CATHOLIC DIALOGUE #9
(Michael is a Catholic teenager. His parish is organizing a pro-life rally and has invited a neighboring Baptist congregation to join them. Jake is a Baptist teen who is not sure he wants to participate.)
Mike: Hey Jake. This Saturday is the big rally. Working together for Christian values and all. I think this will be great. Will you be there?
Jake: I don't think so.
Mike: Why not?
Jake: Well Mike, you're ok for a Catholic, but...
Mike: What do you mean, "for a Catholic"?
Jake: I mean I don't think our Churches have very much in common and I think it's silly for us to try to act in unity. We come from opposing view points. You guys would have to drop too many of your non-Biblical beliefs.
Mike: We both agree that abortion is wrong, don't we?
Jake: Yes, but that's only one point. We disagree on almost everything else. We're like opposite sides of the same coin.
Mike: I don't think the gap is as wide as you think. Why don't you tell me where you think we are furthest apart.
Jake: Ok, what about Purgatory? There is no mention of this in the Bible.
Mike: Yes there is.
Jake: It was invented by your Church so that people would have to pay money to have Masses said for their dead relatives. My church could never accept such a far fetched notion.
Mike: Our belief in Purgatory is rooted in Biblical teaching.
Jake: Oh really? I've read the Bible and never run across the word Purgatory.
Mike: We believe that if a person dies in a state of grace, he goes to Heaven. If he dies with mortal sin, he is condemned. Purgatory is for those who are not in a state of grace, but their sins are not mortal. We call these venial sins.
Jake: Venial? Sin is sin. The Bible says the wages of sin is death.
Mike: The Bible also mentions a difference between venial and mortal sin.
Mike: In the first letter from John it says, "If anyone sees his brother sinning, if the sin is not deadly, he should pray to God and He will give him life. This is only for those whose sin is not deadly.... All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that is not deadly".
Jake: I've never noticed that before, but how do you get Purgatory out of that?
Mike: That's only part of it. Purgatory is described in both Matthew 5:25 and Luke 12:59. It says to settle with your opponent on the way to court or else the judge will turn you over to the jailor. It also says that you will not get out until the last penny is paid. I think this means that we are all on our way to judgement and that we have to arrive there with a clear conscience. Heaven would not be described as a jail, and since it speaks of getting out, it is definitely not hell. Purgatory is the only logical explanation. It is a place to be purged of anything that is not clean enough to enter Heaven.
Jake: Hmmm. You won't get out until the last penny is paid. I remember reading that. So you think Purgatory is a place for souls who are not in a state of grace, but don't deserve eternal damnation either right?
Jake: And after you are punished enough, you get out and go to Heaven, right?
Mike: Not exactly. You see, we don't see it so much as a place where God punishes us. We think of it as a manifestation of God's mercy. Purgatory is just another sign of God's love for man and His desire that we should all be with Him in Heaven. It is a place where we are "groomed" so that we can enjoy our union with God in Heaven.
Jake: Is that all? I mean, do you have any more Biblical proof?
Mike: Well, in Corinthians, St. Paul says that after death each mans work will be tested. He says that if a man fails the test that he will be the loser; and he himself will only be saved by passing through fire. Once again, he can't mean hell because no one is saved from there. It can't be Heaven because no one needs to be saved from Heaven. I'm sure there is more Biblical proof, but I can't remember it. If you would like a better explanation, you're welcome to come to one of our youth group meetings. We have a youth minister who will be glad to answer any of your questions.
Jake: I don't think so.
Mike: Why not?
Jake: Look Mike, just before my dad died he told me never to go anywhere near the Catholic Church. He had a bad experience with some Catholics once, and it was his dying wish that I never have anything to do with them.
Mike: I'm sorry your dad had a bad experience, and I'm not showing any disrespect, but I would be willing to bet that he thinks differently of the Catholic Church now.
Jake: I doubt it. I mean, our beliefs are just so opposed to one another. We are almost like opposite sides of the same coin.
Mike: Ok, I've got an idea. I'm going to say a prayer that we recite every week in Church. It is a statement of our beliefs. You stop me if I say anything that you disagree with.
Mike: I believe in God the Father Almighty, Creator of Heaven and earth. Do you go along with that?
Jake: Yes, of course. Go on.
Mike: I believe in Jesus Christ His only Son our Lord. Who was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Was born of the Virgin Mary. He suffered under Pontius Pilate. He was crucified, died, and was buried. Are you still with me?
Jake: Yes, yes. Come on. What's your point?
Mike: He descended into hell and on the third day He arose from the dead. He ascended into Heaven and is seated at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. From there He shall come to judge the living and the dead. I believe in the Holy Spirit, the holy Catholic Church,...
Jake: Hold it!
Mike: I thought that part would get you. Let me finish the sentence. the Communion of Saints,...
Jake: You can stop right there.
Mike: I expected that too. Let me go on. The forgiveness of sins, the resurrection of the body and life everlasting. Amen.
Jake: Ok Mike, what's your point?
Mike: The point is that we call that prayer our Creed. It is a statement of our beliefs. All of our Catholic doctrines are based on this Creed. I just recited ten sentences. Both of your objections were in the same sentence. You agreed with nine out of ten statements of Catholic beliefs. That makes you 90% Catholic.
Mike: The word Catholic means universal. Almost all of Christianity was Catholic for the first 1000 years or so. When the first protestants broke that unity, they kept the parts of Catholicism that they liked and got rid of the rest. Pope John Paul II would call this "cafeteria Christianity". This means that all protestant, and the so called non-denominational churches are still to some extent Catholic. It all depends on how much of our doctrines they agree with. From what you said, you are 90% Catholic.
Mike: 100% would mean that you are in full union with the Pope and the Church in general. Obviously you are not, but don't feel bad. I'm sorry to say this, but there are some members of our Church that are not 100% either. This is sad, but true.
Jake: 90% Catholic. I never would have guessed that.
Mike: In the Gospel of John, Jesus prays that the Church will be one. I think that this is the greatest challenge that faces Christianity in our time. We have to work together as often as possible to build the foundation of a reunited Church. This is what Jesus wants, so it should be what we want. This is what He prayed for, so it should be what we pray for too. Now how about that pro-life rally? Can we work together on this one?
Jake: I think so. I mean, I'll be there.
Mike: Great. Maybe I'll get a chance to introduce you to our youth minister. I think you'll like him. I mean, he's not too bad, for a Catholic.
Jake: Ok Mike. I'll see you Saturday.