The Sacrament of Confession

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Why do Catholics confess their sins to a priest? The priest is just another sinner, is he not? Why not just confess our sins directly to God?

This is the usual set of questions that Protestants ask when regarding the Catholic sacrament of Confession. They are reasonable questions, questions that I hope to answer in this article.

The sacrament of Confession is an ancient sacrament of the Catholic Church, dating back to its institution by Christ. In the early Church, public sins, like apostasy, were confessed publicly, in front of the congregation of Christians. Privately committed sins were confessed privately to a priest.

The writings of the first Christians shed some light on Confession:

The Didache

“Confess your sins in church, and do not go up to your prayer with an evil conscience. This is the way of life. . . . On the Lord’s Day gather together, break bread, and give thanks, after confessing your transgressions so that your sacrifice may be pure…” (Didache 4:14, 14:1 [A.D. 70]).

Ignatius of Antioch

“For as many as are of God and of Jesus Christ are also with the bishop. And as many as shall, in the exercise of penance, return into the unity of the Church, these, too, shall belong to God, that they may live according to Jesus Christ…” (Letter to the Philadelphians 3 [A.D. 110]).

Hippolytus

“[The bishop conducting the ordination of the new bishop shall pray:] God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . Pour forth now that power that comes from you, from your royal Spirit, which you gave to your beloved Son, Jesus Christ, and which he bestowed upon his holy apostles . . . and grant this your servant, whom you have chosen for the episcopate, [the power] to feed your holy flock and to serve without blame as your high priest, ministering night and day to propitiate unceasingly before your face and to offer to you the gifts of your holy Church, and by the Spirit of the high priesthood to have the authority to forgive sins, in accord with your command…” (Apostolic Tradition 3 [A.D. 215]).

Cyprian of Carthage

“Of how much greater faith and salutary fear are they who . . . confess their sins to the priests of God in a straightforward manner and in sorrow, making an open declaration of conscience. . . . I beseech you, brethren, let everyone who has sinned confess his sin while he is still in this world, while his confession is still admissible, while the satisfaction and remission made through the priests are still pleasing before the Lord” (The Lapsed , 28 (A.D. 251]).

John Chrysostom

“Priests have received a power that God has given to neither angels nor archangels. It was said to them: “Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose shall be loosed.” Temporal rulers have indeed the power of binding, but they can bind only the body. Priests, in contrast, can bind with a bond that pertains to the soul itself and transcends the very heavens. Did [God] not give them all the powers of heaven? “Whose sins you shall forgive,” he says, “they are forgiven them; whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” What greater power is there than this? The Father has given all judgment to the Son. And now I see the Son placing all this power in the hands of men [Matt. 10:40; John 20:21–23]. They are raised to this dignity as if they were already gathered up to heaven” (The Priesthood 3:5 [A.D. 387]).

Jerome

“If the serpent, the devil, bites someone secretly, he infects that person with the venom of sin. And if the one who has been bitten keeps silence and does not do penance, and does not want to confess his wound . . . then his brother and his master, who have the word [of absolution] that will cure him, cannot very well assist him” (Commentary on Ecclesiastes 10:11 [A.D. 388]).

The Early Christians believed that God gave His priests the power to forgive sins. They believed that a person must confess their sins to the priest in order to be forgiven. This is the same doctrine that the Roman Catholic Church teaches today.

What exactly does the Catholic Church teach on Confession?

First, the Church teaches that God alone can forgive sin. However, God chooses the way He wishes to forgive sin; using a priest. Even in the Old Testament God used His priests to forgive sin.

“If a man lies carnally with a woman… they shall not be put to death… But he shall bring a guilt offering for himself to the Lord… And the priest shall make atonement for him with the ram of the guilt offering before the Lord for his sin which he has committed; and the sin which he has committed shall be forgiven him.” (Leviticus 19:20-22)

God used a priest to administer forgiveness, and this did not take away from God’s power to forgive. He merely forgave the sinner through His priest. Just as God used His priests to forgive sin in the Old Testament, He does the same in the New Testament.

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” (John 20:21-23)

Having been raised from the dead, our Lord was here commissioning his apostles to carry on with his work just before he was to ascend to heaven. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” What did the Father send Jesus to do? All Christians agree he sent Christ to be the one true mediator between God and men. As such, Christ was to infallibly proclaim the Gospel (cf. Luke 4:16-21), reign supreme as King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Rev. 19:16); and especially, he was to redeem the world through the forgiveness of sins (cf. I Peter 2:21-25, Mark 2:5-10). (1)

One instance of God using a man to forgive sin is in 2 Corinthians 2:10. Paul speaks:

“And to whom you have pardoned anything, I also. For, what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned anything, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ.”

St. Paul made use of his power to forgive sins in Christ’s name, despite being a sinner himself. Just because a man is a sinner does not negate the fact that he has God given power. St. Peter was a sinful man, and yet he was able to preach and baptize people in Christ’s name. How is the power to forgive sin any different?

It should also be noted that the Apostles were given spiritual authority by Christ in Matthew 18:18:

“Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

This authority was passed down by the Apostles to their successors, from bishop to bishop, from bishop to priest. It is the Catholic Church who can trace her lineage all the way back to the Apostles, as the power to forgive sins are passed down to the Church’s priests. This is why Catholics confess their sins to their priest; their priest received the same power over sins as the Apostles.

As the Apostles were men who were given power to forgive sin, how would they have known what sins to forgive? The only way for them to know would be that the penitent tell them their sins. That is why Catholic confess their sins to a priest. Priests are (often) not mind readers. How else would they know what to “bind and loose”?

Many Christians claim to be “Bible-believing”. If they do not confess their sins as God wanted them to, are they truly Bible-believing?

— Patrick E. Devens


(1) https://www.catholic.com/magazine/online-edition/is-confession-in-scripture

Two Babylons?

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Our friend Bosco is fond of writing about Catholicism as the ‘religion of Nimrod’ and calling Catholics worshippers of Semiramis. He seems not to know that such stuff, which nowadays tends to be spread by Jack Chick and his devotees, derives from an early nineteenth century Scottish clergyman, Alexander Hislop, who wrote an anti-Catholic book called ‘The Two Babylons’. Whilst seldom recommending Wikipedia as a source to my students, I did ask Bosco to look it up, as it contains helpful comments and links which, essentially, show that the book is based on out-dated ‘scholarship’ that was not strong when it was written, and which has been comprehensively debunked since. To take one example, key to Bosco’s views:

Lester L. Grabbe  [an expert of Judaisim and ancient history] has highlighted the fact that Hislop’s entire argument, particularly his association of Ninus with Nimrod, is based on a misunderstanding of historical Babylon and its religion.[1] Grabbe also criticizes Hislop for portraying the mythological queen Semiramis as Nimrod’s consort, despite the fact that she is never even mentioned in a single text associated with him,[1] and for portraying her as the “mother of harlots”, even though this is not how she is depicted in any of the texts where she is mentioned.[1]

In 2011 a critical edition was published.[13] Although Hislop’s work is extensively footnoted, some commentators (in particular Ralph Woodrow) have stated that the document contains numerous misconceptions, fabrications, logical fallacies, unsubstantiated conspiracy theories, and grave factual errors.[14]

Woodrow is an interesting case, as his Christianity occupies the same end of the spectrum as Bosco’s, and he published a book based on Hislop. He, however, had the grace and the guts to (at some cost to himself as the book sold well) to withdraw the book when he realised how baseless its claims were. I wonder if Bosco has the same intelligence, humility and honesty? After 5 years of experiencing him, I am, sadly, betting that he will simply ignore all of this and then repeat the same of script. He has no argument left, just an immovable prejudice against the Catholic Church, which only a miracle can shift; but miracles happen.

As Wiki puts it in relation to the nonsense about Nimrod and Semiramis:

Much of Hislop’s work centers on his association of the legendary Ninus and his semi-historical wife Semiramis with the Biblical Nimrod. Hellenistic histories of the Ancient Near East tended to conflate their faint recollections of the deeds of ancient kings into legendary figures who exerted far more power than any ancient king ever did. In Assyria, they invented an eponymous founder of Nineveh named Ninus, who supposedly ruled 52 years over an empire comparable to the Persian Empire at its greatest extent. Ninus’s wife Semiramis was in turn a corruption of the historical figure Shammuramat, regent of the Neo-Assyrian Empire from 811 BC.[7] Hislop takes Ninus as a historical figure, and associates him with the Biblical figure Nimrod, though he was not the first to do so. The Clementine literature made the association in the 4th Century AD. An influential belief throughout the Middle Ages was that Ninus was the inventor of Idolatry,[8] a concept that Hislop clearly drew upon. However, Hislop wrote before the historical records of the ancient near east had been thoroughly decoded and studied, and it became apparent in the decades after he wrote that there never was any such figure as Ninus, and that the Greek authors whom he quotes were without credibility on the subject.[9]

And yet it is on such stuff Bosco relies. Why, you might ask, waste time on such poor stuff? The answer is simple. If you look on Amazon, which is still selling the book, you will see hordes of people praising it to the skies. some even saying that if it were not true, why has the Catholic Church not responded to it? That is a bit like saying why has it not responded to David Icke’s claims that the world is ruled by reptiles? Incidentally, and coincidentally, Wiki adds this:

Author and conspiracy theorist David Icke incorporates Hislop’s claims about Semiramis into his book The Biggest Secret, claiming that Semiramis played a key role in the establishment of a global conspiracy run by Reptilian aliens, whom he asserts is secretly controlling humanity.[18]

There is something heartbreaking about the thought of human beings so adrift from the real message of Christ’s Gospel, and the truth about His Church, that they find refuge and a truth they can believe in such sources. St Paul’s verdict applies:

22 Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools,

The good news, for Bosco and for all who are misled by such toxins, is that the Church is there, opening its arms, which are the arms of God, and has the power of Christ to forgive all our sins and to help guide us on the road to Heaven.

Anti-Catholicism: the last acceptable prejudice?

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Bosco has been joined here by a fellow infallibilist – that is one who believes that his own, personal interpretation of Scripture is infallible. They both tell us that bowing is an act of worship, and when told that it is an act of veneration, insist it is an act of worship. This is not, one suspects, the best way to argue their point; insisting one is right without an argument other than ‘bowing is worship’ rather cuts off the possibility of dialogue.

But let us turn to Scripture for guidance. Let me take a few examples.

Luke 24:4-5New King James Version (NKJV)

And it happened, as they were greatly[a] perplexed about this, that behold, two men stood by them in shining garments. Then, as they were afraid and bowed their faces to the earth, they said to them, “Why do you seek the living among the dead?

We see here an act of veneration, not worship. If Bosco and his friend are correct, we should expect to find the Apostles being rebuked for worshipping the angels; that bit is not in my Bible; perhaps it is only in the iconoclast’s Bible? Is this an isolated example? Perhaps it is OK because they are angels? Let us see what happens in Acts 21:29-31 when Silas and Paul are released from jail by the earthquake:

29 Then he called for a light, ran in, and fell down trembling before Paul and Silas. 30 And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?”

Do Paul and Silas say that Bosco and his friend say – bowing is worship, you must not bow to us? No, they don’t.In the world outside that of the iconoclast with an anti-Catholic prejudice, bowing is form of veneration often practiced. On the two occasions I have been fortunate enough to be introduced to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, I have bowed to her; I was not worshipping her, and she certainly did not suppose I was. Indeed, I was following the example of those who bowed to King David in 1 Chronicles 29:20.

There is a very clear distinction between worship and veneration. When, in Acts 10:25-26 , Cornelius falls before Peter, Peter tells him to get up because he, Peter, is just a man – and the word used, proskuneo is not the same used when bowing means veneration. But then being a monoglot born-again American means you don’t read the Greek and don’t know these things, and being infallible in your interpretation of Scripture, who needs to know such things?

What do we see in the OT with the Ark of the Covenant? Let me quote:

Joshua 7:6-7 Then Joshua rent his clothes, and fell to the earth upon his face before the ark of the LORD until the evening, he and the elders of Israel; and they put dust upon their heads. [7] And Joshua said,“Alas, O Lord GOD, why hast thou brought this people over the Jordan at all, to give us into the hands of the Amorites, to destroy us? Would that we had been content to dwell beyond the Jordan!”

So there we have it, in sharp contrast to the injunction of Bosco and his friend, we have the Irsaelities bowing to an ark, the work of human hands, inanimate, containing on it images of two cherubs with outstretched wings. The Temple itself, the holiest place of worship, contained images according to the accounts in Exodus and Chronicles. This all sounds much more like the inside of a Catholic Church than an Evangelical chapel.

So, from Scripture itself, by sola scriptura if you will, the myth peddled by Bosco and his friend is rebutted.

What, then, is going on here? In part it is the result of centuries of State-sponsored anti-Catholic propaganda; tell people a lie often enough, especially at the risk of going to jail or being burned, and it is wonderful what people can be persuaded to believe. On top of that, there has been a long tradition in Christianity of iconoclasm, of which this Evangelical obsession is a sub-set. It led to acts of destruction matching that of ISIS in Syria and Iraq. All of this has been explained to Bosco many times, but it does not matter. Bosco, like his friend, say they have been born again and the spirit in them tells them all they need to know. Having been accused of lying by Bosco’s friend, I do not accuse them of the same, I simply ask prayerfully, that they might consider the origin of a spirit which wilfully guides them to tell untruths about Catholics.

In an era when we are sensitive to most forms of prejudice, it seems that this anti-Catholic bigotry is an ignoble exception. Satan attacks what he fears most, and he never lacks for humans foolish enough to fall for his wiles. You might, at the end of this, ask why I bother to allow such people to post here? This post is the answer. It is the duty of every believing Catholic to explain to these misguided people that they are misguided. Will they be convinced? Bosco has been here for five years repeating his sad litany and convincing no-one, so it is unlikely. But with the Lord, all things are possible, and if he and his chum are not convinced, I know there are others here, genuine seekers, who will be helped by this. God be with them, and with Bosco and his friend.

Reflections on Sociology (3)

A major perspective in sociology is postmodernism, not to be confused with late modernity. In late modernity, individualism is rife, but there are still shared norms, values, and reference points. In a postmodern society, the degree of diversity and pluralism is such that the plausibility structure of various worldviews has been so undermined that few believe in absolute truth. Relativism and scepticism rule the day.

This may remind some readers of Kuhn’s paradigm shifts and his argument that Truth with a capital T should not be considered a component of knowledge. According to Kuhn, we are always within a particular paradigm (except for the brief moment when we transition from one to another?). We have no theory-neutral way of judging different paradigms, so we cannot obtain objectivity. This being so, each paradigm could be true in its own terms, so we have no real grounds for privileging one over another.

Christ said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except through Me” (Jn. 14:6). Our ability to reliably pursue and grasp truth has been damaged by the rebellion of mankind and the divine beings, but our failure does not constitute proof that there is no such thing as truth or that the human apprehension of truth is insufficient for various purposes.

If Kuhn were right, scientific and technological progress would be impossible. The fact that we can build machines that produce predictable results in accordance with our theories indicates that the theories that produced such results were more accurate as interpretations of the world than the other options under consideration at the time. This does not entail that such theories are perfect, but since accuracy is a component of truth, it indicates that there is at least some truth content to such theories and methods.

People have the freedom to go their own way, but this does not guarantee them freedom from the consequences of their choices. The idea of the Last Judgement places the day of reckoning at the end of history, but, in truth, God acts throughout history (consider occasions in the Bible where the phrase “Day of the LORD” refers to an identifiable historical event, e.g. the capture of Jerusalem by Nebuchadnezzar).

Faith and public life

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For a long time in our Western civilization, Christianity was the dominant intellectual and social force; it was the lens through which mankind looked at itself and the world. It was not tolerant of other points of view, or even Christian points of view which varied on points of doctrine from the orthodox position. Notwithstanding that, and perhaps in part because of its own internal divisions, Christianity has failed to retain its position as the main lens through which mankind looks at itself and the world. In the public square, at least in Europe, it has almost ceased to count; indeed, those who make arguments on public policy based on its presuppositions are regarded much as atheists used to be regarded by the Church – wrong-headed, foolish and perhaps not terribly bright. If I have had the words “oh, you’re a Christian, but how can you, I thought you were intelligent” or a variant on them said to me once, I have had them a dozen times. We’re allowed to retreat to the private sphere, and to deal in mysticism and poetry, but when it comes to public policy, if we do not speak in the language of the secularists, then we are ignored. There is, literally, no point (other than our own witness to what we consider truth) in saying to society ‘this is wrong because it goes against God’s law’. As a fulcrum to move society where we want it to go, such a line is actually counter-productive because it simply confirms the secularist view that we are irrelevant. It’s hard enough to get people to obey the law of the land in some instances, so the idea that they should do something because a God in whom most of them don’t believe forbids it, not only gets no purchase in the public sphere, it invites ridicule and confines Christians who use them to the political margins.

But those who have argued that secularisation is some kind of universal societal evolution have, it turns out, overstated their case. The rest of the world has not followed Western Europe, and even if Christianity is not the force it once was in America, it has huge influence – for example it keeps the question of abortion from occupying the political position it does in Europe (which is just about non-existent outside Ireland). It is clear, as I have argued here and elsewhere, that an absence of religious literacy has led our leaders into errors in their Middle Eastern policy which have had enormous adverse consequences in the region and Afghanistan, some of which will now impact on Europe through the millions of refugees fleeing the disaster zones. We now have within even the borders of the UK, huge numbers of people for whom faith is at the core of the way they look at and interact with the world. There is no sign these communities will succumb to the secularisation theory. Even the UK Government, which does not ‘do God’ has had to pour money into interventions in our universities to encourage programmes which will help itself, and local authorities, to understand faith rather than reduce it to something they can understand in secular terms.

How does this impact on Christians? At the very least it offers our faith leaders the chance to speak to the public square without being ridiculed. Those who used to say faith was dying, that it would have no part in the politics of the future, have turned out to be the ones who are wrong. A public discourse cast solely in secularist terms is quite as inadequate as one based on ‘it is God’s will’. Faith groups and politicians need to learn how to talk to each other – the hour is growing late, and if we will not learn from the history of the early twenty-first century thus far, then things will get much worse.

Images (3)

From its earliest days, the Christian Church has decorated its meeting rooms with images (e.g. the life of Moses; Jonah and the whale; Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego in the fiery furnace). Examples of these include the Catacombs of Rome (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catacombs_of_Rome) and the church at Dura Europos (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dura-Europos#The_house_church). In many cases images appear to have been chosen for their ambiguity, in order to avoid arrest by the pagan powers. Synagogues were also decorated during the Roman period, featuring symbols, such as the Menorah, and images of the sun in his chariot at the centre of the zodiac (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beit_Alfa#Archaeology).

However, images continued to remain controversial right into the Byzantine era, when the iconoclast debate raged. These debates are evidence of different readings of Scripture that reflect very real concerns not only about heresy, but also about paganism. Paganism died a slow death, clinging on in the countryside, when the term is derived, a paganus being a rustic fellow in late antiquity. Despite Theodosius’ effort to crush non-Christian religion, it lingered on in the Anatolian hinterland and elsewhere. Thus Christians who would not tolerate even a hint of compromise eschewed anything that reminded them of idolatry, be it a statue, a painting, or a mosaic.

Looking at this heated of the debate, where each side contended for the importance of its agenda, it can be easy to forget that images are not an essential of the Christian faith. Whether one finds a church “pure” or “sterile” when images or absent, whether one finds it “elegant” or “gaudy” when images are present, the point is the same: the faith always was, first and foremost, about reconciliation to God through the Cross of Christ Jesus (Rom. 10:1-12; Col. 1:19-23). We can do without images; we cannot do without Christ. Elaborate settings for the liturgy are not always possible, whether through poverty or persecution, but Christ has promised to be present wherever believers truly meet in His name. Where He is, there is the glory.

That lesson should remain as the foundation of the debate; nevertheless, there is an important point to be learned about the representation of Christ in art. The crucifix is a reminder of what salvation cost our Lord.

He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed.

-Is. 53:3-5

He endured physical suffering, emotional suffering, and spiritual suffering. No one can fully describe it; no one can truly know what it was like. He came as a man and died as a man, so that He might be our great High Priest, to make atonement for our sins, deliver us from the evil one, and reconcile us to God. The crucifix is a reminder of the humanity of Christ, which He has permanently assumed.

Sometimes the Orthodox and Protestants make the point that Catholics leave Christ on the Cross: their preponderance of crucifixes absorb the attention, so that we forget the empty tomb on Easter morning. Maybe that is so, but one can hardly generalize about so big a phenomenon. The other extreme is worse: to forget about the suffering of the Son of God.

The Church is made up of many kinds of people: rich and poor, clever and simple, male and female, “cultured” and “barbarian”. In God’s house there is room enough for all of us who bow the knee to Christ. We will have clashes of conscience – in this age they are inevitable. We must bear with one another.

Christian witness

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Procession

For those who find the news a gloomy place, especially the religious news, there is something to cheer with the number of Corpus Christi processions in it. When I was a child, these were an annual event, and I can remember watching them, with some puzzlement, as I had no idea what they were about, but also with a sense that here was a group of happy children and their parents and priests saying something important in public; colourful and buzzing with excitement, it added a splash of colour to a fairly drab inner-city environment still pock-marked by bomb-sites and rubble. My father, who liked neither the Irish (most of the Catholics there were of Irish stock) nor Christianity, thought the whole thing lamentable – not that he used that word. His attitude was not atypical among English people. My mother, who was a Methodist, thought the whole thing smacked of ‘idolatry’. Oddly, given the origins of Methodism, she thought religion was something best kept indoors, and for your ‘Sunday best’. I came away with the impression that ‘that sort of thing’ was the ‘sort of thing’ the ‘Irish’ did; as they were regarded with some prejudice by their English neighbours, that was no recommendation.

Then such processions, as with other forms of public witness, largely vanished. I recall asking a priest at University why, and he said it was ‘all to do with ecumenism’, explaining (to the last person who needed it) that ‘Protestants’ regarded such things as idolatry, and ‘Mary worship’, and so it was thought best to desist from such things. It was certainly true that that was how Protestant England regarded such things. As I discovered in my studies, there was a long history of that sort of thing. It is often hard to trace the beginning of any historical trend, but in this instance it was very easy – Henry VIII’s break with Rome (link to Diarmaid MacCulloch’s radio programme on this subject). From that time on, the English State, with the brief exception of Mary I’s reign, encouraged the destruction of statues and imagery. Three hundred and fifty years of that sort of thing, combined with a sense of English superiority over the Catholic Irish, more than explained what I experienced as a child.

But before that, in any English village or town, one would have seen many signs of popular devotion, including Corpus Christ processions and public veneration of images of the Blessed Virgin. It was a sign of the mark left on English culture that even nineteenth century English Catholics should have found the expressions of popular piety they saw in places like Italy too much to take; their Catholicism was under-stated and private – for reasons to obvious to need stating. But there, as in Ireland, popular piety had never been suppressed by the State, and there, one could still see what one would once have seen in England.

As I grew up on Merseyside, where, especially in the inner city parts where I lived, the Irish influence was strong, we were getting a taste of that Irish culture. It was one where tangible evidence was important, and where the Church was a community. Christ was present in the bread and wine, so it mattered how those elements were treated; the Saints were our friends in heaven, and so pictures of them were like family pictures – it was nice to see those who were praying to God for you. It was perhaps a sign of the insufferable smug sense of intellectual superiority of the iconoclast philistines, that they should have imagined that other people were more stupid than themselves, and that those others did not realise the pictures were not ‘real representations’. The Catholic world-view was one where the Divine was not in some other world, or purely in spiritual form, but where one encountered it in the daily round.

It was, I think, a shame that advocates of the ‘Spirit of Vatican II’ should have discouraged manifestations of popular piety – and it is a sign of the success of the new Evangelisation that it has survived such attempts. It is very sad that some Christians feel they have to make judgments about the way others worship, but a love of Jesus and his Mother and of the Saints will find a way to express itself – even among the buttoned-up English with their centuries of State brain-washing.

Its Great to be Catholic: Response to excatholic4christ

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Original article: https://whysoseriousdotcom.wordpress.com/2017/06/20/its-great-to-be-catholic-response-to-excatholic4christ/

Capture


 

Tom, aka excatholic4christ, wrote an article a few months ago titled: 10 Really “Uncool” Things About Being Catholic (link at bottom of page). Tom, in his spirit of anti-Catholic bias and ignorance of true Christianity, labeled several of these 10 things unbiblical and all of them “uncool”. I want to take a look at each accusation.

1. Confession.

Tom  says: “Going into a dark box and confessing sins to a priest is unscriptural. No man can forgive sins. The Catholic confessional box was often used by predatory priests to initially lure their victims. Priests were required to probe older children and young adults with embarrassing questions about sexuality to ensure they gave a full, ‘good’ confession.”

First, all priests were required to ask embarrassing questions? Required? I think not. Prove it. Yes, there have been repulsive, perverted men that have entered the priesthood of Jesus Christ who have been sexually immoral. But this is a small percentage that cannot be perceived as the whole.

The sacrament of Confession is an ancient practice dating back to the Apostles. The Early Church testifies for the practice of Confession. See here:

https://www.catholic.com/tract/confession

Furthermore, just as God used His priests to forgive sin in the Old Testament, He does the same in the New Testament.

“Jesus said to them again, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.’ And when he had said this, he breathed on them, and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.’” (John 20:21-23)

Having been raised from the dead, our Lord was here commissioning his apostles to carry on with his work just before he was to ascend to heaven. “As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.” What did the Father send Jesus to do? All Christians agree he sent Christ to be the one true mediator between God and men. As such, Christ was to MISERERE-CONFESSIONinfallibly proclaim the Gospel (cf. Luke 4:16-21), reign supreme as King of kings and Lord of lords (cf. Rev. 19:16); and especially, he was to redeem the world through the forgiveness of sins (cf. I Peter 2:21-25, Mark 2:5-10).

One instance of God using a man to forgive sin is in 2 Corinthians 2:10. Paul speaks:

“And to whom you have pardoned anything, I also.  For, what I have pardoned, if I have pardoned anything, for your sakes have I done it in the person of Christ.”

St. Paul made use of his power to forgive sins in Christ’s name, despite being a sinner himself. Just because a man is a sinner does not negate the fact that he has God given power. St. Peter was a sinful man, and yet he was able to preach and baptize people in Christ’s name. How is the power to forgive sin any different?

It should also be noted that the Apostles were given spiritual authority by Christ in Matthew 18:18:

“Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”

This authority was passed down by the Apostles to their successors, from bishop to bishop, from bishop to priest. It is the Catholic Church who can trace her lineage all the way back to the Apostles, as the power to forgive sins are passed down to the Church’s priests. This is why Catholics confess their sins to their priest; their priest received the same power over sins as the Apostles.

As the Apostles were men who were given power to forgive sin, how would they have known what sins to forgive? The only way for them to know would be that the penitent tell them their sins. That is why Catholic confess their sins to a priest. Priests are (often) not mind readers. How else would they know what to “bind and loose”?

It seems very clear that Confession is very biblical.

2. The Rosary 

Tom says: “God’s Word forbids prayer to any entity other than to Him. It also forbids multiple rote prayers.”

The verb “to pray” means “to ask”. It originally held this meaning in old English, and was used in phrases such as “I pray thee, do tell…”. It is originally just another word phrase for “ask”. The usage began to change meaning during the Protestant Revolt. The head of the Church of England did not warm up to the practice of prayer to the saints, and the term became solely associated with prayer to God. As the English monarchy took over many churches and universities of England, this Protestant word usage became the norm among non-Catholics. Catholics however, did not take to the new meaning, and from then till now “prayer to the saints” has strictly meant asking for saintly intercession.

This explanation shows that not all prayer is worship, as it depends on the manner of such, and the definitional term used.

Secondly, the bible exhorts Christians to constantly pray for one another, and it does not restrict the Christians of Heaven to do so.

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, through our Lord Jesus Christ, and by the charity of the Holy Ghost, that you help me in your prayers for me to God” (Romans 15:30)

By all prayer and supplication praying at all times in the spirit; and in the same watching with all instance and supplication for all the saints: And for me, that speech may be given me, that I may open my mouth with confidence, to make known the mystery of the gospel.” (Ephesians 6:18-19)

You helping withal in prayer for us: that for this gift obtained for us, by the means of many persons, thanks may be given by many in our behalf.” (2 Corinthians 1:11)

And perhaps the most explicit passage on intercession for one another:

“I desire therefore, first of all, that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in high station: that we may lead a quiet and a peaceable life in all piety and chastity. For this is good and acceptable in therr sight of God our Saviour, Who will have all men to be saved, and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” (1 Timothy 2:1-4)

Asking the saints in Heaven to pray and intercede for us to God is the same exact concept as asking other Christians on earth to pray for us.

As for repetitive prayer, the Bible nowhere condemns such. In Matthew 6:7, Jesus said “do not heap up ‘empty phrases’ (Gr. – battalagesete,  which means to stammer, babble, prate, or to repeat the same things over and over mindlessly) as the Gentiles do…” We have to remember that the main idea of prayer and sacrifice among the pagans was to appease the gods so that you could go on with your own life. You had to be careful to “take care of” all of the gods by mentioning them, and saying all the right words, lest you bring a curse upon yourself.

Later in Matthew 6, Jesus gave us a prayer to recite! The Our Father! Notice the emphasis on living the words of the prayer! This is a prayer to be recited, but they are neither “empty phrases” nor “vain repetitions.”

Mark 14:32-39:

“And they went to a place which was called Gethsemane; and he said to his disciples, ‘Sit here, while I pray.’ And the took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. And he said to them, ‘My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch.’ And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. And he said, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible to you; remove this chalice from me; yet not what I will, but what you will.’ And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, ‘Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptiation; the spirit indeed is weilling, but the flesh is weak.’ And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. And again, he came and found them sleeping… And he came a third time, and said to them, ‘Are you still sleeping…?’”

Our Lord was here praying for hours and saying “the same words.” Is this “vain repetition?” No. Tom, you do not recognize the difference between repetition and vain repetition.

3. Popes

Tom claims that there are no popes in the Bible. I’m sorry that you are to ignorant to realize that St. Peter was the first pope. Christ appointed him the head of the Church on earth when He gave Him the keys to the kingdom, and reaffirmed this by telling Peter to feed Christ’s sheep. If you cannot see that Christ left His Church in Peter’s hands, then you need to study the concept further.

4. Saints

Tom says: “The New Testament refers to saints as all those who have accepted Christ as Savior, not a super-holy class of people as Rome invented.”

Catholics believe that all who are in the state of sanctifying grace are saints. Catholic merely refer to the saints in Heaven as “saints”, and call the Church Militant on earth “Christians”.

Also, to enter Heaven, one must be holy.  St. Paul even says that without holiness, “no man shall see God.” (Hebrews 12:14) Not sure why you say “super-holy” class of people Rome invented. Rome didn’t “invent” holiness as needed for salvation, and Rome did not invent any people. The saints are as real as you and I.

5. Relics

Tom says: “Nowhere in the New Testament are believers instructed to venerate physical objects.”

No Tom, the Scriptures do not explicitly say: Venerate relics. But then again, the Bible is not the sole rule of faith.

“One of the most moving accounts of the veneration of relics is that of the very body of Christ itself. Rather than leaving his body on the cross, to be taken down and disposed of by the Romans (as was the customary practice), Joseph of Arimathea courageously interceded with Pilate for Christ’s body (Mark 15:43, John 19:38). He donated his own, newly hewn tomb as Christ’s resting place (Matt. 27:60). Nicodemus came and donated over a hundred pounds of spices to wrap inside Jesus’ grave clothes (John 19:39), that amount of spices being used only for the most honored dead. And after he was buried, the women went to reverently visit the tomb (Matt. 28:1) and to further anoint Christ’s body with spices even though it had already been sealed inside the tomb (Mark 16:1, Luke 24:1). These acts of reverence were more than just the usual courtesy shown to the remains of the dead; they were special respect shown to the body of a most holy man—in this case, the holiest man who has ever lived, for he was God Incarnate.

“Keep in mind what the Church says about relics. It doesn’t say there is some magical power in them. There is nothing in the relic itself, whether a bone of the apostle Peter or water from Lourdes, that has any curative ability. The Church just says that relics may be the occasion of God’s miracles, and in this the Church follows Scripture.

“The use of the bones of Elisha brought a dead man to life: “So Elisha died, and they buried him. Now bands of Moabites used to invade the land in the spring of the year. And as a man was being buried, lo, a marauding band was seen and the man was cast into the grave of Elisha; and as soon as the man touched the bones of Elisha, he revived, and stood on his feet” (2 Kgs. 13:20-21). This is an unequivocal biblical example of a miracle being performed by God through contact with the relics of a saint!

“Similar are the cases of the woman cured of a hemorrhage by touching the hem of Christ’s cloak (Matt. 9:20-22) and the sick who were healed when Peter’s shadow passed over them (Acts 5:14-16). “And God did extraordinary miracles by the hands of Paul, so that handkerchiefs or aprons were carried away from his body to the sick, and diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them” (Acts 19:11-12).

“If these aren’t examples of the use of relics, what are? In the case of Elisha, a Lazarus-like return from the dead was brought about through the prophet’s bones. In the New Testament cases, physical things (the cloak, the shadow, handkerchiefs and aprons) were used to effect cures. There is a perfect congruity between present-day Catholic practice and ancient practice. If you reject all Catholic relics today as frauds, you should also reject these biblical accounts as frauds.” (1)

6. Processions

Tom writes: “As priests parade a large bread wafer alleged to be the actual body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus in a sunburst container called a monstrance, the Catholic faithful bow down and worship it. This is unmitigated idolatry.”

Hmmm…last I checked, Christ told us that we are to eat His flesh to have eternal life. He gave us His flesh to eat under the appearance of bread.

“I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, for the life of the world.” (John 6:51-52)

“And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to monstrancehis disciples, and said: Take ye, and eat. This is my body. And taking the chalice, he gave thanks, and gave to them, saying: Drink ye all of this. For this is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many unto remission of sins.” (Matthew 26:26-28)

The chalice of benediction, which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? And the bread, which we break, is it not the partaking of the body of the Lord? For we, being many, are one bread, one body, all that partake of one bread.” (1 Corinthians 10:16)

7. Blessings

Tom says: “Priests and bishops are alleged to have been ordained with the ability to endow people and objects with powerful blessings.”

…is this strange to you at all? Just like the prophets of the Old Testament giving their blessing to others? This charge against blessings seems to be the dumbest yet.

8. Music

Tom says: “Gaudy liturgical ritual with its accompanying music defined “religion” for most older generation Catholics.”

This one seems to be more of an opinion than an actual accusation. Not sure what get’s Tom’s goat about music.

9. Guilt

Tom says: “Yup, God’s Word says we are all sinners, but Catholics can never find spiritual peace in Christ because they’re on a religious treadmill and no matter how much they do or how good they try to be, it will never be enough.”

We are all sinners, and we do not know at the present if we will die in the state of grace. What if I am in the state of grace at one time, and then commit murder? Should I have nothing to worry about? Your argument is nonsense.

10. A Sense of Humor 

Tom says: “I went through twelve years of Catholic education and I can attest to the fact that MANY priests, nuns, and brothers did NOT have a sense of humor. Often those troubled souls were cold and hurtful.”

Some people are kind and cheerful, others are not. It is not like all Catholics are hapless zombies. I have been Catholic all 15 years of my life, and the majority of  Catholics I have met are fun, happy people. Most of my friends are Catholic. They take their Christianity seriously. You just view everything through an anti-Catholic lens. How about taking those anti-Catholic shades off now and take a long look at Truth?

— Patrick E. Devens

 


(1) https://www.catholic.com/tract/relics

via 10 Really “Uncool” Things About Being Catholic — excatholic4christ

The importance of the Creed

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In the last few posts, I have been taking some passages from the Nicene Creed as the text of which to say something about the content of our faith. Here I want to finish by saying something about why there is the need for a Creed.

Amidst the heroics we witness in the Acts of the Apostles, we are shown that weeds grew alongside the good seed: in Paul’s letters, in those of John, Peter and Jude, we see constant warnings about ‘false teachers’ and false interpretations of the Good News. The teachings warned against are with us still. There were, and are, those who take the view Jesus was a man; the Church reads the Scriptures it gives us through the Spirit and tells us he was God and Man, of one substance with the Father. There were, and are, those who hold that once someone is ‘saved’ they can do what they want and not lose their salvation; St Paul himself told the Corinthians otherwise, but man is what he is and some continue to believe contrary to his teaching, which is that of the Church. There were, and are, those who reject the teaching that the bread and wine mystically become the real body and blood of Jesus, though that was what he taught, and many who followed him walked away when they could not accept this hard saying. There were, and are, those who believe that Jesus did not literally rise from the dead or literally ascend into heaven, though again, the Church which verifies what is and is not Scripture has taught as the Apostles did – which is that these things happened as recorded. There were, and are, those who, unable to accept a curb upon their own sins, emphasise forgiveness and forget repentance, and who emphasise love and forget judgment; yet Our Lord said much on both sides of the matter, and it is clear that repentance and amendment of life, hard as they are, are required from us.

If we are to go and make disciples, then we cannot do that if we do not know what it is to which we are bringing them. The Church has defined Creeds which come from its wrestling with many of the issues just raised. In our ignorance and pride, many moderns do not even know that the heresy they espouse is not only not new, it has been refuted a thousand times. Our friend Bosco constantly asks for a Biblical verse to verify everything, ignoring that this is not how the early Christians acted; you will search in vain for a verse which shows the Apostles using this technique. The Holy Spirit inspires all Scripture, but He did not dictate it, and He guided the Church to the knowledge of the true Apostolic deposit, He did not write it down in any book. It takes man’s fallen nature to believe that having so inspired the Church, the Spirit neglected to guide it in the wisdom to know how to read it.

We are not saved by a very good man; we are not sustained by the memory of his body and blood; if he did not rise, our faith is in vain. If we make disciples believing these things, at best we bring them only a part of the way to Christ – though, of course, the Spirit can and does perform wonders which bring people the rest of the way.

If we believe in the Nicene Creed then more unites us than divides us; but if we cannot confess that, then more divides us than unites us. The cloud from sight received him, when the forty days were over, but our hearts cannot forget his promise “I am with you, evermore.” May the Lord guide us to where He needs us, and may He endow us with the spirit of discernment and love.

‘Born of the Virgin Mary’

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The Blessed Virgin Mary

The presence here of Bosco offers a perspective against which the orthodoxies of our Faith need asserting. Of all the oddities in the version of our Faith offered by Bosco, the strangest is the one in which he maintains that Mary was not a follower of her son. He cites Mark 3:34-35 as though it meant Mary was not also his follower, and supports his misreading by misreading Mark 3:21, telling us that Mary thought Jesus was ‘mad’. For Bosco, as, sadly, for others, this passes for reading the word of God.

On this reading of Scripture, we are asked to believe that Mary, who was told by an angel that she was the bear the Messiah and who submitted to God’s will and praised him, somehow forgot all of that, and doubted her Son’s destiny. That would be some amnesia, and would require Bosco to explain to us how, at Cana, she knew he could turn water into wine. It would also require him to explain why and when she became a believer, as we see her in Acts when the Spirit descends.

The evidence is overwhelming that Mary believed the revelation she had received, so let us explain what the verses which seem not to fit mean. Let us take the most egregious misreading first. Mark 3:21, even in the King Jame’s version, says that ‘ And when his friends heard of it, they went out to lay hold on him: for they said, He is beside himself’. There is no mention of the mother of Jesus, so quite why Bosco thinks Mary thought her Son mad, only he can tell us. As for the other Markan verse, again, read in context, Jesus is reminding us that all who follow him have a family relationship with him.

The interesting question here is why, in the face of the evidence of Luke that Mary knew her Son was the Messiah, and in the face of the evidence she was with Him at Calvary and with the Apostles when the Spirit descended at the first Pentecost, some people have so much of a problem with Our Lady that they resort to telling lies about her? The main lie is one repeated by Bosco ad nauseam and that is that Catholics treat Mary like some ancient Greeks treated Diana of the Ephesians – that is they worship her. There is clearly some visceral problem here.

The most likely explanation is the the very patriarchal nature of the societies of the sixteenth century out of which Protestantism emerged, and Mark Shea does a good job outlining this argument, which to my mind goes to the heart of the problem. The Bible, like the Church, has always been clear on this – every generation is to call Our Lady ‘blessed’, and we do, every generation acknowledges that her soul magnifies the Lord, and we are. Let us hope and pray that one day Grace will be given to those like Bosco, who rely on their own reading and treat it as infallible.