By GEORGE L. FATTAL
It is impossible to provide a thorough scriptural response to a recent “Pastors Pen’s” article (“Purgatory and indulgences contrary to God’s word,” The Goshen News, Aug. 10) condemning and distorting Catholic Church doctrine due to limited editorial space.
In the column, Rev. Andrew Wollman states: “ask to be shown where purgatory is taught not by the Church, but by God in Scripture.” But where is the word “Trinity” in the Bible? “Rapture?” Where does it say in Scripture which Gospel books or Epistles are to be included in the Bible?
Through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, the Catholic Church organized and canonized the books of the New Testament in 393 AD at the council of Hippo. The Church composed the doctrine of the Trinity at the Fourth Lateran Council. There has been an unbroken line of Catholic bishops faithfully handing on what Jesus and the apostles taught the first Christians. ... That’s more than 2000 years.
We believe in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, the sacrificial nature of the Mass, baptismal regeneration, Mary’s special role and the existence of purgatory. For the record, the Catholic Church teaches salvation by grace, not by works, and not through indulgences as Rev. Wollman stated. Catholic Christians believe Christ alone atoned for our sins though the shedding of his blood. That’s exactly what Catholics call to mind every time we celebrate Mass ... every day ... every hour ... worldwide.
The Catholic Church is currently spearheading the battle to defend the unborn and protect religious freedom in this country. We need to unite as fellow Christians, not create dissension with inaccurate claims on Catholic teaching(s). The doctrine of purgatory can be justified in Scripture found in both the Old and New Testament. Purgatory is simply a “purging” of our inclination or “appetite” for sin as through fire. The eternal penalty and guilt for sin was removed by Christ. We must be purified in order to stand in the presence of God.
In Matthew 16:18-19 Christ gave Peter authority over the Church on earth and said: “So I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.” Then Peter was given the keys to the kingdom of Heaven, a symbol of his authority to rule the Church on earth in Jesus’ absence (as in Isaiah 22:20-24). Christ, the Good Shepherd, called Peter to be the Chief Shepherd of his Church (John 21:15–17). Rev. Wollman has a right to his opinion, but it is disingenuous to attack Catholicism without offering authentic Catholic teaching.
In John 17:20-24 Jesus prays for unity among the sheep. For 1,500-plus years we were One Holy, Catholic (Universal), Apostolic Church. Recent estimates project there are now more than 40,000 different Protestant denominations following the 1517 AD Protestant Reformation.
In closing, I will quote The Rev. Bishop Sheen who once said: “There are not more than 100 people in the world who truly hate the Catholic Church, but there are millions who hate what they perceive to be the Catholic Church.”
George Fattal and his wife, Dawn, live in Goshen. They are in charge of the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) program at St. John’s Catholic Church in Goshen and meet weekly with people interested in learning about Catholicism.