Feel So Uncomfortable'
has been a really sore spot for me but, having been raised a Catholic, I do love
the Church and all the other sacraments. I am sure there are priests I could go
to for confession, but I feel so uncomfortable and always feel that God already
knows my sins and what I am sorry for. Will I go to hell for feeling this way?
Will God forgive me if I am truly sorry?
will not go to hell for feeling that way—only if you commit some mortal sin for which
you refuse to repent. Will God forgive you if you are truly sorry? Yes.
You may, however, be seeing repentance
and forgiveness too narrowly. Sin cuts us off not only from God but also from other
people. Repentance is not simply about straightening things out with an angry God
who, in human terms, is actually more disappointed than angry.
Repentance is also about admitting that
our sins affect how we treat other people.
The Roman Catholic faith is an incarnational
one, a sacramental one, a faith which sees God acting through physical objects (water,
oil, bread, wine) and by means of human instruments, including a priest hearing confessions.
Why not participate in a Lenten penance
service in your parish? Common prayers and Scripture readings are followed by a chance
for private confession in the open or in a confessional.
In almost 25 years of hearing confessions,
I have always been humbled and edified as people face their sinfulness, accepting
God’s love and forgiveness. Remember, confessors go to confession, too!
Jesus was Jewish, why don’t Catholics follow Jewish teachings?
fact, Catholics do follow many Jewish teachings, such as the Ten Commandments. Catholic
Sunday Masses almost always include a reading from the Hebrew Scriptures and a Psalm
response. The Mass prayer, “Blessed are you, Lord, God of all creation. Through your
goodness we have this bread [wine] to offer...,” comes from Judaism.
When a second-century Roman priest said
that the God of the Hebrew Scriptures was not the same as the God of the New Testament,
the Catholic Church described such teaching as heresy. Jesus was born Jewish and
cannot be understood apart from Judaism.
Jesus also preached about a Kingdom of
God which is open to Jews and non-Jews (gentiles). The Letter to the Ephesians says
that Christ broke down the wall between Jews and gentiles, reconciling both with
Some Jewish people accepted that teaching
while others did not. Those who did so became Christians, willing to call Jesus the
Son of God. Not surprisingly, other Jews felt such a title undermined the absolute
bedrock of Judaism, their belief in one God.
For the first 40 years after Jesus’ death,
many people thought of Christianity as a group within Judaism. As the Good News spread,
so many gentiles were baptized that eventually they became the majority.
Ashes Be Scattered?
understand the Church’s regulations on cremation. In view of the events of last
summer, what are the Church’s regulations on the final disposition of the deceased
person’s ashes? May they be cast to the winds at sea?
summer’s funeral of John F. Kennedy, Jr., Carolyn Bessette Kennedy and Lauren Bessette
led to some initial, inaccurate reports. Reporters on ships at a distance incorrectly
assumed that the ashes had been scattered. In fact, containers holding the ashes
were dropped overboard.
The Church expects entombment of the
ashes in a conventional grave, a mausoleum or a columbarium (cemetery niche
for the container). The Order of Christian Funerals approved for the dioceses
of the United States by the National Conference of Catholic Bishops and the Holy
See contains an alternate prayer for cremated remains.
That prayer says, “My friends, as we
prepare to bury (entomb) the ashes of our brother (sister)....” Later it continues, “Comfort
us today with the words of your promise as we return the ashes of our brother (sister)
to the earth.”
The Guidelines for Christian Burial
in the Catholic Church, prepared by the Liturgy Advisory Committee of the National
Catholic Cemetery Conference, state, “Unless otherwise directed by the diocesan
bishop, the cremated remains should never be scattered or disposed of in any manner
other than a dignified interment or entombment.”
Burial at sea is permitted for a body
or a person’s ashes. Federal law prohibits such burials less than three nautical
miles from land. Regulations of the Environmental Protection Agency specify that “cremated
remains shall be buried in or on ocean waters.”
of my close friends believes in reincarnation. My Catholic education and faith
leave me with no reason to believe in multiple lives. Among other things, my friend
claims that all mention of reincarnation was removed from the Bible in the early
centuries of the Church.
Please provide me with some background
on reincarnation, its presence in the Bible at any time in history and the Catholic
Church’s position on it.
A: In A
Concise Dictionary of Theology (Paulist, 1991), Jesuits Gerald O’Collins and
Edward Farrugia describe reincarnation as “the belief, also called metempsychosis (Greek ‘animate
afterward’), that souls inhabit a series of bodies and can live many lives on this
earth before being completely purified and so released from the need to migrate
to another body.
“According to this belief, the soul preexists
its embodiment, and after death exists in a disembodied state before animating [inhabiting]
once again a body of the same or a different species. In various forms, reincarnation
has been accepted by Buddhists, Hindus, Neoplatonists and others.
“Belief in resurrection and official
rejection of the preexistence of souls...rule out reincarnation. By maintaining an
indefinite series of chances, the doctrine of reincarnation reduces the seriousness
of God’s grace and human liberty exercised in one life that is terminated by a once-and-for-all
In 1991 the Holy See’s International
Theological Commission published Certain Aspects of Eschatology, which says: “Christianity
defends duality, reincarnation defends a dualism in which the body is simply an instrument
of the soul and is laid aside, existence by successive existence, as an altogether
different body is assumed each time.
“As far as eschatology is concerned,
the doctrine of reincarnation denies both the possibility of eternal damnation and
the idea of the resurrection of the body. But the fundamental error is in the rejection
of the Christian doctrine of salvation. For the reincarnationist the soul is its
own savior by its own efforts” (Section 9.3).
Reincarnation denies the need to convert,
about which Jesus spoke often. If souls keep recycling, won’t they all end up in
the same place eventually? If so, why are our decisions today important?
Arguing that some major doctrine was
originally in the Bible but was later removed strikes me as too easy a solution.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church says: “When ‘the
single course of our earthly life’ is completed, we shall not return to other earthly
lives: ‘It is appointed for men to die once’ [Hebrews 9:27]. There is no ‘reincarnation’ after
Luther Right All Along?
my understanding that the result of all the Catholic-Lutheran dialogues confirms
that Martin Luther was right all along: Works play no part in salvation and we
are saved by faith alone.
It seems that the only concession
on the Lutheran side was that salvation could still be lost after it’s been received.
Has the Catholic Church once again “developed” a doctrine to the point of reversing
think you may have misunderstood the recent Lutheran-Catholic Joint Declaration on
Justification, with its Common Statement and Annex. These were signed on October
31, 1999, in Augsburg, Germany, by Bishop Christian Krause (Lutheran World Federation)
and Cardinal Edward Cassidy (Holy See’s Secretariat for Promoting Christian Unity).
We are saved by Jesus’ death and resurrection.
Faith, however, is more than an activity of the mind; it must express itself outwardly.
In Matthew 25:31-46, Jesus tells a parable about the final judgment, saying that
some people are saved because of their actions and other people are condemned for
failing to act.
Those who are saved do not “earn” their
salvation by good works. Their works of mercy simply reflect a cooperation with God’s
sovereign, saving grace. Those who are condemned presumably failed to cooperate with
that same grace.
The Joint Declaration does not mean that
either side “won.” Both parties instead admitted that on this issue they had not
listened to one another carefully enough almost 500 years ago. Saying that, both
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