Thursday, 26 November 2009

Different denominations

This question has been answered by a student from Edinburgh University.

What, essentially, is the difference between High-Anglicanism and Roman Catholicism?

Thank you for your question! I am a student here at the University and a convert to Catholicism. My background was middle-of-the-road Anglican but I often attended Walsingham. Some of the most beautiful spiritual experiences of my life have occurred there in the shrine that the Anglicans have.

It is beautiful and it is, in almost every sense ‘Catholic.’ This is unsurprising since when the strand within Anglicanism known as ‘Anglo-Catholicism’ developed they looked to what the Catholic Church was doing in terms of liturgy and devotion. One could easily mistakenly wander into the Anglican shrine at Walsingham and mistake it for a Catholic Church.

The difference, is as you say, that they don’t mind not having a ‘pope.’ But that difference is far more important than they themselves realise: it comes down to authority. Many within the Anglican communion regard what happens at Walsingham idolatrous. There used to be protests there during the procession of the statue of Our Lady of Walsingham.

As Catholics, however, we can be confident that our practices are the same practices which (with some development, obviously) go right back to the earliest times of the Church. We have the same Faith, again with developments, that streteches far back into the Church’s history. We have our bishop who can trace his lineage back to the Apostles and a Pope who is the symbol of our unity in Christ.

The position of the Pope within the Church might at first seem trivial but it is far more important than many would realise.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Why do Catholics believe that Mary is the Mother of God and give her divine attributes? If she was perfect, how could she be saved?

There have been several questions about the role of Mary in Christianity and the Church’s view of her.

All teachings about Mary tell us something about God and something about humanity. Mary is described as the ‘Mother of God’, because this affirms our belief that Jesus Christ is true God. Not simply by adoption or in part, but fully divine as He is fully human.

Motherhood is a relationship of person to person: a mother is not only mother of the body, or of the physical creature born of her womb, but of the person she begets. Thus having given birth, according to his human nature, to the person of Jesus, who is a divine person, Mary is the Mother of God

Pope John Paul II, 27 November 1996

Catholics do not give Mary divine attributes, nor do they worship Mary. We simply give her honour because of the unique place given her in the work of salvation, to be the Mother of the Saviour. And in giving her honour we give glory to God.

‘You are glorified in your saints, for their glory is the crowing of Your gifts…’

Preface of Holy Men and Women

It is only through the grace and power of God that Mary has such perfection, so it is His plan. For God doesn’t treat people as means, but as good ends in themselves, worthy of value and dignity. God doesn’t use Mary to be a receptacle of his Son, but gives her this true Motherhood as the greatest of gifts.

The perfection of Mary is thus the work of God and the way He saves her. Mary is a creature of God like all other human beings, but unlike all other human beings, she is saved in a preventative manner.

If two people are at risk from a cold and one takes care to prevent such by medicine and sensible living so does not fall ill and the other catches the cold and cures it through medicine following the illness, both have been saved and saved from something outside themselves.

The preservation of Mary from all sin is the unique way God saved her: fitting for the Mother of the Son of God.

Monday, 23 November 2009


Does the Catholic church believe that if you commit suicide you go to hell?

Suicide is a very difficult topic, especially for those who have suffered losing a friend or family member. Suicide can be a sudden act committed out of great despair, or the goal of a long planned trip to a clinic abroad where it is an escape from sufferings perceived to be unendurable in the future. Either way, when we are discussing a suicide we are never speaking in the abstract, but about particular people in very different circumstances.

Speaking of mortal sin and going to hell is speaking in the abstract. If a person freely (without acting through compulsion, illness, addiction etc) choses grave matter (an act which contradicts our human nature so deeply as to reject what God intends for us), and he or she also knows and understands what they are doing, then they commit a mortal sin, which needs the miracle of forgiveness to produce conversion of heart and a new beginning.

Taking any human life, including your own, is indeed a grave act, as contradicting the creative love of God which brought us into existence, and if it were to be done with full knowledge and freedom would constitute a refusal of that eternal love shown to us in Christ.

But when we speak in the particular, we cannot know what is really happening in any human life, and certainly cannot declare any individual to be in hell. We should always trust in the mercy of God who sees all things, and whose mercy is truly just, and who justice is truly merciful

Old Law/ New Law

Why does the church retain some aspects of the old law, for example the prohibition on homosexual behaviour, but not others, for example the kosher laws? How can this be justified?

When we speak of "The Bible" we are in many ways using a misleading phrase. The Scriptures are not one book, like "Great Expectations" or "War and Peace", but a library of texts, some pointing forward to Jesus, the liviing Word of God (the Old Testament), and others reflecting on that Word once it has been experienced (the New Testament).

So reading the Bible calls for different ways of understanding texts, and not expecting every passage to be the same. There are poems, songs, stories, moral advice, letters in the scriptures. And the commandments given in the Law are just as diverse, needing to be read in different ways.

The Church distinguishes in the Old Testament three main types of commandment. There are the moral precepts, which are part of how to live a full human life. All human beings can learn and engage with these teachings, whether it is about not killing, honouring your parents, or the nature of sexuality. These are usually called the moral precepts.

There are also commandments about how to worship, and how to live out justice in the particular circumstances that the people of Israel will experience, living in a particular time and place. These commandments often called the ceremonial and the judicial precepts point us forward to Christ, and although they contain much that can edify and instruct us, they do not apply to us in the same way.

By renewing the people of God, and calling all nations to enter the Church through baptism, the precepts applying to Israel as one nation are taken up and fulfilled in Jesus. But the teachings which reflect on what it means to be human apply now, simply because our human nature remains, even though it now has access in Jesus to the grace which can heal and restore that nature as belonging to God - what it was always supposed to be.

What the Church teaches about human life is for everyone to engage in. Often we find the teaching of the Gospel difficult to follow, but truth spoken by God in Jesus is not a truth to break us or destory us, but to lead us to our true and lasting joy - friendship with the Trinity.

Sunday, 22 November 2009

Questions please...

Already there are many emails and questions arriving for us to tackle here at Almighty Answers. We shall be posting some of our responses in the course of the week. Please feel free to comment on the site with further issues and thoughts for discussion.
Encourage your friends, no matter what their beliefs, to send in questions too.

Thursday, 19 November 2009


Almighty Answers returns!
We would like to welcome all those returning to this site, for the second series of Almighty Answers when the floor is open for all comments, questions and reponses concerning your views about life, God and what it's all about.
This is an opportunity to ask anything you like from our team. Check out and comment on the site, or email your thoughts:
We're waiting for your questions...