the Word of God." The Jewish faith, unlike other non-Christian religions, is already a response to God's revelation in the Old Covenant. To the Jews "belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ", "for the gifts and the call of God are irrevocable."

840 And when one considers the future, God's People of the Old Covenant and the new People of God tend towards similar goals: expectation of the coming (or the return) of the Messiah. But one awaits the return of the Messiah who died and rose from the dead and is recognized as Lord and Son of God; the other awaits the coming of a Messiah, whose features remain hidden till the end of time; and the latter waiting is accompanied by the drama of not knowing or of misunderstanding Christ Jesus.

841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

842 The Church's bond with non-Christian religions is in the first place the common origin and end of the human race:

All nations form but one community. This is so because all stem from the one stock which God created to people the entire earth, and also because all share a common destiny, namely God. His providence, evident goodness, and saving designs extend to all against the day when the elect are gathered together in the holy city. . .

843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."

844 In their religious behavior, however, men also display the limits and errors that disfigure the image of God in them:

Very often, deceived by the Evil One, men have become vain in their reasonings, and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and served the creature rather than the Creator. Or else, living and dying in this world without God, they are exposed to ultimate despair.

845 To reunite all his children, scattered and led astray by sin, the Father willed to call the whole of humanity together into his Son's Church. The Church is the place where humanity must rediscover its unity and salvation. The Church is "the world reconciled." She is that bark which "in the full sail of the Lord's cross, by the breath of the Holy Spirit, navigates safely in this world." According to another image dear to the Church Fathers, she is prefigured by Noah's ark, which alone saves from the flood.

If you are interested in getting the whole scoop, consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to learn everything we believe as Catholics.

Hope this helps!  Come back again if you have other questions.

Your brother in prayer, your brother in Christ,

Mike Humphrey

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