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Thomas Ryan, CSP :
53 article(s)

Fr. Tom Ryan, CSP, directs the Paulist North American Office for Ecumenical and Interfaith Relations in Washington, D.C.
September 30th, 2014

Question: My boyfriend was previously married through city hall. He and his ex have gotten divorced. Would we be able to get married in a Catholic Church?

Is your boyfriend a baptized Catholic, or is his previous spouse a baptized Catholic? If so, did they get a dispensation from canonical form (being married before a priest and two witnesses) in getting married in city hall? If not, they didn’t follow the process required for the Church to recognize their marriage. Their marriage would thus be considered invalid and each of them would be considered free to marry in the Church.
If neither are Catholic, then the person interested in remarrying would have to go thru the annulment process. This is an indication that…

September 25th, 2014
As ISIS/ISIL terrorizes the Middle East, we’re called to dialogue, and to work with people of other faiths for peace

The recent 9/11 anniversary of the 2001 attacks by al-Qaeda on the Twin Towers in Manhattan and the Pentagon in Washington, D.C., also brought with it, especially in light of the present actions of ISIS/ISIL, memories of the backlash against Muslim and even Sikh communities on our own continent. Those memories underline the importance of building relationships with people of other faiths — in our efforts to help those who are the victims of such violence, and in seeking together the common goal of peace.
The Committee on Ecumenical and Interreligious Affairs of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops said as much when it reasserted its commitment to dialogue with other religions, and Muslims in particular,…

September 23rd, 2014

Question: Can a Catholic ever marry a divorced non-Catholic? From my understanding, anyone “divorced” would have to have their previous marriage determined invalid by a Church Tribunal, right? Does that mean a Catholic can’t date a “divorced” person unless the Catholic knows the “divorced” party would be free to marry and their previous marriage was invalid?
Yes, your understanding is on target that anyone divorced would have to have their previous marriage examined and determined invalid by a Church tribunal before his/her marriage to a Catholic could be blessed by the Church. The reason for this is that the Catholic Church recognizes any marriage as valid…

May 20th, 2014
The pope's upcoming trip to the Holy Land continues a tradition of building ecumenical and interfaith relationships

Pope Francis is cultivating a “culture of encounter.” And his garden is not just within the Catholic Church, but includes Christians from other churches as well as members of other world religions.
This is not a new style for him. When he was still Cardinal Bergoglio in the archdiocese of Buenos Aires in Argentina, his financial manager was an evangelical into whose office he would regularly come, and with whom he would read some scripture, share some prayer, and drink some tea. When another asked him why he did that, his response was: “People do that with their friends!”
He was making a point about his relationship with evangelicals. Indeed, Cardinal Bergoglio’s election as pope received a glowing…

February 26th, 2014

Q: How do Catholics believe that non-Catholics who have been exposed to Catholic teaching but keep their own faith will be judged?
Catholics believe that non-Catholics will be judged in the light of how they’ve lived according to their conscience. Vatican II’s document “Dignitatis Humanae” acknowledges that we have the right to act in conscience and in freedom so as personally to make moral decisions. We must not be forced to act contrary to conscience, nor must we be prevented from acting according to conscience, especially in matters religious. (3:2). That said, our conscience must be informed, and moral judgement enlightened.
There can be many contributing factors to errors…

February 19th, 2014

Here are three possibilities:
1) You could simply ask someone on the parish staff what other Catholic churches are in your area.
2) Look up Catholic churches with a simple google search and then visit ones nearby.
3) Or you could call the diocesan chancery office (number obtainable from secretary at your campus ministry office) and ask for the names and telephone numbers of Catholic parishes in the area where you live. Your diocese’s youth and young adult office might also know the parishes that particularly cater to young adults as well.
A final thought: You may wish to inform your local campus ministry director of your feelings and allow him or her to hear what it is that makes you uncomfortable. Often directors…

January 20th, 2014

Let’s start with what “spirituality” essentially is. Spirituality is a growing intimacy with God experienced through the people, events, places, and things in each day’s living. And how will that happen? Through what you see, hear, taste, touch, smell. We are embodied spirits, and the doorways to our hearts and minds are our senses.
In other words, spirituality is not abstract and ethereal or airy-fairey. It’s grounded and rooted in the concrete realities of life and expressed through ritual acts. We need ritual. It’s the way we express the inexpressible. And who are the experts in ritual actions that express that for which we have no words? The religions of the world!…

January 15th, 2014

Prayer is a good place to start, but it’s by no means the only way you can constructively work with the situation both for your enrichment and for theirs. Keep the lines of communication open. Ask them, for example, what they find meaningful and energizing in the worship and life of the Protestant church they are now attending. You might go yourself a few times to personally experience what they’re talking about (for example, you could go to a Saturday Vigil Mass and then accompany them on a Sunday morning). Is this permitted? Indeed it is! There are many, many interchurch married couples who do it every week as a way of giving visible expression to their real albeit imperfect unity in the Body of Christ.…

November 25th, 2013

Question: I have a sister who recently converted to Mormonism. I have heard several different things about it and most things are not good. What is the church’s official stance on the matter and how do I approach the matter?…
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (Mormon) is not considered an orthodox Christian church by the Catholic Church or by other mainline Protestant churches. This is largely due to it’s addition of new scriptural books such as the Book of Mormon, The Pearl of Great Price, and the Book of Doctrine and Covenants, and certain ways that it has changed the traditional understanding of the Trinity as three persons in one God. The Latter Day Saints have an active missionary program

November 19th, 2013

The theological bases for approaching followers of other religions with respect and esteem are found dispersed throughout the various documents of the Second Vatican Council. For example:

God wills the salvation of all.
The whole human race is united in its origin and destiny.
God is active in the hearts of human beings, drawing them to God’s self.
God is active in the different religious rites which give corporate expression to the human response to God.
Human beings have been created with free will and must respond freely to God according to the dictates of their conscience, while always searching for the truth.

These teachings form the basis for interreligious/interfaith dialogue founded on mutual…

August 26th, 2013

Two spouses from different traditions of Christian faith have everything to gain by sharing their faith understanding and experience with one another. It’s about mutual enrichment. You have perhaps learned to pray and express your faith in different ways, but to the same Savior. Can you share those ways with one another and enrich each other’s ways of communicating with and relating to God?
The home life of two married Christians is meant to be an ecclesiola, a little church. To work for unity and peace within your marriage and family is a mission given by Jesus to all his followers: “As the Father sent me, so I send you” (John 20:21). We are sent by Jesus to work for this unity between Christians not because…

July 10th, 2013

Question: I’ve heard it said fairly often that if someone joins the Freemasons, they can be excommunicated from the Church. Is that true? Why is Freemasonry such a bad thing in the Church’s eyes? I am a Catholic, and I love the Church, but I’ve also thought about joining the Freemasons, until I heard this.
Freemasonry is a fraternal organization that traces its origins to the loose organization of medieval stonemasonry. Today, in the United States, the Fraternity is divided between fifty-one Grand Lodges (one for each State, plus Washington DC), which taken together have a total membership of just under two million.
Freemasonry explicitly and openly states that it is neither a religion nor…

June 28th, 2013

Here’s what the apostle Paul said about that to the Corinthians:
“Although I know nothing of what the Lord has said (on this), I say: if any believer has a wife who is an unbeliever, and she consents to live with him, he should not divorce her. And if any woman has a husband who is an unbeliever, and he consents to live with her, she should not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband is made holy through his wife, and the unbelieving wife is made holy through her husband. … Wife, for all you know, you might save your husband. Husband, for all you know, you might save your wife.” (1 Corinthians 7:12-14, 16)
Since Paul is the one bringing the Gospel to people for the first time, he likely is speaking here to/about…

June 13th, 2013

First of all, “not being Catholic” and being an “unbeliever” are by no means synonomous. All Christians, for example, who belong to denominations other than Catholic are “non-Catholic,” but they’re still believers in the same Christian Scriptures and creed. Similarly, members of other religions like Judaism or Islam or Hinduism also believe in God. So you could — and hopefully you do — have some friends who are Protestant Christians or Jews or Muslims. We now live in the same neighborhoods, go to the same schools, and it’s good that we become friends, learn about each other’s faith, and treat each other with respect.
Who, then, was Paul…

May 15th, 2013

This varies considerably among Orthodox Jews. Some feel other branches are legitimate; others feel other branches are illegitimate. Still others feel other branches are “good training” for more traditional lifestyles which would be the goal. In all cases, Orthodox Jews accept Jewish people born of Jewish mothers as Jewish (that is, part of the Jewish people/ethnically Jewish) whether they consider them “Torah true” (ortho-praxis) Jews or not.…

May 8th, 2013

The answer is neither and both. Judaism strongly opposes the wanton destruction of a fetus and at the same time permits abortion in a range of circumstances and therefore champions the civil rights that allow the Jewish legal decision-making process to operate freely. It is for this reason that in the United States, Jewish leaders have favored leniency in the law at the expense of a religiously-driven agenda.
The system of Jewish law, “halachah,” is not easily given to grand public policy decisions. It is more the sum of its parts, the collective works of rabbinic authorities produced throughout the generations. The focus of Jewish law is not to determine the rights of the individual, but rather…

May 1st, 2013

Unlike in Catholicism, there is no head of the Jewish religion. There are chief rabbis of various countries, but they function more as spokespersons on behalf of the Jewish community, rather than as final legal authorities for the Jewish community (though sometimes they are final authorities for micro-communities).
When looking for advice on how to practice Judaism, or how to act in a certain situation, ultra-orthodox Jews consult rabbinic authorities of their specific community. Modern orthodox Jews go to rabbis of their communities who in turn usually refer to the writings of one of four major orthodox rabbis “of the generation.”
Conservative and Reform rabbis have rabbinic committees…

April 24th, 2013

Question: Do all Jews believe that the bible is literally true or is that the belief of Orthodox Jews only?
Most Orthodox, and some Conservative Jews believe the bible was dictated from the mouth of God, written down verbatim by the hand of Moshe (Moses) on Mount Sinai.
Other Conservative Jews and Reform and Reconstructionist Jews tend to understand the bible as either:
1. Not literally dictated to Moshe, but inspired by God.
2. A human account of encounters with God, and therefore an account of holy happenings which makes the account itself holy.
3. A product of human striving to understand God in history (and therefore holy, as it represents a holy endeavor of the Jewish people).…

April 17th, 2013

This varies widely from movement to movement.
The vast majority of Reform and Reconstructionist rabbis recognize same-sex unions as sacred under their interpretation of Jewish practice and values. Conservative rabbis have a range of responses to this issue. Most recognize same sex marriage as “righteous” (and as of 2006, Conservative rabbis can perform them), but not “the height of holiness”.
Most Orthodox communities do not recognize gay marriages as legitimate under Jewish law. There are a number of Orthodox gay couples who choose civil marriage, or who live together as if they are civilly married. These men and women often prefer the orthodox way of Jewish living—they keep kosher, celebrate…

April 10th, 2013

Jews value life over just about all things. The life of the mother is valued, as is the life of the fetus. That said, different rabbis follow different teachings on when life begins. The majority of rabbis (Orthodox through Reform) see the fetus as a potential life, whose (potential) life is valued but not yet as valued as the actual (full) life of the mother. So the answer to the question of whether or not abortion is permitted is — it depends on the situation.
If the mother’s life is in danger, abortion is permitted — actually required, at any stage before the actual birth is fully underway and the baby has partially emerged.
Even among the most traditional communities, there are different rulings…

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