By Father Ray Ryland - The Catholic Answer, 11/1/2011
Q. The Science Channel takes every opportunity to take potshots at the Catholic Church. Can you point me to a reliable source of the facts in the case of Giordano Bruno? I have heard that the Holy Office actually tried unsuccessfully to get him off the hook. Is that true?
Bill, via e-mail
A. Giordano Bruno (1548-1600) was a Dominican priest who was formally accused of heresy within a few years after his ordination. He renounced his order and began wandering from one country to another, spreading his erroneous views. In Geneva he apparently became a Calvinist briefly, but the Calvinist Council excommunicated him. In England he wrote a bitter attack against the Catholic Church. In 1585, he did attempt to be reconciled with the Church, but refused the Church’s order to return to the Dominican community. He went to Germany where he became associated with Lutheranism, but was soon excommunicated by the Lutherans.
After being arrested by the Inquisition in Venice, he abjured all his errors with regard to the Catholic faith. Soon thereafter, however, he soon resumed his heretical teaching and writing. He was extradited to Rome and kept in the prison of the Inquisition for six years. When he consistently refused to retract his errors, he was handed over to the secular power. On Feb. 17, 1600, he was burned at the stake.
An oft-repeated anti-Catholic canard is that he was condemned because he defended the Copernican theory of astronomy. (Is this what the Science Channel program claimed?) This is false. He was condemned for his heretical views. Christ, he said, was a very skilled magician, but in no sense the Son of God. According to Bruno, the Holy Spirit is simply the soul of the world. You may read the details of his tragic career in the Catholic Encyclopedia (www.newadvent.org/cathen/03016a.htm).
The Thoughts of Many Hearts?
Q. Regarding Luke 2:35: “(and you yourself a sword will pierce) so that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” What thoughts? Whose thoughts? I think it may be a reference to all the private revelations from Mary thru the years and past Fátima to today. Any thoughts?
John Murphy, Rocky River, Ohio
A. In this passage Simeon clearly foretells the Blessed Virgin will be intimately involved in her Son’s redemptive mission. Therefore, with and like her Son, she will undergo profound suffering.
The promise that “the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed” refers to the preceding verse: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be contradicted” (Lk 2:34). Simeon refers here to the thoughts of the hearts of those who will either accept or reject her divine Son. Their choice will reveal whether they are open to God’s working in and through them.
Accepting God’s Will
Q. This morning, while I was praying the second glorious mystery, the Ascension of Our Lord into Heaven, and praying for hope, it occurred to me: Isn’t hope contrary to accepting the will of God? What exactly is hope, and how does it reconcile with accepting the will of God? Isn’t hope hoping for our own will? I thought of hope, too, in relation to the faith, hope and charity of 1 Corinthians 13. Thank you for any guidance you can offer.
Christa Selig, via e-mail
A. It is true that ordinarily we use the word “hope” to refer to some event we want to occur. “Hope” in this sense is the expression of a human desire. But the theological meaning of hope is a totally different reality.
Hope is one of the theological virtues, along with faith and love. As such, it is also a desire: a desire for eternal life in the kingdom of heaven. This hope is “the confident expectation of divine blessing and the beatific vision of God; it is also the fear of offending God’s love and of incurring punishment” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 2090). In this hope, we place our trust not in ourselves but in the promises Jesus Christ gives us. In this sense, then, “hope” and “trust” are almost synonymous.
More on Neanderthals
Q. I am a subscriber to the Catholic Answer and have a follow-up question to Father Ryland’s answer concerning Neanderthal and Cro-Magnon man (“Neanderthals?” TCA Faith, July/August). Science forms its theories on abundant and speculative information, and then strives to prove them. It seems we are now speculating on the Adam and Eve story, where Scripture says God formed man from dust, put him to sleep, took a rib and made woman. Hate to sound like a fundamentalist, but how do we teach our children and people who think like children about this event?
Chuck Mazzei, New Castle, Pa.
A. “This event,” I take it, is the creation of our first parents. Scientists are not agreed on whether human beings arose from one set of parents (monogenism) or from several sets of parents (polygenism). According to the theory of evolution, over aeons certain forms of animal life evolved into human beings. In the evolutionary chain assumed by this theory, there is still an important missing link: that being which is more than animal but not quite human. Despite all its evidence, science cannot tell us how Homo sapiens first appeared on the scene. I think we can safely say it never will be able to tell us from what evidence it produces.
Sacred Scripture reveals that God created our first parents in his own image and likeness. That is the primordial fact about us human beings. That is solemn teaching of the Church. I believe, therefore, that the Genesis account of creation will always be the ultimate explanation of human origins.
Q. First, thanks for clearing up my question on absolution (“Absolution Contradiction?”, January/February). I am in no position to argue with your “Relations in Heaven” answer (same issue), but in Catholic high school we were taught when discussing divorce that we would always be united in heaven as man and wife. In the 1940s, we didn’t question Father, much less argue with him. In college, a well-known theologian, whose name I forget, taught a similar message. As in the much later Compendium of the Catechism, he said in so many words that the union was “indissoluble” according to Christ and a “perpetual bond” between the spouses. In effect he taught that indissoluble and perpetual didn’t end when we died if Our Lord said so. Of course, by now we did debate him on this and asked if that included a physical or a sexual bond when we regained our bodies. (Not like the questions we dared to ask in high school.) His response was yes. What I read in the Catechism doesn’t seem to preclude their teaching. Where am I mistaken? I am sure both you and he are well educated, but there seems to me to be a contradiction here. My wife is dead, and I truly believe we will be closer together than anyone else in heaven. Your comments please.
Name withheld by request, via e-mail
A. Our Lord did not speak of marriage as forever “indissoluble,” nor did he speak of it as “perpetual.” He did say, “‘Therefore, what God has joined together, no human being must separate” (Mt 19:6). The Church’s shorthand for these words of Our Lord is the word “indissoluble”: indissoluble by any human effort in this life. But the Church has always taught that the marriage bond is dissolved by the death of one (or both) of the partners.
You simply cannot ignore Our Lord’s words: “When they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but they are like the angels in heaven” (Mk 12:25). The contradiction of this, the notion that a marital sexual bond will continue in heaven, is absurd. I know a woman married to her third husband, her first two husbands having died in succession. Is she to have a sexual relationship with three men in heaven?
However, I believe the love between spouses will continue — indeed, find its fulfillment — in heaven. We know that individuality will be preserved; that is clear in Our Lord’s own resurrection. In deep marital love, spouses emotionally and spiritually become part of each other. Or to put it another way, a husband abstracted from his wife (or vice versa) would not be the same person.
The deeper the love between spouses, if it’s a mature love in Christ, the greater is the capacity of each to love other persons. When married persons love their dear friends, this in no way lessens their love for one another. In heaven their marital love will find its fulfillment, at whatever depth it had achieved before they died. In perfect loyalty to one another they will be enabled deeply to love all those around them. And all because their lives will be totally centered in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Three Days of Darkness?
Q. I’ve been getting e-mail messages about the “three days of darkness.” What are we as Catholics supposed to think about this. How should we prepare for it?
Joyce Enders, Huntington Beach, Calif.
A. Quite a number of mystics in recent centuries have spoken of a day, or three days, of “darkness.” So far as I know, the Church has never given approval to any of these revelations. If the mystics’ warnings are valid, how should we prepare? Our Lord has given us our orders: “Therefore, stay awake! For you do not know on which day your Lord will come” (Mt 24:42). None of us knows when the Lord will come and take us home. When you first awaken in the morning, ask our Father to help you serve Him in the day ahead as though it were your last on earth.
Purgatory; Gregorian Masses?
Q. I am very interested to know what is the Catholic teaching on purgatory. Additionally, I am anxious to know about the Catholic stance on Gregorian Masses to assist the release of the poor souls in purgatory. Sadly, my dad passed away on March 5, 2011, and my mum five weeks later on April 8, 2011.
Mary Ellen Foye, via e-mail
A. Non-Catholics assume that at the moment of death a person faces two alternatives, heaven or hell. They ignore a third state proclaimed in Scripture, which tells us that between Good Friday and Easter morning Jesus “went to preach to the spirits in prison” (1 Pt 3:19).
Our Lord himself twice spoke of this third state. In his parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus tells us that at death the poor man “was carried by the angels to the bosom of Abraham” (Lk 16:22). Hanging on the cross, Jesus promised the penitent thief, “today you will be with me in Paradise” (Lk 23:43). A footnote in the Revised Standard Version (a Protestant translation, please note) informs us, “Paradise (like ‘Abraham’s bosom’ in 16:22) was a contemporary Jewish term for the lodging place of the righteous dead prior to resurrection.”
Why this intermediate state? Start with the fact that forgiveness removes the guilt of sin, but does not remove the punishment due to sin. By acts of piety (especially receiving indulgences) we can allow God to free us from that punishment. The great majority of us at our death have not yet been completely cleansed of all traces of sin. We know that nothing “unclean” — that is, imperfect — can enter into the presence of the Lamb in heaven (see Rv 21:27). Purgatory is the cleansing state through which we who die in a state of grace prepare for life in heaven.
C.S. Lewis, a non-Catholic, wrote to a friend: “Our souls demand purgatory, don’t they? Would it not break the heart if God said to us, ‘It is true, my son, that our breath smells and our rags drip with mud and slime, but we are charitable here and no one will upbraid you with these things nor draw away from you. Enter into the joy’?
“Should we not reply, ‘With submission, sir, and if there is no object, I’d rather be cleaned first.’ It may hurt, you know’ — even so, sir” (Letters to Malcolm, 108-109).
The Catechism of the Catholic Church sums up the meaning of purgatory in these words: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of their eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven” (No. 1030). The Church has two defined doctrines regarding purgatory. First is the reality of purgatory, and second is the obligation of the faithful left behind to pray for the progress of those in the purifying state. We should faithfully pray for the departed, as indeed they continue to pray for us. Thanks be to God for the Communion of Saints!
Meaning of New Wine?
Q. Please give all the biblical definitions of “New Wine.”
Tom Filipkowski, via e-mail
A. There are no definitions of “new wine” in Scripture, but one of Jesus’ important parables speak of “new wine.” “People do not put new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise the skins burst, the wine spills out, and the skins are ruined. Rather, they pour new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved” (Mt 9:17; see also Mark 2:22; Luke 6:37-38). The “new wine” referred to is the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Our Lord’s time wine was stored in skins, not in bottles. When new wine was put into a container made of skin, the wine was fermenting and giving off gases. Those gases put strong pressure on the skins. A new skin had elasticity, and could give with the pressure. Old skins were hard, with no elasticity. Under the pressure of fermentation, an old skin would burst.
This parable illustrates the contrast between traditional Judaism and what Jesus was teaching. For the Jews, the Law was the final word of God. The Scribes and Pharisees were determined “to build a fence around the law.” They fiercely opposed the Gospel because it could not be contained within the limits of the law. The “new wine” of Christ required new “containers,” faith-filled hearts surrendered in trust to Jesus Christ.
The Birth of Our Lady?
Q. My question is: On what basis did the Church designate Sept. 8 as the date Our Lady was born?
Fernando Matro, Chicago, IL
A. In early centuries the Church began using Dec. 9, then later, Dec. 8, as the feast day of the Virgin’s Immaculate Conception. I am unable to determine why this date was chosen. Given the latter date, however, the Church logically celebrates our Blessed Mother’s birth nine months later, on Sept. 8. TCA
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