What is the Roman Catholic view of the rapture? Does the Catholic church accept the idea that people will be caught up in the air to meet Christ? If not, how do they interpret 1 Thessalonians 4:17?
Catholicism is incompatible with the Rapture because the Church has taught for many centuries before people started envisioning folks disappearing mid-sentence that there would be a Final Judgement where everyone would see their sins and their effects.
I don't think 1 Thessalonians 4:17 speaks to the Final Judgement on account of the fact that St. Paul says "We who are still alive". If he's dead as his bones attest to then he ought to have said, "those who are still alive".
Now, Catholics don't have any problem with folks being carried off into heaven body and soul, so long as they're free from original sin (Mary and Jesus) or been given a special grace (Enoch and Elijah). The rapture, as it is envisioned in recent popular literature, would be prior to final judgement even if it came at the same hour and doesn't make a lot of sense in the light of Catholic teaching even though it fits the puzzle pieces left in the New Testament pretty well.
If there was a rapture, and the good were taken up, they would have been judged as good and the rest would be... waiting to see if they're good or not? Well a 7 year span of tribulation doesn't jibe with the Final Judgement as a Last Thing. The final judgement is Sheeps on this side, Goats on that side and everybody out of the pool. The dead will have a particular judgement, but at the end of time, as far as I understand the teaching. The final judgement is for the living and the dead.
The rapture, properly understood, is fully compatible with Roman Catholicism. The English word rapture comes from the Latin word raptus ("a carrying off"). This Latin word (or a similar one, rapio) is employed in the writings of Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, and it appears in the Bible, which indicates that the word rapture is perfectly legitimate in itself: we must simply be careful in how we understand its meaning.
What is the rapture, according to Roman Catholicism, then? It is simply the raising of believers, both alive and dead, into the clouds to meet Christ, as part of Christ's second coming. As Thomas Aquinas writes regarding Paul's teaching in 1 Thessalonians 4:
On this Aquinas is following Augustine, who says that living Christians will "both die and rise again at once while caught up into the air" as part of the resurrection:
These quotations should make it absolutely clear that Roman Catholicism does not accept any concept of a rapture that is separate from the final resurrection and the final judgment. The idea of dispensational Protestants that there will be a "secret" disappearance of believers several years prior to these events is thus utterly rejected.
However, the Bible, the church fathers, and more recent Catholic theologians agree that believers will be "taken up"—raptured—when Christ returns. Roman Catholics shouldn't stop using this perfectly legitimate word simply because dispensational Protestants have given it a different meaning.
There is a basic rule in Catholic theological studies: If something sounds strange or a bit off in the New Testiment Scriptures, especially where Saint Paul is Conserned, Look to the Old Testiment and you can see from where he draws his ideas.
Saint Paul was a Highly Regarded Pharicee, a very learned man living the Jewish Faith Flawlessly. He studied under the greatest Rabi, Rabi Gamaliel of whom it is said in the Talmud
Paul was the Greatest Student of the Greatest Rabi at the end of the 1st Century.
How is that relevant? It is relevant because the images that Paul draws from are the images that he is familiar with, those images of the teachings of the law and the prophets found in the Septuigent.
When Pual Qoutes from 1 Thesalonians 4:17, to get his context lets look at verses 15-18
It is understood by Protestants that this is a bodily acention and that It is a "Secret Rapture" where pilots and bus drivers disappear leaving havoc in the "Secret Raptures" wake.
Let us now look at what Paul was really refering to. As he does elsewhere in Scripture, The well educated Jewish Rabi is refering to things that have happened in Old Testiment Scripture.
Note the similarities between the two passages.
We also assend to Christ- Perhaps he will be on a mountain just like most every other time God Reveals himself to man.
An in depth and Honost study of these passages as well as others including Danial 7 where Christ assends to heaven and sits at the Right hand of the Father, In heaven not at an earthly mellenial Kingdom as Premelenialist suggest. In order for that to make sence Christ would have to decend to the New Earthly Jerusalem. The objections to the Very modern unbiblical fantasyn of a secret Rapture are endless.
It sure does sell books though.
The Catholic Church undrstands these passages as they were meant to be understood. In the same manor in which the rapture was presented to the Church by Paul. A one time event, a very loud event that is in no way secret.