Category Archives: Apologetics

Calvinism/Presbyterianism – Predestination & Divine Sovereignty, Part 1 of 4


-John Calvin (1509-1564)


-by Br Elijah Dubek, OP

““Excuse me, Brother. Are you a Thomist?” Pausing my scan of the dense column of marchers, I found two gentlemen approaching me. Of course, I answered in the affirmative. We exchanged introductions, and then Michael and Gabriel (as we’ll call them) continued, “Can you explain to us Saint Thomas’s teaching on predestination?” I took the bait, and we had a pleasant, enthusiastic, thirty-five minute conversation right there in front of the Supreme Court building.

Michael and Gabriel, as Calvinists, hold what we might call a “strong view” of God’s sovereignty over creation. Because of this, they found St. Thomas’s view quite refreshing.

Divine sovereignty refers to the extent of God’s control and authority over the creatures he has made. The question of sovereignty follows immediately from the doctrine of creation. Saint Thomas calls this notion “governance,” and he treats it quite thoroughly in his Summa Theologiae. After affirming the universal scope of divine governance (ST I, q. 103, a. 5), the Angelic Doctor considers two categories of effects of God’s governance: the conservation of creatures in existence and the movement of creatures to their proper actions. The former is much easier to explain and accept than the latter, but both are conclusions that flow from biblical and philosophical considerations of creation.

To explain conservation, Aquinas makes an important distinction between the “cause of being” and the “cause of becoming” (ST I, q. 104, a. 1, co.). A builder is a cause of the becoming of the house but not of the being of the house. If the builder stops building (for whatever reason), the house stops coming to be. Once the house has come to be, though, the builder’s role is done. He can go home and the house doesn’t collapse. The house still has ongoing causes holding it together, though. The nature of the brick and mortar, the drywall, the wood, the nails and screws, and the rest… the house does continue to depend on these. The materials’ natural sturdiness, adhesiveness, tensile strength, and other characteristics operate continuously in order for the house to remain a house and not fall apart. If the wood rots, if the foundation cracks, or if someone or something destroys one of these materials, the very existence of the house as a house is threatened because these are causes of the being of the house.

God’s conservation of creatures is even more profound. His activity produces the being and nature of everything. There was no pre-existent stuff out of which God fashioned the world. He had to produce the whole of it, and none of it can hold on to this existence without His conservation. The bricks and mortar of the house just need to be put in place by the builder and then their natural properties hold the house together without any further help from the builder. Created existence cannot maintain itself like this, because existence is not something we have by ourselves—it’s not a natural property. As Aquinas says, “Only God is being by his own essence, since his essence is his existence; every creature, however, is a being by participation” (ST I, q. 104, a. 1, co.). Because creatures exist by participating in existence, not by independently possessing it, they need God to keep them around.

If we were to stop here, neither Saint Thomas nor my Calvinist interlocutors would be satisfied. God is not merely an existential battery. Creatures aren’t just “plugged in,” but otherwise outside the scope of God’s governance. Saint Thomas tells us that we need God not only for our continued existence but also for the production of every one of our actions (ST I, q. 105, a. 5). Saint Paul affirms this when he preached in Athens, saying, “In him [God] we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28). The prophet Isaiah likewise wrote, “You have wrought for us all our works” (Isa 26:12). Agere sequitur esse, the scholastics said. Action follows being. The kind of being a thing is determines the kind of action it can perform. Every creature’s being is absolutely dependent on God; therefore, every creature’s action is as well. Later in this four-part series, we’ll consider this doctrine in relation to the freedom of man’s will.

Everything and every detail within creation falls in the scope of God’s providence and governance because without Him, no creature could exist or act. That, fundamentally, is God’s sovereignty, and this doctrine looms in the background of any discussion of predestination. So far, in my conversation with Michael and Gabriel, we are in agreement. Next time, though, we’ll see how a few important distinctions set the Catholic thought of St. Thomas apart from Calvin’s teaching.”

Love, & His mercy,
Matthew

“At Home with the Lord”: 2 Corinthians 5:8 & Purgatory

THE PROTESTANT CHALLENGE: How can the Catholic Church teach that there is an intermediate state after death, like purgatory, when the Bible says that the only place for a Christian to be (besides this life) is heaven?

Referring to a soul’s “entrance into the blessedness of heaven,” the Catechism teaches that it will enter either “through a purification or immediately” (1022). This presupposes that it’s possible for a soul to die in God’s friendship but yet not be present with the Lord in heaven.  Some Protestants view Paul’s teaching in 2 Corinthians 5:6-8 as contradicting this belief. Paul writes:

“So we are always of good courage; we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord…and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.”

Since the Bible says that for a Christian to be “away from the body” is to be “at home with the Lord,” there can’t be any intermediate state in the afterlife.

MEETING THE CHALLENGE

1. Paul doesn’t say what the challenge assumes he says.

Protestants who appeal to this passage often fail to realize that Paul doesn’t say that “to be away from the body is to be at home with the Lord.” Paul simply says, “While we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord” and that “we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Protestants may reply that although Paul doesn’t exactly say what the challenge claims, that’s what he means. Are they right? Does the logic follow? Does the statement, “We would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord” mean the same as, “To be absent from the body is to be at home with the Lord”?

Suppose I’m at work, and I’m wishing that I could instead be away from work, and at home. Can we conclude from this that if I’m away from work, I must automatically be at home? Doesn’t seem like it. I could be away from work, eating lunch at McDonald’s. I could be away from work, on my way home, but sitting in traffic. So, it’s fallacious to conclude from this verse that, once away from the body, a Christian must immediately be present with the Lord.

2. Even if we concede the interpretation of 2 Corinthians 5:8 that the challenge asserts, it still doesn’t rule out purgatory.

But let’s assume for argument’s sake that the interpretation this challenge offers of 2 Corinthians 5:8 is true, and that to be away from the body is to be immediately present with the Lord. That still wouldn’t pose a threat to purgatory.

First, because the challenge assumes that purgatory involves a period of time (during which we are “away from the body” but not “with the Lord”). But as we’ve seen, the Catholic Church has never defined the precise nature of the duration of purgatory. We simply don’t know what the experience of time is beyond this life. If purgatory did not involve a duration of time as we know it, it would be perfectly compatible with the challenge’s interpretation of this verse.

A second reason is that the challenge assumes purgatory is a state of existence away from the Lord. But, as we have also seen, purgatory could very well be that encounter with the Lord that we experience in our particular judgment, as we “appear before the judgment seat of Christ” (2 Cor. 5:10). This makes sense because Paul describes the soul’s judgment as being one of a purifying fire (1 Cor. 3:11-15). It makes sense for God’s presence, not his absence, to be part of our soul’s purification.

COUNTER-CHALLENGE: Shouldn’t you make sure that the Bible passage you use to challenge a Catholic belief actually says what you think it says?

AFTERTHOUGHT: The early Christian writer Tertullian (c. A.D. 160-220) affirms the existence of a state after death before entering heaven when he writes, “Inasmuch as we understand the prison pointed out in the Gospel to be Hades [Matt. 5:25], and as we also interpret the uttermost farthing to mean the very smallest offense which has to be recompensed there before the resurrection, no one will hesitate to believe that the soul undergoes in Hades some compensatory discipline, without prejudice to the full process of the resurrection.”

Love,
Matthew

Ecce, Res & Objective Truth


-“Ecce homo”, Andrea Mantegna, 1500, tempera on canvas, 72 cm × 54 cm (28 in × 21 in), Musée Jacquemart-André in Paris. In the painting, two messages can be seen in Latin script: Crvcifige evm[.] tolle evm[.] crvcifige crvc[…] (“crucify him, trap him, crucify [in the cross]”) to the left and to the right the similar Crvcifige evm crvcifige tolle eṽ crvcifige (“crucify him, crucify, trap him, crucify”). The text on the left pretends to be pseudo-Hebrew in cursive script.  Please click on the image for greater detail.


-by Br Ephrem Maria Reese, OP

“One thing that frustrates some, and fascinates others, about philosophical study, is that it takes ordinary things and makes them very, very complicated…

One feature of Catholic thinking that now fascinates people goes under the name “objective truth.” For many people, secular and religious alike, our world has been affected by “the turn to the subject,” or the tendency to say that truth mostly lies in the eye of the beholder, or depends on who the person thinking is. For truth to be objective, on the other hand, means that who the thinker is is not as important as what the thing they are thinking about is. The who needs to conform himself or herself to the what, not the other way around.

It is popular nowadays in Catholic theology to point out that Truth, in Jesus, became a person. In other words, Truth became a Subject. Indeed, He did. But a further twist to the story is that Jesus, Who is a Subject, also chose to become, for us and for our salvation, an Object. He became, among other things, a piece of food—a mere Thing. In the Eucharist, God so humbled Himself as to become, mysteriously, both thing and person—in theological language, we might say that He is both res et persona.

The Truth is a Person, a Subject, and is thus in perpetual conversation with us. He speaks interiorly. He comes to us as Word, speaking in our hearts, and even in other persons. But the Truth is also Thing, and as such, comes to us in Objects, called the Sacraments. One complaint that the early Protestant Reformers in England had with the Catholics is that our treatment of God is so thing-like. Their early charter, the 39 Articles, says: “The Sacraments were not ordained of Christ to be gazed upon, or to be carried about.” Well, yes and no. These most sacred Things are not to be merely thrown around, or treated superstitiously. But God did intend them to be mysterious realities. A “reality” is another word for “thing,” from the Latin res. In the Eucharist, and in the other sacraments (though in different ways), God makes His presence Real, in things. And that is something to be gazed upon, with reverent silence and song and humble prayer.

Before the person Who so humbled Himself as to be gazed upon in His torment, carried about in His death, worshiped and eaten in mystery, a true Christian will say: “yes, truth is objective.” He is more interior than my most interior self; He is more real than the realest exterior object. Ecce, Res.”

He lives,
Matthew

Jehovah’s Witnesses – strategies

Jehovah witnesses are showing bible behind door. View from peephole.

“Each month Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) distribute millions of books, magazines, and pamphlets, in dozens of languages. Many of these are intended for non-Witnesses to try to convert them, but others are intended for Witnesses themselves.

One of the handbooks used by missionaries in the field is entitled Reasoning from the Scriptures. The book clearly centers around WTS (Watch Tower Society) theology, and this point is evident in part from the fact that some of the specific subjects treated in the book are identified as “Not a Bible teaching.”

The publication is intended to enable the average Witness going door-to-door to accomplish two purposes. First, it provides many Scripture references which seemingly support the WTS’s belief system. Second, it “arms” the JW with a variety of responses to statements and questions that are likely to surface in nearly any typical encounter with a non-Witness.

Some topics clearly have been selected because they concern beliefs peculiar to Witnesses. Others have been included because they are held by those of other faiths. This is especially true of Catholic doctrines. (A side note here: The Witnesses believe that all Christian denominations are demonic in origin, and they maintain Christianity as a whole went apostate—entirely abandoned the true faith—starting all the way back in the latter portion of the first century A.D. From their perspective, this alleged apostasy fulfills predictions in the New Testament. The main problem with this is that while the New Testament does speak of an apostasy, it refers to the falling away of large number of believers near the end times, not to the defection of the Church as an institution.)

Catholic doctrines discussed include apostolic succession; baptism as a sacrament bestowing grace; confession; holidays and holy days, such as Christmas, Easter, and St. Valentine’s Day; the use of images; Marian doctrines; the Mass; and purgatory. These alone constitute more than a tenth of the book and give an indication that the Witnesses see the Catholic Church as a main target.

Reasoning from the Scriptures begins with two how-to chapters, “Introductions for Use in the Field Ministry” and “How You Might Respond to Potential Conversation Stoppers.” The first gives suggested opening lines. “If the introductions you are now using seldom open the way for conversations, try some of these suggestions. When you do so, you will no doubt want to put them in your own words.”

Sample Openings

Five openings are given under the heading “Bible/ God.” The first reads this way: “Hello. I’m making just a brief call to share an important message with you. Please note what it says here in the Bible. (Read Scripture, such as Revelation 21:3-4.) What do you think about that?”

Notice the hook: “an important message.” It works for the advertising industry; why not in this context? Then come the Bible verses, followed by questions. The missionaries don’t tell their listener what to think—at least not at this point. Instead, they elicit his views. Once he gives them, it’s awkward for him to back out of the conversation.

Notice also in this example and in many of the ones that follow, JWs typically ask prospective converts for their own opinion or feeling on a theological matter. The advantage this approach has for JWs is that virtually everyone has some kind of opinion on the subject matter presented, so this approach practically guarantees that JWs can successfully engage a person in a dialogue. Once the dialogue has been established, the JW is then on his way to potentially making a convert. Fortunately for the JW, the average person fails to realize that theological or religious truth does not depend on one’s mere opinion or feeling.

Another opening line under this section is this one: “We’re encouraging folks to read their Bible. The answers that it gives to important questions often surprise people. For example: . . . (Ps. 104:5; or Dan. 2:44; or some other).” Again, here the listener is told he’ll be let in on a secret. He reads the passages, is asked his opinion, and then the Witnesses steer the conversation their way.

The leads given under the heading “Employment/ Housing” are more down-to-earth: “We’ve been talking with your neighbors about what can be done to assure that there will be employment and housing for everyone. Do you believe that it is reasonable to expect that human governments will accomplish this? . . . But there is someone who knows how to solve these problems; that is mankind’s Creator (Is. 65:21-23).”

This example shows another typical approach for Witnesses: they often target universal concerns. Who, for instance, is not worried about the future? Or living in a world free from pollution, poverty, and crime? So the “opening” for Witnesses often begins by focusing on these universal concerns, then continues by establishing a certain rapport, and finally turns to conversation that is more specifically theological in nature.

When many people in the area say, “I have my own religion,” it is recommended the missionaries use this opening: “Good morning. We are visiting all the families on your block (or, in this area), and we find that most of them have their own religion. No doubt you do too. . . . But, regardless of our religion, we are affected by many of the same problems—high cost of living, crime, illness—is that not so? . . . Do you feel that there is any real solution to these things? . . . (2 Pet. 3:13; etc.).”

Taking Cues

When many people say, “I’m busy,” this opening is used: “Hello. We’re visiting everyone in this neighborhood with an important message. No doubt you are a busy person, so I’ll be brief.” If the missionaries find themselves in a territory that is often worked by other JWs, they begin this way: “We’re making our weekly visit in the neighborhood, and we have something more to share with you about the wonderful things that God’s Kingdom will do for mankind.”

The second chapter of the Reasoning book instructs missionaries in how to “respond to potential conversation stoppers.” The reader is told that “not everyone is willing to listen, and we do not try to force them. But with discernment it is often possible to turn potential conversation stoppers into opportunities for further discussion.”

Missionaries are told not to memorize these lines, but to master them and put them in their own words. The key is sincerity. If the person who answers the door says, “I’m not interested,” the JW is to follow up with this: “May I ask, Do you mean that you are not interested in the Bible, or is it religion in general that does not interest you? I ask that because we have met many who at one time were religious but no longer go to church because they see much hypocrisy in the churches (or, they feel that religion is just another money-making business; or, they do not approve of religion’s involvement in politics; etc.). The Bible does not approve of such practices either and it provides the only basis on which we can look to the future with confidence.” Six other responses to the “I’m not interested” line are given.

Keep in mind that the JW has been well-trained and is well-versed in the “prepackaged” responses he has been taught. This fact adds to the appearance of the JW’s credibility and even his biblical “knowledge.” The reality, however, is that a given Witness has merely become adept at repeating select Bible verses and responses which he uses time and time again.

“Not Interested in Witnesses”

If the person is more specific still and says, “I’m not interested in the Jehovah’s Witnesses,” the missionaries give this kind of response: “Many folks tell us that. Have you ever wondered why people like me volunteer to make these calls even though we know that the majority of householders may not welcome us? (Give the gist of Matt. 25:31-33, explaining that a separating of people of all nations is taking place and that their response to the Kingdom message is an important factor in this. Or state the gist of Ezekiel 9:1-11, explaining that, on the basis of people’s reaction to the Kingdom message, everyone is being ‘marked’ either for preservation through the great tribulation or for destruction by God.)”

Here you see peeping out one of the Witnesses’ peculiar doctrines—they don’t believe in hell. They think the unsaved are annihilated and simply cease to exist. Only the saved will live eternally. If the person at the door says, “I have my own religion,” he should be asked, “Would you mind telling me, Does your religion teach that the time will come when people who love what is right will live on earth forever? … That is an appealing thought, isn’t it? … It is right here in the Bible (Ps. 37:29; Matt. 5:5; Rev. 21:4).”

Notice again the approach: the Witness ultimately gets to a theological matter by means of an attraction to the emotions or one’s opinions (“That is an appealing thought, isn’t it?”) and not to revealed religious truth.

Also, this belief that the majority of believers will reside on a paradise Earth is another doctrine peculiar to the Witnesses. They think the saved will live forever on a regenerated Earth sometime in the future, after the wicked have been destroyed by Jehovah God at the Battle of Armageddon. But the “hook” they use is not peculiar to them.

Like Fundamentalists

Fundamentalists, though their theology is vastly better than that of the JWs, use a similar technique. On one hand, JWs argue to the truth of their position by asking, “That is an appealing thought, isn’t it?” Many people will conclude, “Yes, it is, and therefore it must be true”—illogical, perhaps, but that’s how many people think.

On the other hand, Fundamentalists will ask, “Wouldn’t you like an absolute assurance of salvation?” “Who wouldn’t?” is the reply, and, having given that reply, many people will find themselves accepting the Fundamentalists’ notion that one can have an absolute assurance of salvation (a doctrine that arises from their belief that all one needs to do to be saved is to “accept” Jesus as one’s “personal Lord and Savior”).

If the person answering the door says, “I am already well acquainted with your work” (a polite way of saying, “Get lost”), the missionaries should say: “I am very glad to hear that. Do you have a close relative or friend that is a Witness? . . . May I ask, Do you believe what we teach from the Bible, namely, that we are living in ‘the last days,’ that soon God is going to destroy the wicked, and that this earth will become a paradise in which people can live forever in perfect health among neighbors who really love one another?” Notice that once again the Witness has managed to turn around the conversation with this response and thus at least “plant seeds” in the mind of the person at the door.

The above examples show how JWs typically work when they come knocking at your door. It is evident from the Reasoning book that they are prepared for virtually every kind of response they may face. But while their “gospel” is false and their presentation is carefully prepackaged, Catholics should at least take note of the JWs’ willingness to promote what they believe. This is perhaps one lesson we can learn from them.”

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Love & truth,
Matthew

Anti-Catholic “Fake News” 2

The Myth: The Church began mandating clerical celibacy during the Middle Ages so that it could acquire the clergy’s family property.

The History Behind the Myth: Bruno of Alsace was noted for his piety. As bishop of Toul (in modern-day France), he cared deeply for his people. The abuses in the Church, especially among the clergy, pained him. When Pope Damasus II, the third German to sit on the Chair of Peter, died in 1048 after a short pontificate of only twenty-three days, Bruno of Alsace was the logical and saintly choice as his successor.

Pope St. Leo IX (r. 1049-1054) was faced with three major issues that shaped his pontificate: the protection of the Papal States from the encroaching Normans; resolution of disputes with the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantines); and the reform of the Church. And the Church was indeed in desperate need of reform in the eleventh century. The practice of simony (buying or selling Church offices) was rampant, as were violations of the discipline of celibacy among clergy (deacons, priests, and bishops)

To combat these abuses, Leo IX launched one of the most comprehensive reforms in the history of the Church. To ensure its effectiveness, he did not just issue decrees from Rome and demand obedience; he went on the most significant papal road trip in history, traveling throughout Italy, Germany, and France, and holding local synods along the way. Indeed, in the five and half years of his pontificate, Leo spent only six months in the city of Rome. Leo deposed immoral and corrupt bishops, and excommunicated clergy found guilty of simony or unchastity.

Leo’s eleventh-century reform illustrates that the discipline of celibacy was highly regarded in the medieval Church, and was not instituted to enrich it with the land of the clergy. The promise of celibacy freely taken by the clergy dates to the early Church and is rooted in Christian doctrine and tradition. As a discipline (not a doctrine), celibacy has developed through the centuries. In the first three centuries of Church history there was no law prohibiting the ordination of married men, and many priests were married; however, marriage was never permitted after ordination. Moreover, all priests—married, single, or widowed—practiced sexual abstinence after ordination. Indeed, the prohibition of marriage after ordination makes sense only if sexual abstinence was demanded even of married priests. St. Paul taught that a bishop should be the “husband of one wife,” meaning that a man who remarries after the death of his wife illustrated an inability to live conjugal abstinence as required by the Church.

The first recorded Church legislation mandating clerical celibacy in the West was decreed at the Synod of Elvira in Spain around the year 300. In the East, ordination of married men continued through the centuries (and remains a practice), but from the seventh century onward only celibate monks or priests were elevated to the episcopacy. And neither the Eastern nor the Western Church has ever allowed marriage after ordination. In 385, Pope Siricius (r. 384-399) mandated celibacy for all clergy in the West.

Although most people today think of celibacy as unique to Catholicism, conjugal abstinence was required of Jewish priests during their temple duty in Jerusalem, and pagan soldiers abstained from sexual intercourse before battle. Though the early Church permitted the ordination of married men, virginity for the sake of the kingdom of heaven was highly regarded. Men who left the world to seek closer union with God in the desert practiced celibacy, and in monasteries throughout the world it became the norm. Nor was celibacy limited to clergy in the early Church: women, both consecrated virgins and widows, pledged celibacy out of love for God. At the time of St. John Chrysostom (c. 347-407), there were 3,000 virgins and widows in Constantinople.

Despite the longstanding practice of the Church, celibacy was often not lived faithfully in the early medieval Church. Pope Benedict VIII (r. 1012-1024) held a synod at Pavia where he reinforced the rule of clerical celibacy and denounced the scandal of clerical marriage. By the time of Pope Leo IX in the mid-eleventh century, unchastity among the clergy was widespread. So many priests lived openly with mistresses or practiced the abhorrent vice of homosexuality that St. Peter Damian (1007-1072) wrote The Book of Gomorrah against the sexual sins of the clergy. The eleventh-century papal reform focused on ensuring the independence of the papacy from the interference of secular rulers, and was led mostly by popes who were former monks, free from the sins of secular (diocesan) clergy. These reform popes (St. Leo IX, St. Gregory VII, Bl. Urban II) recognized that reform in terms of the Church’s freedom from external secular control could be accomplished only if reform began in the Church, hence their focus on rooting out simony and unchastity among the clergy. Urban II captured the essence of the reform movement when he wrote, “The Church shall be Catholic, chaste and free: Catholic in the faith and fellowship of the saints, chaste from all contagion of evil, and free from secular power.””

Love & truth,
Matthew

Atheism & Soul


-by Mark A. McNeil, a former Oneness Pentecostal, was received into the Catholic Church in 1999.

“In last summer’s movie, “Yesterday,” struggling musician Jack Malik finds enormous fame and fortune after he discovers that, following a global blackout, everyone in the world has forgotten about the iconic music band, the Beatles. Everyone except him, that is. His rapid-fire release of various Beatles songs, as if they were his own, brings him vast attention, esteem and praise. But he is miserable.

How can a man who has thousands of fans screaming in adulation, large sums of money, and the company of the rich and famous possibly be miserable? The answer becomes painfully obvious as the movie progresses: Unless we are at peace on the inside, the outside circumstances of our lives, even if spectacular, will not make us truly happy.

It’s an old lesson in new wrapping. Indeed, a great deal of the history of human thought and experience is represented by the movement between Jack’s interior and exterior life. Outside ourselves, using our senses, we become aware of things that have shape, mass and weight—that move around and take up space. On this inside, however, is a different realm. When Jack is forced to confront his deceptions and his guilty conscience, the pain was his alone: it could not be directly seen or felt by others. Jack successfully conceals his inner anguish for much of the movie.

The early Greek philosophers were deeply concerned with trying to figure out the world around us. Thales said it was all, at root, water. Others said it was air, or a combination of elements (earth, air, wind, and fire). Democritus said it was tiny, indestructible pieces of matter that he called “atoms.” In time, the focus shifted from the things we experience with our senses to experience itself. Plato saw the inside world and the outside world as powerful evidence of two irreducible realms—one physical, the realm of matter, and the other spiritual, the realm of forms. A long line of thinkers after him drew the same conclusion.

St. Augustine discovered the importance of this distinction while reading works from these thinkers, and wrote in his Confessions, “These books served to remind me to return to my own self.” Having long focused on trying to find God through his senses, he now turned to his own soul and found a realm very different from the material world. Accompanying the discovery of his soul was a life-changing discovery of God, who could not be reduced to anything material.

This distinction between the inside and outside aspects of our experience is not a trivial matter. Some of the most important features of lives are on the “inside” and not grasped by our senses. We cannot see each other’s thoughts, choices, or feelings, for instance. We know that others have thoughts and feelings, but we only know what they are if they are revealed to us through signs or “incarnations” of those thoughts and feelings, or if the person tells us. We might, to some degree, understand his thoughts and share his feelings, but we cannot have them—they are his alone, existing in his own interior life.

Atheist materialism has no good explanation for the interior/exterior distinction. Inevitably, atheists run into contradictions when they try to explain our mental experiences by materialistic explanations. The influential eighteenth-century philosopher, David Hume, for instance, famously denied there is any evidence that there is a self (“I”) since it cannot be directly observed with our senses. Yet he couldn’t avoid using the word “I” constantly in his writings.

Stephen Hawking, (Ed. who famously could not even IMAGINE, obstinately, imho,  anything beyond time, though physicists are required to imagine all kinds of unseeable things) the famous theoretical physicist and atheist, in The Grand Design (2010), asserted that all our experiences of moral “freedom” are just shorthand ways of referring to complex and predetermined material processes that completely explain everything we do. He did not seem to see, however, that if this is true then everything in his book is entirely the product of material processes. Whether those material processes tell us anything true about the real world cannot be known since everyone who disagrees with Hawking is thinking and saying exactly what material processes are making them think, too. Hawking (and all atheists) write as if they, and they alone, transcend material processes and judge that people who believe in God or the soul are incorrect. They make these claims while denying the existence of anything other than blind, purposeless material causes.

At a certain point, the atheist chooses to deny the reality of the spiritual world. Even beyond the serious intellectual problems raised by this move, this choice is also tragic. It is tragic because the real depth and beauty of the world cannot be discovered by reducing everything to material causation—it can only be discovered by noticing that material things are all signs that point beyond themselves. The smile and caress of a mother invites her child to discover unconditional love. A teacher’s correction of misbehavior invites the student to discover the moral law. The changing world around us invites us to consider the unchanging and eternal source of all dependent beings: God.

Let us pray that, with St. Augustine, atheists and theists alike return to the mysterious depths of their own souls and discover the material world as a vast collection of signs that point us to another realm. Through this same soul, we can reach out to the God who is the source of it all. After all, the Catechism of the Catholic Church notes that all the ways of coming to discover God find their point of departure either in reflecting on the outer, physical world or in pondering the various signs of our inner, spiritual soul (31-32). Reflecting on the physical world, conscious that we do so as a spiritual soul, we learn that everything is speaking to us of God (Psalm 19:1-2).”

Love, and truth,
Matthew

Eucharist symbolic?


-“Última_Cena”, by Leonardo DaVinci, 1490, tempera, gesso, 460 cm (180 in) × 880 cm (350 in), Convent of Santa Maria delle Grazie in Milan, please click on the image for greater detail


-by Joseph Heschmeyer, is a seminarian in the Catholic Archdiocese of Kansas City. A former lawyer, he blogs at Shameless Popery.

“There are a great many intelligent Protestant Christians, well-versed in Scripture, faithfully seeking to know and follow the will of God, who have concluded that Jesus’ words about the bread and wine of the Last Supper becoming his body and blood are merely symbolic.

What if they’re right?

At first, it seems like such a revelation would be a tragedy. Receiving the Eucharist is the most intimate encounter with Jesus Christ possible this side of eternity. Suddenly to discover that this intimacy was a sham, and that what we thought was God was actually just bread, would be disheartening, to put the matter mildly. Worse, it would mean that those hours spent in adoration were something approaching idolatry rather than proper worship of God.

But the true tragedy would be greater still—it would mean that the Church has been wrong about the Eucharist from the beginning. For the earliest Christians universally believed in the Real Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. The well-respected early Church historian J.N.D. Kelly, a Protestant, has acknowledged that “Eucharistic teaching, it should be understood at the outset, was in general unquestioningly realist, i.e., the consecrated bread and wine were taken to be, and were treated and designated as, the Savior’s body and blood” (Early Christian Doctrines, 440).

Take, for example, the church at Smyrna, in modern-day Turkey. In the latter half of the first century, the apostle John had delivered a message directly from Jesus Christ to the Smyrnaeans, encouraging them in their faithfulness amidst their sufferings (Rev. 2:8-11). Shortly thereafter, a student of John’s, St. Ignatius of Antioch, wrote to this same local church on his way to be martyred in Rome early in the second century.

In his letter, Ignatius warns the Smyrnaeans to “keep aloof from” the heretical Gnostics “because they confess not the Eucharist to be the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ” (Epistle to the Smyrnaeans 7). Notice that Ignatius doesn’t feel the need to convince his readers of the truth of the Real Presence. For him, it’s enough to say that since the Gnostics reject the Real Presence we should not even “speak of them either in private or in public.”

And this is the way that Christians approached the Eucharist throughout the first few centuries of the Church. It was not just that a theologian here or there taught the Real Presence, but that it was the Christian position on the topic. In a series of lessons given to catechumens about to enter the Church, St. Cyril of Jerusalem reminded them that “you have been taught and you are firmly convinced that what looks and tastes like bread and wine is not bread and wine but the Body and the Blood of Christ” (Catechetical Lecture 22). Cyril is comfortable assuming that even those not yet baptized know enough about Christianity to realize that Christians believe in the Real Presence.

Even more telling than the many Church Fathers teaching and preaching on the Real Presence of the Eucharist is the absence of Christian leaders either rejecting this Catholic position or teaching a contrary position.

If a Baptist pastor got up on Sunday and declared that the bread and wine become the body and blood of Christ, you could expect that there would be angry letters denouncing him as a heretic, or at least seeking to correct him. That’s because Baptists don’t believe in the Real Presence.

The fact that we don’t see this sort of outcry in the early Church is compelling evidence that the early Christians didn’t believe what modern Baptists do about the Eucharist. Rather, they were united in belief about the Real Presence in the Eucharist at a time when Christians weren’t afraid to squabble with one another over relatively smaller matters.

So why is this important? Because it means that these Protestants aren’t just saying, “I think Jesus’ words at the Last Supper are meant to be merely symbolic,” but “I think that the entire Church misunderstood one of the most basic aspects of Christianity for centuries.” Call this the “everybody got the gospel wrong” position.

At the Last Supper, Jesus said, “I will not leave you desolate” (John 14:18), a promise not to abandon the Church or to leave us as orphans. Specifically, Christ promised to preserve his Church by sending “the Spirit of Truth,” the Holy Spirit, to “teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you” (John 14:17, 26). How is belief in this promise compatible with the idea that the whole Church lost the true meaning of the Last Supper, and that no Christians successfully followed his instructions to “do this in remembrance of me” (1 Cor. 11:24)?

To be sure, left to our own devices, you and I would get some aspects of the gospel wrong. That’s why there are so many competing Protestant denominations. But the solution to that is to turn to the Church and to have the humility to be guided, rather than trusting that our own reading of Scripture is superior to everyone else’s. This is the model laid out in Scripture itself. When the apostle Philip found an Ethiopian official reading the book of Isaiah, he asked him, “Do you understand what you are reading?” to which the man replied “How can I, unless someone guides me?” (Acts 8:30-31). But the Protestant view undermines all of this by suggesting that the visible Church, and indeed all Christians everywhere, might be the ones in the wrong.

This isn’t just about rejecting the Church’s teaching authority, but about rejecting all of Christianity prior to a certain point in history. If you can simply throw out all of (say) pre-1517 history as heretical and off-the-mark, why not throw out all pre-2018 Christianity? What appears on the surface to be a question simply about the Eucharist or the Perpetual Virginity of Mary is really a question about whether we can trust Christ’s promise not to abandon us, leaving us to our own private theological interpretations.

What’s more, if everybody got the gospel wrong then, what makes us think that anybody has the gospel right now? If we could all be wrong on the literality of the Eucharist for centuries, why couldn’t we be wrong about the literality of the Resurrection or of any other aspect of Christian teaching? If all of Christianity can get the core message of Christianity wrong, then it seems that we simply can’t be trusted to get the basics of Christianity right. But holding that, of course, undermines our ability to trust Christianity itself.”

Love, Lord, give me faith,
Matthew

10 truths about Purgatory


-Dante’s Purgatrio, Canto 2, Katerina Machytkova, please click on the image for greater detail.


— by Valerie Schmalz, Catholic San Francisco [10.30.2013]

1. Purgatory exists: The Catechism of the Catholic Church states there are three states of the church, those who are living on earth, those who are in purgatory, and those who are in heaven with God.

2. It is not a second chance: The soul is already saved. Purgatory is a
place to pay off debts for sins that were forgiven but for which sufficient penance had not been done on earth.

3. It is not an actual place: Blessed John Paul II said in an August 4, 1999 general audience that purgatory was a state of being: “The term does not indicate a place, but a condition of existence.” Pope Benedict XVI said in a January 12, 2011 general audience, “This is purgatory, an interior fire.”

4. Purgatory is not punishment but God’s mercy: “Few people can say they are prepared to stand before God,” says Susan Tassone, author of “Prayers, Promises, and Devotions for the Holy Souls in
Purgatory” (Our Sunday Visitor, 2012). “If we didn’t have purgatory
there would be very few people in heaven, because it would be heaven or hell. It is his mercy that allows us to prepare to be with Him in heaven.”

5. Our prayers for the souls in purgatory help them achieve heaven:
“The doctrine of purgatory recalls how radically we take love of
neighbor,” says Sulpician Father Gladstone Stevens, vice rector and
dean of men at St. Patrick’s Seminary & University, Menlo Park. “The
obligation to pray for each other does not cease when biological life
ends. God wants us to always pray for each other, work for each other’s redemption.”

6. The souls in purgatory can intercede for those on earth but cannot pray for themselves: The Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC 958) states: “…the church in its pilgrim members, from the very earliest days of the Christian religion, has honored with great respect the memory of the dead;…Our prayer for them is capable not only of helping them, but also of making their intercession for us effective.”

7. God does not send souls to purgatory – each soul sends itself to
purgatory: Once a soul sees itself with the light of God, it realizes it
cannot stay in his presence until all imperfections are wiped away. “The soul chooses,” Tassone says.

8. There is no fire in purgatory: But each soul is aflame with the pain of being separated from God and with the desire to be purified so it can be in the beatific vision. Each soul also feels joy knowing it will one day be with God, Father Stevens and Tassone say.

9. There is a special day and month to pray for the souls in purgatory:
November 2 or All Souls’ Day is the day set aside and November is the month in the liturgical calendar to pray especially for all the souls who are in purgatory. November 2 is called “The Commemoration of All the Faithful Departed,” but the church asks us to pray always for each other, including for the souls in purgatory.

10. Prayers for souls in purgatory always count: Pope Benedict says in his encyclical “Spe Salve” (“On Christian Hope”), regarding the souls of the dead, “…in the communion of souls simple terrestrial time is superseded. It is never too late to touch the heart of another, nor is it ever in vain.””

Love, Lord, have mercy on me for I am a sinful man,
Matthew

What is Purgatory?


-“Dante kneeling before celestial helmsman”, Purgatorio, Canto 2.28, by Doré, Gustave, c.1868, engraving, The vision of Purgatory and Paradise by Dante Alighieri (London and New York: Cassell, Petter, and Galpin [1868?], please click on the image for greater detail.

The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines purgatory as a “purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter the joy of heaven,” which is experienced by those “who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified” (CCC 1030). It notes that “this final purification of the elect . . . is entirely different from the punishment of the damned” (CCC 1031).

The purification is necessary because, as Scripture teaches, nothing unclean will enter the presence of God in heaven (Rev. 21:27) and, while we may die with our mortal sins forgiven, there can still be many impurities in us, specifically venial sins and the temporal punishment due to sins already forgiven.

What Happens in Purgatory?

When we die, we undergo what is called the particular, or individual, judgment. Scripture says that “it is appointed for men to die once, and after that comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). We are judged instantly and receive our reward, for good or ill. We know at once what our final destiny will be. At the end of time, when Jesus returns, there will come the general judgment to which the Bible refers, for example, in Matthew 25:31-32: “When the Son of man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate them one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” In this general judgment all our sins will be publicly revealed (Luke 12:2–5).

Augustine said in The City of God that “temporary punishments are suffered by some in this life only, by others after death, by others both now and then; but all of them before that last and strictest judgment” (21:13). It is between the particular and general judgments, then, that the soul is purified of the remaining consequences of sin: “I tell you, you will never get out till you have paid the very last copper” (Luke 12:59).

The Catholic Church, Purgatory, and Money

One argument anti-Catholics often use to attack purgatory is the idea that the Catholic Church owes the majority of its wealth to the doctrine of purgatory. But the numbers just don’t add up.

When a Catholic requests a memorial Mass for the dead—that is, a Mass said for the benefit of someone in purgatory—it is customary to give the parish priest a stipend, on the principles that the laborer is worth his hire (Luke 10:7) and that those who preside at the altar share the altar’s offerings (1 Cor. 9:13–14). In the United States, a stipend is commonly around five dollars; but the indigent do not have to pay anything. A few people, of course, freely offer more. This money goes to the parish priest, and priests are allowed to receive only one such stipend per day. No one gets rich on five dollars a day, and certainly not the Church, which does not receive the money anyway.

But look at what happens on a Sunday. There are often hundreds of people at Mass. In a crowded parish, there may be thousands. Many families and individuals deposit five dollars or more into the collection basket; a few give much more. A parish might have four or five or six Masses on a Sunday. The total from the Sunday collections far surpasses the paltry amount received from the memorial Masses.

Is Purgatory a Catholic “Invention”?

Fundamentalists may be fond of saying the Catholic Church “invented” the doctrine of purgatory to make money, but they have difficulty saying just when. Most professional anti-Catholics—the ones who make their living attacking “Romanism”—seem to place the blame on Pope Gregory the Great, who reigned from A.D. 590 to 604.

But that hardly accounts for the request of Monica, mother of Augustine, who asked her son, in the fourth century, to remember her soul in his Masses. This would make no sense if she thought her soul would not benefit from prayers, as would be the case if she were in hell or in the full glory of heaven.

Nor does ascribing the doctrine to Gregory explain the graffiti in the catacombs, where Christians during the persecutions of the first three centuries recorded prayers for the dead. Indeed, some of the earliest Christian writings outside the New Testament, like the Acts of Paul and Thecla and the Martyrdom of Perpetua and Felicity (both written during the second century), refer to the Christian practice of praying for the dead. Such prayers would have been offered only if Christians believed in purgatory, even if they did not use that name for it. (See Catholic Answers’ tract The Roots of Purgatory for quotations from these and other early Christian sources.)

Why No Protests?

A study of the history of doctrines indicates that Christians in the first centuries were up in arms if anyone suggested the least change in beliefs. They were extremely conservative people who tested a doctrine’s truth by asking, Was this believed by our ancestors? Was it handed on from the apostles? Surely belief in purgatory would be considered a great change, if it had not been believed from the first—so where are the records of protests?

They don’t exist. There is no hint at all, in the oldest writings available to us (or in later ones, for that matter), that “true believers” in the immediate post-apostolic years spoke of purgatory as a novel doctrine. They must have understood that the oral teaching of the apostles, what Catholics call tradition, and the Bible not only failed to contradict the doctrine, but, in fact, confirmed it.

It is no wonder, then, that those who deny the existence of purgatory tend to touch upon only briefly the history of the belief. They prefer to claim that the Bible speaks only of heaven and hell. Wrong. It speaks plainly of a third condition, commonly called the limbo of the Fathers, where the just who had died before the redemption were waiting for heaven to be opened to them. After his death and before his resurrection, Christ visited those experiencing the limbo of the Fathers and preached to them the good news that heaven would now be opened to them (1 Pet. 3:19). These people thus were not in heaven, but neither were they experiencing the torments of hell.

Some have speculated that the limbo of the Fathers is the same as purgatory. This may or may not be the case. However, even if the limbo of the Fathers is not purgatory, its existence shows that a temporary, intermediate state is not contrary to Scripture.

“Purgatory Not in Scripture”

Some Fundamentalists also charge, “The word purgatory is nowhere found in Scripture.” This is true, and yet it does not disprove the existence of purgatory or the fact that belief in it has always been part of Church teaching. The words Trinity and Incarnation aren’t in Scripture either, yet those doctrines are clearly taught in it. Likewise, Scripture teaches that purgatory exists, even if it doesn’t use that word and even if 1 Peter 3:19 refers to a place other than purgatory.

Christ refers to the sinner who “will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come” (Matt. 12:32), suggesting that one can be freed after death of the consequences of one’s sins. Similarly, Paul tells us that, when we are judged, each man’s work will be tried. And what happens if a righteous man’s work fails the test? “He will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Cor 3:15). Now this loss, this penalty, can’t refer to consignment to hell, since no one is saved there; and heaven can’t be meant, since there is no suffering (“fire”) there. The Catholic doctrine of purgatory alone explains this passage.

Then, of course, there is the Bible’s approval of prayers for the dead: “In doing this he acted in a very excellent and noble way, inasmuch as he had the resurrection of the dead in view; for if he were not expecting the dead to rise again, it would have been useless and foolish to pray for them in death. But if he did this with a view to the splendid reward that awaits those who had gone to rest in godliness, it was a holy and pious thought. Thus he made atonement for the dead that they might be freed from this sin” (2 Macc. 12:43–45). Prayers are not needed by those in heaven, and no one can help those in hell. This verse so clearly illustrates the existence of purgatory that, at the time of the Reformation, Protestants had to cut the books of the Maccabees out of their Bibles in order to avoid accepting the doctrine.

Prayers for the dead and the consequent doctrine of purgatory have been part of the true religion since before the time of Christ. Not only can we show it was practiced by the Jews of the time of the Maccabees, but it has even been retained by Orthodox Jews today, who recite a prayer known as the Mourner’s Kaddish for eleven months after the death of a loved one so that the loved one may be purified. It was not the Catholic Church that added the doctrine of purgatory. Rather, the Protestant churches rejected a doctrine that had always been believed by Jews and Christians.

Why Go to Purgatory?

Why would anyone go to purgatory? To be cleansed, for “nothing unclean shall enter [heaven]” (Rev. 21:27). Anyone who has not been completely freed of sin and its effects is, to some extent, “unclean.” Through repentance he may have gained the grace needed to be worthy of heaven, which is to say, he has been forgiven and his soul is spiritually alive. But that’s not sufficient for gaining entrance into heaven. He needs to be cleansed completely.

Fundamentalists claim, as an article in Jimmy Swaggart’s magazine, The Evangelist, put it, that “Scripture clearly reveals that all the demands of divine justice on the sinner have been completely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. It also reveals that Christ has totally redeemed, or purchased back, that which was lost. The advocates of purgatory (and the necessity of prayer for the dead) say, in effect, that the redemption of Christ was incomplete. . . . It has all been done for us by Jesus Christ, there is nothing to be added or done by man.”

It is entirely correct to say that Christ accomplished all of our salvation for us on the cross. But that does not settle the question of how this redemption is applied to us. Scripture reveals that it is applied to us over the course of time through, among other things, the process of sanctification through which the Christian is made holy. Sanctification involves suffering (Rom. 5:3–5), and purgatory is the final stage of sanctification that some of us need to undergo before we enter heaven. Purgatory is the final phase of Christ’s applying to us the purifying redemption that he accomplished for us by his death on the cross.

Nothing Unclean or Purged

Catholic theology takes seriously the notion that “nothing unclean shall enter heaven.” [Ed. not just covered: cleansed completely, new, to make new again, from the inside out.] From this it is inferred that a less than cleansed soul isn’t fit for heaven. It needs to be cleansed or “purged” of its remaining imperfections. Sanctification is thus not an option, something that may or may not happen before one gets into heaven. It is an absolute requirement, as Hebrews 12:14 states that we must strive “for the holiness without which no one will see the Lord.”

NIHIL OBSTAT: I have concluded that the materials
presented in this work are free of doctrinal or moral errors.
Bernadeane Carr, STL, Censor Librorum, August 10, 2004

IMPRIMATUR: In accord with 1983 CIC 827
permission to publish this work is hereby granted.
+Robert H. Brom, Bishop of San Diego, August 10, 2004

Purgatory 3


-“Purgatory” by Sergey Tyukanov, 2007. Please click on the image for more detail.


-by Karlo Broussard

“Matthew 12:32 is often a go-to passage for Catholics when it comes to purgatory. The text reads: “Whoever says a word against the Son of man will be forgiven; but whoever speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.”

Pope St. Gregory the Great wrote that, from this passage “we understand that certain offenses can be forgiven in this age, but certain others in the age to come” (Dial. 4, 39). The Catechism of the Catholic Church uses this quote as support for its definition of purgatory as an after-death “final purification of the elect” (1031). Since purgatory involves the forgiveness of unrepented venial sins (along with the purification of any remnants of past forgiven venial or mortal sins—e.g., unhealthy attachments to created goods, unpaid debt of temporal punishment), some conclude that Jesus affirms the existence of purgatory.

But some Christians don’t think this passage supports purgatory. They argue that Jesus’ use of the phrase “either in this age or in the age to come” was simply a matter of emphasis—an exaggerated expression used to convey the idea that the sin against the Holy Spirit can never be forgiven. Just like we don’t take Randy Travis to mean that there are two distinct stages in which he’s going to love his beloved when he sings, “I’m gonna love you forever and ever,” so too we shouldn’t take Jesus to mean there’s a distinct “age to come” where some sins can be forgiven when he says, no forgiveness “either in this age or the age to come.”

For support, they appeal to Mark’s parallel passage: “Whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit never has forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin” (Mark 3:29; emphasis added).

How can we respond?

The first thing we can say is that Mark’s version doesn’t preclude the reading of Matthew’s account in support of Purgatory. For if Jesus excludes forgiveness of the sin against the Holy Spirit in the only two states of existence where forgiveness can occur—in this life and in the intermediate state between death and the final judgment—then it would follow that the one who sins against the Holy Spirit “never has forgiveness.” The eternality of this sin would be because it can neither be forgiven in this life nor in the next. On this reading, Mark simply emphasizes the eternal nature of the sin without specifying the reason why. Matthew, on the other hand, provides a ground for why the sin can never be forgiven. Thus, Mark’s version doesn’t require that we reject purgatory based on Matthew 12:32.

“Okay,” our interlocutor might reply. “Maybe Mark 3:29 doesn’t prove that Jesus intended his phrase ‘this age or the age to come’ to be an exaggerated expression. But since that’s all we got to work with, doesn’t it seem reasonable to read Matthew 12:32 in light of Mark 3:29?”

No, it doesn’t, because Mark 3:29 is not the only relevant information that we have.

We know that Matthew’s Jewish audience already believed that some sins could be forgiven in the afterlife (cf. 2 Macc. 12:46). Given this knowledge, it doesn’t make sense that Matthew would include the saying “no forgiveness either in this age or in the age to come” if all he meant was that this sin is never forgiven. To do so without clarification seems only to reinforce the Jewish belief about sins being forgiven in the afterlife.

Since Matthew doesn’t give any sort of clarification, and he includes the saying knowing what his Jewish audience believed about sins being forgiven in the afterlife, it’s reasonable to conclude that the “age to come” in Matthew 12:32 is not merely a restatement of what Mark says in Mark 3:29 (that the sin against the Holy Spirit is never forgiven) but an extra tidbit for his Jewish audience about the afterlife.

Further, Jesus uses “the age to come” elsewhere in the gospels, and not merely for emphasis—it clearly refers to a distinct state of existence beyond this one: the afterlife.

Consider, for example, Mark 10:29-30 (see also Luke 18:30), where Jesus says those who leave house, brother, sister, mother, father, and land for his sake will receive a hundredfold return “in this time . . . and in the age to come eternal life.”

Jesus’ reference to “the age to come” is not merely a rhetorical flourish. Rather, Jesus speaks of “this time” and “the age to come” as two distinct states of existence (this life and the next), both of which consist of people receiving rewards for giving up everything for him.

Similarly, in Luke 20:34-35 Jesus speaks of “this age” as referring to this life, when men are given in marriage, and “that age” as the afterlife, when men are not given in marriage. Jesus clearly intends this distinction to be taken literally, conveying a truth about the age to come—namely, there is no marriage.

A critic might respond that an appeal to the above passages (Mark 10:30 and Luke 20:35) fails because the Greek word for “age to come” in Matthew 12:32, mellō, is not used in those passages. Rather, “the age to come” in Mark 10:30 translates the Greek phrase aiōni erchomenō and “that age” in Luke 20:35 translates aiōnos ekeinou.

This is true. But given that “this age” (Greek, toutō aiōni) in Matthew 12:32 is juxtaposed with mellonti (“the age to come”), which means “to occur at a point of time in the future which is subsequent to another event and closely related to it—to be about to,” we can conclude that Jesus has the same idea in mind as when he speaks of aiōni erchomenō in Mark 10:30 and aiōnos ekeinou in Luke 20:35. This is why the English translation of Matthew 12:32 translates the Greek as “the age to come” even though the Greek word for “age,” aiōn, is not used.

Therefore, it’s fair to read Matthew 12:32 in light of Mark 10:30 and Luke 20:35, where Jesus speaks of “the age to come” or “that age” as a reference to the afterlife. And since Jesus’ implication in Matthew 12:32 is that some sins can be forgiven in “the age to come,” or the afterlife, we have at least one aspect of purgatory confirmed by Jesus—after-death purification of unrepented venial sins.

This reading of “the age to come” as a reference to the afterlife is further supported by the fact that mellō is used elsewhere in Scripture to refer to the afterlife. See, for example, Ephesians 1:21, 1 Timothy 4:8, and Hebrews 2:5, 6:5, and 13:14.

In this debate, no one disagrees with the scriptural passage that one who sins against the Holy Spirit “never has forgiveness.” But this is so because for Jesus it’s a sin that cannot be forgiven in either state of existence where sins can be forgiven—in this life (“this age”) or in the intermediate state between death and the final judgment (“the age to come”). Mark’s reference to the “eternal” nature of the sin against the Holy Spirit, therefore, doesn’t prevent the use of Matthew 12:32 in support of the Church’s doctrine of purgatory.”

Love, Lord, have mercy on me for I am a sinful man,
Matthew