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Karen and Michelle wrote:

Hi, guys —

My friend and I have been studying the Catholic Church together for a few months now. We are both practicing Catholics trying to learn more about our faith. What we really need is a Catholic apologist in our pocket but we don't have one so please graciously accept our voluminous questions. Here is today's list.

We understand that the Real Presence is Jesus' Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity. I have read somewhere that the Holy Eucharist is Jesus' Risen Life and His Glorified Body. That said, on the night of the Last Supper Jesus was still alive, and there had been no Resurrection yet.

  • How was the consecrated Bread and Wine His Risen and Glorified Body on that night or
    am I misunderstanding something?

Protestant friends of ours are asking questions about doctrines that have been changed or added.

  • Is there a way of knowing in the Catechism what is doctrine and what is discipline?

For instance, a Protestant friend feels that the actions of the early Catholic Church said that if you were not Catholic, you were going to Hell. I told her that Catholics believe we should rely on God's mercy, love, and justice, knowing He desires all men to be saved. Nevertheless, she thinks what I told her is something that was added later.

  • Is what I said to her part of Catholic doctrine on justification and salvation?
  • If so, can we trace it back to the Early Church?

In the CCC, paragraph 841, it talks about the plan of salvation to include those who acknowledge the Creator such as the Muslims:

The Church and non-Christians.

841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

Lumen Gentium 16; cf. Nostra Aetate 3

The reference from this paragraph is from Vatican II.

  • Is this a doctrine?
  • If it is, was it made a doctrine at Vatican II or were they just elaborating on what already
    a doctrine?

In many Catholic apologetic writings (including this site), I have seen the estimate of the number of Protestant denominations at 30,000. I just saw David Armstrong's web site and he said that number is not accurate and the number may only be in the hundreds. While we understand that even having one Protestant denomination is not what God wants, my friend and I have many Protestant friends. We just want to be communicating the truth.

  • Can you shed any light on this issue?
  • Finally, does the Roman Catholic Church recognize the sacraments of the Eastern Orthodox Church as valid?
  • If so, why, if they do not accept Papal authority?

Thank you in advance.

Karen and Michelle

  { How was the Bread, the Risen Christ; do I understand salvation and are their sacraments valid? }

John replied:

Hi, Karen and Michelle -

You said:

  • How was the consecrated Bread and Wine His Risen and Glorified Body on that night or am I misunderstanding something?

Yes, it is true that the Eucharist is the Risen Lord — His Body, Blood, Soul, and Divinity made present under the appearance of bread and wine.

Your question is legitimate, but it is the product of rationalism. This is a Mystery of Faith.
When we are at Mass, we are present at the Last Supper, at the Crucifixion, and at the Resurrection; we are also caught up in the Heavenly Liturgy which is constantly taking place.
We witness Christ offering Himself at the Table with the Twelve Apostles, on Calvary, as He rises, and as He stands, before the Father in Glory, offering the once and forever Sacrifice of Calvary.

  • How is it possible that we can be present at one, let alone all of the events simultaneously?

But we are. God stands outside of time and is not limited by time. He invented time. He sees the past, present and future all in the Eternal Now. Therefore just as He makes that reality mystically present to us at the Mass, He did the same thing for the Apostles on the night He celebrated the Last Supper.

On what the Church teaches on the salvation of mankind and of Muslims.

The Church has always left salvation in the hands of God. There is not one single case in history where the Church has said anyone has gone to Hell. For all we know, no one has been condemned. We have no way of knowing if God reached Hitler or Judas in their dying breaths. The confusion might be on your Protestant friend's part because they don't know their history. The Early Church was the Catholic Church and there was only one Church. The Church does teach that if you leave the Church knowing full well what She teaches and knowing that She is the true Church of Jesus Christ, then you certainly place your soul in jeopardy. Back then everyone who was a Christian, except a hand full of heretics, were part of the Catholic Church, even if they were in Schism like the Orthodox.

Today we are 500 years removed from the Reformation. Christians are born and raised in Protestant ecclesial communities and they have no idea, what the Church teaches, and the need to be Catholic. These people didn't leave the Church. Nevertheless, they have a responsibility to seek God and to seek the truth. The Church can't hold the sins of:

  • Luther
  • Calvin, and
  • Henry VIII

against a guy like Billy Graham or the average Joe that goes to Guido's Bible Fellowship.

The Church has never really changed Her position. It's that the situation that has changed. In the 1500's, you didn't have Lutherans, you had fallen away Catholics following Luther and the Church excommunicated many of them, but excommunication was not a condemnation to Hell.
The Church has no authority to do that. The Church is an instrument of Salvation — not damnation!

There is one plan of Salvation; it's called Calvary! All those who will be saved, will be saved by the Blood of Jesus Christ. Actually, to be more accurate, all those who are saved, are saved in and through the Incarnation. There is no salvation without Jesus.

  • Now, does that mean that every person will know Him in this life?

That question is open. We know that in all cases, we rely on the grace and mercy of God so when we talk about a plan of salvation to include the Muslims, it simply means some Muslims may be saved by the Blood of Jesus — but not because they followed Islam!!

The Church likes to build on common ground to start the discussion so with the Muslims, we see that we can talk to them about there being one God. They also believe in the God of Abram; the God revealed in Hebrew as Elohim — a very limited revelation that got completely distorted by Muhammad. Despite the distortions and the warped understanding of God, there remain elements of the salvation history in the Koran. Therefore, these can be conversation starters, but the Church is in no way, shape, or form, saying that Islam is an alternative road to salvation.

The estimate of the number of Protestant denominations in the United States

There was a book out in the late 1980's that numbered the Protestant denominations at 30,000, in the United States alone. However, that probably included more splinter groups and treated single independent churches, with a handful of people, as a denomination. Protestantism is based on the doctrine of Sola Scriptura, at least the Protestantism that came from Luther and Calvin. This means everyone is free to believe whatever the heck he or she wants to believe . . . the result being, each man becomes a denomination.

You said:

  • Finally, does the Roman Catholic Church recognize the sacraments of the Eastern Orthodox Church as valid?
  • If so, why, if they do not accept Papal authority?

The Sacraments of the Eastern Orthodox Church, as well as the Sacraments of the other Ancient Churches of the East that went in to schism in the fifth century, all have valid sacraments because they retained Apostolic Succession and valid Holy Orders. The question of Papal authority is a bit more complex.

In the East, ecclesiology developed quite differently. Each Bishop, saw himself as an equal to the Bishop of Rome. While they gave Rome primacy of honor (as they called it) they didn't always admit to Rome's authority. To be honest, Rome didn't really have administrative authority unless it was called upon to settle a dispute.

At any rate, there was a major schism between East and West in 1054 A.D. It was tragic and flippin stupid!! It was completely mishandled by both sides and we've been split ever since. The good news is that in recent years we've come a long way towards healing those wounds.

I hope I got everything. I'm sure others will chime in if I missed anything.

John

Mike replied:

Dear Karen and Michelle,

Thanks for the question.

Let me chime in on the areas John didn't cover.

You said:

  • Is there a way of knowing in the Catechism what is doctrine and what is discipline?

The Catechism is generally a doctrinal document. In the introduction to every Catechism there is a Apostolic Constitution called Fidei Depositum from Pope St. John Paul II that states the following in section three:

Apostolic Constitution: Fidei Depositum, Section 3., from Pope St. John Paul II .

3. The Doctrinal Value of the Text

The Catechism of the Catholic Church, which I approved 25 June last and the publication of which I today order by virtue of my Apostolic Authority, is a statement of the Church's faith and of Catholic doctrine, attested to or illumined by Sacred Scripture, the Apostolic Tradition and the Church's Magisterium. I declare it to be a sure norm for teaching the faith and thus a valid and legitimate instrument for ecclesial communion. May it serve the renewal to which the Holy Spirit ceaselessly calls the Church of God, the Body of Christ, on her pilgrimage to the undiminished light of the Kingdom!

The approval and publication of the Catechism of the Catholic Church represent a service which the Successor of Peter wishes to offer to the Holy Catholic Church, to all the particular Churches in peace and communion with the Apostolic See: the service, that is, of supporting and confirming the faith of all the Lord Jesus' disciples (cf. Luke 22:32 as well as of strengthening the bonds of unity in the same apostolic faith. Therefore, I ask all the Church's Pastors and the Christian faithful to receive this catechism in a spirit of communion and to use it assiduously in fulfilling their mission of proclaiming the faith and calling people to the Gospel life. This catechism is given to them that it may be a sure and authentic reference text for teaching catholic doctrine and particularly for preparing local catechisms. It is also offered to all the faithful who wish to deepen their knowledge of the unfathomable riches of salvation (cf. Ephesians 3:8). It is meant to support ecumenical efforts that are moved by the holy desire for the unity of all Christians, showing carefully the content and wondrous harmony of the catholic faith. The Catechism of the Catholic Church, lastly, is offered to every individual who asks us to give an account of the hope that is in us (cf. 1 Peter 3:15) and who wants to know what the Catholic Church believes.

This Catechism is not intended to replace the local catechisms duly approved by the ecclesiastical authorities, the diocesan Bishops and the Episcopal Conferences, especially if they have been approved by the Apostolic See. It is meant to encourage and assist in the writing of new local catechisms, which take into account various situations and cultures, while carefully preserving the unity of faith and fidelity to catholic doctrine.

At the conclusion of this document presenting the Catechism of the Catholic Church, I beseech the Blessed Virgin Mary, Mother of the Incarnate Word and Mother of the Church, to support with her powerful intercession the catechetical work of the entire Church on every level, at this time when she is called to a new effort of evangelization. May the light of the true faith free humanity from the ignorance and slavery of sin in order to lead it to the only freedom worthy of the name (cf. John 8:32): that of life in Jesus Christ under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, here below and in the Kingdom of heaven, in the fullness of the blessed vision of God face to face (cf. 1 Corinthians 13:12; 2 Corinthians 5:6-8)!

Given 11 October 1992, the thirtieth anniversary of the opening of the Second Vatican Ecumenical Council, in the fourteenth year of my Pontificate.

Joannes Paulus II

You quoted and said:

The Church and non-Christians.

841 The Church's relationship with the Muslims. "The plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator, in the first place amongst whom are the Muslims; these profess to hold the faith of Abraham, and together with us they adore the one, merciful God, mankind's judge on the last day."

Lumen Gentium 16; cf. Nostra Aetate 3


The reference from this paragraph is from Vatican II.

  • Is this a doctrine?
  • If it is, was it made a doctrine at Vatican II or were they just elaborating on what already
    a doctrine?

Yes, it is a doctrine, and always has been one of the most important doctrines of the Church.
It compliments the doctrine that Outside the Church there is no salvation. The teaching in paragraph 841, which you quoted, is based on the fact the Our Lord came, not to dam all men or even certain groups of people, but to save all mankind. Like many teachings in the Church, as time passes, the Church elaborates and clarifies. for the faithful. the meaning of its doctrines, especially during times of confusion. In my opinion, the after effects of the Father Leonard Feeney period, were a blessing because it allowed the Church to clarify what it meant and did not mean by the statement: Outside the Church there is no salvation. It should be noted that Fr. Leonard was never excommunicated for doctrinal reasons . . . only reasons based on disobedience. The title to paragraph 846 of the Catechism, is a testimony to the doctrine he strived to defend.

It's very important to remember, the Church does not create or change any teachings, rather She elaborates and clarifies the original teachings Jesus left us back in 33 A.D.

It's important to also note that if Muslims are saved, it is not because of Allah or Muhammad,
but because of the grace of the Catholic Church. As my colleague John said:

The Church likes to build on common ground to start the discussion.

To the extent that Muslims are open to true faith-sharing with Christians, they will be more predisposed to receiving God's saving grace in their lives.

Hope this helps,

Mike

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