Fasting ALL Fridays

Are Catholics Still Bound By Canon Law to Fasting and Abstinence?

Are Catholics Only So Bound During Lent?

Code of Canon Law (1983):

Canon 1251

Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday.
Abstinence and fasting are to be observed on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

So, the "Friday Fast" for Catholics for all Fridays is still in effect it just doesn't have to be meat, IF your Episcopal Conference has prescribed something else. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) states:

Fridays Throughout the Year In memory of Christ's suffering and death, the Church prescribes making each Friday throughout the year a penitential day. All of us are urged to prepare appropriately for that weekly Easter that comes with each Sunday.

This is a little vague, but does state that it has been prescribed that each Friday throughout the year is indeed a penitential day (as does current Canon Law). Then the allusion to preparation for that "weekly Easter" says a lot. The Friday before Easter is Good Friday, a day of complete abstinence from meat, and a day of fasting (one full or regular meal). Therefore, to "prepare appropriately" every Friday throughout the year should be a day of fasting and complete abstinence of meat. Unless your Episcopal Conference has specifically stated an alternative to meat - it should still be meat. To deliberately ignore the applicable precept in Canon Law, and/or the bishop's "urging" would constitute a grave sin.

Are all Catholics required to participate in Friday penance? Yes! It is Church Law that we do!

  • Canon Law is the legislation of the Church, of which the Pope is the Supreme Legislator.

  • Unless a precept is specifically abrogated by competent authority, each precept remains in full force. I cite Canon 33:

    Can. 33 §1 General executory decrees, even if published in directories or other such documents, do not derogate from the law, and any of their provisions which are contrary to the law have no force.
    §2 These decrees cease to have force by explicit or implicit revocation
    by the competent authority, and by the cessation of the law for whose execution they were issued. They do not cease on the expiry of the authority of the person who issued them, unless the contrary is expressly provided.
  • Canon Law is speaking to all Latin Rite Catholics and hence Canon 1251 is a universal decree binding on the entire Latin Church. §2 of Canon 33 stipulates that such laws are binding on "those whose execution they were issued."

  • To deliberately reject ANY precept of Canon Law is a sign of disrespect for Church Authority regarding Church Law, and ultimately disrespectful to the Pope, who is the Supreme Legislator of Canon Law. In this respect it can be compared to not honoring your father, for the Pope is our Holy Father - our final authority on earth for matters concerning the Church and our spiritual walk.

  • Disrespecting Church Authority and the Holy Father must be seen as sinful, and I still contend, gravely sinful.

  • Canon 1251 clearly states that we (all Latin Rite Catholics) are to observe some sort of fast/abstinence on ALL Fridays throughout the year (unless a solemnity falls on a Friday).

  • As I understand it, many Episcopal Conferences (competent authorities hereafter referred to as EC) have relaxed the requirement of meat - but something else (some other food, according to Can. 1251) must be abstained from in the place of meat. Canon 1253 allows for the EC to direct certain specific other means of fulfilling the requirement to abstain and/or fast.

  • Hence, it must be concurred that any Catholics that knowingly and willingly reject the requirement of Canon 1251 (or whatever, specifically, your EC has allowed according to 1253) do indeed sin in rejecting the competent authority of the Church.

The Church has made it VERY easy to fulfill this request, not that offering up meat on one day per week is really all that difficult, so Catholics really have no excuse not to be doing some form of penance on "all Fridays" throughout the year.

It is the position of this Catholic that we should still adhere to the traditional fast from meat, even if a "lesser requirement" is "available." Bare in mind, on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday there is no alternative to meat - all Latin Rite Catholics MUST abstain from meat on these days, under the penalty of mortal sin. Remember, even if your EC has offered an alternative, it is still an alternative and you can choose to adhere to the tradition of offering up meat on Fridays. And you DO sin if you aren't doing something on ALL FRIDAYS throughout the year in accordance with Ecclesial Law and your Episcopal Conference.

Rome Speaks!

A friend of mine challenged that my position was too strong and she had contacts in Rome and in fact was soon taking a trip to Rome and would directly ask some officials there about my thesis. Rome's response was to look at Paenitemini, Issued by Pope Paul VI on February 17, 1966. That document can be found at: In that document, Pope Paul VI says:

Therefore, the following is declared and established:
  1. By divine law all the faithful are required to do penance.
  2. The prescriptions of ecclesiastical law regarding penitence are totally reorganized according to the following norms:
  1. The time of Lent preserves its penitential character. The days of penitence to be observed under obligation through-out the Church are all Fridays and Ash Wednesday, that is to say the first days of "Grande Quaresima" (Great Lent), according to the diversity of the rite. Their substantial observance binds gravely.
  2. Apart from the faculties referred to in VI and VIII regarding the manner of fulfilling the precept of penitence on such days, abstinence is to be observed on every Friday which does not fall on a day of obligation, while abstinence and fast are to be observed on Ash Wednesday or, according to local practice, on the first day of 'Great Lent' and on Good Friday
  1. The law of abstinence forbids the use of meat, but not of eggs, the products of milk or condiments made of animal fat.
  2. The law of fasting allows only one full meal a day, but does not prohibit taking some food in the morning and evening, observing- -as far as quantity and quality are concerned -- approved local custom.
IV. To the law of abstinence those are bound who have completed their 14th year of age. To the law of fast those of the faithful are bound who have completed their 21st year and up until the beginning of their 60th year. As regards those of a lesser age, pastors of souls and parents should see to it with particular care that they are educated to a true sense of penitence.

There's much more in this encyclical, but do note the Holy Father's words, "Therefore, the following is declared and established:" And follow that with the rest of what was stated in the original article (below). In essense, at least one person who has challenged my statement that it is a sin to not do penance (or whatever your Episcopal Conference has determined) has now acknowledged that it is indeed a sin, and one that "binds gravely."

Catholics cannot avoid this precept of "Divine Law."

Now, back to the original article:

The Celebration of Lent

Ash Wednesday marks the onset of the Lent, the 40-day period of fasting and abstinence. It is also known as the 'Day of Ashes'. So called because on that day at church the faithful have their foreheads marked with ashes in the shape of a cross.

The name 'Day of Ashes' comes from "Dies Cinerum" in the Roman Missal and is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary. The concept originated by the Roman Catholics somewhere in the 6th century. Though the exact origin of the day is not clear, the custom of marking the head with ashes on this Day is said to have originated during the papacy of Gregory the Great (590-604).

In the Old Testament ashes were found to have used for two purposes: as a sign of humility
and mortality; and as a sign of sorrow and repentance for sin. The Christian connotation for ashes in the liturgy of Ash Wednesday has also been taken from this Old Testament biblical custom./
Receiving ashes on the head as a reminder of mortality and a sign of sorrow for sin was a practice of the Anglo-Saxon church in the 10th century. It was made universal throughout the Western church at the Synod of Benevento in 1091.

Originally the use of ashes to betoken penance was a matter of private devotion. Later it became part of the official rite for reconciling public penitents. In this context, ashes on the penitent served as a motive for fellow Christians to pray for the returning sinner and to feel sympathy for him. Still later, the use of ashes passed into its present rite of beginning the penitential season of Lent on Ash Wednesday.

There can be no doubt that the custom of distributing the ashes to all the faithful arose from a devotional imitation of the practice observed in the case of public penitents. But this devotional usage, the reception of a sacramental which is full of the symbolism of penance (cf. the cor contritum quasi cinis of the "Dies Irae") is of earlier date than was formerly supposed. It is mentioned as of general observance for both clerics and faithful in the Synod of Beneventum, 1091 (Mansi, XX, 739), but nearly a hundred years earlier than this the Anglo-Saxon homilist Ælfric assumes that it applies to all classes of men.

Putting a 'cross' mark on the forehead was in imitation of the spiritual mark or seal that is put on a Christian in baptism. This is when the newly born Christian is delivered from slavery to sin and the devil, and made a slave of righteousness and Christ (Rom. 6:3-18).

This can also be held as an adoption of the way 'righteousness' are described in the book of Revelation, where we come to know about the servants of God. The reference to the sealing of the servants of God for their protection in Revelation is an allusion to a parallel passage in Ezekiel, where Ezekiel also sees a sealing of the servants of God for their protection:

"And the LORD said to him [one of the four cherubim], 'Go through the city, through Jerusalem, and put a mark [literally, "a tav"] upon the foreheads of the men who sigh and groan over all the abominations that are committed in it.' And to the others he said in my hearing, 'Pass through the city after him, and smite; your eye shall not spare, and you shall show no pity; slay old men outright, young men and maidens, little children and women, but touch no one upon whom is the mark. And begin at my sanctuary.' So they began with the elders who were before the house." (Ezekiel 9:4-6)

Unfortunately, like most modern translations, the one quoted above (the Revised Standard Version, which we have been quoting thus far), is not sufficiently literal. What it actually says is to place a tav on the foreheads of the righteous inhabitants of Jerusalem. Tav is one of the letters of the Hebrew alphabet, and in ancient script it looked like the Greek letter chi, which happens to be two crossed lines (like an "x") and which happens to be the first letter in the word "Christ" in Greek Christos). The Jewish rabbis commented on the connection between tav and chi and this is undoubtedly the mark Revelation has in mind when the servants of God are sealed in it.

The early Church Fathers seized on this tav-chi-cross-christos connection and expounded it in their homilies, seeing in Ezekiel a prophetic foreshadowing of the sealing of Christians as servants of Christ. It is also part of the background to the Catholic practice of making the sign of the cross, which in the early centuries (as can be documented from the second century on) was practiced by using one's thumb to furrow one's brow with a small sign of the cross, like Catholics do today at the reading of the Gospel during Mass.


Dear Brothers and Sisters,

1. We are preparing to follow the path of Lent, which will lead us to the solemn celebration of the central mystery of faith, the mystery of the Passion, Death and Resurrection of Christ. We are preparing for the favourable time which the Church offers the faithful so that they may contemplate the work of salvation accomplished by our Lord on the Cross. The heavenly Father’s saving plan was completed in the free and total gift to us of the only begotten Son. “No one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (Jn 10:18), Jesus declares, leaving no doubt that he decides to sacrifice his own life for the salvation of the world. In confirmation of so great a gift of love, the Redeemer goes on: “Greater love has no one than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (Jn 15:13).

Lent, the providential time for conversion, helps us to contemplate this stupendous mystery of love. It is a return to the roots of our faith, so that by pondering the measureless gift of grace which is Redemption, we cannot fail to realize that all has been given to us by God’s loving initiative. In order to meditate upon this aspect of the mystery of salvation, I have chosen as the theme for this year’s Lenten Message the Lord’s words: “You received without paying, give without pay” (Mt 10:8).

2. God has freely given us his Son: who has deserved or could ever deserve such a privilege? Saint Paul says: “All have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God, but they are justified by his grace as a gift” (Rom 3:23-24). In his infinite mercy God loved us, not permitting himself to be blocked by the grievous state of separation to which man had been consigned by sin. He graciously stooped down to our weakness, and made it the cause of a new and still more wondrous outpouring of his love. The Church does not cease to proclaim this mystery of infinite goodness, exalting God’s free choice and his desire not to condemn man but to draw him back into communion with himself.

“You received without paying, give without pay”. May these words of the Gospel echo in the heart of all Christian communities on their penitential pilgrimage to Easter. May Lent, recalling the mystery of the Lord’s Death and Resurrection, lead all Christians to marvel in their heart of hearts at the greatness of such a gift. Yes! We have received without pay. Is not our entire life marked by God’s kindness? The beginning of life and its marvellous development: this is a gift. And because it is gift, life can never be regarded as a possession or as private property, even if the capabilities we now have to improve the quality of life can lead us to think that man is the “master” of life. The achievements of medicine and biotechnology can sometimes lead man to think of himself as his own creator, and to succumb to the temptation of tampering with “the tree of life” (Gn 3:24).

It is also worth repeating here that not everything that is technically possible is morally acceptable. Scientific work aimed at securing a quality of life more in keeping with human dignity is admirable, but it must never be forgotten that human life is a gift, and that it remains precious even when marked by suffering and limitations. A gift to be accepted and to be loved at all times: received without pay and to be placed without pay at the service of others.

3. In setting before us the example of Christ offering himself for us on Calvary, Lent helps us in a unique way to understand that life is redeemed in him. Through the Holy Spirit, Jesus renews our life and makes us sharers in the divine life which draws us into the intimate life of God and enables us to experience his love for us. This is a sublime gift, which the Christian cannot fail to proclaim with joy. In his Gospel, Saint John writes: “This is eternal life, that they know you the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent” (Jn 17:3). This life is passed on to us in Baptism, and we must nourish it constantly by responding to it faithfully, both individually and communally, through prayer, the celebration of the Sacraments and evangelical witness.

Since we have received this life freely, we must in turn offer it freely to our brothers and sisters. This is what Jesus asked of the disciples when he sent them out as his witnesses in the world: “You received without paying, give without pay”. And the first gift to be given is the gift of a holy life, bearing witness to the freely given love of God. May the Lenten journey be for all believers an unceasing summons to enter more deeply into this special vocation of ours. As believers, we must be open to a life marked by “gratuitousness”, by the giving of ourselves unreservedly to God and neighbour.

4. “What do you have,” Saint Paul asks, “that you did not receive?” (1 Cor 4:7). The demand which follows this recognition is that of loving our brothers and sisters, and of dedicating ourselves to them. The more needy they are, the more urgent the believer’s duty to serve them. Does not God permit human need so that by responding to the needs of others we may learn to free ourselves from our egoism and to practise authentic Gospel love? The command of Jesus is clear: “If you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax-collectors do the same?” (Mt 5:46). The world prizes human relationships based on self-interest and personal gain, and this fosters an egocentric vision of life, in which too often there is no room for the poor and weak. Every person, even the least gifted, must be welcomed and loved for themselves, regardless of their qualities and defects. Indeed, the greater their hardship, the more they must be the object of our practical love. This is the love to which the Church, through her countless institutions, bears witness in accepting responsibility for the sick, the marginalized, the poor and the exploited. In this way, Christians become apostles of hope and builders of the civilization of love.

It is highly significant that Jesus spoke the words “You received without paying, give without pay” as he sent the Apostles out to spread the Gospel of salvation, which is his first and foremost gift to humanity. Christ wants his Kingdom, which is already close at hand (cf. Mt 10:5ff.), to be spread through gestures of gratuitous love accomplished by his disciples. This is what the Apostles did in the early days of Christianity, and those who met them saw them as bearers of a message greater than themselves. In our own day too the good done by believers becomes a sign, and often an invitation to believe. When, like the Good Samaritan, Christians respond to the needs of their neighbour, theirs is never merely material assistance. It is always a proclamation of the Kingdom as well, and speaks of the full meaning of life, hope and love.

5. Dear Brothers and Sisters! Let this be how we prepare to live this Lent: in practical generosity towards the poorest of our brothers and sisters! By opening our hearts to them, we realize ever more deeply that what we give to others is our response to the many gifts which the Lord continues to give to us. We have received without paying, let us give without pay!

What better time is there than Lent for offering this testimony of gratuitousness which the world so badly needs? In the very love which God has for us, there lies the call to give ourselves freely to others in turn. I thank all those throughout the world – lay people, religious and priests – who offer this witness of charity. May it be true of all Christians, whatever the circumstances in which they live.

May the Virgin Mary, Mother of Fair Love and Hope, be our guide and strength on this Lenten journey. Assuring you all of an affectionate remembrance in my prayers, I gladly impart my Apostolic Blessing to each of you, especially to those engaged day after day on the many frontiers of charity.

From the Vatican, 4 October 2001, Feast of Saint Francis of Assisi.


Scriptures, Church and the Truth

The Scriptures, The Church, And The Truth

Protestants and Catholics share together a great source of truth: the Sacred Scriptures. But if we require our feelings to be the measure of truth, we will be forced to believe ourselves expert theologians—our own pope, as others have so perceptively put it—competent to interpret Scripture. Without this certainty right-interpretation of Scripture, even if it is a pseudo-certainty, we would shrink before the truly frightening prospect of beginning to believe anything. Are we, as individuals, infallible? No, of course not. We need only look at the contradicting doctrines as found through prayerful studying of Scripture believed to be guided by the Holy Spirit. God does not contradict Himself therefore these individuals are most certainly mistaken (except for the one who may have found the true doctrine on his own). In these circumstances then, how can we be sure we know the truth? Is the truth that important? And where do we need to go to find the truth?

“You shall not bear a false witness against your neighbor.”[1] This well known edict gives expression to a fundamental need and right of the human intellect: truth. Our spirits crave it, and with good reason; they were designed that way! Consider also Christ's assurance that “...the truth will set you free.”[2] When asked what He meant by the phrase “set you free” Jesus answered, “Amen, amen, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave of sin. A slave does not remain in a household forever, but a son always remains. If the Son sets you free, then you will be really free.”[3]

In other words, the truth will set you free from sin. Thereby can we already plainly see that the truth is an important thing, it is contingent to our salvation. This following verse, however, removes any lingering doubt: “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”[4]

The truth therefore is not just an abstract concept, it is a person (I am...the truth). “No one comes to the Father except through me”. Where is the Father? The “Pater Noster” tells us that He is in Heaven[5]. It therefore follows that if we are to reach Heaven, we must know the truth.

While most Christians can see that the truth is a precious commodity, how are we to find the truth? Where do we go? Does praying to the Holy Spirit and searching the Bible guarantee an understanding of the truth? The unforgiving test of reality proves this incorrect. Most truth-seekers believe they have found it, and yet their interpretation—their truth—is often completely contradictory to that of other sincere truth-seekers. Turning to the Scriptures to solve this problem will often disappoint; nowhere in Scripture are we guaranteed the ability to accurately interpret as individuals. In fact, they imply quite the opposite: “In [Paul's letters]...there are some things hard to understand that the ignorant and unstable distort to their own destruction, just as they do with the other scriptures.”[6]

We find that the truth makes us free from sin and leads us to heaven, and a wrong interpretation of Scripture can bring on our own destruction (viz. Hell). This recommends against the common Protestant objection to the Catholic use of this verse; they will often claim that since it only says that “some things” are unclear, that those things which are necessary for salvation are clear. This understanding fails to speak to the verse itself, which states that the “things difficult to understand”, are so vital to the Gospel that when distorted, they lead to destruction.

Who then has the last word when questions of interpretation and right-Christian living arise? Our Lord tells us, “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have won over your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two other others along with you, so that 'every fact may be established on the testimony of two or more witnesses.' And if he refuses to listen to them, tell the church. If he refuses to listen even to the church, then treat him as you would a Gentile or a tax collector.”[7]

That Christ tells us to present our disputes to the church is one thing, but knowing which church to present them to is another. Should we go to the Catholic Church, one of the dozens of different Orthodox Churches, the Lutheran Church, the Presbyterian Church, the Church of God, the Church of Christ, the Church of God in Christ, the Amish, the Mennonites, the Wesleyan, the Baptist, the Anabaptist, or the Methodists? Which church is Christ referring to when speaking of resolving difficulties in right-Christian living?

For example, let’s say that my cousin comes to me one day and tells me that his wife is pregnant and she feels she isn’t ready for a child right now. She’s decided to have an abortion. Failing to convince her, and attempting to follow Scripture, my cousin comes to her with another friend to try to convince her not to have the procedure, but to no avail. My cousin then goes to his church (which is Catholic) for help. Now, since the Catholic Church teaches unequivocally that abortion is wrong, we know that the Church will tell her that she shouldn’t have an abortion. But she just goes to her church (one of many possible denominations who do teach, based on their particular interpretation of Scripture, that abortion is a personal choice and can even be redemptive). So now that we have come to an impasse, which church are we to listen to? How can we follow the truth and its directions, as seen in Matthew 18:15-17, if we don’t even know where the truth lies?

Where can we find the pillar and bullwark of the truth? The upholder and defender of the truth?[8] The church is, according to St. Paul, the pillar and bulwark of the truth, but which church did he mean? Which church can we go to so that we may follow Christ's directives? Which Church is the one who received the power to bind and loose? Which is the Church who declared on her own authority, apart from Scripture, that circumcision was not a precept of the New Covenant and whose decision was binding to ALL Christians?[9] Which is the Church founded by Jesus Christ Himself?

This Church should:
A) Claim to teach infallibly in matters of faith and morals, since Christ gave his Church the authority to bind and loose, and Christ would never bind Christians to a lie.[10]

B) Claim to be the Church founded by Jesus Christ. The Church founded by Jesus Christ should know her founder.

C) Be 2000 years old.

Does your church claim these things, and have the pedigree to prove it? If not, then you should take a look at the Catholic Church, which does claim all of these things. With a close look we will find that She can back them up as well.

God Bless

[1] Exodus 20:16

[2] John 8:32
[3] Ibid, 35-36
[4] Ibid, 14:6 (emphasis mine)
[5] Cf. Matthew 9:6-13
[6] 2 Peter 3:16b (emphasis mine
[7] Matthew 18:15-17
[8] 1 Tim 3:15
[9] Cf. Acts 15:25-27 with Acts 16:4
[10] Cf. Matthew 16:19, 18:18

Red Envelopes

Help save lives! Join the Red Envelope Project!

The goal is to send 50,000,000 (that’s 50 million) red envelopes to President Obama as a petition to raise awareness of the plight of the unborn. Check the details on the website.

How Old?

Year -- Church --- Started by ----- Where?
33 -- Catholic -- Jesus Christ -- Jerusalem

1054 - Orthodox - Catholic Bishops - Constantinople

1517 - Lutheran - Martin Luther - Germany

1521 - Anabaptist - Storch & Munzer - Germany

1534 - Anglican - Henry VIII - England

1536 - Mennonites - Menno Simons - Switzerland

1555 - Calvinist - John Calvin - Switzerland

1560 - Presbyterian - John Knox - Scotland

1582 - Congregational - Robert Brown - Holland

1609 - Baptist - John Smyth - Amsterdam

1628 - Dutch Reformed - Michaelis Jones - New York

1648 - Congregationalist -Pilgrims/Puritans - Massachusetts

1649 - Quakers - George Fox - England

1693 - Amish - Jacob Amman - France

1717 - Freemasons - Mason from 4 lodges - London

1739 - Methodist - John & Charles Wesley - England

1774 - Unitarian - Theophilus Lindey - London

1784 - Methodist Episcopal - 60 Preachers - Baltimore, Maryland

1789 - Episcopalian Samuel Seabury - American Colonies

1800 - United Brethren - Otterbein & Boelin - Maryland

1827 - Disciples of Christ - Thomas & Alexander Campbell - Kentucky

1830 - Mormon/LDS - Joseph Smith - New York

1836 - Church of Christ - Alexander Campbell & Warren Stone - Kentucky

1844 - Seventh Day Adventists - Ellen White - Washington, NH

1844 - Christadelphian (Brethren of Christ) - John Thomas - Richmond, VA

1865 - Salvation Army - William Booth - London

1867 - Holiness (Methodist) - United States

1874 - Jehovah's Witnesses - Charles Taze Russell - Pennsylvania

1879 - Christian Science - Mary Baker Eddy - Boston

1895 - Church of God in Christ - Various Church of God groups - Arkansas

1850-1900 - Church of Nazarene - Various - Pilot Point, TX

1901 - Pentecostal - Charles F. Parham - Topeka, KS

1906 - Pentecostal - Azusa Street Revival (Seymour) - Los Angeles, CA

1902 - Aglipayan - Gregorio Aglipay - Philippines

1914 - Assembly of God - Pentecostalism - Hot Springs, AZ

1914 - Iglesia ni Christo - Felix Manalo - Philippines

1917 - Four Square Gospel - Aimee Semple McPherson - Los Angeles, CA

1961 - United Church of Christ - Reformed and Congregationalist - Philadelphia, PA

1965 - Calvary Chapel - Chuck Smith - Costa Mesa, CA

1968 - United Methodist - Methodist/United Brethren - Dallas, TX

1972 - Harvest Christian Greg Laurie - Riverside, CA

Is Catholicism Biblical?

John MacArthur's Sermon [1]:
Is Roman Catholicism Biblical?

A Response by Catholic Apologist, Scott Windsor

JM: In today's spirit of ecumenism, many evangelicals have called for the Protestant Church to lay aside its differences with Rome and pursue unity with the Catholic Church. Is that possible?

SW: Of course it is possible! Lay aside the innovations of the 16th century and forward and we will ecumenically welcome you back into the fold your forefathers left.

JM: Is Roman Catholicism simply another facet of the body of Christ that should be brought into union with its Protestant counterpart? Is Roman Catholicism simply another Christian denomination?

SW: No, and no! Catholicism IS the body of Christ which He founded upon the foundations of the Apostles. It is, as it always has been, in direct and valid succession from the Apostles by which the Catholic Church receives her authority from Christ Himself. The Catholic Church is neither a denomination nor denominated.

JM: While there are many errors in the teaching of the Catholic Church (for example its belief in the transubstantiation of the communion wafer and its view of Mary),

SW: Let us handle these separately.
1) The belief in transubstantiation. Quite simply, when Jesus said, "This IS my body," we believe Him! Certainly it takes faith to accept that while the substance has changed the appearance (accidents) remain, but isn't faith what Christianity is all about? Have faith in Him and His Word, and believe!
2) The Catholic view of Mary. Entire books can be written about this, but let it suffice for this response, we see her as her cousin Elizabeth did, as the Mother of our Lord! One need only look to MacArthur's The Gospel According to Jesus, chapter 1, to see that he equates "Lord" to "God" so therein he should have no problem calling Mary, "Mother of God." I could spend much more time on this, but the purpose of this article is to respond to MacArthur's sermon asking "Is Roman Catholicism Biblical?" I would be more than happy to engage him further if he so desires it.

JM: …two rise to the forefront and call for special attention: its denial of the doctrine of sola Scriptura and its denial of the biblical teaching on justification. To put it simply, because the Roman Catholic Church has refused to submit itself to the authority of God's Word and to embrace the gospel of justification taught in Scripture, it has set itself apart from the true body of Christ. It is a false and deceptive form of Christianity.

SW: Ouch! MacArthur shows his fangs! Seriously though, and please take that as a humorous comment, there are issues with sola scriptura, namely the doctrine itself is not taught in Scripture! More in a bit, as I address the section on sola scriptura. I'll also deal with justification under his fuller comments about that.

The Doctrine of Sola Scriptura

JM: In the words of reformer Martin Luther, the doctrine of sola Scriptura means that "what is asserted without the Scriptures or proven revelation may be held as an opinion, but need not be believed." Roman Catholicism flatly rejects this principle, adding a host of traditions and Church teachings and declaring them binding on all true believers--with the threat of eternal damnation to those who hold contradictory opinions.

SW: Let's look at this now. Scripture tells us that "whatsoever you shall bind on Earth is also bound in Heaven; whatsoever you shall loose on Earth is loosed in Heaven." This direction was given directly to St. Peter, alone and then later to the Apostles as a group (Matt. 16:18-19 and 18:18). So Jesus gave men this authority. We also know, from Acts 1:28, that the Apostles each held an "office" called a "bishopric" and from that same reference that this bishopric had to have a successor. Matthias became our first successor to a bishop's office. To the point… if the Church has so bound something then it has become a matter of the Faith and cannot be rejected by anyone faithful to the Christian Church. The authority of the Church is actually supported by Scripture – whereas the doctrine of sola scriptura itself is not!

JM: In Roman Catholicism, "the Word of God" encompasses not only the Bible, but also the Apocrypha, the Magisterium (the Church's authority to teach and interpret divine truth), the Pope's ex cathedra pronouncements, and an indefinite body of church tradition, some formalized in canon law and some not yet committed to writing. Whereas evangelical Protestants believe the Bible is the ultimate test of all truth, Roman Catholics believe the Church determines what is true and what is not. In effect, this makes the Church a higher authority than Scripture.

SW: Well, no, the Catholic Church does not consider the Magisterium or a pope's ex cathedra (from the chair), tradition or Canon Law to be the Word of God. Only Scripture has that distinction. What MacArthur calls the "Apocrypha" (hidden) Catholics do consider to be part of the Old Testament Scriptures, just as they are included in the Septuagint (LXX). These books were never "hidden" as the name implies, and the less polemical terminology would be to refer to them as the deuteron-canonicals. Since MacArthur brings up what is canonical and what he feels is not – the fact that he has a Bible with the exact canon of the New Testament which the Catholic Church finalized in several councils toward the end of the 4th century AD, speaks volumes (no pun intended). Ironically, virtually all of Protestantdom accepts the New Testament Canon as established by those 4th century councils – but where those exact same councils ruled the fuller Old Testament Canon, Protestants align themselves with post-Christian era Jews – the same Jews who reject that the Messiah has already come! The fact that MacArthur has the Bible he has today, in the form he has today, he owes to the authority of the Catholic Church.

JM: Creeds and doctrinal statements are certainly important. However, creeds, decisions of church councils, all doctrine, and even the church itself must be judged by Scripture--not vice versa.

SW: I would gladly submit every single dogmatic decision of the Church to the scrutiny of Scripture and I posit that you will not find one dogmatic teaching which is contrary to Scripture. Where Scripture is silent, the normative is "qui tacet consentit" – silence implies consent.

JM: Scripture is to be accurately interpreted in its context by comparing it to Scripture--certainly not according to anyone's personal whims.

SW: MacArthur posits that Scripture interprets itself. Again I would challenge him to document from Scripture where this doctrine of it self-interpreting is found. I can tell you now – it's not there.

JM: Scripture itself is thus the sole binding rule of faith and practice for all Christians.

SW: That's a broader paintbrush than I've seen other Protestant apologists use. Some will concede that the Church does indeed have binding authority, but they will not give the Church infallible binding authority. Using almost the same structure I've heard it stated, "Scripture itself is the sole infallible rule of faith (regula fide) for all Christians." MacArthur goes beyond that, Scripture is the sola regula fide – sole rule of faith – not only for things which bind Christians, but also in the disciplines which Christians practice. Either way you look at it – this teaching on the sola regula fide, or sole rule of faith, is nowhere found in Scripture itself! Thus, by its own standard, sola scriptura is not a binding teaching since it is not taught by Scripture! So those of you who have accepted this teaching in the past, feel free to reject it, it fails its own test.

JM: Protestant creeds and doctrinal statements simply express the churches' collective understanding of the proper interpretation of Scripture. In no sense could the creeds and pronouncements of the churches ever constitute an authority equal to or higher than Scripture. Scripture always takes priority over the church in the rank of authority.

SW: Catholics do not put the Church "higher" than Scripture. We too believe that Scripture is the Word of God – and nothing is "higher" than that unless God Himself were to appear in person. That being said, Jesus didn't leave His Church rudderless! He promised to send the Paraclete, the Holy Ghost, to be with and guide His Church to all truth until He Himself returns in glory. The fact is, Scripture is part of the traditions of the Church! Much of Scripture is the record of the beginnings of the Early Church. Whereas we apply the commands given by the writers of Scripture to the Church throughout the ages, those writers are members of the Catholic Church to begin with.

JM: Roman Catholics, on the other hand, believe the infallible touchstone of truth is the Church itself. The Church not only infallibly determines the proper interpretation of Scripture, but also supplements Scripture with additional traditions and teaching. That combination of Church tradition plus the Church's interpretation of Scripture is what constitutes the binding rule of faith and practice for Catholics. The fact is, the Church sets itself above Holy Scripture in rank of authority.

SW: Actually, the fact is no rule of the Church supersedes Scripture. This never has happened and never will. Yes, infallibility is a charism of the Catholic Church – and that is explicitly granted by Jesus and recorded in Scripture (Matt. 16:18-19 and 18:18). If one will pause for a moment and objectively consider – if something which can be bound on Earth is also bound in Heaven; unless you believe error can be bound in Heaven, then it is infallibly bound.

SW: As for binding practices – or disciplines – yes, the Church has the authority to bind such. For example, abstinence from meat on Fridays, all Fridays throughout the year. Many, perhaps even most, Catholics may not be aware that this rule is still in effect, but it is. The rule has changed a little. It can still be abstinence from meat, but the 1983 CIC (Code of Canon Law) states that according to one's Episcopal Conference it CAN be something equivalent [CIC 1251: "Abstinence from meat, or from some other food as determined by the Episcopal Conference, is to be observed on all Fridays, unless a solemnity should fall on a Friday."] This, I must reiterate, is a discipline of the Church, not a dogma, it could be changed or even altogether dropped. Where a Catholic would get in trouble over this is if they knowingly and willingly decided to thumb their nose to the due and proper authority of the Church and choose not to observe Canon 1251.

The Doctrine of Justification

JM: According to Roman Catholicism, justification is a process in which God's grace is poured forth into the sinner's heart, making that person progressively more righteous. During this process, it is the sinner's responsibility to preserve and increase that grace by various good works.

SW: MacArthur is close here, but he misses the main thrust of the teaching on justification. Justification, in short, is "getting right with God." It is the reception of sanctifying (saving) grace and then persevering in that state of grace. I will continue after MacArthur's next comments:

JM: The means by which justification is initially obtained is not faith, but the sacrament of baptism.

SW: Baptism is a means of grace. Grace is "God's life in us." At baptism, ("which doth now save us" 1 Pet. 3:21) God's grace washes us, not merely "the removal of dirt from the flesh, but the appeal to God for a good conscience." I found MacArthur's "answer" to this very passage, and I was a bit bothered by, what I see as absolute dishonesty in diverting of this passage from 1 Peter 3:21, where he is clearly talking about baptism, to Titus 3:5, which is not about Baptism at all, and declares "It is that washing of the heart."[2] Baptism DOES now save us! Why do so many "Bible-Believing Christians" try to explain away the clear words of Scripture here?

JM: Furthermore, justification is forfeited whenever the believer commits a mortal sin, such as hatred or adultery. In the teaching of the Roman Catholic Church, then, works are necessary both to begin and to continue the process of justification.

SW: In the Catholic Faith we accept that there are sins which are venial, which do not lead to death and can be forgiven through a public confession and the reception of the Eucharist, but then there are sins which are unto death (1 John 5:16), and such sin – being unto death – separates us from life in Christ, or the state of sanctifying (saving) grace. Once separated like this, we must go to one whom Jesus has empowered to forgive sins, (John 20:23). The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a means of Grace – just as each Sacrament is. The Sacrament of Reconciliation is a gift from Jesus to His People, the Church, to avail themselves to when they have separated themselves from the state of Grace through the commission of a sin which is unto death. This teaching/belief/practice is well rooted in Scripture.

JM: The error in the Catholic Church's position on justification may be summed up in four biblical arguments. First, Scripture presents justification as instantaneous, not gradual. Contrasting the proud Pharisee with the broken, repentant tax-gatherer who smote his breast and prayed humbly for divine mercy, Jesus said that the tax-gatherer "went down to his house justified" (Luke 18:14). His justification was instantaneous, complete before he performed any work, based solely on his repentant faith.

SW: The error MacArthur makes here is assuming the tax-gatherer was just then justified for the first time, ever. Scripture does not tell us that. Rather, it could be just like the Catholic, who goes to Mass every week, and regularly participates in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, who on his knees prays, "Oh my God, I am whole-heartedly sorry for having offended Thee because of Thy just punishments, but most of all because they offend Thee, my God, who is deserving of all my love! I firmly resolve, through the help of Thy Grace, to amend my life, do the penance and sin no more." [3] When the Catholic humbly prays that prayer, he is like the tax-gatherer from Luke 18, and the justification is instantaneous! At the absolution we are told, "Go in peace; your sins ARE forgiven." They are not forgiven later, or after the penance, but immediately – right then and there! No work is performed beyond the sincere repentance. You may ask, "but what of the penance?" Well, if one were to deliberately avoid doing the penance, that would constitute a different sin – not one which was already forgiven. The penance shows your sincerity in begging forgiveness and helps you not to sin again.

JM: Jesus also said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life" (John 5:24). Eternal life is the present possession of all who believe--and by definition eternal life cannot be lost. The one who believes immediately passes from spiritual death to eternal life, because that person is instantaneously justified (see Rom. 5:1, 9; 8:1).

SW: MacArthur is a bit inconsistent on this point. In his book, The Gospel According to Jesus, he repeatedly preaches against what he calls "easy-believism," and yet here we see that all you have to do is believe, and you are saved – not only at that moment, but there's no worry about persevering (as St. Paul repeatedly commands us to do), according to MacArthur's interpretation, it’s a "once saved, always saved" gift from God, and this salvation cannot be lost. That sure sounds like what I would call "easy-believism." Scripture, quite often tells us to "hold fast," and "persevere," and "run to win." [4]

JM: Second, justification means the sinner is declared righteous, not actually made righteous. This goes hand in hand with the fact that justification is instantaneous.

SW: Again, absolution (forgiveness) is immediate too.

JM: There is no process to be performed--justification is purely a forensic reality, a declaration God makes about the sinner. Justification takes place in the court of God, not in the soul of the sinner.

SW: This would disagree with James 2 – we are justified through works, just as Abraham was justified by his obedience which proved his faith. And faith, if it has no works is a dead faith – and a dead faith cannot save.

JM: It is an objective fact, not a subjective phenomenon, and it changes the sinner's status, not his nature. Justification is an immediate decree, a divine "not guilty" verdict on behalf of the believing sinner in which God declares him to be righteous in His sight.

SW: And again, that is precisely what happens in Confession.

JM: Third, the Bible teaches that justification means righteousness is imputed, not infused. Righteousness is "reckoned," or credited to the account of those who believe (Rom. 4:3-25). They stand justified before God not because of their own righteousness (Rom. 3:10), but because of a perfect righteousness outside themselves that is reckoned to them by faith (Phil. 3:9). Where does that perfect righteousness come from? It is God's own righteousness (Rom 10:3), and it is the believer's in the person of Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:30). Christ's own perfect righteousness is credited to the believer's personal account (Rom. 5:17, 19), just as the full guilt of the believer's sin was imputed to Christ (2 Cor. 5:21). The only merit God accepts for salvation is that of Jesus Christ; nothing man can ever do could earn God's favor or add anything to the merit of Christ.

SW: None of this is against Catholic teaching, with the possible exception of the last sentence. When man does good works in the state of Grace, it does indeed earn favor or merit. Scripture speaks of the rewards we shall receive based upon our works, if those works are not burned up. If those works are burned up, then we shall suffer loss. Clearly this is a reward/consequence view from God based on mans works. [5]

JM: Fourth and finally, Scripture clearly teaches that man is justified by faith alone, not by faith plus works.

SW: This is a misleading and false statement. The prohibitions against works are related to "works of the law" whereby no man can work their way to salvation outside of faith. Scripture, in the absolutely only place where the words "faith" and "alone" are used together, clearly states that faith alone is not salvific. Faith without works is a dead faith, and a dead faith cannot save. Yes, there are a few places where faith is mentioned and works are not, but if there is even one place where Scripture says works are necessary, then they are. James 2 clearly makes works part of "saving faith." So we cannot assume that in passages which do not mention works that suddenly works are not a necessity to "saving faith."

JM: According to the Apostle Paul, "If it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace" (Rom. 11:6).

SW: The context of this statement includes Romans 9:31 through Romans 11. In there we clearly see St. Paul speaking in opposition to works of the law, as if man could follow the law and save himself outside of faith in Jesus Christ. We cannot pick and choose verses which seem to support our cause when the context of the verses negates what we are saying. The Catholic will stand against a works/salvation system – just as the Protestant preaches against and falsely accuses the Catholic of.

JM: Elsewhere Paul testifies, "By grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast" (Eph. 2:8-9, emphasis added; see Acts 16:31 and Rom. 4:3-6).

SW: Ephesians 2, in context, is speaking of the law of circumcision, again, works of the law are not salvific. Acts 16 speaks of believing in Jesus Christ and not only would the head of the house be saved, but all the house. Believing is also something we do, either one believes, or they do not. If they "do" then they are "doing" something. Acts 16 does not really seem to support one side or the other here. Like Ephesians 2, the context of Romans 4 is talking about circumcision again – a work of the law.

JM: In fact, it is clearly taught throughout Scripture that "a man is justified by faith apart from works of the Law" (Rom. 3:28; see Gal. 2:16; Rom. 9:31-32; 10:3).

SW: And again, I reiterate the point – Catholics do not uphold "works of the law" as works which are part of "saving faith." Good deeds done in the state of Grace are meritorious. Grace precedes good deeds/works and such deeds are only "good" if done in faith. In other words, works alone are no more meritorious than faith alone is. Faith alone is dead (James 2) and likewise, works alone (outside of faith) is dead.

JM: In contrast, Roman Catholicism places an undue stress on human works.

SW: And of course, I deny this. (see following)

JM: Catholic doctrine denies that God "justifies the ungodly" (Rom. 4:5) without first making them godly.

SW: No, Catholic doctrine does not, and MacArthur does not document which doctrine he's speaking about so this is merely an unsupported allegation.

JM: Good works therefore become the ground of justification.

SW: Again, no support for this allegation! The fact is, the "ground" is GRACE. Grace comes first, then comes faith. Is that faith a "saving faith" or a "dead faith?" James 2 lets us know how to tell the difference.

JM: As thousands of former Catholics will testify, Roman Catholic doctrine and liturgy obscure the essential truth that the believer is saved by grace through faith and not by his own works (Eph. 2:8-9). In a simple sense, Catholics genuinely believe they are saved by doing good, confessing sin, and observing ceremonies.

SW: The Catholic liturgy, the Mass, is centered on Grace! The Eucharist, which is the central and focal point of the Mass is the ultimate expression of Grace as it IS the Sacrifice of Christ being made present for us (in the Jewish sense of "remembrance" [6]). What I am certain of is there are likely thousands of "former Catholics" who really did not understand what the Catholic Faith was all about before they left it. No Catholic who knows their Faith believes we are saved by our own works! We are saved by the Sacrifice of Christ on the Cross – in other words, by GRACE. "Doing good" is what FOLLOWS Grace, and it is ONLY "good" if done in the state of Grace. Doing good deeds while in the state of mortal sin avails us nothing. Confessing sin IS a "good deed" and brings us back into the state of Grace.

JM: Adding works to faith as the grounds of justification is precisely the teaching that Paul condemned as "a different gospel" (see 2 Cor. 11:4; Gal. 1:6).

SW: The context of 2 Corinthians 11 speaks of false apostles preaching false gospels which are not found in Scripture. False gospels like sola scriptura and sola fide, the former not even mentioned in Scripture and the latter flatly denied by Scripture the only time it is mentioned by name! [7]
Galatians 1, in context, is the same as 2 Corinthians 11 – it speaks against false preachers. Neither passage even mentions "saving faith" which is a faith which as works with it, however, James 2 mentions this! So, either James 2 is a flat out lie – or MacArthur is imputing his presuppositions about Catholicism into 2 Corinthians 11 and Galatians 1. I, for one, do not believe James 2 is a lie and MacArthur cannot have it both ways.

JM: It nullifies the grace of God, for if meritorious righteousness can be earned through the sacraments, "then Christ died needlessly" (Gal. 2:21).

SW: MacArthur again confuses "works" with "works of the law" as we clearly see if we look at the passage instead of just throwing the reference at you:

21 I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. (KJV)

Notice, "if righteousness come by the LAW" (emphasis mine).

JM: Any system that mingles works with grace, then, is "a different gospel" (Gal. 1:6),

SW: Again, whereas Galations 1:6 does mention "a different gospel" it is not speaking about "works" at all! MacArthur does a very dishonest deed to impute his agenda into that verse – and I stand here to call him on that!

JM: …a distorted message that is anathematized (Gal. 1:9), not by a council of medieval bishops, but by the very Word of God that cannot be broken.

SW: Since MacArthur is repeating this error, I have to repeat the answer. Galations 1 is speaking of false apostles – and makes no direct mention of what that "distorted message" might be. The one "distorting" Scripture here is MacArthur who is imputing an anti-Catholic bias into a passage which makes no mention of what he is attacking the Church for.

JM: In fact, it does not overstate the case to say that the Roman Catholic view on justification sets it apart as a wholly different religion than the true Christian faith, for it is antithetical to the simple gospel of grace.

SW: But as we have just seen, it is MacArthur who is overstating the case left and right here by imputing his presuppositional anti-Catholic position into passages which do not even speak to what he is saying.

JM: As long as the Roman Catholic Church continues to assert its own authority and bind its people to "another gospel," it is the spiritual duty of all true Christians to oppose Roman Catholic doctrine with biblical truth and to call all Catholics to true salvation.

SW: The authority which is in the Catholic Church was put there by Jesus Christ Himself [8]. It is the spiritual duty of all who seek the truth to not just take my word for it, nor MacArthur's word for it – but to diligently and objectively seek the TRUTH. To settle for an emotive hate-speech is subjective and not an honest way to approach the Scriptures nor the truth. True salvation is to follow Jesus Christ in ALL He taught. When He taught that we must eat His body and drink His blood – then we MUST do this! We do not do this simply as a memorial, but as a "remembrance" in the Jewish and Catholic sense of the word [6 – and I strongly urge all to read that link]. It is this "remembrance" which is central to the Liturgy/Mass of the Catholic Church.

JM: Meanwhile, evangelicals must not capitulate to the pressures for artificial unity. They cannot allow the gospel to be obscured, and they cannot make friends with false religion, lest they become partakers in their evil deeds (2 John 11).

SW: And on that note, I agree with MacArthur! There should be NO capitulation of the TRUTH. Ecumenism is coming together in TRUTH, not a false unity for the sake of unity. I urge all readers of this article to try and find the doctrine of sola scriptura IN Scripture. It's not there. Sure, there are passages which speak to "sufficiency" and the "ability to teach, discipline, etc." but you will not find a single verse which supports the teaching that Scripture is the sola regula fide of the Christian Church, not one. I would also urge the readers to find even ONE other place in Scripture where the words "faith" and "alone" are used together (sola fide) outside of James 2:24 – which is in flat out denial of the concept of sola fide.

I would love to hear your comments. Feel free to leave them here in this blog, or join myself and several other very competent apologists in the Catholic Debate Forum:

Sincerely yours in Christ,

Scott Windsor<<<

[3] Act of Contrition
[4] 1 Thes. 3; 2 Thes. 2:15; Heb. 10:36; 2 Tim. 4:7; 1 Cor. 9:24 (and more).
[5] 1 Cor. 3:15
[7] James 2:24
[8] Matthew 16:18-19 and 18:18

Obama and Abortion

A friend of mine who goes by the name of "Nathan" in the Catholic Debate Forum wrote the following article regarding President Obama and his position on abortion. Your comments will be appreciated by Nathan and me. The following is Nathan's article:

In recent memory I've come across many contradictory beliefs from our President, Barack Obama. From my Christian perspective the most prominent among them is his belief in the right of abortion for all women. For those who believe that life begins at conception, logic dictates that any and all abortions are wrong because it would involve the killing of a human being. Even Medical textbooks define the beginning of life at conception. But President Obama isn't so sure. He states that the question of when life begins to be "above [his] pay grade."

Herein lays the crux of his argument. If this is truly what he believes and since he also states that "there is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being." Then by simple extension, we see that Obama does not follow what he believes God would condone. Since he isn't sure when life begins, you would think that one would rather err on the side of caution. But he doesn't. Just like when a hunter hears rustling in the nearby bushes, should he just go ahead and shoot before determining if it is indeed a deer instead of his hunting partner? If President Obama isn't sure when life begins, if its above his pay grade, then why would he even take the chance on allowing abortion at all, not to mention making it readily available to all women and teenagers? What good is the right to choose if you are denied the right to life?

Logic also tells us that if something is growing then it's not dead. A tumor may be an extension of the human body but a fetus, or zygote or anything else in between has its own distinct DNA, therefore is not an extension of another human. It is distinct, separate although dependent on someone else just as newborns are distinct and dependent on someone else to feed and protect them. Why is it that we understand to protect the eggs of the endangered bald eagle in the same fashion as the bird itself and yet the water becomes murky when we speak of protecting the beginnings of human life?

By virtue of its distinct DNA and the fact that it is growing, an embryo is obviously alive. But what is it? What species does this embryo belong to if it is growing inside a mother's womb? Is that embryo going to grow up to be a cat? A turtle? A frog? That embryo is a human embryo. Aren't all humans supposed to have equal rights? Pro-abortion advocates want to say no but then they must turn a blind eye to their own logical inconsistencies to do so. In this way they must deny equal rights for all under the law.

Exploiting the weak and not-yet-born in the interests of the powerful and the well-to-do should not be permitted in a civilized society. And by closely studying what President Obama claims to believe, that's exactly what he stands for. What kind of man have we elected here? A man that supports laws that are inconsistent to his own views.

Bp Fellay Responds

Bishop Fellay responds to Bishop Williamson's interview regarding the Holocaust:

Click on image to view/read Bp. Fellay's letter.


The following came from a posting in the Catholic Debate Forum by a subscriber named "Kathryn" and I felt it worthy of repeating here (with minor edits by me).

REMEMBRANCE is different for Jews and Catholics than for Protestants.  Zwingli when he insisted that Holy Communion was merely symbolic wrenched the whole thing out of its biblically established environment. He absolutely destroyed the whole biblical meaning of it and left his adherents virtually bankrupt. Calvin did not go so far but also missed the meaning or what Christ Jesus instituted. Luther attempted to have his cake and eat it too (no pun intended).  
It has to do also with the Jewish concept of TIME as opposed to the Gentile concept of a long string of hours and days but to dig into that deeply here would confuse the biblical Jewish / Catholic beginners understanding ---- let's call it Remembrance 101. Also, our "reformers" were Rennaisance men who took the enlightened man position and moved understanding fully into their own time as though Christianity was "coming of age."
In order to get it right as Christians, we need to know what it meant to the Jews (who, by the way, we are far closer to as Catholics than we are to Protesants). This is just one of the things that is so tragic in the trend in some circles to "protestantize" the Catholic Church. (I digress)...
Below is a Messianic Jewish rabbi's explanation of REMEMBRANCE in the biblical sense, which is the Jewish sense, which is the Catholic sense but not the Protestant sense. This again is a thing that renders Catholics - Protestants incomunicado...
The following is borrowed from "A Discussion of Messianic Judaism, the Emerging Messianic Jewish Paradigm, ..... of Rabbi Stuart Dauermann, PhD.
Rabbi DAuermann is speaking of the Jewish concept of REMEMBRANCE (zikkaron / anamnesis). He writes:
 "The remembered event [in the now] is equally a valid witness to Israel’s encounter with God as the first witness (Childs, 89). 

We see new facets of the past as we grapple with the Holy One in the present, using the template of the past as a framework for self-understanding. When we encounter the story of the Exodus, we grapple with the God who redeemed us just as truly as did the Exodus generation. Our response now to the record of his saving mercies is as real and as consequential as was theirs, and the consequences of careless disregard, no less significant. We are as culpable for ingratitude as were they. “Today, if you hear his voice, harden not your hearts.” 

The Holy Past is Present as Catalytic Memory: With Judicial Power 

“Each generation of Israel, living in a concrete situation within history, was challenged by God to obedient response through the medium of her tradition. Not a mere subjective reflection, but in the biblical category, a real event as a moment of redemptive time from the past initiated a genuine encounter in the present” (Childs, 83-84). The events of Israel’s redemption were such significant realizations in history of divine redemptive intervention, that together with the rituals, rites, and commandments they entail, they have the authority to assess each successive generation of Israel, including ours. Our response to these events, rites, rituals and obligations, is our response to God, for which we are accountable. 

The Haggadah, echoing the Talmud, agrees. It reminds us, “In every generation a man is bound to regard himself as though he personally had gone forth from Egypt. (cf. TB Pesachim). Torah tells us of Passover, "'This will be a day for you to remember [v’haya hayom hazzeh lachem l’zikkaron].” The LXX translates zikkaron as “anamnesis.” It is also the term used in the Newer Covenant underlying the phrase, “Do this in remembrance of me.”

The holy past is no mere collection of data to be recalled, but a continuing reality to be honored or desecrated. As a zikkaron, a holy memorial, the redemption from Egypt is so authoritatively present with us at the seder, that a cavalier attitude toward the event marks as “The Wicked Son,” unworthy of redemption, anyone who fails to accord it due respect. In zikkaron or anamnesis, the holy past is present with power, assessing our response.

This is a new perspective for some of us and surely for most of our Movement. It makes us wriggle with discomfort because it contravenes our axiomatic commitment to autonomy. We reflexively think ourselves to only be responsible when we choose to be so. The Bible, and our tradition disagrees; hence the discomfort. 

That anamnesis has intrusive and unavoidable authority to judge our response is proven in Paul’s discussion of the Lord’s Table. In First Corinthians 11, he states that those who fail to discern the reality present among them in the zikkaron/anamnesis, who drink the Lord’s cup and eat the bread in an unworthy manner, desecrate the body and blood of the Lord and eat and drink judgment upon themselves. He makes this point unambiguous when be states “This is why many among you are weak and sick, and some have died.” 

Because of this numinous power of zikkaron/anemesis, honoring the holy Jewish past and the holy Jewish future as re-presented in the liturgy, ritual, and calendar of our people must become a lived reality in our movement. Our only other option is to dishonor God and to trifle with his holy saving acts. I think it no exaggeration to say that failure to properly honor our holy past, present as zikkaron/anamnesis, is just as truly an act of desecration as was the failure of the Corinthians to honor body and blood of Messiah present in their midst in the bread and the wine.


The Existence of Purgatory

Below is a compilation of postings from the BattleACTS Email List presenting implications, proofs and Catholic Teachings on the Doctrine of Purgatory.

Purgatory is where the last penny is paid.

[Mat 5:25] Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison;
[Mat 5:26] truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.

Everyone must endure fire.

[Mark 9:49] For every one will be salted with fire.

Jesus baptizes with fire.

[Luke 3:16] John answered them all, "I baptize you with water; but he who is mightier than I is coming, the thong of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie; he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire.

A Severe Beating or A Light Beating, depending on the seriousness of your sins.

[Luke 12:42] And the Lord said, "Who then is the faithful and wise steward, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time?
[Luke 12:43] Blessed is that servant whom his master when he comes will find so doing.
[Luke 12:44] Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.
[Luke 12:45] But if that servant says to himself, `My master is delayed in coming,' and begins to beat the menservants and the maidservants, and to eat and drink and get drunk,
[Luke 12:46] the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will punish him, and put him with the unfaithful.
[Luke 12:47] And that servant who knew his master's will, but did not make ready or act according to his will, shall receive a severe beating.
[Luke 12:48] But he who did not know, and did what deserved a beating, shall receive a light beating. Every one to whom much is given, of him will much be required; and of him to whom men commit much they will demand the more.
[Luke 12:49] "I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!

We must believe in Christ. This means we must believe everything He taught. We must "abide" in Him.

[John 15:6] If a man does not abide in me, he is cast forth as a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire and burned.
[John 15:7] If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you will, and it shall be done for you.
[John 15:8] By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.
[John 15:9] As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you; abide in my love.
[John 15:10] If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.
[John 15:11] These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be full.

Our works matter. If our works are not good, they will be burned up. Thusly, our souls are "purged", hence the name the Church has given the particular judgment: "Purgatory".

[1 Cor 3:12] Now if any one builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw --
[1 Cor 3:13] each man's work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done.
[1 Cor 3:14] If the work which any man has built on the foundation survives, he will receive a reward.
[1 Cor 3:15] If any man's work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire.

We do not know how long souls must remain in Purgatory while they are being purified. For some, it may be only for a split second. Some may spend a long time. Scripture isn't clear on the length of time. Whether it is a thousand years or just a milli-second, we do not know. Scripture is quite clear, however, that this state which we call Purgatory does exist.

Some pay the "last penny" in this life. God, in His goodness, has placed VALUE on our sufferings!! We SHARE in the Cross of Redemption. In Protestantism, suffering is deemed as having NO value. In reality, our sufferings are a participation in the Cross of Christ. Thanks be to God that we have the HOPE of salvation and that we can know this great hope most clearly while we are in the depths of our greatest sufferings.

We need to believe, yes. Believing is faith. What is faith? Our faith is a "sacrificial offering."

[Phil 2:17] Even if I am to be poured as a libation upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

[Mat 10:38] and he who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me.
[Mat 10:39] He who finds his life will lose it, and he who loses his life for my sake will find it.

[Mat 16:24] Then Jesus told his disciples, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
[Mat 16:25] For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.
[Mat 16:26] For what will it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and forfeits his life? Or what shall a man give in return for his life?
[Mat 16:27] For the Son of man is to come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will repay every man for what he has done.

[Mark 8:34] And he called to him the multitude with his disciples, and said to them, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
[Mark 8:35] For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel's will save it.
[Mark 8:36] For what does it profit a man, to gain the whole world and forfeit his life?
[Mark 8:37] For what can a man give in return for his life?
[Mark 8:38] For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation, of him will the Son of man also be ashamed, when he comes in the glory of his Father with the holy angels."

[Luke 9:23] And he said to all, "If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.
[Luke 9:24] For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it.
[Luke 9:25] For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?
[Luke 9:26] For whoever is ashamed of me and of my words, of him will the Son of man be ashamed when he comes in his glory and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.

[Luke 14:27] Whoever does not bear his own cross and come after me, cannot be my disciple.
[Luke 14:28] For which of you, desiring to build a tower, does not first sit down and count the cost, whether he has enough to complete it?
[Luke 14:29] Otherwise, when he has laid a foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him,
[Luke 14:30] saying, `This man began to build, and was not able to finish.'
[Luke 14:31] Or what king, going to encounter another king in war, will not sit down first and take counsel whether he is able with ten thousand to meet him who comes against him with twenty thousand?
[Luke 14:32] And if not, while the other is yet a great way off, he sends an embassy and asks terms of peace.
[Luke 14:33] So therefore, whoever of you does not renounce all that he has cannot be my disciple.
[Luke 14:34] "Salt is good; but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltness be restored?

[1 Cor 1:26] For consider your call, brethren; not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth;
[1 Cor 1:27] but God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise, God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong,
[1 Cor 1:28] God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are,
[1 Cor 1:29] so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.
[1 Cor 1:30] He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, whom God made our wisdom, our righteousness and sanctification and redemption;
[1 Cor 1:31] therefore, as it is written, "Let him who boasts, boast of the Lord."

[Gal 5:24] And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
[Gal 5:25] If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

[Gal 6:15] For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.
[Gal 6:16] Peace and mercy be upon all who walk by this rule, upon the Israel of God.
[Gal 6:17] Henceforth let no man trouble me; for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.

[Eph 2:13] But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near in the blood of Christ.
[Eph 2:14] For he is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility,
[Eph 2:15] by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace,
[Eph 2:16] and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby bringing the hostility to an end.

[1 John 4:17] In this is love perfected with us, that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so are we in this world.
[1 John 4:18] There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and he who fears is not perfected in love.
[1 John 4:19] We love, because he first loved us.

Catholic Teaching

A fundamental truth of the Christian faith is that we will not be sinning in heaven. Sin and final glorification are incompatible. Therefore between the sinfulness of this life and the glories of heaven we must be made pure. Between death and glory there is a purification. Thus the Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "All who die in God's grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven. The Church gives the name Purgatory to this final purification of the elect, which is entirely different from the punishment of the damned" (CCC 1030-1).

The concept of a purification after death from sin and the consequences of sin is also stated in the New Testament in passages such as 1 Corinthians 3:11-15, Matthew 5:25-26, and 12:31-32. The doctrine of purgatory, or the final purification, has been part of the true faith since before the time of Christ. The Jews already believed it before the coming of the Messiah, as revealed in the Old Testament (2 Macc. 12:41-46) as well as other pre-Christian Jewish works, such as one which records that Adam will be in mourning "until the day of dispensing punishment in the last years, when I will turn his sorrow into joy" (The Life of Adam and Eve 46-7). Orthodox Jews to this day believe in the final purification, and for eleven months after the death of a loved one they pray a prayer called the Mourner's Qaddish for their loved one's purification.

Jews, Catholics, and Eastern Orthodox have always historically proclaimed the reality of the final purification. It was not until the Protestant Reformers came in the 1500s that anyone denied this doctrine. As the following quotes from the early Church Fathers show, purgatory has been part of the Christian faith from the very beginning. Some imagine that the Catholic Church has an elaborate doctrine of purgatory worked out, but basically there are only three things that are essential components of the doctrine: (1) that a purification after death exists, (2) that it involves some kind of pain, and (3) that the purification can be assisted by the prayers and offerings of the living to God. Other ideas, such that purgatory is a particular "place" in the afterlife or that it takes time to accomplish, are speculations rather than doctrines.

The Acts of Paul and Thecla

"And after the exhibition, Tryphaena again received her [Thecla]. For her daughter Falconilla had died, and said to her in a dream: 'Mother, you shall have this stranger Thecla in my place, in order that she may pray concerning me, and that I may be transferred to the place of the righteous'" (Acts of Paul and Thecla [A.D. 160]).


"The citizen of a prominent city, I erected this while I lived, that I might have a resting place for my body. Abercius is my name, a disciple of the chaste shepherd who feeds his sheep on the mountains and in the fields, who has great eyes surveying everywhere, who taught me the faithful writings of life. Standing by, I, Abercius, ordered this to be inscribed; truly I was in my seventy-second year. May everyone who is in accord with this and who understands it pray for Abercius" (Epitaph of Abercius [A.D. 190]).


"[T]hat very night, this was shown to me in a vision: I saw Dinocrates going out from a gloomy place, where also there were several others, and he was parched and very thirsty, with a filthy countenance and pallid color, and the wound on his face which he had when he died. This Dinocrates had been my brother after the flesh, seven years of age, who died miserably with disease . . . For him I had made my prayer, and between him and me there was a large interval, so that neither of us could approach to the other. . . . and [I] knew that my brother was in suffering. But I trusted that my prayer would bring help to his suffering; and I prayed for him every day until we passed over into the prison of the camp, for we were to fight in the camp-show. Then . . . I made my prayer for my brother day and night, groaning and weeping that he might be granted to me. Then, on the day on which we remained in fetters, this was shown to me. I saw that that place which I had formerly observed to be in gloom was now bright; and Dinocrates, with a clean body well clad, was finding refreshment. . . . [And] he went away from the water to play joyously, after the manner of children, and I awoke. Then I understood that he was translated from the place of punishment" (The Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity 2:3-4 [A.D. 202]).


"[T]hat allegory of the Lord [Matt. 5:25-26] . . . is extremely clear and simple in its meaning . . . [beware lest as] a transgressor of your agreement, before God the Judge . . . and lest this Judge deliver you over to the angel who is to execute the sentence, and he commit you to the prison of hell, out of which there will be no dismissal until the smallest even of your delinquencies be paid off in the period before the resurrection. What can be a more fitting sense than this? What a truer interpretation?" (The Soul 35 [A.D. 210]).


"We offer sacrifices for the dead on their birthday anniversaries" (The Crown 3:3 [A.D. 211]).


"A woman, after the death of her husband ... prays for his soul and asks that he may, while waiting, find rest; and that he may share in the first resurrection. And each year, on the anniversary of his death, she offers the sacrifice" (Monogamy 10:1-2 [A.D. 216]).

Cyprian of Carthage

"The strength of the truly believing remains unshaken; and with those who fear and love God with their whole heart, their integrity continues steady and strong. For to adulterers even a time of repentance is granted by us, and peace [i.e., reconciliation] is given. Yet virginity is not therefore deficient in the Church, nor does the glorious design of continence languish through the sins of others. The Church, crowned with so many virgins, flourishes; and chastity and modesty preserve the tenor of their glory. Nor is the vigor of continence broken down because repentance and pardon are facilitated to the adulterer. It is one thing to stand for pardon, another thing to attain to glory; it is one thing, when cast into prison, not to go out thence until one has paid the uttermost farthing; another thing at once to receive the wages of faith and courage. It is one thing, tortured by long suffering for sins, to be cleansed and long purged by fire; another to have purged all sins by suffering. It is one thing, in fine, to be in suspense till the sentence of God at the day of judgment; another to be at once crowned by the Lord." (Letters 51[55]:20 [A.D. 253]).


"But also, when God will judge the just, it is likewise in fire that he will try them. At that time, they whose sins are uppermost, either because of their gravity or their number, will be drawn together by the fire and will be burned. Those, however, who have been imbued with full justice and maturity of virtue, will not feel that fire; for they have something of God in them which will repel and turn back the strength of the flame" (Divine Institutes 7:21:6 [A.D. 307]).

Cyril of Jerusalem

"Then we make mention also of those who have already fallen asleep: first, the patriarchs, prophets, apostles, and martyrs, that through their prayers and supplications God would receive our petition; next, we make mention also of the holy fathers and bishops who have already fallen asleep, and, to put it simply, of all among us who have already fallen asleep, for we believe that it will be of very great benefit to the souls of those for whom the petition is carried up, while this holy and most solemn sacrifice is laid out" (Catechetical Lectures 23:5:9 [A.D. 350]).

Epiphanius of Salamis

"Useful too is the prayer fashioned on their behalf, even if it does not force back the whole of guilty charges laid to them. And it is useful also, because in this world we often stumble either voluntarily or involuntarily, and thus it is a reminder to do better" (Medicine Chest Against All Heresies 75:8 [A.D. 375]).

Gregory of Nyssa

"If a man distinguish in himself what is peculiarly human from that which is irrational, and if he be on the watch for a life of greater urbanity for himself, in this present life he will purify himself of any evil contracted, overcoming the irrational by reason. If he have inclined to the irrational pressure of the passions, using for the passions the cooperating hide of things irrational, he may afterward in a quite different manner be very much interested in what is better, when, after his departure out of the body, he gains knowledge of the difference between virtue and vice and finds that he is not able to partake of divinity until he has been purged of the filthy contagion in his soul by the purifying fire" (Sermon on the Dead [A.D. 382]).

John Chrysostom

"Let us help and commemorate them. If Job's sons were purified by their father's sacrifice [Job 1:5], why would we doubt that our offerings for the dead bring them some consolation? Let us not hesitate to help those who have died and to offer our prayers for them" (Homilies on 1 Corinthians 41:5 [A.D. 392]).

John Chrysostom

"Weep for those who die in their wealth and who with all their wealth prepared no consolation for their own souls, who had the power to wash away their sins and did not will to do it. Let us weep for them, let us assist them to the extant of our ability, let us think of some assistance for them, small as it may be, yet let us somehow assist them. But how, and in what way? By praying for them and by entreating others to pray for them, by constantly giving alms to the poor on their behalf. Not in vain was it decreed by the apostles that in the awesome mysteries remembrance should be made of the departed. They knew that here there was much gain for them, much benefit. when the entire people stands with hands uplifted, a priestly assembly, and that awesome sacrificial Victim is laid out, how, when we are calling upon God, should we not succeed in their defense? But this is done for those who have departed in the faith, while even the catechumens are not reckoned as worthy of this consolation, but are deprived of every means of assistance except one. And what is that? We may give alms to the poor on their behalf" (Homilies on Philippians 3:9-10 [A.D. 402]).


"There is an ecclesiastical discipline, as the faithful know, when the names of the martyrs are read aloud in that place at the altar of God, where prayer is not offered for them. Prayer, however, is offered for other dead who are remembered. It is wrong to pray for a martyr, to whose prayers we ought ourselves be commended" (Sermons 159:1 [A.D. 411]).


"But by the prayers of the Holy Church, and by the salvific sacrifice, and by the alms which are given for their spirits, there is no doubt that the dead are aided, that the Lord might deal more mercifully with them than their sins would deserve. The whole Church observes this practice which was handed down by the Fathers: that it prays for those who have died in the communion of the Body and Blood of Christ, when they are commemorated in their own place in the sacrifice itself; and the sacrifice is offered also in memory of them, on their behalf. If, then, works of mercy are celebrated for the sake of those who are being remembered, who would hesitate to recommend them, on whose behalf prayers to God are not offered in vain? It is not at all to be doubted that such prayers are of profit to the dead; but for such of them as lived before their death in a way that makes it possible for these things to be useful to them after death" (ibid., 172:2).


"Temporal punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by some after death, by 'some both here and hereafter, but all of them before that last and strictest judgment. But not all who suffer temporal punishments after death will come to eternal punishments, which are to follow after that judgment" (The City of God 21:13 [A.D. 419]).


"The prayer either of the Church herself or of pious individuals is heard on behalf of certain of the dead, but it is heard for those who, having been regenerated in Christ, did not for the rest of their life in the body do such wickedness that they might be judged unworthy of such mercy [as prayer], nor who yet lived so well that it might be supposed they have no need of such mercy [as prayer]" (ibid., 21:24:2).


"That there should be some fire even after this life is not incredible, and it can be inquired into and either be discovered or left hidden whether some of the faithful may be saved, some more slowly and some more quickly in the greater or lesser degree in which they loved the good things that perish, through a certain purgatorial fire" (Handbook on Faith, Hope, and Charity 18:69 [A.D. 421]).


"The time which interposes between the death of a man and the final resurrection holds souls in hidden retreats, accordingly as each is deserving of rest or of hardship, in view of what it merited when it was living in the flesh. Nor can it be denied that the souls of the dead find relief through the piety of their friends and relatives who are still alive, when the Sacrifice of the Mediator [Mass] is offered for them, or when alms are given in the Church. But these things are of profit to those who, when they were alive, merited that they might afterward be able to be helped by these things. There is a certain manner of living, neither so good that there is no need of these helps after death, nor yet so wicked that these helps are of no avail after death" (ibid., 29:109).

Feast of the Assumption

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