Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Catholicism: Unified or Not?

I'm a little late pointing you to this post, but Fr. Longenecker answers an argument on his blog, that I remember people bringing up before in our comments section. I'm giving you the cliff-notes version, but do stop by and read his full article.

Some critics of Catholicism like to point out that Catholics are also divided. "Look here!" they cry, "You Catholics also have liberals and conservatives. You have homosexual priests. You have women pushing for ordination. You have New Age theologians and the majority of Catholics ignore Humane Vitae, don't believe in transubstantiation etc etc." . . .

The teaching authority of the Catholic Church is not validated by the number of people who obey her laws any more than the validity of the Ten Commandments is validated by the number of people who keep them perfectly. In fact, the validity and need for the Ten Commandments is actually proved by the fact that they are disobeyed. When we see the chaos that results from our disobedience we see all the more how important the Ten Commandments are. When a person is killed by a car going 70 in a 30mph zone we realize why the 30 mph. speed limit is necessary. . .

The dis-unity of Protestant sects, on the other hand, is total. With the lack of any unified teaching or any universal pastor each individual must become his own pastor. "We will not have a Pope!" they cry. What they really mean is that they will not have a Pope, for when there is not one Pope every man becomes his own Pope. So either have one Pope or millions.

When challenged on this matter Protestants are notably without an answer. When asked by what authority they teach, interpret the Bible or announce the truth on some matter they have nothing--absolutely nothing to fall back on except their own opinions based on their religious experience.

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Anonymous said...

I think that can be a problem with any group of any kind. There may be officailly declared beliefs etc. but you are never going to have everybody within the group actually agreeing with them.

Kelly said...

I think that's a good point, Susan. I've often heard my non-Catholic friends say things like "My church is a little more Calvinistic than I am" or "I don't agree with their stance of ordaining women, but since we have male pastor, I'm staying here."

That is actually even more thought than most people I've run into seem to put into it. Judging by the people I've met, the highest criteria for choosing a church is whether or not you were raised in it, how good the nursery/children's activities are, and whether or not they like the pastor.

It's kind of funny to think that with the wide variety of theological options out there, most people just stick with what they know. :)

Barbara C. said...

Despite differences in understanding and degree of orthodoxy from person to person, you can walk into any Catholic Church in the world and pretty much know the order of the service and what readings are going to be read and know that you are apart of it. I think that is something that many non-Catholics don't fully grasp.

It is much harder for my Protestant friends to find a "new" church whenever they move. There are just so many unknowns even within the same denomination church to the next.

I think this ties in with why many cradle Catholics who are non-religious still consider themselves Catholics. I know this greatly annoys some converts, but I think for cradle Catholics, unless they convert to another denomination, it is reassuring to be associated with something so big and to know that no matter where they are in their life spiritually or geographically they can always find "home" at any Catholic Church.