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Our readers asked:

Where in the Bible does it say that Mary, mother of Jesus, is sinless? And if it is not in the Bible, why does the Catholic Church act like she is?

Fr. Joe Answers:

Catholics differ from some Christian Churches which accept the Scripture as the only source of God’s revelation. Catholics have a strong belief in the truth of Scripture, but we also believe in tradition as a way in which God continues to reveal truth to us. Tradition can include beliefs, customs, prayers, and worship, the teaching of popes, bishops, theologians and Church councils. It’s our process of continually reflecting on the way in which the Word of God encounters our own experience as a community of faith.

Catholic understanding is that tradition includes the Scripture, and began before the gospels and letters were written. We do believe that Scripture is a unique revelation from God and that the truths of tradition must always be tested and evaluated against the truths revealed in Scripture. They should not contradict Scripture. They should find their roots in Scripture.

The belief that Mary lived without sin from the moment of her conception springs from Church tradition. It evolved over a period of time, and was not formally defined as a teaching of the Church until 1854. It is not found explicitly in Scripture, but seems for Catholics to flow naturally from the testimony of Scripture that Mary was “full of grace” (Luke 1:28) and “blessed” (Luke 1:42).

In Catholic understanding the belief in Mary’s “immaculate conception” does not say so much about Mary as it is about Christ’s saving power. We believe that God created the human person to be in God’s own image. Grace is more original than sin. Our natural state was to be “full of grace.” Sin is our universal experience but it’s not what God intended for us in the past nor wants for us in the future. We are saved from sin through Christ. Mary’s being conceived without sin takes place in the context of the entire saving act of Christ. In being “full of grace” she is a model of what we human beings were intended to be and who we are redeemed to be through God’s saving power. She is the first sign of God’s victory over sin in Christ.

You also ask: “Why are Catholics who are baptized when they were infants, choose to lead unholy, even atheistic lives, die and then the priest at the funeral says they are going to heaven because they were baptized?”

The bishop of Rome, as head of the Catholic Church, sometimes declares certain people to be “saints” because they lived such exemplary and holy lives that we can believe with confidence that they are “with God in heaven.” Such a declaration only comes after a long investigation into the facts of that person’s life. The Catholic Church has never declared any deceased person to be “in hell.” Aside from this we don’t know and can’t presume the eternal state of any person who has died, although we believe that God desires all people to be with him in death as well as in life. Baptism does not automatically ensure that a person will go to heaven when he or she dies. We must try to live out our Baptism with lives of faith, hope and love.

The Catholic Church asks its members to pray for those who have died BECAUSE we know that we are all sinners, and even when we have tried to live a good life we can die short of the purity of heart that makes eternal life “with God” a reality. Yet we believe that God’s mercy is not thwarted by death and that God has the power to purify and transform the soul even after death so that it is fully open to participating in eternal life. Purgatory is not a place of “sentences”, like a prison, because it exists in eternity which is timeless.

We should certainly pray for the living as well, that they may accept God’s grace into their lives.

 
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The Author : Fr. Joe
Fr. Joe Scott, CSP, has been a campus minister, pastor and editor as a Paulist priest.
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Please note that the editorial staff reserves the right to not post comments it deems to be inappropriate and/or malicious in nature, as well as edit comments for length, clarity and fairness.
  • Pastor Dwayne

    So once again,, someone tell me ,,, why were the Jews blinde , hard hearted, and couldn’t hear wit their ears?

  • JuliePurple

    Ohhh, guys, I finally get it! I fell for it! I was walking my dogs about an hour or so ago, and I was thinking, wow, that Pastor Dwayne is like a caricature of a fundamentalist preacher… and then it hit me. He’s been putting us all on. He’s probably a 15 year old kid having a great laugh at how so many of us took him seriously, at least in the sense of thinking that P. D. was serious. Because, really, how can anyone actually believe all that … erm… stuff…?
    And I have to say, well done, “Pastor Dwayne”! You are a skilled actor! Well done!

    • Pastor Dwayne

      Answer my question below,,,,, why were the Jews blinded so they couldn’t see, hardhearted, and couldn’t hear???????????????????? he he
      You stated ,,, how can anyone actually believe all that….erm…stuff…?
      Here is your answer, to the people in the world, (like you), it truly is just stuff, but once you are , oh, uh, gee, golly, dang, gee whizzz, oh yes, once you are BORN AGAIN , also called, saved, the way, new birth………………….you will only then understand!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!hehe

      • JuliePurple

        Pretty funny! Why were people (in this case, the Jews) ignoring myths? Gosh, maybe because they didn’t happen. Dwayne, seriously, good acting!

  • Pastor Dwayne

    A question for all, some should know the answer. question ,,, Why were the Jews blinded, hard hearted, and couldn’t hear??? Now mind you, they could see, they had a heart, and they could hear , but when it came time to believe the truth, Their heart was hardened , they could not see nor hear , so why was it so?

  • George

    Jeremiah 7:16-19
    16 “So do not pray for this people nor offer any plea or petition for them; do not plead with me, for I will not listen to you. 17 Do you not see what they are doing in the towns of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem? 18 The children gather wood, the fathers light the fire, and the women knead the dough and make cakes to offer to the Queen of Heaven. They pour out drink offerings to other gods to arouse my anger. 19 But am I the one they are provoking? declares the Lord. Are they not rather harming themselves, to their own shame?

  • George

    Why do you doubt that your faith is strong enough for your prayer to be heard by Jesus? Faith in Jesus will get you in Heaven due to His sacrifice, but YOU need to have a faith that is strong enough. Calling on others faith to save you is like admitting you are not sure that your faith is strong enough, aren’t you generating doubt about your own faith?

    I’m not going to comment on the rest of the “traditions” mentioned because quite frankly they do not add anything to your salvation and is just an example of men building on top of what is already perfect.

  • Dawn Bivens

    Where in the bible is “purgatory”?

    • JuliePurple

      Just as a heads up, you could also Google the question. Admittedly, you’d get a range of answers, from pure fantasy to pretty good, but you could get a general feel for it, anyhow. A lot of times, you can tell from the feel of the website how reliable it is. You could also try checking a given website for information you already know, and see how it covers that. It’s not foolproof, but it’s better than nothing.
      And just by the way, I don’t think purgatory is in the bible. I guess the Catholics had to make up something for the “almost good enough” people, since they don’t believe in reincarnation for working things out. :-)

    • George

      The belief in purgatory is based on a combination of verses in the book of Maccabees where it is written that people prayed for the soldiers that had died in sin, and some further analysis done by others based on that and more. In addition, Thomas Aquinas, a man who applied to catholicism the pagan aristotelian philosophy embodied in the concept of the natural law, also argued the existence of purgatory and much more. Thomas very well could have been satan incarnate, or possessed by evil. Thanks to Thomas Aquinas the RCC has been forever marked with many false revelations/conclusions that he argued by taking the place of God with the natural law.
      Thanks to the false doctrine of purgatory, we also had indulgences which later caused the split up of the churches during the reformation. You will know them by their fruit, and the splitting of the church was the fruit of the belief in purgatory.

      • JuliePurple

        George, there’s no need to characterize anyone as “satan incarnate” or “possessed by evil”; it’s all just ordinary humans having a difference of opinion. Just because they’re from centuries ago and famous doesn’t make them special. Think of it this way. You disagree with a lot of the other postings on this very website. Who among those would you say were “satan incarnate” or “possessed by evil”? Wouldn’t you just say they just have a different opinion?
        The reason there are so many different opinions is because the provable data is inconclusive. Which is to say, there’s really no way to know for sure. It’s *all* anybody’s best guess.
        Think of today’s reporting of speeches and events. Even with technology to record exactly what happened, there is *still* a variety of interpretations given to what might be called important events. Not to mention, there are people who deliberately distort information for their own agendas. How much more variety (and deliberate distortion, more than likely) must there be when the only evidence is from individuals’ memories? And reinterpretation over time and via different languages play a part, as well. And again, just because someone is famous or holds some special post doesn’t make them any more than human: i.e., subject to mistaken conclusions. What I’m saying is, it’s really pretty much all speculation and, in a lot of cases, wishful thinking. Nobody *really* knows.

      • George

        I usually do not go as far as thinking that someone is possessed by evil. However, in Thomas’ case, he has had a major impact on the RCC. His works are well thought out and his Summa writings were literally used side-by-side to the Bible during the Council of Trent. Pope Leo XIII stated that “this is the greatest glory of Thomas, altogether his own and shared with no other Catholic Doctor, that the Fathers of Trent, in order to proceed in an orderly fashion during the conclave, desired to have opened upon the altar together with the Scriptures and the decrees of the Supreme Pontiffs, the Summa of St. Thomas Aquinas whence they could draw counsel, reasons and answers.” The best lies are chockfull of truth, and the best liar is satan. So the combination of this last thing and the impact his works has had and the consequences of the work on the RCC make me suspicious of him.

        Satan wants us to hate God. God grants humans relief from some of his rules when He knows we cannot meet them and more harm than good will come from us trying to do this due to our sin nature. So He picks the lesser evil out of love for us. Thomas’ works calling on the natural law sometimes eliminate the relief that God has granted, and in doing so risk humans hating God due to the difficulty of meeting HIs rules. If God grants relief, He knows why He does it, and for anyone else to go and say that such relief is not available is to push humans harder than God Himself as found wise to do.

      • JuliePurple

        George, I’m not defending any point of view, not Thomas’, that of the church, nor of anyone else. When I said data is inconclusive, I meant it was inconclusive for everybody. It’s no wonder there is dissent within religious organizations. They are trying to codify something that is too amorphous for codification.
        And why on earth would you think *any* of them have the right to tell consenting adults what to do between themselves? And it’s not Thomas’ fault that later people used his writings in whatever way they did. Also, times change. Slavery used to be condoned. Now we see it as abhorrent, and rightly so. As the human species matures, we learn better ways of behaving. The biblical model is in many ways obsolete. Who, these days, believes that a man who is already married, must marry his brother’s widow? That’s just one example.
        The whole problem is people thinking that some authority has the corner on what is proper behaviour. We need to obey the laws of our respective countries or face the consequences, but as for the rest, it’s our best guess. So many religions in the world, so many have mutually exclusive rules. No one way is right.
        Oh, and “satan”? Really? Don’t you mean the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy? Please. Just because it’s a religious (or un-religious, if you will) icon doesn’t make it any less a fairy tale. ;-)

      • George

        I don’t think things are as hopeless as you state. Some things are established very well. But when people start trying to count how many hairs are on an angel’s behind, that is when all the arguments begin.
        If you believe in Jesus, then you also know He cast out demons and was tempted by Satan. Believing that Satan is an imaginary bad guy is very dangerous for you.

      • George

        I don’t think things are as hopeless as you state. Some things are established very well. But when people start trying to count how many hairs are on an angel’s behind, that is when all the arguments begin.
        If you believe in Jesus, then you also know He cast out demons and was tempted by Satan. Believing that Satan is an imaginary bad guy is very dangerous for you.

      • JuliePurple

        ?? Hopeless? I don’t think it’s at all hopeless. I think it’s a very *good* thing if more people would use their own common sense instead of following blindly what other people decide. There’s a very good reason why the comparisons with sheep and shepherds are used. Even a good shepherd only cares for the sheep because they are his/her source of livlihood. Why does he keep sheep? So they can be fleeced and butchered.
        I believe that the person of Jesus probably existed, but the myths about him? Not so much.
        Why on earth would you think it’s a bad idea to believe that “Satan” is imaginary? Don’t you think that humans have enough trouble managing their own ethical difficulties without adding some sort of boogeyman into the mix? It’s too easy to blame an outside influence, when really people just need to take responsibility for their own shortcomings and deal with that as a reality.

      • George

        I understand your point of view now. However, my arguments and comments are from the point of view of a believer in Jesus Son of Man and divine, God, Holy spirit, resurrection, miracles, gospels, Satan, etc… You do not believe in any of that, so clearly your point of view is that of an unbeliever.
        If you are correct, then all my worries are for nothing and when I die the chemistry in my brain will cease to operate and so will I. If I am correct, you are going to Hell when you die, unless you become a believer in Jesus and your faith in Him allows you to go to Heaven.

      • JuliePurple

        You misunderstand me. I said earlier, to Joao, that I am agnostic, not atheist. This means I am open to the possibility of a deity. However, my firm belief is that a being capable of creating an entire universe would not be something that a human, at least at this stage in our evolution, would be able to understand. The idea of belief in an entity such as you describe, with dire consequences for unbelief, especially given that in your set of beliefs, “faith” is a gift of the aforementioned entity, is just too ludicrous to accept. It is the leftover debris of a primitive mind set that accepted all unexplained things as acts of some deity who must be praised and placated. Really. The creator of a universe being so insecure as to require praise from humans? Ridiculous.
        What if there is a god, and it is simply Nature, but with consciousness and will? Then the laws of physics and so forth *are* the laws of “god”, and the way to understand them is to pay attention to what we usually call reality.
        It could be that “mystical” experiences are the result of a person’s having developed certain types of brain chemistry. Why not? We know that certain medicines and certain illnesses cause hallucinations. Why not, then, that certain sublime states are also due to brain chemistry? If one practices, for example, yogic meditation, for a long enough time, perhaps that is like exercising a muscle to a greater strength, and feats of understanding or experience that were impossible then become possible, due to having developed certain chemicals in the physical system. We know that emotional states cause changes in body chemistry, after all. Anger raises blood pressure, and peace calms it, for example.
        What if, after our death, our consciousness does merge with that great all encompassing consciousness of Nature?
        These are all just guesses, of course. Just as all religion is composed of guesses. Because there is no proof for any of it.

      • George

        Faith is not a gift. Faith comes from seeking the truth. The Bereans listened to what St. Paul preached, and then they went and searched the scriptures to test his teachings. When they realized that what he was telling them met scriptural tests, they believed. They were seeking the truth and because of that when they saw it they believed.
        Being agnostic or atheist may mean something to humans, but not to Jesus, He will send you to the same place no matter which one of the two you pick; Hell is that place. The same outcome will result from believing in all these other things you mention too.
        The creator doesn’t need our praise. We need to show Him some respect so He lets us into His house. Would you let people into your house if they are disrespectful to you or behave in ways offensive to you? Well, neither does He. Makes sense to me.
        I am not aware of any other religion that has a person like Jesus. Some people may say that His miracles are just a myth, that His resurrection is a myth, ascension to Heaven, etc… Well, the facts are that 11 out of the 12 apostles were imprisoned and killed because they dedicated their life to teaching Jesus’ gospel. John was left to take care of Mary and maybe that is why he lived longer. A lot of people lie, but I don’t know any that would lie, then dedicate their lives to preaching that lie, then be persecuted and imprisoned, and finally tortured and killed because of the lie. Any normal liar would recant and save his life. The more likely scenario is that what they said they saw is true and that is why they went all the way to martyrdom faithfully preaching the truth.
        I hope you change your mind. God wants everyone in Heaven, but He doesn’t want anyone who will not show the proper respect in His house.

      • JuliePurple

        Please don’t expect me to take as evidence things that are not provable. None of the stories about “Saint” Paul or that ilk are provable. And again, just because someone dies for a belief does not mean that the beiief was justified. It only means that they thought it was.
        You’re not aware… okay, so check out Dionysus and Osiris. Their myths are similar to Jesus’.
        I don’t say that those people lied. Just that they were mistaken.
        It amazes me how humans can think they have any idea of what “god” wants. My best guess, at this stage in my investigations, is that “god” is, in fact, Nature. Whether or not that Nature has a consciousness is up to question. I’d like to think so, but I don’t really know.
        One of the very sad things about a lot of religions is that they make threats against people who disagree with them. The whole hell myth is just such a threat. “Believe, or you’ll go to hell for eternity!” Not provable. Rather pathetic, really.

      • George

        There are historical accounts independent of the Bible that document how the apostles died. Search for them. How many of Osiris and Dionysus apostles do we have documented that died martyrs testifying to their story of resurrection, etc…?
        If all the apostles were mistaken, then they must have all hallucinated about exactly the same things simultaneously. How can all these people be mistaken in the same way at the same time watching the same thing, and then be deluded into dying like they did preaching all these events happened?
        It seems you have a standard for evidence that exceeds anything possible from antiquity. I mean, you are not going to find Jesus, or any other figures from the ancient past on YouTube. By this standard, almost all of ancient history never happened.

      • JuliePurple

        George, first of all, I want to thank you for logical discourse. You respond to the actual points made instead of going off into la la land. This is refreshing. So thank you for that.
        Now, back to the regularly scheduled comments.. :-)
        Yes indeed, Christian legend does have the apostles believing and dying as you said. But how much of it is people adjusting the backstory to coincide with what they would like to have had happen? How much of that is just legend to begin with? Nobody can say with certainty.
        My standard for evidence is the same standard used for other events in antiquity: reigns of ancient rulers or other persons, existence of cities, you name it. Religions do not get special treatment. There is reliable evidence for the existence of many ancient cities, persons, certain events, customs, and so forth. There is also reliable evidence that some ancient religious practices and beliefs existed, but not that they were based in fact. For example, the Mithras religion had a remarkable number of similarities with Christianity. But of course it didn’t have proof for the validity of any of its claims of miraculous events, either.

      • George

        By the way, I used to be an agnostic too. But God kept calling me and finally I looked into it. And the more I looked into it, the more I believed it. He is calling you too, that is why you are hovering in this forum. So look into the truth.
        As you can tell from my comments, my truth seeking has led me to places that are not always aligned with RCC teachings. I pray to God that He shows me if I’m wrong. I pray to Him all the time for wisdom as I look into the truth. That is all you can do. But the more you look into, the more your faith in Him grows. It may not translate into more faith in your church. But Jesus is the judge, not anyone else.

      • JuliePurple

        “Hovering”?? :-) Tell you what. The reason I comment here is because I went to a Catholic school, and found later that a lot of facts had been distorted or ignored. I got a lot of nonsense answers to heartfelt questions, and got tired of it. So I did my own investigations. And I agree that the more you look into things, the more the faith grows, but it’s not faith in what you think. It’s faith in objective inquiry and rational thought, which is not to be found in fairy tales.

      • George

        The RCC sure doesn’t score a lot of points in the answers department. I also went to catholic school. They either didn’t know the answer, or didn’t feel the person had a right ask for a full answer. Everyone sins, including the clergy and the institutional church. They do not stand in the place of God, so don’t judge God by what they say and do, and also do not hate the people in the church that are wrong, they are sinners like everyone else.

      • JuliePurple

        I certainly do not hate god (who may or may not exist:-)); how can I do anything but love whatever or whoever created such a marvelous universe? The institutions claiming to speak for such an entity, however, are an entirely different story. I don’t hate them, nor their constituents, but rather sincerely wish they would quit with the lies and evasions and make believe and recognize the awesomeness of things as they really are. The universe is wonderful beyond description; it doesn’t *need* fairy tales about it!
        I don’t think “god” has to do anything to tarnish the RCC’s image; it’s done it to itself by its own actions. It was already tarnished; it’s just that now the dirt is coming into the public view.

      • Pastor Dwayne

        Would all your merging encompassing consciousness of nature be likewise just classed as myths. God says in His Word, that if people don,t want to know the truth He will blind their eyes more and more away from the knowledge of truth

      • JuliePurple

        You might be interested in looking up the meaning of the word “if”.
        Nature is a myth, eh? LOL!

      • Pastor Dwayne

        Satan has a good strong hold on you JULIE P

      • Pastor Dwayne

        George, you have to remember Julie is using RATIONAL thought!!
        The intelligent learners of the world are always learning , but never coming to the knowledge of the truth!!

  • Bob Elliott

    “Pastor”Dwayne…The word for “brother” in the verse you site actually translates into “kinsman” more like cousin in our current english. You make references several time that you want the book, chapter and verse where the Bible references the Immaculate Conception. Show me the book, chapter and verse where the Bible references the Trinity? You obviously are adhering to the “solo scriptura” approach. Where we Catholics believe that Holy scripture as well as Sacred Tradition are important in teaching and learning the faith. So the current cannon of scripture was set around 384 AD. Actually in 367 AD, St. Athanasius came up with the list of 73 books for the Bible that he believed to be divinely inspired. This lis was approved by Pope Damasus I in 382 AD and formally approved by the Church Council of Rome in that same year. Later councils (Hippo 393 AD and Carthage 397 AD) ratified this list of 73 books. in 405 AD Pope Innocent I reaffirmed in letter to the Bishop of Toulouse. In 419 AD this list of 73 books was again reaffirmed by the the council of Carthage, which Pope Boniface agreed to. That you cannot dispute…So prior to a Catholic Saint, several Catholic Popes and a number of Catholic Councils, choosing and rarifying the books of the Holy Bible how was it taught? And yes there were originally 73 books in selected and radifyed. Martin Luther and the protestant reformation removed seven books…not as you like to represent that the Catholics added seven books. Fact… Martin Luther removed those seven books of the Old Testament that did not agree with his personal theology.

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