Apologetics Questions and Answers
by visitors to Domestic-Church.Com
We receive anywhere from 5 to 25 letters a week here at the family office of Domestic-Church.Com. Some are (much appreciated!) "Hi, I love your site!" letters, but most are questions. Tough questions, too, usually. I have recruited a number of willing, knowledgeable volunteers to answer the questions that I can't. If there is anything here, or in the other Question and Answer sections of this issue, that you would like to comment on, answer for us, or argue with, please feel free to write and let us know.
Hi: My name is S. Kraft and I have a question about Calvanism.
My preacher presented several sermons regarding Calvanism. In general, I did not have total agreement with this concept.
In particular, he taught that the Calvanist believes that only "select" people are destined to become "Christians" and that the rest were destined to spend the rest of eternity away from Christ.
I do not believe that we who are "Christians" are the only "privileged" people. Jesus stated, in the scriptures(Matt. 28:18-20), to "go out and witness to all nations" with the understanding that we were to bring others to salvation. If only "selected" people were destined to spend the rest of eternity with Christ, why would Jesus have given us this commandment?
Please let me know what you think of this concept. Thanks in advance, S. Kraft.
Answer from Paul Fournier:
Dear Mr. Kraft,
For a rather detailed survey of what is taught by Calvinism, you might spend some useful time at this site, from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
You are quite right to detect an error in what you heard. We must keep in mind that there is a difference between what is *possible* and what is *actual*. I am *potentially* the Pope, but *actually* I'm not. It is *possible* for everyone to go to Heaven and enjoy the Beatific Vision, but actually, not all people do so.
Calvin's opinion, upon which he established his church, ignores all that happened from the time of Saint John to the sixteenth century. He does refer to Saint Augustine, but not as a Doctor of the Church. For this reason, he fell into serious error, as he set his opinions according to his own lights rather than upon the deposit of Faith.
The problem to which you refer is one that was much discussed during the Middle Ages, and it's called: 'Predestination'. As God has full knowledge of all that is past and future, He knows whether I shall enjoy His company in Heaven or perish in Hell. Does His knowledge of my final end mean that I have no free will? Not at all, His knowledge doesn't mean I can't, or am forced to choose one path or another, it just means that He knows what I shall decide, as I work my way through my life.
Calvinism teaches that some men are predestined to Heaven no matter what they do; others are predestined to Hell no matter how they might try to serve God. But the Catholic Church teaches that God sincerely wills all men to be saved and that none should be lost. Anyone who does his best with all goodwill and dies sincerely repentant of his sins can certainly attain salvation through the merits of Christ. Every such man will have the necessary grace offered to him.
Thanks very much for your question, Mr. Kraft. Please feel free to continue with this or any other question relating to the Faith. Cordially, Paul Fournier
Hi there. I surfed onto your excellent site and have found it very informative. I am a non-Catholic Christian who is finding herself being led (hopefully by God) to explore the beliefs of the Catholic Church. Most aspects of Catholic belief that are different from Protestant I have managed to reconcile Biblically (sola scriptura is a difficult habit to break!), but I wonder if you could answer a couple of questions for me.
1. Why is it necessary to confess to a priest instead of directly to God? As a Christian who tries to live according to God's will, I frequently examine my conscience before God and confess and repent of my sins, but I cannot see how telling these sins to a priest could result in forgiveness - just as telling them to a friend would not result in forgiveness.
2. As a Catholic, is it necessary to ascribe veneration to concepts such as the Sacred Heart - or are these simply visual aids to aid devotion to God/Jesus?
Hope you can help, Regards and God bless. S. Hamilton
Answer From Catherine Fournier:
Dear Susan; Thank you for your letter and your interest in our site. I have forwarded your letter to someone who is much better qualified than myself to answer your questions.
I can offer some simple answers and John will fill in my blanks. Your first question is one I addressed in one of my stories about our family life - teaching children about the sacrament of confession (or anything else) is a great way to learn it yourself. 'Winter Coats' is on our Stories Page in the Lent and Easter section.:
I'm not sure what you mean by ascribe veneration to concepts (but it's my fault -I'm a mom and a writer, not a scholar) but I would say 'No'. As one person I know described it, some people like meat and potatoes, some like lots of condiments. The teachings of the Church and the Mass are the meat and potatoes, all you need for adequate spiritual nutrition. Devotions and venerations and customs and feast days and celebrations and all that other wonderful colourful exhuberant stuff are the condiments. They highlight the taste of the meat and potatoes, they may add trace elements you need but they are not strictly essential.
I look forward to John's much better answers, Peace, Catherine
From John Pacheco
Greetings Susan! + As promised, here are my comments to your questions:
"Why is it necessary to confess to a priest instead of directly to God? As a Christian who tries to live according to God's will, I frequently examine my conscience before God and confess and repent of my sins, but I cannot see how telling these sins to a priest could result in forgiveness just as telling them to a friend would not result in forgiveness."
+ The first thing you must understand is that the Christian religion is not predominantly an 'individualistic' religion i.e.a personal relationship with Jesus - although obviously it's a good and necessary thing to do. Instead, Christianity is a 'social religion' in the sense that God works through the Church to convey grace and love.
+ Consider these passages:
"And if he refuses to listen to the them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as the Gentile and a tax-gatherer." (Matthew 18:18) Why should I have to listen to the church if it's just me and Jesus?
"Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord." (James 5:14). It seems to me that the church is in the business of some kind of mediatorship services in this passage, don't you think?
"Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers [bishops], to shepherd the church of God" (Acts 20:28). Why should St. Paul care about instructing the bishops about their flocks if he believed in the 'me and Jesus' ideal? Wouldn't that be meaningless if they had no AUTHORITY over their flocks?
"I write so that you may know how one ought to conduct himself in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and support of the truth" (1 Timothy 2:15). If the church is the 'pillar of truth' and I am not with the church, then where am I in the 'me and Jesus' relationship?
"Obey your leaders, and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account." (Hebrews 13:17). Why should a bishop be responsible for MY personal relationship with Jesus Christ?
+ As you can see, the Church plays a mediator-type role between God and His people. This of course, does not take away from Jesus' principal mediatorship, but rather co-operates in and effects it.
+ So it is with this mindset that we come to the passage in the bible that teaches such a mediatorship role with priests and confession:
"Receive the Holy Spirit, 'If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any they have been retained.'" (John 20:23). You cannot retain the sins of another unless they *tell* you. In Protestantism, no person can *holdback* or *retain* the forgiveness of your sins - but Jesus is clearly teaching that his priests can, in fact, do that.
+ As a practical matter, a confessional is *invaluable* from both a humane and strategic level. By telling someone your sins and receiving forgiveness is *one of the greatest* consolations you can receive on this earth - to hear the words "I absolve you of your sins....Go in peace my child." From a strategic point of view, the priest can suggest practical recommendations that you can observe in order to overcome a particular sin. God knows we are social beings, and hence he has establised the confessional to cater to that.
"As a Catholic, is it necessary to ascribe veneration to concepts such as the Sacred Heart - or are these simply visual aids to aid devotion to God/Jesus?"
+ Both - I think. The Sacred Heart of Jesus is a great devotional since you are remembering the specific messages of Our Lord to St. Margaret Mary. The teachings help us to focus on certain aspects of Jesus that He wants us to remember such as Mercy. Each devotional has a certain 'theme', but they are not to be believed to the exclusion of other truths - remember that. Also, please note, that you are *not* required to believe in *any* vision or apparition -even Church approved ones - to be a Catholic in good standing.
+ Hope this helps. Feel free to email me personally if you have any other questions. God Bless you as He leads you home. John Pacheco +++
My son-in-law told me that after 12 years of Catholic School he didn't really believe much of the Catholic religion.
Baptism was one of the issues he spoke of. He asks "how could God condemn an unbaptized baby?" He said he had heard it all through his schooling. Do you have a response I could give him?
Thanks in advance. In Christ, D.
Answer from Catherine Fournier:
Dear Debbie; Thank you for your letter to Domestic-Church.Com.
The obvious answer is "God wouldn't condemn an unbaptised baby, how could you think He would?"
Can you find out exactly how he got that idea - not just a vague 'Oh I heard it all through school' - we all know how people can mis-hear and misinterprete the most clearly stated messages. Some notion of what he's thinking will give you a handle on how to answer it.
Then I would refer to the new Cathechism. Point to the passage: #1261
In many ways, the teachings of the church are quite 'legalistic' in that they say precisely and carefully what they mean, and no more.
Nowhere in the section on Baptism in the catechism does it say that unbaptised infants are condemned. From this you must conclude that it is not Church teaching.
It does say 'we don't know, but we are confident of God's mercy.' This is not fudging, or avoiding the issue, it is a genuine confession of a human inability to discern God's workings. This situation applies to many circumstances, not just infant baptism.
I would recommend that you tell your son in law to read the whole Catechism and highlight the bits he didn't believe or agree with, then take the book to a knowledgable (orthodox) priest and go through it. Give Catholicism the same chance he'd give a new job, a new friend, or a new pair of shoes for that matter.
Hope this helps,
Do I Belong?
R. Amptmeyer writes;
For about 2 years I've been going to RCIA classes and working on getting my marriage approved by the church.
What bothers me is the apparent schism between the true Catholic teachings coming from the Vatican and the talk and behavior of most American Catholics. The latter, it seems, don't want to know that killing Serbian and Iraqi children is ALSO abortion. And it seems that in America, money and private property are so sacred that people will kill for it and, in some cases, get away with it.
Do I belong in the Church if I'm worried about this or does this make me too much of a communist?
Answer from Catherine Fournier
Thank you for your letter to Domestic-Church.Com.
Bless you for asking these questions - it is a discerning mind that can tease the inconsistencies out of the rhetoric. I am by no means an expert on apologetics, theology, or doctrine, just a convert and a Mom/editor, but I'd like to try and answer your question. (I will also refer it to some of our 'experts' for their answers too.
Of course you belong in the Church - the Church of 'true Catholic teachings' as you've put it; the Church of Rome, of the Pope, the Magesterium and 2,000 unbroken years of tradition and teaching. The Church that is concerned about justice for all, of whatever age, nationality, or religion. The Church that teaches on the rights of the worker, and the role and responsibilites of business, the Church that urges peace, and teaches us how to attain it.
The American Church is a misnomer, and in some cases is a schism, as you've discerned. There is no such thing as 'the American Church' - there is only Catholicism. Anything that calls itself 'the Amercian Church' and by so naming itself, declares itself distinct from the Church of Rome, is, as you've pointed out, a schism.
I have to add a conditional statement here. I'm Canadian, and so my understanding of things American (for example our understanding of the word communist) is only from a distance. _But_ anything calling itself the Canadian Church, in exactly the same way, would be as much a schism. Catherine Fournier
From Peter Fournier,
I thank you for your letter as well. It struck a chord in me, it brought me back 10 or 15 years when I was struggling with many of the same issues ... I was occasionally very upset when I had to leave a Mass, along with the whole family, because it was clearly invalid.
You seem to be in a similar situation (although I believe that some dioceses are worse than others) as I found myself.
Eventually, after several years I did manage to handle the situation a little better, with a lot of help from some very discerning and wise counselors.
I'll make a few comments here in the hope that you find something useful in your circumstances.
- Although the state of the Church in North America and especially "around the corner" is often a faith disaster, your spiritual responsibilities do not include the "Church" as a whole or most other Catholics. As a married man your concern should be with the spiritual welfare of yourself, your wife as an individual, you and your wife as a family, and together with your wife, the spiritual welfare of your children and _especially_ your grand children not yet born. This will take up so much of your time and is such an enormous job, that the state of your local community will inevitably come in a distant second or third.
- Most of the conflict in the Church is political -- liberal, conservative, communist, capitalist, femisnist, women own their bodies, American, Canadian, democratic, these are all political labels and slogans.
It is much easier to deal with the Church and the people in it if your chief concern is to figure out if something or someone is orthodox or non-orthodox. This can be very hard to understand but keep it in mind always. You'll eventually find that it helps you decide what to act on as a father and husband. When your kids study for First Confession and First Communion it will become very obvious that you must tell your children the truth even though the professonals are trying to fudge the truth. Trust the fact that your and your wife will be the primary educators of your children (JPII: Familiaris Consortio). That makes it OK to say to your kids, for example, that the bishop is wrong on some occasions and that we must all pray for them. It's a heavy responsibility to know when someone like a bishop is wrong but can also be a very light burden -- when our bishop said that children in his diocese would receive first communion before first confession I said "Interesting but not my kids". A bishop has no power if he is not in communion with Rome and the magisterium. This is even more true for parish priests, religious, "educators", and you and your wife. After awhile it becomes peaceful -- there really isn't that much you have to worry about -- there are many things you need to do for your family. Trust that the Holy Spirit will not let the Roman Catholic Chruch wiher away or betray the truth.
On the other hand, this may mean that in our lifetime we become part of an underground Church in the United States after the true Church is legally banned and all the Bishops have led the official Church in the US into schism. If that's the plan, I don't think you or I have any business having a problem with that. Trust God, trust the Holy Spirit, trust Jesus, Mary and all the Saints. In the mean time, care for your family, and pray that it does not happen.
- A lot of the problems in the Church in NA stem from a lack of leadership and wisdom. Be a strong spiritual leader in your family. Study. Pray for wisdom. Pray for peace in your heart. Never let your frustration/concern/anger with the Church affect your family lest your children grow to hate the Church.
- Realize that you have a lifetime of rooting out un-orthodox thinking and attitudes in yourself before you. As JPII said recently Americans are free, but they should be using that freedom to seek the truth, not avoid responsibility.
- Most of the stuff that upsets faithful Catholics the most is going to be very short lived. If will be short lived because it is not teachable to your chidren and grandchildren. [Catherine: In a way, this is proof of the Truth of the Church - that it is long lived, that it has survived the transmission of generations]
- Jesus is powerful because he sacrificed himself. The pope is powerful because he serves, is the servant of all Catholics. Power in the Church is upside down: those who serve hold the power. Almost all scandals in the Church come from getting this simple principle wrong. You as a father/husband need to serve your family first. You need to serve your parish and Catholic school second.
- Seek out organizatinos with a reputation for orthodoxy. Opus Dei helped me and my family a lot. Madonna House is worth getting involved with if they have a house anywhere near you. Opus Dei was particularly good for me. I went to there weekly meditations for several years and the problems in the Church were never mentioned. Penance after confession for my wife was "get enough sleep." Penance for me was _pray_ one decade of one rosary, now try again and again and again. Talk to your wife when you get home -- she's been speaking with babies all day and she's _lonely_. If anything gets political, run away.
- Put a crucifix in every room of the house.
- Get all the crucifixes blessed. By the way, getting a very liberal priest to do this is good for the priest.
- Always genuflect to the tabernacle in church, not the altar -- most of the time Jesus is in the tabernacle, not anywhere near the altar. Let this be the extent of your teaching the parish about Catholicism. It's more effective than any number of words.
- If you have little kids, make sure you sit at the front of the church, in the first or second pew. It's easier to keep them quiet when they are closer to the action. If someone complains about your kids and asks you to use the crying room, tell them you thought the crying room was for people that can't stand listening to kids -- have some fun. If somebody complains about your wife discreetly breastfeeding in Church, arch your eyebrows and ask for a more specific explanation of their complaint. Just keep asking for specifics. They stop, and it helps make the connection with the Gospel of Life, Pro-Life, etc.
- Get your house blessed.
- Get your car blessed. Use commuting time as prayer time.
- Read Humanae Vitae, Familiaris Consortio, The Gospel of Life, The Splendor of Truth. Read straight through that's about 2-4 weeks of reading. On the other hand, it'll take me at least another 25 years to really get a handle on them.
- Just as JPII in Familiaris Consortio says that the family is the fundamental unit of society, the family is the fundamental unit of the Church as a society. Being the servant of your family will do more to save the Church in America, do more to bring peace to Chruch in the US, than anything else you can do. It also gives you more influence in you parish than the radicals.
- As for talking about Iraqui's and such -- put a kid on your lap. Mention that kids are being killed. If the people there don't get the connection, it's sad they are not receptive to your teaching, but never doubt that you belong in the Church, universal, Catholic, faithfull, and in communion with the Pope, the bishops and the whole magisterium.
Hope I said something useful. Peace Peter Fournier.
Peter may have given you a wee bit more than you asked for, but it's all good advice. Don't worry about 'being a communist' If being a communist means you believe that people (of any age) are more important than property, then you're in good company!
Mother Theresa, Dorothy Day, Catherine Doherty, St. Francis of Assissi, Pope John Paul II, the list goes on and on, and ends of course, with Christ Himself.Peace, Catherine
Why Are We Catholic?
Mrs S. Alger wrote:
I teach 6th grade Catholic religion. Tonight one of my students asked me a difficult question. I was hoping you would be able to help me answer it. Jesus was born a Jew. Yet we are Catholic. How come we are not Jewish? How did there become a Catholic religion?
Paul Fournier Answers:
Dear Mrs. Alger;
Please forgive me the very long delay in answering this. I had meant to reply immediately, but became distracted by other things. Tonight, I started to review all the postings that I had promised myself to reply and now here I am at last.
Your question is in three parts:
1. How to respond to sixth graders when they ask difficult questions about the Faith; 2. Christ was born in the Jewish religion, yet, we, who claim to follow Him are not of that religion. How can this be? 3. How did there come to be a Catholic religion ?
Let me congratulate you first in putting the effort to finding the answers to these, as a question answered is far more useful than one that is allowed to be forgotten.
Where do we find answers about the Faith for sixth grade children ? From a reliable Catholic catechism, for one. In fact, it may be preferable to use several catechisms, for instance, you might find the Baltimore Catechism which was written a hundred years ago by a Father Newman who is now a canonized saint. You might guess he wrote it in Baltimore, and you'd be right. The second catechism is the one recently issued by the Pope, the Catholic Catechism of the Catholic Church. Funny enough, it isn't a catechism -it's a document from which a catechism can be written. It is especially useful because it has a lot of references. There is also a book to accompany it that includes all the references in their entirety - this too is useful.
The Baltimore catechism is in two parts: the first is for the grade school student and the second part is for the teacher. The catechisms that are used in the schools today are based, for the most part, on the 'Dutch Catechism' - and it is useless for teaching the Faith, as Pope Paul VI declared.
Secondly, I suggest you might shape your teaching on the Creed - any one of the several Creeds of the Catholic Church.
As a teacher, you probably know that there are three ways of 'knowing' something. There is intellectual knowledge (God is Infinite); poetical knowledge (God is Beautiful); and intuitive (Ours is a Personal God -and knew your name before there ever was a universe of stars and moons and planets. )
The prayers of the Church appeal to each of these ways of knowing... and each prayer addresses all three ways of knowing... for example: "Tota pulchra est, Maria - You are totally beautiful, Mary".
2. The Jews were a people set aside by God Almighty, with the mission of preparing the world for the arrival of Christ on Earth. God swore a covenant with them; that He would preserve them from all their enemies if they would be faithful to Him. It was necessary for our redemption from Original Sin that the world should be prepared for Christ by the Jews. Whenever the Jews betrayed their covenant with God, He would allow their enemies to prevail.
St. John the Baptist prepared the Jews for the arrival of Christ. In the same way, the Jews and their prophets prepared the whole world to receive Christ. The whole of the Old Testament recounts a wild tale of a Supreme God in love with His people.
We are not of the Jewish religion because Christ, Who was God Incarnate, was also the God of the Sabbath, Creator of the whole universe, and of you and me, and He came to fulfill the Promise made to Adam and Eve. Saint Paul says the true Israelite is the Christian, and Saint Paul was infallible in matters of Faith and Morals. Christ came for the Jews first, but they refused Him, so He turned to all the rest of mankind and invited us to His table.
3. So Christ established His Church; the Holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church, with Peter as the first pope. A chain is only as strong as the weakest link. Peter was the weakest of the Apostles we learn, so Christ made him infallible, and all those who would follow him in that Chair. Cordially, Paul Fournier
Canon Law and Birth Regulation
Dear Sirs: I am looking for a Catholic website (preferably in B.C.) where I can find information on the use of birth control for a Roman Catholic couple who already have five children and can accommodate no more. I guarantee you that this is a serious query involving my son and his wife and family who are on the verge of divorce, largely I think over this matter.
I, as their father, wish to advise in this matter but, as they are Roman Catholic and I am not I am at a loss to help them. I do not wish to persuade them away from your faith as they have been married in it for many years. I wish only to see this marriage succeed and the children be brought up in a proper manner according to their faith. Sincerely; V. Sewell
Catherine Fournier answers:
Dear Mr. Sewell; Thank you for your letter to Domestic-Church.Com, and I want to complement you on your honouring of your son's family's faith.
Your letter implies a number of issues, only some of which I can help you with.
1. there is disagreement in the marriage about the number of children they should have.
2. there is disagreement about the method of birth regulation they should use
3. there is disagreement about periodic abstinance from marital relations
4. there is disagreement about Church teaching on this matter
5. there is disagreement about the sanctity and sacramentality of marriage
In answer to 1., 2. and 4, under the heading of Teachings on our website is the document "Humanae Vitae" which discusses and explains the Church's teaching on this matter. I urge you to read it -it's very short and easy to follow - and then advise your children to do the same.
In answer to 2. There are many websites about the use of NFP (Natural Family Planning) which is the only method of birth regulation permitted to faithful Catholic couples. Some of these would have B.C chapters, I'm sure.
I hope this information is of some value, I will pray for you and your family.