J: Salza: Lisa, I will go through your questions.
Lisa: I still have concerns about some of the things brought up about Catholicism on another website: http://www.cuttingedge.org/news/n1334.cfm
J. Salza: This website craziness. It is really too bad. There is not one scintilla of truth in any of it.
Lisa: The author brings up the case of the thief on the cross to whom Jesus said, “Today you will be with me in paradise” and how that ‘proves’ that there is no such thing as purgatory.
J. Salza: The author is mistaken. First, even if the good thief went straight to heaven, this does not prove that there is no purgatory (especially when such verses as 1 Cor. 3:15 prove that there is a purgatory). When someone dies a bloody, painful and repentant death (like the good thief did), he may be ready for heaven with no need of purgatory. Also, remember that punctuation was not part of the Scriptures until they were translated and put into books around 1400 A.D. So Jesus could have actually said, “I tell you today, you will be with me in paradise.” Notice where the comma is. In this case, Jesus’ reference to paradise would have had nothing to do with whether the good thief would be in paradise on that day or later. It would just mean that Jesus was telling him something today, right now, right here, sort of like putting an exclamation on His statement.
Lisa: Also, tonight I spoke on the phone with my ex-boyfriend’s mom (who is a Catholic – she was raised in the church) who said that because their was fear of individual interpretation of the Bible, she remembers when it was not encouraged and sometimes forbidden to read one’s Bible. She couldn’t answer some of my other questions, though, so maybe this is misinformation on her part?
J. Salza: Yes. During the Enlightenment period, the intellectual movement known as Rationalism swept throughout Europe. This led many to interpret the Scriptures outside the teaching authority of the Church. Martin Luther furthered this with his novel theology of Sola scriptura (scripture alone).This led to private judgment theology and has given rise to the 30,000 different Protestant denominations. The Church emphasized that the Scriptures must be read in light of the apostolic Tradition that was handed down through the ages. As Saint Peter writes in his epistle, Scripture is not a matter of personal interpretation. It therefore must mean that it is a matter of public interpretation, and that is the interpretation of the Church. The Church has always encouraged reading the Scriptures. In fact, the Catholic Church is the one who first translated the Scriptures into the vernacular. Why? Because she wanted the Scriptures to be available to as many people as possible. Protestants don’t often talk about this history, do they?!
Note also that Catholics get more Scripture than any other Christian faith. We literally read the entire Bible every 3 years during the Mass. But many Catholics have not been properly educated with the Scriptures in the past 30 years. But we need to become Scripture Catholics! That is why I started this website. We need to reclaim the patrimony that is truly ours. The Bible is a Catholic book; it is THE Catholic book because it was given by God to the Church.
Lisa: I am sorry if I am bothering you with my questions – I am just so afraid of falling into another of Satan’s traps without knowing it – I have done that many times in my life.
J. Salza: I believe the Lord is leading you home to the Catholic Church. This is the Church Christ built upon Peter and the apostles.
Lisa: According to Protestants, I would go to hell if I were Catholic because I would be ‘deceived’ even though I had the best of intentions. Somehow that doesn’t make sense to me – that God Almighty would know how confused I am yet punish me for all eternity because I ‘guessed wrong.’
J. Salza: You are absolutely correct. That Protestant theology is nonsense. One cannot commit mortal sin unless she knows what she is doing is wrong and does it anyway. But your investigation of the Church is not wrong. God wants all people to seek the truth and come to the knowledge of Christ His Son. If you continue your journey, I believe you will find the fullness of the truth of Jesus in the Catholic Church.
Lisa: What do you think about that website? Is it completely false? Again, the link is: http://www.cuttingedge.org/news/n1334.cfm
J. Salza: I know it is false. Whatever else I can address in it for you, just let me know.
Lisa: Thank you so much for your help and your website. May God bless you richly.
J. Salza: Thank you. May God bless you.
Lisa: Hi John, I have been reading many links on your website and am still confused as to why Protestants say Catholics ‘pray to the dead’. Any suggestions to help me clear this up? Thanks for your help! By the way, I agreed that the Jesus-Is-Lord website is run by a fanatic.
J. Salza: Hi Lisa, The Jesus-is-Lord website sounds like it is run by a fanatic. I wouldn’t waste my time with that site.
Regarding intercessory prayer, Catholics don’t pray to the dead. They pray to the living! Those living with Christ are more alive than we are, because they are enjoying the beatific vision for all eternity. As Jesus said, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. Therefore, we invoke their assistance by asking them to pray for us. It is as simple as that. Yes, we pray directly to God. But we also ask our brothers and sisters who have gone before us to pray to God for us as well. Just like if I asked you to pray for me. The Catholic Church is the family of God, both on earth and in heaven. We are not cut off from our loved ones in heaven, but through Christ, are joined to them through the Church. Since the prayers of the righteous are powerful, and those in heaven are righteous, we seek their prayers which are more powerful than ours can be.
Look at my link on intercessory prayer. Scripture is replete with verses that talk about intercessory prayer. We see in the Apocalypse how the prayers of the saints rise up as incense before the throne of God. God allows us to participate in Christ’s mediation by praying for others. I will try to contact you in the near future. Take care and God bless.
Lisa: Dear John. Thank you for your response. I would appreciate knowing some good links and/or books to check out. There are several things I am concerned about with the Catholic Church. For example, (I believe it is on the ‘slideshow’ part of that link I sent you) I have seen pictures of the Pope with an upside-down cross on his throne-looking chair.
J. Salza: Thank you for the reply. I will try to address some of your concerns in a quick email (which is never sufficient). I will also try to call you and talk viva voce. As far as books, I would start by reading Gospels, and then the Catechism of the Catholic Church (this will tell you everything the Church teaches “from the horse’s mouth” – instead of relying on misleading Protestant assertions.) You can pick up a Catechism for $12 from any Catholic bookstore. You can also read my book The Biblical Basis for the Catholic Faith which can be purchased from Our Sunday Visitor at www.osv.com.
I have seen pictures of the Pope with an upside-down cross on his throne-looking chair; Saint Peter, the first pope, was crucified upside down (because he said he was unworthy of dying the way Christ died). The cross on Pope John Paul II’s chair was reflecting the death of Peter as he was sitting “on the seat of Peter.”
Lisa: In the Bible there is a scripture in the New Testament that warns of people who ‘forbid to marry’ and who teach ‘abstaining from meats’ – so I have a problem with the celibacy of nuns and monks, etc.
J.Salza: Go to www.scripturecatholic.com, the priesthood link, and look for the link on celibacy. http://www.scripturecatholic.com/priesthood-fathers-celibacy-womens-ordination/ Saint Paul was teaching against those early cults that forbid marriage outside the teachings of Christ. The Catholic Church, on the other hand, exalts marriage to a sacrament (it does not even do this for consecrate celibacy). Celibacy is just a church discipline in the Western church; in the east, priests can marry in certain circumstances. But if you see my link, you see that Christ praises celibacy and recommends that all who can receive the gift, should receive it. Saint Paul also recommends celibacy. You also see in the Apocalypse that those consecrated to celibacy are praised in the heavenly kingdom. As far as abstaining from meats, that has nothing to do with celibacy. Paul was referring to Judaizers in the church who kept preaching that Christians were still required to obey the edicts of the Mosaic law regarding food. As we know, the Mosaic law, with all its edicts regarding food, has been made null and void by the New Covenant.
Lisa: I have a real issue with praying ‘through’ Mary so she could make some intercession on my behalf, since I believe I am an adopted daughter of God Almighty, and those who prayed throughout the Bible prayed directly to God.
J. Salza: Mary is always a big hurdle for many non-Catholics. Yes, you are an adopted daughter of God through the mediation of Jesus Christ. However, Christ allows us to participate in his mediation on a subordinate level. Hence, we can ask others to pray for us to God. Well, those in heaven are more alive than we are on earth. Thus, we can ask them to pray for us as well, as they behold the face of God. There is no one closer to Jesus in heaven than His Mother Mary. We can therefore ask her to intercede for us before her Son. She helps make our prayers acceptable to God. Recall in the Old Testament that the Davidic king always had his mother at Hiss right hand, who would intercede for him. Christ is the true Davidic king, and Mary is the true Queen Mother, at Her Son’s right hand. Jesus never refuses the requests of His mother Mary. Also, the New Testament is replete with verses where the writers ask for prayers. Also, in the book of Revelation, we see the prayers of the saints, include Mary, rising up as incense before God.
Lisa: Never once did Jesus ask Mary to intercede for Him, and neither did Paul or any others I have read speak of doing so.
J. Salza: This is not so. Please read the Gospel of John, chapter 2, about Christ’s first miracle at Cana. Mary intercedes for those at the wedding feast because they were out of wine. Jesus invites Mary’s intercession by responding to her, “what does that have to do with me and you?” Mary then furthers her intercession by telling the stewards to do whatever Jesus told them. Mary brings about Jesus’ ministry through her motherly intercession at a wedding feast which prefigures the wedding feast of the lamb at the end of time. Mary’s reply would not make any sense unless Jesus was welcoming her intercession, and she knew this.
Lisa: I have a problem with the crucifix, as Christ rose and is at the Father’s right hand – I view the crucifix as a way for Satan to ‘keep Him on the cross’ so-to-speak.
J. Salza: Actually, it was Satan who kept telling Jesus to come down from the cross. Not the cross! Anything but the cross! Satan wanted Christ down from the cross because Christ on the cross is the greatest act of love God has ever showed human kind. We exalt the cross because it is the pure sacrifice that has made peace with God, and the greatest paradox of salvation history. Saint Paul said that “we preach a Christ crucified.” We do not just preach a Christ risen. Protestants take Jesus down from the cross because they do not like the question of suffering. But it was through Jesus’ propitiatory suffering and death that we are healed.
Lisa: I have a problem with the repetition of prayers and many, many other issues.
J. Salza: The issue is with the “vain,” and not the “repetition.” Please see this link: http://www.scripturecatholic.com/vain-repititious-prayer/ God, in fact, inspired the sacred writers to offer Him repetitious prayers (see, for example, Psalm 136 and Daniel 3:52-66).
Lisa: My phone number is XXX-XXX-XXXX if you would like to call me. Thank you John for your help and response, and I thank God that you are freed from Masonry!
This is very good, except this part: ‘in the east, priests can marry in certain circumstances’ is not true. Men who are ALREADY married may be ordained to the priesthood or diaconate, according to Eastern Rites, not just in the east, but in Eastern-Rite Churches around the world. (Bishops are celibate, and of course monks and nuns.) Even if the priest’s or deacon’s wife dies young, marrying after ordination is still prohibited. Regarding the priesthood, the priest is the spiritual father and confessor of the parish. If he were to marry a woman from it, it would be spiritual incest with an imbalance of power, and there would be a conflict of interest because she would have confessed sins to him already and he would have knowledge of them. Eastern confessions are never anonymous. They’re done face to face (maybe you’ve seen those pictures of it from the Ukrainian Revolution), or side-by-side in front of the Gospels and iconostasis. The priest lays his epitrachelion/stole over the person’s head for the absolution. Even if the woman were from another parish and had never confessed to him, the people wouldn’t know she hadn’t, and she still would have called him ‘Father’ anyway. The priest’s family goes elsewhere for confession, normally the closest monastery. And in the case of a deacon, even though he is not a father and doesn’t hear confessions, there would still be an imbalance of power. Thanks for letting me comment!