Author: Joe Heschmeyer

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Did Vatican II Change Church Teaching On the Church?

Chances are, if you've done any reading about the Catholic Church's vision of "the Church," you've probably come across the claim that everything changed at Vatican II. Prior to Vatican II, as the story goes, the Catholic Church thought that only she was "the Church;" after Vatican II, she recognized that the Orthodox and Protestants (and perhaps even non-Christians!) also form part of the Church. But is it true?

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In Defense of Exaggerated Marian Devotion

A Marian procession in San Cataldo, Sicily, for the Feast of the Assumption.
Protestants aren't the only ones who find Catholic devotion to Mary a bit over-the-top sometimes. A lot of Catholics find other Catholics, including great Saints like Alphonsus Liguori and Louis de Montfort, to be a little "much" when talking about the Virgin Mary. I get it. Take the Salve Regina, for example: it calls Mary "Our Life, Our Sweetness, and Our Hope." How is that kind of effusive flattery theologically defensible? After all, Our Life and our Hope is Jesus Christ.

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Is Salvation Our Doing, or God’s?

Michelangelo, Creation of Adam (1512) [from the Sistine Chapel ceiling]
What percentage of our salvation is our doing, and what percentage of it is God’s doing? This is a common way of approaching the question of salvation, and it’s a driving force for a lot of bad theology. For example, Steven J. Cole claims that Roman Catholicism "teaches that in order to gain enough merit for salvation, we must add our good works to what Christ did on the cross." That's a common misunderstanding: since Catholics believe human cooperation is necessary, that must mean we're reducing God's credit from 100% to something lower, right? And it's ultimately for this reason that Martin Luther and later Protestants (most famously Calvinists) will argue that man’s free will in the realm of salvation is basically an illusion: we provide 0% to salvation. Why? To ensure that God gets 100%.

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Do Catholics Make Christianity Too Difficult?

A common complaint against Catholicism is that its view of the spiritual life is too difficult, that it over-complicates Christianity and doesn’t trust enough in the finished work of Christ on the Cross. That’s an appealing complaint, since it proposes a lighter, easier Christianity. But it’s a view we should be extremely suspicious of, given everything else we know about reality. So here are six observations that I think have some bearing on how we think of salvation specifically and the spiritual life more generally:

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Were St. Peter and the Other Apostles Celibate?

John Bridges, Christ Healing the Mother of Simon Peter’s Wife (1839)
One of the common arguments against clerical celibacy is that St. Peter, the leader of the Apostles and the first pope, was married. After all, Scripture refers to his having a mother-in-law (Matthew 8:14-15), and St. Paul (referring to Peter by his original Aramaic name, Cephas) defends his Apostolic authority in a verse usually translated "Do we not have the right to be accompanied by a wife, as the other apostles and the brethren of the Lord and Cephas?" (1 Corinthians 9:5). But let's take a closer look at those passages, and find out what the New Testament REALLY has to say.

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