Belief

Articles

Catholics born after the second Vatican Council apparently know very little about their religion, according to Archdiocesan statistics. What they do know is gained during the sermon or from the parish bulletin. Therefore, basic teaching in the bulletin is very important.

For the newest material go to the bottom. Last change: 6/21/98


Pentecost - The Holy Spirit descends on the Apostles and the Church.

"This unique gift [of the Holy Spirit] which is in Christ is offered in its fullness to everyone. It is everywhere available, but it is given to each man in proportion to his readiness to receive it. Its presence is the full, the greater a man's desire to be worthy of it." St. Hilary, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. II, page 998.

"The disciples spoke in the language of every nation. At Pentecost God chose this means to indicate the presence of the Holy Spirit:whoever had received the Spirit spoke in every kind of tongue. We must realize...that this is the same Holy Spirit by whom love is poured out in our hearts. It was love that was to bring the Church of God together all over the world. And as individual men who received the Holy Spirit in those days could speak in all kinds of tongues, so today the Church, united by the Holy Spirit, speaks in the language of every people.

Therefore if somebody should say to one of us, 'You have received the Holy Spirit, why do you not speak in tongues?' his reply should be, 'I do indeed speak in the tongues of all men, because I belong to the body of Christ, that is, the Church, and she speaks all languages. What else did the presence of the Holy Spirit indicate at Pentecost, except that God's Church was to speak in the language of every people?'" From a sermon by a sixth century African author, ibid, p. 1006.


Triduum

"The Triduum or three days of prayer is our Most Holy time of the year. The Triduum is like one liturgy beginning with Holy Thursday and ending with evening prayer on Easter Sunday. The Eucharist, Christ's death and resurrection are what we as Catholics are all bout, this is our faith. Our liturgy begins on Holy Thursday, we depart in silence. We come together in silence on Good Friday and leave in silence. We arrive subdued on Easter Vigil in anticipation of what is to come and leave in the joy of Christ's resurrection! Alleluia! Alleluia! Please try to participate in these three MOST HOLY days of rich tradition with our parish family." By CL.

Holy Thursday - Evening Mass of the Lord's Supper

This liturgy is richly textured. It recalls and celebrates several essential things to our faith. It uniquely recalls the Last Supper of our Lord and what he accomplished during that Supper.

1. The Last Supper is an "agape" meal. This means that it is a "love feast". ("Agape" is a Greek word that means love in the highest sense.) So Jesus wanted to celebrate his love of his apostles, and through them, all of us who are his disciples.

2. It is a Passover meal. This is a very important aspect of Jewish observance that recalls the deliverance of Israel from Egypt. Before the meal, an animal is sacrificed, usually a lamb. The lamb is eaten by family and friends to recall their deliverance by God, and God's taking them as his own special people.

Jesus repeats this meal but transforms it. He himself becomes the sacrifice, completed at the crucifixion. He transforms the bread and wine at the meal so he becomes the meal. When we eat this bread and drink this cup we recall our deliverance by God from sin and death, from isolation and hopelessness, and we recall the fact we are God's own special people.

3. When Jesus says "do this in remembrance of me", he establishes that he apostles are to repeat his action. Thus Jesus creates the priesthood.

4. To show how leadership and his priesthood is to be exercised, Jesus washes the feet of his apostles. He gives us an example of humble leadership, which is remarkably different from how leadership is usually exercised.

Good Friday

The Good Friday service recalls the crucifixion of Jesus. This brings to mind the sacrifice Jesus makes; he becomes the Passover "lamb of God". We can see how it is the sinfulness of the political and religious leadership, as well as our own, that caused this. It is an astounding fact that God let himself be rejected, abused, and even killed by his own people, by the very people that he loved and came to help. For a graphic description of what it was like to be crucified, look at The Facts about the Crucifixion written by a physician.

From an ancient homily for Holy Saturday.

"The earth trembled and is still because the King has fallen asleep in the flesh and he has raised up all who have slept ever since the world began. God has died in the flesh and hell trembles with fear.

He has gone to search for our first parents, as for a lost sheep. Greatly desiring to visit those who live in darkness and in the shadow of death, he has gone to free from sorrow the captives, Adam and Eve, he who is both God and son of Eve.... He took [Adam] by the hand and raised him up saying: 'Awake, O sleeper, and rise from the dead, and Christ will give you light'.

I am your God, who for your sake have become your son. Out of love for you and for your descendants I now by my own authority command all who are held in bondage to come forth, all who are in darkness to be enlightened, all who are sleeping to arise. I order you, O sleeper, to awake. I did not create you to be held a prisoner in hell. Rise from the dead, for I am the life of the dead. Rise up, work of my hands, you who were created in my image. Rise, let us leave this place, for you are in me and I am in you; together we form only one person and we cannot be separated." Office of Readings for Holy Saturday, Liturgy of the Hours, Vol. II, Catholic Book Publishing Co.

Easter

[See, ON THE THIRD DAY HE ROSE FROM THE DEAD in the Catholic Catechism.]

The miracle of the resurrection demonstrates that God would not let hatred win. It also give us hope by demonstrating how what he taught was true. There is a kingdom, a house with many rooms, and Jesus would go and prepare a place for us. We do not have to fear death. We have only to fear the stupidity that is sin.

At the Easter Vigil, we welcome into our community those who have accept Christ's truth, who hope in the kingdom, and who wish to join us in our efforts to enter the kingdom. Every member of our parish should come to pray for these new Christians, and rejoice in them.

For more on Holy Week look at the material in the Catholic Encyclopedia.
 

The Baptism of the Lord

People sometimes wonder why Jesus allowed himself to be baptized. Did he need to receive this sacrament? No. It was not needed to grant forgiveness of sin, removal of original sin, create a connection with the Trinity, or open the gates of heaven to him. But there are other ways of looking at his baptism.

1. It gave God the opportunity to identify Jesus through the testimony of John the Baptist, through Jesus's "vision" which establishes Jesus as a prophet, and through the voice of God calling Jesus "Son".

2. Baptism can be seen as a rite of transition. You and I go from a sinful state, and out of harmony with God, into a state of union with God. Clearly, this is an important transition for us. For Jesus the transition would be from private life to public life. It marks the moment when Jesus is to actively take up the mission for which he was sent.


Love of Enemies

"The perfection of brotherly love lies in the love of one's enemies...

[Father forgive them...] Who could listen to that wonderful prayer [of Jesus being nailed to the cross], so full of warmth, of love, of unshakable serenity - and hesitate to embrace his enemies with overflowing love? Father, He ways, forgive them. Is any gentleness, any love, lacking in this prayer?

Yet he put into it something more. It was not enough to prayer for them: he wanted also to make excuses for them. Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing. They are great sinners, yes, but they have little judgment; therefore, Father, forgive them. They are nailing me to the cross, but they do not know who it is that they are nailing to the cross: if they had known, they would never have crucified the Lord of glory; therefore, Father, forgive them. They think it is a lawbreaker, an impostor claiming to be God, a seducer of the people. I have hidden my face from them, and they do not recognize my glory; therefore, Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing." Saint Aelred, Abbot. Liturgy of the Hours, vol. II, Catholic Book Publishing Co., NY p. 131.


Statues, Paintings, Mosaics, Frescoes, and Stained Glass

God commands Moses and us to have proper respect for God. He forbids the making of images of Him or any other thing and then worshiping them. This has caused some Christians to say that we should not have religious statues or even the body of Christ depicted on a cross. This is the position of many of our protestant friends, and the position of a group called the iconoclasts in the early church. At that time the church analyzed the issue and decided there was nothing wrong with paintings, and statues. As I point out in the prayer section of the parish web page:

"The Council of Nicaea (7th Ecumenical,787 AD) says that art depicting Jesus and the saints is permitted. 'We [the council bishops], therefore, define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God... [To these we can add] the Book of the Gospels and to the other holy objects,incense and lights may be offered according to ancient pious custom. For the honor which is paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents, and he who reveres the image reveres in it the subject represented... '".

The general idea is that we must not worship something in place of God, or something that is not God. However, statues and the like are a help to us in our worship of God and reverence of Him and the Saints. Perhaps they are like a conduit.

In addition, Pope St. Gregory pointed out that these statues, paintings, stained glass and mosaics help with teaching. They are like a catechism, especially to people who could not read or write. Illiteracy was normal for that time and most of church history.

See especially our page on Catholic Teaching on Religious Art.


Eph. 2:4-10

Can we achieve heaven on our own effort?

No. We are unable to merit heaven, to deserve it, based on our own efforts. The only way we can become "right with God" is through the efforts, and grace of Christ. All people are born separated from God because of original sin. This separation cannot be healed except by God. The grace that makes this happen (sanctifying grace) comes to us through baptism. (This grace creates our justification and makes us righteous, i.e. we become "right with God", enter into harmony with Him, and the separation is overcome by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.)

Are we required to do anything, or is God the only one who has to do something?

We have to desire it, and say yes to God's grace (usually by receiving baptism). We must avoid grave sin, because it destroys our relationship to God, which can only be restored by repentance. Thus our free will can oppose God's plan, and stop His effort to bring us into oneness with Him. (John Cardinal Newman says that God is like a physician who works to heal, but the patient can in fact resist the doctor's efforts which would result in increased sickness and even death.)

Even though our good works will not earn us heaven, they do make a difference and are desired by God. Thus St. Paul says we are to lead the life of good deeds that God planned for us to do. The Jerusalem Bible puts Eph. 2:10 this way: "We are God's work of art, created in Christ Jesus for the good works which God has already designated to make up our way of life." St. James teaches that faith without deeds is worthless, James 2:17f, and Jesus says that even the gift of a cup of water will not go unrewarded. Mark 9:41.


THE DOGMA OF THE TRINITY
 
"The Trinity is the term employed to signify the central doctrine of the
Christian religion -- the truth that in the unity of the Godhead there
are Three Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, these Three
Persons being truly distinct one from another. Thus, in the words of the
Athanasian Creed: "the Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy
Spirit is God, and yet there are not three Gods but one God." In this
Trinity of Persons the Son is begotten of the Father by an eternal
generation, and the Holy Spirit proceeds by an eternal procession from
the Father and the Son. Yet, notwithstanding this difference as to
origin, the Persons are co-eternal and co-equal: all alike are uncreated
and omnipotent. This, the Church teaches, is the revelation regarding
God's nature which Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came upon earth to
deliver to the world: and which she proposes to man as the foundation of
her whole dogmatic system." New Advent Supersite.

See the Catholic Catechism references to Trinity, and the Baltimore Catechism material on Trinity.  

Acquinas, Summa, "Whether it is necessary for salvation to believe explicitly in the Trinity?"


The Eucharist
Why it's different than a Sunday Celebration
in the Absence of a Priest.
And some of the reasons why Christ is truly present.
 
CCC 1363 "In the sense of Sacred Scripture the memorial [the mass] is not
merely the recollection of past events but the proclamation of the mighty works wrought by God for men. In the liturgical celebration of these
events, they become in a certain way present and real. This is how
Israel understands its liberation from Egypt: every time Passover is
celebrated, the Exodus events are made present to the memory of
believers so that they may conform their lives to them."
 
CCC 1365 Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is
also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is
manifested in the very words of institution: "This is my body which is
given for you" and "This cup which is poured out for you is the New
Covenant in my blood."[185] In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very
body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he
"poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins."[186]
 
CCC1366 The Eucharist is thus a sacrifice because it re-presents (makes
present) the sacrifice of the cross,...
[Christ], our Lord and God, was once and for all to offer himself to God
the Father by his death on the altar of the cross, to accomplish there
an everlasting redemption. But because his priesthood was not to end
with his death, at the Last Supper "on the night when he was betrayed,"
[he wanted] to leave to his beloved spouse the Church a visible
sacrifice (as the nature of man demands) by which the bloody sacrifice
which he was to accomplish once for all on the cross would be
re-presented, its memory perpetuated until the end of the world, and its
salutary power be applied to the forgiveness of the sins we daily
commit.
 
1367 The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one
single sacrifice: "The victim is one and the same: the same now offers
through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross;
only the manner of offering is different." Catechism of the Catholic Church.

(Emphasis added.)


The Body and Blood of Christ

"The reality called the Eucharist is based on the Last Supper... There, according to his own words, Jesus give his "Body" and "Blood" as food and drink to be eaten and drunk under the appearances of bread and wine. Against its Semitic [Jewish] background "body" signifies the bodily tangibility of the person of Jesus..." The blood is defined "as the blood shed by Jesus in instituting the New Covenant..."

"In the fullest and most original sense, the Eucharist is a sacrament ... directly instituted by Christ... in which the true Body and Blood of Jesus (and therefore the whole, saving, concrete reality of the Lord) are really present ... under each of the 'species' of bread and wine ... and in every one of their parts... The Body and Blood of Christ and his sacrificial death become present in the Church's sacrifice of the Mass ... through the consecration pronounced by the priest... Jesus' own words of institution, spoken by the priest are the 'form'." ["Form" is a philosophical term from the Middle Ages that roughly means the action whereby matter is given shape or substance, or in this case a change of substance.] "More specifically, this consecration must be understood as a genuine change of one substance (that of wheat bread and grape wine as the 'matter') .. into another (namely the Flesh and Blood of Jesus). [This equals transubstantiation.] True though it is that the consecration occurs in view of the consumption of this Body and Blood of Jesus by the faithful who receive them in communion, and that it is through the consecration especially that the renewal of the sacrifice of the cross is effected (by the Church) at this concrete moment within history... yet its actual realization in event remains in a permanent form: so long as the appearances of the 'meal' (meant to be eaten) are given, Christ too is present...This abiding real presence of Christ remains [necessarily bound to] the Church's Eucharistic rite and to its purpose - a reception ('eating') by the believer." Rahner, Theological Dictionary, Herder and Herder (1965) pp. 153-4.

 

Or to say it more simply: The bread is no longer bread. It is Jesus, the Christ. The wine is no longer wine, it is the blood of Christ. The bread and wine are not merely symbols; they become Jesus himself,when the priest quotes the words of Jesus from the Last Supper. Jesus himself speaks these words with the priest. [See Transubstantiation, CCC1413 and CCC1376.]

In some way, the actual events of the passion of Christ are re-presented to us during the Eucharistic Liturgy. It would seem that the priest says the words simultaneously as Jesus says the words at the Last Supper. (Remember there is no time with God.)

The mass, and the Crucifixion, are the same sacrifice.


Legalism

In complying with God's law, one easy, frequent mistake is legalism. Typically, the legalist perceives God as a remote judge. When people emphasize law, and rigid obedience to the letter of the law, they often perceive God as one who rules by fear. If you fear someone, you don't relate to them as a friend, or a wise mentor. A much better way to understand God, one that is very scriptural, is to see Him as lover, or loving parent. In this mode of understanding, we do what is right because we respond with love to the one who loves us. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life." John 3:16. " As the Father has loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love." John 15:9. "He said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.'" Matt. 22:37. This command is restated in Mark 12:30 and Luke 10:27. (All quotes are from the NRSV, and links are to the NAB.)

There are always negative consequences for bad choices. We need to know what God in His wisdom teaches us about life to avoid the consequences in this life and the next. But we also need to keep in mind that we cannot earn salvation, i.e. achieve heaven, on our own efforts. This idea was Pelagianism, a heresy opposed by St. Augustine, condemned by Emperor Honorius, and by Popes Boniface (418-422) and Celestine (422). Murray, A History of Heresy, Oxford University Press, pp. 91-92. Pelagionism taught that "by exercise of their natural powers and their own efforts men could avoid sin, become morally perfect, even sinless, and acquire heaven." Ibid., p. 90. However, it is only God's love and mercy that make it possible to attain heaven. As St. Paul teaches, it is impossible for us to live the law perfectly. (Cf. Gal. 2:21 "I do not nullify the grace of God; for if justification comes through the law, then Christ died for nothing." ) A loving God will not only forgive transgression, but also over-look misunderstandings about what someone should do. He doesn't want to loose anyone of us. Legalism creates an attitude wherein keeping the law is all important because legalists believe that obedience to the law is what is required for someone to get to heaven, rather than God's forgiveness and mercy. This is one of the mistakes the Pharisees made.

One of the most important anti-legalism statements Jesus made was to the pharisees. These religious leaders were people who took the law of God in the Old Testament very seriously. They tried to rigidly keep that law themselves and to teach others to keep it as well. In doing so they were working to make Jewish law accessible to people in their daily lives. "[But Jesus] said to them, 'The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath... '" Mark 2:27. The Pharisees were relying on God's divine command in the third commandment. "You shall keep the sabbath, because it is holy for you; everyone who profanes it shall be put to death; whoever does any work on it shall be cut off from among the people. Six days shall work be done, but the seventh day is a sabbath of solemn rest, holy to the LORD; whoever does any work on the sabbath day shall be put to death. " Exod. 31:14 -15. See also, Deut. 5:12; Lev. 23:3; Exod. 16:23, 20:8, 35:2 NIV. Jesus position on the commandments was that they were created by God to help people, and not to harm them, not to enslave them. As St. Paul taught: "But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit." Rom. 7:6.

By his statement, Jesus re-interprets the commandment. "With compassion Christ declares the sabbath for doing good rather than harm, for saving life rather than killing. ...[It is] a day to honor God." § 2173, Catechism of the Catholic Church, p. 524. Isn't doing good one of the greatest honors we can give to God?

By taking this stand with the Pharisees, Jesus shows we need some "common sense" when observing the law. Being too rigid can lead to mistakes and to harm. "According to Christian tradition, the Law is holy, spiritual, and good, yet still imperfect." Ibid., § 1963, p. 476. Thus, we must avoid rigid legalistic observance of law, pharisaical attitudes, casuistry, and the sophistries of jesuitical reasoning.


The Precepts of the Church
(according to the Cathollic Catechism)

"§2041 The precepts of the Church are set in the context of a moral life bound to and nourished by liturgical life. The obligatory character of these positive laws decreed by the pastoral authorities is meant to guarantee to the faithful the indispensable minimum in the spirit of prayer and moral effort, in the growth in love of God and neighbor.

§2042 The first precept ("You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation.") requires the faithful to participate in the Eucharistic celebration when the Christian community gathers together on the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord.

The second precept ("You shall confess your sins at least once a year".) ensures preparation for the Eucharist by the reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, which continues Baptism's work of conversion and forgiveness.

The third precept ("You shall humbly receive your Creator in Holy Communion at least during the Easter season".) guarantees as a minimum the reception of the Lord's Body and Blood in connection with the Paschal feasts, the origin and center of the Christian liturgy.

The fourth precept ("You shall keep holy the holy days of obligation.") completes the Sunday observance by participation in the principal liturgical feasts which honor the mysteries of the Lord, the Virgin Mary, and the saints.

The fifth precept ("You shall observe the prescribed days of fasting and abstinence.") ensures the times of ascesis and penance which prepare us for the liturgical feasts; they help us acquire mastery over our instincts and freedom of heart.

The faithful also have the duty of providing for the material needs of the Church, each according to his abilities." [Here the catechism quotes Canon 222 of the 1983 Code of Canon Law, that governs the whole church.] The Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ligouri Publications (1994) pp. 493-94.


Keep holy the sabbath day - rest.

 

When originally spoken, this meant no work and that the day needed to have God in it. The church teaches that this still means no work. "God's action is the model for human action. If God 'rested and was refreshed' on the seventh day, man too ought to 'rest and should let others, especially the poor, 'be refreshed'. The sabbath brings everyday work to a halt and provides a respite. It is a day of protest against the servitude of work and the worship of money." Catechism of the Catholic Church, sec. 2172, p. 523, Ligouri Press edition. This command "helps everyone enjoy adequate rest and leisure to cultivate their familial, cultural, social, and religious lives." Ibid., § 2184, p. 527.

"On Sundays and other holy days of obligation, the faithful are to refrain from engaging in work or activities that hinder the worship owed to God, the joy proper to the Lord's Day, the performance of the works of mercy, and the appropriate relaxation of mind and body. Family needs or important social service can legitimately excuse from the obligation of Sunday rest. The faithful should see to it that legitimate excuses do not lead to habits prejudicial to religion, family life, and health." Ibid., § 2185, p. 527. (Note that this paragraph lists excuses adequate to remove the obligation from "rest" but not from the duty to go to mass on Sunday.

 


Catholics are Obliged to Attend Mass each Sunday.

The new Catechism of the Catholic Church reaffirms the traditional teaching that it is a grave sin to miss mass on Sunday. The desire to sleep in, watching football on television, or hunting are not adequate excuses. The traditional teaching, from the Vatican, also says that if someone misses mass through his or her own fault then the person must go to confession. (Note that the word "grave" means mortal sin. In general see: The Gravity of Sin, Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ligouri Publications (1994) § 1857, p. 455.)

The ultimate source of this teaching is the third commandment: "Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor, and do all your work; but the seventh day is a sabbath to the Lord your God; in it you shall not do any work." Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ligouri Publications (1994) p. 523, quoting Exodus 20:8-10; see also, Deut. 5:12-15. (To keep something "holy" means to dedicated it to God, to use it for God. "To keep the sabbath holy" means to fill the day with God, doing the things of God, as He has commanded.)

The Sabbath is actually Saturday, the day the Jews still use for their observance of the Sabbath. For Catholics, Sunday is used for the sabbath observance and fulfills the third commandment's obligation. "In Christ's Passover, Sunday fulfills the spiritual truth of the Jewish sabbath..." Ibid, § 2175, pp. 524-25.

"The Sunday celebration of the Lord's Day and his Eucharist is at the heart of the Church's life. 'Sunday is the day on which the Paschal mystery is celebrated in light of the apostolic tradition and is to be observed as the foremost holy day of obligation in the universal Church.'" Ibid., §2177, p. 525.

"The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: 'On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.'" Ibid., § 2180, p. 526.

"...[T]he faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by the own pastor. Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin." § 2181, p. 527. (Emphasis added.) (Note again, "grave sin" means mortal sin. CCC1855f)

Finally, we should encourage others to attend Sunday mass, for their soul's sake, and we should help new-comers to feel welcome. If people are made to feel that they belong, they will find it easier to attend each Sunday.


Church Governance and Authority

People are sometimes confused about how the Church governs itself, and who has authority to do what. Prior to Vatican II, all authority resided in the hierarchy, i.e. the clergy holding offices of authority. Vatican II brought some modest change with the idea of collegiality. My first bishop explained how it works: all the bishops in the world can meet, at a Synod or Ecumenical Council, and they are a democracy among themselves, but they cannot out vote the Pope. They cannot legislate or do anything without his approval or consent. (Some thinkers suggest this shouldn't be true because of the Council of Constance, but their thinking has not been adopted.) At the next level, the priests can be a democracy among themselves, with each having an equal voice with the others, but they cannot out vote their bishop. They cannot legislate without his express approval although he regularly consults with them through the Presbyteral Council. It is the same at the parish level. The parish pastoral council members have an equal vote among themselves. The can recommend to the pastor a course of action, but they do not have authority on their own. They can't legislate without the pastor's approval.

Canon Law indicates that a bishop is to have a pastoral council but it has only a consultative vote. Canon 514 § 1. In the same way, in dioceses where the bishop permits parish pastoral councils (Canon 536 §1), the parish "pastoral council has only a consultative vote" (canon 536 §2). The role of the council is to "give... help in fostering pastoral action." Can. 536 §1. (Emphasis added.) (The word vote is misleading because we should be working to a consensus, a unanimous position on issues discussed.)


Capitol Punishment
 

"This monograph is published to affirm for [our] people ... the Church's teaching regarding capital punishment. As Catholics we believe that people are created in the image and likeness of God; that all life is God's precious gift to be celebrated from conception until natural death. Accordingly any threat to human life must be clearly and consistently opposed. The bishops of the United States in 1980 and the bishops of New York State again in 1994 have rejected capital punishment as an answer to violent crimes committed in our increasingly violent society. The New York State Catholic bishops put it clearly 'we reject capital punishment as ... an affront to the human dignity of both those on whom it is inflicted and those in whose name it is employed.' At the same time the bishops recognize that many citizens, and indeed many Catholics, believe that capital punishment should be retained and that in New York State it should be reintroduced as a possible penalty for capital crimes.

The 1994 edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church Section 2266 acknowledges '... the right and duty of legitimate public authority to punish malefactors by means of penalties commensurate with the gravity of crime, not excluding, in cases of extreme gravity, the death penalty.' Immediately after that in section 2267, the Catechism states further: 'If bloodless means are sufficient to defend human life ... and to protect public order and the safety of individuals, public authority should limit itself to such means because they ... are more in conformity to the dignity of the human person.'

Increasingly, our society looks to violent answers to deal with some of our most difficult social problems. 1. The death penalty does nothing to break the cycle of violence in our streets. While it prevents a convicted murder from committing other crimes, the death penalty does not stop others from doing so. Studies have shown that rather than acting as a deterrent to criminal activity, executions merely reinforce the idea of a brutal society where mortal vengeance is an acceptable form of behavior. Additionally, FBI statistics support that states with the death penalty continue to see murder rates rise. The death penalty is not a deterrent...

Innocent people will be executed. Unfortunately our criminal justice system is not without flaws, and once society kills an innocent person, there is no way to remedy that wrong.

The appeal to vengeance is beneath our dignity as citizens. At the same time, we do not minimize the suffering and the agony of the innocent who are the victims of violent crimes. We have the utmost compassion for families destroyed by violent, deadly crimes. But death is never the answer." By Most Reverend Joseph T. O'Keefe, Bishop and Most Reverend Thomas J. Costello, Auxiliary Bishop, of the Diocese of Syracuse, N.Y. (This article was obtain from the internet.)

 
See also Archbishop Flynn's statement on Capitol Punishment. In his statement, he quotes our Holy Father:
 
"So is our Holy Father, Pope John Paul II, who in his latest encyclical
on life stated the following:
 
'The nature and extent of the punishment...ought not go to the extreme
of executing the offender except in cases of absolute necessity: in
other words, when it would not be possible otherwise to defend society.
Today, however, as a result of steady improvements in the organization
of the penal system, such cases are very rare if not practically
nonexistent.'"
 
For the non-religious arguments against capitol punishment, see The Case Against the Death Penalty. For additional material on social justice, see the Office of Social Justice Home Page for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Amnesty International.
 

"Blessed are the poor in spirit..." (Matt. 5:3.)
 
It is important to not just hear these words but also to meditate on their meaning. (In this case meditate means to consider or think about its meaning. Meditation as fantasy can also be used by imagining how it would be to live a certain way.)

It should be obvious that there is no sin in having wealth. However the Lord did warn that it was dangerous, to our soul, our spiritual well being. He suggests we can be blessed even if we have wealth. How?

Think about how a person with wealth could live as though he was poor.

Think about how a person with wealth could have the attitudes of a poor Christian.

Think about how a person with wealth could avoid extravagance, and luxury.

Think about how a person with wealth could refuse to use wealth as a means to exert power over others.

Finally, before you dismiss this as irrelevant to your life, recall that most Americans are wealthy compared to the rest of humanity, or at least compared to the third world. However, I don't presume to tell you in specifics how you should live, nor do I claim to be a good example myself of how to live. But I do think it is important to examine ourselves and search for ways to please God.

 
Go to the Lord and ask him to reveal to you how he wants you to conduct yourself.

Traditional spirituality has held that the pursuit of wealth and power are detrimental to spiritual growth and contrary to the wisdom of scripture. To learn more, look at the Imitation of Christ, or Being Devoted to God.


6/22/97

This week the pastor received email from a non-catholic man who wished to marry a Catholic. His fiancé was acting as though it would be a problem because he is not catholic. So, I wrote:

1. You do not have to become a Catholic to marry a Catholic. There are some complications though, and they have to do with the responsibility of the Catholic party. We expect that she will remain catholic. She is asked to affirm this when the preparation for marriage begins. She is expected to do what is required to comply with our marriage laws. She is to affirm her intention to raise your children Catholic.

The non-Catholic is informed of this and is asked if you will cooperate. We want you to know what the Catholic spouse believes, and what your children will be taught. This is not to make you become Catholic! We respect your conscience, and your understanding of the truth, even if we disagree.

2. If you want to know about our attitude to non-christians or non-Catholic Christians, it stems from several documents from the Second Vatican Council that was held in the early 1960's.

"This Vatican Council declares that the human person has a right to religious freedom. This freedom means that all men are to be immune from coercion on the part of individuals or of social groups and of any human power, in such wise that no one is to be forced to act in a manner contrary to his own beliefs, whether privately or publicly, whether alone or in association with others within due limits." Declaration on Religious Freedom, sec. 2.

In the Catholic Catechism it says: "Outside the Church there is no salvation."

"Sec. 846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers? Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body. Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.

Sec. 847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

'Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.' " Catechism of the Catholic Church.


9/15/97

The Washington State Catholic Conference Supports Initiative that Prohibits Discrimination of Gays.

The Bishops of our state, and Fr. George Thomas, the Archdiocesan Administrator, will apparently come out in favor of the initiative that prohibits discrimination of Gay and Lesbian people. Fr. Thomas said the focus of the initiative is job discrimination, not sexual matters. The Washington Catholic Church is taking this stand based on the teaching of our church as stated in the Catechism of the Catholic Church that was published under the authority of Pope John Paul II.

In brief the church teaches that all people are to be chaste (Sec. 2348). Unmarried people are not to engage in any sexual activity. This is true of all people regardless of age, gender, or sexual orientation. However, the church also teaches:

"Sec. 2358 The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition." Catechism of the Catholic Church, Ligouri Edition, (1994) p. 566 (emphasis added). Imprimi Potest: Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger.

An Archdiocesan employee would only be discharged if there was sufficient proof that they are engaged in immoral sexual behavior. This is true without regard to sexual orientation.


Purgatory

People often wonder about the nature of the punishment of Purgatory. Tradition speaks of a cleansing fire, but this must be symbolic imagery. Before the final judgment, we are not reunited with our bodies, and so fire could not affect us. Actually, the punishment is the same as for those in Hell, i.e. to be separated from God. However, it is completely different because we know that this separation will end. A more positive focus would be that the Lord may cause us to accomplish the growth in holiness that we need, rather than to focus negatively on retribution.

From the Encyclopedia of Catholicism, 1913 edition, at New Advent Supersite.

"The faith of the Church concerning purgatory is clearly expressed in the Decree of Union drawn up by the Council of Florence (Mansi, t. XXXI, col. 1031), and in the decree of the Council of Trent which (Sess. XXV) defined: "Whereas the Catholic Church, instructed by the Holy Ghost, has from the Sacred Scriptures and the ancient tradition of the Fathers taught in Councils and very recently in this Ecumenical synod (Sess. VI, cap. XXX; Sess. XXII cap.ii, iii) that there is a purgatory, and that the souls therein are helped by the suffrages of the faithful, but principally by the acceptable Sacrifice of the Altar; the Holy Synod enjoins on the Bishops that they diligently endeavor to have the sound doctrine of the Fathers in Councils regarding purgatory everywhere taught and preached, held and believed by the faithful" (Denzinger, "Enchiridon", 983). Further than this the definitions of the Church do not go..." The council of Trent ended in 1563.

The Baltimore Catechism

"There must be a Purgatory, for one who dies with the slightest stain of sin upon his soul cannot enter Heaven, and yet God would not send him to Hell for so small a sin. But why does God punish those He loves? Why does He not forgive everything? He punishes because He is infinitely just and true. He warned them that if they did certain things they would be punished; and they did them, and God must keep His promise. Moreover He is just, and must give to everyone exactly what he deserves." From question 414, on line version of Baltimore Catechism 4. Imprimatur dated September 5, 1891.

"III. THE FINAL PURIFICATION, OR PURGATORY
1030 All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their
eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter
the joy of heaven.
 

1031 The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different

from the punishment of the damned.[604] The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory
especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts
of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire:[605] As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the
Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the
Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand
that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come.[606]
 
1032 This teaching is also based on the practice of prayer for the dead, already mentioned in Sacred
Scripture: "Therefore Judas Maccabeus] made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from
their sin."[607] From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers
in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific
vision of God.[608] The Church also commends almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance
undertaken on behalf of the dead: Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their
father's sacrifice, why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let
us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them.[609]" The Catechism of the Catholic Church, on line version. Promulgated by Pope John-Paul II, Oct. 11, 1992.


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