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Key topics need to be understood and defended

by Bob Reddy, Florida Catholic (5/18/2012)

VENICE – What do the Holy Eucharist, the infallibility of the Papacy, artificial contraception and purgatory have to do with being Catholic? Simple; these are just a few key topics the Church has clearly defined teaching that many Catholics do not fully understand.

To help clarify and educate the faithful, the Diocese of Venice Office of Evangelization has sponsored two Apologetics Conferences and offered experts on specifics areas of Church teachings. The latest conference was May 5 at Our Lady of Perpetual Help Retreat Center in Venice and included experts who shared their knowledge so those in attendance left confident that they can defend the Faith on key issues.

Eric Sammons, Diocese of Venice Director of Evangelization, said the conferences are intended to provide practical tools to help people in key situations when the Faith needs defending. Sammons explained that the most common group that needs educating about the Faith is sadly, Catholics themselves.

“The Catholic Church is under attack from two different fronts,” Sammons explained. “Attacks come from the secular world, which tries to marginalize or eliminate faith from all areas of society; and then attacks come from other Christian sects, which often dismiss our beliefs because it is contrary to their beliefs or requires more understanding of their own Faith.”

These challenges make such conferences an important tool in arming people to defend the Faith whenever and wherever it is under attack, Sammons added. “Someone who can defend the Faith in a reasonable, charitable and clear manner will get a lot farther than someone who stands up and shouts that the other person is wrong.”

Father Dennis Cooney, Pastor of St. Raphael Parish in Lehigh Acres and Diocesan Respect Life Spiritual Advisor, spoke on the infallibility of the Pope, and later about the concept of Purgatory.

Father Cooney explained that while critics may say that the Bible does not specifically declare the concepts of the infallibility of the Pope or the existence of purgatory, that the Catholic Church is not based solely on the Scriptures, but complimented by tradition and the Church’s Magisterium.

“They are used together,” he said. “The Scriptures are not a theological treatise. Jesus gave us a living Church to go out to teach and sanctify. The Pope and the Bishops are the embodiment of that living teaching authority.”

Father Cooney explained that Church doctrine tells about the Church Herself, Her Magisterium, and the infallibility of the Pope. “You cannot step away from the teachings of the Church and still accept Jesus Christ and receive the fullness of the truth and meaning of life,” Father Cooney continued.

The idea of purgatory is based on the teaching that in order to enter into heaven, one must die in God’s grace and be cleansed from the guilt of sin, something that takes time, Father Cooney said. “The people in purgatory are guaranteed ascension into heaven, what a beautiful symbol of hope… All traces of sin must be washed away so we must undergo this purification to grow in holiness which is necessary to enjoy heaven.”

Dr. Angela Flippin-Trainer, who is an OB/GYN and medical director of the Florida Center for Women’s Health, is often criticized within her own profession for promoting authentic Catholic teachings to her patients. She spoke about the challenge to the faith contraception poses.

“Authentic Catholic teaching tells us that the use of any contraception is wrong,” Dr. Flippin-Trainer said. “Chastity is a virtue and a gift; while sex is reserved for a total, free, faithful and fruitful marriage. This means that a spouse in a marriage gives oneself totally to that bond.”

Sammons spoke about the importance of the Holy Eucharist and the concepts of the real presence and transubstantiation, as well as the need to continually receive this important Sacrament.

Catholics are called to repeat the act of Jesus with His disciples at the Last Supper, Sammons said. “We need unite ourselves to the Body of the Christ, who sacrificed Himself for our salvation. We receive His grace through the Eucharist, we become united to that sacrifice which is Christ.”

Additional Apologetics Conferences are in the planning stages. Eric Sammons is available to speak at parishes within the Diocese of Venice. He can be contacted at 941-484-9543 or at sammons@dioceseofvenice.org.

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