TCA Faith for May/June 2013

Anglo-Lutheran Catholics?

Q. What is the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church? Is the church in full communion with Rome now? I have read somewhere that the church uses the Catechism of the Catholic Church and is using the Novus Ordo for its service. 

Pete Bayona, Lawton, Okla.  

A. Of all recent denominations formed, the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church is surely the most eclectic. It was formed by a group who broke away from the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod in 1997. All Lutherans, this group claims, are Catholics formed into involuntary schism by the Catholic Church’s reaction to Martin Luther’s attempt at reform. (Give these Lutherans credit for a concept new in Christian history: “involuntary schism.”) This position holds that all Lutherans are Catholics — that is, except those who hold any Calvinist or Zwinglian views. 

The Anglo-Lutherans also accept the Anglican Book of Common Prayer’s Articles of Religion as interpreted by John Henry Newman (when he was still Anglican) and insofar as they do not conflict with Catholic teaching. In their worship they use the liturgy the Church has provided for Anglican Use parishes. They claim they accept all official Catholic teaching, and they accept primal papacy and papal infallibility (though, of course, they are not subject to the primacy and infallibility). This group holds that its clergy have received the apostolic succession through various schismatic and Anglican offshoots. 

They require all their clergy to sign a mandatum similar to that of the Catholic Church, vowing to write, preach, teach nothing contrary to Catholic teaching. (Yet they ordain bishops and priests totally apart from papal jurisdiction.) 

Four years ago the Anglo-Lutheran Catholic Church formally petitioned to enter the Catholic Church as one body. The latest information I can find indicates the petition is now before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. However confusing are the claims of this denomination, we must respect and thank God for their desire to be incorporated into Christ’s true Church. Yes, and also pray for them eventually to become faithful Catholics. 

I Am Who Am?

Q. Let me start by saying thank you. I love reading your answers to people’s questions. What a blessing! In Exodus, when God sends Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, he commands Moses to tell them, “I Am sent me to you” (3:14). What does this mean? I am a catechist and would like to explain this correctly to my sixth-graders. Next, please tell me what the Church teaches is an acceptable tithe. Is it a percent, or is it what you can give joyfully? Should it be somewhat of a sacrifice? 

Celia Myer, via email  

A. With regard to the divine name, the Catechism of the Catholic Church contains an extended explanation (see Nos. 206-213). I suggest you lead your class in reading these sections. In giving his name to us through Moses, God is telling us he is “the fullness of Being and of every perfection, without origin and without end. All creatures receive all that they are and have from him; but he alone is his very being, and he is of himself everything that he is” (Catechism, No. 213). Exodus 3:13-14, in which God gives his name, is probably the most important single passage in the entire Bible. 

The first definition of tithe in my dictionary is “the tenth part of goods or income paid as a tax for the support of the church.” Though the word “tithe” has been variously reinterpreted, its literal meaning is still clear. The interpretation one gives on amount should not be based on feelings. Whether one feels “joyful” in giving is hardly a criterion for determining what an individual’s tithe should be; it’s too subjective.  

I once heard this standard for giving to the Church: “Give till it hurts!” I thought then that is hardly a good gauge. When it comes to giving our money, many of us have very low pain thresholds. 

See a later question in this column for more on this topic. 

Resurrection of the Body?

Q. If I am correct that there is no reincarnation, please comment on the Confiteor’s reference to the resurrection of the body?  

James Crowly, Metuchen, N.J.  

A. The belief in reincarnation, properly known as metempsychosis, is an attempt to explain the vicissitudes of human life as results of deeds done in previous lives. Buddhism and Brahmanism hold this belief, as did pre-Christian Greek philosophers such as Plato and Protagoras. Among some modern New-Agers one also finds this notion. 

The Confiteor does not refer to resurrection of the body; the ressurrection of the body is one of the tenants of the Creed. The Church condemned the doctrine of reincarnation (metempsychosis) at the Councils of Lyons (1274) and Florence (1439). “It is appointed that human beings die once, and after this the judgment” (Heb 9:27). 

At the moment of death comes the judgment by which a soul is consigned either to heaven, to purgatory or to hell. 

Encourage Tithing?

Q. Why doesn’t the Catholic Church encourage tithing? Soon after we were married in our early 20s the pastor of our new parish gave a sermon on tithing. That day we decided that we would give 10 percent of our money to charity and save 10 percent. We would live on what was left. Even when my husband lost his job and I was not working, we continued to give 10 percent of the unemployment compensation to charity. Many people we know made far more money than we did, and didn’t have as many expenses, yet we always had what we needed. Our six children all went to Catholic grade schools and high schools, and all have college degrees. There is no reason we should have the savings that we do, except that as our pastor said, “God’s generosity cannot be outdone!” It was over 40 years later, when we were on vacation, that we heard another sermon on tithing. Catholics are known for not being very good givers. Why not encourage tithing? 

Name withheld by request, via e-mail  

Jesus healing
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A. Thank you for sharing this inspiring witness to responsible stewardship. I have known quite a number of families who, like my own, are being blessed through the practice of tithing. I have heard others regretfully say they can’t tithe because at the end of the month there’s almost nothing left. I tell them they have taken the wrong approach. To tithe means to take 10 percent off the top, so to speak, and let God help you live on the rest. Tithers have told me they are in better financial condition than when they gave only 1 or 2 percent of their income. Tithing can involve more than giving 10 percent to one’s church and to charity.  

I know a family whose tithe runs to almost 35 percent of their income, and who believe they are truly blessed thereby. Your pastor back in your early married life spoke Gospel truth. You cannot outdo God in generosity. 

Tithing should be understood not only in matters of money. We owe God a tithe of our time and talents in serving him. What proportion of our time do we devote to personal evangelism, to ministering to shut-ins, to work with community projects for the poor? 

Why doesn’t the Church encourage tithing? Why don’t our clergy encourage tithing? It’s a failure of leadership not to hold up this challenge of stewardship to our people. “Where your treasure is, there also will your heart be” (Mt 6:21). Tithers find that putting a regular portion of their treasure where it should be (in God’s service) greatly helps to put and keep their hearts also in the right place. I urge all our readers, “Try it! See what God can do through you!” 

Was Jesus Ever Ill?

Q. I enjoyed reading your answer and discussion regarding Jesus’ birth (May/June and July/August 2012 issues). I always thought His birth and Mary’s experience were somehow cheapened by saying that Jesus was born by just appearing in Mary’s arms. My question is: Was Jesus ever ill? I often wonder if he was ever sick, especially when dealing with my children who have come down with yet another cold. 

Becky Haroldson, Bel Air, Kan. 

A. The only scriptural references to Jesus’ physical condition refer to thirst and to fatigue. Doubtless He also hungered. Because His physical body was perfect, it would not be vulnerable to inevitable germs He would have encountered. We may safely assume that He was never ill in any way. 

The Pope’s Mitre

Q. What are the words inscribed on the pope’s mitre, and what do they signify? 

Name withheld, via email 

priest
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A. The words are vicarius filii dei, Latin for the pope’s title “Vicar of the Son of God.” The title attests to the fact that the Pope has inherited the role of St. Peter’s as Christ’s earthly head of the Catholic Church. Since the time of Pope Gregory the Great (pontiff from 590 to 604) the popes’ favorite title for themselves has been servus servorum dei (“servant of the servants of God”). 

Abolish or Complete?

Q. What did Jesus mean when He said: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill” (Mt 5:17). Did He mean the Old Testament? And if He did, why did the law change? 

Isabel Taylor, via email 

A. Note first of all that “the law and the prophets” is a summary term designating the entire Old Testament. The Greek word plerosai, “to fulfill,” means “to make complete.” Jesus is telling us that in His life, death and resurrection, the Old Covenant is not only included but is completed in the New Covenant for which it was the necessary preparation. The Old Testament sacrificial system prepared God’s people for the perfect sacrifice of His Son, and is no longer in use.  

The moral law (epitomized in the Ten Commandments) has been both retained and perfectly defined. “You have heard that it was said … but I say to you … ” (see Mt 5:21-22; 5:27-28; 5:43-44; 19:17). 

Escaping Temptation?

Q. I seem to remember a passage in the Bible where we are told that if we are being tempted by Satan, we can tell him to leave by claiming God’s promise that that he has conquered Satan and that we, too, can make him leave. Do you know in what book or verse this might be? 

Georgia, via email 

A. We know that Our Lord rejected temptation by commanding, “Get away, Satan!” (Mt 4:10) or “Get behind me, Satan” (Mt 16:23). I can find no passage in which this assurance you have described is clearly stated. Yet it does paraphrase God’s promise about help in time of temptation. “No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength [a blessed promise!], but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it” (1 Cor 10:13). 

We must never wrestle with a temptation. When you wrestle, you’re thinking about the temptation and thereby helping it grow in strength. Instantly, when the temptation comes into conscious mind, we must refuse to think about it and turn to our God-given “way out.” 

And what is the “way out” from temptation that God has provided? It is calling on the holy name of Jesus in the time of temptation. Any time temptation arises, if we immediately and sincerely call on Jesus to take away the temptation, He will rescue us from it. 

“Whatever you ask in my name, I will do” (Jn 14:13), if it is right and good. Surely, escape from temptation falls under that category. We must cultivate the habit of instantly calling on the holy name of Jesus in time of any temptation. 

Changing Pronouns?

Q. I have gotten into the habit, when I pray by myself, to change the plural pronouns to I, me or my. It seems to make the prayers more personal. This use of first-personal pronouns in praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet, for example, make it seem like it is more from me as an individual. Does that make sense, and is there any reason not to do it? 

Frank W. Russell, Nalcrest, Fla. 

A. Instead of your changing pronouns in the Church’s prayers (more about this later), I suggest you spend a good bit of your prayer time in extemporaneous prayer. Tell God exactly what’s on your mind, whether it be good, bad or indifferent. We tend to rely on the Church’s prayers too much of the time. 

Imagine a young man deeply in love. Suppose he spends all his time with his beloved quoting classic love poetry that he has memorized. She would be flattered, but surely she would tell him: “I want to know what’s in your heart. What are your deepest feelings about me and about us; your deepest hopes, dreams.”  

I think God says somewhat the same thing to us when we largely, or even only, pray using the Church’s prayers. Even if all you can tell God is that you are distracted, or that you would rather be doing something else, tell Him. That would be honest conversation leading to deeper relationship with Him. 

The problem in changing the Church’s prayer to make them personal is that it minimizes or even ignores our responsibility for the spiritual welfare of others. Our faith in Jesus Christ, if mature, always keeps us concerned for others. The Church’s prayers filled with plural pronouns reflect the corporate nature of the faith. 

In the Dialogue of St. Catherine of Siena (“Treatise on Discretion”), the saint hears God telling her, “to Me, in person, you cannot repay the love which I require of you, and I have placed you in the midst of your fellows that you may do to them that which you cannot do to Me, that is to say, that you may love your neighbor of free grace…. This love must be sincere because it is with the same love with which you love Me, that you must love your neighbor.” 

Changing pronouns in the Church’s prayers can make us less sensitive to our obligation of a “passion for souls.” The plurals in the Church’s pronouns are intended to reflect our concern for the growth in sanctity of other members of Christ’s Mystical Body, and of all the others not yet privileged to share in the Body. 

Do Priests Take Vows?

Q. My mother and I have wondered whether all Catholic priests take vows of poverty, or whether only those in religious orders take this vow. 

Cynthia Wolfer, Longmont, Colo. 

A. Priests in general make a promise of obedience to their bishop at ordination. Only priests in religious orders also commit themselves to the evangelical counsels, the vows of poverty, chastity and obedience. 

Peter’s Authority?

Q. I was reading in The Catholic Answer the question “Get Behind Me Satan?” (January/February 2012). The last paragraph reads, in part, “Finally, you can remind your friend that the ‘rock’ could not be Peter’s statement of faith. It is impossible to establish an institution simply on words.” Don’t we believe in Jesus and His Church by faith and words? After all, I didn’t witness the Resurrection or the miracles performed by Jesus. I take it all on faith through Catholic teaching and reading the Bible. I believe that Peter is the head of the earthly Church. Doesn’t feeding the sheep mean that we are to follow Peter’s teaching? Didn’t Peter teach by words and miracles? 

Jeanne Homan, via email 

Peter
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A. Thank you for seeking clarification. The statement you quote may have puzzled other readers. Here’s what it means. 

How do we know anything about Jesus: who He was, what He did, what He taught, what He has left us? Only because He created an institution and left it in charge of Peter and the apostles and their successors. Only because that institution alone, the Catholic Church, under the power of the Spirit, produced the New Testament and with Jesus’ authority authentically interprets it down through the ages.  

Without that institution, the Gospel would have been lost very soon after Jesus left the earth. Christians who try to live apart from that institution are hopelessly divided over, and hopelessly confused about, the true Gospel. Each non-Catholic Christian may believe he/she clearly knows Christian truth, but what he/she knows is only an individual opinion. That opinion is contradicted by countless opinions of countless others living apart from the Church Jesus Christ established. 

Why do Catholics yield to the authority of the Church? Because, said Blessed John Henry Newman, “some authority there must be if there is a revelation given, and other authority there is none but she.” Then he adds, “A revelation is not given, if there be no [institutional] authority to decide what it is that is given” (“An Essay on Development of Christian Doctrine”). 

Moses and Elijah?

Q. In the January/February issue, you answered a question whose heading was “Before or After?” You stated that the only persons who currently have their resurrected bodies in heaven are Mary and Jesus. Based on the account of the Resurrection I would posit that Moses and Elijah are also included in that group. Representing the law and the prophets, both Elijah and Moses were seen conversing with Jesus. How does the Catholic Church explain the issue of bodies in heaven in regards to this Scripture? Thanks in advance for your clarification. 

Chic Harmon, Middle Haddam, Conn. 

A. None of the three Gospel accounts of the Transfiguration tell us Moses and Elijah appeared in resurrection bodies. Matthew (see 17:3) and Mark (9:4) simply report that Moses and Elijah “appeared to them.” In Luke 9:31 we read that Moses and Elijah “appeared in glory.” The meaning of “glory” is unclear. 

In addition, Scripture plainly testifies that those who belong to Christ will receive their resurrection bodies only at the Last Judgment. Jesus said, “the hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear his voice [the voice of the Son of man] and will come out, those who have done good deeds to the resurrection of life, but those who have done wicked deeds to the resurrection of condemnation” (Jn 5:28-29).  

Again, “this is the will of the one who sent me, that I should lose anything of what he gave me, but that I should raise it [on] the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in him may have eternal life, and I shall raise him [on] the last day” (Jn 6:39-40). Repeatedly, Jesus speaks of raising on “the last day” (Jn 6:44,54; 11:23) those who belong to Him. 

The bestowal of resurrection bodies at the Second Coming (Last Judgment) of Christ is also a theme in the Pauline epistles. See, for example, 1 Corinthians 15:22-23,51-53; 1 Thessalonians 4:14-17. 

So, whatever “appeared in glory” (Lk 9:31) means, it does not refer to Moses’ and Elijah’s resurrection bodies. TCA 

Is the Real Presence in the Creeds?

Q. It bothers me that the central tenet of our faith — that is, the Real Presence in the Eucharist — is not mentioned in either the Apostles’ Creed or the Nicene Creed. If it were, there would be no question when this issue comes up in debates with other Christians. 

Name withheld 

A. In fact, the central tenet of our faith is belief in God. Of all affirmations in the Creeds, belief in God is “the most fundamental. The whole Creed speaks of God, and when it speaks of man and of the world it does so in relation to God” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 199). 

Putting a reference to the Real Presence in the Eucharist in the Creeds would solve no problems. Non-Catholics would still be divided from us and with one another over what “real presence” means. Think of the countless divergences of belief among non-Catholics about another section of the Creed, “the one holy catholic and apostolic church.”

Does God love Satan?

Q. Does God love Satan and the devils since He created them, even though they rejected serving Him, rebelled against Him and are now evil? Does God not hate the evil they do since He did not create evil? 

Puzzled in Wisconsin 

A. Scripture assures us “God is love” (1 Jn 4:8), so that everything He creates is essentially good and loved by Him. Though He rejects the evil of Satan and his cohorts, I think we must say that God loves them with an infinite love. Yet their sin is unforgivable. “It is the irrevocable character of their choice, and not a defect in the infinite divine mercy, that makes the angels’ sin unforgivable” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, No. 393). 

Father Ray Ryland, Ph.D., J.D., serves as chaplain for several national Catholic apostolates, an adjunct professor of theology at Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, and an assistant pastor at St. Peter’s Church in the same city.