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DOMINUS IESUS

DOMINUS IESUS
CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH DECLARATION ON THE UNICITY AND SALVIFIC UNIVERSALITY OF JESUS CHRIST AND THE CHURCH
INTRODUCTION
1. The Lord Jesus, before ascending into heaven, commanded his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the whole world and to baptize all nations: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; he who does not believe will be condemned” (Mk 16:15-16); “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the world” (Mt 28:18-20; cf. Lk 24:46-48; Jn 17:18,20,21; Acts 1:8).
The Church's universal mission is born from the command of Jesus Christ and is fulfilled in the course of the centuries in the proclamation of the mystery of God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and the mystery of the incarnation of the Son, as saving event for all humanity. The fundamental contents of the profession of the Christian faith are expressed thus: “I believe in one God, the Father, Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen. I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father. With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified. He has spoken through the prophets. I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come”.1
2. In the course of the centuries, the Church has proclaimed and witnessed with fidelity to the Gospel of Jesus. At the close of the second millennium, however, this mission is still far from complete.2 For that reason, Saint Paul's words are now more relevant than ever: “Preaching the Gospel is not a reason for me to boast; it is a necessity laid on me: woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!” (1 Cor 9:16). This explains the Magisterium's particular attention to giving reasons for and supporting the evangelizing mission of the Church, above all in connection with the religious traditions of the world.3
In considering the values which these religions witness to and offer humanity, with an open and positive approach, the Second Vatican Council's Declaration on the relation of the Church to non-Christian religions states: “The Catholic Church rejects nothing of what is true and holy in these religions. She has a high regard for the manner of life and conduct, the precepts and teachings, which, although differing in many ways from her own teaching, nonetheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men”.4 Continuing in this line of thought, the Church's proclamation of Jesus Christ, “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), today also makes use of the practice of inter-religious dialogue. Such dialogue certainly does not replace, but rather accompanies the missio ad gentes, directed toward that “mystery of unity”, from which “it follows that all men and women who are saved share, though differently, in the same mystery of salvation in Jesus Christ through his Spirit”.5 Inter-religious dialogue, which is part of the Church's evangelizing mission,6 requires an attitude of understanding and a relationship of mutual knowledge and reciprocal enrichment, in obedience to the truth and with respect for freedom.7
3. In the practice of dialogue between the Christian faith and other religious traditions, as well as in seeking to understand its theoretical basis more deeply, new questions arise that need to be addressed through pursuing new paths of research, advancing proposals, and suggesting ways of acting that call for attentive discernment. In this task, the present Declaration seeks to recall to Bishops, theologians, and all the Catholic faithful, certain indispensable elements of Christian doctrine, which may help theological reflection in developing solutions consistent with the contents of the faith and responsive to the pressing needs of contemporary culture.
The expository language of the Declaration corresponds to its purpose, which is not to treat in a systematic manner the question of the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ and the Church, nor to propose solutions to questions that are matters of free theological debate, but rather to set forth again the doctrine of the Catholic faith in these areas, pointing out some fundamental questions that remain open to further development, and refuting specific positions that are erroneous or ambiguous. For this reason, the Declaration takes up what has been taught in previous Magisterial documents, in order to reiterate certain truths that are part of the Church's faith.
4. The Church's constant missionary proclamation is endangered today by relativistic theories which seek to justify religious pluralism, not only de facto but also de iure (or in principle). As a consequence, it is held that certain truths have been superseded; for example, the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, the nature of Christian faith as compared with that of belief in other religions, the inspired nature of the books of Sacred Scripture, the personal unity between the Eternal Word and Jesus of Nazareth, the unity of the economy of the Incarnate Word and the Holy Spirit, the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ, the universal salvific mediation of the Church, the inseparability — while recognizing the distinction — of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, and the Church, and the subsistence of the one Church of Christ in the Catholic Church.
The roots of these problems are to be found in certain presuppositions of both a philosophical and theological nature, which hinder the understanding and acceptance of the revealed truth. Some of these can be mentioned: the conviction of the elusiveness and inexpressibility of divine truth, even by Christian revelation; relativistic attitudes toward truth itself, according to which what is true for some would not be true for others; the radical opposition posited between the logical mentality of the West and the symbolic mentality of the East; the subjectivism which, by regarding reason as the only source of knowledge, becomes incapable of raising its “gaze to the heights, not daring to rise to the truth of being”;8 the difficulty in understanding and accepting the presence of definitive and eschatological events in history; the metaphysical emptying of the historical incarnation of the Eternal Logos, reduced to a mere appearing of God in history; the eclecticism of those who, in theological research, uncritically absorb ideas from a variety of philosophical and theological contexts without regard for consistency, systematic connection, or compatibility with Christian truth; finally, the tendency to read and to interpret Sacred Scripture outside the Tradition and Magisterium of the Church.
On the basis of such presuppositions, which may evince different nuances, certain theological proposals are developed — at times presented as assertions, and at times as hypotheses — in which Christian revelation and the mystery of Jesus Christ and the Church lose their character of absolute truth and salvific universality, or at least shadows of doubt and uncertainty are cast upon them.
I. THE FULLNESS AND DEFINITIVENESS
OF THE REVELATION OF JESUS CHRIST
5. As a remedy for this relativistic mentality, which is becoming ever more common, it is necessary above all to reassert the definitive and complete character of the revelation of Jesus Christ. In fact, it must be firmly believed that, in the mystery of Jesus Christ, the Incarnate Son of God, who is “the way, the truth, and the life” (Jn 14:6), the full revelation of divine truth is given: “No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him” (Mt 11:27); “No one has ever seen God; God the only Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, has revealed him” (Jn 1:18); “For in Christ the whole fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9-10).
Faithful to God's word, the Second Vatican Council teaches: “By this revelation then, the deepest truth about God and the salvation of man shines forth in Christ, who is at the same time the mediator and the fullness of all revelation”.9 Furthermore, “Jesus Christ, therefore, the Word made flesh, sent ‘as a man to men', ‘speaks the words of God' (Jn 3:34), and completes the work of salvation which his Father gave him to do (cf. Jn 5:36; 17:4). To see Jesus is to see his Father (cf. Jn 14:9). For this reason, Jesus perfected revelation by fulfilling it through his whole work of making himself present and manifesting himself: through his words and deeds, his signs and wonders, but especially through his death and glorious resurrection from the dead and finally with the sending of the Spirit of truth, he completed and perfected revelation and confirmed it with divine testimony... The Christian dispensation, therefore, as the new and definitive covenant, will never pass away, and we now await no further new public revelation before the glorious manifestation of our Lord Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Tim 6:14 and Tit 2:13)”.10
Thus, the Encyclical Redemptoris missio calls the Church once again to the task of announcing the Gospel as the fullness of truth: “In this definitive Word of his revelation, God has made himself known in the fullest possible way. He has revealed to mankind who he is. This definitive self-revelation of God is the fundamental reason why the Church is missionary by her very nature. She cannot do other than proclaim the Gospel, that is, the fullness of the truth which God has enabled us to know about himself”.11 Only the revelation of Jesus Christ, therefore, “introduces into our history a universal and ultimate truth which stirs the human mind to ceaseless effort”.12
6. Therefore, the theory of the limited, incomplete, or imperfect character of the revelation of Jesus Christ, which would be complementary to that found in other religions, is contrary to the Church's faith. Such a position would claim to be based on the notion that the truth about God cannot be grasped and manifested in its globality and completeness by any historical religion, neither by Christianity nor by Jesus Christ.
Such a position is in radical contradiction with the foregoing statements of Catholic faith according to which the full and complete revelation of the salvific mystery of God is given in Jesus Christ. Therefore, the words, deeds, and entire historical event of Jesus, though limited as human realities, have nevertheless the divine Person of the Incarnate Word, “true God and true man”13 as their subject. For this reason, they possess in themselves the definitiveness and completeness of the revelation of God's salvific ways, even if the depth of the divine mystery in itself remains transcendent and inexhaustible. The truth about God is not abolished or reduced because it is spoken in human language; rather, it is unique, full, and complete, because he who speaks and acts is the Incarnate Son of God. Thus, faith requires us to profess that the Word made flesh, in his entire mystery, who moves from incarnation to glorification, is the source, participated but real, as well as the fulfilment of every salvific revelation of God to humanity,14 and that the Holy Spirit, who is Christ's Spirit, will teach this “entire truth” (Jn 16:13) to the Apostles and, through them, to the whole Church.
7. The proper response to God's revelation is “the obedience of faith (Rom 16:26; cf. Rom 1:5; 2 Cor 10:5-6) by which man freely entrusts his entire self to God, offering ‘the full submission of intellect and will to God who reveals' and freely assenting to the revelation given by him”.15 Faith is a gift of grace: “in order to have faith, the grace of God must come first and give assistance; there must also be the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and gives ‘to everyone joy and ease in assenting to and believing in the truth'”.16
The obedience of faith implies acceptance of the truth of Christ's revelation, guaranteed by God, who is Truth itself:17 “Faith is first of all a personal adherence of man to God. At the same time, and inseparably, it is a free assent to the whole truth that God has revealed”.18 Faith, therefore, as “a gift of God” and as “a supernatural virtue infused by him”,19 involves a dual adherence: to God who reveals and to the truth which he reveals, out of the trust which one has in him who speaks. Thus, “we must believe in no one but God: the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”.20
For this reason, the distinction between theological faith and belief in the other religions, must be firmly held. If faith is the acceptance in grace of revealed truth, which “makes it possible to penetrate the mystery in a way that allows us to understand it coherently”,21 then belief, in the other religions, is that sum of experience and thought that constitutes the human treasury of wisdom and religious aspiration, which man in his search for truth has conceived and acted upon in his relationship to God and the Absolute.22
This distinction is not always borne in mind in current theological reflection. Thus, theological faith (the acceptance of the truth revealed by the One and Triune God) is often identified with belief in other religions, which is religious experience still in search of the absolute truth and still lacking assent to God who reveals himself. This is one of the reasons why the differences between Christianity and the other religions tend to be reduced at times to the point of disappearance.
8. The hypothesis of the inspired value of the sacred writings of other religions is also put forward. Certainly, it must be recognized that there are some elements in these texts which may be de facto instruments by which countless people throughout the centuries have been and still are able today to nourish and maintain their life-relationship with God. Thus, as noted above, the Second Vatican Council, in considering the customs, precepts, and teachings of the other religions, teaches that “although differing in many ways from her own teaching, these nevertheless often reflect a ray of that truth which enlightens all men”.23
The Church's tradition, however, reserves the designation of inspired texts to the canonical books of the Old and New Testaments, since these are inspired by the Holy Spirit.24 Taking up this tradition, the Dogmatic Constitution on Divine Revelation of the Second Vatican Council states: “For Holy Mother Church, relying on the faith of the apostolic age, accepts as sacred and canonical the books of the Old and New Testaments, whole and entire, with all their parts, on the grounds that, written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (cf. Jn 20:31; 2 Tim 3:16; 2 Pet 1:19-21; 3:15-16), they have God as their author, and have been handed on as such to the Church herself”.25 These books “firmly, faithfully, and without error, teach that truth which God, for the sake of our salvation, wished to see confided to the Sacred Scriptures”.26
Nevertheless, God, who desires to call all peoples to himself in Christ and to communicate to them the fullness of his revelation and love, “does not fail to make himself present in many ways, not only to individuals, but also to entire peoples through their spiritual riches, of which their religions are the main and essential expression even when they contain ‘gaps, insufficiencies and errors'”.27 Therefore, the sacred books of other religions, which in actual fact direct and nourish the existence of their followers, receive from the mystery of Christ the elements of goodness and grace which they contain.
II. THE INCARNATE LOGOS
AND THE HOLY SPIRIT IN THE WORK OF SALVATION
9. In contemporary theological reflection there often emerges an approach to Jesus of Nazareth that considers him a particular, finite, historical figure, who reveals the divine not in an exclusive way, but in a way complementary with other revelatory and salvific figures. The Infinite, the Absolute, the Ultimate Mystery of God would thus manifest itself to humanity in many ways and in many historical figures: Jesus of Nazareth would be one of these. More concretely, for some, Jesus would be one of the many faces which the Logos has assumed in the course of time to communicate with humanity in a salvific way.
Furthermore, to justify the universality of Christian salvation as well as the fact of religious pluralism, it has been proposed that there is an economy of the eternal Word that is valid also outside the Church and is unrelated to her, in addition to an economy of the incarnate Word. The first would have a greater universal value than the second, which is limited to Christians, though God's presence would be more full in the second.
10. These theses are in profound conflict with the Christian faith. The doctrine of faith must be firmly believed which proclaims that Jesus of Nazareth, son of Mary, and he alone, is the Son and the Word of the Father. The Word, which “was in the beginning with God” (Jn 1:2) is the same as he who “became flesh” (Jn 1:14). In Jesus, “the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16), “the whole fullness of divinity dwells in bodily form” (Col 2:9). He is the “only begotten Son of the Father, who is in the bosom of the Father” (Jn 1:18), his “beloved Son, in whom we have redemption... In him the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him, God was pleased to reconcile all things to himself, on earth and in the heavens, making peace by the blood of his Cross” (Col 1:13-14; 19-20).
Faithful to Sacred Scripture and refuting erroneous and reductive interpretations, the First Council of Nicaea solemnly defined its faith in: “Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the only begotten generated from the Father, that is, from the being of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, one in being with the Father, through whom all things were made, those in heaven and those on earth. For us men and for our salvation, he came down and became incarnate, was made man, suffered, and rose again on the third day. He ascended to the heavens and shall come again to judge the living and the dead”.28 Following the teachings of the Fathers of the Church, the Council of Chalcedon also professed: “the one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man..., one in being with the Father according to the divinity and one in being with us according to the humanity..., begotten of the Father before the ages according to the divinity and, in these last days, for us and our salvation, of Mary, the Virgin Mother of God, according to the humanity”.29
For this reason, the Second Vatican Council states that Christ “the new Adam...‘image of the invisible God' (Col 1:15) is himself the perfect man who has restored that likeness to God in the children of Adam which had been disfigured since the first sin... As an innocent lamb he merited life for us by his blood which he freely shed. In him God reconciled us to himself and to one another, freeing us from the bondage of the devil and of sin, so that each one of us could say with the apostle: the Son of God ‘loved me and gave himself up for me' (Gal 2:20)”.30
In this regard, John Paul II has explicitly declared: “To introduce any sort of separation between the Word and Jesus Christ is contrary to the Christian faith... Jesus is the Incarnate Word — a single and indivisible person... Christ is none other than Jesus of Nazareth; he is the Word of God made man for the salvation of all... In the process of discovering and appreciating the manifold gifts — especially the spiritual treasures — that God has bestowed on every people, we cannot separate those gifts from Jesus Christ, who is at the centre of God's plan of salvation”.31
It is likewise contrary to the Catholic faith to introduce a separation between the salvific action of the Word as such and that of the Word made man. With the incarnation, all the salvific actions of the Word of God are always done in unity with the human nature that he has assumed for the salvation of all people. The one subject which operates in the two natures, human and divine, is the single person of the Word.32
Therefore, the theory which would attribute, after the incarnation as well, a salvific activity to the Logos as such in his divinity, exercised “in addition to” or “beyond” the humanity of Christ, is not compatible with the Catholic faith.33
11. Similarly, the doctrine of faith regarding the unicity of the salvific economy willed by the One and Triune God must be firmly believed, at the source and centre of which is the mystery of the incarnation of the Word, mediator of divine grace on the level of creation and redemption (cf. Col 1:15-20), he who recapitulates all things (cf. Eph 1:10), he “whom God has made our wisdom, our righteousness, and sanctification and redemption” (1 Cor 1:30). In fact, the mystery of Christ has its own intrinsic unity, which extends from the eternal choice in God to the parousia: “he [the Father] chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world to be holy and blameless before him in love” (Eph 1:4); “In Christ we are heirs, having been destined according to the purpose of him who accomplishes all things according to his counsel and will” (Eph 1:11); “For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers; those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified” (Rom 8:29-30).
The Church's Magisterium, faithful to divine revelation, reasserts that Jesus Christ is the mediator and the universal redeemer: “The Word of God, through whom all things were made, was made flesh, so that as perfect man he could save all men and sum up all things in himself. The Lord...is he whom the Father raised from the dead, exalted and placed at his right hand, constituting him judge of the living and the dead”.34 This salvific mediation implies also the unicity of the redemptive sacrifice of Christ, eternal high priest (cf. Heb 6:20; 9:11; 10:12-14).
12. There are also those who propose the hypothesis of an economy of the Holy Spirit with a more universal breadth than that of the Incarnate Word, crucified and risen. This position also is contrary to the Catholic faith, which, on the contrary, considers the salvific incarnation of the Word as a trinitarian event. In the New Testament, the mystery of Jesus, the Incarnate Word, constitutes the place of the Holy Spirit's presence as well as the principle of the Spirit's effusion on humanity, not only in messianic times (cf. Acts 2:32-36; Jn 7:39, 20:22; 1 Cor 15:45), but also prior to his coming in history (cf. 1 Cor 10:4; 1 Pet 1:10-12).
The Second Vatican Council has recalled to the consciousness of the Church's faith this fundamental truth. In presenting the Father's salvific plan for all humanity, the Council closely links the mystery of Christ from its very beginnings with that of the Spirit.35 The entire work of building the Church by Jesus Christ the Head, in the course of the centuries, is seen as an action which he does in communion with his Spirit.36
Furthermore, the salvific action of Jesus Christ, with and through his Spirit, extends beyond the visible boundaries of the Church to all humanity. Speaking of the paschal mystery, in which Christ even now associates the believer to himself in a living manner in the Spirit and gives him the hope of resurrection, the Council states: “All this holds true not only for Christians but also for all men of good will in whose hearts grace is active invisibly. For since Christ died for all, and since all men are in fact called to one and the same destiny, which is divine, we must hold that the Holy Spirit offers to all the possibility of being made partners, in a way known to God, in the paschal mystery”.37
Hence, the connection is clear between the salvific mystery of the Incarnate Word and that of the Spirit, who actualizes the salvific efficacy of the Son made man in the lives of all people, called by God to a single goal, both those who historically preceded the Word made man, and those who live after his coming in history: the Spirit of the Father, bestowed abundantly by the Son, is the animator of all (cf. Jn 3:34).
Thus, the recent Magisterium of the Church has firmly and clearly recalled the truth of a single divine economy: “The Spirit's presence and activity affect not only individuals but also society and history, peoples, cultures and religions... The Risen Christ ‘is now at work in human hearts through the strength of his Spirit'... Again, it is the Spirit who sows the ‘seeds of the word' present in various customs and cultures, preparing them for full maturity in Christ”.38 While recognizing the historical-salvific function of the Spirit in the whole universe and in the entire history of humanity,39 the Magisterium states: “This is the same Spirit who was at work in the incarnation and in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus and who is at work in the Church. He is therefore not an alternative to Christ nor does he fill a sort of void which is sometimes suggested as existing between Christ and the Logos. Whatever the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures and religions, serves as a preparation for the Gospel and can only be understood in reference to Christ, the Word who took flesh by the power of the Spirit ‘so that as perfectly human he would save all human beings and sum up all things'”.40
In conclusion, the action of the Spirit is not outside or parallel to the action of Christ. There is only one salvific economy of the One and Triune God, realized in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God, actualized with the cooperation of the Holy Spirit, and extended in its salvific value to all humanity and to the entire universe: “No one, therefore, can enter into communion with God except through Christ, by the working of the Holy Spirit”.41
III. UNICITY AND UNIVERSALITY
OF THE SALVIFIC MYSTERY OF JESUS CHRIST
13. The thesis which denies the unicity and salvific universality of the mystery of Jesus Christ is also put forward. Such a position has no biblical foundation. In fact, the truth of Jesus Christ, Son of God, Lord and only Saviour, who through the event of his incarnation, death and resurrection has brought the history of salvation to fulfilment, and which has in him its fullness and centre, must be firmly believed as a constant element of the Church's faith.
The New Testament attests to this fact with clarity: “The Father has sent his Son as the Saviour of the world” (1 Jn 4:14); “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29). In his discourse before the Sanhedrin, Peter, in order to justify the healing of a man who was crippled from birth, which was done in the name of Jesus (cf. Acts 3:1-8), proclaims: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). St. Paul adds, moreover, that Jesus Christ “is Lord of all”, “judge of the living and the dead”, and thus “whoever believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name” (Acts 10: 36,42,43).
Paul, addressing himself to the community of Corinth, writes: “Indeed, even though there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth — as in fact there are many gods and many lords — yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist” (1 Cor 8:5-6). Furthermore, John the Apostle states: “For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3:16-17). In the New Testament, the universal salvific will of God is closely connected to the sole mediation of Christ: “[God] desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and men, the man Jesus Christ, who gave himself as a ransom for all” (1 Tim 2:4-6).
It was in the awareness of the one universal gift of salvation offered by the Father through Jesus Christ in the Spirit (cf. Eph 1:3-14), that the first Christians encountered the Jewish people, showing them the fulfilment of salvation that went beyond the Law and, in the same awareness, they confronted the pagan world of their time, which aspired to salvation through a plurality of saviours. This inheritance of faith has been recalled recently by the Church's Magisterium: “The Church believes that Christ, who died and was raised for the sake of all (cf. 2 Cor 5:15) can, through his Spirit, give man the light and the strength to be able to respond to his highest calling, nor is there any other name under heaven given among men by which they can be saved (cf. Acts 4:12). The Church likewise believes that the key, the centre, and the purpose of the whole of man's history is to be found in its Lord and Master”.42
14. It must therefore be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith that the universal salvific will of the One and Triune God is offered and accomplished once for all in the mystery of the incarnation, death, and resurrection of the Son of God.
Bearing in mind this article of faith, theology today, in its reflection on the existence of other religious experiences and on their meaning in God's salvific plan, is invited to explore if and in what way the historical figures and positive elements of these religions may fall within the divine plan of salvation. In this undertaking, theological research has a vast field of work under the guidance of the Church's Magisterium. The Second Vatican Council, in fact, has stated that: “the unique mediation of the Redeemer does not exclude, but rather gives rise to a manifold cooperation which is but a participation in this one source”.43 The content of this participated mediation should be explored more deeply, but must remain always consistent with the principle of Christ's unique mediation: “Although participated forms of mediation of different kinds and degrees are not excluded, they acquire meaning and value only from Christ's own mediation, and they cannot be understood as parallel or complementary to his”.44 Hence, those solutions that propose a salvific action of God beyond the unique mediation of Christ would be contrary to Christian and Catholic faith.
15. Not infrequently it is proposed that theology should avoid the use of terms like “unicity”, “universality”, and “absoluteness”, which give the impression of excessive emphasis on the significance and value of the salvific event of Jesus Christ in relation to other religions. In reality, however, such language is simply being faithful to revelation, since it represents a development of the sources of the faith themselves. From the beginning, the community of believers has recognized in Jesus a salvific value such that he alone, as Son of God made man, crucified and risen, by the mission received from the Father and in the power of the Holy Spirit, bestows revelation (cf. Mt 11:27) and divine life (cf. Jn 1:12; 5:25-26; 17:2) to all humanity and to every person.
In this sense, one can and must say that Jesus Christ has a significance and a value for the human race and its history, which are unique and singular, proper to him alone, exclusive, universal, and absolute. Jesus is, in fact, the Word of God made man for the salvation of all. In expressing this consciousness of faith, the Second Vatican Council teaches: “The Word of God, through whom all things were made, was made flesh, so that as perfect man he could save all men and sum up all things in himself. The Lord is the goal of human history, the focal point of the desires of history and civilization, the centre of mankind, the joy of all hearts, and the fulfilment of all aspirations. It is he whom the Father raised from the dead, exalted and placed at his right hand, constituting him judge of the living and the dead”.45 “It is precisely this uniqueness of Christ which gives him an absolute and universal significance whereby, while belonging to history, he remains history's centre and goal: ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end' (Rev 22:13)”.46
IV. UNICITY AND UNITY OF THE CHURCH
16. The Lord Jesus, the only Saviour, did not only establish a simple community of disciples, but constituted the Church as a salvific mystery: he himself is in the Church and the Church is in him (cf. Jn 15:1ff.; Gal 3:28; Eph 4:15-16; Acts 9:5). Therefore, the fullness of Christ's salvific mystery belongs also to the Church, inseparably united to her Lord. Indeed, Jesus Christ continues his presence and his work of salvation in the Church and by means of the Church (cf. Col 1:24-27),47 which is his body (cf. 1 Cor 12:12-13, 27; Col 1:18).48 And thus, just as the head and members of a living body, though not identical, are inseparable, so too Christ and the Church can neither be confused nor separated, and constitute a single “whole Christ”.49 This same inseparability is also expressed in the New Testament by the analogy of the Church as the Bride of Christ (cf. 2 Cor 11:2; Eph 5:25-29; Rev 21:2,9).50
Therefore, in connection with the unicity and universality of the salvific mediation of Jesus Christ, the unicity of the Church founded by him must be firmly believed as a truth of Catholic faith. Just as there is one Christ, so there exists a single body of Christ, a single Bride of Christ: “a single Catholic and apostolic Church”.51 Furthermore, the promises of the Lord that he would not abandon his Church (cf. Mt 16:18; 28:20) and that he would guide her by his Spirit (cf. Jn 16:13) mean, according to Catholic faith, that the unicity and the unity of the Church — like everything that belongs to the Church's integrity — will never be lacking.52
The Catholic faithful are required to profess that there is an historical continuity — rooted in the apostolic succession53 — between the Church founded by Christ and the Catholic Church: “This is the single Church of Christ... which our Saviour, after his resurrection, entrusted to Peter's pastoral care (cf. Jn 21:17), commissioning him and the other Apostles to extend and rule her (cf. Mt 28:18ff.), erected for all ages as ‘the pillar and mainstay of the truth' (1 Tim 3:15). This Church, constituted and organized as a society in the present world, subsists in [subsistit in] the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him”.54 With the expression subsistit in, the Second Vatican Council sought to harmonize two doctrinal statements: on the one hand, that the Church of Christ, despite the divisions which exist among Christians, continues to exist fully only in the Catholic Church, and on the other hand, that “outside of her structure, many elements can be found of sanctification and truth”,55 that is, in those Churches and ecclesial communities which are not yet in full communion with the Catholic Church.56 But with respect to these, it needs to be stated that “they derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”.57
17. Therefore, there exists a single Church of Christ, which subsists in the Catholic Church, governed by the Successor of Peter and by the Bishops in communion with him.58 The Churches which, while not existing in perfect communion with the Catholic Church, remain united to her by means of the closest bonds, that is, by apostolic succession and a valid Eucharist, are true particular Churches.59 Therefore, the Church of Christ is present and operative also in these Churches, even though they lack full communion with the Catholic Church, since they do not accept the Catholic doctrine of the Primacy, which, according to the will of God, the Bishop of Rome objectively has and exercises over the entire Church.60
On the other hand, the ecclesial communities which have not preserved the valid Episcopate and the genuine and integral substance of the Eucharistic mystery,61 are not Churches in the proper sense; however, those who are baptized in these communities are, by Baptism, incorporated in Christ and thus are in a certain communion, albeit imperfect, with the Church.62 Baptism in fact tends per se toward the full development of life in Christ, through the integral profession of faith, the Eucharist, and full communion in the Church.63
“The Christian faithful are therefore not permitted to imagine that the Church of Christ is nothing more than a collection — divided, yet in some way one — of Churches and ecclesial communities; nor are they free to hold that today the Church of Christ nowhere really exists, and must be considered only as a goal which all Churches and ecclesial communities must strive to reach”.64 In fact, “the elements of this already-given Church exist, joined together in their fullness in the Catholic Church and, without this fullness, in the other communities”.65 “Therefore, these separated Churches and communities as such, though we believe they suffer from defects, have by no means been deprived of significance and importance in the mystery of salvation. For the spirit of Christ has not refrained from using them as means of salvation which derive their efficacy from the very fullness of grace and truth entrusted to the Catholic Church”.66
The lack of unity among Christians is certainly a wound for the Church; not in the sense that she is deprived of her unity, but “in that it hinders the complete fulfilment of her universality in history”.67
V. THE CHURCH: KINGDOM OF GOD
AND KINGDOM OF CHRIST
18. The mission of the Church is “to proclaim and establish among all peoples the kingdom of Christ and of God, and she is on earth, the seed and the beginning of that kingdom”.68 On the one hand, the Church is “a sacrament — that is, sign and instrument of intimate union with God and of unity of the entire human race”.69 She is therefore the sign and instrument of the kingdom; she is called to announce and to establish the kingdom. On the other hand, the Church is the “people gathered by the unity of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit”;70 she is therefore “the kingdom of Christ already present in mystery”71 and constitutes its seed and beginning. The kingdom of God, in fact, has an eschatological dimension: it is a reality present in time, but its full realization will arrive only with the completion or fulfilment of history.72
The meaning of the expressions kingdom of heaven, kingdom of God, and kingdom of Christ in Sacred Scripture and the Fathers of the Church, as well as in the documents of the Magisterium, is not always exactly the same, nor is their relationship to the Church, which is a mystery that cannot be totally contained by a human concept. Therefore, there can be various theological explanations of these terms. However, none of these possible explanations can deny or empty in any way the intimate connection between Christ, the kingdom, and the Church. In fact, the kingdom of God which we know from revelation, “cannot be detached either from Christ or from the Church... If the kingdom is separated from Jesus, it is no longer the kingdom of God which he revealed. The result is a distortion of the meaning of the kingdom, which runs the risk of being transformed into a purely human or ideological goal and a distortion of the identity of Christ, who no longer appears as the Lord to whom everything must one day be subjected (cf. 1 Cor 15:27). Likewise, one may not separate the kingdom from the Church. It is true that the Church is not an end unto herself, since she is ordered toward the kingdom of God, of which she is the seed, sign and instrument. Yet, while remaining distinct from Christ and the kingdom, the Church is indissolubly united to both”.73
19. To state the inseparable relationship between Christ and the kingdom is not to overlook the fact that the kingdom of God — even if considered in its historical phase — is not identified with the Church in her visible and social reality. In fact, “the action of Christ and the Spirit outside the Church's visible boundaries” must not be excluded.74 Therefore, one must also bear in mind that “the kingdom is the concern of everyone: individuals, society and the world. Working for the kingdom means acknowledging and promoting God's activity, which is present in human history and transforms it. Building the kingdom means working for liberation from evil in all its forms. In a word, the kingdom of God is the manifestation and the realization of God's plan of salvation in all its fullness”.75
In considering the relationship between the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ, and the Church, it is necessary to avoid one-sided accentuations, as is the case with those “conceptions which deliberately emphasize the kingdom and which describe themselves as ‘kingdom centred.' They stress the image of a Church which is not concerned about herself, but which is totally concerned with bearing witness to and serving the kingdom. It is a ‘Church for others,' just as Christ is the ‘man for others'... Together with positive aspects, these conceptions often reveal negative aspects as well. First, they are silent about Christ: the kingdom of which they speak is ‘theocentrically' based, since, according to them, Christ cannot be understood by those who lack Christian faith, whereas different peoples, cultures, and religions are capable of finding common ground in the one divine reality, by whatever name it is called. For the same reason, they put great stress on the mystery of creation, which is reflected in the diversity of cultures and beliefs, but they keep silent about the mystery of redemption. Furthermore, the kingdom, as they understand it, ends up either leaving very little room for the Church or undervaluing the Church in reaction to a presumed ‘ecclesiocentrism' of the past and because they consider the Church herself only a sign, for that matter a sign not without ambiguity”.76 These theses are contrary to Catholic faith because they deny the unicity of the relationship which Christ and the Church have with the kingdom of God.
VI. THE CHURCH AND THE OTHER RELIGIONS
IN RELATION TO SALVATION
20. From what has been stated above, some points follow that are necessary for theological reflection as it explores the relationship of the Church and the other religions to salvation.
Above all else, it must be firmly believed that “the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and baptism (cf. Mk 16:16; Jn 3:5), and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through baptism as through a door”.77 This doctrine must not be set against the universal salvific will of God (cf. 1 Tim 2:4); “it is necessary to keep these two truths together, namely, the real possibility of salvation in Christ for all mankind and the necessity of the Church for this salvation”.78
The Church is the “universal sacrament of salvation”,79 since, united always in a mysterious way to the Saviour Jesus Christ, her Head, and subordinated to him, she has, in God's plan, an indispensable relationship with the salvation of every human being.80 For those who are not formally and visibly members of the Church, “salvation in Christ is accessible by virtue of a grace which, while having a mysterious relationship to the Church, does not make them formally part of the Church, but enlightens them in a way which is accommodated to their spiritual and material situation. This grace comes from Christ; it is the result of his sacrifice and is communicated by the Holy Spirit”;81 it has a relationship with the Church, which “according to the plan of the Father, has her origin in the mission of the Son and the Holy Spirit”.82
21. With respect to the way in which the salvific grace of God — which is always given by means of Christ in the Spirit and has a mysterious relationship to the Church — comes to individual non-Christians, the Second Vatican Council limited itself to the statement that God bestows it “in ways known to himself”.83 Theologians are seeking to understand this question more fully. Their work is to be encouraged, since it is certainly useful for understanding better God's salvific plan and the ways in which it is accomplished. However, from what has been stated above about the mediation of Jesus Christ and the “unique and special relationship”84 which the Church has with the kingdom of God among men — which in substance is the universal kingdom of Christ the Saviour — it is clear that it would be contrary to the faith to consider the Church as one way of salvation alongside those constituted by the other religions, seen as complementary to the Church or substantially equivalent to her, even if these are said to be converging with the Church toward the eschatological kingdom of God.
Certainly, the various religious traditions contain and offer religious elements which come from God,85 and which are part of what “the Spirit brings about in human hearts and in the history of peoples, in cultures, and religions”.86 Indeed, some prayers and rituals of the other religions may assume a role of preparation for the Gospel, in that they are occasions or pedagogical helps in which the human heart is prompted to be open to the action of God.87 One cannot attribute to these, however, a divine origin or an ex opere operato salvific efficacy, which is proper to the Christian sacraments.88 Furthermore, it cannot be overlooked that other rituals, insofar as they depend on superstitions or other errors (cf. 1 Cor 10:20-21), constitute an obstacle to salvation.89
22. With the coming of the Saviour Jesus Christ, God has willed that the Church founded by him be the instrument for the salvation of all humanity (cf. Acts 17:30-31).90 This truth of faith does not lessen the sincere respect which the Church has for the religions of the world, but at the same time, it rules out, in a radical way, that mentality of indifferentism “characterized by a religious relativism which leads to the belief that ‘one religion is as good as another'”.91 If it is true that the followers of other religions can receive divine grace, it is also certain that objectively speaking they are in a gravely deficient situation in comparison with those who, in the Church, have the fullness of the means of salvation.92 However, “all the children of the Church should nevertheless remember that their exalted condition results, not from their own merits, but from the grace of Christ. If they fail to respond in thought, word, and deed to that grace, not only shall they not be saved, but they shall be more severely judged”.93 One understands then that, following the Lord's command (cf. Mt 28:19-20) and as a requirement of her love for all people, the Church “proclaims and is in duty bound to proclaim without fail, Christ who is the way, the truth, and the life (Jn 14:6). In him, in whom God reconciled all things to himself (cf. 2 Cor 5:18-19), men find the fullness of their religious life”.94
In inter-religious dialogue as well, the mission ad gentes “today as always retains its full force and necessity”.95 “Indeed, God ‘desires all men to be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth' (1 Tim 2:4); that is, God wills the salvation of everyone through the knowledge of the truth. Salvation is found in the truth. Those who obey the promptings of the Spirit of truth are already on the way of salvation. But the Church, to whom this truth has been entrusted, must go out to meet their desire, so as to bring them the truth. Because she believes in God's universal plan of salvation, the Church must be missionary”.96 Inter-religious dialogue, therefore, as part of her evangelizing mission, is just one of the actions of the Church in her mission ad gentes.97 Equality, which is a presupposition of inter-religious dialogue, refers to the equal personal dignity of the parties in dialogue, not to doctrinal content, nor even less to the position of Jesus Christ — who is God himself made man — in relation to the founders of the other religions. Indeed, the Church, guided by charity and respect for freedom,98 must be primarily committed to proclaiming to all people the truth definitively revealed by the Lord, and to announcing the necessity of conversion to Jesus Christ and of adherence to the Church through Baptism and the other sacraments, in order to participate fully in communion with God, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Thus, the certainty of the universal salvific will of God does not diminish, but rather increases the duty and urgency of the proclamation of salvation and of conversion to the Lord Jesus Christ.
CONCLUSION
23. The intention of the present Declaration, in reiterating and clarifying certain truths of the faith, has been to follow the example of the Apostle Paul, who wrote to the faithful of Corinth: “I handed on to you as of first importance what I myself received” (1 Cor 15:3). Faced with certain problematic and even erroneous propositions, theological reflection is called to reconfirm the Church's faith and to give reasons for her hope in a way that is convincing and effective.
In treating the question of the true religion, the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council taught: “We believe that this one true religion continues to exist in the Catholic and Apostolic Church, to which the Lord Jesus entrusted the task of spreading it among all people. Thus, he said to the Apostles: ‘Go therefore and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you' (Mt 28: 19-20). Especially in those things that concern God and his Church, all persons are required to seek the truth, and when they come to know it, to embrace it and hold fast to it”.99
The revelation of Christ will continue to be “the true lodestar” 100 in history for all humanity: “The truth, which is Christ, imposes itself as an all-embracing authority”. 101 The Christian mystery, in fact, overcomes all barriers of time and space, and accomplishes the unity of the human family: “From their different locations and traditions all are called in Christ to share in the unity of the family of God's children... Jesus destroys the walls of division and creates unity in a new and unsurpassed way through our sharing in his mystery. This unity is so deep that the Church can say with Saint Paul: ‘You are no longer strangers and sojourners, but you are saints and members of the household of God' (Eph 2:19)”. 102
The Sovereign Pontiff John Paul II, at the Audience of June 16, 2000, granted to the undersigned Cardinal Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, with sure knowledge and by his apostolic authority, ratified and confirmed this Declaration, adopted in Plenary Session and ordered its publication.
Rome, from the Offices of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, August 6, 2000, the Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.

JOSEPH Card. RATZINGER
Prefect
TARCISIO BERTONE, S.D.B.
Archbishop Emeritus of Vercelli
Secretary
________________________________________
REFERENCES
(1) FIRST COUNCIL OF CONSTANTINOPLE, Symbolum Constantinopolitanum: DS 150.
(2) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 1: AAS 83 (1991), 249-340.
(3) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Ad gentes and Declaration Nostra aetate; cf. also PAUL VI Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi: AAS 68 (1976), 5-76; JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio.
(4) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Declaration Nostra aetate, 2.
(5) PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE and THE CONGREGATION FOR THE EVANGELIZATION OF PEOPLES, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 29: AAS 84 (1992), 424; cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 22.
(6) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 55: AAS 83 (1991), 302-304.
(7) Cf. PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR INTER-RELIGIOUS DIALOGUE and THE CONGREGATION FOR THE EVANGELIZATION OF PEOPLES, Instruction Dialogue and Proclamation, 9: AAS 84 (1992), 417ff.
(8) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, 5: AAS 91 (1999), 5-88.
(9) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Dei verbum, 2.
(10) Ibid., 4.
(11) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 5.
(12) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, 14.
(13) COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON, Symbolum Chalcedonense: DS 301; cf. ST. ATHANASIUS, De Incarnatione, 54, 3: SC 199, 458.
(14) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Dei verbum, 4.
(15) Ibid., 5.
(16) Ibid.
(17) Cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 144.
(18) Ibid., 150.
(19) Ibid., 153.
(20) Ibid., 178.
(21) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, 13.
(22) Cf. ibid., 31-32.
(23) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Declaration Nostra aetate, 2; cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Ad gentes, 9, where it speaks of the elements of good present “in the particular customs and cultures of peoples”; Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 16, where it mentions the elements of good and of truth present among non-Christians, which can be considered a preparation for the reception of the Gospel.
(24) Cf. COUNCIL OF TRENT, Decretum de libris sacris et de traditionibus recipiendis: DS 1501; FIRST VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Dei Filius, cap. 2: DS 3006.
(25) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Dei verbum, 11.
(26) Ibid.
(27) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 55; cf. 56 and PAUL VI, Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii nuntiandi, 53.
(28) FIRST COUNCIL OF NICAEA, Symbolum Nicaenum: DS 125.
(29) COUNCIL OF CHALCEDON, Symbolum Chalcedonense: DS 301.
(30) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 22.
(31) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 6.
(32) Cf. ST. LEO THE GREAT, Tomus ad Flavianum: DS 294.
(33) Cf. ST. LEO THE GREAT, Letter to the Emperor Leo I Promisisse me memini: DS 318: “...in tantam unitatem ab ipso conceptu Virginis deitate et humanitate conserta, ut nec sine homine divina, nec sine Deo agerentur humana”. Cf. also ibid. DS 317.
(34) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 45; cf. also COUNCIL OF TRENT, Decretum de peccato originali, 3: DS 1513.
(35) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 3-4.
(36) Cf. ibid., 7; cf. ST. IRENAEUS, who wrote that it is in the Church “that communion with Christ has been deposited, that is to say: the Holy Spirit” (Adversus haereses III, 24, 1: SC 211, 472).
(37) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 22.
(38) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 28. For the “seeds of the Word” cf. also St. JUSTIN MARTYR, Second Apology 8, 1-2; 10, 1-3; 13, 3-6: ed. E.J. Goodspeed, 84; 85; 88-89.
(39) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter, Redemptoris missio, 28-29.
(40) Ibid., 29.
(41) Ibid., 5.
(42) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 10. Cf. St. Augustine, who wrote that Christ is the way, which “has never been lacking to mankind... and apart from this way no one has been set free, no one is being set free, no one will be set free” De civitate Dei 10, 32, 2: CCSL 47, 312.
(43) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 62.
(44) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 5.
(45) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Pastoral Constitution Gaudium et spes, 45. The necessary and absolute singularity of Christ in human history is well expressed by St. Irenaeus in contemplating the preeminence of Jesus as firstborn Son: “In the heavens, as firstborn of the Father's counsel, the perfect Word governs and legislates all things; on the earth, as firstborn of the Virgin, a man just and holy, reverencing God and pleasing to God, good and perfect in every way, he saves from hell all those who follow him since he is the firstborn from the dead and Author of the life of God” (Demonstratio apostolica, 39: SC 406, 138).
(46) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 6.
(47) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 14.
(48) Cf. ibid., 7.
(49) Cf. ST. AUGUSTINE, Enarratio in Psalmos, Ps. 90, Sermo 2,1: CCSL 39, 1266; ST. GREGORY THE GREAT, Moralia in Iob, Praefatio, 6, 14: PL 75, 525; ST. THOMAS AQUINAS, Summa Theologiae, III, q. 48, a. 2 ad 1.
(50) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 6.
(51) Symbolum maius Ecclesiae Armeniacae: DS 48. Cf. BONIFACE VIII, Unam sanctam: DS 870-872; SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.
(52) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 4; JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 11: AAS 87 (1995), 927.
(53) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 20; cf. also ST. IRENAEUS, Adversus haereses, III, 3, 1-3: SC 211, 20-44; ST. CYPRIAN, Epist. 33, 1: CCSL 3B, 164-165; ST. AUGUSTINE, Contra adver. legis et prophet., 1, 20, 39: CCSL 49, 70.
(54) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 8.
(55) Ibid.; cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 13. Cf. also SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 15 and the Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.
(56) The interpretation of those who would derive from the formula subsistit in the thesis that the one Church of Christ could subsist also in non-Catholic Churches and ecclesial communities is therefore contrary to the authentic meaning of Lumen gentium. “The Council instead chose the word subsistit precisely to clarify that there exists only one ‘subsistence' of the true Church, while outside her visible structure there only exist elementa Ecclesiae, which — being elements of that same Church — tend and lead toward the Catholic Church” (CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Notification on the Book “Church: Charism and Power” by Father Leonardo Boff: AAS 77 [1985], 756-762).
(57) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.
(58) Cf. CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, 1: AAS 65 (1973), 396-398.
(59) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 14 and 15; CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter Communionis notio, 17: AAS 85 (1993), 848.
(60) Cf. FIRST VATICAN COUNCIL, Constitution Pastor aeternus: DS 3053-3064; SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 22.
(61) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 22.
(62) Cf. ibid., 3.
(63) Cf. ibid., 22.
(64) CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Declaration Mysterium Ecclesiae, 1.
(65) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Ut unum sint, 14.
(66) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.
(67) CONGREGATION FOR THE DOCTRINE OF THE FAITH, Letter Communionis notio, 17; cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 4.
(68) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 5.
(69) Ibid., 1.
(70) Ibid., 4. Cf. ST. CYPRIAN, De Dominica oratione 23: CCSL 3A, 105.
(71) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 3.
(72) Cf. ibid., 9; cf. also the prayer addressed to God found in the Didache 9,4: SC 248, 176: “May the Church be gathered from the ends of the earth into your kingdom” and ibid. 10, 5: SC 248, 180: “Remember, Lord, your Church... and, made holy, gather her together from the four winds into your kingdom which you have prepared for her”.
(73) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 18; cf. Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, 17: L'Osservatore Romano (November 7, 1999). The kingdom is so inseparable from Christ that, in a certain sense, it is identified with him (cf. ORIGEN, In Mt. Hom., 14, 7: PG 13, 1197; TERTULLIAN, Adversus Marcionem, IV, 33,8: CCSL 1, 634.
(74) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 18.
(75) Ibid., 15.
(76) Ibid., 17.
(77) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 14; cf. Decree Ad gentes, 7; Decree Unitatis redintegratio, 3.
(78) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 9; cf. Catechism of the Catholic Church, 846-847.
(79) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 48.
(80) Cf. ST. CYPRIAN, De catholicae ecclesiae unitate, 6: CCSL 3, 253-254; ST. IRENAEUS, Adversus haereses, III, 24, 1: SC 211, 472-474.
(81) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 10.
(82) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Ad gentes, 2. The famous formula extra Ecclesiam nullus omnino salvatur is to be interpreted in this sense (cf. FOURTH LATERAN COUNCIL, Cap. 1. De fide catholica: DS 802). Cf. also the Letter of the Holy Office to the Archbishop of Boston: DS 3866-3872.
(83) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Ad gentes, 7.
(84) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 18.
(85) These are the seeds of the divine Word (semina Verbi), which the Church recognizes with joy and respect (cf. Second Vatican Council, Decree Ad gentes, 11; Declaration Nostra aetate, 2).
(86) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 29.
(87) Cf. ibid.; Catechism of the Catholic Church, 843.
(88) Cf. COUNCIL OF TRENT, Decretum de sacramentis, can. 8, de sacramentis in genere: DS 1608.
(89) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 55.
(90) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 17; JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 11.
(91) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 36.
(92) Cf. PIUS XII, Encyclical Letter Mystici corporis: DS 3821.
(93) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Dogmatic Constitution Lumen gentium, 14.
(94) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Declaration Nostra aetate, 2.
(95) SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Decree Ad gentes, 7.
(96) Catechism of the Catholic Church, 851; cf. also 849-856.
(97) Cf. JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris missio, 55; Apostolic Exhortation Ecclesia in Asia, 31.
(98) Cf. SECOND VATICAN COUNCIL, Declaration Dignitatis humanae, 1.
(99) Ibid.
(100) JOHN PAUL II, Encyclical Letter Fides et ratio, 15.
(101) Ibid., 92.
(102) Ibid., 70.


Abortion
"By Thee have I been holden up from the womb: Thou art He that took me out of my mother's bowels: my praise [shall be] continually of Thee." - Psalms 71:6
"Lo, children [are] an heritage of the Lord: [and] the fruit of the womb [is his] reward." - Psalms 127:3
"For Thou hast possessed my reins: Thou hast covered me in my mother's womb." - Psalms 139:13
"Did not He that made me in the womb make him? And did not One fashion us in the womb?" - Job 31:15
"Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee from the womb, [which] will help thee; Fear not, O Jacob, my servant; and thou, Jesurun, whom I have chosen." - Isaiah 44:2
"Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The Lord hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath He made mention of my name. And now, saith the Lord that formed me from the womb [to be] His servant, to bring Jacob again to Him, though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the Lord, and my God shall be my strength." - Isaiah 49:1, 5
"Before I formed thee in the belly I knew thee; and before thou camest forth out of the womb I sanctified thee, [and] I ordained thee a prophet unto the nations." - Jeremiah 1:5
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What The Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Abortion:"
2271. "Since the first century the Church has affirmed the moral evil of every procured abortion. This teaching has not changed and remains unchangeable. Direct abortion, that is to say, abortion willed either as an end or a means, is gravely contrary to the moral law: You shall not kill the embryo by abortion and shall not cause the newborn to perish. [Didache 2, 2: SCh 248, 148; cf. Ep. Barnabae 19, 5: PG 2, 777; Ad Diognetum 5, 6: PG 2, 1173; Tertullian, Apol. 9: PL 1, 319-320.] God, the Lord of life, has entrusted to men the noble mission of safeguarding life, and men must carry it out in a manner worthy of themselves. Life must be protected with the utmost care from the moment of conception: abortion and infanticide are abominable crimes. [GS 51 # 3.]"
2272. "Formal cooperation in an abortion constitutes a grave offense. The Church attaches the canonical penalty of excommunication to this crime against human life. 'A person who procures a completed abortion incurs excommunication latae sententiae,' [CIC, can. 1398.] 'by the very commission of the offense,' [CIC, can. 1314.] and subject to the conditions provided by Canon Law. [Cf. CIC, cann. 1323-1324.] The Church does not thereby intend to restrict the scope of mercy. Rather, she makes clear the gravity of the crime committed, the irreparable harm done to the innocent who is put to death, as well as to the parents and the whole of society."
2274. "Since it must be treated from conception as a person, the embryo must be defended in its integrity, cared for, and healed, as far as possible, like any other human being. Prenatal diagnosis is morally licit, 'if it respects the life and integrity of the embryo and the human fetus and is directed toward its safe guarding or healing as an individual.... It is gravely opposed to the moral law when this is done with the thought of possibly inducing an abortion, depending upon the results: a diagnosis must not be the equivalent of a death sentence.' [CDF, Donum vitae I, 2.]"
2322. "From its conception, the child has the right to life. Direct abortion, that is, abortion willed as an end or as a means, is a 'criminal' practice (GS 27 # 3), gravely contrary to the moral law. The Church imposes the canonical penalty of excommunication for this crime against human life."
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PRAYER TO MARY, MOTHER OF THE UNBORN by Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph, I love you very much. I beg you to spare the life of the unborn child that I have spiritually adopted who is in danger of abortion. Amen.


The Church
"The Catholic Church is the work of Divine Providence, achieved through the prophecies of the prophets, through the Incarnation and the teaching of Christ, through the journeys of the Apostles, through the suffering, the crosses, the blood and the death of the martyrs, through the admirable lives of the saints. When, then, we see so much help on God's part, so much progress and so much fruit, shall we hesitate to bury ourselves in the bosom of that Church? For starting from the Apostolic Chair down through successions of bishops, even unto the open confession of all mankind, it has possessed the crown of teaching authority." - St. Augustine of Hippo ("The Advantage of Believing" 4th century A.D.)
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AUTHORITY - Should the Bible be the final authority of Christianity or the Church? Well, Christ stated that the Church, not Scripture should be the final authority: "And if he shall neglect to hear them, tell it unto the Church: but if he neglect to hear the Church, let him be unto thee as an heathen man and a publican." (Matthew 18:17 ) Christ did not state to refer to or consult Scripture for disputes and correction. He said to go to the Church as It is the final authority in Christianity. In addition, St. Paul states that the Church, not Scripture is "THE pillar and ground of the truth." (1 Timothy 3:15) Since the Church alone is mentioned as the pillar of truth, then It alone has the right to discern the truth and interpret Scripture. For if individuals could correctly interpret Scripture, then all interpretations would be exactly the same as there can only be one Spiritual Truth for the plural of the word "truth" never appears in Scripture. The Church is Christ's bride (Ephesians 5:29) and has "no spot, wrinkle or blemish" (Ephesians 5:27). Christ also stated that the gates of Hell will not prevail against His Church (Matthew 16:18) so how can the Church commit error? Individual clergy may commit sins, even popes commit sins because in the Church there are both "weeds and wheat" (Matthew 13:30).
ORGANIZATION - Is the Church to be a loose conglomerate of believers or is it to be organized and structured? Scripture clearly established "offices" and a "hierarchy" among Christians. The offices of "bishop, priest (presbyter) and deacon" are mentioned in Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1,8; Titus 1:7 ). What else is this but "organization?" Or should we believe that any believer can "claim" to be a bishop, priest, deacon or even "apostle?" The word "office" is specifically used in Scripture (1 Timothy 3:1) to describe these positions. Webster defines "office" as "A special duty, trust, charge, or position, conferred by authority or God and for a public purpose; a position of trust or authority." And the office of "apostle" is to be continued (Acts 1:20-26) to the present day. Not all believers are "equal" nor have the same gifts (1 Corinthians 12:8-10; Ephesians 4:11). Is the Church a "visible, earthly" entity? Yes, for Christ would not direct us to the Church for disputes if it were not here on Earth (Matthew 18:17). Nor would "fear" encompass the whole Church if it were a mystical, invisible and heavenly entity (Acts 5:11). The Church is definitely here on earth for the actions described in Acts definitely take place on earth and the term used is "the whole Church" (Acts 15:22).
HEAD OF THE CHURCH - Is there to be a visible "head" of the Church here on earth? Well, as I established under the heading of "Organization," not all believers are to have the same authority or equality within the Church. Did the Apostles have the exact same authority amongst themselves. No, they did not. For it was St. Peter alone that was the "rock" upon which Christ established His Church (Matthew 16:18). And it was St. Peter alone that was given the task of "feeding" Christ's sheep (John 21:15-17 ). Scripture clearly points out St. Peter as Christ's representative on earth. Christ did not ask the other Eleven to feed and tend His sheep. If you read The Acts Of The Apostles, it is clear that St. Peter leads the Apostles. Therefore, since the Apostles are to be replaced as they die (Acts 1:20-26), then it follows that whoever succeed(s) St. Peter is leader of the Church. There is only to be one shepherd of the Church (John 10:16). For the Apostles did not argue amongst themselves whether there was a "greatest" at all, but who amongst them was the greatest (Mark 9:34; Luke 9:46).
ONE CHURCH - Is there to be only one Church or many? According to Scripture, Christ wanted us to be one (John 17:22-23). We are all as a Church to be of one mind and to think the same (Philippians 2:2; Romans 15:5). There is only to be one "faith" (Ephesians 4:3-6), not many. For the Church is Christ's Body and Christ only had one Body, not many. Also, since the Church is Christ's Bride (Ephesians 5:29), can Christ be married to more than one wife (essentially a spiritual form of the the sin of polygamy)? No, Christ can only have one wife (i.e., one Church, not many).
In conclusion, Scripture is pretty straightforward about the Church's role in salvation, Its authority and Its organization. It's all a matter of deductive reasoning, correct interpretation and pure logic.


The Eucharist
"Some men accordingly, not paying heed to these things, have contended that Christ's body and blood are not in this Sacrament except as in a sign, a thing to be rejected as heretical, since it is contrary to Christ's words. Hence Berengarius, who had been the first deviser of this heresy, was afterwards forced to withdraw his error, and to acknowledge the truth of the Faith." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)
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"And he took bread, and gave thanks, and brake [it], and gave unto them, saying, This is my body which is given for you: this do in remembrance of me. Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup [is] the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you." - Luke 22:19-20
"I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world. The Jews therefore strove among themselves, saying, How can this man give us [his] flesh to eat? Then Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of man, and drink his blood, ye have no life in you. Whoso eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath eternal life; and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him." - John 6:51-56
"The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ? For we [being] many are one bread, [and] one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread." - 1 Corinthians 10:16-17
"For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, That the Lord Jesus the [same] night in which he was betrayed took bread: And when he had given thanks, he brake [it], and said, Take, eat: this is my body, which is broken for you: this do in remembrance of me. After the same manner also [he took] the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood: this do ye, as oft as ye drink [it], in remembrance of me. For as often as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come. Wherefore whosoever shall eat this bread, and drink [this] cup of the Lord, unworthily, shall be guilty of the body and blood of the Lord. But let a man examine himself, and so let him eat of [that] bread, and drink of [that] cup. For he that eateth and drinketh unworthily, eateth and drinketh damnation to himself, not discerning the Lord's body." - 1 Corinthians 11:23-29
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the "Eucharist:"
1106. "Together with the anamnesis, the epiclesis is at the heart of each sacramental celebration, most especially of the Eucharist: You ask how the bread becomes the Body of Christ, and the wine . . . the Blood of Christ I shall tell you: the Holy Spirit comes upon them and accomplishes what surpasses every word and thought . . . Let it be enough for you to understand that it is by the Holy Spirit, just as it was of the Holy Virgin and by the Holy Spirit that the Lord, through and in himself, took flesh. [St. John Damascene, De fide orth 4, 13: PG 94, 1145A.]"
1324. "The Eucharist is 'the source and summit of the Christian life.' [LG 11.] 'The other sacraments, and indeed all ecclesiastical ministries and works of the apostolate, are bound up with the Eucharist and are oriented toward it. For in the blessed Eucharist is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself, our Pasch.' [PO 5.]"
1327. "In brief, the Eucharist is the sum and summary of our faith: 'Our way of thinking is attuned to the Eucharist, and the Eucharist in turn confirms our way of thinking.' [St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 4, 18, 5: PG 7/l, 1028.]"
1329. "The Lord's Supper, because of its connection with the supper which the Lord took with his disciples on the eve of his Passion and because it anticipates the wedding feast of the Lamb in the heavenly Jerusalem. [Cf. 1 Cor 11:20; Rev 19:9.] The Breaking of Bread, because Jesus used this rite, part of a Jewish meat when as master of the table he blessed and distributed the bread, [Gal 3:27 .] above all at the Last Supper. [Cf. Mt 26:26 ; 1 Cor 11:24 .] It is by this action that his disciples will recognize him after his Resurrection, [Cf. Lk 24:13-35.] and it is this expression that the first Christians will use to designate their Eucharistic assemblies; [Cf. Acts 2:42, 46 ; Acts 20:7, 11.] by doing so they signified that all who eat the one broken bread, Christ, enter into communion with him and form but one body in him. [Cf. 1 Cor 10:16-17.] The Eucharistic assembly (synaxis), because the Eucharist is celebrated amid the assembly of the faithful, the visible expression of the Church. [Cf. 1 Cor 11:17-34 .]"
1336. "The first announcement of the Eucharist divided the disciples, just as the announcement of the Passion scandalized them: 'This is a hard saying; who can listen to it?' [Jn 6:60 .] The Eucharist and the Cross are stumbling blocks. It is the same mystery and it never ceases to be an occasion of division. 'Will you also go away?': [Jn 6:67 .] the Lord's question echoes through the ages, as a loving invitation to discover that only he has 'the words of eternal life' [In 6:68.] and that to receive in faith the gift of his Eucharist is to receive the Lord himself."
1340. "By celebrating the Last Supper with his apostles in the course of the Passover meal, Jesus gave the Jewish Passover its definitive meaning. Jesus' passing over to his father by his death and Resurrection, the new Passover, is anticipated in the Supper and celebrated in the Eucharist, which fulfills the Jewish Passover and anticipates the final Passover of the Church in the glory of the kingdom."
1355. "In the communion, preceded by the Lord's prayer and the breaking of the bread, the faithful receive 'the bread of heaven' and 'the cup of salvation,' the body and blood of Christ who offered himself 'for the life of the world': [Jn 6:51.] Because this bread and wine have been made Eucharist ('eucharisted,' according to an ancient expression), 'we call this food Eucharist, and no one may take part in it unless he believes that what we teach is true, has received baptism for the forgiveness of sins and new birth, and lives in keeping with what Christ taught.' [St. Justin, Apol. 1, 66,1-2: PG 6, 428.]"
1356. "If from the beginning Christians have celebrated the Eucharist and in a form whose substance has not changed despite the great diversity of times and liturgies, it is because we know ourselves to be bound by the command the Lord gave on the eve of his Passion: 'Do this in remembrance of me.' [1 Cor 11:24-25 .]"
1359. "The Eucharist, the sacrament of our salvation accomplished by Christ on the cross, is also a sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for the work of creation. In the Eucharistic sacrifice the whole of creation loved by God is presented to the Father through the death and the Resurrection of Christ. Through Christ the Church can offer the sacrifice of praise in thanksgiving for all that God has made good, beautiful, and just in creation and in humanity."
1360. "The Eucharist is a sacrifice of thanksgiving to the Father, a blessing by which the Church expresses her gratitude to God for all his benefits, for all that he has accomplished through creation, redemption, and sanctification. Eucharist means first of all 'thanksgiving.'"
1365. "Because it is the memorial of Christ's Passover, the Eucharist is also a sacrifice. The sacrificial character of the Eucharist is manifested in the very words of institution: 'This is my body which is given for you' and 'This cup which is poured out for you is the New Covenant in my blood.' [Lk 22:19-20.] In the Eucharist Christ gives us the very body which he gave up for us on the cross, the very blood which he 'poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.' [Mt 26:28 .]"
1367. "The sacrifice of Christ and the sacrifice of the Eucharist are one single sacrifice: 'The victim is one and the same: the same now offers through the ministry of priests, who then offered himself on the cross; only the manner of offering is different.' 'In this divine sacrifice which is celebrated in the Mass, the same Christ who offered himself once in a bloody manner on the altar of the cross is contained and is offered in an unbloody manner.' [Council of Trent (1562): DS 1743; cf. Heb 9:14, 27.]"
1368. "The Eucharist is also the sacrifice of the Church. The Church which is the Body of Christ participates in the offering of her Head. With him, she herself is offered whole and entire. She unites herself to his intercession with the Father for all men. In the Eucharist the sacrifice of Christ becomes also the sacrifice of the members of his Body. The lives of the faithful, their praise, sufferings, prayer, and work, are united with those of Christ and with his total offering, and so acquire a new value. Christ's sacrifice present on the altar makes it possible for all generations of Christians to be united with his offering. In the catacombs the Church is often represented as a woman in prayer, arms outstretched in the praying position. Like Christ who stretched out his arms on the cross, through him, with him, and in him, she offers herself and intercedes for all men."
1369. "The whole Church is united with the offering and intercession of Christ. Since he has the ministry of Peter in the Church, the Pope is associated with every celebration of the Eucharist, wherein he is named as the sign and servant of the unity of the universal Church. The bishop of the place is always responsible for the Eucharist, even when a priest presides; the bishop's name is mentioned to signify his presidency over the particular Church, in the midst of his presbyterium and with the assistance of deacons. The community intercedes also for all ministers who, for it and with it, offer the Eucharistic sacrifice: Let only that Eucharist be regarded as legitimate, which is celebrated under (the presidency of) the bishop or him to whom he has entrusted it. [St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Smyrn. 8:1; SCh 10, 138.] Through the ministry of priests the spiritual sacrifice of the faithful is completed in union with the sacrifice of Christ the only Mediator, which in the Eucharist is offered through the priests' hands in the name of the whole Church in an unbloody and sacramental manner until the Lord Himself comes. [PO 2 # 4.]"
1374. "The mode of Christ's presence under the Eucharistic species is unique. It raises the Eucharist above all the sacraments as 'the perfection of the spiritual life and the end to which all the sacraments tend.' [St. Thomas Aquinas, STh III, 73, 3c.] In the most blessed sacrament of the Eucharist 'the body and blood, together with the soul and divinity, of our Lord Jesus Christ and, therefore, the whole Christ is truly, really, and substantially contained.' [Council of Trent (1551): DS 1651.] 'This presence is called 'real' - by which is not intended to exclude the other types of presence as if they could not be 'real' too, but because it is presence in the fullest sense: that is to say, it is a substantial presence by which Christ, God and man, makes himself wholly and entirely present.' [Paul VI, MF 39.]"
1378. "Worship of the Eucharist. In the liturgy of the Mass we express our faith in the real presence of Christ under the species of bread and wine by, among other ways, genuflecting or bowing deeply as a sign of adoration of the Lord. 'The Catholic Church has always offered and still offers to the sacrament of the Eucharist the cult of adoration, not only during Mass, but also outside of it, reserving the consecrated hosts with the utmost care, exposing them to the solemn veneration of the faithful, and carrying them in procession.'[Paul VI, MF 56.]"
1384. "The Lord addresses an invitation to us, urging us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist: 'Truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.' [Jn 6:53 .]"
1396. "The unity of the Mystical Body: the Eucharist makes the Church. Those who receive the Eucharist are united more closely to Christ. Through it Christ unites them to all the faithful in one body - the Church. Communion renews, strengthens, and deepens this incorporation into the Church, already achieved by Baptism. In Baptism we have been called to form but one body. [Cf. 1 Cor 12:13 .] The Eucharist fulfills this call: 'The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread:' [1 Cor 10:16-17.] If you are the body and members of Christ, then it is your sacrament that is placed on the table of the Lord; it is your sacrament that you receive. To that which you are you respond 'Amen' ('yes, it is true!') and by responding to it you assent to it. For you hear the words, 'the Body of Christ' and respond 'Amen.' Be then a member of the Body of Christ that your Amen may be true. [St. Augustine, Sermon 272: PL 38, 1247.]"
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"Unless we have a passionate love for our Lord in the Most Blessed Sacrament, we shall accomplish nothing." - St. Peter Julian Eymard ("Let Us Love The Most Blessed Sacrament" 19th century A.D.)
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"Wherefore, he that eateth not this bread, nor drinketh this blood, hath not this life; for men can have temporal life without that, but they can in no way have eternal life. He then that eateth not His flesh, nor drinketh His blood, hath no life in him; and he that eateth His flesh, and drinketh His blood, hath life. This epithet, 'eternal,' which He used, answers to both. It is not so in the case of that food which we take for the purpose of sustaining this temporal life. For he who will not take it shall not live, nor yet shall he who will take it live. For very many, even who have taken it, die; it may be by old age, or by disease, or by some other casualty. But in this food and drink, that is, in the Body and Blood of the Lord, it is not so. For both he that doth not take it hath no life, and he that doth take it hath life, and that indeed eternal life. This it is, therefore, for a man to eat that meat and to drink that drink, to dwell in Christ, and to have Christ dwelling in him. Consequently, he that dwelleth not in Christ, and in whom Christ dwelleth not, doubtless neither eateth His flesh nor drinketh His blood." - St. Augustine of Hippo ("Tractate 26 on the Gospel of St. John" 4th century A.D.)
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COMMENTS
Jesus lost many disciples when He stated that they would have to eat His Body and drink His Blood (John 6:60, 66 ). Yet He did not "call back" these disciples stating "I was just speaking figuratively." He let them leave. Why? If He had been speaking figuratively, wouldn't He have called them back and "explained" the doctrine?
Here is an example where the Catholic Church rightly takes these passages literally while many non-Catholic Christian denominations take it figuratively because it would be too hard of a doctrine to accept otherwise just as it was for the disciples who left Christ.


"Once Saved, Always Saved?"
"With regard to despair, every appetitive movement that is conformed to a false intellect, is evil in itself and sinful. Now presumption is an appetitive movement, since it denotes an inordinate hope. Moreover it is conformed to a false intellect, just as despair is: for just as it is false that God does not pardon the repentant, or that He does not turn sinners to repentance, so is it false that He grants forgiveness to those who persevere in their sins, and that He gives glory to those who cease from good works: and it is to this estimate that the movement of presumption is conformed." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)
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"But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway." - 1 Corinthians 9:27
"If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus." - Philippians 3:11-14
"And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." - Matthew 10:22
"But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." - Matthew 24:13
"And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved." - Mark 13:13
"Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven." - Matthew 7:21
"Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed." - John 8:31
"Blessed is the man that endureth temptation: for when he is tried, he shall receive the crown of life, which the Lord hath promised to them that love him." - James 1:12
"For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered unto them." - 2 Peter 2:20-21
"And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again." - Romans 11:17-23
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Once Saved, Always Saved:"
161. "Believing in Jesus Christ and in the One who sent him for our salvation is necessary for obtaining that salvation. [Cf. Mk 16:16 ; Jn 3:36 ; Jn 6:40 ; et al.] 'Since 'without faith it is impossible to please (God)' and to attain to the fellowship of his sons, therefore without faith no one has ever attained justification, nor will anyone obtain eternal life 'But he who endures to the end.'']"
162. "Faith is an entirely free gift that God makes to man. We can lose this priceless gift, as St. Paul indicated to St. Timothy: 'Wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting conscience, certain persons have made shipwreck of their faith.' [1 Tim 1:18-19 .] To live, grow and persevere in the faith until the end we must nourish it with the word of God; we must beg the Lord to increase our faith; [Cf. Mk 9:24 ; Lk 17:5 ; Lk 22:32.] it must be 'working through charity,' abounding in hope, and rooted in the faith of the Church. [Gal 5:6 ; Rom 15:13 ; cf. Jam 2:14-26.]"
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COMMENTS
The false doctrine of "Once Saved, Always Saved" seems to have blossomed with Fundamentalist Christians although it's origins date back to 16th century Calvinism. The perfect example of how this doctrine is false is Judas Iscariot. He believed in Jesus Christ, walked with Him, was one of the Twelve and was given the same powers from Him as the others. Yet what Christian believes that Judas Iscariot went to Heaven? According to this doctrine, I would say Fundamentalist Christians would have to believe Judas is in Heaven as he more than met the requirements of salvation according to this doctrine.
Another good example is Lucifer (Satan) - abided in Heaven, knew God Himself, lived with God Himself yet he was not "saved" when given the opportunity for he now resides in Hell as punishment for the sin of pride. This sin occurred after having known and accepted God.
In my opinion, this doctrine helps Satan greatly by instilling a false sense of security and self-confidence among Christians concerning their salvation. They think they can't sin anymore and even if they do, no punishment will be due them as Christ paid for all our sins. This makes it much easier for Satan to tempt us with the sin of presumption.
How can we be assured of our own salvation if St. Paul wasn't (1 Corinthians 9:27)?
Salvation is not a "one time" event, but an ongoing process until "the end" (Matthew 10:22; 24:13; Mark 13:13).

Quick & Easy Catholic Apologetics
Bible Alone (Sola Scriptura)? - Is the Bible the sole authority and foundation of truth for Christianity? No, the Church is the "pillar and bulwark of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15) and the final authority (Matthew 18:17). Furthermore, there are traditions to be observed which are on equal footing with Scripture for not everything the Apostles taught or Jesus said, was written down (1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Thessalonians 2:15; 3:6; John 21:25).
Calling Priests "Father" - Isn't calling a priest "Father" in violation of Matthew 23:9? No, in this passage Jesus is using a hyperbole (exaggerated literary expression) to make a point. Otherwise, St. Stephen the first martyr (Acts 7:2) and St. Paul would be in violation of this command (Romans 4:1, 12, 16; 9:10; 1 Corinthians 4:15; 10:1).
Divorce & Remarriage - Is divorce and remarriage permitted in Christianity? No, Jesus Christ and St. Paul both forbade a divorced person to get remarried while their spouse was still alive (Matthew 5:32; 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Luke 16:18; Romans 7:2-3; 1 Corinthians 7:10-11, 39).
The Eucharist - Are we to eat the literal Body of Christ and drink His Blood? Yes, Jesus Christ meant for us to literally eat His Flesh and drink His Blood as He Himself repeated and emphasized the literality of this teaching by using the words "verily, verily" and "indeed" in describing it. If He did not mean this teaching literally, He surely would not have allowed disciples to stop following Him over this (John 6:51-71). In addition, why would St. Paul state that anyone who accepted the Eucharist unworthily is guilty of the blood of Christ if it were only symbolic? (1 Corinthians 11:23-29)
Faith Alone? - Is the only thing we need to do to be saved is believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior and the Son of God? It would seem not, as Jesus condemned as "evildoers" those who believed in Him ( Matthew 7:21-23). The people mentioned in these passages obviously believed Christ to be the Lord as they address Him as such. They also perform miracles and cast out demons in His Name yet Jesus says "Away from me, you evildoers." That is because one cannot just believe in Christ to be saved, one has to stop/avoid doing evil (sin) and to do the "will of the Father" as in good works (feed the hungry, care for the sick, etc.)
Mary - Is Mary the mother of God? Yes, for St. Elizabeth herself calls her "the mother of my Lord" in Scripture (Luke 1:43). Jesus Christ is God (Hebrews 1:8) and Mary is His mother, therefore, Mary is the mother of God (the Son) for Christ was both God and human in the womb of Mary. Did Mary remain a virgin her whole life? Yes, for the "gate" in which the Lord passed is closed to all others (Ezekiel 44:2). The brothers of the Lord spoken of in the Gospels are most likely St. Joseph's children from a previous marriage or Jesus's cousins as there is no word for "cousin" in the Aramaic language. In addition, Jesus is mentioned as "the" son of Mary, not "a" son of Mary in Scripture (Mark 6:3).
The Papacy - Was St. Peter the first "pope" as the Catholic Church claims? Yes, for Jesus Christ said it was upon St. Peter that He would build His Church and Christ gave him authority over His whole "flock" (Matthew 16:18-19; John 21:14-17).
Purgatory - Does a cleansing state of the soul exist before entering Heaven for those who need it? Yes, for Scripture says nothing unclean or impure will enter into the kingdom of Heaven (Revelations 21:27). St. Paul mentions the saving of a person's soul, but through fire (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). In addition, Jesus mentions being forgiven for sins in the next world (Matthew 12:32) and that we shall not be released until we have paid for all our sins (Luke 12:59).
Repetitious Prayer - Is reciting the same prayer over and over again a sin? While repeating a prayer in vain is useless, repeating a prayer in faith is not, for Jesus Christ Himself repeated prayer (Matthew 26:44) and the angels in Heaven continually repeat "Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come" (Revelations 4:8).
Sin: Deadly Or Not? - Is there no degree of seriousness when it comes to committing a sin? Yes, there are sins that are more serious in nature that deprive the soul of communion with God. These are called "mortal" (deadly) sins (1 John 5:16-17). Even Jesus Christ distinguished between lesser and greater sins (John 19:11).
Statues - Isn't having statues of Jesus, Mary and the saints in violation of Exodus 20:4-5? This passage is in reference to pagan idols and graven images which the Israelites would have been prone to worship at the time. For if it were in reference to all graven images, God would not have commanded angelic cherubim of gold be put on the Ark of the Covenant (Exodus 25:18-19). Nor would Moses have made a bronze serpent and mounted it on a pole (Numbers 21:8-9). In addition, the temple had several graven images decorating it (1 Kings 6:23-29; 7:25-45).

The Trinity
"All (the Persons) are one nature, one essence, one will, and are called the Holy Trinity; and these also are haines subsistent, one nature in three persons, and one genus. - St. Gregory Thaumaturgus ("On The Trinity" 3rd century A.D.)
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"And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth." - Genesis 1:26
"And the Lord appeared unto him (Abraham) in the plains of Mamre: and he sat in the tent door in the heat of the day; And he lift up his eyes and looked, and, lo, three men stood by him: and when he saw them, he ran to meet them from the tent door, and bowed himself toward the ground, And said, My Lord, if now I have found favour in thy sight, pass not away, I pray thee, from thy servant. Let a little water, I pray you, be fetched, and wash your feet, and rest yourselves under the tree: And I will fetch a morsel of bread, and comfort ye your hearts; after that ye shall pass on: for therefore are ye come to your servant. And they said, So do, as thou hast said." - Genesis 18:1-5
"For there are three that bear record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Ghost: and these three are one." - 1 John 5:7
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost." - Matthew 28:19
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." - John 1:1-3
"I and my Father are one." - John 10:30
"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high; Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows. And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of thine hands: They shall perish; but thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall not fail. But to which of the angels said he at any time, Sit on my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool? Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?" - Hebrews 1:1-14
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "The Trinity:"
232. "Christians are baptized 'in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit' [Mt 28:19.] Before receiving the sacrament, they respond to a three-part question when asked to confess the Father, the Son and the Spirit: 'I do.' 'The faith of all Christians rests on the Trinity.' [St. Caesarius of Arles, Sermo 9, Exp. symb.: CCL 103, 47.]"
233. "Christians are baptized in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit: not in their names, [Cf. Profession of faith of Pope Vigilius I (552): DS 415.] for there is only one God, the almighty Father, his only Son and the Holy Spirit: the Most Holy Trinity."
234. "The mystery of the Most Holy Trinity is the central mystery of Christian faith and life. It is the mystery of God in himself. It is therefore the source of all the other mysteries of faith, the light that enlightens them. It is the most fundamental and essential teaching in the 'hierarchy of the truths of faith'. [GCD 43.] The whole history of salvation is identical with the history of the way and the means by which the one true God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, reveals himself to men 'and reconciles and unites with himself those who turn away from sin'. [GCD 47.]"
235. "This paragraph expounds briefly (I) how the mystery of the Blessed Trinity was revealed, (II) how the Church has articulated the doctrine of the faith regarding this mystery, and (III) how, by the divine missions of the Son and the Holy Spirit, God the Father fulfils the 'plan of his loving goodness' of creation, redemption and sanctification."
236. "The Fathers of the Church distinguish between theology (theologia) and economy (oikonomia). 'Theology' refers to the mystery of God's inmost life within the Blessed Trinity and 'economy' to all the works by which God reveals himself and communicates his life. Through the oikonomia the theologia is revealed to us; but conversely, the theologia illuminates the whole oikonomia. God's works reveal who he is in himself; the mystery of his inmost being enlightens our understanding of all his works. So it is, analogously, among human persons. A person discloses himself in his actions, and the better we know a person, the better we understand his actions."
237. "The Trinity is a mystery of faith in the strict sense, one of the 'mysteries that are hidden in God, which can never be known unless they are revealed by God'. [Dei Filius 4: DS 3015.] To be sure, God has left traces of his Trinitarian being in his work of creation and in his Revelation throughout the Old Testament. But his inmost Being as Holy Trinity is a mystery that is inaccessible to reason alone or even to Israel's faith before the Incarnation of God's Son and the sending of the Holy Spirit."
238. "Many religions invoke God as 'Father'. The deity is often considered the 'father of gods and of men'. In Israel, God is called 'Father' inasmuch as he is Creator of the world. [Cf. Dt 32:6; Mal 2:10.] Even more, God is Father because of the covenant and the gift of the law to Israel, 'his first-born son'. [Ex 4:22.] God is also called the Father of the king of Israel. Most especially he is 'the Father of the poor', of the orphaned and the widowed, who are under his loving protection. [Cf. 2 Sam 7:14; Ps 68:6.]"
239. "By calling God 'Father', the language of faith indicates two main things: that God is the first origin of everything and transcendent authority; and that he is at the same time goodness and loving care for all his children. God's parental tenderness can also be expressed by the image of motherhood, [Cf. Is 66:13; Ps 131:2.] which emphasizes God's immanence, the intimacy between Creator and creature. The language of faith thus draws on the human experience of parents, who are in a way the first representatives of God for man. But this experience also tells us that human parents are fallible and can disfigure the face of fatherhood and motherhood. We ought therefore to recall that God transcends the human distinction between the sexes. He is neither man nor woman: he is God. He also transcends human fatherhood and motherhood, although he is their origin and standard: [Cf. Ps 27:10; Eph 3:14; Is 49:15.] no one is father as God is Father."
240. "Jesus revealed that God is Father in an unheard-of sense: he is Father not only in being Creator; he is eternally Father by his relationship to his only Son who, reciprocally, is Son only in relation to his Father: 'No one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and any one to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.' [Mt 11-27.]"
241. "For this reason the apostles confess Jesus to be the Word: 'In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God' as 'the image of the invisible God' as the 'radiance of the glory of God and the very stamp of his nature'. [Jn 1:1; Col 1:15; Heb 1:3.]"
242. "Following this apostolic tradition, the Church confessed at the first ecumenical council at Nicaea (325) that the Son is 'consubstantial' with the Father, that is, one only God with him. [The English phrases 'of one being' and 'one in being' translate the Greek word homoousios, which was rendered in Latin by consubstantialis.] The second ecumenical council, held at Constantinople in 381, kept this expression in its formulation of the Nicene Creed and confessed 'the only- begotten Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, light from light, true God from true God, begotten not made, consubstantial with the Father'. [Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed; cf. DS 150.]"
243. "Before his Passover, Jesus announced the sending of 'another Paraclete' (Advocate), the Holy Spirit. At work since creation, having previously 'spoken through the prophets', the Spirit will now be with and in the disciples, to teach them and guide them 'into all the truth'. [Cf. Gen 1:2; Nicene Creed (DS 150); Jn 14:17, 26; Jn 16:13.] The Holy Spirit is thus revealed as another divine person with Jesus and the Father."
244. "The eternal origin of the Holy Spirit is revealed in his mission in time. The Spirit is sent to the apostles and to the Church both by the Father in the name of the Son, and by the Son in person, once he had returned to the Father. [Cf. Jn 14:26; Jn 15:26; Jn 16:14.] The sending of the person of the Spirit after Jesus' glorification [Cf. Jn 7:39.] reveals in its fullness the mystery of the Holy Trinity."
245. "The apostolic faith concerning the Spirit was confessed by the second ecumenical council at Constantinople (381): 'We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and giver of life, who proceeds from the Father.' [Nicene Creed; cf. DS 150.] By this confession, the Church recognizes the Father as 'the source and origin of the whole divinity'. [Council of Toledo VI (638): DS 490.] But the eternal origin of the Spirit is not unconnected with the Son's origin: 'The Holy Spirit, the third person of the Trinity, is God, one and equal with the Father and the Son, of the same substance and also of the same nature. . . Yet he is not called the Spirit of the Father alone,. . . but the Spirit of both the Father and the Son.' [Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 527.] The Creed of the Church from the Council of Constantinople confesses: 'With the Father and the Son, he is worshipped and glorified.' [Nicene Creed; cf. DS 150.]"
246. "The Latin tradition of the Creed confesses that the Spirit 'proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque)'. The Council of Florence in 1438 explains: 'The Holy Spirit is eternally from Father and Son; He has his nature and subsistence at once (simul) from the Father and the Son. He proceeds eternally from both as from one principle and through one spiration... And, since the Father has through generation given to the only-begotten Son everything that belongs to the Father, except being Father, the Son has also eternally from the Father, from whom he is eternally born, that the Holy Spirit proceeds from the Son.' [Council of Florence (1439): DS 1300-1301.]"
247. "The affirmation of the filioque does not appear in the Creed confessed in 381 at Constantinople. But Pope St. Leo I, following an ancient Latin and Alexandrian tradition, had already confessed it dogmatically in 447, [Cf. Leo I, Quam laudabiliter (447): DS 284.] even before Rome, in 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, came to recognize and receive the Symbol of 381. The use of this formula in the Creed was gradually admitted into the Latin liturgy (between the eighth and eleventh centuries). The introduction of the filioque into the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed by the Latin liturgy constitutes moreover, even today, a point of disagreement with the Orthodox Churches."
248. "At the outset the Eastern tradition expresses the Father's character as first origin of the Spirit. By confessing the Spirit as he 'who proceeds from the Father', it affirms that he comes from the Father through the Son. [Jn 15:26; cf. AG 2.] The Western tradition expresses first the consubstantial communion between Father and Son, by saying that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son (filioque). It says this, 'legitimately and with good reason', [Council of Florence (1439): DS 1302.] for the eternal order of the divine persons in their consubstantial communion implies that the Father, as 'the principle without principle', [Council of Florence (1442): DS 1331.] is the first origin of the Spirit, but also that as Father of the only Son, he is, with the Son, the single principle from which the Holy Spirit proceeds. [Cf. Council of Lyons II (1274): DS 850.] This legitimate complementarity, provided it does not become rigid, does not affect the identity of faith in the reality of the same mystery confessed."
249. "From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church's living faith, principally by means of Baptism. It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal faith, formulated in the preaching, catechesis and prayer of the Church. Such formulations are already found in the apostolic writings, such as this salutation taken up in the Eucharistic liturgy: 'The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.' [2 Cor 13:14; cf. 1 Cor 12:4-6; Eph 4:4-6.]"
250. "During the first centuries the Church sought to clarify her Trinitarian faith, both to deepen her own understanding of the faith and to defend it against the errors that were deforming it. This clarification was the work of the early councils, aided by the theological work of the Church Fathers and sustained by the Christian people's sense of the faith."
251. "In order to articulate the dogma of the Trinity, the Church had to develop her own terminology with the help of certain notions of philosophical origin: 'substance', 'person' or 'hypostasis', 'relation' and so on. In doing this, she did not submit the faith to human wisdom, but gave a new and unprecedented meaning to these terms, which from then on would be used to signify an ineffable mystery, 'infinitely beyond all that we can humanly understand'. [Paul VI, CPC # 2.]"
252. "The Church uses (I) the term 'substance' (rendered also at times by 'essence' or 'nature') to designate the divine being in its unity, (II) the term 'person' or 'hypostasis' to designate the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in the real distinction among them, and (III) the term 'relation' to designate the fact that their distinction lies in the relationship of each to the others."
253. "The Trinity is One. We do not confess three Gods, but one God in three persons, the 'consubstantial Trinity'. [Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 421.] The divine persons do not share the one divinity among themselves but each of them is God whole and entire: 'The Father is that which the Son is, the Son that which the Father is, the Father and the Son that which the Holy Spirit is, i.e. by nature one God.' [Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 530:26.] In the words of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215), 'Each of the persons is that supreme reality, viz., the divine substance, essence or nature.' [Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 804.]"
254. "The divine persons are really distinct from one another. 'God is one but not solitary.' [Fides Damasi: DS 71.] 'Father', 'Son', 'Holy Spirit' are not simply names designating modalities of the divine being, for they are really distinct from one another: 'He is not the Father who is the Son, nor is the Son he who is the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit he who is the Father or the Son.' [Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 530:25.] They are distinct from one another in their relations of origin: 'It is the Father who generates, the Son who is begotten, and the Holy Spirit who proceeds.' [Lateran Council IV (1215): DS 804.] The divine Unity is Triune."
255. "The divine persons are relative to one another. Because it does not divide the divine unity, the real distinction of the persons from one another resides solely in the relationships which relate them to one another: 'In the relational names of the persons the Father is related to the Son, the Son to the Father, and the Holy Spirit to both. While they are called three persons in view of their relations, we believe in one nature or substance.' [Council of Toledo XI (675): DS 528.] Indeed 'everything (in them) is one where there is no opposition of relationship.' [Council of Florence (1442): DS 1330.] 'Because of that unity the Father is wholly in the Son and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Son is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Holy Spirit; the Holy Spirit is wholly in the Father and wholly in the Son.' [Council of Florence (1442): DS 1331.]"
256. "St. Gregory of Nazianzus, also called 'the Theologian', entrusts this summary of Trinitarian faith to the catechumens of Constantinople: Above all guard for me this great deposit of faith for which I live and fight, which I want to take with me as a companion, and which makes me bear all evils and despise all pleasures: I mean the profession of faith in the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. I entrust it to you today. By it I am soon going to plunge you into water and raise you up from it. I give it to you as the companion and patron of your whole life. I give you but one divinity and power, existing one in three, and containing the three in a distinct way. Divinity without disparity of substance or nature, without superior degree that raises up or inferior degree that casts down. . . the infinite co-naturality of three infinites. Each person considered in himself is entirely God. . . the three considered together. . . I have not even begun to think of unity when the Trinity bathes me in its splendour. I have not even begun to think of the Trinity when unity grasps me. . [St. Gregory of Nazianzus, Oratio 40, 41: PG 36, 417.]"
257. "'O blessed light, O Trinity and first Unity!' [LH, Hymn for Evening Prayer.] God is eternal blessedness, undying life, unfading light. God is love: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. God freely wills to communicate the glory of his blessed life. Such is the 'plan of his loving kindness', conceived by the Father before the foundation of the world, in his beloved Son: 'He destined us in love to be his sons' and 'to be conformed to the image of his Son', through 'the spirit of sonship'. [Eph 1:4-5, 9; Rom 8:15, 29.] This plan is a 'grace (which) was given to us in Christ Jesus before the ages began', stemming immediately from Trinitarian love.[2 Tim 1:9-10.] It unfolds in the work of creation, the whole history of salvation after the fall, and the missions of the Son and the Spirit, which are continued in the mission of the Church. [Cf. AG 2-9.]"
258. "The whole divine economy is the common work of the three divine persons. For as the Trinity has only one and the same natures so too does it have only one and the same operation: 'The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are not three principles of creation but one principle.' [Council of Florence (1442): DS 1331; cf. Council of Constantinople II (553): DS 421.] However, each divine person performs the common work according to his unique personal property. Thus the Church confesses, following the New Testament, 'one God and Father from whom all things are, and one Lord Jesus Christ, through whom all things are, and one Holy Spirit in whom all things are'. [Council of Constantinople II: DS 421.] It is above all the divine missions of the Son's Incarnation and the gift of the Holy Spirit that show forth the properties of the divine persons."
259. "Being a work at once common and personal, the whole divine economy makes known both what is proper to the divine persons, and their one divine nature. Hence the whole Christian life is a communion with each of the divine persons, without in any way separating them. Everyone who glorifies the Father does so through the Son in the Holy Spirit; everyone who follows Christ does so because the Father draws him and the Spirit moves him. [Cf. Jn 6:44; Rom 8:14.]"
260. "The ultimate end of the whole divine economy is the entry of God's creatures into the perfect unity of the Blessed Trinity. [Cf. Jn 17:21-23.] But even now we are called to be a dwelling for the Most Holy Trinity: 'If a man loves me', says the Lord, 'he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him, and make our home with him': [Jn 14:23.] O my God, Trinity whom I adore, help me forget myself entirely so to establish myself in you, unmovable and peaceful as if my soul were already in eternity. May nothing be able to trouble my peace or make me leave you, O my unchanging God, but may each minute bring me more deeply into your mystery! Grant my soul peace. Make it your heaven, your beloved dwelling and the place of your rest. May I never abandon you there, but may I be there, whole and entire, completely vigilant in my faith, entirely adoring, and wholly given over to your creative action. [Prayer of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity.]"
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"All those Catholic expounders of the divine Scriptures, both Old and New, whom I have been able to read, who have written before me concerning the Trinity, Who is God, have purposed to teach, according to the Scriptures, this doctrine, that the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit intimate a divine unity of one and the same substance in an indivisible equality; and therefore that they are not three Gods, but one God: although the Father hath begotten the Son, and so He who is the Father is not the Son; and the Son is begotten by the Father, and so He who is the Son is not the Father; and the Holy Spirit is neither the Father nor the Son, but only the Spirit of the Father and of the Son, Himself also co-equal with the Father and the Son, and pertaining to the unity of the Trinity." - St. Augustine of Hippo ("On The Trinity" 4th century A.D.)
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"AGAINST THE SABELLIANS" by Pope St. Dionysius (3rd century A.D.)
1. Now truly it would be just to dispute against those who, by dividing and rending the monarchy, which is the most august announcement of the Church of God, into, as it were, three powers, and distinct substances (hypostases), and three deities, destroy it. For I have heard that some who preach and teach the word of God among you are teachers of this opinion, who indeed diametrically, so to speak, are opposed to the opinion of Sabellius. For he blasphemes in saying that the Son Himself is the Father, and vice versa; but these in a certain manner announce three gods, in that they divide the holy unity into three different substances, absolutely separated from one another. For it is essential that the Divine Word should be united to the God of all, and that the Holy Spirit should abide and dwell in God; and thus that the Divine Trinity should be reduced and gathered into one, as if into a certain head--that is, into the omnipotent God of all. For the doctrine of the foolish Marcion, which Gilts and divides the monarchy into three elements, is assuredly of the devil, and is not of Christ's true disciples, or of those to whom the Saviour's teaching is agreeable. For these indeed rightly know that the Trinity is declared in the divine Scripture, but that the doctrine that there are three gods is, neither taught in the Old nor in the New Testament.

2. But neither are they less to be blamed who think that the Son was a creation, and decided that the Lord was made just as one of those things which really were made; whereas the divine declarations testify that He was begotten, as is fitting and proper, but not that He was created or made. It is therefore not a trifling, but a very great impiety, to say that the Lord was in any wise made with hands. For if the Son was made, there was a time when He was not; but He always was, if, as He Himself declares, He is undoubtedly in the Father. And if Christ is the Word, the Wisdom, and the Power,--for the divine writings tell us that Christ is these, as ye yourselves know,--assuredly these are powers of God. Wherefore, if the Son was made, there was a time when these were not in existence; and thus there was a time when God was without these things, which is utterly absurd. But why should I discourse at greater length to you about these matters, since ye are men filled with the Spirit, and especially understanding what absurd results follow from the opinion which asserts that the Son was made? The leaders of this view seem to me to have given very little heed to these things, and for that reason to have strayed absolutely, by explaining the passage otherwise than as the divine and prophetic Scripture demands. "The Lord created me the beginning of His ways." For, as ye know, there is more than one signification of the word "created;" and in this place "created" is the same as "set over" the works made by Himself--made, I say, by the Son Himself. But this "created" is not to be understood in the same manner as "made." For to make and to create are different from one another. "Is not He Himself thy Father, that hath possessed thee and created thee?" says Moses in the great song of Deuteronomy. And thus might any one reasonably convict these men. Oh reckless and rash men! was then "the first-born of every creature" something made?--"He who was begotten from the womb before the morning star?"--He who in the person of Wisdom says, "Before all the hills He begot me?" Finally, any one may read in many parts of the divine utterances that the Son is said to have been begotten, but never that He was made. From which considerations, they who dare to say that His divine and inexplicable generation was a creation, are openly convicted of thinking that which is false concerning the generation of the Lord.

3. That admirable and divine unity, therefore, must neither be separated into three divinities, nor must the dignity and eminent greatness of the Lord be diminished by having applied to it the name of creation, but we must believe on God the Father Omnipotent, and on Christ Jesus His Son, and on the Holy Spirit. Moreover, that the Word is united to the God of all, because He says, "I and the Father are one;" and, "I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me." Thus doubtless will be maintained in its integrity the doctrine of the divine Trinity, and the sacred announcement of the monarchy.
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COMMENTS
I never thought I would have to defend this doctrine. However, I have corresponded with a couple of "Bible" Christians who do not believe in this doctrine for the word "trinity" is not mentioned in the Bible. The New Testament is very plain about the Trinity even if the word itself is not mentioned. And as quoted above, the Trinity is even alluded to in the Book of Genesis.
Genesis 1:26 above uses the plural "us" and "our" when referring to God. Why is that word used, if God is NOT trinitarian?
In Genesis 18:2, three men appear to Abraham yet he addresses all three as "My Lord" (in the singular). And when "they" reply, "they" do so as one in Genesis 18:5.
Basically, 1 John 5:7 states it all: "the three are one" (triune). The word "trinity" itself comes from "tri-" meaning "three" and "-nity" from the word "unity" meaning "one." This is exactly what is stated in 1 John 5:7.
John 1:1 states that the Word (Jesus Christ) was with God yet it also states the Word was God. If God is one person (instead of three), then how can God be "with" Himself and also "be" Himself at the same time?
One of the objections from "unitarians" is that the phrase "God the Son" does not appear in Scripture. However, in the newer, more accurate translations of the Bible such as the New American Bible, John 1:18 states: "It is God the only Son , ever at the Father's side, who has revealed him." In addition, God the Father uses the title of "God" in Hebrews 1:8 when speaking to the Son.
--- Chris
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PRAYER TO THE BLESSED TRINITY
The Father is my hope. The Son is my refuge. The Holy Spirit is my protector. Glory to the holy and undivided Trinity, now and for ever. Let us praise the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit; let us bless and exalt God above all for ever! Almighty and everlasting God, to whom we owe the grace of professing the true faith, grant that while acknowledging the glory of the eternal Trinity and adoring its unity, we may through Your majestic power be confirmed in this faith and defended against all adversities; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with You in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.

Baptism
"For if the one party concede to the other that remission of sins takes place in all infants which are baptized, whilst the other concedes to their opponents that infants (as infant nature itself in its silence loudly proclaims) have as yet contracted no sin in their own living, then both sides must agree in conceding to us, that nothing remains but original sin, which can be remitted in baptism to infants." - St. Augustine of Hippo ("On The Merits And Forgiveness Of Sins, And The Baptism Of Infants" 4th century A.D.)
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"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen." - Matthew 28:18-20
"And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned." - Mark 16:15-16
"Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and [of] the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God." - John 3:3-5
"And all the people that heard [him], and the publicans, justified God, being baptized with the baptism of John. But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him." - Luke 7:29-30
"Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days." - Acts 10:47-48
"And when she was baptized, and her household, she besought [us], saying, If ye have judged me to be faithful to the Lord, come into my house, and abide [there]. And she constrained us." - Acts 16:15
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Baptism:"
1231. "Where infant baptism has become the form in which this sacrament is usually celebrated, it has become a single act encapsulating the preparatory stages of Christian initiation in a very abridged way. By its very nature infant baptism requires a post-baptismal catechumen ate. Not only is there a need for instruction after baptism, but also for the necessary flowering of baptismal grace in personal growth. The catechism has its proper place here. "
1250. "Born with a fallen human nature and tainted by original sin, children also have need of the new birth in baptism to be freed from the power of darkness and brought into the realm of the freedom of the children of God, to which all men are called. [Cf. Council of Trent (1546): DS 1514; cf. Col 1:12-14.] The sheer gratuitousness of the grace of salvation is particularly manifest in infant baptism. The Church and the parents would deny a child the priceless grace of becoming a child of God were they not to confer baptism shortly after birth. [Cf. CIC, can. 867; CCEO, cann. 681; 686, 1.] "
1252. "The practice of infant baptism is an immemorial tradition of the Church. There is explicit testimony to this practice from the second century on, and it is quite possible that, from the beginning of the apostolic preaching, when whole 'households' received baptism, infants may also have been baptized. [Cf. Acts 16:15, 33; Acts 18:8; 1 Cor 1:16; CDF, instruction, Pastoralis actio: AAS 72 (1980) 1137-1156.]"
1290. "In the first centuries Confirmation generally comprised one single celebration with baptism, forming with it a 'double sacrament,' according to the expression of St. Cyprian. Among other reasons, the multiplication of infant baptisms all through the year, the increase of rural parishes, and the growth of dioceses often prevented the bishop from being present at all baptismal celebrations. In the West the desire to reserve the completion of baptism to the bishop caused the temporal separation of the two sacraments. The East has kept them united, so that Confirmation is conferred by the priest who baptizes. But he can do so only with the 'myron' consecrated by a bishop. [Cf. CCEO, Can. 695 # 1; 696 # 1.]"
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"But our Lord Himself said (John 3:5): 'Unless a man be born again of water and the Holy Ghost, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God.' Consequently it became necessary to baptize children, that, as in birth they incurred damnation through Adam so in a second birth they might obtain salvation through Christ. Moreover it was fitting that children should receive Baptism, in order that being reared from childhood in things pertaining to the Christian mode of life, they may the more easily persevere therein; according to Prov. 22:5: "A young man according to his way, even when he is old, he will not depart from it." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)

Church Attendance
"Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy." - Exodus 20:8
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Church Attendance:"
2178. "This practice of the Christian assembly dates from the beginnings of the Apostolic age. [Cf. Acts 2:42-46 ; 1 Cor 11:17 .] The Letter to the Hebrews reminds the faithful 'not to neglect to meet together, as is the habit of some, but to encourage one another.' [Heb 10:25.] Tradition preserves the memory of an ever-timely exhortation: Come to Church early, approach the Lord, and confess your sins, repent in prayer.... Be present at the sacred and divine liturgy, conclude its prayer and do not leave before the dismissal.... We have often said: 'This day is given to you for prayer and rest. This is the day that the Lord has made, let us rejoice and be glad in it.' [Sermo de die dominica 2 et 6: PG 86/1, 416C and 421C.]"
2180. "The precept of the Church specifies the law of the Lord more precisely: 'On Sundays and other holy days of obligation the faithful are bound to participate in the Mass.' [CIC, can. 1247.] 'The precept of participating in the Mass is satisfied by assistance at a Mass which is celebrated anywhere in a Catholic rite either on the holy day or on the evening of the preceding day.' [CIC, can. 1248 # 1.]"
2181. "The Sunday Eucharist is the foundation and confirmation of all Christian practice. For this reason the faithful are obliged to participate in the Eucharist on days of obligation, unless excused for a serious reason (for example, illness, the care of infants) or dispensed by their own pastor. [Cf. CIC, can. 1245.] Those who deliberately fail in this obligation commit a grave sin."
Fasting During Lent
"Fasting is directed to two things, the deletion of sin, and the raising of the mind to heavenly things. Wherefore fasting ought to be appointed specially for those times, when it behooves man to be cleansed from sin, and the minds of the faithful to be raised to God by devotion: and these things are particularly requisite before the feast of Easter." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)
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"Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. And when he had fasted forty days and forty nights, he was afterward an hungred." - Matthew 4:1-2
"And Jesus said unto them, Can the children of the bridechamber mourn, as long as the bridegroom is with them? but the days will come, when the bridegroom shall be taken from them, and then shall they fast." - Matthew 9:15
"And when they had ordained them elders in every church, and had prayed with fasting, they commended them to the Lord, on whom they believed." - Acts 14:23
"[It is] good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor [any thing] whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." - Romans 14:21
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about "Fasting During Lent:"
1438. "The seasons and days of penance in the course of the liturgical year (Lent, and each Friday in memory of the death of the Lord) are intense moments of the Church's penitential practice. [Cf. SC 109-110; CIC, cann. 1249-1253; CCEO, Cann. 880-883.] These times are particularly appropriate for spiritual exercises, penitential liturgies, pilgrimages as signs of penance, voluntary self-denial such as fasting and almsgiving, and fraternal sharing (charitable and missionary works)."

The Papacy
"I, Boniface, bishop by the grace of God, promise to you, the blessed, Peter, chief of the apostles, and to thy vicar, the blessed Pope Gregory, and to his successors, by the Father and the Son and the Holy Ghost, the indivisible Trinity, and by this thy most holy body, that, God helping me, I will maintain all the belief and the purity of the holy Catholic faith, and I will remain steadfast in the unity of this faith in which the whole salvation of Christians lies, as is established without doubt. I will in no wise oppose the unity of the one universal Church, no matter who may seek to persuade me. But as I have said, I will maintain my faith and purity and union with thee and the benefits of thy Church, to whom God has given the power to loose and to bind, and with thy vicar and his successors, in all things. And if it comes to my knowledge that priests have turned from the ancient practices of the holy fathers, I will have no intercourse nor connection with them; but rather, if I can restrain them, I will. If I cannot, I will at once faithfully make known the whole matter to my apostolic lord." - St. Boniface (Apostle to Germany, 8th century)
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"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen." - Matthew 28:18-20
"When Jesus came into the coasts of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, saying, Whom do men say that I the Son of man am? And they said, Some [say that thou art] John the Baptist: some, Elias; and others, Jeremias, or one of the prophets. He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed [it] unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. Then charged he his disciples that they should tell no man that he was Jesus the Christ." - Matthew 16:13-20
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, [that] shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew [it] unto you." - John 16:13-14
"So when they had dined, Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, [son] of Jonas, lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep." - John 21:15-17
"Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven." - Matthew 18:18
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the "Papacy:"
869. "The Church is apostolic. She is built on a lasting foundation: 'the twelve apostles of the Lamb' [Rev 21:14.]. She is indestructible (cf. Mt 16:18). She is upheld infallibly in the truth: Christ governs her through Peter and the other apostles, who are present in their successors, the Pope and the college of bishops."

881. "The Lord made Simon alone, whom he named Peter, the 'rock' of his Church. He gave him the keys of his Church and instituted him shepherd of the whole flock. [Cf. Mt 16:18-19; Jn 21:15-17 .] 'The office of binding and loosing which was given to Peter was also assigned to the college of apostles united to its head.' [LG 22 # 2.] This pastoral office of Peter and the other apostles belongs to the Church's very foundation and is continued by the bishops under the primacy of the Pope."

882. "The Pope, Bishop of Rome and Peter's successor, 'is the perpetual and visible source and foundation of the unity both of the bishops and of the whole company of the faithful.' [LG 23.] 'For the Roman Pontiff, by reason of his office as Vicar of Christ, and as pastor of the entire Church has full, supreme, and universal power over the whole Church, a power which he can always exercise unhindered.' [LG 22; cf. CD 2,9.]"

895. "'The power which they exercise personally in the name of Christ, is proper, ordinary, and immediate, although its exercise is ultimately controlled by the supreme authority of the Church.' [LG 27.] But the bishops should not be thought of as vicars of the Pope. His ordinary and immediate authority over the whole Church does not annul, but on the contrary confirms and defends that of the bishops. Their authority must be exercised in communion with the whole Church under the guidance of the Pope."
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"This, most blessed Pope, is the faith that we have been taught in the Catholic Church. If anything therein has been incorrectly or carelessly expressed, we beg that it may be set aright by you who hold the faith and see of Peter. If however this, our profession, be approved by the judgment of your apostleship, whoever may blame me, will prove that he himself is ignorant, or malicious, or even not a Catholic but a heretic." - St. Jerome (4th century A.D.)
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"Hence He said to Peter before His Ascension, 'Feed my sheep' (John xxi, 1) and before His Passion, 'Thou in thy turn confirm thy brethren' (Luke xxii, 32); and to him alone He made the promise, 'To thee I will give the keys of the kingdom of heaven' (Matt. xvi, 19). Nor can it be said that although He gave this dignity to Peter, it does not pass from Peter to others. For Christ instituted His Church to last to the end of the world, according to the text: 'He shall sit upon the throne of David and in his kingdom, to confirm and strengthen it in justice and judgement from henceforth, now, and for ever' (Isai. ix, 7). Therefore, in constituting His ministers for the time, He intended their power to pass to posterity for the benefit of His Church to the end of the world, as He Himself says: 'Lo, I am with you to the end of the world' (Matt. xxviii, 20). Hereby is cast out the presumptuous error of some, who endeavour to withdraw themselves from obedience and subjection to Peter, not recognising his successor, the Roman Pontiff, for the pastor of the Universal Church." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Contra Gentiles" 13th century A.D.)
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COMMENTS
Throughout the Acts of the Apostles, St. Peter is clearly the leader of the Christian community (Acts 1:15, 5:1-10). And again, he is listed first among the Apostles in the New Testament (Matthew 10:2; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6:13-14). Before St. Peter was crucified, he appointed St. Linus as his successor. Why should this practice not be carried on to the present day? There is an unbroken line of Popes from St. Peter down to the present-day Pope. The Papacy is the oldest institution in the Western World. How could it have survived 2000 years without the grace of God and the guidance of the Holy Spirit?
St. Hegessipus in the 2nd century of the Church had already compiled a list of the popes, listing the current one at the time (Pope Anacletus) as the eleventh successor to St. Peter.
--- Chris
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PRAYER FOR THE POPE
Let us pray for our Sovereign Pontiff Benedict XVI. The Lord preserve him and give him life, and make him blessed upon the earth, and deliver him not to the will of his enemies. Amen.

The Reformation
"Do not err, my brethren. If any man follows him that makes a schism in the Church, he shall not inherit the kingdom of God." - St. Ignatius of Antioch ("Epistle to the Philadelphians," 105 A.D.)
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"Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and [that] there be no divisions among you; but [that] ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment. For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them [which are of the house] of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul? I thank God that I baptized none of you, but Crispus and Gaius; Lest any should say that I had baptized in mine own name. And I baptized also the household of Stephanas: besides, I know not whether I baptized any other. For Christ sent me not to baptize, but to preach the gospel: not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of none effect." - 1 Corinthians 1:10-17
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of." - 2 Peter 2:1-2
"A man that is an heretic after the first and second admonition reject; Knowing that he that is such is subverted, and sinneth, being condemned of himself." - Titus 3:10-11
"These are murmurers, complainers, walking after their own lusts; and their mouth speaketh great swelling [words], having men's persons in admiration because of advantage. But, beloved, remember ye the words which were spoken before of the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ; How that they told you there should be mockers in the last time, who should walk after their own ungodly lusts. These be they who separate themselves, sensual, having not the Spirit." - Jude 16-19
"As I besought thee to abide still at Ephesus, when I went into Macedonia, that thou mightest charge some that they teach no other doctrine, Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: [so do]. Now the end of the commandment is charity out of a pure heart, and [of] a good conscience, and [of] faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain jangling; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor whereof they affirm." - 1 Timothy 1:3-7
"I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. [There is] one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who [is] above all, and through all, and in you all." - Ephesians 4:1-6
"I marvel that ye are so soon removed from him that called you into the grace of Christ unto another gospel: Which is not another; but there be some that trouble you, and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. As we said before, so say I now again, If any [man] preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed." - Galatians 1:6-9
"[This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies...." - Galatians 5:16-20
"Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple." - Romans 16:17-18
"I charge [thee] therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine. For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away [their] ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry." - 2 Timothy 4:1-5
"Now ye are the body of Christ, and members in particular. And God hath set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, governments, diversities of tongues." - 1 Corinthians 12:27-28
"And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, [even] unto the end of the world. Amen." - Matthew 28:18-20
"Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind." - Philippians 2:2
"Now the God of patience and consolation grant you to be likeminded one toward another according to Christ Jesus: That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ." - Romans 15:5-6
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "The Reformation:"
1400. "Ecclesial communities derived from the Reformation and separated from the Catholic Church, 'have not preserved the proper reality of the Eucharistic mystery in its fullness, especially because of the absence of the sacrament of Holy Orders.' [UR 22 # 3.] It is for this reason that Eucharistic intercommunion with these communities is not possible for the Catholic Church. However these ecclesial communities, 'when they commemorate the Lord's death and resurrection in the Holy Supper . . . profess that it signifies life in communion with Christ and await his coming in glory.' [UR 22 # 3.]"
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"Falsehood is contrary to truth. Now a heretic is one who devises or follows false or new opinions. Therefore heresy is opposed to the truth, on which faith is founded; and consequently it is a species of unbelief. Accordingly there are two ways in which a man may deviate from the rectitude of the Christian faith. First, because he is unwilling to assent to Christ: and such a man has an evil will, so to say, in respect of the very end. This belongs to the species of unbelief in pagans and Jews. Secondly, because, though he intends to assent to Christ, yet he fails in his choice of those things wherein he assents to Christ, because he chooses not what Christ really taught, but the suggestions of his own mind. In obedience to Our Lord's institution, the Church extends her charity to all, not only to friends, but also to foes who persecute her, according to Mt. 5:44: 'Love your enemies; do good to them that hate you.' Now it is part of charity that we should both wish and work our neighbor's good. Again, good is twofold: one is spiritual, namely the health of the soul, which good is chiefly the object of charity, since it is this chiefly that we should wish for one another. Consequently, from this point of view, heretics who return after falling no matter how often, are admitted by the Church to Penance whereby the way of salvation is opened to them." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)
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COMMENTS
St. Paul begs the early Christians to be unified in mind and in what they say. There can only be one "true" Christian Church. How can the Holy Spirit guide the Catholic Church, the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Baptist Church, etc. if all of those denominations have doctrines and beliefs differing from each other? There is only one interpretation of the Bible. Otherwise, people can and have "read" literally anything into It.
The Blessed Virgin Mary
"May that bright and gentle Lady, the Blessed Virgin Mary, overcome you with her sweetness, and revenge herself on her foes by interceding effectually for their conversion." - Cardinal John Henry Newman
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"And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed [art] thou among women, and blessed [is] the fruit of thy womb. And whence [is] this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed [is] she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord. And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord, And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For He hath regarded the low estate of His handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For He that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy [is] His name." - Luke 1:41-49
"And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine. Jesus saith unto her, Woman, what have I to do with thee? mine hour is not yet come. His mother saith unto the servants, Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it. And there were set there six waterpots of stone, after the manner of the purifying of the Jews, containing two or three firkins apiece. Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him, Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now. This beginning of miracles did Jesus in Cana of Galilee, and manifested forth his glory; and his disciples believed on him." - John 2:3-11
"And there appeared a great wonder in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars: And she being with child cried, travailing in birth, and pained to be delivered. And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. And she brought forth a man child, who was to rule all nations with a rod of iron: and her child was caught up unto God, and [to] his throne. And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred [and] threescore days." - Revelation 12:1-6
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "The Virgin Mary:"
64. "Through the prophets, God forms his people in the hope of salvation, in the expectation of a new and everlasting Covenant intended for all, to be written on their hearts. [Cf. Is 2:2-4 ; Jer 31:31-34 ; Heb 10:16 .] The prophets proclaim a radical redemption of the People of God, purification from all their infidelities, a salvation which will include all the nations. [Cf. Ezek 3:6; Is 49:5-6; Is 53:11 .] Above all, the poor and humble of the Lord will bear this hope. Such holy women as Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Miriam, Deborah, Hannah, Judith and Esther kept alive the hope of Israel's salvation. The purest figure among them is Mary. [Cf. Ezek 2:3 ; Lk 1:38 .]"
148. "The Virgin Mary most perfectly embodies the obedience of faith. By faith Mary welcomes the tidings and promise brought by the angel Gabriel, believing that 'with God nothing will be impossible' and so giving her assent: 'Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be (done) to me according to your word.' [Lk 1:37-38; cf. Gen 18:14.] Elizabeth greeted her: 'Blessed is she who believed that there would be a fulfilment of what was spoken to her from the Lord.' [Lk 1:45 .] It is for this faith that all generations have called Mary blessed. [Cf. Lk 1:48.]"
273. "Only faith can embrace the mysterious ways of God's almighty power. This faith glories in its weaknesses in order to draw to itself Christ's power. [Cf. 2 Cor 12:9 ; Phil 4:13.] The Virgin Mary is the supreme model of this faith, for she believed that 'nothing will be impossible with God', and was able to magnify the Lord: 'For he who is mighty has done great things for me, and holy is his name.' [Lk 1:37, 49.]"
487. "What the Catholic faith believes about Mary is based on what it believes about Christ, and what it teaches about Mary illumines in turn its faith in Christ."
490. "To become the mother of the Saviour, Mary 'was enriched by God with gifts appropriate to such a role.' [LG 56.] The angel Gabriel at the moment of the annunciation salutes her as 'full of grace'. [Lk 1:28 .] In fact, in order for Mary to be able to give the free assent of her faith to the announcement of her vocation, it was necessary that she be wholly borne by God's grace."
491. "Through the centuries the Church has become ever more aware that Mary, 'full of grace' through God, [Lk 1:28 .] was redeemed from the moment of her conception. That is what the dogma of the Immaculate Conception confesses, as Pope Pius IX proclaimed in 1854: The most Blessed Virgin Mary was, from the first moment of her conception, by a singular grace and privilege of almighty God and by virtue of the merits of Jesus Christ, Saviour of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. [Pius IX, Ineffabilis Deus (1854): DS 2803.]"
492. "The 'splendour of an entirely unique holiness' by which Mary is 'enriched from the first instant of her conception' comes wholly from Christ: she is 'redeemed, in a more exalted fashion, by reason of the merits of her Son'. [LG 53, 56.] The Father blessed Mary more than any other created person 'in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places' and chose her 'in Christ before the foundation of the world, to be holy and blameless before him in love'. [Cf. Eph 1:3-4 .]"
493. "The Fathers of the Eastern tradition call the Mother of God 'the All-Holy' (Panagia), and celebrate her as 'free from any stain of sin, as though fashioned by the Holy Spirit and formed as a new creature'. [LG 56.] By the grace of God Mary remained free of every personal sin her whole life long. 'Let it be done to me according to your word. . .'"
494. "At the announcement that she would give birth to 'the Son of the Most High' without knowing man, by the power of the Holy Spirit, Mary responded with the obedience of faith, certain that 'with God nothing will be impossible': 'Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord; let it be (done) to me according to your word.' [Lk 1:28-38 ; cf. Rom 1:5 .] Thus, giving her consent to God's word, Mary becomes the mother of Jesus. Espousing the divine will for salvation wholeheartedly, without a single sin to restrain her, she gave herself entirely to the person and to the work of her Son; she did so in order to serve the mystery of redemption with him and dependent on him, by God's grace: [Cf. LG 56.] As St. Irenaeus says, 'Being obedient she became the cause of salvation for herself and for the whole human race.' [St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.] Hence not a few of the early Fathers gladly assert. . .: 'The knot of Eve's disobedience was untied by Mary's obedience: what the virgin Eve bound through her disbelief, Mary loosened by her faith.' [St. Irenaeus, Adv. haeres. 3, 22, 4: PG 7/1, 959A.] Comparing her with Eve, they call Mary 'the Mother of the living' and frequently claim: 'Death through Eve, life through Mary.' [LC 56; St. Epiphanius, Panarion 2, 78, 18: PG 42, 728CD-729AB; St. Jerome, Ep. 22, 21: PL 22, 408.]"
495. "Called in the Gospels 'the mother of Jesus', Mary is acclaimed by Elizabeth, at the prompting of the Spirit and even before the birth of her son, as 'the mother of my Lord'. [Lk 1:43 ; Jn 2:1 ; Jn 19:25 ; cf. Mt 13:55 ; et al.] In fact, the One whom she conceived as man by the Holy Spirit, who truly became her Son according to the flesh, was none other than the Father's eternal Son, the second person of the Holy Trinity. Hence the Church confesses that Mary is truly 'Mother of God' (Theotokos). [Council of Ephesus (431): DS 251.]"
496. "From the first formulations of her faith, the Church has confessed that Jesus was conceived solely by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, affirming also the corporeal aspect of this event: Jesus was conceived 'by the Holy Spirit without human seed'. [Council of the Lateran (649): DS 503; cf. DS 10-64.] The Fathers see in the virginal conception the sign that it truly was the Son of God who came in a humanity like our own. Thus St. Ignatius of Antioch at the beginning of the second century says: You are firmly convinced about our Lord, who is truly of the race of David according to the flesh, Son of God according to the will and power of God, truly born of a virgin,. . . he was truly nailed to a tree for us in his flesh under Pontius Pilate. . . he truly suffered, as he is also truly risen. [St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Smyrn 1-2: Apostolic Fathers, ed. J. B. Lightfoot (London: Macmillan, 1889), 11/2, 289-293; SCh 10, 154-156; cf. Rom 1:3; Jn 1:13.]"
497. "The Gospel accounts understand the virginal conception of Jesus as a divine work that surpasses all human understanding and possibility: [Mt 1:18-25 ; Lk 1:26-38 .] 'That which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit', said the angel to Joseph about Mary his fiancee. [Mt 1:20 .] The Church sees here the fulfilment of the divine promise given through the prophet Isaiah: 'Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son.' [Is 7:14 vLXX; quoted in Mt 1:23 vGreek.]"
498. "People are sometimes troubled by the silence of St. Mark's Gospel and the New Testament Epistles about Jesus' virginal conception. Some might wonder if we were merely dealing with legends or theological constructs not claiming to be history. To this we must respond: Faith in the virginal conception of Jesus met with the lively opposition, mockery or incomprehension of non-believers, Jews and pagans alike; [Cf. St. Justin, Dial. 99, 7: PG 6, 708-709; Origen, Contra Celsum 1, 32, 69: PG 11, 720-721; et al.] so it could hardly have been motivated by pagan mythology or by some adaptation to the ideas of the age. The meaning of this event is accessible only to faith, which understands in it the 'connection of these mysteries with one another' [Dei Filius 4: DS 3016.] in the totality of Christ's mysteries, from his Incarnation to his Passover. St. Ignatius of Antioch already bears witness to this connection: 'Mary's virginity and giving birth, and even the Lord's death escaped the notice of the prince of this world: these three mysteries worthy of proclamation were accomplished in God's silence.' [St. Ignatius of Antioch, Ad Eph. 19, 1: AF 11/2 76-80: cf. 1 Cor 2:8 .]"
499. "The deepening of faith in the virginal motherhood led the Church to confess Mary's real and perpetual virginity even in the act of giving birth to the Son of God made man. [Cf. DS 291; 294; 427; 442; 503; 571; 1880.] In fact, Christ's birth 'did not diminish his mother's virginal integrity but sanctified it.' [LG 57.] And so the liturgy of the Church celebrates Mary as Aeiparthenos, the 'Ever-virgin'. [Cf. LG 52.]"
500. "Against this doctrine the objection is sometimes raised that the Bible mentions brothers and sisters of Jesus. [Cf. Mk 3:31-35; Mk 6:3; 1 Cor 9:5; Gal 1:19.] The Church has always understood these passages as not referring to other children of the Virgin Mary. In fact James and Joseph, 'brothers of Jesus', are the sons of another Mary, a disciple of Christ, whom St. Matthew significantly calls 'the other Mary'. [Mt 13:55; Mt 28:1; cf. Mt 27:56 .] They are close relations of Jesus, according to an Old Testament expression. [Cf. Gen 13:8 ; Gen 14:16; Gen 29:15; etc.]"
501. "Jesus is Mary's only son, but her spiritual motherhood extends to all men whom indeed he came to save: 'The Son whom she brought forth is he whom God placed as the first-born among many brethren, that is, the faithful in whose generation and formation she co-operates with a mother's love.' [LG 63; cf. Jn 19:26-27; Rom 8:29; Rev 12:17.]"
502. "The eyes of faith can discover in the context of the whole of Revelation the mysterious reasons why God in his saving plan wanted his Son to be born of a virgin. These reasons touch both on the person of Christ and his redemptive mission, and on the welcome Mary gave that mission on behalf of all men."
503. "Mary's virginity manifests God's absolute initiative in the Incarnation. Jesus has only God as Father. 'He was never estranged from the Father because of the human nature which he assumed. . . He is naturally Son of the Father as to his divinity and naturally son of his mother as to his humanity, but properly Son of the Father in both natures.' [Council of Friuli (796): DS 619; cf. Lk 2:48-49.]"
504. "Jesus is conceived by the Holy Spirit in the Virgin Mary's womb because he is the New Adam, who inaugurates the new creation: 'The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.'[1 Cor 15:45,47.] From his conception, Christ's humanity is filled with the Holy Spirit, for God 'gives him the Spirit without measure.' [Jn 3:34 .] From 'his fullness' as the head of redeemed humanity 'we have all received, grace upon grace.' [Jn 1:16; cf. Col 1:18.]"
505. "By his virginal conception, Jesus, the New Adam, ushers in the new birth of children adopted in the Holy Spirit through faith. 'How can this be?' [Lk 1:34; cf. Jn 3:9.] Participation in the divine life arises 'not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God'. [Jn 1:13.] The acceptance of this life is virginal because it is entirely the Spirit's gift to man. The spousal character of the human vocation in relation to God [Cf. 2 Cor 11:2.] is fulfilled perfectly in Mary's virginal motherhood."
506. "Mary is a virgin because her virginity is the sign of her faith 'unadulterated by any doubt', and of her undivided gift of herself to God's will. [LG 63; cf. l Cor 7:34-35.] It is her faith that enables her to become the mother of the Saviour: 'Mary is more blessed because she embraces faith in Christ than because she conceives the flesh of Christ.' [St. Augustine, De virg. 3: PL 40, 398.]"
507. "At once virgin and mother, Mary is the symbol and the most perfect realization of the Church: 'the Church indeed. . . by receiving the word of God in faith becomes herself a mother. By preaching and Baptism she brings forth sons, who are conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of God, to a new and immortal life. She herself is a virgin, who keeps in its entirety and purity the faith she pledged to her spouse.' [LG 64; cf. 63.]"
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COMMENTS
I will begin by paraphrasing St. Bernard of Clairvaux. Is it better to honor Mary too much or too little? If one is a sin - which would be more forgivable in the eyes of God? St. Bernard thought it better to be guilty of honoring her too much as Christ will forgive a person for honoring His Mother (if it were indeed a sin which it is not).
Below is the prayer "Sub Tuum Praesidium" from the 4th century. As one can see from it, the early Christians who were being persecuted by the Romans put their trust in the Mother of God as well as God Himself. Why shouldn't we today? The most popular Marian prayer among Catholics today is the "Hail Mary." Most of this prayer is taken directly from Scripture (see Luke 1:28 and 42). Is it a sin to recite Scripture? The rest of the prayer only asks for Mary to pray for us as sinners. Is that a sin?
In addition, Jesus Christ performed His first public miracle at the "intercession" of His mother (John 2:1 ). Why would that change now that she has joined Him in Heaven?
--- Chris
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HAIL MARY
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.
Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.
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SUB TUUM PRAESIDIUM
From the 4th century
We turn to you for protection, holy Mother of God.
Listen to our prayers and help us in our needs, glorious and blessed Virgin!
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THE PERPETUAL VIRGINITY OF MARY
"Heretics called Antidicomarites are those who contradict the perpetual virginity of Mary and affirm that after Christ was born she was joined as one with her husband." - St. Augustine of Hippo (early 5th century)
Does the word "till (until)" in the following passage mean a cessation of Mary's virginity after the birth of Christ?:
"And (Joseph) knew her not TILL she had brought forth her firstborn son: and he called his name Jesus." (Matthew 1:25)
If it is true that Mary's virginity ceased after the birth of Christ, then using this same "flawed" logic, Christ's reign will end at some point according to the following passage:
"For he must reign, TILL he hath put all enemies under his feet." (1 Corinthians 15:25)
However, this cannot be true as the following passage contradicts that one when using this line of logic:
"And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and He shall reign for ever and ever ." (Revelation 11:15)
So "till (until)" cannot mean that the state of Mary's virginity stopped for if that were so Christ's reign would also end.
According to history and the writings in the catacombs, the early Christians called Mary "the Virgin Mary" or "the Blessed Virgin" or "the Virgin." Why would the early Christians continue to call her a "virgin" if she was no longer so? A person does not continue to state "my unmarried brother" after that brother has married.
In addition, Ezekiel 44:2 states that the "gate" in which the Lord passes is closed further for others. Does this not apply to the Blessed Virgin Mary's womb through which Christ passed during His birth? All of the initial Protestant Reformers (Zwingli, Luther and Calvin) interpreted this passage to mean that Mary's virginity continued after the birth of Christ.
"And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn." (Zechariah 12:10) Obviously, this is a prophetic reference to Jesus Christ (i.e., "piercing" as described in John 19:37). And it is definitely stated in this Scriptural passage that he is an "only son" yet He is also "firstborn." The two do not contradict each other as certain "Bible" Christians claim. Firstborn means just that "the first to be born." It does not preclude "the only to be born" also.
If Mary is the daughter of the Father (Luke 1:28), is the mother of Christ (Acts 1:14), then is she not the spiritual bride of the Holy Spirit as that is Who made her with child (Matthew 1:18 )? For Jesus certainly was "legitimate," for Scripture states Jesus Christ was "made under the law" (Galatians 4:4). Yet St. Joseph and the Virgin Mary were not married when Christ was conceived ("made") (Luke 1:27). Consequently, the Holy Spirit must be the "spiritual" husband of Mary, otherwise Christ would have been illegitimate. If the Holy Spirit is the "spiritual" husband of Mary, then would she not be "in essence" committing adultery if she and St. Joseph were to have sex? Therefore, both Mary and St. Joseph must have remained chaste during their marriage. For they had to raise and serve Jesus (God) as their son and it is better to remain chaste when one is to serve the Lord (1 Corinthians 7:32). Scripture states it is best to remain chaste (1 Corinthians 7:1) and to live as if one does not have a spouse (1 Corinthians 7:29). This is exactly what both the Blessed Virgin Mary and St. Joseph did. They were called by God while in "the state of virginity" and that is the state in which they remained (1 Corinthians 7:20).
"For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ" (2 Corinthians 11:2). How can Mary who was "espoused" to one husband (St. Joseph) also remain a "chaste virgin" (as she did according to Catholic teaching) if she actually had sex with St. Joseph as some non-Catholic Christians teach?
At this point, I will quote the Summa Theologica by St. Thomas Aquinas regarding the virginity of Mary after the birth of Christ:
Third Part, Question 28, Answer 3
Whether Christ's Mother remained a virgin after His birth?

Objection 1: It would seem that Christ's Mother did not remain a virgin after His Birth. For it is written (Mt. 1:18): "Before Joseph and Mary came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost." Now the Evangelist would not have said this---"before they came together"---unless he were certain of their subsequent coming together; for no one says of one who does not eventually dine "before he dines" (cf. Jerome, Contra Helvid.). It seems, therefore, that the Blessed Virgin subsequently had intercourse with Joseph; and consequently that she did not remain a virgin after (Christ's) Birth.
Reply to Objection 1: As Jerome says (Contra Helvid. i): "Although this particle 'before' often indicates a subsequent event, yet we must observe that it not infrequently points merely to some thing previously in the mind: nor is there need that what was in the mind take place eventually, since something may occur to prevent its happening. Thus if a man say: 'Before I dined in the port, I set sail,' we do not understand him to have dined in port after he set sail: but that his mind was set on dining in port." In like manner the evangelist says: "Before they came together" Mary "was found with child, of the Holy Ghost," not that they came together afterwards: but that, when it seemed that they would come together, this was forestalled through her conceiving by the Holy Ghost, the result being that afterwards they did not come together.

Objection 2: Further, in the same passage (Mt. 1:20) are related the words of the angel to Joseph: "Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife." But marriage is consummated by carnal intercourse. Therefore it seems that this must have at some time taken place between Mary and Joseph: and that, consequently she did not remain a virgin after (Christ's) Birth.
Reply to Objection 2: As Augustine says (De Nup. et Concup. i): "The Mother of God is called (Joseph's) wife from the first promise of her espousals, whom he had not known nor ever was to know by carnal intercourse." For, as Ambrose says on Lk. 1:27: "The fact of her marriage is declared, not to insinuate the loss of virginity, but to witness to the reality of the union."

Objection 3: Further, again in the same passage a little further on (Mt. 1:24, 25) we read: "And" (Joseph) "took unto him his wife; and he knew her not till she brought forth her first-born Son." Now this conjunction "till" is wont to designate a fixed time, on the completion of which that takes place which previously had not taken place. And the verb "knew" refers here to knowledge by intercourse (cf. Jerome, Contra Helvid.); just as (Gn. 4:1) it is said that "Adam knew his wife." Therefore it seems that after (Christ's) Birth, the Blessed Virgin was known by Joseph; and, consequently, that she did not remain a virgin after the Birth (of Christ).
Reply to Objection 3: Some have said that this is not to be understood of carnal knowledge, but of acquaintance. Thus Chrysostom says [Opus Imperf. in Matth., Hom.1: St. John Chrysostom] that "Joseph did not know her, until she gave birth, being unaware of her dignity: but after she had given birth, then did he know her. Because by reason of her child she surpassed the whole world in beauty and dignity: since she alone in the narrow abode of her womb received Him Whom the world cannot contain."

Others again refer this to knowledge by sight. For as, while Moses was speaking with God, his face was so bright "that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold it"; so Mary, while being "overshadowed" by the brightness of the "power of the Most High," could not be gazed on by Joseph, until she gave birth. But afterwards she is acknowledged by Joseph, by looking on her face, not by lustful contact.

Jerome, however, grants that this is to be understood of knowledge by intercourse; but he observes that "before" or "until" has a twofold sense in Scripture. For sometimes it indicates a fixed time, as Gal. 3:19: The law "was set because of transgressions, until the seed should come, to whom He made the promise." On the other hand, it sometimes indicates an indefinite time, as in Ps. 122:2: "Our eyes are unto the Lord our God, until He have mercy on us"; from which it is not to be gathered that our eyes are turned from God as soon as His mercy has been obtained. In this sense those things are indicated "of which we might doubt if they had not been written down: while others are left out to be supplied by our understanding. Thus the evangelist says that the Mother of God was not known by her husband until she gave birth, that we may be given to understand that still less did he know her afterwards" (Adversus Helvid. v).

Objection 4: Further, "first-born" can only be said of one who has brothers afterwards: wherefore (Rm. 8:29): "Whom He foreknew, He also predestinated to be made conformable to the image of His Son; that He might be the first-born among many brethren." But the evangelist calls Christ the first-born by His Mother. Therefore she had other children after Christ. And therefore it seems that Christ's Mother did not remain a virgin after His Birth.
Reply to Objection 4: The Scriptures are wont to designate as the first-born, not only a child who is followed by others, but also the one that is born first. "Otherwise, if a child were not first-born unless followed by others, the first-fruits would not be due as long as there was no further produce" [Jerome, Adversus Helvid. x]: which is clearly false, since according to the law the first-fruits had to be redeemed within a month (Num. 18:16).

Objection 5: Further, it is written (Jn. 2:12): "After this He went down to Capharnaum, He"---that is, Christ---"and His Mother and His brethren." But brethren are those who are begotten of the same parent. Therefore it seems that the Blessed Virgin had other sons after Christ.
Reply to Objection 5: Some, as Jerome says on Mt. 12:49, 50, "suppose that the brethren of the Lord were Joseph's sons by another wife. But we understand the brethren of the Lord to be not sons of Joseph, but cousins of the Saviour, the sons of Mary, His Mother's sister." For "Scripture speaks of brethren in four senses; namely, those who are united by being of the same parents, of the same nation, of the same family, by common affection." Wherefore the brethren of the Lord are so called, not by birth, as being born of the same mother; but by relationship, as being blood-relations of His. But Joseph, as Jerome says (Contra Helvid. ix), is rather to be believed to have remained a virgin, "since he is not said to have had another wife," and "a holy man does not live otherwise than chastely."

Objection 6: Further, it is written (Mt. 27:55, 56): "They were there"---that is, by the cross of Christ---"many women afar off, who had followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering unto Him; among whom was Mary Magdalen, and Mary the mother of James and Joseph, and the mother of the sons of Zebedee." Now this Mary who is called "the mother of James and Joseph" seems to have been also the Mother of Christ; for it is written (Jn. 19:25) that "there stood by the cross of Jesus, Mary His Mother." Therefore it seems that Christ's Mother did not remain a virgin after His Birth.
Reply to Objection 6: Mary who is called "the mother of James and Joseph" is not to be taken for the Mother of our Lord, who is not wont to be named in the Gospels save under this designation of her dignity---"the Mother of Jesus." This Mary is to be taken for the wife of Alphaeus, whose son was James the less, known as the "brother of the Lord" (Gal. 1:19).

It is written (Ezech. 44:2): "This gate shall be shut, it shall not be opened, and no man shall pass through it; because the Lord the God of Israel hath entered in by it." Expounding these words, Augustine says in a sermon (De Annunt. Dom. iii): "What means this closed gate in the House of the Lord, except that Mary is to be ever inviolate? What does it mean that 'no man shall pass through it,' save that Joseph shall not know her? And what is this---'The Lord alone enters in and goeth out by it'---except that the Holy Ghost shall impregnate her, and that the Lord of angels shall be born of her? And what means this---'it shall be shut for evermore'---but that Mary is a virgin before His Birth, a virgin in His Birth, and a virgin after His Birth?"

I answer that, without any hesitation we must abhor the error of Helvidius, who dared to assert that Christ's Mother, after His Birth, was carnally known by Joseph, and bore other children. For, in the first place, this is derogatory to Christ's perfection: for as He is in His Godhead the Only-Begotten of the Father, being thus His Son in every respect perfect, so it was becoming that He should be the Only-Begotten son of His Mother, as being her perfect offspring.

Secondly, this error is an insult to the Holy Ghost, whose "shrine" was the virginal womb ["Sacrarium Spiritus Sancti" (Office of B. M. V., Ant. ad Benedictus, T. P.)], wherein He had formed the flesh of Christ: wherefore it was unbecoming that it should be desecrated by intercourse with man.

Thirdly, this is derogatory to the dignity and holiness of God's Mother: for thus she would seem to be most ungrateful, were she not content with such a Son; and were she, of her own accord, by carnal intercourse to forfeit that virginity which had been miraculously preserved in her.

Fourthly, it would be tantamount to an imputation of extreme presumption in Joseph, to assume that he attempted to violate her whom by the angel's revelation he knew to have conceived by the Holy Ghost.

We must therefore simply assert that the Mother of God, as she was a virgin in conceiving Him and a virgin in giving Him birth, did she remain a virgin ever afterwards.
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THE MOTHER OF GOD
"If anyone does not believe that Holy Mary is the Mother of God, such a one is a stranger to the Godhead." - St. Gregory Nazianzen (390 A.D.)
"And so you say, O heretic, whoever you may be, who deny that God was born of the Virgin, that Mary the Mother of our Lord Jesus Christ ought not to be called Theotokos, i.e., Mother of God, but Christotokos, i.e., only the Mother of Christ, not of God. For no one, you say, brings forth what is anterior in time. And of this utterly foolish argument whereby you think that the birth of God can be understood by carnal minds, and fancy that the mystery of His Majesty can be accounted for by human reasoning...." - St. John Cassian (5th century A.D.)
This is a very appropriate title for the Blessed Virgin Mary. For in Luke 1:43, St. Elizabeth calls her this exact title: "And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord (emphasis mine) should come to me?" Lord is with a capital "L" meaning "God." So why do most non-Catholic Christians not accept this as a proper title for Mary when the title comes from Scripture Itself? For if Jesus is the Son of God (Mark 1:1) and the Son of God is God also (Hebrews 1:8) and Mary is Jesus's mother (Acts 1:14), then ergo: Mary is the Mother of God.
Since Mary is the mother of Jesus (John 2:1-3; Acts 1:14), how did Jesus honor His mother as per the Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:12)? Here's how - He made her Queen of Heaven, He created her without sin, He made her our mother (John 19:27 ), He made her mother of the Church and He made her the mediatrix of all graces.
--- Chris
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THE IMMACULATE CONCEPTION AND THE SINLESSNESS OF MARY
"The Blessed Virgin never committed any actual sin, not even a venial one. Otherwise she would not have been a Mother worthy of Jesus Christ; for the ignominy of the Mother would also have been that of the Son, for He would have had a sinner for His Mother." - St. Thomas Aquinas (1274 A.D.)
If Mary is "blessed among women," does that not mean that she is greater than any woman that is born, had been born, or will be born? If this is so, why would she not be free from original sin? If she is greater than Eve and Eve was created without original sin, then why wouldn't Mary also be conceived (created) without original sin? Where does Scripture state that every grace has to be given while on this earth? Mary was given grace as the Mother of God before she was even born (prevenient grace). Yes, God is her Savior (Luke 1:47) - He saved her from every sin, including original sin.
Let us examine the phrase "full of grace" as it is applies to Mary (Luke 1:28). For the Greek word used in this passage is "kecharitomene" which means not just "highly favoured one" (as commonly interpreted in Protestant versions of the Bible), but "completely, perfectly, enduringly endowed with grace." Thus, the word "full" means that Mary cannot encompass any more of God's graces. If God cannot give her anymore graces than she already has, then He must have given her every grace possible. Is it even possible for Mary to sin after receiving all of these graces from God? Conceivably, no.
Scripture also states that angels are superior to men (Luke 20:36; Hebrews 2:7; 2 Peter 2:11) so why would a superior being (the archangel St. Gabriel) "hail" (salute, honor or praise) Mary (a "supposed" inferior being)? If this honor is given to Mary as Scripture states, then Mary must be greater than the angels.
Who else can the following passage be speaking of except Mary? The woman in this passage is "spotless" (i.e., immaculate; without sin): "Thou art all fair, my love; there is no spot in thee." (Song of Solomon 4:7)
--- Chris
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CONCLUSION
What Christian would not give the grace of sinlessness to his/her mother if he/she had the power to do so?
What Christian would not bring his/her mother into Heaven, body and soul, if he/she had the power to do so?
These Marian doctrines are not "non-Scriptural" as many non-Catholic Christians seem to believe. Jesus Christ was only fulfilling the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:12) to "honor" His mother by giving her these unique graces and privileges. To say Christ did not give these graces to His mother when it was possible for Him to do so, is to accuse Him of a sin of omission against the Fourth Commandment. Therefore, since Christ did not sin (Hebrews 4:15), Mary has to be sinless and was assumed into Heaven for God Himself would not disobey one of His own commandments.

And, to this day, Christ continues to obey His own commandment by allowing Mary to be our mediatrix, the dispenser of His graces and to share in His omniscience to hear the millions of daily prayers addressed to her.
--- Chris
The Bible
"Ignorance of the Scriptures is ignorance of Christ." - St. Jerome (4th century A.D.)
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Is the Bible the "pillar of truth" in the Christian religion? No. According to the Bible Itself, the Church is the "pillar of truth" (1 Timothy 3:15), not the Bible. Some "Bible" Christians insist that a "pillar" (the Church) was created to "hold up" another structure (the Bible). They claim the Bible is the structure being held up according to this passage. Well, if that is the case, how did the early Church "hold up" the Bible for the first three to four hundred years when the Bible Itself didn't even exist? Also, even if the Church is only a "pillar" holding up the Bible, doesn't that mean that the Church is the interpreter of Scripture rather than the individual?
Is private interpretation of the Bible condoned in the Bible Itself? No, it is not (2 Peter 1:20). Was individual interpretation of Scripture practiced by the early Christians or the Jews? Again, "NO" (Acts 8:29-35). The assertion that individuals can correctly interpret Scripture is false. Even the "founder" of Sola Scriptura (Martin Luther), near the end of his life, was afraid that "any milkmaid who could read" would found a new Christian denomination based on his or her "interpretation" of the Bible. Luther opened a "Pandora's Box" when he insisted that the Bible could be interpreted by individuals and that It is the sole authority of Christianity. Why do we have over 20,000 different non-Catholic Christian denominations? The reason is individuals' "different" interpretations of the Bible.
Can there be more than one interpretation of the Bible? No. The word "truth" is used several times in the New Testament. However, the plural version of the word "truth" never appears in Scripture. Therefore, there can only be one Truth. So how can there be over 20,000 non-Catholic Christian denominations all claiming to have the "Truth" (i.e., the correct interpretation of the Bible)? For that matter, aren't ALL non-Catholic Christians as individuals claiming "infallibility" when it comes to interpreting the Bible? Catholics only believe in the infallibility of the Papacy as an office. Which is more believable - one office holding infallibility or 400 million non-Catholic Christians who can't agree on the interpretation of Scripture all claiming "infallibility?" When it comes to interpreting Scripture, individual non-Catholic Christians claim the same infallibility as the Papacy. If one were to put two persons of the "same" non-Catholic Christian denomination (i.e., two Presybterians, two Lutherans, two Baptists, etc.) in separate rooms with a Bible and a notepad and ask them to write down their "interpretation" of the Bible, passage for passage, shouldn't they then produce the exact same interpretation? If guided by the Holy Spirit as Scripture states, the answer should be "Yes." But would that really happen? History has shown that the answer is "No." Now, in the case of Catholics, the Church which Christ founded and is with forever (Matthew 28:20) interprets the Bible, as guided by the Holy Spirit, (Mark 13:11) for the "sheep" (the faithful). The Church (not individuals) interpret Scripture. In Catholicism, Scripture is there for meditation, prayer and inspiration, not for individual interpretation to formulate doctrine or dogma.
Is the Bible the sole "teaching from God?" No. The Bible Itself states that their are "oral" teachings and traditions that are to be carried on to the present-day (2 Thessalonians 2:15; 1 Corinthians 11:2; 2 Timothy 2:2; Romans 10:17; 1 Peter 1:24-25). These teachings are what the Catholic Church considers "Sacred Apostolic Tradition." This type of "Tradition" never changes because it was passed down by the Apostles themselves. It is not the same as the man-made traditions condemned in Scripture. The man-made traditions condemned in Scripture were those of the Jewish Pharisees. In fact, as Christians, we are suppose to disassociate ourselves from persons who do not follow Apostolic Tradition (2 Thessalonians 3:6). If oral tradition is not to be followed, why did St. Paul state Christ said something that is not recorded in the Gospels (Acts 20:35)? St. Paul must have "heard" this saying, not read it from any Gospel or "Scripture," thereby, proving that some things Christ said were not recorded in the Gospels (John 21:25) and were passed on orally among His disciples instead, but were just as valid as anything written since St. Paul himself used one of these oral passages in one of his own epistles.
Did the early Christians have the Bible as we know it? No. The Bible as a whole was not compiled until the late 4th century and then it was compiled by a Catholic saint (St. Jerome) at the request of a Catholic pope (St. Damasus I). So how were the early Christians saved if they did not possess the entire written "Word of God" to follow His teachings? Well, naturally, they were the Body of Christ and were taught through "oral" teachings by the Church, not by writings.
Is the Bible to be taken literally - "word for word?" No. The Bible doesn't state anywhere that It should be taken literally. The Bible was written by different authors with different literary styles at different times in history and in different languages. Therefore, the writings should be interpreted with these circumstances in mind. The Bible is a religious book, not a scientific or a history "textbook."
Why do Fundamentalist Christians take certain books of the Bible very much literally such as Genesis (creationism vs. evolutionism), but then claim that the "whore of Babylon" in the Book of Revelation is actually the "Catholic Church?" Why would one book be taken so literally yet another not?
Did Jesus Christ write down any part of the New Testament with His own hand? No, He did not. If the Bible was to be the sole authority of the Church, shouldn't the Founder have written down His Own teachings? Shouldn't He have at least stated something similar to the following: "the written works of My disciples will be the authority upon which My Church is based?"
Didn't Jesus Christ with His own mouth instruct His disciples to "write down" His teachings? No. With the possible exception of the Book of Revelation (Apocalypse) by St. John the Apostle, Jesus Christ gives no such instructions to any of His disciples or Apostles. In fact, only the Apostles Sts. Peter, John, James, Jude and Matthew were inspired by the Holy Spirit to write Scripture. Why were the other seven not inspired of the Holy Spirit to "write" if the "written" Word of God is the ONLY authority to be followed in the Christian religion?
Does the Bible state It is the sole or final authority of Christianity? No. Neither this statement nor anything even close to it appears anywhere in the New Testament. In fact, Christ said that the Church is to resolve disputes among Christians, not Scripture (Matthew 18:17).
What did Martin Luther, the Protestant Reformer, state about the Bible? In his "Commentary On St. John," he stated the following: "We are compelled to concede to the Papists that they have the Word of God, that we have received It from them, and that without them we should have no knowledge of It at all." Regardless of what non-Catholic Christians may think or say, according to secular, objective historians, the Catholic Church alone preserved Sacred Scripture throughout the persecution of the Roman Empire and during the Dark Ages. All non-Catholic Christian denominations owe the existence of the Bible to the Catholic Church alone. Why did God choose the Catholic Church to preserve Scripture if It is not His Church?
The Catholic Church was the first Christian denomination to commission a mass printing of the Bible by asking Johannes Gutenberg, the inventor of the printing press, to do so in 1447. Non-Catholic Christians may accuse the Catholic Church of not allowing the common people to read the Bible before the Reformation, but what good would it have done for the Catholic Church to widely distribute the Bible to "the masses" when over 90% of the common people were illiterate and couldn't read anyway? The Catholic Mass has always included Scriptural readings from both the Old and New Testaments and Catholic priests have always "preached" the written Word of God to the common people throughout history.
Which books of the Old Testament did the Apostles accept as Scripture? Did they accept the 46 books as in the Catholic Douay-Rheims Bible or the 39 books as in the King James version? The Septuagint was accepted among the Hellenistic sect of Judaism (of which St. Paul was a member) and this canon did indeed include the same Old Testament books as the present-day Catholic Bible. In addition, the entire New Testament was written in Greek (Hellenist) with the exception of the Gospel of St. Matthew, which was written in Aramaic (the language spoken by Christ). Over 85% of the quotes from the Old Testament that are used in the New Testament are from the Septuagint. The Palestinian Old Testament canon was not compiled until between 70-90 A.D. and then, it was done so by the non-Christian Jews in violent reaction to early Judeo-Christianity. The Palestinian canon was the one chosen by Martin Luther based on the acceptance of it by the 16th century German-Jewish community of Luther's time. This canon excludes the seven books that were accepted by the Apostles as Scripture. Why was the canon of the Protestant Old Testament decided by Jews and not Christians? In addition, why did Luther attempt to eliminate the Book of St. James and the Book of Revelation? Is it because the first contradicted his dogma of "faith alone" as opposed to grace, faith and works "combined?" And the second book proving the Catholic Church's stance on nothing "impure" entering into Heaven therefore "necessitating" purgation ?
During the Reformation, did the Protestants "re-evaluate" all the deutero-canonical and apocryphal Christian writings such as the Gospel of St. James, the Acts of St. Paul, the Apocalypse of St. Peter, the Gospel of St. Mary Magdalene, the Gospel of St. Thomas and the myriad of other writings from the first and second centuries of the Christianity? No. The Protestants accepted the New Testament as defined by the Catholic Church in the late 4th century. Why accept the Canon as defined and preserved by the Catholic Church yet not accept the other teachings of this same Church?
Are certain books of the New Testament exclusively directed to certain peoples (i.e., Jews, Gentiles, the circumcised, the uncircumcised, etc.)? No. Scripture states: "Where there is neither Gentile nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian nor Scythian, bond nor free. But Christ is all, and in all." (Colossians 3:11) And again - "There is neither Jew nor Greek: there is neither bond nor free: there is neither male nor female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) If it were true that certain New Testament books only applied to Jews or to Gentiles, than wouldn't we all have to scrutinize our ancestry (Jewish or Gentile?) to make sure which books of the New Testament applied to us and which didn't? And then, what if we can't do that, such as in the case of adopted children who don't know their ancestry? Do we risk damnation if we don't know whether we are of Jewish or Gentile descent so we can read the "correct" books of the New Testament? All books of the New Testament apply to all Christians. If this were not true, then why not discard the entire Old Testament which was directed exclusively to the "chosen" (Jewish) people? Do Christians of Gentile descent not have to obey the Ten Commandments because they are not of Jewish descent? For that matter, since Jesus was speaking to the Jewish people in the Gospels, do Gentile Christians not have to adhere to the teachings taught by Christ Himself in those Gospels? Do Gentiles only have to adhere to the teachings of the Pauline Epistles (excluding, of course, the "Epistle to the Hebrews")? Why include any of these books as the Word of God at all as most present-day Christians are of Gentile descent? Also, why did Christ state He had "other sheep" besides the Jewish people (John 10:16)? If St. Paul was the exclusive "Apostle to the Gentiles," why then did he indeed write an epistle to the Hebrews (the Jews)? If St. Peter was exclusively the "Apostle to the 'circumcised' (the Jews)," then why was St. Peter the first to allow Gentiles into the Church (Acts 10:45-48)? Christ directed His Apostles to preach to all nations, not just the Jewish nation (Matthew 28:19) and that the Gospel will be proclaimed to all nations (Matthew 24:14), not just the Jewish nation.
I hope the points I have made in regards to the Bible point out the misunderstanding of non-Catholic Christians in believing that the Bible is the sole authority of Christianity. The Catholic Church Itself states that nothing that the Church teaches can contradict Scripture as the Bible is the truth and is without error (CCC 107). Also, reading of the Bible is encouraged by the Catholic Church (CCC 131-133) and always has been.
To have the Bible as the only and sole authority of Christianity is to invite chaos into His Church. There are at least 5 Protestant denominations created every year based on a different interpretation of the Bible. Theoretically, anyone who owns a Bible can create their own denomination based on their own interpretation of Scripture. Taken to its logical conclusion, chaos is what happens when the doctrine of "Sola Scriptura" is applied. And Christ stated "A tree is recognized by its fruit" (Matthew 12:33) and the doctrine of Sola Scriptura produces "bad fruit" (disunity, confusion and separation).
The Bible Itself never states that It is the sole and only authority of Christianity. The word "Bible" is not even mentioned in Scripture. However, I totally agree that It is one of the authorities in Christianity, but where does It state that It alone is the only authority?
The following are some excerpts from St. Vincent of Lerins' excellent treatise which explains how Scripture should be interpreted within the context of Apostolic Tradition and how heretics can distort Scripture for their own ends.
--- Chris
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EXCERPTS FROM "A COMMINTORY FOR THE ANTIQUITY AND UNIVERSALITY OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH AGAINST THE PROFANE NOVELTIES OF ALL HERESIES" by St. Vincent of Lerins (early 5th century A.D.)
I, Peregrinus, who am the least of all the servants of God, remembering the admonition of Scripture, "Ask thy fathers and they will tell thee, thine elders and they will declare unto thee," and again, "Bow down thine ear to the words of the wise," and once more, "My son, forget not these instructions, but let thy heart keep my words:" remembering these admonitions, I say, I, Peregrinus, am persuaded, that, the Lord helping me, it will be of no little use and certainly as regards my own feeble powers, it is most necessary, that I should put down in writing the things which I have truthfully received from the holy Fathers, since I shall then have ready at hand wherewith by constant reading to make amends for the weakness of my memory.
I have often then inquired earnestly and attentively of very many men eminent for sanctity and learning, how and by what sure and so to speak universal rule I may be able to distinguish the truth of Catholic faith from the falsehood of heretical pravity; and I have always, and in almost every instance, received an answer to this effect: That whether I or any one else should wish to detect the frauds and avoid the snares of heretics as they rise, and to continue sound and complete in the Catholic faith, we must, the Lord helping, fortify our own belief in two ways; first, by the authority of the Divine Law, and then, by the Tradition of the Catholic Church.
But here some one perhaps will ask, since the canon of Scripture is complete, and sufficient of itself for everything, and more than sufficient, what need is there to join with it the authority of the Church's interpretation? For this reason,--because, owing to the depth of Holy Scripture, all do not accept it in one and the same sense, but one understands its words in one way, another in another; so that it seems to be capable of as many interpretations as there are interpreters. For Novatian expounds it one way, Sabellius another, Donatus another, Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, another, Photinus, Apollinaris, Priscillian, another, Iovinian, Pelagius, Celestius, another, lastly, Nestorius another. Therefore, it is very necessary, on account of so great intricacies of such various error, that the rule for the right understanding of the prophets and apostles should be framed in accordance with the standard of Ecclesiastical and Catholic interpretation.
Here, possibly, some one may ask, "Do heretics also appeal to Scripture?" They do indeed, and with a vengeance; for you may see them scamper through every single book of Holy Scripture,--through the books of Moses, the books of Kings, the Psalms, the Epistles, the Gospels, the Prophets. Whether among their own people, or among strangers, in private or in public, in speaking or in writing, at convivial meetings, or in the streets, hardly ever do they bring forward anything of their own which they do not endeavour to shelter under words of Scripture. Read the works of Paul of Samosata, of Priscillian, of Eunomius, of Jovinian, and the rest of those pests, and you will see an infinite heap of instances, hardly a single page, which does not bristle with plausible quotations from the New Testament or the Old.
But some one will say, "What proof have we that the Devil is wont to appeal to Holy Scripture?" Let him read the Gospels wherein it is written, "Then the Devil took Him (the Lord the Saviour) and set Him upon a pinnacle of the Temple, and said unto Him: If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down, for it is written, 'He shall give His angels charge concerning thee, that they may keep thee in all thy ways: In their hands they shall bear thee up, lest perchance thou dash thy foot against a stone.'" What sort of treatment must men, insignificant wretches that they are, look for at the hands of him who assailed even the Lord of Glory with quotations from Scripture? "If thou be the Son of God," saith he, "cast thyself down." Wherefore? "For," saith he, "it is written." It behoves us to pay special attention to this passage and bear it in mind, that, warned by so important an instance of Evangelical authority, we may be assured beyond doubt, when we find people alleging passages from the Apostles or Prophets against the Catholic Faith, that the Devil speaks through their mouths. For as then the Head spoke to the Head, so now also the members speak to the members, the members of the Devil to the members of Christ, misbelievers to believers, sacrilegious to religious, in one word, Heretics to Catholics.

But what do they say? "If thou be the Son of God, cast thyself down;" that is, 'If thou wouldst be a son of God, and wouldst receive the inheritance of the Kingdom of Heaven, cast thyself down;' that is, cast thyself down from the doctrine and tradition of that sublime Church, which is imagined to be nothing less than the very temple of God. And if one should ask one of the heretics who gives this advice, how do you prove? What ground have you, for saying, that I ought to cast away the universal and ancient faith of the Catholic Church? He has the answer ready, "For it is written;" and forthwith he produces a thousand testimonies, a thousand examples, a thousand authorities from the Law, from the Psalms, from the apostles, from the Prophets, by means of which, interpreted on a new and wrong principle, the unhappy soul may be precipitated from the height of Catholic truth to the lowest abyss of heresy. Then, with the accompanying promises, the heretics are wont marvellously to beguile the incautious. For they dare to teach and promise, that in their church, that is, in the conventicle of their communion, there is a certain great and special and altogether personal grace of God, so that whosoever pertain to their number, without any labour, without any effort, without any industry, even though they neither ask, nor seek, nor knock, have such a dispensation from God, that, borne up by angel hands, that is, preserved by the protection of angels, it is impossible they should ever dash their feet against a stone, that is, that they should ever be offended.

But it will be said, 'If the words, the sentiments, the promises of Scripture, are appealed to by the Devil and his disciples, of whom some are false apostles, some false prophets and false teachers, and all without exception heretics, what are Catholics and the sons of Mother Church to do? How are they to distinguish truth from falsehood in the sacred Scriptures?' They must be very careful to pursue that course which, in the beginning of this Commonitory, we said that holy and learned men had commended to us, that is to say, they must interpret the sacred Canon according to the traditions of the Universal Church and in keeping with the rules of Catholic doctrine, in which Catholic and Universal Church, moreover, they must follow universality, antiquity, consent. And if at any time a part opposes itself to the whole, novelty to antiquity, the dissent of one or a few who are in error to the consent of all or at all events of the great majority of Catholics, then they must prefer the soundness of the whole to the corruption of a part; in which same whole they must prefer the religion of antiquity to the profaneness of novelty; and in antiquity itself in like manner, to the temerity of one or of a very few they must prefer, first of all, the general decrees, if such there be, of a Universal Council, or if there be no such, then, what is next best, they must follow the consentient belief of many and great masters. Which rule having been faithfully, soberly, and scrupulously observed, we shall with little difficulty detect the noxious errors of heretics as they arise.
Therefore, as soon as the corruption of each mischievous error begins to break forth, and to defend itself by filching certain passages of Scripture, and expounding them fraudulently and deceitfully, forthwith, the opinions of the ancients in the interpretation of the Canon are to be collected, whereby the novelty, and consequently the profaneness, whatever it may be, that arises, may both without any doubt be exposed, and without any tergiversation be condemned. But the opinions of those Fathers only are to be used for comparison, who living and teaching, holily, wisely, and with constancy, in the Catholic faith and communion, were counted worthy either to die in the faith of Christ, or to suffer death happily for Christ.
And lest any one, disregarding every one else, should arrogantly claim to be listened to himself alone, himself alone to be believed, the Apostle goes on to say, "Did the word of God proceed from you, or did it come to you only?"
We said above, that it has always been the custom of Catholics, and still is, to prove the true faith in these two ways: first by the authority of the Divine Canon, and next by the tradition of the Catholic Church. Not that the Canon alone does not of itself suffice for every question, but seeing that the more part, interpreting the divine words according to their own persuasion, take up various erroneous opinions, it is therefore necessary that the interpretation of divine Scripture should be ruled according to the one standard of the Church's belief, especially in those articles on which the foundations of all Catholic doctrine rest.
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"And we know that the eunuch who was reading Isaiah the prophet, and did not understand what he read, was not sent by the Apostle to an angel, nor was it an angel who explained to him what he did not understand, nor was he inwardly illuminated by the grace of God without the interposition of man; on the contrary, at the suggestion of God, Philip, who did understand the prophet, came to him, and sat with him, and in human words, and with a human tongue, opened to him the Scriptures." - St. Augustine of Hippo ("On Christian Doctrine" 4th century A.D.)
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"Our faith receives its surety from Scripture." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)

Contraception
"In this way, as hindering the begetting of children, there is the 'vice against nature,' which attaches to every venereal act from which generation cannot follow; and, as hindering the due upbringing and advancement of the child when born." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)
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"And Onan knew that the seed should not be his; and it came to pass, when he went in unto his brother's wife, that he spilled [it] on the ground, lest that he should give seed to his brother. And the thing which he did displeased the Lord: wherefore he slew him also." - Genesis 38:9-10
"He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord." - Deuteronomy 23:1
"And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression. Notwithstanding she shall be saved in childbearing, if they continue in faith and charity and holiness with sobriety." - 1 Timothy 2:14-15
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Contraception:"
2370. "Periodic continence, that is, the methods of birth regulation based on self-observation and the use of infertile periods, is in conformity with the objective criteria of morality. [HV 16.] These methods respect the bodies of the spouses, encourage tenderness between them, and favor the education of an authentic freedom. In contrast, 'every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible' is intrinsically evil. [HV 14.] Thus the innate language that expresses the total reciprocal self-giving of husband and wife is overlaid, through contraception, by an objectively contradictory language, namely, that of not giving oneself totally to the other. This leads not only to a positive refusal to be open to life but also to a falsification of the inner truth of conjugal love, which is called upon to give itself in personal totality.... The difference, both anthropological and moral, between contraception and recourse to the rhythm of the cycle . . . involves in the final analysis two irreconcilable concepts of the human person and of human sexuality.[FC 32.]"
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COMMENTS
All Protestant denominations considered artificial contraception a sin up until the Anglican Lambeth Conference of 1930. At that conference, the Anglican Communion decided that artificial contraception was no longer a sin and the rest of mainstream Protestantism followed suit.

Good Works
Serapion once gave his cloak to a poor man and as he walked on and met another who was shivering, he gave that one his tunic, and then sat down naked, holding the holy Gospel, and on being asked, "Who has taken your clothes, father?" he pointed to the Gospel and said, "This is the robber." Another time he sold the Gospel to give an alms and when a disciple said to him, "Father, where is your Gospel?" he replied, "Son, believe me, it was the Gospel which said to me 'Sell all you have and give to the poor,' so I sold it and gave to the poor that on the day of judgment we may have freer access to God." - a work written about St. Serapion of Thmuis (4th century A.D.)
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"For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them." - Ephesians 2:10
"Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works." - 2 Corinthians 11:15
"Who will render to every man according to his deeds." - Romans 2:6
"[This is] a faithful saying, and these things I will that thou affirm constantly, that they which have believed in God might be careful to maintain good works. These things are good and profitable unto men." - Titus 3:8
"And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works..." - Hebrews 10:24
"Having your conversation honest among the Gentiles: that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by [your] good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation." - 1 Peter 2:12
"What [doth it] profit, my brethren, though a man say he hath faith, and have not works? can faith save him? If a brother or sister be naked, and destitute of daily food, And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be [ye] warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what [doth it] profit? Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone. Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. But wilt thou know, O vain man, that faith without works is dead? Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only. Likewise also was not Rahab the harlot justified by works, when she had received the messengers, and had sent [them] out another way? For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." - James 2:14-26
"When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth [his] sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed [thee]? or thirsty, and gave [thee] drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took [thee] in? or naked, and clothed [thee]? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done [it] unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done [it] unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did [it] not to one of the least of these, ye did [it] not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal." - Matthew 25:31-46
"And I saw the dead, small and great, stand before God; and the books were opened: and another book was opened, which is the book of life: and the dead were judged out of those things which were written in the books, according to their works." - Revelations 20:12
"And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be." - Revelations 22:12
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Good Works:"
1821. "We can therefore hope in the glory of heaven promised by God to those who love him and do his will. [Cf. Rom 8:28-30 ; Mt 7:21 .] In every circumstance, each one of us should hope, with the grace of God, to persevere 'to the end' [Mt 10:22 ; cf. Council of Trent DS 1541.] and to obtain the joy of heaven, as God's eternal reward for the good works accomplished with the grace of Christ. In hope, the Church prays for 'all men to be saved.'[1 Tim 2:4 .] She longs to be united with Christ, her Bridegroom, in the glory of heaven: Hope, O my soul, hope. You know neither the day nor the hour. Watch carefully, for everything passes quickly, even though your impatience makes doubtful what is certain, and turns a very short time into a long one. Dream that the more you struggle, the more you prove the love that you bear your God, and the more you will rejoice one day with your Beloved, in a happiness and rapture that can never end. [St. Teresa of Avila, Excl. 15:3.]"
2008. "The merit of man before God in the Christian life arises from the fact that God has freely chosen to associate man with the work of his grace. The fatherly action of God is first on his own initiative, and then follows man's free acting through his collaboration, so that the merit of good works is to be attributed in the first place to the grace of God, then to the faithful. Man's merit, moreover, itself is due to God, for his good actions proceed in Christ, from the predispositions and assistance given by the Holy Spirit."
2009. "Filial adoption, in making us partakers by grace in the divine nature, can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by grace, the full right of love, making us 'co-heirs' with Christ and worthy of obtaining 'the promised inheritance of eternal life.' [Council of Trent (1547): DS 1546.] The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness. [Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1548.] 'Grace has gone before us; now we are given what is due.... Our merits are God's gifts.' [St. Augustine, Sermon 298, 4-5: PL 38, 1367.]"

Papal Infallibility
"Rome has spoken. The case is closed." - St. Augustine of Hippo ("Sermon 131," 4th century A.D.)
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"All scripture [is] given by inspiration of God, and [is] profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works." - 2 Timothy 3:16-17
"For the Holy Ghost shall teach you in the same hour what ye ought to say." - Luke 12:12
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Papal Infallibility:"
889. "In order to preserve the Church in the purity of the faith handed on by the apostles, Christ who is the Truth willed to confer on her a share in his own infallibility. By a 'supernatural sense of faith' the People of God, under the guidance of the Church's living Magisterium, 'unfailingly adheres to this faith.' [LG 12; cf. DV 10.]"
890. "The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium's task to preserve God's people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church's shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms."
891. "'The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals.... The infallibility promised to the Church is also present in the body of bishops when, together with Peter's successor, they exercise the supreme Magisterium,' above all in an Ecumenical Council. [LG 25; cf. Vatican Council I: DS 3074.] When the Church through its supreme Magisterium proposes a doctrine 'for belief as being divinely revealed,' [DV 10 # 2.] and as the teaching of Christ, the definitions 'must be adhered to with the obedience of faith.' [LG 25 # 2.] This infallibility extends as far as the deposit of divine Revelation itself. [Cf. LG 25.]"
2035. "The supreme degree of participation in the authority of Christ is ensured by the charism of infallibility. This infallibility extends as far as does the deposit of divine Revelation; it also extends to all those elements of doctrine, including morals, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, explained, or observed. [Cf. LG 25; CDF, declaration, Mysterium Ecclesiae 3.]"
2051. "The infallibility of the Magisterium of the Pastors extends to all the elements of doctrine, including moral doctrine, without which the saving truths of the faith cannot be preserved, expounded, or observed."
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PRAYER FOR THE CHURCH
We pray You, O almighty and eternal God! Who through Jesus Christ have revealed Your glory to all nations, to preserve the works of Your mercy, that Your Church, being spread through the whole world, may continue with unchanging faith in the confession of Your name. Amen.

Ritual Prayer
"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." - Matthew 6:9-13
"Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." - Matthew 18:19-20
"And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words." - Matthew 26:44
"Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of [this] calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of [his] goodness, and the work of faith with power...." - 2 Thessalonians 1:11
"Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have [free] course, and be glorified, even as [it is] with you...." - 2 Thessalonians 3:1
"And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.'" - Revelations 4:8
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Ritual Prayer:"
2726. "In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they 'don't have the time.' Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone."

2776. "The Lord's Prayer is the quintessential prayer of the Church. It is an integral part of the major hours of the Divine Office and of the sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Integrated into the Eucharist it reveals the eschatological character of its petitions, hoping for the Lord, 'until he comes' (1 Cor 11:26)."
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COMMENTS
Where there are two or more people praying for the same thing, "it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven." Doesn't this explain the concept of ritual prayer in the Catholic Church? Yes, there is a danger of "just saying the words" without meaning them. But this is a problem with the individual Christian, not a problem with the concept of ritual prayer. If God didn't want us to pray the same prayer more than once, why did He give us the Lord's Prayer (the "Our Father")? Christ Himself repeated the exact same words in prayer (Matthew 26:44). The angels in heaven also repeat the same prayers in praise of God the Father (Revelations 4:8 ).


Ritual Prayer
"After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil: For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." - Matthew 6:9-13
"Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching any thing that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven. For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them." - Matthew 18:19-20
"And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words." - Matthew 26:44
"Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of [this] calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of [his] goodness, and the work of faith with power...." - 2 Thessalonians 1:11
"Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have [free] course, and be glorified, even as [it is] with you...." - 2 Thessalonians 3:1
"And the four beasts had each of them six wings about him; and they were full of eyes within: and they rest not day and night, saying, 'Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, which was, and is, and is to come.'" - Revelations 4:8
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Ritual Prayer:"
2726. "In the battle of prayer, we must face in ourselves and around us erroneous notions of prayer. Some people view prayer as a simple psychological activity, others as an effort of concentration to reach a mental void. Still others reduce prayer to ritual words and postures. Many Christians unconsciously regard prayer as an occupation that is incompatible with all the other things they have to do: they 'don't have the time.' Those who seek God by prayer are quickly discouraged because they do not know that prayer comes also from the Holy Spirit and not from themselves alone."

2776. "The Lord's Prayer is the quintessential prayer of the Church. It is an integral part of the major hours of the Divine Office and of the sacraments of Christian initiation: Baptism, Confirmation, and Eucharist. Integrated into the Eucharist it reveals the eschatological character of its petitions, hoping for the Lord, 'until he comes' (1 Cor 11:26)."
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COMMENTS
Where there are two or more people praying for the same thing, "it shall be done to them by my Father who is in heaven." Doesn't this explain the concept of ritual prayer in the Catholic Church? Yes, there is a danger of "just saying the words" without meaning them. But this is a problem with the individual Christian, not a problem with the concept of ritual prayer. If God didn't want us to pray the same prayer more than once, why did He give us the Lord's Prayer (the "Our Father")? Christ Himself repeated the exact same words in prayer (Matthew 26:44). The angels in heaven also repeat the same prayers in praise of God the Father (Revelations 4:8 ).


Degrees Of Sin
"Our Lord said to Pilate (John 19:11): 'He that hath delivered me to thee, hath the greater sin,' and yet it is evident that Pilate was guilty of some sin. Therefore one sin is greater than another.
Therefore it matters much to the gravity of a sin whether one departs more or less from the rectitude of reason: and accordingly we must say that sins are not all equal.
To commit sin is unlawful on account of some inordinateness therein: wherefore those which contain a greater inordinateness are more unlawful, and consequently graver sins." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)
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"If any man see his brother sin a sin [which is] not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it. All unrighteousness is sin: and there is a sin not unto death." - 1 John 5:16-17
"Jesus answered, Thou couldest have no power at all against me, except it were given thee from above: therefore he that delivered me unto thee hath the greater sin." - John 19:11
"And the Lord said, Because the cry of Sodom and Gomorrah is great, and because their sin is very grievous..." - Genesis 18:20
"Then Abimelech called Abraham, and said unto him, What hast thou done unto us? and what have I offended thee, that thou hast brought on me and on my kingdom a great sin? thou hast done deeds unto me that ought not to be done." - Genesis 20:9
"He that smiteth a man, so that he die, shall be surely put to death." - Exodus 21:12
"And he that smiteth his father, or his mother, shall be surely put to death. And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death. And he that curseth his father, or his mother, shall surely be put to death. And if men strive together, and one smite another with a stone, or with his fist, and he die not, but keepeth his bed: If he rise again, and walk abroad upon his staff, then shall he that smote him be quit: only he shall pay for the loss of his time, and shall cause him to be thoroughly healed." - Exodus 21:15-19
"If men strive, and hurt a woman with child, so that her fruit depart from her, and yet no mischief follow: he shall be surely punished, according as the woman's husband will lay upon him; and he shall pay as the judges determine." - Exodus 21:22
"If a man shall steal an ox, or a sheep, and kill it, or sell it; he shall restore five oxen for an ox, and four sheep for a sheep." - Exodus 22:1
"If the theft be certainly found in his hand alive, whether it be ox, or ass, or sheep; he shall restore double. If a man shall cause a field or vineyard to be eaten, and shall put in his beast, and shall feed in another man's field; of the best of his own field, and of the best of his own vineyard, shall he make restitution. If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution." - Exodus 22:4-6
"And if a man entice a maid that is not betrothed, and lie with her, he shall surely endow her to be his wife. If her father utterly refuse to give her unto him, he shall pay money according to the dowry of virgins." - Exodus 22:16-17
"Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death." - Exodus 22:19
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Degrees Of Sin:"
1854. "Sins are rightly evaluated according to their gravity. The distinction between mortal and venial sin, already evident in Scripture, [Cf. 1 Jn 5:16-17.] became part of the tradition of the Church. It is corroborated by human experience."
1855. "Mortal sin destroys charity in the heart of man by a grave violation of God's law; it turns man away from God, who is his ultimate end and his beatitude, by preferring an inferior good to him. Venial sin allows charity to subsist, even though it offends and wounds it. "
1856. "Mortal sin, by attacking the vital principle within us - that is, charity - necessitates a new initiative of God's mercy and a conversion of heart which is normally accomplished within the setting of the sacrament of reconciliation: When the will sets itself upon something that is of its nature incompatible with the charity that orients man toward his ultimate end, then the sin is mortal by its very object . . . whether it contradicts the love of God, such as blasphemy or perjury, or the love of neighbor, such as homicide or adultery.... But when the sinner's will is set upon something that of its nature involves a disorder, but is not opposed to the love of God and neighbor, such as thoughtless chatter or immoderate laughter and the like, such sins are venial. [St. Thomas Aquinas, Su Th I-II, 88, 2, corp. art.] "
1862. "One commits venial sin when, in a less serious matter, he does not observe the standard prescribed by the moral law, or when he disobeys the moral law in a grave matter, but without full knowledge or without complete consent."
1863. "Venial sin weakens charity; it manifests a disordered affection for created goods; it impedes the soul's progress in the exercise of the virtues and the practice of the moral good; it merits temporal punishment. Deliberate and unrepented venial sin disposes us little by little to commit mortal sin. However venial sin does not set us in direct opposition to the will and friendship of God; it does not break the covenant with God. With God's grace it is humanly reparable. 'Venial sin does not deprive the sinner of sanctifying grace, friendship with God, charity, and consequently eternal happiness.' [John Paul II, RP 17 # 9.] While he is in the flesh, man cannot help but have at least some light sins. But do not despise these sins which we call 'light': if you take them for light when you weigh them, tremble when you count them. A number of light objects makes a great mass; a number of drops fills a river; a number of grains makes a heap. What then is our hope? Above all, confession. [St. Augustine, In ep. Jo. 1, 6: PL 35, 1982.]"
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"But what presses harder upon the present question [in the Lord's command of praying for enemies and persecutors] is that saying of the apostle John, 'If any man know that his brother sinneth a sin not unto death, he shall ask, and the Lord will give life to that man who sinneth not unto death: but there is a sin unto death: not for that do I say that he should ask.' For it manifestly shows that there are some 'brethren' whom we are not commanded to pray for, whereas the Lord bids us pray even for our persecutors. Nor can this question be solved except we acknowledge, that there are some sins in brethren that are worse than the sin of enemies in persecuting." - St. Augustine of Hippo ("Homily on 1 John 5:16" 4th century A.D.)
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COMMENTS
I do not understand the Protestants' stance on "sin being sin" with no matter of "degree" of evil or wickedness. There is no "difference" if one steals a nickel from his/her mother's purse or commits mass murder? That makes no sense to me. I believe God is a fair and just judge (Deut. 32:4; John 5:30 ) and that the degree of sin will determine the degree of punishment.
Why in Exodus does God specifically differentiate "punishments" for different sins if all sins are "equal" in the eyes of God? Why is the punishment for all sins in the above passages from Exodus, not death?
How can the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah be "very grievous" in Genesis 18:20 if all sins are the same? The words "very grievous" themselves distinguish the sin of Sodom and Gomorrah.
What is a "great" sin as opposed to another sin in Genesis 20:9? Again, "great" is a word distinguishing a "lesser" sin from a "greater" one.
In John 19:11, Jesus Himself uses the words "greater sin." If all sins are the same, how can one be "greater" than the other?
--- Chris
Homosexuality
"Four types of this form of criminal wickedness can be distinguished in an effort to show you the totality of the whole matter in and orderly way: some sin with themselves alone [masturbation]; some by the hands of others [mutual masturbation]; others between the thighs [interfemoral intercourse]; and finally, others commit the complete act against nature [anal intercourse]." - St. Peter Damian ("The Book Of Gomorrah" 11th century A.D.)
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"And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet." - Romans 1:27
"Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it [is] abomination." - Leviticus 18:22
"The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man, neither shall a man put on a woman's garment: for all that do so [are] abomination unto the Lord thy God." - Deuteronomy 22:5
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Homosexuality:"
2357. "Homosexuality refers to relations between men or between women who experience an exclusive or predominant sexual attraction toward persons of the same sex. It has taken a great variety of forms through the centuries and in different cultures. Its psychological genesis remains largely unexplained. Basing itself on Sacred Scripture, which presents homosexual acts as acts of grave depravity, (Cf. Gen 19:1-29; Rom 1:24-27; 1 Cor 6:10; 1 Tim 1:10) tradition has always declared that "homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered." (CDF, Persona humana 8) They are contrary to the natural law. They close the sexual act to the gift of life. They do not proceed from a genuine affective and sexual complementarity. Under no circumstances can they be approved."
2358. "The number of men and women who have deep-seated homosexual tendencies is not negligible. This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial. They must be accepted with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. These persons are called to fulfill God's will in their lives and, if they are Christians, to unite to the sacrifice of the Lord's Cross the difficulties they may encounter from their condition."
2359. "Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection."
2396. "Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices."


Pre-marital Sex
"It is written (Tob. 4:13): 'Take heed to keep thyself. . . from all fornication, and beside thy wife never endure to know a crime.' Now crime denotes a mortal sin. Therefore fornication and all intercourse with other than one's wife is a mortal sin." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)
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"Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body." - 1 Corinthians 6:18
"For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: All these evil things come from within, and defile the man." - Mark 7:21-23
"Marriage [is] honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge." - Hebrews 13:4
"Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things' sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience...." - Colossians 3:5-6
"But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God." - Ephesians 5:3-5
"[This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are [these]; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told [you] in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." - Galatians 5:16-21
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What Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Pre-Marital Sex:"
2353. "Fornication is carnal union between an unmarried man and an unmarried woman. It is gravely contrary to the dignity of persons and of human sexuality which is naturally ordered to the good of spouses and the generation and education of children. Moreover, it is a grave scandal when there is corruption of the young."

2396. "Among the sins gravely contrary to chastity are masturbation, fornication, pornography, and homosexual practices."


The Sacrament Of Penance
"What can show more pride than this, since the Scripture says: 'No one is free from sin, not even an infant of a day old;' and David cries out: 'Cleanse me from my sin.' Are they more holy than David, of whose family Christ vouchsafed to be born in the mystery of the Incarnation, whose descendant is that heavenly Hall which received the world's Redeemer in her virgin womb? For what is more harsh than to inflict a penance which they do not relax, and by refusing pardon to take away the incentive to penance and repentance? Now no one can repent to good purpose unless he hopes for mercy." - St. Ambrose ("Concerning Repentance" 4th century A.D.)
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"Confess [your] faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much." - James 5:16
"And when he had said this, he breathed on [them], and saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Ghost: Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; [and] whose soever [sins] ye retain, they are retained." - John 20:22-23
"When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee. But there were certain of the scribes sitting there, and reasoning in their hearts, Why doth this [man] thus speak blasphemies? who can forgive sins but God only?" - Mark 2:5-7
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Penance:"
986. "By Christ's will, the Church possesses the power to forgive the sins of the baptized and exercises it through bishops and priests normally in the Sacrament of Penance."

1422. "'Those who approach the Sacrament of Penance obtain pardon from God's mercy for the offense committed against him, and are, at the same time, reconciled with the Church which they have wounded by their sins and which by charity, by example, and by prayer labors for their conversion.' [LG 11 # 2.]"

1446. "Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance for all sinful members of his Church: above all for those who, since Baptism, have fallen into grave sin, and have thus lost their baptismal grace and wounded ecclesial communion. It is to them that the Sacramanet of Penance offers a new possibility to convert and to recover the grace of justification. The Fathers of the Church present this sacrament as 'the second plank (of salvation) after the shipwreck which is the loss of grace.' [Tertullian, De Paenit. 4, 2: PL 1,1343; cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1542.]"
1456. "Confession to a priest is an essential part of the Sacrament of Penance: 'All mortal sins of which penitents after a diligent self-examination are conscious must be recounted by them in confession, even if they are most secret and have been committed against the last two precepts of the Decalogue; for these sins sometimes wound the soul more grievously and are more dangerous than those which are committed openly.' [Council Of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. Ex 20:17; Mt 5:28.] When Christ's faithful strive to confess all the sins that they can remember, they undoubtedly place all of them before the divine mercy for pardon. But those who fail to do so and knowingly withhold some, place nothing before the divine goodness for remission through the mediation of the priest, 'for if the sick person is too ashamed to show his wound to the doctor, the medicine cannot heal what it does not know.' [Council of Trent (1551): DS 1680 (ND 1626); cf. St. Jerome, In Eccl.]"
1464. "Priests must encourage the faithful to come to the Sacrament of Penance and must make themselves available to celebrate this sacrament each time Christians reasonably ask for it. [Cf. CIC, can. 486; CCEO, can. 735; PO 13.]"

1465. "When he celebrates the Sacrament of Penance, the priest is fulfilling the ministry of the Good Shepherd who seeks the lost sheep, of the Good Samaritan who binds up wounds, of the Father who awaits the prodigal son and welcomes him on his return, and of the just and impartial judge whose judgment is both just and merciful. The priest is the sign and the instrument of God's merciful love for the sinner."

1466. "The confessor is not the master of God's forgiveness, but its servant. The minister of this sacrament should unite himself to the intention and charity of Christ. [Cf. PO 13.] He should have a proven knowledge of Christian behavior, experience of human affairs, respect and sensitivity toward the one who has fallen; he must love the truth, be faithful to the Magisterium of the Church, and lead the penitent with patience toward healing and full maturity. He must pray and do penance for his penitent, entrusting him to the Lord's mercy."

1491. "The Sacrament of Penance is a whole consisting in three actions of the penitent and the priest's absolution. The penitent's acts are repentance, confession or disclosure of sins to the priest, and the intention to make reparation and do works of reparation."

1496. "The spiritual effects of the Sacrament of Penance are:
- reconciliation with God by which the penitent recovers grace;
- reconciliation with the Church;
- remission of the eternal punishment incurred by mortal sins;
- remission, at least in part, of temporal punishments resulting from sin;
- peace and serenity of conscience, and spiritual consolation;
- an increase of spiritual strength for the Christian battle."
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"God never threatens the repentant, rather He pardons the penitent. You will say that it is God alone who can do this. True enough, but it is likewise true that He does it through his priests, who exercise His power." - St. Pacianus of Barcelona (4th century A.D.)
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"In this sacrament the acts of the penitent are as matter, while the part taken by the priest, who works as Christ's minister, is the formal and completive element of the sacrament. Now in the other sacraments the matter pre-exists, being provided by nature, as water, or by art, as bread: but that such and such a matter be employed for a sacrament requires to be decided by the institution; while the sacrament derives its form and power entirely from the institution of Christ, from Whose Passion the power of the sacraments proceeds." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)
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ACT OF CONTRITION
O my God, I am heartily sorry for having offended You, and I detest all my sins, because of Your just punishments, but most of all because they offend You, my God, who are all-good and deserving of all my love. I firmly resolve, with the help of Your grace, to sin no more and to avoid the near occasions of sin. Amen.


Celibacy Of The Clergy
"How much stronger are our virgins, who overcome even those powers which they do not see; whose victory is not only over flesh and blood, but also over the prince of this world, and ruler of this age!" - St. Ambrose ("Concerning Virgins" 4th century A.D.)
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"But I would have you without carefulness. He that is unmarried careth for the things that belong to the Lord, how he may please the Lord: But he that is married careth for the things that are of the world, how he may please [his] wife. There is difference [also] between a wife and a virgin. The unmarried woman careth for the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and in spirit: but she that is married careth for the things of the world, how she may please [her] husband. And this I speak for your own profit; not that I may cast a snare upon you, but for that which is comely, and that ye may attend upon the Lord without distraction." - 1 Corinthians 7:32-35
"Now concerning the things whereof ye wrote unto me: [It is] good for a man not to touch a woman." - 1 Corinithians 7:1
"And every one that hath forsaken houses, 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 inherit everlasting life." - Matthew 19:29
"His disciples say unto him, If the case of the man be so with [his] wife, it is not good to marry. But he said unto them, All [men] cannot receive this saying, save [they] to whom it is given. For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from [their] mother's womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven's sake. He that is able to receive [it], let him receive [it]." - Matthew 19:10-12
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Celibacy of the Clergy:"
1579. "All the ordained ministers of the Latin Church, with the exception of permanent deacons, are normally chosen from among men of faith who live a celibate life and who intend to remain celibate 'for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.' [Mt 19:12 .] Called to consecrate themselves with undivided heart to the Lord and to 'the affairs of the Lord,' [1 Cor 7:32 .] they give themselves entirely to God and to men. celibacy is a sign of this new life to the service of which the Church's minister is consecrated; accepted with a joyous heart celibacy radiantly proclaims the Reign of God. [Cf. PO 16.]"
1580. "In the Eastern Churches a different discipline has been in force for many centuries: while bishops are chosen solely from among celibates, married men can be ordained as deacons and priests. This practice has long been considered legitimate; these priests exercise a fruitful ministry within their communities. [Cf. PO 16.] Moreover, priestly celibacy is held in great honor in the Eastern Churches and many priests have freely chosen it for the sake of the Kingdom of God. In the East as in the West a man who has already received the sacrament of Holy Orders can no longer marry."
1599. "In the Latin Church the sacrament of Holy Orders for the presbyterate is normally conferred only on candidates who are ready to embrace celibacy freely and who publicly manifest their intention of staying celibate for the love of God's kingdom and the service of men."
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"Virgins, by the laying aside of all carnal affection, are imitators of God. For, if a man be only in name called holy, he is not holy; but he must be holy in everything: in his body and in his spirit. And those who are virgins rejoice at all times in becoming like God and His Christ, and are imitators of them." - Pope St. Clement of Rome ("Epistle Concerning Virginity" 1st century A.D.)
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"The holy look of virginity is precious indeed in the judgment of all who make purity the test of beauty; but it belongs to those alone whose struggles to gain this object of a noble love are favoured and helped by the grace of God." - St. Gregory of Nyssa ("On Virginity" 4th century A.D.)
Divorce
"Those things which were assigned to nature when it was well established in its beginning belong especially to the law of nature. Now the indissolubility of marriage is one of these things according to Matthew 19:4, 6. Therefore it is of natural law. Further, it is of natural law that man should not oppose himself to God. Yet man would, in a way, oppose himself to God if he were to sunder 'what God hath joined together.' Since then the indissolubility of marriage is gathered from this passage (Matthew 19:6) it would seem that it is of natural law." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica," 13th century A.D.)
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"And it hath been said, Whoseoever shall put away his wife, let him give her a bill of divorce. But I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, excepting for the cause of fornication, maketh her to commit adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery." - Matthew 5:31-32
"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 Corinithians 7:10-11
"A woman is bound by the law as long as her husband liveth; but if her husband die, she is at liberty: let her marry to whom she will; only in the Lord." - 1 Corinthians 7:39
"Every one that putteth away his wife, and marrieth another, committeth adultery: and he that marrieth her that is put away from her husband, commmitteth adultery." - Luke 16:18
"And there came to him the Pharisees tempting him, and saying: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife for every cause? Who answering, said to them: Have ye not read, that he who made man from the beginning, made them male and female? And he said: 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. They say to him: Why then did Moses command to give a bill of divorce, and to put away? He saith to them: because Moses by reason of the hardness of your heart permitted you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, that whosoever shall put away his wife, except it be for fornication, and shall marry another, committeth adultery: and he that shall marry her that is put away, committeth adultery." - Matthew 19:3-9
"And the Pharisees coming to him asked him: Is it lawful for a man to put away his wife? Tempting him. But he answering, saith to them: What did Moses command you? Who said: Moses permitted to write a bill of divorce, and to put her away. To whom Jesus answering, said: because of the hardness of your heart he wrote you that precept. But from the beginning of the creation, God made them male and female. For this cause a man shall leave his 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 not man put asunder. And in the house again his disciples asked him concerning the same thing. And he saith to them: whosoever shall put away his wife and marry another, committeth adultery against her. And if the wife shall put away her husband, and be married to another, she committeth adultery." - Mark 10:2-12
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Divorce:"
1614. "In his preaching Jesus unequivocally taught the original meaning of the union of man and woman as the Creator willed it from the beginning permission given by Moses to divorce one's wife was a concession to the hardness of hearts. [Cf. Mt 19:8.] The matrimonial union of man and woman is indissoluble: God himself has determined it 'what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder.' [Mt 19:6.]"
1650. "Today there are numerous Catholics in many countries who have recourse to civil divorce and contract new civil unions. In fidelity to the words of Jesus Christ - 'Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery' [Mk 10:11-12 .] the Church maintains that a new union cannot be recognized as valid, if the first marriage was. If the divorced are remarried civilly, they find themselves in a situation that objectively contravenes God's law. Consequently, they cannot receive Eucharistic communion as long as this situation persists. For the same reason, they cannot exercise certain ecclesial responsibilities. Reconciliation through the sacrament of Penance can be granted only to those who have repented for having violated the sign of the covenant and of fidelity to Christ, and who are committed to living in complete continence."
2383. "The separation of spouses while maintaining the marriage bond can be legitimate in certain cases provided for by canon law. [Cf. CIC, cann. 1151-1155.] If civil divorce remains the only possible way of ensuring certain legal rights, the care of the children, or the protection of inheritance, it can be tolerated and does not constitute a moral offense."
2384. "Divorce is a grave offense against the natural law. It claims to break the contract, to which the spouses freely consented, to live with each other till death. Divorce does injury to the covenant of salvation, of which sacramental marriage is the sign. Contracting a new union, even if it is recognized by civil law, adds to the gravity of the rupture: the remarried spouse is then in a situation of public and permanent adultery: If a husband, separated from his wife, approaches another woman, he is an adulterer because he makes that woman commit adultery, and the woman who lives with him is an adulteress, because she has drawn another's husband to herself. [St. Basil, Moralia 73, 1: PG 31, 849-852.]"
2385. "Divorce is immoral also because it introduces disorder into the family and into society. This disorder brings grave harm to the deserted spouse, to children traumatized by the separation of their parents and often torn between them, and because of its contagious effect which makes it truly a plague on society."
2386. "It can happen that one of the spouses is the innocent victim of a divorce decreed by civil law; this spouse therefore has not contravened the moral law. There is a considerable difference between a spouse who has sincerely tried to be faithful to the sacrament of marriage and is unjustly abandoned, and one who through his own grave fault destroys a canonically valid marriage. [Cf. FC 84.]"
2400. "Adultery, divorce, polygamy, and free union are grave offenses against the dignity of marriage."
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Money For The Church
"And Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury: and many that were rich cast in much. And there came a certain poor widow, and she threw in two mites, which make a farthing. And he called [unto him] his disciples, and saith unto them, Verily I say unto you, That this poor widow hath cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury: For all [they] did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, [even] all her living." - Mark 12:41-44
"Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I have given order to the churches of Galatia, even so do ye. Upon the first [day] of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as [God] hath prospered him, that there be no gatherings when I come." - 1 Corinthians 16:1-2
"And he looked up, and saw the rich men casting their gifts into the treasury. And he saw also a certain poor widow casting in thither two mites. And he said, Of a truth I say unto you, that this poor widow hath cast in more than they all: For all these have of their abundance cast in unto the offerings of God: but she of her penury hath cast in all the living that she had." - Luke 21:1-4
"And Joses, who by the apostles was surnamed Barnabas, (which is, being interpreted, The son of consolation,) a Levite, [and] of the country of Cyprus, Having land, sold [it], and brought the money, and laid [it] at the apostles' feet." - Acts 4:36-37
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Money For The Church:"
1351. "From the very beginning Christians have brought, along with the bread and wine for the Eucharist, gifts to share with those in need. This custom of the collection, ever appropriate, is inspired by the example of Christ who became poor to make us rich: [Cf. 1 Cor 16:1; 2 Cor 8:9.] Those who are well off, and who are also willing, give as each chooses. What is gathered is given to him who presides to assist orphans and widows, those whom illness or any other cause has deprived of resources, prisoners, immigrants and, in a word, all who are in need. [St. Justin, Apol. 1, 67: PG 6, 429.]"
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Purgatory
"Now there is no need to pray for the dead who are in Heaven, for they are in no need; nor again for those who are in Hell, because they cannot be loosed from sins. Therefore after this life, there are some not yet loosed from sins, who can be loosed therefrom; and the like have charity, without which sins cannot be loosed, for 'charity covereth all sins' [Prov. 10:12]. Hence they will not be consigned to everlasting death, since 'he that liveth and believeth in Me, shall not die for ever' [Jn. 11:26]: nor will they obtain glory without being cleansed, because nothing unclean shall obtain it, as stated in the last chapter of the Apocalypse (verse 14). Therefore some kind of cleansing remains after this life. Further, Gregory of Nyssa [De iis qui in fide dormiunt] says: 'If one who loves and believes in Christ,' has failed to wash away his sins in this life, 'he is set free after death by the fire of Purgatory.' Therefore there remains some kind of cleansing after this life. From the conclusions we have drawn above it is sufficiently clear that there is a Purgatory after this life. For if the debt of punishment is not paid in full after the stain of sin has been washed away by contrition, nor again are venial sins always removed when mortal sins are remitted, and if justice demands that sin be set in order by due punishment, it follows that one who after contrition for his fault and after being absolved, dies before making due satisfaction, is punished after this life. Wherefore those who deny Purgatory speak against the justice of God: for which reason such a statement is erroneous and contrary to faith. Hence Gregory of Nyssa, after the words quoted above, adds: 'This we preach, holding to the teaching of truth, and this is our belief; this the universal Church holds, by praying for the dead that they may be loosed from sins.' This cannot be understood except as referring to Purgatory: and whosoever resists the authority of the Church, incurs the note of heresy." - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)
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"And making a gathering, he sent twelve thousand drachms of silver to Jerusalem for sacrifice to be offered for the sins of the dead, thinking well and religiously concerning the resurrection. For if he had not hoped that they that were slain should rise again, it would have seemed superfluous and vain to pray for the dead, and because he considered that they who had fallen asleep with godliness, had great grace laid up for them. With godliness... Judas hoped that these men who died fighting for the cause of God and religion, might find mercy: either because they might be excused from mortal sin by ignorance; or might have repented of their sin, at least at their death. It is therefore a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead, that they may be loosed from sins." - 2 Maccabees 12:43-46
"For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; Every man's work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man's work of what sort it is. If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire." - 1 Corinthians 3:11-15
"I tell thee, thou shalt not depart thence, till thou hast paid the very last mite." - Luke 12:59
"And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the [world] to come. Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by [his] fruit. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. A good man out of the good treasure of the heart bringeth forth good things: and an evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth evil things. But I say unto you, That every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." - Matthew 12:32-36
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on "Purgatory:"
1031. "The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned. [Cf. Council of Florence (1439): DS 1304; Council of Trent (1563): DS 1820; (1547): 1580; see also Benedict XII, Benedictus Deus (1336): DS 1000.] The Church formulated her doctrine of faith on Purgatory especially at the Councils of Florence and Trent. The tradition of the Church, by reference to certain texts of Scripture, speaks of a cleansing fire. [Cf. 1 Cor 3:15; 1 Pet 1:7.] As for certain lesser faults, we must believe that, before the Final Judgment, there is a purifying fire. He who is truth says that whoever utters blasphemy against the Holy Spirit will be pardoned neither in this age nor in the age to come. From this sentence we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come. [St. Gregory the Great, Dial. 4, 39: PL 77, 396; cf. Mt 12:32-36.]"
1472. "To understand this doctrine and practice of the Church, it is necessary to understand that sin has a double consequence. Grave sin deprives us of communion with God and therefore makes us incapable of eternal life, the privation of which is called the 'eternal punishment' of sin. On the other hand every sin, even venial, entails an unhealthy attachment to creatures, which must be purified either here on earth, or after death in the state called Purgatory. This purification frees one from what is called the 'temporal punishment' of sin. These two punishments must not be conceived of as a kind of vengeance inflicted by God from without, but as following from the very nature of sin. A conversion which proceeds from a fervent charity can attain the complete purification of the sinner in such a way that no punishment would remain. [Cf. Council of Trent (1551): DS 1712-1713; (1563): 1820.]"
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"The souls who are in Purgatory cannot, as I understand, choose but be there, and this is by God's ordinance who therein has done justly." - St. Catherine of Genoa ("A Treatise On Purgatory" 15th century A.D.)
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COMMENTS
Nothing impure can enter into the Kingdom of God (Revelations 21:27).
Every person will have to pay for their sins to "the very last penny" (Luke 12:59).
I'll use somewhat of a parable to explain purgatory. God is just per Scripture (John 5:30), correct? Now, let's say you have one man who leads a saintly life and another who leads a sinful life, but sincerely repents of his sins on his death bed. According to Protestants, both these men go straight to Heaven after death. Is this just? I would have to answer in the negative. According to Catholic belief, the saintly man would go straight to Heaven whereas the repentant man would have to be cleansed of the temporal (not eternal) punishment for his sins before entering Heaven. Where is this done? He can't be sent to Hell because Hell is eternal per Scripture (Matthew 25:46; Mark 3:29). There has to be a "middle ground" so to speak. This "middle ground" is Purgatory. We must suffer for our sins just as Christ suffered for them (Romans 8:17; 2 Corinthians 1:5-7). If this suffering is not in this life, it has to be in the next.
Protestants say that since Purgatory is not mentioned "by name" in the Holy Bible, it doesn't exist. But the "Trinity" is not mentioned in the Bible either yet almost all mainstream Protestant denominations believe in it. Unfortunately, the King James version of the Bible mistakenly omits the Books of Maccabees. These books were decided by the Church Fathers to be inspired of God. The Twelve Apostles used the Septuagint (Greek) canon - almost every single quote from the Old Testament that is cited in the New is from the Septuagint - this canon includes the First and Second Books of Maccabees (as well as five others). It is clear that praying for the dead to release them from the reparation of their sins is good according to the first Biblical verse quoted at the top of this page.
With repentance comes reparation for sins such as "sackcloth and ashes" (Matthew 11:21; Luke 10:13).
Why did God give St. Paul the pain of the stigmata (Galatians 6:17) if there is no reparation for sins? Why did St. Paul pray for a dead friend (Onesiphorus), if there is no Purgatory (2 Timothy 1:16-18)?
--- Chris
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FOR THE SOULS IN PURGATORY
O gentle Heart of Jesus, ever present in the Blessed Sacrament, ever consumed with burning love for the poor captive souls in Purgatory, have mercy on them. Be not severe in Your judgments, but let some drops of Your Precious Blood fall upon the devouring flames. And, Merciful Savior, send Your angels to conduct them to a place of refreshment, light and peace. Amen.

The Saints
"As Jerome says (Cont. Vigilant. 6), the error of Vigilantius consisted in saying that 'while we live, we can pray one for another; but that after we are dead, none of our prayers for others can be heard, seeing that not even the martyrs' prayers are granted when they pray for their blood to be avenged.' But this is absolutely false, because, since prayers offered for others proceed from charity, the greater the charity of the saints in heaven, the more they pray for wayfarers, since the latter can be helped by prayers: and the more closely they are united to God, the more are their prayers efficacious: for the Divine order is such that lower beings receive an overflow of the excellence of the higher, even as the air receives the brightness of the sun. Wherefore it is said of Christ (Heb. 7:25): 'Going to God by His own power . . . to make intercession for us' ['He is able to save for ever them that come to God by Him, always living to make intercession for us.']. Hence Jerome says (Cont. Vigilant. 6): 'If the apostles and martyrs while yet in the body and having to be solicitous for themselves, can pray for others, how much more now that they have the crown of victory and triumph.'" - St. Thomas Aquinas ("Summa Theologica" 13th century A.D.)
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"Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And he that searcheth the hearts knoweth what [is] the mind of the Spirit, because he maketh intercession for the saints according to [the will of] God." - Romans 8:26-27
"And when he had taken the book, the four beasts and four [and] twenty elders fell down before the Lamb, having every one of them harps, and golden vials full of odours, which are the prayers of saints." - Revelations 5:8
"Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God: whose faith follow, considering the end of [their] conversation." - Hebrews 13:7
"Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of [this] calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of [his] goodness, and the work of faith with power...." - 2 Thessalonians 1:11
"Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have [free] course, and be glorified, even as [it is] with you...." - 2 Thessalonians 3:1
"Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ. Now I praise you, brethren, that ye remember me in all things, and keep the ordinances, as I delivered them to you." - 1 Corinthians 11:1-2
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What the Catechism of the Catholic Church says on the "Saints:"
956. "The intercession of the saints. 'Being more closely united to Christ, those who dwell in heaven fix the whole Church more firmly in holiness.... They do not cease to intercede with the Father for us, as they proffer the merits which they acquired on earth through the one mediator between God and men, Christ Jesus.... So by their fraternal concern is our weakness greatly helped.' [LG 49; cf. 1 Tim 2:5 .]
"Do not weep, for I shall be more useful to you after my death and I shall help you then more effectively than during my life." [St. Dominic, dying, to his brothers.]
"I want to spend my heaven in doing good on earth." [St. Therese of Lisieux, The Final Conversations, tr. John Clarke (Washington: ICS, 1977), 102.]"
2683. "The witnesses who have preceded us into the kingdom, [Cf. Heb 12:1 .] especially those whom the Church recognizes as saints, share in the living tradition of prayer by the example of their lives, the transmission of their writings, and their prayer today. They contemplate God, praise him and constantly care for those whom they have left on earth. When they entered into the joy of their Master, they were 'put in charge of many things.' [Cf. Mt 25:21.] Their intercession is their most exalted service to God's plan. We can and should ask them to intercede for us and for the whole world."
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COMMENTS
People ask people to "pray for me" all the time. Why not ask the Virgin Mary or any other saint to "pray for you?" Just because they are no longer "of this world" does not mean they don't "talk" to God. The saints in heaven are not "separated" by death from the community of the Church (Romans 8:38-39) as we are all one Body in Christ (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12:12) and Christ "abolished death" (2 Timothy 1:10 ). Therefore, the saints in Heaven can pray for us just as anyone here on Earth can. In fact, better, as they are presently in His Presence. The Virgin Mary asking God to help you should "carry more weight" so to speak than having your best friend on this earth praying for you. In fact, Christ's first public miracle was performed upon the "intercession" of His own mother (John 2:2-11).
In regards to the use of the relics of the saints, this is deeply rooted in Scripture (Acts 19:11-12).




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