Jason continues in his discussion of what he calls the Catholic tendency to "misdefine terms" by

"The apostles taught that saving grace is not based on works (Acts 15:9-11, Romans 4:4-16, 11:6, Ephesians 2:8-9), while the Roman CatholicChurch speaks of people "meriting grace" through works."

The Catholic Church *does not* teach that saving grace is "based on" works:

"Faith is a gift of God, a supernatural virtue infused by him. Before this faith can be exercised, man must have the GRACE of God to move and assist him; he must have the interior helps of the Holy Spirit, who moves the heart and converts it to God, who opens the eyes of the mind and 'makes it easy for all to accept and believe the truth.'' [CCC #153]

"We must know Christ as the source of GRACE in order to know Adam as the source of sin." [CCC #388]

"No one can bestow GRACE on himself; it must be given and offered. " [CCC #875]

"'In the forgiveness of sins, both priests and sacraments are instruments which our Lord Jesus Christ, the only author and liberal giver of salvation, wills to use in order to efface our sins and give us the GRACE of justification' (Roman Catechism, I, 11, 6)." [CCC #987]

"The sheer gratuitousness of the GRACE of salvation is particularly manifest in infant Baptism." [CCC #1250]

"This endeavor of conversion is not just a human work. It is the movement of a 'contrite heart,' drawn and moved
by GRACE to respond to the merciful love of God who loved us first.[Ps 51:17 ; cf. Jn 6:44 ; Jn 12:32 ; 1Jn 4:10 .]"
[CCC #1428]

"Like every GRACE this sacrament can be received only as an unmerited gift." [CCC #1578]

" it is by GRACE that we are saved and again it is by GRACE that our works can bear fruit for eternal life" [CCC #1697]

 "Our justification comes from the GRACE of God. GRACE is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.[Cf. Jn 1:12-18; Jn 17:3 ; Rom 8:14-17 ; 2Pet 1:3-4.]" [CCC #1996]

The Church has consistently and without exception taught that saving grace comes from God alone, and is freely given by Him as a gift.  It also teaches that if we accept this grace,our works will show it:

"Our attitude to our neighbour will disclose acceptance or refusal of GRACE and divine love.[Cf. Mt 5:22 ; Mt 7:1-5 .] On the Last Day Jesus will say: 'Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.'[Mt 25:40 .]" [CCC #678]

Our works are *indicators* of God's grace, but no number or magnitude of good works can merit saving grace.  The Church does state, however, that once saving grace has been freely given, our good works (which are themselves a gift of God's grace) can merit for ourselves and others *sancitfying grace*.  Sanctifying grace is not saving grace, but rather grace which nurtures, builds on and matures that initial grace from God-- it does not impart holiness to the soul, but helps holiness to grow.  The Catechism explains it this way:

2009. "Filial adoption, in making us partakers by GRACE in the divine nature,can bestow true merit on us as a result of God's gratuitous justice. This is our right by GRACE, the full right of love, making us 'co-heirs' with Christ and worthy of obtaining 'the promised inheritance of eternal life.'[Council of Trent (1547): DS 1546.] The merits of our good works are gifts of the divine goodness.[Cf. Council of Trent (1547): DS 1548.] 'GRACE has gone before us; now we are given what is due.... Our merits are God's gifts.'[St. Augustine, Sermo 298, 4-5: PL 38, 1367.]

2010. Since the initiative belongs to God in the order of GRACE, no one can merit the initial GRACE of forgiveness and justification, at the beginning of conversion. Moved by the Holy Spirit and by charity, we can then merit for ourselves and for others the graces needed for our sanctification, for the increase of GRACE and charity, and for the attainment of eternal life. Even temporal goods like health and friendship can be merited in accordance with God's wisdom. These graces and goods are the object of Christian prayer. Prayer attends to the GRACE we need for meritorious actions.

2011. The charity of Christ is the source in us of all our merits before God. GRACE, by uniting us to Christ in active love, ensures the supernatural quality of our acts and consequently their merit before God and before men. The saints have always had a lively awareness that their merits were pure GRACE."

It is clear from the Bible that our good works are signs of God's life within us (=grace):

[James 1:22-27] "But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if any one is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man who observes his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself and goes away and at once forgets what he was like.  But he who looks into the perfect law, the law of liberty, and perseveres, being no hearer that forgets but a doer that acts, he shall be blessed in his doing.   If any one thinks he is religious, and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this man's religion is vain. Religion that is pure and undefiled before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unstained from the world."

It is also clear from the Bible that our good works can merit "helps to holiness" (=sanctifying grace):

[James 2:20-26] "Do you want to be shown, you shallow man, that faith apart from works is barren?  Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he offered his son Isaac upon the altar?  You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by works, and the scripture was fulfilled which says, "Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness"; and he was called the friend of God. You see that a man is justified by works and not by faith alone. And in the same way was not also Rahab the harlot justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out another way?  For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so faith apart from works is dead."

Interestingly, Paul refers to Abraham's *belief* as a work! It seems that the Protestant tenet of faith alone being necessary for salvation is self-contradictory, since the act of belief itself is a work.

To summarize: The Catholic Church emphatically teaches that all saving grace comes from God and is a free gift which can never, under any circumstances, be merited or earned.  Once a man has received saving grace, he is given a share in the life of God and in the Sonship of Christ.  Because of this, his good actions both bear witness to the life of God in him and merit sanctifying (meaning something that helps holiness rather than something that imparts holiness) grace for himself and others.  Even his good actions, however, are possible only by the grace freely given by God, Who is the source of all goodness.  Thus, no man can "earn" heaven, but all men can, and are called to, be "fellow workers for the kingdom of God" (Colossians 4: 11).

Jason concludes this section by saying: "Just because Catholic apologists use words like "church" and "grace", that doesn't mean that they're defining those terms correctly. Using the right terminology with the wrong definitions is common among false religions that claim to be"Christian". Roman Catholicism is no exception."

Perhaps Jason should investigate where his denomination got its definitions of the words "church" and "grace", and which man-made tradition he is following.  I doubt that he will, however, for fear that he'll discover which religion is in fact false.

Jason continues his essay by saying that Catholic apologists falsely make

>"Appeals to Practicality>
> Even though there's no evidence that Christ and the apostles wanted one church hierarchy to govern all churches worldwide, settle all doctrinal disputes, interpret scripture for the layman, etc., Catholic apologists argue that we should have such a
>hierarchy for its practical benefits."

Two things need be said here:
1. There is biblical evidence for such a Church. We see it in the Bible's warnings against schism and division:

[Matthew 12:25] "Knowing their thoughts, he said to them, "Every kingdom divided against itself is laid waste, and no city or house divided against itself will stand;"

[Matthew 16: 18]"And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the powers of death shall not prevail against it."  Note that "church" is singular, as is the "rock" upon which it is built.

[John 10:16] "And I have other sheep, that are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will heed my voice.
So there shall be one flock, one shepherd."  Note that "one" usually means the opposite of "many".

[John 17: 20-23] "'I do not pray for these only, but also for those who believe in me through their word, that they may all be one; even as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.  The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.'"  Note that here the oneness of the Apostles and those who would believe through them will be the way that the world will believe that the Father had sent the Son.  What message do the 28,000+ Protestant denominations send?

[Romans 16:17] "I appeal to you, brethren, to take note of those who create dissensions and difficulties, in opposition to the doctrine which you have been taught; avoid them."

[1 Corinthians 1:10-13] "I appeal to you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.  For it has been reported to me by Chlo'e's people that there is quarreling among you, my brethren. What I mean is that each one of you says, "I belong to Paul," or "I belong to Apol'los," or "I belong to Cephas," or "I belong to Christ."  Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?"

Note also 1 Corinthians 3:3-4, 10:17,11:18-19, 12:12-27, 14:33, 2 Corinthians 12:20, Galatians 5:19-21, Ephesians 4:3-6, Philippians 1:27, 2:2-3, 1 Timothy 6:3-5, Titus 3:9-10, James 3:16, and 2 Peter 2:1.

We see also in the Bible examples of the heirarchical nature of the Church.  To sum up what has been said in my refutation of an earlier part of this essay, there are the actions of Paul who, although personally commissioned by Christ to be an Apostle, first went to check in with Peter (Galatians 1:18), then after fourteen years went up to Jerusalem to speak to "James and Cephas and John, who were reputed to be pillars" about preaching the Good News to the Gentiles (Galatians 2:1-2, 9). Scripture speaks of a heirarchy, mentioning the offices of  bishop (episkopos): Acts 1:20, 20:28, Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:1-2, Titus 1:7, 1 Peter 2:25; elder (presbyteros): Acts 15:2-6, 21:18, Hebrews 11:2, 1 Peter 5:1, 1 Timothy 5:17; and deacon (diakonos):  Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8-13.

As for settling disputes, the Bible tells us how doctrinal disputes were settled; read the account of the first council of the Church: the Council of Jerusalem recorded in Acts 15: 1-31.  Particularly telling is the phrase used to sum up the decision of the Council, "For it has seemed good *to the Holy Spirit and to us*..."

Here is what the Bible tells us about interpretation of Scripture:

[2 Peter 1:20-21] "First of all you must understand this, that no prophecy of scripture is a matter of one's own interpretation, because no prophecy ever came by the impulse of man, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God."

Note also Peter's injuction (quoted elsewhere) that there are things in Paul's letter which are difficult to understand and which some distort to their own condemnation (2 Peter 3:16), and the story of the Ethiopian who asked how he could understand Scripture unless someone explains it to him (Acts 8:27-31).

Finally, the Bible tells us about the primacy of this Church which is one and heirarchical:

[Ephesians 2:20-21] "{The Church} built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, in whom the whole structure is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord."

[1 Timothy 3:15] "If I am delayed, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of the truth."

[Matthew 28:19-20] "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe *all* that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, to the close of the age." (emphasis mine)

2. The practical benefits are just that-- practical benefits; they are not a basis for the doctrine. The rationality of the Church being unified and heirachical is eminently fitting, however, since God is superlatively rational.  If even we as mere human beings can see how impossible it is to have a perfect preservation of pure doctrine which all men can discern as such without a unified, authoritative Body (which impossibility can be easily ascertained by observing the result of the abandonment of this Body), then it does stand to reason that God would have figured it out too.

This is *NOT*, however, the basis of Catholic belief.  The basis is simply the biblical evidence and the evidence of the belief of the Church since the time of the Apostles.

For brevity, I will restrict myself to two quotes from the early Church fathers on this matter:

"It is necessary to obey those who are the presbyters in the Church, those who, as we have shown, have succession from the Apostles; those who have received, with the succession of the episcopate, the sure charism of truth according to the good pleasure of the Father. But the rest, who have no part in the primitive succession and assemble wheresoever they will, must be held in suspicion." [St. Irenaeus; "Against Heresies" 180-199 A. D.]

"The Church is called Catholic, then, because it extends over the whole world, from end to end of the earth; and because it teaches universally and infallibly each and every doctrine which must come to the knowledge of men, concerning things visible and invisible, heavenly and governed, learned and unlearned; and because it universally treats and heals every class of sins, those committed with the soul and those with the body; and it possesses within itself every conceivable form of virtue, in deeds and in words and in the spiritual gifts of every description." [St. Cyril of Jerusalem; "Catechetical Lectures" ca. 350 A. D.]

Jason's essay continues:
>"Of course, there are many bad consequences to having such a hierarchy, as the history of the Roman Catholic Church has proven, but Catholic apologists tend to focus only  on the benefits. "

The bad consequences come not from the heirarchical structure, but from the fact that it is made up of human beings prone to sin.  Jesus himself warns that the wheat will grow up with the tares until the "day of harvest" (Matthew 13:24-30; cf. Matthew 3:12), and  in Matthew 13:47-50 the Kingdom of Heaven is compared to a huge net that takes in fish of all kinds which are only sorted out later.  The point is that it is not the structure which leads to corruption but rather human nature wounded by original sin.  We can clearly see from the history of the "reformation" with its purges and persecutions that a system without unity and heirarchy is just as prone to episodes of violence as one with unity and order.

Jason goes on to say:
>"Not only is there no evidence that Christ and the apostles wanted there to be a church hierarchy that does all that the Roman Catholic hierarchy claims to be able to do,"

See above.

>"but the evidence actually contradicts these claims of the Catholic Church. Churches are to be governmentally independent of one another (Revelation 2-3),"

Revelation 2-3 talks about messages to be given to the churches in different locations, such as Ephesus and Smyrna.  How on earth that proves that all local churhces are to be governed independantly of one another, however, is beyond the scope of reason.  The Church *is* local as well as universal; the heirarchy includes local heirarchy.  Thus the Pope may write a letter addressing the Church in the United States, or Africa, or wherever-- it's still the same Church, and its individual localities with thier individual, local leaders are all united; this was the case in the early Church and has continued as such today.  The Protestant alternative is a myriad of little denominations with no real cohesion, unity, or guarantee of pure doctrine.

>"and laymen do not need a hierarchy to interpret  the scriptures for them  (Psalms 119:99, Acts 17:11, 2 Corinthians 1:13, 1 John 2:27)."

I have already given biblical quotes explaining the role of the Church in interpreting Scripture, but one qualification needs to be made here: the Church in its role as an authoritative interpreter does not prohibit individuals from reading the Bible on their own; rather, such reading is encouraged:

"To biblical scholars who are devoted sons of the Church and follow faithfully her teaching and direction, We address with paternal affection, not only Our congratulations that they have been chosen and called to so sublime an office, but also Our encouragement to continue with ever renewed vigor, with all zeal and care, the work so happily begun. Sublime office, We say; for what is more sublime than to scrutinize, explain, propose to the faithful and defend from unbelievers the very word of God, communicated to men under the inspiration of the Holy Ghost?. With this spiritual food the mind of the interpreter is fed and nourished "to the commemoration of faith, the consolation of hope, the exhortation of charity." "To live amidst these things, to meditate these things, to know nothing else, to seek nothing else, does it not seem to you already here below a foretaste of the heavenly kingdom?" *Let also the minds of the faithful be nourished with this same food, that they may draw from thence the knowledge and love of God and the progress in perfection and the happiness of their own individual souls.*"

The Scriptures are not entrusted to the Church so that the Church may hide them and withhold them from the faithful, but rather they are entrusted so that the Church may make the Scriptures available to all the faithful, as well as preserve them throughout the ages from those who might seek to corrupt the Word of God.  The Vatican II document Dei Verbum explains it this way:

" The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures just as she venerates the body of theLord, since, especially in the sacred liturgy, she unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God's word and of Christ's body. She has always maintained them, and continues to do so, together with sacred tradition, as the supreme rule of faith, since, as inspired by God and committed once and for all to writing, they impart the word of God Himself without change, and make the voice of the Holy Spirit resound in the words of the prophets and Apostles. Therefore, like the Christian religion itself, all the preaching of the Church must be nourished and regulated by Sacred Scripture."

Jason continues in his essay:
>"Arguments from practicality should be rejected if they conflict with what Christ and the apostles taught."

At long last, we agree on something!  Here is how the the Church states it:

"This teaching office *is not above the word of God*, but serves it, teaching only what has been handed on, listening to it devoutly, guarding it scrupulously and explaining it faithfully in accord with a divine commission and with the help of the Holy Spirit, it draws from this one deposit of faith everything which it presents for belief as divinely revealed." (Dei Verbum, Vatican II)

One final note: It is a typical Protestant pitfall to force a dichotomy between sacred Scripture and sacred Tradition, when in reality sacred Scripture IS sacred Tradition.  The vast majority of the words recorded in the Bible were first passed on through oral tradition or preached; over and above that, it was the much-maligned teaching authority of the Church which settled which books were inspired and which were not. The very canon of the Bible is an article of Catholic Tradition; to reject that tradition is to undermine the Scriptures which it has given us.

Jason goes on:
>"The apostles never established a worldwide denomination centered in Rome that would have all the authority the Roman Catholic Church claims to have, no matter how practical the Catholic form of church government may seem to be."

It's amazing how many times the same sentences are repeated in such a short section of an essay, but the preceding sentence has been answered above.

In closing, let me reiterate that it was this unified, heirarchical Church which codified the canon of the Bible. And so, If a man rejects the authority of the Catholic Church which decided the canon of the Bible, then he is left with a  *fallible list of infallible books*, and had better sit himself down with every ancient writing about God and ask the Holy Spirit to tell him which ones are inspired and which are not.  If Protestants carried their theology to this, its logical conclusion, we'd have as many canons as we do denominations.

In Christo Domino et Maria,