When I left Catholicism in my twenties it was largely due to the influence of anti-Catholic, evangelical, fundamentalist sources I encountered. It also didn’t help that my own spiritual formation and knowledge of Catholic teaching was lacking. At the time, I thought I was being liberated from a complex religious system and replacing it with a simple one-on-one relationship with Jesus Christ. In my naiveté, I regarded Catholicism as a man-made obstacle to Christ rather than a God-made organism of Christ designed to lead us to him. For a while, I took a rather anti-Catholic approach to spirituality and sharing of the Gospel.
My return to the Catholic Church was preceded by the realization that I had been taught many misconceptions and untruths about Catholicism, both from an historical and a doctrinal perspective. I had mixed emotions because I felt relieved and deceived at the same time. As I processed my transition back to the Church I realized I had to be careful. It would be very easy for me to adopt an attitude that was decidedly anti-non-Catholic, or anti-Protestant. What I mean is that I could easily have adopted a less-than-charitable attitude towards non-Catholic persons. This became particularly apparent as I delved deeper into Catholic apologetics. Debates on sensitive topics can quickly produce a lack of charity in people.
Obviously, there are non-Catholic teachings and practices I am “against.” But, I never want to be “against” any person. Genuine charity (godly love) desires the ultimate good for every person. I believe that such charity resides within Catholic teachings. What I am really against is division among Christians. I am against a divided Body of Christ. I am against any religious system where Christians function as something other than one flock with one shepherd. Since the sixteenth century the one flock has become increasingly divided and multitudes of shepherds now lead in vastly different directions.
I am not “anti” anyone. I am anti-division and pro-unity. I am for all the scattered Christians finding their way home to the Catholic Church. I am for Christians uniting under one banner instead of constantly finding things to protest and divide over. I am for Christians learning authentic Catholic teachings instead of misconceptions and misunderstandings that keep them away from home. I am for one flock with one shepherd. Jesus already established the office of Peter to “strengthen the brethren” and to “feed the sheep.” The one shepherd has always been successively present on the Chair of Peter. What Christianity needs is for the flock to reunite under that shepherd.
We don’t need a unity that flattens out diversity and creates bland uniformity. We need all the gifts, strengths and diversity of all the Christians that love Jesus Christ living in one accord. Then the world will see the Church as it should be. Rather than seeing many protesting, clustered, individualized churches competing for attention, the world will see one holy, catholic and apostolic Church. They will see the love of Christ. This is what I am for. This is why I talk about and promote the Catholic Church, sometimes juxtaposed with other doctrines. It is not just another denomination. It is where the flock finds home.
Well, no, it quite evidently is not a ‘home’ where most of the ‘flock’ would care to graze. The fact that we aren’t there looks pretty conclusive.
If any leaders whatsoever were truly ‘infallible’ — and had doctrines that weren’t susceptable to misunderstanding — then unity would be desirable.
The pre-Reformation Church broke up for much the same reasons the Judean monarchy of Solomon’s son broke up: corruption and oppression. These conditions manifested in the Protestant movements as well, but as long as you’ve got competing institutions, that situation works as a force to restrain abuses.
It also works to leave room for alternate interpretations and conceptual progress. Always true interpretations? No, certainly not. Room to be mistaken… turns out to be room to see through more than one eye, to apply a little depth perception.
Consider that human beings are not the only vertebrates with brains divided into two specialized halves, halves designed to work independently — and then to reach a synthesis of local-focus with overall-pattern perceptions.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post and respond to it.
Corruption and oppression are present in any institution because of the human condition. Infallibility is not to be confused with impeccability. Some of the Popes were downright scoundrels. Infallibility is the protection afforded to the Church by the Holy Spirit. It is the same way that Peter or Paul could write infallible, inerrant Scripture while still being less than impeccable men. It was, after all, the infallible Church authority that chose which letters were inspired Scripture. Solomon’s monarchy is long gone. Catholicism and the Chair of Peter are still here. There is no perception deeper than what the Holy Spirit provides.
The fact that much of the flock does not care to graze within the Catholic Church is a sad state of affairs, not a desirable one. It is nothing new that the followers of Christ find or are led in directions other than what he prescribes. Many disciples left Christ when they could not stomach his teachings (John 6, for example). Others stayed despite finding his teachings troubling and hard to swallow.
Not sure which abuses you believe are kept in check by having a divided Body. The division itself is abusive since Christ prayed to the Father that his followers would “all be one as you and I are one.” Jesus and his Father cannot have opposing doctrines on faith and morals. Additionally, Paul’s exhortation for Christians to “not have any divisions among you” more than suggests that division is not a desirable condition for the Christian Body but a problematic one that presents a stumbling block to the evangelization of the world.
The division within Christianity feeds upon itself because there is no central authority to take divisive issues to. There is no way to “take it to the Church” as Christ commanded when disagreements arise. When a Baptist, a Presbyterian and a Methodist disagree on doctrine there is no “church” to take the dispute to and decide where heresy lies. Hence, we are left with a system of perpetual protest and successive church splits rather than unity. While I appreciate the sentiment behind your theory, the Catholic model is the biblical one and the one most denominations eventually find they must strive to emulate in their own, separated ways. Peace.
Very cool bit there…well said
interesting hearing your journey Tom. Thanks for sharing. : )
Hey, thanks for reading!
Sir, I’m glad you have peace.
Peace is a rarity these days.
However, there do exist many teachings/doctrines within the Roman Catholic Church that butt up against orthodox biblical teaching.
Take the doctrine of papal infallibility.
That is a decidedly extra-biblical theology..as is the perpetual virginity of Mary, transubstantiation, the petra verse which has spawned the papacy, Mary’s status as Queen of Heaven, veneration of saints..the list is rather extensive.
The historical record of the Roman catholic Church paints an interesting picture to be sure(as does other faith streams), in light of SCRIPTURE.
The issue of celibacy for example, is one I take serious issue with.
Yes Paul said “it is good if you can….” but there are following verses that underscore the importance of not forcing oneself into a role that is not of God himself.
The manner in which this was played out in the early church was horrific, with Catholic leadership literally offering an ultimatum to pastors to either renounce their existing marriages, or else surrender their pastorships!?
It caused not a few leaders to leave their churches…sadly
Much could be said of authority, accountability, church structure and so on, but…
Well, I could go on and on.
However, I can see that you have both feet solidly where they are, but I felt I needed to speak up.
Sorry that I’m not contributing to unity here..
May you find your way, in the way.
Thank you for reading my blog and responding to it. Perhaps you are contributing to Christian unity more than you realize. The ability to dialogue about differences in a charitable, civil manner is an important first step towards unity. There are many who have expressed your same objections in a decidedly venomous, divisive manner. So, thanks for being kind.
Space does not allow me to individually address each of your objections, although there are rational, reasonable and Scriptural responses to each one (I used to agree with you on all points, by the way). A search for each topic on http://www.catholic.com is a great place to start.
There have certainly been abuses within the 2000 year history of the Church. This is not attributed to official doctrines or disciplines, but to the human condition. Whenever someone points out a “bad thing” done by the Catholic Church my first reaction is, “Remember Judas.” Even Peter betrayed Christ and was rebuked by him as “Satan.” Yet, that same Peter was infallible enough to write part of the Bible. When people in the Catholic Church do bad things, it in no way negates the truth of Catholicism. Nor is it a reason to start a “new” church. The Church was started by Christ. It is not meant to be “rebooted” and “started over” by men. The Church is the Church forever. Christ gave it his authority.
The other important thing to remember is that Catholics regard Scripture as the authoritative, inerrant, infallible, inspired Word of God. We recognize it as an authority but not the only authority for the Christian. While Scripture claims a high degree of usefulness or profitableness (2Tim 3:16-17), nowhere does it claim itself to be the ultimate or sole authority for the Christian. On the contrary, Scripture points to the Church as the final arbiter and authority as well as the pillar and foundation of truth. (See Matt 18:15-17 and 1Tim 3:15) Nowhere does the Bible say, “If it’s not in the Bible, don’t believe it.” Catholic teaching does not contradict Scripture when interpreted in its proper context.
It was the Catholic Church that decided which writings actually belong in the New Testament as inspired by God. So many Christians accept the authority of Scriptures, but reject the very authority that said, “These are your Scriptures.” This makes no sense. If the Catholic Church is not the Church guided by the Holy Spirit, then we simply can’t trust the Table of Contents in our Bibles. The Bible is the product of Catholic Sacred Tradition. “Sola Scriptura” does not make sense. The Scriptures and the Church authority that assembled them complement each other in one Deposit of Faith.
So, ordained bishops teaching in unity with the Chair of Peter have the authority to declare proper Scriptural interpretation, right doctrine and disciplines. There is only one Church that can trace apostolic succession back to Christ. That is the Catholic Church. Trace back every other church and you bump into a man or a woman that started it without proper authority.
Again, I highly recommend http://www.catholic.com for more in-depth answers to your objections.