Thursday, July 10, 2008

I Don't Get It

It's puzzling to me. My background is Evangelical Protestantism. I spent 20+ years as an United Methodist pastor. I visit my family in the Midwest, but it's still puzzling. What I mean is this: nearly all of those whom I left for full communion with the Catholic Church - which for 1,500 some odd years was the only Church in the West (not counting the schism with the East) - love and believe in Jesus Christ. But they have no use for the "one holy Catholic and apostolic Church."

Nearly all of them seem to boil the Christian faith down to a sincere kind of "hunch" set of criteria which, ipso facto, includes the denial of the Catholic Church. Never mind that everything that they love most about the Christian faith came directly from and as a result of the unwavering protection of the dogmas, doctrines, and tenets by the Magisterium of the Catholic Church for those 1,500 years prior to the "Reformation" (and on to this present moment). They set great store in the individual conscience as a trustworthy guide and stand by their pastor so long as (a) he doesn't commit an egregious act like shop-lifting or adultery and (b) he strokes their egos sufficiently.

The scapegoating of the Catholic Church is a given: it goes without saying that papal authority and the grasping, power-hoarding princes of the Church are evil. But is it obvious that Our Lord came to found a Church, an ekklesia, large enough to serve all the world's peoples, and not just our little flock with its quaint Midwestern quirkiness and pot-luck suppers?

No. It's not obvious.

And that makes me sad, sad because whereas I, too, believe the Catholic Church is filled with sinners, by definition, I believe that God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, One in three, Blessed Trinity, established a single Church for ALL peoples of the world. Christ did not come to found a Fellowship here and there, a Brethren hither and yon, that couldn't possibly dispense sufficient grace for all of God's children on earth.

Chesterton wrote:
I could not understand why these romancers never took the trouble to find out a few elementary facts about the thing they denounced. The facts might easily have helped the denunciation, where the fictions discredited it. There were any number of real Catholic doctrines I should then have thought disgraceful to the Church . . . But the enemies of the Church never found these real rocks of offense. They never looked for them. They never looked for anything . . . Boundless freedom reigned; it was not treated as if it were a question of fact at all . . . It puzzled me very much, even at that early stage, to imagine why people bringing controversial charges against a powerful and prominent institution should thus neglect to test their own case, and should draw in this random way on their own imagination . . . I never dreamed that the Roman religion was true; but I knew that its accusers, for some reason or other, were curiously inaccurate.
I was welcomed into the Catholic Church, historically the Headwaters of God's grace in our world. I had to enter because I experienced Jesus' Real Presence in the Sacrifice of the Mass as no where else. I am hooked on Jesus. I just can't understand why others would rather scapegoat Mother Church than come home to where we all belong.


David Nybakke said...

Ath, this post at Old World Swine is a bit on the order of your post here. Maybe your title of this post is wrong - instead of "I Don't Get It" the title should be "They Don't Get It".

Athos said...

Well, actually, "I Don't Get Why They Don't get It" is more accurate, but it sounds accusatory.

Soutenus said...

What a great post!
I will definitely be linking to this.

D'artagnan said...

"I just can't understand why others would rather scapegoat Mother Church than come home to where we all belong"

'cause it's easier than scapegoating one's self.

Anyhoo, could have written the same thing myself, 'course there is the "I don't get it" post about cradle Catholics who receive the Eucharist, but who haven't been to confession since they were 13.

pray, pray, pray 4 all

Anonymous said...

Fascinating post. Found you via my friend at Old World Swine.

I grew up non-denom, with the same blurry prejudices towards the Catholic Church you wonder about here. Once I got to college those stereotypes were quickly debunked via specific friendships.

I'm one of the schmucks Tim Jones referred to in his first post on his conversion who asked him how it all came about. I've always been curious to hear about people's testimonies, as it were, and as I've gotten farther into why he (and a number of other people I know of or know personally) became Catholic I can sympathize with, even though I'm still in a non-denom church.

There are, it seems to me, some things in Catholicism that I won't ever be able to understand. That said, there are thing in non-denom evangelicalism that make me shake my head from time to time as well.