For this is the love of God,
that we keep His Commandments …
Top 10 Questions Catholics are Asked
The Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said that it’s not that most people dislike Catholicism, it’s that they dislike what they believe Catholicism to be. Wise words indeed. Very few people in today’s day and age study theology, history, and the teachings of the early Church (the Catholic Church) and most information has been skewed over the years. It is no wonder then why there are so many misconceptions about Catholicism in the modern world.
While Catholics today are bombarded by hundreds of different questions, there are ten that are most prevalent. Whether you are Catholic or not, the answers to the following Top 10 Questions Catholics are Asked are important in our deeper quest for truth and wholeness of faith this side of Heaven.
Top 10 Questions Catholics are Asked
Are you saved?
Catholics can be as sure as anyone else that they are in God’s good graces – literally and figuratively. The apostle John states that “you may know that you have eternal life” (1 Jn 5:13; see also Jn 5:24). But this “assurance” must be understood in light of John’s other teachings in the same book: “For this is the love of God, that we keep His Commandments” (1 Jn 5:3; see also 1 Jn 2:3-6); “We know that anyone born of God does not sin” (1 Jn 5:18); “He who loves God should love his brother also” (1 Jn 4:21); “He who commits sin is of the devil” (1 Jn 3:8; see also 1 Cor 6:9).
Likewise, St. Paul does not regard salvation as a one-time decision or event (a ‘once saved, always saved’ mentality). Rather, St. Paul regards salvation as a goal to be sought after, one that certainly can be lost saying: “Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12; see also 1 Cor 9:27, 10:12; Gal 5:1, 4; Phil 3:11-14; 1 Tim 4:1, 5:15).
If you died tonight, would you go to Heaven?
This is a very important question to ask ourselves – If we died tonight, would we go to Heaven? Eternal salvation is nothing to mess with. Catholics have an assurance of salvation if they are faithful and keep God’s Commandments (1 Jn 2:3). If they die in a state of sanctifying grace, they are assured Heaven. In order to enter into Heaven, one must be holy because “nothing unclean shall enter it” (Rev 21:27; see also Is 4:4; Mal 3:2-4).
The cleansing and purifying of the effects of sin is what Catholics call purgatory which is clearly indicated in St. Paul’s writings: “Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done … if any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:13, 15). “For we must all appear before the judgement seat of Christ, so that each one may receive good or evil, according to what he has done in the body (2 Cor 5:10).
Why do you worship wafers?
A consecrated host or wafer at a Catholic Mass is the true Body and Blood of Jesus Christ, not merely bread; so Catholics are worshipping Jesus, not a wafer. In the Gospel of John (6:51-56), Jesus states repeatedly that “he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (6:54). He is speaking literally, and He is so firm about what He is saying that many followers object and leave Him (6:52, 60, 66). St. Paul agrees with this interpretation and writes that those taking Communion “in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord” (1 Cor 11:27; see also 1 Cor 10:16).
We do not sin against someone’s “body and blood” by destroying a photograph (which is a mere symbol) of the person. Moreover, in the Last Supper passages (Mt 26:26-28; Mk 14:22-24; Luke 22:19-20), nothing suggests a metaphorical or mere symbolic interpretation. The Last Supper was the Jewish feast of Passover. This involved a sacrificial lamb, and Jesus referred to His own imminent suffering (Lk 22:15-16, 18, 21-22). John the Baptist had already called Him the “Lamb of God” (Jn 1:29).
Why do you worship Mary?
Catholics do not worship Mary. We venerate (honor) her because she is the chosen Mother of God the Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. Veneration is completely different from the adoration of God. It is the honoring of a person, not the worship that is due only to Almighty God, the Creator. Catholics believe that Mary is the highest of God’s creatures because of her exalted role as Mother of God. But of course, like any other human being, she had to be saved by the mercy of God. She herself said, “My spirit rejoices in God my Savior” (Lk 1:47).
We believe that God saved Mary by preserving her from the stain of original sin at the moment of her conception (the Immaculate Conception). The very fact that God took on flesh and became man (Jn 1:1, 14) indicates that He wished to involve human beings in His plan of salvation for mankind. He wanted to show us moreover, how to live sin-free or “Christ-like” so we too could “be perfect, just as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:48). Mary was a key person for this purpose, taking on human flesh in her womb.
In addition, Scripture itself states from Mary: “behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed” (Lk 1:48). This alone could explain why Catholics honor her so highly, but of course there is far too much to write in one article about the Mother of God and the rightful honor due her.
Why do you confess your sins to a priest?
Jesus Christ gave His apostles (and subsequent priests) the power not only to “loose” sins (that is, forgive in God’s Name), but also to “bind” (that is, impose penances): “Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in Heaven” (Mt 18:18; see also Mt 16:19). “If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained” (Jn 20:23).
The priest serves as the representative of God and of His mercy on earth. The sacrament of Penance (Confession) cleanses us from sin (both mortal and venial) and gives renewed courage, confidence, and a fresh start. One also learns through this discipline the virtue of humility, receives additional grace in order to avoid the near occasion of sin in the future, and attains a certainty of forgiveness that is superior to mere feelings. The sacrament of Confession is also indicated in Matthew (3:5-6), Acts (19:18), and 1 John (1:9).
Why do you pray to idols (statues)?
No Catholic who knows anything about the Catholic faith has ever (or would ever) worship a statue (as in pagan idolatry). If we cherish the memory of mere political heroes with statues, and that of war heroes with monuments, then there can be no objection to honoring saints and righteous men and women: “Honor all men. Love the brotherhood. Fear God. Honor the emperor” (1 Pet 2:17; see also Rom 12:10; Heb 12:22-23).
Statues are simply visual reminders of great saints and heroes of the faith (Heb 11), who are more alive than we are (2 Cor 3:18) as is evident by their praying: “O Sovereign Lord … how long before thou wilt judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell upon the earth?” (Rev 6:10; see also Ps 35:17). The saints in Heaven were never intended by God to be cut off from the Body of Christ on earth. They are involved in intercession, just as the saints on earth are, and they are described as “so great a cloud of witnesses” (Heb 12:1). Remember also that God said that He is a God of the living; not the dead (Mt 22:32).
Why do you pray for the dead?
As stated in the point above, we serve a God of the living and not of the dead (Mt 22:32). The Bible clearly teaches the rightness of prayers for the dead in 2 Maccabees (12:40, 42, 44-45): “Then under the tunic of every one of the dead they found sacred tokens of the idols of Jamnia, which the law forbids Jews to wear. And it became clear to all that this was why these men had fallen … [A]nd they turned to prayer, beseeching that the sin which had been committed might be wholly blotted out … for if he were not expecting that those who had fallen would rise again, it would have been superfluous and foolish to pray for the dead … [H]e made atonement for the dead, that they might be delivered from their sin.” St. Paul teaches this in a similar way: “Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf?” (1 Cor 15:29).
This indicates prayer and fasting for the dead. The word baptism often symbolically refers to penances (Mk 10:38-39; Lk 3:16, 12:50). The apostle Paul also appears to be praying for a dead person, Onesiphorus, in 2 Timothy (1:16-18).
Why do you call a priest “Father”?
“And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in Heaven” (Mt 23:9). In this passage, Jesus is teaching that God the Father alone is ultimately the source of all authority on earth. But He is not speaking absolutely because if so, that would eliminate even biological fathers, the title “Church Fathers,” the founding fathers of a country or organization, and so on. Jesus Himself uses the term “father” in Matthew (15:4-5; 19:5, 19, 29; 21:31), John (8:56), and several other places.
In the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus, Jesus actually presents the Rich Man as using the address “Father Abraham” twice (Lk 16:24, 30; see also Acts 7:2; Rom 4:12; Jas 2:21). St. Paul also uses the term when he writes, “I became your father in Christ Jesus through the Gospel” (1 Cor 4:15; see also 1 Cor 4:14-16), and refers to “our forefather Isaac” (Rom 9:10).
Why do you obey the Pope?
Catholics believe that Jesus commissioned St. Peter as the first authoritative leader of His Church. Matthew’s Gospel has the most direct biblical indication of the papacy: “And I tell you, you are Peter [meaning literally “Rock”], and on this rock I will build my church … I will give you the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 16:18-19). Based on this statement of Jesus Himself, Peter is clearly portrayed in the New Testament as the leader of the disciples.
A pope can, in certain circumstances and certain rules, make infallible, binding pronouncements under certain conditions. Infallibility does not mean that absolutely everything a pope says is free from error. All Christians believe that God protected Holy Scripture from error by means of divine inspiration, even though sinful, fallible men wrote it down. We Catholics also believe that God the Holy Spirit protects His Church as well as its head from error (Jn 14:16) by means of infallibility when speaking ex cathedra, even though sinful, imperfect men are involved in her daily operations.
Are your beliefs found in the Bible?
All Catholic beliefs can be found in the Bible in some form, whether plainly or by an indirect indication. It is not necessary for everything to be absolutely clear in Scripture alone, however. In fact, that is itself contrary to the teaching of Holy Scripture. In the fourth Gospel of John, the final verse, we read for example: “It is this disciple [John] who testifies to these things … and we know his testimony is true. But there are also many other things which Jesus did, which, if they were written in detail, I expect that even the world itself would not [be able to] contain the books that would be written” (Jn 21:24-25). This verse alone lets us know that not all things of Jesus could be contained in Scripture.
Scripture also points to an authoritative Church and Tradition, as St. Paul says in his Second Letter to the Thessalonians: “Stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by letter” (2 Thess 2:15; see also 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 3:6; 2 Tim 1:13-14, 2:2). When the first Christians had a significant disagreement, they did not open Bibles (Bibles didn’t even exist at that point) to decide who was right; they held a council, which made binding decrees (Acts 15:1-29). The very books of the Bible had to be determined by the Catholic Church, and that didn’t happen until the late fourth century. Therefore, Sacred Tradition and Church authority were necessary for us to even have a Bible today.
God bless you in your further quest for Truth!