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Archive for March, 2008

Ang Dating Daan: An Old Path Incarnate Again

Posted by catholicfaithdefender on March 25, 2008

Ang Dating Daan: An Old Path Incarnate Again

By Ben Douglass. A refutation of Eliseo Soriano’s cult.

I. Introduction

Nothing under the sun is new, neither is any man able to say: Behold this is new: for it hath already gone before in the ages that were before us (Ecclesiastes 1:10).

When a Filipino Catholic man first alerted me to the existence and activity of The Church of God International of Mr. Eliseo Soriano, which he publicizes through his popular television show Ang Dating Daan (“The Old Path” in Tagalog), my first instinct was that it was a bit absurd to refer to a religious group as the Old Path which has only been around for about 30 years. However, upon further study of its history and of the corpus of Mr. Soriano’s teachings, I have realized that this is not the case. Rather, it is more ironic than absurd, because it really is an old path, simply not in the sense that Mr. Soriano thinks it is. For it is the same path that we see incarnate in the Mormons, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, and many other similar groups: a charismatic leader claims direct divine revelation, twists Scripture, preaches vigorously, and with the help of fortuitous social, economic, and psychological circumstances, manages to attract a sizable flock to follow him down to perdition. Fortunately, Soriano’s claims are so easily falsifiable, so manifestly absurd, his exegetical incompetence so blatantly obvious, his self-contradiction so evident, that any person of good will who reads this essay will be able to see him for the false prophet that he is and fly back to the bosom of Holy Mother Church to be reintroduced to the divine life of grace in the soul. A bit of background first.

II. A Brief History of The Church of God International

He that gathereth not with me, scattereth (Matthew 12:30).

Schisms are the plague of all schismatics. Once a group of factious men splits off from the Mystical Body of Christ to follow winds of doctrine more to their liking, little remains to bind them to each other. Hence, whenever someone comes to an irreconcilable doctrinal disagreement with the leadership of the schismatic church, or simply wants power and authority that they have but are not willing to give him, the first schism is followed by further schisms, and factions proliferate. This is the principle which underlies the history of Ang Dating Daan. Since Soriano is fond of scientific analogies, I will use one myself: bacteria multiply by splitting.

The story starts with a man named Felix Manalo, who left the Catholic Church as a teenager. He toyed briefly with a cult called Colorum which claimed direct communication with God, and then joined the Methodist Episcopal Church and became a minister. As his Catholic mother lay dying he “rejected the last sacrament for her.”1 He then spent a brief stint as a Presbyterian minister, then left them as well for the Christian Missionary Alliance, who impressed him because they baptized by immersion only. He then switched teams again after he lost a debate to a Seventh Day Adventist minister and decided that since he couldn’t beat them he would join them. He left them as well after deciding they were wrong about observing a Saturday Sabbath, and briefly played the harlot with atheism and agnosticism. Finally, according to the account which he convinced his credulous followers to believe, in November 1913 he spent three days and nights in total seclusion studying the Bible and came out convinced that he was God’s last messenger, the messenger from the Far East prophesied by Rev 7:2-3; Isaiah 43:5-6; 46:11; 41:9-11. In any case, in 1914 started a church for himself, which would later claim Protestants to be apostates, and itself to be the one true Church of Christ outside of which there is no salvation.2 But his own biographers give lie to these claims, relating “on December 25, 1918, ministers of the Christian Mission honored Felix Manalo as an outstanding evangelist. The certificate was signed by Ministers Leslie Wolfe and Higinio Mayor, attested by attorney V. Dimagiba. The affair, held at the Gloria Theater in Tondo, Manila was attended by Church members and several Protestant pastors… In August 1919 Manalo visited all local congregations before departing for the United States to advance his Bible studies. He advised the brethren to keep united and protect one another in his absence. One day in September that year he sailed for the U.S. and stayed at Berkeley, California, burying himself in Bible research and studies, and attending classes in a school of religion.”3 So, either he was accepting awards and taking classes from apostates, or these claims came later, and from 1914-1919 Felix Manalo believed himself to be the head of just another Protestant church.

While he was away his church begat the grandfather of And Dating Daan, when two of his students whom he had passed over for ordination, Teofilo Ora and Januario Ponce, started their own church called the Iglesia Verdadero de Cristo (“The True Church of Christ” in Spanish) and drew away much of his fold with charges of immorality. True to the nature which this schismatic church inherited in its genesis, it soon begat the father of Ang Dating Daan with another schism. Nicolas Antiporda Perez founded the Iglesia ng Dios Kay Kristo Hesus, Haligi at Suhay ng Katotohanan (“The Church of God in Christ Jesus, Pillar and Ground of the Truth” in Tagalog), and attracted a following. The day before Eliseo Soriano turned seventeen, his parents took him to hear one of his sermons; the topic was, not surprisingly, the true Church of God according to the Bible, and Soriano was convinced. Perez baptized him, and made him a minister, the only other minister in the whole church. Hence, Soriano expected that when Perez died he would accede to the leadership of the InDKKHHaSnK (hmm, that’s large and unwieldy even as an acronym; I shall not use it again).4 However, when Perez died, a woman name Levita Gugulan in fact came to power,5 and Soriano, true to form, left and started yet another splinter church. He claims that he was forced out by former colleagues who “driven by extreme greed for power embarked on dark schemes against him and launched an underground plot to malign and discredit” him.6 I will prescind from the veracity of this statement, as foul play would not surprise me amongst the denizens of either side of this divide.

Soriano further claims that this occurred in fulfillment of Zechariah 13:8-9, a claim with about as much credibility as Manalo’s claim to be the angel ascending from the east of Revelations 7. Zechariah 13:7 is about the execution of Christ (cf. Matt 26:31) and the following two verses are about the persecution of the early Christian Church. For Soriano to apply it to his little group 2000 years later is absolutely inane. Consider how mild the persecutions Soriano has endured really are compared to what the early Church went through. The early Christians were torn to pieces by lions while crowds of heathens laughed at them; Soriano got sued, and lost. They were crucified; Soriano got briefly kicked off television. They had the option of sacrificing to demons or losing their heads; Soriano’s character is sometimes verbally attacked by the ministers he so frequently attacks himself. Soriano in fact has not endured any more persecution than Mohammed endured, whose persecution consisted of verbal abuse, a boycott, family pressure, and juvenile pranks like people dumping trash on his porch. This, compared to what Christians have endured, is child’s play.

In any case, Bro. Eli, as he now likes to be called, registered his group as Iglesia ng Dios kay Kristo Hesus, Haligi at Saligan ng Katotohanan (“The Church of God in Christ Jesus, Pillar and Ground of the Truth”), a name almost identical to the name of Gugulan’s group, Soriano having only replaced one word for “ground” (suhay, brace) with another (saligan, basis). Not surprisingly, Gugulan sued him, and the Philippine Supreme Court ruled in her favor. Soriano then changed the name of his group to Iglesia Ni YHWH at ni YHWSA HMSYH, and, most recently, to Members Church of God International.7 This is ironic because in one of his sermons which is posted at the Ang Dating Daan website Soriano chastises the Jehovah’s Witnesses for having multiple names throughout their history, and he insists that the real name of the true church is The Church of God in Christ Jesus, and that if an organization does not bear this exact name it cannot be of God.8 I eagerly await Mr. Soriano’s admission that his church no longer meets his own criteria for being of God.

And somehow, in spite of his ignominious origins, legal troubles, and self contradiction, Soriano has managed to draw a rather large following to himself, including many former Catholics. He apparently has an extraordinary memory, and amazes his listeners with his ability to regurgitate Scripture passages of the top of his head. One of his shows, in fact, is called “Ask Soriano, and the Bible Will Answer.” However, he clearly does not understand much of what he has memorized, as will become evident throughout this essay. Soriano must be very charismatic as well, given the way his followers fawn over him.9 He also exploits the chaotic religious landscape of the Philippines with his constant harangues against false preachers, wolves in sheep clothing, who are only after money and don’t really care about their flocks. He is thus a magnet for all those who are disillusioned and disaffected with their current churches, and who are willing to listen to a man claiming that he really loves them, and that he’s “the only sensible and sincere evangelist”10 who cares for them and wants to lead them to salvation. Soriano also uses dishonest debate tactics, such as heckling, setting up debates on his home turf where the audience can shout his opponents down, and recording his opponents’ words so he can replay them to the audience and pronounce allegations of contradiction.11 Finally, he is adept at character assassination, and smears all apostates from his group.12 He uses, in sum, the tactics characteristic of a cult.

III. The Bible Predicted Me, and God Himself Teaches Me

The Lord hath not sent thee, and thou hast made this people to trust in a lie (Jeremiah 28:15).

As noted above, Soriano claims to be the only sincere evangelist. Everyone else is a charlatan, according to him. Naturally, he also claims that he has been predicted by Scripture, specifically Ecclesiastes 9:15. He is, as he styles himself, the poor wise man who saved his city from destruction. Again, this is inane; it is simply another manifestation of Soriano’s utter incompetence to interpret Scripture, for in Ecclesiastes 9:15, Solomon is not predicting anything, but simply illustrating a principle (i.e. that wisdom is better than strength, even though it is accounted as less in the eyes of the world), by relating an event from the past. A poor and wise man saved his city from being destroyed by the army of a great King, but afterwards no one remembered his name. This may be a parable, or it may refer to a real event (Scripture records similar occurrences in Judg 9:52-55; 2 Sam 20:14-22). But in either case, it is narrated as an event which was completed in the past. Moreover, Soriano has yet to turn aside any armies or save any cities, and given the way he dresses, he clearly is not poor, and given the way he preaches, neither is he wise. Finally, the poor wise man’s name was forgotten in obscurity, but Soriano’s fame is only growing. Indeed, his great ambition is that “before I die… all people from the different parts of the world would be able to hear me as I preach the Gospel of Christ.”13 He should have realized, if he wanted to claim Ecclesiastes 9:15 for himself, that he would have to avoid professing ambitions to everlasting world renown. Clearly, if he were to preach his gospel to the entire world, his name would not be universally forgotten. In sum, no passage of Scripture refers directly to Mr. Soriano. He is simply one of the many false prophets contributing to the great apostasy predicted thereby.

Soriano seems to realize that his arguments, while perhaps impressive on the surface, absolutely fall apart upon anything resembling a deeper analysis. Most likely this is why he forbids his followers from interpreting the Bible. Indeed, in an article aptly titled, “Should the Bible Be Interpreted” he declares “it is not correct for us to interpret the Bible! God did not give anybody the right to interpret the Bible! And nobody can claim, not even a person with a Bachelor’s degree, like Law for instance, that he can explain the Bible, even if he follow the principles of hermeneutics or the formal study of methods of interpretation… the only thing that we have to do is, read the Bible. Do not interpret it.” He then quotes Romans 16:25-26 and Colossians 1:24-26 and concludes “Now, can anybody claim that, God left a certain mystery unexplained for these pastors to clarify and interpret themselves? Doing this is a clear act of deception.”14 Next, he further pronounces that “The Bible should no longer be explained by man inasmuch as the Bible already explains itself.”15

This is definitely the most blatant instance of duplicity I have discovered on the part of Mr. Soriano. As the reader has probably already noted, and will continue to note throughout this essay, Soriano’s arguments generally rest on tenuous, dubious, and even outright erroneous and incompetent interpretations of Scripture. We will see again and again that Soriano breaks his own rule and interprets the Bible, and does a poor job of it at that.

And of course, the idea that the Bible is so clear that no one needs to interpret it is itself unbiblical. My first instinct when I read the above passages from Mr. Soriano was to quote 2 Peter 3:16: “As also in all [Paul’s] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are certain things hard to be understood, which the unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.” The Bible contains many things that are “hard to be understood,” mysteries which need to be explained, a clear refutation of what Soriano states above. One would think, then, that Soriano would avoid this passage. However, he does not, for in a later article Soriano teaches that yes, the Bible does need to be interpreted after all. He quotes 2 Peter 3:16, then states:

We really should know how to use the bible. We should not perceive it as something so simple that anybody can readily interpret. In fact, it is the opposite! The Bible is not a plain as it may seem to be. The Holy Scriptures has the highest degree and the utmost quality of words and wisdom any book could offer that a man can read in his lifetime…. The Bible is unique and more special than any other book essential to our salvation. Hence, not anybody can just stand up and explain, elucidate, or even interpret the words of the Almighty Himself!16

He is here developing a self-contradiction which will be consummated in future articles. But I will make a brief digression first. Soriano illustrates his point with an example:

In Psalms 22:6, the one who is speaking is supposedly ‘…a worm, not man. Reproached of men, and despised of people.’

Continuing in verse 16 and 18, this so-called ‘worm’ said that: ‘…dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have enclosed me… For they pierced my hands and my feet, they part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture.’ These descriptions fit very well to our Lord Jesus Christ because Christ experienced all these at the time of His crucifixion and death. Therefore we can safely say that Jesus Christ, as He himself said, is ‘a worm, not man;’ but, in John 8:40, Jesus said to the Pharisees that He is ‘a man hath told you the truth’. Still, in 1 John 5:20, it says that, ‘Jesus Christ is the true God and eternal life.’ Here, we are faced with the dilemma of distinguishing the real nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. Is He a worm, a man, or a God? This is one of the greatest debates in the religious world; but how can we, in our humble being, be able to understand this seemingly complicated issue? Is it possible for us, human beings, to comprehend complexities such as these?17

Indeed, Mr. Soriano, that is why Jesus established a Church against which the gates of hell would not prevail (Matt 16:18), and promised to be with her “all days, even to the consummation of the world” (Matt 28:20), to send her the “Paraclete, that he may abide with you for ever: The spirit of truth” (John 14:16-17) who, when He comes, “will teach you all truth” (John 16:13). That is why he told his apostles, “He that heareth you, heareth me” (Luke 10:16) and why the apostles appointed successors to perpetuate their ministry for future generations (cf. 1 Tim 5:19-22; 2 Tim 4:2-5; Tit 1:5; 2:1, 15). For although almost anyone could see that Psalm 22:6 is using a metaphor, not literally saying that Jesus is a worm, it did indeed take divine guidance to bring humanity to a proper understanding of the hypostatic union, the union of the divine and human natures in the single person of Jesus Christ. God guided the successors of the apostles, the bishops of the early Catholic Church, men like St. Ignatius of Antioch and St. Athanasius of Alexandria, to explain to their flocks the mystery of the Incarnation of the Second Person of the Blessed Trinity, true God, in the true man Jesus Christ, and this understanding, received from the apostles and transmitted and developed by the same bishops of the early Catholic Church, was finally codified at Catholic ecumenical Councils such as Nicaea and Chalcedon. Christendom has never been without authentic Christian teachers, the successors of the apostles.

But no, Soriano would have his followers believe that Christ abandoned his Church, and that for almost 2000 years there were no “sincere evangelists” who faithfully taught apostolic doctrine, or, rather, he would have them believe that these evangelists existed but there is simply no historical record of them because the mean old Catholic Church covered it up. How convenient. Incidentally, this is the same logic that Dan Brown uses in The Da Vinci Code to argue that Jesus was a mere man who taught peace and worshiped the sacred feminine. You see, once one decides to reject the entire historical record as a forgery written by power hungry men, one can make up any cockamamie story about the past one wants to, and this is how Soriano deceives his followers into believing that his doctrines, so foreign to Christian history, actually represent authentic apostolic teaching. But it is a lie, and Soriano’s duplicity is manifest.

Let’s return to the developing contradiction. Soriano concludes this article by relating the means of properly interpreting the Bible. First, one must have the Spirit of God, which requires one to fear the Lord and keep His commandments. He reconciles his statements thus far with his dictum that no man may interpret the Bible by insisting that the Bible interprets itself, and that if one has the Spirit of God and searches the Scriptures diligently, one will find the explanation of the passage one does not understand in some other passage somewhere else.

Incidentally, he further insists that one must not refer to any book besides the Bible itself in the endeavor of Biblical interpretation, and that anyone who does so is flirting with damnation (I suppose he would except his own sermons and his “book” (I put “book” in quotation marks because I printed it on 16 pages of 8-1/2 x 11 inch paper) Leaving Behind the Fundamental Doctrines of Christ. Sure, it’s alright to refer to those writings in order to understand the Bible). This is absurd. Tremendous insights can be gained into biblical interpretation through historical, grammatical, and linguistic analysis, and this often requires reference to non-biblical literature. Try figuring out what archegos means, for instance, without referring to extra-biblical Greek writings (it is used only once in the entire New Testament: in Hebrews 12:2). Archeology and geography also throw light on much of what is obscure in Holy Scripture. Finally, the Church Fathers, who held on to the traditions which they received from the apostles (2 Thess 2:15), which included the proper understanding of many passages of Scripture, likewise provide for us a sure guide for understanding God’s Word. But Soriano would cut off his flock from these tools, and from education in the methods of biblical exegesis, and leave them adrift all by themselves to try to interpret these ancient texts, written in a language and culture far removed from their own, and expect them to just be able to read and understand. And naturally, they will fail. Without knowing the first thing about Greek and Hebrew exegesis, and being ignorant of the Church’s theology of things like salvation, the trinity, and the hypostatic union, they will simply be unable to understand these seemingly contradictory texts. Then, they will have to turn to Bro. Eli. This is where his self-contradiction reaches its consummation. The following is from an article entitled “Three Colors of Death Green & White & Red” in Soriano’s Old Path Magazine:

Firstly, parables, as parables, were not meant to be understood by most people… Secondly, Jesus used minute details which were intended to hide the truth of the text from the non-spiritual, but to reveal truth to God’s people… Thirdly, symbols (such as the woman, merchant man, wind, angel, dove, water, fire, and others) frequently appear in texts of the Bible.

All of these show the need for a teacher who has the Spirit of God so that one may understand the Word of God. Nothing less would be able to lead one to truth and guide one until the end.

And God is faithful that he would not leave his people alone without one. Fortunate, indeed, is one who has found that true preacher.

As attested to by many, God is really with Bro. Eli Soriano. He is remarkably an extraordinary individual – unschooled by the world’s standards but unbeatable in biblical matters. He can see what others do not and has the understanding of the Word of God not found in anyone even among sages. And for that, how blessed is the Philippines! …It is then no surprise that he claims he is being taught by God which explains his deep understanding of God’s Word and the revelations given to him… Anyone thirsting for the knowledge of God would make sure he is in the right path – the Old Path. And if you truly care for truth, you must make sure you are being led by someone with an understanding given by God, and teaching things of God – like a spring that never runs dry.18

There is more of the same in articles entitled “Super-Preacher in Our Times” and “Nobody Does It Better” in the same issue:

There is no secret in the Bro. Eli’s being unique, singular, and distinctive. The Bible gives its own explanation in John 3:34 as him being sent, therefore speaks the words of God, who gave him unlimited spirit – For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto him.19

The irony of it all is that God has equipped the faithful preacher with full knowledge of the Bible with unmeasured Spirit, then warned him what not to do that he may finish his work, and yet allowed him to be fair game to wicked people and their evil designs. But God is faithful, this mysterious set-up may be the strength of God’s design in preserving His nation through His Faithful preacher – one whom none can beat in unlocking the mysteries of the Bible

As Bro. Eli preaches, he makes distinctions between quantity of the word, its quality, its direction, time, construction of meaning, and extent of meaning. He goes as far as explaining the source and the intended receiver to place the message in proper context… Truly, none can compare with the understanding that Bro. Eli has that symbolisms in the Bible are effectively expounded to his congregation and to his hearers in bible expositions. While he has not formally studied so-called hermeneutics that are the fare of secular schools, his level of understanding shows an awesome depth that each topic – unheard of before from all corners of this world – is as valuable as his next topic would be. Indeed, Bro. Eli preaches faithfully. Foremost, he unlocks mysteries from the Word of God like nobody. The faithful one whom God has assigned would do his task God’s way – like Bro. Eli.20

Now Soriano’s true colors come out. Before, anyone who feared the Lord and patiently worked at it could interpret the Bible. Now, only he can. Before, “God did not give anybody the right to interpret the Bible!” Now, Soriano is divinely commissioned to interpret the Bible. Before, he asked “can anybody claim that, God left a certain mystery unexplained for these pastors to clarify and interpret themselves? Doing this is a clear act of deception.” Now, he is “unlocking the mysteries of the Bible” for his flock who eagerly lap up every word that falls from his lips. The contradiction could hardly be clearer. Now I am eagerly awaiting Mr. Soriano’s admission that, in addition to his group not being a true church, he has also perpetrated “a clear act of deception” on his poor unfortunate followers. For he has left them utterly dependent on him to learn anything at all about Sacred Scripture. Indeed, how dare they question he who is receiving direct revelation from God. IF YOU QUESTION THE MAN WHO GETS HIS INTERPRETATION STRAIGHT FROM THE MOUTH OF THE ALMIGHTY YOU ARE A REPROBATE! How dare you think to read what competent Bible scholars and exegetes have to say about Sacred Scripture! They are all liars! All preachers except me are charlatans who only want your money!

Do not listen to this man. He is incompetent to interpret the Bible, and he contradicts himself. This alone should be enough to disqualify him in the eyes of any Christian who would diligently “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). But if that still is not enough, let us examine his repeated appeals to his allegedly exemplary character as proof of his divine commission. Let us even grant that what he says about his life is true. Even so, do not the Catholic saints far exceed him in holiness, sacrifice, labor, and love? Has he stared down a barbarian at the head of an army of the same, as St. Leo the Great did? Did he resist a threat to be boiled in oil when he was but nine years of age, as the Fatima children did? Has he reduced his sleep to three hours a night to attend to the spiritual needs of his children, as St. Pio did? Really, there is nothing so extraordinary about Soriano. Even I can match him. Does he live an austere life? So do I. Does he abstain from the sinful pleasures of the world? So do I. Does he endure persecution and insults, has he had things thrown at him or been threatened for the sake of his gospel? So have I. Can he quote the Bible? So can I. Does he understand what he is quoting? I more so, as I have demonstrated above and will demonstrate again and again as Soriano says the most stupid, asinine, and flabbergasting things I have heard since a young lady at the local abortion clinic told me I have a right to own a slave but not a right to eat (at least the poor guy would go free in no more than 40 days). In sum, to all followers of this old path, I want you to know that Soriano is not the only one who loves you. The Catholic Church loves you, and wants you back. Moreover, she will welcome you back with open arms.

IV. Soriano and the Stinkblossom

Art thou a master in Israel, and knowest not these things? (John 3:10)

The more one reads of Soriano, the more his ignorance is manifest, and the more it grieves one to consider how very many people he has deceived. Take, for example, Leaving Behind the Fundamental Doctrines of Christ. The entire “book” is based on one gargantuan blunder. In fact, if I were to write a book about every blunder in history that was larger than this blunder, it might still be a shorter book than Leaving Behind the Fundamental Doctrines of Christ. He somehow completely misreads Hebrews 6:1-2, which states, in the KJV: “Therefore leaving the principles of the doctrine of Christ [i.e. the first rudiments of Christian doctrine], let us go on unto perfection; not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works, and of faith toward God, of the doctrine of baptisms, and of laying on of hands, and of resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment.” As the following quotes demonstrate, Soriano actually thinks St. Paul is telling his readers to forget about or ignore these fundamental doctrines:

But why did Paul admonished the first Christians that they (including Paul himself) must leave behind these fundamental doctrines of Christ? The fundamental is more on the material! Jesus wants us to attain, not only physical, but spiritual blessings. The fundamental purpose of laying on of hands is to heal the physical or material body of the subject person. But Christ, in his capacity, wants us to seek for the spiritual significance of His teachings because this is the way to learn more of Him…

Why then do we have to stop or leave this fundamental doctrine of Christ on the laying on of hands? A person with leprosy can be healed physically but his spirituality isn’t…21

But why did Paul said, in his dispensation, that Christians must leave the fundamental doctrine of the resurrection of the dead? …A saint who died in this dispensation, particularly in this time will not be delighted to be resurrected, to inhale again polluted air, to drink polluted water, and to eat chemical-laden foods and to be subjected to harsh brutality and gory death again… One thing is sure, the many glory-hungry and money-hungry preachers (it is against my conscience to call them preachers) of our times, who pretend to have power to resurrect the dead are all liars, which further belies their stand of being God-sent. It only displays their total ignorance of what Saint Paul have said almost two thousand years ago that perfection can be attained by leaving the fundamental doctrine of the resurrection of the dead.22

Now, Soriano’s interpretation here is simply silly. All St. Paul is saying that once his audience has sufficiently mastered the basics of the Christian religion, it will be possible for his discourse to advance to more lofty themes. Analogously, a math teacher might tell his students that once they have mastered arithmetic they can move on to algebra. St. Paul is absolutely not telling his audience that they ought to forget or abandon the “fundamental doctrines of Christ.” These are the foundation of Christianity; they support the entire soaring edifice, and without them the religion has nothing on which to stand. The foundation can never be forgotten. St. Paul’s only point is that once it has been laid properly once, the Christian teacher can move on from teaching these subjects and start building upon them the superstructure of more advanced theology. To risk mixing metaphors, once the new Christian has been nursed to a certain degree of maturity on spiritual milk, the teacher can then begin to give him solid food (Heb 5:12-14). It would be silly to keep “laying the foundation” over and over again, by teaching nothing but the basics, and never graduating Christian students from ecclesiastical kindergarten, just like it would be silly to hold back school children in the same grade year after year. Once we learn how to read, write, and do basic math, we can move on to history, philosophy, engineering, etc. But that does not mean we can forget about reading, writing, and basic math, or the more advanced subjects will become impossible. So too, should a Christian forget about repentance, faith, baptism, the laying of hands, and the resurrection of the dead, he will turn his religion into nonsense.

There’s more silliness in Soriano’s “book.” As a side note, for one who blasts the Catholic Church for using a little bit of Latin in her liturgy, he has no problem with using the Latin phrase prima facie himself in the very first paragraph. Don’t you see, Mr. Soriano, that learning the meaning of a few words of Latin, whether prima facie or dominus vobiscum is really not that hard?

In any case, following his opening harangue against false preachers, a feature almost ubiquitous in his works, Soriano quickly jumps into a fairly odd theological disputation: he constructs a dichotomy, as false as it is sharp, between the idea of Jesus as the personal Lord and Savior of the Christian, and His operation through the corporate body of the Church. But as one who is so famed for his ability to memorize the Bible, he should know that both concepts are present in Scripture. See for example the Magnificat, wherein Our Lady exclaims “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior” (Luke 1:47; cf. John 20:28).

It seems Soriano is led to a false conclusion because he starts out from a faulty philosophical premise, namely that that which is “personal” cannot be shared. Indeed, he challenges that if Jesus were the personal savior of anyone, it would be unethical to let Him be someone else’s savior as well. He makes an analogy to a man sharing his wife, his “personal property” as Soriano describes her. This is clearly an instance of equivocation regarding the meaning of “personal,” as the word does not necessarily imply exclusivity or possession, but merely a relationship. Jesus has an intimate and direct relationship with each individual soul consecrated to His service, and jealousy need not ensue. That Soriano thinks jealousy would ensue from such a relationship merely demonstrates once again that he is incompetent to interpret Scripture. He has projected his own erroneous presuppositions onto the Word of God, and his exegesis has been clouded accordingly.

A little while later, Soriano makes yet another exegetical blunder when he states that the primary purpose of the laying of hands is “to heal the physical or material body of the subject person”23 (this is allegedly why we ought to “leave behind” this fundamental doctrine; Jesus wants us to forget about temporal things like bodily health and move on to the spiritual realm). One wonders if he is reading the same Bible as the rest of us. Scripture frequently records that the Apostles laid their hands on persons in perfect bodily health, in order to confer a spiritual gift. “The Spirit was bestowed through the laying on of the apostles’ hands” (Acts 8:17; cf. 19:6). St. Paul likewise urges St. Timothy to kindle afresh the charisma, the spiritual, supernatural gift which he thereby received (2 Timothy 1:6). That gift was his ordination to the episcopacy. The Apostles, through the laying of hands, also ordained St. Stephen and six other men to the diaconate (Acts 6:5-6). So, one sees that in Scripture the laying of hands is ordered primarily to supernatural and spiritual realities, not mere bodily health as Soriano says. And the Catholic Church is ever faithful to the Bible. In fact, the phrase “the laying of hands” is simply the biblical manner of denoting the Catholic sacraments of Confirmation and Holy Orders.

Moving on, it does not take Soriano long to make another obvious mistake: he uses Hebrews 11:13, 35-40 in attempts to prove that the saints resurrected in Matthew 27:50-53 are not currently in heaven. Hebrews 11 is about the era before the Cross, the era of the Old Covenant. Men like Abraham and Noah died in faith, but did not go immediately into heaven. As St. Paul says in Hebrews 11:40, they “received not the promise; God providing some better thing for us, that they should not be perfected without us [the saints of the New Covenant].” However, that era is over, for on Holy Saturday, Christ descended to the abode of the righteous dead and “preached to those spirits that were in prison” (1 Pet 3:19). His mission was successful, and “ascending on high, he led captivity captive” (Eph 4:8). This means He brought the souls of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Noah, et al to heaven with Him, where they now comprise the “cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1) who, as St. Paul informs us, watch over the lives of Christians. Should we die in a state of grace, we will follow them. There is no period of “soul sleep” as Soriano believes. We will not lie senseless in our graves until the general resurrection on the last day. Rather, “it is appointed unto men once to die, and after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). We will be judged immediately and sent to either heaven, purgatory, or hell; on the last day this judgment will merely be publicly declared.

Next, leaving behind Leaving Behind the Fundamental Doctrines of Christ, let us go on to Soriano’s sermons, not sparing them from critical scrutiny, but likewise demonstrating their bankruptcy and internal contradiction. Let’s start with his sermon on “the salvation which is being taught by the Bible”, in which he chastises his ecclesiastical great grandfather, the Iglesia ni Cristo of Mr. Felix Manalo, for teaching that outside of it there is no salvation.24 He is, of course, quite right in decrying this claim as false. It is indeed blatantly and obviously false. However, in effect Soriano makes the exact same claim, for while he does reject any form of extra ecclesiam meam nulla salus (outside my church there is no salvation) in theory, this is essentially what his doctrine amounts to in practice. Although he teaches that the true Christian church existed before him, that he joined it, and did not create it, and is emphatic that it is forbidden for preachers to create their own churches, on the other hand he teaches that the only means of joining the true church is to assent to the whole body of apostolic doctrine as recorded by the Bible.25 And who possesses the whole body of apostolic doctrine? Who is the only preacher who properly understands the Bible and teaches all its commandments without addition or deletion? Who is the only preacher who uses only the Bible to interpret the Bible, without referring to other books? Soriano, of course. He is, recall, the “only sensible and sincere evangelist,” and has been divinely commissioned to unlock the mysteries of the word of God. He “holds the key,” to use the headline of one of his magazines, to the meaning of Sacred Scripture, and thus he holds the key to eternal salvation. His literature reminds his followers:

Not all preachers can save, however. Only the faithful one used by the Lord as vessel can save – himself and those that hear him.26

I care for my fellow Filipinos. As former President Joseph Estrada once said, nobody will care for the Filipinos but the Filipinos themselves. Many foreigners have come to our country but they only deceived us. We can have no other ally except our fellow Filipino . . . a Filipino, who speaks clearly . . . a Filipino who knows every righteous thing that the Bible says. I am extending you whatever I can offer, my countrymen. That is what I am here for.27

Most of our preachers today are like the devil. Why? They speak slyly. Whenever they use the Bible, they employ deception.28

So, Soriano can on the one hand avoid making the preposterous and untenable claim that his 30 year old group is the one true Church of Jesus Christ outside of which there is no salvation, and on the other hand he can tell people that he is the only preacher who can lead them to salvation. How convenient.

Errors abound in this sermon. Soriano soon begins to inveigh against “vain repetition” and other alleged errors in Catholic prayer, and he makes basically the same wrongheaded comments as any fundamentalist Protestant would. More on this below. But in addition to the standard Protestant fare, he also says something so uniquely absurd and incompetent that I have to mention it here. He quotes a large section of the Litany of the Blessed Virgin Mary, including the lines “Tower of David, pray for us. Tower of ivory, pray for us. House of gold, pray for us. Ark of the covenant, pray for us. Gate of Heaven, pray for us.” Then, he exclaims:

Even towers, which are without tongues, are petitioned to pray for them. Even the house of gold, even the tower of ivory, even the Ark of the Covenant, even the tower of David! Could they pray? Where did you get those ideas? Why are you also urging the gate of heaven to pray for you? Can they pray? They could perhaps produce a squeaking sound, but to pray to . . . that is impossible! The gate of heaven could not pray! That is not found in the Bible. Why are you calling on so many things to pray for you?29

Now, surely any competent person reading this litany would realize that Catholics are not literally asking towers, houses, gates, and arks to pray for them; these are simply titles of the Blessed Virgin Mary. How did Soriano miss this? Is it because of ignorance, dishonesty, or spiritual blindess that he cannot grasp the obvious meaning of these prayers? Should he not be able to infer, given that the previous 27 lines of the prayer invoked Mary under a different title, that this is the meaning of these lines as well? And could he not at least have asked a Catholic to explain this prayer to him before he started expatiating with such ridiculous pronouncements?

And it does not take Soriano long to ram his foot even deeper down his throat. He asks, incredulously, “If you were a woman, how would you feel about being addressed as ‘ginoo’ (mister)? Wasn’t she the wife of Joseph? Why don’t you call her ‘Ginang Maria’ instead?”30 Here, Soriano’s error stems from a lack of knowledge of the history of his own language. Filipino apologist Marwil Llasos explains:

During the 19th century, “ginoo” (gentleman) or “maginoo” (gentlemanly) was applied to both men and women. In fact, our national hero, Jose Rizal (a true-blooded Tagalog from Calamba, Laguna) wrote to the women of Malolos (Malolos, Bulacan, also a tagalog-speaking town. Until now, Bulacan is known for its high-sounding or classical Tagalog) addressing them “Mga Maginoong Babae ng Malolos” (“gentlemanly women of Mololos”). Soriano, in his ignorance, does not understand classical language.31

So, one begins to notice a pattern here. When Soriano is in ignorance, instead of having the humility to ask someone more knowledgable to enlighten him, he just assumes he is right and merrily blunders his way along. He quite confidently makes his bombastic pronouncements on all manner of subjects, and it never quite dawns on him what a fool he is making out of himself, that he does not know what he is talking about, that he is the proverbial Emperor with no clothes on. Pray God some day he will look at himself and realize he is naked. Lastly, though it has been corrected at some point, this sermon used to say that 6×6=39.32

Errors abound in others of his sermons and teachings as well. First, for one who habitually thrashes those who consult the dictionary when they have trouble understanding the Bible (recall he cuts off his followers from any means of understanding the Bible besides himself), he has no problem starting off his sermon on whether religion is necessary with, “if we are going to consult the dictionary for the meaning of the word ‘sect’, it means religious ‘faction.'”33

Second, he claims in his sermon on whether it is God’s will that we join a Church that, “Everything that the Apostles saw and heard had been written down.”34 This is just a blatant and explicit contradiction of Scripture. It is written, “But there are also many other things which Jesus did; which, if they were written every one, the world itself, I think, would not be able to contain the books that should be written” (John 21:25). Has Soriano not read this verse?

Third, in another sermon35 he quotes Proverbs 22:1, which says “A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches,” and makes yet another exegetical blunder. He actually thinks it is referring literally to a person’s appellation, e.g. John, Eliseo, Jude, Elizabeth. He doesn’t realize that “a good name” in this context is a metaphor for a good reputation. Perhaps he should have let the Bible interpret the Bible, and read Proverbs 10:7: “The memory of the righteous is blessed, but the name of the wicked will rot.” Clearly, the second clause of the sentence is the converse of the first; the righteous will be remembered fondly, but the wicked will be remembered in infamy. Their reputation will remain foul forever. See also Ecclesiastes 7:1; Sirach 41:12-13; Proverbs 18:10; 21:24. This is really quite simple! Literally every competent, published biblical commentator understands this passage. Jew and Christian, Catholic and Protestant, conservative and liberal: everyone sees what only Soriano is too blind to see.36 Incidentally, Soriano also manifests his inability to recognize a literary device when he quotes Matthew 6:9, “Hallowed be thy name” and concludes that we ought to worship the name of the Lord. “Hallowed be thy name” is simply a poetic way of saying “Hallowed are you.”

Fourth, while explaining where the water for Noah’s flood came from, Soriano makes a rather silly scientific blunder:

[O]xygen and hydrogen are abundant in our atmosphere. And if you combine two molecules of hydrogen with one molecule of oxygen, the result is water. Put some ice in a glass. After a while, there would be moisture outside the glass. That is because the molecules of hydrogen had combined with the molecule of oxygen.37

This is entirely wrong! The reason water condenses on the outside of a glass of ice water is not because new water molecules are being formed through the combination of atmospheric hydrogen and oxygen. The true explanation is as follows: the atmosphere contains a large amount of water in vapor form. If the air becomes saturated with more water vapor than it can hold, some of the water will precipitate out as moisture. Furthermore, hot air is capable of containing much more water vapor than cold air. If hot air containing a large amount of moisture is rapidly cooled, the air suddenly will no longer be able to hold that moisture, and the water vapor will condense. Thus, when a cold glass of ice water causes a drop in the temperature of the surrounding air, water precipitates out of that air, and condenses on the side of the glass. Soriano really should learn his elementary atmospheric science before he presumes to teach people about it.

Fifth, Soriano gets his history wrong:

Galileo was expelled by the Pope because of his adherence to the Copernican theory, which was in contradiction to what the Pope believed in. There were so many things that they disagreed on, and one of them was on the shape of the earth. The Pope believed that it was flat. Actually, that was a common belief that time. They thought that the earth was flat and if you reach the edge of the earth, you will fall. They also believed that, based on the horizon, wherever the earth ends, there also is where the sky ends. But Galileo believed otherwise. He believed that the earth is round. And because of upholding a belief that was contrary to the belief of the Pope, he was expelled from the Catholic Church. And eventually, it was proven that what Galileo believed in was true.38

There are three glaring errors here. First off, “the Pope” did not believe in a flat earth, and this belief was not common among scholars at any point in Christian history. This was a calumny against Christendom invented by 19th century rationalists like John W. Draper.39 All educated people at the time of Galileo recognized that the earth is a sphere. Second, Galileo’s trial before the Inquisition had nothing to do with the shape of the earth; it concerned his opinion that the sun is fixed and immobile at the center of the universe, and that the earth revolves around it. The proposition that the sun is immobile was condemned as heretical, and the proposition that the earth moves was condemned as at least erroneous in faith. Third, Galileo was never excommunicated. He was held vehemently suspect of heresy, and so forced to sign an oath of abjuration, consigned to house arrest, and made to recite the seven penitential psalms each week. But he was never expelled from the Catholic Church. Soriano cannot seem to get anything right.

Sixth and finally, Soraino commits elementary logical fallacies:

“A rose by any other name will still be sweet.” That is not true! If somebody gives you this quotation, that would mean that, that person is out of his mind. Why say that, a rose by any other name is sweet? In the Philippines, there is a flower called, katuray. By the mere sound of its name, we can already tell that this flower is not sweet, even if you call it “rose”. Using the name “rose” for a “katuray” will not make it any sweeter. Misnaming anything is not good.40

Either Soriano has completely missed Shakespeare’s point or he has directly contradicted himself. The point of the phrase “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is that a thing, objectively, is what it is. The name one applies to it does not change its intrinsic nature. A rose will still be a rose, and thus will still smell sweet, even if you call it a stinkblossom. Similarly, the Catholic Church will still be the Church founded by Christ, even if you call it awful names like the whore of Babylon, and the holy sacrifice of the Mass will still yield an aroma of spiritual fragrance which is pleasing and acceptable to the Lord even if you call it an abomination. Conversely, as Soriano points out, calling a katuray a rose will not make it sweeter. Calling a stinkblossom a rose will not make it less foul. Thus, no matter whether Soriano calls his church “the Church of the living God, Pillar and Foundation of the Truth,” “Members Church of God International,” or “Ang Dating Daan,” it will never be the pillar and foundation of the truth, it will never be the church of God, and it will never be the same “old path” referenced in Jeremiah 6:16. So, we certainly grant to Soriano, that misnaming things is not good, and that calling evil good and good evil will neither make evil good nor good evil. But that is exactly what Shakespeare is saying in the phrase Soriano rejects. Soriano thus uses an argument which proves that misnaming something does not change its nature, in order to refute a phrase which teaches that misnaming something does not change its nature.

In order to deal with Soriano’s wider argument here, viz., that the true Church of God has to have the proper, biblical name, and cannot bear an invented name such as “Catholic,” suffice it to note that the Bible freely applies at least 45 names to the Church: Temple of God (1 Cor 3:16); spiritual house (1 Pet 2:5); body of Christ (Eph 1:22); household of God (Eph 2:19); Israel of God (Gal 6:16); congregation of saints (Psalm 149:1); bride of Christ (Rev 21:2); etc. There is nothing to prevent the same Church from freely applying new names to herself, so long as these new names accurately describe her, now that the Bible is finished.41 And “Catholic” most certainly does accurately describe her. She is universal; she is the whole Church, and she counts among her members men from every race and nation under heaven, to which, God willing, might one particularly ornery Filipino soon be added.

At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I will state it again: Soriano is incompetent. He ought to be embarrassed at the utterly foolish things that he has said. Moreover, his followers ought to realize that one who so frequently sticks his foot in his mouth might not be the most reliable guide to the finer points of Christian theology and biblical exegesis, and that it might not be the safest thing to place one’s eternal salvation in his hands. For if he can be so wrong about something so simple as recognizing a metaphor, he can be wrong about something difficult like the nature of God or of salvation as well. Indeed, one would expect his errors to be all the more grievous as the subject of his ignorant expositions grows more grave. This is, in fact, the case, as I will demonstrate below.

V. A Semi-Arian Apollinarian

He… was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God (John 5:18).

Soriano states the principle quite well when he says “If a religious organization teaches wrong doctrines, that means that the Holy Spirit is not guiding it, and therefore, it is not of God.”42 Or again, “the Church, which is headed by Christ, does not teach any wrong doctrine. Instead, it teaches indestructible and undefiled doctrines.”43 These are the standards to which we will hold Mr. Soriano. If it can be proven that he teaches wrong doctrines, he must then admit that the Lord has not sent him (cf. Jer 28:15), that he is not of God. His teachings must be weighed in the scales, and if they are found wanting (cf. Dan 5:27), rejected. He must then repent and take his flock back to the bosom of Holy Mother Church. I am informed that one of his favorite tactics in debate is to ask his opponent if, supposing he can prove such and such a doctrine from the Bible, his opponent will admit he is wrong and convert then and there to his church. With this essay, I propose the selfsame bargain to him.

There is some difficulty in pinning down Soriano’s doctrine of God. He has not published a thorough exposition, so the reader must glean his doctrine from statements here and there, on his website and in his television programs. I’ve found, also, that whenever he speaks concerning the doctrine of God, he devotes most of his time to attacking “Oneness” evangelicals, who hold that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are the same person, and the doctrine of the Iglesia ni Cristo (or Iglesia ni Manalo, as he likes to call it, and I concur), which holds that Jesus is mere man, not God. He spends relatively little time attacking the Trinity (he’ll maybe cite John 10:29; 14:28; 1 Cor 15:28, and then move on), and expounding his own peculiar doctrine.

As far as I have understood it, this doctrine is basically semi-Arian. He clearly believes in some form of subordinationism, as he emphatically denies that the three persons of the Godhead are co-equal. Hence, for all his protestations that Jesus is “a true and Mighty God,”44 he cannot maintain the true divinity of Christ. God is absolutely perfect, a purely simple Spirit (John 4:24) of charity (1 John 4:8). If the Son and Holy Spirit are one substance with the Father, then they are co-equal and share all His divine perfections. If they are not one substance with the Father, then they are not divine.

Soriano affirms that the Son was begotten, not created, so he avoids the error of the strict Arians and the Jehovah’s Witnesses, which asserts that the Son is merely a creature. His doctrine is less false, if perhaps less logically consistent, than theirs. Soriano properly asserts, if I am not mistaken, that the Son and Holy Spirit receive their being from the Father from eternity, and were not created out of nothing at a particular point in time. The Father never existed without the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is correct, though unfortunately as noted above he concludes that because the Son and the Holy Spirit receive their being from the Father they must be less than Him. Soriano also tends toward the error of tritheism (that there are three gods), as he denies that the three persons of the Godhead are one in all their works in creation (in the language of theology, their operations ad extra). Indeed, he adduces as one of his arguments against the “Oneness” position that because the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are described in Scripture as performing different roles, we may therefore conclude that they are three separate entities. More on this below. Soriano’s tritheistic leanings are expressed very clearly in the first article of his formulation of the basic doctrines of Ang Dating Daan:

We believe in the Almighty God, the Father, the Creator of the universe, in Christ Jesus, the Father’s begotten son, a true and Mighty God, the only savior of mankind and the only way to the Kingdom of God in heaven ( Acts 14:15; I Cor. 8:5-7; John 14:6; 14:1 ).45

Soriano also holds to a highly flawed Christology, which states that Christ did not truly become Incarnate, did not truly become a man, but only took on the appearance of being a man. He thus revives the ancient heresy of Apollinarianism. Next, his belief that the persons of the Godhead are not one in all their works leads him to a rather bizarre doctrine of salvation. And finally, as a result of his incompetence to interpret Scripture, demonstrated above, Soriano misunderstands the attributes of God, and denies such a fundamental doctrine as His omnipresence. Let us then test the spirits to see whether they are from God (1 John 4:1), and compare Soriano’s doctrine to the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity, using, as he likes to say, the Bible as our basis.

Soriano objects that there is “no such word as Trinity in the Bible.” However, he will use the word Godhead, because he reads it in three places in his King James translation, which he is so heavily dependent upon. As an aside, if he took a more modern translation as his primary version, he might think it was unbiblical to talk about “the Godhead” as well, since neither the NIV nor the NASB ever use the word. In any case, Soriano understands the word Godhead in the same sense it is commonly used in theology, that is, to denote the union of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the three divine persons taken together. This is clear from his affirmations that there are three persons in the Godhead. Now, as noted above, Godhead is used three times in KJV. In Acts 17:29 it translates theion, the accusative of theios, meaning divine nature or divinity. The context says nothing about multiple persons or entities; in fact, St. Paul introduces “God that made the world and all things therein” in v. 24. From Soriano’s perspective, then, this sermon is about God the Father, and theion in v. 29 must refer to the Father’s nature as God. Next, in Romans 1:20 Godhead translates theiotes, or divine nature. Again, the context contains nothing about multiple persons; it is about the divine attributes knowable by reason alone. Finally, in Colossians 2:9 it translates theotetos, the genetive of theotes, the essence of divinity. Soriano, reading the translation “Godhead” from his KJV Bible, and interpreting Godhead the way it is commonly used in theology, takes this passage to mean that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit all dwell in body of Jesus Christ. However, the meaning of the Greek is that the fullness of the essence of the divinity dwells in Christ, that is, that the Son is fully God, participates fully in the divine nature of the Father, and is therefore co-equal with Him. In this context, theotetos denotes the divine essence, not the persons of the Godhead. So, Soriano is once again hoisted by his own petard. If the word Trinity is never used in the Bible, neither is the word Godhead, at least in the sense Soriano takes it to mean.

But this is not a battle of semantics anyway. What matters is not whether we can find the word Trinity in the Bible, but whether the concept is there. And it is.

First, that the Father and Son are co-equal is taught in John 5:18, as St. Augustine proves:

“Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father;” not in any ordinary manner, but how? “Making Himself equal with God.” For we all say to God, “Our Father which art in heaven;” we read also that the Jews said, “Seeing Thou art our Father.” Therefore it was not for this they were angry, because He said that God was His Father, but because He said it in quite another way than men do. Behold, the Jews understand what the Arians do not understand. The Arians, in fact, say that the Son is not equal with the Father, and hence it is that the heresy was driven from the Church. Lo, the very blind, the very slayers of Christ, still understood the words of Christ. They did not understand Him to be Christ, nor did they understand Him to be the Son of God: but they did nevertheless understand that in these words such a Son of God was intimated to them as should be equal with God. Who He was they knew not; still they did acknowledge such a One to be declared, in that “He said God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” Was He not therefore equal with God?46

Next, we saw above that the Trinity is taught in Colossians 2:9 as well. All the fullness (Gk. pan to pleroma) of the essence of divinity dwells in Christ. Since Soriano is a subordinationalist, he does not confess that all the fullness is in Christ; he can only confess that some of the nature of the Father’s divinity is in Christ, otherwise he would have to admit that the Son is equal to the Father.

Moving on, we see the same doctrine once again in Philippians 2:6, which the Douay-Rheims renders as “[Christ Jesus] being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God.” More modern translations render the last clause as “[Christ] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (NAS), however, when we consider that “grasped” (Gk. harpagmon) carries the connotation of seizing that which is not rightfully one’s own, the meaning is essentially the same. Now, we have two possibilities for the correct interpretation of this verse: (1) Christ is naturally and properly equal to the Father, so He knew that He did not have to attain such a state by robbery, and was perfectly justified in teaching the Jews as much (cf. John 5:18), or (2) Christ is less than God, and he knew that He ought not to exalt Himself and seize for Himself a status of equality not properly His. The Catholic Church holds the former, whereas the Arians, and most likely Soriano following them, hold the latter. So, many of the arguments that the Holy Fathers adduced against the Arian position might be applied to Soriano as well.

In this vein, St. John Chrysostom observes that for an inferior God to attempt to seize the power of a superior God is absurd and intrinsically impossible: “Tell me now… if [Christ] were little, as they say, and far inferior to the Father in power, how could He possibly have seized to Himself equality with God? For an inferior nature could not seize for himself admission into that which is great; for example, a man could not seize on becoming equal to an angel in nature; a horse could not, though he wished it, seize on being equal to a man in nature.”47 Moreover, there would be nothing especially commendable about Christ not desiring to snatch for Himself the possessions of his Father. This is the bare minimum demanded by justice! Rather, St. Paul is here inculcating in the Philippian Christians Christ’s extraordinary humility, that He for whom it was not robbery to be equal to God so abased Himself as to take on the form of a servant, a mortal man.

Finally, Revelations 1:8 likewise contradicts Soriano’s distinction between the Father, who alone is “almighty God” and the Son, who is allegedly just “a mighty God.” In this verse Jesus Christ tells St. John, “I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the end, saith the Lord God, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty” (cf. Rev 15:3). Kurios ho theos is how the Septuagint translated YHWH Elohim, the Lord God, one of the divine titles of the one and only God in the Old Testament. Likewise, the title Almighty (Gk. pantokrator) is used in Scripture exclusively of the Most High (cf. 2 Cor 6:18; Rev 4:8; 11:17; 16:7, 14; 19:6, 15; 21:22). Jesus could not properly be called “the Lord God almighty” if He were subordinate to the Father, who alone is almighty. The Scripture only makes sense if Jesus is consubstantial with the Father, if they are two co-equal persons in one God, if everything the Father is, the Son is as well.

Testimonies to the true nature of the Holy Spirit, the third co-equal divine person of the Blessed Trinity, are less numerous and explicit. However, the doctrine is taught in Scripture nonetheless. Catholic theologian Ludwig Ott summarizes the biblical evidence:

The name “Holy Ghost” and the name “God” are used alternately. Acts 5, 3 et seq.: “Ananias, why has Satan tempted thy heart that thou shouldest lie to the Holy Ghost? Thou hast not lied to men, but to God.” Cf. 1 Cor. 3, 16; 6, 19 et seq. In the Trinitarian Formula of Baptism, the Holy Ghost is made equal to the Father and the Son who are truly God. Again, divine attributes are ascribed to the Holy Ghost. The Holy Ghost possesses the fullness of knowledge: He teaches all truth, presages future things (John 16, 13), searches the innermost secrets of God (1 Cor. 2, 10) and has inspired the Prophets of the Old Covenant (2 Peter 1, 21; cf. Acts 1, 16).48

Next let us examine the verses which Soriano alleges against the equality of persons within the Trinity. The first is John 10:29, which reads “My Father, who has given [my sheep] to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.” According to Soriano, because the Father is greater than all, that means He must be greater than the Son and the Holy Spirit.

But to answer this interpretation one need only look at the immediate context. Jesus is here assuring the Jews that no wolf is able to snatch His sheep out of His hand, that is, no wicked person, man or demon, is able to take down to perdition one of God’s elect whom He has predestined for eternal glory. The reason the wicked are unable to do so is because Jesus’ Father is “greater than all,” that is, He is greater and more powerful than any creature who might try to steal His sheep. So, in context, Jesus is saying that His Father is greater than all creatures, not that He is greater than the other uncreated persons of the Trinity.

This is especially clear given that in this passage Jesus is simultaneously teaching that He is one God with the Father. He states in v. 28 “no one will snatch [my sheep] out of My hand,” then adds in v. 29 “no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand,” and concludes in v. 30 by saying “I and the Father are one.” As St. Cyril of Alexandria points out, “‘the hand,’ in the Divine Scripture, signifies ‘the power.'”49 So, Jesus may be paraphrased as saying, “no one will snatch my sheep out of my hand… No one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand. I and the Father are one.” Now, Soriano claims that when Jesus says “I and the Father are one,” he means only a union of affection or desire only, and he appeals to John 17:11, where the phrase is used in this sense. However, this meaning cannot be imposed in the context of John 10:30, for the phrase “I and the Father are one” derives its meaning from the immediately preceding verses wherein Christ spoke of His own power and the power of the Father interchangeably. The meaning is “I and the Father are one in power.” I will defer once more to the master of Greek exegesis, St. John Chrysostom:

Then that thou mayest not suppose that He indeed is weak, but that the sheep are in safety through the power of the Father, He addeth, “I and the Father are One.” As though He had said “I did not assert that on account of the Father no man plucketh them away, as though I were too weak to keep the sheep. For I and the Father are One.” Speaking here with reference to Power, for concerning this was all His discourse; and if the power be the same, it is clear that the Essence is also. And when the Jews used ten thousand means, plotting and casting men out of their synagogues, He telleth them that all their contrivances are useless and vain; “For the sheep are in My Father’s hand”; as the Prophet saith, “Upon My hand I have pictured thy walls.” (Isa. xlix. 16.) Then to show that the hand is One, He sometimes saith that it is His own, sometimes the Father’s. But when thou hearest the word “hand,” do not understand anything material, but the power, the authority. Again, if it was on this account that no one could pluck away the sheep, because the Father gave Him power, it would have been superfluous to say what follows, “I and the Father are One.” Since were He inferior to Him, this would have been a very daring saying, for it declares nothing else than an equality of power; of which the Jews were conscious, and took up stones to cast at Him. (Ver. 31.) Yet not even so did He remove this opinion and suspicion; though if their suspicion were erroneous, He ought to have set them right, and to have said, “Wherefore do ye these things? I spake not thus to testify that my power and the Father’s are equal”; but now He doth quite the contrary, and confirmeth their suspicion, and clencheth it, and that too when they were exasperated. For He maketh no excuse for what had been said, as though it had been said ill, but rebuketh them for not entertaining a right opinion concerning Him.50

This last observation must be the nail in the coffin for Soriano’s interpretation of this verse. To adapt the saying of St. Augustine, behold the Jews understand what Soriano does not. The Jews well understood what Jesus meant when He said, “I and the Father are one,” that is, He was making Himself equal to God (cf. John 5:18), so the picked up stones to execute Him for blasphemy. And Jesus made no effort to correct their opinion. He never said, “I and the Father are one by a union of affection only, in the same sense that my disciples are one with another.” No, He was saying exactly what the Jews thought that He was saying.

Soriano also attempts to use John 14:28 against the equality of persons in the Trinity, in which Jesus states “the Father is greater than I.” There are two possible interpretations of this text.

According to the common exposition, Christ here speaks of himself, as made man, which interpretation is drawn from the circumstances of the text, Christ being at that time, going to suffer, and die, and shortly after to rise again, and ascend into heaven, all which agree with him, as man, and according to his human nature… The enemies of the divinity of Christ here triumph, and think they have the confession of Christ himself, that he is less than the Father. But if they would distinguish the two natures of Christ, their arguments would all fall to the ground. Jesus Christ, as man, and a creature, is inferior to his Father, the Creator; but, as God, he is, in every respect, equal to him.51

The other solution is to posit that Jesus is here speaking in the category of authority. The Father is the higher authority, to which the Son submits, because the Father is the principle from whom the Son receives His being. However, the Father communicates His entire being to the Son, holding back none of the divine perfections, so the Father and Son are equal in essence and in goodness, regardless of this distinction.52 Incidentally, by these two arguments we have already sufficiently answered Soriano’s attempts to use 1 Cor 15:28 against the Catholic doctrine of the Trinity.

And having answered Soriano’s subordinationism, let us now answer his false Christology. Recall, he is an Apollinarian; he does not confess that Jesus Christ is truly a man, merely that he has taken on the appearance or form of a man. He uses Philippians 2:6-7 in support of this belief, which refers to Jesus, who was in the form of God, assuming the form of man. Of course, the major problem with this argument is that Soriano believes that Jesus really is a God, so to be consistent he would have to admit that if the phrase “the form of man” means Jesus is not truly a man, the phrase “the form of God” means he is not truly a God. St. John Chrysostom pointed out the inconsistency of Arians who did not apply this phrase equally in both instances:

Tell me now, what means, “He took the form of a servant”? It means, He became man. Wherefore “being in the form of God,” He was God. For one “form” and another “form” is named; if the one be true, the other is also. “The form of a servant” means, Man by nature, wherefore “the form of God” means, God by nature.53

Reverse the order of this argument, and it applies directly to Eliseo Soriano.

Moreover, St. Paul explicitly calls Jesus Christ a “man” in Rom 5:15; 1 Cor 15:21; 1 Tim 2:5. And the parallelism in the first two of those verses between Adam, the one man through whom death entered the world, and Jesus Christ, the one man through whom came life, would make little sense if Jesus were not truly, actually a man. Also, the whole point of St. Paul in calling attention to the fact that Jesus is a man in 1 Tim 2:5 is to explain why He can mediate between God and man: He is truly God and at the same time He is truly one of us. Moreover, the way we interpret “man” in this verse when it is used with respect to Christ (i.e. actually a man, or just in the appearance of man?) must be controlled by the immediately preceding usage, in which it refers to real, actual men. To switch our interpretation of “man” in the middle of this verse is to do violence to the text. Next, Hebrews 2:17-18 sounds a similar theme to 1 Tim 2:5: “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest… For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” If Christ only took on the appearance of manhood, He would not be like us in “all things”; He would only be like us in appearance. In order to be like us in “all things” He must be like us in nature. And finally, Matthew 9:8 refers to a group of “men”, and Jesus is one of them. If Jesus had only the appearance of manhood he would not be a true and proper man in the same sense as the rest of them.

The last false christological belief of Bro. Eli which I will tackle is the idea that Christ is not immutable. Soriano teaches that the Father could not have become incarnate since the Bible says He cannot ever change (Jas 1:17), whereas Jesus allegedly “changed” when He became a man. But “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Heb 13:8). The Son is immutable according to His divinity. He did not change in His absolutely simple, spritual essence when He joined Himself to a human nature in the Person of Our Lord Jesus Christ.

And now, having sufficiently answered Soriano’s false Christology, let us answer his tritheistic beliefs. According to the orthodox faith, the faith once for all delivered to the saints (cf. Jude 3), “The works of the Trinity are inseparable.”54 Whatever the Father does, so does the Son and the Holy Spirit, and vice versa. All three Persons participate equally in every divine act in the world. For the biblical evidence, again Ludwig Ott:

Christ testifies to the unity of His working with the Father, and bases it on the unity of Nature. John 5, 19: “What things soever (the Father) doth these the Son also doth in like manner.” John 14:10: “But the Father who abideth in Me, He doth the same works.” Holy Writ asserts the unity of the operations of the Divine Persons also by ascribing the same works, for example, the realisation of the Incarnation, the bestowal of the supernatural gifts of grace, the forgiveness of sins, to different persons. Cf. Luke 1, 35; Mt. 1, 20; Phil. 2, 7; Hebr. 10, 5 (Incarnation); 1 Cor. 12, 4 et seq. (gifts of grace); Mt. 9, 2; Luke 7, 48; 23, 34; John 20, 22 (forgiveness of sins).55

Even without the explicit biblical testimony of John 5:19; 14:10, Ott’s Catholic logic is conclusive. According to Luke 1:35; Matt 1:20, the Holy Spirit produced the Incarnation; according to Phil 2:7, the Son produced the Incarnation; according to Heb 10:5, the Father produced the Incarnation. Therefore all three Persons produced the Incarnation, as in all their other operations.

Soriano does not believe this, because he reads in certain places of Scripture that one person of the Blessed Trinity is described as doing something, and the other two Persons are not explicitly named. This is because he does not understand the principle of appropriation, that is, we commonly associate certain kinds of works, which are in actuality common to all three Persons, with one particular Person, because it expresses some truth about the inner life and divine relations of the Trinity. Thus, because the Father is the ultimate origin from which the other two Persons receive their being, we commonly attribute to Him the creation of the world. Thus, because the Holy Spirit is the love or sanctity of God, who proceeds from the Father and the Son as the terminus of their will to love one another, we commonly attribute to Him the outpouring of the grace, the mercy, and the love of our God.

Now we can easily see the fallacy of one of Soriano’s arguments against “Oneness” evangelicals. Although he is correct to denounce their doctrine that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are one person, he is wrong when he claims we can prove they are distinct persons because they perform different works. If the Bible commonly attributes creation to the Father, it does not neglect to mention that the Son participated equally (cf. John 1:3; Rom 11:36; 1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16-17). If the Son saves us, so also do the Father and the Holy Spirit (cf. 1 Cor 1:21; 1 Tim 1:1; 2:3; 2 Tim 1:8-9; Tit 1:2-4; 2:10; 3:4-6; Jude 25). And if the Holy Spirit helps and comforts us, so also do the Son and the Father (cf. Psalm 71:21; 86:17; 119:76; Isa 12:1; 49:13; 57:18; Rom 8:34; 2 Cor 1:3-5; 7:6; 2 Thess 2:16-17; Heb 7:25). Inseparabilia sunt opera Trinitatis.

Soriano’s denial of the unity of the works of the Godhead leads him, as noted above, to a rather bizarre doctrine of salvation. He believes that in the time of the Old Testament, only God the Father was the savior. Jesus Christ His Son was only appointed savior when He was born and began to preach the gospel, and even then, he had only a limited jurisdiction of salvation, namely the Church. (Soriano appeals to such texts as Eph 5:3, which do say that Jesus is the savior of the Church.)

As implied above, Soriano denies that the Church is the only instrument of salvation. This is because he believes that it would logically follow that everyone who did not hear the gospel, the preaching of the Church, would be damned, which is contrary to Rom 2:13-16. He appeals to all the peace loving Chinese people who never heard the name of Christ. Such people, according to Soriano, may still be saved under the Old Testament system, by God the Father and not by Jesus Christ. Supposedly, these two parallel paths of salvation will still be valid for the rest of history; God the Father is a savior from the beginning to the end of humanity, and Jesus Christ is the savior of the Church. To substantiate the Father’s alleged independent salvation plan, Soriano appeals to 1 Tim 4:10, in which St. Paul states “we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers.” He lays great stress on the word “all” to emphasize that the Father is the savior of those who never hear the gospel.

Now, the first step in refuting this doctrine we have already accomplished, when we noted that the Bible describes both God the Father and Jesus Christ the Son as saving Christians, the Church. “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus according to the commandment of God our Savior, and of Christ Jesus, who is our hope” (1 Tim 1:1; cf. vv. 2:3-5). God the Father is “our savior,” the savior of St. Paul, St. Timothy, and the rest of the Christian Church. “God… has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 1:8-9). Titus 1:3-4 mentions “God our Savior… and Christ Jesus our Savior” (cf. v. 2:10; Jude 1:25). Again, “But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior” (Tit 3:4-6). This is very explicit. All three Persons of the Godhead save all who ever will be saved. Soriano might counter that he admits that the Father deserves overall credit since He is the one who sent Jesus Christ as savior, however, in the last verse we cited the Father was described as having a very direct, immediate, and active role in salvation; He saved us “by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly.” He did not simply let Jesus go off and do it Himself.

Secondly, Soriano’s doctrine does not conform to the statement in 1 Tim 4:10 that God the Father is “especially” the savior of believers. Recall, according to him, the Father is directly the savior of those who do not hear the gospel, and only indirectly the savior of those who do. Soriano’s emphasis is the opposite of St. Paul’s; to teach Soriano’s doctrine, St. Paul should have said that God is the savior of all men, especially those who do not believe (i.e. never hear the gospel, but live according to their conscience). In reality, the meaning of this text is that God bestows more abundant graces on those who are formally united to His Son in the Church, through a visible sacramental communion, though He may also, “by the efficacious virtue of divine light and grace,”56 save those who never hear the gospel.

Finally, Soriano is wrong to assert that anyone at all may be saved without Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other” (Acts 4:12). There are no two parallel paths of salvation. Those who are saved having never heard the gospel are saved the same way as those who have, namely through Christ and his Church, for “by an unconscious desire and longing they have a certain relationship with the Mystical Body of the Redeemer.”57

Let us move on to Soriano’s errors concerning the attributes of God. As alluded to above, he does not believe that God is omnipresent. In his sermon on “the salvation that is being taught by the Bible” he adduces a few facile arguments in support of this claim. (1) Because we lift our eyes to heaven and pray “Our Father who art in heaven” he alleges that God is not everywhere, but in heaven only. (2) He quotes “Hail Mary, Full of grace, the Lord is with thee” and asks the following incredulous questions: “Where is God, this time? Which is true now? Is He everywhere? Is He in heaven? Or, is He in Mary? You are fooling yourselves!” (3) He attempts a reductio ad absurdum: “If you are claiming that God is everywhere, it follows that He is also in cabarets, night clubs, sauna baths, and gambling dens because your God is everywhere.” (4) He quotes Acts 17:24: “God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands.”58

Before refuting him point by point I will note that Soriano is here contradicting the overwhelming testimony of Sacred Scripture to the omnipresence of God. God is simultaneously in heaven and on earth: “He is God in heaven above and on the earth below; there is no other” (Deut 4:39). The heavens cannot contain Him: “But will God indeed dwell on the earth? Behold, heaven and the highest heaven cannot contain You, how much less this house which I have built! (1 Kings 8:27) His presence extends from heaven to earth: “Thus says the LORD, ‘Heaven is My throne and the earth is My footstool.” (Isa 66:1) God’s presence fills all space from the highest heaven to the depths of sheol (hell) and everything in between: “Can you discover the depths of God? Can you discover the limits of the Almighty? They are high as the heavens, what can you do? Deeper than Sheol, what can you know? Its measure is longer than the earth, and broader than the sea” (Job 11:7-9). Again: “Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? If I ascend to heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in Sheol, behold, You are there. If I take the wings of the dawn, if I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, even there Your hand will lead me, and Your right hand will lay hold of me” (Psalm 138:7-10). God fills the entirety of the heavens and the earth: “‘Can a man hide himself in hiding places so I do not see him?’ declares the LORD. ‘Do I not fill the heavens and the earth?’ declares the LORD” (Jer 23:24). He is omnipresent; we live and move in Him, and He sustains and holds all things in existence by a continual act: “For in Him we live and move and exist” (Acts 17:28). Again: “He [Christ] is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (Col 1:17; cf. Heb 1:3).

Next, in order to resolve the apparent contradiction between these verses and the passages which Soriano alleges against the omnipresence of God, it is necessary to provide some theological background. There are many senses in which God can be “present” in a place, and He may be present in one sense of the word but not present in another. Ott distinguishes as follows:

Since the time of Petrus Lombardus (Sent. I 37, 1) theologians more closely determine the omnipresence of God as a presence according to power (per potentiam–dynamic presence), according to knowledge (per praesentiam sive scientiam–ideal presence), and according to essence (per essentiam–essential or substantial presence). Through this essence He is present substantially in all things, including the created spiritual essences (angels, demons, human souls), as the immediate origin of their existence. Cf. S. th. I 8, 3. The substantial omnipresence of God is to be more closely defined as a repletive presence, that is, the whole Divine Essence fills the whole created space and every one of its parts…

In addition to this general, natural, presence of God, there is also a special supernatural presence or indwelling of God, by the supernatural efficacy of His grace, in the soul of the just man (John 14:23; 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19), in the house of God (Ps 131:13 et seq.) and in Heaven (Mt 6:9).59

Now we are ready to counter Soriano’s contentious claims. (1) We direct our prayers heavenward because that is where the saints and angels see God as He is, face to face, where God is present according to His grace and love to the fullest extent. This does not mean that He is not also present elsewhere, as is clear from Soriano’s objection (2), wherein he quotes from a Catholic prayer which is lifted directly from the pages of Sacred Scripture: “Hail [Mary], full of grace, the Lord is with thee” (Luke 1:28). Obviously, if the Bible tells us that God is both in heaven and with Mary, both are true. God indwells the soul of Mary just as He dwells in heaven. (3) Of course, unless there is a Catholic there offering prayers of reparation to His outraged justice and honor, God does not spiritually indwell the souls of anyone in places of sin. However, He is there is the three senses that He is everywhere, enumerated above, namely according to power, knowledge, and essence. Recall that God fills the earth (Jer 23:24), that is, there is no place on earth that He is not. The psalmist could not escape the presence of God by going down to sheol (Psalm 138:7-10); neither can we escape the presence of God by going to a night club or a bar. Also, God might be operative by His grace in the souls of the patrons of places of sin, leading them to repentance and regeneration in Christ. (4) Finally, Soriano has wrenched Acts 17:24 from its context and construed it to mean something wholly foreign to the intent of St. Paul. St. Paul is dealing with pagans who believed, like Soriano, in finite gods who could be circumscribed in a certain place. They believed that their gods dwelt in the temples and idols that they carved for them, as though the gods needed these things (v. 25) for homes. St. Paul proclaims to them, on the contrary, that God cannot be thus confined, that he does not need anything from us, and that He is omnipresent, for “in Him we live and move and exist” (v. 28). That having been said, as noted above God may choose to spiritually indwell a temple in order to receive the prayer and worship of the faithful who pray and worship there. “For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. ‘This is My resting place forever; here I will dwell, for I have desired it'” (Psalm 132:13-14; cf. Gen 28:22). God does not dwell in houses of pagan worship, but He does indeed dwell in legitimate houses of worship established according to His desires. These are Catholic Churches.

I am once again eagerly awaiting Mr. Soriano’s admission that he is not of God.

VI. Confusing the Covenants

He taketh away the first, that he may establish that which followeth (Hebrews 10:9).

In previous installments of this series, I have accused Soriano of being incompetent to properly interpret Sacred Scripture. I will now go further, and accuse him of being incompetent to even read it. In his sermon on “The Real Church of God,” he quotes Acts 15:16-17: “After this, I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down, and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.” He concludes: “Therefore, whenever the Bible uses ‘will build’, it suggests that something has fallen down.”60 Essentially, Soriano is saying that “build” in the Bible always means “rebuild,” restoring something that previously existed, but had been destroyed. He sets this in opposition to the word “establish” which he believes is the biblical way of saying that someone is building something new. He sets up this dichotomy in order to support his notion that the New Testament Church is merely the restored Israel, and not a new institution founded by Christ. But his argumentation here is erroneous on so many levels that one hardly knows were to begin.

First, Soriano ought to realize that just because he can find one instance where a word is used in a secondary sense, that does not mean he can interpret it in the secondary sense everywhere he finds it. “Build,” whether in English, Tagalog, Greek, or Hebrew, usually just means build, and if context determines that we must interpret it as “rebuild” in one instance or another, that one instance does not therefore become an overriding principle which determines our exegesis everywhere. Indeed, if we make it one we render a great many biblical passages unintelligible. Anyone with access to a program that searches the Bible for passages containing a given word (incidentally, Soriano’s website provides its patrons with one) can see this quite clearly: search for passages using the word build and you will find that it usually just means build. To cite just a few examples: Num 32:16; 1 Sam 2:35; 2 Sam 7:27; 1 Kngs 5:5.

But what is most astounding, Soriano seems to have missed the word “again” in his King James translation. “I will build again the ruins, etc.” It is amazing that one who claims to read the text of Scripture so closely and pay attention its minutest details could have overlooked something so conspicuous. Not only would Soriano’s argument prove nothing, if he could find an instance where “build” meant “rebuild” in the Bible, but this is not even such and instance! The Greek is anoikodomeo, the regular word for “rebuild,” the word for build being oikodomeo.

This, then, is the shaky ground, the shifting sands, upon which Soriano bases his entirely unique exegesis of Matthew 16:18. He uses a false example, to prove a non-existant principle, in order to overturn the plain meaning of the text that Jesus Christ established a Church upon the rock of St. Peter, and argue instead that He merely rebuilt Israel.

The Catholic Church, on the other hand, has the explicit teaching of the Bible to reinforce the plain meaning of Matthew 16:18. The reader has already seen Hebrews 10:9 quoted above: God did not “rebuild” the Old Covenant, but took it away in order to “establish” (there’s the word Soriano was looking for in Matt 16:18) the New. See also 2 Cor 3:6-14; Eph 2:15; Heb 7:18; 8:7, 13. Ephesians 2:15 calls the Church of Christ a “new man,” which Jesus made from both Jews and Gentiles after He had abolished the Old Testament Law. Jesus did indeed establish a Church on St. Peter; He both established and built (cf. Psalm 89:4) and Soriano is clearly opposed to the teaching of the Bible when he denies this.

Soriano adduces additional facile arguments in support of his contention that Jesus did not establish a Church. One of them is his silly misunderstanding about “name” being used as a metaphor for reputation, or person, which I have documented above. Another argument runs along the lines that we need to find the very first church in the Bible, because “Nothing could be better than the original.”61 Curiously, he attempts to justify his principle that the original is always the best by citing 1 Corinthians 15:45, which refers to Adam as the “first man” and Genesis 3:20 which calls Eve “the mother of all the living.” He then concludes, “If, in matters like this, there are ‘originals’, when it comes to the church, there is also an original, or the first church.”62 One wonders if Soriano maintains that the first Adam is better than the second Adam, Jesus Christ (cf. Rom 5:14-15). He must not, as he has proclaimed on his television network that he believes that Adam was damned.63 If, then, this is the case, his appeal to Adam and Eve proves only the inherently obvious proposition that there can be a first, or original, of something; it in no way follows from this that the original is best. His argument here is a mere rhetorical slight of hand, a blatantly fallacious leap of logic, which is actually hard to miss if one simply refuses to be enraptured with Soriano’s passionate style and fiery denunciation of false, heretical teachers.

Soriano continues to argue that Jesus did not establish a Church by attempting to identify “the church of the firstborn” mentioned in Hebrews 12:23 with Israel. Unfortunately for him, the context of this passage is a direct contrast between the Christian Church and the covenant God established with Israel. St. Paul sets up the contrast as follows: “For you have not come to a mountain that can be touched and to a blazing fire, and to darkness and gloom and whirlwind, and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word be spoken to them. For they could not bear the command, ‘If even a beast touches the mountain, it will be stoned.’ And so terrible was the sight, that Moses said, ‘I am full of fear and trembling'” (Heb 12:18-21). Clearly, St. Paul is emphasising the great fear involved in the establishment of the covenant of Moses at Mount Sinai. He then opposes to this fear the tremendous spiritual blessings which Chrisitans are priveleged to receive in Christ: “But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to myriads of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the Judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood, which speaks better than the blood of Abel” (Hebrews 12:22-24). Thus, Christians have been recieved into the spiritual Mount Zion, and the heavenly Jerusalem (cf. Rev 3:12; 21:2), where we have fellowship with God Himself and all the hosts of heaven because of the redemption and mercy wrought for us by Jesus Christ. The great Recusant exegete Dr. Witham draws out the meaning of the text quite well:

But you are come to Mount Sion, where not a law of fear, like that of Moses, but a new law of love and mercy hath been given you, preached by our Saviour himself, and by his apostles, testified by the coming of the Holy Ghost, and by the effusion of God’s spirit upon the believers. Here you are called to the city of the living God, (to the Christian Church on earth) and even to the celestial Jerusalem, there to be for ever happy in the company of many millions of Angels; to the church of the first-born, who are written in heaven, (ver. 23.) to be happy with those who have been chosen by a special mercy of God, and blessed with an endless happiness; to be there in the presence of God, the judge of all men, with all the celestial spirits and souls of the just and perfect in the kingdom of God. Jesus Christ is the mediator of this new testament, the redeemer of mankind by his death on the cross, by the sprinkling and effusion of his blood, which speaketh better than that of Abel: the blood of Abel cried to heaven for vengeance, and the blood of Christ for mercy and pardon.64

Now, regarding the specific question of what St. Paul means by “the church of the firstborn” we have a few options. Clearly, it refers to some group of the inhabitants of heaven, with whom Christians have entered into fellowship in Christ. If we grant to Mr. Soriano that it refers to the Jews, then it refers to the saints of the old covenant, whom Christ took with Him to heaven when He Himself ascended (cf. Eph 4:8). But it does not follow therefore that Jesus Christ did not establish a Church, as He said He would do (Matt 16:18). Rather, the righteous Jews would have joined His Church when Jesus came to their resting place to preach to them (cf. 1 Pet 3:19). Or, “the church of the firstborn” may refer to the very first Christians, who had already passed through dungeon, fire, and sword, on to their glorious reward by the time St. Paul penned this epistle. Or, it may refer to the occupants of heaven who are most eminent in sanctity, such as the patriarchs and prophets. In any case, St. Paul’s intent has little to due with the superficial exegesis of Mr. Soriano, who thinks that because he can find a verse talking about the “church of the firstborn” and another verse that calls Israel “firstborn” and another verse that calls Israel “the church in the wilderness,” he has therefore proven that Jesus did not establish a Church, but that the New Testament Church is Israel.

Soriano also makes a non sequitur appeal to James 1:18. Of course, the Jews were the first hear the gospel and join the Christian Church, but it simply does not follow that Jesus did not establish a Church.

It seems the best that Soriano can do is to quote the prophetic imagery of Amos 9:11 about rebuilding the tabernacle of David, in attempts to establish that Jesus merely restored a fallen Israel. He contends that “the tabernacle of David” refers to the Jewish Church, which is one and the same with the Christian Church which we are allegedly supposed to join by imbibing the doctrines of Ang Dating Daan. However, it might just as easily apply to the Jewish people, a remnant of whom God spiritually restored by integrating them into the new covenant through Baptism in the Church of Christ. This is the Church which Christ established on the rock of St. Peter. It is the Catholic Church. If one wishes to be restored from the ruin of sin and built up into a new creation in Christ, he must forsake his errors and join.

Ben Douglass
February 28, Anno Domini MMVII


[1] Isabelo Crisostomo, “Felix Y. Manalo and the Iglesia ni Cristo,” Pasugo (Manila: May-June 1986)

[2] Catholic Answers, “Iglesia ni Cristo”

[3] Crisostomo, op. cit.

[4] Ang Dating Daan, “Our Presiding Minister”

[5] The Bereans, “Ang Dating Daan”

[6] Ang Dating Daan, “Church History”

[7] The Beareans, op. cit.

[8] Eliseo Soriano, “The Official Name of the Church in the Bible”

[9] See, for example, the articles “Super-Preacher in Our Times” and “Nobody Does It Better” in The Old Path Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 3 2005.

[10] Ang Dating Daan, “What is ‘Ang Dating Daan’?”

[11] The Bereans, op. cit.

[12] “By this world’s standards, it is not surprising that those being expelled would group together where they are tolerated. As bonus for them, they get the chance to tell the world in their own terms that they are innocent, in effect making their excommunication appear an injustice. From their appearances alone on television one could tell, they have gone back to the ways of this world – cutting their hair, using make up, dressing immodestly, and from their mouths speak out lies about those they said they believed in before. Rather than engaging in self-introspection to see where they have gone wrong and in humility ask pardon from God, they have preferred to attend to what this world would think about them, never mind God. Now come the cosmetics to supposedly blot out or suffocate the reasons why they were expelled. In so doing, they resort to all sorts of shenanigans” (Ang Dating Daan, “Three Colors of Death Green & White & Red,” The Old Path Magazine Vol. 1 No. 3 2005).

[13] Eliseo Soriano, “A Preacher of God is Prohibited from Enriching Himself”

[14] Eliseo Soriano, “Should the Bible Be Interpreted”

[15] Eliseo Soriano, “Understanding the Bible”

[16] Eliseo Soriano, “The Rightful Way of Using a Formidable Bastion” The Old Path Magazine Vol. 1 No. 2, 2005

[17] Ibid.

[18] Ang Dating Daan, op. cit.

[19] Ang Dating Daan, “Super-Preacher in Our Times” The Old Path Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 3 2005, emphasis mine.

[20] Ang Dating Daan, “Nobody Does It Better” The Old Path Magazine, Vol. 1 No. 3 2005, emphasis mine.

[21] Elseo Soriano, Leaving Behind the Fundamental Doctrines of Christ, Ch. 3.

[22] Elseo Soriano, Leaving Behind the Fundamental Doctrines of Christ, Ch. 4.

[23] Ibid. Ch. 3

[24] Eliseo Soriano, “The Salvation that is Being Taught by the Bible”

[25] Eliseo Soriano, “Is it God’s Will that We Join or Become a Member of the True Church of God in the Bible?”

[26] Ang Dating Daan, “Nobody Does It Better,” The Old Path Magazine Vol. 1 No. 3 2005.

[27] Eliseo Soriano, “Faith must have a basis”

[28] Eliseo Soriano, “Understanding the Bible”

[29] Eliseo Soriano, “The Salvation that is Being Taught by the Bible”

[30] Ibid.

[31] Marwil Llasos, e-mail of April 26, 2006.

[32] The original, with the error, can be found on the web archive.

[33] Eliseo Soriano, “Is religion still needed? Who practices pure religion?”

[34] Eliseo Soriano, “Is it God’s Will that We Join or Become a Member of the True Church of God in the Bible?”

[35] Eliseo Soriano, “The Official Name of the Church in the Bible”

[36] E.g., “It was the hope of every Israelite that he would be remembered for the good which he had done and that his name, that is, his good reputation, would endure permanently” (R. N. Whybray, The Book of Proverbs (London: Cambridge University Press, 1972) p. 62). This is from his commentary on Proverbs 10:7, to which he refers the reader on p. 124 in his note to verse 22:1. Cf. Adele Berlin and Marc Zvi Brettler, eds., The Jewish Study Bible (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004) p. 1481; Bruce K. Waltke, The Book of Proverbs: Chapters 15-31 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2005) pp. 198-199; Michael A. Machado, The Book of Proverbs: The Wisdom of Words (New York/Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 2003) p. 134; Leo G. Perdue, Proverbs (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 2000) p. 188; William McKane, Proverbs: A New Approach (Philedelphia, PA: The Westminster Press, 1975) pp. 422-423, 566; Richard J. Clifford, Proverbs: A Commentary (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 1999) pp. 194-195; Fr. George Haydock, The Douay-Rheims Old Testament (Monrovia, CA: Catholic Treasures, 1992) p. 820.

[37] Eliseo Soriano, “This is about the time of Noah”

[38] Eliseo Soriano, “Existence of God: Fulfillment of the Word of God”

[39] Cf. Jeffrey Burton Russell, Inventing the Flat Earth: Columbus and Modern Historians (Westport, CT: Praeger Publishers, 1997).

[40] Eliseo Soriano, “The Name of God”

[41] The first recorded instance of the term “Catholic Church” is in St. Ignatius of Antioch’s epistle to the Smyrnaeans, written ca. 110 A.D.

[42] Eliseo Soriano, “The Jesus and Christ of the Bible is not God, the Father”

[43] Eliseo Soriano, “Questions and Answers”

[44] Ang Dating Daan, “Church General Declaration and Doctrines”

[45] Ibid.

[46] St. Augustine, Tractate 17 on the Gospel of John, 16

[47] St. John Chrysostom, Homily 6 on Philippians

[48] Ludwig Ott, Fundamentals of Catholic Dogma (Rockford, Il: Tan Books, 1974) p. 58-59

[49] St. Cyril of Alexandria, Commentary on John, Book 7

[50] St. John Chrysostom, Homily 61 on the Gospel of John

[51] Fr. George Haydock, The Douay-Rheims New Testament (Monrovia, CA: Catholic Treasures, 1991) pp. 1421-1422

[52] cf. Ibid.

[53] St. John Chrysostom, Homily 6 on Philippians

[54] “Inseparabilia sunt opera Trinitatis.” St. Augustine, Sermo 213, 6, 6 in Ott, op. cit., p. 72

[55] Ibid.

[56] Bl. Pius IX, Quanto Conficiamur Moerore, 7

[57] Pius XII, Mystici Corporis Christi, 103

[58] Eliseo Soriano, “The salvation that is being taught by the Bible”

[59] Ott, op. cit., p. 38

[60] Eliseo Soriano, “The Real Church of God”

[61] Ibid.

[62] Ibid.

[63] He appeals to 1 Tim 2:14, and argues that Adam knew full well what he was doing when he ate the forbidden fruit, whereas Eve’s culpability was mitigated by her ignorance.

[64] In Fr. George Haydock, The Douay-Rheims New Testament (Monrovia, CA: Catholic Treasures, 1991) p. 1598


Posted in Old Path (Ang Dating Daan) | 5 Comments »

What is the History of Your Church?

Posted by catholicfaithdefender on March 25, 2008

Church Year Established Founder Where Established
Catholic 33 Jesus Christ Jerusalem
Orthodox 1054 Schismatic Catholic
Lutheran 1517 Martin Luther Germany
Anabaptist 1521 Nicholas Storch &
Thomas Munzer
Anglican 1534 Henry VIII England
Mennonites 1536 Menno Simons Switzerland
Calvinist 1555 John Calvin Switzerland
Presbyterian 1560 John Knox Scotland
Congregational 1582 Robert Brown Holland
Baptist 1609 John Smyth Amsterdam
Dutch Reformed 1628 Michaelis Jones New York
Congregationalist 1648 Pilgrims and Puritans Massachusetts
Quakers 1649 George Fox England
Amish 1693 Jacob Amman France
Freemasons 1717 Masons from four lodges London
Methodist 1739 John & Charles
Unitarian 1774 Theophilus Lindey London
Methodist Episcopal 1784 60 Preachers Baltimore, MD
Episcopalian 1789 Samuel Seabury American Colonies
United Brethren 1800 Philip Otterbein &
Martin Boehn
Disciples of Christ 1827 Thomas & Alexander
Mormon 1830 Joseph Smith New York
Methodist Protestant 1830 Methodist United States
Church of Christ 1836 Warren Stone &
Alexander Campbell
Seventh Day Adventist 1844 Ellen White Washington, NH
Christadelphian (Brethren
of Christ
1844 John Thomas Richmond, VA
Salvation Army 1865 William Booth London
Holiness 1867 Methodist United States
Jehovah’s Witnesses 1874 Charles Taze Russell Pennsylvania
Christian Science 1879 Mary Baker Eddy Boston
Church of God in Christ 1895 Various churches of God Arkansas
Church of Nazarene c. 1850-1900 Various religious bodies Pilot Point, TX
Pentecstal 1901 Charles F. Parkham Topeka, KS
Aglipayan 1902 Gregorio Aglipay Philippines
Assemblies of God 1914 Pentecostalism Hot Springs, AZ
Iglesia ni Christo 1914 Felix Manalo Philippines
Four-square Gospel 1917 Aimee Semple
Los Angeles, CA
United Church of Christ 1961 Reformed and
Philadelphia, PA
Calvary Chapel 1965 Chuck Smith Costa Mesa, CA
United Methodist 1968 Methodist and United
Dallas, TX
Born-again c. 1970s Various religious bodies United States
Harvest Christian 1972 Greg Laurie Riverside, CA
Saddleback 1982 Rick Warren California
Non-denominational c. 1990s various United States

Posted in What is the History of Your Church? | 1 Comment »


Posted by catholicfaithdefender on March 25, 2008


ScriptureI. A State After Death of Suffering and Forgiveness

Matt. 5:26,18:34; Luke 12:58-59 – Jesus teaches us, “Come to terms with your opponent or you will be handed over to the judge and thrown into prison. You will not get out until you have paid the last penny.” The word “opponent” (antidiko) is likely a reference to the devil (see the same word for devil in 1 Pet. 5:8) who is an accuser against man (c.f. Job 1.6-12; Zech. 3.1; Rev. 12.10), and God is the judge. If we have not adequately dealt with satan and sin in this life, we will be held in a temporary state called a prison, and we won’t get out until we have satisfied our entire debt to God. This “prison” is purgatory where we will not get out until the last penny is paid.

Matt. 5:48 – Jesus says, “be perfect, even as your heavenly Father is perfect.” We are only made perfect through purification, and in Catholic teaching, this purification, if not completed on earth, is continued in a transitional state we call purgatory.

Matt. 12:32 – Jesus says, “And anyone who says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but no one who speaks against the Holy Spirit will be forgiven either in this world or in the next.” Jesus thus clearly provides that there is forgiveness after death. The phrase “in the next” (from the Greek “en to mellonti”) generally refers to the afterlife (see, for example, Mark 10.30; Luke 18.30; 20.34-35; Eph. 1.21 for similar language). Forgiveness is not necessary in heaven, and there is no forgiveness in hell. This proves that there is another state after death, and the Church for 2,000 years has called this state purgatory.

Luke 12:47-48 – when the Master comes (at the end of time), some will receive light or heavy beatings but will live. This state is not heaven or hell, because in heaven there are no beatings, and in hell we will no longer live with the Master.

Luke 16:19-31 – in this story, we see that the dead rich man is suffering but still feels compassion for his brothers and wants to warn them of his place of suffering. But there is no suffering in heaven or compassion in hell because compassion is a grace from God and those in hell are deprived from God’s graces for all eternity. So where is the rich man? He is in purgatory.

1 Cor. 15:29-30 – Paul mentions people being baptized on behalf of the dead, in the context of atoning for their sins (people are baptized on the dead’s behalf so the dead can be raised). These people cannot be in heaven because they are still with sin, but they also cannot be in hell because their sins can no longer be atoned for. They are in purgatory. These verses directly correspond to 2 Macc. 12:44-45 which also shows specific prayers for the dead, so that they may be forgiven of their sin.

Phil. 2:10 – every knee bends to Jesus, in heaven, on earth, and “under the earth” which is the realm of the righteous dead, or purgatory.

2 Tim. 1:16-18 – Onesiphorus is dead but Paul asks for mercy on him “on that day.” Paul’s use of “that day” demonstrates its eschatological usage (see, for example, Rom. 2.5,16; 1 Cor. 1.8; 3.13; 5.5; 2 Cor. 1.14; Phil. 1.6,10; 2.16; 1 Thess. 5.2,4,5,8; 2 Thess. 2.2,3; 2 Tim. 4.8). Of course, there is no need for mercy in heaven, and there is no mercy given in hell. Where is Onesiphorus? He is in purgatory.

Heb. 12:14 – without holiness no one will see the Lord. We need final sanctification to attain true holiness before God, and this process occurs during our lives and, if not completed during our lives, in the transitional state of purgatory.

Heb. 12:23 – the spirits of just men who died in godliness are “made” perfect. They do not necessarily arrive perfect. They are made perfect after their death. But those in heaven are already perfect, and those in hell can no longer be made perfect. These spirits are in purgatory.

1 Peter 3:19; 4:6 – Jesus preached to the spirits in the “prison.” These are the righteous souls being purified for the beatific vision.

Rev. 21:4 – God shall wipe away their tears, and there will be no mourning or pain, but only after the coming of the new heaven and the passing away of the current heaven and earth. Note the elimination of tears and pain only occurs at the end of time. But there is no morning or pain in heaven, and God will not wipe away their tears in hell. These are the souls experiencing purgatory.

Rev. 21:27 – nothing unclean shall enter heaven. The word “unclean” comes from the Greek word “koinon” which refers to a spiritual corruption. Even the propensity to sin is spiritually corrupt, or considered unclean, and must be purified before entering heaven. It is amazing how many Protestants do not want to believe in purgatory. Purgatory exists because of the mercy of God. If there were no purgatory, this would also likely mean no salvation for most people. God is merciful indeed.

Luke 23:43 – many Protestants argue that, because Jesus sent the good thief right to heaven, there can be no purgatory. There are several rebuttals. First, when Jesus uses the word “paradise,” He did not mean heaven. Paradise, from the Hebrew “sheol,” meant the realm of the righteous dead. This was the place of the dead who were destined for heaven, but who were captive until the Lord’s resurrection. Second, since there was no punctuation in the original manuscript, Jesus’ statement “I say to you today you will be with me in paradise” does not mean there was a comma after the first word “you.” This means Jesus could have said, “I say to you today, you will be with me in paradise” (meaning, Jesus could have emphasized with exclamation his statement was “today” or “now,” and that some time in the future the good thief would go to heaven). Third, even if the thief went straight to heaven, this does not prove there is no purgatory (those who are fully sanctified in this life – perhaps by a bloody and repentant death – could be ready for admission in to heaven).

Gen. 50:10; Num. 20:29; Deut. 34:8 – here are some examples of ritual prayer and penitent mourning for the dead for specific periods of time. The Jewish understanding of these practices was that the prayers freed the souls from their painful state of purification, and expedited their journey to God.

Baruch 3:4 – Baruch asks the Lord to hear the prayers of the dead of Israel. Prayers for the dead are unnecessary in heaven and unnecessary in hell. These dead are in purgatory.

Zech. 9:11 – God, through the blood of His covenant, will set those free from the waterless pit, a spiritual abode of suffering which the Church calls purgatory.

2 Macc. 12:43-45 – the prayers for the dead help free them from sin and help them to the reward of heaven. Those in heaven have no sin, and those in hell can no longer be freed from sin. They are in purgatory. Luther was particularly troubled with these verses because he rejected the age-old teaching of purgatory. As a result, he removed Maccabees from the canon of the Bible.

II. Purification After Death By Fire

Heb. 12:29 – God is a consuming fire (of love in heaven, of purgation in purgatory, or of suffering and damnation in hell).

1 Cor. 3:10-15 – works are judged after death and tested by fire. Some works are lost, but the person is still saved. Paul is referring to the state of purgation called purgatory. The venial sins (bad works) that were committed are burned up after death, but the person is still brought to salvation. This state after death cannot be heaven (no one with venial sins is present) or hell (there is no forgiveness and salvation).

1 Cor. 3:15 – “if any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.” The phrase for “suffer loss” in the Greek is “zemiothesetai.” The root word is “zemioo” which also refers to punishment. The construction “zemiothesetai” is used in Ex. 21:22 and Prov. 19:19 which refers to punishment (from the Hebrew “anash” meaning “punish” or “penalty”). Hence, this verse proves that there is an expiation of temporal punishment after our death, but the person is still saved. This cannot mean heaven (there is no punishment in heaven) and this cannot mean hell (the possibility of expiation no longer exists and the person is not saved).

1 Cor. 3:15 – further, Paul writes “he himself will be saved, “but only” (or “yet so”) as through fire.” “He will be saved” in the Greek is “sothesetai” (which means eternal salvation). The phrase “but only” (or “yet so”) in the Greek is “houtos” which means “in the same manner.” This means that man is both eternally rewarded and eternally saved in the same manner by fire.

1 Cor. 3:13 – when Paul writes about God revealing the quality of each man’s work by fire and purifying him, this purification relates to his sins (not just his good works). Protestants, in attempting to disprove the reality of purgatory, argue that Paul was only writing about rewarding good works, and not punishing sins (because punishing and purifying a man from sins would be admitting that there is a purgatory).

1 Cor. 3:17 – but this verse proves that the purgation after death deals with punishing sin. That is, destroying God’s temple is a bad work, which is a mortal sin, which leads to death. 1 Cor. 3:14,15,17 – purgatory thus reveals the state of righteousness (v.14), state of venial sin (v.15) and the state of mortal sin (v.17), all of which are judged after death.

1 Peter 1:6-7 – Peter refers to this purgatorial fire to test the fruits of our faith.

Jude 1:23 – the people who are saved are being snatched out of the fire. People are already saved if they are in heaven, and there is no possibility of salvation if they are in hell. These people are being led to heaven from purgatory.

Rev. 3:18-19 – Jesus refers to this fire as what refines into gold those He loves if they repent of their sins. This is in the context of after death because Jesus, speaking from heaven, awards the white garment of salvation after the purgation of fire (both after death).

Dan 12:10 – Daniel refers to this refining by saying many shall purify themselves, make themselves white and be refined.

Wis. 3:5-6 – the dead are disciplined and tested by fire to receive their heavenly reward. This is the fire of purgatory.

Sirach 2:5 – for gold is tested in the fire, and acceptable men in the furnace of humiliation.

Zech. 13:8-9 – God says 2/3 shall perish, and 1/3 shall be left alive, put into the fire, and refined like silver and tested like gold. The ones that perish go to hell, and there is no need for refinement in heaven, so those being refined are in purgatory.

Mal. 3:2-3 – also refers to God’s purification of the righteous at their death.

Tradition / Church Fathers

I. The Early Church’s Belief in Purgatory

“And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again receives her. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: Mother, thou shaft have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the just.” Acts of Paul and Thecla (A.D. 160).

“Abercius by name, I am a disciple of the chaste shepherd…He taught me…faithful writings…These words, I, Abercius, standing by, ordered to be inscribed. In truth, I was in the course of my seventy-second year. Let him who understands and believes this pray fro Abercius.” Inscription of Abercius (A.D. 190).

“Without delay, on that very night, this was shown to me in a vision. I saw Dinocrates going out from a gloomy place, where also there were several others, and he was parched and very thirsty, with a filthy countenance and pallid colour, and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age? Who died miserably with disease…But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp, for we were to fight in the camp-show. Then was the birth-day of Gets Caesar, and I made my prayer for my brother day and night, groaning and weeping that he might be granted to me. Then, on the day on which we remained in fetters, this was shown to me. I saw that that place which I had formerly observed to be in gloom was now bright; and Dinocrates, with a clean body well clad, was finding refreshment. And where there had been a wound, I saw a scar; and that pool which I had before seen, I saw now with its margin lowered even to the boy’s navel. And one drew water from the pool incessantly, and upon its brink was a goblet filled with water; and Dinocrates drew near and began to drink from it, and the goblet did not fail. And when he was satisfied, he went away from the water to play joyously, after the manner of children, and I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from the place of punishment.” The Passion of Perpetua and Felicitias, 2:3-4 (A.D. 202).

“Accordingly the believer, through great discipline, divesting himself of the passions, passes to the mansion which is better than the former one, viz., to the greatest torment, taking with him the characteristic of repentance from the sins he has committed after baptism. He is tortured then still more–not yet or not quite attaining what he sees others to have acquired. Besides, he is also ashamed of his transgressions. The greatest torments, indeed, are assigned to the believer. For God’s righteousness is good, and His goodness is righteous. And though the punishments cease in the course of the completion of the expiation and purification of each one, yet those have very great and permanent grief who are found worthy of the other fold, on account of not being along with those that have been glorified through righteousness.” Clement of Alexandria, Stromata, 6:14 (post A.D. 202).

“[T]hat allegory of the Lord which is extremely clear and simple in its meaning, and ought to be from the first understood in its plain and natural sense…Then, again, should you be disposed to apply the term ‘adversary’ to the devil, you are advised by the (Lord’s) injunction, while you are in the way with him, ‘to make even with him such a compact as may be deemed compatible with the requirements of your true faith. Now the compact you have made respecting him is to renounce him, and his pomp, and his angels. Such is your agreement in this matter. Now the friendly understanding you will have to carry out must arise from your observance of the compact: you must never think of getting back any of the things which you have abjured, and have restored to him, lest he should summon you as a fraudulent man, and a transgressor of your agreement, before God the Judge (for in this light do we read of him, in another passage, as ‘the accuser of the brethren,’ or saints, where reference is made to the actual practice of legal prosecution); and lest this Judge deliver you over to the angel who is to execute the sentence, and he commit you to the prison of hell, out of which there will be no dismissal until the smallest even of your delinquencies be paid off in the period before the resurrection. What can be a more fitting sense than this? What a truer interpretation?” Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, 35 (A.D. 210).

“All souls, therefore; are shut up within Hades: do you admit this? It is true, whether you say yes or no: moreover, there are already experienced there punishments and consolations; and there you have a poor man and a rich…Moreover, the soul executes not all its operations with the ministration of the flesh; for the judgment of God pursues even simple cogitations and the merest volitions. ‘Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her, hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.’ Therefore, even for this cause it is most fitting that the soul, without at all waiting for the flesh, should be punished for what it has done without the partnership of the flesh. So, on the same principle, in return for the pious and kindly thoughts in which it shared not the help of the flesh, shall it without the flesh receive its consolation. In short, inasmuch as we understand ‘the prison’ pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades, and as we also interpret ‘the uttermost farthing’ to mean the very smallest offence which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection, when the recompense will be administered through the flesh besides.” Tertullian, A Treatise on the Soul, 58 (A.D. 210).

“As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honours.” Tertullian, The Chaplut, 3 (A.D. 211).

“[A] woman is more bound when her husband is dead…Indeed, she prays for his soul, and requests refreshment for him meanwhile, and fellowship (with him) in the first resurrection; and she offers (her sacrifice) on the anniversary of his falling asleep.” Tertullian, On Monogamy, 10 (A.D. 216).

“For if on the foundation of Christ you have built not only gold and silver and precious stones (1 Cor.,3); but also wood and hay and stubble, what do you expect when the soul shall be separated from the body? Would you enter into heaven with your wood and hay and stubble and thus defile the kingdom of God; or on account of these hindrances would you remain without and receive no reward for your gold and silver and precious stones; neither is this just. It remains then that you be committed to the fire which will burn the light materials; for our God to those who can comprehend heavenly things is called a cleansing fire. But this fire consumes not the creature, but what the creature has himself built, wood, and hay and stubble. It is manifest that the fire destroys the wood of our transgressions and then returns to us the reward of our great works.” Origen, Homilies on Jeremias, PG 13:445, 448 ( A.D. 244).

“For to adulterers even a time of repentance is granted by us, and peace is given. Yet virginity is not therefore deficient in the Church, nor does the glorious design of continence languish through the sins of others. The Church, crowned with so many virgins, flourishes; and chastity and modesty preserve the tenor of their glory. Nor is the vigour of continence broken down because repentance and pardon are facilitated to the adulterer. It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory: it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the day of judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord.” Cyprian, To Antonianus, Epistle 51 (55):20 (A.D. 253).

“Let us pray for our brethren that are at rest in Christ, that God, the lover of mankind, who has received his soul, may forgive him every sin, voluntary and involuntary, and may be merciful and gracious to him, and give him his lot in the land of the pious that are sent into the bosom of Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, with all those that have pleased Him and done His will from the beginning of the world, whence all sorrow, grief, and lamentation are banished.” Apostolic Constitutions, 8:4,41 (3rd Century).

“The same divine fire, therefore, with one and the same force and power, will both burn the wicked and will form them again, and will replace as much as it shall consume of their bodies, and will supply itself with eternal nourishment: which the poets transferred to the vulture of Tityus. Thus, without any wasting of bodies, which regain their substance, it will only burn and affect them with a sense of pain. But when He shall have judged the righteous, He will also try them with fire. Then they whose sins shall exceed either in weight or in number, shall be scorched by the fire and burnt: but they whom full justice and maturity of virtue has imbued will not perceive that fire; for they have something of God in themselves which repels and rejects the violence of the flame.” Lactantius, The Divine Institutes, 7:21 (A.D. 307).

“Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. Then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls, for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth. And I wish to persuade you by an illustration. For I know that many say, what is a soul profited, which departs from this world either with sins, or without sins, if it be commemorated in the prayer? For if a king were to banish certain who had given him of-fence, and then those who belong to them should weave a crown and offer it to him on behalf of those under punishment, would he not grant a remission of their penalties? In the same way we, when we offer to Him our supplications for those who have fallen asleep, though they be sinners, weave no crown, but offer up Christ sacrificed for our sins, propitiating our merciful God for them as well as for ourselves.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 23:9,10 (c. A.D. 350).

“I think that the noble athletes of God, who have wrestled all their lives with the invisible enemies, after they have escaped all of their persecutions and have come to the end of life, are examined by the prince of this world; and if they are found to have any wounds from their wrestling, any stains or effects of sin, they are detained. If, however they are found unwounded and without stain, they are, as unconquered, brought by Christ into their rest.” Basil, Homilies on the Psalms, 7:2 (ante A.D. 370).

“Lay me not with sweet spices: for this honour avails me not; Nor yet incense and perfumes: for the honour benefits me not. Burn sweet spices in the Holy Place: and me, even me, conduct to the grave with prayer. Give ye incense to God: and over me send up hymns. Instead of perfumes of spices: in prayer make remembrance of me.” Ephraem, His Testament (ante A.D. 373).

“Useful too is the prayer fashioned on their [the dead’s] behalf…it is useful, because in this world we often stumble either voluntarily or involuntarily.” Epiphanius, Panarion, 75:8 (A.D. 375).

“When he has quitted his body and the difference between virtue and vice is known he cannot approach God till the purging fire shall have cleansed the stains with which his soul was infested. That same fire in others will cancel the corruption of matter, and the propensity to evil.” Gregory of Nyssa, Sermon on the Dead, PG 13:445,448 (ante A.D. 394).

“Give, Oh Lord, rest to Thy servant Theodosius, that rest Thou hast prepared for Thy saints….I love him, therefore will I follow him to the land of the living; I will not leave him till by my prayers and lamentations he shall be admitted unto the holy mount of the Lord,to which his deserts call him.” Ambrose, De obitu Theodosii, PL 16:1397 (A.D. 395).

“Other husbands scatter on the graves of their wives violets, roses, lilies, and purple flowers; and assuage the grief of their hearts by fulfilling this tender duty. Our dear Pammachius also waters the holy ashes and the revered bones of Paulina, but it is with the balm of almsgiving.” Jerome, To Pammachius, Epistle 66:5 (A.D. 397).

“Weep for the unbelievers; weep for those who differ in nowise from them, those who depart hence without the illumination, without the seal! They indeed deserve our wailing, they deserve our groans; they are outside the Palace, with the culprits, with the condemned: for, “Verily I say unto you, Except a man be born of water and the Spirit, he shall not enter into the kingdom of Heaven.” Mourn for those who have died in wealth, and did not from their wealth think of any solace for their soul, who had power to wash away their sins and would not. Let us all weep for these in private and in public, but with propriety, with gravity, not so as to make exhibitions of ourselves; let us weep for these, not one day, or two, but all our life. Such tears spring not from senseless passion, but from true affection. The other sort are of senseless passion. For this cause they are quickly quenched, whereas if they spring from the fear of God, they always abide with us. Let us weep for these; let us assist them according to our power; let us think of some assistance for them, small though it be, yet still let us assist them. How and in what way? By praying and entreating others to make prayers for them, by continually giving to the poor on their behalf.” John Chrysostom, Homilies on Phillipians, 3 (ante A.D. 404).

“If the baptized person fulfills the obligations demanded of a Christian, he does well. If he does not–provided he keeps the faith, without which he would perish forever–no matter in what sin or impurity remains, he will be saved, as it were, by fire; as one who has built on the foundation, which is Christ, not gold, silver, and precious stones, but wood, hay straw, that is, not just and chasted works but wicked and unchaste works.” Augustine, Faith and Works, 1:1 (A.D. 413).

“Now on what ground does this person pray that he may not be ‘rebuked in indignation, nor chastened in hot displeasure”? He speaks as if he would say unto God, ‘Since the things which I already suffer are many in number, I pray Thee let them suffice;’ and he begins to enumerate them, by way of satisfying God; offering what he suffers now, that he may not have to suffer worse evils hereafter.” Augustine, Exposition of the Psalms, 38(37):3 (A.D. 418).

“And it is not impossible that something of the same kind may take place even after this life. It is a matter that may be inquired into, and either ascertained or left doubtful, whether some believers shall pass through a kind of purgatorial fire, and in proportion as they have loved with more or less devotion the goods that perish, be less or more quickly delivered from it. This cannot, however, be the case of any of those of whom it is said, that they ‘shall not inherit the kingdom of God,’ unless after suitable repentance their sins be forgiven them. When I say ‘suitable,’ I mean that they are not to be unfruitful in almsgiving; for Holy Scripture lays so much stress on this virtue, that our Lord tells us beforehand, that He will ascribe no merit to those on His right hand but that they abound in it, and no defect to those on His left hand but their want of it, when He shall say to the former, “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom,” and to the latter, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire.'” Augustine, Enchiridion, 69 (A.D. 421).

“During the time, moreover, which intervenes between a man’s death and the final resurrection, the soul dwells in a hidden retreat, where it enjoys rest or suffers affliction just in proportion to the merit it has earned by the life which it led on earth.” Augustine, Enchiridion, 1099 (A.D. 421).

“For our part, we recognize that even in this life some punishments are purgatorial,–not, indeed, to those whose life is none the better, but rather the worse for them, but to those who are constrained by them to amend their life. All other punishments, whether temporal or eternal, inflicted as they are on every one by divine providence, are sent either on account of past sins, or of sins presently allowed in the life, or to exercise and reveal a man’s graces. They may be inflicted by the instrumentality of bad men and angels as well as of the good. For even if any one suffers some hurt through another’s wickedness or mistake, the man indeed sins whose ignorance or injustice does the harm; but God, who by His just though hidden judgment permits it to be done, sins not. But temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But of those who suffer temporary punishments after death, all are not doomed to those everlasting pains which are to follow that judgment; for to some, as we have already said, what is not remitted in this world is remitted in the next, that is, they are not punished with the eternal punishment of the world to come.” Augustine, City of God, 21:13 (A.D. 426).

“But since she has this certainty regarding no man, she prays for all her enemies who yet live in this world; and yet she is not heard in behalf of all. But she is heard in the case of those only who, though they oppose the Church, are yet predestinated to become her sons through her intercession…For some of the dead, indeed, the prayer of the Church or of pious individuals is heard; but it is for those who, having been regenerated in Christ, did not spend their life so wickedly that they can be judged unworthy of such compassion, nor so well that they can be considered to have no need of it. As also, after the resurrection, there will be some of the dead to whom, after they have endured the pains proper to the spirits of the dead, mercy shall be accorded, and acquittal from the punishment of the eternal fire. For were there not some whose sins, though not remitted in this life, shall be remitted in that which is to come, it could not be truly said, “They shall not be forgiven, neither in this world, neither in that which is to come.’ But when the Judge of quick and dead has said, ‘Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world,’ and to those on the other side, ‘Depart from me, ye cursed, into the eternal fire, which is prepared for the devil and his angels,’ and ‘These shall go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life,’ it were excessively presumptuous to say that the punishment of any of those whom God has said shall go away into eternal punishment shall not be eternal, and so bring either despair or doubt upon the corresponding promise of life eternal.” Augustine, City of God,2 1:24 (A.D. 426).

“If we neither give thanks to God in tribulations nor redeem our own sins by good works, we shall have to remain in that purgatorian fire as long as it takes for those above-mentioned lesser sins to be consumed like wood and straw and hay.” Ceasar of Arles, Sermon 179 (104):2 (A.D. 542).

“Each one will be presented to the Judge exactly as he was when he departed this life. Yet, there must be a cleansing fire before judgment, because of some minor faults that may remain to be purged away. Does not Christ, the Truth, say that if anyone blasphemes against the Holy Spirit he shall not be forgiven ‘either in this world or in the world to come'(Mt. 12:32)? From this statement we learn that some sins can be forgiven in this world and some in the world to come. For, if forgiveness is refused for a particular sin, we conclude logically that it is granted for others. This must apply, as I said, to slight transgressions.” Gregory the Great [regn. A.D. 590-604], Dialogues, 4:39 (A.D. 594).

Copyright 2001 – 2007 © by John Salza. All Rights Reserved.

Posted in Purgatory | Leave a Comment »


Posted by catholicfaithdefender on March 25, 2008


Gen 1:28, 9:1,7; 35:11 – from the beginning, the Lord commands us to be fruitful (“fertile”) and multiply. A husband and wife fulfill God’s plan for marriage in the bringing forth of new life, for God is life itself.

Gen. 28:3 – Isaac’s prayer over Jacob shows that fertility and procreation are considered blessings from God.

Gen. 38:8-10 – Onan is killed by God for practicing contraception (in this case, withdrawal) and spilling his semen on the ground.

Gen. 38:11-26 – Judah, like Onan, also rejected God’s command to keep up the family lineage, but he was not killed.

Deut. 25:7-10 – the penalty for refusing to keep up a family lineage is not death, like Onan received. Onan was killed for wasting seed.

Gen. 38:9 – also, the author’s usage of the graphic word “seed,” which is very uncharacteristic for Hebrew writing, further highlights the reason for Onan’s death.

Exodus 23:25-26; Deut. 7:13-14 – God promises blessings which include no miscarriages or barrenness. Children are blessings from God, and married couples must always be open to God’s plan for new life with every act of marital intimacy.

Lev.18:22-23;20:13 – wasting seed with non-generative sexual acts warrants death. Many Protestant churches, which have all strayed from the Catholic Church, reject this fundamental truth (few Protestants and Catholics realize that contraception was condemned by all of Christianity – and other religions – until the Anglican church permitted it in certain cases at the Lambeth conference in 1930. This opened the floodgates of error).

Lev. 21:17,20 – crushed testicles are called a defect and a blemish before God. God reveals that deliberate sterilization and any other methods which prevent conception are intrinsically evil.

Deut. 23:1 – whoever has crushed testicles or is castrated cannot enter the assembly. Contraception is objectively sinful and contrary, not only to God’s Revelation, but the moral and natural law.

Deut. 25:11-12 – there is punishment for potential damage to the testicles, for such damage puts new life at risk. It, of course, follows that vasectomies, which are done with willful consent, are gravely contrary to the natural law.

1 Chron. 25:5 – God exalts His people by blessing them with many children. When married couples contracept, they are declaring “not your will God, but my will be done.”

Psalm 127:3-5 – children are a gift of favor from God and blessed is a full quiver. Married couples must always be open to God’s precious gift of life. Contraception, which shows a disregard for human life, has lead to the great evils of abortion, euthanasia, and infanticide.

Hosea 9:11; Jer. 18:21 – God punishes Israel by preventing pregnancy. Contraception is a curse, and married couples who use contraception are putting themselves under the same curse.

Mal. 2:14 – marriage is not a contract (which is a mere exchange of property or services). It is a covenant, which means a supernatural exchange of persons. Just as God is three in one, so are a husband and wife, who become one flesh and bring forth new life, three in one. Marital love is a reflection of the Blessed Trinity.

Mal. 2:15 – What does God desire? Godly offspring. What is contraception? A deliberate act against God’s will. With contraception, a couple declares, “God may want an eternal being created with our union, but we say no.” Contraception is a grave act of selfishness.

Matt. 19:5-6 – Jesus said a husband and wife shall become one. They are no longer two, but one, just as God is three persons, yet one. The expression of authentic marital love reintegrates our bodies and souls to God, and restores us to our original virginal state (perfect integration of body and soul) before God.

Matt. 19:6; Eph. 5:31 – contraception prevents God’s ability to “join” together. Just as Christ’s love for the Church is selfless and sacrificial, and a husband and wife reflect this union, so a husband and wife’s love for each other must also be selfless and sacrificial. This means being open to new life.

Acts 5:1-11 – Ananias and Sapphira were slain because they withheld part of a gift. Fertility is a gift from God and cannot be withheld.

Rom.1:26-27 – sexual acts without the possibility of procreation is sinful. Self-giving love is life-giving love, or the love is a lie. The unitive and procreative elements of marital love can never be divided, or the marital love is also divided, and God is left out of the marriage.

1 Cor. 6:19-20 – the body is the temple of the Holy Spirit; thus, we must glorify God in our bodies by being open to His will.

1 Cor. 7:5 – this verse supports the practice of natural family planning (“NFP”). Married couples should not refuse each other except perhaps by agreement for a season, naturally.

Gal. 6:7-8 – God is not mocked for what a man sows. If to the flesh, corruption. If to the Spirit, eternal life.

Eph. 5:25 – Paul instructs husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the Church, by giving his entire body to her and holding nothing back. With contraception, husbands tell their wives, I love you except your fertility, and you can have me except for my fertility. This love is a lie because it is self-centered, and not self-giving and life-giving.

Eph. 5:29-31; Phil. 3:2 – mutilating the flesh (e.g., surgery to prevent conception) is gravely sinful. Many Protestant churches reject this most basic moral truth.

1 Tim. 2:15 – childbearing is considered a “work” through which women may be saved by God’s grace.

Deut. 22:13-21 – these verses also show that God condemns pre-marital intercourse. The living expression of God’s creative love is reserved for a sacramental marriage between one man and one woman.

Rev. 9:21; 21:8; 22:15; Gal. 5:20 – these verses mention the word “sorcery.” The Greek word is “pharmakeia” which includes abortifacient potions such as birth control pills. These pharmakeia are mortally sinful. Moreover, chemical contraception does not necessarily prevent conception, but may actually kill the child in the womb after conception has occurred (by preventing the baby from attaching to the uterine wall). Contraception is a lie that has deceived millions, but the Church is holding her arms open wide to welcome back her children who have strayed from the truth.

Tradition / Church Fathers

“Moreover, he [Moses] has rightly detested the weasel [Lev. 11:29]. For he means, ‘Thou shall not be like to those whom we hear of as committing wickedness with the mouth with the body through uncleanness [orally consummated sex]; nor shall thou be joined to those impure women who commit iniquity with the mouth with the body through uncleanness’” Letter of Barnabas 10:8 (A.D. 74).

“Because of its divine institution for the propagation of man, the seed is not to be vainly ejaculated, nor is it to be damaged, nor is it to be wasted” Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 2:10:91:2 (A.D. 191).

“To have coitus other than to procreate children is to do injury to nature.” Clement of Alexandria, The Instructor of Children 2:10:95:3 (A.D. 191).

“[Christian women with male concubines], on account of their prominent ancestry and great property, the so-called faithful want no children from slaves or lowborn commoners, [so] they use drugs of sterility or bind themselves tightly in order to expel a fetus which has already been engendered.” Hippolytus, Refutation of All Heresies 9:12 (A.D. 225).

“[Some] complain of the scantiness of their means, and allege that they have not enough for bringing up more children, as though, in truth, their means were in [their] power . . . or God did not daily make the rich poor and the poor rich. Wherefore, if any one on any account of poverty shall be unable to bring up children, it is better to abstain from relations with his wife.” Lactantius, Divine Institutes 6:20 (A.D. 307).

“God gave us eyes not to see and desire pleasure, but to see acts to be performed for the needs of life; so too, the genital [’generating’] part of the body, as the name itself teaches, has been received by us for no other purpose than the generation of offspring.” Lactantius, Divine 6:23:18 (A.D. 307).

“[I]f anyone in sound health has castrated himself, it behooves that such a one, if enrolled among the clergy, should cease [from his ministry], and that from henceforth no such person should be promoted. But, as it is evident that this is said of those who willfully do the thing and presume to castrate themselves, so if any have been made eunuchs by barbarians, or by their masters, and should otherwise be found worthy, such men this canon admits to the clergy.” Council of Nicaea I, Canon 1 (A.D. 325).

“They [certain Egyptian heretics] exercise genital acts, yet prevent the conceiving of children. Not in order to produce offspring, but to satisfy lust, are they eager for corruption.” Epiphanius of Salamis, Medicine Chest Against Heresies 26:5:2 (A.D. 375).

“This proves that you [Manicheans] approve of having a wife, not for the procreation of children, but for the gratification of passion. In marriage, as the marriage law declares, the man and woman come together for the procreation of children. Therefore, whoever makes the procreation of children a greater sin than copulation, forbids marriage and makes the woman not a wife but a mistress, who for some gifts presented to her is joined to the man to gratify his passion.” Augustine, The Morals of the Manichees 18:65 (A.D. 388).

“Why do you sow where the field is eager to destroy the fruit, where there are medicines of sterility [oral contraceptives], where there is murder before birth? You do not even let a harlot remain only a harlot, but you make her a murderess as well…Indeed, it is something worse than murder, and I do not know what to call it; for she does not kill what is formed but prevents its formation. What then? Do you condemn the gift of God and fight with his [natural] laws?…Yet such turpitude…the matter still seems indifferent to many men—even to many men having wives. In this indifference of the married men there is greater evil filth; for then poisons are prepared, not against the womb of a prostitute, but against your injured wife. Against her are these innumerable tricks.” John Chrysostom, Homilies on Romans 24 (A.D. 391).

“[I]n truth, all men know that they who are under the power of this disease [the sin of covetousness] are wearied even of their father’s old age [wishing him to die so they can inherit]; and that which is sweet, and universally desirable, the having of children, they esteem grievous and unwelcome. Many at least with this view have even paid money to be childless, and have mutilated nature, not only killing the newborn, but even acting to prevent their beginning to live.” John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 28:5 (A.D. 391).

“[T]he man who has mutilated himself, in fact, is subject even to a curse, as Paul says, ‘I would that they who trouble you would cut the whole thing off’ [Gal. 5:12]. And very reasonably, for such a person is venturing on the deeds of murderers, and giving occasion to them that slander God’s creation, and opens the mouths of the Manicheans, and is guilty of the same unlawful acts as they that mutilate themselves among the Greeks. For to cut off our members has been from the beginning a work of demonical agency, and satanic device, that they may bring up a bad report upon the works of God, that they may mar this living creature, that imputing all not to the choice, but to the nature of our members, the more part of them may sin in security as being irresponsible, and doubly harm this living creature, both by mutilating the members and by impeding the forwardness of the free choice in behalf of good deeds.” John Chrysostom, Homilies on Matthew 62:3 (A.D. 391).

“But I wonder why he [the heretic Jovinianus] set Judah and Tamar before us for an example, unless perchance even harlots give him pleasure; or Onan, who was slain because he grudged his brother seed. Does he imagine that we approve of any sexual intercourse except for the procreation of children?” Jerome, Against Jovinian 1:19 (A.D. 393).

“Observe how bitterly he [Paul] speaks against their deceivers…‘I would that they which trouble you would cut the whole thing off’ [Gal. 5:12]…On this account he curses them, and his meaning is as follows: ‘For them I have no concern, “A man that is heretical after the first and second admonition refuse” [Titus 3:10]. If they will, let them not only be circumcised but mutilated.’ Where then are those who dare to mutilate themselves, seeing that they draw down the apostolic curse, and accuse the workmanship of God, and take part with the Manichees?” John Chrysostom, Commentary on Galatians 5:12 (A.D. 395).

“You may see a number of women who are widows before they are wives. Others, indeed, will drink sterility and murder a man not yet born, [and some commit abortion].” Jerome, Letters 22:13 (A.D. 396).

“You [Manicheans] make your auditors adulterers of their wives when they take care lest the women with whom they copulate conceive. They take wives according to the laws of matrimony by tablets announcing that the marriage is contracted to procreate children; and then, fearing because of your law [against childbearing]…they copulate in a shameful union only to satisfy lust for their wives. They are unwilling to have children, on whose account alone marriages are made. How is it, then, that you are not those prohibiting marriage, as the apostle predicted of you so long ago [1 Tim. 4:1–4], when you try to take from marriage what marriage is? When this is taken away, husbands are shameful lovers, wives are harlots, bridal chambers are brothels, fathers-in-law are pimps.” Augustine, Against Faustus 15:7 (A.D. 400).

“For thus the eternal law, that is, the will of God creator of all creatures, taking counsel for the conservation of natural order, not to serve lust, but to see to the preservation of the race, permits the delight of mortal flesh to be released from the control of reason in copulation only to propagate progeny.” Augustine, Against Faustus 22:30 (A.D. 400).

“For necessary sexual intercourse for begetting [children] is alone worthy of marriage. But that which goes beyond this necessity no longer follows reason but lust. And yet it pertains to the character of marriage…to yield it to the partner lest by fornication the other sin damnably [through adultery]…[T]hey [must] not turn away from them the mercy of God…by changing the natural use into that which is against nature, which is more damnable when it is done in the case of husband or wife. For, whereas that natural use, when it pass beyond the compact of marriage, that is, beyond the necessity of begetting [children], is pardonable in the case of a wife, damnable in the case of a harlot; that which is against nature is execrable when done in the case of a harlot, but more execrable in the case of a wife. Of so great power is the ordinance of the Creator, and the order of creation, that . . . when the man shall wish to use a body part of the wife not allowed for this purpose [orally or anally consummated sex], the wife is more shameful, if she suffer it to take place in her own case, than if in the case of another woman.” Augustine, The Good of Marriage 11–12 (A.D. 401).

“I am supposing, then, although you are not lying [with your wife] for the sake of procreating offspring, you are not for the sake of lust obstructing their procreation by an evil prayer or an evil deed. Those who do this, although they are called husband and wife, are not; nor do they retain any reality of marriage, but with a respectable name cover a shame. Sometimes this lustful cruelty, or cruel lust, comes to this, that they even procure poisons of sterility…Assuredly if both husband and wife are like this, they are not married, and if they were like this from the beginning they come together not joined in matrimony but in seduction. If both are not like this, I dare to say that either the wife is in a fashion the harlot of her husband or he is an adulterer with his own wife.” Augustine, Marriage and Concupiscence 1:15:17 (A.D. 419).

“Who is he who cannot warn that no woman may take a potion so that she is unable to conceive or condemns in herself the nature which God willed to be fecund? As often as she could have conceived or given birth, of that many homicides she will be held guilty, and, unless she undergoes suitable penance, she will be damned by eternal death in hell. If a woman does not wish to have children, let her enter into a religious agreement with her husband; for chastity is the sole sterility of a Christian woman.” Caesarius of Arles, Sermons 1:12 (A.D. 522).

Posted in Apologetics-General, Holy Matrimony | Leave a Comment »

Three Days and Three Nights in the Tomb By Steve Ray

Posted by catholicfaithdefender on March 25, 2008

“For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”

(Matt. 12:3840)


Skeptics claim to have discovered an error in the New Testament —claiming Jesus was not in the tomb for three full 24-hour periods like he prophesied. He was buried Friday afternoon and rose early Sunday morning.being only one full day and two nights. Has the sceptic found an error in the Bible? How does one respond?


Then some of the scribes and Pharisees said to him, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign; but no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the whale, so will the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.”

It is clear that Jesus rejects the call to perform various signs before the Jewish leaders in order to justify his claims and actions. Jesus would not give them signs, however, for he did not come primarily to be a wonder-worker but a Savior. His miracles were performed to display his power and identity and out of mercy to help the poor and sick. Jesus performed many miracles in private and with a warning not to tell others about them. Yet, one great miracle would be given as a definitive sign. This would be the “sign of Jonah,” his resurrection from the “heart of the earth.”

The main problem encountered in Matthew 12:3840 involves the temporal designation “three days and three nights.” Interpreting this designation literally, some try to solve the “problem” by arguing that Jesus was really crucified on Thursday rather than Friday. A Friday crucifixion and a Sunday resurrection do not provide sufficient time for three days and three nights.

There are numerous ways of figuring out the day-night scheme for this period of time, but it is clear that three separate days and nights cannot be obtained by a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme. Yet, it is clear from the Gospels that Jesus was crucified on Friday, the day of Preparation, that is, the day before the sabbath” (Mark 15:42) and raised on Sunday, the “first day of the week” (Mark 16:2). If the temporal designation of Matthew 12:40 is taken literally, a conflict does exist between the time indicated in this verse and the time indicated in the accounts of the passion story.

But should the expression “three days and three nights” be interpreted literally? Three arguments indicate that it should not.

First, it appears that this expression is another way of stating “on the third day” or “in three days.” This can be illustrated from 1 Samuel 30:1213. The same Greek expression is found in 1 Samuel 30:12 in the Greek translation of the Old Testament (the Septuagint) as in Matthew 12:40. Verse 13 refers to this three-day and three-night period as “three days ago” or, as the LXX literally states, “the third day today.” If “three days and three nights” can mean “on the third day,” there is no major problem in our passage. By Jewish reckoning Jesus could have been crucified on Friday and raised on Sunday, the third day. Friday afternoon = day one; Friday 6 PM to Saturday 6 PM = day two; Saturday 6 PM to Sunday 6 PM = day three.’

A second argument against a literal temporal interpretation is the fact that Matthew did not see any conflict between this expression and either a third-day resurrection (Matt. 16:21; 17:23; 20:19) or a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme (Matt. 27:62; 28:1). For him, as well as for the other Evangelists, expressions such as “three days and three nights,” “after three days,” and “on the third day” could be used interchangeably.

Finally, it should be pointed out that the main point of Jesus’ analogy in Matthew 12:40 does not involve the temporal designation but the sign of the resurrection. Only one miracle or sign will be given to this evil and adulterous generation. That sign will be Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. The temporal designation is much less significant. Perhaps Jesus refers to three days and three nights because this expression is found in the Old Testament passage which he wants to quote (Jonah 1:17).

Understood in the context of biblical Judaism—and knowing the idioms and figures of speech in the designation “three days and three nights”—there is no problem with the Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection scheme described in the passion narratives. It is only if a twentieth-century reckoning of time is imposed or if the idiomatic nature of this temporal designation is not understood in its context that a problem appears.

Posted in A Challenge for Skeptics, Error in the Bible? ANSWERED !!! | 1 Comment »

Ang Kasaysayan ng Catholic Faith Defender

Posted by catholicfaithdefender on March 24, 2008

Ang Kasaysayan ng Catholic Faith Defender

Ni Bro. Socrates Fernadez

Isinalin ni Bro. G-one Paisones

Ang Diyos ayon sa kanyang sariling pakay ay “kasali at kasama sa kasaysayan.” Itoy nakalilito sa isipan ng mga tao. Pero para sa ating may paniniwala at pananalig; tayo ay makapagsasabi na mabuti at mabait talaga ang Diyos sa sangkatauhan.

Sa mga may paniniwala; tayo ay dapat sumunod sa sinasabi ng Banal na kasulatan, Karunungan 8:8 “Nakakaalam siya sa mga himala na gawa ng Diyos at sa mga magaganap na pangyayari sa kasaysayan.”

Makabubuti kung ating ilalathala ang mga pangayayari sa pagsisimula ng Catholic Faith Defender:

Sa CEBU ..1935 napaka-aktibo ng mga Aglipayano (Aglipayo) sa kanilang mga gawain; masigasig silang nagtatag ng Pangkat (Organization) kasama na rito ang pagkasigasig nila sa pang-aataki sa mga Doctrina ng Katoliko; lalung-lalo na sa Santo Papa.

Masigasig rin ang mga misyonaryong Protestante na nanirahan mismo sa mga lugar tulad ng San Isidro Talisay, sa Banawa at sa mga karatig lugar. Sila ay nakikipagkaibigan, tumutulong sa mga materyal na pangangailangan ng tao at kasama na rin sa kanilang proseso ang mga pang-aalipusta at pang-aataki sa mga Doctrina ng Katoliko, lalung-lalo na kay Birhen Maria, Tradisyon ng mga Apostoles, Larawan at sa mga piyesta ng mga Santo.

1938 sa Parokya ng San Nicolas sa Cebu ; may mga relihiyosong mga layko na bihirang magkatagpo sa kumbento ng kanilang kaibigang pari; at pinag-uusapan nila ang mga pangungutya at mga pang-aataki ng ibang relihiyon sa Simbahang Katoliko. Ang pari ay magaling din sumagot sa mga tanong ng mga layko sa kanya… At ganadong-ganado si Fr. Undoy Reynes na sumasagot sa pamamagitan ng (Gamit) Biblia, at maigi nya itong ipinaliwanag sa mga nagtatanong. Si Fr. Reynes, ang ama ng taunang aklat ng Almanake (Isang libro patungkol sa isang gabay kung ano ang dapat o katangi-tanging ngalan sa bagong panganak base narin sa Taon,Araw at petsa na ipinanganak ang isang bata) noon.

Saglit na nagpakita si Mang Pedro Cabaluna, siya pala’y nag-aaral ng Biblia sa kanyang sariling sikap lamang. Sa kanyang kapanahunan, kilala Si Mang Pedro sa tawag na “The WALKING BIBLE”. Siya ay nakapagtatag ng isang grupo sa Parokya ng San. Nicolas na nag-dedepensa sa pananampalatayang (Doctrinang) Katoliko. Dahil sa kanyang pagtatanggol sa tunay na Iglesya siya ay nakatanggap ng parangal galing sa Santo Papa-ito ay ang “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice.”

1946 pagkatapos ng ikalawang digmaang pandaigdig. Sa Parokya ng Virgen de la Regla, sa lungsod ng Lapu-lapu, lumitaw si Mang Mundo Reuma, galing Hilonggos Leyte; gumagawa ng Kandila sa Pari ng Opon (known as Lapu-lapu city). Mababa lang ang pinag-aralan pero napakatalino ng pag-iisip at kilala rin bilang isang Teologo ng mga laymen noon.

Siya’y Maraming alam tungkol sa Doctrina Catolica at sa Biblia, Kasama niya ang magkakapatid na Martin at Domingo Berido na pawang relihiyoso. Sila ay kilala bilang katulong o alalay kay Fr Gerald Trenekeins, MSC at sa iba pang nangungunang paring Redentorista sa Lapu-lapu City (Opon) sa pagpapaliwanag sa mga Doctrina ng Katoliko.. Pinupuntahan at nilalapitan sila ng mga layko, lalung-lalo na sa mga paghahanap ng sagot sa mga pang-aataki ng ibang relihiyon patungkol sa Doctrina Christiana. Sina Mang Mundo at mang Martin ay nakatanggap ng parangal galing sa Santo Papa.

1953 sa Santo Rosario Parish Church , may mga layko na naaaliw sa pag dedebate sa kumbento patungkol sa relihiyon. Ginabayan sila ni Mons . Esteban Montecillo na namatay sa gulang na 100. Pinagpalit-palit nila ang kanilang interpretasyon at karunungan patungkol sa Biblia, Ang mabait na Pari ay naaaliw sa pag dedebate ng kanyang mga layko; pero sa huli pinapakinggan pa rin nila ang paliwanag ng pari at ang interpretasyon nito sa Biblia. Naitatag ang “CATHOLIC FAITH DEFENDER.”

1963 Lumitaw si Atty. Mel Caumeran, hilig ang pagbabasa sa aklat ng Katoliko. Si Atty. Caumeran ay nakipaglaban(Debate) at nakipag-dialogue sa Freedom Park of Cebu. Nakasama nya ang mga Catholic Faith Defenders sina Bro. Arsenio Caburnay, Bro. Catalino Cuizon, Bros. Vicente ug Andres Diana, Bro Melquiades Andales ug Bro. Alfonso Resuento.

Bro. Soc Fernandez, during our CFD National Convention in Tagbilaran City

Sa kapanahunan ni Julio Cardinal Rosales naiparehistro ang Catholic Faith Defender sa Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Galing na-indoctrinal sa Seventh-day Adventist si Bro. Socrates Fernandez ay sumali sa Catholic Faith Defender. At pumasok sa Seminaryo, naka-abot ng teologia at saka ibinigay ang kanyang Buhay sa Catholic Faith Defender. Sumama sa mga religious rally sa ibat-ibang lugar sa Visayas at Mindanao . Sumali sina Bro. Dionie Buanhug, si Bro. Jose Tumarong ug Bro. Ramon Gitamundoc. Gumawa sila ng mga module at mga babasahin (at aklat) ng Catholic Faith Defender. Na-reporma nila ang mga batas nito, lalung-lalo na sa PAG-TUTURO at saka na ang pag de-DEBATE.

Ang KALIGTASAN sa pamamagitan ng tamang landas ng pamumuhay sa katotohanan at sa pagtutulungan ng bawat isa (tutulong sa lahat ng tao) at sa parating pagtanggap ng mga Sakramento ay s’yang pinapahalagahan ng Catholic Faith Defenders.

Unti-unting pumupukaw sa mga kayamanang pang-espiritwal para mga Catholic Faith Defenders na sila ay kasali at kasabay sa pagpaplano ng Diyos sa paghahatid ng maganda at makatotohanang mensahe ng Diyos, sa pagdedepensa nito at sa pagsunod parati sa mga Pari, Obispo at lalung-lalo na sa Santo Papa.

Bro. Doring, CFD Pres of Zamboanga City with Bro. Soc Fernandez National Adviser and Bro. Wendell Talibong, CFD Nat’l Vice Pres. for External affairs

Posted in -History in Tagalog- | 13 Comments »


Posted by catholicfaithdefender on March 22, 2008


I. We are One Family in Christ in Heaven and on Earth

Eph. 3:14-15- we are all one family (“Catholic”) in heaven and on earth, united together, as children of the Father, through Jesus Christ. Our brothers and sisters who have gone to heaven before us are not a different family. We are one and the same family. This is why, in the Apostles Creed, we profess a belief in the “communion of saints.” There cannot be a “communion” if there is no union. Loving beings, whether on earth or in heaven, are concerned for other beings, and this concern is reflected spiritually through prayers for one another.

Eph. 1:22-23; 5:23-32; Col. 1:18,24 – this family is in Jesus Christ, the head of the body, which is the Church.

1 Cor. 12:12,27; Rom. 12:5; Col. 3:15; Eph. 4:4 – we are the members of the one body of Christ, supernaturally linked together by our partaking of the Eucharist.

Rom. 8:35-39 – therefore, death does not separate the family of God and the love of Christ. We are still united with each other, even beyond death.

Matt. 17:3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30 – Jesus converses with “deceased” Moses and Elijah. They are more alive than the saints on earth.

Matt. 22:32; Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38 – God is the God of the living not the dead. The living on earth and in heaven are one family.

Luke 15:7,10 – if the angels and saints experience joy in heaven over our repentance, then they are still connected to us and are aware of our behavior.

John 15:1-6 – Jesus is the vine and we are the branches. The good branches are not cut off at death. They are alive in heaven.

1 Cor. 4:9 – because we can become a spectacle not only to men, but to angels as well, this indicates that angels are aware of our earthly activity. Those in heaven are connected to those on earth.

1 Cor. 12:26 – when one member suffers, all suffer. When one is honored, all rejoice. We are in this together as one family.

1 Cor 13:12; 1 John 3:2 – now we see in a mirror dimly, but in heaven we see face to face. The saints are more alive than we are!

Heb. 12:1 – we are surrounded by a great glory cloud (shekinah) of witnesses, our family in heaven. We are not separated. The “cloud of witnesses” (nephos marturon) refers to a great amphitheatre with the arena for the runners (us on earth), and many tiers of seats occupied by the saints (in heaven) rising up like a cloud. The “martures” are not mere spectators (“theatai”), but testifiers (witnesses) who testify from their own experience to God’s promises and cheer us on in our race to heaven. They are no less than our family in heaven.

1 Peter 2:9; Rev. 20:6 – we are a royal family of priests by virtue of baptism. We as priests intercede on behalf of each other.

2 Peter 1:4 – since God is the eternal family and we are His children, we are partakers of His divine nature as a united family.

1 Cor. 1:2; Rom. 1:7 – we are called to be saints. Saints refer to both those on earth and in heaven who are in Christ. Proof:

Acts 9:13,32,41; 26:10; 1 Cor. 6:1-2; 14:33; 2 Cor. 1:1; 8:4; 9:1-2; 13:13; Rom. 8:27; 12:23; 15:25,26, 31; 16:2,15; Eph. 1:1,15,18; 3:8; 5:3; 6:18; Phil. 1:1; 4:22; Col 1:2,4,26; 1 Tm 5:10; Philemon 1:5,7; Heb. 6:10; 13:24; Jude 1:3; Rev. 11:18; 13:7; 14:12; 16:6; 17:6;18:20,24; Rev 19:8; 20:9 – in these verses, we see that Christians still living on earth are called “saints.”

Matt. 27:52; Eph. 2:19; 3:18; Col. 1:12; 2 Thess. 1:10; Rev. 5:8; 8:3-4; 11:18; 13:10 – in these verses, we also see that “saints” also refer to those in heaven who united with us.

Dan. 4:13,23; 8:23 – we also see that the angels in heaven are also called “saints.” The same Hebrew word “qaddiysh” (holy one) is applied to both humans and angels in heaven. Hence, there are angel saints in heaven and human saints in heaven and on earth. Loving beings (whether angels or saints) are concerned for other beings, and prayer is the spiritual way of expressing that love.

II. God Desires and Responds to Our Subordinate Mediation / Intercessory Prayer

1 Tim 2:1-2 – because Jesus Christ is the one mediator between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5), many Protestants deny the Catholic belief that the saints on earth and in heaven can mediate on our behalf. But before Paul’s teaching about Jesus as the “one mediator,” Paul urges supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people. Paul is thus appealing for mediation from others besides Christ, the one mediator. Why?

1 Tim 2:3 – because this subordinate mediation is good and acceptable to God our Savior. Because God is our Father and we are His children, God invites us to participate in Christ’s role as mediator.

1 Tim. 2:5 – therefore, although Jesus Christ is the sole mediator between God and man, there are many intercessors (subordinate mediators).

1 Cor. 3:9 – God invites us to participate in Christ’s work because we are God’s “fellow workers” and one family in the body of Christ. God wants His children to participate. The phrase used to describe “fellow workers” is “sunergoi,” which literally means synergists, or cooperators with God in salvific matters. Does God need fellow workers? Of course not, but this shows how much He, as Father, loves His children. God wants us to work with Him.

Mark 16:20 – this is another example of how the Lord “worked with them” (“sunergountos”). God cooperates with us. Out of His eternal love, He invites our participation.

Rom. 8:28 – God “works for good with” (the Greek is “sunergei eis agathon”) those who love Him. We work as subordinate mediators.

2 Cor. 6:1 – “working together” (the Greek is “sunergountes”) with him, don’t accept His grace in vain. God allows us to participate in His work, not because He needs our help, but because He loves us and wants to exalt us in His Son. It is like the father who lets his child join him in carrying the groceries in the house. The father does not need help, but he invites the child to assist to raise up the child in dignity and love.

Heb. 12:1 – the “cloud of witnesses” (nephos marturon) that we are surrounded by is a great amphitheatre of witnesses to the earthly race, and they actively participate and cheer us (the runners) on, in our race to salvation.

1 Peter 2:5 – we are a holy priesthood, instructed to offer spiritual sacrifices to God. We are therefore subordinate priests to the Head Priest, but we are still priests who participate in Christ’s work of redemption.

Rev. 1:6, 5:10 – Jesus made us a kingdom of priests for God. Priests intercede through Christ on behalf of God’s people.

James 5:16; Proverbs 15:8, 29 – the prayers of the righteous (the saints) have powerful effects. This is why we ask for their prayers. How much more powerful are the saints’ prayers in heaven, in whom righteousness has been perfected.

1 Tim 2:5-6 – therefore, it is because Jesus Christ is the one mediator before God that we can be subordinate mediators. Jesus is the reason. The Catholic position thus gives Jesus the most glory. He does it all but loves us so much He desires our participation.

III. Specific Instructions to Mediate and Examples of Subordinate Mediation

New Testament

Matt. 5:44-45 – Jesus tells us to pray for (to mediate on behalf of) those who persecute us. God instructs us to mediate.

Matt. 17:1-3; Mark 9:4; Luke 9:30-31 – deceased Moses and Elijah appear at the Transfiguration to converse with Jesus in the presence of Peter, James and John (these may be the two “witnesses” John refers to in Rev. 11:3). Nothing in Scripture ever suggests that God abhors or cuts off communication between the living in heaven and the living on earth. To the contrary, God encourages communication within the communion of saints. Moses and Elijah’s appearance on earth also teach us that the saints in heaven have capabilities that far surpass our limitations on earth.

Matt. 26:53 – Jesus says He can call upon the assistance of twelve legions of angels. If Jesus said He could ask for the assistance of angel saints – and He obviously would not have been worshiping them in so doing – then so can we, who need their help infinitely more than Jesus, and without engaging in idolatry. And, in Matt. 22:30, Jesus says we will be “like angels in heaven.” This means human saints (like the angel saints) can be called upon to assist people on earth. God allows and encourages this interaction between his family members.

Matt. 27:47,49; Mark 15:35-36 – the people believe that Jesus calls on Elijah for his intercession, and waits to see if Elijah would come to save Jesus on the cross.

Matt. 27:52-53 – at Jesus’ passion, many saints were raised and went into the city to appear and presumably interact with the people, just as Jesus did after His resurrection.

Mark 11:24 – Jesus says that whatever we ask in prayer, we will receive it. It is Jesus, and also we through Jesus, who mediate.

John 2:3 – Jesus knew the wine was gone, but invites and responds to Mary’s intercession. God desires our lesser mediation and responds to it because He is a living and loving God.

John 2:5 – Mary intercedes on behalf of those at the wedding feast and tells them to do whatever Jesus tells them. Because Mary is our perfect model of faith, we too intercede on behalf of our brothers and sisters.

John 2:11 – in fact, it was Mary’s intercession that started Jesus’ ministry. His hour had not yet come, yet Jesus responds to Mary’s intercession. Even though He could do it all by Himself, God wants to work with His children.

Acts 12:7 – an angel strikes Peter on the side and wakes him up, freeing him from prison. The angel responds to Peter’s prayers.

Rom. 15:30 – Paul commands the family of God to pray for him. If we are united together in the one body of Christ, we can help each other.

2 Cor. 1:11 – Paul even suggests that the more prayers and the more people who pray, the merrier! Prayer is even more effective when united with other’s prayers.

2 Cor. 9:14 – Paul says that the earthly saints pray for the Corinthians. They are subordinate mediators in Christ.

2 Cor. 13:7,9 – Paul says the elders pray that the Corinthians may do right and improve. They participate in Christ’s mediation.

Gal. 6:2,10 – Paul charges us to bear one another’s burdens, and to do good to all, especially those in the household of faith.

Eph. 6:18 – Paul commands the family of God to pray for each other.

Eph. 6:19 – Paul commands that the Ephesians pray for him. If there is only one mediator, why would Paul ask for their prayers?

Phil. 1:19 – Paul acknowledges power of Philippians’ earthly intercession. He will be delivered by their prayers and the Holy Spirit.

Col. 1:3 – Paul says that he and the elders pray for the Colossians. They are subordinate mediators in the body of Christ.

Col. 1:9 – Paul says that he and the elders have not ceased to pray for the Colossians, and that, by interceding, they may gain wisdom.

Col. 4:4 – Paul commands the Colossians to pray for the elders of the Church so that God may open a door for the word. Why doesn’t Paul just leave it up to God? Because subordinate mediation is acceptable and pleasing to God, and brings about change in the world. This is as mysterious as the Incarnation, but it is true.

1 Thess. 5:11 – Paul charges us to encourage one another and build one another up, in the body of Christ. We do this as mediators in Christ.

1 Thess. 5:17 – Paul says “pray constantly.” If Jesus’ role as mediator does not apply subordinately to us, why pray at all?

1 Thess. 5:25 – Paul commands the family of God to pray for the elders of the Church. He desires our subordinate mediation.

2 Thess. 1:11 – Paul tells the family of God that he prays for us. We participate in Christ’s mediation because Christ desires this.

2 Thess. 3:1 – Paul asks the Thessalonians to pray for Him, Silvanus and Timothy so that they may be delivered.

1 Tim. 2:1-3 – Paul commands us to pray for all. Paul also states that these prayers are acceptable in the sight of God.

2 Tim. 1:3 – Paul says “I remember you constantly in my prayers.”

Philemon 22 – Paul is hoping through Philemon’s intercession that he may be able to be with Philemon.

Heb. 1:14 – the author writes, “Are they not all ministering spirits sent forth to serve, for the sake of those who are to obtain salvation?”

Hebrews 13:18-19 – the author strongly urges the Hebrews to pray for the elders so that they act desirably in all things.

James 5:14-15- James says the prayer of the priests over the sick man will save the sick man and forgive his sins. This is a powerful example of men forgiving sins and bringing a person to salvation with the sacrament of the sick.

James 5:16 – James instructs us to confess our sins to one another and pray for one another so that we may be healed.

James 5:17-18 – James refers to God’s response to Elijah’s fervent prayer for no rain. He is teaching us about the effectiveness of our earthly mediation.

1 John 5:14-15 – John is confident that God will grant us anything we ask of God according to His will.

1 John 5:16-17 – our prayers for others even calls God to give life to them and keep them from sinning. Our God is a personal and living God who responds to our prayers.

3 John 2 – John prays for Gaius’ health and thus acts as a subordinate mediator.

Rev. 1:4 – this verse shows that angels (here, the seven spirits) give grace and peace. Because grace and peace only come from God, the angels are acting as mediators for God.

Rev. 5:8 – the prayers of the saints (on heaven and earth) are presented to God by the angels and saints in heaven. This shows that the saints intercede on our behalf before God, and it also demonstrates that our prayers on earth are united with their prayers in heaven. (The “24 elders” are said to refer to the people of God – perhaps the 12 tribes and 12 apostles – and the “four living creatures” are said to refer to the angels.)

Rev. 6:9-11 – the martyred saints in heaven cry out in a loud voice to God to avenge their blood “on those who dwell upon the earth.” These are “imprecatory prayers,” which are pleas for God’s judgment (see similar prayers in Psalm 35:1; 59:1-17; 139:19; Jer. 11:20; 15:15; 18:19; Zech.1:12-13). This means that the saints in heaven are praying for those on earth, and God answers their prayers (Rev. 8:1-5). We, therefore, ask for their intercession and protection.

Rev. 8:3-4 – in heaven an angel mingles incense with the prayers of all the saints on the golden altar before the throne of God, and the smoke of the incense rose with the prayers of the saints from the hand of the angel before God. These prayers “rise up” before God and elicit various kinds of earthly activity. God responds to his children’s requests, whether made by his children on earth or in heaven.

Old Testament

Gen. 20:17 – God responds to Abraham’s intercession and heals Abimelech, and also his wife and slaves.

Gen. 27:29; Num. 24:9 – blessed be everyone who blesses you. If we bless others in prayer, we are also blessed.

Exodus 32:11-14, 30-34; 34:9; Num. 14:17-20; 21:7-9 – these are many examples of God’s response to Moses’ saintly intercession.

1 Sam. 12:23 – Samuel says that he would be sinning against God if he didn’t continue to intercede for the people of Israel.

1 Sam. 28:7-20 – the deceased prophet Samuel appears and converses with Saul, which is confirmed by Sirach 46:13,20).

1 Sam. 28:7; 1 Chron. 10:13-14 – Saul practiced necromancy. He used a medium, not God, to seek the dead and was therefore condemned. Saul’s practice is entirely at odds with the Catholic understanding of saintly mediation, where God is the source and channel of all communication, and who permits His children to participate in this power.

2 Chron. 30:27 – the prayers of the priests and Levites came before God’s holy habitation in heaven and were answered.

Tobit 12:12,15 – angels place Tobit and Sarah’s prayers before the Holy One. This teaches us that the angels are also our subordinate mediators. We pray to the angels to take up our prayers to God.

Job 42:7-9 – Job prayed for three friends in sin and God listened to Job as a result of these prayers.

Psalm 34:7 – the angel of the Lord delivers those who fear him.

Psalm 91:11 – God will give His angels charge of you, to guard you in all your ways.

Psalm 103:20-21; 148:1-2 – we praise the angels and ask for their assistance in doing God’s will.

Psalm 141:2 – David asks that his prayer be counted as incense before God. The prayers of the saints have powerful effects.

Isaiah 6:6-7 – an angel touches Isaiah’s lips and declares that his sin is forgiven. The angel is a subordinate mediator of God who effects the forgiveness of sins on God’s behalf.

Jer. 7:16 – God acknowledges the people’s ability to intercede, but refuses to answer due to the hardness of heart.

Jer. 15:1 – the Lord acknowledges the intercessory power of Moses and Samuel.

Jer. 37:3 – king Zedekiah sends messengers to ask Jeremiah to intercede for the people, that he might pray to God for them.

Jer. 42:1-6 – all the people of Israel went before Jeremiah asking for his intercession, that he would pray to the Lord for them.

Baruch 3:4 – Baruch asks the Lord to hear the prayers of the dead of Israel. They can intercede on behalf of the people of God.

Dan. 9:20-23 – Daniel intercedes on behalf of the people of Israel confessing both his sins and the sins of the people before God.

Zech. 1:12-13 – an angel intercedes for those in Judea and God responds favorably.

2 Macc. 15:12-16 – the high priest Onias and the prophet Jeremiah were deceased for centuries, and yet interact with the living Judas Maccabeas and pray for the holy people on earth.

IV. Veneration / Honor of the Saints

Matt. 18:10 – the angels in heaven always behold the face of God. We venerate them for their great dignity and union with God.

Matt. 15:4; Luke 18:20; Eph. 6:2-3 Exodus 20:12; Lev. 19:3; Deut. 5:16 – we are instructed to honor our father and mother.

Luke 1:28 – the angel Gabriel venerates Mary by declaring to her “Hail, full of grace.” The heavenly angel honors the human Mary, for her perfection of grace exceeds that of the angels.

Romans 13:7 – we are to give honor where honor is due. When we honor God’s children, we honor God Himself, for He is the source of all honor.

1 Cor. 4:16 – the most important form of veneration of the saints is “imitating” the saints, as Paul commands us to do.

1 Cor. 11:1 – again, Paul says, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.” The ultimate objective of veneration is imitation.

Phil. 2:25-29 – Paul teaches us to honor Epaprhoditus who almost died for the faith. How much more honor is owed to the saints that did die for the faith!

Phil. 3:17 – Paul says to imitate him and others, which is the goal of veneration. Veneration is not worship.

1 Thess. 1:6 – Paul says to the Thessalonians, “You became imitators of us and of the Lord.” This is the goal of veneration.

2 Thess. 3:7 – Paul says that the Thessalonians should imitate him and the other bishops.

Hebrews 3:3 – Jesus is worthy of “more” glory and honor than Moses. This does not mean that the saints are worthy of no glory and honor. Instead, it proves that saintly people are worthy of glory and honor out of God’s goodness.

Heb. 6:12 – the author teaches us to be imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

Heb. 13:7 – we must imitate the faith of our faithful leaders. We ask for their intercession and venerate them for their holiness.

James 5:10-11 – James teaches us to take heart in the examples of the prophets and Job, who endured suffering.

1 Peter 2:17 – Peter teaches us to honor all men, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the emperor. Don’t those living with Christ in heaven deserve honor? Catholics believe they do, and honor them with special feast days, just as we honor those living by celebrating their birthdays.

Gen. 19:1 – Lot venerates the two angels in Sodom, bowing himself with his face to the ground.

Gen. 42:6 – Joseph’s brothers bow before Joseph with the face to the ground. This is veneration, not worship.

Exodus 28:2 – it is especially important to honor religious leaders. Sacred garments for Aaron give him dignity and honor.

Lev. 19:32- we should also honor “the face of an old man.” When the elderly die in Christ, we should continue honoring them, because death does not separate them from us or the love of Christ.

1 Sam. 28:14 – Saul bows down before Samuel with his face to the ground in veneration.

2 Chron. 32:33 – Hezekiah was honored at his death. We honor our brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Sir. 44:1-2 – we should praise and give honor to those who the Lord apportioned great glory. It is our family in Christ.

V. Posture in Prayer, Veneration and Worship

Deut. 5:9 – God’s command, “you shall not bow down to them” means “do not worship them.” But not all bowing is worship. Here God’s command is connected to false worship.

Rev. 3:9 – Jesus said people would bow down before the faithful members of the church of Philadelphia. This bowing before the faithful is not worship, just as kissing a picture of a family member is not worship.

Gen. 19:1 – Lot bowed down to the ground in veneration before two angels in Sodom.

Gen. 24:52 – Abraham’s servant bowed himself to the earth before the Lord.

Gen. 42:6 – Joseph’s brothers bow before Joseph with the face to the ground.

Jos. 5:14 – Joshua fell to the ground prostrate in veneration before an angel.

1 Sam. 28:14 – Saul bows down before Samuel with his face to the ground in honor and veneration.

1 Kings 1:23 – the prophet Nathan bows down before King David.

2 Kings 2:15 – the sons of the prophets bow down to Elisha at Jericho.

1 Chron. 21:21 – Ornan the Jebusite did obeisance to king David with his face to the ground.

1 Chron. 29:20 – Israelites bowed down to worship God and give honor to the king.

2 Chron. 29:29-30 – King Hezekiah and the assembly venerate the altar by bowing down in worship before the sin offerings.

Tobit 12:16 – Tobiah and Tobit fell down to the ground in veneration before the angel Raphael.

Judith 14:7 – Achior the Ammonite kneels before Judith venerating her and praising God.

Psalm 138:2 – David bows down before God’s Holy Temple.

Dan. 2:46 – the king fell down on his face paying homage to Daniel and commands that an offering be made to him.

Dan. 8:17 – Daniel fell down prostrate in veneration before the angel Gabriel.

1 Macc. 4:40,55 – Judas and the faithful fell face down to the ground to praise heaven and worship God.

2 Macc. 10:4,26; 13:12 – Maccabeus and his followers fall down prostrate praying to God.

Tradition / Church Fathers

I. Intercessory Power and Veneration of the Saints

“[T]hat it is neither possible for us ever to forsake Christ, who suffered for the salvation of such as shall be saved throughout the whole world (the blameless one for sinners), nor to worship any other. For Him indeed, as being the Son of God, we adore; but the martyrs, as disciples and followers of the Lord, we worthily love on account of their extraordinary affection towards their own King and Master, of whom may we also be made companions and fellow disciples! The centurion then, seeing the strife excited by the Jews, placed the body in the midst of the fire, and consumed it. Accordingly, we afterwards took up his bones, as being more precious than the most exquisite jewels, and more purified than gold, and deposited them in a fitting place, whither, being gathered together, as opportunity is allowed us, with joy and rejoicing, the Lord shall grant us to celebrate the anniversary of his martyrdom, both in memory of those who have already finished their course, and for the exercising and preparation of those yet to walk in their steps.” Martyrdom of Polycarp 17,18 (A.D. 157).

“[Appealing to the three companions of Daniel] Think of me, I beseech you, so that I may achieve with you the same fate of martyrdom.” Hippolytus of Rome, On Daniel, 11:30 (A.D. 204).

“As often as the anniversary comes round, we make offerings for the dead as birthday honours.” Tertullian, The Crown, 3 (A.D. 211).

“Nor is that kind of title to glories in the case of Celerinus, our beloved, an unfamiliar and novel thing. He is advancing in the footsteps of his kindred; he rivals his parents and relations in equal honours of divine condescension. His grandmother, Celerina, was some time since crowned with martyrdom. Moreover, his paternal and maternal uncles, Laurentius and Egnatius, who themselves also were once warring in the camps of the world, but were true and spiritual soldiers of God, casting down the devil by the confession of Christ, merited palms and crowns from the Lord by their illustrious passion. We always offer sacrifices for them, as you remember, as often as we celebrate the passions and days of the martyrs in the annual commemoration. Nor could he, therefore, be degenerate and inferior whom this family dignity and a generous nobility provoked, by domestic examples of virtue and faith. But if in a worldly family it is a matter of heraldry and of praise to be a patrician, of bow much greater praise and honour is it to become of noble rank in the celestial heraldry! I cannot tell whom I should call more blessed,–whether those ancestors, for a posterity so illustrious, or him, for an origin so glorious. So equally between them does the divine condescension flow, and pass to and fro, that, just as the dignity of their offspring brightens their crown, so the sublimity of his ancestry illuminates his glory.” Cyprian, To Clergy and People, Epistle 33(39):3 (A.D. 250).

“I am also of opinion that there were many persons of the same name with John the apostle, who by their love for him, and their admiration and emulation of him, and their desire to be loved by the Lord as he was loved, were induced to embrace also the same designation, just as we find many of the children of the faithful called by the names of Paul and Peter.” Dionysius of Alexandria, Books of Promises, 5 (A.D. 257).

“Then we commemorate also those who have fallen asleep before us, first Patriarchs, Prophets, Apostles, Martyrs, that at their prayers and intercessions God would receive our petition. Then on behalf also of the Holy Fathers and Bishops who have fallen asleep before us, and in a word of all who in past years have fallen asleep among us, believing that it will be a very great benefit to the souls, for whom the supplication is put up, while that holy and most awful sacrifice is set forth.” Cyril of Jerusalem, Catechetical Lectures, 23:9 (A.D. 350).

“Thus might you console us; but what of the flock? Would you first promise the oversight and leadership of yourself, a man under whose wings we all would gladly repose, and for whose words we thirst more eagerly than men suffering from thirst for the purest fountain? Secondly, persuade us that the good shepherd who laid down his life for the sheep has not even now left us; but is present, and tends and guides, and knows his own, and is known of his own, and, though bodily invisible, is spiritually recognized, and defends his flock against the wolves, and allows no one to climb over into the fold as a robber and traitor; to pervert and steal away, by the voice of strangers, souls under the fair guidance of the truth. Aye, I am well assured that his intercession is of more avail now than was his instruction in former days, since he is closer to God, now that he has shaken off his bodily fetters, and freed his mind from the clay which obscured it, and holds intercourse naked with the nakedness of the prime and purest Mind; being promoted, if it be not rash to say so, to the rank and confidence of an angel.” John Chrysostom, On the Death of his Father, Oration 18:4 (A.D. 374).

“He voluntarily undertook all the toil of the journey; he moderated the energy of the faithful on the spot; he persuaded opponents by his arguments; in the presence of priests and deacons, and of many others who fear the Lord, he took up the relics with all becoming reverence, and has aided the brethren in their preservation. These relics do you receive with a joy equivalent to the distress with which their custodians have parted with them and sent them to you. Let none dispute; let none doubt. Here you have that unconquered athlete. These bones, which shared in the conflict with the blessed soul, are known to the Lord. These bones He will crown, together with that soul, in the righteous day of His requital, as it is written, ‘we must stand before the judgment seat of Christ, that each may give an account of the deeds he has done in the body.’ One coffin held that honoured corpse. None other lay by his side. The burial was a noble one; the honours of a martyr were paid him. Christians who had welcomed him as a guest and then with their own hands laid him in the grave, have now disinterred him. They have wept as men bereaved of a father and a champion. But they have sent him to you, for they put your joy before their own consolation. Pious were the hands that gave; scrupulously careful were the hands that received. There has been no room for deceit; no room for guile. I bear witness to this. Let the untainted truth be accepted by you.” Basil, To Ambrose bishop of Milan, Epistle 197 (A.D. 375).

“Furthermore, as to mentioning the names of the dead, how is there anything very useful in that? What is more timely or more excellent than that those who are still here should believe that the departed do live, and that they have not retreated into nothingness, but that they exist and are alive with the Master…Useful too is the prayer fashioned on their behalf…For we make commemoration of the just and of sinners: of sinners, begging God’s mercy for them; of the just and the Fathers and Patriarchs and Prophets and Apostles and Evangelists and martyrs and confessors, and of bishops and solitaries, and of the whole list of them…” Epiphanius, Panarion, 75:8 (A.D. 377).

“Only may that power come upon us which strengthens weakness, through the prayers of him[i.e. St. Paul] who made his own strength perfect in bodily weakness.” Gregory of Nyssa, Against Eunomius, 1:1(A.D. 380).

“But God forbid that any in this fair assembly should appear there suffering such things! but by the prayers of the holy fathers, correcting all our offences, and having shown forth the abundant fruit of virtue, may we depart hence with much confidence.” John Chrysostom, On Statues, Homily 6:19 (A.D. 387).

“As to our paying honor to the memory of the martyrs, and the accusation of Faustus, that we worship them instead of idols, I should not care to answer such a charge, were it not for the sake of showing how Faustus, in his desire to cast reproach on us, has overstepped the Manichaean inventions, and has fallen heedlessly into a popular notion found in Pagan poetry, although he is so anxious to be distinguished from the Pagans. For in saying that we have turned the idols into martyrs, be speaks of our worshipping them with similar rites, and appeasing the shades of the departed with wine and food…It is true that Christians pay religious honor to the memory of the martyrs, both to excite us to imitate them and to obtain a share in their merits, and the assistance of their prayers. But we build altars not to any martyr, but to the God of martyrs, although it is to the memory of the martyrs. No one officiating at the altar in the saints’ burying-place ever says, We bring an offering to thee, O Peter! or O Paul! or O Cyprian! The offering is made to God, who gave the crown of martyrdom, while it is in memory of those thus crowned. The emotion is increased by the associations of the place, and. love is excited both towards those who are our examples, and towards Him by whose help we may follow such examples. We regard the martyrs with the same affectionate intimacy that we feel towards holy men of God in this life, when we know that their hearts are prepared to endure the same suffering for the truth of the gospel. There is more devotion in our feeling towards the martyrs, because we know that their conflict is over; and we can speak with greater confidence in praise of those already victors in heaven, than of those still combating here.” Augustine, Against Faustus, 20:21 (A.D. 400).

“We, it is true, refuse to worship or adore, I say not the relics of the martyrs, but even the sun and moon, the angels and archangels, the Cherubim and Seraphim and ‘every name that is named, not only in this world but also in that which is to come.’ For we may not “serve the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Still we honour the relics of the martyrs, that we may adore Him whose martyrs they are. We honour the servants that their honour may be reflected upon their Lord who Himself says:–‘he that receiveth you receiveth me.’ I ask Vigilantius, Are the relics of Peter and of Paul unclean? Was the body of Moses unclean, of which we are told (according to the correct Hebrew text) that it was buried by the Lord Himself? And do we, every time that we enter the basilicas of apostles and prophets and martyrs, pay homage to the shrines of idols? Are the tapers which burn before their tombs only the tokens of idolatry? I will go farther still and ask a question which will make this theory recoil upon the head of its inventor and which will either kill or cure that frenzied brain of his, so that simple souls shall be no more subverted by his sacrilegious reasonings. Let him answer me this, Was the Lord’s body unclean when it was placed in the sepulchre? And did the angels clothed in white raiment merely watch over a corpse dead and defiled, that ages afterwards this sleepy fellow might indulge in dreams and vomit forth his filthy surfeit, so as, like the persecutor Julian, either to destroy the basilicas of the saints or to convert them into heathen temples?” Jerome, To Riparius, Epistle 109:1 (A.D. 404).

“For you say that the souls of Apostles and martyrs have their abode either in the bosom of Abraham, or in the place of refreshment, or under the altar of God, and that they cannot leave their own tombs, and be present there they will…And while the devil and the demons wander through the whole world, and with only too great speed present themselves everywhere; are martyrs, after the shedding of their blood, to be kept out of sight shut up in a coffin, from whence they cannot escape? You say, in your pamphlet, that so long as we are alive we can pray for one another; but once we die, the prayer of no person for another can be heard, and all the more because the martyrs, though they cry for the avenging of their blood, have never been able to obtain their request. If Apostles and martyrs while still in the body can pray for others, when they ought still to be anxious for themselves, how much more must they do so when once they have won their crowns, overcome, and triumphed? A single man, Moses, oft wins pardon from God for six hundred thousand armed men; and Stephen, the follower of his Lord and the first Christian martyr, entreats pardon for his persecutors; and when once they have entered on their life with Christ, shall they have less power than before? The Apostle Paul says that two hundred and seventy-six souls were given to him in the ship; and when, after his dissolution, he has begun to be with Christ, must he shut his mouth, and be unable to say a word for those who throughout the whole world have believed in his Gospel? Shall Vigilantius the live dog be better than Paul the dead lion? I should be right in saying so after Ecclesiastes, if I admitted that Paul is dead in spirit. The truth is that the saints are not called dead, but are said to be asleep. Wherefore Lazarus, who was about to rise again, is said to have slept. And the Apostle forbids the Thessalonians to be sorry for those who were asleep.” Jerome, Against Vigilantius, 6 (A.D. 406).

“Even if we make images of pious men it is not that we may adore them as gods but that when we see them we might be prompted to imitate them.” Cyril of Alexandria, On Psalms 113 (115) (ante A.D. 444).

“The noble souls of the triumphant are sauntering around heaven, dancing in the choruses of the bodiless; and not one tomb for each conceals their bodies, but cities and villages divide them up and call them healers and preservers of souls and bodies, and venerate them a guardians and protectors of cities; and when they intervene as ambassadors before the Master of the universe the divine gifts are obtained through them; and though the body has been divided, its grace has continued undivided. And that little particle and smallest relic has the same power as the absolutely and utterly undivided martyr.” Theodoret of Cyrus, The Cure of Pagan Maladies, 8:54 (A.D. 449).

” Thou gainest nothing, thou prevailest nothing, O savage cruelty. His mortal frame is released from thy devices, and, when Laurentius departs to heaven, thou art vanquished. The flame of Christ’s love could not be overcome by thy flames, and the fire which burnt outside was less keen than that which blazed within. Thou didst but serve the martyr in thy rage, O persecutor: thou didst but swell the reward in adding to the pain. For what did thy cunning devise, which did not redound to the conqueror’s glory, when even the instruments of torture were counted as part of the triumph? Let us rejoice, then, dearly-beloved, with spiritual joy, and make our boast over the happy end of this illustrious man in the Lord, Who is ‘wonderful in His saints,’ in whom He has given us a support and an example, and has so spread abroad his glory throughout the world, that, from the rising of the sun to its going down, the brightness of his deacon’s light doth shine, and Rome is become as famous in Laurentius as Jerusalem was ennobled by Stephen. By his prayer and intercession we trust at all times to be assisted; that, because all, as the Apostle says, ‘who wish to live holily in Christ, suffer persecutions,’ we may be strengthened with the spirit of love, and be fortified to overcome all temptations by the perseverance of steadfast faith. Through our LORD Jesus Christ.” Pope Leo the Great [regn. A.D. 440-461], On the Feast of Laurence the Martyr, Sermon 85:4 (ante A.D. 461).

“To the saints honour must be paid as friends of Christ, as sons and heirs of God: in the words of John the theologian and evangelist, As many as received Him, to them gave He power to became sons of God. So that they are no longer servants, but sons: and if sons, also heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ: and the Lord in the holy Gospels says to His apostles, Ye are My friends. Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth. And further, if the Creator and Lord of all things is called also King of Kings and Lord of Lords and God of Gods, surely also the saints are gods and lords and kings. For of these God is and is called God and Lord and King. For I am the God of Abraham, He said to Moses, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob. And God made Moses a god to Pharaoh. Now I mean gods and kings and lords not in nature, but as rulers and masters of their passions, and as preserving a truthful likeness to the divine image according to which they were made (for the image of a king is also called king), and as being united to God of their own free-will and receiving Him as an indweller and becoming by grace through participation with Him what He is Himself by nature. Surely, then, the worshippers and friends and sons of God are to be held in honour? For the honour shown to the most thoughtful of fellow-servants is a proof of good feeling towards the common Master.” John of Damascene, Orthodox Faith, 4:15 (A.D. 743).

“We, therefore, following the royal pathway and the divinely inspired authority of our Holy Fathers and the traditions of the Catholic Church (for, as we all know, the Holy Spirit indwells her), define with all certitude and accuracy that just as the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross, so also the venerable and holy images, as well in painting and mosaic as of other fit materials, should be set forth in the holy churches of God, and on the sacred vessels and on the vestments and on hangings and in pictures both in houses and by the wayside, to wit, the figure of our Lord God and Saviour Jesus Christ, of our spotless Lady, the Mother of God, of the honourable Angels, of all Saints and of all pious people. For by so much more frequently as they are seen in artistic representation, by so much more readily are men lifted up to the memory of their prototypes, and to a longing after them; and to these should be given due salutation and honourable reverence, not indeed that true worship of faith (latria) which pertains alone to the divine nature; but to these, as to the figure of the precious and life-giving Cross and to the Book of the Gospels and to the other holy objects, incense and lights may be offered according to ancient pious custom. For the honour which is paid to the image passes on to that which the image represents, and he who reveres the image reveres in it the subject represented. For thus the teaching of our holy Fathers, that is the tradition of the Catholic Church, which from one end of the earth to the other hath received the Gospel, is strengthened.” Ecumenical Council of Nicea II, Action VII (A.D. 787).

Posted in Apologetics-General, Apologetics-Saints | 2 Comments »


Posted by catholicfaithdefender on March 22, 2008


(This is the response of Dr. Jeffrey Mirus to a question about papal infallibility addressed to him in the “Ask the Experts” section of EWTN Online Services.)

Where in the Code of Canon Law does it state that the Pope is infallible in matters of faith and morals? Is the Pope only infallible when he is speaking ex cathedra?

While the First Vatican Council defined papal infallibility in 1870, you must understand that the date on which a doctrine is officially defined is not the date on which it becomes true. Rather, it was always true. It’s just that different aspects of the Faith are challenged at different periods of history, and when a challenge occurs or a serious concern or question arises, then the Church will settle the difficulty by formally stating what the truth of the matter is—to end the confusion. So papal infallibility has always been true, and, moreover, was accepted and practiced from the earliest times.

The evidence that papal infallibility is part of the Christian Faith comes from three sources.


First, Scripture. Such passages as: “Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my Church; to you I give the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven. Whatever you bind on earth is bound in heaven; whatever you loose on earth is loosed in heaven”, and “Do you love me, Peter. Feed my sheep”, and “I have prayed for you, Peter, that your faith may not fail. You in turn must confirm your brethren”, have always been taken to refer to a special role for Peter in the establishment of the Church, and special divine protection for Peter in the exercise of his authority.


Second, History. From the earliest times we see the bishops of Rome acting as if they had special authority in succession from St. Peter, and we also see the rest of the Church accepting their authority as if they knew it was genuine. Thus Pope Clement wrote to settle a problem in the Church of Corinth before the end of the 1st century. During the first few hundred years of Church history, moreover, many who were accused of heresy appealed from every corner of the known world to Rome for vindication or condemnation. The Fathers too repeatedly attest to the authority of the Roman See. And the Popes always had the decisive word at general councils, as when the Fathers of the Council of Chalcedon said in response to the Papal definition of the two natures of Christ, “Peter has spoken through Leo”—and accepted it unhesitatingly.


Third, Logic. There are only two covenants, the old and the new. But the first Christians under the New Covenant had a living and infallible guide to the truth in Christ himself. Surely the lack of such a guide in future times would constitute yet another covenant –the difference would be so radical. The argument runs as follows:

It is clear even from Scripture that Peter had a special commission and special powers from Christ to care for the flock of Christ, to bind and loose, and to confirm his brothers in faith—indeed he had the very powers of the keys to the Kingdom. Obviously, these powers were essential to the Church as constituted by Christ. And Christ promised to be with the Church always to the end of time, and said that the powers of hell would not prevail against it.

Now, clearly Christ knew that Peter would not live until the end of time, so he must have intended that the power he gave to Peter would be carried on until His return. After all, Peter was to feed “my” (Christ’s) sheep, and so was serving as the vicar of Christ in Christ’s absence. When Peter died, a new vicar would take his place, and so on, until Christ returned to claim his own. The parable of the steward awaiting his Master’s return is very much to the point.

Just as clearly, Peter’s authority also enabled himself (and his successors) to set forth the manner in which their successors would be selected, either by choosing the successor personally before death, or by setting forth some other means—eventually, election by the college of cardinals.

Moreover, if these special and essential powers were to pass out of existence, it would be proof that Christ was no longer with his Church and that the powers of Hell had indeed prevailed. Therefore, again, Christ must have intended successors to Peter.

For this reason, we are not at all surprised that subsequent popes claimed to have the Petrine power and that the early Christian community accepted it without question. As I indicated above, this authority was exercised by the fourth Pope, Clement, while St. John the Evangelist was still alive. The earliest Christians were in a position to know Christ’s will from other sources than Scripture (just as we today, under the guidance of the Church, are able to learn from Tradition).

Infallibility Itself Now we come to the specific question of infallibility, by which the successors of Peter continue to confirm the brethren. Since the successors of Peter have the same Petrine authority, which comes ultimately from Christ, to bind and loose, they have the authority to bind the faithful in matters pertaining to salvation—that is, in faith or morals. Now, if a Pope could bind the faithful to error, it would be a clear triumph of the powers of Hell, because the entire Church would be bound to follow the error under Christ’s own authority. Obviously, this cannot happen.

Therefore, the logic of the situation demands that the Petrine power of confirming the brethren must be an infallible power. When the Pope intends by virtue of his supreme authority to teach on a matter of faith and morals to the entire Church, he MUST be protected by the Holy Spirit from error—else the powers of hell would prevail.

This is the logic behind infallibility. But, of course, it is not based solely on logic, since it is attested in Scripture and was held by the earliest Christians and the Fathers and, indeed, by the vast majority of Christians from the beginning.

Further, it is not a new thing. It was precisely defined at Vatican I in order to clarify what was at that time a confusing issue, but this was by way of stating clearly what Christ’s teaching was, not by way of adding anything new. Vatican I therefore carefully enumerated the conditions under which the Pope was in fact infallible—the same conditions which logic demands, which Scripture suggests, and which tradition shows us in action down through the centuries.

When the Pope (1) intends to teach (2) by virtue of his supreme authority (3) on a matter of faith and morals (4) to the whole Church, he is preserved by the Holy Spirit from error. His teaching act is therefore called “infallible” and the teaching which he articulates is termed “irreformable”.

This is certainly a “crash course” in papal authority and infallibility. I hope it helps clarify the Church’s teaching for you.

—Jeff Mirus

Posted in Apologetics-General | Leave a Comment »


Posted by catholicfaithdefender on March 22, 2008

THE CATHOLIC CHURCH is the world’s largest, and Christianity’s oldest, religious body. Her 1 billion members inhabit the width and breadth of the earth, comprising almost one-fifth of the total human population. She is far and away the most popular religious concept the world has ever known. Paradoxically, however, the Catholic Church is also the world’s most controversial religious concept. Catholic belief is different, too different to be orthodox, say Protestants and Christian cultists. Catholic belief is too ethereal to be logical, and too strict to be enjoyable, say the humanists and agnostics. Hence to millions of people, Catholicism is not only a colossal success, it is also a colossal enigma. Of course, there has to be an explanation for these contradictory opinions — and there is an explanation: Protestants and others who have questions about Catholic belief too often make the mistake of going to the wrong place for the answers. Too often books written by religious incompetents are consulted. The result is incomplete and distorted information. With such information, one cannot help but see the Catholic faith as a colossal enigma.

The right place to go for information about Catholic belief — in fact the only place to go for complete and authoritative information — is the Catholic Church herself. As any detective will tell you, no investigation is quite so complete as an on-the-spot investigation. Hence, dear reader, if you are a Protestant, an unaffiliated Christian, or an agnostic, who wants to know the truth about Catholic belief, take this friendly advice: Seek out a Catholic priest and put your questions to him. You will find him a very understanding and obliging person. Or read this little booklet. This booklet was written by a Catholic who knows the questions you are likely to ask, as well as the answers, because once he, too, was outside of the Catholic Church, looking in. The questions in this booklet are basically the same ones he put to a Catholic priest, and the answers are basically the same ones given him by that priest. Read this booklet; then forget all the fiction you have heard about the Catholic Church, for you will have the gospel truth.

Why do Catholics believe that the universe and all life in it was created by, and is governed by, an all-powerful Spirit Being called God? What actual proof is there of God’s existence and omnipotence?

Catholics believe that the universe is the creation, and the exclusive dominion, of an infinitely powerful Spirit Being, called God, because the evidence which points to that conclusion is so overwhelming that there is no room left for even the slightest vestige of doubt. First, there is the evidence of logic. Through the process of simple mathematical-type reasoning, man inevitably comes face to face with certain indisputable principles: Everything has a cause; nothing can bring itself into existence. Obviously there is a long chain of causes in the universe, but ultimately there must be a first cause, an uncaused cause. This uncaused cause we call “God.” (The theory of evolution, even if it could be proved, would not explain the origin of anything; evolution simply deals with what may have happened after matter came into existence.) Further, 1) personal creation (man) presupposes a superior Personal Creator, 2) universal order presupposes a Universal Orderer, 3) cosmic energy presupposes a Cosmic Energizer, 4) natural law presupposes a Universal Law Maker. Basic principles of reason such as these explain why so many of the world’s leading scientists are firm believers in God.

Then, there is the evidence of divine revelation — on countless occasions God has revealed Himself by voice, vision and apparition (by means which are receptive to the human senses), and demonstrated His Omnipotence by stupendous, obviously supernatural miracles. Many of these revelations are a matter of authenticated historical record. The Scriptures, for example, are full of such accounts; and in modern times the world has been witness to such Heaven-sent miracles as those at Fatima, Lourdes, and St. Anne de Beauprè in Quebec, Canada, where the cured have left a forest of crutches in testimony. (The Lourdes Medical Bureau is open for examination by any doctor.) In addition, there is the liquefaction of the blood of St. Januarius which still takes place in Naples each year on September 19, his feastday; the incorruption of the bodies of many Catholic saints (such as St. Bernadette, who died in 1879); and the miraculous Eucharistic Host of Lanciano, Italy, which has been scientifically proven to be human flesh and human blood, type AB–to mention only a few of the miracles still on-going in the 20th century, which point to the existence of a God.

And lastly there is the evidence of human intuition. Psychologists have long known that every human being — the atheist included — intuitively seeks God’s help in times of great calamity, and instinctively pleads for God’s mercy when death is imminent. Hence the renowned Voltaire, who was so eloquent in his denial of God while he enjoyed health, fame and fortune, repudiated all of his atheistic writings on his deathbed and frantically sought the ministrations of a Catholic priest. Nikolai Lenin, as he lay on his deathbed, looked around him and frantically asked pardon of the tables and chairs in the room. For as hunger for food proclaims the existence of food, man’s intuitive hunger for God proclaims the Reality, the Omnipotence and the Justice of God. Catholic belief in God, therefore, is purely and simply an expression of intellectual sanity.

Why do Catholics believe that God is three Persons, called the Holy Trinity? How can God be three Persons and still be one God?

Catholics believe there is one God consisting of three distinct and equal divine Persons — Father, Son and Holy Spirit — because on numerous occasions God has described Himself thus. The Old Testament gives intimations that there are more than one Person in God. In Genesis 1:26, God says, “Let us make man to our image and likeness.” In Isaias 9:6-7, God the Father revealed the imminent coming into the world of God the Son. In Psalms 2:7, we read, “The Lord hath said to me: Thou art my son, this day have I begotten thee.” And in the New Testament, God reveals this doctrine even more clearly. For example, at the baptism of Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit appeared in the form of a dove, and the voice of God the Father was heard: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Matt. 3:16-17). In Matthew 28:19, God the Son commanded the Apostles to baptize “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.” And in 1 Cor. 12:4-6, the Bible refers to God with three names: Spirit, Lord, and God — corresponding to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

Three divine Persons in one Godhead may be incomprehensible to the human mind, but that is to be expected. How can man fully comprehend God’s infinite make-up when he cannot fully comprehend his own finite make-up? We have to take God’s word for it. Also, we can satisfy ourselves as to the feasibility of God’s triune make-up by considering various other triune realities. The triangle, for example, is one distinct form with three distinct and equal sides. And the clover leaf is one leaf with three distinct and equal petals. There are many physical trinities on earth, therefore a Spiritual Trinity, who is God in Heaven, is not against human reason — it is simply above human reason.

Why do Catholics believe that Jesus Christ was God the Son — the Second Person of the Holy Trinity? Would it not be more reasonable to believe that He was a great and holy man… a religious leader of exceptional talent and dedication… a prophet?

Catholics believe that Jesus was God the Son, incarnate in human flesh, firstly because God’s physical manifestation on earth, plus all the circumstances of that manifestation, were prophesied time and again in Divine Revelation, and Jesus fulfilled that prophecy right to the letter; secondly, because He claimed that He was God (John 10:30, 14:9-10 and numerous other passages), and He never deceived anyone; thirdly, because He proved His divinity by His impeccable holiness and the flawless perfection of His doctrine; fourthly, because only God could have performed the miracles He performed miracles such as walking on the sea, feeding five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish, and, after His death on the Cross, resurrecting Himself from His own tomb; fifthly, because only God could have, in the brief space of three years, without military conquest, without political power, without writing a single line or traveling more than a few score miles, so profoundly affected the course of human events; sixthly, because only God can instill in the soul of man the grace and the peace and the assurance of eternal salvation that Jesus instills.

Why do Catholics believe that their Church is the one true Church of Jesus Christ? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to believe that Christ’s true Church is a spiritual union of all Christian denominations?

Catholics believe that theirs is the one true Church of Jesus Christ, firstly, because theirs is the only Christian Church that goes back in history to the time of Christ; secondly, because theirs is the only Christian Church which possesses the invincible unity, the intrinsic holiness, the continual universality and the indisputable apostolicity which Christ said would distinguish His true Church; and thirdly, because the Apostles and primitive Church Fathers, who certainly were members of Christ’s true Church, all professed membership in this same Catholic Church (See Apostles’ Creed and the Primitive Christian letters). Wrote Ignatius of Antioch, illustrious Church Father of the first century: “Where the Bishop is, there let the multitude of believers be; even as where Jesus is, there is the Catholic Church.” Our Lord said: “There shall be one fold and one shepherd”, yet it is well known that the various Christian denominations cannot agree on what Christ actually taught. Since Christ roundly condemned interdenominationalism (“And if a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Mark 3:25), Catholics cannot believe that He would ever sanction it in His Church.

Why do Catholics refuse to concede that their church became doctrinally corrupt in the Middle Ages, necessitating the Protestant Reformation?

Catholics refuse to concede such a thing out of faith in Jesus Christ. Christ solemnly pledged that the gates of Hell would never prevail against His Church (Matt. 16:18), and He solemnly promised that after His Ascension into Heaven He would send His Church “another Paraclete… the spirit of truth,” to dwell with it forever (John 14:16-17), and He inspired the Apostle Paul to describe His Church as “the pillar and ground of the truth.” (I Tim. 3:15). If the Catholic Church (which Protestants admit was the true Church of Jesus Christ before Luther’s revolt) became doctrinally corrupt as alleged, it would mean that the gates of Hell had prevailed against it — it would mean that Christ had deceived His followers. Believing Christ to be the very essence of truth and integrity, Catholics cannot in conscience believe that He could be guilty of such deception. Another thing: Catholics cannot see how the division of Christianity into hundreds of rival camps and doctrinal variations can be called a “reformation” of the Christian Church. In the Catholic mind, hundreds of conflicting interpretations of Christ’s teachings do not add up to a true interpretation of Christ’s teachings.

If the Catholic Church never fell into error, how does one explain the worldly Popes, the bloody Inquisitions, the selling of indulgences and the invention of new doctrines?

A careful, objective investigation of Catholic history will disclose these facts: The so-called worldly popes of the Middle Ages — three in number — were certainly guilty of extravagant pomposity, nepotism and other indiscretions and sins which were not in keeping with the dignity of their high church office — but they certainly were not guilty of licentious conduct while in office, nor were they guilty of altering any part of the Church’s Christ-given deposit of faith. The so-called bloody Inquisitions, which were initiated by the civil governments of France and Spain for the purpose of ferreting out Moslems and Jews who were causing social havoc by posing as faithful Catholic citizens — even as priests and bishops — were indeed approved by the Church. (Non-Catholics who admitted they were non-Catholics were left alone by the Inquisition.) And the vast majority of those questioned by the Inquisition (including St. Teresa of Avila) were completely cleared. Nevertheless, the popes roundly condemned the proceedings when they saw justice giving way to cruel abuses, and it was this insistent condemnation by the popes which finally put an end to the Inquisitions.

The so-called selling of indulgences positively did not involve any “selling” — it involved the granting of the spiritual favor of an indulgence (which is the remission of the debt of temporal punishment for already-forgiven sins) in return for the giving of alms to the Church for the building of Christendom’s greatest house of prayer — St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome. One must understand with regard to indulgences that there are always two acts to be fulfilled by the one gaining the in-dulgence: 1) doing the deed (e.g., alms-giving) and 2) saying of some prescribed prayers with proper spiritual dispositions. In the case in point, the first act for gaining the indulgence was “giving alms.” If the almsgiver thereafter failed to say the requisite prayers, he would not receive the indulgence because he had failed to fulfill both required acts. The indulgences therefore were not “sold”; the very giving of money was itself the first of two requisite acts for gaining the indulgence in question.

The so-called invention of new doctrines, which refers to the Church’s proclamation of new dogmas, is the most baseless and ridiculous charge of all — for those “new” dogmas of the Church were actually old doctrines dating back to the beginning of Christianity. In proclaiming them to be dogmas, the Church merely emphasized their importance to the Faith and affirmed that they are, in truth, part and parcel of divine revelation. The Catholic Church followed the same procedure when, in the fourth century, she proclaimed the New Testament to be divinely revealed. Hence it is obvious that the Catholic Church did NOT fall into error during the Middle Ages as some people allege, for if she had, she could not have produced those hundreds of medieval saints — aints the calibre of St. Francis, St. Bernard, St. Bonaventure, St. Clare, St. Anthony, St. John of the Cross, St. Thomas Aquinas, St. Elizabeth and St. Vincent Ferrer (who performed an estimated 40,000 miracles).

Why do Catholics believe that Peter the Apostle was the first Pope, when the word “Pope” doesn’t even appear in Catholic Bibles? Just where does the Pope get his authority to rule over the Catholic Church?

True, the word “Pope” doesn’t appear in the Bible — but then neither do the words “Trinity,” “Incarnation,” “Ascension” and “Bible” appear in the Bible. However, they are referred to by other names. The Bible, for example, is referred to as “Scripture.” The Pope, which means head bishop of the Church, is referred to as the “rock” of the Church, or as the “shepherd” of the Church. Christ used that terminology when He appointed the Apostle Peter the first head bishop of His Church, saying: “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-Jona . . . Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church.” (Matt. 16:17-19). “There shall be one fold and one shepherd.” (John 10:16). “Feed my lambs . . . feed my sheep.” (John 21:15-17). The words “rock” and “shepherd” must apply to Peter, and they must distinguish him as the head Apostle, otherwise Christ’s statements are so ambiguous as to be meaningless. Certainly the other Apostles understood that Peter had authority from Christ to lead the Church, for they gave him the presiding place every time they assembled in council (Acts 1:15, 5:1-10), and they placed his name first every time they listed the names of the Apostles. (Matt. 10:2, Mark 3:16, Luke 6:13-14, Acts 1:13).

In addition, there is the testimony of the Church Fathers. In the second century St. Hegessipus compiled a list of Popes to the time of Anicetus (eleventh Pope) which contained the name of St. Peter as first. Early in the third century the historian Caius wrote that Pope Victor was “the thirteenth Bishop of Rome from Peter.” In the middle of the third century St. Cyprian related that Cornelius (twenty-first Pope) “mounted the lofty summit of the priesthood . . . the place of Peter.” Even Protestant historians have attested to Peter’s role as first Bishop of Rome, first Pope of the Catholic Church. Wrote the eminent Protestant historian Cave in his Historia Literaria: “That Peter was at Rome, and held the See there for some time, we fearlessly affirm with the whole multitude of the ancients.” Hence the source of the Pope’s authority to rule over the Catholic Church is quite obvious: It was given him by none other than Jesus Christ — by God Himself.

Why do Catholics believe the Pope is infallible in his teachings when he is a human being, with a finite human intellect, like the rest of us? What is the scriptural basis for this belief?

The doctrine of Papal Infallibility does not mean the Pope is always right in all his personal teachings. Catholics are quite aware that, despite his great learning, the Pope is very much a human being and therefore liable to commit human error. On some subjects, like sports and manufacturing, his judgment is liable to be very faulty. The doctrine simply means that the Pope is divinely protected from error when, acting in his official capacity as chief shepherd of the Catholic fold, he promulgates a decision which is binding on the conscience of all Catholics throughout the world. In other words, his infallibility is limited to his specialty–the Faith of Jesus Christ.

In order for the Pope to be infallible on a particular statement, however, four conditions must apply: 1) he must be speaking ex cathedra . . . that is, “from the Chair” of Peter, or in other words, officially, as head of the entire Church; 2) the decision must be for the whole Church; 3) it must be on a matter of faith or morals; 4) the Pope must have the intention of making a final decision on a teaching of faith or morals, so that it is to be held by all the faithful. It must be interpretive, not originative; the Pope has no authority to originate new doctrine. He is not the author of revelation — only its guardian and expounder. He has no power to distort a single word of Scripture, or change one iota of divine tradition. His infallibility is limited strictly to the province of doctrinal interpretation, and it is used quite rarely. It is used in order to clarify, to “define,” some point of the ancient Christian tradition. It is the infallibility of which Christ spoke when He said to Peter, the first Pope: “I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven. And whatsoever thou shalt bind upon earth, it shall be bound also in heaven.” (Matt. 16:19). Certainly Christ would not have admonished His followers to “hear the church” (Matt. 18:17) without somehow making certain that what they heard was the truth — without somehow making the teaching magisterium of His Church infallible.

For a complete understanding of the Pope’s infallibility, however, one more thing should be known: His ex cathedra decisions are not the result of his own private deliberations. They are the result of many years — sometimes hundreds of years — of consultation with the other bishops and theologians of the Church. He is, in effect, voicing the belief of the whole Church. His infallibility is not his own private endowment, but rather an endowment of the entire Mystical Body of Christ. Indeed, the Pope’s hands are tied with regard to the changing of Christian doctrine. No Pope has ever used his infallibility to change, add, or subtract any Christian teaching; this is because Our Lord promised to be with His Church until the end of the world. (Matt. 28:20). Protestant denominations, on the other hand, feel free to change their doctrines. For example, all Protestant denominations once taught that contraception was gravely sinful; but since 1930, when the Church of England’s Lambeth Conference decided contraception was no longer a sin, virtually all Protestant ministers in the world have accepted this human decision and changed their teaching.

Why do Catholics believe in seven sacraments, while Protestants believe in only two? Exactly what is a sacrament, and what does it do for a person?

Catholics believe in seven sacraments because Christ instituted seven; because the Apostles and Church Fathers believed in seven; because the second Ecumenical Council of Lyons (1274) defined seven; and because the Ecumenical Council of Trent (1545-1563) confirmed seven. In short, the enumeration, seven, arises from the perpetual tradition of Christian belief — which explains why that enumeration is accepted not only by Catholics, but by all of the other ancient and semi-ancient Christian communities — Egyptian Coptic, Ethiopian Monophysite, Syrian Jacobite, Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox.

To understand what a sacrament is, and what it does for a person, one must know the correct, the traditional Christian, definition of a sacrament. Properly defined, a sacrament is “an outward sign instituted by Christ to give grace” (holiness) to the soul . . . that is to say, it is a divinely prescribed ceremony of the Church in which the words and action combine to form what is at the same time both a sign of divine grace and a fount of divine grace. When this special grace — distinct from ordinary, inspirational grace — is imparted to the soul, the Holy Spirit of God is imparted to the soul, imbuing the soul with divine life, uniting the soul to Christ.

As the Scriptures point out, this grace is the grace of salvation — without it man is, in a very real sense, isolated from Christ. And as the Scriptures point out, Christ gave His Church seven sacraments to serve as well-springs of this ineffable, soul-saving grace, the grace which flows from His sacrifice on Calvary:

BAPTISM — the sacrament of spiritual rebirth through which we are made children of God and heirs of Heaven: “Amen, amen I say to thee, unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.” (John 3:5. Also see Acts 2:38, Rom. 6:2-6).

CONFIRMATION — the sacrament which confers the Holy Spirit to make us strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ: “Now when the apostles, who were in Jerusalem, had heard that Samaria had received the word of God, they sent unto them Peter and John. Who, when they were come, prayed for them, that they might receive the Holy Ghost. . . . Then they laid their hands upon them, and they received the Holy Ghost.” (Acts 8:14-17. Also see Acts 19:6).

The EUCHARIST — the sacrament, also known as Holy Communion, which nourishes the soul with the true Flesh and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus, under the appearance, or sacramental veil, of bread and wine: “And whilst they were eating, Jesus took bread; and blessing, broke, and gave to them, and said: Take ye. This is my body. And having taken the chalice, giving thanks, he gave it to them. And they all drank of it. And he said to them: This is my blood of the new testament, which shall be shed for many.” (Mark 14:22-24. Also see Matt. 26:26-28, Luke 22:19-20, John 6:52-54, 1 Cor. 10:16).

PENANCE — the sacrament, also known as Confession, through which Christ forgives sin and restores the soul to grace: “Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” (John 20:22-23. Also see Matt. 18:18).

EXTREME UNCTION — the sacrament, sometimes called the Last Anointing, which strengthens the sick and sanctifies the dying: “Is any man sick among you? Let him bring in the priests of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord . . . and if he be in sins, they shall be forgiven him.” (James 5:14-15. Also see Mark 6:12-13).

HOLY ORDERS — the sacrament of ordination which empowers priests to offer the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, administer the sacraments, and officiate over all the other proper affairs of the Church: “For every high priest taken from among men, is ordained for men in the things that appertain to God, that he may offer up gifts and sacrifices for sins . . . Neither doth any man take the honor to himself, but he that is called by God, as Aaron was.” (Heb. 5:1-4. Also see Acts 20:28, 1 Tim. 4:14). Also: “And taking bread, he gave thanks, and broke; and gave to them, saying: This is my body, which is given for you. Do this for a commemoration of me.” (Luke 22:19).

MATRIMONY — the sacrament which unites a man and woman in a holy and indissoluble bond: “For this cause shall a man leave father and mother, and shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh. Therefore now they are not two, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Matt. 19:5-6. Also see Mark 10:7-9, Eph. 5:22-32).

There you have it, the Word of Christ and the example of the Apostles attesting both to the validity and the efficacy of the seven Sacraments of the Catholic Church. In truth, every one of them is an integral part of Christ’s plan for man’s eternal salvation.

Why does the Catholic Church discourage Bible reading when, according to the Apostle, “All scripture, inspired of God, is profitable to teach…[and] to instruct in justice”? (2 Tim. 3:16).

If the Catholic Church discourages Bible reading, the Pope, the thousands of Catholic Bishops, and the many millions of Catholic lay people, are not aware of it. For the Popes have issued pastoral letters to the whole Church, called encyclicals, on the edifying effects of Bible reading. The Catholic Bible far outsells all other Christian Bibles worldwide. In fact, it has always been thus. The very first Christian Bible was produced by the Catholic Church — compiled by Catholic scholars of the 2nd and 3rd century and approved for general Christian use by the Catholic Councils of Hippo (393) and Carthage (397). The very first printed Bible was produced under the auspices of the Catholic Church — printed by the Catholic inventor of the printing press, Johannes Gutenberg. And the very first Bible with chapters and numbered verses was produced by the Catholic Church — the work of Stephen Langton, Cardinal Archbishop of Canterbury. It was this perennial Catholic devotion to the Bible which prompted Martin Luther — who certainly cannot be accused of Catholic favoritism — to write in his Commentary on St. John: “We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of God, that we received it from them, and that without them we should have no knowledge of it at all.”
[See also “The Church or the Bible”]

If the Catholic Church really honors the Bible as the holy Word of God — if she really wants her members to become familiar with its truth — why in times past did she confiscate and burn so many Bibles?

The Bibles which were collected and burned by the Catholic Church in times past — notably the Wycliff and Tyndale Bibles — were faulty translations, and therefore, were not the holy Word of God. In other words, the Catholic Church collected and burned those “Bibles” precisely because she does honor the Bible, the true Bible, as the holy Word of God and wants her members to become familiar with its truths. Proof of this is seen in the fact that after those Bibles were collected and burned, they were replaced by accurate editions. There can be no doubt that the Wycliff and Tyndale translations were corrupt and therefore deserving of extinction, for no church has ever attempted to resurrect them. Nor can there be any doubt that the Bibles which replaced them were correct translations, because they have long been honored by both Protestants and Catholics.

Why does the Catholic Church base some of her doctrines on tradition instead of basing them all on the Bible? Did Christ not tell the Pharisees that in holding to tradition they were transgressing the commandment of God? (Matt. 15:3, Mark 7:9).

Observe that in the Bible there are two kinds of religious tradition — human and divine. Observe that when Christ accused the Pharisees He was referring to “precepts of men” (Mark 7:7), to their human traditions. Christ wanted divine tradition preserved and honored because He made it part and parcel of the Christian deposit of faith — as the Apostle Paul affirmed: “Stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.” (2 Thess. 2:14. Also see 2 Thess. 3:6). This divine tradition to which Paul refers — this revealed truth which was handed down by word rather than by letter — is the tradition upon which, along with Sacred Scripture, the Catholic Church bases her tenets of faith — as the primitive Christian Fathers affirmed. Wrote St. Augustine: “These traditions of the Christian name, therefore, so numerous, so powerful, and most dear, justly keep a believing man in the Catholic Church.” The New Testament itself is a product of Christian tradition. Nowhere in the New Testament is there any mention of a New Testament.
[See also “The Church or the Bible”]

Why do Catholics try to earn their own salvation, despite the fact that salvation can only come as a free gift from Jesus Christ?

Catholics fully recognize that Jesus Christ died on the Cross for their sins and thus “opened the gates of Heaven,” and that salvation is a free gift which no amount of human good deeds could ever earn. Catholics receive Christ’s saving and sanctifying grace, and Christ Himself, into their souls when they are baptized. Yet they also know that Christ has established certain conditions for entry into eternal happiness in Heaven — for example, receiving His true Flesh and Blood (John 6:54) and keeping the commandments (Matt. 19:17). If a Christian refuses or neglects to obey Our Lord’s commands in a grave matter (that is, if he commits a mortal sin), Our Lord will not remain dwelling in his soul; and if a Christian dies in that state, having driven his Lord from his soul by serious sin, he will not be saved. As St. Paul warned the Galatians with regard to certain sins: “They who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God.” (Gal. 5:21). It must be added that Christ will always forgive and return to a sinner who approaches Him with sincerity in the Sacrament of Penance.

Catholics follow St. Paul, who did not think that his salvation was guaranteed once and for all at the moment he first received Christ into his soul; for he wrote: “I chastise my body, and bring it into subjection: lest perhaps, when I have preached to others, I myself should become a castaway.” (I Cor. 9:27). Also: “With fear and trembling work out your salvation. For it is God who worketh in you…” (Phil. 2:12-13). “And unto whomsoever much is given, of him much shall be required.” (Luke 12:48). “He that shall persevere unto the end, he shall be saved.” (Matt. 10:22). Nevertheless, Catholics realize that even the fulfilling of Our Lord’s requirements for salvation is impossible without the free gift of His grace.

Why do Catholics believe that good works are necessary for salvation! Does not Paul say in Romans 3:28 that faith alone justifies!

Catholics believe that faith and good works are both necessary for salvation, because such is the teaching of Jesus Christ. What Our Lord demands is “faith that worketh by charity .” (Gal. 5 :6).  Read Matthew 25:31-46, which describes the Last Judgment as being based on works of charity. The first and greatest commandment, as given by Our Lord Himself, is to love the Lord God with all one’s heart, mind, soul, and strength; and the second great commandment is to love one’s neighbor as oneself. (Mark 12:30-31). When the rich young man asked Our Lord what he must do to gain eternal life, Our Lord answered: “Keep the commandments.” (Matt. 19:17). Thus, although faith is the beginning, it is not the complete fulfillment of the will of God. Nowhere in the Bible is it written that faith alone justifies. When St. Paul wrote, “For we account a man to be justified by faith, without the works of the law,” he was referring to works peculiar to the old Jewish Law, and he cited circumcision as an example.

The Catholic Church does NOT teach that purely human good works are meritorious for salvation; such works are NOT meritorious for salvation, according to her teaching. Only those good works performed when a person is in the state of grace — that is, as a branch drawing its spiritual life from the Vine which is Christ (John 15:4-6) — only these good deeds work toward our salvation, and they do so only by the grace of God and the merit of Jesus Christ. These good works, offered to God by a soul in the state of grace (i.e., free of mortal sin, with the Blessed Trinity dwelling in the soul), are thereby supernaturally meritorious because they share in the work and in the merits of Christ. Such supernatural good works will not only be rewarded by God, but are necessary for salvation.

St. Paul shows how the neglect of certain good works will send even a Christian believer to damnation: “But if any man have not care of his own, and especially of those of his house, he hath denied the faith, and is worse than an infidel.” (1 Tim. 5:8). Our Lord tells us that if the Master (God) returns and finds His servant sinning, rather than performing works of obedience, He “shall separate him, and shall appoint him his portion with unbelievers.” (Luke 12:46).

Furthermore, Catholics know they will be rewarded in Heaven for their good works. Our Lord Himself said: “For the Son of man . . . will render to every man according to his works.” (Matt. 16:27). “And whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only in the name of a disciple, amen I say to you, he shall not lose his reward.” (Matt. 10:42). Catholics believe, following the Apostle Paul, that “every man shall receive his own reward, according to his own labor.” (1 Cor. 3:8). “For God is not unjust, that he should forget your work, and the love which you have shown in his name, you who have ministered, and do minister to the saints.” (Heb. 6:10). “I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. As to the rest, there is laid up for me a crown of justice, which the Lord the just judge will render to me in that day: and not only to me, but to them also that love his coming.” (2 Tim. 4:7-8).

Still, Catholics know that, strictly speaking, God never owes us anything. Even after obeying all God’s commandments, we must still say: “We are unprofitable servants; we have done that which we ought to do.” (Luke 17:10). As St. Augustine (5th century) stated: “All our good merits are wrought through grace, so that God, in crowning our merits, is crowning nothing but His gifts.”

Had St. Paul meant that faith ruled out the necessity of good works for salvation, he would not have written: “. . . and if I should have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.” (1 Cor. 13:2). If faith ruled out the necessity of good works for salvation, the Apostle James would not have written: “Do you see that by works a man is justified; and not by faith only’? . . . For even as the body without the spirit is dead; so also faith without works is dead.” (James 2:24-26). Or: “What shall it profit, my brethren, if a man say he hath faith, but hath not works? Shall faith be able to save him?” (James 2:14). If faith ruled out the necessity of good works for salvation, the Apostle Peter would not have written: “Wherefore, brethren, labor the more, that by good works you may make sure your calling and election. For doing these things, you shall not sin at any time. For so an entrance shall be ministered to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 1:10-11). If faith ruled out the necessity of good works for salvation, the primitive Christian Fathers would not have advocated good works in such powerful words. Wrote St. Irenaeus, one of the most illustrious of the primitive Christian Fathers: “For what is the use of knowing the truth in word, while defiling the body and accomplishing the works of evil? Or what real good at all can bodily holiness do. If truth be not in the soul? For these two, faith and good works, rejoice in each other’s company, and agree together and fight side by side to set man in the Presence of God.” (Proof of the Apostolic Preaching). Justification by faith alone is a new doctrine; it was unheard of in the Christian community before the sixteenth century.

Why do Catholics worship Mary as though she were a goddess, when it is clear in Scripture that she was not a supernatural being?

Catholics DO NOT worship Mary, the Mother of Christ — as though she were a deity. Of all the misconceptions about Catholic belief and practice, this one is the most absurd. Catholics are just as aware as Protestants that Mary was a human creature, and therefore not entitled to the honors which are reserved to God alone. What many non-Catholics mistake for adoration is a very profound love and veneration, nothing more. Mary is not adored, first because God forbids it, and secondly because the Canon Law of the Catholic Church, which is based on Divine Law, forbids it. Canon Law 1255 of the 1918 Codex strictly forbids adoration of anyone other than the Holy Trinity. However, Catholics do feel that Mary is entitled to a great measure of exaltation because, in choosing her as the Mother of Redemption, God Himself exalted her — exalted her more than any other human person before or since. Catholics heap tribute and honor on Mary because they earnestly desire to be “followers of God, as most dear children.” (Eph. 5:1). Mary herself prophesied: “For behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name.” (Luke 1:48-49). Catholics know that every bit of the glory they give to Mary redounds to the glory of her divine Son, just as Mary magnified God, not herself, when Elizabeth blessed her. (Luke 1:41-55). They know that the closer they draw to her, the closer they draw to Him who was born of her. In the year 434 St. Vincent of Lerins defended Christian devotion to Mary this way: “Therefore, may God forbid that anyone should attempt to defraud Holy Mary of her privilege of divine grace and her special glory. For by a unique favor of our Lord and God she is confessed to be the most true and most blessed Mother of God.” Today 75% of all Christians still hold to this same view.

Why do Catholics pray to Mary and the saints when Sacred Scripture states that there is one Mediator between God and man — Christ Jesus? (1 Tim. 2:5).

When Catholics pray to Mary and the other saints in Heaven they are not bypassing Christ, whom they acknowledge as the sole Mediator between God and man. They are going to Christ through Mary and the other saints. They are asking Mary and other saints to intercede for them before the throne of Christ in Heaven. “For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much.” (James 5:16). How much more availing is the unceasing prayer of the sinless Mother of Our Lord Jesus Christ! St. Paul asked his fellow Christians to intercede for him: “Brethren, pray for us.” (2 Thess. 3:1). And again: “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 . . .” (Rom. 15:30). Christ must particularly approve of our going to Him through Mary, His Blessed Mother, because He chose to come to us through her. And at Cana, He performed His first miracle after a word from His Mother. (John 2:2-11).

It is clear in Sacred Scripture that the saints in Heaven will intercede for us before the throne of Christ if they are petitioned in prayer (Apoc. or Rev. 8:3-4), and it is clear in the records of primitive Christianity that the first Christians eagerly sought their intercession. Wrote St. John Chrysostom in the fourth century: “When thou perceivest that God is chastening thee, fly not to His enemies, but to His friends, the martyrs, the saints, and those who were pleasing to Him, and who have great power.” If the saints have such power with God, how much more His own Mother.

Why do Catholics repeat the same prayer over and over again when they pray the Rosary? Is this not the vain repetition condemned by Christ in Matthew 6:7?

Catholics DO NOT just repeat the same prayer over and over again when they pray the Rosary. The Rosary is a progression of many prayers — the Apostles’ Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, the Gloria, the Hail Mary and the Salve Regina — and these prayers are accompanied by many holy meditations. As the Rosary progresses, Catholics meditate on the joyful, the sorrowful, and the glorious mysteries of the life of Christ and His Mother. True, the Hail Mary is repeated many times during the course of the Rosary, and some of the other prayers are repeated several times, but this is not “vain” repetition, certainly not the vain repetition condemned by Our Lord. The vain repetition He condemned is that of people who pray standing “in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men.”

No prayer is vain, no matter how often repeated, if it is sincere, for Christ Himself engaged in repetitious prayer in the Garden of Gethsemani (“. . . he went again: and he prayed the third time, saying the selfsame word” — Matt. 26:39, 42, 44), and we are informed in the Apocalypse (Revelations) 4:8 that the angels in Heaven never cease repeating, night and day, the canticle: “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty, who was, and who is, and who is to come.” The publican humbly repeated the prayer: “O God, be merciful to me, a sinner,” and he went away justified; whereas the pharisee went home unjustified after his long-winded extemporaneous prayer. (Luke 18:9-14). God was likewise pleased with the repetitious prayer of the three young men in the fiery furnace, whom He preserved miraculously untouched by the flames. (Dan. 3:52-90). Protestants also engage in repetitious prayer: the same prayers at mealtime grace, the same prayers at Benediction, etc. The time lapse is no factor; it is still repetitious.

Why do Catholics believe in a place between Heaven and Hell called Purgatory? Where is Purgatory mentioned in the Bible?

The main body of Christians have always believed in the exist ence of a place between Heaven and Hell where souls go to be punished for lesser sins and to repay the debt of temporal punishment for sins which have been forgiven. Even after Moses was forgiven by God, he was still punished for his sin. (2 Kg. or 2 Sam. 12:13-14). The primitive Church Fathers regarded the doctrine of Purgatory as one of the basic tenets of the Christian faith. St. Augustine, one of the greatest doctors of the Church, said the doctrine of Purgatory “has been received from the Fathers and it is observed by the Universal Church.” True, the word “Purgatory” does not appear in the Bible, but a place where lesser sins are purged away and the soul is saved “yet so as by fire,” is mentioned (1 Cor. 3:15). Also, the Bible distinguishes between those who enter Heaven straightaway, calling them “the church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:23), and those who enter after having undergone a purgation, calling them “the spirits of the just made perfect.” (Heb. 12:23). Christ Himself stated: “Amen I say to thee, thou shalt not go out from thence till thou repay the last farthing.” (Matt. 5 :26). And: “Every idle word that men shall speak, they shall render an account for it in the day of judgment.” (Matt. 12:36). These are obviously references to Purgatory. Further, the Second Book of Machabees (which was dropped from the Scriptures by the Protestant Reformers) says: “It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins.” (2 Mach. 12:46). Ancient Christian tomb inscriptions from the second and third centuries frequently contain an appeal for prayers for the dead. In fact, the custom of praying for the dead — which is meaningless if there is no Purgatory — was universal among Christians for the fifteen centuries preceding the Protestant Reformation.

Furthermore, ordinary justice calls for a place of purgation between Heaven and Hell. Take our own courts of justice, for example. For major crimes a person is executed or sentenced to life imprisonment (Hell); for minor crimes a person is sentenced to temporary imprisonment for punishment and rehabilitation (Purgatory); for no crime at all a person is rewarded with the blessing of free citizenship (Heaven). If a thief steals some money, then regrets his deed and asks the victim for forgiveness, it is quite just for the victim to forgive him yet still insist on restitution. God, who is infinitely just, insists on holy restitution. This is made either in this life, by doing penance (Matt. 3:2; Luke 3:8, 13:3; Apoc. 3:2-3, 19), or in Purgatory.

Also, what Christian is there who, despite his faith in Christ and his sincere attempts to be Christlike, does not find sin and worldliness still in his heart? “For in many things we all offend.” (James 3:2). Yet “there shall not enter into it [the new Jerusalem, Heaven] anything defiled.” (Apoc. or Rev. 21:27). In Purgatory the soul is mercifully purified of all stain; there God carries out the work of spiritual purification which most Christians neglected and resisted on earth. It is important to remember that Catholics do not believe that Christ simply covers over their sinful souls, like covering a manure heap with a blanket of snow (Martin Luther’s description of God’s forgiveness). Rather, Christ insists that we be truly holy and sinless to the core of our souls. “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matt. 5:48). This growth in sinlessness — in Christian virtue and holiness — is of course the work of an entire lifetime (and is possible only through the grace of God). With many this cleansing is completed only in Purgatory. If there is no Purgatory, but only Heaven for the perfect and Hell for the imperfect, then the vast majority of us are hoping in vain for life eternal in Heaven.

Why do Catholics confess their sins to priests? What makes them think that priests can absolve them of the guilt of their sins? Why don’t they confess their sins directly to God as Protestants do?

Catholics confess their sins to priests because — as it is clearly stated in Sacred Scripture — God in the Person of Jesus Christ authorized the priests of His Church to hear confessions and empowered them to forgive sins in His Name. To the Apostles, the first priests of His Church, Christ said: “Peace be to you. As the Father hath sent me, I also send you… Receive ye the Holy Ghost. Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them; and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.” (John 20:21-23). Then again: “Amen I say to you, whatsoever you shall bind upon earth, shall be bound also in heaven; and whatsoever you shall loose upon earth, shall be loosed also in heaven.” (Matt. 18:18). In other words, Catholics confess their sins to priests because priests are God’s duly authorized agents in the world, representing Him in all matters pertaining to the ways and means of attaining eternal salvation. When Catholics confess their sins to a priest they ARE, in reality, confessing their sins to God, for God hears their confessions and it is He who, in the final analysis, does the forgiving. If their confessions are not sincere, their sins are not forgiven.

Furthermore, Catholics DO confess their sins directly to God as Protestants do: Catholics are taught to make an act of contrition at least every night before retiring, to ask God to forgive them their sins of that day. Catholics are also taught to say this same prayer of contrition if they should have the misfortune to commit a serious sin (called a “mortal sin” by Catholics).

Granting that priests do have the power to forgive sins in the name of God, what advantage does confessing one’s sins to a priest have over confessing directly to God in private prayer?

Catholics see several advantages in confessing their sins to a priest in the Sacrament of Penance. First, there is the Church’s guarantee of forgiveness, which private confessions do not provide; secondly, there is the sacramental grace which private confessions do not provide; and thirdly, there is the expert spiritual counseling which private confessions do not provide. With the Apostles, Catholics recognize that the Church is, in a mysterious way, the Body of Christ still living in the world (Col. 1:18); therefore they recognize that God will receive their pleas for mercy and forgiveness with far greater compassion if their pleas are voiced within the Church, in union with the Mystical Body of His Divine Son, than if they are voiced privately, independent of the Mystical Body of His Divine Son.

Do Catholics confess all the sordid details of their sins to the priest?

No, Catholics are instructed NOT to confess the sordid details of their sins, because it would serve no useful purpose. All that is required of the penitent is the number and classification of sins committed, as well as a sincere contrition for having sinned, a promise to make restitution if the sin has harmed others, a firm resolve to avoid future sins and the occasions of sin, and the carrying out of the penance assigned by the priest (usually the praying of a few prayers). Actually, there are fewer intimacies revealed to the priest in the confessional than are usually revealed to one’s doctor, lawyer, or psychiatrist; hence the Sacrament of Penance is not the embarrassing experience many non-Catholics imagine it is. Rather, it is a wonderful relieving experience, for it is through this sacrament that sins committed after Baptism are washed away by the blood of Christ and the sinner becomes once again reconciled with God.

Why do Catholics believe that Christ is sacrificed in each and every Mass, when Scripture plainly states that He was sacrificed on Calvary once and for all?

Most non-Catholics do not realize it, but Christ Himself offered the first Mass at the Last Supper. At the Last Supper He offered (sacrificed) Himself to His Father in an unbloody manner, that is, under the form of bread and wine, in anticipation of His bloody sacrifice on the cross to be offered on the following day, Good Friday. In the Mass, not now by anticipation, but rather in retrospect, Christ continues to make that offering of Himself to His Father — by the hands of the priest. “And whilst they were at supper, Jesus took bread, and blessed, and broke: and gave to his 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.” (Matt. 26:26-28). Christ ordered His Church to perpetuate that sacrificial rite for the continued sanctification of His followers, saying, “Do this for a commemoration of me” (Luke 22:19) — so the Catholic Church complies with His order in the Mass. In other words, every Mass is a re-enactment of Our Lord’s one sacrifice of Calvary. The Mass derives all its value from the Sacrifice of the Cross; the Mass is that same sacrifice, not another. It is not essentially a sacrifice offered by men (although men also join in), but rather it is the sacrifice of Jesus Christ.

Christ’s bloody sacrifice on Calvary was accomplished “once” (Heb. 10:10), just as Scripture says. The Catholic Church likewise teaches that the sacrifice of the Cross was a complete and perfect sacrifice — offered “once.” But the Apostle Paul — the same Apostle who wrote this text in the book of Hebrews — also bears witness that the sacrificial rite which Christ instituted at the Last Supper is to be perpetuated — and that it is not only important for man’s sanctification, but is the principal factor in man’s final redemption. In 1 Corinthians 11:23-26, St. Paul tells how, at the Last Supper, Our Lord said: “This do ye, as often as you shall drink, for the commemoration of me. For as often as you shall eat this bread, and drink the chalice, you shall show the death of the Lord, until he come.” Thus at every Mass the Christian has a new opportunity to worship God with this one perfect sacrifice and to “absorb” more of Christ’s saving and sanctifying grace of Calvary. This grace is infinite, and the Christian should continuously grow in this grace until his death. The reason the Mass is offered again and again is not from any imperfection in Christ, but from our imperfect capacity to receive.

Finally, the holy sacrifice of the Mass fulfills the Old Testament prophecy: “For from the rising of the sun even to the going down, my name is great among the Gentiles, and in every place there is sacrifice, and there is offered to my name a clean oblation: for my name is great among the Gentiles, saith the Lord of hosts.” (Mal. 1:11). The Sacrifice of the Mass is offered every day throughout the world, and in every Mass the only truly “clean oblation” is offered, that is, Christ Himself; thus the Mass is the perfect fulfillment of this prophecy.

\Why do Catholics believe their Holy Communion is the actual Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ? Why don’t they believe as Protestants do that Christ is only present symbolically, or spiritually, in the consecrated bread and wine?

Catholics believe that their Holy Communion, the Blessed Eucharist, is the actual Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ, because that is what Christ said It was: “This is my body . . . This is my blood” (Matt. 26:26-28; see also Luke 22:19-20 and Mark 14:22-24); because that is what Christ said they must receive in order to have eternal life: “… Except you eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, you shall not have life in you . . .” (John 6:48-52; 54-56); and because that is what the Apostles believed: “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?” (1 Cor. 10:16). “Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, or drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord. But let a man prove himself: and so let him eat of that bread, and drink of the chalice. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh judgment to himself, not discerning the body of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:27-29). Also, Catholics believe that Holy Communion is the actual Flesh and Blood of Jesus Christ because that is what all Christians believed until the advent of Protestantism in the 16th century.

Wrote Justin Martyr, illustrious Church Father of the second century: “This food is known among us as the Eucharist… We do not receive these things as common bread and common drink; but as Jesus Christ our Savior, being made flesh by the Word of God.” Wrote St. Cyril of Jerusalem, venerable Church Father of the fourth century: “Since then Christ has declared and said of the bread, ‘This is my Body,’ who after that will venture to doubt? And seeing that He has affirmed and said, ‘This is my Blood,’ who will raise a question and say it is not His Blood?” In addition to the witness of Sacred Scripture and Christian tradition, Catholics have the witness of the Holy Eucharist itself: On numerous occasions great and awesome miracles have attended its display, and seldom has its reception by the Catholic faithful failed to produce in them a feeling of joyful union with their Lord and Saviour. In the face of all this evidence, Catholics could hardly be expected to adopt the Protestant position.

Why are Catholic lay people usually given Holy Communion only under the one form of bread? By not giving the consecrated bread and wine, isn’t the Catholic Church depriving its people of the full benefit of Holy Communion?

In the Catholic Church the congregation is usually given Holy Communion only under the one form of bread because, if the consecrated “bread” is accidently dropped on the floor in the serving, it can be wholly retrieved — particles of the Body of Christ would not be left on the floor to be desecrated. If Holy Communion were given under both forms, and if the consecrated “wine” were accidentally spilled on the floor in the serving, it would be a virtual impossibility to retrieve all of the precious Substance — some part of the Blood of Christ would, through smearing and absorption, inevitably be desecrated. By not giving the congregation Holy Communion under both forms, the Catholic Church is not cheating anyone, because in receiving EITHER the consecrated “bread” OR the consecrated “wine,” the communicant receives the complete Body of Christ, including His Flesh AND His Blood, His Soul and His Divinity. The consecrated “bread” by itself imparts a true Holy Communion with Christ, a full measure of sanctifying grace, even as Christ said: “The BREAD that 1 will give, is my flesh, for the life of the world…. He that eateth this BREAD, shall live for ever.” (John 6:52,59). And the Apostle Paul: “Therefore whosoever shall eat this bread, OR drink the chalice of the Lord unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and of the blood of the Lord.” (1 Cor. 11:27). After the Consecration the priest receives Holy Communion under both forms, and this suffices to complete the Holy Communion part of the Mass service.

Why is Latin the language of the Church? How can the congregation understand the Mass whenever it is said in Latin?

The Catholic Church began in the days of the Roman Empire, and the language spoken throughout that Empire was Latin. St. Peter moved the seat of Church government from Antioch to Rome, and the Catholic Church government remains centered there to this very day. It was only natural that Latin became the language of the Church. As the centuries elapsed, for example, Latin still remained the language of the educated classes — even into the 18th and 19th centuries. Therefore, it is not at all surprising that Latin should still be the official language of the Catholic Church. It simply always has been. Furthermore, a universal language greatly facilitates the unity of the Church. Ecumenical Councils, for example, have always been held in Latin, enabling bishops from all over the world to communicate with each other easily.

Moreover, unlike English, French, German and the other languages of the Western world, Latin does not change over the centuries — it is not affected by national idioms, slang and the like — therefore, in Western countries Latin is the official language of the Mass because it helps to preserve the original purity of the Mass liturgy — although today, the Mass is usually said in the language of the people. Catholics have always had a complete translation of the Mass Latin in their missal, or Mass handbook, so they have always been able to understand and follow everything the priest says and does at the altar, even when the Mass is in Latin. It should also be borne in mind that the Mass is never exclusively in Latin. All sermons, Gospel and Epistle readings, parish announcements and closing prayers are in the language of the congregation.

Why do Catholics call their priests “Father” despite the fact that Christ said: “Call no man on earth your father; for one is your Father, who is in heaven”! (Matt. 23:9).

Catholics call their priests “Father” because in all matters pertaining to Christ’s holy faith they perform the duties of a father, representing God. The priest is the agent of the Christian’s supernatural birth and sustenance in the world. “Father” is a title which does not conflict in the slightest with Matthew 23:9. Christ forbids the Christian to acknowledge any fatherhood which conflicts with the Fatherhood of God — just as He commands the Christian to “hate” his father, mother, wife, and his own life, insofar as these conflict with the following of Christ. (Luke 14:26). But Christ does not forbid Christians to call His own representatives by the name of “Father.” Catholic priests share in the priesthood of Jesus Christ (not a human priesthood), and their sacred ministry partakes of the Fatherhood of God. Like St. Paul (himself a Catholic priest), every Catholic priest can refer to the souls he has spiritually begotten as his children in Christ. (1 Cor. 4:14). St. Paul considered himself to be the spiritual father, in Christ, of the Corinthians: “For if you have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet not many fathers. For in Christ Jesus, by the gospel, I have begotten you.” (I Cor. 4:15). The title of “Father” is entirely proper for an ordained priest of Jesus Christ.

Why do Catholics practice fasting and abstinence from meat on certain days? Does not St. Paul call abstaining from meats a “doctrine of devils”? (1 Tim. 4:1-3).

Catholics give up eating meat — for example, on Good Friday — to commemorate and honor Christ’s Sacrifice on that day, and to follow His instruction to deny ourselves, take up our cross, and follow Him. (Matt. 16:24; Mk. 8:34; Lk. 9:23). It is a practice that dates back to the earliest days of the Christian Church. Tertullian and Clement of Alexandria both mention it in their writings. It is a practice which is thoroughly Christian, for we note that Christ Himself recommended fasting, saying: “When thou fastest anoint thy head, and wash thy face… and thy Father, who seeth in secret, will repay thee.” (Matt. 6:17-18). In the same vein the Apostle Paul described his own suffering for Christ: “… in hunger and thirst, in fastings often…” (2 Cor. 11:27). Fasting was practiced both by Christ’s followers (Acts 14:22) and by Christ Himself. (Matt. 4:1-2). And Our Lord told His disciples that some devils cannot be cast out “but by prayer and fasting.” (Matt. 17:20). Paul’s denunciation of those who abstain from eating meat applies to those who reject the eating of meat entirely, as though it were evil in itself. His denunciation has nothing to do with the abstinence of Catholics, for on other days Catholics eat as much meat as do other people. Moreover, the abstinence from meat is not binding on all Catholics. Young children, old people, sick people, and all Catholics in countries where meat is the principle diet, are excused.

Why don’t Catholic priests marry? The Bible says that a bishop should be “blameless, the husband of one wife” (1 Tim. 3:2), which certainly indicates that Christ approves of marriage for the Christian clergy.

Catholic priests do not marry because, while Christ does indeed approve of marriage for the Christian clergy, He much prefers that they do not marry. He made this quite clear when He praised the Apostles for giving up “all” to follow Him, saying, “And every one that hath left house, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands for my name’s sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall possess life everlasting.” (Matt. 19:27-29). The Apostle Paul explained why the unmarried state is preferable to the married state for the Christian clergy: “He that is without a wife, is solicitous for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please God. But he that is with a wife, is solicitous for the things of the world, how he may please his wife: and he is divided.” (1 Cor. 7:32-33). In other words, matrimony is good — Christ made it one of the holy sacraments of His Church — but it is not conducive to that complete dedication which is incumbent upon those who submit themselves to another of Christ’s holy sacraments — that of Holy Orders. Even so, the unmarried state of the Catholic priesthood is not an inflexible law — under certain conditions a priest may be dispensed from this law.

The Bible says that after Christ was baptized He “came out of the water” (Matt. 3:16), indicating that He was baptized by total immersion. Why doesn’t the Catholic Church also baptize by total immersion instead of by pouring on the head?

The Catholic Church usually baptizes by pouring: 1) because water sufficient for total immersion is not readily obtainable in some localities, 2) because total immersion would be cruel for babies, fatal for some sick people and impossible for some prison inmates, and 3) because the Apostles baptized by pouring. In the Didache, composed by the Apostles, the following procedure for Baptism is prescribed: “Pour water three times on the head in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” The words “came out of the water” do not necessarily imply total immersion. They could just as well imply that Christ came up on the shore of the river Jordan after standing ankle deep in the water. This is not to say that the Catholic Church considers Baptism by total immersion invalid — she simply does not consider it practical as a universal form.

Why does the Catholic Church baptize infants, who have no understanding of what is taking place?

The Catholic Church baptizes infants because Christ wills it. He must will it because He said, “Suffer the little children, and forbid them not to come to me.” (Matt. 19:14). According to the Apostle Paul, one cannot truly come to Christ except through Baptism. (Rom. 6:3-4). Christ must will it because the Apostles baptized “all the people” (Luke 3:21) and whole households (Act 16:15, 1 Cor. 1:16). Certainly “all the people” and whole “households” included infants. Christ must will it because He stated categorically that Baptism is a necessary prerequisite for salvation (John 3:5), and He certainly desires the salvation of infants. He must will it because the primitive Christian Church, which had fresh firsthand knowledge of His Will, baptized infants. In the ancient catacombs of Rome the inscriptions on the tombs of infants make mention of their having been baptized. One such inscription reads: “Here rests Archillia, a newly-baptized; she was one year and five months old; died February 23rd.”

An unbaptized infant is not simply in a “natural” state; it is in the state of reprobation, living under the reign of Satan, with the sin of Adam “staining” its soul. Therefore infants should be baptized as soon as is reasonably possible — usually within 2-3 weeks of birth. When children grow up with Our Lord dwelling in their souls, they have a powerful protection against sin. Moreover, Our Lord can thereby draw children to a deep love for Himself at a very early age — as He did with St. Therese, St. Maria Goretti, St. Dominic Savio, and Francisco and Jacinta Marto.

Why is the Catholic Church opposed to birth control? Where in the Bible is birth control condemned as being contrary to the Will of God?

The Catholic Church is not opposed to birth control when it is accomplished by natural means, by SELF control. She is opposed only to birth control by artificial means, by the employment of pills, condoms, IUD’s, foams, jellies, sterilization, non-completion of the act of sexual union — or any other means used to prevent conception from resulting from this act — because such means profane the marital embrace and dishonor the marriage contract. God slew Onan for practicing contraception (Gen. 38:9-10); the word “onanism” derives from Onan’s deed. In fact, up until the Church of England’s Lambeth Conference of 1930, which accepted contraception and thus broke with the Christian tradition, contraception had been considered by all Christian churches, both Catholic and Protestant, to be gravely sinful. The Catholic Church does not feel free to change the law of God, as do Protestants.

In the New Testament, there is only one instance where sin is punished by God with immediate death, this was the fate of Ananias and Saphira, a husband and wife who went through the motions of giving a gift to God but fraudulently kept back part of it. The Bible says they lied to the Holy Spirit. (Acts 5:1-11). In contraception, two people go through the motions of an act of self-giving, but obstruct the natural fruition of their act, i.e., the conception of children, which is the ultimate purpose for which God created sexuality. Sexual union is a gift from God to the married, but by practicing contraception, married couples are accepting the pleasure God built into the act and yet denying Him its purpose, new people. They are in effect mocking God. But “Be not deceived, God is not mocked.” (Gal. 6:7). Christ cursed the fig tree which, despite a fine external appearance, bore no fruit. (Matt. 21:19; Mark 11:14). Marriage is God’s plan for populating Heaven, yet contracepting couples refuse Him the specific fruit of their marriage, which is children, when they engage in the act which should produce children yet frustrate the natural, God-intended result.

Further, the sin of “sorceries” or “witchcrafts” (“pharmakeia” in the Greek — Gal. 5:20; Apoc. 9:21; 21:8) — which the Bible condemns along with fornication, murder, idolatry, and other serious sins — very possibly includes secret potions mixed to prevent pregnancy or cause abortion. Such potions were known and used even in the first century.

Common sense and conscience both dictate that artificial birth control is not only a violation of the Natural Law but is a perfidious insult to the dignity of man himself. For it implies free reign to physical impulses; it implies total disregard for the fate of the human seed; it implies utter contempt for the honorable birth of fellow humans, those fellow humans who are born as the result of a contraceptive having failed and whose very existence is therefore considered to be an unfortunate “accident,” rather than a gift of God; it implies the most extreme selfishness, for no advocate or practitioner of artificial birth control would have wanted it for his or her own parents. Further, contraception undermines the respect of husband and wife for each other and thereby loosens the marriage bond. Worst of all, many “contraceptives,” such as the IUD and most if not all birth control pills, work by actually causing an abortion early in the pregnancy; thus, this so-called “contraception” is in reality abortion — the killing of a human being — rather than the preventing of conception.

In every age there is some favorite sin which is accepted by “respectable” worldly Christians; in our times the “acceptable” sin is contraception — a sin which fits in perfectly with the view that the purpose of human life is to attain earthly happiness. The true Christian couple, on the other hand, will realize that God desires them to have children so that these children can come to know Him and love Him and be happy with Him eternally in Heaven. Marriage is God’s plan for populating Heaven. How wise it is to let God plan one’s family, since He loves children much more than do their earthly parents, and His plans for them go far beyond any plans of these parents.

Innumerable stories are told of God’s Providence to Christian parents who trusted in Him and obeyed His law. For those who have a true and serious need to space or limit the number of their children, the new methods of natural family planning based on periodic abstinence have proven to be extremely reliable (unlike the earlier “rhythm” methods).

Finally, the Christian will realize that the self-denial involved in bearing and raising Christian children is a school of Christlikeness. Our Lord said: “If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.” (Matt. 16:24). But He also said: “My yoke is sweet and my burden light.” (Matt. 11:30). God promises sufficient grace to those who seek to obey Him. And the resulting peace of soul which the obedient married couple enjoys is beyond all price.

Why does the Catholic Church make no exceptions when it comes to divorce? Does not the Bible say that Christ permitted divorce in case of fornication? (Matthew 19:9).

The Catholic Church makes no exceptions when it comes to divorce because Christ made no exceptions. When Christ was asked if it was lawful for a man to put away his wife “for every cause,” He replied that a man “shall cleave to his wife, and they two shall be in one flesh . . . What therefore God hath joined together, let no man put asunder.” (Matt. 19:3-6). And the Apostle Paul wrote: “But to them that are married, not I but the Lord commandeth, that the wife depart not from her husband. And if she depart, that she remain unmarried, or be reconciled to her husband. And let not the husband put away his wife.” (1 Cor. 7:10-11). In Matthew 19:9 Christ does not permit divorce in cases of fornication. He permits separation. This is clear from the fact that those who separated were cautioned not to remarry. Read Mark 10-12 and Luke 16:18.

Also, we know that divorce is against Divine Law because it is plainly against right reason. Were it not for our man-made laws which “legalize,” popularize, and even glamorize divorce, discontented married couples would make a more determined effort to reconcile their differences and live in peace; they would be obliged by necessity to swallow their false pride and accept the responsibilities they owe to their spouses, to their children, to society as a whole, and to God. Any sociologist will confirm that there is far less immorality, far less suicide, far fewer mental disorders and far less crime among peoples who reject divorce than among the so-called “progressives” who accept it.

Why have Catholic women traditionally worn veils or hats in church? Are bareheaded women forbidden to enter Catholic churches?

The Apostle Paul explains that Catholic women should cover their heads while in church: “You yourselves judge: doth it become a woman, to pray unto God uncovered?” (I Cor. 11:13). “Every man praying or prophesying with his head covered, disgraceth his head. But every woman praying or prophesying with her head not covered, disgraceth her head: for it is all one as if she were shaven….” (I Cor. 11:4-5). “But if a woman nourish her hair, it is a glory to her; for her hair is given to her for a covering.”(I Cor. 11:15) Women should wear veils or hats when in church out of respect for God and oneself.

Why must Catholics pay money for a Mass that is offered up for deceased relatives and friends when the Bible states that the gift of God is not to be purchased with money? (Acts 8:20).

Catholics are not compelled to pay for Masses offered up for someone’s special intention. They are simply reminded that giving a “stipend” (usually $5) is the custom. Priests will oblige without a stipend being paid if the one making the request can ill afford it. Giving stipends for special intention Masses is the custom because it is only fitting and proper that there should be some token of appreciation for the special service rendered, especially in view of the fact that the average priest draws a very small salary. For many priests these stipends mean the difference between standard and sub-standard living conditions. And this custom definitely has scriptural approval. Wrote the Apostle Paul: “Who serveth as a soldier at any time, at his own charges? . . . Who feedeth the flock, and eateth not of the milk of the flock? . . . So also the Lord ordained that they who preach the gospel, should live by the gospel.” (I Cor. 9:7-14). Of course the gift of God is not to be purchased with money. But that does not imply that God’s ministers are free-serving slaves. Protestants will generally agree to this because within Protestantism it is likewise customary to give the minister who performs baptisms, marriages, etc. a token of appreciation in the form of money. Protestants do not call their gift of money a stipend, but that is exactly what it is.

The following 4 answers are by Roger Owen, October 7, 2002

Why do Catholics venerate relics of Saints, martyrs, the holy cross of Christ, and of the objects used for Christ’s crucifixion? Christ Himself used things to accomplish good works and His miracles. In the Gospels He used His saliva, dirt, water, his garment and other things to accomplish His miracles. (Saint John 9:6-7) He healed a woman just by her touching His garment. “And behold a woman who was troubled with an issue of blood twelve years, came behind him, and touched the hem of his garment. For she said within herself: If I shall touch only his garment, I shall be healed.”(Saint Matthew 9:20-21) God used Saint Peter’s shadow to accomplish good to those that would be overshadowed by it. “Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets and laid them on beds and couches, that, when Peter came, his shadow at the least might overshadow any of them and they might be delivered from their infirmities.”(Acts 5:15) Finally we see that even the mere handkerchiefs and aprons brought forth from the body of Saint Paul, touching the sick, could heal them. “And God wrought by the hand of Paul more than common miracles. So that even there were brought from his body to the sick, handkerchiefs and aprons: and the diseases departed from them: and the wicked spirits went out of them.”(Acts 19:11-12) All this supports the holy use of relics. Those things that are actually a part or a piece of, or touched by a Saint or martyr or a piece of the cross of Christ, or a piece of the objects used to crucify Christ can bring about actual grace to those that touch them or venerate them. As Catholics we believe in the resurrection of the body on the last day. “Of the doctrine of … the resurrection of the dead, and of eternal judgment. And this will we do, if God permit.”(Hebrews 6:2-3) On the last day all the particles of the body will come together and resurrect. Since the Saints are an integral part of the mystical body of Christ, touching or venerating a relic is the same as touching the mystical body of Christ or touching a piece of heaven. Relics are placed in the altar where Holy Mass is offered as a special way when consecrating the altar to God.

Note: A human body should never be cremated as in the current conciliar church, a body that has been cremated as if scattered into many particles into the ocean. Where on the earth can the True Church be found?, scattered all throughout the world. The whole earth is mission territory.

Why do priests wear black; is not that the color of the devil?

First, we need to understand that things can either be used for good or for evil. The devil wants to mock God and misuse good things for evil purposes. The devil uses black for the color of witches, satanists and anything of the like, but only because he wants to associate evil with good. The colors of a cardinal are black, red and white. The most common Nazi colors are black, red, and white. Because the devil mocks God and wants to misuse holy things, he uses the colors of black, red and white for evil when in fact these colors are holy. The priest wears black for penance because black means “Penance, Mourning, Protection against evil, Humility, Purity of Life, and Protection from ‘worms’ (Disease)”.

Why should women wear dresses and not pants?

“A woman shall not be clothed with man’s apparel, neither shall a man use woman’s apparel: for he that doth these things, it is abominable before God.” (Deuteronomy 22:5) Pants are for men only, NOT for women. However there are some special cases where woman can wear men’s attire, such as in the rare exceptional case of Saint Joan of Arc, but they are very rare. “Nor the EFFEMINATE nor liers with mankind nor thieves nor covetous nor drunkards nor railers nor extortioners shall possess the kingdom of God.” (I Corinthians 6:10) EFFEMINATE are those men who act and dress like women. The same applies to women. Women should not dress or act like men and men should not dress or act like women. Men should be men and women should be women. In fact Saint Padre Pio would refuse to hear the confession of women who were not wearing a dress or skirt, or women who were wearing pants, and in fact Saint Padre Pio knew and could see the insincerity of the soul, and knew beforehand even if a women who normally wore pants, borrowed a skirt or dress that she did not herself own or normally wore. Such a “woman” if she could be called a woman, then proceeded to the Holy Sacrament of Penance, and even then Saint Padre Pio would refuse to hear her confession.

Why does a priest where a cassock or the proper religious attire?

The priest puts on black attire or the attire of their religious order with the intent of serving God and never ridiculing this holy image and office, bearing witness to Christ. In the United States the Third Plenary Council of Baltimore (1884) determined that clerics were to wear the Roman collar and cassock at home and in the church. The 27th Canon of the 6th Ecumenical Council, Constantinople III, states: “None who is counted with the clergy should dress inappropriately, when in the city, nor when traveling. Each should use the attire which was appointed for clergy members. If someone breaks this rule, may he be deprived of serving for one week.”


There it is — the truth about Catholic belief and practice. This is the truth which brought the author of this booklet into the Catholic Church . . . the truth which brings millions of people into the Catholic fold year after year… the truth which explains why Newman, Chesterton, Knox, Brownson, Maritain, Mann, Swinnerton, Muggeridge and a host of other world-famous intellectuals chose to embrace the Catholic Faith. This is the truth which inspired the following confession by the renowned scientist, John Deering — a confession which expresses in eloquent fashion the fundamental motivation of every Catholic convert, be he famous or unknown:

“I was born and raised in an atmosphere of proud, agnostic intellectualism. My father, a medical doctor by profession, was a disciple of Schopenhauer and Freud, and my mother was an ardent disciple of my father. My own favorite dish as a youth was Voltaire. Thus by the time I reached manhood, I was quite thoroughly baptized in the pseudo-religious cult of humanism. I preferred to call it humanism because, unlike the blunt Voltaire, I never could profess publicly to being an out and out atheist, even though there really isn’t much distinction between the two.

“Being of a curious, speculative turn of mind, with strong leanings toward the more challenging fields of dialectics, I eventually took up the study of metaphysics — the science of the fundamental causes and processes of things. This subject intrigued me, indeed obsessed me, as no other subject had before. Here, I told myself, was the science of sciences. Here was the supreme test of my personal philosophy. If God exists, I told myself, metaphysics would reveal Him. Either I would be justified in my quasi-atheism, or I would be compelled in conscience to abandon it completely.

“Then the inevitable happened. I came face to face with the proposition, proved by all the principles of logic, that God does indeed exist. The evidence was so abundant as to be incontrovertible. Just as sure as two and two make four, God not only exists, He is existence. To argue the point would have been tantamount to arguing against all reality!

“Toppled at last from the vainglorious perch of agnosticism, I immediately set about making another intellectual ascent — this time up the great imposing structure of Christian theology. I procured a Bible and spent every free moment absorbed in its sacred content. I had established the existence of God in my mind; now I must know something of the nature, the personality, of God. The Bible, I figured, would give me a clue.

“Much of what I read in the Bible was vague — I was not, after all, familiar with the customs and language idioms of the ancient Jews who wrote the Bible — but I could grasp the central theme. Quite obviously, the central theme of the Bible portrayed God not only as an Omnipotent, All-lntelligent Spiritual Being, but as the Essence of Love, Essence of Justice and Essence of Mercy. In other words, God is pre-eminently a personal Being. And Jesus Christ was God personified, come into the world not only to make atonement for the sin of Adam, but to reassert His Sovereignty, elaborate on His Laws and illuminate with brighter light the pathway to heavenly immortality. And the torchbearer of this light was His Church, founded on the Apostles. Endowed with the authority of God, and imbued with the Holy Spirit of God, His Church was given the holy task of perpetuating His ministry of salvation after His return to Heaven.

“There was the divine plan of redemption, life’s real purpose, brought into clear and beautiful focus by the Author of the plan — God Himself. There, in brief, is man’s only real hope for happiness and security.

“Only one thing remained to be solved. God’s Church — Where amidst the vast galaxy of the world’s churches was God’s true Church to be found? Then I recalled something Christ said: ‘Seek and ye shall find… knock and it will be opened unto you.’ Inspired by these words of divine wisdom, I embarked on the search. I undertook an extensive study of comparative religion, concentrating on the Christian religions. Since the other religions rejected the divinity of Christ, they naturally were in default.

“With painstaking impartiality I held every Christian church up to the light of Scripture, logic and history, checking and double-checking lest I overlook some small but significant piece of evidence. Three years of this meticulous checking, then I found the object of my search. I finished with one name superimposed in great bold letters on my conscience — ‘Catholic!’

“On every ground I found the claims of the Catholic religion valid and altogether irresistible. The Catholic Church is the oldest Christian church, I determined; therefore, she is the original Christian Church, the one Church founded, constituted and sanctioned by Jesus Christ Himself.

“I had no other recourse in conscience but to embrace the Catholic Faith. And now I must testify that it satisfies my mind, solaces my heart and gratifies my soul. My blessed Catholic Faith fills my soul with a peace and a sense of security I had never before thought possible.

“Now that I am in the Catholic Church I have a much clearer picture of its true image. I see in all her vitals the Image of Christ. In the reception of her sacraments I feel His comforting hand; in her pronouncements I hear His authoritative, cogent voice; in her manifold world-wide charities I see His love and compassion; in the way she is harassed and vilified I see His agony and humility on Calvary; in her worship I feel His Spirit girding my soul.

“This compels my obedience. All else is shifting sand.”

Nihil Obstat:
Rev. Edmund J. Bradley
Censor Deputatus

+ Timothy Manning
Auxiliary Bishop of Los Angeles
Vicar General April 13, 1961

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My Journey Home

Posted by catholicfaithdefender on March 22, 2008

My Journey Home

From Fundamental Baptist to Roman Catholic

By Isaac Hathaway, Jr.

Many people have played important roles in my coming home to the Catholic Church, from my unsuspecting parents and grandparents to my loving and patient wife. I could have never imagined how an elderly Sister in a religious community, an instructor at a junior college, a few priests, a couple of aunts-by-marriage, and a knowledgeable commercial real estate broker would be so instrumental in helping me see The Truth.

I was born and raised into a Fundamental, Independent, Bible-believing Baptist home. From day one, I was taught to love God and the importance of a personal relationship with Him. My grandparents were Baptist missionaries to Japan through our local Baptist church. My grandparents dedicated over 25 years of service in Japan and started many Independent, Fundamental Baptist churches from the ground up in Japan.

My dad was raised in Japan as a missionary kid and was very involved with the ministry. After serving as missionaries to Japan from the mid 50’s to about 1980, my grandfather became involved in the ministry of our church as an associate pastor. He has since pastored two churches in Missouri and is currently involved in a Japanese ministry and started a widower’s ministry at his church. He loves God with all his heart and has a passion to lead all souls to heaven. I have learned a great deal from him and from my father about how to be a strong Christian man who loves God and family. I have an uncle who followed in his father’s footsteps and became a missionary to Japan for about 15 years. After serving in Japan as missionaries, my uncle and his wife moved back to the U.S. and my uncle is currently a pastor of a church in Missouri.

I come from a very loving home. We attended church every chance we got. Every week we would go to Sunday school, Sunday morning service, Sunday evening service, mid-week prayer meeting, and visitation. I went to private, Christian church schools from Kindergarten through twelfth grade. All but one school I attended was held at a Baptist church.

At school, we were required to attend Bible class. I was taught at school and at church that the Catholic Church was a false religion based on paganism and all Catholics were “going to hell.” When I was in Middle School, I was told by a former Catholic who married a Baptist friend of my parents, that the Catholic Church was a cult. I remember being told that the pope is the anti-Christ and The Catholic Church is the Whore of Babylon. I was told that Catholics were not Christians. I was told that Catholics think that Christ is still on the cross. I was told that Catholics think they can work their way to heaven. I was told that Catholics added books to the Bible so their Bible is false. I remember seeing anti-catholic tracts (including Jack Chick) at the church I grew up in.

Despite being fed a bunch of paranoia against the Catholic Church, my family loved God and was always seeking to do His will. I am angry that I was fed, what I now call

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“garbage” while growing up, but my family meant well. They were misled about the Catholic Church and continue to have misconceptions, despite my attempts correct their misunderstandings.

My first experience with a Catholic Church came on Christmas Eve midnight mass at the old Church of the Magdalen in Wichita, Kansas with my girlfriend, Melanie on 12/24/98. It was all bizarre to me yet, I was in awe of the ceremony and rituals. The Mass stirred some emotions within me, but I could never admit it. The whole Mass was a beautiful way to proclaim the good news that a savior was born. Despite all these factors, I still thought that it all had to be pagan and false. I would occasionally go to Mass with Melanie as we were dating. I wanted to pick out, for myself, the things that were “wrong” in the Mass. I also went to make Melanie happy.

Melanie and I grew closer and became engaged to be married in the fall of 1999. We attended an “Engaged Encounter” because it was required of us, in order to be married in the Catholic Church. Our Engaged Encounter priest had an open forum session for questions pertaining to relationships and what the whole weekend was all about.

This turned out to be a time where the protestant fiancés questioned doctrine, dogma, and teachings of The Catholic Church. Both Melanie and I were put off at how the priest answered some of the questions at that time. (Melanie came from a non-practicing Catholic home. She wanted to know some of the answers herself.) I had a closed mind to the teachings of the Church. I “knew” they were all wrong. I couldn’t help feeling this way. It was the way I was taught by my pastors, teachers, and parents and that was good enough for me.

For me, it was okay for Melanie to go to her pagan church, because she told me that she knew she had Christ in her heart. So, when the priests’ tone changed to that of being put off when he was bombarded with the questions, I automatically knew in my heart that he couldn’t answer them and The Catholic church was not for me.

I see now, in hindsight, that Engaged Encounter was neither the time nor place to question the teachings of the Church. I can fully understand now why the priest was so upset. He was on the constant defensive position. The barrage of questions was relentless. He wasn’t there to be an apologist. We were there to find ourselves in relation to each other through Christ; no matter what “brand” of faith you were from.

Neither Melanie nor I looked at Engaged Encounter as what it was actually supposed to be. We thought we knew each other well enough. I regret now that we didn’t take it as seriously as we should have. I know that I didn’t take much of it as seriously as Melanie did.

Melanie and I were married on August 12, 2000 at St. Francis of Assisi in Wichita, by Father Jim Weldon. My whole family was upset that our wedding was going to be at a Catholic Church. My parents wanted to know why our family’s faith tradition couldn’t be represented at our wedding. In order to please my parents, and with Father Weldon’s

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permission, my parents’ Baptist pastor agreed, amazingly, to read a scripture passage from the lectionary. That did not make everything “fine and dandy” with my folks, but it did help.

We moved in January 2001 to Eudora, KS, which is just outside of Lawrence. Even though there was a Catholic Church in Eudora, we wanted to attend the Mass offered at St. Lawrence on Kansas University’s campus. I was still very skeptical of the Catholic Church.

As I went more and more with Melanie to Mass, I was impressed by the enthusiasm of the pastor, Father Vince. Father Vince’s excitement was contagious; even though I mostly shut out the things I didn’t agree with or didn’t want to hear. Melanie and I would often discuss the content of the mass. I would always ask questions pertaining to the liturgy, incense, sign of the cross, the crucifix, statues, the bowing, the “Lord’s Supper,” and all the mechanics and details of the mass.

Melanie was very patient with my questions. Sometimes she couldn’t answer all my questions, so I took that as a sign of weakness of her Faith. I thought, at the time, that I was getting her to question her own faith in the “pagan” Catholic Church.

I would also receive questions from her about my faith as a Baptist. “Why do you believe this? Where does it come from? Why does the preacher say this or do that?” I would try to answer the best that I could. I must say that Melanie never attacked me, but I know I attacked her about her Faith. She has a gentle, patient, and quiet spirit by nature, where I was always aggressive, bold, and derogatory to her in my questioning of the Catholic Church.

When I would get stumped on a question from her, I would shut down the conversation immediately. I would say, “I don’t want to talk about it anymore!” Yet, I was always the one to bring up the topics and the discussion.

Melanie agreed to come with me to try out some Baptist churches in Lawrence. I can see now that she was only doing it to keep peace in the relationship. She never lost her love for the Catholic Faith.

After having attended many Catholic Masses with Melanie, the Baptist service began to seem so foreign to me. With each new church I wanted to try, I never seemed to have the spiritual fulfillment that I thought I would have. It didn’t matter what “brand” of Baptist church I went to, I felt very empty inside after each service.

One comment that Melanie made that has stuck with me to this day. After we had visited several churches, she said, “If these are all Baptist churches, why does each one preach, teach, and do things so differently than the other? Shouldn’t they all be about the same?” I started to see, for myself, for the first time that she was right. I saw it even more as we would come back to Wichita and I again attended Sunday services at my parents’ church.

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Even though some of the churches would be in the same conferences, they didn’t preach the Word of God from the same version of the Bible, they would baptize a little differently than the next, the music was different, the order of the service was different, and the alter call was never the same format. There were many other issues that didn’t coincide from one church to the next. I gave up on trying to get Melanie to go to any church other than a Catholic Church, since I knew she was never comfortable and quite frankly, I wasn’t either.

I became complacent in going to mass with Melanie. She would ask me after Sunday Mass what I disagreed with. At first, I didn’t have an answer. It was a subtle challenge for me to pay attention, so I did. The more I went to Mass with her, the more I saw how much Catholics and Baptists have in common. I never thought the “Whore of Babylon” would ever have much in common with truly fundamental Baptist doctrine. The more I listened and let the Holy Spirit work in me, the more my eyes were opened to the basic similarities of our Christian Faiths. I had to admit it to myself, “the Catholic Church COULD ACTUALLY BE CHRISTIAN.”

Despite all these factors that I was beginning to see, I was nowhere near ready to further investigate the Catholic Church on my own. I could never be a Catholic. My parents would have a fit. What would my grandparents say? What would all my Baptist friends say? I dismissed any thought of ever being Catholic.

Around this time, one of Melanie’s aunts, Aunt Kay, sent Melanie some of the Beginning Apologetics booklets put out by Jim Burnham along with other apologetic material, including the “proof text” put out by Jim Burnham’s San Juan Catholic Seminars.

I know now that it was Aunt Kay’s way of getting Melanie to stay strong in her faith, and, if possible, to get me to look at them. I would glance at them and give them a once over. That is about as far as I would get with them. My heart was hardened to seeing what the Catholic Church taught. Part of it was the fact that I was afraid that I couldn’t give a good response to the material. I don’t remember Melanie ever asking me to read the material, although I think it was implied.

One day, we got a phone call from one of Melanie’s relatives that her great aunt, Sister Bea was in the hospital and in bad shape. Sister Bea was a member of the Sisters of the Most Precious Blood of O’Fallon, MO.

I had met Sister Bea previously, at a family gathering in Missouri. She impressed me from the very moment I met her. I had never met anybody from the Catholic religious life, so before I met her, I didn’t know what to expect.

Her joy for life and for her calling was contagious. She had a great sense of humor and she had a smile that never quit. As we were in her hospital room, she continued to

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have a smile, even in all the pain she was experiencing, due to a hole in her diaphragm. She kept a positive attitude throughout all of her surgery and recovery.

A little more than a month later, Sister Bea passed away and we went back to O’Fallon for the funeral. Her funeral Mass was a great memorial to an awesome lady who dedicated her entire, unselfish life to worship and service to God and serving others. Sister Bea had spent 67 years of dedicated service in the religious life.

The sisters of the convent where she served and where the funeral Mass was held, gave us a room, as well as the other relatives who came. I have never been treated with such dignity and respect as I was by those sisters during the few days we stayed AND I WASN’T EVEN CATHOLIC!

Our stay at the convent and the experience of the great words spoken about Sister Bea was quite impressive and a bit overwhelming for me. My thoughts concerning Catholicism began to shift even more. I had to ask myself, “How could someone who was so involved with a pagan religion, be so holy, kind, prayerful, excited, and have an obvious love and dedication for God?” To this day, I think Sister Bea may have been the holiest person I have ever met. My wall of criticism and dislike for the Catholic Church was beginning to crumble.

In the fall of 2003, Melanie and I, along with my daughter, Valerie moved back to Wichita. We started to attend St. Francis of Assisi, because Melanie’s mother still went there and we had been married there, but it was all the way at the other end of town. We would occasionally go back and forth each Sunday to St. Thomas Aquinas or Church of the Resurrection. The more I attended Mass, the more comfortable I felt, even though I never took part in the Sacraments. The more I would attend any kind of non-Catholic service, the more uncomfortable I felt.

Shortly after moving back to Wichita, Melanie and I attended a Sunday evening service at my parents’ church. That particular service they happened to be celebrating one of their quarterly services which they had “The Lord’s Supper.” Melanie had never seen how “we” Baptists celebrated “The Lord’s Supper.”

I had really thought nothing of it, since I was raised in the Baptist faith. Melanie; however, was overcome with tears when the platter of unleavened bread was passed from one person to another, as well as the dish which held the grape juice. She actually had to get up and leave. She went out of the church auditorium towards the restroom. I wasn’t sure what had come over her, so I continued to stay and partake of communion.

As we were leaving church in the car, I asked her what was wrong. She looked at me with a somber look and with tears streaming down her face. She shook her head at me and told me that she could not see how we take communion so lightly. She was obviously upset at how some of the people were talking during communion. She was upset at how the individual shot glasses, which represented Christ’s blood, were passed to each person, and at how we each waited to take each part of the communion together at our seats.

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At that time I didn’t really understand Transubstantiation. I thought that to believe that it could be Christ’s REAL flesh and REAL blood was just “silly.” When I saw for myself just how distraught she was over what happened, and after some tough questions from her over the issue, it left me to really ponder why we Baptists celebrate communion the way that we do and why it was so different than the way Catholics celebrate it. I still wasn’t ready to do any further investigation into the Catholic Faith.

In the fall of 2003, I began to take some classes at Butler Community College. One of the classes I was taking was Humanities: Ancient to Medieval. The class was an exploration of art, music, theatre, religion, and the philosophy and how each pertained to Western civilization’s culture. The instructor was very enthusiastic about the subject manner and made the class fun and interesting.

I was especially interested in the subject of The Church and how it affected different aspects of humanity. In my studies I began to see the correlation between the thought of each century and how much of it was influenced by religion. I began to notice the early church writers, artists, and historians were all very “Catholic” in their works. I saw no resemblance to the type of religion and church I grew up in. All of these studies in early humanity intrigued me greatly!

The next semester I took the follow-up class from the same instructor entitled Humanities: Renaissance to Modern. One of our class periods was spent going to St. George’s Orthodox Cathedral. I had no idea what to expect. I was already intrigued by the hierarchy of the Catholic Church and now I was very intrigued with the architecture of the early Church and why they were designed the way they were. We were scheduled to take a tour of the church. I had no idea what to expect.

I was in complete awe of the beauty of the design of the church. I think what influenced me the most about our tour was the use of icons throughout the sanctuary. I couldn’t believe my eyes. It was sensory overload! After our tour guide pointed out to us that the sanctuary was in the shape of a cross, I had a sense of peace about me. I thought to myself, “So this is what a church is supposed to be like.” In the short time I visited that church and when I step foot in the sanctuary, I left behind all my notions that it was anything but Christian.

I was in awe of the beauty of the church, the meaning behind the murals and icons, and how that pertained to my faith. I couldn’t wait to get home to tell Melanie about this beautiful church I toured and how it stirred my heart. As I described the artwork and icons throughout the church to Melanie, she smiled at me and was impressed by my enthusiasm. I told her that I wanted to go to a church service there on a Sunday. She obliged my idea and agreed that she would go.

When we finally had the opportunity to attend a worship service, as I called them, we arrived late. Our daughter, Valerie was acting out from the moment we arrived. I went into the sanctuary for all of about 5 minutes until I heard Valerie screaming outside of the

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sanctuary. I left my back row seat to help Melanie. After getting Valerie to calm down we agreed that we missed too much of the service and it was time for us to leave. I was disappointed that I could not experience the service and Melanie picked up on my disappointment. She made a comment to me that expressed how similar the Greek Orthodox was to Roman Catholic.

After she mentioned that, I decided that I had not given the Catholic Church a chance. As I sat there and pondered the similarities, I decided that I was willing to give the Catholic Church another shot. I also decided that I was going to pay closer attention to the Mass.

A real eye-opener for me came on Easter of 2004. After attending morning Mass at St. Francis of Assisi with Melanie’s mother, we decided we wanted to spend some time with my parents as well. Our plan was to go to their church for evening service, then go out to eat with them afterwards.

I assumed that the Easter evening service would have something to do with the resurrection or they might have an encore presentation of their Easter musical. Boy was I seriously mistaken! My parents’ church usually had some sort of teaching service for Sunday nights and not so much preaching. The pastor started to talk about Baptist doctrine and in particular, their doctrines of sola fide and sola scriptura. When the pastor mentioned that one of the congregants, who happen to be the principal of the church-school, studied and followed closely the teachings of John Calvin, I was very intrigued. The pastor went into specifics on Calvinism and his doctrine of predestination versus what some, or most of the other congregants followed. It also seemed that some Calvinism was combined with other Protestant doctrines by other folks. The pastor seemed to be trying to give equal time to each different doctrine that each different congregant might follow.

By this time, I began to wish I had never come to their evening service. I felt extremely uncomfortable with the subject matter and I could tell that Melanie was getting upset the more she heard.

I remember an analogy being given about a little boy in a remote African country who has never heard of Jesus Christ. The question was asked, “If that little African boy has never been given the opportunity to hear of Jesus and His saving grace, does he go to hell because of his ignorance of the Gospel message?”

The Calvinist spoke up and said something to the affect that if he never heard the Gospel message and he does not follow Jesus and accept Him as Lord and Savior, that little boy is not one of the predestined or the elect. If God did not send a missionary in that boy’s path, then he obviously was not one of the elect. My jaw dropped and I had to calm Melanie down because she was about to go off. Melanie was on the verge of standing up to put in her comments. Before she did, I calmed her down and assured her that we would never have to come back to one of their services again. I was completely

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disgusted. I couldn’t believe what I had just heard. I was so ready for that service to be over.

When it was over and we were on our way home, Melanie was weeping at what she had just heard in that church. I told her that all of that was news to me and I don’t remember being taught those things growing up. Perhaps I was and thought nothing of it. I really can’t remember. Maybe I have tried to suppress it. I assured her that I don’t think that way at all. That trip to my parents church help me to realize that there can be just as many different doctrines and individual scripture interpretations as there are heads within one Baptist church, not to mention the entire Baptist faith in which I grew up. On top of all that, how could they be talking about doctrine and predestination when it was Easter? I had a real hard time understanding what had just happened. I became angry at what was said and the possibility that I was fed that “garbage” as a young Baptist.

During the spring of 2005, I began to see how many people I knew through work that was Catholic. I started to do little things here and there that were identifiable as Catholic, such as no meat on Fridays during Lent. I slowly started identifying some of my thought with the Catholic Faith.

We were going to Mass regularly at Church of the Resurrection. Initially, I was very impressed with Monsignor Carr. I started to pay close attention to Monsignor Carr’s homilies. I found myself agreeing with everything he had to say. The same was true with Father Ken Schuckman. Something that really helped me at the time was Monsignor Carr’s enthusiasm and then later, Father Ken’s homilies. Father Ken has always had a way to challenge you and to get you to think with each homily. For the entire time I have attended mass at Church of the Resurrection, I have never left mass with a feeling of emptiness, when I actually listened. (I have a short attention span.)

I saw in one of the Sunday bulletins that RCIA was going to start soon. I discussed it with Melanie and expressed my interest. She was quite excited! I set up an appointment with Father Ken about RCIA. He explained the process and I agreed that I wanted to start.

I told my parents shortly before RCIA was to begin, that I was going to find out what the Catholic Church was all about. My dad was quite upset. He suggested that I give the Baptist church equal time to rediscover what it was all about. I told him that I have been Baptist all my life and that was enough time for me to know what they believe. Besides, just because I’m going to go to these classes doesn’t mean I’m going to become Catholic. I remember saying to him, “What harm can it do?”

My dad then started to go into the argument that the Catholic Church was a false religion and its origins were pagan. The arguments that he gave me are I arguments I have seen in Jack Chick’s anti-Catholic tracts and it’s the same arguments you would find in Babylon Mystery Religion by Ralph Woodrow. I researched Babylon Mystery Religion on the internet and came across Ralph Woodrow’s website. It was a great coincidence that Ralph Woodrow has pulled Babylon Mystery Religion from publication because he admits serous errors in his research. He says this, “My original book had some valuable

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information in it. But it also contained certain teachings that were made popular in a book many years ago, THE TWO BABYLONS, by Alexander Hislop. This book claims that the very religion of ancient Babylon, under the leadership of Nimrod and his wife, was later disguised with Christian-sounding names, becoming the Roman Catholic Church. Thus, two “Babylons”—one ancient and one modern. Proof for this is sought by citing numerous similarities in paganism. The problem with this method is this: in many cases there is no connection.”

My dad then expressed his concern for the family name if I became Catholic. He was worried about what everyone within the family and all of our church acquaintances would think. I told him that I am doing this for me. I was in search of the Truth. He was not happy at all. We didn’t speak for a couple of weeks. We both eventually came around (as we always do) to talk again. The topic of religion was strictly avoided.

As I started the RCIA process, I had many tough questions. Melanie wanted to join me in all of the classes because she had many questions about the Faith in which she grew up. Some of my questions included such topics as the Marian doctrines, Purgatory, the Communion of Saints, the papacy, and confession just to name a few.

The entire RCIA team was very patient and gracious to answer questions that any of us had. The format of the pre-catechumen stage was very comfortable and well put together with Vicki Jackson as the RCIA coordinator.

I was completely amazed at how there was scripture verse after scripture verse which held concrete evidence of each Catholic idea or doctrine. I was getting a better understanding of the Catholic teachings on issues that I had been so previously misled.

The RCIA team definitely knew what they were doing for the last pre-catechumen class. We watched a videotaped version of Scott Hahn and his conversion story. It was powerful! I was floored at how he broke down wall after wall that he had built against the Catholic Church. All that I was taught in school and told at church suddenly didn’t make any sense. It left an everlasting impression on me to this day. The Holy Spirit was opening my eyes the The Truth.

Much to my surprise and delight, Tony Utter, the knowledgeable real estate broker, was selected to be my RCIA sponsor. I could tell that this guy had done his homework. He had a charitable way of answering each objection that any of the RCIA candidates and catechumenates had. I was thoroughly impressed by his knowledge and experiences as a Catholic. I was also very impressed with his knowledge of the Bible and his ability to pull out scripture on the fly. His approach has always been logical. Church of the Resurrection has a great treasure in Tony.

A few weeks later, Tony gave all of the catechumens a copy of Rome Sweet Home. Since I have never been much of a book reader, I did not read it right away. Melanie started reading it immediately and finished it in one day. She convinced me that I really needed to read it and that the book is sure to keep my attention. I reluctantly started

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reading the book one day and I finished it the very next day. It gave me a great sense of joy to be able to identify with Scott and Kimberly Hahn’s testimony of their faith journey.

Some of the parallels in Scott and Kimberly’s former theological thought were very similar, if not dead on to what I had believed. After reading Rome Sweet Home, I became obsessed with knowing more about Catholic doctrine and The Catholic Church. I started to frequent, the Catholic Answers website to get even more of my questions answered and to do some further research and investigation.

Since then, Tony has provided me with book after book to read and I have read most of what he has shot my way. Crossing the Tiber by Steve Ray was a great book for me to read since I could identify especially with his story as a former Baptist. I also enjoyed reading Surprised by Truth by Patrick Madrid.

I was still bothered by my dad’s response to me starting RCIA and I did not like the animosity that was felt when we were in each others’ company. I felt that I needed to respond to him with a friendly e-mail to give him an idea as to why I was doing this. My e-mail was very charitable and in no way forceful. I even offered an out for him if he did not want to bring up the issue of religion again. I asked him to at least look at some websites, including and to read Rome Sweet Home. I just wanted him to know why I was doing this.

When he finally responded to me, he expressed how disappointed he was that I was just now taking an interest in church history and I never did as a Baptist. He also made the argument that the Catholic Church was not around until about 330 A.D. and he said, “And that’s a fact!” He also asked where the word “pope” was in the Bible. He claimed that the “original” churches were called Anabaptists; “and that’s history.” He also tried to point out that in Acts 11:26, the disciples were first called Christians at Antioch and not Catholic. Here I will quote the last couple sentences of his e-mail. “THEY WERE BAPTISTS IN DOCTRINE AND THE CATHOLICS CAME OUT OF THIS CHURCH CALLED CHRISTIANS AND EVENTUALLY ANA-BAPTIST AND NOW BAPTISTS. BY THE WAY, THE BAPTIST CHURCH NEVER CAME OUT OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH SINCE THEY EXISTED BEFORE THE CATHOLIC CHURCH. SO THE BAPTIST CHURCH IS NOT PROTESTANT.”

I then responded with an e-mail with the subject title, “Before 330 A.D.” I gave some quotes from the Church Fathers including Ignatius of Antioch, Polycarp, Tertullian, and Cyprian of Carthage. All of the quotes from these early church fathers completely discredits the notion that the Catholic Church came into existence at 330 or thereafter. I pointed out to him that the word “Trinity” is nowhere in the Bible, yet we agree on that doctrine and believe in a three-in-one almighty God. I also sent an email that had solid scriptural and tradition support for such topics as Peter, the papacy, The Rock, and apostolic succession. He was so frustrated by my e-mails, he was (in Tony’s words) in a full-court press. He sent me an e-mail that simply said, “This is rather long to read but will cover about all there is to know. It may take a while to read but it is good.” What he sent me is a booklet entitled, The Trail of Blood. Following the Christians Down

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Through the Centuries . . .or The History of Baptist Churches From the Time of Christ, Their Founder, to the Present Day by J. M. Carroll. As I researched The Trail of Blood, I found it to be incredibly hard to read. Stephen Ray said The Trail of Blood is “ridiculous and thoroughly discredited” on his website.

All of this was only the beginning of e-mail exchanges between my dad, my grandfather, and me. Each e-mail addressed a different topic that has been misunderstood by my family. When they got too frustrated because I had logical and Biblical support for all of the material I was sending, they threw in the towel. We don’t talk at all about our religion to each other to this day.

I ended up in a discussion with a well-known Baptist minister I know about an audio tape we listened to together. The audio tape is one I borrowed from Tony concerning the Catholic defense of Peter, the Rock, and the papacy. The minister did not want to listen to it after only about 5 minutes. He started to talk over it and said that he had heard it all before. He said that there was no proof that Peter was ever in Rome and it went downhill from there.

I started to defend, the best I could, the teaching on the Real Presence in the Eucharist. I asked how he could take the scripture passage of John 6. I quoted verses 53-56 when Jesus says, “My flesh is true food and my blood is true drink.” The minister said to me, “My Bible doesn’t say that!” Melanie about jumped out of her chair upon hearing him say that and the both of us responded, “Yes it does.”

The subject was dropped until I showed him in his own Bible. He then later tried to explain it away with the typical Protestant rebuttal that he did not mean it in a literal sense. Just as in “I am the vine.” His arguments were baseless and held no merit with me. I was completely shocked to hear him say that particular passage of scripture was not in his Bible.

It just goes to show how scripture is dissected for Protestants to see what they want to see, just as I was taught. It’s truly amazing how scripture jumps of the pages of the Bible for me now, as a Catholic Christian. The Bible has come to life for me. It’s so easy for me to see the parallels in scripture from one verse to the next and which scripture passages in the Old Testament prefigure passages in the New Testament.

Now let’s fast forward to Rite of Sending at the Cathedral. I felt that I was truly a part of the Catholic community. When my name was called, I felt at that moment that everyone had been praying for me. I was honored to shake the bishop’s hand.

When the Easter Vigil happened, I felt as if I were floating on a cloud. Words cannot describe what was happening to me. I kept the tears in the best I could. I felt the Holy Spirit fill me! I have never experienced anything so fulfilling in my life! I was so proud to finally enter into The Mystical Body of Christ.

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My RCIA group became my second family. If we had to miss a Thursday night for any reason, it felt completely awkward. I felt a void on Thursday nights after it was all over. The RCIA team and sponsors did a phenomenal job. I can’t imagine what it would have been like to have taken RCIA at any other parish.

Vicki Jackson does a great job in coordinating RCIA events and keeping the group tightly knit. Hugh Zavadil did a great job with Breaking Open the Word. Hugh did a great job of causing us dig deeper in our thoughts and hearts to ponder the scriptures, how they pertained to God, and the Church’s teachings. Father Ken is a wonderful and thoughtful pastor who led us every step of the way to Easter Vigil. He has continued to be a great support for me and for all who went through RCIA.

Finally, I have never felt closer to God than I do now. Now that I am Catholic, I have confidence that I belong to the One True Church. The One that teaches the fulfillment of Truth. Thanks be to God, I AM HOME!

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