Archives for 2011

A Catholic quiz

A Catholic Quiz

Are you Catholic? If so, test your knowledge on my handy Catholic Faith Checkup. Read each statement and simply decide if is true or false. The answer key and how to interpret the results follow.

  1. The Holy Bible is the sole source of God’s truth.
  2. The Bible is “self-interpreting” and needs no interpretation by others.
  3. Catholic Bibles have more books because we added several to the original.
  4. We are saved by faith alone.
  5. “Works” play no role in our salvation.
  6. We believe that once saved, always saved.
  7. Since Jesus died for our sins, salvation is ours if we lead good lives.
  8. Our souls have existed for eternity.
  9. Some people have had past lives.
  10. Not all human souls are immortal.
  11. Sin is acting against one’s own conscience and circumstances.
  12. Sins are acts against others.
  13. What is sinful or not in the eyes of God is determined by each Christian denomination.
  14. People sometimes sin accidentally.
  15. We no longer believe that suicide is a mortal sin.
  16. Purposefully missing Mass is a venial sin.
  17. It is sinful to be attracted to a person of the same sex (“same sex attraction”).
  18. As a matter of personal conscience, fairness and in Christian charity, it is wrong to discriminate in marriage for committed, loving, gay couples.
  19. Married couples may use artificial birth control when necessary as a matter of private conscience.
  20. Catholics may not divorce even for good cause.
  21. Validly married Catholics who divorce for good cause (e.g. abuse or infidelity) can receive an annulment in order to remarry.
  22. Sex outside of marriage is not sinful in certain circumstances (e.g. in a monogamous, consenting, loving, committed relationship of a man and a woman).
  23. Cells immediately after conception are not yet a human person (i.e. 100% equal in human dignity to a fully developed, born baby).
  24. Abortion is a difficult decision, but ultimately a matter of personal choice.
  25. Abortion is acceptable only in cases of rape or incest.
  26. Medical treatment of a mother with an unavoidable side-effect resulting in the death of her unborn child is still abortion.
  27. More than just a symbol, the Eucharist brings the real presence of Jesus spiritually, but not literally (i.e. not His body, blood, soul and divinity).
  28. We must receive both the body and blood of our Lord to receive him completely.
  29. Catholicism is one common shared theology, Protestantism is another.
  30. As Christians, Protestants and Catholics share the same truths of the Gospel.
  31. We are not “born again.”
  32. Jesus was partially man and partially divine.
  33. Mary remained a virgin only through the birth of our Lord.
  34. Mary had additional children after our Lord’s birth.
  35. Mary shared the taint of original sin with the rest of humanity.
  36. Although Mary is the mother of Jesus, she is not the mother of God.
  37. It is possible that one day, archaeologists could theoretically find Mary’s remains.
  38. Beseeching the dead to pray for us (“necromancy”) is an abomination to the Lord (Deuteronomy 18:11-12).
  39. The Vatican’s policy against ordaining women could one day be changed.
  40. It is impossible to determine if anybody specifically has gone to heaven.
  41. We know of some people who have definitely gone to hell.
  42. People in hell can eventually enter heaven.
  43. Purgatory is another name for hell.
  44. One difference between Catholics and Protestants is that we also worship Saints.
  45. At first there were only Christians but later, denominations into Catholics and Protestants occurred.
  46. When necessary, our doctrines have been changed (e.g. Vatican II or the doctrine of limbo).
  47. Our faith stays relevant, evolving through infallible declarations of the pope.
  48. We re-sacrifice Jesus in our liturgy of the Mass.
  49. The purpose of excommunication is to punish people.
  50. People who are excommunicated are removed from the Church and are no longer Catholic.

All done? Have you considered each question and determined if it is true or false? Great! Here is the answer key: they are all false! Yup, not a true statement in the batch. Surprised? How to interpret your results depends on a couple of variables:

If you are not Catholic but are comparing this list to your beliefs, you probably would say at least some of these are true. All Protestant denominations would in fact say that some are true, but not agree with each other on which ones.

If you are Catholic and thought that some were true, you are not alone. Our secular, relativistic culture constantly bombards us with false perspectives at odds with the vast treasure and fullness of the Christian faith. We all are called to continuous learning and conversion. The main thing is that you are open to learning and accept the revealed truth of God as taught by Christ’s Church.

If you are Catholic, feel that some are actually true and simply believe that the Church is wrong, that is a different matter. In that case you are denying the truth and denying the authority Jesus gave to His Church. You are not in full communion with Holy Mother Church and all that she teaches, as you promised at confirmation. I urge you to pray to the Holy Spirit for guidance and to study faithful Catholic teaching. The eternal consequences are of the utmost gravity.

Everyone – feel free to leave comments or to contact me privately. I am happy to answer your questions and provide pointers to more information.

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #45)

7 Quick Takes Friday

This week: Lionizing Steve Jobs. The Mighty Macs is released today. Dying so that your baby may live. Texas congresspeople, a study in contrast. We expected strides toward a post-racial society under a black president. Is it time to panic as we approach 7,000,000 people? A convert’s quote of the week.

— 1 —

Steve Jobs has died and much ink has been spilt extolling his accomplishments. He clearly demonstrated keen insight in the successful application of consumer technology. Outside of that narrow area, was he really a shining light in any other way? I don’t see it. Carl Olson puts some good perspective on Jobs’ passing in Yes, Steve Jobs, R.I.P., was an innovating genius. But….

— 2 —

A flick I have not yet seen (but looks promising) is being released nationwide today. The Mighty Macs appears to be fun, have good values and will present Catholics as we really are – not as Hollywood stereotype.

— 3 —

While some people fight relentlessly for the right to kill their babies, others give their lives so their child might live. Such is the story of Stacie Crimm. Once told that she could never have a child, a miracle happened. At 41, Stacie was finally, actually pregnant! Only 4 months later, she was diagnosed with head and neck cancer but refused chemotherapy to protect her baby. A month later with the aggressive cancer squeezing the life out of her, 2 pound 1 ounce Dottie Mae was delivered by emergency C-section. The story is here (spotted by Marcel).

— 4 —

Two Texas congresspeople are polar opposites. One pro-life, one not. First Ron Paul, a Republican candidate for President. His position on life is unequivocal. He makes campaign ads on this crucial topic and means every word.

Sounds. Soft, rhythmic sounds. Da dum, da dum, da dum. Some say these impossible to characterize “sounds” may emanate from a parasitical blob of tissue that has invaded a woman’s body. She may be discouraged from a common medical procedure (“needed action”) were she to hear these mysterious sounds. The second Texas congressperson, Democrat Sheila Jackson Lee explains:

Abortion is murder. It is also black genocide. If your mom is black, you are 5 times more likely to be killed by her in the womb than if your mom is white. Your chances of making it out alive in NYC have sunk to only 40%. How can you Ms. Lee, a black woman, support this?

— 5 —

Racism is an insult to human dignity. With the election of our first black president, a “post-racial society” was a hope and change for many. J. Christian Adams’ new book (Injustice: Exposing the Racial Agenda of the Obama Justice Department) shows how far we have FALLEN under this administration. Adams is someone who knows, as Thomas Sowell explained recently for Crisis Magazine. Worth a read by anyone who thinks our country has moved closer to Dr. King’s dream.

— 6 —

The population of the world is approaching 7,000,000! Emergency, emergency, emergency! Time for drastic measures. Or not. I have posted some videos about the “overpopulation myth” before (here and here). The Population Research Institute has produced another video so that we may all breathe easier:

— 7 —

Quote of the week:

When I looked up at the altar and saw Christ offering His body and blood to the Father, and thought of my former experience in Reformed churches, I thought how starved I had really been. Going from Reformed to Catholic is like going from an intravenous drip to thanksgiving dinner.

David Meyer
at New Christendom

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Jen for hosting this project!

Review: Mass Appeal

Mass Appeal

The Mass is nothing less than awesome! All of it. Time is suspended, heaven and earth are joined, our Lord is literally present, He speaks to us through our priests, angels and saints worship with us, we are present at the Last Supper and kneel at Calvary. The Mass is not a play or re-enactment and is far more than just a worship service. It is an incredible, supernatural mystery.

Too many Catholics know the Mass mostly in a routine way. They know the “people part” of prayers, the flow and the essence of the big picture. There are some who would have a difficult time articulating the differences with a Protestant worship service. It is a serious problem of catechesis that can lead to loss of faith. It is so, so sad.

There are plenty of books on the Mass, many focusing on mechanics, history, vestments, vessels, trivia and so on. The supernatural aspects, the whole point of the Mass, are often under-explored. I am not talking about weird theories, but an orthodox, solidly doctrinal presentation.

There are probably others I have yet to find, but I have found one (thanks Rigsby!) and it is excellent: David DesOrmeaux’s Mass Appeal – The Depth and Beauty of the Eucharistic Celebration at an Understandable Level. As far as I can tell, this is David’s only book and was written 10 years ago when he was only 22. That makes him light in credentials, but is well made up for in enthusiasm. It is quickly evident that he knows his “stuff,” loves the Mass and has researched carefully listing over 60 references in the bibliography.

Structurally, the book is a 132 page paperback organized to follow the liturgy. Where options exist, David picks one such as Eucharistic Prayer II (the other 3 are in the appendix). The table of contents is extensive allowing quick access to any part of Mass. References to scripture are extensive.

Since the book is 10 years old, it is obviously does not quote the new, corrected English translation of the Roman Missal. It would be a nice touch if it were updated, but that is not a serious drawback.

This book is inexpensive and perfect for a wide audience. If you are “more Catholic than the pope,” you will still find this insightful and a good resource to tie together bits and pieces you already know. If you are interested in Catholicism, you will be surprised how the Mass is thoroughly based upon scripture and hopefully get a small taste of its wonder. Everybody in between will simply get a beautiful, deeper appreciation for the Mass. It would make a great gift too, especially for those being confirmed or returning to the faith.

The Mass is an essential part of this divine action, for in it Christ, the Son, true God and true man, offers Himself to God the Father for the sake of his Bride, the Church. Jesus was sacrificed at the Crucifixion and that sacrifice is eternal. He stands as the slain Lamb in Heaven (Rev 5:6) forever and ever. This sacrifice took place so that our sins, the sins of Christ’s Bride the Church, would be forgiven. Instead of us suffering, Christ put our burden on his holy shoulders and offered Himself to God the Father. “No greater love can a man have than to give his life for a friend” (John 15:13). Now Christ’s Bride is pure because of what He did and his spotless Bride is worthy to be his wife.

The offering that Christ makes of his own life to the Father is also eternal. It is the same action He makes as He returns the perfect life and love to the Father, for He is the perfect life and love. Jesus gives Himself in the Trinity just as God the Father gave Himself to the Son. This not only takes place in Heaven, it also takes place on the altar at Mass. Christ is offered to the Father by his earthly servant, the priest, who stands in his place (in persona Christi). Therefore, because the Mass imitates the perfect action, and the action that takes place within the Most Holy Trinity, it is the highest action that we as humans can participate in here on earth.

7 Quick Takes Friday (set #44)

7 Quick Takes Friday

This week: Father Barron delivers on his Catholicism project. Confusion at the UN on abortion. Hearing for the first time. Why does 1 zipcode in NYC have distinctively lower abortion rates? Msgr. Pope speaks on Satan with uncommon clarity. Big government planning, a case study. A quote of the week from Blessed Pope John Paul II.

— 1 —

FINALLY, Father Barron’s long awaited Catholicism project is here. It does not disappoint. Father Barron’s writing and presentation is excellent, as always. The scenes, art and music are stunning. The HD video and surround sound are top notch. It is a compelling work for Catholics, other Christians and non-Christians alike. See it on PBS and EWTN stations around the country (10 episodes) or purchase the DVD series (5 DVDs).

— 2 —

I don’t understand what is happening at the UN. To be clear, I expect nothing but bad from them. Yet, at least some pro-life forces exist there and were able to release a document to the press at the UN (without being shut-down by security). The document is called the San Jose Articles, 9 in all beginning with Article 1 “As a matter of scientific fact a new human life begins at conception.” Then Article 4 “All human beings, as members of the human family, are entitled to recognition of their inherent dignity…”

Austin Ruse explains more over at Catholic Lane.

The pro-death forces will not let this stand.

— 3 —

There is always hope. Imagine being born deaf (“handicapped”) and navigating a silent world for 29 years. Then imagine being blessed by device that in a blink of an eye (literally), changes that:

Now imagine you are only 8 months old, held by your mother, whose voice you never heard:

Both spotted by Marcel

— 4 —

The abortion rate in NYC is shocking. If you look at this map, you can see the statistics by zipcode by simply hovering your mouse over them.

Notice in southwest Brooklyn an area that is lighter than the others. Where other areas have abort as many as 60%, zipcode 11219 aborts 8.57%. Not zero, but something is at work there. That would be Regina Pacis and Msgr. Ronald Marino. Read the wonderful story of the Chapel of Mary Mother of the Unborn.

— 5 —

Msgr. Charles Pope has a gift for explaining things in a powerful, compelling fashion:

It would be easy if Satan came as he is often portrayed, with horns and a pitchfork. We would naturally flee this ugliness. Alas, he often comes cloaked in beauty, in sheep’s clothing. He claims to offer us freedom and autonomy from an unreasonable God and Church, liberation from rules and being “told what to do.” He cloaks himself in the false righteousness of being “tolerant” and “not judging others.”

Satan Has Many Disguises is brief and well worth the read. (Spotted by Jeff gares.)

— 6 —

Respecting the dignity of every person, big government to the rescue! It’s a good thing that they always know what is best for us.

Spotted by The Anchoress

— 7 —

Quote of the week:

Freedom consists not in doing what we like, but in having the right to do what we ought.

Blessed Pope John Paul II

Some random thoughts or bits of information are worthy of sharing but don’t warrant their own full post. This idea was started by Jennifer Fulwiler at Conversion Diary to address this blogging need. So, some Fridays I too participate when I have accumulated 7 worthy items. Thank you Jen for hosting this project!

Sacramental validity

Sacramental Validity

Sacraments are outward signs, instituted by Christ, that give sanctifying grace. They are a huge gift to the Church that build and sustain us. Some time ago, I discussed the basics. In understanding the sacraments, we also see that certain requirements must be met for validity. That is, to receive the intended graces, the sacrament must meet certain requirements.

Various causes may render a sacrament invalid such as some defect in the matter, form, minister or recipient. One very interesting requirement is intent. If the intent is absent then the sacrament is not received.

For example, if a priest were to demonstrate the sacrament of baptism for an RCIA class. He might pour water over an unbaptized person and say the trinitarian formula – “I baptize you in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” Since his intent was to demonstrate the process and not actually baptize the person, the sacrament is not received and the person remains unbaptized.

Another example: an engaged couple is asked to recite their vows in Church the week before their wedding for a movie documentary. A participating priest expects the couple to receive the Sacrament of Matrimony the following week, but unbeknownst to him, they can not wait any longer. Before the ceremony the couple discuss their intent to marry then. Are they married? Probably! While a terrible idea, this appears to be valid because in the case of matrimony, the couple administer the sacrament – they marry each other. The priest or deacon only assist and act as a witness. If everything else is in order (per the Church, not the state), they would be married by their intent. Sure, this is an unlikely and contrived example, but illustrates the point!

This raises another good question, who exactly administers the sacraments? For the most part it is a priest acting in persona Christi (in the person of Christ). In other words, it is Christ himself administering the sacrament through the priest. When we receive the Sacrament of Reconciliation (i.e. “confession”) and the priest says “I absolve you from your sins” it is NOT the priest who is absolving your sins. He is not God. Rather, by virtue of Holy Orders it is Christ acting through the priest who absolves you.

Of the 7 sacraments, Confirmation, Eucharist, Reconciliation, and Anointing the Sick require a priest with faculties to administer. Only a bishop may administer Holy Orders (ordain a priest or, with the permission of the pope, another bishop).

Christ Himself created His Church and gave her authority. That authority has been passed by the Apostles, the initial recipients of this authority, in an unbroken chain to today’s bishops. We refer to this as Apostolic succession. Faculties are legal instruments under cannon law that grant permission to ordained priests to perform certain actions such as administering certain sacraments. Priests and deacons receive faculties from their bishop (and at his pleasure, may be removed).

There are only three levels of Holy Orders: deacon, priest and bishop. All bishops are first priests and all priests are first deacons. Faculties increase from one level to the next. Only bishops have full faculties, priests generally have the faculties of bishops except Holy Orders (ordination) and deacons generally have the faculties of priests outside of acting in persona Christi.

Deacons can hatch, match and dispatch (sometimes referred to as carried, married and buried). Those are not the formal terms, of course! Deacons can baptize, assist at / witness marriages and perform funerals. They are also ordinary ministers of Holy Communion and can preach the Gospel.

Baptizing, if done with intent in the proper form, can be done by anybody in extraordinary circumstances. That includes non-Catholics and even non-Christians. The Church therefore recognizes the baptisms of other Christian communities, properly performed. We see their baptism as sacramental, even if they do not. Although they are not in full communion with us, through their baptism they join us in the Communion of Saints, the Church Militant, the Body of Christ.

Likewise, when two baptized people validly (per the Church, not the state) marry each other, their marriage is sacramental. The Church also recognizes the validity of proper (per the Church, not the state) non-sacramental marriages (e.g. one or both parties are unbaptized). BTW, I stress “per the Church, not the state” because sadly, the state and secular society in general increasingly have little idea what marriage is.

The validity of marriage is a big topic that I will save for a future post.