Tag Archives: Mortal Sin

The definitive option for or against God — Hell

Learn a lesson from the Demons: A Follow up on the 1999 catechesis series on the reality of heaven, hell, and purgatory by Pope John Paul II. This installment: The Reality of Hell And The Danger of Damnation… [General Audience, Wednesday, 28 July 1999].

 “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell’” (CCC n. 1033).

1. God is the infinitely good and merciful Father. But man, called to respond to him freely, can unfortunately choose to reject his love and forgiveness once and for all, thus separating himself for ever from joyful communion with him. It is precisely this tragic situation that Christian doctrine explains when it speaks of eternal damnation or hell. It is not a punishment imposed externally by God but a development of premises already set by people in this life. The very dimension of unhappiness which this obscure condition brings can in a certain way be sensed in the light of some of the terrible experiences we have suffered which, as is commonly said, make life “hell”.

In a theological sense however, hell is something else: it is the ultimate consequence of sin itself, which turns against the person who committed it. It is the state of those who definitively reject the Father’s mercy, even at the last moment of their life.

Hell is a state of eternal damnation

2. To describe this reality Sacred Scripture uses a symbolical language which will gradually be explained. In the Old Testament the condition of the dead had not yet been fully disclosed by Revelation. Moreover it was thought that the dead were amassed in Sheol, a land of darkness (cf. Ez. 28:8; 31:14; Jb. 10:21f.; 38:17; Ps 30:10; 88:7, 13), a pit from which one cannot reascend (cf. Jb. 7:9), a place in which it is impossible to praise God (cf. Is 38:18; Ps 6:6).

The New Testament sheds new light on the condition of the dead, proclaiming above all that Christ by his Resurrection conquered death and extended his liberating power to the kingdom of the dead.

Redemption nevertheless remains an offer of salvation which it is up to people to accept freely. This is why they will all be judged “by what they [have done]” (Rv 20:13). By using images, the New Testament presents the place destined for evildoers as a fiery furnace, where people will “weep and gnash their teeth” (Mt 13:42; cf. 25:30, 41), or like Gehenna with its “unquenchable fire” (Mk 9:43). All this is narrated in the parable of the rich man, which explains that hell is a place of eternal suffering, with no possibility of return, nor of the alleviation of pain (cf. Lk. 16:19-3 1).

The Book of Revelation also figuratively portrays in a “pool of fire” those who exclude themselves from the book of life, thus meeting with a “second death” (Rv. 20:13f.). Whoever continues to be closed to the Gospel is therefore preparing for ‘eternal destruction and exclusion from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might” (2 Thes 1:9).

3. The images of hell that Sacred Scripture presents to us must be correctly interpreted. They show the complete frustration and emptiness of life without God. Rather* than a place, hell indicates the state of those who freely and definitively separate themselves from God, the source of all life and joy. This is how the Catechism of the Catholic Church summarizes the truths of faith on this subject: “To die in mortal sin without repenting and accepting God’s merciful love means remaining separated from him for ever by our own free choice. This state of definitive self-exclusion from communion with God and the blessed is called ‘hell'” (n. 1033).

“Eternal damnation”, therefore, is not attributed to God’s initiative because in his merciful love he can only desire the salvation of the beings he created. In reality, it is the creature who closes himself to his love. Damnation consists precisely in definitive separation from God, freely chosen by the human person and confirmed with death that seals his choice for ever. God’s judgement ratifies this state.

We are saved from going to hell by Jesus who conquered Satan

4. Christian faith teaches that in taking the risk of saying “yes” or “no”, which marks the human creature’s freedom, some have already said no. They are the spiritual creatures that rebelled against God’s love and are called demons (cf. Fourth Lateran Council, DS 800-801). What happened to them is a warning to us: it is a continuous call to avoid the tragedy which leads to sin and to conform our life to that of Jesus who lived his life with a “yes” to God.

Eternal damnation remains a real possibility, but we are not granted, without special divine revelation, the knowledge of whether or which human beings are effectively involved in it. The thought of hell — and even less the improper use of biblical images — must not create anxiety or despair, but is a necessary and healthy reminder of freedom within the proclamation that the risen Jesus has conquered Satan, giving us the, Spirit of God who makes us cry “Abba, Father!” (Rm. 8:15; Gal. 4:6).

This prospect, rich in hope, prevails in Christian proclamation. It is effectively reflected in the liturgical tradition of the Church, as the words of the Roman Canon attest: “Father, accept this offering from your whole family … save us from final damnation, and count us among those you have chosen”.

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The New Evangelization — I Don’t Need Your Catechism!

…the necessity of teaching doctrine to children.

EDITOR: The much-needed New Evangelization of America as proposed by Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI will take courage and patience to implement. Mr. De La Torre and the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph are the example.

From the Catholic Exchange today:

Posted By Marlon De La Torre On July 22, 2010

I Don’t Need your Catechism!

A couple of years ago, a Pastor asked me to provide a catechetical training day for teachers in his Catholic school and CCD program. One of my first questions to him was what issues had developed requiring my assistance. The Pastor voiced to me his concern over poor doctrinal formation he suspected the children were receiving. I asked him how he finally came to this point. He said; “I knew things were off when all I saw was glue, crayons, construction paper and scissors during an eighth grade religion class.” Right there and then I realized what I had to work with.

The inevitable day arrives. As the catechists walked into the parish center, we began with prayer and introductions.  I typically begin with a short story reflecting on the catechetical formation for the day. This process helps to gauge the audience and determine when to run when they have had enough. Kidding aside, the first segment involved preparing them for the day, the aim of the instruction, purpose, goals, desires and application for the classroom. A good strategy when teaching teachers is not to patronize them. They are teachers and know everything. I know I am one of them. In reality, the heart of instruction here lies with an authentic witness of the living Gospel of Jesus Christ in a gradual loving way.

Knowing that many teachers resort to arts and crafts because of a genuine fear and ignorance in teaching the Catholic faith to students I began the training by asking the catechists for the one thing they would like to know about the faith they still had questions on. After a subtle pause (pretty typical) hands were drawn. The questions asked centered on sin, true presence of Christ in the Eucharist, confession, purgatory, mass participation, is the Church biblical, Mary, how to read the bible, other religions etc. My next question to them was why they wanted to know about these particular doctrines. Their response was nothing short of amazing.  They did not know how these particular teachings came to be! Keep in mind, these catechists are supposedly teaching children the Catholic faith. Right there and then I realized we needed to start at the very beginning e.g. Do you believe in God the Father the almighty?

If the teacher does not have a sound understanding of how their life reflects the Gospel let alone living within the Story of salvation, then how are they going to impart the story onto their students?  Hence, the focal point of the problem we face in the catechetical field. Our catechists lack basic doctrinal formation. I charted a different course of action realizing that this group needed a systematic engaging approach to learn and apply Catholic doctrine in the classroom.

The result was a mini-RCIA course where I went through Salvation History and presented to them their role in light of Jesus Christ the Divine Teacher (Heb 11:6). In other words, they needed to see how the Church came to be, their role within the Church and the graces given to us by Christ at Baptism to continue His work in the Church He founded. A basic outline of the curriculum for this training session looked something like this:

  1. Introduction to God’s plan for salvation in our lives.
  2. Creation and God’s love for us.
  3. Original Sin and the fall from grace because of the first sin.
  4. Proto-evangelium (First Gospel)
  5. God’s covenants with his people i.e. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses
  6. The role of our Blessed Mother as the “New Eve.”
  7. Summary on Sacred Tradition and Sacred Scripture
  8. Summary on Apologetics
  9. Summary of the Seven Sacraments
  10. Summary of the Ten Commandments
  11. Summary of Mortal Sin and Venial Sin
  12. The Incarnation
  13. Liturgy and the Mass
  14. The Church
  15. Lives of the Saints
  16. The Our Father, Hail Mary, and the Apostles Creed.

It was important the catechists saw the biblical basis for these doctrinal pillars. In addition, how the Catechism references the teachings of the Church through the footnotes. A short primer on how to use the Catechism of the Catholic Church and view the references, cross-references, and articles numbers to find a particular teaching gave the catechists a better grasp of the information.

This experience is common. A generation of uncatechized faithful over the past thirty-years has drifted throughout their Catholic life not knowing the graces they received through their Baptism. The recitation of our Baptismal promises appears as an afterthought to many. When asked within the Rite of Baptism, Do you reject, sin, and all his empty works, and all his empty promises . . . it begs to ask the question to these teachers whether they truly understand what sin is in order to reject it.

When I posed this very question to one of the teachers in the training session, the response was a common one. Why do we need to concentrate on sin, it is more important to focus on the works of Jesus? Do you see where this particular catechist has quietly misaligned the purpose of Christ and His Church. Whether its ignorance, issues with the doctrine of sin, or a personal experience initiating this response, the opportunity to discuss the nature of sin was difficult. Now, we must be careful when discussing the doctrine of sin from this pastoral perspective; we do not know what the person has gone through personally where a certain sinful act may have caused negative, spiritual harm or drawn out a bad experience. It is vital that a catechist be carefully aware of the audience they are instructing. However, we cannot shy away from addressing the dangers of sin itself.

Another teacher, noting her frustration in sitting through a dreadful class in her opinion said these magic words:You can keep your catechism, how do you expect me to apply it in the classroom?” Moreover, there you go, this brave soul echoed the sentiments of others who had resisted on using the catechism in the classroom. This “shot heard around the classroom,” reflected the genuine mentality of many teachers viewing the catechism as a useless tool because it probably did not provide cutouts for the kids to “draw” and “cut-out.” This comment troubled me because of an apparent ignorance towards the application or appreciation of the Catechism. There is fruit to the argument that it is not the teachers fault. From one perspective, this may be true; nonetheless, it does not negate the fact of what we are dealing with now. St. Augustine-the Father of Catechetics describes catechizing the ignorant in this way:

“The best method for instructing ignorant men in Christian doctrine, one that will bear much fruit is to ask questions in a friendly fashion after the explanation; from this questioning one can learn whether each one understood what he heard or whether the explanation needs repeating. In order that the learner grasp the matter, we must ascertain by questioning whether the one being catechized has understood, and in accordance with his response, we must either explain more clearly and fully or not dwell further on what is known to them etc. But if a man is very slow, he must be mercifully helped and the most necessary doctrines especially should be briefly imparted to him.”

As the Catechist trainer in this situation, you cannot scold nor demean these individuals. In many ways, ignorance is rooted in their responses due to a lack of formation. Thus, a gentle but firm disposition serves us well in this type of situation because we do not want to lose them.  Our hope rests in a genuine conversion for these teachers (1 Pt 3:15). The “you can keep your catechism” statement by the teacher mentioned earlier should not detract anyone from teaching the faith. My call for this person was to help her find God. An opportunity arose to present the Gospel, reveal the importance of Christ in our lives and provide her with an open opportunity to seek Him.

It is very important that the catechist reveal the relevance of doctrine in the lives of the faithful. Our faith is naturally explicit (1 Thess 2:13) because God has made Himself visible through His Church. Man naturally seeks what is visible and revealed. For instance, when we are able to observe and recognize a moral act the exercise of the doctrinal action takes effect on our senses. We are able to witness doctrine exercised.  The liturgy – a public work, provides a visible reality of the existence of faith and the exercise of doctrine.

By the end of the day, the teachers who survived my training session realized in a small way the necessity of teaching doctrine to children. The success of the day came not by how much doctrine I could expose them to, it was helping them realize how little they knew about the faith and what to do about. Not only for their souls but also for the souls of the children they teach.

The religion instructor must be prepared to proclaim the truth of the Catholic Church. His/her responsibility is to aid the development of the person they are instructing by explaining Church teaching carefully and appropriately through a careful transmission rooted in Sacred Tradition, Sacred Scripture and the Catechism of the Catholic Church. The door to the nourishing a soul in Catholic doctrine must be convincing so the person applies these doctrines to everyday life. The need for the Catechism of the Catholic Church is more relevant than ever if we genuinely desire to impart the Catholic faith. Our duty and responsibility is to answer the questions our students have. Clarity of truth is primary in our instruction.


Marlon De La Torre is the Associate Director of Evangelization and Catechesis for the Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph.

 

Waking up to Good Friday — Boston Cardinal O’Malley’s need for guidance on pro-abort Catholic politicians reception of holy communion

 “We have not had the kind of clear response that we need…”

Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston     

Vice President Joseph Biden (L), Sen. Paul G. Kirk Jr. (D-MA), Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) (2nd-R) and Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

  

EDITOR NOTE: I woke up to the following angry e-mail on this first Friday of Lent:      

Since when has Cardinal O’Malley been concerned about Catholic politicians who support the killing of unborn children not being allowed to receive Communion? He even gave Ted Kennedy a saint’s send off, as he presided over his funeral services. Kennedy, a man who not only supported the killing of unborn children, but even while they were being born — the barbaric and excruciating painful partial-birth abortion.     

If that wasn’t enough, you have Kennedy’s support of homosexuality. Two of the greatest sins in the Bible are killing and homosexuality and Kennedy supported both of them.     

O’Malley wrote in a blog that he disagreed “in the strongest terms” with those who argued that Kennedy did not deserve a Catholic funeral, and he said such critics do “irreparable damage to the communion of the Church.”     

No, O’Malley, it is YOU who have done irreparable damage to the communion of the Church. You claim that Canon Law is not clear in denying Communion to Catholic pro-abortion politicians.     

I don’t know how it can be any clearer: Canon 915 of the Catholic Church’s Code of Canon Law states, in part: “Those…who obstinately persist in manifest grave sin are not to be admitted to Communion.”     

Is not supporting killing a grave sin? I guess not, to O’Malley.   

***     

Let’s simplify with some questions: On January 2, 1960, John F. Kennedy officially declared his intent to seek the Democratic nomination for Presidency of the United States of America; if at that time he declared to do so on a plank supporting homosexuality and the killing of unborn children, including those being born, would he have:     

1. Won the Democratic nomination?     

2. Become President?     

3. Been allowed by his bishop to receive Holy Communion if found obstinate in promotion of such grave moral sin?     

So, what has changed?   

For Cardinal O’Malley to claim confusion in this matter is something akin to Moses retracing his steps back up Mt. Horeb in order to re-confirm with the All-Holy God on the religious and moral imperative to follow the 5th Commandment… 

Geth·sem·a·ne (gěth-sěm’ə-nē) Meaning:  Oil press.   

A poem for the sleeping…    

  

Down shadowy lanes, across strange streams  

Bridged over by our broken dreams;  

Behind the misty caps of years,  

Beyond the great salt font of tears,  

The garden lies. Strive as you may,  

You cannot miss it on your way.  

All paths that have been or shall be,  

Pass somewhere through Gethsemane.  

All those who journey, soon or late,  

Must pass within the garden’s gate;  

Must kneel alone in darkness there,  

And battle with some fierce despair.  

God pity those who cannot say,  

“Not mine but thine,” who only pray,  

“Let this cup pass,” and cannot see  

The purpose of Gethsemane.  

—Ella Wheeler Wilcox  

This story from Peter J. Smith at Life Site News explains the holy anger on this first Good Friday of Lent…   

WASHINGTON, DC, February 17, 2010 (LifeSiteNews.com) – The best way for the Church to ensure pro-abortion Catholic politicians do not receive Communion would be through a change in the Church’s Canon Law, or an official directive from the Pope himself, Cardinal Sean O’Malley of Boston told LifeSiteNews.com.      

LifeSiteNews.com caught up with O’Malley in Washington, DC last month, where he was among the concelebrating bishops for the Vigil Mass for Life at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception. LSN asked O’Malley what he considered the appropriate pastoral response to pro-abortion politicians receiving Communion.       

“Well, I think that the only way that that solution [denying communion] should be invoked is if there were a large catechesis or if it was universal for the whole church,” the cardinal responded. “You can’t have people doing things in one parish and another, you would only divide the Church hopelessly.”       

(To view the full LSN interview transcript with Cardinal O’Malley, click here)       

For several years, the US Catholic Bishops have actively engaged the problem of how to correct the scandal of pro-abortion politicians receiving Holy Communion – but developed no consensus on a uniform pastoral approach. Many orthodox Catholics continue to protest against pro-abortion politicians presenting themselves to receive the Church’s holiest sacrament, yet the practice is widespread.       

O’Malley said an official papal directive or change in Canon Law would be “the only way it is really going to work.”       

“That would be helpful if they did it,” he continued. “But if it is not done – to make it look like it’s an individual bishop sparring with the people of particular parties is only going to divide the Church in a very terrible way. Then you’ll have some priest who will obey and others who won’t, other divisions of the Church, more scandal, and undermining the authority of the bishops.”       

O’Malley revealed that he had been concerned about the issue for a long time, and asked Pope John Paul II for guidance when the pontiff was soliciting input from bishops for his pro-life encyclical Evangelium Vitae.       

“I wrote to him and asked him to please give us very clear direction on how to deal with politicians who will be pro-abortion and will be Catholic,” related O’Malley.       

“We have not had the kind of clear response that we need.”       

However, it seems the Vatican has already attempted to give the US bishops guidance on how to deal with the issue, through a 2004 letter from Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – now Pope Benedict XVI – entitled “Worthiness to Receive Holy Communion: General Principles.”       

The memo states that, once persistently pro-abortion Catholic politicians had been warned by their respective bishops not to approach the altar, they “must” be denied Communion.       

Unfortunately, the US Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) never received the letter as Ratzinger intended. Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, chairman of the USCCB task force on the issue, only referenced the document as an afterthought in his 12-page report to that committee.       

Later – in what may have been a Vatican end-run around McCarrick – Ratzinger’s letter hit international headlines after being leaked to Roman media.       

In the end, the US Bishops task force put out more generalized guidelines in the document “Catholics in Political Life,” which leaves the appropriate pastoral response towards pro-abortion politicians – including denial of Communion – to the prudential judgment of the individual bishop. Ratzinger would later affirm to the USCCB that the document was “very much in harmony” with his general principles.       

(To view the full LSN interview transcript with Cardinal O’Malley, click here)     

POEM CREDIT: LIVING SACRIFICE BLOG  

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The “Butterfly Effect”: Indulgences a way mercy is applied to sin’s unseen effects

Indulgences a way mercy is applied to sin’s unseen effects

By Bishop Robert Vasa/Bishop of Baker, Oregon

BEND – While you are reading this, I hope to back in the United States. I hope to have returned safely from Australia and I hope to have had a very positive and uplifting experience with the Holy Father in Sydney. I hope all of these things because, as of the time of this writing, I have not yet boarded the plane for the southern hemisphere. As the time for that embarkation nears I find that I am more and more hopeful and possibly even a little excited. While I do not travel well it has been my experience that travel is enriching and rewarding. One of the spiritual benefits of travel is the opportunity to break out of some of the encrusted ways of thinking that can adversely afflict us. This would entail a fracturing of some of the provincial or “parochial” modes of thinking to which we are all susceptible.

This can entail a kind of “conversion.” It requires an openness to God’s grace, an openness to a fresh reading of the Gospels and an openness to the teachings of the Catholic Church. While travel is not absolutely essential to this conversion process it does seem to play an important part. At least a part of the Church’s notion of pilgrimage is the physical action of going from one place to another, from one state of mind to another, from one spiritual state to another. The movement is symbolic of the spiritual journey which often coincides with the physical journey.

This year, from June 2008 through June 2009, has been designated by the Holy Father as the Year of Saint Paul. It is also designated as a “Pilgrimage Year” in that various churches both in the Diocese of Baker and in every diocese of the United States have been designated by the respective bishops as “Pilgrimage Churches.” Here in the Diocese of Baker the churches include Saint Francis de Sales Cathedral in Baker City; Saint Francis of Assisi in Bend, the downtown Church; Holy Family in Burns; Saint Patrick in Heppner; Sacred Heart in Klamath Falls; Saint Patrick in Lakeview; Blessed Sacrament in Ontario; and Saint Peter in The Dalles.

Information has been sent to every pastor and occasional reminders will be generated throughout this Year of Saint Paul about the possibility of gaining a plenary indulgence on the occasion of a prayerful visit to one of these churches with the fulfillment of designated spiritual works including recent reception of the sacrament of reconciliation, reception of Holy Communion and prayers for the Holy Father.

There is perhaps some concern raised the moment the Church begins to make reference to “indulgences” since the concept is frightfully plagued by rumors, innuendoes, misconceptions, myths, lies and accusations. First, a definition: An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment for sins, whose guilt is forgiven, which a properly disposed member of the Christian faithful obtains under certain and clearly defined conditions through the intervention of the Church, which, as the minister of Redemption, dispenses and applies authoritatively the treasury of the expiatory works of Christ and the saints. The concept of indulgences requires an acceptance of the existence of purgatory since it is in purgatory that the “temporal punishment for sins whose guilt is forgiven” is worked out.

To some this may sound like forgiven does not mean forgiven at all. Perhaps examples will help. Imagine that you broke a window on purpose out of anger and spite. Imagine the subsequent sadness, sorrow, remorse and then a resolve to go to confession but the window is still broken. In confession the sin is forgiven but the window is still broken. The priest will indicate the need to make restitution for the broken window and you may well anonymously send $20 to the owner of the now broken window but the window is still broken. Then you die with all your sins forgiven and restitution having been made but the window is still broken. The need to fix the window which you broke is a part of the “temporal punishment due to sin.”

There may also be some residual delight in having vented your spleen on your neighbor via his window and this too needs yet to be spiritually resolved. Imagine also the intangibles which may flow from your initial action. Perhaps the father comes home to find the window broken and wrongly blames and punishes one of his own children for the breakage. Who is responsible for that subsequent spiritual harm? Certainly the father is uniquely responsible but you have played an unintentional and unwitting part. The innocent child could well look at you and say that it was all your fault, and, in some sense, he would be entirely right. How do we make spiritual amends for all of the unseen and unintended consequences of our sinful actions? While responsibility to “make amends” is required, the truth is that it is impossible for us to have any genuinely accurate idea of the vast ramifications of our sins.

There is a science fiction theory known as the “butterfly effect” which posits that something as simple as a butterfly flapping its wings in South America impacts to the tiniest degree on the air currents and participates, in some miniscule fashion, in the formation or direction of a subsequent hurricane. Every sin participates in a real and spiritual “butterfly effect” for which the perpetrator of the sin is partially responsible. You will be thrown into prison (purgatory) until the last element of the debt is paid.

If the actions required to gain the plenary indulgence were merely perfunctory then this would seem to be rather “mercenary.” One of the requirements, however, is an authentic freedom from any and all attachment to sin, even venial sin.

Now, being free from sin after confession is a lot different than being free from an attachment to venial sin. Yet the Church is quite explicit: “It is further required that all attachment to sin, even to venial sin, be absent. If this disposition is in any way less than complete – the indulgence will only be partial.”

The pilgrimage to Australia will be spiritually enriching but your interior graced pilgrimage and your pilgrimages to your Diocesan “Year of Saint Paul” sites can likewise be opportunities for grace and conversion. Remember the “butterfly effect.”

The Catholic Sentinel

Photo Hattip – Pierre Pouliquin