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Thursday, March 26, 2015

How can a man be infallible

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

 “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus” --Pope Francis  (Evangelii Gaudium, #120)

Question:  How can a man be infallible?  
And doesn't the Church profess herself to be infallible?  And yet, one has to simply read the newspapers to know that the Church is definitely NOT infallible!  Her leaders are clearly flawed and sinful.

Answer: Protestants often have grave reservations regarding the Church's claim of infallibility for herself, as well as for the pope.  The objection is presented as "No man can be infallible. That is something reserved for God alone!"

What is curious is that: 

1) the Bible never states that a man can't be infallible.  This then becomes a man-made tradition they have embraced.  

2) Protestants actually do believe that men can be infallible.  That is, if they believe that the inspired writers of Scripture never erred in their writings...then they believe these men were...infallible.  This means that Protestants believe Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Peter, Paul, the author of Hebrews, plus the Old Testament Prophets, Judges, Kings were all...infallible. 

When this is pointed out to them, the rejoinder is often, "Yes, they (the inspired writers of Scripture) did not err in their writings, but it's only because they had the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  They themselves were not perfect!"

And I like to respond:  Well, what you have professed above is nothing more than the Catholic understanding of infallibility.  

Protestants seem to think that "infallible" means "unable to sin".  

That is not the Catholic understanding of infallibility.  Infallibility is simply a charism given to the Church which prevents the magisterium (teaching office of the Church--that is, the pope and all the bishops in union him) from teaching error in areas of faith and morals.  And this is achieved not of their own power, but through the assistance of the Holy Spirit.  It is charism of the office (that is, the position), not of the man.  

What Protestants are actually objecting to is the concept of "impeccability", which is, indeed, the inability to sin.  

And here we Catholics are in agreement with Protestants:  no member of the magisterium is "impeccable."  All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).  The Church is made up of sinners--and on this point the Church makes evident the acknowledgement of her imperfection.  The Catechism states: "The Church on earth is endowed already with a sanctity that is real though imperfect." In her members perfect holiness is something yet to be acquired"--CCC 825

So we can agree with our Protestant brethren that the Church is flawed.  And Protestants can agree with Catholics that men can indeed be infallible.  If Peter was able to write 2 encyclicals that Protestants agree have no error, then it stands to reason that they agree that he, a man, was infallible.  

(Caveat 1:  the pope and the magisterium are given the charism of infallibility within a finite window of criteria.  Thus, if a pope declares, "I believe the stock market is going to fall today!" that is NOT to be interpreted as an infallible declaration.

Caveat 2:  That infallibility is invoked only within a finite, limited venue is NOT to be interpreted as "therefore Catholics are free to disagree with any Catholic teaching which hasn't been infallibly defined."  Catholics are bound to give their religious assent to ALL doctrines proclaimed by the Church.)

For more in-depth study visit these websites:

Papal Infallibility 

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, March 13, 2015

Isn't the Catholic Church sexist for calling God "Father"?

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

 “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus” --Pope Francis  (Evangelii Gaudium, #120)

Question:  Isn't the Catholic Church sexist for calling God "Father"?  Isn't it rather offensive to say God is male and exclude 50% of the population?

Short answer: If the Catholic Church is offensive for calling God "Father", then so is Jesus, right?  For doesn't Jesus teach us to do this in Matthew, when He teaches us to pray, "OurFather, who art in heaven"?

Incidentally, the Church doesn't state that "God is male", (although, of course, Jesus, is male--no one can deny that.) The Church teaches only what God has revealed:  God is masculine, but that is not the same as saying God is male.  God is neither male nor female. God has no gender.  

But God has revealed Himself, first to the Jews, then through Christ to the rest of the world, as masculine in nature.

As Catholic philosopher Peter Kreeft says:  at the heart of divine revelation is the simple fact that the First Person of the Trinity has chosen to reveal himself to us as Father. This is a category which transcends human biology (male and female), and of which human fatherhood is a shadow (cf. Eph 3.14).

Many feminist theologians object to calling God "Father", criticizing the Church for being sexist and exclusive, arguing"Calling God ‘Father’, without adding that God is also Mother, unfairly exalts one image for God above all others and ignores the culturally conditioned nature of all our images of God."  Yet, the fact is:  that is how God has revealed Himself--He is our Father.  Over and over again in the New Testament Jesus refers to God as "Father"...Abba, or "Daddy".

Some feminists also argue that since so many Catholics have had such poor example of fatherhood in their own human fathers--perhaps even suffering with abusive fathers, it's uncomfortable for many to identify God as "Father".  To them, references to a father only bring bad images to mind.

This may be true, but rather than changing our view of God to more pedestrian terms, shouldn't we elevate our view of human fatherhood?   In other words, the fact that some human fathers may not act very "fatherly" ought not vitiate the supreme fatherhood of God. Why bring God down to our inadequate levels?  Rather, let's elevate our views of fatherhood to what it ought to be!

Finally, some may argue that while God is indeed referred to in masculine terms in Scripture, there are also numerous references to God in feminine terms in the Bible.  For example, from Matthew 23: 37 "How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling." And from Isaiah 42: 14 "I have kept silent for a long time, I have kept still and restrained Myself. Now like a woman in labor I will groan, I will both gasp and pant. 

Apologist Mark Brumley responds 
The fact is, whenever the Bible uses feminine language for God, it never applies it to Him in the same way masculine language is used of Him. Thus, the primary image of God in Scripture remains masculine, even when feminine similes are used: God is never called "She" or "Her." As Protestant theologian John W. Miller puts it in Biblical Faith and Fathering: "Not once in the Bible is God addressed as mother, said to be mother, or referred to with feminine pronouns. On the contrary, gender usage throughout clearly specifies that the root metaphor is masculine-father."

In fact, the Bible ascribes feminine characteristics to God in exactly the same way it sometimes ascribes such traits to human males. For example, in Numbers 11:12 Moses asks, "Have I given birth to this people?" Do we conclude from this maternal image that Scripture here is "depatriarchalize" Moses. Obviously, Moses uses here a maternal metaphor for himself; he is not making a statement about his "gender identity." Likewise, in the New Testament, both Jesus (Matthew 23:37 and Luke 13:34) and Paul (Galatians 4:19) likened themselves to mothers, though they are men. Why, then, should we think that on those relatively rare occasions when the Bible uses feminine metaphors for God anything more is at work there than with Moses, Jesus and Paul?

[For the inspired writers of Scripture] masculine language is the primary way we speak of God. Feminine language is applied to God as if it were being used of a masculine being.
The Catholic Church ought not go the way of the modernists who want to change the language we use, perhaps justifiably, in secular matters (i.e. mailman has become "letter carrier"; police man to "police officer").  Rather, the Church stands firm in declaring that she has no right to change what God has revealed.  The Church is God's mailman (er, letter carrier); she delivers His Word.  The Church is not His editor.  

"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  

Monday, March 2, 2015

Catholics and Statues: You shall not carve idols for yourselves?

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

 “Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus” --Pope Francis  (Evangelii Gaudium, #120)

This Sunday's first reading will be from Exodus.  It explicitly states:  "You shall not carve idols for yourselves".

So why do Catholic churches have....idols?

And then the Bible continues to say, in Exodus:  "You shall not bow down before them or worship them."

And yet we see this in our churches as well as our homes:

So do Catholics just disregard what the Bible says?

Short answer:  no. 

Long answer:  Catholics believe in and uphold what the Bible says.  But we take the Word of God in its entirety; we do not just extract verses out of context and in isolation.

If one just reads a bit further in Exodus, we see where God actually commands the building of statues:

Make two cherubim of beaten gold for the two ends of the cover;
make one cherub at one end, and the other at the other end, of one piece with the cover, at each end.
The cherubim shall have their wings spread out above, sheltering the cover with them; they shall face each other, with their faces looking toward the cover.--Exodus 25:18-20

So it's not having statues that's offensive to God.  It's worshipping them.  

And of course, no Catholic worships a statue!

We keep statues in our churches as visual reminders of those we love, just as we have pictures in our homes as visual reminders of people we love.

As far as bowing down...well, that's not worship.  In many cultures bowing is a sign of respect, but it is NOT a means of worshipping a person.

It is no more worshipping a statue when we bow before one, than this person is worshipping the Bible when he bows before it and kisses it:

Unfortunately, there are still many folks who continue to spread the false belief that statues in our churches is evidence that we Catholics practice idolatry.  Consider this, from the very popular website:

Question: "Do Catholics worship idols / practice idolatry?"

Answer: Sadly, our Catholic friends and family members have been indoctrinated to believe that the use of statues, relics, and other articles is acceptable and even necessary for worship. They have been taught by the Roman Catholic Church that the images and icons used in the church are not actually “worshiped” but are simply “visual aids” to worship.

The Catholic Church long ago began making allowances for the idolatrous use of images by the way they reference the Ten Commandments. In the Catholic catechism and in most official Catholic documents, the first and second commandments are combined and then summarized with “I am the Lord your God. You shall not have other gods beside Me.” Suspiciously absent is what comprises the second commandment in the Protestant numbering of the Ten Commandments: “You shall not make any graven images.”
Firstly, the Catholic Church has never stated that use of statues, relics and other articles are "necessary for worship."  If anyone insists that this is true, please ask this person to produce any document from the Church which asserts that statues and relics are required for worship.

Secondly, it is true that the numbering of the Ten Commandments is different for Catholics than for other Protestants.  However, the commandments given by God in the Old Testament actually number MORE than 10.  If you count the number of "thou shalt nots" plus the "thou shalts" the actual number of commandments is 13.  Thus, Catholic group some of the commandments into one, but so do Protestants.

It's a rather common objection, esp. in the blogosphere, to hear that Catholicism makes its own rules up, giving no regard to the Bible.  

However, we can be assured as Catholics that our Church does indeed profess, uphold and venerate the Scriptures.  We just don't take verses out of context, and read them without the lens of Sacred Tradition. 

"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