QUESTION: I'm 18 and we just finished studying the Catholic religion in one of my classes at my college. However, I still have some questions that interest me about your faith that I was sincerely hoping you could help clarify for me. Thanks SO much, I really appreciate it!
1. How is the Catholic Church organized, all the way up to the Pope? And how are clergymen compensated for their time?
2. How does the Pope receive revelation from God? What revelation has the Pope received recently?
3. How does the Catholic Church deal with the explanation that God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost are one in purpose, rather than as one God in the Trinity? Or that they are one Godhood, but separate beings? Does the Catholic Church see God, Christ, and the Holy Ghost as one God, just manifested in different forms?
4. How does the Catholic Church worship or respect saints? And the Virgin Mary? As compared to God and Christ?
ANSWER: Hello Taylor,
I hope I can help you shed some light on these questions, though you stated you were studying the Catholic religion in "some class" I'm surprised a college student wouldn't have named the class...or the college. The grammar just doesn't add up. :) I'll still answer the questions though...
1. The Catholic Church is organize in a communion of parishes overseen by Bishops, whose role originated with the disciples of Jesus. Just after a few decades after Jesus' life, death, and resurrection, the bishops spread out across the world to form a "universal" (Greek, katholikos) church, with the bishop of Rome (traced to the apostle Peter) holding primacy. So the Pope is seen as the Vicar of Christ, title of the pope implying his supreme and universal primacy, both of honour and of jurisdiction, over the Church of Christ. (Just like the previous 264 popes dating back to Christ himself)
2. Your second question can get confusing, especially to those not understanding it properly. Read this link, it is wonderfully written . http://www.staycatholic.com/papal_infalibillity.htm
3. The Catholic Church DOES believe that God is made up of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Three indivdual persons in unity as one God. The early Fathers of the Church understood it beautifully! here are a few quotes:
"[The Trinity] is a Trinity not merely in name or in a figurative manner of speaking; rather, it is a Trinity in truth and in actual existence. Just as the Father is he that is, so also his Word is one that is and is God over all. And neither is the Holy Spirit nonexistent but actually exists and has true being. Less than these the Catholic Church does not hold, lest she sink to the level of the Jews of the present time, imitators of Caiaphas, or to the level of Sabellius" (Letters to Serapion 1:28 [A.D. 359]).
Gregory the Wonderworker
"But some treat the Holy Trinity in an awful manner, when they confidently assert that there are not three persons, and introduce (the idea of) a person devoid of subsistence. Wherefore we clear ourselves of Sabellius, who says that the Father and the Son are the same [person]. . . . We forswear this, because we believe that three persons—namely, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are declared to possess the one Godhead: for the one divinity showing itself forth according to nature in the Trinity establishes the oneness of the nature" (A Sectional Confession of Faith 8 [A.D. 262]).
"But if they say, ‘How can there be three persons, and how but one divinity?’ we shall make this reply: That there are indeed three persons, inasmuch as there is one person of God the Father, and one of the Lord the Son, and one of the Holy Spirit; and yet that there is but one divinity, inasmuch as . . . there is one substance in the Trinity" (ibid., 14).
4. First, the Catholic Church does NOT worship sainst or Mary, worship to given to God alone!
To worship someone is to acknowledge that the one who is worshiped is divine, is God. Sometimes we can confuse cultural gestures of reverence for gestures of worship. In doing so, we often judge not as God does, by what is in the heart, but rather by appearances (see Jn 8:15, Is 11:3).
Catholics hold saints in esteem because they are such wonderful images or mirrors of Christ. Paul several times exhorts his readers to be imitators of him: "Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1, also Phil 3:17, 1 Cor 4:16).
Mary is the first saint, and holds high honor today, as she did in the early Church. Over the course of history, devotion to Mary has taken many forms, and even has been confused with worship. Church teaching has consistently placed Mary in the company of the saints, however.
Devotion to the saints comes back to the theology of image: Christ is God's image, the saints are Christ's image. We honor them because we desire to imitate them. We pray to them the same as we call upon earthly friends to do a favor for us. This too, is scriptural. In Acts we read of Peter and John going up to the Temple for prayer and encountering a beggar. Peter says to him, "I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk" (Acts 3:6). Peter makes it clear that he has the power of Christ in his possession.
To be sure, it is Jesus who heals, but Peter holds the right to extend that power. The same can be said of Paul. In Acts 19:11-12 we read, "So extraordinary were the mighty deeds God accomplished at the hands of Paul that when face cloths or aprons that touched his skin were applied to the sick, their diseases left them and the evil spirits came out of them." These texts are the basis of the Catholic practice of asking saints to help us, of honoring (not worshiping) the bodies and relics of saints. --Teresita Scully
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QUESTION: Thank you so much for getting back to me! The class is actually called Survery of World Religions, and to be honest it's an assignment that I find someone to interview about their faith. I am most interested in the Catholic Church because I realized that I had made some assumptions about your church that I didn't fully understand. I guess I am most confused by the fourth question I asked you, because to me it seems like reverencing saints seems a little bit like idol worship. I'm not trying to be insincere or offensive, I sincerely want to understand. I realize that I made some wrong assumptions about how Catholics reverence their Saints, (I confused it for worship) and I feel sorry for that. So I appreciated the explanation you gave to me about admiring how they are like Christ. It just seems to me that any time spent reverencing someone other than God the Father, especially offering prayers to anyone else, wouldn't be right. I guess what I'm asking is, how do you defend devotion to anyone else besides God? I know that you reverence how they are like God, and I appreciated that explanation, but can't you just say that you respect someone for that fact and move on? And why would you pray to someone who has less power than God? And didn't Daniel refuse to pray to anyone except for God? Don't we only appeal to earthly friends here because they are physically around us and can help? I believe that God inspires people around us to help us, but why would He need Saints to do that who are not here with us? How can they help? Does it somehow have to do with a priesthood or authority they might hold? How does the Catholic Church view priesthood?
Again, thank you SO much for your help, this is incredibly interesting to me!
ANSWER: No problem on the answers, that' what I'm here for. :)
Many non-catholics (and some catholics) get confused on this, no biggie! I'll clear it up for you nicely.
You said, "It just seems to me that any time spent reverencing someone other than God the Father, especially offering prayers to anyone else, wouldn't be right. I guess what I'm asking is, how do you defend devotion to anyone else besides God? I know that you reverence how they are like God, and I appreciated that explanation, but can't you just say that you respect someone for that fact and move on?"
We DO NOT pray to Mary and the Saints like we would God, we ask them to PRAY for us! They have no power on their own to answer prayers, only God can do this. Example:
Let's say your sick, you ask ME to pray for you..why would you do that? Why not just ask God alone? (See what I mean?) I can't answer your prayers, but because we are in communion with God we can pray for others. Mary and the Saints are the same..except, they are with God now! We pray to them to pray to God to help us. ;)
You said, "And why would you pray to someone who has less power than God? And didn't Daniel refuse to pray to anyone except for God? Don't we only appeal to earthly friends here because they are physically around us and can help? I believe that God inspires people around us to help us, but why would He need Saints to do that who are not here with us? How can they help? Does it somehow have to do with a priesthood or authority they might hold?
***Refer to the answer I just gave, Like all Christians, Catholics believe in life after death. Those who have lived good lives and died in the faith of Christ will, as the Bible tells us, share in his resurrection.
While we live together on earth as Christians, we are in communion, or unity, with one another. But that communion doesn’t end when one of us dies. We believe that Christians in heaven, the saints, remain in communion with those of us on earth.
So, just as we might ask a friend or family member to pray for us, we can approach a saint with our prayers, too.*** Why, well because that's the way God chose it to be, we are a family.. a common-union.."communion"
You said, "How does the Catholic Church view priesthood?"
I'm not for sure what you mean as view the priesthood? They are his ministers on earth to carry out His will, just like the apostles.
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QUESTION: Thank you so much for your responses, they are wonderful! I've tried asking other Catholics, and no one has been able to explain it as well as you, and for that I'm grateful.
By priesthood I mean, isn't there a belief that priesthood authority ceased when the apostles were killed? Did Peter confer the priesthood upon the next Pope? How does succession work?
Also, can you explain to me how Mary doesn't have the original sin? I heard something about her being cleansed in the womb or something, but I don't know much. Going along with original sin, how does the Catholic Church know that Adam and Eve were mortal and able to have children in the Garden of Eden?
Can you tell me about what happens to people who live without hearing the gospel or the name of Christ, and consequently aren't baptized? Do they go to hell? If they do, is that fair? Or were they predestined to go there?
And finally can you tell me the difference between the Catholic Church and Roman Catholicism and Eastern Orthodox?
You have several question here :) Let's do this one at a time, that way you can get an answer specific to the topic instead of a question with 5+ questions in it.. so, let's do this one at a time. Which question first and the one is most important to you?