We know that St. Phoebe and others were “deacons” (Romans 16:1, diakonon), but how was their ministry expressed?
Apostolic Constitutions, Book 8, Paragraph 28: “A deaconess does not bless, nor perform anything belonging to the office of presbyters or deacons, but only is to keep the doors, and to minister to the presbyters in the baptizing of women, on account of decency.”
St. Paul did not give women teaching authority, especially at Mass (1 Corinthians 14:34, 1 Timothy 2:12). Deacons must be able to proclaim the Gospel in the liturgy (Summa Theologiae, TP, Q. 67, A. 1, R. to Ob. 1), and all priests are to first be made deacons (Canon 1050). Therefore, women cannot serve in either role, and so they cannot be ordained at all.
Let me try to explain, simply, what the Church teaches on the Trinity vis-à-vis monotheism.
The Trinity’s source is the Father. The Son is “begotten” from Him — not created by Him, “for there is nothing whatever that generates its own existence” (St. Augustine of Hippo, On the Trinity, Book I) — and the Holy Spirit is “the Spirit both of the Father and of the Son”, “proceeds from” the Two, and is “co-equal” to Them.
All must “honor the Son even as they honor the Father” (John 5:23) and recognize the Holy Spirit as “the voice of the Lord” (Isaiah 6:8-10, Acts 28:25-27). All are key to the “I Am”, the Logos, the principle on which everything — including reason itself — depends.
Philosophically speaking, because the Persons are so intricately connected (in mind, substance, action, etc.), They are One. This unity is to be mimicked in both the Church and sacramental marriage.
However, They clearly act distinctly (but not separately). This makes most sense, I think, in the context of the Eucharist: Father as being sacrificed to, Son as Sacrifice, Holy Spirit as the Person Who inspires sacrifice. They each have a place in the communitarian model.
They all must be God, though, because only God has these authorities. They must all be of equal power, also. How else could the Son be our Lord (John 20:28) and perfectly alike to the Father (John 5:19)? How else could the Holy Spirit bring forth the Son to earth (Matthew 1:18), how else could lying to the Holy Spirit equate to lying to God (Acts 5:3-4), and how else could our bodies belong to this same Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)?
That, in a nutshell, is how Catholics look at the Trinity — One, but Three; Three, but One. Thus, we chant, “holy, holy, holy” (Isaiah 6:3).
(cf. Nicene Creed, Athanasian Creed)
The Lutheran Small Catechism with Explanation (ESV) provides a classic Protestant look at ecclesiology (how one views the Church), but I find it very unconvincing and full of problems. My conclusion is that the Lutheran alternative does not seem plausible, and it most certainly can not disprove the claims of the Church.
1. Under the question, “What is the holy Christian church?”, it answers:
“The holy Christian church is the communion of saints, the total number of those who believe in Christ. All believers in Christ, but only believers, are members of the church (invisible church).”
This is sort of true, but what if someone has faith and still intentionally separates themself from the Church by heresy? For example, are Arians members of the Church? They believe in Christ. Are Mormons also members of the Church? What about Jehovah’s Witnesses? This kind of vague, “invisible” membership leads to all sorts of problems, and it leads to the loss of absolute truth. (See the very varied views of Protestants.)
A single institutional Church is necessary, because some doctrines are “hard to understand” (2 Peter 3:16) and they need to be consistently preserved and articulated.
2. Under the question, “Why do you say ‘I believe’ in the church?”, it answers:
“A. Because faith, which makes people members of the church, is invisible, the church is invisible to human eyes.
B. The Scriptures assure us that the Holy Spirit continues to gather and preserve the church.”
On the second part of this answer, I have no complaints. The Holy Spirit certainly does guide the Church. However, on the first point, it cites Luke 17:20-21 and 2 Timothy 2:19 for support, taking both passages out of context. The first passage actually refers to the “end times” and people wondering about when they will be and what they will entail, and this is made clear by the rest of the chapter. The second passage simply points out that, despite heresy being almost everywhere, “the firm foundation of God stands” and “the Lord knows those who are His”.
The Church is not invisible.
3. This Lutheran Catechism also makes the points that the Church’s “one and only head is Christ” and the Church “belongs to Christ and is built on Him alone”, but this is misleading and an intentional jab at the Church.
Christ is the now-invisible head of the Church, in that He fills Her with grace and protects Her from grave error, but the Church must have a visible head to represent Him: the Vicar (representative) of Christ, the Successor of St. Peter — the Pope.
It is true that only Christ could lay the foundation for His Church (1 Corinthians 3:11) and that He is the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20), and the Church absolutely recognizes this. He laid the foundation when He appointed Peter as the visible head of the Church (Matthew 16:18-19) and He is still the cornerstone — without Christ, the Church would crumble.
Because only Christ can lay the foundation of a Church, Martin Luther had no authority to start his own sect — unless, of course, there is some sort of evidence that definitively shows that Christ transferred His authority to him. Naturally, this evidence does not exist.
Also, remember that not everyone is “called” to Church leadership (Hebrews 5:1-4).
4. Additionally, this Catechism teaches that “the holy Christian church is to be found where ‘the Gospel is purely taught and the Sacraments are correctly administered’ (Augsburg Confession VII 1)”.
I absolutely agree with this point, because only an organization that distributes the sacraments is a “Church” in the proper sense, though it may not be in communion with the Church. “Christ’s Spirit uses [them] as means of salvation, whose power derives from the fullness of grace and truth that Christ has entrusted to the Catholic Church.” (Catechism of the Catholic Church, #819)
However, even after taking this into account, I also realize that the Lutheran understanding of both the Gospel and the sacraments is distorted.
Lutherans typically believe that there are only two sacraments (Baptism and Communion). Catholics, meanwhile, recognize a total of seven: Baptism, Communion (the Eucharist), Confession (Penance), Confirmation (or Chrismation), Marriage, Anointing of the Sick, and Holy Orders. Lutherans usually think of these other five as rites that do not necessarily contain God’s grace, but are still historically practiced.
Just one example of the Lutheran sacramental problem is that they hold to sacramental union (Christ is “in, with, and under” the bread and wine), while the Church holds to transubstantiation (the bread and wine become the literal Body and Blood of Christ), which is the traditional view. The Lutheran departure from the historical view seems to reveal “a morbid interest in controversial questions and disputes about words” (1 Timothy 6:3-5). Is their emphasis here more important than unity?
Meanwhile, Lutherans also debate over whether or not Confession is a sacrament. Martin Luther said one thing, but the official Defense of the Augsburg Confession says another.
“Nevertheless, it has seemed best to restrict the name of sacrament to such promises as have signs attached to them. The remainder, not being bound to signs, are bare promises. Hence there are, strictly speaking, but two sacraments in the Church of God – baptism and bread; for only in these two do we find both the divinely instituted sign and the promise of forgiveness of sins.” – Martin Luther [link]
“If we call Sacraments rites which have the command of God, and to which the promise of grace has been added, it is easy to decide what are properly Sacraments. For rites instituted by men will not in this way be Sacraments properly so called. For it does not belong to human authority to promise grace. Therefore signs instituted without God’s command are not sure signs of grace, even though they perhaps instruct the rude [children or the uncultivated], or admonish as to something [as a painted cross]. Therefore Baptism, the Lord’s Supper, and Absolution, which is the Sacrament of Repentance, are truly Sacraments. For these rites have God’s command and the promise of grace, which is peculiar to the New Testament.” – Article XIII of the Defense of the Augsburg Confession [link]
With disagreements over the fundamental natures of the sacraments and their generally invalid claims to apostolic succession (which is necessary for the validity of the sacraments), Lutherans do not have a “Church” in the proper sense.
5. Protestant ecclesiology has wrecked the doctrinal and visible unity that God demands.
In Galatians 5:16-21, St. Paul condemns “dissensions” and “factions” as “deeds of the flesh” that will result in the causers “not inherit[ing] the kingdom of God,” and in Romans 16:17, he teaches that Christians should “turn away from” them. Protestants have, unfortunately, disobeyed this command.
Unity is Christ’s prayer for us (John 17:11), so let us become unified again, visibly and invisibly.
“Since Christ suffered for the Church and since the Church is the body of Christ, without doubt the person who divides the Church is convicted of lacerating the body of Christ.” – Council of Florence, Session 9 (23 March 1440) [link]
(All verses are from the NASB translation.)
A Catholic summary of the Book of Titus.
(Alternate link, via Vimeo.)
Several theological issues are addressed in the canonical Epistle of Paul to Titus. Since the Book is relatively short, let’s review the whole thing — chapter by chapter.
In the first 4 verses of chapter 1, Paul gives a simple salutation. And in verses 5-9, he begins to describe desirable traits in Christian leaders.
He says in Titus 1:10-14:
“For there are many rebellious men, empty talkers and deceivers, especially those of the circumcision, who must be silenced because they are upsetting whole families, teaching things they should not teach for the sake of sordid gain. One of themselves, a prophet of their own, said, ‘Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.’ This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth.”
Here, Paul is denouncing Christians that fell into the trap of following the rituals of the Mosaic, “old” Law, rather than following Christ and His “new,” universal Law. These people were confusing Christians, and Paul, as a very devout former Jew, strongly condemned their heretical beliefs.
He goes on to say in Titus 1:15-16:
“To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled. They profess to know God, but by their deeds they deny Him, being detestable and disobedient and worthless for any good deed.”
Now, some (not all, but some) Protestants try to wiggle out of this section by saying that, for Christians (“the pure”), “all things are pure,” and so they are incapable of doing any bad deed in the eyes of God because of Christ’s sacrifice. This position is, of course, highly ambiguous and against the spirit of the passage. As we know, in verse 16, Paul makes it clear that good deeds are important, because those that do bad deeds deny Christ by their actions.
In verses 1-10 of chapter 2, Paul continues to describe ideal Christian traits for people in all sorts of situations.
Verses 11-14 read:
“For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.”
This is very important. This passage starts with the fact that it is only by the grace of God that we can ever reach Heaven and be with Him, and that through Christ, He made salvation possible for everyone. It goes on to tell us how we should act in order to attain salvation. The passage ends with a reminder of Christ’s sacrifice and that we must, with Christ’s help, “purify” ourselves and be “zealous for good deeds” for Him.
And verse 15 ends the chapter with a note that implies its importance.
Chapter 3 starts off by reminding us to “be obedient” and to “be ready for every good deed,” as well as other things.
But then it gets to verses 4-7, which might be a little confusing at first glance. The verses read:
“But when the kindness of God our Savior and His love for mankind appeared, He saved us, not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out upon us richly through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that being justified by His grace we would be made heirs according to the hope of eternal life.”
Some Protestants jump at that passage (almost as if to say “Aha!”) in discussions about the necessity of works. But it doesn’t defend the “faith alone” position. Yes, everything is done “according to His mercy” — Protestants should know that, like they do, Catholics believe in “grace alone.” We can only attain salvation through God’s grace. The phrase “washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit” refers to baptism and the regenerative effect that it has on our souls. Baptism cleanses us from all past sin, and it is also through baptism that we properly join the Church.
Good works are obviously necessary. In fact, the very next verse (verse 8) exhorts us to “be careful to engage in good deeds,” which are “good and profitable for men.”
In verses 9-11, Paul again warns against “factious” men that divide by the Mosaic Law.
Verses 12-15 end the chapter with a set of individual requests and a simple conclusion.
I hope that this helps you. If you have any questions, or if you would like to request a video about a certain topic, please feel free to contact me through any of the social networks listed. May God bless you!
(All verses are from the NASB translation.)
Protestants claim that Confession (aka the Sacrament of Reconciliation) is unnecessary, but that claim totally contradicts the Word of God.
Kevin M. Tierney wrote at Catholic Lane:
When one repents of their sins in the Bible, it is always done to another individual.
The clearest case of this is with David after he commits adultery and arranges the murder of the woman’s husband. David only repents of his sin once God’s representative Nathan confronts him. (2 Samuel 12:1-13) David knew he had sinned grievously in his adultery, otherwise he would not have had Uriah killed to conceal his crime. Even knowing the extent of his guilt, he refused to repent. This speaks to the human psyche’s ability to rationalize away what they do so that it is no longer a sin. This is a skill humanity has nearly perfected in today’s age.
Another thing worth considering is how professing something vocally changes things. It is very easy to say something silently with no witnesses. It is something altogether different when you have to acknowledge your faults before another. One could say it becomes a far more serious endeavor when you are not only willing to renounce your sins, but renounce them forcefully out loud. The first step on the road to repentance requires you to renounce those sins. While it possible to fake such, it becomes far harder to do so. (It goes without saying that such a faked confession would be a sacrilege, and compound sin upon sin!)
Whenever I hear Protestants say that confessing sins to a priest is wrong, I am reminded of Luke 5:21, in which the Pharisees say that only God can forgive sins, and doubt Christ’s ability to do so. They are so blinded by their ideology that they can not recognize that God (Christ is God in human form, both fully human and fully divine) is before them.
Am I brazen enough to compare priests to Christ? In a way, yes, because priests serve in persona Christi (a Latin phrase, meaning “in the person of Christ”).
In John 20, Christ clearly gives the Apostles the power to forgive sins.
“And when He had said this, He breathed on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.’” – John 20:22-23 (NASB)
From there, the Apostles passed down their “powers” through apostolic succession (a topic I plan on writing about in the future). Those “powers” are possessed by our bishops and priests today.
So, like Devin Rose asked, would you have confessed your sins to an Apostle? If not, you contradict Christ. And, if you would have confessed your sins to an Apostle, it only makes sense that you would confess your sins to a priest.
My first confession was the week before I entered the Church. I was so nervous, but I tried to be prepared: I had done an examination of my conscience and had printed out a version of the standard Act of Contrition. I was ready, or at least, I thought I was. But there was just something unexplainable about that few minutes. I truly felt like I was speaking with God. Like Laban felt with Jacob in Genesis 30:27, I felt that God blessed me, forgave me, and transformed me through His priest.
That is why the Church teaches that Catholics should confess at least once a year (the saintly Cardinal Arinze commented on that here). The Sacrament of Reconciliation is an amazing gift from God, so we should utilize it.
A couple of years ago, before I became Catholic, I was listening to the radio on a Sunday morning, on my way to a Lutheran (LCMS) church service. The guy on the radio was the pastor of a local Assembly of God church. He proceeded to go on a tirade against the Church for labeling priests as “Fathers,” and cited Matthew 23:9 as proof that the practice was in violation of Jesus Christ’s teachings.
His accusation startled me. I had never thought of it like that before, and he sounded so sure of himself. I had just started learning about the Faith (albeit I was in the very, very early stages of the process), and this topic had never been brought up.
So, I asked Dylan, a Catholic friend of mine, about it. He had been studying Latin and Greek and about the translations of the Bible (not to mention the fact that he knew everything about Catholicism, in general). He explained it to me, and now, I will try to relay the good explanation to you.
Here’s the verse in question:
“Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.” – Matthew 23:9 (NASB)
But it’s important to note that the verse before that is…
“But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.” – Matthew 23:8 (NASB)
And after that is…
“Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ. But the greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted. But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you shut off the kingdom of heaven from people; for you do not enter in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in.” – Matthew 23:10-13 (NASB)
“Rabbi” means “teacher,” and the Latin word for “teacher” is “doctor”. Is using the words “rabbi,” “teacher,” “doctor,” and “leader” evil? No. If they are, St. Paul (aka the guy that wrote, like, half of the New Testament) and some of Jesus Christ’s other disciples are in some serious trouble. Read the following verses:
“Masters, grant to your slaves justice and fairness, knowing that you too have a Master in heaven.” – Colossians 4:1 (NASB) (Some scholars question who wrote it, but most agree that it was written by St. Paul.)
“But a Pharisee named Gamaliel, a teacher of the Law, respected by all the people, stood up in the Council and gave orders to put the men outside for a short time.” – Acts 5:34 (NASB) (Written by St. Luke.)
“…for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher.” – 2 Timothy 1:11 (NASB) (Written by St. Paul.)
“I am writing to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I have written to you, children, because you know the Father. I have written to you, fathers, because you know Him who has been from the beginning. I have written to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.” – 1 John 2:13-14 (NASB) (Written by St. John.)
“For if you were to have countless tutors in Christ, yet you would not have many fathers, for in Christ Jesus I became your father through the gospel.” – 1 Corinthians 4:15 (NASB) (Written by St. Paul.)
It’s clear that when Jesus Christ forbade calling anyone “father” or “leader” or “teacher,” he was not speaking literally. He was correcting the Pharisees (who lacked humility and had elevated themselves above God as the ultimate authorities) and He was instructing us to always keep in mind that God is the ultimate Father, the ultimate Leader, and the ultimate Teacher.
Jesus Christ wants us to remember that God is the source of all authority. He wants us to be humble and to never think that we have any kind of our own authority that puts us on equal footing with God or any kind of our own special knowledge that is hidden from God, because God is omnipotent and omniscient, all-powerful and all-knowing.
When we call priests “Fathers,” it’s not that we see them as God’s equals, but that we see them as people that God has called to help us, to lead us, and to teach us about Him.
When we call priests “Fathers,” it’s no worse or more malicious than when you call your doctor “Doctor”.
(Picture cropped from original image from here.)