Did Christ Establish a Church with an Expiration Date?

LAST supper

There is a popular and recurrent theme amongst many non-Catholic Christians that the promises given to Peter and Christ’s gift to him of the keys (to bind and loose), is not indicative of an office per se but a one time gift to Peter and that when Peter died so did the keys vanish with him. Likewise, using the same logic, the powers given to the Apostles after Christ breathed on them and gave them the power to forgive sins was also buried with them at their deaths. Thereby, any Christian Church is no better than any other as nobody has a special gift of the Holy Spirit to lead them to all truths. It died when the apostles died and its a great way to avoid any notion of there being any reliable and lasting authority in the practice and teaching of Christianity no matter the claims.

I like to be logical about these things so here is what bothers me about such notions.

If that is the case then all churches have become corrupted in their belief, teachings and their practices; as fallen creatures, men have a habit of doing that. There is thereby no inerrant authority to pronounce on a doctrine and there is no authority to stop the next generation from altering or actually opposing what was taught previously. There is neither a way to evaluate one church against another nor the changes that are on-going that may and do overturn previous teaching. It is simply ‘growth’ and ‘development’ due to the times and each church has a right to do as it sees fit. Even if people sit up and claim that they are not syncretists or believers in relativism it is all that is left unless an authority is still alive and working in this world.

If we believe that Christ sent us the Holy Spirit to dwell in the Church and to lead it to all Truth then Christ let us down or the Holy Spirit decided to lead a large variety of separate beliefs even though they hold contrary doctrines and teachings. That would make the Holy Spirit capable of blessing the notion that 2+2=4 in one church and 2+2=5 in another church or any other novel answer that a church might come up with. Now that kind of authority is not authority at all but permissiveness which claims that error is on a par with truth. And I doubt that is what Christ had in mind when He said that He would not leave us as orphans; can it really mean that he’ll support whatever anybody wants to believe in their own version of Christianity?

Sadly, if these gifts died with the Apostles, then the Nicene Creed and the Canon of Scripture were simply unauthorized man-made decisions that have no actual authority to compel one to believe them. And if we do somehow believe these for some personal reason, there is no authoritative reason that each of us should understand and interpret their meaning in the same way. A free for all ensues religiously and we are really no better off than the personal preferences that the pagans had for the gods of their choice. We are free to do as we like and nobody is right and nobody is wrong. Its only defensible in as good as are the apologists of each particular church or individual if they think that a personal belief, without a church, is all that is needed. In fact, if the church has no authority, then these people without a church are the most honest of all Christians.

Furthermore, is there then an expiration date on the necessity of Baptism, or of Belief and is it enough to say that God is Love and Mercy and that nobody will suffer loss and that all will find heavenly beatitude? For we can refer to Scripture and interpret our new form of Christianity based upon our personal preferences. For me; I think I very much like the idea that we all go to heaven and nobody will suffer. But others are free to make up their own minds and who is to say that they are wrong. Certainly not an authority that had a very short expiration date which died with the apostles. So, Who am I to judge?

It is very alluring to think that because we hold certain truths in common that the churches are basically the same. And without a clear authority that is the only conclusion one could rationally come up with if we are to believe that Christianity is not a hoax even though Christ did renege on His promises to the apostles and to the Church He founded.

So I chose the Catholic Church and think that it is still the Church that continues to have the authority that was vested in Peter and the apostles. For if it no longer exists then Christianity in my mind no longer is believable and is totally devoid of any veracity that it may once have had. In fact it is proven logically to have been a sham.

Thank God, however, the dogmas and teachings of the Catholic faith are never overturned and continue to operate from their inclusion into our body of faith, until the end of time as we know it. We do not one day wake up and decide that contraception is now OK, or that same sex marriage is now acceptable. We argue these issues and there are some who would love to change our teachings; but alas, they can’t. It is the protection of the authoritative nature that I would have expected the Church founded by Christ to have built into Her very DNA. And that is why I am Catholic. For without this assurance I am not sure that I would believe anything at all.

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Does the Old Testament Matter?

OTNT

Did God create a covenant with the Jews and did He found a church and make of the Jewish People the Chosen Ones or not? If not, then the God of Abraham, Isaac and Moses is a fairy tale and the Decalogue a mere fabrication without any meaning at all. It makes no difference to you that God brought the Israelites out of Egypt or that God instituted a hierarchy and a priesthood and led them through the wilderness of this world to a land of milk and honey. Are you sure you wish to throw out the prophets and the psalms of David and the foreshadowing or models of the reformed Church and the NT practices that Christ instituted and commissioned in His own Blood? It is still the work of God and it is the nature of revelation that it should unfold and blossom. Every blossom of beauty starts with a seed; God’s words are not without significance in any age. His instructions are not arbitrarily dismissed until or unless God makes the change and abrogates one practice for another. Let us also not confuse the Law and the law. The small letter law seems to be more like what we call practice; which should reflect the Laws of God and bring them to life in the living of the people from day to day.

Without an understanding of the richness of the OT you will never have a proper understanding of the NT. All of the new testament reiterates and quotes passages from the old. You can hardly read a single book in the NT that does not do this and note that they speak with great honor and respect for what their God has done for them. You would throw out all that which is not in keeping with modern evolution of thought or all that is not based in a mere historical record by men. Your faith would be impoverished by its lack of understanding of the development of Christianity whose roots go back to prehistoric times.

Was Christ wrong to follow the Law of the Jews?  There is no escaping His Jewishness. He did not come to change a jot or a tittle of the Law and yet He did throw out the extraneous dross that had built up within the faith and abrogated many practices (the law) which were no longer appropriate. He interpreted the OT so that it is understandable and thus the OT sheds light on Christ and lives its history in expectation of His arrival.

Parsing the works of God is an impoverished faith without roots and without meaning; and it misses much of the workings of the One True God . . . as in a world bereft of the OT, He is a God that cannot get things right and makes mistakes and does not meet the modern enlightened thoughts of men of our enlightened times.

God to the modern enlightened and moral superior age that we live in, is cruel and unforgiving and violent and yet there is another way of reading the OT. Is there anything more beautiful than the Song of Songs or anything worth gaining from a reading of the Psalms and Proverbs or the book of Wisdom? Is the history of the maturation and corruption by men of God’s Church not a lesson worth studying and learning from? It is a totality that cannot be avoided. It is like chucking your grandparents from your family tree because you are of a different age and understanding of things than they were.

Headlines: God makes a big mistake and tells the Jewish people that He will be their God and that they will be His people. Since we think that the OT is not befitting our New God then He must not be an omniscient God since He makes such fundamental moral, ethical and judgmental errors . . . and so why should you or anyone else accept Him today if He was capable of such big and obvious blunders in the past?

Perhaps more time should be spent looking for the themes (the seeds) of our modern faith and the patience and love God endured on our behalf until such time that He felt that mankind was ready to hear the Word of God in the flesh and complete His plan for our salvation. Give thanks to God for the whole journey of humanity as it was necessary or it would not have occured.

And as to our own sinfulness and disobedience: O happy fault. For it gave to us a most remarkable Redeemer.

Father John A. Hardon, S.J. Archives: Catechism & Catechesis

The following is from the easily followed book by Father John A. Hardon, S.J.  I would like to present a few of the articles that have been troubling a number of folks recently concerning, grace, love, the moral law, the Old Law and the New Law etc. Depending on the response I shall reproduce a few of these to see if we can open a dialogue concerning these principles. The entire section I am working from Part Three: The Life in Christ, can be found here.

Article 1: The Moral Law

The moral law is the work of divine wisdom. It is at once a paternal instruction and a divine pedagogy. It prescribes for man the ways and rules of conduct that lead to the promised beatitude.

(1950)

843. What is law?

Law is a rule of conduct decreed by the competent authority in view of the common good.

(1951)

844. What does the moral law presuppose?

It presupposes the rational order established among creatures for their good and in view of their destiny by the power, wisdom, and goodness of the Creator.

(1951)

845. Where does all law find its truth?

All law finds its first and last truth in the eternal law.

(1951)

846. What are the expressions of the moral law?

They are varied and yet all interrelated. Thus, there are:

  • the eternal law, the source in God of all laws;
  • the natural law;
  • the revealed law, which includes the Old Law and the New Law of the Gospel;
  • the civil and ecclesiastical laws.

(1952)

847. Where does the moral law find its fullness and unity?

In the person of Jesus Christ. He is at once the end or purpose of the law and the way of perfection. He alone teaches and confers the justice of God.

(1953)

848. What is the natural law?

It is the law written in the soul of all men because our human reason orders us to do good and forbids sin. Its binding power comes from a higher Reason, which we are to obey.

(1954)

849. Where do we find the principle commandments of the natural law?

We find them in the Decalogue, or the Ten Commandments, given to Moses and elevated by Christ in His Sermon on the Mount.

(1955)

850. What are some notable features of the natural law?

The natural law is universal; its authority extends to all human beings. Its applications vary, but its basic principles unify the whole human race. It is unchangeable over the centuries of history, and even when denied or rejected, its basic principles cannot be destroyed.

(1956-1958)

851. What are the benefits of the natural law?

The natural law provides a solid foundation for guiding the human community in moral living. It gives the necessary grounds for civil laws and wise judicial decisions.

(1959)

852. Are the precepts of the natural law perceived clearly and immediately by everyone?

No, because of the darkening of man’s intellect by sin. That is why God provided revelation and grace, so that the basic truths of religion and morality would “be known by everyone, with facility, with firm certitude, and with no admixture of error” (First Vatican Council, Dei Filius, 2).

(1960)

853. What is the first stage of the revealed law?

It is the Old Law summed up in the Ten Commandments, given to Moses on Mount Sinai.

(1961-1962)

854. How is the Old Law imperfect?

It is imperfect because already before the coming of Christ it had to be completed by the prophetic and wisdom revelation of the Old Testament. But it is mainly imperfect because it had to be fulfilled by the teaching and life of Jesus Christ.

(1963)

855. How is the Law of Moses a preparation for the Gospel?

It foretells the work of redemption of the Savior, and provides the New Testament with images, types, and symbols for expressing the life of the Spirit.

(1964)

856. What is the New Law of the Gospel?

The New Law of the Gospel is the perfection here below of the natural and revealed divine law. Moreover:

  • It is the grace of the Holy Spirit given to believers by their faith in Christ.
  • It surpasses the Old Law, as seen in the Beatitudes, which direct God’s promises beyond this world to the kingdom of Heaven.
  • In the Sermon on the Mount, it does not add new external precepts but reforms our actions in the heart.
  • It directs our acts of religion to the Father, who sees in secret. Its prayer is the Our Father.
  • It is summed up in Christ’s teaching to do everything to others as we would have them do to us.
  • It is expressed in Christ’s new commandment that we should love one another as He has loved us.

(1965-1970)

857. How is Christ’s Sermon on the Mount amplified?

By the moral catechesis of the apostolic teaching, for example, the letters of St. Paul to the Romans, Corinthians, Colossians, and Ephesians. This catechesis shows that we are to treat cases of conscience in the light of our relation to Christ and the Church.

(1971)

858. Why is the New Law called the law of love, grace, and freedom?

  • It is called the law of love because it is animated by the love infused by the Holy Spirit, rather than by fear.
  • It is called the law of grace because it confers the supernatural power of grace to observe the New Law by means of faith and the sacraments.
  • It is called the law of freedom because it frees us from the ritual and juridical observances of the Old Law; it inclines us to act spontaneously under the impulse of charity; and it leads us from the state of servants to that of Christ’s friends.

(1972)

859. What are the evangelical counsels?

They are invitations extended by Christ to His followers not only to avoid sin, or whatever is incompatible with love, but to choose ways that are more direct and means that are more effective expressions of love. The counsels seek to remove whatever would impede the development of charity.

(1973-1974)

860. Are the followers of Christ to practice the counsels?

Yes, but according to each person’s grace from God and vocation in life. In the words of St. Francis de Sales, God wants us to observe “only those appropriate to the diversity of persons, times, opportunities, and strengths, as love requires” (Love, 8,6).

(1974)

Ecclesia Semper Reformanda: Communion with the Church by Degrees of Fullness

A Lecture Addressed to the

Theological Students’ Association

of The Catholic University of America

by Father Jay Scott Newman, J.C.L.

Assistant Professor of Canon Law

at The Pontifical College Josephinum

18 April 2001

In his De Praescriptione Haereticorum, Tertullian famously asked with derision, “What has Athens to do with Jerusalem?”, meaning “What has philosophy to do with theology?” I begin with this reminder because, although I am here to address the Theological Students’ Association, I am not a theologian; I a canon lawyer. And some among you may well ask with derision, “What has canon law to do with theology?” It’s a fair question, so before I explore the topic at hand today, I need briefly to digress and establish something of a lingua franca for our discussion.

Because she is a human society, the Church has had law, and therefore lawyers, since her foundation, but canon law as a distinct science and course of study did not emerge until the twelfth century. Canonists reckon the Italian monk Gratian as the Pater scientiae canonicae because his work provided a systematic and logical ordering of 1000 years of lawmaking. The Decretum Gratiani, completed around the year 1140, remained an indispensable touchstone for all canonists in the Western Church until the promulgation of the first Code of Canon Law in 1917. Now, you might suppose that after nearly nine centuries of doing this thing called canon law, there would be common agreement among canonists about just what their discipline is. You might suppose so, but you’d be wrong.

Among canonists today, there are some fundamental disagreements about the nature and method of their discipline, with two of the major proposals being — for lack of more precise terms — legal positivism and juridic theology. I am not here today to describe this disagreement, let alone to resolve the dispute. But to make intelligible much of what will follow in my remarks, I must explain that I hold canon law to be a truly theological discipline and therefore to have a theological method and object. Within the one science of sacred theology we commonly acknowledge many divisions: dogmatic theology, moral theology, biblical theology, and so forth. To these, I submit, must be added juridic theology-that is, canon law understood as a theological discipline with a specifically juridic character, vocabulary, and purpose.

One of the reasons why there is disagreement among canonists about the nature of their discipline is that there is often a tension between theological language and juridic language, or to put it otherwise, making laws out of theological truths is not simple. And yet, there must be an organic connection between the two if the law of the Code is to be truly the law of the Church. Pope John Paul II addressed this point in the 1983 Apostolic Constitution Sacrae Disciplinae Leges, by which he promulgated the present Code of Canon Law. The pope writes:

“As the Church’s principal legislative document founded on the juridical-legislative heritage of revelation and tradition, the Code is to be regarded as an indispensable instrument to ensure order both in individual and in social life … the Code … fully corresponds to the nature of the Church, especially as it is proposed by the teaching of the Second Vatican Council…. Indeed, in a certain sense this new Code could be understood as a great effort to translate this same conciliar doctrine and ecclesiology into canonical language.”

Read more: via Ecclesia Semper Reformanda: Communion with the Church by Degrees of Fullness.

Papal Infallibility

Papal Infallibility was defined as a dogma of the Faith, in the year 1870, during the First Vatican Council.  While most people have heard of this dogma, few understand its true meaning and limitations.  It is not uncommon to find non-Catholics who believe the dogma extends to the moral actions of a pope, in such a way, that he is said to be incapable of sin (impeccability).

Most Catholics realize that the scope of infallibility is limited to papal teachings on matters of faith and morals, but they often err by extending it beyond its boundaries; understanding infallibility as if it were a habitual active charism that prevents a pope from erring when he speaks on the subject of faith or morals.  This misunderstanding on the part of Catholics in recent decades has resulted in two opposite errors.

On the one hand, we have those who erroneously believe that whatever a pope says, regardless of how novel it is and how far it deviates from Tradition, must be accepted as an infallible truth, since “the pope is infallible”.  On the other hand, there are some who see apparent errors in the documents of Vatican II and believe that Papal Infallibility would prevent a true pope from ratifying such documents.  In both cases, the error is a result of extending Papal Infallibility beyond the limits determined by the Church.

Before proceeding, it should be noted that the purpose of this article is not to assert that Catholics are only bound to accept what has been infallibly defined by a pope or ecumenical council.  The late Msgr. Joseph Clifford Fenton referred to this error, which was condemned by Pius IX (1), as minimism.  Catholics must give assent to all that the Church teaches, either by virtue of a solemn pronouncement or by the teaching of the ordinary and universal Magisterium.  Yet at the same time, Catholics are not bound to give assent to novelties and apparent errors, even if such novelties or apparent errors come from a pope who is not exercising his infallibility.   In the chaos that has followed the Second Vatican Council, it is necessary that the faithful have a correct understanding Papal Infallibility, as well as its limitations, lest the understandably confused or scandalized Catholic be led into error in one direction or the other.

read more . . . THE REMNANT NEWSPAPER: Papal Infallibility.

Theologians’ Academic Respectability

The teaching authority of the Church is the only guarantee the theologian has for both his academic respectability, and his intellectual freedom.

via Theologians’ academic respectability – Homiletic & Pastoral Review.

The Person and the Personal: Two Modes of the Same Being – Truth and Charity Forum

Pope John Paul II

In the present-day world of bioethics, it is commonplace for people to believe that they can make morally valid decisions based on the notion that they are “autonomous” beings who act for themselves alone and not persons who are called to love others in a personal way.

Consequently, many believe that they have a “right” to have a baby, to take but one example, and to the technology that could satisfy their desires. The “autonomous” person would also have a “right” to abortion, contraception, and other questionable bioethical procedures.

From the article: The Person and the Personal: Two Modes of the Same Being – Truth and Charity Forum.

EWTN’s Voter Guide – vote

A Brief Catechism for Catholic Voters

Fr. Stephen F. Torraco, PhD


1. Isn’t conscience the same as my own opinions and feelings? And doesn’t everyone have the right to his or her own conscience?

Conscience is NOT the same as your opinions or feelings. Conscience cannot be identical with your feelings because conscience is the activity of your intellect in judging the rightness or wrongness of your actions or omissions, past, present, or future, while your feelings come from another part of your soul and should be governed by your intellect and will. Conscience is not identical with your opinions because your intellect bases its judgment upon the natural moral law, which is inherent in your human nature and is identical with the Ten Commandments. Unlike the civil laws made by legislators, or the opinions that you hold, the natural moral law is not anything that you invent, but rather discover within yourself and is the governing norm of your conscience. In short, Conscience is the voice of truth within you, and your opinions need to be in harmony with that truth. As a Catholic, you have the benefit of the Church’s teaching authority or Magisterium endowed upon her by Christ. The Magisterium assists you and all people of good will in understanding the natural moral law as it relates to specific issues. As a Catholic, you have the obligation to be correctly informed and normed by the teaching of the Church’s Magisterium. As for your feelings, they need to be educated by virtue so as to be in harmony with conscience’s voice of truth. In this way, you will have a sound conscience, according to which we you will feel guilty when you are guilty, and feel morally upright when you are morally upright. We should strive to avoid the two opposite extremes of a lax conscience and a scrupulous conscience. Meeting the obligation of continually attending to this formation of conscience will increase the likelihood that, in the actual operation or activity of conscience, you will act with a certain conscience, which clearly perceives that a given concrete action is a good action that was rightly done or should be done. Being correctly informed and certain in the actual operation of conscience is the goal of the continuing formation of conscience. Otherwise put, you should strive to avoid being incorrectly informed and doubtful in the actual judgment of conscience about a particular action or omission. You should never act on a doubtful conscience.


2. Is it morally permissible to vote for all candidates of a single party?

This would depend on the positions held by the candidates of a single party. If any one or more of them held positions that were opposed to the natural moral law, then it would not be morally permissible to vote for all candidates of this one party. Your correctly informed conscience transcends the bounds of any one political party.


3. If I think that a pro-abortion candidate will, on balance, do much more for the culture of life than a pro-life candidate, why may I not vote for the pro-abortion candidate?

If a political candidate supported abortion, or any other moral evil, such as assisted suicide and euthanasia, for that matter, it would not be morally permissible for you to vote for that person. This is because, in voting for such a person, you would become an accomplice in the moral evil at issue. For this reason, moral evils such as abortion, euthanasia and assisted suicide are examples of a “disqualifying issue.” A disqualifying issue is one which is of such gravity and importance that it allows for no political maneuvering. It is an issue that strikes at the heart of the human person and is non-negotiable. A disqualifying issue is one of such enormity that by itself renders a candidate for office unacceptable regardless of his position on other matters. You must sacrifice your feelings on other issues because you know that you cannot participate in any way in an approval of a violent and evil violation of basic human rights. A candidate for office who supports abortion rights or any other moral evil has disqualified himself as a person that you can vote for. You do not have to vote for a person because he is pro-life. But you may not vote for any candidate who supports abortion rights. Key to understanding the point above about “disqualifying issues” is the distinction between policy and moral principle. On the one hand, there can be a legitimate variety of approaches to accomplishing a morally acceptable goal. For example, in a society’s effort to distribute the goods of health care to its citizens, there can be legitimate disagreement among citizens and political candidates alike as to whether this or that health care plan would most effectively accomplish society’s goal. In the pursuit of the best possible policy or strategy, technical as distinct (although not separate) from moral reason is operative. Technical reason is the kind of reasoning involved in arriving at the most efficient or effective result. On the other hand, no policy or strategy that is opposed to the moral principles of the natural law is morally acceptable. Thus, technical reason should always be subordinate to and normed by moral reason, the kind of reasoning that is the activity of conscience and that is based on the natural moral law.


4. If I have strong feelings or opinions in favor of a particular candidate, even if he is pro-abortion, why may I not vote for him?

As explained in question 1 above, neither your feelings nor your opinions are identical with your conscience. Neither your feelings nor your opinions can take the place of your conscience. Your feelings and opinions should be governed by your conscience. If the candidate about whom you have strong feelings or opinions is pro-abortion, then your feelings and opinions need to be corrected by your correctly informed conscience, which would tell you that it is wrong for you to allow your feelings and opinions to give lesser weight to the fact that the candidate supports a moral evil.


5. If I may not vote for a pro-abortion candidate, then should it not also be true that I can’t vote for a pro-capital punishment candidate?

It is not correct to think of abortion and capital punishment as the very same kind of moral issue. On the one hand, direct abortion is an intrinsic evil, and cannot be justified for any purpose or in any circumstances. On the other hand, the Church has always taught that it is the right and responsibility of the legitimate temporal authority to defend and preserve the common good, and more specifically to defend citizens against the aggressor. This defense against the aggressor may resort to the death penalty if no other means of defense is sufficient. The point here is that the death penalty is understood as an act of self-defense on the part of civil society. In more recent times, in his encyclical Evangelium Vitae, Pope John Paul II has taught that the need for such self-defense to resort to the death penalty is “rare, if not virtually nonexistent.” Thus, while the Pope is saying that the burden of proving the need for the death penalty in specific cases should rest on the shoulders of the legitimate temporal authority, it remains true that the legitimate temporal authority alone has the authority to determine if and when a “rare” case arises that warrants the death penalty. Moreover, if such a rare case does arise and requires resorting to capital punishment, this societal act of self-defense would be a *morally good action* even if it does have the unintended and unavoidable evil effect of the death of the aggressor. Thus, unlike the case of abortion, it would be morally irresponsible to rule out all such “rare” possibilities a priori, just as it would be morally irresponsible to apply the death penalty indiscriminately.


6. If I think that a candidate who is pro-abortion has better ideas to serve the poor, and the pro-life candidate has bad ideas that will hurt the poor, why may I not vote for the candidate that has the better ideas for serving the poor?

Serving the poor is not only admirable, but also obligatory for Catholics as an exercise of solidarity. Solidarity has to do with the sharing of both spiritual and material goods, and with what the Church calls the preferential option for the poor. This preference means that we have the duty to give priority to helping those most needful, both materially and spiritually. Beginning in the family, solidarity extends to every human association, even to the international moral order. Based on the response to question 3 above, two important points must be made. First, when it comes to the matter of determining how social and economic policy can best serve the poor, there can be a legitimate variety of approaches proposed, and therefore legitimate disagreement among voters and candidates for office. Secondly, solidarity can never be at the price of embracing a “disqualifying issue.” Besides, when it comes to the unborn, abortion is a most grievous offense against solidarity, for the unborn are surely among society’s most needful. The right to life is a paramount issue because as Pope John Paul II says it is “the first right, on which all the others are based, and which cannot be recuperated once it is lost.” If a candidate for office refuses solidarity with the unborn, he has laid the ground for refusing solidarity with anyone.


7. If a candidate says that he is personally opposed to abortion but feels the need to vote for it under the circumstances, doesn’t this candidate’s personal opposition to abortion make it morally permissible for me to vote for him, especially if I think that his other views are the best for people, especially the poor?

A candidate for office who says that he is personally opposed to abortion but actually votes in favor of it is either fooling himself or trying to fool you. Outside of the rare case in which a hostage is forced against his will to perform evil actions with his captors, a person who carries out an evil action ¾ such as voting for abortion ¾ performs an immoral act, and his statement of personal opposition to the moral evil of abortion is either self-delusion or a lie. If you vote for such a candidate, you would be an accomplice in advancing the moral evil of abortion. Therefore, it is not morally permissible to vote for such a candidate for office, even, as explained in questions 3 and 6 above, you think that the candidate’s other views are best for the poor.


8. What if none of the candidates are completely pro-life?

As Pope John Paul II explains in his encyclical, Evangelium Vitae (The Gospel of Life), “…when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.” Logically, it follows from these words of the Pope that a voter may likewise vote for that candidate who will most likely limit the evils of abortion or any other moral evil at issue.


9. What if one leading candidate is anti-abortion except in the cases of rape or incest, another leading candidate is completely pro-abortion, and a trailing candidate, not likely to win, is completely anti-abortion. Would I be obliged to vote for the candidate not likely to win?

In such a case, the Catholic voter may clearly choose to vote for the candidate not likely to win. In addition, the Catholic voter may assess that voting for that candidate might only benefit the completely pro-abortion candidate, and, precisely for the purpose of curtailing the evil of abortion, decide to vote for the leading candidate that is anti-abortion but not perfectly so. This decision would be in keeping with the words of the Pope quoted in question 8 above.


10. What if all the candidates from whom I have to choose are pro-abortion? Do I have to abstain from voting at all? What do I do?

Obviously, one of these candidates is going to win the election. Thus, in this dilemma, you should do your best to judge which candidate would do the least moral harm. However, as explained in question 5 above, you should not place a candidate who is pro-capital punishment (and anti-abortion) in the same moral category as a candidate who is pro-abortion. Faced with such a set of candidates, there would be no moral dilemma, and the clear moral obligation would be to vote for the candidate who is pro-capital punishment, not necessarily because he is pro-capital punishment, but because he is anti-abortion.


11. Is not the Church’s stand that abortion must be illegal a bit of an exception? Does not the Church generally hold that government should restrict its legislation of morality significantly?

The Church’s teaching that abortion should be illegal is not an exception. St. Thomas Aquinas put it this way: “Wherefore human laws do not forbid all vices, from which the virtuous abstain, but only the more grievous vices, from which it is possible for the majority to abstain; and chiefly those that are to the hurt of others, without the prohibition of which human society could not be maintained: thus human law prohibits murder, theft and such like.” [ emphasis added]. Abortion qualifies as a grievous vice that hurts others, and the lack of prohibition of this evil by society is something by which human society cannot be maintained. As Pope John Paul II has emphasized, the denial of the right to life, in principle, sets the stage, in principle, for the denial of all other rights.


12. What about elected officials who happen to be of the same party affiliation? Are they committing a sin by being in the same party, even if they don’t advocate pro-choice views? Are they guilty by association?

Being of the same political party as those who advocate pro-abortion is indeed a serious evil IF I belong to this political party IN ORDER TO ASSOCIATE MYSELF with that party’s advocacy of pro-abortion policies. However, it can also be true that being of such a political party has as its purpose to change the policies of the party. Of course, if this is the purpose, one would have to consider whether it is reasonable to think the political party’s policies can be changed. Assuming that it is reasonable to think so, then it would be morally justifiable to remain in that political party. Remaining in that political party cannot be instrumental in the advancing of pro-abortion policies (especially if I am busily striving to change the party’s policies) as can my VOTING for candidates or for a political party with a pro-abortion policy.

13. What about voting for a pro-abortion person for something like state treasurer, in which case the candidate would have no say on matters of life in the capacity of her duties, it just happens to be her personal position. This would not be a sin, right?

If someone were running for state treasurer and that candidate made it a point to state publicly that he was in favor of exterminating people over the age of 70, would you vote for him? The fact that the candidate has that evil in his mind tells you that there are easily other evils in his mind; and the fact that he would publicly state it is a danger signal. If personal character matters in a political candidate, and personal character involves the kind of thoughts a person harbors, then such a candidate who publicly states that he is in favor of the evil of exterminating people over the age of 70 – or children who are unborn – has also disqualified himself from receiving a Catholic’s vote. I would go further and say that such a candidate, in principle – in the light of the natural law – disqualifies himself from public office.

14. Is it a mortal sin to vote for a pro-abortion candidate?

Except in the case in which a voter is faced with all pro-abortion candidates (in which case, as explained in question 8 above, he or she strives to determine which of them would cause the let damage in this regard), a candidate that is pro-abortion disqualifies himself from receiving a Catholic’s vote. This is because being pro-abortion cannot simply be placed alongside the candidate’s other positions on Medicare and unemployment, for example; and this is because abortion is intrinsically evil and cannot be morally justified for any reason or set of circumstances. To vote for such a candidate even with the knowledge that the candidate is pro-abortion is to become an accomplice in the moral evil of abortion. If the voter also knows this, then the voter sins mortally.

COPYRIGHT © 2002
Stephen F. Torraco

EWTN’s Voter Guide – vote.

This guide written by the Moral Theology Expert of EWTN for many years is still probably the best, most comprehensive guide on determining our obligations as Catholics. It is a shame that we lost the great Fr. Stephen F. Torraco, PhD on September 27th of 2010 as he was a great voice for orthodoxy and an excellent guide to moral teachings of the Church.

I will gladly take his expert opinions on these matters far more seriously than the pap and second guessing that we hear on so many blogs and even from some of the more poorly written voter guides that have been circulating this election.

I hope you find this information useful in forming your conscience for the upcoming election.

Catholicism: the Reason for My Hope Part VI

The Saints and the Mystics of the Church

What are saints but the heroes of faith? They are declared by the Church to be holy men and women who led heroic lives to keep themselves in the state of holiness or in some cases gave their lives to defend their faith; those faithful martyrs. They are the few who are the rarest of humans; who dared to attempt in this life what Christ challenged His followers to do, “Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect.”[1] Though they fell over and over in life, most of these men and women came as close as we could ever dream, to doing just what Christ had asked of us: reaching spiritual perfection.

The Catholic Church gives the proper veneration and honor to these heroes of the faith. As the world gives honor to its heroes, the Church gives honor to Hers. Our Catholic children have the most proper and appropriate heroes to hold in esteem and to guide their lives.

To become a saint is not a simple matter because the Church requires of God his stamp of approval, His seal of authenticity if you will, on the heroic nature of any declared saint of the Catholic Church. Each must have at least one miracle attributed to them before their death and another attributed to their intercession after their death. Now that is a tall order but God is up to the task, having stamped His approval on a multitude of saintly heroes over the course of these 2000 years. They have been ratified by their miracles and in some cases by the miracle of becoming incorruptible; that is, their body does not decay after death.

The biographies of these individuals and their own spiritual writings have given us a library of valuable spiritual help and encouragement. No other church has so many spiritual heroes to draw upon. Their stories give us encouragement in facing trials and what to do when we fail those trials. Their prayers help us fashion our prayers to God, leaving our needs in His hands while praising Him and praying for others. They are the warriors in the spiritual battles against evil in this world and have shaped countries, continents and the history of our Church. They have taught us how to teach the faith by living the faith as it was meant to be lived.

These are the people who walk this earth as other Christ’s; “And I live, now not I; but Christ liveth in me.”[2] They effectively, “. . . put on the new man, who according to God is created in justice and holiness of truth.”[3] They are what we are all supposed to aspire to in the Christian life. They fought the good fight and ran the good race having persevered to the end and winning the crown. God loves a saint.

As Scott Hahn has said, the best way to honor an artist is admire his art. In this way God is honored when we give honor to those who are His finest handiwork of human beings. And how much more true is this of Mary, the Mother of God; The Saint among saints. She is the singular boast of our broken nature. Only she, among the history of man was found worthy to be spared the stain of original sin, won for her by the grace of Christ’s redeeming death, at the moment of her conception; she who is ever-virgin and sinless and stainless though she possessed a human nature. She was chosen by God before all ages and she gave her will entirely over to His request. She is a singularity and God is pleased when we give her the heightened honor that she deserves. For she is God’s finest handiwork of the human creature; it is to honor her to praise God for His gift of her to mankind. Without her yes, where would we now be? Would we still be awaiting the Messiah and someone who might be worthy to bear Him, care for Him and protect Him as an infant? We need not worry of such things for she used Her will to do only His will. Hail Mary, full (not just partially filled) of (God’s) grace.

The mystical saints are the few who have tried to explain to us what is unexplainable. They try to speak the unspeakable, and describe the indescribable. However mystical are their writings, one gets a sense of the mysteries that are revealed to those who are so disposed to seek God through mystical prayer. Their writings are so sublime that they fill the reader’s soul with joy and grace. You, as a reader, know that you are listening to someone who truly spoke to God and what an indescribable grace it is to see Christ through such a thin veil. They are a rare breed who reaches the level of mystical prayer which is described as spiritual union: the marriage of their souls to Christ’s. It is a bliss filled encounter that transforms these saints into love itself, just as God is Love Himself. Their writings serve as a proof that the God of our prayers is truly God and truly present to us. No protestant church has such sublime heroes to lead them to an assurance so gratifying to the ordinary soul.

So now you have my reasons for hope in Christ as found through the intellect and through the spirit. They were all delivered to me via the Holy Catholic Church who is now and will remain forever the Mystical Body of Christ (with Christ as Her head) and the future Bride of the Bridegroom (with Christ as the Head of the espoused pair). Our human marriages only reflect the Wedding Feast of Heaven where the Church becomes one with Christ: like our earthly weddings, “two in one flesh.”[4]


[1] Matthew 5:48

[2] Galatians 2:20

[3] Ephesians 4:24

[4] Genesis 2:24

Catholicism: the Reason for My Hope Part IV

Church Fathers, a miniature from Svyatoslav's ...

Church Fathers

The History and Teachings of the Early Church Fathers

Nothing speaks to us better than getting to know the history of any enterprise that we undertake: we usually learn all we can about the company we work for so that we can relate to others how it came to be and what the philosophy was of the entrepreneurial beginnings of the company. Part of that history is learning about the founder and the early leaders of the company and their vision of the company and their successful leadership as well as their single mindedness in reaching the goal of the founder. At least that is something we salesmen study when we go to work for a new company with a long history. It lends credibility to the company that we are representing and unites us in some small way to a participation in the company’s goals.

It is no different in the new Catholic, who represents the Church in the world to all who meet and talk with them. Why then, do so few Christians spend almost no time at all looking at our history and the Early Church Fathers who forged the beginnings of the largest institution on the face of the planet: 1.2 billion members yoked to the teachings of the Church?

It is this history, which the Bible initiates as our first introduction or orientation to the Catholic Faith. Her structure and our adherence to doctrine were discussed somewhat in the last post; Part III. But for further information which is to our great benefit to read, we have the accounts of the earliest Christians and the beliefs that they held from the beginning. Even a cursory reading of these great men and pioneers of our Faith, add their mark of approval on most of our beliefs and practices still in place over almost 2 millennia.

The belief in the real presence of Christ residing, body, blood, soul and divinity in the Eucharist, our heightened honor that is afforded our Blessed Virgin Mary, our honoring of the saints and martyrs, our belief in the Pope as being the sovereign leader of the Church, the idea that a priest can forgive us our sins if we are contrite and sorry for them and willing to amend our ways, the need for Baptism and the efficacy of the other sacraments of the Church, the love and adherence that we give to the books of the Bible, the gravity of abortion and sins of the flesh, and the knowledge that we are bound to an authority that is beyond our mortal world but embodied in the ministry that was founded by Christ Himself. All of these things and more can be verified by the writings which came from the earliest Christians: these we call the Early Church Fathers.

The latest historical find which dates back as far as the oldest entries in the New Testament is called the Didache or Teaching of the Twelve. I would recommend that every Christian read the document and understand that it was a small handbook that was widely carried throughout the Christian world a mere 30 to 50 years after the death of our Lord and Savior.

Much, therefore, that I heard from non-Catholic sources, who mocked and ridiculed Catholic beliefs and practices were, besides being condescending, proved wrong: to be sure, the faith of our fathers is being faithfully carried forward into our modern age by the Catholic Church.

Since this is just a short post, for those who want to get into the meat of the proofs concerning the Catholic Tradition, one should at the very least read the Didache and the writings of the Early Church Fathers for illuminating insight into what our earliest Christians believed.

You will quickly come to the conclusion that the Catholic Church stands with these founding fathers and does not make up new and novel doctrines to force on their members. Without this tie to Christ, the apostles and the earliest known Christians, how could anyone have faith that their way of understanding, living or teaching a particular brand of Christianity is truly authentic? History provides us with that reassurance and gives me the Reason for My Hope within the Catholic construct of the Christian faith.