UPDATE 2: I will be attentive to any future questions posted here and answer them as time permits. I'm also open to any private messages, further questions, etc.
UPDATE 1 (18:30 Rome time): Thanks for all of your questions! I need to end for today.
I have been a seminarian in the Catholic Church for 12 years and belong to a religious order in which I have made vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. I have lived in 5 different countries and am currently working on my 3rd academic degree here in Rome, where I have lived for 6 years. I'm an avid student of philosophy. I am convinced that listening and dialogue can help the wounds in our culture.
I’m new to Reddit and have been trying to keep this post up, but it has been taken down for different reasons: because I posted it with a second non-verified account (so it appeared like I was impersonating myself) and because I didn’t respond right away (I thought I could post at night and respond the next morning). I’m continuing to post it because I’m interested in answering your questions, sorry for the confusion.
In my previous posts, many people asked me why I continue to belong to the Catholic Church given that it has a history of sexual abuse, that some of the hierarchy covered it up, and that priests were enabled to prey on children. There’s really nothing worse, is there? The Church has big stains on her history and I’m not afraid to talk about that, nor would I ever even think of defending the evil done by hierarchy and priests. Evil is evil! All evil, especially the evil committed by priests, should be condemned. Always.
I can’t imagine anything worse than someone who is supposed to bring people to God betraying that trust in the most vile way possible: sexual abuse. There aren’t any words strong enough to condemn that! What can you say to someone whose life has been destroyed by sexual abuse? What can you say to the family of someone who took their life because of sexual abuse? There is nothing darker.
But words are obviously not enough in this face of all this. What we need is action, consequences. When I joined the seminary in 2009, things were very different from the 60s and 70s. I had to do a psychological examination (over several days), I had to get an FBI background check on my criminal history, and I constantly had to go over with my superiors my reasons for wanting to be a priest. Additionally, when I returned to the US a few years ago to work with youth in Washington, DC, I had to have another criminal background check done, with a history of my residency, and leave my fingerprints with the Archdiocese of Washington. I could not perform any type of ministry until this was sorted out.
My religious order also has a strict code of conduct (both a general one for everyone in the order, and one for each place where we work) that is continuously updated and is available online for everyone to see. There are norms that we follow about physical contact with minors, mandatory multiple adults being present for our activities, and official Safe Environment Coordinators (general and regional). Every time an allegation is presented against someone, he is temporarily removed from ministry so that an independent investigation can proceed. If necessary, the removal is made permanent. When Pope Benedict XVI was pope (2005-2013) he defrocked over 700 priests because of sexual abuse. Had these practices been followed long ago, I think there would have been far, far fewer abusers being ordained priests. I think these policies have been very effective. In the US in 2019, for example, out of more than 37,000 priests, there were 37 allegations involving minors, of which 8 were considered substantiated (those priests were removed from ministry). That’s obviously still too many! But it’s much, much better than years ago. The goal still is, and always will be, zero zero zero.
But why would I still want to continue in my path towards the priesthood? Because the world needs holy priests, and I want to be one of those priests. I want to be a spiritual father and give my life. I want to help those who are suffering. I want to be an instrument for others. The presence of dark evil should make us want to change it, to bring good into the world. I hope I can do my part.
What sort of head-in-the-sand make -belief BS is this. The church was still covering up allegations as of 2019: https://www.inquirer.com/news/nation-world/catholic-church-priest-sexual-abuse-ap-investigation-20191229.html. No doubt a quick Google would uncover countless more cases.
The entire organisation is still most certainly institutionally plagued by paedophiles and run by morally bankrupt men covering it up. Open your eyes and stop peddling this BS...
If you knew that I stood by, watched a few priests touch a few kids and did nothing, what would you think of me?
Assuming it isn't anything good LOL, why would you think any better of a god who does this, assuming he exists?
This is the best evidence against the existence of God, and it is hard to answer. Many, many people, much much smarter than all of us here, have grappled with this question over the last few millenniums. The oldest book of the Bible, Job, is about this very question.
If God is apparently all good and all powerful, why would he allow sexual abuse? Why wouldn't he stop children from suffering this evil? I cannot say that I have a compelling answer, but I can gesture towards a response.
Let's say that God did not allow sexual abuse. He made it impossible to happen. Like, let's say he made whoever was going to do it disappear. Let's also say that he applied the same law to all the other evils, like murder, stealing, etc. (I'm not equating all evils, there is obviously a gravity in sexual abuse not found in stealing). The result would be that we could not perform an evil. In other words, we would be obliged to do only good. Would that be so bad? Perhaps not. But then, we wouldn't be humans. We would be robots. We would not be free. The same freedom that allows us to do good (to love, to serve, etc.) is the same freedom that allows us to do evil. Freedom is part of our essence as human beings; we are essentially free. No freedom, no human.
I wouldn't say that God does "nothing." He has created us, we are the ones who can do something about it. God is the one who inspires us, gives us the strength to lessen the suffering in our world, at least just a little. Does he allow suffering? Yes. Did he create suffering? No, not according to the Catholic perspective. Catholics believe that evil arose because of original sin, our original act of distrust in God that was awful that it messed up his perfectly good creation. We were able to mess it up because we were free.
I realize that this answer is not very satisfying, especially when you have real people in front of you who are suffering (and not the computer screen that I currently have in front of me). I would also say that God can mysteriously bring good out of evil, but that is another topic.
I was raised Catholic. This is what I learned: You are bad. You were BORN bad. You sin all the time because you are bad. You’re never not going to be bad. When you die, if you’re lucky you won’t go to hell, you will go to jail for a long time depending on how bad you were. If you kiss god’s ass and beg effectively god might let you into heaven which is an exclusive club for pious Catholics only. I could never enjoy the company of pious Catholics who would talk to me with the attitude that they were going to heaven and I wasn’t, so why would I want to try to get into a club full of people that don’t like? And the ritualistic cannibalism of mass is really creepy. I no longer consider myself a Catholic. All I feel for the Catholic church is contempt. I find agnosticism to be more my speed. I used to go to a Unitarian church because they didn’t shove nonsense dogma down my throat. Now I read the Tao.
That sounds like a terrible experience in the company of those Catholics. I think some of the best evidence against my faith is, like you have experienced, the hypocrisy and bad example of those of us who say we follow Christ.
The very first book of the Bible, Genesis, says that "God looked at everything he had made, and found it very good." Everything about Creation is good! The light, the land, the water, the plants, the animals, and especially men and women. We are good because God thought of us and created us. He thought of you, and sort of said to himself, "Now there's someone I can't do without! I want this person to exist!" Each one of us is the result of the thought of God. We are all willed by God.
That means that it is wrong to say that we are bad and that we are always going to be bad. It is true that we make mistakes, we sin, etc., but that doesn't mean, from a Catholic perspective, that we are fundamentally corrupt. In the last book of the Bible, Revelation, Jesus says, "Behold, I make all things new." Jesus can totally wipe away our sin and make us new. He transforms us! That's what Catholics believe.
About cannibalism and the Mass, I suggest this article.
Thanks for the questions and comments.
How do you balance the ideal of God with the reality of the world? As far as I can tell if he does exist with anything like the omnipotence and clairvoyance claimed by religion then it seems to me we should be attempting to destroy him as our jailer and tormentor, not praising him as our saviour. My father loves me very very much. When I did sonething bad as a kid he taught me how to do better, he didnt threaten me with eternal damnation or ostracise me for failing to honour him adequately. Why do you look at God and see a figure to be praised and honoured instead of a despotic tyrant?
I know this might come across as just trying to stir something up or get a reaction but it is genuinely the major thing I struggle to get past when talking about religion. I am curious to hear your thoughts.
Your question is a great one, it's very honest, I hope I can respond well.
I think the experience you have with your father is beautiful (and perhaps exceptional for many people today), and that's how I would express my own relationship with God. I understand him as my Father. This morning I was praying with Psalm 23, "The Lord is my shepherd." The words in that psalm really capture what I feel and think and express it much better than I could.
In my experience as someone following Christ, I have never felt threatened or held up to some impossible standard, much less as someone falling down in servile submission before an Almighty Being. I'm actually quite amazed at our freedom - we think, say, do whatever we want. If God really wanted us to fall down before him in submission, he could have made his existence more obvious to us. But, I hold, he has chosen not to. Why? Because he wants to respect our freedom. He wants our love, not our submission. And love is, by definition, free.
I also think we can understand "omnipotence" in different ways. Perhaps we tend to understand it as "tyrannical power." I understand it as "God can do anything that doesn't contradict himself." Because God made us free, he doesn't do anything to contradict our freedom - like "force" us to do something. What value would a forced response from us actually have? None at all.
And actually, our freedom flows from the fact that we're created in God's image (like Genesis says). Our freedom is a mark of divinity, in a way. Because God is so pro-freedom, I wouldn't describe him as a jailor or tormentor. When we fall short of the do-good-and-avoid-evil law that he has inscribed in the universe, that is because of our free choice.
I think that the Church has grown in her understanding of who God is: he is Mercy. Jesus is the Merciful Face of the Father. So I would say that the goodness you have been blessed to experience in your own father is a reflection of the Infinite Goodness of our Father in heaven. But yes, there have been times when the Church did not understand God fully in these terms, and so there have been priests who preached with "fire and brimstone." But that approach is not correct.
What current and historic Catholic policy are you most embarrassed/ashamed of? Also why didn't bishop Bernard Francis Law appear in front of a court in Boston for covering up years of child abuse?
What brings me a lot of shame is the shuffling of priest abusers that happened often, until recently (2000s). How in the world could this have appeared to be a good idea?? And what motivated priests and bishops to become priests and bishops? Laying down their lives so that others might find life? No. Many joined the seminary to create a career of their own, and some even to live out their sexual deviancy. It's devilish.
As to your second question, I do not know the details of his case. I do recall that he was given an assignment in the Vatican after his resignation, and I think that was a big mistake.
If all religions were proven false, would people lose their moral compass? Was religion born out of the need to understand what happens after death?
Let's suppose that we can prove that all religions are false. If we do that, that means we there is some standard of truth against which we are measuring each religion, right? Because we're saying "this religion does not hit the truth." So in our judgment of each religion, we are implicitly relying on a standard of truth.
I hold that this standard of truth - in which all of us participate, in differing ways - ultimately comes from the One God. And on this truth depends our moral action. We do not have to be aware of all this in order to act according to our moral compass. I think the ultimate justification for doing good and avoiding evil is rooted in God. If we do not admit the existence of God, I do not think there is a solid justification for doing good and avoiding evil, because I think this law - which we all intuit somehow "inside" of us - comes from a Lawgiver: God. I'm not saying that all of us would immediately go crazy if we all held that God did not exist, though I am saying that we would not be justified in appealing to the highest standard of goodness.
Maybe we can understand that religion is our search for God, and part of that is, yeah, our need to understand what happens after death. From our perspective, we're groping for answers to big questions like these. At the same time, I also believe that it's a two-way street, and that God has actually revealed himself to us through the Jewish People, and then through Jesus. So I would say that religion is the encounter between God and us.
How does the church feel about gay people. How do you feel about atheism
Hello, sorry for the delay in responding! These are both really deep questions, so here are some long answers, haha.
In my opinion, the most fundamental teaching that the Church offers to the world is that we are all loved by God in a way that we cannot possibly imagine. God is our Father and he thought of each one of us, and was so in love with the idea of being united to us that he brought us into existence. (In a sense, God couldn't bear the idea of not being with us - that is, he considered it better for us to exist than for us not to exist.) Each one of us in infinitely precious in his eyes, and Christians believe this because we believe that Jesus is God, and that he died for us. We are all loved by God, infinitely. That can never change.
That is what the Church feels about people who are attracted to the same sex. Before proposing a specific way of living out sexuality, the Church says to these children of God, "You are loved by God, and nothing you can do will ever change that." That is the most important point - always. It is sad, very sad, that we have not always preached that truth.
As most people know, the Catholic Church's teaching on sexual morality is at odds with mainstream views. Society says that every sexual desire that we feel is good and that we should always follow them. The Church says that men and women are created for each other, to live a lifelong commitment of servant love open to new life. The language of the human body shows the complementarity willed by God between men and women, and this complementarity ("I give something that you can't give, you give something that I can't give") reaches its fullness in marriage.
The Church's message to someone who is only attracted to people of the same sex is one of compassion. Same-sex attraction often constitutes a trial for the person experiencing it (obviously not always), it can bring confusion and distress. The Church wraps her arms around these precious children of God. Like a momma bear angry when her young are in danger, the Church is clear to society: sexual relations between people of the same sex will not ultimately provide the fulfillment we all long for because these relations are not in keeping with the language of our bodies, the way God designed us.
So what is someone in this situation supposed to do? I think part of the answer lies in another area of the Church's teaching that is also unpopular: the beauty of living chastity. Chastity means integrating our sexuality in a healthy way, living the truth of our sexuality both in our bodies and in our souls. The person attracted to another of the same sex is called pick up his cross, to govern his sexual desire, orient his love toward self-giving service to his neighbor, and find peace. The alternative is letting himself be dominated by his desires and becoming unhappy. This is the same teaching for everyone, whether same-sex attracted or not.
There is a specific number in the Church's Catechism (a collection of official teachings) that says this, "Homosexual persons are called to chastity. By the virtues of self-mastery that teach them inner freedom, at times by the support of disinterested friendship, by prayer and sacramental grace, they can and should gradually and resolutely approach Christian perfection" (#2359). My hope is that one day the Church will canonize someone who experienced same-sex attraction and lived the vocation to chastity in a heroic, saintly way.
About atheism, I think the best evidence in favor of it, as I mentioned in another comment, is the evil in the world. Why wouldn't God prevent evil from happening? However, I think that just by using our minds we can conclude that there must exist a higher power. St. Thomas Aquinas proposed five ways to God:
1) Everything is in movement, one thing is always moved by another, and because there can't be a infinite chain in movers, there must be a First Mover.
2) Everything that exists has a cause. Those things, in turn, are caused by something else. Again, there can't be an infinite chain, and so there must be a first cause.
3) We notice that everything is contingent. I didn't have to exist. You didn't have to exist. This computer I'm typing on depended on something else for its existence, too. So, in order for all this to exist, there must be one necessary (not contingent) being on which everything else depends.
4) We notice grades of perfection in nature: some things are "more" beautiful than others, some ways of behaving are "better" than others. There must be some ultimate standard of beauty, goodness, etc., that we are relying on in our judgments.
5) Everything tends toward an "end" or a goal. Why is that so? Why do trees tend to grow vertically? Why do lions hunt deer? Why do we all seek happiness? The "tending" of everything in the universe towards a purpose must come from something that established this purpose in the first place.
Just some ideas. Thanks!
I find it offensive religious people can speak in a voice of authority about their beliefs while atheists are berated for "being intolerant" for doing the same. Science is real, fairy tales are not. I'm sorry you devoted your life to an ancient work of fiction and deception instead of something real.
That's all I wanted to say, but apparently comments need to be in the form of a question, so I'll pose this:
How do you reconcile the nearly limitless contradictions in your infallible book of "god?"
I agree with you that scientific research produces verifiable information. We pose a hypothesis, do the experiment, verify the facts, and arrive at a conclusion. We can measure, we can observe, we can test. Empirical information is powerful.
It seems that your perspective (correct me if I 'm wrong) is that only science produces true information. This is called scientism, and I disagree with it. The great questions about life (love, suffering, happiness, evil, death, afterlife, etc.) are not subject to a scientific experiment. But we would not say that we can't say anything true about any of those topics. I hold that truth is not only scientific; it is also philosophical, humanistic, religious. Truth is not confined to just one corner of the universe. Its rays pervade all of reality, in different degrees. There are great truths about life present in literature, in Shakespeare for example, but also the Bible.
About the contradictions in the Bible, I would just briefly say that the Bible does not propose itself as a cross-referenced, scientific text. "Bible" actually comes from the Greek for "books," in the plural. The Bible is a library of books, with all different styles and different authors, responding to different circumstances and different audiences. The truths that it intends to communicate are generally theological and spiritual. That is why, for example, I reject the fundamental interpretation of Genesis (that the earth was literally created in 6 days, for example). The purpose is not scientific truth, it is religious truth.
The fact that you posted here is a point in your favor, I don't find you intolerant. I recognize you disagree with my viewpoint, but disagreeing is not intolerance. Being able to disagree is necessary in order to have any type of meaningful conversation.
Do you have any thoughts on women becoming priests in the future? If not, what roles will women have in the church? Convents are closing and in a changing world there are less nuns working in schools, hospitals, etc.
I think that if the priesthood were a question of performing certain functions, it would be obvious that women could become priests. Men are not more gifted than women at either studying or preaching or giving advice, tasks essential in the life of a priest. What is more, many women would certainly do a better job than some, perhaps many priests, in carrying out these responsibilities.
Catholics do not view the Church and her priests in terms of a functional role, but in terms of bride and bridegroom. The Church is the bride of Christ, and Christ is the bridegroom of the Church. What a priest is is another Christ; he lives and acts in persona Christi, "in the person of Christ." His vocation is therefore to conform his entire life to the person of Christ, to make him the center, standard, and model of everything he does. "But wait - aren't all Christians called to do that?" Yes. In the case of the priest, everything about Christ matters, including gender. For reasons that he has not told us, Jesus specifically chose a group of 12 men as the beginning of the Church, on whose shoulders everyone else could find rest and security.
Maybe Jesus wanted to provide an example to other male leaders (both of his time and later in history) of how he thought authority should be exercised; I don't know. Obviously, Church leaders have often failed to live up to the servant-leader model that Jesus gave us. But many of them have lived it out.
Yes, convents are closing, and religious communities are shrinking. The future of the Church will be made of smaller groups of more committed Christians. Perhaps this will generate a stronger identity among those who really choose to follow Jesus with all their hearts. Once that (ongoing) work is done, I think the Church will grow again. Either way, as always, women are essential -- not because of some "function" they can perform (which they obviously can) but just because they are women.
Hi, thanks for this opportunity. I read recently about the forced closure of Catholic orphanages in China, and how the Catholic Church in China is deeply disappointed with the results after the Vatican/China agreement. I am very ignorant in these matter's but I recognize the serious struggle for human rights in China. My questions are, is the Catholic Church able to help the situation of their congregation in China, and if so, how? Many thanks.
Hello JJBird, I think I'm in the same camp as you - I don't know very much about the relations between the Vatican and China. I do know that the contents of the Vatican/China agreement were not made public. I also know that many people in China feel betrayed by the Vatican, since many Chinese Catholics have suffered greatly because of their loyalty to the Church.
It is a thorny situation. Should the Pope condemn China for its grievances against human rights? Should he not? If he condemns Beijing, he shows the Church's moral authority though risks increased hardship for the clandestine Chinese Catholics he is called to shepherd. If he does not condemn Beijing, he might be able to construct a path towards reconciliation, though he risks anger and frustration among his flock. It is hard.
This probably sounds simplistic, but I honestly think the best thing we can do is pray, pray, pray. Prayer really is the most powerful thing we can do, and I'm afraid we don't do it enough. We don't know how prayer works, how God can help others by our prayer, but our faith tells us that he can. We need to pray for the Christians in China, for all those suffering human rights abuses in China, for the leaders of the Church, for the leaders of the Chinese government. Lots of prayer!
Why would you support an organization that actively covers up child rape and continues to advocate against holding those responsible accountable?
Thank you for reposting, sorry about the earlier deleted posts.
I do not believe that the Church as a whole is in a massive coverup scheme, nor do I believe that she advocates in favor of the priest abusers. You can look through these official Vatican documents about all the Pope has said and done, either personally or through his various departments, to reform the Church and safeguard minors and vulnerable people.
It is true that there are still cases of failing to act as best we can, of not being transparent, but as much as an organization can do to reform in this area, as long as we are free human beings, there is always the possibility of failing. I say this not to justify the failures, but to explain their phenomenon. Thanks again.
How does it feel knowing you've personally contributed to the oppression of women, gay people, and indigenous people worldwide?
I dedicate my life to overcoming the harms pieces of absolute trash like you cause. I wanted you to know you're the scum of the earth and willingly participate in a pedophilic, genocidal, misogynistic, homophobic organisation that is the single biggest advocate against human rights of women/LGBTQ worldwide. I lived in Ireland when your organisation campaigned against my basic human rights. I want to wish you a sincere fuck you, and every woman I smuggle the abortion pill to I will think of you and your fucked up ideologies that make it necessary.
I understand your perspective, thank you for the comment. I think it would be hard for us to dialogue, so I will leave it at that.
What does the vow of poverty mean for you specifically?
It means that the only thing I can claim as my own is the small crucifix that I received the day I professed my first vows. Obviously, there are many things I use that no one else will: my clothes, my laptop, some books... My vow of poverty also means that I receive no income and to use money I need to request it from my superior. Poverty is mainly about freeing my heart from attachments so that it is set on God and the things of eternity, not on the things of this world. This attitude of the heart requires constant attention.
Can you tell something about the parts of the vatican a layperson tourist would not be able to see/experience? For instance some off the grid places in the St Peters, or clerical meetings not open for the public.
I think the parts of the Vatican that a layperson tourist would not be able to see are the same parts that someone like me would not be able to see. I cannot just walk to any part of the Vatican that I want to. I need to have a specific reason to go to a specific place. Everything in the Vatican works with written permissions or contacts you may have.
The parts we can all visit are St. Peter's Basilica, the Vatican Museums, and the gardens (you have to arrange this on the website of the Vatican Museums).
The clerical meetings in the Vatican are also reserved for the people belonging to its different departments (in parentheses here, the names of the departments or "Congregations"): relations with other countries (Secretariat of State), the different religious orders (Institutes of Consecrated Life), the liturgy (Divine Worship), appointing bishops (Bishops), clarifying doctrine (Doctrine of the Faith)... All of these are closed to everyone not involved.
Do you feel that most of the mainstream religions all stem from a common root?
I think there's a good intuition in your question, and I think you're right. Understood from a philosophical perspective, religion is our search for the cause our being. We experience ourselves as limited (we can't do anything we want) and contingent (we didn't have to exist). So where did all of this come from? Where did we come from? We also experience grave evil and contradictions in the world. Where did this injustice come from?
For different historical reasons, and because all human beings are different, people have walked on many different paths in their search for transcendence. I think that as human beings we are constituted in by our search for goodness and truth. That's what we're all looking for, and this has taken on various forms throughout history. I would say that in all religions there are rays of truth that come from the source of all light. As a Christian, I say that this light is Christ.
How often do you have do deal with extreme anti-religion type people? The ones to go looking for people like yourself to spit hatefullness
Not very often, since I have not pushed myself too much into the public arena.
I think it's important to value each person and each comment. Even someone who is opposed to everything I stand for (or what they think I stand for) is, in my eyes, someone who is infinitely loved by God. And the anger they feel towards the Church, towards priests, towards what I represent, is often legitimate. My goal is not to "convince" other people that "I" am right, or defend what is indefensible. My goal is to listen and reply as best I can. We are all free to say and think what we want.
So I would say that I do not think of people as "opponents" or spiting me. I think of them as fellow human beings.
Thanks for this AMA Seminarian OP. I have 2 questions as a fellow Catholic.
Once you become Ordained, Which Church would you like to be a Priest for?
Also, are you apart of the Knights Of Columbus
Thanks for the question! My order is a missionary one, so I can be sent anywhere really: the US, Canada, Mexico, Latin America, South America, here in Europe, South Korea, or the Philippines. We don't run very many parishes, so it is unlikely I'd be working in that capacity. I'm interested in working in college ministry in the States, though I'm also open to staying here in Europe or going somewhere else... It all depends on what my order needs and where my superiors send me!
I am not a part of the Knights.
How do you feel about rising of neopaganism?
I guess I would need to understand what you mean by "neopaganism." Do you mean people worshiping multiple gods, nature worship, the more primitive way of understanding it? Or do you mean something more like "secularization"?
Why do Catholics believe in purgatory, pray to saints, add extra books to the Bible, pray for the dead when these are clearly heretical to the christian faith?
Thank you, these are all deep and important questions. I will sketch out some answers, but you can find more details at catholic.com.
1) Purgatory. We believe that the vast majority of us, at death, are probably not ready to enter fully into the holy presence of God. Jesus often compares the Kingdom of Heaven to a banquet. When you go to a banquet, say, the wedding celebration of your best, well, you want to look your very best, right? You don't just throw on whatever's clean. You spend time preparing yourself to be fit for the occasion. I think the analogy holds for our time on earth vs. entering heaven. Purgatory is a sort of "state" of the soul that is not quite ready to behold the face of God, but that is still assured of beholding him eventually. In this state, our soul is somehow "purged" or cleansed, made ready for entering into the presence of God. I wouldn't consider it a punishment, but an act of mercy. An alternative would be either straight-out heaven or hell, but that's not what Catholics believe.
2) Saints. We pray to saints not because we think they are divine but because we understand them to be our friends. Just like we might ask our friends to pray for us when we're going through a tough time, or when we call them on the phone for a word of support. The saints are like our friends in heaven: they want us to join them, and they can pray for us. I'm exactly sure how prayer works, though I have faith that God uses it for our good.
3) Bible. The "canon" of the Bible is the official list of books that were determined by the early Christian Church as inspired by God. The process of coming up with this official list took a while, but it was a process guided by the first Christians and their leaders. The text of the Bible is inspired by God, and the process of discerning whether a given book fell into this category fell to the early Church. The Catholic Bible has more books than the Protestant Bibles because the Reformers in the 1500s and 1600s removed some of the previously accepted canonical books, which the Catholic Church retains. This is a great topic, though I think the most important thing is to read the Bible prayerfully and let God speak to us through it. This approach is one all Christians can share, and that we perhaps neglect.
4) Praying for the Dead. We pray for the dead for reasons similar to the answer I gave about Purgatory: to intercede. Jesus said, "Ask and you shall receive." If pray for a loved one who has died and ask God to allow that person into his person, and if God is truly our loving Father, how would he ignore our prayer?
Do you find that the vows and rule of life you keep to help you to rely on and walk in step with Jesus and with the Spirit of God?
What do you find most difficult in your walk with God?
What helps me the most to walk in step with Jesus and with the Spirit of God is my personal friendship with Him.
Pope Benedict XVI (he was the pope from 2005 to 2013) once said something very beautiful: "Being Christian is not the result of an ethical choice or a lofty idea, but the encounter with an event, a person, which gives life a new horizon and a decisive direction." Because I have been loved by God and want to return his love with my own love, because Christ died and rose for me, because he is always at my side as the faithful friend and Lord, I choose to live in a certain way. The encounter comes first, the love comes first. Then the rule of life. That priority helps me to live my vows in a healthy perspective.
The most difficult thing in my walk with God is going through moments of interior struggle and doubt, continuing forward when I can't "feel" him there. What helps me in these moments is remembering that Jesus, too, felt abandoned by God when he was on the Cross, that he went through a darkness, too. Another thing that helps me is looking back at the whole of my life and seeing how happy God has made me. My crosses have come, there have been moments of pain and struggle, but the overwhelming picture is one of peace and joy. For a Christian, suffering and joy are not opposed.
Do you get the impression seminary is more about learning how to sidestep questions and give vague answers more than it is a study of the Bible and a search for actual truth?
The study of the Bible is central to our seminary studies. Every semester (6 in all) we have a course on a portion of the Bible, and we're constantly looking at Biblical texts in our other classes. I studied philosophy for 5 years before starting theology, and "truth" is major, major theme in philosophy, and especially for me. We all want to understand what's true, that's how we're wired -- for the truth.
I'm happy to answer any other questions you believe I have sidestepped. I started this AMA in order to answer questions, not avoid them. Thanks.
Are you fluent in Italian and/or Latin? How do you navigate life in Italian as an expat?
I am fluent in Italian, and can read the Bible in Latin. All of our classes here at my university are in Italian, so everyone has to learn it. It's such a fun language, I love it! I think I'm strong with foreign languages, so it's not hard for me to live abroad. I learned Spanish before coming here, and given the similarity between the two, learning Italian was easy.
Why hasn't the church taken a more measures to condemn televangelists like Joel Osteen, Kenneth Coleman, Jesse Duplantis? These people use God to justify their own greed, it is appalling that they are allowed to avoid taxes and steal money.
I agree with you, using the Gospel message to take advantage of other people is shocking. If a Catholic priest were to behave like that, there is always someone who can bring him in line, like his bishop. Televangelists generally are not Catholic, and so this chain of command doesn't apply to them. I also think that the Church has to be careful about what she condemns; if she were to go around all the time and say "This is bad," "That is bad," "And you are bad, too," well, that's just not what a mother does. A good mother does have to correct her children out of love, but she has to find the best way to do this.
If Jesus said he is the only way to the father why do you guys pray to Mary? I dont believe just because God chose her to be the birth mother of Jesus that all of a sudden makes her a divine being.
That's a great question, and I agree with you: the fact that she is the birth mother of Jesus does not make her a divine being. In fact, Catholics don't believe that Mary is divine. We believe that, in anticipation of the merits of Christ's death, she was preserved from original sin and thus prepared by God to become the mother of Jesus.
Imagine what it must have been like to live with the Holy Family in Nazareth. Waking up, eating, working, cleaning the house, playing outside, talking to the neighbors, going to synagogue, helping out... Joseph and Mary were with Jesus like that for 30 years. Out of everybody who walked this earth, they are the ones who know him best. And the fact that Mary was actually his birth mother (whereas Joseph was not) makes her relationship with Jesus even more special. Mothers know their children really really well. If we want to know about someone, asking their parents is a sure way.
The reason Catholics lend devotion to Mary (not the same as "worship," which is only for God) is because she knows Jesus better than anyone else, and Jesus is everything. Mary also has an intercessory role, like we see at the Wedding in Cana (John 2), and so, like a good mother, she can help us in our journey towards God.
You are right: Jesus is the only way to the Father. "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." "No one can come to the Father except through me." Since Mary knows Jesus the best, she can help us keep our eyes on him. Jesus is the New Adam (he is God), and Mary is the New Eve (but she is not). Both are the beginning of a new Creation.
What is your favorite piece of art depicting Jesus? Mine is The Pietá....Literally took my breath away when I saw it in person.
Yes, the Pietà is stunning! I have seen it many times in St. Peter's. (The Pietà is next to the area where the Pope gets ready for his big public Masses. Once I was praying in front of it before a Mass with the Pope Francis was going to take place, and as I was praying the pope entered the room!)
I am deeply moved by pretty much any crucifix. (When you think about it, it's stunning that inside every Catholic church we depict a dead man hanging on a cross) The painting of the Crucifixion by Diego Velázquez is close to my heart, as is Christ's Descent into Limbo by Sebastiano del Piombo (in this one I love the look of peace on Christ's face as he stretches out his hand toward Adam and Eve).
I'm also a seminarian, but my process will only take a total of 9 years. What made you be a seminarian for 12?
Hey, nice meeting you! Thanks for the question, someone else asked the same thing, just above, "How is it that you are in seminary for 12 years?" I answered there. Let me know if you have any other questions. God bless!
How is it that you are in seminary for 12 years? I thought that the whole process lasted 6.
There are 2 types of priests in the Catholic Church: 1) Diocesan priests, who live in a specific geographical area, a "diocese," and are in charge of a parish church. 2) Religious priests, who are members of a religious order, like the Franciscans, the Jesuits, or, in my case, the Legionaries of Christ (hence the "LC" in my username). Religious priests are not confined to a specific area but can be moved around.
Priestly formation in a diocesan seminary does usually last around 6, 7, or 8 years. In a religious seminary it is often longer, because the person is being formed not only to be a priest, but to live religious life, which has different demands than diocesan life. As religious, we are called to live in a religious community and live out the vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience. There are similarities with diocesan priests (like chastity, obedience to the bishop).
In my order, the process is 2 years of novitiate (prayer and discernment), 2 years of classical humanities, 3 years of philosophy, 2 or 3 years of pastoral work, and then 3 years of theology. After I did my period of pastoral work I did an extra 2 years of philosophy to get my master's. I'm in my first year of theology, so I should be ordained a deacon in 2023, and then a priest in 2024, God willing.
Do we still make new saints?
Yes. There is a group of clergy, religious, and doctors in the Vatican who analyze the lives of holy people and determine if they lived heroic virtue. Once that is determined, then a miracle needs to occur (usually medical) in order for the person to be beatified ("beatification" means that the person was able to intercede by means of the miracle because he or she is "happy" (=beatus in Latin) in heaven with God). Someone who is beatified can be honored in their native region (like a country). Another miracle needs to occur for the person to be proclaimed a saint. At this point the person can be honored all over the world.
It would be more proper to say that the Church "recognizes" saints.
Thanks for the question!