Br. Francis Therese's Q&A

Dec 31 2012

If a Catholic Christian does not subscribe to absolutely every Catholic precept, is he or she a Protestant?

Answer by Br. Francis Therese Krautter:

Not subscribing to precepts does not cause one to become a Protestant.  There are five precepts one must follow to be in full communion with the Catholic Church and - as a Catholic - to avoid mortal sin.  They are listed here: Catechism of the Catholic Church.  Following these precepts is the absolute minimum required to be considered a practicing Catholic.  Not following those precepts makes you a “non-practicing Catholic.”

Protestantism is a rejection of specific teachings (or doctrines) coupled with new teachings considered heresy by the Catholic Church. 

Believing something that is not taught by the Church, but which is not specifically against the faith is considered heterodoxy.

If the non-adherence to Catholic teaching is willful it is considered formal heresy - if it is simply due to ignorance it is considered material heresy.

Rejection of some teachings of Catholicism makes you a heretic.  Rejection of Christianity makes you an apostate.  Rejecting the authority of the Catholic Church (while maintaining its teachings) makes you a schismatic.  So Protestantism is a schismatic and heretical movement.

Protestantism defines itself not as a “protest” against Catholicism, but as the “profession” of certain fundamental dogmas that are in fact opposed to Catholic dogma.  Protestantism also refers to the historical split with the Catholic Church during the Reformation.  Being a Protestant therefore requires belonging to a group that has its roots in the Reformation.

Not every non-Catholic (non-Orthodox) Christian is Protestant.  Anglicans are not Protestants for example - they did not split as part of the Reformation.  Some modern Evangelical Christians - though their doctrines resemble Protestant doctrines - do not trace their roots to a main-line Protestant group.

Unless you join a Protestant group, your heresy does not make you a Protestant.
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May 12 2012
Mar 07 2012

Br. Francis Therese’s answer to How do Catholic priests remain celibate?

This is a daunting question, but merits a response.  Before talking about how someone could possibly remain celibate their whole life, we should be clear on exactly what is meant by being celibate, and why one would remain celibate.  Celibacy is one of three vows taken by religious (I am a consecrated Religious living my vows for almost ten years now) the other two being poverty and obedience.  Diocesan priests do not take a vow of poverty, but they do make a promise of obedience, and a vow of chastity.  The vows are formulated according to what are called the Evangelical Counsels, and are described in the scriptures by Christ Himself.

Focusing only on Chastity, the code of Canon law says this,

Can. 599 The evangelical counsel of chastity embraced for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven, is a sign of the worldto come, and a source of greater fruitfulness in an undivided heart. It involves the obligation of perfect continenceobserved in celibacy.

And this is not simply a pious idea invented later on by the Church, but comes directly from Christ’s own recommendation:

"Some are incapable of marriage because they were born so; some, because they were made so by others; some, because they have renounced marriage* for the sake of the kingdom of heaven. Whoever can accept this ought to accept it.”(Mt. 19:12)

Even Saint Paul has a recommendation in the same vein:

1 Now for the matters you wrote about: “It is good for a man not to have sexual relations with a woman.” 2 But since sexual immorality is occurring, each man should have sexual relations with his own wife, and each woman with her own husband. 3 The husband should fulfill his marital duty to his wife, and likewise the wife to her husband. 4 The wife does not have authority over her own body but yields it to her husband. In the same way, the husband does not have authority over his own body but yields it to his wife. 5 Do not deprive each other except perhaps by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control. 6 I say this as a concession, not as a command. 7 I wish that all of you were as I am. But each of you has your own gift from God; one has this gift, another has that.
 8 Now to the unmarried[a] and the widows I say: It is good for them to stay unmarried, as I do. 9 But if they cannot control themselves, they should marry, for it is better to marry than to burn with passion. (1 Cor. 7)

So consecration to prayer and union with God is aided by abstaining from the sexual act (which itself is only licit with one’s spouse).  Since man is not simply made for woman, and woman is not simply made for man - but God has created them both to adore and contemplate Him - human nature can be finalized by the contemplation of God.  This requires going beyond the natural finality of human nature, but it is God Himself who - by creating spiritual beings - wills that their persons find ultimate fulfillment in Him.

The only way it is possible to keep a vow of Chastity is to be actively offering the inclinations of our nature to unite one’s person to God in contemplation.  When one does not devote much time or fervor to prayer, the vow no longer makes much practical sense, and then we see the phenomenon of repression or suppression of urges that lead one’s nature to an eventual revolt.  For those who are sincerely devoted to prayer, and to growth in virtue (which is not simply repression/suppression of urges), they truly become witnesses to the fact that God is the sovereign good - that He can and does completely fulfill human life.

How do Catholic priests remain celibate?

Feb 24 2012

February 24, 2012: Friday after Ash Wednesday

Reading 1 Is 58:1-9a

Responsorial Psalm Ps 51:3-4, 5-6ab, 18-19

 

Gospel Mt 9:14-15

 

First Friday of Lent, and today’s readings have an incredible teaching on fasting.  The first reading is a series of rebukes addressed to those who fast religiously but continue to live selfishly.  Fasting ought to break down our egoism, it ought to drive us to acts of mercy and compassion.  When we fast, we must fast from self - we must become less self-consumed.  The remedy to being self-satisfied, or full of oneself, is to fill our lives and hearts with the needs of others.  And that is the true fast because the only way to hunger and thirst for righteousness, for others and their needs, is to starve the ego of self.  ”Whoever loves his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it as eternal life.”

This leads us to meditate on the Gospel where we see Jesus defending his disciples’ apparent impenitence.  The true meaning of fasting is making room for the other, and in this case, making room for Jesus, the bridegroom.  God is wedded to our human nature, the Word is incarnate and seeking souls to espouse.  It is the moment of the espousal, it is the moment of the total gift of self - where God is totally giving Himself to men.  And this gift is received with great joy because Jesus, God, is present both physically and to the senses of His disciples.  After Jesus’ ascension, His presence can only be known by faith.  And faith is itself a kind of fasting - our humility and self-denial are the fasting in faith that makes room in our hearts for Christ.

Feb 21 2012

Tuesday of the Seventh Week in Ordinary Time: Mardi Gras


Reading 1 Jas 4:1-10

Responsorial Psalm Ps 55:7-8, 9-10a, 10b-11a, 23

Gospel Mk 9:30-37

 

One day left before we start our Lenten Journey.  For many, the last day is a day of over-indulgence (even and perhaps especially those who are not even Catholic!)  Here in Salvador, Brazil the whole city is aflutter with the preparation and celebration of Carnaval - which makes what most of us from the USA call Mardi Gras seem tame and innocent by comparison.  The practice of Lenten fasting traditionally required the removal of fat and eggs from the diet, which is why whatever remained before Ash Wednesday had to be consumed to avoid waste.  The Church has always prescribed a different sort of preparation for Lent however: One possible etymology for Carnival comes from “carne levare” which means “taking away of flesh,” and the English “shrovetide” which comes from “shrive” which means “to hear confessions.”  The preparation for Lent is not indulgence, it is humility, it is an introspective and contemplative journey to discover the major obstacles we must overcome in order to return to the Lord.

Today’s first reading already encourage us on this path of humility, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”  And it rebuke us, “Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you of two minds.”  And it finally assures us of the path to holiness, and true greatness “Humble yourselves before the Lord and he will exalt you.”

The Gospel begins with a curious narration, “Jesus and his disciples left from there and began a journey through Galilee, but he did not wish anyone to know about it.”  The Lenten journey is a secret journey, because Jesus is preparing those closest to Him for an event they will only understand in retrospect.  The Cross is a mystery we can only understand in retrospect: everything Jesus teaches us on our Lenten journey will only truly make sense at Easter.  Jesus wants us to receive Him so that we may receive the Father who sent Him, and as Jesus humbles Himself every deeper through His passion, His weakness and death on the Cross, He becomes more childlike.  The mystery of the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world is the mystery of Christmas, the mystery of the God-Child, in its ultimate development.  Jesus is on a journey with His disciples, the Lamb becomes more like a child - revealing His Father’s love by His total trust and obedience even unto death.  The path to greatness is the Lamb’s way of the cross, it is a path of humility, it is a path of spiritual childhood - becoming children to discover the Father of the Lamb and His eternal love.

Jan 05 2012

Br. Francis Therese’s answer to Does the Bible acknowledge the existence of pagan gods?

An important factor to take into consideration is what is understood in the scriptures by the term “gods.” In the psalms we read, ” I have said to you, ‘You are gods, and all of you sons of the Most High.’ And yet you shall die like men, you shall perish like any of the princes.” And there are other places that speak of, ‘sons of God,’ etc.

The term god seems to indicate not necessarily divine or invisible beings, but beings with power or beings in proximity to God. The angels are also considered “sons of god.” The “divinities” of the Old Testament frequently took the form of idols - which were objects “made by human hands.” On this point, the scripture regularly ridicules the practice of worshipping said idols. It would seem that the temptation was not to actively think up or pray to other immaterial beings, but to fashion one’s own god by one’s own craft. Here is a great example of the critique those idols get in the psalms:

"Pagan idols are silver and gold,
the work of human hands.
They have mouths but they cannot speak
They have eyes but they cannot see.
They have ears but they cannot hear,
They have nostrils but they cannot smell.
With their hands they cannot feel,
With their feet they cannot walk,
No sound comes from their throats.
Their makers will come to be like them
And so will all who trust in them.
Sons of Jacob, trust in the Lord
— he is their help and their shield.” (Ps. 115)

The struggle in the Old Testament was not so much against heresey, but against the moral corruption that resulted from the cults rendered to idols (child sacrifices, fornication, superstition). It is a struggle much more at the level of the moral conscience of the people of God, rather than at the level of their intellectual capacity for metaphysics. “Proval or disproval” of the existence of God is a philosophical undertaking. The God of Israel proves himself morally by signs and wonders, and most importantly by His Word. The case for trusting this God is made on primarily moral grounds: by the promises He kept, by the mercy he has shown, by the relationship he has sought with His people. He is a God with no image in a time where all other divinities have physical representations. He is a God who reveals himself by name, “I am who I am,” or “I am who am,” to a people whose culture uses names to signify mission or destiny. God makes it known that His mission is to be the only God for Israel, because He is the true God.

The “Christian God,” or the Trinity, is God as revealed by the Word of God made flesh - Jesus. This is the same one and true God, but we are revealed God’s inner life - a life of self-gift, love, and truth. In the New Testament we discover that God’s mission to make himself known to humanity does not end with the people of Israel. The gift of the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all flesh - God is poured out upon all flesh (humanity). The gift of the knowledge of the true God is the gift of faith - this gift, by the incarnation of God’s Word, is given to all humanity, to all those who adhere to the Word in faith.

By faith, God proves Himself and thereby renders any other deity or competing idea secondary or null. Without faith, the Bible or Scriptures will not reveal or prove God. And even with faith, God does not seek to prove, He reveals Himself - with that revelation there is nothing left to prove at the level of faith. Philosophical proof is a different approach that, though secondary in the life of a believer, is not to be neglected.

Does the Bible acknowledge the existence of pagan gods?

Dec 26 2011
Dec 14 2011

Br. Francis Therese’s answer to What is meant by “objective moral standards”?

I believe this idea is refering to the natural moral law. For some Christians, it was God’s revealing of this “natural law” on Mt. Sinai (ten commandments) that caused it to become objective. The process of self-justification that stems from pride in the sinner would seem to inhibit the “objectivity” of any alleged natural moral law. Therefore - according to that logic - without God’s intervention, because we are sinners we could never discover the natural moral order on our own.

Another idea I have heard from apologists - which would seem to fall into this category - is the idea that without a God that actually exists, there are no consequences for bad behavior. As long as you can get away with things you know or do not know to be wrong, there is no reason to involve your conscience. If God does not exist, we all just turn back to nothing - or dissolve into the ocean of evolving particles of consciousness that concentrate around and within the higher beings. There is, according to this view, no reason to try to follow some sort of moral code if God does not exist. If you can get away with killing someone for selfish motives and it will have no lasting repercussions, there is no objective reason not to do it. Admittedly, most of us live our lives this way - we weigh the consequences of our actions and the possible outcomes. If we might be able to get away with something that is conventionally considered “wrong,” we will probably consider doing it - if only momentarily - if that would be to our advantage.

I think that moral objectivity is possible without explicitly bringing God into the picture. Ethical activity is based on respecting others. We respect other people, because we want them in our lives - because we love them and love requires attention and respect. Friendship drives us to develop virtues - virtues that are needed in order to live in harmony with the people we love. These virtues extend beyond the people we love however - for example, when I recognize that my friends must be treated justly, I also become capable of seeing that people I don’t know should also be treated justly, and finally that people I do not love or even hate ought to be treated justly as well. Obviously, when one has little or no personal virtue, when one has no true friends, the objectiveness of morality is a bit of a long shot.

What is meant by “objective moral standards”?

Dec 09 2011

Friday of the Second Week of Advent

Reading 1 Is 48:17-19

Responsorial Psalm Ps 1:1-2, 3, 4 And 6

Gospel Mt 11:16-19

A tree is to be judged by its fruits.  Wisdom is vindicated by her works.  In today’s Gospel Jesus compares the people of his generation to children in the marketplaces - he compares the attitudes of children with respect to adults to the attitudes of adults with respect to wisdom.  Children in the marketplace want adults to play along with them, but adults are typically too busy for non-sense.  Children interact socially with each other by means of play, games, pretending, etc.  Children do not understand or desire - nor are they even capable of - adult social interaction.  You can train them to be quiet in certain situations, to become progressively more sensitive to different social contexts and appropriate social interactions with adults, but none of that is spontaneous or natural for a child.  I remember something my mother often said to me when I was a boy, “Honey, you seem to be forgetting something: I’m the adult, you’re the child.”  As hard a time as our young egos can have with that reality, deep down we know it’s true - deep down we know as children that we depend upon our parents and other adults as much as we may dislike it; it isn’t until we become adolescents that we start struggle a true struggle for autonomy.

Today’s humanity likes to see itself as either adult or moving towards adulthood.  What that means, of course, is that we see ourselves as becoming independant from God - adolescence - and finally as gods ourselves - adulthood.  The only problem is, we depend upon God for our being - and that is something we cannot manage.  The sign we depend upon someone or something else for our being is death - the radical fracturing of our being.  When humanity tries to ignore or beat death (scientifically or intellectually), it is childishly avoiding the deeper question of being: being is more fundamental than life, and as much control as I may have over my life, my substantial autonomy is something I simply received - it is a gift I have been given but cannot myself give.  Parents can give life and freedom to their children, but they cannot give intelligence, they cannot give autonomy.  God gives intelligence and autonomy - God gives us substance - existence - and our capacity to know truth.  These are things we depend upon God for, and things we will never be able to get for ourselves or give to others.

This is Jesus’ criticism of the people of His generation.  They expect the Christ to correspond to the system they already control.  They expect the prophet (John the Baptist) to play along with their thoughts and ideas.  And when the Christ and the Pre-cursor do not cooperate, do not follow the “rules” of their game, the former are mocked, scorned, and rejected by the latter.  ”What has been hidden from the wise and the learned has been revealed to the merest of children.”  A child is perfect as a child when he recognizes and trusts the ones who take care of him, when he depends upon them.  Spiritual childhood is recognizing God as the source of our being, trusting that He knows best how to care for us though His ways may seem as foreign to us as those of an adult to a child.  Spiritual childhood is depending upon God as the Creator of one’s being, just as a child depends upon his Father for what he needs in life.  This is mystical wisdom, the wisdom of God’s children, this is the way in which Jesus wants us to resemble children.  Those who do not resemble children in this way will resemble the children in today’s Gospel: playing in the marketplace and demanding God to follow the rules they have made.  In the end, even if the children continue to stubbornly insist on having their way, God will not stop the work He has begun.  Even a humanity who rejects her Savior will not discourage that Savior from the total loving gift of Himself on the cross.  ”Even if a mother were to abandon her child, I will never abandon you.”  Wisdom is not vindicated by persuasively convincing, Wisdom is vindicated by her works.  The work of wisdom is the victory of love.  The victory of love is not convincing someone to return that love - it is the loving gift of self despite the cost, the risk, despite the fact that there may be no love in return.  Wisdom is vindicated by the Cross.

 

Dec 06 2011

Tuesday of the Second Week of Advent

Reading 1 Is 40:1-11

Responsorial Psalm Ps 96:1-2, 3 And 10ac, 11-12, 13

Gospel Mt 18:12-14

 

Today’s Gospel is the parable of the lost sheep, and it is paired with a beautiful reading from Isaiah.  A message of comfort, and a message of purification.  The Word of God comforts: “Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her service is at an end, her guilt is expiated;” “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, Carrying them in his bosom, and leading the ewes with care.” So often God is seen as the big police-man in the sky, waiting for us to slip up then to explode with divine anger.  But God is like a shepherd: the shepherds were the outsiders of the Jewish community because they put the care of their sheep before even religious obligations.  We are so important to God that even His religious obligations come second - but God doesn’t have religious obligations as it were; God puts the care of us His creatures ahead of Himself.

The Word of God also purifies: “The rugged land shall be made a plain, the rough country, a broad valley.  Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all people shall see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.” “All flesh is grass, and all their glory like the flower of the field.  The grass withers, the flower wilts, when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.  So then, the people is the grass.  Though the grass withers and the flower wilts, the word of our God stands forever.”  God’s Word goes before Him, and prepares a way to meet Him.  The way of God and His glory are made clear through His Word.  God’s Word pierces the very marrow of our bones, the flesh of man and his glory are as nothing before the Word of God.  The Word of God is powerful, direct, and glorious.

How do these two qualities of the Word of God help us understand today’s Gospel?  The Word of God is our Shepherd.  We are led by this Word, comforted by this Word, purified by this Word.  Jesus is the Word, and when He speaks he comforts and purifies.  ”What is your opinion,” He asks.  He asks because He knows that no normal shepherd would abandon 99 sheep to try to find one that is lost; only the Good Shepherd.  Jesus’ Word purifies the minds of His disciples;  no one is unimportant to God - and the one who is lost becomes His priority.  This is also God’s Word of comfort: “…it is not the will of your heavenly Father that one of these little ones be lost..”

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