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Alex Brown wrote:

Hello, my Catholic friends in Christ!

It's me again. I'm still writing this paper and I appreciate the diligence Mr. Ewanco is taking in responding to my prior questions. In the mean time, if one of you could comment on the following two verses from Scripture, I would very much appreciate it:

"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth."

1 Timothy 4:1-3

  • Forbidding people to marry?
  • Abstaining from certain foods?

Rome teaches exactly that, and Paul, in writing to Timothy, stated that such teachings are from:

  • demons
  • hypocritical liars, and
  • those "whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron."

    • As Catholics, how does one confront such a saying from the beloved St. Paul?

Personally, being a former Catholic, if one of the church founders taught that forbidding to marry and abstaining from certain foods was demonic in nature, I would reconsider my membership with such an organization. Please don't be afraid to read this and take it as its says. I've noticed that Catholics have a nice way of wheedling around certain truths in Scripture, such as forbidding marriage and implying foods are demonic. This is the Word of God my brothers and sisters, don't beat around the bush.

"And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.'
I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

Matthew 3:9-10

  • Does this not nullify the fact that the Roman Catholic Church uses its "ancestral ties" to the Apostles as a means of exerting their authority?
  • If the Jews cannot claim Abraham as the reason they are superior, then by what authority do Catholics declare themselves the only righteous ones?

Catholics claim that because they can trace their lineage to Early Church founders, they somehow have better relations with God. Of course this is untrue, because the early churches were not Catholic, nor does that connection somehow make one more worthy of God's grace, but for arguments sake, I'll neglect that fact, and grant the Roman Church's supposed traced lineages.

With all Love in Christ, respectfully yours,

Alex

  { Don't these Scripture passages challenge the authenticity of the Catholic Church? }

Eric replied:

Hi, Alex —

You said:
It's me again. I'm still writing this paper and I appreciate the diligence Mr. Ewanco is taking in responding to my prior questions. In the mean time, if one of you could comment on the following two verses from Scripture, I would very much appreciate it:

"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth."

1 Timothy 4:1-3

  • Forbidding people to marry?
  • Abstaining from certain foods?

Rome teaches exactly that, and Paul, in writing to Timothy, stated that such teachings are from:

  • demons
  • hypocritical liars, and
  • those "whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron."

    • As Catholics, how does one confront such a saying from the beloved St. Paul?

Personally, being a former Catholic, if one of the church founders taught that forbidding to marry and abstaining from certain foods was demonic in nature, I would reconsider my membership with such an organization. Please don't be afraid to read this and take it as its says. I've noticed that Catholics have a nice way of wheedling around certain truths in Scripture, such as forbidding marriage and implying foods are demonic. This is the Word of God my brothers and sisters, don't beat around the bush.

There is a temptation among Protestants to search the scriptures for things that will disprove Catholicism. When they see something that superficially matches what they are looking for, they lock onto it like a target. The truth is more subtle. Imagine you have someone who doesn't believe Jesus is God. Suppose the seized upon the verse (which I cited to you in a private email and quote here for the archives) Mark 10:18, '"Why do you call me good?" Jesus answered. "No one is good -- except God alone."' You might be able to refute it, but you'd need to show it to them in context of other Scriptures. Context is key -- a text without a context is a pretext. And some Christians are very good at trotting out their favorite verses wrenched out of context.

So it is with this verse. What then is the proper context? Anyone who has studied the Gnostics -- who believed the matter was evil and spirit good -- will immediately recognize these condemned teachings. I assume as a PhD candidate you are well familiar with them, and know that they plagued the early Christians. Evidence of this is clear in books like the epistles of St. John, because they say that "anyone who denies that Jesus came in the flesh is the antichrist", which is precisely a teaching of the Gnostics. They felt that marriage was evil because it brought new bodies into the world, which were evil. They maintained a strict diet, often vegetarian. Also 1 Timothy 4:1 follows 1 Tim 3:16 which says that Jesus was "manifested in the flesh", a hint that Paul had the Gnostics in mind when he wrote this (remember that the chapter divisions didn't exist in Paul's time, they were added much later).

The difference between Catholicism and Gnosticism is that Gnosticism's prohibitions were unlimited and for non-Christian reasons, while ours is limited and for very Christian purposes. As for forbidding marriage, we don't forbid marriage, except to those already married or to those who have made a free choice to be "eunuchs for the kingdom of God" (Matthew 19:12) or who have opted to follow Paul's advice to be single for the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32-34). As for abstaining from certain foods, this is less than only 1/7th of the year -- in some cases, like the United States, it adds up to seven days. That is very different from the kind of permanent abstinence the Gnostics followed.

There is value in abstinence to the Christian. For example, Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:27 NIV, "No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize." One of the points of abstinence is to learn to control the passions (baser emotions and tendencies). We must master ourselves in order to be saved, as Paul teaches. Jesus said "Deny yourself, take up your cross, and follow me." Just as a child learns to do big things by playing in small ways, or as an athlete practices his moves before a game, so practicing self-denial in little things like food helps us when big things come. In fact, he who has not practiced self-denial simply will not be ready when major self-denial is demanded. It's like trying to run a marathon with no practice (1 Corinthians 9:24-25). Abstinence is also a form of fasting, which Jesus enjoins us to do (Matthew 6:16, Matthew 9:15).

You said:

"And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.' I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

Matthew 3:9-10

  • Does this not nullify the fact that the Roman Catholic Church uses its "ancestral ties" to the Apostles as a means of exerting their authority?
  • If the Jews cannot claim Abraham as the reason they are superior, then by what authority do Catholics declare themselves the only righteous ones?

Catholics claim that because they can trace their lineage to Early Church founders, they somehow have better relations with God. Of course this is untrue, because the early churches were not Catholic, nor does that connection somehow make one more worthy of God's grace, but for arguments sake, I'll neglect that fact, and grant the Roman Church's supposed traced lineages.

This is not really what we believe. Apostolic succession — our "ancestral ties" as you put it — has absolutely nothing to do with righteousness. It pertains to the authority to be a church. This is not the same as being "righteous", which refers to moral rectitude. It doesn't necessarily mean "better relations with God", though I think I see what you're saying. What John the Baptist is arguing is that the Pharisees cannot claim to be sons of God (righteous) based on their lineage. They actually have to believe and bear fruit. An analogy with the Catholic Church would be someone who claims that because he was "born into" the Catholic Church, he could freely transgress the commandments and still be saved. This is not what we believe.

I'd like to point something else out as well. John the Baptist was condemning individuals claiming to be in a right relationship with God.

He wasn't condemning structures or ruling hierarchies. In fact, in a verse little known to Protestants despite its proximity to one of their favorite verses to bash Catholics, Jesus said, "Then spake Jesus to the multitude, and to his disciples, Saying , The scribes and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe , that observe and do ; but do not ye after their works: for they say , and do not." (Matthew 23:1-3). This is interesting for two reasons. One, the concept of Moses's Seat was a tradition the Jews handed down from Moses's time, something like the Catholic Magisterium. Jesus not only doesn't condemn this tradition, he binds his disciples to obey it! So much for sola scriptura. The second interesting thing is that Jesus binds them to obey the scribes and the Pharisees even though they are not righteous, precisely the opposite of the point you are trying to prove. Here Jesus is referring to them as an institution, not individuals. While we don't have Moses's Seat anymore (as such), the message is clear: The unrighteousness of church authority is no excuse for disobedience or schism.

Eric

Alex replied:

Hi,  Eric —

In the first passage I quoted:

"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth."

1 Timothy 4:1-3

Notice the verse starts out "The Spirit clearly says that in later times". Paul was not talking about the times at hands, he was talking about later times.

It's more of a prophetic statement than a warning against things during his time. He is prophesying, through the Spirit, that in the times down the road, demons will order abstinence from certain foods and forbid marriage.

  • Why dance around that?

Demons will teach abstinence from food and forbid marriage.

  • Now your comments about the Gnostics are entirely true, but does that mean it doesn't hold true today?

It's especially true today because Paul clarified his statement by saying "in later times".

There's nothing superficial about it. Paul advised that those who are going to serve shouldn't get married, he doesn't forbid it. If you are a nun or priest (or any superior in the Catholic Church),
you are forbidden to marry.

Catholics, as a whole, are forbidden foods during certain periods of the year. Paul doesn't say that those demons will teach that foods should be banned indefinitely, but says that it's demonic to teach the banning of foods and marriage at all!

If Paul wanted to say those who ban both those things:

— for everyone and/or
— for an indefinite amount of time

that it would then be demonic, he would have clarified his statement, but he doesn't. According to context of the passage, the Spirit says that anyone who bans food, for anyone for any amount of time is demonic, and that anyone who bans marriage, for anyone for any reason or any amount of time is demonic.

According to the context, the Spirit says that anyone who bans food, for anyone for any amount of time is demonic, and that anyone who bans marriage, for anyone for any reason or any amount of time is demonic.

As far as banning marriage for those in the clergy, Its my personal belief that God has disciplined this un-Godly law by publicly shaming the Church through certain scandals, those of which, I'm sure you're well aware. I don't say such things to offend you, only to make a point. Those who know God's will but break are beaten with many blows.

Obviously sexual abstinence is a universal belief, and Catholics and Protestants have no quarrels about it. If anything, the Catholics lead the way in practicing abstinence and being pro-life.

As far as food goes, none of it is forbidden. Gluttony and over-eating is something we should all avoid, out of respect for our bodies, which are temples of the Lord. We are not much use to anyone, if we're 600 pounds and on the verge of death, however, all food is permissible and should be received with thanksgiving, and by those who know the truth. Me eating a steak hoagie isn't going jeopardize my guaranteed salvation.

On the subject of fruit bearing, lets talk about Catholic Church numbers.

"In 1971, a study commissioned by the Sacred Congregation of the Faith was leaked to the press. It revealed that from 1963-69, over 8,000 priests had ask to be dispensed from their vows and nearly 3,000 others left without waiting for permission.

The study estimated that over the next 20 years, 20,000 would leave. It proved to be far too conservative. In Ireland, at the end of 1987, there were 6,000 priests and over 1,000 ex-priests. In the USA, there are reckoned to be 17,000 ex-priests.
The average age of those who remain is a startlingly high of 54! Over the last twenty years, the number of seminarians in the States has fallen from 50,000 to 12,000."

  • What is the most disheartening thing about that quote?

It's from 1988. The statistics from 2011 aren't out yet, but with an annual net loss of 7.5% of Catholic Church membership in the United States alone, I don't think much "fruit" has been born. On top of all that, the fact that its "vine" was split in two in the sixteenth century by the Protestant Reformation sheds light on the net output of Rome. Scripture says the vine that does not produce fruit will be cut off, and new shoots will be grafted in. (John 15:2)
Hmmm. Interesting.

My brother is getting married soon, and my baby cousin was just baptized. My brother is marrying a Catholic wife, whose priest refuses to marry them unless it was a Catholic wedding.

  • Why?
  • Why can't it be a wedding in the name of Jesus?

For his Baptism, his parents had to sign a paper saying they promise to bring him up Catholic.

  • Why?
  • If they're so confident that they're right, for what reason must they be bound by pen and paper to remain members in the Church?
  • Shouldn't the Spirit convict the good Catholic to stay in the Church?

Alas, they're leaving in droves, being directed elsewhere, in particular to Protestant churches,
who do not bind their members to meaningless laws and promises. Not that it matters much, because people have and will leave the Catholic Church regardless.

"Do as I say, not as I do."

We've all heard that cliche before. It's simple and meaningful. It's especially true because what we say, or are supposed to say as Christians, is supposed to be the Word of God, aka, the Bible.

If we were to do as they do and not as they say, well, the world wouldn't get anywhere because all fall short of the Glory of God, aka, we're all sinners. The preacher may say:

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

OK, I'll do that, but if behind the curtain he's stealing money and I know it, I'm not going to do it. When Christ said listen to them, but don't mimic them, He was fully aware that the Jews would not add, subtract or read anything, except the Holy Scriptures, or, in modern times, the Bible.
I'll listen to the Pope all day, as long as the man is reading the Bible, but once he attributes the same authority that Scripture carries:

  • to his own original words, or
  • the original words of other sinful men

that's when he's mistaken.

Now it's common Catholic knowledge that Peter was the first Pope and he carries much authority with his title.

  • What I need to understand is, why, with so much vagueness and ambiguity surrounding him, is he still recognized as the first pontiff?

For example, how long did Peter live in Rome?

There was a late fourth-century report that he was there for twenty-five years, but there is no historical basis for this. What is known is that, about the year 58 A.D., Paul, the Apostle, wrote another one of his letters, this time to the Romans. In it, he greeted entire households and mentioned twenty-nine individuals by name, but he did not salute Peter. That is surely an astonishing omission, if Peter was residing there and was Bishop of Rome.

Further, Eusebius of Cæsarea, acknowledged to be the Father of Church History, writing about the year 300 A.D., said:

"Peter is reported to have preached to the Jews throughout (various places) and about the end of his days, tarrying at Rome, was crucified."

Today historians suggest that Peter lived in Rome for three or four years at the most. There is no record that he took charge of the community there. It couldn't have been automatic. He had not even been bishop in Jerusalem after Jesus' death. James, the Lord's brother, was. Then there is this startling tidbit: in the earliest list of the bishops of Rome, Peter's name never appeared.

For example, Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons from 178 — 200 A.D. was the disciple of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who himself, was a disciple of John, the Apostle. He enumerated all the Romans bishops up to the twelfth one, who was Eleutherius. According to Irenaeus, the first bishop of Rome was not Peter or Paul, but Linus. The Apostolic Constitution in the year 270 A.D. also named Linus as the first bishop of Rome, appointed by St. Paul. After Linus was Clement, chosen by Peter. The mystery deepens. In all his writings, Eusebius, the Father of Church History, as I previously stated, never once spoke of Peter as Bishop of Rome.

  • How is this to be explained?

It seems that in the minds of the early Christian commentators, the Apostles were in a class of their own. They did not belong to any particular church, not even when they planted it, that is, founded it, as Paul did throughout Asia Minor. The Apostles belonged to the whole Church.
Being an Apostle precluded a man from being bishop of once place. Peter, no matter what or where his accomplishments took place, remained an Apostle of the entire community.

The Catholic Church has made it a point of faith that Popes are successors of St. Peter as bishop of Rome, but Peter never had that title! He was only given it centuries after he was dead.

Naturally, he would have had immense moral authority in the Jewish-Christian community in Rome, but unlike Paul, who was a Roman citizen, he would have been a foreigner there.

Sorry, I'm an early-Church history buff, and I wanted to make it clear that Peter was not acknowledged as special by anyone in early Church times, regardless of the modern claim that he was the "rock" on which the Church was supposed to be founded. Protestants disagree with that, but I'm not going to argue about it now.

  • I implore that you take the time to read this and respond, in your own time, and with no pressure to respond in a timely fashion.
  • Secondly, I request that you do not take my harsh words the wrong way. I say these things to you out of love, not out of hate or spite.
  • Thirdly, I once again thank you for taking time to respond to me. Most Catholic
    "answer sites" tell me I'm a heretic and ban my e-mail.

    Now what good does that do? : )

God bless and have a wonderful Holy Week! He is Risen! Pretend I said that on Easter morning.

With all the Love in Christ that we're commanded to share,

Your friend and brother,

Alex

Eric replied:

Alex —

You said:
In the first passage I quoted:

"The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons. Such teachings come through hypocritical liars, whose consciences have been seared as with a hot iron. They forbid people to marry and order them to abstain from certain foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and who know the truth."

1 Timothy 4:1-3

Notice the verse starts out "The Spirit clearly says that in later times". Paul was not talking about the times at hands, he was talking about later times.

But Paul thought that the last days were at hand, now (See Philippians 2:24, James 5:3, and
1 Peter 1:20). Elsewhere salvation is portrayed as appearing in the "last" time (1 Peter 1:5, Hebrews 1:2). So "later" I argue referred to the near future, not the distant future.

You said:
It's more of a prophetic statement than a warning against things during his time. He is prophesying, through the Spirit, that in the times down the road, demons will order abstinence from certain foods and forbid marriage.

  • Why dance around that?

Demons will teach abstinence from food and forbid marriage.

Alex, we don't teach abstinence from food and marriage. These are disciplines, not teachings, and the verse clearly refers to teachings. The Gnostics taught these things were evil as a matter of faith; we hold them to be useful practices but meat is morally neutral and marriage is a sacrament, so we don't teach against them. It also says that these thing "come through hypocritical liars".

  • How does that describe Catholicism?

It describes Gnostics because they taught one thing and believed another thing. Gnostics were also into the occult (cf. Simon Magus, the one after whom magicians are named, Acts 8:9), which explains the demonic part.

  • Given that we promote exclusively the worship of the one true God, are totally opposed to occultism and recourse to spirits, and uphold godly morality, how can that apply to us?

Also note that Paul says "commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth." The implication here is that the doctrine he is opposing denies that they are to be received with thanksgiving. This fits the Gnostic model, which considered meat evil, but not the Catholic model, which does receive such things with thanksgiving.

I also think there is a logic problem here. Paul is stating that demons will teach this. He is not, however, stating that people who have these ideas are demonic. The fact that A implies B does not imply B implies A. It's a subtle difference. You're trying I think to argue that anyone who imposes any sort of remote abstinence from food is automatically and incontrovertibly demonic, but this is not what Paul is saying. He's stating that there will be demonic deceptions that have this characteristic, but he's not stating that abstinence from food or marriage are intrinsically demonic. As I said, he puts other qualifiers on there, such as they have to be hypocritical liars as well.

You said:

  • Now your comments about the Gnostics are entirely true, but does that mean it doesn't hold true today?

Yes, because it had a much more sensible fulfillment in them, but you're missing the point:

Paul has in mind the Gnostics. He's not looking at these two ideas in isolation. He's looking at them in the context of the Gnostic threat. You're wrenching them out of context.

You said:
It's especially true today because Paul clarified his statement by saying
"in later times".

Except that, if you want to argue that, the Catholic Church has been practicing abstinence and enforced celibacy from the days of the Apostles.

You said:
There's nothing superficial about it. Paul advised that those who are going to serve shouldn't get married, he doesn't forbid it. If you are a nun or priest (or any superior in the Catholic Church), you are forbidden to marry.

Sure, but not after you have freely chosen it. You're not forced into it and it's not imposed on you.

  • If you freely pledge before God not to marry, why is it so unreasonable to hold you to that pledge?

You said:
Catholics, as a whole, are forbidden foods during certain periods of the year. Paul doesn't say that those demons will teach that foods should be banned indefinitely, but says that it's demonic to teach the banning of foods and marriage at all!

Oh is it, Alex? What about 1 Timothy 5:9-12,

"No widow may be put on the list of widows unless she is over sixty, has been faithful to her husband, and is well known for her good deeds, such as bringing up children, showing hospitality, washing the feet of the saints, helping those in trouble and devoting herself to all kinds of good deeds. As for younger widows, do not put them on such a list. For when their sensual desires overcome their dedication to Christ, they want to marry. Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge."

  • Is Paul teaching the doctrines of demons because he teaches that enrolled widows take a pledge not to marry which, if they break it, incurs judgment?

So this boils down to a single question:

  • Does Paul, or does Paul not, forbid marriage to a pledged widow?

  • And what about married people?
  • Is it demonic to forbid them to marry again? Is it really demonic to teach the banning of marriage "at all"?

You said:
If Paul wanted to say those who ban both those things:

— for everyone and/or
— for an indefinite amount of time

that it would then be demonic, he would have clarified his statement, but he doesn't. According to context of the passage, the Spirit says that anyone who bans food, for anyone for any amount of time is demonic, and that anyone who bans marriage, for anyone for any reason or any amount of time is demonic.

If Paul wanted to refer to those who band both these things: — for anyone and — for any amount of time, then he would have said so. :-) You could equally argue that it's abstinence from marriage, period, and abstinence from food, period.

In fact your argument really proves too much. A proponent of gay marriage could very well argue that churches that forbid gay marriage fall under this condemnation. Hey, "If Paul wanted to say that those who ban marriage for everyone that it would then be demonic, he would have clarified." This brings up a certain point: Just because we prevent people who have pledged themselves to God from marrying, or for that matter prevent same-sex couples or already-married couples from marrying, doesn't mean that we "forbid" marriage, it means that we regulate marriage.

Fact is, Alex, you can't read such things into Scripture like that. I think you are trying to find a condemnation of Catholicism here instead of objectively reading the text in the proper context.

So let's summarize this.

Issue under discussion Catholics Gnostics
teaching "forbidding marriage" Limited circumstances to those who freely accept it. Yes, teaching, to all, marriage is evil.
teaching abstinence from foods As a discipline, 1/7th of the year. Yes, teaching, always, meat is evil.
not received with thanksgiving No. Yes, meat is evil.
hypocritical liars No, (I hope) Yes, taught one thing, believed another.
seared consciences I don't think so. Arguably.

As you can see, it's not really a good match for Catholicism.

You said:
As far as banning marriage for those in the clergy, Its my personal belief that God has disciplined this un-Godly law by publicly shaming the Church through certain scandals, those of which, I'm sure you're well aware. I don't say such things to offend you, only to make a point. Those who know God's will but break are beaten with many blows.

Actually Protestants are just as subject to these scandals as we are. It's just that because you don't have deep pockets, a central organization, well-documented personnel files, and the reputation for strict morality, that we have, that they haven't gone after you.

You said:
Obviously sexual abstinence is a universal belief, and Catholics and Protestants have no quarrels about it. If anything, the Catholics lead the way in practicing abstinence and being pro-life.

As far as food goes, none of it is forbidden. Gluttony and over-eating is something we should all avoid, out of respect for our bodies, which are temples of the Lord. We are not much use to anyone, if we're 600 pounds and on the verge of death, however, all food is permissible and should be received with thanksgiving, and by those who know the truth. Me eating a steak hoagie isn't going jeopardize my guaranteed salvation.

Funny you should say that because I am never more grateful for the food I eat then when I am fasting. It greatly deepens my appreciation for God's provision and gives me a solidarity with the poor and hungry.

By the way you never addressed my quotes from Jesus about the assumption that his disciples will fast. From the first century, the Church had a custom of fasting on Wednesdays and Fridays.
They did so together, as an act of unity and community. Friday abstinence grew out of this custom.

You said:
On the subject of fruit bearing, lets talk about Catholic Church numbers.

"In 1971, a study commissioned by the Sacred Congregation of the Faith was leaked to the press. It revealed that from 1963-69, over 8,000 priests had ask to be dispensed from their vows and nearly 3,000 others left without waiting for permission.

Alex. Think about it. 1963 — 1969 was the surge of the sexual revolution. Free love and all that.
It should not be at all surprising that this would see a lot of priests leave. A similar argument basically applies to the time since then.

You said:

The study estimated that over the next 20 years, 20,000 would leave. It proved to be far too conservative. In Ireland, at the end of 1987, there were 6,000 priests and over 1,000 ex-priests. In the USA, there are reckoned to be 17,000 ex-priests.
The average age of those who remain is a startlingly high of 54! Over the last twenty years, the number of seminarians in the States has fallen from 50,000 to 12,000."

  • What is the most disheartening thing about that quote?

It's from 1988. The statistics from 2011 aren't out yet, but with an annual net loss of 7.5% of Catholic Church membership in the United States alone, I don't think much "fruit" has been born. On top of all that, the fact that its "vine" was split in two in the sixteenth century by the Protestant Reformation sheds light on the net output of Rome. Scripture says the vine that does not produce fruit will be cut off, and new shoots will be grafted in. (John 15:2)
Hmmm. Interesting.

Vines also get pruned so they can bear more fruit, you know. If you know anything about fruit trees and shrubs at least, pruning can be pretty drastic. Sometimes you prune away up to 1/3 of the plant. You're also missing the first 1,900 years of the Catholic Church, in which we bore fruit abundantly just fine, thank you very much.

The last forty years have seen a lot of upheaval in Catholicism; we've received the twin blows of the sexual revolution (together with secularization) and the upheaval following the Second Vatican Council. Napoleon once famously bragged to a cardinal that he would destroy our Church. The cardinal laughed and said, what we priests and bishops have been unable to do up until now,
you won't be able to do, either.

You said:
My brother is getting married soon, and my baby cousin was just baptized. My brother is marrying a Catholic wife, whose priest refuses to marry them unless it was a Catholic wedding.

  • Why?
  • Why can't it be a wedding in the name of Jesus?

You must not be getting the whole story. It's entirely possible for a Catholic to get married with a Protestant ceremony as long as they get permission from the Catholic bishop, which is, especially in this country, virtually never denied. What they have to do is make sure they go through courses that properly educate them about Catholic Christian marriage and make sure they aren't already married.

  • But to turn it around, what's wrong with a Catholic wedding on your end?
  • Isn't that a wedding "in the name of Jesus"?

You said:
For his Baptism, his parents had to sign a paper saying they promise to bring him up Catholic.

  • Why?
  • If they're so confident that they're right, for what reason must they be bound by pen and paper to remain members in the Church?
  • Shouldn't the Spirit convict the good Catholic to stay in the Church?

Ideally, sure, but a business deal should be sealed sufficiently by an honest reputation and a handshake, but we all know that's inadequate because of the fallen nature of man.

  • And why do you need a piece of paper from the courthouse to seal the marriage, anyway?

I don't know any Protestant pastors that will marry someone without a civil marriage. People pay attention when they have to sign something.

  • Why does Scripture say "our names are written in the book of life"?
  • Can't God remember them?

It goes back to the sacramental nature of Catholicism; in order to appreciate something we need to involve our senses.

You said:
Alas, they're leaving in droves, being directed elsewhere, in particular to Protestant churches, who do not bind their members to meaningless laws and promises. Not that it matters much, because people have and will leave the Catholic Church regardless.

No offense, but I think people have a lot of pride in rejecting these things. The truly humble Christian will accept all things gratefully in all circumstances and will obey legitimate authority, even if he doesn't understand the point.

  • Did you see Jesus resist the law that seized and executed him?
  • Did he not command his disciples to obey the scribes and the Pharisees?

Again, no offense intended if this hits home, but most of the people I encounter who leave Catholicism are profoundly ignorant of it and are not well-grounded in the Christian faith. What's sad is that you'll get a Catholic who grows up in the Church, hears the Gospel and epistles every week and absorbs the Word of God in the liturgy but pays half-hearted attention to everything, then some Protestant will have a single conversation with him and all of a sudden he accepts Jesus not realizing that the Catholic Church has been prepping him for this moment his whole life. (I'd like to see how much luck evangelists have with Hindus on the street.) Then he heaps scorn on the Church that fed him because of some silly prideful inconsequential thing usually having to do with resentment against his parents, and trots off to the Protestant church free of the Roman shackles, never bothering to see what the Catholic Church has to say about the Scriptures, or at least if he does, not doing so in a truly open, docile, honest, or thorough way. They (I'm being honest here) are always bashing the Catholic Church and teaching others to do the same.

On the contrary, my experience has been that the devout/Spirit-filled (take your pick) Protestant converts to Catholicism are marked by this remarkable quality: They are grateful for and appreciate their former faith, and genuinely see it as a preparation for the fullness of truth.
I've never heard them bash their former faith, and their conversion is marked by:

  • thoughtfulness
  • deliberateness
  • a love for truth
  • thorough study, and
  • consideration, often in the face of painful opposition and difficulty, sometimes extreme.

Catholics who become Protestant because their mom did something to tick them off, or because they want to get remarried, or have some other sexual issue, are a dime a dozen and I frankly have no respect for them. I don't want to be them on Judgment Day, that's for sure.

You said:

"Do as I say, not as I do."

We've all heard that cliche before. It's simple and meaningful. It's especially true because what we say, or are supposed to say as Christians, is supposed to be the Word of God, aka, the Bible.

This is a whole other topic, but I want you to prove to me, from the Bible alone, that the
"Word of God" is the "Holy Scriptures", no more, no less.

You said:
If we were to do as they do and not as they say, well, the world wouldn't get anywhere because all fall short of the Glory of God, aka, we're all sinners. The preacher may say:

"Love your neighbor as yourself."

OK, I'll do that, but if behind the curtain he's stealing money and I know it, I'm not going to do it. When Christ said listen to them, but don't mimic them, He was fully aware that the Jews would not add, subtract or read anything, except the Holy Scriptures, or, in modern times, the Bible. I'll listen to the Pope all day, as long as the man is reading the Bible, but once he attributes the same authority that Scripture carries:

  • to his own original words, or
  • the original words of other sinful men

that's when he's mistaken.

So what do you think about 2 Thessalonians 2:15:

"Therefore , brethren, stand fast , and hold the traditions which ye have been taught , whether by word, or our epistle."

You said:
Now it's common Catholic knowledge that Peter was the first Pope and he carries much authority with his title.

  • What I need to understand is, why, with so much vagueness and ambiguity surrounding him, is he still recognized as the first pontiff?

For example, how long did Peter live in Rome?

There was a late fourth-century report that he was there for twenty-five years, but there is no historical basis for this. What is known is that, about the year 58 A.D., Paul, the Apostle, wrote another one of his letters, this time to the Romans. In it, he greeted entire households and mentioned twenty-nine individuals by name, but he did not salute Peter. That is surely an astonishing omission, if Peter was residing there and was Bishop of Rome.

Peter was bishop of Antioch before he was bishop of Rome. Perhaps he was there at the time.

You said:
Further, Eusebius of Cæsarea, acknowledged to be the Father of Church History, writing about the year 300 A.D., said:

"Peter is reported to have preached to the Jews throughout (various places) and about the end of his days, tarrying at Rome, was crucified."

Today historians suggest that Peter lived in Rome for three or four years at the most. There is no record that he took charge of the community there. It couldn't have been automatic. He had not even been bishop in Jerusalem after Jesus' death. James, the Lord's brother, was. Then there is this startling tidbit: in the earliest list of the bishops of Rome, Peter's name never appeared.

You're going to have to do much, much better than that, I found this after a brief google search:

St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 180 A.D., 3,3,2:

But since it would be too long to enumerate in such a volume as this the successions of all the churches, we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper, by pointing out here the successions of the bishops of the greatest and most ancient church known to all, founded and organized at Rome by the two most glorious apostles, Peter and Paul—that church which has the tradition and the faith with which comes down to us after having been announced to men by the apostles. For with this Church, because of its superior origin, all churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world. And it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the apostolic tradition.

The blessed Apostles, then, having founded and built up the Church, committed into the hands of Linus the office of the episcopate. Of this Linus, Paul makes mention in the Epistles to Timothy. To him succeeded Anacletus; and after him, in the third place from the Apostles, Clement was allotted the bishopric. This man, as he had seen the blessed apostles, and had been conversant with them, might be said to have the preaching of the apostles still echoing [ in his ears], and their traditions before his eyes. Nor was he alone [in this], for there were many still remaining who had received instructions from the apostles. . . . In this order, and by this succession, the ecclesiastical tradition from the apostles, and the preaching of the truth, have come down to us.

Note that he says: "For with this Church [of Rome], because of its superior origin, all Churches must agree, that is, all the faithful in the whole world; and it is in her that the faithful everywhere have maintained the Apostolic tradition."

There's your papal infallibility right there, in seed form in the second century. This disproves the notion that in the early church, "the church" was the invisible collection of all believers:

"we shall confound all those who, in whatever manner, whether through self-satisfaction or vainglory, or through blindness and wicked opinion, assemble other than where it is proper".

While I'm at it, here is another quote from Irenaeus on this topic:

St. Irenaeus, Against Heresies, 180 A.D., 4, 26, 2:

It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the Apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion.

You said:
For example, Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons from 178 — 200 A.D. was the disciple of Polycarp, bishop of Smyrna, who himself, was a disciple of John, the Apostle. He enumerated all the Romans bishops up to the twelfth one, who was Eleutherius. According to Irenaeus, the first bishop of Rome was not Peter or Paul, but Linus.
The Apostolic Constitution in the year 270 A.D. also named Linus as the first bishop of Rome, appointed by St. Paul. After Linus was Clement, chosen by Peter. The mystery deepens. In all his writings, Eusebius, the Father of Church History, as I previously stated, never once spoke of Peter as Bishop of Rome.

Where on earth are you getting this stuff? A quick google reveals:

Eusebius (260-339), The History of the Church, Book 3, 324 AD

After the martyrdom of Paul and Peter, the first man to be appointed Bishop of Rome was Linus. ... Linus, who is mentioned in the Second Epistle to Timothy as being with Paul in Rome, as stated above was the first after Peter to be appointed Bishop of Rome. Clement again, who became the third Bishop of Rome ...
to Miltiades.

You said:

  • How is this to be explained?

Frankly, that's what I want to know!

You said:
It seems that in the minds of the early Christian commentators, the Apostles were in a class of their own. They did not belong to any particular church, not even when they planted it, that is, founded it, as Paul did throughout Asia Minor. The Apostles belonged to the whole Church. Being an Apostle precluded a man from being bishop of once place. Peter, no matter what or where his accomplishments took place, remained an Apostle of the entire community.

I wouldn't argue with that.

You said:
The Catholic Church has made it a point of faith that Popes are successors of St. Peter as bishop of Rome, but Peter never had that title! He was only given it centuries after he was dead.

I'm a little confused. Either he was bishop of Rome, or he wasn't. If he wasn't, he doesn't hold the title. If he was, he had it the moment he assumed office. Just because the earliest extant reference to him as bishop of Rome may be in 180 A.D. doesn't mean that he wasn't given the title until 180 A.D. It means the earliest proof we have that he was considered bishop of Rome is 180 A.D. If 2,000 years from now, nearly all our written records are destroyed, and the only document that uses the term "President Barrack Obama" is dated 2,200, you don't conclude that he was "given the title President in 2,200".

So I don't think you are trying to argue that Peter wasn't a bishop. I think you are trying to argue that Peter was not bishop of Rome, which I've disproven from Irenaeus and Eusebius, among other anonymous writers.

  • Is that point clear now?

You said:
Naturally, he would have had immense moral authority in the Jewish-Christian community in Rome, but unlike Paul, who was a Roman citizen, he would have been a foreigner there.

Sorry, I'm an early-Church history buff, and I wanted to make it clear that Peter was not acknowledged as special by anyone in early Church times, regardless of the modern claim that he was the "rock" on which the Church was supposed to be founded. Protestants disagree with that, but I'm not going to argue about it now.

I'm glad you're an early church history buff, but I think you need to bone up on your history. :-)

St. Clement of Alexandria, Who Is the Rich Man That Is Saved, A.D. 190-210, 21,3

Nor does the kingdom of heaven belong to the sleeping and the lazy; rather, the violent take it by force . . . [4] On hearing these words, the blessed Peter, the chosen, the pre-eminent, the first among the disciples, for whom alone with Himself the Savior paid the tribute [Matt 17:27], quickly grasped and understood their meaning.

Tertullian, Monogamy, post a.D. 213, 8,4:

Peter alone [among the Apostles] do I find married, and through mention of his mother-in-law. I presume he was a monogamist; for the Church, built upon him, [em. mine] would for the future appoint to every degree of orders none but monogamists.

Tertullian, Modesty, 21,9, 220 A.D.

I now inquire into your opinion, to see whence you usurp this right for the Church. Do you presume, because the Lord said to Peter, "On this rock I will build my Church, I have given you the keys of the kingdom of heaven", or "whatever you shall have bound or loosed on earth will be bound or loosed in heaven," that the power of binding and loosing has thereby been handed on to you, that is, to every Church akin to Peter? What kind of man are you, subverting and changing what was the manifest intent of the Lord when He conferred this personally upon Peter? On /you/ He says, I will build my Church; and I will give to /you/ the keys, not to the Church; and whatever /you/ shall have bound or /you/ shall have loosed, not what /they/ shall have bound or /they/ shall have loosed."

St. Cyprian to All His People, A.D. 251 [43 (40), 5]

They who have not peace themselves now offer peace to others. They who have withdrawn from the Church promise to lead back and to recall the lapsed to the Church. There is one God and one Christ, and one Church, and one Chair founded on Peter by the word of the Lord. It is not possible to set up another altar or for there to be another priesthood besides that one altar and that one priesthood. Whoever has gathered elsewhere is scattering.

Letter of St. Cyprian to Cornelius of Rome, A.D. 252 59 (55), 14

With a false bishop appointed for themselves by heretics, they dare even to set sail and carry letters from schismatics and blasphemers to the chair of Peter and to the principal Church, in which sacerdotal unity has its source; nor did they take thought that these are Romans, whose faith was praised by the preaching Apostle, and among whom it is not possible for perfidy to have
entrance.

Letter without Heading, of St. Cyprian to the Lapsed, A.D. 250. 33 (27), 1

Our Lord, whose commands we ought to fear and observe, says in the Gospel, by way of assigning the episcopal dignity and settling the plan of His Church: "I say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my Church, and the gates of Hell will not overcome it. And to you I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven: what whatever things you bind on earth will be bound also in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth, they will be loosed also in heaven." From that time the ordination of bishops and the plan of the Church flows on through the changes of times and successions; for the Church is founded upon the bishops [Cf. Ephesians 2:20], and every act of the Church is controlled by these same rules. Since this has indeed been established by divine law, I marvel at the rash boldness of certain persons who have desired to write me as if they were writing their letters in the name of the Church, "since the Church is established upon the bishop and upon the clergy and upon all who stand firm in the faith" .

St. Opatatus of Milevis, The Schism of the Donatists, ca. A.D. 367, 2,2:

You cannot deny that you are aware that in the city of Rome the episcopal chair was given first to Peter; the chair in which Peter sat, the same who was head — that is why he is also called Cephas — of all the Apostles; the one chair in which unity is maintained by all. Neither do other Apostles proceed individually on their own; and anyone who would set up another chair in opposition to that single chair would, by that very fact, but a schismatic and a sinner. . . . I but ask you to recall the origins of your chair, you who wish to claim for yourselves the title of holy Church.

St. Ephraim (d. 373), Homilies, 4,1:

Simon, My follower, I have made you the foundation of the holy Church. I betimes called you Peter, because you will support all its buildings. You are the inspector of those who will build on earth a Church for Me. If they should wish to build that is false, you, the foundation, will condemn them. You are the head of the fountain from which My teaching flows, you are the chief of My disciples. Through you I will give drink to all peoples. Yours is that life-giving sweetness which I dispense.
I have chosen you to be, as it were, the first-born in My institution, and so that,
as the heir, you may be executor of my treasures. I have given you the keys of my kingdom. Behold, I have given you authority over all my treasures!

Letter of Jerome to Pope Damasus, A.D. 374-379, 15,2


I follow no leader but Christ and join in communion with none but Your Blessedness, that is, with the chair of Peter. I know that this is the rock on which the Church has been built. Whoever eats the Lamb outside this house is profane. Anyone who is not in the ark of Noah will perish when the flood prevails.

You said:

  • I implore that you take the time to read this and respond, in your own time, and with no pressure to respond in a timely fashion.
  • Secondly, I request that you do not take my harsh words the wrong way.

That was "harsh"?

More enjoyable than harsh. ;-)

Have a most blessed Good Friday and Pascha (as we call it in my church).

Eric

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