Friday, October 30, 2009

"I'm Catholic, though there are some issues I disagree with the Church about."

How many of us have heard the statement? We sometimes treat the Church's teachings like we treat traffic laws: "I'm all for stopping at red lights and staying on the right side of the yellow line, but I don't think the 65 mph speed limit is something I have to follow."

A friend of mine, Fr. Greg Shaffer, is the Catholic chaplain of George Washington University in Washington, DC. On his blog recently, he gave the basics on the corner you paint yourself into once you think that disagreeing with Church teachings is perfectly acceptable:

1) The teachings of the Catholic Church are from the Holy Spirit.
Neither student knew the answer to this question: "when did the Catholic Church begin?" The answer is 33 A.D. The Church began at Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came upon the Apostles. The Lord promised to send the Spirit, "the Spirit of truth" who "will guide you to all truth" (Jn 16:13). The Spirit of truth has been guiding the Church for 2000 years. This guarantees us that what the Church teaches us is Truth. All of her teachings in faith and morals are free from error. They are the Truth!

2) The teachings of the Church are the teachings of Jesus Christ.
Our Lord gives the authority to the Apostles to continue his teach in his name and in the name of Heaven. He does this first with Peter (the first pope): "Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Mt 16:19). He gives the same authority to the other Apostles (the first bishops) in Matthew 18:18. They have passed down this authority to their successors (popes and bishops) for 2000 years...this is know as Apostolic Tradition. This unbroken tradition guarantees us that what the current pope and bishops teach is from Christ himself.

3) Christ and the Church are one.
Jesus makes this clear in the Gospel (e.g., "I am the vine, you are branches" - Jn 15:5). This point is also made by St Paul throughout his letters (e.g., "Christ is the head of the body, the church" - Col 1:18). Christ is the head, the Church is the body. Because Christ and the Church are one, what we say about the Church is what we say about Christ. If we disagree with the Church, we disagree with Christ. But, the more we are with the Church in mind and heart, the more we are in union with Christ.

Finally, a spiritual point about the Church and Christ that is also practical in our modern world. Think about what got Christ killed. Why was he crucified? What did he do wrong? He didn't do anything wrong. All he did was speak the truth. People either weren't ready for it or they didn't want to hear it. So, they killed him for it. He was hated and crucified by the world because he spoke Truth. The same has happened to his body, the Church. The Church is hated and crucified every day by the world because she speaks the truth. Many people still don't want to hear the truth even though "the truth will set you free" (Jn 8:32). Knowing that this would bring about his death, Jesus spoke the truth in love. The Church continues to do this in the modern world.


NCSue said...

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pdt said...

Father - You've opened a bit of a can of worms with this one. While I agree with you in the theoretical, it becomes difficult to follow through 100%. Frankly, the Church in all its wisdom, guided by the Holy Spirit, is not always right.

Historically we can pretty much agree that the Inquisition was wrong -- the Pope has apologized -- though it was likely taught as 'okay' at the time. Selling indulgences? The Crusades?

More recently, the Liturgy seems to have become split between a Mass reenacting the Last Supper and a Mass that reflects upon the Passion, Death and Resurrection. We've seen errors and extremes in both but the Church has not come out with "the Right Way" for us.

Morally we are to oppose all forms of contraception, yet the bishops of Connecticut found an "asterisk:" in the rule that paved the way for Catholic hospitals there to yeild to state requirements for the Plan B option. (Personally I think the bishops should have closed their hospitals at a rate of one bed per day until the state rescinded, but that's me.)

And I find it personably questionable that a physician who performs an abortion literally to save the mother's life is suddenly guilty of an 'irregularity' and self-excommunicated. The Church would prefer both mother and baby to die? That seems an odd way to reflect on the sanctity of life.

So a Catholic must attend Mass on Sunday even if he finds it improperly celebrated? A Catholic must support his bishop even when he witnesses flagrant violations (as he understands it) of Church law and God's law? I think not.

We were given a free will to permit us to decide what is right and wrong for us. Granted we are given a framework and structure of a Church within which we are obligated to find the roots of our conscience. But to blindly accept the teachings of the Church of the day cannot be proper. I'm reluctant to obey today and apologize tomorrow.

Dane-Josef said...

I have some questions about this. I agree with all you have said, and I am very wary about the dangers of picking and choosing from among the church's teachings. But I have never come across a helpful definition of what a teaching is. Suppose an official organ of the church, such as a papal encyclical or a decree from a congregation was used to assert something which concerns a matter of capable debate which is neither specifically theological or moral? Suppose, hypothetically, that a papal encyclical advocated government aid to third world countries. Would a Catholic person's conscience be bound to believe that it was a good and helpful thing even if all the evidence was to the contrary? And if so, why?

Matthew J. McKinley said...

RI Bishop just whacked Rep. Kennedy for having this faulty position: