Apologetics Desk Support

If you have a question or objection concerning the Roman Catholic Faith, please feel free to submit it to the ACLA Apologetics Desk, supported by priest advisors and qualified lay apologists.  You may do so at the Contact Us link or email us at info@acla-inc.org.

While we cannot provide personal answers by email, we will address representative questions and objections in "Questions and Answers" section, below.

As Bishop Fulton J. Sheen once said, “There are not over a hundred people…who hate the Roman Catholic Church. There are millions, however, who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church.”

To understand the Catholic Faith is to respect it. To respect it is to embrace it, sooner or later, if one has good will and remains open to the action of God's grace.

What many non-Catholics do not realize is that Catholicism is the most logical, systematic and complete body of thought the world has ever known. That is because its Founder was none other than God Incarnate. 

Everything necessary for human happiness can be found in the teachings of the Catholic Church.

The individual, the family, the nation, and the world will benefit beyond measure if they embrace the truths of the Catholic religion.

The purpose of this section of the ACLA’s web site is to demonstrate, simply and briefly, that there is a reasonable and completely satisfying answer to all of the common objections to Roman Catholicism – reasonable and satisfying, that is, to men of good will who are seeking the Truth.

Our Apologetics Desk will provide answers to various questions and objections concerning the Roman Catholic religion.

We hope non-Catholics will read this defense of the Faith with good will.  If they do so, in complete openness to the Truth, they will not fail to enter the Church which Christ established 2,000 years ago.

The lives of innumerable converts to the Faith attest to the irresistible attractiveness of Roman Catholicism once it is properly understood. That is why the Apologetics Desk has been established as part of the ACLA’s apostolate.Type your paragraph here.

Questions and Answers

Q. Is it morally licit to defend an individual whom the lawyer believes to be guilty? What about in cases where the defence would be purely technical (i.e. the accused did the crime, but the state violated his rights in investigating the crime and therefore ought not have the benefit of a conviction)?  

A. Yes, it is morally licit. The American criminal justice system requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt of the guilt of the accused. That a defense attorney "knows" his client is guilty (as, for example, when the client blurts out a confession to his lawyer in private) does not render the representation, as such, illicit on moral grounds, since it is the burden of the State, not the defense attorney, to prove guilt as a legal and factual matter, according to the required burden of proof and subject to all technical defenses, even if the client's moral culpability appears certain to the defense attorney. To hold otherwise would be to say that only those who are innocent, as determined in the first instance by defense attorneys, are entitled to a defense. Rather, as Thomas More declares in A Man for All Seasons, "Yes, I'd give the devil the benefit of the law, for my own safety's sake." The defense attorney, by putting the State to its burden of proof, cross-examining State's witnesses, and raising technical defenses, assures the protection of the law for all, including the innocent.

Both a moral and an ethical problem arise, however, when a defense attorney makes a representation to the tribunal [in his direct case or otherwise] that contradicts what he knows or believes to be the truth. Local ethical canons must be consulted, but as a general matter it would be both immoral and unethical for a lawyer to present testimony by his client which he [the lawyer] knows to be false, or to raise defenses [such as alibi for a client who has admitted his guilt to the defense attorney] that he knows are without foundation in fact or law. Should the client insist upon such courses of conduct, a lawyer should decline representation or withdraw from representation as provided by local ethical canons, whose application is not a matter of Catholic moral teaching and is thus outside the scope of this answer. See, e.g., Noonan, J., "The Purposes of Advocacy and the Limits of Confidentiality." Michigan Law Review 64: 1485-1492. The withdrawal must be in a manner that would not prejudice a client's position. A lawyer would certainly not advise a court, for example, that he must withdraw because he has become aware of his client's guilt.

All of this being true, however, a lawyer may have strong moral scruples against representing a person he "knows" to be guilty. Should such scruples interfere with the lawyer's ability to present a vigorous defense, he should not accept the case, or, should those scruples arise during representation, he should [again, as permitted by local ethical canons] seek to withdraw from representation.

This advice has been given from a Catholic moral perspective and is not to be considered apart from the requirements of the ethical canons in a given lawyer's jurisdiction, whose application to particular facts can be quite complex.
Q. Wondering what one's response ought to be to the question: "Have you been saved?"

A. I assume this question is asked because of the way evangelistic Protestants commonly approach Catholics about the matter of salvation. Protestants of the Calvinistic and Fundmentalist variety have been taught that once someone receives salvation by "accepting Jesus into your heart," that individual can never lose his salvation, regardless of whether he falls into sin. If he falls into deep sin, the Calvinist apologetic is that the person was never "really" saved originally, so he has no salvation to lose. If the person sins but not seriously, he is said to "fall out of fellowship" with Christ, but he maintains his salvation.

Thus, when these individuals approach a Catholic and ask: "have you been saved?" or "if you died tonight, do you have the asurance that you will go to heaven?" or "have you accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Lord and Savior?" behind the question is the above theology concerning eternal security.

Since most of Protestantism (except for Lutherans and Anglicans) believe that salvation is received through one's "acceptance by faith of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior," they will automatically discount one's appeal to sacraments as providing the means of salvation. Thus, anyone who has not followed the regimen of the above "profession" wherein one "believes in his heart and confesses with his mouth" (cf., Romans 10:9), then the Protestant will not consider that person "saved." The salvation experience for the Protestant is based primarily on the subjective disposition of the heart and subsequently on the a personal confession of that faith in public.

Unfortunately for them, the Protestants have misconstrued the biblical teaching on how one receives salvation. To the question "Have you been saved," the Catholic who has received the sacrament of Baptism can answer: "Yes, I have been saved. I received my salvation when I was Baptized by water and the spirit, as Jesus taught in John 3:5. Jesus says that without receiving the water one cannot see the kingdom of heaven, and thus we see that Baptism is an absolute requirment for salvation. This comes not only from the Bible, but from the authority of the Church who has made this teaching into dogma (Council of Orange in 529; Council of Trent in 1563), and among all the Fathers of the Church who gave their unanimous consent to this teaching, without one deviation."

The Catholic can further answer: "Baptism gives me an objective means of knowing that I am saved, as opposed to dependence on one's mere subjective disposition of faith taught in Protestant churches. In fact, when you ask me 'have you been saved?' I can tell you the exact time and place that I received salvation, since God promised that he would justify me when I, by faith, received the sacrament of Baptism. You, on the other hand, must depend on your subjective feelings of faith, feelings that may or may not be real, and feelings that do not have an objective counterpart. In Catholicism, we have the objective means of salvation (Baptism) coinciding with the subjective disposition of the individual (an act of faith and profession of that faith during the Baptismal act). Both are required for the procurment of salvation. I as a Catholic have done both, and therefore I am saved."

The Catholic can add the following: "Having been saved, however, does not mean that I am quaranteed to go to heaven, since the same Bible that taught me about Baptism in John 3:5 is the same one that teaches me I can lose my salvation if I sin seriously without repentance (e.g., Luke 8:13; John 15:6; Romans 8:12-13; 1Cor 6:8-9; Gal 5:19-21; 2Tim 2:12; Hebrews 2:1; 3:1,6, 12-14; 4:1, 11-14; 6:4-6, 11-12; 10:26-27, 35-38; 12:1,3, 14-17, 25, 29; James 2:13-14; 4:4; 2Pet 2:20-22, et al). Hence, if I see you in serious sin without repentance, I should ask you: 'have you received salvation?'"

Of course, the above truth about losing one's salvation cuts both ways. Since the average Catholic is nominal and often living in sin against the edicts of the Church, and hasn't been practicing the faith or receiving the sacraments, the question "have you been saved?" is quite appropriate. Many "Catholics" have, indeed, lost their salvation, and thus the answer to the above question, if answered honestly, would have to be "I received it when I was Baptized but have since lost it due to my own sin." 

What the Catholic needs to do at this point, of course, is make his way back into the Church and receive the sacrament of Confession in order to restore the graces he once had received at Baptism. Unfortunately, it is exactly at this point that the average Catholic becomes fodder for the Protestant, since the latter will try to convince the former that he need not confess his sins to a priest because priest's have no power to forgive sins (in direct violation of John 20:23 and Matt 16:18-19). He will then convince the Catholic that the reception of salvation is much simpler than going to a priest. The "rugged individualism" he inherited from his Protestant forefathers will force him to say, "Why not go to God directly and make a confession with your mouth and receive Jesus into your heart?"

This, of course, gets right back to the problem we introduced concerning the objective versus subjective nature of salvation. If the Catholic really wants to obey God, then he will use the means God has ordained to have his sins forgiven. If they are serious sins, the God-ordained means is the sacrament of confession. Anything else is an affront to God and a device of the devil (who disguises himself as an angel of light - 2 Cor 11:14-15).

Robert A. Sungenis, M.A., Ph.D. (cd)
President of Catholic Apologetics Intl.
Author of: Not By Faith Alone: The Biblical Evidence for the Catholic Doctrine of Justification (Queenship Publishing, 1997, 774 pages)

Q. In Libertas, Pope Leo XIII identifies free will with the ability to choose between certain means to an end. He affirms that the essence of free will does not include the possibility of sin (par. 4-5).

However, it is prevalent even in Catholic philosophical circles to identify free will with the ability to choose between right and wrong, or to include in free will the possibility of sin. What does the Church teach on this issue?

A. A very astute question! The idea that “freedom” is the ability to choose good or evil is a modern error that Leo himself addressed in Libertas. 

As Leo teaches in paragraphs 5-6 of that encyclical, liberty is “the faculty of choosing means fitted for the end proposed.” Only rational beings -- man and the angels -- have this faculty. Like the angels, man “is master of his actions who can choose one thing out of many…” Animals, on the other hand, act according to instinct, rather than freely willed choices between means. Hence, a squirrel, for example, does not choose to gather nuts for the winter; it is compelled by instinct to do so. 

Due to original sin, this faculty of choosing means is exercised imperfectly in man while he is on this earth, so that his choices are not always good. Man often chooses evil under the appearance of good. As Pope Leo teaches: “For, as the possibility of error, and actual error, are defects of the mind and attest its imperfection, so the pursuit of what has a false appearance of good, though a proof of our freedom, just as a disease is a proof of our vitality, implies defect in human liberty.”

Now, we know that God and the angels and saints in heaven are simply incapable of choosing evil. As Leo writes: “Thus it is that the infinitely perfect God, although supremely free, because of the supremacy of His intellect and of His essential goodness, nevertheless cannot choose evil; neither can the angels and saints, who enjoy the beatific vision.”

Reason itself, therefore, compels the conclusion that the choice of evil is a defect of liberty and not part of liberty. If it were otherwise, said Leo, “then God, Jesus Christ, and the angels and saints, who have not this power [of choosing evil], would have no liberty at all, or would have less liberty than man has in his state of pilgrimage and imperfection.” It would be the height of absurdity to say that man has more freedom than his Creator!

So we can see how the idea that liberty is the “freedom” to choose good or evil is a modern error. Liberty, rightly understood, means only the freedom to choose the good. The idea that there is liberty to choose evil has caused incalculable suffering to men and nations. The idea is an affront to God Himself.

Contributed by: 
Christopher A. Ferrara

Q. I heard about the Buddhists that were invited to pray and "demonstrate" their chants from the sanctuary at the Basilica of St. Adalbert's. I don't understand what was so bad about that. Aren't they well intentioned, and don't they love God, too? Wasn't it discourteous and rude and uncharitable for the people to come and stop them from praying their Buddhist prayers in the Basilica's sanctuary? That wasn't very loving or very Christian. We are all praying to the same God. Why was it necessary to prevent them from praying in the Basilica. Why would that have been a "sacrilege", if they are praying...?

A. In Acts 17:22-31, St. Paul was confronted by the pagans of Mars Hill who were praying to their popular deities, much like Buddhists pray today to Buddah. St. Paul admitted that they were "very religious in all respects" (v. 22) just as Buddhists today are "religious." Among the statues to their deities, St. Paul noticed one that was designated to "An Unknown God," just in case they had missed any, no doubt! 

But what was St. Paul's next move? Was it to accept the worship of these deities as if the pagans were worshiping the one true God? Was it to invite these pagans to bring the worship of their remaining pagan gods into the Christian Church? Was it to congratulate them on being such fine "religious" people that they could be used as examples for other Christians of religious devotion?

No, St. Paul's answer was quite the opposite. He told them that the God they had missed was the God of Christianity. He told them that this God made the world, he is Lord of heaven and earth, and that he is not confined to temples and man's artifices, and in Him we move and have our being (vrs. 23-28). And essentially this meant that their gods were nothing.

Notice that St. Paul is attempting to set the pagans on another course entirely. This is confirmed in even more dramatic fashion in verses 29-31. Here St. Paul says that making statues to pagan gods and concepts is wrong. He tells them that in times past God "overlooked these times of ignorance." In other words, those that worship icons of Buddah, or pray to the pagan gods of Taoism, Shintoism, Hinduism, or any of the world's pagan religions, are considered "ignorant" and something that God once overlooked but will do so no longer.

St. Paul makes it quite clear what is now the standard and where all men should expend their energies. He writes: 

"God has overlooked the times of ignorance, but now he demands that all people everywhere repent because he has established a day on which he will judge the world with justice through a Man he has appointed, and he has provided confirmation for all by raising him from the dead."

Notice that St. Paul speaks of God's coming judgment upon those who continue to worship their false gods and who reject Christianity as merely another religion; and he specifies that Christianity has been proven as the only true religion by the "Man" who has been raised from the dead. No pagan religion has ever raised a man from the dead. 

Because of this God "demands" that ALL men everywhere repent of their worship to pagan gods and turn their hearts to the one true God exemplified in Jesus Christ. Thus we have the essence of the Gospel declared by St. Paul in just about a half dozen verses: God, salvation, judgment, Christ, resurrection, righteousness.

This succinct and direct preaching of the Gospel is what the Catholic Church should be doing today for the Buddhists (and every other pagan religion), not encouraging them to continue in their Buddhism.

As St. Paul says, God's judgment will be upon the pagan for his persistence in false worship, and we can also surmise that His judgment will be upon those who fail to give the Buddhist the same warning that St. Paul gave to the pagans of Mars Hill.

Further, the Catholic Church has, throughout her history, upheld the paradigm that St. Paul outlined in Acts 17. Even Vatican II makes reference to Acts 17 as the paradigm that must be followed (Lumen Gentium 16) when dealing with pagan religions.

That being the case, anyone who today attempts to establish another paradigm is introducing a false notion and the consequences will be devastating.

Contributed by:
Robert Sungenis
Catholic Apologetics Intl.


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