Thursday, July 12, 2007

Catholicism Yet Again Misunderstood

God has gifted me with a kind disposition, a smile that comes easily, and a relatively positive outlook, save for the normal depressive seasons of an artistic soul. I am thankful for these personality traits. They come with no human effort, but through God's goodness and creativity. But with certain good gifts come certain tendencies that work to my disadvantage, and at times, to my advantage.

One tendency being, when I display any irritablility, any anger, any sadness, any tiredness, with my facial expression or actions or words, the emotions come across rather...dramatic. It's beneficial whenever I teach high school choir, because it knocks students into a sort of healthy fear. I have a secret weapon. They don't see it coming. They think, oh she's gonna be a real pushover. We're gonna be able to get away with anything. But, they soon learn that I have a look from Hades that sends them into the utter recesses of despair and repentance. I love it. I would assume it will prove useful with my own children as well someday.

But the tendency can become an obstacle. Take for instance, yesterday, when I taught a piano lesson at an hour much too early for an actor who rehearsed until midnight the previous night, and suffers from a severe case of insomnia, or, as C-ham'n'eggs reminds me, a whacked out sleep schedule. The disadvantages ensue when said piano student's mother calls me as I am driving to the lesson to tell me she'll be late, and already exhausted and perhaps...grumpy?...all I can think is how I could have slept precious few more minutes. My tone in response to her must have shown my irritability, for she responded back with such curtness in her own tone, and then proceeded to tell me later, after the lesson, that I haven't been myself lately. I don't know what that means...haven't been myself....because it seems only fair to me that I would be allowed the irritability that anyone else is allowed, and it could still be considered "myself", that I was being myself, just an irritated self. But! Such cards I am dealt, and as Kddub's grandfather reminded us in a recent post, it's not what cards we have, but how we play them that counts.

I have a point to all this.

Tuesday I reacted strongly to an AP article about Pope Benedicts's document addressing Protestant "eclessial communities." I hope that you read the comments which followed, because it turns out my reaction was premature and unnecessary, and that the article was misleading and erroneous on many accounts. And I fear that my reaction came across as stronger than I intended.

Pope Benedict was present at the Second Vatican Council, though at the time known by the name Ratzinger, and since the council, he has done much work to dispel false interpretations of the Unitatis Redintegratio, a Decree of Ecumenism issued by the Council. I encourage anyone interested to read it. It is beautiful and encouraging, when seen in the correct light, that is when viewed in light of unity of all Christians. Keeping in mind that Catholics view the Reformation as sinful in regards to a separation from what they know as "the true Church," consider the following quote from the Decree,

"The children who are born into these Communities and who grow up believing in Christ cannot be accused of the sin involved in the separation, and the Catholic Church embraces upon them as brothers, with respect and affection. For men who believe in Christ and have been truly baptized are in communion with the Catholic Church even though this communion is imperfect."

When re-reading the Vatican II decree, I came across this admonition, directed to Catholics but relevant to me as well.

"We should therefore pray to the Holy Spirit for the grace to be genuinely self-denying, humble. gentle in the service of others, and to have an attitude of brotherly generosity towards them. St. Paul says: "I, therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace".

My attitude and tone in my previous post did not reflect such a worthy calling. I am sorry for any confusion or misunderstanding that my dramatic ranting inspired, or for any offense taken at my anger.

Another example of how Catholicism has been wrongly conveyed, and how if we as Protestants don't take the time to dig further, we will be in danger and at fault for accepting what is untrue.


Seth Ward said...

Nicely put there Fancy.

And that look you speak of... It is truly a humdinger. I know it well.

But I have the same problem. People can be nasty to me for hours on end and when I strike back it completely lances them to the core and I am the most evil bastard that has ever LIVED.

It gets a little irritating. But that just helps me to turn the other cheek know that if I don't I will say something, thinking is just as rude, but actually ends-up be soul-puncturing and leave them limping forever and me feeling horrible.

Those are great words for Vat II and good to know.

Discontented Refuge said...

FP: again...the baptism part, curious to know your thoughts on this or any of our other auspicious commentors.

With great power (of soul-puncturing, limp inducing vernacular) comes great responsibility.

operamom said...

that's so funny. that is exactly the way I am. mostly smiles, until hacked off. then, the 'son's of _____" lorrie face shows up to astonish all. or, i call it the "tosca" face.

your comments on catholicism were both informative and well-said.

MamasBoy said...

OK, so you overreacted after reading an AP article that misrepresented Church teaching. Big deal. At least you are willing to read the actual document.

Just to stir things up a bit, since we are on the topic, the Catholic Church does teach that heresy and schism are grave matter. People like Fr. Kung need to fear for their souls. However, grave matter is a necessary but insufficient condition for a sin to be considered mortal. Knowledge and voluntary consent are also requirements for sin to be mortal.

So, if you study Catholicism and see that the Catholic Church is the true Church Jesus founded and still remain a Protestant (even with excuses to make yourself feel better), be forewarned up front that the Catholic Church teaches you will go to hell. Harsh. Maybe, but no harsher than the Council of Nicea or any other church council that addressed heresy/schism.

So, while it is true that the Protestant groups have knowledge that is able to lead to salvation and Catholics can learn a thing or two from them, if a Protestant presses further and discovers the fullness of the gospel and rejects it, it won't be good for them. To reject the Catholic Church with necessary knowledge as a voluntary act of free will is to commit mortal sin.


Seth Ward said...

Well shoot! It's a good thing that God hasn't revealed that yet!

FancyPants said...

DR: I agree, it does sound like a works based salvation, but I need to study up on Baptism before commenting....I know it's one of the sacraments of the church. There are 7 sacraments, or 7 ways believed to be established by Christ for the use of material things to bring grace to the soul. "Material things" being the key words. By baptism, the use of material water and Spirit, grace enters the soul. Catholics use John 3:5 and Rom 6:3-4.

Sacraments are a hard concept to grasp, in my opinion, but I'll make a point to post on them....

MamasBoy said...

Re: baptism. Don't forget I Peter 3:21.

The Booters said...

~off topic~ thanks for doing this, it is appreciated! what do you know about praying to the saints?

Discontented Refuge said...

MB: That passage start in reference to the Great Flood, and the verse specifically states

"...not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,"

kind of a funky verse to use in regards to salvation via baptism.

MamasBoy said...

DR: "...not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ,"

kind of a funky verse to use in regards to salvation via baptism."

MB: Not funky at all. Sure, most people today don't understand Biblical typology enough to get the full import of this verse, but it still applies. You left off the first part of the verse which says, baptism NOW saves us. God designed it that way, not me. Of course we aren't saved by taking a bath. But God washes our souls clean in baptism. It isn't just a symbol and it isn't just a physical washing. As St. Peter said, baptism saves us. As Ananias told St. Paul, baptism washes away our sins (Acts 22:16). As our Lord told Nicodemus, "unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God."


PS: Biblical typology is such a cool topic. Flood-Baptism, Ark of the covenant-Mary, Eve-Mary, Adam-Jesus, Melchezidek-Jesus, Manna-Eucharist, brazen serpent-Jesus and the list goes on and on.

kddub said...

Like I said before, I have a hard time commenting simply because I don't have much of an opinion, but am really enjoying reading it all.

I completely appreciate your honesty and realness regarding it all...!

MamasBoy said...

booters: "~off topic~ thanks for doing this, it is appreciated! what do you know about praying to the saints?"

I'm currently in a lawsuit over a property dispute. Long story, but I got a letter from my lawyer this week that said he was going to pray the court for something or other. Praying is entreating or making a request. Catholics tend to use words long after they've changed their meaning or people abandon the language altogether.

Catholics believe that the saints in heaven can intercede for us here on earth and that we can ask them to do so and they somehow get that message.

That was brief with no supporting evidence, but I don't have time for more right now. If you want to read more, a brief explanation is given at
The prayers of a righteous man avail much and there are no more righteous people than those in heaven.


FancyPants said...

The Booters,

Hello! Glad you're here.

I for one don't have a problem with praying to the saints. Although I've never tried it. It makes sense to me, that if we pray for each other on earth, why wouldn't we pray for those still on earth when in heaven? And I think it's pretty cool that they could possibly hear us, although that is a pretty weird idea. I haven't read any Scripture that says they can't.....

What I wonder is if Catholics believe that everyone in heaven can intercede for us? or just those deemed "Saint" by the Catholic church? But I suppose I can read the link for that.

I heard someone say once, was it my brother? that he almost wanted to ask Rich Mullins to pray for him. =-) I don't think he ever asked, though.

MamasBoy said...

FP: "What I wonder is if Catholics believe that everyone in heaven can intercede for us? or just those deemed "Saint" by the Catholic church? But I suppose I can read the link for that."

Everyone in heaven is deemed Saint by the Catholic Church. However, we know that only a fraction of the folks in heaven are recognized as being there, so we have a special day to recognize them and remind us to ask "all the angels and saints" to pray for us. In the Western Church, this is on November 1st and in the Eastern Church this is on the first Sunday after Pentecost.
(love the icon at the above link)'_Day

The Booters said...

Thanks, that explanation was enough to clarify the situation. For whatever reason I had never heard it explained in such a simplistic form, which seemed to be all it needs at least for a start.

Discontented Refuge said...

The whole praying to the saints thing is funny. Ya'll are right. It's completely logical. That's why the Bible tells us to pray to the saints. Because we need someone to go between us and God...the whole He tore the veil in half and took away the need for a priest between us and God was rubbish. I mean I know you can pray to Jesus to help you, but why??? Especially when you can have some other person do it!!

MamasBoy said...


Do you ever ask a friend to pray for you, or do you always for everything only go to Jesus? I don't know anybody who thinks it is evil or bad to ask your best friend to pray for you. Of course you may be the first person, but I don't think you've made a good case for not praying for others or asking them to pray for us when we are both alive, and you certainly haven't explained why people praying for us after they are in heaven is bad.

That's why the whole veil torn in two objection just doesn't hold water with me when it comes to praying for each other and asking others to pray for us.

Regarding the effectiveness of the prayers of saints in heaven, how many guys do you know who perfectly honor their wives at all times and love them as Christ loves the Church? I don't know any who do that perfectly and many that come way short (including me), yet God says the sin of not treating our wives right hinders the prayers of us guys (I Peter 3:7). In fact, it seems pretty clear from Scripture that sin in general can be a hindrance to our prayers. However, saints in heaven are completely free from the effects of sin, so their prayers do not have that hindrance.

If I were given the choice of having Fidel Castro or Billy Graham pray for me for a dire need, I would certainly pick Billy Graham. If I were given the choice of having the pope or *anybody* in heaven pray for me, I'd pick the person in heaven. Holiness matters.


PS: My PC died, so responses are going to be pretty sparse until I can get it fixed.

Discontented Refuge said...

MB: I have no problem asking people to pray with or for me.

But I don't beseech them like the almighty Father, spending time in communion with them and meditating upon them.

So I agree/disagree with the semantics of it. Why aren't we taught to pray to the "saints" in the Scripture? Isn't that idolatry? Putting something else in the place of God? He doesn't want us dependent on Peter, Paul, Mary, the Pope, or my Pastor. He wants us solely dependent upon Him. He desires a relationship with us, anything effort we put into something else seems contrary to His being.

This is a horrible argument because we're talking about adding something to Scripture because one of us deems it logical. And we're warned severely about this in Scripture.

FancyPants said...


I know where you're coming from here. But we should keep in mind that Catholics do believe Christ as sole mediator. They just believe in the Communion of Saints, that there is one body, and that includes earth and heaven. So asking the saints in heaven to pray for us is just like asking my mom who is here on earth to pray for me.

Consider the verses in 1 Tim: ""First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all men, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, godly and respectful in every way. This is good, and pleasing to God our Savior, who desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth" (1 Tim. 2:1–4).

And that comes right before 1 Tim 2:5, which states, "For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."

So it is obvious that Paul stresses one Mediator, but at the same time encourages us to pray for each other. The Catholics claim this is also true for those in heaven.

Then the Catholics use Rev. 5:8. John sees the following: "the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints."

So the elders, saints already in heaven, are offering up to Jesus the golden bowls, which are prayers of the saints. For a better explanation, if you haven't done so already, read MB's link.

Regarding the Rev. 5:8 verse, I do wonder why it is interpreted that the prayers of the saints are the prayers from down here on earth. Why not the prayers of the saints already in heaven? could just as well argue, well, why not the prayers of the saints in heaven AND on earth.


The Booters said...

My understanding is still extremely limited so i won't have any great thoughts, but if praying to the saints was something we should be doing, why is it never taught about by Jesus? That sounds like a weak question to me, since there is a lot not talked about, but i think that if prayer is big enough to get an example of how to pray then why not mention praying to the saints or asking the saints to pray for us. or even examples of people praying to saints. Or are there examples and i am just missing them.

Susanne said...

At the moment, I just have to say that I'm proud to be a Protestant, even if it means I'm condemned to the pits of Hell. At least I'll be in the company of men like Billy Graham. ;) I am enjoying reading this though.

MamasBoy said...

My two cents regarding Scriptural "silence" on praying to the saints. A) we don't have a ton of references telling us to ask anyone to pray for us.
B) There weren't a many of Christians who had died as the NT was being composed. Stephen is the person whose martyrdom is recorded that I can think of. The church was very young. How do you know somebody is in heaven as opposed to purgatory? There is a night and day difference between how the church prays to martyrs and how they pray for other dead folks. For a young church without many martyrs this was a question of practicality more than lack of belief. There were simply a whole lot more people on earth than in heaven.
C) After the church is persecuted and the list of martyrs starts growing, this belief and the accompanying requests for their prayers do show up. Thus many of the inscriptions in the catacombs bear requests for intercession by the saint in heaven and the early church fathers are in agreement on this topic.

The following link has a nice section on the catacomb inscriptions complete with link to more info.
The following link has another nice overview of intercession of the saints.
These are from the Eastern Orthodox perspective, but it is virtually the same as the Roman Catholic. It wasn't until the Protestants came around that people stopped doing this.


Susanne said...

Even if it is possible for a dead person to pray for the living, I still don't see why it would be necessary. There are plenty of Christians here on earth to pray for us, and we can go straight to God himself with our petitions. Why would a prayer by a "saint" do me more good than a prayer from my mother or father? I would rather be prayed for by someone who knows me intimately than by someone who doesn't know me at all. I don't think praying to saints is evil (as long as it is not substitued for praying to God); I just see it as unnecessary. Just putting my 2 cents in.

MamasBoy said...


Regarding why a saints prayers could be more effective than yours or mine or our parents, I would refer you to my earlier paragraph on I Peter 3:7 and the idea that saints in heaven are free from all attachment to sin and sin hinders our prayers. Certainly, though, having a connection with people can help us to be more comfortable asking them to pray for us. That's one reason I think that learning about the lives of the saints in heaven is so beneficial. If one is struggling sharing their faith and living out the gospels in a hostile world, one need only to look to the lives of the saints like Kateri Takewitha, Polycarp and others to see the heroic virtue and great love for God that others have had in similar (and even more harsh) circumstances. I think it helps in asking someone else to pray for you to know that they can identify with what you are going through. When I'm having trouble forgiving someone, it helps me to read about St. Maria Goretti and ask her to pray for you.

Regarding the necessity of praying to the saints. Strictly speaking, I don't think it is necessary for us to ask anyone to pray for us, but it sure helps our search for holiness. Doing so, too, is an expression of love and trust and part of the way we act as one family, as God's children. It is a tangible way of expressing our belief that God's family doesn't consist only of the people walking on earth, but of all God's children, whether alive on earth or "dead" (i.e., alive in heaven).

Honestly, I think it can be dangerous to say that because 'something is "unnecessary" (and doesn't jive with my culture), even though I think it could be true, then I'm going to ignore it.' I'm not saying your are necessarily doing this, but I had a friend say it about accepting the deuterocanonical books of Scripture and prayers for the dead, even though that person thought they were probably true. It really floored me. Ignoring any part of Scripture is ignoring part of the Word of God. Neglecting certain virtuous acts that we know to be good is neglecting virtue. We should always be seeking to integrate virtue, love and a fuller understanding of God's written Word into our daily lives. Surely, ignoring virtue and Scripture is not part of God's perfect will for our lives.


Discontented Refuge said...

I see much of the Catholic Doctrine as adding to things that don't or shouldn't be added to.

Praying to saints - yes it can be done, probably doesn't hurt anything, but again why teach people to pray TO someone besides GOD?

P.S. no fair dropping a purgatory comment, got me all riled up and writing stuff completely off topic :P