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Jennifer Houston wrote:

Hi, guys —

I have a couple of questions. My Mom's side of the family is Catholic, and I am asking these questions for a further understanding and with no disrespect!

  • Why did Catholics change the Sabbath day to Sunday, when God made it very clear that Saturday is the day to be hollowed?
  • Who gave the Catholics the right to change this day?
  • Why are Catholics trying to make Sunday a law of worship and no work?
  • Why do Catholics have several mediators, like the Virgin Mary to go through to get to Jesus when the Bible clearly states:

      "No one comes to the Father except through me (Jesus)."?

  • Why do Catholics believe that priests can forgive people of their sins, by saying a few Hail Mary's, when the priest is only a mortal man?
  • Why is the priest called "the Holy Father" when God Almighty is the only Holy Father?

Jennifer

  { Can you answer my questions on Sunday and the Sabbath, mediators, Confession and priests? }

Mary Ann replied:

Jennifer,

None of those things are true of Catholicism. I would suggest that you do a search on our site under the topics:

  • Lord's Day
  • Mary
  • Confession, and
  • priests

Mary Ann

Mike replied:

Hi, Jennifer —

First, I want to applaud you for seeking answers to a faith you are not familiar with.

We have answered many questions on the topics you have raised but to assist you with getting answers, I'll provide links to web postings on issue-related postings.

If you are really interested in getting the whole story about what the Church believes, consider buying a cheap copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

Hope this helps,

Mike

Eric replied:

Hi, Jennifer —

  • By, "Who gave the Catholics the right?" do you mean the right to change the Sabbath?

One answer to this would be the Keys in Matthew 16:19 where Jesus says to Peter,

19 "And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven."

This is repeated in a limited fashion for the other apostles in Matthew 18:18. If you look at the links Mike provided, there is certainly evidence that New Testament Christians were worshiping on Sunday. Because of this, we also fulfill the principle of keeping the Sabbath holy (no work) on Sunday, since what matters is not the day so much, as the fact we set aside a day of the week for rest.

On calling priests "Father", see:

Eric

Jennifer replied:

  • Why am I being redirected to Google search and other links?
  • Is there no one who can answer these questions?

I guess not without going against the Word of God.

It's OK, I do not need to hear from false profits who separate themselves from God or hold themselves up "to be God".

Jennifer

Eric replied:

Because we have already answered many of these questions, and it might be helpful for you to read these answers first, before we respond.

Nevertheless, since you'd rather we answer the questions personally, I can do that.

With respect to the Sabbath:

It sounds like you might be from a Seventh Day Adventist background. They are correct in that the day of worship was changed by the early Church from Saturday to Sunday. Technically, the Sabbath is Saturday, and Sunday is referred to as the Lord's Day. The Jews always worshiped on Saturday, the seventh day of the week, and abstained from work on that day. The Christians changed worship to the Lord's Day in honor of Christ's Resurrection from the Dead, which occurred on the "eighth day of the week" (the day after the Sabbath or the seventh day). The early Christians saw eight as a symbol of fulfillment.

Let's look at Scripture. In Acts 20:7, it says,

"And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow..."

So this was Sunday, and the disciples came together to "break bread" (which is a euphemism for celebrating the Eucharist, see 1 Corinthians 10:16), and hear Paul preach. So they were worshiping on Sunday. In 1 Corinthians 16:2, it says,

"On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with your income, saving it up, so that when I come no collections will have to be made."

So a collection was taken on the first day of the week, just as we do today. Presumably, they did this at worship, since why would they take up a collection the day after they worshiped? A lot of effort when they could have done it on the Sabbath.

In Colossians 2:16-17, it says,

"Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ."

This says a few things:

  1. One, no one should be judged for celebrating a Sabbath or not. So those who would condemn the Catholic Church for worshiping on Sunday are wrong.
  2. Second, it says the Sabbath was just a shadow of what is to come, the reality is in Christ. This suggests that the Sabbath is eclipsed by Christ, in particular by His glorious Resurrection (remember, He is Lord of the Sabbath).

We have historical evidence that the early Christians worshiped on Sunday, too. Here is a quote from St. Ignatius of Antioch, who was thrown to the lions and thus martyred for his Christian faith in 107 A.D.:

"Consequently, if the people who were given to obsolete practices faced the hope of a new life, and if these no longer observe the Sabbath, but regulate their calendar by the Lord's Day, the day, too, on which our Life rose by His power and through the medium of His death..." (Letter to the Magnesians, 9)

The Lord's Day is mentioned in Revelation, where it is written,

"On the Lord's Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet ..." (Revelation 1:10)

Here we can see that there was a recognition of the special character of that day.

Here is a quote from the Teaching of the Twelve Apostles (or the Didache), which was written around 90 A.D. (before the Apostle John died):

"And on the Lord's own day gather yourselves together and break bread and give thanks, first confessing your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure." (Didache, 14, 1)

Here we have three Catholic doctrines: the Lord's Day as the day of worship, the practice of confessing sins and doing so before coming to worship, and the Mass as a sacrifice.

St. Justin Martyr, who explained the Christian faith to hostile pagans, was the first to describe Christian worship. He lived and wrote in the second century. He wrote:

"On the day called after the sun [Sunday] there is a meeting for which all those dwelling in the cities or in the countryside come together. The records of the Apostles or the writings of the prophets are read as long as time allows. When the reader has stopped, the one who is presiding admonishes and encourages us by a sermon to the imitation of those good examples.

Then we all stand up together and lift up our prayers and, as I said previously, when we have finished our prayer, bread is brought forth and wine and water. The one who is presiding offers up prayers and thanksgiving according to his ability and the people acclaim their assent with ``Amen.'' There is the distribution of and participation on the part of each one in the gifts for which thanks has been offered, and they are sent to those who are not present through the deacons.

We all come together on the day of the sun since it is the first day, on which God changed darkness and matter and made the world. On that day, Jesus Christ our Savior arose from the dead. They crucified him on the day preceding that of Saturn [Saturday], and on the day of the sun he appeared to his Apostles and disciples and taught them these things which we have presented also to you for inspection."

(Apology, I.67)

So there is ample evidence that the early Christians worshiped on Sunday rather than Saturday.

  • Why did the Church change the day on which we worship, and by what authority did She do so?

As mentioned previously, as the Resurrection of Jesus from the dead was the primary truth proclaimed by the Christian faith, and as he rose from the dead on Sunday, celebration of the Resurrection of Christ on Sunday became the dominant day of worship. While liturgically, it is not very evident in the Latin Rite, we are in fact celebrating, even today, the Resurrection of Christ in our Sunday liturgy. Every Sunday is a little Easter, liturgically speaking.

  • By what authority did the Church change it?

We could argue that could have been a tradition Jesus established, but it would be more cogent to point out that Jesus gave the Apostles the authority to bind and to loose (Matthew 16:19), which meant they had the authority to do such things.

Finally, let's ask whether strict observance of the Sabbath according to the old Law of Moses is essential for Christians, given that Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and it is not binding for Christians anymore. To insist on a strict observance to the Sabbath as the Jews lived it is a kind of Judaizing.

With respect to mediators and Christ as one Mediator.

There are really two questions here:

  1. Can other people besides Christ mediate for us, and
  2. Can we ask the saints to pray for us, which is really what you probably have in mind.

I'll answer both.

Let's start with the verse you mention:

"No one comes to the Father except through Me" (John 14:6).

No one is questioning this. We agree that all come to the Father by Christ; if you listen to our liturgy, this will be clear.

  • But how do people come to Christ?

Christ is in Heaven. His Body (the Church) is on earth. Jesus, with exceedingly rare exceptions, is not going to appear in a vision to someone who needs to be evangelized and preach the Gospel to them. Instead, He is likely to send someone to them to proclaim the Gospel to them. That person is a mediator: They reconcile estranged parties.

Even if you argue that someone can just pick up a Bible and read it and be saved, someone had to write that Bible — we have no record that Jesus wrote anything, and certainly He did not, while on earth, write the Scriptures. They were mediated through the Apostles. In some cases, especially in the Old Testament, they were mediated through other people as well. Some Scriptures were passed down orally for generations before being written down. Then they were mediated through the Church, who decided which books were authentic and which were not, and assembled them into the Bible we have today. None of this violates the principle that all go through Jesus, because, as my mother used to say, it all goes down the same pipe. Everything depends on Jesus on His grace, and it all ultimately flows to Jesus.

Let's look at 1 Timothy 2:1-7, in context.

I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all people. This has now been witnessed to at the proper time. And for this purpose I was appointed a herald and an apostle —
I am telling the truth, I am not lying—and a true and faithful teacher of the Gentiles.

OK, so let's boil it down: "I urge ... that ... intercession ... be made for all people ... for there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus..."

The curious thing here, is that an intercessor and a mediator are synonymous terms. Paul is literally saying,

"Mediate between all people [and Christ], for there is one mediator between God and man."

If He really meant that only Christ had any mediation role, He would not have ordered that intercessions five verses earlier.

There are several ways to explain this. One way I like to explain it is that Jesus mediates between God and man, that is, between the Father and human beings, whereas we mediate between other men and Christ. If this sounds scandalous, let's look at the definition of a mediator: Someone who reconciles estranged parties. Now let's look at 2 Corinthians 5:17-20:

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people's sins against them. And He has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf:
Be reconciled to God.

Hmmm. An interesting parallel: Christ has reconciled us, then given us the role of reconciling others. In other words, Christ is the mediator, and gave us the role of mediation. He even calls himself an ambassador of Christ, and an ambassador is very much a mediator:

  1. he is being used as a conduit;
  2. he is reconciling estranged parties.

It follows that the whole work of evangelization is a work of mediation.

This theme of Christ being the first and us following in His footsteps is replete throughout the Scriptures. This is a good point to mention that Protestantism tends to be either-or, whereas in Catholicism we tend to be both-and. What I mean by this is that you are coming to me implying either Jesus is the Redeemer, or someone else is the mediator, and they have to be mutually exclusive. This is not true.

A perfect example of this was when we recently got a question where someone looked at the cover of the pope's new book and interpreted the title as "Pope Benedict XVI: The Light of the World".

He said this is blasphemous because Scripture says Jesus is the light of the world (John 8:12). Besides the fact that he confused the author line for the title (the title is "Light of the World: An Interview with Pope Benedict XVI" or something similar), he overlooked that another scripture calls the Church the light of the world (Matthew 5:14; cf. John 9:5). Jesus is the first light; then on His departure, he makes us the light.

Let's look at another verse that is difficult for Protestants: Colossians 1:24:

Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I complete what is lacking in Christ's afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the Church.

Now relax, I'm not suggesting that Christ's sufferings were inadequate. Yet clearly here there is a notion of participation in the salvific work of Christ. By suffering, we can "complete" Christ's afflictions. This is truly a mystery. OK another verse: John 14:12 KJV

"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do ; because I go unto my Father."

Same theme, but even more astonishing: Christ has entrusted us with his very ministry, same works, even more.

  • See how we share in His ministry, and how He has made us His friends?

But look, the Church is the Body of Christ, which means that in a certain way it is Christ Himself! Finally, Genesis 3:16 says that the Messiah will crush the head of the serpent. But Romans 16:20 says that God will crush Satan under our feet!

Which is it? Both!

Christ gives us a share in His mission.

In Summary: Scripture doesn't support this ultra-phobia about us doing what Christ did, whether it's interceding, mediating, or what have you. We do our work of course in Christ, not apart from him, not independently from him, but as part of the ministry He entrusted to us (John 14:12). He is the firstborn of many brothers (Romans 8:29) and pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2). His mediation doesn't exclude a secondary, dependent mediation that flows back to Him.

As for intercession of the saints, as I am sure you know, a Catholic Christian can and indeed very much should pray directly to God. Virtually the whole liturgy is directed toward the Holy Trinity. Christ came to reconcile us to the Father, so that we could become "friends of God" like Abraham; and sons and daughters of God in an intimate relationship with God our Father and Christ our brother.

  • Now you ask, why should we ask the intercession of the saints when we can pray directly
    to God?

Well, the answer is simple:

"The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective" (James 5:16).

In other words, since not every believer possesses the same degree of righteousness and not every believer has faith in equal measure, the prayers of a more righteous believer with a greater degree of faith are more effective than our own prayers. 

  • Which believers are more righteous, and have more faith, than those who see the Lord "face to face"?

Considered another way, even Protestants ask their fellow church members to pray for them.
Paul asked others to pray for him (Romans 15:31, Ephesians 6:19, Colossians 4:3, 1 Thessalonians 5:25, 2 Thessalonians 3:1). It is no different with Catholics. We ask our fellow Church members to pray for us as well, only we also consider those who are now with the Lord. A good illustration of our belief in this matter is a section of the Confiteor we pray during the liturgy:

"... and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin, all the angels and saints, and you,
my brothers and sisters, to pray for me to the Lord our God."

We are simply asking the Saints in heaven to do the same thing we ask of the saints on earth (i.e. holy ones, cf. CCC 823 of the Catechism): to pray for us.

We believe that through faith, we are all of us, believers in Heaven, believers on earth, and believers undergoing final purification — bound together in what we call "the communion of saints."

Let's turn to Revelation 4 — 5. Here we see an image of the Heavenly Liturgy: the worship going on in heaven right now, which we enter into ourselves when we celebrate the divine and sacred Liturgy, patterned after Revelation 5. Here we have the awesome Seraphim always praising and worshiping the enthroned Father and the Lamb. The Lamb Himself is "looking as if he had been slain" — which means that in the Holy Liturgy of the Eucharist, we are making present the one sacrifice of Calvary, that is, the flesh of the sacrificed Paschal Lamb. The fact that this is a sacrifice is clear since there is an altar (cf. Revelation 6:9), under which are the martyrs — this is why it is a Catholic and Orthodox custom to put the bones of martyrs under our earthly altars, as a pattern of the heavenly Altar. Clearly, in the mystical imagery of Revelation, the Lamb's sacrifice is an eternal reality, not a past event, but let's go on. There are the seven torches of fire, the seven spirits of God; these are represented by candles in the Holy Liturgy. Finally, there are the twenty four elders — the Twelve Patriarchs and the Twelve Apostles.

  • And what are these elders, who symbolize all the Saints in glory, doing?

They are carrying "golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints." The Elders are offering the prayers of all the holy ones to the One seated on the throne. Clearly then, the Saints in glory are involved in our prayer: it is not merely a private matter between us and God, for God's Bride the Church is also involved! It's a form of mediation, since the prayers are going through them.

In Hebrews, Paul gives us another awe-inspiring image of the Holy Liturgy ("acceptable worship, [done] with reverence and awe" — Hebrews 12:28): "You have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" — that is, the Church, the city set on a mountain (Hebrews 11:10, Matthew 5:14) — "and to innumerable angels in festal gathering" — gathered with the earthly church as we celebrate and worship — "and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven," — that is, the Saints who have gone before — "and to a judge who is Lord of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect" — the saints in glory again — "and to Jesus, the Mediator of a New Covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously that the blood of Abel." That is, the Blood of the Covenant, the Eucharist.

Note the parallel with Revelation 5: the twenty four elders (the Patriarchs and the Apostles), the Seraphim and other angels, the Great White Throne of the Father, the altar of God (Revelation   6:9) where the "Lamb looking as if it had been slain" is being worshiped. The slain Lamb and the altar are, of course, the one sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, which transcends all time and which we enter into through the Eucharist. For Revelation 5 is nothing less than what I have identified the imagery in Hebrews as, that is, the Holy Liturgy in Heaven, and when we celebrate the Holy Liturgy on earth, we are mystically present at that very same heavenly worship — with the saints, with again the "myriads of angels" (Revelation 5:11), with the Father, and, most of all, partaking from the altar of God the flesh and blood of the slain Passover Lamb. For, as it says just beyond this in Hebrews,

"we have an altar of which those serving the tabernacle have no right to eat" (Hebrews 13:10),

that is to say, we eat from this altar in heaven when we celebrate the Eucharist.

"Christ our Passover was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast," for children "share in flesh and blood" (Hebrews 2:14).

My point being, both here in Hebrews and in Revelation, we see that the holy ones in glory are present with us in our worship.

But they are not only present with us during the Holy Liturgy. Earlier, in Chapter 11, Paul offers models of faith from the Old Testament Saints, especially noting how they were made righteous by their faith working in obedience. In Hebrews 11:10, we see that the Saints looked forward to the city built by God, that is, the "city set on a mountain that cannot be hidden" (Matthew 5:14).

This city is the Church of Christ, built on Mount Zion: it cannot be hidden, that is to say, it is not invisible, but is rather a visible city. Like Christ himself, who has both a divine and a human nature, His Body has both a divine and unseen nature, and a human and incarnate nature.
Thus the Church is not merely the collection of all faithful believers in Christ, it is a city, with government and visible bonds of unity. Paul makes an amazing statement after going through the list of faithful Old Testament Saints in Hebrews. He says of them in Hebrews 11:39:

"These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect."

Only together with us would they be made perfect. And only together with God's New Covenant People of God can we be made perfect! Our sanctification (literally "sanctification," our being made saints) depends on one another! In Hebrews 12:1, He says,

"Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses . . ."

Wait a minute. What witnesses?

The Old Testament Saints.

  • Surrounded by a cloud of them?

Yes — the holy Saints of God are present with us even now, not only present, but surrounding us, encouraging us as it were in our race which has been set before us and, I daresay, assisting us (for what other reason do they surround us?).

The early Fathers certainly believed in the Communion of Saints, as it is called in the Apostle's Creed:

St. Jerome, Against Vigilantius (406 A.D.) 6:

"You say in your book that while we live we are able to pray for each other, but afterward when we have died, the prayer of no person for another can be heard; and this is especially clear since the martyrs, though they cry for vengeance for their own blood, have never been able to obtain their request. But if the Apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, at a time when they ought still be solicitous about themselves, how much more will they do so after their crowns, victories, and triumphs?"

This also explains the difference between asking the Saints for their prayers, and in necromancy ("talking to the dead").

  1. First of all, necromancy has more of the sense of fortune-telling than merely addressing the dead; in other words, what God forbids in necromancy is seeking a (verbal) response from the dead, not addressing requests for prayer to them.

  2. Second of all, since according to Revelation 5 it is the role of the saints in heaven to carry our prayers to God anyway, and since Hebrews 12:1 says that the saints are a cloud of witnesses that surround us and says that they are present with us in our liturgical worship, there is no reason to doubt that it is a big deal to believe that they can hear our requests.

  3. Third, the Saints are not "dead"— they are alive in Christ. Christ said,

      "Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness but will have the light of life"
      (John 8:12).

    Christ by His death destroyed death and the power of death (Hebrews 2:14-15) in order that all who believe in him shall not perish but have eternal life (John 3:16). No, the saints are not dead. He is not the God of the dead but of the living! (Mark 12:27)

  4. Fourth, we have Scriptural proof that the Saints who have gone before intercede for us in the presence of God. In Jeremiah 15:1, written long after Moses and Samuel were dead, the Lord says,

      "Even if Moses and Samuel were to stand before me, my heart would not go out to this people."

    The implication is that Moses and Samuel (whose lives did not overlap, by the way, so this must refer to an after-death act) can intercede before God. There is another, more direct example of a saint interceding in heaven:

      "Thus he armed every one of them, not so much with confidence of shields and spears, as with comfortable and good words: and beside that, he told them a dream worthy to be believed, as if it had been so indeed, which did not a little rejoice them. And this was his vision: That Onias, who had been high priest, a virtuous and a good man, reverend in conversation, gentle in condition, well spoken also, and exercised from a child in all points of virtue, holding up his hands prayed for the whole body of the Jews. This done, in like manner there appeared a man with gray hairs, and exceeding glorious, who was of a wonderful and excellent majesty. Then Onias answered, saying, This is a lover of the brethren, who prayeth much for the people, and for the holy city, to wit, Jeremia[h] the prophet of God. Whereupon Jeremia[h] holding forth his right hand gave to Judas a sword of gold, and in giving it spake thus, Take this holy sword, a gift from God, with the which thou shalt wound the adversaries."

      (2 Maccabees 15:11-16 KJV)

    This book doesn't appear in Protestant Bibles, but it was accepted in the early church, and is accepted by Catholics and Orthodox. Look at it as merely a historical document if you wish.

If it makes you feel any more comfortable, you can think of it as I did when I was first struggling with the idea. We know that the Saints (at least in general) are with Christ and see him face to face; we believe they can pray to him for us; we know from James that their prayer is effective. The only remaining issue is how to get our requests to them. There is nothing wrong, if we so wish, in praying to Christ to convey our prayer requests to the Saints so that they can pray to him:

"Jesus, please ask St. Paul to pray for me that I may understand the Scripture he wrote."

From there you can simply abbreviate it, and ask Jesus to consider any prayer of yours in the form:

"St. So-and-So, pray for me" as:

"Jesus, please ask St. So-and-So to pray for me."

Certainly, there can be no wickedness in that approach.

I hope this helps you to understand the Biblical nature of the intercession of the Saints!

Next question:

  • Why do Catholics believe priests can forgive people of their sins, by saying a few Hail Mary's, when the priest is only a moral man?

Simple: Because Scripture says so!

First, a clarification. Hail Mary's (or, more generally, the penance) have nothing to do with forgiving the eternal debt our sins incur. Your sins are forgiven whether you do the penance or not. The penance has to do with purifying the temporal consequences of our sins and showing God our good faith. I like to compare it to giving flowers to your wife after you've done something wrong. It freely shows contrition. Anyway we're focusing on the forgiveness of sins part so let me get to that.

Jesus gave the Apostles the authority to forgive sins in John 20:22-24:

"And with that he breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive anyone's sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.'"

Very simple: The power to forgive, or hold unforgiven, sins. Since there is a choice to be made, the priest has to hear what the sin is to make a decision to hold it unforgiven or to forgive it, which is why we confess our sins to the priest.

Also, James 5:16 says we should "Confess our sins to one another".

  • Do you do this in your church?

Finally, James 5:14-15 says,

"Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven."

While this refers to the sacrament of Anointing of the Sick and not of Confession, it illustrates the principle that the elders of the Church (the word here is presbyteroi, where we get the English word "priest") have the power to forgive sins.

Note that only what we call mortal sins (cf. 1 John 5:16, sins that cause us to lose our salvation) absolutely must be forgiven through Confession; confessing lesser sins is helpful but not required. The reason for this is that sin affects the whole community. In 1 Corinthians 12:26, it says of the Body of Christ,

"If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it."

The sin you commit is a wound on the body of Christ, and just as a wound on your body affects the whole body, so your sin affects the whole church. This is why you have to be reconciled to the church as well as to God.

Concerning calling priests "Father".

We call them "Father" because, well, that's what they are. Actually, on a technical point: We don't call priests "Holy Father". That is what we call the Pope. The first person of the Holy Trinity we call the "Eternal Father". Here again, I have to differentiate; I'm not sure if you have in mind:

  • Matthew 23:9 "Call no man your father on earth", or
  • John 17:11 "Holy Father, keep through thine own name those whom thou hast given me, that they may be one, as we are."

or both, so I'll attempt to answer both. Paul said,

"I do not write this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. For though you have countless guides in Christ, you do not have many fathers. For I became your father in Christ Jesus through the gospel."

(1 Corinthians 4:14–15).

There is such a thing as spiritual fatherhood.

When Jesus says this, He is using hyperbole. Just as when He says,

"If your hand causes you to sin, cut if off,"

he is not being literal. Protestants, in fact, are rather selective about this verse.

  • The first question I ask Protestants who bring this up is, what do you call the man who conceived you?

At this they usually back pedal and insist this is an exception, but there is no exception granted in the Scripture. Either you take it literally and strictly, as you are trying to apply to us, or you take it figuratively and loosely, as we do. Also note that it forbids using the terms "teacher" and "master". "Doctor" is Latin for "teacher", but Protestants call their pastors "Dr." (when they have the degree) or call those who instruct them teaches. "Mister" and "mistress" (Mrs.) are both forms of "Master". We can get ridiculous with this. The fact is, Jesus did not have the Catholic Church in mind when He said this. What He meant is that we should not give to men the glory and honor that belongs to God alone.

We know this because the Apostles frequently used this fatherhood imagery in their letters.
Paul regularly referred to Timothy as His child:

"Therefore I sent to you Timothy, my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ." (1 Corinthians 4:17)

"To Timothy, my true child in the faith: grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." (1 Timothy 1:2)

"To Timothy, my beloved child: Grace, mercy, and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Lord." (2 Timothy 1:2).

He also referred to Timothy as his son:

"This charge I commit to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophetic utterances which pointed to you, that inspired by them you may wage the good warfare." (1 Timothy 1:18)

"You then, my son, be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus." (2 Timothy 2:1)

"But Timothy's worth you know, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel." (Philippians 2:22)

Peter does this as well:

"She who is at Babylon, who is likewise chosen, sends you greetings; and so does my son Mark." (1 Peter 5:13)

Occasionally the sacred authors treated entire churches as their children. Paul writes,

"Here for the third time I am ready to come to you. And I will not be a burden, for I seek not what is yours but you; for children ought not to lay up for their parents, but parents for their children." (2 Corinthians 12:14)

and,

"My little children, with whom I am again in travail until Christ be formed in you!" (Galatians 4:19)

John said,

"My little children, I am writing this to you so that you may not sin; but if any one does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous."
(1 John 2:1)

"No greater joy can I have than this, to hear that my children follow the truth."
(3 John 4)

Paul also referred to other of his converts in this way:

"To Titus, my true child in a common faith: grace and peace from God the Father and Christ Jesus our Savior." (Titus 1:4)

"I appeal to you for my child, Onesimus, whose father I have become in my imprisonment." (Philemon 10)

None of these men were Paul's literal, biological sons. Rather, Paul is emphasizing his spiritual fatherhood with them. Also cf.:

  • Galatians 4:19
  • 1 Timothy 1:18
  • 2 Timothy 2:1
  • Philemon 10
  • 1 Peter 5:13
  • 1 John 2:1, and
  • 3 John 4

You may object that they aren't technically using titles, just referring to relationships, but we do see "Father" used in this fashion: See Acts 7:2 and 1 John 2:13–14. In any case, Jesus's objection applies to the relationship, not just the title.

Also, note that in Ephesians 3:14-15, Paul says,

"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named..."

What He is saying is that the family, both the biological families and the heavenly family of God, are "named" after God the Father. In other words, fatherhood is patterned after God the Father. So there is a legitimate way they are linked, so long as we don't give human fathers the honor due to God alone.

With respect to the term "Holy Father", this phrase appears just once in Scripture, in John 17:11. There is no indication that it is the exclusive province of God the Father; it simply refers to a father that is holy. And holy means set apart. So insofar as the Pope is a spiritual father who is set apart for a specific role of feeding Christ's sheep (John 21:15-17) and who has the keys of the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:18-19), we can call him "holy father". To say we can't call him "Holy Father" is to imply that no father is holy, or no one can be called father, which I've already addressed.

I might point out that Jesus is called the Shepherd of our souls, the one Shepherd, and Shepherd is translated "pastor", and Protestants have no problem (usually) calling their clerics "Pastor".
It's just a hang up. We don't actually believe that the Pope takes the place of the Eternal Father, nor do we thereby worship him, and no one is going to confuse him with the Eternal Father because of a single passing verse in Scripture.

Jennifer, I hope this addresses some of your questions adequately.

Eric

Jennifer replied:

I am not a Seventh Day Adventist!

I am just a follower of Jesus Christ looking for the truth with a Catholic back ground.

  • Can't one Catholic ask another Catholic why we do what we do?

I still don't feel completely satisfied, but I feel better than before.

Thank you so much for your feed back.

Jennifer

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