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Anonymous wrote:

Dear Mike,

My son's girlfriend has gotten involved with an evangelical group called, Hillsong and listens to them as though they speak ex-cathedra (from the Chair of Peter). To my mind, they misinterpret the Gospels. According to her, the group says:

  • we don't need priests to give us the Holy Sacraments
  • the Host doesn't need to be blessed, and
  • anyone can take it anywhere . . . even to their home.

Apparently, they say we don't have to be all religious or need a church building. What utter heresy!!

  • How can I tell her that the Eucharist does have to be blessed by a priest or it is invalid, and where is a reference for this in the Bible?

His girlfriend does not seem to have any opinions of her own, nor does she have any ability to discern issues. I think Hillsong has hijacked her brains. She has fallen for their nonsense hook, line, and sinker. They told her how to speak in tongues and now she babbles a lot, and my son is getting impatient with her.

Please tell me that speaking in tongues is not important and not salvific.

Many, thanks!

Regards,

Anonymous

  { How do I cope with a relative who is being persuaded by an evangelical group called Hillsong? }

Eric replied:

Anonymous wrote:
Dear Mike,

My son's girlfriend has gotten involved with an evangelical group called, Hillsong, and listens to them as though they speak ex-cathedra (from the Chair of Peter). To my mind, they misinterpret the Gospels. According to her, the group says:

  • we don't need priests to give the Holy Sacraments
  • the Host doesn't need to be blessed, and
  • anyone can take it anywhere . . . even to their home

Well, it is usual for Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist to take the Eucharist into people's homes, but you are correct in that it is not right to reserve the Eucharist in a home without the permission of the bishop; this protects against sacrilege (surely she believes in that).

Obviously she needs to be challenged to think critically. What happens in situations like this is that the group meets a lot of unmet emotional needs in the person, and this makes them much more trusting and inclined to believe what they teach.

In some cases this can serve for good, but in this case it's not so good. I encourage you to try with charity to address the errors involved, but I wouldn't hold much hope of breaking her of the group's force, short of deprogramming, which would only be appropriate if it was truly a cultic group.

I don't know where your son stands, or how old he is, but I would recommend that you focus on inoculating him. Unless he has already taken what she has said hook, line, and sinker, it will be easier to educate him. Your priority at this point is keeping him from being won over by her.

My impression is that he's a practicing Catholic taken by surprise at his girlfriend's turn, and is asking you for advice. That would be an excellent position to be in. Start studying Catholic apologetics: (how to defend and explain the faith) with him. Go over these and other common objections. Encourage and support one another. Also study the Early Church, that way she will be focused on doing what the early Church did. Like many, she is probably unaware that the early Church believed what Catholics believe.

For example, in the middle of the 2nd century, St. Justin Martyr explained both:

  • How the Church baptized, and
  • celebrated the Eucharist.

He says clearly that the rebirth referred to in John 3:6 which Evangelicals love to associate with a commitment to Christ and often an accompanying emotional experience refers instead to Baptism, as we believe. He also taught that the Eucharist is transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ at the prayers of the presider, and that we do not hold it to be common bread and wine but in fact the Body and Blood of Christ.

St. Ignatius of Antioch in 110 A.D. condemns those who deny the Real Presence of Christ.

St. Clement of Rome, in the first century (around 80 A.D. I believe), strictly delineates a religious hierarchy so strong it echoes the Old Testament worship. He calls the Eucharist a sacrifice (something Evangelicals consider blasphemous because they misunderstand it), as does the Didache, another first century document. The Didache, by the way, endorses Baptism by pouring as is common in our Church, and it also urges people to pray the Our Father three times a day, something virtually no Evangelical would counsel.

The practice of confessing one's sins to a priest is found in the Shepherd of Hermas, written in the early 2nd century. And, by the way, during this same time, the books of the New Testament were still being debated, and wouldn't officially be put to rest until the very late fourth century, — a century when many fundamental Christian doctrines were still being hashed out.

My point is that long before she had her Bible and the faith Evangelicals consider to be essential to orthodoxy, the Church believed a substantial amount of what we as Catholics believe today. Note that she will not accept these Fathers as proof of a doctrine; at this point the goal is to disarm her since she's undoubtedly been taught that we invented these things in the Middle Ages.

Anonymous wrote:
Apparently they say we don't have to be all religious

I suspect what they mean is that inner transformation of the heart is important, not external piety, which is certainly a biblical concept. I can't be sure though, and they often tend to be obnoxious about it.

Anonymous wrote:
or need a church building. What utter heresy!!

I'm not sure I agree on this one. Church buildings are nice, and important, but it's possible to celebrate the Mass outside (That's how the Pope often does it when he visits other places).
For that matter, it's possible to celebrate it in a conference room or wherever, even a home (though you need the bishop's permission). I wouldn't advocate going back to the days without church buildings though, just for the sake of spurning church buildings.

Anonymous wrote:

  • How can I tell her that the Eucharist does have to be blessed by a priest or it is invalid, and where is a reference for this in the Bible?

You will not find that in the Bible, at least not in any persuasive form but St. Ignatius of Antioch in 110 A.D. said to consider that Eucharist valid when it was celebrated by a bishop or one he designates. (Letter to the Smyrnaeans)

Let only that Eucharist be regarded as legitimate, which is celebrated under [the presidency of] the bishop or him to whom he has entrusted it.

Letter to the Smyrnaeans. 8:1;SCh 10,138
Catechism of the Catholic Church CCC 1369

Now, we can argue that we need to bless it, at the very least, because Jesus blessed it, and told us to do the same. Actually, technically it says he gave thanks, which is arguably a form of blessing, but this was a Passover seder, and they definitely explicitly bless them there so I'm not sure why she argues that the bread doesn't need to be blessed.

Anonymous wrote:
I think Hillsong has hijacked her brains. She has fallen for their nonsense hook, line, and sinker. They told her how to speak in tongues and now she babbles a lot, and my son is getting impatient with her.

Please tell me that speaking in tongues is not important and not salvific.

In the scheme of things, speaking in tongues is not important. It may be important to the individual as a confirmation of God's existence and love, but it is not salvific, and St. Paul makes the point that love is superior to speaking in tongues (1 Corinthians 13:1), and so is prophecy (1 Corinthians 14:5). Moreover, the Church that seemed to speak in tongues the most
(the Corinthians) also seemed to be the most immature church.

Here is my recommendation. Use this as an opportunity to study the Scriptures and go deeply into your faith. Get two resources.

  1. Catholicism and Fundamentalism by Karl Keating available from Catholic Answers;
  2. the second is the conversion story on tape of Dr. Scott Hahn
    Presbyterian minister becomes Catholic. [text version] [debate]

Scott Hahn is a fantastic resource. He was an anti-Catholic Protestant minister who set out to prove once and for all that the Catholic Church was wrong, and ended up converting. If you don't want to listen to the tape (and I highly recommend you do), the book form is Rome Sweet Home.

Study these things with your son. If you do nothing else read these two books but I recommend you read a few others as well:

I also recommend soaking in a number of conversion stories, which often have a wealth of apologetics information, though not as much as straight apologetics books. There is a series of books with short conversion stories edited by Patrick Madrid called, Surprised by Truth. That should keep you busy. If you want a longer one, a book that precipitated the conversion of a friend of my is, Born Fundamentalist, Born Again Catholic by David Currie.

I can recommend other books as well, depending on where your interests lie, such as sources for the early Church fathers and books on dogma and doctrine.

And of course, don't forget to study the Scriptures. Focus on the New Testament given your time constraints. Going into an argument with an Evangelical over what the Bible teaches without having read the New Testament is like going into battle unarmed. I'm not saying don't do anything until you've read the whole New Testament, but if you want to be prepared to discuss this stuff, knowing as much of it as possible is essential. Not to mention salvific. :-)

Also, when you talk to her, try to find out what is right and true in what she says, or if not in what she says, at least in her intentions. Openly acknowledge to her that her conclusions are not warranted. Don't fall into the trap of defending the indefensible, either. Catholics have committed a number of atrocities over the years and we don't need to whitewash them.

For example, if she says,

Pope Alexander was a very wicked man.

don't say:

I resent that comment! or
Oh come on, how bad could he have been?
, rather say:

Yes, you are right, he was a bad man, but Christ never promised we wouldn't have any bad popes. Infallibility does not mean popes will not sin, only that they will not teach error when they speak ex cathedra.

If she gets into areas of history you are unfamiliar with, say,

Well I'm not familiar with that incident, so I can't comment; if what you say is true, it does sound wrong, but there is another side of the story, and there are often misunderstandings about these things.

Sorry for the long reply, but I hope you found it informative and helpful.

Eric Ewanco

John replied:

Hi Anonymous,

Just to add to Eric's answer by way of his reply on speaking in tongues.

It is important to note that the gift of tongues is a real gift which Holy Mother Church does recognize.

I don't know that I would say it is unimportant in the sense that it is a gift from God!! I don't believe that God would have given us this gift, were it not an important spiritual tool or weapon.

For those of us who have it, it is given to us for a purpose which we may not even understand.
It is not, in and of itself, a sign of spiritual maturity, nor is it a sign of piety. It is however a form of prayer.

14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my understanding is unfruitful.

1 Corinthians 14:14

I would also have to say that St. Paul, when writing to Corinth, was dealing with a Church that was getting all caught up in the gift rather then the gift giver. I wouldn't say Paul was down playing their importance; as he writes:

4 He who speaks in a tongue edifies himself, but he who prophesies edifies the Church.

1 Corinthians 14:4

18 I thank my God I speak with tongues more than you all;

1 Corinthians 14:18

Now Paul does draw a comparison to the use of all gifts to the gift of love in chapter 13 but again, Paul is dealing with folks who going around speaking in tongues in order to show off their spirituality. At least the context implies that to be the case.

I believe that what Paul is saying to the Corinthians is:

"Hey, whatever gift you have been given has been given so that you can draw closer to Christ."

If speaking in tongues, it should to be to edify your spirit so you may grow in love, hence, tongues is a tool or a means to an end — it is not the end itself.

Finally, speaking in tongues in the early Church was a sign: first on Pentecost when the Apostles received the Holy Spirit, then late in Acts Chapter 10 when Peter begins to preach to the house of Cornelius.

"As Peter spoke, the Holy Spirit fell upon those who believed and they began to speak in tongues."

Acts 10:44-48

The interesting thing is that Cornelius and his family were not baptized so here we see a baptism of desire followed by a confirmation without the imposition of hands, and then an actual baptism by water.

In the following decades and early centuries it was very common for those being confirmed to start speaking in tongues. That's where the tradition of slapping the candidate came from.
The Bishop would let him or her pray in tongues for a few minutes then slap them lightly to bring them back into focus.

Later on, various heresies like Montanism developed. Certain sects, like the Church in Corinth, began to focus on tongues and personal prophecy to the exclusion of Church Teaching and the Scriptures so (as is often the case) there was an over reaction. The Church stopped teaching about it, and the gift was almost frowned upon, as it still is today by certain Catholics.

By the Middle Ages, tongues became something no one talked about. If they did it, they didn't admit it.

Hope this helps,

John

Anonymous replied:

Hi John,

Certainly, what you say is true; what I meant by it is not important was simply:

  • it is not a sign that you are saved — everyone didn't speak in tongues, 1 Corinthians 12:30,
    1 Corinthians 14:5
  • it's not essential to salvation, and
  • one shouldn't worry if they don't have this gift.

Certainly:

  • it's a powerful gift, and
  • one should acknowledge its legitimacy and be open to it, should the opportunity to receive it arise

but it's not the be-all and end-all of spiritual experiences some churches make it out to be.

  • Would you agree?

Anonymous

John replied:


Yes, I would.

John

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