Tuesday 11th December 2018

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October 5, 2018 Our Catholic Faith No Comments

Q. People keep describing the clergy sexual abuse problem as a violation of celibacy. But isn’t it really an abuse of chastity? — D.T., Pennsylvania.
A. Yes. Celibacy is the state or condition of those who have chosen to remain unmarried for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven in order to give themselves entirely to God and to the service of His people. Chastity is the moral virtue by which we conform our sexuality to the divine plan of God and live a life of purity.
So a priest, bishop, or cardinal who engages in sexual activity, whether of the heterosexual or homosexual variety, is not violating his vow of celibacy since he is not married. He is, however, violating his vow of chastity by engaging in acts that are contrary to the plan of God and are reserved to couples who are united in marriage.

Q. We recently celebrated the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows. Can you please list for me the Seven Sorrows of Our Lady? — M.V., via e-mail.
A. Gladly. The seven sorrows are, first, the prophecy of Simeon who, when Jesus was brought to the Temple by His parents forty days after His birth, told Mary that “a sword will pierce” her heart, a reference to the pain that she would suffer at the foot of the cross. Second, the flight of the Holy Family into Egypt to escape the wrath of King Herod, who sought to kill the Christ Child. Third, the time when Jesus was lost in the Temple at the age of 12.
The other four sorrows occurred on Good Friday: When Mary met Jesus on the road to Calvary, when she witnessed His suffering and death on the cross, when His body was taken down from the cross and placed in her arms, and when His body was placed in the tomb.

Q. Can you explain the meaning of Jesus’ words in chapter seven of Luke’s Gospel? He asked, “To what shall I compare the people of this generation? What are they like? They are like children who sit in the marketplace and call to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, but you did / not dance. / We sang a dirge, but you did not weep’.” — J.C., via e-mail.
A. Jesus had just finished praising John the Baptist (“I tell you, among those born of women, no one is greater than John”), and He criticized those among His listeners who failed to listen to John. He compared them to children who whine and complain no matter what game is suggested, saying that no matter whether it is a happy or sad game, they are never pleased. He extended the comparison to His own teachings, which would also be rejected even though they were less stern than John’s.
The Lord said that “John the Baptist came neither eating food nor drinking wine, and you said, ‘He is possessed by a demon.’ The Son of Man came eating and drinking and you said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by all her children.”
In other words, the wisdom of God, as proclaimed by John and Jesus, is recognized and heeded by God’s children, who see it as an invitation to lead a holy life and belong to the Kingdom of God.

Q. How do you answer those who say that faith alone is all that is necessary to get to Heaven, that any works we do don’t matter? — C.C., New Jersey.
A. You can tell them that such an attitude cannot be found anywhere in Holy Scripture. In fact, you will find just the opposite point of view in the Bible. Here are some verses you can cite showing that both faith and works are necessary.
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21).
“Then they will answer and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs?’ He will answer them, ‘Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me.’ And these will go off to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life” (Matt. 25:44-46).
“By your stubbornness and impenitent heart, you are storing up wrath for yourself and revelation of the just judgment of God, who will repay everyone according to his works” (Romans 2:5-6).
“What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister has nothing to wear and has no food for the day, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace, keep warm, and eat well,’ but you do not give them the necessities of the body, what good is it? So also faith of itself, if it does not have works, is dead” (James 2:14-17).
“Indeed someone might say, ‘You have faith and I have works.’ Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works….Do you want proof, you ignoramus, that faith without works is useless?” (James 2:18, 20).
“See how a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way, was not Rahab the harlot also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by a different route [cf. Joshua 2:1-21]? For just as a body without a spirit is dead, so also faith without works is dead” (James 2:24-26).

Q. At a lecture I attended recently, the speaker said that King Herod died around 3 or 4 B.C. That means that Jesus must have been born before Herod died, but how could that be — T.L.H., via e-mail.
A. We don’t know the exact year of Jesus’ birth. What we do know is that in the sixth century, a monk named Dionysius Exiguus drew up a calendar that fixed the birth of Christ in the Roman year 753, but scholars today agree that Dionysius miscalculated by a few years. So it is probable that Jesus was born several years before the usually accepted year 1 of the Christian era.
Nevertheless, all of history is still divided by the birth of Christ, and Christians should continue to use the traditional vocabulary of B.C. (Before Christ) and A.D. (Anno Domini — in the year of our Lord). Some years ago, those who do not recognize Jesus as the Messiah began using the designations B.C.E. (Before the Common Era) and C.E. (Common Era). However, Catholics should continue to keep Jesus at the center of salvation history.

Q. The recent scandals surrounding Catholic bishops brought to mind a quote attributed to St. John Chrysostom (347-407), namely, that “the road to Hell is paved with the bones of priests and monks, and the skulls of bishops are the lampposts that light the path.” Do you know if that quote is accurate? — J.O., Massachusetts.
A. As far as we know, it is not accurate. Trent Horn of Catholic Answers pored over the writings of Chrysostom and could not find such a quote. You can read Horn’s book, What the Saints Never Said, for more on this topic.
However, St. John, who was a bishop himself (patriarch of Constantinople), did make some harsh statements about bishops. In a homily on the Acts of the Apostles, he said that “I do not think there are many among bishops that will be saved, but many more that perish, and the reason is that it is an affair that requires a great mind.”
He said that when others do wrong, the bishop “bears all the blame. To pass over everything else, if one soul depart unbaptized, does not this subvert all his own prospect of salvation? The loss of one soul carries with it a penalty which no language can represent. For if the salvation of that soul was of such value that the Son of God became man and suffered so much, think how sore a punishment must the losing of it bring! And if in this present life he who is cause of another’s destruction is worthy of death, much more in the next world. Do not tell me that the presbyter is in fault, or the deacon. The guilt of all these comes perforce upon the head of those who ordained them.”
Recalling that Moses was punished for one sin because “it was the sin of a spiritual ruler,” Chrysostom said that “even if you have sinned, but in your own person merely, you will have no such great punishment, nothing like it. But if you have sinned as bishop, you are lost.”

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Catholic Replies

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