Where are Catholic Teachings in the Bible?

It is often said by fundamentalist Christians that Catholic doctrines are made up, that we’ve disregarded God’s Word to follow the laws of man. It’s utterly ridiculous. Catholics were the first Christians, and we were the ones who compiled the Bible. Anyone who has ever read a papal encyclical or official document of the Church knows that there are references to Scripture in every paragraph.

Everything we do finds its foundation in Scripture.

But that doesn’t mean that everything exists today just as it did 2000 years ago. The Church grows and develops. Implicit or minor teachings in the Bible took on flesh as the Church became greater aware of its mission. To suggest that every detail of what we do now is found in Scripture is not a fair claim—no Christian community could live up to that standard.

The problem, unfortunately, is that many Catholics (or other Christians) don’t know where the foundation is for many of our doctrines. In this week’s Catholicism In Focus, I offer the biblical foundation for some of our most contested beliefs, showing exactly where and why we believe what we do.

The Horrifying Truth about the Porn Industry

There is no doubt that pornography is obscene. The idea of filming people performing sexual acts on one another is the essence of perversion. Television and movies have limits to how much of this sort of content is allowed because decent people don’t want to see it.

Some, of course, will argue that it is nothing more than free speech, that it may not be something for everyone, but that doesn’t make it illegal. For years, I granted this argument.

Not anymore.

The problem with this idea is that it assumes everyone on screen is freely consenting to be filmed, is there without coercion, and is receiving just remuneration for their work. Sadly, none of these points are guaranteed. As I discuss in this reflection, there is a direct link between pornography and human trafficking.

Viewer discretion is obviously advised.

Christianity. Pure and Simple.

Has anyone ever asked you why you are Christian? I hope so. It’s a seemingly easy question to answer, and yet, I worry that many cradle-Christians don’t know what to say (I don’t think that this is purely a Catholic issue, but one for all who grew up in the faith and have never known anything else.)

So here’s my answer. It’s a longer form of what could possibly be said in that situation, but it boils down to just one thing: I am a Christian because I have experienced the healing love of Jesus Christ. I would not respond with philosophical truths, testimony from others, accounts from the Bible, or moralistic imperatives, although each of these things bear truth as well. Christianity, as far as I can see, is a matter of relationship at its very core. Pure and simple, if you don’t have that relationship, if you’ve never had that encounter, nothing else will make sense.

And so encounter him. Let him encounter you. I will leave you with one of my favorite passages from Pope Francis’ Evangelii Gaudium:

I invite all Christians, everywhere, at this very moment, to a renewed personal encounter with Jesus Christ, or at least an openness to letting him encounter them; I ask all of you to do this unfailingly each day. No one should think that this invitation is not meant for him or her, since “no one is excluded from the joy brought by the Lord”. The Lord does not disappoint those who take this risk; whenever we take a step towards Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms. Now is the time to say to Jesus: “Lord, I have let myself be deceived; in a thousand ways I have shunned your love, yet here I am once more, to renew my covenant with you. I need you. Save me once again, Lord, take me once more into your redeeming embrace”. How good it feels to come back to him whenever we are lost! Let me say this once more: God never tires of forgiving us; we are the ones who tire of seeking his mercy. Christ, who told us to forgive one another “seventy times seven” (Mt 18:22) has given us his example: he has forgiven us seventy times seven. Time and time again he bears us on his shoulders. No one can strip us of the dignity bestowed upon us by this boundless and unfailing love. With a tenderness which never disappoints, but is always capable of restoring our joy, he makes it possible for us to lift up our heads and to start anew. Let us not flee from the resurrection of Jesus, let us never give up, come what will. May nothing inspire more than his life, which impels us onwards!

The question of ordaining women to the priesthood is not open to debate. At least, not according to John Paul II. In his 1994 letter Ordinatio Sacerdotalis, he states, “I declare that the Church has no authority whatsoever to confer priestly ordination on women and that this judgment is to be definitively held by all the Church’s faithful.”

In other words, the Church will not and cannot ordain women to be priests.

The point of this week’s Catholicism In Focus is not to spark a debate. I have no interest in sharing my own opinions or hearing others’. What one thinks about a doctrine is of no consequence, really, especially when few people know what the doctrine actually says.

The purpose of this video, then, is to look at the rationale given in this definitive statement and to understand its limits. Why can women not be ordained priests, according to the Catholic magisterium? How does this limit their scope of leadership in the Church? In what ways has this doctrine been inappropriately applied to prevent women from active participation? These are the questions I seek to answer, particularly the final one.

Women may not be able to be ordained priests, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways for them to have legitimate influence. Until those ways become the norm and not the exception, we’ve got some work to do.

What is a Mortal Sin?

Do you know what really grinds my gears? Finding parish or youth group websites posting lists of mortal sins. Not only does no such list exist in the magisterial teaching of Catholic Church, it would be impossible to make one.

For starters, as I discussed in a previous video, there is no such thing as an act that always bears culpability. The act itself is important, but one must always consider the intent of the actor and the circumstances in which they acted.

On top of that, for something to be a mortal sin, it must have more than just “grave matter.” Simply being serious (or what these homemade lists believe to be serious) isn’t enough. There must also be full knowledge and complete consent on the part of the actor. If they don’t know what they’re doing or are not completely free to say no, it cannot be a mortal sin.

Again, for those sitting in the back. Just because someone has done something grave doesn’t make it a mortal sin. In fact, there are many times in which it isn’t.

So when you see a list suggesting that illegal drug use, theft, gossip, anger without justification, superstition, and pride are all mortal sins, without any reference to intent, circumstances, knowledge, or freedom, please remember what the Church actually teaches. There is no such thing as something that is always a mortal sin no matter the circumstances. There are things that consist of grave matter, yes, but that’s not the same as being sinful, and it most certainly isn’t the same as culpability.