Tag Archives: Catechism of Catholic Church

God’s love amid Nazi horror

One of the inmates at the Nazi concentration camp Auschwitz was a priest named Maximilian Kolbe. After a prisoner was thought to have escaped, the guards selected ten men to die in a starvation bunker in order to teach the remaining prisoners a lesson. The guards began to drag away a man named Franciszek, who dug his heels into the mud on the ground as he cried out, “My poor wife! My poor children!” At that moment, Fr. Kolbe stepped forward and said, “I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.”

The guards allowed Fr. Kolbe to take Franciszek’s place, and over the next two weeks he comforted the other men who had been sentenced to die. Whenever the guards looked into his cell, Fr. Kolbe was either standing or kneeling in prayer. After all the other prisoners had died, the guards did not wait for Fr. Kolbe to starve to death. They instead injected his left arm with carbolic acid and later cremated his remains.

Trent Horn

Was this an example of evil that proves God does not exist?

The fact that what the Nazis did was objectively wrong proves there is a universal standard for morality that comes from a universal source of goodness, or God. Morality can’t just be a survival mechanism that humans developed through the process of evolution, because some people feel compelled to do things that don’t help our survival, like giving their life for a stranger. If we are all made in God’s image, however, then that explains our desire to fight and even die for the dignity of someone else. In fact, Franciszek survived his time at Auschwitz and spent the rest of his life publicly speaking about Fr. Kolbe’s heroism.

What gave Fr. Kolbe the strength to face such tremendous evil and suffering? As a priest,
he devoted his life to imitating Jesus Christ, and Jesus was willing to do anything to save humanity from its sins, including dying a painful and humiliating death on a cross. Because Jesus is the divine Son of God, he was able to offer an infinite, perfect sacrifice of love that made up for the sins of the whole world. For those who believe in Jesus, this sacrifice means death is
not the end of life, but rather the beginning of a new life with God in Heaven. As he prepared for his execution, I wouldn’t be surprised if Fr. Kolbe thought of this verse from the Bible: “O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory?” (1 Cor. 15:55).

This excerpt is printed with permission from Chapter 5, “Why We Believe God Conquers Evil” of the newly published book Why We’re Catholic: Our Reasons for Faith, Hope and Love, by Trent Horn (Catholic Answers Press, 2017).

TRENT HORN is a convert to Catholicism and staff apologist for Catholic Answers, specializing in teaching Catholics to graciously and persuasively engage those who disagree with them. He is featured weekly on a radio program where he talks with atheists, pro-choice advocates and other non-Catholic callers. He travels worldwide speaking about the Catholic faith, and has authored several books.

Catechism 101

God is infinitely good and all his works are good. Yet no one can escape the experience of suffering or the evils in nature which seem to be linked to the limitations proper to creatures: and above all to the question of moral evil. Where does evil come from? “I sought whence evil comes and there was no solution,” said St. Augustine, and his own painful quest would only be resolved by his conversion to the living God. For “the mystery of lawlessness” is clarified only in the light of  the “mystery of our religion.” The revelation of divine love in Christ manifested at the same time the extent of evil and the superabundance of grace. We must therefore approach the question of the origin of evil by fixing the eyes of our faith on him who alone is its conqueror.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #385

God intends permanence for marriage

In 1969, Ronald Reagan, then governor of California, passed the first state law allowing for no-fault divorce. Instead of having to prove one partner committed a fault such as adultery or abuse, a marriage could be ended simply because the couple had “irreconcilable differences.” But what have been the consequences of this redefinition of marriage?

Trent Horn

After hitting a high point in the 1980s, the divorce rate has returned to the level it was at prior to no-fault divorce. But that’s only because more people are choosing not to marry—11 percent more people, to be precise. But that doesn’t mean an increased number of people have stopped engaging in the marital act.

In 1963, only 7 percent of children were born out of wedlock. Today, that number is 40 percent, and in some socioeconomic communities it’s as high as 71 percent. On average, one out of four children in the U.S. lives apart from his or her biological father. Research has found that children from divorced or unmarried households are more likely to live in poverty and more likely to be abused than children from stable marriages.

The best gift for a child

Child Trends, a nonpartisan research group that has studied the family for the past four decades, says that children in households with married parents have “in general, better health, greater access to health care, and fewer emotional or behavioral problems than children living in other types of families.” In contrast, a child whose parents cohabit but who aren’t married is four times more likely to be abused. A child whose mother has a live-in boyfriend is 11 times more likely to be abused. The best gift you can give your child isn’t the latest toy or game; it’s married parents who are willing to resolve their problems in a healthy way.

Aside from the evidence social science provides for the goodness of lifelong marriage, the Bible reveals that God’s plan for marriage always involved permanence. Jesus said that when a man and woman marry, “they are no longer two but one. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder” (Mark 10:8-9). To make his point even clearer he said, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another, commits adultery against her; and if she divorces her husband and marries another, she commits adultery” (Mark 10:11-12) .

The Catholic Church allows for legal separation and even civil divorce if there are circumstances like spousal abuse. However, if the couple are baptized Christians, then, following what Jesus taught, they are still validly married and so the Church prohibits either person from getting remarried. Even if the marriage fell apart because of infidelity or abuse, sin cannot undo what God has joined together. But grace can overcome sin.

It gives divorced spouses the strength to bear the crimes committed against them, and it gives spouses whose marriages are in trouble the humility to seek spiritual and professional help. Marriage is not easy, but as St. Paul said, “I can do all things in [Christ] who strengthens me” (Phil 4:13).

This excerpt is printed with permission from Chapter 23, “Til Death Do Us Part,” of the newly published book Why We’re Catholic: Our Reasons for Faith, Hope, and Love, by Trent Horn (Catholic Answers Press, 2017).

TRENT HORN is a convert to Catholicism and staff apologist for Catholic Answers, specializing in teaching Catholics to graciously and persuasively engage those who disagree with them. He is featured weekly on a radio program where he talks with atheists, pro-choice advocates and other non-Catholic callers. He travels worldwide speaking about the Catholic faith, and has authored several books.

 

Catechism 101

Thus the marriage bond has been established by God Himself in such a way that a marriage concluded and consummated between baptized persons can never be dissolved. This bond, which results from the free human act of the spouses and their consummation of the marriage, is a reality, henceforth irrevocable, and gives rise to a covenant guaranteed by God’s fidelity. The Church does not have the power to contravene this disposition of divine wisdom.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1640

Knowing the arbitrary ethics of atheism

Most Atheists are moral people, men and women concerned with right and wrong, justice and fairness, who wish to treat others as they would wish to be treated. Few of them fall to their knees and repent in sackcloth and ashes the moment you point out that their belief in right and wrong has no foundation in the naturalist worldview. Rather, they come up with other ways of explaining to themselves how atheism can be true and morality not be an utterly subjective free-for-all.

Patrick Madrid

Atheists commonly say things like: “We don’t need God in order to have ethics. In a naturalist worldview right and wrong are based on….” And then they proceed to describe some alternative source and standard for ethics. These function, essentially, as objections to the argument we have been making and so we need to have a look at them.

1. Alternative standard #1: Happiness

Some atheists will argue, “There doesn’t have to be an objective moral law rooted in and reflecting the character of a God. We can figure out for ourselves how to make wise, good and ethical decisions. One way would be to ask ourselves, especially when facing difficult moral decisions, the simple question: What will bring the greatest happiness to the greatest number of people? What choice will result in the greatest total amount of happiness?”…

2. Alternative standard #2: Do No Harm

This alternative is particularly popular in a day when freedom from the moral law is the primary goal. It goes something like this: “In ethics, pretty much anything you choose to do is fine, so long as you’re not hurting someone else.” …

Kenneth Hensley

3. Alternative standard #3: Majority Rule

According to this proposed ethical standard for a naturalist world, whatever the majority of people say is right, is right—for that culture, in that time…

4. Alternative standard #4: The Experts

Some God-deniers (and a great many more who are influenced by their books) assure us that, “The average personis just not qualified to decide these matters in a universe in which moral laws are essentially ours to create. We must let the experts in science and medicine, law and education, work out our ethical standards for us.”…

5. Alternative standard #5: Reason

Some people will tell you, “We don’t need to believe in God in order to have morality. We can determine what is right and wrong by using our minds to think these issues through. Reason can be our guide in morality as it is in everything else.”

 

PATRICK MADRID hosts the popular “Patrick Madrid Show” weekdays, produced and distributed by Immaculate Heart Radio, is a prolific writer and editor, with over 24 books and numerous articles on Scripture, Church history, patristics, apologetics, and evangelization. He is professor of theology at Holy Apostles College and Seminary in Cromwell, Connecticut.

KENNETH HENSLEY is a respected Catholic apologist and teacher who appears on EWTN and at conferences nationwide.

This excerpt is reprinted from Chapter Five (entitled “The Arbitrary Ethics of Atheism”) of their book, The Godless Delusion: A Catholic Challenge to Modern Atheism ©Patrick Madrid and Kenneth Hensley (Published by Our Sunday Visitor, Inc., www.osv.com). Used by permission.

 

Catechism 101

Atheism is often based on a false conception of human autonomy, exaggerated to the point of refusing any dependence on God. Yet, “to acknowledge God is in no way to oppose the dignity of man, since such dignity is grounded and brought to perfection in God. . . . ” “For the Church knows full well that her message is in harmony with the most secret desires of the human heart.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #2126

Are Catholics obliged to believe in Marian apparitions?

Catholics are obligated in faith to accept all general or public revelation, but they are not guilty of sin if they decline to believe in particular private revelations, even if those private revelations really occurred. If you find the evidence for a particular apparition unconvincing, you’re free to disbelieve in it. In fact, you should disbelieve in it, because you’d do yourself a disservice if you believed in something you think didn’t occur.

Karl Keating

Marian apparitions and apparitions of other saints are examples of what we call private revelations. They are given to individuals in private. General or public revelation is given to the whole Church, is enshrined in Scripture and sacred Tradition, and ended with the death of the last apostle. General revelation is binding on all Christians, but private revelations are binding only on their recipients. If you ever receive a private revelation in the form of an apparition and are convinced the revelation is from God or from one of his saints on his behalf, in conscience you are obliged to believe in its authenticity and to act on its message. If someone else claims to see an apparition, you’re free to ignore it, even if it’s authentic.

Belief in the authenticity of a particular apparition is never necessary for salvation. If someone says you can’t be saved unless you believe in a particular apparition, you can be sure the person doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Why do Catholics believe in this or that apparition? The reasons vary. Some are intrinsically stronger than others. Some people believe because they approve of the message. Others believe because they approve of other people who believe in the apparition, or they believe the testimony of the visionaries who claim to have received the apparition. Some folks are impressed with the spiritual signs or effects attributed to applying the message of the apparition. Still others believe because of miracles associated with the apparition. Often several reasons converge in the mind to form a moral certitude of the authenticity of the apparition and its message.

Let’s limit ourselves to the issue of miracles as proof, and let’s consider Fatima and Lourdes. At Fatima, on October 13, 1917, 70,000 people witnessed what has become known as the Miracle of the Sun. Even the anticlerical Portuguese newspapers reported the zigzagging of the sun and the remarkable drying up of the ground and of the witnesses’ rain-soaked clothes. It had been raining hard the previous night and into the morning. A few people who were present at Fatima and saw these occurrences are still alive. Not one has come out, after a long lifetime, to say the whole thing was a hoax. Some commentators, then and now, claim the Miracle of the Sun was an example of mass hallucination, but hallucination is a solitary phenomenon. In medical literature, there are no records of even two people having the same hallucination at the same time, so how can 70,000 see the same thing, especially when some of them — such as governmental authorities who were atheists — were predisposed to disbelieve in anything smacking of the miraculous?

KARL KEATING is the founder of Catholic Answers. This column is reprinted with permission from his book What Catholics Really Believe — Setting the Record Straight: 52 Answers to Common Misconceptions About the Catholic Faith, page 63 (Ignatius Press, San Francisco 1995).

Catechism 101

“Throughout the ages, there have been so-called ‘private’ revelations, some of which have been recognized by the authority of the Church. They do not belong, however, to the deposit of faith. It is not their role to improve or complete Christ’s definitive Revelation, but to help live more fully by it in a certain period of history. Guided by the Magisterium of the Church, the sensus fidelium knows how to discern and welcome in these revelations whatever constitutes an authentic call of Christ or his saints to the Church.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #67

How are sins forgiven?

PETER KREEFT: We cannot be forgiven while we are planning to sin again…

Peter Kreeft

Peter Kreeft

Objectively, by Christ’s death. That paid sin’s price.
Subjectively, by our repentance and faith. That
appropriates Christ’s payment. That is applied to
us as individuals publicly in Baptism, which forgives
original sin, and the sacrament of Penance, which forgives all actual sins that are confessed and repented of.

Sincere repentance is a condition of receiving forgiveness. We cannot be forgiven while we are planning to sin again. But our repentance does not cause forgiveness. All of the sacraments, including Penance, work ex opere operato, that is, objectively, from the power and presence of Christ in them, not from the power of our souls’ right subjective dispositions.

God has given this power to his Church: “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained (Jn 20:23).” “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven” (Mt 16:19).

How does God’s forgiveness work? Theologians have different explanations. The Church does not dogmatically assert any one of them to the exclusion of others. As with electricity or gravity, we do not need to know how it works, we just need to know that it works.

Some explanations, or human analogies, given by Scripture are: the legal: Christ satisfied the demands of the law; the financial: Christ paid the price; the military: Christ defeated the devil; the mathematical: Christ restored the balance sheet; emancipation: Christ released us from the slavery into which we had sold ourselves; laundry: Christ washed us clean in his blood; scapegoat: Christ become our substitute; and shield: Christ endured God’s just wrath and shielded us from it.

What we know is not the spiritual technology, so to speak, the theory of how it works. What we know is something much more practical: what God did and what we must do. What did God do? He died. Christ’s death caused our sins to be forgiven. That is our divinely revealed data. How it worked is theological theory.

What God did was to become a man and suffer the hell we deserved in our place, for us. God got us off the hook by putting himself on the hook, on the Cross. The price of our soul was his body.

What must we do receive the forgiveness of sins? To the world’s most practical question —“What must I do to be saved?” — God has given us a clear answer: Repent, believe, and live in charity. These three requirements for salvation correspond to the three “theological virtues,” faith, hope and charity (1 Cor 13:13). Repentance involves hope in Christ, seeking God’s forgiveness. Baptism involves faith in Christ, accepting God’s forgiveness. Charity involves love of Christ and the members of his Body, loving the forgiven ones.

PETER KREEFT is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (Ignatius Press, 2001).

Catechism 101

The Apostles’ Creed associates faith in the forgiveness of sins not only with faith in the Holy Spirit, but also with faith in the Church and in the communion of saints. It was when he gave the Holy Spirit to his apostles that the risen Christ conferred on them his own divine power to forgive sins: “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.”

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #976

Why is the Church so strict about sex?

PETER KREEFT: Sexual sins bring misery and destroy our relationship with God . . .

Peter Kreeft

Peter Kreeft

by Peter Kreeft

We should not expect the Church’s teachings to coincide with “the wisdom of the world” (1 Cor 1:20) in any age or culture, for her teachings do not come from man but from God.

Man has gone off the track set for him by God — “sin” means separation from God — so God’s track has always appeared to fallen man as “a stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall” (1 Pet 2:8).

Living according to God’s laws makes us holy, happy and healthy. Violating them makes us unholy, unhappy and unhealthy. This is as true of sex as of anything else. First, sexual sin is sin, and it separates us from God.

Second, since God loves us and wants our happiness, disobedience to his plan for us will necessarily bring us unhappiness. Worldly statistics confirm this heavenly logic: Every one of the sins that adulterate sexual love brings with it a catalog of miseries.

Divorce, for instance, means the destruction of society’s most indispensable foundation, the family. It will stamp the same destructive marks on society at large as it already has on its immediate victims, millions of children: a hard, cynical spirit; the death of security, of trust, of faith in persons and promises; and in the adventure of self-giving love.

Third, sexual sin has obvious and radical health effects: the epidemic of sexually transmitted diseases, now affecting over half of all sexually active people, the fear of AIDS, and the rising infertility rate. But the most notable physical effect of the Sexual Revolution is death. The human victims in just one generation of the abortion holocaust in most Western nations already vastly outnumber the victims of all the wars in their history. It’s high time to turn our attention to God’s alternative.

Controversies have a way of narrowing our vision. They are usually resolved only by backing up and enlarging our perspective, especially by looking at foundations. The foundations of Catholic sexual morality include:

• God as the creator and designer of sexuality;

• the centrality of love (the very nature of God);

• procreation and sexual love as an image of divine love;

• the primacy of the family;

• the divinely designed intrinsic purpose of sex as procreating new eternal souls for God’s family;

• and above all, sex as a sign of the goodness of life. Every baby conceived is a sign that God has not given up on man. It’s not a mere product of automatic nature, but a deliberate act of God. God makes a soul when we make a body. He is not forced to do this; he chooses to.

PETER KREEFT is a professor of philosophy at Boston College. This column is reprinted with permission from his book “Catholic Christianity: A Complete Catechism of Catholic Beliefs Based on the Catechism of the Catholic Church” (Ignatius Press, 2001).

Catechism 101

Conjugal love involves a totality, in which all the elements of the person enter — appeal of the body and instinct, power of feeling and affectivity, aspiration of the spirit and of will. It aims at a deeply personal unity, a unity that, beyond union in one flesh, leads to forming one heart and soul; it demands indissolubility and faithfulness in definitive mutual giving; and it is open to fertility.

In a word, it is a question of the normal characteristics of all natural conjugal love, but with a new significance which not only purifies and strengthens them, but raises them to the extent of making them the expression of specifically Christian values.

Catechism of the Catholic Church, #1643