Saturday, August 18, 2018

What does the Church teach about homosexuality?

In today’s society, sexual identity, whether it be homosexuality or heterosexuality, is presented as a matter of personal identity, as the core of who a person is. But we are more than a disposition or a sexual attraction. The Church teaches that who we are, our fundamental identity, is based on our relationship with God; we are children of God.

As children of God we are all called to holiness. Concerning our sexuality, that means we are called to chastity, respect for the gift of sexuality that God gave us. Our sexuality is oriented towards the procreation of new life and to the unitive element of love between the husband and wife. This is called complementarity. The gift of one’s sexuality is given to one’s opposite-gendered spouse and vice versa.

The Church does not condemn or judge those who have homosexual tendencies. She realizes that this may be a trial and prays that they respond to the call to chastity. However, unjust discrimination towards those with homosexual tendencies is immoral and unjust. Acts of sexual expression outside the union of marriage between husband and wife are against natural law. This includes homosexual acts as well as heterosexual acts.

The Church treats all with respect, compassion, and sensitivity. Read more about the Church’s teaching on chastity and homosexuality in the Catechism, paragraphs 2357-2359.

Know your faith. Live your faith. Teach your faith.

Why does the Church teach things that aren’t in the Bible?

Not everything that Jesus said and did is contained in the Bible. John’s Gospel verifies this: “There are also many other things that Jesus did, but if these were to be described individually, I do not think the whole world would contain books that would be written.” (Jn. 21:25) That means there are teachings that Jesus gave to his apostles that were not originally written down. We call these teachings Sacred Tradition or Apostolic Tradition.

The Catechism teaches us that the Gospel was handed on in two ways, Scripture—the written message of salvation, and Tradition—the oral, or spoken, message of salvation. “As a result the Church, to whom the transmission and interpretation of Revelation is entrusted, ‘does not derive her certainty about all revealed truths from the holy Scriptures alone. Both Scripture and Tradition must be accepted and honored with equal sentiments of devotion and reverence.’” (para. 82)

For example, the teachings about Mary as the Immaculate Conception and her Assumption come to us from Sacred Tradition, even though their foundations can be found in Scripture. Read more about Sacred Tradition in the Catechism, paragraphs 75-83.

Know your faith. Live your faith. Teach your faith.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Why should we listen to the pope? He’s just a man.

The question about listening to and obeying the pope’s teaching can be divided into two parts: infallible teachings and everything else. The previous "Ask Mr. Mueting" deals with papal infallibility, so we need to look at everything else.

The pope is the supreme teacher of the Church. If the pope is confirming the faith and morals of the Church as has been handed down from Jesus to Peter and the apostles to the pope and the bishops today, he is teaching God’s Revelation. His words “must be adhered to with the obedience of faith” as the Catechism writes. (para. 891)

However, the pope also speaks and writes on other matters that are not directly found in Revelation. Even then, the pope, when he proposes “in the exercise of the ordinary Magisterium a teaching that leads to better understanding of Revelation in matters of faith and morals” (para. 892) is due religious assent. That means the pope’s teaching should be accepted and followed.

The pope is a man, but he is also the pope, a man with the responsibility of guiding the Church and the world to come closer to God. Of course, we should listen to him! Read more about the teaching office of the pope in the Catechism, para. 888-892.

Know your faith. Live your faith. Teach your faith.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

What is papal infallibility?

Let’s start with what papal infallibility is NOT. It is not the belief that whatever the pope says is never incorrect. If the pope says Argentina is going to win the World Cup, that is not infallible. It also does not mean that everything the pope says is a matter of the faith and morals of Church teaching and thus has to be believed.

Papal infallibility is based on the teaching that the Catholic Church can never be wrong on matters of faith or morals. That means that the Church can never promote a teaching of faith or morals that is in error. So papal infallibility means that the pope, when he is exercising his role “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” (para. 891) is teaching the truth of the Church.

Previous popes have made use of this in an extraordinary way twice, in declaring Mary the Immaculate Conception and that she was assumed body and soul into heaven. Pope St. John Paul II has made use of infallibility in an ordinary way a number of times, in declaring that the Church cannot ordain women as priests, and that acts such as “homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia, and voluntary suicide” (Veritats splendor, par. 80) are intrinsically evil. Read more about papal infallibility in the Catechism, paragraphs 888-892

Know your faith. Live your faith. Teach your faith.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

How was the universe created?

If this is a question to set up a Bible vs. evolution conflict, or a faith vs. science conflict, it won’t work. There is no conflict between the Bible and evolution or faith and science. Truth cannot contradict truth because biblical truth, scientific truth, and the truths of faith are all from God, the source of all truth though they may be expressed in different ways.

However, this question can get us to the heart of the meaning of creation. Genesis tells us in Chapter 1, verse 1: “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” The Catechism writes that “three things are affirmed in these first words of Scripture: the eternal God gave a beginning to all that exists outside of himself; he alone is Creator. The totality of what exists depend on the One who gives it being.” (para. 290)

What this means is that God is the source of all that exists, he alone created the universe, and our existence depends on him. Scripture does not give us a scientific account, but a religious account. And since God is love, the universe was created out of love. Read more about creation in the Catechism, paragraphs 279-314.

Know your faith. Live your faith. Teach your faith.

What is the point of the parables of Jesus?

Parables are short tales that Jesus told as part of his teaching ministry. Their purpose was not just to tell a moral, but rather to invite the listener to enter the kingdom of God. The Catechism tells us: “The parables are like mirrors for man: will he be hard soil or good earth for the word? What use has he made of the talents he has received? Jesus and the presence of the kingdom in this world are secretly at the heart of the parables. One must enter the kingdom, that is, become a disciple of Christ, in order to ‘know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven’.” (para. 546)

The parables could be about prayer, or about the kingdom of God, or about how we should act toward one another, or about who Jesus is to us. Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI wrote that parables bridge new information with familiar information. Thus, a parable does double duty; it calls new ideas to listeners to reflect upon them, and it also calls them into entering a journey to go beyond their present knowledge to new knowledge.

The parables caused the Pharisees and Sadducees discomfort because they challenged their way of life and thinking. Even the apostles had problems understanding the parables, and to them Jesus explained some of their meanings. Some of the parables used imagery that the people could readily understand so they could understand Jesus’ teaching about the God’s kingdom. Read the parables in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

Know your faith. Live your faith. Teach your faith.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Aren’t all religions basically the same?

This question reflects the relativism of our times. It also reflects the reality that Christianity is not one as Jesus desired. So, there are four issues that may be involved here: 1. Does it matter whether I am Catholic or not and if not, what’s the big deal? 2. How can Catholicism be true if every other Christian religion claims to be true as well? 3. Why does religion matter anyway? 4. Why is there religion in the first place? But let’s just focus on the question itself.

Different religions believe have different beliefs. Some believe that Jesus is God, some don’t. Some believe in a God, some don’t. Some believe that there are multiple gods, some don’t. So just with those three statements, there is a first answer to the question: No, all religions are not basically the same. Some religions’ beliefs absolutely contradict other religions’ beliefs.

Put simply, there are different religions because people have different experiences of God. Jews have an experience of God based on Moses; Christians on Jesus; Muslims on Mohammed; Mormons on Joseph Smith, Buddhists on Buddha, and so on.

However, all religions are based on the human desire to know God. The Catechism tells us: “The desire for God is written in the human heart, because man is created by God and for God; and God never ceases to draw man to himself.” (para. 27) The Church acknowledges all goodness and truth that is present in any religion as “a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life.” (para. 843) But the fullness of God’s Revelation and the fullness of truth and goodness comes to us through Jesus and his Church. Read more about our natural desire for God in the Catechism, para. 27-30; and how the Church relates to non-Christian religions in paragraphs 839-845.

Know your faith. Live your faith. Teach your faith.