Questions from a Mennonite: Saints & Death Penalty


#1

Hi!

I am dating a Mennonite, and we recently had a good faith discussion that brought up some interesting questions.

  1. He understands that we don’t worship saints, but pray to them to intercede for us. His question: why don’t you “cut out the middle man” and just pray to God yourself? He has the same confusion regarding Mary.

  2. If the Church is so “pro-life”, why don’t we do more about the death penalty? Mennonites are avid pacifists, share our idea of the sanctity of life, and so are strongly against the death penalty. It seems that Catholics put so much emphasis on abortion, that we ignore other important issues.

These questions made me realize that I must not be very clear on these issues either! Thanks for your help!


#2

“1. He understands that we don’t worship saints, but pray to them to intercede for us. His question: why don’t you “cut out the middle man” and just pray to God yourself? He has the same confusion regarding Mary.”

Well we do both. It is not a either/or but a both/and. We as Catholic’s DO pray directly to God. But we also have some great prayer partner’s in high places. :thumbsup:


#3

Catholics do both.

We pray with and to the Saints because it pleases God that we do so-- hence the many examples in the bible of people interceding for each other including angels and saints in Heaven.

What exactly would he like Catholics to “do” about the death penalty?

The Church does not “ignore” any “important issues” related to the sanctity of life. What makes him think we do?

It seems he has limited exposure to Catholic teaching and documents. There have been numerous documents from Bishops and the Pope on the subject and many respect life groups do get involved with death penalty issues.

However, Catholics are **NOT **pacifists and the Church does not teach that the death penalty or war are intrinsically evil.


#4

The answer, as other posters have said, is that we do both. Think of it this way. If a family member was sick, you would certainly pray for them. But might you not also go to a friend and ask them to pray as well? We ask other people to pray for us and our intentions. This is the same thing we do with the saints. The only difference is that the saints are actually in heaven with God whereas our friends on earth are not. Thus their prayers are very efficacious.

Catholic Answers main site has many great tracts on Mary and the saints that go into far greater detail:

catholic.com/library/mary_saints.asp

As another poster pointed out, Catholics do work and speak out against the death penalty.

But think of it this way. Abortion claims the lives of millions of innocent children every year. The death penalty claims the lives of maybe a few hundred of guilty people each year (setting aside for the moment the possibility that some of these people might actually be wrongfully convicted). Which requires more time, attention, and manpower? Abortion, obviously.


#5

Hi CurlieQ and welcome to the forums! Dating a Mennonite, eh? Interesting. Did you know that the founder of this protestant sect, Menno Simmons, was a Catholic priest that left the church because of the influences of Martin Luther and John Calvin?
mennochurch.net/mennosimons.htm
holytrinitynewrochelle.org/yourti18792.html
thirdway.com/menno/?Page=1777|Anabaptist+Beliefs

On to your questions -

  1. He understands that we don’t worship saints, but pray to them to intercede for us. His question: why don’t you “cut out the middle man” and just pray to God yourself? He has the same confusion regarding Mary.

The other posters already pointed out Catholic practice. It is not either/or, it is both/and. This is very scriptural. Bring him to a mass and let him see for himself.

You need to let him know that “the communion of saints” is a Catholic understanding of the theological concepts of “the body of Christ” put forth by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12, and other epistles.

Oh, and about mass - I recently had a conversation with a Mennonite about the mass. I let him know that the mass is composed from the bible. That statement alone nearly bowled him over. Then I showed him a missal and explained that there are a minimum of three biblical readings at daily mass, and four at Sunday mass (including a psalm between passages).

It gave him a different concept of the mass and now he attends mass with me. In fact he seems eager to! (I go to some protestant churches in return! :slight_smile: ) Here’s a good link…soladeiverbum.com/Mass.pdf

  1. If the Church is so “pro-life”, why don’t we do more about the death penalty? Mennonites are avid pacifists, share our idea of the sanctity of life, and so are strongly against the death penalty. It seems that Catholics put so much emphasis on abortion, that we ignore other important issues.

Here are a couple links…
usccb.org/sdwp/national/deathpenalty/
americancatholic.org/Newsletters/CU/ac0195.asp

Giving people the truth after they have heard only lies and half-truths is very enlightening!

These questions made me realize that I must not be very clear on these issues either! Thanks for your help!

I hope thses issues are a bit clearer now.

God bless,
Subrosa


#6

Interesting. Did you know that the founder of this protestant sect,

While the Menonites are a group that came out the Reformation they in my opinion are not fully protestant.
Many Catholics commit the mistake of saying Non Catholic=Protestant.
I think that is wrong.
Protestant sects have two key believers Sola Scriptura and Sola Fide.
Anabaptists reject Sola Fide, according to what one of them told me. They have a Faith and Good Works salvation doctrine similar to the CC and the EO. That is the reason for the radical pacifism of modern menonites.
So they are not protestants in that point and they do not see themselves as protestants. If fact they love to point how they were persecuted by Catholics and Protestants alike.


#7

Try reading “The Gospel of Life” by Pope John Paul II, it will explain the Church teaching as the Church see it and not how many Catholics see it.


#8

Yes, he has limited exposure to Catholic teaching and documents–he’s Mennonite. :slight_smile: But I appreciate the sources everyone has provided so far, because I could use some familiarizing myself.

Okay, here’s another question (since I’m on a role!)

Why aren’t we pacifist? Don’t get me wrong–I’m not planning on leaving the Catholic church for the Mennonites, but I do agree with their pacifist stance. It seems to me like the Bible is pretty clear about the “Thou shalt not kill” business. To me, taking any human life is intrinsically evil–even if that person is a criminal or in an opposing army.

Pacifism: opposition to war or violence as a means of settling disputes (Courtesy Merriam-Webster). From the Catholic teachings I’ve been exposed to, it seems like we should be pacifist.

Sorry for any ignorance, and I certainly don’t mean to offend. I’m a young public-school kind of kid, and a recent revert, so I’m sure I’m not as up-to-date with Catholic doctrine as I should be.


#9

For a good explanation of Catholic teaching on war, look at the Catechism paragraphs 2302-2317 (CCC 2302-2317). In particular, look at paragraph 2309, which is a formulation of the Church’s Just War doctrine:

The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:

  • the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
  • all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
  • there must be serious prospects of success;
  • the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modem means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.

These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the “just war” doctrine.

The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.

The Church does not advocate violence or killing as a positive thing. However, the Church, in her wisdom, recognizes that, in some instances, war is necessary to protect the innocent (the same applies with capital punishment). But the four conditions listed above in CCC 2309 must all be met in order for a war to be considered just.

A pacifist could not wage war or even defend his family from an attacker. If someone breaks into your house and is about to kill your family, you have a right to repel the unjust aggression by force. The Church recognizes that sometimes lethal force is neccessary to do so. Whenever this is used, the intent is not to kill the attacker but to save those being attacked. Killing the attacker is a is an unintended consequence. The same principle that holds true on a small scale (unjust attacker threatening my family) is also true on a larger scale (unjust attacker threatening the lives of one nation’s citizens).

It’s not war for the sake of war. The intent is always to protect innocent life, not to take it. That’s what just war is all about.


#10

This is a good example of the problem one gets into when interpreting scripture apart from the heart of the Church.

The commandment as given is much better translated as “thou shalt not murder.” While all murder is killing, not all killing (as in a just war, or self-defense situation) is murder.

Which is a good thing, since the Bible would be contradicting itself in many places if it DID prohibit all killing without exception.

Killing is, of course, to be avoided as a very, very last resort when necessary to protect the life (or very serious injury) of yourself or an innocent third party. But it’s a sad fact that it’s sometimes necessary.

I’d be interested to know if your friend would call “911” if someone was breaking in to a close relative’s house.


#11

The bible has more to say than the one commandment you mention…

Ecclesiastes
Chapter 3

1 There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens.
2 A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant.
3 A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build.
4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.
5 A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces.
6 A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.
7 A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak.
8 A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.

The bible here, especially vs. 8, shows us that we must expect some things, even war.

Subrosa


#12

I came across a good article providing the Scriptural basis for avoiding extreme pacifism. If you’re interested, here it is:

ewtn.com/library/SCRIPTUR/PACIF.TXT


#13

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