I wrote these series of articles (see menu sidebar to the left) as a Catholic for Catholics, but I no longer accept Catholic teaching as the authoritative source of truth.I have not attempted to align these articles with my current views.

This article highlights the topics of intercession, worship, superstition, Bible interpretation, and the expression of Christian devotion to God.

People tend to see things through the lens of their own perspective and sometimes have difficulty seeing things from other perspectives. This is common when Protestants, who have been indoctrinated into an anti-Catholic perspective, are unable to understand the Catholic view of things. To assist Protestants with seeing the Catholic perspective by presenting unexpected dialogs.

In conversations with Protestant anti-Catholicswild claims are made about what Catholics believe. To me they sound as weird as the responses in these dialogs. In order to demonstrate the absurdity of these claims I present a variety of dialogs analogous to what I hear from anti-Catholics.

The purpose of these imaginary dialogs is to reveal unconscious assumptions.


Dialogs Between Believers



Intercession

Martha: Susan, my friend; will you please pray for me?
Susan Oh, I'm sorry, I can't. It would make Jesus jealous. After all, he only wants us to pray to him. Plus I really can't worship you like that because we should only worship God.

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Objection: Jesus doesn't want to share His glory with anyone, including the Saints. Why is it OK to ask a friend to pray for you, but not OK to ask a Saint to pray for you?

The Bible exhorts us to pray. Requests for intercessory prayer do not dishonor Christ.   (more)
Objection: Jesus wants us to pray to Him only and not to the Saints. Prayer to the Saints is analogous to asking someone else to pray for you.

When the Saints intercede for us at our request they either:
  1. Ask God to intervene on our behalf.
  2. Administer a grace which God has given them.
Misunderstanding: The Saints have power of themselves to answer prayer. Any grace they have was given to them by God.  (more)
Misunderstanding: Asking one another for prayer is different than praying to a Saint. The terminology confuses the issue — we say "pray to a Saint" when we should say "ask the Saint to intercede for us."

The Catechism of the Catholic Church never mentions praying to Saints but only to Saints interceding for us.
Misunderstanding: By praying to Saints we are worshipping them. While we do venerate the Saints, we never worship them.   (more | more)


Intercession

Wife: Dear, I'm so happy about our son and his wife's move to their new home. Will you give them a blessing?
Husband: I can't do that. Only God has the power to bless.

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Objection: We should not pray to Saints. Many Protestants believe that God has given believers the power to bless and that he will honor these pronouncements. Examples:
  • A father blesses his children (as the patriarchs did)
  • A Pastor blesses the congregation
  • Charismatics pronounce blessings and curses in the "name of Jesus"
Why should we think that Saints do not have this same power?
Objection: Catholic priests don't have the power to bless or to forgive sins. Jesus gave them certain spiritual powers based on John 20:23: "Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained." But the Catholic Church teaches that all power originates with God.


Worship

Martha: I love that worship song. I especially like the chorus in which you sing "Jesus I worship you" over and over.
Susan: That's vain repetition. God doesn't listen when you repeat. It is just a pagan mantra.

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Objection: Matthew 6:7 forbids vain repetition. Protestants have their own forms of repetition. Examples:
  • Refrains of hymns which are repeated.
  • Choruses of contemporary worship songs which commonly repeat a phrase.
  • In extemporaneous prayer there is often much repetition of phrases.
  • Protestant "Christianese," that special jargon used when discussing spiritual topics, often involves repeating certain phrases.
In the passage in Matthew chapter 6 Jesus is objecting to showy prayer. It is the "vainness" of the repetition that is the problem, not the repetition itself.


Bible Interpretation

Brian: My father bought me a birthday present.
Fred: Call no man father.

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Objection: Catholics call people "father" which is forbidden in Matthew 23:6-10. Then why is it okay to call the male parent by that name since that passage doesn't make any provisions to exclude anyone and since Paul calls himself father in 1 Corinthians 4:15?


Bible Interpretation

Pastor Jones: Welcome to this retreat. I'm Pastor Jones and I'm a Bible teacher at such and such a seminary.
Congregation: Call no man teacher.

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Objection: Catholics call their priests "father" which is forbidden in Matthew 23:6-10. Protestants who object to Catholics calling priests "father" often call each other "teacher," yet this is also forbidden in this passage.


Worship

Sharon: I just got a nice devotional picture of Jesus hugging a child.
Susan: That's idolatry.

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Objection: Christians should not have images or icons in their devotion. Protestants use these things themselves. Examples are:
  • Crosses
  • Pictures of Jesus and other Bible stories.
  • Pictures of friends and family.


Worship

Martha: I'm going to visit my mother who I love very much.
Bob: You should hate your mother. Jesus hated his mother.

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Objection: Jesus doesn't want us to love His mother, Mary, because this makes Him jealous. Protestants don't object if we love our friends and families but for some reason they do object if we love Mary and the Saints. But Jesus is not jealous when we love others.
Objection: Jesus doesn't want us to love His mother, Mary. The idea of hating your family comes from: Luke 14:26 "If any man come to me, and hate not his father, and mother. . . ."

The passage in Matthew 12:49 is often used to support the idea that we should not have any special relationship with Jesus' mother, Mary:

"And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren!"

The implication is that Jesus doesn't value family relationships and therefore we should de-emphasize His mother, Mary, because that is what he did. But Protestants don't practice this themselves:
  • They have no objection to having a special regard for various Christian "celebrities" such as holy and charismatic pastors, preachers, evangelists, and missionaries.
  • They, themselves, do not de-emphasize their love for their own family members.


Superstition

Statement:     I'm sick (he's sick)
Response:
  1. God is judging you for your sin.
  2. Your faith is weak.

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Misunderstanding: Sickness is caused by sin, so this means that when a person is sick it is because of their sin. There is an innate tendency for Protestants to judge sickness as somehow indicating that a person gets sick as a result of their own sinfulness or lack of faith. This is a result of the Protestant doctrine that there was no "badness" or suffering in the world until the fall of Adam and Eve.

The Catholic view of suffering is that we live in a world of pain and suffering and that it is a measure of our spiritual maturity to endure suffering in faith. (link, link)

These Protestant views of suffering are based on:
  • Not having the notion of suffering in imitation of Christ.
  • To be a mature believer is to be free from sickness and suffering.


Superstition

Statement:     If I do that, God will strike me with lightning.
Response:
  1. You're superstitious and unsaved.
  2. You have weak faith.

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Misunderstanding: Many Protestants think that God will immediately judge our bad actions. This is odd if we consider Protestant doctrine about those who are "saved":
  • They are not judged for their sin; it is "covered."
  • They are to be free from fear and superstition.
  • They are not to be afraid of God.
  • Their deeds have no role in their salvation so why would God judge them?
This innate fear of God's immediate judgment for sin exists because believers instinctively know that God judges our deeds even after salvation.


Bible Interpretation

Statement: Joseph Smith did the following when he founded Mormonism:
  • He borrowed elements of Protestantism
  • He re-interpreted the Bible.
  • He taught that the church of his day had become apostate.
  • He changed the doctrine of the existing church of his day.
  • He claimed that his church was the true church.
  • He claimed that he alone was sent to "fix" the church.
  • He founded a schismatic church.
  • He declared himself to be the only one who could correctly interpret the Bible.
  • He invented new doctrines and based his church on them.
  • He was ostracized, condemned, and persecuted by the existing church of his day.
  • He restored the true church that Jesus established and which was lost after the disciples died.
  • He expected his followers to believe his teachings as truth.
  • He did not like his teachings to be questioned.
  • After him, there were many competing sects which claimed to be the "true church."
Response: Isn't that what Martin Luther did?

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Misunderstanding: Protestantism is based on a revolution against Catholicism. It is useful for Protestants to consider the roots of their religion. Typically when this is done by Protestant critics of Catholicism, there is much misinformation about the teaching and the history of the Catholic Church.


Worship

Statement: Look, here's a photo of my kids.
Response: You need to burn that photo. We are not allowed to have idols or false Gods. We should not worship images.

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Objection: God doesn't want us to have religious images. Some of the early Protestant groups only allowed non-religious images. Yet Protestants commonly have pictures of Jesus in their homes. And, of course, certain images are allowed such as crosses, doves, slogans (for example, WWJD), baptismals, jewelry, etc.
Misunderstanding: Using religious images is idolatry and false worship. Catholics use images (two and three-dimensional) to aid their devotional life. The images are used:
  • To bring to mind certain truths (the image is designed with these truths expressed in symbolic form).
  • To bring to mind the saintly character of a Saint (the image is designed to evoke a spiritual feeling).
  • As a point of faith (a tangible way to express our faith so it isn't always so abstract or mental).
  • As a point of devotion (just as in kissing a photo of a loved one).


Superstition

Statement: The Lord told me such and such.
Response: Oh yeah? The Lord told me the opposite.

Objection or Misunderstanding Catholic Response
Misunderstanding: The Holy Spirit speaks to us individually in the following areas:
  • Bible interpretation.
  • He reveals truth.
  • He provides guidance.
This sounds fine but often results in contradictions in which both sides are claimed to be revealed by the Holy Spirit. These problems are typically ignored.

The Catholic Church teaches that the Holy Spirit works "through the church;" that is the ordained leaders (bishops) of the Catholic Church. In this way there is only one message.

This is not to deny that God speaks to us individually, as he certainly does. But these "messages" must be judged in light of the revealed truth of the Catholic Church as well as against common sense and scientific knowledge.