ASK FATHER: Sorting out confusing, contradictory messages from priests

From a reader…


Thank you for allowing me the opportunity to ask you a question since I know you are knowledgable and do not lead souls astray. My question is not meant to vent about the state of the church, since I know it is not healthy right now. But WHO do I listen to in regards to our faith.

I ONLY want to go to Heaven and have my family as well. But it seems every priest, bishop and such have their own opinions about salvation.

Who is right? The traditional priests I listen to via traditional sites say things I never hear in my parish… like you can’t go to heaven with unreported mortal sin. (Basic stuff). How do I know that what my priest leads me to believe (that everyone goes to heaven) isn’t the case? I am confused, conflicted and concerned deeply about the salvation of myself and those around me. Thank you for any insight.

We live in a confusing and confused period in the Church right now.

If we are paying close attention to churchy news, we read about a Pope who seems to be contradicting previous Popes.  We read about bishops conferences taking 180° opposite directions on pastoral issues or even suggesting practices that 50 years ago even a 7 year-old would have known were wrong.  We read about bishops saying conflicting things on doctrinal points.  We all know that from parish to parish we will hear a bewildering array of conflicting sermons.

This chaos is the mark of a crisis.  It is an indication that Satan is at work.   That shouldn’t be a surprise: strike the shepherds and the sheep scatter.

There is an old chestnut out there that the Chinese character for “crisis” is also the character for “opportunity”.  That’s wrong, of course, but that doesn’t mean that the sentiment behind that mistake is wrong.

Crisis is also opportunity.

When the Holy Father says something that makes people scratch their heads, or some dopey bishop or bishops go to the zoo on some doctrinal point, or a loopy priest gets into the news by saying things that are wrong, I have an opportunity to get up in the pulpit or sit at my keyboard and say or write with clarity what reliable sources set forth.  I can refer to the Catechism of the Catholic Church and other good sources.

Their imprudent shenanigans give me a chance to review and then to instruct, thus making my job both harder and easier at the same time.

It could be that the crisis we are in will clear out a lot of dead wood, as it were.

So, when you hear something that strikes you as unsound, get out your copy of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, or other good catechisms, and look it up.  

In self-enrichment and in self-defense, begin to study the Catechism of the Catholic Church together, maybe in your family, maybe with small groups who meet for coffee or breakfast after Saturday morning Mass.  Read, review, study the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

US HERE – UK HERE (There are many editions.  Look around.)

I am a huge fan of Kindles (US HERE – UK HERE), but you should also have the BOOK, the material volume which you can hold in your hand and write in.  Get the book, which you can flip around in and hold spots in with a couple fingers as you cross check.

Read it.  Pick it up. Read portions every day.

St. John Paul II called the CCC, “a sure reference point”.

And on the point you raised about salvation, universal or not, I can say this.

Christ, by His Sacrifice, intended to open the gates of heaven to anyone who would accept the graces and walk the narrow path.  Not everyone will choose heaven.  God offers sufficient graces to people to be saved.  Not everyone accepts them.  Frankly, I think that the number of the saved is a good deal smaller than the number of the damned.  We have a lot of warnings from saints and, more recently, from the Blessed Virgin at Fatima about the number of the damned.  I believe the image was “falling like snowflakes”.    Grace and elbow grease will win our heavenly home.

Let’s do all that we can to be among the saved and be happy in heaven.  Let’s stick closely to the Church and to her sacraments and her authentic teachings, and not be overly troubled by the chaos.   We have to be realistic and sober about how the Enemy works to drag us away from God, especially through confusion, doubt and anger.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. mharden says:

    Please be sure to always link the Second Edition of the Catechism (The Amazon link provided here seems to be the First or Second, depending on the publisher they ship from, see their details).

    There were significant revisions, including: “The earlier first provisional edition issued in 1992 had contained the line “They do not choose their homosexual condition; for most of them it is a trial”. But this was changed in the 1997 definitive edition to say instead “This inclination, which is objectively disordered, constitutes for most of them a trial.”

  2. Jack in NH says:

    “Frankly, I think that the number of the saved is a good deal smaller than the number of the damned.”
    That’s why we have a ‘Highway to hell’, and only a ‘Stairway to Heaven’!

  3. TonyO says:

    But it seems every priest, bishop and such have their own opinions about salvation…Who is right?

    Here is a dose of help in knowing how to find the ones to trust, and to identify the ones not to trust:

    Christ in the Gospels is at pains to tell us things like “He who hears you (the apostles) hears me” and “I will be with you always, even unto the end of the age”. This implies that the charism of truth is a gift that withstands the winds of fashion and change. That is to say, the true successors of the Apostles, to whom you should listen, are the ones whose message fits perfectly well with what the Apostles said, and with what the first disciples of the Apostles said, and what the next generation of saints said, and the next, and the next – the Fathers and Doctors of the Church, and what was resolved on in the Ecumenical (i.e. universal) Councils of the Church by the bishops gathered together and with the approval of the pope. If Fr. Pastor is telling you the very same things that St. Cyril and St. Ambrose and St. Augustine and St. Thomas and the Council of Trent said, then listen to him. But if he is saying stuff that sounds completely contrary to what all prior ages of the Church said, then he’s out of the boat. Get not only the Catechism of the Catholic Church, but also the Catechism of the Council of Trent, and when you don’t understand the former, dig into the latter for help. If you get what both Councils’ Catechisms said on a topic, you’ve got the right doctrine, and any priest teaching contrary to both is to be avoided MORE than the plague.

  4. iamlucky13 says:

    Does it matter if a priest makes a convincing argument that Luke 13 and other passages are misunderstood, and all are saved?

    Can’t we strive to be the best people we can, to do those things we’re taught are good and avoid those things we’re taught are bad even if we’re pretty sure we can get away with behaving absolutely horrifically?

    Besides, to consider a corollary to Pascal’s wager: what if we’re wrong?

    It would be very awkward trying to find a way to explain to God during my judgement why I’m quite certain He’s wrong, and it’s ok that I lived my life in complete disregard to His commandments, because a priest once told me all the warnings in the Bible and throughout the history of the Church about wailing and grinding of teeth were nonsense, so please open the pearly gate.

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  6. JonPatrick says:

    As a way of strengthening your faith I would also recommend “The Catholic Catechism: by Fr. John Hardon SJ. Don’t be put off by the SJ at the end of his name, he is very orthodox.

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  8. kat says:

    May i also recommend My Catholic Faith as an excellent household resource to learn the Faith and look up topics? Easily readable and understandable for tweens and teens and adults! A great book :

  9. AUEagle says:

    My Mother bought each of my siblings the paperback version of the Catechism 3 years ago. It’s a big book! My wife (recent convert from the Baptist Church 7 years ago) likes to flip through it and pick sections as you suggest. I like to reference the online version on the website. I swear the wording in the online version changes frequently. In the past year, I’ve read the same section twice and noticed the wording changed to the extent the meaning was changed. 20 years ago I would have thought someone changing the wording would never happen and perhaps I read it incorrectly the first time. These days, nothing surprises me about Pope Francis and his minions. USCCB is liberal, progressive front group for the DNC.

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