Catholic Issues

I was asked a question about Catholics, cremation and the scattering of ash. Here is my brief answer:

Ancient cremation practices

The whole issue of cremation goes back to the Romans. They denied the bodily resurrection so they often burned the body and if they were rich they put the ashes in urns and put them in the necropolis which was the city of the dead. Every year on the anniversary of the death they would “visit” the dead in remembrance and pour their favorite wine into the ashes. 

Imagine the contrast in ancient times. The Romans would build a pyre and lay the body on top. The flames would take many hours to completely consume the body. The whole time the smell of burning hair and flesh would waft through the air. It was a big project and you watched the body disappear with nothing left but a heap of ashes and foul smells.

In contrast, the Christians prepared sarcophagi for their dead. Often it was decorated with biblical images related to the resurrection. Or the body was carefully wrapped in white to represent forgiveness of sins and eternal life. They were placed in the ground or the catacombs with respect for the integrity of the body which would one day be raised.

Christians forbid cremation because they wanted to stand in contrast to the pagans who cremated as a statement against the bodily resurrection. They also did not have an necropolis, the city of the dead. Rather, Christians had a cemetery which means a sleeping place. 

Christians reverently preparing body for deposit awaiting the resurrection

They did not bury the dead – they deposited them in the grave. Why deposit? Because just as you deposit money in the bank you intend to come back and withdraw the money. The body was deposited in the ground in preparation for Jesus coming back to withdraw the body at the end of time.

So cremation was a denial of the bodily resurrection and burial was an affirmation that the body was sleeping awaiting the day of, resurrection.

The Catholic Church has recently taught that cremation was OK as long as it was not a statement against the bodily resurrection. As long as one affirmed the resurrection of the body at the end of time, cremation was acceptable. However to preserve the integrity of the body the remains were to remain in one place and not scattered across an ocean or field, etc.

The Code of Canon Law says, “§3. The Church earnestly recommends that the pious custom of burying the bodies of the deceased be observed; nevertheless, the Church does not prohibit cremation unless it was chosen for reasons contrary to Christian doctrine.”

The Catechism states, “The Church permits cremation, provided that it does not demonstrate a denial of faith in the resurrection of the body.”

The scattering of the ashes could be seen as denying the bodily resurrection because scattering the ashes everywhere can imply the person is gone — reabsorbed into the physical creation as its final end. It ceases to exist. 

That is why the Catholic Church affirms the need to keep the ashes with integrity remembering that those ashes in the urn are the very matter that will be raised up at the end of time and reconstituted into the body of the person. The new heavenly body will be reunited with the soul to live forever — either in glory or in the torments of hell separated from God for eternity.

Mom with Dad before he died

When my father died my mother had no desire to visit the grave (though she has several times since) because she said, “That is not Dad”. I explained to her that this attitude denied the bodily resurrection because God loves stuff. He made stuff, matter, the body. On the day he created Man he said, “It is very good.” He liked what he had created.

That cold dead body was still Dad and when Jesus comes back he loves that body enough to raise it from the dust and re-fashion it into a new heavenly body. God keeps his eye on those dry bones and dust every day. My mom now understands. Her’s was an understandable reaction to the body with the life gone.

At the end of time my Dad will be raised from the dead and his body will be glorified. If God loves the bodily remains inside the coffin or urn then how much more should we respect the integrity of the remains as well.

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Sola Scriptura and the Canon of Scripture

by Steve Ray on November 3, 2015

Sola Scriptura and the Canon

When non-Catholics are asked to provide biblical support or their belief that the Bible Alone is the sole rule of faith for the believer, they usually cite 2 Timothy 3:16-17 which states that “all scripture is God-breathed and is useful”. However, they somehow miss the fact that the two verses immediately prior stress the importance of oral teaching and the teaching authority of the Church. Here is the entire passage with context added:

bible112 Timothy 3:14-17

Verse 14: But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of (Timothy had learned the Gospel and become convinced that it was true by Paul’s ORAL preaching and teaching. This oral preaching and teaching is known to Catholics as Sacred Tradition.), because you know those from whom you learned it (Timothy had learned the Scriptures first from his mother and grandmother, and then the full gospel from Paul, an Apostle (and Bishop) of the Church, and possibly from other Church leaders whom Timothy had heard preaching and teaching. The teaching authority of the Church is known to Catholics as the Magisterium.) ,

Verse 15: and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures (Timothy would have known only the Old Testament scriptures from his infancy since the New Testament had not been written or completed at the time Paul’s letter to Timothy was composed. However, the New Testament is recognized as part of the Bible, the written Word of God. This is known to Catholics as Sacred Scripture.), which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. (Only after commending the Tradition “handed on” from the Magisterium does Paul go on to discuss the nature of Sacred Scripture in the following verses.)

Verse 16: All Scripture is God-breathed (referring exclusively to the Hebrew Scriptures) and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

Viewed this way, we can see that 2 Timothy 3:14-17 does not support the doctrine of sola scriptura at all. In fact, the opposite is true. (Compare: 1 Cor 11:2; 2 Thess 2:15, 3:6.)

Another point to consider is that Paul’s disciple, Timothy, was a Greek, and the Old Testament that Timothy would have been most familiar with from the time of his youth was the Greek Septuagint. Because of his travels outside of Israel, Paul, too, would have been familiar with and would have used the Greek version of the Old Testament writings. Eighty percent of Paul’s quotations of the Old Testament in the New are from the Greek Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Bible. Therefore, in this passage of scripture, Paul encouraged Timothy to continue in what he had learned from the Septuagint.

This has important implications for a controversy concerning seven books of the Old Testament now known collectively to Catholics as the “Deuterocanonicals” and to Protestants as the “Apocrypha”. Catholics consider the Deuterocanonicals to be inspired scripture while Protestants reject them. The Greek Septuagint contains these seven books while the Hebrew version of the Old Testament does not. (For more on this topic, see Gary Michuta’s excellent book Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger).

There is no doubt that the Septuagint was known to and used by Jesus, Paul and Timothy and yet, in the 16th century, Martin Luther removed these seven books from the Bible because they contain passages that support distinctly Catholic doctrines like praying for the dead and purgatory—doctrines which he rejected. Luther justified his action in part upon the fact that the some Jews themselves rejected the Deuterocanonicals as part of their canon.

This development in the history of the Jewish canon is interesting in itself. Beginning as early as 90 A.D. some Jewish leaders began to re-think which books of the Bible should and should not be considered scripture. In the second century, the Jews questioned the Deuterocanonical books due in large part to the fact that the early Christian Church was using the Deuterocanonicals to support the Christian belief in the resurrection from the dead. The Jewish scriptures were being used to win converts to the Christian faith! Consequently, some two centuries after Christ’s death and resurrection, the Jews are often thought to have questioned the Deuterocanonical books which taught the resurrection. Martin Luther used their doubt to justify his own. (For more on the “Council of Jamnia and the collection of Old Testament books, read my article The Council that Never Was as published in This Rock Magazine.)

This leads to a couple of obvious questions: “Why would the Holy Spirit guide a group of rabbis on matters related to the Old Testament canon when there was already a Christian Church in existence that was under His infallible guidance as Jesus had promised? And why should Luther accept the revised Hebrew canon instead of the canon of the Septuagint that had been used by St. Paul and from then on in continuous use in the Church for over fifteen centuries?

Luther picked that truncated canon for the same reason the rabbis did:  in order to undermine the teachings of the Catholic Church which did not fit his new theology.

For more, click here.

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Was He Ready to Die?

by Steve Ray on October 28, 2015

IMG_9875It was just a normal morning — alarm clock, shower, espresso, dress and a saunter down the sidewalk to work. For Paul is was another day with a whole lifetime ahead of him. But today was different.

Someone else got up this morning too. They had their coffee dressed and jumped in the car. They tried to catch up on their phone calls along the way and didn’t notice the car stopped in front of them. He swerved and his car jumped the sidewalk.

Paul didn’t even have time to blink. The car slammed into him as he walked to work and he was dead. It was over. No time to think. No time to call out to God. He was dead in an instant.

Was he ready? Where is he now? I don’t know.

IMG_9872The other day in Rome I was just out for a run along the same sidewalk. I saw the memorial bolted into the wall with flowers and prayers. Paul’s family hopes he is in heaven. They still bring flowers, light candles and pray at the place he was instantly killed.

I stopped my walking. I pondered the memorial — Paul’s picture. He was a young man; looks like about 30 years old, handsome and full of life. Did he leave a wife and kids behind? Was he a church-goer or had he dropped out for more important things?

Flowers, candles, prayers, tears, longing, hope, sorrow, lonliness, regret. All of this was obvious from the remembrance placed on the sidewalk.

IMG_9874I crossed myself, said a prayer for Paul though I have no idea who he was — or is, I should say because life does not end at death but goes on in heaven or hell.

I suspect he didn’t know his life would end at 8:46 AM that morning. Nor did anyone else. Makes one wonder if his life was in order. Had he gone to confession? Did he harbor grudges against family or friends?

As I prayed and meditated a bit on the sidewalk, I thought of my own life and once again realized how fragile we are and how crucial it is to be right with God and the world at all times. We never know when a cell phone call, or an absent-minded driver might snuff out our life.

It’s a good time to take a quick evaluation of your life. Are you ready to die?

For my story The Last Nightmare: the Story of a Soul, click here.

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Watching Rush of Wind and Flutter of Wings over the Vatican

October 23, 2015

This morning  Janet and I are in Rome for a few days awaiting our pilgrimage group as we embark across Italy and then by ship voyaging around Greece and Turkey to follow the footprints of St. Paul and the Early Church. This morning, from the rooftop of our rented apartment as we eat breakfast, we’re looking [...]

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Countdown to Persecution in America

August 17, 2015

Two excellent articles (Part I and Part II and Part III). There is no doubt our society is rapidly moving away from it foundations and turning into an intolerant, secular society. When that happens Christians are the first to suffer. Over the last few years I have been giving a talk entitled “Swimming Upstream: Living a [...]

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Supreme Court just Legalized Same-Sex “Marriage”

June 26, 2015

Oh boy! Here we go again. The battles are mounting and we Christians are becoming the despised sub-culture.  This ruling is the second blast of a double-barreled shotgun, the first being legalized murder through abortion. With these two rulings which destroy the family and the high view of marriage, sexuality and human dignity we are [...]

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Draft of Pope’s Environment Encyclical Leaked: 12 Things You Should Know

June 16, 2015

Jimmy Akin has done a great job summarizing the situation and the encyclical to-date. It starts out: With just days to go before the release of Pope Francis’s highly anticipated encyclical on the environment, a draft copy has suddenly appeared on the Internet. Here are 12 things to know and share . . . 1) [...]

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Mega-church Mania: One Mom’s Observations (she’s a good writer) and Observations from the Early Church

May 29, 2015

Mr. Ray, My eldest daughter invited me to my grandson’s ‘dedication’ at her new place of worship.  Worship? Sorry. Her new place of…..well, the giant Olympic-sized structure that, after being directed in by police/traffic officers, upon entering, reminded me of a mall.  Oh and by the way, I didn’t witness any worship. My 1st thoughts were…”Wow! [...]

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Should the Vatican Sell its Treasures…

May 15, 2015

… to feed the poor? Geez, I used to say that myself in my former life as a Protestant – when I was an anti-Catholic. Actually, if you added up all wealth and property of the Protestant churches and organizations it would FAR exceed that of the Vatican or all the individual dioceses around the [...]

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Stop Eating Animals! It is Against the Plan of God!

May 12, 2015

IF YOU EAT ANIMALS YOU ARE VIOLATING THE PLAN OF GOD. YOU SHOULD BE A VEGAN AND EAT NO ANIMAL PRODUCTS, INCLUDING FISH, EGGS, MILK, YOGURT, LOCUSTS OR MEAT. IS THIS **REALLY** GOD’S PLAN? MY RESPONSE TO A VEGAN CRITIC (updated 4/22/11) The original blog and comments An added comment. It was asserted that many [...]

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“Created for Greatness”: The Emerging Catholic Men’s Movement – CWR Article

May 7, 2015

My friend Joe Hanneman just had his excellent article on the need for Mens’ Movements in Catholic World Report. He had interviewed me for the article and he used my quotes :-) Men, and women who love their men, should read this article and encourage real men to be involved. It makes better sons, better [...]

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Ten Signs that Christianity is on the Rise

May 6, 2015

Article by Tom Hoopes at Aleteia.org. I am just posting their 10 points. Click here for the whole article and the reasoning behind each of the 10 points. “Christianity is a dying relic of an ancient past. The Internet is killing it. Science is killing it. Western sophistication is killing it. Right? “Wrong. In many ways, Christianity [...]

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More Muslims Getting Revelation that Quran is a Man-Made Book; Demographics & Statistics

April 27, 2015

This is an interesting and insightful piece on Islam. There is no question it will continue to be the growing issue for America, Christians and the freedom of thought and rationality.  A new Pew Research Center study that looks at the future of world religions and potential population growth around the globe found that the [...]

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We Need More Heroes: Archbishop Cordilone’s Letter which Brought him MUCH Grief

March 16, 2015

It is too bad that a letter stating that Catholic schools must teach according to the truth and morals of the Catholic Church should bring condemnation and threats to an archbishop. Welcome to America in the 21st century. *************************************** Dissenting from Catholic Teaching or the Natural Moral Law in a Catholic High School does not [...]

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Okay, what about Catholics and the Death Penalty?

March 9, 2015

March 9, 2015 By Dr. Ed Peters, Canon Lawyer   (see also The Stream’s: “Should Catholics Oppose the Death Penalty?“) “Dr. Steven Long beat me to it. His rejoinder to the “Capital punishment must end” editorial of America, National Catholic Register, National Catholic Reporter, andOur Sunday Visitor is essential reading even if, in some places, Long’s essay, “Four Catholic [...]

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Disturbing Report of Book on the Family Blocked from ‘Synod on the Family’ Participants

March 3, 2015

The head of secretariat of the synod of bishops was reportedly “furious” about “Remaining in the Truth of Christ,” [Ignatius Press publication] which includes chapters by Cardinals Burke and Brandmüller   (February 25, 2015 12:00 EST   Carl E. Olson)   Both Kath.net and Edward Pentin are reporting that Cardinal Lorenzo Baldisseri, head of secretariat of the synod of bishops, [...]

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