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Question concerning Luke 16-1-8
Hello, found your site through Google. Hope you will be willing to answer a question from a curious group not of your parish. I, and the members of my small group, are parishioners from St. Maximilian Kolbe parish in Liberty Township OH. We look at the Mass readings on a weekly basis, usually sticking to the Sunday readings. However, in discussion of yesterdays' Gospel we all realized that we had significant questions concerning the meaning of the parable of the Dishonest Manager. What is the Catholic interpretation of this passage? If you could include verse 9 in your answer we would really appreciate it, it is just as hard to understand that verse, for the same reasons.
My name is Spencer Allen. I am a lay apologist within the Diocese of Jefferson City. Thank you for writing in. I see you're from St. Maximilian Kolbe parish, which is awesome - he's one of my favorite saints, and I joined the Militia Immaculata, which you probably know he started, about two years ago.
Regarding the parable from Luke, I will start out by saying there is no official Catholic interpretation. The verses that the Catholic church have defined infallibly are very few, and the church allows for personal
interpretation on the rest, as long as we follow three rules: 1) our interpretation must take into account the unity of Scripture (rather than just pulling a verse out of context), 2) our interpretation must not
contradict Sacred Tradition (as Tradition and Scripture are complementary records of the revelation delivered during the apostolic period), and 3) our interpretation cannot contradict doctrines of faith (things which we are required to believe as members of the Catholic-Christian community), as
these have come from the guidance of the Holy Spirit (John 16).
That said, you are struggling with one of the toughest parables in Scripture, and I applaud your attempts to understand it. So many people, both Catholic and Protestant, tend to skip over it rather than to grapple with its meaning. So summarize, the manager, or steward, was being wasteful with the rich man's money. When this came to his attention, the rich man dismissed him from his position. Realizing that he had nowhere to turn and was not about to resort to "digging" (a job usually reserved for slaves) or begging, he goes to several debtors and reduces their debt to the rich man (even though he has no authority to do this any longer) so that they will accept them into their houses when he is cast out. Ironically, the rich man "commended" him for this action, rather than seek revenge. Even more
ironically, Christ seems to approve of this action, which brings us to the troubling ninth verse, where Christ tells his disciples to "make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon, so that when it fails they may receive you into the eternal habitations."
Some commentaries tell us that the amount that each debt was reduced was the manager's "commission" in collecting this interest, and that by eliminating this, he was attempting restitution for the wrong he had done in being sloppy with the rich man's fortune. He had, after all, not been dishonest
at first - just irresponsible, and perhaps he was trying to show that he wanted to be accountable for his wrong doings, an act that the rich man might approve of. Unfortunately, he chose a dishonest means of doing so.
However, the context points to something more. Let's say, for argument's sake, that he was not simply reducing his commission (to which he was no longer entitled, incidentally), and that he was actually reducing the debt that these others owed the rich man. What was the manager's motivation?
Realizing he was being kicked out of the rich man's service, he was making shrewd arrangements to have a home among these debtors.
Christ obviously does not approve of his dishonesty, but the parable was an attempt to show us that, as Christians, many of us are put to shame in our ambition to reach Heaven. We should be just as concerned about having an eternal "home" after we leave this world as the manager is in his own
situation. The point of the story isn't his moral behavior, but the energy that "sons of this world" put into their matters, that "sons of light" could do to emulate.
Why would Christ pick such an example? Why not a more moral protagonist? Well, if we go with the idea that he was simply reducing his own interest, his actions were not as severe as they appear. On the other hand, some commentaries indicate that this story - where a slave or servant outsmarts
his master - was a popular type in the Jewish communities, and that Christ was just pulling upon a popular genre in order to make a greater point. He was, after all, emphasizing the manager's ambition, but not his methods, and the community would have recognized that better than we do in the modern
reading. They wouldn't have taken his story as an endorsement of dishonestly, but as an illustration of zeal.
Another problem is why the manager would approve of this action? The obvious consequence of the manager's dishonesty would be that the debtors would assume that his actions had come from the rich man, himself, and were he to discipline the manager, the debtors would suddenly realize that the
rich man deserved no credit and disapproved. He needed, at least publicly, to show approval. More likely, however, the rich man recognized in the manager some of the shrewdness and enthusiasm that had helped him become rich in the first place, and his approval goes to indicate that this was the
intent of Christ's story - the enthusiasm that we should display as Christians toward reaching eternity with God.
As for the troublesome verse nine, the phrase "dishonest mammon" can be more accurately translated as "mammon of inequity" and is a phrase used to indicate those things which can make us focus on worldly things or even money acquired dishonestly. We should use this "mammon", or money, to make friends who can receive us into "eternal habitations". These friends must be those in Heaven because none of our earthly friends can provide eternal habitats. So, the point of this verse must mean that we should take money and use it to make restitution for our wrongful acquisition of it or (if it was not wrongly" acquired) to help us to perform holy and pleasing actions, such as almsgiving and creating work opportunities, in order to turn our material possessions into signs of our spiritual devotion, making the type of friends that can house us through all of time.
I hope this helps. Please feel free to write back if I can be of additional assistance.
I was wondering if you could tell me: Does the Church see any forms of "outercourse", such as "dry sex" (grinding up against each other in a sexual motion but with clothes on) as acceptable, for married or unmarried couples?
First off, I will tell you that I appreciate your willingness to seek advice in this matter. So many would just "follow their conscience" in such matters without realizing that this approach only works when one has a
well-formed conscience, and as you realize, this can only happen once we open ourselves to what Christ has revealed through the Scripture and Teachings of his church.
Before I give you my answer to your question, I would like to recommend some awesome resources for continued study in this area. You will be amazed at how beautiful the church's teachings are once you start to dig in. I don't know if you are familiar with Pope John Paul II's Theology of the Body, but this is his groundbreaking exploration of God's design of our
> bodies and his intention for us to come to know him through our relationships with ourselves and one another. The foremost expert on this work is a man named Christopher West, and you can find his free CD (Marriage and the Eucharist), along with some other free Catholic audios at www.catholicity.com. In addition, Catholic apologist Jason Evert has a site at www.pureloveclub.com, which provides answers to questions just like you asked. He also has a book called "If You Really Loved Me", which puts
much of his online information in print form.
Your question made an important distinction in asking about "outercourse" for both married and unmarried couples. I will answer both separately, beginning with unmarried couples. Your question indicates that you realize the importance of avoiding intercourse outside of marriage. The marital act is ... well, a marital act. God designed marriage as a means to bring us closer to him, and by coming together as husband and wife, we are consummating that relationship and getting just a taste of the perfect union we will share with him for eternity in Heaven. This is why sex is designed to be pleasurable, though it pales in comparison to the spiritual ecstasy that awaits us. When unmarried couples engage in intercourse, they are attempting to experience the "union" and the pleasure, but removing it from the sacrament. As real graces come through the sacrament, sex outside of
marriage has none of the supernatural benefits that it does for a married couple, one of which is a spiritual unity, which is why studies indicate that couples who engage in premarital sex or who live together before marriage actually have a higher rate of divorce than those who wait.
But what about "outercourse" and "dry sex"? I think there are three important things to consider here.
NEAR OCCASION OF SIN: Sex is meant to be a means by which we bring ourselves closer together, and thus closer to God, as married people.
What tends to happen, then, when we engage in sexual behavior, such as you mentioned, is that we train our minds and bodies to see it as a merely recreational or pleasure-focused activity. One of the first dangers here is that we begin to suffer from "concupiscence", or lust. Jesus warned us of how serious this was in Mt. 5:28, when he said, "Every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." So, even if one managed the self-control to keep such activity from progressing further, we are training ourselves to focus on something that, removed from marriage, has no holy purpose. However, as you probably realize, for many, self-control is not strong enough to withstand the urges that build up from such "outercourse". As a result, some couples end up going much further. In other cases, some turn to pornography and self-gratification. If an alcoholic were struggling to keep from getting drunk, there is rarely a safe amount he can drink without giving in.
Instead of asking how far we can go, couples tend to find a much more satisfying unity by asking how close can we get to God, and what activities will get us there?
UNITY: Even if one were to resist the temptations brought on by the near occasion to sin, the frustration would become destructive to the relationship. When a couple continues to "simulate" intercourse, they are imitating the act of unity that they will experience in marriage. But, by doing it without the graces of this sacrament, either the man or the woman ends up getting frustrated by getting "almost, but not yet" to that point. This frustration often turns into resentment within the relationship.
PURITY AND DIGNITY: Lastly, when my wife and I were dating, she was much more adamant about maintaining her purity than I was. I was not active in the church at that point and had questions similar to yours. However, I was struck by how beautiful her intention was to save her sexuality for me as a gift after our wedding, and can say there have been no regrets from her doing so. I am proud of myself for finding the dignity to respect this about her and to wait until our marriage. I won't lie to you and say that chaste couples don't slip on occasion, but the wonderful part of our faith is that God recognizes that we make mistakes, but as long as we return to him to the sacrament of reconciliation, he is always waiting with open arms. Now, as a father and a husband, it is easy to answer your question by suggesting that one should look at every girl and imagine his own daughter (or potential daughter) at that age, asking himself how far he would be comfortable for her and her boyfriend to go. Another way to consider this
is to keep in mind that we don't always end up with someone we are dating. If you started dating a girl and began thinking about marriage, how far would you want her to have gone with her last boyfriend. For me, even outercourse with another man would have taken some of the purity that I would want her to have saved for me alone.
Now, as far as married couples go, I would ask the question of why, now that the man and the woman have come together as "one flesh", they wouldn't want to consummate that relationship completely as often as possible. An important verse from Scripture is 1 Cor. 7:5, where Paul tells us that a man and women shouldn't refuse themselves to one another, except for a season by mutual consent, during which time they come together for prayer. So, during those periods of abstinence, prayer would
be the most perfect way to come together as a couple. However, this does not mean that becoming romantic in the way you described is sinful. I would suggest the same warnings as above, that we not let this lead us into temptation to turn to impure acts, and that we don't begin looking at our wives as merely sex objects, rather than instruments by which God is bringing us closer to him. However, there is nothing wrong with couples celebrating their unity in many ways, including physical intimacy.
I hope this helps, Andrew. Please e-mail back if you need clarification or have follow-up questions. I wrote quickly, and sometimes might say things in a way that needs further explanation. I don't know
where you are in your own relationship, but before closing, I want to invite you to begin exploring Natural Family Planning (NFP) for your own marriage, or future marriage. You will be amazed by the positive benefits that married couples experience with NFP, and your question indicates that you are mature enough spiritually to approach a marital with the true Christian dignity that comes from this unitive program. Let me know if I can get you information on this.
"What does the Roman Catholic Church officially say about the relationship of God with and the eternal destiny of non-Catholics who are Christians but fully reject Roman Catholic doctrines? What about Christians who actively teach against Roman Catholicism?"
Patrick, as you probably are aware, people often take passages of Scripture out of context or fail to distinguish between literal and figurative statements, especially in instances where Christ uses hyperbole to make a point. Imagine the results if we accepted Matthew 5 literally when Christ instructs us to cut off our hands and pluck out our eyes if they cause us to sin. Likewise, when Catholics and non-Catholics examine the documents of the Catholic Church, passages are sometimes taken out of context or not understood in light of the literary devices they contain, such as hyperbole. When this happens, we see dangerous extremes occur. With regards to the question you asked, one of these extremes is that some understand the Church to be saying, incorrectly, that nobody but Catholics can go to Heaven. The other extreme is that of indifference, in which the philosophy that there are many equally true paths to God, and it is this viewpoint which leads to an inexcusable decrease in efforts toward evangelization.
To help you understand what the Church actually teaches about non-Catholics and salvation, we need to look at three very important texts. The first two are the documents of the Council of Trent and the
Second Vatican Council. The last, of course, is the inspired and inerrant Bible. As Catholics, we believe that the time of public revelation ended with the death of the last apostle, but that this revelation, the Word of God, is contained in Scripture (2 Tim. 3:16) and in the oral teachings (2 Tim. 2:2; 2 Thes. 15), both of which are protected from error by the Holy Spirit (John 16), and that the proper interpretation and application of those teachings comes through the authority to bind and loosen, given to Peter and his successors (Matt. 16). For this reason, the Church is the pillar and foundation of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15). Thus, we believe that to knowingly reject the teachings of the Church is to reject that institution established by Christ, and to reject at least part of the teachings that he passed on through that institution.
The Council of Trent, in response to the beginning reformation, issued some very strong statement, declaring "anathema" anyone who knowingly teaches something contrary to the fullness of the truth. Many misunderstand "anathema", thinking it to be a condemnation to Hell. Rather, it is essentially a synonym for excommunication, which means that those who are teaching a false doctrine, with full knowledge and intent, are to be considered outside the church family, which puts them outside
the sacraments, until the point that they repent. The scriptural basis for this can be found in verses such as 2 Thessalonians 3:6, which states, "We instruct you, brothers, in the name of [our] Lord Jesus Christ, to shun any brother who conducts himself in a disorderly way and not according to the traditions they received from us."
And Galatians 1:8-9, where Paul writes, "But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one that we preached to you, let that one be accursed? As we have said before, and now I say again, if anyone preaches to you a gospel other than the one that you received, let that one be accursed." However, the important thing to remember is that, for sin to be mortal, one must have full knowledge and consent, which is why the words of Trent are clarified in the document Lumen Gentium, from the 2nd Vatican Council, which makes it clear that "Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God trough Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it." Notice the passage, "knowing that the Catholic Church ...", which emphasizes that if one rejects the church, and even actively preaches against it, but does so out of a sincere desire to serve God and because of no fault of his own that he has not had the opportunity to know the truth (we call this "invincible ignorance"), we can place our trust in God's wisdom and love that this individual will experience His glory for eternity. After all, as Lumen Gentium concludes, "Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation." With this said, however, there must remain the warning that some reject the truth, not because of "invincible ignorance", but because of a hardness of the heart. We see, in John 6, that when some could not accept the "hard teachings" of Christ, he allowed them to walk away, emphasizing that each individual has the ultimate responsibility to open his heart to the truth, and that he will be held accountable for how sincerely he has done this.
I don't know if this answer was more than you were looking for, Patrick, or if you have additional questions, but the short answer to your question is that even those who reject the Catholic Church can hope for the glory of Heaven, but only if they sincerely desire to know God, and have pursued this as wholeheartedly as their conditions allow.
1. What do you think is the most fundamental difference between Catholic teaching and Protestant teaching?
For a long time, I thought that what distinguished Catholic thinking from Protestant thinking is the issue of authority. Catholics believe that authority lies in the threefold structure of Tradition: the Teaching Office of the Bishops, Scripture and the Oral Teachings that have come to us from the Apostles (2 Thessalonians 2:15). Many of our Protestant brothers and sisters believe that authority lies in scripture alone. I have recently begun to think, however, that there is a more fundamental difference than even this important topic of authority. I think even our differences on the teaching authority is rooted in a disparate notion of mediation.
Before going further, let’s start with a definition of “mediation.” According to the Oxford English Dictionary, which is considered by most linguists to be one of the most thorough dictionaries of the English language, the second given definition of the word “mediation” states: The state or fact of serving as an intermediary; means, agency, medium. By this we can understand mediation and mediator as something that is between us and another, so that there can be some relationship and connection between us and the other.
St. Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5 says to us, “For there is one God and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” Catholics would not disagree with this, there is only mediator between God and humanity and that one mediator is Jesus.
The question, though, is how do we come to know Jesus. When Jesus walked this earth 2,000 years ago, he gave us three things, basically. He gave us his teachings, revealing to us the love of God and who we are called to be. In his teachings, he taught us a way of life, his way of life. In order to sustain this Christian way of life, he also taught us how to pray, a way of worship, in which we receive the grace we need to be his disciples. We didn’t see Jesus. We didn’t hear his voice or touch his hands. We need a way therefore to come to know Jesus, his teaching, his way of life, and his way of worship.
In order to know him, and what he gave us, Jesus established the Church, which he called to be the foundation and pillar of Truth (1 Timothy 3:15). He founded the Church on his Apostles, as is beautifully symbolized in the book of Revelations (Revelations 21:14). To the 12, he gave authority to teach with the same authority with which he taught (Luke 10:16, John 13:20, John 15:20, John 17:18). He promised the Holy Spirit to the 12 so that what they taught would be without error (John 14:16, 17, 26, John 16:13) and that their teaching would be binding on the faithful (Matthew 16:18, Matthew 18:18). And so it was that the early Christians would receive the Apostles as Jesus himself (Galatians 4:14).
These Apostles taught us by two means, what they wrote, which became the scriptures, and what they taught by word of mouth, for not all that they taught was written down (1 Corinthians 11:34, 2 John 12, 3 John 13). There are certain references in scripture that refer to “The Word of God,” not in what is written down, but specifically indicating what has been orally taught, and affirming that the Holy Spirit inspired what was orally taught (1Thessalonians 2:13, 2 Timothy 1:13-14, 1 Peter 1:12, 2 Peter 3:1-2).
Because the teaching, way of life, and way of worship of Christ was taught by the Apostles both in written form in the Scriptures and in what was orally proclaimed, St. Paul urges the faithful, “stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught by us, either by word of mouth or by a letter of ours” (2 Thessalonians 2:15).
We can only experience the fullness of the loving relationship between God and humanity through the one mediator Jesus Christ. We need mediators, however, to bring us into the relationship with Jesus Christ. We see the clear teaching of scripture that it is through the Teaching Office of the Apostles, the Scriptures that they wrote, and the oral teachings that they offered, that we come to know Jesus Christ.
There is one last note concerning mediation. If we dismiss the need for a mediator to help us know Jesus Christ, then ultimately, that will lead to a dismissal of the need for even scripture. We see this already happening in many theological strands of thought. It is not uncommon these days to hear someone say, “I know that scripture says that, but I feel God telling me in my heart this other thing.” If there is no mediator necessary between me as an individual and God, then the Church is not necessary, but neither is scripture. For God can speak directly to me in my heart without the Church, without the scriptures. But how do I know that what I believe God is telling me in my heart is actually from God? It takes a mediator to teach me what is authentically from God and what is not.
Christ is the mediator between God and us. We, however, need mediators between Christ and us. This simply stands by reason. How did any of us come to know Christ? It was through teachers, who taught us the scriptures. The teachers are mediators of Christ, bringing us into relationship with him. The Scripture is a mediator of Christ, teaching us what he said and did. If we don’t believe we need a mediator, then we don’t need teachers, Scriptures, Sacraments (which mediate grace to us), the Church (which is the People of God who live the Christian life with us), or Mary or the saints (who are bound to us in the Church).
Christ recognized that a mediator is necessary in order for us to come to know him, so Jesus established his Church with her threefold means of communicating Truth to us: the Teaching Office, the Scriptures, and the Oral Teachings. As Catholics, we believe that it is through these three means that we come to know Christ, and by coming to know Christ, are reconciled with our God.
2. What role does Mary play in the Catholic Church?
Mary, the mother of Jesus, takes on a two-fold role within the Catholic Church. First, she is honored as the Mother of God. Secondly, she is a mediator between Christ and his people.
Mary is the Mother of God, and so she is honored. We call Mary the Mother of God, not because of any particular glorification of her, but because that title expresses a truth about Jesus Christ. Mary is the mother of Jesus. Jesus is God. So by calling Mary the Mother of God, we recognize the divinity of Jesus. The bishops of the Catholic Church gave the title Mother of God to Mary in the Council of Ephesus in the year 431. At that time, there was a group of people who denied that Jesus was God, the begotten Son of God. The title was not given to Mary to say anything about her, but was given to her to defend the divinity of Jesus.
Mary is the mother of Jesus, and so the Church honors her. This honor given to her was prophesied by her in sacred scriptures, “From this day, all generations will call me blessed” (Luke 1:48). So we call her “Blessed Mother” and the “Blessed Virgin.” We, as a Catholic Church, honor her because God honored her. The archangel Gabriel, who appeared to her, said to her, “Hail, full of grace, the Lord is with you… Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God” (Luke 1: 28, 30). Because God showed her special favor, we give her special honor. It is also the fulfillment of Christ’s will from the cross, and the example of the disciple whom Jesus loved: “When Jesus saw his mother, and the disciple whom he loved standing near, he said to his mother, ‘Woman, behold your son!’ then he said to the disciple, ‘Behold, your mother!’ And from that hour the disciple took her to his own home” (John 19: 26-27). Jesus has given his mother to his disciples to be our mother, and following the example of this disciple, a scriptural representative of all disciples whom Jesus loves, we take her into our homes as a spiritual mother, giving her due honor to fulfill the commandment, “Honor your father and mother” (Exodus 20:12). We honor Mary because God honored Mary, and because Jesus gave her to us as a spiritual mother.
Mary also is a mediator between Christ and us. Who better to teach us who Jesus is than his own mother? Mary is a teacher of what it means to be Christian, since she is Jesus’ first disciple. Mary also can act as an intermediary between Christ and us when we need special graces. This is what happens in scripture. In John 2, we read of Jesus’ first miracle at the wedding in Cana in Galilee. It was through Mary’s intercession that this first great sign was accomplished. So now, she can intercede for us to Christ, to help us in our prayer to him. She does not take the place of Christ, but always and in every way leads us to him. When we ask her for her aid in prayer, she tells us always what she said to those servants in Cana, “Do whatever He tells you” (John 2: 5).
Our prayer to Mary, and indeed all of the saints, is never a prayer of worship. Catholics do not worship Mary and the saints. Rather, it is a request for intercession. The most common prayer offered to Mary is the “Hail Mary.” We can see the basic structure of our relationship with Mary in this prayer:
“Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with you.” This first phrase of this prayer is a quote of scripture. It is the words of Gabriel when he appeared to Mary (Luke 1:28).
“Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.” This, again, is a quote from scripture: the words of Elizabeth when Mary greeted her (Luke 1: 42). Notice that at the center of this prayer is the name of our Lord. As Pope John Paul II says, the name of Jesus is the hinge on which this prayer is offered.
“Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death. Amen.” The last part of the prayer is a request to pray for us. This is no different than when I am speaking to a friend and end a conversation by saying, “Pray for me.”
We as a Church honor Mary, and we should, because God honored Mary. Because of the special favor God shows her, we believe she is given a special role in helping us come to know Christ. We also believe that we can turn to her as a mother to help us attain from Christ the graces we need to be the Holy People of God.
3. The first commandment says that we are not to create images of God. Why does the Catholic Church fill their churches with statues?
There is a story of a man who was driving by a Catholic Church dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes. Outside the Church, there was a statue of Mary, and kneeling before this statue, another statue of St. Bernadette. The man commented as he passed by, “Catholics! Not only do they worship statues, but they have statues that worship statues!”
The first commandment does state, “You shall not make for yourself a graven image, or any likeness of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is the water under the earth” (Exodus 2:4). This seems like a fairly absolute command. But then, we read in Exodus 25:18, when God commands Moses to build the Ark of the Covenant, “And you shall make two cherubim of gold, of hammered work shall you make them, on the two ends of the mercy seat.” The Lord God continues to give instructions on what these gold angelic statues are to look like.
It doesn’t make sense that the Lord God would absolutely forbid the making of images, only to then command Moses and the people of Israel to make images. That means there must be a different meaning than an absolute command forbidding images in that commandment. If we go one verse further in the Ten Commandments, we read, “You shall not bow down to [the graven images] or serve them; for I the Lord your God am a jealous God…” (Exodus 20:5). Taken in context, we see that what God is forbidding is not the creation of any images at all, but rather the creation of images to worship. God not only condones, but actually commands the Israelites to create images, not to be worshipped in themselves, but to enhance the beauty of the place of worship. This is why Catholics use images and such rich ornamentation in their churches. Contrary to popular opinion, Catholics do not worship statues.
We create statues of the saints specifically for the same reason that our nation builds statues and monuments to our heroes. We honor those who have sacrificed so much, even their lives, for our nation. In the same way, as Church, we honor those who have sacrificed so much, even their lives, for Christ and the Christian Faith. Placing a statue of a saint is a way of honoring that hero of our faith, and making our place of worship more beautiful.
4. What role does Scripture play in the Catholic Church?One of the criticisms we most often hear of the Catholic Church is that it does not take Scripture seriously enough. Indeed, I have often had even Catholics come to me and ask, “Why doesn’t our Church use scripture more?” I’m usually floored when I hear this, because the entire Eucharistic celebration is scripturally centered. Even those parts of the Mass in which we don’t focus explicitly on the Scriptures are dotted and dashed with phrases from the bible.
Part of the source of this ill-deserved criticism is that many don’t understand the relationship that exists between Sacred Scripture and Sacred Tradition. Indeed, the issue is often presented in language that connotes a type of competition between Tradition and Scripture. “Father, could you say something about Scripture versus Tradition?” There is no “versus” between them, as if the two were ranked among some of the greatest rivalries in sports: “Ali versus Foreman,” “Cardinals versus Cubs,” and “Scripture versus Tradition.”
To understand the relationship between Tradition and Scripture, we must have a better understanding of what is the “Word of God.” In Scripture itself, we see the phrase “Word of God” referring to different aspects of the revelation of God. God’s Word is seen as something living and creative (Isaiah 55:10-11). It is described as inspiration. For example, it is God’s Word that inspired St. John the Baptist to go out to the desert to begin his mission (Luke 3:2-3). God’s Word is the oral preaching of Jesus (Luke 4:44-51). St. John goes so far as to say that God’s Word is Jesus himself (John 1:1-4), and what St. John says is affirmed in the letter to the Hebrews, which refers to the Word of God with the pronoun “him” and speaks of the Word’s activity in creation (Hebrews 4:12-13; 11:3). In the Acts of the Apostles and in St. Paul’s writings, God’s Word is the charismatic preaching of the Apostles (Acts 4:31, 1 Thessalonians 2:13). To limit the meaning of the phrase “Word of God” to Scripture alone is not a meaning that is supported by Scripture, although we do know that scripture is part of the Word of God, it is part of that revelation by which we come to know our Lord.
We see easily enough that while the Word of God is expressed in Sacred Scripture, Sacred Scripture alone does not express the entire Word that God has spoken. That is to say, there is Truth outside of Scripture. As a matter of fact, the notion that something must be contained in Scripture in order to be believed is itself not even in Scripture. Scripture, as has been demonstrated, shows us something quite different. The next time someone says, “Show me where that is in the bible.” Our response can be, “First, show me in the bible where the bible says it has to be in there.”
When Catholics speak of Tradition, we are talking about all of the teachings that are contained in the entirety of the Word of God. God has spoken to us. “In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world” (Hebrews 11:1, 2). God has spoken to us through the preaching of the Apostles (Acts 4:31; 1 Thessalonians 2:13; 2 Timothy 1:13, 14; 1 Peter 1:12; 2 Peter 1:19; 3: 1, 2). And God has spoken to us through the sacred writings (2 Thessalonians 3:14; 2 Corinthians 10: 8-11; 2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Thus we see, that Christ Jesus, the Word of God, taught the Apostles everything that they needed. The Apostles then taught us what Jesus gave to them. The Apostles handed on to us the teaching of Christ through three means: the Teaching Office, those called to be teachers, the written word, the Scriptures, and the oral preaching, that which was taught by word of mouth. These three share equal authority over the Christian person (2 Thessalonians 2:15). All three of these, the Teaching Office, the Scriptures, and the Oral Preaching, make up what the Catholic Church calls Tradition.
To set Scripture apart from Tradition, to speak of “Scripture and Tradition,” is not an accurate reflection of Catholic teaching. There is only Tradition, which is made up of Scripture, the Teaching Office, and the Oral Preaching of the Apostles.
5. In Matthew 23:9, Jesus says, “Call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.” Why do Catholics call priests, “father,” and the pope, “the Holy Father”?
Jesus seems to give an absolute command here about calling earthly men “Father.” This question is less about calling men “father,” as it is about how do we interpret scriptures. We always have to remember that the entire bible is part of the Word of God, not just a single verse. This means that each verse in the bible must be interpreted within the context of the entire Scriptures. This text is a good example to demonstrate this point.
In Matthew 23:9, Jesus does seem to give a fairly absolute command. If this is an absolute commandment, however, it is one that even Jesus himself breaks. In Matthew 15: 4, 5, Jesus teaches on the 4th commandment of “honor your father and mother,” and means clearly ones earthly father when using the word. In Matthew 19: 29, Jesus again makes a clear reference to an earthly person as father. In John 8:56, Jesus breaks his own command by referring to Abraham, an earthly person as father, right after referring to God in heaven as Father.
Jesus is not the only one who broke this commandment. In the teachings of the Apostles that we find in scripture, the Apostles broke this command, as well. In 1 Corinthians 4:14-16, St. Paul refers to himself as the father of the community of Christians in Corinth. In 1 Thessalonians 2:11, St. Paul again uses the image of father and children to describe his relationship with that community. He makes consistent reference to Titus and Timothy as his spiritual children (Titus 1:4). Calling Abraham “father” is a common in the writing and preaching of the Apostles (Romans 4:12; James 2:21; Acts 7:2).
When looked at in this context, we can see that Jesus was not giving an absolute command concerning the title “father.” Rather, when looked at in the context of the gospel passage, this command is recognized as a teaching on humility. We are not to seek after positions of power and authority, but always positions of service within the Church.
Catholics call priests and the pope “father” out of the tradition that we see expressed by St. Paul, who uses the relationship between father and child as an image of his care and love for the communities in which he served. In the same way, priests, and especially the pope, are to love the community of the Church as a father loves his children. This is why priests are called “father,” it is an expression of real spiritual relationship that exists between the man and the community, a relationship of paternal love and service. It is an expression of who the priest is called to be.
6. Why do Catholics believe that the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Jesus?
Catholics believe that in the mass, the bread and wine really and truly become the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ. We believe this because it is what Jesus taught.
There are two different expressions of this. The first is in the Synoptic Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, chapter 11. In the Synoptics and in 1 Corinthians, we hear recounted the story of the Last Supper (Matthew 26: 26-29; Mark 14:22-25; Luke 22:17-19; 1 Corinthians 11:23-26). In these passages, we hear the words of Jesus, “This is my body,” “This is my blood.” First, Jesus says, “This is my body/blood.” He does not say, “this symbolizes,” or, “this represents.” His language is very clear that he means that it is he. Secondly, when speaking of his body in these passages, the Greek text uses the word soma, which means basically everything he is. “This is my soma,” Jesus says, “This is everything I am.” This is why the Church expresses that the Eucharistic bread and wine are Jesus, Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity. Everything he is. This is expressed also by his use of wine for his blood. In ancient Jewish thought, a things essence, that which makes a thing what it is, its “life-force,” so to speak, is contained in the blood. When Jesus said, “This is my blood,” he was saying that the wine holds within it the very thing that makes Jesus who he is.
The second expression of the Truth of what Catholics call the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist is found in John’s gospel. John relates the story of the multiplication of loaves. After Jesus feeds the people, they come looking for him, and when they find him, he offers his beautiful “Bread of Life Discourse.” Through the discourse, Jesus makes several statements concerning the Bread from Heaven:
For the bread of God is that which comes down from heaven, and gives life to the world (John 6: 33).
I am the bread of life; he who comes to me shall not hunger, and he who believes in me shall never thirst (John 6:35).
I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh (John 6:48-51).
When those listening grumbled about this last saying, Jesus responded:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you; he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me. This is the bread which came down from heaven, he who eats this bread will live for ever (John 6:53-58).
Jesus made no provision for doubt, the bread that he gives to us is his flesh and the wine he gives is his blood. The Catholic Church has maintained this teaching throughout her 2,000 year history.
This teaching of Jesus is difficult. It was difficult 2,000 years ago to those who first heard it. Indeed, after Jesus said these things, many of his disciples left him. Jesus turned to his 12 and asked if they would also leave him after this saying. Peter responded, “Lord, to whom shall we go, you have the words of eternal life; and we have believed and have come to know that you are the Holy One of God” (John 6:66-69).
Jesus word of eternal speaks to us of his real presence in the Eucharistic bread and wine. We cannot reject this word without rejecting Christ himself.
7. Who is the Pope and why do Catholics believe he is infallible?
To understand the role of the Pope in the Church, we need to understand the role of all the bishops. Jesus chose 12 men to be his Apostles as is evident in Scripture (Matthew 10:1-4; Mark 3:13-19; Luke 6:12-16). He gave to his Apostles authority to heal, to cast out demons and to teach the people, to proclaim the presence of the Kingdom of God. Jesus wanted them to teach, and wanted them to teach accurately what he himself wanted taught, so he promised to them the Holy Spirit, who would remind the Apostles of all that he said (John 13:26) and who would lead the Apostles into all Truth (John 16:13). The Apostles, according to the promise of Jesus, were able to teach infallibly all that Jesus had taught them.
The Apostles recognized that teachers were necessary for the faith, and so they began to appoint others to help them. The early Christian community knew these men, chosen by the apostles, as successors of the 12 Apostles. The Apostles associated their successors with themselves by the action of the laying on of hands (Acts 13:1-3; 1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). In this action, the Apostles gave to their successors the full teaching authority that they held themselves. The Apostles recognized, and taught the Christian community to recognize their successors as equal to themselves (1 Corinthians 3:8; 1 Corinthians 16:10, 11; 2 Corinthians 8:23; 1 Thessalonians 5:12). The successors of the Apostles were to be considered with the same regard and with the same authority as the original 12.
The Apostles instructed their successors to pass on the authority as well by choosing successors, and again, this association and passing on of authority was done through the sacramental sign of the laying on of hands (1 Timothy 5:22; 2 Timothy 2:2; Titus 1:5). This line of successors of the Apostles, associated with the Apostles through the laying on of hands, who carry the same authority and should be given the same respect, has remained unbroken within the Catholic Church for 2,000 years. The bishops of the Catholic Church are in an unbroken line that can be traced back to the 12 Apostles.
Because today’s bishops are the modern day successors of the Apostles, they carry the same authority as the original 12, including the ability to teach infallibly in mattes of faith and morality, a gift Christ gave to the 12 in his giving of the Holy Spirit (John 16:13). The bishops teach infallibly only on matters of faith and morality and only when they are in council with one another. Their function within the Church is to preserve what has been taught to us by Christ and the Apostles (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2; Ephesians 4:11-14; 1 Timothy 1:3, 18; 4:6, 11-16; 6:2b, 3, 11, 14, 20; 2 Timothy 1:14; 2:2, 14, 15; 4:1-14; Titus 1:9; 2:15).
When we look at Scriptures, we see very definitely that a position of leadership was given to Simon Peter. It was to Peter and Peter alone that Christ gave the keys to the kingdom (Matthew 16:18). It was with Peter and Peter alone that Christ associated his own identity as the Good Shepherd (John 21:15-17). It was Peter who Christ commanded before his death, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren” (Luke 22:31, 32).
The early community who followed Christ recognized Peter’s leadership position within the early Church, even those who were hostile to his mission (Matthew 10: 2-4; 17:24; Mark 3:16-19; Luke 6: 14-16). It was Peter who organized the choice of the successor of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-26). It was Peter’s words that were recorded at Pentecost, though all 12 were preaching (Acts 2:14-41). In Acts, chapters 3 and 4, we see Peter taking a clear leadership role in the Christian community. St. Paul even recognized the role of St. Peter in the early Christian community (1 Corinthians 15:3-5; Galatians 1:18; Galatians 2:7, 8). It is clear in Scripture that Peter held a role of leadership within the 12.
As the bishops are the modern day successors of the 12 Apostles as is demonstrated, so the pope is the modern day successor of Peter, who was the leader among the original 12. That is his role among the bishops, to “strengthen his brethren.” Because the pope is the leader of the 12, he holds personally the authority to teach an infallible teaching on matters of faith and morality.
The pope is not infallible in himself. He is a human being, prone to the same weaknesses and temptations that all human beings suffer. The pope does have the authority, given to his Apostles to teach infallibly, only under certain conditions. First, it must be a matter of faith or morality. If the pope were to decide that 2 + 2 = 5, we would think he is off his rocker. It is not a matter of faith or morality, but arithmetic, and so we would not be bound to submit to that. Secondly, he must be speaking out of his place as the leader of the bishops, in other words, as the voice of the bishops who are giving this teaching collectively through him. This is known as ex cathdra, which means “from the chair” of Peter. Lastly, for the pope to offer an infallible teaching, what he teaches must be in harmony with the Tradition of the Church as it has always been understood. An infallible teaching can never contradict Scripture or the other expressions of Tradition.
8. Why do Catholics believe they have to confess their sins to a priest in order to obtain forgiveness?
We can answer this question by considering three things: the biblical teaching on reconciliation, the meaning of sin in the Church, and the psychological perspective.
The idea of confession is in the bible, much to the chagrin of many. The bible teaches clearly that “the Son of Man” does have power to forgive sins (Mark 2:10). “The Son of Man” is a title that refers to Jesus, so Jesus has power to forgive sins. Jesus did not keep this authority over sin to himself, however, but shared it with his Apostles. In Mark 2:1-12, Jesus demonstrates the Jewish mindset that disease is often caused by sin, whether one’s own or the inherited sin from one’s parents. Jesus, in curing the lame man, forgives the sins that caused the man’s lameness. We are told explicitly that Jesus gave to the 12 “authority over unclean spirits, to cast them out, and to heal every disease and every infirmity” (Matthew 10:1). Because there is such a connection biblically between disease and sin, to give power to heal disease and infirmities is to give authority to forgive the sin that caused the disease and infirmity. The important note here is that it is not by the power of the 12 that they were able to heal and forgive, but rather by the authority Jesus had given to them.
There is more explicit biblical references than this. Jesus says to Peter in Matthew 16:19, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven!” This gift is given without qualification: whatever Peter binds or looses on earth. This means anything, including sin. This is a gift to Peter from Christ, that is, it by Christ’s authority that Peter is able to loose one from sin, not by Peter’s own authority. This power over sin is extended to the whole Christian community of disciples in Matthew 18:18, “Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loose in heaven.” The point here is that while the entire Christian community has power to loosen from sin, or to bind one in his sin, Christ gives the authority personally to Peter. Jesus is even more explicit in John’s gospel, where he extends this authority to forgive sin to his Apostles after the resurrection: “And when he had said this, he breathed on the, and said to hem, Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any they are retained” (John 20:22, 23). Jesus explicitly gave the authority to forgive sins to his Apostles.
The Apostles recognized this authority, as representatives of Christ, and so taught the early Church to seek reconciliation. St. Paul says, “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. So we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We beseech you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:18-20). St. John teaches us, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just, and will forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). St. James says also, “Therefore confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful in its effects” (James 5:16). The Apostles recognized the authority given to them by Christ Jesus to forgive sins, and so pleaded with the members of the early Church to confess their sins in order to seek reconciliation.
The early Church also recognized the authority of the Apostles in the successors of the Apostles, the bishops, and so sought reconciliation from sin from the bishops of the early Church. This was done in a public way. Whenever someone committed a grievous sin, the person was brought before the entire Christian community, and accused publicly of that sin. The whole parish community would know what sin the person had committed! The person was then assigned a place in the Order of Penitents, where they would be given a penance to perform that could last several years in its duration. When the penance was completed, the person was brought before the bishop in a public ceremony and the bishop would pray the prayer of reconciliation over the person, who would then be reintegrated into the life of their parish community.
This practice of reconciliation in public came from an understanding of sin that is difficult for many modern people to understand in our individualistic culture. Sin does not simply effect the sinner, but actually effects the entire Church. There is no such thing as private sin. If our offense were against God alone, it would be enough to confess our sin only to God. As it is, sin does not hurt God alone, but also hurts the entire Christian community, no matter how privately the sin may have been committed. Thus, not only do we need to seek reconciliation from God, but we also should seek reconciliation from the community of the Church. This was the knowledge of the early Christian community. The bishop, with this understanding of sin, not only acted as an ambassador for Christ, reconciling one to God, but also acts as the representative of the Church, offering the forgiveness of the Church to the penitent. So it is in today’s sacrament, the priest acts both in the person of Christ, offering God’s forgiveness, and as the head of the community, offering the Church’s forgiveness as well for the offense committed against her.
Within monasteries developed the practice of private confession. If a monk committed a serious sin, he would confess that sin privately to his superior, who would assign him a penance, and then offer him the prayer of reconciliation. It was all kept very personal. The practice of spiritual direction also influenced the development of a private form of reconciliation. Spiritual direction is the practice of meeting regularly with someone trusted with spiritual development. If a person committed sin, they would tell their spiritual director, who would give them advice on how to avoid the sin in the future, and prayed for the person’s reconciliation. We see a movement early in the Church from the public practice of reconciliation to a private reconciliation, but the Sacrament of Reconciliation always existed from apostolic days.
Lastly, it is a psychologically healthy practice to seek reconciliation in the Sacrament. We are spiritual and physical beings. The spiritual and physical are bound together in us, which means that in order for us to find forgiveness, we must not only pay attention to the spiritual, but also to the physical. Seeking reconciliation is a physical act with spiritual meaning, thus it is an act that is fully human. We outwardly confess our sins. We outwardly hear the words of absolution. It is a promise of forgiveness. The question is not, “Can’t God forgive my sins in another way?” The question is, “Can we receive God’s forgiveness in another way?” The answer is that we cannot be assured of God’s forgiveness in any way except through this physical expression of contrition and outward sign of forgiveness. A psychologist once said, “A priest can do in the sacrament of reconciliation in 5 minutes what it would take me as a psychologist to do in 5 years of therapy.” Reconciliation is healing. Why would we deny ourselves this fountain of grace?
9. What’s the deal with Purgatory?
There is no direct reference to Purgatory in the scriptures. We can infer the existence of Purgatory from the scriptures, however.
In Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, he tells us, “Make friends quickly with your accuser, while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison; truly, I say to you, you will never get out till you have paid the last penny” (Matthew 5:25, 26). This is sound practical advice concerning worldly matters, but it is given in the peculiar context following his teaching on eternal judgment given to one who will not settle his anger with his brother (Matthew 5:21-24). In this context, we can see that the judgment Jesus is speaking of also includes the idea of eternal judgment over unsettled matters of life. Jesus ends this teaching about settling our debts to others before the final judgment by making this statement: “you will never get out till you have paid the last penny.” This suggests that there is a punishment to which we are subject imposed by the judgment after death, but a punishment from which we can be released.
There are other passages from which we can infer a teaching about Purgatory. St. Paul teaches us, “Each man’s work will become manifest; for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each one has done. If the work which any man has built on the foundations survives, he will receive a reward. If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss, though he himself will be saved, but only as through fire” (1 Corinthians 3:13-15). St. Paul speaks of a time of testing on “the Day,” a reference to the Day of Judgment. He uses the imagery of the purifying flames of fire which test the purity of the work of each person. While the purifying flames may destroy some of what the person may have worked, the person himself will be saved through the purifying fire. The reference to “the Day” means that his happens after judgment. So we see that after judgment there will be a purification of a person through suffering in loss.
St. Peter teaches in his first letter: “For Christ also dies for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit; in which he went and preached to the spirits in prison, who formerly did not obey, when God’s patience waited in the days of Noah, during the building of the ark, in which few, that is eight persons were saved through water” (1 Peter 3:18-20). This is an obvious reference to a prison existing after death, but from which there can be release. If there were no release from this prison, what would have been the point of Christ going to preach to the spirits held there? St. Peter makes the answer clear, “For this is why the gospel was preached even to the dead, that though judged in the flesh like men, they might live in the spirit like God” (1 Peter 4:6). Jesus preached the gospels to the spirits of the dead held in this spiritual prison in order to give them life after death.
The most important thing to see here is not a direct teaching on purgatory, but only an understanding of scripture that the idea of a third place that exists after death, a place other than heaven and hell, a place that involves temporary suffering from which we can be set free into the eternal blessed life, can exist. The Church’s teaching on Purgatory, while not directly from scripture, does not contradict scripture.
So what is Purgatory?
Purgatory is a state of being, after death, in which we are prepared to meet God. Some people, indeed the Church would teach that most people, are not spiritually prepared to meet God at the moment of death. They may have sins, which while not mortal to the soul, still are sins and must be forgiven (1 John 5:16, 17). Purgatory is that state in which we find forgiveness of our sins. In Purgatory, we are purged of our earthly attachments so that we may find fullness in heaven. In Purgatory, we enter that final state of preparation to meet God face to face. It really is that simply.
The idea of Purgatory does not contradict what we find in scripture. It is something that has been handed on to us from apostolic times. Some of the earliest prayers we find from the ancient Church are prayers in which the People of God prayed for the dead, prayed that the dead would enter everlasting life.
10. Why do Catholics add books to their bible that Protestants don’t have?
This question reflects a lack of historical knowledge concerning the development of the Sacred Scriptures.
The Old Testament, in which there are texts in the Catholic bible not found in most Protestant bibles, was written and edited and rewritten and re-edited over a period of a thousand years. The New Testament, which is identical in Catholic and Protestant bibles, comparatively was written in a much, much more brief amount of time: a little under 70 years.
Around the time of Christ, there were two versions of the Old Testament floating around the Mediterranean area of the world. Jews outside of Israel used one text, which was written in Greek, for their synagogue services, because Greek was the dominant language of the world in which they lived. This version was known as the Septuagint. While Jews in Israel knew of the Septuagint, they used a version of the Hebrew Scriptures written in Hebrew because the dominant and traditional language in Israel was Hebrew. The Septuagint, or Greek version, contained texts that were not included in the Hebrew version, either because they had originally been written in Greek, or because the original Hebrew text had been lost.
When the Romans destroyed the Temple in 70 A.D., the Hebrews in Israel began a purification process of their faith. The Temple had always been the center of Jewish worship, but now without the Temple, their Scriptures became their unifying standard. The Hebrew Jews rejected the Septuagint with its additional texts. The Greek Jews living outside of Palestine, however, maintained the Hebrew texts.
Around the year 381, Pope Damasus decided that a canon (which means “list”) of Scriptural books should be established for the Catholic Christian Church. He called together Scriptural experts from the known world and sought their counsel. They were faced with a dilemma: which Old Testament version should be in the Christian bible, the Greek or the Hebrew. The bishops of the Church decided that the Greek version would be the standard list of books for the Christian Church. This decision, along with the list of New Testament books, was universally accepted by the year 415 A.D.
In the Protestant Reformation, the Protestants rejected the version of the Old Testament that had been used by all of Christendom for 1,100 years, and decided that the Hebrew Scriptures were the authentic version of the Old Testament. So you see that the Catholic Church does not “add” books to the bible, but rather the Protestant communities have removed texts from the Sacred Scriptures that were always there.