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Q. When Jesus met Mary Magdalene shortly after He rose from the dead, He told her not to touch Him because He has not yet ascended to the Father. Later on, however, He tells Thomas to put his fingers into the nail wounds. This is confusing to me. — S.S., via e-mail.
A. Recall that Jesus’ interaction with Thomas was seven days after His meeting with Magdalene. Presumably, He ascended to the Father after His encounter with Mary. The event that we call the Ascension forty days after Easter marks the end of His earthly appearances and His promise to send the Holy Spirit, who will enable the Apostles to be “my witnesses in Jerusalem, throughout Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

Q. An acquaintance recently said to me that Christ died for our sins for all time, so why do we need to go to Confession to a priest if Christ’s death erased our sins forever? I understand the biblical foundation for Reconciliation and believe in it totally, but I was caught off guard by this evangelical way of thinking. Please help. — M.A., Washington State.
A. Yes, Christ’s death on the Cross atoned for our sins forever, but we still have to admit those sins and seek forgiveness for them. Who said so? Christ Himself. When He appeared to the Apostles on Easter Sunday night, He to them, “Whose sins you forgive are forgiven them, and whose sins you retain are retained” (John 20:23). Notice that the Lord is saying “whose sins you forgive are forgiven.” That He was giving priests the power to forgive sins is obvious since a priest cannot know what sins to forgive unless they are first confessed to him. Nor can the priest know whether to withhold forgiveness unless he can gauge the contrition of the penitent in front of him.

Q. In an effort to avoid an apparent conflict between the biblical account of Creation and the erroneous speculations of evolutionists, where would a Catholic place the age of the dinosaurs? — R.M.V., North Carolina.
A. Unless a Catholic is a paleontologist, he doesn’t really have to concern himself with the age of the dinosaurs. The Genesis story of Creation is a religious account, not a scientific one. The age of the dinosaurs belongs to scientists to determine, and there should be no conflict between religious truth and scientific truth since God is the author of both. But what are we to understand about what the Bible says concerning Creation?
Consider first of all what Pope Pius XII said in his 1950 encyclical Humani Generis. The Holy
Father conceded that the first eleven chapters of Genesis do not conform to modern historical methods. But they “do nevertheless pertain to history in a true sense,” he said, “in that they use “simple and metaphorical language adapted to the mentality of a people little cultured” in order both to state “the principal truths which are fundamental for our salvation, and also to give a popular description of the origin of the human race and the Chosen People” (n. 38).
He said that “whatever of the popular narratives have been inserted into the Sacred Scriptures must in no way be considered on a par with myths or other such things, which are more the product of an extravagant imagination than of that striving for truth and simplicity which in the Sacred Books, also of the Old Testament, is so apparent” (n. 39).
Echoing Pius XII forty-two years later, the Catechism (n. 390) said that “the account of the fall in Genesis 3 uses figurative language, but affirms a primeval event, a deed that took place at the beginning of the history of man. Revelation gives us the certainty of faith that the whole of human history is marked by the original fault freely committed by our first parents.”
But whatever figurative language or popular narrations were used by the author of Genesis, Catholics are required to believe the following truths:
(1) God created everything out of nothing, and everything He created was good.
(2) He created the first man and woman in a special way, and Adam and Eve enjoyed not only friendship with God, but also a state of holiness, justice, and immortality.
(3) Our first parents, at the instigation of Satan, disobeyed God’s command not to eat from “the tree of knowledge of good and evil” (Gen. 2:17) and lost their original holiness and harmony with each other and with creation and brought death into human history.
(4) Because we are descendants of Adam and Eve, original sin is transmitted to us, leaving us weakened and prone to sin.
(5) God promised a Redeemer (Gen. 3:15), a promise that was fulfilled in Jesus so that we “might not perish but might have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Q. In reading about that convention of Satanists in Boston, I wondered what could attract a person to this event. Why would anyone want to be involved with the Devil and his disciples? — M.C., via e-mail.
A. In his book Satanism: Is It Real, Fr. Jeffrey J. Steffon suggests four possible reasons why people get involved in Satanic cults. The first reason, he says, is curiosity. A person picks up a copy of the Satanic Bible or some other occult literature, becomes interested in the rituals described, and tries them out with friends just for kicks.
Second, severe trauma, such as sexual molestation, can cause a person to begin using drugs in an effort to escape from reality and enter a fantasy world. The Devil takes advantage of these traumatized individuals and leads them deeper under his control.
A third reason, says Fr. Steffon, is “generational, or being born of parents who are involved in cults.” He tells the story of a woman who was “baptized” into a cult when she was four years old by her parents, a medical professional and an elementary school teacher. She attended a day-care run by Satanists, who gave the children drugs and exposed them to diabolical rituals.
By the time she was a junior in high school, she had reportedly participated in the stabbing sacrifices of two infants and had witnessed several ritual homicides. The girl then fled the area to get away from the cult.
A fourth way of getting people involved in Satanism is recruitment. “Cultists promise teenagers unlimited drugs, power, sex, wealth, and recognition,” says Steffon. “They target teenagers who have emotional problems or come from dysfunctional families. They prey on the boy or girl who has low self-esteem or is confused by religious and moral values. These teens are attracted by the promise of belonging. Cultists recruit from schools, parks, churches, Dungeons & Dragons clubs, and heavy metal concerts. The recruiters do not tell them they are Satanists” (pp. 128-129).
He says that “teenagers get involved in Satanism because they’re needy. They are not maniacs. They are reaching out, looking for someone to love and understand them. They are crying out to be noticed, to feel like they are someone special. The ones who get involved are often hurt and lonely” (p. 129).
The convention in Boston described itself as “A Weekend of Blasphemy and Remembrance.” Speakers promoted “Reproductive Rights,” “Reclaiming the Trans Body,” and “Sins of the Flesh: Satanism and Self-Pleasure.” Gatherings of Satanists often feature “Black Masses,” a blasphemous parody of the Catholic Mass that includes praise of Satan instead of God, sexual orgies, and desecration of a consecrated Host stolen from a Catholic church. At a Satanic Temple in Houston, Satanists said of a Black Mass there: “The Catholics and their fati-mama Mary did not stop our Black Mass. The consecrated Host was defiled, destroyed, and swept into the trash where it belongs. Hail, Satan!”
Step up your prayers to St. Michael the Archangel to “defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the Devil. . . . Drive into Hell Satan and all the evil spirits who prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Amen.”

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Our Catholic Faith (Section B of print edition)

Catholic Replies

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