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Greg wrote:

Hi, guys —

Greetings in the name of Christ.

I am a Protestant Evangelical missionary. I have been a Christian for over 20 years of my life.
I have been wrestling with some major doctrinal and theological issues for the past 5 years that have led me to take a closer look at the Catholic faith. I have so many questions that I will probably be meeting with a local Catholic priest soon but here are seven of the main questions that I am hoping you can answer.

Before I became a believer of Jesus Christ, I had been married and divorced. Shortly after my divorce I had became a new believer in Christ. I had sought reconciliation with my former wife and she turned me down. I have since remarried another woman who I have been married to for the past 18 years.

  1. Would the Church ever consider accepting me with my marital background?

Of all the major Catholic doctrines, I only have difficulty understanding one of them:

The role of Mary in the Catholic Church.

As a Protestant, I have only understood Mary to be the Virgin Mother who gave birth by a miraculous conception to our Lord Jesus Christ and that she is blessed among all women. . .
Nothing more than that.

  1. Besides what I understand about Mary, what role does Mary play in the Catholic Church and what is the biblical precedent for any additional teachings?
  2. One of the main attractions to me about the Catholic Church is that it has taken a formal stand on just about every doctrine and interpretation of Scripture but what happens when a Catholic layman does not agree with the Church's teaching on any particular doctrine or teaching?
  3. Does the layman have to conform to and adopt the Church's teaching and interpretation on that topic, whatever it may be?
  4. May he or she choose to adopt another position on any given teaching or interpretation?

Lastly, if I were to be accepted and confirmed into the Catholic Church:

  1. Could I continue my calling in the mission field by serving and loving the poor while at the same time making new disciples?
  2. If so, what prerequisites are usually required, if any, for Catholic missionaries?

Thank you for this wonderful ministry and, as we say here in Albania, where I now live and serve,

Zoti te bekofte.

God bless you.

Greg

  { Can you explain the Church's teaching on Mary's role in the Church and what if we disagree? }

Mike replied:

Hi Greg,

Many of these questions we have already answered in our searchable knowledge base:

http://www.AskACatholic.com/SiteSearch

There are a lot of quick answers there, so give it a try. Nevertheless, let me answer the questions you have sent us.

You said:
Before I became a believer of Jesus Christ, I had been married and divorced. Shortly after my divorce I had became a new believer in Christ. I had sought reconciliation with my former wife and she turned me down. I have since remarried another woman who I have been married to for the past 18 years.

  1. Would the Church ever consider accepting me with my marital background?

Yes, you would definitely be considered and welcomed into the Church. As you are probably aware, the Church has to remain faithful to Jesus’ teaching on marriage.

For this reason, the best place to start is by making an appointment with the local Catholic pastor of a Catholic parish you feel comfortable with. Because marital issues are important in determining the validity of previous and current marriages, questions that will arise are:

  • At the time of your first marriage, what was your faith and what was the faith of you first wife?
  • Were either or both of you baptized? and if so, where?
  • Where was the wedding held?
  • Were their witnesses?
  • Was this the first marriage for both of you?

The same questions would be asked of your second wife too.

One thing you shouldn't do Greg is withhold something you may think will hurt your chances of joining the Church. There are some issues the Church can deal with that you are probably not familiar with.

You said:
Of all the major Catholic doctrines, I only have difficulty understanding one of them:

The role of Mary in the Catholic Church.

As a Protestant, I have only understood Mary to be the Virgin Mother who gave birth by a miraculous conception to our Lord Jesus Christ and that she is blessed among all women. . . Nothing more than that.

  1. Besides what I understand about Mary, what role does Mary play in the Catholic Church and . . .

First I applaud you for having a good grasp of the Virgin Mary. There are a few other teachings:

That Mary is the Mother of God, not in the sense that she gave birth to the Eternal Father — she did not! — but that she gave birth the Second Person of the Trinity — Our Incarnate God-Man, Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Jesus Christ possesses two natures, one divine and the other human, not confused, but united in the one person of God's Son. That said, mothers cannot give birth to natures; mothers only give births to persons. For this reason, Jesus is a Divine Person who has both a divine and human nature. To say Jesus is a human person would be erroneous.

Mary, and the rest of mankind, are human persons, the only difference between us and Mary is that she was born without the stain of original sin where, after Baptism, we still have the effects of original sin in our broken bodies. So in summary:

  • Jesus is the Divine Person.
  • Mary and the rest of mankind are just human persons.
  • Mary is a human person who was free from sin during her earthly life.
  • The rest of mankind are human people but we still have an inclination to sin called concupiscence.
  • Catholics worship Jesus/God alone; we do not worship Mary.

Second, in the same way the Ark of the Covenant had to be pure and holy to hold the Law, meaning the Ten Commandments, so Mary too, by the choice of God Himself, was conceived immaculate at birth in the womb of St. Anne, her mother. We call this the Immaculate Conception of Mary.

From our Catechism: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin.

So Mary was saved, like us, but in anticipation of Her Eternal Son’s Death on the Cross.

Though the conception of Jesus in the Virgin Mary was also An Immaculate Conception, the Immaculate Conception, the Church is referring to, is that of Mary in the womb of her mother, St. Anne. Basically, there were two Immaculate Conceptions but the Church only teaches one — the Immaculate Conception of Mary in St. Anne, her mother.

The final teaching is based on history. From the Catechism: When the course of her earthly life was finished, Mary was taken up body and soul into heavenly glory, and exalted by the Lord as Queen over all things. The Church refers to this as the Assumption of Mary.

Now how this was done is a matter of personal or theological opinion.

  • Some, like the Orthodox and I, believe Our Lady gently feel asleep into Eternal Life.
    The Orthodox celebrate this as the Dormition of Mary.
  • Others, like Pope St. John Paul II believed she died just like anyone of us would have died.
  • An ancient Coptic tradition states that when Mary was old and nearing this falling asleep, Jesus appeared to 72 of the disciples. He was on the chariot of the cherubim accompanied by 1,000 Angels, and he told them He was to take his Mother to himself. The disciples wept and asked that Mary should never die, but the Lord said her time was accomplished.

This posting may also help:

Though not really needed: a negative proof supporting the teaching of the Assumption is that no one has ever been able to find the bones of Mary.

From the Catechism:

964 Mary's role in the Church is inseparable from her union with Christ and flows directly from it. "This union of the mother with the Son in the work of salvation is made manifest from the time of Christ's virginal conception up to his death"; (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 57) it is made manifest above all at the hour of his Passion:

Thus the Blessed Virgin advanced in her pilgrimage of faith, and faithfully persevered in her union with her Son unto the cross. There she stood, in keeping with the divine plan, enduring with her only begotten Son the intensity of his suffering, joining herself with his sacrifice in her mother's heart, and lovingly consenting to the immolation of this victim, born of her: to be given, by the same Christ Jesus dying on the cross, as a mother to his disciple, [John] with these words: "Woman, behold your son." (Vatican II, Lumen Gentium 58; cf. John 19:26-27)

You said:
. . . what is the biblical precedent for any additional teachings?

As Catholic Christians, we receive our faith from the Church Jesus established on St. Peter and his successors, not from the Bible alone. The Bible is not a Catechism but a liturgical book; meaning a book meant to be used for Mass, our worship service. That said, we can still show that many, many Catholic teachings are biblical. I have a Super Category of Biblical Support for these teachings on my Scripture Passages page:

You said:

  1. One of the main attractions to me about the Catholic Church is that it has taken a formal stand on just about every doctrine and interpretation of Scripture but what happens when a Catholic layman does not agree with the Church's teaching on any particular doctrine or teaching?
  2. Does the layman have to conform to and adopt the Church's teaching and interpretation on that topic, whatever it may be?
  3. May he or she choose to adopt another position on any given teaching or interpretation?

The faithful Catholic has to give a religious assent to the official teachings [doctrines] of the Church . . . found in the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

If there is a teaching area they are struggling with, as long as they are striving to understand why the Church teachings what She does, they are in good standing with the Church and may even receive Holy Communion.

If a Catholic does not conform to any of the key teachings of the Church and shows no interest in understanding the Church's view, they should still renew their Sunday Covenant by going to Mass but should not receive Communion. In the Catholic Church, when we receive Holy Communion, we are saying we are in a Common Union with Jesus and the teachings of the Church He founded on St. Peter and his successors — the Catholic Church.

There are other topics and issues that arise that do not fall into the category of the doctrines of the Church but are a matter of personal, or theological opinion. (As previously mentioned.)
In these areas, the faithful are open to speculate as long has their speculation does not contradictory the teachings of the Church.

You said:
Lastly, if I were to be accepted and confirmed into the Catholic Church:

  1. Could I continue my calling in the mission field by serving and loving the poor while at the same time making new disciples?
  2. If so, what prerequisites are usually required, if any, for Catholic missionaries?

Let me first preface my answer by saying I wish we had more Catholics in our Church with your attitude.

Catholic evangelization is not as strong as it has been in the past. Back in the 1940’s on the campus of Harvard University in Boston, there were Catholic priests and monks preaching the full Catholic Gospel on the open campus of Harvard. They would take and answer an array of questions from students on campus mainly dealing with salvation. That is what we need today in the United States.

If you are interested in a training manual for street corner Catholic Apologetics, look into Frank Shed's:

Catholic Evidence Training Outlines: A Classic Guide to Understanding & Explaining the Truths of the Catholic Church

The ministries at each Catholic parish will vary from parish to parish. You want to bring these questions up with the priest you talk with. If there are any prerequisites for any ministry, he will be able to tell you what they are.

If your parish doesn't have any Catholic missionary outreach talk to him about starting one in his parish!

I hope this helps.

You said:
Thank you for this wonderful ministry and, as we say here in Albania, where I now live and serve,

Zoti te bekofte.

Thanks! I have a great team.

Mike

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