I have been a Catholic all my 35 years. But I am becoming increasingly angry at how the Church abuses its power and, among many things, excludes Gay people from getting married. How can I come to terms with this?
You exemplify an interesting phenomenon wherein the modern world, which is often disdainful of Church “power,” then turns and expresses exaggerated notions of Church power.
In terms of divine moral law, the Church has no authority whatsoever to overturn the biblical teaching against homosexual acts, or to redefine the parameters of marriage as given by God in the Scriptures and Sacred Tradition. The Church is the servant of the Word of God (cf Catechism #86), not an all-powerful entity that is able to tear pages from the Bible, cross out lines, or overrule it. The sinfulness of homosexual acts (and also illicit heterosexual acts, such as fornication and adultery) is consistently taught at every stage of biblical revelation to the last books.
Hence, I would urge you to reconsider that what you call an abuse of power, is actually, a humble recognition of the limits of her power by the Church.
In Luke 23:44, the writer states that an eclipse of the sun took place at the time of Christ's crucifixion. Is there a basis of fact as to its occurrence? And, if so, was this solar eclipse coincidental and in accord with the laws of science?
I am not sure why you call it an “eclipse.” None of the Gospel writers use this term. Matthew, Mark and Luke use the Greek term σκότος (skotos), which means, simply, “darkness.”
As a general rule we should avoid applying certain meanings to texts that are more specific than the author intends. That there was darkness over the land from noon till three is certainly attested in the sacred text. But the cause of that darkness is unexplained. Perhaps God made use of natural causes, such as an eclipse or very heavy clouds to cause the darkness. But it is also possible that the darkness was of purely supernatural origin and was experienced only by some.
Hence, trying to explain the darkness simply in terms of “the laws of science” risks doing disservice to the text by missing its deeper meaning, namely, that the darkness of sin has reached its height. Whatever the mechanism of the darkness, its deepest cause is sin and evil.
Jesus had said elsewhere, “This is the judgment: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil.” (Jn 3:19). He also said, referring to his passion; “Night is coming, when no one can work.” (Jn 9:4). And when Judas leaves the Last Supper to betray Jesus, John observes simply and profoundly, “And it was night.” (Jn 13:30). Yes, deep darkness had come upon the world.
You ask if there is a basis in fact that this darkness actually occurred. Though some modern scholars consider it a mere literary device, there seems little reason to doubt that it actually occurred. While some refer to a purported Letter of Pontius Pilate to Tiberius that verifies it, the historical value of the document is highly disputed. Yet, three of the gospels record it, and most of the Fathers of the Church treat the darkness as historical.
That said, how widely experienced, and how deep the dark, is not specified. We should balance accepting its historicity with an appreciation that the texts are restrained in terms of precise details.
Why do animals suffer? It is apparent that nature has always featured death even before the Fall of Man. Therefore, I don’t see how “the Fall” could explain why animals suffer.
If one draws simply from the Book of Genesis then the answer is that death; violence and chaos in nature all resulted from Original Sin. Not only were Adam and Eve affected by what they did, but all creation, too. God told Adam, “Cursed be the ground because of you….” (Gen 3:17) In other words, paradise is no longer; death has entered the world, and sin is its cause.
So, Scripture links suffering and upheaval in creation to sin, but the relationship may not be simple as cause and effect. Perhaps it is enough to say that our sin intensified the chaos of creation, but was not its only cause. As you observe, scientific evidence is strong that long before man or Sin, there were great upheavals in creation, and that animals, such as dinosaurs, killed each other for food, and that there was death, even mass extinctions.
Thus, that animals suffer is linked to sin, but mysteriously to other things, too. Consider that there is a circle of life that seems apt for the world. God fashions and refashions using this cycle. Last year’s leaves serve as nutrients in the soil for this year’s growth. Hurricanes distribute heat from the equator toward the poles. Animals feed upon each other, but also keep their populations in proper balance. There is a genius in the system that must be appreciated, even if it shocks some of our sensibilities.
And while it does seem clear that they do suffer physical pain and experience fear, it may be that a lot of the suffering we impute to them may be a projection. Much of human suffering is rooted in our sense of self and our awareness of death. An animal does not necessarily go through all this. They may instinctually respond to danger in the moment and have little or no emotional feelings at all other than fear which stimulates fight or flight. It is hard to say.
Ultimately, in matters like these, it may be best to admit that we do not have all the answers and are summoned to reverence the mystery that is before us. And suffering, be it human or animal, is a great mystery.
It has come to my attention that my 22-year-old son, who does not live with us, views a lot of Internet pornography. What can I say to him to dissuade him?
Biblically, pornography is sinful, and unfit for a Christian. Jesus, for example, forbids a man to look with lust on a woman (Matt 5:28-30), which of course is the precise purpose of pornography. Other passages forbid sexual immorality as well (1 Cor 6:9, 18ff; Eph 5:3ff; Col 3:5ff), etc. As these passages make clear, such sins are mortal and un-repented of, and exclude one from the Kingdom of Heaven.
Psychologically, pornography is unhealthy because it is unreal. It is rooted in fantasy. The photos and movies are photographically enhanced, the models are often surgically altered, etc.
In a way, pornography is cowardly, and appeals to those who cannot, or will not, take the risk to live in the real world and make the commitment to live and interact with a real spouse and all that entails.
In real life, sex is not had with a body, it is had with a real person, who may not measure up to the fantasies and exotic wishes of pornography addicts. Real people have limits, preferences, moods, and do not simply disappear when sexual pleasure is had. Thus, pornography turns one inward, instills unrealistic notions, and often destroys interest in normal marital life.
Addiction to Internet pornography is growing dramatically, and many are locked into terrible and descending cycles. It is a grave evil and takes terrible personal and family tolls. Many need significant help to break free. Often, a 12-step program under the strict care of a sponsor can help some.
Let us pray that your son will consider the grave spiritual, moral, and psychological ruin that can come from indulging this vice.
I am a convert from the Evangelical Church and my RCIA teacher told me that the seven days of creation in Genesis is a primitive mode of speaking and does not really mean seven days. Is this true?
The catechism discourages the word “primitive” (e.g. CCC #304) in reference to scripture. A better Catholic approach is to describe the creation account as a poetic account, rather than a modern, scientific account.
If we try to hold to a literalistic reading of all the details, we have difficulties. For, if a “day” is a 24 hour cycle of the sun, it is surprising to read that the sun and moon are not even created until the 4th “day”.
Further, if the account is purely a literalistic, scientific account, there is the problem that there are two accounts of creation in Genesis 1-2:3 & 2:4ff. They are both very different.
What is essential for us to hold from these accounts is that God made everything out of nothing, He did so in wisdom and love, guiding every step. And though transcendent, remains present and active in all he has made.
So, seven days is likely more poetic than scientific.
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