Startling Official Doctrine

Could you help me??

I have been studying The Catechism of the Catholic Church 1992 and The Holy Bible for many months off and on. I'm 'wishing to deepen my knowledge of the unfathomable riches of salvation', as the Holy Father desires on page 6 of the Catechism. :-) :-)

It's my understanding that The Catechism is Official Church Doctrine and it includes as references throughout, from The Holy Bible, and excerpts of books/writings from saints, as well as over 2000 years worth of Ex-Cathedra (infallible in faith and morals) statements/speeches/declarations/teachings from all of our past (true, not false) Popes dating back to Peter himself. :-)

I have stumbled upon some startling (because of my ignorance?) official Church doctrine, from the Catechism, that does not make sense to me, which I hope I can get your thoughts about, please ? :-) I'll make it short and to the point. I will make the parts I'm confused about in larger, bold type. :-)

Pages 128 - 129, paragraph # 460:

The word became flesh to make us "partakers of the divine nature" ( 2 Peter 1:4)

"For this is why the Word became man, and the Son of God became the Son of man: so that man, by entering into communion with the Word and thus receiving divine sonship, might become a son of God." (St. Irenaeus, Bishop of Lyons, BOOK: Adversus haereses, worked with Pope Victor in about 191 or 192)

"For the Son of God became man so that we might become God." (St. Athanasius, Bishop of Alexandria, BOOK: De Decretis, about 325?)

"The only-begotten Son of God, wanting to make us sharers in his divinity, assumed our nature, so that he, made man, might make men gods." (St. Thomas Aquinas, Philosopher, Theologian, Angelicus Doctor, BOOK: Opusculum contra errores graecorum, by order of Pope Urban IV 1261-64)

Pages 228 - 229, paragraph # 795:

Christ and his Church thus together make up the "whole Christ" (Christus totus). The Church is one with Christ. The saints are acutely aware of this unity:

Let us rejoice then and give thanks that we have become not only Christians, but Christ himself. Do you understand and grasp, brethren, God's grace toward us? Marvel and rejoice: we have become Christ. For if he is the head, we are the members; he and we together are the whole man........ (St. Augustine, Bishop of Hippo 354 -430, BOOK: In Jo. ev. 21, 8: PL 35, 1568) Can you help me understand? I've been a Roman Catholic my whole life (33 yrs) and I'd like to understand.

~~Michelle Peerboom


Dear Michelle,

Thank you for your email and the wonderful quotes from the Catechism. Your understanding of the Catechism is correct. The quote from 2 Peter about "participating in the divine nature" and those from the Catechism about man becoming God are indeed startling. I am glad they made you stop and wonder because they do the same for me. First of all, the distance between myself and God seems so enormous. I can barely hold a few coherent ideas in my mind and He created the universe effortlessly with a single word. But second - and most humbling - is that so often I seem to run away from God, to want anything but Him. I sometimes think how great it would be to have as much money as Bill Gates, but less often do I reflect on what it would be (will be) to possess everything of value. Do you see what I am saying, Michelle?

The Orthodox Christians have focused more on "divinization" than we have in the West. Still, as the Catechism indicates, it is part of our tradition as well. The great Church Father, Ireneaus of Lyons, worte beautifully about it. Have you read any of his writings? One of the quotes you sent is from him.

Perhaps in the West we have shied from talking about divinization because we so easily can fall into a pantheistic or even pagan idea. Joseph Smith did this when he founded Mormonism. If I understand them correctly, they have the idea of that faithful Mormon (males) will be raised to a divine status, each one ruling his own separate world. The doctrine has been stated famously: 'As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.'" That of course is not Christianity but the old polytheism. What the Catechism teaches is not that we will become separate gods, but that through Christ we will become totally united with the one God and in that sense be divinized.

I hope this is of some help, Michelle, but I fear I may have confused you even more. Please keep praying, reading the Bible and Catechism. And say a prayer for me. What matters is not that we figure out all these mysteries now, but that we arrive at our destiny - eternal union with the Trinity in the Communion of Saints.

God bless,

Fr. Bloom

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