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Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Doesn't the Bible state that "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23)? So why do Catholics believe that Mary never sinned?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Short answer:  because "all have sinned" doesn't mean, literally "all".  We know that there are exceptions--one big one would be, of course, Jesus Christ Himself.  And, of course, there are millions of other exceptions to the "all have sinned" verse:   all the little babies and wee ones younger than the age of reason (about age 7).  We know that they can't sin until they make a free choice to sin. 

So if there are millions of exceptions, why couldn't Mary be another exception?  

Thus, we can see that belief in Mary's sinlessness in no way contradicts Scripture, in particular, Romans 3:23.  

In fact, if anyone wants to argue that "all have sinned" is, literally, every single human being, then this person will have a difficult time convincing a Muslim that Jesus is divine...for all the Muslim has to do is say, "Well, even your own holy Bible declares that Jesus sinned--does it not say that  'all have sinned'?" and the only response for this person would be to admit, yes, all have indeed sinned, including Jesus.

A Catholic, however, is in good position to provide apologia to a Muslim for he can say: "We don't believe that 'all have sinned' means a literal every single human being."  And thus, we can confidently assert to this Muslim that Jesus was divine and that our Scriptures do not declare that He sinned.

Incidentally this Sunday's Gospel from Matthew proclaims another example of "all" not meaning, literally, every single human being:

At that time Jerusalem, all Judea,
and the whole region around the Jordan
were going out to him
and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River
as they acknowledged their sins.--Matt 3

We know that, in fact, not every single person in Judea was baptized by John the Baptist.  This is confirmed in the Gospel of Luke which declare that the Pharisees in Judea were never baptized by John the Baptist:

 (All the people who listened, including the tax collectors,
and who were baptized with the baptism of John, 
acknowledged the righteousness of God;

but the Pharisees and scholars of the law, 
who were not baptized by him,
rejected the plan of God for themselves)--Luke 7

Thus, we can see that "all" does not necessarily mean "all".

Thank God for the Church, through whose divinely assisted wisdom we can be guided into reading His Word with the proper understanding!  Without her guidance we are predisposed to erroneous interpretations, being "tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes."--Ephesians 4:14

Rather, we, the flock, are shepherded into knowing when to take the Word literally, when it is symbolic and metaphorical, when it is binding, when it is loosing, etc etc etc, without being subdued and conquered by the waves and winds of false interpretations.

As the magisterium of our Church states:

But the task of authentically interpreting the word of God, whether written or handed on, has been entrusted exclusively to the living teaching office of the Church,  whose authority is exercised in the name of Jesus Christ. This teaching office is not above the word of God, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed.--Dei Verbum, Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15   

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Scriptural proof that there is no purgatory?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Doesn't the Bible state that the Good Thief went to heaven without Purgatory? Isn't this Scriptural proof that there is no Purgatory? So why do Catholics believe in Purgatory? 

This Sunday's Gospel from Luke proclaims that, indeed, Jesus told the Good Thief (known by Catholic tradition (small "t") as St. Dismas) that he would be in heaven with Him.

Then he said,
"Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom."
He replied to him,
"Amen, I say to you,
today you will be with me in Paradise."

So is the above verse proof that Purgatory doesn't exist?  It would appear that the Good Thief didn't have to go to Purgatory.

What's the Catholic response?

Firstly, it may be that St. Dismas did not need Purgatory.  He was already pure and cleansed of any attachment to sin.  But that doesn't mean, therefore, that no one needs a final purification (or "purging"--hence the word, purgatory).

As CS Lewis (who was, curiously, not a Catholic) states:   "Our souls demand purgatory, don't they? Even if God doesn't mind people entering heaven dripping with mud and slime, should we not reply, I'd rather be cleansed first,' even if it may hurt?"

Secondly, it may be that Jesus did not mean St. Dismas would be with Him in paradise today.  In Biblical Greek, which is the language the New Testament was written in, there was no punctuation.  The commas were inserted by the translators.  As such, the text could be rendered,  "Amen, I say to you today, you will be with me in Paradise".   In other words, Jesus may have said that  it is today that I tell you that (someday) you will be with me in Paradise.

Thirdly, Revelation is not clear about time in the afterlife.  As such, since Purgatory is simply a purification, it may be done "in the twinkling of an eye" (1 Cor 15:2) or it may take years.  Thus, St. Dismas could indeed have undergone purification/Purgatory but this cleansing occurred immediately.  Incidentally, as there is no longer day and night in eternity, a time reference for "today" may not necessarily be referring to a 24 hour time period.  All we know about "today" is that St. Dismas would be with Christ "at some point".  Not necessarily within 24 hours.

Fourthly, when Jesus says that the Good Thief would be with Him in Paradise, "paradise" prior to the advent of Jesus, referenced the bosom of Abraham, not heaven.  Paradise was the place of peace, or the "holding area", for souls who died before Christ's atonement and were unable to enjoy the Beatific Vision.

Thus, the Good Thief being told by Jesus that he would be in Paradise is in no way a proof that Purgatory doesn't exist.

Also, this verse in Scripture is also used by folks to refute the Catholic belief that baptism is necessary for salvation.  They will state, "See!  The Bible states that the Good Thief was told he would be in heaven and he was never baptized!  So baptism is NOT necessary for salvation!"

Catholics respond:  where does the Bible state that the Good Thief was never baptized?  (Answer:  nowhere).

Another response is that there is baptism of desire, which St. Dismas may have received through his union with Christ and His suffering.
From the Catechism:  The Church has always held the firm conviction that those who suffer death for the sake of the faith without having received Baptism are baptized by their death for and with Christ. This Baptism of blood, like the desire for Baptism, brings about the fruits of Baptism without being a sacrament. 1258

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15   

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why do Catholics reject Sola Scriptura?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

This Sunday's 2nd Reading proclaims:

All Scripture is inspired by God
and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction,
and for training in righteousness,
so that one who belongs to God may be competent,
equipped for every good work.--2 Timothy 3:16-17

This verse is often invoked by Protestants who want to question why we Catholics do not defer to Sola Scriptura (that is, Scripture Alone as our authority). They believe that the Bible contains all the material necessary for our salvation and that a magisterium (the Church's living teaching authority--the bishops teaching in union with the Pope) is not necessary.  That is, these verses declare, in their opinion, that Sola Scriptura is the only rule of faith for all Christians.

It is interesting to note, however, when we read the above verse, that it does not state what Protestants claim it states.  It does not state that the Bible is sufficient. It does not state that the Bible Alone is the sole rule of faith for Christians.   It declares that Scripture is useful, and makes us competent, and equipped. 

We Catholics give that a hearty amen!

However, to conclude that the above verse supports Sola Scriptura is quite over-reaching.  We believe as Catholics that the Bible is useful.  And that it equips us.  And that it teaches us.  But we don't believe that the Bible alone is all we need...for this verse never states this.  In fact, one can search the Bible from Genesis to Revelation and one will never find any verse which declares that the Bible, and the Bible alone, is to be the sole rule of faith.  

Thus, Sola Scriptura is a self-refuting doctrine.  It does not support its own claim.

When St. Paul wrote this epistle to Timothy, the New Testament was not yet complete.  So what St. Paul was referring to when he declares "All Scripture is inspired by God" was the Jewish Scriptures--the Old Testament.  And thus when Protestants invoke this verse to prove Sola Scriptura they may actually be proving too much.  They will only be arguing for the fact that St. Paul declares that the Old Testament is sufficient.

If we read just a few verses earlier we see that St. Paul is telling Timothy:

Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed,
because you know from whom you learned it,
and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures

It is quite apparent that the Scriptures that Timothy, a Jewish convert,  knew "from infancy" are the books from the Old Testament only.

Additionally, we can see from the above verse that St. Paul is also referring to the oral instruction that Timothy received.  This supports the Catholic paradigm of Sacred Scripture (written) AND Sacred Tradition* (oral) transmission of the Word of God.

Thus, we can see that while Scripture is profitable, useful and equips us, the Bible does NOT state that it is all we need.

*Note that Sacred Tradition is not the same as "tradition".  In the latter case, "tradition" refers to "customs", not to the Word of God orally transmitted from the Apostles to the Church.  Examples of "traditions" are:  kneeling while praying, priestly vestments, wearing a wedding ring, having a steeple on your church.  Examples of Sacred Tradition:  the table of contents of the Bible, the Mass, the teachings on Mary.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

Catholics Come Home

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Bible says there is just one mediator --Jesus. So why do Catholics use saints as mediators?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul,     
and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

 This Sunday's 2nd reading from 1 Timothy proclaims that, indeed, there is one mediator, and that is Christ Jesus:
There is also one mediator between God and men,
the man Christ Jesus,
who gave himself as ransom for all.
It would appear,then, that when we Catholics ask for the saints in heaven to intercede for us (that is, to mediate, or get in the middle of God and us) that we are usurping the role of Christ as the one mediator.  Why do we need to go through others, when Jesus is the one mediator?  

Do Catholics believe that Jesus needs help and can't get the job done without outside assistance?


Rather, Catholics believe that Jesus is All Sufficient and doesn't need the intervention of anyone, saint or sinner, to accomplish His will.

In fact, Catholics give a hearty Amen to the fact that Jesus is the one mediator.

However, we are all participants in the One Mediation that Christ offered humanity through His atoning death on the cross 2000 years ago.  So when the saints intercede (or mediate) for us, it is only because they are united in the Body of Christ, and it is His Mediation which accomplished everything.  We here on earth also mediate for each other when we pray for each other.  Prayer chains are a form of mediation, or of getting in between our loved one and God, presenting our petitions before the Eternal Throne of Heaven.

Indeed, when Catholics ask the saints to pray for us in heaven, and pray for each other's intentions, we are actually being very Scriptural and following the commands in the Bible.  In fact, in the very same reading which professes that Jesus is the one mediator, we also read St. Paul proclaiming:
First of all, I ask that supplications, prayers,
petitions, and thanksgivings be offered for everyone,
Is this not St. Paul asking for the mediation of his companion, Timothy, (and probably all of the early Christian community) in this verse?  

Everything that the Body of Christ accomplishes is done only through our union through Him, with Him and in Him.  

So when St. Paul says that he saves some souls (yes, he, St. Paul, says that he saves souls.  Not Christ:  To the weak I became weak, to win over the weak.  I have become all things to all, to save at least some.-1 Cor 9:22), we know that he means it only through his union with the One Savior.

So when St. Paul says he became our spiritual father, (I became your father in Jesus Christ through the Gospel -1 Cor 4:15), even though Scripture says that there is only One Father (Call no one on earth your father; you have but one Father in heaven--Matt 23:9), we know it is because of his union with the One Father.

When Sts. Peter and Paul cure the sick and even raise the dead (see Acts 9 and 20), we know that it is not of their own power, but it is rooted in the power that belongs to God alone.

So when we act as mediators through our prayer chains and though the intercessory prayers at Mass, or  when the saints intercede for us, it is not a usurpation of the One Mediatorship of Christ.  Rather, it is merely a participation in His Mediatorship.

As apologist Jimmy Akin says:  
Jesus is certainly the only Mediator in the sense that he his the only God-man, the only Person who serves as a bridge between the human and the divine in that way, as 1 Timothy 2:5 (the verse you quote) indicates.
However, Jesus’ unique role as the only God-man does not mean that nobody else gets to pray for us. This is clear if you read 1 Tim. 2:1-4, in which Paul says that we should all pray for everybody. So in the very same passage that Paul describes Jesus as the one Mediator, he also says that we should all pray and intercede for others. This is what Mary and the other heavenly saints do for us, just as people down here on earth do.
When you ask another Christian here on earth to pray for you, you are asking an earthly saint to intercede on your behalf. When you ask Mary to pray for you, you are doing the exact same thing, only it is a heavenly saint instead. Protestants ask earthly saints to pray for them; Catholics simply broaden this to all of the family of God and ask out heavenly brothers and sisters in Christ to pray for us as well as our brothers and sisters here on earth.
In fact, we know they pray for us already because, if you read Revelation 5:8, you will see the twenty-four elders (who represent the leaders of the people of God in heaven) offering to God the prayers of the saints. Thus we have the heavenly saints offering to God the prayers of the earthly saints. Thus we only ask our heavenly brothers and sisters to do what they are already anxious to do on our behalf, just as our earthly brother and sister Christians wish to pray for us whenever we are in need.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

One Mediator between God and Man

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15   

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Isn't Jesus just a myth that is based on the Egyptian god Horus?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Short answer: 

Long answer:   many of us will have college kids coming home with the above question about the connection between Jesus and Horus. Most reputable scholars are dismissive of this idea, (in fact, almost all atheists who deny the existence of God will acknowledge that a man, the historical Jesus, existed. Only some fanatical, rabid atheists who are not not well-read or educated will question whether there actually was a man named Jesus who lived 2000 years ago.)  The question of the Jesus/Horus connection seems to have take a life of its own in the internet and many college students are entertaining this notion that Jesus never really existed.  They believe that there was an ancient Egyptian deity named Horus who existed prior to Christianity, and that the "Christians" of the ancient near east simply enveloped and embraced some of the mythical aspects of Horus and created/copied/made up their own deity named Jesus Christ.

Horus is one of ancient Egypt's best known gods, as well as one of its oldest. His name is attested to from at least the beginning of the Dynastic Period and depictions of falcon deities on earlier artifacts, such as the Narmer Palette, probably represent this same god. The Turin Canon, which provides some of our most important information on Egypt's early history, specifically describes the Predynastic rulers of Egypt as "Followers of Horus".
The use of his name was also widespread in personal names throughout Egyptian history, and Hor, as a personal name, survives into our modern era in a number of different forms.
Read more:
The claim is that stories of Jesus are "ripped-off" pre-existing myths of Horus.  They claim that Horus was a god-man, born of a virgin mother who died and was resurrected.  He had 12 friends.  He walked on water, was baptized by Anup the Baptizer who was later beheaded.  Horus was tempted in the desert, cured the sick and healed the blind....all of these "coincidentally" match with the stories of Jesus, who came later.  The "coincidence" these people say, are explained by the fact that the Gospel writers simply plagiarized the stories from Egyptian mythology.

How to refute these claims?  

Firstly, there is no single source that we can use to trace the legend of the Egyptian god, Horus.  The mythology existed and developed over a 5000 year time-span, with multiple sources,  many authors, and a myriad of legends/story-lines.  In order to find a similarity with the Gospel stories, one needs to cherry-pick all the stories from all the epochs of Egyptian history to find connections and parallels.  

It would be like, millenia later, people saying that President Obama was a myth borrowed from stories of Abraham Lincoln.  Both of them were from Illinois.  Both were lawyers.  Both used a Bible at their inauguration...therefore, Obama didn't really exist. He was just created by some people based on stories of a previous character in history.

Ridiculous, right?

The Jesus/Horus connection is similar.  

From the article:  Horus Manure:  Debunking the Jesus/Horus Connection by Jon Sorensen
Horus is the son of the god Osiris, born to a virgin mother.
The mother of Horus was believed to be the goddess Isis. Her husband, the god Osiris, was killed by his enemy Seth, the god of the desert, and later dismembered. Isis managed to retrieve all of Osiris’s body parts except for his phallus, which was thrown into the Nile and eaten by catfish. (I’m not making this up).  Isis used her goddess powers to temporarily resurrect Osiris and fashion a golden phallus. She was then impregnated, and Horus was conceived. However this story may be classified, it is not a virgin birth.
He was baptized in a river by Anup the Baptizer, who was later beheaded.
There is no character named Anup the Baptizer in ancient Egyptian mythology. This is the concoction of a 19th-century English poet and amateur Egyptologist by the name of Gerald Massey. Massey is the author of several books on the subject of Egyptology; however, professional Egyptologists have largely ignored his work. In fact, his writing is held in such low regard in archaeological circles that it is difficult to find references to him in reputable modern publications.
Yes, Horus was crucified first.
In many of the books and on the websites that attempt to make this connection, it is often pointed out that there are several ancient depictions of Horus standing with his arms spread in cruciform.  One can only answer this with a heartfelt “So what?”  A depiction of a person standing with his arms spread is not unusual, nor is it evidence that the story of a crucified savior predates that of Jesus Christ.
I won't bore you with the rest of the refutations.  Suffice it to say that there is no evidence that Egyptian god Horus walked on water, was tempted in the desert, had 12 disciples, etc etc etc.  The accusation that Jesus is Horus revisited is simply senseless applications of a hodgepodge of mythological lore.

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Was Jesus Copied from the Egyptian God Horus?

Catholics Come Home

Catholic Bible online

Catechism of the Catholic Church online

"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Sunday, August 11, 2013

I don't think it matters so much what you believe--isn't it more important that you love your neighbor, feed the poor, clothe the naked?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

Short answer:  both are important--believing in truth (that is, right doctrine or orthodoxy) AND living it out (right practice, or orthopraxy).  Orthodoxy AND orthopraxy.  To dismiss one for the other is a man-made judgement--something that is never espoused by the Word of God.

Longer answer:  Over the past few days I've heard several remarks in different venues that have rejected the importance of doctrine in favor of "just helping others out".    

I can see where this paradigm springs from--it comes from a valid criticism of people who appear to be pious, church-going folks who are, well, mean and spiteful.  They know their bible verses, and have their rosaries at the ready, but don't appear to be very kind and loving. 

As St. Teresa of Avila said, "God save us from sour-faced saints!"  

However, Truth matters.   What you believe ought to be as supremely important as how you serve the poor and love your fellow man.  In fact, there are some vile and sinister beliefs that will greatly affect how you love your fellow man.  

I think that the picture below is a graphic representation of how what you believe can be very, very dangerous.  

(Warning:  offensive picture)

One cannot embrace a contemptible doctrine, and still say, "Hey! It doesn't matter what I believe because I help out at homeless shelters!"

Because Truth matters.

Of course, this is an extreme example.  But it illustrates how what we believe is indeed important.  

In response to the above example, some folks may say, "I think that as long as you love God and love your fellow man it still doesn't matter what you believe.  And the people at the Westboro Baptist Church clearly don't love God, therefore, our premise is still correct.  As long as you love God and whatever you believe makes you good and happy, it's fine!"

I would answer:  but which God are we loving?  The God who has revealed that the pope is the vicar of Christ?  Or the God that says that the pope is the anti-Christ?  The God who says that Jesus is really, truly present, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity, in the Blessed Sacrament?  Or the God who says that worship of a wafer is an abomination?  The God who has revealed that Jesus is God Incarnate, or the God that says that Jesus was just a holy man who came to preach the Golden Rule?

Contradictory beliefs cannot both be true at the same time.  Either Jesus is God or he is not God. Either the pope is the vicar of Christ or he is not.   Both cannot be true at the same time.  It can't be, "Well, it's true for you.  You can believe whatever you want, as long as it makes you happy!" 

Another example is this hypothetical:  let's say there was an adult who believed in Santa Claus.  This belief made her happy. And it made her try to be a kind and good person.

Naturally, we would not encourage this false belief, even if it made this woman happy, kind and good to believe in Santa.  No one would tell this poor, hapless woman, "Hey, knock yourself out!  Believe whatever you want, as long as it makes you happy!"

Because Truth matters.  Not just whether we're happy and good, persisting in a false belief.

It's like the story of the Emperor's New Clothes.  He was parading around in "finery", happy in his delusion, yet the reality was that he was completely naked.  His belief made him happy.  

But I don't think any person would encourage this type of delusion....because Truth matters.

It's also important to point out the corollary:   If one embraces all the doctrines yet never lifts a finger to serve others, then, this, too, is incompatible with the Gospel.   

As GK Chesterton said, "Let your religion be less of a theory and more of a love affair".

The proverbial Catholic both/and applies to all of us! Both orthodoxy (truth) and orthopraxis (practice) are part of the Good News of salvation!

For more in-depth study visit these websites:


"Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect" - 1 Peter 3:15

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

How can the Catholic Church be against same sex "marriage" yet not be against the marriages of infertile or sterile couples?

“Love the Lord with all your heart, and with all your soul, 
         and with all your MIND”--Matt 22:37

The question is a valid one, I think, often posed by proponents of same sex "marriage" (SSM).  Their reasoning is correct: if the Church says that SSM is wrong because it cannot produce children, then why does the Church permit men and women who are past the age of childbearing (or who may have had hysterectomies) to marry?**

The answer is that the argument the Church presents against SSM is not that it is immoral because it can't produce children.  SSM is immoral because it is not ordered to the procreation of children.  The Code of Canon Law states that "marriage is a permanent partnership between a man and a woman ordered to the procreation of offspring by means of some sexual cooperation" (CIC 1096)

What does "ordered to" mean?  It means that all actions that are done must be done with the end result in mind.  So eating must be ordered towards providing nutrition to the body.  Thus, when a person eats, and then attempts to vomit the contents of her meal, this is called an eating dis-order, because the behavior is contrary to the purpose, or proper end, of eating:  providing nutrients to the body. 

For an act to be moral, it must be ordered to its proper end.

So the "marital embrace" must be ordered to its proper end:  procreation.  Sexual acts between 2 males or 2 females can never be ordered towards the procreation of offspring. Sexual acts between, say, an elderly man and woman are still ordered towards procreation, even if their actions will never ever produce a single child.  

How does this work?

Take this analogy borrowed from the wickedly funny yet orthodox and insightful Catholic blogger, Marc Barnes  at  

Imagine a senior citizens baseball team that shows up to play the St. Louis Cardinals.  They have absolutely no chance of achieving the proper end of baseball (gaining more runs than the other team), but so long as they play according to the rules, their play is still ordered to its proper end.  

But in the case of SSM, the play itself is changed.  It would be like 2 teams showing up at the game without bats, wanting to play with their backs to each other so that even if they have the "intent" of winning a baseball game, what they are doing can't possibly be ordered to that end because they are, quite simply, no longer playing baseball.

So some married couples (the elderly, post-menopausal women, women post-hysterectomy, etc etc etc) may have sexual relations that are infertile, but their acts will always still be ordered towards life.  While they have zero chance of conceiving, their marital embrace is still ordered towards the proper end of marriage:  procreation and union.

**(Note:  impotency is indeed an impediment to marriage and the Church does not allow a couple to marry if they cannot complete the marital act.  But that is a topic for another discussion.)