Why do Catholics Worship Mary?
This is a common accusation made against Catholics, especially from Protestants. They make an assumption that if we direct something that they assume is only for God to Mary, that’s worship. It’s not.
The Bible tells us that true worship begins in the heart, that it’s an outpouring of love, reverence, fear, and trust that we have for the Lord. The actions themselves, such as singing, prayer, contemplation- these come from the emotion and thoughts that stir when we think of God.
The Lord makes it clear that He’s primary concern is whether our hearts are directed towards, and centered on, Him. This is what God meant when He said:
“These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” Isaiah 29:13
When we venerate the saints, or the Blessed Virgin, our hearts and minds recognize that worship is for God alone. There is no outpouring of worship from the heart, so regardless of what it ‘seems’ that we’re doing, it isn’t worship because our hearts and minds aren’t directing it as such. If the Jewish people were doing all the actions that pertain to worship, and yet God rejected it as such, then there must be something more to worship than a prayer or a song.
We know that there is a special place in God’s plan for Mary, and so we recognize her importance in our own salvation. We are grateful that she said ‘yes’ to the Lord, thereby allowing the Son to become flesh and redeem us. She has become the Mother of God, the first Christian, the first of the saved and more. To fail to recognize these amazing attributes of Mary is to fail to take note of what God can do for His people.
Just as the Ark of the Covenant was important for the people of Israel, so the Ark of the New Covenant is special for Christians. Mary contained God’s glory for nine months, she had a unique connection and relationship with God. It is right to focus on this, because it reminds us that God can use any of His children to bring about His plan.
By the veneration of Mary, we magnify God’s work; how He used this lowly Jewish woman in the most important moment of human history: the Incarnation of the Son. Mary’s very being magnifies God (Luke 1:46), and so by drawing closer to Mary, by looking at her Son through her eyes, we get a clearer picture of who Christ is. In this drawing closer to the Mother, we strengthen our relationship with her Son.
Why do Catholics Pray to Saints?
Jesus founded a Church- just the one. The Church is the assembly of all of God’s saved, and it is wholly ‘one’. There’s no distinct Church in Heaven or Purgatory, but all are linked by Christ’s salvific work for us.
Every Christian has eternal life (John 10:10), and every Christian is a part of Christ’s Church, so we put forward that not only is there one Church, but every Christian is truly alive. There are some who are absent from the body, but this is not the Biblical understanding of ‘death’- to be dead is to be separated from Christ, and a Christian by definition is bound to Jesus.
A Christian in Heaven is just as alive as you or me, the difference is in location, not status. We could argue that a Saint in Heaven is more alive than those on earth, because they are not hindered by sin, they have been purified, and they reflect God’s perfect glory.
The Bible urges us to pray for one another (James 5:16), but we believe that a living Christian in Heaven can pray for us also. It may seem odd, because how can a Saint in Heaven be aware of our needs? Well, we can tell them. Those in Heaven have entered behind the veil, and are no longer bound by time or space. That’s not to say that they are eternal or omnipresent, but that time lacks meaning to them like it does to us. We don’t have time to pray for one billion Christians, but when you are no longer bound by a material form, or caught up in time, time itself becomes a non-thing.
We know that those in Heaven are aware of our needs and circumstance, because Paul says that we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses (Heb 12:1). These perfected Christians are aware of our lives, else what are they witnessing? They are before God day and night, it makes perfect sense that they would bring our needs before God, lifting up our names to Him. Scripture declares that the Saints do pray in Heaven (Rev 5:8), but they have no needs, they are prefected, lacking nothing. These prayers are for the Church on earth, praying for our needs and desires, that we may join them in Glory.
What is Papal Infallibilty? What is it Not?
This doctrine teaches us that, when speaking on matters of faith and morals in a manner that he expects the whole Church to be bound by such teaching, the Pope is infallible, he cannot err. Christ taught His Church to teach all that He taught the Apostles (Matt 28:19-20), and that the Holy Spirit will aid in this by guiding the Church into ‘all truth’ (John 16:13). More specifically, the office of St Peter will exist to feed the sheep, and strengthen the brothers. Christ told His Apostles that by hearing them, we actually hear Him (Luke 10:16), and of course we know God to be infallible.
Under the perfect guidance of the Spirit, the Pope has the authority to bind and loose doctrine, revealing deeper spiritual truths as the Church passes through history. The infallibility of the Pope enables him to convey these truths with perfect teaching, saving the Church from falling into error.
Papal infallibilty only extends to the Pope’s authority as the Chief Bishop of the Church, not to every aspect of his personal life or opinions. For example, the Pope can define the doctrine of the Assumption, because the Spirit conveys that truth; he cannot give a lecture on thermodynamics and expect to make no error- the Spirit is not concerned with such things.
Infallibility also doesn’t mean that a Pope is without sin; all sin and fall short (Rom 3:23), and we all seek grace for forgiveness. A Pope can do things such as sin, fall into personal error and so on. He cannot, however, encourage others in the Church to do the same.
If the Pope is Infallible, Must Catholics Agree with Everything He Says?
Not at all! The infallibility of the Pope does not extend to every word that comes out of his mouth, but is only assured when he guides the Church on matters of faith and morals. If the Pope were to say that he sees no issue with idolatry on a personal level (as an extreme example), the Church can, and should, correct him on the issue. Remember, the infallibility that the Pope enjoys is not a ‘natural’ gift, but a gift extended to the Office by God Himself. The man that is the Pope can err, the office cannot.
Isn’t God alone Infallible?
This seems like a true statement, and I’d say yes, if you mean that God is the sole and prime source of infallibility. But if you mean that there is no other infallible authority, then Christians would have to agree that this isn’t the case. The Bible is considered infallible because it is ‘God breathed’ (2 Tim 3:16-17), and because the source of the Bible’s truths are found in God, they share His quality of infallibility.
The same truth can be extended to the Pope: by way of God’s grace, the Lord’s infallibility has been conveyed to the office. It is much like how the Bible teaches us that God alone is righteous and good, but that by His Grace that righteousness is truly given to us. God does this for a specific reason: that we may be saved and cleansed in order to enter into His presence.
The infallibility of the Pope is also there for a specific reason- to convey the truth of the Christian faith to us. So God’s infallibilty is extended to the Office in order that God’s truth may be conveyed wholly and intact to the faithful. The Pope isn’t infallible ‘with’ God, but there’s one infallible God who imparts that gift to the Office, much as there is one righteous God who conveys that gift to Christians.
Do You Really Believe in the Resurrection?
I get asked this often, and it’s usually with a tone of absurdity. Yes, I believe Jesus literally rose from the dead, but it’s not as absurd as you think. If you start with my belief in an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent God, then you could begin to understand why the resurrection isn’t a stretch for me to believe.
Once I put my faith in the fact that Jesus is God, His rising from the dead, while essential, isn’t a ‘big deal.’ For humankind, the resurrection is a big event, but for God it was a Sunday.
My reasons for believing in the resurrection are many: the fact that the Apostles were so willing to die for a man that a few days earlier they had left to die. They were willing to leave behind secure jobs and family in order to spread the Gospel, even after being told that they would probably be killed for doing so.
We look at Paul, a man who hated the Church that went on to become the writer of many of the letters that are now part of the New Testament. He went from rounding the Church up for the Jewish officials, to eventually being beheaded for his faith. And what caused this dramatic change? He claimed to have seen the risen Christ on the road to Damascus, then came to the very people that he had persecuted for help.
The rapid growth of the Church in the Apostles lifetime is beyond strange. The crowds rejected Jesus as the Messiah, and yet even after they had seen Him die, many put faith in Him and were baptized. What made the Apostles so convincing? It wasn’t the threat of violence, or the promise of fortunes; something else led thousands to believe in that first century (Acts 2:41).
The empty tomb is also a suggestion that Jesus rose. I have heard people say that the Apostles stole and destroyed Christ’s body in order to claim that He had risen from the dead. But would you be willing to die for a lie? And the Roman’s would have done anything in there power to disprove the resurrection; they would’ve searched everywhere for Jesus’ body, threatened the Church to turn it over, but it was never found.
What Does It Mean When the Catholic Church Claims ‘There’s No Salvation Outside the Church?’
The Church and Bible teach that the Sacraments (baptism, confirmation, holy orders, confession, marriage, the Eucharist, and the anointing of the sick) is the standard way by which God grants grace that leads to eternal life. It is the Church that administers these sacraments, and so it is fair to say that no salvation can be found outside of Her.
The Church is the Body of Christ (Romans 12:5), and it impossible to seperate the Head from the Body. Just as the Head (that is Jesus) affords eternal life, so it is His Body (that is the Church) that the Lord uses to channel eternal life to the faithful.
Jesus tells us of three things we must take part in to be saved: we must be baptized (Mark 16:16), we must repent of our sin (Luke 13:3), and we must take part in the Eucharist (John 6:54). The Catholic Church is the caretaker of these sacraments, and so to seperate Her from salvation is impossible.
So are we saying that all those who aren’t Catholic are damned? Not at all! Christ is essential for salvation, and no hope can be found outside of Him (John 14:6), so the Church can never teach that a Hindu, Sikh, Atheist etc can be saved ‘because’ of such beliefs. One must put faith in Jesus for salvation. However, if a man confesses faith in Christ, but either has no knowledge of the Catholic Church, or by invincible ignorance he cannot conceive of the Christian truth, then eternal life may be afforded by God’s grace. Invincible ignorance does not mean that the atheist who freely rejects God can be saved: he has the faculties to conceive of God and to distinguish truth from lie, as we all do. Nor does it mean that a person of a different faith whom openly rejects the Gospel can be saved. It is simply that God’s grace can reach all those who cannot grasp truth and bring them to Him by any means He sees fit.
A sound example would be babies who die at a young age, still born, or those lost to abortion. The Church teaches that the unborn, or those who die before an age of understanding, may be in God’s grace and love for all eternity.
Why Do Catholics Believe in Purgatory?
Purgatory is a touchy subject, especially with Protestants. They hold to a belief that once they are ‘eternally’ saved, no sin can hold to them; no matter what they do, Protestants believe that salvation is finished at the moment that they ‘accept Jesus’.
The Church has always believed that salvation is a constant growing in holiness, moving towards that final, complete salvation with Jesus. Because of this, we can freely sin and be held accountable for that sin.
We can make penance for sin in this life, for example by a perfect act of contrition. But if we repent of our sins, and still haven’t made penance for them, then we go through a cleansing after our earthly death. This ties in with the warning that Jesus gave, telling us that there is a sin that cannot be forgiven in this life, or the next (Matthew 12:32). If this sin of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit cannot be forgiven in the next life, the implication is that there are sins that can be forgiven between this life and the next.
The reason for this cleansing is simple: ‘nothing unclean may enter (Heaven)’ (Rev 21:27).
St Paul tells us that each man will be judged, and the righteous man’s deeds will be judged. But what happens if these deeds fail God’s scrutiny? Well, Paul tells us that the man may still be saved: “He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15). St. Paul can’t be speaking of Hell, because no one sent to Hell can be saved: it’s an eternal death. He also can’t be speaking of Heaven, because there’s no ‘suffering’, or ‘fire’ in Heaven. So where is this ‘fire’?
Jesus warns us to make peace with our accusers, or we should be handed over to ther judge, and thrown into prison. Once there, we will not be released until what is due is payed (Matthew 5:25-26). Protestants say that Jesus is speaking about a punishment in this life, but contextually this makes no sense. This warning is given while Jesus is preaching the Sermon on the Mount, and He is talking about Heaven, Hell, and sin. It makes no sense that Jesus then switches to some sort of warning about earthly punishment.
Doesn’t Purgatory Substract from Jesus’ Perfect Atonement?
No, because this question presupposes that Purgatory wasn’t a part of Jesus’ plan for our salvation. We don’t believe that Purgatory is a ‘just in case’ measure; only those who are saved will be cleansed of sin. It’s important to note that Purgatory is not a ‘second chance’ for those who rejected the Gospel. So the short answer is no, Purgatory doesn’t subtract from Christ’s perfect atonement, because it was always a part of God’s plan that our sins be cleansed.
Will The Church Ever Change Her Stance on Same Sex Attraction/Marriage?
To answer this question, we need to understand what the Church cannot do. She cannot redefine or misrepresent the nature of God: God does not change, because a change implies imperfection, and God is perfect. When God condemned the act of homosexuality, He wasn’t throwing a quick response together for an unforeseen situation. God, in His omniscience, knew that man would have these proclivities, and made it clear from the outset that they were against His design.
Just as man has no authority to seperate that which God has brought together, we have to right to redefine things like our nature; we partake of our nature, we are not the cause and designer of it, and so have no authority to redesign it.
As God is unchanging, the Church cannot change something which God has revealed. God condemned homosexuality throughout scripture (Lev 18:22, 1 Cor 6:9-11, Jude 1:7), and God cannot shift His moral compass; if God could do such a thing, objective moral standards would become myth, because the lawgiver of these moral standards would no longer be objective.
Because God cannot and will not change, the Church cannot either. She only has authority to do as the Head wills Her to do, to make Christ’s grace manifest in the world.
There is no historical lens through which objective morality needs to be viewed: if something is gravely immoral, it will always be that way, regardless of how societies may allow morals to become lax. Societies do not redefine moral standards, because if they did, how would we know whether a society is improving? Why can’t tyrannical governments redefine morality to allow for genocide? No, societies should move towards that objective goodness, rather than redefine morals to allow for evil.
Why Does God Condemn Homosexuality?
When a person designs a new piece of technology, that person has a very particular idea of what this technology does, how it does it, but also what it does not do. We wouldn’t tell Apple that the Iphone was faulty because it didn’t help with certain tasks that it wasn’t even designed to do. The same can be said of human beings: we have a designer and a design; there are certain parameters that we are to operate in, because attempting to operating outside of those parameters could be contrary to our design, and so harmful.
God created man to bond with woman, to love and to procreate. Whether we can agree on the existence of God or not, we can understand that this is the basic function of man- procreation and furthering the species.
Homosexuality hinders that; we cannot thrive as a species if we were all to have homosexual tendencies. In fact, we’d go extinct. So the simplest answer is that homosexuality is an error, contrary to God’s intent for us.
Because we have design and parameters, to reject them causes obvious and clear harm. This harm can be clear by the fact that homosexuals are more likely to suffer from depression, self harm, contract HIV/AIDS, and have a shorter life expectancy than a heterosexual person. God, knowing this would be the ramifications of homosexual behavior, condemned it from the outset, not out of hate, but genuine concern for His creation.
Why Would God Punish Someone For All Eternity, For A Sin That Only Lasted A Moment?
When Christians get asked about Hell, I think it’s to try to convince us that our God is evil, so therefore can’t be the God He claims to be. But when we really think about this question, it’s not that tough.
Imagine a scenario in which a man kills another man by drawing a gun on him and pulling the trigger. The action of pulling the gun and the trigger takes a few seconds, but when that man is sentenced, he will probably be sentenced to life, if not the death penalty. Now if we apply the logic of this question, we should only sentence the murderer to a few seconds in prison, because it only took a few seconds to commit murder. Obviously we know that’s not how criminal justice works.
When applying criminal punishment, we take into account the age of the offender, previous criminal history, circumstance etc. How long it may have taken to commit the offence is neither here nor there, it’s the gravity of the offence that is taken into account.
In regards to sin, there is the grave sin of rejecting God that leads men to Hell, and this isn’t a momentary thing; in fact it’s a constant rejection of God that condemns the man, not a split second decision. All sin can be forgiven by declaring Jesus Lord and being baptized, but a rejection of grace is to turn away from the only thing that pardons us. This turning away is consistent, not just one moment.
The same can be said of Heaven; we don’t go to Heaven because we said a prayer (regardless of what Protestants tell you!) We go to Heaven because we constantly affirm Christ by obeying Him: we are baptized, take the Eucharist, confess our sins and affirm Jesus by living for Him. The opposing side leads men to Hell: the rejection of Christ and His grace, the denial of sin, let alone that we are committing sin. These things are hardly momentary.
There’s nowhere in scripture that suggests that we cease our sin if we are sent to Hell. The heard-hearted will be eternally hard-hearted, caught in an eternal cycle of rejecting God’s grace. They cannot leave Hell because they are trapped by pride, caught in perpetual hate for God.
Ultimately, all sin is against God Himself. While you may get a fine or community service for punching a person in the street, can the same be said if we struck a President or King? Of course not, so the person we sin against (in this case, God) must be taken into account.