You will have to found your own church
mscperu statement: one doctrine in the whole world.
I am a catholic and one of the benefits of being a member of the Roman Catholic Church has been for me the experience that in my church one of the foundation of teaching is the worldwide unity in teaching and faith and (hopefully) life. This makes me ask some hard questions. Besides I have been reading some answers of experts to Catholics affirming things catholic that made me shudder
So I question those who consider themselves "experts in Catholicism" and are pertaining to an other Church. I do not question their good faith, God bless them, but they are living another faith. They want to help. More power to them. But...
Since when a vegetarian will give unbiased answers how to prepare an Irish stew? Theoretically his/her/its answers may be all right but he/she/it must suffer terribly because he/she/it thinks the Irish stew is an abomination and only thinking about the stew gives him/her/it the "willies". The problem will be even more acute when I ask advice how to eat the stew and how much and how frequently and what benefits will I get. Do you think the vegetarian can answer sincerely without protesting?
So my dear non-catholic experts in Catholicism how can you advise about Catholicism when you are thinking and living differently? Or is there a livable possibility to think one thing and say an other one because I want to help and because I am an expert and have extensive resources and I want to be polite? At the same time you believe fervently the contrary! I am not talking about data and information. I am talking about faith and life.
And regarding my ex-catholic experts: some day you have renounced the Catholic Church and have taken up an other option. I do not question your decision. That is between you and God and your conscience. But your decision signals that you are against the teaching of the Catholic Church. You could say: I know Catholicism so I can answer. I think not. I contend that in the domain of faith the living AND the teaching have to be ONE if I do not want to be incoherent. How can you give, let us say, an answer that reflects entirely the teaching of the Church and live a faith and a life opposed to it and not hurt inside? Don’t you get red in your face?
Concluding, my dear experts, when there are questions about faith and life regarding Roman Catholicism please:
When you are NOT a practicing Roman Catholic, why don’t you say so in your answers? If not you are silencing an important part of your "expertise" that rebuts your answer, doesn’t it?
If you are not a Catholic, why don’t you say so? Catholics will be grateful but cautiously so. They have a right to know.
So everybody go on "expertising" but with your "trademark".
God bless you all
In Corde Jesu
Missionary of the Sacred Heart
I agree with parts of your post and disagree with others.
You presume that since a person might have problems with a subject that they cannot be either an "expert" or offer objective perspectives on it. I would disagree.
"Expertise" is relative. To quote an old saying: "In the land of the blind the one eyed man is king!". Living in the Protestant "Bible Belt" of the Midwest I have encountered an amazing amount of ignorance and outright misinformation regarding Catholicism. I see it also at this site. My background and experience has helped many to see past the misinformation and answer their questions.
You suggest that people who aren’t Catholic are somewhat compromised in their objectivity. The same is true for those who are! Using your stew example, how can I get a truly objective opinion from someone who LOVES the stuff? Can I ask them without getting a sales pitch?
People come to this site looking for answers and comments from others. The really good "experts" offer objective responses and often provide verifiable references to support their opinions. There are certainly a few "quacks" here but there are also some remarkable experts who deserve to be listened to.
I think your point about stating your credentials is valid. People should know where you’re coming from. You can reference my profile and see something of this, but it doesn’t offer any depth. In my own case I would claim that I am still a Catholic despite my worship and participation in the Methodist church. Some have asked my why I renounced Catholicism. I try to explain that I haven’t. I view it as akin to living with relatives. I haven’t renounced my family but circumstances have placed me in a community of "cousins" in the Body of Christ. We still are members of the same Kingdom and we both serve the same King!
Hope this offers another perspective. May God bless and keep you,
P.S. If by chance this is a second response to your post, I sent one earlier but it seemed to get lost. I resent.
Dear brother in Christ:
Thank you for your answer.
I confess I pinched a little the skin of the experts to make them show their color. I am asking if one does not hurt inside saying one thing and believing an other. It is not about information objective or not.
How can a suggest that you do not cut yourself cutting yourself at the same time? I suggested that these experts or hurt inside themselves saying the contrary of their belief or they thing their faith is no so important.
Thank you for helping people to understand Catholicism. But...
You have rationalized something that is not possible. You may be catholic by education but your are worshipping in a Methodist church. Please I do not judge you. But I contend that you cannot form part of one church and claim to be member of an other where there are fundamental differences between them.
There is an old saying: "Lex orandi lex credendi - as you pray so you believe".
Participating as a member in an other church separates you from your former church.
Let me give you an example. One sign of being a catholic consists in the communion with the Pope and the bishops of the catholic Church. I cite our catechism:
2034. "The Roman Pontiff and the bishops are ‘authentic teachers, that is, teachers endowed with the AUTHORITY of Christ, who preach the faith to the people entrusted to them, the faith to be believed and put into practice.’[LG 25.] The ordinary and universal Magisterium of the POPE and the bishops in communion with him teach the faithful the truth to believe, the charity to practice, the beatitude to hope for."
You do not accept this, so please do not claim that you are a Catholic. Again, I am not questioning your conscience; that is between you and God. I am questioning your reasoning. Or do you think you can confess something and it’s contrary at the same time? The Methodist church would cry "havoc". The same thing cannot be black and white at the same time.
""the faith to be believed and put into practice.’[LG 25.]". This is a citation from the Vatican Council. You may not have renounced the Catholic Church but your actions do so.
Look here, this may seem quite aggressive. It is not intended.
But my whole argumentation wants to confront these types of sayings: "We believe all in the same God. Denominations are human, the Church is in you heart. God calls you to the community where you feel comfortable", and so on.
Let us respect each other, let us pray for each other but do not foster make believing that there are no serious and essential differences in faith, worship and life. You have made your choice. So call yourself Methodist and give advice as such. Wonderful. With experience in things catholic. Very good. But do you not hurt inside counseling about a Church that worships statues and exalts Mary? A Methodist would hurt inside.
Do you see the problem? You have to define yourself.
That is all for the moment. I hope that I have talked with due respect. I am not going after you. I am going after your logic.
God bless you
No, you have spoken without offense and with a gentleness of tone which I appreciate and feel necessary in any sincere disagreement.
I accept that according to the "rule" of Catholicism they likely do not consider me a Catholic. My decision to practice in another denomination sets me aside from those in that congregation. Yet, as I said before, I have not renounced Catholicism. If it has renounced me I cannot control that. I see that you are a priest and you would have no option but to agree and accept all of what Catholicism teaches. You have, by your decision to enter the priesthood, committed yourself to teaching and defending those teachings. To disagree with them on your part would either be a hypocrisy (spelling?) or a violation of your commitment.
Many in the laity, while committing themselves at confirmation, have since encountered some problems with the "rule" and/or teachings of the church. Such questions need to be addressed. Most are problems of ignorance and confusion within the laity but others are legitimate spiritual matters which the structure of the Catholic Church is unable to respond to. (Let’s face the reality of truth, if it weren’t for the Reformation and courage of "rebels" who remained within the church, many erroneous beliefs may NEVER have been rejected!)
I like the line of As I pray I believe. I agree with that wholeheartedly. I pray to God. I believe in Christ and the Holy Spirit.
I administer my beliefs in a "Methodist" fashion: teaching people the Scriptures and the responsibilities that come with this knowledge. I don’t agree with everything Methodist, just as I don’t agree with everything Catholic. You see this as a kind of hypocrisy but I would point out that there are many priests and laity who disagree with aspects of Catholicism yet remain "Catholic".
I remain a faithful member of the Body of Christ. When I partake of Communion I commune with the Body of Christ, including the Bishops of the Catholic church.
To your concerns about the comments like "We all believe in the same God"... The Pope has made similar comments. In what do you struggle with?
If you are willing I would be honored to speak at some length with you on these subjects. I find you sincere and respectful and suspect we might learn something from each other. Perhaps e-mail would be a better forum. If you are willing you may respond or comment to me
If no, thank you for your comments and concern. May God bless and keep you.
Together in our Lord’s service,
The joy of the risen Lord be in your heart.
Thank you for your invitation to further our dialogue. I have had some time to roam about the Internet but I am now due to re-assume the daily "drudgery". I might not be able to answer immediately. So if you have the patience I would like very much to continue.
So here is a new intent to react to your reaction:
You have, by your decision to enter the priesthood, committed yourself to teaching and defending those teachings.
Please, I have not committed myself because of entering Priesthood. On the contrary, I committed myself to priesthood because I profess that ALL what the Pope and the Bishops teach is my faith because they speak in the name and with the authority of Christ. So if I disagree with that I will not leave Priesthood, I will leave the Church, I will leave the body of Christ, not by a personal decision no, I have put myself outside the faith of Christ.
Take the example of Paul as he reacts in his Epistle to the Galatians. Those from Jerusalem trying to make the Galatians circumcise themselves are teaching something Paul has lives all his life, the Apostles too. But he reacts violently because the true faith is at stake. As the Council of the Apostles define later: "We are saved by our faith in Christ".
I think this is the question we have to discuss when you say
that "the rule" and "the structure" of the Catholic Church have to
be changed so that you can agree.
What am I pointing out?
You say - I presume - that if the Roman Catholic Church would change these rules and this structure she would reflect the true faith of the Bible. I do not know what you mean with "rules" and "structure" - surely you will enlighten me - but I presume that those "rules and structures" cannot be changed because the changes would change doctrine.
Well I better stop here because I have not enough information. Please describe some of these "rules" and "structures" so I can tread on firmer ground.
I could comment the other points, but I am almost sure that they come from the same foundation. So not to build with bricks in the air let us first revise the foundation.
Tomorrow we celebrate the Ascension of the Lord, the promise of our real future. I pray that we may find us one day in His presence.
God bless you
Missionary of the Sacred Heart
Enviado el: Domingo, 04 de Junio de 2000 08:19 a.m.
Asunto: Our conversation
No problems in e-mail response delays. Gives us time to contemplate our
words and thoughts on such an important subject.
I agree with setting up a foundation. It has been my experience that most conversations quickly distill down into about three primary subjects: The Nature of Jesus, The definitions of Sin, and the Authority of the Scriptures. If you will accept it, I propose asking a few questions of you. Some I will have my own ideas of the answers and others I will not. These will NOT be a test or game of any kind, but a way for me to gauge your positions on these three basic issues. In kind I will do my best to respond to any questions you will have.
It is both liberating and confining to have a "conversation" over mail. It gives us time to think and we can re-visit the text for confirmation, but it also leaves off some important elements of conversation which are important to understanding the context of the words chosen. Sometimes statements come across as cold or rude when that was not the intention. I will state up front that if you ever feel this is the case please give me the benefit of the doubt as I will not do this intentionally.
To your question about rule & structure. I am not so bold (or, God forbid arrogant) as to presume I know the "true faith of the Bible" outside of some generic comments: Jesus loves us, we must love God with all our hearts, minds, and spirit? , but I am uncomfortable with the absolute nature of some of Catholicism's positions. The general position is that once the church has contemplated a question and made a decision, that decision is absolute and binding upon all. There have even been times when anyone who dissented with these decisions was considered a heretic. While this approach offers an advantage of providing leadership in confusing situations, it has demonstrated some flaws through the years.
For example, in your opinion, am I a Christian?
I meant no rudeness when I mentioned that, as a priest, you had a responsibility to support the teachings and rule of the church. In your response you note that you accept ALL that the Pope and Bishops teach yet, I would counter that this isn't fully possible since they do not ALL agree with each other! There are debates even now within the church on a number of issues of which I presume you know more about than I. In such disagreements aren't you and I forced to explore the truths of both positions and decide for ourselves which position fits best with our understanding of the faith? Upon what grounds do you base your assertion that the Pope and Bishops (alone I am presuming) speak with the authority of Christ? And that by disagreeing with them we put ourselves outside the faith of Christ?
These questions should give us ample basis for exploring our beliefs. I thank you with a depth beyond what these words will convey for your willingness to teach and share your thoughts with me, and I look forward to our conversation.
May God bless and keep you and your lambs. If I may be so presumptuous, may I ask for you all to share in a prayer with me when you receive this for all in the world who are lost and seeking the face of our risen Lord!
Together in our Lord's service,
Dear brother in Christ:
Thank you for the basis you establish so we can enter in a conversation that looks not at feelings but just at objective statements. So, let’s get on the way.
"The general position is that once the church has contemplated a question and made a decision, that decision is absolute and binding upon all".
I suggest that the absolute and binding characteristic is only a logic consequence of the teaching’s foundation. If you want to question this you have to step back and look at reason why the Church’s teaching is so binding. The Church believes she is talking in the name and with the authority of Jesus Christ. Something like that is present in the conscience of the apostles in telling the Christians converted from paganism and those Jewish ones that it is not the yoke of Moses that saves but the faith in Jesus Christ: "28 "For it seemed good to us AND the Holy Spirit…" (Acts 15). God speaks through them. In the Catholic Church we believe this is valid because the Pope and the Bishops are legitimate successors of the Apostles. So if you want to question the absolute decision you have to prove that this foundational reasoning is wrong or in a concrete decision that the interpretation of "the deposit of faith" is wrong.
The Church has the following criteria in searching for a statement of binding doctrine:
- The Bible
- The Tradition. In all times the Holy Ghost has guided the Church. Special authority have the Fathers of the Church, those writers that transmitted the faith from the beginning, the first generations after the first Church. How can we be sure that they do not transmit falsehood? Since the beginning there has been dissent, heresies (= division). How can you be sure what is the right doctrine? All took the same path like Ireneus'. If I can show that this doctrine has been taught uninterrupted since the Apostles then it is true.
- Magisterium, the ordinary or solemn teaching of the Church, Popes, Bishops, Councils and so on. Because they all underwent the same process: going back to the roots. So they too teach with the authority of the Holy Ghost.
- Sensus fidelium: what the universal Church has believed.
Forgive me if a have extended myself but you see here we are at a vital point. This is the reason of the absoluteness and the obligatory. Who does not accept the doctrine reached in this way puts himself out of the Church. It may sound hard to you but I say with all seriousness: He does not accept the teaching of Christ. It is logic. You do not hear the representative of Christ…
So I would like to point out that the final outcome of an authoritative statement of the Church is not a decision making process. It is more a truth finding process. The Pope and the Bishops are ever looking at the unity of doctrine and they teach only that what is coherent with the tradition.
For example, in your opinion, am I a Christian?
By definition a Christian is a follower of Christ. If you believe in Christ you are one. But in the view of the Church you do not accept the whole doctrine of Christ. You are a Christian that accepts only part of the teaching. So you are a heretic. This is not a moral judgment, I hope you understand that. It doesn’t say anything about the quality of your faith and morals. Heretic has a pejorative sound. It means that there is dissent in faith. And dissent in faith separates you because you are not any more in communion with the Catholic Church. There is something like "error invencibilis", i.e., a person believes in his conscience something that the Catholic Church does not accept. But before the Lord he is sincere. He will be judged by this. This does not exclude the necessity to go on searching for the truth.
In this context belongs your observation about "There are debates even now within the church". The Church has a general procedure respecting the theological debate. There exist for instance different schools of theology that offer different theological explanations. The Church does not intervene until there appear some thoughts that are incompatible with revelation. Then she pronounces herself. Once pronounced there can be no debate. "Roma locuta causa finita – once Rome has spoken the cause is finished". There have been in all times theologians dissenting with the Church. Every time they have been called to order. I haste to admit that there a instances that there appeared some new theology, a new way to speak of God. At times they have suffered a near persecution (Saint Thomas Aquinas, a doctor of the Church). But I contend that there has never been a solemn declaration of doctrine or moral that had to be corrected.
The only debate that may exist about the Ecumenical Councils is the revision what you think for instance the Council of Laodicea has taught. There can be a revision in the sense that the Council really meant something different of what we interpret today. It is in fact a historic investigation, not a change in doctrine, but of pronouncements that have been misinterpreted.
Upon what grounds do you base your assertion that the Pope and Bishops (alone I am presuming) speak with the authority of Christ? And that by disagreeing with them we put ourselves outside the faith of Christ?
Some I indicated above. But in the same direction I will follow an other path.
The Church teaches that with the death of the last Apostle the revelation of Christ was completed came to an end in the sense that there will be no other new revelation. Not everything has been written down but transmitted faithfully. So we have a deposit of faith that has to be preserved carefully and completely. If the Church wants to teach something it has to be in consonance with this deposit of faith. This deposit has been the treasure of the Church through the centuries.
This is very difficult to appreciate from the viewpoint of the evangelical brothers because they accept only Scripture the "sola scriptura" of Martin Luther. They lack one essential ingredient for interpretation, the 1700 years of uninterrupted coherent teaching = Tradition. They have to jump over the big divide from today to the Bible as if the Holy Ghost was absent all these centuries. And the security of right interpretation lays for many in the literal fundamentalist sense of Scripture. They have no choice. This is all they have with the help of science and archeological investigation. But on the faith level there is nothing more. So that is why a different interpretation of the Scripture sires new Churches, sects (= separate identities). The Catholic Church recurs at the Tradition. Our basis is: this is the uninterrupted faith since the apostles transmitted from generation to generation. Newman who was member of the Church of England converted to Catholicism because studying the Fathers of the Church he found that tradition was on the catholic side.
There is a method in revising situations in the Catholic Church. We have to go back to the Scripture (oh yes!), but there is always a hard look at what the Church fathers say because they were the first interpreters. Then the Magisterium has to look at the sensus fidelium, i.e., what the global Church (Pope, Bishops, theologians, people in general) believed through the centuries. If the Church affirms that her doctrine is the same she affirms the classic saying of Vincent from Lerins: all, all the time, everybody (inside the Church). It is the uninterrupted transmission from the Apostles.
Why different Churches?
So we can have some hard questions for you too. God has He despaired of the Christians only to react in the last century by calling the Methodist, the Mormons or the Assemblies of God to proclaim the whole truth of revelation? Your contention will be that the founder of the Methodist is one who interprets at last the truth, the real truth. Consequently before there has been error for too many centuries. But you have no assurance. The Catholic points to a tradition verified in every century until our days. The founders of theses Churches mentioned have recourse to divine inspiration o particular revelation to a certain person. But who guarantees the guarantee?
I think with Tertullianus that heresies are necessary. I think they are a gift of God to call the Catholic Church to conversion. The Saint of Wien, Clement Hofbauer, said that the Germans opened themselves to Luther because they wanted to be devout Christians again. The Church had become an external religion. I doubt that without the prodding of our evangelical brethren there would have been in the Catholic Church at the beginning of the 20th century the biblical, liturgical and patristic movements that found public recognition in the Vatican II. Martin Luther’s error was not to fight his battle from inside the Church.
So now, the ball is in your court. What makes you so sure that Jesus Christ wants to express Himself by the Methodist Church and that the different doctrine based on Scripture is the right one?
God bless you
Gerardo Mueller msc
As I begin, I am wondering how best to refer to you? Is it appropriate I call you Father? Brother? In the Protestant world I usually refer to ministers as "Reverend" or "Pastor" but I confess I am more comfortable calling any priest "Father". I presume this is an offshoot of my upbringing. For now it would seem the safest salutation would be "Friend" or, as you have chosen, "Brother in Christ"...
I apologize for my delay in responding as I am involved in a number of issues in church, family, work and home. While stimulating theological conversations such as this are precious to me I regret that they are a luxury in light of my responsibilities and my current calling. I suspect the same with you from your previous comments.
I begin this post just past dawn on Sunday morning. I live in a rural area and I hear nothing but birds singing, Crickets chirping, a gentle rain falling, and the quiet hum of my computer. I often find myself here at my computer on Sunday mornings. My family is still asleep and I have an opportunity to sharpen myself theologically by answering questions at AskMe or, as in this case, "wrestling" with someone who has a different perspective on Faith and responsibility than my own. Over the last few years I have found myself in a leadership role in my walk of faith, serving on a number of local and regional committees, teaching local and regional classes on religion, and acting as a counselor to my pastors. While I feel this has been important work in the community of faith, I have found it places me outside "traditional" sources of theological growth. Please forgive me if this sounds arrogant, but it has become difficult to find people who have both the depth of knowledge and the desire to teach one like myself. I appreciate your willingness to share and debate your thoughts and positions with a stranger like myself.
Reviewing your response leaves me with many topics I would like to speak to, but in this case I think I would prefer to work from the bottom up? You left me with the comment: "So now, the ball is in your court. What makes you so sure that Jesus Christ wants to express Himself by the Methodist Church and that the different doctrine based on Scripture is the right one?"
As I stated in my first response to you at Ask Me, and in my description there, Methodism is the Christian community in which I live, work, and serve my Lord. Through the years I have called myself several things: "A Catholic who married a Baptist and became a Methodist. NOW I JUST TRY TO CALL MYSELF A SERVANT OF GOD." I do not believe nor teach that Methodism somehow contains the whole "truth" of Christianity, just as I wouldn’t teach that Catholicism does. I would state at this point in my relationship with God that NO CHURCH (better stated no denomination!) can claim the whole "truth" of Christianity, any more that any individual (less Jesus himself!) can somehow claim the whole essence of what it means to be a Christian!
Our "faith" describes the personal and individual beliefs which define our relationship with God, or perhaps more accurately our "response" to God. I would argue that there are as many different ways to fully and completely respond to God as there are people as each of us is granted different gifts and graces by our maker for the purpose of serving His Kingdom (1 Cor 12:1-14). Religion is by definition a "system of faith and worship" (Webster). People who share common beliefs gather together in communities of faith we call churches. Some churches have declared that they alone are the "true" Brides of Christ. This can be understood from the perspective of the sincere and God fearing members of their congregations, but this perspective ignores the reality that other Christians, just as sincere and God fearing, may see the world and their responsibilities to Christ a little differently. This perspective sets one set of spiritual gifts over others and creates contention and division within the whole of the Christian community!
You suggested in your last letter that I would contend that the founder of Methodism (John Wesley) was one who interpreted at last the real truth. No. In fact, Wesley didn't proclaim any new knowledge. He was ordained in the Anglican church and established a series of small groups which emphasized Bible study and accountability to each other. In other words he didn’t introduce a new theology, just a different "method" of implementing the current one.
The Catholic church has defined a system of faith and worship which has at its roots the teachings of the first apostles. This is a fine and important attribute, but it is not unique in Christianity. Many Christian denominations were formed directly from disputes with Catholicism. Methodism is an offshoot of Anglican which is an offshoot of Catholicism. Methodist elders can claim a similar uninterrupted lying of hands directly down to the apostles. So too can several other Episcopal denominations. As such, this uninterrupted tradition is hardly a proof of the legitimacy of the beliefs of those denominations since all can make the same claim.
You asked me "who guarantees the guarantee?" I would respond that a guarantee is only as good as the organization that offers it. A problem with the Catholic "guarantee" is that while Catholicism is supremely confident in its own ability to offer leadership in faith, this leadership has exhibited flaws through the centuries. This same tradition which affords Catholicism its rich deposit of faith (something which it may seem in this letter that I belittle but that I have enormous respect for!) also exposes mistakes in the church's disposition of this treasure. As such Catholicism as a religion cannot lay claim to the whole or real truth any more than I. Paraphrasing: Catholicism, while claiming certainty as the one and true guardian of the faith, has in fact proven itself no more perfect in interpretation or implementation of this faith than any other denomination.
My point here has not been to tear down Catholicism but to put forward some defense of my position that Catholicism cannot make a legitimate claim for sole ownership of the truth and understanding of Christ in the world! I don’t know if you are in agreement with me that Catholicism cannot claim "perfect and true" status as the keeper of the faith, but I will presume so for the purposes of advancing the conversation. If you do wish to advance Catholicism as perfect and true, then our next post needs to review the positions Catholicism has taken on a number of matters throughout history and the nature of the apologies and changes in those positions.
If no religion can claim perfection in truth, what then can you and I do? I would answer along the lines of Luke 10:25. In fact, I would claim that our "title" (Catholic, Methodist, etc?) does nothing to grant us access into the Body of Christ or God's Kingdom. Rather, it is the depth of our personal love and commitment to God in our hearts and souls and spirits which determine this.
Presuming (with the arrogance of ignorance) that both you and I are "worthy" to call ourselves Christian in a legitimate sense, who then are we to seek out and commune with in a community of faith? Well, I am "comfortable" with the teachings, traditions and philosophies of Catholicism, just as I am comfortable with calling myself a Republican in U.S. politics. Yet classifying myself as Catholic or Republican means that my beliefs and thinking most closely aligns with these views and communities, NOT THAT I WHOLLY ACCEPT EVERYTHING THESE COMMUNITIES DO, anymore than calling myself a "Thaxton" means I wholly accept everything my family does! It turns out that part of my comfort with calling Me a Methodist stems from my freedom to preserve my Catholic inclinations of belief and philosophy while recognizing a need for Bible study and accountability.
As you point out, the leaders of Catholicism have decided after much prayer, thought, reflection and consideration, that those who cannot accept ALL of what the Magisterium proclaims cannot rightly call themselves "Catholic". This is akin to the Republican party declaring that anyone who cannot accept all that the leadership decides cannot call themselves "Republican". I cannot argue with the rights of rulers to make such statements, but I would declare that such edicts are foolhardy. They have the advantage of providing leadership and minimizing conflict, but carry with them the burden of tyranny. Ask Galileo.
Another thought on the matter of disagreement. I struggle with the perspective that all who disagree with an issue are not Catholic. There are many examples in many cultures where the local people disagree with an aspect of the teachings of the church, yet continue to call themselves "Catholic". As an example I would highlight the extensive use of Birth Control by western Catholics in direct defiance of the position taken by the church. Are you suggesting that the church feels that all that are doing so are NOT Catholic? If so, isn't the church in a rather hypocritical position when it ignores this defiance? A similar position can be taken in Catholicism's position with the Orthodox churches. While quite similar in belief and truly comparable in history, this "all or nothing" position of Catholicism precludes acceptance of Orthodoxy, yet Catholicism "tolerates" the Eastern churches to the point of including them in communion. I'm not saying I disagree with the tolerance. I am declaring that there is a validity in many of the other denominations which include them in the Body of Christ.
Summarizing: I do NOT believe that the Catholic Church speaks with the perfect and true authority of Christ, or that Catholics alone speak as the sole representative of Christ's church. On the other hand, I DO believe that Catholicism, with its treasure of wisdom and experience throughout the centuries, has much to offer and teach to the world about the meaning of Faith and what it means to be a child of God. I DO believe that Catholicism is an excellent community in which to learn and grow in Christ. I would like to close with this example. I don't for a second think the U.S. is perfect or holds the one "true" form of government in the world, but I think it is the best available and I wouldn't want to live anywhere else! I feel the same way about Catholicism. While I find it imperfect I also find it to be among the best available. In my first Ask Me response to you I used the illustration of living in a different country with cousins. I am comfortable working where I am (Methodism) but I have not abandoned my belief that my home (Catholicism) is the best place to be. I call myself Catholic because that is a part of my identity, just as I call myself "American". I don't agree with everything America does, nor with everything does Catholicism teach. If my country or my church declares me a traitor (or heretic) I cannot control this, but it doesn't change who and what I am. If my country or my religion tells me I can no longer return home I cannot control this, but I will remain an American in my heart just as I remain Catholic.
Will wait impatiently for your response. I hope and pray all is well with you and those you care for. May God keep you and those in your care from harm or evil.
Dear brother in Christ:
Let it be known that in all the arguments I propose that there is no moral judgment about the ethic quality of the persons involved. This is a debate about vision of contents, of teaching and of interpreting. Read this; let it be a day or two and then answer.
I would like to begin my answer using your imagery. Your contention is that the country, which less imperfectly realizes the ideal of democracy, is nearer the truth of democracy. It seems to me that there is an other scenery possible: Couldn’t it be true – theoretically - that the country ruled by tyranny, i.e. totally different from democracy, could conserve the purest and most complete teaching of democracy?
There have existed such monsters as the Borgia Pope but they have never taught anything wrong in matters of faith.
From the Manicheans until modern sects this has been the current argument: if you sin then you teach wrong. Only those who live perfectly the teaching of Christ have the truth. It is only a logic consequence that they expel the drunkards and the sinners in general.
But at the same time those perfect Christians preach opposite doctrine and at the same time they are standing members of the same Church. One says that Mary was Virgin; the other preaches as an article of faith that she has not been Virgin.
This problem has presented itself at all times in Church history. The Fathers of the Church answered with the teaching of the parable of the – how do you call it – bad seed, the tars. You could destroy the good seed trying to weed out the tars. So they imposed penances, the sinner could not receive the Eucharist, and so on. But the sinners remained members of the Church.
There was no expelling of sinners. They had to stand at the entrance and beg for the prayers of the faithful. Expulsion happened only when they were obstinate and did not obey. In this case they did not accept the divine authority of the Church.
On the other side the Church has excommunicated those who teach different (heretical) doctrine and has severed all links with them.
The Church contends that when she speaks officially and solemnly her teaching is infallible. You do not accept that. This is your decision. The Church says that those who do not accept this teaching put themselves outside the Church. You do not accept this either. You are free to do so. This is a problem of faith not of reasoning.
You tell that there are controversies in the Catholic Church. True. But those who teach doubtful things are at least removed from teaching posts and the religious orders expel those who profess contents contrary to the faith. See the debate about abortion.
I make haste to repeat that this is no moral judgment. Probably you will be for centuries in heaven when I finally get out of purgatory.
Now let us face the consequences of your stance. You accept some teachings and others you do not accept. You are founding your own Church. You should define the credo that you accept: "I believe in the one, holy, catholic and apostolic Church but only as I see fit and only in those elements that I want to accept and these are………"
Please I am not being ironic or sarcastic. It is the logic of your position. You are picking up what YOU think is true and rejecting what YOU think is not. Your guarantee is, I presume, Christianity based on Scripture as the pure expression of the life and teaching of Christ. But you don’t even have the guarantee of the Methodist Church because you do not accept everything this Church teaches.
Basically it is the "Sola Scriptura" of Luther again because you do not accept the second source that makes authority: Tradition. And all the traces of tradition of Episcopalian Churches are subservient to the principle of "sola scriptura".
One example: The Roman Pontiff has officially declared as matter of faith that he cannot accept the ordination of women. The Episcopalian – with exceptions – do. It seems that here we have a classic example when the Scripture is the only guarantee.
You observe I do not cite verses of the Bible to buttress my arguments. We would only toss verses at each other. We two have no common authority that could be referee between the two of us, have we? I understand you perfectly. Your life is expression of it. And you could not think differently because the foundation of your life would shake at 5 scales Richter.
Now I will say something that may sound strange coming from a Catholic. If your conscience has brought you to the Methodist Church please embrace the whole doctrine and teach this way if you do not want to water down the Methodist tenets. And you would not be so homeless. Being citizen of different nations really means you are citizen of no country. If not, you teach your hearers to be covert partially crypto-Catholics without them even knowing it.
May I add some more strong medicine? Once a member of our community hailed me on the street and invited me to enter his house. He wanted to show me something. He was a widow and had married again. In the bedroom of the couple he had arranged a little chapel in the corner closet. In its center on a column he had put the ashes of his former wife. He obviously expected some praise for the tasteful little chapel. I told him that he was a bigamist having two women in the same bedroom; that he would not let die the first wife and so could not really love the second. I suggested he take away the ashes of his first wife and bury them in a cemetery. I know I was rude but at that moment it seemed the only way to make him face up to what he was doing to his living wife.
One last thought: This is strong spice, I know. But you could never be a martyr the way you express your faith. You cannot be passionate about it together with the other members of your Church because of your mental reservations.
I have thought about it some time: do I send this or not? Is it disrespectful? Can you believe that I send this because I genuinely want you to be a better Methodist Christian?
If I offended you, forgive me. I will do penance like going to bed without dinner or some other penance. You tell me.
God bless you
In Corde Jesu
Brother in Christ,
rest assured you have in no way offended me. Your words are kind and gentle. You are pointing out issues which have a significant impact upon our lives and our souls. The truth can sometimes be cold, but when spoken with charity and love it is seldom so. I pray that I have been able to communicate with you as successfully as you have done with me so far. To your question regarding the Solomon like tyrant. I agree. The "best" form of government is one under which a single, wise, benevolent, loving "king" rules. Unfortunately, human nature being as it is, these are few and far between who usually steps into the role. Under these circumstances I am reminded of a comment made by Winston Churchill "Democracy is the worst form of government there is, except for all the others". My point in highlighting the imperfections of Catholicism was not to "prove" it in error, or the existence of "perfect Christians" (which I don’t believe exist outside of Christ!). Rather it was intended to demonstrate that the lack of perfection forces each of us to ultimately decide for ourselves. I will speak to some of this a bit later.
I gained some insights from your positions regarding being "outside" of the community, whether it be Catholic, Methodist, or a country. In short, I would agree with what you are saying. The interesting part is that, while I am a "member" of many communities I would agree with your position that I am committed to none of them. "Commitment" being defined in this case as an absolute dedication to that community. As such, I can agree with your position that I would not likely (can't be too certain about the future) be a martyr for the cause of one of these communities.
At the same time I don't feel this to be in error. My commitment is to God, and this commitment is absolute (or as absolute as I have been able to achieve, acknowledging imperfections in my performance). While I hadn’t previously looked at it in quite the terms you mention, I see a reflection of my commitment (or lack of) in my description at Ask Me: "A Catholic who married a Baptist and became a Methodist. Now I just try to call myself a servant of God". My allegiance is not to Methodism, or Catholicism, or America, or even my family. My allegiance is to God! All my heart, all my soul, all my mind belongs to God.
Now, that allegiance does bring with it some responsibilities of stewardship in some of the communities I mention. My commitment to my family, for example, is a reflection of my commitment to God. How can I claim to be a servant when I don't care for the treasures my Lord has placed in my care? In the same light how can I claim to be a servant when I am not using my gifts and talents to minister in my community? I can declare that it is my commitment to God which feeds my commitment to my family and the communities I serve, not the other way around! From this perspective I find strength and confidence that this course is correct.
I don't believe God will sort us by religion. "Catholics to the left, Methodists to the right....". Rather I believe each of us will stand or fall on the basis of our individual thoughts, actions, and commitment to God. From this perspective I find the idea of relying upon any community and its leadership for my salvation to be flawed. In short, I don’t believe God will accept "well HE told me what to do" or "I did what my church told me" as an acceptable excuse for my sins. Rather I envision God challenging me directly: "why did YOU do this?" This is why I try to live life from a perspective of "HOW WILL I EXPLAIN THIS TO GOD?". Further, I don't leave the explanation for later but bring it up in conversation regularly: "God, this is what I'm thinking and this is why I'm doing what I’m doing. Please lead me and guide me. Forgive me my ignorance or my arrogance and let your Holy Spirit show me the way you wish me to go or the errors of the path I have chosen".
Does this leave me as you suggest in a religion of one? Perhaps it does. Is this an error? I'm not sure. While I would state that anyone finding themselves standing outside the masses faces long "odds" of being the only one who is right, I also recognize that history is full of examples (especially in matters of faith and belief) where the masses were the ones in error. I would propose that my being right or wrong would depend upon whether my religion is based upon myself or upon God. At the moment I believe it is the latter, but then if I were confused I would hardly be a good judge of my own actions then eh? I can state that the only church I care to be considered a member of is the Body of Christ. Any other labels: Catholic, Methodist, Dan's Religion are meaningless to me and, I believe, to God!
Would being a religion of one mean I think I have found some previously undiscovered "truths" of God? Heaven forbid. It is all I can do to find my own way in life. I stated above that I know I have been imperfect in my commitment. I find solace in God's love of Peter, Paul, David and others who despite committing themselves to His service continued to err from time to time. I also find guidance there as each of these personalities continually humbled themselves before God and sought only to be servants. I commit my gifts to ministries which present themselves around me, and I teach from what I have learned in my search of understanding, but to suggest that this could be some kind of new religion is unthinkable to me. It is, simply, the only way I have found to be and remain fully and utterly committed to my Lord and Master.
It is the possibility that I may be in error that leads me to "test" myself with trusted parties such as yourself. If I am "out of bounds" so to speak, my faith and understanding will quickly be exposed as flawed by learned and caring people like you. That is one reason I take such conversations so seriously. I see myself "outside" many contemporary definitions of belief, yet am convinced that I am where I am called to be. I trust that God will lead me away from the brink of any abyss if I remain humble and open to His word and guidance. Over the years my beliefs have evolved and matured into what they are today. I am confident that with conversations such as this my faith will continue to grow and mature.
Could I be a martyr for Catholicism or Methodism? That would depend upon the historian telling the tale. Any martyrdom I would likely encounter in my life would be in the service of God. Could/would I die as part of my commitment? I pray I never have to find out, but I imagine so. To your perceived counsel to choose one community. Under the circumstances which I hope I have explained, I choose both, and neither. I better understand why Catholicism considers me an outsider and I would sadly acknowledge its rejection of me for my inability to FULLY submit myself to its teaching. (I admit I bristle somewhat when you use the word "heretic". I keep getting this vision of a crowd with torches looking for me :-) Yet I still believe that there is much in Catholicism which is good and true and I have no difficulty whatsoever defending its truths to those who would attack it. I also will similarly refuse to FULLY submit myself to any teaching of Methodism which I find contrary to God’s intentions for us. If my inability to commit to a particular Christian community leaves me a wandering servant of God I would consider myself blessed to be called a servant! That is my ultimate goal and the commitment I have FULLY dedicated myself to.
Have a full and hearty meal my friend. No penance is called for. Thank you again for your time and charity in sharing your thoughts and feelings. I am wondering what your thoughts are concerning being "outside" of a community. This seems to have been a central point of your thoughts so far. Note too, I also had some Scriptures in mind for some of my points, but I will presume as you have that these are already understood and that pro/cons can be quoted.
A side thought. Was your AskMe question regarding Mary's virginity at all related to our conversation? If so, I must have misspoken or left you with an inaccurate view of my belief on that subject as I am certain that the Scriptures are quite clear Jesus was born of a virgin. Just checking. One of the disadvantages of disconnected communications like e-mail is that misunderstandings can continue over some time without much chance of recognizing them.
I look forward to your thoughts and comments on this response. May God so
fill you with the peace and love of Christ that it bathes all those near
Together in our Lord's service,
Dear brother in Christ:
Thank you for letting me off the penance. Some early Church document even says that doing penance during Easter time is a grievous sin.
I could review every statement and thought you are offering. But it boils down to one basic tenet: You don’t accept that the Church is willed by God and as such speaks in His name. The visible sign of being saved is the quality of being a member of the Church because God’s will shows thought the frailties of being all following the Apostles’ teaching. This is the semantic of Acts.
In your position you are absolutely alone. All the denominations have been founded because the founder(s) thought that it was God’s will. Even those who conserve the pure tenet of salvation as a question only between the individual and the Savior with really no outside interference have some guidelines that are accepted by the members. Precisely the multiplication of denomination came from those who did not accept those guidelines. They had to found a new one.
The following remark I cite from your post expresses this to perfection.
My point in highlighting the imperfections of Catholicism was not to "prove" it in error, or the existence of "perfect Christians" (which I don’t believe exist outside of Christ!). Rather it was intended to demonstrate that the lack of perfection forces each of us to ultimately
decide for ourselves. I will speak to some of this a bit later.
I would come to the opposite conclusion. BECAUSE man is a sinner and sin even obnubilates his mind and judgment he needs somebody as a guarantee like the ancient catechumens who needed a godfather-mother who before the Church guaranteed that the candidate could be baptized because he believed and lived like a faithful.
In no way did I question your commitment to your family and your community. But I question it as a foundation of your teaching. The question remains: How can you be sure that you are serving the Lord as He wishes? You have only this one alternative:
- Your conscience tells you so.
So be it. I cannot argue against inner conviction and I am not sure I want to because if you follow your conscience to the utmost then you are doing God’s will.
I think we should stop our interchange here. I suggest this because I do not want to shake your convictions because of a terrible risk that you cannot see and neither accept.
In moral theology there is a doctrine about "error invencibilis", i.e. the erroneous conviction is so strong that no argument can budge it. Even being in error the person may grow to be a saint because he followed his conscience to the extreme. Sowing doubts but without a reasonable hope that this person will change his convictions is very dangerous because the person involved would not follow his conscience but only his decisions.
So let it be and let us pray for each other.
God bless you
Missionary of the Sacred Heart.