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L. Acri wrote:

Dear Brothers in Christ,

I have several questions to ask, but feel I must first explain some of my personal background.

Both my parents are Christian; my dad is Catholic, my mom is Methodist. I was baptized Catholic. When the time came for me to receive my First Communion, my dad refused to contact a priest so I could not receive a religious education.   My mother ended up sending me to church with my friends, who worshipped in an Assemblies of God church.

As a teenager I received Confirmation in a Methodist church, accepting Christ as an adult into my daily life. I then felt a calling by God, and a desire to dedicate my life to his service. The problem was I didn't know which brand of shepherd's crook I should carry.

Since Confirmation, I've felt a longing, as though something was still lacking in my life. That is the impetus for this e-mail, though I still have great reservations about the practices of the Catholic Church. In answering my questions, I hope you can better educate me on how the Catholic Christian side thinks.

  • Since the Vatican possesses great wealth, and liquidate-able properties, why doesn't it auction them off instead of closing parochial schools?
  • If the Pope is selected by God, then why do Cardinals hedge their bets by voting?
  • When Jesus gave Peter the keys, he supposedly established the papacy.
    • If this is the case, then how can these keys be transferred to others?
    • Doesn't Peter still hold these keys in heaven?
  • What is the nature of the Mass?
    • Is Mass the re-sacrifice of Christ on a weekly basis, as some write? If this is the case, then Mass isn't necessary.
  • Why would it be necessary for a person to consume the literal flesh and blood of Christ?
    • Aren't the same purposes accomplished through the Holy Ghost?
  • Why are some books not accepted by Protestant churches in their canon?
  • Doesn't God decide who is or isn't a saint, and if so, then what is the whole purpose of canonization on earth?
  • When did Jesus say that others could act in his name to absolve sins?
    • How do priests confess their sins?
  • Where does the Bible establish the primacy of Rome?
    • Since Antioch was where the Church was once centered, isn't its patriarch the true successor to Peter?
  • Since icons, statues, etc. are all supposed to depict things that reside in heaven or earth, aren't they against biblical teaching?
  • Isn't the Catholic practice of annulment unnecessary to God?
    • If a marriage was sacramentally unfulfilled, then how would marriage to another person conflict with previous actions?

The Methodist church teaches that the apostles were partly wrong in what they called sacraments, and only accepts Baptism and Communion as sacraments of the gospel.

  • What does the Catholic Church teach on the nature and validity of its sacraments?
  • Do not good works accompany true faith?
    • If that is the case, then why would works be required for faith?
  • Aren't other people, as well as the Pope, able to establish moral principles through the power of the Holy Spirit?
  • Because Christ was "The Ultimate Sacrifice" then isn't a "real" or "true" priesthood unnecessary?
    • Is not the priesthood of Christians composed of true believers?

I do realize this is a multitude of questions, possibly best left up to a priest to explain. I wished to receive the opinions of many people, from many backgrounds, and that is partly why I have asked these questions.

  • Most likely I will think of some more, and if I were to, would you answer them?

I appreciate your efforts, and thank you in advance for your help.

In Christ,

L. Acri

  { Since I was never grounded in the faith, can you educate me on how the Catholic side thinks? }

John replied:

Dear L.,

You ask some very important questions. You have obviously put some serious thought into this.
It is people like yourself, who ask these kinds of questions that ultimately make the strongest Catholics.

Your background both, within the Methodist, and the Assemblies of God traditions will be a great asset to you. I have a [Baptist|Charismatic] background. I found the biblical foundation
I received when I was a Charismatic Baptist has proven to be a great asset.

Let's look at some of these questions:

You said:
Since the Vatican possesses great wealth, and liquidate-able properties, why doesn't it auction them off instead of closing parochial schools?

First of all, this a practice rather than a doctrine.  God did not guarantee that the Church would always be the best steward of her finances. Having said that, from the very beginning, the Church has allowed the local Church under the local bishop to administrate the day to day business of running parishes and Catholic schools. Many have proposed, in the past, that the Church should divest herself of her assets and give the money to the poor.

Judas asked a similar question of Jesus when a woman was anointing Him. He rebuked Jesus saying the ointment could have been sold and the money given to the poor. Jesus responded that the poor would always be with us.

Practically speaking, the solution for parochial schools is:

  • to teach Catholics the importance of giving their children a Catholic education
  • return to traditional conservative Catholic teaching in these schools and
  • teach individual Catholics the importance of tithing.

If the Catholic Church were to sell off its art and treasure it would vanish rather quickly and, in a short period of time, the schools would find themselves in the same situation.

You said:
If the Pope is selected by God, then why do Cardinals hedge their bets by voting?

Jesus Christ established a visible Church.  He protects the Church from teaching error and He established the Papacy.

He does not hand pick every man that will be Pope. Once we have a Pope, the Holy Spirit keeps him from teaching error in the areas of faith and morals. Nevertheless, he does not guarantee that the Pope will be a good man, always making the right decisions about a practice of disciple and so on.

You said:
When Jesus gave Peter the keys, he supposedly established the papacy.

  • If this is the case, then how can these keys be transferred to others?
  • Doesn't Peter still hold these keys in heaven?

I would ask you to compare the passage that you've referenced in Matthew 16 with a text in Isaiah 22:

Isaiah 22:21-24
21 I will clothe him with your robe and fasten your sash around him and hand your authority over to him. He will be a father to those who live in Jerusalem and to the house of Judah. 22 I will place on his shoulder the key to the house of David; what he opens no one can shut, and what he shuts no one can open. 23 I will drive him like a peg into a firm place; he will be a seat of honor for the house of his father.
24 All the glory of his family will hang on him: its offspring and offshoots — all its lesser vessels, from the bowls to all the jars.

Notice that the key or symbol of authority is given both to Eliakim and to his posterity.

If you read the book of Acts, you will see that even Judas' office had to be filled.

Beyond that, the overwhelming evidence in the post biblical writings of the early Church (as early as 90AD ) acknowledged that the early Christians understood Peter transferred his authority to a successor.

In the late first century we see that Clement, third successor of Peter, wrote to Corinth with the authority of Peter. This letter predates the death of John. John was still living and writing in Ephesus. Certainly, he would have taken the leadership of the Church were there not a Papacy. Fathers, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp (a disciple of John), Irenaeus, and many more all have written letters pointing to Rome and the Bishop of Rome as the head of the Church.

You said:
What is the nature of the Mass?

  • Is Mass the re-sacrifice of Christ on a weekly basis, as some write? If this is the case, then Mass isn't necessary.

The Mass is not a re-sacrifice. It makes present, the once and for all Sacrifice of Cavalry, to all who attend Mass. God, who stands outside of time always see Calvary in the "eternal now".
Christ stands before the Father always pointing to and offering His Sacrifice on our behalf to the Father. At the Mass, in a mystical mysterious way, by the power of the Holy Spirit, that sacrifice is made present to us who worship. Again, a study of the early Church, will show that this has always been the orthodox, understanding of the Eucharist.

You said:
Why would it be necessary for a person to consume the literal flesh and blood of Christ?

  • Aren't the same purposes accomplished through the Holy Ghost?

Good question!!

First of all, we consume the Sacramental Presence of Jesus. That is, if you put the consecrated host under the microscope you are not going to see Jesus' DNA. What we are consuming is the substance of God. We partake in this Mystery because Jesus is the Passover lamb. The Israelites had to eat the lamb, so do we. To get a better understanding, we look to ancient Jewish Tradition. They understood that in drinking the blood of animals they would be partaking in the life of the animal and thus it was a forbidden practice. As we partake in the Blood of Christ,
we partake in the life of Christ. In simple terms, you are what you eat.

  • Why is this necessary?

Well, we are not only spiritual beings, we are also physical beings and God chooses to use physical realities as means of delivering grace.

  • Can one receive grace strictly in a spiritual sense?

Yes, of course one can, He is God, but He chose this means. I suggest you read John Chapter 6 carefully.

You said:
When did Jesus say that others could act in his name to absolve sins?

  • How do priests confess their sins?

John 20:21-23
21 So Jesus said to them again, "Peace to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you." 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them, and said to them, "Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 "If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained."

Jesus is speaking directly to the Apostles and He breaths on them giving them the Holy Spirit. This is a different event than the outpouring we see in the book of Acts. This is specific to the Apostles and He gives them, the Apostles, the authority to forgive sins. Compare this with Matthew 16, Matthew 18 and James 5. Pay particular note to James 5, when James is speaking of the elders, which is the translation for the Greek word presbyter which was later shortened to priest.

You said:
Where does the Bible establish the primacy of Rome?

  • Since Antioch was where the Church was once centered, isn't its patriarch the true successor to Peter?

No, it's not. In fact, before Peter went to Rome, he was Bishop of Antioch. To this day,
the Eastern Catholic Churches, without Rome's objections, recognize that the Patriarch of Antioch is second in order of primacy to the Roman bishop. By that they mean that, had Peter not made it to Rome, the successor he left in Antioch would have been his successor.

Had Peter not gone to Rome and appointed a successor there, it is quite possible that the Chair of Peter would be in Antioch.

I will have to take up some of these other questions later. I will also get you a recommended reading list.

For now be blessed my dear friend!

Under His Mercy,

John DiMascio

Eric replied:

Dear Brother in Christ,

You ask some excellent questions, as my brother John pointed out. I had a few things to add to what he said.

You said:
Since the Vatican possesses great wealth, and liquidate-able properties, why doesn't it auction them off instead of closing parochial schools?

First of all, it is important to note that from a financial perspective, the Catholic Church is not monolithic. Each diocese is financially independent from the Vatican and from other dioceses, so funds do not flow from the Vatican to, say, parochial schools in the U.S.

But more importantly, the art, treasures and property the Vatican holds, it holds as a custodian for the benefit of the whole Church. If it sold it, then it would go into private hands where the faithful would be unable to access or enjoy it, and the funds would soon be depleted and then you'd be left with nothing to show for it. By keeping its treasure, the Vatican has something of lasting value that all generations can appreciate. The Vatican selling its art would be like New York City selling Central Park to feed the poor or Boston selling the Boston Common to cover a deficit: the public loses big time.

You said:
When Jesus gave Peter the keys, he supposedly established the papacy.

  • If this is the case, then how can these keys be transferred to others?
  • Doesn't Peter still hold these keys in heaven?

W.F. Albright, in his Anchor Bible Commentary on Matthew speaks about the keys of the kingdom that Jesus entrusted to Peter. Here's what he says:

"Isaiah 22, verse 15, undoubtedly lies behind this saying of Jesus. The keys are the symbol of authority and Father Roland DeVoe rightly sees here the same authority vested in the vicar, the master of the house, the chamberlain of the royal household in ancient Israel. In Isaiah 22 Eliakim is described as having the same authority."

Other Protestant scholars admit it too, that when Jesus gives to Peter the keys of the kingdom, Peter is receiving the Prime Minister's office, which means dynastic authority from the Son of David, Jesus, the King of Israel, but also an office where there will be dynastic succession.

He goes on to say some other things. "It is of considerable importance," Albright says,

"that in other contexts, when the disciplinary affairs of the community are discussed, the symbol of the keys is absent, since the saying applies in these instances to a wider circle. The role of Peter as steward of the kingdom is further explained as being the exercise of administrative authority as was the case of the Old Testament chamberlain who held the keys."

It's important to note that the keys have to do with exercise of authority (in particular authority while the Master is away). It would do very little good for Jesus to give Peter the keys alone, only to have them "stay with him" when he died and went to Heaven, since, after all, Peter can't exercise authority on earth from heaven! The specific need fulfilled by the keys is the need for someone on earth to administer the authority of the Master. (This is illustrated in the Gospels in the parable of the faithful steward, Matthew 24:45-51.) Having the keys "go to heaven" with Peter defeats the whole purpose of having them.

Here is additional evidence that the early Christians believed that Jesus envisioned having a successor to Peter:

In the same sense, the second epistle of Clement to James II ('Clementine Homilies,' Introduction [221 A.D.]), Peter is represented as having appointed Clement as his successor, saying:

'I communicate to him the power of binding and loosing so that, with respect to everything which he shall ordain in the earth, it shall be decreed in the heavens;
for he shall bind what ought to be bound and loose what ought to be loosed as knowing the rule of the Church.'"

(Jewish Encyclopedia 3:215)

You said:
What is the nature of the Mass?

  • Is Mass the re-sacrifice of Christ on a weekly basis, as some write? If this is the case, then Mass isn't necessary.

It is not a re-sacrifice, rather it is the same sacrifice made present again:

Synod in Constantinople (Jan. 1156-May 1157):

"Today's sacrifice is like that offered once by the Once-begotten Incarnate Word;
it is offered by him (now as then), since it is one and the same sacrifice."

Council of Trent:

"In the sacrifice of the Mass, Christ's sacrifice on the cross is made present,
its memory is celebrated, and its saving power is applied."

You said:
How do priests confess their sins?

Priests (and bishops) confess their sins to other priests. The Pope confesses his sins (weekly,
at minimum, I might add) to a priest as well.

You said:
Doesn't God decide who is or isn't a saint, and if so, then what is the whole purpose of canonization on earth?

Yeah he does. The purposes of canonization is to determine what God decided. It takes two verified miracles (worked through the person's intercession) to canonize a saint. I'd definitely say that's a case of God making the decision. The role of the Church and the process of canonization is mostly to certify the results of God's decision.

You said:
Why are some books not accepted by Protestant churches in their canon?

Well, the answer, not surprisingly, is long, involved, and messy. At the root of it, is the fact that there were two canons of Scripture circulating among first century Jews: the Palestinian canon, which roughly corresponds to the Protestant Old Testament, and the Alexandrian canon, which roughly corresponds to the Catholic and Orthodox Old Testament. The latter was popularized by the Septuagint Greek translation, which was used by Greek-speaking Jews (and Greek-speaking Christians). Many of the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament are quoted from the Septuagint translation. Anyway, this state of affairs continued until around 90 A.D., when the Jews at the Council of Jamnia decided on their canon. They decided in favor of the Palestinian canon, in part, because several of the books in the Alexandrian canon were only available in Greek, and the Jews held them suspect. (Some of these we now have Hebrew or Aramaic manuscripts for.) Also, several of these books had very uncomfortable allusions to Christ in them (such as Wisdom 2), and relations were very strained between Jews and Christian at this time. The Christians, on the other hand, favored the Septuagint and the Alexandrian canon. While the Christian canon was in flux for several hundred years most, if not all, of the lists of canonical books include books from the broader canon (which we call Deuterocanonical books). The Christian canon of the Old Testament was never formally and infallibly defined until the Reformation. Luther objected to purgatory, which the Church defended by an appeal to a pretty plain and obvious text in 2 Maccabees 12:39-46. His solution was simple: get around it by adopting the Palestinian canon and rejecting the deuterocanonical books, including 2 Maccabees.

I can't let this discussion go by without mentioning that Luther also wanted to throw out the books of James, Revelation, and Hebrews, among others, but was dissuaded by his colleagues.

The response of the Catholic Church was to finally formally (and infallibly) define the canon of the Old Testament, including the deuterocanonical books. The Protestants followed Luther's example, with due regard to the Church of England which mandated the deuterocanonical books at least be included in the King James Version.

That's about as fair an assessment of the situation as I can give you.

You said:
Since icons, statues, etc. are all supposed to depict things that reside in heaven or earth, aren't they against biblical teaching?

No. Biblical teaching forbids *worshipping* images or otherwise making them idols (which we don't do). This is demonstrated by the fact that God actually commanded the Israelites to make certain images of creatures and use them in worship (Numbers 21:6-9, Exodus 25:18-19).

A longer argument, which I can state only briefly and probably can't do justice, goes along the following lines. God forbade images because God had no image but when God became incarnate in Christ, he took upon himself an image — he took the form of man. He joined himself to creation, and united God and man. In fact, he made us partakers of the divine nature (2 Peter 1:4) and filled us with all the fullness of God (Ephesians 3:19). Consequently, since God took the form of man, and himself became a living icon, it is legitimate for us to make a representation of God in material form. Moreover, since the saints have a share in the divine nature and the fullness of God (and reflect the divinity of Christ), it is legitimate to make images of them as well. We would contend, therefore, that something substantial happened at the Incarnation, that the God who had no form prior to that, is now in material form; and to reflect that awesome truth, we make images of Christ and those he has glorified. These images we venerate, (never worship).

You said:
Isn't the Catholic practice of annulment unnecessary to God?

  • If a marriage were sacramentally unfulfilled, then how would marriage to another person conflict with previous actions?

An annulment is unnecessary to God. It's necessary, however, to man and to the Church.
An accurate way of referring to it is a "declaration of nullity", which means that it is simply making known what was already true. It is simply a legal or juridical device that possibly allows the person to freely marry in the Church (otherwise their previous marriage would appear to be an impediment).

You said:

The Methodist church teaches that the apostles were partly wrong in what they called sacraments, and only accepts Baptism and Communion as sacraments of the gospel.

  • What does the Catholic Church teach on the nature and validity of its sacraments?

We would recognize the baptism of the Methodist Church as valid, because it is done in the name of the Trinity. It would effectively be equivalent to any baptism performed in a Catholic Church. We would consider Methodist communion to be invalid, for many reasons, not the least of which, the Methodist Church does not believe it is confecting the true Body and Blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

You said:
Do not good works accompany true faith?

  • If that is the case, then why would works be required for faith?

I'm not sure what you mean by "why would works be required for faith." but one important thing to remember is that in the Catholic understanding, faith always comes before works (and grace before faith), and the wicked man who is justified (made righteous) is justified by faith alone, apart from any good deeds. (We believe this justification happens in Baptism and in Confession, for one who is already baptized.)

You said:
Aren't other people, as well as the Pope, able to establish moral principles through power of the Holy Spirit?

I would argue that only God is able to establish moral principles. The Pope's only job is to articulate and defend the principles Christ and the Apostles entrusted to us 2000 years ago.

  • Can anyone articulate and define such principles?

Absolutely, and indeed they should. The Pope does not have a monopoly on the role of preaching and teaching. The question is, can you absolutely trust everyone who does? Not by a long shot. While it is good to listen to anyone whom you believe is trustworthy, eventually you're going to run into conflicting stands on moral principles, and you need an authority who can make definitive statements on issues that arise. That's the role of the Pope: to arbitrate, infallibly if need be, when disputes over moral principles arise.

You said:
Because Christ was "The Ultimate Sacrifice" then isn't a "real" or "true" priesthood unnecessary?

The role of the priest, in the Catholic understanding, is to serve as an instrument for Christ,
the Great High Priest, in making his once-for-all sacrifice present for the faithful to partake in. Remember that the Passover sacrifice (which Christ's sacrifice fulfilled) involved two components:

  1. one was offering the sacrifice
  2. the other was eating the flesh of the sacrificed lamb.

Christ did the first part on Calvary 2000 years ago, but it's up to us to do the second part.
To make that possible, Christ established the Eucharistic Sacrifice. In this sacrifice, the priest imitates what Christ did, playing the role, as it were, of Christ in the mystery of the Passover. The Great High Priest then sends down to us through the hands of the priest His own Body and Blood, through which we become partakers of the divine nature. (By the way, the sacrificial nature of the Eucharist is implied in Hebrews 13:10:

"We have an altar from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat"

and 1 Corinthians 10:18:

"Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ? Since there is one bread, we who are many are one body; for we all partake of the one bread. Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the altar?"

and 1 Corinthians 9:13, and Malachi 1:11)

So while Christ's sacrifice is "done", its saving fruits, in the form of the Eucharist, still need to be distributed to the faithful. This is the primary role of the priest in the Catholic faith. He is called a priest, in part, because he shares in the priestly ministry of the Great High Priest and re-enacts the Last Supper.

You said:
Is not the priesthood of Christians composed of true believers?

We acknowledge a universal priesthood which is made up of all the Christian faithful
(cf. 1 Peter 2:9) and there was a similar priesthood in the Old Testament (Exodus 19:6) but just as the Old Testament had a ministerial priesthood, in addition to a universal priesthood, so in the New Covenant, there is also a universal priesthood and a ministerial priesthood that are distinct so the universal priesthood is not necessarily the only priesthood.

As early as the first century, we see evidence the Christians had established their own priesthood. St. Clement, the fourth bishop of Rome, wrote in 80 A.D.:

"Since then these things are manifest to us, and we have looked into the depths of the divine knowledge, we ought to do in order all things which the Master commanded us to perform at appointed times. He commanded us to celebrate sacrifices and services, and that it should not be thoughtlessly or disorderly, but at fixed times and hours. He has Himself fixed by His supreme will the places and persons whom He desires for these celebrations, in order that all things may be done piously according to His good pleasure, and be acceptable to His will. So then those who offer their oblations at the appointed seasons are acceptable and blessed, but they follow the laws of the Master and do not sin. For to the high priest his proper ministrations are allotted, and to the priests the proper place has been appointed, and on Levites their proper services have been imposed. The layman is bound by the ordinances for the laity."

(St. Clement, bishop of Rome, 80 A.D., to the Corinthians, 40)

I hope that this addresses some of your questions. Some of my colleagues may have additional comments to add, but write back if you have any further questions.

Your brother in Christ,

Eric

John followed up on Eric's answer:

L Acri wrote in her question:
Why are some books not accepted by Protestant churches in their canon?

Eric Answered:
Well, the answer, not surprisingly, is long, involved, and messy. At the root of it, is the fact that there were two canons of Scripture circulating among first century Jews: the Palestinian canon, which roughly corresponds to the Protestant Old Testament, and the Alexandrian canon, which roughly corresponds to the Catholic and Orthodox Old Testament. The latter was popularized by the Septuagint Greek translation, which was used by Greek-speaking Jews (and Greek-speaking Christians). Many of the Old Testament quotes in the New Testament are quoted from the Septuagint translation. Anyway, this state of affairs continued until around 90 A.D., when the Jews at the Council of Jamnia decided on their canon. They decided in favor of the Palestinian canon, in part, because several of the books in the Alexandrian canon were only available in Greek, and the Jews held them suspect. (Some of these we now have Hebrew or Aramaic manuscripts for.) Also, several of these books had very uncomfortable allusions to Christ in them (such as Wisdom 2), and relations were very strained between Jews and Christian at this time. The Christians, on the other hand, favored the Septuagint and the Alexandrian canon. While the Christian canon was in flux for several hundred years most, if not all, of the lists of canonical books include books from the broader canon (which we call Deuterocanonical books). The Christian canon of the Old Testament was never formally and infallibly defined until the Reformation. Luther objected to purgatory, which the Church defended by an appeal to a pretty plain and obvious text in 2 Maccabees 12:39-46. His solution was simple: get around it by adopting the Palestinian canon and rejecting the deuterocanonical books, including 2 Maccabees.

I can't let this discussion go by without mentioning that Luther also wanted to throw out the books of James, Revelation, and Hebrews, among others, but was dissuaded by his colleagues.

The response of the Catholic Church was to finally formally (and infallibly) define the canon of the Old Testament, including the deuterocanonical books. The Protestants followed Luther's example, with due regard to the Church of England which mandated the deuterocanonical books at least be included in the King James Version.

John DiMascio replied:

Eric, this is not exactly the case. There are a couple of things to consider.   The entire canon of 73 books can be found in the writings of St. Augustine, approved of by Pope Damascus in 382 AD.

This canon was only in flux because unlike today communication between the Churches were far more limited by time and space. Further since no one before Luther really promoted the heresy of Sola Scriptura (that is, the Bible as the sole and final authority) there was no crisis. The councils of Rome, Hippo, and Carthage held between 382 and 397 AD accepted the entire 73 book canon however since the dispute at these councils revolved around the New Testament, the councils emphasized the 27 books of the New Testament in their councils. The Council of Trent simply reasserted what had always been the accepted teaching of the Church on the subject.

It is important to note that the late first century Palestinian Canon came into existence at the rabbinic Council of Jabnia in 90 AD. By this point, the Jews no longer had any authority to set the Canon. The authority to "bind and to loose" had been given by Christ to the Church. Beyond that, the Jews had political reasons to reject the books written in Greek. In some of the books, the Roman Empire was painted in a favorable light. These books were written about 150 B.C. when Rome was taking over the Greek Empire. At that time, the Greeks were the enemy, not the Romans. However, by 90 AD it was Rome that was the enemy, therefore the Jews would have no part of these books.

HOWEVER they did not reject the doctrine taught in these books. Prayer for the dead, and the prayer of the dead by the living, is rooted in ancient Jewish Tradition and is still the practice today. At the time of Jesus, Jews prayed for the dead and asked for their intercession, therefore Jesus would have condemned this if it were not a true practice.

L Acri wrote in her question:
Do not good works accompany true faith?

  • If that is the case, then why would works be required for faith?

Eric answered:
I'm not sure what you mean by "why would works be required for faith." but one important thing to remember is that in the Catholic understanding, faith always comes before works (and grace before faith), and the wicked man who is justified (made righteous) is justified by faith alone, apart from any good deeds. (We believe this justification happens in Baptism and in Confession, for one who is already baptized.)

Adding to Eric's answer:
The Bible teaches us that we are justified by faith apart from works of the law, (Romans 3)
but it also says we are justified not by works alone (James 2)

The Catholic view of justification and the Protestant view differ in the following way:

  • In the Protestant model, Justification is simply a legal declaration. God declares us righteous and IMPUTES the righteousness of Christ upon us. As Luther put it, we are nothing but a pile of dung, covered by snow.

  • The Catholic understanding is that God declares us righteous, but He does what He says. As Isaiah wrote:

      "My Word will not return void but will accomplish that which I set forth to accomplish."

    Thus we are made righteous. We are a pile of dung which God turn's into snow but it goes further than that. Justification is not just a legal declaration which frees us, it is a legal adoption. Therefore we become sons of God. Catholic Salvation theology revolves around entering into the inheritance of Christ. This means growing, and maturing until we are ready to inherit the Kingdom. Thus justification is not a one shot deal.  Yes, we are objectively justified, but justification is dynamic, it grows in conjunction with our sanctification.

The Protestant understanding was heavily influenced by Calvin who was a lawyer!

  • Need I say more?

Yes, God is judge, but God is Father, and while there is much truth in the Protestant understanding, it does not encompass the fuller understanding of the Mystery which is found in the Church.

Salvation plain and simple is a complete work of Christ from beginning to end in which we somehow cooperate by constantly responding to Grace. The first response to Grace is in fact, Faith. Faith without works is dead, thus we show our faith through works but we also increase
our faith by works. Faith, in a sense, is like a muscle: the more you use it, the stronger it gets.

If we are like the lazy servant that buries his talent (in our case, faith) in ground then it will die.

Under His Mercy,

John DiMascio

L. Acri replied:

Thank you all for your prompt responses! It seems you all are pretty knowledgeable.

The way I worded one of my questions was rather vague, and I'd like to re-ask it:

  • Most Protestant groups only find biblical support for two sacraments (Baptism and Eucharist).  Where can I find support for the other five?

And a new one:

  • The Church teaches that the Bible is only right when viewed with "Catholic-colored glasses" that is, in the context of tradition. Where does this assertion come from?

I appreciate all of the thought that was put into your replies, and I feel energized in a way
I haven't in quite some time. Any books you can suggest would be great. I'm a very avid reader of many books, among them: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy : - )

Via con Dios,

L. Acri

Eric followed-up:

You said:
Most Protestant groups only find biblical support for two sacraments (Baptism and Eucharist).  Where can I find support for the other five?

Well, they're fairly straightforward.

The sacrament of Anointing of the Sick is pretty clearly laid out in James 5:14-16.

The sacrament of Ordination is mentioned in 1 Timothy 4:14 and Acts 6:6.

The sacrament of Confirmation is mentioned several times in Acts, such as:

  • Acts 2:1-4
  • Acts 8:15-19, and
  • Acts 19:6.

The sacrament of Reconciliation we've already pretty much discussed in:

  • John 20:22 and James 5.

The sacrament of Marriage is of course mentioned several times by Jesus, where he elevates it beyond what Moses taught. St. Paul discusses it at length in Ephesians 5, and in fact he calls it a "profound mystery" (verse 32), which is significant because "mystery" is the Greek word for "sacrament".

Whether you consider there to be zero, two or seven sacraments depends on what you mean by "sacrament" and how you understand it. Given the Biblical evidence, I've never quite figured out how the Protestants rejected the other five sacraments, particularly marriage, which one would think would be an obvious sacrament. In many cases (e.g. ordination, marriage, and sometimes confirmation), the churches still celebrate them, they just don't classify them as sacraments,
for whatever reason. For us, "Sacraments are "powers that comes forth" from the Body of Christ, which is ever-living and life-giving. They are actions of the Holy Spirit at work in his Body,
the Church. They are "the masterworks of God" in the new and everlasting covenant."

(Catechism of the Catholic Church #1116) "The sacraments are efficacious signs of grace, instituted by Christ and entrusted to the Church, by which divine life is dispensed to us. The visible rites by which the sacraments are celebrated signify and make present the graces proper to each sacrament. They bear fruit in those who receive them with the required dispositions." (#1131)

You said:
The Church teaches that the Bible is only right when viewed with "Catholic-colored glasses" that is, in the context of tradition. Where does this assertion come from?

Well, first I'd like to assert that everyone's glasses are colored, whether they are aware of it or not. The question is whose color are you wearing. Protestants follow their own traditions but usually do not acknowledge it. Tradition always influences how you interpret the Scriptures. I learned this when I came to know the Lord and went through a phase of "bible-alone" belief, and derived my own doctrines from my own reading of Scripture, rejecting any outside influence. I found that many "Bible-believing Christians" sincerely held to beliefs that they considered to be from the Bible alone, but it seemed clear to me that they weren't. Rather, they were influenced by their own traditions. This was also clear because of the several different strains of "Bible-only" belief that are in existence, and how people exposed to one community tend to adopt the interpretations of the other people in their community.

Anyway, I digress. On to your question.

One important verse is 1 Timothy 3:16, which calls the "Church of the living God" the "pillar and foundation of the truth". That makes the Church the primary ground for determining the truth. (The foundation of this Church is "the apostles and prophets" (Ephesians 2:20).) St. Jude urges us to:

"Earnestly contend for the faith once for all entrusted to the saints" (Jude 3)

and St. Paul exhorted Timothy,

"What you have heard from me, keep as the pattern of sound teaching, with faith and love in Christ Jesus. Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you — guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us." (2 Timothy 1:13f)

This brings up the image of the

<deposit of faith — the idea that the truth was deposited into the Church by Christ for safe-keeping throughout the centuries.>

St. Irenaeus, grand-disciple of St. Paul, elaborated on this in his work Against Heresies,
180-199 A.D., 3, 4, 1
:

"When, therefore, we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek among others the truth which is easily obtained from the Church. For the Apostles, like a rich man in a bank, deposited with her most copiously everything which pertains to the truth; and everyone whosoever wishes draws from her the drink of life. For she is the entrance to life, while all the rest are thieves and robbers [cf, John 10:1-10]. That is why it is surely necessary to avoid [heretics], while cherishing with the utmost diligence the things pertaining to the Church, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth. What then? If there should be a dispute over some kind of question, ought we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches in which the Apostles were familiar, and draw from them what is clear and certain in regard to that question? What if the Apostles had not in fact left writings to us? Would it not be necessary to follow the order of tradition, which was handed down to those to whom they entrusted the churches?"

So there is the idea of all the truth being entrusted to the Church through the Apostles as a "deposit of faith", and handed down to us as, what we call, Apostolic Tradition. This is in agreement with the words of Jesus, who promised,

"But when he, the Spirit of Truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth"
(John 16:13)

and

"But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you"
(John 14:26).

This emphasizes the fact that the Catholic Church sees itself as a jealous but careful custodian of what Christ taught the Apostles, dedicated to preserving, defending, and expounding that truth "once for all entrusted to the saints" — not as an organ that receives new revelation or invents new doctrines as the occasion warrants. What we teach, we believe comes, in one form or another, from the Apostles.

St. Irenaeus also says of tradition in Against Heresies, 3, 3, 1, 180 A.D.:

"It is possible, then, for everyone in every [local] church who may wish to know the truth, to contemplate the tradition of the Apostles which has been made known throughout the whole world. We are in a position to enumerate those who were instituted bishops by the Apostles, and their successors to our own times: men. . . to whom they were committing the self-same churches. . . They wished all those and their successors to be perfect and without reproach, to whom they handed their authority."

The fact that we need someone to help us rightly interpret Scriptures is underscored by the words of St. Peter concerning the letters of Paul:

"His letters contain some things which are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."
(2 Peter 3:16)

Here we have proof that Scripture is not obvious but can be distorted, and can be distorted to a person's spiritual destruction. Here, too, his earlier words are apropos:

"But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation." (2 Peter 1:20)

This issue is also raised by the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8:31, who tells Philip that he cannot understand the Scriptures unless someone explains them to him.

Here are a few more Scripture verses to consider on this subject:

"Hold fast to the traditions which you received, whether by word of mouth or by letter" (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

"Watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are
contrary to the teaching you have learned." (Romans 16:17)

"Keep away from every brother who does not live according to the teaching you received from us." (2 Thessalonians 3:6)

"`The Redeemer will come to Zion, to those in Jacob who repent of their sins,' declares the Lord. `As for me, this is my covenant with them,' says the Lord.
`My Spirit, which is on you, and my words that I have put in your mouth will not depart from your mouth, or from the mouths of your children, or from the mouths of their descendants from this time on and forever,' says the Lord."
(Isaiah 59:20-21)

You said:
I appreciate all of the thought that was put into your replies, and I feel energized in a way I haven't in quite some time. Any books you can suggest would be great.

That's great to hear, L. We could recommend a great number of books. :-) Here are a few types of books depending on what suits your fancy the most, in decreasing importance:

General understanding of Catholic teachings and why we believe them from a Scriptural perspective:

There is also some good stuff to read on the web. James Akin has a lot of great material on his web site at: The Nazareth Resource Library

Some articles that you may find of interest:

Another good site with tracts (many of the above tracts are actually hosted here) is Catholic Answers, www.catholic.com. Most of the books I mentioned are available from them as well.

I'd encourage you to study the writings of the early Church fathers (particularly in the first four centuries). They give testimony to what the early Christians believed, and if you study them, you will find that what the early Christians believed is uniquely Catholic. You can find these writings in books or online: http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/. A good place to start would be some short and interesting ones such as the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (or Didache, first century), the letters of St. Ignatius of Antioch (martyred in 107 A.D.), the First Apology of St. Justin Martyr (mid-second century; longer, but you can skim it, chapters 61 and 65-67 are particularly interesting; the latter is the first detailed description we have of Christian worship.)

I recommend Jimmy Akin's book The Fathers Know Best (published by Catholic Answers).

While it is best to read the Fathers totally and in context, this goes through various doctrines and illustrates from the early church Fathers how they were believed in the first centuries of the church, and provides some introduction and historical context. If you have a specific doctrine you want to learn about, it is easy to look it up in this fine book.

Those are a lot of recommendations but hopefully you'll get something out of them. May God bless you as you seek the fullness of the truth!

Your brother in Christ,

Eric

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