The Authority of Divine Love

Jan 20th, 2010 | By | Category: Blog Posts

A few weeks ago we announced an essay contest for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. The essays were to answer the following question: “What is it, most fundamentally, that still divides Catholics and Protestants?” They were to locate the fundamental disagreement underlying the other Catholic-Protestant disagreements, explain why it is fundamental, and show how Protestants and Catholics can make progress in reaching agreement regarding it. One of the two winning essays was titled “The Authority of Divine Love,” written by Jeremy Tate. Jeremy is finishing a graduate degree at Reformed Theological Seminary in D.C. this Spring. He has been a member of the Presbyterian Church in America. He will be received into the Catholic Church on February 7, 2010, and receive the sacraments of Confirmation and the Eucharist.

The Authority of Divine Love
by Jeremy Tate

The fundamental disagreement that underlies all other Catholic-Protestant disagreements can be pinpointed, specifically, in the Catholic Church’s claim of authority.  Disbelief in the unique authority of the Roman Catholic Church has become one of the only beliefs shared by all Protestants.  Every other Catholic teaching, from baptismal regeneration to purgatory, is affirmed somewhere in Protestantism. This belief, or rather disbelief, stands alone, as the most unifying tenet of Protestant theology.  This observation might sound harsh or uncharitable, but I discovered it to be true long before I ever considered converting to the Catholic Church.  In fact, I write this essay and address this topic as one deeply indebted to my Protestant upbringing, evangelical friends, and the insights of the Reformed tradition.  I also write as a believer who has finally discovered where I belong, as I will be received into the Catholic Church on February 7.

Rather than setting out to prove the doctrinal soundness of various Catholic doctrines or attacking what I believe to be the heretical nature of various Protestant doctrines, my goal in this essay is to connect the seemingly cold issue of authority with the radical love of God given to us in Christ.  I believe that seeing this connection, will point to the truth of the Catholic Church.  Even more importantly, however, I believe that seeing this connection will point us to the incredible faithfulness of God, which, ironically, cannot be fully seen without the Catholic Church.

Universal common sense observes that authority disconnected from love becomes tyranny.  God’s love, rather than being tyrannical, is selfless and life giving.  As one created in the image of this God, the authority God has given me over my two daughters intensifies, rather than diminishes, my love for them.  Reformed Protestants and Catholics happily agree that the sources of authority that God has given to us for our spiritual growth are embodiments of his love for us.  The authority of the Bible reminds us that God loves us.  The authority of a loving pastor or parent demonstrates God’s love for us.  Even the authority of the State, in maintaining a peaceful world, shows us God’s love.  Simply put, when we stop to meditate on God’s purpose for placing authorities over us, we are quickly reminded of his Fatherly love for us.

The claim of possessing a unique authority, which the Catholic Church unabashedly makes, must be understood within this context of authority as love if believers on each side are to move towards unity.  To many Protestant ears, the most radical claim the Catholic Church makes is that she alone can authentically and infallibly interpret Scripture.  This claim, however, when considered from a thoroughly Biblical view of authority, is not so much a statement about the Catholic Church’s right to assert her own interpretation of Scripture, as it is a statement about God’s love.  Before a believer begins to consider the truth or falsity of this particular Catholic claim, the claim first has to be understood for what it is: an assertion about the extensiveness of God’s love.   When Catholics boast that their Church is the infallible interpreter of Scripture, they are saying, “God has not abandoned us, He has not left us to wonder if our own interpretation of Scripture is the right one.”  They are saying, “He has not done what love forbids…He has not left us to ourselves.”

How can Protestants and Catholics move towards unity?  First, Catholics must ask Protestants for forgiveness.  As I thought through the question of how Protestants and Catholics can make progress toward unity, I realized that Catholics must reach out first.  As a student of the Reformation, and now as one coming into the Catholic Church, I have no problem conceding that in part, the Reformation was a response to serious sin and often heinous abuses of the Catholic Church.  As seen in the sex scandal over the past decade, the Catholic Church continues to struggle with grave sin.  For this reason, Catholics must ask Protestants for forgiveness for the sin of misrepresenting to the world the loving authority of God.

In response Protestants must forgive, seventy times seven.  Then, Protestants must ask questions, each of which, when answered, will be a step towards unity.  From a Protestant perspective, these questions are not safe to ask.  They are not new questions either.  Some of the greatest and most influential Protestant theologians in history, such as John Henry Newman and G.K. Chesterton, wrestled with these questions and found their answer in the Church they had previously condemned.  For years I believed that the Catholic Church would eventually die out.  I think I believed this because I met so many people who had left the Catholic Church and joined a Reformed denomination.  It never occurred to me that my refusal to engage with the Catholic Church had made me blind.  I did not know of, nor see, the army of passionate, Christ centered, scripturally knowledgeable believers, who had converted to the Catholic Church after facing these questions.

First, Protestants must ask questions about the promises of Scripture and the character of God.  Most importantly, did Jesus himself found a Church?  I believe the answer is yes and I know many of my Reformed friends would agree.  Clearly, Christ is very busy in the gospels, teaching, training, appointing, delegating authority, and setting up a visible entity, with twelve visible leaders.   This entity, Jesus calls the Church.  If it is true that Christ himself founded a Church, then it must also be true that for a Church to be “a Church”, it must, by definition, have divine origins.  If Jesus founded a single Church and made a promise that it would be indestructible (Matt 16:18), can we trust Him?  I do not know of any Protestant denomination that claims to have been personally founded by Jesus.  The Catholic Church makes this claim.  If Jesus did not found the Catholic Church, who did?  Every single Protestant denomination or theological tradition has a man or a few men standing at its inception.  Standing in the place only Jesus can stand.  Calvin’s Reformed Church, Knox’s Presbyterianism, Wesley’s Methodism, William Miller’s Adventism, Luther’s Lutheranism, all have men as their founders.  Who founded the Catholic Church?

Second, Protestants must ask how denominationalism reflects God’s love as our Father.  If I met ten children with the same dad, none of whom would eat meals or worship together, I would be inclined to think that the children had a bad father.  When I was doing a Pastoral internship for the Presbyterian Church in America, in New York City, I had several well educated New Yorkers, ask me, “Which Christianity are you selling?”  One unbeliever, in a conversation I’ll never forget, put it to me this way, “You tell me the Bible teaches this, the Jehovah Witness at my door tells me it means that, and the ten other Churches on my block have ten more views…my take…the Bible must be an unintelligible book.”  Although few Protestants want to preach to the unbelieving world that the Bible is unintelligible, that is the message being preached every time a Church splits.

My hope, my prayer, is that this week of prayer for Church unity will be accompanied by the voices of Catholic Christians asking for forgiveness —  asking for forgiveness for failing to accurately display authority as love in reflection of our Heavenly Father.   My prayer is that Protestants would forgive and then reconsider the bold claims of the Catholic Church.

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  2. An inspiring and well written essay.

  3. Jeremy,

    Congratulations on being selected in the inaugural essay writing contest! A very fine job, and I hope that it generates the further reflection you recommend.

    Peace in Christ,
    Tom

  4. Thanks Tom, it was a joy to write.

  5. Jeremy,

    This was spot on “Every other Catholic teaching, from baptismal regeneration to purgatory, is affirmed somewhere in Protestantism.” I have often pointed out to my students when they ask, “Why do Catholics do….?” that such and such issue is not just a difference between Catholics and Protestants but between Protestants as well (e.g. Infant Baptism, Baptismal Regeneration held by Lutherans etc…). Welcome to the Church!

  6. […] via The Authority of Divine Love | Called to Communion. […]

  7. Jeremy,

    A beautiful essay–my gratitude to you and to our Lord for it. The paragraph on the need for Catholics to ask for forgiveness really hit home with me. I’m writing a book and may ask your permission to quote that paragraph in it (giving you credit for it of course).

    Thank you for the exhortation and moving thoughts.

  8. If I met ten children with the same dad, none of whom would eat meals or worship together, I would be inclined to think that the children had a bad father.

    Jeremy,

    I would like to probe your analogy here. Tell me what you would think of this same family if they did eat and worship together but that it was obvious to everyone around them that they only tolerated each other because the father said they had to. Is this true unity because they are bound in formal unity via the government of the family? Or to put this another way, what does true unity consist of?

    Let me draw my own analogy here from the area of civil government. Let’s take two situations. In the first we look at two sets people from one country who hate each other but are bound together through the government of the country we are looking at. Now compare this with two sets of people from different countries who love each other and are unified in everything except for the fact that each set of folks answers to a different civil administration. So my question to you is in which case is there more unity demonstrated? To put this again in more general terms, what does unity consist of? Is it 1) mere formal administrative unity, or 2) unity of mind and heart, or 3) some combination of #1 and #2?

    My observation from interacting with quite a number of Catholic folks is that the bottom line for determining unity is the presence of formal administrative unity. And while the conservative RC’s are not happy with the fighting within Rome, in practical terms the existence of unity is determined solely on the basis of formal unity. And it is here where the Protestant has an issue.

    To take another example which may hit closer to home for you, consider the example of Eastern Orthodoxy. The EO churches describe themselves as autocephalous – they operate under separate administrations. And yet, they argue strongly that they are unified. Now obviously I’m not trying to defend EO here per se, but how can I argue that they are not unified? Do I look at the lack of administrative unity and say that this is reason for the determination that they have no true unity? Remember that the EO have as much reason for defending the antiquity of their system as Rome, perhaps more. So if there is no historical rationale for equating true unity with formal administrative unity, what does the RC defense rest on? Is it something in the Scriptures?

  9. Andrew,

    You asked,

    Tell me what you would think of this same family if they did eat and worship together but that it was obvious to everyone around them that they only tolerated each other because the father said they had to. Is this true unity because they are bound in formal unity via the government of the family?

    First of all, I think you’re reading Jeremy’s article (and even this analogy – he said “family”; why translate it to “government”?) rather reductively if you think he views the unity of the Holy Catholic Church as merely a “formal unity via the government” of the Church.

    But the answer to your question is, yes. It is a true unity, even if the children are naturally inclined to detest one another. The ten bickering children continue to eat and worship together—and, let us pray, grow in sincere love from the heart for one another—because their love for their Father and his for them (which, to exit the analogy, has been shown to them definitively in Christ) compels them to set aside their disagreements and pursue an experiential, lived unity that is not readymade but is signified and effected sacramentally, above all in the Eucharist, the sacramentum unitatis.

    The New Testament is saturated in evidence that this is exactly what the primitive Church was like. I get the impression that some of those first Masses with mixed groups of Jewish and Gentile believers, rich and poor believers, free and slave believers, were every bit as tense as the kind of thing you might find in the Catholic Church today. But they hung together, confident that they would be continually configured to Christ together, as one Body; that participating in the Holy Spirit they would be “of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind” (Phil 2:2); and that they would continue “building up the body of Christ, until [they] all attain[ed] to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:12-13). To abandon that would mean leaving yourself open to being “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Eph 4:14).

    We need to stay at the same Table and the same Altar—or return there if we or our forebears have left it—if we’re going to be knit together in that charity “which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col 3:14). Even when it’s nearly unbearable. Cheers to the ten kids in Jeremy’s analogy.

    in Christ,

    TC
    1 Cor 16:14

  10. Andrew,

    Thanks for reading the article and engaging the discussion. I’ve read many of your comments on C2C and I want to commend you for taking the time to understand what the Catholic Church actually teaches. As I’ve tried to understand C.S. Lewis and his relationship to the Catholic Church I am appreciative that he did not slander the Catholic Church, but understood what he disagreed with. Although I see serious flaws in Lewis’ ultimate rejection of the Catholic Church, I think he took steps towards unity by engaging the Church herself rather than a fabricated notion of it. I commend you in doing the same.
    To answer your question, yes, I believe the authority Christ gave exclusively to the Catholic Church is clearly presented in Scripture and that this authority is the only proper foundation for unity. Why submit to a theological or epistemological authority that you might intuitively disagree with at points, if it is not divinely established? When I have pointed out to my reformed friends the Old Testament background for the establishment of the Papacy they have refused to treat the passage with the same exegetical consistency that they would typically use in connecting other OT passages to the fulfillment in the new. In Isaiah 22 Shebna is removed from the place of authority over David’s house and the key is placed on the shoulder of Eliakim. This demonstrates the succession of persons in a divinely established OT office. Would you agree that Jesus is referring to this OT passage in Matthew 16? If not, was Jesus’ use of the word “key” in His delegation of authority simply a coincidence? Is anything in scripture simply a coincidence? If we know God as Father only through the work of Christ, then how can we trust an authority if not established by Christ Himself? Every Christian has a functional magisterium, (we can’t escape it unless we claim to be God), the question is, do we have the right one? Catholic unity is both material and formal, no Protestant Church can make the same claim.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  11. Thanks a ton Devin, no need to ask, of course I’d be honored.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  12. Jeremy,

    Ryan shared this with us. Congrats on such a well written and meaningful essay. Wishing many blessings as you enter the church on Feb 7th. Kathy

  13. T. Ciatoris,

    I get the impression that some of those first Masses with mixed groups of Jewish and Gentile believers, rich and poor believers, free and slave believers, were every bit as tense as the kind of thing you might find in the Catholic Church today. But they hung together…

    I think it’s impossible to overestimate the importance of this trenchant remark. One altar/sacrifice/bishop forces the breaking down of those barriers that we naturally erect (along ethnic lines and nationalist lines and class lines and …) as a function of the sin that expresses itself not just in Gen 3 but quite fundamentally in Gen 10. Otherwise the church is built-bottom up in our own image (or our collective, ethnic, nationalist … image), and becomes a club for those who associate with others who think like them and act like them (…), others whom they’d be comfortable associating with in any case, and fails utterly to appreciate the radical newness and inclusiveness of the religion centered around the Gospel. Since that’s become clear to me, I’ve always been astounded that a theological tradition which makes so much of the depth and degree and scope of human sin should see no need for a ‘top-down’ “enforcement” of unity that runs against the grain of our natural and naturally devisive tendencies. Here again there is a pragmatic contradiction, or at any rate a tension, between theory and the outworking (or non-outworking) of theory in pracise and in ecclesiology.

    Thanks for remarking on this point.

    Best,

    Neal

  14. To be fair, the Eastern Orthodox church also rejects the claims of the singularity of the Catholic church.

    Though certainly not all of the Protestant world would be okay with it, I think that if the Orthodox church in the US continues to grow, the chance for unification between the Orthodox and many branches of the Protestant world could be on the horizon.

  15. Would you agree that Jesus is referring to this OT passage in Matthew 16? If not, was Jesus’ use of the word “key” in His delegation of authority simply a coincidence?

    Jeremy,

    Eliakim was a civil servant. He was the doorkeeper so as to speak to Hezekiah’s house. The key symbolizes this. The key also symbolizes something about the authority Peter was given. As those who ministered the gospel in word and sacrament they were given the keys to open the kingdom of heaven. This responsilbility passes on to the elders of the various congrtegations who also preach the gospel. Now you seem to want to make a connection between the civil authority of Hezekiah and that of Peter based on the fact that a key was used to say something about their respective offices? I can’t say I see the connection other than both offices had responsibilities that were doors to something else.

    But my point was about the nature of unity and specifically the contention by our RC friends that there is not really unity among us. Now this always stikes me as odd. It’s like someone telling me and my Canadian friend that we are not unified because we are under different civil administratiosn. Well, I suppose that the charge is true in one sense, but then I have to ask exactly what this someone means by unity.

    And so likewise I’m a little puzzled when you say that I’m not unified with those who are under different ecclesiastical governments. What I think is unfortunate is that the RC’s don’t seem to appreciate that true unity of mind and heart can be present even when formal administrative unity is not. And conversely there can be well defined administrative unity with little or no real unity of purpose. The point that Paul makes about “being of the same mind” and the like is not about administrative unity. It is about exactly what it says it is about – being of the same mind. This does not mean that formal unity is of no consequence, but it does mean that formal unity ought not to be the ultimate test of the unity the Apsotles spoke of.

  16. Andrew,

    I think you make a good point about Roman Catholic’s not appreciating the unity of heart and mind that can be found even in different Protestant denominations. I always found though, that I had the deepest unity and richest fellowship with the people who agreed with me the most. The closer their theology was to mine, the richer our fellowship could be. This is why most Reformed Christians only date and hang out with other “reformed” Christians. How many of your really close Christian friends are Methodist, Church of Christ, Adventist, Quaker, or Nazarine? Considering that reformed folk make up no more than 5% of those who profess faith in Christ, I found this to be a discouraging ground for unity. I would find it hard to believe if you told me you have as much fellowship with those who aren’t reformed as you do with those who are. When Paul speaks of “one faith” in Ephesians 4 he is talking about the content of that faith, not simply the object of faith.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  17. Jeremy,

    Congratulations on the essay! I enjoyed reading it, and it was a refreshing and interesting perspective to see the authority of the Church presented as a form of God’s Fatherly love for His children. It’s definitely something I will have to think about.
    I did have a couple of questions on one point though:

    This entity, Jesus calls the Church. If it is true that Christ himself founded a Church, then it must also be true that for a Church to be “a Church”, it must, by definition, have divine origins. If Jesus founded a single Church and made a promise that it would be indestructible (Matt 16:18), can we trust Him? I do not know of any Protestant denomination that claims to have been personally founded by Jesus. The Catholic Church makes this claim. If Jesus did not found the Catholic Church, who did?

    While it’s true that no Protestant denomination claims to be personally founded by Jesus, most Protestants would view the one, holy, catholic, apostolic church to be a non-hierarchial entity, so a Protestant could conceivably (and many do) say that he is a part of the one Church since he is a member of a congregation which affirms the early creeds and councils. Indeed, the New Testament seems to show little hierarchical unity (aside from the apostles themselves), so isn’t it justified to view the Church as not being hierarchically structured from the top down?
    Also, relating to Matthew 16:18, I have generally only seen that text and 1 Timothy 3:15 used to the support the concept of the Church’s infallibility and indefectibility. But Matthew 16:18 doesn’t say that the Church will be kept from all error, only that the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. “Gates” are, of course, defensive mechanisms, so that would seem to imply that the Church will conquer the forces of Hell in the end–not that it could never make mistakes or be somewhat corrupted at times. After all, Paul warned the Church of Rome itself that there was a danger of being cut off from God’s people if it failed to keep faith (Rom. 11). What are your thoughts?

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  18. Just read the article and some of the posts – congratulations. What I saw in the one person questioning your rationale of “governance as unity” seems to miss a point that I know you are preparing to experience – that of sacramental unity. In the Eucharist, which I find to be the key to this bond of believers – we literally become the mysterious living body of Christ. It is in this Eucharist that Paul can say to his community – there is no longer Jew or Greek, slave or free, male or female. They are simply the body of Christ bound by the Eucharist through the power of the Holy Spirit. It is this unity around the table of the Lord that is the inexplicable bond that unites all Catholics in the love of Christ. It is the continual renewal of that experience that transforms the believer into the image of Christ in our world. Each Eucharistic experience is transformative – each believer is changed in that experience as their life of faith is once again exposed to the power of God’s Spirit fulfilling the promise of conversion. As the scripture for mass, particularly the Gospel of Mark: 3:1-6, spelled out to our community of faith this morning, Jesus was angered and bewildered by the hardness of heart that he experienced among those with him. It is this hardness of heart that we bring before our God in the Eucharist trusting that our God can shatter these stone pieces of our hearts to provide us with “natural hearts.” It is this hardened heart, affected by sin, that is forged in God’s fire of love at the table of the Eucharist. It is this hardened heart that needs God’s transformative love to bring it further along the path of conversion, so that we can love as only our God loves. This is the path upon which you are about to embark as you come to the table of the Eucharist for the first time. May the fire of this love continue to forge you anew.

    P.S. I am Jeremy’s pastor of his current church. I am not a regular reader of this site; Jeremy sent me a link and asked me to read his well written essay.

  19. Jeremy,

    I have a Quaker Uncle but he is one of the humanistic new-age kinds of Quakers so I won’t count him. I can’t say I know any Adeventists or CofC folks and most of the Methodists are rather liberal. But as far as Evangleiclas go we have lots of Baptists and Independents arounds here and I can’t way that there is much lack of Christian fellowship between us and them. Was this not the case with you at all?

    The Reformed do tend to be quite efficient at working non-Reformed people out of their immediate ecclesiasitcal circles and there thus are quite a number of small Reformed denominations. No doubt there is too much of this splitting off when we get ticked off about whatever it is. But on the other extreme from my perspective is when Christian and non-Christian all “unite” in one ecclesiastical grouping as in Catholics and some liberal leaning Protestant groups. For us conservatives Protestants we don’t seee that it’s possible to “be of one mind” in the biblical understanding of this concept if we extend Christian felloship to those who by their profession reject Christ.

  20. Hey Spencer,
    Thanks for reading the essay and joining the discussion. You raise a good question regarding the hierarchical structure of the Church as presented in the NT during the time of the Apostles. You’re right, there does not seem to be the Christmas-tree looking structure of the Catholic Church top-down hierarchy. However, the hierarchy of the Catholic Church did not develop from the bottom up (as some Protestant assume), but from the top down. As the Catholic Catechism puts it:

    “Christ, whom the Father hallowed and sent into the world, has, through his apostles, made their successors, the bishops namely, sharers in his consecration and mission; and these, in their turn, duly entrusted in varying degrees various members of the Church with the office of their ministry.”43 “The function of the bishops’ ministry was handed over in a subordinate degree to priests so that they might be appointed in the order of the priesthood and be co-workers of the episcopal order for the proper fulfillment of the apostolic mission that had been entrusted to it by Christ.”44 (CCC 1562)

    Behind this teaching of the Church is the understanding that only those who have been given authority can subsequently delegate authority. Personally, I believe this is why ordination or Holy Orders have ceased to mean anything in many Protestant Churches. In fact, Mark Driscoll does not believe “ordination” is even a biblical concept. Unless real authority is being transferred what is the point?
    To answer your other question concerning the content of Matthew 16:18; first, remember that the Catholic Church does not claim to be free of corruption. I don’t know any Catholic who believes that. Here is what the Catholic Catechism teaches regarding the claim of infallibility which I discussed in my essay:

    The mission of the Magisterium is linked to the definitive nature of the covenant established by God with his people in Christ. It is this Magisterium’s task to preserve God’s people from deviations and defections and to guarantee them the objective possibility of professing the true faith without error. Thus, the pastoral duty of the Magisterium is aimed at seeing to it that the People of God abides in the truth that liberates. To fulfill this service, Christ endowed the Church’s shepherds with the charism of infallibility in matters of faith and morals. The exercise of this charism takes several forms: (CCC 890)

    This does not mean that the conduct of the Catholic Church is perfectly in accord with the gospel it preaches. It never was! Peter’s conduct, but only his conduct, were out of accord with the gospel when Paul rebuked him in Galatians 2. Other Scriptural passages that support the infallible nature of the Church are; Luke 10:16, John 16:13, and John 21:15-17.
    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  21. Excellent points Father Martin.

  22. Great thoughts Father Martin, welcome to Called to Communion.

  23. Jeremy,

    Good point about ordination! Driscoll isn’t the only one to oppose the idea either–Charles Spurgeon did so as well in the 19th century. I suppose it’s a natural result of rejecting the concept of Church authority. My point about hierarchy, though, is not that there is not a “from the top down” progression of authority in the New Testament (Christ > the apostles > the presbyters/bishops), because it’s clear that there is, but that this doesn’t match the modern structure of the Roman Catholic Church. Presbyters and bishops were equated (though I am aware that the episcopacy was a very early development), and there doesn’t seem to be clear support for the idea of authorities who were beneath the apostles but above the local church level (i.e., archbishops).

    To answer your other question concerning the content of Matthew 16:18; first, remember that the Catholic Church does not claim to be free of corruption. I don’t know any Catholic who believes that.

    I think you may have misunderstood me; I apologize, my choice of words may not have been clear enough. What I meant by “corruption” was not wrong conduct, but wrong doctrine. I may be wrong, but it seems like somewhat of a stretch to go from “The Church will prevail over the forces of Hell in the end” to “The Church can never err in her doctrine.”

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  24. Hello Folks,

    In my experience of being in the Roman Catholic church for 25 years, I have found that Roman Catholics are just as divided as Protestants. I know guys who go nuts over liturgical dancing and holding hands during the Lord’s prayer. I know Legionaries of Christ who bad mouth the “liberal” Jesuits down at St. Louis University. Carl Rahner, Hans Kung, and Scott Hahn; tell me those guys are walking hand in hand, hear to heart. And if the former are so bad why do their books have the approval of the Catholic Church on them? There are predominantly black parishes whose “liturgical abuses” would make my “conservative” Catholic friends go crazy. I brought a black friend of mine to the Basilica here in St. Louis, he looked at all the white Euro-centric faces on the walls and said, “I guess just white guys go to heaven.” You guys who are all on fire in your conversion to the Catholic Church, I hope you really look around at all that goes on, without censorship, in the parishes. Don’t just hang with your conservative catholic friends. I have been to more Masses than most of you, with a few exceptions. The diversity and contradictions in theology are manifold. It’s all unified on paper but not in heart and practice. And anyone who wants to go visit the local parishes here in St. Louis to test my statements, I would be more than happy to do so. Like minded Catholics hang with like minded Catholics, be they the uber conservatives, the work a day, the totally indifferent, or the liberals. Same as anywhere else. Christ knows His sheep.

  25. Jim,

    I would respond to your objections by drawing an analogy to marriage. The Catholic Church teaches that in marriage, God unites the husband and wife as one flesh, one heart, and even calls them to be like one soul (cf. Catechism 1600 – 1660).

    Yet, to apply your argument to marriage, “let’s get real; we all know that in practice 50% of marriages end up in divorce, and even those that don’t are often relationships which are hardly one heart and soul. Most are full of problems, resentments, hurts, infidelities, and selfishness. All this talk of ‘unity of heart and mind’ in marriage is just so much rubbish–it looks good on paper but in reality its a train wreck. Therefore the teaching on the unity of marriage is shown to be a farce.”

    And yet, in spite of the real problems within most marriages, the real struggles, the trials, the acts of selfishness mixed with selfless love and virtue, the objective truth of marriage as God created it and wills it is exactly as the Church (and most Christians) believes. My wife and I really are united in Christ indissolubly and are called to _demonstrate_ that objective unity through our actions to each other and to the world. Just because we sometimes (or even often) fall short of that calling does not mean that we are not married or that we are not united as one.

    The same is true of the unity in the Church. Just because there are Catholics who do not believe in all the Church teaches (or who struggle to believe it) and who (daily) fall short of living what faith they do have, does not mean that the Church is not in unity or that God does not call all people to unity in the Church. Gotta run, God bless.

  26. Hey Spencer,

    I didn’t know Spurgeon rejected the idea of ordination as well. From a Protestant perspective, however, I think Spurgeon and Driscoll are more consistent than the rest. If no actual authority is being transferred, but merely that which has been self assumed in the first place, what does ordination mean? Do you believe in ordination? What do you think separates a valid ordination from an invalid one? Let’s assume that after the Apostolic period Timothy, who had been ordained by Paul, ordained somebody named Ryan. Would Ryan have a more legitimate authority than somebody who preached the gospel, but had not been ordained by a man who had himself been ordained by an Apostle? To say yes is to believe in Apostolic Succession.

    You wrote, “Bishops and presbyters were equated.” What do you mean by this? If a Christian is committed to solo scriptura, I think you’re right; a fair argument can be made from Scripture alone to support two offices (it can just as easily be argued that Scripture alone speaks of three). The problem is that there is not a single Church Father who taught that Christ merely instituted the office of Presbyter/elder and deacon. Why would the early Church Fathers universally abandon the “true” biblical teaching of two offices to include a third office, more exalted then the previous two, of Bishop? In the book of Acts there are three offices clearly present, which is exactly what the Catholic Church teaches. The authority of a priest or deacon is only valid if they have been ordained by a bishop. Timothy clearly functions in this role as his task as a bishop included appointing elders in every city (Titus 1:5). Clearly Timothy functioned as an overseer of many local parishes and had the authority to do so. I am interested in your thoughts to my questions. Questions 871-895 in the Catholic Catechism might be helpful to read.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  27. […] Tate was one of the winners of CtC’s essay contest. He makes an interesting point: Rather than setting out to prove the […]

  28. Jim,

    You’re assuming a Protestant concept of unity and not a Catholic concept of it. You said the contradictions in theology are manifold, but the only examples you gave are from individuals who don’t speak for the Church. So you haven’t shown any contradictions in theology. Catholic unity is sacramental; it is not the sum of the private beliefs of all Catholics.

    If I become Muslim and retain my belief that it’s morally ok to eat Pork, is Islam now divided on the issue? No. Neither is the Catholic Church divided when Hans Kung rejects Catholic teaching or someone says something stupid like “I guess only white people go to heaven.”

  29. Jim,

    I might also add that my Catholic parish is vastly more racially diverse than any PCA church I ever attended.

  30. Suppose Carl Rahner, Hans Kung, and Scott Hahn were in the same parish. How would that work? They would disagree on almost everything theological. So what? They would not disagree on who is in charge of the parish. It would be whomever the bishop appointed as parish priest. They would all respect that. They would not disagree on what is a valid sacrament. They could all celebrate the Eucharist together.

    Theologically I have much more in common with my brother than these men have. He is a conservative protestant pastor and I am a conservative Catholic. Guess what? We can’t agree on who should lead a church. We can’t agree on whether a given sacrament is valid or not. We can never celebrate Eucharist or Lord’s Supper together.

  31. Jeremy,

    If no actual authority is being transferred, but merely that which has been self assumed in the first place, what does ordination mean? Do you believe in ordination? What do you think separates a valid ordination from an invalid one? Let’s assume that after the Apostolic period Timothy, who had been ordained by Paul, ordained somebody named Ryan. Would Ryan have a more legitimate authority than somebody who preached the gospel, but had not been ordained by a man who had himself been ordained by an Apostle? To say yes is to believe in Apostolic Succession.

    I would say I do believe in ordination, and lean strongly towards apostolic succession. I don’t have a decided opinion on the matter yet, though. I’m trying to carefully examine the view before assenting to it-.

    You wrote, “Bishops and presbyters were equated.” What do you mean by this? If a Christian is committed to solo scriptura, I think you’re right; a fair argument can be made from Scripture alone to support two offices (it can just as easily be argued that Scripture alone speaks of three). The problem is that there is not a single Church Father who taught that Christ merely instituted the office of Presbyter/elder and deacon. Why would the early Church Fathers universally abandon the “true” biblical teaching of two offices to include a third office, more exalted then the previous two, of Bishop? In the book of Acts there are three offices clearly present, which is exactly what the Catholic Church teaches. The authority of a priest or deacon is only valid if they have been ordained by a bishop. Timothy clearly functions in this role as his task as a bishop included appointing elders in every city (Titus 1:5). Clearly Timothy functioned as an overseer of many local parishes and had the authority to do so.

    I agree that the lack of support in any of the fathers for the Presbyterian view is a problem (indeed, enough of a problem to push me in the direction of embracing the episcopacy), but the Biblical witness must still be accounted for. For example, in Paul’s address to the Ephesian presbyters in Acts 20, he refers to them as both presbyters and bishops, with no distinction, so I’m curious as to how Acts gives the three office view.

    Concerning Timothy (and Titus), his instructions from Paul to appoint presbyters seem to be consistent with the two-office view: if a modern Presbyterian denomination sent a missionary to a newly formed presbytery in a place where there were only a few Christians and the churches were still in the embryonic stage, the missionary might appoint elders there, but it would not mean that he or the presbytery saw himself as having some special authority. Couldn’t Timothy have been a presbyter/bishop and been going as a sort of missionary? The Bible doesn’t seem to speak with enough clearness on the matter to assert that he had an office above that of the presbyters/bishops he was appointing.

    Pax Christi,

    Spencer

  32. Spencer,

    I agree that the lack of support in any of the fathers for the Presbyterian view is a problem (indeed, enough of a problem to push me in the direction of embracing the episcopacy), but the Biblical witness must still be accounted for.

    Stay tuned to CTC. I’m working on back to back lead articles first on Holy Orders and then on Apostolic Succession. It will answer these questions. The first one should be published in a couple of months.

  33. Hey Spencer,

    Let me clarify one point, but I think ultimately we’ll both need to wait for Tim’s article for some more insight. To answer your question, the three levels I am referring to, which I see clearly present in Acts are; The Bishops/apostolic college, elders and deacons. Christ only directly and visibly entrusted the Apostolic College with the mission of the Church. Only this group had been personally commissioned and only this group could subsequently delegate authority to others to carry out the mission they were given by our Lord. Personally, I need to learn more and I am excited for Tim’s article. However, I think it is inconceivable that this main group, which the entire Church depended on during the Apostolic period, would simply cease to exist and that scripture would say nothing about God’s intention for the Church in that the main source of stability would simply disappear.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  34. Randy (chiming in here as a once-Catholic who is considering returning to the Church),

    Perhaps I missed the point of your comment; are you stating as a *positive* the fact that you can fellowship in the same Church (partake of the sacraments, etc.) with Rahner and Kung, but not with your brother, or are you lamenting that fact? Given that your brother is more theologically in line with you, and Rahner and Kung have both been strongly reprimanded by the Church (hasn’t Kung even been stripped of his license to teach theology?), I’m not sure that if I were a Catholic, I would *want* to fellowship with the latter two. Not saying that it would be good (i.e. obedient to the Magisterium), as a Catholic, for you to attend your brother’s church… but to me, it is a *problem* that radically dissenting Catholic theologians are often still allowed to partake of the sacraments in parishes. Again, perhaps I missed the point of your comment, in which case, this entire comment might be totally unnecessary! :-) Could you please explain a bit more what you meant? (Thanks!)

  35. Jeremy – Very, very nice work. What I read here connects me with the need for us to emulate the trinitarian model of love, family and unity. Both essays are “coincidentally” pointed at Fatherly love which should say something bigger altogether in my opinion.

    I do have to differ with:

    As seen in the sex scandal over the past decade, the Catholic Church continues to struggle with grave sin. For this reason, Catholics must ask Protestants for forgiveness for the sin of misrepresenting to the world the loving authority of God.

    …and let me setup my approach on differing first. My intellectually absorbed concept of the “Church” wont allow it, the “Church”, to apologize for misrepresentation of the Faith, as that “Church” as a collective of believers cannot wholly be culpable for its individual members sinful acts. Thats what “I” think.

    Having said that, without my permission,the “Church” already has apologized for its “mistakes” in 2000 here

    And this confirms that again, what I think about that matters little…it is the Authority that follows its own leading to which I must submit. The apology itself is evidence that the One True Church need not and as preserved by fallible humans, cannot be perfect.

    -Dave

  36. Hey Dave, I think the concept of repenting of the sins of others is established clearly in Scripture, though I have never read the Catholic position on the idea. I think of Isaiah repenting on behalf of the Israelites (Isa. 6:5), Jeremiah’s confession of the sins of his whole generation and those of his forefathers (Jer. 3:25), again, Exra identifying and repenting for God’s people (Ezra 9:6-15). I am asking for nothing more than what the Pope did himself as he apologized for the sex abuse cases (of which he was not personally involved. Look here; http://www.catholicnews.com/data/stories/cns/0803761.htm).

    I think every other Catholic should join him; I might have said this wrong, but I can’t tell you how many Protestants I know who won’t look into Catholic dogma because of the disregard for sin they have seen in many Catholics. If faithful Catholics apologize on behalf of those who refuse to, I believe God will bless that.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  37. Jeremy, help me understand what your essay is saying we do. If the Pope already publicly apologized for it, representing the Church as it is, and I stand behind and support that apology/position, I am to additionally personally make apologies for those Priests to the face of all Protestants I meet or discuss this with?

  38. Jeremy, I can see your point, if on a personal basis, said non-Catholic is burdened by the issue then my advocacy of general repentance would assist their view that “we” cannot find the issue acceptable.

    What I read as your request is what has been called identificational repentance, (or in this case identificational confession to Protestant) whether for the general, corporate or sins of a nation. While I cannot find, on a quick search, anything doctrinal regarding this form… it is certainly a form of what the last 2 Popes practiced heartily. I also agree on 2 other levels, 1) Both Old and New Testament contain examples of it and 2) It emulates Christs sacrifice for the sins of us all. I would summarize there is nothing to lose and plenty to gain from specifically targeted identificational repentance in the context you write.

    -Dave

  39. Just curious…how do you decide which parish to attend. Some Catholic friends of mine here in St. Louis, have parishes they will not attend, because of the erroneous teaching and practices found in those parishes. They leave the boundary of their geographical parish to attend what are, to their minds, more orthodox parishes. Like I said before, I was Roman Catholic for 25 years, and I have been to thousands of Masses. I have heard a great deal of universalism from the pulpit, as well as many other heresies. I get the fact that these priests don’t speak for the church as a whole, but why is their no censorship of this kind of thing? It is not a minor, occasional slip up, of one or two rogue priests. It is fairly common, and can easily be investigated and verified. Yet, it persists. Are all of the laity then left to discern for themselves which parishes are orthodox and which are not? I am curious how long you guys have been catholic. I can see that most of you are very intelligent and have read a good deal, but I am curious about actual lived time in the church. Ground time, so to speak. Tim, please don’t write me back an angry reply, or say I’m just seeing things through a protestant lens. My family has been Catholic for more generations than I can count. I was raised catholic with absolutely no protestant influence; Catholic grade school, high school, lived with Regnum Christi members, lived with Benedictines at the Priory here in St. Louis. My conscience is at peace being a member of the PCA. It is by no means perfect, but I am grateful for the clear Biblical teaching and preaching I am receiving. My Pastor genuinely care if I am growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ, something I can honestly say I have never experienced before. If I am some kind of terrible heretic, I will receive that sentence from Jesus when I stand before Him at the Judgement.
    Have you guys ever considered directing your apologetical time and energy towards your fellow catholics, rather than protestants? These are sincere questions and not just snark in disguise.

  40. Hello Jim,

    I’m glad to see your comment, even if I don’t agree with everything you said. I appreciate the fact that you’re willing to dialogue about how to reconcile Protestants and Catholics.

    There is nothing wrong (in the moral law or in the Church’s canon law) with leaving the boundary of one’s geographical parish, to attend a more orthodox parish, should that be necessary. But that is altogether different from schism, which is an objective evil. We know, from the Donatist schism, that schism is not justified by the existence of unfaithful clergy. We can never justifiably start a schism, join a schism, or remain in a schism, even if we encounter heinous sin in the Church, or heresy believed and taught by priests (or even by rogue bishops) within the Church. Two wrongs never make a right. (See my comments #13 and #32 in Taylor’s “St. Paul on the Unity of the Catholic Church” thread.) There have always been tares within the Church, in every century of Church history. There have always been unfaithful priests and bishops, heretical priests and bishops, and those who caused scandal by their immorality. That’s not new. But it has never justified schism.

    We have a choice. We can complain and gripe about messes within the Church, or we can roll up our sleeves, and serve the Church, and help clean up the mess. Leaving the Church sets an example for others, that schism is permissible. In other words, schism only adds to the mess to be cleaned up, by creating a separation from the Church, and by creating a scandalous example to others, that schism is ok when the going gets tough. In actuality, however, it is better to be martyred by members of the Church if it were to come to that, than to form or join or remain in a schism. If we would be willing to give up our physical life, rather than wound Christ’s physical body, then for the same reason we should be willing to give up our physical life, rather than wound Christ’s Mystical Body, the Church, through schism.


    Archbishop Carlson

    In order for me to speak with any credibility to the clergy (e.g. Archbishop Carlson) about problems within the Church, I would need to have the log of schism out of my own eye. You asked us to consider “directing [our] apologetical time and energy towards [our] fellow catholics.” Many of us, if not most of us, are doing just that. I help teach RCIA at the Saint Louis Cathedral Basilica, as you know. And the other CTC team members are doing similar things. So, let me ask you to consider something: If all the Protestants who are ex-Catholics returned to the Church and threw themselves into serving the Church with all their effort, praying for her daily, loving her, writing their bishops, praying and fasting for new vocations and for the fidelity of the seminaries in which those men are trained, and laying down their lives daily to build up the Church in fidelity and orthodoxy, how much of what you are complaining about wouldn’t be there? How do you know that the problems you mention are not in large part due to the abandonment of the Church by well-intentioned Catholics who love Christ but don’t want to make that kind of sacrifice for Christ’s Church? I’m not asking you to answer that question, but it is a question that I found myself faced with as a life-long Protestant. That is, what responsibility do we [Protestants] bear for the state of many Catholic parishes, by our remaining separate from the Catholic Church all these many years?

    When talking about reconciling Protestants and Catholics, we cannot sidestep the question of schism. And the question of schism is not rightly answered by an internal, subjective sense, by one’s conscience, or by the kind of spiritual experiences (good or bad) one has in different Christian communities, for we cannot trust a schism to tell us whether we are in schism. (Of course, they will deny that they are in schism, and redefine the Church such that there is no visible Church.) See, for example, what St. Thomas says about schism in my “St. Thomas Aquinas on the Unity of the Church” post. Sins by Catholics, and especially Catholic clerics, do not make the Church Christ founded into something that is not the Church Christ founded. We do not have permission to leave and start a man-made ‘church’ whenever persons in the Church Christ founded commit grave sins. We must stay and work to build her up, even if that involves suffering and sacrifice. Forming a schism from the Church Christ founded would be just adding one more sin to the others. Nor can anyone reform the Church from the outside. Two wrongs don’t make a right. And if the Catholic Church is the Church Christ founded, then there is nowhere else to go. Instead, we are called to take up our cross, and serve faithfully to the death in the Church Christ founded, washing the feet of the sinners around us, and confessing our own sins, unlike the Pharisee who would not associate himself with the publican, on account of his pride. At the very least, we cannot reform the Church from the outside, only from the inside, and not by rebellion against divinely established authority, but rather by faithful obedience to that authority, even to the death if necessary. No one in schism has the moral credibility to correct anyone within the Church, because of the log in his own eye (even if he himself does not see it as a log). Woe to him through him scandal comes, no doubt. But being in schism is also a scandal to others. Those in error or sin within the Church will answer to God. We are responsible to follow Christ and be faithful to His Church, even if we would prefer to dip seven times in what would seem to be cleaner waters.

    The Church has been in darker hours, but this is a dark hour. She is besieged by scandals, heretical theologians, liberal professors, lukewarm bishops, pedophile priests, ‘womyn priests’, dissident nuns, ruthless and relentless attacks from Hollywood, the news media and even some of her own members, gay marriage advocates, indifferentists/universalists, modernists, heretical seminaries, and of course the constant criticisms from a small group of Protestants that she is the ‘whore of Babylon’, that the pope is the anti-Christ, that she has abandoned the gospel and is apostate. This is a dark hour for the Church. But, it has been darker, much darker, many times. And yet still, the gates of hell will not prevail over Christ’s Church. If you want to see a glimpse of the Church’s future, let me take you to meet the current seminarians at Kenrick Seminary. These guys are solid, orthodox, and eager to serve the Church faithfully and generously. That’s the face of the future of the Catholic Church.

    Catholic time moves much more slowly than American time. The Church will overcome. But in our fast-food era, we want everything to be better, right now. The Church, however, moves like an ent, very slowly, because she is ancient. We have to be prepared to live our whole lives, serving the Church in faithfulness, without seeing the changes we’d like to see. That’s because ultimately, it is not about us, or what we want, or what fulfills us. That would be the ecclesial consumerism mindset that is now undeniably explicit in much of Evangelicalism. Rather, it is about being faithful to Christ, and sacrificing for His sake, in His Kingdom, the Church.

    You know the old truth taught by the Fathers: He cannot have God for his Father who does not have the Church as his mother. You can’t love Christ and not love His Church. If we love Him, we will love His Church. And if we love His Church we will sacrifice our own desires and ambitions and comforts and preferences, to serve His Church. That’s part of what it means to take up our cross out of love for Christ, and follow Him.

    In March of 2006, Pope Benedict said the following:

    Between Christ and the Church there is no opposition: They are inseparable, despite the sins of the people who make up the Church. … Moving in this direction, in the catechesis I begin today, I would like to show that precisely the light of that Face [of Christ] is reflected in the face of the Church, despite the limitations and the shadows of our fragile and sinful humanity. …. The individualist Jesus is a fantasy. We cannot find Jesus without the reality that he created and through which he communicates himself” — the Church. … Between the Son of God, made man and his Church, there is a profound, inseparable continuity, in virtue of which Christ is present today in his people.

    When Christ-loving Protestants begin to understand this, as many of them already are (just watch “The Journey Home”), they will pursue reconciliation with Christ’s Church en masse. That is a win-win situation. All the skill and talent and passion and love that has been separated from the Catholic Church for almost five hundred years, will be brought back in, to serve and build up the Church in her time of need. The scene that comes to my mind, when I think of that return by Protestants, though not a perfect analogy, is this scene. May Christ help us to be fighting on the same side, my brother, shoulder-to-shoulder, for Christ and His Church.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  41. Bryan,

    Thank you for your kind and thorough reply. We remain in disagreement about the Church, but I have to admit that your steadiness and consistency of thought compels me to dig deeper, and pray more. I have been fully convinced, for some time, of the fact that the Catholic Church either is the true Church or she is the Whore of Babylon. There can be no middle ground on this. As of now, I still lean towards the latter. I realize the gravity of that claim and I do not express it triumphantly or with vitriol. I know this is off topic from this thread, and may not be the appropriate place to discuss this, but what do you make of the title Pontificus Maximus. I believe Jesus is referred to as Pontificus Magnus. Maximus is even greater than Magnus. What do you make of that?
    With sincerity,
    jb
    PS again thank you for your reply. You are clear and never needlessly offensive.

  42. A correction,
    I should have written Pontifex Maximus. I am still curious about this title. If this is completely off topic, and should not be dealt with here, I understand.

  43. Jim,

    Regarding the term “Pontificus Magnus” as used of Christ, you may be referring to Hebrews 4:14 in the Vulgate: “habentes ergo pontificem magnum qui penetraverit caelos Iesum Filium Dei teneamus confessionem” (“Having therefore a great high priest that hath passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God: let us hold fast our confession.”)

    The emperor Gratian, by the advice of St. Ambrose, refused to assume the title Pontifex Maximus. This was a title that the Roman emperors had held for centuries. (See here) In the eastern part of the Roman empire, the emperor Theodosius was baptized at the age of 34. He then issued a joint edict, along with Gratian, in which he referred to Pope Damasus as “Pontiff.” So this, apparently, wasn’t a title that the Pope took upon himself. It was a title given to him by the state, as a recognition that the emperors were no longer the high priests of the state religion. Because of the Christianization of the empire, that title was understood to belong rightly to the successor of the one to whom Christ gave the keys of the Kingdom.

    Some Christians find the title “Pontifex Maximus” troubling, because it was originally used in reference to pagan religion. (See here) But, here, as in many other things, grace perfects nature. The Pontifex Maximus of pagan Rome was a role in that pagan religion, that God had providentially prepared, such that in the fullness of time, the empire was prepared to receive Christianity and the notion of an divinely appointed vicar of God, to whom God had entrusted the keys of the Kingdom. The bishop of Rome, having the succession from St. Peter, is, in that respect, the visible high priest of the Church, as the vicar (i.e. deputy or representative) of Christ.

    That does not put him in competition with Christ or Christ’s priesthood. We are, by our baptism, priests of God (Rev 1:6), and this is a particular kind of participation in Christ’s priesthood, one which does not compete with His priesthood, but is an extension of it, as we sacrifice and intercede for the world in Christ’s name, for His sake, and in His Life (i.e. in the grace that comes from His sacrifice and is a participation in His Life). Ministerial priests, however, participate in Christ’s priesthood not only by their baptism, but also by their ordination. By the sacrament of ordination they are granted the authority to consecrate bread and wine, and in this way to offer the sacrifice of Christ in the Holy Eucharist. Just as baptismal priesthood does not compete with Christ’s priesthood, neither does ministerial priesthood compete with Christ’s priesthood. And for this same reason, there being a highest or supreme visible [ministerial] priest in Christ’s Church does not compete with Christ’s priesthood, but is again, a participation in Christ’s priesthood.

    Whenever we encounter a comparative or superlative adjective or adverb, we must always keep in mind the with-respect-to-what of its intention. Otherwise, we will misunderstand it. So here, in the term “Pontifex Maximus,” as used of the Pope, the adjective “Maximus” is not intended relative to Christ, but only to other men. In other words, the intention of the adjective is to affirm that the Pope is the highest priest not in relation to Christ, but in relation to other men. The “with-respect-to-whatness” of the term is to other men, not also in relation to Christ. For this reason, the Pope’s being Pontifix Maximums is fully compatible with Christ being Pontificem Magnum.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  44. Can you shed more light on women’s role in a Catholic hierarchy. And also if you can comment on Mother Teresa’s ministry in India. How do you feel about her inclusivness.

    In the Catholic Church doctrine, if an individual is not confirmed Catholic, he is not able to partake of the Eucharist. What if the individual is a Christian and has been a disciple of Christ all their life and attended the classes but due to all the scandals are still contemplating their confirmation. Should they be allowed to partake of the Eucharist if they truly are Christ’s disciple and ask to be fed Eucharist. I am interested in a dialogue regarding Catholic Church’s decision on such issues. These questions are based on factual situations. So I appreciate your sincere response and insight and teachings.

  45. Hi Shashi,

    Great questions! I’ll do my best to shed some light on some of your concerns. First, women have always held a place of immeasurable value in the Catholic Church. I know that your question specifically concerns the role of women in the Catholic hierarchy, but I think it’s best to begin with the truth that the Church has always valued women from the beginning of her existence. There is nowhere this is more clearly demonstrated then in the Catholic Church’s veneration of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Not just in some abstract spiritual sense, but really and truly, she is the mother of the Church because she is the mother of Christ, and the Church is the body of Christ. Although Mary doesn’t physically hold an office in the Catholic hierarchy, she is still regarded as the Queen of Heaven. This demonstrates that the Catholic Church can never believe that women are in any way inferior to men. However, the Magisterium of the Catholic Church, in agreement with Scripture, will not ordain women into the priesthood. This is not the Catholic Church being “behind the times” or “old fashion”. It simply demonstrates the faithfulness of the Catholic Church in preserving the teaching of the Apostles. The Catholic Church does not have the freedom to go against Scriptur. Here’s a short, but very helpful article on why the Church continues to teach what she does regarding women’s ordination;

    Your second question concerns why the Catholic Church would prevent somebody who is following Christ from receiving the Eucharist. You ask a great question and I certainly understand why many people think this teaching is unfair. Let me challenge you to think about this from the perspective of the Catholic Church. To put it most simply, if the Catholic Church were to allow those who are not in full communion to partake of the Eucharist, it would be telling a lie. The Lord’s Supper is a demonstration of the unity of the body of Christ established by Jesus himself and preserved by the Holy Spirit. If we are not united in the body of Christ in the covenant family of God we cannot partake of the family meal.

    Let me finish up by addressing your concerns about the scandals in the Church. We don’t deny them. They are real and hideous. The reality of sexual abuse in the Church should bring faithful Catholics to tears. It’s understandable that such scandals would make somebody think twice about going throuh with confirmation. At the same time, we need to remember that Jesus never promised a sinless Church. We believe He promised a Church who would teach and preserve the true faith of the Apostles. We do not believe, however, that every person ordained will live a life in accordance with the gospel. Scripture itself is in perfect agreement with this conclusion. The preaching and teaching of St. Peter himself were infallible. He could not error. Yet, his own conduct betrayed him and his actions exposed him as a hypocrite. Nonetheless, he led God’s people and was used by God to pen sacred Scripture. Hope this helps! Thanks again.

    Peace in Christ, Jeremy

  46. Dear Jeromy,

    I am truly touched at your response. And you have provided me alot of good insights to ponder about and integrate. I am very grateful for individuals like you who truly love Christ and care for the disciples to take time to respond. May God bless you always!

    Peace in Christ!
    Shashi

  47. Comment #994 of the “solo-scriptura-sola-scriptura-and-the-question-of-interpretive-authority” article (found here contains a link to a short video by Fr. Robert Barron. Though Fr. Barron discusses “Leaving the Church,” his comments speak directly to many of the valid and understandable concerns which you, Shashi, bring up as you consider being confirmed in the Catholic Faith. You may find it helpful taking a moment to listen to Father Barron’s comments. Peace to you. herbert vanderlugt

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