The Papists

Apologetics and Evengelization
  • April 24, 2014 10:12 am
    Anonymous:  What is the Catholic view of the second coming of Christ and the afterlife? The only thing I know about as a former Protestant is the view expressed in the Left Behind Series with a seven year tribulation. When does the "final judgement" happen in the scheme of things? And how should we even go about interpreting the book of Revelation?!

    Great question!

    The Catechism says, quoting St. Paul:

    When [will the dead rise]? Definitively ‘at the last last day,” “at the end of the world.” Indeed, the resurrection of the dead is closely associated with Christ’s Parousia [coming]: “For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call, and with the sound of the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first.” (1001)

    And also:

    At the end of time, the Kingdom of God will come in its fullness. After the univeral judgment, the righteous will reign forever with Christ, glorified in body and soul. The universe itself be renewed. … Sacred Scripture calls this mysterious renewal, which will transform humanity and the world, “new heavens and a new hearth.” It will be the definitive realization of God’s plan to bring under a single head “all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth. In this new universe, the heavenly Jerusalem, God will have his dwelling among men.” (1042-1044)

    Let’s take a closer look at Paul’s two epistles to the Thessalonians, which describe Christ’s parousia.

    In 1 Thess 4:13-5:11, Paul writes that “the dead will rise first,” and then the then-living will also be caught up to judgment. Importantly, he reminds them, “But as to the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need to have anything written to you. For you yourselves know well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. … But you are not in darkness, brethren, for that day to surprise you like a thief.” Paul goes back to Christ’s parables about watchfully, faithfully watching for the coming of the Kingdom (think of the virgins and their lamp oil; or even how the apostles failed to stay awake during His agony in the Garden) to comfort the Thessalonians, who had many fears and anxieties about death and judgment. He says, you are living uprightly and keeping in the Lord; therefore, don’t “grieve” (about your dead) “as others do who have no hope,” and don’t be afraid about judgment—when Christ comes, it will be in glory, magnificently from the heavens, and we will enter eternal happiness together with our beloved who have passed away.

    In 2 Thess 1:5-12, Paul addresses the issue again. Now not only is Christ described as coming down from the clouds and raising the dead with mighty angels’ trumpet blasts, but there will be “mighty angels flaming in fire, inflicting vengeance upon those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.”

    I think this is part of where some Protestants derive the false notion of the “rapture,” that the just will be caught up to heaven while the guilty are left on earth to suffer. However, the idea of the “rapture” depends on a strict literalist interpretation of the verses, without consideration for their place in the whole of Scripture of the wider tradition they were written in.

    It’s important to note that Paul was writing to the Thessalonians as a persecuted church. He described the Second Coming as a relief from that suffering. It is an exhortation to remain faithful in the face of extreme hardship. “According to Paul in chapter 1 [1 Thess], it is the certainty of Jesus’ future parousia [coming], with the judgment and salvation it will entail, that makes enduring persecution worthwhile.” (See Gorman, Apostle of the Crucified Lord.) Remember that the early Christians thought Christ might return in their lifetimes. So not only is his parousia certain, it’s imminently possible. Today we’ve gotten in the habit of thinking that while, sure, it could happen tomorrow, it’s not particularly likely

    Gorman also makes clear that Paul is writing to clarify against error: this particular message of judgment is the Christianized version of vaguer “day of the Lord” prophecies that are part of Jewish tradition. He is also arguing against the idea that the “day of the Lord” is already here, and therefore if you’re suffering, you’re part of the damned. Rather, Paul says, you are suffering for Christ because you are with Christ, and you will receive glory when the Lord truly comes, when the dead are raised and we all go to heaven.

    Gorman also says, and I think this is worth quoting at length:

    "Paul draws heavily on various apocalyptic traditions to inform the Thessalonians that two things must occur before the parousia: 1) the "rebellion" or better, "apostasy", and the revelation of the "lawless one" or "man of lawlessness" [2 Thess 2.] About the apostasy Paul says nothing more. In many apocalyptic traditions in the New Testament and elsewhere, an expectation of faithlessness in tribulation and/or departure from the truth appears… and that is likely what is envisioned here. … the failure of any Thessalonian thus far to apostatize is proof that the day has not yet arrived. 

    Quite fully developed is the picture of the “lawless one.” This figure has parallels elsewhere in the New Testament in the perpetrator of the “desolatin sacrilege” and false messiahs of the synoptic tradition, the beast of Revelation 13, and the “antichrist” of the Johannine letters. According to Paul, the lawless one:

    • has preliminary influence in the world already, though his impact is lessened by some restraining agent or force
    • will be revealed, i.e., will have a coming
    • will exalt himself above all deities, take a seat in the temple of God, and declare himself God
    • is an agent of Satan, who by nature is a deceiver who successfully traps nonbelievers and (it seems) attempts also to deceive believers
    • will (and perhaps already does) deceive people with miracles
    • will be destroyed by Jesus—specifically by the “breath of his mouth” as his (Jesus’) own parousia
    The identity of this restraining force or person has been much debated, but Paul’s intention … eludes us. ….
    Paul seems to have instructed the Thessalonians about this matter. … It is equally clear, however, that Paul’s major concern here is not some dogmatic stance about the ‘antichrist,’ and even far less about this figure’s actual identity. … His overriding concern is pastoral—to stress the futurity of the parousia and to encourage faithfulness to the Lord.

    Now, Revelations: the Book of Revelation does have “prophetic” elements in the way we usually think of that term, but interestingly enough, what Revelation actually describes is the Mass—the heavenly Liturgy which earthly masses are a participation in, in fact the whole drama of salvation, with Christ appearing in many of his symbols and types (a slain lamb, the lion of Judah,) the role of Mary revealed in its glory—it’s all there. 

    John’s writing there is also in line with Judaic prophetic tradition: the purpose is not primarily to predict the future, but to call the people to repentance by describing, sometimes in signs and figures (and Revelations is nothing if not full of symbolism,) the spiritual consequences of abandoning God.

    Since this post is already way too long, I’m going to direct you to this article for a detailed exploration of Revelation (and incidentally a refutation of Left Behind eschatology.) The exploration of Church teaching begins with the section “Where the Church Stands,” but the previous sections are a necessary review of what the Protestant positions are and the confusing terminology associated with end-times prophecy. 

    I hope this helps answer your questions. Please give the linked article the attention it deserves; it may be long, but it’s a solid, thorough overview of a confusing, but important, subject.

  • April 14, 2014 12:07 pm
    Anonymous:  I've been thinking a lot about holy days of obligation. The question I'm pondering is this: Why has the Church decided that not participating in Mass on such a day is a mortal sin? On what grounds?

    Obligatory Sunday Mass—the year-round holy day of obligation—stems from God’s commandment to keep holy the Sabbath. The Christian “Sabbath” moved naturally from the Jewish-observed Saturday to Sunday to commemorate the Resurrection, the “eighth day,” “outside time,” that celebrates our salvation and anticipates our final happiness, union with God in heaven. 

    Strictly speaking, the Sunday obligation is a discipline of the Church (see here.) Moreover, the obligation is dispensed with if you are, for example, in a situation where it is well and truly impossible for you to attend mass. For example, in earlier times (or still today in certain parts of the world) where there is no Mass near you and/or there is no transportation to get to the Mass. 

    Other holy days of obligation follow a similar logic. Apart from the commandment to keep holy the Lord’s Day, these imposed obligations carry the weight of the authority of the Vicar of Christ: “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven.” The obligations exist for the good of souls: to engage us in the life of the Church and the liturgical year, to give us a tug forward by the hand when attachment to sin or spiritual weariness might see us ready to abandon our daily taking up of our cross and following Christ.

    Catholic Answers notes, “The precepts of the Church are not opposed to, nor are they outside of, the Commandments of God. They are within those Commandments and are intended to help keep the faithful within the Commandments.” [x]

    There is a good short article about feast days/holy days of obligation at the Catholic Encyclopedia.

    You may also be interested in:

    What are the holy days of obligation? 
    Worship the Way God Commanded 

    I hope this helps.

  • April 14, 2014 12:07 pm
    Anonymous:  Apparitions at Garabandal and three days of darkness; what is the Church's position ?

    Msgr. Jose Vilaplana, Bishop of Santander, Spain, issued this statement which confirms that “All the bishops of the diocese from 1961 through 1970 asserted that the supernatural character of the said apparitions, that took place around that time, could not be confirmed. [no constaba].*”

    In other words, this is not an approved apparition and it would be wise for the faithful to refrain from placing their hope or faith in it. 

    Sidebar: When the Church does approve an apparition, that means the Church has found it to be “worthy of belief,” but the faithful are not required to believe it.

  • April 9, 2014 3:40 pm
    Anonymous:  So does God send every non-Catholic person to hell? Even if they're good and suffered immensely while alive, such as Jewish victims of the Holocaust?

    The Church does not teach that if you not Catholic you are automatically going to hell. Here’s some resources that go deeper in the question. See also this quote. There’s also a lot of resources at Catholic Answers here.

  • April 9, 2014 3:32 pm
    Anonymous:  Is it true that Charlemagne is a Saint? He was a great and respectable historical figure, but hardly pious! He enslaved many, was a conqueror, and had multiple concubines and extramarital relations. Is the canonization by Antipope Paschal III recognized?

    He was canonized by an anti-pope and the canonization was not approved by Rome. There’s a discussion about it here.

    According to the Catholic Encyclopedia:

    He died in his seventy-second year, after forty-seven years of reign, and was buried in the octagonal Byzantine-Romanesque church at Aachen, built by him and decorated with marble columns from Romeand Ravenna. In the year 1000 Otto III opened the imperial tomb and found (it is said) the great emperor as he had been buried, sitting on a marble throne, robed and crowned as in life, the book of theGospels open on his knees. In some parts of the empire popular affection placed him among the saints. For political purposes and to please Frederick Barbarossa he was canonized (1165) by the antipope Paschal III, but this act was never ratified by insertion of his feast in the Roman Breviary or by the Universal Church; his cultus, however, was permitted at Aachen.

  • April 9, 2014 3:31 pm
    Anonymous:  Hi, I have a question about homosexuality (I know you get a lot of these - I'm sorry!) I know that feeling same-sex attraction itself is not sinful, but acting on it is. But what exactly qualifies acting on it? I'm female, and having fallen in love with both men and women, i can say that the love I feel is just as strong and true for both. If another girl and I are in love, is it sinful for us to spend time together or express our feelings as long as we do nothing sexual?

    This is really something you should talk to your priest or confessor about because he can advise you about particulars. 

    It’s definitely not sinful to spend time together, but is important to distinguish between simply that and “near occasions of sin.” If you are both strongly attracted to each other, and confess those feelings (especially if you do so repeatedly, as if you are in a romantic relationship) I would urge you to consider whether the amount and quality of the time you’re spending together is healthy or productive. (I would give the same advice to a heterosexuals who were worried that their relationship was leading them too close to sexual temptation.)

    In general, if you’re looking to mentally sort out how you feel and where your friendship could go, I would suggest reflecting prayerfully on what the Church teaches is the nature and purpose of romantic relationships (to lead to marriage and family) along with a theology of friendship. Exploring your love for your friend in a platonic way in light of the nature and purpose of friendship might be helpful. I would also recommend checking out Steve Gershom’s blog (try googling him.) He’s a celibate, gay Catholic man who writes about this and related issues.

    Again, I really recommend talking to someone who knows you, that you trust, about this; that would probably be the best way to get guidance. You’re in our prayers.

  • April 9, 2014 3:15 pm
    Anonymous:  This may sound a little strange, but I promise I'm 100% serious. It's something I've always wondered. In the morning, I say the Rosary as I'm getting ready for the day and when I have to go to the bathroom, I continue saying it. Is it disrespectful to pray while you're on the toilet?

    I don’t think so. As Christians, we should be working towards a continual uplifting of our hearts to God, continuous prayer. We should be able to commune with God anywhere and everywhere. It’s also important to try to set aside time where we’re doing nothing else but praying, but I doubt that God minds us praying while going about our daily business.

  • April 4, 2014 9:51 pm
    Anonymous:  Is it permissible to have a Catholic destination wedding? Or possibly a Catholic elopement? I am Catholic, my boyfriend is not, although he has interest and is pursuing RCIA. It is important to me to be married in the Church, however since childhood I have detested the entire rigmarole of the "event." The horrible amount of money spent on one day which could better be used say purchasing a house or paying off debt or giving to others. Also, my personality has yet to enjoy a wedding reception.

    It is possible to have a Catholic wedding, with or without mass, without it being a huge affair: a small wedding, or even just you, your priest, and your witnesses. You would need to speak to the parish you want to have the wedding at, which could be at a “destination” location.

    You might also consider alternatives to the typical reception; if you have just a few guests, your options are pretty limitless. Or you could forego it all together. That’s all up to you. The Church simply requires that you, as a Catholic, observe the norms for marriage: complete some marriage prep several months in advance and exchange vows in a church with a priest and witnesses (usually two; technically the job of the best man and maid or matron of honor.) 

    So you really have a lot of options; just talk with the parish you plan to get married at and see if they’ll work with you.

  • January 29, 2014 2:01 pm
    Anonymous:  I don't understand this point; what do you mean that women are declared sinless, cuz I'm pretty sure I'm not, lol! 5. Theologically speaking, the Church has a great respect for Mary that is absent in most other Protestant traditions. The Catholic Church recognizes a woman as the only sinless human being. (Except for Christ, but He was also God. Mary didn’t get that advantage.)

    Catholics believe that the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, alone of all human beings, was not affected by original sin and remained sinless throughout her life. Read more here. Excerpt: “The Immaculate Conception means that Mary … was conceived without original sin or its stain—that’s what “immaculate” means: without stain. The essence of original sin consists in the deprivation of sanctifying grace, and its stain is a corrupt nature. Mary was preserved from these defects by God’s grace; from the first instant of her existence she was in the state of sanctifying grace and was free from the corrupt nature original sin brings.”

  • January 20, 2014 10:23 am
    Anonymous:  To bless something (not a Sacramental blessing) Can the laity imitate the gesture of Blessing a Priest does at the end of the Mass?

    No. The laity should never imitate a priestly action because they do not have his authority. 

    However, the laity can can offer blessings sometimes. For example, parents can bless their children. There’s a good discussion of that, and the appropriate gestures, here. Check out the comments as well for clarifications.