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My Take: Catholics will accept a saint who had an abortion
Dorothy Day in New York circa 1969, addressing an anti-Vietnam War demonstration.
July 7th, 2011
01:43 PM ET

My Take: Catholics will accept a saint who had an abortion

Editor's Note: Stephen Prothero, a Boston University religion scholar and author of "God is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World," is a regular CNN Belief Blog contributor.

By Stephen Prothero, Special to CNN

Can Catholics abide a saint who had an abortion?

Dorothy Day, who died in 1980, was an anarchist, a pacifist, and the co-founder of the Catholic Worker, a movement devoted to helping the poor and the homeless. Described by historian David O’Brien as “the most influential, interesting, and significant figure” in U.S. Catholic history, Day is currently being considered for canonization in the Catholic Church.

Before her conversion to Catholicism in 1927, however, Day lived what the late Cardinal O’Connor of the Archdiocese of New York has referred to as "a life akin to that of the pre-converted Augustine of Hippo." That bohemian life included common-law marriage and an abortion.

Some may feel that Day’s promiscuity precludes her cause for sainthood. But in his February 2000 letter to the Vatican in support of Day’s canonization, O’Connor contended “that her abortion should not preclude her cause, but intensifies it.” She is a model, he continued, “for women who have had or are considering abortions” because she “regretted” that action “every day of her life.”

Earlier this month, Father James Martin, the Jesuit priest, author, and go-to-guy on Roman Catholicism for Stephen Colbert (Colbert once called him “The Colbert Report chaplain”), reported on “A New Conversation” about Dorothy Day and abortion.

This private conversation with Catholic Worker member Daniel Marshall occurred in 1977 at a farm in Tivoli, New York. According to Marshall:

I seized the opportunity to ask Dorothy to write in the paper about abortion as possibly the central moral issue of our time.  She paused and gently answered, "I don't like to push young people into their sins" . . .

Then Dorothy said, "You know, I had an abortion.  The doctor was fat, dirty and furtive.  He left hastily after it was accomplished, leaving me bleeding.  The daughter of the landlords assisted me and never said a word of it.  He was Emma Goldman's lover; that's why I have never had any use for Emma."

I hung on every word that she said, not only because she was Dorothy, but because, although I had heard a rumor that she had an abortion, I was aware that few people knew of it from her.

I understood from Dorothy that she was asking me to comprehend what the consequences would be of a public statement from her on abortion and also that the public consequences might be a distraction from the issue and the cause.  What she thought of abortion was clear as a bell from what she said.

But what she thought of abortion is not “clear as a bell” from this interview. What is clear is her disgust over her procedure, and over the “fat, dirty and furtive” doctor who performed it.

Elsewhere, however, Day did make clear her opposition to abortion on pacifist grounds.

For example, in a 1974 interview, she turned a question about genocide into a discussion about birth control and abortion. “We do believe that there is not only the genocide of war, the genocide that took place in the extermination of Jews, but the whole program—I’m speaking now as a Catholic—of birth control and abortion, is another form of genocide.”

Some day, Day may be accepted into the communion of saints as a modern Augustine whose depths of youthful sin make her adult piety even more spectacular. But she could also be rejected as a figure who could well lead some Catholics to justify premarital sex and abortion on the grounds that “Dorothy Day did it.”

On a 2007 “Colbert Report” appearance, Father Martin was asked whether Mother Teresa’s feelings of being abandoned by God had earned her a one-way ticket to "the Lake of Fire." Revelations that Mother Teresa had said she had not felt the presence of God for half a century had raised questions in some circles about just how saintly she really was. Can you be a saint if God feels as distant from you as He does from an atheist–if your experience of God is an experience of lonely "darkness"?

Yes, Martin said, adding that in this case Mother Teresa could serve as a model for Catholics going through a dark night of the soul.

Day's case raises a parallel question. Can you be a saint if you have committed the original sin of contemporary Catholicism?

My money says yes.

Partly that is because of the Christian teaching of forgiveness. But mostly it is because of the tendency of Catholics to diverge from the official party line on questions such as homosexuality, birth control and abortion.

According to a June survey by the Public Religion Research Institute, most American Catholics (54%) think that abortion should be legal in all or most cases. More than two-thirds of them (68%) believe you can be a good Catholic even if you disagree with your church’s opposition to abortion. And when it comes to the question of whether abortion is a sin, white American Catholics are evenly divided.

Of course, rank-and-file Catholics do not decide who is declared a saint. But they decide who will be revered as one. And in this case, I believe, they will forgive Day's sin in part because, in their heart of hearts, many of them don't consider it all that much of a sin in the first place.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Stephen Prothero.

- CNN Belief Blog contributor

Filed under: Abortion • Catholic Church

soundoff (582 Responses)
  1. JC

    people have told me if i'm not not forced to read this article if i think the concept of sainthood is ridiculous, which i do. Unfortunately the people who do believe, as fellow voters, decide my rights, my future, etc. Throughout history the bible/christianity has been used to defend slavery, oppress women (if you disagree, i'm happy to clarify) and even insist that the world is flat. BTW, it also says eating shellfish is an abomination (lev.) I am concerned that fellow Americans are still basing their decisions, morals and votes on a flawed book that gets used in a pick and choose buffet-style (people point their fingers at gays even though gossipers and backbiters and mentioned in the same passage) rather than common sense and decency. let's forget about the 'who gets to be a saint' game and use the brains that either God or evolution gave us in the first place.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Laura

      Don't forget you can kill your child if they talk back to you, or sell your daughter into slavery, you also must avoid all women during their period. And polygemy is alright depending on the chapter your reading.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:10 pm |
    • CHC

      I respect your reply. I am a practicing Catholic. Certainly the Catholic Church has screwed up plenty. But the Church- and Christianity as a whole-does plenty of good as well. The bottom line: it's up to all people of good will -of all backgrounds- to love and help one another. Unless we do that, we're all doomed. If you look throughout history, when man has turned away from God, suffering has followed. But people of faith-myself included- need to do a far better job of practicing what they preach. Then maybe others would be more likely to listen.

      July 7, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
  2. CHC

    Most miss the point about sainthood and the Catholic faith. "Saints are sinners who keep on trying" the saying goes. In other words, that's why we go to Church: not because we are pious, but because we need God, we ask forgiveness for our sins, forgive others, and try to do His will (love others, etc.) so we can make our world a better place, and bring everyone to heaven. I think Dorothy will be beatified. Sainthood will come with an additional miracle or two.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  3. Joe

    Don't you have to perform miracles to be a saint? It seems like they're being rather liberal with the whole saint thing lately.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:03 pm |
  4. Patrick in Pittsburgh

    Opinion polls of American Catholics (or parishoners in general) about doctrine of the Church should not count for anything. That is why the Church has not changed its stance on abortion for centuries. It is not swayed by what is popular. Rather, it adheres to what is Christ-like and morally sound.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • MS

      Which is exactly why the church bans condoms for AIDS patients, and protects pedophiles. Because that's Christ-like.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • mattmchugh

      Hogwash. The Church has changed its position on all sorts of core moral issues throughout history (slavery, capital punishment, indulgences, just war, celibacy, annulments, etc.) I give it props for sticking to its guns on some points despite popular opposition, but the idea the Church it never sways with the winds of change is just plain wrong.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:12 pm |
    • Laura

      Aparently the Catholic church skipped over that whole part of not being over showy, and having extreme wealth. That you should be humble, the vatican must have decided that didn't apply to them.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
  5. Jane

    Are you kidding Me??? Abortion is legal and has been since 1973. Do you know how many happy, well-adjusted American women have had an abortion? Ha! Thousands upon thousands. You know what? It's our body, and we will do with it exactly what we wish. And in case you forget people, IT'S LEGAL AND WILL REMAIN SO. Get over it, grow up. There's no Easter Bunny either. Know what? WE ARE JUST FINE WITH IT TOO. NO REGRETS, REMORSE EITHER. RUBBISH!

    July 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Brandon

      Agreed. For most people this is a non-issue – it makes sense and should be left the way it is, legal and accessible.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • Tom

      Do what you want with your body. It's the baby's body we're concerned with. Making it legal to kill a baby doesn't make it right.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Sara in SC

      Jane, are you saying that women are so stupid that they don't know how pregnancy happens? Are we so ignorant that we have to have abortion because, unless a man tells us to, we can't use any of the birth control methods out there? Yes, its my body, and I have the choice to get pregnant (I know you are smart enough to know that majority of abortions are results of consensual intercourse). The "My body, my choice" is the most degrading slogan I've ever heard. And any feminist should be embarressed to use it!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:24 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Sara in SC

      The slogan: "Woman's body,woman's choice" is catchy and correct.

      The womb belongs to the woman. The fetus, in her womb has no legal rights until it reaches a stage that it is able to live outside it's mothers body.

      13th Amendment : "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States or any place subject to their jurisdiction."

      Women or any part of their bodies, cannot be owned. Not by the government. Not by religious nuts.

      We can't legally force somebody to donate blood to save somebody else; it thus makes no sense to legally force a woman to continue a pregnancy that she doesn't want.

      Women are not broodmares. They have the right to abort the parasitic fetus, until the fetus is viable.

      This is not a religious debate. It is about a woman's right to do what she will, with her own body.

      Certainly birth control would reduce the number of abortions. Planned Parenthood is a good place to get information etc.
      We need real $ex education in schools. Not abstinence only. Studies show this doesn't work.

      Cheers!

      July 7, 2011 at 6:46 pm |
    • David Johnson

      @Tom

      You said: "Do what you want with your body. It's the baby's body we're concerned with. Making it legal to kill a baby doesn't make it right."

      It is not legal to kill a baby. A baby is a human being, with all the rights and privileges of any other citizen. We are talking about a fetus.

      Cheers!

      July 7, 2011 at 6:58 pm |
    • Tom

      David:

      If you are ever in a car accident and cause the death of a "fetus," you'll learn very quickly about its legal rights. No different from a "baby." That distinction is a fiction, and society is finally figuring it out.

      July 7, 2011 at 9:06 pm |
  6. CatholicSchmatholic

    The current Pope was a child Nazi. They like him enough to be Pope. She was a young woman and we all make mistakes.

    July 7, 2011 at 5:00 pm |
    • CS

      For more on the life of the Pope, see here: http://popebenedictxvi.blogspot.com/2008/08/joseph-cardinal-ratzinger-biography.html

      July 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
  7. JP0

    And, how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?

    July 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Juggling Squirrel-Jesus

      It probably depends on the size of the pin. It's roughly 10x the amount of nymphs, 3.14x the amount of mermaids, and several thousands times the amount of unicorns. I'm assuming, for the sake of argument, that unicorns can dance. They mostly just tend to stand in the corners at parties and drink excessively.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • altodiva

      Juggling Squirrel-Jesus, I beg to differ. I submit that mermaids cannot dance at all unless they are underwater, so the pinhead would have to be submerged. And... I further submit that as quadrupeds, unicorns (drunk or not) would take up more room than angels (although perhaps we must account for those wings) and thus FEWER unicorns would fit on the head of a pin. I believe you are spot on regarding the nymphs, though.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:15 pm |
    • altodiva

      Oh dear. I misread your post. Of COURSE you stated that more angels than unicorns could dance on the head of a pin. My apologies.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
    • Juggling Squirrel-Jesus

      @altodive – I should have clarified my assumptions. I assume that mermaids should be able to dance, as you say, on a submerged pin, or break dance on the pin. Though one would naturally assume that fewer mermaids could break dance on a pin than could normally dance on a submerged pint

      July 7, 2011 at 5:22 pm |
  8. monkyspunk

    two words: who cares?

    July 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
  9. CS

    Why on earth would there be any doubt? We've called Paul a saint, a man who led one of the first persecutions of Christians. There;s St. Longinus, the Roman Centurion who pierced the side of Christ with the lance. There's some who venerate Pontius Pilate as a saint.

    I'm a little stunned at the article. It's not that she's eligible in spite of the consistent teaching of the.Church. She's eligible for the same reason sinners can enter the Church in the first place–conversion happens. Repentance and then sanctification happen. What on earth is it to us if your previous life included every sin under heaven, if you turn again and repent and start the long labor of love which is the Christian spiritual path?

    July 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
  10. Rebuttal

    Sea turtle eggs are protected under law, but fetal humans are not. See anything wrong w/ that logic?

    July 7, 2011 at 4:56 pm |
    • VinoBianco

      Well, I believe sea turtles are endangered...

      July 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Steve

      Weird comparison. It's not criminal for a sea turtle to destroy its own eggs.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:01 pm |
    • Jane

      Women aren't sea turtles moron.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Humm, Lets Us See Grasshopper:

      Perhaps because humans kill sea turtles, but turtles don't kill humans?

      I mean I know thats tough to follow, but once you grasp it, you will understand many things my son.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • mattmchugh

      We're running low on sea turtles. Humans... not so much.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
  11. JT

    She's roasting in flames as we speak....praise Jesus! She and that fame seeking miserly harlot hag who catlicks worship whose initials are MT is also being tortured in h-ell along side her. She always said suffering is good and told her patients that their extreme pain was just Jesus kissing them. Well....now she is suffering for all eternity....glory!

    July 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm |
    • Tony

      Realizing I may have used a forbidden word, I will restate:

      There are, it is said, only two sins the Holy Spirit cannot forgive, presumption and despair. Condemning someone as you have, presuming to know God's mind and the fate of anyone's soul, is presumption.

      If I made such a statement as this, I would worry very deeply about the fate of my soul during Judgement.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • CS

      Lu8ke 9:23: Then he said to all, "If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily 11 and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.

      Col. 1:24: Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking 14 in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church.

      Acts 5: 41: So they left the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they had been found worthy to suffer dishonor for the sake of the name.

      We are called to suffer as Christ suffered, being members of his mystical body. Why do you find Mother Teresa's teaching on suffering damnable?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
    • JT

      No...my post disappeared because some Mackeral snapping, ring kissing, pedophile supporting catlick censured me. They can't handle a True Christian®.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:04 pm |
    • Cate

      "No...my post disappeared because some Mackeral snapping, ring kissing, pedophile supporting catlick censured me. They can't handle a True Christian®."

      You are in NO way a Christian with that comment.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
  12. planet212

    Killing a fetus is taking a life...no matter how you justify it the simple fact is.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • VinoBianco

      I think it's more preventing a life than taking one.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:58 pm |
    • monkyspunk

      and?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Adolf H

      @monkeyspunk: I felt the same way about the Jews!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:16 pm |
    • mattmchugh

      Yes. Abortion is the termination of a human life. Pretty easy to agree on that point.

      The trickier question is when is it acceptable to terminate a human life. Pretty wide range of views on that point. If you're going to do it, prior to sentience strikes me as the least objectionable time.

      - mm

      July 7, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
  13. oompa

    You know the rabid anti abortion is a modern position. Catholic Church and most religions gave their blessings for abortions up until the first kick up until the late 1800s. The Church's position historically has been pro choice. She was born in 1897, most people didn't frown upon it during that time. It's hard to dismiss someone's life work and judge them so harshly when it was socially acceptable.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • mattmchugh

      "Catholic Church and most religions gave their blessings for abortions up until the first kick up until the late 1800s."

      Where on earth do you get that? Sounds like a complete fabrication. Can you cite a shred of corroboration?

      - mm

      July 7, 2011 at 5:25 pm |
    • oompa

      Hard to find because of the activists on both sides but yeah the info is out there. It was the scientists with the creation of the microscope that pushed that the fetus was alive. Religion eventually followed when they realized more babies = more church members. Other interesting stuff out there : in our original colonies abortion was advertised in churches.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:41 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      Sin is always Sin, Truth is always Truth. The Catholic Church has never approved of abortion, the people who provide it, or materially contribute to it. Most of the major Protestant Churches also believed that when I was young, but now that they don't it doesn't surprise me. It's not the first time they misinterpreted something.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:48 pm |
  14. Jason K

    Catholics abide whatever the current pope says. Catholicism is less a religion and more of a religious government with its own laws and political system. Very little of what they believe is rooted in any sort of Christian Doctrine. Rather they change their dogma based on meetings with the different diocyses and discuss what is "popular". Then they declare it dogmatic law and say that God agrees with them. They are pretty much Armenians but with fancy hats. In short, catholics like most "christians" do not represent the bible or person of Yeshua Hamashiah (Jesus Christ). They will be the ones say "Lord Lord, I did all these things in your name". Don't despise them, but rather pity them...they are truly the lost.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Tom

      If you want to know what Catholics believe, read the catechism. The church was established by Christ and it has taught the same thing for 2000 years. God doesn't change and neither does his church.

      Come home to the truth.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Josh

      That's exactly what most fundamentalist Christians do. The Bible bans tattoos (Leviticus 19:28), Fabric blends (Leviticus 19:19), Divorce (Mark 10:9) Women wearing braided hair or gold (Timothy 2:9) and many other things.
      However, people decided that because these passages disagreed with their lifestyle, they wouldn't listen to them directly and instead ignored them! Take a look at your shirt tag and check to see if you're wearing a blend of fabrics, you might just find yourself in the fiery pits of hell!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • Stevie7

      The catechism is not set in stone. Popes issue updates to church teaching all the time.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Charles

      The Catholic Faith is centered on the Nicene Creed which is said during each Mass. The Catechism goes over word for word the Nicene Creed. Please study up a bit more before relying on prejudice which was probably pressed upon you since childhood.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:14 pm |
    • The Truth

      Name me one Christian religion that has not changed their teaching/interpretations since its founding. Those religions younger than 100 years don't count, not enough time. Now everyone has the right to believe and worship how they want to, but don't trash one religion based on ignorance. You are either someone who has no idea what Catholics believe in or you are a disgruntled ex-Catholic who just went through the motions but never took the time or interest to actually learn your religion.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:19 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      The center of the Church and/or Catholicism is the Eucharist as evidenced by The Bible, taught through the Catechism, and just sworn to by reciting The Creed. Adult education is available in most parishes, if you are really interested. It can also be found at http://catholicscomehome.org

      July 7, 2011 at 5:39 pm |
  15. William Demuth

    If Catholics believe the fetus was human and was free of original sin, then shouldn't they make the dead babay a saint rather than the lunatic that killed it?

    July 7, 2011 at 4:40 pm |
    • Convert007

      Who is to say that God has not already made them Saints?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:46 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Whose to say that Pathmark has made them into sausage patties?

      July 7, 2011 at 4:53 pm |
    • mattmchugh

      Catholics DON'T believe that fetus was free of Original Sin. Fully human with an immortal soul from the moment of conception: Yes. But, with that humanity, comes Original Sin, every time (except for Mary, the mother of Jesus). Nothing removes that but baptism.

      For centuries, there was a "limbo" where babies who died before baptism used to go for eternity. It was not a place of torment, but it was not heaven, i.e., the presence of God. The Church has backed off that in the last few decades, saying that unbaptized innocents are granted a de facto posthumous removal of Original Sin, but they had it for their full in and ex utero existence nonetheless.

      - mm

      July 7, 2011 at 4:55 pm |
    • Trina

      Well said!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:05 pm |
    • William Demuth

      mattmchugh

      Oh I see, and the wages of sin is death, so its ok to kill them?

      Took two centuries, I am pleased to see you have drawn such a rational conclusion.

      Could you explain again why Mahatma Ghandi goes to hell, but this baby killer is a saint?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:08 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      The "fetus" IS human, and if you understood anything about Original Sin you would know that the only thing that erases it is Baptism, for which you have to be "alive". Only two babies in human history have been born without sin, Jesus and His Mother.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • mattmchugh

      To William Demuth; First of all, this "baby killer" (I assume you mean Ms. Day) is not a saint, in the strict Catholic sense. She's being considered for sainthood, though I'm not sure if that's formally in motion or just this article's speculation. In any case, it's her charitable work that's earning her this attention. Whatever her past sins, including abortion, she can be wholly absolved of these if she has confessed and atoned. Thus saith Papa Church, like it or not.

      Regarding Ghandi, I don't think the Catholic Church assumes he's in He-ll. Limbo, i.e., a peaceful-but-separate-from-God afterlife for virtuous non-believers, has long been a part of Church lore (I'd have to check if it's strictly doctrine or not). The point is that both popular and scholarly thinking within the Church has determined that the either/or Heaven/He-ll thing often seems a bit too harsh. The idea that morally righteous people raised without exposure to Christianity don't deserve eternal torment just sits better with most people. Of course, we can't let them into Heaven; that undermines the unique advantages of being a loyal Christian, and would irk a lot of the faithful. So the "in between" area evolved pretty naturally.

      So, if the Pope thinks Ghandi's anywhere, he most likely thinks he's in Limbo.

      - mm

      July 7, 2011 at 5:43 pm |
    • Mike

      Southern Celt...........sorry, but Mary, mother of Jesus, was not sinless. She also needed a redeemer. The only perfect and sinless person ever on this planet was Jesus Christ. See Matt 1:21..."he will save his people", this included his mother.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:47 pm |
    • Tom

      Because she was part of the human race, Mary, too, needed a redeemer, but her redemption, through Christ, happened before she was born as the new Eve. She was the ark of the new covenant. Just as the ark of the covenant in the old testament had to be pure, so, too, was Mary. She was born without sin.

      July 7, 2011 at 9:39 pm |
  16. penny nicholson-dymes

    In heaven there is more rejoicing over one repentant sinner than for all of those who have no need of repentance. - Jesus (1 – 33 A.D.)

    July 7, 2011 at 4:37 pm |
  17. neoritter

    I'm the guy pointing out that people who are probably atheists, the ones that hold up logic and reasoning as highly important, seem to want step into some pretty classic logical fallacies.

    By the way, you wouldn't happen to have any tartar sauce? The fish happened to be quite dry.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:36 pm |
  18. Lettuce Prey

    I'm not Catholic so please pardon my possible ignorance, but don't you need a few miracles to your credit before you can be canonized as a saint? If so, what were her miracles? I'm just curious.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:35 pm |
    • mattmchugh

      3 miracles, is what I recall from Catholic school - though that may or may not be accurate. The deal is that someone has to pray to said dead person and claim they received a miracle via their intercession. A disease cured is the most common, but there are others, such as a change of heart of a sinner, that meet the requirement. It's pretty squishy.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:47 pm |
    • Convert007

      Beatification is the first step, but does not guarantee sainthood. Good question. Hope this helped.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:48 pm |
    • The Truth

      You are correct, but the process to become a saint has different steps or "ranks". These steps are not only a screening process for sainthood but also as recognition for achivements that are significant but fall short of sainthood requirements.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:02 pm |
  19. mattmchugh

    There's this guy named Paul (a.k.a Saul) who was an professional killer/torturer of early Christians before he converted to the faith Now, he's a rather big muckety-muck in Church circles.

    As long as you confess and atone in the proscribed manner, any and all past sins are forgivable. That's not my opinion. It's Roman Catholic doctrine. Feel free to look it up.

    - mm

    July 7, 2011 at 4:34 pm |
    • Laura

      and thats exactly why I have a problem with that religion. Someone who donates there time everyday, always willing to help out, they don't pray, they go to hell, but priest touching boys, and stealing money from others, thats all fine, as long as you confess your sins and let Jesus in and blah blah blah.

      July 7, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • Convert007

      Good try mm, but I think that you mean "prescribed," and the crux of the whole issue is how religiously we take that prescription! (Proscribed = prohibited)

      July 7, 2011 at 4:52 pm |
    • mattmchugh

      Mea culpa on the typo!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:57 pm |
    • mattmchugh

      Deathbed confession ... your Church-issued "Get out of He-ll Free" card!

      July 7, 2011 at 4:59 pm |
    • Brooklyn Boy

      You're right!
      If you decide to chop up a dozen people on the bus tonight and confess your sins, you still may have a problem with the DA but at least Sky Daddy won't have a grudge against you. Isn't religion logical and enlightiening?

      July 7, 2011 at 5:11 pm |
    • SouthernCelt

      St. Paul may have been Rabbi Gamaliel's prize protege, but that doesn't make him a "professional". God alone decides who enters Heaven since ALL men (and women too) are sinners. We pray for His forgiveness but the decision is His. Have a problem with Catholicism? So does Satan. Judge not unless you want to be judged – ever heard that before? Learn something about Catholicism from a legitimate source instead of what non-Catholic's tell you.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:27 pm |
    • mattmchugh

      SouthernCelt: I got 16 years of formal Catholic education. Sisters of the IHM, Vincentians, and Christian Brothers.

      July 7, 2011 at 5:47 pm |
    • Mike

      It is not Roman doctrine, it is the way for all Christians. You need to read Acts 9 to understand Paul's conversion and the importance that Jesus placed on his discipleship. You need to understand how Jesus, converted his greatest "persecutor", and brought Christianity into the world!! It was Paul who first brought the churches to Europe and Asia Also read Hebrews 8 and 9 to understand a better ministry and how the old (first covenant) was made obsolete by God and the new covenant of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:29 pm |
  20. Chas in Iowa

    This is why we have fundimentally corupt businessman and politicians that sin all week but think as long as they go to the right church on Sunday everything is okeydokey.

    July 7, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Bachman in 2012, cause Jesus needs help from the idiot brigade!

      July 7, 2011 at 5:09 pm |
    • Mike

      All people need Jesus, I would advise those that spend their week in corruption and idolatry, need to find a new line of work. It is not ok to say your a christian and then not "walk the walk", your only lying to yourself. Either be a great Christian or why bother. God forgives us of our sin, but he expects us to stop sinning once we are aware of it.....that is why baptism is the new birth, your old was buried deep in the immersion and now you are new creations with a holy spirt, a new helper sent from God to give you wisdom and character.

      July 7, 2011 at 7:13 pm |
    • William Demuth

      Mike

      I don't watch American Idolatry, but I do intend to talk the pants off an airhead!

      July 8, 2011 at 8:57 am |
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About this blog

The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.