For Catholics: How Can Catholicism Be True When Catholics Are So Dead?

Discussion in 'Christian Fellowship' started by auparavant, Feb 12, 2013.

  1. auparavant

    auparavant New Member

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    How Can Catholicism Be True When Catholics Are So Dead? SOURCE
    GARY HOGE
    Several people wrote to me recently to express their skepticism about Catholicism based on their experience with actual Catholics.

    Most of the Catholics I know don’t take it seriously. They’re worldly and secular and they don’t seem to care about Jesus or the Gospel at all.


    G.K. Chesterton once said that the best argument against Christianity is Christians. That is certainly true of Catholicism. Pope John Paul II, putting it politely, says, “The Catholic Church does not forget that many among her members cause God’s plan to be discernible only with difficulty.” (Ut Unum Sint, 11). But is that really an argument against the truth of the faith? I don’t see how. To argue that Catholicism is untrue because it doesn’t transform the lives of those who don’t practice it, is like arguing that aspirin doesn’t work because it doesn’t relieve the headaches of those who don’t take it.

    My family claims to be Catholic, but they don’t take it seriously, either.


    Try to remember that many people are Catholic by default. If you ask them what they are, they’ll say, “Oh, I’m Catholic.” But what they mean is, “My ancestors were Catholic.” It’s more an ethnicity than a religion for some people. It’s what they are, not what they believe.

    I agree with the basic teachings and traditions of the Catholic Church. But, I am still in the Baptist church. That is because I don’t see enough fruits coming from the Catholic Church.

    Actually, it’s an individual (not a church) that’s supposed to produce good fruit. A church can only proclaim the Gospel and introduce people to the One Who alone can make them bear fruit, but it can’t make people believe its teachings, and it can’t make people live its life. Good fruit, then, is how we tell if an individual is a faithful disciple. The fact is, you can find plenty of good fruit in the Catholic Church, and you can find plenty of good fruit in the various Protestant churches, too. And that’s because the secret to bearing fruit is to have a living, vital relationship with Jesus Christ, who is the source of all grace and life. And because the Catholic Church has been endowed with the fullness of the means of grace that Christ established, a Catholic is able to have the closest possible relationship with Jesus, including even the reality of physical communion with Him.

    But notice I say, “is able to have,” not “is guaranteed to have.” There are indeed plenty of people who call themselves Catholic, but who refuse to believe the Church’s teachings, refuse to obey its precepts, and refuse to live the life it calls them to live. Not surprisingly, these people aren’t magically converted into living saints just by walking through the Church door. So, if you want to look for fruit, be sure you look on the tree. You can’t expect to find fruit on the dried-up branches that have severed themselves from the tree, and that are strewn all about it. I’ll be the first to admit that the Catholic faith doesn’t work if you don’t practice it. It doesn’t work by osmosis, or by genetics, or by proximity. You actually have to believe it, and live it. You have to have a living relationship with the Lord Jesus in order to bear fruit, and many “Catholics” have rejected that relationship, despite being given every opportunity to embrace it.

    How can the Catholic Church's claims be true when so many Catholics are so dead?

    The Church only claims to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ, and it invites everyone to embrace the life of grace He offers. It does not claim that people who spurn its teachings and reject its life will be transformed into faithful disciples anyway. Nor does it claim that being born to Catholic parents guarantees that a person will inherit his parents’ faith. If you want to see the fruit of the Catholic faith, you have to look at the people who are committed to the faith, who take it seriously and put it into practice every day. It’s pointless to look at those who are cultural Catholics only, who say they’re Catholic if you ask them, but who don’t try to live the life, even though they may go to Mass out of habit, or guilt, or whatever. People aren’t magically transformed into good Christians just by walking into a Catholic church (even if they do it every week). Repentance and conversion of heart are the keys to the Christian life. Without them, everything else is sterile and false, whether one calls oneself “Catholic” or not.

    I don’t see many truly saved people with transformed lives; instead I see many cultural Catholics that think going to Mass one hour a week will get them into Heaven even though they are living otherwise sinful lives.

    I’ve known such people. It’s truly sad. But to compare the best Evangelicals with the worst Catholics is hardly fair. If you want to see the real fruit of the Catholic faith, look at the people who actually put it into practice. As you know, the Catholic Church has produced some of the greatest, most on-fire saints the world has ever known. Some of them converted whole nations to Christ. We still marvel at their faith and holiness many centuries after they died.
     
  2. auparavant

    auparavant New Member

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    Cont'd SOURCE

    How can I move from such a dynamic soul-winning church that I am in now into such a seemingly dead church seemingly full of untransformed people?


    Before I became Catholic, I asked myself the same question, because I’d heard all sorts of horror stories about how dead the Catholic Church was, and since I’d known several Catholics who were as worldly as any pagan, I believed them. So as I became more and more convinced that the Catholic Church taught the truth, I thought, “But Lord, they’re all so dead.” And then I remembered His words: “What is that to you? You follow me.” And I realized that it really wasn’t important whether the guy in the pew next to me was living the faith, it was important whether I was. It was as if the Lord was saying to me, “You need to follow the truth, even if you’re the only one who does.”

    Happily, my fears turned out to be unfounded. I’ve met plenty of on-fire Catholics since I’ve joined the Church, and I’ve found several local parishes where the faith is truly lived and preached.

    A girl that I am friends with, who has little knowledge of the theological issues between Catholics and Protestants said simply, “I am not a Catholic because they don’t emphasize a personal relationship with Jesus.” I am sure that many committed catholics such as yourself have vastly different experiences, but you must admit, the problem of simply going through the motions with little understanding of the significance seems rampant in the Church. Am I being unfair?

    Yes. As I said, you’re comparing the best Evangelicals with the worst Catholics. But I do think it’s easier to be a nominal Catholic than to be a nominal Evangelical. Catholicism is an embodied faith. It’s very physical, expressing itself through signs and meaningful rituals and practices. Ideally, those practices are joyful ways of expressing the interior reality of God’s grace in our lives. They give form and substance to the reality of our faith. But if that reality isn’t there, it’s still possible to go through the physical motions of the faith because of habit, or whatever. In other words, it’s possible to mistake faith’s expression for faith itself, as if the outward signs of our faith, and not the reality they are meant to express, are what’s important. That does happen, and it’s a shame, because going through the motions won’t get anybody to Heaven.

    On the other hand, Evangelicalism is largely devoid of physicality. It is a religion almost exclusively characterized by intellectual committment. Therefore, if you don’t have that committment, there’s nothing else there, so you leave. This is good in the sense that it focuses on the primary importance of belief and conversion of heart, and because it’s more difficult to fool yourself into thinking you’re a “good Christian” when you’re not, but Evangelicals really are missing something by not having a rich physical tradition with which to express their faith. When you combine real interior faith with meaningful exterior expression, the result is incredible, believe me. And the best Catholics, like the best Evangelicals, know that a personal relationship with Jesus is the goal of the Christian life. We just have a whole lot of ways to express and experience that relationship.

    I spent a summer in Mexico City and a semester in Santiago de Compostela, but with the exception of one little old lady, for all of the students that I met, I can’t say that I met any committed Catholics, and this in Catholic countries where virtually everyone would at least say that they are Catholics.

    Well, what else would you expect in a “Catholic country”? In some countries, Catholicism is the “default religion.” It’s what you say you are when someone asks, even if you haven’t set foot in a church in years. It’s the same with Protestant Christianity in this country. If you ask most Americans what religion they are, they’ll say “Well, gee, I’m not Jewish, I’m not Moslem, I’m not Hindu, so I guess I must be Christian.” In this country, Christianity is the default religion. And if you ask these people whether they’re Catholic or Protestant, most will say “Well, I’m not Catholic, so I guess I must be Protestant.” Protestantism is the default version of Christianity in this country. But it would hardly be fair to judge Protestantism based on the people who, if pressed, would say they’re Protestants, but who may never have seen the inside of a church, or read a single verse of Scripture. Same goes for judging Catholicism by the so-called Catholics in “Catholic countries.”

    And yet the Evangelicals that I met almost always were “set apart,” meaning they read their Bibles, took their faith seriously, etc.

    In a nominally Catholic country, wouldn’t you expect the Evangelicals to stand out? And since they’ve deliberately chosen a religion other than the default religion, wouldn’t you expect them to take it more seriously than those who’ve opted for the default just out of habit or family tradition?

    ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

    Gary Hoge "How Can Catholicism Be True When Catholics Are So Dead?" Catholic Outlook.

    Reprinted with permission of Gary Hoge.

    Copyright © 2001 Gary Hoge
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2013
  3. auparavant

    auparavant New Member

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    I'd like to open the discussion to the following paragraph in the above articleIt seems to me that it is very common in the christian community to overly judge a fellow believer. We all judge. We look at criminals and say, "what they do is wrong." But as far as our incessant quirks to nitpick and judge, scanning another fellow believer for any inconsistencies in their lives, we largely overlook the major, hindering and damaging inconsistencies in our own lives and as to how they affect others in this walk. If we are looking for perfection, we still have to look to CHRIST, not ourselves, not our mistakes, not our imperfections. Our personal walks help another in this journey. But in reality, many christians tear each other down. If anything, THAT is what often turns many non-believers away....how christians judge fellow christians:

    How can I move from such a dynamic soul-winning church that I am in now into such a seemingly dead church seemingly full of untransformed people?

    Before I became Catholic, I asked myself the same question, because I’d heard all sorts of horror stories about how dead the Catholic Church was, and since I’d known several Catholics who were as worldly as any pagan, I believed them. So as I became more and more convinced that the Catholic Church taught the truth, I thought, “But Lord, they’re all so dead.” And then I remembered His words: “What is that to you? You follow me.” And I realized that it really wasn’t important whether the guy in the pew next to me was living the faith, it was important whether I was. It was as if the Lord was saying to me, “You need to follow the truth, even if you’re the only one who does.



    Second question I'd like to pose in this discussion, where is it said that those who are non-catholics will not receive heaven as reward? The catechism does not at all support this. Part One of our Profession of Faith in the Catechism says:

    Source

    -----------------------------------------------------------------------
    The Church and non-Christians
    839 "Those who have not yet received the Gospel are related to the People of God in various ways."325



    III. THE CHURCH IS CATHOLIC
    What does "catholic" mean?
    830 The word "catholic" means "universal," in the sense of "according to the totality" or "in keeping with the whole." The Church is catholic in a double sense:



    843 The Catholic Church recognizes in other religions that search, among shadows and images, for the God who is unknown yet near since he gives life and breath and all things and wants all men to be saved. Thus, the Church considers all goodness and truth found in these religions as "a preparation for the Gospel and given by him who enlightens all men that they may at length have life."332



    "Outside the Church there is no salvation"
    846 How are we to understand this affirmation, often repeated by the Church Fathers?335 Re-formulated positively, it means that all salvation comes from Christ the Head through the Church which is his Body:

    Basing itself on Scripture and Tradition, the Council teaches that the Church, a pilgrim now on earth, is necessary for salvation: the one Christ is the mediator and the way of salvation; he is present to us in his body which is the Church. He himself explicitly asserted the necessity of faith and Baptism, and thereby affirmed at the same time the necessity of the Church which men enter through Baptism as through a door. Hence they could not be saved who, knowing that the Catholic Church was founded as necessary by God through Christ, would refuse either to enter it or to remain in it.336 847 This affirmation is not aimed at those who, through no fault of their own, do not know Christ and his Church:

    Those who, through no fault of their own, do not know the Gospel of Christ or his Church, but who nevertheless seek God with a sincere heart, and, moved by grace, try in their actions to do his will as they know it through the dictates of their conscience - those too may achieve eternal salvation.337 848 "Although in ways known to himself God can lead those who, through no fault of their own, are ignorant of the Gospel, to that faith without which it is impossible to please him, the Church still has the obligation and also the sacred right to evangelize all men."338


    Each particular Church is "catholic"
    832 "The Church of Christ is really present in all legitimately organized local groups of the faithful, which, in so far as they are united to their pastors, are also quite appropriately called Churches in the New Testament. . . . In them the faithful are gathered together through the preaching of the Gospel of Christ, and the mystery of the Lord's Supper is celebrated. . . . In these communities, though they may often be small and poor, or existing in the diaspora, Christ is present, through whose power and influence the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church is

    constituted."312




    818 "However, one cannot charge with the sin of the separation those who at present are born into these communities [that resulted from such separation] and in them are brought up in the faith of Christ, and the Catholic Church accepts them with respect and affection as brothers . . . . All who have been justified by faith in Baptism are incorporated into Christ; they therefore have a right to be called Christians, and with good reason are accepted as brothers in the Lord by the children of the Catholic Church."272

    -------------------------------------------------------------------


    My take on the teaching authority of our Holy Church is that, however He achieves salvation as a gift through mysteries we cannot fathom, that is His and His alone. We have a glimpse into heaven now, participating in union with the body of believers and our worship of our Messiah. How do we often mess that up and place stones in the path? Disobedience, but that comes in many fashions. Even the "holiest" among us gloat in our perceived perfections, patting ourselves on our spiritual backs and disdaining other fellow believers. Our haughtiness and arrogance are palpable and off-setting to others, as are our general sins. But we have faith in knowing that when we do sin, there is a way to come back. We are to look to CHRIST and strive individually. "What's it to you?" Exactly. Cast that eye to the mirror and behold thyself and all thy murky splendor. There is no excuse for sin, there is only reconciliation, apportioned for us in His loving mercy.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2013
  4. Belle Du Jour

    Belle Du Jour Well-Known Member

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    People are being just like modern day Pharisees, looking at outward signs of worship or what the perceive as "hero worship" and forgetting that God sees the heart. The Pharisees were so ignorant that they missed out on being in the presence of the Messiah because of their hardness of hearts and their perception of what the Messiah should be. It's the same as Christians who judge others on what they think worship should look like. Spiritually dead? Let them read about the marriage supper of the Lamb in Revelations and get back to me on what kind of worship is taking place in heaven.

    Unam sanctum catholicam et apostilicam ecclesiam!
     
  5. Belle Du Jour

    Belle Du Jour Well-Known Member

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    And the angel said to me, “Write this: Blessed are those who are invited to the marriage supper of the Lamb.” And he said to me, “These are true words of God.” Revelation 19:9

    We are so blessed to participate in the marriage feast every time we go to mass. :yep:
     
  6. auparavant

    auparavant New Member

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    I just wanted to make clear that "catholic" refers to the universality of the Church. All those who profess Him are of the same body. Some churches are in full union with the one He instituted and some are not. But He is the head of us all.
     
  7. Belle Du Jour

    Belle Du Jour Well-Known Member

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    While you and I know that, other Christians don't want to claim Catholics. :ohwell:
     
  8. Vanity1

    Vanity1 Well-Known Member

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    I have had this discussion with my husband. We are both Catholic and I find myself defending the Church to him even though we are both practicing Catholics! I think the Church is frowned upon due to its ritualistic nature. This is actually the very thing that draws me to this faith in addition to its communal nature. Despite scandal and judgment it still remains strong and has done so for hundreds of years. With so many Protestant sects it is easy to draw attention to a unified body in a negative light. The same things happen amongst other Christians but really, who can keep up?
     
  9. auparavant

    auparavant New Member

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    Edited:

    Trying to find the right words here. I don't wish to be misunderstood.
    I'm attempting to bridge a gap, not widen the chasm. There is certainly persecution, but it can run both sides. What good is it to resist persecution and deal it out at the same time? Too many of us do not know our faith. There is not one thing in the catechism that supports that non-catholics are bound for hell nor that they are not on the narrow path. That path is Christ Himself. Rhetoric can cause division. Christ asks of us....UNITY. :yep:.

    I have to apologize ahead of time for any perceived judgment because my intent for this thread is not one of marginalizing another. I'm not trying to be harsh but we are but one body of His ...His Church. And however He carries that out in the spiritual realm, we don't quite know...but we can hold onto His words of truth. My intent is for respect and unity. Surely, the veiled insults tick me off. :yep: We don't all see eye-to-eye, grnted, but this pointing at something we think we can determine...it's dangerous (somebody's salvation). I don't know anybody's heart and therefore, I am not to judge their relationship with Christ and I don't know if they will be saved in the end. We're all still here.

    And even if there is something I see that does not align with Christ, I am told, like the author of the article, "What's that to you? Follow ME!" :yep: In my opinion and experience, all that is precisely what I ran away from from that other side and I have to say, it was all over the place. No one catholic persecuted me before and after I entered the RCC and I am behooved to carry on that tradition of respect. I cannot, with a good conscience, agree to the same against them, even if one attempts to judge or persecute. Differing in opinion or noting problems, not at all what I'm talking about, though. It's going across that one particular line of I mentioned. Most times, it's done out of ignorance. But I was also ignorant of the Church at one time. It's an humbling experience. Christ saves...not my works, not my mind, not my efforts...only Christ. He's an open invite for a full life...open to all. We know we have the fullness of truth and we can be grateful for that...but if we cross the line and do what was done to us in the way of judgment and persecution, we err. We all know there's enough SPXX out there to last a lifetime of each of us in repenting for collectively. :giggle: I am so thankful not to have dealt too much with their heresies. But I also see some of us doing the same to others we experience ourselves. My daughter in middle school sees it a lot. One can spread Christ without blasting Him from the intercom, pasting Him on locker doors, passing out tracts and wearing light-up tee-shirts while proclaiming that others are hell-bound. I dunno if this is a Pennsylvania thing or not. :nono: Yes, our very own catholics. :hammer: Oh, L-rd! It should be obvious to me that my greatest christian pet peeve is something declaring they know who is saved or not. Again, I'm not talking about saying murderers or bank robbers are wrong...but anyone can come to Him, even in the last moment of life. My disgust is... "that one doesn't belong to Jesus like I do." Lawd...:nono: At this point, I'm rambling...but the CC 846-848 that explains "no salvation outside the Church" is very important to me. It proves his mercy and fairness.
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2013
  10. aribell

    aribell formerly nicola.kirwan

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    I think the article addresses an important issue. Something that I eventually realized was that the same argument is often applied to Christians overall by non-Christians. People who are not into church will often point to all the hypocrisy they see in churches and amongst Christians in general as a reason why they do not go to church or get too deep into Scripture, fellowship, etc. But the fact remains is that regardless of the hypocrisy, "deadness", or whatever sin of the person next to us, we are each accountable for our response to the Truth.

    There's a Christianity Today article by a man named Ron Sider called "The Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience." It goes over the stats showing how sexual immorality, divorce, etc. are just as common in evangelical churches as they are in the world. So it is not as if these types of arguments are applicable just to Catholicism or any particular denomination that someone could generalize about. There is no controlling who slaps a label on themselves and sullies the name. Lack of fruit or bad fruit can be found everywhere in Christendom.

    I think that something that differentiates Catholicism is that regardless of what particular parish a person is a part of, they will still retain the label "Catholic" and will be perceived by non-Catholics to represent Catholicism. But in other congregations, say Joe X is told to leave a church for not submitting to church discipline--that particular church can say, "Well we don't have those kinds of people worshiping with us," but the reality is that Joe just shifts to the denomination/church down the street and is now a blemish in someone else's congregation. The believers in the church he left may deem themselves as "pure," but for non-Christians, Joe still represents Christianity and many will say, "Look, the faith of Christians is so empty/hypocritical/etc."

    That type of reasoning doesn't follow regarding Christianity, and it doesn't follow regarding any particular stream of Christianity either.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2013

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