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Will I go to Hell for practicing Witchcraft?

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:06pm on October 28th 2017
When I was in elementary school, I was obsessed with wolves and dogs. I tried a spell to turn myself into one, and now, I'm regretting it. They didn't work, because I think I stopped in the middle of it. But I'm still worried God won't forgive me. I'm trying to get to confession today, but I'm scared my mortal sin won't be forgiven.

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Hi Emily, to commit a mortal sin we must have full knowledge and full consent, and what we're doing must be seriously wrong. Since what you write about happened when you were in elementary school, I very much doubt if you were fully aware (or aware at all) that what you were doing could be seriously sinful, and knowing that, continued to do it. Anyway, there's no sin so serious that it can't be forgiven.

I think by the time you read this, you'll already have told a priest in confession what you did and I'm sure he'll have shown God's infinite mercy even for what I believe at the very most was a minor venial sin. You're now much more aware of how harmful to our souls any dabbling in spirits can be, and I'm sure you'll never do that again. Assuring you of my prayers for all the good things you're hoping to do in your life. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Becoming a catholic

A Xt3 Member asked at 11:03am on October 23rd 2017
I'm 15 and my parents don't have a religion, so I grew up not believing in any gods. I was sent to a Catholic school when I was 9 and I still go to one. Through those years of religious education, I have come to start believing in God and the Catholic Church. I want to become a Catholic, but I'm not sure my parents will understand. What can I do?

I am planning on getting baptized once I become independent, but what if I die before I get to do it?

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Hi Marie, it's wonderful that you've discovered God, who is Love, and the Catholic Church.

One possibility would be to have a chat with your parents and ask them if they'd mind if you were baptised as a Catholic. After all, they did allow you to attend a Catholic school, and sometimes people who have no religion can at least have respect for it. If they would prefer you didn't, maybe it would be better to wait for a few years, as you say.

But even before you're baptised, you could get hold of one of those little booklets of Catholic prayers you can find at the back of some Catholic churches, or in a Catholic bookshop - or you can even find them online. And it might be possible for you to attend Mass sometime in a Catholic church. You won't be able to receive Holy Communion yet, but if you cross your hands on each shoulder, the priest will understand and give you a blessing at Communion time. Even desiring to receive Jesus in Holy Communion will bring him into your heart: remember he said 'Look, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me' (Revelation or Apocalypse, chapter 3, verse 20).

He also gave us the basic rule that holds for all his followers: 'Whatever you do to the least of my brothers, you did to me' (see the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 25, from verse 31 on). So there are many ways you can begin to live as a Catholic even before you are baptized - by prayer (including, if possible, attending Mass), and by loving Jesus in each person you meet. Every time you do that, you're already building a beautiful relationship with Jesus, and even when you fail, the great thing about being a Christian is not being perfect, but being ready to start again. Then, once it's possible for you to seek baptism, you'll be so well prepared to become fully adopted into God's family.

I promise to keep you in my prayers, and I'm sure God will reward you for your courage and your patience - and also for your love for your parents, who gave you life and indirectly, by sending you to that school, for helping you to find the true faith. They also gave you the name of Marie, so Mary the Mother of Jesus, will be watching over you with all the love she has for her own Son. Very best, Fr Brendan
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ISLAM

A Xt3 Member asked at 9:44am on May 7th 2017
According to the one of Fathers of the Church, ISLAM is a heresy.
https://www.stpeterslist.com/11698/islam-as-a-christian-heresy-8-quotes-from-st-john-damascene-a-d-749/

Why does the Roman Catholic Church NO teach the whole world that Islam is an AntiChrist and a Christian heresy devised by Mohammed?

I am inclined to think that the Pope and Catholic Clergy are all fearful and so scared of the Muslim world that they refrained from telling the Truth,Way & Life.

Do you think the Church is correct in this failure.

My younger brother converted to Islam at the age of 40 when he worked in Saudi Arabia, after being baptised Catholic from birth.

The reason my brother converted as well as other Christians do is due to the failure of the Catholic Church to publicly teach and condemn this heresy of Islam.

My brother said he did not convert to Islam for convinience only while in Saudi Arabia, but faithful to it. He believes that "Original Sin"is false and Jesus Christ is merely a creature.

I also feel that the Pope and all the clergy in the Vatican are living in extreme luxury and easy and rich life compared to the lives of the St Peter & St Paul who were crucified and beheaded respectively. So too other Popes, apostles and fathers of the Church.

In his recent visit to Egypt, Pope Francis' speech only contained words whom the Imams and Muslim scholars wanted to hear.

The Pope never emphasised that he is the successor of St Peter evangilizing the Gospel and that Jesus Christ is the Way, the Truth and the Life. And, that Islam is a Christian Heresy and should have invited them to allow Catholic Evangelisers come to Egypt to teach the Gospel.

This luxurious living in the Vatican is going on while our Lord Jesus Christ is losing a billion souls being kept in error in the Muslim nations.

Cordially,

Zaara

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Hi Zaara, when in July 1942 the Dutch hierarchy, along with all other Christian denominations in Holland, openly condemned the National Socialists who'd invaded their country for their treatment of Dutch Jews, the Nazis not only continued with their plans to wipe out the Dutch Jews, but arrested and later murdered all Jews in Holland who'd converted to Catholicism (including St Edith Stein). This is one of the reasons given for Pope Pius XII not openly condemning the Nazi regimes during World War II. In the Islamic world there are still millions of Christians whose position - depending on the regime - is precarious. When Pope Benedict XVI spoke clearly in his 2006 Regensburg lecture against invoking God to excuse violence against others, he mentioned Islam (but also Catholics and Protestants during the Reformation period). This was followed by the murder of several Catholic sisters, in Pakistan and Sudan.

So it's not just a question of proclaiming the Gospel, there are issues of prudence involved that a religious leader must take into account. You're of course entitled to your own judgment on this matter, Zaara, but I'd offer St Francis' approach as possibly a more fruitful way ahead in the relationship between Christian and the Catholic Church in particular, with Islam. He so impressed the Islamic leaders of their time as a man of God that Franciscans alone among Christians were allowed to look after some of the Holy Places for centuries under the Ottoman Empire. And the present Pope Francis, I think, can be seen to be adopting that Franciscan approach. I think we'll have to leave it to history to judge which approach is better.

Regarding the Pope's luxurious living in the Vatican - I had the privilege in February to concelebrate Mass with Pope Francis in the chapel of the building where he resides with many other priests, Casa Santa Marta, on the grounds of Vatican City. He's deliberately chosen to live in accommodation not all that different from a motel, rather than in the Vatican apartments normally lived in by the popes. In fact most of the Vatican consists of offices while the really expensive contents are part of the Vatican Museum - which no pope can dispose of since its art works belong to everyone, and are open to everyone. In fact, Pope Francis agrees with you, that a follower of Jesus shouldn't live luxuriously, and puts that into practice every day. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Abuses, scandals, and apostates

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:09am on December 25th 2016
Hello,



<p class="MsoNormal">I understand the Church is a field Hospital for sinners, and everyone is in need of the mercy God gives. God loves even those who abuse their offices, cause scandal, and commit apostasy. How should the Church handle people who commit grave evil in the name of the Church Jesus Christ founded? I understand there will always be a Judas, but how should the church address and treat such Christians. The Early Church "struggled" to accept apostates back. The Church also at times was "strict" about confession. Today the church dispenses Confessions frequently which is a great blessing. How should the church address Judas today and how should the Church "give Judas back his seat as apostle" if he were to have repented? Jesus asked Peter if he loved Him more than these, and the apostate became pope. What is a reasonable and prudent "litmus test" for a believer's love for Christ? Is the sacramental grace of confession sufficient to bring back to the fold abusers, scandals, and apostates to their previous offices? What does the church currently do and decide on these issues? Whose authority is needed to make these decisions? When is the line drawn and they are excommunicated? My guess is it is not black and white to generalize but needs to be taken on a case by case basis, but are there any generalizations that can be made beside general prudence?

-jm

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Hi JM, you've asked a lot of questions there and I'll try to tackle a few of them. Canon Law is quite clear on the sins where sinner incurs automatic excommunication - provided they're aware of the law - for example, physically assaulting the Pope, stealing the Host for a sacrilegious purpose, a priest giving absolution to a partner in a sin against the Sixth Commandment, a priest who violates the seal of the confessional, and someone who actually brings about an abortion.

I think that the Church would exercise careful judgment in every case of wrongdoing by clergy, and as you know, most Church leaders have been on a painful learning curve on how to deal with the terrible scandal of child abuse. By now, the most important lessons have been learnt, and as Pope Benedict said to the Irish hierarchy some years ago, the attempt by some of them to save the Church's reputation has in fact done it far greater harm than transparency would have done.

The ordinary discipline of the sacrament of Confession always requires a firm purpose of amendment - if the penitent isn't seriously resolving to do all in their power not only to fully repent of their sin, but to avoid committing it again, the confessor can't give them absolution. Surely if Judas, like Peter, had fully repented of his betrayal, like Peter he would have been welcomed back among the Apostles. Greater, perhaps, than his betrayal of Jesus was what looks like his despair of forgiveness leading to suicide.

You're right, a decision regarding excommunication - whose aim is to be a kind of shock tactic to get the penitent back on track again, as well as to avoid the scandal of allowing certain public sins to go unpunished by the Church - has to be made carefully, either by the local hierarchy or in a really serious case, by Rome. The excommunication of Archbishop Lefebvre was an example of that, and as we know it was withdrawn in 2009. As you say, some cases - even those listed in Canon Law as leading to excommunication - are not black and white, and need careful judgment by the confessor, by the local hierarchy or by Rome.

Very best, Fr Brendan
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The Destiny of Non-Christians

A Xt3 Member asked at 4:56pm on December 6th 2016
Hello Priest, good evening.

I'm a Muslim myself and I have always been interested in reading about religions and christianity, I have a question and I have looked it up but I couldn't find an appropriate answer to it. my question is what does the bible say about me and all non-believers in christianity? do people of other religions and atheists go to heaven? do they go to hell?

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Hi Sara, it's very clear from the promises God made to Abraham that his plan is for the whole human race, so that every human being is included. St Paul takes up that point when he writes that God 'desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth' (I Tim 2:4). Rather than pick out a particular quotation, right through the Gospels, Jesus reaches out to people who are not Jews, nor necessarily believers in one God, like the centurions, or high officers in the Roman army (for example, Mt 8:5-13; Lk 7: 1-10), or the Canaanite woman (Mt 15: 21-28), or the longest discussion with anyone in the Gospel, with the Samaritan woman in Jn 4 - though Samaritans were regarded by many Jews of the time as heretics and foreigners.

As regards Muslims, the official teaching of the Church can be found in the document on relations with those of other religions, Nostra Aetate, from the Second Vatican Council, the most important 20 th century meeting of the Church:

The Church regards with esteem also the Muslims. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth,(5) who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God. Though they do not acknowledge Jesus as God, they revere Him as a prophet. They also honour Mary, His virgin Mother; at times they even call on her with devotion. In addition, they await the day of judgment when God will render their deserts to all those who have been raised up from the dead. Finally, they value the moral life and worship God especially through prayer, almsgiving and fasting. Since in the course of centuries not a few quarrels and hostilities have arisen between Christians and Muslims, this sacred synod urges all to forget the past and to work sincerely for mutual understanding and to preserve as well as to promote together for the benefit of all mankind social justice and moral welfare, as well as peace and freedom.

An example of this dialogue has been the Catholic-Muslim forum, meeting every few years since 2008. In November 2008 its theme was 'Love of God, Love of Neighbour'; the second in November 2011, held in Jordan, discussed 'Reason, Faith and the Human Person.' The third forum, in Rome, on 'Working Together to Serve Others' in November 2014.

What about atheists? I like to think of what Jesus said when told his mother and relatives were outside, waiting to see him: 'Whoever does the will of God is my brother and sister and mother' (Mk 3:35). So there is no question of atheists or people of other religions than Christianity going to hell if they are, in terms of their own beliefs, doing the will of God (always provided they don't distort the meaning of religion or of God by claiming to wage war in his name-a mistake some members of all religions have made throughout history). Here's what Pope Francis said in an open letter replying to questions put by Dr Scalfari, atheist and founder of Italy's leading newspaper, La Repubblica:

First of all, you ask if the God of the Christians forgives those who do not believe and do not seek faith. Given that - and this is fundamental - God's mercy has no limits if he who asks for mercy does so in contrition and with a sincere heart, the issue for those who do not believe in God is in obeying their own conscience. In fact, listening and obeying it, means deciding about what is perceived to be good or to be evil. The goodness or the wickedness of our behavior depends on this decision. (4/9/2013)

Pope Francis has often said that 'the name of God is mercy,' which is almost the same name given to God at the start of nearly every surah in the Koran, 'In the name of God, the merciful...' It's through our shared belief in God's infinite mercy that we gaze on each other, believers or non-believers, Muslims, Christians, Jews, agnostics, praying that each of us will listen to the voice of God and carry out his will in our lives. Very best, Fr Brendan
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spiritual confusion

A Xt3 Member asked at 6:58am on October 27th 2016
respected sir,

i am from non christian religion.i have been struggling to know the purpose of life.i am spiritually messed up.i feel that i am lost.but Jesus started to appear as a hope for me.what should i do to get out of the spiritual confusion and how to keep this trust in lord forever.sir because of spiritual confusion i even abused god.will i ever get to serve my lord?will lord forgive me?

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Hi Anirudh, again and again Jesus said he was here not to help those who were well (really those who depended on themselves alone) but those who were sick, said 'come to me, all you who labour and are burdened, and I will refresh you. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble of heart' (Mt 11: 28-29).

Surely he was thinking of you when he said those words, and is inviting you to trust his mercy and love. When his most trusted follower, Peter, three times denied him in public, all he asked him when they met again was, 'Simon Peter, do you love me?' Your own desire for forgiveness and to serve him is surely the most beautiful way of answering that same question. Since Jesus left us his Church as the way to find him after he ascended into heaven, why don't you get in touch with whoever belongs to the Catholic Church in a place near to where you live? Assuring you of my prayer that Jesus in his Church, especially in this Year of Mercy, will fulfil all your hopes. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Is the meaning of Baptism and Christening different?

A Xt3 Member asked at 2:57am on October 20th 2016
Hello. You're doing a great job answering questions so that I understand. I have a question.

I often hear the words Baptism and Christening. When I receive an invitation will either say it's the Child's Baptism or Christening.

I'm a little confused. Is the meaning of Baptism and Christening one in the same or do they differ and what language does the Catholic Church prefer us to use?

Les Graham.

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Hi Les, both words refer to the same sacrament of Baptism. (i) The name 'Christ' means 'the Anointed One,' (ii) during the ceremony the person being baptized is twice anointed with oil, and (iii) the person through being baptized becomes a Christian. So you can see why the word 'Christening' is used for the ceremony.

The word 'baptism' comes from a Greek word for washing, from the use of water as the material of the sacrament, where in the early Church adults were immersed in water - which is still the case with the Eastern or Greek-Catholic Churches as well as with the Orthodox Churches. Another example where two words refer to the same sacrament, is our use both of 'wedding ceremony' and 'matrimony.' Very best, Fr Brendan
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Is there physical proof that God exists?

A Xt3 Member asked at 12:39am on September 21st 2016
Is there physical proof that God exists?

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Hi Noah, to attempt an answer to your question, I'd like to expand on something I wrote last week about a similar question: In 1931, Belgian astrophysicist and Catholic priest, Fr George Lemaitre, worked back from the recently discovered movement of galaxies away from one another to say that there had to be an originating point in time - now considered to be 13.8 billion years ago. Cambridge astrophysicist Fred Hoyle was the one in 1949 who named this event the Big Bang. The reason Hoyle and others didn't want to accept that the universe had a beginning in time wasn't a scientific one: they realized it made it almost impossible to avoid the ancient philosophical question, 'Why is there something rather than nothing?' (Which was why the Big Bang theory was forbidden in the Soviet Union at the time - it was too disturbing to the USSR's officially imposed atheism.)

Since creation means to bring something into existence out of nothing, the question is, what caused the Big Bang and the subsequent unfolding of our universe to occupy a space whose diameter is now calculated at 91 billion light years across? Since there's no space or time before the Big Bang, whatever caused it must somehow exist outside space and time. Nor can it be material, because matter too only begins with the Big Bang. But everything that exists in our universe depends on that beginning, so whatever caused it couldn't depend on anything in space and time. It would have to have an existence that wasn't caused by anything else. If we suggest another space-time reality prior to the Big Bang, that would only displace, not remove the question about an originating cause of everything in our universe.

It's interesting that later in the mid-1950s Hoyle came to understand that the only place where the heavier elements essential to life could emerge from the prevailing lighter ones of hydrogen and helium was inside the incredible heat generated by a dying star. He called this process 'nucleosynthesis' and later remarked that:

  • Some super-calculating intellect must have designed the properties of the carbon atom, otherwise the chance of my finding such an atom through the blind forces of nature would be utterly minuscule. A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a superintellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology, and that there are no blind forces worth speaking about in nature.

So the atheist Hoyle, on the basis of the evidence of the sheer complexity of nucleosynthesis came to accept some kind of first cause - hardly a personal God, but maybe not so far off Aristotle's first cause. Lots more to say here, and there are many different and valid ways of approaching the question of God's existence, but hope that's a start. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Matthew 28:12-20

A Xt3 Member asked at 7:10am on September 12th 2016
Dear Fr,

I've heard Protestants and Protestant apologists (such as Frank Turek and I think even WLC) who say that the last eight verses of Matthew have been proven to have been added at a later date and therefore do not form part of the 'true Gospel of Matthew'. Is there any merit to this? Should we consider those verses valid or invalid? And if they cannot be considered valid, then does this mean that the Church has erred in matters of faith (as in, the Church has declared those verses to be part of Canon)?

Thanks,

Ryan

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Hi Ryan, I think the real question for those you mention is, how do we know the 'true Gospel of Matthew' - the other 1060 verses - are inspired by God? There are lots of other 'Gospels,' of 'Thomas,' of 'Peter,' and so on, claiming to be Gospels too, that have never been accepted by the Church. And that's the real issue - it's the Church that has the grace of the same Holy Spirit who inspired the Bible to recognize the canon or authorized list of inspired texts, as well as to interpret them. As the Catechism of the Catholic Church (Sect.113) referring to the Vatican Council's document on revelation, Dei Verbum, puts it:

Read the Scripture within "the living Tradition of the whole Church". According to a saying of the Fathers, Sacred Scripture is written principally in the Church's heart rather than in documents and records, for the Church carries in her Tradition the living memorial of God's Word, and it is the Holy Spirit who gives her the spiritual interpretation of the Scripture...

(You'll find a great discussion of this topic in Pope Benedict XVI's Verbum Domini, available online, in the section called 'The Interpretation of Sacred Scripture in the Church.')

So if the Church declares this or that part, or the whole of the Gospel of Matthew as inspired, we can take all of what's called the Gospel of Matthew as true, since that declaration is itself inspired by the Holy Spirit in the Church. In fact, the earliest records speak of Matthew's Gospel as originally written in Aramaic - the language of Jesus - and while it's possible the Greek translation which is what we now have was also by Matthew, we don't have any confirmation of that.

As a matter of fact, I've never come across any question about those last eight verses you mention - if you count back 8 verses, it makes no sense to make a break at the end of verse 12 (the division into chapters wasn't until 1227, and into verses in 1551), and the big commentary I work with has no mention of such an addition at the end. There are obvious additions at the ends of the Gospels of Mark and John, which, as I've said, doesn't in the least affect their status as inspired. Very best, Fr Brendan
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Wedding gift for Non-Catholic wedding?

A Xt3 Member asked at 7:23pm on August 10th 2016
Greetings Father!

I have another wedding question for you. I know that you get lots of wedding attendance questions all the time, so hopefully I'm not double dipping here. I was recently invited to YET ANOTHER non-catholic wedding of a Catholic friend. I use the term "Catholic" here lightly, because I am not super close with this friend, and don't know the details of her "Catholic" identity (e.g. was she baptized or confirmed Catholic, etc.). In fact, I recall her attending youth groups for protestant denominations as a teen, and don't know if she ever attended church regularly growing up...only that she had called herself a Catholic years ago. Now, she is marrying a protestant who is a preacher's son. Consequently, they married in a Lutheran church. I received a last minute invite on social media (again, I am not a close-enough friend to have received an initial invite), and had other plans and thus did not make the wedding.

In this circumstance, I am wondering about sending a gift. In the past, I have sent Catholic Bibles or prayers from Religious Communities for these types of situations, but with her now husband being more commited to his protestant faith than she is to her Catholic faith, I am at a loss. I don't know if I should send a gift at all, but don't want to offend by sending such a gift to the couple when the husband might be scandalized by an overtly Catholic present. I also don't feel I'm in a position to have any faith discussion with this friend who I haven't talked with much in years, and living in a generation that is offended easily. Do you have any insight into this? Thank you in advance!

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Hi Stephanie, it's great that you're so sensitive to what's right to do regarding these acquaintances of yours. As you say, better not to judge your Catholic, or maybe lapsed-Catholic friend. All she would have needed was permission from her local diocese to get married to a non-Catholic in a non-Catholic church, and her marriage would be regarded as a valid sacrament by the Church, and for all you know, she may have requested that permission. I'm sure if her husband is a practicing Protestant, he already has a Bible or two at home, so if you decide to send her a present, maybe better to send a non-religious one (since a Catholic one could be seen by her as trying to make a point that she may not welcome). Possibly a book-token could be an idea, then she can make up her own mind what to get with it? Very best, Fr Brendan
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