I wrote these series of articles (see menu sidebar to the left) as a Catholic for Catholics, but I no longer accept Catholic teaching as the authoritative source of truth.I have not attempted to align these articles with my current views.
Thanks for sending me the printouts of your Catholic internet research. You certainly spent quite a bit of time collecting it all. It has taken me a while to write up answers for all your objections. My brief comments:
Regarding historical abuses, inquisitions, etc. - a few points:
- We must distinguish between the actions of civil rulers and church leaders.
- We must consider the heretical nature of the movements and the destruction to the fabric of society which would have occurred. I wish we could have an inquisition today to rid our society of its gross perversions, but we live in an age in which we must tolerate sin.
- We must consider the times and their values.
- And, yes, we must admit that certain church leaders have been and continue to be abusive. This does not disprove the Catholic Church's claims any more than the actions of a bad Protestant minister disproves the teachings of the Protestant reformers. God works through us sinners.
- The church has always been strongly opposed to it.
- The Knights Templar is not a Masonic group but a Catholic order based on the rule of the Cistercians.
- Yes, the masons have borrowed the term Templar but it is not the Catholic Knights Templar to which they refer.
- What is wrong with going to war against enemies? George Bush did it in Iraq and Afghanistan. These are modern day crusades.
- Unfortunately, as in many wars, some of the Crusades, especially the later ones, were poorly managed and the cause was perhaps not sufficiently honorable.
Regarding the feast of the Holy Rosary:
- The Ottomans massacred Famagusta and Nicosia.
- The pope organized a fleet which destroyed the Ottoman fleet. He believed this victory saved Christendom.
- This is not a feast celebrating a massacre of innocents.
Regarding relics and idolatry:
- The relics of Saints are not idols. The sentence you object to makes this clear:
God wonderfully works the same [healings as the Apostles did by handkerchiefs and by their shadows] by the sacred ashes, the bones, and other relics of the saints.
- Notice that the passage states that God does the miracles.
- The idea that God uses objects as a focal point for miraculous healing is certainly biblical.
(Acts 5:15) Insomuch that they brought forth the sick into the streets, and laid them on beds and couches, that at the least the shadow of Peter passing by might overshadow some of them.
(Acts 19:12) So that from his body were brought unto the sick handkerchiefs or aprons, and the diseases departed from them, and the evil spirits went out of them.
- Idolatry is the worship of demons. It is not the use of sacred objects in religious practice.
Regarding prayers for the dead:
- Everyone there will end up in the new heavens and new earth.It is not a question of earning salvation in purgatory.
- It is biblical (although Protestants interpret the key passages differently). Click here for references.
- Yes, Christ's death atoned for our sin and was sufficient to restore our fellowship with God. No, Christ's death does not eradicate the consequences of our sins. Even a Christian lawbreaker must pay the penalty.
- Catholicism does not make such a distinction between the way God dealt with humanity in the Old Testament covenant and in the New Testament covenant. In fact, God expects us to live more righteously than the high standards of the Old Testament.
- The thief on the cross episode does not at all disprove the claims of Catholicism. He was not baptized, for example, but if he had been freed from the cross he would have joined the church. All that can be expected from us is what is possible based on our knowledge and circumstances.
- The church does not say much about what purgatory is; whether it is a place or a process; or how much time it takes. The idea is that as we approach the beatific glory of heaven the impurities are purged away so the when we enter into the fullness of the glory of God we are pure, holy, and worthy. Jesus provided the way for this to be possible.
Regarding degrees of sin (mortal vs. venial)
- This is a biblical concept (sin that leads to death = mortal sin)
(1 John 5:16) If any man see his brother sin a sin which is not unto death, he shall ask, and he shall give him life for them that sin not unto death. There is a sin unto death: I do not say that he shall pray for it.
- Catholicism strongly emphasizes grace:
- God graces us with redemption by Jesus' sacrificial death (we must cooperate by receiving it in faith).
- God graces us through the sacraments of the Church.
- God graces us by not sending us to hell for the venial sins we continue to commit.
- Some Catholics may misunderstand their faith and think they are saved by their works but this is not what the church teaches.
- Just because we believe in God's grace doesn't mean we stop performing good works. Even Protestants emphasize works — every Sunday preachers from pulpits all over the world exhort their congregations to stop sinning and to do good works.
You objected to the statement that the church has made no decision about whether souls in purgatory pray for us who are still alive. I think your objection is that the church does not have authority to decide matters of truth or morality.
- You are correct that the church doesn't invent truths which God must then honor as true. Rather, the church perceives truths of God and declares them as such so we will know. Some examples of doctrines the church developed in this way:
- The Trinity
- Christ's nature and mission
- The canon of scripture
- Even the Protestant reformers declared their new doctrines to be true. If you object to the Catholic Church doing this you should object to every denomination which also does this (including Calvary Chapel).
- The church is not obligated to come to a decision about every possible topic. The Holy Spirit is in control of this process and often works through historical and societal processes.
Regarding your objection to a statement in the Catholic Encyclopedia that a pious church member "prefers to offer his prayers through the medium of the Virgin Mary and the saints."
- Notice that the prayers are to God but only through the saints.
- The Catholic Encyclopedia is not the official, authoritative teaching guide of the church. Yes, some Catholics prefer to pray this way but the liturgy of the mass and the daily prayer book (Liturgy of the Hours) which contain prayers all the way back from the early church rarely contain prayers to Mary and the Saints.
Regarding your statement that "Catholics do not ask Christ to come into their hearts":
- Why should they? Which Bible passage says we should do this?
- The Catholic Church has a strong emphasis on a heartfelt relationship with Christ (but doesn't use the phrase ask Jesus into your heart to express it). Sadly, not all Catholics understand this and not all Priests teach this.
- The sacraments of baptism and confirmation are the Catholic equivalent of getting saved and being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Regarding your statement "Mary. . . , the only bridge of God to men" from the Catholic Encyclopedia:
- I object to this statement as well because it overstates the point. The correct Catholic view:
- Mary is the vehicle by which Jesus took on the nature of humanity as His nature. She did this through her free-will acceptance of this role when the angel Gabriel came to her. This role was given to her by God but, nevertheless, she is unique in her role in the redemption of fallen humanity.
- As Jesus' mother, Mary is the mother of God and will be this forever. Just as Jesus honors His mother and will do so eternally so we should honor her as our spiritual mother since we are mystically joined to Christ as members of His body and as adopted children of God. The mystical union we have in Christ is analogous to the union of man and wife as one flesh and which results in a family with children.
- Sometimes people chose to emphasize a particular aspect as the focus of their devotional life. This is the source of the odd-sounding statements regarding Mary. But the church does not require Catholics to have a devotion to Mary or the Saints. For a Catholic who attends mass and reads the daily prayers (Liturgy of the Hours) you rarely encounter Mary and the Saints (except for the statues and stained glass images). The rosary is a prayer for Mary's intercession but it is also a meditation on certain events of Jesus' life.
Regarding apparitions and miracles:
- You mention that the devil can perform miracles, which is true. But that does not mean that all miracles are of the devil. I happen to believe that the apparitions which the church has declared as worthy of belief are true miracles from God. This includes Lourdes, Guadalupe and Fatima. But the church does not require anyone to even believe them — they are totally optional.
Regarding your objection to certain religious orders which have rules about how many prayers to say, etc.:
- I don't understand why this is a problem. Even in Protestant seminaries they have rules about how many classes you must take and what grades you must get. And Southern Baptist career missionaries have rules about what they must believe. And Calvary Chapel has its rules too, especially for its pastors and leaders. Why is any of this a problem?
Regarding the rosary:
- You object to it as being a "works trip" (my words, not yours). Why is praying a canned prayer using beads to help you count and meditating on particular events in the life of Jesus a "works trip"? I pray the Rosary daily and find it spiritually uplifting. The church does not require Catholics to pray the Rosary; it is optional (but encouraged).
- Just because other religions use beads does not mean using beads for prayer is necessarily bad.
- Just because some people and some religions use prayer as a work without saving faith does not mean that prayer is a work. It depends on the heart of each person. I believe that most Catholics who prayer the Rosary have a close relationship with Jesus.
Regarding the Catholic position on homosexuality and sex in general:
- The Catholic Church teaches that homosexual acts are mortal sins.
- Not all Catholics agree with the teachings of the church. This includes a small minority of priests (who should be de-frocked in my opinion. But, alas; discipline is sometimes lax in the Catholic Church).
- The Catholic Church uses other terms besides "sin" when discussing the topic of sin. Examples:
- Moral evil
- Moral disorder
- Intrinsically disordered
- Other actions which the Catholic Church teaches are grave (mortal) sins:
- Abortion (including abortive contraception and abortive genetic engineering)
- Any sex outside of marriage
- Homosexual acts
- Contraception (including coitus interruptus)
- The Catholic Church does not have a light view of sin.
The Catholic Church has a high regard for consecrated singleness (as well as for marriage). In fact, the church has the concept of vocation, which is a lifelong commitment. Examples of vocations:
- Married with children (if possible).
- Single, celibate, joined to a religious community or order.
- Single, celibate.
The church emphasizes chastity even within marriage. For married people chastity means:
- Every sex act open to procreation of children (or abstain during a woman's fertile times if not).
- Not to be obsessed with sex.
Regarding your comment about the sacraments — "grace only through Christ":
- This is exactly what a sacrament is — it is a way in which Christ communicates His grace.
- God is not limited to the sacraments in gracing us.
Regarding holy water:
- The Priest blesses the water. It becomes a focal point of faith. It is not magic or superstition (although some who are not properly instructed might not understand this).
- Here's an analogy from the fundamentalist Protestant world: Near the end of a church service the preacher pronounces a blessing on the congregation and they receive it in faith as being a blessing from God.
You objected to a statement in the Catholic Encyclopedia about the sacrament of confirmation: "A prayer is added [by the priest] that the Holy Spirit may dwell in the hearts of those who have been confirmed. . . ."
- The word "may":
- For those who have faith the sacrament will achieve its goal and the Holy Spirit will dwell in their hearts.
- For those who are merely participating as a ritual without a heart open to God, the sacrament will do nothing. This is true of all the sacraments.
- Your comment: "The priest invokes the Holy Spirit and not the person? Does the person ask Christ into his life?"
- Even in Protestant baptism the minister administers the rite. You don't hear of people baptizing themselves.
- I commented earlier about preachers who bless their congregations and God honors the request. Another example of this is when a parent blesses their children.
- There are basic unspoken assumptions in much Catholic writing. It is assumed that the reader (1) already knows the necessity of desiring a relationship with God, (2) is willing and eager to repent from sin, and (3) has learned who Christ is and has submitted his life to Him and His Lordship.
- Sadly, it is true that not all Catholics fit this picture because (1) they are not instructed, or (2) they lack faith. But the vast majority of Catholics who believe and follow the teachings of the Catholic Church do have this living relationship with Jesus Christ and will end up in the new heavens and new earth.
- Sadly, it has become common for all-too-many Catholics to not believe the teachings of the church. Or many pick and choose what they want to believe (cafeteria Catholics).
The Catholic Church acknowledges that all believers form a kingdom of priests.
- In the New Testament certain leaders are singled out and ordained. This is the essence of the priesthood.
The Catholic Church strongly encourages its members to read the Bible daily. The first half of every mass is Bible reading.
- There were many times in history when the masses of people could not read. That is why various Bible truths were enacted through church art as a visual gospel.
Catholics don't need a priest to have a living and active relationship with God and with Jesus. But the priest provides very valuable services. For example, when I started confessing my sins before the priest I stopped all those secret sins — the sacrament of Confession / Reconciliation gave me the power to resist the temptations.
I believe I have addressed the topics you raised. There is much more that could be said and there are many other topics that you did not bring up at all. I wanted to keep my response brief.