QUESTIONS IN VOLUME 4
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1. Why plead for religion instead of devoting yourself to constructive and practical problems?
The most constructive and practical problem of all, not only now but for the future, is that of restoring religion in the lives of men. Aware of the necessity of religion, multitudes have never been less aware of how to find it. Yet they cannot go on with a purposeless existence.
2. The acids of modern life have eaten away belief in God and in religion.
And those thus affected have been left utterly discontented. But remember that the denial of religion came only after men had forsaken it in practice. If men ignore moral and spiritual values, living as if they were mere animals - high-grade ones if you wish, but still mere animals - then they will soon try to persuade themselves that they are only animals. That saves them from self-reproach which would arise from the thought that something better is expected of them. A sense of guilt is uncomfortable, and as long as a man retains any religious belief his delinquencies leave a sense of guilt. To have the delinquencies without the sense of guilt men denied religious belief and responsibility to God. But it doesn't really work. And as men get tired at being animals in the jungle they will turn back to God and religion. It's better to turn back sooner than later.
3. I am worried about this religious business. Why cannot we be content to leave the running of the universe to God instead of trying to help Him?
Why are you worried instead of contented without religion? For the rest, the religious man will tell you that our fulfillment of our religious duties is as much included in the way God intends this universe to be run as our breathing or taking our meals.
4. He knows His job better than we do.
God hasn't got a job. We have the job. God has rights. And all the rights are on God's side; all the duties on ours. But you talk as if you were on the same level as God-either dragging Him down to your own level on a fellow-worker basis, or lifting yourself to His level as if you too were Almighty God.
5. Would not people be much happier if they abandoned all religious dreams?
Genuine religion, in thought and in practice, is not merely religious dreaming. Nor, without religion, will people be happier. Their own disappointments, the sight of the suffering of others, the protests of conscience, and the thought of death putting an end to all their earthly plans compel the conviction that this world is not enough, that man is made for more than it can offer, and that religion alone can provide the answer to the whole problem of life.
6. Have not all religions made men engage in the futile search for a direct experience of some imagined God?
Whatever other religions have imagined God to be, I deny that the God who has revealed Himself in the Christian religion is any merely imaginary God. And it is wisdom itself to follow the advice of Christ, seeking first the kingdom of God and of His justice, to whatever other lesser interests we may also devote some of our attention.
7. Hindus, Buddhists, Mahometans and Yogis all have their mystics just as Christianity, which is but one among the many religious outbreaks among mankind.
The superficial argument that there are many religions, therefore not one of them is any better than the others, nor to be regarded as true, is not deserving of serious consideration.
8. Have not even pagan mystics claimed to have got into touch with realities beyond the range of this world?
They have made that claim. And there is no reason to doubt the reality of many of their mystical experiences. Being made for God, all men have a natural disposition - however latent it may be - to seek union with God. But the mystical experiences of those who lack the true religion may easily end in a kind of vague pantheism, or even degenerate into the superstitions of the "medicine-man" or "witch-doctor." The capacity for mystical experience is not very valuable in itself. Its value is derived from the end to which it leads. Christianity gives it the power to lead to genuine union with God.
9. Why do the so-called mystics talk such an unreal and meaningless language?
Their language is not unreal and meaningless to those who have had experiences similar to their own. Any experience of other-worldly reality is necessarily beyond the capacity of ordinary expression. You cannot get into words more than words will say; and in trying to express the inexpressible the Saints have to fall back on all kinds of analogies, images and symbols. If you quarrel with that, then you will have to quarrel with a man like Professor Einstein when he tries to explain even his higher mathematics. Again and again he has to stop writing words and take refuge in complicated symbols. Those who have no key to the cipher simply cannot follow his meaning then. Nor is it of any use asking why he could not have gone on using words we ordinary people can understand. There are things beyond ordinary human language which must create their own methods of expression.
10. These people seem to me to be but the victims of their own imagination.
It would be as unreasonable for the man who knows nothing of higher mathematics to say that of Professor Einstein, as for the irreligious man to say it of the Saints. Yet the work of Professor Einstein has contributed much towards the discovery of atomic energy. In like manner, the mystical experiences of the Saints gave to the world the heroic virtues of men like St. Paul, St. Augustine, St. Francis of Assisi, St. Bernard and a host of others. As the teaching of all the great Christian mystics is substantially in agreement, no wise man would dream of denying the reality of their experiences. He may wonder at them, and feel that they are beyond him. But he knows that he would be a fool to deny them.
11. One must take human nature as it really is, not as these dreamers imagine it to be.
True. But the problem arises as to who is doing the dreaming and imagining. There are three points of view in regard to man. The lowest view considers only the material body, built up from chemical elements. The middle view regards him as belonging to the world of living animals. But the highest and truest view sees him as endowed with a soul made in the image and likeness of God. A study of the soul in itself reveals powers the more astonishing the more one considers them.
12. People would not then be afraid to live normal lives.
What do you imagine a normal life to be? As a matter of fact, people without religion live in only one room of their mental house, and that very often is the cellar. Those who do not utterly degrade themselves live far too superficially, content to be lost in the mere round of external events. Reason itself should tell them that they are blinding themselves to higher and nobler aspects of human personality.
13. It is religion that won't let you be yourself.
Again the question comes: What self do you want to be? If the self you have in mind is only your lower self, then religion would be a boon to you if it stopped you from sinking to that level. People who think life is no more than the raw stuff of animal passion and appetite, who give to all their impulses a free rein, and who talk of living dangerously, are fools. It's all very well to say: "Burn the candle at both ends. It gives a lovely light." The trouble is that it soon burns out, leaving one in stygian darkness. And it has all been tried before, as thousands could tell you from their own bitter experience.
14. The secularist ignores religion and the future, and deals with present duties in the present.
You do not do justice to the secularist. He has a future in view - the turning of this world into a paradise by human efforts only, quite independently of God and religion. But it is he who refuses to face realities. He refuses to face the fact that there is something radically wrong with human nature. Man is a fallen being and not naturally perfectible. All his achievements contain within themselves the seeds of their own collapse. Any new order the secularists may devise will be just as subject to corruption as previous systems. It is the man who knows that the outcome of all merely human efforts is bound to be imperfect, and who knows that God intends to bring humanity to perfection, who is best fitted to deal with the problems even of this world.
15. Do you hold that neglect of religion necessarily results in the neglect of other duties to ourselves, to our families and to our fellow men?
Yes, even though the irreligious deny it. If a man will not be faithful to his duties to God, he is not likely to be faithful to duties to himself by self-discipline, or to his fellow men by justice and charity. If he will not be true to God, why should he be true to his fellow men who are so much less than God? Rationalists, who abandon and ridicule religion, loudly protest that they are none the worse for that. But the unbelieving Renan saw through that. He declared that to attempt to preserve the Christian Code of virtue without the Christian Creed would be like trying to live on the perfume from an empty bottle. Renounce the Creed, and the Code of Christian conduct will also go. From another viewpoint experience also proves that. For men who definitely abandon Christian standards of conduct soon feel impelled to attack and destroy belief in the Christian religion. Hitler in Germany and Stalin in Russia were examples enough of that.
16. If the Catholic Church teaches that justice and charity and peace are not attainable in this world, does it not teach blatant defeatism?
It teaches the only sound realism. The violent breaking up of a Christian civilization which tried to get on without the Christian Faith which created it will force unbelievers to admit defeat. The secularism of the rationalists will never lead to the justice and peace God alone can give. Christ Himself has warned us that one doesn't gather grapes from thorns or figs from thistles. The policy of rationalists, therefore, is one of defeatism. But the Christian outlook is not defeatist. It offers justice and peace in so far as these are possible and to the degree in which men put Christian principles into practice. Realism compels us to admit that not every single human being in the world is likely to do so.
17. To my mind the persistence of religion amongst intelligent men at all is the problem!
As long as the human race persists, religion will persist. Religion is part of man's very nature and he will never be able to get away from it entirely. If people haven't got the right religion they'll invent a wrong religion. The mystery of life forces every thinking man to lift his thoughts ! to something beyond it, and that is always a stepping-stone to a religion of | some sort.
18. Could you give me some reliable statistics about religions in the world today?
It is not possible to give absolutely exact statistics. But approximate figures derived from many sources are available.
19. How many people profess the Christian religion?
About one third of the human race. The "Encyclopaedia Britannica I Year Book for 1953" gives about 2367 million people in the world, of I whom about 750 millions profess to be Christians.
20. Is the Christian religion the most widespread in the world?
Both geographically and numerically it is the most widely accepted religion. Next in numbers would come Mahometanism with some 316 millions. Taoism ranks third with about 300 millions, with Hinduism fourth, counting about 256 millions. Buddhism has about 150 millions.
21. How is the Christian religion distributed amongst its various groups?
According to the above-mentioned "Year Book", the various Greek Orthodox Churches - there are about 16 independent Churches - number between them 128 million adherents. The hundreds of independent Protestant denominations taken together account for about 196 millions. The Catholic Church has some 425 millions. As a single united body the Catholic religion far outnumbers any other religion in the world.
22. What would you say that religion exactly is?
It is the sense of duty which impels a man to render to God the worship and obedience due to Him. This means that it is a form of justice which it is just as dishonest to neglect as our debts to our fellow men. As a matter of fact, we are far more indebted to God than we are to any earthly creditors.
23. Does God want us to feel nothing but a blind sense of duty to Him?
Put it this way. He wants us to have an unswerving sense of duty to Him. So Christ said: "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments." This sense of duty is not blind. It is inspired by the very light of our faith making us see clearly that it is our duty. As for our feelings, God has never promised any gratification of our senses as a result of our obedience. But He did promise peace of soul. And He keeps that promise.
24. God does not need our worship.
We need to render it. And God would not be God if He did not will us to do what it is right for us to do. We are unjust if we do not render to God the love, gratitude, obedience and worship we owe to our Supreme Creator, Father and Benefactor. And not God's future well-being, but our own future well-being depends upon our fulfillment of our religious duties.
25. What good do people get out of worshipping God?
Not much, if they do so only with the idea of what they can get out of it. There are two attitudes to life, the utilitarian and the appreciative. If self-seeking is our predominant motive, even in religion, then we become more and more self-centered, ending by worshipping self only, with no room for the worship of anything or anybody else, even of God. But genuine worship of God is not based on utilitarian grounds. It is based upon an appreciation of God for His own sake. Any benefit we get is a byproduct only. If we aim at the by-product we won't even get that. But if -we put aside self-seeking and worship God as we should, then blessings upon ourselves will result. Utter selfishness is the cause of most of the world's troubles and it is due in great measure to the criminal neglect of the due acknowledgment of God. It is a duty to worship God both privately and collectively by attendance at public religious services.
26. Surely one is meant to find pleasure in religion.
There is happiness, not necessarily pleasure. There may be, of course, pleasurable moments; but they are temporary emotional experiences which cannot be expected to continue permanently. God does not want only fairweather friends. Trial and suffering must come to everybody. Sometimes we'll feel we like our religious duties. Sometimes we won't. But if we are truly religious people we continue fulfilling our religious duties on principle. If we do, we may not always find much pleasure in them from the viewpoint of sense-experience; but we will find happiness of mind and heart and will.
27. I have been informed that sex is the cause of all human behavior.
That might possibly be true of a sex-obsessed maniac; though I doubt it even in his case. It is certainly not true of a normal human being. Reason itself tells us that the reproductive function is but one of the functions of human nature. And its purpose is obviously to enable human beings to reproduce themselves for the sake of keeping human beings in existence. Not that they may merely exist, but that they may behave in accordance with the human nature they have received. Does sex cause the behavior of the astronomer who is carefully engaged in spectroscopic analysis of the sun? What has that to do with sex?
28. Religion itself is a form of sex-expression.
That's an equally ridiculous statement. The sex-instinct, which animal nature shares with human nature, has never sought to express itself among brute animals in any form of religion. Intelligent beings only have ever had a religion; and it is due to the fact that they are intelligent. In other words, it is due, not to the sex-instinct they have in common with animals, but to the intelligence by which they differ from animals. The interpretation of religion as sex-expression is significantly made by people who have given up the practice of religion; who have fallen to sub-human standards of conduct; and who are themselves victims of sex-obsessions. They are not normal human types.
29. You have spoken of collective worship, but I don't need that. I can worship God in the open air, or anywhere.
You can, though not adequately. But do you? Most people who speak like that—popularly known as the "Blue-Domers" - worship God not at all.
30. Long ago I became interested in astronomy and have been a starworshipper ever since.
You mean that your study of the stars has filled you with wonder and admiration, not that you actually worship the stars as gods. But admiration and appreciation of stellar order and beauty is a reason for worshipping the Creator of all things, not an excuse for not doing so.
31. Contemplation of the stars fills me with a new force for good.
You mean that you find the quiet contemplation of them a help towards the attaining of tranquillity of spirit and self-control. So do most people who allow themselves to relax and engage in that same restful pursuit. But that affords not the slightest excuse for dispensing oneself from the due worship of God in the ways God has prescribed.
32. Would it not be enough to read one\'s Bible at home?
Not for a Christian rightly instructed in his religion. Firstly, we owe God fitting worship, not only as individual beings, but as social beings; and that demands both personal and collective worship. Secondly, God has always demanded public worship in the name of the community, insisting that His people should associate together for that purpose. Thirdly, Christ Himself established His Church, insisted upon our becoming members of that Church, and laid upon us the obligation of obeying, its laws regulating religious observances. Fourthly, the very central act of worship prescribed by Christ is the celebration of the Eucharist by duly ordained priests, a form of worship infinitely greater than anything an ordinary individual can accomplish by his own efforts. And to assist at the Eucharist one must attend church. We must remember that since it is God who has to be worshipped and we who have to do the worshipping it is for God to prescribe how we shall do so, not for us to decide for ourselves what we will offer. You can search the New Testament from cover to cover and nowhere will you find that, in order to fulfil his religious duties, a Christian need do no more than read his Bible at home.
33. As a Protestant I point out to Catholics who have to attend church under pain of sin that we Protestants are much better off than they are because we are free to go or not.
To be unaware of any duty in this matter is not to be better off. To be a Christian, yet to be ignorant of Christian obligations and indifferent to them is not a thing on which one should congratulate oneself. The Anglican Dean Inge pointed out that Protestant Churches, having rejected the authority of the Catholic Church, can no longer insist on the duty of attendance at public worship. But what is the result? "The practice of church-going," he wrote, "is likely to decline more and more within the Protestant bodies which cannot, consistently with their principles, inculcate it as a matter of life and death." All around us we see the truth of his prediction more and more evident.
34. The idea of obligation repels me.
Why? You profess to be a Christian. Does the idea of obligation repel you when you hear the other commandments: "Thou shalt not kill;" "Thou shalt not commit adultery;" "Thou shalt not steal;" and "Thou shalt not bear false witness?"
35. To my mind such a law defeats itself.
The fidelity of Catholics to the practice of their religion in contrast to the widespread indifference among Protestants is sufficient answer to that. Listen to these words of the English actress, Dame Sybil Thorndike. Writing in 1938 of her stage experiences she spoke of Catholic actors she had known. And she said, among other things, "Early Mass seems an outrageously difficult thing on Sunday morning after Saturday matinees and night performances. It is only the knowledge of the absolute duty to go to Mass which Catholics are taught that keeps the young actor steady in his religion. The Catholic takes the Mass as part of the necessity of life; and he would no more miss it in his religion, than in his working life he Would miss his train at the station." She had nothing but praise for the Catholic sense of obligation in this matter.
36. Would you say I live any the worse kind of life for not bothering about attending church?
From the viewpoint of religion I say that it is quite unchristian to refuse to associate with fellow Christians in the worship of God. On the basis of sheer individualism which you maintain, the Gospel would never have been preached to the world, the world would never have been converted, God could not be worshipped adequately, the Christian Sacraments would not have been administered, and the Christian Faith itself would not have been preserved. Your principle of its very nature leads to indifference to the Church, to Christian teachings and to Christian moral standards, ending logically in irreligion and secularism.
37. It is sheer formality to teach that Sunday is sanctified by a perfunctory attendance at Mass, and nothing more.
The Catholic Church does not teach that. Assistance at Mass must not be perfunctory, but fervent. Nor is that all. Addressing 300,000, Catholics assembled in the Square of St. Peter's in Rome, Pope Pius XII said: "Sunday must again become the Day of the Lord, the day of worship, of glorification of God, of the Holy Sacrifice, of prayer, of rest, of recollection and reflection, the day of happy reunion in the intimate circle of the family. With all your strength make sure that in your own lives crass materialism, an excess of profane pleasure, does not monopolize the Sunday and thereby efface its divine character, drawing souls to sin and irreligion. The struggle between faith and unbelief will depend to a great extent on the use made of Sunday." From those words of the Pope himself it should be clear that if the Catholic Church rejects a puritanical idea of Sunday observance to the exclusion of all innocent recreation, she does not go to the other extreme of condoning a desecration of Sunday. She insists that it is a Holy Day, and that its primary purpose is one of worship, prayer and devotion to the things of God and of the soul.
38. To my mind religion enters as little into the lives of most people as into the lives of ants.
However great the evil of irreligion, there is no need to exaggerate it. Whatever may be said of individuals, our social life is based upon and molded, to a great extent by religion. Even those who have drifted from personal religion still accept the lingering conventions of a Christian civilization. They are living, if you like, on their Christian capital; and that will still be kept going by those who do personally live Christian lives and maintain Christian standards. The lives of all in the community are affected by it, even though many are not conscious of it. And the lives of all are affected by religion as the lives of ants are not.
39. More and more people are drifting from it.
I am well aware of the growth of irreligion. And rightly you speak of people "drifting" from it. Most of them have just let go, a very easy thing to do. But if you look into the matter you will find that the driftage is to be found chiefly among non-Catholics who have had a secular education only and who have been taught little or nothing about religion. Not knowledge but ignorance is the cause of it. They have no positive reasons for their lack of religion.
40. Even among Catholics, who are the most reluctant to abandon their religion, it is only the few who take it seriously.
It is true that Catholics are more tenacious in clinging to their religion than others. It is not true that only a few Catholics take their religion seriously. That saints are rare I grant. For heroic virtue would not be heroic were it ordinary. But the vast majority of ordinary Catholics take their religion sufficiently seriously to try to fulfill its basic obligations and to be distressed by any failure on their part to do so. If they are not saints, they are at least sorry they are not saints; and that's something. That at least means taking their religion seriously. It is always in their consciousness and not ignored right through life whilst all goes well, to be thought of only at the very end when the vanity of perishable things is forced upon their notice. The average Catholic cannot be said to regard his religion lightly.
41. Is not the driftage from religion due to the fact that people are beginning to think for themselves?
That I have already answered. Far from thinking for themselves those who have drifted from religion live thoughtlessly. They find it too much of an effort to take sufficient attention and energy from the flood of events which engulf them. They prefer to stop thinking in order to do things rather than to stop doing things in order to reflect. So they are empty-headed where God and religion and the things of the spirit are concerned. Their moral character is consequently undermined and they are swayed by likes and dislikes rather than by intelligent principles and will power. Socially, what is conventional is enough for them; but that means doing as others do, without thinking for oneself. Lack of religion is due to lack of thought, not to thinking for oneself.
42. Just the opposite is the case. Not thought, but credulity and superstition keep religion alive!
There may be some religious people who are credulous. But that is because they are credulous, not because they are religious. Credulity has no necessary connection with religion. Half the patent medicines in the world flourish only because of the credulity of people who read the advertisements for them. As for superstitions, they are not the monopoly of religious people. There are far more of them among the irreligious.
43. What is wanted is truth, and truth only.
To that I would say: "Truth only, but all of it—the truth about God as well as the truth about all that He has made." Indeed, were there no God there would be no truth. And why do you say that what is wanted is truth? Why should it be wanted, what obligation would there be to seek it, if there is nothing at all of permanent value in the universe and the whole of human life is one day bound to come to nothing with the end of the solar system? What would it matter in the long run then whether people had bothered about truth or not?
44. Scientists who have professed to be atheists have devoted their whole lives to the discovery of truth.
There have been some such as you describe. But atheists among scientists have ever been in the minority. And if they have professed to be atheists, that is only because they have concentrated their attention on one aspect only of truth, that concerned with material things, to the neglect of higher and more important aspects of truth. They are simply ignorant of religious truth and quite unscientifically declare that it has no reality just because they have paid no attention to it.
45. a. Have not these men had just as great a horror of lies as any advocates of religion?
b. This is not because there is a God, but because society has so conditioned us that we feel more comfortable when telling the truth.
a. Not always. But at least you are taking it for granted that people ought to have a horror of lies, which implies a moral obligation to prefer truth to falsehood. However, you have anticipated that I would stress that point.
b. You wish to avoid admitting conscience as the voice of God. But let us take your suggestion that society has conditioned us in such a way. Why should it do so? If you say because society could not continue to exist if we could not rely upon people normally speaking the truth, why should society be so made that truth and not falsehood is necessary for its very existence? The reason is because there is a necessary connection between truth and reality; and as God is Truth itself, so He is the Supreme Reality. Our very desire of truth, part of our very nature, is a desire of God whether we acknowledge it or not. And as men cannot rest until they find the truth, St. Augustine rightly said, God being the Source of all truth, "Thou hast made us for Thyself, O God; and our hearts will know no rest till they rest in Thee."
46. It is not self-complacency to lack belief in the possibility of personal relationships with God, as offered by religion.
It is certainly not humility which rejects the possibility of such relationships. For those relationships are founded upon the consciousness of our dependence upon God, of our indebtedness to Him of our sinfulness and helplessness, and of our need for His intervention for our salvation. Those who reject the religious expression of these things find man s significance in himself. Their doctrine is one of self-sufficiency and human achievement. For them, the thing is to assert oneself. Consciousness of sin is eliminated and sorrow that one has offended God becomes quite out of place. Self-complacency is the inevitable result.
47. It is not pride which refuses to praise and thank God, or express sorrow for sin, or ask His help in human terms and according to human customs.
Again I must say that it is not humility that leads a man to set himself above such human observances. Of course the pretence is that God could not be interested in our small ways, and that they would have no meaning for Him. But it is against reason to say that God was sufficiently interested to create us and then lost all further interest in us. It is against reason to suggest that God would expect us to acknowledge Him in other than human ways according to the nature He gave us. And it is against reason to suggest that any word or gesture that has meaning for us would have no meaning for Him. He
48. If all men were to abandon secularism tomorrow and return to religion it would remedy nothing.
If they returned to the Catholic religion and lived right up to it in practice all major world-troubles would be remedied, and many minor ones. The greatest service men can do the world today is to spread the Catholic Faith, awakening human beings to a sense of the need of God, teaching them the meaning of the world and of their own existence, and bringing them to the worship of God and to the supernatural life of grace and virtue. Only as the religious, spiritual and supernatural life affects individuals, families and the different nations will the world be redeemed from the miseries into which it has been plunged.
49. The history of religion, gives little support to your contentions.
It is rather to the history of irreligion that you should look for confirmation of all that I maintain. Consider briefly the main outlines of Christian civilization. During the first 300 years Christianity met, fought and conquered the paganism of the Roman Empire. Then it set to work to Christianize Europe. It was supernatural and spiritual. It taught the authority of a God beyond this world and persuaded rulers and subjects alike to acknowledge His laws. There was but one Faith in Europe— the Catholic Faith. Europe was not free from troubles. The world never will be. But at least there was a recognized international law; and the machinery was there to insist upon its observance. The Catholic Church was the arbiter of Christendom. In the 16th century, however, the Protestant reformers preached revolt against the Catholic Church. Temporal kings and princes supported them, seeking independence of the one acknowledged international authority. Both politically and religiously Europe went to pieces. But having abandoned the religious authority of the Catholic Church Protestants found themselves without any religious authority themselves. They said that the Bible was sufficient authority. But men made the Bible mean what they liked, putting an extraordinary variety of interpretations upon it and setting up every kind of independent Church. An era of religious wars and persecutions followed. Eventually many Protestants, tired/of dissensions, drifted from religion altogether. In the 18th century a wave of rationalism swept Europe, denying the Christian religion altogether and insisting that man should go by reason alone. With the loss of faith in God and any future destiny for man, the rush for this world's goods began. It was a question of the survival of the fittest. Untrammeled by religious or moral scruples, the few lucky ones enriched themselves, leaving the mass of the laboring classes in appalling poverty and insecurity. National rivalries reached a culminating point in the First World War. That was followed by the efforts of Fascists and Communists to build up their Totalitarian States, but with no return to God and to religion. The result was almost the complete enslavement of their subjects. The road to freedom promised by rationalism and irreligion was a fiasco. Have you noted the sequence? The Catholic religion had built up our civilization. With Protestantism its disintegration began. Rationalism, secularism and godlessness quickly followed, with rampant injustice, discontent and catastrophe. The only real hope for the future is a return to the Catholic religion in both belief and practice. No other remedy will go deep enough to provide any lasting benefit.
50. In his book, "Selected PrejudicesH. L. Mencken says that the rapid decay of religion in the world "since the Reformation is evidence of a very genuine progress."
That one of the results of the Protestant Reformation has been a widespread driftage from religion among non-Catholics I am willing to admit. That a lapse into irreligion and paganism is progress I deny, however much it may appeal to Mr. Mencken. Mr. Mencken's prejudice is due to his own immediate intellectual environment. He seems scarcely aware of the existence of the Catholic Church, and generalizes from the segment of human culture with which he is familiar. No real value can be attached to his judgment in this matter.
51. As time marches on it will be more and more difficult to justify religion at all.
That's the wrong way round. As time marches on, people will find it more and more difficult to justify their irreligion. The problem of the meaning of life will ever confrontsthem and they cannot be forever content to leave it unanswered. They'll find themselves asking: "If so soon I was to be done for, what on earth was I begun for?" Then, too, the growing fruits of irreligion will shock many of them back to sanity. I say sanity, because really the victims of irreligion are the victims of an arrested development. It is the religious man who is the most natural, matured and truly adult. Meantime, however many people may have drifted from it, religion as such remains unaffected. It retains its sound and reasonable basis; and there will always be those with sufficient intelligence to maintain religious ideals both in theory and practice.
52. Do you think it possible to bring whole nations back to religion.
Not suddenly, and as nations. Nations can repent and return to God only through their individual members. But the sight of national and international needs should make thinking men realize their own need. Thev should reflect that if nations cannot get on without God neitner can individuals. The obligation to return to God and to the true religion must fall primarily upon each individual; for only as their individual members return to God can the nations do so.
53. How can one make men believe in God and enter into experienced relationships with Him?
You cannot; and I cannot. For religion means a revolutionary change in a man's personal life. No man can make that change for another man. We can only explain the reasons for belief in God, what faith is, and what religion requires. We can also, of course, pray for others. But if any man, seeing the necessity, wants to make religion a reality in his own life, he alone, with God's help, can do so.
54. What "religious prescription" can you offer to mankind?
Christianity in all its fullness. Men should take up the Christian religion in earnest, believing all that it teaches and fulfilling all the duties it prescribes. Its basic teaching is man's need of redemption, and it offers the redemption he needs. In the beginning God created man and offered him a destiny of perfect eternal union with Himself in Heaven. But God created man free, and this eternal destiny had to be freely chosen. Because man was free, it was possible not to choose it; and as a matter of fact man refused to choose it. Hb preferred to be independent of God and to behave as if he were self-sufficient. That meant sin, a serious rebellion against God's will. The result has been a series of disasters for man right through history, to teach man that he cannot find happiness apart from God. But from the moment of the very first sin God promised a Redeemer who would restore the possibility of man's eternal destiny; and in due time He sent His own Son into this world under the name of Jesus Christ for that purpose. Jesus died on Calvary, expiating our sins. Then He rose from the dead, offering to all who unite themselves with Him in faith, love and obedience the power to rise to a new life in this world,' and to attain to eternal happiness in the next. Those united to Him, He unites amongst themselves in the Church He established; and that Church is the Catholic Church, with which this book is mainly concerned. Those who.desire the Christian religion in its fulness, therefore, should study the teachings of the Catholic Church, embrace the Catholic Faith, and do their utmost to live up to all its obligations, loyally, fervently and perseveringly until the time of their probation in this world is completed.
55. What exactly is the idea of the Church?
The word "Church" is derived fropi a Greek word, "Kyriakon," meaning "Belonging to the Lord." For Christians, therefore, it is the society consisting of those who belong to Christ. Until His coming we know that the Jews were God's chosen people. They were a visible people, distinct from the nations around them, and they were the custodians of the true religion. Individually and corporately they fulfilled religious duties prescribed by God and offered divine worship to Him in the midst of an idolatrous world. Unfortunately the Jews did not recognize and accept Christ as the Messiah for whom the whole of their religion had been a preparation and of which He was the fulfillment. Not all, however, rejected Him; and the few who acecpted Him He formed into a united visible body distinct both from the Jews and the world, calling that body His Church. This was the new "Israel," the new body of God's chosen people on earth. That is the basic idea of the Christian Church; and to come to Christ is to join the ranks of His chosen people; or, as the Acts of the Apostles puts it, be "added to the Church."
56. My dictionary gives four meanings for the word "Church(1) A building for Christian worship; (2) The whole body of Christians; (3) The clergy; (4) Any particular sect or denomination of Christians.
A dictionary explains words, not things. That is, it merely gives different senses in which words are used, without regard to technical or popular meanings. For exact technical information, not as to how people use the word church, but as to what Christ Himself meant by it, you must go to the New Testament and those early writings which tell us what was taught by the Apostles from the very beginning.
57. We read of synagogues and temples in Christ's days. The word "Church" was unknown.
We read also of the Church. The temple, of course, was a material building. The word "synagogue" was Greek for the Hebrew word "Edah," which primarily meant a group of people and was secondarily used to describe the buildings in which they met. The Greek word for "Church," namely "Ecclesia," was the equivalent of the Hebrew word "Qahal" which meant a group of people united by the same ideals and laws. Both "Edah" and "Qahal," "Synagogue" and "Ecclesia," therefore, have the meaning we express by "Church."
58. Does the New Testament identify the Church of Christ with His Kingdom?
Yes. The Old Testament had predicted that the Messianic Kingdom would be both on this earth before the end of time and also extend beyond time into the next world. Christ declared that it was His own proper' work to declare and establish the Kingdom in this world. "I must preach the kingdom of God," He said, "for therefore am I sent." Lk.,IV,43. He told the Jews: "Do penance, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Matt.,IV,17. He expressly identified the church and the kingdom when He said to St. Peter: "Thou art Peter and upon this rock I will build my church . . . and I will give to thee the keys of the kingdom of heaven." Matt.,XVI,18-19. In describing His kingdom, Christ distinguished a twofold stage-one in this world which He terms the church, and the other after this life for those who attain to eternal happiness in heaven. There is no doubt, then, that He intended His church to be already His visible kingdom in this world.
59. Did not Christ mean by the "Kingdom of God?' the hidden life with God within each one's soul?
According to the Gospels the Kingdom of God means, of course, the Rule of God over human souls, That Rule will be perfectly realized only in Heaven. But initially, here and now in this world, the Kingdom of God finds its expression both individually and corporately in the souls of those who submit freely to the claims of Christ, and in the visible Church He established and to which souls who submit to Him are also expected to belong. The New Testament knows nothing of isolated individual souls who are not members of the Church Christ so carefully established.
60. At least you cannot identify the term "Kingdom of Heaven" with the Church in this world.
In the New Testament that term sometimes refers to the future perfect society of all elect souls in Heaven. But at other times it refers to the Rule of God even now .in individual souls by their voluntary submission to God's holy will. Yet often it also refers to the visible Church of Christ on earth.
61. How do you arrive at that conclusion?
From the very teaching of Christ Himself. He declared that He had come to establish a spiritual yet visible society on eairth which would be an initial, imperfect, but steadily developing stage of a Kingdom of Heaven which would attain its perfection in eternity. This branch of the Kingdom of Heaven He expressly identified with His Church, as I have shown in No. 58. And that it was to be an initial imperfect stage of the Kingdom of Heaven in this world is evident from His parable in Matt., XIII, 47-49, describing the Kingdom of Heaven as like to a net holding good and bad fish. In the eternal Kingdom of Heaven there will be no bad fish. In the Church as a colony of the Kingdom of Heaven in this world there are. Holy Scripture contains many other indications that the Kingdom of Heaven and the Church are to be identified, and that those who desire to belong to it in eternity must belong to the Church as its preparatory stage on earth.
62. Jesus said to Pilate (Jn. XVIII, 36): "My kingdom is not of this world. If my kingdom were of this world, then my soldiers would fight that I should not be delivered to the Jews. But now my kingdom is not from hence."
In those words Jesus replied to Pilate against the charge of sedition. The Jews had accused Him of setting up a political kingdom in opposition to Caesar. He merely pointed out to Pilate that i£ Pie had wanted that kind of kingdom he' would have gathered an army to establish it by force, and that His soldiers would have fought violently to rescue Him. Pilate , saw the force of that, but said curiously: "All the same, you claim to be a king?" Jesus admitted it, and explained in what sense. "My kingdom," He said in effect, "is not a political kingdom as the Jews have pretended. It is a special kind of kingdom. It is different in its origin and in its nature from any earthly kingdoms. Its authority is not maintained by physical force. "For this cause came I into the world, that I should bear witness unto the truth. Everyone that is of the truth heareth my voice." John, XVIII, 37. The kingdom I have established, my Church, has its authority from God, not from the world; and it depends for its control, not upon physical force, but upon the willing obedience of those who love the truth and desire to serve God. The Catholic Church, therefore, in the Mass for the Feast of Christ the King, describes His Kingdom as "a Kingdom of truth and life; a Kingdom of holiness and grace; a Kingdom of justice and love and peace." That Kingdom, "in" but not "of" this world, finds its outward and visible manifestation in the Catholic Church whose very existence depends on the faith in Christ and love of Christ and obedience to Christ in the souls of its members.
63. Christ said: "I will build my Church", obviously referring to the future.
At the time He spoke He was beginning to lay the foundations. He Himself completed His work of establishing the Church in its essential constitution when He sent the Holy Spirit upon the Apostles on Pentecost Sunday.
64. You will agree, therefore, that the building is still in the course of construction. You do not claim to have completed it, I hope.
Better say: "In the course of development." To call the Church a "building" is, of course, a metaphorical expression, for we are speaking of a society of living human beings. But we must keep in mind that it is to press the analogy altogether too far to imagine that it fully explains the nature of the society. Different analogies are used to express different aspects of the Church; and all the analogies and all the aspects have to be taken into account, Christ Himself once said, using another metaphor: "I am the vine and you are the branches." So, too, He likened the Church He promised to build to a tree, beginning as a small seed and developing by its own vital principles. No merely material building does that. And as an acorn contains all the vital principles or powers necessary for its later development into an oak tree, so the Church was constitutionally complete on the day it commenced to fulfill the commission received from Christ to preach the Gospel to all the world. The Church, then, is not "in the course of construction," but "in the course of development." Equally metaphorical is St. Paul's description of the Church as the "body" of Christ, which Christ ever controls and of which He makes us members. Always it is Christ who is the founder and the builder and the source of life in His Church. And that Church is the Catholic Church.
65. How long did Christ expect to take in building the Church?
The preparatory work He expected to take the few years from the calling of the Apostles until the day of Pentecost, on which day He expected the Church to be ready to commence her work. The Church herself was to grow and develop through all subsequent centuries until the end of the world.
66. Why don't you preach the Gospel instead of always stressing the Church?
In stressing the necessity of the Church I am preaching the Gospel. If I speak of the Church it is because it is part of the Gospel; and if I speak of that part more than of other parts, it is because more questions are sent to me on that aspect of the Christian religion than on others. And that in turn is because so many who profess to believe in the Gospels have never really understood their teaching about the Church.
67. Have we to look to the Church for our redemption or to Christ?
To Christ by means of the Church. The New Testament does not permit any division of the Church from Christ, or of Christ from the Church. We are told that Christians become "members of Christ." They share life with Him by grace. But we are also told that the Church is "Christ's body;" and as living members of Christ we must be living members of His body, the Church. It is essential to grasp that the redemption offered by Christ is not only an individual but also a corporate redemption. He forms His own chosen people into a Church, and to belong to the redeemed community is as necessary as it was to belong to God's chosen people before the coming of Christ. The Church is not merely a free association of individual believers who find it useful "to get together" and who are free to dissolve such associations as they will. It is an association appointed by Christ and to which He Himself tells us it is necessary to belong.
68. We must turn for salvation to Christ, not to the Church.
How can one turn to Christ whilst rejecting the Church He declares to be necessary? It is to the Church we must turn in order to learn the full truth about Christ. His teachings are to be found in her doctrines; forgiveness of sin and the help of divine grace are obtained through her Sacraments; and God is worshipped as He should be by that Eucharistic worship in the Church which was given as the very heart of His religion by Jesus Christ the night before He died. You believe that the onlybegotten Son of God took to Himself a human body in which He endured the humiliation of the Cross. But He also took to Himself a corporate body consisting of human beings/enduring the humiliation of their human faults. That corporate body is the Catholic Church—the society of those who are bound together by their membership in the body of Christ. It is in that Church and through her that men must seek their eternal salvation.
69. Do you really think it necessary to belong to a Church in order to be a Christian?
It is necessary to belong to the Church Christ personally established. People are mistaken who imagine that it is quite an optional matter as to whether one belongs to the Church or not. They have a wrong idea as to how the Church came into existence, thinking that a few human beings got together and decided that they would like to form themselves into a society. But those who know the Gospels know that Christ Himself established the Church, prescribed its constitution, bestowed upon it authority to teach mankind and regulate divine worship, and made it an obligation for all His followers to belong to it. In other words, the Church is not a human but a divine institution. I maintain, of course, that the Catholic Church can alone claim truly to be the actual Church established by Christ.
70. Are there not good people who accept the New Testament and honestly try to live up to its ideals, although they are detached from any Church?
There are, but they have mistaken views of what Christ requires of them. They forget that only for the Church they would have no New. Testament and no knowledge of their Christian ideals. Not detached individuals but members of the Church wrote the books of the New Testament. It was the Church that decided what books should belong to the New Testament; and that was not finally decided until the 4th century A.D. The notion that the New Testament existed before the Church and can be accepted independently of the Church is against the facts of history. In any case, the New Testament itself insists on the necessity of the Church. If Christ, who said "I will build my Church," thought it necessary to establish His Church, how can you declare it not necessary to belong to that Church?
71. These people do not bother about organized Christianity.
That is only because they know no better. The Church is an integral part of the Gospel and was so from the very beginning. It is the will of Christ that men should not only be reconciled to God individually, but that they should at the same time be received into a God-created and Godsustained society called the Church—the organized community of Christians united as members of Christ and as constituting the Kingdom of God in this world. That single, united and organized community has existed in the world from the time of Christ till the present day; and it is the Catholic Church. Those who wish to do the will of Christ fully and completely can do so only by becoming Catholics; and good and fervent ones, of course.
72. As Christians, these people are not in any way opposed to Christianity.
They may not be consciously opposed to it. But most of them are in reality. For they declare that the vague religious sentiments they possess are enough. They make these the whole of their religion; and it is but to have a substitute for Christianity, not Christianity as it really is. And that means, if they have a religion, it is a rival religion which can only go on growing at the expense of Christianity, spelling death to the actual religion of Christ in multitudes of souls.
73. Should it not be said rather that the Christian religion in such people is merely latent, and ready for an opportunity to assert itself?
I'm afraid not. If, in any individual, the Christian religion has become latent and has ceased to assert itself, it is not because no opportunity presents itself for its practice, but because the person in question does not want to practise it. To argue that people who call themselves Christians yet who continue drifting farther and farther from the Christian religion in practice are really healthy Christians after all, is like arguing that a sick man dying of pernicious anemia is really very well because he is not yet dead. I am sorry to sound so pessimistic; but nothing is gained by shutting one's eyes to the evidence which is only too apparent.
74. An American writer, Pearl Buck, said that Church organizations stand for their own sake, and not for the sake of Christ and humanity.
Pearl Buck, as a non-Catholic, thinks of the Church only as a manmade organization, and not as a divine institution. She therefore cannot see how the Church is to be identified with Christ and even imagines that there can be opposition between the two. Thinking in such a way, she regards the various Churches as man-made organizations which tend to eet wrapped up in their own glory at the expense of that of Christ. Now I have to agree that all non-Catholic Churches are man-made organizations, as non-Catholics themselves admit. And it is for them to say how far Pearl Buck's charge applies to them. But I deny that their notion of the Church is that taught in the New Testament; and I deny that any conclusions based on their notion is applicable to the Catholic Church For the New Testament shows the Church as a divine institution, as the very mystical body of Christ, and spiritually identified with Him. The interests of the Church are the interests of Christ, and the interests of Christ are the interests of the Church. When Saul persecuted the Church Christ appeared to him and said: "Saul, Saul, Why persecutest thou Me?" Acts, IX, 4. It is impossible, therefore, to speak of the true Christian Church as standing for its own sake and not for the sake of Christ.
75. I cannot believe that one would forfeit redemption by ignoring the Church.
If he did not forfeit redemption by ignoring the Church it could only be because such a person would be excused from guilt through not knowing any better. But we have to ask whether there is a grave obligation to belong to the Church and fulfil its duties, not whether a man can be excused from that obligation because he is not aware of it. Now there is a grave obligation imposed by Our Lord Himself upon Christians to belong to His Church; so grave that He Himself said: "If a man will not hear the Church, let him be as the heathen;" that is, not as a Christian at all. (Matt., XVIII, 17). One who is aware of the will of Christ in this matter would forfeit redemption if he ignored the Church and persisted in doing so until death. For if, as the New Testament so frequently declares, the Church is the body of Christ, how can one separate oneself from the body of Christ and declare independence of it, without separating oneself from Christ? Yet apart from Him there is no redemption.
76. The very idea that adherence to the Church is so necessary is quite foreign to me.
That can only be due to your lack of instruction in Christian doctrine. In the New Testament no allowance is made for believers who are not members of the one visible and Apostolic Church. Christ said: "I will build my Church." Matt., XVI, 18. He did not say: "Churches." He gave to His Church an apostolic ministry to teach and to rule and to sanctify souls in His name. Baptism was the visible means of making new members of His Church. Those who joined the Church acknowledged a corporate faith, corporate standards of conduct, and a corporate worship. Voluntary separation from the Church was no more permissible than voluntary separation from the chosen people of God under the Old Law was permissible to the Jews. For in Christ the Church is the "New Israel"—God's appointed group of people in the world, yet not of the world; separated in spirit from the world and consecrated to Him as a holy people, for His greater glory and for blessings upon the whole human race. That one visible Apostolic Church is the Catholic Church, still existing today as it has existed during all the centuries since Christ.
77. I want you to consider my spiritual benefit, not the materialistic - set-up of your worldly organization.
I have in mind your own spiritual welfare, knowing that that can best be provided for by the Catholic Church. That Church cannot truly be described as a worldly organization, for although it is "in" this world, it is not "of" this world. It owes its origin to Christ who came from Heaven to establish it; its authority is from Him, and not from men; and its primary concern is with the eternal and heavenly, not merely with the temporal and earthly destiny of men. Nor will the Catholic Church benefit by your becoming a Catholic, should you do so. It is you who would benefit by that. We don't become Catholics for anything we can bring to the Catholic Church, but for the blessings she can confer upon us. My own conversion to the Catholic Church was no great gain to her; but it was a great gain to me—not from a worldly point of view, but from a spiritual point of view. And it is on that point of view that I base every word I am saying to you.
78. Personally I just could not defend any Church organization.
In that case you could not defend the very work of Christ. When He said: "I will build my Church," He chose a word which meant of its very nature an organized society. During His public life He carefully selected His twelve Apostles as the nucleus of the new community He was organizing, and He conferred upon them magisterial, legislative and disciplinary powers, sending them in the end with authority to make disciples from amongst all nations. St. Paul organized the Church in all the centers he visited and members of the Church acknowledged his authority, whilst he spoke of his burden in continuing his care of them.
79. Jesus was no friend of institutional religion.
That certainly is not true. He insisted upon institutional religion. He Himself fulfilled the duties of public worship in the synagogues and in the Temple before founding the Church as His own institution. And He prescribed as the great central, corporate act of worship in His Church the Eucharistic Sacrifice of the Holy Mass which it is impossible for isolated individuals to observe who restrict their religion to private prayers only. Public worship is for a Christian one of the most important duties. No one who really believes in God the Father Almighty can cut himself off from the great family of the children of God our Heavenly Father, and never fulfil any religious duties corporately with them.
80. It's all a matter of money. If there were no money there would be no churches.
Like many other ill-instructed people you mix up Churches and churchbuildings. Primarily, the Church is an association of Christian people united in belief and worship, and in the acceptance of the spiritual authority Christ gave to the Apostles and which has been transmitted to their successors. It is true that those who became members of this religious society from the very beginning built churches as places of worship. Yet again you would be wrong were you to say that were there no money there would be no churches even in this sense. Repeatedly throughout history Christians have built churches with their own hands in their spare time, quarrying the stone, shaping it and setting it in place as a labor of love and an act of devotion to Christ whom alone they desired to honor. As a rule, however, instead of giving their own time and labor, Christians have freely given what money they can spare in order that more expert workers might build their churches. They have done this in the same spirit of faith and devotion despite the criticism of less generous people who want a diluted Christianity leaving them more comfortable and demanding a minimum of self-sacrifice.
81. Catholics are always being asked for money, though the Church is rich enough already. That's one reason why I object to organized religion.
A selfish and mean spirit is not a very noble motive for rejecting anything. Nor is a religion that costs you nothing much of a religion. But Catholics are not always being asked for money. Regular support of their religion is, of course, a duty; and occasionally special appeals are made for special causes. This is not because the Church wants to become richer but because she w ants to do more work on behalf of Christ and humanity. The Church needs money and goods to accomplish her work in this world and her members practise the self-denial necessary for her to do so. But the self-denial is voluntary and each gives according to his ability and generosity. Were you a Catholic you would not be expected to give beyond your ability, nor compelled to give more than you were willing to give. But whatever you did about this aspect of church membership, it remains true that you cannot be a good Christian in the true sense of the word whilst remaining in your isolated individualism, having no part at all in the life of the Church, of which Christ Himself is the Head and of which we are expected to be members.
82. How does one become a member of God's family?
The Gospels tell us that one must repent of his sins, believe in Christ, and be baptized as a member of His Church.
83. It is not by joining any particular Church.
In a sense you are right; for one must join, not any particular Church, but that visible and universal Church Christ personally established and which He promised to be with and to safeguard until the end of time. That Church is the Catholic Church.
84. All that is necessary is faith in God's only-begotten Son. Jn., Ill, 16.
The root cause of your trouble here is that you take one little bit of the Gospel and think it all. The verse you mention says: "He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life." Very well. From the same lips that spoke those words came the admonition: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." That adds the necessity of baptism. Christ also said: "If a man will not hear the Church, let him be as the heathen." That imposes on us the obligation of hearing and obeying the Church. He also said: "Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you shall not have life in you." John, VI, 54. Of those words you take no notice whatever. I could go on with ap almost unending list of things you overlook. Take one more thing. If, as you say, faith alone in Christ is necessary, why does Christ Himself say that at judgment He will tell some: "Depart from me you cursed. For I was hungry and you gave me not to eat; I was thirsty and you gave me not to drink"? Matt., XXV, 42. Evidently works of charity are also necessary. Surely I have said enough to show that your ideas are quite inadequate.
85. Religion is a matter of the spirit, not of any visible organization.
As the spirit of man is enshrined in a visible body, and man is not only an individual but a social being, so the true spirit of religion adapted to man's own nature should be enshrined in a visible and corporate Church. But apart altogether from our own preconceived ideas of what should or should not be, we have to accept what God has seen fit actually to decree. And He thought a visible and organized Church necessary.
86. Christ, speaking spiritually, said: "I in them and Thou in Me; that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that Thou hast sent Me." Jn., XVII, 23.
Even whilst you think to show that the Church is invisible only, you are proving that it was meant to be a visible reality in this world. If the unity is to be "that the world may believe," then the world which does not yet believe must be able to see the unity of the visible Church before its eyes. It is that visible unity which is to be the instrument for the conversion of unbelievers. And that visible unity is apparent in the Catholic Church, made up of over 400 millions of all nations.
87. I understand the Church only as in the souls of men.
If the Church were an invisible quality only in the souls of men no one could say where the true Church is to be found. No. Christ established a visible Church and appointed visible Apostles to rule that Church, those belonging to it accepting their teaching and discipline. In Acts, XX, 28, we read: "Take heed to yourselves and to the whole flock, wherein the Holy Ghost hath placed you bishops to rule the Church of God." How could the bishops rule the Church of God if they did not know who belonged to it?
88. I find in the New Testament that the Church is (1) The Household of God; (2) The Body of Christ; (3) The Temple of the Holy Ghost. Would not that be a fair definition of the true Church?
Those expressions are analogical descriptions, not definitions at all. A definition is an adequate and precise statement which gives the essential elements that make a thing what it is and mark it off specifically from everything other than itself so that there is no difficulty in identifying it. It must cover all yet be limited to the thing defined. For example, if you say: "Man is an animal," you've said what is to a certain extent true. But you have not defined a man, for an animal could equally well be a horse or a dog. But if you say: "Man is a rational animal," then you have defined man, for no animal except man is rational. What, therefore, is the definition of the true Church which is adequate and precise enough to enable a man to recognize it when he comes across it, and to avoid mistaking any other Church for it? It is a visible religious society in this world, founded by Christ and preserved intact through all the centuries, whose members of whatever nationality became such by baptism and who are united in professing the same doctrinal beliefs, in the same essential forms of worship, in the reception of the same Sacraments, and in obedience to the same authority of the lawful successors of the Apostles, the Bishops of the Universal Church, amongst whom the Bishop of Rome as the successor of St. Peter is supreme. That is the Church to which your symbolical expressions apply. In that Catholic Church you will find "The Household of God," "The Body of Christ," and "The Temple of the Holy Ghost."
89. What need is there to belong to a visible Church?
The same need as your foot or your hand or any other living part of your body has to belong to the body. Amputated members are not of much use. Just as your body by means of its members is the instrument by which you accomplish what you want to do, so the Church, with all its various members, is the instrument by which Christ accomplishes His work in this world. It is the Catholic Church which still preaches the message of Christ in all its fulness, sending her missionaries to the ends of the earth; which still offers- the worship to God which Christ offered and prescribed; which unites those who belong to Him and sanctifies them by her Sacraments.
90. Organized religion can only lead to the domineering priestly hierarchy one finds at its worst in the Roman Catholic Church.
That is the opinion of one who is a stranger to the Catholic religion. Non-Catholics often mistake the reverence and respect of Catholics for their Bishops and Priests for subservience, and religious authority in the Catholic Church for tyranny. But to find the truth we should ask, not those without experience, but those with experience of what we wish to understand. Catholics, quite normal people in every other way, love their Priests and love to see their children becoming Priests. That would not be if they stood m dread and fear of their Priests. Then, too, Priests themselves are not such fools as to think they would retain the esteem and loyalty of their people by domineering ways rather than by becoming humility and sincerity, gentleness and charity.
91. The self-assumed authority of religious dictatorships is slowly on the way out.
Your reference to self-assumed authority of religious dictatorships, to whatever other form of religion it might apply, does not apply to the Catholic Church in which no man has any self-assumed authority. It is Christ Himself who exercises His own divine authority in and through the Catholic Church; and that Church will last till the end of time.
92. The Nazarene taught simple truths for simple people.
He taught simple people as well as the learned. His religion is for all men; and of all He demands a simple faith. But He did not teach only simple truths. He said to Nichodemus: "Art thou a master in Israel and knowest not these things? . . . If I have spoken to you earthly things and you believe not, how will you believe if I shall speak to you heavenly things?" Jn., Ill, 12. When He gave His very difficult doctrine of the Eucharist and the Jews felt that they could neither understand nor accept it, He said to them: "No man can come to Me except the Father draw him." Jn., VI, 44. A doctrine which is beyond the merely natural power of any man to grasp is something far from simple.
93. Protestant Churches are made up of free people, not of those who bend without question to the wills of mere men set over them in the Church.
Catholics are every bit as free as Protestants. Their allegiance to their Church is quite voluntary. If they want to ignore the laws of their Church or even to abandon their Church no physical compulsion is brought to bear upon them to keep them faithful. What needs explaining is why more Catholics want to be faithful to their Church than Protestants to Protestant Churches. But you have really given the reason yourself. Protestants do not feel that the men set over them in their Churches have any really divine authority, and consequently do not feel that they owe any obedience to the wills of mere men. But the Catholic has faith in his Church. He does not regard Priests as "mere men" set over him in the Church. He regards them as sharing in the commission given by Christ to the Apostles to rule in the Church; and Christ said to the Apostles: "He who hears you, hears Me." Lk., X, 16. He obeys, therefore, the will of God as manifested in the laws of the Church. Nor does he believe that those only are free who have no spirit of obedience at all.
94. Christ said: "Beware of the Scribes who desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the Synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts; who devour widows' houses, and for a show make long prayers. The same shall receive greater damnation." Lk., XX, 46.
In no way was Christ there condemning religious authority. He was condemning the pride, ambition, hypocrisy and injustice of the Scribes. For Christians today, and indeed of all time, the lesson is that we should be humble and sincere, without self-seeking, and scrupulously just. And since the Scribes whom Our Lord then rebuked were religious leaders, all who hold office or authority in the Church of Christ should be doubly on their guard against the faults He enumerated.
95. There is no priestly or sacerdotal order in the Church. Paul says that there is only one "Mediator between God and man." I Tim., II, 5.
The Catholic Church insists upon St. Paul's doctrine in the true sense he intended. But that doctrine in no way excludes a priestly or sacerdotal order. The explanation is simply that Christ imparted His own priesthood to the Apostles, exercising it through them as through human instruments, He remaining the one Supreme Mediator, and His priesthood the sole priesthood in the Catholic Church.
96. The priesthood of Christ is unique, eternal, unchangeable; and it cannot be transmitted to others.
That is refuted by the fact that He did transmit it to others. He called and set apart from other men the twelve Apostles and communicated to them His own priesthood. He gave them His own mission. "As the Father hath sent Me, I also send you." Jn., XX, 21. He gave them a more than human power, breathing upon them and saying: "Receive ye the Holy Ghost." Jn., XX, 22. He gave them His own authority to teach, bidding them go "into the whole world and preach the gospel to every creature." Mk., XVI, 15. They were to rule in the Church. "Whatsoever you shall bind on earth shall be bound also in heaven." Matt., XVIII, 18. After instituting the Sacrifice of the Mass at the Last Supper He said to them: "Do this in commemoration of Me." Lk., XXII, 19. The purpose of this was explained by St. Paul: "As often as you do it, you shall show the death of the Lord until He comes." I Cor., XI, 26. Christ also gave the Apostles His own power to forgive sins. "Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven." Jn., XX, 23. There can be no room for doubt that Christ imparted to the Apostles His own priestly power.
97. The Apostles did not claim to be priests.
If that be so, why did St. Paul write to the Corinthians: "Let a man so account of us as of the ministers of Christ and the dispensers of the mysteries of God"? I Cor., IV, 1. Or again, "All things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Christ and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation." II Cor., V, 18. Acts, XIII, 2-3, tells us how, under the direct inspiration of the Holy Ghost, the Apostles, fasting and praying, imposed their hands upon Paul and Barnabas, ordaining them to the priesthood. Acts, XIV, 22, declares that Paul and Barnabas in turn ordained priests in every church. To Timothy St. Paul wrote: "Neglect not the grace that is in thee, which was given thee by prophecy with imposition of the hands of the priesthood." I Tim., IV, 14. And again, later, "Stir up the grace of God which is in thee by the imposition of my hands." II Tim., I, 6. To Titus he wrote; "For this cause I left thee in Crete, that thou shouldst set in order the things that are wanting, and shouldst ordain priests in every city as I also appointed thee." Tit., I, 5.
98. Without mentioning priests, the New Testament describes as the only officials in the Church pastors, evangelists, teachers, apostles, prophets, bishops, presbyters and deacons.
Those words include both those who received special gifts from God in the early Church, and those who received from the twelve Apostles by priestly ordination a definite ministerial authority. Christ instituted a priesthood in the persons of the Apostles, plainly intending it to endure till the end of the world. At the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles their official position stands with unquestioned authority. They ordained "presbyters" (priests) and deacons by the laying on of hands. Less than 60 years later, when the danger of misunderstanding the word "priest" for which "presbyter" was used had ceased, we find St. Ignatius of Antioch speaking clearly of the threefold ministry of bishops, priests and deacons. Act Mag, VI, 1. Under the guidance of the Holy Ghost these emerged as the official hierarchy left by the Apostles as provision for the future administration of the Church. And this was unanimously accepted throughout the whole Church right down to its denial in the 16th century by the Protestant reformers; and it is still accepted, of course, by the Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Churches, comprising between them the overwhelming majority of professing Christians. The Protestant denial is based on a lack of understanding both of Scripture and history, and on prejudices inherited from the early Protestant reformers. The whole subject cries out for earnest reconsideration by Protestants who are still sufficiently interested in "Christianity to want it in,its genuine form.
99. Is not "Elder" the right translation of the Greek word "Presbyter"?
In the strictly literal sense of the word in the Greek language, yes; but not technically in the sense in which Christians understood it when they used it. They intended a "priest" in the Catholic sense of the word - one who possessed a truly priestly office not possessed by the laity.
100. If you are right, why did not the New Testament writers use the actual Greek word for "Priest," instead of using "Presbyter"?
Because the Greek word for "Priest" had acquired by usage and lonoassociation a particular and restricted significance. Had they used the Greek word for priest, "Hiereus" instead of "Presbyter," it could only have meant , for the first Christians either one of the Jewish priests or one of the pagan priests among the Gentiles. If it were said, "He is a priest," they would have thought only that the man in question was a Jewish priest who had become a Christian, or a pagan priest who had done so. Another word therefore had to be used for priests of the Christian religion, and the Greek word "Presbyter" was chosen.
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