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Catholic Christianity Part 3- Sacraments and Prayer (How Catholics Worship)


Chapter 1: Introduction to Catholic Liturgy

Guess I didn’t have much to say about this chapter. The rituals are of less interest to me than the morality and beliefs, but there’s still some interesting stuff here I guess.

Chapter 2: Introduction to the Sacraments

Grace has been defined as “an undeserved gift of God”. It is undeserved for two reasons: first, because God is our Creator and therefore can owe us nothing; all good things we receive, beginning with our very existence, are gifts from God’s generosity, not owed to us injustice (5967).

Does the first reason actually follow? I can see how created things can still have rights or deserve things. Creators do have a responsibility for their creations.

Illness, especially psychological illness, is a very different matter; treating this is the concern of medical science. Therefore, before an exorcism is performed, it is important to ascertain that one is dealing with the presence of the Evil One, and not an illness” (6097).

What does the church actually do to figure this out? Without an extremely good theory of psychological illness in general, it wouldn’t be plausible to rule it out.

Chapter 3: Baptism and Confirmation

d. The Baptism of implicit desire: “Every man who is ignorant of the Gospel of Christ and of his Church, but seeks the truth and does the will of God in accordance with his understanding of it, can be saved. It may be supposed that such persons would have desired Baptism explicitly if they had known its necessity” (CCC 1260) (6220).

Many Catholic theologians in the past have reasoned that children who die unbaptized go to a place of eternal peace but without the vision of God, since these infants have committed no actual sins and therefore have not chosen or deserved hell, but they are born with original sin and therefore cannot enter heaven. They named the place “Limbo”. The Church has never officially approved or disapproved this idea; it is neither a dogma nor a heresy. But most theologians now believe God will somehow get his innocent little ones into heaven. We cannot limit God’s love or his cleverness in arranging for his loving will to be done. God is not limited to any one means (6226).

Chapter 4: The Eucharist

To elicit our free response of faith and trust. Even human lovers do not give or demand proofs or guarantees. God gives just enough light for lovers, who can find him when they seek him, but not so much as to compel non-lovers and non-seekers to find him against their will. The lover respects the beloved’s freedom (6434).

Too convenient. Doesn’t marriage demand a proof or guarantee? And there is at least a guarantee that the partner in marriage exists. This sounds like a totally ad hoc way to dismiss a relevant lack of evidence. Also, when signs are believed to be there, no one says that God violated our freedom. Instead, believers celebrate this as proof. I think it’s intellectually dishonest to have it both ways.

The greatness of the Eucharist is known only to faith, not to the feelings or the senses or the sciences. Its being (reality) is far greater than its seeming (appearances). “The presence of Christ’s true body and blood in this sacrament cannot be detected by sense, nor understanding, but by faith alone, which rests upon Divine authority” (St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae III, 75, 1), not on human experience (6437).

God does not give us heavenly feelings when we receive the Eucharist for the same reason he does not give us heavenly sights. We neither feel nor see Christ as he really is so that faith, not feelings or sight, can be exercised, trained, and emerge triumphant (6444).

Similar to the problem above. It’s just ad hoc to cover up the perfect consistency with God not actually being there.

Why do Catholics believe this astonishing idea—that what seems to all human perception to be ordinary bread and wine is in fact the body and blood of God incarnate? Because Christ said so! (6576).

Chapter 5: The Sacrament of Penance

Modern Western society is not even pagan, that is, pre-Christian; it is secular, or post-Christian. The difference between the two is like the difference between a virgin and a divorcee (6761).

The scandalous sale of indulgences for money was the abuse that sparked the Protestant Reformation. But the theology behind the Church’s practice of granting indulgences is beautiful and profound. What is an indulgence? It is not a permission to sin but a forgiveness of punishment. “ ‘An indulgence is a remission before God of the temporal punishment due to sins whose guilt has already been forgiven’ (6931).

Chapter 6: Matrimony

The institution of marriage, and the family that results from it, is the single most indispensable foundation for happiness in all societies and in most individual lives (6975).

If there is a single cause for most of today’s malaise, both religious and secular, it is the weakening of marriages and families. In today’s “culture of death”, only a “countercultural” marriage can succeed. For the message we hear from most modern culture and modern psychology is profoundly destructive of marriage. It is the “gospel” that the happiness of me the individual comes first, before the good of my spouse, my marriage, my family, or my children. It is “the gospel of respectable selfishness” (6978).

I think that’s basically true in the United States. I’d be happy (selfishly happy?) to see more empathy promoted in our culture.

Most marriages will not succeed today without God. There will be tension about “who’s the boss” unless God is the “boss” (6989).

Citation please? As far as I know, secular people have similar divorce rates as theistic ones, although perhaps more divorce than Catholics.

The non-religious view, which has become popular in the modern secular West, is that marriage is man-made, not God-made, and therefore it is whatever we want it to be. We can change it. It conforms to us, not we to it. Thus secularists can speak of “open marriage” (a euphemism for adultery), polygamous, polyandrous, or even group “marriages”, homosexual “marriages”, temporary “marriages”, or even “marriage” between a man and an animal, if they wish (7006).

Polygamy is in the Bible, and I believe it is sanctioned by God.

religious view interprets sex and marriage in terms of man, while the secular view (in our society, at least) interprets man and marriage in terms of sex. Religion interprets sex in terms of marriage, marriage in terms of man, and man in terms of God. Religion personalizes sex; materialism depersonalizes it. Religion sees sex as an image of the divine; materialism sees it as an image of the animal. For materialism, love is a human excuse for sex; for religion, sex is a human echo of divine love (7011).

Citation again? I don’t think many atheistic materialists think that love is just an excuse for sex. I sure don’t.

There are even compelling reasons for the indissolubility of marriage from a purely secular point of view, both from the interest of individuals and from the interest of society. Lovers themselves, throughout history, insist on taking vows that speak the language of eternity (7132).

Euripides said, “He is not a lover who does not love forever.” And even John Denver echoes, “If love never lasts forever, what’s forever for?” Indissolubility is also necessary for society, for no society can endure without loyalty and promise-keeping; and the marriage vow is the first and foundational promise. When half our married citizens break their promise to the person they love the most, why should society trust them to keep their promises to anyone else? (7135).

Catholics are not excommunicated for obtaining a civil divorce and remarriage, but they cannot receive the Eucharist because they are living in adultery, according to the clear teaching of Christ (Mk 10:3-10) (7146).

The deepest cause of sexual promiscuity is that our spirits, made in God’s image, long for the infinite (7167).

The Church affirms that the “unitive” and “procreative” aspects of married love may not be artificially separated, either by artificial contraception or by test-tube babies. Love and life must not be divorced from each other. “What God has joined together, let no man put asunder.” (7182).

I don’t see a good reason to enshrine these two proposed aspects of married love. Just as the “nutritive” aspect of sweetness can be separated from splenda without immorality, why not also simply have one aspect of sex, depending on one’s aim? Similarly, one may wear glasses for both style and improved eyesight, or for just style. This does not seem immoral, even if the original intent was for both.

“In such cases the Church permits the physical separation of the couple and their living apart. The spouses do not cease to be husband and wife before God and so are not free to contract a new union. In this difficult situation, the best solution would be, if possible, reconciliation”13 (CCC 1649) (7228).

I find this pretty immoral. If one is married out of love, then the partner becomes a murderer, the innocent partner may not remarry. Catholics say it is immoral to find love elsewhere.

Chapter 7: Holy Orders

“Apostolic succession” is a historical fact. Scripture shows that Christ chose apostles and commissioned them to continue his work with his authority and that they in turn ordained successors (7279).


When the priest pronounces Christ’s words “This is my Body” and “This is my Blood”, it is Christ who speaks and acts. Only Christ has such miraculous power. That is why the saintly Curé of Ars said, “ ‘The priest continues the work of redemption on earth. . . . If we really understood the priest on earth, we would die not of fright but of love’  ” (7295).

The Lord Jesus chose men (viri) to form the college of the twelve apostles, and the apostles did the same when they chose collaborators to succeed them in their ministry.15. . . The Church recognizes herself to be bound by this choice made by the Lord himself. For this reason the ordination of women is not possible”16 (CCC 1577). It is not arrogance but humility that makes the Church insist that she has no authority to correct her Lord (7358).

This logic doesn’t follow. Even if only men were chose originally, that doesn’t mean that women were restricted. Perhaps due to the biases of the time, men were seen as better leaders. Yet now, when women are seeing more equality, it can be just as prudent to have strong female leaders. Did God himself explicitly state that women should never be priests?

Chapter 8: Anointing of the Sick

Chapter 9: Prayer

For whatever means he uses—nature, family, friends, our own talents—it is God who is the First Cause of all life and goodness (and not of death and sin) (7650).

a. All prayers are answered, but often the answer is No because what we ask for is not what we really want, only what we think we want. “ ‘Do not be troubled if you do not immediately receive from God what you ask him; for he desires to do something even greater for you, while you cling to him in prayer’ (7840).

This is a convenient way to avoid any and all falsification. The above is also consistent with prayer having no effect at all.

b. Sometimes the answer is “Wait”, because God’s timing is wiser than ours. God does not follow our timetable. He is a lover, not a train. c. Jesus tells us, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Mt 6:8), but “[H]e awaits our petition because the dignity of his children lies in their freedom” (CCC 2736)—or, as Pascal said, “God instituted prayer to communicate to his creatures the dignity of being causes” (7843).

Chapter 10: The Lord’s Prayer

Chapter 11: Mary

Mary, too, needed Christ for her salvation, just as we do, but she was saved before she sinned, while we were saved after we sinned (8287).

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