Some basic questions

Hey everyone, this is my first post on here so sorry if I’m putting it in the wrong place:)

As with any protestant who is coming into Catholicism, I have a few questions that I have been having the hardest time with…My RCIA classes dont start till August so I figured I’d get a head start!

  1. The Pope: This is probably the one that I have been having the most trouble with. Do Catholics believe that he is without error/sin? Or do they just believe that he can be without error in certain instances?

  2. Mary: The veneration and all that I understand, I just want to know where they ideas of the immaculate conception and the assumption actually game from, are they Biblical or did someone just decide thats how it was?

  3. Purgatory: This is another big one for us to understand. I have read passeges in the Bible talking about it, so my main question is how does it work. Like if i die but did not ask for forgiveness first, is that where I go?

I am excited about (hopefully) joining the church, I have been giving it some serious thought for a long time now and feel like God has dragged me kicking and screaming towards it, but everytime I go to mass I feel like I’m at home and where im suppos to be! Just to give some background, I was raised Church of Christ and currently go to an Anglo-Catholic church (ACNA), but down the line I dont want to have to worry if women can be priests and all that and many of you know the Anglican Communion seems to be constatntly in turmoil, I just want to go somewhere where the same thing has always been practiced.

Welcome home to the house built on rock. We’ve been waiting and praying for you. :slight_smile:

Purgatory is a beautiful doctrine which shows the love God has for us, his mercy and compassion toward us. I wrote a short paper (PDF) titled “The Biblical Basis for Purgatory” which you can find at timhollingworth.webs.com/docs/catholic/04-the.biblical.basis.for.catholic.belief-purgatory.pdf. It covers what Purgatory is and is not according to the Church, where moratal and venial sin are in the Bible, what the requirmements are for entry into heaven according to Scripture and why a theology with only Heaven and Hell doesn’t make sense in light of the above topics. It shows the giant loophole in a heaven and hell theology and why one would go there and why one would not. It then shows the exact places in the Bible where Purgatory can be found and discusses those.

It’s available as a blog post if you prefer at timhollingworth.blogspot.com/2010/12/biblical-basis-for-catholic-beliefs.html.

-Tim-

The Pope is infallible in declaring truths of the faith under special circumstances. He is by no means sinless. The late John Paul 2 used to go to confession several times a week!

  1. Mary: The veneration and all that I understand, I just want to know where they ideas of the immaculate conception and the assumption actually game from, are they Biblical or did someone just decide thats how it was?

They are pre-biblical and biblical and the fullness of the IC is one of those “special circumstances” where a declaration was made by the Pope.

  1. Purgatory: This is another big one for us to understand. I have read passeges in the Bible talking about it, so my main question is how does it work. Like if i die but did not ask for forgiveness first, is that where I go?

Purgatory is a process rather than a place, and it’s what happens to us if we die saved and judged worthy of Heaven, but still have some remaining attachment to sin. We are purged of it during this time so that we can be in God’s unveiled glory for all eternity (without being burnt to a crisp). This purging is a grace and is part of the graces merited for us by Christ.

I am excited about (hopefully) joining the church, I have been giving it some serious thought for a long time now and feel like God has dragged me kicking and screaming towards it, but everytime I go to mass I feel like I’m at home and where im suppos to be! Just to give some background, I was raised Church of Christ and currently go to an Anglo-Catholic church (ACNA), but down the line I dont want to have to worry if women can be priests and all that and many of you know the Anglican Communion seems to be constatntly in turmoil, I just want to go somewhere where the same thing has always been practiced.

Awesome! Thank you for sharing and may God richly bless you for your faithfulness!

Hi and welcome to CAF and hopefully to the Catholic Faith. As with each convert there are different things that give cause for pause. I converted some 28+ years ago and my hurdle to overcome was the graven images thing. Once I was past that I was running to this beautiful Catholic faith. I hope you find your answers soon. Peace.

Thank you everyone for the answers and welcoms! And TimothyH I look forward to reading your paper!

Well North Texan you certainly pick some very good questions and instead of giving you a very long answer i am going to recommend a few really good books.

  1. For your questions about the blessed mother Hail Holy Queen by Dr. Scott Hahn (who by the way is a convert)

  2. Crossing the Tiber by Stephen K. Ray this books tells his conversion story and dose a great job of answering questions about the Papacy.

  3. Rome Sweet Home by Scott and Kimberly Hahn This covers their conversion and answers in a simple way a lot of those questions that require pages to answer.

And i also seriously encourage you to get a copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, while this books is sometimes a bit difficult to read it is a treasure house of the faith and needs to be in any catholic’s library.

You can find most of these books for less then 20 dollars at a good catholic book store or online. You might also look up Jimmy Akin’s blog and/or Stephen K. Ray’s blog at catholicconvert.com

I hope this helps and jump on in the tiber is fine!

Hi and welcome!

I just wanted to pick this one up because I think it is so important.

For the question you asked, there are two words: impeccable and infallible. The first word means incapable of sin, and nobody uses it to refer to the Pope. There is no question of a Pope being unable to sin, as a brief look at history will demonstrate. :wink:

Infallable means incapable of error in teaching. The circumstances in which the Pope is infallible are very clearly limited, “The Roman Pontiff, head of the college of bishops, enjoys this infallibility in virtue of his office, when, as supreme pastor and teacher of all the faithful - who confirms his brethren in the faith - he proclaims by a definitive act a doctrine pertaining to faith or morals…” (CCC #891) This means several things:

[LIST]
*]Anything the Pope said before he became Pope is not infallible.
*]The Pope can certainly be in error about any facts. If we had a Pope who said the Earth was flat, it would be unfortunate, certainly, but it would be unrelated to papal infallibility and would not have to be believed by anyone.
*]Things the Pope says about issues of judgement in a specific situation are pretty much excluded from infallibility.
*]Anything the Pope says, even if it is a matter of faith and morals, in a private or unofficial communication, is not infallible.
[/LIST]

What the Pope is infallible about is the doctrines and principles of faith and morals, when he acts officially in his capacity as the Pope.

Because we have had some really holy men as Pope for a long time, people can get confused. Our Pope is an extremely intelligent, learned, and holy man. I love reading his books (which he has written as a private person, not as the Pope), and I believe the insights contained in them to be true. I would probably follow what he said on many issues that are not covered by infallibility. But I would need to realize that in doing so, I would be following the guidance of a man, not the Holy Spirit. There is nothing wrong with following the guidance of a holy man, just so long as you don’t think you are following the guidance of God. :slight_smile:

But that is one side of the Papacy. I’d like to mention also what is, to me, one of the huge benefits of Christ’s instituting the Papacy–Unity.

Christ said, "I do not pray for these [the apostles] only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.” (John 17:20-21)

There are really only two ways to have unity: authority and stasis. Meaning, you can one of three things:
[LIST=1]
*]Authority to decide what is development in doctrine, and what is a departure from what was handed down from the Apostles (Catholic Church)
*]Changelessness in most matters because nobody has that authority (Orthodox churches as I understand them, but my understanding is limited, so if I am wrong and any Orthodox are reading this, please don’t be offended)
*]Fragmentation (Protestant churches)
[/LIST]

If there is no authority, we generally end up voting. And as has been amply shown over the years in Protestant denominations, when you have a vote, and it is at all close, you don’t get unity, you get schism. The 40% that voted the other way go off on their own, and all is well until the next decision needs to be made. Sure, there is a price to be paid for unity in the Church. Sometimes the decision doesn’t go your way. But if you believe that the Church is under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then it’s just possible that the Church is right and you are wrong. What a humbling feeling (in a good way)! :smiley:

In addition, there is the other thing Jesus mentioned: “… so that the world may believe…” The world can see visible unity under the Vicar of Christ (the Pope) a lot easier than it can see the invisible unity of all Christians. Both are important, but visible unity is a better symbol for the world.

Finally there is the fact that with an authority, there can be authoritative teachings. I can’t stand up and say the Catholic Church teaches whatever I want, because there are a verifiable set of teachings that can be consulted. Is it possible that some Catholics have spent so much time praying to Mary that they have neglected praying to God? Yes. Does that mean the Church says it’s OK just to pray to Mary and never to God directly? Absolutely not. Even if every Catholic in America decided to pray only to Mary and never to God directly, the teachings of the Church would remain the same. This is a great help to keep us from following the fads of the age. (The example above is not, in fact, a fad of this age, but I decided not to pick something more controversial.)

What’s true is true. There may be new ways to say the same truth, so people growing up in different environments understand it as well as their ancestors in the Faith did, but the Truth says true, and the authority of the Pope helps us to understand that.

One of the reasons I left the Church was because of (my misunderstanding of) Papal infallibility. It’s also one of the things I really appreciated about the Church when I came back. :slight_smile:

God bless you on your journey!

–Jen

Just to add…to #2:
I think someone already recommended Hail Holy Queen by Scott Hahn as a good book to start with regarding the Marian dogmas. You will have a head start.

Also, our knowledge of Mary is mainly from Tradition, especially, from our Eastern Church brethen, where Mary lived.

Here are early christian writings, but did not make it to the final canon of the Bible:

newadvent.org/fathers/0847.htm

and the Account of the Dormition by John the Theologian:

newadvent.org/fathers/0832.htm

Something for you to research…who is John the Theologian? answer may surprise you.

It matters of faith and morals, yes.

Without sin? Not at all. Don’t confuse infallibility with impeccability. (See Papal Infallibility & In what sense is the Pope Infallible?)

  1. Mary: The veneration and all that I understand, I just want to know where they ideas of the immaculate conception and the assumption actually game from, are they Biblical or did someone just decide thats how it was?

These articles may help you better understand.

[LIST]
*]Immaculate Conception and Assumption
]Mary: Ever Virgin (Fathers)
]Mary: Full of Grace (Fathers)
]Mary: Mother of God (Fathers)
[/LIST]

  1. Purgatory: This is another big one for us to understand. I have read passeges in the Bible talking about it, so my main question is how does it work. Like if i die but did not ask for forgiveness first, is that where I go?

I have an article on my blog on this that might put it in a context that you can better understand.
Biblical and Jewish Traditional Beliefs About Purgatory and these articles from CA may help as well.

[LIST]
*]Purgatory
]The Roots of Purgatory (Fathers)
[/LIST]

I am excited about (hopefully) joining the church, I have been giving it some serious thought for a long time now and feel like God has dragged me kicking and screaming towards it, but everytime I go to mass I feel like I’m at home and where im suppos to be!

:thumbsup: God bless you. We’ll be here with you all the way.

Awsome, thanks for all the help guys, im trying to make myself as informed as I can so that when my RCIA classes start I can have a lot of questions ha.

I do have another one concerning baptism.

Recently I was reading an article on Catholic baptism and how it was talking about how submersion was the preffered way to do the baptism, like how the Orthodox church does when it baptises infants and adults. Also, the article was talking about how new Catholic parishes are putting baptistries (I think thats the name for it) in, rather than baptismal fonts. What is everyones opinion on this?

Non issue to me. Again I have an article or two on baptism that might help some.
Baptism~ Necessary or Not?
The Case For Infant Baptism

Might also wanna check out The Didache

Ok cool, thanks, I like the corrilation between circumcision and baptism, I had never even heard of that until several months ago (I was raised in the Church of Christ) so infant baptism is frowned upon anyway, let alone taught about.
Three more questions I had.

  1. Catholic Evangelization: Does this exist? I read about how quickly the church is growing in Africa and other places and was wondering, how do Catholics evangelize?

  2. Coming from an evangelical protestant background I got a good Biblical foundation growing up as a child through the church. Does the Ctaholic church do this for kids growing up in sunday school?

  3. What is the new revised Missle I keep reading about? What exactly is it doin?

  1. Not nearly enough. Please bring this spirit of evangelization with you to your parish. It is desperately needed.

  2. Sadly most parishes don’t have Sunday School. The closest they have are Condirmation (CCD) classes. Another thing that could be a great blessing to your parish.

  3. The English language Mass is a translation of the Latin. As with any translation, there are different ways to translate. If the text says “raining cats and dogs”, you could translate it literally or instead rained very hard. Both are valid, but convey different degrees the message intended. This new Missal is a more literal translation. The current one is less literal. It is hoped that the new translation will improve our reverence and awe, plus connection to the Mass and the meaning.

Ok cool, thanks for the help. I would really like to try and do that. Out of the people that I talked to today at church, they said that was the biggest thing that the churches needed so hopefully I can help with that. Pray for it!

I had a question about the history of the Catholic Church. Where I come from everyone always talks about how the Catholic church was VERY corrupt a long time ago, with the indulgences and everything, and that is why Martin Luther had to breakaway. They also talk about how the church was responsible for mass murders during the crusades and the inquisition. So, since every other Catholic “myth” I have ever heard has been pretty much disproven, can yall give me the true history, brief of course, behind this. Everytime I look it up on the computer it brings up people bashing the church, so I would like to hear from someone who actually knows about it:D

Ah forgot one. Up until the 1960’s was the Mass completely in Latin? And if so, how did anyone understand the service and participate?

Not completely, just mostly. Large portions (such as the homily… or what protestants call a “sermon”) were in the local language.

For the portions in Latin, there were books provided (which you can still get! I have one!) which gave the words and responses as well as provided translation for them into the local language. Go through the mass enough times, and you knew what was going on and being said without even needing the book…

There have been corrupt PEOPLE abusing the authority and name of the church, but the church herself is never and has never been corrupt. For example, while there was abuse of indulgences in Germany during the middle ages, the doctrine on indulgences is sound, biblical, and true. It is important to distinguish the difference between corrupt people (of which we have MANY since all people are sinners) and corrupt institutions (which the Bible tells us the church can never be).

They also talk about how the church was responsible for mass murders during the crusades and the inquisition.

It is important to note that the greatest crime committed during the crusades was the sacking of Constantinople (which was NOT what the pope comissioned an army for, but rather what a particular king thought he had a right to do while going OFF the purpose of his crusade).

All in all, I would suggest you read a few NON-ENGLISH history books. England converted away from catholicism and had to justify the existance of an entirely new church… as such, many English historians from the time were either coerced or voluntarily embarked on rewriting history to justify Anglicanism’s usurpation of the church. Our modern textbooks work off of these biased histories, and any REAL historian can tell you that church history as taught in high school (and which fuels most protestant angst over the church’s history) is abysmal.

I won’t go into a ton of detail due to space constraints and the generality of the topic, but let’s just shorten it to this: without the first crusade, christianity would have died out in the middle ages as muslim armies continued to invade Europe. The first and second crusades were, in general terms, counter-offenses meant to retake land that the muslims had stolen from Christianity (often by brutal invasions). If you speak English and are a Christian, you can thank Catholicism and the crusades for that very fact.

As to the inquisition, yes, some abuses occured… but let us also not forget that the result of the inquisitions included the following:

  1. reintroduction to the idea of legally qualified judges who were required to be educated in the matters of the law
  2. reintroduction to defense attorney’s to represent the defendent
  3. Requirement that credible evidence needed to be presented before someone could be declared guilty (the basis for American “innocent until proven guilty”)
  4. First protections against coerced confessions came about during the inquisition
  5. Penalties against purjory introduced
  6. a murderously evil group, known as the Cathars, was stopped in it’s tracks, preventing their crimes (such as the attempt to overthrow France, murder the pope, etc).
  7. the VAST majority of punishments given by the inquisition were to those who were misled by the Cathars and recanted the Cathar heresies immediately… these punishments were no worse than penances given to catholics today. A little fasting, a little prayer, and a person was generally good to go. The death penalty was rare, was the chosen punishment by the state (not the church) and was given to those unrepentant heretics who, very often, were guilty of serious crimes.

So, since every other Catholic “myth” I have ever heard has been pretty much disproven, can yall give me the true history, brief of course, behind this. Everytime I look it up on the computer it brings up people bashing the church, so I would like to hear from someone who actually knows about it:D

I love reading the catholic enyclodedia when it comes to matters of church history. It considers multiple sources accross various languages and is brutally honest in its criticism of the corrupt within the church throughout the ages… but it also points out where people have large misconceptions and seeks to clarify where those misconceptions originated and why.

Thanks for that, I plan on contiuing to read up on that.

One of the last things I wanted to ask right now was about “lapsed” catholics.

Out of the few Catholics that I really know well, only 3 of them are actually practising, is that very common among Catholics? It seems like there are a good many “lapsed” people out there. Is it just because the church is so big that it makes it seem like there is a lot more? Im wondering bc the parish I go to seats about 500-600 people and its always packed at every service, however if i talk to someone in passing they say they are catholic but never go to church, why is this and what can be done to fix this problem and bring people back to church?

Oh yes, there are a good many “lapsed” catholics out there. In a world that is home to more than 1 BILLION catholics, we have more fallen away members than any other sect of Christianity. The devil is seductive and works on Catholics very hard to remove us from the church… and the modern world plays into that by intimating that we can be good people even when we don’t go to church (or that we can be good people without God).

It varies from country to country, but Europe and America definitely have the highest number of “non-practicing” catholics.

Is it just because the church is so big that it makes it seem like there is a lot more?

Yes, and also the country you happen to be in at the time.

Im wondering bc the parish I go to seats about 500-600 people and its always packed at every service, however if i talk to someone in passing they say they are catholic but never go to church, why is this and what can be done to fix this problem and bring people back to church?

Like I said, the world and Satan play against the church CONSTANTLY and seduce people away. They tell us that we don’t need the church to be good, that the receiving the Eucharist can’t be THAT important (even though Christ tells us it is!), and that that priest is just another man so who is HE to give us sacraments (pride… one of the devil’s favorite sins)?

How to fix it? That’s a complex problem. I’d say prayer is key to that battle. We pray for sinners all the time, for conversions to the church, for the holy souls in purgatory… but we must also remember to pray for the body of the church and those who have fallen away. The MOST powerful weapon of the Church to combat the evil of the world is the Holy Spirit, and without the Holy Spirit the church would rapidly fall apart.

Second, outreach and teaching… both in Catechesis (formation of someone becoming catholic) and ongoing. We must teach the importance of the mass and sacraments much better. We must teach WHY transubstantiation is not only real, but REQUIRED for salvation. We must teach humility and discipline far better. We need to have the courage to confront non-practising catholics with love and ask them to go to mass with us! Just offering to call and remind people (or to wake them up!) could help!

Third: engage people. At a local parish, we had four masses. ONE had the leadership of music put on by local young adults (college and high school) with those young adults selecting the music (with the priest involved) and performing it during mass. A change in parish leadership caused that to go away… the new leadership was one of those types of “ONLY” classical music allowed in mass. The young adults were basically told “thanks for your effort but your music is not good enough for the mass”. Today that parish still has it’s older crowd, but the youth are not around for any of the masses (vice having 1 out of 4 masses having a plethora of young, vibrant catholics). The mass where the young adults led the music ministry? No cantor today, no hymns, almost no music except the only violin player who comes from an earlier mass to play. People sing along as they can. Basically, we must reject the notion that a personal preference in music represents dogma of the church. The unbending will of a person who thought that God is only pleased by violin and piano drove people away from the mass and bankrupted the music liturgy of one of the services. We must cleave to Church teaching and NOT inject our PERSONAL opinions of what mass is supposed to be (otherwise we fall away from the Holy Spirit and into our own personal desires… which no matter how good will have unintended consequences that hurt the body of the Church). SIDE NOTE: I even say this as someone who prefers traditional hymns and music over modern, contemporary, or international.


Another thing to work on would be starting a retreat program within each diocese. Oh man I have seen some great things come out of our diocese retreat program (2 retreats a year targeted at young adults aged 18-32)! Non-practicing catholics come to the retreats invited by their practicing friends and they leave ON FIRE and understanding so much more about why the faith is and why practicing it is important!

I was talking with my family yesterday, who are all Church of Christ and verrrrrrry hard to talk to when it comes to this. They were trying to 100% convince me that the Pope, or past Popes had been the anti-chrsit. My question is, how can you be the “anti-christ” when you preach the word of Christ as truth? They were saying something about the 7 hornd and how the pope has a 7 tierd hat…im not exactly sure. But they are not the only people Ive heard that from growing up. Can someone explain why someone would think/believe that?

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit www.catholic.com.