Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Two New Doctors of the Church

At the Mass held on October 7, 2012 for the opening of the thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, Pope Benedict XVI proclaimed two new Doctors of the Church.

St. John of Avila

"At this point, let us pause for a moment to appreciate the two saints who today have been added to the elect number of Doctors of the Church. Saint John of Avila lived in the sixteenth century. A profound expert on the sacred Scriptures, he was gifted with an ardent missionary spirit. He knew how to penetrate in a uniquely profound way the mysteries of the redemption worked by Christ for humanity. A man of God, he united constant prayer to apostolic action. He dedicated himself to preaching and to the more frequent practice of the sacraments, concentrating his commitment on improving the formation of candidates for the priesthood, of religious and of lay people, with a view to a fruitful reform of the Church."
--Pope Benedict XVI










St. Hildegard of Bingen
"Saint Hildegard of Bingen, an important female figure of the twelfth century, offered her precious contribution to the growth of the Church of her time, employing the gifts received from God and showing herself to be a woman of brilliant intelligence, deep sensitivity and recognized spiritual authority. The Lord granted her a prophetic spirit and fervent capacity to discern the signs of the times. Hildegard nurtured an evident love of creation, and was learned in medicine, poetry and music. Above all, she maintained a great and faithful love for Christ and his Church."
--Pope Benedict XVI


In the Church's wisdom, the Pope has named two new "Doctors of the Church."  Men, and women, proclaimed "Doctor of the Church" must meet the following three criteria:  eminent learning, a high degree of sanctity, and proclamation by the Church.  This third condition must be by declaration of the Supreme Pontiff or by a general council (Benedict XVI).   "The decree is issued by the Congregation of Sacred Rites and approved by the pope, after a careful examination, if necessary, of the saint's writings. It is not in any way an ex cathedra decision, nor does it even amount to a declaration that no error is to be found in the teaching of the Doctor. It is, indeed, well known that the very greatest of them are not wholly immune from error." --Catholic Encyclopedia

For a bit of history...
The first "Doctors", called the "Four Doctors", proclaimed were:  St. Gregory the Great, St. Ambrose, St. Augustine, and St. Jerome.

Three Eastern Church (later called Orthodox) Doctors were given the title at the time of Leo VI, the wise:   St. John Chrysostom, St. Basil, and St. Gregory Nazianzen.  They were also called the "Three Hierarchs" in the East.  A fourth Eastern Doctor was added later to make the Eastern and Western Doctors even in number:  St. Athanasius.

The Four Doctors (each of the Western and Eastern Catholic Church) were not added to until the 16th century:  St. Thomas Aquinas and then later St. Bonaventure.

Then the following were added in the 18th century:  St. Anselm, St. Isidore, St. Peter Chrysologus, and St. Leo I.

Then, added in the 19th century were:  St. Peter Damian, St. BernardSt. Hilary, St. Alphonsus Liguori, St. Francis de Sales, St. Cyril of Alexandria, St. Cyril of JerusalemSt. John Damascene, and the Venerable Bede.

The 20th century gave us these:  St. Ephraem, St. Peter Canisius, St. John of the Cross, St. Robert Bellarmine, St. Albertus MagnusSt. Anthony of Padua, St. Lawrence of BrindisiSt. Teresa of Avila, St. Catherine of Siena, and St. Thérèse of Lisieux.

As of October 7, 2012, there are thirty-five "Doctors of the Church," of which four are women.

Friday, October 19, 2012

New Look for ACTS Website!

After many years of the same look, I have changed the homepage of ACTS (The American Catholic Truth Society) to a fresh new layout!  I've added some direct links to the #CathApol Chatroom and CathApol Blog too, as well as the Catholic Debate Forum.  Check it out!  Feel free to comment here on what you think of it.

The American Catholic Truth Society

Homosexual Unions are not Marriages




Why should society sanction marriage at all?  Isn’t it the couple’s business and nobody else’s?

In fact, it is in society’s interest to recognize marriage, and that is why societies all over the world, throughout history, have done so.  The reason why is obvious:  In order to survive and prosper, societies need new members.

They constantly lose members – whether through illness, accident,  crime or simply old age.  One way or another, at some point, every single member of a society will die, and if these deaths are not offset by births, then the society will die.

Marriage, by its very nature, is the institution that brings new human beings into the world and raises them to be productive members of society.  If a society wants to survive and prosper, then, it is in its interest to recognize and help marriage in a special way.

Where marriage and families are threatened, society is threatened, and where marriage and families are strong, society is strong.

Society should not treat homosexual unions as marriages because they are not marriages.  Such unions are incapable, by their very nature, of producing children.  The parties do not complement each other the way that a man and a woman do.  A homosexual union is a fundamentally different thing than a marriage.  It isn’t a question of whether society should allow homosexual marriage.  It can’t.  No one can.

[…]

Since before recorded history, men and women have united to care for each other and to bring up children.  That happens in every culture, no matter where in the world.  In fact, a culture would die without those unions of men and women.  Marriage is thus a human universal, an institution that is built into human nature and that manifests itself in all societies.

But procreation is not the only issue.  Men and women are different in ways that go beyond reproduction.  Both physically and psychologically, they complement and complete each other in a manner that two people of the same sex do not.  These differences play an important role in raising children.  By setting examples of true fatherhood and motherhood, a husband and wife provide the kind of environment that helps children grow and develop properly.

You see, society is not denying marriage to homosexuals.  Instead, homosexual activists are asking society to redefine marriage so that the term applies to things that are not, in fact, marriages.

Even apart from procreation and raising children – as in the case of marriages which do not result in children due to infertility – the physical and psychological differences between men and women enable them to unite and thrive in a way two people of the same sex cannot.

[…]

When a country bases its policies on false premises, society suffers.  It does not matter what the policy is.  If its army misjudges the enemy’s position, it may suffer a crushing defeat.  If its economic policy is out of touch with reality, hard times will result.  And if a state becomes delusional about the nature of men and women, disaster is bound to follow.

This would be a further blow to marriage – beyond those it has already suffered from easy divorce, out-of-wedlock births, abortion, and contraception.

Any children being brought up by homosexual “parents” would also be harmed.  Whether the children were acquired by adoption, surrogacy, or


through a previous, heterosexual union, they would be raised with a false view of human sexuality and a defective set of moral values, as well as being denied the example of proper fatherhood and motherhood.

Redefining marriage to include same-sex couples would lead to even further distortions of marriage.  If two people of the same sex can be married then there is no logical reason why other unions are not possible as well.  Polygamous unions with multiple spouses, of any combination of sexes, could follow.  Adult-child unions would be up for discussion.

There is the related question of nonsexual unions:  elderly friends, college roommates, etc.  If two people of the same sex can marry to obtain the legal benefits of marriage, then on what grounds would these people be denied them?

Applying the term “marriage” to unions other than those of a man and a woman ends up robbing marriage of meaning.  The logical end point of marriage redefinition would have to be recognizing unions of infinitely variable combinations of persons as marriages – otherwise you would be discriminating against some combinations.  When that happens, marriage – having become whatever you want it to be – has lost all meaning.

 

Taken from the booklet: 
Catholic Answers, Why Homosexual Unions Are Not Marriages, 27 pp., 2012

[Which can be bought for a dollar at www.catholic.com/voteyourfaith]

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

What Is Celibacy?




What is Celibacy?
Celibacy can be a choice in life, or a condition imposed by circumstances.
While attending a Marriage Weekend, Frank and his wife Ann listened to the instructor declare, “It is essential that husbands and wives know the things that are important to each other.”
He then addressed the men.
“Can you name and describe your wife's favorite flower?”
Frank leaned over, touched Ann’s arm gently, and whispered,
“Gold Medal All-Purpose, isn't it?”
And thus began Frank's life of celibacy.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Who Cleanses Us From Sin? (Petillo Part 1)

Petillo, in another article posted Thursday, October 11, 2012, goes on about the cleansing from sin and, though he does not mention the name, "Purgatory" as well.  Whereas his article is relatively short and a comment response on his blog would have been sufficient - he does not allow for comments on his blog.  I'll discuss that in another posting myself. 
The Bible teaches that our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ cleanses us from all defilement, sin, iniquity and transgression. (Hebrews 1:3 and Colossians 1:22).  Jesus has cleansed us from our sins and sat down at the right hand of God the Father.  Jesus presents us holy, free of reproach and blame. 
Yes, and it is Jesus who cleanses us through the "fires of Purgatory" too.  It is still Jesus who presents us to the Father, now "free of reproach and blame."
However, Rome teaches that if we die in the state of grace and friendship we will undergo purification to achieve holiness and enter the joy of heaven (CCC 1030).  
Yes, and we know that nothing unclean can enter heaven - so when we have sins which we have not confessed - these must be cleansed before we are allowed "in."
Are we walking in line with Jesus?  
If we are walking with the Church He founded and seeking forgiveness from the successors of the men whom He empowered to forgive or retain sins - then yes.  John 20:23 - "If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.” (NIV)
Do we repent of all our sins when we first commit them? 
When we first commit them?  While I think that is possible, I would say it is not typical.  Repentance tends to come after reflection - though I could see it happening as the sin is committed.  Repentance is one thing, forgiveness is another.  God provided us with the means of getting our sins forgiven through men whom He empowered to do so.
Do we live holy lives so we will not have to make the excuse of a purification after we die? 
We strive to live holy lives because we wish to please our Lord, our Savior and God.  If it is judged that we must be further purified before entering Heaven, then sobeit - God is sovereign.
Do we know that Jesus cleansed us from all of sin now and how we can live triumphantly and not some purification after we die? 
If there were no such thing as purification after death, or sins being forgiven in the next life, then why does Scripture make mention of such things?
May we contemplate what is being said.  Amen.
Yes!  May we?  I hope we do and I hope we objectively look at what has been said and consider the following too...
From the "Scripture Catholic" website:
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. 
May God richly bless those who have been led here.

In JMJ,
Scott<<<

Proof of the Resurrection



Using the very early Christian writings as reliably historical records only and not inspired texts helps us to show that our belief in Christianity is not based solely on a book by on a man, a God-man Jesus Christ our Lord and Savior.

There is evidence that Jesus’ disciples had real experiences with one whom they believed was the risen Christ.  We find in 1 Cor 15:3-8 an ancient creed spoken by Paul to the Corinthians>

For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born. (1 Cor 15:3-8 NIV)

This creed is generally agreed that Paul received it from Peter and James between 3 and 5 years after the Crucifixion.  Since they are the ones who gave the creed to Paul, Jewish Scholar Pinchahs Lapide says this creed “may be considered the statement of eyewitnesses.”  Here’s something more to consider that is often overlooked from this passage.  The large number of witnesses of Christ after that resurrection morning, over 500 people is another statement worthy of consideration.  Paul reminds them that the majority of those people were still alive and could be questioned.  He says in effect, ‘If you don’t believe me, you can ask then.’  Such a statement in an admittedly genuine letter written within thirty years of the event is almost as strong evidence as one could hope to get for something that happened nearly two thousand years ago.

Just because the disciples think they say Jesus though, doesn’t mean they really did.  There are three possible alternatives.

1.     They were lying

2.     They hallucinated

3.     They really saw the risen Christ

Which of these is most likely?  Were they lying?  If they were lying, it meant that the disciples knew that Jesus had not really risen, that they made the story about the resurrection.  But then why did 10 of the disciples willingly die as martyrs for their belief in the resurrection?  People often die for a lie they believe is true.  But if Jesus did not rise, the disciples knew it.  They wouldn’t have just been dying for a lie they mistakenly believed was true.  The disciples were willing to give up their lives for a lie they KNEW was a lie.  Ten people will not all give up their lives for something they know to be a lie.

To suggest that the disciples were lying is considered today by all prominent New Testament scholars as an absurd theory.  We can see why almost all scholars today admit that, if nothing else, the disciples at least believed that Jesus appeared to them.  But to believe something does not necessarily make it true.  Maybe the disciples were wrong and had been confused by an hallucination.

The theory of mass hallucinations is another attempt at explaining the claims of the appearances of Jesus after the resurrection.  The disciples record eating and drinking with Jesus, as well as touching him.  This cannot be done with hallucinations.  Hallucinations are highly individual, and not group projections.  And what about Paul’s conversion?  Was Paul, the persecutor of Christians, so hoping to see the resurrected Jesus that his mind invented an appearance as well?

Since the disciples could not have been lying or hallucinating, we have only one possible explanation left:  the disciples believed that they had seen the risen Jesus because they really had seen the risen Jesus.  So the resurrection appearances demonstrate the reality of the resurrection.  And the proof in the claim that Jesus Called Himself God (John 8:58 referencing Exo 3:14) is found in the Resurrection.  He is Risen!

Nathan

Friday, October 12, 2012

The Cross Is The Center of the Catholic Faith


A person whom I have debated in IRC before who goes by the nickname of "Col_2_6" or more recently "Jn_20_31" wrote the following article.  His name is Michael Petillo, and I will respond to this article and see where it leads...
Are There True Believers in the Church of Rome?
I believe there are true Christians in Roman Catholicism.  I believe they have the true grace of God that St. Paul spoke of in his writings.  They repent and believe the gospel on a regular basis.  I believe the same is true for the Greek Orthodox Christians. 
These are nice sentiments... but...
I think these people are saved in spite of their Church's teachings and because of the biblical gospel.  No one was ever saved apart from the biblical gospel.  All of us have the personal responsibility to repent of our sins and embrace the gospel of forgiveness.  However, the Cross is where Jesus died for our sinful selves.   He took complete and full responsibility for our sins at the Cross. 
And Michael, Catholicism does not deny this.
The Cross is the center of the Christian faith.  It is where all hope lies and we must trust Jesus who died there.  There is no hope apart from the Cross.  The centrality of the Cross is key to living an honorable Christian life.  We must repent through the Cross of Christ alone. 
The fact you seem to be lacking is that the Eucharist, which is central to the One, True Faith, is all about the Cross of Christ.  The Eucharist IS that Sacrifice.
We are to add nothing to it.  The Cross is all-sufficient in how we are right with God.  
Jesus gave us the Eucharist.  Jesus proclaimed the Eucharist IS his body and blood.  That which is offered on Catholic altars is that SAME Sacrifice, in unbloody manner.
Next, Mr. Petillo uses a common tactic of those who have weak apologetics - he changes the subject.
However, Rome says that Mary suffered redemptively at the Cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.  I think it is biblical to say she indeed suffered but to say she suffered redemptively is a far cry from the biblical picture of Christ suffering at the Cross.  I think the moment we add something to the Cross we make it a false religion.  Amen
Redemptive suffering is that which virtually all saints go through.  Such suffering brings one closer to Christ - in the Blessed Virgin's case, it is precisely her suffering at the Cross which points each of us to the Cross.  To have her understanding and compassion for what our Lord endured far surpasses anything we could even imagine.  So, even while Mr. Petillo attempts to distract the discussion of the Cross to the Blessed Virgin, in reality - she too still points us to His Cross.

.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Catholic Voter's Guide

Catholic Voter’s Guide
per·son
1. a human being, whether man, woman, or child: The table seats four persons.
2. a human being as distinguished from an animal or a thing.
3. Sociology . an individual human being, especially with reference to his or her social relationships and behavioral patterns as conditioned by the culture.
4. Philosophy . a self-conscious or rational being.
5. the actual self or individual personality of a human being: You ought not to generalize, but to consider the person you are dealing with.
Source: www.dictionary.com
_________________________________________________________


In trying to figure out who to vote for in any election it’s important to know where each candidate stands on the issues of the day. What they plan to do to help invigorate the economy, universal healthcare and what needs to be done about ongoing wars.
All of these, as well as others, are very important but to determine who is the one who better represents the people of the United States we need to figure out which subject has priority over all others. If both candidates agree about what we believe is most important then we are to look at the subject which has second highest priority and so on.

As concerned citizen, we are obligated to elect individuals who will look out for the lives of his constituents. Not only on the day-to-day issues but on life issues itself. Many individuals lose their lives in the fight against our country’s enemies and many also lose their lives when they are forcibly taken out from their mothers’ womb.

Both categories are important since both involve the loss of life but which one should be our priority when two candidates disagree on both issues? How are we to decide who to vote for when one candidate will fight to end a US war but will work to help facilitate easier abortions for all women while the other seems to want to continue armed hostilities abroad but will work to stop most abortions from being performed?

A couple of things to consider when deciding which issue should have priority. Although you may not agree with the necessity of troops in foreign wars, they at least have the means to defend themselves. They can either take cover, retreat or even shoot back. The baby in the womb can do none of those, and that’s why they are considered the most defenseless. A secondary thing to remember is the sheer number of casualties involved. For the entire Afghan war there is a total of over 3,000 deaths as of Sept 2012[1]. In fact, the sum of all U.S. soldier deaths from all wars in U.S. history (including the Civil War, World War I and II as well as the Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan wars) we have a total of a little over 1.3 million deaths[2].

A single death from an unnecessary war is one too many and if you are against war in general then one death during war is one too many. But if one compares the number of deaths from ALL U.S wars put together this number comes to about equal the amount of deaths performed by abortions in an average year! In fact, the once special research affiliate of the abortion chain Planned Parenthood gives us national statistics that show an annual abortion rate of 1.2 million abortions[3].
The total number of deaths by abortions in the U.S. alone since its legalization is now over 54 million. 54 million living human beings, persons, allowed to be killed simply because they were unborn at the time. Any right to choose, or any other right at all is superseded by the right to life since what’s the point of having all other rights if one doesn’t have life?

I’ll leave it to you to figure out what kind of a free democracy we really are when we allow for the killing of the most defenseless among us, of those not yet born. What good is freedom if some aren’t even allowed to live? Where is their choice? Choose wisely, vote in support of the possibility of choosing for all human beings especially in choosing life.



[1] http://icasualties.org/OEF/ByMonth.aspx

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_military_casualties_of_war#cite_note-defense.gov-83

[3] http://www.nrlc.org/Factsheets/FS03_AbortionInTheUS.pdf

Friday, October 05, 2012

Forgiveness of Sins

Forgiveness of Sins
We find in 1 John 1:9 what we find throughout the Scriptures, that God does indeed forgive us our sins.  John tells us that “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all iniquity.”  Only God has the power to forgive sins but we Catholics believe that He can exercise this power through men.

But what does Scripture say about Confession?  First, its important for you all to realize that this belief in the forgiving of sins by priests is something that has been believed before the Scriptures were ever written.  Makes sense since they wouldn’t be able to write about something unless they already believed it.  This Tradition has been passed down to us and part of it was written down in an inspired fashion and found its way in our Bible.

In the parable of the prodigal son, the son asks for his share of the inheritance from the father in effect saying that his father’s dead to him.  He leaves and squanders everything and finally realizes what he’s done and decides to return home.  The father, seeing his son in the distance, runs out to meet him with a hug and a kiss.  Through one loving gesture, the father forgives the son – and the son hasn’t even made his confession yet!  When he does, it seems the father hardly listens.  The confession is not the most important thing here; the important thing is that his son has returned home. 

Let’s have a look at the story of the paralytic man that was brought down from the ceiling because the crowds were blocking their access to Jesus as found in Gospels of Mark and Matthew.  In the Gospel of Mark the story begins in the second chapter and as his friends brought the man down from the ceiling and “[w]hen Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralyzed man, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” (verse 5)  But the scribes sitting there were outraged at what he spoke saying: “It is blasphemy!  Who can forgive sins but God alone?  Those who believe that no man can forgive sins, that only God can do that, are on the same camp as the scribes in this story.  Generally speaking, to be in agreement with the scribes of the time of Jesus is not a very good place to be.  Well, Jesus answered their objections with: “that you may know that the Son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins” – he turned to the paralytic and said – “Rise, take up your mat and go home.”  In verse 8, chapter 9 of Matthew’s version, we see the scribes reaction to this revelation.  When they saw this miracle “they were filled with awe; and they praised God, who had given such authority to men.”

Notice this last word.  Matthew didn’t write that the authority to forgive sins was given to a man, he said it was given to MEN, plural.  So now the question is do all of us have this authority to forgive the sins of others whom we may not even know as Jesus could do?  James clearly points to the fact that only some men were given this authority because he writes to go get the elders so that their sins may be forgiven (James 5:14-15).  But who received this authority?

To answer this question all we need do is go to John 20:21.  These events are happening on the day of our Lord’s rising from the dead.  All of His followers left and scattered.  His disciples, the twelve locked themselves into a room for fear of the Jews.  Jesus then appeared to the apostles in that locked room and said: “Peace be with you.  As the Father has sent me, even so I send you.”  When He said this he “breathed on them” and said “Receive the Holy Spirit.  If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” (verses 21 and 22)

There are a few things to consider in these short passages.  First we need to remember that only the apostles were in that room on the first day of His Resurrection (except for Thomas and Judas who weren’t there). 

Second, Jesus said that He sends these apostles in the same way that He, Himself was sent.  Going back to the story of the healing of the paralytic in Matt 9 verse 6, we know that “the son of man has authority on earth to forgive sins”.  Therefore Jesus sends the apostles with that same authority, the authority on earth to forgive sins.  And since He also has the authority to give this authority to others, then so do the apostles who then hand this authority to their successors all the way down through history to today’s bishops and priests.

Third, Jesus tells them that if they forgive the sins of any they are forgiven BUT He also tells them that if they retain the sins of any they are retained.  For the apostle to know which sins to forgive and especially which sins to retain they need to have some kind of knowledge of them therefore we see the need to CONFESS our sins to these apostles or successors.

To recap, there are three main reasons why we ought to go to Confession for the forgiveness of our sins.  Firstly because it has been set up this way since the very early years of our children in the faith, the Jews (see Leviticus 5:5-6 for an example of this).  Jesus taught this same idea of the forgiveness of sins through those He appointed and gave such necessary authority that the Jewish people never had.

Secondly, both John and James mention the need to confess our sins to each other.  These men tell us to confess our sins to each other but more specifically James says that certain men have this power to forgive the sins of others (James 5:14-15). 

Lastly, we know that Jesus has the authority on earth to forgive sins (Matt 9:6) and that Jesus sends His apostles with the authority to forgive sins as well as the authority to pass this authority on to their successors all the way through history to our bishops and priests of today.

So true sacramental forgiveness of sins is a fulfillment of the sacrificial system of the forgiveness of sins of the Jewish people.  It is also the power of God working through men (bishops and priests) and is instituted by Jesus Himself when He breathed on them and passed on this power through apostolic succession to the bishops and priests of today.

If you were dying of cancer and you prayed everyday for God to heal you, God could easily heal you instantly.  But before that happens you will no doubt constantly visit the doctor to help you.  Now say you are healed by the doctors help.  It’s not the doctor that healed you, it was God.  The doctor was just the intermediary for God.  God used the doctor to perform His miracle.  This is the same way that God uses a priest to administer the sacrament of confession to us.  Sin is like a cancer and we need to go to the doctor (priest) to be healed.  So why go to confession?  Because Jesus Christ our Lord and God set it up this way.  Who are we to say that we don’t need to go?


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Change We Can Believe In

I posted this once before, but didn't go with the political spin on it - so I thought I'd post it again and let your mind go on with what it means - both spiritually and politically.  Of course, the saying is based on a political slogan of the 2008 Obama campaign - but think about it.  Comment if you wish....